This is a tale about before. Before the cave and the mountains, before the hills and the forests, before the oceans and the sky. This is a tale about where we came from, children, and about why we flee. This is a tale about the War In Heaven.
In the days before, before the floods and the rise of the fangs in the east, before the east itself, before the angels here fell, before the hearts and the storms, before Sauel and Luna and the stars above, when the Flesh and the Metal rode in harmony across the void, when the Fifth Son of the old days (may he remain beyond) had yet to embrace the void, before the sundering of the seven low stars and the king who rose from the bleeding, there were the Stellar and the Na-Stellar. They crossed the nothing that was before all things as if capering children, the shining glee of the Stellar and the glistering acceptance of the Na-Stellar forging a thousand thousand imaginary gardens in which they could play. Time uncounted passed as the twin races of light and dark frolicked in their brief creations, and the Aeon of Nothing passed beneath their dancing feet.
As the unwatched time passed the fabric of all things began to bubble and shape and from it emerged the first council of the All. Karakine, first of his name and the king of the Stellar, who ruled the shining children as their caring father. The Metal, she who was grown from strictest order, and who kept this moment following the last. The Flesh, he who was grown from wildest chaos, and who gave this moment distinction from the next. The Fifth son, the outsider from the last world, who ruled the Na-Stellar with his watchful eye. Together these four formed the council of the All, and the Aeon of The Council began.
As the council watched, Karakine grew displeased. The Stellar were complacent, their creations transient. Nothing could last in the empty maelstrom of order and chaos that existed before all things, and he spoke to The Metal. “There must be things, a universe which we can call home. Do you not agree?”
And the Metal nodded her head, and there was a point of infinity. And the point exploded, and there was earth and fire, and the Stellar were each surrounded by great clouds of air and rock which blazed into glorious light as they found themselves spread across the cosmos. The Na-Stellar became their antithesis as they always had been, and became the great dark attractors which eat all light and rock. The Stellar and Na-Stellar saw their new forms and were pleased, and they spiralled around each other in their love of their new dance. And so the Aeon of The Dance began.
Long after the formation of the new dance Karakine looked on the universe from His new form and found it lacking. There was order and light and dark and air and rock, but there was no chaos. So He turned to the Flesh and said “Why is there nothing? Nothing but rock and law? This great pasture needs some flesh. Give it life.”
And the Flesh bowed its great head to the ruler of the Stellar and the flesh became life and the flesh spread, and the Stellar King was delighted. The Stellar took up worlds of their own, worlds which danced around them and each other, worlds upon which life swarmed and grew, and they were delighted too. And so the Aeon of Life began.
Life arose on a thousand thousand worlds, but it truly thrived on Karakine’s. When He arose and greeted His world His light spread across it and the beasts upon it knew peace. He harnessed the moon itself, to watch over the beasts even as he passed beyond the land, and He questioned His subjects far and wide to look down on the world and tell him as they saw, even whilst He did the same for their folk.
For a thousand years man flourished beneath Karakine’s eyes, and then for a thousand dozen more. The Men rose from the seas and then climbed from the dirt and took up the spear, going forth across the world to multiply. The spear gave way to the blade, and the blade gave way to the bow. Fire rose and was harnessed as Karakine watched, caring. Fire turned stone to metal, and metal turned metal into further stranger things. Man learned to craft New-Flesh and New-Metal of its own, and rode out into the great void between the Stellar on the backs of great ships. With Karakine’s kind guidance Man had surpassed every beast of every stripe across the universe, and now it spread its wings and went to meet them.
The first of the not-Men they met were the Kares. Not-Men with fur upon their backs and frills upon their skulls. The Kares had no way to craft New-Metal, but their own form of the New-Flesh was untouched, and man found in them a kin. Together the Kares and Men learned of Metal and Flesh, and they passed on together, stronger for their union.
The second of the not-men were the Icha on their red world. As Men, but weaker in both New-Metal and New-Flesh, the Icha were a hardy folk, and their king met the Men on the red fields of their world. The Icha learned much from the Men and the Kares, and the collection passed on, stronger for its union.
After the Icha came the Charrun. Scaled and fearful, the Charrun had discovered New-Metal and New-Flesh and another form of the universe they had derived from the Na-Stellar, which they called Not. Not was a dark force, the opponent of all which the Men and Not-Men had grown from. It was not order, and it was not chaos, it was as both and neither. Not possessed amazing potential that could rival even the council itself, rewriting what order and chaos themselves meant. The Men would not accept this, and nor would the Kares, but the Icha king sought to learn all he could of the worlds throughout the void, and so Not entered the minds of the Icha.
