Ameiko’s fables of fallen foes and newfound woes
At last we have come to the Empire of Dawn, the home of my ancestors and, it seems, whole of my destiny. I thought I should air my thoughts on how we got here. Yet, how to begin such a story? It has certainly been exciting one, but for much of it I was not even around. My friends, to whom I am ever grateful, have kept me away from much of the action. But still, I have heard of the exciting battles over the campfire and spent long hours researching on those they fought. Perhaps, that is as good a start as any, a litany of the slain.
All of those who opposed us directly, now lie dead, yet in so opposing us, they have shaped the story of our lives in turn. Surely this earns them the right to their story retold? Perhaps if there’s time, I can go back to the beginning. For now, though, I’ll start with the first of our real enemy, the Oni of the Five Storms.
Kikonu, the Wayward Storm General
Kikonu Least of the Storm Generals, Kikonu decided to cut ties with his brethren and stayed at Brinewall Castle to become Lord over the corbies and other monstrous denizens.
Overtime, the Yamabashi Tengu Oni grew to feel pride in his monstrous kingdom and even accepted the troll-kin who came for he knew that his greatest defense was secrecy. Whenever treasure hunters would arrive, he would use magic and his beasts to make the place seem haunted or lure them into the depths.
Kikonu loved literature and live performances but was cursed to never be able to create even a mediocre piece in either. His rage in this was felt by all his minions except his wife, who was a mute.
His hubris would lead to his downfall, his desire to re-create the great works of Minkai culture led to both neglect of ancient duties, his minions and his wife. Without this hubris, the former Storm General would have detected the presence of a Amatatsu heir much earlier and may extinguished Minkai’s last hope before it was ever aware.
Kikonu was slain in battle in the courtyard of his own castle, betrayed by his wife in her greed.
Goti Runecaster, Kimandatsu’s Fist
Goti Runecaster was born in the First World, the unwanted get of an unfortunate union between a spriggan and a troll. Claimed by neither parent, he was left on the doorstep of an Irrisen hermit-witch who lived near a rift between the First World and Golarion. Growing up in the frigid barrens of the northlands, Goti embraced the innate talent for magic that ran in his blood and reached deep into the earth. Under the old crone’s tutelage, he matured to become a formidable sorcerer in his own right, often setting out on his own to explore the frozen hinterlands of his winter-bound home.
After a time, Goti’s adoptive mother ran afoul of the White Witches and was forced to f lee Irrisen with her young ward in tow. They made their way into the wilds of the northeast corner of the Lands of the Linnorm Kings and there eked out a meager living among the rocks and lichens of the tundra. Eventually Goti fell in with a group of Ulfen raiders, slavers who struck into the Nolands and even the northern reaches of Varisia to take captives for the markets of Jol and Bildt. Although Goti worked hard to conceal the location of his foster mother’s home in the wilds, some of his “partners” followed him as he trekked back to his home after one of their raids. The raiders surprised their erstwhile compatriot and took both Goti and his mother captive, hoping to extract riches and magic from the witch and sell her blood and bones to disreputable alchemists and other purveyors of such grisly items.
Captured, beaten, and humiliated, Goti and his mother were marched in chains across the hills and moors of the Linnorm Kingdoms toward the market of Jol. But one night, as the slavers and their prisoners camped near Skalsbridge, figures materialized out of the darkness and fog and with silent blades made short work of the raiders. The slavers had run afoul of the Frozen Shadows, who were beginning to stretch their presence out of Kalsgard and into the surrounding lands, and wanted no interference from rival criminal groups.
The Frozen Shadows brought Goti and the witch before Kimandatsu in her hideout in Kalsgard’s Jade Quarter. The ogre mage instantly sensed the potential in the halftroll sorcerer and elected not to sell the two captives into slavery. Instead, Kimandatsu granted them their freedom, allowing Goti’s adoptive mother to return to her home on the tundra. In addition, the Frozen Shadows made sure that every slaver once associated with Goti’s previous employers was eliminated, further securing the safety and secrecy of her lair. In exchange, Goti agreed to serve Kimandatsu for a year to work off his debt to the Frozen Shadows for their intervention.
