Death’s Endless Passages
The phrase ‘Death’s Endless Passages’ is one that is predominantly used in academic circles as a catch all term for the myriad of folktales and conspiracy theories that surround the existence of networks of subterranean tunnels, caves and caverns that stretch beneath the ground and that are thought to link up all above ground areas of the world, if they could be navigated accurately. The exact catch all phrase itself refers to the Nyoong Mopmi tunnel network which stretched beneath the Heavenspire Mountains on the continent of Euristan, whose name is translated from Uktangian into Turelite as ‘Death’s passages’.
In summary, the theory is that there are access points on every continent or other associated landmass to a inter connected network of underground spaces, some of which are believed to be enormous spaces capable of holding entire civilisations that are unknown to the Empire of Turelion. These entrance ways are thought to cluster in mountainous areas, though the only real evidence for this is that the majority of tales linked to the myth group have their origins in communities that dwell either in or near upland or mountainous areas. All of these tales linked to the group tend to follow one of the following forms: That an individual enters a cave system only to get hopelessly lost. Some of these tales end with the result that the person was never seen again, whilst some end with the individual concerned ending up in a completely different place, sometimes hundreds of miles away from their entry point, when they finally re-emerge on the surface. Incidentally, there are no lack of living people who are keen to point out that such a thing happened to them. That creatures, or sometimes humanoids, that have never been encountered before, which generally do not fit the description of any beast known to exist, appear and wreak havoc on communities only to then disappear as quickly as they arrived. There are many examples of Hunters from the Lodge of Imperial Hunters arriving in communities thus affected and tracing strange tracks to caves, only to find they disappear into the darkness. The rarest form is that individuals re-appear on the surface after many years, so long that they are generally considered to be dead by their communities, claiming that they were held captive by strange, cruel creatures, in settlements and cities that exist deep below the surface of Kelbonnar. Generally, such individuals claim to have been subject to torture, forced labour or other even more unspeakable things. Academics tend to treat this last group of tales with the greatest scepticism.
Caves and cave systems have always been locations of fascination to surface dwelling humanoids especially as it is so easy for those not used to navigating such an environment to get lost in the apparently identical tunnels and caverns. It is also accepted in all circles that there are extensive cave networks that exist in Kelbonnar and it is common knowledge that the caverns and tunnels of the Nyoong Mopmi beneath the Continent of Euristan stretch for countless miles. Such is the certainty of the Nyoong Mopmi’s extent, that academic expeditions have been attempting for years to prove that the tunnels link Ferio Province to Ultaru Province, whether by flooded or dry subterranean passages. Likewise the Continent of Zastral is widely reported to be full of underground passageways, some of which are so large that whole colonies have been set up in them, the colony at Port Belliotrix being a prime example. Academics specialising in folklore and myth have for decades been hypothesising that there are enough stories of people either entering cave systems and tunnels and ending up somewhere completely different, or encountering creatures or beings that were tracked to underground spaces, spread across every culture and ethnicity under the auspices of the Empire of Turelion that there must be some core of truth there. The most radical academics have even suggested that there are whole civilisations beneath the surface of Kelbonnar that are just waiting to be discovered by Imperial explorers.
The claim that the entirety of the surface world of Kelbonnar is connected through an underground network of tunnels that stretch between oceans, seas and continents is quite a widespread notion. In many places, the myth is generally acknowledged to be either the ravings of mad folk or a joke and for many people the phrases along the lines of ‘must have crawled out of death’s passage’ are used to jokingly dismiss things that cannot be explained. However, for those who live in or in the shadows of mountainous areas, especially the Heavenspire Mountains and those that live in the Imperial Colonies on the Continent of Zastral, the myth feels much more real. There are plentiful tales in such areas of creatures and even strange humanoids appearing suddenly to wreak havoc and then disappearing again, their trails leading to cave networks that seemingly stretch endlessly beneath the ground. In these communities, the myth is treated with dead seriousness and is no laughing matter.