Among the greatest dangers the citizens of Whitewall face is the shadowland called Marama’s Fell, located not even 100 miles southeast of the walled city. The Fell is a haunted wasteland that teems with sickly cannibals by day and strange, twisted ghosts by night.
The presence of the shadowland complicates travel to the rest of the Threshold, forcing all traffic to pass north through Gethamane or south to Wallport and then east along the coast. The shadowland even extends over a shortsegment of the Traveler’s Road leading south to Wallport, and, while the road itself is safe, it presents a danger, especially for traders unfamiliar with the local terrain and the natural laws of shadowlands.
THE DANGERS OF PASSING THROUGH Edit
Leaving Marama’s Fell at night takes the traveler into the Underworld. The dock workers in Wallport are supposed to warn those heading to Whitewall not to leave (or even enter) the shadowland at night, but this is hardly proof against calamity. On occasion, the dock workers may get distracted and forget to mention the shadowland at all, or they may do so intentionally if a traveler is abusive or ill-tempered. Likewise, some travelers may be too distracted to listen or too ignorant to recognize the tell-tale signs of being in a shadowland in the first place.
Signs are posted along the Traveler’s Road indicating where the road passes into and out of the shadowland, but from time to time ghosts, vandals and other malicious types have been known to steal the signs.
As the Traveler’s Road has been deemed a truly public thoroughfare, the practice of salting the side of the road to bar the dead is illegal (and will elicit repercussions from the inhabitants of the shadowland).The Traveler’s Road itself is safe, however, even in the shadowland and the Underworld due to the agreement negotiated by the Syndics, but anyone leaving the shadowland by night will find herself in the Underworld and may not know how to find her way back to living Creation (by going back to the shadowland and leaving during the day).
Truly careless travelers may even find themselves entering the Underworld’s dark reflection of Whitewall, a fate they’re not likely to survive (as entering that city constitutes leaving the safety of the Traveler’s Road).
These poor souls’ goods are often taken back to living Creation and traded — outside the city’s walls, of course — to the party who was waiting for them, for money, favors, prayers or other goods and services.
MORTALS IN THE FELL Edit
Not every danger that comes out of the shadowland is dead, undead or pledged to the powers of the Deathlords.
The mortals living in Marama’s Fell, plagued with cold weather, a short growing season and the effects of the shadowland upon their crops, have a well-deserved reputation for cannibalism. It’s not that the people want to seek out other people for food, it’s just that they don’t have the luxury of seeing the distinction between other people and food animals.
Some of these blighted souls may even give the appearance of being pleasant, harmless individuals — a kindly old innkeeper, a beautiful woman beset by attackers and so on — in order to lure their prospective meals to their doom.
While some shadowlands are relatively hospitable toward the living, Marama’s Fell is not one of them. The feral, vicious ghosts that haunt the region are particularly rapacious and do not hesitate to attack the living when the opportunity presents itself.
Under the aggressive predation of the vicious ghosts of Marama’s Fell, mortal settlements are particularly rare, and those that remain are populated with a motley array of stunted, disfigured and mentally defective humanity. Any human with a lick of sense has long fled the Fell for Whitewall or one of the other bastions of the North.
The shadowland known as Marama’s Fell blossomed slowly in the years following the Usurpation. At the Fell’s center is a murder camp established by Shogunate officials for the eradication of sorcerously created races, servants, slaves, beastmen, demon servitors and the like spawned or summoned by the Solar and Lunar Exalted in the centuries leading up to the Usurpation. The Dragon-Blooded were so paranoid about the loyalties and possible capabilities of these races that the Terrestrials preferred to destroy these races wholesale rather than risk letting them live.
Named after Anjei Marama, the camp’s commandant, “Marama’s Fell” originally referred solely to the murder camp at the center of what became the shadowland.
It was here that a forest of sorcerously enhanced singing trees was cut down to make room for the camp (A fell is a section of forest that has been razed). The trees were only the first to be put into the camp’s enormous ovens. During the years following the Usurpation, entire races created by the Solar Exalted and any number of summoned entities (including a number of demons of the First Circle) were sent to Marama’s Fell for destruction, decommissioning or banishment. Other allies of the Solar Exalted, including other “Anathema,” were also sent here to die secretly if it was deemed likely that their public execution would cause problems. The ruins of the camp are still there, should anyone be so rash as to go looking for them, but they’re located in the center of the shadowland where the strange, old and powerful ghosts swarm most thickly. Although Shogunate officials were perfectly aware that the area was becoming a shadowland, they fully intended to deal with the problem later through publicworks projects. But, as the shadowland grew increasingly vast, and, in the absence of Solar Circle sorcery, the necessary public-works effort would have been enormous and costly. The Shogun and his government had more pressing things to deal with, and so, Marama’s Fell, located in a distant wilderness area, was forgotten, a hazard marked on the maps of the day with an unexplained black smear.By the time the Great Contagion struck, the camp had long been silent, but the plague stirred up the Underworld and all its denizens and roused the twisted ghosts that haunted the place.
