What is the nature of the Plane of Darkness?

In several places we encounter references to a hypothetical Plane of Darkness. For example in Chapter 181 – Revenant – Azalea Ellis we find out that the Crown’s prison was based on the idea that she’s connected to the Plane of Darkness, and therefore a trap involving Radiance should keep her in prison. Obviously it didn’t. The other chapters with references are Chapter 3 – A Business Contract – Azalea Ellis, Chapter 90 – On the Nature of Shadows – Azalea Ellis, and particularly Chapter 123 – An Honorable Burial – Azalea Ellis. I say particularly in the last time, because that’s how Siobhan chooses to curse her father:

“May you receive exactly what you deserve, Ennis No-Name,” she growled, her voice hoarse. “Once of my blood, but no more. I commend your blood and body to the earth, and your soul to the Plane of Darkness.”

This fits perfectly with the idea that things from the Plane of Darkness are devils.

Going back to the Crown, they thought she might be involved because of the shadow familiar that she creates with:

Life’s breath, shadow mine. In darkness we were born. In darkness do we feast. Devour, and arise.

The thing sealed in her mind has connections to her shadow. Let’s assume that it is connected with the Plane of Darkness. It also has strong connections to nightmares, insanity, and devouring. But devouring…what? Chapter 181 – Revenant – Azalea Ellis describes what it does to a victim:

The man choked on it but managed to calm his breathing. He spoke again with a weak, breathy voice. “The darkness was watching, knowing. But the creature … It was hungry. So empty, so cold, like it had never known the warmth of the sun or the touch of a mother. And it got inside me. I can’t feel it. It’s just…gone. But I fear that it took something from me. Except, except—” He let out a wet, ragged cough. “What did it take? What did it eat? What am I missing ?”

Let’s go back to the devil idea. What do devils traditionally want? Souls! Which, we’re told a couple of times, modern magic has found no evidence of. For example in Chapter 192 – Nine Full Breaths – Azalea Ellis we get confirmation from Thaddeus that souls are in the realm of speculation. And so if the soul was taken, it is no surprise that the healers are unable to figure out what is wrong!

Now let’s look at Siobhan’s nightmares. As described in Chapter 139 – Sword of Damocles – Azalea Ellis she sees them through a mirror. It is a world of earth tones and fog. Including a face of smoldering brimstone that she struggles not to remember. I believe that the eyes of that face are the amber eyes of her shadow in Chapter 201 – A Sealed Memory – Azalea Ellis. A face of smoldering brimstone? That sure as heck sounds to me like a devil! From a land whose colors sound like a spooky graveyard.

Now let’s bring in a comment from Chapter 161 – Myrddin’s Reflection – Azalea Ellis that seems relevant:

Sebastien had always had a somewhat instinctive distrust of mirrors. Like other children feared what their toys did in the dark with no one around to watch them move, Siobhan had feared what happened in the mirror world when she was not looking.

What mirror world? Have you ever seen a one-way mirror? It’s just a piece of glass with a thin sheet of metal in it. The only purpose of the glass is to hold the mirror. Now if one side is bright, and the other is dark, it simply looks like a mirror from the bright side. Well, what happens if we change every mirror to a one-way mirror, with the Plane of Darkness on the other side? Everything looks like it does now, except that the Plane of Darkness becomes the mirror world!

Was young Siobhan’s distrust due to a childish superstition? Or due to growing up in a family with connections of some kind to the Plane of Darkness? Is it coincidence that the behavior of Myrrdin’s reflection in the story echoes the behavior of what’s sealed in Siobhan’s memory? Which is a thing that she first saw through what seems like a portal to another place…showing a bizarre and scary mirror world?

Am I done? Not yet!

Siobhan is astonished that the sealed memory could have drained the beast core that she swallowed. Devoured its energy, as it were. This brings to mind Chapter 188 – The Curse of Curiosity – Azalea Ellis where we find out about the process for producing celerium:

Kiernan gave her a strange look. “You can speak freely with me, my lady. I already know that it holds the process for purifying and draining beast cores of power without shattering them, allowing us to turn them into pure celerium that can be used as Conduits.”

