The Otherworld is a general term used for a magical realm that lies just beyond the scope of most mortal perceptions. It is an entirely different dimension, constantly pressing into our own natural world, and it holds uncountable varieties of beauty and grandeur as well as terrible things beyond imagining and horrors that will shatter a mortal mind in an instant.
It was believed for centuries that the domains of the gods and the prisons in which the Demon Princes are held lay in their own metaphyical space. The home of the gods was Heaven, Celestia, Elysium, or Ysgard depending on which nationality you talk to, and likewise the prison of the Demon Princes was Hell, Niflheim, or Gehenna. It was also believed that the realm where the dead go to be judged was separate, called Stygia most commonly, and that the place where in the most powerful Archfey dwelt was their own, discrete Realm of Faerie.
All of those hypotheses were proven wrong by the first man elected as Merlin of the Grey Council-- a human archmage named Malory the Chronicler. About 100 years before the Tiberian Empire began its large-scale invasion of Brittanis, Malory cast a mighty ritual that sent him headlong into the realm of his patron goddess, Eldrea. According to legend, he spent many days in her great Library of Ages, reading books and scrolls from the time of Old Aquilon and even earlier. Then, again according to legend and Malory's own re-telling, he went for a walk.
Malory walked away from the celestial home of Eldrea, and encountered a vast, grey wasteland where thought could form nothingness into reality and even reality was mutable in the extreme if one had will enough to shape it. Eventually, he came to a dark, terrible realm filled with fire and terror and demons of all descriptions. Malory protected himself with magics and explored there for a while, but eventually even the great archmage grew frightened and again he wandered for he knew not how long through the grey wastes, where he was set upon by shadowy creatures with shining silver cords attached to their bodies, and then wandered into a land he had traveled to several times in his younger years-- the Realm of Faerie.
The Tales of Malory in their full version are many volumes thick and extensive, the revelation to the mortal races was incredible-- all of the places that were thought to be a multitude of discrete dimensions are, in fact, islands in a vast grey ethereal sea. Depending on their creators, these islands can be as small as a room or as vast as the limitless realms of Faerie, but the will and power of the inhabitants does indeed appear to affect the reality of such a place.
Each realm is a reflection of its creators in some way, and the laws of the world and even the laws of magic do not work the same way they do in the natural realm. In some places, time moves much faster-- in others, vastly slower. Some realms are only reachable from the natural world at specific times like celestial conjunctions or times of the year; others are easily accessible with the right magics. Still other places, Faerie most especially, have been tied magically to the natural world in specific places such as henges, faerie rings, and barrow-mounds.
It is also known that the Waygates used by the people of Old Aquilon are somehow bound to the Otherworld-- some theorize that the Waygates travel through specific, unmapped regions of the Otherworld where the laws of distance are different, while others think the rules of time are different, and many other theories besides. What IS known for a certainty is that when Old Aquilon was sundered and sent beneath the waves of the ocean, the Waygates became corrupted, and many dark creatures of the Otherworld sometimes wait for travelers to cross into the void between gates and then pounce on the unwary.
Known Places in the Otherworld:
- Stygia: where Spirits of the Dead travel after they are claimed by the Reaper.
- Celestia: home of the gods of the White Court. This is actually a series of adjoining realms, one for each god, with miles-high walls and massive gates between each domain.
- Elysium: domain of the Three Sisters, who shrae the continent-sized realm among them.
- The Nine Hells: prison-domain created by the gods at the end of the Godswar where the nine remaining Titans are bound for all eternity. Home of primordials , and angels corrupted into service of the Titans.
- The Abyss: realm where the Demon Princes rule after their banishment from Celestia. Home of all kinds of lesser demons and corrupted angels.
- Faerie: home of the Archfey, beings of incredible power-- each at least equal to a demigod, if not greater. The archfey align themselves into scheming, politicking Courts, the three most prominent among them being the eternally-at-war Summer and Winter courts, and the much darker and more sinister Court of Stars (also called the Unseelie Court). Easily as large as Elysium, Faerie is a constantly-changing realm depending on the fickle whims of the archfey who are constantly re-arranging it to suit their moods.
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