Scythia

An emaciated woman is hunched over the bleached bones of an unknown creature. Her wire thin hair hangs from her dried scalp, back and forth, back and forth, as she rocks herself in an oddly familiar fashion. From time to time, she raises her head towards a motionless sky, as if heeding the unheard call of a distant master. Finding no answer in the featureless plain of grey dust around her, she resumes the cradling motion, her ribs threatening to finally pierce her parchment-like skin. Without warning, as if prompted by a wave of unexpected lust, the woman starts to gnaw at the stump that had once been her left hand, peeling off what little flesh remains on her wrist with small, frantic bites. For a brief moment of joy, the pain almost eclipses the hunger, and a nebulous thought starts to form in the woman’s brain like a gathering storm. Somewhere far away, the wind makes a desperate cry and the memory crumbles to dust in the hollow chamber of the woman’s mind. Startled by the alien sound of the disintegrating memory, the woman makes a run for the distant horizon, where black mountains rise above the land like the jaws of a hungry god in rows without number.

No elemental spirits animate this land. The few winds that survive here were driven mad long ago by the worn, eerily smooth landscape. When the outside became unbearable to dwell on, the winds turned to themselves in regressive patterns of endless recursion. Even the Fire does not dare enter this place, burning only at an infinitesimal fraction of its undying power. The very few bonfires that have made it into the Waste protest in silent retorts at the monolithic skies, wary of the bottomless hunger pervading every atom of air. The Tides of Time, everywhere else an unstoppable force of change, come to die here in a mute discharge, spreading almost to a standstill against the featureless landscape. Only the Soul of Stone survives here, its final form and function revealed to all in a last cosmic joke whispered into the ears of a deaf audience. Having no opposition or arbiter, the earth becomes its own curator in this cursed place, where those crushed by the inevitability of death are forever thrown into a subjective eternity without beginning. Always living. Always dying. And always, always hungering.

If the Mouth of Hell is an open wound on the flesh of the world, the Scythian Wastes are a sick rim of spiritual scar-tissue, unable to heal but unable to die. Whatever is left of the times before the Fall is either dust in the raving winds or trapped in the amber of spiritual absence. Nothing lives here. Nothing dies here. And yet, the grey flatlands of the Scythian range are far from empty.

The Cycle

After the Division, the world became soulless. Where once had been a thriving core of endless potential, a hollow cavity hurt now. The world was in pain. The world was dying. The cycle, broken.

            See, until then the world was inhabited by all kinds of souls that manifested themselves through all the living and knowing things. There was the Celestial Soul, unknowable and immovable, lording above all things and all things in between. In roamed the Storm Soul and the Wind Heart and all the aerial things of fickle disposition. These, together with the Soul of Fire and the Verdant Soul, were the great souls amongst which the tiny souls of men lived and died in the span of a heartbeat.

            The Great Souls were so long-lived as to be called immortal. The diminutive mind of Man or Woman cannot understand that which is unlike him or herself, and so they gave these great souls names and faces and made them dance to the tune of their own stories. In their fear of the unknown, humanity sought a life after a life, aware of the great cycle only in brief flashes of sudden insight or as a conclusion to decades-long meditative bouts.

            For a soul does not truly die, it is simply recalled by the soul of the world to be recast and remade into something else. All magic, all sorcery, all miracles and mystical esotery stem from the soul of the world. When the Division occurred, the cycle broke down, and the Great Souls took upon themselves the weight of the world. This is how Old Gods were born. Their spirits had always been there, but the sudden burst of minor, hopeless souls having no place to go, found in them a place to return to, a sort of cosmic home, and in turn these Great Souls were shaped by the small spirits of Men.

            But there were others.

            Those who came from the sky. Another, moribund core shattered into uncountable fragments raining down on an orphan world. These were the New Gods and they knew nothing of the cycle, for their fate was to consume and devour, and that they would do.