The Birth of the Gods and the Primordial War

This is our understanding: in the time before time, the elements had not separated, and all existed in a churning chaos. Slowly, chaos settled into order, the elements separated, and there arose from the swirling primordial maelstrom the Heavens and the Earth. And out of the Heavens and the Earth, there arose four gods, two male, two female; two Heavenly, two Earthly; and each pair of god and goddess saw to the realm that had birthed it.

The children of the Gods of the Earth multiplied, and became tied to the land, and these were called the Terrestrial Gods. So too did the Gods of the Heavens come to desire children— but on the eve of conception the Gods of the Heavens were struck by misfortune, for the Heavenly Goddess became sickly as she carried her first child. As her belly waxed her health waned, until when the moment came for her waters to break, she lay near unto dying.

Fearing for the life of his mate and child, the Heavenly God looked down upon the Earth and sought for anything which might preserve the life of the Heavenly Goddess. His eyes roamed for a day and night before he spied, in the garden of the Gods of the Earth, the first leaves of the first bush in the universe, which he understood at once to be the greatest medicine, proof against all ills. As quick as thought, he strode down from the sky to take the leaves back to his ailing mate, and fast as he had arrived, he had returned to the Heavens. Taking up a pot of water, he set it the fire and boiled the leaves into a strong, clear infusion; which became the first tea. In drinking the first tea, the Heavenly Goddess regained the strength to birth her firstborn child, and in short order a son was born, though the strain would have killed any other.

Out of the Heavenly Goddess slid a wretched thing, pale and slimy, belly bloody and umbilical cord torn and seeping, mouth round and sucking with lips stained red by his mother’s blood. The firstborn son of the Heavenly Gods was a monstrous child, whose thirst had nearly destroyed his mother, and the sight of him horrified the Gods of the Heavens beyond words. In an instant the Heavenly God scooped up the leech-child and threw him from the Heavens to fall beyond sight to the Earth below. Alongside the leech-child fell a torrent of tears let loose by the Heavenly Goddess, and these showered the Earth and dried into pure crystals of divine Salt, a testament of their tragedy.

Despite their woe, the Heavenly Goddess was bolstered by the first tea, and quickly grew well again, and shortly the pair sought once more to sire children. This time their efforts were fruitful, and soon the Heavenly Goddess bore four children: Kagayaki, the Radiant Lady of the Sun; Komoretsu, the Many-Faced Lord of the Moon, Natsurai, the Thunder-Voiced Lord of the Storm, and Nishikaze, the Far-Striding Lady of the Wind; and these came to be called the Celestial Gods.

But though all was well in the Heavens, in their ransacked garden the two Gods of the Earth brooded, for they had witnessed the Heavenly God killing the first bush and source of the greatest medicine by tearing its leaves, and had sworn vengeance. So too did it go with their children: Senkō, the Shining Lord of Steel; Naibuki, the Iron-Hearted Lord of the Plain; Saiu, the Craft-Wise Lady of the Shore; Kakusei, the Clear-Eyed Lord of the Mountain; and Wamori, the Gentle-Handed Lord of the Forest. The Terrestrial Gods threw spears into the the Heavens at the behest of their parents, and the Celestial Gods looked down at this affront and met force with force.

For uncountable ages the Earth and the Heavens warred with one another. The Land convulsed with earthquakes and volcanoes, while hurricanes battered the mountains and tore at the forests. The sun burned white-hot, and fires raged, while even the sea grew embroiled in the conflict, crashing against the shore in mighty and devastating waves. Monsters arose, slipping into this world from other realms or spawning out of the war-wracked spasms of the elements.

Mankind and the Fortunes

But unnoticed by the gods, the last leaf of the first bush had slipped from the Heavenly God’s fingers in his haste to return to his mate’s side. And in the time when the gods warred with one another, from the place where the leaf fell, seven spirits emerged. The spirits saw that they were without purpose, watching with awed abandon as the fury of the gods reshaped the land again and again.