Kimandatsu soon learned to rely on the sorcerer’s counsel, and also his magic. One year became 20, and Goti Runecaster became Kimandatsu’s most trusted advisor. Even when the ogre mage assumed the public identity of Thorborg Silverskorr, she was often seen in consultation with the strange sorcerer, further enhancing her reputation as a personage of
great power and inf luence. His friendship with the powerful merchant factor has also helped Goti, for his monstrous appearance would likely have otherwise resulted in his expulsion from Kalsgard, or worse, his death at the hands of Sveinn Blood-Eagle’s huscarls. But as a trusted ally of Thorborg Silverskorr, Goti enjoyed a position of influence and status that would otherwise be closed to him.
Goti was slain by the party at castle Ravenscraeg.
Kimandatsu, Storm General of the Frozen Shadows
The ogre mage Kimandatsu was an active member of the Five Storms, a powerful group of oni in then far-off Minkai, and leader of the Frozen Shadows, the Five Storms’ guild of ninja and assassins in Kalsgard in the Lands of the Linnorm Kings. In her human guise as Thorborg Silverskorr, a powerful and influential merchant factor of Kalsgard’s Rimerunners Guild, Kimandatsu increased the power and underground influence of the Frozen Shadows, as well as her own personal status.
In Minkai, Kimandatsu served as the Five Storms’ chief hunter, chasing down any enemies that the oni marked as targets. From her twisted pagoda hidden deep in the Forest of Spirits north of Minkai, Kimandatsu raised and trained tigers to hunt and track the Five Storms’ prey and either kill them or bring them to her unharmed. When the presence of the Amatatsu Seal was revealed in Brinewall but the oni found no trace of the Amatatsus themselves, the Five Storms sent Kimandatsu over the Crown of the World to take command of the Frozen Shadows and renew the chase of the Amatatsu family.
Kimandatsu was destroyed in her lair, at the height of her power, by the party. This was the first time Suishen revealed its ability to grow in power as the blood of the Oni of the Five Storms wetted the blade’s somewhat disturbing, if convenient, appetite.
Tanuak, Betrayer of the Erutaki
Tunuak had been the oracular shaman of the Erutaki village of Iqaliat for two generations, since his mentor fell victim to a fever while still in her middle years. It was considered an ill omen for a shaman to ascend to the post before his hair had turned white, and the villagers were uneasy at the disturbing, incomprehensible language Tunuak reverted to in times of stress, but the young shaman had proved himself capable as a student of the mysteries and devoted to the ancient ways, erecting and maintaining the inukshuk wind altars that watch over the high cliffs of the Alasek Ridge. The chief and hearthmistress confirmed Tunuak’s appointment, and he soon became invaluable to the settlement, ministering to the physical and material needs of the people of Iqaliat and helping to maintain the community in times of both plenty and desperate want.
But as the years passed and Tunuak grew older, he found himself withdrawing from the spirits he had always served. When Iqaliat truly needed the spirits’ help, they were rarely there, and it took all of Tunuak’s power to keep the village safe and secure. And for what? He had served the spirits and the village for over half a century, and what had he gotten in return? Had he not given enough of his service? Could not someone else be found to replace him? But among the Erutaki, shamans served their people until they died; retirement was not an option, and Tunuak grew increasingly bitter.
Tunuak prayed and sacrificed and developed the spirits’ gift of wind sight, using it to eavesdrop on the conversations of others, but this only increased his bitterness and frustration, for to his dismay, he found that others in the village thought that he was too old and infirm, and no longer served the people as he once did. His heart darkened once more, especially when he heard Iqaliat’s chief and hearthmistress joking about their aged shaman with visitors from another village.
