Monday, 6 May 2019

The Waste

Trying to put a face on absolute Nothing and give the loss of meaning itself a kind of geography. Something like a meta-desert. I have not read the Neverending Story. Did watch the film though.

This is the current boundary of the known world of Uud.

(If things go on, it may turn out to be more of a very dark kind of connective tissue instead.)


All know it. Even in the soft, safe centre of the Grey Cities, and upon the tallest peaks of the Mountains of Reality, Mankind knows it is surrounded.

The Waste waxes, its power rolls forth. Storms roll over Blackwater, the soft mists rise; invasive fingers pushing inland, crawling over everything, sneaking tendrils over hills and into valleys, hiding monsters and Her children. Shadows in the Mist.

Nowhere is safe.

The continent of Blackwater is bounded on all sides by the Waste of Yggsrathaal. The Waste pushes against Blackwater. It tries to roll over the cities, over the mountains, seeking always to consume the land, to take everything and make everything Waste.

The Waste is whatever remains of Udd when it was still shining Esh; the Diadem of Worlds before it fell. Esh was consumed, the Wreath of Worlds pulled apart like dough being stretched, each piece growing more distant from the other, until it was eaten alive by Yggsrathaal.

Her power ebbs and flows over time.

On the Blackriver plains, the margin of the Waste can roll forward over centuries. Over years. Over hours. Only repelled where Declension meets the Mountains, and held there like a wall of cloud, raging against What-Is.

Then, for days, or years or unpredictable ages of man, the Waste pulls back. A mile? Two? A hundred? There is stable land, real direct light, calm winds, even stars and the black of night. Birds fly out into the clear air, still a desert, but no longer Hell.

But for how long? She could take it all back in a moment. Or could she?

Could there be clear passage to another realm? Could another fragment of Esh have survived somewhere out there?


What counts as Marginal land can shift, year by year, or even hour by hour. Whole sub-realms might be swallowed over minutes.

There are failed cities out there, places where the rituals were not kept, where the megastructures failed or where the Waste was too strong. Warnings to the rest.

You can tell by the tenor of the air. The shadow of Her terror lies across the Margins of the Waste. A wind that leeches colour rides the emptiness, and a rain which, when tasted, strips the mind. The water is not safe. Nothing is safe.

Yet, people do live here, or try to. Those driven from the Cities or the Queendoms, or simply seeking freedom. There can be no law here, and nothing to enforce it. The soil decays slowly to ash. But ash is fertile. Grey reeds replace the grass. Needle-Forts manned by Stylite-Paladins sentinel the passes, watching for the un-things that come from the deeps. Villages, homesteads, cults infesting ruined castles, murderous predator Aeth in paling forests, anyone who does not wish to be ruled or interrupted comes here, to the edge of the world.


Cold north, stagnant south, the dead seas of the west or the endless storms of the east, you know when you have met the Waste.

Grey clouds piling on a grey land, either parched dry or humming with humidity. Crushing gloom. No ray of sun but a sharp, grey, polarised light that has no source. Thick grey storms piled like cotton wool or sheepskins heaped into mountains, pressing down upon the earth, but never breaking.

The Waste warps and changes, blisters as you look at it, like a reflection in melting glass. Things move on the horizon.


You must never drink the water in the Waste. A lesson you should have learned in the Marginal Lands, but the effect is stronger here, it might be that a single drop could annihilate every memory, reduce you to a blank.

Salt pan crunches beneath your feet. The flats are caked in ash that melts instantly into adhesive grey mush at the first breath of rain.

Huge castle-sized dunes of ash and dust, such terrible dust; fine, grey, gritty, crawling into the corners of the eye, the nose, beneath the fingernails, in the hair in the shoes, in food. You wade in an ocean of the softest ash, trying not to breathe.

No clear unshadowed light, and no absolute dark without some vague gleaming round its edges. No steady rhythm of night and day, no predictability, no moon, no stars, no night, no day, only a tireless consuming mutable Nothing.

Nothing moves but the ghosts of birds, the grey gulls; maddening echo of life.

Something in the distance, mountainscapes stripped of life, scoured down to cinerous bedrock, perhaps an Age ago, perhaps yesterday, or is that shadow no mountains but the coils of an enormous wyrm?

Worst of all, the terrible watchful quiets when even the static-hiss wind fades and silence rises up like a smothering pillow. So quiet you hear your own pulse, the shifting of your skin over your flesh, breath heaving like an engine. These are the Eyes of the Waste.


