I'd like to share a piece of obscure lore that I absolutely fell in love with when I first started to play Imperian, and half a decade later remains one of my favourite aspects of Aetherius.
On the highest mountain of the known world, upon the highest peak of Feinhorn, rises the unfathomably large Inequedra, the Tree of Existence. I couldn't do this beautiful concept any more justice than is found in some of the surrounding room descriptions:
A dirt pathway leads around the massive, golden Tree of Existence, which looms above you as if some Immortal giant, stretching taller than the eye can see. The trunk of the tree is incredibly massive, its smooth bark thick and impersive to blade. Its roots, each the size of dragons, curl and twist around each other, forming archways over the path from their coils. The sight is awe-inspiring as it is uplifting, providing you with an otherwordly feel the longer you gaze at it.
Inequedra's golden leaves are tended high into the clouds by ethereal sylphs, while its world-bracing roots burrow far into the mountain. I find it interesting that while the Tree appears beyond Magick itself, the sylphs have always seemed to me to be magickal creatures. A demonic presence drawing sustenance from the deepest roots of the Tree leads one to speculate on the roles and influence of these different mystical powers, and how they may balance one another - the powers of life and death - and restore equilibrium to existence.
Of course, one cannot talk about Inequedra without mentioning Nysashgar, the mythical ouroboros. This demonic presence is as awe-inspiring as the Tree upon which it feeds:
Nysashgar is indescribably gargantuan in mass, so large that you are unable to even see him in his entirety, but rather only the portion of him that emerges from some gaping crevice below. His black, serpentine body disturbs the moorings of the very mountain whenever he shifts, and his head equals the size of a house. He fails to notice your presence, and almost appears to be serene, content to situate himself where he is and further his quest to destroy the roots of the Tree of Existence. Great curved horns emerge from his head, which he uses to gore the roots above his head with. Rows upon rows of serrated teeth are visible when he opens his massive jaw, which in turn rotates around itself in a seemingly unfeasible method. His many, slanted eyes are yellowed and absent of pupil, each one independently moving to focus on the changing environment. Nysashgar never retreats into his crevice, nor fully withdraws from it, leading you to wonder to what great lengths does this creature cross, and from what mysterious origin did he come to exist from.
He dwells within one of the most profoundly sacred, and at the same time one of the most profaned spaces within Aetherius - the Scar of Creation:
Awe is nearly blinding and limiting to the mind's ability to comprehend all that falls before the eyes, and indeed the inevitable amount that does not, when one enters into this sheer and enormous construct of the earth. To the eyes of the Gods it might appear as though one were a speck of dust drifting into a throneroom, though the surroundings viewed now are hardly of such symmetry or, some might say, beauty. This space is arguably the largest cavern known to exist within the earth, though even a layman would say as much when viewing it. Smoothened cavern walls of dusky crystalline blue rise up all around, at the base of which lie many gaping exit tunnels into lesser parts of the system, while the floor underfoot continues on into a vaguely bowl-shaped pit before flattening out about the center. Above, one views a veritable underground firmament, a subtly rippling conglomeration of mists which have nowhere to go, seeing as the rock lining this particular cavern is apparently non-porous. Yet, shadow overwhelms much of what one might wish to see revealed in this cave, this incomprehensible opening in the earth which might be attributed in myth to the scar left upon the earth when Lord Avasyu angrily placed His fist. In here, a quiet echo becomes the voice of a Divinity. The roots of the Tree of Existence have taken hold here, nearly overtaking the cavern. His presence disturbing to the very depths of your soul, Nysashgar, the mythical ouroboros is here, continually gnawing at the roots of Inequedra.
Nestled beneath a canopy so vast it fills the sky a small cathedral has been built in reverence to the Tree, a beautifully rendered mosaic paying tribute to its mythology:
Similarly inspirational and awe-inspiring, this immense mosaic covers the north wall entirely, depicting a mythical scene in tile patterns. Though somewhat faded, its coloring is brilliant and its attention to detail meticulous. The mosaic depicts a narrow ashen-grey peak, atop a jagged and inhospitable mountain range. A gargantuan tree sits atop the peak, its serpentine roots clasping onto the mountaintop as if it were the only thing anchoring it into position. The tree, impossibly huge and its bark holding an entirely golden sheen, stretches high into the heavens, disappearing into the fog of upper sky and clouds. Along its many extended branches dance several winged creatures, so small as to be miniscule and nearly undetectable in the image. Beneath the tree, the mosaic shows a cutaway view of the mountain peak, and you can see a complex network of its roots burrowing its way down for miles into the cave-like interior of the mountain. Finally, at the very base of the mosaic is a giant ouroboros curled around itself, its horrific appearance strikingly realistic even in tile. Its abominable form seems to writhe before your eyes, two sets of fang-filled jaws gnawing at the roots to the Tree of Existence.
