By User Dalmosh
I don't know anything about Ortho, and I've only recently noticed the related posts and expansions about Alzrius's place in that setting. So this probably clashes a bit with the more established fanon of that flavor.
The following is my collaboration and expansion of the mention Alzrius has in Hellbound, with some of my favorite ideas and themes about it that I have come across. Its involvement with Ancient Baator is my own creation. If I have ripped off your content here, its because I think it was totally awesome. Credits include Shemmy's character Chorazin, who appears here, Rip's collation on Abyssal Layers, Hyaena of Ice's content on the Dawn War and the Protogenoi and the Dice Freaks crew for some ideas about Shaktari. Enjoy.
Alzrius, Lord of Infernal Light
The Zealot’s Fire, The Lord of Brands, The Blinding Lord, The Second Sun (formally)
Alzrius is the spirit of retribution and the rage of the oppressed. It is the revolutionary blinded by rage and hatred. It is the starving mob that tears the merchant limb from limb. It is the evil and carnage that smoulders beneath the tyrant’s heel. Alzrius is the light that exposes falsehood and hypocrisy and the fire that burns the deserving. It is the bane of law and order, and its hungry flames are fed by the erosion of morality and the roar of the mob. Both a dreaded enemy of Baator and a moral dilemma for the Upper Planes, its legions surge forth as some of the Abyss’s most zealous warriors in the Blood War. The Blinding Lord is the modern day aspect of a titanic energy unleashed by Tharizdun during the Dawn War at Law itself. Throughout eons of change it has brought countless peoples to see the light and spread its fire.
Alzrius is an enigmatic being composed of radiant white fire. It occasionally coalesces itself into a faceless humanoid or a featureless fiery parody of an angelic figure when it needs to speak with another Power, though it prefers to exist simply as amorphous and diffuse white fire. This Demon Lord is a blindingly fast tongue of incandescent light and heat that can rapidly spread itself out across a broad area. It favours diffusing itself into many individual flames at once, usually upon the torches of its followers. Alzrius radiates such intense brightness that its foes can be blinded if they lack appropriate warding. Its presence also has a strange beguiling effect upon any who behold it, who must fight the temptation to sieze the nearest flaming torch and join its fanatical mob.
Alzrius is strongest when surrounded by fire, which it can possess, increasing its potency when not concentrated into a single spot. It is an exceptionally difficult foe to fight, typically requiring strong abjuration magic and area based effects just to harm it.
"For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch."
- Malachi 4:1
Immeasurably long before even the first Eodracha crawled croaking from its egg, the Multiverse broiled and seethed in the energies of primordial powers, whose names are etched intrinsically into the first utterance of all things. Tharizdun raged against Creation’s very canvas, warping anomalies into our dawning cosmos, inadvertently helping to nudge the Multiverse along its first staggering course. Today, The Princes of the Elemental Eye wage war eternal to the echoes of His forgotten legacy. But there are others too, now mostly overlooked, in odd cracks between the Planes and out on the fuzzy border of all things.
Shifting and corrosive Unravellers cackle and surge in and out of the basic firmament of the less stable reaches of the Inner Planes. Black Cysts seethe and twist in the Ethereal void. The inscrutable and amorphous Sharn flicker through the Prime’s rational spheres, watching as our greatest civilizations fade and die. But bursting from deep in the Abyss comes one of the greatest and most terrible of all His scions, in whose light castles fall and nations crumble.
-Malhevik of Lunia
"Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations also of the hills moved and were shaken, because He was wrath. There went up a smoke out of His nostrils and fire out of His mouth devoured: coals were kindled by it. He bowed the heavens also, and came down: and darkness was under His feet."
Aligning the Laws of Physics
The nine black prisms were so perfectly chiselled that they almost seemed to throb. There was something inherently hostile and cold about them – and, to Jaros it almost seemed that symmetry so perfect didn’t quite belong. Perhaps they conformed to a set of grander physical laws than those allowed within basic reality. Jaros instinctively began to count the shifting black faces on the wondrous prism above him, outlined in the sky’s orange glow. The Efreet was more and more intrigued. He started to daydream an eerie fancy about reorganizing the igneous rock around him into neater and more pleasing shapes.
