Bonus story. For Nancy Sauer.
When the sun was young and the breath of the universe candled over the dark, stirring waters, a dragon lived in a cave below the world's roots. Her hoard collected the finest of treasures: tapestries of topsy-turvy quarks, coronets woven from filaments of neutronium and threaded through with coruscating starfire, crystal phials that contained vacuum more perfect even than the expanses of empty sky. Yet of all these treasures, she valued best a mirror of keen brightness, in which she admired her own fierce visage each morning.
In those days, the sun had no companions in the wheel of the sky. Sometimes the sun and the dragon conversed, as the oldest and earliest of their kind. The sun spoke of its longing to see the sizzle-dance of others' photons, to feel the push-weave of gravity waves from distant cousins. The dragon listened with serpentine patience, and when the sun had no more to say, returned to contemplating the scimitar glory of her teeth, the way light illuminated her rasping scales like finest jade and emerald.
At last, as ages spun by, the sun's tears scattered across the great seas. Where they struck the waves, they formed chain-links of dented gold, and baroque pearls scattering into the rush of foam, and diamonds whose facets were marred by sunspot fissures. The dragon roused at first with the thought of gathering them up--she was a dragon, after all--but as she winged over the storm-churned waters, scavenging with her net of luminescent dreams, she came to understand the sun's despair. For while the dragon had no particular sensitivity to such yearnings, the sun had written of them in a language of treasures despoiled, a language that the dragon herself could comprehend.
The dragon didn't abandon the day's haul--no sense in letting such fine trinkets go to waste--but when she returned to her cave, she dropped the treasures carelessly to the side instead of sorting everything immediately as usual. Instead, she slithered to the mirror she valued so much. In the reddish setting light of the sun she gazed upon her visage one last time. Then, using the strength that only a dragon could bring to bear, she reared up and smashed the mirror against the wall of the cave, and sent the shards flying into the universe's far reaches with a beat of her powerful wings. Night overtook the sky, only this time it contained newborn stars, blazing with dragon-hearted glory, to keep the sun company.
As for the dragon, she remained as vain as ever, but the knowledge that the entire sky was full of mirror-shards that remembered her visage contented her, and in the meantime she had a sea full of treasures to hunt for.