The Underworld


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The Underworld, occasionally known as Hades (though this can cause confusion for both the deity and the plane), is the realm of the dead for the Olympian pantheon, located in the realm of Pluton within the Grey Waste. Here dwell a number of deities of the pantheon: the lord Hades, his wife Persephone and their daughter Melinoë; the three Furies; the goddess Styx from which Charon chose to bestow the river its name; the judges Minos, Aeacus, and Rhadamanthus; and Cerberus the Hound, guardian of the entryway; as well as the souls of all the dead of those that followed the pantheon of the Olympians. As with many divine realms, in the Underworld the dead are allowed to keep their minds, rather than being transformed to amnesiac petitioners.

When those of the Olympian faith die, their souls are ushered to the Underworld by an aspect of Hermes known as Hermes Psychopompos. Once here, they are left at the shore of the river Styx, encircling the realm seven times. Here, one of the river's ferrymen (or, for the greatest of figures, Charon himself) take the spirit across in exchange for a single gold coin, left by the dead's family with his body and carried to his soul on burial to allow for this passage. Once beyond the Styx, they then make their way to the gates of the realm, guarded by the three-headed hound Cerberus. The hound's great jaws strip the spirits of the last bits of physical essence, leaving them as naught but translucent, grey figures, almost skeletal in nature. Within the realm, the spirit is brought before the three judges of the Underworld to determine their fate, and in which of the three regions of the Underworld they shall spend eternity.

Realms of the Dead

Those of greatest virtue or triumph in life are issues to the Elysian Fields, existing simultaneously within this plane and its mirror counterpart of Elysium. Here, they are given the choice of remaining in Elysium or being carried back to the lands of the living for a second go at life; a harder choice than it may seem, for those that reach the Elysian Fields three times are then taken instead to the Isles of the Blessed, where they may know eternal pleasure.

Those of the worst sins or those that sought to act against the gods are sent to the Fields of Punishment, where they are sentenced to eternity at some task or another representative of their acts in life; Tantalus, for example, for sacrificing his son and offering him as a sacrifice to the gods, forever suffering from hunger and thirst and never able to reach that which could quench either. Or Ixion, the first of the faith to kill his own family, pushing his father-in-law into a bed of burning wood and thus sentenced to eternity lashed to a flaming chariot wheel spinning through the sky.

Finally, those that tended towards neither great virtue nor great vice in life are sent to the Asphodel Meadows along the banks of the river Akherontas, where they toil at minor labors for eternity; no great effort, but neither no great rest for the dead.

Rivers of the Underworld

While the Styx is the river most prominently associated with the Underworld, known to many on the Prime for such a connection even more so than for its passage from plane to plane, at the gateway to the Underworld, before it begins circling the realm it divides into five branches, each distinct enough to be considered its own distinct body. Besides the Styx, in the Underworld are found the Αkherontas, or river of pain; the Kokytus, or river of wailing; the Pyriphlegethon, or river of fire; and the Lethe, or river of oblivion. As one can imagine, each of the rivers holds its own dangers. The Styx erases memories from those exposed to its black waters, of course. The Lethe, far more dangerously, can remove the very ability to remember at all. The Akherontas appears thick with blood, and its waters draw out the inner torments of any of those exposed to it for too long. The Pyriphlegethon is little more than a river of pure flame, though those that navigate it can follow it into the depths of Carceri where the Titans were imprisoned. And the Kokytus, which seems to roar with the lamentation of countless souls.

Having divided at the entryway, each of these five rivers flows through the Underworld in strange, impossible manners, only to reconverge at the center of the Underworld, forming the outrageously deadly Styx Marsh where the goddess Styx dwells; with the combined nature of all five rivers, it's of a sort that all with sense stay far, far away from.

Gallery

Map of the Underworld
Map of the Underworld
A generic map of the Underworld, with significant sites marked.  

References

  • Acheron, Suda On Line
  • Kokytos
  • Planes of Conflict - Liber Malevolentiae, pp.61-64
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