Threats And Terrors

The cities and nations of Orengaard can be likened islands of safety in a vast ocean of uncharted wilderness. And like an ocean, as the cartographers often scrawl at the edges of their maps, here there be monsters. While many would name the goblin tyrants of Kuurok or the barbarians of the Nameless Reaches among them, they too are just as vulnerable to predation as any other mortal. There are creatures beyond the ken of normal men and beasts. Some were created by the gods, others by madmen with supernatural means, and others simply spawned in the unnatural realms beyond the material plane. Their number and type are beyond reckoning, but most notable and terrifying of the monsters of Orengaard have been detailed below.

Giants: Primordial Warlords

Titans

Dragons: The Pinnacle of Creation

Created by an alliance between Bahamut, Tiamat, and the Elemental Princes of Good and Evil. A unified effort by gods and primordials never before seen and never seen since. Because of this, they are largely considered the most powerful of all 'mortal races', with the eldest of their kind equal to or greater than the mightiest fiends and celestials. Only the most fantastically rare and potent of creatures can equal their might.

Chromatic

Metallic

Other

Dracolich

Undead: The Face of Oblivion

Paradoxically, the undead have little in common with the natural cessation of life. Indeed, it is the failure of that process to follow its proper course that gives rise to the undead, the shells of former life and mockeries of its form and purpose. The ultimate source of undead beings is the Maw of Oblivion; a realm of nothingness beyond description, a black, hungry, spiteful void that many ascribe an active, deliberate malice to, due to the nature of that which it can spawn. The undead hate without thought. They hunger without desire. They kill without need.

Mindless Violence

The most common example of undead are the mindless, animate remains of living things. Zombies and skeletons are the most prevalent of such entities, and although other sorts exist, most of them are simply variations of these simple forms. While incapable of thought, this does not make them incapable of violence. Rather, it is all they are capable of without the direction of a controlling will. The power which animates them seeks out life and destroys it. Their efforts are limited to moving towards the nearest living thing and attacking until it is no longer living, although occasionally some vestige of the soul which once inhabited the corpse makes itself known.

Mindless undead sometimes keep a grasp on the armaments they were buried with and have a basic capability to use them, but they never go out of their way to arm themselves with anything else, likely pointing to a lingering metaphysical connection between a warrior and his weapon of choice. More disturbingly, some of these shambling husks seem to have a vague recollection of their lives and those they once knew. This is hardly a good thing, though, as it only means these corpses will seek out their homes and loved ones, at which point their mindless urge to kill takes over.

Most such undead are created by living beings through the use of necromancy, but there are a great many instances where corpses become animate without any deliberate effort. Some places simply become so saturated with negative energy, through mass deaths, the use of powerful magic, or prolonged exposure to an exceptionally powerful undead being, that it can coalesce within a body to become the entropic force that animates the mindless undead.

Insatiable Hunger

A step above the mindless hordes, there are those undead who maintain a level of awareness somewhere on par with an animal. This almost always manifests in uncontrollable aggression and hunger, whether it's a hunger for living flesh, life's very essence, or simply satiating the irresistable urge to kill. Ghouls and wights are corporeal examples of these, which can exhibit human levels of awareness, if only to bend it towards killing living things. And the shadow is a notable form of undead that falls into this category due to the fact that they have no determinable origin as a living thing, instead seeming to come directly from the Maw of Oblivion itself.

Undying Hatred

One of the most potent forces to keep the dead from their final fates is pure, simple, overwhelming malevolence. Hatred and bitterness give birth to some of the most frightful undead, from the wraith and the spectre's birthing from evil souls left unfulfilled, to the serial killer's homicidal urges causing him to linger as a mohrg, the spiteful greed of the wealthy king for his burial hoard giving rise to mummies(whether from their own remains or of those deliberately reanimated as such), or the vengeful banshee, spurred to madness by betrayal, whether it was genuine or percieved.

