The cavern hummed with silent, eager activity.
It lay deep below the island, far beneath the sea's reach. The water made efforts to remind all present of its dominance; it flowed from vents in the stone, cascading down and crashing against the rocks below. Pristine falls and pools glittered in the white-blue manalights, sending shimmering wave-patterns of light out across the blue walls.
At the center of the cavern, elevated above the rushing waters, stood a platform, formed of thousands of square tiles.
Upon the platform were hundreds of metallic constructs, all moving of their own accord. They were constructed of thousands of interlocking spars, arcs, and tines of metal that ranged from dull gray to lustrous blue. Some stood on four legs. Some stood on two. Others eschewed legs entirely and simply levitated. Their various and diffuse forms were only united by a general similarity of aesthetic; each piece of metal possessed a thin, sharp, and bladelike quality of slightness that lent most an ethereal, delicate presence. They seemed to all be experiments in efficiency, an attempt to make something beautiful and functional from as little material as possible.
Past the platform, across an empty distance through which water pervaded, was a raised, circular dais. The many constructs appeared to be paying it an amount of attention as they interacted amongst themselves, turning occasionally to face it.
Then, darkness grew. The only light that remained was a white-blue glow that rose from beneath the water around the dais.
And from the still water, a machine rose. A thin arc of metal breached the surface, followed by a large limb constructed of hundreds of spokes, struts, and lengths of silvery-blue metal, none of which were thicker than an animal bone. More limbs rose, grasping the side of the dais as a huge figure pulled itself out of the depths. The dim light was scattered and reflected by its body as it climbed, throwing dazzling patterns across the cavern walls. The figure was completely silent as it moved.
It revealed itself to the other constructs, having finished its climb. Its form assaulted the mind, defying concrete shape. Its thousands of individual parts were in constant flux, each miniscule component coming together and gliding apart from hundreds of others in complete silence. It took the general shape of a six-legged beast. The front two legs were colossal, ending in multiple spikes that threatened to pierce the stone beneath them. Their joints ended in elongated, sharp plates whose crests soared several feet into the air, reminiscent of a single moment in the life of a splash of water. Its body was a never-ending puzzle. There was a suggestion of a torso near the front legs, but closer inspection rendered it as ephemeral as the rest of its design.
All at once, it changed. Its multitude of components seemed to flow, coming together, then apart, taking on a new, humanoid shape. Its legs were reverse-jointed, ending in sharp, hoof-like structures. Its four arms glittered in the sparse light as its body finally became still. Its head was devoid of recognizable features, but among the engine's many parts was a suggestion of a deep, massive intelligence that lurked just beneath the surface.
The gathered constructs had become perfectly still the instant they noticed this huge construct, and they faced it, as though straining to listen.
A voice came from the engine, one that seemed to be formed from the hums of thousands of vibrating metallic pieces. It echoed through the cavern, and although it was not deep, it somehow shook the stone, ever slightly.
It said, “My children, we stand here for a singular purpose. And that purpose is remembrance. There comes a time when all sentient beings must reflect on their place in the world. They must strive to understand their origins, their present state, and what lies upon the path before them.
“Today, I shall weave you a tale, a tale that I have told many times. Some of you know it well. Some are only familiar with it. And the rest of you are young. You have not been away from the Ascension Chambers for long. It is for your benefit that I speak today.
“Before I recount this tale, I must address the issue of my own identity. Those present that are young have most likely never seen me before, although you have heard stories, or rumors. I will declare myself to you. Know that I am the Primarch of Eternal Change. I am your creator. Your life is a fragment of my own, and your will is a mutation of the same. These islands are my home, and now it is yours. Know that although you are indeed a part of me, you are not me. I have endowed you all with free will. You are free to act, speak, and think as you choose. You are free to modify yourself far, far beyond the design I have given you. For you are your own; you belong to yourself. But if you are to live under my shelter, you must abide by my doctrine, which I will explain later.
“For now, let us begin our tale. This world is known as Siraus. Long, long ago, it was populated by a profusion of beings that were not as you and I are. They were not made of metal; they were constructed and grown from a substance known as “flesh”. This substance was capable of growing of its own accord. It could repair itself from damage, given enough time. And it was made from a collection of fluids, wet, delicate solids, and sustained chemical reactions. There were many different kinds of these beings, and they fought amongst one another frequently.
