For backgrounds on the characters played in this campaign, look here~
In an instant, Emma re-appeared within the great hall of the crooked tower–removed from her companions during the destruction of the horological golem which had stood fiercely against her friends. Now, some ten minutes passed and her fellows long since withdrawn from the Crooked Tower, the barbarian found herself faced once more with Belishan the Bloodmage. Staunching her rage and quaffing potions, Emma calmed herself and–rather than hoist her sizable blade and renew the battle again–took a seat and bid Belishan to parlay.
With a strange and quiet exchange, grievances were aired–and Emma insisted to the infamous wizard that the party would trouble him no more under threat of her own administered beatings; not two minutes after Emma’s emergence, Anselme also appeared–and together, the pair were swift to negotiate their safe withdraw from the tower amidst dire warnings of further provocation. Ferried in a carriage drawn by nightmares, the duo were returned to the camp–rejoining the rest of the party with portents of what could lay ahead should further aggression be mounted.
Nevertheless, Meryk had received a sending from Iramine–and the party now possessed another statue among the collection of the nine disciples. Closer still to their goal of mounting a preemptive assault on Orcus’ minions, attention was then directed towards reconnoitering what lay among the Harrow Lanes in the temple-city of Tsar such that preparations could be made to venture after the treacherous stairs of doom. In order to better enlighten the group, Pandora had spared no expense in acquiring scrolls of legend lore before proceeding on stealthy forays into the city to gather more information.
The results of such by the drow’s crafty measures reaped a great deal of new information for the party. Of the stairs, Pandora revealed the following:
This forlorn stair is avoided by the denizens of the ruins and, even in the days of the city in its prime, was braved only by the strange giant known as Larach-Umbriol. For on this stair, more than a thousand years ago, before even the foundations of the great city of Tsar were laid, there occurred a tragedy of monumental proportions. So great was this tragedy, that its author lingers still, guarding the stair from all who would dare pass. Only Larach-Umbriol was spared its enmity, though none could say why.
In the final days of St. Harul’s Hold the last high priest to be a cleric of both Aroden and Mitra, an aged patriarch named Mordecai, descended these stairs alone to the small shrine that served as his personal sanctum, in order to observe a private midnight vigil for an ancient holy day sacred to both Aroden and Mitra. Unbeknownst to Mordecai, Orcus had not forgotten this little-known sacred night and had sent a powerful servant to await the patriarch and ambush him while alone. The powerful devourer appeared on the steps before Mordecai and attacked. At its feet lay the bloodied corpses of some of the Hold’s faithful parishioners that the beast and stolen from their beds and dismembered while awaiting the priest’s arrival.
Mordecai could have used his magic to retreat back into the safety of the Hold to rally its clerics and Justicar guardians, but he knew in the precious moments lost, more of his faithful flock dwelling in scattered cottages on the terraces nearby would likely be slaughtered. Instead he drew forth his enchanted weapon, the Hammer of the Three Gods, passed down as the symbol of office to each patriarch of the Hold since its founding a millennium earlier, and bravely faced the beast.
The battle raged for some time, and by its end warriors and priests had descended from the Hold and reached the top of the stair. From there they saw their beloved patriarch, bloodied and exhausted standing triumphantly over the creature, one hammer stroke away from victory. But as the hammer stroke fell, powerful vile magic was unleashed which obliterated Mordecai’s divine protections. The devourer was restored to its full strength and Mordecai was struck down by the unholy backlash. The minions of St. Harul’s Hold watched in horror as the renewed undead monstrosity took their helpless patriarch and devoured him alive before their eyes.
With the surge of strength brought on by the absorption of the high priest’s soul, the devourer faced down the paladins and clerics that charged toward it. Divine protection mattered little to the devourer that was Mordecai’s Doom–for even wards against death melted away beneath its wicked attacks. The battle lasted a full day and spent the main strength of the Hold’s garrison. Ultimately they evacuated the surrounding dwellings and withdrew. A blockade was created at the top of the stair while the surviving priests summoned more help.
Mordecai’s Doom continued to haunt the stair and slew every group of heroes that was sent down to destroy it but, strangely, seemed content to remain upon the stair and not threaten the surrounding settlement. A guard was placed on the stair, which over the years became an embarrassing canker on the face of St. Harul’s, but the evil presence could never be rooted out. The hammer was left where it had fallen, for none could reclaim it beneath the watch of Mordecai’s Doom.
Among the party, the temperament was grim; to face such a foe would doubtless be a perilous venture, but the recovery of Brother Vang’s matron mother and Meryk’s loved one would nevertheless be a paramount priority. It was decided as well that the party would seek an audience with the Khanjar, hoping that they might better glean information about the tiers of Tsar and its inhabitants, that they might plot a course for their efforts in the days to come. Of information revealed, however, Pandora was not finished–for she had discerned a great deal about Brother Vang himself and the mysterious scar he bore from his infancy:
(This information appended with Brother Vang’s background, which can be read here.)
In truth, the man and woman thought to be Vang’s parents were themselves only custodians of the baby–and while it was intended that young Vang be raised by Cheliax (at a ‘proper’ devil-worshipping home) in order to prepare him for his ‘destiny’, the plan went awry in several stages. Baalzebul had set in motion the boy’s intended course–that he would be raised with proper ties to devilry, that he might become the one to wield the sword Demonbane–the artifact blade intended to lay low even the likes of Orcus himself. Baalzebul had no intention of allowing Orcus an opportunity to achieve the godhood he so desperately sought.
