Enumerating the Parallel Multiverses II

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Enumerating the Parallel Multiverses II

Michel graciously provided a convenient thread for all the old versions of the Great Wheel here:


The tagline for brainstorming was this:

The idea here is that there are parallel Great Wheels out there, all different than the others. Sigil might be different as well, and perhaps there is no Lady of Pain or perhaps there is another guardian of the city or perhaps She was killed eons ago and Sigil is a smoking wreck.

So, with that, on with the show:

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63. Positively Empyrean (Part

63. Positively Empyrean (Part 1, concerning Sigil)

It would be possible to see in Achilles the Dionysiac strain, a passion for destruction growing out of a hatred for the destructibility of all things; and in Hector, the Apollonian part, the will toward preservation growing out of love for human achievements in their vulnerability.
~Rachel Bespaloff

Sigil,The Lady in Pain, and the Chastised

The moebius loop of Sigil is the greatest planar Metropolis, the city that serves as a Key Stone in the Great Wheel, that Central city that ties together the Sighs of Relief (Outland Primes), the Emanations (Storm, Mineral, Steam, Radiance), the Hungers (Dust, Vacuum, Salt, Ash)...and possibly even the Empyrean (Positive Material Goodness) and the Tenebrous (Negative Material Evil) if the whispers of those now mad loophole seeking Guvners in the care of the Providence's Cabal are true.

The City of Paths, said to be crafted by the Lady in Pain who tamed both Hungers and Emanations, is a metropolis with shining walls casting enervating shadows, a city wherein living nightmares are kept at bay by the ember glow of low burning electrum spheres hanging in the sky.

The Lady is served by the Mephits, mysterious (some might even say blasphemous) entities crafted from Emanations and Hungers both that range from surly to mischievous but never truly malicious or genuinely benevolent. So the body of a Mephit might be composed of holy radiance or necromantic salt yet its personality will always be True Neutral with some possibly leaning toward Chaos or Law.

The Mephits here serve in a similar capacity to the dabus, with the mephit of a particular Hunger or Emanation managing the occurrence of that respective element within Sigil.

Those who displease the Lady in Pain fall under her shadow, wherein they are asked to bear but a sliver of her agony so they might better appreciate the Grace that allows Sigil to exist. These persons make up an exclusive faction, the Chastised. Often referring to themselves as the Disciplined, these now missionaries leave Sigil never to return for it is forbidden to worship the Lady - their new goddess - within the City of Paths. To those who would listen beyond Sigil's walls they say the Lady is the avatar of a deity residing in Topos Hyperuranios ("place beyond heaven"), that realm wherein reside the Platonic Forms & Whiteheadian Eternal Objects. To them She has purposely Fallen into the Grand Imperfection that is the Great Wheel so that we might awaken to the realization that all division - even that between Empyrean and Tenebrous- is illusory. That, they tell us, is Sigil's reason for Being. This messianic nondualism is naturally blasphemy to the celestials who serve the Empyrean, the fiends who serve the Tenebrous, and the varied warring deities who are barred from entering the City of Paths. However the greatest enemies of the Chastised are the Cathars, the Found, who will hound the worshipers of the Lady across the varied planes of existence. That the Cathars are allowed to live in Sigil while those who've supposedly been given revelation of the Lady's divinity are exiled does not make the religion of the Disciplined very popular in planar circles.

The Legal Triumverate, the Doomstayers, and the Guardians of Grace

There are very few Chastised as the Lady rarely interferes with the running of the city's government - most of that falls to the guilds and factions. While Sigil's enaction of peace & justice is overseen by the Harmonium, the Fraternity of Order, and the Sons of Mercy, the advancement of Negentropy (known to some as Syntropy) is overseen by the Doomstayers.

That latter faction also contains within it the Guardians of Grace, a subfaction that always consists of 12 guardian angels - 3 from each Emanation - and 777 proxies of varied deities who identify as facets of Nous. Each proxy has a different set of superpowers gifted to them by their deity. The angels are always those who've serve as daemons for recently deceased individuals - no angel serves for longer than forty years before being replaced. The proxies serve so long as they are physically and mentally capable.

While beyond Sigil the Grace Guard, along with the other Doomstayers, make constant war against the Tenebrous within the city's confines they oversee the tending of the Great Orchard-Garden and the Arboretum within it. Most of Sigil's fruits, vegetables, and medicinal herbs come from the work of this faction. Because so many rank and file Doomstayers are educated in the care of varied flora they also find work beyond faction duties attending the management of plant life throughout Sigil. The Arboretum has four towers, each existing within Sigil but also within one of the four respective Emanations. Thus each tower serves as a home to the three guardian angels from each Emanation currently serving in the Grace Guard.

While it is true that Doomstayers see their conflict against the Tenebrous as a war this does not mean all of them - or even all Grace Guard - do so utilizing violence. Syntropy is better encouraged by the planting of a tree than the swinging of a sword, and so a great many Doomstayers are teachers, healers, druids, and builders. However there are times when one must take up the sword, even while realizing violence often leads to entropy and thus serves the Tenebrous & the Hungers. Because warring against the Devouring Night gives them common cause with the angels serving the Empyrean, the celestials often join the fray especially when fiends are involved.

This well known alliance givens even more status to the faction, and even servants of the Hungers give even lowly namers a wide berth while in Sigil. However those who've been touched by & now serve the Tenebrous directly are not as cautious, and every so often one such heinous individual will actually seek out members of the faction to inflict evil upon. (Once even a proxy of the Grace Guard was tortured then murdered by a now executed Void-Pact arch-warlock.) Whenever such targeted murders occur it strains the usual alliance between the Doomstayers and the Legal Triumverate, for the heroes of the Grace Guard quickly become nearly unstoppable vigilantes flouting the legal machinery of the city.

The Cathars

Given the gods are barred from Sigil but their servants are not, a great deal of administrative & diplomatic work is involved with managing the varied competing faiths. Thankfully the Cathars, who see all deities as equal under the Empyrean, are happy to serve Sigil in that capacity. The Found are an odd bunch, as they are the few genuine servants of the Empyrean whom the angels detest. The reason for this enmity is that this faction preaches that while the Empyrean is the ultimate Truth there is still a place for not only the Hungers but also the Tenebrous. This would be bad enough, but the Cathars also hold that this metaphysical "place" is the very foundation of the natural order. To them the planes - even the Fourfold Emanation - are born of Tenebrous (which they claim contains a Primordial named Rex Mundi) and the Hungers. Only the very pinnacle of the Empyrean, that Aleph which lies beyond even the reach of the angels, is truly Pure though the rest of the plane is sacred ground.

This is of course an almost complete reversal of celestial teachings, but to make matters worse the Cathars also hold that the innermost essence of all beings on the Wheel (arguably save Rex Mundi) including the gods are Fallen and must aspire to the Aleph. Because we fell due to our own forgotten sins Rex Mundi, no matter how cruel, is our just deserved warden. However, the gods are First among the Fallen in that their Divine Spark is a means for fallen beings to have a spiritual relationship with the Great Unknown god that exists beyond even the Aleph. By both rejecting the pleasures of matter & loving the gods, one opens up their meager soul to the majesty of the the Great Unknown across lifetimes until ideally one experiences Blessed Reunion. A god is then close yet far from the Aleph, for the Divine Spark can easily be misinterpreted as proof one is at the apex of Being rather than a sign of the Great Unknown's graciousness. The other beings besides the gods the Cathars see as blinded by their own light are of course the angels.

The Lady in Pain, to the Cathars, is an entity tasked with guardianship of Sigil - no more, no less. That she forbids worship of her person is a sign that worshiping her actually can lead to a greater fallen state as one is not courting the Divine Spark in the way one does by worshiping the gods. For this reason the Chastised, to the Cathars, are committing a grave sin by spreading a false religion that blasphemes against all gods as well as the Great Unknown.

This could all be dismissed as mere insanity but for two anomalies. One is the resistance and occasional immunity the Cathar have to divine, fiendish, & angelic magic that seeks to harm, deceive, or spy on them. The other is the Bois Perilous, a jet black tree that sparsely yields blood red berries which conjured fiends gladly accept as, depending on the task, partial to full payment for their services. It's said the tree is a gift from the mysterious Rex Mundi.

Seekers of the Transcendent Source

For the Cathars each lifetime is an opportunity to redress the sin that resulted in all of us having Fallen from the Greater Unknown. For the Seekers each lifetime is an opportunity to improve our recollection of the One-as-Empyrean, who we as the Many forget we are always a part of. We reincarnate because our Higher Self desires greater refinement in the following of every particular life's drumbeat.

All those lives, of course, together make up the Cadence of the Planes. Thus in testing one's self, in forging one's self, one becomes more aware of self and Self. Synchronicity, dreams, omens and epiphanies converge to aid one in this journey that inevitably leads the Seeker across the Wheel as well as deep within themselves. Ultimately a Seeker comes to the find the truest compass is their own heart, though this sounds much easier than it usually turns out to be - the mortality rate of Seekers is quite high.

Their obsession with journeying both Inward and Outward has allowed the Seekers to share in the responsibilities of both guiding travelers along the Planar Pathways and running the varied Initiation Schools.

Sensation of Many Signs

The One is the Aleph, the Empyrean from which the descend the Four Emanations. Each of Us knows We are not exclusively the One, for We do not contain within our Selves all Platonic Forms and Whiteheadian Eternal Objects nor do We allow for each instance of causality. Yet We are of the One, each of Us, as We are the Many.

Signer-Sensates figure that since we're here as individuals with our own boundaries of experience, we should enjoy the experience of being around others in a reality born of the Fourfold Emanation. The best way to show our appreciation of the circumstance the One put us in is to savor the gift of our existence among others who've received that same graciousness. Thus one should seek out those experiences that make starkly real the reality of Others in relation to our Selves. For some this might mean romancing a single Other, for others it might mean the gladiatorial pits. Some in this faction even say that by gathering so much experience and understanding of others across reincarnations they come to better understand the view of the One for Whom all lives are windows.

This faction handles a variety or community affairs, especially those that involve people having new experiences and intersecting into each Others' lives. Universities, public event coordination, and town halls are examples where Signer-Sensates like to get involved.

Providence's Cabal

As the One-as-Empyrean makes and sustains all the Real through the Fourfold Emanation, all that happens is either ultimately as the One-as-Empyrean fated it to be or at least exists to potentially serve Its Plan. We may not be able to easily ascertain the Meaning of any particular event, but we can be assured that there is a reason for why things happen. We must then ask what Good may come from our own circumstances, so what we might fulfill the Purpose of the One.

