Motes in the Serpent's Eye
The Irindul Society
The Irindul Society sponsors illegal expeditions into the forbidden depths of the Dark Zone. Its current leader is a gnome male called Leksigo Inis.
The gnomes of the Forongorn Confederation were the first beings to achieve interstellar spaceflight. Explorers without peer, they visited other star systems and made contact with numerous races, including other gnomes from the planet Irindul III. During the days of the Confederation’s expansion across the galaxy, its explorers encountered a vast inky nebula that they dubbed the Dark Zone. The Confederation found the nebula strangely disconcerting and, despite their yen for adventure, steadfastly avoided it. The Dark Zone, however, fascinated the gnomes of Irindul III. For them, it was the ultimate symbol of the unknown—and had to be conquered.
The Irindulan gnomes sent many exploratory vessels into the Dark Zone and almost none of them ever returned. This did not deter the gnomes, who felt it was their duty to plumb the depths of the nebula, whatever the cost. Their Forongorn brethren attempted to dissuade them from this path, but to no avail. It was only when a starship finally emerged from the Dark Zone that Irindulan attitudes changed toward it. The starship was crewed by mind flayers and it wrought havoc in the Irindul system before it was finally destroyed. The Confederation used it as proof that the Dark Zone was not safe and it formally forbade any further attempts to explore it. Every major interstellar government has upheld this interdict since then, including the Dragon Empire, which maintains it to this day.
Of course, the gnomes of Irindul III continued to be fascinated by the Dark Zone. Indeed, its interdiction only made it a more attractive destination for their explorers. Furthermore, so little was known about the nebula and its mysterious inhabitants. That too contributed to its continued interest among the gnomes, who wondered about the nature of the mind flayers and their worlds within the Zone. In fact, they quickly became experts on the subject, scouring other worlds of the galaxy for information about the mind flayers that existed elsewhere, believing they might find clues about the true nature of the mysterious nebula.
However, the Irindulans never breached the regulations against entering the Dark Zone—at least not in large numbers. A handful of daring gnomes and their allies sponsored illicit expeditions into the nebula. As ever, few returned. This did not blunt enthusiasm for the project, but it did cut down on the number of volunteers for such missions. Over the millennia, the number of trips into the Dark Zone dwindled, until even rumors of such things became almost legendary, even among the Irindulans and their allies. They still accumulated information and analyzed data, hoping to overcome the problems of the past, but that is a far cry from actually violating imperial law and braving almost-certain death in the Dark Zone. From time to time, a starship would skirt the edges of the nebula and return, but few expeditions were launched into its depths.
In recent years, an organization calling itself the Irindul Society has appeared on several important worlds throughout the Dragon Empire. The Society publicly lobbies for the opening of the Dark Zone for exploration. Its members, including several veterans of the Royal Exploratory Service, believe that now is the right time to undertake this grand quest. The Dark Zone remains one of the last frontiers of knowledge. The Society wishes to honor the memory of the earlier Irindul gnomes, who felt similarly and who risked so much to acquire what little knowledge there is about the nebula.
The Society is generally viewed with suspicion by most subjects of the Dragon Empire. The Dark Zone is a galactic bugaboo and all “right-thinking” beings know that it is best left alone, lest its weird inhabitants—the mind flayers and worse—are aroused in anger. Nevertheless, the Society has launched several covert missions into the edges of the nebula. A few of them have returned with tales of barren, desolate worlds and the mind flayers’ strange biotechnological civilization. This has emboldened the Society to push for the lifting of the empire’s interdiction, as well as the mounting of new expeditions. The former seems unlikely, but the latter is clearly a possibility. In fact, the Irindul Society’s membership is growing. Its leaders believe it is only a matter of time before it finally pieces together the truth about this phenomenon that has baffled the galaxy for thousands of years.