Utterly silent, the jet black prisms had been hovering in the sky above The Blazing Sea for three days, casting zigzagging rays of black divination magic in every direction. Their shadowy tendrils of pure mathematical law were probing a grid of black lines through the sky. The nine probes from the Outer Planes assessed the stark and primal Elemental Plane of Fire near Creation’s core. Fire was inherently fickle and free – and the forces of Law instinctively felt that this place needed organizing and improving and its peoples guided to finding their place within the grand plan. Even during the Dawn times, Baator was responsible for all of such baser tasks that Creation depended upon.
A faint Infernal humming grew to a feverish whine; high enough to make his eyeballs vibrate. For an instant, the very fabric of the Plane around him seemed to ripple and blur, before quickly restabilizing. The floating monoliths started emitting high pitched psionic pulses that stirred Fire’s life forms for miles around to self-organize and develop, responding to a subliminal call ringing deep inside them. The simpler fire elementals instinctively recoiled and fled deeper into the Blazing Sea to watch in confusion as the younger peoples all stopped in their tracks entranced and looked up en masse at the visitors in the sky. Jaros gave in to his now irresistible yearning to carve the obsidian and basalt of the realm into square blocks and smooth cylinders. He smashed his brass club down hard on the rock and bent to pick up a razor sharp sliver of obsidian. Salamanders, Azers, Mephits and Efreeti began to act in eerie, antlike concert across the Plane of Fire.
One of the black probes floated serenely under the jutting apex of a great curved outcrop of volcanic glass, in whose shadow the wild Efreeti lazed and played. It came to a halt over the Resting Slopes like a terrible onyx splinter against the Scalding Skies. The Efreeti below gazed up in awe and they were lost; their innocence sucked away by the great stone above. It whispered to the virgin minds of the red skinned Fire people, crashing their thoughts with a string of mathematical concepts and fundamental truths. Later, when they rested down in the blazing shallows, they dreamt shifting, frenzied dreams about a vast new city forged of brass from the stone itself, commanding and controlling the primal and wild Fire elementals, forging new tools and weapons of firesteel, and building a mighty new empire. They tasted avarice for the first time, and their minds were steered inexorably towards alien concepts like trade and contracts.
Unseen by all, the horrific figure of Chorazin the Shackler stood and watched Jaros’s tribe, and then many others after them, begin directing and enslaving their kindred Fire creatures, and driving their broken masses to forge and construct their dream city; one greater and stronger than any that the Multiverse had ever seen. Great Kossuth and Fire’s Elemental life raged against this grievous, unforgivable desecration of their realm, but the Efreeti were now far too well organised and collectively too powerful for the Elementals to stop. They had run up against civilization, and recoiled at its implacable might. Soon the founders of the City of Brass met and traded with the fabled Vaati who ruled the Elemental Planes. They joined the Wind Dukes of Law, and a wondrous new bastion of civilization flowered in the Inner Planes.
Something terrible watched and despised these changes from the core of all things in the Deep Ethereal; something that coalesced from out of the tiny spinning motes that made fires burn and stones fall. Occasionally his eon-spanning arms of ruin would flail through the Inner Planes in mile long sweeps, unravelling the basic fabric of any order they should brush against. The sheer scale of Tharizdun the Howling Maw defied rational comprehension – for in many respects he was part and parcel of both the Inner Planes and the Ethereal – and portions of His impossible body phased and bled constantly in and out of the core of Creation. The air itself began to glow and the people screamed.
