Nexus: Heart of Empyrean
“You could climb its stairs forever and never reach enlightenment. Or you could fall off those same stairs and never reach the bottom.”
If the multiverse of Empyrean could be said to have a geographic center, it would be the realm of Nexus. This is the home of the Grand Cornerstone, the physical manifestation of all the realms, paradigms, and conceits of Empyrean.
There is no solid ground in Nexus. Grand Cornerstone itself is the center of the realm, hanging free in the midst of the vast network of stairs and bridges built around it. The giant obelisk is the center of gravity for the realm, providing a universal “up” around which all structures are arranged. On the outside of the spherical city is a celestial globe that defines the outer boundary of the realm and provides light from “below”. No Nascent or Eidolon has ever breached this boundary, and it is considered sacrilege to try. (Some believe that the Cataclysm began when the surface of the globe was broken and Aether was introduced to the world.)
For every realm in Empyrean, there is a door somewhere in Nexus that leads there. These doors were the main method of transportation among the realms of the multiverse, as wonders like the Empyrean Key were incredibly rare. When the city was whole, elaborate buildings were constructed around the doors as embassies and consulates for the linked realms. Today many of these buildings have disintegrated and the doors are no longer active. With every cornerstone that is retrieved, Grand Cornerstone is revitalized and the structure built around a realm’s door is restored.
Presently most regions of the city are abandoned and overgrown: gardens have become forests, while ornamental pools have widened into lakes. Aether shrouds many districts, making them unsafe for travelers and obscuring the view of Grand Cornerstone. Bridges crumble into nothing mid-air, and staircases lead nowhere. Villages are constructed in ancient plazas out of the rubble of surrounding fallen buildings. The shrine at the base of the obelisk is still attended, as are many surrounding neighborhoods.
Nascent tribes and prominent NPCs
Nexus has no native Nascent, but in the time of Old Empyrean, the city surrounding the Grand Cornerstone Shrine was a metropolis that spread for miles. It was a hub of culture, religion, and civilization. Though it provided no central government beyond what was necessary to sustain the Shrine, all realms recognized the primacy of Grand Cornerstone and pledged to uphold its existence.
The current inhabitants are Nascent who have made a permanent religious pilgrimage to Grand Cornerstone, as well as their descendants. It is a custom among them to hold a ceremonial celebration whenever a new fragment of Grand Cornerstone is recovered. Eidolons can be found in the region as well, frequently meditating at the Shrine or leading expeditions to reclaim lost parts of the city. However, many Eidolons (especially older ones) find the realm too saddening to remain for long, a reminder of lost days of glory.
Some parts of the city remain shrouded in Aether. It is said that there are forgotten Nascent who live in those districts, cut off from all civilization and regressed into savagery and darkness.
“I saw staircases that rose up so high that I could not see the top of them, and others that descended into utter blackness. Then suddenly I passed under an arch and found myself upon a stone bridge that crossed a dark empty landscape. The bridge was so vast that I could not see the end of it.” -Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrel by Susanna Clark; Strange describes The King’s Roads
“Nexus” image attribution unknown, even to tineye
“Stairs” image from Bruno Delzant via flickr.