His resentment growing, Tunuak decided the only solution was a true vision quest. The shaman set out for the Nameless Spires, the home of the spirits at the top of the world, to beg their favor. The journey was long and arduous, but Tunuak at last arrived at the legendary Nameless Spires. To his surprise, Tunuak found the ruins overrun with the frozen, walking dead, but before he fell prey to their icy claws, he encountered the half-fiend sylph Katiyana, who brought him to her Storm Tower. Entranced by the sylph’s beauty and believing that she had saved him from the embrace of the walking dead, Tunuak soon came to believe that Katiyana was one of the very wind spirits he sought. Tunuak stayed in the Storm Tower for many days, questioning and being questioned by Katiyana. The sylph soon convinced him that she was but a servant of a greater master of storms, who required Tunuak’s service as well. Playing upon the bitterness and resentment in Tunuak’s soul, Katiyana corrupted him into the service of the demon lord Sithhud, the Frozen Lord, and instructed Tunuak to erect one of the basalt monoliths for controlling the morozkos in the very heart of Iqaliat.
Knowing he would never be allowed to place a monolith in the village, Tunuak and Katiyana devised a plan to trick the white dragon Vegsundvaag into attacking Iqaliat. When the dragon had finished its work, the village would be empty, the monolith could be erected, and the deaths of the villagers would serve as a grand sacrifice to Sithhud that would bring Tunuak great favor.
When the morozkos finally came to Iqaliat and the endless winter of Sithhud’s return took hold over the Crown of the World, any surviving villagers in Iqaliat would look to Tunuak for aid, and he would give none. Oh, how they would suffer, not even realizing they had brought their doom upon themselves. Perhaps if they had treated Tunuak better, he would have been merciful, but cold bitterness they gave, and so they would receive, and Tunuak would sit at the right hand of his new demonic god.
Unfortunately for the madman, the party caught on to his tricks, talked the village into letting them stay, and slaughtered Tunuak and his allies in his evil temple, upon his own altar.
Vegsundvaag, Rage of the Polar Wind
White dragon Vegsundvaag is a white dragon of the Crown of the World, born nearly a century ago in the high glaciers of the Whitefang Peninsula. As a wyrmling, she was taught how to recognize prey from above and below, f lying in the sky high above or burrowing deep beneath the ice as she hunted across the polar plateau. Vegsundvaag was a skilled hunter, and she led her clutchmates on many hunting forays; however, she frequently returned to the family’s ice caves alone, well sated from her latest kill. It was not long before Vegsundvaag turned her lessons upon her siblings, until through the work of her own claws she became an only child. Her last surviving brother proved more clever than his siblings and suspected her treachery, even trying to set up a rudimentary ambush of his own, but he was no match for Vegsundvaag’s savage counterstroke, and that he saw his doom coming only made her final victory feast the sweeter.
Vegsundvaag’s mother, who had betrayed and devoured more than one rival dragon during her youth, could not help but admire her daughter’s naked aggression and ambition. While she had high hopes for each of her hatchlings, she thought it far better that one strong scion should arise than for a clutch of weaklings to struggle and scrabble for the leavings of those more powerful and ruthless than they. Vegsundvaag’s mother took her down from the High Ice to the richer hunting grounds of the summer melt, where the two-legs came up the wide water in their bobbing boats, and mother and daughter alike grew fat. Whether it was underwater, digging through ice and earth, or swooping out of the polar sky, Vegsundvaag soon mastered every form of hunting, and darkling thoughts of advancing her position in the family began to awaken in her heart again.
Before Vegsundvaag could add matricide to her list of crimes, however, her mother taught her that she still had much to learn. Binding her daughter in her sleep with iron chains she had taken from a human ship, Vegsundvaag’s mother dragged the young dragon to the bottom of Whitefang Bay, and told her that if she could free herself, she must f ly far from there and establish her own hunting ground. Her mother would brook no rivals, and if Vegsundvaag ever showed herself in Whitefang Bay and the glaciers above, she would not live to regret it. As a reminder, her mother tore Vegsundvaag’s glorious frill, leaving only a tattered remnant. Seething at her defeat, Vegsundvaag nonetheless saw the threat of death in her mother’s eyes before she departed, and after gnawing through the chains and dragging herself out of the bay, she chose the path of caution. She went not to the smoking mountains of the west, nor to the desolate heart of the High Ice to the north, nor even to the fertile lands and waters of the south. Instead, she claimed her territory in the east, along the high cliffs at the edge of the ice.
