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The Beneath

A hellish world, the Beneath is the subject of many people's nightmares. It is home to all sorts of demons; creatures that have been long known to feast on mortal souls for sustenance. Unlike many of the other planes of existence, the Beneath has a well-known, unchanging shape and form that consists of seven layers, each placed directly on top of the next in a shape that resembles an upside-down cone. It has been mostly mapped - and it is possible for a mortal to set up a permanent home here, although the quality of life in Hell is not likely to be anything pleasant.

Flowing through each layer is a river of some viscous black liquid known as the Way of Black Tears. This river seems inert, like any other mundane river at first sight, but anything living that strays too close will meet an unfortunate end as the river seemingly comes to life, reeling the victim in with tar-like strands before dissolving their very being within its depths. Even the demons residing in the Beneath are not quite sure what the river is or why it does this, and give its banks a wide berth. It is believed the Way of Black Tears is part of the Void that creeps upwards through the Beneath.

Demons as Adventurers

For innumerable centuries, the Beneath was cut off from the normal flow of magic through the planes, and its inherently magical inhabitants were left with one choice: find some other way to eat, or starve to death. The solution for demons has, until recently, been the energy contained within souls. By forging contracts or simply devouring them whole, demons sustained themselves.

However, in late 10080, a group of adventurers assisted in establishing an arcane wellspring within the Beneath, allowing demons to survive without the need to consume souls. Of course, a soul is still an immense bit of power, so the more ambitious and power-hungry individuals simply carry on as normal.

Without a need to constantly harm others to survive, many demons found themselves with an entire world opened to them. Some began to live more peaceful lives within the Beneath, while others travel to the Cefa'zisto to become adventurers.

The Layers

Each layer is variable in its depth, and they all host wildly different landscapes. Furthermore, each layer is subject to a certain “law” - this is not something set by the people residing on the land, but seemingly by the land itself. These “laws” have existed perhaps since the Beneath itself has. Following is a summary of each layer, its landscape, and its people.

Bathemot, Wasteland of Wrath

Law: None

To most mortals, this is what they think of the Beneath. This is a land ravaged by desolation as rivers of magma flow and volcanic eruptions are a daily occurrence. This barren land of fire and stone is inhospitable to all life. With no soil but the volcanic rock and no rain except showers of boiling blood, no plant life could ever grow in this gods’ forsaken region. Here the only source of food is scores of bodies littered throughout the terrain - as Bathemot is the battlefield for most opposing demonic armies.

Infernal pools of thought, belief, and power swirl here, giving rise to the innumerable imps that form footsoldiers of the Beneath's many armies. Additionally, the omnipresent war on this land has driven many demons to madness, twisting them into the terrifying Wrathborne.

Notable locations within Bathemot include:

  • The Black Crag: A crack in the earth with seemingly no bottom, and a spawning place for countless twisted, bestial monstrosities. Demonic generals frequently send out expeditions of underlings in attempts to capture these creatures for their war efforts.
  • Lustrous Guard: Former palace of one of the Fallen Servitors of Rudri, Barbatos. Since the 10080 demonic attack on Ageron, however, Barbatos vanished and her palace has gradually been abandoned, the demons seeking out other lives in other layers or joining the constant clashes of Bathemot.
  • The Gate of Ancients: A remnant of the Empire of the Veil, an ancient civilization which stood on Jaern directly after Torandor's destruction. Though it has lain inactive for millennia, rumors persist that it is not entirely broken and can still open a portal onto the mortal plane.
  • Annals of Rage: An oasis in the constant war that makes up Bathemot, this place is an almost idyllic monastery located atop a craggy plateau. Within it, scholarly fiends toil away, recording each battle that takes place on the layer and telling the stories of the armies without end.
  • The Boneyard: A bustling city of demons built in a valley with several colossal ribs extending over its top. Many Boneyarders operate within the business of infernal machines, with inhabitants coming in every shape and size - some even having hellish cybernetic parts to their bodies. The culture here is fairly relaxed, with the inhabitants mostly welcoming those who know how to mind their business.

