Book the First:
The Creation of Narth and the Gods
It is told by the Sidhai how Asutine created Narth. Seeking creative release even as a mother of eight months' bearing might seek the birth of her child, Asutine travelled the Paths of the Void, gathering unto itself the materials of Creation, even as it searched from star to star to find the One that suited best its needs. Untold Ages did Asutine travel, and untold ages did it search, until, at last, it found our Sun, spinning alone and unaccompanied along the Paths of the Void. And lo, there were no worlds around it. Spreading its form, which was like unto a great black cloud, Asutine felt the warmth and saw the light of our Sun, and said, Here shall I create.
And yea, although Asutine was vast beyond compare, and the materials of creation it had gathered equally vast, still it was not enough for Asutine's purpose. And so, using the power of the Sun it surrounded, Asutine reached into the Elemental Realms. So took it Elemental Fire and Elemental Earth, and with them mixed it the stuff of the Material Plane which it had carried for lo these many aeons, and then covered it this molten mass with more Elemental Earth and more star-stuff. Then Asutine wrapt shells of water and air about the great mass, drawing for them also from the Realms of Water and Air. Created it then two lesser worlds from the star-stuff it carried, and set them into motion around the greater. Then Asutine sent the world that was to be Narth into a vast circle about the Sun, and withdrew itself so that the Sun's light might reach it unimpeded. And as Narth moved in its appointed path, Asutine built other worlds to circle the Sun, of both great size and small, but none with the same care, for only Narth was to be the home of life.
And seeing that the worlds rounding the Sun were finished and Good, Asutine created the gods. Beyond the Material Plane are many Realms of existence. Reaching into these Realms, which it saw not but still knew, it grasped and tore free pieces of their very fabric, taking what it could with its unseeing reach. And each piece it shaped and molded, and into it planted the seed of mind and thought. Shaped it them around a core made of a piece of its own self, and granted it them the power of shaping and self-shaping. Then sent he them among the worlds about the Sun. But two of the gods Asutine kept apart, and to these taught all the ways of creation.
And the young gods did shape themselves as they saw fit, and did find themselves drawn each to the Realm from which his form came, and found that they could come and go as they pleased between Narth and their Realms. And in their Realms did the gods make their homes, but in the Material Plane with Asutine was their time spent. For a thousand years the gods did play as children would, and they grew in power. But two did not play, but instead stayed by the side of Asutine and learnt all that it could teach.
And the Void looked upon the works of Asutine, and lo, it was jealous. And it said to itself, I shall make unto myself my own gods. And as Asutine had done before, it reached into the Realms, groping blindly for the stuff of god-birth. But the grasp of the Void was not firm, and the god-stuffs drifted away, save for two, which the Void did shape into two, even as dark as itself, and cold in heart. And these it set before Asutine and cried, Look ye here, God-Maker, you are not the only Shaper of Gods. And Asutine and Asutine's gods did welcome the children of the Void, but one did turn away, and left Narth to find his own path. And the Void was wroth, saying, Thou has driven away my child, so shall I drive you away! And the Void did challenge Asutine and Asutine's gods, but its remaining child said, Hold.
And speaking unto the Void alone, he said, Parent, attack not this number, for their strength is great and they would be united against you. Rather let me go among them as one of them, doing ill where I may, and sowing dissent as I can, until Asutine tires of its game. Then thou canst claim the Elements and star-stuff it has set here into motion as thine own, even as these gods return to their Realms. And the Void agreed, withdrawing as it sent its child among the gods, to be later named Ntono, meaning, Child of Shadows.
Then Asutine did say to the gods, look you now upon this world that I have wrought. This world and all its inhabitants I give to you as your dominion. And lo, the gods looked upon Narth, and they saw that it was barren and lifeless. And the one who was to become Broka said unto Asutine, Be this a jest? For this world is as dead as the others. And Asutine said, Wait.
And as the gods watched, the two who had stayed with Asutine stepped forward. Velyn, said Asutine, naming her first among the gods, Do all which I have taught you. And calling forth the other, Asutine said, Friel, Do thou also the things which I have taught you. And Friel did spread his arms, and the very rock of Narth did shake, and the world did give forth music by his shaping. And Velyn did sing to this music, lifting up her voice in a song of power. And the works of Friel and Velyn did leave the other gods in awe, for in that time they did assume their aspects, and were great in power. And when they had finished, Narth was complete, and green.
