Sunday, 2 February 2020

On abyss

(this is an extension of G+ post from December 2016; this is one of the longest-lingering drafts I had because, while the thought was here from the very beginning, the words didn't line up right and they, probably, don't line up in a right way still. It is also very long post.)

Worlds are not created equal
Some are precious, cohesive, detailed, with a lot of work put into them. Some are scrap worlds, a drawing on a godly napkin, a crude blueprint, a proof of concept, a prototype to test some better things to come and then to be discarded, creators' first and clumsiest attempt before any clear lines are drawn on a good reality fabric. Worlds created on a minute whim, out of boredom, out of spark of passion that fades quickly as all sparks do. For every world imbued with divine vitality, there are world insubstantial and fragmented, underdeveloped, forgotten.

Just as with any other garbage, those are tossed into a metaphysical bin and this bin eventually ends up in the landfill of multiverse. Abyss, the home of demons, is not a place of innate ultimate evil but a unmeasurable multitude of those half-baked scrap worlds from all over the universe jammed together into one another, titanic continents and laws of magic, half-created nations, insubstantial histories and barely defined creatures, all in the same garbage heap.

Heaps over heaps, newer worlds over older ones, rotting together, spreading slowly not because of  malicious intend but because that what any landfill does with time.

(That campaign that went nowhere after a couple of session. The initially big project where passion died after a couple of blogposts. A quirky funworld created from random generators without care how it all fits together. A rectangular map (one mountain range, one forest, one piece of an ocean) doodled in a boredom of waiting or to test some new paints. A thought experiment, with a few aspects fleshed out but where most everything exists as a vague idea of what it is supposed to be. A one-shot world with an illusion of history. The world created in high school, since long outgrown. One-page world, created for a contest and never remembered again. Idle worlds of free association, made in a long waiting line. One-paragraph world, in bullet-point, its gods in a tiny spreadsheet: the name, the job, the symbol, the weapon, nothing more to them. All of this drift quietly into the abyss.)

It is a huge mess, and it is endless, and in a way it is like a black hole: once a world ends there it cannot escape.

Demons of abyss often do not start as malicious. They are just unfinished denizens of their unfinished worlds, both heroes and villains equally forgotten in a dumpster where there is nothing else but other such trash and the realization of their own defective nature. Majority of demons don't even start with consciousness, as they were created, at mass, only as 'people of Broken Hills', 'elves of Two Rivers Alliance' or 'followers of Yrih' and exist more as an idea of beings than beings of actual personality, body and mind; barely a cliche to their nature, one for everybody. Such demons are barely here, faceless and insubstantial mirages, often becoming nothing more than a wind of noises.
Scar-skies are connective space between the layers, the sludge of all possible skies; screenshot from Doom
Supposed movers and shakers of abandoned realms fare both better and worse. Unlike faceless masses they have a name, a personality, a history, some skills or powers, a background history in the world that barely has any, a knowledge of what their world was supposed to be. For all respects they are actual beings: powerful wizards, kings of nations, pivotal historical figures, faction leaders, bartenders is a popular tavern, ordinary people with a role to play in the world. Unlike faceless masses who won't often discover their state unless intentionally pushed to a revelation, sooner or later such beings come to full realization of what had happened and what was done to them and their world. In abyss where the substantiality and identity are the biggest powers, they start with a lot of this power even if they were made to be just a funny blacksmith, or a scheming noble, or a scared midwife. They find that in the realms of the fragments and mirages they have their own gravity to them, and that they can shape their lands and command the winds, and elevate their aspects to the new laws of reality. They can be called anchors, for they are holding their layer together, a maelstroms, for they are affecting everything around them, but often called princes as they are most often assume the roles of rulers of the new layer because there is nobody else suitable to do what they can do. 

Abyss is endless and each of such anchor demons has their own reaction to a fact of becoming a demon, as per their personality, which shapes them further. Some are using their powers to help to save whatever they can, to adapt, to survive, even to build themselves and the realm around them anew. Some give up and retire, concerned only with their own well-being and a bubble of their own comfort. Some strike out to find the impossible cure or to escape. And some let the bitterness all of them feel to become their nature – after all, what was done to them is not their fault, this lack of care that shaped their very existence is not what they deserved, and their abandonment in the trash bin is forever. These are the most prevalent, and many of anchors who started helpful and hopeful end up this way, given enough time.