The Givers are those who truly believe there is meaning in all things, including suffering, and thus those thankful for their lot should work to fulfill the Purpose which is the redemption of all reality. As such much of the care for the indigent and insane of the City falls to the Cabal, who hope to find meaning and enable others to find meaning in all the pains suffered across the breadth of the Real. Alongside the Sensation of Many Signs, the Doomstayers, and the Guvners the Givers dutifully help run Sigil's universities.

Many of the faction members have a great deal of personal wealth and quite a few are royalty, and so joining the faction served as a balm to the confused guilt of why they should have so much and others so little.

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63. Positively Empyrean (Part

63. Positively Empyrean (Part 2, Concerning the Empyrean and Its Emanation of Radiance)

The Empyrean

"Apocalypse? It is true?"

"What is true of yet to be?"

"I saw angels dancing in a light hotter than the sun! And I saw—I saw something so lovely—for one instant, so lovely—in the white light—"

"The Unnamable Thing of Beauty. I'm sorry you had to see That."

"What? What was it that I saw?"

"I don't know. The angels worship It. It comes and goes as It will...It is elusive. Ignore It. You will be happier."

-Attanasio, A. A.. The Wolf and the Crown (The Perilous Order of Camelot Book 3)

Also called the Source, the Pleroma, and Keter. The manifestation of Goodness as Positive Material. Disagreements abound as to whether the Empyrean is the Body of the One, the plane on which the Ultinmate Power resides, or if the plane "merely" contains the essence of Goodness & Life without being an entity unto itself.

No undead can exist here. Evil entities who are not undead can only exist here if given Angelic Dispensation. Not even the will of the gods can keep said beings from simply disintegrating/dissolving in a process the angels call the Invitation to Sublime. As for the non-undead of other alignments neutral beings can survive if protected by divine (not arcane) magic, though both they as well as Good beings need additional protections as the energetic aspect of this plane is potentially lethal. So far protections outside of Angelic Dispensations are only partially successful, and the same process that engenders angels to arise from the Positive Material affects visitors to some degree both mentally and physically. Expect wings to sprout, a change of mortal flesh to varied energies and elements, great pangs of guilt for past transgressions, and/or a newfound love for all living things. As the Source of divine magic, there are also a variety of living clerical spells making up the fauna of this place that are thankfully more than willing to help visitors that cross their paths. (Necromantic spells that depend on Negative Energy cannot exists here, nor can spells that are tied to Evil such as conjuring of fiends, so none of those are living spells on this plane.)

While not living spells, echoes of the Logos in this place result in random localized effects akin to hearing the spell Holy Word.

The "highest" point of the plane is the Aleph, the "lowest" the Substantiation. The Aleph is argued to be the center of the Empyrean's consciousness, a gateway to the Great Unknown god, the Primum Mobile or all or none of those things. The Substantiation is less controversial as all but the Cathars and a few other heretics acknowledge this is where the Empyrean begins to divide Itself into the Fourfold Emanation. Here pockets of elemental Radiance, Mineral, Lightning, and Mist begin to appear in abundance. Most mortal residents live here as though hazardous it's more manageable than the rest of the plane. Travel beyond the Substantiation is also made difficult by a plane-wide enchantment akin to the Traveler's Way though this can be partially mitigated by Angelic Dispensation.

The highest in all orders of angels dwell here, their flesh forged from this blazing materialization of Truth-Beauty-Love, transcendental entities mysteriously tasked with guardianship of such things as Time, the Cradle of Nascent Souls, and the Transubstantiation of All Matter.

Radiance: Emanation of Glory

For ancient poets like Homer, the Sun was a being of tremendous spiritual significance. The intense beauty of its rising and setting brought forth a dramatic display of the abiding moral and aesthetic harmony driving the cosmos. For ancient philosophers like Plato, the sun was similarly a sign of the highest Good, but its visible light was thought to be only partially responsible for the shower of colors drenching Earth and Sky.

Participating in the sunlit phenomena of the outer world was an inner noumenal light emanating from the eyes. Plato suggested that his inner light flows gently outward through the eyes from a psychic fire kindred to that animating the Sun. It meets and coalesces with the light of the Sun (or at night, with the Moon and other stars) to bring forth the beauty and splendor of the universe. Plato's was a participatory account of our knowledge of Nature wherein soul and world were understood to intermingle in each act of perception.

-Matthew Segall, Physics of the World Soul

The gleam of the unsheathed blade borne by the crusading paladin, the bright glow of the funeral pyre for the hero who died slaying the monster, the rainbow arcing across the sky proclaiming and end to the punishing Flood. All such light is contained within the Radiance, also called Hod or the House of Savitr ("Rouser", "Vivifier"), a plane that represents the Glory of the Empyrean. Thus the Radiance is also the Eureka of the inventor, the priest's sudden realization of a deep message in her scripture, the monk's sudden awareness of the Cadence of the Planes.

Those who enter this plane may find themselves selected for temporary saintliness, golden halos suddenly surrounding their hands and heads. While this effect fades once off the plane it causes a profound shift in personality. Persons suddenly find themselves seeking to become martyrs for some Good cause or another. This doesn't have to mean seeking execution by a mob or tyrant, rather it could mean exhausting one's health and property by seeking to feed as many homeless as possible. For this reason the Cabal of Providence will offer trips to Radiance, hoping that even after the effect fades the memory of such charity will inspire the privileged to join the faction. However while there is a geas-like drive to serve the Good, not everyone so touched acts in a Good manner. An evil blackguard might kidnap and torture the children of a slave owner, for example, to ensure the freeing of the slaves.

The "lower" portion of this plane is natural fire and light, where the Divine descends into the Mundane. The "higher" portion is closer to the Empyrean and that burning light - like an Cosmic Ocean of Suns - is the physical aspect of Knowledge as Divine Truth. Of course for non-divine beings it is difficult to understand the Divine Intellect, as we distill such Singularity into myriad subjects such as Art, Philosophy, and Mathematics. Thus any entity that isn't a god approaching this apex risks going mad along with burning up. However the "middle" of the plane offers the opportunity for enlightenment though this acquiring of knowledge can be quite random. Given that in this place Light *is* Knowledge visitors and natives alike may find themselves suddenly aware of new skills or knowledge held by someone on the Wheel. Some elementalist magic can be helpful in ensuring the knowledge is closer to something that one would find useful but this is never perfect even for gods of Knowledge and Light.

The angels of Radiance are warriors with swords of sharpened light fighting for the glory of the Empyrean, gurus traveling across the Wheel to bring Enlightenment, muses who inspire Art that glorifies the Good.

Last seen: 5 days 3 hours ago
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63. Positively Empyrean (Part

63. Positively Empyrean (Part 3, Concerning the Emanations of Mist and Lightning)

Mist: Emanation of Mercy

These tears I've cried.
I've cried a thousand oceans.
And if it seems I'm floating
In the darkness

I can't believe that I would keep,
Keep you from flying;
And I would cry a thousand more
If that's what it takes to sail you home...
-Tori Amos, 1000 Oceans

The Emanation of Mist, also known as Chesed and the House of Nesirie, represents the physical aspect of Divine Love in Its acknowledgement of our suffering. This manifestation is experienced as iridescent glowing steam, ranging in temperature from comfortably warm to a gentle coolness. Healing magic ebbs and flows throughout the plane, so visitors and natives can randomly have minor cuts healed or be cured of fiendish plagues. The mental effects of trauma and insanity can be also be temporarily diminished or even sometimes completely eliminated.

All the water here is breathable, so there is no risk of drowning. Evil beings - including undead - can exist here so long as they avoid the "higher" portions of the plane, though they are subjected to vivid daydreams wherein they reimagine events in their lives if someone had comforted them when the suffered cruelty or gently but firmly chastised them when they inflicted it. This results in continually having to stave off confusion. Entities of all alignments experience this while dreaming. Water taken from this plane acts as holy water . No spell using Negative Energy works here, attempts to cast them cause the caster to fall unconscious.

Droplets range in size from the minuscule to gargantuan, with some floating pockets of water holding aquatic civilizations and vast water gardens for Balaena, Zoveri, and varied water-associated celestials. Sometimes these elemental pockets may also hold a particular healing effect within their liquid (this only works on the plane), and planar cartographers work alongside the angels to identify and keep track of the most precious ones. Some of the larger droplets of divine water end up being frozen prisons for varied great evils the angels cannot kill but need to contain.

The "lower" portion of this plane occurs at the Falls, which is the coalescing of Mist into its descent as ordinary Water and Ether. Here one can find the more neutral aquatic races utilizing great magics to stop their cities and civilizations from being swept by the Falls' "downward" current. The "higher" portion of this plane is referred to as the Fog of Thales and Panther's Breath. The roiling mists of this area glows fiercely but smells sweetly, and the healing properties of the plane are even more pronounced. Given the highly energized steam making up the Fog of Thales, the angels here have employed steam engines to produce the Clockwork Angels. These entities as mechanics have no will of their own, yet are powered by the essence of the Emanation and thus act in accordance with the Divine Mercy. This makes them useful replacements to the archangels of this plane, who have noticed that their Angels of Mist who attempt to bring succor to those places deeply ravaged by the fiends end up falling due to doubts about the Purpose of the Empyrean.

Lightning: Emanation of the Life Spark

Eleleth tells Norea that she isn’t just a fallen shadow-creature, but that she has the spirit of truth emanating within her, a fragment of the imperishable light, and is therefore a holy immortal being of the Pleroma. Norea has the mother of wisdom Sophia within her, in the form of Zoe, or Life itself. And this means the Authorities of Darkness despise her in their jealousy. This insight is crucial. I personally believe this insight cuts to be the very heart of Gnosticism in all its permutations. Which is the fact that Knowledge, Enlightenment, or Emancipation isn’t just a state, it’s a process; the process of becoming free, of literally seeing spiritual truth.

Inherent within this notion is the implication that the illusory world of matter, the realm of chaotic shadow-form overseen by the blind demiurge, can still be reconnected or transformed or taken back into the Pleroma, into the infinite, imperishable Light. This is admittedly my own personal interpretation of some pretty hardcore variations of Gnostic cosmogony. But what this suggests to me is that even the demons and dark angels of Samael can still cry out to the Holy Spirit just as Norea does, and ask for their sight to be restored. To no longer be avatars of Samael, blinded as he is blind, but to become more than shadow-soul – to become independent agencies gifted with a fragment of the Pleroma within them by awakening to the reality of pneuma; the divine spark and breath of life. Here at Amid Night Suns I often refer to this luminous pneuma as the Innermost Light, or the Midnight Sun.
-Raj Sisoda, Church of the Ragged

The Emanation of Lightning, also known as Yesod and the House of Vajrasattva, is the manifestation of the Empyrean that gifts the Eletcric Breath of Life to the Wheel. Evil beings & all undead who have no Angelic Dispensation suffer electrical damage so long as they are here, and any being killed in such a manner ends up reincarnated as an infant at the site of a lightning strike somewhere on the Wheel. These rebirths erase the memory of the once evil entity and always occur near some good aligned beings - for example a golden dragon or a village in genuine service to a good deity - that will receive a Revelation (usually while dreaming) to seek out and care for the amnesiac reincarnate. Neutral beings suffer continually low-level shocks that interfere with their movement and concentration. In addition to these effects, the charge continually flowing across the plane can animate non-living entities brought along by visitors. This includes not only items but also cast spells that might become living spells with minds of their own. (Any attempt to cast a spell using Negative Energy results in damage to the caster equivalent to a lightning strike.)

