The Nature of the Universe

At the Dawn of Time, there was chaos. A formless mass of possible realities, tangled together in a big fat pile. From beyond the chaos, the gods arrived. They aw the many possibilities and decided to shape a new world, one of myth and magic. The gods were divided, as they are today, into several pantheons. We know them now by the regions of the world that worship them:

Odin, Thor and the gods of the North

Dragon, Tiger, Rooster and the gods of the South

Kassegore and Caimeth and the gods of the West

And finally, Zeus, Ares and the gods of the East

The gods began the project in harmony, but soon, arguments began to arise on how this new world should be created. For each facet that the four pantheons agreed upon, there were two they did not.

"I think trolls should be hardworking blacksmiths, toiling away underground forging magical weapons," Thor would say.

"No! Trolls should be vile monsters, living under bridges and harassing goats!" Hades would counter.

"You're both wrong! Trolls should be tiny wrinkled men with big poofy hair," Pig would put in.

And when the pantheons could not agree, they would simply pull on the threads of reality, hoping to manifest their divine will on this new world through sheer force. The world took shape, but for every argument, a new snag would develop in the fabric of the world. A new snarl in the threads of reality. And the gods, blinded by their petty squabbles, did not see the Snarl growing every day… Growing more complex… growing more intelligent… growing more hateful.

Until the day it struck. Malevolent and powerful, it wanted nothing more than destruction. It slew Apollo and Ares outright. Then it systematically executed the remainder of the Eastern gods: Hades, Poseidon, even gentle Demeter and fair Aphrodite. All of them. Wise Zeus died last, still wondering what had happened. Some would say that it is impossible to slay the gods, and for mere mortals like us that is true. But the Snarl was literally born of deific frustration and hostility. Its claws cut through them like daggers through parchment. Some have theorized since that gods were even MORE vulnerable to the Snarl than a mortal of great power would have been.

Then, the Snarl turned its hungry eyes to the newly minted world below. It rained bloody armageddon down on the world, devouring each and every soul, from the mightiest dragon, to the tiniest of gnats. Nothing escaped it. The gods of the other three pantheons looked on helplessly. They had seen the carnage Zeus' family had suffered, they knew they could not stand against this beast. But with every passing moment, millions of souls cried out in anguish, dying with prayers to impotent gods on their lips. Twenty seven minutes after it revealed its existence, the Snarl had undone creation.

The remaining gods hid in their outer plane homes, hoping the Snarl would not discover them. They hid for centuries. But the chief deities met in secret, hatching a plan. They knew that when their beautiful world's life was cut short, all of the many threads of reality that had been woven into it were released. These threads could be used to fight the Snarl on its own terms. And so they pledged to work together to build a new world. This time, the three pantheons would decide in advance who would create which part of the world. Each god would get a turn to create. There would be no fighting, just cooperation and harmony.

The gods weaved the new world as quickly as they could, but they needn't have hurried. The Snarl was a thing born of chaos, it did not understand the pattern of the threads, even as it watched them take form around it. It did not grasp the implicit purpose of the gods creation… to trap it in a prison of manifested reality. As the gods pulled on the last few strands, the new world formed in the same planar space as the Snarl, shunting it into a tiny demiplane from which it could not free itself. The gods had been clever and build their planet to exist in multiple coterminous dimensions, thus blocking the only vibrational frequencies the Snarl could have used to escape from its cell. The Snarl clawed and scraped at its dark prison, but could not break free on its own. In that demiplane, its divine energy was nulled, leaving it weakened.

A thousand years and more passed in the world of mortals. The gods had created new worshippers for themselves, who had in turn built mighty civilizations. Some even raised up their own gods, like the elves and the goblins. But the gods chose not to tell any of their followers of the horrid beast that lay just beyond their plane. The gods feared that there would some day be a mortal who sought to free the Snarl, they kept their secret. Sadly this meant that even the most learned in the ways of arcane lore were caught unprepared… when holes appeared in the Snarl's prison.

One hundred and twenty years ago, a paladin from Azure City named Soon Kim lost his wife to one of the rifts while on a diplomatic mission to elven lands. He soon met an elven druid, Lirian, who was investigating wildlife disappearances in the deep forest. Together, they concluded that the same rift was responsible. They joined forces to further research the strange rift and to find a way to seal it, thus keeping anyone else from suffering the same fate. They traveled the world and were joined by four allies: Serini Toormuck, a halfing rogue, Kraagor, a barbarian dwarf, Girard Draketooth, an illusionist and tracker, and Dorukan, a wizard of great power.

