A little extra for people who have been reading my Knights of Aerioch series: the story of the Gods and the creation of the world and its early days.
Many men tell the tale of the Gods and the Origin of Days. Some tell more. Some tell less. Some give the Gods different names. But all agree that there were first three, and from each of those three came three more.
This is the tale as it was told in Aerioch of old.
The beginning of days
In the beginning there was darkness. And the darkness was without form. The darkness could not be everywhere, for there was no everywhere. There was no place. There was no time. There was simply the darkness. The darkness was all, and all was the darkness.
From the darkness, three lights arose. And the lights knew themselves as different from the darkness. And the three lights knew themselves as different from each other. And the first light beheld the other two and said, “I am a light in the darkness. There are other lights, in other places, and they are different from me.” And so the first light knew that there was place. And the other two lights saw the first light and they, too, knew that there was place.
And the first light said, again, “I will go from this place to the places of the other lights. And I will see if they know themselves as I know myself. And I will see if they know the darkness as I know the darkness.”
And so, the first light came to the other two lights, and the three lights came together. And when the three lights came near to one another, the first light said, “I name myself Eranah. In me is the power of all that will be but is not now.” And as Eranah spoke, proclaiming that there are things that are not, and things that will be, so did she speak of time. And thus time came into being. And as time became a thing that was, her power grew less. And so it would be forever after. For as more things came to be, less there would be of things that will be and were not.
The second light then spoke, for he had gained in power as Eranah had spoken. “I am Jandak,” said he, “In me is the power of all that is.” And yet, Jandak’s power was slight, for as yet the darkness and the three lights and place and time were all that was.
“I have no name,” said the third light, in a whisper scarce having the strength for mighty Eranah to hear. “My strength is in what was, but is no more, but all that ever was yet remains. And so my strength is naught.”
And so the three lights remained and were not alone. And the three lights were the first Gods. And where the three Gods abode, the darkness was no more. And The Nameless One grew in strength for the darkness that was not.
The three Gods counseled together. Though they were three, yet they knew loneliness. And loneliness was. And Eranah’s power grew less and Jandak’s more.
And it came to pass that Eranah spoke to the others. “We three are alone in this place. Near to us, the darkness is no more, but beyond we know of naught but darkness. But, behold, we three did arise from the darkness. Let us then, seek through the darkness for other lights, that we may no longer know loneliness.”
Jandak’s voice rose in agreement. “If my sister Eranah so wills, this will I do. For as more comes to be, so will Eranah’s strength fade and mine increase.”
“Of what good is power when there is loneliness,” Eranah said. “Since time came forth at my words it has weighed heavily with only we three to share it. Let us, then, bring an end to this loneliness even if it shall be that my power shall be reduced.”
“If the loneliness that is becomes no more, then shall my power increase,” was all that The Nameless One said.
Eranah kept the words of The Nameless One in her heart and was troubled.
And so the three Gods went forth into the darkness. And many were the things they found.
They found the sun, but it was dark. And Eranah leant to the sun some of her light and the sun shone forth, driving back the darkness.
They found the moons and they, too, were dark. Jandak gave to them of his light and the moons shone in the darkness though its light was far weaker than that of the sun as Jandak was weaker than Eranah.
They found the World and Eranah and Jandak looked to The Nameless One. To them, he said, “Behold, on the one hand is the Sun which shines with the light of Eranah and on the other lie the Moons which shines with the light of Jandak. With such light shining upon it, the Earth has no need of light of its own.” And so the Earth remained part in darkness and part in light.
Again, Eranah kept the words of The Nameless One in her heart and was troubled.
Jandak’s power grew, and Eranah’s faded, as the Sun, the World, and the Moons came to be. But still there was no answer to the loneliness. For in the empty world and its sun and moon there was no light and no love to be found that had not been put there by the three Gods.
But with the lighting of the World by the sun there came to be day and night, and with the lighting of the World by the moons, there came to be months for Jandak’s weaker power held not the moons so firmly in place leading them to wander through the sky in cycles of months. And with the Earth having no light of its own, there came seasons and years. Thus began the measurement of time.
The Creation of the Lesser Gods
And so the Gods continued their search. For many years, they quested through the darkness. One by one they uncovered treasures in the dark, treasures that Eranah and Jandak filled with light. When they rested from their search, and returned to the Earth, they beheld these lights in the sky and called them Stars. Yet throughout their travels they found no lights with the ability to speak, with the ability to love.
And so Eranah wept, for the long search had been in vain. Loneliness was joined by sorrow in her heart.
Jandak, seeing the sorrow of Eranah, grieved with her. “Let us try again, my sister,” he said. “Let there be an end to loneliness. Let there be an end to sorrow.”
