Official History of Underlight
How did the Dream come into being? What is the Great Loss, and why did the Houses come into existence? The following account, as told by the illuminate Yog-Ka, gives us some insight into the conception of the Dream City and the events leading up to the influx of new dreamers.
The world of Cloudsbreak is not a world at all, but a dimension unto itself... always shifting, always changing... A place that is not a place, but a realm of chaos filled with pockets of stability. Within these pockets of stability exist regions of many varieties... simple lands, rich in natural resources, unspoiled by warfare or hardship. These pocket regions float and bob within the realm of Cloudsbreak with no rhyme or reason, disconnected from each other and secluded unto themselves. The people of Cloudsbreak have learned over time that to venture forth into the swirling mists that surround their various lands is madness. Many a foolhardy explorer disappeared forever into the Boundary Mists. And so as the civilizations of these tribes developed over time they became more and more inclusive. They lived off the bounty of the land they inhabited and spent their free time developing their minds and spirits. For millennia it was so, and the people grew complacent in their peace and dedicated to their meditative disciplines. And then everything changed. Then came the Awakening.
The name of the first inhabitant of Cloudsbreak to achieve Awakening has been lost to antiquity, but imagine the thrill and the terror they must have felt upon achieving it. Suddenly, through a dream, they were pulled from their physical body and into a realm where they existed only as purest spiritual essence. This new realm was a place of psychic chaos, where the raw emotions of all who sleep churn endlessly. Over time, the Awakened learned to manipulate the essence of the dreamstate. One, Gerriel Endeth, used it to form an outer skin... a shell to contain and protect her personal essence, and so the first Dreamer was born. Many others soon followed. Now, with cohesion of form, these Dreamers could exist within the dreamstate collectively and for long periods. The fear of being swept away by waves of consciousness was lessened. The dreamstate became a meeting ground for those who had achieved the Awakening. The impact of this upon Cloudsbreak was enormous. For the first time in known history the scattered peoples of Cloudsbreak could meet and intermingle, trading knowledge, histories and opinions. Within Cloudsbreak, those who had attained Awakening were seen as holy men or shamans. Some, like the legendary Rek Nektu, rose to great power among his people almost overnight when he achieved Awakening. Others, like the Trinity Brotherhood, kept their dreaming a secret from the rulers of their lands until they'd built a powerful network of spies in the dream. Soon every culture and society was transformed by the mere presence of these Dreamers. For a people to have a Dreamer living among them was a special thing, because this Dreamer could bring them news from far off lands and also try to teach the Awakening to others.
But the dreamstate was still dangerous, an endless dimension of pure psychic power. The Dreamers who would one day be known as the Master Dreamwrights had learned to create a cohesive shell for their essence. Now they began to develop other disciplines... higher workings of the mind, which allowed them to create solid matter of the raw essence of the dreamstate. Eventually they grew strong in these disciplines and began building a permanent refuge: Underlight.
The City of Dreams
The City of Underlight began humbly. When at last the first Dreamers developed the ability to form solid matter of the essence, the first thing they constructed was a room. This room provided refuge from the swirling chaos of the dream and allowed the Dreamers to finally get to know one another. Over time this fabled room became the Hall of Voices, for it was there that people from every part of Cloudsbreak could speak and be heard. The original Dreamers became known as the Dreamwrights, for they had developed the ability to mold the Dream to their wishes. They added other rooms, all designed to educate the newly Awakened in the ways of the Dream. Eventually they developed the Courtyard of Awakening, weaving its essence in such a way that it would serve as a beacon for the newly Awakened. Now whoever experienced the Awakening would naturally be drawn to the small complex of rooms called the Citadel. Eventually a protective outer ring of rooms was built around the Citadel's perimeter, serving as the Threshold between it and the chaos. So was born the City of Underlight, and from that point it only grew bigger. The Dreamwrights had become the Master Dreamwrights, and their ability to form matter out of the essence began to take on finer forms. Rivers and lakes were created and mountains were thrown up to the sky. A rich and diverse land was laid forth by the Master Dreamwrights. As more and more of the people of Cloudsbreak awoke into the Dream, they found a world they could at last share. The Awakening became more common, and soon nearly every inhabitant of Cloudsbreak had attained the Dream. In a strange twist of irony, the Dream became the focus of everyone's lives while their existence in the Waking World was seen as a regrettable necessity.
