Night Below is one name given to a sovereign who is said to exist beneath the northern peaks of Varushka, but to watch from every shadowed corner for those foolish enough to seek its aid.


Blackdamp; The Waiting Dark; the Grasping Dark; the Thieving Dark; Fly-the-light; the Shadow-in-shadows; Eyes in the Night; Dark-Below-The-Mountain; the Heart of Darkness; the Extinguished Sun; Shadowcreeper; the Watcher-in-the-Corner; Nights-haven; Black-heart; Haunter; Fracture; the Abyssal Lady.


The entity often called the Night Below lairs deep beneath the high peaks of Miekarova and Volodmartz, especially the mountains of Brez, Opascari, and Miechernya. It is in a sense bound and imprisoned in the deepest caves, deeper than any mines, that stretch beneath the mountains. Yet at the same time, many Varushkan tales suggest that its reach far exceeds its grasp.

It is an entity of absolute darkness, and is most powerful in areas where darkness has not been disturbed by light. Stories suggest that it is most powerful in the terribly abyssal dark that lies so far underground that no light has ever touched it since the world was formed. In such places its dominion is said to be absolute. There are no descriptions of Night Below, and those who have made even a cursory study of it propose that it has no form, being composed entirely of the darkness in which it dwells. It is a creature of the spirit, rather than the mortal world of things that can be touched and held.

The exact extent of its power is unclear, but it's generally accepted that it is mostly a threat in the northern mountains... unless someone intentionally seeks its aid.

There are certain circumstances where it can exceed these limits however. If someone has made a deal with the sovereign, it can reach them no matter where they try to flee, and may even be able to reach out to those around them. The cabalist Vardaan Darvisha Vardaanovic wrote that "To make a bargain with Fly-the-light is to invite it into your heart; to create a fracture in your soul which is forever night, and it is in that lightless fracture that the Sovereign dwells." It is also able to reach places it has been "invited in" in some profound fashion. According to stories, there are ceremonies known originally by the Ushkan bargainers that allow Watcher-in-the-Corner to be called to a place, and exert its power there. Once it has been invited in it is much more difficult to get rid of - but it is still limited to operate within the bounds of that place.


Night Below has the power to take things away. As the night swallowed the world, so the darkness can swallow... anything. It can take away pain or memories; it can devour people, places, and things offered to it. It is believed to have a particular hunger for things that have been forgotten, or abandoned, creeping in to steal them away forever - as most recently happened with the cave of Zoria - but it will take anything offered to it. The sovereign is profoundly grasping; once something has been claimed by the darkness, it never returns.

It can creep into places unseen and watch, and listen, and sometimes whisper enticingly. Some stories suggest it knows everything done in darkness, hears every conversation held in the presence of shadows, and so knows all the secrets of the world. This is not the case; it is not omniscient, nor omnipresent. It is in and of the darkness; it is not the darkness itself. If it is watching a lost traveller freeze to death in the snowy hills of Brez, it is not also listening to a treacherous conversation in the shadows of a Miechernyan mine. But it has knowledge of many things done in darkness, especially near areas where its power pools, and can make use of that knowledge to pursue its aims.

It is eager to make bargains with mortals, but any deal it proposes will always involve taking something. It might be something seemingly minor, perhaps even something as ephemeral as a memory. But it will consume something whenever its aid is called on. It seems to take especial pleasure in encouraging those who deal with it to make unwise requests, and in the process allow the darkness to consume them. It may swallow them all in one go, or it might slowly eat away at their memories and personality, or their friends and family, spreading its consumption out over weeks, months, or years. Worse still, it is eager to receive other people given to it by those it has corrupted.

Outside the darkness beneath the mountains, its ability to steal things is much more limited. Someone may make a bargain to unleash it on their enemies - or their friends - but these bargains usually need the bargainer to somehow grant dominion over the targets to the sovereign. They must be lured into a certain place, or the bargainer must claim something of theirs that will allow the sovereign to reach them.

