The Phantom Gatekeeper is a mocking representation of the goddess Eissa (Lorminstra) from the Shadow World history. It is (presumably) a dark, hooded figure who guards the cursed gate of The Graveyard, slamming it shut and shaking its keys at trespassers. These are symbolic of the Keys to the Gates of Oblivion, which are opened by the keys of "Life" and "Death". There is also a key for the "Void", the forbidden one which must never be used. The Void are demonic planes of existence, most notably the Pales, which are often associated with the Unlife. It was why the cult mantra of The Dark Path was "Kadaena Throk Farok", which is Iruaric for "Guardian of the Forbidden." The eternal existence beyond this bronze gate mocks the end of all suffering in the infinite void of Purgatory.
A cool breeze sweeps around the gate, sending a shiver down your spine. Suddenly, a Phantom Gatekeeper appears. The Phantom Gatekeeper moans loudly as he shakes a set of keys at you. He slams the gate closed, checks the lock, then disappears in another chilly swirl of air.
The gate looks like it is on fire due to being made out of bronze but topped with iron spikes. When blasted open the iron hinges release a blizzard of dark red rust, resembling a flame burst. The burst simultaneously represents both fire and ice immolation. It was inspired most likely by the temple of Orgiana (Eorgina) which was ruled by the daughter of Kadaena, which used rusted iron spikes and a flame burst to threaten the souls of trespassers. There are several rooms in the crypt that are based on this temple. Orgiana was a male-hating goddess of steel engulfed in flames.
The phantom as a symbol of forbidding fear and the three ladies as the courage to overcome it derives from Canto II of Dante's Inferno, immediately before reaching the Gate of Hell where Beatrice is quoted as saying she was made in such a way by God that the flames cannot scorch her. "There is a place that calls me, where I must go" by Bandur Etrevion about his love for his brother is an allusion to her self-introduction from these lines, where she longs to return to heaven while asking Virgil to seek out Dante in his journey to hell. Eissa would represent the Virgin Mary.
[Graveyard] A massive bronze gate spans the path, blocking the way north. On either side are high stone walls surmounted with jagged rocks. Now green and pitted, the gate is still locked shut by a rusted chain fastened with an ancient padlock. A cast likeness of the goddess Lorminstra, Keeper of the Gates of Oblivion, her Staff of Doom in hand, and a grotesque statue of the Empress Gosaena are the main motifs of the elaborately decorated portal. You also see a dirt path. Obvious paths: none. >l gate The massive bronze gate is wrought with strange and marvelous metalwork beneath the tarnish. Although topped with sharp, menacing spikes, it looks possible to climb it. It is closed. >look chain The chain is rusted but intact. It is long enough to leave sufficient slack should that be needed. >l padlock The padlock is old and corroded, its mechanism frozen shut by rust. >climb gate You carefully grab hold of the sharp grill work and begin to work your way up it. [Graveyard, Top of Gate] You find yourself hanging from the ornate ironwork of this gate, the top of which consists of rows of sharp iron spikes pointing straight up. You might be able to vault over them, but that is best left to the acrobats. Obvious paths: down >jump With characteristic daring, you decide to vault over the spikes! With the grace of a swan you swing yourself over the deadly barbs and drop to the other side of the gate. [Graveyard] You pause inside the gates to survey the eerie scene. A magnificently crafted granite crypt to the north inspires wonder and loathing. The carvings on the facade are horrific, detailing the onslaughts of the Unlife throughout the chaotic history of Elanthia. A gravel path wraps around the structure, while thorny brambles growing among the tombstones deter you from leaving the paved route. Obvious paths: northeast, northwest >climb gate The sharp edges, for some reason, are mostly pointed towards the inside of the gate, making it impossible to attempt to climb. You realize this is rather unusual since most gates try to keep things out! The huge gate shudders violently! Dark red flakes of rust fall from its massive hinges like a blizzard of bloodstained snow as it slowly swings open.
The Phantom Gatekeeper tells you that you are not welcome in The Afterlife. (Or that you are not allowed to leave.) It is possible to climb the gate to enter The Graveyard, but impossible to climb back out from the other side. The bronze of the gate is possibly symbolic of the serpent god Klysus, and could also be an allusion to "The Doom That Came to Sarnath" as elsewhere in The Graveyard. The dark forest before the "phantom" hell gate is the fallen Garden of Eden in Dante, whereas the Enchanted Wood in the fungous dreamlands of Lovecraft has the door to the Underworld of ghouls. The Broken Lands is like Shadow Valley in that it has a hidden premise of coexistence of multiple realities, where the huge cavern with its fungous spires corresponds to a parallel Enchanted Wood.
Behind the Scenes
Phantoms were significant for having no awareness of their past or present state of existence, originating in very long imprisonments that bind them in eternal hopelessness. This may have been symbolic of Oblivion, where identity and memory washed away. The forbidden bronze gate of death being unlocked in a dream state, where the nothingness beyond it is freedom from the pain of the real world and thus better than "the daemon Life", is an allusion to the short story "Ex Oblivione" by H.P. Lovecraft. The Empress Kadaena is portrayed "grotesquely" on the gate, possibly emphasizing her transformative nature. The Dark Path was seemingly proposing being "lost to the demonic" as a superior fate to Death. It was obsessed with "everlasting existence", and may have involved transforming souls into the demonic. While the idea is rooted in archaic history, it still has an analog in modern demonology, as the forging of demons by sorcerers is a conjectured origin of the verlok.
There is a relatively obvious parallel to this Gate of the Black Hel, which conflates the Gates of Oblivion and Gates of the Void, with the "abandon all hope" Gate of Hell from Dante's Inferno. What is much more subtle is the Egyptian necropolis aspect to its decoration, where each gateway further into the underworld was guarded by two opposite gods and a serpent. Klysus (Luukos) was simultaneously a serpent, sun, and soul devourer god. His relevance to The Graveyard is much easier to miss than Eissa, but he was a patron of the other Etrevions from their fealty to Lorgalis. The underground stronghold with its Klysus cult and the cemetery on the Coastal Cliffs are part of the Etrevion story. His wyrm avatar resembled the flying serpent demon of Shadow Valley.