Still, I think it's a necessary evil, because without it, making sense of the campaign's present is difficult. With that in mind, here are some made-up bits derived (and contrived) from the Barael's Blade lyrics:
Deep in the Siberian wilderness lies the Frost Court, ruled by the demon Baal, the Despot of Winter. A powerful and disturbingly ubiquitous pagan god, Baal seeks to convert God's faithful into his heartless servants. Wrathful and selfish, Baal demonstrates his power by spreading the cold chaos his followers call the Radiant Desolation, but known more commonly as the Darkness.
|Ice Troll |
The white areas of the Shepherd map show the extent of the Darkness. Most of it is wasteland, occupied by monsters and nomadic tribes of demon worshipers. These are rarely encountered beyond the Darkness' borders, for they cannot enter consecrated ground and are vulnerable to banishment by Christian clerics.
The lifeblood of Baal and his demonic minions is a liquid silver-like substance that seems to hold traces of angelic grace. When forged into a weapon, that weapon is considered both magic and silver for purposes of striking enchanted creatures. When bottled and Blessed, the inherent grace within is magnified, such that a vial of Silver Blood acts as holy water. A thin trickle poured from a vial forms a barrier akin to Protection from Evil (10' per vial; 2 hour duration if poured by a cleric or 1 hour for everyone else).
The hero of Wotan sagas, also known as the Halfbreed, the Orphan of Torment, Spiller of the Silver Blood, Barael wielded his eponymous blade, forged by the Crow Mage, against the powers of Baal and his minions. Barael was renown for his defeat of Lor the Poisoner, Balkh of the Spider Priests, and the lesser demon Melchom. Clad in fur and ring mail, the Halfbreed wandered the world to oppose the Darkness, though was ultimately betrayed by his sword, whose thirst for demonic blood drove its wielder into peril. Among pagan Germans, there is a strong belief that Barael will return someday to stand again against the servants of Darkness.
The Crow Mage
A Wotan of great age and wisdom who used his powers to combine shards of Darkness, bore, and meteoric steel to forge the Bastard's Blade as a weapon against the Baalites. Barael's mentor and a popular folk hero, the Crow Mage disappeared when the Romans converted to Christianity, stealthily avoiding a Catholic purge. As with Barael, many German pagans believe that the Crow Mage will return during the hour of the Germans' greatest need.
Lor the Poisoner
A Hunnic sorcerer whose spurned love for an Ostrogoth maid prompted him to pierce the girl's father with the Talon of Greed. Lor kidnapped the girl and forced her to watch her kinsmans' fate—her father sprouted covetous talons of his own, and whosoever owned what he desired were themselves likewise afflicted, and on and on. Before long, the entire town was mad with possessive envy until the inhabitants murdered each other in an orgy of violent rapacity.
With a black heart, Lor then pricked the maid with the Talon and gave it to her as a reminder of what she had "forced" him to do. But the maid's only desire was for her home and her people. Heartsick, with no hope of satisfaction or freedom, the maid went mad, took out her eyes with the Talon, then her tongue, ears, face, and womanhood until, desperate with grief, she pierced her own heart.
The maid and her people were avenged by Barael, who (with the aid of the Crow Mage) slew Lor, though why the Halfbreed's path crossed that of the sorcerer's is not known. Some versions of the tale say that the maid was Barael's betrothed. Others say that the town destroyed by greed was Barael's childhood home. Still other tales hint that the Talon was of Melchom's hand and that Barael sought to retrieve it as a trophy.
The Spider Priests
The worst of many Baalite cultists who made their way to the Germanic Kingdoms by way of invading Huns. The Spider Priests venerated an unholy creature whose true name brought sorcerous power at the price of insanity and was thus known only as "Etterclaw." At the height of their power, the Spider Priests had established no less than a dozen shrines in civilized lands, where they bound sacrificial victims in webs to later cannibalize their putrefied remains. Their hold was broken when Barael slew their high priest, Balkh.
Next up, the Germanic Kingdoms.
Listening to: Fu Manchu, The Action is Go
- Photo © kevindooley; used without permission.