The Umbra of Egypt

The Nile

The Nile is the lifeblood of Egypt, both in the physical world and the Umbra. In the Umbra its banks are filled with life, and the water shimmers with Quintessence (although it is much weaker today than it once was, due to the Assuan Dam). The floods still occur in the Umbra, despite that the Dam has prevented them in the physical world. Beneath the surface crocodile and fish spirits swim, and sometimes the surface briefly manifests the faces of the forgotten river divinities. Its water is life-giving in the Umbra, and by creating channels and irrigation various spirits create their own tiny realms around it.

Travel along the Nile is much faster in the Umbra than in the real world.

The Pyramids

In the Umbra, the pyramids are immense, much larger and better preserved than in the physical world and literally shining with power. Their smooth sides are covered with the hieroglyphs of the Book of the Dead or magickal incantations, and their apexes are golden. Around them stands temple complexes and causeways flanked by obelisks shimmering with Quintessence. Protective spirits guard them in the Umbra and sing the praises of the dead. Still, time has gnawed even here - many of the temples are decayed, and some of the buildings stand empty and silent. The pyramids still hold strong, but around them the desert is spreading.

The pyramids are artificial nodes, and use part of their quintessence to uphold the realms of the dead. The pyramids contained hidden chambers where the dead kings and servants could reside in splendour, and where the true occult secrets were hidden. Unfortunately these have partially decayed after the defeat of the Egyptian Land of the Dead by the hands of the Iron Kingdom; the Osirians choose to withdraw to their own realms, moving the chambers from the Umbra and physical world to the Shadowlands. Still, some secret passages remain interconnecting the Umbra, physical world and Shadowlands (see below).

Entering the Pyramids in the Umbra is not simple, since they are all guarded. Most of the lesser pyramids have been robbed even of their spiritual power so that the guards are weakened, but the great pyramids are still strong enough to pose a formidable defence against curious mages and spirits. They are true fortresses, intended to withstand the attacks of time. On the other hand, by now many of their secrets have been found out, and intrepid mages can use them for their own purposes - to a small extent.

Magickally the pyramids are very powerful. Magick performed at the apex or in the central chamber is supported by abundant quintessence and occult resonances with the entire pyramid (if the mage attunes the magick in the right way; a discordant act of magick is damped by the thick stones). But it should be noted that everything that is said and done in the pyramids will be noted by someone or something. Especially the Technocracy has taken great pains to monitor their activity - there is a whole amalgam at the Helwan construct that keeps an eye on quintessence levels and activities around the pyramids.

Entering the Underworld

The guardians at the entrance are the first test. The best way to pass into the pyramid from the Umbra is to follow the Book of the Dead, which contains the secret passphrases and signs that must be given. Without it the journeying soul will most certainly get lost or be destroyed by malign forces. The entrances to the pyramids are blocked by rectangular doors of gold with inlaid lapis lazuli and a golden disc, guarded by two lions. The right is named Sef (yesterday), the left Tau (tomorrow). To gain entrance the visitor has to respectfully answer the question "Who is this?" from the lions. The answer is to recite from the 17th chapter of the Book of the Dead: "It is Tem, the dweller in the his disc, of (as others say) it is Ra, in his rising, in the Eastern Horizon of heaven. He saith, "I am yesterday, I know tomorrow." Yesterday is Osiris, and tomorrow is Ra on the day when he shall destroy the enemies of Neb-er-tcher, and when he shall establish as Prince and Ruler his son Horus."

Inside the halls pyramid the visitor has to find the secret passages into the Underworld. They are not easy to find, but there are some hints in the Book of the Dead if one knows where to look (Intelligence + Occult against 8). It is also possible to summon Anubis, the guide of the dead. This being is honour-bound to guide the summoner to the Underworld safely, although it will not help him pass the required challenges, just watch impassively.

