The predominant theme in Myth is that of an epic, thousand-year cycle of wars and conflicts, Light and Dark, and numerous other recurring things.
There are two different accounts of the Cycle:
- The Long Cycle was the older fan theory, and agrees with both GURPS Myth and Myth 3, although all of these have some interdependence on each other as sources.
- The Short Cycle is a newer fan theory, and disregards everything not released by Bungie themselves, in the process also agreeing with Bungie pre-release materials.
The Long Cycle
The first, most obvious aspect of the cycle is the Leveller. In Myth, The Leveller returned 50 years ago and razed Muirthemne, and we have been fighting ever since. We learn that a thousand years before that, Connacht defeated the evil Myrkridia - who had in turn ruled for a thousand years. So there's a thousand years of dark, followed by a thousand years of light, and now The Leveller is back again. That establishes a pretty obvious pattern.
We hear that there are four Eras in an Avatara flavor text, and that Mazzarin, of the Wind Age, was the most powerfull of the Avatara in all of them. Since this age is just beginning, that means that Connacht's light era, the Wolf Age or Age of Light, was the Fourth Era; and the Wind Age before that was the Third Era. Balor's flavor text speaks of a hero in the Second Era, establishing that that era was Light, which fits the pattern - the Light Second Era, the Dark Third Era (Wind Age), the Light Fourth Era (Wolf Age / Age of Light), and the current Dark age (which is, frighteningly enough, no longer that Dark), called the Sword Age by some.
In Myth II, we hear of an age called the Axe Age, in which the Free Cities of the North were first settled, and in which the fir'Bolg first used wolves in their conflict with man. Evidence seems to go both ways for this, so we didn't know where in the great pattern this age fit in. Not until GURPS was it known that the Axe Age is defined as all of prehistory, everything before the Age of Reason began in 570 H.C.
In the Myth II epilogue, all our theories were confirmed. We hear that in the Second Era, the great hero Tireces slew the Leveller and ushered in the Age of Reason. Then a thousand years later, Tireces returned as Moagim, The Leveller, and ushered in the Wind Age. In the Fourth Era, Connacht killed an unnamed new Leveller, who in GURPS Myth is said to be called by some "Moagim Reborn" - and Myth 3 confirms that this is his identity.
The epilogue also established that heroes returning as Levellers seems to be a normal thing in Myth, and not a special circumstance with Connacht returning as Balor. The first Great Hero, Tireces, returned as Moagim, and then two thousand years later Connacht returned as Balor. There also seems to be a pattern in how people return. In both known Light eras, the Age of Reason and the Wolf Age, the Hero slew the Leveller and returned a thousand years later as the new Leveller. But in the only known Dark age, both Hero and Leveller died, and the Leveller was reborn a thousand years later. Because the current age is meant to be Dark, and Balor is dead, that means if Alric dies soon things may still be on track, and Balor will be reborn in a thousand years.
So we have a simple cycle of:
- New Hero arises, defeats reborn Leveller, then vanishes.
- Hero returns as Leveller, defeats new Hero, then dies.
The Dueling Champions
But there may be more to it than just Saviors and Levellers. GURPS Myth tells us that Mythworld religions believe that not only do many heroes return as villains - but vice versa. On this theme, it suggests that because of Alric's hatred of horses, he may be a reincarnation of Moagim, who was drawn and quartered by four immortal horses. If this is true, then Tireces, Moagim, Moagim Reborn, and Alric - half of the known Saviors/Leveller - are all reincarnations of the same soul! And since half of the remaining four are the same person, Connacht/Balor, and the remaining two are completely unknown, then perhaps ALL Levellers and Saviors are incarnations of the same two souls, eternally dueling champions!
If we examine the evidence further, then we see that there is a very clear, four-era pattern to the two spirits and their Leveller / Savior associations. In the Second Era, the spirit of Alric - call it the A-spirit - came as the Savior, and defeated an unknown Leveller, before disappearing into history. Then, in the Third Era, he returned as the Leveller, and defeated an unknown Hero before being killed himself. In the Fourth Era he was reborn, again as the Leveller, but this time he lost - just like the Leveller he defeated in the Second Era. And now, in the Fifth Era, he returns as a Light champion again.
