Ramon’s Guide to Places of Shadow and Sorcery

Image result for HoM&M III necropolis

“They’re already dead, they just don’t know it yet!”

Instead of a normal lecture, I figure I’ll just chronicle my own travels and recant later.  The realms of dream proved invigorating, mortifying, thrilling and so much more!  However, my desire for adventure has taken me to far more chilling places.  Lands of Death, Darkness, Disaster and so on!  As always, I am forever devoted to pursuits of knowledge.  And through my travels and magical catalogue of thoughts and sights, you too may travel with me to parts unknown and dreadful.  Should anything unfortunate happen to me, let this document be a word of warning!

Author’s Note: I did an old school reorganizing of 4e’s (and I guess 5e’s) Feywild, I figure it’s the Shadowfell’s turn.  Many of its ideas were appropriated from past sources already, so that makes things a little easier.  As for the other stuff?  Well, once again, time to improvise!  Also, keep an eye out for some crunch that relates to this post.

 

So you’ve found my series of notes and musings, which has lead you to this very magical book artifact!  (Don’t worry, I have countless more to simultaneously scribe my words just like that.  Call it a Press of Printing!)  If your curiosity was not satisfied with discussions of the fair folk, as well as the deeper layers of the dream, perhaps the macabre and morbid is more suitable?  Thanks to a planar caravan of ornately dressed planes wanderers, I have been given the chance to unveil the darkest secrets of known reality… or at least, some of them!

 

 

Moil, the Trapped City that Waits

This demiplane once hailed from a distant world in the Prime Material called Ranais.  The Demon Lord of Undeath, Orcus, secured the once mighty city under his dread grasp.  He whisked the land off to a demiplane of his own design, where he corrupted and ruined all within his new dominion.  Now, the city stands as a bleak mockery of its former self, a testament to the might of Orcus himself!  But, Moil was never an innocent land.  It was forged as the capital of an empire that revered Orcus quite heavily.  It was an empire built on fell magic, death and destruction.  In fact, when the city was taken by Orcus, he scorched the rest of the world, taking countless dead with him for his own devices.  But, this act was mainly to teach those within the city who drifted away from devotion to Orcus.  At some point, they could be next.

The current state of Moil is a grim and eerie place, primarily populated by the undead.  Buildings shoot up to the sky in the form of mighty spires, connected by bridges.  The denizens await in fear and awe over the return of their dark lord.  Orcus himself was kept away for eons, after dealing with a deathly battle against Kiaransalee.  Orcus supposedly was killed, but his presence continued to linger on within Moil.  This is especially true within a grim locale known as The Black Temple.  Here, the temple carries a strong essence of the Demon Lord, acting as a monument to his reign of evil and death.  Likewise, a dense black fog permeates throughout the boundaries of the grounds, covering the seemingly eternal spires that jut from bottomless pits and well into the city’s “skies”.  In truth, this fog covers the borders that could lead into the Negative Energy Plane.

The city itself is a trap of sorts.  To ensure that Moil remained in his clutches, Orcus severed the city’s connection to as much of the deepest parts of the Ethereal as possible.  While accessing it isn’t excessively challenging, escape is a truly epic quest to behold.  Some scholars within the city who still have their wits about them know one thing; escape is possible by diving into the deadliest depths of the Negative Energy Plane.  This is due to the planar tethers that Orcus forged to help keep the city as he saw fit.  Consequently, it made gates into that plane a little easier to manifest.  The citizens themselves find themselves unable to use said gates, as they are quite literally rejected by the doors themselves.  Worse yet for “visitors” stuck in the city, should they die, there is an 80% chance that they’ll automatically reanimate as a zombie within the city’s clutches.  The numbers continue to grow until an hour has passed, in which the body will reanimate if it hasn’t already.

Such a fate would befall me, had it not been for some of the very dwellers in this dark city!  As angered Moil Zombies awakened with the intent of tearing me apart, an unlikely savior emerged from the depths.  One such resident is a dark mage by the name of Gal’gryx Grazathar, a necromancer with a bounty on his head, due to switched allegiances with Kiaransalee.  In exchange for safe travel, I’d be more than willing to owe a favor in the near future.