There is a story that turns up in several guises that gives an example of the risks of dealing with Night Below. A foolish young person complains to a dark stranger about something they covet. The stranger says that it can steal the thing, and secures that wish from the foolish youth. The thing duly disappears - sometimes along with those who already possess it. The greedy protagonist demands that the thing be handed over, and the stranger says they can take the youth to where it is. When the youth demands they do so, they and the stranger both vanish and are never seen again.

Fly-the-light, as the name implies, has a well-known weakness. It cannot easily endure artificial light. Even a candleflame is enough to keep it at bay in most cases. A brightly lit fire, a lantern, a lightstone (and it is known to despise lightstones), a torch... all are enough to keep it away at least for a time. It is never encountered in daylight, and even the light of moon and stars seems to be sufficient to weaken it a little.

Unfortunately, it is also known to prey on those who become overconfident in their ability to exploit this weakness. Worse, its presence slowly weakens even the most durable light source; lanterns and torches burn half as long and even a lightstone may flicker and go out. While they last, they keep the horror and its servants at bay, but it is vital to use the time they buy to flee the place where the sovereign is powerful. A bargainer who thinks themselves safe in bright moonlight must take care not to stray within arms' reach of a deep shadow, for example. Someone sheltering in a ring of candles must fear the wind and the rain, or the misplaced exhalation. A miner certain their lantern will protect them may still find themselves wandering, lost, in a maze of confusion until their flame gutters and goes out and it is all over. Night Below is patient, and whilst it can be warded against or driven off, like the darkness itself it always, always comes back, and it is inhumanly patient.

Most of all, the sovereign despises the "light" inside mortal beings - empathy, sympathy, kindness, compassion, generosity, and other traits generally seen as positive. This has nothing to do with virtue as such; rather it is the commonplace "good" that mortals do that is most offensive to it. There are stories - potentially dangerous stories - that it can be turned away or held at bay by someone who is acting from love, or with a genuine desire to protect others regardless of the cost, without fear in their hearts. Anyone who wishes to take advantage of such tales must be truly desperate however - because if they have miscalculated then the darkness will eat them alive.


The sovereign itself is usually encountered only as a voice, but it has less ephemeral servants that are capable of taking action in the world. It's not clear if some of these servants are actually separate entities from the Darkness itself, or simply extrusions of its pooling darkness.

According to many stories, rather than physically spirit a foolish bargainer away when they inevitably make an unwise request, the sovereign can somehow "hollow them out" consuming their identity and will to create hollowfolk. These hollowfolk appear at first glance to be normal humans or orcs, but they avoid sunlight (which burns and blinds them) and operate only after sunset. Individually they encourage foolish people to make bad bargains with Night Below, but they can also gather in groups to harm those Fly-the-light has taken a dislike to. They are reasonably rare, though. Of those who bargain with the Haunter, only a handful are foolish enough to push things to the point where the Grasping Dark can consume them.

It is able to produce phantasms that take the form of human or orc figures in dark places. Some claim that the common experience of mistaking a pile of clothes, or a coat on a hook, for a person are signs that Night Below is present and that one must be very careful what one says out loud lest it interpret a foolish wish as a request for a boon. Phantasms may take more physical forms; there are stories of voices and shapes in dark places that try to lure people from the road or from lit areas. Such entities are fragile however; a firm strike is usually enough to disrupt them at least for a time. Unfortunately, like many things associated with Night Below, they are capable of stealing the strength from those they strike, weakening them to the point where they can no longer resist. A common thread with phantasms is that they are often familiar to those they speak to, as if the sovereign were spinning them out of the subconscious desires of the viewer. People speak of talking to dead relatives, lost friends, or historical figures from ancient days... all of whom speak with the soft, insidious voice of the sovereign.

