(iii) The Origins of Changelessness
The Sarâthen’s Choice
The world of Erâth had now seen the kingdoms of men brought twice to ruin by the rise of Darkness. Every reasoning being is ultimately responsible for its own actions, and it fate that the Duithèn would become hungry for power and the men of Erâth should be so easily corrupted. Nonetheless, the Sarâthen, held themselves accountable for the great destruction that had now befallen Erâth during the First, and now the Second, Age. They had witnessed the doom men had brought upon themselves at the end of the Age of Light, and the subsequent corruption of the kingdoms of Aélûr and Cathäi. They mourned still the loss of the Mirèn, and unlike men, the memory of their ruin did not fade.
So the Sarâthen set out to put the world of Erâth to right in such a way that could not be undone by men, or any other Race. Their first hope lay in the defeat of the Duithèn, who lay now weakened in the West. The Sarâthen sought to confer with them, and the Illuèn went with them also. They spoke to them of righting the balance of Erâth, and the survival of all races. The world could not survive if the powers of dark or of light were over-dominant, and this affected all beings in the world, the Duithèn included.
The Duithèn would not listen. Twisted by their own Darkness, they clawed at the Sarâthen and said they would not hear their words of treachery. The Sarâthen sought only to defeat them for ever, and had even hunted them down with their counterpart, the Illuèn. They turned from the Sarâthen and fled once more, and the Sarâthen pursued. For many hundreds of years they attempted to convince the Duithèn, and failed.
Disheartened, the Sarâthen finally returned to the lands of men, and left the Duithèn to wither in the West. Yet they could not leave Erâth as it was, for if the Duithèn would not take the responsibility of their power, they might yet rise again to influence and corrupt the world.
Overall, the Sarâthen sought to leave Erâth. They saw that their influence had caused harm in untold numbers across the ages, and regretted that their foresight had not showed them the weaknesses of men that had, ultimately, been before their very eyes. Yet even the Sarâthen were not so powerful as to return to past times and change the course of history, and so they resolved they must act now to prevent such tragedy from occurring yet a third time. If they could do this, they knew they could leave Erâth – and thus their influence on the course of events – knowing that it would forever more be in balance.
All the while, the Sarâthen perceived that the kingdoms of men were yet again falling into darkness, though it was not that of the Duithèn, and knew they must act swiftly or the race of men might well extinguish itself once and for all without outside aid. The Sarâthen yearned for the race of men to grow beyond their violence, their darkness and their fear and become a true race of Erâth, but knew the consequences of too rapid a growth in the downfall of the First Age. And so they faced a choice: allow men to continue as they were, and risk their utter destruction, or stop things as they were, and thus prevent any further decline – and also any further growth.
It was with regret beyond measure that the Sarâthen chose the path of Changelessness: that nothing again in Erâth should change or grow, beyond what it already was. Trees would remain trees, birds would remain birds, and men would remain in their kingdoms forever more, and would not invent, would not discover, and would not venture beyond their lands. It was the last hope of the Sarâthen, that in preventing any further change, the men of Erâth would not fall further into darkness, the Duithèn would not recover, and the realms of the world would battle each other no more.
The Sarâthen’s choice of Changelessness took on many forms. By the time they arrived at this terrible decision, many centuries had already passed since the War of Darkness. The wall of Kiriün was built, Daevàr was dead and Consolation forgotten in the South, the Dragon Lords had all but died out and creatures of Darkness roamed the mountains. They saw how far the world had fallen already, and knew they could not wait any longer.
The Sarâthen were yet clever, though their insight had failed them before. They knew that the nature of change was in the perception of creatures. The heart of invention lies in discovery; all new things come from noticing something that had never been noticed before. They also knew the predisposition of men to only notice what they chose to see. Should the race of men be aware that Changelessness had been imposed on them, that very awareness would have broken the spell. It was their hope, in fact, that Changelessness might keep the race of men safe until they were capable in themselves of rising above their past; at that point they might become aware of the nature of Changelessness, thus destroying it and allowing them finally to grow once more.
So the nature of Changelessness was imperceptible to men. They were not aware that each century followed the last in much the same way as it had before, and that new cities were not built while old ones slowly crumbled. As all knowledge of the impetuous growth of the First Age, and the dramatic recovery of the Second Age, had vanished, it was impossible for men to look back over the ages and realize things had not always been as they once were. Men came to accept that the nature of Erâth was unchanging, and did not question it.
The Sarâthen also imposed a limit on the boundaries of men. In the early days of men, they had voyaged beyond their homelands of Golgor, first North and then West, hoping to find novelty but not knowing what to expect. They did not believe they would arrive anywhere, and so were astonished to find that Golgor formed only a part of a much larger world.
In the later Ages, such travel did not exist; men travelled for purpose, or did not travel at all. Messengers flew from town to town, armies marched North and South, and kings toured the boundaries of their realms. But to travel for the sake of traveling had become anathema, and it was in this that the cunning of the second part of Changelessness was found.
Men could travel as they pleased, from town to town, over the mountains, and even across the very sea – providing they knew where they were going, and had a fixed destination in mind. But should the attentiveness of men fail, they would also fail to notice that, as they world around them drifted by, they would find themselves – without having turned around – heading towards their point of departure once more. Thus it was possible to depart from the east coast of Thaeìn, set out in an unbroken easterly direction, and yet arrive, some weeks later, on Thaeìn’s western borders. Only if one knew of the lands of Cathaï, or beyond, could they hope to arrive there, and such knowledge had been lost in the passage of time and war.
