Erebus is one of the thirteen Near Realms in The Umbra. For the Garou, the Umbra contains countless hellrealms, such as the Atrocity Realm and the Abyss. It also harbors its share of heavens, such as the Summer Country and the Aetherial Realm. But only one place serves as the spiritual purgatory for the Garou: the Near Realm of Erebus, feared and revered as a place of punishment and purification.
Erebus is the realm to which the Garou travel to sear the stain of shame and sin from their souls. Only in Erebus can werewolves fully divest themselves of the Wyrm's worst taint. This process is excruciating and spiritually perilous, however; the cleansing of Erebus involves a literal burning away of the Garou's sin, in a molten river of purest silver.
Even in this ruinous age, the realm of Erebus remains as it has since the beginning of recorded history. The realm itself consists of a vast labyrinth of ebon caves, twisting through a seemingly infinite layer of blackest shale. Throughout the caves flow searing rivers of molten silver, flowing like mercury to fill the entire realm. The rivers ultimately converge at the realm's nadir, flowing into into a vast silvery lake as wide as many earthly seas. Within the silver liquid, Garou lie immured, damned to burn in the waters until their sins are purged from them.
In the midst of the lake lies a vast island, on the island stands a great fortress, carved from the shale of the island and limned with silver-flaming braziers. This is the citadel of the Incarna Charyss, ruler of the realm. Shapeshifters are free to come and go in Erebus, though the realm is designed solely to cleanse Garou. Any attempts to interfere with the operations of the realm will be lethally punished, however. Erebus is a realm meant for Garou alone. No other shapeshifter may be immured in Erebus, nor may any other supernatural creature. In fact, if a non-shapeshifter dares to set foot in Erebus' "waters," they will be quickly burned to death; without the power of Gaia-given regeneration, it's impossible to survive the Silver Forge.
Other Fera may suffer no effect, helpful or harmful, from immersion (except possible drowning).
Cleansing Other FeraEdit
Alternate versions of Erebus do exist for the purpose of cleansing other Changing Breeds, although these sub-realms are noticeably smaller and harder to access. Each one is different in tone, and the punishments vary from inmate to inmate; a fallen Corax might have to undergo purification in a great tree hung with white-hot golden cages, while a Mokolé might burn in a waterless desert whipped by winds full of gold and silver shrapnel.
Even the Kitsune, who do not regenerate as such, can access their own private purgatory where the suffering is constant, but not lethal. As with Erebus and the Garou, each "sub-Erebus" is accessible (and useful) only to the Changing Breed it exists to cleanse. Nobody but a wereraven can find the gate to Modgudur's Tree, and it would take some hefty persuasion to convince the pale-feathered guardian to let any other shapeshifters inside to see how Corax do penance.
No "Erebus" or other variant exists to cleanse humans, vampires or any other non-shapeshifter.
The realm and its sub-realms are too lethal to cleanse anything that isn't fortified by being part spirit itself.
Charyss is a mighty Incarna. She rules Erebus absolutely, and Garou simultaneously revere and fear her. She may take many forms: her favorites include a silvery female Crinos glowing with Lambent Flame, a beautiful but forbidding human woman clad in red or silver garments, and a monstrous, medusoid Fury.
Despite her chilling nature and punitive agenda, Charyss is not a creature of the Wyrm. She exists to cleanse spirits of corruption. Not all Garou understand this, though, and many septs tell tales of Charyss as a brutal pain-spirit in thrall to the Wyrm.
Charyss is served by her Brood, spirits bound to her by ties of vassalage. Brood members appear as enormous Crinos werewolves, with furless skin of ebon or silver. The Brood seems demonic, with pulsing red eyes, whip like tails and long snakelike tongues. They bear silver spears, which they use to goad Unfortunates hither and yon. They are single-minded in their tasks of torment and ignore other creatures unless attacked or otherwise molested. Brood members psychically feed on Rage, however. A Garou who spends Rage in Erebus acts as a beacon to the rest of the Brood. If a Garou rages or, especially, frenzies, the Brood members can steal temporary Rage points from him, as an automatic action.
The Deal is a sinister game played by Charyss' Brood. Brood members without linked unfortunates sometimes seek out Garou visitors and challenge them to the Deal. The Deal consists of afacedown, gamecraft, or similar contest. If the werewolf visitor wins, the Brood member rewards her. The reward can take many forms: Servitude to the werewolf, guidance through the realm or the Umbra in general, the location of specific Unfortunates, and Erebus-specific fetishes or rites are examples of rewards.
Failure, though, causes the werewolf to become an Unfortunate linked to the Brood member. The Garou will be summarily immured in a silver river. The Deal itself is a test of the werewolf s wisdom: Wise Garou should realize that nothing the Brood member offers could be worth the risk of damnation. A Garou who does not realize this is a fool, and potentially a dupe of the Wyrm. Such beings are ripe for purification....
Werewolves who lose and refuse to go with the Brood member are set upon and subdued by as many Brood members as are necessary. One way or another, Charyss will have her due.
Erebus is home to countless prisoners, doomed to suffer in the realm. These beings, the Unfortunates, are Garou of all tribes and auspices — even Black Spiral Dancers. They are immersed in the burning silvery lakes until such time as they are deemed purified.<bt> Some Garou have been immured in Erebus for over a human lifetime; these Unfortunates are typically quite mad.
Each Unfortunate is punished in his or her own way. Furthermore, each Unfortunate is psychically linked to a particular Brood member, who supervises the Unfortunate's punishment. Through such a link, the Brood member gains access to the Unfortunate's innermost and most intimate thoughts and feelings, which can be used as part of the torture.