 

 

Dimension of Death (aka Fugue Plane or Limbo *Mystara*)

A place of death, but not an inherently horrifying one at that.  A well lit sky is cast upon an otherwise gloomy plane.  In fact, depending on how close to death a traveler is dictates how close to night they perceive the sky above them.  This place is a neutral zone, a place of judgement to help determine the afterlife.  While some wandering souls travel to dominions related to their pantheon of choice, many congregate here for a less biased final judgement.  However, beyond these places of final ruling upon the soul, there are other sites to be wary of within the dimension.  Many forces of death itself dwell here, whether as a destination or as a treading grounds.  In fact, the plane touches upon countless other locales, like the Demiplane of Shadows, Evernight, Gloomwrought and more.

The primary destination of the plane is The City of Judgement.  A wall of faithless and blasphemous souls judged for punishment line the city, acting as a means of defense against outsiders.  However, that hasn’t stopped raiding fiends from intentionally trying to pry souls from the wall to use for their own ends.  Within the city’s center is the Crystal Spire or the The Courts of the Dead.  In here, dead souls are taken to a spiritual being of death known as a “Psychopomp”.  Their deeds are reviewed before them, both good and bad.  After this review concludes, they are sent to a court-like chamber or “The Judge’s Rites”, where they are put on trial to see which afterlife is the most suiting.  Either a deity or a powerful patron will fill the role of judge, depending on the spirit’s review of their life deeds.  The outcome of the trial will allow the judged to pass “into the light”, traveling through a planar barrier into their decreed afterlife.  Endless trials occur each day, with seemingly endless court rooms filled with wayward souls and patron judges.  Said judges aren’t always beings of death either.  While it’s common to see the likes of Wee Jas, Kelemvor, even Myrkul, Nurell, Nyx or Hel; it’s possible to see countless beings of different portfolios and domains.

Several deities have made their stay within the plane, as well as other forces either acting according to them or in opposition.  The Castle of Hel sits in the northern facing reaches of the realm, as a fortress of the Valkyries sits not far away.  The patrons of the Malpheggi have even allowed a home for their kind to dwell as well.  For curious onlookers, an enclave forged by rogue Red Wizards have been forged here.  Many Necromancers from Thay consulted experts in Divination who revealed Szass Tam was doomed to fail, at least in this timeline.  Out of fear, the casters who aligned with him fled their nation and retreated to one of the grimmest planes in the multiverse.  Of course, had they consulted the right powers, they could have jumped to a timeline where he succeeded in taking over Thay.  The huddled group of necromancers are brash and rude, carrying a lot of attitude and ideology of their homeland.  While they hold little strength or sway, they wish to keep anything non-Thay out… as well as a lot of forces of Thay too!

The Grand Festival and The Graveyard are certainly more habitable than the rest of the plane, at least for living wanderers like myself.  In the case of the former, the Grand Festival is a celebration of life and an acceptance of death.  Here, the souls of the dead are honored constantly and the denizens of the living world pay tribute in a variety of ways.  Unlike the rest of the plane, this place is vibrant and colorful; its powers even affect the mind for the better, especially a mortal mind who has been bogged down by the rest of the plane’s gloom.  The more vicious and hateful undead avoid this locale at all costs.  It is rumored that this region is coterminous with the Prime Material, as it allows the bridge between the dead and the living to fade for upwards to a day or two, when conditions are right.  Plus, it seems to merge with mortal celebrations that match its own.  The Grand Festival is one of the few places mortals can visit, beyond the Globe Cemetery.  Said cemetery is a massive place, often well lit by candle light.  It is here that a grave marker for the deceased has been archived, a place for mortals to pay respects.  Those who visit from the festival often find their way here.  The cemetery is a safe haven, a place of solitude and meditation.  It is probably the most peaceful place in the plane.