“Very well,” Eranah said, “I will try again.”
“Try again if you will,” The Nameless One said, “I will follow no more your foolish fancy.”
And so, Jandak and Eranah set off again into the darkness. Far they traveled, beyond the farthest star. Deep into the darkness beyond all ken.
And deep in the darkness, they saw a light, a dim light, fainter even than the faintest wisps of The Nameless One at the beginning of time. And as they approached the light, they found, it was not one, not two, but an uncountable multitude. And Eranah and Jandak reached out to the lights and as they touched them, the lights flared into brilliance. All about the two Gods, tiny sparks glowed. The lights, individually too dim to carry voice, but together brighter even than Eranah at her brightest, stretched out through the darkness farther even than a God can see.
And on the World, The Nameless One looked up and beheld a new thing in the sky, a river of light, dim with distance but stretching across the sky from horizon to horizon.
“These lights are like unto ours,” Eranah said to Jandak, “but faint, so faint. If we nurture them, they can grow, and we will no longer be alone.”
“Then let us do so, my sister.”
And so Jandak returned to the treasures, which he and Eranah had quickened into stars. And from them, he took substance, and brought it back to Eranah. And Eranah formed her portion of the substance into three shapes. And she drew forth from the sea of lights the brightest spark she could find. And she set it into the first of her three shapes. And the spark flared and grew. And its brilliance shone. And it spoke for the first time saying, “I am Kaleth. I live.” And so was born the first of the Lesser Gods. And Eranah drew two more sparks from the sea of light, and of them were born Zhaiveth and Astera.
When Eranah had formed her three Gods, Jandak made three shapes of his own, and drew forth sparks to quicken them. And so where born Koreb and Mira, whom in ages to come men would call the Threefold Twins, and he formed Treva.
Eranah and Jandak wept with joy, for no longer was there loneliness. Others there were, who were not of themselves. Others there were, who could share in their joys, share in their quests, and share in their dreams.
And on the world, alone and unnoticed, The Nameless One grew in power.
The Darkness of The Nameless One
Eranah and Jandak returned to the world with the six Lesser Gods. They began to speak one to another of plans to draw other sparks from that sea of light and to create a race of Gods like unto themselves. In these plans, The Nameless One took no part, for he drew apart from the others and dwelt alone, seeking the darkness between the moons and the stars.
After many long years, he said to himself, “It is not fit that I should dwell alone, that I alone among the first three Gods should not have friends who are part of me and part other.”
And so The Nameless One set out on a journey to the sea of light. As he reached it, he brooded for more years. Eranah and Jandak had used substance from the stars, substance filled with their own light to create the race of Gods. He would not use substance that they had touched and, so, he drew substance from the darkness. And of this substance he formed three shapes. And into the three shapes he set sparks from the sea of light. And thus were born Pireth, Dorvar, and Knorth. The light was dim in these three Lesser Gods and they spoke but seldom, but the power within them was great, for it came from the darkness.
And The Nameless One returned to the darkness with his three servants and considered what next to do.
“Your power reflects my power,” he said to his servants, “and my power comes from that which is no more. If we destroy the creations of Eranah and Jandak, then will our power grow.”
So, the nameless one set out with his servants to destroy what they could. He knew his power could not challenge even Jandak, while Eranah was yet far greater in power, and so they worked in secret. Distant stars did they destroy, whose light could be extinguished and not be marked by those on the Earth.
The Creation of Spirits and the molding of the natural world
Eranah and Jandak did not note the actions of The Nameless One and scarce noted his absence. The task to which they had set themselves was the turning of the World into a home for them, the lesser gods, and a new race of Spirits. Of the three that Eranah had molded, Kaleth had chosen to reside at the sea of light, setting sparks to substance brought from the stars. Zhaiveth brought the substance to her, mixing part from one, and part from another to produce blends pleasing to her. As Kaleth set spark to substance, new spirits were born and Astera would guide them to the World.
The spirits differed in strength and brightness. Some few were like unto the Gods themselves. Others were dimmer but with great power for growth.
And with that power for growth came a mystery and a delight, for Eranah found her power not fading, but growing. As each spirit came to be, it brought with it potential of what yet could be. And with the potential to be came power for Eranah and her three companions, just as more came to be and brought with them power to Jandak and his companions.
Of Jandak’s companions, Treva most loved the World. She brought forth plants and animals, kindling within them a portion of her own light. And the world grew green and bright.