Night Below can do more than create phantasms, but only in places where darkness is profound or tainted by some past bargain. In these cases, it can inhabit inanimate objects or plants and use them as its agents. There are few places where the sovereign is powerful enough to do this but not all of them are in the mountains. Statues or trees animated by the force of Night Below are terrible opponents because they must literally be smashed to pieces, or burned to ashes, before they can be stopped. Fortunately, like most of the sovereign's agents they dislike sunlight. Unfortunately, unlike its other servants, these manifestations seem less perturbed by artificial lights, especially fire, and while they may be weakened they are not driven away.

One other trick it has up its sleeve is that in the same way it can inhabit some physical objects, it can also apparently inhabit the darkness itself. There are stories of places where the shadows themselves sap the will to live, the joy, the memories, and even the physical strength from those the sovereign wishes to prey on. They may bring bad dreams to those who rest near them, and may be capable of sending out tendrils of fear, despair, or desperation. They are said to be similar in some way to a consecrated area or an enchantment such as Chamber of Delights, and while durable, the same techniques that deal with these effects can be used to banish the areas of living darkness the sovereign creates.

The sovereign is believed to have a handful of more powerful servants, hollowfolk who have endured for decades or centuries and become full of its power. There's some supposition in the circles of the wise that Cadaver - the wish-granting horror - may have been such a creature drawing its ability to "grant wishes" from the Dark-below-the-world. Fortunately, that entity is believed destroyed after it's invasion of Dawn. Others say that a creature so brash could never be an agent of Night Below, an entity known for patience, subtlety, and slow malice.

Other Tales

The Tallowman

The creature associated with the Weeping Stone of Karov is believed by some to be an agent or aspect of Night Below. According to stories, the Tallowman only deals with children and offers only one boon. If they ask it, it will take members of their family away. Neglectful parents; unwanted younger siblings; bullying cousins; they all simply vanish. The ceremony is actually common knowledge; on a night of the new moon while alone light three candles in an otherwise dark room. Place a mirror on the other side of the candles from you. Entreaty the Tallowman to come and take away your hated family member three times, blowing out a candle each time you do so. Usually nothing happens - assuming a child even gets that far. But sometimes... sometimes something does happen and the Tallowman hears them and asks them one last time if they are sure they want this. And if they are...

Unlike many who bargain with Night Below, the children who deal with the Tallowman are rarely taken themselves unless they prove particularly foolish. Instead, they are left to deal with the consequences of their foolish wish. Unless they make the mistake of demanding to be reunited with their family member, of course. Tales of the Tallowman are often used to caution young parents about the need to take care of their offspring and ensure they are raised to be wise, or to warn rambunctious children of the danger of listening to voices in the dark.

Deep Mines

Obviously, for an entity that lurks beneath the mountains, Night Below is of particular concern to miners of all stripes, especially those beneath the northern peaks where it is most powerful. Mine owners have seen their entire workforce summarily quit if it looks as if they are stinting on illumination, for example. While miners everywhere fear the slow death of a cave-in, Varushkan miners also fear what might come upon them in the dark once they are trapped and blinded by shadows. Many Varushkan miners in Miekarova and Volodmartz make a point of keeping shards of lightstone about their person for emergency use, praying that they will provide enough illumination to keep them safe until rescue arrives.

Sensible Varushkan miners, in Miekarova and Volodmartz particularly, know the importance of carving watchful faces into pit props, and ensuring that they have plenty of lights. When the lamps start to burn out a little too quickly, when the lightstones begin to flicker, they either reinforce the tunnels with additional wards or else seal the affected passages and seek other veins. In the end it's maybe no wonder so many Varushkan miners in the north end up leaving the tunnels behind to become wagon-raiders or sell-swords.

The Horror of Dominion

One dark thread in tales of Night Below is that it seems to have some familiarity with the arcane Law of Dominion. If someone who has authority or power over other people makes a deal with it, they can free it to consume those people. There are stories of boyars who slowly fed their entire vale to the unending hunger of Night Below over a period of years, for example, or military captains whose unwise bargain doomed their soldiers. There are limitations to this capacity, but like so much to do with this sovereign, they are unclear. It does seem to be easier to break such bargains and drive off Night Below however. One surefire way is to trick the one who made the bargain into being eaten by Fly-the-light themselves. Killing such an agent also proves surprisingly effective. In stories at least.

