Despite the litany of Cultures and Religions spanning Aloria with their own gods of death and afterlives, there exists an alternative end for the souls of the departed who either die faithless, forgotten or dedicated to the cause of Death itself: this plane is called the Beyond. It exists as a sort of twisted reflection of Aloria born of death and the decay of time and memory, parasitically feeding off of the former plane’s souls in order to fuel itself. Where Aloria, the world of the mortal Races, is a plane of life, growth, and creation, the Beyond is exactly the opposite: there, things die in perpetuity and souls are broken down until they either join with the other hosts of dead dwelling there or they fade away entirely. It is an inverse of Aloria and the world within it, like a dead reflection in a mirror. Though scholars and varying civilizations have spent ages debating the truth and nature of its existence, the signs and assorted clues of its potential presence have persisted throughout the known world for a great deal of time in the forms of the Undead and their many variations, as well as Ordial Mages, and Geists, and contemporary understandings of planar mechanics and Dimenthist theory assert that the Beyond is both quite real and also quite dangerous.
It is impossible to ever definitively ascertain the precise functions of a plane of reality like the Beyond, especially when the latter’s very nature is still broadly speculated by a majority of Aloria’s scholars and theologians. Still, there exists a niche of the academic community that commits themselves to the self-titled field of “Animology”: the study of souls, so to speak. It is these Animologists who swear by the “Animortem Theory”, which claims that the Beyond is comparable to a parasite in that it attempts to draw the Souls of Aloria's living away from their natural process of reclamation at the hands of the plane's gods.
In the Animortem Theory, the Beyond exists as a dark and dead mirror of Aloria: rather than being a place of life and creation, it is a world of death and extant decay in its many forms. How it came to exist and why it manifested in exactly this manner is a subject of speculative debate still, but nonetheless it remains loosely attached to Aloria like a leech and constantly tries to draw dying souls away from the plane. When a living soul that dwells within Aloria dies, it begins the process of departing from its body. This has no fixed time and can be as instantaneous as the moment they die or take weeks after weeks if the soul is particularly unrestful and dissatisfied with leaving their life behind. This allows for the occasional seemingly-miraculous resurrection of a person through both medical and magical means. Otherwise, if there is no intervention, a soul will leave its body and make its way into the possession of whatever divine being the living person had faith in where it will rest thereafter. It is this part of the cycle of life and death that the Beyond tries to meddle with, partially: while a soul is still within a body or as it is journeying before it reaches the deity it belongs to, the influence of the Beyond attempts to 'mimic' said soul by harvesting and utilizing the excess memories they have shed and creating a facsimile of the soul called a Shade. This is operated and overseen by a host of mysterious beings simply called the Creators of Death, a group of massive, floating entities sometimes spotted in the Beyond’s dark sky appearing as an indecipherable tangle of long tentacles that can be observed as constantly reaching outward from the realm and into Aloria to try and interfere with the stream of souls. Their work seems to be entirely automatic and uninterrupted, and why they do this or what tasked them with disrupting the cycle is an enigma.
Souls are born as ‘clean slates’, without memories or ingrained personalities. As they grow and live, memories accumulate in the form of more Soul Essence that builds within the person, until they die and their soul essence joins with the divines they held faith in. Not all Souls are left entirely intact or self-aware in this process, the exact nature of the divine afterlife is not well understood, because nobody has ever gone there and come back without the hint of some biased retelling. This all relies on religious ideologies, and so it is very hard to factually verify in fact, unlike the Animortem Theory, which is much easier to factually examine because the Beyond is not a one-way entry. The memories that the Beyond coalesces into semi-complete manifestations of the people they belonged to typically come from people who died faithless or suffered crises in their own personal spirituality that shook them and left their souls vulnerable after death, and these manifestations are referred to as Shades. Shades are semi-complete echoes of who people were in life, clusters of memories alone that form hollow approximations of the people that lack any of the context or real motivations and nuance of their former owners' personalities, meaning that any interacted with are noted to act erratic and different in some ways than they used to. These Shades undergo a variety of fates, depending on who the person was in life and what becomes of them. Some simply linger among the dead lands of the Beyond, wandering aimlessly and falling prey to the few entities that dwell there. Others are so disturbed by their unfinished business in Aloria that their Shades find a way to return there (or they are summoned, as necromancers do) and they emerge in the world of the living as Undead of varying kinds. The rest, as they are eventually forgotten, find peace in their afterlife, and simply fade away into a serene state of nothingness and nonexistence, their mark on the world vanished.