And the gods did look upon Narth, and they saw that it was fair, for all manner of green and living things had sprouted upon it. Green plants grew on the land and in the seas, and all manner of living creatures swam in those seas, and all manner of living creatures crawled, strode and ran upon the face of the land, each in its way and to its kind. And the one who would be Dwiit did say unto Asutine, Beautiful it is, but there are none here whom we would have dominion over. And Asutine did as much as smile, and it said unto the one who would become Dwiit, Ye are gods! Create you thy worshippers!
But the one who would become Maire said, Surely this is dominion enough! Thou two, who art called Velyn and Friel, do you not claim all this as thine own?
Nay, said Friel, I claim not the green and living things of Narth, only the rock beneath, and the right to do as I will with it.
Nay, said Velyn, for I care for nothing but the music and the song; these I have taken as my dominion.
Then will I take all that which now lives upon Narth as my demesne, said she, and those creatures yet to be created who will honor that which existed before them. And Asutine said, Go, Maire. I name you Earth-Mother, and call you blessed, for although these two have come into their power, you are the first to choose what will be thine above all others', and thou hast chosen most well.
And Maire went down unto Narth, and she did assume her aspect, making a part of all of living Narth a part of her, and a part of her placed she in all of Narth. And lush grew the world, for Maire guided and inspired all.
And Friel did go down unto Narth as well, and did become one with the very foundations of the world, and did bring life and shaping to the heart of the stony world.
But both were lost to the eyes of the other gods.
And the other gods, save Velyn, did say unto each other, Let us not choose our dominions yet, lest we be lost even as these ones were. For, not having assumed their aspects, knowledge of Maire and Friel were denied them. And Asutine heard their hesitation, and it Asutine forgave, for they were young gods and not yet in their full wisdom. But Velyn did grin, and under her breath she whispered, Cautious fools!
So it came to pass that many of the gods set foot upon the living ground of Narth, knowing not that the eye of their brother Friel watched them from every rock, and that every flower and every living thing was the eye of their sister Maire. And each went his separate way as Maire and Friel watched, and each worked his design for worshippers. But Ntono did watch them all with disdain, and planned in his heart to disrupt their creation.
In the mountains, one god shaped beings from stone, and gifted them with life. Like the stone from which they came, they were sturdy and tough, but like the rock slow to change and dour. And the god who made them looked upon them and called himself Jisef, that is, Forger of Souls, and so named, did assume his aspect. And so were the dwarves born.
But Ntono saw the dwarves, and shaped orcs from the rock, and sent them forth; for Ntono created nothing for itself, but only to plague the creations of the other gods.
Another god to the rolling grasslands went, and from the burrowing animals there shaped a people, and into them breathed mind and life. And thus the goblin folk were born. But seeing them, Ntono created the hobgoblins for to torment them, and created many small races of evil demeanor from the predators of the burrow-dwellers, and set them upon the world.
Another god found herself among beautiful tropical lizards of divers kinds, and said, Here are my worshippers. And she shaped the lizards to great sizes, and gifted them with great wings and made them majestic and fearsome in all ways. And unto all the great lizards did she gift mind and spirit and a heart of god-stuff, so that they might be most powerful. And the goddess, saying, Truly this is a people worthy of respect, assumed her aspect and gave herself the shape of her creations; and took she the name Lisalyfra, which means Mother of Dragons.
But Ntono in later days did put himself at her side, and did sway her and some of her children to do evil to the other creatures of Narth.
And above the face of Narth, another discovered her aspect in the light of the naked stars, and named herself Borah, that is, Starshine. And with the power of her aspect, she found the shards of god-stuff that were ripped from the Realms by the Void and lost by it. And gathering those shards together, she shaped some into servitors and minions; but those of darker nature she hid from the sight of the gods.
But Ntono had seen her hide the shards, and when she had gone, he took them from their hiding place, and went unto the one who would call himself in later days Dav. Unto him Ntono said, See this which I carry. Let us sculpt creatures from these even as the other did with pieces she kept. And Dav said, Let us do this thing.