Jandak continued exploring the darkness beyond the sea of light, accompanied by Koreb and Mira, who would come to be known as the threefold twins. Far they traveled, until the World behind them, the Sun, the Moons, and the stars, and the sea of light, were naught but the dimmest of pinpricks to even a God’s eyes. And yet before the last fading light of the world behind them faded from view, another dim light appeared ahead of them. For only the second time since the beginning of time, Jandak saw light that was not of the making of the Gods and he bent his will toward it. And as Jandak and Koreb and Mira neared the light they beheld an arm of the sea of light which wrapped around a burst of stars and a World with a Sun and a single Moon. And on that world were spirits, but spirits clothed in a different substance, clothed in the substance of the very World itself. Jandak saw and marveled.
And as Jandak marveled, a voice came to him saying, “Welcome, travelers.”
And Jandak looked and beheld a God, like unto himself. And the God of this World was kindly, and made Jandak and his companions welcome.
When Jandak returned he was filled with new fire. He called on Eranah, The Nameless One, and the lesser Gods and Spirits to hear the thought he had conceived on speaking with the God of that other World.
As the Gods and spirits met, Jandak saw that The Nameless One had not come alone but that he came at the head of a large host and that The Nameless One had grown in power. For while Jandak had traveled, The Nameless One had not been idle.
The Nameless One’s fear
After creating his three servants and beginning his quest of destruction, The Nameless One had also begun creating spirits. He had set these spirits to furthering the destruction, beginning with the distant stars. As with the spirits created by Eranah’s servants, the spirits of The Nameless One were some greater and some lesser, and the greatest of them was one Baaltor. Like unto The Nameless One himself in power was Baaltor and he reveled in destruction. He destroyed for the pleasure of destroying, not merely for the power that came when things were no more. And The Nameless One saw this and was afraid.
The Nameless One was troubled, and afraid that he had made very foolish errors. But even more afraid was he to speak to Eranah and Jandak of his errors for fear that they would turn upon him power that could destroy even a God. And so fear came into the World, the fear of ending.
And so The Nameless One came when Jandak called all to his counsel, and with him he brought Baaltor, for he feared to leave Baaltor to plot against him. And Baaltor brought the remainder of the spirits The Nameless One had created. And greater grew the Nameless One’s fear for he knew he no longer ruled this host.
The first council of the Gods.
When all the Gods and Spirits had assembled, Jandak spoke.
“We have built a good world, and a happy one,” he said, “and it is a great building. But I have seen a thing that is greater still. I have seen a world where spirits take on them of the substance of the world, that they take these bodies to set aside, for a time, their greatness as spirits. By doing this, they can learn things that they would never know as spirits. So many things I have seen that none here have learned, but the end can be joyous.”
Thus he spoke, long and earnestly. He spoke of pain and loneliness, of sickness and longing. And he spoke of how only through knowing these things can one know joy. He spoke of opposition and contrast, of concepts of hunger and fulfillment, of striving for greatness, of success and failure.
And listening to his words, The Nameless One wept, for he had known loneliness and fear. He had known striving for greatness but his means he saw were foolish. And he had seen what he might become for Baaltor marked his own path if he did not turn aside.
And he saw that Eranah and Jandak would not turn him away, for he saw in Jandak’s eyes a love for all the creation under him. Such love could never turn away a true penitent.
The Nameless One stepped forward to speak, but at his side Baaltor’s voice rose.
“This is foolishness,” Baaltor said. “You have power to make what you will. What need have you of opposition? What need have you to know sorrow? What need have you to taste of weakness? You have power. Take what you will. Make what you wish. And if it displease you, unmake it.”
“Who speaks so,” Eranah said.
Baaltor rose to before Eranah, growing in size and majesty as he called his power to himself. “I am Baaltor. I am the mightiest of spirits. Mine is the power to defy you and defy you I shall if you persist in this foolishness.”
Eranah looked sadly at The Nameless One. “You have wrought this, brother?”
The Nameless One bowed before her, “I have been a fool.”
Baaltor turned a proud and angry gaze on The Nameless One. “You have been father to me, but I renounce you. Like these, you are weak and foolish.”
“Weak and foolish, I am,” The Nameless One said, “weak enough to have wrought destruction for no more cause than to build my own power, yet with no true cause to turn that power, what profit. Yes, I am weak and a fool.”
“I know you now,” Eranah said to Baaltor. “You destroy simply from delight in destruction. You take simply to prevent others from having. You have no thought for any beyond yourself. These things I name Evil and cast you out from among us.”
“You?” Baaltor said. “You have not the strength to cast me out.”
“I have strength to cast you out and many more like you,” Eranah said, “but I need not spend my own strength. Now that I have named you, others can see you for what you are. They will cast you out.”
