Friday, June 27, 2014

Starfall: Cosmology

Soundtrack: [1][2][3]

The world people see every day is only a small part of the universe as it is known to scholars and mystics.  It is little more than an echo or manifestation of much greater workings only a blessed few can perceive.  These other mechanisms behind the Veil bespeak the truths of the Faith and the righteousness of those who oppose Chaos in its many forms.  The learned often speak of these other layers of existence as planes, which are essentially other realities.  The most important of these are discussed to some degree below.

The Material Plane

The Material Plane, also called the Prime Plane, the Mortal Plane, the Mortal Veil, or more simply put, the world, is the normal, physical world people spend their day-to-day lives existing within.  It has constant physical laws, a constant time flow, and is largely immutable.  Within this plane, the sun is a burning orb of fire that lights and heats the world below, and the moon is its cool, pale mistress.  The stars are tiny pinpricks in the benighted firmament that are often associated with spirits of madness, drunkenness, depravity, and revelry.  These turn about the world in unfathomable cycles, yet still Man has deciphered many of the uncanny rhythms of the stars and learned to navigate by the dark knowledge they bestow.  Below the airy skies, great continents rise from the abyssal depths of the world's oceans whose origins lie in the Eternal Ocean of the Dreamer.

The Ethereal Plane

"Spirit Plane," "Near Astral Plane," "Spirit World," – all of these and more are names commonly given to what planar scholars call the Veil. This is a thin, astral-like plane that coexists with the material plane and acts as a buffer between it and the Astral Plane. It is a plane between planes that shares traits of both, yet is neither. Gravity in The Veil is not subjective, but its grasp does not as reliably anchor residents to the ground. Solid objects in the material plane may or may not be reflected in the Veil, and even when they are, spirits can often pass through them.

Occupants of the Veil are completely invisible and intangible to those in the corresponding material plane, although some more sensitive people find they can catch glimpses of this hidden world. Similarly, those in the Veil are only able to view a denuded and faint image of the material plane and cannot affect it anymore than those in the material can affect the Veil. In this way, the Veil is a ghostly reflection of the material world.

Ethereal Sinks

At certain times and in certain places, a Veil and its material plane have been known to merge partially or wholly. These places and times are called ethereal sinks. At or during an ethereal sink, those in a Veil and its material world can more easily see and interact with each other. The degree to which this is possible depends on the individual sink, but such locations and times are often held in high regard, either as sacred or unholy haunts, for only through powerful magic, miracles, or at an ethereal sink can an individual bodily travel from the material to the Veil or vice versa.

How sinks come to exist is not truly understood. Some sinks appear to have always existed; while, others were spawned by a definite event. Still others pulse in intensity with an unearthly rhythm. The most commonly known method for creating a true ethereal sink (and not just a magical rift or gate) is via a traumatic or intense emotional event, such as a murder or death surrounded by intense hatred, love, longing, or sense of regret. Such sinks are closely related to haunts and ghostly activity.

Between the Planes

Some entities exist between the Veil and the Material Plane, able to perceive and affect and be affected by them both to an extent. Many nature spirits experience this dualistic nature in one form or another. Some are sensitive to the presence of the other side, while others can actually see, feel, touch, smell, affect, and be affected by the other side. Such entities are sometimes colloquially called inbetweeners.

The Astral Plane

Far more difficult to describe than the Ethereal Plane, the Astral Plane is within and without the observer.  It is the architecture that underlies the material world.  It is the both the Dreamer and the Dream – the collective spirit of the universe.  It is everywhere and nowhere at once.  It is what lies beyond the Veil and inside every spirit and soul in the world.

Because the Astral Plane is inherently a piece of each person and each person shares in is as well, an individual's journey to the Astral Plane necessarily shapes his own perception of the plane.  This makes it virtually impossible to give exact descriptions of the plane's characteristics, but some generalizations are still possible.  While some people may build a mental architecture through which to view the Astral Plane – a childhood home, a temple, a library, an endless ocean, etc. – the passage of time there is never marked.  Gravity may be subjective, allowing visitors to fly or otherwise real, depending on in whose architecture the visitor resides and how it was shaped.  Visitors to the Astral Plane do not want for sustenance, sleep, or air, either; although, they may feel tired, hungry, thirsty, or as though they are suffocating.

While it is possible to bodily visit the Astral Plane, such a feat is quite difficult.  Instead, most people journey there by projecting their souls beyond the Veil or through by projecting through their own soul's connection to the World Spirit.  In either case, the projector appears as a spirit in the Astral World.  Mystics most commonly do this.  They also use the Astral Plane as the medium for reaching out and touching the spirits, minds, and bodies of other entities.  It is via everything's inherent connection to the World Spirit that this is even possible.

Despite the variable and very personal nature of the Astral Plane's appearance, the Astral Plane is not without certain landmarks or regions.  The most commonly visited of these is the Plane of Dreams, and perhaps the most hidden and sought after is the Akashic Library.  Far more common are soul portals – the means by which a mystic can touch and affect another entity via the Astral Plane.

Soul Portals

Soul portals are the means by which each spirit's soul shares in the World Spirit.  They are windows into that out of an entity through which someone in the Astral Plane may enter or leave, or through which an entity may reach into the Astral Plane.  Precisely how this is accomplished cannot be easily explained and takes years of meditation and instruction to accomplish, but it is by this means that mystics can touch the minds and souls – and even the bodies – of anything in creation.