Most of the plane is an ocean of electricity, roiling storms, and vast spaces of ozone charge air. Within the echoes of the Thunder are whispers of Divine Revelation, attempts by the Transcendent Bodhisattvas to communicate with those left behind upon the Wheel, or so the angels claim. More practically, varied angelic machines (thus immune to animation) ranging from clocks to airships are powered by the lightning strikes of this plane, and just as the Angels of Mist are using mechanic angels to expand their ability to offer aid the Angels of Lightning use mechanical celestials to spread life across the Wheel. The angels of this plane believe that engendering life in evolving bodies of matter is the path to redeeming all of the Real, as it allows mundane matter to hold a soul that allows the material body to know the greatness of the Empyrean. Beyond the crafting of machines, the tech-savy celestials here have two sets of blacksmiths. The first is the Storm Devas, who forge weapons known as vajras that can be used by good aligned monks (and sometimes samurai) seeking Enlightenment in Life. The second are the Cyclopean Celestials, who forge rarer intelligent artifacts that allow those deemed worthy by these weapons to gain control of Thunder and Lightning. While these weapons take many forms for whatever reason the Heavenly Cyclops seem to most enjoy making different kinds of war hammers.

The "highest" portion of the plane is a great barrier of churning energy between Lightning and the Empyrean known as the Source Wall, beyond which is said to lie the True Knowledge of Life and Death. The Thunder heard here is said to speak with the singular voice of an entity known as Metratron. The Angels of Lightning often seek its enigmatic advice, for it is said this invisible entity serves as the Voice of the Great Unknown. Floating near the barrier are thousands upon thousands of what seem to have been undead pilgrims now made of fulgurite. Legend holds that the greatest among these beings, a lich known as Skall, somehow gained Angelic Dispensation for himself and his followers to attempt to cross the Source Wall as they sought to know whether there was a True Death that might free them from the Wheel's cycle of birth and death as well as the conflict between the Empyrean and the Tenebrous. This was the result.

The "lower" portion of the plane is known as the Cloud Lands or Subdued Cacophony, where the Divine Lightning & Thunder become mundane electricity, air, and sound. The storms are less intense here as well, allowing djinn and other planars to live in this area in relative comfort.

Last seen: 5 days 3 hours ago
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63. Positively Empyrean (Part

63. Positively Empyrean (Part 4, concerning Mineral & the Towers)

Mineral: Emanation of Incarnation

"The Gnostic Error is to reject the material world. The material world is the part of Heaven we can touch."

-Grant Morrison, Invisibles

The Emanation of Mineral, also known as Malkuth, Jovar, and the Vault of Pluto, is the physical aspect of Empyrean Incarnation, that which imparts Hyle (Matter) and Morph (Forms) onto the reality of the Wheel. Thus the gemstones and precious metals of this place are our witnessing of the Empyrean's alchemical power which unifies the primordial Chaos-matter with the transcendent Order of the Forms. Another way of looking at this is that for the Empyrean, the mental aspects and physical aspects are unified, and the fact Its architectural thoughts manifest as precious minerals shows us how much care has been put into Creation. (This reference to thoughts & caring should not be taken as a definitive statement on whether the Empyrean is a sentient entity, as even some angels see It as an Ouroboros of Dreamer & Dream Who is Loving but not self-reflexive.)

This plane is a labyrinth illuminated by the inner divinity of its metals and gemstones, with great palaces & fortresses of the celestials seeming to organically grow from the landscape. As this Emanation is, in a sense, the Divine Body considered as a Simple Whole, attempts by any but the angels to remove the divinely charged wealth of the plane are quite temporary - within a matter of days what was taken teleports back. The mundane minerals of the "lowest" portion of the plane are in turn defended by a variety of elemental beings that do not enjoy seeing their home pillaged.

Evil beings & undead who come here risk being ossified, turning into statues made of valued metals and gems. Divine action can delay this but only Angelic Dispensation grants immunity to the effect. Additionally, since the essence of all gems comes from this plane, even mundane gems cannot be used to trap good or neutral souls.

The "lowest" portion of the plane is the Luminous Delve, which descends into a wondrous churning whirlpool of molten lava thick with gemstones. The Delve is where the Divine Emanation becomes both mundane minerals and the mere elemental earth that encases them. The "highest" portion is M'Kraan, a city carved within a continental glowing pink crystal just translucent enough to offer windows to places across space and time. At the apex of the city within M'Kraan is a planar pathway known as the Bridge of al-Sihal, an arc of rosy light that rises into a dark Void. No one who has entered that Void has ever returned.

The Angels of Incarnation are formed from gems and metal though their flesh is soft and warm when not deflecting the weapons of an enemy. Their forges are continually working, creating equipment to gift to the varied heroes across the Wheel who battle against the forces of the Tenebrous and its Hungers. Their second gift to the beleaguered souls across the planes are their mineral-based golems, for the Angels of Mineral have an innate power of golemancy. Their final gift are the crystals of potentiality, fragments of Hyle that are least bound by any particular Form. This crystalized chaos-matter can take the shape of almost anything inorganic (and of comparable size) that their owner wills them into. While the number of uses varies none of these crystals can be used more than five times before shifting back into the Emanation of Mineral.

Because they believe all matter, save perhaps that of the Hungers & Tenebrous, is of the Empyrean they are the most likely to come to blows with the Cathars.

The Towers

Each of the Emanations contains a tower utilized by the angels but neither built nor conjured by their hands. Their own histories say that their great ancestors, now vanished Primordial Celestials, discovered the Towers while wandering in the Emanation that served as their respective wombs.

Among themselves the celestials will refer to the Towers as Pillars of Creation.

The Towers are as follows:

Tower of Storms - A glistening electrically charged blue structure made from some unknown primeval substance projecting out of the iridescent Source Wall, this tower held knowledge that allowed the Angels of Lightning to understanding the ways in which their Emanation confers Life to the Wheel. Once mortals who'd proven themselves were welcomed, but an arch-alchemist named Victor von Frankenstein betrayed the angels by using this knowledge to grant true life to an entity crafted out of multiple corpses. This unfortunate monster lies in suspended animation within the Emanation of Mist, as being neither truly alive nor undead it is unclear to the angels what they should do or what kind of threat such a being might pose to the balance of Creation.

Tower of Lead: This grey tower arises out from the Luminous Delve, and within its walls the Angels of Mineral discovered wondrous forges. There are tools here that can create new relations between Hyle and Morph, thus enabling the Angels of Mineral to create exotic materials never before seen. However such gifts come with a heavy price, those angels who work those Crucibles of Creation vanish upon completion of their work.

Heart of Light: A tower crafted from nothing but blue light, this location floats aimlessly within Radiance. All who enter are healed as their bodies also become formed of light within this place. The Angels of Radiance use this place as a crematorium for the bones of genuine Saints - beings who directly channeled the power of the Empyrean and thus became miracle workers. Why they do this is unclear, as the Angels of this Emanation will not offer any explanations.

Tower of Ice: Just below the Fog of Thales is a tower formed completely of ice. Within it the Angels of Mist delve ever deeper into the healing arts, creating potions, balms, and other healing items to counter the creation of weapons, plagues, and poisons utilized by the fiends. Unlike the barring of mortals from the Tower of Storms, mortal Doomstayers are constantly arriving here to learn more about the medicinal expertise held by the celestials of this plane.

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63. Positively Empyrean (Part

63. Positively Empyrean (Part 5, concerning Angelic Nature and the Primes)

Of the Angels and their works

It wouldn't hurt to light a candle for Jona - We are, all of us, feeling for the worlds that move between the cracks in our senses. Light a candle for your friend. Good hearts push through many boundaries.

Have faith, Christoff. Have faith in something.

-JM McDermott, Never Knew Another

The angels are born adult and whole out of the Positive Upper Planes (Sefirot), with the Angels of the Fourfold Emanation deferring to those who arise from the Empyrean. The flesh of the angels is composed from the substance of their respective planes of origin, thus their very touch is harmful to evil beings. Those native to the Hungers and the Tenebrous are most vulnerable, though their touch naturally inflicts harm upon the angels in turn.

The goals of the angels concern the relationship between the Tenebrous and the Empyrean. To these celestial entities the origin of Everything Known starts with the Aleph and ends at the nadir of the Tenebrous. As such all of the Wheel is seen as either a descent of quality or more optimistically an obfuscation of Divinity. (How angels view this process influences how they treat those not of their kind.)

The angels also debate other questions among themselves, though thankfully the diversity of answers has not led to Holy War in quite a few millennia. Among the questions that concern the angels are:

Is the Empyrean itself the Great Unknown god, or is that deity beyond even the highest celestial plane?

Does the Great Unknown even exist?

Is the Empyrean the apex of all reality, and is it conscious or unconscious?

This then leads to parallel questions regarding the Tenebrous and whether the battle against Evil & Entropy has an ending. Are the angels serving a Great Unknown god who will ultimately triumph over the Darkness, or they protecting a vulnerable eternally sleeping plane from which all that is Good springs? Over centuries or at least millennia, angels who don't fall are likely to end up in a Twilight State where the doubts they have press on their minds. This will lead to the rare not-quite-fallen angel who seeks out revelation from a faction or Initiation School in Sigil.

For those neither Fallen nor in Twlight, angelic work consists of continually pushing back against that which spreads Entropy and/or Evil to the Wheel. For some this involves the spread of magical and technological knowledge, or others it means warring against the fiends, and still for others it means watching over a single mortal life. The most courageous and foolhardy seek to redeem entities born from the Hungers, but hard lessons keep any existing angel from trying to turn any entity that emerged from the Negative Material of the Tenebrous itself.

The Prime Material Planes

Between the Aleph of the Empyrean and the Nadir of the Tenebrous, there exist a variety of realities that mark the spectrum between the Emanations and the Hungers. These are called the Prime Material Planes, with most of them being closer in nature to the Upper Positive (Sefirot) or Lower Negative Planes (Quipploth) respectively.

