Here are some notes on The Elsewhere, a reality that adjoins with the world in which our campaign is played; the realities intersect, as most adventurers have reason to suspect, but your characters will probably only know hints and rumors about the following. (Still, they’ll know more than the average person.)
First off, the Elsewhere is an OOC1 game term, not a IC2setting term. In other words, it’s not actually called that by the characters: what they call it depends on their culture, their understanding of the universe, and what experience they have of it. The names that the Elsewhere is given in different cultures include:
- The Happy Hunting Grounds
- The Spirit Realm
- The Celestial Realm
- The Dreamlands
- Faerieland (or just Faerie)
- The Elder World
- The Unending Forest
- The Burnt Place (or The Charred Place)
- The Place of Which One Does Not Speak
Every culture in our campaign’s world has a name for this place, whether or not it it is commonly remembered most people by the late 1600s… and even if most people don’t really believe that such a place even exists.
The Elsewhere as a Place
The Elsewhere is a bewildering locale, or, in fact, less a place than a roiling, chaotic realm of magical energies that often appears to those within it in metaphorical terms. It may appear as a vast enchanted forest:
… or it may appear as a desolate, horrific wasteland…
… or a bizarre, nonsensical city…
…or a landscape of ruined buildings extending as far as the eye can see in every direction…
… or a tunnel through the guts of an alien world…
… or a starfield across which the Changeling soars toward her master in a ship made of stone and bone:
…or whatever the hell this is:
In other words, the Elsewhere is a weird, shifting, baffling place where the rules of conventional logic, physics, magic, and even simply cause and effect simply don’t apply as they do in the mortal world.
In fact, the Elsewhere may not even be one place: several scholars of the occult believe that there are innumerable Elsewheres, all somehow interacting the “real” world at strange, baffling angles, each with its own set of confounding rules and inhabitants. So little is really known of these realms that they may be right… or it may be the Elsewhere manifests differently to different visitors because of how their minds process it.
Some scholars of the occult sciences and of history believe that the Elsewhere is a reality inextricably linked to their world, and that its inhabitants are also inextricably linked to the inhabitants of the mortal realm. Different scholars have different theories about how such connections functionally operate and why they might exist. Other scholars simply argue that these arguments consist of mortal scholars imposing a sense of order upon that which resists rational understanding. They argue, instead, that the Elsewhere is a highly chaotic, baffling reality which will elude the comprehension of even those mortals who dwell there for centuries on end, because it is fundamentally different from mortal reality.
The Denizens of the Elsewhere
The Elsewhere is ruled by a complex and ever-shifting hierarchy of beings who are bound to one another by complexly interwoven contracts, vendettas, partnerships, “marriages,” enslavements, and promises. Even Changelings who spent centuries there only ever scratch the surface of the aeons-deep, complex, and baffling culture of the inhabitants of this alien reality.
Their relationship to the characters’ world is complex, and also ever-shifting. At times, those who dwell in the Elsewhere are quite actively involved in the events of the world: kidnapping people, lending aid or opposition to a human cause, engaging in trade of one form or another, and so on. At other times, they withdraw forcefully—so forcefully, indeed, that the very power of magic in the human realm is affected—sometimes weakened, and sometimes destabilized.
To what purpose the beings of Elsewhere might involve themselves with mortals and the mortal world is impossible to say for certain: returned abductees (see the writeup on the the Changeling “Race”) tend to offer wildly differing understandings of why they themselves were chosen (or whether they even were consciously chosen) for abduction to the Elsewhere.
Indeed, it is sometimes claimed—in exchanges between mages, of course—that at sites where clashes between humans and visitors from the Elsewhere are said to have happened, magic no longer works reliably… or, in some cases, at all.
That said, there is no evidence that the Elsewhere (singular or plural) is the world’s sole source of magical energies, or that every being that seems to have come from the Elsewhere (or every person abducted to an alien realm) is what it seems… and, in fact, there is plenty of evidence to indicate they often aren’t what they seem.
Many cultures who do retain memory of the Elsewhere also have a set of rules people who go there are supposed to follow: for example, not eating the food; or not drinking anything but water, or only drinking the wine, or not touching the beings that reside there; or never to become romantically involved with one of the beings of that world; or never, ever to say “Yes,” while in the realm.
In reality, these rules mostly don’t work. Once in a while, someone will claim to have stumbled into the Elsewhere (or to have been carried off there), and to have followed the rules and returned unscathed. But many of these people seem to be lying, or prone to hallucinating, or just telling stories to pass the time.
Changelings know more—a little more, anyway—about the way the beings in the Elsewhere operate… or, at least, how the beings in the version of they Elsewhere they visited operate. Their accounts tend to contract one another in most ways, however, and so it’s difficult to establish the rules, beyond one simple fact:
The Elsewhere runs off relationships, especially formalized ones in the form of verbal contracts. That, and that the denizens of the Elsewhere are very, very tricky about how they extend their offers of such contracts—sometimes, they are implicit, and rarely are they wholly explicit.