(NOTE: Like any information about the future, this is subject to change. I created this system for a different story before writing Unsouled, so if I decide I need to alter how the Abidan work in order to suit the story, I will. Nothing is etched in stone.)
(NOTE II: Return of NOTE - Credit for the idea behind this post goes to Reddan, from the comments! Great idea, Reddan! The Judges are coming soon!)
The Way and the Worlds
Iteration: Any universe that the Abidan recognize as capable of sustaining human existence and living out a complete life-cycle.
Every Iteration has a destined progression. A world is born, it lives out its existence, and then it quietly dies, breaking into fragments. These fragments float through the void, crashing and combining randomly until they form into a new universe.
They are called "Iterations" because the thousands of universes currently in existence are thought to be different versions of the same original world or worlds, spun out in different combinations again and again for eternity. Even the Abidan Judges do not know when this cycle began.
On its own, an Iteration should exist for billions of years, except for a certain underlying requirement: each Iteration is anchored to the Way by sentient consciousness. As long as humans* are around, the world is tethered to the natural law and order of the Way. The fewer humans there are, the looser that connection becomes.
When humanity dies, the world dissolves.
The Way: The source of order, the Way is a force that spans all of existence. Its presence protects against the destructive and corruptive influence of chaos, and its nature sustains reality.
An Iteration dying is part of the Way. Death is meant to be the end; this is part of the cosmic order. Only when an Iteration lives too long does it becomes a danger.
When a world's population drops so low that it weakens the influence of the Way, but not so low that the Iteration breaks into fragments, that is when corruption sets in. Chaos seeps into the world, infecting it, subverting the laws that govern reality.
At this point, the Abidan can destroy the remaining population, thus removing the Iteration's last hold on existence. But now the world will break into fragments, and those fragments are tinged with chaos. They might crash into other Iterations, infecting them, or combine to create worlds that are corrupted from the very beginning.
There is only one being capable of erasing a universe from existence entirely, without breaking it down into fragments.
And he's missing.
The Eledari Pact: An ancient agreement between the original Court of Seven that both increases and restricts the powers of the Abidan.
Agreements and restrictions are inherently ordered, so this pact is the tool that allows the Abidan to control the power of the Way as they do. There are many rules in the Eledari Pact, but the most relevant one is this: the Abidan cannot use their powers to prevent the natural progression of an Iteration.
They cannot stop a global war from claiming billions of lives and destroying a planet, unless that war was started by outside forces or by a significant subversion of Fate. Abidan only descend to correct a deviation, though they're granted a certain freedom of action in doing so. This law exists both to preserve the natural balance of existence and to prevent the Abidan from settling down in lesser worlds and ruling like gods.
*(The Abidan definition of "human" is pretty loose, but never too far removed from the humanity we know. When a new Iteration forms that may be able to support life, the Abidan select a new population of human pioneers and send them to inhabit a suitable planet.)
Today, some basic terminology to help you understand the cosmos the Abidan are dealing with.
Tomorrow, the world!
Next time: the Hound and the Titan
"Bracing her foot on the body, Mercy pulled her arrow free."
A generous helping.
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