The Great Cosmology
Colloquially known as the Kingdoms, our world is an amalgamation of four distinct realms, interwoven in the Great Tapestry to create the reality that we experience every day. These four realms, Xan’rius, the realm of mortals, Sh’than, the realm of mirrors, Fae’rela, the realm of dreams, and Zh’vael, the realm of eternity, are woven together to form one cosmology.
Xan’rius – the realm most of its inhabitants consider “the world”. The mortals of Xan’rius most often refer to it as the Kingdoms, excluding the other three realms; they refer to what they can see around them – rolling hills, enchanted glades, dark forests, and fairy tale castles.
Modern Xan’rius is a realm whose cultural and societal anchors are its many kingdoms; scattered across the land, these regions act as centers for civilization. Much of Xan’rius’ ancient history has been lost to time, but in the distant past, a single great civilization, known as High Xan’rius stood as a beacon for art, culture, and learning.
Many of its ruins still stand today – ancient castles and towers, crumbling and consumed by the wilds of the countryside, may hold treasures and knowledge of cosmology thought long lost. High Xan’rius was the seat of study of the four realms, and our knowledge of the Great Tapestry exists directly from research done during that period of our past.
Overwhelmingly, mortals across the land respect and give thanks to the changing of the seasons, a symbolic and literal representation of the passage of time, which comes with it the inevitability of change. Seasa, the essence of this change, is invoked as both a blessing and a curse; at harvest time, it is praised, and in the coldest depths of the winter, it is hated. But as spring blooms once more, cheers of joy at the change brought by seasa can be heard from kingdom to countryside, and all points in between.
Across the land, since times long forgotten, stone circles have been erected as meeting places to give thanks to seasa; each stone in the circle connects with its neighbors, in an endless and unbreakable cycle. Stones often have individual meanings to the locals – one may be a representation of the summer, with the stone across the circle representing winter. In some circles, stones can take on even more figurative meanings – death, birth, harvest, light, dark, and more. No two circles are the same, and each share a deep spiritual and meaningful connection with those who live nearby.
Often at the change of the seasons, a circle will play host to a revel – a celebration of seasa, where the locals will gather for various amounts of time to feast, share tales, lament losses, and generally bond as a community. Rarely, certain actions or events will be cause for the revel to transform – to become bigger than just one community; at this point, a great revel has sparked, and as word spreads, people will travel from faraway lands to join in the festivities, which traditionally last for one year. A great revel must take on a life of its own, as the folk of the land cannot shirk their responsibilities for such a long time – thus great revels tend to be organic, fluid, and unique experiences.
While most mortals of Xan'rius feel a kinship with seasa, they would largely consider themselves agnostic. Some, however, prefer to focus their beliefs on one or more of the demigods of this world, and indeed, of others as well. These groups are often secret, or at least, inconspicuous. This, of course, depends largely on the demigod in question – followers of Bathemos tend to be viewed as a dangerous cult, and often keep these views secretive, while followers of Iluna are often forthcoming with their devotions, but are seen as often too free- spirited for their own good.
Rarely, a revel may be started in honor of one of these patrons, and not for seasa. The contents of the revel will certainly reflect the patron, and further the location selected for the revel may need to be far from prying eyes in the case of certain demigods.
Beasts and Horrors
Tucked in the deep forests, hidden in the fog of the moors, in dark caves and in stagnant ponds, the wild creatures of Xan’rius lurk, awaiting unsuspecting prey. The monsters of Xan’rius come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and demeanors – while beasts are typically animalistic, seeking their next meal in as grizzly a manner as possible, horrors may have more nuanced agendas.
Beasts vary in size and shape – from smaller creatures no larger than a dog, to behemoths towering above a great hall; some hunt alone, while others may work in packs. They may have venomous fangs, razor sharp claws, pronged tails, scales, or wings. Some have many sets of arms or legs, and some even have multiple heads. All manner of terrifying creatures lurk in the shadows – those that wish to challenge them should be well prepared.
The horrors of Xan’rius are monsters of nightmare – shadows and shades that move without sound, apparitions and ghosts who have not yet crossed their golden thread to the timeless void, or manifestations of fear. While a beast, no matter its size, can be laid low by strength of arms, the horrors of Xan’rius tend not to be so easily bested.
Mortal travelers to Sh’than describe it as eerie, static, dull, and flat. There is no day or night, only a permanent muted greyish light covers the dome of still air in the land beyond the mirrors. Sh’than, sometimes referred to as the mirror world, or the reflection, is a land that shadows and mocks the Kingdoms.
The landscape of Sh’than is much the same as Xan’rius – mountains and valleys stand in the same place; if one knows their way around Xan’rius, they should have some success navigating Sh’than. However, the reflection is not complete – Sh’than seems only to reflect permanence, or near permanence. Anything temporary or new in Xan’rius will likely not exist in Sh’than; and changes are slow to come.
