Tuesday, 29 December 2020

Sketches for My Sweetheart, The Beyond

The many realms beyond the Here & Now have begun to be rendered in finer detail, first with There, the place of dead spirits and later with Dusk, the Labyrinth of the Twilight of Civilisations. Material exists for Sun and Dawn (to be featured soon), leaving the more ambiguous realms of Moon and The Beyond up in the air (fittingly). 

Beyond the Aquila Rift, truly cosmic horror episode of Love, Death and Robots

I had a few notes for the Beyond which I wanted to share. 

What is The Beyond?

Clearly the references to the pole star, the void between the stars, total eclipses, meteoric iron... the Beyond is supposed to represent a pre-scientific understanding of what lies beyond the sky, combined with the fantasy/horror "space" of 19th & 20th Century fiction. Vast, mysterious, powerful and potentially dangerous, it hints at humanity's insignificance.

Simmering away in the pot sits a notion that while this is true,  space might not actually be space and stars might be literal alien intelligences. While maybe you could go up there by building a giant boat for the stars, access to the Beyond is perhaps best obtained by spiritual travel.

What Drugs do I Need?

Alien Fungus by CastorX87 https://www.deviantart.com/castorx87/

Of the 7 realms only the Here & Now and the Beyond were not given their own entheogens in PARIAH VOL 1. The Here & Now is the realm of ordinary human perception: the addition of entheogens would either enhance this experience or grant insight into entirely different realms. 

To reinforce the other-otherness of the Beyond, I declined to give details of how it could be visited: it is supposed to lie outside the experiences of the typical tribal shaman or wisewoman.

But it can be reached...
  • ...extremely rare entheogens such as the golden poppy or nightmare salt
  • ...through the dangerous and complex rites of Cults of the Beyond
  • ...by flying beyond the sun and moon.
  • ...through gates and magical portals.
  • ...by taking ridiculous doses of two different entheogens, either simultaneously or consecutively. 
  • ...alternatively, by finding a manifestation of an alien entheogen while exploring another realm (eg. shaman shrooms growing in the the realm of the dead or a patch of desert rue inexplicably emerging from the silver lake
  • ...if a spirit of the beyond whispers to you while you sleep, causing you to travel to the realm of your nightmares.
Is travel to The Beyond physical or spiritual? What is the difference?

What Will I See When I Get There?

Amid the questionable fables and peculiar stories a pattern does seem to present itself: just as there are six realms (The Here and Now; Dawn; There; Dusk; Sun; Moon) preceding The Beyond so to is the Beyond divided.

Each realm therefore has its opposite or its inverse, culminating in a realm beyond even the beyond, surely too horrid to even attempt to contemplate. Perhaps, in the far future, a cult dedicated to piercing that hitherto unexplored realm of nightmares will find that it too is divided into seven further realms...

Eldritch Abomination by Eldritch Abomination 

  1. The Not Here Never:
    Truly the world turned upside down. The sky is a  thick soup of viscous liquid and the mountains drill downwards into an infinite sea of swirling vapours. The tribe of the inverse travel by standing still, and must writhe and gyrate if they wish to remain in one place. They wear their own bones outside their skin, push rocks into their stomach for food before vomiting thick clouds of stone-dust ,which drift slowly downward into the gaping abyss beneath their feet.

    The inhabitants spend their life fleeing from their "children", whose singular goal is to seek out their parent, destroy them, and wear their corpse until they too are consumed by children of their own.

    The inhabitants speak to one another by sucking out memories of words, such that a conversation with a typical inhabitant leaves one ignorant and amnesiac.

    There is no death, only endless suffering and pain [this is neither satire nor futurology... I think...]

  2. The Indigo Depths
    This aspect of the Beyond contrasts with others in that it is not a reflection of the unknowable vastness of space, instead being an expression of its terrestrial reflection. The indigo depths are equivalent to those parts of the deep ocean beyond the reach of human navigation. In unfathomable abysses dwell ancient demons, attended by their worshippers and claiming the souls of those lost at sea.

    For, just as the Lord of the Dead claims those souls afforded funerary rites on land, so that dawn  may one day return them to the Here and Now, those lost to the depths are doomed to spend eternity in servitude of a Horror of the Deep, waiting for the terrible day when they will rise out of their abyssal prisons and wreak havoc on the land.

  3. The Plague Swarm 
    Wisewomen speak of the chaotic immediacy of Dawn in contrast with the rarefied reptilian intelligence of Dusk: within the beyond, these two realms have conflated. The plague swarm is a complex, technologically advanced culture of monstrous insectoid reptiles driven by the insatiable hunger of dusk to replenish and reproduce. Biomechanical monsters driven by the desire to assimilate all life and reform it in their own image, they are in essence they are tyranids.

