- In the mythology of Exalted, the starting point is the Primordials, "alone in the churning chaos of unshaped Essence". The supposition being that both these titans and the chaos had always been there, with no beginning. But suppose the story really started earlier, with only the eternal chaos, and no Primordials in sight...
Out in the Deep Chaos, anything can happen. Really. Anything. On a long enough time scale even the immensely improbable will pop into existence. And chaos has been around a long, long time (though not quite forever). From the seething potential, all sorts of exotica have come and gone in the chaos: intelligent bugs made of glass, humans with full consciousness, a thousand miles of self-aware clockwork that could perfectly tell the future. Consciousness and intellect are inevitable given nearly infinite possibility over nearly infinite time.
The problem is that complexity is fragile and chaos is, well, chaotic. No sooner does it create than it mutates and destroys. Wonders both subtle and gross form and perish in an instant, perhaps even at the same time. Over the eternity of chaos, whole civilizations and lived and died in brief instants, none resilient enough to resist the forces that created them.
But, eventually, infinite chaos must give rise to consciousness that, once shaped, can resist being unmade. To survive, such consciousness would necessarily need to be not only from chaos, but of it as well, a local pattern of awareness and purpose within the bedlam. Over time, many such consciousnesses arise. Most are not perfect, lasting only minutes, some for weeks or years. A few, however, can hold out for much, much longer. Since random creation of simple patterns is more probable than complex ones, most of the consciousnesses that survive are more simplistic. While rudimentarily aware, most are not what we would call intelligent, driven by some basic motivation, but not thought and often without form. For the sake of easy reference, we attach a label to these "rudimentary consciousnesses with primal motivation". We'll call them graces.
For a very long time, existence continued as "chaos plus graces". As time went on, the number of graces increased. Some grace patterns are simply more probable than others, so became more common, but thousands, millions of varieties exist. A small handful of patterns became so plentiful that, in modern times, they are given specific names: ring, sword, cup and staff. Another type, however, is special. In addition to consciousness, its pattern represents identity and self-awareness. This type of grace, the heart grace, is hardier than most, and becomes plentiful solely by outlasting others of its kind.
As the number of graces increases, the likelihood of their interacting increases as well. Most of the time, two will collide and move on their way. Sometimes, two touch and annihilate each other back into chaos. Rarely, they change each other or merge, usually for the worse, eventually both degrading, but not always. And once in a great while, they bind together, interacting to become something greater than the sum of its parts. Usually, these bindings would disassociate sooner or later (mostly sooner). Some might be lucky enough to incorporate a third grace, though this tended to sever a pair much, much more often than form a triplet.
When one of the pair was a heart grace, the resulting entity sometimes developed a rather amazing ability: it could shape the chaos. Not very well, of course, and often without genuine thought, but for the first time, the potential of chaos became guided by something other than random chance. Such pairs were often unstable, sometimes even unshaping themselves, but those that survived were those who could harness this ability to their own advantage. This was not the animalistic type of survival we might expect; there is no competition for food or mates or territory. What the pairs would shape can better be described as stories or narrative. Not being sophisticated beings, these stories were extremely simplistic, often one word concepts such as "fear" or "hope" or "blue" or simply a name.
This state of affairs continued for a long time, with loose graces, pairs, and eventually triplets and even quadruplets floating in the chaos, trying to make their mark, in their own inexplicable way. Sometimes, when two of these entities came close, they would reach out and try to alter each others stories. Most of the time, they would react to each other briefly and be on their way. Sometimes, however, the interaction of their stories would change them. Maybe their stories mixed in a way that cause them to join. Maybe one's story defeated the other and pulled its remnants into itself. Again, often the consequences were disastrous, creating a new, unstable state that reverted back into chaos. Sometimes graces were merely rearranged. But very rarely, what emerged was a stable entity containing five graces. And once this happened a few times, everything started to change very quickly.
