The Realm of Life
The Realm of Life is split in two by a fast-flowing river that stretches across it. In the center of the river sits a large golden city, the pinnacle of the Life Realm. Residing within this city are the denizens and creatures of Life as well as the twin Paragons who oversee the Realm. Called the Fountain of Life, the city is named for the large waterfall that pours from the northern end of the city walls. Like much of this Realm, the city is divided equally in half. Inside the city each structure is made of gold. Living establishments are found on the western side of the city.
Outside the city, the western portion of the Realm is filled with lush fields of grass and groves of white-gold colored trees. The glowing gold seems to emanate life energy, healing anything nearby. The eastern side of the Realm is overgrown and rampant with vines, bushes, and weeds. This side has its own darker, alluring beauty, appearing overpowering but with a hint of danger, much like a rosebush lush with fragrant blossoms hidden amidst the thorns. The Realm of Life is always lit by daylight. The bright vivid light reflects the positive energy of life. This energy appears as small motes of light floating in the air.
The western side of the Realm serves as a repository for the Vitae (VEE-tay) that comes from cleansed souls. When a soul is gathered by the Paragon of Death, the life energy that powers the soul returns to the Realm of Life. This life energy is then cultivated and returned to the plane of Valara as either a new life or as part of the magic used to heal. Th e western portion of the Realm is guarded day and night by to prevent the theft of Vitae, which can be misused or stolen and used to create undead.
The eastern side of the Realm is full of wild and untamed plants that tend to lash out and constrict those who wander too close. It is used primarily as a training ground for the soldiers of Life who protect the Realm and serve the Paragons. Roaming amidst the overgrown plant-life are creatures known as Lapis, glowing blue behemoths whose sole purpose is to devour anything with a life force. Consuming Vitae increases their own life essence and and causes them to grow larger. Lapis are hunted by the Paragon’s soldiers at regular intervals to keep the population in check.
The two Paragons who rule the Realm of Life are named Ga’lar (ga-LAR) and Ge’lina (ga-LEE-na), the former adorned in shining armor and the latter in silken robes with wisps of life flowing around them. Long locks of golden hair beautifully braided run down Ge’lina’s back, her robes embroidered with golden symbols and incantations. Ge’lina rules the western side of the Realm which radiates with an organization of life. Ga’lar’s golden hair is cropped to reflect that of a soldier. His armor is polished white gold and etched with similar symbols and incantations as Ge’lina. Ga’lar rules over the eastern side strengthened by power of growth. The two Paragons are twins and reside within a temple at the heart of the city. Th e temple is split down the middle with two thrones for the siblings to sit on. While the two of them represent Life they also portray two different aspects of it. Ge’lina represents the positive power of Life and its abilities to heal and revitalize. Ga’lar represents the natural order of Life and trains his armies in the ways needed for slaying threats that disrupt Life energy on both the Realm and Valara. Ga’lar also believes that one who cannot respect life does not deserve life and can rot in the Realm of Death. It is said that Ga’lar does not see eye to eye with some of the other Paragons, and his sister Ge’lina is the one who communicates between the other Realms.
Non-natives cannot survive long in this Realm. Without protection, non-natives will rapidly develop cancerous growths and succumb quickly to the effects. Those transported to the eastern half of the Realm combust instantly due to the amount of life energy present.
The Realm of Air
The Realm of Air is a vast sky filled with ever-changing masses of clouds that seem alive. The clouds are packed so tightly that they form a surface upon which one could walk. The weather in this Realm is as varied as the clouds. A constant wind gusts in the outer reaches while random storms move throughout. Moving from the outer edges towards the center of the Realm, the storms become darker and heavier until there is naught but the roaring of gale-force winds, blinding flashes of lightning and deafening claps of thunder. This is the mighty hurricane that twists and turns at the heart of the Realm. All varieties of avian creatures form the natives of the Realm. They make their homes in the cloud banks and spend much of their days in the sky in a constant patrol. Travel through this domain is difficult if one does not have the ability to fly. The cloud masses shift and change abruptly, leaving wide gaps that are impossible to jump. If a traveler should miss a step, they would be caught up in the winds of the Realm and lost forever in the howling hurricane.
