The Rise of The Fallen
The realm of entropy and shadows, seat of the River of Time. A dark and dangerous place, the Shadowfell is the realm of the dead and is the place where things that have reached their end come to be broken down. The sky of the Shadowfell is the Howling Storm. Also called the Low World. This plane is the destination of souls loosed from their bodies. It is the domain of the dead, the final stage of the soul’s journey before moving onto The River of Time to be reborn.
The Shadowfell is unsettling in its familiar strangeness, for although many of the mortal world’s landmarks remain, something is decidedly off. It is as if the plane steals a feature from the natural world and reproduces it, but imperfectly. A range of old, rugged mountains in the mortal world might appear jagged, like a row of teeth, or melted, like wet sand spilled from a child’s hand. Roads and pathways wind through the lands in the same general direction as those from the Middle World, but carry travelers into unexpected dangers, through stretches of haunted countryside, or to the brink of an unexpected chasm.
Only when one nears Shadow Crossings (areas where it is possible to pass from The Shadowfell to The Middle World with a simple magic ritual, or even just walking through the crossing if it’s open) does the terrain become a twisted reflection of the World. These dark mirages are not exact, and they can be somewhat disconcerting. Familiar landmarks, peoples, and places are changed, as if born from half-remembered nightmares or perverted by fear and doubt.
Few shadow crossings are continuously active. Most activate only under the right conditions, such as certain times of day, certain days of the year, or when various celestial phenomena take place—eclipses or new moons, for example. Travelers can also activate dormant crossing points using the Shadow Passage ritual, which is easier than creating a new portal or using the Plane Shift spell. A more reliable access to the Shadowfell is one of the many portals connecting this plane to the natural world. Most such connections bear the indelible mark of the Shadowfell. Gloomy, cold, and dripping with shadow, these places are tucked away, hidden by shadows, and behind layers of myth and superstition. Sites where portals to the Shadowfell exist usually have strong ties to death.
The largest issue to travelers is that the terrain is slowly changing. Imperceptible to the naked eye, the features of the plane shift, and over the course of a week the land may be unrecognizable to a traveler passing through multiple times. The further into the Shadowfell one travels, the more the land is distorted and the quicker it seems to change. Darklands and domains of dread become more common, as do wandering ghosts and the souls of the dead. Eventually, one comes to the shores of The Styx, The River of Time itself, where all reality is broken down. Like The Feywild, time behaves oddly at the banks, and the time that passes near the River is erratic. A man might spend weeks walking along the River’s edge, only to find that mere hours have passed back in the Middle World, or that whole years or even decades have passed him by.
Domains of Dread
Scattered throughout the Plane of Shadow are places
hidden behind thick walls of mist, places ruled by
dark and deeply troubled beings bound to the plane
by dreadful curses. These isolated pockets within the
Shadowfell are called domains of dread. A creature
that passes through the curtain of mist into a domain
of dread becomes trapped there—a prisoner of the
dark lord who rules the domain.
Each domain of dread has a dark lord—a powerful
creature with absolute hold over the domain and limited
mastery over its shape and disposition. Similar
to a fey demesne (see page 35), a domain of dread
bends to the will of its master, reflecting his or her
dark mood in various eerie or disturbing ways. Some
domains of dread are quite small, such as a lonely
castle on a hill. Others extend for miles.
Escape from a domain of dread is tricky and usually
requires one to slay the dark lord, break the
dark lord’s curse, unlock the secret of the dark lord’s
power over the domain, perform a dark ritual, or
accomplish some other difficult goal.
Darklands: Although supernatural energies extend
throughout the Shadowfell, some places are stronger
in shadow than others. Called darklands, these regions
are not reflections of the natural world; they are
unique manifestations of gloom. Desolate places, they
leech life and vigor from the living. Color pales further
in their vicinity—everything appears in shades of gray.
Light found in the darklands is only that which travelers
carry, and even then, it’s dulled and wane.
Darklands are most often unstable and short-lived.
Certain bleak areas, however, do solidify into permanent
realms. These regions are among the most
dangerous in the Shadowfell, because permanent
darklands attract powerful undead, nightwalkers,
and worse. Most travelers avoid them at all costs.
The Shining Halls