--"A place where nightmares are given form"--
Why it exists or how it came to be remains a mystery, but the Black Hallows is a domain unlike any other. It is where tales from forgotten cultures say dreams and nightmares make their home, where dread and terror languish and take physical form, and where seekers of ancient knowledge are driven mad by revelations not meant for the minds of men. Little of the Black Hallows is understood. However, for what had felt like an eternity, the one truth of the Black Hallows was that it lied beyond the physical world and could only be entered by those who were intimate with the cryptic knowledge needed to do so - until now.
High in it's bleak and murky skies now hovers a Cosmic Cube, one that lies at the center of a monstrosity of it's own creation, a large tear or wound called the "Schism" or "Gorge". And it is through the Gorge that the curious may cross into the Black Hallows. However, it is also through the Gorge that the Black Hallows now threatens to leak into the physical world and consume it with it's corruption should the tear remain open. Curiously, the other side of the Gorge opens in the skies above the Kwazulu Alcazar.
Geography of the Black Hallows
The landscape of the Black Hallows is not uniform. It's one constant feature remains the Gorge and the bleak atmosphere of it's sky. The Black Hallows itself is largely lifeless with most of it's inhabitants being the waning souls of those tricked into entering it, nightmare creatures, and mad scholars of the arcane. The strange domain is primarily divided into three regions; the Grim Pasture, Blackpool, and Phantasmagoria. Each is unique and each presents it's own rewards and dangers to the Black Hallows' wanderers.
Though not technically considered a region in the Black Hallows, a small settlement called the Keld lies outside the reach of the three regions. The Keld is the home of human and humanoid survivors who are trapped in the Black Hallows. Though they are highly reclusive, they offer sanctuary to any wanderer intent on escaping the horrors of the Hallows.
The Grim Pasture
A dreary and cheerless region of the Black Hallows, the Grim Pasture is marred by a somber and murky sky drenched in perpetual darkness. Torrents of purple lightning surge constantly across it's sky, and a purple mist hangs over it's barren terrain. The Grim Pasture has few works of architecture, resembling a wasteland with little more than graveyards, aged burial chambers, mausoleums and crumbling chapels. It is dry and populated by dead trees with black bark carved with the faces of trapped souls wailing in despair. It is believed that the greater the number of faces carved on the black bark of a tree, the greater the number of souls imprisoned.
Though the Grim Pasture has little value to those who venture into it, veins of unknown purple crystals scar the terrain of certain areas. Those areas are said to be a necromancer's dream as the purple crystals hold masses of trapped souls. The crystals can be mined and used for any number of purposes ranging from converting to the trapped souls into etheric energy or conjuring the souls as immaterial or servants. However, the Grim Pasture, like all of the Black Hallows' regions, is a place of danger. It is roamed by the Ghouls of Grim, incredibly tall and lanky figures of dread.
Draped in tattered and hooded cloaks and wearing rusted masks devoid of expression, the Ghouls are physically disturbing. Their limbs are unnaturally long, and their thin bodies contorted beyond normality. They have no organs, and their flesh is grey and emaciated, as if decayed. Behind their masks, they are eyeless and have empty sockets covered in folds of decayed flesh. Their mouths are abnormally large and gaping holes lined with needle-like teeth, and their fingernails are sharp and dagger-like. Despite their gaunt and sunken features, the Ghouls are much stronger and faster than ordinary humans.
They are more difficult to kill and do not appear to have souls. They often hover, gliding to wherever it is they go, their presence casting a haunting and traumatic sensation through the air. Through their presence, the Ghouls feast on the positive emotions of those nearby, causing many in the Grim Pasture to feel as though they will never know joy or cheer again. However, when in the physical presence of a Ghoul, the unprotected experience bouts of depression and an overwhelming sensation of dread and hopelessness as the Ghouls feed on the positive emotions of their victims until only the negative remain. If too much time is spent in a Ghoul's presence, one begins to relive their worst and most traumatic memories over and over again until their sanity is twisted, contorted, and they are driven mad by depression and dread.
