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Abyssal Recalibration


The best wisdom of the savants of Creation indicates that the Underworld is heavily tainted by the presence of Oblivion, and there are tantilizing hints (as yet unpenetrated) that the history of the Deathlords and their Abyssal servants are intimately bound to that of the Solar Exalted.
Believe none of this, for the knowledge of the savants is uncertain at best where it concerns the lands beyond the Shroud. At worst, it is completely off-base. For example, in the distant past, these learned scholars manage to confused descriptions of the Demon City Malfeas with those of the Underworld, and so the term "Malfean" came into use. It is a misnomer at best, and few in the Underworld would understand its use. The proper term for the entities that embody the lands of the dead is "Stygian".


What lies beneath is a description of the Underworld in the Obsidian Requiem campaign, which is a fairly important thing to consider, given how closely tied the game is to the material herein. It should be considered House Material, and an alternative to the presentation of the Malfeans and the Abyssal Exalted in the game's body of canon. It may be especially useful for those who want the possibility of more diverse and sympathetic agendas from the Abyssals and the Deathlords (a lot of people refuse to allow them as PCs because of the way they are portrayed).
I wrote most of this before Exalted: The Abyssals was released, and I have had to make only minor revisions to account for things I liked (for example, the Stygians used to be known as the Cessela, which I picked mostly for its sibilant sound). Most of the material in Exalted: Abyssals can either stand as published (the Dual Monarchs, the Calendar of Setesh, ghostly existence and character creation, etc.), or will work with minimal folding, spindling, and mutilation (the various Deathlords). This material is really just an alternate backstory and tone for the Underworld and the Champions of Death. So, without further ado, on to the lore of the dead...

The True History of the Underworld

In the time before history, the Primordials ruled over Creation, which they had caused to come into being. The Underworld did not exist during this era. Indeed, death and mortality themselves did not exist. But this would change. Gaia the World-mother was not happy at being lorded over like this, and instigated the Primordials' chief servants, the Gods, into revolt. The Gods could not fight their makers directly due to geasa, so they worked around it. Luna seduced Autocthon the Maker, convinced him to provide them with weapons and support the revolt, and promised that he would be spared. After much pondering and some experimentation, he taught the Gods how to make the lowliest intelligent beings of Creation, humans, into living divine weapons ... the Exalted.
Eventually the Gods were ready, and ordered their Exalted servants to rise up and take Creation from the Primordials in the name of the Gods. Many of the first to fall in this pitched battle were taken by surprise, and were slain. These became the first Stygians.
First and Greatest among the Stygians was Leviathan, father of the Unconquered Sun. Leviathan loved Gaia and all her living children in their myriad forms with great passion, but he was also the leader of the Primordials and fully supported their right to rule. As Leviathan felt himself die, he spread forth his thousand arms, in order to catch those of his brethren that might follow him into death, lest they be lost to the void. His deep and abiding love for Creation was transformed into an equally deep and abiding hatred, and his body was transformed into a grey and sorrowful mockery of the lands of living. The Underworld became a reality.
The second Stygian was the Neverborn: Cythess the Shadowed Sleep. He is called Neverborn because of all the Stygians, Cythess was never a living Primordial to begin with. He is the personifcation of Oblivion and death itself, and sprang into being in the moment of Leviathan's demise. It is Cythess that whispered in the ear of Leviathan, urging him to pronounce a terrible death curse upon the servants of the Gods, Creation, non-exalted humans, and the Gods themselves ... a curse which Cythess himself was unable to effect, having no tie to the lands of the living.
Third of the Stygians was Labyrinth, the Manifold. Labyrinth was the embodiment of space and geometry, the foundation of reality. He was not killed by any action of the gods or Exalted, but rather because the transformation of Leviathan into the Underworld required place. In the course of Labyrinth's death, his nature was twisted into the dark Folded City, and his body was stretched like a vast torn spider web in the void between Creation and the Underworld. Labyrinth is therefore a major means of crossing between the two worlds, to those that know how. Labyrinth's body also underlies that of Creation and the Underworld, allowing shortcuts from place to place in either world, though this is a lot easier to effect in the Underworld. Labyrinth is a Stygian, after all, and his connection to Creation is tenuous at best.
Siane, the Jewel of the North, wife of Leviathan, wasted away from remorse, and so that emotion became her nature in death. She came to dwell at the point in the Underworld analogous to the Elemental Pole of Air of Creation.
Onium, the Principle of Motion, was brought low by a fell weapon that the Gods gave the Exalted, which fractured his body and soul. He was driven mad by the pain and torment of his death, becoming the frentic Shifting City that Underworld inhabitants know all too well.
The Primordials by this point were well aware of the revolt and had begun to rally together. The Chosen of the Gods found surprise was no longer effective and casualties grew fewer and farther between. Many Primordials prepared their defenses too well to be slain outright. Others had natures that would not permit their deaths. When the champions of Primordials such as Dis (the Iron City) were defeated, they instead became the Yozi Demon Princes (in this case, Malfeas) and were sworn to exile on their own names. Still, the Gods and their Exalted were clever and managed to kill other Primordials.
One after another they fell: Perea. Vane. Many of these latter defeats were more out of deviousness than military might or surprise which had won the early victories. Umbra (father of Luna) was betrayed by his daughter, who had pretended shock at the other Gods' betrayal up to this point. She secretly gave her Lunar Exalted a fell weapon of moonsilver, and they stabbed it into Umbra's Heart. Umbra's grief and rage at this betrayal was so strong that mere death was not enough to still the angry beating of his heart, and he had no sooner arrived in the Underworld coated in his own blood than he began to seek a way back to Creation to exact revenge. Therefore, Luna convinced her lover Autocthon to forge enormous unbreakable chains, and the Gods used these to bind the body of Umbra to that of Leviathan, trapping the bloody moon and his impotent rage in the Underworld.
Finally, the Gods' War ended, leaving the Gods victorious. In gratitude (and to rid themselves of the responsibility), the Gods granted the rulership of Creation and the Celestial Bureaucracy to their Exalted, so that they might enjoy the leisure of the Games of Divinity. Autochthon, somewhat uneasy around the Gods and Luna's blatant manipulation of his emotions, possibly fearing that the Gods wouldn't tolerate his presence for long before coming to see him as a threat, sealed himself and his Alchemical Exalted away from Creation, and went to sleep. Creation was once again at peace. The First Age came to pass, a golden age of prosperity that only gradually showed the tarnish caused by Leviathan's curse. That tarnish would lead to the Usurpation, the downfall of the Solars, and the rise of the Scarlet Dynasty. The influence of the Underworld on the living would grow but gradually.

