The World of Illud
A starless, moonless sky.
On a clear night, Illudians may gaze into an assortment of colors that fluctuate throughout the seasons, known simply as the Tapestry. Shades of orange and red in the Summer that bleed into fuchsia and purple in Fall, into a range of blues in Winter and finally into greens and yellows in Spring. Shapes that call to mind landscapes, structures and even creatures, familiar and alien, are occasionally visible in this vibrant night sky.
Most often, those images are blurry and faint, though they become eerily clear and distinct at the peak of each season. At the heart of Fall, you may see the Autumn Spire; the shape of an imposing tower that dominates the violet sky. The Tapestry serves as an inspiration for many tales and traditions, and many have made it their purpose to interpret its meaning, or its origins. Ancient scrolls speak of an ink-black night sky, dotted with speckles of light. Scholars know not what to make of those records.
A fractured map, with foggy corners.
The Barrier. An endless maze of upwards-flowing, sky-high corridors of raging water that cover most of the sea. Over the centuries, countless ships have perished in an effort to chart its layout. But to know the way is largely insufficient. Passage is only possible through sinuous corridors, for the toughest ships and the most seasoned sailors. A constant storm batters the Barrier's entrances, which are made of unbreaking, suspended waves shaped into tunnels. Inside this maze, maelstroms and tornadoes are commonplace, often obstructing entire paths and imposing week-long detours.
Perilous trade routes were established between some of the isolated continents that lie in opposing shards of the world. But the charts are incomplete, and an unknown fraction of Illud remains locked away. Little is known of what may have brought forth the Barrier, only that it predates any of Caebresh' current societies.
A Pantheon of elusive entities, defined by duality.
When asked, the ones who's minds were first touched by the Entities would say that they heard no words. Instead, their minds became aware of concepts unimaginable before then. Of emotions for which mirth, humility, awe and love did a poor job of capturing. For a moment, they could travel to unseen vistas, over inconceivable distances, until they were themselves again. Enraptured by what had infected their minds, they could only channel their remaining agency into documenting the experience. To show others became the only calling that mattered.
They were simply declared mad, for a time. Until identical transcripts were stripped from the bloodied fingers of different individuals, realms across. Then they were known as Heralds. The chosen messengers of unknown beings, who sought to bestow upon mortals a means of organizing their reality into principles. Mortality, Knowledge, Flow, Force, Creation, and a sixth, lost and unknown. To refer to these beings as gods, and to organize precepts, traditions and belief systems around their teachings followed naturally. Different societies, including long extinct ones, may adopt varying visual representations of the Entities, but their principles are universal.
Then came the Avatars, physical manifestations of each Entity's principles, and embodying the duality of concepts particular to each. The more charitable among the pious believe that the Entities created the Avatars to bridge the gap between themselves and mortals. To influence the world more directly. Others believe that the they are one and the same, but that splitting themselves in two was necessary for the Entities to represent their existence in a form that could be perceived by mortal senses in the material world. And so one might catch a glimpse of one of Giais' six swan wings amid the clouds during a storm, and Qulnas prowls the deepest confines of the sea, their back encrusted with kaleidoscopic patterns of barnacle and coral.
An individual may bear an affinity with a specific Avatar. But to draw power from an Entity requires that one embrace both of its competing embodiments. For example, a Dwarven blacksmith may recognize themselves in Ruteus, the Avatar of craftsmanship. But to draw strength from 'Creation', they must also contend with Tohnaahn, the Avatar of nature, and adhere to its principles. What follows is that to worship an Illudian divinity is a delicate exercise in balance and in reconciliation of opposite concepts. Different societies are prone to worship specific Entities, as is often the case with 'Flow' in maritime communities, for example. But nothing precludes the worship of several, or all Entities.