Eternal Ambition

The least common, and likely most terrible of all undead, are those undead who retain much if not all memory of their former lives. Those undead who had the strength of will and unwavering drive to force themselves to deny death when it called become ghosts, who seek to fulfill unfinished business or grand designs. Others are forced into an undead state by the ambitions of others, most notable among these are the bloodthirsty predators known as vampires. Perhaps most powerful and frightening of them all are those who seek undeath in life, whether to avoid true death, to attain the power it offers, or some dark belief that life offers nothing but pain and weakness. Those with the mystical power to grasp profane immortality forge the path to lichdom, while those of a martial bent able to conquer death itself through their exploits become death knights.

Evil Spirits: Sins of the Flesh

While a great many threats to the mortal world come from beyond its boundaries, the Material Plane has its own spiritual component, and its primal spirits are just as prone to wickedness as the mortals they live alongside. The majority of evil spirits are motivated largely by the wealth and pleasures the mortal world has to offer.

Oni

The oni are primal spirits who have abandoned their higher spiritual purpose for the lure of base material rewards. Some say their transformation to oni is a punishment brought down upon them by their superiors, while others say it is simply the natural result of a primal spirit rejecting its nature to transform into an oni.

Rakshasa

Where the oni are spirits that hunger for the materialistic pleasures of the mortal form, the rakshasa are born of mortals whose base and profane desires forced them to cling to the material realm, their greed and lust transforming them into fiendish outsiders.

Unseelie Fey

While not true outsiders, the fey are no less grouped in with primal spirits by those who study and venerate them. And they, like other spirits, have examples of evil among them. The unseelie fey have a variety of reasons to torment and toy with mortals, many of them nigh-incomprehensible to those they plague. Some seem to act out of simple spite, while others appear to derive some power or sustenance from their cruelty towards mortals. Others simply seem to be acting out their natures, carrying out their role as villains in the endless turning of the wheels of fate.

Fiends: The Spawn of Corruption

The people of Orengaard know that evil is not simply thought and action, but a real, definite force in the universe, just as good is. The reality of evil is most manifest in the profane life that derives its very substance from it, the wicked races of outsiders known collectively as fiends. While all fiends share their origins in the stuff of evil, many of them also are further defined by other forces, such as law and chaos, which makes the evil outsiders a threat on multiple fronts. The fact that these differences in most cases put them at odds with eachother is something the common man can take some small comfort in.

It is relatively common knowledge that fiends cannot enter the material plane unbidden, that only through the actions of mortals can open the door. This is largely true, but most people's understanding of this truth is dangerously incomplete. The assumption is that fiends only appear when summoned through deliberate rituals, which is only one way for them to invade this world. But magic and profane ceremony are only the most reliable methods. The frightening reality is that when mortals commit willfully evil acts, they can thin the boundaries between worlds, and create weaknesses that evil entities from the Outer Planes can exploit.

It is difficult to predict what sin will open a doorway through which fiends can enter the world, for mortals commit atrocities upon eachother all the time. Some evidence of a pattern has emerged through centuries of study, but the potential circumstances seem so numerous that it elicits despair from those who study them. Sometimes the planar boundaries can be breached by evil acts being committed on a massive scale, and sometimes an individual act is the culmination of something so horrible it draws fiends like flies to a corpse. Sometimes fiendish incursions grow more prevalent under the new moon, and sometimes the full moon, or during an eclipse, or perhaps simply because the stars are right. The only constant thread among all the recorded incidents throughout history seems to be the misery mortal beings inflict upon eachother.

Demons

Likely the most notorious of the fiends, demons are the embodiment of madness and destruction and uncontrolled vice. Chaos roils in their minds just as strongly as evil burns in their hearts, and while some say their anarchic, impulsive nature makes them less of a threat than the focused, methodical devils, their unpredictable goals, incomprehensible methods, and unrestrained zeal makes most see them as far more dangerous than the mindless horde of monsters some make them out to be.