This importance of the Dream over the Waking World led many to question its purpose and nature. Two schools of thought emerged: Freesoul and Illuminate. The Freesoul believed that the Dream was a dream with little or no direct influence upon the Waking World. The Illuminated believe that actions in the Dream produce results in the Waking World of one kind or another. A philosophical debate grew out of these differences, culminating in the heated discussions at the Totality Summit, where Keminar of Faraway and Trinxan the Illuminated ended their differences in a duel in the Amphitheatre of the Sphere.
As the Master Dreamwrights grew old or receded into privacy it was left to the Dreamers they'd fostered to determine the course of the dreamstate... and so ended the centuries old peace that had reigned in the Dream.
The Dreamer Wars
The Dreamer Wars began as nothing more than a series of skirmishes among the new breed of Dreamers. These Dreamers had no part in the construction of the City but were eager to learn the ways of the Dream and had more time on their hands than those who'd come before them. As the Freesoul-Illuminate debate grew, these Dreamers began to form groups around the most popular beliefs. There was no such thing as death in the Dream, and so many of these Dreamers practiced little restraint in evoking their Arts upon each other. The problem grew so profound that Mohteq the Elder formed the Order Patrol to suppress the open fighting between the FreeSoul Knights and the Illuminated Front, but it was too late. Soon there were grudges and arguments everywhere, and the city of Underlight was no longer the place of peace it had been designed for. As the feuding Dreamers grew strong in their abilities, the chaos only spread. Threshold was a hub of constant combat as one faction or the other fought to hold or gain ground. And then one of the greatest achievements of the Dream came at the worst possible time: the construction of Talismans. A group of Dreamwrights had become specialized, advancing their power to manipulate essence into matter. As they developed this to a fine Art, they found a process that allowed them to create Talismans of Power. The first was created by Poantes of Vorsage, and was called an "elemen"... a talisman forged of one element of the dreamstate in its purest form. Then Aybol the Determinus perfected a means of instilling in a talisman the energies of an evoked art, forging the first alterors. It wasn't long before talismans of many different types and abilities were being produced. The specialized Dreamwrights who developed this process became known as Dreamsmiths.
The impact on the Dream of talismans cannot be overstated. Suddenly many powers that used to take months to master became available in talisman form to any Dreamer. Many of the Dreamsmiths supplied talismans only to their own clans within the Dream. The demand grew so great that Markosh the Dreamsmith eventually perfected a process called "spawn-shaping". By specially treating areas in the City which possessed specific energies, Markosh created "essence fonts" which regularly spawn-shaped talismans of power. These spawn-shapers automated the process of talisman creation, producing an endless number of talismans, and making the rival factions in the Dream powerful. However, Markosh jealously guarded the spawn-shaping process, using it for his own gain, and the secret of how to do it died with him.
It was perhaps predictable that the first faction of Dreamers to build a significant surplus of talismans was the now-extinct Srechethan Kabal, which had always coveted complete rulership of the Dream. But their rivals were also large in number and well armed, and with the Battle of Sunroof Cavern open warfare ensued. No one was safe in Threshold or anywhere else in the City of Underlight. The Dreamers warred with abandon, reducing their enemies to soulsphere on sight. There was no death in the Dream, but a Dreamer's power could be eroded with every battle that ended in his dissolution. With this in mind, the warring Dreamers attacked one another endlessly in a bid for dominance in the Dream.
The carnage became so widespread and so prevailing that the Master Dreamwrights became alarmed. Their creation, the City itself, was being abused for the purpose of warfare. One group of Master Dreamwrights, led by Hartisan the Red and Turgin Lambent, became determined to put an end to the conflict once and for all. Their group would later become known as the Dreamstrike Masters.
Dreamstrike is the ultimate punishment any person can suffer, for it causes not only death of the body in the Waking World, but also the soul of the Dreamer. It is true death, final and complete. With this Art perfected, the Dreamstrike Masters entered the war-torn Threshold and moved through it as a group, collapsing and then Dreamstriking Dreamer after Dreamer. This infamous surprise assault, the Dreamstrike Offensive, changed the Dream forever. The boldness that fueled so many of the warring clans became fear as they were forced out of Threshold. They retreated to the far ends of the lands and began constructing great fortresses to guard themselves. So reigned another shaky peace, as the Dreamstrike Masters occupied Threshold and the organized factions of Dreamers squatted in the lands beyond. Skirmishing still continued in the open lands, but open warring had been put down by the coming of Dreamstrike. But this was only the calm before the storm.
