Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Shadows and dust

Death is one of the very few things one can rely on, although after the war death is perhaps not as reliable as it once was. People still die, but it has become common knowledge that all is not well in the Underworld; the god of the dead was killed during the War of Enlightenment, and the vast darkness of the Abyss rose to engulf whole regions of the Underworld. The result is a world where the dead often do not pass on, instead crossing back into the world of the living. This has led to a change in burial customs all across Eria, with magic and superstition mixing to form elaborate, and often gruesome, rituals aimed at keeping the souls of the dead from returning.

Closest to the material world lies the Autochthonous Depths where metaphysical hollows in the Ethereal Plane, the Necropoli, originally acting as a first stop for the dead. From here the Ferrymen would transport the souls on the Rivers of the Underworld to Tartarus, or they would drift into the Lower Mysteries. Even before the war not all the dead would pass on - some ghosts would have some unfinished business among the living that bound them to remain. 

These days there are few Ferrymen left and many of the Rivers are swallowed by the Abyss, cutting many Necropoli off from the rest of the Underworld. These have now become swamped by the relentless influx of new souls, causing a growing overpopulation of the Autochthonous Depths, forcing more and more to drift back into the world of the living.

Many of the dead will be too traumatised to retain much in the way of an intellect, instead clinging to a primordial urge to seek a way to pass on. To these poor lost souls the call of the bottomless cold, dark waters of flooded caverns offers a seductive call. Once they wade in they are swallowed by the darkness and sink into the Abyss.

In some Necropoli the passages leading to flooded areas have been sealed, leaving the dead no way out. Here souls will scratch and claw at the barricades while more and more join the throng until they lose their last fragments of humanity and simply petrify.

Not all these trapped souls drown, succumb to the hopelessness, or flow back in to the material world. Some realise that the cramped corridors of the Necropoli are perfect hunting grounds. They become spectres, carving power and a sense of function out of the afterlife. Some of these nightmarish and predatory ghosts can become immensely powerful.

The fall of Tartarus and the overall weakening of the Umbral barriers following the War of Enlightenment has resulted in the appearance of a new metanormal on the world stage, the Geist. The particulars are still somewhat uncharted, but the consensus is that they most closely resemble Umbrians, in that they are the result of the merging of an ethereal entity with a human soul. Whereas the Umbrians are created at birth, the Geists come into the world at the moment of death.

The Geists stand with one leg in either world, and they have quickly found their place in a society that is becoming ever more aware of its mortality. They often find work as psychopomps or wardens against ghosts.

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