The first question explorers are asked when they step foot in a new settlement is “Where did you even come from?” followed by “What do you mean there’s something beyond that Circle?”
From the scholars of the Libraries of Stiria to the Order of the Parchment to the Sorority of the Compass, no one truly understands how the Circles work. They connect to other Circles all over the world, but how, when, and why those connections are created remain a mystery. Sometimes passing through that Circle can mean certain death. Sometimes it leads to a grassy plain in the middle of nowhere, under a sky who’s stars you don’t recognize. Sometimes it leads to the Plaza of Welcoming outside of Tin El’Shin.
We have finally begun cataloguing and chronicling the destinations of the Circles, creating a web of interconnected dots of civilization. The danger that has been overcome to do this cannot be undersold. Walking through a Circle that slams closed behind you is the nightmare of all explorers. If there isn’t consecrated ground nearby, and you die, well, your soul won’t find it’s way to Death’s Door. Without that, you’ll become Lost, never to rise again, or find your way to a final rest. Dozens of Gifted have sacrificed their lives to this cause, walking through a Circle in hopes that what they find on the other side is friendly, habitable, and, with a little luck, the Circle will once again connect to where they came from.
Some settlements have been connected reliably for centuries, creating a long-standing tradition of free travel and trade. Others have been isolated for as long as anyone can remember. A hundred small, self-contained networks and isolated points, adrift in the sea of chaos and horror that is the uncharted wilderness.
But it all changed five years ago, when we found The Shard Market.