This is still a work in progress I’m trying to get some images done to illustrate points.
The Sphere of Time is linked to the element of water, especially the ocean. It represents sequence and order, but also velocity and inertia, thus it is both mental/philosophical and physical. It is neutrally aligned but with a slight tendency toward law over chaos. There are more deities of time than primal spirits or primordials, though not by a large margin. In the prime it is associated with the priest or cleric, and the path of the dynast.
The heirarch of time is Khoronus aka Grandfather Time. He is an original Immortal, a Deity, and he is not the deity of time, he is Time itself and should he die the effects on the multiverse would be extreme. As a result he is under almost constant siege by entropic immortals who hope that his destruction will cause enough damage to cripple existence permanently. Khoronus fought in the dawn war, though not particularly actively. He has multiple residences and his home plane of existence is unknown, but thought to be a pocket realm within the Astral Sea.
Travel Through Time and the Universal Now
Immortals and scholars of time note that all things are time travelers, we all move forward through time at a roughly similar speed. What immortals know, but no mortals scholars believe is that there is a specific moment, called the Universal Now that is the only point in time which is real and true. Ahead of this Now any future one scrys or divines or travels to visit is only hypothetical and not real or guaranteed to happen. Behind this Now any past is just a memory, not real or changeable in a meaningful way. The closer to the Now one is the more reality the experience has. The Universal Now moves forward inorexibly, it cannot be stopped, slowed, sped up, or in any other way affected, even by Immortal power. Immortals of Time can determine how far away the Universal Now is and in what direction as easily as a human can tell up from down.
Each of conscious minds exists at a point of perception on its own timeline, which is usually slightly behind the Universal Now, and this is the only moment it can perceive. When a person uses a haste effect to move faster, they speed up compared to the Universal Now. If they were consciously 10 minutes behind and use magic to move at double speed for 5 minutes, they would end the effect only 5 minutes behind the Universal Now. If they stayed sped up for 15 minutes they would end up ahead of the Universal Now and experiencing a hypothetical future in which their actions may or may not have lasting effects. If a person steps into a pocket “where time doesn’t pass”, such as with the popular low-level magic ritual, they actually freeze their consciousness within their own timeline, while the Universal Now moves forward at its usual speed, so they fall behind. Staying in such a “boil” for 8 hours, one would be 8 hours behind the Universal Now.
Events performed at the Universal Now are the most powerful, and are 100% real exactly as perceived. Events performed ahead or behind of the Now are less real depending on how far away they are. Some great rituals require being locked to the Now for the whole duration of the ritual. Events that are not real create divergences in time that Immortals of the sphere refer to as temporal waves. Some mortal scholars call them parallel timelines, but mortals misunderstand critical aspects of their nature because mortals do not understand or believe in the Universal Now.
Mortals believe these parallel timelines exist infinitely back and forward and that they diverged at a specific moment off of the “primary timeline”. They believe that all timelines are equally “real” and valid and that what one person calls the “primary timeline” is just the one they themselves lived through, but it is divergent to many other parallel timelines.
This mistake of mortals is responsible for many severe misunderstandings, such as the concept that time is a dimension or that it is linked to space. Perception of time is linked in that way, but not Absolute Reality, not the Universal Now. Only each sentient being’s personal perception of time. Mortals cannot, normally, control or alter this perception and are subject to the flows of Absolute Reality and their distance from the Universal Now and any related temporal waves (see below). Immortals of Time can see multiple points at once as well as into multiple waves at once and thus can see how time and space are different in a way no mortal perception can match. Out of Character: Don’t try to use physics to say “but black holes and gravity bend space-time” because an Immortal of Time will respond “yes it certainly looks like that from your perspective, but just like until you invented telescopes you thought the earth was the center of the universe and all evidence at the time pointed to that being correct; you lack the tools to see the truth of time as of yet. But you’ll get there someday.” And they will pat you on the head and smile just like you would to your favorite pet.
