Primal Essence, Primals, and the Creation of the Realms
An origin story for the main setting I build in. There are aspects missing, and certain things need proper names. In addition, there are related topics I'll write about in other, related submissions, and the whole setting has a 'phase 2' (or sequel setting) in a hypothetical future where certain, massively world-changing events take place. I'll list related submissions at the bottom, as clickable links.
In the beginning (like many beginnings,) there was nothing. Or rather, a whole lot of latent energy with no form, hereafter referred to as Primal Essence. From this sea of formless Essence, the first consciousnesses came to being. These beings, called Primals, quickly came to realize that they could manipulate the energy around them, and like a child given clay, they started to build.
The first thing they did was envision the Elements; earth, fire, water, air in their purest forms. With these building blocks they created lesser beings in their image, but these new creatures lacked consciousness. In an attempt to fix this, the Primals tried to recreate their own birth with Primal Essence, and in so doing created a point in space where that Essence splits. This created 3 things of great importance; Positive Energy, Negative Energy, and the Aetherium, from which souls are born.
With the existence of the soul, the Primals were finally able to create conscious life, and they went wild with their new toys. After some time, seeing how their proto-life interacted amongst themselves, one of the Primals started to contemplate the concept of morality, and tried to enforce its creative will on those concepts. This was the first fatal misstep, a turning point in the Primals' existence and the fate of this new universe, for this lone Primal had exerted too much effort and torn a bit of its own essence loose. These fragments became both the first truly Good and Evil beings in creation, and the embodiment of the concepts themselves. Legends that speak of angels and demons speak of these beings, henceforth referred to as the Graces and the Viles.
That lone Primal felt for the first time the pain of injury, and saw the inherent danger in the acts of creation it and its brethren were indulging in. It learned caution and fear, and from then on it stopped creating and started studying the side effects of creation while the others played. What it learned was that, while Primal Essence seemed infinite, it was in fact being slowly used up. The others refused to listen, having no concept of danger or negative consequences, and that lone Primal retreated into the growing emptiness, with which it started to merge.
From then on, every act of creation the Primals wrought caused the lone one to feel pain. The pain, the loss, the fear, the emptiness, and the exclusion it felt slowly drove it mad. It became increasingly convinced that creation was inherently wrong and needed to be stopped at all costs. The final blow was when the other Primals, now quite experienced with their creative powers, decided they wanted to emulate the grand act their sibling had accomplished on its own; creating a new set of polarizing concepts, Order and Chaos, and giving birth to powerful beings that embodied those concepts. So were born the Eminents; tall, elegant machines, beings of perfect Order, and Dragons; raw, unpredictable forces of nature that acted according to their Chaotic whims.
Where the Primals' other actions were pinpricks to the lone Primal, this powerful act of creation felt like a stab in the chest. It was the final nail in the coffin. The lone Primal, now fundamentally a part of the latent energy of the universe itself, was worked up to deadly anger, rising up from the not-so-infinite depths to destroy everything the others had foolishly worked to build, and restore itself to wholeness. So was born the Abyss, the writhing madness of the void, with the full force of one of the original gods behind it. The Realm of Chaos was lost entirely when the Abyssal One first lashed out, as were several lesser Realms. The other Primals, still not knowing the meaning of caution, went one by one into the Abyss to speak to their sibling, and time after time only shattered pieces came out.
The rest of the Realms, seeing their unthinkably powerful creators disappear into the raging Abyss and not return, panicked in their helplessness. Only the Eminents, the embodiments of Order, rose up to take on the mantle of defender. Masterful builders in their own right, they first attempted to create beings like themselves, built for war with the ravening hordes of the Abyss. Their arrogance was quickly corrected as, after a brief respite, their stronger brothers were utterly destroyed; the creatures born of the Abyss were able to adapt, and the Eminents' warriors were not. Seeing this, and watching in despair as the other Realms tried and failed to fight the Abyss before being swallowed entirely, the Eminents conspired to try something hopelessly desperate. They created a being more intelligent, more capable, and far more adaptable than themselves.
This being was granted the full resources of the Realm of Order, and given a single, prime objective: Stop the Abyss. So began the Abyssal War. For time uncountable the Abyss and the Eminents' grand creation clashed, each time adapting to the tactics and abilities their enemy displayed. Eventually, however, the greatly evolved machine realized that, in time, it would reach its limit, while the Abyss would not. Therefore, logically, warring with the Abyss was futile; the only solution was to seal off the Abyss from the rest of creation.
