Age of Heroes 5e
History of All Things
The History Of All Things
…As told by Pollinaius, Grand Bard of Corinth.
In the beginning, there was only the Astral, an unending expanse that was nothing and everything at the same time. By degrees, the nothing and everything began to separate until there were clear distinctions between what was and what wasn't. How or why things formed as they did, none know, but when the separation was done, the Astral retained its nothingness and from all the substantial parts that it had held, the Planes and Forces were created. These forces were Time, Space, Magic, the Elements, Good, Evil, Order, and Chaos. Each of the Forces opposed another, except for Time and Space, which all the others depend on to exist; Magic and the Elements oppose each other, Good and Evil, of course, oppose each other, and lastly, Chaos and Order oppose each other. In this way, there is a balance of all things, which we call Necessity.
The Planes of Existence, which were driven by Time and Space, were formed from the substance of the Forces. Each one took bits and pieces of one or more Force, and even once they had formed, they took from each other, until they became as they are now. The Planes as we have come to know them are Elysium, a Plane of Good and Order; The Beastlands, a Plane of Good; Olympus, a Plane of Good and Chaos; Tartarus, a Plane of Evil; the Abyss, a Plane of Evil and Chaos; and Gehenna – which is sometimes called Hell – a Plane of Evil and Order. Magic and the Elements, for the most part, were dispersed throughout all the Planes, even the Astral, though there, Magic and the Elements are scarce.
When all was formed, Necessity began to cause things to happen, for that is Her nature. And all that Necessity had to work with was Magic and the Elements, which luckily, was enough to get things going. With Necessity's help, Magic and the Elements began to merge together in varying amounts and patterns. At first, bits and pieces of matter were all that resulted. These bits and pieces floated about the Astral and eventually, by degrees, they began to sort themselves out and finally most of them gathered together into one big, rocky, lifeless piece and became the Earth, our home. No one, not even the Gods, know how long the Earth lay hidden in the Astral, rocky and lifeless.
Now, during this time, we can't suppose that the Forces were doing nothing at all. Each one continually strove to overpower its opposite and sway the balance of all things towards its particular way of thinking. All except for Time, that is, who didn't concern itself with such things. The other Forces, though, they saw what Necessity had done with Magic and the Elements and because they did not have the power to do it themselves, they began to apply their influence on Her creations.
Many and strange things were formed by the combined meddling of the Forces on Necessity's work, but the first and most wonderful of all was Eros, or Love, who came from Good and Chaos. It is very strange that Eros was the first creation, but I do not believe it happened by accident. Also to come forth were the Night and Erobus; and their children were the Day and Aether, who became lost in the Astral and roams there still. Many others there were, but the three that concern us most came last: Father Uranus, or Heaven; and Pontos, the Sea; and Gaia, Mother Nature.
At about the same time, while Uranus and Pontos and Gaia and the rest were coming into being, a strange thing happened. If you did not know, the Planes and the Astral during these early days were completely separate and shut off from one another. But of a sudden, a portal was formed that lead from the Astral to the Beastlands and into this portal Gaia entered. And more portals began to form in the Astral and in the planes as well. In short time, there were portals leading to and from every Plane. Now, this is not so strange in and of itself, but what happened when Gaia came to the Beastlands truly is. As Gaia materialized in the Beastlands, she could tell that this was somehow a different kind of place than the Astral. If you remember, the Beastlands were a Plane of Good, which pleased Gaia, and deciding to make the Beastlands her home, she spread herself out over the Plane and settled into its fabric. And wherever her essence went, Life sprang up in wonderful and myriad variance.
Uranus, and the rest, too, entered portals that took them to other Planes. Uranus ventured to Olympus, and he became there the endless sky, which Zeus now rules. Pontos came to Elysium and he became a vast unending ocean called Thalasia. Eros, too, passed through a portal and came to Elysium, and he lives there still. As did others, Night and his daughter Day passed through all of the Planes, leaving bits of their essence here and there. For Ages uncounted, these portals existed between the Planes, and through them the essence of all things settled throughout the All. Most notably, the essences of Uranus and Gaia and Pontos managed to make their way throughout all the Planes so that in most places there were plants, air, and oceans in varying degrees.