Not every place in the abyss is actual hell
Most of the new layers start the same as proper worlds, intended for living of proper beings. Continents, plants, animals, structures, civilizations (however phantom they might be) – in a fresh layer of the abyss a traveler from outside can be easily confused to think they got in a some actual world, especially because in a new layer most of demons don't yet behave as older demons do and often as confused by alien scar-skies as a traveller would. New layers rarely have a sun (for the creator rarely thinks of sustainable system for it) but there is relative abundance of moons (to the point many moons are floating between neighbouring layers at their whim or go orphan) so there is a light; there are rudimentary weather cycle, and biomes, and patches of the layer can often support an actual life.
Quiet abyssal city; art by Jacek Yerka
But because the garbage bin of the abyss is a literal mess where worlds are tossed in, where realms are jamming into one another, with newer layers piling over older ones, and older ones meshing together in a cacophony of catastrophes. From the actual continents getting stuck into one another, to principles of souls or laws of magic getting into conflict when two or more layers are near, it creates an even less stable and more grotesque mess, even more fragmented layers, even more metaphysically rotten realms. This is why so many anchors are losing hope with time: however try they may to adapt and rebuilt their layers to some point of livable coherence (however inhuman it might be), so often some another layer just crashes onto their, ruining all the work over and over again; even if they are successful, the communal rot of the abyss slowly taints and erodes what they hold dear. A few demons grow adapt of modifying their environments after each collision, finding the beauty in endless transfiguration: sculptors and surrealist poets of the landfill, taking anything and everything as their inspiration, however ugly. And because the abyss is endless, it is possible, by mere coincidence, that a layer might exist intact for a very long time, but such peace is fragile and rests on mere chance of future non-collisions. Thus there is both gentle and fierce beauty in the abyss, with mountains of amberglass reflecting necklace of moons in newer layers, fireblue rivers of older layers, and jagged absurdness of layers even older, where lands go in all directions and spider-bridges connect through scar-skies between floating crumbling islands.

Abyss is endless and it grinds under its own weight, so there is no stability in present and there is no security in future; only the newest, the most mindless or the most willfully ignorant demons don't know that. Older layers of the abyss are ground to the state of non-being-at-all; wherever they supposed to be initially or had became while in abyss later no longer can be known, even to the higher powers that initially created the first discarded demi-world. Few demons who escaped these layers are some of the oldest in abyss, and they survived either by constantly moving away or by fueling their existence at the expense of newer layers.

This is another thing that makes the abyss: demons themselves, as the older ones often raid newer, brighter, meeker layers for their substances, denizens and materials, to survive and prosper on the spoils. In the scarcity of any resource and instability of any environment, the newly abandoned layers are the only resource that abyss reliably gets, and these layers usually have at least something valuable to them. Often older demons don't even act out of malice to their fellow outcasts but everybody just wants to survive, to push whatever of their abandoned, forgotten, abortive world remained into more of the flimsy abyssal existence, to retain, whatever they can, of themselves. Some layers build alliances but with time – and abyss will always exist – eventually, each layers is all by itself and each demon is by itself. How many times through eternity any kind being can take a high road of compassion and charity if their own existence is constantly scarce and threatened? Everybody just wants to be but there is just so little to go by.

A note on divine recycling
Abyss is a prison but has no wardens. Nobody cares what becomes of a discarded world – otherwise the world wouldn't have ended as an abyss layer in the first place. As long as abyss doesn't spread out of its stinky place onto their nice lawns to cause problems most worlds don't care about demons either. For vastest majority of demons within, the abyss is inescapable simply because for them it is a black hole; on their own, very few of very old and very knowledgeable demons collect enough power to burst back into rest of the being universe. Demons can be summoned from the outside, granted the substance they lack to temporarily escape the garbage heap of their not-fully-existence; the fact that they are needed and wanted for something to do by somebody real could be enough.
Any demon can become an angel; art from Recycl'Lab
But occasionally beings of higher powers come to the edges of the abyss where the most of new layers sit, not yet too messed up, or tarnished, or rotten, and they see some ideas and pieces that appeal to them, and they offer to take the appealing piece of it out so it might serve as a piece of their actual world. Demons of newer layers still often think as normal beings they were supposed to be would think, and they feel fear as normal beings would feel fear, and are often so horrified by their circumstances that they take this angel bargain even if it always means that they are recycled and reformed to fit a new world and keep little of their original identity. Azure mages of Ilvirion with their sky-based magic might become plain-dwelling cultists of some all-father-sky; the school of swordmanship can be picked up and planted into a new history; the ruin might get an entirely new history and name while keeping their walls. Core principles remain the same upon recycling but surrounding identity changes, often molded into a new suitable form. For those who take the angel bargain such fate is often little better than death but at least something of them will exist away from the abyss, something of them will be real, and cared about, and have a place in the universe, and this is often enough of a consolation.

Exceptionally rare, even by the endless scope of the abyss, is for a higher being to adopt the layer in its entirety. To rescue it, to gently pull it out of landfill, to imbue it with thought, and care, and compassion, and respect for what the world is, to flesh out and build up all threadbare connections, to give the names, and lights, and life. Such occurrence is so rare and so very much not confirmed by any possible proofs that for demons the mere idea of such rescue comes closest to faith in miracles they can have.

Lore fragments
Lore fragment of sort; image is from Dark Souls 3
Just as some beings were made to be more than background filler, some items and places were made to be important in soon-to-be-discarded world. The local brand Excalibur, the Spindle Tower, the Book That Caused the Revolution. Such fragments give demons the glimpse in what their world (or some other layer) was supposed to be in grand design that never came to a fruition. Lore fragments have a great innate substance to themselves and are some of the most durable things in the abyss, untarnished by ambient abyssal rot and capable, in knowing hands, to stabilize vast areas around their concept of being. To great many demons, especially demon princes, these lore fragments are valuable treasures even if the items or places aren't related directly to them or their own layers; there is always something that can be traded for lore fragments, always something gained from having them. Scholarly-minded demons often build elaborate theories out of fragmented lore on what their world could have become or what their own existence was supposed to mean; some demons worship lore fragments, other simply use them as a way to a security, wealth, prestige or power. Some rarer few demons seek to destroy all lore fragments altogether, holding the view that the past that betrayed all them is not something to cling to, and demons are better without doing so instead looking on what they have now and doing their best. But even those heretics sometimes carry lore fragments to cross the most unstable parts of the abyss.

