In the aftermath of the arrival of the moon, a gap was seen in the Chain of Ydgys. Fearing to damage the delicate moon-shadow or the world of Halci itself, Light refrained from reaching out to repair the gap, though he tried to use his radiance to exert some influence over the displaced shards. Too slowly, they began to close the space.
For the aggressive Dark spirits that lurked on the cold fifth world were not done with their assaults. Their attempt with the planetoid that had become the moon was a failure, but they had untold amounts of solid debris and a new opening through which to fling it. And so, during the years of tide and turmoil upon Halci as the world struggled to adjust to the presence of the moon, the Dark spirits bombarded both moon and planet with smaller fragments that bit into the skin of both and began to burrow inward.
Unafflicted by the chaos on the surface but suffering their own schism due to the curse of magic, the people of metal could not react to the fragments of Darkness that pierced into their underground cities only to delve deeper. However, they made their first diplomatic overture to the Nimir in order to alert them to these burrowing dangers, and the stone-folk—unperturbed by anything that had gone on thus far—focused their attention on destroying the ones they could find, which they designated ‘world-eaters’ as they seemed determined to chew their way into the heart of the planet.
Meanwhile, the skinchanger races on the surface of Halci suffered devastating losses as the moon created tides and changed weather patterns. Even in the depths of the planet, the elemental spirits felt the new arrival’s presence, and both Fire and Metal strove upward to see what had transpired. As new metal spilled through the veins that the first metal shards had made, the Houses of Metal were refreshed with innocent new blood, but Fire’s effect was far more dramatic. For the first time since its entombment with Metal in the core of the world, Fire breached the surface and turned its bright eye upon the moon, igniting a vast chain of volcanoes so it could observe every moment of its orbit.
Between the new tides and the volcanic eruptions, the skinchanger civilizations that had begun to form in the previous peaceful age were shattered. Villagers became nomadic herds again; predators that had lurked at the fringes of nascent towns, fat from the easy pickings, were forced into the hunting life again. All creatures moved toward the equator as ash and stormclouds hazed the sun, bringing a chill to the world—while in the south the eruptions also brought a flood of reptile-folk down from the hot slopes on which they had dwelt into the land that had previously been held by plains- and lake-dwelling peoples.
Into this environment of upheaval came the final interlopers, in the form of twelve crystalline spears falling through the darkness from their origin close to the Scouring Light. Each spire was a compressed gestalt of light-based entities slowly being forced into physicality by the pressure of the darkening realm through which they traveled, and on their tail followed an enemy of blinding energy that meant to destroy them for its master: the sun from which they had fled when it chose to annihilate anything around it that could cast a shadow, including its children.
Terrified and with nowhere to hide, the entities had found themselves with no option but to run for the Dark–as the Scouring Light held the same opinion as their now-murderous sun—but as they fell into the Darker realms they found it equally frightening to contemplate their descent. The further they fell, the more solid they became, their higher-dimensional selves collapsing inward as they approached the singularity of the Hungry Dark; they had fled one annihilation to run headlong into another.
So when they saw the signal that passed between the spires of the Metal sorcerers and the Scouring Light, they took that as a sign: not of the destruction of another civilization but as evidence that they had spotted a place that light could still reach even in darkness, but not thoroughly burn. A place perhaps balanced enough for them to hide.
To them, the Chain of Ydgys and its temporary gap were also a lucky break, for though they could have come at Halci from any angle, the killer light on their tail would have followed them down. Angling for the Chain and its gap, however, put them straight through the dense crowd of Dark spirits that had been flinging debris upon Halci—a danger that they, as small lights, could punch through with the efficacy of needles while their murderous pursuer would have to fight.
Their maneuver was not entirely successful. Though the hunting light found itself stymied by the solid debris of the Chain of Ydgys and was immediately assaulted by all the Darks, only nine of twelve crystalline spears broke through the Chain and fell to Halci. Their uncontrolled descent resulted in the devastation of a great swath of woodland in the heart of the northern continent as they impacted it en masse, and when the steam of boiled lakes cleared, the newcomers found themselves confronted by a dark-pelted too-solid crowd of native creatures.
They reacted badly, thinking they had come to rest on a world infested by Dark entities, and annihilated all the skinchangers that had gathered to investigate them. The bulk were a great herd of inquisitive deer-folk, and their swift and sudden deaths shattered the Stag Spirit irrevocably, sending parts of it fleeing across the land to hide in its scattered people and die slowly, in inconsolable terror.
The Stag’s shattering was felt by the Guardian spirit most, but to some degree all the beast-spirits felt it. Most angered was Raun the Wolf, for Aeruhtali Tanrant, the Stag, had been his favorite enemy and he could not suffer another to have slain him. Calling together his kin, Raun organized the greatest hunt of his existence, bent on the destruction of all of these new-fallen stars.
For there were not nine, but thousands—each tied to one of the crystalline towers in which it had fallen but existing as a separate sentience, now caged in a separate, somewhat fleshy three-dimensional glass body due to the pressures of deeper space-time. As baffled by their new physical forms as they were by this realm, the fallen stars—or wraiths, as they would come to be called—lashed out uncoordinatedly at the skinchangers that assaulted them, and Raun’s wolves found that they could destroy the glass bodies but not the brilliant essences that dwelt within. No matter what they did, those essences escaped their broken forms and fled back to one of the nine crystalline towers.
With the skinchangers’ own coordination broken due to the upheaval of weather and landscape, the war between native races and wraiths initially stuttered, with pockets of conflict spearheaded by wolves but backed by any other skinchangers they could find. All of the beast-spirits hated and feared the wraiths, and for the first time since the Great Schism both predator- and prey-folk worked side by side, even the Guardian and Ravager putting away their differences to press the fight. They could not overcome the bite of storms and colder winter, though, and when they withdrew to warmer climes, the wraiths gathered at their towers to bask in the stellar energy they were made from and began to organize their counterattack.
The wraiths knew they could not leave Halci now. The hunting light that had chased them here seemed to have been stopped by the Dark entities at the gap in the Chain, but they could not be sure it had been destroyed. In addition, the very act of falling to the planet’s surface had changed them, as if Halci had exerted its own space-time pressure to further collapse them into physical form; while here, they could not unfold into the higher dimensions that allowed them to sail the cosmos. Their towers held energy that could break Halci’s effects temporarily—perhaps even enough for them to escape the world’s gravity and return to their flight into darkness—but just as many of the wraiths feared a further descent as feared the struggle with the native species. In the end, the captains of the three wraith flagships decided that they would stay here, claim Halci as their own and spread a web of enlightenment over it so that they could expand the world, and themselves, into the panoply of dimensions they had experienced on their world of origin. They would make the place their own.
Whether the natives liked it or not.
Next: The Wraith War, the Mask and the Breach of the Grey