The Spark of Life:
Long ago, in the far-distant past, Iluvatar created the first members of the Three Races: dragons, Elves, and humans. The timing of these events is somewhat murky, but it is now generally believed that the dragons were made first as guardians of the incipient creation, while Elves and humans were created later and at approximately the same time. The first Elves were created as a relatively large group -- somewhere between a dozen and two hundred, by best estimates -- and placed in the forest of Aelfwood, near the center of the continent of Galendor. Humans, however, originated with a single man and woman, who were placed in the Garden of Paradise somewhere deep in the southern hemisphere.
The location of the Garden is unknown; traditionally, it was believed to be in southern Kitchlande, but recent genetic studies suggest that southeastern Irombi is a more likely location. Wherever it was, however, legends passed down to both the Lothanasi and the Ecclesia tell us that it was a perfect place, a land untouched by the chaos and decay of the outside world -- a realm outside time, or at least where time seemed to hold still. The Man and the Woman tended the garden and ate what it produced for them, and they walked with Iluvatar and were happy. Needless to say, it couldn't last.
The Man and Woman were ejected from the garden and prevented from returning -- but from outside, it was possible to see how Iluvatar had maintained this orderly paradise on Earth. The Man and Woman did not see it themselves, but their later children -- those who gained the ability to see and use magic -- were eventually able to find the Sparks of Life.
At least, that is what they are called now. Glowing orbs of supernatural power, about the size of a man's fist, the Sparks were hidden around the borders of Paradise, maintaining its perfect equilibrium against all outside pressures. The power contained in these artifacts was almost inconceivable. It is, perhaps, only to be expected of human nature that people began to try to tap their power for themselves. The first attempts to do so proved lethal, and even later, more cautious experiments ended with the mages being horribly scarred in body and mind. Humans moved away from Paradise, but the power of the Sparks was never forgotten.
The first true human civilization -- now called the Lost Kingdom by mages and historians -- was ruled by wizards, those who showed the greatest skill in harnessing the power of magic. It was a coastal society, avoiding the harsh interiors of the southern continents and spreading out by boats and ships to the fertile river deltas that spilled into the oceans. Their talent for magic accelerated their advancement, and soon they had spread colonies over much of the world. Still, the mage-kings of the Lost Kingdom hungered for the power of the Sparks -- and one day, after a thousand years or more of trying, one such king was able to break the resonance field that bound the Sparks together, dividing their power so that each one could be approached in isolation and relative safety. From there, harnessing the power of the Sparks was merely a matter of diligence.
One thing that must be understood about the Lost Kingdom is its level of moral and spiritual corruption. Even by the standards of later ancient cultures, which we would consider barbaric today, the Lost Kingdom was aggressive and depraved beyond all comprehension. It is unknown why the humans of this first civilization were so violent, despite their obviously brilliant minds -- many Ecclesiast theologians suspect that the the Adversary and his Fallen angels were partly responsible -- but everyone agrees that it is a good thing that they never encountered the Elves, because this group of humans would have exterminated them without a second thought. Fortunately, the Elves were deep in the interior of their own continent, and the humans of the Lost Kingdom feared to travel far from the water's edge. (It is possible that this fear had been engendered in them by a few encounters with territorial dragons, but we can only speculate.)
In light of this, it can be understood why it was so serious when the mages of the Lost Kingdom discovered dimensional travel. Utilizing the power of the Sparks, wizards peered into their scry-glasses and found that whole new Earths existed beyond the walls of space and time, rich worlds full of other humans or almost-humans with their own civilizations. To the mage-king, the implications were obvious: his people wasted far too much time and effort fighting among themselves for the resources they were able to reach while staying near the oceans. Announcing a war of conquest against whole other worlds might be just what was needed to unite his people. He ordered the wizards to begin constructing a great portal,using the power of all the Sparks, which could carry an entire army through to these other worlds. Construction of the dimensional gate was soon underway.
