In the time before time, when Arin first dreamed the Known World into existence, he breathed life into the stars. The stars awoke from Arin’s dream as glorious, shining beings of indescribable beauty. In form, they were like humans, but their bodies shined light onto what was, at the time, a very dark world. They awoke long before humans, so they were a good deal wiser and had vast knowledge. Little was hidden from them, since their home was high above the earth. Arin charged them with lighting his realm. He set one of them, Solara, closer to the earth and gave her the task of ensuring there was enough light for life to flourish but also enough darkness to rest. Solara was pleased with this arrangement because it gave her time to rest too. So during the day, Solara danced across the sky over Earth providing light to make the plants grown, warm all creatures, and help humans and the other two-legged creatures find their way. At night, she retreated to the Halls of Arin to enjoy the company of her kinsmen and would rest while the others danced across the night sky and watched over the earth from afar. And so this cycle continued time out of mind, across years and centuries of which the stars were not aware for they had no means by which to mark time. Past, present, and future were all the same to them.
Then, Solara bore a daughter, a child beautiful and radiant. She was the joy of her people, and her mother and father called her Talisë, meaning “life light” in their language. The child grew to be the fairest star in Arin’s realm and the finest dancer. She loved the star dance above all things, and Arin often found her dancing carefree even when the others were resting during the day. Though she was hidden from the creatures of earth by Solara’s light, Talisë’s affinity for daytime dancing began to cause dismay among the Elders. They warned her that only ill would come of breaking Arin’s natural order – day was the time of rest, night the time of dance. Talisë heard the words of the Elders, but try as she might to heed them, her love for the dance overcame her. She reasoned that her mother’s light covered her own and she was not causing harm or interfering in the affairs of earth. So she continued dancing through the night and into the morning, though she tried to slip away without the Elders’ notice.
With each new day, Talisë saw the earth by Solara’s light, and she soon became enamored by the dispersion of light across the surface. She spent increasingly more time dancing in the morning light, drawing closer and closer. And the nearer Talisë came to earth the more details she saw – trees, grass, waves on the ocean shore, mammoth mountains of rock with deep crags and sharp summits. She eventually came to a land that was covered in sand. While the color was a plain tan, Solara’s light caught in individual grains from her perspective above, and they glistened and shined in ways that Talisë had never seen. Fascinated, she returned day after day, drawing ever so close to the earth’s surface but never touching it.
One day, as she leaped and spun above the ground, she came upon a young man from behind. Talisë had seen humans before and was not alarmed. Immediately, she ceased dancing, so she did not risk betraying her presence. Remembering the admonishments she had received from the Elders, she decided, since she had nearly been caught, it was best to return to Arin’s Halls for the remainder of the day, but just as she was about to rise back into the sky, the young man turned his head just enough that she glimpsed the side of his face. She stopped. He had brown skin and dark eyes, and his hair was as black as those spaces where her kindred did not go. His eyes skimmed the horizon, calm and serene but ever watchful and attentive. The slightest change in shadow prompted him to redirect his gaze. Talisë marveled at his perception, as all of the humans she had witnessed thus far seemed more scattered, loud, dull, and a bit clumsy. Many of the four legged creatures appeared much more adept than they, so she had never drawn near one. Suddenly, the young man rose and pivoted in one motion, and Talisë was just barely able to rise out of sight before his eyes could fix on her. Below, he paced the area, inspecting it as his eyes roved further out amongst the dunes. Eventually, he settled back down, but Talisë knew that he had sensed her and was searching for her. Solara’s dance was nearing its end, so Talisë fled from the earth back to Arin’s Halls, leaving the young man to his watch.
The next day, she returned.
On the plains of Aelachman lived a race of humans known as the Hodelin. The Plains were a dry, barren wasteland, making the Holdelin strong, resilient, and adaptive. According to their storytellers and shamans, Aelachman and its surrounding lands had once been green and fertile, but there was no one alive who remembered those days. The desolation of the land and the rise of the tyrant Molek coincided, and most of the Hodelin believed these events were related, but no one knew for sure, anymore than they knew how Molek had been able to extend his life so far beyond that of a normal human being. Born into a battle for their own survival, the Hodelin banded together as nomads, traveling from oasis to oasis, and taking resources needed (since they could no longer be grown), sometimes by scavenging, often by force. They especially relished doing the latter when it was one of Molek’s caravans, but in the end, supplies were supplies, so other travelers fell victim as well. Of great importance to the Hodelin, yet of low rank, were the Watchers. These men and women walked through the dessert before, behind, and around the tribes. They informed their people of the presence of Molek’s war parties and the supply caravans. They were the eyes and ears of the tribes and their people’s first line of defense.
Nomanir was a Watcher. Young, strong, and courageous – he was loyal to his people and sought only to do his job to the best of his ability. Because this was his goal, of all of the Watchers, he was indeed the greatest, though he never strove to be better than his comrades.
