Ashes of Asgard
Magic and Religion in the Horn
In the Begining…
…there was Asgard. In the heavenly realm of the Gods, the heroes of the Northmen would join the Gods in feasting, drinking, and hunting. The Gods would watch over man, and smile favorably upon those they deemed worthy. But that was long ago.
Every civilization on Aarde tells a similar story. The names change, of course. The descriptions of the realms and Gods vary from culture to culture. To some, there was but a single god, and to others there were hundreds. But one thing was certain – something above was watching over us. And then one day, we were alone.
Ragnarok – The Rain of Fire
No one will ever agree on precisely what happened. Some swear they saw fire raining from the sky as the gods above battled against one another. Others say the oceans flooded. Others yet didn’t see anything at all, and insist the Gods simply abandoned humanity. Humanity by and large survived Ragnarok unscathed, but as for the Gods, all that was left were the ashes.
Most cannot see them, but the remains of the spirits are everywhere – dusted across the landscape, swirling in the breeze, dancing in the light of the moon, evaporating like a morning mist as it leaves a freshly-slain corpse. Or at least, that’s what our priests and shamans tell us.
Some say the ashes have a spirit of their own – a collective consciousness that guides us towards fate. Others think of them merely as another element or resource to be utilized. What we do know is that the Ashes do not answer our prayers as it is said the Gods once did. On rare occasions, they gather in places of significance, or swarm around those strong in spirit. But they have never behaved predictably.
The Age of Chaos
If the period after Ragnarok was an age of mourning and despair, the age that followed it was one of madness and strife. At first, men strove to follow the moral tenets of their gods, though less out of faith, and more out of a mutual fear of what would happen should mankind descend into absolute lawlessness. It worked, for a time. Until the rise of The First Mage.
The First Mage goes by hundreds of names. Asriel, Loki, The Deceiver, Delain… In some incarnations of the tale, he is a malevolent sorcerer who had been responsible for destroying the Gods. In other cultures, he is but an ignorant, simple man who just happened to be the first to gain the gift that enabled him to see the Ashes and harness their power. In some cultures, the First Mage used his power for good, while in others, he became a corrupt tyrant. Some say it was not the First Mage, but his apprentice, who began using magic for evil purposes. Eventually though, the details stopped mattering. After the First Mage came hundreds more, hungry to seize power. Then thousands desperate to use it in self-defense against the hundreds.
Man-made meteors decimated cities, kings raised undead armies to expand their empires, and sorcerers turned servants into mindless thralls. Wars raged for centuries until humanity itself was on the brink of meeting the same fate as their Gods.
The First Patron
It did not happen naturally, and it happened at different times in different cultures, but one by one, the fires of war were extinguished. Like the First Mage, the First Patron is a different one in every realm, but the story is the same.
The talents of the First Patron were prodigious, so much so, that he could suffocate a Mage’s connection to the Ash. He was a celebrated leader of his people, and drove away reckless Mages as he restored peace to his lands. Like iron shavings to a lodestone, the Ashes would fly to him and gathered. So thickly they gathered over the years that eventually, the First Patron could no longer move. But he lived – so long as he wished to, and so long as his disciples guarded his shrine, he would be nourished by the Ash and become effectively immortal. The Patron could direct the Ash to his disciples, see through the eyes, and feel the beating of their hearts. The disciples, by devoting themselves to bringing out the Patron’s vision for the world, gave him the will to carry on through the Patron’s slow, torturous entombment. In turn, the Patron granted his disciples the power to heal the weak, rebuild civilization, and hunt down the heretics who threatened to destroy it. And so, order was restored to the world.
The First Patron was eventually destroyed – his shrine raided and his tomb shattered by a stronger force. But that did not stop new Patrons from arising elsewhere. Humanity had realized that though the Gods they had depended on to keep order were dead, they could bring forth gods of their own making. They would find new leaders willing to make the sacrifice of ascension, and re-establish the rule of law. It would not be perfect, but it would be enough to end the chaos.