The Skeletal Lattice
A vast maze of bones… a fleshless world, a prison whose prisoners eventually become part of its very structure….
The history of the layer known as the Skeletal Lattice is odd, but then again, what is normal in a realm where unspeakable evil has drawn on the raw stuff of reality itself and shaped it in uncounted ways? According to fragments of odd legend and rumored whispers in the stillness, there was a time, close to the dawn of creation, when the being who would one day be known as the demon lord of the undead needed an oubliette, a place to toss a prisoner until such time as he could be dealt with. He found an empty and unclaimed bubble in the forming Abyss, crafted a cage of bone, and abandoned his captive there. After some time… perhaps days, perhaps millennia… he came back, to find his captive long dead and decayed in his cage, and the captives bones strangely merged with those of the cell in which he was jailed. Morbidly curious, the nascent lord of undeath began tossing others he had little use for into this realm, and watched as they decayed and then began to join with their predecessors. Corpse by corpse, over ages, the realm grew and expanded and gained its own place and purpose, becoming what it is today.
Today, the skeletal lattice is a world of bone stretching in all directions beneath a sky of swirling blacks and purples. The strange structure has no apparent purpose or plan… it grows like a living thing, and perhaps it (like many layers of the Abyss) has its own alien and incomprehensible consciousness. There are places where the lattice forms a strange mockery of the mortal world, where trees formed of femurs sprout flangic leaves, where skeletal farmers ceaselessy and lifelessly wander fields of ribs. There are other places where there is nothing but a chaotic jumble of bones merged together, as if they were once soft clay which had been left to harden.
The actual bones vary greatly. There are the skulls of dragons and goblins, thigh bones twice the height of a grown man and the smallest finger bones of an infant pixie. The only commonality seems to be that every bone comes from a thinking being of some sort — there are almost none from animals, and it is suspected that those few which are found come from beasts somehow awakened to sapience.
The condition of the bones varies as well. Some are dry… bone dry, one might say… while others are slick and moist, with gobbets of flesh still clinging. Some are weak and crumble easily, others are strong, stronger than they were in life. To any with an interest in what lies beneath the skin, this layer is an irresistable lure.
Others are drawn here, too. Throughout the layer can be found cages, formed of the layer’s own substance, and in those cages, souls or sometimes still living beings. The spirits drawn here are usually those of the rapacious and the looters, those who took all from others, leaving behind nothing. The same fate occurs to them here. After a few hours, the ghost-flesh is torn away and the remains add to the ever-growing structure of the lattice. Living creatures trapped here suffer the same fate.
The Skeletal Lattice is often explored by necromancers seeking new knowledge about the art of animating the dead. Many strange and eerie varieties of skeletons have been created by those who learned from studying this layer. Unlike most layers, there are no known demon species native to this layer; the forces of the plane destroy them, as well. There are, though, bony guardians which wander the layer, destroying any life which manages to exist long enough to be found. The only known long term inhabitant of the layer so-called "Fleshless Lich", Maglaboniel The Skinless, whose Ambling Tower crosses the lattice as she pursues her incomprehensible and obsessive research.
The Skeletal Lattice is one of the most hostile places in the Abyss, and that’s saying something. Each hour of exposure to its environment requires a DC 30 Endurance check, or the loss of a healing surge. When all surges are lost, each failed check results in the loss of hit points equal to the character’s level. When the character is reduced to 0 hit points, it becomes subject to the layer’s soulflay. If it dies here, its flesh is torn asunder and its bones merge with the layer, leaving no material substance which can be used for a Raise Dead.
The Skeletal Lattice has inspired the creation of many skeletons; these are posted over in the "Monster" section. (I have decided, in order to keep the site more balanced, to post all the monsters I create from now, even those for the Abyss Project, will be in the newly-restructured monster section, so people who come here (as if anyone comes here) looking for critters might be lured to this part, and vice-versa.)
Fleshgibbet Skeleton — still coated with random bits of muscle and viscera, a charming fellow indeed.
Dragonskull Bilespewer — take one dragon skull. Add explosions of vile matter and necrotic lightning. Share and enjoy.