Beings with five graces were vastly more capable than what had come before, particularly if one of these graces was a heart grace and especially if the others were ring, sword, cup and staff. Usually both self-aware and intelligent, these beings had radically more advanced abilities to shape chaos and a far greater sense of purpose and drive. These beings are such an advancement of existence, they need their own label to identify them. In modern times, they are called raksha or fair folk, but these entities are far removed from the beings these labels conjure up now. For one, they had not been tainted by Creation yet, still creatures of deep chaos.
The vast majority of these living narrative forces began to divert themselves, largely with each other. No longer alone, they talked and fought and planned and dreamed. They organized and disorganized, formed societies and ripped them apart. Few of them, however, realized how they were formed, and most of those who did couldn't care less. Content in their current state, they didn't consider anything more. And so it went for them, over the aeons, becoming the fair folk we know now.
But meanwhile, not all were content with this. Some, either through accident or choice, continued to evolve, leaving their five-graced brethren behind. Some held on to the graces they had, but pursued more and more power. Others absorbed more graces. Some did both. In nearly all cases, the being grew larger, often transcending the notion of "entity" and becoming closer to the notion of "location". They became inscrutable, even to the raksha, with an understanding of chaos the defied comprehension. Many went mad, wandering the seething chaos to purposes known only to them. Others were solidly rational, but with motivations so alien that it appeared as madness. Once reaching this state, a new label is needed, and these are called the unshaped. Those that survive usually do so because, within them, graces they absorb form into "guiding intelligences", subsidiary entities much like the raksha themselves.
Most of the unshaped remain so. Occasionally they absorb narrative waypoints, even raksha, and may wax or wane in power. Sometimes raksha manage to impose their will on the unshaped, gaining portions of it for themselves. On rare occasions, an unshaped might even devolve, splitting back into raksha or more exotic combinations of graces. Sometimes new guiding intelligences arise or fall. In general, though, their unshaped nature does not change.
Over long periods, however, a very few of these unshaped became something of an ecosystem, within which their own evolution continued. As they traveled and grew, their guiding intelligences incorporated new, exotic graces still floating in the chaos. Sometimes whole new intelligences would be absorbed, or would even arise spontaneously within the unshaped. While it is futile to compare the unshaped to the human mind, each of the guiding intelligences within an unshaped tended to focus on a certain aspect of the unshaped's "psyche", for lack of a better word. By chance, sometimes a guiding intelligence would absorb just the right combination of graces and, in a moment of transcendence, become the perfect embodiment of such an aspect. When this happens in a way that remains stable, the capabilities of the guiding intelligence increase greatly, and a new label is needed. Though the term is somewhat cumbersome, we call these secondary souls.
As time goes on, more and more guiding intelligences evolve into secondary souls. Such an advanced unshaped might have dozens of such souls, but it still remains unshaped, for while its guiding intelligence is evolving, it itself is not. With so many secondary souls (and, usually, still evolving guiding intelligences as well) within it, differences often arise between them. Almost always, this leads to conflict within the unshaped and, very often, this leads quickly to its demise. Often alliances are formed between the souls and standoffs and wars of attrition can halt the development of an unshaped forever. In rare cases, though, there is a perfect harmony between a collection of seven secondary souls, when they align with each other in a way that each of them has a very specific role. When souls that protect, gratify, define, communicate, express, reflect and understand a shared essential nature, they become greater than the sum of their parts and form a primary soul.
When a primary soul forms within the unshaped, its secondary souls that are not part of the new primary soul are usually either quickly defeated or attempt to form into primary souls of their own. This almost always fails, with the souls being the wrong types or otherwise incompatible. In such cases, usually the primary soul eliminates the secondary souls, or lets them remain, but prevents the formation of another primary soul. The secondary souls can still oppose the primary soul and, very rarely, can dissolve it, but the primary soul's sense of self is extremely strong, and usually attempts to rule the unshaped with an iron fist. The most likely result is an unshaped containing a single ruling primary soul, several secondary souls, and shattered remnants of lesser entities within itself. Such an entity is powerful, but still finite, and generally focused on a single sphere of influence or way of thinking. Such creatures are called shinma.