In time, Vegsundvaag established her own lair and hunted both the ice and the riverlands to the south, marking out the boundaries of her territory. Few rivals dared enter her domain, but as she matured, her lustful urges began to awaken and she roamed in search of a mate worthy of her. Encountering a male named Narmurvik, Vegsundvaag began a violent courtship. After several years of running battles, boasting, and taunting, she won his favor and they merged their hunting grounds and carved out a suitable lair. Vegsundvaag made a nest and laid half a dozen eggs, but her natural jealousy and aggression soon rose to the surface. She began to suspect Narmurvik of unwholesome designs upon her eggs, and one evening when he returned to their lair from a long hunt, Vegsundvaag ambushed him and slew her erstwhile mate in cold-hearted murder.
Before her eggs could hatch, however, they fell victim not to another dragon, but to the humans who lived beneath the ice cliffs, who violated her lair and smashed her beloved eggs to shards. Vegsundvaag swore terrible vengeance against the humans of Iqaliat, and she will not rest until every sniveling two-leg has tasted the frozen fire of her undying hatred. But she will drag out her revenge, taking them one by one and dismantling their pitiful village stone by stone, until the bones of the last few survivors crunch in her jaws and their hot, red blood stains the snow. A mother’s love for her children is no small thing, even for a mother such as Vegsundvaag, and those who took them from her will learn the true meaning of vengeance.
The wyrm died in ice caves amongst the howling winds, the first true dragon the adventurers fought.
Katiyana, Queen of the Morozkos
Katiyana was a sylph of the Alabastrine Peaks, one of the few sylphs that inhabit those frozen peaks at the farthest polar reaches of Golarion. Her father, Tornaq, was a wizard, and often traveled through the gates to and from the Plane of Air at the Crown of the World, visiting with relations among the djinn who marveled at his stories of the starkly beautiful lands at the top of the world. The most wondrous tales of that realm were of the mysterious, phosphorescent blue Nameless Spires that lay to the north of the Alabastrine Peaks, from which he brought back unfathomable crystal devices. On one such visit to the ruins, Tornaq encountered a strange woman from the south, who appeared to be a scholar from her robes and books. Curious, Tornaq drew near the visitor. His heart pounded as the woman slipped off her robes to reveal her demonic horns, wings, and tail, but Tornaq’s mind was already no longer his own, enslaved to the succubus’s will. The demon carried him off by magic to parts unknown, and his few remaining years were a blur of misery and torment at the hands of his demonic captor as she interrogated the wizard to learn what he knew of the lost city and the secrets of the Crown of the World; in the end, his violation was total—mental, physical, spiritual, and carnal. It was not until the succubus showed Tornaq the cambion daughter she had begotten through his lustful compulsion that she finally granted him the release of death, and with his dying breath he named the demon-child Katiyana.
Katiyana’s mother, the succubus Croicu, gave her to the cult of Sithhud, and the young half-fiend sylph proved a keen study with an affinity for necromancy and magical compulsions. Sly and duplicitous, with a clever mouth and an easy, mocking laugh, Katiyana was raised in the surety that the world wished her dead as an abomination, that none would or could ever love her but her true family in the cult, who had saved her from the father who abandoned her. Her hope of salvation was in the redemption and return of their forgotten master, the Frozen Lord, who had likewise been betrayed. Like Sithhud, Katiyana would endure and survive, and when Sithhud finally reclaimed his power and became a true demon lord once more, she would become his beloved handmaiden.
Unfortunately Katiyana had also attracted the attention of the Oni of the Five Storms, and was ultimately possessed by one of their witches as she went about her fell plan for bringing the morozko storms to the region.
She died, twice, at the hands of the adventurers. First in her storm tower at the crown of the world, and again as a ghost, beneath the mountains amongst the paths of the dead.