However, this realm carries some true dangers as well.  There is a dark secret of The Realm of the Dead, known as Erasure.  For those who find life too painful, let alone any existing, there is a realm that completely wipes one from all known space and time.  The realm of erasure is a demiplane that resides in the darkest and most disturbing corner of the plane.  Those who enter it slowly vanish from all reality, leaving no trace of evidence that they existed at all.  This is only stalled by one’s will to exist.  Most enter with the intent of quickly disappearing.  The ruler of this domain is an amorphous entity that is one with the plane known as Nihil.  As from a common adage, “nothing exists in Erasure!  Not even Nihil, and especially not you!”  Nihil’s identity is not known.  It is thought that it was a cast out Daemon of the Grey Wastes, embodying all of the death and hatred associated with their kind.   Needless to say, I have avoided this place, preferring brief stops to other realms outside of The Grand Festival and The Globe Cemetery.

 

 

 

The Machine Cyst

It is here that creatures called Sheens were spawned.  These mechanical nightmares exist to serve and propagate in the name of the machine cyst.  Operating as a hivemind, they consume and build endlessly.  Their home realm is a biomechanical wasteland of synthetic, chrome colored “flesh” and “dirt” with endless wires and tubes running in and out.  Whirring and chirping mechanisms are always seemingly running in this living yet artificial hell.  The towering Power Trees seem to be a major fixture here, rather than a thankful rarity.  It could be said that a whole cluster of them makes a machine forest of sorts.  Any once-organic life has either willfully or forcefully been converted into one of the many inorganic monstrosities that “populate” this expansive weaving of wires and plates.  And for any other “Organic” that dares set foot into the demiplane?  Annihilation is their most likely fate!

Now, how could such a plane of technology run amok find its way to the Prime?  Planewalking scholars claim that it has a parasitic relationship with the Outer Plane of Mechanus.  While not a force of law, per se, the nature of the Machine Cyst operates in a way similar enough to the workings of Primus and their Modron forces.  While no Sheens are permitted on the LN Clockwork Plane, they have found ways to briefly interact with it for their own benefit.  Supposedly, the Cyst has transposed itself into a demiplane.  It wields the mechanical energies of Mechanus to further empower its own constructs.  Plus, it uses it as a means of producing portals to other planes, especially the Prime Material.  This has been made more evident with invading fleets becoming more powerful and numerous.  And on top of that, they’ve become more widespread between various Prime worlds!

As for the machines themselves?  Each of them seems to operate on some sort of duty, not too unlike the Modrons.  Many of the Sheens are built for a specific utility, such as digging, building or transportation.  While not built for combat, they can hold their ground quite well.  For the models that aren’t built to fight?  They prove to be far more of a challenge.  Lances of light, blades of advanced metalworking, torches glowing in colors never seen in natural fire!  Should an artificer survive an ordeal with these mechanical brutes, the potential for research would be boundless!

Now, how did a wandering chronicler like me manage to make his way into and out of the plane?  Fantastic question!  I might have called upon a favor from a dark sorcerer I rescued from Moil…  Needless to say, having one’s soul bound to a construct is a horrible thing, even if it’s for a short time.  Of course, I had to find my way back to my body and undo the ritual myself, as the sorcerer refused to help further.  Accursed two-faced dark mages!  It certainly helps that he created the portal as a trap…  Not that the Dimension of Death was the most wonderful place to explore either.  Even in neutral space, the dark mage taunts me.  Mind you, I shall stop his petty antagonism somehow…

 

 

The Feral Wyld

A perversion of The Happy Hunting Grounds, The Spirit World, Arborea, Lamannia and The Beastlands!  This foul menagerie was the result of a multi-deity / powers “collaboration” between Erythnul, Yeenoghu, Sekolah, Merrshaulk, Malar and Baphomet.  And by collaboration, I mean co-opting an existing planar retreat for all means in dark magic, demonic energies and destructive reign.  This demiplane may have been a rest stop for reflection and awe over the magnificent potential of nature, but those days had long past.  What could have started as a peaceful nature sanctuary became an observatory for the worst of nature itself!  In fact, the Sylvan territory of Antorek owes its very existence to this quarantine of wicked flora and fauna.  When the God Dragon crashed into the realm of the fey, even the Unseelie were taken in by his plight.  The roots of the curse come from harnessing the fell powers of the Feral Wylds themselves!  While Antorek is a neutral realm verging on good, this place is the fae sphere’s dark shadow.