Fractured Blades, Cursed Jewels

As the sovereign can inhabit statues, trees, and even the darkness itself, it's said to be able to infuse fragments of its power into other objects. There are several stories of powerful weapons that slowly over time twist their wielders into dark caricatures of themselves devoid of human warmth, or even hollowfolk. Likewise, there are stories of beautiful gems or jewels which are touched by Night Below. They are said to instil covetousness in those who view or handle them, causing the weak-willed to turn on their fellows in their lust to possess them. In the end, those who gain such a treasure are never happy, fearing always that they will be taken away, and eventually such stories end with the possessor fleeing to a cave under the mountains from which they never return. The taint of Night Below on such objects can usually be found easily enough if one knows to look, but removing the curse without destroying the object generally proves impossible.

Night Below in play

Night Below has become more active of late, but it has never been entirely quiescent. Anyone used to operating in darkness may know someone who has heard odd noises, or had the sensation of being watched when they knew they were alone. A miner might have had a personal brush with the entity. Almost any entity that lives beneath the ground in Varushka, or has a clear connection to darkness, might actually be Night Below, or one of its agents. Those who make deals with it often find that it takes more than they expected it to, if they did not phrase their request carefully enough.

While the sovereign is potent, it is by no means all-powerful. If it was sufficient to simply want its aid to make someone disappear, Varushka would be an empty wasteland. A common element of stories where it makes someone disappear is a clear connection between the person doing the asking and the target. It often requires the would-be assassin to do something analogous to poisoning - sneaking a black stone into their pocket for example or marking the mirror in their bedroom with water from a lightless spring. As someone - Marcher or Varushkan - once said "If wishes were that easy, we'd all be dead." Properly invoked, though, the sovereign is a terrible assassin but even then it can be stymied. Light keeps it at bay, and it seems to have limited ability to harm those who are not themselves tainted by darkness in some way. It can't touch the pure of heart.

Further reading

  • Out of the abyss - 385YE Winter Wind of Fortune introducing the newly roused Night Below

A Story of Night Below

There are many different shapes to this tale, and you may have heard one alreay. But the bats tell it a little differently. This is the version of the story the bats told me.

During the reign of Empress Varkula, she of the iron fist within the iron gauntlet, there was a cowardly and jealous young man. His brother had been chosen as boyar of the vale where they both lied. The young man seethed with envy. He knew that he was fairer of countenance than his brother. He knew his words rang more resolute than those of his brother. He knew that he was cleverer than his brother, for he had been educated in the universities of the League while his brother stayed at home and learned about sheep raising. His envy soon turned to hate, and opened a crack in his spirit that drew the notice of Night Below.

One night while he was brooding in his chambers - for his brother had offered him fine apartments in his hall, decorated, warm, and comfortable - he let the fire die down. As he sat at the window, staring out at the forest, he saw in the shadows below a woman in a hooded shawl, staring up at him. At first his lip twisted in a sneer, but then he realised that even though the moon was new and clouds hid the stars he could see her plainly - much more clearly than he could see the bush behind her or the path near which she stood - and that even though he did not properly recognise her, he knew her. He also knew that she was something not of the mortal world. He drew back and might have left his seat, and if he had this story would likely have had a happier ending.

Instead he waited to see what the woman wanted. She smiled, her face mostly hidden in the shadow of her shawl, and spoke pleasing words to him. She was a cabalist who knew of his suffering, of how he had been mistreated, and she wished to help. If the young man wished, she could help him become boyar himself, and show everyone how foolish they had been to favour his brother. All she needed was for him to bring her that certain signet that his sibling wore in memory of their father. With that, she could ensure that the young man would replace him.

