Scholars have long thought
that the gateways to the Netherworld were small,
contained areas that only a skilled conjurer could open. The Deep Winds Portal
of Osthemangar is one such opening that is
known to exist. However, only in recent times has evidence been uncovered that
the massive gorge running hundreds of
strals along the
Caaehl'heroth peninsula may be such a portal as well. This frightening prospect
is all the more real in that adventurers have witnessed the lives of an entire
civilization of shadow beings that live along the gorge. This deep rift in the
earth is like a festering wound, as if the
hands of an earth titan itself tore open the land to reveal a dark chaos
bubbling below. The Shadespell Gorge is a place long avoided by the orcen
tribes who live in the area. They call it "C'hruk Kh'al'on" or "The Dark
Distance". The ancient Erpheronian
settlers who explored the Aden peninsula had other equally ominous names for
the place: "Shadow Spine" and "The Shadespell Gorge". The Shadespell Gorge is
yet another reason to avoid northern Caaelh'heroth for, it is said,
Coór thrives among the cracks of doom.
Description. The Shadespell Gorge has been called a blighted wound upon the face of Caelereth. There is nothing beautiful about this extraordinarily long chasm of darkness that runs for many hundreds of strals along the northern part of Caaehl’heroth. The mysterious fixture is jagged and, one presumes, to be quite deep into the earth. The exact origins of the chasm is a mystery, but most scholars believe that it originated during the cataclysmic War of the Chosen. When earthquakes and storms shook the earth as powerful beings vied for control, Caelereth suffered its most devastating wound that never healed.
The gorge itself reveals nothing below its surface. That is because where one can normally see down into a gorge, perhaps a river that carved it out or some semblance of earth below ground, Shadespell Gorge is different. Only a putrid darkness like a black fog seeps from the wound. One cannot see into the chasm at all. Tendrils of shadow writhe and twist all along the rift like tentacles waiting to snatch victims who venture too close. The entire region along the rift is overshadowed in a grey fog. It has been said that the Mists of Osthemangar encroached along the chasm. The reason being is that the gorge and the Mists were birthed in a similar space: the Netherworld. With the snow that falls continuously in the region, it provides a stark contrast to the black rift winding through it.
The region where the chasm exists is a colourless, empty place where no known life exists. The wound begins to the west of the Mists of Osthemangar and to the east of the ruins known as Aph’than’pul. The crack opens up deep into the earth and runs along to the southwest for an estimated 1600 strals. Then, the chasm splits into a smaller rift that runs to the southeast towards the Gothkin River. The main rift then continues southwest before splitting south into another smaller chasm. It is at this point where the smaller chasms split that the rift is the widest. It is estimated that the widest point of the gorge is approximately 5 leagues across.
The land’s wound continues to run southwest along the center of the peninsula’s arm. The ruins known as Cort’mangar sit along the south edge of the gorge. This ancient city is thought to have been a once fortified city during the War of the Chosen. It is also thought to have been used during the massive Battle of Osthemangar in 5000 b.S. It is here nearest the ruined city that an impressive stone bridge spans the width of the chasm. The bridge seems to smoothly erupt from the ground like clay, creating a curve above the shadowy tendrils. Most scholars agree that the bridge was likely created using powerful earth magic to shape the stone. As it would have taken many days walk to circumvent the rift to reach the other side, the bridge provided a quicker path, if a dangerous one. Cort'Mangar today, according to the few accounts available from various explorers to the region, is a place of eternal night. It sits forever haunted and cursed, inhabited by strange creatures of the shadow.
Cort’Mangar (lit. "City of the Dark Claw"). The ancient city of Cort’Mangar sits along the edge of the Shadespell Gorge in the center of the peninsula arm northeast of Aden. The exact origins of the city is mostly lost to history, but some records exist of its nature. In 1310 a.S., the famous Injerín explorer Saryas Kelweather found some ancient scrolls and tomes hidden in a ruined watchtower along the edge of the Mists of Osthemangar. These scrolls gave mention to a "city on the edge of chaos". Most scholars today presume this city to be Cort’Mangar. Interpretation of the scrolls yielded some information on the city. It is said to have once been a large orcen city during the War of the Chosen and the Battle of Osthemangar. It functioned as a strategic point on the Bay of Eswath and as a point of defense from the armies in Aden. During this time, humans from Southern Sarvonia had been increasingly encroaching on the Aden peninsula looking to expand into Caaehl’heroth. The orcs built the city as a means of beginning an invasion of Aden before the humans could strike first. However, the War of the Chosen changed all of that.
As the massive war began, ancient records say that Cort’Mangar produced many kinds of powerful beasts of war that the dark side utilized. Some scholars believe that powerful dark elven summoners built magnificent towers of magic and created large circles of summoning. Great demons and other vile creatures were called forth to fight in the war. The city became known as the “Cor’tam’ Angarek” (lit. "City of the Dark Claw"). Over the centuries, the name was shortened and bastardized to Cort’Mangar as it is known today.
