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The assembled men and women nodded or grunted at the lady speaking. Her tusks gleam as she walks around the bonfire which illuminates her brightly colored garb and the terrifying mask attached to her belt like a buckler or dagger.
“This is going to be tough. Less than one in ten of you made it through Horizon boot camp so you probably think you’re tough because you were the biggest baddest mooks on your homeworlds.”
“The kukeri training is intense and we stand to ensure trade is the only thing that happens here and no denizen of the Abyss decides to go on a vacation to this miserably cold and barren world. We must prevent any souls from being harvested without proper compensation or trade will break down and then invasion is inevitable as they will see us as too weak to be useful other than to be incorporated into being a part of a layer of the Abyss. And Gruumsh forbids any Tanurukk to get loose again.”
“This very Minkowski Tower we stand outside of is a Hellmouth linked to a trade fortress we have established at an unaffiliated crossroads in-between several Abyssal layers on the river Styx. From the “many-folded lands” point of view, we are now standing in the Abyss albeit a part of the thin lands. The portal underneath the Tower allows direct and easy travel from this world to Fort Zant and its bazaar.”
“I suppose most of you don’t even know the slightest thing about the Abyss other than the tales a shaman or skald tells to scare children around a campfire at night.”
“I don’t know the absolute truth of it but here is the legend I heard from Colonel Ilneval’s valourous skald when I last visited Fort Zant.”
“During the First Age but after the prime dreamed this eggs of the first worlds it began walking the dreamtree out of wanderlust and seeking novelty. Finally, it found the font or pool at the heart or base of the tree that fed the tree and all within it. Looking down at the well the prime saw nothing but itself. For an eternity it stared hoping for a response but nothing was revealed.”
“Then prime delved deep into the heart and the ocean became the same in all directions with no clues about up or down or left or right. For the first time, the prime felt panic and then terror. At last, it screamed.”
“Never before had the prime dreamer felt pain or doubt. This suffering gave birth to the first of the logos attuned to the emotions and experiences it felt while all alone in the crushing deep. Loneliness, loss of hope, and pain became real in the dreamsea. The first children fought each other and their blood and desires disturbed the purity of the deep and mixed with the prime’s tears. In the patterns etched by all of their experiences, the dreamer dreamed the first runes revealed like blood twisting and twirling slowly in a bath.”
“The prime screamed into the deep and in the echoes, the logos discovered the prime and language was born from that meeting. Joy now gave birth to new logos as did love and anger. A great host of logos and ideas were born and more and more began wandering and exploring the nascent Abyss.
“In time the greatest of the logos began shaping their environment with these primal tongues and runes. In wonder, the prime began writing the story of how to be a maker and with this toolset, the prime and the logos sang the first planes into existence with the prime guiding any of the logos who sought to create a home of their own. From that moment the logos would seek to create or if they could create they would seize a planar home for their own as the pinnacle of achievement laid down by the prime dreamer.”
“In the Prime Era, the Abyss had no layers around it as this was before the world eggs hatched our mortal kind and our worlds and much before the dread invasion.”
“I will skip the rest but a key concept is to understand that the Abyss is the most important thing in the cosmos. It is what the aberrations want to enter more than anything else. This is why the celestials haven’t marched in and destroyed every fiend and demon prince they could find for it is the fiends who protect the cosmos from the aboleths, beholders, and illithid aberrations.
“The layers of the Abyss shroud the heart of reality like those little Matryoshka dolls at the Bazaar with dolls within dolls within dolls. They are powered by the Abyss with each layer as you go deeper each ruled by a stronger and mighter lord or lady or cabal as if the Abyss is a sun and the many layers are empowered by the radiance. The masters of the Abyss include every major power from an alliance of mostly Githborn Grey Captains raiding the Astral and Abyssal Seas to a former Feywild Druid Circle and a Dragon-King of Athas. As time goes on the layers morph and eat other layers or unaligned planes as their masters grow stronger or shed regions as they grow weaker.”
