A World Born: The Promise of Fire and Fugue

Deep in the secluded archives of the Eternalist monks is a tomb for tales: multitudes of shelves covering every moss-plastered wall in scrolls and cracked tomes. Further below, ancient crates fashioned from kruckwood, limestone, and slate sleep in the deepest catacombs. Covetous roots crowd along the walls, inching to pierce through to the vast knowledge stored deep beneath the soil. Even these ancient, patient, persistent thieves cannot pry nourishment from the sealed-up parchments and letter-carved stone.

The Eternalists never cut the roots. Instead, they carefully relocate the ancient tales whenever their pursuers draw close. They treat the pages with special, ink-preserving resins — a practice refined through the passing of ages. Only the dim light of glowstone illuminates these vaults; the meticulous monks simply will not allow open flames, be it a blazing torch or a flickering candle. Even unfurling a scroll requires special instruments, lest clumsy fingers damage a vital truth of existence.

In the deepest chamber, ancient automatons guard passages from the times before the Shattering of the Sun. Only the highest-ranked members of the Eternalist order know of this room, let alone ever see the secrets within. Every passing year renders the parchment, the script, and the words all the more sacred — here there are some of the last, most enduring instances of Progenitor language, describing their theories on life, on love, and even on the secret name of the world.

Uruvalai.

One scroll is the most secret of all, covered in runes once scrawled with hands of unknown shape, for an unknown purpose, and for an unknown reader. Even the language itself is a mystery that defies complete translation, and yet, it’s still the most helpful means of deciphering the eldritch language of the Pre-Shattering. The Eternalists have never succeeded at copying the text, purely out of fear of somehow damaging the original. At one point a filtered, translated version made its way to the surface, but even this could not capture its true nature.

With every reading, the story begins with nothing — a blank page. Only after a few moments of observation does the the tale unfurl in careful, ancient script, unfurling in a slow fade from the wordless, blank reed-derived parchment into elegant scrawl. 

The world is lightless Void — a wasteland bereft of life…

 All that was, all that is, and all that ever shall be is Nothing. Only darkness covers the land, which itself exists for reasons beyond logic, all meaningless dirt without the light to unveil it. The air is a roiling, inky-blackness so deep, all senses fail at exploring it. The Void blocks scent, it silences sound, it cancels everything. This world has existed beyond time, and has yet to exist. The Void encompasses all that has yet to be, and it savors this state of uncertainty as it covers all with the perverse purity of Nothing.

Yet, even this lifeless world of Nothing has denizens — two, to be exact. Perhaps they arrived from some other place, or arose as notions from the cosmos itself. With no knowledge of their own origins, the two exist apart: one as thoughtless meaning, and the other as meaningless thought. Perhaps they were conjured by some capricious entity beyond comprehension, or arose from the Void’s own eldritch laws that remain unknown to man. It is possible that even the Void cooked them up in its worst nightmares, birthing them from the fear of life, creation, and death. The only certainty is the Void’s displeasure.

A lone Ember crackles upon an open, broken field. It’s the only touch of color in the darkness, peeling back the inky, impenetrable darkness of the world with its tiny halo of light. The Ember flickers, sometimes growing, sometimes waning, in its small rebellion against unreality. All that is, and all that it does is a violation of the empty, endless discord. As the Ember pushes back the Void, every exposed inch suddenly reveals a splattered canvas of color as if it were there all along: cerulean grass, vibrant, violet flowers, and gray tree roots covered in cyan vines. The Ember does not know whether it gives these things life or reveals life that already was. To it, the distinction is meaningless.

For millennia, the Ember remains stationary. It is forever bound to its minuscule thicket, unable to explore the hidden world. Trapped in place, it cannot imagine what is beyond, and because it cannot imagine, there is nothing more to see. Despite the color of its immediate surroundings, the lush plants fail to nourish the Ember. The roots it reveals are all hearty, thick and wet with life, unsuitable for the Ember’s hunger; they are too strong to fall to it. It cannot spread, as it remains the only voice to speak against the surrounding Void. 

The nameless Ember remains alone, crackling, flickering, and calling into the dark, hoping for an answer. 

Soon, one will come.

