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Beneath the skin of the world lies the realm of the Dead. Scattered throughout that cold, grey, morose realm are thirteen places. Some are castles, others are fortresses, or monasteries, or libraries, or even stranger abodes. All, however, are steeped in power and full to the brim with black miracles and unholy artifice, tumbled from the grim hands of certain, ancient ghosts. On this particular occasion, they are also empty.

It was a dark and stormy night. This, of course, was completely appropriate, if not entirely noticeable. Weather is rather difficult to notice while journeying through the deep, dark, dead places beneath even the Underworld.

In the heart of the Labyrinth, overlooking the Mouth of the Void, dead gods have erected a pavilion. It is beautiful, in its own, terrifying way, with great swathes of black cloth embroidered with bitterness, graceful turrets of the finest child-bone, and a magnificent ballroom paneled with fear, enchanted blood, and the very substance of night. Even now, their titanic, unhurried hands create the final touches. A long table is conjured from the notional and set with a morbid banquet. A podium, upon which rests a pair of intricately crafted devices, is similarly wished into existence. Finally, a glowing orb is set to spinning, high above the ballroom’s floor of black marble, casting flecks of light across the emptiness.

The chthonic shapes faded back into their dusty tombs and ancient porticos, waiting for the guests to arrive. And arrive they did, coming in ones and twos, some with dates, some without, but all in long, steel carriages pulled by demons and hungry ghosts, led by flickering ghost-lanterns. One by one they pulled up to the exquisitely arched doorway and stepped onto a fine carpet of woven hair and maiden-skin, shuffling awkwardly inside, eyes cast down or imperiously upward.

First to enter was a rather peculiar couple. A man, towering nine feet tall, covered in nocked and scorched armor beneath which no flesh was visible, strode into the great, empty ballroom with a petite, raven-haired beauty hanging on his arm. The woman had eyes of green mystery and skin pale as polished marble. Her feet did not touch the ground when she walked.

On the podium, darkness congealed behind the two devices, forming a man-shaped creature who, after performing a complex initiation procedure, began to place large discs onto the flat tops of his machines. Just minutes later, discordant, pulsing music began to emanate from the walls, seemingly conjured from nowhere.

“Would… would you care to dance?” muttered the tall man, his nonexistent eyes cast squarely at his roughshod boots.

“No,” his date sighed airily, “but I would love some punch.”

While this awkward exchange was taking place, more guests were arriving. A terrifying, fanged corpse with weeping, milky-green eyes and oily, black skin made his way into the ballroom, trailed by no less than twelve ghostly women, all singing his praises. He smiled madly and stood, surveying his surroundings and tapping a desiccated foot to the music.

Just behind the monster walked an angel, robed in sable and cerulean veils. She wore a corsage of intertwined tongues, given to her by the handsome, black-haired man that walked at her side, and purred deep in her throat while she idly traced a spiraling pattern across her beaux’s cheek with the tip of one, perfect finger. This caused him to shiver and roll back his eyes, but then her recovered and whisked his partner off to the dance floor.