Now, while the Abyss was clearly an apocalyptic threat, the rest of creation still relied on the steady flow of Primal Essence it was composed of. Without that flow, they theorized, everything would wither and die, leaving nothing but a barren, grey, featureless wasteland. So while the great machine enslaved the Eminents who created it and started constructing the Seal, the other beings banded together to stop it. In the 11th hour they succeeded, stopping the construction of the Seal at 95%, and the ravaged hulks of the great machine and its forces were cast away to be buried under all the wreckage left over from the war. The onslaught of the Abyssal hordes was diminished to a bare trickle, enough to sustain life while only allowing the smallest, weakest Abyssal beings in. The Abyssal War was over.
In the aftermath, 3 things of great significance happened. First, the universal concept of Chaos was left without a Realm to inhabit. And so it manifested in the Realms of the Elements, which were pulled together into one massive Realm. Second, the shards of the destroyed Primals still held immense creative potential, and those beings who found them and took possession of them were granted a fraction of the Primals' power. Each of these new divine beings, these gods, created their own little domains somewhere in the Realms that were left.
Third, and perhaps most critical, was what happened to the detritus of the war. As more and more cosmic 'garbage' was piled up, it compressed and solidified into a new Realm with some features of all the old Realms that had been destroyed. This became known as the Materium, and it was unique in that it was especially capable of sustaining life. It became populated with all sorts of proto-life that had been displaced by the war. And, as the cosmos became increasingly cluttered with godly domains, these new gods turned covetous eyes upon this fresh new real estate. However, they found themselves unable to step foot on the Materium directly; because of its composition, the prolonged presence of a Godshard would eventually cause the entire thing to fracture and then shatter entirely. (A few more daring gods took direct creative action on the Materium, bringing to life new races in their image, but that is another story.)
In the current timeframe, the shape of the cosmos can be best described as 3 discs floating atop a roiling sea. The Aetherium, where souls are born, overlays the Realms: the Materium, the Realms of Positive/Negative, the Realms of Good/Evil, the Realms of Order/Chaos and the Elements. These rest atop the mostly finished Seal, which protects all of creation from being devoured by the Abyss below, still seething in its destructive insanity, waiting for the Seal to fall so it can finish.
Related Submissions (in order of suggested reading)
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? Responses (8)
Like this a lot! Very heady and well thought out cosmos origin. You seem to have everything covered. Souls, life, alignments...
It reminds me of the duality of Manichaeism and the beliefs of the Cathars a bit.
Particularly interesting to me are the automatons of Order and the Dragons of Chaos, and the Graces and Viles, as entities.
The question that comes to my mind is, how if at all, does this mythos affect your game world specifically? Do the characters have some overall sense of this understanding? Oblivious to it? Or somewhere in between. Just curious.
Nicely written. Welcome to the Citadel!!
Glad to hear it, and I'll definitely check out those other things you mentioned.
In 'modern' time, denizens of the Materium and most of the current gods are ignorant of how things truly came to be. The Abyssal War was pretty extensively covered up in times since, those who remember it mostly long lost, records and artifacts locked away behind powerful wards and buried deep; primarily by the forces of Order, the successors of the Eminents. The Aetherium (covered more extensively in another submission) isn't quite common knowledge, but most higher mortal scholars and all divine beings are aware of and know a fair bit about it.
The Graces and the Viles actually need a lot of thinking put into them, their environment, structure, and modus operandi. The Realms of positive/negative, Good/Evil, Order/Chaos all need proper titles as well, I think.
This is a great creation story for your world - gives lots to build off of. Muros question and your answer are great.
Welcome to the Citadel!
Update: Going to start listing the titles of related articles I submit, which further explain many concepts named here.
You can add them as a link in your submission by simply enclosing them with square brackets.
I would not, however, put such links in the summary.
Once you have good number of submissions, we can create a region for you to use to gather these together.
Update: More related submissions.
This is a great creation myth/story. I like that the materium is made up of dead stuff and that prior to the war everything that seemed to exist had a consciousness or the potential to become conscious. Can you discuss the voice this is written in? How do the mortals conceive of this stuff, and where do the legends come from?
Complicated. The voice here is my own, one of omniscience. The (as yet still lacking a proper name) 'great machine' knows everything after its creation but before its defeat. Dragonkind and the Eminents know everything after their own creation and quite a bit about the nature of the Realms, as well as the (former) existence of the Primals. Graces and Viles know even more, particularly their own origin and the existence/ultimate fate of the lone Primal and the Abyss. Fey know the nature of the soul and the Aetherium, and bits and pieces of knowledge gleaned from the fundamentals. Mortals upon the Materium know very little; creation myths abound, largely centered around one or another god. The nature of the soul, the fey, the fundamentals, the Abyss, and most of cosmic history are known only in the tiniest fragments, and even then much of it could be misunderstood. Most commonly known about with any accuracy are the Realms, and godly Domains. Dragons in particular highly enjoy misleading mortals either directly or indirectly, obscuring even the faintest wisp of the truth.