We have been marching for days. Our Kaia swore we took the same path, but it's different now. We kept walking, thinking we should see something familiar soon, but I think we might be lost. Lost; how do you get lost following a straight line?A space between spaces, the Labyrinth stretches across the depths of Araea, separate yet connected to every place beneath the Surface. It is a dark and alien place, an impossible mimicry of the world outside it, where caverns and tunnels warp into impossible landscapes. It is a place where time and space mean little - a journey through the Labyrinth can span both, taking travelers to the far-flung ends of Araea. Some arrive before they set out from their first destination, while an unfortunate few have seen centuries pass outside the Labyrinth. Only the lost find their way into the Labyrinth, stumbling through hidden gateways. Such gates can be anywhere and everywhere, from dark alleys in the sprawling caverns of city-states to the unknown wilderness of the Far Deep.
Even horrors need a home.The Labyrinth is a broken mirror of the world - a patchwork of places from everywhere in Araea. The dizzying chasms of the Far Deep blend into spiderweb tunnels of the Outer Shell, then take on the aspect of the obsidian halls of Atharkam, all within the span of a short journey. It is a mad maze, constantly shifting into some new form.
Travel is unpredictable within the Labyrinth - with the same path leading to a different place every time. Distance shrinks or expands, with lost travelers wandering the same tunnel for days without change, or scale cliffs in what seems like seconds. A fall of miles can end without harm, while one of inches can crush an unfortunate soul into a pile of broken bones.
It is a dangerous place, where a single misstep can be fatal.As caverns fold in on themselves, passages twist and warp, up or down cease to have meaning. Travelers sometimes find themselves walking across the ceiling or staring at a river coursing through the stone above their heads.
Stay long enough in the Labyrinth, and all roads eventually lead to either freedom or the Dark City.Within its shifting halls, the Labyrinth hide caverns of living flesh and chasms of crystals. Despite its ever-changing nature, some places appear for enough travelers to be named in tomes like the dread Black Key. These are places like House of Cages, a gulf covered in giant spiderwebs and dangling iron cages, or the Mirrored Halls, with its gleaming quartz walls. For every impossibility, another journey beckons those lost within the Labyrinth.
Things In The Dark
Nightmares dwell here, when there are no children for them to haunt.It is said that the Labyrinth is never empty - that there is always some lost soul damned to walk in its darkness. Though the truth is uncertain, the lost are the only true life in the Labyrinth, though a meeting between two parties is exceedingly rare. Humans are not the only ones who stumble into the Labyrinth, but beasts and monsters join them there, wandering until they either die or... Change.
Along with the lost, spirits roam the Labyrinth, more manifest in flesh here than perhaps anywhere else in Araea. These spirits are skulking, crawling terrors, as alien as their home, the most common of which are the human-like Specters. Though they come in many forms, labyrinth spirits often wear the skin of creatures lost within the Labyrinth or clad themselves in the memories of their prey.
Specters are not the only spirit that haunts the Labyrinth, and there are parts of the darkness where even they fear to tread.Those who stay too long within the Labyrinth inevitably become part of it. They lose their sense of self and become more like the terrors native to the place, becoming less like flesh and more like nightmares the longer they stay.
A World Within
You might as well go looking for the Labyrinth.To most, the Labyrinth is a dread legend, told across the Inner Shell. In Dhanû, it is a purgatory for oathbreakers to be damned in, while others believe it to be a pathway towards an afterlife or a place where the wicked go to become monsters. In truth, if there is a logic to when doorways into the Labyrinth open or why some are chosen over others, it has yet to be discovered. Most simply hope they never have to examine the truth in person, and getting lost in the Labyrinth is relatively rare.
Fear is always fertile ground for business, and so some sell keys purported to open gates into or out of the Labyrinth, or wards that keep travelers safe.
Spirits Alien and ethereal, spirits are primordial and magical creatures. Spirits are birthed from the center of earthquakes, the last breath of a dying man, or the scream of a falling star. Their motives and agendas are not driven by things like hunger, ambition, or even survival but bizarre and even ritualistic compulsions. The Labyrinth is a place of Spirits - a rare place not wholly of the physical world, where humanity can ever-so-briefly touch eternity. Read More About Spirits
Thaumaturgy in the LabyrinthLike wildfire, Thaumaturgy in the Labyrinth is both powerful and unpredictable compared to elsewhere. Here, the skein that separates the world from spirits is thin, and magi can pierce it with ease. Slowing the flow of energy once they have done so is another matter, however. Everything touched by Thaumaturgy takes on a life of its own, twisting and warping into shapes unbidden by the magi, reminding them that any power they might are like sparks stolen from a bonfire. Read More About Thaumaturgy
To the Desolate, being trapped in the Labyrinth is a waking nightmare that turn the whispers in their souls into harrowing screams.
The Dark CityFew things ever remain the same within the Labyrinth, but the Dark City is one of them. All who have stumbled upon the crumbling metropolis describe the same sight - an ancient city of vast size that seems to combine aspects of every settlement within Araea. From the palace of nobility to the worst slums of Mharaji, everything lies within the Dark City. Like the caverns of the Labyrinth, the city is an impossible construct where buildings lead into one another, supported by nothing and with no logical layout. It is a maze of twisted artifice and vengeful spirits. Few have ever seen it - fewer still have returned. Read More About The Dark City
Like a living heart, the Dark City sits at the center of the Labyrinth, warping it with every beat.
SpectersNeither spirit or beast, specters are something inbetween, as much part of the Labyrinth as the hungry darkness. Though dressed in the familiar shape of a human, the Specters are never quite fully formed, but mangled as if someone was trying to remember what mankind looked like. No one passes through the Labyrinth without the Specters running into them - sooner or later. Read More About Specters
Some blasphemous whispers say that the Labyrinth is not a place, but a being - a single, vast world-spirit, slowly devouring the whole of Araea.