As a result of its parasitic relationship with Aloria, the Primal powers that protect and maintain it have a distinct opposition to both the goals and the very existence of the Beyond and its agents. The Dragons are for the most part vehemently anti-Ordial and the gods of Aloria always desire for the souls of their followers to make their way safely to the afterlife intended for them, not to become tortured Shades, so those most devoted to the divine powers of Aloria war quite frequently with the Beyond's servants in the living world in an attempt to prevent them from conducting their work and spreading Death's influence any further.
The matter of actually traveling to the Beyond is a difficult thing to undertake, as even if a person were to die faithless and troubled it would only be a replica of their memories that arrived in the Beyond as a Shade afterward and not their actual selves. However, there are recorded instances and claims throughout known history of people actually being able to venture there through a variety of irregular means. Some of the old cults and spiritualists who believed in its existence long ago have managed to open small rifts to either briefly step into it or just peer inside, and others swear that there are places in Aloria where the metaphysical ‘fabric’ between the two worlds is weak enough that one can either accidentally or purposefully fall through and into the so-called land of the dead. These so-called ‘Doors’ tend to spontaneously manifest in places of great concentrated Ordial energy, like Temples built to the Beyond’s gods, appearing as vast pits of endless black. Most claims of ever going to this supposedly theoretical plane are unverified and dismissed as fictitious, though.
The select few who are ever unfortunate enough to look upon the Beyond itself are greeted with a sight not entirely unfamiliar to the Aloria they know. In the realm of the dead, everything is rather obviously dead. All plant life is withered away, grass is brittle and grey, trees are hollow and lifeless and stand more like skeletal pillars among the sparse wastes of the plane. There are no animals to speak of, nor any of the noise they bring. The wind does not blow or whistle, giving everything outside of the cities a suffocatingly silent ambience. The cities themselves and all structures created by Aloria’s sapient Races exist in the Beyond in some part, though they are broken and crumbling husks of what they once were. In some places, the layering of rubble and old buildings almost seems to defy reality: where multiple civilizations have left their mark and had their landmarks torn down and built atop by future peoples, like in the City of Regalia, the multitude of ancient landmarks blend together in a surreal patchwork of architecture that could be mistaken as dreamlike. The unifying factor is their collective disrepair and dead emptiness. The sky, too, is void of anything: no stars, sun, or moonshine any sort of light unto the land abroad, and simply acts as a black-grey blanket spanning infinitely above. As far as the shape and landscape of the world are concerned, the Beyond is a mirror image of Aloria aside from its oppressive, empty deadness. There are, however, just a few locations and landmarks that exist in the Beyond alone.
The first “landmark” of the Beyond is less of a tangible place and more a physical phenomenon observed by the rare few who venture into the plane and return to record their findings, and they call it the Well of Souls. It is observed visually as a towering beacon of what appears to be bright Thanhic Essence (the operative term used to describe the magical material that Shades and thusly Ordial energy is made of) that juts from the earth and right into the Beyond’s dark sky. It has no fixed location, as the few times it has been observed have all been in vastly different parts of the world, and it always appears to be rather far away. Theories have been posited about its purpose, the most plausible of which say that the Well is the Beyond’s proper ‘entrance’ where the Shades harvested from Aloria's souls pass on into whatever is to become of their afterlife, as the flow of essence does appear to be moving downward. Nobody has ever been able to come close enough to it to observe anything otherwise.
