The keener of eye among you may well have noticed that both the art and associated narrative of the Empyraeum Cycle have gotten a little darker recently with the addition of the Ghorkai and Them to the roster. Both have their own pages on the Enkyklopaedeia and these will be expanded shortly. Both have spawned some darkly visceral artwork also, befitting of their status as antagonists in the expanding Cycle.
The Ghorkai are a brutal, orcoid/goblinoid warrior race which, seeming to now lack a home planet and civilisation as such have now taken up life as nomadic pirates. Not the fluffy, jolly old singing pirates we see in movies either; they are the brutal, special forces on steroids kind of pirates that murder their way through their chosen ship, as efficiently and mercilessly as any military unit. I thought that orcs have had some bad press in sci-fi, deemed as stupid, pychopathic, and undisciplined. They are terrifying enough as a ravaging green tide, I admit, but organised, sociopathic orcs with iron discipline, tactical acumen, and equipment rivalling that of the Kalshodar are scarier still. Not quite green Klingons as such but honour does matter to them, at certain times. The Ghorkai are unpredicatable also. No ship knows when a Ghorkai flotilla might appear and few are prepared to repell their attacks. Even Lupernikes had his ship ravaged by them and Gabriel had the presence of mind to run like hell when they chanced upon a foraging party on an airless asteroid. The Ghorkai are an unknown quantity because nobody survives their raids usually and they are a straight in, straight out kind of race. Very little is known of their language, culture, or origins. People simlpy live in fear of the heavily armoured green giants with their deadly energised arm blades and massive kinetic cannons. That said, the Ghorkai might well surprise in other ways too.
Of the race known simply as "Them" (the preposition spoken in whispers of dread, as if they can be conjured by simply mentioning them), even less is known. They have become, in recent years, a kind of galactic bogeyman, something to frighten disobedient children with, "got to sleep or They will come for you" is spoken across the now widespread colonies of humanity. Stories of their depraved depredations were initially thought to be exaggerated folk tales, stories to frighten the uncivilised colonist around the campfire or to joke to strangers about. This is not the case. Nobody alive, is sane enough to decribe Them in more than fleeting images of terror. Their elected witness is too unhinged to string all but the most fleeting impressions of them together, sould that witness to 'fortunate' enough to be found before they died of starvation or their heart finally gives out. Spined and barbed shadows, sleek and tall. Pale-fleshed abominations cavorting and engaging in debauched activity under the rain of his kinsfolk's blood, driven to ecstasy by the terrible screams of the dying and tortured. Cruel, burning eyes fixing hers for just a moment; wicked smile playing over thin lips as the sweet release of death is first offered then denied. Bloodless tongue passing over sharpened teeth as one last taste of his dispair is savoured before They leave her alone among the dead and dying, tied to the foot of one of their now famous "Trees of Pain". They never touch his body. For Them, it appears, the sweetest pain of all is that suffered by the mind. They want to be feared, They want humanity to know; before expiring, severy one of their witnesses will utter the few coherant words they have remaining to their shattered mind; "They are coming. They are coming. They are coming."
So too spoke the Dracograth Lysander when Alexander found him - together with his fellow dracograth and Kalshodar, hanging from those evil "Trees" of vampiric crystal within the hold of The Hyperion's Bane, his personal Cruiser, whch has been drifting for years before Alexander's signal called her home.
Alexander is facing the authoritarian règime of Apàteon occupying Gaia and opposing his arrival, together with the certain knowledge that They are not far behind him, having perhaps learned of Gaia, the source of all these humans they 'played with' so well, from his visit to the caves beneath that sterile alien desert. Add to that unsettling outlook the fact that a small Ghorkai flotilla cleared out Lupernikes ship The Spear of Vengeance while he and his companions were scouting a nearby moon, stranding them in their Gryphon drop-ship for a decade before they posed as mercenaries to use Gabriels Belmorrah instead...well that just oversalts the already inedible broth.
The Empyraeum is not only stymied on Gaia, but it is in serious danger of ceasing to exist all together, unless this is the very purpose The Dragon foresaw and created the Kalshodar for?
The Empyraeum Cycle did not turn dark at all, it has just become aware of the magnitude of the situation it finds itself in. As more of the story is revealed to you, there is more, perhaps for you discover and reason too, to hope?