The spirit of Balor - call it the B-spirit - was born as a Light champion in the Fourth Era, and soundly defeated the Leveller of that era, exactly as Tireces had two thousand years earlier. He then vanished into history, to return a thousand years later as the Leveller - again, exactly as Tireces had. If you follow this pattern, then in the next Era he would be reborn as Balor again and again defeated, and after that he would return as a Light champion - precisely as the first unknown Leveller and Hero who opposed Tireces and Moagim!
This leaves us a more complex cycle of:
- New A-Hero arises, defeats reborn B-Leveller, then vanishes.
- A-Hero returns as A-Leveller, defeats new B-Hero, then dies.
- New B-Hero arises, defeats reborn A-Leveller, then vanishes.
- B-Hero returns as B-Leveller, defeats new A-Hero, then dies.
Order, Chaos, and Geography
SiliconDream once pointed out that the A-spirit and B-spirit seem to have distinct personalities to them, aside from their individual incarnation or Leveller/Savior associations. These personalities seem to center around the aspects of order and chaos, another one of Bungie's favorite topics.
It has been noted that the the A-Leveller Moagim utilized primarily Myrkridia, a very flat, chaotic fighting force with little structure or order, who were simply viscious animals doing what they normally did until a more epic agenda. Likewise, the A-Hero Alric is the single, sole ruler of a more-of-less equal populace, who may have their kings and fiefs and such, but are entirely without any other rulers anywhere near to Alric's level - just like Moagim was to the Myrkridia.
Likewise, B-Hero Connacht was the supreme Emperor, but he had his great lieutenants like Damas, powerfull Avatara like Myrdred, great kings in the allied nations of Dwarves and Berserks, and all sorts of other layers between Savior and King. He lead a very orderly, structured, multi-layered world. Then, when he returned as Balor, the B-Leveller, he still had his lieutenants (the Fallen Lords), they had their Shades, Trow generals, and other underlings, and then the Undead themselves were directly controlled extensions of their creators. Again, a very structured and orderly system.
The order/chaos balance may also play a role in the functions of the Leveller. As you can see, the Leveller does not neccesarily represent chaos, nor is chaos synonymous with destruction. Excessive order can also be destructive or evil - the perfect order is pure, empty space, and a flat, blasted land is fairly close to that. Likewise, absolute chaos is also the rubble of blasted lands, or the quantum chaos of empty space. So from this, we can see that neither order or chaos is explicitly dark, but that absolutes of them are. The reverse of this is, a perfect balance between them is the epitomy of light. So perhaps the Leveller simply functions by pushing the predestined archmage over the edge into an absolute of his own order/chaos affiliation.
Geography also comes into play here. In the far east it is thought to be dark lands. GURPS tells us that across the western ocean is a land of eternal light called the Faraway. So it appears that east is Dark (more extreme) and west if Light (more balanced). If you observe the chaos/order affiliation of various races, you can also find evidence of an order/chaos spread in Myth geography. The southeast is the dark, chaotic Untamed Lands. The northeast has races such as the Trow, who are certainly very orderly, and it is thought that beyond the northeast are horrible lands inhabited by the undead. So it appears that the north is order and the south is chaos. However, in the west, the north is inhabited by the chaotic Berserks and the Free Cities of the North, while the south is inhabited by the orderly Province. Throw in that orderly Muirthemne is in the approximate center of the world, it appears that the order/chaos spectrum may run in bands from southwest to northeast. Thanks to SiliconDream for the evidence behind all this.
Now, we know that Tireces arose in the east. When he returned as Moagim, it was also from the east. Connacht came from the east, as did Balor (who should have been victorious, despite his own death). So it seems that the victor always comes from the east. From this, and that we know Moagim Reborn and Alric both came from the West, we can extrapolate that the loser always comes from the West. SiliconDream suggested on the Asylum that this may be because the more extreme champions of Light and Dark have a greater military strength, being more obsessed with their cause.
So the full cycle now plays out as:
- A-Hero reincarnated in the east;
B-Leveller is reborn in the west;
A-Hero defeats B-Leveller, ushering in a Light Era, then vanishes.