    The civilisation spans millions of worlds and represents the amalgamation of trillions upon trillions of species, dreaming of a reality in which no single element exists outside of their domain, working in unison towards their goal of multiversal omni immortality

  4. Phantom Watchers
    Just as the Plague Swarm combines Dusk's insectoid intelligence and reptilian forms with the chaotic energy of Dawn, the Phantom Watchers incorporate Dawn's amoral caprice with Dusk's forensic curiosity. The phantom watchers delight in tormenting mortals, keeping meticulous records of the consequence of their psychological and physical tortures.

    Their reality appears to visitors as the watchers wish it to appear, often constructed from the memories of those who visit them. Their greatest pleasure is to imprison mortals in personalised hellscapes and  then leave trails for them to follow allowing them to escape... yet the reality to which they escape is but an illusion and they continue to dwell in such realms oblivious for what may seem like centuries.

    The Phantom Watchers are masters of time dilation: individuals who have safely returned from their realm have reported leading multiple lifetimes before they returned to their mortal shell, in what may have only been moments. The phantoms never tire of torturing an individual in this way. but they are ever keen to add new souls to their retinue of playthings.

    Stories tell that the true form of a Phantom Watcher is a tall, grey and wraith-like humanoid with dramatically elongated limbs and great bulbous heads. A pair of enormous black eyes bely no sympathy, only reflecting the terrified expressions of their victims back at them. 

  5. The Yellow Moon of Beyond
    Their are songs and stories of the Yellow Moon; it is important to remember they refer to nothing "real". The Yellow Moon cannot be seen or visited or touched or tasted, though

    Along the shore the cloud waves break,
    The twin suns sink behind the lake,
    The shadows lengthen...

    Nor the songs sung of the "Yellow Witches", sorcerers who have seen the Yellow Moon, and sing that sad refrain:

    In the House of Serpents
    Stands a solitary candle
    At the centre of it all
    Your eyes

    And they talk, those storytellers of a night where "black stars rise" and a "yellow moon circles through the skies"

    On the day of execution
    Only women kneel and smile
    Something happened on the day he died
    Spirit rose a yard and stepped aside
    Somebody else took his place, and bravely cried
    I'm a Blackstar...

    You will know it when you hear it, and when you hear it you will see it, and you will yearn for it, and you shall pine for all your remaining years:

    Song of my soul, my voice is dead,
    Die thou, unsung, as tears unshed
    Shall dry and die in
    The Yellow Moon of Beyond

  6. Polaris
    The watchful star of the north, friend to traveller... enemy of the restless sleeper.

    Here is a city beyond the comprehension of ordinary men and women, an endless village carved from white ice, populated by humourless cyclopeans, worshipping  a White Sun. They speak only of preparation for a coming war, drilling endlessly for an invasion that never comes. They stamp out weakness and individuality, which they believe to be the same.

    Yet the true horror of Polaris is only fully experienced upon one's return: the visitor begins to be convinced that is in that krypto-fascistic city of ice that they truly belong, and this soft-bellied land with its yellow sun and brown earth is a fancy. Each night they will return to Polaris eagerly, surrendering an ever-increasing portion of their soul to its vainglory.

  7. Death Beyond Death: 
    Foolish mortals fear death for it signals the end of their experience of a reality they have known. The wise accept death, for we all live on through our issue and memory of our deeds. The wisest of all recognise that in death our spirit endures, and our flesh renews and replenishes as the cycle of life continues.

    But there is something greater than death: annihilation.

    Thus the greatest terror of them all: the void.

    Those who have peered into it—who have truly understood nothing as well as any mortal might—testify to its terror. It is perhaps not that therein lies emptiness, the fear of not only no longer existing but also to have never have existed at all... no, it is not that. It is knowing that nothing does not just mean no spirit or matter or fire or heat...

    ...it means no time.

    ...it means no law.

    ...and where there exists not even the simplest form of stricture, there is nothing to say what may emerge from it next.

    From this void came all of existence, replete with its Yellow Moons and Phantom Watchers and ghouls and ghosts and terrors of the deep...

    ...what next might it see to fit birth? It is pregnant with horror.

Hope you enjoyed this trip beyond the ordinary realms of extra sensory perception. I'll try to write up a post for each little micro-setting, heavy on the gameable content, light on the over-wrought prose. 2021 will be all about giving YOU (and I mean YOU) stuff to use at your table.


  1. Did I just catch a little Jeff Buckley reference there?