Apr 08, 2020 10:24 AM
The First Age
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There is only one person here. Otherwise, nothing but void and silence and darkness. But there could be more someones here. When things are ready.

 

What has been destroyed is gone forever. A being's mind is theirs alone. The past is inviolate and unchangable.

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Void and silence and darkness is so dreadfully, horribly boring.

Let there be explosions.

Numerous things, super hot, super focused on one point, wrapping her mental hands around them to squeeze them together more - 

Then releasing. Guiding nothing, letting the chaos quiver and reign and seeing what happens.

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The conflagrations spread out in perfectly orderly patterns, sprays of soundless energy and motion and light. Gas filled with flecks of heavier things spreads and cools in nearly perfect spheres, the outermost shell a wave of matter and energy while what is left behind is streaked with subtle bands of density and vacuum and light.

The explosions are curiously peaceful, almost identical and uniform aside from the subtle differences in their random inner cores - until the expanding edges of two of the clouds meet, and there the gas flattens and twists, forming a new pattern as the expanding waves gently tug on each other, interacting but not entirely stopping each other. 

Where more than two explosions meet, simultaneously or delayed, twists and churns and froths and foams form, spinning and dancing and glowing. Little clumps of heavier things, the dust of these titanic explosions, form here and there where the edges meet.

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Eeeeee!

She fills the space with clouds - especially of things that will effectively carry sound - and with irregularly shaped chunks of different types of matter, then makes more explosions.

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Sound chases light through the clouds. Waves of flame and sprays of molten matter dance, scattering and clumping together and being destroyed again. Rumbles and roaring reverberate through the clouds as they are heated and pushed and compressed and dashed apart and form twisting currents and eddies in a hundred ways, all pushed on by the chaos.

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She fills the chaotic dance with laughter.

But...

She's in perfect control of this dance, isn't she? She plays with it, adjusting amounts of energy and matter and discovering new ways she can have matter work -

It's all just her.

What's a dance, without partners?

She examines her twisting, twirling fields of chaos for a while - long enough for the excitement to settle into a more boring order - and thinks.

A gesture, and a section of the void clears out. The twirling clouds of chaos are here, and she creates vortexes of matter and energy and light, gives them enough randomization to not get boring, and arranges them as the outside shell of an enormous sphere. Here is a shell, a good bit in, inviolate, protective, sheltering the nursery she's making.

Here is air to carry laughter and noise, and here are twisting, dancing spheres within them, twirling about each other in an aeons long pattern - they shouldn't collide, that would be against the point of this experiment, but any being lesser than her will have quite the time figuring out that there's a pattern at all.

She pauses, examining the nursery...

Can she create something she doesn't know the outcome of? Can she make something truly random?

...Can she remove her own ability to view outcomes?

"The future is changeable and uncertain," she says, savoring the command.

And then -

Let there be life.

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Green swirls across the spheres. It fills the oceans and covers the land. Staggering varieties of life, from miniscule cells eating chemicals or each other or the light from the surrounding web of explosions, to larger arrangements that - still eat all those things, and is arranged and formed in countless variations on the same few themes. It seems to move in fast-forward, blossoming from single points and churning, churning, until it covers everything.

Plants. Mosses, lichens, trees, grasses, shrubs, tubers, flowers, fruit. Unmoving, but voraciously competitive none the less, seeking to expose their surfaces to the bright nebula.

Fungi. Using tendrils that slowly creep to eat their food, consuming the fallen for they do not resist, sending spores not seeds to make more of themselves. Slow and subtle and weird.

Insects and invertebrates. Crawling and walking and flying and simply sitting in the water, consuming the plants and each other, some acting alone and some forming hives of hundreds of individuals.

Vertebrates. All manner of things that swim and crawl and climb, most not that much larger than the insects. They sense the world around them in more detail, reacting without comprehension.

Living crystals, in a few places where there is very little water. They eat and grow and compete and reproduce just like the others, though they work in wholly different ways.

All of it competing with itself in strategies to get more food, to avoid being food, to reproduce more, to combine genes with the most successful others.

