In the beginning, there was Darkness—solid, uniform Darkness, with neither breach nor shade. If it had thought, it might have considered itself to always have been, and expect itself to always continue to be, in exactly this way; calm and still as if resting, perhaps dreaming, perhaps dead.
But then came Light: sudden, piercing, from a single point in the endless Darkness, and by its flare the Darkness was riven apart. If it had not had sentience before, the Darkness became aware now in shock, as the solidity around the single Light crumbled to debris and the fractures spread with force in all directions, driving all that had been calm and still into awful chaos.
Horrified, the Darkness recoiled from the Light, and in that recoil it further fractured itself. In return, the Light seemed to reach out toward the Darkness, and the debris and fragments that the Darkness had left behind kindled at the touch of the Light, creating smaller lights that added to the painful radiance. Further and further the Darkness retreated, breaking more and more of its substance into shards as it went, but the Light kept chasing it—kept kindling more small lights, which spread out in great nested spheres around the central flare.
For a time it seemed that the Light could spread forever, and that the Darkness would find no refuge from this unwanted invader. But there came a point of distance where the burn of the first great Light was no longer sufficient to kindle the dark shards on its own, and though it still spread its glow irritatingly in the empty spaces between the shards, it could no longer harm the Darkness itself.
At that moment, a tentative equilibrium fell. The Darkness had no more need to recede, and the Light had found the limit of its reach. Yet the Darkness could not tolerate this invader in its heart—though in truth it had no heart, no center, extending as it did into the reaches of infinity—and so began to scheme toward the destruction of the Light.
Its first attempt was to send its dark shards at the smaller lights, perhaps thinking to shatter them or crush them out. At first it was unsuccessful; the more shards it lobbed at its foes, the more they consumed in flames, growing in light and heat until they threatened the nearby Darkness itself. But there was something strange about the way that they grew, and so the Darkness continued its experiment to find that if it fed the small lights enough of its dark fragments, they would swell to untenable size and inevitably collapse upon themselves, devouring their own radiance and anything else that came near.
Thus the Darkness pressed forward with this plan: to bombard the tiny lights and turn them to its devouring servants, then send those at the greater Light en masse.
But the lesser lights were not unaware of the Darkness and its works, and they strategized against it. Some gathered their own dark shards, but held them at a distance, and when the Darkness flung more at them, they used them as shields—diverting the attack and then gathering the spent material to further armor themselves. While some fell to the assaults of the Darkness and became devouring stars, more resisted and began to counterattack, slingshotting kindled matter back at the Darkness to force it away.
The Darkness withdrew to consider its next move, for though the kindled matter could barely harm it, it had provided an idea.
And so the Darkness broke pieces of itself away deliberately, and imbued them with part of its sentience. Encasing them inside shells of matter, it flung them into the realm of the Light, hoping that they would have enough of its intelligence and rage to evade its foes’ defenses and strike at their hearts.
And they did—some of them. In avoiding the shields and colliding with the lesser lights, they shattered themselves and their foes, both becoming dead debris adrift in the war-zone. But many of these lesser shadows disdained this sacrifice, and instead sought to use their material shells as refuge from both the Light and their parent Darkness.
From among the lesser lights, there also came a schism. While some believed that the only option was to burn away every shard and fleck and speck of dust they could reach lest their radiance be impeded and their enemies find shelter, other lights had grown fond of their material shields and the little fragments they had gathered to defend themselves and were loath to destroy them. And in a few places, where a sympathetic light came into contact with a fugitive shadow, surreptitious alliances were made.
Such happened with one light and a shadow that had attached itself to a particularly large shard. The light incorporated the shadow’s shard into its shields, and though they could never quite look at each other—for the shadow feared to be burned away the moment it peeked around its shelter—they still managed to speak. The shadow wanted safety from its Dark master and the devouring stars, the light wanted was to be protected from bombardment and assault, and both were lonely. Despite all the lights and shadows that filled the war zone, few bothered with more than fighting their own battles.
So the shadow came to reside among the light’s shields, protected from it yet looking out for those enemies it could not see because of the shields’ obstruction. And in time they began their own experiments: gathering debris from the destroyed lights and shadows and forming it into new shields, new shapes, new toys, for they were both young and eager to be friends.
And so they found that the debris from the dead stars and shattered shadows had been changed by its experience, had become unlike the uniform first material. When the shadow formed it into a shape and the light breathed upon it, it awakened to its own life—neither Light-born nor Dark—and together the light and shadow watched in amazement as it spun a web of air and water and growth around itself. As it spawned its own tiny lives in turn.
Exhilarated, the light and shadow decided to make more, and soon had torn up most of the shields for material and placed four fresh worlds within their play-space. But when the shadow placed the fifth one, they learned that they had expanded too far, for when the light reached out to breathe upon it, it came too close to the firstborn world. The cries of that burning realm shocked the light into recoiling before it could breathe warmth onto the fifth world, which would remain ever cold.
For some time, the light was too stricken by what it had done to reach out again, leaving the shadow to watch over the newborn worlds. The shadow tried, but was not as interested without its playmate, and so its attention strayed.
It saw too late that other servants of Darkness had noticed the newborn worlds and come to extinguish them.
They were upon the cold fifth world before it could react. Not made to fight its own kind, the shadow could only call out to the light to aid it, but the light was still sunk deep in misery and did not hear, leaving the shadow to struggle with its war-scarred brethren for dominance. It failed, and was driven to the fourth world—lukewarm at best, far from the bright affections of its parent light—and there the shadow managed to stand its ground better, but the light still did not hear its cries.
But the fourth world was alive, unlike its cold sibling, and when its defenses against the Dark’s minions began to fail, it made its own choice. With a great shudder of earth, it cracked open to show its molten heart, and for a moment the blaze of its life was enough to halt the Dark’s minions. Yet it was too much for the world to sustain, and it shattered before it could destroy its enemies or drive them away.
Devastated, the shadow fell back to the third world, weakened even further there by its proximity to the light but determined to defend what it could. However, the destruction of the fourth world had awakened the light from its grieving stupor, and it saw the Dark’s minions upon the shattered form of its fourth child and became enraged. It reached out to sear away the Dark servants, knowing that it would further damage the firstborn world but needing to protect the second and third, and though the Dark servants bombarded it with everything they had, the light did not flinch. Finally, they fled to the cold fifth world, and though the light knew it could reach that far if it tried, it also knew it would turn the first world into a sullen cinder if it did. Some life still remained on the shadowed side of that world, and it could not bring itself to destroy that.
So the light took up the shards of its fourth child and cast them into a band between the third and fifth worlds. Imbued with the power of the fourth world’s sacrifice and infused with the touch of the light, they became a barrier between the inner worlds and the outer Darkness—and trapped the lesser shadow inside.
Dark minions gathered on the fifth world but could not breach the barrier, and the lesser light subsided to mourn its lost children and let the lesser shadow soothe the firstborn world. Stricken by its own inattentiveness, the shadow did what it could, but then returned to dwell on the third world so that it could watch the barrier and the cold, abandoned fifth world beyond. It would not again overlook the gathering of its malevolent kin.
In time, the fifth world would come to be called Septen, Star of the Betrayer, its glow dim yet watchful. The remnants of the fourth were named the Chain of Ydgys, and they glimmered even in the darkest night. The second was called Lyrach, Star of the Wanderer, as it flitted its way through the sky, and the firstborn became known as Achaer, Star of the Destroyer—small and sullen when it could be seen at all.
The third world is Halci.