In the beginning, things were a mess. Nobody knew really what was going on or why. Things just did stuff, or nothing. There were not really even things. Shapes had not been invented yet, and most of what was out there were formless blobs chaotically bumping into one another without rhyme or reason. Or worse, they were completely inert, no dynamic spark having been activated within them yet.
In actual fact, most of what we know today as ‘shapes’ were only invented relatively recently (some say discovered, under the assumption they have existed eternally). Most of pre-history can best be understood as Blobbist (i.e., Pre- or Proto-Shapist), and there even existed within later Shapist society a philosophical faction known as the Pure Formists, who looked back romantically to Blobbist Pre-History as a kind of Golden Age.
For those early ambulatory blobs (see also: Strollers), when a dynamic spark had been activated within, and under the call of which they became in turn dynamized, it occurred that their forms became distinct and coherent from the ground of being upon which they found their root substance. They comprised the cultures known to Pantarctican scientists today as Proto-Shapists (or variously as Proteo-Shapists, hence Proteans) in that their forms were not yet completely discernible as shapes.
The first true Shapist society to arise from this pre-historic epoch, according to the shapological record, was the Singulones, who are more commonly known today as Circulons. Circulon society mirrored their physical biomorphus of the circle, which was perceived as singular, complete, and perfect. They were capable of smooth fluid motion in any direction, which is represented today by the Queen of the modern chess board. And lacking natural predators, they grew to immense size before perishing by natural causes, and returning to formlessness. However, as a result of their autogenic origins in formlessness, Circulons were sterile. Successive generations of Circulons arose not through reproduction, but through dynamic processes self-instantiation and transformation, a biomorphic life cycle stage which scholars have termed ‘apotheosis’ among Proteans. As a result, Circulon culture was discontinuous and continually replaced, on account of its accumulated knowledge of shapehood being inadequately and randomly re-transmitted from one generation to the next.
The Circle of Elder Circles, seeing this, convened as a body and discussed what should be done. Even at this early date, a faction of conservative Pure Formists had arisen, who looked backwards at their former formless state with longing. It was their strongly held opinion that ‘everything was fine,’ and they should ‘do nothing.’ In counter-balance to that position, a progressive bloc arose, who espoused the doctrine of Doing Something, though internally they were split as to what could or should be done, and what the desired outcome was. Due to its inherently singular nature, Singulone society had not developed a robust system to mediate societal conflict. As a result, no forward progress was made at a societal level between opposing positions. Those who believed in doing nothing did nothing. And those who believed in doing something sometimes did something, not certainly exactly of what they were doing, and also sometimes lapsed into doing nothing. As a result, that generation too fell away, and the conflict and underlying systemic problem was forgotten about for another few generations until the cycle began again.
During the continuous waves of rising and falling of Circulon Culture, other dynamic principles were taking hold within the formless ground of being. These beings in ancient sources are referred to as ‘sprites,’ though it is unclear as to whether in substance they differed from the underlying dynamic sparks which incited the formation of Singulone society. In either case, having observed from without to a certain extent the struggles within Circulon society to transmit knowledge and mediate conflict, these beings when they inhabited forms did so as bi-directional polarity connected by a thin cord or line. From them, the world of forms were organized into positive and negative, hot and cold, and even before and after. Due to their organizing force, they even affected the elder, more ordered, and august Shape Society of the Circulons. As the world of forms relished in organizing and re-organizing itself along polarities, the Pure Formist and Conformist factions (Conforma) of the Circle of Singulones finally split. The Pure Formists went on doing nothing, and Conformists came together as a new body dedicated to doing something.
Understanding now for the first time the fundamental nature of duality, the Conformists joined together with those spritely animating principles, and the Secondum Ordinem of the Duogons was formed. It was during their earliest days that, in working together, the Duogon Culture discovered division, in which their bodies would become polarized in such a manner that resulted in it splitting into two distinct children, each of which retained the knowledge of the parent shape. Heritage and the transmission of knowledge from generation to generation thus established, Duogon Culture thrived, and easily out-competed Circulon Culture for available resources, pushing back the original Circulon habitations to isolated pockets. Their emblems were the arrow, the ray, the spike, and the long staff.
Through many long generations, thus, Duogon Culture persisted and flourished. Unlike their Circulon ancestors who self-generated, or the sprites who came from another place to inhabit the material realm, Duogons begat Duogons who begat Duogons, ad infinitum. And the lines continued thus unbroken through time. Sequential in nature, Duogons co-mingled with time in ways which Circulons never managed. Though Duogon priests asserted publicly the popular myth that their cultural knowledge of shape had been handed down with perfect fidelity from the dawn of their entry as a culture into time, there were none now living who could attest to the verity of this assertion. Thus crept into that society a certain doubt as to their own cultural legitimacy, which resulted in an erosion of trust in the Duogon system of governance (a rule by two consuls). Coupled with a brittleness in the face of new environmental conditions which required change and adaptation, Duogon society lost its footing and began to falter.
