The shadow world is a world of living spirits, a muddled reflection of our own. It is also known as the umbra, or the mirror world. Most humans cannot perceive it except fleetingly, in the corner of their eyes. Only mages, spirits, and some supernatural beings such as werewolves can go there. It is separated from the mundane world by a barrier known as the gauntlet.
The gauntlet is a barrier that separates the mundane world from the near umbra. It varies in strength, being stronger in cities and places marked by technology, and weaker in the deep wilds. It is currently at its greatest strength in history, due to the machinations of the Technocracy.
Even where it is too strong to penetrate, powerful mages and spirits can see through from one side to the other. Where it is weak, any Sensitive can glimpse the other side.
Nodes are places where the gauntlet are significantly weaker than normal. They are favoured spots for mages and many kinds of supernatural beings, like werewolves. In the strongest nodes, the gauntlet is so weak that anyone can walk into or out of the umbra, without mystical aid.
Through a Mirror Darkly
In the old days, when the mundane and the spiritual was closer, anyone could get a glimpse of the shadow world simply by looking into a mirror. For better or for worse, it is no longer so, but mirrors are still used are the most reliable portals into the shadow.
The Near Umbra
The near umbra is close to our world. It is like a shadow, where every feature of the waking world has an umbral reflection—trees, houses, and even mountains are all there. Everything that has been stationary for long in the real world, also exists in the umbra. On the other hand, people, cars, and other such inconstant objects simply don't exist.
Even though all fixed objects exist, they do not always look like they do in the real world. Changes take time to migrate to the shadow, and some never do. Thus, an old and frequently remodeled shadow house can be an amalgamation of its different incarnations.
The shadow world is influenced by emotions. Dark and dreary allies where people fear to go in the dark, are even worse, possibly filled with evil spirits feeding on old malice. Murder and rape leave stains, that warp things around them, and corrupted places are even worse.
While it is possible to navigate through the umbra much like in the mundane world (go down Fletcher Street and take the second to the right...), it is likely to end badly. All like things have a mystical connection, and that connection can be followed. Every Fletcher Street in the world has a connection to every other Fletcher Street, every little town called Paris is linked, and all red houses are potentially interchangeable.
Whenever you pass a gate or doorway of any kind, you might end up in a linked place rather than the one immediately beyond. Some places can send you elsewhere when you pass a tree on the right rather than the left, or when you walk backwards. The interior of a house is almost never close to the exterior, and different doors or windows can lead to widely different places.
Spirits have little problem with this interconnectedness, and the wise traveler always gets a spirit guide.
The horizon is a mystical barrier that separates the near umbra from the deep. It is nearly impenetrable from within and without, but there are weak spots. Beings from beyond are always hard at work discovering or creating more such weak spots.
The Deep Umbra
The deep umbra is in many ways like space. Inhospitable, incapable of supporting life, and inhabited by Things From Beyond. Travel is difficult and highly dangerous.
Nestled in the deep umbra are realms that are worlds unto themselves. Some correspond to other planets, others exist purely in the umbra. Both fiends and fey come from such realms.
Most any kind of spirit can be found in the shadow world, as long as it is a spirit of life. The spirits of the dead and undead can be found in the underworld.
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