A strange, extra-dimensional radiation that permeates all of Beacon Space, and as far as anyone can tell, some distance beyond, the Bleed is the basis of effects that many cultures would view as unnatural or eldritch, if only for their poor understanding. The Bleed is a physical reality, as firm as gravity or electricity.
There are some who are capable of controlling the Bleed, able to focus and control the strange force to manifest their will. Although their name varies from culture to culture and species and species, in trade languages they’re referred to as Lenses, or some similar equivalent.
Control of the Bleed manifests in humans as a symptom of Acute Hematic Riftemia. The condition, while named as an affliction of the blood, has nothing to do with it beyond conveying control over The Bleed. The only sign of the condition in anyone afflicted, human or otherwise, is that they appear “warmer” than the background Bleed. They are not themselves a source, nor a conduit. The effect is much similar to that of a convex lens, they focus the Bleed in order to produce wonderous effects, control what is already there.
“One must wonder, is the Bleed an explosion, or is it the crater that was left in one’s wake?” -Unknown
The Bleed, while permeating all of Beacon Space, does not do so uniformly. The rate at which it seems to concentrate varies from location to location, although in this it seems to be relatively regular. Variations in the topography are often gravitationally bound, meaning that specific regions on a planet’s surface will be affected more or less than others, and on an interstellar scale, zones of concentration span entire star systems or even clusters.
The easiest way to identify zones of high concentrations of the Bleed is the presence of transmuted matter. It’s unknown by which mechanism exactly that this transformation takes place, it is a surefire indicator of a region highly infused with the Bleed. Forests which suddenly give way to trees of crystal instead of wood. Clouds that glow with iridescence. By virtue of these environments' propensity to transmute all material, they are not suitable for lengthy occupation by organic life, or any susceptible equipment for that matter.
Harvested from regions of highly concentrated Bleed, infused materials are highly prized for their use both by Lenses and broader society. They are invaluable in amplifying and producing specific effects by harnessing the Bleed, and in being vessels in which those effects can be established with a greater level of permanence.
Infused material is essential in measuring the Bleed with any degree of precision, both for the purposes of charting the drift of more dangerous regions of space, and for the quantification of the Bleed in individuals, which allows for detecting those who will be able to hone their control over the force.
One of the largest sources of Bleed infused material is from interstellar nebula in heavily Bleed concentrated regions, harvested by specialized vessels that rapidly cross the regions at near luminal speeds in hope of dodging any permanent transmutation effects, collecting the valuable gas for refining and use throughout Beacon Space.
An Empire Lost
In by far the largest recorded event of the Bleed’s natural topography shifting, Kherum, the shining capital of the Hydene Directorate, was consumed in an instant. Glass became iridescent metal foil, stone and concrete wrought as if a natural fungus, great skyscrapers and halls collapsing and deflating under their unsustainable weight. Every lifeform in the vicinity was rendered in that moment into a gelatinous primal sludge, small lakes and puddles of the stuff still dominating the ruined landscape.
The event heralded the beginning of the end for the Hydene Directorate, effectively decapitating their government and setting them into a downwards spiral during the destructive Beacon Wars. Even now, centuries later, the loss of Kherum is a grim reminder of how unpredictable and unknown the Bleed remains.
Journeys to Kherum are hazardous, the risk high of assuming the fate of it’s long dead inhabitants, but it is the lone source of several rare types of Bleed infused material that make the journey profitable for those who’d dare the danger.
Manifestation of the Bleed is chiefly rooted in the control of one or multiple “powers”. Through the manifestation of phantom forces directed at an object or living being. The manipulation of gravitic attraction. The modification and restructuring of living biological matter, both of the Lens themselves and anything they are in contact with. Through the modification, control, acceleration, and deceleration of entropic decay. Interfacing directly with electronic systems without the need for conventional physical interfaces. Or the interference or enhancement of a Lens’ ability to control the Bleed.
While these abilities are discrete, they are universally accessible to any Lens, there being no supernatural restriction on how they choose to use the Bleed to manifest their wills. However, for a Lens, manifesting any end result is the outcome of studious practice, their control of the Bleed needing to be exercised much like any muscle. This also results in there being a practical limitation to how much any one Lens can hope to master in their lifetimes.
Lenses make use of what appear to others as strange arcane rituals and obtuse sounding code words in order to manifest their abilities. The role of these in their craft is to augment their focus, tuning the lens into a specific state so as to best serve the effect they hope to direct the Bleed to accomplish. These techniques vary from culture to culture and species to species, but their existence is a constant between them, a necessary abstraction for controlling the Lens’ connection to the Bleed. Sustained Lensing is exhaustive, the result of the poorly understood mechanisms by which Lenses modify their own connections to the Bleed.
Many Lens’ behave much akin to academics, spending their time in studious research and study in order to expand their mastery over the unknown and achieve greater and greater manifestations of their abilities.
Due to the precise self control necessary to manifest control of the Bleed, it is next to impossible to trigger an effect subconsciously or by accident. An untrained Lens who does not know of their power, and leaves the muscle unflexed, is of no risk to themselves or others.
Bleed infused materials, those which are not useful for more industrious purposes, are often used by Lenses to further augment, focus, and direct any manifestation of the Bleed, the exact material varying depending on their purposes. More mundane materials also often make an appearance, as Reference.
A Reference is a powerful augment in focusing the Bleed. Rust to accelerate the entropic decay of metal, an unmarred limb when mending a wound, a sphere to visualize as the origin of a gravitic force.
Long Term Effects
It is a fundamental truth that an effect manifested via the Bleed continues until a Lens either raises an opposite effect to cancel it out, or that the energy it's imbued with is exhausted. This energy comes from the Lens. While this energy source often burns out quickly, minor effects, or effects without an external force resisting on them, can last for far greater periods. It’s uncountable how many fields of strange gravity exist in deep space, adjustments to spacetime that lie uncorrected for years as long as they lack any substantial mass to act on.
For a Lens, regularly using the Bleed runs the risk of Bleed addiction. The Lens’ body becomes more attuned and adapted to the state it is in when focusing the Bleed, often resulting in discomfort and distress if the Lens does not routinely manifest their connection. In the most extreme cases, it results in situations where parts of a Lens’ body are permanently in focus, much like a muscle stuck in a perpetual state of tenseness.
Signs of Bleed addiction vary. In mild cases, it presents much like any addiction, with signs of exhaustion, baggy eyes, jitters, although these symptoms can be alleviated with regular practice of a Lens’ abilities. In the more severe cases, symptoms have been described that are spectacular. Eyes like glossy pools of stars, the partial transmutation of the Lens’ own body, or hair that is blown by a non-existent wind.
The Bleed is a powerful force in Beacon Space with many different views and usage amongst the various peoples that live there.
To the adventurous Tahora Whai of sector-west, the Kikorangi o te Tahora Whai, Lenses are seen to amplify the inherent mystery of space. Ever the storytellers, Whai crews encourage Lenses on their expeditions because they often make already treacherous missions more eventful and exciting. Although it might heighten the danger, the chance that million to one odds ship maneuvers can work seem to be much more plausible. Strange occurrences, unpredictable oddities, and impossible timings seem to follow these ships. Ballads about these journeys naturally take on an increased cinematic or theatrical flavor.
Within the Whai, the terms of Bleed and Lens are rarely used and instead use old Dynaean words: