Volume I - EncounterVolume I - Encounter aran Wed, 11/19/2008 - 03:39
The Vahnatai are ancient beings that have mastered both the shaping of magical crystals and that of life itself. This is their world, and they are the only ones who dwell here.
Or are they?
Aidra, a young student of magic makes a series of unfortunate mistakes and stumbles upon a secret that may yet shatter the centuries-long peace.
ProloguePrologue aran Wed, 11/19/2008 - 03:41
It was a whisper in the void. A soft shiver, a movement, barely a breeze, the breath of existence.
It came from nowhere and went nowhere, but in its movement the one place became unlike the other place, and there was Space, and boundaries to space. It had never been, but would always be, and in its existence one moment was unlike the one before, and there was Time, and beginning and end. And in dividing, it divided itself, and made many what had been one. These many were the Principles, the spirits of creation, the harmonics that resonate in the fabric of the void.
They consisted of nothing, and their whisper of movement held no force. But when they came, they struck discord into the fabric of new existence, for difference could not be without strife. And the Principles spun their power into solidness, and hurled it through the endless abyss, and this was Matter. And the Principles twisted their spirit into light, and sent it crackling through the dark eternity, and that was Energy. And so the Universe was born amidst an inferno of chaos and war.
After a long time of chaos, at last, the Principles had exhausted their strength, and warm, dark entropy reigned over the endless reaches of space and time. The Principles settled down to rest, and silence sank at last over the world. But it was not the void that had been before. The spark of life was in it, and the darkness would not last: There would be a dawn.
And at length, there was yet more whispering in the dark world. Thought sped from one end of creation to the other, for in their battle, the Principles had become conscious. They saw what they had become, and decided that they were good. But they also saw what they had wrought through their strife, and decided that it must not remain.
Chaos had borne them, and they themselves had brought chaos to the world, but chaos could not endure. Entropy would at length cool out what had shone so brightly at first, and at last nothing would remain save the void that had been before all. The spirits of creation wanted nothing less than to be eternal, and so they conferred amongst each other how to bring about the perfection of creation.
And so, from the warm bed of entropy and by the will of the spirits that create, a World was conceived. The world was a sphere that shone in a brilliant blue, glittering as sapphires from the ocean that covered it, and they named it Olm, or Water. It was made to orbit a bright star, and to turn about itself, so there were Night and Day. And the axis of its rotation was set askew, so there were Summer and Winter. Lesser spheres of rock and ice were made to orbit the blue sphere of Olm, and so they spun around and around each other in the endless cycles of a vast clockwork. And time that had before been unmeasured was fragmented into days, moons, seasons and years. Then the land was made to rise, and the oceans to recede from the land, and there were patterns on the face of what had been one unbroken blue, and space was fragmented into longitudes and latitudes, continents, mountains and islands. Such was the way of Order.
From the heady vapours of the warm stew of primal chemicals rose life; fish in the ocean, then things with legs that walked and flew over the dry land. These beasts of the air, sea and land preyed upon each other, and each became part of the immeasurably complex system of life. For such was the way of Chaos.
And at length, the spirits of creation, the Gods of Olm, looked upon the dawn of their world and saw the splendour of what they had wrought. For the cycles of its spheres were the endless melody of order, while the teeming life in its oceans was the strident cacophony of the discord, and they were well-pleased with their work. But they saw that it was yet incomplete: The sea and the stars were worlds apart, and did not touch upon the other. The beasts were dynamic, but unstable, and the cycles were stable, but incapable of changing. The principal instrument of balance, that which would promise Eternity to the Gods of Olm, was yet to come. And so the Gods met upon the shores of Olm to take counsel together, and they took physical form that they might better understand the function of what they had wrought. And for a long while, they conferred amongst each other how to set the crown of perfection to this jewel they had fashioned out of the abyss of lukewarm entropy.
Then the one named Rehlko - for with thought and physical form, they had taken names for themselves too - rose up to speak. He was mighty, and his hand had guided the cycles, the lives of stars and suns, the clockwork of eternity. He appeared as a man of tall stature, robed and hooded. The Gods were neither men nor women, but even then they cloaked themselves in names and forms that they felt suited them.
"Hear me, ye Mighty!" he spoke to them. "The forces of chaos and entropy do ever gnaw on this our creation, and should they not abate, the void will take all. Behold," quoth he, and in his hand he held up a glittering diamond.
"Thus order is contained in the simplest of shapes. Perfection, immutability and structure. To keep our world ordered, we must needs keep it still. Change is the essence of chaos, entropy the fruit of chaos, the void the inevitable destiny of chaos. Make Olm like this diamond: Flawless, unchanging and eternal."