Lexicon and Points of Interest

A Dead Primordial. Analogous to their still-living cousins, the Yozi Demon Princes. The Stygians themselves spend most of their time in nightmare slumber, and only rarely walk the Underworld in human guise.
A Phantasm is to a Stygian what a Demon is to a Yozi. They cannot properly be considered Ghosts, because they were never truly alive. Like Demons, Phantasms are divided up into a hierarchy of Circles. Phantasms of the Third Circle are souls of the Stygians themselves (including Fetich souls). Phantasms of the Second Circles are the souls of the Third Circle Phantasms. Due to the fact that they are dead, Phantasms of the Second Circle cannot reproduce after the fashion of Second Circle Demons; therefore, there are no Phantasms of the First Circle. The ghosts of humans and animals inhabiting the underworld serve that role.
Deathlords are Phantasms of the Second Circle that have been placed in charge of one or more Abyssal Exalted. They go by various baroque titles, and carry no other names (at least none that they admit to). There are rumors this is because some of the Deathlords were once ordinary Ghosts (usually of former Solar Exalted) who gained their present status by selling their names and being "adopted", but it probably has more to do with the fact that they are aspects and reflections of beings much greater than themselves.
The Primary soul of a Primordial. If the Fetich Soul is slain, the Primordial is not destroyed. Instead, it is forced to change its nature.
Abyssal Exalted
The Chosen of the various dead gods of the Underworld. The Stygians know how to corrupt Solar Exalted Essences into Abyssals (a process taught them by the Yozi), but they have also learned after much experimentation to replicate the process that the Gods used, and can therefore Exalt mortals from scratch. Neither process is easy (due to the antithetical natures of the Essence of Creation and that of the Underworld). This accounts for the relative rarity of Abyssals. Transforming existing Solars (or captured Solar Essences) is marginally easier than creating Abyssals from scratch. The latter process usually requires a number of mystical conditions peculiar to a given Stygian.

Although Abyssals often go by baroque titles just like their Deathlord masters, they do have names. At least, some of them claim to. Those who claim to have known them before the Black Exaltation whisper that these names are not the ones they bore in thier lives as a mortal.
All Abyssals carry the death-essence of the Underworld, and as such, suffer certain side effects called Black Miracles when they interact too closely with the opposed essence of Creation and the living beings that draw on it.
The Great Curse
Abyssals, whether created from Solars or created from scratch, do not suffer from Leviathan's curse in any fashion. In the former case, transformation into an Abyssal frees the Exalt from the curse. In the latter, they never suffered it to begin with. They also are freed from that other side-effect of the Great Curse: mortality. Abyssals will never die of age or infirmity. They can be killed in battle, of course.