In the eye of the hurricane is a place of odd contrasts. A gleaming, white cloud palace stands alone in relative stillness with the softest of constant breezes drifting through the open archways and wide passages. Held aloft by pillars of swirling wind, streaked with silent lightning, Ilmaerie (ill-MY-rhee) Palace is the ruling seat where Paragon Elyssinu (EE-liss-in-nu) reigns over the Realm of Air.
Like her sister Paragon Undinae, Elyssinu can shift her appearance to any creature with the power of flight. She has a humanoid shape that she prefers, but it is said that she only uses this form in dealings with mortals. At such times, she appears as a stunningly beautiful and graceful woman dressed in gowns that are a bit too long. Her hair is long and pale blonde, almost white, and is left unbound so that the tresses can blow in the wind. Though no one has ever been brave enough to find out the truth, legend says that her gowns are left long because they hide the fact that, from the waist down, Elyssinu is not a woman at all. In the place of legs, is a column of air, a human-sized cyclone that floats from place to place.
Elyssinu maintains a Court within Ilmaerie Palace. Her Dukes advise her on matters of the Realm, but also act as ruling bodies in the outer reaches of her domain, maintaining law as she requires. Generals and Soldiers make up her standing army. These beings appear as large birds of prey: Eagles, Hawks, Falcons, and Condors.
The Realm of Air is in a constant state of turmoil. Paragon Elyssinu is locked in a struggle against the Five Raven Lords and their legions of Crow-men. Nivhita, Ventego, Sunka, Uragano and Nesrec were once the wisest of Council to Elyssinu, Paragon of Air. These five beings have the bodies of men, but the heads of Ravens with eyes dark as night and beaks sharp as razors.
The five Raven Lords tried to guide her where they felt the winds desired, but Elyssinu, the true embodiment of wind and storm, defied their wisdom and ruled her Realm according to her whim. The Raven Lords, having forgotten that their Paragon is and will always be the manifestation of the Realm, decided amongst themselves that Elyssinu was not what was best for the denizens and creatures of Air. They felt she was too flighty, prone to fits of unpredictability and lacking in wisdom. Only they, with their vast knowledge of the language of the wind, could guide the Realm to its true greatness above the lesser Realms. But the Paragon was adept at deflecting their attempts to control her, rather than allowing her to fl oat on the breezes of destiny.
Nivhita, the oldest and wisest of the Raven Lords, began to plot against his Paragon, gathering the other four into his plans. Together, they approached one of the lesser beings of Air, one worshiped on Valara as the deity of storms, Vindurinae. Vindurinae was in agreement with the Lords, believing Elyssinu too forgetful of the power of Air, the strength and dominance that the storms held. She, who drifted along like a butterfly, was too oft en found playing in the clouds and singing like the thrush instead of ruling.
Vindurinae offered to share his power over storms with the Raven Lords, if they would put him on the throne of Ilmaerie Palace. Nivhita, speaking for the five, agreed, provided Vindurinae would take the Raven Lords as his advisors when the deed was done.
And so, for time unmeasured, the Raven Lords, with the secret aid of the deity of storms, have pitted themselves against Elyssinu. They know that to strike at her directly would be their undoing, for despite her almost constant delight in where the winds take her, her fury, should it be roused, would bring the deadliest storm the Realm has ever seen. She allows them, in her own wise way, to play their game of tactics and strategy, deftly winging away from their harmful intent in a dance of wind and thunder, lightning and rain.
Valaran followers of Elyssinu believe that the wide open spaces of air are a source of direction and of change as the wind blows them where they need to be. The beauty of air is in its volatile nature: at once calm and gentle with the potential for sudden fervor, storms that loom on the horizon or crackle in the clouds without warning. Her followers believe that there is no such thing as fate, only the direction and guidance of the winds of Elyssinu.
Devotees of Elyssinu follow the mantra: “Elyssinu is the wind that guides me and the storm that transcends me.”
