Time heals all things if given a chance.
The Pillar of the World stood, its magical shield encasing the war-torn planet in protection. The last of the Shade had been vanquished and exiled from the realm. Only the raw elements were left to command the future.
Life exploded from each primordial puddle, evolving rapidly as it mingled with the remaining vestiges of magical essence. Creatures became more complex and diverse, leaving the familiarity of the oceans and streams to feel the sun and feed on the earth. The horrific battle scars of the past began to mend.
Young races founded their homes around the permanence of the monument, societies developing with the Pillar's colossal silhouette as a backdrop for stories and scripture. Primitive religions regarded the structure as a ladder of ascension; a direct path to their deities.
Theocracy prospered, adhering rigidly to the runes that adorned the Pillar's tiers. Acolytes of each element spent their devoted lives to understanding their meaning, witnessing their presence and role in nature. Even with their differences, the sects never embroiled themselves in confrontation. Reverence was paid wholly to the Pillar, and not to its singular layers. The arcane words of magi became the law and total governance of the realm.
But as societies grew more diverse focus on the elements began to diminish. Tribes became kingdoms, concerned only with securing their place in the world, which was now abundant with life. Conquest paved the way towards innovations in agriculture, warfare, housing, and technology.
Sects of the ancient elemental castes still existed; however, they were drowned out by the bustle of commerce and industry. These cabalistic groups still worshiped the Pillar. Chosen individuals claimed to have thaumaturgic connections that allowed them to manipulate mystical energies surrounding it. These claims were initially discounted and many elementalists were imprisoned for their unsettling zealotry.
Witnessing the decline of their rule, these magi became increasingly hostile. Attacks on settlements and government structures became commonplace, further widening the rift that separated them from normal citizens. During a particularly horrifying event known as the Firebreather Uprising, hundreds of civilian cottages were set ablaze in a single night.
This act of aggression prompted overwhelming retaliation. Rising warlords and their engineers sought to wrest any remaining control away from the elementalists, and war terrorized the land. Magi wielded their specialized elemental energies as harrowing bolts and beams, while wooden war-machines rumbled overland slinging great boulders or explosives. Thousands died.
It was not until the appearance of a powerful magi who called herself "The Speaker" that the cycle of violence ceased. Awestruck, sorcerers and soldiers laid down their arms to listen. The strange hooded figure bore a single prophecy:
"Only when the children of the Pillar fuel the engine of fate shall they fortify life, challenge death, and know the true potential of magic."
Stunned by the mysterious power of her words, the warring factions ceased hostilities to consider the prophecy and an armistice was enacted to pursue the meaning of the heavy statement. The resulting peace was sustained by continued collaborations in science, magic, and technology.
~ * ~ * ~ * ~
As the centuries soldiered on in a universal peace, the collection of small nations grew into vast empires. Industry flourished at a breakneck pace. Advances in technology allowed for the complete homogenization of magic and machinery. Elementalism had become a thriving enterprise, improving the lives of thousands of people through fantastical feats of automation. Each sprawling city buzzed along at the pace of its own dedicated magical energy reactor, powered and overseen by elementalists (who were now a surprisingly robust percentage of the population.)
Civilization had reached a prosperous and harmonious future.
From that prosperity, the most powerful empire in the realm made its biggest breakthrough. Harnessing the power of the elements in small reactors had proven efficient in providing power to the masses, but the world's brightest engineers had become involved in a project much more ambitious: a giant engine worthy of The Prophecy's words.
Looming on the horizon, a construct rivaling the immensity of the Pillar itself began to take shape. A massive mountain-sized drum surrounded by bladed spires and miles of copper cabling imposed the landscape. The gleam of its metallic surfaces cast reflections upon the myriad of structures that dotted its perimeter. This mega-reactor's conduits connected to each of its surrounding brethren, having been designed to centralize their collective energy into a super-heated nucleus. The fusion chamber would soon be capable of providing scientists and mages alike with immeasurable knowledge of physics and the workings of the universe.
Citizens from every nation gathered around the reservoir on its opening day. Celebrations sprang up throughout world, hailing the reactor as a technical marvel and a true measure of spirit and ingenuity.
At the end of a reverent countdown, the metal behemoth was powered on. Crowds cheered and threw confetti. Lead engineers waved from the top of the reactor, congratulating one another on a job well done. The engine sparked to life, humming gracefully as the magical energy from several smaller generators was siphoned inward.
The drum began to heat.
Miles of cabling began to buckle and wave, as if part of a grandiose tentacled monster. Rivets exploded from the reactor's seams, and a glow brighter than the sun was beamed through the rips in its flank. Elation turned to horror as pieces of the colossal machine deteriorated like paper engulfed in flame. The mounting pressure released in one immense, silent flash.
The world went white.
~ * ~ * ~ * ~
The explosion had devastated the realm. Cities and nations laid to waste.
Sound was voided save for the wind, which carried smoke over the ruined land. In a single shattering moment, all life had been extinguished.
At the epicenter of the great detonation, a condensed mass of energy remained to govern the upturned blast zone. It pulsed like a star that had become detached from the night sky, tendrils of arcane energy arcing wildly. The orb appeared curiously sluggish, as if roused from a slumber.
Then it stretched all eight of its spindled limbs.