Mountains and valleys do not change – their reflection is fixed in Sh’than. An ancient castle in Xan’rius will likely be reflected in Sh’than, but the houses and markets around it will not. A river may be found as a riverbed in Sh’than, the rushing water far too chaotic for the reflection to stick. Deep woods are often found reflected, but a new growth in the countryside would likely not be – this causes much of Sh’than to appear barren.
Changes that occur in Sh’than do not similarly reflect back to Xan’rius; the effect appears to be unidirectional. In fact, many changes in Sh’than may revert back to their reflected status after not too long.
The dull cast and abnormal stillness should be off-putting to the traveler; while the reflections in Sh’than may appear comfortable or familiar, the mirror world is a savagely dangerous place, and should be avoided at all costs.
Mirrors to Sh'than
Sh’than is the wellspring of all mirror magic, and this conduit is made through physical mirrors present in Xan’rius. Each mirror that hangs on a wall, or lies on a nightstand, is a dormant connection to the world of mirrors. By channeling mirror magic, a practitioner is activating that conduit, and is opening a portal to Sh’than.
The mirrors themselves can act as a tunnel to Sh’than – one who utilizes such a portal will find themselves in the same location in the other world. The activation of the mirror causes an intensified reflective feedback. Temporary items that would normally not have a reflection in Sh’than are reflected in a small area around the mirror.
The mirror itself will be reflected, and casts a beacon into the sky that can be easily seen for miles – activating and using a mirror may draw the attention of the natives of Sh’than and may lead them directly to an open conduit to Xan’rius.
Mirrors themselves are always reflected in Sh’than, although the reflection may be difficult to spot if the mirror is dormant. Knowing where to look will substantially increase the likelihood that a traveler can find a particular mirror, and thus, a way back to our world.
Princes of Sh’than
The most dangerous entities a mortal can find when venturing into Sh’than are not the horrors and beasts that stalk the land; instead, the entity that presents itself as another mortal may truly be a nightmare incarnate.
Sh’than’s ruling class, entities known as Princes, are demi-gods and demons, beings of immense power and the purest of evil. They are warlords, fighting amongst themselves for control of their corner of Sh’than; they represent the worst features of mortals: evil intentions and greedy motives.
A Prince of Sh’than may appear to a mortal in its natural form, an enormous demonic entity of clearly unrivaled power; often, however, Princes will approach mortals in their lands as another mortal themselves – using deceit and cunning, appealing to a mortal’s greed or fear to lure them into a position where they must choose suffering and death, or to make a bargain, gambling their soul for safe passage.
Monsters, Beasts, and Horrors
The natives of Sh’than are a dizzying array of horrifying monstrosities and nightmarish monsters. Many of these can survive the mirror bridge between worlds, and journey to Xan’rius.
A traveler of Sh’than should have the utmost awareness at all times. The landscape and dull lighting serve well to hide these horrors until it is too late. Creatures of light and shadow, eyeless, soulless, moving at unnatural speeds and in disorienting ways.
Sh’than harbors no mortals and no civilizations. There is no refuge to seek that is known to any scholars of the subject. Anything encountered in Sh’than is either a hungry beast, a nightmarish horror, or one of the Princes themselves.
Fae’rela – the dream, land of the fae, and home of their sovereign, the Faerie King. Fae’rela is a world that is shockingly different from the land of mortals. Fae’rela has no land – no borders, no rolling hills or jagged crags; and yet it has all of these features. Fae’rela is an enchanted world, whose landscape exists at the will of its inhabitants, and whose borders are kept by the same.
Home to the fae, no mortal or creature may enter Fae’rela without express invitation from one of the fae themselves; a fae who brings a mortal to their world certainly does not have that mortal’s best intentions in mind.
Fae’rela is home to all fae – a collective term used to refer to the myriad of Houses that make up their species. Each House manifests in a physically unique way, and often exhibits similar personality traits, desires, and ambitions. There are always a few Houses that are in the best graces of the Faerie King – these are known as the Great Houses.
Fae’rela is primarily made of estates – the personal dreamscapes of individual fae lords. When a fae invites a mortal to Fae’rela, they are in actuality, inviting the mortal into their estate. A fae’s estate can be whatever they wish it to be – some can be a simple room, others a vast world to explore.
A fae’s estate is their private residence, and, excepting the Faerie King, no other may cross the border into a fae’s estate without permission. And such permission is rarely given – an estate is the seat of that fae’s power, a source and wellspring that charges their very being. Each estate is connected to Xan'rius by a gateway - an area that, when traversed causes the travel to bridge from one world to the other. Fae go to great lengths to keep the location of their estate in Xan'rius hidden.