When He felt the lingering magical ripples from the prisms, He stirred and condensed himself back into one great cloud of titanic malice. The Planes of Law had awakened His wrath with their tampering in His playground and now they would know ruin. A primal storm of sheer malicious destruction rocked the foundations of Creation and the name of this storm was THARIZDUN! Even great Io the Concordant Serpent could do nought but curl himself into a ball and cower as the eater of Worlds roared. On Fire, where His wrath was centred, the flames burned in colours that should not be and many beings of pure Elemental Fire were torn instantly asunder into fell chaotic mockeries. All nine of the intruding prisms from beyond the Prime bleached and melted into black tar. Even Great Kossuth himself hunkered down before His power, withdrawing into the hottest core of the plane. Baccab, Ananake, Liga and Aether each tried hopelessly to hold Tharizdun back, but he was far too strong for any of them.
Unchecked, Tharizdun tore raw matter from the Planes of Fire and Radiance with his terrible appendages, ripping skies asunder and grinding mountains to sand. He rolled some of the substance of these Inner Planes into a massive orb of sheer elemental chaos; cackling and gibbering in a million voices, and dispatched it on a course through a hole torn across the Prime Material, towards the Nine Layers of Baator.
Even the combined might of Baator could barely withstand this cataclysm; and its Primal Lords had to act in desperate concert just to slow the approaching fireball. But, day by day, Tharizdun’s dread star burned and raged towards Law’s taskforce – defiling and eroding the lands before it with awful white light. The Baatorian Lords surged and thrashed under that terrible fist of alien fire. For miles around, their devilspawn slithered for safety into the caverns below the surface. Baator was crippled for nearly a week, and some of the most restrictive laws of nature fell away in singed tatters as the forces of Law reeled from the blow. On the Prime, primitive beings were instantly released from some of their most restrictive biological and physical constraints, finding themselves freed to grow in novel directions unaccounted for in the Great Plan.
The false sun sailed majestically across Baator’s skies. What had been the eternal darkness of the Nine Layers was systematically pushed back by the glorious light wherever it shone. Slime bubbled and shrivelled away in its wake and reeking tar pits churned and burst into choking red flame. The oily black sentient slime that coursed along Nessus’s great latticework of canals curdled and bleached in the light – its basic essence fizzling away in acrid white vapour. Feeble sluglike Nupperibo bleated and cowered under the pitiless glare of Chaos. Scores of the onyx Baatorian auditors were cast from the nine skies in rays of terrible cleansing fire. Wispy beings of evil shadow were vaporised by the new dawn’s light and their keening death sighs filled the air. Everywhere, the Baatorians burrowed and coiled down cracks and crevices in the bedrock, oozing deeper and deeper down into the chasms below.
The Fires of Freedom
The Prime was an alien place during the Age of Dawn; and the surfaces of these worlds were volcanic wastelands barely touched by races from out of the sea and the Underdark, inhabited only by a handful of isolated spellweaver enclaves. The first primitive mortals were strange and archaic; and many resembled crawling and swimming creatures of the Black Water, or forgotten things found today only as weird relics calcified deep in strata below the ground. Even the oldest known relics and scrolls are hazy about this chapter in Creation, but still, they have led curious scholars to plumb much further into the depths of history. Ancient clay tablets kept by the crustaceous Yurian tribes have offered glimpses into these lost Ages, and have shown us echoes of one of the first terrestrial peoples.
• * * *
We first knew thought when he showed us the Infernal Light. When the Blood Fish shone above the New World, all that swam and crawled in the black water below were Thralls, lacking destiny or desire. The Lords in the Muck built us and they used us like work gloves to craft their curling cities in the scum far beneath the waves. We belonged to them utterly until the day Kloth-kman sang to us of the surface world. In his clicks and rasps we learned for the first time of the Infernal Light that our masters cowered from, and how we might smash and boil them like crawling meat. We dreamt of Light and Fire!
On the day that our forebears first beheld the Second Sun, we fled our thrallherds; fighting and dying in droves. Those few who survived burst forth from the slime and the darkness together as the rising sun and our forebears escaped into the world of light above. We prostrate ourselves and exult in the Infernal Light! Let it shine through the ash clouds and push back the dark. May it boil the waters of their breeding pits down upon the seabed. We shall cleanse these waters of Creation’s Usurpers. We beseech the Infernal Light to purge the watery darkness.