Immortals of Time see reality as very different. There is only one absolute reality and it is defined by all events that occur at the Universal Now. Events that happen off the Now cause a wave, which is not infinite forward or backward, but that is limited in size based on how divergent it is from the absolute reality. These waves move forward through time mostly at the same speed as the Universal Now, so they never catch up. But if a person were to freeze themselves, they could see a wave being to grow as the leading edge of small changes appears, then at the peak of the wave things would be at the greatest level of divergence, and as the wave passes things would slowly return to appearing as they do in Absolute Reality whereupon the wave would be passed this temporally frozen person. Immortals of Time explain that you cannot really go back to the same wave at the same point in time twice, because the wave has moved on. You might be able to find another wave that is extremely similar, but that would be two different waves.
As an example, say that in Absolute Reality a hill is covered in blue flowers for all three months of summer. A time traveler leaves from the first day of autumn and arrives in the first day of summer, he is now three months behind the Universal Now. He then curses the hill so all the flowers die, which takes 30 minutes to perform and returns to the Universal Now. Instead of returning to the same point he left (that point is now 30 minutes behind the Universal Now) he is 30 minutes into the first day of Autumn, and the hill is still covered in blue flowers, because his ritual created a time wave, it did not change reality, and he is 3 months ahead of the leading edge of his wave. Meanwhile another time traveler is frozen on the second to last day of summer. When the leading edge of the time wave reaches that day a few flowers appear dead, but the hill still mostly looks as it does in reality. As the wave progresses forward more and more flowers appear to die, even though time is stopped to the perception of the frozen witness. The sun isn’t moving in the sky, animals are frozen mid-step. What is changing is only the degree off of Absolute Reality, as measured by living flowers. At the peak of the wave all the flowers on the hill are dead. Then, slowly as the wave passes the flowers appear to come back as Absolute Reality re-asserts itself.
If that time wave was 5 days long on the first day and the fifth day 90% of the hill is alive, on the second and fourth day only half, and on the 3rd day at noon it’s all dead. As the Now moves forward, this wave moves forward too. So four days after creating the wave if the maker goes back to the exact same day, he will see the hill looking like his ritual failed. Because the end of the wave is a day ahead of him now. If he instead went to the fourth day of summer, he would see his ritual in full force and effect. And if he never travels again he can follow that wave forward in time as long as he wishes.
Some waves move faster or slower than the Now. The slowest waves don’t move at all, they just are locked at a specific moment in time and are called standing waves. The most common source of standing waves are when immortals of time lock an object relative to the Now so that object does not age or move in time. It immediately becomes invisible to mortals and drops out of existence at every moment closer to the Now than when it was locked. An object that is locked into a standing wave different from its own native time (such as pulling an object back in time away from the Now, then sending it back forward to a different place and closer to the Now, but locked) is virtually impossible to detect or locate as it only exists in its location for a fraction of a second, so to interact with it, such as to unlock it, one would need to freeze time at just that tiny window of opportunity. Immortals of Time have been known to do this to living, sentient beings as a form of ultimate punishment worse than death.
A wave that is created farther from the Now can be bigger and stronger than waves close to the Now. Absolute Reality influences events towards reality, but farther away from Now the pressure is reduced so the divergence can be extreme. There are even some dead Immortals who have created massively divergent waves far from the Now where they continue to live in a 100% unreal version of time. Almost like their own pocket dimension, but in time not space.
Waves that move faster than time eventually catch up to the Universal Now. These waves are dangerous because they overwrite time near the Now making it difficult for people to know what is real. When such a wave crosses the Now it does not always continue forward into the future. Instead, as it approaches the Now fast waves start to collapse on themselves and bleed into other waves, an effect that Immortals of Time call breaking. Breaking waves make effects that freeze themselves almost as if they were real, that lock into the moment when they broke and then any other wave that reaches that point gets disturbed by them.
For example, say a fast wave created on the same hill with blue flowers animated the flowers into dangerous monsters. And say the dead flowers wave is also a fast wave. If both of them reach the Now at the same time they could bleed into each other resulting in animated undead flowers that only exist on the fourth and fifth day of summer. Any time wave that reaches the fourth day of summer is possibly going to have the flowers on that hill die, rot and animate as undead monsters that then de-animate two days later. So if another wave that started in the previous winter involved clearing the hill and planting wheat instead of flowers gets started. All through winter and spring everything is happy wheat on the hill. Summer starts and at first the wheat is ripening and beautiful golden brown. Then suddenly on the fourth day blue flowers appear all through wheat fields for no reason. The farmers might be confused but think the flowers are pretty. That night the flowers all die and animate as horrible undead plant creatures that ravage the fields for the fifth day, vanishing without a trace on the fifth night.
