Wrath of the Righteous
A century ago, the death of Aroden transformedthe culture and politics of the Inner Sea nations.In the distant north in a land once known as Sarkoris, it changed the world itself, knocking Golarion out of metaphysical alignment in the direction of the Abyss, a nightmare realm in the Great Beyond, screaming with wicked souls and vicious demons.
Until the world split open and demons emerged to raze and ruin the entire nation, Sarkoris was a sprawling scrubland north of Numeria known for its fierce, painted warriors and bizarre witchery. Yet even before the end, Sarkorian mystics spoke of ascendant chaos, a thinness between this world and the next. Strange, ravenous creatures traditionally stalked the mysterious tombs and barrows of the stark region in central Sarkoris known as the Northmounds, where the cult of the demon lord Deskari, Lord of the Locust Host and usher of the Apocalypse, had long tormented the people of Sarkoris. One of Aroden’s many miracles during his early years as a mortal wandering Golarion was his defeat of Deskari and his cult—by driving the cultists and their demonic patrons into the Lake of Mists and Veils, Aroden made the Northmounds safe again.
Just over a century ago, strange signs that the cult had returned to the region manifested. The people of Sarkoris worried, but were confident that the prophesized return of Aroden to the world would put a final end to the cult’s machinations. But as all soon came to realize, no such return would occur. When Aroden died and the world suffered under the wrath of weeks of storms, Sarkoris entered its final dark hours. Ill tidings came to horrific life as vile
abominations quickly overran the Sarkorian clan-holds, scattering their inhabitants and spreading the legend of an insidious taint in the north, centered on the Worldwound, a mile-wide cosmic blight limned in black flame southwest of the barbarian city of Iz. The closer one approaches to the Worldwound, the more the physical world itself becomes unpredictable. Terrain changes before the eyes, shifting form with a torturous deliberation that seems to cause pain to the earth itself. Foul creatures spew from the madness at the center of the blight, monstrosities from the depths of the Abyss; almost overnight they became the undisputed masters of Sarkoris.
As word of Sarkoris’s swift and dramatic fall spread, the church of Iomedae was equally swift to react. Still reeling from the loss of their deity’s patron, an obvious threat like a demonic incursion was precisely the thing that the Iomedaean faithful needed to stave off true despair—her champions and priests threw themselves into the crusade against the Worldwound with an almost reckless abandon, not only to blunt their own horror at Aroden’s death, but also because they believed it was their responsibility to pacify Sarkoris and seal the Worldwound—to finish thejob that Aroden had started so many centuries ago with the first defeat of Deskari’s cult.
To this end, the leaders of Iomedae’s church and those of several other religions decreed the First Mendevian Crusade, as well as the three that followed. Zealous followers of the Inheritor from throughout Avistan still travel up the Sellen River to Mendev in an attempt to support the crusaders. The first efforts to pacify the Worldwound met with considerable success: the demonic hosts were driven back and the crusaders stood sentinel over the land. The malign, almost sentient chaos of the Worldwound, however, was not content to stay within its carefully proscribed borders. The northern crusader city of Drezen formerly stood within the borders of Mendev, but in 4638ar, the counterstroke of the demon-hordes overwhelmed its guardians and protective enchantments, and the entire city fell under the inf luence of the Abyss. Tens of thousands of pilgrims and warriors drowned in the demonic wave that followed, depleting the armies of Mendev and necessitating the Second Mendevian Crusade.
The new inf lux of crusaders helped to stabilize a new front line along the Sellen River in the wake of this disastrous reversal, and the creation of the first bulwark of magical defenses, known as wardstones, helped to contain the demon horde’s growth. Aside from constructing this tenuous hedge to keep the demons from spreading farther south, however, little progress has been made in purging the land of demons, who seem to grow in number with each passing month. The subtler fiends managed to create such unrest and suspicion in Mendev that the Third Crusade was effectively dissipated in witch hunts,
paranoia, and internecine bickering rather than fostering meaningful advances at the front. Fortunately, the demons themselves were far too independent and disorganized to take advantage of their enemy’s indisposition—their own mutually destructive tendencies make coordinated action very difficult. Minor victories and defeats characterize the past several decades of struggle.
The Worldwound has no government as such, merely a loose coalition of demonic masters with sufficient power and malice to compel the allegiance of demons weaker than themselves, whether through onslaughts of raw savagery led by mariliths and balors, or whispering campaigns of terror and anarchy directed by succubi, incubi, and the occasional honey-tongued glabrezu. The strongest warlords in the Worldwound presently are the balor lord Khorramzadeh of Iz, dubbed the Storm King after the mantle of lightning that wreaths him in battle rather than the fiery shroud typical of his kind, and the marilith Aponavicius, conqueror of the crusader city of Drezen.
In perhaps the greatest betrayal, a growing number of humans and other humanoids have pledged loyalty to the demon host, often in return for their own eventual transformation into half-fiends or full demons. The witch Areelu Vorlesh has long held a position of prominence in this shattered land, due to both her eldritch might as well as her encyclopedic knowledge of the Worldwound and its effects. She has studied this eruption of raw chaos since before the fall of Sarkoris, and had just finished her unholy transformation into a half-fiend when the Worldwound opened. Many believe she was largely responsible for the Worldwound, when in fact her role as one of Deskari’s favored minions, while not insignificant, was hardly the primary cause of the catastrophe. Her power, knowledge,
and fell reputation for experimenting on any who displease her (and for sending her pack of retrievers to fetch any who interest her) earn her a wide berth in her adopted home of Undarin.
And above all else looms the vile architect of the Worldwound itself—the demon lord Deskari, a powerful entity said to be the child of an even more powerful demon, Pazuzu. Deskari’s interest and eventual plans for the Worldwound, aside from bringing the Abyss to the Material Plane, remain unknown, yet increasing reports of sightings of the demon lord himself being active within the deepest rifts of the Worldwound are disturbing indeed. Whatever his plans might be, as far as the nation of Sarkoris is concerned, Deskari’s mantle of Usher of the Apocalypse is all too apt.
Locations of Interest
The southwest corner of the Worldwound is dominated by the Shudderwood, a place where the local fey have struggled in vain against the growing perversion of demonic inf luence. Many of the forest’s northern denizens have succumbed, transforming into half-fiends or worse, while to the south, the region of Shudderwood that still lies within Ustalav’s borders hides its own terrors.
The dominant feature of lost Sarkoris is the Worldwound itself. Once a narrow cleft little
more than a mile long amid a region once known as the Northmounds, the Worldwound has grown so vast that it has become its own hideous terrain. This enormous canyon has swallowed up the Northmounds entirely, and now measures more than a mile across at
its widest point and winds for dozens of miles like a scar upon the landscape. The wound itself is filled with nightmare vistas of quivering mesas and undulant lunatic spires, its base
filled with a gelid precipitate of congealed primal chaos-stuff, a burbling cauldron of faintly glowing, sickly rainbow hues. The air above the Worldwound is choked with pestilential fumes shot through with multicolored lightning. It is within the path of the Worldwound that
the demonic horde is strongest, with all manner of Abyssal monstrosities to be found lurking within.