While demons embody destructive chaos and sinful impulses, this does not mean they are limited to haphazard and uncoordinated mayhem. While many demons are almost feral in their demeanor, they have their share of cunning manipulators and schemers in their ranks. The methods of demonic masterminds are fluid and flexible, frightfully difficult to disrupt or subvert, as they instinctively adapt to an ever-changing playing field. They can take advantage of the briefest moments weakness, always ready to capitalize on the fluctuating resolve and endurance of their enemies and victims. A mortal's momentary misfortune or passing sinful urge is often all a demon needs to begin establishing a foothold in the Material Plane.

There is no ultimate goal in mind for the demons to attain through their atrocity and blight. Each demon ultimately works to satisfy its own urges and achieve its own ambitions, though lesser demons often find service to higher demons a more effective means than going it alone, and many more don't have a choice in the matter. Greater demons and demon monarchs have their grand designs, of course, but the fact is that demons can hardly even concieve of an end to the turmoil they spread across reality, and indeed, perhaps that cosmic maelstrom of violence and depravity is the goal in and of itself.

Qlippoth

Worthy of note are the entities known as the qlippoth. Alternately referred to as obyriths, most diabolists and scholars in the Age of Remnants see the qlippoth as no different from other demons, or at most an obscure offshoot of demonkind. This can be a extremely fatal mistake for those who seek to interact with them, as their origins and motives differ drastically from demonkind. While demons seek to corrupt and consume mortal souls, the qlippoth simply despise thinking creatures, and their only desire is the destruction of life entirely. It's not entirely understood why. The few scholars and archmages from before the Mad Times who were willing to delve into the study these primeval fiends put forward a number of hypotheses, but none of them were confirmed, as few qlippoth were forthcoming or perhaps even aware of the source of their desire to snuff out life enough to divulge any truths.

Devils

Asmodeus rules over all of the Unforgiving Hell, and every devil in every dark corner and every stinking pit of Baator has a role to play in the labrynthian schemes of the Ruby Tyrant. His ultimate goal, clearly, is complete and utter domination, for no less than total control of all the hearts and minds of the universe will satisfy him. And though it seem that his ambitions are largely quiescent, it is only his eternal patience and unfathomable subtlety that fools mortals into believing that he is content with his current holdings.

Of course, although Asmodeus is the unquestionable master of Hell, that does not mean none of his subordinates have ambitions of their own, or even hope to plot against him. Asmodeus himself gained his divinity by toppling his nameless predecessor, and those strong enough to claim power have every right to it, and thus every right to try. The Lords of the Nine beneath Asmodeus are constantly plotting against those above and below their station, whether to usurp their superiors or to undermine their subordinates plans to do the same. These power struggles take place all the way down the hierarchy of Hell, no matter how petty the gains may be, whether it is barbazu competing to stand out from the rank and file, imps hoping to condemn a choice soul to eternal damnation, or even the sub-sentient lemure, who battle for dominance of the new forms they are merged together to create.

To those who have only begun their studies of diabolism, it often seems contradictory, even hypocritical, of devils to encourage and assist mortals in performing evil tasks and then casting them into torment and punishment when they arrive in hell. But the truth is, those who are tormented are those that the merciless authority Baator deems inferior, the insignificant masses who come begging to devils for material wealth or temporal power. The contracts devils make with common mortals are traps, tests of whether the weak understand their rightful place and do not clamor for that which they are not worthy to attain. The devil who offers wealth or power over others without anything but the promise of the mortal's soul is simply separating the wheat from the chaff. A true devil's bargain is reciprocal, an agreement which requires the signer to have the will and cunning to wield his heightened power to further the plans of Hell through his own ambition. These tyrants too are surely damned, but they will find that their rightful place is not with the wailing sea of the damned to have lemures crafted from their suffering, but a profane apotheosis directly into a fully-formed devil.