In time, the Wandering One arrives. They step slowly out of the darkness, gaunt and malnourished, with their skin pallid from eons of forging a path through the nothingness. They cry out with shock as they stumble upon the Ember’s halo of light, suddenly revealing their form. Before then, they had been formless, thoughtless, seeking something they could not divine. Now the darkness unfurls from their limbs, their face, their body, and their mind like smoke rising from the ground…

“My name is Seygh,” the Wandering One says to the Ember, speaking suddenly with a flowing, curious voice that she had never heard before. Even as she picks herself up off the ground, Seygh does not know why she spoke, or even when she gained such a name, or even a voice. Yet now she has a body, clothes, thoughts, and emotions… Now, she realizes that the cold of the Void hungers to end her existence. Before her, the Ember crackles and offers its tiny warmth, and the beauty of its subtle reddish hues — and protection from the Nothing. 

The impossible Ember crackles amidst the Void, as if it is trying to speak. 

Seygh kneels down beside it, forgetting the way the new dirt clings to her pant legs. The Wandering One tilts an ear towards the would-be flame, and listens to the once-solitary Ember.

What she hears is only a voiceless whisper.

“You… hunger?” Seygh asks, bewildered. 

Seygh casts a glance around and finds herself overwhelmed by the colors before her eyes. Right before her arcs a violet, purple-striped flower, rising majestically from its cerulean stem. Rapt with awe, she reaches out and brushes her fingertips across the surface of its petals… They are soft to the touch, teeming with life and potential. 

A mere instant after she feels the satiny surface, it turns brittle, brown, and crisply fragile. It wilts all the way down to the stem, until the flower is no more than a lifeless husk.

For the first time, Seygh feels a  prickling in her eyes, tears rolling down her cheeks. She now bears witness to the first death, and it is by her hand. So soon after being introduced to the beauty of a hidden world, she has already destroyed a piece of it. 

Her mind becomes heavy with doubt. 

What hope could there be if, even when something exists, my caress brings it to its end? 

But Seygh can hear another sound in that island of light: the Ember’s weakened voice, reassuring her with its comforting warmth.

Remembering the light’s request, Seygh coaxes the wilted flower from the soil and presents it to the Ember. Laps of hot, searing flame reach out for the husk and instantly engulf it. The Ember devours. The remains dissolve into ash until the once-flower becomes part of the dust at the base of the thicket. 

With sacrifice, the Ember has grown. Now fed, it has become a Flame, fueled by the flower’s end. The halo of light expands, revealing even more of the beautiful, once-hidden flora, while a new flower sprouts from the newly-enriched dirt around the Flame’s thicket. 

The event soothes Seygh’s grief, and she finds herself overcome by curiosity once again. The Flame thanks her with its warmth, its light pushes the Void back even further. 

The Wandering One smiles for the first time, and the great game begins. What starts with a dead flower soon turns towards a withered bush, then a whole blighted tree. Everything that Seygh touches withers underneath the brush of her fingertips, only to be fed to the Flame and reborn. Seygh still cannot help but mourn the victims of her touch, but in bringing death she touches life, then embraces and ferries the withered creations of the Flame back to their maker. Each time, the light spreads, and the Flame grows into a Fire. 

As Seygh reaches out for the next flower patch, the Fire finds its voice.

“My name is Firín,” the Fire whispers fondly. 

At first, Seygh knows not how to respond; this is the first other thing she has ever encountered, let alone spoken with. She begins to ask questions, and the Fire tries to answer. Each response is wild with guesses and conjecture — the musings of a hungry, lonely sprite. Yet still, they entertain her, and Seygh listens as she seeks more fodder to offer to him. Even newly-created animals fuel the Fire, with shapes and sounds that match Firín’s answers to her questions. She even offers her own fanciful notions, and they too join in the cycle of creation, death, and rebirth. 

“What if there were great creatures that leapt and bounded across vast fields, and grew fur as fine as a breeze?” 

Firín answers with the alosin, strong and proud, a steed for the steppes. 

“What if one were small and adorable, with large eyes and tiny, silly antlers?” Seygh asks, pantomiming with her fingers. With a laugh, Firín answers with the ridiculous and affable smeerp.

“What if there were… others? Beings who walk like me, and speak like you?” 

Firín answers with the sapients of the world and all their hubris, toil, and joy.

This pleases Seygh, as each creature becomes wilder in its designs and inspires more of its kind. Yet, none of the creatures burn with the warmth of Firín, or carry his undeniable vivacity and hunger. She pines for  more for this feeling, and asks a question closer to her heart.

“What if you had a body and could walk with me? That would be a wonderful creation,” Seygh encourages Firín, and he answers with a great glow. He bids her to bring him more of their creations, and soon, his body takes shape from the burning thicket. Right before her eyes, Firín grows into a being clothed in flame and light, just as Seygh is shrouded in death and shadow; two complementary beings. 

