Age Before Ages

The Age Before Ages was the ancient period before the battle of Pesh, when the war between Law and Chaos was the predominant dynamic in the still-young multiverse. The term was coined in Fiendish Codex I: Hordes of the Abyss.

Contents

The formation of the planes

The first planes to come into being were the Inner Planes. There, the war between those entities who would retain the state of primal Chaos and those who would bring order to it first began before the Prime Material Plane and the Outer Planes had yet fully formed. The article "Silent Sorcery" in the Living Greyhawk Journal #4 mentions a cult known as the "Lords of the Elder Elements," suggesting there were elemental beings that preceded the current cosmic order and have since been banished or imprisoned.

Fiendish Codex I mentions immense living creatures known as draedens who existed before the planes existed, including one called Ulgurshek who fell asleep while the Abyss formed around it. The draedens were first mentioned in the Dungeons & Dragons Immmortal Set, which described the draedens as clusters of mouths and tentacles the size of demiplanes who were descendants of beings who may have created the multiverse long before the time of the Immortals. They despise elemental material, seeing everything but perfect void as an unwelcome imposition in their domain. After a period of war and strife ending at least 200 million years ago, the draedens retired, deciding to outlast their enemies by waiting until the rest of creation destroyed itself.

The Inner Planes campaign expansion for the Planescape campaign mentions beings called the Sleeping Ones by the kuo-toa, monumental creatures who caused the multiverse to come into being and then severed contact with the cosmos, sealing themselves away in the Paraelemental Plane of Ice until their powers are needed again. These creatures, said to be many, many miles long, inspire a numbing awe in those explorers who venture near the tombs in which they dream until the end of days.

Primal forces

Elder Evils says that most myths divide the early history of the cosmos into three eras. The time of the mortal races was preceded by the time of the gods. Before the gods was the time of primeval forces such as Ragnorra.

Yugoloth myths recorded in Hellbound: The Blood War tell of five primal forces that swept across the unformed mass of pre-creation: Order warred with Chaos, and Good warred with Evil, while Neutrality lay between, the field upon which they struggled. Eventually the forces paused, seeing they were accomplishing nothing at this level, and spawned the first races to continue their struggle in new ways. The only one of these early races to be named in that book were the primal personifications of Evil, the baernaloths, who would go on to create the younger races of fiends, including the yugoloths, and demodands. Presumably Good, Law, Chaos, and Neutrality also created their respective champions, but their nature and history are left a mystery in that tome.

The creation myths in Guide to Hell, Fiendish Codex I, and Fiendish Codex II were similar in some ways, although they discussed only the earliest champions of Law and their struggle against the earliest champions of Chaos. In Guide to Hell, the first and most powerful of the early champions of Law were the Twin Serpents Ahriman and Jazirian, while in the Fiendish Codex II myth they were lawful gods such as Heironeous, Moradin, Yondalla, and Saint Cuthbert. In Fiendish Codex I and James Jacobs' Demonomicon of Iggwilv series, the earliest champions of Chaos were the obyrith demons, who were said to have long preceded both gods and mortals.

The Planescape Monstrous Compendium Appendix speaks of entities known as the "Powers of Creation" who created the basic structure of the Outer Planes in much the same way the Twin Serpents are said to have done in Guide to Hell.

In the 4th edition of the Dungeons & Dragons game, the struggle at the dawn of creation was between the chaotic primordials, titan-like beings of pure creation and destruction, and the early gods who sought to bring order to the primordials' domain.

According to the Fiendish Codex I and the Demonomicon of Iggwilv and Age of Worms series, the chief struggle seems to have eventually become the obyriths led by the Queen of Chaos from the Abyss, with the most significant warriors of Law the Wind Dukes of Aaqa of the Inner Planes. In the Fiendish Codex II, the war of Asmodeus's dark angels against the primal demons seems to have been another important struggle in the same general period of pre-history.

