“We may move in different circles, but we all dance the same dance on the music of the spheres”
― Wald Wassermann
Most of the world-building posts here have been about our world of Almeri and its various ecologies, the skies above it and the depths below. But what about the space between, where the strange magicks that control Gates connect to the multitude of shards and places even further afield? What if there was a place where these paths crossed and those that traverse the ways could gather? And what would they do in such a place?
We have talked in the past about the Keepers — strange wizards who control Gates to wield power over the Shards. But there is little formal organization to their order, and their thirst for power and petty vengeances keep their numbers low. But the Cidrian Shards are a vast realm and there is information that can be gained, and mysteries to be experienced, if one knows where to look. One of these places is known as the Weft, and it can be a place of wonder — or the ultimate pit of madness. The Keepers are not the only ones with the means to access the Weft, but they are the most common. And they control the few widely-known Gates that lead into this realm. Other creatures such as demons, elementals, and other even stranger entities have their own methods of travel but are less likely to share.
The middle of nowhere
It is said that the Weft was discovered by the wizard Kain in ages past. It is not known exactly where the Weft is located, or even if it exists in the physical world, but it is a nearly mile-wide opening deep in some volcanic cavern. It is on a natural convergence of magical forces, and Gates form spontaneously on occasion. Also, mis-used and trapped Gates have been known to be deposit unwary travelers within the Weft. The northern end (if compasses can be trusted in such a place) is dominated by a burning lava flow seeping hundreds of feet down the wall of the cavern and pooling in a lake of fire known as Kain’s Crucible. Amazingly, a small community of travelers and trapped souls has grown up around the lake and shares its name. Nearly 1,000 creatures from across the Cidrian Shards call this place home, with nearly half that number of visitors at any given time.
Once Kain found this place, he carved a haven out of a volcanic spire that split the lava stream and provided a commanding view of the Weft. This featureless black tower (now called the Ebonthorn) has no known doors or windows, and only its wide, crenelated roof and sculpture garden are accessible. It was said to be a place of marvels, and Kain and his disciples worked great magic and plumbed the depths of the Weft trying to uncover its many secrets. This may have even been the founding location of the Keepers, but the records of that secretive organization are not shared.
The terrain is rough and rocky, with deep chasms and soaring pillars breaking up the landscape. The ceiling of the cavern climbs thousands of feet in some places and looms just a few dozen in others. It is roughly egg-shaped with the Ebonthorn at the peak. The irregular walls of the Weft are riddled with caves, passages, and worked excavations. Volcanic activity is common and lava pools and stifling fumes rise from cracks in the earth. In cooler areas, huge crystal structures break through the crust and mushrooms rise like trees. Many of these are edible are provide sustenance for the strange wildlife — mostly oversized insects and worms — that live in the Weft.
How the Weft was won
For centuries, Kain and the fledgling Keepers held sway over the Weft, drawing strange creatures from many worlds and working many wonders. And then Kain vanished. If anyone knows why or to where they are not sharing, but the mighty wizard was gone. And his followers — like wizards are wont to do — turned on each grasping for their master’s power. These wars lasted further centuries, and in the end, no one wizard gained mastery. The Weft was largely abandoned to those trapped here and the few passing through.
But wherever mysteries lie, there will be those dauntless few who will seek them out. For the past few decades, fortune-hunters have been delving into the cliffs and deep caves of the Weft and unearthing treasures unseen for generations. A few of the Keepers have occupied strongholds here as well, looking for the secrets of the past. And where there is wealth to be had, clever merchants arrive to serve these explorers and separate them from their gains.
The narrow plane between the base of the Ebonthorn and the lava shores of the Crucible on either side of the Red Channel is a hodgepodge of buildings of many different constructions and styles. Taverns, rooming houses, and gaming halls crowd in among sages, assayers, and dealers in rare antiquities. Most establishments have levels below the surface away from the crowds and the stench. There seems to be little planning
Beyond the cramped streets of the Crucible are a seemingly endless complex of caves and excavations filled with dangers, treasures, and portals to places throughout the Shards and planes beyond. These are the Weft-warrens; a world between worlds. Out here the glow of the Crucible fades and the population thins. Here you will find towers of reclusive wizards, rumbler ranches, new excavations, and abandoned ruins of the past. While not numerous, many bands of ghouls prowl this shadowy country in hopes of easy prey.
This murky space is also home to colonies of gate spiders (ITL, p. 94) that seem to congregate about places where connections are strongest and spin webs to lure prey from other realms. Local goblin tribes have domesticated some of the larger spiders (the size of large dogs, roughly ST8) to seek out these places of power and set ambushes for wayward travelers.
Next time: Life between worlds and notable locations.