With all the portals that had sprung up throughout the All, there were bound to be a few on the Earth. And from these portals, just like in all the other Planes, bits of Gaia, Uranus and Pontos came and settled. But the Earth isn’t as expansive as the Planes, and so only tiny bits of each managed to accumulate. The airy essence of Uranus wrapped about Earth and became the air and sky; the little bits of Pontos flowed into the low places and collected into oceans; and on any place that was left, the small parts of Gaia settled and Life sprang up.
Since Gaia was the originator of Life, it was up to her to begin using it, and with it, she birthed many beings. But as you can imagine, she needed some help, as all mothers do, in creating new life. Uranus and Pontos filled the role of father first (Night did also, but not until much later). And from their unions, Gaia created many beings, all of whom collectively are known as the Ancients. There were many Ancients, but only the most important ones are mentioned in this tale. Rhea was first and became Queen of the Ancients; she also took on her mother's mantle as Mother Nature. There was also Hecate, who claimed Magic as her own. Oceanus, too, was an Ancient, and today he links the Upper Planes as the river Oceanus – before this happened, however, he birthed the Lady Styx, whom today links the Lower Planes as the river Styx. Nereus was a creation of Pontos and, fittingly, he went to live in Thalasia in the plane of Elysium, where he later created the Sea-Nymphs. Hyperion was another Ancient; his children were Helios – the Sun – and Selene – the Moon. Lapetus was an important Ancient because one of his sons, Prometheus, created the human race. And lastly there was Kronos, the youngest, but most terrible of all. There were other Ancients that Gaia created, but many died in the war with Kronos and his followers. Some, like Hecate, succumbed to Evil and were cast out, though, as you know, Hecate is now a Goddess in Zeus’ Court.
The Ancients were powerful, awesome beings and most of them lived in the Beastlands under Rhea's rule. There they created many creatures and monsters and took on the roles of Nature necessary for living things to survive and flourish. For a very long time, the Ancients only created animals and creatures of little intelligence and no sentient thought, not like themselves. But there were two Ancients, Mara and Moradin, who changed this trend. Mara was beautiful and tall, with thin features, long pointed ears and large, bright eyes. She was a daughter of Rhea, and she shared many of her Mother's traits, concerning herself mostly with the wild things of the Beastlands. Moradin, her brother, a short, but powerfully built Ancient who wore a long braided beard, spent most of his time tunneling through the mountains of the Beastlands, filling many of the empty areas there with veins of gold, platinum and silver, and placing gems and diamonds in caverns. As close siblings often are, Mara and Moradin were of a like mind, and decided to populate their realms of the Beastlands with intelligent creatures, much like themselves, but of a lesser power. And so they met together in secret and fashioned the first Elves and Dwarves. Mara drew in the life force of the plants and the animals and the soil and created the First Born, or Elves as we call them now. This she taught to Moradin, who used the power and stability of the mountains to fashion the Dwarves. And then Moradin used his mighty hammer to forge souls (that is why he is called the Soul Forger by the Dwarves) and infused them into the Elves and Dwarves, so that they might have a Will of their own.