Xerith, Gardens of Hell

Laws: Thy Word is Thy Oath; No Blade Nor Spell Shall Ring Forth

Xerith is the only layer that is able to grow any kind of food for the demons that live in the Beneath. To the outsider, it is a twisted garden filled with food and produce that would make a mortal retch in sickness. The only food that a mortal could safely consume here is a tuber known as blight root, though eating it is like eating hot ash from a dying fire. Few mortals come to this layer, despite its relative peacefulness compared to the rest of the plane.

The laws of this layer prevent demons from attacking one another and causing harm to the Gardens, as their destruction would have disastrous consequences for all of the Beneath. Few notable locations exist on Xerith; most of the land is rolling hills of farms and blighted waters that begin to blend together before long.

Rumors persist that a being named Aži, Serpent of The Garden lives in the center of this layer in a dense forest. Legend says it was once a minor god of Jaern before it fell to the Beneath. Almost no records exist of this being, though residents of Xerith avoid entering the central forest for fear of attracting its attention.

Parthuraz, the Tangled Jungle

Law: By Tooth and Blade Ye Shall Dine

Despite being seemingly filled with lush plants and fruit ripe for the picking, the law of this land prohibits anyone; demon, mortal, or otherwise, to eat anything but meat that they have hunted and killed themselves. The beasts of this layer are massive and difficult to kill, though, and each hunt becomes a struggle. Those breaking the Law can find themselves freezing up as their hands and feet petrify and become wood… it is thought that many of the tangled, horrid trees that make up the jungle were in fact once creatures who broke the Law of this land.

The Way of Black Tears meanders in wide arcs through its jungle, and not far from its banks are several profane temples, inhabited by the specters of priests who betrayed and mocked their gods. Many of these temples exist dotted about the jungle, with their inhabitants ever scheming and plotting to exact revenge on the deities they have grown to hate.

Other than the many temples, there is a wall of thorns and toxic sludge nestled in a meander of the Way of Black Tears - somewhere near the center of Parthuraz. This is the edge of the Rotted Grove, a location where a fallen servitor of Osiris, Beelzebub, makes their home. This fly-like fiend constantly brews and experiments, spewing out new horrifying diseases and plagues that their adherents and underlings carry to unleash upon the world.

The Rotted Grove is a horrific place. Every beast is infected, every leaf and scrap of bark is rotten but still agonizingly alive. Everywhere there is the cloying stench of degradation which warps into sweet smells that tempt every creature into consuming the diseases that plague the bodies of fallen hunters and hunted alike.

Azul, the Maddened Maze

Law: Lose Thy Way to Know Thyself

This layer is a twisted, cavernous labyrinth. While it is physically smaller than the first 3 layers, its cavernous and labyrinthine nature makes it appear almost infinite in size, the walls of the realm so thick that almost nothing but the most powerful and destructive of spells could even hope to put a dent in it. The Law of this layer turns logic on its head and undermines confidence in the self: those who are sure of their ways will, one way or another, find themselves lost, while those who enter lost and confused will find new doors opened to them.

Azul is pitch black with only blue gems to give some light (any spells that rely on light will not work in the fourth layer). Demons in the fourth layer are known to be some of the most intelligent among their kind, but they are often solitary and remain alone in deep spiritual or philosophical thought and meditation.

This layer has many rooms that are ruled over and manipulated by Ornias, fallen servitor of At'ena. This fiend is completely mad, obsessed with understanding more than is possible to know and spreading his madness onto everyone he touches. He takes the form of an emaciated, hunched man. Some rooms within Azul Ornias created include:

  • The Blue Tearoom: This room is home to those that seek answers. But they must deal with the room's owner, the demon of sin, Greed. This enigmatic fiend knows a staggering amount about the world and enjoys driving hard bargains to access his knowledge. This room has a large table that goes on endlessly, and tea cups filled with hot tea are always at the ready for the guests. The room is a light blue color all around. The table, cups, and chairs are all blue to create a sort of dizzying effect on the guests.
  • Sanctum of Time: This chamber shows the strands of time; past, present, and future all colliding and coiling in this very room. Those with an interest in ancient knowledge could stand to gain much from finding this room. This room, however, is also the home of Ornias themself - here ancient knowledge that Ornias has accumulated over the years has been stored away. His madness corrupts the time streams to create hallucinations of timelines that make no sense at all.