The Eronidas of Aloria have a unique relationship with the Beyond, as the mythology of the Asaredu faith tells of Da'amu sealing the gods Vakkar and Makkaru in a 'place devoid of life' which contemporary scholars have reasoned to be the Beyond. Additionally, a place of legend has actually manifested itself within the realm: it is known as Vakkar and Makkaru's Stand, appearing as a lone hillock in the midst of a vast savannah in the Beyond’s equivalent of the Eronidas homeland of Guldar. It is akin to an afterlife of sorts for Eronidas warriors where the manifestations of their departed memories pilgrimage to gather and partake in endless feasting, hunting, and battle alongside their exiled gods. It is said that a great number of Eronidas heroes of history and legend have a place at the Stand, and their memories are kept alive by the tales told by their descendants in Aloria. There is even a story that tells of its creation; Vak’gosh was a chieftain of a great tribe in the homeland of Guldar, but his beloved was killed in a cowardly manner as poison was fed to him by a jealous member of the tribe. Enraged, Vak’gosh refused to let go of the Eronidas he loved so dearly, and slew the assassin in ritual combat. As his soul left his body, he forced his way into Ne’hash-- the Warrior’s Rest, the Eronidas name for the Beyond-- in search of his beloved’s dead soul. He searched among the many spirits desperately, but could not find him. Despondent, he climbed up onto the nearest hill and challenged Death herself, Da'amu, to come and face him in combat with his axes raised. Da'amu answered in the form of a towering warrior of bone and iron, and so the two battled. Vak’gosh and Da'amu fought for days on end, but as strong and driven as the chieftain may have been, the only thing a warrior cannot truly conquer is Death: he was slain there atop that hill, but Da'amu was impressed by Vak’gosh’s resolve and fighting spirit as she had never been challenged before. She chose to exile Vak'gosh's soul to the realm of Death so that he could rest with the imprisoned gods there. Vak’gosh’s soul was immortalized there on the hill and his resting place was made to be a gathering for great Eronidas warriors and something for them to aspire to venture to when they inevitably died. None, however, know if that hill is truly where Vakkar and Makkaru lay imprisoned. It should be noted that this myth is often ignored by Ailor, Teledden and others as an example of the Eronidas inflated ego, to presume a lone Eronidas changed the realm of death. If there is any truth to the story, only the ancient long-dead Eronidas of Guldar likely know it, as well as the secret histories kept locked away by the modern-day Polons.
In the early days of the Dewamenet Empire, whose exact history is lost to time, a particularly powerful mystic named Imeshret the Night-Gazer reached into the Beyond and drew upon its power. He and his Sefakhem dared to dream of a way to bring their people’s paradise, a place their mythos called ‘the Gardens of Baskarr’, into reality: and so they engineered the greatest crypt Aloria has ever known, the Vault of the Dead. This Vault is lined with an advanced form of Deathspeech scripture that made the Vault into something of a font of Ordial power thanks to the enchantments etched into the walls, and with the legions of Asha dead sealed away within its confines, this Ordial power resulted in a magnanimous change to the Beyond: the Gardens of Baskarr were made real. Within the Beyond itself, if one journeys to where the Ashal Islands would be in Aloria, they will find a great wall wrapping around the coast that guards the Islands from intrusion by shades and other unwanted visitors. This place is not the definitive afterlife of the Asha or the Baskarr faithful, and those who even acknowledge its existence claim it to be an aberration and heresy. What truly lies beyond this wall is known only to the Shades that may lie inside of it.
Not every place of note in the Beyond has a noble purpose, though. Nestled deep within the ominous mountains of what is eastern Tirgunn (a province of the Lordship of Osteiermark) in the land of the living is a terrifying place simply called the Tombs. It has only ever been seen as a massive stone doorway chiseled into a mountain, and the few glimpses into it when opened have revealed a deep and labyrinthian darkness inside. Whether it was there when the Beyond was created is uncertain, but its purpose defies the natural order of the plane: it is within these Tombs that a vile entity known as the Malefica dwells and imprisons the unfortunate Shades it makes the victim of its nefarious designs. It specifically targets Shades that belonged to souls of relative power and importance in their lives, valuing their knowledge and strength. What it wants to do with them, though, is entirely unknown, and who exactly has been spirited away and sealed within the Tombs is a mystery.