It is said that the sensation and emotional void caused by the presence of Ghouls is so horribly cruel and torturous that it so violently mangles one's emotional being that many become suicidal, while others are left emotionally inert husks, catatonic and with no will to live. And because the Ghouls can sense emotion and mental health, they can often identify who is more vulnerable to them, and usually stalk those who make easier prey. Because the overwhelming sensation of hopelessness and dread from their presence often lays waste to even the stronger of wills and makes cowards of the courageous, the Ghouls rarely have to physically engage those they stalk. Many misunderstand the effects of their presence, unaware that the Ghouls' presence does not attack the mind or soul, but feasts on the deepest parts of one's emotional being. However, the most powerful Ghouls can target the soul.
The most powerful of Ghouls wield mysterious staffs which allow the Ghouls, through 10 seconds of uninterrupted physical touch with their victims, to latch onto their souls and consume it, literally sucking the soul out of the body. Though this power can be resisted through great force of will, it is highly dangerous. The victim is left an empty shell, a husk incapable of thought with little chance of recovery without any expert intervention. It is said that a person's soul is their true self, and to have one's soul consumed is to cease to exist yet somehow remain. The souls consumed by the powerful Ghouls are distributed among them and among the lesser Ghouls, while many are imprisoned in the Grim Pasture's trees and the veins of purple crystals. Those whose souls are consumed are prevented from passing on to an afterlife. It is believed that Ghouls consume the souls of others because they do not have souls of their own.
Positive emotions and souls are their form of sustenance and if they have not consumed anything in too long a period, they will wither and die. The Ghouls of Grim do not appear to have a spoken language and their means of communication remains unknown.
Different from the Grim Pasture but equally as frightening, Blackpool is dominated by a cratered landscape of black rock and fissures that bubble with toxic puss. Here the effects of gravity experience gaps as large masses of rock seem to float all about with nothing to cause their descent to the ground. The most prominent feature in Blackpool however, is it's large city which is, unsurprisingly, called the City of Blackpool. However, in order to enter the city one must first navigate the Maze of Vha'shii which if navigated correctly, leads to the gates of the City of Blackpool.
Upon entering the Maze of Vha'shii, one is forced to navigate a highly complex structure with little illumination. There are several dead ends, trap doors, nightmare creatures and trap prisons. The City of Blackpool itself is a dreadful metropolis with contorted spires and towers draped in shadows. It is ruled by Dirqa; the Archduchess of Blackpool, and the Keeper of the Book of Vha'shii. Dirqa is a powerful necromancer and witch, an intelligent and cunning ruler who guards the book of her infamous ancestor, Vha'shii. The Book of Vha'shii is a prized artifact in the Black Hallows. A powerful but dangerous book of arcane knowledge, the Book of Vha'shii is a twisted text bound in the flesh of dead Ghouls from the Grim Pasture. Those who open the Book of Vha'shii and plunge into it's deepest sections are granted profound insight into the arcane world.
Readers touched by the arcane energies of the book and bestowed with great arcane powers molded to their personalities. Those who value strength and might above everything for example, are given incredible physical power. Whereas those who believe in the power of the mind find their minds blessed with an untamed psychic power. However, the Book of Vha'shii is dangerous. Those who read it and use it's power, are forever bound to the City of Blackpool and forced to guard the book until their death. Despite the condition associated with the Book of Vha'shii, many still seek it, confident that they know of artifacts and forms of magic that can overcome it's condition. As a result, Diirqa has created the "Afflicted", who roam the Maze of Vha'shii and the city to prevent the ambitious from reaching her and the Book of Vha'shii.
Former natives of the City of Blackpool, the Afflicted are men and women perverted by a corruption cast by Dirqa. Driven mad by the corruption, the Afflicted are driven by an erratic instinct to prevent any and everyone from entering the navigating the Maze of Vha'shii and entering the city. The Afflicted are gaunt and so emaciated that it seems as though their bones are pushing out against their skin. Their eyes are black and featureless and pushed back deep into their sockets. Their flesh is the color of ash and their a thick perversion runs in their veins.
The perversion in their veins is the same physical corruption that Dirqa marred them with. The Afflicted transmit their physical corruption through blood contact, scratching and biting, and black tendrils they can sprout from their flesh. The physical corruption can be resisted by those with powerful immune systems, however, the sickness when contracted, is fatal. Some victims die within hours, while others wither away slowly. The sickness/corruption varies in effect. At times the victim wastes away slowly, suffering an excruciating and painful death. Their bones are made to push out violently against the skin until it breaks, and the body begins an agonizing decay as the flesh erodes and organs break down into sacks of puss. It is an ordeal that slowly kills the victim.
