A Timeline is a term used to describe an enormous swath of space-time that has been carved into a discrete slice. Within these slices, time moves linearly, worlds are formed, people are born, and stories unfold - they are the centerpiece of Numbers. But outside of Timelines, life still exists - tiny fractions of the creator gods have carved out spaces in the void between so that they may watch over these swaths and protect them, dedicated to cherishing all of life.
A critical component of understanding Timelines within Numbers is that not only are they a description for a section of time, but they are also physical constructs that exist metaphysically and physically at the same time. They are real places and are visible to entities outside of them as huge beams of magic and light.
Most Timeline lore only has relevance when discussing Fragments or Magnitude Fragments, the entities that persist outside of them. Most characters are not aware of the true nature of the world. If you find the below information hard to grasp, don't fret - this isn't relevant for anything but niche mentions of metaphysics in Fragment stories.
This is a quick bullet-point list of how Timelines work, and should provide a basic framework for understanding anything mentioned by characters in-universe. If you want to dig in deeper, there is further lore beyond this list.
- Timelines in Numbers are physical parts of space-time that can be viewed and travelled to.
- Inside of Timelines is their respective Universe Core, which contains further specific universes with their own rules.
- The most important Timeline is the Main Timeline, which serves as a blueprint and foundation for almost every other Timeline.
- Many Timelines are host to natural Fragments, who are born into Timelines and often become their custodians.
- Timelines can be entered at any "timepoint" within them by outsiders, but too much time travelling or interference destabilizes them and causes death.
- Fragments work to avoid Timeline death, and can call upon Magnitude Fragments to help if a Timeline is in danger.
Some important nots to keep in mind:
- Timelines do not "branch" off of one another, and are discrete entities. The Main Timeline is a template the others are based off of, not the source of branching.
- There is no "many worlds" theory. A new Timeline is not "made" when a character makes a choice or decision.
Structure of Numbers' World
In a sense, Numbers is a plethora of nesting regions. The largest of these nesting regions and the backdrop for reality is known as the Infinite Void Between Timelines, or simply the "void". The void is a harsh, harrowing place - where time moves non-linearly and space is completely unarranged. It can only be safely traversed by the entities that naturally exist outside of Timelines, who are built to adapt to such strange phenomena - Fragments and Magnitude Fragments, namely.
Within this void are the Timelines themselves - huge streaks of magic tearing across empty space, infinite in number. The length of a Timeline is proportional to the amount of time it has existed and will exist for - which is typically infinite. To put it simply: from the outside looking in, any 'Y' coordinate within a Timeline is a specific locale or area: an area of Universe Core, or a universe itself; while 'X' coordinates are that location's state at any particular time. The same 'Y' coordinate may correspond to an empty part of Universe Core early in the Timeline, but may become its own universe later when the space is used. Regardless, any entity outside of a Timeline can enter it at any of these states, allowing for "time travel" in a sense.
Within these Timelines is a vast, empty space known as Universe Core. This is the land Gladar populate and fill with structures, homes, cities, and other creations. They can remove a small section of Universe Core to create their own universes, with their own unique rules and weaker types of gods.
Below is an image showing the nesting structure of the world:
Types of Timelines
There are a handful of types of Timelines, though they are all similar. This information is mostly useful for categorizing them and understanding the minute differences between them, if it comes up.
Often abbreviated to the MT, the Main Timeline is the most important. Though not the first to be created, it was the first to be truly self-sustaining and stable - and was so powerful it exuded its own enormous aura of Magninium. This aura formed an infinite number of other Timelines that mirrored the magic of the MT, populating the void with boundless alternate worlds.
It is the general place for all stories within Numbers. If a Timeline isn't specified or detailed, assume the story or world is taking place within the Main Timeline.
The preservation of the Main Timeline is one of the key tasks for many Fragments, who heavily forbid outside interference with it and do not allow people to visit it without an emergency-level reason.
Most Timelines are known as Connected Timelines, which are linked to the Main Timeline and use it as a template of sorts. All of the magic within the Main Timeline is mirrored in these Connected Timelines, which typically results in the same people being born with minute differences in personality, history, or feelings towards other characters. These can be as simple as a character choosing to eat cereal one morning out of millions, or perhaps all the characters are talking cats instead of people. The possibilities are, quite literally, endless.