The Nightmare Wars
Not all the Master Dreamwrights were pleased with the coming of Dreamstrike, and in fact many were angered by it. A group of them, the Entropy Coalition, secluded themselves and began exploring ways to counter this new and terrible power. They turned to the deep chaos outside the city walls for their answer. They believed they could find a way to pull the raw energy of the chaos into Underlight and turn it against the Dreamstrike Masters. But their attempts to bring that energy inside the city would have disastrous results. The chaotic forces outside had intensified since the city's creation... the pressure of the raw essence swirling against the city walls had only increased. As the Entropy Coalition furthered their efforts to breach into the deep chaos, they unknowingly weakened the walls of the city, the barrier holding back the chaos. Small rips and breaks began forming in the walls, just big enough to permit creatures of chaos to enter the city: Nightmares.
Many debates have been waged over the exact nature of the Mares, and many more are no doubt still to come. These debates do nothing to reflect the horror and carnage that drove across the City on the day the Mares first found entry... the Day of the Savaging. The Mares came in great numbers, masses of them, streaming from the outer lands straight for Threshold. Any Dreamer encountered was set upon and collapsed to soulsphere by the chaotic horde. Many were caught unprepared in their keeps and houses, for such a threat had never been encountered before. The Mares cast a thick vicious shadow over the entire City and forced the Dreamers to organize and cooperate... for a time.
Klin Benfar, a Master Dreamwright Elder whose powers far surpassed any of the Dreamwrights or Dreamsmiths, took the first step toward protecting the dreamstate from the Mares when he developed the first Sanctuary. The ambient essence of the Sanctuary area prevented aggressive actions and caused searing pain to any Mare who entered it. Klin Benfar and his apprentices constructed Sanctuaries throughout the dreamstate. Using the Sanctuaries, the Dreamers finally had a foothold with which to stand against the destructive tide of marauding Mares.
But still the Mares swarmed the city, and the lands were in total turmoil. The various factions of Dreamers in the land had banded together to deal with the Mare threat. Their fortresses became fortified as never before, equipped with sanctuaries and armories. Guards stood strong in strategic locations to keep the Mares from overrunning their Houses. Regular patrols were formed to seek out roving Mares and collapse them. And, as House organization grew stronger, their philosophers attempted to uncover the truth behind the Mares. What were these vile creatures exactly?
In an effort pioneered by Relminus the Blind, philosophers throughout Underlight began to study the essence left behind by a Mare that's been collapsed. But to ask the question "what is a Mare?" proved as hard as asking, "what is a man"? The Freesoul and Illuminate schools of thought began to divide into more defined ideologies as they explored the question. As these ideologies developed, they did so around the great Houses, which had been erected by Dreamers over the centuries. For centuries more the Houses developed around the study of Mares, and the problem of how to rid the Dream of their teeming masses. There was little warfare between Dreamers because most were simply taking refuge in the Houses and the Sanctuaries or combating the Mare threat. The last phase of this period when the Houses were aligned against the Mares was marked by the creation of portals.
In order to stem the never-ending tide of mares flooding the city, a group of Master Dreamwrights led by Syriand the Graceful and Lagumbar Staggern developed a means of fencing off sections of the Dream from one another. To do this they constructed "portals" at strategic locations. These portals operated under the same principle as Sanctuary and were impassable by the Mares. Later it was discovered by the Seekers of Knowledge that being contained by portals made the ambient essence within an area easier to harness. This would eventually spawn new varieties of Arts meant to take advantage of these areas of effect. It would also lead to the development of one of the most significant Arts ever created: Join Party.
Syriand, Lagumbar, assisted by an alliance of Dreamwrights and Dreamsmiths, moved through the lands, segmenting them with portals. They started at the Houses and at Threshold and worked their way inward. Gradually the never-ending flow of Mares was stopped. The Mares were still able to squeeze into the Dream through small ruptures but the portals prevented them from moving freely about it. The Nightmare Wars were over... but their most powerful legacy was just being created.
Even as Syriand and Lagumbar finished construction of the portals, a new artifact was being created in House Calenture. The reclusive Master Zordon and his team of Dreamsmiths known as the Forgers Circle were putting the finishing touches on a new kind of talisman that would forever change the Dreamstate: The Orb of Calenture. The Orb was an artifact unlike any ever seen before, for it could take the essence of a Mare and banish it from the Dream easily. The creation of this artifact sparked anger among those Dreamers who believed Mare essence was too valuable to banish and should be imprisoned. It also stirred envy among the other factions who believed in banishment. Soon other prime artifacts were created, talismans held sacred to the Houses. These prime artifacts could either banish or imprison Mare essence according to the beliefs of the House Dreamsmiths who created it.