It had been nearly five days since Nomanir had first suspected he was being followed. He had not yet informed the tribe for he had no verifiable evidence of any presence, let alone a threat. There were no tracks. He had no description of any living being. He had seen no forms, no movements, not even a shadow. If he had been interrogated on the matter, he probably would have said that what he saw was light, but he was not even certain of that. However, what was undeniable was that, from early morning until just before dusk, he had this unshakeable feeling that someone was watching him. So, as uneasy as the situation made him, he held his peace and continued to scour the areas he patrolled for evidence.
On the sixth day, Nomanir finally found something. It was not a track as he had hoped nor was it clothing or hair or anything he could physically return to camp. While crouched near the ground and still, he noticed his shadow move. The sign was light after all, and he wondered why it took him so long to be able to see it. He spent more of the day than he should studying the ground and soon found he could see the light rays skimming across the sand between his feet and just beyond. When he moved, the light moved – some times at the same instance, other times it was delayed. It was certainly following him though when he turned, he would only find the wasteland behind him. Even looking up did not seem to help, but by the end of the day Nomanir had formulated a plan.
In the morning hours long before light, Nomanir picked a spot between two high dunes to the west of the tribe’s camp. Laying his pack on a canvas he spread out on the sand, he picked up a stick wrapped in animal hide and strolled south for about twenty or so paces. He unrolled the stick and dropped it into the sand and drug it behind him has he looped around back to his site. His footprints leading back disappeared. Tossing the stick over by his pack, Nomanir lay carefully on his back and began to squirm, and as he did, his body began sinking in the loose sand. When his torso was sufficiently covered, he covered his face with a thin linen cloth and continued the process. His arms sank until they were covered, and when he finally lay still, a very thin layer of sand covered his face – thin enough he could still breathe through it and, most importantly, he could still see through it and the fabric. It was still very dark out, but the stars were beginning to fade when Nomanir fell asleep.
The light woke him.
It was very bright, and for a moment, he wondered how, at this time of morning, he could be staring straight into the sun. But as moments passed and the sun grew brighter, the light above him grew dimmer. And it moved like a bird. It hovered and darted all over the area he had staged as a camp. It disappeared entirely for just a moment moving south. It returned. Nomanir was marveling at how fast and free-moving the light was when it dimmed just enough for him to make out a female form. Suppressing an alarmed cry took very real effort on his part. It was a young woman – though not human like him, that much he knew. The more the light dimmed the more emotion he could discern in her face. She seemed disappointed and concerned, as more time passed he could identify frustration as well. Seeing her upset bothered him, especially since he got the feeling that she was upset because she could not find him, but he reminded himself that there seemed to be no other way to see her at all and he really did not want to pop up out of the sand. It could frighten her, possibly frighten her away permanently. At the moment, he could not say for sure if he wanted her to stay or leave, so he simply lay on his back and continued to watch her.
She stayed for hours, on into mid morning. As the time passed, he began to hear the faintest whispers and realized that she was talking to herself. She was being very careful, despite the fact that she must be convinced she was alone, but at last, he was able to make out, “Where are you?”
She left the area heading north, and Nomanir stayed under the sand for some time before finally venturing out again. He proceeded with his day as he knew he could not follow her trail, but he did keep a careful watch on the ground, hoping to detect her light. Despite being unsure what she was, he did not believe her to be associated with Molek. Though it occurred to him she could be a spy, the notion made little sense. The Hodelin were only a nuisance to Molek, for his armies had defeated their civilization long before Nomanir was born. Their little tribe was of no interest unless they were attacking a caravan. So all day, he wrestled with whether or not to tell the tribe. He knew that as a Watcher he should tell them, and he was a great Watcher, but he wondered how they would react to her. He did not know, and that uncertainty made him fear for her. He wondered why it mattered to him at all.
She did return a few hours before sunset. He smiled as he saw her light creep across the ground. She was drawing close to him, ever so close.
“Your light gave you away days ago. I don’t bite, you know,” he said.
He did not tell the tribe.
Months later, at dawn as Talisë descended to earth to visit Nomanir, Solnaser, the wind, saw her light as she twirled and darted across the Plains. Straightway, he flew to Arin’s realm, into his Halls, and reported what he had seen. Though Arin was silent, the Halls immediately erupted with the protests and angry words of the disappointed, and slighted, Elders. Many of them rushed from the Hall in order to stop Talisë, but as they came within sight of earth, they realized it was too late. Talisë’s fate was sealed, for on that day, she let her feet touch the ground.
