The Aetherial Realm is one of the thirteen near realms in the Umbra. All look at the night sky and wonder. Man, woman, child. Supernatural and mortal alike. The vast blue inkiness of the sky is something inescapable. It has been used as a way to prepare for the seasons, kept many a lonely sailor company, with the the promise of a way home. In those depths are contained legends, prophecies, and perhaps even the treads of fate itself.
The Aetherial Ream is for lack of a better word, the Umbral Sky. Here the Celestiline spirits that the shapeshifters honor and call upon live. Incarna of planets roam the skies. Luna and Helios dance in an endless spin around one another. The constellations pulse with power of the heroes they represent.
However those seeking enlightenment, know the realm is not without its own dangers. And with the appearance of the Red Star Anthelios, may have come more so to find out its true nature and to try and counteract its effects.
The Almagest Edit
The geography of the Aetherial Realm is a lot like the vault of the sky itself. The lowest point still considered part of the realm is a layer of shifting clouds. These clouds are solid on top and easily navigable. The clouds shift and billow in immense mountains and wide plains, creating a sort of "landscape" all their own. Here spirits of birds and flying beasts soar above the clouded layer and claim aeries in some of the mountains. Any kind of aerial spirit, be they elementals, weather-spirits or those of flying mythical beasts can be found in this realm. The occasional tower or other structure dots the cloud-scape as well, a marker of those who have come before.
Above these clouds the Aetherial sky shines in all its glory. Free of pollutants, planes, or obstructions. It is a deep blue, just a shade or too away from the black of midnight. Luna hangs larger than she does in the physical world. And Helios claims the other side of the sky, very bright, but a little smaller and somewhat removed, as if viewed from Mars and not Earth. Each of the planets are also brighter and more visible, and the stars are clear and crisp.
The Moon Edit
Alongside Gaia, the Moon is one of the core elements to Garou Mythology. She is the one who blessed them with their Rage, their ability to change. No surprise is it that many Garou dare taking journeys to see her in person, even if it takes days, even weeks to get there (despite what humans say). If they are lucky, she may grace them with the favor of Sokhta/Phoebe. These journeys are not without risk. Lunes guard the path to the Aetherial moon, ensuring that their patroness isn't disturbed lightly. If travelers ignore the Lunes' demands to turn back, they may try to divert the shapeshifters onto moon bridges that lead elsewhere. And seeing through these changes is very difficult. However once past the Lunes visitors arrive at the realm of the Lunar Incarna. While humans see the physical moon as a dead an lifeless place, the realm itself is liken to a vast garden. The soil is brightly shining moonsilver and the vegetation is soft and luminous. The incarna's throne lies in the Center of the Garden, where she grants audience to those wise and perseverant enough to reach her. Many Garou undertake this journey to request Pathstones (in order to link their caerns with others via moonbridges) or even to ask for moonsilver.
The Sun Edit
Although the Aetherial sky is generally dark, as one gets closer to the Umbral sun, this all changes. The closer one comes to Helios, the brighter and hotter the air gets. Fire elementals dance around the Aetherial Sun, providing a deadly gauntlet for visitors to run. Getting past this gauntlet one must endure five separate "attacks". These do aggravated damage, and are nearly unsoakable. Those with the gifts of Luna's Armor or Master of Fire can aid in passing the gauntlet. However only those blessed with the gift Kiss of Helios can negate all damage.
Past the fiery gauntlet lies the domain of the sun's Planetary Incarna; it may appear as a blazing citadel if the Incarna manifests in his Hyperion guise, or as a brilliant tipi if he appears as Katanka-Sonnak. The sun has many names, and takes on many forms. But his nature is roughly the same; he prizes valor and despises deceit. He can prove a vital ally for those who seek his blessing, but he is an exacting spirit to please.
The Reaches Edit
Beyond the sun and moon, and beyond the realm's sky; the planets have their own domains, and even farther past that are places were the Triat's power begins to bleed into the realm. At the very pinnacle of the Aetherial sky there is the realm's Membrane, the border into the Deep Umbra. The Essence of the Triat bleeds over here, each member claiming a section of their own.
