- A vision granted me by one who roamed the stars in the barren galaxyArhul Hextrophon
Cult Encounters: The Last Days of Arhul Hextrophon and Supernatural Encounters: The Trial and Transformation of Arhul Hextrophon are a duology of online Science Fantasy novellas written by Joseph Bongiorno, set in the Star Wars Legends continuity. They are notable for the sheer amount of time they spent in Development Hell, at nearly ten years; they were approved and then canceled several times, until Lucasfilm gave Bongiorno their blessing to release them on his own website following the 2014 Continuity Reboot. Cult Encounters was released on Christmas 2017, and Supernatural Encounters on the following Halloween.
The stories chronicle the adventures of New Republic historian Arhul "Hex" Hextrophon, who, with his trusty droid Q9-X7 by his side, traveling the Galaxy to decode ominous connections he has discovered between the Galaxy's ancient societies. The journey takes him to the darkest recesses of space and into encounters with its most ancient and nightmarish inhabitants, and if he can survive he may well come home with the secret history of the universe itself - from its creation to its ultimate fate. The story serves as a synthesis of details about the most ancient societies of the Galaxy from multiple sources, with a particular emphasis on the original Marvel comics from the 1980s, which repeatedly dropped hints that the Galaxy had endured a calamity vastly dwarfing the Galactic Civil War in its ancient past. Of particular note are a series of H. P. Lovecraft-inspired short comics by Alan Moore, written exclusively for the UK market, introducing baffling characters such as the amoral Bedlam Spirits Tilotny, Horliss-Horliss, Cold Danda Sine, and Splendid Ap, and the mysterious ethereal "demon" Wutzek.
It should be noted that while the stories were approved by Lucasfilm, the status of their canonicity is ambiguous due to them having been released post-reboot on a website unaffiliated with the company. On his Facebook, Bongiorno listed their status as "approved but unlicensed."
These novellas contain examples of:
- Ambiguously Gay: Hextrophon himself; he awkwardly dodges the question when asked why he never married, and later when he enters the afterlife, he recognizes a male soul he sees there as "one whom he'd loved."
- Ascended Extra: Almost all the major characters, including Hextrophon himself and most of the supernatural beings he meets. The only ones that had significant roles prior to this story are the abomination Waru of the Old Ones, and the Celestials Elegast, Eipha, and Niphal, aka the Trinity of Mortis.
- Big Bad: Each of the three Cosmic Wars has a particular character or characters who's causing most of the trouble:
- Big Good: Wutzek, Elegast, and Horliss Horliss all take their turns in this role, though none of them ever quite get what makes mortals tick. The Maker is the Greater-Scope Paragon.
- Blue and Orange Morality: The Bedlam Spirits run on this, and unfortunately Nakhash takes advantage of their lack of understanding of good and evil to push them down the slippery slope. Fortunately, Horliss Horliss doesn't take the bait and becomes a straight-up good guy, and Splendid Ap ends up coming around as well.
- Buttmonkey: The Rakata come in for a lot of shade, with the story revealing that their empire was not nearly as large or illustrious as later generations would came, and that their very origins like in Old One experiments on Gungans.
- The Cameo: A very beloved character makes an appearance at the end: Yoda, now an angel.
- Cessation of Existence: This is strongly insinuated to be the fate of the souls of the truly evil in the afterlife, rather than any sort of Hell.
- Cthulhumanoid: Typhojem is an expy of Cthulhu and looks a lot like him. He was based on a Cthulhu-like idol seen in the comic adaptation of Splinter of the Mind's Eye, which is now retroactively a statue of him.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: Though they aren't the chronologically last stories in the continuity, these novellas essentially serve as a belated coda to the Legends continuity, tying off many plot threads left dangling by the reboot and promising a Happily Ever Afterlife for the Galaxy's people, including droids.
- Earth Is the Center of the Universe: Or rather, the main Star Wars galaxy is the center of the Star Wars universe; turns out the Celestials started with the one galaxy and then created "outward." The real world is implied to be the center of the multiverse.
- Eldritch Abomination: The Old Ones and their sundry spawn are of the classic Lovecraftian mold; Typhojem even strongly resembles Cthulhu.
- Expy: Nakhash has a lot in common with both Morgoth and Nyarlathotep, and thus by extent the Christian Satan as well.
- Fallen Angel: Nakhash is a Celestial who fell at the beginning of time, and much later Eipha falls as well due to the influence of his stepmother Abeloth, becoming the Son of Mortis.
- Good All Along: Wutzek, the "demon" from Moore's The Pandora Effect is in fact no such thing: he's a Celestial, one of the ultimate Big Goods of The 'Verse.
- Greater-Scope Villain: The Old Ones are this to many antagonistic beings and factions, including the Yevetha, the Rakata, the dark Endorian sorcerers from the Ewoks cartoon, and the very idea of worshiping the Dark Side itself - and Nakhash, Father of Shadows, is this in turn to the Old Ones.
- Hate Sink: Professor Janzikek, a near-literal Smug Snake (he's a Tiss'shar) and a Flat-Earth Atheist on the New Republic Historical Council. He takes great pleasure in trying to shoot down mystical explanations for Hex's experiences - and Q9 takes great pleasure in humiliating him in turn.
- Karma Houdini: Mnggal-Mnggal, who had been established as surviving to the Galaxy's present in the RPG.
- Mirror Universe: A young Splendid Ap, not yet in control of his powers over time and space, accidentally creates one at one point, described as an inferior copy of the original - often interpreted as a sly dig at the post-reboot continuity, which Bongiorno dislikes.
- The Multiverse: Among the stories' bigger reveals is the first explicit confirmation that Star Wars is a multiverse - and the Legends continuity is not the original universe. What is? Heavily implied to be our own.
- One Bad Mother: Tilotny is mother of many abominations, and sets herself up as a benevolent Mother Goddess to deceive the Galaxy.
- Our Angels Are Different: The Celestials have a role similar to Judeo-Christian angels but they don't look much like them, being conglomerations of incandescent spheres.
- The Paragon: Elegast, aka the Father of Mortis - the strongest of the Celestials and maintainer of the Balance of the Force.
- Retcon: A fair few:
- The Yuuzhan Kong's home galaxy is actually one of the main Galaxy's companions, not another full-size galaxy. They're stated to be mutated descendants of ancient human colonists from the main galaxy, which has been implied in other sources before.
- Hextrophon speculates that historical dates that place the galaxy's ancient civilizations at hundreds of thousands to millions of years old may be inaccurately early, arguing that it's implausible records from that far back could survive to the present at all.
- The strange happenings in the Ewoks comics and cartoon are given fixes that make them fit better with established lore.
- Robot Buddy: Q9 to Hextrophon, though he doesn't actually belong to him; he serves the supercomputer Mistress Mnemos as a mobile counterpart to her.
- Shout-Out: Among the alien species name-checked as being powers in the ancient galaxy are the E'Yautja, a race of arrogant hunters, and the Sobekk, an imperialistic reptilian people. The latter end up losing their empire to the Yuuzhan Vong and degenerate into their Servant Race, the Chazrach.
- Time Abyss: Most of the major characters are at least tens of millennia old, with the Celestials taking the prize as being older than the Galaxy itself, making them billions of years old.
- Top God: Among the story's bigger revelations is that "the Maker," the vague deity frequently invoked by C-3PO in the films, is the Star Wars universe's supreme being and master of the Celestials - building off ideas in George Lucas' own notes.
- In his lair at Aznak dead Typhojem waits dreaming...