Further history

Somewhere near the beginning of time, the yugoloths were created as the first-born children of the baernaloths (though the demodands also have their claim of primacy). These yugoloths became tainted by the warring forces of Law and Chaos, which suited the purposes of the baernaloths for a time until the first of all ultroloths, the legendary General of Gehenna, created an artifact known as the Heart of Darkness to drive these "impurities" from the yugoloth race. According to the legends of those fell creatures, these impurities became writhing larvae in the Lower Planes, eventually evolving into the chaotic demons and lawful devils. Some of the oldest obyriths, such as Bechard, seem to have confirmed this narrative, whispering of how the baernaloths created their race.

Other myths contradict this narrative, claiming the obyriths formed directly from primal Chaos, for example, or that it was the tanar'ri and baatezu who were created by the Heart of Darkness and not the obyriths and ancient Baatorians who preceded them on their respective planes.

Regardless of the truth, the first battles of the Blood War between Law and Chaos seem to have began in the Inner Planes long before the first demons and devils encountered one another. The obyriths traveled to the Inner Planes, where they encountered beings such as the archomental Sun Sing and the Wind Dukes, who ruled an empire in the Inner Planes and Prime Material Plane. How these early battles became a war is the subject of varying tales. Dragon #357 maintained that the obyriths were content to remain for the most part in their plane until the Queen of Chaos slew the first incarnation of Obox-ob and began her crusade against the rest of existence. Fiendish Codex II suggests that the gods of law warred against demons from almost the moment they coalesced from the principle of abstract order, although they did not create their winged crusaders until later, when they decided (as the unpersonified aligned forces did in the Hellbound myth) that direct action was a futile distraction from their other goals.

A notable event in later prehistory is remembered as "The Intervention of the Celestials," when millions of archons and angels from the Upper Planes descended to the Lower Planes in force in an attempt to exterminate the hated fiends once and for all. This resulted in the first and one of the only times when both demons and devils united as a single force in order to repel the invaders. It is said that less than 3,000 of the celestial beings survived. It is difficult to date this event with certainty, or to say whether or not it can be identified with other events such as the corruption of Asmodeus's angels, the martyrdom of the tome archons, or the fall of Baalzebul. Even the fiends had not yet begun the formal keeping of records in those ancient times.

The age of gods

It was not until after the keeping of records began that the gods began involving themselves in the struggle, though it seemed like some of them had been around for some time before then, perhaps forever. The result was as ignominious as the attempt at celestial intervention: the gods began feeling their very essence withering away, with a powerful god of Chaos disappearing entirely before the rest of the divine hosts took the hint. The Blood Warriors would not tolerate interference from newcomers in their ancient struggle.

The age of mortals

The first mortal race is believed to have been the aboleths, who came into being millions of years ago when the Elder Evil Piscaethces accidentally brushed against the Material Plane from her original home in the Far Realm. The aboleths, with their perfect racial memory, remember this period with crystal clarity, believing they know for an absolute fact that they were the first mortal race and that they precede the first of the powers that other races call "gods." The aboleths built a global aquatic empire when the Oerth was still a desolate place of boiling oceans and unbreathable air. With their dominance established, they began to create other forms of life with their arcane science: oozes, elementals, and eventually monsters and humanoids. After timeless ages, this empire fell, the victim of perhaps a slave rebellion, or the return of one of the Elder Evils, or a civil war. The most popular theory among those sages who concern themselves with these blasphemous tales is that the mortal races developed something new: faith, and that it is mortal faith that called the first true deities into being, and that these deities destroyed the aboleth empire so that their worshippers could inherit the world and flourish. Over the millennia, however, there have been countless cycles when the aboleths managed to conquer vast new empires, only to lose them again as the aeons turn.

While aberrations such as the aboleths can be affected by resurrection magic, and thus presumedly have spirits or souls, they have no concept of an afterlife, believing that deceased aboleths live on only in the memories they pass on to their descendants. Other mortal races, however, began migrating after their deaths to the Outer Planes, where some of them ended up in the Abyss.

After millennia of further bitter fighting between Chaos and Law, the obyriths discovered a new way of creating servants and replenishing their armies: by transforming the spirits and emotions of mortals into new kinds of fiends. The most numerous of these new created beings were the tanar'ri, shaped by the Queen of Chaos and her sibriex allies from mortal fears and sins. The very first of these creatures to have been made was a deformed, uncontrollable beast born from primal animalistic fear and broken into two minds: the demon known today as Demogorgon. After Demogorgon was tossed aside, the Queen of Chaos then oversaw the development of newer, more useful tanar'ric shapes: succubi from mortal lust, glabrezus from envy, alkiliths from sloth, balors from pride, adarus from treachery and deception, solamiths from gluttony.

