We live in the remains of a ruined world.
It was a world much like the one we know, once. People were everywhere, filling even the tallest of buildings, going about their lives one step at a time, working and playing and fighting and doing everything else that makes us human.
And almost none of those people knew that among them lived old and terrible gods.
The old gods preyed upon humanity, fed off of their terror. There were fourteen of them, one for each of humanity’s greatest fears, a veritable pantheon of horrors. Mostly they let humanity do as it wished, but every now and then they would intervene, forcing unlucky victims into unnatural fates designed to create the fear these gods so desired.
While most who knew about the old gods rightly feared them, a few embraced them, reached out to them, became living embodiments of the one that called to them most. These few, these avatars of the old gods, gained supernatural powers, but in exchange they lost much of their humanity as they joined their gods in preying upon mankind.
And then one day, the old gods took over the world, transforming it almost beyond recognition.
How it was done is lost to time, but we know which of the old gods was the instigator: it was the one referred to as the Eye, connected to the fear of being watched, being judged, being known. The sky was consumed by an eye that watched all the world, and regardless of location, all people could see a tower, a symbol of the power that had consumed life as it had once been.
Every one of the old gods had a domain, in this strange and terrible new world that they had created. Almost all of humanity was forced into one of their domains, forced into the most primal and insidious embodiment of the fear that had chosen them. Those that had already become avatars of the gods watched, tending to their god’s domain, but they either could not or would not help the billions of victims within.
Almost all of humanity was stuck within a domain, but the “almost” there is crucial, the technicality which allowed the world as we now know it, life as we now know it, to exist. The exception there is not the avatars, as while they did not suffer in the same way as their former compatriots, to call them human still would be generous at best.
The true exception to this rule lay within the Fearless.
In the world before the transformation, the word “fearless” was often used to mean that a person was brave, was courageous, was able to suppress their fear in the name of a greater cause. Such a meaning is not what is intended here. The Fearless were exactly as their name suggests: entirely lacking in fear, though otherwise remaining human in all ways.
No person is born fearless, however; some may naturally have less fear than others, or may fear different things, but for one to be truly fearless, something has to happen to remove that fear. The Fearless all had gone through trials and tribulations that had ended in their state of fearlessness, and though the details differed, one thing remained the same: all of the incidents that caused fearlessness were, in one way or another, instigated by the old gods.
The gods that fed upon humanity’s fear had inadvertently created humans who lacked that same fear, humans who were immune to their vast and terrible powers.
And so the Fearless wandered through a ruined world.
Some tried to save loved ones who were not Fearless, but it was a lost cause; any who could feel fear would be harvested for it until nothing remained of them. Others tried to reverse the transformation, but that, too, seemed to be a lost cause, at least at first. Nobody could undo what all fourteen of the old gods had done in unison, or so it seemed.
Hundreds, perhaps thousands of years passed as the Fearless wandered, meeting one another by happenstance in the course of their travels, growing closer both literally and metaphorically to their Fearless kin. Exactly how much time passed then is unknown, as the sun no longer rose and set and the seasons no longer shifted, but what is known is that the Fearless lived much longer than any human normally could within that terrible world, and remained as young as they had been when the transformation had begun, no matter how much time had passed within.
Eventually, the suffering of humanity could no longer sustain itself. Eventually, the old gods flickered out of being, one by one, as their domains were emptied, devoid of any humans whose fear they could continue to use as fuel. Eventually, slowly but surely, the transformation faded away, and the world returned to a state of normalcy that had once been taken for granted.
The last of the old gods to perish, fittingly, was the one called the End, connected to the fear of death, of life’s inevitable cessation. But even the End had an end, and the Fearless watched as the last of its victims finally perished, as the world became free of the old gods once and for all.
The sun rose, the sun set, and the Fearless began to rebuild their ruined world.
The work is not yet done, of course. Though the Fearless have been gone for generations now, leaving only their descendants to continue in their wake, the world is not back to what it once was. But in a way, that may not be a bad thing. The world once was a place where the old gods preyed upon ignorant victims, after all, and so long as this story is spread, even if they return to prey upon our fear once more, we shall not be ignorant of what they are.