There is a cold wind blowing through the Reaches of Man.
For as long as history records, there have been gates - from the huge Arches through which whole wagon trains can pass, to little doors more suitable for a child than a grown adult. Between all of these gates is the Netherworld, sometimes dry and dusty, sometimes green and fertile, sometimes cold and snow-covered. But always with the same flat iron-grey sky and generally safe so long as you follow the rules; stay on the path, do not sleep while in the Netherworld and take nothing from the Netherworld through a gate.
The paths of the Netherworld are as many and varied as the gates they traverse between. The most famous are the Great Roads that connect the Arches. They are arrow straight and topped with smooth paving stones. One hundred paces to each side the land is flat and featureless, adorned only with grass and wild flowers. The other paths range from tracks wide enough for wagons to those that seem little more than animal tracks. Most are of handpicked earth sometimes supplemented by hewn timber or crushed stone where the ground is boggy. Occasionally there are small bridges or raised walkways of timber or stones. But most are just hard-beaten earth. But whatever the appearance of the paths, they have been uniformly easy enough to traverse with good footing and clear of obstructing vegitation.
Or so they once were. Now a days it is not uncommon to find weeds growing through the paving stones of the Great Roads, which no longer seem as straight and smooth as they used to be, and thorny bushes and corpses of small stunted trees and thick underground seem to crowd the roads in places. The smaller paths seem to be narrower, rockier and more treacherous underfoot, and a wise traveller takes a stout staff for there are places now where branches hang low over the paths and thorny bushes clutch and tear at the fabric of ones clothes. And while the Netherworld seems as empty and uninhabited as always, travellers commonly talk about the sense of being watched and of darker shadows lurking in the shadows which hover at the edge of ones vision. Many old timers will tell you that it is colder now in the Netherworld, and will point out the dark clouds that can now sometimes be seen rolling slowly across a sky that was once just a featureless expanse of unchanging grey.
There is a cold wind blowing through the reaches of man and it seems to be coming from the Netherworld.
Many dismiss such stories and reports of growing darkness and danger in the Netherworld as superstitious nonsense. They point to thousands of people who daily, and safely, traverse the paths between the portals. They point to the countless stories and fables of of dark happenings and terrible fates set in the Netherworld as evidence that nothing has changed, or if it has, it is not the first time it has, and will not be the last. Of course the Netherworld is dangerous, but not if you follow the rules: stay on the path, do not sleep while in the Netherworld and take nothing from it.