The Tellurian

The Tellurian

Mages refer to all of reality as the Tellurian. You have often heard those around you speak of the universe. They believe that they are speaking of everything that there is, as if the universe were all-encompassing. The universe is but the physical part of reality — the stars and planets, and the creatures and objects found therein. We also see the world of the spirit which exist side by side with physical reality, overlapping it an occupying the same space. We call the sum-total of all earthly things the Tellurian, the physical and spiritual together — all the possible realms of existence, all that is natural and supernatural, all hopes, dreams and possibilites. In short, all of reality that ever was, that may be imagined, and that might someday be. It's a complex concept, but a simple one as well. This is the mages' understanding of reality, the understanding that allows a willworker to bend reality to her will, for all things are already possible, though not everything is easy to bring into being in the mundane reality of our Earth. This was not always so, but that's another story.

The Tapestry

All those things which are a part of the Tellurian are threads in the mystick weave we call the Tapestry. This Tapestry is a metaphor for the complex interweaving of all physical, spiritual and intellectual elements. Together they form a wondrous, magickal fabric which is ever changing and growing. Much of the basis of magick comes from this image of a great Tapestry; we cast spells which weave reality into our visions, creating new patterns and altering old ones. We speak of ley lines, bright strands of Quinetessence some call Gaia's ribbons, the Primal threads that flow across the face of our Earth. We locate Nodes the meeting places where ley lines come together and one thread is tied to another, forming the strong knots that are the basis of our Tapestry. All the different threads are interwoven to make a whole. Our Tapestry is never finished, however, for the weaving continues as we move toward Ascension.

To our sorrow, the threads which make up the Tapestry are fragile things. Many spiritual threads that should have remained strong have been severed and left to atrophy. Those of my Tradition, the Dreamspeakers, believe that just as tapestry frays and falls apart if the threads are cut or broken, so too will all of reality fall into nothingness should our foes ever succeed in wholly seperating our material world from the world of mind and spirit. The physical world both shapes the spiritual one and is shaped by it in return, like the warp and woof of any fabric. All things are a part of both worlds. To deny one or the other unravels the Tapestry and leads to our own unmaking.

Mundane Reality

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy. ~William Shakepeare, Hamlet

Now that you see how everything is a part of the whole, you'll understand why I begin your journey by showing you the world you think you already know. Look around you at the city: the streets stretch away in fractured spiderweb patterns, choked with refuse and twisting around impossibly tall buildings bedecked with gargoyles and glittering with thousands of lights. The city's glow blots out the sky's candles, almost as if they were veiled by a cloud of darkness. Even were we to turn off all the lights, the choking gasses frmo our cars and factories would serve to do the same.

Look at that woman scurrying down the street. She clutches her purse and holds her coat together as though they were protective talismans. She's right to be fearful; there are many evil things abroad in the city at night. Most of them exist in thed ay as well, but we can pretend then that we're stronger and less afraid; it's easier to see something threatening at a distance and turn aside before we meet it.

Do you see the derelicts gathered around the trashcan fire they've build in the alley? Some of them deaden their fear and pain with cheap wine or crack; others are too beaten down or crazy to care.

Ah, here comes a patrol car. Its headlights illuminate the woman for a moment, and she flinches as though she were a deer in a hunter's sights. The faces of the police officers inside are set and grim. They've spent too long at a job they cannot successfully carry out, becoming cynical and almost as violent as those they once sought to control. The patrol car turns to move down the alley, and the men scatter away from their fire. Perhaps they've been involved in a crime; perhaps not. It doesn't matter. They would surely be blamed for something if they were caught.

Come, walk with me to the club down the street. You can hear the pounding music even from here. The children who wait to get isnide instinctively feel the darkness around them and embrace it in their dress and attitudes. They do not run from the fear but seek to incorporate it, wearing their spidery black clothing and trying to out-cool one another. They seek to understand while pretending not to care. THey listen, and they watch, and some few of them Awaken.

Let's leave the more squalid parts of the city and look at the government buildings and high-rise apartments of the wealthy. Here, one mirrored glass edifice reflects eerily inside another in an infinity of warped self-images. In that regard, they're much like those who live and work inside them: each stands in silent, aloof isolation. For all their inhabitants, they are monuments not to humankind's rationality and accomplishments, but to our greed and bitter pride.

Even the countryside has been ravaged. Where once there stood deep old-grown forests, bursting with life and filled with birdsong, there are now cheap trash pines, planted to keep the soil from washing away altogether. Strip mining tears gashes into the earth, leveling hills and beating down mountains. Raw sewage belches out from broken pipes running to the sea. Now that sea returns the poisons to us in toxic shellfish and acid rain.

People are afraid, cowed by governments, corporations and more honest criminals. They fear the unknown and the uncanny. What they already know is bad enough; they refuse to face what might be even worse. This is the dream of the Technocracy, this barren, lifeless, soulless world which they claim they made so people would be safe and free. This is what the Sleepers see.

Despite it all, there is an alluring grandeur to our world, a siren's call which beckons us to search for hope and goodness in her corrupted cities and wilderness. And this the Sleepers also see. Some few have not given up, and we of the Traditions hope to reach them. Some become our acolytes, guarding and helping us while they strive to Awaken. Because such people still believe, we can still change reality in small ways, weaving new patterns into the Tapestry and bringing old patterns to the fore again. Even they cannot see everything we see, though they try to understand. Most Sleepers, dazzled by promises of a better tomorrow through science, have not yet learned to bring truth into focus through Awakened eyes.

Behind the Facade

During a carnival men put on masks over their masks. ~Xavier Forneret

Our vision is keener than that of our Sleeping brethren. We see more of the true picture of reality and know more about the forces at work behind the scenes. If you wish to comprehend the workings of the world, you cannot ignore those who pull the strings and make the rules.

