Introduction

Once Upon A Thyme...

A beginning is a very delicate time.

Know, then, that it is the twenty-first standard year of the New Imperial calendar. The known galaxy groans beneath the heavy-handed rule of the Stiff Imperator, Palpator the First.

In this time, the most expensive substance in the galaxy is the spice, Menaajatwaa: the spice extends life; the spice expands consciousness; the spice is vital to the black market. The smugglers who carry the spice make up a large percentage of all space traffic, and its trade contributes significantly to the economies of several planets. Those who use the nacarat spice gas claim it gives them the ability to fold space—that is, to travel to any place in the galaxy, without moving—but you have to expect that sort of crazy talk from a bunch of spaced-out junkies.

The spice is a xerophyte, and is found on only one planet in the entire galaxy—a desolate, dry planet, with vast deserts.

Hidden away within the rocks of these deserts are a people—known to outsiders as the Desert Dwellers—who call themselves the Freema. They have long held a prophecy that a man would come, a messiah, who would lead them to true freedom. These are a people who choose to live in the deep deserts, who roam where they will, who do what they like, and who pay heed to no laws or government but their own tribal code—and who spend all of their extensive spare time wishing they were free. Needless to say, they are not well liked.

In truth, their messiah has come and gone, and even he didn't like them very much. He wasted many weeks attempting to spur them into action, to rise up and quash their mostly imaginary oppressors, to do something more than sit around on their backsides all day whining "Life's tough, I wish we were free!" Finally, all patience exhausted, he led one small tribe into the only true freedom they would ever know: freedom from the continual struggles of daily life. The Freema did not take kindly to the slaughter of an entire clan, and were generally unappreciative of his efforts.

The planet on which the Menaajatwaa plant grows is Ratatouille, also known as Doona—which roughly translates from the language of the Freema as "ugly purple dung-heap of oppression." They are a thoroughly miserable, wretched, and ungrateful people, with all the nobility of a dried slug.

Be glad that this is not their story!