(as related by Melodia Starwalker)
So you want to know where babies come from? Very well. I'll tell you part of the story. the other part, well, I'll leave that to your parents.
Life begins with death and death with life. You've heard your parents tell you such things, but what does that mean?
Well to put it simply, after a soul is dead for a time and has healed or grown in The Island of the Dead, the worries and frustrations of his former mortal life eases, and the soul begins to yearn to improve itself or to take on new tasks.
When this happens, the soul rises and travels across The Island of the Dead to the Spires of Eliezir, which stand on the coast of the Valleys of Twilight. There souls await transport across the River of Blood to the Paths of Shadow. There they await the calling to life.
See children, when it is time for a mom and a dad to have a child, a spark of life is created for an instant and this spark enters the Paths of Shadow searching the souls there to join with a receptive one. Likewise, willing souls seek sparks of life searching for one that is compatible with them.
When the match is right, the soul follows the spark of life into the Wold and a new child of the Noble Races comes into being.
Sometimes, children, the spark turns out to be weak or unsuitable. Or an outsider or evil spirit tags along with the spark to cause disease and misfortune. This can result in horrible situations. Other times, the spark does not find a compatible soul and the child is stillborn. When such situations occur, special priests of Gargul, known as Seekers are sent to right such situations when possible.
The Realms of Shadow
The Shadow Lands is a mysterious place that leads from the lands of the living to the lands of the dead. To many, it is only place of legend, misremembered as an "Ethereal" or "Astral" plane. To others, a part of their very faith and existence. It connects to the Wold in such a way that the dead know how to find it as well as those priests who deal with the dead. Where it overlaps the Wold, one can stand in the Shadows and peer back at those who may not see an invisible watcher. If one were to walk its dark paths deeper, or travel its glowing red streams and rivulets, it would be as if one traveled a very grim place, a haunted place, for it is the place where the living mix with the dead. The living have no shadows there, and the dead are only shadow. Both states of being may travel this realm, though neither can call it home. But high overhead, stars shine brightly down on all creatures, more brightly than they do in the Wold.
The dead travel the rivulets and streams of the Realm of Shadows on the way to the River of Blood, where they are rescued and delivered by servants of Gargul to the afterlife. The living may also travel its shadows and dark places looking for a route back to the Wold, or perhaps searching out death, but afraid of the pain and suffering of dying.
Travelers using the Shadow Lands should beware, for Gargul allows great leniency in his Realm. Great evils as well as great goods are allowed to fester and prosper at the borders, creating pocket realms and kingdoms -- the most terrifying of these is the nightmare realm of Koshe Marr. One can determine one's progress through the Realm of Shadows by the size of the streams and rivulets. Near the Wold, these are trickles and rivulets, like capillaries, but those courses of Woldsblood merge and thicken, forming streams and brooks, finally joining at the far end of the Shadow Lands, where these streams plunge into the River of Blood, also known as the River of Souls. On the shore of that river, the Ferrymen and Seekers of Gargul wait to take the dead to the afterlife, and carry the unborn back to the Wold.
Many undead roam the Shadow Lands in a final attempt to avoid the afterlife and any punishment that may be awaiting them there. One can also find the friendly dead there, some who are lost, and some who are awaiting rebirth.
If a friend dies, and a priest or witch is quick enough, the miracle-worker may inquire of the recently deceased and possibly raise him or her before the dead soul ever enters its rest. The longer a soul is dead, the further along the rivulets and streams towards The Island of the Dead the soul will have traveled, and the more powerful the resurrection magic will have to be.
Reincarnation is possible, but under Gargul's law, only his priests may administer this magic. Druids and witches who attempt such without the permission of the God of Life and Death do so at the risk of his wrath.
The Island of the Dead
So children, you wish to know about what happens with someone dies. As a person gets older, his passion for life dwindles. One eventually tires of life. Some races burn hard and fast, such as Minotaurs. Other races, such as the elves, live slowly and well, sometimes lasting thousands of years before crossing the River of Blood and moving on to the afterlife, that is, to The Island of the Dead.
Eventually, though, the spark of life dims and a person dies. Elves alone can choose the time of their passing or delay it for a short time without offending Gargul, God of Death and Life. Elves willingly pass through into the Shadow Lands and travel the Rivulets of Souls to the River of Blood where they are rescued and carefully allowed to enter the Lands of Rest.
