Grand Drama of the Four Ages
It is claimed that the Grand Drama of the Four Ages is told by all peoples of Wu-Yu in one form or another. More likely it spread during the early days of the Empire, and then Imperial theologians “discovered” it among the peoples they later contacted. In any case, it remains one of the most widely diffused of all myths.
The Grand Drama tells of the four phases of the world. In the first three phases, a divine Regent rules the world and ensures order, but the last phase is without a Regent, full of chaos, and heralds the immanent end of the world.
First was the Li Yuga, when ancient dragons soared. Atmah, the World-encircling Serpent, ruled according to li, the principle of natural harmony, and it was good. But after one-hundred eight-thousand years, Atmah sank beneath the sea to contemplate eternity, and the world was left without a Regent.
Without a Regent, death entered the world for the first time. The story of the Dance Upon the Back of Atmah tells how an Elf maiden we now call Bharata set out to overcome death. She won Atmah’s blessing and became the new Regent, ushering in the second age, the Wu Yuga, the Age of Dance. The magic of her wu dances made Elves long-lived, but alas it could not make them immortal. Their lives were too short to master the venerable dragon-wisdom of li, but by the principle of wu they ruled well for twelve-thousand years. Yet their age too came to an end. The Departure of Bharata tells the tragic tale of how Bharata was banished from the world and withdrew to the moon to study the dance of reincarnation. Once again the world was without a Regent.
The Fishing Up of Atmah tells what happened next. It was then that a Dwarf named Thauma went fishing in the sea with an Elf named Viru. Thauma caught Atmah with his fish-hook, and Atmah gave the blessing. Thauma became the new Regent, and thus began the third age, the Zhong Yuga, the Age of Loyalty. The Dwarves had not in their nature the spontaneity of Elves. Unnatural ways grew, and this made necessary a new ethos for the age. The Dwarves lived according to the principle of zhong, enduring loyalty to one’s own nature. They made laws based on loyalty, and built a great empire. In this way the natural and unnatural were evenly balanced. At long last, however, the Dwarven emperors grew corrupt. The Empire finally fell to Orc invaders.
At this point in the story, opinions differ as to what happened next. Many took the fall of Dwarven Rule to indicate that Thauma had withdrawn to the sun to study cosmic law. The world had thus entered the fourth and final age, when there is no Regent and unnatural ways prevail. This last age, called the Kali Yuga, heralds the immanent destruction of the world. Many apocalyptic cults have sprung up around this theme, and the Yamananda Prophecy of ZY1090 led many to sell all their possessions in anticipation of the end. While the prophecy failed, new predictions are made every day. Meanwhile, followers of the Tathatan religion firmly maintain that the Kali Yuga is in full swing and the only thing left to do is meet the end with integrity and courage.
On the other hand, the Imperial cult of Thauma-Virun speaks against this. It maintains that the Kali Yuga has not yet come, that the Zhong Yuga is still going on. They support the claim by pointing to the presence of Viru in the fishing boat when Atmah gave the blessing. The blessing was given not only to Thauma but also to Viru. Furthermore, they claim that Viru is in fact the ancestor of Orc-kind. This they prove by pointing to the similarity between the name Viru and that of Vira, an ancient Orc chieftain. They also point to the similarity between Elves and Orcs in height and traditionally-nomadic lifestyle. Thus, if Viru is the Orc ancestor, and he also received the blessing of Atmah, then Viru is the current Regent, and the end of the world will not come until Orcs fall from power. Orc-rule is legitimated, and the end of the world postponed.
There is in some versions of the Grand Drama talk of a fifth age. After the destruction of the world, of which the Kali Yuga is the harbinger, it is said that a new age of peace will dawn. This will be the Ci Yuga, the Age of Compassion.