Cursed are the lands of the eleven kingdoms of Belathron, for they are home to an evil unlike any other. Concealed and subtle, it dwells within the earth, corrupting all who walk upon it. None know its face or name; likewise its origin and agenda are a mystery. None can deny its presence.rnDo not travel the Belathroni heights, for it will find a way to your soul, and consume you from within, until all that is sacred is wiped from your memory, and the most heinous acts become your daily bread. By the gods, if only our lords mounted a crusade to purge that accursed land, before that unholy malady finds its way here.
A land rich in natures bounty and treasures of the earth, yet poor in peace, with people abundant yet sanity in short supply. That is Belathron, in the heart of the continent, a hilly and mountainous spine. As long as history can recall, tempers have run hot there, and skirmishes between the local lords were on the daily order, with a full-blown war occurring ever so often. Various powers have laid claim to the Heights, yet again and again they ended up free, a patchwork of lordships and city-states.
Why the eldritch order of Ker-adris built their citadel there is lost to the sands of time. Yet, to learn more, we have to venture inside.
A mountainside citadel carved into a smooth cliff, a scholars recluse and haven it was, with archives and storages stretching deep into the peaks heart; only a fool would assault the walls of Quill Rock, as it came to be called. What for, when it held only books and old men?
The youngsters apprenticed to Quill Rock wondered incessantly and fruitlessly at the citadels design, for its layout was confusing, full of blind passages and seemingly pointless rooms; likewise, the magical lanterns used for illumination were placed at irregular intervals, and shone and went dark in complicated patterns. Many a student has secretly cursed the statue of the keeps builder, Algeron the Bright, after he got himself lost in the labyrinthine causeways and twisting stairs.
There is more behind the strange structure than meets the eye; Algeron designed it on purpose so, after studying the unique mineral layout of the mountain it rests inside. Rock formed by the ascent of one of the elder gods, the jagged peak holds spiraling veins of crystal and magical ores. A conduit for eldritch energies and a natural haven for spirits, its properties as a channel have been greatly enhanced by the citadel within.
While Algeron intended it to be a place where his soul could stay after death, empowered by the places magic, the turmoil that is native to Belathron put an end to his order as all the scholars were slain or fled.
Are you certain? the countess asked her wizards, perhaps for a hundredth time. The abandoned citadel, with its surreal passages, haunting voices and eerie lights made shivers run down her spine incessantly. "Yes, mistress, in this chamber, we can call forth a power great enough to bring an end to your foes, one and all. The Ker-adri built this hold in a place of power" the old sage smiled as sorcerous light ran down his fingers. His apprentice, young in years, but perhaps wiser, asked himself "it did not avail them, did it?" but he was loathe to voice such a comment.
Heeding the call of candle and heptagram in a gods birthplace, it rose, as things that lurk deep in the dark are drawn to the light, delighted that one unsettling dream it managed to send from its prison into the mortal world found its way into the book the elder mage was holding.
The moment Belsethras rune-covered body manifested in full, the countess and her entourage ceased to exist, save for that one apprentice who fled when he felt the nauseating energies of the portal sweep into reality. The countess came to be the central anchor for the foul spirit, whereas the old mages shell would do its bidding wherever the presence could not go; the guards were filled with the twisted essences of Belsethra, and felt as something grew within, even as the presences poisonous thoughts wiped their sense of self.
"Two months ago, I heard it first, and since then, it becomes clearer every night, pure will that hungers, a black cradle that entices you to rest within evils fold, a malignant growth that wishes to cloud the skies with its foul progeny, to silence the dreaded sun. I surely must be cursed. Take this damned life from me, for damned I must be for it to speak to me, to call, to beckon. In its obscene alien femininity it entices me, and I know from its flesh shall spring doom incarnate, if ever given the chance…"
What it intended to be a cradle for its vile scions, became a trap for Belsethra - the chamber it was called into became a prison, for while sustaining energy flowed within, mana in abundance, the being could not swim outside, against the flow. The youngster whom it had infused with energy upon its entry into this bountiful world, meaning to make him into her consort, fled before she could attempt to infiltrate his mind.
A vital part of her gone, she trapped in a luxurious vice, Belsethra could but feast and grow in frustration. As her tendrils reached out from the hold, into the world of man, she discovered a truth obvious to us, denizens of the mortal realms: there is evil in the hearts of men.
We were trailing Kassar the Red for ten days. What is it with these wizards always having to burn everything in their path? One gets dumped, the next thing you see is people on fire, running towards the river, burning houses, and a wizard spouting dire warnings about how he will come back to get you and your dog.
It was obvious that he was headed to the Cinder Height, with its eternal fires and ember spirits. But, when we approached, none of the fire pixies accosted us; all we saw of them were fiery boils on a slimy mass inscribed with some pagan alphabet. The shrine atop the witching site was overrun with fell orcs armed with blades of black glass, or so it appeared; their garb was made of the same. It did avail them not, for we skewered their lot on our spears, and entered the sanctum.