The Supernatural

Where Sleeper see only big businesses and remote, monumental governments, we behold the vampires lurking in the shadows, whose control over mortal affairs drags our world downward. Do you think I'm spinning folks tales when I speak of vampires? They're quite real, I assure you. As real as the Garou, whom you would call werewolves. Don't smirk — they're often our allies. They too walk the other worlds you wish to know. In this world and in the Umbra, they fight for Gaia, driving back creatures like you have never imagined. We will speak more of these when I take you beyond the barrier which separates this world from that of the spirit.

Hidden from the eyes of the world (and certainly from most paranormal investigators), ghosts inhabit dusty halls and tumbledown houses. Some say that ghosts are those who could not stand to lose the world of the living, or those whose tasks are not yet finished, who linger to fulfill their final promises. Many wraiths, as they call themselves, are like that. These mean no harm to you so long as you leave them alone. We who undergo death ourselves, whether real or symbolic, understand these sad and passionate spirits.

You don't believe in ghosts either? Perhaps you think that the tribes who danced the Ghost Dance were all fools? There was power in their dances, and many of the soldiers who killed the medicine men would have told you they believed. But that was long ago, and will not come again on this Earth.

Evil wraiths called spectres will try to possess you, so it's best if the dead are left to themselves. Alas, there are no end of fools who call such spirits into themselves, wittingly or otherwise. Those possessed by such spirits may perform the most heinous of crimes and never know what they've done.

Faeries still exist as well. Changed, of course — how could they not be? The Technocracy did its best to drive them out and erase the memories of the Fair Folk, but tales remain, as do the changed ones. You will not see tiny sprites perched atpo mushrooms (at least not in this world), but someday you may see an elegant faerie knight astride his galloping steed, or hear the delicate strains of faerie melodies carried on the wind from their hidden glens. Many never left us, and others are returning. Be glad, for it signals a crack in the Technomancers' defenses.

The Mages

Those officials who are not the vampires' puppets dance to the tune of the Technocracy. The Stagnant Ones' thoughts and beliefs echo down the corridors of power, bending reality to their vision of Utopia. Their towers loom overhead, casting shadows over us as their world view crushes dreams into dust. Don't fantasize, don't protest, and for God's sake, don't ask questions. How the Nephandi must laugh.

Their vision shapes much of the world today, but it was not always so. The Stagnant Ones have not twisted everything to their design as yet, or we would not be mages ourselves. Some parts of the world still hold to their traditional beliefs and have never fallen completely under the Technocrats' sway.

The Nephandi? Evil to the core! The Corrupted Ones have sold themselves to the Wyrm, the embodiment of entropy and depravity. Many such followers of the Path of Dark Reflection control political leaders and corporate officers. They too must share blame for the spiritual affliction of the world. These Fallen deal with spirits that many call demons and seek to corrupt young mages frmo their chosen Paths, dragging them into labyrinthine pits. Do not listen to their lies; they take from you what you can least afford to give — your soul. If you were gifted with the most rare and beautiful jewel you had ever seen, would you sell it for a common pebble? Be warned: Have no dealings with the Nephandi.

Marauders are a difficult case. Theese mad mages want many of the same things the Traditions do. Where we seek to loosen the grip the Technocracy has on the world, they try to break the Technomancers' wrists, grind their fingers into dust and extrude whatever pulp of the world is left. They are chaos personified, insane. They want too much too fast and care little what effect this has on Gaia or Her people. Unless you seek destruction from the Paradox which follows them like storm crows, avoid the Mad Ones wherever possible.

What of the other Tradition mages? We all strive for Ascension, but most of us follow wildly different paths toward enlightenment. You need only know that they are your allies. In a fight against the Stagnent Ones, the Nephandi or the Marauders, you will find much common ground. Use it, but be aware that not every Tradition mage is your friend.

The Hunters

There are some among the Sleepers who believe that there ism ore to reality than blindness. They themselves may have other talents — hedge magic or physic abilities — which give them glimpses into the world we mages see. Most such mortals remain as hidden as we do. Some, like the Arcanum, merely wish to study strange beings like vampires and werewolves or odd magickal phenomena. They would be harmless but for the dangerous knowledge they might pass on to our less restrained foes. It is best if they learn nothing at all.

Some government agents seek out those like us for unknown purposes. I surmise that many of them work for one Technocracy Convention or another. Others may want to recruit mages as weapons; a few may fear that we will use our powers to control the minds of those "in power." They know little of our actual power and aims, but fear much in their ignorance. Betray no special abilities should one of these agents find you.

Then there is the Inquisition, the inheritors of that medieval institution. They call themselves the Society of Leopold, but their aims are much the same as they always were — find aything different and stamp it out. In this, they fulfill a pattern as old as life itself. Humankind worships, then destroys those things that are different. The Society sees nothing natural about our powers, believing all of us to be in league with demons, a great irony since many of them practice magic they assume has been bestowed by God and believe in many the same things that our own Celestial Chorus does. Do not be taken in by their air of piety; they can be the most vicious of adversaries.

Mystick Places

We need to hide our Arts from un-Awakened eyes, as many Sleepers would hunt us down for being different. Worse still, their unbelief channels the forces of Paradox back upon us. It's only natural that we would seek out those places of power that provide us with energy and guard us from Paradox. These also serve as hideouts where we may practice our craft in secrect. We have many such places; they're called Chantries.

Chantries

That old Victorian house on the corner is a Chantry. It looks much like any other house on the block, save for the peeling black paint. The curtains are black as well, and few lights shine from within. See the candles flickering inside, and the smoke drifting from the chimney? They probably can't afford to have electricity turned on. Orphans live there, mysticks who call themselves Hollow Ones. They think the house is haunted. Perhaps it is. Sleepers would think nothing of thise house, and even mages could not tell its function simply by looking, for no mystick Node rests beneath it. Many larger Chantries sit upon such Nodes, drawing Quintessence to fuel the Horizon Realms where more hidden Chantries are built.