“None of these dare stand against me.”
“Heed my word,” Eranah said. “I will not lift hand against you. Let me, instead, name Good, that which cares about others, that which seeks not its own benefit alone but the benefit of all. Let good, then, turn against evil and let Good drive you and those who would follow you into the darkness beyond the Sea of Light.”
“I stand with Good,” Jandak said and came to stand before Baaltor.
“I stand with Good,” The Nameless One said and stood at his side.
Jandak smiled at him. “Welcome home, brother.”
“Forgive a fool,” The Nameless One said, and smiled. “I thought that if your works were no more, I would gain in power. But I see that if other things become no more, that too can increase my power.” He looked up at Baaltor. “If evil is no more, then too shall my power increase.”
One by one, the Gods and Spirits chose to stand with Good or Evil. All the Gods chose to stand with Good. The three servants who first The Nameless One created also chose to stand alongside him in the cause of Good, bringing joy to his heart. The spirits that he had created, the spirits with no light within them saving the small spark from the Sea of Light, the largest part of them stood with Baaltor, but some few chose to stand with Good. Of the spirits created by Jandak and Eranah and the Lesser Gods, some few chose to stand with Baaltor, but the largest part stood with Good.
As the ranks of Good faced the ranks of Evil, Baaltor knew that he could not prevail. And so he fled into the darkness taking his host with him.
Thus ended the first Council of the Gods.
The building of heaven and the creation of man.
When Baaltor and his host of evil, whom men later called Demons, had fled, the Gods and Spirits set about the Great Work that Jandak had given them.
Their first task was the building of a new abode where the Gods and Spirits would reside for the World would become the abode of men, clothed in flesh and mortal. Eranah and Kaleth, Zhaiveth, and Astera sought among the stars to the north. Jandak and Koreb, Mira, and Treva sought among the stars to the south. The Nameless One and Pireth, Dorvar, and Knorse sought among the stars in between. The Nameless One took the largest part, for he wished to atone for his folly. And as he searched, he saw the damage that he and those who he created had wrought and he wept. And from the tears of The Nameless One came new stars, and their brightness was greater than the brightness of the stars that shone before, for they burned with the power of his grief. And in ages to come, the tears of The Nameless One would become beacons unto men, and a guide to travelers and the lost.
And so it was that the Greater Gods and Lesser Gods sought among the stars for a new home. The stars had grown since Jandak and Eranah had kindled them. And The Nameless One saw a dead ember that had once been a star before one of his had snuffed the light within it. And he reached out with his own light to the star. And the light within it was rekindled. And the light burned, and the star grew bright. And The Nameless One rejoiced.
And so it came to pass after many years of questing that it was The Nameless One who came upon a truly bright and noble star. It shone with a light far greater than any seen outside the Gods themselves. And The Nameless One called to the others and asked if this might not make a home for them. And Eranah and Jandak agreed that it might make a home for them. And the Lesser Gods agreed that it might make a home for them.
And so it was that Eranah, Jandak, and The Nameless One, combined their power to make a great palace within the star. And each of the Lesser Gods came as well.
Kaleth brought from the Sea of Light a great quantity of sparks. She set them about the star as a veil from which she could draw sparks to continue her task of forming Spirits.
Zhaiveth built a great chariot, with the power of a star at it’s heart, and a long tail in which she brought the substance to which the sparks were added to form Spirits.
Astera created a road between the star home of the gods and the World, a road that she could use to take Spirits to the world where they would be housed in flesh.
Koreb and Mira spent their time with the Spirits who had chosen to take the trial of bodies of flesh. They had observed much in their journey with Jandak and though their memories of their lives as spirits would be hidden from them while in their mortal state, yet would some glimpses remain. And so they labored to prepare the Spirits for the challenge before them.
Treva spent her time between the World and the Gods’ new home. She labored to prepare the world for the coming of spirits clothed in flesh and in like wise, she brought of every good thing from the World to the abode of the Gods. And in the abode of the Gods she built a garden that the spirits tended with care that the Gods and Spirits not forget the World where once they dwelt.
And The Nameless One and his three servants, whom he now thought of as companions, wrought their own great work. The Spirits that had returned from the trial of Flesh must, for a time, be kept apart from those who had not yet made the trial. And so they built a great hall, separate from the hall of the Gods and Spirits, and in the hall they built palaces, and they built places of learning, and they built gardens, for the hall was meant as a place of rest and rejoicing for those who had completed their trial. And in sadness they also built dungeons for they knew that despite all the Gods could do, some would fail their trial and choose evil.
