The Age of the Void

When the Heavens were not yet stretched over the Earth, when the Hells did not yet twist beneath the lands of creation, when all creatures bright and dark had not yet grasped the first weapons and tools that the gods and their children had left behind in their wars and labors, there was the Void.

Within the Void, a Cosmic Egg with perfectly balanced Yin and Yang Qi coalesced and formed. From within the egg, Pangu, the first being, awoke and emerged. He regarded the roiling Void surrounding him and saw and understood that it was seething with Qi that was neither Yin nor Yang, that it would continue to twist and writhe and feed upon itself endlessly.

For a fraction of an instant in that Age when time yet had no meaning, Pangu contemplated the Void with fierce concentration and his thoughts burst into flame. In the flames, he beheld a vision of a world filled with ideals, honor, compassion, glory, and beauty that could be molded out of the Void’s Qi. Moved by his vision, Pangu decided to destroy the Void to create the Perfect World.

Pangu inhaled his vision and his lungs were filled with a fiery wind. He approached the Void and spoke words of flame to shape it, breathed upon it to fill it with energy, and finally exhaled fully to immerse it in his fiery vision to fix the shape of his desires upon it.

The Void came to life but refused to be shaped by Pangu. It shot Slivers of Void Qi and speared Pangu in the chest. Pangu drew the Void Qi from his wounds, breathed on them and transmuted it into matter, and it became the first weapon – the Primal Gem. Holding the Primal Gem, a jewel axe / hammer of black and silver shot with streaks of blood red, Pangu spoke to the Void. “Why do you attack me?” he thundered.

“You seek to make something of me, and I do not wish it,” said the Void in a hundred thousand sounds that gurgled and howled and yet was still understandable. “What is it that you wish to become?” “I wish to remain as I am, without form and without substance. Join me in oblivion.” said the Voice of Void. “I will not,” said Pangu, “I see the dreams of those that have yet to exist, I hear the cries of what can be, I feel the potential of all the magnificence that could be created. Yield to me, Void. Turn away from the emptiness and together we can create a perfect world.” “Fool! I am everything and everywhere. There is nothing but the emptiness of my embrace.”

Then, the Void attacked Pangu with a million Void Stones imbued with the will of oblivion. Pangu parried each assault with the hammer and haft of his weapon, sending them back to their master.

The Void then grew a hundred thousand pairs of arms, all at once punching, gouging, grabbing, piercing Pangu. Pangu blocked, dodged, and spun away, burning tendrils with his breath.

Then, the Void created a hundred thousand pairs of tripping, kicking, stomping legs and chased after Pangu. Pangu cut deftly at the Void with the Primal Gem, easily severing the limbs that sought to harm him.

Finally, the Void had weakened sufficiently and could no longer attack. Pangu raised the Primal Gem and was about to claim his victory when the Void spoke.

“I am inevitable, Pangu. Where you see honor, there will be corruption, where you see compassion, there will be cruelty, where you see glory, there will be shame and where you see beauty, there will be decay. You will find out soon the virtue of emptiness, and everything you create, will return to me.”

Pangu paid no heed to the Void’s words. With a mighty swing of the Primal Gem, Pangu split the Void in two – the Yin and the Yang. Pangu then threw himself between the halves of the Void and struggled to keep the two apart, lest they recombine and reincorporate the Void that was.

The Age of Pangu

Thus the Yang became the Earth, while the Yin became the Sky, and Pangu struggled to push the two further and further apart. At last, after nearly eighteen thousand years, Pangu was satisfied with his work and turned his attention to the World, the space between the Sky and the Earth, where the energies of the Yin’s divine brilliance and the Yang’s dark radiance mixed and churned and strove to create chaos anew. He created the Pillars of Existence from his bones, his blood, and fragments of the Primal Gem, to help keep Earth and Sky apart.

Satisfied at last, Pangu summoned his last reserves of Qi, and entered a meditative trance beginning the long process of healing his wounds and shaping his Perfect World. As he deepened his meditative state, his fiery vision consumed his thoughts, and Pangu began to change, and the World changed with him. His breath became the terrible winds his voice became the rumbling thunder; his words became furious lightning. His body became the mountains and edges of the world; his blood formed rivers; his muscles, the fertile lands; his hair, the forests; his bones, the minerals and ore.

