Loremageddon 2019, Day Sixteen: Voyagers, the High Mandate, Fringe Cartography

Greetings, friends, and welcome to Day Sixteen! We’re taking a good, long look into the lore of Creation’s Fringe today–starting with one part of that lore that’s especially likely to look back, Voyagers! Then we move into a brief history of The High Mandate, and the maddest pursuit of all: mapping Creation’s Fringe. Let’s jump in!

***

Snippet #1: Voyagers (World: Creation’s Fringe)

Perhaps it’s the human-looking fellow bussing tables at the tavern. After a few glances, it becomes apparent that his nose is fake, his cheekbones too sharp, his skin translucent enough that the bone structure beneath it becomes visible at the right angle, in the right light. Perhaps it’s a comely person who appears to have a slightly difference face every time they turn to look at you, but always one you find attractive. Perhaps it’s a Novgori with eyes much too keen and metallic gleams seeping out through her fur, or an offworlder of a race you’ll never see again.

These peculiar folk may or may not be Voyagers; one would never know until they were placed into enough trouble that they needed to draw on their powers to escape. “Voyager” is a broad term referring to a range of entities who assume the forms of mortal species. This may be either at the organic level rather or as the same sort of pure-power simulacrums created by demons, gods, and the like. Also distinguishing them from these first two, Voyagers lack any one reason for doing so.

They may wish to analyze the Fringe itself from a more focused perspective, or simply to experience life as something other than… whatever it is they are. It’s no coincidence that identifying and understanding them proves so difficult; most Voyagers devise their forms to take advantage of the Fringe’s kaleidoscoping swirl of beings. It’s easy to suspect that one has encountered a Voyager, and those with the most experience say there’s usually a certain feeling of “unrightness” or “out-of-placeness”, but it can rarely be confirmed.

When Voyagers do reveal themselves, they display an understanding of the universe far more developed than any extant Fringer society. This ranges from biology to the laws of physics themselves: Voyagers have been known to distort space to divert a mage’s spell, cut priests off from their deities–though only for a moment–and even seem able to manipulate the normally-untouchable psionics. These last two are extremely rare examples, however; most Voyagers enter the Fringe with limited power.

Some have been cast down and bound there by choice. They are not pleased about it.

Full Segment #1: The High Mandate (World: Creation’s Fringe)

The High Mandate is indeed an order to do something, and it certainly comes from on high; unfortunately for its makers, gods are not so easily impressed by gods. The High Mandate provides the Fringe-deities’ equivalent to Canno’s Celestial Pact, a famously-hindersome piece of work. It fits the Fringe’s nature that only a handful of deities keep The High Mandate. This arrangement was devised in a distant era by the deity Zariima, a member of the Al Barin pantheon and the patron of scholars and inventors.

Zariima argued that there was no point in maintaining the Fringe against external threats for mortal benefit if the deities just intended to pursue their own vision for the world, which persuaded the rest of the Al Barin pantheon, and that it was therefore best for the world that the deities focus on keeping the most dire threats at bay and otherwise maintain the lightest possible touch–occasional suggestions and guidance when asked for, but nothing more.

The High Mandate is far more complicated than the Celestial Pact but equally restrictive, determining via thousands of sub-codes exactly how much a Fringer deity can do (not very much) without, in Zariima’s estimation, “making mortals feel their own actions do not matter.”
“So,” Mirtulla is supposed to have said, steepling her fingers and glaring, the grim winter made manifest, “you wish us useless.”

The Frost-Goddess then said that she judged it theft–or even an especially gutless brand of slavery–to accept power through mortal worship while taking no direct action on their behalf, that this policy would further preclude acting against any malicious deities if they originated on the Fringe itself, and that in general such apathy only bred stagnation, decay, and collapse. “I judge your Mandate a trifle, you a fool, and mortal beings happier knowing that someone cares enough to lift a finger for them,” Mirtulla concluded.

Thus speaking, she departed before Zariima could make a counter-argument. It would have helped nothing, Zariima later admitted; they and Mirtulla held oppositional views about a deity’s role.
Mirtulla still maintains differently. “I hold a view about deities’ roles,” the Boreal Lady once told a curious priest, speaking as a winter whisper on a northern wind. “Zariima believes mortals should tell us our roles. Child: a likable ant remains an ant. I am a goddess, I wield a goddess’s power, and I reserve my agency for myself.”

“And child,” Mirtulla added, “gods, too, may know fear. Fear, perhaps, that if all gods use their power freely, the weakest shall fail.” Thus she left the hapless priest.

This sequence of events represents the never-ending argument between deities who keep the Mandate and deities who do not. One side argue that they exist as protectors and guides, not as free actors. The other side argue that if they’re to exist, they ought to do something with that existence. Pirnab’s patron of beggars and the forlorn, Minesh, made perhaps the best argument of all: “You fucking morons realize our temples cost money, right?”

Snippet #2: Fringe Cartography (World: Creation’s Fringe–well, obviously!)

“You madmen, you fools, do you realize what you’re saying? Do you realize how many will die? And for what–a statue that might be lost in the next Marrow Wreaking, and compliments from an idiot queen!” These were the words of Nileb Birmun, a human mage from Pirnab, when he was confronted with the latest project to map Creation’s Fringe and asked to join. Nileb did not, and consequently lived to old age teaching at the Central Pirnab Institute For the Arcane. As he predicted, the expedition’s members all died or else gave up.

It doesn’t take a mage-instructor’s intellect to realize that mapping the Fringe is just about impossible. Firstly, where does one draw the line? Scattered through most regions of the Fringe there are entries to old pocket dimensions, folds in the world itself which create whole secondary layers of topography, and at least two full-sized planes which sometimes blouse themselves into part of the world but are gone within days only to reappear somewhere else entirely. Yet, while present, these planes can add anywhere from a few hours to weeks of travel time.

Even if a cartographer develops a coherent system for dealing with these nightmares, there’s another topic: the myriad nightmares that stalk the Fringe! A travel map would be expected to account for these things as much as possible, but adventurers skilled, powerful, and suicidal enough to have a chance to make any one leg of the journey are rare. In fact, the Adventurers’ Association of the Greater Fringe no longer accepts cartographical contracts at all. Members are still permitted to arrange for them privately, but can expect none of the Association’s usual legal and logistical support.

Besides, as Nileb himself pointed out, even if a good map were completed, the next Marrow Wreaking would rearrange the area in any case.

***

Thus we doff our hats and take a moment of silence for Day Sixteen–here one moment, gone the next. As always, let me know your thoughts in the comments, leave a like, and share this post with your friends. Trust me, I see all of it. I see everything. Oh, also, Twitter: I have one, it’s located here, do with this information what you will.

2 thoughts on “Loremageddon 2019, Day Sixteen: Voyagers, the High Mandate, Fringe Cartography

  1. Man, I freaking love your world-building. I thought psionics had been a really cool magic system, but the idea that the Voyagers are “pure-power simulacrums” that might be busing tables throughout your world is whole different level of interesting. You’re killing it!

    Liked by 1 person

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