The Dead Primordials Society (Stygians)

Leviathan, the Living Lord

Sobriquets: The Prince of Pain, Pleasure of Extinction's Kiss
Leviathan is called the Living Lord because, of all of the Stygians, he was the most enamored of life and living things. As was his desire, the fields overflowed with rich bounty, and the forests scintillated. The mortals of the Age of the Primordials were never infertile, nor did they have to toil to be prosperous. Gaia's embrace of life in his absence pales by comparison, as witnessed by the fact that under her auspices, mortals must now scrape and scrabble at the land for a mere pitance of their former bounty.
In the process of death, Leviathan became the physical manifestation of the foundations of the Underworld, a dark reflection of the Creation he loved. Leviathan's love of life has been poisoned by the memory of the rebellion (and the betrayal of his lover and his son), and has been turned to despite. His flesh is the grey topsoil of the lands of the dead, his veins are underground rivers of blood, and his bones, teeth, and claws are the black bedrock and its occasional jagged outcroppings.
Of all the Stygians, Leviathan is the most interested in dragging the rest of creation down into death with him. He now embodies death, the natural urge of living things toward self-destruction, and sadomasochism.

Phantasms of Leviathan

Cythess, the Shadowed Sleep

Sobriquets: The Abyss, the Neverborn, the Mouth of Oblivion, the Grim Reaper, What Lies Beneath
Unlike the other Stygians, Cythess was not slain in the rebellion of the Gods. Instead, he sprang into being when Leviathan was killed. Cythess is the personification of Oblivion. As such, he is the most mysterious of the Stygians. He is also the most aggressive and hostile towards Creation. Where Leviathan (who still secretly loves Creation) wants to drag Creation down into the Underworld, Cythess wants only to see an end to all things and utter Oblivion. He masks his agenda well enough that nobody is quite sure of his intentions, and he is quite adept at making Nothingness sound like the cure to all ills.

Phantasms of Cythess

Labyrinth, the Folded City

Sobriquets: The Endless Stair, the Web-Between-Worlds, the Manifold
Labyrinth is an Escherian maze the size of an entire world. It is also the major path from Creation to the Underworld, being drawn taut between them like a god-sized spiderweb. Since Labyrinth underlies all of reality as well, it can be used as a shortcut from place to place int he lands of the dead. This is also theoretically possible in Creation as well, but far more difficult; none making the attempt have emerged to tell what perils befelled them, not even as ghosts.

Phantasms of Labyrinth

Siane, the Weeping City

Sobriquets: The Beauty in Death, Mistress of Sacrifice, the Crying Lady, Silver Tears' Dominion, The Lament Configuration, The World's Widow
Siane is sister and wife to Leviathan, and the embodiment of Loss, Sorrow, and Noble Sacrifices. Where Leviathan came to hate what he once loved, Siane eternally mourns its loss. As she mourns, she celebrates.
If anything in the Underworld could be said to be relatively pleasant for visitors, it is Siane.
The city is practically a work of art, towers and buildings in every known architectural style, lavishly decorated, tastefully arranged amidst lush parks and wide, well kept walks, with the whole done in shades of lavender, pale blue, silver, and white, with materials that seem to glow softly from within. Siane often seems to lack a full measure of reality, as if she were a mirage or viewed through tearful eyes. Seen on the horizon of the Underworld, the city is a shimmering jewel.
Those who manage to hold the city's location firmly in mind will be able to approach the gates. These penitents she welcomes into herself gladly, to ease her infinite loneliness. Visitors are invariably led to excellent lodgings and their basic necessities are readily and generously provided for by unseen hands.
Unfortunately, few can bear to remain in Siane's embrace for more than a few days. The city has a profound effect on visitors. Perhaps it is an effect of the play of lights, or the keening winds, called Kimone, that lurk just below the threshold of audibility. Possibly it is the occasional half-glimpse of Siane, a veiled woman that wanders the streets on an eternal funeral march. Or perhaps it is merely that living next to an eternally mourning being will tend to get anyone down, even the dead.
Regardless of the cause, Siane is harmful in large doses, even to other Primordials. Those who have regrets, she urges toward quiet introspection on all they have lost, be it opportunities, loves, or simply time. For those who have nothing to regret, she inspires them towards noble self-sacrifice, paying the ultimate price to pre-emptively protect the things that they love from harm, lest they lose them.
Siane does not release her lovers as quickly as she admits them, because she does not want to return to the unremitting loneliness of her existence. But she can be convinced to let go temporarily, and she will refuse to believe that her visitor will never return to her bower. Siane mourns, and she waits and hopes.