Kytons

Often included in the ranks of Hell, kytons stand out as a distinct form of fiend due to their numerous incarnations, which share their own common traits, and their lack of an official position in Asmodeus' hierarchy. Kytons are universally obsessed with a vile form of self-perfection, achieved through self-mutilation and exercises in sadism inflicted on other beings. Engaging in torture or destructive body modification brings them a horrible sort of ecstacy which they endlessly crave. Though they are most often found in the abbatoirs of Baator, they are often found in the Plane of Shadow as well, close enough to peer into the mortal would through its dark reflection and watch the atrocities mortals inflict on eachother, and search for a chance to provide new torments to unsuspecting victims. Some before the Mad Times had reason to believe the Plane of Shadow was their true home, but if it is, nobody today has found evidence that anyone has returned from their nightmarish strongholds to tell the tale.

Daemons

The least documented and the least understood of the three major types of fiend, daemons, sometimes referred to as yugoloths in more erudite texts, hail from Xibalba, the Place of Fear, a place that exemplifies evil in its purest, most intrinsic forms. While devils clearly seek dominion over all mortal souls, and demons live for an enternal maelstrom of conflict and corruption, it is not entirely clear what daemons seek to achieve. In fact it is entirely unknown what their goals are, and this frightens some scholars quite terribly. Others simply believe that daemons have no overarching goals, that evil unfocused by ideological methods means each daemon is an individualistic opportunist, seeking whatever foul indulgences appeal to it that will not put its current status in danger. Whether this makes them more or less predictable is a matter for some debate.

Their apparent lack of zealotry when it comes to grand designs for the universe often makes daemons more appealing to would-be summoners. The fact that daemons are both rational and without higher callings implies that a bargain can be reached with one without diabolical machinations or demonic impulses threatening the summoner's designs. Indeed, it is true that daemons are the most mercenary of fiends to deal with, but this doesn't mean they are trustworthy. They are as cunning as any devil and as deceitful as any demon, and have no hesitations about resorting to any means to strengthen their own positions and make their summoners regret their hubris.

Other Fiends

The three great races of fiends are not the only form which evil can take. They are perhaps the most numerous, but other things exist outside these categories, each their own unique expression of evil. Many of these are unique fiendish races that stand apart from the larger groupings, such as barghests, night hags, and the numerous examples of fiendish animals that mystics can summon. But there are other fiends which share origins and characteristics, enough to be classified in their own categories, albeit rare and poorly-documented ones.

Asura are fiends who bear a grudge against the gods, due to their origins as beings rejected by their creators for their wicked natures or imperfect designs, or beings punished and outcast by gods who they transgressed against. They most often lair in the Nine Hells, but they can be found across the Outer Planes, anywhere that they can undermine divine works. The asura have adopted a nihilistic philosophy, and their study and meditation on the grand designs of the universe make many of them fonts of insight and wisdom, even if these are ultimately turned to destructive ends. They are also notable as sharing a portion of the gods' greater immortality beyond that of most outsiders, reincarnating into lesser or greater forms depending on the extent of their enlightenment into the workings of the Grand Design.

The demodands, or gereleths, are largely known as the wardens and gaolers of Xibalba. They are charged by some uncertain power to keep the captured souls in the Place of Fear incarcerated and punished, but they are thoroughly corrupt, and can be bargained with for the release of a particular soul. Their prices invariably involve some form of monstrous sacrifice, perilous deed, or, the gambling of one's own immortal soul, however, and it is difficult to make them adhere to their end of the bargain without incentive.

Divs are a race of fiends who are less interested in destroying or corrupting mortals as they are with the ruin or despoiling of mortal achievements. Whether out of some ancient grudge or simply spiteful envy, divs seek to bring the world of men crashing down around them, their connections and creations crumbling and leaving them with nothing but despair. They are found primarily in the Tenebrous Nether of Cthonia.