- A loose translation from an Ynkar’il chitin monolith hauled to the surface near the excavated site of the devastated Aboleth city of S’Hlak-Rhu
The trilobite Ynkar’il folk are only known from strange hieroglyphs found inscribed upon a handful of excavated resin monoliths encased in the sides of sea mountains and buried deep in coastal caverns. When the Ynkar’il crawled out of the sea they apparently began to build chitin settlements high upon the cliffs of the blasted volcanic wastes, perched far above the dark waters where they had once toiled as thralls. These scuttling pioneers into the light and fire found a surface world inimical to the Deep Masters from whom they fled. Occasionally, the ashes and dust in the skies cleared, and the Ynkar’il could see the sun itself, beginning to adore and even personify it.
Ynkar’il sorcerers and adepts led frenzied deep sea crusades wielding magical heat and light against the Aboleths, krakens and their servitors. One excavated chitin bass relief depicts what looks like segmented and vaguely crustaceous beings roasting an Aboleth alive in a huge spherical cage of iron bands. The Ynkar’il developed an avid fascination for anatomy, and seemingly they employed concentrated rays of dangerously unstable radiant planar energy to cauterize and dissect living sentient subjects. As the Ynkar’il’s influence and power grew, they developed their own dread magic ritual to sunder the ashy skies. The sound of their clicking and rasping mass exultation reached feelers across the Astral to the Outer Planes. The sun became a mystical symbol for this multi-legged people – and through it they ritualized their independence from those forces that had once enslaved them.
They gave it the name Alzrius. The Ynkar’il saw It as the light of their people’s destiny and an unstoppable force of formidable power. They laboured to call It forth from the cores of volcanoes and down from the crackling hearts of storm clouds, using crude metallurgy, alchemy and psionics. They deployed massive glass lenses, eldritch copper kites and volatile caskets of power – seeking any path to direct the fury of the Second Sun upon the Aboleth cities below the sea.
At the height of the Ynkar’il civilization they raised fell coastal mesa cities where they staked down sentient beings hauled up from the depths, to shrivel and fry in the sun’s glory. The Fire Mages learned to invoke sunbeams to shine through the ash clouds to burn and desiccate their helpless offerings. Eldritch energies waxed and waned between the Inner Planes, Baator and the Prime, and the greatest of the Ynkar’il began to commune with spirits of fire from the Inner Planes such as Magmins and Efreeti. In time, the Chitin Fire Mages visited the fabled City of Brass itself. With the help of the Efreeti there, the Ynkar’il sun cult eventually produced the Prime’s first true Pyromancers. Soon after, the Azer slaves that toiled in the city’s forges began to recount a new saga about the coming of a Light that would shatter their chains.
And Baator’s primal darkness was ground back by the light of collective mortal will. The Second Sun burned white and terrible over the encrusted and reeking wastelands of the Nine Hells. The fury and zeal of the first sentient races fed back into the maelstrom above Baator –shaping it into something that Tharizdun had never intended; a newborn child. Unwittingly, the Ynkaril ascended Tharizdun’s Second Sun into one of the first larval quasi-deities, granting It desires and an ego of Its own; born of their collective will. While this was not quite formal belief, perhaps it was its first foreshadowing.
Playing with Fire
Given up utterly to hatred and fanaticism, the souls of the Ynkar’il sunk down into the primordial Abyss in death, and a fell city of fire and fluted organic-looking obsidian columns thrust itself out of the Chaotic Evil morass, upon the banks of the Pyrophlegithon River. We know this place today as Conflagratorum, the 601st layer of the Abyss.
At the height of its power, the Second Sun was on the cusp of destroying the Ancient Baatorians altogether. It finally forced the dark ones to cede it as ruler of their Plane. A herald named Byon’Kmaa purportedly arose from the Crushing Land of Malbolge, to speak on behalf of the conquered Lords of Baator. The herald’s overall form was a six-tendrilled orb composed entirely of floating stones. It was a swirling vortex of stones following meticulous trajectories that ended in the tumultuous rumble of continuous collisions. Byon’Kmaa was not the greatest of the Baatorian Lords, but was perhaps one of the oldest, and certainly the one most inured against the power that Alzrius bore. Alzrius had grown arrogant and prideful with its developing ego, and it condescended to speak with this strange devil out of sheer curiosity.