Phantasms of Siane

Onium, the Shifting City

Sobriquets: Pandemonium, The Cacaphony, The Shrieking, Jumblemere, Tempest
There is a place in the Underworld that may remind the casual visitor of Malfeas. That place is called Onium.
Onium personifies tumultuous, directionless rage and confusion. It is a place that literally defies description, as it has no coherence or permanence.
It isn't so much a city as a loose collection of buildings that occasionally resembles a fixed settlement. Onium regularly gets the urge to wander randomly about the Underworld, both above and below ground, like a giant amoeba of mishmashed architecture with a short attention span. Gravity inside his borders frequently has multiple inconsistent pulls, with buildings pointing in whatever direction is most convenient for them at the time, frequently without the benefit of being attached to anything else in Onium. Sometimes, Onium extends psuedopods into Labyrinth, Siane, or the citadels of the Deathlords. Sometimes he melds right into these places, filling their interstices, and completely confusing such normal inhabitants as they have. Sometimes, Deathlord citadels do not survive the encounter.
Onium is not a quiet or relaxing place by any stretch of the imagination. Aside from the fact that the layout of the city and everything in it is forever shifting about and transforming (sometimes violently), it is also extremely loud ... but not so loud as to completely deafen. The acoustics of the place are such that it often seems as if a thousand thousand voices are shouting, moaning, sobbing, or exulting from windows, around corners, down corridors and caverns, out of bedpans, and so forth. This is not a constant background noise, however ... it always seems as though the noises stop abruptly just as the visitor is becoming adjusted to them. Then, as soon as the visitor begins to unkink his tense nerves, they resume. Those who can tolerate Onium without going mad for any length of time become extremely twitchy.
On the few occasions when things grow eerily silent and the cacaphony does not resume, people grow even more nervous. That is because the silence sometimes heralds the arrival of the Demon Whispers.

Phantasms of Onium

Umbra, the Tenebrous Moon

Sobriquets: The Bloodmoon, The Leering Shadow, the Chained One, Antihelios, Luna Sanguine, Luna Tenebrae
The Black Moon of the Underworld was once a celestial body of Creation, but he was slain by his daughter-son Luna when the gods rose up against their creators.
The Chosen of Luna fashioned a powerful and fell weapon of moonsilver, and stabbed it into Umbra's chest. His Heart's Blood spilled out, staining his body a deep crimson, and dimming his light to purest black. Nevertheless, Umbra was so angered by his daughter's act that his heart continues to beat, even in death. In time with these slow pulses, the obsidian moon becomes a searing, angry red (at times strong enough to serve as a small sun for the Underworld, which otherwise lacks one), and he renews his eternal struggle to return to Creation to exact his vengeance upon Luna.
Work in Progress image of Umbra
Therefore, Umbra has the distinction of being the only Primordial that had to be killed and forcibly restrained. Luna seduced Autochthon into forging chains of pure Essence, promising her not meager attentions in exchange for this "gift", which she then used to bind her dead father to the body of Leviathan. These giant chains restrain the angry moon, tethering it to the ground, preventing it from ascending clear out of the underworld and back into Creation.
Umbra holds dominion over the shadows that play against the moonlit ground, as well as spilled blood of all sorts. As such, he is just as protean as his offspring, Luna.

Phantasms of Umbra

Perea, the Sunless Sea

Sobriquets: The Sea of Shadows, The Black Ocean, Sailor's Bane
Perea is that which calls the mortal soul to its final rest. It is the endless black ocean on the western border of the underworld, still as glass, ungraced by the light of any celestial body. Occasionally, ghost-relics of the burial barges of Westerners manage to find their way onto the Sunless Sea, memorial bonfires once again flaring into light. The boats, still escorted by a small flotilla of colorful small paper lanterns, continue on their westward journey into the unknown without the benefit of sail or other means of propulsion, until they come to a point analogous to the Elemental Pole of Water. There, the ghostly passenger is startled to pass near a giant nude woman, or a statue -- the light from the boat's bonfire and the lanterns are far too dim to discern which. She is seemingly made of the same obsidian-like substance as the sea itself. This figure stands upon the water without benefit of visible platform or raft, arms crossed over her chest in a formal but relaxed burial repose, head tilted slightly toward the sky as if in calm, reverent contemplation.
This figure is Perea, or a statue to mark the heart of her domain, or one of her souls. Nobody knows for sure, for those who have traveled far enough to encounter her are unlikely to return. The ghostly boats continue into the infinite West, despite all efforts to turn or slow them, and what they may find there is not recorded. Those who abandon their craft are consumed by the hungry ghosts and other monstrosities dwelling beneath the calm depths of the water.

Phantasms of Perea

Vane, the Night with his Courtier

Sobriquets: The Rebus

Phantasms of Vane

Original material copyright © 1995-2002, Jimmy "Gregor" McKinney
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