And now we have a way to drain beast cores, maybe without shattering them. Namely invite a shadow from the Plane of Darkness to arise and devour them. But this has the unwelcome effect that you now have a devil with a good deal of power. So maybe you don’t want to do this around people?

Where did Myrddin do it? Well, Prologue – Myrddin’s Hermitage – Azalea Ellis has what might be a hint:

Atop it was a book. It lay open, with the handwriting stopping halfway down the page, abruptly, as if it had been interrupted. It was surrounded by loose sheets of parchment that held the faint remnants of drawings and diagrams, faded to the point of illegibility. Two bowls sat across from the book, one filled with beast cores of all different colors and sizes, enough potential energy for even the most powerful spells, and one with what seemed to be pure celerium Conduits, each half the size of his fist.

Apparently Myrddin did it in his hermitage. In the Black Wastes. A place filled with dangerous things that drives people insane. Which Chapter 144 – Alliance Against Curiosity (Book 4 Start) – Azalea Ellis suggests is due to dangerous magic injected by the Brillig. Am I going out on a limb in guessing that Myrddin went to a place already infected with the Plane of Darkness to conduct an operation which can create magical waste that can infect the neighborhood with a connection to the Plane of Darkness?

Now does this connect to having a split will? The series documents that the brillig, Myrddin, and Siobhan all can split wills. All have some sort of connection to the Plane of Darkness. Chapter 160 – Decryption Clues – Azalea Ellis suggests that the ability to split wills involves some sort of extensive self-mutilation. The same idea shows up in the next chapter, both in Lacer continuing to talk about it, and in Siobhan recalling that detail from the previous chapter. Could what’s sealed in her mind be connected to that capability?

That’s it for my speculation. The Plane of Darkness is realm of devils and lost souls. It is also the mirror world. It is connected to both what’s in her mind, and the Black Wastes. The thing in her mind has been taking souls, and wants out so that it can take more. It may be a devil. Having a connection allows you to split your mind. You can also use it to make celerium from beast cores, at significant cost to the environment.

Oh fine, I’ll add one more piece of speculation. If Waverley ever finds out that she can contact an elemental from the Plane of Darkness through Sebastian, she’ll want it for the coolest familiar ever. This would be…a spectacularly bad idea.

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Well, that’s a lot. But i think the biggest reason that most people seem to think that there is a Plane of Darkness is because of the binary opposite nature of the other planes. Fire vs Water. Air vs Earth. Radience vs … Darkness.

I’m sure someone will chime in about how other cultures saw five elements, not in opposition, and that Radience would fit this mindset well … but that doesn’t seem to be how the (mostly Western seeming) characters we see treat magic. There doesn’t seem to be a large supply of elemental planes either; no sub-planes of ice or smoke or metal. But while pentagrams/pentagons are important in thaumatergy, hexagons and hexagrams are important in karmic magic (according to the description near the start of Larva, when Percy meets the hag). Karma is about keeping the world in balance, and so for the world to be balanced, six elemental planes should exist. (This could also suggest that, since the populated world exists, it is the Plane of Darkness, and the inhabitants simply don’t realize it. I don’t think this is the case, but it could make for a fascinating conspiracy theory in the books.)

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Well, the magic system is based on the Greek. Pathagoras’ followers used the Penteagram the interwebs will tell you that “the pentagram represents the elements: Earth, Air, Fire and Water, with Spirit placed on the top” Although I’ve got my doubts about that (Christians liked to say it represented the five wounds of christ); it may have just represented harmony - Pathagoras seems to have thought it was the perfect shape.

But, suppose the perfect shape is not the pentagon, but the hexagram? Well, in myth that still seemingly represented the 4 elements, but in some fantasy (like FFXIV) it often represents four elements plus light and dark. Now, what’s our elements?

Radiance, water, air, fire? or earth? (its 4+1 according to Azalea’s notes to us)

I’ve long thought that all the Myrddin mirror stories and the traveling to a different realm (to rescue a princess, or lock some sort of evil away) were traveling to the plane of darkness, or possibly the realm of the fae - which may be the same thing. Alice through the looking glass, right?

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I have no idea how the fae fit into anything.