No, children, not every creature enters the Lands of Rest. Occasionally, due to some unrighted wrong, or unfinished business, souls will refuse to enter the afterlife. When this happens, Gargul searches them out. Some may be evil, trying to avoid the torture that is their due in the afterlife. Others may feel that must stay until justice is served. So the soul remains behind and haunts a location or situation. To avoid one's punishments in the afterlife is to make them worse. To remain to resolve unfinished business may be noble or simply regretful and selfish on the part of the soul.
However, eventually every soul of Noble Races of Wold finds the place they need and want in the afterlife. Some souls may regret actions performed while alive and enter places of torment and sad repose in the Estates of Unrest. Other souls may have lived a tortured existence and wish to spend a time in contemplation of where they went wrong in the Lands of Rest.
The Island of the Dead is found at the far end of the Realm of Shadows. It is surrounded by the River of Blood, also called the River of Souls. When a person dies and his soul travels down the rivulets of blood that make up the Shadow Lands, he is eventually deposited into the River of Souls. There a Seeker or Ferryman of Gargul meets the soul and leads it to the desired resting place on the island.
The island has places of repose that will meet the needs of every soul for forever and a day, or until the soul is ready to rejoin the Wold. Basically, this island is divided up into three portions or locations: The Lands of Rest, the Valleys of Twilight, and the Estates of Unrest.
The Lands of Rest and the Estates of Unrest
The Lands of Rest, also known as the Eastlands and Haven Far, provide rest for those who are good of heart and mind. Souls may linger in the Fields of Memory, enjoy the Gardens of Contentment, Toil in the Fields of the Righteous, or loose themselves in the Forests of Fate. Here the Good and Noble Races find their true selves once again and find contentment after a life of strife and hardship. This portion of the Island of the Dead is home to the Gods of the Wold, lead by Alemi. Many people of the Wold, especially innocents who labor in life and who are comforted by the idea of rest and happy rewards after death, think only of the Lands of Rest when they ponder the afterlife, and they may refer to the entire Island of the Dead as the Lands of Rest (as shown in the artwork above). However, this is not true.
For the Estates of Unrest, also known as the Tormented Lands, provide trial and punishment for those evil souls who have not earned their rest, or learning and growth for those who seek to prove and improve their worth. Here they may be tormented for their evil deeds in the actual Pits of Despair or allowed to contemplate wrong decisions made while roaming with the Wolves of Memory. Some fight on eternal battlefields, explore treacherous infinite dungeons, or labor in other ways to master themselves. This portion of the Island of the Dead is home to the Gods of Testing, lead by Marteaus.
These two areas are separated by the Valleys of Twilight where Maab, the Queen of the Fey, holds sway. The valleys contain Lands of Yore from the times of the Gods of Yore, including lands long since removed from the Wold, and remembered only here. Those valleys near the Eastlands, tend to be bright and gay. Those valleys and lands near the Tormented Lands take on dark incarnations. Some valleys in her realm hold great evil, and others great goodness. Some say that the Valleys are places of dreams and mysteries.
The Valleys of Twilight are also where many ancient fey spirits formerly lived, while the Wold's Cradle slept -- now that Eberyon has awakened the Wold's Cradle, many fey nobles have returned to his court. Still, many also remain with Queen Maab, especially those who treasure knowledge and lore.
Magical forests and other natural places, such as Culverwood and the Cursed Swamp, have strong attachments to the twilit lands of The Valleys. Druids of Light and Dark constantly strive against each other to open and close conduits and connections to the Valleys of Twilight, and these battles and struggles occur on many levels and in most of the wild areas of the Wold. Overseeing all of this is Maab, the imperturbable, and her chaotic children. If a Druid can open the way for a good Outsider (or other wellsprings of good) to enter a place in the Wold, the presence of the creature of good slowly begins to affect the magic and alignment of the Wold's environment nearby. If the Outsider leaves, its effect for good slowly fades. Evil Outsiders (or other magical sources) act more powerfully and swiftly. A demon wandering the forest near a village may increase the evil activity of the area quickly and profoundly. However, the temperament of these wild areas quickly returns to its former state once the evil influence is gone. Evil is quick and profound. It is forgotten and lost in a short time. Good is slow and full of grandeur. It fades slowly and much pomp and history. Many times, these battles between good and evil force champions to actually follow their opponents into the Valleys of Twilight, there to confront thecause that is acting as the source for a disturbance. Such quests are full of danger and risk, pitting mortals against immortals.
Here is the story of when the Fae King awoke from his long slumber, and the Grey Knights sought the help of Queen Maab at her court in the wild days of the Dark Fae Rising.