Shards, Seasons, and Stars.
What is day and night?
The Solar Hearth, the home of the gods and the ever-radiant heart of the Õemag, beats slowly. The Solar Hearth brightens to blinding brilliant at the height of the heart's beat, and fades to darkness between the heart's beat. This brightening and darkening divides day from night. Should this heartbeat ever cease, the Shards would be lost, it is said. How the heart of a dead god can continue to beat is a subject best left to clerics of the Pentatra.
What are the seasons?
The Beneath's strength comes and goes. It grows strong in frustrated hunger, challenges the light of Õemag, and is finally broken. When the Beneath is at the apex of its power, it sucks the warmth and life from the Shards. Trees lose their leaves and snow falls. Cold winds blast up from the depths, and wrap the Shards in a chill grip.
When the Beneath fails to drain the life from the True Creation, Avasha's mercy falls upon the Shards and life begins anew. New buds appear, animals rise from hidden burrows, and the thinking races can turn their attentions to bringing prosperity to their fields.
The seasons are the visible sign of the endless struggle between the Beneath and the legacy of Õemag.
What are the stars?
Each night, between the day-long heartbeats of the Solar Hearth, the gods leave a sign that despite the darkness, they have not forgottenthe faithful. From the dimming solar disc, bright points of light travel, across the sky above all the Shards. These are the divine servants of the gods, the Celestial Guardians who stand guard over the Shards when night falls. Though only points of light to those below, they are powerful servants of the gods, the Divine Army of the Solar Hearth. Some call them stars, or angels, or celestials. As befits an army, there are different ranks and formations of these sky-bound warriors, and astrologers make it a point to know all the celestial names and their standing in the ranks of the heavens. Each of these radiant guards has an appointed place in the heavens, which he is forbidden to forsake.
Still, the most devote of clerics, those beloved of the gods, can call upon these divine sentinels, and pull them from the sky for a few moments. Few calamities are so threatening that such a divine summoning is called for, yet stories are told of the night the first Pentatra was destroyed: the besieged clerics darkened the night sky as they called upon those divine servants to protect them from the Beneath. This bought the Pentatra just enough time to scourge the Beneath's dark heart and end the Second Rising, though at the cost of all their lives.
One celestial kept his post during that dark night to let those huddled in darkness know that all was not lost: Onora, the First Star of Morning, the Light of Hope. Onora, the celestial servant of Eimag and Avasha, brightens slightly before the dawn. This begins the procession of the celestial guardians back across the sky, to their rest in the Solar Hearth until the next evening falls.
Where do water/animals/etc. come from?
Oêmag’s body and the endless Creation.
Oêmag is the primal source for all things. He is the very essence of Creation. Even in death, his body pours forth water from pure springs, while plants proliferate in fertile areas.
The Dark Paths – the spread of Monsters and Evil.
The last day of the year, the sun does not brighten. The Endless Night begins, and for a full day, there is no sunlight. Many believe that a new Rising will always begin during the Endless Night. To be sure, evil beings and the undead are more powerful during the Endless Night, but also to be considered are the Dark Paths.
During the Endless Night, all the darkling depths of the earth, all the labyrinthine tunnels that light never enters, all the hidden caverns and subterranean reaches become as one. A cavern in the Underlands might be entered, and a tunnel followed to an exit in Ozaan. Creatures of darkness are often restless on the Endless Night, and find their way to distant shards through the Dark Paths.
When the portals of darkness open on this unhallowed day and all dark places are joined, evil can spread from shard to shard, and those who guard against the forces of the Beneath are doubly alert at this time.
Goblin tribes, the spawn of Madragat, and the undead often find their way through the Dark Paths, as do many other things vile and unwholesome. It is believed that the priests of Hastur, Madragat, and the Beneath can control the manner in which the Dark Paths intersect, and thus know decide exactly where a tunnel or passage will find egress.
Despite this, sometimes common animals or even bold adventurers can travel in this manner.
Many tales can be heard of skysailors stranded on a shard far from civilization, who waited until the Endless Night and dared to find passage home through the Dark Paths.
Some found their escape, some found death, and others are said to wander still, driven mad by the terrors they have seen.
Most shards travel a regular, circular route. Though the speeds of individual shards may vary, very little cannot be predicted by a trained navigator with the correct charts and an abacus.
There are, occasionally, strange shards that appear amongst their fellows from outside the known reaches. They sometimes settle into a circuit like their brethren, though some wander without direction or aim, rogue shards that cannot be second-guessed.
These shards sometimes carry strange cargoes. On their surfaces might flourish plants unseen for generations, or creatures unheard of by even the long-lived ælven. More troubling are the ruins found on such shards, left by cultures and races about whom nothing is known. Some believe that some of these wild shards are the remnants of the Thousand Things that Oêmag first made, and which the Beneath either destroyed, stole, or chose to hide.
Regardless of the truth, manx often settle on these shards when they can, trusting (perhaps unwisely) in Marthayn to chart them an interesting course.
Marthayn and the Festival of the Fickle Fool.
On Marthayn's holy day, anything can happen. Usually on this day there is at least one grandiose miracle somewhere in the shards to let the thinking races know that Marthayn is still at work in the world. Flights of green doves, plagues of monkeys falling from the sky, singing locust swarms, and so forth are common. For some reason, Marthayn seems to like using bizarre and unlikely animals to act as his sign to the faithful, and these animals can be found for years after their arrival, sometimes even giving rise to new breeds or hybrid or creature. Occasionally, he will use other forms of expression, such as storms of stinking rainbows, or spontaneously growing tree groves that laugh, or bear blinking eyeball fruit.