Encyclopaedia Arcana #39: Other Worlds (Part Four)

Although shadow realms are very handy things, they do come with associated problems.

Paying the Utility Bills

The most basic issue with a shadow realm is logistics.  Being a fully isolated pocket reality means that the only way something is going to get there is if a mage specifically gates it in.  In a lot of ways a shadow realm is like a small space station, with all the associated problems – mages have it easier than astronauts in that they can just gate back to Earth whenever they need to, but that doesn’t change the fact that they have to supply nearly everything themselves.

This, more than anything else, is the reason mages don’t like to live in shadow realms.  Everything from food and clothes to tools and equipment to batteries, paper, and shampoo has to be manually transported in.  You can forget about anything like electricity, gas, or hot water (or running water at all, for that matter) and getting a repairman in to install something is difficult to put it mildly.  It’s an enormous inconvenience and a constant drain on a mage’s time and energy.

Creative and patient mages can try to alleviate these problems by turning their shadow realm into a small ecosystem.  The metaphysical link between a shadow realm and its tied location usually takes care of issues such as atmosphere and energy, which means that it’s quite possible to make the realm hospitable enough to support life (though this does depend on the qualities of the tied location).  It still won’t help if you want all the conveniences of a modern home, but it does make the shadow realm more self-sustaining.

Long Distance

Shadow realms are also really bad when it comes to communications.  Any kind of modern telecommunication is obviously out, which means no Internet or phone service, and even magical methods don’t work very well.  Most mages just end up resigning themselves to the fact that while they’re in their shadow realm, they’ll be cut off from the outside.

All of this gives shadow realms a very isolating effect, where anyone spending extended periods of time in one ends up missing most of what’s happening in the wider world.  It’s not a problem for short stays, but it causes issues for mages planning to live there.

Beat A Path To Your Door

There’s a less obvious problem with shadow realms that’s easy to overlook.  Shadow realms are very useful . . . but they’re also widely known to be very useful, and their demand exceeds their supply.  Shadow realms might be easier to create than bubbles, but ‘easier’ doesn’t mean ‘easy’, and there’s no guarantee that a newly grown shadow realm is going to match up with its creator’s requirements.  For someone who can’t make the kind of shadow realm they want or who just doesn’t have the patience to wait, the alternative is to take someone else’s.

Most people wouldn’t think of a shadow realm as something that’s easy to steal, and in a way they’d be right.  Shadow realms can’t be transported and resold in the way that jewellery or magic items can, and there’s no way a thief can simply pick one up and cart it away.  On the other hand, that also means that its current owner can’t cart it away, either – once a shadow realm’s location has been discovered, it’s a stationary target.  The relative isolation of shadow realms means that they act a lot like little strongholds in the unclaimed borderlands, and if something goes wrong, it’ll be a long time before anyone comes to help, if they even come at all.  Young and inexperienced shadow realm owners are at the most risk, but older mages aren’t immune by any means, and some of the most ancient shadow realms have bloody histories where the shadow realm has passed violently from owner to owner.

With this in mind, it’s not surprising that many mages are paranoid about their shadow realm’s security.  An undiscovered shadow realm is safe, but the more people that know about it and can access it, the less secure it is.

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