Crypts of the Barrowmaze
The Dying World
Known to the ancients as “Azor”, a word descended from the time of the Lizard Kings, but most commonly referred to as simply “the world”.
It is a roughly circular disk, slightly concave, that floats atop a whirling sea of elemental energies. All this is contained within a spherical vessel, known to the wise as the Firmament or the Skin of Night
Two great lamps travel along the surface of the Skin of Night. It is said that they are borne on the backs of immense beasts. One, the Sun, is rekindled every night as it passes through the Elemental Sea and blazes with warmth and light every day as it passes overhead. The other, the Moon, is battered and pitted and askew on its moorings. It does not hold the flame of Elemental Fire any more, and can only reflect the glory of the Elemental Sea. It is said that it was nearly destroyed by the War of Serpents.
The integrity of the Skin of Night is failing. Worn away by the constant worming of Black Magic across its boundary and the schemes of hungering Others intent on feasting on the bones of our world, it is pockmarked with a growing number of pinpoint holes. These “stars” are actually gaps that occur when another world touches our own. More and more of the Dark Dimensions draw near. Sometimes a star will fall to earth, establishing a permanent beachhead for that Dark Dimension.
Some believe that not all the stars lead to demon-haunted hell-worlds. Rumors persist of the Dimensions of Light, where the Kindly Ones (the gods who once watched over humanity) have gone away to. Others recall the legends that men did not begin here on this world, and believe that another, better world might wait out beyond the Skin of Night if only one could find the way to it.
The Shroud is a nightmarish realm that exists alongside our own. All sorcerers know of its existence and can travel there. Magic flows through the Shroud from its sources, whether beyond the Skin of Night in the Outer Dark (Black), deep within the Elemental Sea (Grey), or from dreams (White). These flows are known as “witch-lines” or “Dragon lines”, and control over the places where they run and where they join one another is constantly contested among mortal sorcerers, demonic Others, and ancient things of uncertain nature.
There are no gods. Legend has it that the gods that once watched over humanity and their Elder Kin were slain in the terrible conflict that drove the Great Migration, but others say that these Kindly Ones could not be destroyed, and merely either abandoned men or have lost track of us and search through the limitless worlds beyond the Skin of Night to find what has become of their beloved children.
Many entities of power and mystery are worshipped as gods. They are invariably parasitic creatures, using their worshippers to their own ends and/or being used by them. They lack the divine power of creation, and can only destroy.
Temporary sentiences sometimes coalesce from the Elemental Sea, but the Elemental Lords who created the world long ago abandoned sentience and returned to the chaos from which they came. The priests of Myrindor re-created the Elemental Lords for a time by fusing elementals with men, but the power inevitably consumed them and fell into ruin.
In the last two centuries, rumors and mad prophets have claimed that they have heard the voices of the Kindly Ones returning to our world, to save mankind from the death of the world and the evil of the Others. But with very rare exceptions, these madmen have had no evidence to back up their claims. Saint Ygg, who sealed the Green Star of Gaxx, was one of the few whose power cannot easily be dismissed as charlatanry or sorcery.
There are an infinity of worlds beyond the Skin of Night, each suspended like our own within a bubble of stable reality and drifting through the Outer Dark. Almost all of them are nightmare hells inhabited by creatures of unlimited sadism and predatory greed – what we call the Dark Dimensions. Perhaps they were once more hospitable places, with beings we could have understood and come to grips with; but if so, they have long since been consumed by the limitless evil of the Others.