Monday, March 27, 2017

Wheelhouse Setting 4: The Wheelhouse



It appeared in the aftermath of the Breaking, an enormous tower spanning many miles and stretching so far into the sky its top reaches could not be seen. There were none present to see its inception, though storytellers and bards over the centuries have offered tales and myths to explain its mysterious arrival. Whether it was built or summoned is unknown. The truth is, none actually know for certain where the Wheelhouse came from. The purpose of this god-like tower, however, is clear. The Wheelhouse is the only power holding the broken remains of Mythren together.

The world that was should have been lost with the breaking of the moon. The destruction rendered in the sky above was equal to what happened below and was cataclysmic in scope. What survived the initial impact was kept from being swept into oblivion by the Wheelhouse. It is said that the Breaking sundered not only this world, but all worlds connected to Mythren—a collision of realities and fey realms and a collapse of time and space. It was in those moments of utter destruction that the Wheelhouse arose, dreamlike, out of the chaos.

Standing on a remote island in the heart of the Upfall, the Wheelhouse is positioned in the center of the shattered world. The remains are broken into twelve land masses known as drifts, each separated from one another by the endless sea of debris and wreckage. The drifts are anchored in place by the Wheelhouse. Twelve lines of power emit from the tower like the spokes of a wheel. Terminating at one of the respective Twelve Towns, this magical road is the only true access to the Wheelhouse, and it is guarded by enchanted sanctuaries as well as by the bandiar who are created there. Though the distance to each of the Twelve Towns varies, the Wheelhouse can be seen from each location. It looms in the distance, its topmost portions surrounded by churning thunderheads. Multiple spires rise from its black walls, balconies overlook the surrounding landscape, and windows show only light, but offer no glimpse as to what is hidden within.

Yet there are some answers, though few, as to what the Wheelhouse holds inside. Within its deepest levels exists the Dreaming Pool. It is a vast body of water, lit from within by tiny spheres of light that float and bob in the still water like jellyfish. The chamber housing the pool is immense, illuminated only by the small pinpoints of light in the water, and stalking the rim is the Fisherman. It is he who captures the light and sends it along its way to the Cradle Sanctuaries where that energy is used to infuse the bandiar with life. A hooded apparition that carries a long, netted pole, the Fisherman’s origins and identity are as mysterious as the tower in which he dwells.

Muses and Sooths are also known denizens of the Wheelhouse, though their origins stem from the outside world. The Muses, beautiful young gypsy girls touched with the power of prophecy, fill the dark chambers and corridors with their song. It is a type of magic they weave—one of many types the Wheelhouse relies upon to maintain its existence as well as its hold on the surrounding drifts. Sooths are children brought to the tower and educated there in all things relating to the Old World, as well as relevant happenings in the Remains. The ancient tomes and scrolls used in their education are merely a fraction of the artifacts vaulted here, however. The Wheelhouse is the last great bastion of knowledge once held by the Old Ones.

Empowered by one such relic are the Branded, those who serve the Wheelhouse as regulators of forbidden magic in the Remains. Upon their face is a rune-marking that grants them the ability to drain arcane power from a given source. They are sent out to the drifts when enchanted items are found by those living in the Remains, or on rare occasions, when magic is irresponsibly wielded by the bandiar. They, like the Wheelhouse itself, are an unforgiving lot willing to make the necessary sacrifices for the needs of the many.

There are others, too, that dwell within the tower, though their natures and identities remain hidden even from others who have spent time within the walls. What is not a mystery is the fact that out of all that has survived the so-called end of the world, the Wheelhouse stands as a seemingly omnipotent lynchpin to a fraying existence. Likely its existence has penetrated all realities, conjoining them in the shattered remnants of what was once the mythical Dreamscape. It is here, amongst the drifting wreckage of all that ever was, and all that was ever dreamed, that the Wheelhouse draws its power.

Yet its power is slowly fading. Its ability to hold the world together has taken a dire toll upon the tower, and as conflict and rebellion grow in the Out World, the magic of the Wheelhouse decays. Recovered artifacts and reclaimed magic help to fuel the Wheelhouse, but already the strain can be seen as more of the Twelve Towns fall and the Sanctuaries are abandoned. In these locations no more bandiar can be created to bring order to the chaos, and the consequences are apparent not only in the Out-Towns, but in the drift itself. The Twelve Town of Teel, for example, was betrayed and the Sanctuary broken. When this occurred, the entire drift suffered a quake so powerful that the line of energy extending from the Wheelhouse buckled and the drift fell to such a degree that buildings faltered, towns were destroyed, and those living closest to the Upfall rim tumbled off into the abyss. The Twelve Towns are both empowered by the Wheelhouse and in turn provide power back to the tower. The more that fall to corruption, rebellion, or ruin, the weaker the Wheelhouse becomes.


It is a fine line that separates the remaining fragments of the world from true oblivion. The Wheelhouse employs its resources—the bandiar, the Sooths, the Muses, and the Branded—in a grim and unforgiving setting where death is not only a possibility, but often an expectation. Sacrifices must be made if the world is continue. Whatever entity rules the tower knows this all too well. The children of the Wheelhouse are but tools of fate and to serve the tower is to serve a faceless master whose tears never fall for those sent to their deaths for the greater purpose.

The shadow of the Wheelhouse falls over all that remains of Mythren, and though it is dark beneath that shadow, it is also here in the wan light of the broken moon that the only ray of hope still shines.

 
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