One of the ways I “save” story ideas for later is by writing a backgrounder that contains the core details I want to keep in mind. In this case, I literally had a dream of this story so vivid that an entire prologue essentially wrote itself. I’ve no idea if this story will go anywhere, or where it might go if it does, or when I might even figure all that out, but I thought I’d share it and see what you think. This is a kind of Biblical Genesis story for an entirely different World. I’d definitely appreciate any constructive comments you’d care to leave. As a note, this is in Markdown, so read italics as they’re intended ;).
In the beginning, there was nothing. All of the universe was an empty void.
Well… almost nothing. There was a broadly diffused sort of energy. Nothing you could detect or measure, because there was nobody to measure it, and nothing with which to measure it, but it was there nonetheless. It was a sort of undifferentiated proto-intelligence, floating effortlessly through the nothingness, seeking nothing and doing nothing.
Over those first few millennia, that proto-intelligence began to coalesce into seven distinct patterns, each swirling in and around the others like eddies in an ocean. Over the next few millennia, those patterns coalesced further into seven distinct personalities, each with its own intentions and goals and interests. Eventually, those personalities became the Seven Gods. For even more millennia, they were content to exchange ideas and information with each other, coming to understand their own existence, eventually coming to understand the absolute lack of any other existence, and eventually becoming quite bored. They began to conceive of other kinds of intelligence, and to imagine shape, and form, and matter. They began to think of themselves as beings, and they wanted company. They wanted to do something.
And so they created a World.
By this time, each of the Seven Gods had formed their own strong personalities, each quite different from the others, and each complete with their own interests, imaginations, and desires. So they decided that, while they would each take on certain communal tasks that they all agreed were necessary to the creation of their World, they would mostly be free to create their own portions of it, and to pursue their own experiments and goals.
Qruphine was fascinated with the idea of water, and so she was given the task of creating the World’s seas and oceans. She populated them with an enormous diversity of life, taking great delight in playing with form, color, and size. But as time wore on, she grew bored of playing with the simple, beautiful creatures she’d made. She began looking at the other Gods’ works for inspiration.
Idum was tasked with creating the delicate balance of atmosphere that would allow all life on the World to live and to thrive. He developed broad forests to pump oxygen into the World, and spread those forests across the vast continents that the Gods agreed to create and separate from the seas. Idum tinkered endlessly with the complex ecosystems of his forests, creating living creatures large and small in what eventually became a self-sustaining, harmonious balance. But then he too grew bored, and began to imagine more complex life and more delicate interactions. Idum and Qruphine often compared notes, as each was working with very complex designs and adaptations.
Druara was given dominion over the separation of sea and land, and threw herself into sculpting soaring cliffs, filigreed fjords, sandy beaches, and more. She was also given control over the World’s patterns of weather, and all the skies the the weather lived in. Such was her joy in creating clouds, storms, and more, that she never played with the creation of life. Instead, she delighted in watching Idum’s creations creep curiously toward the sea, and watching some few of Qruphine’s creations give up on the sea and adapt themselves to life on the land. She appreciated all the small flying creatures that Idum had populated his forests with, but found them more than a little distracting. She was mischievous enough to occasionally snatch an updraft from underneath one of the flying creatures, but not so cruel-hearted that she let it crash into the sea or land.
Ehzotl occupied himself with the bones of the World, plunging himself deep into it. He created dense, deep, intertwined layers of rock, minerals, magma, and more. His work gave the World weight, and he set it spinning around the fiery star they’d created to warm the World. The spinning created seasons, which delighted the other Gods. Druara was especially pleased, as the World’s spinning motion gave her weather patterns a new complexity and unpredictability. As Ehoztl became God of the Earth and Druara became God of the Skies, they spent more and more time together, and grew comfortable with each others’ presence. Like her, Ehoztl was disinclined to create new life, for he found all his joy in the low, slow rumblings of the World’s own foundation.
