The Planes of the World of Farland in Detail
Table of Contents
Firstborn of the Planes
Note: The information herein was pieced together from various sources, notably elven scholars and wizards from the Empire of Farland. Many of the names of the various places, rivers, and planes were originally given by the Arcanists of Ancient Aelfar. Of course the residents of these spiritual places have other names for them.
There are few who consider the origins of the extraplanar immortals, and fewer still who know the truth. Before even the elves came to be, as Tal-Allustiel pondered long over his first creation and as Vornoth plotted his Great Deception against the Shrouded Triad, there arose the first entity that was not itself truly divine. Over the subsequent centuries, before time was established as it is understood today, others of that ilk followed.
Some were purposefully created by the gods, whilst others arose out of sheer chance, but all were instrumental in shaping the Outer Planes into what they are today. Celestials, fiends, fey, and more unusual inhabitants of the Outer Planes are almost uniformly descended from these unique beings; and many still answer to them as the personal confidantes and generals of the gods.
The Godsliver Fiends
It was Lagur the Archtyrant who was responsible for the first of the true immortals, impregnating herself with a sliver of the Ontological Force of Lawful Evil, and birthing Asmodeus. As the first of all fiends, he was not actually a god and therefore not bound by the injunctions against interference or even direct assaults on the other planes. His instinctive ability to harness the energies of Barathus effectively made Asmodeus nearly as dangerous as a true god, however, if not entirely a match for the more martial deities such as Kantor or Thranton.
It swiftly became clear that having such a tool gave a tremendous ontological advantage to the owner, and the other gods of evil hastily began to produce their own variations. Vornoth alone refrained from joining the endeavor, focusing entirely on how to accomplish his vastly grander goals. Between the other seven gods, however, dozens of these new Godsliver Fiends were made and set loose on each other to prove which was the strongest.
Lesser fiends, some very similar to the ones known in modernity, began to appear at this time. They were inexpertly fashioned by the Godsliver Fiends to serve them, and their growing numbers meant that soon there was no restraining their violence. War broke out between them, and in some places still goes on unabated to this day. Most of the weaker or unluckier Godsliver Fiends either perished or were forced into servitude to survive, and as the intensity of war started to fade, fiendish eyes began to turn with speculative bloodlust towards the planes of Neutrality and Goodness.
Sarafai and Keruvai
The gods of evil had briefly managed to seize an advantage, but their short-sighted slaughter among themselves had cost them the element of surprise. Then when Vornoth, dismissive of their efforts, subsumed all but Grlarshh into the Book of Seven, he cost them the element of time. Ironically, the Darkest God had given the remaining deities a chance to finish preparing their countermeasures. One by one, using similar if somewhat more refined techniques, the Neutral and Good gods started to craft their own champions to match the Godsliver Fiends.
Taking inspiration from Lagur the Archtyrant and the incomparable power of Asmodeus, the elder gods focused their creative energy to each produce a single Saraf, a “Burning One” imbued with so much ontological energy that they radiated it like the heat of a blazing inferno. The younger gods instead made two or more Keruvai; with each Keruv, a “Blessed One,” epitomising a particular aspect of the god who created them. Notably, Tal-Allustiel again refrained from mimicking his fellow deities at once, and for a second time considered the matter of creation with great care.
Just as it had been in the Hells, so too did the other six planes see new creatures arise. Celestials and fey, and other more singular beings, started to inhabit their realms. Encounters between the many new races of the cosmos inevitably led to conflict. At the forefront of every engagement, the Keruvai pushed back the Fiends, who were experienced in the way of war, and the threat of the Sarafai kept the remaining Godsliver Fiends from leading from the front and placing themselves at risk. What had nearly been a resumption of the Ontological War subsided into its ongoing stalemate once more.
Adjutants, Kyreions, and Tools
With the advent of mortals, and the influx of their souls to their afterlife, the armies of the planes began to swell such that additional subordinates were needed to marshal them properly. Under the initiative of Mephistopheles, the weaker Godsliver Fiends and other unique fiends were conscripted to serve as the demeaningly-entitled “Tools,” given instruction in their duties and dismissed to ready the legions of the damned for the final campaign.
In response, the Saraf Radha organized her Cogitean armies under similar principles, being the first to assign specific duties of oversight and clear lines of command across her native plane. As would become traditional, the Keruvai of her plane were made into her closest adjutants, bestowed with the authority to enact her will—and by extension, that of Neltak himself—should she ever become indisposed.
They, in turn, appointed Kyreions, a term they just invented which could be translated as “Prime Commanders,” to convey their wishes to the growing military multitudes; or to fulfil a specific and vital role when no ordinary underling would suffice. The remaining planes followed suit, as expected, in their own way. Gradually, the modern hierarchy of the Outer Planes developed as it is currently understood.