Elysium, the Steel Republic

Laws: Speak in Warmth, Punish in Frost

Print Elysium is the sole place that can be called a city in all of the Beneath. Though it has many laws, the greatest is that listed above. Elysians are well known for their extreme hospitality; contrasted by extremely draconian punishments. Most permanent residents of the Beneath live in Elysium. Elysium is ruled by the Steel Chancellor and their Council of Six, all mysterious fiends who have rarely, if ever been seen in public.

The city itself is a dense mash of brutalist architecture, all stone and metal lit by a constantly inoffensive gray sky. Peppering this desolate landscape are spots of color, where people have set up markets and living spaces. The Council of Six have divided Elysium into six “pits”, each with a specific purpose and special hospitality laws, as an attempt to rein in the chaos of this realm. In the very center of the city is the Council of Six's Forum, where the highest people in the land meet and rule.

The Pits of Elysium are described here in short:

  • Pit of Succor: While the demons of this pit share all they have with the community, thieves and the greedy are punished with a loss of all free will - essentially becoming zombies.
  • Pit of Cords: This is a pit of art, with most demons putting on grand shows of music and dance, and inviting guests to join in the fun. However, transgressors here are spirited away in the music to sewers, where they are tied to the walls by black cords and iron hooks, tortured in constant agony.
  • Pit of Worms: This pit is home to the Market of Worms, a place of affluence and trade. Wondrous things are sold here, from unheard-of mystical items to the best food one has ever eaten. The punishments here, though, involve being stripped of all possessions, bound, and made to struggle on the bazaar's ground like a worm.
  • Pit of Eyes: This is the hospital of Elysium, where residents are well trained in triage and healing. However, wrongdoers here are bound such that their eyes may never shut, forced to gaze up at the sky until their eyes dry away.
  • Pit of Beasts: This place is rather dull by comparison, with demons going about regular jobs like regular folk. The only excitement comes from watching the punished, who are transformed agonizingly into strange beasts and made to fight in some twisted form of blood sport.
  • Pit of Burdens: This place is almost provincial by Elysium's standards, with the folk of this pit being likely to invite a weary traveler in for a bite to eat and a warm fire. The punished here are tortured into forms that can act as tools to lighten the burdens of others - for instance, skin flayed to upholster a rocking chair, or bones sawed away to form the crutch for someone with a broken leg.

Golgotha, Graveyard of Regrets

Law: Silence Or Obliteration

The law of this land is simple and straightforward: if one speaks, they find themselves marked and swiftly hunted down by shadowy beasts - the vigil of the Golgotha graveyard is not to be disturbed at any cost. This layer is an accursed graveyard, a monument to the war that was fought so long ago and where traitorous demons are sent to be stripped of their power.

Outsiders who wield the forces of any magic will find themselves to be weakening with every step (all spells and disciplines in this place cost one extra unit and the users lose a unit every minute while in the sixth layer). Those who provide offerings to the Fallen will find some respite from the sapping of strength, and some demons come to Golgotha to make offerings to appease the Sovereign and his fallen host.

Golgotha’s ground is made from the charred and grounded bones of ancient enemies and fallen allies, giving the ground a strange feel and its blackened appearance. A winding road called the Penitent Path leads travelers to various shrines and monuments that honor the fallen demons of the first war against the gods. Upon a hill to the south of the road, one can see the Rods of Oblivion: massive towers where punished demons are chained and nailed. The towers slowly and painfully strip any that touch it of their power, reducing them to a shriveled and dead shell with minds and souls erased.

This layer is watched over by Valak, fallen servitor of T'or, and his Abyssal Guard. They maintain a constant silent vigil, and rarely fight - as battle is considered to violate the law of the land. Some notable locations in Golgotha follow:

  • Paimon's Sepulcher: A massive sepulcher dedicated to the Beneath's first Sovereign, Paimon. Demons whisper that at the center of this tomb, both Paimon’s mask and ring can be found. Some even claim that Paimon themself watches over their own tomb. So great was their power that not even death could claim them, and they wait ever so patiently for the chosen few to enter so that they may take their throne once more.
  • Rods of Oblivion: Black stone spires where punished souls are chained and nailed. It is thought that the Way of Black Tears somehow flows up inside the towers, and slowly strips any that touch it of their power and self. After some time, those tied to the Rods are reduced to shriveled, dead shells void of mind or soul.
  • The Night Keep: Home of Valak and central base of the Abyssal Guard. Getting close to the keep, one will begin to feel the weight of the guilt of both the living and dead weigh them down, choking them with tears and coughed-up blood as they try to approach. Only those granted an audience may enter safely.

