|“||I am Od Nua, lord of my people, who would reach into the heart of heaven and pull the dead back into life.||”|
The Endless Paths of Od Nua is a 15 level mega-dungeon located beneath Caed Nua, in the western Dyrwood. Built under the orders of the mad Engwithan tyrant Od Nua, it is a cursed, abandoned place, the only Engwithan ruin the Glanfathan tribes refuse to defend.
There is a storyline associated with the Endless Paths of Od Nua, but it is separate from the main plot. In Pillars of Eternity the player comes across the Endless Paths relatively early in their adventure. Access to all but the topmost level of the Endless Paths is barred by a magic door until completion of the quest The Old Watcher.
Apart from a small part of the first level, the dungeon is entirely optional. As the player explores the Endless Paths, the dungeon becomes progressively harder at a faster rate than the player can advance levels. Because of this, it is wise for the player to intermittently leave and return to the Endless Paths as they gain power and experience over the course of the game.
In the western reaches of the Dyrwood lies the Endless Paths, an ancient network of cobbled trails that wind through arches of dense overgrowth, twisting within the confines of a high castle wall as they make their way to the gates of iron-shuttered towers that jut forth from the interior. In ages past, the towers rising from the gardens to pierce the canopy of the forest once marked the dominion of the castle's relentless, crazed builder: Od Nua. But the courses of Od Nua's madness run far below the surface, stretching forever deeper into wandering catacombs and bone-cramped oubliettes unseen by living eyes for centuries. The Endless Paths, as the old Glanfathans call them, cannot be walked by the living, but the storytellers say with certainty that many strong souls have found a permanent home beneath the grieving creator's estate.
Most else that is said and written of the place is fiction or conjecture, more likely to have sprouted from the svef-enhanced imaginations of bored and boasting mercenaries than from any seed of truth. Hosts of lost souls that relentlessly stalk the living, cathedral-sized tombs overflowing with the restless victims of a horrific plague, lightless chambers sealing in the remnants of Od Nua's failed experiments. Most legends converge on a common theme: that under the castle rest myriad forgotten vaults of death and darkness glittering with Od Nua's enchanted creations and the abandoned treasure of ill-fated interlopers. So great is the fear of the castle's denizens that even drunken and drug-cheered adventurers do not joke of setting foot on the paths, lest their souls join the eternal ranks of those that have gone before them.
The Endless Paths were originally a fortress and special facility constructed by Od Nua, a much-beloved king of Engwith. Although he was a kind and beloved leader, fate conspired to make him one of the most despised figures in Engwithan history and one of the most recognizable tyrants in history. It all started with his son, Maros Nua. He was a perfectly average boy, with no notable achievements to his name, but deeply loved by his father all the same. He loved him back and tried to make him proud as a warrior. Unfortunately, all he found on the battlefield was death.
Overcame by grief, Od Nua desperately sought a way to bring him back. He summoned the greatest workers, mages, and servants, setting off on a daring quest to defy the Wheel, endlessly grinding souls into dust. Nothing came of it at first, just a series of false starts and wasted efforts. Neither Gabrannos nor Cabiros came up with a solution to his problem. The king grew anxious with the lack of results, worried that his son's soul might forever disappear beyond the Shroud, and permitted new methods to be tested, to better understand the soul. It took acts of terrifying barbarism to begin understanding the soul. Countless Engwithans were tortured to death in Od Nua's fortress, from stripping their souls in blight forges to shattering their souls under violent torture. Worse yet, they finally started making progress. The more the bone pits filled with remains of his subjects, the more did Od Nua and his folk understand about the soul and the closer did they come to finding the dividing line between life and death. Finally, Cabiros and his cabal of twelve wizards and animancers succeeded in their efforts. They found a way to find his son in the adra hub below his keep, in the well of souls buried beneath the earth.