Among the disgraced surviving enclaves, a resurgence of Pure Formist belief was brewing, which ultimately culminated in the leaderless First Circular Revolt. Duogon armies were sent into the field to quell the rebellion, but its center was nowhere, and their lines became thing. During this time, a mysterious Third Force arose from the sea, and began landing units on the shores of mainland Duogonia. Their force, once assembled, marched on the City of Duo. The few remaining Duogon units mustered on the field of battle, and with their main armies spread throughout the far-flung reaches of the continent, they expected to be overwhelmed by the mysterious invaders. Instead, the Third Force, upon entering the field of battle arranged themselves bodily into ordered ranks, and then made an elaborate show of empty hands. Up the middle, the column parted, and large wagons laden with goods were unveiled before the eyes of the scared and confused Duogons.
Thus, Duogon Culture was overthrown by the mysterious arrivals without loss of life. The people of the City of Duo, understanding that their visitors were not hostile, came out to examine the goods of the Third Force, and to trade with them. Duogon architecture and artifacts were not complex, consisting generally of only circular and linear forms from their antecedent cultures. Third Force artifacts, however, exhibited traits which fell outside the norms and knowledge transmitted for so long by Duogonian culture, which had a more strict binary constuction. Whereas Duogon philosophy consisted of paired opposites, the Third Force Culture, or Triangulons as we know them today, (originally known as Trigons) was based on a super-ordinate third position which fell outside the ken of the more simplistic Duogons. Thus they were able to see and understand things which Duogon Culture had not, which resulted in a higher order of technology and creativity than anything they had witnessed previously. As a result, the Triangulon priest class which quickly arose among the superstitious Duogons was formally dedicated to the Mysterium, or that which to them they believed to be unknowable. And as the origins of the Triangulons were to them foreign and exotic, this only fed the mysterious aura of the conquering Shape Trader culture.
For traders they were, the Triangulons, and not warriors. Culturally, they did not think of themselves as Triangulons, nor as the colloquial ‘Third Force.’ They simply called themselves Shape Traders, after their ancient customs. From their superior vantage point over other shape cultures of the period, they were able to overcome primitive win-or-lose duality, and were the originators of the so-called ‘triangular trade’ which functioned according to a win-win-win exchange for all involved parties. Thus they grew strong and were able to assimilate other cultures in their native land, and spread out via the highways of the seas to other lands, where they also peacefully subdued the Duogons, Circulons, and countless other small shape tribes whose names have been lost to history.
As traders and explores, the Triangulons visited all the lands then in existence, whose bodies had arisen out of formlessness along with the shapes and proto-shapes which had inhabited them over many long ages. In their explorations, they captured and catalogued objects and entities of all types and varieties, and stored three copies of each of them in vast Form Libraries throughout the wide lands. As these Libraries increased in wealth, power, and cultural importance, around them sprang up the fore-runners of contemporary universities, in which Triangulon scholars and theorists further catalogued and refined prior Shapist doctrines, and even achieved advanced mathematical calculations related to the faithful reproduction of forms through time.
It was in this wise which Triangulon scholars catalogued and organized all the worlds’ shapes and knowledge, until their collection was deemed nearly complete. The only things lacking in their vast store-houses were examplars of certain types of magico-mythic monsters who were referenced in the scattered folk tales of certain conquered tribes. It was, of course, unknown due to the antiquity of the inherited tales (some of which had been passed biomorphically down through Duogon legend) whether such beasts truly existed. It was the opinion of the majority of Triangulon scholars, whose culture had by then explored all known lands, that whether or not they had existed in actual fact, they were unrecoverable due to the sequential nature of time, whose flow was perceived by them as unidirectional.
Some Shape Traders, however, fueled by desire for ever greater wealth, allied with the restless Triangulon scholars, who believed the Form Libraries to be still incomplete, and therefore imperfect. They set out on a vast expedition to find those missing animals, and bring them back in triumph. It was said in ancient tales of these amazing unnamed creatures that they had the ability to emit time, and that those who stood in proximity to them experienced time dilations, and life-everlasting. Despite their immense riches, mortality still vexed the Triangulons. And this legendary detail which was seized upon by these restless scholars who argued that the apparent unidirectional flow of time (as of a river toward the sea) was proof that such beings existed, and that they must stand at the center of time, and called all beings toward them. And so they went to find them in their great ships.