From an outside perspective, the human race has some fairly impressive staying power. It has weathered ice ages, predators and its own earnest attempts at self-destruction to sail its way to global dominance on a tidal wave of blood. Closer examination however reveals that it is only the collective which exhibits this astounding durability. Despite their inbuilt resilience and their dogged determination, individual humans are remarkably fragile things. They break, they crumble, they wear out, they die and they are forgotten. Sooner or later, meat just goes bad. And that’s all we are, meat held together with electric string, and there is precious little we can do to change this state of affairs. Through its millennia long struggle to valiantly not die humanity has shepherded a child; a child which is quite, quite different and entirely essential to its survival. That child is called knowledge.
Knowledge it turns out is very difficult to outright kill. It lives through the sacking of cities and the death of empires and the brilliant death throes of whole civilisations. You might think you have burnt all the copies and killed everyone who knows a secret, but knowledge has an unnerving ability to bubble back to the surface and out of the murky depths. Lost manuscripts have a strange habit of being found again and long dead languages tend to be puzzled out by humans with time and their hands and more curiosity than sense. Because of this, knowledge has power and meaning in ways that plain, ordinary people don’t. There are always more people, people can be replaced, there’s never been any shortage of them. But knowledge? Once lost it is just gone and I mean really gone, for good, no undo button. Gone with no trace more than a yawning gap in the history, like a tooth ripped from a gum. You can’t stop poking at it, but the tooth isn’t ever going to grow back. And when it goes, knowledge takes its power with it. The world moves on, the world changes, the fluid and twisting morass of humanity reshapes itself to fill the hole, it moves to compensate until finally the equilibrium of everything is restored.
Now imagine the havoc and the chaos that would be caused should it reemerge after so long away. The equilibrium would be shattered and once again everything would change. The world would be reshaped. Now imagine what lengths people would go to in order to reclaim that which had truly been lost. Power, even dead power, calls out, across the cold void of oblivion. Some people dig in the barren wastes of the desert, others plunge into the humid, hungry depths of the jungle. But those in the know? They seek out the Relay.
At the confluence of elsewheres at the very heart of the ephemeral empyrean there is a place quite unlike any other. It is coterminous to everywhere, yet adjoins to nowhere. It is the very bottom of the whirlpool of existence, at the very heart of the storm. It is the place where all the myriad layers and stratas of reality. It is the place where the quiet and the patient can hear the whispers in the æther; it is where the wise can pierce the veil itself. It is the Nexus of Casuality; the dwelling where the All-Seer awaits; home to the being which they call the Relay.
The unworld which houses the Relay is swaddled in clouds of pale and pallid beiges and drab, dead magnolias. At the centre of this stillness within the maelstrom there is a lone figure; neither sitting nor standing, but floating hunched and on haunches as if hung from the sky. The figure’s robes rustle and sway in the eddies of the temporal winds, a web of wires lead from the impenetrable clouds at the hinterlands of the nexus and into the skull of the Relay, tangling themselves around a crown of aerials and antennas. The All-Seer sees with sight beyond sight, through clusters of eyes wrought from glass, copper, whole constellations of rare earth metals and of mater most strange. Its eyes gaze down funnels of spacetime into the everything and the everywhere. It sees what once was, what is and sometimes what may be. It is a piercing gaze to which no barrier, nor firmament, nor occlusion is proof. In this little pocket outside of the world the Relay sees what has been forgotten and what has been lost. It records, it uncovers, it observers, and it sends that which it finds on to “interested parties.”
If once it was human it is no more. Sitting marooned in the sphere of the unworld, it is assailed by the raw, untempered energy of the void, it has been changed. Warped from what it was into something distinctly other. An empty, human shell consumed by the knowledge which it seeks.
Whether the Relay is a blight or a blessing remains to be seen. No one is entirely sure, expect perhaps itself. The Relay does not question, enquire or stand in judgement, it merely provides to any and all who ask of it. If nothing else it is a constant. A relic of both the distant past and a far-flung future. It endures, it is an always has and an always will be. So much so that, despite the chaos its knowledge brings, it is part of the tenuous equilibrium of life. A known variable which brings just enough instability to stir things up, like a gardener tilling their soil.
Perhaps that is entirely the point of it.