Because they use the Main Timeline as a template, Connected Timelines almost always feature the same base individuals and worlds. They may be combined in different ways, but the same amount of magic still exists. For example, let's say in the Main Timeline there is someone made up of 50% "night" magic, 30% "star" magic, and 20% "space" magic. In a Connected Timeline, they may exist exactly the same, with the same amount of magic. However, in a different Connected Timeline, perhaps they only exist as a person of 50% "night" magic and are different in personality/outlook. The remaining 30% star and 20% space magic still exist in this strange Timeline - perhaps combined into a new person, serving as a different facet of the original's psyche, or perhaps they are split into two more individuals. So on and so forth.
There are infinite Connected Timelines, meaning that attempting to catalogue them all is an unending task and that some strange or distant branches may go undiscovered for long periods of time. The Coalition of Reality, a group of Fragments who govern most of Frag society, attempt to catalogue Connected Timelines by their similarity to one another, assigning them names and numbers based on criteria. For example, Timelines K-122 and K-123 would likely be extremely similar at first glance, with only minute differences; K-122 and K-9019 may have sweeping similarities but have major differences; K-122 and JI-6729 may be unrecognizable except at the metaphysical, magical level.
It is important to note that Connected Timelines do not branch off of the Main Timeline; there is no Timeline "branching" at all in Numbers. They are their own entities that begin with a similar random seed as the Main Timeline, as opposed to the Original 24, which have their own random generation.
Or, if it's simpler, just consider that Connected Timelines make every AU canon. Yes, even the crack ones.
Original 24 Timelines
The Original 24 Timelines were crafted by the progenitor god, Genesis, when they first set out to create reality. They were universally unstable and several have collapsed, though there is an effort to preserve the remainder. Travel to them is generally forbidden, as is travel out. Most individuals within the Originals, even mortals, are aware of Timelines and the nature of reality.
As they are unrelated to and predate the Main Timeline, the Originals have unique layouts, structures, and people within them. Surprisingly, several have their own natural Fragments - Frags that were born in a Timeline and have become its custodian(s) - though they generally prefer to be left alone, and do not often participate in Coalition of Reality governing.
They are named Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, etc. up to Omega. They have their own page here.
If a Timeline is not one of the Originals, then it is either the Main Timeline or one of its Connected Timelines - there are no other true Timeline 'types'.
Pocket Timelines are an artificial space, carved out typically by a Magnitude Fragment. They resemble Timelines in that time moves linearly within them, providing a stable place to form longterm societies and residences, but lack the physical-time aspect of Timelines, meaning that one cannot "pop into" a pocket Timeline at any given timepoint. In simpler terms, time travel is impossible in these spaces.
The largest pocket Timeline that is accessible to most individuals is the Coalition of Reality's Headquarters and the attached Sanctum. There are smaller ones controlled by certain factions or groups, however.
Interacting With Timelines
Though Timelines can be interacted with, the COR and Fragments often reccomend a hands-off or "silent observer" approach. Timelines were built to handle any possible actions made by the individuals within, and retain stability so long as they are not heavily influenced by outsiders.
Fragments are small shards of the progenitor deities, Genesis and Bereave, who split apart their bodies. Small pieces of their magic scattered across the existing Timelines, giving birth to Fragments, who were intimately aware of the nature of reality by virtue of being large enough pieces of Genesis and Bereave. Spurred on by a universal love of existence and reality, they chose to become guardians of Timelines, ensuring their survival.
They do this by categorizing Timelines, enacting laws on how Frags are expected to behave, regulating travel between Timelines, and assigning duties for Frags born inside and outside of Timelines. The largest organization that manages these is known as the Coalition of Reality, which many Fragments are a part of or actively employed by.
Despite there being infinite Timelines, there are not infinite Fragments - but there are a vast quantity regardless. Fragments who live in the Timeline they were born into are known as that Timeline's "natural Fragments", and their number vary greatly. Some Timelines lack Fragments entirely, while others may have thousands.