Into this world the race of Men appeared, rising out of the mingling of the elements in the fury of Earth, Sea, and Sky. Like the seven spirits that arose before them, they marvelled at the primordial forces at work in the world, but only briefly. Soon they grew hungry, and cold, and tired, for they were not spirits but flesh. And with the determination of necessity, they began to ameliorate their ills, while the seven spirits looked on with curiosity.

When men sought to feed their hunger with the fruits and beasts of the land, the first spirit saw their struggle and decided to help them prosper, blessing animal and plant alike to spread in riotous profusion. He became Ebisu, the Fortune of Fertility, patron of those who would live off the land.

And when men sought to make clothes and weapons and tools to keep out the cold and support their efforts, and to bargain amongst themselves for the things they could not make, the second spirit saw their cleverness and decided to help them prosper, blessing the paths between their camps and the tongues of the ones who bargained. He became Daikoku, the Fortune of Wealth, patron of those who would build and trade to acquire the things they need.

When men took up crude arms to defend themselves against those that would take by force they things they had made, the third spirit saw their bravery and decided to help them prosper, blessing their weapons to strike true and their armor to turn aside blows. He became Bishamon, the Fortune of Battle, patron of those who would chance their lives to protect their interests.

And when men grew frail through no sin of their own, laid low by sickness and age, the fourth spirit saw their despair and decided to help them prosper, blessing their bodies with strength and good health. He became Jurojin, the Fortune of Longevity, patron of those with days yet ahead of them.

When men grew tired and afraid, and made music and poetry to lift their spirits and endear themselves to each other, the fifth spirit saw their creativity and decided to help them prosper, blessing their hearts with the understanding of emotions, and with warm desire for one another. She became Benten, the Fortune of Beauty, patron of those who would wrest passion from their fellows.

And when at last, fed and warm, healthy and content, men began to wonder at the world around them and to recognise the myriad of things they knew not, the sixth spirit saw their curiosity and decided to help them prosper, blessing their minds to perceive and understand the world around them. He became Fukurokuju, Fortune of Knowledge, patron of those who sought to relieve their ignorance.

Finally, when men suffered despite the help of the other Fortunes and carried on regardless, the seventh spirit saw their perseverance and chose to help them prosper, blessing their lives with the auspicious turnings of momentary chance. He became Hotei, Fortune of Luck, patron of those who must trust in good fortune.

But despite the help of the Seven Fortunes, mankind’s lot in the midst of warring gods was harsh, beset by all manner of ills. The land convulsed, monsters roamed free, and the elements swirled in angry confusion. Men were forced to live in small tribes, often moving and scarcely at peace. In the long ages of the primordial war, men prayed to avoid the wrath of the gods, and made hopeful offerings in an attempt to appease the ferocious and primal powers loosed upon the land.

The Great Beasts and the World Beyond the World

And indeed there were spirits that took notice of these offerings. From the wild depths of the World Beyond the World, four great spirit beasts had emerged, greater than many of their kin— Seiryu, Azure Dragon of the East; Suzaku, Vermilion Bird of the South; Byakko, White Tiger of the West; and Genbu, Black Turtle of the North.

While the Seven Fortunes were spirits of civilization, watching over the settlements of the human race, the Great Beasts were masters of the wild. When men ventured forth from their small domains into the terrible wrack of the world beyond their little influence, it was into the domains of the Great Beasts that they travelled. Pleased by the offerings that mankind made, the Great Beasts allowed mortal men some measure of protection and patronage in the tumult of the World torn by the Primordial War.

As the war of the Gods waged on, the Great Beasts began to grow angry with the Terrestrial and Celestial Gods, and the destruction they wrought. They argued long with the Seven Fortunes over what could be done, settling nothing, and doing little but stoke their tempers even further.

The Dawn of the Empire

But though the gods warred with one another for an age uncounted, it could not last forever. In a titanic battle, the first four gods of the universe, the Gods of the Earth and of the Heavens, came to such blows that Heaven and Earth threatened to separate and drift apart, and in a whirlwind of violence, each struck down their foe. When the dawn broke, all four lay dead.