And there was great assent among the assembled, for Rehlko had spoken with wisdom and forethought. Here at last would Order come again, and Chaos defeated forever: And many of the Gods suggested at once to purge Olm of the life that now crawled upon it, and to refashion it into the diamond Rehlko had shown.
But there was doubt and disagreement from others among the Gods as well, and another rose to speak as Rehlko sat. This God bore the name Dahrnai. She, too, was mighty, for her mind had conceived the formulas of ever-changing life and evolution, the song that never repeated and never grew stale.
"Wise are thy words, Rehlko, for unlike Chaos, Order holds no seed of its destruction and is therefore eternal. But see also what kind of eternity you speak of: The endless cycles of thy clockwork hold no life, the flawless structures of thy diamond hold no meaning! The spheres are spinning and dancing, but who is there to see? Is thy diamond not after the nature of the void itself - empty?"
Then Dahrnai too raised her hand, and lo! between her fingers he held what appeared to be a grub, a tiny worm. It wriggled in her hands, and it had no intelligence, but the Gods could all perceive the infinite complexity of the cells it contained. And Dahrnai spoke again.
"Change is the essence of chaos, but it is also the essence of existence. We ourselves were fashioned through change, our universe was fashioned through change, and even this blue jewel of Olm could not have been but for the change of creation.
"Behold then that Order lieth also within life. And it is a dynamic order, a pattern that never repeateth, but that nonetheless danceth to its own endless rhythm of the quest for persistence and perfection. A self-growing order, a self-stabilizing order, a self-repairing order.
"Behold also that we have set limits on the lives of these creatures, and the patterns that govern them. They graze and hunt and flee, but they do not think. Should we but lift these limits, Olm shall give birth to beings that will become even like us in time! This, then, shall be the nature of eternity, for creatures like these shall know no boundaries nor end, and their life, once planted, shall endure forever."
And more of the assembled Gods gave their assent to Dahrnai, for they perceived the wisdom in her words. In truth, they marveled at the intricate dance of nature she had conceived, and were loth to end it as Rehlko had suggested. And they proposed, hastily, to immediately lift the limits that lay on evolution, and speed it along, that the new race of godbeings might come.
But Rehlko spoke again, and the assembled Gods could hear the restrained scorn in his voice. For with the physical flesh, the Gods had taken on mortal emotions, and were driven by lesser natures than the spirits they had been at the dawn of time.
"Wise is Dahrnai," quoth he, "but look closely at that worm thou art holding, and the false promise it doth contain. Behold the paradox of power: Thy race of mortal gods shall be vain and proud; they shall grow to resent their mortal nature; they shall lust for power the more they possess it; they shall make war among themselves, and they shall lay waste and ruin to this our beautiful jewel. This must not be. Thy mortal gods shall be the doom of Olm, and as all life shall come to this in the end, it must not be allowed to prosper."
And the Gods were troubled, for they were blessed with foresight, and could see that Rehlko's words were prophetic.
"May we ourselves not stay to dwell among these, to guide and teach, and keep them from destroying themselves?" Dahrnai asked, hopelessly.
"And may we not make new diamonds too, whenever it pleases us?" Rehlko retorted.
But then another rose, whose name was Orin. He counted for little among the assembled, for he had wrought nothing himself. But his helping touch and counsel had been on all things that were made, including the works of mighty Rehlko and Dahrnai.
"That we cannot," Orin said. "The chaos that bore us flows in us still, and our merest touch may corrupt this world we have made. Once more, and once only! can we raise our will to work in Olm, and then we must depart here forever, solely to observe, lest our presence ruin all. That is the gravity of our decision, for once made, it cannot be unmade. Should we choose wrongly, the world will come to doom and nought can save it. Furthermore, know that the time grows short: The hour approaches when we must choose, or choose nevermore, and nevermore thereafter."
And the Gods grew more troubled, for they knew they had to choose now, and what they chose could not be undone. They could purge away all that lived, trusting in the eternity of the spheres, or let these creatures ascend the long path toward divinity, trusting in the eternity of the complex patterns of life. For a while, there was discord among them.
Then Zaratis rose to speak. Like Orin, Zaratis had wrought nothing, but Zaratis was accounted the greatest among the assembled, for Zaratis was the first who had begun to give names to the things in the world, when they were all still the Principles. Zaratis spoke simply and without pretense or even mortal form, for Zaratis had no need of such.
"Wise is Rehlko," Zaratis said, "and wise is Dahrnai, and each has counseled us after their own nature. You are right, Rehlko, your crystal is the only way to maintain flawless perfection, and Dahrnai, life is the only thing that can heal itself from the wounds it must inevitably suffer. But neither Stasis nor Chance can provide the balance that must govern our eternal universe. They must combine, and in combining reveal the third path."