Chantries need not be houses. Barns, martial arts dojos, churches or even old movie theaters will do. Some mages meet in back rooms in bars or dance clubs; others rent fellowship halls or meeting rooms at their local libraries. As you can probably see, Chantries need not be permanent things. I have even heard of one housed in a bus that moves from town to town.

Constructs

The Static Mages call their hideaways Constructs, and they too seek access to Nodes to power their bases. They'd like to control or destroy every Node on Earth, something we must not allow them to do. These Nodes are the keys to our Horizon Realms and the wells of Quintessence from which many of us draw our power. Many Technomancer Constructs look like skyscrapers or factories, but the one I'll show you resembles a research lab.

turn down along that industrial strip. Do you see the building? All grat steel and darkened glass, it nests like a viper within a block of concrete and parking lots. Pass by slowly, but do not stop, or the guard at the gate may notice us. Look with mage sight at the structure as we pass. Do you see the real building hidden behind the normal exterior, heavily reinforced both physically and magickally? TO keep us out or them in, I wonder. If we were to go inside, we'd see sophisticated, but unremarkable technology: computers, lab equipment and even a few Sleepers who think they're engaged in top-secret work. The real labs are underground, shielded and protected by HIT MArks or Men in Black. Even these are only for show; a Portal hidden somewhere goes to one of their own Horizon Realms, where they undoubtedly have a hidden research lab. I've heard stories of the monstrous experiments they perform on those they take alive.

Now, while we stop for the light, look again. Do you see it? Even their shielding cannot completely disguise the Node they sit upon. I know it's there; this land used to belong to my people, but it no longer sings to me. They have raped the Node as surely as they have sterilized the land around it. There is nothing here now but pavement. Perhaps they feared to leave even a tree, lest it awaken one night and march on their soul-deadening structures. Enough. I wish to go to happier place.

Places of Power

I know that we've traveled far from the city, but it's worth the trip. This is a place of power. Do you see nothing but the trees? How do they appear to you? Yes, they are lovely — tall and strong, green and growing. Yet all around, the grass is withered, waiting for summer to come again. Other trees stand naked and shivering in the wind, their branches stripped. Ah, you see it now and feel it too. Listen to the branches whispering against each other. They tell one another of our coming. Smell the evergreens and the loam; they greet us adorned with their best perfumes. Walk beneath their twining branches and feel both the peacefulness and the power that is here. Most people would see only trees surrounded by more woods. There is nothing outwardly fantastic about the grove, but we Awakened can sense the pulse of this power-place.

What you feel it the Node's refelction of life energy. Nodes tend to draw and store the spiritual nature of a place, becoming pools of sympathetic vibrations. Many Nodes are found in places where life energy prevails — wilderness and great rock formations — while others spring from battlefields, festival sites and other areas where great emotions have been spent. Nodes may even be dedicated to a particular feeling or purpose, and be resonant with love, joy, hatred, sadness or other passions.

There are many palces of power: sacred groves, crystalline caves, powerful rock formatins, sparkling pools, menhirs, waterfalls, burial grounds and faerie mounds, to name a few. Others are garbage-strewn back lots or sludge-filled ponds. Their appearance doesn't matter, for all, regardless of their shape or contents, are Nodes. Many leave behind a material form of their essence, magickal bits that some call Tass. Like Nodes, this Tass comes in may shapes and sizes.

Sanctums

Welcome to my cabin. Please leave your disbeliefs and prejudices outside. The floors and walls are bare wood, but rubbed with oil to keep them from drying out. The rug on the floor was woven by my mother. The fireplace is a cooking pit set in the center of the cabin, and my bed is a mattress stuffed with herbs and grasses. The tools of my Art hang from the rafters overhead, and my drum sits in a place of honor next to the door so I may take it with me when I leave. Over there, I keep a stash of herbs and a store of seeds to feed the squirrels.

No, there isn't much here, but it's all I need. This is my reality, the place that I have set to mirror my beliefs. I come here to seek answers from the spirits or to walk the Otherworlds. This is the home and the heart of my magick. Because I have created this reality for myself, all my magickal workings within this Sanctum are considered coincidental, almost natural. Nearly anything is possbile for me within my Sanctum, and I guard it with my life. I show it to you now as an act of trust; someday, you will need a Sanctum of your own.

Now that I have shown you all I can of this world, let us sleep so we may be prepared for our greater journey. May your dreams be filled with the answers that you seek.

Before we leave the earthly realm, let me tell you why what we do is necessary. Most mages believe that the earth, which some of us call Gaia, is the center of the Tellurian, the only source of Prime Essence and of those pure shards, known to most as human souls and we Awakened as Avatars. All else, they say, centers around us and takes its shape in response to human imaginings and creativity. I am proud to be one of the Awakened, and I will strive to my last breath and beyond to keep Gaia from falling to sterility, madness or the dark. What I will not do is tell you that we are the center of it all, or that we are the only source of Quintessence, or that Awakened life does not exist somewhere else among all the planets of our Tellurian. I am only an old Dreamspeaker, but I know this: Nature loves infinite diversity, and to claim that we are the only source of magick in the whole of reality is to deny that principle. It is sheerest Earthnocentricism, if there is such a word. We warn all young mages against hubris, or excessive pride, yet we teach them such foolishness. I am content to save my world. Who could ask for more?

The Otherworlds

All we know for sure is that we don't know anything for sure. ~Neil gaiam, The Books of Magic

The Gauntlet

Beyond the confines of our world lies the first Mystick Barrier: the Gauntlet. The Technomancers will tell you that they formed the barrier to prevent free travel between the physical and spirit worlds. They lie. While they have done whatever they can to strengthen the Gauntlet, they neither created it, nor do they understand it. It is a natural barrier formed by the energies of the Earth, holding the spirit world separate from the physical. Once the two may have intermingled freely; now they must be held separate. The universe is out of harmony, and the Gauntlet must function as an immune system, insulating one from the other. Each, however, is a separate and necessary place. The physical world provides stability so that we have form and substance. The spirit world gives us chaos energy and meaning so that we may imbue those forms with life and creativity.