Unknownst to Mara and Moradin, however, another Ancient, a young, clever lad named Prometheus (he was oft said to be too clever for his own good) had been spying on them, and Prometheus thought it was a wonderful thing that he had seen. And so he began to fashion forms similar to those of the Elves and Dwarves. He already knew how to make some animals (Prometheus was responsible for an assortment of odd and strange creatures, many of which the other Ancients thought a big joke), but he didn't know how to give them intelligence or a soul. Luckily for him, he'd seen Mara and Moradin doing this and he practiced and practiced in secret, attempting to replicate what he'd seen. But he lacked Mara's power and Moradin's skill (and he didn't have a hammer like Moradin's either) and his creations were not quite what he'd hoped for. From these efforts came the monkeys and apes (he had also tried to imitate Nereus's sea-nymphs and from those efforts came the dolphins). Despite his growing skill, Prometheus knew that without Moradin’s hammer, he could never fashion Souls to gift his children. Dissatisfied, he focused his attention on caring for his creations, for Prometheus had a kind heart. There came a day, however, when, by happy chance, Prometheus saw that Moradin had left his mountain home and had left his hammer behind. So Prometheus sneaked into Moradin’s home to find the fabled hammer. At the Soul Forge, Prometheus quietly and secretly fashioned the first Humans, trying to do it just the way Mara and Moradin had done. But he must have missed an important step, or perhaps he just lacked their skill, because the souls that he had made were of a lesser power than those of the Elves and Dwarves. He knew that Moradin had based the souls of the Dwarves on himself, and the souls of the Elves on Mara. But Prometheus found that he didn't quite know how to forge a soul based on his own essence, and so he did the only thing he knew how to do. He'd already made animals before, and he was pretty good and very imaginative, so he forged a soul much the same way he had made animals. And so the first Humans were more like animals than the Elves and Dwarves; they ran about naked and slept in caves and ate food raw and didn't know how to use or create fire. And, of course, Prometheus did not want the other Ancients to know about his Humans, so he took them to the Earth where he knew the other Ancients did not frequently go.
Mara, however, did frequent the Earth, and there she found Prometheus’s Humans, and about this she told Moradin. Moradin, as you can imagine, was outraged. He and Mara and Rheia chastised Prometheus at great length until he felt very sorry for what he had done; he saw that his Humans would surely perish because they were not quite animal enough nor quite smart enough to survive on their own. And so he decided to educate his children as best he could and teach them the skills they would need to thrive and be fruitful.
We must go back in time a bit now, to tell the story of Kronos and how he fell from grace and was banished to the Lower Planes.
Kronos was the youngest of the Rhea's children. He was always different and spent a great deal of time on his own. He would travel about the Upper Planes, exploring, and he would traverse the great expanse of the Astral, going here and there and seeing what was to be seen. One day, he came to a portal that was dark and nefarious; he'd been told of these portals and warned not to enter, for they led to the Lower Planes and only Evil could be found there. Now Kronos was a little more than intrigued, for his heart was dark, and he entered into that portal and it took him straight away to Tartarus, which, as we know, is the Plane of Evil. Long did Kronos stay in Tarterus, and eventually, the Evil there consumed him. When at long last, he came back to the Beastlands, he was black and twisted with malice and an all consuming hunger for power.
The darkness within him drove Kronos to hunger for his mother’s power, and he plotted to overthrow her as the ruler of the Ancients. But to do this he would have to face the combined might of the Ancients and their armies of Elves and Dwarves and other beings. If he were to succeed, he would need followers of his own. He had no way to achieve this goal on his own, and so for a time, Kronos was left to plot in hate and greed by himself. Then one day, Kronos devised a plan to remedy his problem.
Kronos, as you remember, journeyed throughout the Planes and on his travels he had passed the Earth and had seen the children of Prometheus struggling in the wild. In secret, he visited tribes of men and bent them to his will, twisting them and making them evil. He called them Orks, as they are still called today. These would be the start of his army. It was a start for him, true, but there was still the combined might of the Ancients to contend with and he knew his Orks stood little chance. So Kronos left his followers on Earth to war with the Humans while he went back to Tarterus to brood, plot and scheme.
As you know, many of the Ancients had birthed children of their own, whom were Ancients themselves. There were many of these being and some were the children of the children of the children of the first Ancients. Kronos knew this, too, and he decided to father a brood of children that would serve as his dark generals.
Kronos took to singling out certain female Ancients and then taking them by force and guile to Tartarus to birth him children. His first victim was Themis, who was Law and Justice; he raped her and she begot him the Lords of the Nine Towers, whom he called Devils and reside now in Gehenna. Kronos also took Mara, who pitied Kronos, to Tarterus, and raping her, she birthed him the Demons, and there were many. Orcus came first, and he took from Mara the essence of life and made it into undeath. Graz'zt came also, and Baphomet and Jubilex and Lolth too, plus many others. There was a third Ancient that Kronos took to Tartarus and raped; she was Oceanus's daughter, Styx, who birthed Anthraxus, the Oinodeamon. Styx was a frail creature and she could not abide what had been done to her; she wept and wept and hoped to forget the horror of Tartarus, and such was her despair that her tears became a river that carried her off to oblivion. She still remains within the Lower Planes as the river Styx, and if any touch or drink of her waters, they forget all things.