With the death of the first four gods in the universe, their children grew sorrowful, and began to tire of the endless war. Gentle-Handed Wamori, youngest of the Terrestrials, was sickened worst of all by the destruction, and began to counsel peace to his brothers and sister. So too, Far-Striding Nishikaze, youngest of the Celestials, lamenting the loss of her parents, had come to sympathise with the mirrored loss of the Terrestrials, and began to counsel peace to her own siblings.

Tired as they were of conflict, it was not long before the other gods began to listen, though the most warlike among them did so only reluctantly. And so it was that when Radiant Kagayaki banked the fires of the sun and shone down gentle rays of peace, Shining Senkō reflected her warm light back to the Heavens to signal the Terrestrials' openness to an accord. And the storms faded, and the land grew still, and the fires receded, and the four Celestial Gods came down out of the sky to meet with their former foes.

Gentle-Handed Wamori and Far-Striding Nishikaze spoke together of an end to war, and Radiant Kagayaki and Shining Senkō spoke together of what could come after, and all the gods talked and argued together for long days and nights— all but the Lord of the Mountain, Kakusei. At the end of the third day, Clear-Eyed Kakusei broke his silence, saying only that the time had come, and that the moment for peace was now or never.

So it was that Craft-Wise Saiu of the Terrestrials, who had the greatest gift for fine words, and Many-Faced Komoretsu of the Celestials, who knew every trick and loophole that could be exploited, sat together and penned the accord that the gods would agree to— that the eldest Terrestrial and eldest Celestial siblings should seal their peace through marriage, to endure so long as their combined line should survive to bind both families together as one. Iron-Hearted Naibuki and Thunder-Voiced Natsurai stood by their sides at the wedding altar, each prepared to slay his sibling’s mate should the wedding be stopped, but when Radiant Kagayaki and Shining Senkō beheld each other in their wedding raiment, resplendent in the morning light, their love for each other blossomed. With their hands joined in marriage, the peace was sealed.

Only then did they turn their attention to the race of Men. In the peace that followed the primordial war, man had begun to spread and grow more numerous. With the face of the Earth no longer in upheaval, tribes grew larger, and came to discover new arts. But while the memory of one man is as nothing to the memories of the gods, the memory of the tribe is long, and men still remembered the terrors of their dawn in the world. Frightened that the sudden peace would not last, men still made offerings to the primordial forces of land and sky, and now those forces took note.

Intrigued by the rapid progress of men, the gods went among them. Afraid for their charges, the Seven Fortunes cried out to the gods, asking them to depart once more, but they were only spirits, and could not challenge the gods’ might.

At hearing the words of the Fortunes, the gods grew ashamed, for they understood what their war had cost not only to themselves, but the world under their care. Radiant Kagayaki and Shining Senkō spoke to the Fortunes, and promised that the war between Heaven and Earth had ended, and that the gods intended no harm to their charges. Hearing this, the Fortunes bowed to the gods, and swore to serve them if they would lead and defend mankind.

So it was that the gods separated, and went among men to experience the world they had warred over, and to raise those they had almost destroyed. Where men had unravelled the secrets of bronze, the gods gave them steel. Where they had corralled goats and planted gardens, the gods taught them to raise ponies and oxen, and to farm grain. Where they had made dirt tracks and mud huts, the gods showed them roads paved in stone and houses made of wood. Where they scratched primitive signs on tanned hides, the gods showed them paper, ink, and writing. There was scarcely any art mankind had conceived that the gods did not improve.

But despite the peace, there were those who were not pleased. The Great Beasts’ anger at the Gods had not cooled, and when the Seven Fortunes bowed to them, the Beasts’ fury only grew. They turned on the Fortunes, calling them cowards and traitors, and rallied many of their lesser kind against the Gods and their servants.

As the gods showed mankind the secrets of Heaven and Earth, many flocked to their banners. Each god took followers as suited their temperament, men and women whose wisdom and ability outshone that of their fellow mortals. These followers in turn drew adherents of their own, and those that followed the gods and their closest companions took the names of their patrons, founding the disparate Families that formed the seven Major Clans.