Talisë spent the entire day with Nomanir, laughing and battling wits at his post. The Hodelin were well supplied for months and had retreated to a quiet region near the southernmost oasis. They were not in search of caravans, and Molek’s henchmen rarely ventured into the area. Nomanir still watched the horizon, but he watched Talisë dance more, and fortunately given the situation, his job did not suffer for it. The day passed without either of them realizing how quickly Solara’s light was turning red and scattering across the sky. Quite suddenly, Talisë bolted up and, realizing the lateness of the hour and how brightly she was beginning to glow, bid him farewell.
But she could not rise from the surface of the earth. And as Solara slipped behind the horizon, Talisë’s light shined brightly, and she was very afraid, both of being discovered and of the darkness itself. Panicking, she dashed across the Plains trying in vain to rise and find her way back into the night sky. A bright pool of light followed her and would have guided her to at least sure steps, but fear banished all of her reason and tears clouded her vision. Unaccustomed to the sand, she stumbled, tripped, and fell many times. Nomanir pursued her, calling to her and consoling. But she was very strong and fast. As sure as his steps were and as well as he knew the terrain, it was hours before he caught her. Finally at midnight, Talisë collapsed, exhausted and shivering. Nomanir found her, wiped her tears, and offered her food from his pack. Huddling together, they spent the night on the Plains, and for the first time, Talisë watched her kindred dancing from afar.
In the morning, Nomanir promised her that he would help find her way back home, though he had no idea how he could return her to the sky now that she had lost her ability to fly. The morning light and his assurances encouraged her, and they set off together, searching for a way to return to the Halls of Arin. But the longer, Talisë walked on the earth, the more clouded her sense of direction became. After three days, they had made no progress and were running out of food. Nomanir proposed that they return to his tribe’s camp, meet with the Chief, and determine their course of action from there. Though Talisë was still terrified of revealing herself to other humans, she came to agree, as there were no other viable options.
As Nomanir and Talisë made their way back to the tribe’s camp, they were suddenly surrounded by the Elders. Talisë was surprised but very happy, but as she opened her mouth to speak, Arin stepped from among them. He regarded her sternly, his face grave, and she fell silent. Reaching out to take hold of Nomanir’s arm, she realized he was no longer beside her but had fallen face to the ground. The light of the Elders had blinded him. As Talisë inspected her love’s eyes, the Elders demanded she return to the sky with them. Talisë grew angry and argued, insisting she had done no harm. Citing her immaturity and recklessness, the Elders berated her for being foolhardy and selfish. She countered declaring them old, bitter, and inflexible. Finally, after everyone had been thoroughly insulted and infuriated, Arin spoke:
“Child, what you have done has upset the natural order established when I formed this world. It cannot be undone, and events which cannot be changed have now begun. I have come to ask you to return to your homeland and to never again journey into the Known World. You do not yet know the consequences of this choice.”
Talisë looked from Arin’s face to Nomanir, and immediately knew that though she longed to return to the sky, she could not leave for Nomanir’s present state was her doing and, moreover, she loved him.
“Great lord,” she said. “You would not leave him.”
Arin did not speak as he knew the power of love was great. It was his power, and he could not force her to leave, for he could not work against himself.
The Elders began to argue anew – some conceding that Talisë should stay, others remaining devoted in their original opinion. But this time, as they bickered, Talisë remained quiet. At length, Arin spoke again:
“Nay, we shall not force her. This is the path she has chosen.”
So the Elders fell silent as Arin addressed her.
“Talisë, if you choose to remain on this earth, you will never again dance through the night sky. You will be ostracized from your kinsmen, and you will live and die as a mortal does.”
And she replied, “All this I know.”
“But what of the balance?” the Elders cried. “With her light now present in this world, darkness will waken and grow in power!”
Arin turned to Talisë. “You have caused a great peril to enter this world. A peril that will ravage life with darkness and greed.”
She hung her head.
“But, you will be its counter, and your firstborn, child of both the earth and the sky, will restore the balance of the Known World and make it whole again. And when your time on this earth is passed, you will rejoin us and rest in my Halls.”
Then in a flash of light and with a deafening roar, Arin and the Elders returned to the sky, and Nomanir and Talisë were left alone with only her light.
“You shouldn’t have given up your place,” he lamented. “I am blind. I can no longer fulfill my role in the tribe. We will be beggars.”
“No,” she replied. “We will not be beggars, and you will not be blind.”
So Talisë called for Solnaser, and though he now regretted reporting her to the Elders, he heeded her. Making quick amends, Talisë asked if he knew of anything in the Known World that would cure human sickness or injury, and because he flew all over the world, Solnaser did. He told her of a purple flower that grew in the eastern forests that would heal the human body no matter its state, but being without a body, he could not bring it to her. So Talisë called out to the birds, and a golden eagle heard her and brought the flowers as she bid.
So Talisë healed Nomanir’s eyes, and they returned to the oasis and his tribe, who welcomed her as one of their own. Within a fortnight, Nomanir and Talisë were wed, and they lived happily, building a life together. Three years later, they had a child, a girl they called Reanna.