Kronos now was almost ready to marshal his forces, but he was still hoping to lure Rhea to Tarterus to rape her. He believed that if she birthed him children, they would come to be the mightiest of his followers and then none could stand in his way. But Rhea would not come to Tarterus with him, no matter what he tried. And in a rage of lust and anger, he raped her in her wild sanctuary. All of the Beastlands cried out against this act and the Ancients rushed to rescue their Queen. Kronos fled but was unable to take Rhea with him. He was determined to have her, so he gathered up his corrupted children and brought them to the Beastlands to take her by force.
A mighty war ensued, which we now call The Sundering. Throughout the Beastlands, the Ancients battled with the minions of Kronos, whom were legion. Untold numbers of demons, devils, and Orks poured into the Beastlands through portals and by means magical, and wherever they came, the Elves, Dwarves, and other children of the Ancients met them.
It was during this battle that Lolth, the Queen of the Demon Web Pits, crept off with a host of Elves and made them into the evil Drow. And by guile and avarice, Graz’zt possessed a Dwarven King and turned his people to Evil, calling them the Duergar.
Wherever the children of Kronos went, however, they were met by Rhea’s Ancients, and long and hard they fought. Even Uranus took bodily form, which he had never done before, and fought alongside the Ancients. He and Kronos fought in the skies over the Sea of Whispers, and during this battle Kronos wounded Uranus, whose blood fell into the sea. From these drops of blood sprang Aphrodite, who was beautiful beyond all things. Oceanus, witnessing her birth, carried Aphrodite off to Olympus to keep her safe from Kronos during the battle.
Long did the battle rage, but eventually Kronos and his armies were driven off. Rhea know, however, that Kronos would return, for she had seen that his lust for power was unending. She left her children to prepare for the coming war that was sure to come, and disappeared to a hidden forest with the Beastlands that only she could enter.
It was here that Rhea gave birth to the children of Kronos. Since they were born in the Beastlands, which is a Plane of Good, they were not born as demons or devils as they would have if they'd been birthed in Tartarus. These children of Rhea were Hestia, Demeter, Hera, Hades, Poseidon, and Zeus. These children, though, were quite different from the Ancients, even though they appeared as them. Zeus and his siblings were the children of Kronos and that meant that they had a touch of Evil in them. But it did not consume them like it had Kronos. Instead, it was a part of them, just like Good was, and they were left to control it as best they could, which they did to varying degrees of success. It was because of this tinge of Evil that Rhea sent Zeus and his siblings to live on Earth.
Kronos was watching, and seeing that Zeus and his siblings were on Earth, he came there, hoping to take them back to Tarterus. Zeus, however, would have none of it. Rhea, too, was watching, and having anticipated Kronos’ actions, she brought the full might of the Ancients and their armies to Earth. Kronos, in defense, brought his evil generals and marshaled the Orks who were on Earth already.
A mighty and terrible battle was fought on the fertile plains which are today called the The Broken Lands. Ancients clashed with the powerful demonic hordes, while the children of the Ancients fought the Orks whose numbers seemed unending. As the battle raged, the Demonic Hordes managed to surround the Ancients and their allies, and it appeared that the forces of Evil would emerge victorious.
But let us turn now to Prometheus, who was very worried about his Humans. By Rhea’s decree, Prometheus had been banned from visiting his children, but even so he had sneaked to Earth a number of times. So that they might be able to defend themselves against the Orks, he had taught the Humans how to make crude weapons, and how to use them. And so for many long years the Humans had fought with the Orks of Earth.