However, a small number of these Primes are perfectly between the Sefirot and Quipploth. These are called the Outland Primes or the Sighs of Relief for the weight of the Good/Evil alignments doesn't emanate from the elements composing these universes. Most say the Outland Primes represent the perfect inflection point in the descent of the Divine Emanation, before the obfuscation of Divinity gives way to outright Inversion. However there are beings on these Outland Primes called the Rilmani who dare claim that both the Empyrean and the Tenebrous are divergences from the Truth of Neutrality.

The Rilmani serve this Neutral Principle through various clandestine activities, and their natural tendency toward secrecy makes it hard to evaluate whether they have any true influence on the conflict between the Empyrean and the Tenebrous.

Oftentimes Outland Primes will have neighbor Primes that are just slightly touched by Sefirot or Quipploth - these are often akin to the Feywild and Shadowfell found in some alternate Wheels.

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63. Positively Empyrean (Part

63. Positively Empyrean (Part 6, concerning Fiendish Nature, Life after Death, and the Paths)

Of the Fiends and their works

"You're saying that evil is a means to an end, never an end in itself. But what if evil was more than just a label for antisocial behavior? What if evil was a real force working in the world, capable of drawing people to its service?"
-Matt Ruff, Bad Monkeys

Just as the celestials are born from the Emanations and the Empyrean, the fiends emerge wholly from the Hungers and the Tenebrous. Fiends from the Hungers are in both religious awe of, and feel demented envy toward, the fiends born from the Tenebrous. These latter fiends in turn find themselves most often pondering the insatiable darkness that is their place of origin, continually asking themselves and each other as to the exact nature of Evil.

Is there truly a Rex Mundi, or is one (or more) of their number simply using the idea of an Ultimate Evil to manipulate the others? Could one of their ancestors, the Primordial Fiends, have escaped the slaughter? Or is the Tenebrous itself both living and sentient in some way?

Does their war with the angels have an ending?

At times fiends become disillusioned warring for the sake of a Malicious Entropy, retreating into contemplative wandering or just as likely setting up petty tyrannies on the one of the Primes. However it seems The Tenebrous expected such betrayals, and so birthed horrors whose only purpose is hunting down those who abandon Its war effort. Some are punished by the living darkness that is Ztefano, but some are coaxed gently back into the fold by the wise alabaster skinned Verin.

One major difference between themselves and the angels is that fiends continually seek to be conjured by mortals, hoping to find an opportunity to escape their leash and open a tear between the Primes and the Quipploth. Because of this fiends themselves work to make known their second names (rather than their true names) in varied grimoires in the hopes fools will stumble upon these texts.

Another faction of fiends believes the slow corruption of all mortals is key, for this curdles the Divine Spark and allows the soul to be devoured by Tenebrous...or so they claim...

Life after Death

One of the great mysteries is what happens to those who do not become undead when they reach the end of their lives. While reincarnation is known to happen it isn't clear how often this occurs or if it is truly indefinite for those souls that experience it. Past life regression never goes back more than three lives.

Gods welcome petitioners who arrive into their realms, but given these beings have no memories of their mortal lives some hypothesize these are new beings created from the mold of mortal life rather than the souls of the dead.

Many of the factions past and present have been born from Near Death & Post Life Experiences, reports regarding the "true nature of reality" from those who were resurrected or simply brought back from the brink of death. That these reports are contradictory means they give little comfort to the skeptical Prolongers, though the larger factions have more such corroborative experiences along with supportive Gnosis received by varied Initiation Schools.

When fiends end up ensnaring someone's soul they turn the mortal into some kind of spectral undead which they then bring down into the Quipploth to torment.

The Paths

There are no portals between realms of reality, rather the Wheel must be traversed by planar pathways such as Oceanus, the Infinite Staircase, and Tree of Life. Moreover, these journeys are taking place on physical aspects of transcendental Truths, and so it is not sufficient for someone to simply travel. Instead, one must engage in a variety of ritual practices while moving along the pathways.

Certain pathways are open only to those who've undergone a particular kind of initiation, which is why varied schools exist in Sigil to enable access to the necessary Revelation. Most pathways across the Wheel are only accessible under certain conditions, and then only to those carrying the necessary path keys.

Sigil, as the City of Paths, offers access to more Pathways than anywhere else on the Wheel. However no known pathways exist between Sigil and the Empyrean nor the Tenebrous...but if one enters the Asylum and asks the now mad Guvners...

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63. Positively Empyrean (Part

63. Positively Empyrean (Part 7, concerning the Gods)

The Gods

“Nobody died. how can you kill an idea? How can you kill the personification of an action?"

"Then what died? who are you mourning?"

"A point of view.”
― Neil Gaiman, The Wake

How angels explain the gods:

Just as the Sepiroth are Emanations from the One, so to is the Divine Spark. This spark, Nous, can be thought of as an Emanation that holds as much of the One as the Intellect is capable of. Thus Nous is the manifestation of Divine Intellect, created in the Image of the One. That Nous is that Intellect which unifies Hyle & Morph upon the Wheel is what allows Thought to become Will where the gods are concerned, bridging the gap between the Conceptual Universals (Essence) and Actualities (Existence). The domains of a god are the portion of concepts it holds in the Divine Intellect.

What the graybeards say:

While apotheosis is rare, it does occur from time to time, and thus a special few leap like salmon up the descending Emanations. While mortals turned gods revel in their newfound power there usually exists a moment of disappointment upon learning the intellect of the gods is turned upon their spheres of dominion in *this* reality. The gods have little additional knowledge regarding the deeper metaphysical questions, and cannot even be certain petitioners appearing in their realms are truly mortal souls.

One secret the gods might have is a plane that only they (supposedly) have access through the Divine Spark, a Silver Void that like them serves as the manifestation of the One's Intellect within the Wheel. It is here that they come to iron out their disagreements, for wars between pantheons can consume whole primes. Thus it is here that the gods carve out their territories, with certain pantheons taking over an entire Prime Material Plane to shape to their liking. That the peace between the gods has held for billions of years is due to another secret of the Astral - when a power dies their body ends up here. Thus all negotiations are taking place among the corpses of their fellows for this the Graveyard of the Gods.

An excerpt of notes left for a Namer Cathars:

Gods enjoy worship, but exactly what they draw from service is unclear. Some say the gods need at least a single believer or they - as Living Ideas - will perish, while others suggest wherever a god is worshiped is where the deity can better exercise power in accordance with their domains.

Others claim even the gods do not know why they seek out worship, only that it seems to be the natural order of things. Of course these hypotheses are merely conjecture, and the Truth may be something altogether different.

What the Evil Gods teach:

The evil gods tell their followers different things regarding their divine nature. Some say they are the elect of the Tenebrous, made from that Vile Darkness to show that Evil is the Truth of All. Others say the Empyrean is their Father-Mother but is also a tyrant, a jailer, and their actions however seemingly evil are in service of Liberation. Still others will tell you that they are born of a flaw in the Emanations, that the One has a shadowy subconscious that ensures they will always exist in some fashion. And diverting from all the above teachings are the dark gods who will say the Empyrean is nothing but an aberration, the Nadir most distant from the Tenebrous which supports the natural order where gods may do as they please to the lesser entities in creation.

What the Rilmani preach:

Does it truly make sense that the Empyrean, the Blessed Positive, produces gods of undeath & torture? How could the Tenebrous, the Insatiable Darkness, produce gods of mercy, of life? Surely, instead, there is something beyond both the Empyrean and the Tenebrous, something that is responsible for the gods even as it is the Creative Principle behind the perfectly balanced Wheel?

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63. Positively Empyrean (Part

63. Positively Empyrean (Part 8, concerning Emanation and Inversion)

Emanation and Inversion

“Before we had our becoming here, we existed There, men other than now; we were pure souls. Intelligence inbound with the entire of reality, not fenced off, integral to that All. [...] Then it was as if One voice sounded. One word was uttered and from every side an ear attended and received and there was an effective hearing; now we are become a dual thing, no longer that which we were at first, dormant, and in a sense no longer present.”
― Plotinus, The Enneads

As we descend into the generally accepted Nadir of this Wheel, it's a worth a moment to catch our breath and reflect on the fundamental nature of this plane and the disputation it causes between the varied factions and exemplars. This Wheel is (apparently) born of Emanationism, where Divine Perfection flows out and becomes the rest of Creation as the Divine essence diminishes. While there is some disagreement as to the exact nature of this process, most non-Cathars - including the more honest fiends - here agree that the Empyrean is where the flow begins. While it might seem possible that Dust becomes Elemental Earth becomes Mineral, it's much harder to see Ash igniting into Elemental Fire or Salt sublimating into Elemental Water. And it seems impossible that Vacuum would become elemental Air, let alone become the Electric Breath of Life.

Yet what does it mean for the material of the Prime Material Planes to originate from the One yet seem to be Its degradation? How does that which is Divine experience such a loss? Most angels see it less as degradation as obfuscation, the One choosing - for reasons unknown or even inexplicable - to forget or hide its own Divinity. This purposeful forgetfulness or secreting away of the One's divinity is then manifested fully as the Outland Primes. In fact for some of these angels Life, Incarnation, Glory, and Mercy are all just facets of a Divine Simplicity that we - with our weak Intellects - see as divided. We, the Many born of One, are the Observers who create this illusory existence with varied Planes and Powers through our inability to see the Divine Simplicity.

What challenges the faith of these angels is naturally the Tenebrous and the Hungers, for the fiends argue not with metaphysics but with the releasing of exquisite horrors. It becomes difficult to weigh in favor of philosophy when it is pitted against that day when Ma Yuan the Godkiller rose out of the Vaccum to devour whole pantheons. One can conceive of the Empyrean becoming base matter, even of Divine Mist becoming Water & Ether, but it seems the descent continues beyond into the Hungers.

Because the Tenebrous and the Hungers preceded the Angels, all the celestials can offer is mythology. For some Quipploth is an aberration born of some entity choosing to betray the Good and attempt to corrupt the Empyrean. Since Goodness means the giving of Freedom, to them it only makes sense even this greatest of betrayals is possible. Others among the angels claim Quipploth is a naturally occurring reflection, though this is rarely spoken of at present as it suggests the Rilmani claim that all emanates from a Neutral Principle. Such thinking is not currently en vogue in Heaven. An even more unpopular belief among those who see the Empyrean as unconscious is that as Divinity forgets Itself, Its own Freedom can result in Inversion. This is not just forgetfulness but a non-sentient confusion that sees Itself as Other and Anathema.

