Shuddergully Geographic Location in Rivendom | World Anvil

Shuddergully

A grating sound in any place but this—a rhythmic buzz that makes the jaw ache—grounds my mind. In this place, light-less but for the ghost of a moon, the air is thick with terror. Every breath calls to mind fears I laid to rest at the foot of my childhood and I recoil as they come roaring back from their graves.   I clutch at the edge of the obelisk. Made of dark steel, the lonesome spire looms, stretching to a bleak and black heaven. It is the only sign anyone else was mad enough to visit here. I trace my fingers along the cold metal, panic rising in my chest as I feel the angular runes etched there give way to frantic scrawlings as they climb.   I turn my gaze away from the spire. From my companions. To venture beyond the enchantment and its noise is to step into the murk of madness. But it must be done. If only to slake a thirst that runs deeper than the fear.   A faint ring in the dirt marks the bounds of protection. Beyond, lies only the dark. I step across the threshold, and the noise dwindles to a gasp. Forward, I force myself. Trees become enemies at the corner of my eye. Every rustle peals a death-knell at my ear.   Terror builds and builds and builds until I reach the cliff-edge. My breath catches, and in the silence a new noise comes to rule the dark. From below rises the sound of a bubbling river of tar, gurgling and splurting as it flowed inexorably out to a sightless sea. The groaning and shrieking of beasts dragged half-formed out of the jet river. The crunch of bones as the weak are devoured to complete the strong.   My heart thunders. Paralysis sets in. One moment passes. Another. Then, exhilaration. The thrill of danger. Of the unknown.   A dark thought intrudes on my mind. An impulse. My fingers twitch with excitement. I fail to resist. Off the edge. It would be so simple. Just an inch. Off the edge. To see what happens.   I dangle my foot over the yawning chasm. Rock crumbles under my ankle. Death draws tantalizingly close in that weightless moment before the rope around my waist pulls taut. Realization breaks through the rush. Excitement evaporates into horror.   I scrabble at the cliff-edge, hearing the snap of every fraying rope-thread. I crawl on my hands and knees away from the plunge. Blood drips hot from my fingers in the mad scramble away from the darkness and back. Back to the grating, grounding noise.
— Isen-et-Ilhar, Shardscape Explorer
  Shuddergully is one of the many realms of the Shardscape. Unlike the other realms, which are born from myths, legends, and the sincere collective beliefs of mortals, Shuddergully arises from a more primitive part of the mind. Shuddergully is begotten by their worst fears and their darkest, most animalistic impulses. The nightmare beasts, demons, that crawl out of its rivers of tar are thus feral and uncontrollable, knowing only the drive to destroy and consume.  

General Characteristics

Shuddergully is dark. The only light that shines on its landscape comes from a faded moon, and even then only barely touches the treetops.   Shuddergully is quiet. It is so quiet that creatures can hear their own blood rushing through their veins, their own hearts beating in their chests.   Shuddergully is tepid. Most things in Shuddergully are neither hot nor cold. Touch becomes untrustworthy as it is difficult to tell where one's body ends and Shuddergully begins.   Shuddergully is still. Most things in Shuddergully do not move of their own accord. Even the air simply hangs in space, waiting to be moved through but never moving itself.   Shuddergully is odorless. The dead trees smell of nothing, not even rot. The dirt underfoot smells of nothing. Every sniff, every breath, brings only still, tepid air.   Shuddergully is tasteless. In Shuddergully, the only thing that tastes of anything, is the inside of your own mouth. Even materials from outside of Shuddergully will eventually lose all flavor if kept there long enough.   Shuddergully confounds all senses and makes each one blind for the most primal fear of all mortal creatures is not what is unknown, but that which is hidden from them, like the monsters that may dwell in the darkness for the seeing, or the beasts that stalk in silence for the hearing.

Geography

Shuddergully is a forest of dead trees that extends as far as the eye can see. The trees are loosely scattered, leaving plenty of space to walk between them. Taking the perpetual position of the ghostly moon as north, the land is largely flat with a gentle slope toward the south. Only a single large ravine interrupts the monotony, a hundred feet wide and plunging hundreds of feet into the earth.   Flowing along the bottom of the ravine at a glacial pace is a bubbling river of tar named Dāgdh by the first explorers of Shuddergully, the Architects of Yronroost. The rocks of the riverbed and the riverbanks are sharp and jagged, the creeping tar unable to do much but splatter them. On either side of the river, the canyon walls are crumbling, sending cascades of rock tumbling from the cliff-edges above to the gully floor below.  

The Obelisk

The obelisk is the only known wrought structure in Shuddergully. Made of solid black metal reaching precisely 73 feet into the sky, the obelisk serves as both a waypoint and a safe haven for visitors to Shuddergully. The grating noise produced by the enchantment that was laid into the metal helps to focus the mind and ward away the fear as the greatest enemy in Shuddergully is not the beasts that drag themselves screaming from the Dāgdh, but the self.   It is believed that the obelisk was constructed by the Architects to stake a claim on the plane, but the Architects disavow this hypothesis.  

The Dāgdh

The name given to the river by the Architects is difficult to accurately translate. Most would give the word as "Damnation," but the true meaning encapsulates the idea of fear powerful enough to drown an individual, the feeling of impending doom, and the sickening temptation to jump to certain death.   The Dāgdh winds southward, the canyon walls on either side sloping down until it is flowing on flatland dotted with skeletal trees. It continues until it reaches a rocky beach and joins a vast and interminable sea of tar. The northern reaches of Shuddergully are largely unexplored. The headwaters of the river of tar have never been found. What few explorers have dared to attempt an expedition and returned claim that the river seems endless.  