Imbium saw Ehzotl’s fascination with the earth and Druara’s love of the coast and skies, and wanted to join them in their pursuits. But he was also interested in the creation of life, and became disdainful at their insistence on ignoring what was, to him, the most fascinating part of the World. So while Druara curated the meeting of sea and land, Imbium took it upon himself to hold reign over the meeting of land and sky, and out of Ehzotl’s bedrock Imbium raised tall mountains. He tickled Druara’s weather patterns to layer his peaks with snow, and the life he brought forth was specially designed to live in the harsh, cold crevasses that thrust toward the sky. His creatures were tough and shaggy, capable of eating almost anything, and happy to shrug off the rigors of his demanding environments.
Between the seas, the mountains, and the forests, the World contained ample land that was unspoken-for, and so Bydia claimed it for herself. She created broad, flat meadows and extensive, rolling hills. She blanketed it all with green grasses and bright flowers. More fascinated with living creatures than any of the other Gods, she created an abundance of it, from the smallest insects that pollinated the flowers to the large beasts that grazed upon the grass. She carefully designed each form of life to adapt to the seasons Ehzotl had made, crafting cycles of birth, growth, harvest, and sleep. But like many of her fellows, Bydia grew bored of her creatures once they settled into their patterns, and she started looking for something more challenging. Imbium and Bydia were close companions in those days, supporting each other in their ever-more-interesting experiments with life.
And finally there was Enies. The last God to emerge in millennia past, Enies declined to adopt either of the binary aspects of the other Gods, and never fell into a working relationship with any of the others. Ze remained neutral, and aloof. Where the other six Gods each adopted a portion of the World and made it their own, Enies flitted about, observing them, chiding them for their missteps, and making light of their successes. Ze was content to watch, although ze was considered by the other Gods to be something of an immature personality. Enies did not feel ze was immature; ze simply felt that there was little point doling out portions of the World. Ze would have been more interested in designing it all.
“I love our World,” Bydia said to the other Gods during one of their rare meetings. “But it does not love us back. I long to feel that same love that we bestow upon it.”
“There should be no need,” Druara said, being not the least interested in what the World thought of her. “We are the Gods of the World, and we have brought it forth. We need no further acknowledgement than that.”
“True,” Idum agreed, “but have you seen some of the bipeds I have created for my forests? They are a marvel to watch swinging through the tall trees, but I have become fascinated with how they care for each other. They love their own as we love all the World, and I too wonder what it would be like for them to know us and love us as well.”
Qruphine and Imbium murmured their agreement, for they too had seen the creatures they’d made stay close to one another, raise young, and mourn their dead. They’d created a wonderful pageant, they thought, but it was one they longed to play a part in. “Still,” Imbium said slowly, “the creatures we have created cannot see us. We created the world, and so we cannot be a direct part of it. They are concerned only with their lives and their companions, and they cannot conceive of something more. Our work spans hundreds of their generations, and they could never know us enough to truly love us, I think.”
“I would create life that could,” Bydia said quietly. The other Gods pondered this, and decided that they would try. They looked at all the creatures the others had created, and agreed that Idum’s tree-bipeds offered the best template for a new form of life that could contemplate more than its own existence. Druara declined with a snort, vanishing into a storm, but the others all agreed to take this basic template and see what they could make of it.
Qruphine knew that the bipedal form would be all but useless, thrashing about in her watery realms, but she compromised by combining it with a successful finned form she’d already created. The biped’s stumpy legs were joined together in a graceful tail. She kept the template’s arms and larger head, although tinker as she might she couldn’t find a way to rearrange the creature’s design so that it could live under the seas. Then, in a flash of inspiration, she remembered the few sea creatures that had adapted to living above the ocean, and decided her creature would be able to do both. She gave them gills in addition to the gas-breathing noses of the template. After centuries of successively better attempts, she released her final creatures into the sea. She inspired them to build small underwater villages, to harvest food from the sea’s plentiful life, and to grow to love one another. She called them the Mer, and they loved her as their God.