The ghosts of artificially created races aren’t always the same as the ghosts of common mortals. Some ghosts, being imperfect and artificial, have only the barest wisps of souls and make pale ghosts. Others, such as the ghosts of the Lunars’ beastmen, are at least as fearsome as hungry ghosts and sometimes more powerful.
The tainted core of Marama’s Fell is part necropolis, part menagerie — and all chaotic. There is little order here. The ghost villages and mirrors of living civilization do not exist in the Underworld near Marama’s Fell, except perhaps in small enclaves.
INHUMAN GHOSTS Edit
Many of the ghosts found in Marama’s Fell are all that remain of several races known in the First Age. Some were twisted from the moment of their creation and kept by Solars as curiosities (albeit dangerous ones). Other ghosts have been twisted by centuries of death in the cold wasteland of the Fell.
The Storyteller is free to generate these creatures as she would any other ghost, then add additional exotic features as she sees fit. The list of Wyld mutations from Exalted: The Lunars provides a good base from which to work, but many of the races created in the First Age could be stranger still. Lastly, remember that a millennium is a long time to learn Arcanoi and that those ghosts that remain from the shadowland’s inception are likely to be extraordinarily powerful.
When designing the ghost of such a creature, the Storyteller should keep in mind what it was created for: Was it a beast of burden? A courtesan? A fighting animal on which to wager? The Solars may have been decadent, but creating new creatures — or entirely new races — was often the result of a life’s work (and a Solar’s life at that).
SAMPLE FELL GHOST: THRICE-DREAD ACHIBA Edit
Description: Among the other excesses of the First Age, some powerful Solar sorcerers created new forms of life solely to pit against one another in gladiatorial combat. Because the victorious combatant would win its creator great fame and prizes, competition to build the most fearsome beast was quite fierce. The kyzvoi were one such experimentally constructed race. Combining the most dangerous elements of several other species, including spiders and certain mammalian predators, the kyzvoi were bred to become more lethal with each passing generation.
After the Usurpation, Shogunate functionaries deemed the kyzvoi to be dangerous and lacking any legitimate use (their short attention span and largely absent impulse control made them unusable as soldiers); they were among the first creatures eliminated in the great purges. Hundredsof kyzvoi were taken from their holding pens and destroyed in the “cleansing center” of Marama’s Fell, but their strange artificial souls did not readily fall into Lethe, instead lingering in the nascent shadowland, one of many strange races that still haunt Marama’s Fell as ghosts in the Age of Sorrows.
Thrice-Dread Achiba is one of these ghostly kyzvoi.
An accomplished gladiatorial combatant in life, he became a warlord among the ghosts of the Fell after his execution.
A figure of fear even before the camp was closed, Thrice-Dread Achiba has used the subsequent centuries to hone his skills, warp his corpus and make himself a far more dangerous adversary than he ever was in the arenas of the First Age. Making him more dangerous yet is the fact that other ghosts, and even a few mortals who live in the Fell, direct prayers to him, elevating him yet further.
Worse, in recent years, Thrice-Dread Achiba has killed a number of wellarmed war ghosts sent by the Lover Clad in the Raiment of Tears and taken their weapons and armor for his favored lieutenants while keeping the best for himself.
Thrice-Dread Achiba commands a force just over 100 strong, including a large force of powerful human ghosts, a handful of other kyzvoi and several phantoms of even stranger nature. Some of the mortals in Marama’s Fell make offerings to Thrice-Dread Achiba, and these offerings have been known to include grave goods as well as information that has come from Whitewall.
Though quite massive (eight feet tall and solidly built, with a thick carapace over which his armor barely fits), Thrice-Dread Achiba otherwise looks like a regular human ghost, except for three characteristics: his lustrous black exoskeleton, his compound eyes and his arachnid mouthparts.
His great age alone makes Thrice-Dread Achiba a powerful ghost (though that’s true of many of the ancient, twisted ghosts who stalk this shadowland), but he has used his position in this most chaotic of shadowlands to establishcults among both the living and the dead. Wholevillages within Marama’s Fell (small as they are) believe Thrice-Dread Achiba to be their founding patriarch and pay him homage. These mortals guard this powerful ghost’s main Fetters, the enormous hooked swords he fought with in the arenas of the First Age.
Thrice-Dread Achiba is only one of many such warlords who rule the dead of Marama’s Fell, and he epitomizes not only what the denizens of Whitewall have to defend against, but the kind of rebels with which the Deathlords will have to contend should they ever decide to use Marama’s Fell with any regularity.
UNDERWORLD DÉTENTE Edit
Two Deathlords technically lay claim to Marama’s Fell, though neither values it as highly as might be expected. This is because Marama’s Fell is a pit; a place of constant violence and predation. The stately ancestor cults of elsewhere have yet to show any lasting power here — or even be capable of defending themselves against the predations of the bizarre ghosts that populate the Fell. No heroic ghost has yet shown the wherewithal to tame the hungry ghosts of this shadowland and make an opportunity out of what is currently a big, chaotic challenge.