Some abyssal layers and all that is known about them.
#110, Keriola
01. Great Yori Mountain
02. Star River of Ilm
03. Roi Forests
04. Kaessa, The City Within
05. Purple Dream
06. Fields of Now
07. Tower-over-Forest
08. Waterfall crown
09. Palimon
10. Rushes
11. Abandoned Throne of Geos
12. Lasae, moonshadow ridge and sea

01. The only, the biggest, the greatest, the most real and powerful place in the whole layer, Great Yori Mountain of Keriola raises for tens, maybe thousand miles above the rest of all layer, visible from everywhere. It is a centre not simply topologically, but spiritually, occult, politically, culturally and in most of other meanings. Amidst Roi Forests the Mountain is a place of relative stability. The top of the mountain is blanketed by dead turquoise ice, and billions of streams and furious mountain brooks, which start Star River below, carry this colour through all of its length. The God-Witch is sleeping at the very top, worshiped in their slumber and feared for their awakening; many demons climb the mountain in order to catch the enlightenment of their runway dreams.

02. Star River, the only, the mighty, the diving one. So wide, in places one cannot see the other side from shore, given the river a meaning of a rather narrow sea. It flows between the forests of Keriola as one of few permanent landmarks – the bed of the river is unmoving even if everything else in its waters is. Stars of the sky-that-never-was reflect in the turquoise waters instead of scar-skies of the abyss, and visions of false future can be read in its waves.

03. Roi Forests are multitudes of different kinds of the forest, melting and transforming into each other as they cannot decide which biome they desire to be: coniferous taigas give place to birch lightwoods only to get changed into mushy mushroom jungle and then into dry, jagged sandwood. There is always some kind of forest here, but different biomes battle each other in never ending war, recruiting whatever unlucky enough creature they can catch. Demon here take on appearance of heaps of floating leaves and disperse quickly if another battle is about to happen.

04. City Within Yori Mountain. Heavily terraced with inverse-curve arches raising in tension as if they are the ones supporting the fragile shell of the mountain from collapse instead of being continuously crushed by it. The city itself is the orderly cascade of districts, where dim, and scream, and struggle calmed down almost immediately by obsidian-masked priests of the Mountain, dressed in heavy indigo robes and red ribbons studded with diamonds.

05. Purple Dream is defined by its borders – the line of contest between Roi Forests and its own fluid identity. Purple dreams break down the light of Palimon into saturated pink rays, and the soft gradient of this colour tints everything within the dream. According to few lore fragments, the land within the Purple Dream was supposed to be a kingdom of magic, with towers flying on giant crystals, but, alas, no towers and no crystals. Instead the Purple Dream defined by the fact that it isn't Roi Forest, and as such is not a forest at all, not a river, not a mountain, but a hilly area with mires of vivid lunar visions that condense from pink light and are pooling like water in cup-lakes of perfect circularity surrounded by moonlit glass cities. Demons here were any clothes that aren't shades of purple if they wish to remain visible. Invisible demons are known to eventually dissolve into pink light if they aren't careful.

06. Fields of Now is a forgotten and forgetting place only discovered when accidentally stumbled upon and forgotten again when they are left away. Demons believe that Fields bring the feeling of happiness but to intentionally seek such paradise is to never find it.

07. Tower-over-Forest is a shell of concrete building raising over the highest possible trees of Roi Forests regardless of tree height. Small dwelling at top of glass-and-black-lacquered gunmetal grids houses six endlessly talking sages whose language is not understandable and cannot be made understandable by any known means.

08. Waterfall crown is a part of the Mountain where multiple streams are crashing down to form Star River. Behind the waterfall, above the churning whirlpool of white-foamed waters – the flow so fast and powerful it can be maelstrom – sits the only official entrance into the Hidden City, itself hiding after the facade of subversively austere monasteries; the Hidden City is the most turbulent, beautiful and tragic area in the all of Keriola.

09. Palimon, the pale moon, is a rare native moon that kept with the world instead of flying off elsewhere as so many more moons do. Its light is not very strong and creates soft, grey-blurred shadows, and the moon always looks semi-transparent and as if it waning.

10. Rushes is a peaceful swampy area that eats memories – a place of the exile or punishment among demons. Heavily avoided despite having no other dangers.

11. Abandoned Throne of Geos is a stone throne of inhuman proportions which sits between Purple Dream and Roi Forests, almost enveloped in semi-crater or ribbed greenstone edges. Geos, dog-headed Prince, used to rule these lands justly, until she left, leaving only her throne behind and destroying everything else of her rule but the memory.

