The River: Understanding Time
"It is impossible to embark on a study of the gods without understanding the Nexi. It is impossible to understand the Nexi without an appreciation of the importance of the River of Time. Unfortunately, for those unable to step out of its flow, the River can be a difficult concept to apprehend. It is very much like trying to describe the color blue to a man blind from birth."
Sage Alaura, Commentaries on the Nexi
Before Time, it was the Age of the Eldar. Manifest will of newly-born intelligences moved through the space created by Pha Rann, the first of the eldar. Pha Rann created the universe of Tehra. Wishing there to be others, Pha Rann created the eldar without rules or boundaries. Even though there was no Time, yet, there was linear consequence. "The Ethereal" in the map is TIME. It flows from the Nexus Gates through the Tehran Nexus to Oblivion. Let me explain.
Pha Rann encountered the eldar that was to become Demos-Gorgos. Fascinated by a creature of barely thinking creation and mutation, Pha Rann then had his existence divided in two: before and after meeting Demos-Gorgos. Demos met Gorgos and defeated Gorgos (this is why the name order is Demos first). For both of them, there then became three linear events: before encountering Pha Rann, after Pha Rann until their battle, and then after Demos won, as Demos-Gorgos. Try as they might have wished to, by the power of their will alone, they could not undo these things or the order in which they happened.
As the eldar multiplied and began shaping matter in the Age of Dragons, these linear events began to multiply. It wasn't memory. It wasn't hindsight. It wasn't regret. But, it was a chain of "my existence is: before and after each interaction." Some of the eldar became addicted to "winning" these encounters. To their dismay, the losers could not undo or change the reality of having lost. For the victor, they found their will magnified in comparison to the loser. The growing compilation of these linear events had some effects:
- Separation of Gates by Principle: Creation, Chaos, and Warp began to move away from each other, pulling like-minded eldar with them as adherents to one did not want to "lose" to a disciple of a different gate
- Time began to move in fits and stutters... affected eldar aged
- Because the terrible god Set is so bound to the Gate of Chaos (change), when Set encountered any eldar, they aged... and Set began to use Time as a weapon of murder
When the nexal gates were all close together, feeding simultaneously into each other, Time could not exist. Creation and its results became manifest instantly by the will of the eldar basking in these three very different powers. But, when the Dragon Wars began, the growing separation meant that an eldar could manifest the gate nearest them and it took "longer" for the other energies to become available. This perception, of a delayed manifestation of the other nexuses, was named Time. The eldar could pull, by force of will, these powers to them. The result, they continued as eldar as they always had. The outcome: they age.
The act of pulling the nexus gates (or their power) together is now called Magic. Tehran creatures, even the eldar still in Tehra, age. All the other eldar, as part of the Dragon Wars, left the flow of Time into their respective spheres, also called Dominions. While there is no Time in the nexus gates, the linear principle still remains. Observations of Time for those staying in Tehra meant that the eldar not in Tehra had to come to terms with Time and what it means to them.
"Dar Tania was the one who first showed me the River. It's only fitting that she is my constant guidepost there.
"I see the past, as dead and immutable as cooled lava. I'm a child, perched on the knee of my beloved mentor, receiving the Queen's wisdom;
"I see the present, bright, solid, yet in motion. I'm a young woman working and learning alongside her, still the little sister, yet now a peer;
"I see an ephemeral flicker of distant flames. It is only one of many possible futures. My friend is long gone, and I wear her name as my title of office. I vanquish Morbatten's foes for Tiamat's glory...but in Dar Tania's memory. Always."
- Dar Ana
- Tiamat views time as a flowing river of energy, and calls it "The River." Standing in its current, a viewer would look upstream and see glimmers of recent or major events that happened in the past. Looking downstream, they would see the minute by minute degradation of their bodies and glimpses of events to be. Looking at their hand, they would see it aging but also were it will be in the next moment. The farther downstream for the "next moment," the hazier the flow becomes
- Magic users call it the ethereal and, like the eldar, can manifest the ethereal as whatever they want - a bag of holding, a glorious house, or whatever. A magic user worshiping Tiamat would see the River and still be able to create structural constructs in it
- Bapthomet and the minotaurs see a stream of conscious thought made up of phantasms. Some of the phantasms are terrible, insanity-inducing and represent the past. Others are glorious and inspiring, reaffirming of Baphtomet's worship. They understand that Tiamat sees a river of energy
- Lolth sees a web arcing out in all directions from her current place
- Pha Rann and his worshipers view Time as a natural and beautiful consequence allowing renewal and new creations to occur. They might see it as a lush forest, a sparkling river, or a burning star in the midst of space
Depending on a god's doctrine, their awareness of Time, and many other factors, they will or will not have a unique ethereal experience. For Tiamat, specialists and prodigies in sync with Her are able to access and use the River. They move in and out of it so quickly, they are able to "accelerate" their speed and actions in the real world of Tehra.
