Godbound: Beyond the Edge of Night
The cosmos is divided into four great parts: Heaven, the Realms, Hell, and the Uncreated Night that surrounds them all. It is difficult for the living to journey between these domains, and the only common way to do so is by the Night Roads that erupt in isolated corners of the realm. Traveling these roads is a deed for heroes and the recklessly mad, for the strange parasites and encrustations of Uncreated Night can make their narrow paths a deadly gauntlet for the unprepared.
A Realm is a discrete world, ranging from the size of a palace and its gardens all the way up to a seemingly infinite universe filled with millions of galaxies, each with its own components suns, planets, and moons. Not every realm is inhabited, and many that once were have become depleted of life as their laws of reality break down. As the celestial engines of Heaven grind to a halt, more and more realms fall into eternal darkness, chaos, entropy, and death. In some, these manifest as apocalypses and cataclysms, while others simply cease to be or quietly wind down into stillness.
Powerful theurges can open Night Roads between realms, though rarely with any hope of accuracy. It is more common to walk an existing Night Road, relying on sorcery and steel to keep one safe from the things that lurk in the Uncreated Night. Even dead realms can be dangerous due to the presence of the lusae, monstrous jests of failing nature. Some worlds have not yet felt the rippling of the end times, though such places of peace and harmony are few and far between now.
Arcem is but one of the countless realms of creation, though it bears the privilege and horror of being the closest to the Throne of the Creator—a realm in the very shadow of Heaven itself.
Sometimes called “the Eternal Night,” the Uncreated Night is the infinite darkness that surrounds all of existence. Fathomless, formless, lightless in its deeps, the Uncreated Night is the primordial chaos out of which all things have come. Sages describe it as an endless stygian void, one where the very concepts of light and meaning have no power. To be cast into it is to drift forever, perhaps dead, perhaps something worse than dead.
Yet despite this emptiness there are things that emerge from the darkness. These Uncreated are like living creatures, yet somehow wrong. They are twisted proto-things, living detritus vomited up by the Night. Scholars suggest that they are manifestations of “friction” between the created world and Uncreated Night, living tension-points that manifest from the interplay between existences. They are broken in both worlds, and their actions seem to be driven part by pain, part by hunger, and part by simple hate. The great majority are murderously dangerous even to heroes, while those that lack obvious hostility can still have a corrosive effect upon the sanity of those around them.
The only way to cross the Uncreated Night is by means of the Night Roads. These narrow paths resemble titanic arches that span the darkness that surrounds them on all sides. Some look like bridges of stone, while others are ribbons of dull metal, or black rivers that flow without banks or bottom. There are many different seemings for these Night Roads, and sages argue over their creators.
Heaven is a broken house. Much like the world, it was torn apart in the Shattering, either from the violence of the Made Gods and their struggles or the damage done to its celestial engines. Now fragments of it drift through Uncreated Night; a hall here, an avenue there, or a vast and shining parkland floating further still. These shards are often connected by hidden Night Roads, some concealed so well that only those with the most exacting secret knowledge could ever hope to find the entrance. Other shards float free, and only powerful theurgy from within a connected terrestrial realm can bring outsiders into it.
The halls of Heaven come in many aspects, usually grand and dramatic. Towering walls of cloud-pale stone, arches of burning glass, parks of perfect trees arranged in patterns of mystic significance that hum with music when the sweet wind rustles their leaves… all things of magnificence have a home in Heaven. Yet these wonders are usually cracked, stained, and despoiled with the violence that once raged through the halls. Many works of impossible beauty have been shattered by the fury of the Made Gods and the angels, and much of what remains has been lessened or perverted into something dangerous.
Heaven also has its intrinsic dangers. Some shards are trapped, snares left by some Made God in a former age to kill intruders or protect something precious. Other “traps” are simply the unfortunate consequences of the shard’s own decay, with places becoming perilous and magic curdling into sour dangers. The celestial engines themselves are particularly dangerous, with their exotic appearance and strange powers luring the careless into sudden obliteration by forces beyond their comprehension.
Every piece of Heaven was originally connected to part of a Realm. This connection is spiritual and causal rather than a physical bridge, for it is the celestial engines of this shard that maintain the realm’s existence and the continuance of its natural laws. Were these engines to stop or be dismantled, the part of the realm it’s connected to would boil away into the Uncreated Night. Many shards of Heaven have already lost their associated realms to other catastrophes, and so make rich pickings for looters who prefer not to inflict cosmic catastrophes on some unsuspecting land. Of course, lacking a connected realm, these shards are also among the hardest to reach.
Hell is the refuge of the exiles of Heaven, a burning cyst of terrible engines and nameless torment run by the bitter angels and meant to forever incarcerate the souls of dead mortals. Its original purpose as a place of purification and transcendence has been perverted by the warping of its engines, and now a soul that falls into its maw can never hope to escape.
The original warden of Hell, the arch-angel Sammael, was driven out by the exiles. He and his remaining loyalists hide within the labyrinths of Hell, aiding those who come to free the souls of the dead or oppose Hell’s new masters. While his love for humanity is strange, his rage at the perversion of his former domain and the defilement of its holy purpose makes him a hero’s best ally amid the infernal flames.
Hell can be reached in two ways; either through hidden Night Roads in places of forgotten torment, or through the simple expedient of dying without soon after receiving the benefit of effective funerary rites. A soul that is not safely anchored to the dreamless sleep of death or that lacks a patron’s Paradise to escape to will inevitably spiral downward to Hell, there to suffer without end.