The expansive grounds of the Wyld were forged for one purpose and one alone, returning life to brutal savagery and the worst that nature had to offer.  It should come as no surprise that this floating space has tethered that connect it to the Conflicted and Lower Planes of Pandemonium, the Abyss and Carceri.  While not directly tied to the forces of the Abyss, its influence still proves quite strong.  For the thrill seeking planewalker, it’s hard to honestly differentiate this place from a layer of the Abyss itself!  The “wildlife”, if one can call it that, carries the stench of abyssal corruption.  To an extent the taint of other evils have burned their marks into that which dwells here.  Fiendish features sometimes subtly manifest in strange animals and plants, ranging from an off-tone sheen or color to more overt features; sharper teeth, twisted horns, a literal stench of the underworld.

Much like Antorek, this lair of wicked wilderness is very much cursed.  Much like the destructive werebeasts that populate the plane, even a heart of gold can be taken by the forces of the Feral!  Over time, the body is reshaped in something neither man nor beast; sometimes a hybrid of plant too.  And the mind?  Filled with the worst of primitive urges and bestial behavior.  Even those changed into prey find themselves overcome with a desire for violence, even if its defensive.  The beastmen and plantmen reborn from these maledictions of madness are devotees to the causes of Chaos and Evil, through a primal lens.  Those who prove themselves even gain the boon of becoming true fiends themselves, typically demons.

As for me?  My planar aptitude keeps me pure and sane…. and priority one!  A whole plane of bestial evil against me.  Skulking about in the deadliest game is not my idea of a good time!  Yet, here I am, evading fiendish beasts.  Everything is a blur, it has been for hours.  A living world, turned against you.  My knowledge of disguise and illusion can only go so far, but I doubt I can pose as an abyssal-touched anthropomorphic beast or plant too well.  Either well, I linger and wander in my thoughts, hiding from certain and quick death by the claw and fang.  But, what’s this?  A strange light?  That wretched mage, here to taunt me?  Well, may as well do as the beasts do here…  Have at you, Shade!

 

 

Evernight

My introduction to the city was thus.  In a seized moment, I found myself leaping from a tree like a clever predator and tackling the gloating mage through his own portal.  Beyond there?  A council chamber of ghasts, ghouls and other horrors; caught completely off by a mercenary blasted by thunderous force against a wall.  Time will tell what this group of living dead think, especially after killing what I can assume was their own mage, the double crossing bastard.  Now, let’s get my mind focused before I face certain doom!

The Shadovar are perversions of a once-mighty ancient empire.  Their dark sorceries extend well beyond the Demiplane of Shadow.  One of their experiments was the result of monitoring the city of Neverwinter from afar; a bustling emerging power on the world of Abeir-Toril.  From their research, they crafted their own twisted replica harnessing the essence of the Demiplane of Shadow, the Para-Elemental Plane of Magma and the Negative Energy Plane.  The end result is Evernight.  This grotesque copy is overrun by the living dead, dark religious worship and an oligarchy parody of the crown itself.  However, the city has long since evolved from being a mere base of operations.  Trade tends to involve slaves imported for various dark deeds.  In fact, the double crossing dark mage brought me here with such an intent!  Good thing my suave demeanor and many talents impressed the council, after I slew the traitor…   But, more on the council later.

As operations began to shift focus to Thultanthar, the Shade Enclave, the chaotic and violent politics of the city began to see a shift.  However, the Shadovar still have a vested interest in the city.  In more recent years, the necromancy division of the Red Wizards also took an interest, under the guidance of Zulkir Szass Tam.  But, with rumors of Szass Tam’s exile from Thay, some say another has taken up the charge to spread Thayan influence.  This has naturally caused a clash between these two forces, which the tribunal demands is taken outside of the city.  And even then, they aren’t the only outside influences within the city.  Non-Undead merchants and planewalkers who have secured sales visas and tokens have have their way into the trade hubs within the city, if only to dispense in various strange (and usually equally macabre) goods.  Given that this demiplane takes from other planes, it’s safe to say that there are many portals and gates, called “crevices”, that lead in and out of the city.  In fact, many lead to Neverwinter itself!  It’s for that reason that urban legends of haunted alleyways and monsters under the bed have formed.

