Melór'aí'chán or "Melór'aí'chán", lit.
"Shadow of All") are the realms of
darkness located on the other side of our known world and in the depths beneath
our reality, being a twisted mockery of the Chaos God
Coór the Shadow. The Netherworlds are in
fact not other worlds of their own (other planes of existence), but a part of
Caelereth. Humans often also refer to this
part of the
Caelereth world as "hell"
(in a religious sense), though the human
interpretations of the Netherworlds differ in many aspects from the
The Netherworlds are the homes of all the dark creations or rather mis-creations of the Shadow, from the fearsome and mindless Netherbeasts to the terrifying abominations known as the Chasm Demons. It is said that the only thing stopping these horrific beasts from entering Caelereth is the will and determination of the the Twelve Gods to keep the Shadow from invading the light side of Caelereth, but that through the assistance of Coór's minions it is possible to summon creatures from the Netherworld.
Appearance. The Netherworlds, as is implied by its Styrásh name, Melór'aí'chán, is the shadow of all things with everything this implies. Or at least there exist several myths suggesting this. Some stories even claim that for each child being born in our world, a shadow comes to life in the depths below us and that the destinies of these two existences is tied together forever. Others say that when someone dies in our world his or her soul may fall back into the Netherworld and be reborn there (and the other way round). However, these are only myths.
What little is known of the Netherworlds' geography was collected by the Archmage Quagoth Tunta, the Archmagus of Shadow at Ximax during SW III, who seemed already lost when he was sucked as many others into Deep Winds Portal, but managed to return. The following is an excerpt from his account at the end of the battle, when he was captured by a detachment of war magi. Whether his report was still done in a state of sanity or if the things he describes are just phantoms of a mad wizard's fantasy, have to be judged by the reader on his own:
"[...] The half-world was desolate, twisted, or destroyed, take your pick. All the buildings that I saw were burnt, razed, and otherwise devastated. From the shattered courts of Santhala, to the melted spires of Ximax, to the unholy monuments replacing temples to the Gods. The elven forests were burnt to the ground, and tortured spirits were all that lived there. The mountains and caverns of the dwarves were home to beasts beyond my most terrible nightmares. All the world, a plaything for... HIM! Tarquol, Tsalba, Gurrmal-dokur...
Quagoth grows frantic, and begins shouting out incoherent words. Our best efforts to calm him were met with no success. After approximately ten minutes, he calms enough to speak again.
And worst of all were the graveyards, the battlesites. The dead, clawing their way out of their eternal slumber to rise and serve the Dark One. From every place, they marched north, ever north, to this accursed portal. This... (He points in the direction of the black tower.) is but a pale shadow of its unholy majesty. It is every castle, every fortress, every kingdom that has ever fallen, dwarfing them in its blasphemous grandeur. (He shudders.) Blasphemy, aye. Blasphemy the whole world. Not a single aspect of that... place failed to taunt at least one of the Gods. Nehtor ignored, the omnipresent heat of death everywhere. Healing or peace, none to be found save the healing of ending, the peace of the grave, and even those in short supply. Death a mockery, with Coór's will animating the bones of those Queprur has long kept. Hunt, only the craving for a final death, for either you or your enemies. And the things made in that land... (He gives one bark of laughter.) ...you have already seen. The swords of bone, time-scarred shields, and worst his golems, creatures perverting the world with their very existence!
The seas, the seas were dried and barren, with only an occasional ghostly ship sailing on a wind long since dead, on a sea never made. A harvest, none but pain. Destiny; only one. That which He had in store for you. (He turns to look up.) But I see You fixed that, eh? (He returns to his narrative.) War, that there was, but one fought with the deserving dead, the honored fallen of other battles. Desire, none but to avoid pain. And of Fire, only the unearthly heat of His will, not the fires of the Injèrá or the campfire one could warm ones hands around."
-- "Notes from the Other Side" by the Archmage Quagoth Tunta collected by Ximaxian Scholars, p. 2.
Quagoth revealed these facts to the Ximaxians, who felt
the need to give the information wide dispersal. Death and destruction are
common in the Netherworlds and chaos reigns. But if there is civilization
similar to our own part of the world, has to be doubted. As for the
Injèrá which is mentioned in Quagoth's
account: It is indeed supposed to shine on this world as well, however, the
influence and intensity of the darkwinds
is much higher in the Netherworlds if we believe mythical source and masses of
heavy dark clouds are roaming the skies, whipped by extremely aggressive winds,
so that the day in the Netherworlds more or less is just a brighter night.
