Tales From the First Days
The travelling people tell a story of the world’s creation. They say that in the beginning there was nothing, and out of this nothing a god materialized. Some claim this god has two heads, while some claim he has only one that contains both his aspects. Maybe the god doesn’t have any face at all and depicting it as such is just a way for our mortal minds to wrap themselves around something which cannot truly be imagined. Nevertheless, this god is known as both the creator and the destroyer. So this is his name, Creator and Destroyer. Aen’azal.
Aen’azal gave birth to four lesser gods. Those gods are commonly known as the Earth Mother, the Sky Father, the Great Sea Serpent and the Demon Head of Fire. Collectively they’re the elemental deities. The worship of those gods is still widespread in the world today. Sometimes they even interfere in the lives of mortals. But at the time of their creation, there was no earth, and there were no humans. There weren’t any plants or animals either. Just the empty void where the gods resided.
Under the guidance of Aen’azal the four elemental gods began shaping the nothing by infusing it with their aspects. And soon there was something, a realm for the gods to live in. They called the ground that they walked on “the earth”, for the Earth Mother provided the basic materials for it. The Great Sea Serpent stretched and spread her body over large parts of the Earth, and they called her domain the Sea. The Demon Head of Fire, through his destructive nature, made lines of fire course through the Earth and gave it heat from within. Fearing he would destroy their creations the Earth Mother and the Great Sea Serpent joined together in order to banish the Demon Head deep into space. Angry at his banishment, the Demon Head made his own planet in his own image, a large fiery ball which spread its heat far and wide. The name he made for this heavenly body was the Sun. The heat of the sun threatened to dry all the oceans and melt the earth. The Sky Father didn’t have much interest in the solid ground since he preferred to float freely wherever he pleased. But when he saw the plight of his siblings he wrapped himself around the Earth to protect it from the suns scorching rays. Thus his domain, the Sky, was created.
When this equilibrium had been reached Aen’azal was pleased but still didn’t feel quite satisfied. The gods needed something to look over, and for things to change over time. So Aen’azal found one of the Earth Mothers many deep caves and planted a seed within it. The seed grew into a majestic tree, and after a while the tree bore fruit. The fruit ripened and fell to the ground. When the fruit hit the ground it cracked open, and tiny life forms crawled out of it. Those life forms began to spread all over the Earth, slowly developing into larger and more complex beings. All the elementals, even the Demon Head, provided nutrients and strength to those life forms. But it was the Earth Mother that took to them the most. She announced herself the protector of all living things.
One life form seemed to stand out from the rest. The Creator and Destroyer was confounded by them. They seemed to have potential to be something extraordinary. Almost like the gods, they had the capacity to create, mold and change. But they also had the capacity to destroy. And they needed to be given no name, because they had the ability to name themselves. And they called themselves humans. For a while the Creator and the Destroyer watched over the humans. It showed itself to them and allowed them to worship it. But it grew frustrated with their destructive behavior. Eventually one day it decided to leave the humans to their own fate. The Creator and Destroyer disappeared, no one knows to where. But more than that, no one knows what happens when it returns. Will it be pleased to see what has become of humanity? Will it bless us… or destroy us?
The Tree of Beginnings
Deep within a cave in the Kadian mountains there grows a tree. Some say this tree is as old as life itself, and that it was planted by the progenitor god himself, the Creator and Destroyer. From this tree, they say, all life in the world once originated. The tree bears fruit that is imbued with the power of life. By consuming such a fruit a person can heal any wound, cure any sickness and expand their life beyond countless lifetimes. But the cave is guarded by a terrible demon. Supposedly, no one has gotten past the demon, into the cave and returned alive to tell the tale of it. Some say the cave with the tree is only a legend. But I can tell you truthfully, that it’s not…
The Trial of Heat
The desert glare was all around him. He had to squint to not be blinded. It felt like the heat of the sun was burrowing itself into his body. All the while the aching in his head was growing worse. He glanced over at Achen, his fellow acolyte who seemed to fare no better than himself. The young man's movements were sluggish and unsteady. His otherwise so arrogant posture, one that always seemed to broadcast his disdain for those of lower birth, had been replaced with a hunched but determined stride. Ahead of them walked Nakim, the high priestess, using her obsidian scepter like a walking staff. If the heat had any effect on her, it did not show.
The waterskin at Mekraths waist was calling to him like a siren, begging him to empty its contents into his mouth. The temptation was strong, but he knew the consequences for straying from the path. Public whipping, and then complete expulsion from the order. He would have to return back home a failure, and spend the rest of his days tending the dry crops at his father's meager plantation. He sent a silent prayer to the Demon Head, begging that it not prolong its arrival.
He felt his vision grow blurry. For a moment he was losing his balance, almost toppling over, but then regained control. Unconsciousness wasn’t far away, he knew. It seemed he would fail even before the real test had begun. But as he directed his eyes towards the sky, he finally saw it. Hot, burning eyes were looking down upon him, radiating a heat that rivalled that of the sun. Mekrath met their gaze. Suddenly his entire being became wrapped in light. He could no longer feel his body. It was as if his spirit had been lifted out of it. His body, it seemed to him in that moment, was just a meaningless vessel. A voice that wasn’t truly a voice entered his mind like an ember setting fire to dry wood.
I am destruction
I am strength
I am purity
I am rebirth
Become the flame
And burn with me
In a flash he was back inside his body again. All the burns and aches returned in an instant. It was more than he could handle. His consciousness flickered and suddenly he was laying on his back, barely able to move.
Something wet and cooling began to drip onto his cracked lips. He let it slip into his mouth and then swallowed greedily. After drinking the water a sliver of strength returned to his body. He looked up and tried to focus his eyes. Leaning over him was Nakim with his water skin in her hand. An approving smile played upon her lined face.
“You did well,” she said in her dry voice. “Welcome to the priesthood.”
He felt relief as much relief as he could within his sore body at her words.
“Achim… ?” he asked sluggishly.
“The Demon Head did not approve of him,” she said and gestured to the right of Mekrath. He turned his head in that direction. A pile of ash lay on the ground, slowly getting dismantled by the warm desert winds.