However, some are turned into other Afflicted instead of facing simple death. Like the Afflicted, those who "turn" find that their organs turn into black sacs containing a rotting sickness, their bones are elongated, and they become emaciate and their sense of self is stripped away. In addition to their ability to transmit the corruption, the Afflicted possess bestial strength and speed, greater than any ordinary man's. Dirqa's commands burn deep in the minds of the Afflicted, turning them into her mindless and violent thralls. Their sharp teeth and claws can shred flesh like a knife through butter, and their spidery tendrils boast the strength of monsters.
Phantasmagoria is the domain of the Black Hallows where nightmares are given form, where reality shifts again and again. Phantasmagoria is hazy, almost featureless save for the thick mist that hangs prominently in the air. This domain however, is taken by the foulest of monsters, immaterial creatures that prey on the belief and thoughts of those who dare enter it. That which takes physical form in Phantasmagoria does so by the expression of thought. A wanderer who dreams of their loved ones may find themselves faced by what appears to be the departed spirits of those closest to them.
But those who have fear? Will be faced with their worst fears. Those who are unsure? With a subtle creepiness, a sensation of unsettling uncertainty. If one allows their preconceptions to cloud their minds, they are doomed. A wanderer's expectations are what mold the physical manifestations of the monsters there. At times they may appear as benevolent guides or one's worst nightmare. The one constant in Phantasmagoria is it's library; the Dire Halls.
A seemingly endless library of esoteric, arcane and secret knowledge of any kind, the Dire Halls is a place of both knowledge and terror. Stacks of aged books stretch into Phantasmagoria's emerald and misty sky, and torn pages and tomes of arcane knowledge drift through the air. To a reader, a book has an equal chance of leaving foreboding impressions of despair and horror, or bestowing great knowledge upon the mind. It is often said that an encounter with a book of horrors can often be so memorable to a reader's mind that nothing else in the Black Hallows or the physical world can ever frighten them again, as it is here where books can cause the bravest of men to tremble.
Knowledge, power, and danger await those who wander into the Dire Halls. Here men are driven mad by the unknowable truths found in the many texts sought by the ambitious. Said to encompass the farthest reaches of knowledge and the deepest depths of fate, the Dire Halls is roamed by many. First among them are monstrous behemoths that appear to protect the arcane information held within from the coveting eyes of the curious traveler, but for no particular reason. Many of the books in the library are known for their featureless dark green covers. Areas containing the most valuable books are bordered by corrosive, acidic waters that dissolve any who touch it.
Though tantalizing, the risk of exposing one's mind to the secrets of the Dire Halls and being driven mad is eerily high. Mad scholars and sorcerers are often found in the Dire Halls, obsessively searching for obscure knowledge and attacking anyone they cross paths with. The soul lavaliere is believed to lie somewhere in the Dire Halls.
A small settlement of human and humanoid survivors trapped in the Black Hallows, the Keld is known for a distinct culture surrounding defensive magic. It's inhabitants strive to push the boundary of defensive magic in order to strengthen the arcane walls erected to keep the horrors of the Black Hallows from penetrating into the Keld. Ruled by four sorceresses known as the Circle of Magistrates, the Keld promotes it's most skilled mages and arcane experts to the top of it's social strata due to an immediate and almost panicked need to keep the Keld from being tainted by the rest of the Black Hallows.
Few of the Keld's inhabitants venture outside it's immaterial arcane walls, preferring to stay behind the barrier that shields them the dangers of the Hallows. While reclusive, those of the Keld who do venture beyond it's border do so only to search for other wandering humans lost or trapped in the Black Hallows. The arcane is continuously studied and researched in the Keld, it is an integral part of the settlement's defenses, so much so that the Keld often lacks in it's other areas.
- This is meant to be a difficult place to locate so if you show up, sell the difficulty in finding it.
- Sell the dangers of the Black Hallows as much as is reasonable for your character.
- Dirqa the ruler of Blackpool, and the Keld's Circle of Magistrates are NPCs.
- If you have any questions (or want to do something the Book of Vha'shii or the soul lavaliere), PM me on this account or Grimmwald/Amin Karrit/Satar/Thee Champion/Prime Impero/Magistrate.
- Have fun, or not. That's on you.