The Deadlands of the Cabal
The Deadlands of the Cabal
The Deadlands of the Cabal are a place of punishment, pleasure, and contemplation. These correspond roughly to the three tiers. They are not, contrary to appearances, really places for the souls of the dead. The sweeping majority, if not all, of whom is inside at any given time, are not actually souled creatures. They are spirits. They are not even the spirits of the dead, exactly. They are the spirits of the memories of the dead. Whenever those faithful to the Cabal die, the spirits of their memory live on in the Cabal's Deadlands. Indeed, other things dying in the areas where the Cabal holds sway often also live on in these places. Animals, plants, objects. Very few of the spirits in the Deadlands have insight into the fact that they are not the same people as they mirror. Those that Marchosias deals with directly, she usually informs about this.
There are three tiers in the Cabal, and not every spirit drawn to or formed within it is also preserved in it.
First Tier The First of the three Tiers is the Tier of Pleasure. Here are kept those who, in the life that they mirror, pleased the Cabal. Here also are kept those who have skills to please others most directly, and those spirits who are needed to maintain the endless extent of it. This is a soft tier. It is also the first one that visitors pass through. Marchosias makes her home on the First Tier.
Second Tier The Second of the three Tiers is the Tier of Contemplation. Here are kept those who, in the life that they mirror, were devoted to knowledge. Here also are kept the spirits who mirror the less virtuous. Most objects which find their way to the Deadlands of the Cabal end up here. All the great ancient and interesting artifacts of history have mirrors here even if they are destroyed, although they do not fully function if removed from the Deadlands. Many of the books written in the world also have analogues here; some of the greatest even awaken and host spirits after they fade from the world, and may learn and speak after a fashion. Also the memories of sages are ever writing more books within, and the libraries are grand indeed. This tier does not wholly forget the body, but such pleasures as it offers are moderate, so as not to detract from the contemplation of existence nor overly reward those who did not earn true glory. It is also the home of a great many games of mind and chance; like the books and writings of the mortal world, those and all their variations are stored here, and occasionally new variations surface from this just as new books surface from the sage-spirits who gravitate to this place. This is the largest of the three Tiers, as it draws memory-spirits interesting but unglorious.
Third Tier The Third of the three Tiers is the Tier of Punishment. Here are kept those who, in the life that they mirror, displeased the Cabal. They are subjected to study and such useful work as may be extracted. Here also are kept those who sought battle and warfare. Although called the Tier of Punishment, it is not necessarily punishing. To warriors it can be as fine as the second tier is for sages, and ascetics of the Second Tier occasionally enter it to test themselves against the barren and sometimes hostile landscapes. This tier provides a portion of the energy which feeds the Path of Souls. It is gathered more-or-less voluntarily from the spirits here; such work as they do in gathering useful energies subtracts from their labors. True brilliance may lead to greater rewards. It is a tier that tests willpower, strength, and cleverness.
The Soul Engines
There is one final location of note. At the center of the three tiers, lighting up the tier of punishment with its light, are the Soul Engines. Useless and unwanted spirits drawn to or formed within the Deadlands are dragged here to be recycled into energy to fuel the Deadlands. Excess is channelled out to mages to supplement their own energies. It is rare but not impossible to survive the Soul Engines, but to do so requires an overriding will to survive and a great purity of spirit. Most spirits who are subjected to the fires and survive are reborn as diamond-sharp and adamant-willed souls to enter Creation. The Soul Engines test everything in a spirit, and burn away all but the strongest and greatest core of it. Not all spirits have a worthy core which will withstand the test.
Spirits may go 'up' the tiers all they like, but passage 'down' is restricted. It is possible, for a spirit arrogant enough to think it will survive or despairing enough to desire release, that a spirit may go voluntarily into the Soul Engines. In theory this is the fate that eventually awaits every entity that spends long enough in the Deadlands, but only by the broadest of views. In practice a spirit which garners to itself some legend in its former life and which continues honorably in the Deadlands may spend eons in the First and Second Tiers with little challenge. That is intended. The Deadlands of the Cabal hold two goals. The first is to preserve the knowledges and cultures of Creation in its First and Second Tiers, while the second is to harvest energy and recycle spirits in its Third Tier and its awful Soul Engines.
Of the spirits who arrive in the Deadlands, there is a fifth way in which they can be sorted. These are the Gatherers. The Gatherers are spirits of particular strength, judged to be willing and loyal. Some of them are recognized immediately. Other spirits seek entrance, and are judged. The Gatherers are given the task of deciding which spirits shall retain residence in their tiers, which ones have earned the right to see lower Tiers, and which ones are no longer worthy of the access they have been given. The Gatherers are not infallible, but they are limited to moving a spirit but one step at a time, and they may only move that spirit from the lowest Tier that they have access to. So it is that a warrior spending all their time in the Third Tier may have been glorious enough in life or earned their glories on the fields of eternal battle, and so have access to the First Tier that they are not using; in such a case, the judgement of the Gatherers will involve no actual moving of the spirit at all. The most unpleasant task of the Gatherers is to drag spirits deemed useless into the Soul Engines. Eventually, the final duty of the Gatherers is to go into them themselves. Those who have served well are strengthened for the task by the arts of the other Gatherers; even if they are not strong and pure enough to become a soul, they may yet survive the ordeal and be withdrawn from the Engines. It is like drinking nepenthe, in such a case. They will lose many of their memories and some part of who they were in the life that they mirror, those energies lost to the fabric of the Realm and to the mages who draw from the Path of Souls. Still they will be a Gatherer, even so reduced, for the valuable traits that make a skilled and wise Gatherer are protected foremost. The fate of Gatherers who were layabouts or made many mistakes is less healthy. They are given no protection, and perhaps a taste of their own force in taking them.
No spirit but that of a loyal Gatherer is ever removed from the Soul Engines unconsumed except in the cases of the most egregious mistakes, and then it is only worth attempting if done immediately. The Engines are to recycle spirits; if a true soul forms in the fury of it, then they have done a greater thing, but those souls are then not held by any force and incarnate immediately in Creation. The Engines are not, by contrast, intended to easily release spirits.