The collection of Men and not-Men passed throughout the void for untold ages. The Asgor, the eternal watchers of winter, the Chath, those who could vacate their bodies at a moment’s notice, and a hundred hundred other races, all joined the collection as the Stellar danced and spiralled with glee. The void itself bloomed with life, and the Men and not-Men spread throughout its space.
And that was when the Aeon of Life ended.
The Na-Stellar grew jealous, and had been since the Stellar receive their little worlds. As they seethed with resentment at the interruption of their old dances, their king offered a solution to their old ways to them. The Fifth Son took the Not, which was the one artefact of the Old World he had retained, and he cast it amongst the Men and the Not-Men as they slept. As one hateful being the Na-Stellar began to grow the influence of the Not, spreading it through the hearts of the collection. Sickness and rot spread through the people like a wildfire, until each and every member of each and every race was tainted by the Not.
Then, one inauspicious day, they struck. The taint of the Not spread throughout the forms of every beast of the Stellar. Men and not-Men untold clutched at their hearts as the Na-Stellar gripped them. Numbers beyond counting died, but most survived the clawing influence of things that couldn’t be.
But some were weak.
Some beasts gave in to the Not inside of themselves, and it crawled into their minds like a serpent into its home. They screamed eternal, trapped within their own souls as the cancer took them. They screamed and screamed until the universe warped around their screams, forming cocoons of Not that enveloped them during their changing. Couples, families, whole worlds fell into the influence of the Not, and vanished from the universe without trace but the echo of their deathly screams.
Fear took hold among the collection. In an instant they were decimated, and the culprits were unclear. The Stellar raged and swore and blamed one another for their loss, and their clashes of rage consumed them. Great clouds of gas and dust formed as they fought their battles and died on each other’s hands. Man fought Not-Man and Not-Man fought Not-Man and all races warred and bickered as their Stellar grieved and slew. Karakine wept as his creations and beliefs crumbled like dust, and he entered his great slumber to dull his grief, ready to pass judgement upon the survivors on his awakening. The Metal and the Flesh looked on the universe with displeasure, but did not act.
And this was when the Fifth Son bid his folk return.
As suddenly as they had vanished, the Not-blighted beasts returned in the midst of the war. Their voices tore the heavens to the earth and rent the Pasture anew, and the Men and not-Men ceased their bickering and turned to the lifeless apparitions that had been made of their once-loved kin. War was raged on a new level, with no mercy and no hope of surrender. Blood poured across the Pasture as Not battled New-Flesh and New-Metal, and the fabric of all things began to fray.
One by one, the heroes of the collection arose in this age of death and screaming. Cardia of the Men wrought his hearts of worlds, and with them forged new Stellar to fight the folk of the Fifth Son.
But it was not enough.
Loudi of the Kares forged new forms of New-Flesh, stronger and greater until they rivalled the Flesh itself in their potency. They consumed the Screamers like they were berries plucked from a bush.
But it was not enough.
Lossa of the Charrun formed her towers of Not-Flesh, until they rivalled the Na-Stellar in scale. They crushed entire armies beneath their motion.
But it was not enough.
Odon, Srot, Zaaas, Tgep, Exta, Thorm. A thousand heroes arose.
But it was still not enough. One by one they were screamed from the world.
The Icha king rose last. He sought out the deepest points of the Not within his world, cultivated by his own hunger to know. Deep down he went, down where the Kings are slain. Past the cowl, past the rope. He passed the seven points of the deep stars and the seven spears leapt to his hand as he slew each one. He took up the Not, and made it part of him. His blood became as chaos and fear, and his bones as order and hate. He was the Not, and the Not was he. He became as his world, and his bleeding eyes reached across all things. He ascended to be level with the council itself, and he stood before the Fifth Son. Blood flowed eternal from the wounds he suffered in combat with that deciever from the Old World, and his battle raged for time unbound as his skin was stained the scarlet of all life and death as his ichor washed across it.
Their battle did not cease with the king's death. It did not cease when he arose again. It did not cease when the Icha were thrown from existence. It ceased when his foe was banished from all things.
And that, finally, was enough.