While a great deal of the Beyond is enigmatic, none of it is more so than what is only called the Pit. Appearing in the middle of a plain in what is western Daen, it is a gargantuan castle-sized hole in the middle of the world. It has no visible bottom, only unending black inside, and nothing that falls in: whether it simply be a rock or even one of the Beyond’s wandering Shades, ever comes back up.
The Beyond was born with no gods nor sapient beings within it beyond the Creators of Death and their master, the Shaper. However, as it is a place of memory and an old one at that, eons of coalescing memories and thoughts from harvested souls have resulted in the uncanny, natural birth of a small array of god-like beings that dwell within (or outside of and simply tethered to, in some cases) the plane. Each has their own purpose and designs independent of the Beyond’s function and act on their own autonomous principles, and over time they have formed something similar to internal factions among themselves: The Creators of Death, the Conclave of Spirits and the Barrow-land Court. These pseudo-pantheons are formed of Ordial Gods existing both in and outside of the Beyond and working to contribute to their individual goals from wherever they may lie. While the pantheon’s respective goals and ideals may not entirely align, they still have common unity in their collective need to keep the Beyond existing and powerful, and thus protecting the interests of Death as a concept. Some Alorian Cultures throughout history have managed to make contact or feel some of their presences resulting in the creation of fringe cults and faiths that have mostly faded into obscurity over time, but the legends surrounding them still linger and some forms of worship are still practiced and adopted by the remnants of these spiritualities as modern-day Ordial Cultism.
The Creators of Death
The Creators of Death are not only the name for the odd creatures that seem to maintain the flow of Shades into the Beyond, but also the deities that align themselves with preserving and maintaining the status quo of the realm and ensuring it continues onward as it should. These deities and those who follow them find no issue with the Beyond's parasitic process of creating Shades and utilizing them, but opposes their abuse and refrains from meddling too deeply in the affairs of Aloria or other realms outside of what is strictly necessary.
- The Shaper: By far the most ambiguous of the Beyond’s ‘deities’, the Shaper has no proper place in any Ordial-aligned beliefs in Aloria because it has no real purpose or intentions beyond fulfilling its task in directing the many Creators of Death in their goal of keeping the flow of Shades steady in their entrance to the Beyond. It appears as simply the largest among its kind, and occasionally more of the flying tentacled creatures emerge from its titanic mass of limbs. It can almost always be spotted by those in the Beyond somewhere in the sky, even if just as a very far-off and small speck. It is entirely uncertain why it and its Creators undergo this task, but whatever the reason may be, they keep the process functional.
- The Archivist: A little-recognized and often-overlooked being, the Archivist has never opted to show itself to Aloria or foster any sort of religious following or presence otherwise. It is simply known to be a being that busies itself with archiving the vast quantity of departed memories that flow into and through the Beyond, keeping record in a vast library it maintains within the realm's depths that some rumor could contain the entirety of Alorian history in its halls: even the things lost to time immemorial.
The Conclave of Spirits
Where the Creators of Death choose neutrality and non-interference and the Barrow-land Court seeks out domination, the deities of the Conclave and their devotees believe firmly in utilizing the powers and potential of the Beyond to actively aid Alorian folk and defend their interests. The other factions see them as somewhat treacherous for this, and this leads to a great deal of conflict as a result.
- Da’amu: The very same Daughter of Death worshiped in the Asaredu Faith, Da'amu's proximity to the Beyond led to her becoming tethered to the plane's powers. While the exact reasons and motivations behind deceiving her siblings into imprisoning Vakkar and Makkaru inside of the Beyond are still unknown, it is known that the gifts she sometimes grants her acolytes and the work she does in Aloria to help both the Eronidas and the processes of Death align her with the Conclave's interests and bring her into conflict with others.
The Barrow-land Court
Named so for the vast swath of the Beyond's wastelands that the Court controls, the Court are the Ordial Gods that find little issue in using the realm's Shades or bringing ruin to the people and places of Aloria for their own means and actively attempt to extend the reach of Death beyond its confines. Definitively 'ruled' by the Malefica, the Court's entities battle with the others relatively often.