So Ntono and Dav did shape the darker shards of the Realms, and made themselves their own minions and servitors, like unto the creatures that already dwelt in those dark Realms. And on his own, after Ntono had departed, Dav did shape races of evil aspect, but not with thought to plague the creations of the other gods, though his races would do this, but because his nature was evil, and he did desire worshippers of his own making and mind.
Some of the gods, watching the shaping of the new races, said, This is not to be our way. And several went unto Asutine and said, Truly, our brothers and sisters create wondrous fair, but we would have more. The living rock and little creatures of the world below do not to us seem enough. And Asutine said unto them, what would ye have?
The gods displayed consternation, for they had not given thought to what they wanted, only to what they did not want. But one, Dwiit he would be named, was quick of thought and said, Parent, give us part of thyself, and we will shape such races! They will rule this world and do thee proud. And Asutine was flattered, although it was worried to itself of what creatures built of its own stuff would do. But the words of Dwiit, and the ones who would be Lison and Yrstyn, and others, did sway the God-Maker, and in the end gifted it them of its own being, and said, Go, and shape well. But the secret of shaping and self-shaping it took from the piece it gave.
And the gods did thank Asutine, and went down upon Narth, and there they divided up the material of Asutine amongst themselves. And one said, How shall we create? Each to his own, said another, but only three gods went their separate ways. And whilst none did watch, Ntono stole some of the material of Asutine, but did nothing create with it, for he waited and looked upon the other gods, taking as his form the shadow of a rock, for as Child of the Void, he was clever in all the ways of darkness.
One of those who went out alone looked upon the dwarves, and said, I find much that is good and admirable in these, so I will shape my people to resemble them. And so began he as Jisef, save that he took earth from a hillside rather than stone from a mountain, and mixing the earth with the stuff of Asutine, sculpted he a people smaller than the dwarves or goblins, for the god was fond of subtlety and cleverness. And to them he gave humor, and laughter, and a desire for knowledge. Then breathed he life into them, and the gnomes were born. And the god was pleased with them, for their nature was most unlike his own and he delighted in confusing and confounding. And in that time the god came into his aspect, and he named himself Meje, which means Baffler.
And Ntono saw this not, for his eyes were upon the many gods who had begun to shape beings from the material of Asutine. And many beings did they shape, and Ntono was amazed, for of one race were they, but of many divers kinds, for no god of the many was satisfied with a single design. But this was seen as good, for some gods said, This shall be the highest race of Narth. They shall be shaped that they might prosper wheresoever upon the face of Narth we may place them.
But as they were being shaped, Ntono corrupted part of the piece that he held, and unseen replaced it in the mass from which the gods did sculpt.
Light of hair and fair of skin made they some, and placed them in lands of snow and lands of clouds. Dark as Void-born Ntono were others made, and put in lands of burning sun and searing sand. And divers kinds of this being made they, even some with fishes' tails to live beneath the sea, and so it happened that this new race seemed more a dozen races to Ntono, but they were of one blood and would, in time, breed together. But all were touched by the corruption that Ntono had placed in the stuff of their making.
And one god, who would be known in later days as Josmur said, Have we not made a great number of these people? Have we made too many?
And the one who was Dwiit-to-be said, No, for we have made their lives short. Though their numbers be great, and their wisdom, their time is limited, and they will not outgrow this world.
And the one who would be named Kammi said, But is this fair? For all the peoples we have seen made this day are of a longer span; will not our people see life as harsh and pointless, its length but a moment in the eyes of their neighbors and the gods, and bitter in their mouths for its futile briefness?
Nay, said one, For I can see now what is to be. Truly these shall be a great people! Mighty will their numbers be, and mighty will their works be! But they are reft by paradox. And she wept.
And the other felt for the weeping goddess, and to her side came to comfort and aid, and in this moment she realized her aspect, and named herself Kammi, that is, Succor. But she was refused by the weeping one, who stood and cleared her eyes of tears.
Oh horror of free will! she spat. That cursed gift given with mind to make them more than animals! Great may they become, and wise will be their leaders, but not all, not all. For the fabric of their weaving has become corrupted, touched with taint and shadow, even as we made them! More evil shall come of this people than any other, even those made by evil's hand for evil's purposes!
But how? asked the other gods. How did their making become warped?