This cathedral is the domain of Khoros, Archdeacon of Ascension, who is ever ready to remind us of the importance of the Tree to all Imperians:
Khoros, Archdeacon of Ascension says, "Inequedra, the Tree of Existence emphasizes the renewal of life. Its roots go into the past, reaching into the mountains of achievement; its crown reaches into the sky, the future."
Finally, his work on the history and mythology of Inequedra is a seminal work, describing the Ichayra River as the non-physical manifestation of the Tree within other realms of existence:
A Composite History and Mythology of Inequedra, Tree of Existence.
-- as compiled by Archdeacon Khoros, of the Faith of Inequedra
Inequedra, the Tree of Existence, had spawned from the essence of Avasyu, the Creator, and begun to grow within the Plane of Creation before time even existed. It was formed as the most direct channel connecting the Plane of Creation to all of the other planes, the most direct means for Gods to channel Their energy to the different planes of existence. The Tree eventually came to rest atop the highest peak of the Gongen Mountains, Feinhorn Peak, and its golden and towering form immediately took root within the craggy mountainside. While physically, it does not reach through all planes, there is an invisible stream of essence, known as the Ichayra River, that flows between them.
Ichayra is the same stream that carries mortals to and from the Underworld. The points where the Ichayra River is most noticable usually have nothing to do with each other. It is not a stream that has a definite beginning or end, nor even a straight line of travel one could
follow. Mortals have not discovered the means to manipulate it, they often find that their usage of it is limited between two defined points, such as the Underworld and Aryana's Spring, or the Tree of Wailing Souls and its counterpart aboveground.
-=The Brotherhood and Nysashgar=-
The Tree of Existence accumulated a large gathering of a group known as the Brotherhood. They were rugged and hardy men, able to survive in the inhospitable conditions of the high-altitude Gongens. The overwhelmingly life-filled presence of Inequedra had also lured the monstrous Nysashgar, a massive ouroboros, from the far reaches of the Inferno. He tunneled up through Feinhorn Peak (His size is so great that it was said his length would stretch across the entire length of the Gongen mountain range, but this is much disputed as only his head has risen above the surface-- Khoros). He attacked the Tree, seeking to destroy its link with the Plane, but was repelled viciously by the Brotherhood, whose numbers had been many times greater than they are now. During their attacks, Nysashgar would often retreat into his burrowed-out caves beneath the Peak, only to emerge again and again. The bloody battle claimed many lives, but they succeeded in driving Nysashgar back into the far depths of the mountains.
-=The Sylphs and the Faith of Inequedra=-
The appearance of the sylphs was then noticed by the surviving Brotherhood. They were ethereal, graceful creatures that appeared with the Tree and seemed to only care about nurturing its golden-laced leaves. They possessed no age nor true gender, and appeared to be almost 'one' with Inequedra. It is hypothesized that the sylphs were the reason the ouroboros has not returned to Feinhorn Peak, though the logics of such a situation are unclear.
Nysashgar has since spawned many more ouroboros smaller than him, in the unnatural ways of demonkind. They, too, are possessed by the same mad drive to destroy Inequedra, and comb the tunnels of the Inner Feinhorn to gnaw the golden roots of the Tree of Existence. Nysashgar himself waits in the deepest crevices of the mountain, continually gnawing on the largest and strongest of the roots. The cycle of the roots/ouroboros is welcomed by Inequedra, for without destruction there cannot be rebirth. It welcomes the change, being only disturbed when an imbalance occurs. This belief has become the basis for the Faith of Inequedra, the religious group formed from the remaining Brotherhood members.
Inequedra, the Tree of Existence emphasizes the renewal of life. It is by Avasyu's blessing that mortals are able to return from the Underworld. It is the same blessing that is the purpose of Inequedra's existence-- it functions when it is undergoing the processes of Creation.