- A-Hero returns from the east as A-Leveller;
B-Leveller is reincarnated as B-Hero in the west;
A-Leveller defeats B-Hero, ushering in a Dark Era, then dies.
- B-Hero reincarnated in the east;
A-Leveller is reborn in the west;
B-Hero defeats A-Leveller, ushering in a Light Era, then vanishes.
- B-Hero returns from the east as B-Leveller;
A-Leveller is reincarnated as A-Hero in the west;
B-Leveller defeats A-Hero, ushering in a Dark Era, then dies.
The Comet and Tharsis
GURPS Myth also tells us something about the comet which heralds the Leveller's arrival. In the Fifth Era, it came from the east. In the Fourth Era, it came from the west. It came in the Third, but we don't know where from. This is not a lot of evidence to go on, but it appears that the Comet always comes from the same direction as the Dark. This may explain the cycles of Light and Dark; the dueling spirits would arise and battle with or without the comet, but whichever direction the comet comes from is Dark. However, whoever's in the east always wins, so since the comet, and hence the Dark, alternates directions each time (for whatever inscrutable reason), it loses half the time. This may also tie in to the Trow cycles from times of yore, where a new race would arise and challenge the Trow every thousand years only to be KIKd to oblivion. This is just the cycle trying to exert itself over an unstoppable enemy. Whether it was coming from east or west, the Trow were always stronger than the new races, and so there were no cycles of Light and Dark for them - just a war every millenium and peace in between.
A secondary effect related to the comet appears to be the volcano Tharsis. In TFL, it erupted for the first time in ten centuries - the same time the last Comet came. GURPS Myth tells that Tharsis' eruption always echoes the comet's arrival. What significance this may have is unknown, but Tharsis is called the Forge of the Trow, and was created by their creator Nyx. Perhaps all of this ties together in some way, but I don't know how.
With all of this evidence put together, we can come up with the following complete picture of the cycle:
- A comet rises in the west. The B-spirit Leveller of order is reborn there. Simultaneously, the A-spirit is reincarnated as a new chaotic hero in the east. Tharsis erupts. The two champions battle; the Leveller is killed, and the Hero ushers in a thousand years of Light, before he disappears into history.
- A comet rises in the east. The last hero returns there as the A-spirit Leveller of chaos. Simultaneously, the B-spirit is reincarnated as a new orderly hero in the west. Tharsis erupts. The two champions battle; the Hero is killed, and the Leveller ushers in a thousand years of Dark, before being killed himself.
- A comet rises in the west. The A-spirit Leveller of chaos is reborn there. Simultaneously, the B-spirit is reincarnated as a new orderly hero in the east. Tharsis erupts. The two champions battle; the Leveller is killed, and the Hero ushers in a thousand years of Light, before he disappears into history.
- A comet rises in the east. The last hero returns there as the B-spirit Leveller of order. Simultaneously, the A-spirit is reincarnated as a new chaotic hero in the west. Tharsis erupts. The two champions battle; the Hero is killed, and the Leveller ushers in a thousand years of Dark, before being killed himself.
The Only Problem...
In all of the above charts of the cycle, things are actually offset by a thousand years. Because recorded history begins in the Second Era, I have listed the four phases of the cycle as the Second through Fifth Eras. But the "Four Ages", as mentioned in the Avatara flavor text describing Mazzarin, are the First through Fourth Eras, as the Fifth has only just begun. However, because this is a cycle, if you take the last phase and put it before the first, you still have the same pattern. So if you do that, and fill in names and other details, you should get history as we know it, as below:
- A comet rises in the east. The last hero returns there as an unknown B-spirit Leveller of order. Simultaneously, the A-spirit is reincarnated as an unknown new chaotic hero in the west. Tharsis erupts. The two champions battle; the Hero is killed, and the Leveller ushers in a thousand years of Dark, before being killed himself.
- A comet rises in the west. The unknown B-spirit Leveller of order is reborn there. Simultaneously, the A-spirit is reincarnated as Tireces, a new chaotic hero, in the east. Tharsis erupts. The two champions battle; the Leveller is immobilized by sorcery and beheaded, and Tireces ushers in the light Age of Reason, before he disappears into history.
