Chapter 3 - An Old Tale
Countless eons ago, within the endless primordial chaos, seven gods came into being. Ruling over Light, Dark, and the Five Elements, they created everything we know today. The Seven Old Ones they were called, and it is them we have to thank (or curse) for our very existence.
As time passed, the gods noticed that many great figures emerged from the sentient races they had made. Heroes and tyrants, champions and prophets, these people were the most awe-inspiring of their kind. Yet all of them eventually succumbed to death, their legacies fading into the mists of time.
Wasn’t it such a waste? Brilliant minds and valorous hearts, snuffed out far too quickly by the greatest poison of all: mortality. The gods felt pity for their creations. More importantly, they felt immense boredom. Deciding that it was time to shake things up a bit in the Pantheon, they all agreed to share a tiny fraction of their divine essence with any suitably talented mortal.
It would bring an interesting change to a stagnant universe. What would the New Gods do with their powers? They were all excited to find out. However, an unexpected complication arose.
The Seven Old Ones argued and bickered endlessly on every candidate. No matter how promising an individual was, they could never unanimously agree on granting them godhood. After many more years, the God of Light eventually came up with a bright idea. Why not make each candidate go through multiple trials to prove their worth?
“Let them show their will.” Said the God of Light.
“Let them show their might.” Said the God of Fire.
“Let them show their intelligence.” Said the Goddess of Water.
“Let them show their fortitude.” Said the God of Earth.
“Let them show their adaptability.” Said the Goddess of Wind.
“Let them show their focus.“ Said the God of Lightning.
“Let them show their ambition.” Said the Goddess of Darkness.
And so they created the Ascendancy System.
What better way to test a person’s greatness than to drop them off in unfamiliar lands, filled with lurking dangers and hidden opportunities? Will they shape history? Can they live peacefully? Or will they meet an early, violent death? It was very good entertainment for the gods.
Heroes weren’t the only ones chosen to take part. Any being with a soul strong enough to endure the endless cycle of death and reincarnation was given the same chance. There were too few for the system to be picky. And in some cases, those with humble origins did better in the long run.
Kings blundered about as street urchins. Peasants became fearless generals. The System brought out the latent potential within the chosen souls, while exposing the weaknesses of others. It granted power and suffering in equal measure. As time passed, the System learned how far it could push Ascendants without them breaking.
But what was an Ascendant, truly? It mattered not if one had the heart of a cruel despot or a protector of the weak. Those with the strength to overcome hardship and accomplish great deeds were the only ones that mattered in the end.
The best Ascendants were given the chance to challenge the God’s Trial, which would grant them the true essence of divinity. These victors would then have the right to join the Old Ones in their Pantheon.
Eventually, there were over a thousand gods in the Pantheon. The Seven Old Ones still reigned supreme, yet there was now more color to the universe. The New Gods used their powers according to their unique ideologies, shaping their little pockets of territory as they saw fit.
But it would not last. Conflict arose - as it always does - and an epic war between gods resulted. Some say it was caused by the appearance of a hidden god, one with power rivaling the Seven. Others believe that their ideological differences simply became irreconcilable. Even now there are worlds bearing scars from the devastating battles that took place. Countless more worlds were destroyed entirely. No one knows who won… but no gods have been seen for ages. Most now believe that the Divine War caused the total destruction of the Pantheon. Yet somehow, the Ascendancy System lives on.
It has been countless lifetimes since then. Nobody knows how to access the God’s Trial without a living deity’s guidance, so the Pantheon remains shattered and empty. The Ascendants continue to fight, grow, live, and die. Meaninglessly, some would say… but perhaps not.