What happened next is somewhat unclear, but based on the myths and legends of a wide variety of human cultures, it is clear that the Lost Kingdom was struck by an environmental cataclysm so complete that the entire civilization was destroyed. Modern geology and climatology experts point to a rapid thawing of the polar ice caps at about the same time that the Lost Kingdom is believed to have ended; this sudden global warming would have caused a worldwide flood of all the coastal regions where the Lost Kingdom's cities were located. Legend also says that the capital city, located on an island just off the coast of one of the southern continents, was struck by an earthquake and sank into the ocean, crumbling the unfinished portal and scattering the Sparks across the sea floor. Only small pockets of humanity survived the disaster, hidden in mountains or on ships that they had received prophetic warnings to build. Interestingly, the legends always hold up these surviving families as the most honorable and decent human beings in an otherwise treacherous community (which may have something to do with why they were exiled to the mountains in the first place).
The cause of the cataclysm remains a mystery, at least to science. To those of a religious persuasion, it is generally acknowledged that Iluvatar -- by whatever name He/She/It is called in the religion in question -- destroyed the human civilization rather than let them carry their violence and evil to other, more peaceful worlds. To this day, no one has conducted any but the most superficial investigation of dimensional travel beyond the planes immediately associated with MK2K's Earth -- while most scientists wouldn't admit it, everyone is afraid of what the consequences might be if humans did learn to pierce the veil between worlds again.
While the Lost Kingdom was destroyed, however, the Sparks could not be. Most of them are believed to have fallen into the ocean trench, far beyond human reach, but one was recovered early in the first milennium C.R. The Amber Order, an elite caste of mages within the Suielman Empire, found one Spark of Life and began to use it in their work, crafting powerful automatons to serve the Empire (and themselves). The greatest of their order, a wizard named Bolva, eventually turned on the others and sought the Spark of Life for himself, believing (correctly) that it would grant him godlike powers and immortality if properly used. The other wizards held him off long enough to hide the Spark inside an automaton, the greatest one they had ever made. The Spark became the heart of the machine, giving it incredible strength and an unlimited operating time. Once they bonded it with a human soul -- a guard who had volunteered for the duty -- the automaton became a sentient being, dedicated to protecting the Spark at any cost. The wizards of the Amber Order named him Omega, for they knew that they were doomed and he was the last automaton they would ever build. Bolva was stopped, imprisoned within the ruins of the Order's fortress in the Barrier Mountains, but the other wizards paid for it with their lives. Omega went into hibernation, the threat to the Spark seemingly over.
Omega was awakened centuries later, in 706 CR, by Misha Brightleaf, leader of the Long Scouts of Metamor Keep. The automaton was taken back in secret to Metamor, where he took up residence in the Scouts' headquarters (the whimsically named Long Hall) and remained hidden from most of the Keep's population. He revealed to Misha that he was a guardian of a powerful secret, but he never told Misha about the Spark of Life or the power it had. Omega formed a friendship with Kyia, the Spirit of Metamor, and would have been content to spend the rest of his days at Metamor, guarding the Spark and the Keep alike from any harm that might come to them.
Even today, Omega still dwells in the Citadel of Metamor, and the Spark of Life remains a secret. Like all secrets kept so long, however, small leaks in its security have taken place here and there over the years -- not enough for any casual observer to find the truth, but enough that one who was dedicatedly searching for it would be able to put the pieces together. And whatever else he might lack, the spirit of Nasoj has dedication in spades.
Nasoj wants the Spark of Life -- wherever it is -- for one reason: He knows that the Spark can be used to enable planar travel. When Merai Starchild emptied the Nine Hells and destroyed the mystical Axis that bound them to the material plane, she removed the only means for the gods, daedra, or anyone else to travel freely between the Earth and those outer planes. (The spirits of the dead still pass through the Hells, but they cannot control the process, they lose energy along the way, and it's a one-way trip.) If Nasoj can get access to the Hells, he can draw on all of that power that has been sitting out there and accumulating since the gods fell to Earth. This would give him undisputed mastery over any of the gods or daedra lords, and even over Kyia herself. The consequences of this are best left unimagined.
Author's Note: When the story arc begins, the heroes have no idea what Nasoj is seeking -- the Spark of Life is so removed from most people's memories that it doesn't even occur to them, in spite of the wording of Zhypar's prophecy. Omega knows where the Spark is, of course, but he feels that they have a better chance of keeping it out of Nasoj's hands if he doesn't say anything about it -- less chance of the wrong person finding out. This is the one secret that he keeps even from Kyia. Sadly, he proves unable to keep it entirely secret from someone as persistent as Nasoj.