- A comet rises in the east. Tireces returns there as the Leveller, Moagim. Simultaneously, the B-spirit is reincarnated as an unknown new orderly hero in the west. Tharsis erupts. The two champions battle; the Hero is killed, and Moagim ushers in the dark Wind Age, before being drawn and quartered on the plains before Illeum.
- A comet rises in the west. Moagim is reborn there. Simultaneously, the B-spirit is reincarnated as Connacht, a new orderly hero, in the east. Tharsis erupts. The two champions battle; Moagim is destoyed by fire and buried under the mountains of Kor, and Connacht ushers in the light Wolf Age, or Age of Light, before he disappears into history.
After that, it should read...
- A comet rises in the east. Connacht returns there as the Leveller, Balor. Simultaneously, Moagim is reincarnated as Alric in the west. Tharsis erupts. The two champions battle; Alric is killed, and Balor ushers in the dark Sword Age, before being killed himself.
... but we know that this is wrong. The comet rose in the east, yes. Connacht returned as Balor. Tharsis erupted. The champions battled. But Alric won, and the age has been light ever since. GURPS also points out that the era turned in 2431 AE when Muirthemne fell to Balor, but Alric didn't show up to battle until 50 years later - and even more amazing, the Comet and Tharsis were also late! This has lead to a number of theories on the fate of the world. Some say the cycle is broken, and that this is a Light age, and there is no more Leveller, etc. I have a weird theory that the cycle is inverted, and that it is actually an eight-era cycle, where the second half flips the direction of the victor (and thus which spirit is the victor is, and whether the era is Light or Dark), such that the West always wins in the 5th-8th Eras. But that still doesn't explain the off timing of the Comet, Tharsis, and Alric's arrival.
GURPS says that some Mythworlders believe Balor may not have been the Leveller, and that their calendars are 50 years off - that Alric is the true Leveller, who has just yet to turn truely evil. But that messes up all of the cyclical events established above. I believe the most plausible theory is another one GURPS suggests - that the gods do not follow a strict clockwork schedule, and that this is still a Dark era. The secret of unlife is now common amongst assorted dark forces, thanks to Soulblighter. The Trow are free again, as are the Myrkridia. The Ghols have access to Dwarven technology and are a united, dedicated force now. The Fetch, aliens from another dimension, are loose on our world and despising it. If Alric were to die soon, as it seems he is destined, the Sword Age could turn out very Dark indeed.
The Short Cycle
In this thread on the Asylum, Romendacil asks:
Firstly, I would like to finally know; Is the cykle 1000 years? I mean 1000 years light, then comes leveler, 1000 years dark, hero comes, kills leveler, 1000 years light, hero returns as leveler, 1000 years dark and so on.. Or is it diffurent?
In response to him, I wrote the below, outlining, as I titled it, a new grand unified theory of the cycles of Myth, discounting all sources outside Bungie's own games (e.g. Myth 3, GURPS Myth), and reconciling the published texts of those games with Jason Jones' prerelease statement regarding the length of the cycle.
Originally — as in, before Myth was released, when Jason Jones was talking about it in an interview — it was well known that the entire cycle was 1000 years: 500 light, 500 dark. Then again, Balor was named Ashfear back then, so some things change. But according to that cycle, Connacht defeated the Myrkridia 1000 years ago, disappeared, then Balor started showing up at least 300 years ago to turn the Myrmidons (and probably on a lesser scale even earlier than that), and the shit really started to hit the fan at the time of TFL, when the comet rose in the sky, Tharsis erupted, and Alric killed Balor, ushering in the new Age of Light. For ease of use I'm going to call this theory the "Short Cycle".
By the time Myth 2 was out and we were all speculating on it, it had somehow become "common knowledge" around here that the cycle was 1000 light, 1000 dark, 2000 total. I'm going to call that the "Long Cycle". But the only thing I can think of that seems to concretely claim this is the "...at least not for another 940 years" bit from the end of the Myth 2 epilogue. However, if that were the case, then the Age of Light ushered in by Connacht 1000 years ago would just be ending at the time of TFL, which means that this era was - as you said - supposed to be Dark, thus it was Alric who broke the cycle, not Soulblighter, as that very same Myth II epilogue claims.
