The Beyond

Beyond life and death, beyond stars and dreams and the boundaries of reality itself, lies the Beyond. This realm, so far removed from the mortal realm, is an endless expanse of unreality. Whereas even the Astral realm obeys certain constants, nothing is set in the Beyond. The constraints of time and form lose all meaning. It is a place of pure chaos, populated by creatures that cannot (and, in some cases, must not) exist.

While few have seen it first hand, some believe the Beyond to be reality in its raw form, unchanged by the will of the immortals. It may very well be that Orn itself is simply another domain within the Beyond, ruled by beings not unlike the chtrxy, and that the laws governing it are no less alien than anything else in the cosmic scheme of things.

Whatever the truth, the Beyond remains a realm apart, populated by beings so ancient and terrible they might devour Orn whole if they ever stirred from their slumber. Few seek it, and still fewer ever reach it, for to touch the Beyond is to abandon sanity and embrace the terror of the unknowable.

Denizens

Beings of the Beyond are collectively referred to as exiles, though little unites them beyond their strangeness.

  • Chtrxy ("ki-trix-ee") - Impossibly massive and varied in appearance, the chtrxy float through the vast expanse of the Beyond. Some theories suggest they arose from banished immortals lost to time and memory, or that they are an ancient species that devours worlds. Thankfully, most are dormant or otherwise uninterested in mortal affairs, though there are exceptions, such as Vlqmk the Hungerer, who gently probe Orn in search of morsels.
  • Uai ("oo-eye") - Uai are thought to be the Beyond's equivalent of flora and fauna, though little commonality exists between any two specimens beyond their bizarre appearance. One may look like a floating ball of eyes suspended in translucent slime, while another may be a trilateral creature with three wings, three legs, and no discernible sensory organs. Most live on, in, or near a chtrxy, suggesting a symbiotic or parasitic relationship.
  • Watchers - During the Age of Wonders, it is believed a group of wizards managed to reach the Beyond. The magic they used, however, ripped away all memory or trace of them and left them stranded. Cut off from reality, they developed great power as well as bizarre appearances and twisted minds. Eventually, they were able to regain contact with the mortal realm and even return there, but they'd lost so much of their former selves that little more than a passing fascination in mortal affairs remained. Now the Watchers observe, all-seeing but utterly indifferent.

Domains

Many domains within the Beyond are actually gargantuan chtrxy whose bodies are large enough to support whole ecologies and display unique planar traits. Ramblings among the exiles seem to indicate that their names have meaning in some lost language, though none have ever managed to learn it without going insane.

  • Ftrkt ("fa-tract") - The "Weaving" appears to mortals as a great cavern filled top to bottom with a substance like webbing in some places and storm clouds in others. Short bursts of lightning occasionally light its depths, revealing arachnoid uai with dozens if not hundreds of legs. Perhaps worse, space itself is warped and woven upon itself in impossible ways. Hapless visitors are often misdirected, wandering endlessly in an unseen maze only the mad can navigate.
  • Hlrkx ("hal-ra-kex") - In the "Place of Waiting," beneath a starless sky, stand the Rgnth ("er-gi-neth"). Numerous beyond count, these shadowy, vaguely humanoid figures stand on an endless plain, all facing in the direction of Orn, waiting in utter silence. None know of a time when they were not waiting, why they look toward Orn, or what will happen when their wait is over.
  • Oxoqlps ("ox-o-cleps") - The "Ocean Beneath" is a vast domain filled with slime. Amphibious uai glide through the translucent filth, unaware or unconcerned that they are actually within the body of a chtrxy vast beyond imagining. Oxoqlps itself rarely stirs except to eject something it finds bothersome. The unfortunate object of its distaste is forced out in a giant gout of bubbles and slime powerful enough to reach distant realities.
  • Poqwn ("pok-woon") - The "Endless Dungeon" is unique among the chtrxy as being the most hospitable. In fact, adventurers who end up there rarely realize they've left Orn until it's too late. This is due to Poq'wn's memetic nature. It assumes environments similar to dungeons, then establishes portals that appear as natural side passages or corridors in real dungeons. But for the tendency of mimics to live near such portals, they are difficult to spot. Unsuspecting explorers wander into these traps, discovering an endless labyrinth of disjointed dungeons built up over the years before realizing the way home has vanished. Deep in the heart of Poq'wn lies a city of such lost souls banded together out of necessity, some who've lived in Poq'wn for generations.
  • Vlqmk ("val-ki-mek") - The "Hungerer" is an exception to the rule that chtrxy are quiescent or otherwise uninterested in Orn. Vlqmk is an immeasurable mass of gaping, grinding, fang-filled maws and groping tentacles, the center of which is thought to be a bottomless pit in reality that can never be filled. It has been known to probe the veil of reality in search of food to sate its appetite. And while it has difficulty manifesting, grim tales speak of mortals torn from reality body and soul, of grasping tentacles pulling them toward mouths the size of valleys, and of the hungry nothingness that awaits beyond.

Travel

Of the many realms, even more so than the Astral or the Pit, the Beyond is the hardest to reach. Only the Watchers are known to have reliable access, though it cost them their sanity and humanity to achieve. Theories suggest it is possible at the very farthest reaches of the realms, beyond the Wellspring of Creation in the Prime, the Gates of Judgment in the Nether, or the uppermost reaches of the Astral which exist as pure thought without form. Here, at the very edge of reality, the barrier to the Beyond is thinnest and may be pierced with sufficient magic or the help of entities on the other side.

Many believe the difficulty lies in the nature of reality itself, that there exists a membrane between that which can exist and that which cannot. Those from within reality are as subject to this exclusion as much as those from without, attracted and bound to their reality (or lack thereof) in such a way as to be inseparable from it.

Overcoming this force requires untethering the traveler from their origin. Mortals who reach the Beyond start to become native creatures, their bodies mutating and their minds warping until they are indistinguishable from the alien beings who live there. Likewise, entities from the Beyond summoned into Orn eventually melt away, or else slough off enough of their alien characteristics to be assimilated into the natural ecology.

In any case, the immense dangers and the questionable benefits of reaching the Beyond make it an errand of true madness. Only those insane enough to revere the chtrxy or sensitive enough to make contact with such entities would seek to pierce the barrier, either to join their masters or permit their entry into Orn.