It's gloriously chaotic, with impromptu systems coalescing, becoming unstable, falling apart, being supplanted by a new system, and the cycle repeating. Whole kinds of beings are destroyed to the last, gone forever, while new variations spring up by chance in the random combining and splitting and reproducing. But all of these beings are, in the end, acting according to their own nature. If you study any of them enough, you can learn to predict exactly how it will react to any other stimulus, even if the system as a whole is too chaotic to capture in every particular.

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Delightful!

She spends aeons observing, but notices that even with her ability to see the outcomes of her own actions removed and quite a lot of noise added, there's still patterns.

She selects individual organisms - the most interesting, most chaotic, most capable of adapting to their environment - and tries nudging them to be more.

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This... Doesn't work. A being's mind is their own.

However, something thrums. And something changes.

...Ah, there, on one of the innermost spheres. A new vertebrate. Scales in an array of colors and long necks, four legs and two wings. They don't share ancestry with the life around them. They don't seem to be acting according to the same pattern. Yes, they hunt with some amount of cunning, they eat, and sleep. They gather brightly colored things like some animals do as a sign of relative cleverness to possible mates.

But they seem... More. This one arranges its colorful things to match one of the distant nebulae, and keeps working even when it's no longer visible, rotated out of view. That one scratches kinds of rock against each other and sorts them by hardness. Those two are singing, playing off each others' voices. This one digs a pit and frightens a small animal into it, gives it a little grass and water, then comes back and discovers it missing - and improves the pit to prevent another escape.

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It does seem aesthetically appropriate that she can't change what beings are.

The new beings are quite delightful, too. She examines them, fascinated, and when a few of her favorites - the most spontaneous, most creative, ones prone to inventing new stories and ideas and images - are in danger, she provides help. Flashes of light, to scare off predators. Food. Water. Warmth, when one's trapped by snow. A tiny scale, but she doesn't, particularly, want to have to stop listening, and she wants to see what they'll do with the help.

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Some of the ones she helps acknowledge the help with gestures and short songs, once it becomes clear there's a pattern going. A couple draw what they imagine her to be in dirt lines and colorful things: A being shaped like them, with nebula-scales and planet-eyes.

Here and there, pairs and trios and occasionally more start to live next to each other and shout warnings or provide help to each other, thanking each other with the same gestures and noises they use to thank the Sky-Scaled One.

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!!! They drew her!!!

She's never had a self image, before, her nature diffuse and omnipresent.

Far away from her nursery, where her experiments will be concealed by the nebulae, she starts seeing if she can't make a puppet - not a being, not alive, but in the shape of the cosmic serpent, an avatar for her to control.

She rewards the ones who draw her in little, subtle ways, putting valuable things in their paths, fouling their enemies - making them lucky. She turns around the idea in her head of making the areas around the drawings special in some way - makes a spring appear next to one in a desert area, to start.

She also likes the ones living near each other. They're more interesting, that way, and they seem to naturally be better at surviving - meaning she gets more fun little agents of change to observe.

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Making a puppet of cloud and light is well within her capabilities.

One of the ones who draw her frequently notices this run of luck and quickly becomes confident and reckless, taking greater and greater risks all the time. Those that live near each other also face challenges. They fight, sometimes, especially when food runs low. The team-ups rarely last.

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She only kind of compensates for the risks - death-defying behavior is interesting, but she's not going to hold their hands entirely. The fights are interesting too, in their own ways, and she lets those happen, though starts to wonder what would happen if they didn't run out of food.

She starts creating proper oases at the sites of her grandest drawings. Springs full of the most refreshing water ever tasted, that leave one feeling invigorated, youthful, healthy. Trees bearing sweet fruit, magically edible to everyone who sees fit to bite them.

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The chosen risk-taker gets frustrated, and angry, and keeps taking greater and greater risks and- Dies, trampled to death by a large angry herbivore it thought it would defeat, surely, between a cunning trap and a reverent, pleading gesture towards the sky.

 

The first greater oasis is claimed by a single dragonet, who eats of the fruit and water and flies around the area with great vigor, chasing down and killing anyone who sees the spring to try to prevent rumors of it from spreading. After two days, another carefully creeps up to the oasis, sees the sleeping hunter-guardian, and quickly eats and drinks and slinks off to watch the oasis from a hidden place nearby.