There are also theories by modern sages that the Netherworld is in fact not physically existing, but simply a reflection of the known world in our minds, just as summoned demons are only real products of our imagination. These sages claim that an actual visit to the Netherworlds would only be possible for a mighty wizard, whose imagination is so powerful that all the possibilities he works with in order to create spells can produce whole twisted worlds in his mind in case he is heavily influenced by other magical forces. These imaginations can be forstered the mage's belief in myths. The fact that Quagoth only survived a few weeks after his return while he was mostly talking unintelligably, seem to confirm at least the possibility of such a daring thesis.
Location. Though nobody really knows whether this other part of the world really exists or is only a myth to frighten children, according to the clerics of the Twelve the twisted Netherworlds rest deep beneath the surface of Caelereth. Many parts of the Netherworlds are said to consist of caverns located between the two sides of the complete Caelereth world, however, it is also told that there exists a barren surface on the other side, where the creatures of darkness dwell as if they were on the upper side.
Coat of Arms. While no official coat of arms is known to exist for the Netherworld and its creatures, some of the survivors of the final battle of Osthemangar claim that the unholy guard of the Portal bore dark red armor with the black bolt of Coór emblazoned on it. Since then this sign has often been used as the symbol of the Netherworlds as a whole.
Places of Notice. If we believe Quagoth's descriptions, the places of notice of the Netherworlds are as follows:
Black Tower of
The Black Tower of Ximax is the only structure that is not in some way twisted, this is one focus and source of Coór's dark powers; however, much of the force here gather is probably counteracted by the pale influence of the White Tower and the Orb of Ximax.
Quagoth himself thought that this might mean that Ximax, or some similar place, is repeated in perhaps hundreds of different worlds, with the same forces held in check by the stone sentinels of whomever controlled the area.
Castles of the Damned
According to Quagoth, every castle or fortress in our world is replaced by some pitiful mockery of itself, sources of corruption and pestilence. It is thought that the denizens of these tortured halls can only achieve peace by bringing their terrible state to their counterparts.
Where the Deep Winds Portal stands on Caelereth, Osthemangar stands in the Netherworlds. An unholy monument to chaos, corruption and terror, Osthemangar was described by Quagoth as "a masterwork of evil, a symphony of nightmares, the darkest, festering hole of shadows in the entire benighted land". According to his none-too-coherent accounts, the palace was made of fortressess upon fortressess, towers used as bricks, the greatest castles of Santharia mere ornaments upon its wretched glory.
The Netherworlds' place in Santharian mythology is a great and complex one
and all races have their own version about its orgin.
According to the dwarves, the Netherworlds were a flawed creation of their God Trum-Baroll. According to the humans, it is the realm of Queprur's deadly hold. According to the elves, of course, it is the resting place of Coór, and the Ximaxians mages - with the little informatation they have on this topic - tend to confirm this version. - On one thing all tales agree: the Netherworlds are the home to all the chaotic, evil spirits that we most primally fear and dread, and only the constant efforts of the Gods keep these forces at bay. Woe to any who should disturb their works.
However, some elven philosophers have wondered why the Netherworlds should even exist. Why would the embodiment of chaos seek to bring order to a place, even such a twisted order as that of Melór'aí'chán? One of the High Clerics of Avá, an elf by the name of Oh'soór ("Light-Speaking") once spoke on this matter; the date is unknown:
"Melór'aí'chán is another of the places where the High blur. The Shadow's desire to destroy, the Light's desire to create, here they have achieved a seperate balance than that of our world. Here, the Creation is key. Though we may destroy, Creation is the eternal victor, as is seen in all life, ever expanding, ever honoring the Dream of Dreams. However, below, Destruction reigns. Though His creations war not amongst themselves, thus serving Creation, they are united only by their hatred of us, of the continuing Dream, of their own hideous existence. Their urge to Destroy guides them. So it can be seen that there can be no place where one of the High truly rules. If the Creator had supreme reign, the world would be so vast as to be destroyed instantly by its own complexity. If the Destroyer had supreme reign, such a place would be destroyed in its very creation. Therefore, all worlds can only exist if the High are in some balance with each other. [...]"
-- "Sermons on the Essence of Darkness and Light" by Oh'soór, Sermon 9, p. 3.
Information provided by Xarl