A figure of imposing, yet not gigantic proportion shrouded in a black and featureless robe. Wrapped in some malfean shroud, the figure seems to be a pillar, lacking arms and legs, yet can move with speed and unnatural grace, the barest hint of hands appear bearing a blade made of blood and scarlet flame. The face of the Masque is bone white and impassive, the eye-sockets empty and dark, and a great cleft splitting the mask into two pieces that seem to hover in front of a darkness so tangible that it has a velvetine texture.
The nation of Azianium is ancient, it’s greatest triumphs now myths, it’s heroes now legends, and it’s great wonders of architecture are naught but dust in the wind. Yet from that now fallen civilization, that antediluvian beacon of light, a black shadow lurches. The name of that shadow is Anggartoronash, which in the tongue of the Aziani translates to the Masque of Hunger.
Anggartoronash was once a mortal woman of somewhat plain countenance and moderate if not opulent wealth. She lived in the last era of Azianium when the temperatures soared, the rivers became gouges in the earth and lakes became vast cracked basins. Famine and drought being the order of the day, it was no surprise that many of the people of Azianium forsook the gods, and cursed the hot and dry aether. Yet it is not common that the gods notice when one person forsakes them, or even when an entire nation, or even an entire people forsake them.
Yet it is another thing for the gods to have their rituals so brutally perverted and turned against the very thing they were fostered to engender. The woman who would become Anggartoronash created an entirely new realm of blasphemy as she lead a remnant of her people seeking sanctuary from the drought and famine of Azianium. As they departed from the dying kingdom, the band destroyed every temple, church and shrine they could find. In each instance the sanctum of the holy place was defiled before the building was either burned or dismantled.
At the time of prayer and communion with the gods, the refugees held inverted rituals, calling upon the gods to take back their favor. Eventually the band started to suffer from the pangs of thirst unquenched and hunger. The Lady held that the weak and the infirm would be the first to yield to the drought so that the more fit owuld survive. In a brutal act of pragmaticism, the weak and infirm were culled, their blood consumed and their flesh boiled from their bones and eaten by the survivors. In the band’s wake shrines were left, each a testament to a person who gave their life willingly or otherwise that the rest might survive long enough to find sanctuary. At each grim feast, the gods were thanked and invited to drink from the bowl of blood and death that they had been so generous in blessing.
This continued for a span of seven months and the band quickly thinned as some fled to die in the desert and the others were felled by hunting beasts, or ended their lives in the cook pots of the other refugees. The Lady was meticulous in her black piety, always thanking the gods for their gifts of drought, famine, and death, and each meal or spilling of blood thanking them for replacing bread and sweet water with the flesh of her kin and their blood for wine. Standing as a symbol of defiance and strength, she led her band more than 2500 miles before the last staggered and fell.
The Lady wept tears as she had failed, the hundreds who had started the exodus from the ruins of Azianium were reduced to nothing as she fell to her knees. Her final band, fewer than half a dozen were left to weak and dehydrated to even turn on one another for a chance to live a bit longer. She wept for failing her people, and she cursed the gods even as she used her dagger, now dull from hacking through the sinews and joints of friends and kin, to open her own veins. In a last act of defiance, she drew the bloodied blade across her tongue, tanking the gods with all the bitterness and hatred a single heart can hold that she did not perish with her tongue dry.
40 Nights and the Birth of the Masque of Hunger
After the passage of forty nights, something wicked occured. Those who curse the gods and commit wicked deeds, no matter the reason, are cast into the realms of Hell. Yet some of these souls, a very small number, are vomited forth back into creation by the maws of the hells. On that night, the now skeletal corpse of the lady shuddered as she was reborn as Anggartoronash, the Masque of Hunger, a Sorrow of famine and exile.
For the next Umbral Year, the Masque of Hunger crafted her death mask from the skull of her former lover and spouse. As she shaped the artifact, the winds carried mourning songs that caused the desert wolves to sing laments to the moon. Wrapping herself in a darkling sheet of night and turning her final spray or arterial blood, long since ruddy dust into a blade of vengeance, Anggartoronash left the place of it’s deathly dry rebirth.
