The Spellburn

The Cataclysm that destroyed the World Above

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  The Spellburn (often called simply "The Burn" in casual conversation) was a magical cataclysm that took place on the World Above a few hundred years ago. While the details of what, exactly, caused the disaster have been lost, the event itself has had drastic, world-shattering consequences.


It is said that in the Old World, there was a great battle between powerful mages that shook the very foundation of reality. Landmasses transformed, and chaotic magical energies erupted to poison the land. The final battle created an enormous magical backlash, and from that point onwards, everything that continued to exist on the surface became corrupted by the magical energies running rampant over the surface of the earth. The World Above became uninhabitable, so the survivors fled to the World Below.   This backlash event is described by the accounts of survivors as an incredibly bright light or sudden explosion that "filled the whole world." Some of the survivors were apparently blinded by the event, but how many is unknown, because those accounts all seem to be written by someone else. A prominent theory is that most of the unfortunate newly-blinded did not survive the chaos that resulted immediately after this event.   A few surviving descriptions of the Spellburn itself describe the light as having a greenish or sickly-yellow tint to it -- although the effect was so bright ("brighter than the brightest sun," as one famous tale claims) that most fail to mention a colour. The light was not, apparently, accompanied by any sound, save the rumbling as the earth trembled.

Historical Basis

It's clear that something did, in fact, happen which made the World Above uninhabitable due to rampant mutation. Whether this was a magical backlash or some kind of infectious agent remains a topic of philosophical debate.


This myth is widespread among all peoples in the World Below, since it defines their current existence -- although their individual beliefs about why and how it happened vary widely.

Variations & Mutation

Each city has its own cultural take on who was responsible for the horrific event that destroyed the World Above, and why it happened. Usually it is expressed as a moral tale that justifies their own society:  
  • Adar’ul : In Adar'ul, the City of Blood, where Vampires hold sway, people believe that the Spellburn was the result of the hubris of the peoples of the World Above. Their arrogance and short-sightedness are what led to the cataclysm that destroyed their world. They don't necessarily believe it can be fixed at this point, but what they do know is that the other sentient species cannot be trusted to continue to run things. Vampires must ascend to supremacy to assure the world's future survival.
  • Aszaryn : Aszaryn, the City of Silver and Shadow, believe that the Spellburn was the result of unnatural creatures running rampant over the World Above. The only way to cure the Blight is to destroy them entirely. They are currently working on magical rituals with the intention of doing just that. Vampires, as a result, are a necessary evil that are required for current survival. They will be the last to be destroyed, once all the other monsters are wiped out.
  • Kapazand : Kapazand, the Enlightened City, where all the surviving peoples try to live as equals, believe that the Blight is a divine punishment for the many decades of war that separated the sentient peoples. They believe that if all the world can at least stop warring with one another, the divine curse of the World Above will come to an end.

Cultural Reception

Each in its own way, every culture of the World Below has been defined by this catastrophic event. The inability of mortal sentient beings to live on the world's surface without being corrupted by The Blight defines their continued existence. The fact that they live in the World Below at all is a direct result of this horrific event.

In Literature

There are thousands of accounts of survivors, many of which have been carefully preserved by archivists in all three of the major city-states, so that future generations might learn what they can. Unfortunately, if any of the survivors were in part responsible for what caused the Spellburn, they made sure never to share it, even in their records. Most of the accounts are the confused and traumatized writings of horrified survivors forced to suddenly deal with an overwhelmingly terrible situation. Many are contradictory, and more than a few are touched with an obvious hint of madness.
Volcano by Clive Kim
Survivors say that volcanos erupted all over the world, even where none had existed before.  
Unnatural Water by Oleg Magni
According to surviving accounts, the very laws of physics were disrupted. In many places, they still are.  
Stream of Destruction by Eberhard Grossgass
Streams of lava and raw magical energy ravaged the landscape, and in some places, the earth was cracked like an eggshell.  
Melted Cave by Hernan Pauccara
In many places, the landscape was literally melted -- or washed away by catastrophic floods.

Cover image: The Spellburn by Lynn Greyling


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