The discovery convinced Od Nua that he was right and that all the atrocities committed thus far were a necessary sacrifice. The research continued under Cabiros' auspices, even as Gabrannos continued his twisted experiments with captive Engwithans and the elemental forges, while a master artisan by the name of Idros tackled the seemingly impossible task of creating a vessel capable of housing Maros Nua's soul. Combining soul magic with Engwithan skills in shaping and growing adra, he carved a mighty titan in Maros' likeness, using a statue as reference. Construction and research continued side by side for years, with Od Nua's wizards eventually mastering animancy: They could determine the precise manner in which a soul would crack and shatter, carefully place a fragment from one into another, and ultimately achieve immortality (or a close approximation thereof) by binding the soul to the body after it dies. Cabiros tested the procedure on himself after perfecting it on captive subjects of Od Nua, but soon discovered that the body still decomposed. In order to stay alive, he needed to feed on the essence of living people or adra. He perfected the spellwork, allowing the rest of his cabal to transition to fampyrhood, preying on Od Nua's subjects.
The king was not pleased with the distraction. He knew he was nearing the end of his work and any distractions that delayed his reunification were unacceptable, not to him, not to the Children of the Wheel. Headed by the three sisters, Andara, Isarna, and Riomara, the Children of the Wheel were a cult that developed around Od Nua's teachings. Fanatically loyal, the Children not only devoutly served the king or great Father, but also used animancy to shape their own souls, tempering virtues and carving weakness from it. Many sacrificed their souls to power Od Nua's vast animat army, confident that once the Father's work is complete, he will bring them all back from the well of souls in the adra beneath the titan.
However, the deeds of Od Nua and his followers came at a price, not just to their souls. The people of Engwith suffered tremendously, used by the king and his cohorts like cattle or firewood in their experiments. Finally, as work on the titan neared completion, they had enough. Hundreds, perhaps thousands were sacrificed in Od Nua's quest, not just for research, but to imbue the very rock and metal of his stronghold with magic. The revolt swept the land just as Od Nua prepared for the final ritual, culminating in a daring assault on the very fortress. As the Engwithan rebels battered down the gates and slowly made their way through the levels of the stronghold, slowly unearthing the horrors left in the wake of their king's obsession, his own cohorts fractured. Cabiros and Gabrannos betrayed their king to save their own skin, letting them pass through to the lower levels. The remainder of Od Nua's forces formed a desperate defensive line on the lowest level of the stronghold, barring the way to the throne room and the titan staging area below.
Yet their cause was lost at that point, as they were divided. Some soldiers despised the Children of the Wheel, blaming them for driving Od Nua to madness with their incessant quest for immortality. Those who served the king out of fear hid in the corridors, trying in vain to come up with an excuse that would let them walk away with their lives. The Children stammered out prayers to Od Nua, hoping for his success. Only the animats stood their ground, devoid of fear or any other feeling. Rebel spies exploited these divides and just as their advance units neared the defensive lines of the mad king, they struck. The defenders folded and soon the Engwithan rebels faced Od Nua and the remnants of his once proud guard. The ensuing confrontation was brutal and decisive, with the king's animats and the cult's leaders struck down with ease, and Od Nua himself laid low with a blade in his belly.
Their celebration was short-lived, however, as Od Nua cast one final spell. A crystal of living adra burst up from the floor, enveloping and sealing his body within, forever anchoring his spirit to the hall where he died and sealing away access to the lowest level of the Endless Paths and the well of souls within. Unable to overcome the magical defenses, the rebels pulled out of the Endless Paths. With Od Nua's loyalists routed, either fleeing the Paths or disappearing in the tunnels, they carried the day. To prevent anyone from excavating Od Nua's stronghold or trying to devise a way to bring him back to life, they sealed the Paths, burying them with stone, soil, and magic.
Cabiros and his wizards were some of those who were sealed below the ground. They used the adra and souls amassed in the titan to sustain him and his team, creating a warped sort of community that endured centuries. They fared better than Gabrannos, who devolved into a feral skeletal wizard, or the rest of Od Nua's loyalists, damned to wander the halls of their fallen king as shadows and banshees. In time, they were joined by new denizens as wildlife slowly began to breach the Endless Paths, setting up nests among derelict monuments to Od Nua's might and grief.