The introduction of Wheelwalkers to this place has led to the revival of an old belief, that the Tenebrous is from beyond the creation of the One which ends at the Outland Primes. It then reached out toward the Empyrean, an action that then manifested in the form of the Hungers as Inversions of the Fourfold Emanation. To them the Tenebrous is a thoroughly corrupted Wheel that ended up imposing itself upon their reality.

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Vacuum: The Dark and

63. Positively Empyrean (Part 9, concerning the Hungers of Vacuum and Dust)

Vacuum: The Dark and Breadthless Rooms

"There was Everything
Followed by Nothing
A swirling, gaping Maw that swallowed Life-Giving Suns
And then...we cowered in the Night."
-Johnathan Hickman, New Avengers Vol 1: Everything Dies

As the Emanation of Life descends it becomes the atmosphere of worlds, dividing into the mundane elemental forces of Air, Electricity, and Sound. Beyond this whether the Divine further degrades or is met by the Negative Material Evil of the Tenebrous we find the Hunger that seeks to extinguish the Breath which animates all living things.

Vacuum is absence as presence, a hollowed out space-time that continually seeks to murder all that lives. Fields of negative energy churn in this Void giving the plane a chaotic gravity, illumination given by the native demonic star goddesses known as Tzitzimitl. A lesser form of illumination is the glow of well fed fiends, temporarily sated because they have stolen so much of the Electric Breath. Even the plane itself hungers, and even with magical protection to prevent suffocation and damage from the cold one has to beware the slow drain of life force that most magic can only mitigate.

Visitors note that even when the plane seems vast it imparts a sense of claustrophobia, as if there was someone unseen in the dark just moments away from closing their hands around your throat. Even worse are the times when visitors are caught in a labyrinth of folded space & force, for this is when the elemental fiends will engage in the Hunt. For the vampiric fiends of vacuum this ritual act of murder is a declaration of loyalty to the Tenebrous, the fulfillment of their duty to draw out the Spark of Life from all living things.

The "lowest" point of this plane is the Whirling Void, a supermassive black hole that only the archfiends of this plane dare approach. They alone are capable of receiving the gifts of the Tenebrous, eldritch knowledge silently imparted into their minds by an unknown entity that some claim is the former, now fallen Metatron. Whether this is true or not, someone is sending living clots of Negative Material through the black hole which the archfiends use to create new monstrosities. The "highest" point of this plane is referred to as the Void Externa, where the mad elemental hunger becomes a simply hazardous void. A few planar travelers have claimed swirling collections of stars around which worlds revolve can be found in this infinite sliver, but most dismiss this as gossip mongers attempting to "earn" some free ale at their local bar.

Dust: The Ocean of Ruin

I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”
-Percy Shelley, Ozymandias

Bone white sand under a pitch black sky, moonlight falling from the great draconic skull gazing silently down at the landscape. Whether that skull is the severed head of a dracolich or a manifestation of the plane, it now serves as witness to the countless shattered buildings protruding from the endless desert of Dust. Stare up too long into those empty sockets and you will find yourself itching to break something simply because you can. Perhaps you'll throw a clay pot against a wall, or maybe you'll use insinuation to end your friend's engagement. You might resist, for a time, but when leaving this place you probably didn't even notice the invisible imp now sitting on your shoulder...

The fiends here are patient, consumate planners mirroring the slow erosion of Earth into Dust. They slowly spread themselves out over a particular civilization, slowly bringing more of their kind into the Prime even as they corrupt and deceive more and more mortals toward their cause. Then, when the planes are aligned just right, the fiends open a vortex between that particular Prime world and their home. The Hunger of Dust does the rest, eagerly pulling as much architecture into itself as possible before the vortex collapses. Because there is no air nor source of heat in this place victims who are pulled into this place quickly expire only to arise as some form of undead. (Visitors who took the proper protection should be aware that most magic cannot totally stop the disintegration of materials and bodies in this place.)

The one major weakness the fiends have is their avarice toward gems and precious metals. Mortals have bribed Dust fiends with entire mines in order to turn on their kin and prevent the creation of a Vortex. This does risk a visit from Ztefano but their greed is often so great it overrides their survival instinct.

The "lowest" part of this plane is the Onyx Oasis, an ocean of liquified Negative Material resting between the undulating dunes of the desert. While the oasis offers no respite for a mortal's thirst, the Dark Water can heal wounds suffered by the fiends & the undead. Even those burned by the power of the Empyrean can be made whole in this malefic place. A Night Serpent within the Dark Water named Dendar keeps the peace so that even mortals are safe so long as they rest upon the shore. She enjoys conversing with travelers and is quite charming herself, though she is occasionally absent because an opportunity has arisen for her to consume a Sun on one of the Primes.

The "highest" part of this plane is the Eternal Sandstorm, where the necromantic energies dissipate and the sand takes on many colors in the maelstrom. Within the whirling sand is where the slaver genies known as the Dao have their kingdoms, thus the tamer environment gives way to a new danger.

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63. Positively Empyrean (Part

63. Positively Empyrean (Part 10, concerning the Hungers of Ash and Salt)

Ash: The Forest of Smoking Mirrors

“Is man merely a mistake of God's? Or God merely a mistake of man?”
― Friedrich Nietzsche

The Divine Radiance descends into Elemental Fire, and then through Inversion becomes the remnant of the Flame. A vast land of grey ash with an air of black soot obscuring the Hungry Night, the plane is twin to the desert landscape of Dust.

As Radiance is Divine Glory, so the fiends of Ash seek to blot out that illumination. Thus as the fiends of Dust conspire to draw in the great works of Matter into the disintegrating power of their plane, the fiends of this plane seek to spread the essence of this plane across the Wheel. One of their more recent endeavors is to cover the atmosphere of the world in clouds of volcanic ash, so that vampire & drow kingdoms may emerge from the Underdark and establish their cruel empires.

The cold here seeps into one's bones, as the plane itself seeks out sources of heat to feed upon. Most light is also devoured, though the glow of spectral undead and the magic of the ash fiends offers some illumination. Unlike the other Hungers the fiends of this place go out of their way to make areas of the plane not just livable but outright comfortable for mortal races. As only their Fiendish Dispensation is one of the few enchantments known to completely negate the heat leeching properties of the plane, it is by their power that cities upon the Ash have become planar metropolises. Crafted from compacted ash infused with Negative Energy, the walls of these cities resemble an interweaving of onyx and obsidian. It's easy to get lost on their sprawling streets, leaving you in the company of your myriad reflections. These images in the walls serve as helpful guides, and are quick to offer praise. Their insights into your being can be invasive, but they always seem to have encouraging advice. In fact the fiends also work to encourage vanity and callousness, as the more self-centered the Many are the more they think of their own glory rather than the glorious nature of the One.

In tandem with this encouragement of Pride and Envy the reflective walls can also show images of horrors happening across the planes - sometimes one knows the victims, other times they are strangers. Almost always the suffering can be traced to action or more often inaction of the visitors. The fiends - usually with the help of mortals seeded among the visitors - invariably turn guilt-laden conversations about these witnessed evils toward the failings of the Empyrean, the deities of the Good, and possibly even the Great Unknown. Their purpose here is to diminish the Divine Glory in the eyes of the Many, which they in turn believe gives power to the Tenebrous.

The "highest" point of this plane is the Charred Forest, where the mysterious burnt trees mark the space where the Hunger of the plane gives way to mundane ashes and cinders. Those undead who arise after being burned to death seem find their way here from across the planes. The "lowest" point are the Mines of Benthic Hadal, that place closest to the Tenebrous from which the fiends get the negative infused, compacted ash used to build their cities. Just as the facets of this substance confound mortals in Ashen planar metropolises, in the mines those unnerving properties extend to the fiends themselves. While it's rare for fiends to enter Twilight and even rarer they end up Raised, many of those that do leave the service of the Tenebrous begin that journey in these mines.

Salt: The Crucible of the Parched

“This is the nature of war, whose stake is at once the game and the authority and the justification. Seen so, war is the truest form of divination. It is the testing of one's will and the will of another within that larger will which because it binds them is therefore forced to select. War is the ultimate game because war is at last a forcing of the unity of existence. War is God.”

― the Judge (Satan?) in Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West

Under the jet black sky lie the crystalline plains and pits which make up the Hunger of Salt. Mist, the Divine Emanation of Mercy, becomes Elemental Water and Ether, and these substances in turn fall further from their Emanation until through Inversion they form these pale lands. While there is no heat, the substance of the plane itself gives off a soft but menacing glow. Any contact with the salt of this plane upon naked flesh draws out moisture, though this Hunger is quite patient. The process of dehydration is painful but slow, as for every drop of water drawn out a spiritual infection is given. For some this is an increasing wrath and for others its a deepening callousness, the irritation of the plane's constant needling revealing the hollowness of all that might be worthy of compassion.

While the plane itself is gentle in its commission of murder, the fiends of this place are much more overt in their attempts to eliminate mercy and compassion. Both upon this plane and beyond it they work as torturers of the mind and body, offering the choice to pass on suffering to some innocent. They manipulate nations into war, encourage betrayal to engender the subsequent vengeance, preach the doctrine of might makes right and encourage the belief that suffering is always chosen or deserved. (They are aided in that last lie by those who use reincarnation to support varied systems of supposed "karmic justice".)

The "highest" part of this plane is the Flats, where both the pitch of Night and the glow of the salt fade away. This place where Hunger recedes and leaves mundane salt of varied hues under a grey sky is home to many salt miners from across the Wheel. The "lowest" part is the Churn, a sea of grinding salt crystals. Here the fiends cast the bodies of angels, which are then ground down so that Angels of Salt might arise every hundred years or so. These inverted angels are quite dangerous for they can enter the Emanations (but not the Empyrean) freely and even grant Angelic Dispensation to mortals.

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final placeholder for 63

63. Positively Empyrean (Part 11, concerning the Tenebrous)

The Tenebrous

And the ground will open out into a mouth below us
And the mouth will open out into the empty sky
And the whistle as we hurtle through the halls of onyx
The only sound around us as we go by

And I'll follow you out through the wells of charcoal
Moonlit stones around the cones of a black hole
Through the fields where grow the ever and forever
The tessellated blooms with the voids at their centers
Through the million rooms in a bead of luminescence
The filaments on the looms of dimension

The pillars of creation where they make the planets
The billion tiny teeth that tear the charge from your atoms
In a trillion tiny bites they'll eat the meat from the pearl
And throw your soul away a cold gray little world

And nothing that is hidden will be revealed

-Josh Ritter, The Remnant

The ultimate nadir of the Wheel, the Crown of Quipploth, known to an ancient race of banishers now spectres lost within its confines as Cocytus. The Tenebrous is the manifestation of Pure Evil as Insatiable Darkness, the place where Negative Energy is soaked through with Malice. Here there is a primeval joy felt for every life snuffed out as well as every Good being who falls.