Idum, in the meantime, was iterating on his tree-dwelling bipeds. He wanted a creature able to embrace the entire forest, not just the tree-tops, and so he rearranged the musculature and lengthened the legs. He provided them with a larger braincase, at the expense of somewhat dulling their senses. To compensate, he gave them delicately pointed ears, the better the catch the subtle caress of the winds through the tree boughs, and slightly larger eyes capable of perceiving a wider range of light. He made the new creatures quick and agile, and also extremely long-lived. While the other Gods may have built upon their creatures’ love for each other, Idum wanted them to have plenty of time in the World to love him. His earlier creatures had spent most of their time simply surviving; this new one would have ample time to contemplate Idum. He set his new creatures into the forests of the World, inspiring them to build cities entangled in the tree limbs. He named them the Sylvan, and they loved him as their God.
Ehzotl had finally gotten caught up in the other Gods’ fascination with creating life, but for his project he returned to the deep earth that he’d always loved. He plunged his metaphysical fingers deep into the earth’s crust, carving out tunnels and hollows for his new children. He kept the short stature of the template creature, only changing their limbs to proportions he found more pleasing. He knew they would live much of their lives in the earth’s dark comfort, and so he deemphasized their sight and focused instead on their hearing and sense of smell. He made them strong, durable, and creative. As he set the first generation loose into the warrens he’d crafted for them, he inspired them to love the earth and himself, and filled their imaginations with the creations they themselves might make from the treasures he’d buried deep within the layers of the World’s bedrock. Ehzotl still wasn’t interested in being loved as directly as Bydia, but we was definitely interested in having his creatures make their own grad creations in his honor. He named them the Pumill, and they loved him as their God.
Bydia, the Goddess most desiring of the World’s love, decided to fill her fields and meadows with a flexible, adaptable creature. She took the template and added height, making the limbs more evenly distributed. She too made a larger braincase, in addition to dextrous fingers and sharp wits. Her creatures’ senses were somewhat duller than the other Gods’, but she knew their intelligence would more than make up for it. Unlike Idum, her creatures would enjoy only a moderate lifespan, and she gave them an innate drive to reproduce much more often. She wanted a quantity of love, and she wanted her creations to fill the World’s surface. They would farm the plants of the fields, and fill themselves of the flesh of the many beasts she had created before. Her creatures, she knew, would come to dominate the World, and she smiled at the thought. She named her creations Men, and they loved her as their God.
Over the centuries, Imbium had become less and less interested in the other Gods’ activities, focusing instead on the challenge of creating life that could survive the harsh conditions of his beloved mountains. Glancing at Idum’s template biped, Imbium once again set off to make a unique creation. His would need immense strength, and so he lengthened its bones and piled on muscle. It would need to stay warm in the highest altitudes, and so he gave it a thick, layered pelt. Its wide nose could ingest air even at rarified heights, while its small eyes would be better protected from freezing. It would need to be able to eat anything it came across, and so he gave it a variety of strong teeth, along with sharp , sturdy claws. He inspired his creatures to imagine him in the form of the mountain elements: the freezing air, the hard rock, and the frigid snow. He didn’t want his creatures’ love. He wanted their fear. He released his creatures into the mountains and called them the Monursi, and they loved him as their God.
Enies, youngest of the Gods and creator of no portion of the World, watched the others with a thoughtful air. Each of them had, as ze had suspected, created a creature for their specific part of the World. As ze had no part of the World to himself, ze reasoned that he would create a creature of the entire World. Lazily, ze simply copied Bydia’s Men (which ze admitted seemed to be a very flexible design indeed), but ze gave them an entirely different set of inspirations. Rather than creatures who would make homes and raise families, Enies’ creatures would always wander. They would visit the seas and the coasts, the mountain villages, and the meadows and fields of Men. They would travel through the forests, and they would seek out the caves and holes where the Pumill could be found. They could, ze reasoned, be a binding force that brought all the Gods’ different creations together. Grinning, Enies instead inspired them to think first of themselves as true creations of the Gods, and to take whatever they needed and could get from the others. Ze inspired his creatures to glorify and elevate only Enies, and whenever possible to do so at the expense of the other Gods. Ze made two tweaks to Bydia’s design: although physically indistinguishable from her Men, zirs creatures would instinctively know one another for their true selves. Zirs creatures would also be longer-lived than Men, a change ze felt ze could get away with since Men would never see any of zirs creatures for very long at a time. Ze set them forth and named them the Vagi, and they loved zir as their God.