Current order of the city exists, but in a loose state.  Undead roam the horrid streets, often mauling and slaying any intruder they come across… especially a living one.  Anything remotely resembling order is handled by a council, The Tribunal.  This political group is made up of powerful undead, particularly priests and spellcasters, that are equally strong in their devotion to Orcus.  While their approach tends towards hands off, they aren’t above sanctions and action when it proves to be far beyond what the rest of the city can handle.  Likewise, they have put some motions in place that prove to benefit them.  One unpopular rule is allowing citizenship to living creatures that prove themselves useful to the Tribunal in some way.  This means that the undead creatures of the city cannot attack them without proper reason.  However, living beings who trespass without the blessing of the tribunal or other faction are fair game.  This is doubly the case should an outsider do something against city standards, such as interfere with slaves or magical practices.

The city is broken up into a variety of districts and chunks, all distortions and strange takes on the original city.  Where a river should be, lava fills the dividing paths throughout the city canal, due to the Charnel Mountain (a distortion of Mount Hotenow) continuing to churn out molten magma that flows well outside of the city.  For example, the Graveyard doesn’t fit the purpose one would expect.  While a place for undead to rest, it’s also ritual ground to enact a parody of a funeral service.  This is usually a means of punishing a living creature before they are feasted upon or used for other purposes.  The Corpse Market is a bazaar overrun with ghouls trying to profit off the meat and bone of various slain victims.  Of course, there are still plenty of items that aren’t made from the bodies of victims.  While there are many districts for the commoners, even Evernight has its own home for the elite with the Black Mount.  Upon this raised chunk of ground, larger built up homes house powerful ghouls, ghasts and far more.  The House of Screams is the most famous location, acting as a conference center for the Tribunal on the higher floors, while the cellar is a place for handling “civil disputes” (which typically end in violence).  Another place of great importance is The Temple of Filth.  It was once dedicated to various deities of death, such as Bhaal and Myrkul.  However, years of neglect have allowed the forces of Orcus the Demon Lord of Undeath as well as the Ghoul King (a puppet placed by him) to become the focus of said temple.  Ursuntos the Highpriest commands utmost respect here, in his temple built up of flesh and bone!  Strangely enough, the temple has a “super weapon” composed of Positive Energy below the temple, well safeguarded and blocked off.  Only a few clergy know about it.  This was likely a Shadovar experiment or the workings of the previous religious establishment.  Castle Nowhere is a cursed location, filled with trapped spirits that hunger for all eternity.  Rumor has it that the location itself has a habit of appearing and disappearing without provocation.

 

 

The Roads of Fury

At the fringes of Evernight are gateways to many other places both fantastic and awful.  Given how I secured a merchant’s token with ease, you can guess that I’ve made it out here, myself.  The space between the city and the gates beyond is a burnt out wasteland.  Fire and ash have as much power as the undead in the city do.  What should be Neverwinter Woods is instead a burnt out husk covered in ankle-deep grey ash and darker grey smoke.  The Burned Woods leads up to the Charnel Mountain, an infernal furnace that seems to be ever burning.

A paved passageway emerges from the soot and cinder, black as tar.  For some reason, it remains devoid of any ash or dirt.  It might very well be the only safe passage outside of the city walls.  Sentient and angered trees known as Ash Trees have a habit of attempting to grab and squeeze the life out of victims through their charred and blackened branches.  The roadway seems to lead in multiple forked directions, some splinter into portals constructed of hardened magma and rock, while others lead directly to the mountain itself.  Several bandits have found their way into this plane, for whatever reason.  As such, many safe-houses and hideaways have been set up by suspicious and sinister personnel.  Many of these outlaws have even weaseled their way into Evernight, in hopes of gaining defense or credibility when their other plans fail.  Many of these raider enclaves are built of strong stone and earth, making them a little bit resistant to the oppressive heat and smoldering rain that proves to make this place unbearable at times.  As for the mountain itself, it’s a churning hellfire with the worst of undeath and flame creatures hanging within its vicinity.  Fiery undead and corrupted elementals tend to protect the few sights in and around the mountain.