At the top were the gods themselves, instructing their Sarafai as to their overall goals. Each Saraf would then grant whatever permissions and resources were necessary for the fulfilment of these goals to the Keruv responsible for them. The Keruvai, in turn, would formulate specific plans with their Kyreions, who would thence see to it that the right forces were used. Even in chaotic Aeron and Nemux, the broad strokes of this system was adhered to.
Over time, as the tenuous union between the gods against Vornoth solidified into a true alliance, the Keruvai started to move between the planes ever more frequently, sometimes even becoming Kyreions of their peers.
As Vornoth’s power across the Hells grew, and some began to suspect that even the might of the Sarafai would not be enough to overcome the Godsliver Fiends at the Darkest God’s command, a number of gods assembled, deep within the Penumbra, to pool their energies into creating a different defense. These six were Khuldul Rockcarver and Dhurli Ironbeard, Khuckduck Gemcutter and Barlifandorf, and Bunga Proudfoot and Bucca Tunnelly.
Rather than create individual Sarafai and Keruvai to aid the war effort, these deities instead chose to produce superior arms and armor for such champions to bear. To accomplish this, they siphoned great quantities of raw energy from the Maelstrom of Friction, filtering it still further through the Feywild so as to pay homage to and receive the blessings of Tanarus and Sulis—and then they began their great works.
What these six produced became known as the Dominions, deific artifacts to rival any achievement of Aknor himself, and each intended for a specific owner. Though no two Dominions were the same, each was enchanted such that its bearer could never be kept from their own plane, or barred from passage anywhere within it—thus, their duties could never be impeded.
Though some were initially hesitant about the unasked-for gift, each of the Sarafai and Keruvai has since bonded to the Dominion created specifically for them, and today owner and item are functionally indivisible. Since that time, other objects too have become recognized as Dominions, and it is tradition for the six gods responsible for the originals to bless these in the same way, if they can.
The Elderspear Gaebolg of Sgathaich is perhaps the most famous, but others include Selaphiel’s Brightsmoke Censer, the Panoply of Kaumari, the Baptismal Cloth of Nanshe, and the Mercybloom of Barachiel. The Scepter of Stability created by the Saraf Radha used to be a Dominion, until the Saraf Kenyotl stole it away and dissolved it into the planar fabric of Nemux.
More direly, three Hellish Dominions are known to be held by the Carcusite Elderfiends known as Minos, Rhadamanthys, and Sarpedon. Though the exact circumstances are unclear, it is believed that these Dominions were claimed by the trio shortly after the fortress of Gennax was sealed off against Vornoth. Since theoretically their Dominions grant them free passage into Gennax, and the three have aligned themselves with Vornoth in recent years, the safety afforded to besieged Grlarshh within is appearing increasingly tenuous.
Cosmology: The Five Rivers
The Five Rivers carry the souls of the dead to their rightful afterlife. They pass both in sequence and simultaneously through the planes, infallibly serving to deliver their cargo to the correct destination, whilst also providing a theoretical means of travel between the planes to those who know what location lies on the other side of a River’s Egress. In general, however, they are too dangerous for most beings to traverse, save for the aquatic jengus of the Heavens; and the Boatmen, who were made to be beyond the influence of any being, even their own creator Dekk. In ages past there were a few individual entities with the power to survive the waters, but for the most part their like is long gone from the universe.
Whilst there is some overlap between the Five Rivers, in general each of them is responsible for a certain kind of soul, and the most reliable way to find a specific deceased individual is to determine the manner of their death and trace them through the river that will have taken them to their appropriate afterlife. The various Soulharbors, great piers reaching out over the waters to expedite the retrieval of souls, across the planes usually deal with the paperwork involved in processing new souls, though those of Nemux and Malor do not bother.
Where each river begins in a plane is known as the Emergence. These five locations are the most heavily guarded points in the entire plane, for it is through here that outsiders can force entry if they are sufficiently desperate. The souls carried by a river, however, do not travel with it to another plane should they reach its Egress without being fished out—instead, they reappear at its Emergence to make the journey as many times as are needed before they are retrieved.
Somewhere in each plane, the Five Rivers always come together briefly in what is known as the Confluence. This lethal churning of the waters is identical across every plane and occupies almost the exact same metaphysical location. If something could actually survive therein, it could theoretically travel from any plane to any plane. However, not even the Boatmen presume to sail this stretch of the Five Rivers, yet it is known that the Demon Prince Dagon somehow used the Confluence to force his way into the Material Plane itself—but then, uniquely, Dagon was ever at home in the waters of the Five Rivers.