The Gauntlet serves the same purpose as your skin; it differentiates that which is you from that which surrounds you. Your skin does not prevent air from passing into your body, but it does keep out most harmful things, unless it is damaged. The Gauntlet was meant to be the same, but has been toughened in mot places by the disbelief engendered by the Stagnant Ones. Like scar tisue, this makes it difficult for even beneficient spirits to cross over without help. Because of this, much that was vital and spiritual about our world has atrophied and died.

We will cross the Gauntlet now. I have brought you to a secluded spot where the barrier is thinner. In the city, the membrane is too thick, the disbelief too heavy for us to easily pass through. Here I Hope we will find it a simpler task. Sit now, and listen to my drum. Forget yourself, and place yourself in my hands. When all is ready, when we both see that mist that is the Gauntlet, we will rise and walk through it.

There are other ways to cross. Some mages use Mind magick to send their astral forms into the spirit worlds, forming astral bodies for themselves and trailing a silver cord behind them. I prefer to go in person, mysef. Now, take this feather. Hold it in front of you. Study its lines and colors, and I'll tell you how to cross and what will happen when we do.

The Garou call this stepping sideways. Essentially, I make a dorway through the Gauntlet with my feather, allowing us to simply step into the spirit world beyond. It's important that you banish fear and have confidence while I do this. It would be best if we work together, though I can take you through regardless. Can you feel the nearness of the spirit world leaking through the Gauntlet? That's call the Periphery. If you can feel that nebulous spirit touch, you're on the Periphery and ready to cross over. Good. Now listen closely.

As we cross over, I will transform our physical bodies into the stuff of spirit. Heh, I thought that might bother you. Tell me why. Do you believe you are alive? Of course you do. Then show me your life; no, breath and heartbeat are signs of life, not life itself. Show me what animates your physical body; your brain is an organ, not an animating spirit. I could keep your brain alive long after your spirit had fled. So tell me, which part of you is real, the spirit or the flesh? If you like, you may think of it like this. Here on Earth, your physical body is what surrounds your spirit; there the opposite is true. You leave no mortal shell behind. It is subsumed into your spirit body. Believe, and listen to my drum.

How does it feel to you? To me, it always feels as though I'm moving through clouds of softest cotton. There's a slight resistance, then it parts before me. Do you see it changing color? There are no such hues on Earth. Now we are almost through. Have you noticed the scents yet? Even the air has taste. Do you hear the music of the spirits? We are here.

The Near Umbra

We have reached the Near Umbra, a place contiguous to the real world, overlapping it by resting paralell to it and occupying the same space as it does, but on a different plane or another dimension, so to speak. It extends from the PEnumbra, a spiritual mirror of the Earth, into the three layers, or Worlds, of thought, spirit and death. Its boundries are the Gauntlet on one side and the Horizon on the other. In the Umbra, Paradox has less power. The spiritual richness of this Velvet Shadow is not weighed down by disbelief; much more is possible here because of that.

Before we continue, I must warn you that our trip may not be without danger. There are many natural denizens of the Umbral world, spirits which we call Umbrood. We may meet some upon our journey. Treat them with respect, and do what I do. They rarely bother me, but you are a stranger to them and they may decide to test you.

Now we're in a mirror to my cabin. Do you see the crystals glowing? Can you feel the love that forms each pattern of the rug my mother made for me? Everything here is a spiritual reflection of our own Earth. Here everythig is revealed for its true nature.

Why do I glow? I am a Master of Spirit, and the spirit world recognizes its own. Someday, you too may glow when you cross into this world.

The Penumbra

We are in the Penumbra, that portion which mirrors the physical world. It is more true to the spirit nature of a place, however, and often seems to reflect its spiritual health rather than the form it wears in the physical world. Some things are utterly changed.

Look at the grove; they're large, beautiful trees on Earth, but here they tower overhead, their branches thick with greenery and good health. I always want to dance when I am here. Now that we're outside, can you see the changes in my cabin? I am no carpenter, but here the care I tried to take is reflected in the clean lines and polished wood I could never have achieved on Earth. This is the spirit of my Sanctum, not merely its reflection.

Let me show you more. We'll journey toward the city, though we will not enter. It's far too dangerous for your first trip into the Umbra. Just walk as though you were at home. The Akashic Brothers would say, "Be, do not do," but you are doing fine. I see you understand my hesitation to approach the city. It's foul, isn't it? Lifeless, barren, soulless, it squats dry as dust and reeking of the poisons within. Those webs you see strung all around and through it are made by pattern spiders. Everywhere that life and feeling have been eradicated by the twisted vision of the Technocracy, every place that yields itself to technology rather than spirit is calcified into stagnation by the webs. They delineate the city's form and prevent it from growing or progressing spiritually.

Everything is not the same, though. Remember the skyscraper we saw? Look where it stood. No skyscraper! It doesn't have the emotional impact to displace what stood there before. Here in the Penumbra its place is taken by an old, worn stone church. Look how the stained glass windows shine! It must have hosted many worshippers over the years, and the memory of that place lingers here where its vital spirit never died.

Domains

Do you see that blackened, acidic-looking area near the city? It's a Blight, formed from toxic wastes that cast their reflections onto this area of the Penumbra. There are equally bright places of great purity that we call Glens. Both of them are known as Domains. They aren't true Realms, but rather shifting zones with no set borders. If those on the earthly side of the Gauntlet continue to dump toxic wastes nearby, the Blight will grow and fester, becoming more dangerous and polluting this area of the Penumbra.