- The Weaver Reaches are covered in a gridlike spider web, much like an astronomer's computerized map. The life that pulsates in the stars is else where in the realm is not evidence here. The stars and the world of the Weaver reaches just hand still and cold in the web, arranged in unnatural symmetry. Only Weaver spirits call this place home. Geomids and huge "Star Spiders" walk and watch these webs, making sure that everything is in its proper place. There are no Anchorheads here; travel across the Membrane is hard-fought. Legend tells that many lost fetishes and powerful spirits have been embedded in the Weaver Reaches, just waiting to be freed and fight for Gaia once more.
- The Wyld Reaches in contrast, are constantly swirling with unusual sounds and strange lights. Odd planetoids dance here in apparently no patterns whatsoever, although they seem to narrowly avoid collisions. Anchorheads are in abundance here; The Wyld Reaches are probably the safest and easiest pat through the Membrane to the Deep Umbra (but hell.. that's not saying much). Indeed, enigmatic paths and gates to all portions of the umbra seem to come to existence here, although there isn't any real way of telling whether a spirit gate will take one to a tribal homeland or the bottom of hell itself. Many Garou come here to search for Wyldstones. These are Natural Fetishes because they are so imbued with the raw force of the Wyld. One can find these treasures floating among the planetoids.
- The Wyrm Reaches on the other hand are dark and forbidding. The Anchorheads here lead largely to Malfeas, or even worse, to the region of the Deep Umbra were the Wyrm itself is tangled. (the latter is mostly speculation and theory, after all nobody has survived a trip to meet the Destroyer face to face.) The star and planetary spirits here are warped and ominous, spelling out dire omens as they cycle around one another, even devouring one another. Balefire elementals dance on the asteroids, and the constellations have a dire aspect. When the nebula of pure pollution isn't blocking the stars of this portion of the heavens, it is said that one can read the future motions of the Wyrm in the sky.
The Planetary Incarna Edit
Whiles traveling through the Aetherial Realm will not guarantee direct access to Luna, Helios or other Celestines, Garou can contact the Incarnae that represent the planets themselves. A trip to the moon in the Aetherial Realm would be a good way to contact Phoebe (or Sokhta, as she's also called), the Planetary Incarna of the moon that acts as one of the many faces of Luna. Similarly, a pack could journey to visit Hyperion (or Katanka-Sonnak), the Planetary Incarna of the Sun. These visits aren't easy; they require a long trip to the Aetherial analogue of the celestial body in question, and usually passing a number of tests to prove bravery, insight, or whatever other qualities the Incarna in question values.
Even the planet Earth boasts a Planetary Incarna - Eshtarra, the Songteller, an Incarna that in many ways reflects Gaia (albeit in a smaller fashion.) The other Incarnae of the familiar bodies of the solar system are:
- Mitanu, the Rogue, the trickster Incarna of Mercury.
- Tambiyah, the Veiled Mother, the fecund Incarna of Venus.
- Nerigal, the Ice Warrior, patron of battle and Incarna of Mars.
- Rorg, the Many-Taloned Hunter, the apocalyptic and feral Incarna of the asteroid Belt.
- Zarok, the Crowned One, the kingly Incarna of Jupiter.
- Lu-Bat, the Peaceful Counselor, the sagacious Incarna of Saturn.
- Ruatma, the Shadowed One, the enigmatic Incarna of Uranus.
- Shantar, the Loom Maker, the inventive and pragmatic Incarna of Neptune.
- Meros, the Wanderer, the restless Incarna of Pluto.
Each of these Incarna rules a realm that partly reflects the physical nature of their planet, partly symbolizes the associations humans have long made with the planet's aspects, and is partly shaped to the Incarna's liking. For example, travelers to Nerigal's domain can expect a cold, red desert guarded by martial spirits in the form of bloody legions. If the pack wins their way to Nerigal's court, he may listen to them... if he believes them to be brave souls. Such a pilgrimage isn't for the weak and is truly a hero's journey.