- The Terror: A manifestation of the looming, suffocating fear of death itself, the Terror is a titanic beast that ravages the Beyond and tries to consume everything it encounters, Shades and misfortunate wandering souls alike. It appears similar to a massive Dragon twisted by metal and the decay of undeath, though has been known to take other forms: sometimes a horrific leviathan within the Beyond’s dead seas, a predatory bird or even chimeric creature formed of a multitude of bestial parts. Through these, it is reasonable to conclude that the various frightening monsters in folklore from all across Aloria (like seafarer’s tales of sea monsters or the Eronidas belief in Yazgar) have influenced the Terror through the memories of those who pass on and add to its strength. Whether it was created by these memories or just warped by them is uncertain, but whatever the answer may be, the lawful entities of the Beyond find it dangerous and actively combat it through the Hunter who is locked within an eternal chase after the great monstrosity.
While the Gods of the Beyond hold a definitively deific status and individually contribute toward the communal strength of the plane, they are not the only beings tethered to the realm that possess noteworthy power: there are the Ikon, a cadre of once-living beings that found new purpose and power in their afterlife in the Beyond. Where Ordial Gods tend to be born as gods or elevated to that status in death by the hand of another deity, the Ikon were all once simple mortals of Aloria that either possessed a distinct connection to the Beyond while they lived or simply found themselves there when they died. There their Shade either possessed enough sheer magical strength, astounding willpower or emotional turmoil that they eventually grew into an Ikon of the realm. Drawing comparisons to the Arken of the Void and Exist, Ikon freely move between the Beyond and Aloria while working to their own individual whims.
Selene the Weaver, Ikon of Tangled Webs
In life, Selene Anahera grew to great notoriety as a cunning and ruthless politician of the Regalian Empire. Her keen mind and silver tongue were entirely unmatched by her contemporaries, and it was known that a few well-placed words by the elderly woman could sometimes do more than the Emperor’s own command. She was unfortunately made the target of a random and brutal killing by a coven of Sanguine who captured her along with a few minor nobles and sacrificed them all for a celebratory, bloody feast. Dying with so many plans left incomplete and in such torturous fashion brought Selene’s Shade to the Beyond, where she eventually became the Ikon of Tangled Webs: a slippery, shadowy agent of Death who flits from one pantheon of gods to another to tug upon their strings while also visiting mortals to look for new tools to utilize among them. She appears much as she did in life, albeit with an illustrious robe of woven spiderwebs and is often associated with arachnid imagery.
Sirrhisa the Sightless, Ikon of Undying Love
Sirrhisa the Sightless once was a Geist, serving as both the right-hand and lover of the legendary necromancer Zenallăeia of Three Corpses during the Darkening period of Allorn history. Sirrhisa would eventually be slain in a skirmish against Dewamenet forces, and she was buried alongside her queen and lover within the notorious Black Sepulchre. Their Shades, however, traveled to the Beyond together where they dwelled: the love between them that had existed while they lived only growing stronger and causing their Shades to intermingle until eventually the two of them became an Ikon together. Sirrhisa would be dispatched back to Aloria, re-inhabiting her body and breaking out of the Black Sepulchre, while Zenallăeia remained in the Beyond in order to be her mystic sight. The two of them embody radical and defiant love that exists beyond life and death, and seek out romantics throughout Aloria to either judge their partnerships as being true by putting them through trials, or by fighting to punish those that would interfere with love between people. There are some that seek out Sirrhisa to beg for miraculous aid in returning a loved one from death, though it is known that this never comes without a heavy cost. Sirrhisa takes on the form of a tall and strong-bodied proto-Teledden, with black hair and deathly pale skin. Her eyes are shrouded in a ritualistic blindfold, as her sight was lost in life and now her partner sees for her. She wears armor that has had the skeleton of her lover Zenallăeia embedded within it, her iron wrought arms permanently wrapped around Sirrhisha’s torso in an eternal embrace.
