The Tempest

xisting just “below” the surface of the Shadowlands is the eternal turbulence called the Tempest, a roiling, nightmarish chaos of shadowy storm that has raged unceasingly for half a millennium. The landscape of the Tempest is constantly changing; rains of broken glass, noxious gases, eruptions of boiling pitch and worse are common sights to travelers. It surrounds and pervades all the other aspects of the Underworld. No matter where one goes in the Shadowlands, the Tempest is no more than a slight rip in the fabric of reality away. Indeed, the Tempest is best thought of as a sort of hyperspace underlying the “reality” of the Shadowlands.

Distance and space are meaningless there, for the Tempest is created by the ever-changing visions and fears of those trapped within it. Indeed, the Tempest has no set reality or substance; those who are embraced by it create their own rules. Wayfaring through the Tempest is an exercise in confrontation with demons both within and without.

Even wraiths find the Tempest distasteful. It is dark and extremely cold. Howling winds lash through the area. Only Spectres – insane and Shadow-consumed wraiths – choose to exist within the Tempest. Echoes of past evil and passion assume a nightmarish reality. A murder scene might be continually reenacted by Drones, or a house long demolished in the real world might still stand, a shadow of its former existence.

Those who venture into the Tempest often receive snatches of memories: clues regarding Fetters, whispered admissions of terrible guilt, visions of past lives, and the like. These fragments of thought and memory come from agonized souls. In some ways, the Tempest is actually made up of the essences of weaker souls who did not have enough will to cling to wraithdom.

Snaking through this nightmare of a storm are paths of semi-constant reality, that allow wraiths to cross the Tempest in relative safety, called Byways. These “roads” and “rivers” lead from point to point within the Shadowlands, or from the Shadowlands to the deeper realms or connect realm to realm and are used by most travelers in the Tempest. The greatest of these Byways is the River of Death, the source underlying mortal legends of the River Styx and the like. Travel from point to point through the Tempest without resorting to a byway is also possible, and often is faster than taking one of the winding safe paths. On the other hand, travelers in the storm are exposed to its dangers, and the things that dwell within it.

In addition to safe routes through the Tempest, there are islands of stability within the storm as well. The city of Stygia (the political and economic center of the Underworld, home realm of Charon and the Hierarchy of Death) rests on one such island; the innumerable Far Shores (the hells, heavens, and places of refuge) rest on others. In these places a deceivingly placid ocean called the Sunless Sea, across which soul-traffic once moved unceasingly, covers the Tempest. Other islands of safety exist within the storm as well: Feng-tu, Swar, the Sea That Knows No Sun, the Bush of Ghosts, and others, the death-realms of other cultures and societies. Some have dealings with Stygia, trading souls, or waging war across the seas of the dead.

Deep within the storm is the fear-shadowed Labyrinth. No one knows what the walls of this horrifying place are made from, though the few explorers who have returned from wandering it report that the very substance of the passages changes as one walks through. Hospital corridors, mirrored mazes, sluggish flows of molten rock – all can be found within the Labyrinth. Here, too, can be found the slumbering Malfeans, the oldest and most potent Spectres. At the very center of the Tempest lies the Void. The Void is the source of Oblivion as well as its resting place. Those souls not ready for their final dissolution find the Void nearly impossible to reach; those souls with nothing left to “live” for find the Void nearly impossible to avoid.