Realms

Within each of the Umbral layers lie Realms of various sorts. Some are constructed by mages for their own use; many appear at the will of the Umbrood Lords (creatures of great power), or as reflections of powerful dreams and concepts, and some form for reasons few of us comprehend. Most Umbral Realms assume set forms, though some of the ones more distant from Earth are highly chaotic and apparently their patterning. All have their own realities, and most have both a physical and spiritual portion, just as Earth does. You think of Realms as pockets of reality in the ethereal overcoat of the spirit world, or imagine them as soap bubbles afloat on the Umbral sea.

Each planet in our solar system supposedly has its own Near Umbra, as does the moon. Since each is a REalm in its own right, with its own governing Celestine, this is hardly surprising. These are not the only Realms, however. There are many different sizes and types, some planet-sized and some no larger than a bubble, many ephemeral and smoe as solidly set as Earth. We've categorized several types of Realms that most mages understand: Shard Realms, Shade Realms, Horizon Realms, Paradox Realms, and Dream Realms. Don't be too concerned. I will speak of these again as we reach them. For now, just accept that each part of the Umbra is host to many Realms.

The High Umbra

Let us return to the mists and seek out the airts, the pathways that cross through to the place we seek. This time, I will take you to the High Umbra, the world of ideas, which is also called the Astral Umbra. Though we mages have passing familiarity with each of the Three Worlds, this is the level best understood by our kind. Do you see the dream trails? They shine like moonlight within the mists, twining through and around the dreams we do not seek at the present. When you cross into the Umbra, all you need do is follow the path that takes you where you want to go. Travel here is as much a matter of intent as movement or distance. If you know enough Spirit magick, you will know where to go and how to get there quickly. If you know only a little, it's best to travel with a guide. Spirits sometimes guard the airts and demand payment of some kind to allow you through.

Ah, look at the concepts spread before us. There stand the brilliant pearl-white gates of someone's thoughts of Heaven. White marble palaces line the streets of gold, and the denizens have feathery, white wings. The sun blazes with a pure light that both warms and enobles. A rather pedestrian concept to have achieved such solidity, but there is still much belief in it among certain factions. I prefer the green grasslands under a pale blue sky and herds of buffalo running by, the ground shaking with their numbers and display of majesty.

Here's a Hell. Chinese in origin, I think. The smell is enough to sicken a butcher, and the blackened blood offends my eyes. They say that the perversions and tortures found within such Realms should be experienced at least once. I have heard that none of the heavens or hells to be found here are the tre ones; those wait beyond the veil of death.

Many places here are far more abstract. The higher they go, the more refined the ideas become until only the most incisive and creative (Some say insane) minds can understand them. Come, explore this one with me. It is not quite so rarefied. Have you noticed that we're walking on the ceiling? Step into the next room. Now the floor is at right angles to the one we stood upon before. Does that mean that now we're on the wall? You seem surprised. We've gone through the door opposite to the one through which we entered, yet we are now back in the first room again, only we're standing on its floor. Look back through the door on the other side. Wave to yourself!

Be polite to the spirits here. They are concepts and ideas, mathematical equations and hypotheses, discarded theories, philosophical posturings, psychological theses and religious beliefs. I do not claim to understand half of the Realms or beings of the High Umbra, but I can sympathize with their desire for respect and courtesy. Many Umbrood make their homes here. Some of them are Paradox spirits that you may someday meet on the other side. Others may be minions to beings of godlike powers who will crush you out of existence for annoying their servants. If all else fails, remember that should you ever need to get into a Horizon Realm through the back door, you'll probably be traveling through the High Umbra to do it. Don't offend the spirits!

While we speak of spirits, let's delineate the different kinds you might meet in the Umbra. A great many of them roam these Realms. Most mages believe that spirits are creations born of the unconscious minds and conscious beliefs of humanity. I think we're mistaken in this. If our Avatars souls are shards of the Pure Ones given consciousness, and if we think of this part of ourselves as our spiritual side, why should these spirits not also be shards of the Pure Ones? I believe they have always had their own existence and merely choose to appear to us as gods from ancient myths, demons, mythic creatures and monsters. Perhaps they seek to present themselves in ways they think we'll understand. In any case, our belief strengthens them and solidifies their forms. The creatures of the Umbra, whether spirits or inhabitants of other Realms, are known as Umbrood. We are divided in our thinking concerning the masters of the Nephandi. Some of us believe they are spirits with power enough to be called dark gods; others think they are alien creatures from the darkest reaches of space. The Celestial Chorus would label them demons and fiends.

If you deal more with the spirit world, you will have to learn these spirits' names and titles, the Realms they rule or inhabit and any particular spheres of interest they control. They are beings of great power and majesty, not pets or servants at your beck and call. Their wisdom can teach you much if you but listen. When you summon noe, be courteous and ask its help. Demand nothing; offer the siprit some payment or reward for its trouble. Most importantly, do not assume that you are a higher being or that you necessarily hold the most power in the relationship.

The Middle Umbra

Take my hand and follow me to the world of primordial nature. We go at night, when it is brightest here. The light of Luna, the moon, shines down and illuminates the shadowed woods and vales. During the day, much of this level is dark and dangerous. But look around you; do the trees in the Penumbra seem so tall as these majestic silvered woods? Here are those brilliant stars we no longer see in the city. At last, we see night's candles as they were meant to be seen, in all their radiant glory. The wind carries whispers of moonflowers and night blooms whose scents are so potent I fear to breathe, lest I forgot how in lesser climes. Abundant, riotous life is all around us. Have you ever seen precipices so steep, mountains so austere, or animals so healthy? I had never truly seen purple before I came here, nor did I understand that blue and green are words too tame to describe the miraculous hues that grace this realm. Now I know the language of flower scent and animal musk and hear the symphony of the wind in the grasses and trees.