Hugo the Shame-faced, Ikon of Crushing Guilt
Hugo de Montverrat once served as Grandmaster of the venerated Viridian Order during the reign of Regalian Emperor Henri III. The Emperor stripped away many of the Order’s powers at this time, and as a result most of the Viridian Elders began to conspire against the Empire’s leadership with the intention to force Henri out and establish a military junta leadership under their own rule. Grandmaster de Montverrat knew of the plot but was unable to do anything to stop it, and out of guilt the Grandmaster plunged his own sword within himself to end his life: a deeply shameful thing to do for Order members. Hugo de Montverrat’s emotional turmoil would place him in the Beyond after he died, where he attracted a host of other departed souls who had died with similarly heavy shame in their hearts and drew upon enough of their essence to become the Ikon of Unbearable Guilt. Hugo now travels between the Beyond and Aloria, seeking out those with the burden of guilt and shame on their souls, offering counsel on how to atone and cleanse themselves of what weighs heavy upon them. If that is refused, Hugo offers instead to give them a merciful death at the hand of his both guilt and blood-stained sword. He appears mostly as he did in life, though his Viridian armor and colors have faded and stained with his own blood and he keeps his sword sheathed within his own body in the wound he made with it.
Imeshret the Night-Gazer, Ikon of Transformative Ambition
Imeshret’s story is a legendary one among Ordial scholars: a Dewamenet mystic who was the first of his people to tap into the powers of the Beyond and utilized them to create a grand Vault of the Dead and found The Sefakhem. Imeshret even managed to partially change the very fabric of the Beyond by creating his image of the Gardens of Baskarr within it, and for these things his ambition and progressive knowledge of Ordial magic is celebrated and led to his Shade becoming the Ikon of Transformative Ambition. Imeshret ventures into Aloria frequently, playing the part of a sort of demi-god that seeks out scholars and mystics and mages who have ambitions of pushing the boundary of knowledge as the world knows it. He offers his help and aid in their pursuits, though such help never comes free as Imeshret then tries to convince said people to accept his gift and be transformed into a necro-Asha construct like the Night-Gazer himself: a being forged of smooth dark stone, ritualistic runes, embalming wrappings and fashioned bone.
Ghōl’an the Lord of the Game, Ikon of Violent Triumph
The most recent departed soul to become an Ikon, Ghōl’an was the patriarch of a fresh-blooded Polon among the Eronidas called Volkon. He was born with an odd mutation that led to his skin being bone-white and from an early age expressed interest in Ordial magic, learning from Nerrgashi shaman around him until he came of age to lead his own people and form a new Polon of his own. He quickly rose in power and gained numbers, but his staggering momentum would get the better of him when he treated with the Bone King and tried to assert himself over the much-stronger leader: the Bone King slew Ghōl’an with ease in a fair duel, and the Eronidas’ Polon would fall apart with him. His rage and violence would not let him rest easy, however, and his Shade became the Ikon of Violent Triumph. Now Ghōl’an hosts a grand tournament in the Beyond known as the Killing Game, where the Shades there take part in endless combat with one another for a chance at being lifted up and returned to life as an intact Undead. He visits Aloria often with similar ideas of twisted and violent games, hosting them and pitting people against one another for both his entertainment and also to find suitable warriors that he might bring under his wing.
Afflictions and Powers
Most curious about the Beyond’s narrow, rare influences on Aloria is its ability to influence Magesparks and create Ordial Mages. A term coined by fringe Arcanologists of the Allorn Empire, Ordial Mages are those born with what originally would have been a Void or Exist-based Magespark but are influenced by a high concentration of Ordial Essence from the Beyond, resulting in a unique kind of Spark that is able to tap into the Beyond’s power and alter the reality of Aloria in ways unprecedented. While this usually occurs at very early ages, it is not necessarily impossible for a planar Spark to be influenced into something Ordial when its possessor is an adult: there are rare instances of it occurring via prolonged and significant exposure to Ordial-charged artifacts or locations. Ordial Mages obey much the same principles as Void or Exist aligned ones, with their magic able to be countered and reflected in a similar manner.