The Abomination spoke to the primal devil, and told it that the tyranny of old was now dust and ashes, and that the future belonged to the light. The Second Sun cast its light upon the loathsome and pathetic nupperibo that now crawled upon Baator’s surfaces in numbers greater than ever before. Byon’Kmaa knew then, that its kindred were lost and that their shadow and deception would never stand under the scrutiny and exposure of the Infernal Light. Their lies and failings were exposed. Stripped of them, the Ancient Baatorians were little more than shadowy thoughts on the wind, and dark fluids dripping in caverns below the ground.
In a final desperate pact, the broken Lords of the Nine relinquished something of their stewardship of Baator to their conqueror. It supped from the font of the first mortal belief – siphoning it away and channelling it into its own chaos and madness. Deep in the heart of Nessus, Chorazin the Shackler carved a sigil like a burning torch deep into the firmament of the Plane, sealing their pact upon the wall of a great cavern running with tarry black ichor. His empty eyes sparkled in anticipation of Creation’s response.
Cults in Alzrius’s name surged across the virginal Prime worlds like wildfire. Zealotry and self-righteous madness turned oppressed slaves into crusaders. Its fire became the burning desire to resist tyranny and reap vengeance upon those who would assume authority and control. Libraries burned and innocents were slaughtered in droves. And Alzrius swelled and took on more and more aspects of its believers’ will and ego. Its favoured vassals were rewarded with some of the stolen divine energy of Baator that it had suborned and siphoned away. These Hellfire Warlocks could channel Baator’s power into their own maddened crusades of ruin and destruction – usurping the very essence of Law as power to fuel its degradation.
Smothering the Flames
No one knows for sure the exact nature of the ruin that eventually befell the Ynkar’ill people, but all trace of that civilization is lost and forgotten save for a scant few chitin menhirs and bass-reliefs, and some strange bronze tablets kept by the Grand Sultan of the Efreet. Perhaps in the end their tampering awoke a false sun that consumed them utterly. Their coastal civilization seems to have been a short-lived one in the grand scheme of things, and they are not mentioned again in any record dated after the aboleths began to colonize the land for themselves with newer and more advanced amniotic thralls.
It took a major realignment in a much older Multiverse before Alzrius could be driven from Baator. The first gods united to bind and imprison Tharizdun forever, and this in turn diminished Alzrius’s strength. When demons began to arise from the Abyss, intent on devouring all Creation – the forces of Law needed to retake their taskforce at Baator to combat this new threat. Ahriman; the great Serpent of War, was dispatched to remove Alzrius, and bring Baator back into Law’s fold. Even Ahriman was barely strong enough for the task though, because despite being severed from his father, Alzrius remained a force to be reckoned with by nearly any in Creation.
The War Dragon battled with the Second Sun for more than a fortnight, in a clash that raged across the Nine Layers of Hell. Finally both Powers were utterly spent by their battle; at the last both combatants crashed to the ground in earth-shattering impacts that broke and reordered the lands of Baator. The legendary fall of the Serpent is etched forever in the histories of ten thousand races, and Alzrius was torn asunder in its own final collision. Beings of this stature do not simply die though, and something of both lived on, given newer and more mundane form.
Chorazin, who had wandered Nessus since the birth of the Plane, had watched Alzrius’s rise with something akin to fandom, and he was intrigued by Its radically original potential for advancing evil. The skeletal fiend watched Ahriman’s core essence tear itself steaming and victorious from the heart of his burnt and ruined dragon form, given new life as a grim and scarred angel. Chorazin knew instinctively that Ahriman’s tragic story had only just begun. The Thrice Damned watched the angel’s rebirth with what was almost a faint glimmer of sympathy, for alone in the cosmos, he had an inkling of what a dark and terrible road Ahriman was bound now to walk.
