“God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?”
— Friedrich Nietzsche
Deus Est Mortuus
It is said that Fear first brought the Overlords into the world. Fear of darkness, of fire and storms, famine and disease. And Words, spoken in prayer, written on parchment, or whispered in darkness, gave the Gods form: vast, maddening, hundred-handed creatures from beyond time, shaped in the likeness of men and beasts. The Words bound Them to the elements and gave Them dominion over the fears of men. And men knelt before Them, and pleaded for salvation from the world, sacrificing with bloody hands and trembling lips. And the Elder Gods answered man’s prayers. They shaped storms and seas, shadows and flesh to Their will, and They feasted on the worship and blood of the people of Their realms. And men worshiped them and called Them Masters, these creatures from beyond time and reason and understanding.
In the Age of Darkness, the Elder Ones spawned plagues and vermin and abominations that crawled across the earth, swam in the depths, and soared among the stars. And the Gods warred amongst Themselves, and set armies of men against each other that they may war and die for the pleasure of the Gods. And to this end, They kept men as cattle, and bred them, and fattened them with forbidden knowledge, dark powers and mighty feats, and the Gods were pleased with their works. The world was Theirs to shape and mold, and to feed on, when it suited Them.
But men grew proud and ambitious, flush with the fiendish boons the Overlords bestowed on them. They built mighty cities and temples and created great works. They dared to scribe the powerful words of the Gods on stone and parchment, hidden in deep vaults, and they crafted relics of immense power, in the forges of the dark temples of the Gods. They dared to aspire to be like the Gods.
And the Gods saw the arrogance of men, and were filled with rage. They rained fire and destruction upon the works of men, and so began an Age of Terrors. Cities fell into the raging sea, swarms of abominations blackened the heavens like locusts, and the earth opened its maw and swallowed kingdoms. The graves gave up its dead, and famine and pestilence spread across the land. Countless men died, and nations quaked beneath the might of the Gods. Pleading, man begged for mercy. Red ran the rivers with the blood of sacrifices; red grew the sky with the smoke of offerings. But some men, tasting freedom, refused to repent. These men, willful and arrogant, took up arms against the terrors of the Gods. They blasphemed the Gods, burnt the sacred scrolls, and silenced the priests with iron. They cast down the altars, defiled the temples, raped the holy virgins, and plundered the relics. They warred against the abominations of the Gods; armies fell and were consumed by the wrath of the Gods. But a single man dared to challenge a God. The earth shook and the sky fell, but with blood and steel and fury, man slew God.
There, on the battlefield where the blood of the first Dead God flowed, an Empire of men was founded. And one by one, through the Age of Terrors, new heroes rose up, paragons of their tribes, to vanquish the Overlords and seize their powers as Scions of a new age. At the end of the Age of Terrors, the Elder Ones lay dead and bound, the world lay in ruin, and the immortal Scions stood on broken altars, icons of humanity and testaments to the power of mankind.
Centuries have now passed since the dawn of the Age of Iron. Worship of the Dead Gods is abolished, and abominations are hunted and slaughtered. The Empire has conquered the barbarians, pushed them into the hills and jungles, enslaved them, and sent them to fight in the bloody arenas. From the smoking ruins of dark temples, cities thrive, farms grow, legions march, and the great works and deeds of men are worshiped. The civilized world thrives. With the death of the Gods and the enslavement of their monstrous children, the age of men has flourished — an age of iron and learning, might and magic. The barbarians are held in check by the discipline of the Empire’s legions, the authority of the immortal Scions, and the wisdom of the oracles. Or so the people say, to themselves, to keep the terror at bay.
It is said among heretics and blasphemers that the Elder Ones cannot die, and They merely go to sleep within Their husks, pass to a new host, or drift deep into the depths of the earth, sea, or stars. They say the Gods will return, that already Their servants walk among men, but the heretics are easily silenced with iron. Nonetheless, insurrections and slave riots flare up, slaves persist in worshiping the Dead Gods in secret, and cults spread like plague across the Empire. Insurgencies have multiplied as the Empire has grown old, and in the new kingdoms and the borderlands men dare to worship the Dead Gods in the open once again.
The Empire is beginning to crack. The Scions war among themselves, and the barbarians endlessly surge against the legions like waves crashing against the shore. And the haunting words of the madmen echo still: the Elder Gods are stirring.