Prelude: In The Beginning




“In the Beginning… well there is no beginning, or end, for everything is cyclic.” – Book of Kim

Once upon a time, perhaps in the not too distant future, things on the planet Earth – called Mother Earth by some – were getting out of hand.
     Now Earth is a child of Nature, the Great Mother, and Mother Nature has many many children. Earth, however, was one of her special favourites and was allowed special privileges. What sort of special privileges could a lump of rock and molten metal have, you might ask? Well for one thing, Nature allowed Earth to have children of her own.
And so Earth became Mother Earth to countless species of plants and animals, and was happy for many millions of years.
Nature (now a grandmother) was happy too, to see her child content and gainfully occupied.
However, a new creature began to evolve.
Man.
At first, Earth watched over him and nourished him along for she had a feeling that he was different and special. For one thing he and his kind had wild imaginations that no other creature possessed. She watched, fascinated, as they darted here and there inventing new things, like the wheel – and steam-powered motorcars. They dug into the surface of Earth and discovered metals from which they fashioned tools. They discovered iron, precious metals, coal and… uranium. Things began to slide south, metaphorically speaking.
At first Earth chuckled over man’s antics but Nature, looking over her child’s shoulder, wasn’t so sure these so-called ‘antics’ were a good thing.
“Be careful he doesn’t throw off the Balance,” she told her child, “Or there will be Hell to pay.”
And she wasn’t kidding.
For everything has a balanced opposite: light and dark, day and night, good and evil. So too Nature, who is of Creation, has an opposite. He is of course, of Destruction, and his name is Chaos.
And it is the Law of the Universe that everything in it must be in Balance one way or another. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction and things will continue in their state of inertia until acted upon by an outside, unbalanced force.
Mankind was an unbalanced force.
Thus it came to pass one day that Earth realized she wasn’t feeling well.
Where once she had been amused by the antics of Man, now she was worried. Humans were producing all manner of toxic substances; toxic both to themselves and to the other creatures of the planet, as well as to Earth herself. Plants and animals died daily from their polluted environment and no matter what she did, Man continued on his path of self-destruction.
“But that’s not the whole of it,” she complained to Mother Nature who was worriedly regarding her favoured child. Once green and verdant, the planet was now marred by vast areas of brown. Poor Earth went on to explain that Man had a major character flaw in that he loved to fight with his fellows.
“Whether over vast reaches of my surface or over a mere fizzy beverage at a friendly gathering, his species will pick a fight about anything,” she said in despair. “Millions have died in the name of a thing called ‘Religion’ for instance. I have even sent prophets to preach peaceful doctrines and try to steer Mankind onto the right path… except they actually crucified one such man – hung him on a wooden crosspiece! It was horrible! I could scarcely believe it!”
Nature said nothing but let her daughter rave; she’d seen this sort of ailment before.
“And Mother?” Earth continued, “I’ve tried several other remedies as well, such as floods, drastic weather systems, global warming… I’ve even shifted my tectonic plates and caused all manner of tremors, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions.”
“And did that work?” Nature already knowing the answer moved her cosmic force to surround her child with concern. Earth’s oceans heaved with emotion as she sobbed gratefully into the loving embrace.
“No! Some few are aware and try their best in small ways to help; they recycle, reduce and re-use, but others… the vast majority are drunk with power, and greed runs rampant. One whole country – with a population of over a billion souls – was actually allowed to opt out of a rehabilitation programme aimed at fighting climate change and my global warming strategies.”
Nature tutted. It was all she could do not to intervene for her daughter’s sake and clear the whole mess up. She kept reminding herself that children must learn some things on their own.
“And now… and now other countries are looking at that country and saying, Well we’re not going to participate if they’re not!”
“Socialism never works.”
“I just don’t know what to do!” Earth wailed. “Help me, Mother, help me! I’m out of Balance!”
“Did I hear correctly? Is something out of Balance?”
The sheer glee in that gravelly, cosmic voice sent fresh tremors through Earth and a chill that very nearly shocked her into another ice age.
“Oh no,” she whispered, “Chaos has heard us!”
Mother Nature however, was not surprised and said, “Come, child, surely you might have expected him to show up? Especially since this is not the first time.”
“Noooooooo! Not that again!” Earth was wailing in earnest now. Category 8 hurricanes* swept ferociously across the Atlantic Ocean lashing the Eastern Seaboard from Nantucket to the State of Florida. The Caribbean was awash in battering sea water, wind and rain.
“Hmmm… yes,” the abyssal voice of Chaos mused as he regarded the sickly brown surface of the young planet. An unattractive clutter of space-junk orbited above her stratosphere. “This would be the second time I’ve had to offer my services in order to restore Balance to your mother’s realm. If I recall correctly, the first time was over a matter of… um, thunder-lizards wasn’t it?”
“Dinosaurs,” Nature answered for her incoherently weeping daughter. “I believe they were called dinosaurs and yes, they were a little large and were threatening to get out of hand. But Chaos, dear, was it really necessary to throw that meteorite at her?”
“This is what happens when you spoil your children,” Chaos sermonized maddeningly, “and besides, it did the trick.”
Nature hated it when he got all preachy and in the interest of moving things forward, she decided to ignore Chaos’s criticism of her parenting skills. Besides, she suspected he was probably right. Instead, she said, “Well, she’s managed to keep the reptile family within reasonable bounds since then and to more reasonable sizes as well; it’s all a learning experience for her.”
“So what’s the problem this time?” Chaos sounded avid and didn’t bother to hide it.
“A species called Man,” Nature told him, huffing a little in her exasperation. “He won’t listen.”
“Ah, I see. Well, I can fix that too.”
“No—”
It was all the distraught planet had time to squeak out before a huge asteroid the size of Quebec came hurtling out of the cosmos and hit poor Earth right in the Himalayas.
She reeled, listing several degrees off her axis. Finally managing to stabilize herself somewhat, Earth staggered unsteadily back into her original orbit.
“Ouch!” she muttered to herself, “Damn that Chaos! Now my poles are all messed up and I have a raging headache!”
Chaos and Nature watched as Earth wobbled off toward the other side of the Sun, her pet satellite, Moon, trailing along behind.
“She’ll be alright eventually; it’s just a matter of time,” Nature said when Earth was out of earshot, “But did you have to do it that way? I had a plan in place, you know.”
Chaos regarded his cosmic counterpart and grinned, “Just doing my job.”
“You just like throwing things. And explosions; you like explosions too. Speaking of which, how is that project you’re working on coming along?”
“The Horsehead Nebula? Very nicely, thanks for asking. It’ll be a few eons yet, but when the time comes, I’ll appreciate your help with the Genesis.”
“No problem, I’d be happy to.”
They regarded Earth for a moment longer until she finally disappeared. Then they meandered amiably off in the other direction.
“So what was your plan?” Chaos finally asked.
Mother Nature sighed, “To be honest, I’m not even sure it would’ve worked but I have a Guardian in place. There was a mix-up of some sort awhile ago with some human king or other – I think his name was Archer, Artur, Artie… anyway, an odd thing happened when his semi-magical advisor went rogue and a Guardian was created.
“A Guardian! Well done – they’re very rare, even for us!”
“Yes, and up till now, I haven’t really been able to think of a good use for her.”
“Her? It’s a female human then?”
“Well, not exactly 'human' any longer but, yes, a female from that species.”
Chaos paused, turning serious, which was rare for him. “You may want to implement her at some point anyway,” he told Nature thoughtfully. “Things are back in Balance for now but if they ever start to get out of hand again… well, three strikes and all that.”
“Yes,” Mother Nature agreed, thinking how young Earth was and how she still had so much to learn. “You may be right about that – good idea.”