Because Tehra is solidly in the flow of Time, it is shunned by the ageless eldar who left. They send avatars or servants to help. When the god feels the need to interact directly, they do so through the Ethereal plane. It allows them to experience their worshiper in the linear moment that matters, without aging. That being said, Tehra is compelling to gods and drawing close to it subjects the god to the pull of Time as well as the pull of emotions. Love, hate, lust, desire, thirst for intelligence, etc... these are powerful drivers. The longer they stay, the more they age. The more they feel, the more they age.
The Nexi and the Planes of Existence
"No matter what I do, Master, the Tehran arm points back to Creation."
"The Tehran locator will always orient to whichever nexus is currently strongest."
"Then how should I paint it?"
"Paint it as it is now. The sages of the next age will have to see to their own maps."
Sage Alaura, In The Orrery of Lord Spark
If you look at Deities/Time, you'll see that the ribbon of the Ethereal, what Tanians call The River, is the interaction of the 3 Gates coming together with Set's anticipation of freedom to create Time. Time flows right through the Tehran Universe. At the end of Time is Oblivion, which is incorrectly referred to as a Gate until Cor'tanos, the shadow dragon, returns and informs Alerius that it is just 'the end.' The Shadow Dragons know that it is not a gate at all.
Though not referred to as a Gate, Tehra does act as if one. The Gate of Warp is not an actual gate; it's an artificial construct that now acts as if a Gate. It cannot create, change, or destroy without touching the others.
What is a Nexus? A nexus is a connector to another realm, specifically one of the 4 primal ones: Creation, Chaos, Warp, and Tehra. Though shown, Oblivion is not a nexus. It is where Time stops flowing and all matter and intelligence becomes inert. It's very gradual, until a creature can barely move. Lacking will, they exist as only intelligence and resignation until they revert back into pure matter and recycle through the Gates.
Travelling the Multiverse
The word Nexus and Gate can be used interchangeably, but refer to the same thing: Stepping from one universe to another. This is different than a summoning gate a sorcerer would use to bring forth an allied monster. Nexus matters when traveling the multiverse. Let's say that there is a Tanian mage named Stephen and a Tanian cleric. He has 10 points of power. The cleric has 100 points. He wants to go to the Abyss. He must make 3 steps.
- Tehra to the River
- The River to Astral
- Astral to Chaos Nexus
He does not want to be at the Chaos Nexus. This is the throneplane of Demos-Gorgos. He wants to go to Mali Lynthracea Vede Mecum, or Darkhold, and get some answers. He has another 3 steps to go (sub-nexus gates explained further down):
4. Chaos to 555; is Set. Not a good place to be. Mortals lost here become tortured monsters
5. 555 to 444; is Lolth. Not a good place to be unless you're on good terms with Lolth. Phase spider food.
6. 444 to 333; is the Darkhold
In the 1st step, unless Stephen has been blessed or assisted with this step, he is reduced in power by 10, to 1. The cleric took them there by Tiamat's power. They're both still at 10 and 100. In going to the Astral, Stephen uses magic and so they retain their 10 and 100 power rating. Most sentient beings can figure out how to access the Astral without diminishing. However, when they cross from the Astral to Chaos, they diminish to 1 and 10. While their intelligence, will, and knowledge remain what they were, their magical gear, their bodies, their ability to cast spells, are decreased.
All created beings retain a "power level" of 1 minimum for multiversal travel, in this 10 point example. Subsequent next steps register as an increase in gravity and lethargy. When they reach the 333rd, they are essentially 1,000,000x weaker than in their own dominion.
Shortcuts become important as does survivability. The use of avatars, bodies inhabitable and created in the Astral, Temples, and being "pulled" to the destination rather than going step by step, are some of the ways these can be bypassed. When a god visits Tehra, unless they are a nexus god, the reduction in power makes it so that they most often send avatars or servants. It is easier to send a message than a messenger. This is why worship, prayers, scrying, and the like are so important. It also explains why some gods are more active in Tehra than others.
Compared to a Tehran mortal, a god has infinite power in their own dominion. Even if Stephen could show up as a 10 point mage, the god and its creatures on its own throneplane are exactly as strong as the god wants them to be. Moreover, because Stephen has joined that throneplane, Stephen is as a strong or weak as the god wants him to be. This is where the concepts of omniscience and omnipotence come from; these concepts apply to a god on its own throneplane.