The People of Veris: The Stromgk

The Stromgk (sortr. ‘Oldest’) awoke first in the deep years, before the wars of the guardians, first of the Peoples of Veris and without parallel. While they were unlike the gods and the spirits, being bound to the physical sphere and shape of Veris, still their hearts burned brightly and deep in the second realm, and their thought reached far. The Stromgk looked first on the empty darkness of Veris when the earth was young and hot, and for a thousand years they held counsel with the earth, the guardians, the stars, and the spirits. Out of their deepening knowledge they brought forth the greatest and loveliest creations and artifacts of the ancient age, and their like shall not be seen again. They made physical the deep realities of the universe; great works of beauty and understanding and power that clarified and amplified the very nature of What Is.

When the wars of the guardians began and the earth was assailed by chaos they were its great defenders, and when the tumult of those days finally abated it was to the Stromgk appointed the shepherding of the fledgling young peoples that then awoke. Thus the Stromgk, never numerous nor dominion-seeking, became the benevolent sages, godlike artificers, and rarefied lords of a primeval age.

These shepherded, following peoples were indeed prolific, and some if not all indeed did seek dominion. None of these after-comers had even one part in five of the mastery and insight of the Stromk, but they were comparatively blunt, stunted, and impotent. As the centuries and peoples multiplied, as these younger and more prolific races imitated and learned from the Stromga, and as the lesser peoples ascended inexorably to prominence until they filled up seemingly all the earth, the spirits of the ageless Stromga sank ever lower. Not from envy or pride, but in despair: for they saw that all things forever were but a diminishing echo and reverberation of greater things past, and they foresaw in these followers the doom and ignominy to come.

For while even an echo of a mastersong retains its fading beauty unsullied, the Stromgk endured instead the endless replaying and clumsy adaptations of the unskilled, decade after decade in every science and art form, as mortality and nature capped and atrophied the ability and progress of every individual and race. This terrible progression became a drudgery and eventually a torture to the aesthete Stromgk, watching each generation growing less and less like the original lesson, growing diminished and crude and base, until the beauty and purity of life was garbled beyond memory and recovery even by the most masterful, learned, and long-lived of the lesser races.

The world around them was filled to the brim with mediocrity and worse, for under the surface it seethed with strife, malice, and suffering; most of all it teemed with the waste and vainglorious arrogance of youth.

It is a curious matter indeed that the Stromgk, in all of their ancient glory and voracious passion for understanding and beauty, were tasked by the gods with the shepherding of such unlovely and clumsy peoples. What unrecorded conversance have the Stromgk made with gods and spirits over the fathomless days of the first age of the earth? In what bitterness have they sought relief from this burden? Who in Veris can conceive of the agony of immortal perfection in an age of endlessly declining repetition? And of course, who now can answer for the Stromgk- fallen and changed as they are- and exiled?

In the ages that followed, what happened- with a pace so glacial that it went unnoticed by the dying peoples- is that the counsel of the Stromgk grew cryptic and withdrawn. Pace by pace, year by year, they retreated into silence, insularity and isolation. The doors of their high places opened to fewer, and then rarely, and finally not at all. Over a millennium the Stromgk passed in stages into the ether of legend until the mortal races, never overly patient with these shepherds even in the best of times, came at last to neglect them utterly, altogether.

And so it was that when the Wars of Darkness came like at last like a storm; when the need of the shepherdless peoples was dire; when death and evil were full grown and when at last the mightiest of them in desperation searched and sent and reached the great citadels of the Stromgk, they found the gates standing open and the great halls deserted. The Stromgk had vanished. In the end, it seems, they proved unable to endure so agonizing a purpose.

While even the legendary and mythic embellishments of the final days of the Stromgk are now themselves many thousands of years old, and the precise nature and account of their departure will never be known to mortals, the ancient tales and legends coalesce around a theme; a theme in which there is, perhaps, some element of truth: that there came a day at last when the greatest among the Stromgk used all of their might and their unsurpassed learning toward a singular, terrible objective; an attempt to escape forever the monotony of their eternity; an attempt to make one truly new thing, a great thing; a terrible thing. And so in one hand they took the masterpiece that was themselves, and in the other hand they wielded the fullness of their ability and art; and finally in some mad ambition and desperation they stole the right of the gods, and brought both hands together with it, to make craft of their very essence and being- to change it forever, to augment it with the gifts and natures of the other creatures and natural forces of the earth.

No greater thing has ever been attempted (nor indeed may ever be again) in all of the history of Veris- and none more disastrous.

For the attempt succeeded, after a fashion, and the Stromgk were indeed changed forever- but not in the way they intended.