Thursday, October 16, 2008

To Defend Enarsis, Part One

I have seen the end of Creation.

I have seen the tides of unreality that threaten to consume the world. I have witnessed the Beast that crushed the Naudieri and unmade the Glorious Empire of Sesvimil. But my blind eyes have not always borne witness to tragedy. I cannot forget the age before Its coming, when the old gods, the first Keepers of the Machine, reigned from beyond the reaches of Valdial. The Far Realm was a distant nightmare. The world, though imperfect, was still whole.

In that ancient time the Iaerae, descendants of the kindred appointed as stewards of this world, had abandoned their heritage of “creator magic” for a more secret power that they had wrested from a single madman. Using this “Sol'vyr,” the Glorious Empire of the Iaerae ascended to celestial heights of enlightenment and majesty. The golden age was not without its consequences, however. The empire’s rulers perpetuated their petty conflicts, and arrogance reigned supreme.

Samornys Elaex, the lord of the Iaerae, in all his ignorance and recklessness, made war on the Es'mensis, a people who were brothers to his race. His justification - their supposed centuries-long pollution of Iaeran thought. His plan turned on him when those he made war on stole the secret of his power and took a tremendous gamble. The Es'mensis coerced four of the Keepers to yield up their servants, the Sas'arael, as soldiers in the war against the Iaerae. The lord, faced with extinction at the hand of these otherworldly conscripts, attempted to summon and bind a beast of war from the Far Realm. Though successful in calling up the creature, he failed utterly to control it. In a terrible rampage, the horror drove all of the lesser summoners hopelessly insane, and in their madness they laid waste to the Empire. As horrendous as was their fate, it was nothing compared to the doom that faced the lord of the Iaerae.

The abomination possessed the ruler of the Glorious Empire directly, subjugating him as an avatar on this world.

The creation that the Iaerae had ruled, that their forebears had helped build with their own hands, was in terrible jeopardy. Most of the old gods, the first protectors of the Machine, died in combat with the Beast. The remainder were scattered across existence. To atone for previous failures, I came to the world's defense. Through the grace of the greatest Keeper, the Iaerae and I constructed a gargantuan barrier that confined the beast within the ruins of Mirc'del, the Empire's former capital city. Maintaining this barrier were two Great Towers, Karamyr and Sharalan, the anchors that ensured the safety of Creation.

All was not safe, however, and the echoes of the Beast's invasion still rang out. A number of intrepid mortals took advantage of the celestial Machine's vulnerability and sought for themselves the secrets of the Naudieri. Unfortunately for them, the strictures of Enarsis were not so easily broken. The would-be deities achieved only a part of the power granted to the first Keepers.

Among these Second Keepers, Arsithil was perhaps the most dangerous. Dissatisfied with his semi-divinity, he sought the rank of a true god. Locked within the decimated capital of the Glorious Empire was the means to his goal, the corpses of the slain Keepers. Should he gain one of their bodies, he could consume the soul that rotted within and achieve for himself true godhood.

Blind to the consequences, he sought to breach the barrier that I had created, but Nehandra, one of the last living Naudieri, forbade his entry. Infuriated, he lashed out at one of the Towers, unmaking Karamyr's wards and guards, destroying one anchor that held the Beast at bay. The Beast stirred, and because of the barrier's nature, we were powerless to reinforce it. The haste of its construction had left no means of repair. Thankfully, the barrier held and the Beast was still contained, though less strongly than before. Arsithil's punishment was imprisonment in his own mind, a confinement that he would not escape for more than three thousand years.

The world was in a precarious position. Only Sharalan remained to prevent ultimate destruction, and if it failed...

Fortunately, a guardian presented himself. A once-righteous servant of the Keepers, the being named Helazael, was cast out of Heaven into the sunless depths of our world. In return for sanctuary, he swore to defend the last Tower. But in the most bitter twist of irony, his presence inadvertently presented the greatest threat to its safety. A revolt within the ranks of his followers almost led to the complete destruction of the anchor. The dissidents traveled to a cavern beneath the Tower and pulled the very edifice down upon themselves, ending their own lives but wreaking vengeance on Helazael as well.

It was only through my intervention that Creation was saved. I traveled to the ruins moments after the Tower's fall and began to redirect the flow of time to undo the destruction. As I labored, the Beast itself assaulted me, seeking desperately to slay me or stop my magic. Nehandra came to my aid, and it was only through her direct inhabitance of my form that I was able to complete my work. Lamentably, even with such assistance I was unable to maintain perfect concentration, and my efforts went partially awry. Though the Tower was restored to its original place, a second, duplicate Tower, manifested in the rubble beneath the surface. Much to my chagrin, my failure not only duplicated the Tower but copied the surrounding city as well. Damn my eyes for making such a foolish mistake! For now there is a city living beneath the earth, the Eye of the World, as it is called, and it is a pit of sin and iniquity.

Since the rebinding of the Beast and the restoration of the Tower I have sat here in meditation. For you see, it is only my will that maintains the Tower whole and intact. Should I suffer even the smallest distraction, it is death for us all.

And who is it that bears this burden on his shoulders? Who am I to be the bulwark between Creation and Annihilation? I am the last line of defense, the world guardian, the living lock that chains the beast. Mine is power, and knowledge, and righteous suffering.

I am the Arbiter.