The Underworld, also called the Great Below and once known as the Ocean Beyond Life, are the cavernous deeps that lie beneath reality.
The Underworld is home to the ghosts whose ties to the living world broke. Some places in the world of the living are closer to it and form cenotes, places, where the dead haunt the living. This place is not Hell, but neither is it Heaven, and most ghosts are not happy to be here as they can no longer attempt to complete their business from beyond the grave. It is not a safe place for the living to venture, for some ghosts are sorrowful, some are vengeful, some are mad, and all are desperate. The traveler is always moving downhill or uphill, never flat. The subterranean halls are bleak, but often punctuated with bright colors, reminders for the dead of the living world. This place offers many dangers but many rewards.
Before the Sundering, the Underworld was a single vast ocean, in which the various souls of people lingered, either floating adrift or sinking below into what was believed to be the "true" afterlife. In following millenia, the waters receded, first giving rise to small islands, until entire cave systems were created in the sluiced down matter of the realm, and all that remained of the waters were Rivers that continued to flow downwards.
The servants of the God-Machine have declared this realm "beyond repair". If it had another function once, no trace of it remains. No Angel travels farther than Tartarus, perhaps even fearing what lurks beneath, as the occult physics under the purview of their creator give way to the Old Laws.
The Underworld can be entered through an Avernian Gate . Avernian gates usually occur in places that have some connection with the dead and the idea of death in general. Avernian Gates require a special "key" to be opened. Keys range from extremely broad (any woman of childbearing age can open the gate) to narrow (to open the gate, one must find the body of a man that never took a wife, remove his left index finger, grind into powder, mix the powder with 100-year-old brandy, and share the brandy with two mortal enemies). Some Avernian Gates have more than one key, and some have multiple keys with various permutations. Some people are gifted with the ability to open every Avernian without the use of an key.
Sin-Eaters can use their Geist as a key for an Avernian Gate, while mages can use the Death Arcanum to stabilize and open a gate. The Lodge of Death among the Uratha knows a special rite to open an Avernian Gate, while Blood Sorcery can do the same for a vampire. Changelings can access the Underworld by opening an Avernian Gate with the Contract of Shade and Spirit and Prometheans can fall into it by dying for the first time in a very gruesome fashion and waiting for their Azothic resurrection. Demons can use a special Exploit to gain access to the Underworld, while Beasts have a natural affinity for the gates to the Below due to the nature of the Primordial Pathways.
Every graveyard contains at least one entrance to the Underworld. Graveyard Gates have a degree of sentience, it seems, and they are hostile to the living. They aren't intelligent per se, but they have will and desire, and that desire is for death. They don't necessarily want to see any particular living person die. Causing death, for them, is about physics. They often open without any form of control, sucking unfortunate living mortals into the Underworld.
Another way is using gateways in the Shadow. They often form in places that have been saturated in death, such as graveyards, morgues, battlefields, or death camps. In the Shadow, they look like little more than a cavern, which can mislead a wanderer into thinking that the Underworld is another part of the Shadow. These gates generally don't have keys, and may have death spirits hanging around.
It is also said that True Love and True Hate can open a gateway into the Underworld, provided the dying person left a ghost behind.
It is not easy to orientate himself in the labyrinthine maze of tunnels, even in the Upper Reaches,
- First, you come into the Autochthonous Depths, sometimes known as "Erebus" or the “Upper Reaches.” All ghosts are subject to a kind of gravity: the longer they’re here, the deeper they are pulled into the depths. The Upper Reaches are home to ghosts who’ve been here roughly a century or less. The tunnels here are tighter, maze-like, and often reflect more human cultures (anything from the New York Subway System to the tombs of New Orleans, depending on where one made an ingress). This is where most visitors come and do their business.
- The first River marks the end of the Upper Reaches and the descent into the Dead Dominions. What river will be found is usually a matter of luck.
- After the River is crossed, "Tartarus", the Lower Mysteries and the Old Laws await. The longer a ghost remains in the Underworld, the deeper they are drawn. To leave each Dominion behind, you have to cross another River. The Dominions are much harder to map, and many report seeing the same Dominions at different depths. The Lower Mysteries become more and more strange as one travels deeper and arrives in the Dead Dominions. The deeper a Dominion is, the more Old Laws it is likely to have and the more powerful and alien the inhabitants become.
Note that these dominions are not linear, nor limited to the following. The more laws, however, means the deeper one must travel to reach.
- Dead Man's Hand: The first Dominion has two Old Laws and is controlled by a Krewe. It is easiest found when lost and has some distinct Wild-West features.
- The Killing Fields: This dominion has three Old Laws and is the battlefield of two kerberoi and their respective armies, who are locked in an eternal stalemate conflict.