As the centuries passed, the Gods’ new creatures were a great success. Each worshipped their own God with the intense love they’d been designed for. The Mer built delicate, soaring underwater cities, while the Sylvan designed villages that existed in perfect harmony with their forests. The Pumill roamed beneath the surface, crafting triumphant works of art from the minerals and materials their God had left them. The Men expanded rapidly, building ever-larger cities surrounded by fields, and connecting them all with flat roads. The Monursi kept mostly to themselves, while the Vagi became traders, ever traveling from settlement to settlement. Notably, the Vagi worshipped Enies only in secret, and outwardly pretended to be tribes of wandering Men, even going so far as to display the symbols and marks that Men had created to show their love for Bydia.
The Gods cherished their creations, and drew strength and comfort from the love of their Worldly children. The Gods spent more and more time with their people, listening to their prayers and answering them when they felt the urge. All but Druara: she remained apart, focused entirely on her weathers, and on her precious coasts where the land met the sea. “They distract us from the work that only we Gods can do,” she muttered to herself, watching the other Gods fawn over their creations. “Let them be, and let us get on with being the Gods of the World,” she groused. The other Gods tolerated her, provided she moderated the storms she spread across the World so as to not inflict too much damage on their beloved children.
The seeming harmony did not last forever. As the cities of Men grew ever larger, they began to feel cramped in their meadows and fields. Too many of the short-lived Men in one place, they found, created too much strife. Small bands were constantly striking out, looking for empty land in which to build a new settlement, but space was starting to become scarce. Ever watchful for opportunities to take the other Gods down a notch, the Vagi pointed out that the forests offered a logical direction for the expansion of Men, as well as ample natural resources for building, burning, and eating. The Men began to fight with the Sylvan, who protected Idum’s forests with impressive fervor.
Amidst this strife, The Vagi made sure that both Men and Sylvan saw the precious works of the Pumill. For ages, the Vagi had acquired shiny metals and gems from the underground people, and traded them to the other races in exchange for rare foodstuffs, clothing, and other items, which they traded back to the Pumill. But the Vagi saw a way to weaken Ehzotl by distracting the Pumill from his workshop and instead to their own defense, and so they began hinting to Men and Sylvan alike of the greater, hidden works the Pumill refused to trade. This ensured that greedy leaders of the two races would attack the Pumill to steal their wealth.
The Vagi even spread rumors of the Monursi, casting them as ferocious monsters, and setting bands of Men against them. The Monursi, in turn, were told that Men were an unstoppable disease, bent on conquering all the other races. A few Monursi, fearful for the safety of their mountains, began descending to lower altitudes and destroying any settlements or bands of Men they found. The Pumill also retaliated, digging tunnels under the settlements of Men and Sylvan alike, collapsing them and then falling on them with swords and maces of iron. The Vagi, delighted, began trading for Pumill-made weapons, providing them to the other races and escalating the violence.
Within a century, all the races of the World were, at best, maintaining an uneasy, arms-length relationship with their neighbors. At worse, they were at war. All the races, that is, except the Vagi, who cast themselves as traders, bearers of news, and neutral negotiators of peace, when in reality they profited from the other races, spread rumors and half-truths, and ensured the other races of the World relied upon them utterly. All to the glory of their God, of course, and to the detriment of the others.
The Gods were not pleased.
When Men began attacking the formidable yet gently Monursi, Imbium retaliated by casting avalanches of rock and snow down onto villages of Man that set at the base of his mountains. When the Sylvan declared no quarter and began killing Men who entered their forests, Bydia co-opted one of Druara’s storms, striking the forest again and again with lightning until half of it was ablaze. Idum, thinking Druara was to blame for the destruction, sought revenge upon her longtime companion and collaborator Ehzotl, sending great tree roots through the Pumill caverns and collapsing their warrens upon them.
“Stop,” Enies would say, laughing maniacally in zirs mind but projecting a calm demeanor to the other Gods. “We should be above this. We should be calming our peoples, reminding them that they exist to love us, not to hate each other.” Easily said, as his Vagi had never wavered in their attention to zir.