12. Lasae is where moonshadows pool into the sea, framed by petrified shards of former cities of Keriola. Palimon provides a pale light and thus, weak shadows, but with time they pooled strong enough to provide the surface for small many-legged ships to come across and carry travellers.

#111, Orvarein

01. Crimson Wave Mountains
02. Faded Peak
03. Plateau of Yr
04. Lanangar, the Flux Desert
05. Widow's Braid
06. Gero Shell
07. City of Kamlon
08. Dissipating Forest of Yrgeth
09. Mist City of Toroin
10. Crystal Sea
11. Tower Penninsula
12. Hidden river of Malir
13. Port Morsai
14. Hidden river of Deolan
15. Rottenedge
16. Bridge-belts
17. The only true tree in the world

01. Crumpled, petrified wave of titanic proportions, broken into separate chunks by its own stillness, but retaining in the spine a certain crescendo of movement, each mountain ribbed with a flow of arrested motion. The stone of the mountains is deep crimson, and the vegetation is so pale grey it looks almost bone-white and can be confused for a snow.

02. Among other mountains Faded Peak is the tallest and the most massive, bursting from the ground in monumental spikes and peaks as if a droplet hitting the ground in stopped frame. Its pale-red texture attributed to the unnamed apocalyptic demon living under it roots and slowly sucking the colour out of it; the stone of Faded Peak is somewhat fragile (despite the mountain height) which fuels the rumour even further.

03. A narrow strip of land between the mountains and the desert. Many small settlements and loose congregations of them make up the bulk of Orvarein civilization; 'yrian' since became the world of relative calm which one might find between two dangers.

04. The regular desert is rarely still but Lanangar defines the principle of flux, and she mixes and moves not only her own sand but everything these sands touch. Very few things are able to remain the same, as there are areas of dead sands, from old desert wounds where sand is verdigris and bitter. Through the rest of the desert caravans travel on stilts but because the sand is everywhere the travellers often come with minor marks even with all possible precautions (the colour is taken and replaced by somebody's else colour, the arm is taken and ability to know lies is given).

05. Widow's Braid is the narrow ridge in the middle of Lanangar where her fluctuating touch is almost absent. A warlord built a keep here, hewing heavy bones of his loyal companions into cornerstones of the buildings. Bones grew up into amber-white trees through the stone and intertwined like a cage, so at the end the warlord got caught in the prison of his own making.

06. Place where Gero molted and left their shell. One of few unfluxed places in Lanangar it soon became occupied by a mismatched band of misfit demons and later became a city carved into folds of giant shell. Gero Knights, established in the honour and with gratitude to Gero, often wander the desert in their armour made out of Gero Shell, like a giant moving boulders, to do their knightly deeds.

07. Oldest city on the layer, Kamlon was always here, always invulnerable to the desert, defiant denial, complex arrangement of soaring towers and intricate bridges, build of amberstone so much like the land around it that in certain light the city blends completely into its environment and only multitude of banners, and ribbons, and huge, crooked spikes define its counour. Inside, as if to distinguish themselves, there are million of variant hues, and the city itself is often viewed by its inhabitants as a deity.

08. Dissipating forest of Yrgeth isn't as much of a forest as the idea of the forest. Like Lanargar it exists in a constant state of the motion but where the desert takes, and gives, and pushes forward by the force, Yrgeth evades, befuddles and reshapes itself around invaders, building labyrinths of thorny trees so wherever the traveller goes there is no respite. Unlike Kamlon and possibly Lanargar (as nothing could be said for certain with this desert) Yrgeth is not fully sentient, and is more automatic, reactive place than anything truly alive.

09. Mist city of Toroin is somewhere in Yrgeth. Being elusive to the power of elusive makes one wonder how anybody came to know about it at all.

10. Crystal Sea is a piece of the ocean which at the world edge crystallizes into deep blue crystals that seem to hold the water together and not letting it spill out of layer. The water itself isn't fresh and isn't much saline; even somebody unused to the abyss can drink it for a while but has to be careful not to drink it too much or too long, unless they wish to become a blue crystal statue.

11. Tower Peninsula is exactly what it says: out of any proportion  tower, miles tall and wide, making the peninsula between Lanangar and Yrgeth where another narrow strip of the world allows settlements. Soils of Orvarein are white, and the grain that grows near Tower Peninsula tastes like a bone, but demons think this is how all wheat is supposed to be. Inside the Tower is mostly hollow and dank, despite stadium-wide windows in its walls. Partially flooded, the Tower Peninsula has multiple inside rooms the size of the city, and winding, road-wide staircases. Dwellers of the Tower are secretive, mobile and considered untrustworthy even comparatively to denizens of Kamlon.

12. Hidden river of Malir is one of the two major rivers that flow through the whole of layer. Entirely underground and free from both maddening howl of Crimson Wave Mountains and joyful whim of Lanangar it is one of the most treasured places in the whole layer. Denizens of the Tower claim they charted Malir and know its course well enough, but their claims are untrustworthy and often serve as a lure for a naive or a desperate demon. Malir's waters (as the river flows from Crystal Sea and up the mountains) are cleaned by bonesoils enough they are safe for the demons to drink without measure. Arterial wells into Malir has to be sealed all the time, otherwise all river will run up to become the rain and the mist nobody wants; each seal taints the water slightly, so it doesn't float the demon up into scar-skies. When heavy rain comes, demon joke that somebody forgot to seal Malir's tap.