With legs to transport him, Firín is no longer bound to the thicket in which he began. He now walks alongside the Wandering One, and the two of them explore their unknown world. The Fire reaches out and holds her hand and, in defiance of their nature, he does not wither, and she is not devoured. It is the first time that Seygh can feel the softness of a touch beyond a fleeting instant. It is the first time that Firín can feel the warmth of another, beyond the swift flicker of a meal. Together, they are the only two creatures in true harmony. 

His warmth engulfs and consume all, while her caress brings wilt and decay— yet, when Firín and Seygh embrace, their cloaks of life and death peel back upon touching. Life does not devour death, and death does not wither true life. Within the burgeoning halo of Firín’s light, Firín and Seygh became the first to truly feel one another.

Even after this, their discussion of what could be, what should be, continue. 

It soon becomes apparent that Seygh speaks and questions with a sardonic, razor-sharp wit, while Firín warmly jokes and provides commentary on all that spreads out before them. Now that they have one another, they gradually grow to have true selves. With every passing day, the accident of their encounter becomes all the more amusing, in the way their traits always seem to complement, coincide with, and fuel one another. With each new creation, they look all the more fondly upon the beauty of each other. Firín makes make new wonders for their love, and Seygh embraces and carries these creations on their journey to create new life. 

Yet even with all of their power, the world still holds some mysteries to be unveiled…

“What is this creature?” Firín wonders, gazing upon a large, ponderous lump of a thing.

“I don’t know of this,” Seygh claims, gesturing at the wall of gray, slick meat. “It looks like a large, silly slab of foolish marine life. You probably did it.”

Firín scoffs, with a smirk and a burning eyebrow-rise.

“Oh? Well given the endearing quality of its tiny, pebble-sized eyes, and how they compare to the qualities you gave the smeerp, I would say…”

“Not a word,” Seygh quickly protests, with a smile barely repressed behind teasing disapproval. Soon curiosity silences them, and their investigation continues in earnest.

The two creators circumnavigate the creature, spouting speculations. They find the large, flopped tail, the billowy sail upon the top, and the sort of dim intellect that could only rival the barnacles on its hide. The being’s very existence seems to exude perplexity. Firín attempts to lift the creature with the strength of all creation, and yet it merely belches and rolls over. Seygh attempts to provoke the beast with prods from her sickle-handle, and yet it responds with purposeless cooing and crooning.

“I’m not responsible for this,” Seygh absolves herself.

“Nor am I,” Firín does the same.

“It’s rather cute, albeit dumb,” the Wandering One mutters. “We should keep it.”

“Yes,” the Fire agrees. “Let’s do so.”

For millennia, their game of birth, death and rebirth brings amusement. However, in their desire to preserve what they make, Seygh and Firín soon notice a single flaw in their creations: the results are inconsistent. Whenever the halo of light moves, everything existing beyond is again forgotten. Despite this, the creations are predictable; each one appears as it is willed, without no surprise or wonder after its genesis. The creatures are alive, but they are not living.

The pair halt their journey and rest beside a mossy rock, intending to sit and weave more stories. Their usual life-making banter continues, but they feel an implacable desire. Firín finds himself lashed and tormented by curiosity, while Seygh’s logical personality craves order and meaning in this nascent world. Together, they sigh, and cease their discussion for a time, only to ponder a solution to their dilemma. This endeavor itself quickly bores them, and without their interplay, the silence of the Void coils around the clearing and raises its voice for the first time. 

Now you see that your game is all for naught… 

Hearing this, Seygh frowns and turns her shoulder away.

There is nothing to be gained; this had a beginning and, soon, it will have an end. 

Angered, Firín rose and ventures forth to find the source of the voice, and yet there is only Void and himself.

I have allowed fools to frolic for too long… 

Seygh pulls down her cowl and finds herself even more agitated than before. As Firín’s light draws away, Seygh feels the icy cold tendrils of amnesia snaking into her mind.

Return to Nothing… Sleep, and welcome the peace of Oblivion, lest-

Impatient and brimming with energy of her own, Seygh drums her fingertips upon the rock beside her. One after the other, her taps strike against the hard stone, with a rolling ‘thump’ at each collision. It pleases her in its steadiness, and she finds virtue in its Rhythm. 

At the sound, Firín rushes to Seygh’s side, as the Void hisses and returns to the comfort of the light’s periphery. Light unveils a new patch of flora, and with it, a divine accident: the ground is as they had made it before, recreated with an exactness that they had never managed. The Rhythm obeys the rhyme and limit of their wild musings. The alosin, the smeerp, and the sapient return in their own time, existing in perpetuity even under the Void’s tyranny.