The Gods thought about it, and agreed that they must not fight amongst themselves. But they saw no way for their peoples to inhabit the World together, unless boundaries could be established to keep them from each other. Perhaps, they thought, the Mer could be restricted to the sea—simple enough, as they had little reason to come ashore—and the Pumill kept underground. The Sylvan would own their forests, and Men would remain in their fields and meadows. The Monursi would stay safe in the mountains they never willingly left anyway.
“No,” Druara said. “I am the one God who created no life, and the one who can see all of your creatures with perspective. Qruphine and Imbium, your problem is not that your creatures should be sequestered, it is that they already are. They are all but unknown to the other races, and that makes them mysterious. What these creatures do not know, they fear, and what they fear, they attack. Idum and Ehzotl, your Sylvan and Pumill were made for too broad a space to be hemmed in. All the forests of the World! And all of its underbelly! How would you ever restrict them and expect them to obey? And Bydia, your Men. You have focused them on breeding and breeding, growing and growing. You made them to dominate the World, with no respect for the other Gods or races, all in your own greed to be loved more than any.”
“You omit the Vagi,” Bydia said with a sneer.
“They are the only one of your races who has kept to their own path and not attacked the others,” Druaru retorted.
Enies smiled too zirself. “So what do you suggest?” ze asked. Druara eyed him suspiciously. She knew his Vagi were probably part and parcel of the problem, but she had never observed them closely enough to know just how.
“We separate the races,” Druara said firmly.
“But you said–” Qruphine began.
“Not like it was suggested,” Druara interrupted her. “No rules, no walls. These races cannot live together on one World, no matter what barriers or strictures we give them. No, we must carve up the World. We must make new Worlds for them, separated by an impassable Void. You will each have your own smaller World, where you may be loved by your creatures and where they may live their own lives.
“The World,” she finished, “must be Sundered into six.”
“I would argue,” Enies said, “that it be Sundered only into five.”
“Five?” the other Gods asked.
“My Vagi were not made to live in a world of their own,” ze said. “They were made to carry goods and news, always roaming and never at home. They bring vital trade between the races, and as Druara has said, they are the sole race who has remained nonviolent. I propose your races each get their own world, as Druara has suggested, but I suggest we give my Vagi the ability to travel the Void between worlds. Perhaps in that way, through the sharing of stories and trade, the races can someday come to understand each other, and the World can be reunited.”
Druara frowned, for she sensed Enies’ deceipt, but she could provide no proof to the others. The other five Gods considered the idea for some time, and then finally nodded their agreement. “The World,” they said, “shall be Sundered.”
“There is more,” Bydia said quietly. “Druara was right when she said it was my greed for love that drove my Men to such wrongs. It will happen again. With the World Sundered, though, it will be Men against Men, Sylvan against Sylvan. Already I have seen my Men argue about the best ways to show me their love, and argue so violently that it came to blows. I see it grow worse in the future. Why, some Men have even begun to worship Druara as their God.”
“That’s because they’ve made all those seaside villages,” Qruphine grumbled, “snatching the fish from my seas for food, while clinging to the edges of land.”
The Gods thought about this. “What do you suggest?” Idum asked Bydia.
“We Sunder the World, and we ourselves go down into each Sundered piece. We become part of each, in body and in spirit. We cease to become Gods, creating and refining, and instead become an inextricable part of each world. We give our children one last, great Gift, in whatever way we choose. We calm them, and we give them the inspiration to be at peace, at least with each other.”
“In that case,” Druara said, “We will Sunder the World into six, and I will take the coasts and the shallow seas as my own piece. Any of your Men who wish it, Bydia, and any of your Mer who desire, Qruphine, may come to my part of the World. They shall be made into a new people, the Litoram, and I will equip them to live in my new world.”
“And my Vagi?” Enies asked.
“They will own the Void as you suggest,” Bydia said, “and you will become part of the Void with them.” Enies nodded, knowing he would do no such thing, but pleased that his wandering children would be the only ones permitted access to all of the new worlds.
And so the World was Sundered.