13. Port Morsai is a dug-in cave gridded with false metal sky on one of the many waterveins of Malir. The port is entirely landlocked but utilizing the power of pure water they float up in giant water-sail ships to service routes to Kamlon and across Yr. Morsian demons known to be the most joyous demons in the layer.

14. Hidden river of Deolan: just like Malir, Deolan flows underground but this (and that both rivers are made of water) is where similarities end. Where Malir just wants to be free, Deolan, awoken below the roots of Yrgeth, wishes to be left alone. Evasive and meandering, she changes course upon the slightest attraction of outside interest, so permanent settlements on her banks are simply impossible and few that exist are constantly following the river. By coincidence to her constant migration, Deolan often comes as a help to a weary traveller, although not by any kindness but just because the river moves so often that springs and pools of Deolan occasionally come to the surface for a breath of fresh air.

15. Long narrow piece of the crystal edge of the world touching Lanangar. The substance of the layer here is more worn than anywhere else, and weak demons might simply unravel into not-being, which is why this 'peninsula' so often serves a place of execution or exile. On the other hand, for those who are strong enough, this is an easiest way to travel to another layer without a need to go through scar-skies.

16. Bridge-Belts stretch between two halves of Yrian Plateau, made from bodies of stillborn gods of whatever world Orvarein was supposed to become. Never having as much as a name, much less any kind of identity or awareness, such would-be gods still have a bare nascent idea of the imperishable divinity and provide some healing to everybody who walks them, or, occasionally, grant wishes of the demons. Stretched skin of Bridge-Belts sags under the pounding feet of demons, traders, travellers and pilgrims alike; the latter are a soft of shamanic bruteforce, not having any special connection to Bridge-Belts – despite all their claims – but instead seeking the fulfillment of wishes by sheer numbers of travels they made through the Bridges, back and forth, to violent disapproval of other travellers. As occasionally pilgrim's wish is granted and a lot of their wounds are healed simply by walking through bridges again, it only enforces the determination of wonder-catchers.

17. The only actual tree in the world, it is a lore fragment enshrined and venerated by Viridian Sages and their Jade Guard, as they try to discern the truths about the Orvarein-that-never-came-to-be. The tree is called Honna, and ascribed to be divine even if to a mortal traveller it would look just like a regular tree (specifically, a cypress). Given how evasive Yrgeth is, demons of the layer derive the whole concept of the forest from Honna.

#112, The Beloved Sorrow
(the world that almost became to be)
01. Golem Sun
02. Horha, Uncubed Mountains
03. Cerulean Gorges of Okaste (Sisters-in-Blue)
04. Shadden and Geliora, Forest Engine
05. Gemflower plains
06. Chained heart of Aio
07. Lamplighter fields
08. Crossroad Station
09. Azure City of Ines
10. Azure City of Lalgamen
11. Bren, The Golden
12. Fractal Railroad 19. Edge Cliffs
13. Kanavan, Waystation of the Ways 20. Rainbird
14. Jewelled Gardens 21. Floating Oracle
15. Waveland amaranth 22. Eradeth, Howling Brass
16. Moaning Forest and city of Erv  23. Chiseya, The Clockwork
17. Glass Woods 24. Grassland of free wind
18. Machine of Life, Holy is Her Name 25. Wells of Atma

(this world almost didn't make it into garbage of abyss, and as a result it has a lot of substantiality and intended beauty to it. Before the farewell, the creator put in as much care and vibrancy as they could. Demons of Beloved Sorrow are an upbeat bunch and believe the creator still visits the world incognito, keeping it from falling apart or being consumed by other layers)

01. Golem Sun is called Most-Magnificent Sun-Heart by the worshiping demons, and is guarded most strongly, with princes and their armies taking turns to repel any would be thief in exchange for Sun's crystallized sunlight. The Golem Sun is infused with enough energy to serve as the layer actual sun despite being earthbound, and is technically made of the same solar system that Beloved Sorrow was prototype to, even if its light is artificial and due to broken reality of the abyss doesn't allow most natural plants grow.

02. Horha, Uncubed Mountains were supposed to rise in a perfect geometrical formations, like the whole ridge made of various voxels but due to lack of creative experience, they were scrambled into a more common form. Still, beneath the sharp peaks, there are many places where glass, metal and stone came in perfectly cubic rocks. The mountains themselves bathe in Golem Sun light and gestate various minerals, all of them sun-coloured: gold, bronze, brass, amber, citrin, sepia-glass and so on, regardless of reasonability of such gestates. As the mountains are considered to be sort of a seat to Most Magnificent, mining happens with almost as much ceremony and adoration as the service to Most Magnificent itself.

