Chapter 1

Gold silks and purple velvets hung above the gilded chair where Ahztja settled in to tell the princess Caiatl her nightly story.

Ahztja was the emperor's mythkeeper; a talented storyteller and Psion who held all the legends and histories of the conquered worlds in her mind. Caiatl's father often said, "Ahztja is an athenaeum world in and of herself." He often retreated, either into his pleasures or his unpredictable melancholy, leaving Ahztja to fill Caiatl's mind with fantasy.

Holding a toy model of a warship in her hands, Caiatl sat on the floor before Ahztja. "Ahztja," she said politely, knowing she would not receive her story otherwise, "Please tell me how the faraway peoples say the universe came to be."

Ahztja considered, searching through the library of her mind, and then nodded.

"Imagine the universe as swirling chaos," Ahztja said softly.

Caiatl closed her eyes and saw it.

"Among the chaos stands Irkyn La, the First Host, who blinks herself into existence with the First Thought: chaos must come to order."

Caiatl saw a creature, tremendous beyond belief, in her mind's eye.

"And so to satisfy the First Thought, which would become the First Law, Irkyn La consumes the chaos of the void and gives birth to the ordered universe."

Caiatl opened her eyes, and they were bright with intrigue.

"That is how the Tiiarn would say the universe began," Ahztja said.

Caiatl looked at the toy in her hands, and then back at Ahztja. "Where does this giant woman live?"

"The Tiiarn would say she is the very fabric of the universe. When you look to the sky, when you look out into space, you are looking into Irkyn La's mouth."

Caiatl turned her toy for a little while. Then, looking up, she said fiercely, "I will challenge Irkyn La to a battle and defeat her. Then my people will own everything in the universe."

Ahztja chuckled fondly. "Yes, I think you would," she said. "But the empire has already defeated the Tiiarn. None of them are left. And with no one to believe in her, Irkyn La is dead as well."

"Then I will believe in her."

Ahztja's lips pulled back in a curious smile. "You'll believe in her so that you can challenge her?"


Laughing again, Ahztja placed her hand on Caiatl's head. "Ah, brave Caiatl. A warrior so mighty, she wills her enemies into existence."

Caiatl's chest swelled with incandescent pride.