Aberrations: Things Which Should Not Be

To most thinking beings in Orengaard, the most terrifying threat is that which cannot be known. The dark ambitions of mortal tyrants are worldly and comprehensible, and even the evils of fiends from beyond the Material Plane stand in stark contrast to the virtues of goodness, both easily understandable concepts, if not always clearly defined. But the things that do not think in terms of good and evil, that do not have earthly desires, things that do not conform to the natural order of the universe… these things are aberrations. And for many who have suffered in the grip of these harbingers of madness, they are the true essence of horror.

To most, creatures classified as aberrations are most suited to the term monster. In truth, however, what makes a creature an aberration is hardly well-defined. Many exhibit physical characteristics found among 'lower' forms of life, worms and insects and especially creatures commonly associated with the sea such as fish, mollusks, and crustaceans. Aberrations may even combine these features, whether with eachother or with other shapes. The dreaded rust monster and the fearsome chuul are two such examples. However, there are no small number of creatures with aquatic or insectoid anatomies which are not commonly thought of as aberrations, and even for them it is not a hard and fast rule. But monstrous insectoids like the stirge and the remorhaz are not considered aberrations by the majority of scholars.

Creatures with unique and bizarre forms with no analogue in the natural animal kingdom are more commonly considered aberrations. The beholder is perhaps the most well-known of such aberrations, and there are also cloakers, gibbering mouthers, otyughs, mimics and will-o'-wisps. But the bulette, despite the moniker of landshark, has few if any distinct parallels to natural creatures, nor does the freakish darkmantle, and these are not aberrations.

It is true that any creature who originates from or is influenced by the madness beyond reality known as the Twisted Void is without a doubt an aberration. But there are no small number of creatures which do not seem to have such a connection, and others which there is no doubt, being created by the deliberate machinations of intelligent beings wielding powerful magic. The drider is only one such example of deliberate creations of beings from this reality. And still, the owlbear is often thought to have been born of the whims of some capricious wizard, but it is not an aberration.

If there is any one thing which unites aberrations as one class of being, it would have to be that every single aberration is inimical to the natural world. While there are many seemingly unnatural beasts, these often find a niche in the world, able to find a sort of harmonious inclusion in the worldly order. But an aberration is intrinsically harmful to the world around it. Whether it's a peculiar and ultimately unsustainable dietary requirement, a polluting effect on the environment it lives in, or simple urge to cause death and destruction for no reason other than to satisfy that urge, aberrations are anathema to the world. Lands where aberrant creatures become numerous are inexorably made uninhabitable, even to the aberrations, who must spread to new lands to begin the destructive process anew.

Illithids

Better known to most as mind flayers, the octopoid visage of illithid race is the face of the Mad Times and a universal icon for madness and doom. The most lucid and least apocryphal accounts of the Mad Times account tales of this alien race descending from the shattered skies in nautiloid and crustaceous vessels, wielding unfathomable technology and sanity-shattering psionic abilities. Nowadays the appearance of mind flayers, much less of their star-spanning vehicles, is extremely rare, but rumors of illithid activity can cause mass panic if they become persistant enough. Worse still is if it turns out that they are not rumors at all.

By the standards of common races, illithids are complete and utter sociopaths. One would think them incapable of even comprehending the concept of empathy or altruism if they were not so brilliantly able to wield them to manipulate and traumatize their victims. They understand kindness and good, but to illithids such behavior is as aberrant and bizarre as the deepest forms of madness are to us. This may fuel their interest in the humanoid races, as they often seem to seek out the virtuous and saintly to devour the brains of, which they do with great relish as if pure thoughts were the highest form of delicacy to them. Mind flayers are also very inquisitive and academically-minded, qualities made dangerous and terrifying when unfettered by moral restraints. Illithid sects are often the cause of many disappearances and mutilated corpses found among rural communities, kidnapping unsuspecting innocents to dissect and study them. They also are the originators of many aberrations, the results of their horrifying experimentations on other species or crafted wholesale from the fundamental building blocks of life.