How the city looked during its most powerful days can only be imagined. However, today, according to eyewitness accounts, the city is a shadow of its former self, both in a literal and figurative sense. With most of the towers now fallen down in pieces and the high walls in crumbling ruin, Cort’Mangar is still magnificent, even in its destruction. The ruin has taken on the appearance of the chasm itself with a dark fog encompassing the area as black tendrils of shadow move like trees in a wind from every crack and crevasse. Most startling is that the city is said to still have inhabitants living within its dark walls. The orcs call them the “Faces of Night” or “Hav’ak Lohks”. Beings that once resembled mortals walk the ruin. They appear as thin, spindly wraiths cloaked in seething darkness. What they are none can say. Some scholars say they are ghosts. Some have declared them as being the mythical mystran. Still, a few have theorized that these shadow beings are unlike any phenomena in Caelereth. The demonologist Vekan Kha’mal says they are a new race of shadow beings birthed from the nether in the gorge.
From Cort’Mangar, the rift continues to run southwest where it pauses for a brief time of perhaps 9 leagues where the earth’s surface is unblemished. The crack continues into the Aden peninsula where it splits off into various smaller fingers before finally ending at the base of the Calth Mountains. The eastern base of these mountains where the crack ends is similarly devoid of life as if the rift’s blighted presence drove all flora and fauna away.
Location. The Shadespell Gorge runs for a long distance along the northern reaches of the peninsula of Caaehl’heroth. The Cartash region and the Aden peninsula is connected by a bridge of land. To the north of the bridge is the Ice Sea and to the south is the Bay of Eswath. The crack begins directly to the west of the Deep Winds Portal and ends at the base of the Calth Mountains.
People. The only people thought to live along the gorge are not true people at all. Most accounts who have beheld the city of Cort’Mangar, such as the Erpheronian explorer Marvan Swiftrook in 1000 a.S., say that the ruins are the haunt of strange shadow beings. These shadow people he called “The People of the Shades” or simply “The Shades”. The orcen people call them the “Hav’ak Lohks” or “Faces of Night”. Swiftrook’s journal was later found 200 years after his death among some ruins in the Mists of Osthemangar. He dedicated several pages to eyewitness accounts of Cort’Mangar. Most were barely sensible ramblings as many scholars believe that he was slowly driven mad by all the time he spent around such blighted places.
Day 65: “Our ship was lost…among the large ice of the Bay of
Eswath. We were driven along the coast, having just left the Aden
peninsula. I do not know how long we have been at sea…perhaps days or
weeks. The sky is always dark. Dark and dreary. I’ve not seen the sun in
many months since venturing to Caaehl’heroth. It's as if this part of the
world is forever bathed in a grey blanket of despair…
Not long after this episode, most scholars believe poor Swiftrook was lost near
the Mists of Osthemangar around 1000 a.S.
His journal, mostly intact, was found 200 years later in the possession of a
Ghun’Morta’Oc, or “Cursed Death Orc”.
Demonologists have long debated over the nature of these shades that Swiftrook
describes. Most agree that the creatures are not
human, at last not anymore. Most myths say that the
wraith and the
mystran are not something to be seen or
even felt. Those creatures are mostly denizens of the mind. Swiftrook’s account
seems to indicate that the Shades are more or less physical with possession of
eyes and a cold touch. With an estimated number among the thousands, some
scholars have classified the Shades as an entirely new race of beings with
Cort’Mangar being their home.
One theory that is gaining more widespread acceptance comes from the noted Volkek-Oshra demonologist Vekarn Kha’mal. In his book, “The Ineffable Madness”, he postulates the following:
“The Shades are undoubtedly former living men. I would guess that they exist in an opposite world, mirrored of our own. Much like how the Netherworld is a darker mirror of Caelereth, according to most lore, the Shades are a people mirrored as well. The soul of a living mortal has a dark opposite. Likely, the Shades were once soldiers in the army of a great battle, and in death their spirits were blighted by the gorge’s power. Their bodies were twisted and infected by the darkness and they exist both in the physical realm of Caelereth and the Netherworld. They are creatures of two dimensions, unable to escape either one.”
Climate. The gorge and
the region surrounding it are of similar climate as the rest of the peninsula.
Permafrost is best to describe the area with cold winds blowing from the Ice Sea
south. The only exception, strangely, is Cort’Mangar. No snow falls among the
ruins or surrounding area for a distance of six to seven
strals across. This is due
to the mystical forces that bathe the city giving life to the Shade people. As
for the gorge itself, there is no wind or even so much as a breeze coming from
within the inky blackness. One explorer described being near the chasm as
"Empty... devoid of any sensation. No heat or cold. Just an emotional chill."
Interestingly enough, similar feelings have been said of the climate within the
Mists of Osthemangar.
Myth/Lore. Other than the ruin of Cort’Mangar, the gorge holds another piece of lore long believed by most scholars. The nature of the black tendrils and the unfathomable depth of the rift itself has long been debated. During the War of the Chosen, some believe, the gorge was created as a result of a massive battle. One story goes that the great demon Ghelgath the Ice Lord burst forth from the earth to lay waste to the white armies. Other stories say that some of the great drakes used in the war fell to their deaths, breaking open the world to reveal the Netherworld below.
Vekarn Kha’mal believes that the Shadespell Gorge is a gateway into the Netherworld itself. Although not proven (and likely never to be proven), the scholar theorizes that the chasm is a giant “chaos rift” that connects to the Netherworld. Very little is known of chaos rifts, but the theory is that they are small, unstable windows that touch the Netherworld. Some are believed to exist around the Deep Winds Portal, hidden in the mists. While these are small, Shadespell Gorge is obviously a much larger one. Even more frightening is that if the theory is true, then the Netherworld’s presence exists in a much larger area than the Portal itself.