In their blasphemy, the Ascended threw open the gates of the Abyss in their attempt to usurp the seat of the gods, and set free horrors untold that were to plague the lands for ages to come.
Kharn- Salog was at the very front of that first demonic charge into the mortal realms, an abomination worth any measure of disgust, with a long writhing body separated into segments, each of which bore bladed arms, writhing clawed tendrils and appendages better left to the imagination of the priesthood of the Moaning Goddess. Along his spine ran a never-ending river of hellfire, born of his searing mane that wreathed his horrid seven - mouthed visage. He reveled in the slaughter of men and divine servants alike, his conflagrant blades scything through anything in his path. Temples he toppled, and saw cities lain to ruin; finally, when Hell’s Tide was contained, he withdrew into the shadows along with faithful cultists to attend to his dark majesty.
There were eternal fires, sacrificial pits and screaming maidens on altars in his dark demesne, yet discontentment brewed and seethed in his blackened heart. He wished to corrupt, despoil, tarnish and taint.
Alas, he knew not how.
There was but formless rage in his dark brooding, unshaped malevolence and drive without direction. Verily, the lowliest of his minions was more inventive in the ways of evil than him - oh, how delightfully they clambered over each other's backs to be the ones he favored the most, how gleefully they mistreated their prisoners in ways most ingenious! How many splendid paths to evil!
In frustration and shamed envy, Kharn-Salog seized the quivering apprentice and would have torn him apart to briefly soothe his rage; yet, eyeing that pitiful quivering mass of faults, greed and hate, the fiend realized that while power was scarce, there was enough sin to go around.
With a sadistic grin on all his seven mouths, he sent his vile tongues down the acolyte's throat, and they writhed through his body, lapping up the tiniest evil thought, feasting on depravity and walking the paths of darkness in the mortal's mind.
Gleefully cackling and inspired at last, the demon built upon the thoughts of the cultist and went on to expand those petty dreams into grand schemes of ruin; in the end, the Haldania massacre would grow out of those humble seeds - but its maker was not around to see the rotten fruit of his labor. Eager for inspiration again, he wandered off, that time in search of a soul far more burdened with depravity.
Kharn-Salog would dine on the sins of the serpent priestesses of K'Sera, on the Order of the Veiled Blade, on the Carmine Riders and many more, often not stopping to build upon the evil he stole, but gorging himself on the dark thoughts, leaving his victims simpletons with no capacity for evil - or complex thought.
It was in Emharrys, the dark empress of Stratholme that the demon met his match; her soul was so twisted, so full of seething recesses of anger, depravity, cruelty, boundless greed and utter misanthropy, without a sole redeeming feature, that he swallowed her spirit whole. While power and a demon's soul was on his side, she was the more devious and inventive by far, and long battled they across the expanse of Kharn-Salog's mind, their wills expending every single reserve in their conflict. At last, they both screamed in unison: "If I cannot win, no one shall!" and the fury of their hatred and defiance tore the devil's body into fragments, each diminished but hungry for the same fare, every one carrying bits of the Empress' and the demon's mind, a memory here, a personality trait there, all fragmented and jumbled. Hissing in rancor at each other, the newly fledged fiendlings that one day would be called Saintmakers spread to the corners of the world.
Somewhat ironic is the beasts' name, for one who has been drained of every speck of evil may be left with kindness and benevolence only, but invariably, those who attract the attention of the spawn of Kharn-Salog are malevolent enough that bereft of their sins, not enough is left to maintain a complete mind. All that remains is the mind of a slow child with a simple smile, reinforced by the torn corners of the mouth from when the fiend's tongues sapped them of their sin. Meanwhile, for example sir Alderon the Pure would carry away little harm, save physical injury.
Indeed, the creatures might be of benefit, except that the evil thoughts they devour are not consumed, but rather incubate in their twisted bodies and contorted minds into deeds even more abhorrent that those their mortal victims would have thought up themselves.
A Saintmaker will first withdraw upon draining a new victim, to muse and contemplate the newly-gained evil insights; this may take anywhere between a day and a month. Thereafter, it will look for the best way to perpetrate the atrocities, and move on once it is content with its work of ruin.
While the original demon was powerful indeed, the Shards rely on cunning and observance; being able to assume the form of a person hated by any other within a hundred yards, it is especially easy for them to blend in in cities. Studying someone long enough, they can discern his thoughts; with a combination of subterfuge and sorcery, they can erode the will of the meek and simple.
The combative prowess of the Saintmakers depends largely on the persons in their vicinity - they can steal spells from wizards gripped by strong negative emotions, and their strength is fueled by the hate of those nearby; furthermore, the fiends can abuse the powers of enchanted items that were acquired through theft, violence or other crime.
While attempts to negotiate with a Saintmaker are futile, it can be fooled through subterfuge; magic can lead it astray by pretending that someone does or does not have evil thoughts, for example. The main challenge lies in discerning whom the Saintmaker targets, or what his plans might be after he has fed - the schemes will be linked to the latest victim's specific brand of evil.