They discovered five rifts, scattered across the world. Through diligent study and magical inquiry, they were able to guess at their nature. Soon and his allies learned that the gods could remake the prison without the rifts but to do so would require the raw threads of reality that were currently being used by the world. They could fix the prison if they let the entire world be undone again first. Soon and his allies agreed it was best to not let things deteriorate to the point where the gods felt they had no choice but to destroy the world to rebuild the prison. So they went to each rift and defeated those that would use them for their own purposes. And while they never found a way to remove the rifts entirely, they did develop means to seal them up. Their final adventures together led them to seal all five of the rifts, trapping the Snarl once again in its timeless jail.

Their victory was not without cost, however, as Kraagor fell while they sealed the final rift. They agreed, grudgingly, that the rifts needed to once again be kept secret. Like the gods before them, they feared what would happen if they fell into the wrong hands.

"Dearest Kraagor… your sacrifice will not be forgotten." – Lirian

"Actually, I'm pretty sure that's exactly that will happen. Isn't that right, Soon?" – Girard

With the rifts sealed, Lirion and Dorukon began intense magical research into a way to "lock" them. In time, they developed a design for a mystic gate that would buttress the fabric of reality around each rift and keep it from tearing further. As long as the gates stood strong, the rifts would never grow. The pair sunk their entire fortune into building the five gates. When they were completed, the group agreed that as powerful adventurers, it was their duty to protect the gates with the most powerful forces they could bring to bear. Unfortunately, that's when the trouble began…

The party agreed that the gates could not be allowed to fall into the hands of evil, but they disagreed on how best to defend them.

"Only the most epic magic can defend the gates." – Dorukon

"Magic? Your magic can be dispelled or disrupted. Only the honor of a paladin is unbreakable." – Soon

"Honor, yeah, that and a silver piece will get you a hunk of cheese." - Girard

With the death of Kraagor still weighing heavy on their hearts, the disagreements turned into arguments, the arguments turned into blame, and the blame turned into something ugly.

"You don't care if the gates fall, as long as you can research a new spell!"

"And you don't care if your allies fall, as long as you can avenge your dead wife!"

Anger and resentment that had simmered through the years of adventuring were suddenly unleashed. Words were said that could never be takend back. Spells were readied in anger, and blades drawn in self-defense. Only the voice of a halfling woman prevented bloodshed. Knowing that the party would never travel again after what had been said, Serini devised a compromise that would allow the five adventurers to part ways while still protecting the five gates.

"Look, we all think we know how to best defend the gates, right? So let's split them up. There's five of us and five of them. We each take the one closest to our homeland. We retire, and build a stronghold to defend our chosen gate, however we see fit. And we agree, no interference in the other four gates. We'll set up some kind of monitoring divination to tell if someone else's gate is broken, but that's it. No spying, no 'just checking in' visits, no nothing. We leave here today and that's it. We're done with each other." – Serini

They agreed, and swore an oath to that effect. And so far as we know, no two have ever laid eyes on each other since.

Dorukon left for the Redmountain Hills, where he spent years warding his gate with the most powerful sigils he could imagine. Lirian returned to the rift that she had first found with Soon. She enlisted the aid of the creatures of the forest in its defense. Girard Draketooth hid his desert gate behind an endless series of cunning illusions, relying on the power of deception to protect the gate. And even though it had been her idea, Serini wasn't really the type for retiring. She decided that she would build a tomb for Kraagor and fill it with the nastiest monsters in the world, to reflect his belief in the power of physical might. And Soon, he believed more than anything in the power of honor, truth and loyalty. He returned to Azure City and selected the noblest samurai to join him as his paladins. He named his fighting force the Sapphire Guard.

We know little else about the other four, as the oaths taken by each paladin prevent them from seeking out the other gates. But we do know that Soon sent his men and women on a crusade to wipe out all who would threaten the Azure City gate, no matter how far removed geographically. In the process, they purged all mention of the gates and the rifts from libraries. It was as if the events of the previous few years had never happened.

When I was but a boy, learning at my father's knee, an aged Soon came to him and transferred command of the Sapphire Guard. Soon said that it was crucial that the defense of the city and the defense of the gate be held in the same capable hands. He died shortly thereafter. And when my father passed on, the duty and all of the secrets passed on to me. For 60 years, I have commanded the Sapphire Guard. And when I die, my nephew Hinjo will be Lord of the city. And now you know the Secret Lore of the Sapphire Guard.

- Shojo Kim

The Nature of the Universe

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