The Tale of the Ageless
In the earliest days, before men came to grow across all the world, all the dominions of Erâth were, as we know, in balance. Whilst men spilled each other’s blood for land and kingdoms, the other races of Erâth were largely peaceful, and for the greatest time did not interfere with the world of men. Men lived solely in Golgor at that time, to the east, and it was a large land: easy to hide, easy to avoid men.
Yet for all their peace, the world was still young, and this meant that the races of Erâth had little experience in restraint. Sometimes the Namirèn would take too much life; sometimes the Illuèn would cast too much light. Each race thought theirs to be the the most important, and looked with disdain upon the others, as though they ought to know better than to sow Darkness in a realm of Light, or bring Life to a world of Death.
The races quickly forgot the powers of their origins, and wielded what they were given without second thought. Never did they do battle, but the Illuèn mistrusted the Duithèn, and the Mirèn held no love for the Namirèn, and even the Sarâthen, masters of Wisdom, sometimes forgot that they were there only to foresee the balance of the world. They would side with the Mirèn and the Illuèn, for they did not want to see the world cast into shadow and death—even though they ought to have known that such things are vital to the survival of the world.
The race of men, all this while, had no knowledge of the other races of power, for this was the one thing that the Sarâthen were certain of: until the race of men were past their violent birth, they would be unable to be a part of the greater world: they would destroy all that they touched.
Thus it was not long before the world was in chaos, and the balance of Erâth was teetering on the brink. While men lived and died in Golgor, the rest of the world was a cacophony of Life and Death, Light and Darkness. In some places, such as Aélûr, there was only eternal night, and the sun refused even to rise at dawn. Here, the Duithèn reigned supreme in Darkness, and the land was desolate and barren. With the Duithèn had come the Namirèn, and left the forests dead, and the plains bare soil.
Elsewhere, such as in Cathaï, the Mirèn were dominant, and the land grew so fast and so green that there was scarce room for anything new to thrive. From shore to shore this island realm was overgrown, trees bursting through the ground and rising to touch the sky in only days, and wild animals scavenging ravenously, for they were too many to survive.
In Thaeìn, also, the Illuèn ensured that there was only daylight, and sun, and warm weather: stark contrast to the neighboring realm of Aélûr. This too was unnatural, and the ground baked under the intensity, and without cloud or rain life could not survive.
The eldest of each race saw this terrible chaos, and foresaw that the world would be brought to ruin before it had truly begun. Chief among them were the Sarâthen, who knew that the world must be righted, and soon, or there would be no place for Life, or Death, or Light, or any other of the great powers that had founded Erâth. The world would be left an empty wasteland, blank and barren: bereft of Light or even Darkness, and there would be no Life, and thus nothing for Death to take away.
So a great council was called, and from across the world came the elders of each race, and they designed a peaceful place where each could have their say, and an agreement could be had on the matters of the world. This place was Oríthiae, and from then on it remained a place of peace, until the great war of Erâth brought it to ruin.
At first, even the elders of the races of power were wary of each other, and would not listen to the suggestions of others, for it seemed that each race had only their own interests at heart. The Illuèn said the Duithèn should retreat from Aélûr, and the Duithèn said they had been banished from Thaeìn by the Illuèn. The Mirèn said the Namirèn had taken their power from them in some lands, while the Namirèn said they had no place in other lands, so strong was the power of Life.
The Portèn agreed with no one, for they felt that all the other races were growing to strong in themselves, and there would be no place left for the race of Strength. And the Sarâthen tried to agree with everyone, and thus were no better than the Portèn, for if they agreed with the Illuèn the Duithèn would not hear them, and if they agreed with the Duithèn the Illuèn would call them traitors.
For a year and a day they argued back and forth, no one race able to convince any other of its arguments, and no one race willing to concede to another for fear of losing all influence over the world entirely. Soon there was no talking left to be done, for all the words were spent, and the council of elders could do nothing but stare at each other in silence, bitter resentment filling their hearts.
It was then that the Sarâthen realized that balance could not be brought to Erâth by means of such discussion, because of course each race was strong in itself, and unwilling to lose that strength. But for the world to regain its balance, each race must ultimately agree to compromise—to sacrifice something of great worth to them, so that each race would feel equal in their diminishing power.
So the Sarâthen proposed that the Mirèn would no longer be allowed to grow the world faster than was natural: a tree would gain a ring each year, and no faster; a plant would flower in spring only; fruit would be borne each autumn, and only then. In return, the Namirèn would no longer be allowed to bring death to entire lands, but would only seek out those weakest and oldest of creatures, and carry them away when their time had come.
As for the Illuèn, they were to allow Darkness to cover the land half of the day, every day, while the Duithèn would allow the Illuèn to bring light everywhere, but only during the other remainder of the day. And to further this compromise, the Duithèn would be allowed sometimes to cover the sun even during the day, while the Illuèn could shine the moon and stars even in the darkest of nights.
With the agreement of these four races, the Portèn conceded as well, for they saw that here was a fair agreement to them: they would be allowed to bring the world strength themselves, and it would not be given over to any other race. So the Sarâthen first truly brought wisdom to the world, and Erâth was balanced for the first time.
Yet even with this agreement, the Sarâthen were not blind to the fact that there was nothing to convince these races to keep to their word. They were too few themselves to oversee all the world, and they were uncertain that each race would find the strength of will to govern itself, keeping to these binding agreements.
So they deliberated again, and for ten years they considered what to do. Many thoughts came to them, and none were satisfactory. And in the end, they considered the very powers themselves, and wondered if they could be drawn upon directly to watch over all the world.
Thus came the idea to the Sarâthen of the Ageless: an emissary from each race that would act as the balancing stones for the world. One from the Mirèn would be chosen, and one from the Namirèn; one from the Illuèn and one from the Duithèn; one from the Portèn, and one from the Sarâthen. And also, they realized, one must be chosen from amongst the race of men, for although they had held council without them, men still lived as a part of Erâth, and the world would not be balanced without them.
They brought this idea to each of the races in turn, and each one in turn saw that it was fair. It was decided that it would not be the eldest of each race chosen, nor the youngest; it would not be the wisest, nor the most foolish. Instead, the Sarâthen said, it would be the one who exemplified the purest notion of each power: the brightest, the darkest, the most lively and the most deathly. For only such a person could remember the reason and responsibility of each race through all the ages of Erâth, and remind the other races that each one was created equal.
So the Ageless were created, and they were one from each race: even from the race of men. This one, sole example of a violent race was chosen exclusively by the Sarâthen, and it was a man who was unique amongst his peers for he did not slay others for power, and gave to others as much as he took. To the Sarâthen he represented the strength of men: not the strength to kill, but the strength to endure in peace.
Each of these beings, each member of these races, were then granted that which is sought by all: immortality. They could not, would not perish, throughout all the ages of Erâth, unto the very ending of the world itself. Yet with this came a rule: nor could they be a part of the world anymore; they would live separate and away from the living, breathing world of Erâth, watching over it but destined never to interact with it again.
A great ceremony was held as these seven individuals were chosen, at the end of which each would be eternally bound to Erâth. Members of all races came to witness the birth of the Ageless, except the race of men, for they were yet enthralled in their bloodthirst and the Sarâthen feared what they might do if they should see such a gathering of Light and Darkness and other powers together.
The ceremony lasted a week, and when it was done the Ageless were born anew into a realm of existence outside of the living world of Erâth. From here, a place far above the realm of mortals, they could look down upon the world and see that it was balanced. As the years and centuries passed, they saw Aélûr regain Light, and saw Thaeìn feel the cool shade of night again. They saw the Namirèn welcomed once more to Cathaï, where they took only what life was necessary to allow for the survival of more life. They saw the Portèn reach their roots deep into the earth and spread strength to all the lands of Erâth, and they saw the Sarâthen, wandering here and there, whispering thoughts to others as they saw the world grow and progress.
Yet the Ageless nonetheless soon became sad, for they were far from their homes, and at times wished to be once more among the living, to feel the grass under their feet or the warmth of a summer breeze. But they knew that was not their realm any longer, and so they suffered the sadness in silence, speaking with each other but never about that.
And if they saw together that one of the races of Erâth was overstepping its bounds, they would descend to speak to that race, weaving their responsibility back into the thoughts of that race, so that they would not reach for more than they were due. Sometimes this was the Namirèn, greedy for death, extinguishing an entire species at once; sometimes it was the Mirèn, allowing plants to grow in places they ought not to be. And for an age, this balance was thus kept.
But the Ageless could only affect subtle influence on the world, and could not directly change anything; such was their limitation. This was the gift and the curse of their eternal life: for the Sarâthen knew that if an immortal were allowed to walk the world, over the course of thousands of years they could easily twist the world to their own design. So they were forbidden to descend, except in the direst of need, and directly influence the course of the world.
Over time, the Ageless stepped back from the world, until their very existence became only a legend, and then a myth, and then was forgotten by all. And if the Ageless were forgotten, even more so were forgotten the struggles that brought the Ageless to life.
The Ageless then faced the possibility of extinction, despite their timelessness, for if the races of Erâth, after many thousands of years, no longer remembered them, how could they possibly help them maintain the balance of the world? And as they watched, the race of men grew from the fringes of the world to populate all the lands of Erâth, and they watched them rise, and they watched them fall. And with the great fall of men at the end of the First Age came the rise of the Duithèn, race of Darkness, who spread their influence across all the world.
And the Ageless saw this, and despaired, for this was exactly what they had been bidden to prevent, and were powerless to do so. The Ageless of Darkness came down to Erâth and spoke to the Duithèn, but they would not listen. The Ageless of Light came down and spoke to the Illuèn, but they were too weak. Even the Ageless of Wisdom came to the Sarâthen, who regretted all that had come to pass, and would not influence the world again for fear of further destruction.
So the Ageless continued to exist, and could do nothing. From their celestial temple they watched, and the rain was their tears, and the storms their cries of anguish. But the world no longer recognized this for what it was, and came to accept the growing Darkness all around.
Thus the Ageless were made; thus they were forgotten. They would endure, through the falling of Ages and the crumbling of the world, these seven beings who had forsaken all they cared for to pursue a watch that no longer kept any meaning to the world. And if the world were to end, they would continue, desolate and alone, in their grand palace so far removed from the earthly realm of Erâth, unto the very ending of time.