There is little light or heat to be had, as most of it is devoured within moments by the plane itself. However like the Hungers the glow of undeath can brighten the hungry dark, and so the dwellings of undead lords and archfiends use undead which by their natures offer some illumination. Some of these are imprisoned or subjected to geas, but others are happy to serve their masters in this capacity. The other kind of light that can mitigate the pall of Negative Energy is the aura of Empyrean archangels, but these prisoners only serve as lanterns in those great fortresses and cathedrals directly in service to the mysterious Rex Mundi. Sounds are also muffled (along with smell and taste), but the difficulty in trying to counteract this problem means telepathic communication is quite common.

All living beings are in danger of having their life force drained, their bodies and items disintegrated, their minds shattered by their envelopment in Ultimate Evil. Magic offers some limited protection, but as even spells fray here such partial abjuration is quite untrustworthy. Those who who aren't undead yet wish to come here will need Fiendish Dispensation to accomplish much of anything.

The unliving on the other hand are empowered by the plane and can be found across the Devouring Void. Negative Energy solidifies into Negative Material which folds into itself to make Voidstone, allowing dwellings to be built for the more civilized and flightless undead. The plane also has swarms of incorporeal undead aimlessly wandering the nightmarish expanse, their un-life long ago surrendered to hateful madness. Near silent wars abound between undead lords, as each has artifacts, secrets, and other resources useful in the machinations of their fellows. One of the great wars concerns a mile-wide metallic sphere called Deathheart, said to hold ancient secrets of unlife as well as an abandoned city around its inner shell.

There is a muffled set of echoes here representing the Finality of the Logos, and for living beings to hear this subjects them to waves of crippling despair. As the Logos is the Unity of Speech and Act, one of these echoes is said to be the Last Word - a power that once possessed could kills gods. Even the mere echo of this Word allowed the Voice of the Whirling Void to gift the Fiends of Vacuum the means of creating Ma Yuan the God Killer.

There are also echoes of another kind - ghostly scenes rerun in scattered fashion across the plane, defying the sensory muffling that usually occurs. These seem to be occurrences from a Wheel that has a different structure and different exemplars, though the events - no matter what is happening - take on the feeling of a play none of the actors are taking seriously. Scenes of triumph and joy are retold as incredibly dull, while scenes of loss and grief are cast as amusing. Sometimes these scenes will even "break character" for a moment, for example one of the characters in the midst of being burned at the stake will turn to those viewing and wink. It is these scenes that cause some to suspect the Tenebrous is actually a corrupted Wheel that invaded this reality constructed by the Emanations of the One.

The fiends born of this place are seen as the elect of their kind, responsible for guiding the war effort against the angels. It is for them to topple the Towers, to parley with the Dark Gods, to foment holy wars between the angels over matters of theology & theodicy. These fiends are, in turn, supposed vassals to the mysterious Rex Mundi though the very existence of such a figure is in great dispute. The challenge is some quite powerful archfiends - including Verin and Ztefano - take their devotion to the World's King rather seriously, and as such everyone is forced to play along to some degree. The other issue is that there seem to be a cadre of fiends outside the usual hierarchies and domains who seem more knowledgeable about the nature of this being. Most of them are paper pushers and other menial non-combative types, yet killing them has come to be seen as a great taboo given the misfortune that follows.

While there are many, many locales dedicated to the torment of those they share this Wheel with, the fiends also have Preserves where they invisibly observe and even encourage the good hearted and innocent toward moral action..though naturally they introduce temptations and misfortunes as stimuli. The better they can understand the Good, they believe, the better they can someday destroy It.

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64. Toon Wheel

64. The Toon Wheel

"Behold! Human beings living in an underground den, which has a mouth open towards the light and reaching all along the den; here they have been from their childhood, and have their legs and necks chained so that they cannot move, and can only see before them, being prevented by the chains from turning round their heads. Above and behind them a fire is blazing at a distance, and between the fire and the prisoners there is a raised way; and you will see, if you look, a low wall built along the way, like the screen which marionette players have in front of them, over which they show the puppets."

"I see."

"And do you see, I said, men passing along the wall carrying all sorts of vessels, and statues and figures of animals made of wood and stone and various materials, which appear over the wall? Some of them are talking, others silent."

"You have shown me a strange image, and they are strange prisoners."

"Like ourselves, I replied...
-Plato, The Republic

Sadly little of this Wheel has been mapped out, though it seems to resemble the usual structure, as the nature of this reality makes it disturbing enough that most Wheelwalkers avoid traveling here unless a great need arises. Let me begin my explanation by asking a question - Have you ever seen a Praxinoscope? Simple enough in their basic design, magic & psionics allow for even more complicated animations. Many faiths use these devices to tell their scriptural stories to children, and in some Wheels Sensates use them in tandem or in place of recorder stones. Some of the most advanced devices allow the viewer to experience part of the phenomenal qualities of the scenes depicted, for example feeling the wetness of a storm or the heat of fire.

Now imagine yourself as a character in the animation, and what happens to you in the animation is felt by your body. Now imagine your body suspended, feeling nothing but the animation you're somehow floating above. And then if your body was frozen and unseen, capable of nothing but the feeling of events your avatar in the scenes experiences? That is the reality of this Wheel, what we refer to as the Praxinoscope Wheel.

When we first came here and tried to explain our own subjective experience of having a body that both acts in the world and feels the effects of those actions, the residents of this Wheel thought we were mad. When we found and enabled what we presume are the first Wheel Walkers of this place, and took them away, the result was madness. To live in a place that is (at least) three dimensional, where the limit of your sight is (usually) based on the placement of your eyes rather than the top-down viewing of a two dimensional scene...it overwhelmed the minds of these poor Wheelwalkers. Thankfully using therapy and clerical magic we coaxed most of these neophyte Walkers back to sanity...and that is when they began to ask the same questions that we tried yet have heretofore failed to answer.

First is the oddity of cause and effect. A person can be smashed by a frost giant's hammer and simply flatten out, as if they had no bones, only to later "reinflate". Directly taking a fireball to face results in a person covered with soot but no permanent burn damage. (Lightning strikes have a similar effect, though one's hair may seem to be under the effect of extreme static.) One can have their head chopped off and still be alive and conversant, even able at times to command their animated body to reattach their animated head. Even death results in one's eyes becoming Xs, a ghost arising that bears similar form to the body. For reasons unknown resurrections seem more common that not, with the ghost simply returning to the body after being shocked or even just reminded of a great desire.

The second oddity is the nature of the body. Why do you feel sensation in a body you cannot witness, while your volition is centered on the animated figure that represents you? And the body you feel through extends to the soul - Even when someone actually dies and enters the afterlife, there seems to be a suggestion of great violence and torture more any witnessed suffering. While there is suffering it seems everyone is the exception to the greater tortures of the Lower Planes, and even the Blood War rarely results in actual bloodshed.

These oddities, along with others, suggest this Wheel is wholly manufactured. But for what purpose? And, of great interest to the Architects, if it is manufactured is it Infinite?

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65. Sigil, The Sunken City

65. Sigil, The Sunken City (Part I, concerning the Ocean of Eternals, the Past, and the Kingdoms Under the Moon)

"The Heart of Atlantis lies in the eyes of her king"
-Atlantis: The Lost Empire

Now, as we approach the battle for our existence, I call upon the great spirits. Spirit of the Ocean! Spirit of the Moon! Be with us!
-Avatar: The Last Airbender

Imagine a Cosmic Ocean that itself is vast enough to touch (encompass?) other Cosmic Oceans - for example Parallel V, Parallel CXXI, Parallel XLI, and Parallel XLIV.

This Ocean of Oceans is the waters of Wheel 65, one of the most precious Multiverses for it is a Metaversal path that allows Wheel Walking into Cosmic Oceans even for those who have no ability to traverse Wheels on their own. There are, of course, difficulties for any ship or submersible or sky-craft seeking to make such a journey. The rituals to open a way between the Wheels requires the life fluid of a creature native to the destination Mutliverse - sometimes that fluid must be freely given, other times won in ritual combat, siphoned while the giver was asleep, and so on. This fluid must be released into the water following some particular ritual act - the staging of a play, a days long dance, a protracted sacrifice of something valuable to a member of the vessel's crew...you get the idea.

While this is a great secret of incredible value for Wheel Walkers engaging in Metaversal trade, most of the inhabitants of this Wheel are more concerned with their own local infinity. Those among them who wish to traverse their local Multiverse have two commonly used options.

One is the Planar Currents, wind and water pathways that one can sail on the surface or navigate below it to enter the planes of this Wheel. Time passes differently on these pathways, sometimes where days within a particular current are but moments in the rest of Multiverse...and other cases where a day in a current is a year across the Wheel. And there are other threats in the flow of currents, hungry entities such as Scylla, Abaddon and his wandering kingdom of locusts, and the Mertarrasque. Additionally the sun shifts color (or are there many suns?) depending on the area and its rays give off different effects in these varied locales. For example a particular shade of gold delivers Positive Energy, while a jaundiced green places all under its illumination within the effects of a disintegration spell. Some have even reported a shade of rose quartz light above a doldrum under which undead resurrect and none of the living can die.

There is the other option, which is utilizing the portals of Sigil, the only portals that exist in this Multiverse. This makes Sigil a junction utilized across this Wheel, especially by aquatic races, those who don't need to breathe or can breathe water, and those who have an affinity for the Elemental Essence of Water. This is, of course, because Sigil is a sunken ruin lying beneath the waves.

The Ocean of Eternals, as it is referred to on this Wheel, does not have a known floor. However, from the darkest depths, untouched by its multi-hued sun (suns?), sections of gargantuan divine skeletons rise out upon which varied villages, cities, and civilizations are built (the relic economy is quite lucrative though finding means to chip at the god bones is always a quest for the ages). And from that undersea Ossuary of the Forgotten once rose the jade spinal column of a deity, and where that spine - surrounded by an everlasting fog of salt spray tall and wide enough to hold a crystal sphere - almost touched the sun was built the city of Sigil. Or perhaps it wasn't built but simply appeared, its buildings rising up from the giant unmelting snowflake balanced atop that mysterious spine.

The city served as host to many who discovered it across the eons - the sidereal quesar who emerged in tandem with the Upper Planes from the primordial blue-white light of the Good, the chronomancers who came from warring alternate futures, the obyrith who Became when the foul yellow ooze of the Primordial Yochlols congealed, even Nebelun the Meddler before he became a god. Deities (including archfiends, primordials, exemplar lords and so on), as far anyone knows, have never been able to enter or even approach past the saline mists that surround the City of Doors. Records state hazy, numinous figures that could crack planets in their limbs were seen beyond the mist and legends claim they were those who had been tasked by their pantheons with waiting until the day the Lady of Pain let down her defenses.

