Work in progress: the story of the Gnolls
Here's the first draft of chapter one of a piece about Gnolls. Because gnolls are awesome. This chapter is the Gnoll creation myth.

 

When the first world was old, there were three Lives. There was Ralay, the firstborn, the seed of humanity who had dominion over civilization. Where she passed, cities bloomed and commerce kept an effective peace. There was Ilay, the dark sun, who had dominion over agency, and where she walked the animals awoke and chose their own paths. There was Meerah, the seed of the world, and where she walked the world bloomed with new wildness, large and small, and in her travels awoke grave conflict between the Cities and the Wilds. Those awoke chose sides and either lived where they were safe or drew up battle lines to contain their opposite and advance the front lines.

When the first world ended the three Lives were separated and cursed to forever reduce. Their power would decline over time in new worlds, a world that was shaped by the conflicts and ideals of the first world. One could see the first world as a kind of prototype or as a world constructed entirely of archetypes. A library of ideas for the creation of all new worlds. And so the three Lives were not only separated and reduced but also multiplied so that they would, as trios in conflict, make new worlds that echoed the first world. These worlds would be infinite — indeed the universes they inhabited would be infinite, each sustaining cosmologies with wildly varying predictability and logic. But everywhere there would be first the Lives to spark and shape the early growth of the world and then to decline.

Here, Ilay was insane and for not particular reason except that infinite diversity demanded that in some worlds she would be insane. And here also she was fused with a shard of Meerah and so there was chaos in some of the wilderness of the world. With Ilay insane and Meerah fractured, Ralay dominated and our world was initially covered in the cities of the civilized sapients. There were cities on the beaches, in the mountains, in the very trees of the forest. There were cities underground, underwater, and fabricated from the clouds. Meera limped between the cities, eroding their boundaries, but never creating her own domain. She withdrew, seemed to hide, but in fact chose a more subtle path of erosion—her darlings became the bacteria and the fungi and the vermin that chip away at the civilized spaces over time. Hers was the long game.

But Ilay raged. And as she raged she was consumed.

Ilay ran fierce across the world, through the cities and celebrated in blood as Meerah’s tactic of slow decay began to take its toll. Where cloud cities fell, Ilay danced in the rubble and dark forests with wild animals with brilliant but twisted minds awoke and created their own horrible echoes of civilization. Where the mountain cities collapsed, she tramped the graves flat, giving life to the very stones to keep Ralay’s civilization at bay. Where the waters rushed into the undersea cities, Ilay awoke legions of hybrid water animals and humans and gave them the charge of keeping the waters terrifying. And some cities survived, and Ralay’s children did the best they could.

And because Ralay had begun this world with so much power and such an ambitious ideal for construction, she was weak, and now the first cities are only a layer of geology.

Ilay’s decline came quickly then. And in her insanity she ran through the new wilds, through the overgrown ruins of the forest cities, now a dark and deadly place full of glinting teeth and eyes. And she bled out her power and her blood spattered the great forest and where it fell on animals, they shaped themselves in their idea of her form. They lusted for their own stories and they hated the cities and they loved only wildness. And amongst these new beings were the Gnolls. And the Gnolls came to rule the depths of the ruined forest-cities. And they hated. And they thought.

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