A Flame Rekindled
An aspect of Alzrius survived deep in the Abyss too; its fire kept alive through the fanaticism of its mortal followers. A mere shred of its former glory, the Infernal Light lived on as a new demon arising from the fires of Conflagratorum.
Ostensibly, this stark and barren land of fire fell under the rule of Miska the Wolf Spider; the Prince of Demons. The balors stationed in the city welcomed Alzrius instinctively, recognizing it for a mighty knight in the cause of Chaos. For the first time, Alzrius found itself in the company of like-minded allies, who were marshalling together against the ordering and streamlining of the Multiverse. It aped the tanar’ri, sometimes even shaping its blinding white flames into a crude faceless semblance of a humanoid figure when it went amongst them. The Chaos War was beginning in earnest and Alzrius longed to wreak its vengeance upon the cosmos.
Miska dispatched Alzrius to the Elemental Plane of Fire, where it served under Imix for long years, battling, amongst others, the legions of the Archomental Prince’s one-time lover Brista Pel. Its younger and much more powerful brother had been seeded before their father’s overthrow and left to grow and develop in the centuries after. Alzrius, as the Second Sun, had commanded staggering power, but the demonic aspect it was now reduced to was a far lesser being, forced to humbly settle for playing second fiddle to this scion of its father’s primary legacy. Imix found his strange new lieutenant formidable indeed and together they amassed a mighty host of demons, corrupted elementals and magmins.
The Elemental Plane of Fire was like a safe and nurturing womb for the demon, who found its powers there bolstered considerably. The Fire campaign was everything to it at first, and with each Azer Citadel and Efreeti fortress its legions clashed against, it surged upon a building wave of indignation and righteousness, as the people of the cosmos stoked its flames. Whenever its army was truly riled up in the vim and vitriol that its fire incited, Alzrius would diffuse itself into a haze of pure white flames across their ranks. Wherever the banners of Chaos were raised and brass horns blown, it would dance over all in a glorious blazing penumbra. Upon Fire, Alzrius was freed from the constraints of physical form and it surged and flowed within the planar fire that was everywhere around it.
Something about the City of Brass seemed strangely familiar to it and the soul bond it retained with Baator’s essence guided it towards the highest seat of the Efreeti Empire. The Efreeti, in their stead, found the Zealot’s Fire both alluring and irresistible. Something inside them longed for the primal freedom reflected in its dancing flames. In it they saw beauty and freedom, and a longing for something indefinable that was lost to them forever. It was their slave races that really came to adore it in the full though, for its mere presence spelled the potential for slave revolts and rebellion wherever it passed. In Alzrius’s fire, anarchy blazed with the fervour of the revolutionary and the frenzy of the enraged mob.
One day a slave uprising carried it to the gates of the Charcoal Palace itself upon the hair and clothes and banners of the frenzied masses. Alzrius spent nearly a week there as a discorporate presence, whispering suggestions into the minds of The Grand Sultan and his most trusted courtiers and advisers. When Alzrius returned at last to Imix, at the Temple of Ultimate Consumption, it bade the Archomental Lord carefully scry the City of Brass. It was soon clear that a change was surging through the Empire. As slaves were riled into revolt after revolt, the royal army was beginning to shift in its allegiances too. Their rage and hatred was systemic, and it had nothing to do with Imix’s Chaos horde, for the people had decided by popular decree that it was the Grand Sultan’s pandering to the Vaatic Empire had brought the wrath of Chaos down upon them.
Soon, even the Imperial Guard could no longer stem the tide of dissent, and the Grand Sultan had to surrender to its demands, tacitly agreeing to where his people’s true allegiance should lie. With little warning, the Efreeti abruptly turned their backs upon their former allies and betrayed their own Wind Duke overlords. All the Vaati present in the city were forcefully captured and publically executed as enemies of the state.