This link may be broken in one of three ways. Charyss herself may break the link, as may the Brood member. Or, one hopes, when the Garou is redeemed, the link automatically shatters and the Unfortunate is free to depart.
The Citadel and the CleansingEdit
As Unfortunates travel down the silver rivers, they come to the Citadel of Charyss in the midst of the Silver Lake. Only purified Unfortunates may enter the Lake. Unlike the rivers, the Lake itself does not burn. Upon entering the waters of the Lake, Garou are instantly healed of all their wounds. All memories of their former sins seem distant, like faded dreams.
Finally, the healing complete, Garou wash up on the shores of the island. Orbs of silvery light dance about the recently purged. These orbs guide them to the Silver Gate, an exit into the Near Umbra. At this exit, Charyss herself, in human form, waits for the survivor.
Charyss herself acknowledges that the Garou has been cleansed, then mystically restores all of the Garou's Willpower, Rage, Gnosis, and health.
Charyss whispers "the secret of Erebus" in the Garou's ear; the "secret" is that Erebus itself is powerless to heal a Garou's soul. The physical pain of Erebus can cleanse the character's bodily taint and push the soul to the brink of repentance, but only the Garou in question can ultimately redeem themselves. Finally, Charyss grants the penitent the Rite of the Silver Forge.
Subsequently, Charyss guides the Garou through the Silver Gate, instructing her to envision a locale of her choosing, in either the Near Umbra or the material world. The Gate transports them to that locale.
Non-Unfortunate visitors may also travel along the banks of the rivers to reach the Citadel of Charyss. Along the way, they will be tempted by Brood members offering them the Deal; they must resist these importunities, as well as avoid flying into a Rage from the suffering of the Unfortunates in the rivers. Failure to control one's emotions cause them to become an Unfortunate herself, and the Brood will swiftly descend upon that person and immure them in the rivers.
Once on the shores of the lake, a pilot-less, empty barge mystically glides to the shore, awaiting the characters' entry. The barge guides the characters to the island and the Citadel. The barge may not be commandeered or capsized; it unerringly guides characters to the isle. Upon arriving on the isle, visitors will be greeted by an "honor guard" of Brood and escorted to the towering Citadel.
The fortress itself is eerie and magnificent. Tapestries, trophies, and artwork of all descriptions fill the Citadel. Weapons and fetishes of great potency line the walls; attempts to steal these items earn the would be thief a swift trip to the burning rivers. Eventually, the characters come to Charyss' throne room.
The Lady herself takes one of her many forms (depending on her mood) and greets the visiters. She then asks them what they have seen and learned in the realm. (Anyone stupid enough to attack her in any way are mystically transported into a silver river, to burn as an Unfortunate.)
Charyss listens impassively to whatever the characters tell her and replies as she sees fit. Particularly insightful visitors might be rewarded with knowledge of the Rite of the Silver Forge; others will simply be sent on their way.
Following the audience, the Brood escorts the characters to a stone passage behind the Citadel; this leads into the Null Zone, from which nearly any destination may be accessed. Condemnation and Reward.
Erebus is never discovered by accident. The primary means of entry to Erebus is the Silver Road, a wide moon bridge. This road leads straight to the cavernous, dim Gates of Erebus. The Gates are forged from silver and black iron. At the Gates of Erebus waits the guardian, the great canine monster immortalized in Greek mythology as Cerberus. True to form, the monster has three heads and stands as high at the shoulder as a Crinos Garou. The beast is restrained by three silver collars and squats amid a ghastly litter of gnawed bones.
Cerberus embodies the Triat: of Weaver, Wyld, and Wyrm, any of which in excess Can send one here. His left head is that of a Hispo with kaleidoscopic eyes; his center head is that of a Black Spiral Dancer Hispo, with batlike ears and flickering balefire for a tongue; his right head is cybernetic, forged entirely from black steel.
The beast does not prevent visitors from entering; per the myths, his duty is to keep damned souls in. Creatures foolish enough to attack Cerberus will provoke a furious response, and they'll likely join the pile of bones on the cavern floor.
Other entrances to Erebus are the Rite of the Silver Forge and the Dream Zone. Getting out of Erebus is more difficult. One must journey through the realm to the Citadel of Charyss, where an exit into the Null Zone awaits the traveler.
The Laws of HellEdit
- A Garou who undergoes the Silver Forge gains permanent Honor and Wisdom Renown.
- Garou in Erebus regenerate aggravated damage as though it were normal. No Garou may drown in the liquid silver.
- The guardian of Erebus forbids exit through the front gates.
- Garou in the rivers suffer one aggravated health level of damage per turn — the same rate at which they heal. Thus, Garou in the rivers remain perpetually alive and in torment.
- The only light in the realm comes from the glow of the silver liquid, but it's enough: attempting to perceive things in the dim light are increased.
- Erebus is a crucible of the spirit as well as the body. Garou who survive Erebus forever be less prone to Frenzy. They still can fall to frenzy however.
- Black Spiral Dancers who survive Erebus and are cleansed may join whatever tribe will have them, beginning their new lives as cliath of the appropriate tribe. All their Gifts and rites are burned from them, forcing them to begin anew, but they become full members of their new tribe in every way upon their Rites of Passage.
- Because of the spiritual revelation they undergo, some Garou gain permanent Gnosis from their experience in Erebus. Furthermore, Garou who have appropriate experiences in Erebus may use this to justify purchases of Gnosis, Willpower or Rage.
- The Brood and Unfortunates have a strong link between them; thus, no Unfortunate reaches the Silver Lake without being purified.
- The glow emanating from the rivers evokes images of tragedy and terror in viewers' minds. These images solidify as phantasms, which enact the scenes as they hover over the silvery liquid.
- Taint from the Weaver and Wyld is likewise purged in the Silver Forge.