Time passed.
For millennia Earth struggled to maintain her orbit while her surface heaved and sunk, tectonic plates gnashing like giant molars.
Cracks opened in the planet’s crust to expose her tender molten core. Volcanos spewed magma and hot ash into the toxic atmosphere. Areas that had once been temperate now froze solid while poles melted, swelling Earth’s oceans. Which then in turn receded as ice formed again at new axes.
The face of Earth’s landscape changed beyond any recognizable geography that had previously existed. All evidence of civilization was buried deeply under miles of ash, mulched into rivers of lava, or crushed by megatons of ice.



It was an apocalypse of monumental proportions. Billions died; plants, animals, nearly every living thing perished.
Nearly.
There are exceptions to every rule, of course. Cockroaches for instance, flourished as only cockroaches can when unchecked. Small remnants of other species managed to survive in the few remaining habitable pockets where they were lucky enough to find shelter. 
For not all of the Earth’s surface had become deadly. Of those fortunate species – or unfortunate as the case may be depending upon how one looks at things – those that found sanctuary on or in viable pieces of land or sea also tenaciously found ways to survive precariously. Life on Earth, what was left of it, had become very difficult indeed.
As the tentative rudiments of civilization began to form once again and the voids created by mass extinction of many, many species required filling, a new thing, the existence of which had only been hinted at before the apocalypse, was discovered on Earth.
Magic.

* Yes, I know there are no such thing as Category 8 hurricanes. It's my story. 



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