But one thing that made me feel I was onto something was how many places it just fit. When I noticed a brimstone face, that is so strongly associated with devils that I convinced myself. Either a devil, or something fairly close to one.

I feel like there are things we can know about the plane of darkness through it being the antithesis of the plane of radiance. The plane of radiance has healing properties, properties of a sort of scouring cleansing and purification and plant growth. We also might extrapolate from light refinement, that the general element of radiance within the 5 element system of the gestura has properties that lend themselves toward mental acuity.

The Black Wastes have properties of decay, confusion, corruption, where nothing natural grows and madness is inevitable. That is why I think they were created by infusing the area with energy from the plane of darkness.

Also, for the devils thing, I think it’s notable that in-universe there is apparently a distinction between devils and demons. Demons are sapient humanoids from the plane of fire, and devils are hypothetical residents of the plane of darkness… Sometimes in other media (e.g. D&D) when there is a distinction between devils and demons, it is that demons are chaotic and devils are ordered.:thinking:

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One more thing that I realized.

Siobhan thinks that what is in her head is an Aberrant. But it is intelligent, and it can choose who it drives insane. This makes it unlikely to be an Aberrant.

The reasons to specifically suspect a devil are the associations between the Plane of Darkness and devils, and the connection between the nightmares and a face made from brimstone.

What if the plan of darkness is the plane that we are on?

Stop and think about it, if there ever was a place that was the opposite of radiance, wouldn’t it be here?

Or the realm that she lives on?

And why do people think that 5 isn’t a balanced number, but a lot of those same people think that 3 is a balanced number.

It’s a prime number, it’s balanced.

Even numbers after two need something to pair to make it divisible by two.

Is fire really the opposite of water? Because earth and air can also kill it.

And honestly, scientifically speaking, fire is just a by product. It needs [food] to exist, where earth, air, and water do not. Heat, maybe a better thing.

Then there is also the whole freaking idea that if enough people believe, it makes it so.

I need to go check the description of a deamon, a being from the fire plane who … I don’t remember what lacer describes while trying to get ennis to confirm that the familiar was in fact that type of creature

Because you have the elements, and then 5 OTHER planes, so in total, there is currently 6 planes.

To add jet another would mean the total is now 7 planes, and is that a balanced number?

So, a lot of the crux of your argument seems to hang on this:

The actual (super unnerving) passage is:

Though she tried to stop, or at least to slow herself, she walked to the center of the room, catching the edge of a mirror frame in her vision. She tried not to look, but she wasn’t in control. The mirror, a rectangle taller than it was wide, was framed in smoldering brimstone, carved in the shape of twisted and elongated limbs, with disjointed fingers poking out here, a knee bent backwards there at the corner, and horribly mangled human feet at the bottom, as if they had been crushed under the monstrous weight of the mirror.
Siobhan’s heart began to beat rapidly, dizzying her and leaving the edges of her vision blurry and dreamlike. Her eyes dragged themselves up to the reflection, which showed not her, but a window looking out over a surreal landscape that had been painted in muted earth tones and fog.
In the distance, hunched forms shuffled. As she stared, they became more defined.
“No, no,” she pleaded, trying to wrench her focus away.> As if in answer to her desperate prayer, her eyes began to move again. But not away. Up—toward the top of the frame—and she couldn’t stop them and she couldn’t look away, but she knew that whatever she saw was going to be horrible, going to break her heart and wrench open her mind. She tried to scream, but what came out were just muted whimpers and whines, like a wounded animal.
Finally, the smoldering brimstone face at the top of the mirror came into view, bound into the frame.
Siobhan tried not to recognize it.
She reached up, ready to claw at her own eyes to stop herself from seeing. Just as her fingertips dug into their slimy wetness, she woke.

I don’t read that as her seeing the face through the mirror and struggling not to remember it, I read that as the face being part of the mirror’s frame, which is also made of feet and misshapen limbs of brimstone.

She sees the face, and struggles not to recognize it.

Now that we have more information I think the “mirror frame” was composed of aberrant components, probably the majority of the body of one particular aberrant, which was used as a component in a spell to create a stable portal to the plane of darkness.