On the subject of portals, just as the city houses a few planar “crevices” and gates, so do the paths away from it.  The mountain itself holds a number of dimensional jumping platforms to the Elemental Plane of Fire and various connected derivatives, such as Magma and Steam… even the Negative-Touched Elemental Plane of Ash.  On the subject of Negative Plane, gates to it exist where its energies are strongest.  Outside of the city?  This is found in the Shrine of Nerull that somehow found its way to the foot of Charnel Mountain, as well as the Den of the Hunters raider gang.  In the case of the latter, this group of bandits was composed of devotees of Malar and other deities of the hunt.  Those who have failed to live up the the group’s standards have been twisted by the plane into bestial shapes, becoming the “hunting hounds” of this cult.  The charred remains of a sacrificial bonfire act as a door to either the Negative Energy Plane or Quasi-Elemental Plane of Ash, depending on how recently active the fire was.  Nerull and Malar cults aren’t the only strange outsider religions.  An offshoot of the Shadow Druids have found their way here as well.  This sect takes a literal stance, feeling that the Shadow is the truest essence of life there is.  They seek to not only mend the burnt forest here, but find ways to travel into the Demiplane of Shadows.  While there is no physical entryway, they have perfected rituals to travel there.  Should you ally with them, you may have a chance to step into Shadow itself.

 

 

Demiplane of Shadows

Where Positive and Negative energies meet, the Demiplane of Shadows emerges.  And deep within the furthest pockets of the ethereal, it proves to be the largest of all demiplanes… perhaps even larger than the mysterious Demiplane of Dread!  A twilight clad void where the stuff of light and dark collide in a horror crescendo.  What is Shadow, exactly?  Well, it’s not the lack of lack cast off of an object.  Or rather, not in this case.  This is the result of a paradoxical energy hybrid.  Such things have been created before, but they usually end in disaster.  But, the strange thing about the Demiplane of Shadows?  It’s quite stable, dreadfully so.  In fact, it has created and rewritten its own rules.  The visuals of shadow always seems to be cast in either dawn or dusk.  As such, everything carries a soft and dim light or sharp shades of darkness.  Likewise, color has a habit of being muted here, into pastel-like shades at times too.  Positive and Negative vortices hover in the sky, continuing to influence the plane while energies continue to mix and twist in new and incredible ways.

Everything about the demiplane is uncanny, it’s a shadowy cousin that’s built from energy much like the prime.  However, it’ll never truly make a proper replica of anything from the material.  Things built of shadowstuff are distorted, warped, a distant mockery of true organic life.  However, that hasn’t stopped many from trying to stake their own claim and make something from shadow itself.  The Shadovar, formerly Netherese, are the best example.  When their empire was falling into ruin, they fled into the demiplane in hopes of rebuilding something anew in secret.  Their plans succeeded, but at the great cost of their humanity… and possibly their souls.  Other examples occur with help or seemingly by themselves.  Environments mimicking material equivalents have shaped within the demiplane over time, sometimes later being abandoned.  All means of hills, forests, swamps and more have manifest; with shadow-forms emerging from these quasi-habitats as well.

The Demiplane of Shadow of course comes with its own dangers.  Survival without outside food and water is impossible, no shadowstuff can ever provide any sustenance or nutrients.  Anyone attempting to eat or drink shadowstuff will not satisfy hunger or thirst.  And dwelling too long here can easily send a mind into panic as well.  It’s impossible to tell what’s real and what isn’t.  And even worse, Illusions have a high probability of not only becoming real, but turning against their casters.  Also, too much influence of the demiplane can corrupt living creatures over time, molding them into shadow entities as well.  Shades, shadow beasts and more owe their current existence to dwelling too long upon this realm.