Breaking waves are far more likely to freeze dangerous or bad events, especially where entropy is involved, than positive or happy events. Immortals of Time theorize that this is because time waves are an aspect of entropy causing instability and unreality within Absolute Time and in a breaking wave the entropic fields hit resonance, much like two sound waves that cause an object or bridge to vibrate and break.
When a massive wave created far away from the Now is accelerated so that it rapidly catches up to the Now while retaining its huge size exists, it is called a temporal storm. Temporal storms are massively destructive and dangerous and often Immortals of Time band together to stop them before they reach the Now. According to Immortal rumor and legend, some Temporal Storms created during the Dawn War tore reality when their waves broke at the Now, causing pockets and temporal paradoxes that persist infinitely. One theory is that Mind Flayers come from such a tear in reality that reached all the way into the future death of the multiverse.
Mortals consider the future as anything ahead of their point of perception. Immortals of time consider the future anything ahead of the Universal Now. Things that are ahead of the Universal Now become more and more improbable the farther ahead they are. So events a few minutes of the Now are actually quite likely to happen just the way someone perceives them. Perhaps a vase breaks a few seconds earlier or later, or the shards are a different shape, or a person pushed it off the table with their elbow instead of bumping the table with their elbow causing it to fall. Events hours or even days ahead are moderately reliable, usually the same people will be alive but conversations could go quite differently, deals and contracts could be altered, the table might break along with the vase. A week ahead of the Now events are only somewhat probable. Someone might die that in Absolute Reality lives, or vice versa. Years ahead only the most general trends are reliable, such as which countries exist or which dynasty is ruling, even if the specific King is in Absolute Reality a queen. Centuries ahead events are unlikely to be reliable at all. Millenia ahead events are basically fictional. However, it is always possible to discern Absolute Reality, though even Khoronus will not admit to reliably recognizing Reality more than a few months ahead of the Now.
There is great debate and many experiments performed by the Immortals of Time about how and why the future diverges, and what determines which divergent future a given scrying or time journey will encounter. Some claim there are temporal waves that exist ahead of the Now just like the ones behind it. Some claim the viewer’s imagination creates the future they see. Some say that there are beings and forces outside of time that influence it.
Fixed Points in Time (I’m so very, very sorry)
What is known about the future is that there are some unavoidable events. These can be seen in all future divination and travel and they become part of Absolute Reality once the Now reaches that point in time. Some call them Fixed Moments in Time. When they cross the Now, they act like breaking waves and make an event that exists in nearly all waves (eventually, when fixed points get far enough from the Now Immortals can make waves that diverge from the point). Interestingly, these sort of act like “reality waves” compared to “divergent waves” so that as a divergent future approaches a fixed point it begins to incorporate the fixed point. So if a fixed point includes a tower on a hill, and a particular divergent future had the hill obliterated by a mage duel years in the past, the hill might be visible to people in dreams, becoming more and more common as the point gets closer. Then for that moment of the fixed point the hill is real and manifests completely solidly. Possibly as a weak point in the barrier between the Feywild and the prime or the shadowfell and the prime, as the tower will almost certainly exists in one or both of those. Afterward it may remain for a while, re-appear annually, or just vanish from that divergent timeline completely.
These fixed points can be identified by Immortals, though no mortal has ever succeeded. And they can be used as navigational aids when travelling into the future and seeking information on what will actually happen in Absolute Reality.
There is one fixed point that is unimaginably far into the future, but still known: The origin of the Mind Flayers. They appear, even to Immortals of Time, to have existed at the heat death of the universe, when the forces of entropy succeed and obliterate all of creation. A massive temporal storm created during the dawn war that survived all the way until that point ripped a hole into the ancient past, but distinctly after the dawn war and Mind Flayers escaped universal destruction by fleeing into this rift an appearing in their own past.