As for the fiends' appearance, they vary; usually hidden in a disguise , in their natural form the Saintmakers appear as floating parts of flesh ripped from Kharn-Salog's body, with seven distorted faces emerging from this shape, constantly being reabsorbed and emerging anew facing where required. When idle, they will mutter and question the beast's surroundings about possible wrongs; the beast will plot, and discuss its plans; indeed, when it believes itself safe is the sole moment where it may hint at its intents.
Behind them, the Shards eternally trail ichor that will somehow tarnish what it touches - a carpet will seem to have an annoying color, a fruit evoke disgust and a person somehow dirty. Depending on the body part it came from, a Saintmaker can display additional eyes, appendages and bony plates; with tangles of guts and veins protruding from their backs, Saintmakers can manipulate objects, strangle victims and feed dark images to sleepers at night; the demon's original limbs are useful only for violation and slaughter. Regardless their shape, though, all the fiendlings will mirror the frigid image of the Dark Empress in their eyes, the last thing Kharn-Salog saw, and this reflection will betray them in any guise.
*Dark Sovereign: having drunk the crown princes' dreams of conquest, the Saintmaker has replaced the king and plots warfare that will engulf the continent. He maintains his shape through a servant maid once abused by the king, whom he has 'elevated' to the post of personal slave, and drags her everywhere, giving her sufficient reason to hate him whenever he can.
*The Saint's Saintmaker: a strange creature stalks the princess, sweet seventeen old and a true angel; its assaults are becoming more cunning and difficult to repel every time. The PCs have to find out what beast it is, and how it can be stopped. Once they learn of its nature, they should ask the question why it targets the unlikeliest victim of all - the princess.
*The Dark Blessing: a misguided priest has captured a Saintmaker, and uses it to free his flock from sin; besides creating simpletons he can exploit and abuse, the cleric is unaware that the creature in the catacombs is waiting only for a chance to break free and put in motion a plan brewed from the evil of dozens.
*The Trial of Purity: young knights of the Order of the Resplendent Griffon must face the dark dweller of the Secluded Hollow - a terror that can turn their every misdeed against them - before they earn their spurs.
*The Hell's Keeper: in the slums of Crownhold, a Saintmaker has created a sustainable hell on earth, sowing misery and discord amongst the dispossessed, and harvesting the crops when the evil is ripe. Due to a twist of fate, the PCs must brave the vilest cesspool of human misery, and face its Saintmaker kingpin.
*Your Own Personal Devil: Depravus von Mortenkill has hounded the PCs for their entire career, slain their loved ones, taken over their girlfriends and spat in their beer. Who'd have guessed that it's a Saintmaker, fostering hate inside them, for it makes him stronger?
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? Responses (10)-10
I really liked this; well-written and fun to read. A very interesting idea; "feeding" off of people's malevolences. It's been done before, but you've added some excellent twists in all the right places. The plot hooks were very enticing as well. Very well done!
Very cool. I liked a lot of the descriptions of the victims and original demon. However, the form of floating body parts was fitting, just not satisfying. I feel like this could benefit from more detail. I want more of this. It's very good, but leaves me begging for more.
You know a submission is good when:
a) It brings an evil smile to your face
b) You can think of at least 10 ways to use it off the top of your head
c) It leaves you wanting more
This is a fantastic sub on all three counts, and is very well-written to boot. The only thing I would nitpick on is what Pieh already mentioned -- the floating body parts are not compelling enough to me. I would probably not give them any "natural" form. If forced to lower their assumed disguise, their appearance would shift rapidly between all of the "victims" whose thoughts they have consumed, with flashes of the Empress and Kharn- Salog reappearing most frequently throughout. 5/5
Updated to accommodate some suggestions, corrected a few mistakes. Added appearance of papa demon, and details of his demise and the Saintmakers' birth.
As for their appearance, I think it's more naturalistic; shapechangers that revert to a half-molten mass that browses through shapes when they are exposed have been done before. But when the king changes into a bloody piece od demon-belly with torn edges, dripping goo and flailing at you with guts, tentacles, half a pancreas and things which you'd have to look up in a issue of Abyss-pr0n just to fathom what their use might be, well, that is kinda more scary in my book.
A unique and surprisingly subtle demon that is likely to catch most groups by surprise, and ill prepared. One of these nasties in disguise as a rich merchant with a few indentured servants, (that loathe the merchant) being escorted by the party can lead to all sorts of misadventures. (When discovered it can also lead to some false accusations and a fun role playing scene.)
4.5 over all and +.5 for their unusual origins and the methods these demons sow the seeds of chaos.
A small suggestion to improve the visual appeal would be to perhaps put the individual plot hook titles in bold so they each stand out a bit more?
Congrats on First Place in the Monstrous Monsters Quest!!
I think the plot hooks are where this creature shines, the fact that they leave people who have been consumed with hatred and evil as simpletons creates a moal dilemma. I love the little backstory about "the devil who just wasn't evil enough" but wish it was linked to some other posts so I knew more about this badass woman that tore his mind asunder.
This is a demon. Nasty, somewhat obscene.
Really, really well done.
What Dossta said, and well done!