Others claim the devils discovered the process of reshaping mortal souls first, or that the deities learned the trick of it before any of the fiends. Fiendish Codex II informs us that Asmodeus asked permission of the gods of Law to punish the souls of those mortals who had abused their free will to disobey the edicts of the gods. When the gods could no longer stand the sight of the suffering inflicted by Asmodeus's minions, they agreed to deed him a realm called Baator in which he could torture the damned with impunity. The opening myth in Fiendish Codex II claims the realm was empty, though Elder Evils tells us that Baator was ruled by Zargon and populated with the ancient Baatorians, before Asmodeus enslaved or butchered them and banished Zargon to the Prime Material Plane. Asmodeus reshaped the realm into a plane with nine tiers (it is said that this happened against his will, due to the forceful impact made by his body when it was thrown from the Heavens by the vengeful gods), and soon after began reshaping the souls they gathered to them there into new devils.

As for the Wind Dukes, as primarily inner planar beings they never had a ready supply of souls to work with even if they were inclined to use them, and as the war dragged on their numbers continued to decline.

It was during this period when the warring factions discovered the city of Sigil and its mysterious guardian, the Lady of Pain. Some claim the Lady was a renegade demon lord or a powerful being of Law. She tolerated powerful fiends and other creatures who came to dwell in her city, but she did not hesitate to slaughter in the thousands those who tried to claim it for their own in order to use it to their advantage in their endless war.

The Battle of Pesh

Miska the Wolf-Spider battles the Wind Dukes Qadeej (l) and Icosiol (r) at Pesh.

Meanwhile, the most powerful of the tanar'ri shaped by the Queen of Chaos was Miska the Wolf-Spider, who after he matured into might rivaling many of the obyriths the Queen crowned the new Prince of Demons. With Miska at the head of her entropic hordes, the war between Chaos and Law was finally tipped in Chaos's favor, though many of the Queen's chaotic good allies had deserted her upon Miska's appointment. On the Material Plane, world after world fell to Chaos, the laws of nature warping and becoming fluid as they asserted their vision of reality upon their conquests.

The eons of conflict between the two opposing forces finally reached a conclusion of sorts on the Fields of Pesh, a land in the shadow of White Plume Mountain on the world of Oerth. There, the so-called Wandering Dukes deployed the Rod of Law to banish Miska the Wolf-Spider to a prison in Pandemonium. The battle was won for the forces of Law, but at a terrible cost. Besides the opening of the yawning chasm of Rift Canyon, the battle cost the Wind Dukes the majority of their remaining warriors, and even now, eons later, they have not recovered a fraction of their former numbers.

With the defeat of Chaos, however, the Queen retreated to her isolated Abyssal layer, creating a power vacuum on her plane. The tanar'ri revolted against their erstwhile obyrith masters, and the eladrins of Arborea invaded the Abyss in force, slaughtering both tanar'ri and obyriths with impunity. The tanar'ri fled to the lower layers of the Abyss, where some learned to reshape the layers in their image, becoming the oldest of the tanar'ric Abyssal lords. The rule of the obyriths in the Abyss was over, though a few managed to cling to power or lurk in the shadows, and the reign of the tanar'ri had begun.

The Battle of Pesh marked a turning point in the history of the multiverse, ending the Age before Ages and beginning the modern epochs. While the Blood War continues to rage to this day, it is for the most part confined to the Lower Planes, no longer eating up world after world in its wake as it did in the era of the ancient obyriths and Wind Dukes.

Bibliography

  • Baker, Rich, Rob Heinsoo, and James Wyatt. Manual of the Planes. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 2008.
  • Baker, Rich, James Jacobs, and Steve Winter. Lords of Madness. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 2005.
  • Mentzer, Frank. Dungeons & Dragons Immortals Set. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1987.
  • Varney, Allen, ed. Planescape Monstrous Compendium Appendix. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1994.

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