Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A Brief History of Aarn

In the beginning, before the existence of time, there was the Astral Sea.

The lord of this domain was the elder god K'tellos, and it was populated with his children, the fey. The nature of this place before time began was so alien that it is hard to describe. Imagine an existence where all possibilities existed simultaneously with no rhyme, reason, nor causality. In short, it was like a single, endless waking dream.

Then, time began.

It is unknown if she was acting on her own impetus, or if she was following some divine purpose given to her by K'tellos, but the fey we now know as the One Mother, the Goddess of life and death, tied the Astral Sea to the material plane. She either found or created a world orbiting a lonely star, and populated it with plant and animal life. This world she named Aarn.

Several hundred fey were caught in the wrong place in the wrong time, and they became more a part of Aarn than of their former home. Warped, angry and bitter, they became the soul twisters, horrible creatures who only exist to bring death and suffering to the material life they blame for their incarceration.

The processes inexorably tied the Astral Sea to the time stream, and for the first time the fey knew what it was like for one thing to cause another. Seeing causality as a new toy, a great many fey began to flock to Aarn, following their trapped soul twister siblings. Once there, they adopted corporeal or semi-corporeal forms, and limited their godlike powers in order to truly relish and experience causality. The playful and mischievous godlike creatures created strictly-followed rules so they could truly experience causality in all its forms. They continued to play the resulting game to this day. and show no signs of stopping.

The first major event of this game came when a fey named Gretash did something no fey considered possible. He took some of the local creatures on Aarn and fused their forms together into a single creature. He infused them with an uncanny intelligence that allowed them to understand their place in the game. And with the help of his sister, Kennerin, he gave them a gift that until then only the fey had access to - Magic.

The resulting creature became the first Godtouched race; the medusea, and sparked off the War of the Gods.

Every ambitious and curious fey out to create a name for themselves immediately followed in Gretash's footsteps, creating their own intelligent and magically-inclined creatures. Dragons, unicorns, phoenixes, sphinxes, salamanders, valdrex, merfolk, naga, and a plethora of other races were created, each with a fey sponsor that was quickly elevated to the position of a god.

Other fey became gods in other ways, by claiming aspects of life that these intelligent material creatures deemed important to them. Kennerin became the goddess of magic. Coralis and his brother Fagelis became the opposing gods of sensation and temperance. Diviana became the goddess of conflict and justice, and she and Kennerin became the mediators of the entire affair.

The wars themselves quickly grew out of hand. Entire races of Godtouched were driven to extinction. Continents sank. Storms grew. Magical energy output by these wars wracked the entire planet, threatening to devour and destroy it.

The One Mother, in an attempt to mitigate this damage, appointed a fey named Jhett to become "The God of the Breach," a god whose only purpose was to govern the storms and prevent them from causing more damage than intended.

Despite Jhett being created as a new mediator in the conflict, the worst happened. Retla, the goddess of the naga, and Gretash were both killed. It was not the first time the fey had experienced death; those living as pretend material creatures had died all the time, but those fey had always returned, taking a new form. Retla and Gretash were both destroyed utterly; neither entity continued to exist in any recognizable form.

The war was immediately called to a halt, but the damage had been done. The magical storms unleashed with the death of two gods grew to unstoppable power. Jhett, in cooperation with the One Mother, Kennerin and Diviana, harnessed the energy of these storms and used them to divide the planet into two spheres; one that had been the site of the war, and the other which had been largely untouched.

The hemisphere that had seen the most fighting was declared a "safe zone" that no fey, god, or Godtouched could enter, allowing at least a part of the world to heal. Jhett's ring of storms enforced this decree. The surviving gods collected the Godtouched and moved them all to the other side of the world, and told them that with the destruction of their old homes, the war was over.

Most gods then abandoned their godtouched races to fend for themselves. However, even with the destruction caused by the War of the Gods, many other Gods and fey with designs on Godhood began to scheme on ways for them to gain power, and gain a leg up in their on-running game.

By far, the worst of the offenders was Nektos. Changing the core theme of his portfolio from mischief to the similar theme of perversion, he discovered the ultimate way to express his power and influence, and the other gods, weakened by the war, were in no position to stop him.

Using his power, he perverted the very process of life and death itself. Rending the system of soul absorption and reincarnation put into place and maintained by the One Mother, Nektos created undeath - a process by which souls freed from their body were trapped in the material plane as ghosts, or where their bodies reanimated, powered by Nektos' own perverted will.

What Nektos did not consider was that he permanently broke the process by which souls were supposed to rejoin the One Mother, and then be reincarnated. All creatures that died were becoming ghosts trapped in the inbetween - a shadow of the material plane that exists on the border between the material and astral worlds.