Do you hear the scream of the predator? That too is an intergral part of nature. Behind her beauties lies the struggle for survival and the dangers of the wild. Nature is full of cruel caprice, from droughts to earthquakes to blinding hailstorms. So long as the hardiest of her children survive, she is unconcerned by the few who fall by he wayside. We may revel in the loveliness of unspoiled wilderness, but never forget that humankind is not ascendant within its embrace. Here we are they prey.

Did I say the Earth held an unexplainable allure? if it does, it is a resonance inherited from the spirit world. This is spirit at its most pristine, the dream I wish to return to the physical reality of Gaia.

I am not alone in that wish. The Garou also desire a cleansing of the world. Many guard some of the last pure places of the Earth, areas of great natural unspoiled beauty, their sacred ground, which they call caerns and we call Nodes. These sites are not only places of power, but places where the Gauntlet is thinnest as well. Mages sometimes quarrel with the Garou over such Nodes, but those of my Tradition (as well as many other Mages) prefer to have werewolves as allies rather than potential enemies.

The Garou claim that this part of the Near Umbra is made up of 13 Realms. Some are terrifying places of eternal conflict or corruption and torment; others are realms of futuristic horror or past depersonalization. Still others are open upon the vast and starry Umbral heavens or retain an aching beauty, an all-encompassing spiritual purity and unsullied wilderness lost to the Earth with the strengthening of the Gauntlet.

Many wild and powerful Umbrood live in the Middle Umbra. Some become familiars. Others may serve as guides or advisors if asked politely and appeased with reciprocal knowledge or gifts. My totam animal met me here once I lay beside that pond. Many spirits are short-term residents, wanderers who cross through the lands of primordial nature on their way to the Deep Umbra; others are Minions or assistants to the Umbrood Lords.

Did you see that? What would you call it if not a unicorn? Many so-called mythical beasts also make their homes in the heady atmosphere of the Natural Lands. Whether they have assumed the forms human belief assigned them in ages past, or have always appeared thus, none can say. Mages refer to these spirits as Bygones, those who once had solid form but abandoned it for the spirit world in the wake of humanity's growing disbelief.

Come, I must show you yet another place within the spirit world so that one day you may recognize it when you reach it.

The Low Umbra

Look upon this gray and dreary land, but do not cross into it. That ashen road which winds between those skeletal trees and climbs over those rocks leads into the Low Umbra, a benighted, sorrowful place also known as the Dark Umbra or the Realm of Death. Many believe that the roads of the dead cannot be walked by the living — at least not if they wish to return. Many Euthanatos claim to have done so, but it is a dark and dangerous path to the Underworld, where tormented spirits seek to hold onto their former lives. Nephandi also deal with the dead, and this is enough to make most of us wary of the claims of the Euthanatos. Some few Dreamspeakers have braved the paths of the dead, for we must face our own demise if we are truly to understand the realities of the spirit world, but most have never returned. This is the least understood land of the Near Umbra, and perhaps that is not a bad thing.

The Zones

Several places float within the Near Umbra, fluid Realms which drift between the Worlds of thought, spirit and death, permeating them but not bound by them. Though these constitute Realms of their own, they are usually referred to as Zones, but are also known as the Dream Realms. These include the Digital Web, the Mirror Zone and Maya.

The Mirror Zone

Look back along the inside of the Gauntlet. Can you see the Earth? As though you were looking through gauze, isn't it? How do you know it's really Earth that you see? It might be the Mirror Zone. Some say it lies alongside the Gauntlet, masquerading as reality. Others say it is partially of the Earth and partly of the Umbra, a slice of each world caught inside the Gauntlet itself like a slab of ham between two slices of bread. Still others theorize that the Mirror Zone is a Realm of perverse thoughts, nightmares and myriad alternate realities. Stepping into it rather than back to the Earth may utterly change the world you know. Friends may now be enemies, companions you left only minutes ago are dead and gone, or those long dead may live again. Infinite variations on a theme are possible in the Mirror Zone. Some are so close to reality as to be virtually indistinguishable from it — at least, at first. Something is always different, here; sooner or later, those trapped in the Mirror Zone discover where they really are. To escape, you must confront the difference between head-on and resolve any difficulties it presents. Be very careful whenever you visualize crossing through the Gauntlet. Make certain you have Earth's current reality firmly in mind, and you should have little difficulty with this perverse Realm.

The Digital Web

I have brought you to the Cyber-realm so that we may enter the Digital Web. Yes, it is very futuristic here, and the Umbral Computer Web is very large. The webbing looks much like that of the pattern spiders. The inside of the Net, as many people call it, resembles their work as well. There — that pool of light within those twisting coils of webbing is an open Portal into the Digital Web. Be brave; to enter that strange Realm we must step into the Portal. The sensation is unpleasant, even painful, but no harm will actually come to you. I wonder if this is what the early transporter beams on Star Trek felt like? If so, I see why they often took the shuttle instead! There's some pain, and things will seem too bright, too fast and incomprehensible for the first few moments after we arrive. Ride it out. Virtual Adepts and other voyagers enter this place using magicks either to send their astral selves into the Net or to translate their physical bodies into information, projecting themselves physically within it. And you thought becoming spirit matter was strange!

Open your eyes. We're here. I know very little about this Realm; it's far more suited to Virtual Adepts and Sons of Ether than to Dreamspeakers. We won't stay long, for there are many dangers here — spirits of the Net who may be unfriendly or Technocracy mages bent on claiming as much of the Net as they can.

Do you see those shining, squirming cables? They're strands of possibility, unclaimed pattern webbing that has not yet received an imprint from someone's mind. Do you understand what that means? A mage may enter the Digital Web and literally create her own reality within it. There, farther down the strand, I see a glowing Realm take shape as we watch. Even Sleepers may share in some of this through virtual reality, opening their minds to new possibilities. It may even Awaken some of them.