Akinosa, Opiate Addled Scholar
Once, Akinosa was content to roam the Forest of Spirits with his band of aranea followers and his precious f lask of endless sake. A sorcerer with far greater talent than most of his kind, Akinosa has always been fascinated with the arcane, but his desire to learn more has become his undoing. The rumors of dark secrets and forbidden texts hidden beneath the House of Withered Blossoms proved too much for him to ignore, and when news reached him that the Five Storms had escaped their prison, Akinosa led his followers to the pagoda to claim the oni’s knowledge for himself. Unfortunately, Akinosa, a lazy drunkard at the best of times, was unable to defeat Munasukaru’s forces, and his obsession with the wealth of arcana that he still believes is hidden in the House of Withered Blossoms has driven him to carry on his war for the past 60 years. During that time, a stalemate has existed between the aranea and the oni, with neither able to gain the advantage over the other, and Akinosa has added opium to his list of vices.
The endless stalemate has worn on the aranea’s nerves,however, and his days are now long. In his drug- and alcohol-induced torpor, Akinosa is often unaware of what is reality and what is dream. He spends his days scrying on his enemy and making endless demands of his followers for preparations of attack. Of late, Akinosa has spent more time in indulgence than in strategy, and his addiction to opium and endless supply of sake has dulled his senses.
In hybrid form, Akinosa looks like a vast spider with a distended body and multi-jointed legs, topped with a humanoid torso wearing soiled robes. A disturbing cluster of arachnid eyes and mandibles mar his only vaguely human head. Swarms of spiders and insects crawl in and out of the folds in his robes and skin.
His mighty corpulent form was pierced by the blades of our heroes as he wandered in his drug induced delirium. In the end, he was still uncertain if what he saw was real, as the blade Suishen finished his life.
Munasukaru, the Betrayed
Long ago, the ja noi oni Munasukaru wandered the Forest of Spirits, leading a small band of goblinoid followers in hunting and slaughtering the wood’s inhabitants, while avoiding the kami that patrolled the forest looking for her kind to eradicate. Eventually, she learned of other oni in the forest, including the powerful wind yai named Anamurumon who held court in the House of Withered Blossoms. Rather than fight an endless—and Munasukaru suspected, ultimately futile battle against the kami, Munasukaru resolved to find Anamurumon and join forces with him.
Leading her hobgoblin followers to the House of Withered Blossoms, Munasukaru discovered that Anamurumon had more than enough allies and troops of his own, and her own pitiful band was just that. Nevertheless, in exchange for her fealty, Anamurumon made Munasukaru a commander in the Five Storms, though she was the least of his officers.
In the great halls of the oni palace beneath the House of Withered Blossoms, Munasukaru loyally served Anamurumon and the Five Storms. Over time, and always from afar, Munasukaru began to desire her beloved leader. If not love—for such emotions are unknown to the oni—it was lust, or desire, and Munasukaru did everything she could to please Anamurumon.
When the time came to harvest souls to power the kimon, the demon gate that would allow the oni to escape their imprisonment, it was Munasukaru’s hobgoblins who first began the search, whispering to the other goblinoids in the Forest of Spirits of the living gods who needed mortal hands to assist them. Such helpers, they said, would be greatly rewarded when these “gods” turned Minkai into a playground of sin, lust, and wanton destruction.
And when the souls had been harvested and the kimon opened, Anamurumon repaid Munasukaru’s loyalty and devotion by abandoning her and ordering her to remain behind in the House of Withered Blossoms to further his own ends.
The long, lonely years in the company of only lesser beings such as her hobgoblin followers have driven Munasukaru to madness. In her boredom, she has tried to lift her spirits by using her followers and their aranea captives as playthings—both for breeding, and for tortures—but they are never more than a temporary diversion. And so Munasukaru sought a different outlet for madness and anger, a record of her experiments and amusements that became her Penance, an ongoing work of art that reflects the twisted, monstrous mind of its creator.
Finally, in her madness, she tried to reanimate the gate with blood magic. She perished at the hands of the adventurers, in her chambers, at the height of her power and madness.