Waypoint, city in the Void, is all things and none. For it is a place in the Void — and how to describe the Void? Even that name in and of itself is a misnomer, for it implies an emptiness, a space that exists to be empty… and the Void, that place which is not, does not exist. At least, not in the standard sense any of us would understand by the word “exist”.
Many people imagine that they walk to Waypoint; many others simply find themselves within it. To each it is different: a city of tall skyscrapers; a village of thatched houses; a three-dimensional web of spheres in an ocean; a space station, island of light in the black — Waypoint is what it is perceived to be. Change your expectations, and Waypoint, too, shall appear to change.
Cresting the rise of a hill, your footsteps falling quietly on a cobbled road, you see Waypoint spread out before you: a town built in wood and stone, its roofs thatched or tiled with slate, its pleasant streets laid out according to no particular pattern: if ever there was a central point from which this town grew, it has long been forgotten. The tallest building is a stone tower perhaps five or six storeys in height: a belltower, you surmise, as the wind floats the ringing of the hour to your ears. Most others are no taller than two or three, and in the remarkably wide roads between them you can see the figures of people, perhaps about their daily errands or maybe, just maybe, setting about tasks far more interesting.
Off to one side, as you descend the hill, you catch sight of a glint of light from another rise off to your left. In a shady dell where perhaps some underground cavern once long ago collapsed to leave a recess in the hill, you think you can see a building of some sort projecting from the stony back wall… but though you note it with mild curiosity, it does not call to you. No road leads there, and while its peaceful surroundings are pleasant enough, it seems something altogether insignificant compared with Waypoint so close ahead.
Before long, you come to a sign at the side of the road: “Welcome to Waypoint”. The wood is weathered but well cared for, freshly stained, the elegant letters newly painted. Beyond it, the buildings begin: a few shops with signs of wood or metal, interspersed with houses, growing larger and older as you continue down the road. Your path joins that of passers-by in clothing of every sort from the familiar to the bizarre, the majority appearing human enough, but here and there someone’s features are different enough to be noticeable. Many of them nod to you, or offer a brief smile or a “Good day,” and you find yourself returning their greetings, a little overwhelmed.
Like the strangers on the street, the wares for sale in the shops range from the familiar and the prosaic to the utterly alien, even unrecognisable, and the prices you can see are, when you look closely, unpredictable and strange — those that are in recognisable currency at all. You wander on from place to place, everything at once familiar and strange; you buy a warm drink in a green-glazed red pottery mug from a man with a small stall on a street corner (“Just put it down somewhere safe when you’re done, it’ll find its way home.”) and continue your walk while sipping it.
To your mild surprise, you realise you’ve reached an area where the buildings, while only taller by a floor or so, are definitely grander, larger and more elegant in contrasting light and dark stone, all with warm hues. Looking up, you realise you’re about to enter the square with the belltower, a fountain at its centre running with cool, clear water. You’re still looking up at the belltower when it chimes another hour… how long have you been here?
“Good day,” another passer-by greets you, and you look down to see her, but instead of continuing on her way at your reflexive response, she hesitates, looking at you quizzically. “Are you all right?” You find yourself admitting that you’re more than a little lost, though you keep any other feelings to yourself, and she smiles, eyes as blue as the sky bright and kind.
“New to Waypoint? It gets a lot of people like that… I can recommend a few places to stay if you want to rest, or if you’d rather learn a bit more right away, the library is just over there.” She gestures to the building that takes up most of one side of the square, set back a bit by a small flight of ten or so steps leading up to its entrance. “Or I could give you the tour, if you like, but most people find it a lot easier to take things in at their own pace.” You find yourself agreeing with her: there’s too much to see here all at once. Perhaps a place of peace and quiet like a library will help you sort things out in your mind. The young woman walks with you to the steps, gesturing up.
“You can take the drink in if you want. There’s no permanent harm you can do to the books.” She smiles, even white teeth distinct against the backdrop of her tan face. “Is that one of Onavon’s? A little stall on the corner with a green awning?” When you nod, the smile broadens, like someone just reminded of something nice. “I think I’ll get one myself while he’s back in town! Take care, and remember, you can ask the librarians anything you like, they’re used to it!”
With that, she goes on her way, and you ascend the steps to the library alone. Perhaps you can learn a little more about where you are and why…
Consider a universe: four dimensions of space and time, and perhaps more. Infinite in extent and yet bounded in dimensions it does not contain, like infinite strings placed alongside one another, infinitely wide and long sheets of paper in a stack.
Of course, the z-axis is one of the normal three dimensions, and properly imagined, in three or even four dimensions, those sheets of paper appear to coexist, sharing the same coordinates in their dimensions yet never interacting. And between them, between those two things that are in the same place and do not have a “between”, there lies…
Nothing? Perhaps. And yet there is something, in a sense. Space and time have no meaning there, and all is as one, an infinitely malleable place of possibility and unreality. That which the mind imagines, the mind perceives: the Void is shaped by perception. By mutual agreement, however unconscious, multiple minds can follow one another, leading each other to perceive the same thing, and so it is that places of seeming stability are born, whether brief and fragile or almost eternal — as if time had any meaning in such a non-place. Say then perhaps that each idea so perceived may have a measure of breadth, determined from the number of individuals perceiving it and for how long, in their own subjective sense, they did so. Then most such places are narrow, small, barely present… but a place like Waypoint is vast, spanning countless minds and countless subjective years, built upon the shared conceptions of uncounted sapient visitors.