This makes me now inclined to think that the "...at least not for another 940 years" bit means that, if in 940 years no dark lord has risen to power and nearly destroyed the world, then we will know the cycle is broken. Because according to the short cycle theory (at least, how it seems to have played out between Connacht and Alric's days), the Leveller doesn't just show up all of a sudden and BAM it's a dark age. He shows up, starts pulling strings, doing bad things, amassing armies, THEN attacks in force, and right as he's about to destroy the world, right on time... is defeated. So it's not like we can just wait 440 years to see if the Leveller shows up, because in 440 years he'll still be a small-time nobody just beginning his evil plans. We'll have to wait the whole 940 to see if there's another Great War or not, cause those only happen every 1000 years.
Now, GURPS and Myth III explicitly state that the long cycle theory is correct. However, GURPS has shown many many faults in the past (despite my previous defense of it), and Myth III was based on research that Scott Campbell did from GURPS and from this very website, so errors in those places would carry over into Myth III. Given all the above, I'm inclined to think that the cycle really is short, and that GURPS, Myth III, and many of my own previous and popular theories were completely wrong.
As for the ages, according to GURPS, the order goes:
- Axe Age - all of prehistory.
- Age of Reason - Tireces' reign and legacy
- Wind Age - Moagim's reign
- Wolf Age a.k.a. Age of Light - Connacht's legacy
- Sword Age - tentative name for the present age
However, that all assumes a long cycle, which is spurious, so lets ignore GURPS and go with game texts. According to those:
- The "Age of Light", was the age in which Connacht ruled, and he is also called the "hero of the Wind Age", although some rather bad things were said to have happened then, so it may be as M3 portrays it, that the Wind Age was the age that Connacht saved the world from, not the age he ushered in.
- The "Age of Reason" was when Tireces ruled.
- It seems certain that the Wolf Age is most recent, by this quote:
One hundred ten years ago, during the Wolf Age, Muirthemne was sacked, burned and all but buried under a mountain of rock and sand by Balor and the Fallen Lords. -Myth II, Level 16, "The Ibis Crown"
- All we know of The Axe Age is that it is when the Free Cities of the North were settled, making it seem a long long time ago:
"The wolves of The Ermine have been a menace to the people of the Free Cities of the North... since the area was settled in the Axe Age." -Wolf Flavor Text, Myth II
- The Sword Age for some reason was long thought (here) to be the current age, during which TFL takes place - either the new age just beginning with the Great War, or the age ending with the Great War. But the only quote about it seems to be this:
Long enemies of the civilized nations, the truce which brought the fir'Bolg and their famed bowmen into the Light was forged by ou'Kahn the Great King and Caliban during the Sword Age. -Archer Flavor Text, Myth TFLSince the fir'Bolg were thought to be recent allies, I can see why this would make us think that the Sword Age was recent.
However, given this flavor text...
Of all the avatara in the Four Ages there is no doubt that Mazzarin was the most powerful and his death the most salient victory of the Dark during the Wind Age. -Avatara Flavor Text, Myth TFL
...it seems that there are only four known or named Ages, and since we have six names for ages (Axe, Sword, Wind, Wolf, Reason, and Light), and two of those are already identified as each other (Age of Light = Wolf Age), that two others must also be synonymous, giving us four ages in total.
Given that the ages seem to be named from the Norse poem "Voluspa", which reads in part:
an axe-age, a sword-age
shields will be cloven
a wind-age, a wolf-age
'ere the world's ruin
...I'm going to propose that the named Ages progress in that order: Axe, Sword, Wind, Wolf.
However, given the following bit from the Myth II epilogue, I'm going to argue that the named ages do not correspond to particular periods of light or dark, but rather, to the entire 1000 years encompassing both:
The Leveler was never killed. He was immobilized by sorcery, beheaded and burned at the stake in the Second Era. A thousand years later he was drawn and quartered on the plains before Ileum, the tireless horses dragging the pieces of his lifeless body to the four corners of the world. Again in the Fourth Era his body was destroyed by fire, his ashes mixed with salt and buried under the Mountains of Kor. Balor, Moagim and all those before them wore the Mantle of The Leveler. -Myth II Epilogue
So according to this theory (short cycle, Voluspa order):
- 4000 years before the end of TFL, an unknown Leveller was killed somehow by an unknown hero (maybe? or the world was just created from scratch right then?), and thus began the Axe Age or First Era. Sometime during that era, the Free Cities of the North were settled.