And when the abode of the Gods had been built, and the World had been prepared, Jandak descended to the World and formed of its substance two forms. And Astera took two of the Spirits by the hand and brought them over her road to the World. And as she approached, Jandak saw the road in the sky as a colored bow. And Astera arrived, leading the two spirits. And she placed one spirit in one of the forms that Jandak had made. And she placed a second spirit in the second of the forms that Jandak had made. And Eranah came and blessed the forms. And the spirits within the forms quickened them and gave them life. And thus were born the first Man and the first Woman. And the man’s name was Varon, which means “I live,” and the woman’s name was Shen, which means “Breath.” And the Gods blessed the union of Varon and Shen and they were husband and wife.
The Return of Baaltor and the First War of Gods and Demons.
For many years, there was joy in the world. Astera guided a third spirit to the world and the first Woman quickened and gave birth to a son. And they called the son Quer, that is “a Wonder.” And Quer grew tall and strong and Varon loved his wife and Shen bore more sons and daughters. And above them all stood Quer, for great was his strength. None stood as tall as he, nor could any match him in any contest or game whether of strength or of skill.
And the sons of Varon chose from among the daughters of Shen, and the daughters of Shen chose from among the sons of Varon and they departed two by two and bore sons and daughters of there own.
Quer alone of the sons and daughters of Varon and Shen chose not a mate. He wandered alone, seeking the secret places of the world.
And in his wandering, Quer came upon an old man. And the old man was Baaltor in disquise, though Quer knew it not. And Baaltor said to Quer, “Why do you travel alone.”
And Quer said, “There is none for me. My brothers have taken my sisters to wife, and none remain for me.”
He would have gone on and said that his heart was not filled with longing for women, but instead was filled with a desire to explore the world. But before he could speak, Baaltor arose and berated him.
“You are the strongest of them, are you not? If you chose to take, who could gainsay you?”
And so Baaltor vanished, leaving only his echo behind.
In his mind, Quer rejected the words of Baaltor, but they found a place deeply hidden in his heart. And when Quer returned to where his brothers and sisters made their homes and saw the love and happiness they shared, his heart knew envy. As time passed, the envy grew to anger and to hate.
It came to pass that one day Quer came across one of his sisters as she was washing clothes by a brook. Her name was Meritha, which means “willow,” for she was tall and lithe and very fair to look upon. And his desire for her grew that he came upon her and laid his hands upon her. And Meritha struggled in his arms, but the strength of Quer overpowered her. And when he had finished, he feared lest Meritha tell others what he had done and they come and slay him. And so, he took a large stone from the brook and struck Meritha with it. Again and again he struck her until she breathed no more.
And Quer looked down on the form of Meritha, and on the blood that stained the stone and his hands. And he dropped the stone and fled into the wilderness.
Thus the first death came to mortal man.
In his great hall near the abode of the Gods, The Nameless One felt his power increase and trembled, for such an increase could only mean that something great and good was no more. And so he left his still empty halls and sought out Jandak and Eranah, and said to them that he feared a great evil had taken place. His own companion, Pireth, he sent to the World to see what he could see. After a short space, Pireth returned with the spirit that was Meritha.
Meritha quailed to stand before The Nameless One for great had become his power and terrible his anger, but he spoke softly and she came to know that his anger was not with her.
Meritha told the Gods what Quer had done and the anger of the Gods grew. Jandak sent forth Koreb and Mira to seek out Quer and hear what he would say.
And it came to pass that Mira spied Quer in the wild, and she took upon herself the form of a woman, comely to look upon, and waited beneath a tree along the path where Quer walked.
Quer saw Mira, but knew her not as a God, seeing only a comely maid, like unto Meritha whom he had taken. And Quer conceived that he could take this maid as well, for was he not the strongest among men? And so he strode forth and laid hands on her, but Mira was not Meritha. She changed before him, taking on such a fearsome visage that he quailed before her.
“Did you think to hide your crime from the Gods,” she said. “And what the Gods see, their loyal servants too shall know.”
Koreb arrived as Mira was speaking, for he had felt her power from afar and had hastened to her side. In form he appeared as a mighty warrior, beside which Quer was naught but a small child.
“Your life is forfeit for the life you have taken,” Koreb said, “but I think we shall leave you your life instead. As you quiver before us, you know fear, fear like unto the fear you gave to Meritha. That fear you shall know all of your days, for any of the race of men who find you shall slay you as cruelly as you slew Meritha. And that all men may know you and your crime, I set this mark of blood upon you.”
And Quer looked and beheld that his hands were again stained the red of blood, and as he fled from the Gods he found that the stain would not be cleansed. Neither water nor sand, nor stone scraped against skin until true blood welled would remove the stains from his hands.
