The Hell of Primal Shadows is an ancient plane, existing for eternities beyond measure. While not the original source, it has long since become the embodiment of true darkness. No night is quite so black as this, no absence of light so complete and pure; even in the darkest of our places, objects emit blackbody radiation of some kind. Such quantum rules do not apply here. There exists not a fragment of light within this blackest of hells.
Further, the shadows of this eternal midnight do not abide the encroachment of visibility. Sources of natural light do not work here: torches and lamps are rendered worthless; they still burn, their flames still consume, but they emit not a photon of light. Even magic is not immune to this; all but the most powerful of light spells will fizzle worthlessly, and even those that work are significantly reduced in effect and duration. It seems almost as if the darkness is actively destroying the light, a disturbing realization for those who're used to the idea of light banishing darkness with nary a struggle.
The denizens of the Primal Shadows are not demons in the traditional sense, focused on eternal torture and gleeful cruelty, though one could be forgiven for thinking such a thing. Each has it's own place within the brutal ecosystem that always seems to form within each of the myriad hells, an ecosystem to make the most horrific depths of the jungles pale in comparison. When mere humans are placed within it, they inevitably become prey to the vicious predators that comprise it.
Alas, eternity is truly circular in nature; any poor soul who becomes prey will reawaken within minutes of their 'death', with all the mind-searing memories of exactly how they died in screaming agony, knowing all the while that there is no safety in the unending darkness, and that within a very, very short time the process will repeat itself. Those souls doomed to spend their afterlife here quickly go mad from the constant terror and agony of being hunted and brutally eaten. All that is left are shallow husks of shivering fear and mindless horror.
The Bringers of Midnight
Dark, vast and terrible, the Bringers of Midnight rule over the Hell of Primal Shadows from their obsidian mountains. Incarnations of darkness itself, they are far beyond the ken of mortals. However, the limitless reaches of the countless hells still form a prison from which they cannot escape on their own. Thus do they extend their touch to the dreams and thoughts of mortals, subtly manipulating the course of events through cultic pawns, constantly striving to free themselves from the cosmic depths of their prison. Once they make good their escape, humanity shall witness an eternal midnight, an age of screaming madness and terror that even the gods of Light cannot stop.
In preparation for their escape, the Bringers of Midnight have altered significant portions of the ecology within their personal little hell, turning already-formidable creatures into nightmares of chaos and destruction. However, not everything of their origins was lost in these transformations. With few exceptions, the touch of light is anathema to the natives of this hell, searing flesh and burning away the darkness that comprises their very essence. Some, the most altered, those that are of more use than mere cannon fodder, are less affected by illumination, only beginning to suffer ill-effects after prolonged exposure to intense light.
Only 13 in number, the Priest Hunters exist between the denizens of the Hell of Primal Shadows and the Bringers of Midnight. Only these can withstand the full and awesome power of the Bringers, fulfilling a role somewhere between lieutenants and high priests. Working tirelessly to bring about the wishes of their powerful masters, Priest Hunters carry out the will of the Bringers. They are priests to their dark gods and can channel the power of Primal Shadow.
Appearing as towering skeletons wrapped in glistening sinew and strips of leather, having eyes of crimson fire, Priest Hunters ignore all but one prey. With unerring accuracy, they are able to arrow in toward the closest gathering of priests capable of bringing the hated light, and take great glee in distinguishing such life.
Darkness follows quickly in their wake.
Fell creatures near the top of the food chain, shadowbeasts are a hairsbreadth away from being shadow incarnate. Their form is extremely fluid, shifting and changing as actual shadows do, becoming larger or smaller as needed. If seen with dim light (full daylight would annihilate it), it will appear as an amorphous mass of shadows, clinging to and creeping along the ground.
Cunning predators, they prefer to ambush their prey and drag it off into the darkness, enshrouding it with their caustic shadows before tearing it apart to release the essence of life within.
Like all creatures of this plane, light is a potent weapon against a shadowbeast. Enough light will kill it, as will sufficient application of magical damage. Physical weaponry, however, is next to useless in fending one off. Torchbearers should be cautious, however, for a shadowbeast will make it's first priority the removal of light and any who carry it.
The Onyx Serpent
A great creature of black, stony skin, whose slithering across the ground sounds like the grinding of mill stones. It has piercing eyes of gold and teeth that glow with a ghostly pale light, with a hiss that sounds like crumbling mountainsides. It's size belies it's speed, however, and this snake eshews venom, preferring instead to crush and swallow prey whole.
The hide is an organic obsidian composite harder than any known rock, easily capable of deflecting both blade and spell. Of the various fauna that exist in the Hell of Primal Shadows, this is the one that all others fear. You do not confront it, you sidestep it and pray it finds something tastier to go after.
The Ebony Octopus
It creeps from shadow to shadow, finding entry through the smallest of openings. Shadowy tendrils snake from around corners and beneath grates, grabbing ankles and dragging victims screaming into the darkness. What happens next is best left unsaid.
