The Worldwound – Ever-shifting Demonic Warland
The Worldwound at a glance:
- Alignment: CE
- Capital: None
- Notable Settlements: Dyinglight (unkown), Iz (unknown), Storasta (unkown), Gundrun (unknown), Undarin (unknown)
- Ruler: None
- Government: Loose coalition of demonic warlords
- Languages: Abyssal, Hallit
- Religion: Demon Lords
A century ago, the death of Aroden transformed the culture and politics of the Inner Sea nations. In the distant north, it changed the world, 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.
Strangeness first emerged in the barbarian nation of Sarkoris, a sprawling scrubland north of Numeria known for its fierce painted warriors and bizarre witchery. Sarkorian mystics spoke of ascendant chaos, a thinness between this world and the next. Strange, ravenous creatures stalked the mysterious tombs and barrows of the Northmounds, and then ill tidings came to horrific life as vile abominations quickly overran the Sarkorian clan-holds, scattering their people and spreading the legend of an insidious taint in the north, centered around the Worldwound, a mile-wide cosmic blight limned in black flame southwest of the barbarian city of Iz. The closer one approaches 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, and almost overnight they became undisputed masters of Sarkoris.
In the southlands, the upheaval of Aroden’s death brought focus to a vast library of esoteric writings and minor myths about the Last Azlanti, and much that was once considered fringe theory or unlikely folk stories has come to be regarded with authority. One particular tale, of a still-mortal Aroden, relates a journey to the distant north and a struggle against a foul cult dedicated to the demon prince Deskari, Lord of the Locust Host and usher of the Apocalypse. Aroden, it is said, drove the cult of Deskari into the Lake of Mists and Veils and forever locked the north from demonic influence, but his ban upon their influence ended with his death. Adherents of Aroden and his servant Iomedae the Inheritor thus believe it is their responsibility to pacify Sarkoris and seal the Worldwound.
To this end, the pontiffs of those religions called the First Mendevian Crusade, as well as the three that followed. Zealous followers of the Inheritor from throughout Avistan 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 a guard placed on the land. The malign, almost sentient chaos of the Worldwound was not content to stay within its carefully proscribed borders. The northern crusader city Drezen formerly stood within the borders of Mendev, but in 4638 the counterstroke of the demon-hordes overwhelmed its guardians and protective enchantments and the entire city fell under the influence 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 influx of crusaders helped stabilize a new front line along the Sellen River in the wake of this disastrous reversal, and the discovery of nexavar enabled the Crusader Magistery to craft the Wardstones that, for now, stem the Abyssal tide. Aside from constructing a tenuous hedge to keep the demons from spreading further 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 meaningful advances at the front. 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, and minor victories and defeats characterize the past several decades of struggle.
In recent years, however, a powerful balor known as the Storm King has gained in power and respect, successfully destroying one of the Wardstones near the crusader capital of Nerosyan and breaching the frontier in force for the first time in a generation. While the attack was repulsed and the Wardstones repaired, crusader leaders worried that he might be strong enough to whip other demons into line and lead a major incursion. This possibility led to the calling of the Fourth Crusade, a call to set aside differences and focus on the true enemy, and a hope that the demons of the Worldwound do not do the same.
The dominant feature of lost Sarkoris is the Worldwound itself. Once a narrow cleft vale little more than a mile long, with a reputation for bad luck and strange happenings, the Worldwound becomes more engorged with every passing year. It is now an enormous canyon more than a mile across and winding for dozens of miles like a pustulent scar on 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 a pestilential fume shot through with multicolored lightning and echoing with the shrieks of mephits spawned as ripples and tendrils of raw chaos congeal around whatever form or state of elemental substance they happen to encounter. These tiny demonlings flit across a landscape teeming with fleshwarping chaos beasts and misshapen abominations of every description, vainly hoping to avoid being devoured by soaring vrocks, abyssal dragonspawn, and flapping horrors.
The chaotic disruption of reality flowing from the Worldwound does not occur solely at a physical level. Its warping effects wreak havoc on supra-existential geometries and pre-existent portals, gateways, and convergences. This can be observed in the socalled “chaos circles” often seen in the remnants of Sarkorian villages and towns. The former human inhabitants of Sarkoris followed an unusual and primitive form of idol worship and witchcraft (with a passing resemblance to the druidism of Old Mendev) centered on communing — through a ring of sacred idols that created a thinning of the veil between worlds — with the spirits of ancestors, nature, and the Great Beyond. Rather than a mere spirit-journey, these rings — infused with primal chaos but still linked via their original spiritual connections — can be used as physical portals, enabling swift transit across the corrupted landscape. The passage is dangerous, unpredictable, and exposes travelers directly to the taint of raw chaos, but it sometimes provides a last resort of escape for those hotly pursued within the Worldwound.
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, cambions, and the occasional honey-tongued glabrezu. The strongest warlords in the Worldwound presently are the balor Khorramzadeh of Iz, dubbed the Storm King for the mantle of lightning that wreaths him in battle rather than the fiery shroud typical of his kind, and the marilith Zuhra Aponavicius, conqueror of the crusader city of Drezen.
The demonic archmagess Vahedifar Ayeshalmoutey has long held a position of prominence as a mostly neutral counselor 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 irruption of raw chaos since before the fall of Sarkoris, first from within the Abyss before becoming one of the first demons to fully emerge from this unholy crèche. Many believe she was largely responsible (through possessed Sarkorian thralls) for awakening the Worldwound from a faint trickle of chaotic energies to a festering sinkhole of reality. Her power, knowledge, and fell reputation for experimenting on any who displease her (and sending her pack of retrievers to fetch any who interest her) earn her a wide berth in her adopted home of Undarin.
The Worldwound has no capital, as the hordeling spawn roam to and fro across the land, seeking those they can devour. Any demon able to exert enough power can claim lordship over a petty fief, but his authority is only as great as his strength. Such power lasts only as long as fear holds underlings in thrall and no stronger demon comes along to take what the lord thought was his. The ruined cities of old Sarkoris, considered choice territory, are staked out by the strongest of demons, and by virtue of its proximity to the Worldwound the former capital of Iz holds a certain primacy. Numerous demon lords and princes have “embassies” or representatives in Iz to ensure that they are able to take advantage of opportunities that arise.
Sources: Pathfinder Chronicles Campaign Setting