And so Quer fled deep into the wilds and never again was seen of men. And none knew his fate saving that in after days, the Gods spoke to the husband of slain Meritha and said to him that Quer now resided in the halls of The Nameless One where he had received judgment for his crime. They said more that Meritha had found healing in those selfsame halls and awaited with lonely patience for the day she would be reunited with her husband. And the Gods encouraged him, and urged him to be strong, and swore to him that if he remained faithful, he would be rejoined with his beloved Meritha.
And the husband of Meritha was faithful, and in the fullness of time he joined her in the halls of The Nameless One. And the Gods tell that great was the joy of their reunion and their love the greater for having known sorrow.
It came to pass, after Koreb and Mira had dealt with Quer, that the Gods and those Spirits who would not take the trial of flesh drew together in council to consider what to do about the demon Baaltor.
“Baaltor must be destroyed,” The Nameless One said, “Or he will spoil all that we have wrought. His evil must be brought to an end.”
“His evil must be brought to an end, that is true,” Jandak said, “But it is the evil that must be destroyed, not Baaltor himself.”
“Baaltor is one with his evil,” The Nameless One said.
“Perhaps,” Jandak said, “But can a God or Spirit truly be destroyed? The sparks that lie at the heart of all Gods and Spirits we had no part in making. Does, then, their unmaking lie within our power?”
“I do not know,” said The Nameless One and he kept the words of Jandak and pondered them in his heart.
Eranah spoke at last, “I have sworn to stand apart from your trials with Baaltor, for I believed then, as I believe now, that you have sufficient strength to overcome him. Yet I believe that the final victory shall come not in strength, but in other things. So hear my counsel now. Few are our numbers saving we abandon the Trial of Flesh. Yet even so our strength is great. So gather the host that follows the banner of Good. Let Kaleth abandon for a space her weaving of spirits. Let Zhaiveth gather not the substance of stars for a time. Let the three companions of Jandak leave the World to its own devices for a time. And let Dorvar and Knorse turn their hands to a new task for a time. Let only Astera continue to guide Spirits into the world and Pireth guide the dead to the halls of The Nameless One that Mankind, who dwell in the world, shall not be troubled by the tasks of the Gods.”
And so it was that Jandak called, and the Gods and Spirits joined in a mighty host. And they sought in outer darkness for Baaltor and his demons. And they strove against the demons and overthrew them. And the demons fled before them further into outer darkness. But they dared not attempt the journey to other World’s that Jandak had accomplished lest they become lost forever in the outer darkness. For the Gods alone have eyes so keen as to be able to see a distant world while their own world remained in their sight.
And so the God’s overcame, and the world knew peace for a time.
The coming of Wizards and the second War of Gods and Demons.
After the first war of Gods and Demons, the Gods set a watch on the world. All about the world, Spirits, who had chosen not to take the Test of Flesh, stood guard, ever vigilant against the return of the Demons.
For many years, the demons plotted in secret, leaving the World unspoiled by their designs. For while the spirits who guarded the world could not stand alone against Baaltor’s evil host, yet they could sound an alarm to warn the assembled Gods and Spirits of the coming of evil. Thus, Baaltor feared to attack them lest worse befall him.
So it was in after years, that Baaltor conceived a plan. He sent lesser demons to attack one of the defending spirits. And the defending spirit raised his warning and the host of Gods and Spirits came, but there was no great attack, merely handful of lesser demons who fled before them.
And again Baaltor set his lesser demons to harass one of the Guardian Spirits. And again did the host of Gods and Demons assemble to find no foe with will to fight.
Many times did Baaltor strike so at the Guardian Spirits. And many times did the Host assemble only to return, having fought no battle.
And it came to pass that the word went forth among the Guarding Spirits that they were to strike at demons themselves and only if they faced a host too great to overcome themselves were they to call for the assembly of the Host.
Once more did Baaltor send his lesser demons to strike at one of the Guardian Spirits. And the Guardian Spirit strove against the demons and overthrew them. And the demons fled before the Guardian Spirit. And in his fever pitch of combat, the Guardian Spirit forgot his place and pursued the demons, striking at them as they fled.
And Baaltor, where he had remained in secret, smiled, for it was this end he had sought through his many sallies.
With darkness cloaked about him, Baaltor stole through the gap in the ring of watchful sentinels and descended to the World.
Upon the World, there was a certain man, named Briganzo, for he thought much of his own importance. And Briganzo was great in knowledge of the world, but weak in matters of strength or skill. Great pride had he in his knowledge, and little did he esteem those who wrought with the skill of their hands or the strength of their arms.