The psychic energy released by these trapped souls began to pollute the Astral Sea. Fey caught in this pollution were becoming trapped in the material world as a result, bolstering the population of soul twisters, and creating other new evil and life-hating fey types. Even K'tellos, the god of fey themselves became trapped in the material world by this pollution. Fearing the devastation he might cause on Aarn if he lost his mind, he immediately forced himself into a deep slumber at the bottom of the deepest lake he could find.

All living creatures with souls dream - the process of dreaming actually transporting their souls to the Astral Sea itself temporarily, where the limitless potential of the place is reflected in their dreams. This process is required for souls to remain healthy and vibrant, and K'tellos in his power used the same mechanic to not only keep himself from becoming twisted, but also maintain contact with his home and continue to allow his children to hear his decrees, though transcending his own dreams to communicate with his children requires great effort, and severely limits his power as a result.

In effect, collectively as a race, none of the fey had the power to fix the damage Nektos had caused. Despite his apology and his agreement to help them find a solution, not even Nektos had the power to put things back as they were.

As a result, the fey found a solution in a race of quasi-material parasites that had found and settled in the Astral Sea - the demons. The fey had been aware of the demons for some time, and considered the race of demons to be the spectators to the great game being played by the fey. One of the special abilities of the demon race was the ability to create material constructs in the Astral Sea, and this was exactly what the fey required. As a tithe for existing in their seas, the fey demanded that the demons create an afterlife that would store the souls being trapped in Nektos' inbetween, clearing the Astral Sea of the psychic pollution.

The demons, of course, agreed. They created the nine hells, and unintentionally introduced the idea of religious dogma to the Godtouched races. Demons were personally barred from setting foot on Aarn ever again, due to the headache this caused the fey.

Far closer to the present day, a scant eight thousand years ago, another monumental event occurred. A fey named Jennin elevated himself to the status of Godhood by taking the humanoid animals known as giants, and turning several tribes of them into the Godtouched race of mankind. Fearful that a second War of the Gods and third cataclysm would befall the world, the gods took little notice of this, and allowed Jennin to proceed. The other Godtouched races however did not, and attempted to exterminate the race of man.

Man only survived through the actions of two other Godtouched races - naga and sphinxes. Jennin rewarded the currently godless naga by adopting them as holy mediaries between himself and humans. The sphinxes asked for no reward, and instead began adopting human settlements as their territory, subtly protecting them from outright attack.

Once mankind had asserted their dominance, they formed a massive culture that dwarfed all the others from all other Godtouched races. They created an empire of magic and powerful technology in the far east, and their temples and cities began to spread to all corners of the magical hemisphere of the world.

With the help of their god, they even created a new form of magic - wizardry - which gave those casting it unprecedented power and control over the effects unleashed. Many other Godtouched races learned to harness wizardry as well, but it was always viewed as human magic.

Experimentations with the most powerful forms of wizardry however came with a price. A magical detonation shattered the easternmost subcontinent and mankind fell into a dark ages, in which they forgot their past, and even forgot the aid that the naga had given them in their time of need. Kennerin and Jennin collectively decided to put a limit on the scale of magic that could be cast through wizardry, and mankind was allowed to remain living despite this tragedy.

Over the course of thousands of years, mankind recovered, and maintained their position as the dominant Godtouched race, though their competing cultures were only a shadow of their former selves and forgotten past. There are many different kingdoms and practices, with the most powerful in recent memory being the Jerol Empire, which suffered an economic collapse less than 500 years ago. Most humans still speak a dialect of the Jerol language even to this day.

Most recently, there are quiet murmurings amongst the fey and the gods that a second War of the Gods may be on the horizon. Following in the footsteps of Jennin, Leeshia, the goddess of decision making and procrastination has created a new Godtouched race - the lizardlike ardlins. As a race, they seem to be 75 years old at the most, and are suffering many of the same prejudices and hatreds that mankind experienced when humans were first created. Frighteningly, the ardlins show just as much promise as humans did, with ardlins having an innate talent for machinery and working with their hands.

Further destabilizing the situation, a scant 50 years ago Nektos continued his mischief. In order to grant his sister, Venrisha, goddess of the wilds, more power, he purposefully infected the weakened One Mother with a curse that drove her mad. Her behavior shifted more towards a goddess of death than a goddess of life. She had to be sealed in order to protect the world of Aarn, and Venrishia, Nektos, and a handful of other gods temporarily took over her duties.

She has just recently been released from her seal, and none know if her sanity has returned, or if she now poses the greatest danger the world of Aarn has ever faced.

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