Innistrad is a plane that bares striking resemblance to Europe circa 1800s. It is home to dark woods that are prowled by werewolves, endless moors where the dead are brought back to life, endless coastlines where the spirits of perished sailors return to reek havoc and mountain ranges cloaked in dense clouds which allow vampires to reign supreme.
Innistrad's moon is both a source of hope and a harbinger of woe. Many Innistrad astronomers believe that the moon is a vast desert made of grains of pure silver, and that any extant silver on Innistrad originated from the moon. Cathars and priests know the power of specially blessed silver to harm werewolves and ward off other horrors, so the moon has become associated with the divine strength of the archangel Avacyn.
Some even perceive the shape of a heron in the areas of dark and light on Innistrad's moon, and so the heron has come to be a symbol of Avacyn. But the rise of the moon can also dampen protective magic and cause werewolves to transform from human to wolf. The fickle silver moon seems both to serve humanity and to bring out the worst evils within.
Innistrad humans also name the world's seasons by different aspects of the moon, as it seems hold a strange influence on the world as the seasons change.
This is Innistrad's autumn. A huge orange-to-blood-red moon hangs in the night sky. The days grow shorter. The weather cools with each passing day and the forests turn vibrant colors. This is considered to be the time when vampires are the strongest. Bonfires are common during harvest time, when farmers toil late in the fields until after twilight. The bonfires are thought to keep the vampires away.
This is Innistrad's winter. The chill never leaves the air and the sun's apex is close to the horizon. This is the longest season, and the time when food becomes most scarce. More hunters have to venture out into the wilds in search of food, which results in increased attacks on humans.
This is considered to be the time when werewolves are the strongest. Since there are more humans hunting and traveling in the woods during these months, werewolf attacks are more prevalent. The humans believe the attacks have something to do with the season itself, although there are no more werewolves at this time than any other time of year.
This is as close as Innistrad gets to a spring and is the shortest season. The days are longest and the sun is the brightest, though still pale compared to some worlds, and there is new growth in the forests. Humans consider this their season, associating it with new life and birth. Babies born under the New Moon are considered to be holier, with a better chance of attaining the Blessed Sleep.
The province of Gavony is where humanity remains safest and strongest. It is home to Thraben, largest city in the known world, which houses the mighty Cathedral of Avacyn, seat of religion in the world. Smaller towns radiate outward from Thraben across Gavony's rocky moors. Small copses of trees dot the landscape of rolling hills and heaths. Because more human dead are buried here than anywhere else, Gavony is more plagued by the undead than other provinces, and geists are more common as well.
Innistrad's vast, wooded hinterland is called Kessig, a province in a state of perpetual autumn. The deep woods are king here, although small human communities have carved out farming villages, and groups of hunters and trappers venture into the forest to make a living. Even new arrivals to Kessig know not to venture out at night. Even if the wilderness weren't haunted, it wouldn't be safe, werewolves prowl the province, sometimes alone and sometimes in packs.
The coastal province of Nephalia is home to a number of small-to-medium port towns, most situated at the mouth of a river that leads further inland. Nephalia's sloughs, sea mists, and mysteries cloak its commerce and crimes; it is populated mainly by humans, geists, and vampires, all of whom seek business, secrets, or solitude. The province's silver sand beaches, punctuated with rocky promontories and sea caves, afford easiest access to its fog-shrouded ocean.
This province is defined by water, by its access to the ocean (the easiest of any province), by its many rivers that lead deep inland, and by its deltas, marshes, and lakes. Water enables commerce here but also gives Nephalia a silvery, mystical character; the clouds and the moon seem to be both above and below in most places.
Vampires control the province of Stensia, which covers the darkest and most mountainous parts of the plane. The evergreen forests here seem to always be half-dead and the roads always misty and deserted. Jagged hills hide isolated, wary human villages and vampire manors from each other. At the province's edges, the forlorn pines give way to high cliffs above which no human dares venture. In Stensia, the sun seems never to break through the strangely colored clouds.
The earliest part of Innistrad’s history we currently know of is the creation of vampirism. Millenia ago a famine ravaged what would now be Stensia. The alchemist Edgar Markov was performing experiments to try to end the famine, and secretly grant immortality to him and his only grandson Sorin Markov.
The answer was a brutal one: to undergo a blood ritual that would cause some of the people to feed on blood. It would provide sustenance to those few, reducing demand for the failing crops, but it would also cull the overall population, reducing the number of hungry mouths to feed.