Fae’rela also consists of regions knowns as congresses – these dreamscapes, equally as diverse as estates, are the dominion of the Faerie King, and are open to a myriad of fae, serving as places to gather, socialize, plot, and more. Some congresses have restrictions to entry, while others are publicly available, but as with all areas of Fae’rela, a mortal cannot enter without a fae sponsor.
Zh’vael, the timeless void, the space between worlds. For ages, philosophers have argued the correct terminology used to describe Zh’vael – should it be considered a realm is a subject of continued debate. Doubtless, however, Zh’vael is an integral part of the Great Cosmology, and its influence is the very fabric of our reality.
Zh’vael is an endless void outside of time, home to Athya the Blind, the weaver of fates. Any mortal, beast, or fae, who finds themselves in Zh’vael will no doubt be found on an anchor or nexus, staring into eternity, each other anchor a pinprick of light in the dark sky, connected by a network of impossibly thin golden threads, known as the Great Tapestry.
Travel to and from Zh’vael follows the threads of fate – each living creature is tethered to Zh’vael, and the exploration or exploitation of the enigmatic power of Dawn magic can enable the practitioner to traverse these threads, as dangerous an act as that might be.
Anchors and Nexuses
While Zh’vael is primarily an empty void, it is populated with an endless amount of small floating rocky islands, known as anchors. An anchor is a living creature’s manifestation in Zh’vael, a small reflection of their memories, hopes, and dreams. When a creature first arrives on Zh’vael from one of the other three realms, they will likely have done so by following their own thread of fate, arriving on their own anchor.
Anchors tend not to be very large, a few dozen yards at most across, before crumbling into floating shards. Their form may shift over time – a human’s anchor may for a long time be a portion of their childhood home, but later in life may resemble an amalgamation of fond memories – where they met their love, the birth of their first child, a secluded stream where they escaped their daily pressures.
Anchors are connected to the other worlds via a golden thread – when the creature dies, the thread is severed, and the anchor loses its luster. The creature’s spirit follows the thread one last time, arriving for eternity on their anchor, set adrift against the timeless backdrop of Zh’vael.
While a single thread may connect an anchor to the creature in another world, a myriad of threads from all anchors cross the void intersect at areas known as nexuses. Here, servants of Athya, various entities and automatons record and execute the fates of all creatures. The Scry observes the actions of all threads in their nexus, producing individual ones for the Executioner to move, pluck, or sever; the Judge stands guard against all intruders who would interrupt the work. Each nexus has such a triumvirate, and while these soulless individuals may have unique personalities, their loyalty is unwaveringly towards the eternal task Athya has created them for.
Patrons of the Four Realms
Each of the four realms is home to one or more of the patrons of the Great Cosmology, beings that represent a fundamental force of their world. Each of these patrons is worshipped in different ways, and some fundamental powers manifest in the realms are clearly derived from these cosmic entities.
Artemix – A patron of Xan’rius, Artemix, the Huntress, is a goddess of the deep wood, and is followed often by those who rely on such places for their livelihood. Artemix demands no sacrifice or worship, but she respects those who know their place in the great hunt, and even moreso, those who demonstrate it.
Artemix can be found roaming the land – she often appears as an enormous female satyr, as much as a dozen feet in height, softly glowing, clad in masterworked leather attire, and accompanied by several equally ethereal animal companions – a stag, a bear, and a wolf.
Those who prove themselves worthy may be invited to hunt with Artemix for a time – an experience that has been described as an endless rush of adrenaline mixed with a bottomless depth of strategy and elegance.
Athya – Also known as The Blind, and Weaver of Fates, Athya is the goddess of Zh’vael. Athya, found on one of the nexuses of Zh’vael, appears as a beautiful but solemn woman, hewn of marble, and towering upwards of thirty feet in height. Draped in silken robes, with straight hair to her waist that shimmers golden and inky black.
Athya has no eyes, the empty sockets however will still pierce the soul of those who dare to interrupt her eternal work. She speaks with a voice that echoes across the eternities – a robust and declarative presence that shakes the foundation of a mortal soul.
Athya’s cherubs, known as Scry, Executioner, and Judge, can be found, each in a separate incarnation, on every nexus in Zh’vael, operating the cosmic looms as her proxy. Scry, mimicking her blindness, reads the golden threads as they spin into the nexus in time to the pulse of the universe, and selects some for manipulation. Executioner, a machination of boundless complexity, operates the threads as Scry demands – when a thread must be plucked, it is plucked, when it must be severed, it is severed. Judge, a giant statue resembling Athya herself, stands guard, preventing tampering or distraction of the other two.
