[o] ==>

Once, in this very universe, you could say, Alternia was home to a peaceful race. Trollkind had never known the corrupting influence in their evolution which led them to perpetual war and violence.

That is to say, they had never known me.

As was true of the bellicose world we know, there came to be twelve heroes on this peaceful planet. These heroes too had twelve ancestors whose fortunes were entwined with theirs. These twenty-four figures of legend were not of this world but sent from the sky, delivered from a reality not yet conceived.

On the eve of their race's extinction, the twelve heroes would begin playing a game. They would make an admirable effort, but they would fail. Their civilization had not prepared them for the rigors of this game, and the ultimate reward would fall shy of their grasp. But their failure was more comprehensive, more systemic, than a result of simple inadequacy so common to young players of this game. Though they could not recognize it for the bad omen it was, this session was not the one in which they had been spawned. Such is the symptom of a subtle glitch affecting certain sessions, an error designed to trigger an unfathomable cascade of misfortune throughout paradox space. This glitch is the calling card of the one I serve. It is the discreet, gentlemanly manner in which he reserves his place in a universe for later visitation.

The heroes, understanding their defeat was absolute, sought advice from the mother of all monsters. She offered them a choice. The heroes could either accept their defeat along with the extinction of their race, and put no others at risk. Or, she could show them a path to a second chance, to a reality in which the chosen heroes of their race would be strong enough to succeed with ease, and claim the reward. This reset would come at the cost of wiping the failed heroes from existence. They would live new lives from scratch, playing different roles in the reset reality, with no memory of the game they played or the choice they made.

The heroes chose to accept this bargain, and scratched their session. In doing so they jumpstarted the reality in which the twenty-four figures of legend would together be created - and I as well - and then sent back in time to take our places in history. Though I was delivered well before history even began, before the dawning of life on their planet. This time around, I would oversee its development, and thus fulfill the mother's promise of an aggressive, ruthlessly prepared group of heroes. One that would not rest until victory was secured.

The young twenty-four would again be scattered in two groups, twelve modern contemporaries, and twelve ancients. But in addition to losing their memories of everything that had happened before the scratch, there was another catch for the failed heroes. In the new reality, they would not serve as the heroes. They would mature to become the ancestors of the twelve they formerly regarded as theirs, and this twelve would be chosen for glory. These children would be the heroes to achieve victory, and have the reward easily within reach.

Of course this promise was fulfilled to the letter, as you have seen. The entire bargain was executed without a single hitch, as those authorized by my master always are. There was however one minor anomaly. One of the failed heroes, in his new life as an ancient on this now brutal planet, began to remember. This is his story.

This is the story of the Signless.

> [o] ==>