So be it known that the gods were once as we.
Millennia ago, whence dragons flew the skies and the Daedra roamed the earth free, there lived a simple shopkeeper called Ar'kay. A simple, happy man was he, whose only vice was an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. His passion for the written word led him to collect all manner of tomes. Never-mind the subject, all that was possible to know to him was as gold to a merchant.
One day, a day much like any other, across his desk came a manuscript which claimed to hold in its covers the true purpose of life and death, the meaning of existence itself. Ar'kay studied the tome for months, and slowly began to believe he had come to understand it. The book had been written in archaic, obtuse language, difficult for a learned scholar to comprehend, much less an amateur merchant.
Sadly, during his quest to understand the meaning of the book, he neglected all else. His business began to fail, his few friends began to desert him, his family began to forget him, he even ignored the plague which ravaged his town. He became absorbed in the tome, and nothing else held any sway.
Just as the book began to open new visions of otherworldly understanding, the plague struck him. His family cared for him from a sense of duty and honor, but he stood at death's dark door. In desperation, he prayed to Mara, mother-goddess, for a final reprieve from death so that he might finish his studies. One night, in a feverish delirium, Mara came to him.
"Thou hast said that thou dost wish to finish thy studies. Why for thee should I allow this?" Mara asked him.
"Mother Mara," said he to her, "Goddess divine, I am just beginning to understand the true meaning of this strange tome! Were that you would let me finish my work, and to others I might teach all that I have learned!"
"My child, to me it appears as if thy desire to teach be but an afterthought. Dost thou truly wish to teach all that thou hast learnt? Tell me, what is the purpose of birth and of death?" She to him asked. Ar'kay thought.
"Oh Mother, the world possesses far too little room for far too many souls in the heavens! Yet it is here, in this physical world which I fear I shall too soon depart, that the only chance any soul has for learning is given. If birth were not to exist, none should have the chance for learning! And were death not to exist, no room would there be for birth! Mustn't it then be, O Goddess, that both should we have?" Ar'kay, pleased with his response, said.
"Thine answer betrayest thy misunderstanding of this world in which thou dwellst, yet therein lays a modicum of truth. Would that thy study continued, thou mighst have the opportunity for betterment." Mara mused, her thoughts her own. "To thee more time for study cannot be given, for the rules of this world have forbade even me from breaking. I only can but condemn thee to labor eternal in the field which thou hast chosen. What sayest thee unto this?"
"Mother, I fear I do not understand you." Ar'kay said, confused and befuddled.
"Wouldst thou but accept thy mortality here and now, thou wouldst be free of all thy pains. However, wert thou to choose to join us in the heavens, thou wouldst be free to work of thine own volition to search out the knowledge for which in life thou didst so fervently pine. Yet, my child, divinity is not so easy a thing. As the God of Birth and Death, thou wilt spendest thine eternity ensuring that life enters and leaves the mortal realm in balance. And, despite what thou believest to by thine understanding, thou wilt pain thyself over each decision, never knowing which be right nor which be wrong. Decidest thee how?" Mother Mara said unto him, laying bare that with which he had been given.
Arkay spent what seemed an eternity before replying. "Mother, if my studies be not wholly incorrect, then it be my duty to to accept this burden which you have placed upon me, so that I might try and share my understanding with mankind."
Mara responded in kind.
"Thus it shall be. Henceforth, thou art Arkay, God of Birth and Death."