Zaratis then took form for the first time, but only by necessity. For Zaratis, too, held something between two fingers, and the Gods marveled at the curious sight: For what Zaratis showed them was a crystal like Rehlko's, but it glowed with an inner light, and it pulsed and flickered as if alive. And the Gods could sense that within its blue facets slept an intelligence and complexity deeper yet than that which Dahrnai had shown forth with her worm.
"Behold then what you must do," Zaratis said. The words of Zaratis were command. "I have seen it. You shall fashion a new race of beings. They will themselves be hardy as stone, yet light as the airiest geode. They will be nimble and quick as diamond dust on the wind, yet unbending as the bedrock of Olm. They will be masters of the mind and subtle energies, and knowledge shall be their quest, for the search for power is doom, but the gain of wisdom shall bring eternal balance.
"Master craftsmen of the gemstones they shall be, and the creation of life itself will be in their power. For of all things they shall hold these two highest. They will themselves be mortal, but after their allotted time they shall take the form of eternal stone. And you shall name them the People of Living Crystal."
And as Zaratis had spoken, it was done so. The People populated Olm and kept it ordered, and the Gods looked again upon the world they had wrought, and beheld at last that it was Good. For the Chaos had given them life, and they had in turn brought Chaos to the universe, but this their final creation would keep Order eternally. The Gods knew that the time had come to leave Olm and the People to their own devices, and they departed from the universe, nevermore to act in their creation, but to observe from afar only.
And the People lived and prospered, and fashioned rock and plant and beast, and their quest for knowledge and learning endures eternally. They keep the world whole and bring it to a higher order, and thus they remain forever the pinnacle of Creation.
The SageThe Sage aran Wed, 11/19/2008 - 03:44
With a small scratching sound, the tall quill ceased to quiver and then lifted off the densely covered parchment. The hand that held it was dry and hard. In the dim red light of the ruby lamp, it appeared grey and mottled, and it betrayed the writer as exceedingly old. And yet, no wrinkle was in that smooth grey skin. Indeed, the hand had a distinctly alien appearance with its seven long spindly digits. The face that now looked down on the small, spidery script was dominated by two saucer-sized green marble eyes and neither hair, nose nor ears stood out to disrupt the spherical smoothness of his grey head.
The elderly Vahnatai at last lifted his gaze off the book he had been writing in, and stared blankly at the opposite wall of his study. Like the rest, the wall was covered by ancient maps and charts. His gaze moved over the star-chart and then lingered over one that showed the coinciding phases of the two moons. Where no parchment hung over the wall, the rough grey rock was instead marked with hundreds of etched runes and painted symbols. In the otherworldly red light from the glowing jewel on the desk, they shimmered and looked alive.
The Vahnatai's huge eyes traveled from one wall to the next, all equally filled, as if searching desperately for the solution to some riddle standing there in the midst of the enchantments. But his gaze went through these, and as the enlightenment failed to appear to him, he was glaring into empty space, uncomprehending. At length, not without some distaste, he resigned himself to bend over the open book again, of which only the first few pages had been filled so far. Again he read what he had written, as if seeing it for the first time. His lipless mouth curled slightly in a grin.
...remain forever the pinnacle of Creation.
"Or that is what we tell ourselves," he muttered, sarcastically.
Zadal was a traveler, an explorer. He had wandered
not nearly as old as he looked in the dim red light, but today he felt at least as old.
The TeacherThe Teacher aran Wed, 11/19/2008 - 03:47
"... of Creation. Ha!" The single laugh was a shouted bark, loud and clear.
"I sense some cynicism, my young friend." Eyebrows raised.
"I have no idea what you are talking about, Olidra, I'm sure!" The first speaker's round grey face looked completely innocent, but a mischievous twinkle entered his eyes.
"And some sarcasm, too, I believe," Olidra replied, drily. "You are not normally in so humorous a mood, young Aidra. I gather that the text seems to trouble you?"
"You could say that!" the student snorted. "It is troubling me in the sense that I find about a third of it to be empty mysticism and another third to be untempered hubris."
"And the third part?"
"Utter dhuralom," Aidra retorted. This word, literally, might be translated to the picturesque phrase of "the sweet scent of the freshly processed meal of a giant lizard", and should not require idiomatic explanation. "But that is unimportant. The mysticism and the dhuralom alone would be a wonderful story, but what troubles me is the megalomania."
"It does seem to be somewhat... self-flattering," the teacher drily agreed.
"Self-righteous drivel would be more apt," Aidra replied, directing his anger suddenly at his old friend as if he had written the passage, or even defended it. "We are supposed to occupy some mystical chief place in the balance of creation, but just take a look at our recent history. Is it not true that the