Acheron: The River of Pain
This bleak river carries those souls which perished in torment, victims of horrific illness or injury, and is full to bursting during times of warfare. The Acheron is of much interest to the dark elves, whose gradual fading from the world is a period of extreme emotional suffering.
In Carcus, it flows along the ceiling of the enclosed plane, necessitating a certain inventiveness of the part of the fiends stationed at its Soulharbors to do their job. This is made even more difficult by the ferocity of the river, which dashes souls about so haphazardly that most will slip by and reappear at the Emergence several times before finally being fished out of its waters.
The turbulence has given rise to a phenomenon known as the Winds of Pain, a howling gale that rushes across Carcus endlessly, sweeping up anything in its path too weak to resist. Only greater fiends such as balors and pit fiends have a reasonable chance of husbanding their strength to escape, but anything lesser is usually battered to death without a hope of freedom.
The Acheron nourishes the Black Cedar Groves of Barathus, whose roots can sometimes be seen dipping into the waters of their own accord. The Grovewarden Humbaba has been witnessed wading across the river without being swept up in it, but this is believed to be a feature of his enormous size rather than anything else, for the waters barely lap at his shins.
As with all of the Five Rivers, the Acheron technically begins in the Penumbra as a metaphysical suggestion rather than a true river, before passing through its Gate into the Feywild and then slipping through an Astral Rivulet to Concordia. The Acheron subsequently passes in sequence through Malor, Aeron, Cogiton, Efferenus, Nemux, Barathus, Caelestin, and Carcus; before sweeping up a new complement of souls through the Penumbra and starting its journey again.
Cocytus: The River of Wailing, or the Astral River
The strangest and largest of the rivers is the Cocytus, which only carries the souls of immortals, including drawing discorporated celestials and fiends back to their respective home planes. As it passes through Tanis, it is renamed the Faerie River, and serves as a final barrier to elves who are unworthy of entering Faerie. It is also known as the Astral River, which surrounds all of Concordia and offers it some slight protection against the Frictional Barriers of the surrounding Outer Planes.
One of the aspects which makes the Cocytus so strange is that unlike all the other rivers, it always guards against the Outer Barrier. Though they are vast beyond mortal understanding, the Outer Planes remain finite in size, and are girded by the Cocytus which stretches to all horizons, and which unfailingly deposits the remains of those who presumed to try a crossing, even by means of flight or teleportation, onto its banks some time after they disappear from sight.
On the rare occasions such travellers have been brought back to life, they recall nothing after the moment of having made the decision to undergo the journey, no matter the time elapsed between that decision and actually setting off. On Tanis, at least, the Cocytus is vaguely explicable by being a literal conduit between two planes, for to reach the Faerie River is to be at the very threshold of Faerie itself.
There are no Soulharbors upon Cocytus, in any of the planes. For herein lies yet another peculiar aspect of Cocytus - unlike the other rivers, it needs nobody to pluck the souls it carries from it, but gently places them upon its banks somewhere in the plane. They are claimed afterwards, usually after having wandered a distance from the river in a fearful desperation, bemoaning their uncertain fate.
To immortals, it inspires the same terror of oblivion that a mortal faces at the end of their life, and they generally prefer to stay as far away from it as possible. Those reconstituted immortal souls thrown back to their home planes after being destroyed on a different one are no exception. They are wild with fear upon passing through the Emergence, and have been known to lash out fatally if not permitted to flee the river and calm down.
As with all of the Five Rivers, the Cocytus technically begins in the Penumbra as a metaphysical suggestion rather than a true river, before passing through its Gate into the Feywild. Unlike the others, when it passes through its Astral Rivulet it emerges in Efferenus, before passing in sequence through Nemux, Carcus, Caelestin, Barathus, Malor, Cogiton, and Aeron.
Only now does it finally emerge as the Astral River enveloping Concordia and touching upon each of the Outer Planes, before crashing through the Astral Deluges and into the Confluence surrounding the Maelstrom of Friction, before sweeping up a new complement of souls through the Penumbra and starting its journey again.
Lethe: The River of Forgetting
In times of peace, the Lethe is full almost to overflowing with souls, for it carries those who died quietly and peacefully, most usually of old age. It is the safest of the rivers and forms one of the major landmarks, so to speak, of Tanis as it bears the faint souls of flora and fauna to their own eternal rest.