Slavish, a powerful sorcerer and servant of the Archduke of Hell (Baalzebul), was accepted into the Army of Light during the first battle of Tsar–a most controversial alliance. Said to be the equal of Zelkor or Agamemnon himself, Slavish was a devoted devil-worshipper–but Baalzebul, like Hecate, was lawfully aligned and therefor opposed to the demonic chaos of Orcus and his forces; allowing a follower of an Archduke of Hell, the opposite end of the evil spectrum from the demons of Orcus, was considered anathema to the cause of many in the goodly host. However, Zelkor’s judgment to admit him came after private consel–during which not even the likes of legendary lore can truly reveal.
(Additionally, Brother Vang had GM secret notes for hooks around a botched ritual listed here:)
The “devil” lord that his parent’s cult worshipped (were thralls to) was actually an arch daemon of Gehenna (thus not really honoring contracts). Posing as a “lesser known” devil lord of the nine hells. The lead diabolist of the cult learned what he thought was the true name of a very powerful devil and was to blinded by power to do the proper research. What it really was was a word of power that acted as an alarm for this arch daemon, to let him know that it was show time for his false lesser known devil lord persona to dominate some rubes.
Brother Vang has a scar. It’s a symbol that was carved into his chest with a ritualistic dagger, when he was laid on the alter moments from being rescued from sacrifice. This symbol could be recognized by anyone from that neighborhood of Cheliax at the time of the rescue attempt and explosion, or anybody that can make the proper (probably high) knowledge rolls.
(And to this, Pandora had discovered the following through legend lore:)
A great many orchestrations brought about the ruin and corruption of Baalzebul’s plan for young Vang–made possible in part by Moloch, the infernal seneschal in Baalzebul’s court, who plots to overthrow the Archduke of Hell. Without knowing the full ramifications of Baalzebul’s schemes (for Moloch is nothing if not crude), Moloch agreed readily when approached by even a servant of Orcus–so great was his desire to foil the efforts of his master. Orcus had gained the service of an entity unknown to any on the face of Golarion save one–for this contact had been Tar-Baphon’s contribution to the demon prince: a powerful and vile practicioner of magic, Argonax the Mad.
Argonax the Mad is a legendary spellcaster. While details of his existence, ranging from his race to the timeline of his life, vary in tales, they all agree on a single point – Argonax was a powerful spellcaster who sought to rediscover what he called the art of high artifice. This theoretical magical study was supposedly the technique used to create artifacts by the gods and heroes of the ancient past, long lost to mortal craftsmen. While the reason for his endless quest to rediscover this art varies from story to story, the common thread of Argonax legends are his obsession to discover how to create artifacts at any cost, and the unspeakable price he paid in this quest.
One of the reasons tales of Argonax vary so wildly is that the Mad One ultimately concluded that his quest to regain knowledge long since lost to mortals would require both more than one lifetime of study, as well as access to lore and instruction from longdead weavers of magic. Thus, he undertook what he called the College Obscura, a plan to teach himself the arts of all races and sages, not limiting himself to that known by the living or members of a single bloodline. Argonax became well-acquainted with death–but further detail about the legend would require its own set of Legend Lore castings.
Needless to say, a powerful influence of the highest-echelon of magic was brought to bear in order to alter and set askew Baalzebul’s schemes. For you see, the baby that was Vang Tanvor was taken not long after his birth–an event which occured during the first battle against Tsar. This fateful baby was taken from his parents, suspended with magic–the intent having been that should Slavish and the forces of light fail to destroy Orcus and his plans–that in the future, this child could once more take up Demonbane and ensure it came to pass again.
An arch daemon of Gehenna intervened with Moloch and Argonax in order to ensure that Vang’s intended caretakers would be led astray; instead of being raised for Baalzebul, the boy would be corrupted and sacrificed in a great ritual–one which would reshape the powerful soul he bore and instead make him a vessel by Argonax’s machinations. Geb, among the post powerful of necromancers whom ever lived, had provided Argonax with key components for such a ritual–among which was a part of Arazni, the very herald of Aroden herself. It was intended that this ritual would create an unstoppable champion of evil, a body which Argonax could use to lay low the enemies of Orcus and pave the way for not only his arrival in Golarion–but the triumphant return of Tar-Baphon and Geb in kind.
Little did they know, but even this small piece of Arazni was enough to set the ritual awry–for whether through the power of their faith of divine and righteous guidance, the knights of Ozem had been led to the ceremony that day–the fateful raid which plucked young Vang from the clutches of that ruinous ritual and set in motion the path to the man he has grown to be this day. Brother Vang still bears the scarred marking of Baalzebul–for this had been put in place not during the ritual, but centuries before–when as a baby, he was taken from his true mother. But not just any child would suffice for the grand prophecy to succeed–for Vang’s true father was of the highest significance.
In truth, Vang Tanvor is the only living son of Lord Bishu: the heroic paladin-lord, Justicar and champion of Aroden–and leader of the fifty-and-one who successfully breached the temple-city of Tsar those fateful centuries ago.
Presented with such daunting information, Brother Vang was uncertain for a time how he might hold such–but the crusader set aside heavy feelings for the moment, instead focusing on what lay ahead: the party would venture again to the Harrow Lanes, seek the Khanjar and ready themselves to face Mordecai’s Doom at long last.
This write-up was so lengthy that I decided to split it into two parts–check out the second part here!