03. Deep, deep gashes in the world – where they supposed to be ravines or oceans? Cerulean Gorges are both now, full of intense azure mist-sand-stone-mirage that serves the layer in almost the same capacity as a water; not all demons need this substance for living, but all rely on it somehow. Gorges are vertical seas and, except Elder Sister, bottomless and seem incapable of running dry. Demons inhale the blue mist or carry blue stones for sustenance; Sisters cause blue dreams that have the same nourishing effect. Like immeasurably giant slugworms, Sisters have a rudimentary perception and movement, and shift so ever slightly with the passage of time.

04. Gilded engine, higher than some of Horha peaks, filled with emerald, mammoth-sized gearwork quietly turning in the darkness, Shadden-and-Geliora are so much embroidered by long-merged cities on the top of it that Geliora often considered to be the name of whole cityscape, where dwellings hang from steep vertical walls of Shadden and intertwine with geometrical golden trees the Engine sprouts endlessly. Nobody by Laya the Blind Knight can venture into darkness of Forest Engine and return (whatever the seeker is blind or not), and the cause of indigo sludge that turns sands into rich soils isn't known as Laya keeps his silence. The soil causes the false memories of what the world could have been but some demons seek such disturbing visions and carry talismans of soil with them. Shadden-and-Geliora trees are beautiful and most unnatural metallic plants, growing to sizes so big they can host a moderately large city all by themselves. Demons living in cityscape of Shadden are agile as not to be poked by many sharp branches, and dressed in long flowing metal threads as to quickly discharge a random lighting strike the forest storms so often provide.

05. Gently rolling plains where amethyst flower-gems grow. A heartland of the plain is a center of power to Enhayda, the Mistress of Silence. As any flower-gem can serve as a power source to most anything on a layer, she enforces strict punishments for poachers (most often turning them into more flowers). It is rumoured that Enhayda can see and hear thought any of her flowers regardless where they are, which is why amethyst-purple is viewed as ominous colour in Beloved Sorrow.

06. Aio was a warlord demon of once-invading army from another layer; his heart was taken as a trophy and his whole remaining army fed back to it. Chained heart is still capable of speech and might divulge the knowledge of anybody it ever ate; there are few places most terrifying to demons and most interesting for demon sages.

07. Lamplighter fields is where lightbulb flowers grow. It is as normal of industry on Beloved Sorrows as it gets to plant, weed, grow and collect these lightbulbs. Nearby city of Crossroad Station provides a comfortable ways of trading across the layer, but poor demon-workers aren't treated very fairly by the powerful demon-merchants, and the the ruler of Crossroads is too enamored by Floating Oracle to pay any attention to the situation.

08. Rather stern and orderly city behind all adornments where several branches of Fractal Railroad connect. Being near Elder Sister Gorge, Crossroad Station only grief is that the Gorge slowly moves toward it and it isn't very clear if the Sister is going to eventually pass the city by or drop it down its bottom.

09. Azure City of Ines is no-nonsense city which main specialization is 'mining' azure mist from the nearby Gorge and transporting it through dispersed pipes all across the layer. Blue pylons and towers, cerulean-tipped roofs, silver spiderweb of threads stretched all around the city to catch blue vapour. Despite it industrious nature, there is a sort of melancholy about Ines: the city itself feels as if it is going to wave goodbye at any moment, and the feeling of longing travels along with the mist it gathers, catching demons by surprise. Memories occasionally remain in Ines, stealing away and embedding themselves as graffiti and bass reliefs.

10. Azure City of Lalgamen is located at the very edge of the layer in a way few things are. Its broad-casting radio-tower listens to the tide and muttering of scar-skies and abyss beyond, and catches thoughts of passing-by demons, and bubbles them into empty gem-flowers. The strings of such thoughts are 'rumour-necklaces' and are an equivalent of the outworld news digest. The radiostation itself broadcasts the abyssal screech it pulls from the scar-sky as a popular trend of local music (after some composing it sounds very industrial and to the liking of many in this busy, bustling city with a pulse of its own).

11. Most glorious and glamorous, Bren is demonic metropolis of sprawling skyscrapers, nonsensical architecture and a constant, unending buzz of activity. Various demons come to Bren, and not only from this layer, as this sense of active life is difficult to come by in so many layers. That the central city placed so close to the edge is not too usual, but the closeness to so many important landmarks makes Bren both desirable and well-defended. Golden light of Bren shines softly through the shadows tossed by Horha across red-petaled fields; demons native to the city wear their arms laced through with red ribbons and tiny bells reminiscent to flowers. Songsmiths of the city can forge any voice in tangible things; and glass-tubed 'canals' carry pearly waters that hurt mortals like acid but cause demons an occasional euphoria.

12. Fractal Railroad is a railroad that breaks physically across the realm but to the traveller on a train the ride is one uninterrupted journey as the train follows the tracks regardless of how big the gap between them is. Demons operate giant flesh-and-brass-bound trains by becoming the one with train segmented body, and the trains sing to Beloved Sorrow as they run across all major cities, terrains and corners of the layer.

13. Kanavan, Waystation of the Ways – city of peridot where all railroads connect, a giant arrival and departure platform dominated by clocklight-tower and spiraling horn of Observation Desk. Demons who wait too long for their train are at the risk of succumbing to urge to climb up to Observation Desk and remain there forever, adding their body to this slowly growing structure.