What is unique about Ordial Mages is the presence of ‘Soulchained’ among them. Soulchained are a distinct classification of Ordial Mage of a greater talent and possession of power than typical born or learned Mages. When a Spark is exposed to Ordial essence, that essence can sometimes come directly from an Ordial deity and bond with the mage’s soul in a process first documented as ‘Ammeasis’ by Allorn scholars, but now known colloquially as Soulchaining. This bond between the Ordial entity and the Mage directly influences how the mage’s power manifests. For example, the Ordial Mages of Songaskia are all hunters of Undead and guides for dying souls, because the greatest of them are Soulchained to the Lantern who shares a similar purpose. Those with significant necromantic powers such as raising the dead and manipulating Shades are Soulchained to the Malefica, and those who have distinct Ordial powers relating to memory and knowledge are thusly Soulchained to the Merchant, and so on. This process, however, is an unstable one and cannot be directly controlled: that is to say, a ritual to infuse an individual with a Spark with Ordial Essence may not necessarily bind them to whatever entity they wish to act as a conduit of. Their state of mind and desires definitely impact the process, though, and if one truly desires to be a safeguard of dead souls then it is quite likely that the Lantern will end up as their Soulchain. Accidents aren’t, however, entirely unavoidable.
This bond also offers the entity the Mage is connected to a direct tether to Aloria, though, and the more malevolent of them at times try to use it to communicate with the Mages they are Soulchained to in order to influence them into acting in manners beneficial to them. The Malefica is no stranger to finding ways to convince its tethered Mages to commit violent acts for the sake of bringing it more dead Shades, for instance. Others might just communicate in the Mage’s mind or gradually alter their personality to align with their own aspects. This makes the discipline of self-control, strong willpower and meditation necessary for most Ordial Mages who desire to keep themselves and their sanity intact. The communication of the Soulchain is a two-way path as well: Ordial Mages are able to, in their dreams, project themselves into the Beyond at times only to emerge in a sort of gathering place in the Beyond’s equivalent of the All-Beacon Temple in the capital city of Regalia where they might see other projected souls. Only those who are Custom Kit Mages of Ordial Alignment have Soulchains.
The most prominent of the Beyond’s influences in Aloria are the Undead, the results of Shades who return to the world of the living through one means or another. Undead take a variety of different forms, whether it be as a walking corpse or an incorporeal phantom, but they share a common trait in being Shades and not proper souls anymore: this means that they are mere conglomerations of memories of who they once were and not truly the person anymore, resulting in altered personalities, behaviors and wants. Undead can be created through a few different methods: most common are ‘naturally occurring’ Undead, though this is a misnomer because Undeath is not a natural state of being at all. These Undead are returned to life when their Shade within the Beyond finally grows restless enough to claw its way back into Aloria and rise from its grave, and they usually have done so for a specific purpose like haunting an old lover or enemy or protecting something they used to defend in their life. Some of these Undead tend to be less sound of mind and complete than other variations as the process of purposefully pushing one’s self back into Aloria is a damaging one to the memory and mind, resulting in lost memories; sometimes even leaving nothing but bestial, ghoulish instinct behind.
The other way that Undead are created is ‘purposeful undeath’, and is accomplished through specifically using Ordial Essence to draw a Shade out of the Beyond and give it some kind of form. This can be anything ranging from a corpse, a patchwork assembly of limbs and parts to make a body, a suit of armor, a simply phantasmal form, or even a formerly-inanimate object. The end result depends entirely upon the manner in which the essence is being used to call the Shade, whether it be a necromancer dredging up skeletal servants or a ritualist placing the Shade within an object through a ceremony.
Undead are divided into two classifications: Ghüls and Wights. Ghüls, simply put, are all Undead who are not Wights. Wights, on the other hand, are Undead who uniquely possess powers thanks to the Ordial Essence within them. These powers are typically akin to those of an Ordial Mage’s but are never quite as strong or flexible in their use. Whether an Undead is resurrected as a Ghül or Wight is up to the method of revival, with the 'naturally occurring' processes creating Ghüls and there being some necromancers and ritualists powerful enough to esurrect someone as a Wight and imbue them voluntarily with the appropriate powers. No matter the type of Undead, all are incapable of truly dying unless the appropriate methods are used. For corporeal Undead who have some sort of tangible body, this is accomplished by completely destroying the head and burning what remains of them, thus freeing the Shade and expelling it back to the Beyond. For incorporeal Undead like ghosts and phantoms, Ordial Mages like the Songaskian ones and even Isldar possess abilities that can expunge such spirits from the realm of the living and send them back to the Beyond.
