Worlds Beyond Annwn
The Planes of Existence
The world of Annwn is but one plane of existence in the infinite vastness of reality, known as the multiverse. To even begin discussing the planar multiverse, one must understand that attempting to comprehend multi-dimensional reality in terms of the three dimensional world we are used to is inherently futile. Even the most astute of astral mages take years of intense study to fully grasp the intricacies of how the many planes interact with one another. Nonetheless, a reasonable model has been developed to help the commoner to begin to understand the workings of the planes in relation to Annwn.
The Planes of Energy
The planes of energy represent the most fundamental aspects of existence – creation and destruction. The Positive Plane is the source of all energy, life, and being, while the Negative Plane acts as its balance – a sink for all energy and matter. Existence is impossible within either plane, as a balance between creation and destruction in necessary for life to exist. A being from Annwn placed within the positive plane would be incinerated by the infinite energy therein, while that same being would crumble to absolute nothingness if placed in the negative plane.
Where these two planes meet, however, they create the Plane of Shadow. It is within this infinitely thin layer between absolute being and utter nothingness that all life exists within the multiverse. Planar scholars believe that infinite realities exist side by side along this plane, which can thus be thought of as an infinite series of unending lines placed beside one another. Thus, while exploration of the Plane of Shadow can continue indefinitely in one direction, linking a world to the elemental and outer planes, exploration in another direction is thought to lead to other prime material planes, existing side by side with our own. Of course, no being is known to have breached the Shadow Plane in such a fashion, and theories of alternate worlds beyond our own remain as speculation.
The Inner Planes
The inner planes, also know as the elemental planes, form the basic building blocks of the multiverse. Each plane is a limitless expanses of one the four elements from which our world is created – earth, fire, air and water, floating in the void of the astral plane. The elemental planes are arranged in such a fashion as to be coterminous with one another only at one infinitely small point. This ensures that opposing planes – earth and air, water and fire – have no overlap with one another, while neighboring planes overlap to create the para-elemental planes of smoke, ice, ooze and magma.
At the point of cotermination, however, the four elemental planes also pass through the Plane of Shadow, visualized as an infinitely thin line piercing the inner planes. It is at this one infinitely small point in the multiverse, where the elemental planes are tangent not only to each other, but to the Positive and Negative Energy Planes as well, that our prime material plane is created.
The Outer Planes and the River of Souls
Ringed about the prime material plane lie the outer planes, home of the gods. The outer planes float in the void of the astral plane, ringed about the prime material plane according to alignment, with law and chaos, good and evil, facing one another across the astral void. Annwn lies in the center of this wheel, acting as the convergence point between all ideologies. It is important to note, however, that although the outer planes are fundamentally linked to the prime material plane, they do not contact it directly. To reach the outer planes from Annwn, only two methods exist. Beings powerful enough to survive prolonged exposure to the astral plane can float through the void, thus arriving directly at the plane of choice. Only the most powerful of beings are capable of this endeavor, and for the rest, travel must occur through the Plane of Shadow, via the River of Souls.
Travel along the River of Souls is the final journey which all beings on Annwn must eventually undertake. Upon their death, a being’s soul rises from his body and is drawn into the Plane of Shadow. The soul then feels an irresistible pull to the River of Souls, a congruence of life energy which the soul must eventually join, flowing through the Shadow Plane to the Pool of Judgement. From this pool, the deceased soul will eventually flow into one of the twelve tributaries of the River of Souls: the Tiberinus, Condatis, Tethys, Nantosvelta, Oceanus, Abnoba, Syrinx, Iving, Sambation, Aeron, Lethe, Acheron, Styx, Phlegethon, Cocytus, or the Acis. Each tributary flows from the realm of shadow into one of the twelve outer planes, carrying souls along according to their alignment. Eventually, after lingering in the outer planes for a time, souls rejoin the tributaries as they flow from the outer planes back to the Plane of Shadow, before being reborn into Annwn. In this way, the Plane of Shadow can be seen as the portal between the prime material plane and the outer planes through which Annwn’s souls move in an endless cycle.