In some cases, two primary souls form roughly simultaneously. This usually ends badly for the unshaped, as the two primary souls usually fight to attrition and eventually split into two distinct shinma, or sometimes into scattered component pieces or even all the way back to chaos.
In very rare cases, however, three primary souls form within an unshaped. This can happen spontaneously, but more often is the result of one primary soul forming, then encouraging the development of others, accidentally or otherwise. It can also occur if the aforementioned unshaped with two primary souls happens to create or absorb a third, but this almost never happens. However it is done, once the unshaped has three primary souls, a fundamental change wracks it. Its awareness expands geometrically and its will becomes as undeniable as its ability to shape raw chaos to its every whim. It becomes, in short, a primordial.
Did the first primordial try to prevent the emergence of a second? Did it encourage the evolution of more? Did it become so surprised at its sudden potency that it dissolved back into chaos? None will ever know. Eventually though, over two dozen primordials evolved. All continued to collect graces and evolve more primary souls, some making 20 or more. Once ascended, a primordial could accelerate the process beyond random chance; it could do almost anything it wanted. Inevitably, however, the primordials had to test just how far "almost" went.
An old paradox about omnipotence states a conundrum: can a truly omnipotent being, something who can do anything, create a mountain so large that he himself cannot move it? If the answer is "yes", then the being cannot be truly omnipotent, as he can't move the mountain. If the answer is no, then he can't be omnipotent either, since he can't create the mountain. The primordials' test of their own limits answered a similar question about their ability to create anything from the chaos: could they shape something that they themselves could not shape? Could their mastery of chaos create, in effect, non-chaos?
Thus, Creation was born.
This is simply pure genius awesomeness. I completely love it and plan on adopting it into my personal Exalted theory of everything. Very nice job. My only change would be how Creation itself was built, I like the concept of a number of Primordials getting together and forming a sanctum away from the churning Chaos that spawned them, a place they could relax without needing to worry about Chaos constantly nipping at their toes. Its a minor change, but still. Oh, I also want to mention something, according to canon time is something that only existed since Creation created it, thus before Creation their was no time. :) -Heru
- "Before the beginning of time" is a nonsense phrase like "north of the North Pole" or "below the center of the Earth". Nothing can be before something else (in the temporal sense of "before") but also outside of time, since "before" means "at an earlier point in time than", and something can't be at any point in time if it ISN'T in time.
And once they managed to create creation, then the moved on to the next question - could they make a game so addicting that even they couldn't stop playing it? I figure the reason Gaia and Autochthon probably sided with the Gods over the other Primordials because they kept on loosing and were hoping for easier compitition. -ExhilaratedRosewood
Just a note to myself here: where do the shinma fit in? Maybe when an unshaped evolves some number of secondary souls? - Wordman
- Considering that they're ultra powerful entities with different aspects that are discribed the same way as secondary souls, I would assume that they're what the primordials were before they decided to make creation. -ExhilaratedRosewood
I like your idea of making the shinma lesser than the Primordials. This makes a lot of sense when one considers that the beings that were the Primordials bound certain shinma concepts to Creation's laws. So, nice addition to an already excellent work. -Heru
This seems to violate a lot of canon. Specifically in canon, the time before Nirguna is referred to as "Time Not" as there was no time prior to Nirguna (same as above comment), and it is explicitly stated that prior to Nirguna there was no existence at all. Thus, at the beginning of time, Nirguna came into unexistence and thus defined existence itself, time could not have possibly existed prior to Nirguna's unexistence, because nothing existed. Particularly none of the graces existed prior to the shinma that defines them. -Puellanivis
That may be true since the publication of the 2E Fair Folk book. As this page was originally written years before that, no real surprise that it doesn't match. - Wordman