The Realm of Fire
The Realm of Fire is made up of vast active volcanoes that spew lava flows which run constantly down the sides of the rigid rock and pours into seas of molten rock. Petrified trees burn eternally, forging a forest of obsidian torches and magma deep within the Realm gushes forth, dousing the surface in flame. Denizens of the Realm live within the cracks of the volcanoes, which give the appearance of an endless mountain range. Among the volcanic peaks, one stands as a giant over the rest and is considered the epicenter of the Realm. Valarans refer to this particular peak as Mount Charathan (CHAR-a-thun). Two wide rivers of lava constantly flow down the ridges of this volcano. Ash seems to rain down from a sky that is always full of black, roiling clouds. Th e heat is so intense that those not of this Realm burst into flames instantly, leaving nothing behind but puddles of melted flesh and ash. The intense conditions create many rare, precious gems and metals that are unique to the Realm of Fire. These materials are said to exhibit magical properties and are highly prized by Valarans.
Deep within the belly of Mount Charathan is the Keep of Living Embers. This structure looms, blacken and charred, from the magma as an imposing edifice meant to weaken the knees of anyone foolish enough to cast their glance into the mouth of the volcano. At the center of the Keep is the throne room. Framed by a waterfall of lava, an obsidian throne rises from the river of molten rock that bisects the entire room. The Paragon of Fire, Ra’tol (RA-toll), rules from atop this throne.
Ra’tol appears as a humanoid composed of crackling, hissing flame clothed in obsidian armor. An ashen mask sits upon his face, controlling his fiery features and allowing only the orange-red flame of his eyes to show through. Th e wary learn to read Ra’tol’s emotions through his eyes. His temper is a reflection of his Realm, quickly erupting in a firestorm when his passions are roused.
This Paragon in his own Realm is all-seeing and all-knowing of all that occurs within his dominion. He has no need of advisors or generals or armies to keep his denizens in line. They, being of the Realm and therefore of Ra’tol himself, never question his rule and live as he commands.
Valaran followers of Ra’tol believe that the Realm of Fire, in addition to being the source of flame on Valara, has a metaphysical definition as well. They believe that the heat of passion, desire and hatred are fueled by Ra’tol himself. Much as a wildfire brings death and destruction to the forests of Valara, it also nurtures and cleanses the land and allows for new life to spring forth. As such, Valaran followers believe that fire clears away the unnecessary weight of useless emotions and makes way for new passions. Ra’tol’s followers are ardent about their cause in life and stop at nothing to reach their end goals. They tend to act with controlled chaos.
Devotees of Ra’tol follow the mantra: “Ra’tol is all and all is Ra’tol.”
The Realm of Stone
The Realm of Stone appears as an enormous underground cavern with tunnels beyond counting that seem to go on without end. The ceiling is lost in the darkness above, but light radiates from gems permanently implanted in the rock walls. Small bodies of water are found throughout the caverns and streams flow through cracks and crevices in the stone, leaving the rocky walls damp. Few plants grow in the dark so the cavern is barren of greenery except for a small whitish colored fern that requires little light, and a pungent smelling fungus that produces a faint glow when handled. Native creatures of this Realm take either the forms of man-shaped, rock-like beings or Valaran cavedwellers. These denizens live in the tunnels that twist and turn throughout the entire Realm.
Many of the winding passages lead deep into the center of the Realm and open onto a vast grotto full of magnificent rock formations and sparkling gems. In the middle, surrounded by a gently flowing stream, sits a massive geode formed from quartz and agate. This geode is protected by two guardians composed of granite and covered with colored diamonds that reinforce the densely made bodies. Within this geode, known as Slieganach (SHLEE-gah-naiche) Crag, resides the Paragon of Stone, Cragmathe (CRAG-muh-thuh).
Interlopers who trespass in this Realm will be crushed under the weight of the rock and the depth at which the Realm resides.
Cragmathe appears as a great, hulking tortoise made of black marble veined in deep brown with a shell of perfectly faceted emerald. He is wise in his rule of the Realm, just and yet firm. He is patient, but unyielding and has the power to bring down mountains should his authority be threatened. Unlike Undinae of the Realm of Water and Elyssinu of the Realm of Air, Cragmathe does not maintain vassals. His rule is absolute.
