The Gloom is a minor realm nestled amid the depths of the nether realms; by all rights it should have been swallowed long eons ago, so minor is it in the scheme of power. Yet it persists; and over the ages, it even grows, slowly absorbing the detritus cast off from the countless other realms and binding it all to a frigid stillness. It is a place of cold, and stasis, and quiet, uncaring sorrow.
There are a great many other realms beyond the mortal world; the foul depths of the nether realms, the glories of the celestial realms, the alien strangeness of the outer realms, and much more. A state of flux grips them all, albeit on a time scale that escapes nearly all the mortal races. Smaller realms are consumed by larger ones, and larger ones split apart or bud off new ones. Very little can be considered eternal, merely long-lived.
Save, perhaps, the Gloom… A minor realm lodged amidst the bowels of the nether realms, it began as the home of a minor hellspawned prince whose designs were far grander than his might. It was the limit of his power to cleave off a portion of the frigid realm that had spawned his loathsome form, and at first it was little different than the realm it had once been part of - a place of fetid odors and stagnant waters, corrupt with rot and plague to torment those few souls who fell to it, or the rare demons born from it.
Apathy at his countless defeats over the centuries eventually set in, however, and so it was that when Soreen the Frostfell found the Gloom, the Prince was barely retaining his hold over it, an act of pure instinct that proved insufficient; the outcast elemental howled across the noisome expanses, bringing with him the first touch of winter the realm had ever known, and shattered the gates of crumbling bone and rotten meat at the Prince’s castle. A few moments more, and Soreen had slain the Prince, razor-sharp shards of ice stained with demonic ichor as he laid claim to the realm.
It took little time for the Gloom to reflect the new master’s will, with ice coating the bogs and the crimson sky turning dark with turbulent clouds. The drooping trees and putrid waterways gave way to windswept pillars of ice and sweeping avenues of pristine snow, burying all traces of what the realm once was.
Thus is the Gloom now; a vast expanse of deepest winter, harshly beautiful.
Frostfell Palace stands where the old Prince’s palace once stood at the realm’s heart. As Soreen rarely uses it, preferring to wander his domain and reshape it at his artistic whims, this may actually be one of the few relatively safe locations in the Gloom, should the means be available to withstand the temperatures within, which are the coldest of anywhere in the realm.
The Plain of Frozen Screams is the location where most of Soreen’s mortal worshippers end up on their death; their souls, drawn to the Gloom, are captured by the Freithor and bound into pillars of ice across this plain; for long periods of time, any given pillar will hold a soul somewhere between mortal and demon, the pillar’s cold power changing the anguished mortal within it into one of the Freithor.
The Forest of Frost lies in one of the few relatively windless valleys of the Gloom, nestles amid a handful of icy-shrouded peaks that block the fiercely swirling winds of the rest of the realm. Here, delicate traceries of frost steadily grow and evolve in works of breathtaking beauty. No two frost-growths are alike, owing to the chaotic nature of their growth, and many of the Freithor make regular trips here to help them understand the cold beauty of their Lord’s ultimate vision. Alas, even the slightest disturbance - such as a footfall nearby or the presence of a bit of warm breath - can cause a catastrophic collapse that will send any of the Frost Demons nearby into a frenzied rage.
The Fetid Pillars rise from the ice that has grown over one of the foulest and warmest bogs from the previous incarnation of the Gloom; too hot to freeze solid, the heated vapor that gurgles up from the noisome depths has, over time, deposited layers of mineral-laced ice into hollow tubes, the hues and weirdly organic shape of them bringing to mind the back of some immense, slumbering beast. Were it not for the foul fumes that linger in the area, making it hard to draw breath, these might be one of the most beautiful accidental works of art in the Gloom.
The Wintersong Shrine is one of the longest-lasting of Soreen’s artistic works, and is composed of numerous pillars of ice, each laced with carefully-shaped holes and fissures as they proceed down a valley that is scoured by a steady wind. As the moving air plays over the pillars, it elicits an eerie, otherworldly music from them that shifts and dances with the wind’s gusting and swirling. Anyone foolish enough to damage this artistic work will draw Soreen’s wrath as nothing else.