14. Jewelled Gardens is crystalline 'forest' of beautiful purple gems, each the size of the house and framed by smaller gems. The sharp nature of such terrain makes it the most beloved place for various cruel sports of demons who reside here, combining maiming and the scenic beauty of the place as some kind of art. The biggest ever gem is All-Seeing Station, which floats a top of Gardens and controls the weather in a significant part of the layer.

15. Still and braided terrain where amaranth grows; flowers bend and bow with a wind as if the waves of a sea. Demons gather amaranth for nourishment but somehow it never runs out. The flowers only grow in the shadow of Horha, and are beloved by demons for their taste and fragrance; in many ways amaranth is the symbol of their whole realm. To them the flower says 'We are alive and doing our best despite all circumstances'. Amaranth smells bittersweet and brings calming, dreamless sleep.

16. Wild forest saturated by hostile spirits. Erv is born as the city under spiritual siege and remains so to this day, mostly self-sufficient and isolated save for railroad running near it. As even trains are attacked by the spirits, few go there. Unlike mostly joyous demons in Beloved Sorrow, ervian demons are stoic and serious demons of stoic and serious city, and by many considered to be glumbuds who don't know how to relax.

17. Where glass trees grow like a kaleidoscope of transparency and colour. Oldest trees have translucent nature to them, similar to crystal salt, but younger plants are bursts of colours, vibrant to the point of sensory overload. Most everything alive in Glass Forest is either also glass or looks glassy - from bugs and snakes to springs and deer.

18. Holy is Her Name. 
She makes life
She makes us be.
Worship the Green.
Divine machine, which makes the smaller life systems possible in Beloved Sorrow. With few exceptions every plant, bush, tree root eventually connects with Life Engine, and most of the layer animals have a tiny emerald swirl somewhere on their body showing that they originated in one of multiple apple-green spheres that bloom from branches of Holy Machine. To the other demon layers Life Engine is the wet dream but after Golem Sun it is the second best-protected place on Beloved Sorrow, with thousands of demon-knights (said to be made by the Engine itself) keeping watch to protect Her Holiness. Theosoph of Green is in perpetual dispute with Shadden philosophers on topic if Geliora itself is just a wayward shard of Her divine structure.

19. Cliffs at the edge of the layer with wide view on the abyssal turmoil beyond. Home of many grey birds, who serve as a strange calendar of sort for the layer that doesn't know true seasons. Birds move mechanically, from cliff to cliff, vanish and reappear. Augurs observe them, keeping track on their position and noting any derivations. Their watchtower also serves as trading post with flame-sheathed demons of Ur, and a sky-spy network.

20. Rainbird is a wandering bird-cloud that brings actual rain wherever it flies. A lot of Beloved Sorrow is made of metals and gearwork, and with demons not having a human water-dependencies Rainbird causes as many problems as it gives rainwater. Sky leviathan with wingspan of about ten kilometres wide, it takes no orders from anybody, and wanders chaotically, although it seems to like Lalgamen and Bren corner of the world a bit too much for the liking of its inhabitants.

21. Floating Oracle are three levitating cubes in shades of ominous purple. Demons capable to get in-between these hovering entities (which is not easy, given that cubes can and often do crush such demons easily), are granted a brief prophetic vision. Cubes have cynical, naive and authoritarian personalities, but which one is which seem to fluctuate.

22. Eradeth, of Flowing Brass and Golden Leaves: multilayered jungle always lit by emanations of Most Magnificent, to the point that to human eyes it is always a golden sunset here. Leaves of the jungle grow like thin golden sheets on branches of crooked brass, and the unwary traveller will be easily cut into something resembling the work of art as the every little cut will scar with golden edge and won't ever fully heal, leaving a demon with a network of golden 'tattoos' all across their body. Poor demons gather the leaves by bucketloads (to serves as a base for the local paper) and golden-scars came to be associated with poverty and grueling work despite their objective beauty.

23. The whole city of Chiseya is a giant clockwork. It rotates and moves constantly, in a steady, well-measured rhythm that looks overwhelming and chaotic only to the strangers. The streets rearrange themselves, buildings go deep underneath or soar high, and the configuration of the city changes moment by moment. Sidewalks become deadend, parks shift into vertical spirals and the concept of hour in the world with entirely immobile sun is derived through Chiseya span of time where the smallest street becomes the smallest street again. For the city of such shifting precision, chiseyans known to have a few personalities they go through in unison of shifting hours, and are lauded as best numerologists and accountants.

24. Ochre-tinted plain where black grass grows. Full of wind-whistle sounds and mirage-sounds of hunting horns. Cats with geometrical patterns to their fur stalk the savanna wide. One can toss their name to the wind, erasing their history and becoming nameless, with untroubled eyes and black presence of somebody who no longer has anything to lose. One can give their blood to the grass, to feed it abortive roots, and know the weakness of anybody they meet. One can bury their bones – an arm will suffice – into the ochre soil and no lock, no knot, no manacle will be able to hold them. One can gift their eyes to the salty, stagnant pool, and no darkness, no pain, no love will be able to imprison them forever. One can plant their heart so it grows into a soft-leafed tree, and never know loneliness.