In the vast history, or mythos, of the Realms, only one being has ever dared to threaten Cragmathe: Gorwyn, the Gold Dragon. As their creator, Cragmathe believed that the dragons would help bring beauty to the new world and shaped each from a different colored gemstone found in his Realm. Cragmathe enlisted Ga’lar’s assistance to give his creations life. Unfortunately the dragons came to believe, in their arrogance, that they were the superior race and tried to equate themselves with the Paragons, desiring to rule Valara as the Paragons ruled each of their own realms. Cragmathe, in his infinite patience, tried to show the dragons that this was not possible. Gorwyn, whom many believe was the leader of the dragons, challenged Cragmathe. The winner would be declared the Paragon and could choose as his realm either Valara or Stone. The loser would accept whatever punishment the other Paragons choose. For days, battle raged between Cragmathe and Gorwyn. The two beings used Valara as their battlegrounds, fighting at the northern and southern most land masses where no creatures live. While the Gold Dragon was a formidable opponent, in the end he was unable to defeat Cragmathe. In punishment, the remaining Paragons choose to strip Gorwyn of his form and banish him to Cragmathe’s realm so that the Paragon of Stone could maintain an eternal vigil over the creature he created.
Valaran followers of Cragmathe find stability in the dependable, unyielding, unchanging nature of stone. They believe that it is unnecessary to concern themselves with things that are beyond their control as the Paragon of Stone will give them the strength to ride out the most dangerous storms. They are unyielding in their belief, patient and unpersuadable.
Devotees of Cragmathe follow the mantra: “Cragmathe is my pillar of stability. Unchanging. Forever.”
The Veil is rumored to be created from a special magic that the Anturi once tried to harness to power the Gates. So uncertain is this magic that the Anturi failed in their attempts and almost single-handedly destroyed their own race. It has been noted that traveling to either of the Realms of the Veil results in the removal of magical enchantments and the only magic that continues to flow is that of pure skill. Conversely, magical items from one of these worlds do not retain their magic when crossing over to Valara. The Veil creates three kinds of energy: light, darkness, and dream. These energies flow from the Veil and are much weaker than other magical sources such as Prime and Essence. While creatures and beings from both Veil Realms use these energies, Nurholme denizens are more attuned to darkness while Ereholme denizens are more attuned to light. While the Veil Realms of Ereholme and Nurholme are easy for Valarans to access, they are just as dangerous as the Elemental Realms.
Ereholme is the first Realm that forms part of the Veil surrounding Valara. As if seen from the reflection of a mirror, Ereholme mimics Valara, although similarities are only surface deep. The sky is always in a state of dawn to dusk. Some even say that Ereholme is the reason for day in Valara. Foliage appears to mimic Valaran plant life, although colors are reversed. Mountains, lakes, rivers and forests are found to be in reverse of their location on Valara and the continents appear upside down.
Natives of Ereholme are collectively called Fae by Valarans, however the Fae themselves go by many different names and designations. Th e Fae of Ereholme have a variety of appearances. Some Fae look similar to Valaran Elves and with pointed ears while others may appear similar to Feralkyn with their horns, tails, cloven feet or wings. Two of the most prominent groups are the Seelie and Unseelie Coteries (co-TER-rees) who reign in Ereholme. These two groups are in a constant battle for land, power and control over the Wells of Vigor. Unlike Valaran conflicts, the Fae Coteries conduct fights more like a chess game than an outright clash of arms. Th e Fae consider themselves the Kings and Queens, Faekyn are considered Bishops, Knights, and Rooks, and all other Valarans are the Pawns.
The Wells of Vigor are located on opposite sides of the Realm and each radiates large sources of magical energy. This magic is vital to the overarching power that each Coterie controls. It is a constant struggle to gain control of both these Wells, although neither side has ever succeeded. The Fae that live closest to the Wells are known as the Royal Braid. Each Coterie has a Royal Braid: the core members of the royal family and powerful agents that act as the supreme authority over the whole Coterie. Members are differentiated by their ornate hair braids, styled with green or orange jewels and accessories in their hair or beards; those with a higher status are decorated more ornately. Green represents an alignment to the Seelie Coterie and orange represents an alignment to the Unseelie Coterie.
The closer the members of the Royal Braid are to the Wells, the less freedom they have to move about Ereholme. It is almost as if some invisible bond keeps them from moving too far away from their Well. It is believed that the Fae of the Royal Braid cannot leave Ereholme.
