The Fifth Great Maelstrom

till, the War of the Dead paled in comparison to the devastation wrought by the Atomic Age. When Fat Man and little Boy were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, a great roar reverberated from the depths of the Labyrinth. The Fifth Great Maelstrom boiled up out of the depths and spat its destructive force throughout the Shadowlands.

The Fifth Great Maelstrom was the most widespread of all. The possibility of global destruction had become a reality and the repercussions in the Underworld were devastating. Travel to and from Stygia was rendered impossible, and wave after wave of Spectres hurled themselves at the Hierarchy’s Necropoli. The Citadels in the Shadowlands became isolated outposts battling for survival.

Stygia itself suffered the worst catastrophe. A great Malfean, a reptilian horror named Gorool, rose up out of the Sunless Sea and threatened to consume Stygia completely. Every ship that went out to challenge it was smashed and its crew devoured. Charon knew that he alone stood any chance against the foul thing. He hung his great Mask in the throne room of his palace, retrieved Siklos, his blade, from the armory, and piloted a single skiff into the Weeping Bay to attack the thing. The battle is, to this day, depicted in tapestries and murals throughout Stygia.

Charon drew the great beast away from Stygia and opened a whirlpool in the Sunless Sea. Charon flung himself down into the midst of the whirlpool and was followed closely by the hungry Gorool. Neither rose again. In a single instant, the greatest ruler of the Restless vanished from knowledge.

Separated as it was from Stygia, the Hierarchy in the Shadowlands had to try to continue on as best as possible. During the ‘50’s, as part of a radical program, the Hierarchy recruited some Renegades to aid them in rooting out Spectres. Several times during the decade, Spectres sought to cause intercontinental thermonuclear war and were rebuffed.

The ‘60’s were a time of great change. In addition to the changing morals of the day, people started experimenting with altered states of consciousness. Spectres are believed to have had a hand in the bloody war in Vietnam: it was started over a triviality and fought in a very controlled fashion. Spectres were often seen laughing with glee in the jungles of Cambodia as more and more young soldiers were killed.

By this time, Hierarchy agents had stopped trying to dominate their Necropoli. The Spectre threat was pervasive, and any and all wraiths were needed. The Hierarchy had developed a kind of attitude that could best be described as “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Many Shadowlands wraiths were not even registered with the Hierarchy, especially in America, where the Anacreons did not believe in impeding a wraith’s personal freedom. Groups of dispossessed wraiths began shuffling from city to city as the first Vagabonds.

The ‘70s saw the continuation of the Cold War and countless Spectre Incursions. During the ‘70s, Stygian agents repaired the shattered roads and rails, allowing renewed communication with the Shadowlands. Charon was still missing, and the Deathlords had, in his absence, assumed control in a great and powerful oligarchy. This was a masterstroke of diplomacy and statecraft. Everything was to continue on – business as usual.

The Deathlords began to express displeasure at the relatively low number of souls that the Hierarchy in the Shadowlands sent to Stygia during the ‘70s and ‘80s. Whether this indicates rebelliousness on the part of the Citadel Anacreons or a lack of wraith power needed to gather souls efficiently in the Shadowlands is unknown.

The Hierarchy of the Shadowlands has recently devolved into an almost anarchic mass of self interested Anacreons who rule to further their own personal power. The Code of Charon has fallen by the wayside, especially when dealing with the children of Caine. There are even rumors that certain Hierarchs have begun working with vampires, performing services for the “undead” in exchange for the safe-keeping of their Fetters.

The weather of the Shadowlands in the present time is atrocious. The Tempest seethes with Spectres. Maelstroms continually arise, and although the Citadels still keep the ravages at bay, many souls are lost to Maelstroms on a regular basis.

In the cities, poverty, race bias and class struggle have wrought a deadly legacy: many violent deaths have resulted in the creation of more wraiths. In fact, several Necropoli harbor gangs of wraiths that owe allegiance to no faction save themselves. Heretics and Renegades operate relatively unhindered in the Shadowlands. Because of the fact that the roads, the rails, and the river are all blocked, and because the Fetters of life bind the wraiths who now live there, Stygia really has no good solution except to continue to send weapons and Soulfire to the Shadowlands.

Although the end of the Cold War substantially reduced the threat of absolute nuclear holocaust, conflicts like the Persian Gulf Wars and diseases like AIDS still provide endless hours of amusement to the foul Spectres who feast on such carnage.

It has also been rumored that lately the Lady of Fates mark has been seen on some new wraiths. The Ferrymen have been seen in the Shadowlands. Some souls are dying with such violence that they instantly become Specters. And, it is whispered that Charon has been sighted in Atlanta, Chicago, San Francisco, Edinburgh and other places, although these rumors have by no means been substantiated.