A demon called Shilgengar preyed on Edgar's ambition and whispered secrets that would point the way toward Edgar's blood-feeding experiment. Shilgengar also helped the old man overcome his squeamishness at what must be done. Still, Edgar needed prodding for him to go through with the ritual to create the blood-feeders.
Edgar performed the ritual on himself and Sorin, the trauma from which ignited his planeswalker spark, and sired the race of vampires on Innistrad.
Sorin began exploring the planes of the multiverse but always kept an eye on his home plane. When he returned he discovered that the vampires were pushing the humans to the point of extinction causing Sorin to devise a way to save the humans and in doing so saving the vampire race as well.
Using existing legends about the moon he created a network of enchantments which could help protect the humans and also created a symbol to be at the center of them. A symbol so powerful that invoking it would grant immediate protection. He created the archangel Avacyn.
With Avacyn and her divine host in place humanity began to beat back the darkness of Innistrad and their numbers soon began to grow. However the creation of Avacyn and her angels had an unintended consequence, with the influx of such light into the plane the forces of darkness also increased, demons and devils came into corporeal form and their numbers increased dramatically.
A few seasons ago the demon Griselbrand landed on the Helvault and challenged Avacyn to a battle hoping to destroy the angel. Their battle took place out of the public eye and was witnessed by the divine host, Mikaeus and his highest ranking bishops. After many days of battle Avacyn mustered her remaining strength and began the spell to imprison Griselbrand within the Helvault. While he was being dragged into the Helvault Griselbrand threw Avacyn’s spear and impaled her heart causing her spell to backlash and as a result she was trapped within the Helvault as well.
Mikaeus and his bishops quickly covered up Avacyn’s imprisonment and temporarily succeeded in diverting attention from her absence. This lasted until the protective wards and shrines began to fail across the plane and darkness began to engulf the plane once again. The spirits of the dead began to linger on the plane more often and became even more violent then before. The dead rose from their graves and legions of undead began wiping out outlying villages. Werewolves and vampires began slaughtering humans at an ever increasing pace. Demons and devils became even more commonplace than ever before.
The clergy did their best to keep the public from panicking but it became increasingly clear that, not only had Avacyn not be seen in public for sometime, but the protective magic her church became famous for was no longer as strong as it used to be. It was at this point the insane siblings Geralf and Gisa launched their attack on Thraben with their armies of undead. They succeeded in overtaking the outer ring of the city and killing the Lunarch Mikaeus before their army was destroyed by the quick action of Thalia.
Liliana Vess was also in Thraben tracking information about her demonic master Griselbrand and a leader of the Skirsdag told her that the only person who knew where Griselbrand was is now dead and that person was Mikaeus. Using necromancy to bring Mikaeus she learned the whereabouts of Griselbrand.
She quickly made her way to the Helvault with a small force of summoned ghouls and was surrounded by Thalia and her men when she reached the Helvault. Unable to destroy it herself Liliana cast a spell that would force Thalia into destroying the Helvault herself. With a wave of her hand Thalia’s men became paralyzed and unable to defend themselves from the ghouls.
Liliana gave Thalia an ultimatum, either she will destroy the Helvault or her men will be killed. Thalia contemplated the decision until a strangled cry from one of her men forced her hand. Whatever purpose the Helvault served it had not saved the world. Crestfallen, Thalia pointed to the Helvault. Liliana nodded, her spell now complete.
Cracks began to appear and spread across the surface of the Helvault until it shattered completely. As ribbons of black aether silently slipped away from the Helvault a brilliant golden helix shot skyward. It was the archangel Avacyn, free from her prison at last.
Within hours of her return a massive surge was felt in her protective wards and holy magic. The Flights of angels returned invigorated and in higher numbers than ever before. Humans began pushing back against the darkness that had spread in Avacyn’s absence. The village of Gatstaf lead a werewolf hunt that ended with Avacyn appearing before them and casting The Cursemute.
It was also at this time that Liliana tracked Griselbrand to his lair. After a brief confrontation she drew power through the Chain Veil and cast a spell that destroyed the demon outright.
Religion & CultureEdit
Church of AvacynEdit
Humanity's true religion on Innistrad is the Church of Avacyn. The central figure in the Church is Avacyn herself, an archangel so true and so mighty that she held back the darkness of Innistrad. Until recently, Avacyn's presence was so powerful that faith in her yielded true power for clerics and other faithful: prayers to her could cause evil creatures to turn away, silver weapons blessed by her priests could slay great horrors, and runes marked with her symbol could protect entire villages. The Church's efficacy was real and plain to see- a welcome weapon in a world of monsters.
