Points of Commonality the Clock, the Coin, the Common Speech
Given the diversity of the Polychotomy, it’s sometimes surprising that people even go to the trouble of connecting with each other. The (so-called) geography practically begs for dissolution, whatever the One World Party might say. Most scholars agree that three things truly act as uniting forces: the Clock, the Coin, and the Common Speech.
The exact date of the creation of the Clock is unknown, even to the Clock Tenders. In part this is due to the great degree of uncertainty about when the Polyclasm happened, and in part because the founding of the Clock Tenders dates (as far as they can tell) from some time after that great catastrophe. Further, after the creation of the Clock, it is sadly true that from time to time it has malfunctioned – and of course it’s impossible to say how long these malfunctions last.
Nonetheless, the creation of the Clock is clearly the greatest source of pride for the Clock Tenders. The Clock occupies the entirety of a medium-sized shard, its devious mechanical and magical workings spread through the entire borderless space. (Rumour has it that the circular nature of the Clock shard is crucial to its workings.) Clock Tenders, and those with whom they do business, often carry small devices in their packs or pockets which are able to perceive the current state of the Clock’s workings, and thus tell the current time. Better-quality merchants generally have a few of these in stock, and the simple ones can be purchased for a couple of gold coins.
The Clock itself keeps time according to a cycle that the Clock Tenders claim predates the Polyclasm itself. The basic unit of time is the second (easy way to annoy a Clock Tenders: ask “second to what?”). Sixty seconds make a minute, sixty minutes an hour, and (just to be different) twenty-four hours make a day. Sixty days make a cycle, and (again, just to be different), six cycles make a year. How closely this calendar meshes with a given shard’s local time varies considerably – many shards of course are by and large timeless, and those that have a definable night and day sometimes have nights of years, or days of seconds. But the Clock provides a common point of reference for all people, which is a real boon.
The Clock Tenders count time from the last known malfunction. Four hundred and seventeen years have passed since the last malfunction, and in the reckoining of the clock, a total of 4004 years have passed since the creation of the clock (interspersed with various malfunctions).
The CoinWhile many people fervently disagree with the Regium’s assertion that they are the Rightful Governers of All Shards, none can deny that it is their coin that runs day-to-day business. The reasons given for this are several, but certainly among the most important are these:
- Prominent merchants’ (including the entirety of the Sign of Swine) acceptance of it and no other, as a common reference point.
- The Regium’s tendency to react with violent force when anyone tries to create a competitor.
That being said, it is nonetheless true that a very large proportion of the Regium’s coins have a large X scratched through the face of whichever High Regent it depicts. While many recognize the utility of a common coinage, that doens’t stop resentment of the power that it accrues to the Regium. And in some Overlord-controlled Shards, use of the Regium’s coin can be grounds for imprisonment.
It is said that the shard of the High Regent contains the Royal Mint, where all of the Regium’s coins originate. It is also said that the Regium has mints on hundreds of different shards, usually close to gold or silver mines that they control. It is also said that the Regium employs a cadre of sorcerers who create coins out of thin air. Some of this is doubtless pub talk.
The Regium issues coins in four denominations – in order of increasing value: copper, silver, gold, and platinum, with each being worth ten of the next smaller denomination. Banks will sometimes issue promissory notes as well, but these are sometimes frowned upon by Regium phylists as a step towards an alternate currency. Similarly, the use of gems as an easy way of transporting large sums of money is common – as long as the Regium’s bankers aren’t looking.
The Common Speech
A common currency and a common measure of time would still be small ground to build a common world on, without a common speech. Fortunately, in spite of the multitude of languages in existence, one has come to the forefront and is spoken most widely. Usually just called Common Speech or the Common Tongue, what history exists suggests that it was the language of a pre-Polyclasm world, and was perpetuated by members of the Mutual Defence Co-operative. Thus the irony: those with the least real power nonetheless are the authors of the language that many talk and think in most of the time.
Of course, this doesn’t stop other languages from being spoken. Indeed, most of the nonhuman races have their own languages which the use in private conversations. There are also the Celestial and Fiendish languages, used by the Pure and the Tainted respectively. Dragons (and some members of the Talon, and seekers of arcane lore) insist on using Draconic for most purposes. And in elemental shards, one sometimes hears Ignan, Auran, Aquan, or Terran. Finally, a number of the phyles have their own languages that they use for phyle business.
But except in the most obscure backwaters of the Polychotomy, you can expect to be able to find someone who can speak at least a little of the Common Speech. It is the language of practically all commerce, much politics, and, for many, a large part of day-to-day-life.
There are some other, smaller less universal aspects of life that bind the Shards together. Two of the most prominent are the Chronicle and the Couriers.
Some members of the All-Seeing Eye collectively compile a record of events that they call The Chronicle. In it, they try to record all activities that happen throughout the Polychotomy. Of course, the task is impossibly large. Even the task of collating recorded information is fraught with logistical problems. Nonetheless, it is not uncommon for Eyes to carry large reams of paper with them, and to compare notes and share information when they meet each other. In principle, the Chronicle is available for viewing by all, and in some shards where the All-Seeing Eye is prominent, it is made available in large Scriptoria. Nonetheless, many creatures have never actually seen a page of it.
One of the main roles that the Tunnelers arrogate to themselves is that of carrying messages and packages between the Shards. Given the scattered nature of reality, service by the Couriers is unreliable at the best of times, but it beats the alternatives. Larger communities will usually boast at least one Couriers’ Inn where couriers may be found, if any are available. Members of other phyles sometimes act as couriers too, especially members of the Drummers.