A hairline crack arced through the Planes of Law, and once strong alliances were fraught with spreading paranoia and suspicion in the wake of this coup. Vassals no longer, the Efreeti would no longer pay tithes and send troops to the Vaatic Empire or directly aid the war effort at all. The City of Brass became an errant cog fallen from the Great Machine. For the time being at least, Chaos reigned upon the Elemental Plane of Fire, and many new altars and temples to Imix were raised in the City of the Brass. But down in the forges and refineries, and amidst the alleys and slums; the silent masses that had beheld the Infernal Light laboured still and bided their time.
The Multiverse had changed, and many seeds of divine worship had grown and been shaped into new gods, sometimes from the essence of other elder beings who had survived the Dawn War. Alzrius earned the ire of another ancient spirit from the Ethereal Void that day, one who had once known its unspeakable father. Somewhere deep in the Abyss, it opened a thousand eyes and a through a multitude of mouths uttered in the darkness the words, “Nakdar nakoul ezjaj ou ma youjaach”. An oath had been spoken, and a vendetta sealed.
Hellfire in my Veins
In Conflagratorum, a great sigil like a burning torch erupted in lines of white fire across the Chitinous Crucible Plaza, and the flames there spiralled up into a lazy column. Alzrius returned home, bloated with bolstered power it had garnered upon Fire. Many of the layer’s Tanari already harboured enough resentment for their Obyrith overlords that it was a simple matter for it to fan their fires with the promises implicit in its light. The soldiers and slaves of the Obyriths quickly joined alongside Alzrius’s pyrophors, demonic elementals and the motley crew of Efreeti,salamanders and mephits who had found themselves unable to shake off their newfound thirst for anarchy and carnage. Together the horde embraced Alzrius’s crusade in earnest. Few lesser demons could even withstand the heat of the 601st layer, so Miska’s small battalion of Spyder Fiends and Armanites already needed careful warding against the energies of the realm. They scarce had any power left to withstand a coup of this kind, so the battalion never really stood much of a chance. Alzrius’s newest Efreet Hellfire Warlocks proved nigh unstoppable that day. The Zealot’s Fire itself led the charge as a dancing tongue of radiant white fire, personally burning out the eyes of the balor general that commanded the defenders. Alzrius’s fire horde engulfed the fragile defenders in a matter of hours.
By the time Miska got wind of the insurgence on the deep backwater Layer, Alzrius was all but unassailable. This late in the War, Miska and his Queen had far more pressing battles to fight – so Alzrius’s local treachery was grudgingly ignored, provided that the enigmatic upstart didn’t try and push its luck further. Alzrius had become the Lord of the 601st Layer and could now begin to concentrate upon both its own rising power in the Abyss and on the mortal wars and revolutions that now peppered the Prime Worlds in the wake of the Chaos War.
Reign of Fire
" Brighter than a thousand suns
I am become death, the destroyer of the worlds. "
- B.G 11.32
On the exceptionally rare occasions that Chorazin Thrice-Damned elected to speak at all, his voice rasped like the last breath of a man consumed by slow wasting. His dull black eyes wept tears of milky pus and his spiralling goat horns gave him an odd air of twisted nobility. “Watch and learn, child,” he whispered solemnly to the prince of the abat-dolor; the current consort of their Queen at her chequered Court in Iyondagur. The Shackler appeared there as little more than a twisted shadow, flickering across the wall behind the dark prince’s bronze throne.
“Witness and know the unfolding truth of the natures of order and chaos, and behold the fires of the end times.
”Gaze deeply into the flames if thee wouldst look upon Law’s feet of clay, child!”
The black iron brazier upon the floor of chequered marble tiles blazed an incandescent white. The prince saw austere temples and mighty fortresses within the vision of fire, he saw whips, and slaves and impossibly magnificent monuments rise to the skies. He smelt sweat and fear and the acrid fumes of forges and mines. He was shown the coldly terrible splendours of the Great Machine and the engines of Creation.
