Planar Primer #1: The Etherium
Today we begin to turn away from the kingdoms and regions of Idhomlya and move into the cosmos at large. First we begin with the strange. transitional echo-realm of the Ethereal Plane.
Alongside the Material Plane lies an echo of its existence known to some as the Ethereal Plane. It is a dimension of transitions and reflections. Within this place you may be near enough to touch the Material or far enough to get lost among the wandering souls of those lost to time. Strange creature with imposing wills, ghosts of dead empires, and guides of the dead all can be found within the strange spectral realm.
Much of the Etherium is made up of an impossibly large region known as the Echoing Mesas. For the most part these exist as an eerie reflection of the world, though often with some slight differences. It is not uncommon for perfectly stable buildings to be crumbling in the Etherium, nor would it be strange to encounter those who have only recently died, going about their activities as if alive and interacting with the Material Plane they are so close to.
The reason for this strange countenance is the plane’s existence as an echo of what the world most recently was and what very soon will be. Sometimes the differences may be extreme, but often are slight and barely noticeable. Some scholars claim that this is a result of those viewing the Etherium and not the plane itself. Oracles who spend too long gazing into the secrets held within its borders even claim that one can “move” through the Etherium in what they call the Echo and the Portent. The former deepens the age of the Etherium and the echo seen is one of past empires and peoples while the latter becomes an ever-more chaotic version of what could be.
The River Styx
Separating the landscape of the Ethereal Plane at seemingly random intervals are rivers that do not exist within the Material Plane. These are all part of a single large river feeding into it as it cuts through the plane causing it to be divided up into countless mesas. This is the famed River Styx where the souls of the dead find passage into the various realms of the dead. The shores of these rivers are among the most dangerous parts of the Etherium as demons hunt for souls to devour and psychopomps patrol for any soul, living or dead, who would resist the order of the cosmos. Eventually all tributaries of the River meet up into one large watercourse through the deep Etherium where they feed into the misty marshland that lies at the center of the realms of the dead: Gehenna, Purgatory.
Deep within the Ethereal Plane things begin to loose shape and meaning. Direction and solidity cease to exist and creature move freely within the spectral background of all that could be or ever was. It is a dangerous place to enter with enormous monsters and dark alien entities. But at its edge is a staircase which may lead those who can find it directly into the Dreamrealms. The Spiraling Paths of Somnus twist up and down into infinity reaching to the heights of hope and depths of despair. The farther one travels along the staircase the greater the dreams or the worse the nightmares they will find. No matter how far you travel, no matter how many doors you pass, you will find that there are no walls just a vast dark expanse where lies the grey plateau of Leng where twisted men and other creatures serve dark beings of unfathomable power.