The creatures follow Firin and Seygh, joining them to observe the game of life and death. Rapt with amazement, the sapients ride upon alosins to explore farther and take in the majesty of creation. With the Rhythm came roles, order, and purpose. 

A creature of chaos, Firin becomes afflicted with a darkening fear: that the Rhythm will never be able to create things anew, and that its constancy will prevent true genesis.

Seygh calms his concerns with a kiss and a smirk. Without a word, she shows that there is love in the face of order, and that they carry hearts beating to the Rhythm of a new world. Rhythm has a true name, and that name is Fayt, their son and scribe.

The Fire smiles at the Wandering One’s discovery, and in his admiration, Firín departs from their embrace to secret himself behind a tree. In seclusion, overcome with awe and a touch of envy at his lover’s skill, Firín attempts to repeat the miracle and strike a beat against the bark.

The effort is in vain, as death is the bringer of Fayt, and life burns against it.

With failure after failure, Firín finds that his notes ever-shift, dancing in defiance of their creator. 

The Void laughs and encroaches upon the spectacle.

Ah, what a careless drummer… It’s a wonder you do not burn your love. 

The Void curls around Firín’s hands, seeping out of his every missed note. Even as he persists, his muscles begin to seize, and his endeavors continue to frustrate and paralyze.

You hide yourself from her to wallow in envy, and now I will have you yet again… 

The Void forms a dreadful wisp and wraps around the Fire, constricting his ephemeral bones against the bark of the tree. 

You will be pinned here, flicker-and-wane. Your fool-love will stumble off and forget you. 

Unable to move his hands, Firín remembers his love’s first gift. The first gift. Firín forces his voice to well up in his throat. The Void hastens to grip the Fire’s neck, but even its swift efforts are too late to prevent what follows…

Life begins to sing.

Unable to bring the order that characterized death, Firín instead brings change, dynamism, and conflict. 

Seygh hears the anguished, defiant rhapsody and rushes to the Fire’s aid, sending the Void fleeing in terror, screeching with agony in the face of their bond. 

The Wandering One presses herself to Firín and weeps with relief. The Fire calms her with his glowing smile, and in her embrace, he bids her to drum her fingertips once more. 

Saigh, bewildered, knocks her knuckles against the tree. Between the taps, Firin sends his melodious voice up through the branches, and together they create the Melody, a beautiful and ever-changing force to compliment the Rhythm’s order. Together, the creators wander again, and now their creations begin to love and battle in a dance of color and sound, and even live and die in their own due time. The Melody finds a name amidst strife and symphony, and that name is Sarehn.

Seygh raps, taps, and knocks upon the land, the rocks, the bones of creatures, and even upon the Void itself. Firín walks beside her, holding her free hand as his euphonious voice rings out into the world, bringing it change and disorder. The two of them thus craft the first song, with a firm beat and an ever-changing melody for existence to arrange itself around.

Together, they smile to one another and sit beside their favorite rock as their children dance and duel in endless color. Thus they create Uruvalai, the wild, wondrous world of their own making, with the untamed warmth of Firín, the withering wit of Seygh, the rhythmic march of Fayt, and the romantic dynamism of Sarehn. Beautiful fields, roving animals, roiling seas, and rumbling skies spread out before them, as a world of their strangest and most amusing dreams comes to fruition.

With a full heart, Firín sets about crafting the sun to dispense even more of his warmth, and Seygh creates a layer beneath the world for a different purpose…

The remaining Void peels back all around them and flees from the power of creation into the cracks of existence itself. Its roiling, inky mass cannot stand against the power of their music. The Void resents itself. It is a contradiction, a mind that embodies Nothingness, discord and hate. The Fire and Fugue forced it to be. 

To the Void, the song is the peak of perversion: a cacophony that brings the Nothing kicking and screaming into the agony of its own being. Torture. The Void cannot cease to exist, and is forced into a false half-life as The Nothing That Is Something, The Silent Scream, The Faceless. The Void begs to be extinguished, and yet even when it pleads to its torturers, they cannot grant its request. It gains only more names by which to feel pain.

The Void lashes out and attempts to fight, to hate, and to disrupt the song at any cost. Massive, serpentine tendrils erupt from every rest in the rhapsody, blighting the world, snatching up poor song-denizens into its maw. One by one, The Faceless swallows smeerps and sailwhales alike, turning them into blurbling, flailing monstrosities that emulate its staggering craving for nothingness. 