As their birth postdates the creation of Timelines and Frags were injected into them, they are technically considered out-of-Timeline actors - details below.
Timeline Destabilization & Death
Timelines have concepts known as "out-of-Timeline actors" (OOT) and "natural entities". The latter are the inhabitants of the Timeline, either born whenever it came into existence or naturally born as an expected event within it (aka children being born). Timelines naturally accomodate these individuals and their actions, having been made to adapt to their behavior. A Timeline that has no interference from OOT actors cannot destabilize.
However, OOT actors entering Timelines and influencing them can cause destabilization - as they were not accounted for when the Timeline came into existence, and their actions do not have to linearly link together in time. By maintaining a linear presence or keeping interactions as minor as possible, OOT actors can avoid destroying or derailing Timelines.
If a Timeline becomes untenable, a Magnitude Fragment can attempt to repair it, or paste over it with an almost-identical Timeline. For example, if one Timeline is destabilizing and collapsing, it may be wise to replace it with a Timeline whose only difference is the kind of cereal a character ate one morning. There is no functional difference between the two Timelines, preserving the original "story" of both, and countless lives are saved by this process.
This can become dangerous if there are no known similar-enough Timelines, or if a Timeline's story has become significantly altered by OOT individuals. This is generally why Fragments are discouraged from interacting within Timelines unless neccessary. However, as Fragments are initially born into Timelines and the remnants of Genesis and Bereave's minds once populated all Timelines, some interference of OOT actors is present in all Timelines, which can necessitate mitgation of this damage already done.
A Timeline that has shattered due to destabilization has died and cannot be replaced or reborn, even by Magnitude Fragments. It can be physically replaced by a new Timeline or copy in the space it once occupied, but there is no retrieving what was lost.
Entities outside of Timelines can enter at any point within the Timeline, but this does not imply that the entities within live predetermined lives, whose actions are decided by which Timeline they belong to. This is not strictly true; firstly the actions of OOT individuals can change the course of a Timeline and alter later events as natural entities within react to this new phenomena.
Despite this, the choices that individuals within Timelines make are still their own. It is not that being in Timeline A prompted a character to eat a certain cereal for breakfast; rather, a character eating that cereal is what led outside actors to call that Timeline 'Timeline A'. Characters that become aware of Timelines do not inherently have more free will than those that are ignorant.
Creation of the Timelines
Once, there only existed the entity Singularity, who contained all the Magninium of the world. Finding themself profoundly lonely and isolated, they tore their body apart to form two halves: the creator deities, Genesis and Bereave. In this uneven separation, however, Genesis had found themself with the vast majority of Singularity's creation-resonating magic, which spurred them to look out across the void of nothingness and see it solely as a blank canvas.
They bent the emptiness of the void into a shape - a long track of infinite space within itself. Seeing its potential, Genesis shattered tiny pieces of themselves and scattered them across this infinite space, giving rise to the first Gladar. Though disorientated and uncertain, these Gladar set off across their new space, creating structures for themselves and crafting smaller finite spaces within the Timeline, following in their creator's footsteps. These places became known as the Original 24 Timelines.
But these spaces were not perfect; in fact, they were inherently unstable. Pieces fractured, areas collapsed, and magical saturation ran rampant. And Bereave, frustrated with Genesis and believing they stole Singularity's creation magic from him, set off to further pull these Timelines apart - ruining Genesis' work further. The two squabbled and fought, occasionally being stopped or slowed by the Magnitude Fragments, who had been born as small pieces of Singularity, and had pledged themselves to protect the Timelines.
This continued until Genesis weaved together the immaculate creation - what became known later as the Main Timeline - seemingly from random chance. Its power and magic was such that upon its birth, it spawned infinite other Connected Timelines without Genesis' influence or instruction. They were so shocked at its stability, strength, and power that their mind and body shattered, forming three facets of their mind as unique individuals and populating the Timelines with the first wave of Fragments.
Some time later, Bereave came upon the remains of Genesis. In equal agony, he too split himself apart - giving rise to his own facets as well as populating the second and final wave of Fragments.
No new Fragments or Timelines have been meaningfully made since this time, though some artifical constructs and facsimiles have been born.