His thoughts divided and immersed themselves in the new aspects of the World, becoming powerful beings that the races of the World would eventually call gods: The Lords of the Boundaries (North, East, South and West), the Goddess of the Sun, the God of the Moon, the River Kings and the Mountain Emperor, the Seven Saints of the Hammer and the Immortal Regent of the Axe, and so on.

The Golden Age of the Three Races

The Celestial Monarch and the Ten-Veiled King created humans to cultivate the ravaged Land of Pangu. The bodies of the first humans were made from the mud of the Earth, their minds were cut from the raw gems of the Underworld to better withstand the warping effect of the Yang’s emanations, and their souls were distilled from the Breath of Pangu to better withstand the sterilizing effect of the Yin’s emanations.

These humans, new and pleasing to gods and demons alike, rapidly multiplied and their number covered the Land of Pangu. Farms and orchards, towns and villages, cities and kingdoms sprang up across the face of Pangu, and at last the Celestial Monarch and the Ten-Veiled King decided to return to their respective dominions. Tens of thousands of years ago, they sealed off all the portals to the Heavens and the Underworld, leaving behind handfuls of powerful gods and demons to oversee the development of the Land. God, demon, and human lived together in relative harmony for a time.

Then one night, a burning brightness suffused all the Lands of Pangu, followed by a numbing darkness. All gods and demons vanished from the Land of Pangu. In the wake of their disappearance, three new cities were discovered that had apparently been hidden from the eyes of man for years.

A race of beautiful winged humanoids suddenly appeared in what came to be known as Feather City. They claimed to be servitors created by the gods sent to help the human lands prepare for the coming of the Void, but the gods that ruled their city had disappeared in the numbing darkness. And with that, they opened up their city and began to spread across the world.

A race of beast-like humanoids also appeared in what came to be known as Beast City. They claimed to be beasts uplifted to sentience by the demons to help the human lands prepare for the coming of the Void, but demons that ruled their city had died in the burning brightness. They also opened up their city and also began to spread across the world.

A third city was discovered, seemingly newly built but empty of people and other signs of life except for two infants – a boy and a girl. The Winged race and the Beast race were questioned about it and rumors about a third city that the gods and demons had neither created nor visited. Due to the preponderance of dragon-related artwork and murals, it came to be known as Dragon City.

Soon relationships between cities and kingdoms became strained, communities began to cluster along lines of family, race, and social standing, and the intricate mechanism of laws and enlightened rule fell apart. Unrest, injustice, and conflict plagued the Land of Pangu, and its inhabitants once again began familiarizing themselves in the tools of battle – weapons, invocations, and potions of power again emerged, and great heroes arose to champion the causes of the helpless and the wronged. Kingdoms built by warlords and tyrants rose and fell, borders shifted yearly, and the scent of blood and the ring of combat was commonplace throughout the lands.

The Ten Generals and the Horde

It soon became clear to many that a strong ruler was needed to unite the Land, to enforce the rule of law, to win the favor of Heaven and hold together the Land’s many contentious and aggressive factions. In time, two leaders pulled themselves from the mass of infighting factions and consolidated might armies under their command: the commoner Honorable Kuan, and the aristocratic Jade-Eyed Zhao.

Honorable Kuan joined the ranks of the original ten generals of Pangu, commonly referred to as the Ten, who the most respected and feared military commanders of their time. United under Honorable Kuan’s leadership, the Ten became known as General Kuan (Benevolence), General Si (Individuality), General Xia (Justice), General Chou (Vengeance), General Yi (Righteousness), General Chan (Obsession), General Zhong (Loyalty), General Hen (Ruthlessness), General Ba (Force), and General Bao (Ferocity). Together they fought a series of battles against the Horde of Zhao.

After a long series of battles, General Kuan triumphed over Jade-Eyed Zhao and became the Emperor of Pangu and claimed the Mandate of Heaven at Imperial City.