It was to Briganzo that Baaltor came, speaking soft words. “Great is your knowledge, O Man of the World,” said he, “but little are you esteemed as is your right.” Thus he spoke to the heart of Briganzo, fanning the flame of Briganzo’s pride so that what once smoldered burst forth in fury.
“These fools should bow to me,” Briganzo said, “for I have knowledge where they have not. The strength of their arms, the skill of their hands? What is that beside the knowledge that only I possess?”
And Baaltor smiled at Briganzo’s pride and so again appeared before him. “I can grant you power,” he said, “the power to overthrow those who esteem you not, the power to take your rightful place as Master of the World.”
Briganzo took the power that Baaltor offered, becoming the first Wizard. And power he had to raise the storm, to shake the World, to call fire from the sky, to bring death and pestilence at a word. And all of these things were pleasing to Baaltor.
And Briganzo strode across the world, bringing destruction and ruin to all who would not bow to him. The Gods were confounded for a time, for they knew not whence this new power had come.
Koreb rode forth to challenge Briganzo and question him, and found Briganzo in Mountains to the south that bordered the sea. When Koreb would speak, Briganzo would not heed, but instead struck at the God. He struck with storm and with fire. He struck with Earthquake and with all manner of forces.
So great was the assault of Briganzo that even Koreb felt fear. Yet he gathered his power to himself and withstood the attack of Briganzo. Seeing this, Briganzo struck all the harder and his Earthquakes tumbled the very mountains to their foundations, storm and fire drove the tumbled rock into the sea, causing great waves that smote the lands and wrought death and destruction.
Under this greater attack, Koreb felt his power fading and feared lest even a God be overthrown by a mortal. And just as he felt his power fading, he knew his sister Mira was at his side. And her power joined with his, and together they withstood the assault of Briganzo.
In the end, the fury of Briganzo’s attack was spent. Briganzo faced the twin Gods bereft of power, yet still he stood defiant in his pride. And Koreb looked down upon Briganzo and saw the touch of Baaltor upon him. And he was without pity and he reached out and slew Briganzo as the first payment of a just punishment for the evil that Briganzo had done. As Briganzo’s blood soaked the ground of what men in after years would call Briganzo’s Desert, Koreb and Mira looked and beheld Baaltor, who had grown great in strength, taking the power of many of his own demons unto himself, making himself greater and them lesser. Yet much of his power, Baaltor had given to Briganzo and spent in the failed attack on Koreb, making Baaltor lesser for a time. And so, Koreb and Mira wrestled with Baaltor and overcame him and smote him to the Earth and chained him with chains of light. And they brought Baaltor to the abode of the Gods to hear what his judgement would be.
Yet even as they chained Baaltor, Koreb and Mira feared. For had he not been weakened by the power he had given to Briganzo, Baaltor would have had strength to overcome them both. And had he given but little more power to Briganzo, then Briganzo would have had strength to overcome them. It was only by the error of Baaltor that they had prevailed.
With Baaltor chained before them, guarded by The Nameless One and his companions Dorvar and Knorse, the Gods and Spirits took council together. At length, they pronounced their doom upon Baaltor.
“If power you wish to give to mortals, then power you shall give,” Eranah said. “let these chains of light bind you so that when mortals stand before you and contest with you in a contest that they have ability to win, then they may take from you power and knowledge and magic. In this way, may even the power of demons be turned to the doing of good.” Thus Eranah spoke, and though she spoke the doom, she had no hand in its crafting, nor in the carrying out of it, and so her oath was preserved.
So punishment was pronounced upon Baaltor, but he was secretly pleased, for the Gods, in their innocence, thought not that while magic won from him could be used to do good, it could also be used to do evil. Nor had the gods spoken on what was to become of a mortal who failed in a contest against him. Thus he could turn even their punishment to his own ends.
On pronouncing their doom on Baaltor, the Gods and Spirits cast him again into the darkness beyond the stars. And they recalled the Guardian Spirits, setting instead a wall beyond the stars through which none may pass without the Gods’ leave.
“This shall serve for a time,” The Nameless One said, “But all that is has an ending. The time will come when Baaltor will break the wall or pierce it.” And so The Nameless One set out to search the wall for weakness and repair the weaknesses he found. And Jandak joined his brother in his quest.
And so it came that Eranah was bound by her oath not to interfere in the affairs of mortal men, and Jandak and The Nameless One had taken upon themselves the task of mending the great wall so that the Three First Lights, called by some the Three Elder Gods, left the ken of the mortal world.
Thus ended the Second War of Gods and Demons.
The war of Gods and Men.
