The Aether and The Gates
A Treatise on Trans-dimensional Travel by Hylax the Barker, Runemaster-in-training
For most people, there is only one world: the mundane world of kings and queens, serfs and slaves, of earth and sea and sky. Glimpses of dimensions beyond that experienced as the everyday world are rare, although the belief in other dimensions is widespread among the common folk. Tales of the afterlife, of heaven and hell, have flourished in the stories told around the hearth for uncounted generations, yet only the palest glimmerings of multidimensional reality emerge from these folk superstitions.
While the commoners live largely in ignorance, scholars of the arcane arts have devoted lifetimes studying and exploring these other dimensions and learning the secrets which allow travel between them. I humbly follow in their footsteps.
I start by introducing the concept of a dimensional world. This concept can be defined as a discrete spatial reality in which beings can exist and take action. There are perhaps an infinite number of dimensional worlds. My study seeks to illuminate some of these dimensional worlds and how travel is possible between them.
To understand how to travel between dimensional worlds, one must understand the Aether.
The Aether / The Shadows
The primary connection medium between dimensional worlds is called variously the Aether or the Shadows. This is a strange place with few fixed features or inhabitants. It is more of an extra-dimensional space than a proper dimensional world. It does appear that the Aether binds all dimensional worlds together. Historical descriptions of travel through the Aether often refer to sensations of "being drunk while running through a swirling mist of inky blackness".
The Aether can be traveled in a limited fashion through a variety of common magical spells: wink, rope trick, blink, dimension door, passwall, teleport, phase door, shadow walk, vanish, and ethereal presence to name a few. Summoned beings, likewise, travel through the Aether to arrive at their place of summoning. Most wizards use the Aether without ever understanding its nature, or the power that can be gained by mastering movement within it. Most spells and devices use the Aether without allowing conscious movement within its confines - you step into the Aether and you step out instantaneously. As such, movement is restricted and distances rarely exceed several hundred miles.
In my research, I have discovered reference to a number of beings who can move within the confines of the Aether. Certainly, high-ranking members of The Family, The Dark Path, and Cult of Shadows use the Aether as a passageway through locked doors. In essence, they step into the Shadows, move a few steps, and step out of the Shadows. In doing so, they can move thousands of miles or a few paces into a sealed vault. There are also reports of spaces existing - albeit temporarily - in the Shadows. A large room may exist in the Shadows that in the Realm might be a small, dark alleyway between two adjacent buildings. Ever-shifting, the Shadows remain mostly unexplored and completely unmapped.
My research has also shown that there are creatures which inhabit the Aether - moving through it as easily as humans move through the Realm. The most important of these is Worldswing, the Great Dragon of the Ether, who has established - with the help of three powerful artifacts - a semi-permanent castle in the Aether. My encounter with Worldswing in March 832 TA was through a gate at a ruined lighthouse on Thunder and Lightning Point in the Western Reaches.
It is not clear to me whether or not beings from the Realm could survive for long in the Aether.
Gates Through the Aether
For travels over a few thousand miles and for any movement between dimensional worlds, a vast amount of energy is needed. In order to accomplish this, an artifact must be constructed - the most complex of these fills an entire room. While the location of these permanent gates and portals appear to be random when drawn on a map of the Realm, my research points to connections to the dimensional worlds coinciding with intersecting lines of force, sometimes referred to as tendrils. I have discovered several "permanent" gates in the Realm. The differences in construction - some are mechanical and others are magical - lead me to hypothesize that several groups of builders might have mastered construction over the ages. The only name I have discovered associated with the gate construction is the "Tinkerers".
More limited movement can be achieved with magical artifacts - the Pyramids of the Netherworld and the Dead Man's Coins to name two.
Here are the most interesting portals and devices that I have discovered for travel through the Aether.
On Trans-dimensional Runes
My research into true runes, following the work of Morgan the Enchanter, has led me to realize that trans-dimensional travel is possible. I have started work on a rune staff which will allow me to master such travel. The staff is carved only with the task runes indicating the type of travel to be undertaken. The invoker can be variously the caster, an enemy or a friend, or group. Likewise, the target is the final destination desired by the wielder of the rune staff. This can be a place known intimately, or a place known only through rumor and research. The dangers inherent in such travel are obvious. It is the task rune which harnesses the power of the tendrils to travel multi-dimensionally. I suspect that the more powerful travels will need to be undertaken near the crossroads of the tendrils, while simple travels can be done anywhere.
I start work on four runes for my staff. The first rune, which I call Pendar, will allow me to travel effortlessly between the Realm, Oblivion, and the Land of the Dead. I will utilize a Dead Man’s coin in the forming of this rune. The second rune, which I call Voidwalker, will allow me to travel to the Void. As I gain skill and do additional research, I expect to be able to travel through the thirty-five portals at will. What treasures exist beyond, I dare not try to imagine. I will utilize a Compass of the Void in the forming of this rune. The third rune, which I call Aether, allows me travel through the shadows without limitation. My corporeal body in the Realm will become a simple extension of my far-travelling soul. I will utilize a Pyramid once used for transport in the Netherworld to form this rune. The fourth rune, which I call, Timelord, I suspect will be the most difficult to master. This rune, in combination with a locational rune, will allow me travel both forward and backwards in time. Perhaps one day I can visit the Navigators in their mighty ship before it was destroyed, or see the world beyond the end of my days. I leave the last space on my staff empty. I must admit that the last rune will be carved when I am ready to travel to those worlds outside of the tendril net which binds the dimensional worlds to the Void. I long to be the first traveler to repay the visit made by the inhabitants of Pellum to our humble world and to learn the secrets of their vast magic.