The Waste changes like a slow sea, corpses of ancient nations washed up unseen in what passes for night. A tower in the distance. A city gleaming. A hint of colour -

Dangerous temptations. She is watching, even here.

Still, there are always those who wish to test themselves, or those seeking some impossible end who will attempt the Waste.

It is popularly supposed that the very nature of the Waste precludes any meaningful observation or divining. Even the sight of the deep Waste through spells and visions is meant to be corrosive to the mind. It’ s also illiegal everywhere.

Nevertheless, Humanity being what it is, many take this as a challenge, and off-the books, criminal, idealistic or just mad would-be-augururs of the Waste can be sought out in many places. Wizards, sorcerers, cracked mathematicians and lunatic Theists who think their particular God has afforded them accurate dreams can all "guarantee" the existence and location of "safe" places in the Waste.

The Augurers tell many tales...

Some speak of great fallen storms; cyclones of enormous size, frozen into grey glass by the effect of the Waste, falling to earth and shattering. These enormous ruined palaces of cracked and flowing glass, riddled with unpredictable passages, then broken into a thousand pieces, are said to still exist. More importantly, the strange warrens of these ruins, and the edges of their glass walls, are said to be hard for the Waste to penetrate. Even the grey mist is cut off by their angles. Here, the Augurers whisper, living microcultures and clean water may be found.

Others speak of fallen Wreathe-Ships still, protected from Entropy by their powerful sustaining magics. It is known in song and story that Humanity once strode the stars and planes. These ships are said to be one of the means by which this was done. What powered them, or what strange or timeless capacities they might have, are the subjects of myth and conjecture.

Some talk of wrecked Titans, relics of the inter-planar war against Yggsrathaal, lying in the ash like murdered Gods, their strange interiors and ruined bodies still guarded by half-living creatures of Thaumaturgic art.

The fallen Grey Cities, lost in the last great expansion of the Waste, two and a half thousand years ago, must still be there. It has been so long, all that is known of such places is rumour, story and song. There could be great treasures there, lying unclaimed. Or perhaps they have been taken by Her creatures, or infested by the Teratarchies.

One concept that consumes a minority of radicals in Blackwater, is that idea of re-taking the lost cities. The old Megastructures must still be there. If the city was re-inhabited, the structures repaired, if, somehow, new rituals could be begun, then for the first time in memory, Blackwater might actually expand, taking back what had been lost, pushing back the Waste.

And if such a thing could be done once, in the ruin of a city, could it not be done again, with the building of an entirely new city? In theory at least?

For now, these are crazed and idealistic dreams.


At the edges of Blackwater, rivers run and curl out into the dustlands, or dissolve and burrow under the salt flats. Both suspected deep-time geoengineering and the more brutal efforts of modern powers encourage rivers to stay within the bounds of liveable land. Canals and levees, aqueducts and channels all try to guide waterways back into liveable country, to stop them becoming, literally, a waste.

But hydrogeology pays little attention to the borders of nations or the needs of civilisation. Over one age, or another, they bend, shift and move as they will. So rivers surge out into the grey desert, like lines of black pencil on a sun-paled page, or spread out into acrid lagoons, shimmering shallow pools full of disturbing shrimp, fed on by evil-eyed pale grey flamingos. Some sweep out into the Waste for a hundred miles or more, then come back inland. These are always guarded and watched, often strung with chains and barred water-gates.

The cold black waters seem to resist the annihilating power of the Waste. They pin the land in shape, provide vital fresh water and allow relatively easy transport. On the borders of such streams, micro-ecologies of oaplescent reeds wave in the waste wind. There are islands and rumours of islands out there. Small, safe, steep-sided fortress isles where a traveller can rest, and perhaps even use as a base to go further.

Many are tempted to use such rivers to explore, driving boats or canoes deep into the Waste in search of other lands or pathways through the endless expanse.

It’s much easier to let the river take you out into the Waste than to find your way back, paddling your way against the current, and every expedition must make a careful choice, deciding at exactly which point they should turn back.

It is very easy to go on just a little too long.

Sometimes the Waste can be kind. It seems foolish to not use these 'Kindly Gaps', to force your way as far as possible while the conditions are still good. But travel even one day too far, even a handful of hours too far...

Perhaps the river runs out into a delta of sucking mud, perhaps rains increase the flow, making it harder to row back, certainly you will lose one or two members on every trip, making it harder to return. You may run out of food, go mad, lose your memory in the rain and not know why you are rowing or where.

