Delving the Deeps of Valuria
In the days before reckoning, the world was without form or reason. Into this shapeless void came Ai, The Creator. He gathered the detritus of the maelstrom and forced it together. The elements of life – air, earth, water, and wind – joined to form lakes and deserts, mountains and plains, islands and volcanos. Ai looked at the gathered elements and was pleased. Long did he walk and witness what he had wrought, until he grew lonely. He envisioned life where there was none and trees began to grown upon the planes, flowers began to grow along the riverbanks, cacti began to reach to the sky amid the sands of the desert. Ai walked among the life he had created and marveled at its beauty. Long did he sleep among the forests, under the waters, atop the mountainous peaks, wrapped in the leaves and grass and ivy. Yet he had no one to talk to, no one who could enjoy his creations beside him.
He envisioned life again, and the creatures and animals that roam the world came to be. His mind splintered and new creatures, great and small, began to populate his world. He was afraid of none, nor were they afraid of him. The animals sought their own domain. The mighty bear dwelled among the great trees, the eagles soared above, and the fish immersed themselves in the waters. Ai would lay among the sands of the deserts and watch great scaled serpents crawl across the floor, leaving a wake in their path. He would dive into the lakes and watch the fish swim and breathe the water. He would soar into the skies and fly among the crows. For a time, he was blissful. This time would end however, as time is wont to do.
“Still I am lonely,” Ai said aloud. He thought again of life, of someone he could talk with and someone that could talk with him. Alas, just thinking something this wondrous could not make it so, even for Ai. He labored alone, fashioning a new type of creature. One of intelligence, passion, and life.
His labors ended when a new life emerged. Short they were, but of great build. They walked on two feet and carried themselves with a regal bearing. Da’warak, Ai called them, ‘dwarves’. (See Of Dwarves in Valuria) He lived among them and enjoyed their company. Courageous they were; brave and hardy folk. Fiercely loyal and dedicated, Ai grew to admire his creation. The dwarves, not unlike Ai, loved to create and form and build. At first, Ai enjoyed their dedication, but after a time, he grew tired of their focus. As Ai had already proven, his satisfaction was short-lived, at least in the eyes of the immortals.
Again, Ai took to the grindstone and sought to make another race of beings, unlike the dwarves. Tall and lithe, with frivolity and humor and a love of life. This Ai did and this new race he called Ehlif, the elves. (See Of Elves in Valuria) As he had before, Ai lived among his creation. His joy was unbridled as he danced and sang with the elves. Where the dwarves had been humorless and stoic, these elves were gay and jovial. Ai drank the wine of the elves, sang the songs, and danced to the music. Until he grew tired, that is. Still, the elves sang, drank, and danced. As before, Ai grew tired and sought again to create.
This time, he made a race that would be dedicated to happiness, but not so much as to deny them purpose. A race that was courageous, but not foolhardy. Friendly, yet cautious; peaceful, yet watchful. This effort yielded the Ob’ilet, the hobbits (see Of Hobbits in Valuria). What fine people these hobbits were! Hard working people like the dwarves, yet full of life and frivolity like the elves. Yet, they were their own people, owing debt to no one. As before, Ai lived among these hobbits, but much longer than he had before. After a time, he took a bride, a beautiful hobbit named Luna. Ai loved her more than he thought possible and loved his hobbits more than any other creature. Alas, no creature can stop death and Ai was powerless when Luna’s eyes began to grow dim and her memory begin to leave her. As she passed away, Ai lifted her spirit up among the heavens. There, she would shine brighter than any star ever could.
A sadness gripped Ai for the first time and he wept. His hobbits were sad as well and could not comfort him. His elves felt sadness an anathema and shunned him. His dwarves felt crying was beneath them and turned away. In his sorrow, he sought again to create. Long did he labor, longer than any time before. Images would come to his mind, but he would force them away of they were not to his liking. After a time, a new race was born. Man. (See Of Men in Valuria) A race of beings that were all things to his liking. Cautiously this time, Ai moved among these people. Tall and regal, smart and brave they were. Full of life, full of happiness, full of compassion and love and bravery. Ai loved all his creations, but it was man that filled him with pride. Long did he live among man and he was happy. His world was at peace.
After a time, the other races began to move away from Ai, as he had moved away from them. The dwarves left the lands of men and took to the mountains, a land as harsh and unforgiving as they were. As the light of Ai began to fade for them, they found comfort in those dwarves that had gone before. Their prayers left Ai and focused on those dwarves that had proven themselves worthy. The Ancestors became as gods to the dwarves. Their priest began to revere them and, after a time, they had all but forgotten Ai.
The elves, too, moved away from man and took to the forests. This wild, uncontrollable land suited the elves and their unpredictable ways. As the dwarves, they began to find strength away from Ai as his light began to fade. It was in the forest itself that they found the wisdom and guidance they sought. The trees, the beasts, the rain… even the land itself became holy to them. As Ai became but a memory, they embraced the wilds of the forest and the greatest of the elves became as one with the land.
The hobbits found their way to the rolling hills and pastoral settings that man felt were too remote. Here, they grew their gardens and tended to the needs of their own. Luna, the ever-watchful mother, became their focus. They loved Ai more than the dwarves or elves, but it was Luna that bolstered their courage, that soothed their pain and answered their prayers. After a time, Ai left them as he had the others.
Man worshipped Ai more fiercely than his other races had. Ai ascended above and left their company, but was ever watchful and helpful if they were to call upon him. If they needed rain, Ai would unleash the waters of heaven. If they prayed for strength, the strength of the bear would embrace them. Men named this world they lived in Valuria. And in Valuria, all was peaceful and good. For a time.
