Darinarxul, the Root of Darkness
Parallel to the Prime Material Plane is the Plane of Shadow. Not a plane of evil, as the various hells, it is still a dangerous plane, home to undead and fell creatures. The illumians (races of destiny) stand as one of the scattered lights on this plane of eternal night, and know much of its secrets and lore (Kno the Planes DC 18). The illumians whisper stories of how the plane of shadows can in fact connect one Prime to another, sometimes a wildly different world and sometimes a strange reflection of the world. There sages only rarely seek out the shadow gates necessary to travel between Primes this way, considering them too dangerous and too wild to risk venturing into lightly. As such even these dwellers of shadow knowlittle and what they know is very limited. (Kno the Planes DC 23) They can point, however, to one who knows much more. Xulda, the mad drow, outcast from his people he fled the Prime to the Plane of Shadows seeking solace in its eternal darkness so similar to the Underdark which he had loved. Xulda is an isolationist and a hermit who dwells now in the Screaming Canyon, a place filled with dangerous shadows and winds similar to those of Pandemonium, but no other living entity has traveled as far or as widely in the way of shadows between Primes. (Kno the Planes DC 28) Xulda makes no secret of how the sights of a hundred worlds, of a dozen or more where he returned to his city and found that even in these shadows of his life it was no home to him, have driven him to madness and hallucination. Even so he swears that something dwells in the dark between the Primes, something dread, dark, and ancient. He speaks of it only in hushed whispers, fearing that it will hear his words and come looking. He swears too that it is hungry (Kno the Planes DC 31). While Xulda's reports may seem incredulous to some given his madness, there are hints and whispers elsewhere that he may be right. Stories tell of a creature which preys upon those who wander too deeply into Shadow, a creature whose hunger goes beyond mere travelers, and that even in its sleep its warping presence destroys wanderers driving them to madness. A few of these stories date back to truly ancient days and warn of the creature's dangers, and its power not in the depths of Shadow, but in the Prime itself. (Kno the Planes DC 35). These stories claim to be penned by refugees, fleeing a world 'ripened' by the beast before it ate them, warn of the ways they have tried to stop it and how they have failed time and time again. Stories warn of the cycle as the creature feasts and slumbers, only to awaken and feast again. It leaves the worlds drained and unable to sustain life, before returning to its dark lair and sleeping once more. (Kno the Planes DC 39). This cycle has gone on for eternity, the creature, identified in some texts as Darinarxul or in the language of the Aboleths 'Root of Darkness', feasting upon one of the many reflections of the Prime every 500 years since the first primes were born. As it approaches the prime it sends forth first its roots throughout the plane of shadow, seeds spreading from them. Only when the plane of shadow is fully infested does it begin to stretch into the Prime itself, and once this happens... the ancient texts all swear it is too late. The Root of Darkness will twist and taint the Prime, making it corrupt and inhospitable, and as it does so it will drink its life force as a root absorbs the water from the ground. When it is done the plane is nothing but an eternal mausoleum, no new life able to grow upon it, and even what life comes to it from other worlds being twisted in madness and horror (Kno the Planes DC 43). Some aboleth texts hint that in a previous iteration of the multiverse the draeden held a way to drive off Darinarxul and hold the creature at bay, and that such a means still exists on the 92nd layer of the Abyss (Kno the Planes DC 52).
The ancient texts agree upon one thing. Darinarxul has but one goal and desire, to feast. It is a being of pure hunger, pure need to eat, no thought, no sentience, nothing but that primal desire. (Kno the Planes DC 38) A few, though, hint that the creature has something more to it than just instinctual desire. That the creature lures travelers between the worlds to it and takes them in, warping their mind into slavish devotion. It sends these individuals forth to soften a world for its coming, performing rituals to ease its passage, and committing atrocities to taint the land itself. (Kno the Planes DC 42) Darinarxul is fully sapient, even if driven primarily by simple hunger, and uses this intelligence to plan and prepare, offering great and dark power in exchange for servitude, this and the chance to escape to another world when it is done. Darinarxul's goal however is to sink its roots into the world and spread its taint throughout the world. As it does so the dark plant will render the realm incapable of sustaining new life (Kno the Planes DC 45).
A chill runs through the night, a cold that is not physical. Those who dwell too long in it find their souls screaming with terror, their minds melting in horror. And where that chill sets in nothing can live, nothing can grow.
Faint: Creatures within tainted areas (see Heroes of Horror for Taint Rules) cannot regain hit points by any means, and cannot be resurrected or raised while in such an area. Any damage inflicted in a tainted area is considered vile damage, and nonlethal damage cannot be dealt in such regions.
Moderate: The Plane of Shadow conterminous to the afflicted Prime becomes a tainted area (depraved), as does any region in magical darkness for more than 1 hour until it has been in bright light for at least 1 hour. Creatures cannot be conceived in tainted areas.
Strong: The Plane of Shadow conterminous to the afflicted Prime now inflicts both depravity and corruption as does any region in magical darkness. Any area in shadowy or no illumination is considered tainted inflicting depravity. All growth stops in tainted areas, growing crops becoming problematic.
Overwhelming: The entire Prime Material Plane is considered tainted inflicting depravity. Any area in shadowy or no illumination inflicts both depravity and corruption.
Shadows of Madness
Madness wears at the mind opening holes in the armor it brings to bear.
Effect: Creatures suffer a penalty to Will saves based upon their current depravity (Mild -1, Moderate -3, Severe -5). Creatures with Moderate or greater depravity lose any bonus to saves specifically against or immunity to Mind-Affecting Effects and cannot gain bonuses to saves specifically against Mind-Affecting Effects or immunity to mind-affecting effects. A creature whose depravity would drive them totally insane within this malefic property's area instead loses all taint and becomes absolutely loyal to Darinarxul
Darinarxul enters the world as hundreds of massive tree-like roots. They move first throughout the Plane of Shadow and then create portals from it into the Prime underground stretching its roots throughout it sending out taint. Massive roots of an extraplanar tree of doom destroying the roots are a set-back at most, though Darinarxul will use its mortal minions to protect them anyway. Darinarxul can be driven away from a plane by powerful elder magics predating the creation of the current multiverse, but the only way to kill it is to travel into the region between Planes of Shadow and destroy that bridge of shadows, an effect which will almost certainly destroy the heroes who do so (and render them vestiges) and the Plane of Shadow Darinarxul is currently infesting.