“The nine deepest layers of the Abyss are commonly known as the Nine Hells with Nessus nestled next to the heart of the cosmic tree. It is Asmodeus who guards us all against the fickle treacheries of demons and the fearsome nature of the aberrations. Access to the heart is necessary for the birth of truly new and unique planar domains rather than just extensions or enhancements to existing planes or demiplanes.”
“Colonel Ilnevel hasn’t yet learned how to master an Abyssal layer so at the moment the plane is slowly shrinking and ceding territory to nearby rivals but Horizon and Sigil scholars are hopeful that we can decrypt more of the Primal runes or trade for knowledge so we can better defend the Abyss from aberrations and defend ourselves from overzealous fiends who consider it their duty to conquer the weak. Remember though that while at the Hellmouth this is considered the Abyss and the Fiends will face final death should they die here so any that manage to do so the intelligent will often be quite cautious for fiends.”
“That is enough legends for today. Get some rest for tomorrow we will go over combat strategies against Fiends and the types of Fiends you will likely face on the field.”
I hope you enjoyed my little story. Wanted to get it out before Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes came out and before what I read there would color my story.
The Kukeri Tradition is pretty neat and just begging for adoption in a game involving demons.
The many folded (manifold) lands is a cosmos I created after a war between the logos or gods/demons with the mortal worlds against the aberrations in which abominations like aboleths or illithids conquered entire swathes of the prime material plane and sought to gain access to the Abyss so they could create their own planes in their own images and displace the vast dreaming completely. The Horizon guild operates Towers as bases and portals throughout the material planes and the planes of the dreaming tree. The Horizon walkers are the most well known of the guild and will often travel alone to worlds unaware of the greater comings and goings of the cosmos and join groups of adventurers or nudge groups of successful adventurers to places and situations they can be useful to the Guild and even eventually join.
A key idea is that while the blood war is happening it is pursued for the power to fight the aberrations as each side thinks of the other as weak and that they should die so that their resources could be used by better more competent and powerful beings. It also shows why “good” gods and celestials don’t just slaughter all the distracted “bad guys.” The fiends serve a purpose and a big part of their power comes from the abyss or from the souls or lifeforce of mortals. The infernals tend to see mortals as mostly useless and good only for fuel or food. Powerful fiends like to forge fallen souls into magic items and then trade those items to useful semi-competent mortals who happen to be their descendants.
Devils don’t trust demons and rumors of demons being suborned or dominated by aberrations are spread by agents of the Lords of the Nine as part of their propaganda. They may be right. A demonic aberration would be a fearsome thing to face.
Since the river Styx flows through all the layers of the Abyss it is the key point of travel, war, and trade. It is not uncommon for the river to have tributaries pass through it at hellmouths in the material and elemental planes. There are rumors of powerful fae and celestials having their own hellmouths feeding into the Styx and supporting abyssal vassals.
If the devils could stop the flow of the river Styx they would do so and starve the other layers but demon hordes invade and prevent any serious attempt done so far by Asmodeus or other Lord.
(A Technique or “Half-Feat” that can be combined with another Technique or with an Ability increase). Gain Natural Explorer (Abyssal Lands) and Favored Enemy: Fiends from the Ranger list when in the Abyss or a “thin-lands” adjacent to a Portal called Hellmouths as the Abyss will flow into the region around an open Portal and these thin-lands operate much like the Feywild or Shadowfell do. The character gains the Abyssal language from the Favored Enemy ability.
This mask makes Abyssal creatures uncomfortable granting them Disadvantage on social skill checks when the mask is worn by an attuned user and allows the user to see the abyssal connections and traces like truesight pertaining to Abyssal Fiends and their magic. This makes it immediately obvious to any Kukeri trained individual anyone who is in servitude to a Fiend of the Abyss via an infernal brand or mark but wouldn’t reveal a mercenary who was doing paid labor for a Fiend.
D&D House Rules: