When the True Empire dissolved it was not merely a political dissolution. The very land itself broke and tore in the death throws of that shining world. No longer was there one world, vast in size and variety, but instead a multitude of individual realms, loosely connected. The 10,000 Disjoined Lands.
According to legends, the scholars of the so-called Second Empire attempted to find and catalog all the newly created realms. Their warrior mages went far and wide, finding new places and recording all they saw. Their official count, recorded by the Sage Galuros, was 10,384.
However, their catalogue mentions several lands that no one since has seen, and misses many that are so large and well connected that it would have been near impossible for them to be missed. It seems quite likely that new Lands are being born and others destroyed. Many have ventured forth since, to create their own indexes. The number varies from source to source. Some claim as few as 300 Lands, all constantly moving and changing to make it appear more. Others say that the number is limitless and that the mere act of looking creates more. The red-cloaked mystics of Realat preach that there is only one Land, with a multitude of aspects in different times, and that to travel between them is to venture into the past and future. However, most people seem to take measure from the survey of the Second Empire's census, and so the the Lands are known as the 10,000.
Each Land stands apart from the others. Some are small, barely large enough for a small cottage and a surrounding copse of trees. Others are vast, so huge that none could hope to traverse across them. Most fall between, ranging in size from an hour's walk to several days by horse. Some are inhabited, by anywhere from a single person to a multitude of thriving cities, others are seemingly virgin wilderness, and some just resonate with the empty echoes of past life.
The Border of a Land is a bizarre phenomenon. In all cases the Border is impenetrable, but the form it takes may vary greatly. Primal forest, giant cliffs, endless seas, burning wastes. In places where the Border can be traversed, one can walk away from the center of the Land forever, but the instant they turn back, it's but a few steps back to the Border.
Most Lands are stable. Some listed by the Catalogue of the Second Empire can still be found, more or less unchanged. But some Lands are not so enduring, and the very landscape can change in a heartbeat. Turn your eyes and look back and a mountain might replace a jungle. A sea can replace a vast plain, and the Land can grow or shrink seemingly at will. But it never happens when you're looking.
Each Land stands alone, but the Lands themselves are connected to each other. The name of the connections varies from place to place. Paths, trods, threads, and silver roads are the ones in current common usage. The number of connections between Lands varies. Some have as few as one Path, others as many as a dozen. There're rumors of central junctions connecting hundreds, if not thousands, but if any have found them, they've never told others. And the connections themselves can be as fickle as the Lands they connect. Two places might share a Path between them for a dozen lifetimes, and then it's gone as if it never were.
The act of travelling between Lands is fairly simple. Nearly anyone can be taught the necessary skills to invoke a Path and travel to the Land it connects to. The trick to passage in the Lands is not the how, but the where. Navigation is a difficult skill, made more difficult by the fact that any particular Path can vanish or change with no warning. But even as the paths change, there tends to be a sort of consistency between them. Some Lands seem to show an affinity for other particular Lands. Others show affinity for certain types of Lands. For example, the Temple of Lcha't almost always has a Path that connects to a Land containing dense forests. Gregor the Mad's Tower is always upon the sea, and nearly always connects to three or four Lands with large ports.
A skilled traveller is one that has learned to pick the Paths that take them to their destination without travelling through dangerous places or leaving them stranded in a Land where all Paths disappear. Knowledge of a stable series of Paths, or even just a likely shortcut, can be worth a lot to someone in need of passage.
Because of the way the Lands and Paths change, traditional maps are all but useless when navigating the Disjoined Lands. Good maps are exceedingly hard to come by, and those that exist are almost as hard to read and use. Most try do describe the affinities between the various Lands or note Paths that have traditionally been stable, or at least cyclically available. The best have both and look for all the world like mechanical schematics, with lines radiating every which way, covered in dense notations.