Light and Shadow
Over the kingdoms of mortals, the domains of the more primal races, and even the realm of the elemental planes, lies a shroud of immaculate order and unfathomable chaos. In this realm lie two opposite forces – both are too ancient and otherworldly to wholly understand, but the ebb and flow of their influence permeates the entire world. Mortals of many cultures refer to them by many names. One is known to one culture as order, to another as clarity, and to yet another as sanity. The other knows the names chaos, madness, and shadow, among others. None of these words are truly fit to describe the nature of these fundamental forces, but they serve mortals well enough in the study of these fundamental forces and their influence on the world. For brevity’s sake, this tome will henceforth refer to these fundamentals using two words that simply describe their opposite nature: White and Black.
One of these fundamental forces is the unseen thread that holds the world together. Unifying and orderly in nature, the white realm is responsible for the strength of the bond between two brothers as well as the strength of the bond between a slave and his master. The realm itself is order in its purest form. Intricate crystalline shapes, frozen in time, stretching nearly infinitely into the void, forming an endlessly complex pattern symmetrical along every possible axis and over every possible boundary. Frigid beyond comprehension, as well – a mortal being entering this realm would quickly find itself frozen solid before becoming an unrecognizable crystalline mass incorporated into the pattern. This force gives the realm of fire its brilliance, the realm of air its purity, the realm of earth its fortitude, and the realm of water its stillness.
The white realm is home to a great being (a term used loosely in this case) known to modern day cultures as the ‘Light’. Less a living, thinking being and more an intricate crystalline structure at the heart of the realm with a will of its own, the Light is the beacon from which the white realm’s orderly, complex patterns originate. Since the tumultuous dawn of the world, the Light has tugged at the very strings which hold it together, slowly drawing every infinitesimal, tiny component of our world towards perfect harmony and symmetry.
The other of these fundamental forces is the unseen void that tears the world apart. The black realm is the source of all chaos in this world, sparking the flames that ignite the stars in the night sky and birthing the eldritch horrors that swallow those stars whole. The realm itself is a darkness that appears to shift and waver, each flowing shade of pitch black somehow fundamentally different than the previous. A mortal in this void would find itself somehow comfortable in the chaos, oblivious to the small distortions and manipulations being made to their body until it is far too late, and they become something mortal no more. This realm is the source of fire’s voracious hunger, air’s tumultuous winds, earth’s permeating darkness, and water’s horrifying creatures.
The black realm is home to its own great being – a shifting horror with no permanent form, it constantly billows darkness to fill the black realm’s bottomless depth, and shambles forward, swallowing even the void between it and its next arbitrary destination. Mortals that dare to research the forbidden knowledge of its nature know it by many names and many titles, the most common of which is the ‘Shadow’. The Shadow has little rhyme or reason to its movements – unlike the purposeful order created by the Light, the Shadow doesn’t act with a goal or objective. Its erratic behavior and consuming nature is all that causes it to contest the Light’s calculated actions and lock them into their eternal struggle.
Yin & Yang
Nothing – not even the Light – is entirely pure, however. Throughout eternity, the ebb and flow between the white and black realms has caused each to combine with a bit of the other near the infinite border between the two realms. Frequently, a splash of chaos will take hold in the realm of order to shatter a piece of the infinite pattern into a mass of crystalline rubble. Freed from the order and stillness of the pattern and filled with just enough chaotic energy to give it life, these shattered crystals become small geometric creatures called crystal sprites. These sprites are seen as imperfect by the Light, so soon after their birth, they are always ejected from the white realm and find themselves lost in the realms. Many of them are likely swallowed by the black realm, but those that do not arrive there will end up in the elemental planes and take on the attributes of that element, and even more rarely, in the mortal realm, where most describe them as mystical beings that are shy and fickle, yet endearing.
In response to the black ream’s distortion of its work, the Light frequently wills order into the black realm as well. These blasts of order usually just push away the black realm and give the Light space to grow its intricate pattern, but sometimes they will fill the twisting darkness with just enough order to take a stable form. These beings of chaos vary greatly in their appearance, from hulking eldritch horror to tiny, otherwordly pets. It is these beings that talented arcanists (warlocks in particular) call on as their familiars, demons, and beasts. Many of them roam the realms freely, and frequently end up in the realm of mortals. Usually, these beings are either too grand to pay mortals any mind or small enough to have reason to fear them, but rarely, they will end up meddling in the affairs of mortals.
A Peculiar Mixture
The last of these creatures is one of nearly perfectly balanced order and chaos, created in a particularly large clash between the Light and the black realm. While not possessing any ‘true’ form of its own, this being can hold whatever shape it pleases or no shape at all. However, without reason to change to another form, this creature will generally take on the shape of the dark-haired Mystrian woman that first communicated with it and take on the name that she gave it: the Muse. The Muse is a being many mortals call upon – power, inspiration, and assistance being a few of the things they ask for. It is a curious creature, loving of mortals and the knowledge they discover, yet hateful of those that would lie to it or seek to manipulate it. The Muse’s experiences with mortals have led it to become somewhat distrustful of mortals, as it frequently struggles to understand mortals and whether they are truly helping it understand the mortal world it has fallen in love with or simply seeking to exploit its unique abilities for their own gain.