And when that day came, when the Jade Spine toppled...Did the gods destroy Sigil as they warred to posses it? Or could it have been an accident perpetrated by the Spellweaver Empire, said to the be the Last Guests ever to come and make a home in the City of Doors? Many shadowfiends say the cause lies in the dark depths from which the god bones arise, while just as many asuras say it was a cataract of prismatic fire poured out from the sun.

Though still extant, the cloud of salt spray mist has thinned considerably. Yet now when one approaches the shattered City of Doors one notices the hue-shifting sun (suns?) slowly setting even as a full copper-yellow moon fades into the darkening sky to take its place. At the edges of this area, where the sun sinks below the horizon and a robust field of stars appears, one finds the corpses of those gods one presumes once stalked the City of Doors on the other side of the salt spray fog. These bodies are defaced, as if by a mad butcher determined to ensure no one could guess what the animals in the larder originally were. (Quite a few sages suspect the pantheons these gods once belonged to are responsible for the desecration.)

The only clues readily available as to who each corpse might have been are the vague dreams one has while residing in the lycanthrope kingdoms built upon the dead divinities and the varied sorcerer bloodlines and proxies-to-no-one that emerge from those peoples. The kingdoms may have a majority of a particular type of were, but they are organized more by the suggestions of domains once held by a corpse than any "racial" unity among their kind.

Continuing on, whether traveling by sail or submersible or even sky, one begins to feel the pull of the Enshadowed Waterspout.

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65. Sigil, The Sunken City

65. Sigil, The Sunken City (Part II, concerning the Enshadowed Waterspout and a Possible God.)

As one moves away from the Kingdoms Under the Moon the pull of the Enshadowed Waterspout grows stronger. Initially one can choose turn around, but very quickly the currents of air and water draw one toward a tornado rising up from the ocean and disappearing into a glittering night sky awash with fixed and shooting stars. The whirling column of water and air is darkened by the debris of tattered entropic shadows that seem to rise and tumble up and down its length. (As you approach the waterspout it's a good time to don any protections you have against negative energy.)

It's believed that whatever caused the destruction of Sigil slaughtered a great many of its inhabitants but there's evidence that some of the surrounding areas of where the city's portals exited to also got drawn into the calamity. (Again, many blame the gods for the lack of disaster sites across the planes that would otherwise mark The Fall.) The shades are those forced from Elsewhere to the moment of Sigil's destruction, poor victims whose deaths were violent enough to throw them into undeath. Then the additional strain of the collapsing City of Doors and the shearing of dimensions resulted in their tattered state. Some even suggest this collection of tossed about undead shadows has given rise to a nascent god of death, shadow, tragedy. They call this god Toldoth. While this apparent wraith-like deity grants no (as yet?) clerical magic to the few mad cultists who spread destruction in its name it does seem to send omens & show up in the dreams of some who cross through the Enshadowed Waterspout. (It is through these dreams that Toldoth apparently tries to recruit followers.)

As one rushes toward the churning pillar of water, shadow, and air they might be gifted by the sight of artifacts or unique entities emerging out of the frothing waters. These items and persons will be...created?...transported?...in flashes of near blinding lightning accompanied by soft & long reverberating thunder, appearing but for a moment before being translocated onto some other location upon this Wheel. Some say the Mertarrasque was one such creature born from the Enshadowed Waterspout's base, and the Void Phoenix another. As an example of the emergent artifacts, whispers speak of Halahala, a poison so deadly even gods would die from it. Far less momentous entities and far more minor artifacts are what usually come from the churn, but even these are hunted for the secrets of reality their study might reveal.

All this is but an interlude between the chance to turn back and actual contact with a shadows haunted oceanic tornado whose circumference could hold a planet. Magic and psyche disrupting lightning, the life draining touch of undeath, and winds that could pummel down a mountain threaten the integrity of any hull that enters the tornado.

Thankfully this threat diminishes within minutes, as the whirling of water and air begin to slow considerably. This allows one to witness the wreckage of countless vessels slowly spinning about as one is forced into descent. A few minutes more and the flotsam and hungry shadows thin out as one enters the true center of the waterspout. Air and water take on a gelatinous quality. Here it will seem as if both have a thickness that melts as one breathes them in, but returns with each exhale. You might think the elements have congealed, but in actuality what has congealed here is Time.

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65. Sigil, the Sunken City (Part III, concerning Sigil that Was and Sigil that Is)

As you breathe you take the air or water from the state of congealed temporality into your personal time, and thus bring what was out of phase with the Wheel's timeline back into alignment.

So it is with the vessels you bring as you go down deeper and deeper through what seems like gelatinous water to the shattered, sinking-but-not ruins. As you descend you will merdabus who swim into appearance from the dark swirls of the whirlpool that makes up the waterspout's lower portion. From their heads rise mysterious azure runes of abjuration. Then, as you near the actual broken buildings and shards of unmelting ice, other merdabus will appear who will instruct you on where you can dock and emerge out of your vehicle as quickly as possible. You might at first be surprised by the lack of traffic - no matter the risks in an infinite Multiversal Wheel wouldn't many who are capable of crossing into the Enshadowed Waterspout attempt to enter what remains of the City of Doors from the outside? The challenge here is, as mentioned earlier, the presence of yourself and your vessel "loosens" up Time. And whatever happened here drew out many great predators who followed the currents to this disaster. You will find that upon exiting your vehicle and entering the city proper (or not if you dally and thus choose death) the abjuring merdabus swim away and your vessel is snatched away by....something in the dark waters beyond.

Thankfully Sigil itself, even in its shattered state, is still protected by the Lady. She also seems to draw down moonlight from above, even though this illumination does not cross the intervening darkness of the waters above the ruins. This allows even humans to clearly see the division between Sigil That Was and Sigil That Is.

The former is the frozen remnants of the city as it existed during the Fall. You see ancient figures of races and species known and unknown, some still about in this Wheel and others long since vanished. Some are panicking and others resolute, though which is which might come as a surprise. For example, one sees the terrified planetar in resplendent armor in contrast to the dirty tiefling beggar-child running with resilience, a bunch of honeysuckle outstretched in her hand, toward where presumably a portal once was. The ruins have also, by the breaking down of walls, revealed much that was meant to be private. You can swim around families huddled together as the floor buckles, their embrace being torn apart by gravity. You can spy an archmage surrounded by bones attempt to cast a spell, his eyes and the sockets of his collected skulls flaring with bright white light. You can see angels and fiends attempting to take to the air, surprised as flight apparently failed them. The headquarters of long lost factions - Merkhants, Expansionists, Incantifiers, Sinkers, Communals, Godsmen, Bleakers, Mercykillers, Hardheads, Ring Givers, Ciphers, and the Dead - are now open for tours, belief in them collapsing after they too bore the superstitions surrounding the city's destruction.

Most of all you see the Last Guests, the spellweavers whose empire fell along with the City of Doors. Was it the sin of their trans-planar empire that caused Sigil's Fall? They do seem more prepared than most of the inhabitants, even if the spells they were in the midst of casting did not allow them escape. Or does it just appear that way because of their quick intellects and alien countenances? Perhaps they are not responsible for the city's destruction but its partial salvation. Perhaps it is their magic (maybe in tandem with the aforementioned chronomancer warriors) that allowed the Sigil That Was to exist in amber-like Time and thus serve as the foundation for Sigil That Is. Though now, as it was before, the survival of Sigil rests with the power of the Lady.

This newer city uses the ruins of the old one and the broken flake of snow it all once rested on as its foundation. Some use the falling wreckage locked in stasis as support for chains, kelp, ropes, or webbing and hang their domiciles in the manner of anchors. Others build up, balancing new flooring on the tilted tumble of ancient flotsam. Either strategy requires the aid of the dabus, the only beings who can nail or cement new construction into or onto the old as this process requires the merging of Time that Flows with Time that is Frozen.

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65. Sigil, The Sunken City (Part IV, concerning the Powers, Portals, Elemental Essences, Planes Primordial and Planes of Neutrality)

The Powers
Given many planars suspect the varied pantheons of having foolishly destroyed Sigil in their obsessive Cosmic Game, there are many among the planes who are god-fearing but not at all god-loving. That so many powers also focus a great deal of resources and attention on the Prime, it isn't a surprise that many on the Inner and especially Outer Planes see them as meddlers and interlopers. Some god-haters even, with no evidence whatsoever in most cases, claim that these gods are carpetbaggers from Elsewhere or merely arisen mortals who don't know what they are doing. The true guardians of creation are sadly in the deadbook, their bones in the Great Ossuary at the bottom of the Ocean of Eternals.

All that being said, few would be rude to a proxy to their face though they might work a little slower to fulfill the wants and needs of such a "(golden) apple (or peach or epli) polisher". The Athar are a faction that is secretly popular across the planes but openly adored in the City of Doors, where the gods (along with other powers such as planar lords and arch-exemplars) still may not enter. One might think some deities could try breaching Sigil from the outside, but instead no known deities have tried. What records we have - and by 'records' I largely mean the drunken gossip of detested proxies - instead indicate that the threat of being thrown into the moonlit area of the Ocean of Eternals that surrounds Sigil is something deities would die to avoid.

One oddity that some have noticed is the affinity the Lady has for the god of medicine Dhanvantari who emerged from the Enshadowed Waterspout's churn of the Ocean of Eternals. Many new portals she allows to be created (see below) seem to benefit the emerging religion forming around this deity. Is the Lady doing this to counter the potential emergence of the life negating Toldoth?

On the creation of new portals across the Wheel

Because the planes of this wheel have no portals to each other, only to Sigil, travel across the planar pathways will often be done because an opportunity has arisen to create a new portal in Sigil itself. The process involves dreams of the Lady in her old form (that which is akin to her appearance on Multiverse Prime) pointing to a dabus. This dabus then communicates in rebuses to the chosen native of a particular plane that they can journey to the ruins of the city and use a particular portal key in a bounded space. If the Lady has deemed the gate to be a two-way portal, she'll also communicate that (along with the corresponding portal key) in the dream. All those who have the dream (usually 1-7 individuals, but it has gone up to 1,000) must travel to Sigil through the Enshadowed Waterspout and use the portal key. Additionally, none of these individuals should enter the sunknen City of Doors prior to this establishing of the portal. Sometimes all of these dreamers have to survive (thankfully undeath counts) in order for the portal to be created, other times it will be less - rarely does the Lady allow a single survivor to suffice. As a token of her compassion she will express this detail in dreaming as well, so you can mark the point where the quest should be abandoned.