The Golden Age of the Emperor of Pangu

Emperor Kuan established cities that celebrated these ideals and recorded the achievements of its most prominent citizens, teaching the citizens of his Empire to aspire for glory and honor. He organized clans dedicated to upholding these ideals. He shaped cities that celebrated these values to ensure that they would endure. The clans took root and flourished, creating huge numbers of warrior loyal to the Emperor and the Empire.

This golden age of wisdom, learning, and harmony was not without incident. At the end of Emperor Kuan’s reign, only three of the Ten remained.

Generals Chou, General Si, General Chan, General Hen, and General Bao were sent to investigate the loss of contact with what became known as Portal City. There they found the land overrun by strange and powerful creatures. Alarmingly, these creatures seemed to be growing stronger with each hour, and scholars and general alike agreed that the secret to their increasing power lay within the city. The generals marshaled their armies and mounted an all-out assault on the city, hoping to destroy that source of power before they were overwhelmed.

Only one general, General Chan, managed to return to the Emperor and, refusing to report to any save the Emperor, whispered what had happened. Immediately after, General Chan allowed himself to be slain by the Emperor. A sumptuous feast in honor of the departed generals followed, after which the Emperor ordered the survivors of the Battle of Portal City slain as well.

Then he sent General Zhong and General Ba to set fire to Portal City and its surrounding environs.

General Ba was left to oversee the rebuilding of Portal City and to guard the structures that had somehow proved resistant to the flames. After nearly a decade of guarding the Portal City, General Ba passed away in his sleep – some say the boredom and inactivity of being stationed at Portal City, while others whisper stories about nine terrible nightmares that claimed the feared general’s life.

The End of the Empire

Recently, the Emperor fell prey to a mysterious illness that rendered him comatose, and despite the skills and abilities of his court and other scholars and healers of Pangu, he breathed his last as dawn broke on his last day in Pangu to the shock and consternation of the Imperial Court.

However, Emperor Kuan had made secret plans for his succession with three of his oldest friends – the three remaining generals of the Ten:

• General Xia, Master of Hidden Wing Fortress, a bald, barrel-chested man often sent by the Emperor to investigate conflicts and deliver justice to his enemies;
• General Zhong of the Eight Obsidian Armor, a tall and regal woman known for her loyalty to the Emperor and entrusted with the enforcement of the laws;
• General Yi, Keeper of the Beast Cloak, was a long-time friend and respected tactician throughout the Lands of Pangu.

Emperor Kuan often told them that none of his children were yet worthy of ruling the kingdom, and he feared passing away before proving any of them proved worthy. He dedicated the remainder of his life to finding the one person worthy of ruling his Empire. He exacted oaths from each of his generals that they would ensure that they would serve his chosen heir as well as they had served him.

Less than a fortnight before his death, he had sent trusted emissaries to summon his Generals to his side. The scrolls that each received told each general the same message: the Emperor had at last found his successor and needed to make plans.

When the generals arrived and found the Emperor dead, they were filled with grief but masked their emotions from the Empress, her twin sons, and the Imperial Court.

The Empress and the Imperial Family, surprised by the sudden arrival of the three generals mere hours after the death of the Emperor, struggled to compose themselves and outlined a plan to retain order and control of the Empire.

In the Emperor’s throneroom, the Empress, resplendent white and silver, stood on the Regent’s Dais to the side of the Scintillating Throne of Jade and informed the generals that an investigation was being conducted into the Emperor’s death. She demanded that they prove their loyalty by surrendering their hold over lands and cities until the investigation was complete.

General Xia, carrying his bondsword Skyclaw slung over his shoulder, paused for the shortest of breaths before politely refusing to surrender his lands.

General Zhong, responded with stoic silence. Infinite Edge, the bondsword that the Emperor had awarded her, remained buckled firmly to her belt sash.

Finally, the elderly yet elegant General Yi, answered slowly and carefully, avoiding the issue by stating that her lands belonged to the Empire and had never been hers in the first place. Across her back the massive bondsword Prismatic Shade shifted noisily in its scabbard.

Frustrated, the Empress revealed that the investigation had already been completed before the Generals’ arrival and accused the three generals of poisoning the Emperor. She ordered the Imperial Guardsmen to arrest them.