Where are we? That's difficult to answer. The Web itself is in the Gauntlet, yet it's also inside your own mind. Some claim that this is actually the remains of a shared Realm called Mount Qaf, originated by the lost Tradition known as the Ahl-i-Batin. Thus, it might also be a Realm upon the border between spirit and thought. Like a Horizon Realm, mages may pattern their thoughts here to create areas that conform to their paradigms. If this is truly a way of changing and molding reality itself, the Digital Web is a fantastic new breakthrough in the Ascension War. Thus far, no one has been able to prove whether this is, in fact, what is happening here or if it all exists only in our minds.

Maya, the Realm of Dreams

Look! Can you see the bubbles floating through the air? Some are as tiny as moths, others are large as cities. Those are Dream Realms, formed from fragments of humankind's dreams (and perhaps the dreams of spirits as well). Some exist for only brief moments, while others take on more permanent form as more people dream the same dream and belief in it grows. If we wished, we could step into these Realms, into the chaotic meanderings of the subconscious mind and interact with whatever is within. Be warned — not all dreams are pleasant, and who can say what would happen to you if you were to die in someone else's dream? The secrets of the Realms remain hidden to us until we are within; would you want to stumble into someone else's nightmare? The Nephandi sometimes enter such terrors and use them to exert control over the dreamer. As you might guess from the name of our Tradition, we Dreamspeakers are not above contacting potential mages and "awakening" them to the possibilities within their grasps.

Powerful umbrood spirits known as the Oneira, or Dream Lords, collect bits of dreams and weave them into a semi-permanent Realms known as Maya. Such "homes" are often as phantasmal and chaotic as the dream wisps they were created from. Some Oneira, it is said, are powerful enough to control people through their dreams.

The Horizon

We've come far together since our journey began. Now we enter a place of great import to the mages: the Horizon. It too is a magickal barrier, like the Gauntlet, but separates the Near Umbral Realms from those of the Deep Umbra. Do you see it? It wavers and flows, the colors changing and merging, one with another, creating new patterns and hues as we watch. I think of the Horizon as the elder sister of the Aurora Borealis. Do you feel the electric snap of its existence on your hair and skin? Can you identify the taste-smell that surrounds us? Nor can I, though I always believe that I could identify it, given the proper words. Have you felt it pushing back against us yet? The farther you move toward the Deep Umbra, the greater the resistance. The Horizon is like a membrane between the Near and Deep Umrae. It keeps them separate and discrete, protecting the nearer Realms and Earth from constant invasions by Marauders, Nephandi and the malign, alien denizes of the farthest realities.

Horizon Realms

The Horizon is more than just a barrier, however; it's also a unique environment in which artificial lands called Horizon Realms are built. Mages, both Traditional and Technocratic, are their common architects, though other spirit powers also build Realms to suit themselves. Such Realms are rare; it takes massive amounts of power to create and maintain them. Horizon Reals serve two purposes: they shield against other realities, and they commonly house Umbral Chantries. Horizon Realms are designed to be the perfect representation of the creators' paradigms, and as such do not suffer the effects of Paradox, so long as one's magick does not clash with the reality within. They are ideal for magickal study and experimentation; after all, they are created to support the mages' world views! Such "formatting" also makes them ideal strongholds. They are much like Sanctums this way; as any warrior knows, an enemy's home ground is his strongest defense.

There is one not far from here. See it floating in the distance, much like a multicolored balloon tethered to the ground by a silvery string?

Do you see how the tether fades off into the mist? It's not actually tied to anything here in the Horizon, nor is it a physical rope or cable. What you see is a stream of pure Quintessence, used to anchor the Horizon Realm to at least one Node on Earth and to an Earthbound Chantry. That same Quintessence powers the existence of the Horizon Realm itself, for it cannot exist without this infusion of mystickal fuel, which flows through a Portal, a permanent opening through the Gauntlet. Some such ribbons are easy to spot if one knows how to look, but others are cloaked with potent Prime magicks.

Portals are usually guarded by powerful spirits. Portals are easier to create and maintain on Nodes where the Gauntlet is thinner and static reality weaker. Those who are allowed to do so may travel back and forth between Earth and the Horizon Realm. We cannot enter the Realm from the Horizon itself unless its creators left a back door into it. Such routes are always guarded carefully, their passwords given to only a few, for Nephandi and Marauders seek out easy access to Horizon Realms, the better to cross through the Portals and onto the Earth. As these conduits funnel Quinetessence as well, they also give invaders access to easy power. Only a cocksure mage makes an escape route into the Horizon. Having made one, only a fool leaves it unguarded. Those mages who are fools rarely achieve the necessary power to construct Horizon Realms to begin with.

Shade Realms

Eight Shade Realms rest along the Horizon at the edge of Gaia's Near Umbra. These somewhat insubstantial lands are the Umbral "shadows" of Shard Realms. Be patient! I cannot explain everything at once. We will speak of the Shard Realms in due time. It's often difficult to tell that you are entering a Shade Realm until you are within it. Do you feel that humming throughout your body? Look at my hair rise from the static electricity, and smell that lightninglike ozone. We are in the Shade Realm of Forces.

Each of the Shade Realms corresponds to one of the Shard Realms (All except for Luna) and provides the easiest path for reaching those faraway Realms. Each is a Portal, or bridge, linking these REalms with their appropriate Shard Realms. These allow easy movement between the two without the necessity of crossing the Deep Umbra. In essence, they're like wormholes crossing through space, linking distant areas together. Many such Portals exist, but few have been founded and opened. Some need special rituals cast or esoteric materials utilized before they will open. Somewhere within this Realm lie conduits to the Shard Realm of Forces and probably a back door to Doissetep, the largest and most well-known Tradition Chantry. We would not want to meet the guardians that this most puissant Chantry has undoubtedly left here to deal with intruders. We'll go now; I merely wanted you to be aware that such Realms existed in case you ever need to use them.