As to why this journey cannot be shortened by the clever use of existing portals, graybeards theorize it has to do with the transdimensional connections being established. To use a portal in Sigil before creating the one the Lady chose you to open will result in some unknown - possibly catastrophic - failure. It remains unknown because anyone who tries to break this rule will see the Lady of Pain as she is in the Now - a ghostly figure in a white shroud somehow able to cover her bladed hair without tearing, floating serenely over the ground. Those who displease her in the manner of portals are shifted from flowing time into the temporal stasis of Sigil that Was, save for those who would fall into the group of persons that seek dominance or destruction of the ruins or of Sigil that Is. These beings fall under the familiar shadow but instead of being flayed their senses are encompassed by a sensory deprived darkness save for the presence of the veiled Lady. And then the veil drops and in the next instant the lady vanishes along with her shadow, the punished shivering in frozen terror for the rest of their life.

Elemental Essences (see Jem's entry about elementals, "The Elemental Indwelling", in Dark Roads & Golden Hells)

Rather than exist as separate planes the essences of Fire, Water, Air, Earth, and Void pervade all of this Wheel. It is in this manner they aiding in giving form to this Wheel. At times these essences arise into elementals born of planar materials, beings of neutral disposition even if they are made of substances Upper or Lower planes. This leads to the strange situation where a neutral ice elemental made from the Sanguine Artic cannot pass through the magical barrier meant to abjure evil creatures, or a lightning elemental born on one of the more chaotic shells making up the Concentric Balance is destroyed by a Word of Law.

These elementals also establish kingdoms of their own, usually in the comforting neutrality and privacy granting expansiveness of the Ocean of Eternals (the exception being the Elementals of Void, who are most often born and most comfortable in the vacuum of Wild Space on the Prime). Water Kingdoms exist in all ocean zones, their establishment dependent on the dispositions of their inhabitants. Elementals of Air and Fire set up their kingdoms in the sky, the latter using sunlight and lightning as building materials.

The mysterious Elementals of Earth are thought to have their own kingdoms below the infinitely deep ocean floor, amidst the buried gemstone skeletons of those long dead unknown gods. In fact it is said their rulers are elementals born of those very bones, sending their kin on a variety of odd missions for reasons unknown. Another oddity is most elementals born on the Alignment Planes seek to have their bodies transmuted into a state of elemental purity with regards to both substance and moral aura, however the Elementals of Earth endure their Outer Planar substance in their wanderings. For these reasons other elementals shun those Earth.

The Elementals of Void are usually only born in Wild Space, though occasionally they arise in those lightless vacuums that might exist in other parts of this Wheel. These elementals are usually rather contemplative beings despite being akin to spheres of annihilation molded into roughly humanoid form. They have only recently had their tranquility broken due to the arising of the Void Phoenix which they are now seeking in earnest.

Outer Planes

The Outer Planes here are infinite yet all of them can be traced back to a particular primordial emanation - travel deep enough into the plane in the right direction and you come upon a shore leading to those places of origin. The Upper Planes come from Divina Lumen, the Womb of Quesars, that benevolent light from which those now lost first celestials emerged. The Lower Planes come from the sentient Ooze of Yochols, the Soil of the Obyriths, that most ancient of evils that seeks to spread its stain across the Wheel entire. The Neutral Planes come from the Ocean of Eternals and can be arrived by sailing its waters.

Neutral Planes

Outer Wyld: Imagine Nature divorced from the usual conception of size, evolution, and even the distinction between flora and fauna. This is the representation of the Neutrality as Amorality, whether that is the Innocence of Good and Evil or rejection of such Knowledge. Here you might find a wyvern that hatched out of an overripe mango whose venom turns a person into pages of a mysterious book on the day of the new moon, or a spider web made of sticky ether stretching across a canyon to catch swarms of phasing pterodactyls, or a falling grape that bursts to release a flood of juice when it impacts against a continental mountain range.

Druids, priests and mages of the elements, and rangers gravitate to the plane in droves, but given the unusual conception of nature so do transmuters and alchemists. This place resists the establishment of cities, so outside of tribal communities and small villages those who wish for libraries and laboratories must use the caravan cities that use nomadic movement to evade the cascade of misfortunes that strikes any urbanized location.

While the Verdant Guild has long used this plane as its beachhead in the war against civilization, recently a young elemental air cleric by the name of Alisohn Nilesia has gathered to herself the more fanatical among this collection of fanatics. She has taken up as her banner the image of the shattered City of Doors, rejecting the use of its portals in favor of planar currents. This makes her and her people arguably less effective at targeting sites of civilization that need to be "re-wilded", yet they seem to be using their affinity with Nature to find the new planar currents to accomplish their missions. However, it's also said Alisohn wants to complete the destruction of Sigil itself, which she believes will cause harm to every other city in the Wheel if not destroy many of them outright. She proudly claims to prophetically dream of standing over the Lady's unveiled corpse, bringing her spear of sharpened bone down into the guardian of Sigil's heart.

There is a Wyld Ocean, where octopi and dolphins hold court with each other, where lobsters and crabs serve the Crustacean Church and its seven Papal Queens, where oysters the size of thumbs hold not pearls but miniscule jellied delights that will make you weep by the grandeur of their taste. It is here that this plane meets the Ocean of Eternals.

The Lotus Sea: If titans of old had a lotus pool of infinite size, it would still be dwarfed by this plane. The lotuses here could hold cities, and in fact many do contain the realms of deities within their petaled enclosures (often these realms are bigger inside than out). The kind of gods who make their home here match the essence of the plane which contrasts itself with the Outer Wyld. That plane represents Neutrality based on a return to animalistic amorality, but the Lotus Sea represents Neutrality as intellectual pursuit. Thus the gods here concern themselves with Love, Art, Knowledge, Governance, Blacksmithing, War, the Arcane Arts, and so on without concern for the war between Good and Evil. Even Lotuses that are not homes for powers have a similar temperment, usually devoted to some domain or purpose that either rejects Good & Evil or accepts them both. For this reason sects of all sorts can also be found on the flowers of this plane, especially the remnants of those factions that once held dominance in now shattered Sigil. Other inhabitants of note upon the flowers are the githzerai who have seeded this plane with many monasteries, the formian kingdoms currently at war to determine which queen should sit upon the throne, and the legendary cathedral-towers of the modrons.

The infinite sea is made up of fresh water, though as one moves into the Ocean of Eternals it will take on a hint of salt that grows stronger as one shifts to that other plane. The marid have a strong presence here, as do the gormeel slaad (no other kinds of slaad are native to this Wheel). While the descent down to the plane's soil could hold hundreds of crystal spheres stacked atop each other the bottom is reachable. As the water here holds its own soft glow, kingdoms of aquatic races along with shelters for those who'd normally dwell on land exist here. Digging deep enough leads to a network of tunnels that seem to have been deliberately carved. Winds of calm and contemplation ease travel through these passageways, wherein one discovers the plane-rending horrors laid down to what is a hopefully eternal slumber.

The Dance of Spheres: On this Wheel the essences of Order and Chaos are not anathema to each other. Rather, they are partners who've joined Neutrality in a grand alchemy whose fruits are represented by the infinite shells of this plane. Each shell encompasses all the previous ones, and each is a different admixture of stability and entropy, predictability and randomness, rationality and absurdity. There are some who suggest two of the Forgotten Gods - one of Chaos and one of Law - still (un)live on as divine wraiths and are continually adding more shells to this plane as part of their romance. (Yes, there is a shell made of interlocking gears and another made of primal chaos matter.)

These shells surround Core, a crystal sphere within whose center lie three suns endlessly circling each other. The suns give off enough heat to warm the salt waters that fill the sphere, and in fact it is from one here can travel to and from the Ocean of Eternals by way largely secret planar currents. Within the saline wild space of core are planetoids of hollow ice revolving around the triplet Suns of Concordance. These spheres are each decorated by Draconic calligraphy, the first pieces of a Prophecy that concerns the survival of dragonkind which in turn ties into the survival of this Wheel entire. Dragons of all varities are less concerned with alignment here than with the Prophecy, a message written by...Someone...maybe Io?...in signs, dreams, omens, and synchronicities as much as Draconic messages mysteriously occuring across this Wheel. Within the spheres dragons of all sorts make their homes, as all kinds of biomes have been imported here and magically sustained for their comfort. The dragons in turn are served by varied dragonkin such as kobolds, wyverns, and draconians. Besides their engimatic gods the dragons are led by the Council of Wyrms - a democratic body (even dragonkin can be elected!) - who in turn defer to the venerable elders of their race, Primordial Great Wyrms that are believed even by themselves to be the last of their respective kinds - Dragons of Time, Matter, Thought, Energy, and Entropy. Of great concern is the fact that despite its continually useful warnings the Prophecy did not predict the Fall of Sigil, and it seems to assume the Sigil that Was still rests atop the jade spine as it did in the distant depths of time.

Beyond Core the shells vary not only in their constitution but in their relationship with space and time. For example the shell immediately after Core is a petrified forest inhabited by fossilized deathless who look up and see not the black sphere of Core but the grey cloud cover of an eternally overcast day through which shafts of Positive infused sunlight randomly shine through. However the shell after that is a sphere where nothing ages save frogs and caterpillars, crafted out of air softly glowing golden due to an ambrosial mist that fills the atmosphere. From there one can see the stony roots of the petrified forest poking through the earth of that prior shell.

The shells beyond Core are also overseen by custodians called the Rilmani. Rather than trying to maintain the Balance across the Wheel, these exemplars are busy with ensuring It's maintained between the Shells themselves. In those shells where many believe the plane to be creation of the divine undead lovers their work is greatly opposed, sometimes even by deities. These believers feel the Rilmani are unneeded critics interfering with divine art that is still in progress.

Other shells include:

Shell 6: A shell of interwoven filigrees of silver, gold, and electrum. Spirits of Air who are linked by clairaudience sing refrains of a Creation Song that can never stop and so must be continuously taken up as part of one's daily duties. What's interesting about this song is they're continuously improvising even as they ensure it maintains harmony with the parts that preceded the new additions.

Shell 567: Piles of paper resting on a rosewood floor in a silver void. Pages continue to fall from the argent sky. It's said the newly fallen papers hold knowledge which has just become lost in every other part of this Wheel, but sadly no one known can read the language in which they are written.

Shell 3,499: A shell made of earth and water, upon which rest domains separated by boundaries of fog. These Mists drag one great paragon of virtue into this shell for every great evil they kidnap, giving each prisoner a kingdom from which they can never leave.