How do those visitors get there? Now there’s another story.
A non-realm defined by consciousness alone is not, needless to say, without vast consciousnesses. There are many ways to picture them, to separate or coalesce them, and the strangest thing of all is that all are true. Choose then only one way to enumerate and explain them, and while that will certainly be true, or as true as anything in the Void can be said to be, you must remember always that it is not, as it were, the full story.
In the primary perception of the majority of those who pass through Waypoint, however, there are Ten great Powers of the Void. They have many names, many descriptions, but since Waypoint is primarily maintained by the one known as Erisalin, it is she (if Erisalin can really be said to be a “she”) about whom most is recorded.
The Ten Powers each have different driving forces, motivations, and preferred means of manipulation. Of them, three are widely considered “evil” in some degree; three “good”; and four “neutral”, at least on a moral axis. One, known as the Watcher or Chronicler, rarely intervenes at all: this Power is an observer and a keeper of knowledge. Those who seek the Chronicler and ask questions are always answered, but the knowledge is not always helpful: with so much information to hand, questioners must often be very specific indeed to learn precisely what they wished to.
Erisalin seeks the happiness and comfort of all beings, in particular those she has a specific interest in, but she can be quite ruthless in achieving those ends: those who move at her behest have frequently been through a great deal by the time they finally cease their long journeys. Yet it is invariably true that those journeys leave them ultimately better-positioned and happier in their chosen life than would otherwise have been the case. She appears differently to all those who see her, but humans and their visually similar ‘close relatives’ most typically perceive a young woman with thick, wavy blonde hair and either gold or blue eyes, bright and intense and fractionally too large. As with her eyes, her skin varies in shade, but is most commonly a golden tan. She has a kind smile and an approachable manner; she is a Power who could, in most of her displayed forms, be quite trivially passed on the streets of Waypoint and assumed to be simply another passing stranger.
All that ever is, was, will be, or might have been, has existed, and shall exist, for time is but one of many axes, and need not be followed in any one single line. One universe alone is a place of near-infinite possibility, and there are far more than simply one. From one to the next, it may be that historical events differ, diverging at a certain point — or it may be that the point of divergence is at the beginning of the universe itself, with different physical laws, a different cosmos entirely. The possibilities span ranges far beyond easy imagination, and they are all there, and more. Those realms listed or referred to here are only the most infinitesimal fraction of all that there is.
How then to catalogue those endless possibilities, save to say that one cannot? Referred to here are those known to but one individual, and only indeed the slightest subset of them. To learn more, one must travel — endless worlds await you.
From here on, then, we shall concern ourselves primarily with the connections between the infinite realms of the Multiverse, and with the people most relevant to them.
Conscious control is not the only way to travel between these endless distant realms. The fabric of reality is not always entirely stable, and at times, ‘gaps’ may open in it, large enough to admit a human, or a vehicle, or merely a molecule of air. The larger, the rarer, but they are there. These wormholes can be created by external force, but are as often random, and may connect any one universe to any other essentially arbitrarily. Most people will never see, or even see evidence of, even one random wormhole — almost any individual who has seen more than one in their lifespan will have done so owing to the actions of the Powers.
Civilisations in multiple subsets of realities have developed the technology (or mastered the magical power) to open wormholes of their own, and in some cases even target them to realities of specific type. The further these peoples’ explorations reach, the more likely they, too, are to unknowingly interact with and potentially become aware of the Powers of the Void. Equally, however, they may well remain quite oblivious of any forces subtly affecting their explorations.
Wormholes are one thing, momentary and short-lived, typically closing shortly after they have opened. They may connect any one place to any other, perhaps five or six at the most — a wormhole that can be thought of as stationary at one end need not be so at the other, in time, space, or even reality, but these are typically even more short-lived than their more stable counterparts, and rarer.
But there is one that is something far, far more.
They call it “the Dimension-Stream”, those who know it best. It can be traversed, even navigated, if with some difficulty, and a small number of ships (and an even smaller number of individuals with suitable powers, but spaceships are by far the most reliable means of transit, owing to their durability) even make a rich living doing so, roving between universes without ever truly entering the Void. It has direction, of a sort; distance, of a sort; and from it countless portals flicker open and shut in the space of a heartbeat. The Dimension-Stream, too, touches all places, and unlike the Void it is, at least in part, a place. As much unreality as reality, more real than the inside of a wormhole and less so than the weakest of universes, most people think of it as a giant wormhole, something from the boundaries of possibility that, once formed, could not be unmade. And perhaps that is so — but not even those who have studied it most closely can say for certain.
For there is a strangeness about the Dimension-Stream even — or especially — to those who best know the Void.
It has a preferred direction, the Dimension-Stream. There is, in crude terms, an “upstream” and a “down”. Without propulsion, an object — alive or otherwise — will fall along that primary axis. Motion counter to this innate ‘fall’ is possible over a great distance… yet eventually, finally, it begins to be impeded. The degree of turbulence grows, at first slowly, then more swiftly, increasing to a shattering force of impassable power. No being, no ship, no known object has ever breached that limitless onslaught at what many think of as the “source” of the Dimension-Stream. Not even the Powers, however conceived, know what lies beyond, or even whether the word ‘beyond’ has any meaning at all.