- For information on the Undead, click HERE
Less-prominent than Undead but much stronger altogether are the Geists. The product of Ordial magic being used to bind a departed Shade to a living being, Geists are created to serve Death's interests in a variety of ways and find themselves loyal to the purposes of one of the Beyond's entities in particular. As a result they are many-varied in their nature and abilities, as varied as the divine entities of the Beyond are, but still have a common kinship with one another in their devotion to the realm of Death.
- For information on Geists, click HERE
Worship among the living who find alignment with the Beyond is decentralized and split among the various Ordial Cults that each individually pay heed and follow the ideals and holy word of a particular Ordial God. Each have their own practices and temples, and despite the differing methodology and nuances about death between them they still find some common fellowship in their collective reverence of Death. A contiguous point in most forms of Ordial worship is a reverence for metal and gemstones. They are perceived as ‘dead’ elements, cold and lifeless, but ones that naturally occur in Aloria’s earth, so it is something of a sign that Aloria and the Beyond are connected. Many an Ordial devotee takes up smithing and jewelcrafting as a means of expressing their faith and devotion, creating intricate masterworks of jewelry and armaments in the name and image of their chosen entity. Sometimes necromantic practices are even combined in this process, forging weapons with Shades infused within them to craft hallowed artifacts of the dead.
‘Deathspeech’, sometimes called ‘Shadetongue’ is an old language that lacks a centralized alphabet that is intuitively understood (but rarely spoken) by Undead and the Ordial afflicted like Mages, Geists, and other people like Bene Rexit that are influenced by the Beyond’s essence. It is made up of an array of guttural, harsh, whisper-like sounds that occasionally verge on strained screams, noises produced by the speaker’s throat that would normally inflict great pain or damage upon the vocal cords of anyone who tried replicating them. While it has no universal alphabet, a number of cultures who have had some form of Ordial worship in their history have developed personal interpretations of the language in the form of loose runic alphabets, used for ritual inscription and enchantment.
The Children of Kruphos
An ancient cult from the middle-to-end periods of the Allorn Empire, having been founded during the Blossoming, the Children of Kruphos’ history is shrouded in mystery as they kept their practices subdued and silent throughout the tenure of their existence. Based upon relics and scripture recovered from some of their hidden holy sites, though, it can be estimated that they were most likely the largest gathered, organized Ordial faith to ever grace Aloria. They operated quietly to avoid the scrutiny of the Empire’s Exist-biased practices, and made it their overall mission to herald the arrival of their chosen deity, Kruphos, into Aloria. Kruphos was perceived to be some sort of ‘deathly’ mirror of the Teledden deity Estel, as their belief of the Beyond was that it carried a reflection of everything within Aloria. They strived to bring Kruphos into Aloria so that it could cut down the Empire’s many enemies and finally bring all of the known world into their hands, celebrating the devoted few as the true chosen of their people. Their attempts to summon this theoretical deity were done through magical experimentation, ritual sacrifice, grave robbing, and similar methods, though it is unclear if they ever found any true success beyond spawning a handful of Teldden Ordial Mages through their experiments.
- While very few people have ever been able to venture into the Beyond, let alone emerge alive, there are plenty of mountebank merchants who try to sell rocks and other effects painted a sickly green to poor passersby while claiming they’re from the Beyond itself.
- Because animals do not have the capacity for religion or faith, their souls do go to the Beyond.
- There is a modern Regalian opera set in the beyond called The Life and Death of Pietro Magnico, where the protagonist shockingly dies in the beginning and spends his time walking through his memories and learning he lived his life as a terrible person before his Shade is swallowed up by a great beast.