Aboleths

While the common folk of modern day blame the Mad Times for the arrival of the aberrant horrors that plague the dark and wild places of Orengaard, and the writings of scholars from before the fall of the great empire pinpoint the origins of the far less common incursions of madness as emanating from the Twisted Void, the savants of the aboleth profess a far more frightening origin for their race: that they have always been here.

According to the unfathomably ancient aboleths, they come from a world which presaged this one, a primeval utopia perfectly suited for the aboleths and their ilk, a sea of chaos that brushed the edges of the Twisted Void. Their civilization was vast, cities of living stone sprawling across vast oceans, their twisting spires piercing the surface and remind the crude, lesser things that crawled up onto the muddy land to escape the aboleth's grasp that such efforts were futile. They claim themselves to be heirs to an empire that existed for longer than the world itself, but their paradise was lost when the world we live in today took shape, and was fought over by the gods and primordials. Now, the great cities of the aboleths are gone, the only remnants found at in the darkest reaches of the sea and in the deepest lakes of the Nether. Here, they live alone or in small groups, surrounded by thralls and nursing their contempt for the land-dwelling specks who have stolen their world.

Beholders

Quite possibly the most individually powerful and terrifying of the aberrations, the eye tyrant's broad array of devastating magical powers and their inscrutable cunning make them more than a match for most bands of heroes. Seemingly comfortable living in any environment and feasting on any living or once-living things, even with their relative scarcity, they can be found anywhere the opportunity for mayhem and subjugation exists. Even as relatively scarce as they are, the collective might of the beholder race could very well allow them to dominate all the lands of Orengaard, so it is a good thing that their particular perception of reality prohibits them from doing so.

Perhaps due to the unreal nature of their assumed origins in the Twisted Void, beholders and their kin are almost uniformly solipsistic egomaniacs, the lives and actions of other living things mere figments of their waking dreams. The fact that their powers can so easily control or annihilate the world around them and the beings that live in it only reinforces this self-centered perception, and such a narcissistic outlook hinders its formulation of long-term plans, as few beholders see it worthwhile to extend its it ambitions beyond its immediate needs and quixotic urges. It also fuels an unquenchable hatred for others of their own kind. Something so similar to itself as another beholder, with the same control over its waking dream as it wields, is evidence of a valid perspective outside its own, which eye tyrants are completely incapable of tolerating.

Extraplanar Abominations

While not technically aberrations, the Twisted Void spawns entities formed of spiritual essence as well as physical matter. These beings truly exemplify the label 'outsider' that is so often given to extraplanar beings, completely alien even to the cosmological structure of reality. Not borne of any plane, they are most often found either drifting in the Luminous Aether connecting the spiritual planes to the mortal world, or stalking the Clouded Mirror just beyond the sight of mortal beings.

Which outsiders hail from the Twisted Void can be difficult to determine, but most scholars believe that chaos beasts, the hounds of Tindalos, the shining children, and vargouilles come from outside the bounds of reality. Sentient races of outsiders such as the denizens of Leng and the xill may also be from the Twisted Void, but rarely do such beings reveal their origins. Some scholars theorize that the qlippoth are Voidborn outsiders who settled the Abyss, highlighting their unnatural forms and hatred for mortal beings as evidence, but if so they have been divorced from their inchoate homeland for eons, having existed in the Abyss for as long as even the gods can remember.

Twisted Things

The Mad Times left scars on this world, Twisted lands and creatures corrupted by the darkest manifestations of chaos. These mutations are invariably horrible and dangerous, and antithetical to the natural order. If left unchecked, their influence can seep into a region, letting the Twisted lands overtake places once healthy and sane.

The First Ones

Naz'Gathon. Ya-Phoon-La. Vyarthalot. Saj Mozilg. These and many others are names no mortal being was ever meant to know. To seek deeper knowledge of that which these names belong to leads only to death and madness. They must not be spoken of. They must not be awoken. They must not be called. They must not touch reality again. They must not be.

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