Beyond the Shade Enclave, Balefire is one of the few truly hospitable places within the plane.  That isn’t to say that Shadow’s City is inherently friendly, but one can find their place here.  A young dark elf named Acora-Shiin used shadow magics to flee from the crumbling city of Xanathalon.  A small contingent of followers and students joined to form a college of shadowy magic.  Over time, the college expanded as more interest grew and other beings of spellcasters sought refuge.  Eventually, more malicious creatures of shadow sought to attack the city, especially given its use of magical lanterns that cast its well known eerie glow.  The original founder died in the fight, as other respected allies took over.  The Shadowcrafter Hall remains not just a college, but an institution of learning for all things shadow.  The nearby Citadel of Lanterns continues the tradition of “keeping the light” within the city strong, far stronger than the hazy lights within the plane.  The Cloaked Wanderers is the official adventurer’s guild of the city.  Currently, they embark on an expedition to the Nightwyrm Fortress.

 

 

The Nightwyrm Fortress

An ancient fortress constructed by quiet and isolationist mages, it was brought into the Shadowlands in an effort for the order to continue their work in peace and solitude.  Over time, many fantastic and strange projects were conducted, as vast feats of knowledge were chronicled in their endless tomes.  This age of success was cut off when a nefarious shadow dragon, called “Urishtar”, took the fortress in violent takeover.  All but a few mages perished in the battle, as survivors fled to other distant pockets of Shadow.  Since that fateful day, this once nameless retreat had been christened the Nightwyrm Fortress.

Much of the research conducted by these spellcasters still remains well safeguarded and watched over.  However, Urishtar is more concerned with collecting his acquisitions as a hoard of otherworldly and deadly knowledge.  After all the power to truly wield the powers of shadow could prove to be quite useful to many, especially him.  He has toiled in altering the fortress into a place of nightmares for any who dare to step into his lair.  Living shadows move and twist, watching and surveying for their master.  Demonic and hellish conjurations run amok within the halls, eager to slay anything that catches their sight.  However, they equally preferring capturing victims and torturing them before the dragon grants their demises personally.

Overtime, Urishtar has recruited over vile forces to watch over the mighty keep.  Among them is Matrathar, a Larva Mage who forged an imposing outer wall of spikes, rock and bone.  This arcanist twisted by the Worm that Walks is more interested in gaining power from Urishtar.  He maintains control over the front garrisons.  A gaping chasms beyond is filled with a plague of worm-horrors under Matrathar’s control.  In secret, he bids his time in hopes that adventurers slay Urishtar in hopes of taking over the fortress.  Another “friend” is a mad hivemind of shadow-things merged from an experiment gone wrong, even before he arrived.  The conglomerate is insane beyond reason, but has become loyal to the shadow dragon after it was “rescued” from the “cruel wizards” that created it.  The gibbering thing often roams the lower grounds and dungeon depths of the fortress, attempting to eat whatever organic matter dares to trespass.  While the hivemind isn’t truly hungry, it takes personal satisfaction in consumption.

Ascending beyond the keep’s walls are soaring towers within the dead center.  The towers climb well into a darkened sky, cloaked by the misty murk of the plane itself.  It is here that the dread dragon usually rests, guarding the most valuable and dangerous of his acquisitions.  In fact, his most vile conjurations float around the tower too.  Illusions turned real, maddening constructs of shadow stuff and much more actively guard the ascending spirals within the towers.  Even without the tower’s shadowy guards, all means of booby traps line the area; ones especially meant for non-shadowkind.  Curiously, among the traps are half-realized gateways and doors into the ethereal depths themselves.  Should someone fall into one of these, they’re in for danger if they don’t have a proper destination in mind.

