The Thirteen Worlds
Once, long ago, or so the story goes, in the Deep Time, there was a great dragon, oldest of the old. In the days when the dragons roamed the universe, all of space and time was their plaything, and they revelled in it. They would create and destroy empires in a day, build vast, complicated civilisations for amusement. And once, it is said, they even created a history for themselves where they were the created, not the creators.
In those days, this mighty creature tired of such deeds, and wished to rest a while. And so it laid itself upon the bare rock of a world in a universe far removed from its origin, for it desired peace, and amongst its kind such a thing was rare in those days. For having faced one great war, in times so distant barely a memory of them remained, now they faced another Enemy, and a war that could unravel even the dragons great weavings. The dragon slept, and whilst it slumbered, it took upon itself a form more suitable for the task. Dragons, you see, have no one shape, and can be anything they choose.
Whilst it slept, the dragon changed. Deep roots penetrated deep into the heart of the world, and mighty branches reached upwards into the skies. And because the dragon was not bound as you or I to one realm, these branches, nine in number, reached out to touch many planes. And deep below the ground, the three great roots drank deeply of the wells of different worlds.
Eventually, there came a day when the dragon awakened, and was a dragon no more, but a mighty Ash tree, standing at the heart of the Universe it had created for itself. Yggdrasil, men named it, the Heart of the World. Its nine branches and three roots, together with its mighty trunk, hold together the thirteen worlds that stand at the heart of the Alliance forged in its name.
Some say that Odin, first of the mages, tore a sprig from the tree, with which he wounded himself in the eye before hanging by one foot over the well of Hvergelmir for nine days and nights. Half blinded and near death, he sought the wisdom of the dragon, the secrets of time and space. On the ninth night, the Norns cut him down from the tree, and gave to him a draught from the well, which bubbled up from the deepest root of the tree. Later, Merlin of Breceliande would likewise sacrifice a part of himself for knowledge, and the ability to walk unfettered through time.
In the branches of Yggdrasil dwell the two ravens Hugin and Munin. Thought and Memory. It is said that those who have bound themselves to the tree are forever followed by these creatures, who serve as guides to those who dare to wake the dragon. By the shores of Lake Hvergelmir, deep underground where the greatest root of Yggdrasil winds its way, dwell the Norns, keepers of the well of Hvergelmir where it springs into the world above. They are the protectors of the tree, oracular priestesses of an ancient order, three of the last members of the race spawned by the dragons to act as their "creators". For, so it is said, other dragons followed Yggdrasil through the veils of the worlds, and brought the dragon-born with them. Yet the dragons soon found that their powers were limited, in these worlds. No longer did they have the power to wander at will through time, but must tread instead well-worn paths, or else take to the freedom of the many worlds Yggdrasil held together.
But that, as they say, is another tale.
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