The Shroud of Endless Lament - The black robe worn by Anggartoronash, the shroud is woven from strands of night, spun by the skilled and deft hands of politicians who sold their souls unto the nine hells and the abyss. The shroud offers the same level of protection as full plate armor, as well as mystical armor equivalent to 50% magic resistance. As long as the wearer remains motionless, they can automatically hide in shadows without any sort of check.
The Blade of Lust and Hatred - This bastard sword is formed of a translucent red crystal that flares with actinine brilliance when drawn in battle. The weapon, drawing upon the nature of it’s namesake emotions, is hollow and when a critical strike is landed, drains a victim of blood/essence/animating force. Mortals slain by the Blade of Lust and Hatred arise a week later as lemures, pathetic ghosts driven by base and animalistic hungers for the things of the living. Such ghost obey the master of the Blade.
The Anggar’tor’Onash - Literally translating to Hunger-possessive transitive-Mask, or Mask of hunger, the Anggar’tor’Onash is a traditional Aziani funeral mask worn by the corpses of the mystics, nobility, and seers of Azianium. However, the mask has been split into two pieces, the result of a great hero and his mythical exploits to defeat the great and terrible Masque of Hunger. While the original powers of the Mask are gone, and the Masque of Hunger has been diminished by the damage, the demon retains both pieces, using them as it’s face. The broken pieces are demon tainted and have no powers.
Mask of Hunger refers specifically to the funeral mask worn by the demon, who is properly known as the Masque of Hunger, thank you
The Elder Days
While Azianium was still standing, abandoned but still silently defiant, Anggartoronash made the city her citadel of hatred. The Masque of Hunger slew any who entered it’s desert, adding their shades to it’s growing army of incorporeal host. It was not long before this spectral army was unleashed on an unsuspecting world, as most were not terribly bothered that the arrogant and autocratic Aziani people were all but exterminated. Hundreds perished as the Masque of Hunger strode through the fields, the plants withering in it’s wake, even the insects of the field died, and birds fell from the sky. But this was not the greatest of it’s powers, the worst was that with a wave, the wells would burble and run dry, streams and creeks turned into dry cracks in the earth. The sound of the Masque’s laugh drove rain clouds from the sky, and with that the desert of Aziani grew outward from the ruins of the now dead city.
The names are now long since dust, but a hero rose up from the afflicted nations and rode against Anggartoronash. With his companions, the warrior brought the battle from their homelands and back to the sunblighted ruins of Azianium. There among the splintered and broken stone, the Masque of Hunger slew the warriors and magi who rode against it. Each corpse was found withered and grey, and only furthered the resolve of the warriors. In a mirror of it’s own mortal life, this continued until only one warrior remained, at which time Anggartoronash quit plays of stealth and confronted the warrior. With his last stroke, the warrior expended everything he had, and shattered the Mask of Hunger, deeply wounding the Masque of Hunger.
The sorrow dispersed into the winds, leaving behind the corpse of the warrior and the two broken pieces of the mask.
The Dawn of Hunger - The weather has suddenly and dramatically changed, no rain has fallen and nothing stops the harsh light of the sun. The wells have gone dry and their are places where swaths of farmland near the desert are found utterly dead. After centuries of lacking substance, the Masque of Hunger has coalesced once again. Now the Sorrow explores the lands around what was once it’s Kingdom. As it passes, all plant and animal life flees or perishes.
A Black Relic - A high ranking wizard hires the PCs to explore the ruins of Azianium, now little more than rounded nubs of stone and heaps of sand. Among the ruins and sand eroded skeletons, a PC or NPC liason finds one half of the Mask…
A. The PCs are further contracted to find the other half of the mask, inadvertantly returning Anggartoronash back to the realm of existance.
B. The PCs are stalked by a nihilistic desert cult of thugs and assassins who want the other half of the mask to summon their demon-god of retribution. They are the target of assassination attempts, theft, banditry, and summoned monsters sent to attack them.
Jeeze! Another Quest? - After the comming of Anggartoronash, it is determined that no current magic or weapon can destroy the elder Sorrow, and instead the PCs must seek out the tears of a God and a magical Loaf of Endless Bread to appease the Masque of Hunger.