August 30th, 1886
Within the cloistered walls of the Arbre Genealogic, in the oldest part of Zurich, a dozen children ran through the halls, their dark hair disappearing into the folds of their robes, black shoes tapping out like gunshots on the stone floors and ricocheting off of the stone-hewn walls.
Several jockeyed for position, intent on leading the charge through the doors in front of the others.
A glyph hanging in the air near the door, however, changed everything. Instead of boisterous talking, or a few girls pushing to the front, the children quieted, slowed their steps, and fell silent. The door opened, massive yet silent, and they filed inside.
Bridget Oriel was waiting for them and she smiled serenely as they quietly entered the room.
“Draw closer and listen, my children.” The willowy and tall raven-haired young woman beckoned to the group of children and they moved as one, settling themselves upon the floor at her feet. Her robes were intricately embroidered, dazzling golden and silver filaments on a backdrop of black. The room was cold and the hard stone floors hardly welcoming, but the children seemed not to notice.
“I will tell you the story of our people, and of humans, but first you must understand the beginning of all of it.” She continued, as the last child slipped into position, their eyes fixed on hers.
“Billions of years ago, when our solar system was new and a hundred planets circled the sun, one very important planet formed. In the vast darkness of space, it spun fast, faster than it does now. It was nothing like the world we see today. Instead, it was a red hot, boiling sea of molten rock - a vast magma ocean. Like countless others, it had been formed by the violent collisions of smaller bodies of space rock.”
The children were silent, their raven black hair and piercing green eyes fixed upon her words. The woman continued, “Before anything more than a thin layer of crust could form on this new world, another smaller planet, not so much different in size than the red planet we call Mars, hurtled through space towards it. The two planets collided with such cataclysmic force that pieces were ejected, forming the Moon and the asteroid belt.”
“And the energy from that collision also tore a hole through into a new dimension, sending a large chunk of the mass from both planets to the other side, forming Grote and Min, and coalescing into Fyrsta Heim.”
“Our real home.” A quiet voice from the rear of the group spoke up.
The woman turned to the child and smiled, “Yes, Zenobia, that’s right. Our world, Fyrsta Heim, and Earth, connected through one ancient collision, but forever apart.” Her face became solemn, “This collision caused a fracture, a tear if you will, and that has had consequences that threaten us to this day. The schism divided us not just geographically, but also in other ways.”
She turned, murmured under her breath, and an image of Earth appeared in the air above them, gold outlining the continents on a background of roiling smoke. “Here we have Earth. Much like Fyrsta Heim, yet very different.” She murmured again and an image of Fyrsta Heim, whole, with its continents outlined in silver. “And here is Fyrsta Heim, our home.”
A collective sigh rose from the children as they gazed on a home that they had never seen and most likely never would.
“Our home was where we evolved, where our magic is strongest, and it is where we were meant to live.” She waved her hand and the two worlds vanished, tendrils of smoke rising up and dissipating until the last remnants were gone. In its place, following another whispered command, there appeared the images of scores of raven-haired people dead and dying, with survivors fleeing as the ground shook and bucked. “Our forebears made a terrible mistake and we continue to pay the price to this day. A cataclysm destroyed much of our world, fracturing it through a combination of geological upheaval and wild magic gone wrong.”
“The Brams.” A child in the middle whispered, eyes rapt on the scenes that hung there in the air, switching now to a massive volcano erupting and raining down rocks and debris.
“Not just the Brams, Branwen, but the violence of this world so close to the barriers between Fyrsta Heim and here. That blood, that violence, combined with the wild magic that only a Bram could produce - they fed each other - and the cracks that had already been with us for billions of years ripped and tore. It was called the Great Dissolution, but it was more than that.”
Her fingers flicked and the sibilant whispered command was barely audible. The scene changed to a battlefield filled with the dead and dying, a village filled with smoke, and scores of human soldiers and peasants running in panic.
“For every ten inhabitants of Fyrsta Heim, nine perished. The survivors fled, they had no choice, but in the chaos of those final moments, humans from this world were pulled through the World Walls by the last of the wild magic, even as most of the Brams died, their magic was fierce and dangerous in this world. As they fled and fell, as our people entered this foreign battleground, the magic the Brams possessed flared and turned, creating a boomerang effect that sent humans into our world. The rift was sealed by the Protectorates in order to protect this world, its human occupants, and the last, ragged survivors from Fyrsta Heim. At least here we were alive, back home there could only be death.”
She sighed, and the children sighed with her, a collective release of ancient suffering and loss.
“Our world was shattered, broken into pieces that seem to fit onto this world loose, like the skin of an onion, and without mooring. The world itself calls to us, yet we cannot return.”
“Not ever?” Zenobia asked, her tiny chin trembling.
“No, my child. Not ever.” The woman said gently, “Only the Protectorates, those who guard the World Walls and serve Fyrsta Heim can return. The World calls them, pulls them through in moments of need, and only for as long as is necessary to serve the World’s needs before they must return. We lost the chance to return home a millennia ago. Our magic, at least the deep, true stores of magic we would need for such a task, are all stored in Fyrsta Heim. This world is limited, we are limited and we are trapped here.”
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