Lake Pyre is the only place in the realm where the ambient temperature is above the freezing point; this is a subject of much irritation to Soreen, who caused the lake’s creation by trapping a powerful servant of the Lady of Ash within a pool of azure ice and entombing it within the frigid ground. While the essential prison still holds in the form of the azure ice, the heat of the trapped creature has thawed the ice for several hundred feet. It is far from safe, however, as Soreen has numerous Freithor tending to the lake’s boundaries and keeping as much frozen over as possible.
The Sulfurous Cavern burrows into one of the few mountains that remain fairly free of the omnipresent ice of the realm. Heated from somewhere deep within, the cavern is the site of a battle between the internal warmth and the enroaching heat, with foul-smelling mists spilling across the floor, somewhat slimy water dripping steadily from the roof, and surges of frost extending long tendrils along the walls deep within the cavern.
Freithor are the native demons of the Gloom as it exists under Soreen’s rule. Born from spirits bound into the pillars of the Plain of Frozen Screams, they are creatures of fear and cold anger, wanting little more than to share their displeasure with the whole of existence. As they are more demon than elemental, the Freithor find it difficult to understand their Lord’s desire to seal the world in the changeless beauty of winter, and can often be found wandering the artistic corners of the realm, seeking insight into this. A clever mortal traveler may be able to bribe one with wisdom about winter’s beauty.
Glitterwings are the closest thing the Gloom has to birds and bats; with thin tubes of ice for bones and glassy sheets of frost for wings, they glide and swoop amid the Gloom’s skies, often visible as little more than sparkling lights. They have an innate ability to dampen heat around themselves - a few degree in a small zone no more than one or two strides in span - which would be harmless to travelers, were it not for theiur tendency to come in large flocks and swarm anything they find distastefully warm.
Fregan are the remaining demons of the Gloom’s former incarnation. Bloated things that bear a distinct resemblance to both frogs and crocodiles, they were quite at home in the warm, putrid waters of the bogs. Now, the majority live in the big beneath the Fetid Pillars, dreaming of a day when Soreen’s rule will be ended and the ice will melt away to restore the bogs; their innate apathy prevents them from acting on any of these dreams as they squirm through the putrid muck, keeping it churned up and warm. Those few Fregan found outside the encased bog may well be some of the most miserable creatures in the Gloom; huddling wherever they can find something approaching wamrth, these pathetic wretches gratefully answer summons from other realms, and are willing to faithfully swear themselves to anything if a traveler will help them flee the frigid wastes.
Spirals are small insectile things, glittering and translucent, that spin webs of a strange kind of ice across openings less then two strides across. While heat will melt the ice readily, it is amazingly strong against any kind of impact, and so fine in composition that it has a razor’s keenness to it. The Spirals rely on the near invisibility of their webs to keep fed, eating the remains of anything that happens to be diced up by the crystalline strands, be it mortal, demon, or other wildlife.
-Arctic: All regions within the Gloom suffer continual arctic-level weather; ambient temperatures are well below freezing in nearly all locations, and characters not protected from the frigid conditions suffer the effects of exposure.
-Nether Realm: Selfish energy runs strongly within the Gloom, weakening those of a more altruistic nature and entities from the Celestial Realms, while amplifying the base and malevolent impulses of those already so inclined.
-Elemental affinity: The Gloom is a place of elemental cold. Spells and other effects that produce fire and/or heat are weakened, while effects that generate cold are augmented. Other elemental effects are unchanged, but will be prone to drawing attention from natives.
-Despair: The former Prince’s essential death by apathy, and Soreen’s deeply buried understanding of the essential futility of his goal has tainted the entire realm, giving it an aura of despair and apathy. Things that produce energetic or positive emotions such as hope, love, rage, and glee are all weakened, while those that promote listlessness or sorrow are augmented.