The Outskirts is a world existing on a different plane of existence than Earth. It is also said that it is the Outskirts of "everywhere". Those who find their way to The Outskirts rarely get away, and if they do they don't stay away for long. The Outskirts are an in-between place, with each of the Five Kingdoms representing a different in-between: Sambria between wakefulness and dreaming, Elloweer between reality and imagination, Zeropolis between magic and technology, Necronum between life and death, and Creon between time and space.
In the Outskirts there is in some people an ability called shaping. Shaping is the power to rearrange reality, although it has its limits.
However, evil has spread across the Outskirts. The corrupt high shaper, Stafford, has exiled the grand shapers, with the exception of the Zeropolite Abram Trench; the other four were forced to go into hiding. The high king has extended his control to all of the outskirts except a few hidden locations.
The Outskirts were created to be a physical/mortal world accessible by the Echolands, "a physical realm built in the afterlife" (4:384–385). It was created by six shapers: Dandalus, the first High Shaper; Gwendolyn, the first Grand Shaper of Necronum; Vershaw, probably the first Grand Shaper of Elloweer; Kendo Rattan, the first Grand Shaper of Creon; and two unnamed echoes (the first grand shapers of Zeropolis and Sambria). They were echoes of incredible power who wanted to "live" again, so they created a material/mortal world connected to the echolands. As they created the outskirts, they were nicknamed "The Framers".
The first Outskirts were a modest realm, and the six shapers brought in mortals from neighboring worlds, including Earth. "But the mortals arrived with much more powerful shaping skills than the typical echo [a sort of spirit of someone who has died], and they soon destroyed the world we had created. Everyone...brought here died" (4:385). The six shapers escaped back to the Echolands and tried again. The second outskirts were destroyed within five years of habitation.
The six shapers then "labored to restruture the shaping power itself...[as] Shaping had been the main problem. “Mortals would come to the world we had made and destroy all we had created. So we toiled until we learned to use shaping to redesign how shaping itself functioned." (4:386). The shapers divided the world into the Five Kingdoms, limiting the shaping ability in each kingdom. The third Outskirts held together because each person's shaping was limited.
Due to the Outskirts being created in the Echolands the Outskirts inherited and magnified some of the characteristics of the Echolands. The just like the Echolands, the Outskirts prevent anyone from leaving.
As a result of how the Outskirts were created, many echoes wanted to migrate to the Outskirts. "There were unfair advantages to living as an echo in the mortal world, and many echoes abused their power. Though the six of us did our best to protect the mortals, other echoes commenced to exploit and enslave them" (4:387). As a result, the six shapers "reshaped the world so that echoes couldn't dwell in the mortal Outskirts" (4:387), requiring the six shapers to leave the Outskirts (and thus defeating the primary purpose of creating the Outskirts).
After creating the Outskirts, 2 beings of the torivor race arrived. As they were too powerful to be taken on by The Framers, they were imprisoned. Trillian the Torivor was kept at the Lost Palace in Elloweer, and Ramarro (Nazeem) was kept in the Echolands.
The Outskirts was created in imitation of many of the mortal/physical worlds accessible to The Outskirts.
The Outskirts is an essentially flat world, "created entirely within the echolands," which are themselves flat (4:393).
Because all the mortals who were brought to The Outskirts came from round worlds, founder Vershaw created a sky that had days and nights and in which "he borrowed vistas from many of the different worlds that feed into the echolands, and added plenty of his own touches. Since the heavens were basically an elaborate simulation, [Vershaw] embraced the ruse, designing them without reliable patterns" (4:393–394). The sun that was placed in the sky "radiates a similar spectrum as your sun [for Earth], and the moons shed real light. But they are not actually true bodies floating in space....The skies in the original echolands have always been as you see them here. Every now and then we allowed a duskday in the Outskirts to pay homage to the original sky" (4:394).
There are at least 20 moons that appear in the sky.
Shaping and Political Divisons
The Outskirts are divided into Five Kingdoms—Sambria, Necronum, Zeropolis, Elloweer, and Creon—with Junction City in between all of the kingdoms and serving as the capital. Each kingdom has its own kind of shaping, with that shaping not able to function in any other kingdom (Apart from Wayminding). A few select individuals (such as Hunter Randolph are able to wield multiple shaping powers, though the powers are generally weaker in all but one of the kingdoms.
Leaving the Outskirts
Mortals who enter the Outskirts cannot leave, or if they do they return almost immediately. This is a result of the mechanisms of the echolands being a basis for the Outskirts. "The Outskirts was created within the echolands. Those underlying mechanisms remain in place, but in some ways they work more powerfully on mortals who come here from Outside [the Outskirts]. When a lifeforce moves to the echolands, it is never meant to return [to its original world]. When a mortal comes to the Outskirts, some of the same rules take hold. Even if you manage to get home, you are drawn back" (4:388–389).
A side effect of this draw to the Outskirts is that once a person enters the Outskirts from Earth, those who are closest to the missing person are the quickest to forget about him or her. All memory of the missing person is erased from those remaining on Earth.