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Black and white clip art depiction of audio being turned into a transcript.

Black and white clip art depiction of audio being turned into a transcript. On the left, the sound is depicted by a pair of headphones with an audio wave going between the two ears pads. A simple black arrow goes from left to right. On the right, the transcript is represented by a stylized typed document.

 

In order to make these transcripts as accessible as possible, each one is produced in four formats: as an online post for access convenience, in a word document with a low vision friendly font (Veranda), in a pdf with a dyslexia friendly font (OpenDyslexic), and a low contrast blue on black pdf as an access option for people with migraines (Veranda).

 

Writing Alchemy Crossroads Story Time 1 – The Story of Creation

Note: “*” is used to indicate music and sound effects that were added to the original recording.

[*A bouncy, optimistic synthetic track with a happy melody plays and then fades out.]

FAY ONYX: Hello and welcome to Crossroads Story Time Number One, the first episode of a new Writing Alchemy series that explores the myths and lore of the Crossroads setting. I’m Fay Onyx and today we’re going to enjoy four short stories that delve into the cosmology and magic of Crossroads through the story of its creation.

To remind you, Crossroads is the setting that was used for the Owlbear Reintroduction Program Game. We will be returning to this setting in multiple future games that are currently in the planning stages, including a longer running game set in the Adventurers Academy.

Behind the scenes I’ve been working really hard fleshing out some of the key aspects of this setting in preparation for these upcoming games and I desperately want to share some of things I’ve been working on with you. Happily, since I write the setting documents in a fairy tale style already, it is easy to turn them into short stories and I am really excited to share the first set of them with you today.

And now I’m going to quickly mention that you can follow Writing Alchemy on twitter @ Writing underscore Alchemy, hashtag AlchemyCast, and on facebook at facebook dot com slash Writing Alchemy. You can find the show notes, with links, complete music and sound effect credits, and the transcript at Writing Alchemy dot net, where you can also find all of my podcasts, articles, stories, and other content. And if you want to help me keep this podcast going, you can pledge your support on patreon at patreon dot com slash writing alchemy, or make a donation through Ko-fi.

[*The bouncy synthetic music plays briefly and then fades out.]

Alright, so I’m going to start by giving you an introduction to land Crossroads.

[*The Crossroads theme starts playing. It is an ambient electronic track full of mystery and wonder, with an ominous undertone.]

Crossroads is a land of diverse peoples and geographies. In addition to humans, many nonhuman peoples call Crossroads home. From elves to merfolk, vampires to fairies, and trolls to talking animals, each species that lives here has as much cultural diversity as humans do. And all of this diversity creates lively trade, both between the different regions of Crossroads and with those outside of its borders.

In the past there were many wars, but now a unified kingdom spans the land. However these past wars have left many magical hazards. The presence of these hazards has led to the development of professional adventurers, individuals and groups who are called on to address a wide range of problems, both large and small.

And new problems are arising all of the time because the magic of Crossroads has a tendency to go awry. You see, this world is woven from threads of magic. Many of the people living in Crossroads have the ability to manipulate these threads and change their pattern. Unfortunately, making changes to the threads requires the magic user to unweave a small piece of reality. Unwoven magic is unstable and comes with serious risk. Unexpected results are common.

Crossroads also has many unusual magical features—a series of lakes that hover in the air, mountains covered in forests of giant flowers, and hidden gateways to the beautiful and dangerous Other Realm. Perhaps the most important magical feature is the Ring of Mist that encircles all of Crossroads. This mist prevents magic and knowledge from crossing in or out of Crossroads. However people and mundane items can freely come and go and many traders pass through the Ring of Mist every day.

[*The Crossroads theme fades out.]

Now we’re going to take a journey into the land of Crossroads to the village of Sweetbrook, a small but diverse farming community nestled in a little valley on the eastern side of the Green Basin, which is the central agricultural region of Crossroads.

Tonight is the full moon, and as it so happens, the full moon is a special night in Sweetbrook. Everyone in the village comes together to celebrate. And at the end of that celebration, everyone gathers around the fire to tell stories.

As the first story begins, I want you to imagine the murmur of wind in the trees, the rustle of dry leaves, the cold night all around, and the warm, crackling fire in front of you…

[*The sound of a gusty autumn wind blowing through the dry leaves on the tree branches comes in. As the wind fades out, the sound of a medium-sized crackling fire fades in. Finally, a tinkling chime signals the transition to the stories. The fire sound continues for a long while before gradually fading out.]

 

This Is the Story of Creation

In the beginning everything was Essence. Essence is what we call the rawest form magic. It is creative and chaotic. The Essence was everything and it was nothing. And it existed like that for eons upon eons. Finally, by random chance, there was a tiny spark of order and the First God came into existence. As the First God surveyed what was around them, their thoughts rippled through the Essence, shaping it into earth and air, fire and water. More ripples created the sun, the moon, and the stars. Finally, life itself was born.