- Lowgate Prison: Overseen by the Kerberos Yama, this Dominion serves as jail for those who broke the Old Laws in other Dominions until they are suitably punished, and, hopefully, disabused of all vice. It has four Old Laws.
- The Junkyard: This Dominion has four Old Laws and is the place of an endless Darwinian competition to be the strongest machine, who acts as the Kerberos.
- Seloi: Seloi is a Dominion of rusted metal, sharp edges and strange clockwork mechanisms, ruled by a gang of Shades that lure ghosts into their domain to torture them for eternity. The ruling Kerberos, called the Clockwork Hive, is a swarm of metallic frames that can conglomerate to a frightening humanoid monstrosity that punishes transgressors against the dictates of the Dominion. It has five Old Laws.
- The Forge of Orcus: In this Dominion, souls are forged into material goods that are sold to other ghosts and visitors for a price. It has five Old Laws.
- Oppia: The Dominion is home to a Geist named Plenty, who captures the essence produced by people who remember the dead and converts it into an endless supply of food. All work within the dominion is performed by slaves who have violated the Old laws. It has five Old Laws.
- An-Shot-Ka: This Dominion is a place of ancient buildings, long abandoned and falling into ruin. It is guarded by the Triptych, the local Kerberoi, who also ensures that no secret of the Dominion leaves its thresholds. It has five Old Laws, but more are rumored to exist.
- The Athenaeum: This dominion houses all forgotten and destroyed knowledge in a gigantic library. All lost information is available there excepting the information stored in a single, destroyed hall. It is guarded by two sphinxes and home to countless hungry owlings, who bring the lost knowledge into the Dominion. It has eight Old laws.
- Mictlan: Home of the the Kerberoi Mictlantecutli and his wife Mictecacihuatl, this Dominion is structured as a vast challenge of will and virtue, which, if completed by a visitor, will permit him or her to leave the Dominion with the soul of one person he asks for. It has eight Old Laws.
- The Grave Dream: Within this Dominion, all forgotten dreams can be found. This dominion is rumored to have some connections to the True Fae. It has nine Old Laws.
- The Ocean of Fragments: One of the deepest Dominions, home to all forgotten memories in the form of a black ocean, cruised over by a single ship (though the Admiral who runs it is not the kerberos). By submersing one's self in the water, the Dominion washes away your identifiers, the memories that define who you are, as flotsam before allowing passage to deeper levels (the black tentacles of the true kerberos, the Leviathan, keeping you from proceeding unless the toll is paid). From there, anyone can retrieve the flotsam-memories and absorb them, changing to make those memories true, and indeed the Admiral's crew are all ghosts who seek to gain identifiers of their own and regularly gamble with each other for choice identifiers. If one would dive to the ground of the ocean, one would cease to exist. It has twelve Old Laws.
Additionally, there were several domains that once existed and drew upon mortal beliefs about the afterlife, but faded once the cultures that propagated these beliefs faded or cultural consensus shifted. In the modern times, these domains are usually lost or only rediscovered through luck. Examples are:
- Helheim: A domain modeled after Norse mythology, ruled by the servants of its absent queen, Hel.
- Valhalla: Another domain modeled after Norse mythology, where the spirits of the dead spar endlessly against each other to become stronger.
- Limbo: A domain modeled after christian ideals, it is a place of contemplation of one's sins until the ghost is ready to move deeper into the Underworld.
- Gehenna: Modeled after christian images of Hell, Gehenna is a place of fire and torment, where ghosts wallow in past misdeeds until they are consumed by it.
Connections to other RealmsEdit
The Underworld is most firmly entrenched into the Material World, but has its ties to the Shadow, especially in the form of death-spirits. Mages have speculated that Supernal Stygia was once one of the Dead Dominions, raised by the power of the Oracles. It is also rumored to have connections into the Lower Depths.
Within the Underworld, various ghosts and geists dwell, oblivious of their state. Kerberoi patrol their Dominions and enforce the Old Laws. Ferrymen and Psychopomps patrol the Rivers and within the deeper Dominions, the deathlords dwell.
Tutelage of the Dead Edit
In the Underworld, the wisdom of the dead has power, and it is easier and faster to learn from the ghosts that reside there. Precisely why this happens is one of the mysteries of the Underworld, some suggest that ghosts are manifestations of pure Psyche and unfettered by flesh, they are able to pass knowledge directly from the core of their being to the core of another. Others claim that time flows strangely in the Underworld, and that the speed of learning is merely an illusion. Whatever the case, learning from a ghost in the Underworld has it's benefits. (In game terms, the experience cost multiplier of a Trait is reduced by one, as the the experience cost of a flat experience cost. Skills can also be taught instantly.)