Many mystics who have encountered demons and been fortunate enough to survive the affair have remarked that demons do not possess soul portals.  Those who have traveled extensively through the Astral Plane have never found any and connection between the World Spirit and chaos spawn – only the weeping wounds left by their passage on the soul of the world.  This has led some to conclude that the denizens of chaos are not of this world whatsoever and others to further speculate that the corruption creeping across the Material Plane is nothing less than an attack by an alien universe on our own.

The Plane of Dreams

When anything dreams, the barriers between its mind and certain parts of the Astral Plane weaken and dissolve.  The dreamer's psyche actually enters a portion of the Astral Plane known as the Plane of Dreams.  There, each dreamer carves out a small domain shaped by his own mind, but it is not terribly difficult for those aware of this fact to learn to pierce the Dreamveils that separate dreams.  Indeed, Dreamwalkers are those who can traverse the nightly dreamscape, passing from one person's dream to another, encountering different people, speaking with them, appearing in their dreams, and even shaping them.  Moreover, because dreaming transports a person's psyche to the Astral Plane, this can be an easy but dangerous way to enter the Astral Plane.

The Plane of Dreams can be perilous, however.  Not every dream is pleasant, and not every dreamer is friendly.  While dreams may not be real, the sort of psychic harm that can befall those within them is.  Unscrupulous dreamwalkers may exploit this feature to attack their enemies, or unwary dreamers may unwittingly stray into the twisted nightmares of a crazed lunatic.  Worse over, there are myriad dream spirits, some friendly and some maleficent.  The most feared of these are the dream stalkers, entities who induce hellish nightmares that cause more than lost sleep and insomnia – the wounds they inflict on your dreams are made real in the waking world.

The Akashic Library

The Akashic Library is a small domain deep within the heart of the Astral Plane.  There resides the memories of the entire world.  Every experience, every sensation, every piece of knowledge gleaned by anyone who shares in the World Spirit is stored there.  Accessing it requires special training or magic, but those who do can learn absolutely anything they are capable of mentally processing.  Of course, sifting through every memory since the birth of time itself can be difficult, tedious work, so it is typically easier to find information that was or still is held as a common knowledge than obscure facts.  The veracity of the information stored in the Akashic Library can also prove dubious, as what is stored there are memories – not absolute facts.  If a person believed something to be true, it may appear as a true fact, even if the person was incorrect.  Despite these limitations, the Akashic Library is a tremendous resource for those talented enough to access it and is often credited with much of the sagacity attributed to mystics.

The Maelstrom

Little is truly known of the Maelstrom.  It is the mindwarping abominable place that spews taint, corruption, chaos, and demonkind into the world.  It is not of this world – no akashic delving has ever found any mention of it from before the starfall.  There are no known portals or crossings to it within our world; although, rumors from the north claim a gaping scar of a maw lies within a ring of jagged stone teeth beneath a constantly tempestuous sky in the center of a vast, barren wasteland somewhere far beyond the Great Glacier.  No one has ever claimed to have entered the Maelstrom and returned, nor has anyone ever claimed to have seen this worldwound first hand.  A few gibbering madmen claim to have peered beyond the edges of reality and witnessed the horrible truth of the Maelstrom, but their minds are so shattered and distorted and their discourse so fantastic and fragmented that such accounts cannot be given any weight.  So what is truly known about the Maelstrom?  It is the name given to the place from where the demonic scourge hails and corruption emanates.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Starfall: On the Edge of Oblivion

Soundtrack: [1]
Hundreds of years ago, the world was normal.  Kingdoms fought, droughts desiccated the western plains, Winter killed, politicians stole, prostitutes fucked, – and things were normal.  Then the stars fell.

The kingdoms of what was then the Great Southern Sea were the first to witness the bright green streaks screaming overhead in such a furious fusillade that roosters crowed thinking the dawn had come, and men, women, and children dressed to perform their morning chores.  But upon leaving their houses, they saw the light was not of this world.  The skyfire stretched from horizon to horizon, reaching ever northward.  Across the land, similar stories passed from father to son for generations, even in the far north near the Eternal Ice.  Where the stars eventually fell, no one is certain, but the ramifications were dire.

Since the starfall, corruption has crept south from beyond the Eternal Ice.  Beckoned by dark sorcerers whispering blasphemies to the stars, demons come in the night to bless their servants with preternatural power and blight the land.  They drive hordes of tainted beasts and corrupt men down from the Glacier into the northlands to raid, rape, and pillage.  They drive women to profane acts that can only begin to explain the horrors known as beastmen.  They destroy all that is natural, bringing chaos to the world around.

Indeed, the world itself seems infected.  The ocean and seas have swallowed all of the great port cities.  Rivers overflow their banks every spring, washing away the great waypoints and capitals of the world.  Torrential rains and horrific tempests savage the coasts every summer and autumn, while great blizzards bury the north in mounds of snow every winter.  The summers grow hotter and longer, while the winters cooler and shorter.  Marshes and lake lands stretch where tundra once ruled.

Now the world teeters on the brink of oblivion.  The shattered remnants of civilizations cling to existence by whatever means necessary.  Towns are beset by unfathomable monsters.  The trackless wilderness has reclaimed all but the most stalwart communities.  The heroes of old are all dead.  Men fight only to survive; while, Nature fights the demonic plague that afflicts the very soul of the world. This is the world of Starfall.