Pathfinder: Circumscribing the Locust Part IV

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Men look back to their ancient histories with wonder, seeing the fragments of what their race once achieved in the ruins of the Runic Empire of Thassilon and scattered remnants of The High Civilization of Azlant.

For reasons unknown but oft debated - and at times simply conjured up in prejudice's name - when Man was at his apex cataclysm brought him low once more. In an event apparently unseen by augury, the Void hurled the great Starstone at the world as if to admonish the hubris of the ancients. The impact of this meteor struck not only at the physical crust of the planet, but tore through the flow of arcana and even distorted the very temporal fabric that weaves together the world, the star studded Void, and the Great Beyond.

Because of this wounding most gods were barely able to irrigate their priesthoods with divinity, watching helplessly as great clouds of dust rose up and darkened the sky. Not just the illumination of the sun, moon, and stars, but the hands of the gods too was stymied by the aftershock of the assault. Akin parents forced to watch children's suffering through sheets of glass, these divinities could only stare helplessly on the other side of reality as their worshippers died by the billions. Many souls perished believing their prayers fell on deaf, rather than just nigh helpless, ears.

Yet where the other gods found the Dark to be a barrier between them and the world, one deity found his prison cell swinging wide. This was a god who had been banished to Shadow until the coming of a sunless sky. The terms of freedom met, it was this god who strode forth in that distant time of forgotten need when flora withered and fauna followed suit.

Upon seeing the state of the crying masses, he offered his protection to the people of Nidal, answering the pleas they believed the other gods refused to give heed to. Driven by desperation, these tribal peoples accepted eternal union with Zon-Kuthon, The Prince of Chains. There was little choice but to accept His protection for the alternative would have been the extinction of all they were and could ever be. Surely allowing descendants to be born, even if in spiritual chains, was worth the price of bondage?

They let the god touch them on the inside. And today - millenia hence - they continue to pay off their impossible debt to the Midnight Lord. Their nation rests under a blanket of shadows, ruled over by the descendants of those ancestral shadowbound who rose to become the Umbral Court. Though rescued from the madness that plagued the rest of the surface world for a thousand years, Nidal never witnessed the return of daylight and likely never will.

It's people are a strange folk who have dragged many rituals and religions formed before the Age of Darkness into this Age of Lost Omens, nature worship interwoven with the courting of darkness and their new Lord. And so when steeds of black mist driven by an ember eyed wraith pull an ornate carriage carved from obsidian through the farms and villages, many watch with interest but not horror. The cold chill that emanates for at least a mile around these travelers does not seem to bother any but foreigners. These outsiders feel like the hare who cannot see but rightly senses the down swooping hawk, and with animal instinct they can unerringly track the carriage's passing.

Those close enough to witness, and thankful that the carriage does not stop for them, will spy the fluttering white on red standard bearing the Midnight Lord's holy symbol - the skull whose eye sockets are laced with the manacle's chain. Below this symbol of pride and despair, the glyph of three interlocking chains is carved into the transport. And while foreigners are unlikely to know what this portends, Nidal's sons and daughters know that within the carriage the sits Dark Triune -three who struck the very bargain with their god- who are clearly traveling to the site of their ancient triumph, their ancient folly.

Ridwan, the place where their umbral savior first touched His divine foot to mortal soil, where His divine fingers first caressed their once mortal souls.

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