He watches as individuals or pairs or trios each lay claim to the oasis, killing or driving off the previous claimants by claw or stealth or cleverness. He comes up with a bold plan - he gathers three others and they lay claim to the oasis... But they don't keep everyone else from accessing it. Instead, they draw a picture on the ground of dragonets paying a token fee of something colorful or shiny to approach, and taking a drink and a fruit without being harmed. This... Seems to work. Some fight, but are driven off - most find it easier to give up something shiny to the four wardens and leave satisfied.

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Pity about the boldest risk taker. But he'd been getting boring anyways.

And the oasis experiment seems to be working! How wonderful. Even before this new behavior, they'd been doing interesting things, and this new behavior is fascinating.

She creates other oases, initially one on each continent, with conditions tweaked to suit - warmth in cold areas, cool water that also treats heat stroke in hot ones, plants that are simply extremely tasty, magical plants whose produce will last years if removed, flowers that bloom once a year with healing nectar within them... Puts spiraling vines, vaguely reminiscent of the Sky-Scaled One, with little phosphorescent growths like stars, 'protecting' each one.

And, after some consideration, she starts putting challenges scattered around. She starts with semi-exposed veins of metal or crystal, that no dragonet should be able to get to on their own - where the only natural tool hard enough to remove the shinies is in the horn of a few large creatures she places in deep caves (making them territorial on a small scale but not aggressive - these should be major challenges for multiple dragonets, not the end of her delightful little beings). The creatures feed on the light of the nebulae, have thick, glittering hides arranged in plates, and their horns are phosphorescent.

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The blessed oases all end up claimed by one group or another after varying periods of turmoil, occasionally changing hands. Some groups spend their accumulating wealth building more and more, bigger and bigger, depictions of the Sky-Scaled One. Some practice fighting or constantly compete in made-up games. Some simply lounge around and act lazy.

Hunts of the great Skyhorns do not go well at first. Groups of dragonets trying something difficult always seem to end up with everyone coming up with their own complicated plan, and all the different ideas interfering with each other. But they mostly escape unharmed, flying away when the Skyhorns evade or escape the crude traps.

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Seeing their complicated plans all interfering with each other's entertaining in its own way.

She doesn't reward the lazy ones, and, when one lazy group manages to hold onto their oasis for longer than a year (boring boring boring) she has it start drying up.

She examines the problems with the Skyhorn hunts, trying to piece together if there's intermittent challenges she can give her dragonets, to build them up to the big finale.

Perhaps if they had better claws? But directly making them more dangerous seems unaesthetic...

She places a few deposits of metals that should be easy to work, but strong enough to injure the Skyhorns if shaped properly, shortly under the planet's surface. This easily might take a while to pay off, of course.

She grows fond of one of the dragonets who builds - not bigger, but prettier depictions of her, using ever-refining techniques to craft delicate pigments, shaping the crystalline stars so they will shine better - and any who show exceptional cleverness in the games and fights, or who sing near her images. She likes the music, and finds having it directed at 'her' flattering.

And, of course, she shows her favor in granted luck.

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The lazy group who have a dwindling oasis panic and turn on each other! Their children are terribly frightened small scalies, not comprehending anything other than the playful ease they've lived so far.

A great chorus of dragonets grows in one oasis, the one that produces long-lasting fruit. Every morning all those living near it gather and sing together, led by a particularly colorful dragonet with a beautiful voice. Then, she eats in front of everyone, placing one fruit to the side very deliberately and obviously. Afterwards, every single dragonet takes one additional fruit when they eat, and carries it to a cave, adding to the great fruit-pile watched over by a Sky-Scaled One drawn in pigments and crystal on the wall. 

The continuous and always slightly-improving attempts against Skyhorns seem to be changing the noises they make to each other. There are a few dozen different warning calls now, plus other kinds of noises for everything from hunger to calmness to thanks to disagreement. Belting out the warning call for 'falling danger' lets one dragonet's trap rain stones on a Skyhorn while another waits, not yet enacting his plan to frighten it into a pit trap. They start to come closer and closer to success against the Skyhorns, mostly thanks to this communication. One group even manages to pry off one of the glittering plates before the animal retreats to nurse its wounds!