With the end of the second war of Gods and Demons, Baaltor’s influence was never again wholly removed from the World. Many men and women challenged Baaltor for power to work magic and, true to the word of Eranah, there was always a way that they could best him and gain the power for themselves. However, many in their pride or impatience challenged him without full measure of preparation and thus fell before his challenges. So it was that when mortals failed in challenging Baaltor, he did draw their light unto himself and increase his own power, leaving only the faintest spark that was beyond his power to draw. And the mortal thus drained was left to wander the heavens, finding his way at last the Wall where it would there abide until The Nameless One or Jandak would again come to that portion of the wall and grant leave for it to pass and so it then would continue on to the halls of The Nameless One. And so, true to the word of Eranah, magic drawn from Baaltor was used to accomplish good, much evil also was wrought.
In those days, the Gods had much converse with Men. Most among men went Koreb and Mira. And each appeared among men in one of three guises. Other guises they had, but these three were the most common for them to use. And one guise reflected the potential of youth, and a second guise reflected the strength of maturity, and a third guise reflected the wisdom of age. And by these three guises were they known to mortal men. And so did they come to be known as the Threefold Twins. Treva, too, spent much time in the world but she cared little for the ways of men. Her love was given to the plants and animals, and to the hills and the valleys, and to the mountains that reached toward the heavens, and to the seas with their depths known only to the Gods.
And so it was that when the Gods were with men, that men listened to what the Gods would say. And men hearkened to the words of the Gods and obeyed them in all things, and all was good. But when the Gods were elsewhere, the thoughts of Baaltor entered into their hearts and in subtle ways that seemed good, he did pervert their actions. When the Gods returned, they found the men and women who had been without their direct guidance doing evil and long they labored to return them to the path of good.
And so it went, where the Gods were, there good flourished, but where they were not, evil prospered. And the Gods journeyed first one place, and then another yet always was there more evil than good in the world and the Gods grew weary.
It came to pass, that the Gods returned to a city from which they had long been absent, one stood before them to challenge them. The man who there challenged them was a powerful wizard, and deep in the counsels of Baaltor. And his name was Verro for he was the mightiest of Wizards saving only Briganzo whom Koreb had slain.
Behind Verro stood a great host, a host of wizards and warriors. The host included in its number men and women, children scarce old enough to hold weapon and the old scarce able to walk propped on a staff.
Verro’s voice rose forth in defiance bidding the Gods begone for they had no more need of Gods.
Now the Gods who faced Verro and his host were the Threefold Twins and they were weary from their many labors. So it was that Koreb spoke up, saying, “Long have we labored on your behalf, to teach you and cherish you and to turn your paths to good. And this is how you repay our kindness, by turning us out like unwelcome beggars?”
So saying, Koreb reached out and called to him his sword of light and struck down Verro and slew him. And seeing what Koreb had done, the others of the host surged forward against the Gods. And Koreb fought and slew all who would challenge him, and at his side Mira fought. And all through the day they fought and slew, and none who challenged them lived.
And when the battle was done, Koreb and Mira looked at what they had wrought and wept, for none of the vast host had survived, neither men nor women still lived, neither young nor old. All were slain for none had refused to challenge them, and in challenging them die.
And Koreb cried aloud, “I have become the thing I feared!”
And at his side, Mira wept, “I too. How Baaltor must laugh at this sight.”
And so, full of grief, they returned to the abode of the Gods and flung themselves before Eranah, begging for counsel as to what they should do.
And Eranah’s words were, “It is not fit, I think, for Man to be ruled by Gods as by Kings. For when Man is ruled by Gods who walk among them, they develop not strength to resist Evil. And so being, when the Gods walk elsewhere, are they prey to folly and Evil. Let it then be the way of the Gods to provide not rule, but guidance. Let the Gods speak to the hearts of men, encouraging those who choose the path of Good and doing all subtly, so that Man may learn strength of himself, strength to stand against Baaltor that it may come to pass that in the days to come Mankind shall stand beside the Gods in the battles against Evil that are to come.”
And Koreb and Mira and all the lesser Gods bowed to Erahah’s wisdom and so it was done from that time forth.
And so it was that since that day, the Gods have no more walked openly among men, speaking instead through the hearts of those who would lend ear to them. And ever did they lend aid to those who called upon them, yet always in subtle ways that Men would come to learn their own strength and rely not solely on the Gods.
And great was the Evil of the days to come, and the Gods wept at the evil abroad in the World. But men and women of good will came forward to resist evil, and found within themselves strength to stand against the deceits of Baaltor. And the Gods knew that though great and grievous were the hurts of the World, this path alone gave Good a chance to flourish.
Thus has it been. Thus shall it ever be.