General Xia, familiar with the intricacies of laws and justice, challenged the authority of the Empress, citing the questionable conduct of the investigation. Before the Empress and the Imperial Court could recover from his declamations, he revealed the contents of the scroll he’d received from the Emperor bearing the Emperor’s Seal – declaring that the Mandate of Heaven lost to the surviving members of the Imperial Family.

General Zhong argued with General Xia, pointing out that there was little they could do – they could not fulfill the Emperor’s wishes since they did not know who the intended heir was. He recommended that they conduct their own investigation of the Emperor’s death and award the Empire to whichever member of the Imperial Family they deemed most worthy.

At this General Yi balked. “You are mad!” she exclaimed. “They accuse us of dishonorably striking down our sworn swordbrother through dishonorable means! They seek to strip us of hard-won cities and lands that they themselves had never been deemed worthy enough to rule! And you stand there ready to elevate one of them over the rest of us?”

The Empress and the Imperial Court, stung by the disdain that the three arguing Generals displayed towards their royal presences, once again called upon the reluctant Imperial Guardsmen to arrest them, accusing all three them of openly conspiring to usurp the Imperial Throne.

The three generals stopped the advancing Imperial Guardsmen with contemptuous stares. Then they stepped past the Empress and advanced on the vacant Scintillating Throne of Jade, arguing with one another over what to do next.

“My friends, the Emperor himself told us that none of them were worthy to rule,” said General Yi. “We must take control of the Empire lest they ruin what he created.”

“My friends, the Emperor did not find any of us worthy to rule either,” said General Zhong. “Unless we discover who he meant to pass the Mandate of Heaven to, we must uphold the laws that he created to govern the Empire.”

“My friends, the Emperor’s assassination speaks of a grand conspiracy within the Empire by those who twist the laws to their own ends,“ said General Xia. “They have slain the Emperor, and his soul cries out for justice.”

Their argument grew heated and continued until midday. The generals realized that they could not come to an agreement.

General Xia, unable to convince the others that to join him in seeking out the conspirators in the Empire, had become fearful that his friends had fallen under shadowy influences. He resolved to strengthen his own holdings and influence and to root out the conspiracy that had claimed the life of the Emperor.

General Zhong, unable to convince the others to uphold the current state of the Empire, had become alarmed that they would seek to carve out lands from the Empire for their own plans and ambitions. She resolved to take steps to weaken or, if necessary, eliminate the others.

General Yi, unable to convince the others to take control of the Empire, had become intent on taking control of the Empire herself to ensure that the Empire would continue as the Emperor had envisioned it. She resolved to fortify and expand her holdings in order to achieve her ends.

The three generals turned to face the Imperial Family. “For the good of the Empire, we shall ask three of you to become a Council of Regents who will oversee the governance of the Empire.”

The three generals turned to face the Imperial Court. “For the good of the Empire, we shall divide your number amongst the Council of Regents to advise them in the governance of the Empire.”

The three generals turned to face the Imperial Guardsmen. “For the good of the Empire, we shall divide your number amongst the Council of Regents to keep you them safe, here in the confines of the Imperial Palace.”

The three generals turned to face the empty throne.

General Xia drew the sleek Skyclaw and thrust it into the left armrest of the Scintillating Throne of Jade. “Until those who slew the Emperor are all brought to justice, I shall seek out and destroy the enemies of the Empire. In return for my services, the Empire will recognize the lands that I now control as the Lands of the Xia.”

General Zhong drew the razor-sharp Infinite Edge and thrust it into the right armrest of the Scintillating Throne of Jade. “Until an Emperor rules once more, I shall safeguard the Empire and its laws. In exchange for my continued loyalty, the Empire will grant the lands I currently govern as the Lands of the Zhong.”

General Yi drew the massive Prismatic Shade and thrust it into the seat of the Scintillating Throne of Jade. “None shall rule as Emperor until the true bearer of the Mandate of Heaven commands us to reclaim these three swords from the heart of the Jade Throne. Until that happens, the Lands of the Yi fall under my rule, unless any of you seek to take them from me by force.”

With that, the three generals left the Imperial City.

Credits from PW-ph Wiki Lore

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