This was the First Creation.

But raw Essence is unstable and once life had been created, there were more thoughts to shape it. These new thoughts were smaller, but they were numerous, and the Essence changed a little in response to each one. The First God tried to hold everything stable with the power of their thoughts, but all of creation is a lot to think about and there were so many other thoughts constantly reshaping it. Finally the First God could not hold the Essence stable anymore, and the First Creation tore itself into pieces and was destroyed.

Then the First God had a new idea, and that thought rippled through the Essence, bringing the Many Gods into being—each with a different nature and attributes. Together the Many Gods divided the raw power of the Essence into the Magical Domains. Next, using these domains as both tools and materials, the gods wove a new world, the Second Creation, with laws to govern it and keep it stable.

One of these laws is that the gods themselves may not directly manifest within the world. This protects creation from the rips and tears that would inevitably be caused by their immense power. Instead, the gods confine themselves to working through their followers and maintaining those parts of creation which are their special areas of interest.

We are living in this Second Creation and through study we have learned that small fragments of the First Creation escaped its destruction. These fragments have become embedded within the substance of our world. As remnants of that original world, they know only the form that the First God gave to them. It is uncertain how being embedded within the substance of the Second Creation has affected them, but they do seem to be more stable than they once were. Because these fragments are so similar to Essence, they are potent, causing these areas to be usually rich in magic. They are also the reason why these places rarely follow the Laws of the Gods, because those laws did not exist when the First Creation was made.

There is, however, one large fragment of the First Creation that escaped its destruction. This fragment has become the Other Realm, a place of beauty and danger that only touches the fabric of the Second Creation in a few places. Though the points of contact are few, it is believed that many of the peoples and creatures that now inhabit Crossroads originated in the First Creation and only came into Crossroads through these connections to the Other Realm.

[*A wind gust is followed by the sound of the crackling fire fading in. Individual dry leaves can be heard blowing over the ground before the wind fades out. The fire sound continues for a long while before gradually fading out.]

 

The Nature of Magic

The Magical Domains are both the threads from which the world has been woven and the tools used to do that weaving. Because of this, the magic of each domain can be used like a tool to manipulate and reshape its own threads. However, the threads of different domains are often intertwined, meaning that changes made to one domain can have unexpected results on others.

All of this constant reweaving would make reality unstable, except that the Many Gods designed the Second Creation to be stable. The threads of the domains have an inherent stability that makes them always remember and return to their original shapes, no matter how many times they have been altered. In addition, the threads of the Second Creation are so tightly woven that changes to the fabric of one area rarely affect other places. Together these two things make it possible for many different people to use magic without upsetting the world’s stability.

Because of the inherent stability of the Magical Domains, an anchor is required any time a magic user wishes to create a permanent magical effect. The anchor acts like a knot that holds the domain thread in its new shape. Should the anchor be destroyed, the domain thread would be freed to resume its original shape. The most stable anchors are physical, with orbs being the most common, followed by artifacts, living beings, and everyday objects. Intangible things, such as emotions, promises, duties, or purposes are also capable of anchoring magic. However, intangible anchors are more flexible, which makes them prone to changing over time, and as the anchor changes, so too does the attached magic.

It is believed that each person born in Crossroads resonates with at least one Magical Domain. With practice, this resonance can be developed into a connection which allows that person to draw on the magic of their domain and reshape its threads. Depending on the nature of their practice, this connection can take different forms. Some connections are direct, while others happen with the assistance of a god or other powerful being.

When a person casts magic they are harnessing the power of one of their domains to reshape that domain’s thread. Doing this means temporarily overcoming a small bit of the Second Creation’s inherent stability. Naturally, this comes with risks. Each Magical Domain contains a piece of the raw creativity of Essence. This is necessary for the Second Creation to maintain its flexibility and resilience. Normally, this flexibility is balanced by each domain’s stability. However, when threads are being reshaped, their creative power can become unbalanced, producing unexpected results. This is the biggest source of magical mishaps, though mishaps can also be caused by unexpected interconnections between the threads. Prayers, words of power, gestures, magical herbs, performances, and sacred items can all be used to add structure to the casting process. This helps maintain stability, as does practice and preparation, but, in the end, mishaps happen to all who use magic.

[*The sound of a crackling fire fades in before a sudden gust of wind comes in. Again, dry leaves can be heard blowing about before the wind sound fades. The fire sound continues for a long while before gradually fading out.]

 

The Ring of Mist

The Ring of Mist is a permanent, oval-shaped cloud that encircles the entirety of Crossroads, separating us from the Outside Lands. It is not possible to go over or under the Ring of Mist; the only way in or out of Crossroads is to go through it. Strange things happen in the mist. Even so, people cross back and forth every day on the many roads that pass through it.

