t is said that far beyond the mists of the Sea of Sorrows, across the vast expanses of the Tempest, lie thousands upon thousands of isolated island realms that are supposed refuges from Oblivion, collectively known as the Far Shores. Stygian history records that, long ago, the Ferrymen known as the Shining Ones laid down Byways leading to each of these realms. Hope and faith drew wraiths to these isles and since have continued to entice them, for these lands promise refuge from Oblivion as they model themselves on the Hells and Heavens, Sukhavatis, Edens, Zions and Valhallas of countless cultures. The afterlives created for, and perhaps by, lost souls can be found in every shape and size throughout the Far Shores. Many claim that the Far Shores are not the abodes of true gods but are instead fortresses created to protect souls from the ravages of the Tempest. Although all wraiths have heard rumors of the Far Shores, and many believe in them, few know these realms’ true nature. Those who are cognizant either aren’t talking or can’t be trusted.
Ultimately banking on the hope of release from suffering, the beacons of Paradise, Nirvana, Purgatory and thousands of other faith-based spiritual conditions shine brightly in the stories of most of the few travelers who have sojourned there and back. These stories can be heard not only in Stygia, but in other deathlands as well, for the Byways to the Far Shores originate in the death realms of all people.
Not all the tales inspire confidence in the good intentions of the Far Shores leadership, however. Stories abound of tyrannical leaders demanding unquestioning obedience of the faithful and tormenting the “ungodly”; of forsaken wraiths manacled to each other, locked up and long forgotten in tiny antechambers beneath the ground, or thrown into the maws of unnamable creatures as sacrifices to the “gods”; of sadistic fanatics who encase themselves and others in coffins of white-hot soulsteel to purge their iniquities; and of seas choked with Spectre-harried aspirants waiting to be admitted to their chosen islands. Demonic beings, probably but not certainly Moliated wraiths, torture victims by thrusting Stygian steel stakes up through their spines and planting them in pools of acid that bubble up from unknown places within the Tempest. For many Stygian wraiths, even the bright promise of Transcendence is not enough to entice them to these places. It is interesting to note that many realms claim to be the original Hell, and many beings refer to themselves as Shaitan, Lucifer, or Satan. In fact, there are so many of these realms that they have come to be known, collectively, as the Thousand Hells. However, none has conclusively proved itself the true Inferno of Dante of the Bible. There are an equal number of Heavens, each claiming to be the true divine summit. The rulers here, though often mighty, have yet to prove their omnipotence…
Thousands upon thousands of wraiths inhabit the Far Shores realms, often giving rise to the horrific stories of cruel overcrowding and complete loss of individuality that travelers tell on the other side of the Sunless Sea. But the picture is not all bleak. Breathtakingly beautiful islands paradises host legions of pearly-limned Angelics and angel-like wraiths. Usually, these beings shelter the travel-worn from the Tempest, heal them and enjoin them to remain. More rarely, they adopt weary travelers and teach them the gentle ways of hope and Transcendence.
Ferrymen, Spectres, soul-pirates, slavers and strange creatures from other realms also make their appearances throughout the Far Shores Isles. It is said that many Ferrymen still usher the souls of the dead to their just destinations among the Far Shores, and that some of the isles are nothing more than the Ferrymen’s way stations. Some hold that the Shining Ones who forged the original Byways to the realms now rule many of the isles.
Tales of Spectres taking over the fanatical leadership of certain realms modeled after the various hells – and even those modeled after the paradises – may indeed be true, as the rumors of a brisk slave trade conducted by soul-pirates under the guise of religious recruitment and proselytizing. Soul-pirates often use Stygian Reapers as middlemen in obtaining Lemures for sale as “converts” to various Far Shores realms.