"Reality has layers.
“That is the first lesson.
"Only by looking from the top, down could one possibly see them all. But only a god could do that. For that matter, who, but a god, would want to?
"Humans dwell in the fifth 'layer', the fifth reality, and are never, for the most part, aware of the others. Some animals, cats for one, can see the fourth through sixth layers. Part of the Sixth is simply bits of half-formed human fantasies, and forgotten ones. This realm, we shall call it Nova, is where the fae are doomed to dwell, in the forgetful mindscape of that most fickle of animals: Humanity.
"The fifth layer, in which humanity dwells, we shall call Earth, even though the planet is the constant between the realms. It shall be named Earth for the benefit of the egomaniacal, feeble-minded creatures that dwell there, marooned in a singular reality for most of their natural lives. Yes, most... I'll come back to that, mortal.
"The sixth layer is Darkworld, a twilit dreamscape of nightmarish properties. Normally, only human children can see the Darkworld. Most grow up. They learn science. Forget their dreams. Live in blinders. But others, a handful, really, don't 'grow up.' They don't stop believing in magic. Perhaps the Darkworld had been cruel to that child and he wasn't able to stop seeing. Now Little Boy Blue is locked up, howling about The Bogeyman, as if there were but one."
The old man pauses a moment and clears his throat, his youthful eyes twinkling with delight at some joke he knows but isn't sharing.
"Anyhoo... where was I?
"Oh, yes. Dreamwalkers. What? Do you want to hear this or not? Then stop asking silly questions and I'll get to all that in my own time. Now, Dreamwalkers are people, humans, who have seen, who have Awakened. As one could imagine, a very disturbing experience and many go mad. Awakened to what? Oh, the fact that the reality they know and love is not the only one. Anyway, they end up like those kids who never Sleep, locked up. Or, don't realize their madness for its subtlety...
"Now, the Dreamwalkers, like Hypnomancers and Pookas, coexist between two realities: Earth and Darkworld. This walking Betwixt worlds gives them their collective name: the Bix. Every realm has its rules, you see. Darkworld's differ a bit from Earth's, thus the near-magical or superhuman abilities of Dreamwalkers and their kin.
"As far as Earthly-types are concerned, Dreamwalkers and the like scarcely exist. People so nondescript that most won't notice them at all, even if they do or say very strange things. To the unawakened, Bix are a smudge on the photo plate of reality. It's for their own protection. The mind just won't process it. Like the body will vomit poison. Self-preservation instincts, and all. They simply won't be concerned, 'not their problem.' You know how they are. You used to be just like them.
"Ever stopped for no reason, maybe forgot why it was you had to get up? Sat too long at a traffic light? Changed direction without thinking about it? You were avoiding a Darkworlder, and they, you. Darkworlders and Earthlings normally won't see each other. Yes, won't, not can't. But once an Earthling Wakes and can see the Darkworld, it can see him, too. Dreamwalkers and the other 'Bix lead a dangerous life, facing the hazards of Earth and the dangers of Darkworld. Hey, no one ever said this would be easy. Darkworlders don't Awaken like the Earthlings do, for they are aware of Earth, but are not allowed, under normal conditions, to dwell there.
"And if Dreamwalkers are warriors, and they are, then Hypnomancers are battlemages. Hypnomancers and Pookas use Dreamshaping to alter reality as Dreamwalkers use Glamours to fight. Hypnomancers are very much like Dreamwalkers, save that they may not depend upon Glamours to fight with, but their own natural skills. With their Art, Hypnomancers and Pookas alter either reality they dwell in. These alterations have no effect upon the other reality, more often, than not.
"Now, these last two are, uh, special. They are former Dreamwalkers who have given up Earth and all their Glamours to serve one of the two BrotherGods: Hypnos and Morpheus. The priests of Hypnos are called Figments, granted special gifts to aid him in the war with his brother, Morpheus, the Lord of Dreams. Figments, and their counterparts, Shades, exist almost completely in Darkworld. Earthlings see them as a fleeting glimpse of an insubstantial shadow out of the corner of an eye and are dismissed almost immediately. The abilities of the Figments and Shades are primarily defensive in nature, designed to aid these assassins in their secret work.
"Ha, see? Told you I could dispense with the small talk and deal in just facts... Uh, I didn't? Ah shaddap, punk kid.
"Okay, so now you know the basics, eh? You think you're ready to take on the worlds, huh? You don't know Dick. Or John or Mary, for that matter. Tinglers. Phobias. Yeah, go off and play with those... What's that? Oh, so you're not so smart now, huh? Then, perhaps, I should continue if I'm so inclined..."
The wizened scarecrow with raggedy robes rubs a bony thumb against equally bony fingers expectantly. He tucks your last twenty away somewhere, gargles up a bit a phlegm he forcefully deposits upon a wall and continues:
"Phobias don't like to fight, but they don't have to after leaving you in a trembling pile of terror lying in your own piss. Tinglers," the old man shudders visibly, "are bad, and the Bogeymen are... very ungood. Oracles are linked creatures of light. Invaders from Nova, some say. Forget Nova, don't ask. Astrals are the souls of dreaming Earthlings, not really a danger. Usually more concerned with their own Freudian slips than the Darkworld as a whole. However, should a Darkworlder interfere with an Astral in any way, this breaks the spell and the Astral is free to interfere with the Darkworld. Shadows are former humans who have Awaked and opted to serve. Shadows, despite their fleeting nature, are surprisingly loyal to their master, but are always loyal first to the Shadow Lord. Yes, Shadow Lord. You have to go to him to procure the services of one of his Shadows. Another former human group are the detestable Imps. They are Bogeyman cronies with little glowing eyes and creepy little faces. I really hate those things. Oh, then there's the Midknights.