Friction between the Houses grew as each practiced it's own beliefs and dealt with the Mare essence in it's own way. With the Nightmare Wars at an end, Sanctuaries constructed, and portals placed, the Houses found themselves strong and ready to defend their interests. Underlight was on the verge of another Dreamer War when the Battle of Rock Falls broke out. Two of the most powerful Houses in the Dream, Dreamers of Light and House Calenture, fell into all-out confrontation over the fate of the essences stored within their prime artifacts. When the battle was over, two Rulers of Light were dead by Dreamstrike. Skirmishes between Houses erupted, and each House began to take advantage of the portals to seal off their claimed lands. As each conflict arose, it seemed more and more certain the dreamstate was heading toward another period of all-out warfare. The reality of what was about to happen was far, far worse.
The Great Loss
It was a day just like any other in the City of Underlight. In Threshold experienced Dreamers and the Newly Awakened met and intermingled. In the Houses meetings were being held and reports were being made. In the lands Mares were being hunted and essences collected. And on the fringe of the dreamstate, a team of Master Dreamsmiths and Dreamwrights called the Overscanners, led by a Master Dreamwright Elder named Ibioc, were trying to find a way to repair the city walls and keep the Mares out once and for all.
The Overscanners began their effort by forming a group meditation and reaching out with their minds in order to probe the weakened sections of the city walls. They had no idea that the pressure on the other side of that wall had grown far stronger since the onset of the Nightmare Wars. The City of Dreams, an encapsulated object within the mass torrent of chaos, was under severe pressure and ready to pop.
And that's just what it did. Before these Master Dreamwrights could realize it, the city walls blew apart and a roaring wave of consciousness flooded into Underlight! The Overscanners were torn asunder, and their minds blasted apart within the space of a heartbeat.
The Dorsal Rift was born.
The monstrous wave of consciousness slammed through the Dream, blowing through the portals and rushing toward Threshold. Dreamers caught by it's sudden onslaught were also utterly slain, their very souls shredded by the waves of raw psychic essence! The wave hit the Houses and even their mighty walls could not hold it back. It reached Sanctuary and wiped through it before the screams could even take the air.
Within a period of minutes, every single Dreamer in the city was utterly slain.
The city itself began to spread and shake as the Dorsal Rift grew. Alerted to the disaster while in the waking world, the remaining Dreamers and Master Dreamwrights entered the Dream. There they found utter carnage; the dreamstate rippled with raw uncontrolled power and the death essences of Dreamer and Mare alike littered the lands.
Fighting the continuing waves of consciousness, every surviving Master Dreamwright - the last of their kind - gathered and forced their way outward toward the Dorsal Rift. Among them were FreeSoul, Illuminate and Free Spirit alike, joined in a last-ditch effort to save Underlight. The City was quickly being pulled apart and would soon lose all cohesion if the rift wasn't closed. Arriving at the Dorsal Rift, the Master Dreamwrights found a massive gape in the City, and beyond it roiling and angry chaos. All that had been accomplished in the Dream since it's first day was on the verge of being lost.
The Master Dreamwrights did as their fellows the Overscanners had done that very day... they formed a group meditation and began to focus on the rift. They reached out, pulling at the edges of the rift as they strengthened the city walls. With a heroic effort of will, this group of Master Dreamwrights stopped the Dorsal Rift from spreading and began to pull it closed. For hours they labored to gain control of it, pulling it tighter and tighter, until the moment came when they might completely seal it.
It was in that moment that they were lost. Again the Master Dreamwrights had failed to understand the ways in which exterior pressures bear down on the city. In the moment they made their last thrust to close the Dorsal Rift, a second rift blew open in the exact opposite side of the city... and the Caudal Rift was born. A second wave of consciousness erupted from it, this one crashing down the lands, through Threshold, and straight into the Dorsal Rift. The Master Dreamwrights who had nearly succeeded in closing the Dorsal Rift were caught up and destroyed, their psyches ripped apart and blasted out of the city. This wave of consciousness, while somewhat smaller than the first, was just as deadly to the Dreamers caught in its path. Large teams of Dreamers, at work collecting the essence of their slain comrades and trying to repair damage done were caught in this second wave and slain.
The Great Loss is aptly named. Nearly every Dreamer had been killed, and the realms of Cloudsbreak were a relative wasteland, populated only by a few fortunate survivors.
Now, months later, those who've newly Awakened into the Dream find the city called Underlight a land of opportunity and danger. As the Great Houses are rebuilt and research into the nature of the Dream continues, as the Mare menace grows and new threats arise, new Dreamers must ask themselves where they stand... and what they'll fight for.