But the story did not end there, as its main actor remained alive. The adra dragon, an ancient beast that found its way down into the caverns below Caed Nua centuries before Od Nua was even born, was still alive. This mighty beast preyed upon the slave working for the mad king and influenced his visions, driving him deeper into madness to sate her appetite for souls. She did not choose the place randomly: The confluence of adra veins provided her with a bounty of souls to consume, allowing her to thrive in the darkness below and grow ever wiser. With each soul she grew wiser and more powerful. But for all that wisdom, she did not predict that Od Nua's workers would eventually separate the titan from the well of souls, while the adra veins would shift deeper below the ground. Even as the titan's adra captured souls of Engwithans, then Glanfathans, then other people who lived above, she realized she would eventually run out of souls and starve.
Centuries passed and the titan began to decay as she consumed the souls within. Its adra began to die and adra beetles started to swarm over the Endless Paths. Cabiros and his cabal were eventually deprived of sustenance, dividing them and leaving the once great wizard the sole ruler of his destroyed domain. The colonization of Dyrwood allowed her to prolong her life for a time: The Erl of Yenwood, as obsessed with Engwithan relics as the rest of the Empire, unearthed the Paths. The dragon, styling herself the Master Below, unleashed her creatures on the hapless Aedyrans, slaughtering them and sending fresh souls into the titan for her to feast upon. Caed Nua became known as a cursed place and all expeditions trying to reclaim it or explore the Paths inevitably failing, either killed or dragged down into the darkness below to feed the dragon.
But all that only delays the inevitable: The titan is good for a few more centuries, but she will die of starvation as the adra finally dies. That is, unless the Watcher, the new lord of Caed Nua, intervenes...
Every few levels there is a Master Staircase that allows fast travel to any other level with similar access, and to the surface in Caed Nua. The surface entrance to this staircase is at the south-east corner of the Chapel.
Behind the scenes
- The Endless Paths megadungeon was added as a bonus when the Project Eternity kickstarter campaign reached 50,000 backers and started with 3 levels, with a new level being added with every 2,500 new backers and with every 20,000 likes on Obsidian's Facebook page. The dungeon ended up being 15 levels deep, as the campaign ended with a combined total of 77,667 backers from Kickstarter and PayPal, and over 20,000 likes on Facebook.
- rpgnuke Interview with Josh Sawyer
- Forum post at somethingawful by Josh Sawyer
- PCWorld interview, Dec 10, 2013
- Update #13: 50K Backers Brings New Mega Dungeon with Adam Brennecke and Josh Sawyer
- Cabiros: "The big question. Binding a soul to its body was not, it turned out, very difficult. We were certain we'd found a kind of immortality. The body could be destroyed beyond repair, but anything less is quite survivable. I was eager to attempt it. My leg, at the time, pained me terribly. Old war wound. And I had heard one subject describe a sense of... distance from the pain inflicted upon them. They felt it, but it didn't matter to them. Which would be a vast improvement! I remember the first moment. The relief." He sighs. "...But we found that after some time the body would remember that it was, after all, dead. There's really no describing what it feels like, to see your own fingers rotting away." He makes a face. "The smell. We tried to revive the affected subjects with energy culled from their fellows, and it worked well enough. I was able to refine the spellwork. Keep myself and the others who had joined me as hale as ever. Od Nua wasn't terribly pleased with the distraction, but that turned out not to matter. The mob came and murdered him, and we were sealed in here with the rest of his tools. But we still had the adra, you see. And enough souls housed in there to feed us for... well, as long as we wished. And so." He grins. "We had a time of it, we did. We were able to preserve the furniture, over the years. We had little meetings, in the grand chamber. What a nice little family we were." His grin fades. "Until it had to end."