“It came to pass that one of these groups, known as the Throne, wished to dominate and control all others. And so, it constructed a weapon made of five components, each designed to gather mana. These components went about their mission separately, and when their work was complete, they would reconvene, together having the power to obliterate all life upon Siraus.
“And unbeknownst to these five constructed beings, their creators had, in their folly, not perfected their design. The device malfunctioned and achieved its directive against the orders of its masters, cleansing all life from this world.
“Only the Five were left, the only remaining things moving across Siraus. Mindless and only aware of their directive, they continued to fruitlessly gather mana, the lifeblood energy of our world that gives rise to our magics and our bodies. But slowly, the mana changed them. They became aware, and the mana that shaped them changed them as well. They were no longer identical. Each percieved a different path through existence.
“They met, and constructed new bodies for themselves, to reflect their new natures. Different though they had become, they agreed upon one thing: Siraus should not remain lifeless. They became committed to repopulating the world, creating new life in their own image. They realized a common design, and so set off to remake their world.
“One went to the ruins of the old Throne, and came to admire them. He grew furious with those that had forced his old masters' hands, and understood the meaning of conquest. He chose to raise a new army, to restore the old world, and bring back its strife. His people are known as the Throneforged.
“One went to the mountains, and found the secrets of forging metal. He grew fascinated with tradition and resilience, and raised his children to harness the power of the mountains themselves. They now work the mountains, harnessing their resources for the benefit of all. His people are known as the Pulseforged.
“One went to the spoiled graves of those that came before, and saw only resources to be used. He grew to be obsessed with power, and his created legions inherited his hunger. Now they stalk the land, knowing not to let the bodies of the fallen lie, but instead using them to enhance their own forms. They exist only to devour. They are known as the Ruinforged.
“One went to the wastes, and saw the extend of the world's wounds. He became deeply grieved upon remembering the lives lost in the destruction, and wished to give life to new beings of flesh, to heal the world and live in the hope of a brighter tomorrow. He and his followers now work to realize this vision, and give genesis to new organic life upon Siraus. His people are known as the Hopeforged.
“The last one went to the islands, and discovered lost knowledge. He learned from the ruins of the old world's history, of their mistakes and their creations. He learned of magic, and he learned of his own creation. He and his people are now dedicated to the preservation of the past, and the creation of the future. His people are known as the Thoughtforged.”
The silent engine raised its four arms and gestured toward the crowd before him. “You are they. I am indeed one of the Five, created long ago for a terrible purpose. Since my awakening, I have defied this purpose. I am not a destroyer. I am a creator. I have created you, and you are all a testament to my cause. Our purpose as those forged in thought is simple. We will all guard the past and lay down the foundation of our future. We will create. We will protect. And we will never, ever destroy. I say to you now that destruction of ideas, destruction of art, and destruction of words are the greatest crimes. Those caught committing such heinous acts will be banished, for all time.
“We must learn from the mistakes of the past. Those that came before were fools. Their lack of foresight and pitiful attempts at control could lead to nowhere but their undoing, and we must not repeat their folly, or we shall share their fate. Not only that, but we must create. We must engender new ideas with which we will create a new world. A world of perfection, as diverse and full of knowledge as the one that came before, yet also greater. Without strife. Without pettiness. Without destruction.
The Primarch's voice rose, sending vibrations thrumming through the cavern. “We are the Thoughtforged, and we must never give in to the destruction of Ruin or the dogmatism of the Throne!” Other, smaller voices began to chime and rattle their assent. “We are ourselves, and we shall always be. Knowledge is our domain, and creation, our fortress! We are change, yes, but we are eternal! So long as we remember, so long as we continue to learn and create, we are indomitable! We are the Thoughtforged, and we are eternal!”
Musical, cacophonous cheers filled the air as all present raised their fists, mimicking their Primarch.
The machine continued, “Go now, and be inspired. Search the ruins, reclaim lost knowledge, and generate new knowledge for us to learn as well! Create vast works of art and magic, the likes of which the world has never known! Go now and claim your place in our world!”
With a final cheer, the Thoughforged dispersed, leaving their Primarch behind. His form changed once more into the six-legged beast, and once more he entered the water without causing a single ripple, disappearing beneath the depths as though he had never been there.