There are two ways to the other worlds from the interior of the pyramids. The North way, the Way of Immortality leads through the lands of the gods to the Heavenly Nile where the Bark of the Sun floats (this corresponds to a path into the High Umbral realm of the Egyptian Court). The South way, the Way of Tuat leads through the spiritual wastelands in the Shadowlands to the Hall of Two Truths, where the soul of the visitor is judged before entrance to the Underworld (the Egyptian Far Shores) is given after hard tests. Unfortunately this is the only way Anubis will show.

Beyond the Horizon

The Way of Immortality starts when the traveller emerges from the northern gate of the pyramid into the world beyond. After a long journey straight to the north across the barren landscape the traveller will come upon two rectangular lakes filled with green water. These are the pools of the two Truths, whose water give immortality to those blessed by the gods. The right pool contains natron, and the left nitre. In the water the god Uacherura, the Great Green Water, resides. The traveller has to give the correct supplications before passing between the pools to the Amenti, Gate of North.

This great gate is placed where heaven curves down to meets the earth, and leads to the lands beyond heaven. After passing through Amenti, the traveller will stand before the gate of Taser, which is guarded by two guardians who will not open it unless the traveller says: "Give me your strength, for I am made even as ye". Then they will open it, and the traveller will enter the lands beyond heaven. Before taking more than three steps in these lands he must pronounce the correct adorations of the Lords of the Truth beyond the North Heaven, or disaster will occur.

After a while the traveller will find a pool beneath Acacia trees, where the god Horus manifested as a cat kills a snake, the manifestation of Apopis. If the traveller behaves properly, he is then showed the way to the heavenly Nile where the Bark of the Sun moves with the Egyptian Court of gods and spirits. Throughout the journey, the visitor has to recite the proper prayers and invocations of the gods, or they will turn away and the visitor will be plunged into confusion or the Abyss.

The Tuat

This is the dead land
This is cactus land
Here the stone images
are raised, here they receive
the supplication of a dead mans hand
under the twinkle of a fading star.
T.S. Elliot, The Hollow Man
The Southern Way is harder, but the only way to reach the Underworld where the dead reside. The gate on the southern side of the pyramid will open into An-rut-f, the Place Where Nothing Grows, a huge desert the exact opposite of the lush gardens of the divine realms. The journey across An-rut-f is painful and dangerous, and without the guidance of Anubis there is a good chance that the spirit-jackals will devour the traveller or that a sandstorm will prove fatal.

Most of the desert is just a stony desert or badlands with no water and a thin, tiring air. Here and there there are rains of fire or stinging insects, walls of thorny bushes with bitter leaves, and fearsome monsters hiding in wait for unwary travellers. Another danger is the Lost, humans and spirits who have been lost in the underworld too long and have become feral creatures desperate after any form of salvation (see below).

Eventually the tired traveller will reach the gate of Tchesert, the Gate of the Pillars of Shu (a great black pillar to the left and a great white pillar to the right), where the southern sky meets the ground. It is the northern gate of the Tuat, the entrance into the Hall of two Truths. To enter the Hall, the traveller has to recite a long litany from the 17th chapter of the Book of the Dead, where he claims his right to enter the Hall, affirms his will to seek the light and renounces all his crimes. If the litany is recited properly, Anubis will lead the traveller into the Hall.

In the Hall, the 42 Judges of the Dead are seated in a long row. The traveller has to name each in turn, and deny the sin of which the judge presides over (the "negative confession" described in Book of the Dead). If the traveller passes this test, Anubis leads the traveller into the antechamber of the Temple where he is reclothed and anointed. He then has to give the passwords to Anubis, and demand to be brought into the Hall of Truth to have his heart weighed. The dread Guardian of the Gateway will stop him unless he says "Because I am silent, because I am pure".

Eventually the traveller will enter the Hall of Truth, to have his heart weighed against the Feather of Maat. If the heart is too impure, the feather will move down and the traveller will be fed to the Devourer Ammut. Otherwise Thoth will inscribe the name of the traveller in his papyrus, and proclaim the traveller an Osirian, worthy to live in the Afterlife.

