Okay. So.

I feel it’s important, before we get into the real chewy parts of the story, that you have at least a basic understanding of where we are, and how the world (it’s a broad term in this sense. You’ll see.) is set up.

Let’s start at the beginning. Way, way back. Billions and billions of years back. Long before the Earth had even been considered a Good Idea. In fact, Earth doesn’t come into this story at all, so let’s start there. Nothing you know or think of existed yet. Our universe was only just born. I mean, it was maybe a couple hundred million years old or so, but as universes go that’s still pretty fresh.

It wasn’t very large yet, of course. Being that it was only a couple hundred million years old, it follows that it was only about twice that, side to side. That was as far as the light had travelled, at least. But the real fuss was still happening in an area only a few million light-years round.

It was beautiful chaos!

Luminous clouds mixing and swirling and finally coalescing into proto-stars and neo-stars and baby stars. There were no galaxies yet, just huge pools of this super-dense energy cooling into atoms, those atoms colliding and becoming atoms, the atoms combining into gasses. Our universe, like most new-borns, still smelled pretty bad.

Now, while all this was going on throughout our universe, way back at the center point, where everything started, there was still enough stuff there left behind to form a sort-of almost-star. Like, imagine a brown dwarf star, but not quite dense enough to actually BECOME a star, and that’s what we’ve got. The churning, roiling gasses on its surface still had a pretty wicked glow and gave off a decent amount of heat, though, so that’s something.

While this almost-star wasn’t dense enough to fully ignite, it was dense enough to pull in some of this newly-formed Matter, which promptly got with the program and started arranging itself into little planetoids and smaller satellites. The planetoids were pretty extreme in character – the ones closest to the almost-star were still fairly hot and had some exposed magma; further out the worlds were more temperate, with oceans and grasses; the furthest ones were mostly cold, dry, and icy. All-told there were maybe 15 of these larger planetoids in the system, and each of these worlds had their own set of satellites too. There were a couple missteps and accidents, of course, so scattered among the planetoids there was a vast and colorful system of rings made up from the resulting rubble.

For the next million or so years, many civilizations — actual lifeforms, now (Not people, of course. As I said, forget about Earth.) — multiplied and prospered under the stormy cloud cover of the almost-star. The people (it’s a generic term here, take note.) of this world simply called it Lara, or Home.

Isn’t that nice?

All of these civilizations were split into numerous cultural tribes and nations, and were all wildly divergent biologically-speaking, having had chaotic beginnings on Lara. They all competed for the limited resources on the surface of this weird world. Luckily, they had a common language, so at least they didn’t need translators when they were arguing or making threats. They also shared a coin, [a something else?], and a calendar. The recurring storm patterns of their world became the basis for their common year.

The peoples of Lara were all governed by families of powerful wizards and sorcerers called The Fain. These Fain could do spectacular things like talking to rocks, and dance until the earthquakes stopped. To be fair, they could also redirect the more dangerous storm fronts, and make things explode with a sideways glance, so they were really nothing to sneeze at. They were the first to observe the movements of the swarm of planets through the storm clouds. For the people of Lara, the Fain were as Gods.

With the help of the Fain, the Laran people were soon developing technologies and craft to carry them beyond the storms. Those early Aeronauts stood on the decks of their sky-ships and looked up for their first unobstructed view of the night’s sky. They saw the swimming nebulae drifting through bands of tiny, hot stars; brightly colored whorls that would one day become full galaxies; and the dozens of small rocky worlds, satellites, and clouds of asteroids that peacefully orbited their own home, the almost-star that dominated it all. As any proper-thinking person does at a certain point in their development, the people of Lara had their first pangs of wanderlust.

It took several generations for the people of the various nations to begin the task of moving out. It began when the surface of Lara was subjected to a series of the strongest, most destructive storms they had seen in a thousand years. The Fain predicted stronger storms still to come, and did not expect to be able to effectively protect the people from them. So larger sky-ships were created, and those that chose to leave were loaded onto them (there’s always a few stubborn hold-outs, even in the face of armageddon. How do you argue with someone with a death-wish?), and they set out to colonize the worlds beyond the storms.

So, here’s where I list off the worlds that were colonized, and by which Fain family, and so on. I won’t blame you if you skip to the end, but just know that when you get confused later you can always refer back to this page. I’ve got you covered.

Ready? Here we go.

The first colonists, the H’ragath people, settled on the closest world, tiny K’aarakh, a hot, rocky world that was barely more than an up-jumped moon.

In the next nearest orbit, the world of Sutra was colonized by the Firenze. They settled on the high plateaus and rocky domes, separated by deep cliffs with rivers of flowing magma.

Just past Sutra in this warmest ‘Inner Orbital Region’, the secretive Endu people chose the world of Minola. Bathed in steam-clouds from numerous deep hot springs, Minola featured tall mountains, warm rivers, and numerous caves.

