History

History is the version of past events that people have decided to agree upon.
-Napoleon Bonaparte (1769 - 1821)

We think of ourselves as part of the natural chain of evolution of the world. Apes became Neanderthals, became Cro-Magnons, became us. Or some variation of that, with the final result being that we are ourselves part of the slow and sure evolution of Nature. Sorry to burst your bubble, but that’s not quite true.

We are the end result of the crossbreeding of Noom. We are not native to the Tell, even if we’ve convinced ourselves that this is true. Like the Navajo, the Celts, and various other cultures, we originally came here as colonists. Whether it was through a hole in the sky (not a bad metaphor for Piercing the Caesura) or on ships through fog, we came here from Elsewhere, from the Plasm.

The War Before

We started out as an enormous variety of Noom colonizing what is now the Tell. Some theories think that the Tell might have been a Realm in the Plasm once, while others are certain that it has always been separate. No one’s sure. What is clear is that there was an eon-spanning war, now called the War Before. In it, for unknown reasons, Noom turned on Noom and the new colonies were decimated. What we think are the fossilized remains of our ancestors and other animals are often the remains of individuals turned to stone in the awesome magical battles that comprised the War Before. This is also the reason why Shoal are considered the standard – they’re the sum total, the overall average, of all Noom.

After the War Before (about which little is known), the majority of people discovered that they no longer had the trick of crossing the Caesura. As time went on, they evolved into the Shoal, ignorant of the truth of the Coil, but remembered by the majority in their skewed religious and mythological systems . Still, there were some who remembered, and it was these who became Maestroes and established the Compact.

The Compact

Once a year, Maestroes around the world would meet for the arduous magical task of fulfilling the Compact. Through the force of powerful Feits and Raptures, they would enter the Caesura, meet with corresponding Maestroes from the Plasm, and magically enforce the transmission of stability and magic between the worlds. This strengthened the Caesura and both Dominions, ensuring the health of both worlds.

The Compact ensures stability and abundance for each Dominion of the Coil. On a certain day of the year, hundreds of Tellish Maestroes would line up along the Caesura, and counterpart Maestroes in the Plasm would do the same. Each side would carefully navigate their way through the Caesura, meeting in its heart with their counterpart from the other Dominion. Once they'd found their partner, their consciousnesses would merge and perform powerful Raptures to channel the energy of their Dominion into the other. This brought stable forms to the Plasm, and allowed form and substance to continue unchanged. In turn, it enabled the division and separation of territories and allowed conflicts in the Plasm to be finally decided. To the people of the Tell, it introduced magic and mystery that inspired and moved to greater heights of expression and understanding. We are interdependent, and the Compact was both the symbol and the guarantee of that relationship.

The Breaking

The Breaking came when a Tellish student, gifted but deemed not ready to take on an active role in the Compact, machined a way into the ritual. He tricked one of the Anchors, Maestroes who channeled the Compact’s energy into the Tell, and took his place. As talented as he was, he was not skilled enough to channel the massive amounts of Quiddity, and he died in a fiery explosion. With that single link broken, the forces facing the other Anchors proved too powerful, and one by one, the Anchors died, and the Tellish Maestroes conducting the ritual in the Caesura were lost.

Now, there are none who know the proper rites and Raptures to conduct the Compact on behalf of the Tell. The rites have been passed on in the Plasm, but without the other half, the Compact cannot be accomplished. Now, the flow of Quiddity between Dominions is irregular, the Caesura is starting to come apart, and the end of the Coil may be upon us. Or not – no one knows what will happen when the Caesura fails. That’s partly the reason why there’s so much anxiety about it.

The War and Rades

This has led to the new War, and the Rades. The Rades are political divisions that originally described the attitudes prevalent in the Plasm regarding the Breaking. There are hundreds of Rades, but the most significant include the Calyx and the Marahh.

These two Rades are the most greatly involveed with the Tell, and are the source of common divisions of “faery” into Seelie and Unseelie. These are also the two Rades behind the bulk of the War, with the Marahh trying to destroy the Shoal in the Tell, and the Calyx trying to protect them.

In truth, the divisions are not so simple – any Noom could belong to any party, though there are tendencies among the Tribes. And membership in a Rade is not constant either – a Marahh spy could change and become Calyx, or any of the other Rades.

The Caesura

At the heart of the War is the Caesura, the veil which separates the Two Dominions. The Caesura is actually a Dominion in its own right. Normal folk cross the Caesura every night in their dreams, but this veil is powerful beyond measure: it helped maintain a separation and balance between the Dominions that ensures both constant evolution and constant stability for both. Since the Compact broke, its ability to do so has been severely hampered.

The Caesura is a safety measure, though who created it is unknown. With the aid of the Compact, it worked like a membrane, letting magic seep from one Dominion into the other, and keeping a slow but constant flow of stability in the opposite direction. This kept the Dominions in a steady state of change, leading inexorably to an equilibrium. Some Maestroes believe that it is the wall between the yolk and the white, and that eventually a new united Dominion will be born. Other Maestroes think them insane.

With the Compact broken, it does its job less perfectly. It still maintains the transfer of energies, but without the focus provided by the Anchors, it's not a smooth one. As travelers move between the worlds, it is also further damaged. There is a reason that the primary metaphor for describing the transit from one Dominion to the other is called Piercing.

Though it has a vital role in maintaining the Coil, it also holds the greatest dangers. Unlike the Dominions, which have change or permanence as distinctive qualities, the Caesura itself is a wavering wall of unreality. Dangerous to cross because it can unmake the careless traveler, it contains the only true spirits of the Coil. These spirits, Caesurites, make horror films seem tame: white-eyed and white-fanged wraiths content only with destruction and possession of bodies and reality. They are unearthly beauties concealing souls of ice, and phantasms whose mere appearance drives men insane. These spirits are trapped, and rage against their imprisonment. They dream of escape, so that they can free their siblings and eat the world. You have probably read of the most famous of them, Cthulhu. From Lovecraft's descriptions comes another name, R'lyeh, though Worldbarrier is common too.

It may seem that the Caesura is a physical barrier, but nothing is further from the truth. It is a metaphysical wave, a thin layer of surreality that separates one Dominion from the other. In addition to the dangers of the Caesurites, its presence effects magic and time. The famous fairy-tale effect of time passing differently in the Otherworld is an effect of the tides of the Caesura. These tides can also affect magic, absorbing Quiddity as the tide ebbs and expelling it as it rises. The Tides are unpredictable, but seem tied to the state of the Dominions on either of its sides. In addition, because the Caesura interpenetrates the Dominions, it is possible to step through the Caesura (with the help of a little magic) and arrive almost anywhere in the other Dominion.