All it takes is one mistake, or poor twist of luck and then event compounds on event, disaster on disaster. Food runs out, water is tainted, the Waste shifts, and She notices you. (And perhaps She always knew you were there.) The river sweeps you, or what is left of you, back out into the Grey.


Some animals find a way to live among the Margins, and some of these do seem, sometimes, to travel in and out of the Waste via paths of safety they alone can sense.

To the north, grim, angry, shaggy splinterhorn goats, to the south the lolloping, wrathful moon-eyed camelS, able to spit dangerously alkalai wads directly into the eye at a significant distance.

Crepuscular grey racing Hares live on both boundaries, and can be seen in the low gloom of morning or the gloaming before the dark, making their way in and out of the Waste in strange shadowy lines.

In the sky, thin trickles of daylight or starlight at night, or a path of the moon like a crack between clouds, suggest some semi-stable route out into the Nothing. Sometimes birds can be seen returning on these sky-paths.

Birds cannot always be trusted, especially the Grey Gulls of the Waste, who are popularly thought to serve Her.

No sane animals are thought to live out in the Waste, but they must be doing something out there.
Perhaps they simply use the vastness to avoid predators. Perhaps the have located some food or water source unusable by Humanity. (Does it really matter if a Goat loses its memory? Or goes mad? Does a bird even have an identity to lose?)

Those who walk and watch the Waste, Guardians, Barbarians, criminals and adventurers, often develop the habit of quietly watching animals. Their movements can be predictive, suggestive, revealing unlikely paths and strange locations.


Far from the sight or memory of any comprehensible reality, the Nothing sets its own ontology.

Of those who have seen such things, or claim to have, no boundary can be placed between madness and reality. Perhaps they were driven insane by the ash and the silence, dehydration and the watching eyes of Yggsrathaal. Or perhaps the landscape itself was mad, and all they declaim took place, exactly as described.

Skies of blood. Storms swarming with the ghosts of Dragons. Fog-Giant stampedes. Rains of burning acid. Iridescent swarms. The moaning of dead oceans, walls of poisoned brackish water held back by flailing invisible hands until they break and Tsunami-walls of corpse-wash roll like wrath over the ash. Mile-long corpses of Yggsrathaals children lit by the shadows of black burning forests bordering realms of ultimate evil. Dreamless wars across tectonics twisting like cooked spaghetti. Tall ruins of great cities pared down by a keening wind till only the edges remain. Fields of glistering rainbow; oapalsied corpse bones sorted by an unending wind into dunes of form and weight, joint and femur spread like a moraine of death. Beaches of jewel-like teeth broken by the dull lumps of imperishable gold. Dunes of crystallised eyes frozen from their skulls and rolled by pneumo-geography into wadis of heaped orbs and spiderweb ridges, then crushed to splinters by your punishing feet. Rains of knives; shining shards of toxic metal condensed in the atmosphere of another world, falling through writhing tornadoes. Storms of sulphuric rain, tearing flesh from bones in minutes. Falls of clear rainbow hail that burst into shrapnel of toxic gems, poisoning the blood.


Here, folding out of terrible dimensions, are the Blind Palaces, white wombs like inexpressible pits; voids in Nothing itself.

They open with a screaming, white noise across the sky and earth. A glimmer of white cloth, like a dress opening to show something decayed and obscene. Static. White/Nonewhite, the colour called nullfire. Boiling churns of palaces within the hems of following storms. Land and sky seem to change places, you look up to see yourself walking across clouds as if they were mountains.

The mountains crack open from within, oozing structure like pus, curdling into revetments and porticos, doors yawning open, spilling forth the sound of blindness and the pennants of the deaf. A loss of cognition, the pace of thought is lost, reduced to a dull, drooling self, witless and accepting.

Here are the Coils of Yggstrathall, the Womb Void - where she presses against the Waste which is itself a kind of scar tissue of Reality. Even as she coils to crush it, it decays, and her grip slips.

These are the high Eyrie’s of Yggsrathaals Eagles; the Entropic Wyrms.

Those who see the Pale Courts are changed. Witnessed. Selfhood leached away. Yggsrathaal does not consume them, but secretes them away in the placeless void, showing them her Blind Palaces, driving them mad and forming from that madness a facsimilia of individuality. Made Prophets of Nothing, they are returned to the world like a virus sent back through the skin. To spread Her word.


Good may not have survived the fall of Esh, but evil has.