Each of the Coteries has a Bruiden (broo-yen) which acts as a large meeting hall around the Well. The Bruiden are surrounded by towns and fortresses making them well fortified and lively. Th e Seelie Bruiden is built from rose colored marble veined with white, topped with a translucent glass dome. Light radiates from the dome, brighter than the brightest sunlight. The Unseelie Bruiden is made from steely gray hematite, cold as ice, and radiates a mist from its walls. Any place that the Seelie congregate sits in either eternal summer or spring, while any Unseelie settlements remain in either eternal autumn or winter.
Ereholme is also home to many creatures not under the control of either side. Both Coteries attempt to rule over these creatures in their power struggles. Fae who are not sided with either of the ruling Coteries may regard themselves as a part of The Nameless Coterie. Members of The Nameless Coterie attempt to either break down the political and social barriers between the other two Coteries or ignore the reign that oppresses them. Unsided Fae use silver adornments to represent that they have no allegiance to either Coterie.
Fae are unpredictable to Valarans. They do not understand Valaran concepts and morals. As a result Valarans are often confused by Fae. Fae also have the ability to manipulate mortal dreams and see the manipulation of these dreams as great fun. Dream manipulation is one of the major tools the Fae employ in their power struggles, by trying to influence Valarans to act for or against a specific side of the Coteries.
Every positive story and happy tale that is mentioned of the Fae is from the Seelie Coterie. However, this does not necessarily mean the Seelie are all good creatures. They seek to guide and inspire mortals, but their reasons are not always revealed.
The common ideals of the Fae have been recorded as accurately as possible:
Th e light is the guide, and should never falter.
Honesty in all things.
Defend love at all costs.
In life, fi nd the beauty in everything.
Your word is your oath, and it must always be upheld.
If a debt must be paid, then you must pay it.
Let honor preserve you and keep your spirit pure.
Where the Seelie seek to inspire, the Unseelie seek to sow chaos, fear and doubt. Master manipulators and tyrants, the Unseelie are one of the reasons why most beings fear the Fae.
Secrets and power lie within the unknown; become the fear others see within dark times.
Tradition is a cage.
Chaos brought us life, and we return the blessing.
Defend your passion and slaughter those who threaten it.
Accept the horror of life.
Honor is the chain that binds.
Give so that others may hold a debt, for a debt must
always be repaid.
Fae’s primary strengths lie in their innate magical abilities and manipulative powers. It is quite common for stronger Fae to use other, weaker Fae creatures as tools to meet their goals. These tools are used for guiding people; forcing someone into working eternally; stealing children or babies; and uncovering magical appearances.
Valarans have discovered one major weakness among the true Fae: iron. Weapons made of iron seem to deal a considerable amount of damage and Fae cannot seem to pass over iron rails or bars. It is almost as if it acts as a repellent.
Nurholme is the second Realm that creates the Veil surrounding Valara. Unlike Ereholme, there is little in the way of foliage and trees and few, if any, similarities to Valara. Th e only area with foliage is a dark forest that rests between canyons and a large swamp. This forest is home to many Unseen Fiends. In Nurholme the sky is always in a state of dusk to dawn. Some say that Nurholme is the reason for night. The commonly used terms to describe the creatures that come from Nurholme are Fiends. Th e Fiends of Nurholme are either highly intelligent or run on base instincts. There are two factions: the Pahndir and the Unseen. Nurholme has no known ruler and is in a constant state of chaos and power struggles. These struggles are primarily between the Pahndir and the Unseen. Th e Pahndir vary in size but maintain physical looks similar to Valarans. Some have horns protruding from their head, spikes running along their body, tails, or leathery wings. Pahndir eyes are usually blood red or black in color and blackened fingers, scars, and other gruesome marks are common.
The Pahndir determine leadership by the ability to dominate and overpower others. Some Pahndir consume other Pahndir on order to gain more power. It is believed that feasting on the flesh of vanquished foes strengthens a Pahndir.
The Unseen Fiends, unlike the Pahndir, do not have physical forms. They are best described as grotesque figures, smoky forms, or shadows. These Fiends live in extremely dark places or underground and often have no eyes. Th e Unseen communicate using telepathy. They attempt to gain power over mortals using veiled promises of riches, glory or other desires. It is said that some Unseen can see inside a mortal, learning their darkest secrets and deepest dreams or desires and use that information to gain any advantage possible.