Each time a person goes through the mist it gets inside their mind, obscuring some of their memories. They can remember everything they know about the land they are currently in, but the memories of the land they came from are dream-like and incomplete. People can still remember their loved ones and some aspects of daily life, but details about the world and how it works are fuzzy.

The mist also seems to take things. Magical objects can’t cross through it. Instead they vanish, only to reappear on the return trip. Similarly, the writing on books, maps, and diagrams also disappears, though the objects that were written upon do cross over, leaving blank parchment and empty books. Upon the return journey the writing reappears.

It is possible that there are other things that can’t pass through mist that people aren’t even aware of because the mist prevents them from remembering. What is certain is that people and animals can pass through it, along with raw materials and simple goods. It is believed that some of the groups now living in Crossroads came through the Ring of Mist from the Outside Lands, but that was so long ago that no one knows for sure.

There are, naturally, a lot of theories about what the Ring of Mist is and what it is made of. It has been noted that the gateways between Crossroads and the Other Realm are also marked by mist, but that mist has very different properties. In addition, ghosts and other supernatural entities often create magical fogs which they can manipulate. As a result, some think that mist and fog are markers of supernatural boundaries. Another possibility is that any magic that is in a rawer form, a form closer to Essence, will appear as a fog. Others theorize that these are all distinct phenomena that just happen to have similar appearances. Studies designed to answer these questions are ongoing, but with little success. So far the Ring of Mist has resisted all attempts to study it.

[*The sound of steadily blowing wind fades in before the sound of the fire comes in. The fire sound continues for a long while before gradually fading out.]

 

The Many Theories of Creation

There are many possibilities for what the Second Creation is and how Crossroads fits into it. The existence of the Ring of Mist brings up many questions, and numerous theories have been proposed to explain it. These theories can be grouped into two main categories: the Single World Theories and the Many Worlds Theories.

The Single World Theories are all based on the idea that Crossroads is part of a single larger world that is the entirety of the Second Creation. Among these theories, the Protective Barrier Theory views the Ring of Mist as an ancient barrier designed to protect Crossroads from the outside world. By preventing external magic from entering Crossroads and knowledge from leaving, military invasions are made impractical. Meanwhile, the Forbidden Knowledge Theory suggests that the true function of the Ring of Mist is to keep certain powerful, forbidden knowledge that is hidden in Crossroads from ever reach the Outside Lands.

A different perspective is given in the Magical Transportation Theory, which views all of the magic and information blocking properties of the Ring of Mist as an unintended side effect of its true function. This function is to magically connect the trade roads of Crossroads to many different lands all over the Second Creation. Similarly, the Magical Boundary Theory also takes a unique perspective. It puts forth the idea that magic only exists in Crossroads and that the Ring of Mist is simply the boundary where magic stops working.

In contrast to the Single World Theories, the Many Worlds Theories are all based on the idea that the Second Creation contains many different worlds that are connected by the roads between them. This would mean that the Ring of Mist is both the edge of the world and the gateway to other worlds. All of the effects caused by going through the mist are a result of shifting from one reality to another.

Among these theories, those who follow the Many Experiments Theory believe that the Many Gods experimented in the creation of all of these different worlds, resulting in each world having its own laws and magic. Followers of the Many Pantheons Theory take this a step further by suggesting that each world actually has its own pantheon of gods.

Other Many Worlds Theories focus on the way all of these different worlds are connected to each other. The Giant Flower Theory puts Crossroads at the center of creation, like the center of an enormous flower, with all of the other worlds connecting to it like petals. Conversely, the Giant Web Theory thinks of creation as a massive interconnected web of different worlds. In this theory, Crossroads is a world like any other with an average number of connections to other worlds.

Unfortunately the mind altering effects of the mist have so far made it impossible to get proof for any of these theories, as the only place that can be studied in detail is Crossroads itself. Studies of the Other Realm have yielded exciting information about the First Creation, but they can only shed limited insight into the nature of the Second Creation. As a result, speculation and study continue indefinitely.

[*The tinkling chime returns to signal the transition out of the stories. The bouncy synthetic music plays briefly and then fades out.]

 

That is the end of our stories for this evening. Next Crossroads Story Time we will be exploring the lore of the Other Realm.

Inspired by mythology of the fairy realm and the fey, the Other Realm is a fragment of the First Creation that escaped its destruction. This beautiful and dangerous place connects to Crossroads in a small number of magical gateways. Anyone able to find one of these gateways can cross into the Other Realm, but be warned, the Other Realm is shaped by the will of its Three Rulers and it follows its own laws.

You can also look forward to the sequel to the Welcome to the First Responders Training Program Game, which I am working on editing right now.

And thank you so much for listening! I look forward to sharing more with you soon.

[*The bouncy synthetic music plays and then comes to an end.]

 

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