Not only Her children come from the Waste. The Un-Things come. The Monster kind, and they were not made by Her. They are as old as Man and they come bearing the signs of mans destroyers, the Demon-Emperors, the God-Killers.

Monster Nations, continents cutting through the ash like grinding black freighters, hunting Blackwater, hunting each other. And fleeing from Her coils. An empire of the dead bordered by burning black imperishable forest, one a castle swollen to god-habitable size, cracked and stupid, infested with cultures like worms, one a flock of shells wheeling like birds, one born on the back of a cyclopean Trilobite.


The Waste is forced into comprehensibility by its contact with the Real. Near a continent like Blackwater, it seems like continental shelf; tectonic crust. Though over a cold and empty core.
Or like a sea of fine ash. You can walk, or even float on it.

The further away you get, the less like a 'real' or comprehensible place it seems. The land roams and nation-sized fragments of stone tilt out of the crust in a matter of hours. Though it still has scabs of reality around the parched bones of the worlds of Esh.

The nations and ghost realms of fallen Esh move through Uud in the manner that seems best to them. Blackwater is a continent and moves through a kind of continental drift - so it seems like normal land. Some walk endlessly across the Waste, for them it is a vast desert. Some crash through it as if it were pack ice over a cosmic ocean - flailing mighty limbs and surging forward. Some plunge forth and seem to float, as a ship upon the ocean.

Should two realms with different Waste-interfaces come into contact they can 'jam'; grind together pushing for ontological dominance as the waste tries to interpret different concepts of itself.

This can mean...  REALM WAR.


Oh and I have a Patreon now. I set it up purely as they are changing the charges tomorrow and I wanted to get in at the Founders pricing.

I don't really have anything to do with it, might develop something later. To be honest, just selling books is enough of a job for me and I am busy as HELL.

If you really really want to give me extra money for extra bullshit leave a comment and I will think about it.

(Bear in mind that this one is purely a tip jar.)


  1. How do Monster Nations survive in the Waste? Do they start with the remnant of some other world (relatively stable and/or not despoiled) and then just hunt everybody else to prolong their existence? And if Blackwater falls, this is what it might become as well?

    1. Nothing is canon yet but I imagine each nation or fragment of reality has a unique powerful element keeping it stable. You might imaging a Sauron or Strahd-like figure in some monster nations. And there are plans for non-monster nations as well. I think they mainly fight each other because they are assholes and like attacking things rather than because they get much else out of it, considering the difficulty of moving stuff about in the Waste.

  2. This setup is interesting. What if the ruler is tyrant but is still the only thing literally holding a piece of reality together (by the way of willpower and/or ego)? Is overthrowing them in favour of something more benevolent going to work? Can people even take this risk?
    And it does make sense for two egomaniacs to battle each other.

    1. Two egomaniacs with an immutable vision of how the Waste *is* will have a hard time coexisting. The presence of another powerful force-of-will would probably have corrosive effects on both terrains. Thus, they must fight, but also stay as far away from each other as possible, lest they weaken from proximity and allow Her entry.

  3. Patrick, you have an implicit mega-setting I hope you one day coalese.

    You have Wir-Hael somewhere, on the edge of these mysterious Queendoms, which in turn are plagued by things from your Fire on the Velvet Horizon bestiary. Then you have the Veins of the Earth underground, a boiling inter-planar earth-hell of nightmares, cannibalism, madness, and treasures upon which the Queendoms sit. Then at the edge of the world you now have these Wastes.

    All of your stuff has an implicit nihilism to it. This is a world where nothing means anything, and where dreams/nightmare determine things value and are very real and very instrumental forces. A setting where people fight against the literal Nothing, the Mad Gods depredations, and the invasive reality of things outside of reality in order to thrive, live, give themselves purpose, and somehow find happiness.

    It's a sad world. Not a tragic world, because it isn't doomed, and the end is not yet in sight. But it is a sad world, where everything always feels like its on the edge of being lost, and where everyone must always struggle to make sense of a confusing reality through their own mental illnesses or problems, and where a hero isn't someone who slays the beast but who simply puts the Saddness to sleep for a while so others can live their lives peacefully until it returns.

    I don't know what I'd call it--these are your ideas, after all. But this "Nihil World" of yours, I think at least, deserves to one day be codified into something as a whole since it all fits so well together.

    I think you have something really literary here. I hope you pursue it. Your stuff helps us who also suffer find a voice, and live out fantasies that in turn help us find a way forward in it all--even if you don't intend for this.