As Ai had come from nothing and embraced the maelstrom, so Orkus did come unbidden. The Despoiler he was called for his presence broke the peace that Valuria knew and loved so dearly. A darkness began to spread across the land and among the people that lived there. Orkus would whisper in the ears of the dwarves, the elves, the hobbits, and the men. Most ignored him, for even his whispers were malevolent. Some, however, succumbed to his honeyed lies. The dwarves that left their clans were corrupted into small, horrible creature over time. Orkus’s bane turned them from dwarves to goblins. Orkus, too, corrupted the elves. The elegant, fun loving fey embraced the darkness and were transformed into drow. The hobbits, as innocent and pure as they were, found themselves turned into malicious kobolds. The humans, a race of wondrous beings, were corrupted the most foul. Orkus loved them the most and dubbed them ‘orcs’ in his name. The creatures banded together to fight for their new god. War came to Valuria for the first time.
The Great War lasted decades. Millions were slain for little reason. The first races were benevolent and righteous, but lacked the savagery to crush their enemies. The corrupted ones did not lack this savagery, but did not have the numbers their foe had available. A perpetual war seemed at hand, something Orkus was happy to see.
Into this war torn land Ai descended. Alongside his creations, he fought and rallied his people. The corrupted ones could not stand against such strength and, at long last, fell. The First Races were victorious over The Corrupted Ones. They were pushed among to live in the swamps, the wastes, the badlands. Orkus was furious, but in his formless shape, powerless to fight. He made plans, however, and he plotted.
Times passed quickly for The First Races. The light that grew so bright among man was short lived, seeing men die much quicker than dwarves, elves or hobbits. Great kings and queens were born and died. The dwarven kings were heralded as some of the finest military minds of Valuria. The elven kings created such beauty even the stoic dwarves were held breathless. The kings and queens of the hobbits led their people in love and compassion and were venerated by all races. Again, peace came to Valuria. The Corrupted Ones hid among their desolation and fought among themselves. Man grew strong and powerful and dominated the lands.
After a time, Orkus, the forgotten one, came forth with a vengeance. In the blink of an eye, he attacked Ai in the heavens. All that had died in The Great War he had gathered. An army of souls was at his command. Wave after wave he sent, before entering the fight himself. For he had made himself whole, and he was terrible to behold. With a mighty blade, he struck Ai and sundered his being. The blow decimated Orkus, but destroyed Ai as well. His sundered parts were all that remained. On Valuria, The First Races fell as one to their knees as Ai departed them. The Corrupted Ones girded their arms and marched upon the sorrowful people. The battles were savage and many of The First Races fell. The sundered fragments of Ai, however would not stay idle. Three there were and each rose up as its own being. These were Ai’s Children and they would embrace their father’s creations and lead them into battle. Singly, they were known as Alur, The Grace; Dehar, The Strength and Jennis, The Knowledge. Collectively, they were called The Triplets. It is rumored by sages and theologians that there was a fourth fragment. Alur, Dehan and Jennis embodied their father’s grace, strength and knowledge, respectively, but Ai had other aspects as well. All things contain a darkness, a shadow that lurks within them, and Ai was no different. He was fickle, arrogant and selfish. These were small, minuscule parts of Ai, but they existed. What became of the shadows that hovered in the back of Ai’s soul? This is the mystery of the fourth shard. Some say it gave birth to another child of Ai; Malus. Sometimes called “The Dark Mother”, Malus is thought to be Ai’s daughter and she embodies all that was hidden or repressed. When the shards fell, the shard that would become Malus tumbled deep into the earth, through mud and muck, finally coming to rest in the dark tunnels underneath the world. And there, she grew in strength, unknown and unmolested.
Alur carried her father’s wisdom and benevolence. She was a beautiful creature that took men to her breasts and carried them when they were too weak to carry themselves. Dehar, a tall, muscular man, carried the strength and might of his father. No one could stand before Dehar and he admired strength and might above all else. Jennis carried the knowledge of his father. All that was known and would ever be known could be found on the lips of Jennis. As The Triplets gathered The First Races under one banner, The Corrupted Ones began to falter. Orkus was again a shapeless, formless void that fought with whispers and lies. Seeing the three gods walk the land, The Corrupted Ones, at the brink of victory, were again beaten and forced to return to the corrupted lands they called home.
In the time following The Sundering, men began to move away from the grace they had enjoyed for so long. The covenant they had formed with Ai was broken. The free will they now had lead them to dark places for the first time. Without the grace of Ai, they were free to fall to darkness. Alur tried in vain to stop this. Dehar found it amusing, and Jennis cared not for the turn of events. The dwarves, elves and hobbits continued in their ways of worship and life, but became wary of man, for man had changed since The Sundering.
Magic had never been seen in Valuria until The Sundering, and then only with The Corrupted Ones. Drow sorcerers of great power wielded great magics to slay their enemies. Orc priests began to ensorcell The First Races, turning them mad. Even the lowly goblin and kobold wielded magic. The Corrupted Ones tainted sorcery from the start. When Orkus was forced back into the void, magic all but disappeared. In time, man would discover the secrets of the arcane and use it to their will. While magic is a tool, and can be used for many purposes, many saw magic as a tool of The Corrupted Ones and Orkus and shunned it.
As time passed, The First Races again began to dominate Valuria. The Corrupted Ones lost the power of magic that they had brought into the world. Man continued his dominance. Their priests began to venerate Alur, Dehar and Jennis equally. Man began to separate themselves into kingdoms and warred with one another. Now, however, Valuria finds itself in a time of peace. Orkus is but a memory to all but the oldest of races. Still, rumors persist of orcs using magic in the far mountains. Whispers are being heard again by a few. The long summer is giving way to cold winds. No one knows what lies ahead. Valuria is in the balance, awaiting the heroes that will guide her.