Acheron

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Acheron

Acheron — a plane of multiple cubes that float in space, crashing into each other occasionally — is often said to be an eternal battlefield, where armies of races of all sorts fight together. Who leads these armies? Well, at one time perhaps there was a strong-willed individual in charge of each. They are no more, their soldiers now little more than roaving bands of warriors who seek combat and death, to be absorbed into the plane itself. There is more to Acheron than this however; it is a plane with rich resources which creatures such as Bladelings and Modrons seek to mine, and where Rakshasa clans rule in secrecy.

Alignment: Lawful Neutral (with evil tendencies)
Bordered by: Mechanus, Baator
Connected by: Rigus (Outlands), the River Styx.
Planar features: Object directional gravity, time, and magic. Given that all bodies are cubic, crossing over edges/between cubs can be problematic. The cubes are finite in size, but the void the cubes hang in is functionally infinite.

Description

By Maharaja Harajji Atharta

Of course I can tell you about Acheron. I am one of the masters of the plane, after all. Oh, I know, few recognize us as such. The rakshasa, they think, are just another race that happens to inhabit the Infernal Battlefield. They don’t know how much influence we secretly have. Why am I telling you this, if it is such a secret? Well, I could tell when you came in, from the way you looked at me, that you expected such a thing. In fact, had I not said something of that sort, you would have become more suspicious. Am I wrong? So am I really revealing secrets, or is it just idle boasting? I will leave you to wonder.

You will try one of these pickled abrian tongues, won’t you? They’re quite delicious.

So. I have often heard Acheron called a plane of war; many planewalkers think of it as nothing but a site of endless battles. But that confuses the part with the whole. The lower layers of Acheron are no more warlike than anywhere else in the Great Ring—certainly much less so than the Blood War battlefields. The first layer, though, Avalas… well, yes, indeed there are wars going on. Endless wars. Between the spirits of dead prime creatures called orcs and goblinoids, mostly, though there are other, independent armies. The legion of Boretti, the Necromancer- King, for one. The company of the bladeling House of Reddirk, for another. Still, putting such things aside, Acheron is first and foremost a land of order and discipline. It just happens that the law tends to come off a tad draconian to some. A former Guvner friend of mine once said that Acheron is where law forsakes reason and anticipation gives way to the presumption of inadequacy. I assure you, however, that the residents appreciate the exacting demands of their superiors. Whatever cruelty or evil exists is but a tool towards strengthening society as a whole. There is Resounding Thunder, for example, the realm of the Chinese god of thunder, a place not of slaughter but of justice and retribution. On one cube, Wreychtmirk, where the River Styx flows on all six faces—

Oh. Cube. Yes, I get ahead of myself. Perhaps before I talk too much about the inhabitants of the layers I should say something about their layouts. All layers of Acheron consist of grey shapes, floating endlessly through a dimly-lit void. But the natures of the shapes differ. Avalas is filled with floating cubes, sometimes bumping against each other and crushing whatever is too slow or foolish to get out of the way. It is not difficult to get between the cubes, for those who know the way; there are many portals linking the cubes together, and while there may be no direct route connecting a given pair of cubes there is sure to be some way to get between them through other cubes, at least.

Thuldanin, the second layer, is much the same, except that the cubes are hollow. Oh, there are certainly tunnels and hollows in the cubes of Avalas, but in Thuldanin all the cubes are hollow, and their surfaces riddled with pits that lead inside. Indeed, it is the insides of the cubes that most visitors see—what few visitors the layer gets, for though few planewalkers visit Avalas, even fewer visit Thuldanin, and the layers below fewer still. Yet there is reason to come to Thuldanin, for the cubes, though hollow, are not empty. They are filled with all manner of devices both mechanical and magical. No one knows where they come from—or perhaps I should say rather, those who do know do not tell. I suspect they are from wars elsewhere in the multiverse, devices deemed too dangerous or unconventional, and eventually forgotten or destroyed. However they come to be there, these objects are hardly in pristine condition; there is a curse upon the layer that turns all these items—and anything else left here too long—to an iron-like stone. Yet still there are things worth salvaging that attract inventors, wizards, fiends, and even modrons. Indeed, in one particular large cube, the Mines of Marsellin, the Sodkillers and others carry out great mining operations at considerable risk, for there creatures as well as items are vulnerable to the layer’s strange form of petrifaction.

My apologies, I have digressed again. I was discussing the plane‘s strange terrain. The third layer, Tintibulus, bears not just cubes but blocks of many shapes. Some have four sides, some six, some eight, some twelve or twenty. And in the last layer, Ocanthus, rather than solid blocks, the land is in thin plates—razor thin, and capable of delivering nasty, even fatal, cuts to the unwary. These plates are not made of iron like the cubes of the layers above, but of black ice broken from a vast sheet that fills the bottom of the plane. Some say that this is the end of the Styx, though they disagree as to which end, the source or the outlet. The chant goes all the memories lost to the Styx are trapped within the ice, and retrievable by those who know how to do it.

