The Cartographer Character in Skydwellers | World Anvil
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The Cartographer

"Ah, bright autumn days, magical storms on the horizon, and a jungle ahead to explore. It's a perfect time to be alive! Well, it would be, if I wasn't already dead."  
-The Cartographer

A Life of Exploration

While alive, the Cartographer was a great explorer. The founder of the charters, she started the group by leading an expedition to verify claims that the ancient city of Dawnhaven had survived the fires of the Ashes War. The group was successful in more ways than one - over the course of the year-long adventure, they discovered three new species, five new powders, one magical item, roughly 1,500 acres of ruins, and the small shelf that remained of the city's archives, which was a vast store of information to the fledgling Cities.

That was just the beginning. The Cartographer went on a total of twenty-seven expeditions over the course of her life, filling up the catalogs of three series of volumes - plants, animals, and phenomena of the Outer Realm (with the help of other charters, of course). Each expedition was filled with adventure and daring, and it was largely thanks to the riveting journals she published that the newly organized charters saw such a steady stream of new recruits.

Many people compare the Cartographer to renowned Grand Charter Samuel Wintersplit. And it's true that both were extremely similar, with Wintersplit even taking direct inspiration from the Cartographer. Both were groundbreaking charters that made incredible discoveries over the course of their career. The biggest difference was the sense of duty. Wintersplit took breaks between expeditions and helped his discoveries ease naturally into Skydweller life. The Cartographer went on adventure after adventure, filling up logbooks, journals, and volumes with her discoveries and experiences. She dabbled in science and was a fairly great leader, since she did organize the charters, but to her, it was mostly a way to explore the open sky. The benefits to the Cities were a welcome bonus.

"My greatest pride is that so many people take heart in exploration just as I do, and have found a way to benefit our homeclouds with every expedition. Oh, and the maps. Falls, I'm proud of my maps."
-The Cartographer

Other than her imprint and her journals, the greatest legacy of the Cartographer was her maps. Over one hundred of these detailed, accurate, and wholly useful sketches were made and later colored over the course of her life. The Intercity Cartography Station's map room still boasts over fifty of these, even two centuries after her death! Her maps are her namesake and one of her greatest gifts to the generations of charters to come.

Legacy of an Imprint

Of course, upon her death, the Cartographer didn't just simply die. Any Skydweller writer who had a steadfast, profound, and meaningful interaction with writing and journaling doesn't just die. Their soul passes on, yes, but they leave an imprint of themselves wandering the sky, as well - often in the void of imagination between people's minds and their journals. It's an ancient art known as Quillcraft, and the Cartographer didn't exactly mean to do cast it, but her prolific writings were enough to create a fairly strong imprint.

The Cartographer even has perhaps the most special imprint of all. As a writer, journaler, artist, and scientist all her life, her imprint became almost real. Incorporeal, but able to walk the sky and not just people's minds. Like a ghost. The imprint maintains her wit, smarts, spunk, and, most importantly, her wanderlust. She travels the Outer Realm, making notes in a ghostly logbook and forever searching for magical artifacts.

"Oh, dear. You look lost. Would you like some help?"

"You-you're a ghost."

"Not quite, but that's a good guess. You'll find ghosts are much more quiet. I can barely get a word out of them. So, do you want my help or not?"

Those who claim to have seen the Cartographer's imprint will note that she's quite willing to help out anyone who needs it (which is strange behavior for an imprint, as most of them fade away by interacting with mortals), is deathly protective of her ghostly notebook, doesn't miss a beat when speaking or cracking jokes, and wears a dark blue tunic lined with silver thread like the constellations of the sky.

If asked about her apparel, she says it's a way of reflecting the realm she should have joined as an imprint. But if you ask about how she managed to wind up as a physical, ghostlike being, she'll just mumble about a 'battle of wits' and fix the strange hat on her head (the one that looks like a baseball cap). Any further prying and she'll vanish, so it's not advised to poke into her business - or the business of any non-ghosts, for that matter.

Notebook of the Cartographer
Current Status
Trying to discover if she can communicate with ghosts
Current Location
Circumstances of Death
A heroic sacrifice on a dangerous quest
Noblelore City
Place of Death
Tanglepeak Caverns
Bright blue, often glinting in some sort of light
Charcoal black, cut short, and often pulled into a bun
Skin Tone/Pigmentation
Heavily tanned skin and a star-shaped birthmark on her right shoulder
145 lbs

A Final Adventure
The Cartographer's most renowned mission is probably her mission to the caverns of the Tanglepeak Mountains, as it was the one she lost her life in. In a race to discover a priceless magical artifact, the Cartographer saved two interns who had insisted on tagging along from a rockslide, but in doing so, put herself in harm's way. To this day, no one knows who got the artifact, though some suspect the interns buried it with the Cartographer's body as a way to honor her. At the time, she was nearly a hundred years old, but had come out of her...well, it wasn't retirement so much as confinement to the
Intercity Cartography Station to work on scientific projects in order to keep her safe from dangerous exploits.

Regardless, she left the confinement in order to keep the artifact out of the hands of dangerous people. As always, she brought a notebook on the trip. No one knows where the notebook is, though it's suspected that it might be hidden somewhere in the Station for some adept charter to find it in future years. If it is found, it would likely contain detailed sketches and maps, breathtaking descriptions of the expedition, and all of the Cartographer's thoughts as she took what would be her last adventure.
Crest of the Charters, illustrated by the Cartographer herself

Although the Cartographer's imprint has been spotted a couple of times, she seldom shows herself unless someone is desperately lost in the Outer Realm. However, recent reports indicate that she might have a soft spot for new Charter recruits and interns, taking time out of her precious wanderings to keep an eye on them as they train.

"Alright, newbies, it's time for your first expedition! Remember the three rules?"

The fledgling charters glanced at each other. They knew two rules. "Stay safe, investigate everything you can, and..."

The instructor grinned. "Keep an eye out for the Cartographer."


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7 Aug, 2023 04:22

What an evocative character. I love explorer types in general, and this is a particularly fascinating idea. I love that even long after her death, her imprint still takes the time to check in on those following in her footsteps.

7 Aug, 2023 18:30

Thank you!! I had a lot of fun writing about this one and all her non-ghost shenanigans :)

May your worldbuilding hammer always fall true! Also, check out the world of the Skydwellers for lots of aerial adventures.
11 Aug, 2023 20:24

I really liked the writing, my only question is that while Wintersplit's name is known to posterity, why hasn't her name survived? I think she is just the kind of character that my player characters can look up to as a role model.

Aspiring fantasy writer and part-time Dungeon Master. Dragon Goddess of Evera.
12 Aug, 2023 14:02

First of all, thank you!!   Second....I never really thought of a name for her. She's usually just referred to as *the* Cartographer since she's really the first and best one. I guess a formal answer could be that students in history classes learn her actual name, but most charters just call her by the Cartographer title.

May your worldbuilding hammer always fall true! Also, check out the world of the Skydwellers for lots of aerial adventures.
12 Aug, 2023 21:45

Thank You!

Aspiring fantasy writer and part-time Dungeon Master. Dragon Goddess of Evera.
13 Aug, 2023 12:39

Being so devoted to your passions that even death cannot stop you from continuing indulging in them is quite the feat. Great concept for a character, and eloquently articulated!

The Eternal Hymn sounds into perpetuity on Nascindor
13 Aug, 2023 22:30

Thank you so much!! I was super happy with the story of the article and how it turned out, so I'm glad that you enjoyed it!

May your worldbuilding hammer always fall true! Also, check out the world of the Skydwellers for lots of aerial adventures.