The third, and most ingenious, aspect of Changelessness, was the nature of Returns. The Sarâthen knew that if massive, sudden change were not possible, men would become aware to the fact of Changelessness before their time. They must yet be able to have wars, or build castles, or be stricken with disease, for all to truly remain as it had always been. But there was in this a repercussion: all great changes would have consequences that were less than the impact of the change itself. Thus, the greatest of upheavals – wars, diseases, and even great inventions – would have little consequence, and over many years the world would return to where it had begun. The wars would end, the diseases would die out, and the inventions would be forgotten.
And so the Sarâthen put these plans into place, and the world of men did not notice. And having assured the realm of men of their survival, the Sarâthen prepared to leave Erâth. In time, all but a few of the Sarâthen were no longer in Erâth. Those few that stayed became lost, and were unknown to all the rest of the world.
Isolation of the Illuèn
The Sarâthen were not the only race to be affected by the twofold falling of the world. Since before the War of Darkness, the Illuèn had despaired of the world of Erâth and sought to leave. But they had stayed, and fought beside men to defend Thaeìn against the powers of Darkness. Yet at that time, they had made an oath to Daevàr, and thus to all men, that they would not again aid their kind. The Illuèn held themselves to this oath, and upon the defeat of Goroth on the Bridge of Aélûr, they began to withdraw once more into the forests of the land and were not seen again by men for many thousands of years.
The Illuèn then turned to the Sarâthen, and spoke to them of their intention to leave the world of Erâth. The Sarâthen implored them to yet stay, and aid them in ensuring the world did not plunge into darkness again. The Illuèn did not much care any longer for the world of men, but they had great respect for the Sarâthen, who had never borne them ill will, and consented. They sent messengers to travel with the Sarâthen for many years, tracking down the Duithèn and attempting to repair the gulf between their races.
When these endeavors failed, the Sarâthen brought to them their plans of Changelessness. The Sarâthen knew the Illuèn posed a danger to Changelessness, as beings of great power; the balance of Erâth was dependent on each race of power contending with one another. The world had lost its balance early with the destruction of the Mirèn so long ago, and though the Portèn still held up the foundations of the world, the Namirèn now had no direct counterpart. With the Duithèn thus weakened, the Illuèn were now the only power of light in Erâth that could content with both the Namirèn and the Duithèn. Were they to prevent the eventual rise of the Duithèn again, the Illuèn must stay.
This was unexpected, and the Illuèn spent many years deciding what they would do. The Sarâthen did not coerce them; they knew the Illuèn would choose to stay, or not to stay, and it was not within their power to force them. The decision was brought before every Illuèn in Erâth, a process which took decades. The Sarâthen bid their time, watching as the race of men declined ever more.
In the end, the Illuèn came to their decision. They would not stay, but not forever, and not as they were. The Illuèn would fade from Erâth, but with some of their number remaining to ensure the Duithèn did not regain the world. There would be, from this moment onward, no new Illuèn; only those who were in existence at the end of the Second Age would ever again exist in Erâth.
In order to preserve their numbers and yet begin their departure, the Illuèn agreed that, after three thousand years, if the Duithèn had not yet regained their strength, they would begin to leave Erâth. But they would do so in a way that was without choice or reason; no one Illuèn would know the time of their own departure, and they would live on knowing they may depart from Erâth at any moment, though they anticipated that it might take a further three thousand years before their departure was complete.
And so the Illuèn drew themselves into isolation, and sought out not only the remotest places in Thaeìn to dwell, but sought also to avoid the contact of men entirely, and they soon became but myth in all the lands of men.
Fading of the Namirèn
The Namirèn, who had been so instrumental in the ending of the Second Age, and in particular the downfall of the kingdoms of Cathaï, saw once more that the ambitions of the Duithèn had been too great, and that were the world to be engulfed in darkness, life would fail. Now, more than ever, with so much of Erâth dead or perishing, the Namirèn recognized the importance of life, and their own place in Erâth, for without life, neither can death exist. They had become too eager, after the destruction of the Mirèn, to bring death across the world, and grew in strength beyond their means.
They, more than the Duithèn, recognized the importance of balance in the world, and knew that their involvement in the downfall of the kingdoms of Cathaï had been wrong. They still would see the world covered in darkness, but they no longer were in agreement with the Duithèn over this matter. This would have been of a pleasant surprise to the Sarâthen, but the Namirèn did not seek them out, and the Sarâthen discounted their unusual absence after their defeat.
The Namirèn had not lost their strength as had the Duithèn, and they continued for a time to roam the world, cautiously avoiding the Sarâthen and, for a while, bringing death as they had before the First Age – only where it was needed. When they saw however that the Duithèn meant not to return, and the Sarâthen were beginning to depart, the Namirèn began to worry about their own influence in the world. If the peoples of the world were not to grow, the Namirèn would have to be increasingly cautious if they were to avoid the demise of all living things in Erâth.
It was then that the Namirèn first approached the Sarâthen, who appreciated the irony that the race of Death would seek the same resolution as the races of Light and Wisdom. They learned of the Sarâthen’s plans of Changelessness, and saw now that it was a good plan. They knew they would have to give up a great measure of their influence, and diminish, but in doing so would allow for the continued survival of both themselves and the race of men.
So the Namirèn began to fade, and their influence was less widely felt throughout the kingdoms of Erâth. The lives of men lengthened once more, though to no more than seventy or so years; never again were men to live such lives as the Ancients. Their influence no longer brought terror to men, and in some places men even began to welcome the Namirèn once more, at the end of their lives, as the force that would bring them from Erâth to what lies beyond.