Hello egamers, and welcome back to another VulcanVerse lore overview by leading gaming studio Vulcan Forged. Today we explore the Underworld of Hades. Named after the god who ruled over the dead, was, in ancient Greek religion, the realm of the dead. In VulcanVerse, the Underworld of Hades is the southwesternmost quadrant. The Underworld of Hades is the place where all mortals go when they die and, traditionally, very few escape. In today’s digital VulcanVerse, the Underworld, like the other quadrants, has been sanitized by Vulcan, god of the forge, to allow mortals the chance to build on this land so modern man can come and go as he or she pleases. This was, however, not always the case…
The Houses of the Dead
We begin on the Sacred Way, the route that encircles VulcanVerse like a great wheel with its spokes the inroads from the coast that run towards Vulcan City in the center. Many things in VulcanVerse have changed, but the location and importance of the Sacred Way remain. Here, a traveler would be standing on the Way with the Place from which None Return, a maze of sandstone buttes in the Desert of Notus to their back as they gazed east into a drifting mist concealing a pale red sky. This mist was the veil of the shadow of death, and it surrounded Hades, preventing all routes in or out.
There were only two ways to travel between Hades and the greater VulcanVerse; the Gate of Ivory and the Gate of Tears. A sulfurous odor hung in the air, permeating the nostrils of anyone lingering in this area. When Hades, along with the other gods, fell into a slumber, tales tell of Charon the ferryman allowing heroes passage from the Gate of Tears; here, he would transport the traveler across the River of Tears cried by the myriad of contorted faces of anguish, carved into yet somehow animated on the dark granite walls of the towering gate. Charon himself was a frightening-looking figure, face almost concealed under the hood of a dark funeral shroud, staff (or oar, as it is sometimes called) in hand — though it was not Charon’s role to judge a soul here, he would simply provide passage into the underworld.
During the times that people, particularly heroes, gained access to the underworld, stories emerged from the few who made it out alive, giving the living an idea of what awaited their souls after death.
The Volcano of Thanatos
Traveling southwest from the gate and into the shadowlands of Hades, to the east was the volcano of death, known by its more proper name of the Volcano of Thanatos. The volcano stood like a great black monolith, its lower slopes covered in a thick layer of ash, its foothills dark igneous rock, the one-time glowing lava flows expanding the base of the volcano. It was said by those that did observe it and escaped the underworld that there was not a time when the Volcano of Thanatos was not belching smoke and black powder. Shades were said to wander the volcano’s slopes, lost and confused. It was written that offerings were made to Thanatos, the death god. These would be thrown over the rim of the volcano into the roaring flames. It is written that the entrance to Tartarus was to be found in the vicinity of the volcano’s slopes.
To the south of the volcano could be found a lake formed from the Cocytus, the river of wailing that originated in Tartarus. This area was said to be so cold that the lake, yellow with sulfur, was frozen over. This southeast corner of the underworld consisted of vast plains littered with tombstones, desolate, cold with a constant steady wind. Shades, the souls of the dead, could be seen wandering aimlessly across the open land here. Crossing these Plains of Howling Darkness would bring an adventurer towards the southern stretch of the Sacred Way and, just to the west, the Slimeswamp.
A traveler would locate the Slimeswamp by spotting the rising steam and silhouettes of dark trees against the pale sky when seen from the plains. A terrible marshland of foul waters, a steaming rotten miasma, the only route through being compressed mud forming pathways. In this area, Mangrove trees grew; half tree, half corpse, the trees each said to have contorted faces on the trunk. Ancient naturalists explained how Mangrave trees would propagate themselves: in the fetid waters, corpses lay just below the surface. Egg-like seeds would grow on the end of the branches of the tree. Mangrave tree seed dispersal was simple — the seed, or a tendril sent from the seed, was said to reach or fall into the brackish water and settle on the drowned corpse, where it would germinate — and a new Mangrove tree would grow. Some horrifying stories report that the bodies in the swamp were not of dead people — they were merely paralyzed.
Mangrave trees were not the only danger lurking in the acrid bog. Great thick webs of slime hung between the myriad of tree trunks, traversed by huge spiders said to be able to paralyze a man with their venom. Ancient rumors spoke of a temple to Arachne hidden in the center of the Slimeswamp and, as in the Desert of Notus, the presence of Arachne’s children, her spiderlings.
The Delta of Darkness
Between the Slimeswamp and the Delta of Darkness, at the confluence of the rivers Acheron and Styx, was a place of endless dark earth covered in a thin layer of ash, dotted with rotting dead trees. The Delta of Darkness itself was said to consist of brackish black sludge where the rivers met, slowly oozing out into the waters of Oceanus. Small islets and isolated pockets of land protruded from the dark waters here. The delta was foul smelling, the air filled with mosquito-like insects.
Some of the islets contained small structures — on one a shrine, on another a small hut-like building. To the west of the delta is the southwest extent of the Underworld of Hades, a woodland of Hades White Poplars, trees sacred to Hades himself, on a small peninsula near an ancient tower.
From here, the adventurer must head north…
VulcanVerse is a flagship metaverse and an MMORPG game of the Vulcan Forged ecosystem where players can create their own quests and adventures, battle against other Vulcanites, forage for NFTs, and truly own their digital assets in the form of NFTs.