Sept of the Stars Edit
Atop a stable cloud mountains is the home of a particularly unusual sept. Mostly Star Gazers who have forsaken the physical world to fully explore the mysteries of the Aetherial Realm. These werewolves have gradually disconnected from the physical world; they are now creatures of spirit, although they still act as if they possessed all their mortal traits. Their most powerful member is Alrair, a might spirit warrior who still remembers how to use his Kailindo to utmost effect.
The sept resides in a huge spirit-orrery, a nearly impossible building filled with clockwork and ephemeral representations of the planets and starts, always turning in relation to one another. Many of the more significant celestial bodies are represented not by globes, but by actual rooms; to study the movements of Mars, one may have to stand within a red-hued room with translucent walls and compare his position to the of the heavens. The orrery is confusing and difficult to navigate, but sept members are more than happy to guide seekers to the right paths.
The recent developments of Anthelios' arrival and the Star Gazers' secession from the Garou Nation have added tension to the sept. The Red Star and the attendant birth of the Perfect Metis have stirred them to greater activity, driving them to search for prophecies that might lead the Garou to success in the final battle. Although the sept doesn't entirely agree with the Star Gazer elders' decision to leave the nation, they nonetheless honor the wishes of their tribemates, and offered their services to the occasional Hengeyokai sentai that has come in search of counsel.
The Path in Reaching Enlightenment and Sky Diving Edit
Finding the Aetherial realm is rather easy, just find some place that is higher than you are, and keep going up. The realm stretches above the clouds of the Penumbra, and is relatively easy to find from the Near Umbra as well. Since all moon bridges pass through this realm at their highest point, werewolves can just simply leave one and find themselves there.
Leaving is just as easy, if not easier. All a traveler has to is jump. Really. Jumping through the breaks in the clouds will lead one down to a fall back to the rest of the Near Umbra, to a landing that is as gentle as if one were to had jumped not but a few feet. There is no guarantee that his surroundings will be safe though. One can fall into any of the other near realms from here, with the exceptions of Erebus and Flux.
For those interested in a more predictable landing, moon bridges and moon paths function well enough as a means of exit, particularly if called up from Sokhta's realm. The Wyld, Weaver and Wyrm Reaches all possess gateways to appropriate Near Realms - The Flux Realm from the Wyld Reaches, CyberRealm from the Weaver and there are tunnels leading to Malfeas from the Wyrm Reaches.
The Laws of the Realm Edit
- Because of the proximity of the Umbral Moon, all shapeshifters with Rage regain a point of Rage upon entering the realm.
- The "outer space" of the Aetherial Realm is still breathable and temperate to shapeshifter visitors (although visitors that aren't part spirit, such as mortals, may be in trouble). The only hazard a shapeshifter need overcome in the depths of the realm's "space" is weightlessness.
- Falling does no physical damage in the realm, no matter the distance. A werewolf could fall from the height of the Reaches, plummet past the cloud layer entirely, and land on the ground by the Abyss far below without being injured (although his mental state isn't guaranteed).
- All visitors, spirit, shapeshifter or otherwise, can walk on the surface of the cloud layer as if it were solid ground.
- It's notably easier to summon Lunes, star-spirits, fire elementals and other spirits of celestial origin in the realm.
- All moon bridges travel through the Aetherial Realm. Any astrology-related Ability or Gift involving celestial objects or astrological phenomena also has a reduced difficulty.
- The clouds in the Wyrm Reaches increase the difficulty any attempts to see.
- The Aetherial Realm simply is the Penumbral reflection of outer space; anyone stepping sideways in the realm emerges in an appropriate point in the physical world (probably to explosively decompress and die).
- All shapeshifters can fly while within the realm. (This is not automatic knowledge, however, and the more experienced visitors and residents give it out only to those they deem most trustworthy. Gifts that increase movement also increase this distance.)
- The Silver Fang Gift: Lambent Flame does not cost Willpower to activate whiles in the realm, and the shining aura leaves a trail like a comet as the Fang crosses the skies.
- Any shapeshifter in Luna or Helios' favor is able to use Gifts related to the relevant Celestine, such as Luna's Armor or Halo of the Sun, with much more ease.