What? You ask me whether these rumors are true? Ah…let us not taint a good story with worries about truth. For now, I think it is better they remain a mystery.

You have not tried the jellied saasin? Do. They are sublime.

So. The first layer, Avalas, the Battleplains, is the one I had started to speak of. I have already told you of the armies that battle there, and that give the place its name. There are many combatants there, but it seems there will never be any more than there are now. Some principle is at work in Avalas concerning the conservation of spirits, and ensuring that no new petitioner can enter the layer until an existing one is killed. As to whether this rule applies to planars as well, there is less agreement, though most think not. But then, truly, a similar principle applies to other aspects of the plane as well. Cast a spell in Acheron, and a reversed reflection of the spell also appears, and rushes off through the void…

Your pardon; I digress. While the orc and goblin petitioners, and the other combatants, they are very noticeable, with their noisy battles, but do not think they are the only residents of the plane, and certainly not the most important. There are, of course, my own people, the rakshasa. We keep out of the wars, hiding our homes with strong illusions. We may not be as obvious as certain other races, but do not discount us. Oh, yes, and the achaierai should perhaps be mentioned. These evil birds have a strange appearance, but are more intelligent than they look. The Sodkillers—not a race, but a faction—they make their home here, in the fortress of Vorkehan, that the Mercykillers tenanted before they split in the Faction War. And of course, some creatures found on the neighboring planes can also be encountered there; baatezu, yugoloth, imps, and other fiends from the Lower Planes are not uncommon in Acheron. As far as unintelligent wildlife goes, there are bonespears and fhorges, among others, but what one will see the most is birds—birds of many sorts.

Speaking of birds, have you tried the braised wastrel wing? Please do. I am sure you will find it most delectable.

The second layer, it is more quiet. Some of the same creatures from Avalas can be found here, but more rarely. It also bears the realm of some exiled dwarf god, Laduguer, protector of the duergar, or some such. All manner of equipment can be purchased there, perhaps the finest in all of Acheron, but the duergar are ever in a sour mood. One must not forget the rust dragons, which are more numerous in Thuldanin, or the modrons, though not native to Acheron, are increasingly common here. I‘ve heard some whisperings of an army of the strange things gathering in a remote cube, emptying it out, and constructing some sort of immense apparatus within, but if so the curse should take care of that soon enough. Other than that…well, there are creatures that haunt the mines, but the accounts of those differ, and I shall not dwell on them now. Those one encounters in Thuldanin are usually outsiders looking to salvage some lost treasures among the scrap heaps.

The fourth layer…perhaps its most notable inhabitants are the bladelings. Humanoid creatures with metallic skin and blades jutting out all over their bodies, living, most of them, in Zoronor, the City of Shadows. The bladelings do not take kindly to other races. You have met bladelings, yes? You did not find them too unfriendly? But remember, those you have met are those who have left their homeland; they are the exceptions to the rule. The bladelings of Zoronor…they do not treat strangers well. You best have a truly good reason to seek their home, but then really, Ocanthus is dangerous for even blooded planewalkers. Better to stick to more hospitable grounds, wouldn‘t you agree?

Well, yes, I have skipped Tintibulus, but I have a reason. You see, the third layer…well, most people believe it to be uninhabited. Naturally, that doesn’t mean it is. It simply means they haven’t looked hard enough. It hasn’t had many visitors, after all, but then, that’s true of Acheron as a whole. Of all the Outer Planes, Acheron is one of those that has been least visited by planewalkers. Of course, that means it’s one that has the most secrets left to find. But again I digress. The third layer. Yes. As I was saying, the common wisdom is that it has no native inhabitants. But the common wisdom, it can often be so…unwise. What? Yes, of course I know whether there are really any native inhabitants of Tintibulus or not. But, well, do you plan ever to go there? Yes? Perhaps? Then why should I spoil the surprise?

I insist you try the bloodberry tarts. They are truly delightful.

Rigus (Outlands Gate-Town)

by Marila Tendershoot

Like a giant iron boil rising up upon the flesh of the land, the gate-town of Rigus, the Eight- Tiered City, exists as more of a permanent military encampment than a proper burg in many ways. From a distance, it looks like a series of stacked metal boxes, or a giant monochrome ziggurat rising above the surrounding landscape in all of its unwelcoming glory. Approaching travels will note that in following that unwelcoming aura, the lowest, outermost defensive wall of Rigus is constructed of black avalan iron, splotched and mottled with rust, verdigris, and a sticky, almost sap-like coating of contact poison to ward off rust-monsters and potential invaders.

Unlike the vast majority of the other gate-towns, Rigus lacks a true civilian population outside of its own regimented military orders, and it seems to exist largely as a marshalling point for the mercenaries who feed upon the perpetual war of Acheron, and to a lesser extent, the Blood War. If you ask me, the lot of ‗em are just soldiers wanting for a cause, though whether it‘s the desire or the lack of success that keeps them in the Outlands, I‘m not sure. The town imports a lot of supplies, but about all it offers are hired goons, if highly disciplined goons.

Acheron

To Chance with Hell (Planescape) ashdate