Idum tore off all the forests of the World, melding them together into a disc of densely wooded land. He carried his Sylvan safely along. He himself descended to the exact middle of the new Worldshard, in a small clearing he had reserved for himself. He sank his feet into the lush, loamy earth, and raised his hands to the sky. His divine skin thickened and roughened into bark, and his arms bifurcated and divided, sprouting leaves and branches, until he had become the Godtree. His roots stretched across the forests, connecting them all, and his sleepy thoughts spoke of peace and contentment amongst the Sylvan.
Ehzotl carved out the center of the World for his Worldshard, forming it into a globe of warrens, tunnels, and caverns, with his Pumill carried safely inside. He moved to the center of the world, and turned his body to pure, endless iron magma. His ever-replenishing molten body bubbled up through a sacred Godforge, providing his Worldshard with warmth, and providing the most skilled of the Pumill with the heat and raw material to craft their most epic creations. Their love of their craft drove them closer together as a people, and they knew peace.
Imbium’s Worldshard was a long mountain range, curved into a ring so that his Monursi could roam endlessly from peak to peak. Unlike the other Gods, he turned the surface of his Worldshard away from their common, fiery star, desiring solitude and separation from the rest. Rather than leaving his children in eternal darkness, he sat cross-legged on the tallest mountain peak, hardening his form into dense crystal, slipping into a deep slumber, and becoming the Godpeak. For half of each day, his body would shine, casting meager warmth and light across all the mountains, and at night his light would dim, bringing night across the land. Throughout the day and night, his slowly rolling thoughts spoke of unity and peace, and the Monursi prospered.
Qruphine and Bydia sent word to the Mer and the Men of the Sharding, and offered those Men of the coasts, and the Mer who preferred the shallower coastal waters, a new life together on Druara’s Worldshard. Although only the few who already held to the coasts took up the offer, it was enough to create a viable population. Druara took them to her bosom while she crafted her Worldshard, and while she held them she remade them. The Litoram could live comfortably on land or sea, although she gave them an intense longing to be near the water at all times. Their bipedal legs of Men could merge at will into the tail of a Mer, and then separate again to walk upon the land. She ensured they could breath comfortably in either environment. She littered her Worldshard with twisting reefs and atolls, balancing the land so that no Litoram upon it would ever be far from the shallow seas. Upon the largest of these reefs, she lay down, resting her head upon her arms, and becoming the Godreef. The waters around her were the most temperate, held the most life, and provided the most shelters from the storms that her restless spirit still cast upon the seas. The warm currents emanating from her carried a sense of togetherness and caring, and the Litoram settled into the new life.
Qruphine’s remaining Mer came with her to a Worldshard that was entirely deep ocean. She brought their finest cities with them, and once she saw her people safely in place, she sank into the ocean and let her spirit dissipate. She became the Godcurrent, roaming throughout the Worldshard bringing warmth and comfort to the scattered populations of Mer. Anytime her wandering spirit touched one of her people, they were overwhelmed with a sense of love and unity, causing the Mer to become a community more tightly bound than ever before.
And finally, Bydia was left with a Worldshard devoid of deep earth, tall mountains, lush forests, or ranging seas. She realized that she and her Men had received the worst lot of all the Gods and races, and that her beloved meadows and fields meant little without the protection of nearby trees, the water running from mountain snowmelt, or the sustaining life of the seas. Her flat meadows and rolling hills provided space, but lacked the diversity of a true World. She knew that her Men and other creatures would depend on the plants in the fields to survive, so she melted into the ground as and eternal underground stream of water, the Godspring. Her essence nourished the plants and her people, calming them and binding them to their greater purpose.
And Enies, God of the Vagi, set zir people into eternal Voidships of zir own creation. Ze inspired them to the use of the ships, and gave them the knowledge needed to navigate the Void between the Worldshards. Ze bade them to continue wandering, and to continue elevating zir above all other Gods. Amongst all the races, the Vagi would have no home, but amongst all the races, only the Vagi could see all the remains of the World. And then Enies sat back to watch. The other Gods were dormant, feeding their Worldshards and basking in the love of their people. Enies was the only sentient God in the universe, and ze was pleased.