 

 

Gloomwrought, the City of Midnight

A grim burg hovers deep within the Ethereal depths, on the edges of the Fugue Plane in fact.  It sits as its own Gate-Town!  But, not to one of the Outer Planes, dear reader.  Oh no, it takes one to a place far worse than the prisons of Carceri!  This is a one-way jump to the infamous Demiplane of Dread; a realm so heinous that it is said to collect the most nefarious creatures known to all reality.  And like Carceri, the dimension is a prison that is known for being near impossible to break from.  Countless innocents suffer for the misdeeds of the few here.  And beyond the Darklords that haunt their own domains, other forms of evil twist and warp things around them.  These “Sinkholes of Evil” are tainting cesspools that are best avoided.  One of the consequences of these energies was Gloomwrought.  While it’s hard to say as to whether or not the city is still evil, there are malevolent essences that certainly linger about  And by sheer luck of traversing the deep ethereal, I have found it!

While far smaller, this orbiting port-city is something of a darker version of Sigil.  Foul things from the worst walks of reality have a habit of congregating here.  However, no matter how distorted and wicked both the scenery and the denizens look, neutrality is still enforced.  While no Bladed Lady haunts the halls and alleys of this dismal abode, the place still has its protectors.  Rolan the Deathless is an enigmatic and fierce leader that oversees the sprawling grim expanse.  His reign has lasted for over 3 centuries, outlasting all of his family meant to succeed him.  However, as a leader he is somewhat ineffective.  Anything but the most egregious issues pull him away from his socializing with the elite.  Those within the city know OF the powers of The Mists.  Some theorize that Rolan is a madman who intentionally sought them out.  After committing foul deeds, his city was rejected from The Mists on purpose, to spite the power-seeker.  This would explain why it exists as a lure to The Domains.  Prince Rolan will become quickly angered if this is brought up, insisting that his city is not some “dread domain” and never aspired to become one.  However, this information is kept private, even among rumor mongers.

Much like the denizens, the city itself has a strange life to it.  Dark stonework makes up majority of the structures throughout the urban expanse.  The cityscape is jumbled, with buildings seemingly piled on each other without reason.  Towers seem to sway and bend, sometimes as if they are leaning in to eavesdrop on passersby.  Buildings seemingly shift and shift at a rate more common than even Sigil.  Without the masterwork of the Dabus, new buildings seem to sprout from nowhere, as old ones fade into the depths.  No one is truly certain where these city changes come from and whose responsible.  The major powers in the city, including the Prince, have kept a sealed lip on the matter.  For many looking for a conspiracy, they can only assume that these city elites either know something or are behind the city’s strange behavior.  Some feel that Gloomwrought’s own version of The Keepers are behind this.  For those not familiar, the Keepers are an enigmatic race that seek out and protect some kind of knowledge.  Their purpose is unknown and to some they fill the role of the Dabus quite well.  Perhaps they handle things too well, in the eyes of some.  When confronted or brought into conflict, these beings will often collapse into a black goo and quickly slide away.

Several facets and groups are major players within the town, beyond the elites within Prince Rolan’s circle.  A fair number of religious groups have found their way here.  The Churches of Wee Jas, Nerull, Kelemvor, St. Loup and other religions revolving around death have established themselves well within the bleak cityscape.  The Veiled Society controls all the various entertainment and pleasureful indulgences that line the city.  Their end game and motivations are as mysterious as the organization itself.  The Tenebrous Cabal is an off-shoot of Balefire, a city from the Demiplane of Shadow.  They, by all means, continue to the traditions of shadow magic, even though the Shadowlands only touch Gloomwrought in the same way the City of Midnight connects to other demiplanes and dimensions.  As far as planar crossroads go, one can certainly do worse than Gloomwrought.  After all, it has a means of accessing several demiplanes such as The Dream, Shadows, The Domains of Dread, Anti-Matter, The Boundless, Draedenden the Maggot Infested, The Good Kingdom, the Isle of Night, the Knowledge and many more.  Rumor has it that this city can connect to the Lady’s Mazes, allowing the trapped an easy out.  Perhaps that’s not the best word choice…  No matter, I’m off to investigate a very inviting inn which reminds me of Balefire.  Something about it carries a clammy mist.  Probably different than the accursed Dread Demiplane, who knows?  I require rest after such a journey…

 

Should this book make it out of The Mists through some book-loving Vistani merchant, may it fall into the right hands….

IMAGE CREDIT: Heroes of Might & Magic III

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