Death found Himself lost in a field of stars as foreign to Him as the sands of Viridi and here He found Illyria. Her endless currents unbroken. The Goddess’s children, undying and unchanging. He tasted ozone and honeysuckle on every breath and He knew this place was not Empty. Over the waters Death said,
“Who are you?”
His tongue and teeth understood what His mind could not: a creatrix spun Illyria into existence and could not, would not stop it and so He must stay. For there could be no beginning without an end.
The Goddess exhaled delight. Her children swarmed, curious, to the surface. Here was another like Her that She had not Made and it was asking Her who She was. She was not a Who; She was all. And Her answer trembled every cell of the world,
And Death knew then, or could guess, Her age (beyond counting, beyond time), Her scale (on the outskirts of even His comprehension), and the tremor in His chest was not
And He thought to Himself,
“This will take awhile.”
Death called up His first gift to the Goddess and Her children: Land.
Stone and sand and magma lived bright and burning with the will of the Goddess. The island Death built was barren and hard and was the farthest extension of His power. He was young. He was not meant to Create. But while the island was a dead thing it was the first of its kind in all the world. A stuttering novelty that the Ichlo crowded the primordial oceans to see.
They crowded the Isle and each other and soon fought with cruel teeth and sparking eyes for the privilege of seeing. Death watched and did nothing, could do nothing, but ache for them knowing their suffering would persist. The Ichlo knew no other way.
The Goddess made Herself small and whole and set foot on Death’s Isle and every step She took brought it to bloom with flowers and vines She did not need to acknowledge to create. She asked Him,
“Why do you weep, Stranger?”
Death stood in a barren circle of rock while around Him Her presence called forth the wild. His eyes were only for the Ichlo and the sea.
“Your children cannot die. They will be like this forever.”
“Why should they be anything else?”
Death turned His quicksilver eyes to Her and beheld the Goddess who had given Herself form for the first time in Her long existence. A great and terrible beauty. Starlight made solid. He could not breathe. “Think of your Self. Your Life. Do you want that for them?”
Her memory was slow and always kind and it took a thousand years to recall that She had forgotten more than She knew now, than She would ever learn, and She would continue to Learn and to Forget. Forever. Those like Her but less than Her did not end but willed themselves out of existence when they grew weary but She persevered. She could do nothing else. Her creations could do nothing else.
The world wept with Her answer.
“No. I love them.”
“Then let me make them finite. They will grow and change and they will have peace.”
Wide and innocent She told Him,
And so He did. And so grief first came to Illyria.
The Ichlo began to die in horror and panic in petty combat that had never before led them beyond the ocean floor and silent waiting. The Mother Goddess knew rage and anguish and vengeance. Nothing She did would kill Death or give Him a measure of Her pain and for this She hated Him. The oceans boiled and froze. Winds wrought destruction over the deepest waters, made maelstroms of hemispheres, and the crust cracked far beneath the world as She rent it in her grief.
Her children now knew what it was to cease Being. They were Hers. They did not deserve this pain. She did not deserve it.
Through all of this Death stayed on His Isle, the first land of Illyria, and waited.
When the Mother Goddess came to Him next She was War. Many-toothed and oil-skinned and clawed through with gold. With her blade at Death’s throat she demanded,
“Why did you do it? Why did you trick Me?”
“I did not trick you.”
“They are gone!”
She struck Him down and He bled silver and blue, the radiation of a dying star, of a black hole, and He did not, could not End on the point of Her sword only transmute into something Other.
He shifted against the skin of the world and stood before her and said to Her,
“I did not trick you. I said they would die because all things must die– look at your children. They are still here.”
Against Her better judgement the Mother Goddess looked as He bid. And She Saw.
She Saw the Isles– for now there were many more arcing behind Death’s barren rock– grown strange and wild with plants violet and blue and gold and black. She Saw animals. Vicious, giddy beasts hunting, hunted, thriving in every shape, in shapes She did not devise. They made themselves without Her hand. The oceans were vast, still, but the currents were broken by lands that Her children had not swum anywhere near in their memory. She Saw Her children. The Ichlo had, in Her distraction, become something new. Some delicate-finned and many-limbed and dark, others pale and thick and glowing, others more fantastical still, all of them new. They had children of their own to fawn over, to love. They fought with each other and with fauna and with the Veil and they lived.
This was Death’s second gift to the Mother Goddess: Change.
“Who will protect them?”
She asked because She knew the holes in the fabric of Her perfect creation. Never could there be an unflawed thing that was also perfect. She alone devoured those monsters from beyond the skin of the universe but now they seeped through and preyed upon Her children as they explored beyond Her sight.
If Death had a heart He would not have been able to tell Her the truth:
“No one but themselves.”
This grief of Hers was smaller, colored red with acceptance and fear, and Death could not bear to see it. He fled the knowable, leaving the Mother Goddess to tend to Her children alone and teach them what She still could.
She set Her Templars to guide the Ichlo through the world and gave Her children all manner of new shapes and voices until they could meet and shape the lands on their own. She set Idryala, the First Fah’ti, into the world, a daughter in Her image who might lead and protect the Ichlo above all else.
While she worked and wrought Death traveled. The Mother Goddess’s grief had cloven something within Him and He would, if he could, rejoin it. He could only UnMake that which was Made. Death was not meant to breathe life into matter. But the Mother Goddess had worried about the protection of Her children against the abominations beyond the world. Death longed to give Her peace from that.
He twisted UnMaking into shapes, into sentience, into Unlife, and brought into Being the last of His gifts to the Mother Goddess: the Seawolves.
Iridescent shifting and dripping with viscera from the underside of the world the wolves were not in themselves whole. Were not meant to be seen with an untrained eye. And they could devour the monsters from which they were built without succumbing to their taint. They were the perfect guardians for the Mother’s children.
He presented them to Her and She laughed. The joyous Sound brought Illyria flush with life again, new creatures mutating and blooming bright across the world. She gave the Seawolves to Idryalla and her daughters before Death could begin to feign wounded pride.
And in Her children’s tongue, so cleverly crafted, the jewel of their achievements in Her eyes, She said unto Him,
“Now the world may begin.”