Others shared the anger of the Great Beasts, and swore instead to remain faithful to their old hereditary guardians, furious that outsiders should come among them and overturn every one of their ancestral ways.

Devoted servants of the Gods, the new Clans turned on those who had rejected the divinities, and made war upon their fellow men. Those that served the Great Beasts were pushed to the north despite their ferocious efforts to retain their ancient lands.

From among them, a learned sage emerged, calling himself the Yellow Scholar. Practising arts of medicine and alchemy unheard of in the World, he rallied those who had become exiles in their own lands and led them further north still, and the Four Great Beasts followed after those who had remained devoted to them. Crossing the great mountains of the north, they settled to found a new home for themselves, and under the Yellow Scholar’s guidance, the Four Great Beasts became guardians of both the wild and the civilized ways of their people, gaining mastery over the elements of Metal, Water, Wood, and Fire.

Despite the many centuries of isolation, they have not forgotten their anger and the Gods of the Empire, and their mortal servants.

Nishikaze and the Gods of the Steppe

While the Primordial War raged in the lands that would become the Empire, three gods were born far away in the vast steppes to the west: Ezen Yalzarsan, the Vulture Lord of Death and Rebirth; Ezen Ayangakhol, the Horse Lord of War and Travel; and Ezen Orgonmor, the Yak Lord of Bounty and Wealth. Three brothers, they squabbled amongst themselves as siblings do, creating mortal followers and pitting them against each other, only joining together against the devils and spirits of the wild before returning to their endless rivalry.

One summer, while the rivalry yet burned hot, Ezen Ayangakhol grew furious with the twisted creatures that invaded from the south, and, without the aid of his brothers, commanded his followers to destroy them and then hunt them to their lairs in the bleak swamp that they emerged from. Unknowing of the origin of the Bloodmire, or of the Leech at its heart, his whole tribe vanished into the murk and was lost.

That winter, the servants of the Horse God returned to the steppes, dark and twisted, hungering for the blood of their brothers. The followers of Ezen Yalzarsan and Ezen Orgonmor fought them, but in the spring, the Yak Lord took his followers and left the steppes, seeking better lands without the constant threat of dark forces, leaving the Vulture Lord to defend their ancestral lands alone.

Then, from beyond the steppes, Nishikaze came, leading her own followers, the Yorukuusai. Nishikaze met Ezen Yalzarsan and bargained with him: in exchange for the secrets of surviving in the Steppe and the wisdom of the Vulture Lord, the newcomers agreed to aid the followers of Ezen Yalzarsan against his brother's forces. Together, they pushed the Horse Lord's servants back into the swamp, and over the campaign Ezen Yalzarsan's people, the Tasir, came to be one with the Yorukuusai. When Nishikaze departed from the Steppe seeking the lands beyond, Ezen Yalzarsan went with her, accompanied by many of his followers, and in their travels he became her Consort.

Those of the Tasir who remained behind to defend their ancestral lands were bolstered by their new cousins, and the new arts they had been given, and were prepared to watch the border of the Bloodmire unflinchingly.

The Return of the Horse Lord and the Gods' Retreat from the Mortal World

Those guarding the Steppe against the Leech's foul spawn watch for a long century before their vigilance was truly tested. When Ezen Ayangakhol finally returned from the Bloodmire, it was at the head of a vast army of husks and demons, his divine blood drained by the Leech's Kiss and his body twisted by his all-consuming hunger.

He and his army ravaged the Steppe and consumed countless warriors before they were finally defeated. Though Ezen Ayangakhol was driven back into the Bloodmire, his fate horrified the Gods, who had never before witnessed one of their own divine nature consumed by the curse of the Leech's Kiss. To preserve their own divinity, they retreated from the mortal world, leaving it instead in the hands of their followers and descendants.

In the modern Empire, the Terrestrial and Celestial Gods dwell in their domains in the World Beyond the World, and come together in the Blessed Land to rule over the honored dead and to take counsel with one another.

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