Athya, and indeed Zh’vael, is relatively unknown to most mortals; in areas where her stories live, she may be worshipped – but not as a goddess to owe devotion and fealty to, rather, as a cosmic force that cannot be denied. A healthy dose of fear and reverence can be found in those who follow her ways. In Xan’rius, the krakaw will often refer to her, and their spiritguides speak of the threads of existence with seeming first-hand knowledge.
Bathemos – The lord of fire and chaos, Bathemos demands extreme devotion, from which he provides extreme power. Devotion to Bathemos means eschewing personal safety and nearly all laws in the pursuit of chaos and destruction. This is not an inherently evil trait, although many who are drawn to the power Bathemos provides do so for selfish purposes.
Bathemos is not found wandering Xan’rius, but does appear in visions and dreams – a fiery creature with goat-like and demonic features. He may direct his followers to certain tasks, but often these requests can be distilled down to simply sowing chaos in the most effective way possible.
Revels to Bathemos are often performed in secret; there, the bonfire is a beacon of sacrifice, as personal belongings and fresh meat are tossed upon the fire. Bathemos returns the sacrifice by breathing life and ecstacy into the revel, enhancing the experience for all.
Fae’la – The Dragon, Fae’la is a demigod of the faeries, an elemental creature exiled from Fae’rela by means and for reasons unknown to mortals. Fae’la wanders Xan’rius, Sh’than, and Zh’vael, snaking through the sky and slithering across the land.
Fae’la is feared by the fae – they do not worship her, but see her as an omen and an ill sign; many will retreat to Fae’rela is she is sighted; weaker fae may even withdraw at the mention of her nearby presence.
Fae’la is an enigmatic creature, she rarely lowers herself to interact with mortals – her sheer size, hundreds of feet in length, and her natural armor and flight, make her effectively immune to interaction with lesser beings. Her purpose is unknown – she wanders the skies, and travels between worlds, seemingly with no direction or reason. On rare occasion when she has spoken to a mortal, her thunderous voice speaks only of unknown loss to come.
Faerie King – Sovereign and lord deity of Fae’rela, the Faerie King, holds dominion and power over all fae. In fact, the fae derive their power directly from the Faerie King, and the extent of that power is a reflection of their loyalty and duty to his causes. The Faerie King controls all of Fae’rela, with seemingly boundless power and limitless potential.
He has been described, in ancient times, to have wandered all the realms at his whim – at a distance he could be mistaken for a human, but up close, his features are more delicate, his ears slightly pointed. Wearing outfits so flawlessly crafted as to be unimaginable, and moving with a grace and beauty that cannot be put in words.
His voice is honeyed, but it masks a deeply devious mind; cruelty, trickery, and dishonesty are his bread and butter. Only mortals with the strongest of wills who encounter him can possibly turn down his offerings, so tantalizing are the sweets, and so assuring are his words.
Iluna – On Xan’rius, Iluna is personified by the nightly appearance of the moon. Iluna is a protector of the world, and an embodiment of freedom and carefree joy. She represents light, life, and kindness.
Her followers consider her an example in their own lives. She represents a mindset of forgiveness and flexibility. Her revels are carefree moonlit dances, full of swirling silken fabrics, and softly glowing lanterns.
Princes – Sh’than’s patrons are a collection of demonic generals, an unknown amount of clever, cruel, and sinister manipulators of mortals. Each has their own appearance, personality, and desires. They are universally evil creatures that delight in the use and abuse of mortals. Five such Princes are well known to the people of Xan’rius, having been more forthcoming with their appearances throughout the realm’s histories.
Shaela, the lady of fear, is a being of extreme power and cruelty. When she appears before mortals, her form has been reported as that of a raven-haired and beautiful woman, with porcelain skin, and long, lacquered fingernails. She relishes in nightmares and the psychological torture of the natives of the Kingdoms.
Radavis, the sower of jealousy, excels at turning neighbors against each other, instilling greed and hatred between friend and foe alike. He appears to mortals as a human man, nondescript in all ways, so much so that he is frequently forgotten as soon as he departs – making the thoughts he instills all the more dangerous.
Dovann, the bringer of doubt, is a Prince of immense power. Dovann causes mortals to question their own worth, and to begin to feel as if they have no purpose, impact, or ability to function in the world. Dovann will always appear before mortals as a younger version of themselves, portraying naivety and optimism, underlined by all the failures one has had in their life.
Mudova, the essence of burden, relishes the opportunity to cause destruction and lay stress and hardship on all mortals. Mudova appears to mortals as a humanoid creature made of molten gold, changing and shifting size, gender, and race.
Viannesse, the cloud of malaise, is the bringer of plagues, lethargy, and inaction, feeding on indecision and hesitation. She appears to mortals as a small, non-threatening female humanoid, with four arms and tattoos covering her entire body.