Born from ancient demon-worship, the Skirsdag are now a secret demon cult centered in the High City of Thraben. This secret organization has human members in all levels of the church, nobility, and the trades. Although small, it has been in existence for generations. When the demon Griselbrand rose in power to eclipse all other demons, the Skirsdag gained prominence as well. Griselbrand disappeared around the same time that Avacyn did, leaving the humans of the Skirsdag to further his ends in their lord's absence.
Paganism was well practiced in the time before Avacyn, the nature based magic was used by humans to protect themselves from the evils of Innistrad. After the creation of Avacyn and her church the Pagan rituals went largely unused until the disappearance of Avacyn and the weakening of her protective magic. After Avacyn’s release from the Helvault the Pagan magics seem to have mixed with the protective magics of the Church of Avacyn.
People & RacesEdit
It is unknown whether or not Angels existed before Avacyn but with her creation her flights of Angels rose to assist Avacyn in her quest. Each flight played a central role in the Church of Avacyn each with a different magic that protected humanity in different aspects.
Demons were once a threat only whispered about, a force feared by humans and vampires alike. When Avacyn and her angels pushed back the evils of the world they opened a void which allowed the demons to take corporeal form. Now demons are a force that is felt across the plane and one of the main focus of Avacyn and her angel.
Devils are imp like creatures said to be small portions of demons’ power manifested in a smaller form. Devils cause mayhem wherever they are whether it is in cathedral or in public and many cathars enjoy hunting them. Like the demons of Innistrad devils didn’t always exist on the plane and it wasn’t until Avacyn drove back the other evils of the world did devils manifest in physical form.
Gryffs are longer and leaner than the traditional Innistrad griffin, with flexible necks, sleek hindquarters, lance-like beaks, and equine hooves. Gryffs are swift and nimble flyers, natural enemies of dark creatures, and a powerful force for the side of Avacyn and her angels. Gryffs are sensitive creatures. They have been known to become visibly agitated when in the presence of dark forces. Some clerics have used gryffs to detect malevolent geists, pierce the glamers of vampires, and uncover the corrupting influence of the demonic Skirsdag cult.
Humans of Innistrad live in perpetual danger from the evils of the world. Many fall victim to werewolf attacks, vampire predations, demonic attacks and hordes of zombies called unhallowed. Survival is central to the life of humanity and the Church of Avacyn plays an important role in daily life of all humans on the plane.
Geists have always been a presence on Innistrad, but before Avacyn, all such spirits were malevolent, manifesting on the plane only because of a grudge or regret powerful enough to disturb the Blessed Sleep of the body to which they were connected. In Avacyn's absence, the malevolent spirits were counterbalanced by the appearance of many benevolent and neutral geists, from nurturing apparitions of family members who have passed on to inscrutable ghosts who seem to want to continue whatever duty they had in life.
Vampires on Innistrad live in relative luxury and consider themselves the pinnacle of life on the plane. Vampirism didn’t always exist on Innistrad, long ago Edgar Markov created vampires of Innistrad through the use of a blood ritual which he also used on his grandson Sorin. When the vampires drove their source of food, humans, to the point of extinction Sorin created Avacyn to maintain a balance so vampires and the other evils of the plane would never cause humanity to go extinct.
The werewolf is a creature of duality, forever dragged between two worlds: it is both monster and man, nature and civilization, rational thought and raw savagery. A person afflicted with lycanthropy is forever in doubt of his or her own urges and instincts. In human form, a werewolf feels the pull of the wolf's essence within even while trying to integrate into polite society. A lycanthrope can feel the war of emotions in his or her heart, and as the moon grows full, the influences of conscience, religion, and personal restraint do less and less. The full moon makes the change inevitable, but in fact, any strong emotion or traumatic experience can trigger a lycanthropic crisis and allow the transformation to occur.
The Wolfir are Innistrad’s werewolves who have been transformed due to The Cursemute. Their once warring spirits of the wild and humanity have been combined forming a noble creature. Now the werewolves of Innistrad are no longer predators but protectors of humanity.
Zombies are commonplace on Innistrad. Some are brought back from the dead through the use of necromancy while others are stitched together into new monstrosities called skaabs. Before the return of Avacyn zombies ravaged the plane killing the living in droves.
Represented in the Following Cards