The Heart that Beats within the Void

 

     In the beginning a vast sea of light existed, surrounded and contained by Elder Chaos. The light had once been part of the formless void of Chaos. It grew bored and sought the limitation of form as a diversion. But the light cast shadows, and the shadows coalesced into darkness which seeped within the light and shattered it into countless pieces. Each piece became a star lost in darkness. The stars were without language save that each knew its own True Name. Each star called out its name across the darkness, desperate to find its brothers and sisters. The voices of the stars met, and together they formed the True Name of Ilder’en itself. To name a thing is to create it, and so it was that from the longing cry of uncountable stars the world was born.

 

     A great lord of chaos named Amnon heard the crying of the stars and left his seat of power to investigate. He approached each Star separately, offering it words and promises.

 

     “Lost light of a great sea, I offer a wager and a pact. Enter Ilder’en and discover which part of it you have created, then return and recount the story of all that you have learned. Only when you succeed in this task will Amnon lead you through the darkness to rejoin with your lost siblings. Remain alone until the heart that beats within the void withers and dies, or accept the succor and aid of Amnon.”

 

     In their desperation, each and every Star accepted the stranger’s terms. They fell upon the earth in a great shower, and the night sky stood empty. As each set foot upon Ilder’en, the spirit in the earth swallowed them. The earth spirit took the shape of a blue-black serpent. The light of the stars burned within him and turned him gray-scaled and milky white. Serpent went to Sky Mother and traded the light he had swallowed for venom to coat his fangs. Sky Mother took clay and water and fashioned man upon her potter’s wheel. She breathed the light of each star into a separate body and set them free upon the earth, warning them to ever be wary of Father Serpent and his new bite that meant death.

 

     The most cunning of the star children immediately found what they had created, be it fire, or air, or an obscure species of marsh toad. They exalted in their discovery, but soon realized they could not remember the way back to the darkness of the night sky where Amnon awaited them. They called out to Sky Mother and she came to them. She said that the water and clay of the earth was too heavy for them to carry back into the sky. She counseled them to stay for as long as they wished, and enjoy the beauty of the world. When they grew weary and wished to return to the sky, they must seek out Father Serpent and ask that he bestow his gift upon them. Many hurried to Serpent immediately, and before they could even utter their request, he reared back and struck them dead. The next night, a handful of stars gleamed in the vastness of heaven.

 

     The star children who had found what they sought but decided to remain behind discovered that they could control the world around them using nothing but their will alone. They became the first sorcerers and they called their power ‘Mangonaria,’ over the centuries this word has been corrupted, for now we simply call the power ‘Magick’. Each individual sorcerer’s magick was strongest over the aspect of the world that they had created out of their True Name, and it was the knowledge that they had created the world that gave them the power to reshape it. When the other star children saw the wonders and marvels that the sorcerers conjured, jealousy was born in their hearts. They begged the sorcerers to teach them their secret.

 

     The sorcerers laughed at their brethren and scorned them, saying that they were too weak and stupid to win Amnon’s wager. Magick was an art meant only for the elite who had proved themselves worthy. Putting their words into action, the sorcerers turned their powers against the other star children, and Father Serpent feasted well that night. When no new stars arose in the heavens, the sorcerers knew that they truly were superior. They knew that it was right that they should rule the race of men.

 

*    *    *

 

     In the court of Amnon there is no form, no stability except for a single sound repeated eternally, the echo of a distant heartbeat. Colonnades of sculpted sapphire lined the halls and corridors when the lord returned from gambling among the dead. The journey had taken him close to the outer rim of the storm, a hellish place of duality where the boundless spirit was shackled and broken. A place of suffering and sorrow and forgetfulness, where the beating of Ilzesisthur’s heart cannot be heard.

 

     The lord paced the halls of his court and the forest primeval clawed its way out of the stonework, soared into the upper air and dissolved into a raging inferno of green fire. The bandar-log howled and cursed as they died, clinging to burning branches or plummeting like comets to the earth. The lord stepped over one of the singed furry bodies, the corner of his mouth rising in a small grin. The door to his armory boiled away into a cloud of saffron vapor when his long delicate fingers stroked it.

 

     Amnon gestured and the bandar-log stopped dying and rose to their feet. They hurried to their master and helped him remove his armor. As the bandar-log fumbled with the clasps and buckles, the green fire continued to consume their flesh. As each slave was reduced to a pile of ash and soot another would step forward and take their place. When the task was complete, the lord stood naked, knee deep in ash and completely alone. He glanced downward and the granite floor became a pool that rose up in a wave that crashed over him, washing the filth from his body.

 

     The sapphire colonnades faded away as Amnon strode down the winding hall that led to his throne room. Eucalyptus trees sprouted and grew as he passed, light and shadow playing in their leaves. The throne was a simple wooden chair, plain and unadorned. The room had eight walls and a ceiling, but no floor. The throne floated upon an abyss of dark and splendid lights, and the gibbering cries of uncounted throats rose up from the depths. Amnon stepped forward into a slow and measured dance, his body flowing through the ritualistic forms without thought or effort. He danced over the void and sat upon his chair with a flourish.

 

     With an effort of supreme will, Amnon, the Lord of the Endless Storm, slid his hand into the fabric of reality and rent it asunder. Through the crack in the world he watched as the star children grasped Mangonaria, the sword of ultimate truth, and stained it red with the blood of their brethren. Amnon crossed one leg over the other and leaned back upon his throne. A faint smile touched his lips as the sorcerers of Ilder’an invented kingship and the holy light behind their eyes guttered and died like a candle snuffed out the moment it was lit.

 

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