These efforts are all for naught, and yet they trouble Seygh. The Void’s anguish is even more horrific in the face of the life around them. It pains the Wandering One to see this suffering forced upon the children of song.

Once more, Seygh’s cleverness bears fruit. She concocts a plan by which she may finally rid the world of The Nothing That Is Something. Seygh smiles at the Void and speaks to it with sweet, euphonious lies. 

“…Safe refuge within a new land. You will be free to hate, and the song will reach you no more. I understand your pain and cannot allow your suffering, just as I cannot neglect Firín’s darkest creations.” 

With this gambit, Seygh opens up a hole in the world and shepherds the inky hate into the open, gaping maw to the other-place. The Void remembers that Seygh was once lost in its mists, and is thus convinced that death may be a friend to unbeing.

The Silent Scream falls for the invitation.

Yet, as soon as the Void finds itself in this new land, it knows it has been tricked. The symphony is so strong that it leaps across the boundary. Not even this refuge offers respite from the perversion of creation. It screeches in its overwhelming hatred and, in a last, desperate act, it seizes upon Seygh to bring her, too, into the created depths.

Wit them both trapped beyond the boundary, the rip-between-worlds seals shut with somber finality.

The Void jeers with notions of triumph and silence… 

Separated, you are weak… 

Remain here and forget, herbalist wench, and soon I will find peace.

Firín’s hungering inferno will ravage the world until his fire runs thin… 

The Void cackles mutely, and attempts once more to engulf Seygh in its amnestic fog. 

“Stay back and begone. I wouldn’t tackle you without preparation, Wretched Emptiness.”

The inky tendrils recoil immediately, stricken by an as-yet unseen glow coming from within Seygh: the rhythm-heart, and the memory of Firín’s voice rest within her breast. Memory is fleeting, but life, love and song stand with her in defiance, and so Saigh walks  her prison with a smile.

The Silent Scream can still hear the march of Fayt, the dance of Sarehn, and their song that still swarms the darkly-robed nemesis like an opalescent veil. Through the very fabric of existence, the Nothing can feel the thrum, the hum, the beat, and the tones. She left her caress within the song, and through it, death continues under their son Fayt’s rule of rhythm. Even when Firín turns away in sorrow, their creations take on life under Sarehn’s designs. The world of Uruvalai continues to live, die, thrive, and strive for perfection. 

In the song, Fire and Fugue remain together, even while apart.

The Void begins to hate beyond hate, until even the hate itself begins to walk and curse. These creations too, became hated, antithetical to the Void’s deepest motives even while they further them. Ingrown, inbred, agonized hate, bastard-children, false-souls born unto unforgiving. They, in turn, hate their creator.

Through the song, the two continue to laugh, joke, speak and play. From time to time, Firín and Seygh even manifest in the world via their creations, holding hands once more via proxy. When Firín hungers or Seygh shivers, they comfort one another from afar through their stories, and their mutual existence itself. Their game continues, forever.

And yet, dissatisfaction and longing loom. 

No matter which hosts they choose or what forms they take, the lovers cannot truly touch. No hand feels like Seygh’s, and no voice sounds quite like Firín’s. The forlorn creators pine for one another across divided planes, yet what has been done is done. The world now follows logic, and it cannot be willed to obey the whims of its creators so simply. Uruvalai is beyond the power to simply wish the pair together again. 

When Firín speaks to his son in grief,  Fayt refuses to offer assistance.

Sarehn the Melody, on the other hand, always believes in a third option…

Sitting within the burning sun that lights the sky, Firín casts his gaze out upon the sprawling world. If the course of events is what keeps them apart, then it must bring them together once again. With this plan in mind, Firín conspires with Sarehn. Every misfortune could be tailored to a purpose, and every historic tragedy could be twisted toward progress… 

Firín smiles down from the sky, and assures his love that it can be done. 

The plan requires sacrifice and suffering, but these things are no strangers to life. 

By any means, life will find its end.

“We will meet again,” the Great Fire declares from on high, watching as the pieces shift and lock into place. 

Cataclysmic prophecy.

The Great Fire shall descend and open the Void in a glorious fury of fire and destruction. He does not know what will happen afterward, or whether the fissure can even be sealed again once his love has been retrieved. Still, the Great Fire is certain that this is what must be done. He passes his whispers on to Sarehn, so that all the songs of the world may know Firín’s promise:

“By dark of Void, or light of Man; by the sound of song, or the sight of new land… Life and Death shall be rejoined, and I will hold her hand.”

Those are the words that begot The Shattering.