Whitewall views the shadowland as a key threat, although it’s likely Whitewall would be forced to upgrade that threat were the shadowland to become an active, as opposed to a passive, threat. While Marama’s Fell is a danger to every citizen of Whitewall, the Fell could be much, much worse if a Deathlord or a powerful deathknight were to take it over and begin launching strategic raids on those who follow the Traveler’s Road or begin luring those on the road into the Underworld at night.
Whitewall benefits more than it realizes from the relative disinterest toward Marama’s Fell taken by the two relevant Deathlords. While both make occasional use of the Fell, neither particularly values it.
The closer of the two Deathlords, Bishop of the Chalcedony Thurible, is so introspective and preoccupied with his own conspiratorial plotting that he has no interest in the Fell — nearly a thousand miles from the Hidden Tabernacle — at all. This is extraordinarily good news for Whitewall, because the Bishop of the Chalcedony Thurible has claimed that he knows Whitewall better than even the Syndics do for reasons that are now long lost to history.The Lover Clad in the Raiment of Tears, on the other hand, is modestly interested in Marama’s Fell, as she is interested in all of Creation, and she would be more interested were Marama’s Fell nearer to her Fortress of Red Ice or more governable. She has already made two attempts at establishing a military colony in the Fell, but both times the colony was been wiped out by the shadowland’s native marauding ghosts. The next time she plans on dispensing with nemissaries and sending in an Abyssal Exalt to lead the effort. As it stands now, one of her deathknights, Mournful Aria, is particularly interested in Whitewall, and therefore in Marama’s Fell — as it’s the easiest way for her to get to the city.
THE RESPLENDENT CHRYSANTHEMUM SHRINES Edit
Marama’s Fell, particularly that section of it that overlaps the Traveler’s Road, is a thorn in the side of the city of Whitewall, and one the city would dearly love to rid itself of. To that end, the Syndics called for the establishment of shrines just outside the shadowland. These shrines are dedicated to various gods and spirits of life, joy, springtime and so on, and the shrines are repeatedly reconsecrated at the beginning of every spring. These shrines are the preferred settings for weddings, conceptions, births and birthdays. Throughout the spring, beginning on the first day of Ascending Earth, and going through summer, right up to the day before Calibration, the Syndics bestow blessings upon families that go south on the Traveler’sRoad and observe these vital events at one of the resplendent chrysanthemum shrines.
The net effect is to push back the boundaries of the shadowland, and that has done at a respectable rate. When the resplendent chrysanthemum shrines were first built, the shadowland lay across more than 50 miles of the Traveler’s Road and extended past the road nearly 100-miles to the west. Now, years later, only 20 miles of the Traveler’s Road pass through the shadowland, which also pushes only 10 miles west of the road.
Since the initial establishment of the resplendent chrysanthemum shrines, they’ve had to be moved a number of times to keep grinding away at the shadowland’s edges. Still, the shrines have moved neither as far nor as quickly as the Syndics and the people of Whitewall would like. That said, these pilgrimages have become some of the most popular traditions in the culture of Whitewall, an excuse to leave the fields, the mines and the walls around the city for a few dayswhen the weather is nice — and to get blessed with good health for doing so. With the last vestiges of the shadowland west of the road now forming a “peninsula,” the Syndics expect to be able to push the shadowland off the Traveler’s Road entirely within a few years, ending for good the threat of wandering into the Underworld inadvertently during the night.
When the shrines were initially built, they were desecrated and torn down by ghosts either every night or, at worst, by the end of the winter. Now, the citizens of Whitewall have taken to warding the shrines extensively against ghosts every spring when the wooden structures are rebuilt and reconsecrated, and they easily last through the summer (although they still rarely make it through the winter).
Neither of the Deathlords of the North, the Lover Clad in the Raiment of Tears nor the Bishop of the Chalcedony Thurible, have noticed the changes to the far western boundary of Marama’s Fell. That shadowland is largely held to be a violent, ungovernable mess, and neither Deathlord has taken a personal interest in it. It’s unlikely that the shrinking shadowland would elicit much of a response from either Deathlord, as there is so much of Marama’s Fell that it’s hardly going to disappear any time soon. Should it even get close to that point, either Deathlord could easily stage a strategic massacre there to cause the shadowland to expand once again.
If the Syndics were to find a Solar Exalt capable of performing either Benediction of Archgenesis (see Savant and Sorcerer, page 139) or Cleansing Solar Flames (see The Book of Bone and Ebony, page 139), the city would pay an exorbitant fee to have the Traveler’s Road freed of the shadowland and even more if Marama’s Fell could be done away with entirely. There are few concerns weighing more heavily on the Syndics and the city’s guardians than the vulnerability associated with being so close to such a large shadowland.