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The children of the lazy group are all miraculously spared from injury in the fighting, and once the group's hold over the oasis breaks it stops dwindling.

She likes the ones singing and setting aside fruit. That's very nice, and the singing is gorgeous. The colorful dragonet is rapidly becoming one of her favorites. She puts some scent markers - nothing the dragonets will be able to smell - around the entrance, warning off the sorts of small animals that like stealing fruit.

The meaningful noises are so interesting! She plays with making them in little temporary clouds of air, away from the nursery, at different volumes, in different tones. 

She then, idly, plays with the non-sapient life on the other twelve planets. She likes the phosphorescence... She starts nudging them to each be incredibly unique, more so than their starting conditions already were (which mostly focused on making them differently pretty), so they won't just be copies of the dragonet planet minus the dragonets. There's no intelligent beings on these for her to get attached to, so she doesn't feel bad about cloaking them in volcanic ash if she messes up and needs to start mostly over. Three are covered in water - one deep, with no islands, the highest part of the ocean floor still dim and murky except for the blooming phosphorescent creatures she seeds everywhere; one mostly shallow, with frequent transient sandbars, otherwise warm and tropical and bright; one frigid, massive parts of its ocean hidden under ice caps that glitter wonderfully in the light of the nebulae. Three are effectively dense atmospheres wrapped around tiny rocky inner cores, the atmospheres seeded with organic compounds or outright with floating plants and flying animals. The last six are mostly like the dragonet planet, and she's having a harder time distinguishing them aesthetically. Still, she'll think of something, she's sure. For now they're host to a series of temporary experiments in what sorts of creatures she can make (either intentionally or at random, or even with 'spawn points' that routinely make some creature randomly selected either from a list or with certain criteria) and have interact interestingly - she acknowledges she got a bit lucky, that the dragonet planet was so well calibrated to its sapient inhabitants.

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The children of the lazy group set off on their own, led by the least-lazy parent, sticking together through all sorts of trouble. Their unwavering solidarity and trust is pretty extreme compared to others of their kind.

As the dragonets talk to each other and fight and play games and make art and slowly figure out stone tools, the language slowly gets more complicated. Songs that mean things are more compelling than wordless music! Best Singer, as she has been named, keeps leading people in song, eventually leading more projects - like piling up rocks to make barriers for safer spaces for eggs, and building dozens of comfortable places to lie down from sticks and leaves.

Many of the dragonets notice the new colors on the planets in the sky and frantically update their drawings to match and excitedly make noises about why that might have happened!

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!!! Words!!!

She likes the ones who're sticking together, and she likes the ones noticing her work, and she likes the ones doing projects - they're like little miniature hers, it's great they're great and she didn't even make them, they continually surprise her -

She carefully makes a puppet - dragonet sized, with normal scales in a bluish purple speckled with soft reds - and positions it in the wild, moving it towards Best Singer's chorus. (She wants to talk to them, the urge nearly overwhelming.)

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The proto-language is not great at outlining complicated thoughts, but another flies over the projection's head and lands nearby as she approaches.

"I see new person. No fight here. Not fighting place here. Safe sleeping place here. Singing place here. All people do what Best Singer do. All are happy. All are safe. All are love. You understand? Place of Sky Scaled One here. The stars are her scales. Respect. You understand?"

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"I understand!" the puppet chirps. "Singing place!" The puppet's voice is pretty, as pretty and musical as the Sky-Scaled One knows sounds can be (she's still experimenting with acoustics some).

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The dragonets' languages continue to get slowly more elaborate. A few find it to be their calling to go out and teach others. While most of the dragonets are fairly independent, some are happy to take the lead and some are happy to follow. The things they do in cooperation get more and more complicated. Best Singer starts holding a sort of court, where anyone can talk in front of everyone else.

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Her puppet is helpful and solicitous and mischievous, and she adores Best Singer, and expresses this through the puppet and through luck and favor and a far keener attention to protection than she's given other dragonets before.

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