Notably, these tendrils seem immune to the normal corrosive effect of light upon the denizens of the Primal Shadows, retaining their form and power despite direct illumination. This makes them a huge threat against the unwary, who naturally assume that being in the light protects them from the dangers lurking in the lightless reaches. Only the core body itself is vulnerable to radiance, though trapping it long enough to fully destroy it is quite difficult; much like it's waterborn compatriot, the Ebony Octopus is hard to pin down.
Dog-sized creatures with thick, scaly skin, long claws and double-rows of razor teeth. They charge to bring down their prey, biting through calf or thigh with their terrifyingly strong jaws, though occasionally they'll hammer a large creature with their long tail to knock them over. Once their victims are downed, the creatures claw and bite without mercy, tearing out large chunks of sweet, delicious flesh to devour. Their bite is poisonous, quickly leading to paralysis and sepsis, presuming the prey lives that long.
The Dwellers In Darkness
Completely invisible in full shadow, Dwellers appear as shapes only half seen in partial light. Grotesque creatures, some are small as rats or insects, others like misshapen demons. Silent stalkers in the darkness, flitting from shadow to shadow, they enjoy letting their prey catch but glimpses. Their favorite tactic is to drive terrified mortals into a blind panic before dragging them into the darkness to be devoured.
A Dweller's appearance can be deceiving. Even the largest of them can be contained within the smallest of shadows, letting them easily dodge the dangerous lights of torches or spells. Blending in with the shadows, they easily avoid blind sword strikes and offensive spells.
Free to roam where they will, Torchbearers carry torches emanating clouds of darkness that crawl and creep at the edges, eating away at the light. No illumination, mundane or magical, will pierce these black flames. The things within are unknowable, visible only as a procession of darkness. Safe inside this darkness are often innumerable shadowbeasts, a great squirming mass finding safe haven from any light.
The torches extinguish only upon the death of their bearers. With a hiss and a sputter do they go out, leaving nothing but ash and bits of bone behind.
The Wild Ones
Long-limbed, fanged, white-eyed creatures with large snouts and claws like steel. They go about singly or in pairs, sniffing the air and grunting as they go. Once they catch the scent of prey, they become rabid with a lust for destruction. Sated only by the red blood dripping from their long claws, they lap up every tasty ounce and render the warm corpses with unforgiving fangs.
These are bestial creatures, operating somewhere between primal instinct and intelligence. Mostly blind, and therefore immune to all but the brightest of lights, they rely on the smell of sweat and fear and the sound of panicked footsteps to direct them toward that which they wish to feed off of. They amble about with a peculiar gait, scrambling along with legs and arms like mutated primates.
These are insect-like things, beetle shaped, with tentacles arranged around greedy maws. The size of small dogs, they crawl upon the walls, hiding in shadow, making skittering sounds before dropping upon their prey. They latch upon the heads of their victims, blinding and disorienting them with enveloping tentacles so that the strong mandibles can crush through scalp and skull to suck upon the juicy brains beneath.
Dozens will swarm in areas where crowds have gathered. They move quickly, coming in from all directions, taking advantage of any confusion to claim their prey.
Kin to mundane ogres only in size, grotesqueness of visage, and temperament, a Shadow Ogre's black hide ripples with multitudes of clinging shadowbeasts seeking refuge from the light. Their magic hides provide sanctuary to the small shadows, sustaining and protecting them from all deadly illumination. The ogres themselves need no weapons and can crush a mortal's skull or rip free warm entrails with a single swipe.
A group of ogres will often wade into a crowded area, laying about with their fearsome strength while the shadowbeasts jump to and fro claiming victims of their own.
The Night Hunt
Visible as a mostly amorphous cloud of darkness, the Night Hunt is a vaguely man-shaped creature, adorned with stags horns and sporting an owl's beak. Swirling red orbs of light make up the Hunt's eyes.
He leads a pack of hell hounds through the midnight streets, growing in strength on the smell of fear. These hounds bay at the sound of panicked heartbeats, causing the beasts to pull against their tethers of silver chain. When their quarry has been cornered, or simply falls down in exhaustion and hopelessness, the hounds are loosed to feast.
Any normal weapon which strikes the hunt will disappear in a puff of black vapor.
A hairless creature of sickly yellow skin and phlegmy green eyes, these goblin-sized beasts travel in packs. Tied together with silver chains that end in hooks and pierce their very flesh they roam through streets and alleyways, howling and gibbering like mad things. Driven by unending pain and hunger, they have no fear and take no note of wounds until slain. Those few mortals unlucky enough to survive an attack will find wounds festering and growing septic. Disease follows in the wake of the Scraxxa.
The Hungry Maidens
With hair black as ravens' wings and skin of purest alabaster, the Maidens wander singly or in pairs. Their slender forms are draped in filmy white gauze, hair tumbled forward to hide skeletal faces. As they wander, they fill the air with sweet songs of longing for the quiet embrace of peaceful night. Ensorceled souls wander near, only to be attacked by beings of inhuman strength with fangs and claws. Once finished, their victims lie pale and shrunken, sucked dry of all blood.