There are no established cities or settlements in Nurholme. Sometimes groups of Fiends will congregate in the same location for a period of time. Some develop crude communes while others continue to live alone. Unseen Fiends and Pahndir Fiends do not enter each other’s territory.
One of the greatest strengths that Fiends of Nurholme have is the ability to cross the Veil into Valara on the nights of the New Moon and the Full Moon. These times allow for the easiest passage because the shadows are strongest and act as doorways to pierce the Veil. While extremely difficult during other phases of the Moon, Fiends can find their way to Valara outside the New Moon and Full Moon.
Fiends cross into Valara for many reasons, primarily to gain control over mortal Valarans either through willing acceptance or through deceit. Gaining control over mortals allows Fiends to sow chaos and open more dream-energy channels back to Nurholme to feed the populace. A mortal who has fallen under the control of a Fiend can be identified by the sigil etched into their skin, marking the mortal as property. Once a seal is in place, the Fiend is able to speak to that individual from anywhere and control their actions as if they were enslaved. Individuals under the control of a Fiend have black eyes and cry black tears.
Some Fiends have discovered that by placing small, hidden shrines on Valara they can influence and cultivate a specific emotion in an area and feed off that emotion while on Nurholme. These shrines are difficult to find and destroy, as they are protected and cared for by enslaved mortals.
Fiends have few weaknesses. All Fiends are susceptible to golden or magical weapons. Golden weapons have a highly reflective surface that reflects light at Fiends. Since Fiends prefer darkness, light is considered harmful to them. They also dislike salt and cannot pass through circles or portals that have been sealed with a salt line.
The Realm of Death
The Realm of Death is filled with a sea of dark sand sifting between large canyons. The massive desert contains a large pyramid shrouded in shadow. Small structures dot the land surrounding the pyramid that house inhabitants of the Realm. The sky is always in a state of dimming twilight and a thin layer of negative energy flows through the air. The pyramid has one entrance that masks the presence of a large and dangerous labyrinth. The maze leads to the heart of the pyramid, guarded by a large Minotaur shrouded in the essence of death.
Death is ruled by the Paragon Seneroth (SEN-er-roth), a tall, looming male with the mask of a jackal and a scythe unusable by any but himself. Beneath the mask, his eyes are like pools of black oil, but his face has the oddness of a lanky young man. His hair is black, his skin grey, and his mouth has the crook of one who may be preparing to smile, but whether in jest or kindness is unknown. If one has the opportunity to look closely, scars are present on much of Seneroth’s torso. These scars are rumored to link him to several particular individuals in his Realm. In their life, Seneroth warned these particular subjects that part of their body would at some point fail and keep them from protecting their loved ones. He offered them a choice to replace the part of them that would fail with his own, but in exchange for eternal service in his Realm. These individuals are known as The Body and serve to escort souls through their final journey. While Seneroth can maintain a watchful eye over his domain there are many that would threaten the process of purification.
Seneroth, as the Paragon of the Realm of Death, is often thought of as ruthless and cold, however while he can be lethal and swift when it comes to threats upon his Realm, he has an endless compassion that calms even the most frightened young soul. Those who avoid Seneroth in his Realm are the tricksters and connivers who think they can make it back to Valara. He allows them to skulk in the shadows because he knows they will return to him in the end.
Valaran souls are granted entrance to the Realm of Death after their Vitae has been weighed by the Denizen of Death and found to be weak. Upon crossing into the Realm, the soul enters the Sea of Sand, which makes up a large portion of the Realm. Dunes roll in a tide of unending black and crystalline sand. Occasionally writhing and flailing figures appear in the surface of the waves, only to be dragged under again as the waves crash. Some of the figures are grotesque and corpse-like. Others appear as they did in life or as translucent remnants of themselves. These figures fight against the waves, for days, weeks, or even years, actively denying their death and longing to return to the world of the living. Each soul takes its own amount of time to go through this process, but eventually the soul will give up its thrashing and sink through the sands and be washed onto the shore of the Realm of Death, exhausted.