Forgetting every piece of advice his grandparents had ever given him, the young man eagerly agreed. The next night, he affected a happy demeanour, and a desire to reconcile with his brother, and they drank together and spoke of the past, and the boyar celebrated that he and his sibling who he had thought lost were to be together again. Yet the young man deceived everyone. When the boyar and his schlacta dozed in a stupor, the young man (who had made sure his mead was heavily watered) stole away the signet ring. Hurrying to his chambers, he peered out the window to see the woman below, and threw the ring to her. She caught it in one shadowed hand, and turned her half-hidden face toward him again.

"All you need do is ask," she said. And he asked. "Take my brother away and let me rule in his place." She inclined her head and between one breath and the next she was gone.

Next morning, so too was the boyar gone. Nobody remembered when they had seen him last. The schlacta suspected some plot, but what evidence was there of malfeasance? The Wise Ones denounced the schlacta for their lack of vigilance, but what could they have done against the darkness? At this time, Miekarova was not quite part of the Empire, although the preparations for war were well underway. The orcs from the north still threatened the people. Without a boyar, the vale was surely vulnerable. Chaos reigned. And into that chaos the young man inserted himself, speaking calmly, using all the rhetorical tricks he had learned in the universities of the League. He sought the counsel of the Wise Ones, and let them know he would always rely on their wisdom. He sought the schlacta, and reassured them that he would see to it that they had the tools they needed to protect the vale from threats without and within. And in time he was chosen to replace his brother - who some were already beginning to misremember as foolish and weak where he had always been resolute and attentive to their needs.

Of course, to achieve his new position and hold it, the young man - now boyar - had to arrange for some other people to vanish. A certain schlacta who had been close to his brother and remembered that he had not. A wise one who reminded her fellows that they had passed over the young man for a reason. A youth of the town who rebuffed his attentions, and embarrassed him in front of the vale. A few small sacrifices, but worth it to secure the vale.

And as the months turned to seasons, and to years, the new young boyar continued to call on the power of the woman in shadows. Always, when he was most desperate and most angry, she would appear beneath his window and help make his troubles disappear. And if the vale gained a reputation as a cursed place, it was worth it to secure his rule.

Nothing lasts, of course. Even the mountains will be worn down in time. The Empress raised the standard of war, and sent the Military Council forth to conquer Miekarova as they had liberated Zenith, and Holberg, and Skarsind. The horns blew, and the crows flew, and the battle came to the vale of the jealous boyar. The Thule advanced, and to the horror of the people of the vale they were in their path: between the orcs and the humans, a piece of metal on the anvil awaiting the hammer. Some wished to flee, some took up arms to join the Imperial armies. The boyar urged them all to stand and fight, but then withdrew to his chambers and began to load the valuables of the vale into a pack, planning to flee himself and leave his people behind to buy him time to escape.

Then, for the first time ever, the woman appeared in the room with him. Only a single candle burned, on the windowsill, and as she drew close she spoke urgently to him. Had she not served him well? All he need do is ask, and she could keep his entire vale secure, from any who would harm it. She could keep him safe along with it, and ensure he remained boyar forever. Oh foolish man who does not heed the good advice of his grandparents! Desperate not to lose all he thought he had gained, he agreed. She made him speak it aloud, and when he had done so, blow out the single candle.

And he did.

When the sun rose next morning, the village and the castle were gone. Only those who had fled in the night had been warned by some premonition of disaster or some sentiment of doom, were left. When they reached those who had already left to join the Imperial armies, those who had looked back spoke in broken tones of a river of darkness that flowed through the streets and swallowed everything. When the war was done, and the orcs driven away, and Miekarova was part of Varushka where it belonged, some of them returned to the site that had once been their homes and found nothing there. No houses, no castle, no walls. Just empty ground already being reclaimed by the forest.

But once every decade, so the storytellers say, the village comes back. For a single night, it returns to Miekarova, between the hours of sunset and sunrise. The people welcome travellers, and if any notice how dark the place is, how the only illumination is a smattering of candles, they are often too foolish to realise what it means. And the next morning, when the village is gone once more, it takes its newest residents with it.