At the edge of time, in the place of eternal twilight, lies the land of Emerayle, where rules the Duchess of Clock and Key. There she has reigned since the very beginning, and there she shall reign until the very end, presiding from a throne made of the light of stars within a castle built of crystal, which sits high on a grassy hill. Round her neck, upon two separate chains, she wears a golden key and a tiny clock, rather like a pocket watch, that never needs winding. The key will open any lock in the world, and the Clock drives time forward. Were the chain of this Clock ever to be unclasped, time would stop and remain frozen forever.
Several short millennia after the very beginning, there came a stranger to Emerayle, a messenger of Queen Viviane of the Living, from the lands to the west. The messenger, a young mortal known as Brysailion, rode through the castle gates on horseback, under orders to demand the Land of Emerayle for Queen Viviane, for she was the first of the Three Queens of Time, and therefore had more right to a segment of time than did the Duchess of Clock and Key.
Now, the Duchess of Clock and Key could not surrender Emerayle, but she knew that Viviane’s power outmatched her. So she said to the messenger, Brysailion, “Thou shalt ride back to thy Queen, and thou shalt tell her that if she would cut off the top layer of Emerayle and set it in the sky, all of the land beneath would be hers without protest.”
Brysailion then returned to the Realm of the Living and told Viviane of this bargain, and Viviane sent ten thousand creatures of the soil to dig beneath Emerayle and separate its top layer from the ones beneath, and when this was done, she sent ten thousand creatures of the air to carry this layer of Emerayle high above the clouds, where ever since the luminescent crystal castle has shone like a beacon through the perpetual dusk.
For another few centuries, the Duchess of Clock and Key was left in peace. But it was not to last. One day, there came a great clatter of hooves upon the road, and a second messenger arrived, this one sent by Queen Moriba of the In Between, from the east. The messenger was called Elnias, an antlered shadow-demon who had come in a dark carriage drawn by a team of black harts. He told the Duchess that Moriba desired the Key that would open any lock, for if it could open any lock, it must be able to secure any as well, and Moriba wished to lock away her own heart.
The Duchess of Clock and Key was no more willing to part with the small golden key than she was to give up Emerayle, and she was well aware that Moriba, second of the Three Queens of Time, was just as powerful as Viviane. So she gave to Elnias a spool of gold thread, a gold knife, and a gold needle, all crafted from the same magical gold as was the key, and she bid him to tell his Queen to use this needle and thread to sew her heart into anything she wished. Should she desire it back, she need only use the knife to cut thread, but no other blade would suffice. Elnias took the materials back to the Realm of In Between and to Moriba, who cut out her heart and sewed it into the still-breathing body of a large crow. Thus the Raven was made.
Not long afterwards, a terrible shadow fell over the Land of Emerayle, turning the eternal twilight to the blackest of nights, and from the darkness descended Mortua, sister of Moriba and Queen of the Dead. Her steed was a giant, bat-winged hound with frightful jaws and burning eyes. Garbed in a shroud and bearing a scepter of bones, Mortua strode to the throne of the Duchess and declared, “I, Mortua, third and most powerful of the Three Queens of Time, demand this Clock that hangeth from thy neck, for it is of my domain and is my property!”
The Duchess inclined her head and replied, “That, Your Highness, I cannot give, for if the clasp of the chain is undone, the clock shall stop and never shall start again, and Time shall cease to exist.”
“Then I shall have thee beheaded, and then I shall take it from the stump of thy neck!”
“So be it, Queen Mortua.”
So Mortua sent for her finest Axeman. He arrived shortly thereafter and—while the Duchess stood calmly—swung for the neck. But instead of slicing through the flesh, the axe blade passed through and out the other side without leaving a mark. The Axeman swung again, with the same result. A new axe was sent for, but it was no more effective than the last. Soon, every blade in the Realm of the Dead had been tried, but none could leave so much as a scratch, for they were all weapons of darkness and could not stand against the light that resided within the Duchess of Clock and Key. At length, Mortua was forced to forsake her endeavors and instead requested, “If thou canst not give to me that one Clock, thou shalt give to me ten thousand others for to place about the Land of the Living, such that upon every hour Man shall be reminded of his impending doom. If I am not satisfied, I shall have my Dead armies destroy thy Land of Emerayle.”
And so clocks were placed in every city, and then every town and every square, but they did little to affect the people’s outlook in the way that Mortua had hoped. Man did not seem to see the clock as a measure of his life so much as a convenient means of scheduling. Believing that the Duchess of Clock and Key had tricked her, Mortua sent her armies to Emerayle. After a battle lasting fourteen days, the Armies of the Dead succeeded in capturing the land and extinguishing the light of the castle. Contented, Mortua called her armies home to rest. But when she looked to the skies upon the following night, she was enraged to find that the castle light was beginning to shine again, however weakly. It was even brighter come the fall of the next night, and after another fourteen days, it was shining at its full brightness. Angered, Mortua sent her armies to Emerayle once more, and after a second fourteen-day battle, it was won again and the light was extinguished. Yet the armies needed resting yet again, so she had to call them home as before. Ever since, Mortua’s Armies of the Dead have darkened the Moon once every twenty-eight days.