Between the Inner and Middle Orbital Regions (is there a better name for these areas?) was a wide but thin ring of stardust and small meteors, the result of one of those early missteps when three almost-moons had the idea they might become a new almost-planet, but miscalculated their various velocities and instead turned into a very-definite debris field.

Moving on…

The next planetoid on our list is Haria, named by the not-very-creative Haridan nation. The name ‘Haria’ literally meant ‘Place of Haridan’, so at least you knew where you were. Haria was one of the larger of the planetoids, with a wide variety of climates. Many generations after the exodus, the other colonies all established smaller colonies on Haria. The Haridan didn’t mind, they were generally a very accommodating people, and believed in a ‘live and let live’ philosophy. It was only natural that one of the first joint decisions between the various colonies was to establish a shared, neutral Capital city on the Harian moon of Iscia.

What are we on, world five? This one was settled by the Poguen sisterhood, and they named it Rhine. It was the most deeply forested of all the worlds around the storm-sun.

Next up, across a wide gap of empty space, were the twin-worlds of Ylan and Ythel. They were roughly the same size (Ylan was slightly larger), and had similar climates (Ythel had more flat plains). They two worlds were orbitally locked in proximity to each other, so you could always see one from the other. Ylan was colonized by the genderless Dama families, and Ythel became home to the Shyalan. Due to their shared orbit, the twin worlds had the first alliance between the colonies, and also the first war, and then the second alliance.

Here we take another break as we pass through another debris field and move to the Outer Orbital Region (really, there’s got to be a better name for these. Temperate Zones? It’ll come to me). The [‘Silver Belt’] as it became known, was made of larger rocks, some as large as the smaller moons of this system. Rich in resources, the belt became a popular target for mining operations and freebooters later on. For now, though, it’s just a bunch of rocks.

Accaba is the first world in the Outer Region (?). Cooler than the worlds in the Central Region (?), Accaba is covered mostly with oceans. Ever-adaptable, the Cleonid family claimed this world, and settled on the 5% land cover. Over several millennia and extensive forced evolution, though, they acclimated to living underwater and their settlements expanded greatly to the ocean floor.

The world of Chalett was not so much a planetoid, as it was a cluster of large moons in close orbit around a tiny gas-shrouded rock. The gasses on the planetoid were toxic to all of the colonists and explorers, but the industrious [W’llow] ultimately decided to settle on Chalett’s many moons instead. They connected the moons with structures and bridges in an enormous cage with Chalett locked within like a giant, cold bird.

The Alphena family settled on a world they named Parsinia. One of the furthest worlds from the storm-sun, Parsinia was a small, dark, icy world. To collect as much heat and light from Lara as they could, the conservative and mechanical Alphena set up a series of jewel-like domed cities which shone like a beacon throughout the system. They also drove their monstrous machines deep under the ice, through the frigid oceans below, to the warm core of the world, to collect and use that thermal energy.

Beyond this region lay the Outer Reaches. The Wastelands. The Maelstrom. The Leftovers. No One’s Land. The Blender. It had a lot of names. It was a wide, thick region of massive asteroids and fast-moving debris. Near as any of the peoples could figure, this was an area made up entirely of failed planetoids and moons, all careening and colliding in a vast, churning froth of gravel and boulders. The rumble of these massive collisions was deafening. None of the colonists’s sky-ships could make the passage through this area. Just this side of The Leviathan, though, was one last almost-planet.

Cold, desolate, and glistening with forests of silicon crystal, Ashen orbited furthest from the storm-sun. It was the perfect place for a people who wanted to be as isolated and ignored from the rest of the party as possible; people who only wanted to interact with their brothers and sisters and others on their own terms; people who were tired of the rest of the family criticizing their ‘weird’ ideas and ‘unpleasant’ fashion; people who just wanted to be left alone.

It was perfect for the D’nui.

Welcome back!

So, that’s all of the worlds, and all of the colonists, as they settled after the mass exodus. Understand that many of the moons orbiting these worlds were also eventually colonized, and microcolonies were also formed within the larger of the debris rings as well.

Also, you need to know that none of these worlds had their own atmosphere (except for the poisonous Chalett). They all shared a thin atmosphere provided by Lara, the storm-sun, whose glowing gasses also generated light and heat for the worlds of the system. It’s pretty uncommon, so I thought I’d bring it up now, so you don’t worry and get confused later when people are breathing and talking to each other in what should otherwise be empty space.

The colonists adapted to their new homes still under the rule of their distinct Fain families. They remained in contact with all of the other colonies, but their new independence allowed them to refine and define their own cultures independently. Like any extended group of somewhat-estranged siblings who just moved out of their parents’ house, they were busy figuring out who they were, and so naturally their differences became more pronounced. Through trade agreements, alliances were formed by different worlds, and enmities grew among others.

The colonies of Lara continued in this tense balance, orbiting the storm-sun for a million years. They might have continued this way indefinitely, if not for the predictable yet unexpected events of what became known as the Shadow War.

(Dramatic Pause…)