Souls borne by the Lethe are perfect for reconstitution into the appropriate new body for their afterlife. Their former lives are washed away, leaving only the raw essence of their alignment to mold as needed. Among the fiends, permitting the souls to adopt a shape of their own accord is unthinkable, and the vast majority are immediately sent to be processed into lemures and dretches. Celestials are prone to offering a spiritually rewarding afterlife in lieu of metamorphosis, which does little to bolster the size of their armies, but is generally accepted as a worthwhile trade.
Druids know that several plants of esoteric power, such as mistletoe and asphodels, are not actually native to the Material Plane, having originally grown on the banks of the Tanisian Lethe. It was only later that they were transplanted across the planes by the mysterious entity or force known as the Octal Fulcrum. Having a genuine cutting of such a plant from one of the Outer Planes is a secret dream of many an archdruid, for the power that could thereotically be drawn from them is immense.
Within the Penumbra, the Lethe is uniquely a physical river which roughly corresponds to the Aeglir and Alf Rivers on Farland; and is an especially dreadful manifestation of the river, for it seems to possess an active malevolence towards anything in its immediate vicinity. However, it is also extremely erratic in this regard, for said immediate vicinity can be anything up to a mile away from its actual banks. Sudden surges and flash floods are common dangers, and the land around the Lethe has been utterly scoured of any defining features.
This region is the Penumbran Reflection of the Summervale, the infamous Plains of Silence, patrolled only by the kishi of Mnemosyne. They are not immune to the murderous hunger of the Lethe but view their potential random death as just another part of existence. In this regard, the Lethe has accomplished a very peculiar kind of forgetting—in that these fiends have forgotten what it is to be immortal.
As with all of the Five Rivers, the Lethe begins in the Penumbra, before passing through its Gate into the Feywild and then slipping through an Astral Rivulet to Concordia. The Lethe subsequently passes in sequence through Aeron, Caelestin, Barathus, Malor, Cogiton, Nemux, Carcus, and Efferenus; before sweeping up a new complement of souls through the Penumbra and starting its journey again.
Phlegethos: The River of Fire
The Phlegethos is the river which carries the souls of those who died in natural disasters or accidents, through no fault of their own. It does not discriminate overmuch, meaning that a soul will still be claimed by it for falling off a ladder as perishing in a blizzard.
Whilst it is still composed of water like the other rivers, the Phlegethos is also on fire, both above and below the surface. As these radiant flames will sear even the immortal flesh of celestials and fiends, very few souls are retrieved with any kind of haste from it. Since the Phlegethos also carries the fewest souls of any of the Five Rivers, with the rare influx due to disaster, the priority here is on the lowest end of the scale.
The Soulharbors regularly undergo catastrophic damage, and fatalities are common. Hirelings from other planes are most commonly employed to work the Soulharbors, so as not to have these deaths be permanent. Even avaricious Mammon has acquiesced to this offensive cost, for it was determined long ago to be less than the price of sending native Baratheans to work and repair the Soulharbors of Phlegethos.
In Barathus, the Phlegethos flows around the Glacial Pinnacle, an artificial mountain of ice deliberately conjured there by the will of Asmodeus to represent the power of devilish will triumphing over intrinsic planar realities. Being assigned to the offices carved within the Glacial Pinnacle is seen as a particularly dangerous promotion, for whilst it carries great prestige, the risks are commensurate as well.
The Carcusite Phlegethos offers one of the few instances of color in the bleak plane, drawing many of the most despondent inhabitants to it like moths to a flame, and with remarkably similar results. It is notable for flowing directly through Gennax, bridged by titanic stones to allow the yugoloths and other denizens passage. Vornoth used to send entire legions to their deaths trying to breach the fortress using the river, but gave up after the seventh century of utter failure.
As with all of the Five Rivers, the Phlegethos technically begins in the Penumbra as a metaphysical suggestion rather than a true river, before passing through its Gate into the Feywild and then slipping through an Astral Rivulet to Concordia. The Phlegethos subsequently passes in sequence through Barathus, Efferenus, Malor, Aeron, Caelestin, Carcus, Nemux, and Cogiton; before sweeping up a new complement of souls through the Penumbra and starting its journey again.
Styx: The River of Hate
This most bleak of rivers is responsible for those souls which perished as a result of personal malevolent action. The souls of murder victims, those purposely driven to suicide, and other such unfortunates are all borne to their afterlife by the Styx.
It is the largest of the Five Rivers to flow through Carcus, to an extent suffusing the entire plane. Alone among the rivers, the Styx has a certain smell to it, if that is the right word, a smell of hostility and aggression which offends the nose as much as it does the soul. The sense of despairing futility which grips all those who journey through Carcus is only made the worse in proximity to the Styx, encouraging an obsessive self-loathing whilst sapping the strength of will for suicide.