As the soul-figure lies on the shore, recovering their strength, they are met by the first member of The Body. He is a sturdy Dwarvenfolk, who never gives a name, but invites the “water-logged” soul into a small hut on the shore of the Sea. Within lies a fire, a meal, and a bed for the weary soul to rest. After eating the meal, the Dwarvenfolk stokes the fire and tucks the soul into bed, excusing himself to smoke a pipe outside. When the soul wakes the fire has burnt out and the Dwarvenfolk is gone. At this point, many souls rage, thinking the friend and possible companion has abandoned them. Often souls rend the hut to pieces in their rage. Upon leaving the hut, the soul must next enter the Jungle of Flesh. Th is Jungle is unlike any on Valara; the densely grown trees and vines are dead, and leaves are actually strips of flesh upon closer inspection. The Jungle serves to test a soul and many souls emerge with their skin hanging in tatters and several pieces of flesh left behind.
At the exit of the Jungle, a chasm appears. The chasm appears to be miles deep and is too wide to cross with a normal leap. On the opposite edge of the chasm, in a stand of dead trees, stands the second member of The Body. A Goblinfolk female appears and offers the soul a vine to swing across the chasm on. Th is vine serves as another test for the soul, meant to wear down any remaining strength. No matter how hard a soul tries, they never make it across the chasm and instead will come to a stop dangling over the bottomless canyon. Pleas and attempts to cajole the Goblinfolk into returning to help do not succeed. The soul is taunted with snickering instead. Rewards and offers of service receive no response. When the soul’s last reserves of strength are gone, they slip from the vine and fall into the chasm.
The soul falls for what feels like hours in the darkness before landing in a lightless pool of tepid goo inside a massive, cave-like room. Dragging itself out of the mire, the soul feels a sense of hopelessness and desolation. Berating themselves for trusting the Goblinfolk, they wonder how they ended up here. And although they have mustered up the strength for all of the previous portions of their journey, it seems, at this point, that they simply cannot go on. Many souls lie near the pool of muck for exceptionally long periods of time, wallowing in the misery they feel. Eventually, however, the soul rises and realizes that there is one exit in the cave-like room. The exit leads to a rise overlooking a sand-filled valley. An enormous pyramid sits in the center of the valley and gleams as though made of polished obsidian. A few small structures dot the sand around the pyramid. As the soul approaches the pyramid, it is met by one of the many children in the care of a female pheasant Feralkyn. She is also of The Body. The children run around her and she holds two babies within the folds of her wings. None of the children are of the same race as the Feralkyn, but she treats all of them as if they are her own. She may talk to the soul, but typically has plenty to do, gathering up the smaller souls of the children and not letting them stray too far. If asked who is in charge, she gestures towards the opening of the pyramid.
Standing guard are two large Cerberus, who sniff the soul, but allow it to continue on towards the maze inside. Those who trespass inside the pyramid are mauled to pieces by its guardians. Within the labyrinth is a large Minotaur, who may aid or hinder the soul as it completes the maze. The Minotaur does not approve of mortal visitors however, and swift retribution finds those who transgress. As the soul reaches the center of the maze, much of what once made it has been stripped away. At the heart of the maze waits Seneroth, and the last of The Body, a red-scaled Dragonkyn. The breath of the Dragonkyn hits the soul, searing away any remaining impurities. What each soul sees at the heart of the maze is different; some see a door and some a great light. As each soul approaches the heart of the maze, Seneroth steps forward with a bowl. “You must leave your Vitae behind now. It will live on, to create life anew, but it is no longer yours.” Seneroth collects the Vitae and the soul enters the heart of the maze, and where it goes after that, is unknown. The Vitae itself is returned to the Realm of Life, for use in new creation.
The Realm of Water
The Realm of Water is a vast ocean with no visible land masses. The depth of the ocean varies although most areas seem to be bottomless. Beneath the surface, however, is a landscape that mimics the rolling hills and valleys of Valara. Denizens of the Realm reside in structures grown out of huge reefs of living coral, warmed by the passing currents, or in the cool, dim stretches of the sandy, rocky bottom. Watery forests of seaweed and meadows of ocean dwelling ferns wave their fronds in the passing currents while infinite varieties of colorful algae float lazily on the surface. The most vile and dangerous denizens dwell in deep pits and dark, icy trenches, miles below the surface. Native beings have developed the ability to “see” in little to no light by sensing the natural auras of other denizens. There are underwater caverns and naturally occurring pockets of breathable air but anyone not native to the Realm of water will drown or freeze in the ocean’s icy depths.