Appearing as dog sized black widow spiders, they build black webs as stong as steel to trap the unwary, biting them with a paralysing bite, wrapping them up and sucking them dry.
Every ecosystem has its parasites; the Hell of Primal Shadows is no different.
Living, writhing shadows, Aphotic Worms clump together and swarm unsuspecting creatures, wriggling and sliding their way into any orifice they can. Once they've infested their target, they take full control over its actions, using their new host to hunt and kill prey. Non-sentient, the worms will flee a host when it has been rendered unconscious, immobile, or dead.
Their danger lies in numbers and hosts. The worms themselves are easily killed with the smallest of lights.
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? Responses (17)
A dark dreary devilish place to be.
Sounds... Horrifying. Well done :P
Alright, other than a certain non-standard contraction that distracted me for a bit, I like this. The imagery is suitably dark and grotesque, though I do have a problem with one of the monsters; namely, the creatures are composed of shadow, yes? Or at least that's what I got out of the intro, but the Wild Ones can survive the light because they're blind? How does whether a creature made of shadow can see or not affect how well it can stand the light? Now, the grasping arms of the octoshadow didn't really bother me, because I kinda figured they were being held together by the cephelapodian will of the beast, but the Wild Ones are just that, wild, untamed, without any real /will/ other than the will to eat...
But that's just me, anyway, great sub :D
Well, it's a suitably awful place to be a Hell, but how would you wind up here? What's it's place in the greater cosmos?
One winds up here the same way they end up in any hell: They kick the bucket and are sentenced to eternal doom, or someone opens a portal and they walk/fly/are thrown through..
It's place in the greater cosmos is as a repository for damned souls. My concept of the geographic region of hyper-reality generally referred to as 'the Hells' is that it also functions as a prison for the demons and dark gods that seem to inevitably reside therein. Which also explains nicely their constant desire to escape and wreck havoc on the mortal plane.
Possibly throw in an NPC or two to explain that. A demon, dark/demi god, a powerful once mortal sorcerer perhaps that was banished here as punishment and how the Hell affects them or how they affect the realm. Perhaps there is a dark, undead, and powerful mortal sorcerer that has built a bastion of relative safety for himself and is strong enough to fight off the onslaught of the darkness with a darklight. He resides and bides his time gathering minions for the fateful day he will break free. Not part of the ensuing darkness but entwined in it. Perhaps he knows how to stave off the shadows in the real world and that is why he was sent here to die eternally, he is just stronger than that. A bad evil guy for sure, but a possible player ally if grudgingly.
Ok, so here we have this eternal black hell. Interesting. There is no light here and anyone trapped here that has no way of seeing in this blackness is pretty much screwed. Cool. I echo Siren in asking how does one stumble to this Hell or be sent here? Seems like a foolish place to willingly go for sure. A trek to find an item hidden within the realm to stop the ensuing darkness perhaps? Into the Lion's Den for sure.
It is a grand and horrible place brought to life by its unique ecosystem, each one seeming to have a real mind of their own yet to echo Pariah I do not understand the ability to be immune to light if they are blind. No immune persay but not as weak to it as others when "the touch of light is anathema to the natives of this hell, searing flesh and burning away the darkness that comprises their very essence."
Regardless this is a nifty place and it speaks of dark and ill nightmares should it leak out into the real world. A wonderful forboding place to have a campaign.
One would never want to wind up there.
In a Hell of Darkness, how would you perceive it?
An excellent point. Some visual description was needed, because PCs will presumably have light and thus they'll see bits and pieces of these demons. However, since darkness is intricately bound to how these should be presented, perhaps the addition of a 'lightless' description for each would be in order.
'...since darkness is intricately bound to how these should be presented, perhaps the addition of a 'lightless' description for each would be in order.'
that would be a lotta work, if you don't want them all sounding the same, but I love it the thought!!
Beautifully written, and fits perfect into the Kult rpg, also reminds me a bit of the Nightlands from Palladiums Nightbane rpg, but this is done way better. ;)
I especially like the way this can be equally applicable a hell to use for fantasy games as well as more high tech ones, and is a great place for the PC's to visit for a short series of adventures to take a break from their usual game world and style of play. (although without some kind of thermal goggles or the like finding their way around for modern day chars would be next to impossible.)
Forgot to vote.
Great collection of shadowy nasties!
I enjoyed the writing and the additional creatures were great fun. But I echo some of the previous comments in trying to comprehend that not a photon of light will be emitted from light sources yet all these creatures have descriptions. Would you ever see anything, just hear something and die one of your limitless deaths.
Appropriately freaky and other worldly and was able to accept the contradictions with the assumption that not everything is perhaps understood or known in this world.
Guess I will have to visit and find out for myself!! And THAT is how you have people searching it out. :)
Especially thrilled by all the additions! Each one could be expanded upon and used in many different dreadful scenarios beyond this one!edited
Sufficiently powerful magical or divine sources of light could still result in illumination. Also, if these creatures were encountered in a different plane (such as during the Quarantine of Light), they're more likely to be visible, at least partially. So some visual description is worthwhile.edited