There he was, his robes cast aside, wreathed in tendrils that ran from the slime-covered walls to his wounds, cleaning and closing them, in a disturbingly loving fashion. A snake-like limb was feeding him, but retracted into the wall as we entered. The walls hissed and scalded us with wrathful looks from a hundred eyes scattered across them, and Kassar raised his hands to unleash witch-fire upon us. Gods bless young Paul, who threw his spear at the wizards throat before he could utter the spell.
We cleansed the inside of the shrine with fire and Brom, our squads priest, consecrated it and washed it in holy water. The thing from the walls retreated into crevices like shadows from the sun, but let me tell you, I will die happy if I never have to see anything like it again.
Without her male half that was lost with the wayward apprentice, the entity knew that her womb would remain barren. Denied a chance at progeny, Belsethra embraced the scum of the mortal races, delighting at their wrath, their rapacious desire for power or material gain, their barely restrained urges and their thrill at committing evil.
Banthor was her first, a fallen knight, hunted by his peers. Hiding in a cave, he fell from exhaustion and the strain of his wounds. Belsethras pseudopods extended towards him, and examined the man, to find him to the dark ones liking. She nurtured him and fed him the foul milk of her breast, and placed a little of her vile essence within, so that it may grow, fed by the knights foul temper and sinful deed, to make him worth being called her son one day.
All through Belathron, wherever Belsethra’s tendrils could reach from her imprisoned vessel inside the citadel, dark coves sprang into being, hideouts for the wicked who are called there by a siren song; soon, they become faster, stronger, and feel remorse and guilt taken from their hearts. Belsethra is a dark goddess to them, one who loves what they are, and supports them until they are but a vessel for sin, one with the infernal essence they so eagerly accepted.
The most tainted of their lot become one with the mothers mind, and lead her cult in the cities. "Bring me your wretched, bring me your fell, for they shall become the kings of man" is their creed, and they find many avid supporters amongst the poor and the spoilt rich alike. To the downtrodden, the cult seems to be a path to liberation and empowerment, to the decadent the gateway to a never-ending feast.
My peers called it a social gathering, apparently illegal, with mentions of it whispered in private circles. It smelled of rebellion to me - alluring to the extreme. At the first meeting, everything was laid-back, except for casual taunts aimed at the nobility or the clergy. The musicians played relaxing, suggestive music and the mood was great.
Then, a marvelous woman clad in glistening robes of purest black appeared, proclaiming the eve to be a celebration of mankind. The tables were rich, the mood loose, and the nude slaves delighted the attendees. "He who finds his inner strength shall have all he desires", one of the men shouted, and proceeded to force himself upon one chained girl, soon joined by others; then, all hell broke loose. They fought like beasts over the victims, who could do little but beg for mercy, and satiated their twisted desires. Amidst blood and sweat and the loins fluids, the mass writhed in wild abandon. Like a queen the sinister beauty stood there, untouched. Unexpectedly, she threw open her cape, revealing a serpentine body bearing black scales, a hundred breasts, and I realized that the cape, which seemed to trail behind her towards the stairs, was simply her body. All the celebrants flocked to her, to suck her milk, and she seemed thrilled by that act. Then, one of the most savage of the flock seemed to grow, swell, and finally he burst open, revealing a foul thing within. I could bear no more. Call me a coward, but I had to flee that cursed place
There are two things that Belsethra craves, beside the wicked. One are wellsprings of magical energy, which she uses to sustain her body as it spreads like cancer through the soil of Belathron. The larger it becomes, the more energy it must consume just to stay alive. Thus, more and more nodes must fall under its sway to keep growing. The other is that unlucky apprentice, who bears Belsethras lost half, yet did not fall under her influence. Belsethra clacks her teeth in anticipation wherever he is mentioned. He thugs roam the world, looking for him.
Meanwhile, criminals are the maggots feasting upon Belsethras dark flesh: she nurtures them, provides them with new faces, new vigor, a truly new self and that they someday become but shells filled with demonic essence, who cares. To anyone who as much as drank a drop of her milk, she can send dreams dark and tempting, The wicked can speak to one of her deformed manifestations, which are all resembling of the possessed countess, yet her consciousness and vitality lies in the central chamber of Quill Rock. What irony it is that a goddess of fell dreaming has haunted dreams herself Algeron and other souls sharing his resting place have taken it upon themselves to haunt the citadels new queen.rnHer pawns have spent countless hours looking for a way to escape the Ker-adri hold, or to silence the voices within, all to no avail.
Thus, Belsethra is bound to brood, to seethe in darkness, until her progeny are legion, and her seed of sin rises to power.