The Wheel is a natural phenomenon in Eora that is responsible for the cycle of rebirth, allowing souls to pass from one life to another.
When an individual dies, their soul moves forward into the In-Between, which is a shadow world where souls wander after death. Using pillars of adra, souls then enter a place known as The Beyond, the realm of the gods, before they are reincarnated back into the world. Most times this process takes several years, but it can also be very brief, with a soul reincarnating immediately.
Souls are assigned to new births via a soul lottery, although sometimes the gods will intervene directly. Many kith devote themselves to a particular god to avoid their soul ending up in the lottery. The gods may use these souls in different ways:
- Galawain might use the souls and characteristics of dedicated followers in prototypes of new monsters.
- Rymrgand holds special control over pale elf souls in The White that Wends, protecting them from entropy but also assigning them back as pale elves every cycle.
Taming The Wheel
Over two-thousand years ago, the Engwithans (an ancient civilization) learned to manipulate souls. During their time, the Wheel caused many soul maladies because the flow of souls was inconsistent and without real direction. Together with the Huana in the ancient city of Ukaizo, the Engwithans constructed a giant machine to seize control of the process. The machine steered souls into The Beyond from the In-Between, much like damming a river, to control and direct the flow of souls.
The Engwithans, who became the gods, took direct roles in controlling the newly improved process. For example, Berath became the key figure in maintaining the metaphysical cycle, while Eothas helps keep souls in motion. The gods use the essence that a soul "sheds" in the Wheel (known as entropy) to sustain themselves.
Breaking The Wheel
|“||Cresting the top of a fallen tower, you finally get a clear view of Eothas. He stands, legs astride, next to a great stone monument ringed with eleven cavernous alcoves. All but three hold a gargantuan skeleton, bones scrubbed clean by the city's storms.
An immense Engwithan machine floats above the monument, suspended by invisible energy emanating from a well of light beneath it. Great brass rings spin around a core of metal and adra at the machine's center. Periodically, Eothas' massive arms swing back. The movement alone is enough to draw great gusts of wind toward him. When they come down on the machine, the impacts are accompanied by eruptions of electricity, fire, and smoke. The hundreds of luminous adra pillars across Ukaizo sympathetically dim in a rippling wave that spreads out from the machine.
|~ Viewing the Engwithan machine at Ukaizo on Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire
The tampering of the Engwithans was so extensive that over the centuries the natural rebirth process became reliant on the machine at Ukaizo. The process had deteriorated to the point that it could not return to its original state.
In 2828 AI, Eothas, in an effort to diminish the role of the gods and elevate kith, destroyed the machine in Ukazio, grinding the process to a halt. Souls from newly deceased now pool in the In-Between, unable to pass to The Beyond and to new births.
- POE2 cyclopedia, The Beyond: "The Beyond is a metaphysical concept for where souls go after death before they are reincarnated back into the world. This is also the realm of the gods."
- Kickstarter Update #5: "..all mortal bodies contain perceptible energy bound to the individual, and that once they die, their energy will move forward in the eternal cycle" and "Often this slumber lasts for years of "real" time, but occasionally it is brief, with a soul immediately moving on to a new life."
- Kickstarter Update #24: "To such believers, choosing to not worship or is to risk spiritual confusion and aimlessness in the afterlife. They speculate that the faithless are entered into a "lottery of souls" from which many will wind up no better -- or much worse -- than they did in their last life."
- Pillars of Eternity Guidebook Volume One, pages 22-23
- Into the White Void
- Burned Book of Law
- J.E. Sawyer post on Tumblr: The Wheel is a natural phenomenon that was regulated so heavily by the Engwithans that the destruction of the regulating machines does not return it to its natural state, but leaves it effectively broken. Berath uses the analogy of a river that has been so extensively dammed for so long that removing the dams cannot possibly restore the river’s original, natural flow. I.e., the machines at Ukaizo are now (at the time of Deadfire) integral to the Wheel’s process of taking souls into the Beyond. When they are broken, the natural process cannot resume on its own because it has been subverted for over two thousand years."
- Berath dialog after Magran's Teeth: "Soul essence sustains us. We feed off it, off the little fragments you mortal kith shed like snake skin as you pass into your next life."
- Post on Josh Sawyer's Tumblr