In Malor, the Styx is a sluggish and stagnant river, which does not so much flow as oozes across the plane. Even when it reaches the Crevasse of Crawling Chaos, it does not plunge over the edge, but drips like some kind of thick sap. The bravest, or most foolhardy, of Malorish fiends often risk drawing close enough to plunge their weapons into the foul substance, infusing them with horrific power. Most of these weapons promptly turn on their supposed owners and then dissolve into nameless putrescence, but a very rare few are sometimes mastered.
Though most entities dislike the thought of this river on principle, the inhabitants of Cogiton are particularly irritated by the Styx, for it does not conform to their standards of perfect order. Apparently, whereas the other rivers will pleasingly meander along the rigid channels set out for them by cosmic law, the Styx breaks its banks with alarming regularity and flows wherever it wishes.
Across the planes, the Styx is the most likely river to be seen with several Boatmen at a time, though the reason for this is unknown. Certainly the other rivers have their fair share of these normally solitary and undoubtedly strange beings, but why the Styx in particular requires so many of them to congregate with such regularity is a complete mystery.
As with all of the Five Rivers, the Styx technically begins in the Penumbra as a metaphysical suggestion rather than a true river, before passing through its Gate into the Feywild and then slipping through an Astral Rivulet to Concordia. The Styx subsequently passes in sequence through Cogiton, Nemux, Efferenus, Carcus, Aeron, Caelestin, Malor, and Barathus; before sweeping up a new complement of souls through the Penumbra and starting its journey again.
Sailing across the Five Rivers are the Boatmen, a strange collection of beings manifested by Dekk for unknown reasons, but which were explicitly endowed with the ability to ignore any attempts to influence them, including by Dekk himself. Their craft are simplistic sailing rafts, unperturbed by the most violent swells of the Five Rivers, and the Boatmen oft seem to be a physical extension of their vessels, rather than separate entities.
The Boatmen are nebulous figures, perpetually swaddled in heavy dark robes that seem to grow out of their rafts, with strange distortions around them to hide their features. This makes them extremely difficult to tell apart, and as they do not communicate much with other creatures in any case, only a very few individuals have been identified over the millennia. Some of these include Daena, Vanth, Svava, Yama, Anubai, Ermys, Charon, Hlokk, and Anupat.
It was eventually even confirmed that Boatmen are not limited to a single plane and can travel anywhere that the Five Rivers flow. That said, they do appear to have certain preferences, and their personalities do differ slightly from each other. For instance, courteous Yama is generally seen in Caelestin and Cogiton, on the Lethe and Acheron, and has never been reported on the Cocytus in Malor; whereas dismal Charon has only ever been seen on the Styx, regardless of the plane.
If they are creatures of mystery in the Outer Planes, the Boatmen are almost entirely unknown or, even more rarely, misunderstood on the Material Plane. The few who know of them at all believe that they are a singular being of many names, rather than a group of many solitary individuals; and that they are psychopomps, though it is the Five Rivers which actually carry the souls of the dead.
It is also believed that the Boatmen serve as protectors and guides, despite never intervening in the demonic assaults on Barathus and Carcus to steal away souls from other fiends; and that they may journey to wherever there is death, though all evidence suggests they are inextricably bound to the Five Rivers.
Indeed, they do not appear to be impeded by the wards surrounding Gennax on Carcus, nor by the oblivion which awaits any who try to cross the Cocytus on the borders of the planes. Some of them have even been willing to ferry people into the Cocytus, or perhaps it would be truer to say that they do not attempt to throw anyone off who boards their raft with the intent to follow them on their journey. Attempts to board their raft with the intent to breach the wards around Gennax, however, have always resulted in the Phlegethos erupting to consume everything aboard.
Actual negotiations with Boatmen tend to stall when the bargainer realizes that they have nothing which the Boatmen want, if indeed the Boatmen want anything at all. Even if attacked, they will barely defend themselves, though they are generally considered not worth the ludicrous effort required to destroy. Not only do the Five Rivers rise up to protect them in the event of assault, but even on those rare occasions where one has been cast into the waters or otherwise obliterated, they have been seen again in a matter of days, as if nothing had happened.
It is claimed that Asmodeus overheard Vornoth discussing plans to subjugate them after the conquest of the Heavens, but as this claim originates with Demogorgon, its veracity is immensely suspect. Nonetheless, certain forward-thinking parties are making concerted efforts to understand the Boatmen properly, with very little to show for centuries of dedicated effort. The original idea may have been to recruit the Boatmen as scouts for the Heavens, but most now agree that this is a futile endeavor, and they continue to accumulate knowledge about the Boatmen for its own sake.