Nox, the Shattered Epicenter

Law: The Silent Pact

This is the epicenter of the creation of the Beneath. There is no solid ground here, only great mounds of rock that are chained to the bottom of the sixth layer and each other, spreading out wide. Each chain is about fifty feet across and twenty feet high, forged of pure adamantite. Every so often, they clank and creak as the islands shift, but never break. Navigating between “islands” can be achieved by walking carefully along a chain, bringing some sort of flying machine, or hitching a risky ride on one of the deadly Harull worms that prowl the border between Nox and the Void.

The islands themselves are gilded cages, each with an intricate interior of rooms. Inside these stone palaces, every luxury that one could hope for can be found - though, giving into these material temptations is a dangerous endeavor. They nearly seem to be sentient, and some have theorized that the palaces themselves are a kind of demon even the Fallen Servitors dare not cross, as their power is neither magical nor martial. Time and space alike distort within the palaces, as they seek to keep their inhabitants within them forever and drain their power until the unfortunate victim wastes away entirely.

In the center of the islands, the Way of Black Tears empties down into the Void, which is situated directly below Nox. Built here is a palace like no other: the home of the Sovereign, the Malhela Rego. The Malhela Rego has no inhabitants; the only visitors are those seeking to attempt to take the throne, or those who claim to know the Sovereign’s will and communicate it to the rest of the Beneath.

Here, the only law is that of the Silent Pact between the Sovereign and the Fourteen. But as of now the Sovereign's throne is empty, and only the laws that were set by the last Sovereign remain. A single physical copy of the Silent Pact hangs in the air, words seared by hellfire into skin leather. Legend has it that this copy is written on the flayed skin of Paimon themself.

Those that attempt to sit on the throne of the sovereign will meet an untimely demise as it will absorb all of their magical power and obliterate their very being… the only survivors, deemed worthy by the Throne, take the Sovereign's position.

History of the Beneath

The creation of the Beneath was unique. Many demonic planes once existed around the Cefa'zisto, each a reflection of the fears of mortalkind, but they had neither form nor organization. However, one of these demonic planes was bursting with magic energy, so much so that it threatened to tear itself apart before it had even begun, but fate had different plans - as another demonic plane was attracted to this energy. It then collided and fused with the plane.

This was enough to briefly stabilize the plane, but it still was generating more energy than it could hold and again threatened to tear itself apart. Another demonic plane was attracted and it too fused with the plane. Hundreds of years passed, and countless demonic planes fused with the original until it eventually stabilized itself for good. Thus the Beneath was formed and settled “below” the material world.

While much of the history of the Beneath has been lost, there are many stories that the priesthoods have made. They paint the Beneath in a variety of different ways, but the most common one is that it is a place where only the wicked and damned go, or those that have committed atrocious crimes against a priesthood or society.

This isn’t actually the case. What can be agreed upon by both priests and demons is that a war was fought between the Gods and their servants against the Sovereign and their legions of demons and the three other fallen gods. The true reason for the war is lost to both sides, though both would argue that they were in the right. Whatever the reason for it, this led to the most important event that forever shaped the Beneath: the Silent Pact.

After the Silent Pact came the Rupturing, a calamity which cut the Beneath off from the rest of the world and formed the Way of Black Tears. It was during this calamity that Nox shattered into pieces and came to rest above the Void.

The Rupturing saw the death of the most recent Sovereign of the Beneath (whose name is Xa’los, pr. ZA-LOSS) as well as the splitting of the Beneath into its seven layers, as the Void forced its way into the plane. Since then, the Sovereign’s throne has been empty, and various warlords and pit lords have vied for control of the throne.

settings/planes/beneath.txt · Last modified: 2024/05/02 15:02 by quiddlesticks