25. Wells of Atma craft curses as other places craft food, or tools, or luxiry – it is all the same to them, and here one might find curses of any kind, from fragile and crude to elaborate manifold hexes. Atmian demons wear deaden amethysts, and viewed as workers of perilous but necessary profession, akin to nuclear power plant workers elsewhere. The city itself builds in concentric circles away and close to the pit – the  abyss within abyss – from which atmians mine pure malice for their hexes, as innately they don't yet have enough of their own.

#35, the vortex, the pit
The whole layer is downward spiral with a strong pull; full of shining lights it grabs and swallows on any passerby as soon as it is capable, mindlessly, its false light serving as a lure and trap to those who seek any light in this bleak and dark realm.

The Vortex, The Pit is semi-sentient as it consists of condensed remains of its former inhabitant demons, who huddled together as their layer crumbled around them. They are still here, but have no space to think in this density of hunger and lack. The one dumb or unlucky enough to get close is pulled under and devoured without a trace.

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This is both the overview of my 'default' principles of abyss (entirely usable for gaming and making demons and demon layers) and personal perception on some parts of creative process. The writing is rudimentary, especially at the end, because it was written in small pieces all across these three years, with the three bigger layers being made as early as January 2017 and as late as November 2019; when I was typing it all, it took almost eight hours, and my mind temporarily refused to look at the text to make edits for better.

If anything good came out of January experiment of writing once a week, 'On abyss' was it, as I can finally post it with all its wrong-words and all of its typos, and all its "its" instead of "it's", and get it out of drafts, and maybe fix it later, in the accordance with its own nature. If the sense of liberation was December purpose and the sense of discipline was January purpose, this achieved both. Time to move on.

The inspirations for abyss probably started as early as first 'Doom' I played back in 90s, where I clipped through the map and fell into entirely alien skies. I was also always puzzled by the idea that Planescape Abyss is such stable and luxurious place with its infinite layers nicely separated from each other and having a plethora of usable space. 'Malfeas' from Exalted had shown me that the abyss doesn't have to be all evil and ugly, while my own many failed attempts at maps surely proved to me that it can be. 'The world on godly napkin' idea came from sketching a world map on an actual napkin and later tossing said napkin into a trashbin.

17 comments:

  1. Beautiful. I've got some old notebooks I have to give some love to now.

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  2. This works on so many levels; as a literal videogame/virtual reality glitchy shovelware world, a weird fantasy world, or in a way a commentary on the real world. It is interesting both on the high concept level and in all its details. I'm glad to see that after all the work you put into it that you were able to turn it into something you were comfortable sharing.

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    1. Thank you for reading it.
      'Doom' (which was one of the main visual inspirations) wasn't really a shovelware but if you think how all these maps connect it is kind of a mess.

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    2. Doom definitely was not shovelware lol, but I just mean in the way your abyss is about unfinished, broken, abandoned worlds.

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    3. This is true. I guess just like any other worlds that end up in a abyss, shovelware games are worlds that never got their chance to be anything but infinished, uncared for, broken or abandoned.

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  3. This is a really brilliant idea, expressed beautifully. I got a bit emotional thinking about my poor abandoned worlds.

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    1. If you remember them they are not yet fully abandoned, I believe.

      Thank you for reading.

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  4. If a world (or part of a world) is saved from the abyss, what happens to the other worlds that rest on/in/around it? A collapse? Do resident interloping demons lose their associated power?

    Ironically, the failed worlds you describe, even the abyss itself, are/is saved for now by writing about them/it.
    :O)

    Dare I ask about the fate of iterative drafts of a world, the pleasant wood became the bandit wood, is the pleasant wood aN intangible fragment in the abyss?

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    1. Angels recycle from the edges – they are only after shiny new things, and don't go deep into the older layers, so when they take the layer or a part of it off, nothing much changes. When layer adopted, it depends how carefully the divinity extracts it – if it is gently, if it is yanking it out with force. But they don't care about what remains in the abyss, usually, anyway.
      If part of the layer got recycled, it is less for remaining demons. If, say, a city took on angel bargain and got recycled, there is now nothing in the place of that city. If spells got recycled, demons no longer have such spells.

      Writing about layers doesn't save them. You know about them but they are still layers. What is beyond the edges of their maps? How their politics work? What is their ecology? They are still unsustainable beyond the abyss.

      When you build a house, the building in process looks not much the finished building but, if the building is finished, all those strange shapes and unlivable conditions become the part of the cohesive finished whole that comes into the being.

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  5. This is a beautiful post. It's a glorious and melancholy vision of the endless Abyss. That it also taps into the love we have for our own abandoned imaginative offspring is a nice touch

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  6. K this is so good, I'm so glad you took the time to finish and share it with us. Your paintings especially set off the words and bring it to life, thank you!

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    1. Thank you for reading this very long post.

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  7. I don't quite have words this post is making me feel, but I feel them quite strongly. wow.
    (Well, melancholy would be a place to start actually, but details.)

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    1. Thank you for reading such a long post.

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