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The Maw

The Maw is a huge sinkhole, miles across, where demons, the reborn souls of sinful mortals, are created and dwell. It is ruled by Dakoleth, Demon Lord of fire and conquest, but the chaotic and self-serving nature of the Maw's many inhabitants means that this control is far from absolute.


The very edges of the Maw begin as a gradual downward slope far away from the Maw proper. As one draws closer to the area's center, the slope gets steeper until opens into an enormous pit, miles across. The Maw penetrates deep into Nerilia's surface, beyond even the lowest points in the Darklands. So far, in fact, that its very bottom nearly reaches the planet's mantle. The features of the Maw can be broken up broadly into five layers.

The first layer is the entrance, and is quite sparse, acting mostly as a transitory space between the surface and the Maw's interior. While flying demons can come and go with ease, the rest have to climb the steep sides of the pit in order to escape to the surface.

The second layer begins a few hundred feet deep and corresponds with the first layer of the Darklands. At this point, tunnels and alcoves begin to appear in the Maw's sides, giving the inhabitants a place to dwell and allowing for a safer, if much slower, route to the bottom. The creatures here are mostly isolated or form small groups, and the tunnels are not particularly large, numerous, or connected.

The third layer, beginning at a few miles' depth, aligns with the second layer of the Darklands. The tunnels become larger, more sprawling, and more connected, and creatures from the surrounding caverns of the Darklands are not an uncommon sight. Some of the Maw's inhabitants form more distinct, somewhat organized factions. Intelligent Darklands denizens sometimes make use of the more accomodating demons, but they also have to uphold strong borders to defend against those inhabitants of the Maw that wish only for destruction.

The fourth layer, which starts at around ten miles deep, corresponds to the third and final layer of the Darklands. In the enormous surrounding caverns, powerful demon generals and nascent demon lords rule over small realms, ever wary that Dakoleth may deem them too much of a threat to his power. These realms are even more bizarre and abstract than most of the bottom layer of the Darklands, as they are shaped by their rulers. The qlippoths are most common on this layer as well, and similarly have some of their own realms. One of these, far from the Maw's central pit, is ruled in secret by the mysterious Qlippoth Lord Xithrherh.

The last layer of the Maw is Dakoleth's realm. At about 25 miles down, the Maw's central shaft widens into a large chamber. The cavern is immesely hot, and the walls frequently give way to inflows of magma, occasionally so much that the cavern is partially or even fully submerged, before it drains through the many cracks, fissures, and chasms in the floor. Dakoleth's palace, an ominous black fortress covered in layers of dried magma, sits at one side of the chamber, which is large enough to move through without alerting the Demon Lord. Only Dakoleth's most loyal servants, especially balor fire demons, dwell here.


As demons (and qlippoths) are creatures formed from spiritual substance, they do not require food to survive, though some of them eat anyway. Creatures of more material natures in the Maw, including denizens of the Darklands, do have to eat, though, and the demons are inevitably part of the ecosystem. Plant life in the Maw grows along the pit's walls, but is uncommon in the surrounding tunnels except around reliable sources of light. Fungi, on the other hand, thrive throughout the area, feeding on the nutrients of the earth. These plants and fungi serve as the basis of a food chain in the Maw. Powerful creatures who sit near the top of this food chain, such as bebiliths, are even able to prey on demons.

Localized Phenomena

When mortals die on Nerilia, they often fail to make their way to the River of Souls and pass on to the afterlife. Usually, when this happens, the soul simply finds a newborn body and reincarnates, but sometimes, either because it is called to a divine purpose (either good or evil) or cannot find a new body to inhabit, it forms spontaneously into a spiritual being of a type aligned with its ideals and actions in life. There are places on Nerilia where these souls are drawn, and for demons, the souls of mortals who lived lives of great sin, there is no greater such place than the Maw.

Fauna & Flora

There are a great many varieties of demons in the Maw. A theoretically infinite amount are possible, as they each embody a particular kind of sin, and the number of sinful mortal souls is more than enough to fill the Maw's great size. But of course, demons are not the Maw's only inhabitants. The alien qlippoth are creatures of pure evil which form on their own in some of the deepest parts the Maw, and who secretly resent the demons they share their home with. The fact that no other such creatures—spiritual beings not formed from mortal souls—exist on Nerilia reinforces the Maw's unique nature among places where souls are reborn. Some creatures of a less spiritual nature also thrive in the Maw's depths, including yeth hounds, the insectile ostovites, bargests, and the enormous spiders known as bebiliths. These creatures all originate outside the Maw but are well suited, or have even specially adapted, to its environment.

What plants and fungi do grow in the Maw are immersed in the energy of evil there, which affects them in numerous ways. Most are poisonous, edible only to the sturdy palettes of the animals living there. As one descends further down, plants and fungi capable of motion become more common, more powerful, and more intelligent. In the furthest depths live powerful nature spirits such as zomoks and green men, corrupted to unholiness by the Maw and far more sinister than their kin from the surface.

After Dakoleth arrived in the Maw, a new type of beast began to dwell there as well: large, four-armed, white gorillas called angazhani. These creatures' origin is unknown, but they seem to feel a kinship with Dakoleth, as many of them are servants and worshippers of the Conqueror Demon. Like Dakoleth, angazhani prefer to bully and prey on less powerful creatures, and enjoy capturing and subjugating their victims more than outright killing them.


Unlike other places where celestials, fiends, and monitors are born, though, the Maw was not originally the realm of a god or other such powerful being. Instead, it formed on its own after Narilia was separated from the multiverse, opening up like a monstrous sinkhole filled with rot and corruption, a piece of the Outer Rifts itself grafted onto the world. It's as if the Maw must exist, the number of sinful mortal souls too high for it not to. Demons were swarming about the Maw long before the Demon Lord Dakoleth claimed it as his own.

Related Locations
The Darklands


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