And she struggles not to recognize the face of this aberrant because of the horror of placing it as the human that became that aberrant, probably her mother.

So, yeah, I don’t think that the face was from a devil, I think it was Miakoda’s.

I do agree that this, “mirror” is also the “doorway filled with hungry sky” we see referenced later, and that the hunched figures we see beyond it are, in fact, devils. But I don’t think that the face of Brimstone was one such.

I also think it’s possible that aberrants are somehow inherently tied to the plane of darkness, which is why the whole body of one was used to create such a portal, and also possibly why there seem to be no aberrant effects that are beneficial or neutral to the humans around them, and every single one seems to be harmful.

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That’s where the argument that the thing in her memory is a devil comes from. But even if not, it is touched by the plane of shadow.

An Aberrant is possible, but seems unlikely to me. The thing appears sentient, which is rare. And the thing picks and chooses who its powers get used on. Which is not something that Aberrants do.

But the only person who knows is Azalea. She’ll tell us eventually. But she’s drawing it out, making it fun. She certainly won’t give spoilers.

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The evil bit here is that even if it is her mother, that doesn’t mean that the presence in her mind can’t be a devil; its just that grandfather used her mother to make the portal.

Let’s imagine that Grandfather sees that his daughter has cast through her flesh and she can’t stop doing magic. So. He’s a magic researcher, maybe even very old (blood emperor, or myrddin speculation aside) and he wants access to this plane of darkness for some reason (maybe its just the story, maybe he’s seen something he thinks will work, maybe he needs to return the thing that myrddin pulled out, dunno.)

He knows a spell, or thinks he knows a spell, to open a doorway to the plane of darkness. He teaches Miakoda this spell, and she naturally casts it until she becomes the doorway.

Then, a young S. sees through the doorway without the right mental protections, and one of the things inside gets in her brain.

On that hypothetical, that could be two options: 1. this is a piece of Miakoda’s consciousness, twisted into an aberrant or 2. that really is the plane of darkness on the other side and a creature came through.

This is assuming that the blight type aberrant that destroyed the village is a second aberrant; otherwise, S. would never have had the creature sealed in her mind to protect her.

Or, the aberrant effect could be to split her own consciousness as well; in which case, The Raven Queen is still just S, and there isn’t any promulgating effect because she’s already experienced the effect. Thus the aberrant effect is not as sinister then as she might believe, but she received it in such a traumatic way she doesn’t understand it.

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And let’s take it a step farther.

Her grandfather’s wants to produce a new Myrddin from her, to give her a split will.

Wasn’t access to more powerful magic, even if others would object, a big thing in the Blood Empire?

Aberrants - at least the more powerful ones - do seem capable of choosing to use or not use their effects. The prophecy one comes to mind; it doesn’t give portents of Doom to everybody, only those who ask it. Newton was unable to fully discern, and yet he also spared anyone casting his calming spell.

I also speculate that the mirror is the Aberrant form of Miakoda. But this doesn’t mean that she isn’t still sentient/sapient. The entire time Lacer spends arguing with Titus and Kuchen, “The Raven Queen displays intelligent thought” is never used as evidence against her being an Aberrant. The biggest argument in favor of RQ’s potential Aberrant-hood is the seemingly effortless shadow magic. It is accepted as fact by Lacer that an Aberrant can display intelligence and act with more than mere “animal cunning.”

Also, even if the Entity in Siobhan’s memory is Miakoda, that doesn’t mean it’s her Aberrant self. She was losing control of herself after the loss of her familiar and doing her flesh casting; before her Will broke, maybe she had the thought that transplanting her mind into Siobhan would save herself from the mental decay, and was lost/selfish enough to do it (imperfectly). If it is some piece of Aberrant!Miakoda, then it does support the Red Guard’s destruction of their village as a Psychic-type Aberrant, spreading from mind to mind. But if she is instead a portal to the Plane of Darkness as you think, the effects of an always hungry, devouring plane may have simply mimicked a Psychic type (especially when the Red Guard doesnt seem to take the types too seriously).

Of course, the real question we should be asking is, what kind of spells are the Red Guard casting from Miakoda’s body? I expect that extra piece of Newton could empower a curse to propagate through a whole mess of people …