The Harrowshore

A beach of broken rocks, where closest to the waterline tar from the Sightless Sea winds its way into the gaps between the jagged stones, the Harrowshore stretches east and west, seemingly without end. As they do from the Dāgdh, Demons clamber onto the Harrowshore from the languid, bubbling surface of the Sightless Sea, tendrils of tar clinging to their misshapen limbs. Though fewer in number, the demons of Harrowshore stand a better chance at surviving their first few hours in Shuddergully as the flesh-eating flora of the ravine do not flourish on the beach.  

The Sightless Sea

A vast and seemingly-endless sea of tar stretches to the horizon from the Harrowshore. Its surface is languid, bubbling and hissing like tar is wont to do, as there is no wind to stir waves in Shuddergully. Instead, the Sightless Sea merely ripples gently, the thick tar resisting even the struggling of the demons that form too far out to sea to make it to shore. No one has been fool enough to venture across the Sightless Sea, further than a few dozen feet from shore as it is known that on the Sightless Sea, light seems to drown in darkness hence its name.

Fauna & Flora

Fauna

The beasts that drag themselves from the depths of the Dāgdh are known to the larger world as demons. They are fears made flesh, nightmares incarnate. There is an endless variety of them, as the mortal mind is always, always conjuring new fears. But the demons can be classified into two groups: the lesser demons and the greater demons.   Lesser demons merely bubble up from the collective unconscious. They are the phobias, the unfounded fears given form. Because they are such nebulous ideas, they can only manifest themselves half-formed from the Dāgdh. Many are weak, fodder for the stronger. But there are some that are more powerful, arising from fears held in common by many people.   Greater demons emerge from the Dāgdh fully-formed. They are rare, and they almost always arise in the wake of calamities across the planes. Greater demons are the embodiment of specific fear, of concrete horrors. For example, Greater Golgothai, dog-demons with three heads accompanied by a pack of burning hounds result from the terror felt by a community in the face of a wildfire so powerful, so intense, so destructive, that the flames appear to leap from one home to the next like hunting wolves.  

Leviathans

Any tar produced by Shuddergully can spawn demons. This is evidenced by demons crawling out of pools of tar unconnected to the Dāgdh near the Harrowshore. Occasionally, demons manifest along the Harrowshore or even further out to sea. Those close enough to land are able to make it to the broken rocks of the beach by sheer force of will. Others are not so fortunate. These poor creatures flail in the gripping, viscous tar until they tire. Once the strength is sapped from their limbs, the sea begins to reclaim them, slowly dragging them under the otherwise-placid surface.   The ultimate fate of these unfortunates is unknown, as the expeditions to the Sightless Sea have been few and far in between. A few reports, however, indicate that there is a possibility of an entity or multiple entities dwelling beneath the surface. There are three recorded sightings of struggling demons being swallowed up by what appear to be jaws, but the dim light of Shuddergully makes these almost impossible to take without a grain of salt. Nevertheless, the sightings have fed into a hypothesis that some of the demons that sink out in the Sightless Sea survive and go on to thrive by feeding on the corpses of the drowned.   It is theorized that these entities, hidden from view by the thick, opaque tar of the Sightless Sea as well as the Sightless Sea's innate ability to drown light other than that of the ghostly moon, are vastly more powerful than the average greater demon. Those that believe in the existence of these entities also believe that should any of them ever escape the Sightless Sea, cataclysm would surely follow.  

Flora

Far from the banks of the Dāgdh, no plants flourish in Shuddergully. Along the riverbank, however, an impressive variety of plants make their home. There are two species of particular note: corpse flowers and silkbeds.  

Corpse Flower

Corpse flowers are identifiable, when not in bloom, by their enormous black bulbs mottled with white. When blooming, corpse flowers take on otherworldly appearance altogether. As corpse flowers bloom, their petals unfurl, revealing insides that are a peculiar silvery-white color that catches what little light reaches into the ravine from the ghostly moon, making then glow faintly. They begin to emit a slight, sickly-sweet smell like that of a rotting corpse, which given Shuddergully's ability to dull the senses, is probably far more powerful than one might initially think. However, what truly gives corpse flowers their name is the severed head that they present in the middle of all their petals, where the pistil and stamen might be on a normal flower. Furthermore, once fully bloomed, corpse flowers release a thick, blood-like fluid that bubbles up from under the head, making it seem fresh.   Once an unfortunate demon is lured onto its petals, a corpse flower will snap shut. Tendrils that it hides among the rocks of the riverbank wrap around the bulb, ensuring that there can be no escape. The bulb then twists and contracts, teeth on the innermost petals gradually grinding the poor victim to a paste that the "severed" head can consume.  

Silkbeds

Silkbeds grow on long stretches of the Dāgdh. Though they start as pale, translucent beads, they quickly grow, feeding on the blood shed by the constant fighting between incomplete newborn demons. As they do so, they dig roots deep into the riverbanks, making them exceptionally difficult to remove. Once they're sufficiently anchored, they begin to grow sideways. Mature silkbeds are large, diaphanous, semi-translucent membranes that can grow up to fifteen feet wide.   Despite seeming delicate, silkbeds are quite tough. When a newborn lesser demon crawls onto the shore on top of a silkbed, the silkbed will immediately wrap around it, binding it from head to toe. Then, the silkbed waits. Its membrane is impermeable to air and its victim slowly asphyxiates inside of it. Over the following weeks, the silkbed will secrete an enzyme to break its prey down into nutrients that it can use.
Alternative Name(s)
Damnation, Home of Terror, The Harrowshore
Type
Gulf / Lagoon
Location under

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