Seeing that the battle might be lost, Prometheus called on his Human friends and they came in great numbers at his bidding, for he was their father and they obeyed his will. From all points of the compass did his children come, pouring down from the mountains, riding from over the plains, and traveling at speed from the forests of the north. To the battlefield they came, eager to make war on the enemies of their father.
Kronos was forced to turn his attention to the new arrivals. Thus forced to split his forces, the Ancients and their allies were able to regroup and with renewed hope launch a counter attack. Long did the battle rage, but eventually Kronos and his armies were defeated.
Kronos was killed by the hand of Zeus and Kronos's spirit, along with his many demons and devils, were banished to the Lower Planes to remain there forever. For this reason they are sometimes known as the Forsaken. It is sad to say, but many of the Ancients’ children – such as the humans, Elves, and Dwarves – and even some Orks and animals, were caught up in the banishment. There in the Lower Planes they became the lesser demons, devils, and daemons.
Rhea saw that her Kingdom had been broken and that there had been a change in the universe and that it was no longer her place to rule it. And so she passed her power to her son Zeus, because he was alike to the new existence. And lastly, she sealed off the Beastlands to all mortals so that the Elves and Dwarves and other races who had lived in the Beastlands were left to make new homes on Earth. Rhea made her way back to the Beastlands and laid herself in its fabric to join her mother.
Without Rhea's oversight, Poseidon and Hades challenged Zeus and they would have fought, but Prometheus, who had learned wisdom after his folly with the Humans, cautioned them against such things and suggested that the power be shared amongst the remaining children of Gaia, and that Zeus should govern them all as his mother had.
They all agreed and each of them took control over some aspect of the multiverse that they were best suited to. Zeus took the Air; Poseidon claimed the Ocean; and Hades became the Guardian of Tartarus. Mara and Moradin, whom had returned to the Beastlands, ruled over their child races whom were left on the Earth, and, sadly, lost their immortality. Some, like Hecate, already held sway over some aspect or another, and they continued to do so. And thus the Pantheon was created. Zeus chose the Plane Olympus as his seat of power and made a grand palace on its highest mountain, Mount Olympus, where he began to build his Kingdom.
After the titanic struggle with Kronos, spirits from all those that had died in the battle were now flitting about in restlessness, trapped on Earth. Zeus held a counsel and it was decided that those that had fought for the Ancients would be sent to Elysium and those that had fought for Kronos would be sent to a part of Tartarus which was later called Hades. And from then on, that was the way of things for spirits: the good went to Elysium, the bad to Hades.
Then Zeus' attention turned to Prometheus and the Humans. Zeus had known about the Humans prior to the battle, but he'd never thought much of them. They were much like animals to him. But it was clear now that they were of some importance. And to reward them for their part in the battle, Zeus gave to them the secret of iron. He then instructed Prometheus that he could no longer give gifts to the Humans (which Prometheus did anyway and was later punished for).
And so, that was the way things began. For many years the mortal races were left to themselves, building civilizations, learning, exploring, and waging war on each other. Zeus and his followers often came to Earth and the mortals there came to know of them. Over many years, the humans began to pay homage to Zeus and the other Ancients; they made sacrifices to them and prayed to them and they took to calling them Gods and building shrines and temples dedicated to them. All of this, over time, gave a new power to Zeus and the Ancients and they became stronger than they had been. Soon, nearly every Ancient was a God of some sort.
And we can't suppose that the Demon Lords, the Lords of the Nine Towers, and Anthraxus did not notice this. They all craved the power that mortal worship could give them and so they made a great effort to attract mortal worshippers. If you remember, all of the children of Kronos were banished to the Lower Planes and couldn't come to Earth like Zeus and the Ancients could so they were at a distinct disadvantage. Some, like Lolth and Graz’zt, had already collected worshippers and became Gods in their own right. This lust for power, and the promise of vengeance, is what drives the Lower Planes. Amidst power struggles and in-fighting, the Demons and Devils and Anthraxus all seek to gain enough power from mortal worship to destroy their enemies and conquer Olympus.
This is the way things have been for several hundred years. But it is still a new world, and a new era, and full of adventure.