- Then, a thousand years later, 3000 years before the end of TFL, after the previous hero had turned to the Dark and become the new Leveller, another hero (Caliban?) had him "immobilized by sorcery, beheaded and burned at the stake", ushering in the Sword Age or Second Era. Sometime during that era, the humans and fir'Bolg forged a truce.
- Then, a thousand years later, 2000 years before the end of TFL, after the previous hero had turned to the Dark and become the new Leveller, Tireces had him "drawn and quartered on the plains before Ileum, the tireless horses dragging the pieces of his lifeless body to the four corners of the world", ushering in the Wind Age or Third Era, the Light portion of which was called the Age of Reason. Sometime during this era, the Tain was forged, Mazzarin was killed by Bahl'al, and Tireces became Moagim and unleashed the Myrkridia upon the world.
- Then, a thousand years later, 1000 years before the end of TFL, after Tireces had turned to the Dark and become the new Leveller Moagim, Connacht killed him and had "his body [...] destroyed by fire, his ashes mixed with salt and buried under the Mountains of Kor", ushering in the Wolf Age or Fourth Era, the Light portion of which was called the Age of Light.
- Connacht eventually became the new Leveller some 500 years ago, and slowly began to amass his evil army, gathering the Fallen Lords to himself, turning the Myrmidons to the Dark, raising an army of the undead, before finally destroying Muirthemne, pouring into the West, and nearly destroying the world before being defeated by Alric, ending the Fourth Era and beginning a new period of time, one that has yet to be named properly.
Some time after writing that, I came across the metaphorical pizza box lid upon which the original Myth story plans were written (copies of the original Bungie design documents, such as they were), including a transcription of the literal pizza box lid's "stuff that rocks" and "stuff that sucks" columns, and the first thing after that is a bit on the Four Ages. It lists them as:
- Age of Light
- Age of Silver
- Age of Reason
- Age of Gold
Then has a bit describing the current calendar as the "gold age" (Acit El) calendar, and it proceeds to discuss four other ages we are more familiar with, dating them in the Acit El system, from one comet to the next, over a span of exactly 500 years:
- 219-422: Axe Age
- 422-539: Sword Age
- 539-661: Wind Age
- 661-719: Wolf Age
All of these four ages are full of dark events, including most of the lead-up to TFL that we know about (Balor's appearance, the sack of Stoneheim and Muirthemne, the fir'Bolg alliance, the betrayal of the Myrmidons, etc). Notably, Mazzarin falls during the Wind Age here, but that's only less than 200 years before TFL.
I can see two ways to interpret these two sets of ages:
- One is that all four of these dark ages in the past 500 years are within the Age of Gold, given that they are dated in the Acit El calendar.
- Or, that that's just the calendar people are still using, it having been created at the end of the last light period; and those four nice-sounding ages are divisions of the previous light period, just like these four nasty-sounding ages are divisions of the current dark period.
Either way, we know this can't be perfectly reconciled with released canon events:
- In the first case, if the Ages of Light-Gold are the past four 500-year periods between comets, then Connacht, who ushered in the "Age of Light" in canon, was the hero of four comets ago, not just the last comet; yet Connacht is also canonically the "great hero of the Wind Age", while he was already Balor in this scheme's Wind Age.
- Likewise, in the second case, if the Ages of Light-Gold are just the 500 years of light between the last two comets, then Tireces who returned as Moagim to end the Age of Reason (in released canon) makes no sense.
Besides which, even some recent dates are off, e.g. Muirthemne falls over 180 years before TFL, not just 50 as in the released canon.
Nevertheless, I think we can take something from this. In my previous theory, I had the four (500-year) inter-comet eras named by the four Volupsa-named ages (Axe-Wolf), with two named light periods in the first half of each. With these four names for light ages now, and knowing that the Age of Light is the latest one and not the first, I think we can put together a map of Myth time like this now: