Listening to: Aurora – Jeremy Soule (The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim OST)
Long ago, so the story went, the Lords of Heaven—twelve ageless beings whose powers and forms were beyond human comprehension—had created all of existence: the world, and all who lived in it. Six Lords had created heaven and earth, the seas and the skies, heat and cold, day and night. These six, the Lords of Earth, Sea, Sky, Ice, Fire, and Light, were revered as the Forgers of the World. The other six Lords—the Creators of Life—had dedicated long labors to populating the world that their comrades had forged. Their early efforts had yielded animals and plants of every shape and size, but still they toiled on, unsatisfied. They were striving towards a far higher goal: the creation of a creature that not only existed in the world, but strove to transcend it.
And so, they created humanity. And for a time, the world endured, and a golden age of peace stretched on for a thousand years.
In the end, this peace could not last.
Dissension arose among the Creators, each of whom believed they had found the best path for humanity to take. One believed that humanity should sow the fields and live in complete harmony with nature, working together with the beasts of the field to plow and plant the lands. Another believed that humanity should take their food by force, hunting down the beasts of the wild and partake of their flesh. And so, the Lord of the Harvest and the Lord of the Hunt parted ways.
One believed that humanity should seek out the farthest places of the world, to unravel its mysteries and chronicle them for future generations, holding the pursuit of knowledge and the spread of learning to be the highest virtue. Another believed that humanity should determine worth by strength of arms, by glory won on the battlefield, and by the triumph of the strong over the weak. And so, the Lord of Wisdom and the Lord of War parted ways.
One believed that humanity should comport itself by strict codes, holding to uncompromising honor in all things and making sure that, no matter what transpired, justice prevailed over mercy. Another believed that humanity must find its own path through the world, holding itself to the standards of the heart rather than the mind, and tempering justice with mercy. And so, the Lord of Law and the Lord of Love parted ways.
As above, so below.
The followers of each god strove with each other for power, squabbling over who was worthy of their praise and adoration. The Lords of Heaven chose men and women from among the humans to serve as their champions, lending their power freely in order to gain dominance over their rivals. By every means possible, these champions struggled for dominance. They could not be killed, save by each other—for they were imbued with the powers of heaven, and only the powers of heaven could destroy them—and so they laid waste to all who opposed them, slaying without question the mortal followers of those that they called false gods.
The Forgers, seeing what the Creators had wrought, chose to step in as well, creating champions of their own. Rather than choosing from among humanity, however, they created beasts of their own: strange, twisted creatures with grotesque strength and horrible appetites. Many of the heroes were killed, but others proved themselves worthy of the challenge. Their fights with these beasts became the stuff of legend, devastating the land with their titanic struggles. Those heroes who were able to survive, their strength tempered by their battles, became something more than mere heroes. They gained followers of their own, devoted disciples who revered them as Lords in their own right. And in their hearts, humankind’s pride grew: pride in their borrowed strength, and in the great deeds that they had accomplished through it. Revered as demigods, they began to believe the words of their followers.
On earth were sown the seeds of rebellion. And in heaven, the seeds of doubt.
Many years passed. The immortal heroes grew more powerful, more proud and arrogant. They began to exhort their followers, preaching a message of war and triumph. Their aggression was no longer directed at the other champions, but at heaven itself: at the Lords of Heaven, who had given mankind the power to commit these atrocities. They preached the overthrow of heaven, the deposition of its Lords, and their own divinity: their right to rule by their borrowed power. In heaven, the Lords took heed, and were greatly disturbed.
The Lords of Heaven gathered in council, united for the first time in almost a thousand years against the external threat. They agreed that their rule must be preserved at all costs, and so for the first time since the creation of the world, they combined all of their powers into the creation of a single relic: a relic that would allow its wielder to draw upon the power of all of the Lords of Heaven, and to wield that power against the false gods set up by humankind. This weapon was to be their salvation, their last hope for the defense of the world they had created.
They called the sword Judgment: the divine will of the Lords of Heaven, given physical form to smite the arrogant mortals who thought themselves worthy of the heavenly throne.
When Judgment was complete, and their power consolidated into its forging, the Lords of Heaven conferred among themselves. None were willing to yield the weapon to another, since whichever one of them was in possession of Judgment would be elevated in power above all others, and armed with all of their power, would have the capability to destroy them all. It seemed that they were at a stalemate, until one of the Lords of Heaven suggested an alternative: a mortal champion, chosen by all twelve of them in concert, who would serve as the wielder of their Judgment.
Little was known about the champion they chose: only that their humble origins and pure heart made them worthy in the eyes of the gods. Over the years that passed, the Lords’ Champion traveled the world, casting down the false Lords and slaying the monsters created to challenge them. With each victory, the Champion grew in strength, for they were reclaiming the scattered fragments of the Lords’ power. Over hundreds of years, the immortal Champion vanquished the foes of heaven: by duel, by assassination, by open warfare. The Champion became known as the Thirteenth Lord, a title bestowed upon them in fear of their retribution.
At last, the last of the demigods fell to Judgment’s blade. The Champion stood victorious, and the halls of heaven rang with rejoicing. The twelve Lords of Heaven, with their devotees about them, held a great feast to celebrate the restoration of peace. The feast lasted for months, both day and night, with merriment never ceasing. Each Lord and their followers celebrated according to their domain.
But then, one by one, the Lords began to fall.
The Lord of War, overlooking a great arena where their followers competed in a great tourney, was stabbed in the back.
The Lord of Wisdom was found lying across a desk, throat sliced, blood staining the books beneath.
The Lord of Law, in a cruel irony, was beheaded, their body displayed on an execution block for all to see.
The Lord of Love was killed, along with a host of lovers, in the midst of their magnificent palace.
The Lord of the Hunt, outpacing their companions in pursuit of prey, died in the midst of the woods, with not even tracks to show where their killer had fled.
The Lord of the Harvest was found on the threshing floor, their blood seeping into the wheat.
And so, the Creators fell.
The Lord of the Sky, flying high and riding the winds, found no refuge.
The Lord of the Earth, in unknown caves far beneath the mountains, found no refuge.
The Lord of the Sea, in the deepest depths of the ocean, found no refuge.
The Lord of Fire, surrounded by searing flames that none could withstand, found no refuge.
The Lord of Ice, locked in a fortress of endless winter, found no refuge.
Only the Lord of Light remained, riding the chariot of the sun, seeing each day a new death, hearing the despair of the other Lords of Heaven as they fell to the implacable killer. The Lord of Light knew that they would be the next to fall: the last to fall. And so they made preparations, gathering up the power of their fallen kin and releasing it, bit by bit, into the world. No power that existed would be able to help them now, but by diffusing the Lords’ power throughout the world, they could give the people of the world a fresh chance: a wellspring to draw from—a font of a force that became known as magic.
At last, the day that the Lord of Light had predicted came to pass. The gates of their heavenly mansion were forced open wide, their followers scattered and slain. Calmly, the Lord of Light waited in the inmost sanctum, for the enemy they knew would come. The doors were opened: into the room strode the Champion, the blade of Judgment bared and ready. The Lord of Light asked a single question.
The Champion replied, in a voice that was no longer anything close to human. “You made me master of the fates of this world—including your own. You showed me the cruelties of the world, the deeds wrought by those who thought themselves your equals. For hundreds of years, I wielded my blade to strike down the unworthy. For hundreds of years, I walked through hell: a hell of your making. You were no better than the ones that you gave power to, believing yourselves secure and safe in your own authority.” The Champion raised Judgment high above their head, the blade glittering in the light of the heavenly throne. “You were unworthy—all of you. And so, I fulfilled my purpose. To the last.”
Judgment descended one last time.
When the sword pulled free, the blood of the last Lord of Heaven staining its blade, it had a new name.
Here’s the latest from my NaNoWriMo. Enjoy!