"These require a bit more attention. Midknights can either put you back to Sleep, with the chrome gun or bring on the Big Sleep with the black one. I suppose that should make them dangerous enough, but know this: Midknights can perform the Bonebreaking Dance.
"You may make some friends among the fiends of Darkworld. The 'Slingers might not be bad friends to have. 'Slingers? Awakened gunfighters, of course. Most of them are Dreamwalkers but there is the occasional Hypnomancer among them. They started out as a couple scared-stiff young punks, banding together for strength. They are now a force to be reckoned with. They have a Safehouse in nearly every major city, now. They fight against the encroaching Tingler influence and, to some extent, the fearsome Midknights.
"So, you have any questions? No? Good. Oh, sorry, you do have questions? All good things to those who wait."
The old man turns and walks away, vanishing into thin air.
Land of the Fair Folk
The Sixth is either the parent of Wonder or its child. Born of the passions of the Fifth, the Sixth is formed of belief. This is not the same as faith, as one does not need to worship a thing to believe in it. Secrets and spells and hopes and dreams dwell in this place, some gossamer as tendrils of smoke and others having more substance than anything found in the mortal realm. Time is more elastic, bending now to will and belief. One may spend a lifetime here and wake an hour later an old man in a child's bed. It is impossible to explain just how the Fifth and Sixth interact in a general manner. There is no formula, no exact science one could employ. Specifics are approachable concepts, specific to one world or another, but there is no hard and fast rule one could rely on. The Sixth only exists where the people of the Fifth dwell, yet is larger and older, and more complex than any of the mortal realm should wish to know.
Each night, when a person sleeps, they pass from their bodies and travel to this realm. The crowded shores of Dream are filled with the flotsam of life — the images, the sounds. It is here the mind edits. The majority of dreamers are too concerned with the scraps, it seems, staying at the water's edge and stirring what's left there. Beyond lies a land of beauty and horror. Dreamers, however, and that's a capital 'D,' go deeper, into the cities, and explore the limitless spectacle of the twisted imaginings of Man. Not everything on display is safe to be seen and not all those who die in their sleep go peacefully into that good night. Lucid Dreamers are a breed apart. While Dreamers may interact with the Sixth while they visit, Lucids can change things. The greatest Lucids have challenged gods in the Sixth. All children are natural Lucids, but they are young and untrained. Indeed, children actually exist partially in the Sixth at all times until they "grow up" and "know better."
To what one would take to be North is Nova. It glows in the soft light of a warm summer's late, lazy afternoon. Lush fields and verdant woods intermingle with cozy villages and quiet, lakeside getaways. A heady scent fills the air as blossoms are stirred by the gentle breeze. The lord of sleep, the god Morpheus walks as light through the ether, smiling upon the flocks. Morpheus is the elder brother, the keeper of the gate and master of the realm, locally speaking.
Hypnos, lord of dream, is South. The sickly illumination of Luna's wan light chills the bleak landscape of steel and stone. Where Morpheus is everywhere, Hypnos is everything. The endless city of Threshold is the younger fallen across the land and forever growing. Twisted skyscrapers claw at the turbulent sky roiling so close above. The streets are packed with dreamers and dreamed, the latter avoiding the former who mostly do not notice.
Beneath are vast caverns and twisting tunnels that connect them and other, secret places. While technically the province of Hypnos, neither brother is the true power there. Bogers, hunters of children, rule by council of five. The bogres war with each other, vying for power amongst themselves, pitching their minions into endless battle. None in Threshold and Nova dare oppose them.
Very ungood; Clops is their leader
Primal evil; there are 5 of them
Telepathically linked seducers
Servants of Fate
Neutral-good knowledge monger
Last of his kind; ancient, gold dragon
Peace-keepers, oppose Tinglers and, to a degree, Midknights
God; Lord of Sleep
God; Lord of Dreams
Servitor Race of semi-solid wraiths
"Things that go bump in the night"; breathstealers
Use Glamours; coexist in Fifth and Sixth; warriors
Use Dreamshaping; coexist in Fifth and Sixth; battlemages
Use Dreamshaping; coexist in Fifth and Sixth; jesters
Use Divinities; serve Hypnos; exist almost completely in Darkworld; clerics
Sword, grants partial invulnerability and an additional strike, only one exists
Aura of Light
Amulet, affords protection from Dark Man, only one exists
Shred of Night
Cloth from Dark Man's cloak, summons Dark Man, destroyed after use, nine are known to exist
Ring, increases Power of wearer by a factor of 5, only one exists
Monolith, traps Shadows, contains unknown number of them, only one exists
Gun, indestructible, infinite ammunition, can damage Midknights, only one exists
Bracelet, grants lycanthropy while worn, only one is known to exist
Rune of Uncleanliness
Lapel pin, Hell-forged, can create true imps, only one is known to exist
Glyph of Doom
Bronze tablet, any who touch it are considered Doomed, only one is known to exist
Spiral horn, can dispel evil, can heal mortal wounds, wielder gains 20 Power
Glyph of Life
Can restore life to a dead character, such persons return to life fully healed and retain all memories up to, and perhaps including, the moment of their death, bronze tablet, destroyed after use, one is known to exist
Mirror, gateway to ..?, only one exists
A gang of Dreamwalkers, Hypnomancers, and others who often work for Nocturnos and oppose nearly all others. They are criminals who use their Glamours for power above mortals, Darkworlders, and those In-Between.
Do their thing (terrorize).
All but each other (save Dark Man) and Morpheus
Each other (save Dark Man) and Morpheus
Seeks power, especially in the Waking World.
All but Nocturnos.
Does his thing (hunting children). Some think him a god (not yet). Ponders Awakening the entire world.
All but Shadow Lord