Beyond the Horizon

Everything that I believe
Crawls from underneath the streets
Everything I truly love
Comes from somewhere high above
~Indigo Girls, "Hand Me Downs"

Once past the Horizon, we enter parts of the Tellurian truly unknown to most of us. To reach these places, we must pass outside the Earth's atmosphere and beyond the Horizon, to the Deep Umbra.

The Deep Umbra

Like a great void, the Deep Umbra stretches outward beyond Gaia's bounds and into the far reaches of the Tellurian. The Void Engineers try even now to map the Deep Umbra, setting it into a static reality. They have succeeded in convincing most of humankind that all that lies outside the Earth's atmosphere is empty space and lifeless planets. That may be so on the physical side of reality for now, but on the spiritual side the Deep Umbra is rich with possibilities. Within its reaches lie Shard Realms, Paradox Realms, wild spirits, demons, crazed Marauders and the perverted Nephandi. Strnage atmospheric conditions prevail in the Deep Umbra, ranging from reality storms to the Etherspace which the Sons of Ether navigate to reach other planets.

Beyond the comforting confindes of Gaia's atmosphere lurk bizarre, unknowable creatures whose only desire is to penetrate the barriers and feast upon the Earth. Others merely desire to control our world. Even to some of the less fearsome denizens, we are so small and insignificant that they might flick us away as if we were annoying insects. Our minds simply cannot cope with some of the horrific monsters that dwell in the Deep Umbra. Mages who deal with such creatures usually perish; those who survive are driven permanently insane.

The Nephandi's dark masters may be found somewhere within this spiritual void, as may many of their false Chantries, which they call Labyrinths. Should you ever meet the Nephandi, kill them on sight. They are an abomination — mages who entice or force others of their kind into corrupting their souls and becoming slaves to demons.

Shard Realms

Shard Realms are so named because mages believe that they were all once parts of Gaia that have now been flung throughout the solar system. Many mages say that there are only nine Shard Realms, corresponding to the other planets and Luna and to the nine Spheres of magick. This may be so — for this particular solar system. I have already spoken of our overwhelming hubris in assuming that we are the center of the Tellurian. I do not believe that there are only nine Shard Realms in existence; these are simply the nine that we know about. They are all very large, and though the Void Engineers say they are lifeless orbs, we know that they're Realms in their own right. Each has its own Umbra, just as Gaia does. Undoubtedly, these Umbrae are as varied and amazing as Gaia's own Near Umbra. Each Shard Realm isi ruled by a Celestine, and to some extent partakes of that being's essence.

As I mentioned before, Doissetep is located on the Shard Realm of Forces. I have no knowledge of other such Chantries established on these distant Realms, but there might be some. They say that the gateway to Arcadia, the homeland of the faeries, is located on Luna. I would someday like to travel to all the Shard Realms and see them for myself.

Paradox Realms

Reality is flexible and may be tampered with to some degree. It's easier when there are no Sleepers present to interfere with their disbelief, but even then the fabric of the world may be coaxed into a new pattern. The fibers of the Tapestry are loosely woven enough that they can incorporate some reweaving without ripping apart or snarling into knots. When the weaver moves too fast or tries to overthrow the pattern entirely and create a whole new design, however, the Tapestry fights back. Sometimes this causes the weaver's shuttle to slip from her fingers sometimes the loom breaks and smacks her in the face. That is Paradox.

If the weaver persists in forcing the pattern in an incompatible direction, eventually the Paradox loom gives her what she wants — in spades. It weaves an entire Realm just for her, wrapping her up and removing her to a place outside Gaia's Near Umbra, then smoothes the fabric back into its original design. The weaving that encapsulates the offending mage is known as a Paradox Realm. This particular occurence is usually reserved for the most blatant offenders against consensual reality. The trapped mage must soehow come to an understanding of what she did wrong and seek some way of righting things in order to escape. Paradox Realms float aimlessly in the Deep Umbra, neither a part of it nor apart from it, but in some strange state in between. I hope you never fall into such.

Umbrood Realms

The spirits that inhabit the Umbrae often create their own Realms. Though some do so in the Near Umbra, manyy prefer the more fluid reality of the Deep Umbra. From time to time, these unknowable entities may kidnap humans or lesser spirits and bring them to their Realms. Sometimes they demand that these "lesser" beings fight or engage in other contests to amuse the Realm lord. Other times, their reasons are inexplicable. Almost anything is possible in such places.

Some mages claim that the spirits have formulated three courts through which they work out their differences and govern their domains. The Western Court contains entities described in Hermetic texts dating back before the time of ancient Greece. Eastern Court members are said to embody beings from the myths and legends of Asia, and the Egyptian Court is rumored to be comprised of the aloof animal-headed gods of ancient Egypt. Dreamspeakers believe there is a fourth court, a Lodge of the Sky, which does not recognize the other courts and considers them to be invaders. These are the gods and goddesses of native religions from pre-Columbian America to the Polynesian Isles.

The Hollow World

I wish to end our tour of the spirit world by telling you of another place that I have only heard described. The Sons of Ether claim that there is a world known as the Hollow Earth. In this land, wonders wait and danger lairs in every corner. They say there are human inhabitants, and that the world is lit by an interior sun. Science would tell you that it is impossible for the Earth to be hollow, that there's a molten core at the center of our planet covered by layer upon layer of rock. They also tell the Sleepers that there is no such place as the Umbra. Whom do you believe? I believe there is a Hollow Earth, but if there is, perhaps it lies in an Inner Umbra all its own, waiting to be rediscovered.

And now we must recross the Gauntlet and return to our more physical reality. I hope that you have seen enough of the Tellurian to understand it a little and little neough of it to entice you to learn more. Awaken! It is time for dreams to become reality.