In one of the valleys of the reef grows a palatial sized structure that Valarans call the Coral Castle. This living castle is riddled with smaller structures that house endless varieties of aquatic creatures as well as native beings that live to serve the Paragon. Naturally growing plants sprout from the mounds of rocky coral. It is from Coral Castle that the Paragon of Water rules. The Paragon Undinae (OOHN-di-nay) is difficult to identify in her natural form. As a manifestation of the Realm she is as changing and fluid as the water in which she reigns. She can take any form she desires, from the smallest fish to the largest leviathan. It is said that when she comes to the surface she transforms herself into the most beautiful mermaid with flesh the deep blue of the ocean and waving, floating seaweed as her hair. Due to the nature of her being, she never rises completely from the water.
Undinae, unlike Ra’tol of the Fire Realm and Cragmathe of the Realm of Stone, maintains a Court in the Coral Castle. She has Advisors, who appear as aquatic-humanoid hybrids, to counsel her in matters of the Realm; Lieutenants, who take the forms of large water-dwelling beings not unlike the huge sea turtles of Valara, who lead her armies; and Knights, in the various forms of fish-like creatures, who act as her soldiers. Beyond this court, there are Aristocrats who oversee to the needs of Undinae’s people residing far outside the expanse of Coral Castle.
Valaran myths hold that Undinae brought the waters to Valara at the time of creation. Undinae originally only shaped lakes and rivers through the land and would use these waterways when she wished to visit Valara. Before the Paragon’s agreed to retire to their Realms for good, Undinae could often be found on Valara in the guise of a water creature. As time passed, Undinae found herself returning often to the same lake where she would float in the water and watch the sandy beach for the appearance of a mortal man. She was enraptured by this young fellow. Each day for a fortnight, the man came to the beach to fish, standing waist deep in the gentle currents of the tide and each day she came to watch him. Without ever speaking a word to the man, she came to love him, enchanted by his quiet, gentle manner and delighted with his two-legged form that moved surely and gracefully on solid ground. Desiring to speak with the man and know him, Undinae took the form of a mermaid and rose from the water, hailing him. After his initial fright, he came to know that this creature meant him no harm and he came to love her as she loved him. She was unable to leave the water to live on the land and he could not leave the land to live under the water, but their love was so deep and so pure that he never took a Valaran wife, instead coming to meet her on the shore when the tides came in. But Valarans are fragile, mortal things and the mermaid was immortal. One day, the man did not come to the shore. The mermaid waited for many hours. She returned day after day in hopes of finding her love, but he never came to her again. In her grief, Undinae’s tears filled the lake, causing it to overflow its banks and flood the land. So great was her grief that water began to cover Valara, threatening to flood all the land. Before Valara could be overrun by water, the Paragons Seneroth, Ga’lar and Ge’lina banded together and retrieved the Vitae of Undinae’s mortal love and fashioned it into the shape of a merman, for merpeople are rumored to live extraordinary long lives. Undinae stopped her tears, but choose to leave much of the water in place so that she might have more places to roam in with her love. In time, Undinae and her love retreated to the Realm of Water. Some say that merpeople still live in the deepest parts of Valaran waters while others claim that merpeople are the ancestors of aquatic Feralkyn.
Once or twice a century, Undinae leaves the Coral Castle and journeys to unknown, or untold, places within her Realm. It is during these times that the water titans, beings who live in the deepest, darkest pits of the Realm, seek to remove Undinae from the throne and replace her with a more constant ruler. The battles are fierce and violent, but thus far, Undinae and her Lieutenants have kept the titans at bay, maintaining her reign in the Coral Castle as Paragon of the Realm of Water.
Valaran followers of Undinae believe that the deep oceans of the Realm of water are a source of calm and peace. Though it is ever-changing, it is the easy flow from one state of being to another that calls to her devotees. They draw from water the inner strength of the tides, feeling the unstoppable pull of the currents.
Just as water erodes away the tallest mountain, even the biggest obstacle can be overcome with persistence and patience, helping Undinae’s follows remain calm even in the direst of circumstances.
Followers of Undinae follow the mantra: “Undinae is the calm that belies the under-current of my strength.”
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