Many of the dead did not succeed at all the tests, forgot the passwords or didn't even have a copy of the Book of the Dead with them in the afterlife. They wander the great wasteland, desperately seeking a way to enter the Afterlife. A merciful traveller may help them pass the tests, but many have fallen prey to dark forces, and quite a few have become insane spectres over the centuries they have been denied entrance. Some are willing to do anything to learn the required litanies, including killing travellers and stealing their copies of the Book.

The Kingdom of Reeds

Tarot Card: Final Judgement
God: Osiris
Symbol: Osiris surrounded by his court
Animal: The Jackal
Thing: A reed boat.

The Egyptian realms have always been different from the other realms of the dead. Their rulers, the Osirians, have never sought to expand them past their borders, and fought off any attacks from the outside with great success. The osirians once worked together with the living to an extent never seen anywhere else, which have protected the Kingdom of Osiris from the ravages of Oblivion.

The osirians are the supreme rulers of the Egyptian underworld, subservient only to Osiris himself. They are incredibly ancient wraiths of great power; kings, priests and warriors kept strong by magick and tradition. Beneath them are a hierarchy of lesser wraiths, organised as pharaonic society. Farmers farm the fertile fields, fishermen fish for spectral fish in the Nile and scribes record the harvests. During the first dynasties many servants were buried alive with the king, but later dynasties were content with building funeral complexes around the major tombs to provide each ruler with servants, who arrived after their deaths and took their place in the system. Unlike the An-rut-f and the horrors of Tuat, the Kingdom is a pleasant place where time is unknown. Unlike everywhere else in the underworld there are animals; they were mummified by the priests as part of the cult. But outside the fertile valley around the Nile stretches the deserts of Oblivion, where there is only death.

The general attitude of the Kingdom of Osiris is quality over quantity; Oblivion is fought by testing all souls attempting to enter the Kingdom in the Halls of Truth and destroying those with too great taint by giving them directly to the Devourer, a powerful manifestation of Oblivion with the head of a crocodile, the forequarters of a lion, and the hindquarters of a hippopatamus.. The pyramids and other immortal monuments also provide the kingdom with stability and memoriam, and provides a route between the worlds.

Still, from time to time the great storms from the desert blows in, and sometimes spectral warriors appear to attempt to wrest control from the osirians. They are met with the armies of the kingdom, led by Alexander the Great (the brilliant young sociopath ordered that he was to be buried in Egypt since he realised that could ensure him an even greater afterlife than burial elsewhere; Stygia regrets and curses the loss). So far most of the kingdom have survived the attacks, although the destruction of the Lighthouse at Pharos in a great maelstrom made it impossible to reach the sea from the Kingdom. Today it is almost completely cut off from the rest of reality, and slowly the desert creeps inwards. The floods of the Nile are growing weaker, and the fields are not quite as fertile as before.

Although the Kingdom is still strong, it has lost contact with the rest of the world (something the osirians doesn't care about). Stygia did not succeed in conquering it, but managed to influence the living slightly to weaken its links to the skinlands. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the mummies were sold as medicine to Europe based on the false assumption that since the mummies were destined to live for eternity, by ingesting parts of them a person could live longer. This made it impossible for many of the osirians to manifest in the skinlands, and as the old treasures were scattered they lost touch with them altogether. Islam has gradually removed the worship of the old gods, and the dead enter the Moslem underworld instead of the Kingdom of Osiris.

Another unusual aspect of the Kingdom and the Tuat is the Ach spirits ("the powerful ones", "the shining ones"). Just as a wraith may become a spectre by succumbing to oblivion, a wraith may become an Ach spirit by transcending. Possibly the Ach are the remnants of a transcended being, or a kind of manifestation of the high umbral aspects of it. The ach-iker, the perfected ones, seem to be representations of powerful people who have died in spiritual perfection. But Ach spirits can be dangerous if the balance of Maat is upset, and may wander around the Tuat or physical world seeking to restore the order by any means. This makes them especially dangerous to mages suffering paradox.

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