- Island - Equipoise (linked to Mechanus)
The island of Equipoise is one of the larger islands in the Wilding. Large enough that it could hold many cities. Instead, it holds only one, called "Ring", or sometimes "Circlet". Its epithet is "The Lettered City". This gigantic metropolis girds the island in the "sweet spot" where the wilding effect is at its ebb. The city is built up large enough and tall enough that a ship approaching the island cannot glean any information about what lurks within.
Remarkably, Ring is self-sufficient. They have little need to trade, and instead rely heavily on a clerical class to provide all of the basic needs of the citizens. They import little, relying on magic and the scant farms that ring the inner edge of the city. Their all-consuming need for paper is provided by the fast-growing rushes that grow in the various bays and shallows about the island.
If Equipoise has any exports, its export is scholarship. It is home to a dozen academies and universities, mostly dedicated to the arcane arts, although there are several clerical schools as well. It is home to one of the grandest schools of Abjuration in the Wilding, and it draws students from all over the known world. They pay for this privilege by providing labor, mostly as scribes. To maintain their vast libraries in the face of the Wilding effect, Equipoise requires vast amounts of labor. They also get creative with their writing surfaces. Pretty much every surface in Equipoise is written upon- their buildings are coated internally with cement and plaster, and while those surfaces are wet, archival texts are inscribed on them. This form lasts longer than paper, but it cannot be relied upon for overlong because of some other properties of the island.
The interior of the island is a petrified forest. Short scrub like trees spring, up mature, and turn to stone within 7-8 days. This stone quickly breaks into rubble, from which the next generation of trees spring. The forest only gets thicker as one goes towards the center, and the last few miles are impassable for the thickets of stone.
Every 85 years and four months (1,024 months), a swarm of monodrones comes from that impassable area. This is known as the period of Restoration. They devour the petrified wood, but leave the living trees alone. They regurgitate this petrified wood in the form of a cement-like substance, not unlike wasps making paper, and reconstruct the city. The process takes one year and four months. In the end, every building and street has been rebuilt anew. The city's layout changes, often dramatically, save for Ring Road, the main thoroughfare that cuts through the center of the circular city.
The citizens do not view buildings as permanent structures. They are not prized or considered private property. What is valued, and highly, is space. Anyone can stake out a patch of unoccupied space in the hive-like buildings and call it home. There are complex social rules that govern who can control which spaces, and there's an entire subset of jurisprudence just dealing with the property laws of Equipoise.
The least valued areas of Ring are the inner and outer edges of the city, especially the inner edge. Nearly anyone, regardless of social class or means can control a living space in that region. The areas nearest Ring Road, on the other hand, are highly sought after. It's rare for any individual to be able to control space in that area, and instead, collectives form and claim space in those lucrative regions. Joining an Academy generally means signing over all of your spatial wealth to them, so that they can expand their holdings.
The city itself has no patron deity, but is heavily influenced by Lawful aligned deities.
Holax was a product of the previous Restoration, now 30 years past. Her mongrelfolk mother died in the birthing process, and left Holax orphaned. Since her mother was a woman of means, the struggling Conjuration Academy purchased a guardianship over Holax. This allowed the Academy to claim Holax's inherited spatial wealth until Holax reached the age of majority. It greatly expanded their holdings.
To their added fortune, Holax was a prodigy in the arcane arts. She mastered basic spellcraft quickly, and was adept in scholarship. Her natural gifts lead Voso to take her as his apprentice and research assistant.
Voso was a renowned conjurer, but he, like everyone else, struggled with the art on Equipoise. The difficulty of conjuring on Equipoise was why the school had suffered so greatly that they took Holax in. (-2 caster level except when summoning Lawful creatures). Holax's first great contribution was in recognizing that a specially crafted gem, with facets aligned according to planar geometries, could resolve that. (Using a 1gp gem as a material component counters that effect)
Planar magic became Holax's primary focus, and within a few years, she had her own apprentices, Corfax and Justicus. By her early twenties, her name was on the lips of everyone speaking of arcane magic in Ring.
During one of her experiments, she oppened a channel to the far realms. The creature that appeared was a horror, pseudonatural and perverse. Corfax and Justicus fled as it spoke to her. Whatever it said had a profound impact on her. Her experiments got stranger. They started to involve material components that were of vile and bizarre natures. Holax's behavior became increasingly erratic, and not even her mentor, Voso, could talk her out of her obsession.
Eventually, Holax made contact with something. A thing outside of space and time, a thing that found Euclidian geometry a trivial foolishness of creatures so far beneath it that it owed them little attention. Her interaction with that entity had a profound effect that changed the arc of her life forever.
Voso, Corfax, and Justicus claim that Holax was driven mad. The local authorities agreed, and Holax was committed to the care of God of protecting the mentally ill 's clerics. They locked her away in the dungeons of their temple, hoping to find a cure for her broken mind.
Holax, on the other hand, felt a sense of wonder. There were creatures beyond any mortal understanding, that existed in worlds larger and more varied than any other she had researched. Her world was but a speck in a vast and uncaring universe, ruled by alien powers that were so far beyond mortal comprehension that the sum of all knowledge in all of the known planes couldn't capture a fraction of their essence.
The clerics do not know how Holax escaped. It may be that she found a way to conceal or improvise material compenents. It may be that her heretofore unknown demon familiar aided her escape. But she found her way onto a ship and off of Equipose before anyone noticed her missing. That ship hit rough waters, and the superstitous crew tossed the mad woman overboard to save themselves. Another ship found her, half drowned and nearly dead from exposure. They took pity and got her to the nearest port.
For several years, she worked as an adventurer, determined that it was the fastest route to the wealth she would need to continue her experiments. She never stayed long with any party, but she saw her share of dungeons and caves and even the odd planar gateway. She became wealthy enough to set herself up in a tower outside the edge of the Fan Empire's sphere of influence.
The natives of that island quickly soured to her experiments. Holax was blamed for warts, blighted crops, and missing children. Her lack of interest in the villager's complaints only added fuel to their fires. On the eve of their torch-and-pitchfork march to rid themselves of her, a small force from Fan landed and attacked. It was one of Fan's many fits of Imperial expanison. Holax's army of summoned horrors was more than that small force was prepared for, and she chased them back to their boats, and harried those boats back out into the deep ocean.
The villagers decided to let her stay, and Fan decided to avoid that island for some time. While a larger force could easily overpower one wizard, the island didn't warrant that kind of effort. This tale reached the ears of Voso and Corfax, who had searched for her since her escape. Corfax arrived to capture her and return her to the care of the clerics on Equipoise. A wizardly battle ensued. Even with the kid gloves on (neither truly wished to harm the other), the chaos caused by their fight lead the villagers to drive them both from the island. Holax slipped away from Corfax again, but her ears had learned of another band of adventurers- this group walked the planes more casually than ships moved between islands. She heard tell of their ship involved in a war between Fan and several other parties, and set out to find them.