By the touch of one whom we called Brother, the goddess replied, one whom I now see. I call you forth! I, Srah the Inseer, Srah of the Prophecy, see you and evoke you, Ntono, Child of Shadows! And so did she assume her aspect as she called Ntono forth, and reviled and rebuked him.
But Ntono merely smiled and said, A favor have I done you. I have made the winning of souls from this people a challenge greater than thou wouldst have had it. Thank me thou shouldst, for I have made thy automatons willed and free and more capable of the final choice than any race I have seen created today.
But Srah and the gods did revile him again, and drove him from their presence.
And Kammi went once more unto Srah, to offer comfort, but Srah denied her, saying, No. Comfort I need not, nor shall I want for it in the future. I like not weeping; I shall never do so again. And henceforth, Srah displayed not compassion nor any feeling ever again, and was to be harsh with the truth unto both god and mortal. For she had hardened her heart that she might fully assume her aspect.
Her compassion rejected by Srah, Kammi stood amongst the gods unfulfilled. And even with gods, the unfulfilled will strive to exceed in that of theirs which was rejected; so Kammi became the Ever-Serving, the Ever-Succoring, to sooth the hurt received from Srah.
And so, in this time, Men were scattered across the face of Narth.
And one god, who had stood aside as men were made, did look upon them, and said to himself, Truly their form is fair. But he did look upon the horses that ran upon the plains of Narth and said, these, too, are fair. And he reflected upon the two. Then took he of the horses, and he did sculpt them into a people who partook of both horse and man in their natures. When he was finished, he breathed life and mind into them, and did look upon them, and lo, he was pleased with his work. And he bellowed his pleasure to the sky above, and named himself Palus, which means Runner, and shaped himself into the form of his creations. And thus the Centaurs were born.
And as this transpired, the banished Ntono searched out the found the goddess who had yet to sculpt the last piece of Asutine. And most subtil he watched her as she sat in a forest glade in contemplation of that piece. Ntono knew her, though name she had not, and knew that she was great in the power of shaping, and knew that the race she would form would be great in power as well. So pinched he off a bit of the stolen Asutine-stuff, and shaped it darkly, awaiting a fortuitous moment.
It was at that time and place night, and the goddess looked up into the sky, and lo she could see Borah above, and knowing Borah's new aspect, did call unto her, saying, Sister! Gift me with a portion of thy starlight, for I wouldst shape a great race with it!
And Borah did send starlight, in the form of a crystal, and the goddess took it, and shaped it with the material of Asutine. And then shaped she a people smaller than the Men and Centaurs, whom she had not yet seen, but taller than any other race of which she knew. Long of life and wondrous wise she made them, and of great beauty. But as she made them, Ntono stole two, before she did put life into them. And using the material which he had held ready, planted he the seeds of corruption and evil in them, and return them to the goddess, that she might breathe life into them, and that they might appear in later days to cause evil and strife between their brethren. So it came to pass that the goddess granted them life, and the Elves, the Sidhai (and the seeds of the Yadhai, the Dark Elves) were born.
And the voice of Maire did speak through the rustling trees to warn the goddess of Ntono's treachery, but the goddess heard not Maire's warning, thinking it naught but the wind.
And the goddess looked upon her handiwork and said, Lo, these are a glorious people, wondrous fair, and wise. And they shall dance and sing in the forests, and I shall be their goddess! And in that moment she named herself Lindelona, which is, Dancer in the Forests, and her aspect came upon her.
And Ntono, not satisfied with the seeds of evil which he had sown in Lindelona's elvenfolk, did go and shape divers other earthly evils. Into some he did place within some of the stolen Asutine-stuff, and did make of them magic, for to plague the mortals. And with it too did he make the trolls that die not by the sword, and harpies, and divers rare and magical races of evil nature. For he wanted no thing left to chance, but also for no one race to gain dominion, for his joy was in watching their struggles and conflicts.
And so in its time, the day ended, and Asutine cried, Hold! For the day is done, and ye have made creations enough. And the gods did cease their shaping for that day, and were well satisfied. But new creatures still appear on Narth to this day, for the gods grow bored or creative, and do make a race to bide their time. And Ntono holds still a piece of Asutine, and does still create new and sometimes magical races of evil aspect.
But for now, the creation of Narth was done, and the gods did admire their handiwork. And the races did spread out across the green jewel that was Narth.