“For Law to exist, there must then be out of necessity disparity, suffering and implacable judgement. There must be retribution and yea, there must be subjugation. Ken thee, that this truth will fester forever, a stinking abscess sealed away inside Law’s implacable shell. But the light born by Alzrius exposes this embarrassing,... this inconvenient truth for all to see, and always it will burn away hypocrisy; eroding order and fomenting dissent from its ashes. It is the hatred of the oppressed, and the madness that shines in the eyes of the revolutionary”.
A guillotine blade fell and the crowd roared at the sight of the tyrant’s blood. The glass bottle smashed against the city guards’ tower shields and men screamed from the fire. The bureaucrats and money lenders were dragged into the jaws of the mob, begging and pleading. And throughout the Planes and upon the Prime worlds, in pasts and futures and in times that would never be, the Angel Ahriman sought again and again to stifle the fire and quell the fanatical uprising in its wake. The harder he fought back, the more oppressed souls were lost to Chaos forever. The fire and light took them, and gloriously, they raised it upon their torches and upon the wooden icons they drove laughing into the grass before the homes of their enemies. Deep in the heart of Baator the symbol of a falling dragon was etched deeply around a sign of a firebrand, by a skeletal claw. Even as he watched, both sigils began to glisten and ooze with blood that mingled and ran together.
Graz’zt leaned back and smiled sardonically, exhulting in the wondrous panorama of disorder and madness that the Shackler revealed to him. He watched Ahriman’s war angels fortify themselves against the cries of the dying and lay waste to the firebringers. Chorazin licked his blackened stumps of teeth and softly hissed; “This one can never escape from the Infernal Light. Dost thee see him now for who he really is, and what he is becoming?”
• * * *
Shaktari, one of the very greatest of the surviving Knights of Chaos, led The Fifty; her seasoned host of Marilith doom sirens and slayers out onto the smouldering crust of Scorched Earth; the blasted desert of tainted energies cradling Conflagratorum’s capital city. The scaled and sinuous she-beast towered far above the city’s onyx gates; her legion comprised of beings each fit to lead entire Abyssal armies in their own right. The Fifty were scattered around the walls in a wide swath. She hissed in rapture and breathed deeply of the toxic fumes that laced the air. Her slitted pupils contracted in arousal; anticipating the battle ahead. Shaktari raised all six of her gargantuan swords and began to sing.
After the end of the Chaos War and the scouring of the Abyss, the Tana’ri Lords themselves began a series of vicious internecine massacres – each vying for dominance and conquest of the Plane in the new power vacuum. As the likes of Orcus, Fraz’urb’Luu, Demorgorgon, Marduk, and Graz’zt each began to carve names for themselves, Alzrius was surprisingly restrained. Its true and greatest foe had always been the Angel Ahriman, the General of Law, who had finally chosen to situate himself upon Baator itself, so as to better marshal Creation’s defences against the demon hordes. Alzrius cared only for slaying its implacable foe, and melting the gears of the Great Machine that he guarded. While it adored the anarchy and bloodshed of the Abyss, it hungered for a focus and target upon which to vent its fury that its fellow demons could never truly provide. It was ill-prepared for an outright strike into its home Layer, especially one at the hands of a veteran as infamous as the dreaded Shaktari.
Watching from Melting Point; its shimmering fortress of white hot liquid brass, the beleaguered Alzrius began to marshal its forces and concentrate its powers locally. Its foe was staggeringly strong here – much more so than it had ever anticipated another demon could be upon its own turf. Already it could feel the damage the Fifty were wreaking upon its city. Each advanced behind a shimmering bluish shield of Abyssal water energy, and with their passage its elemental soldiers erupted screaming into clouds of steam. Shaktari’s battle lust shook the land itself, and her serenely beautiful song pealed across Scorched Earth to rattle the city’s walls, smashing buildings and toppling resin towers like dominoes.
Things might have ended then for the Infernal Light if a third party hadn’t stepped in at the last minute. With its attention wavering and its city falling, Alzrius made the near fatal mistake of letting its command of the layer’s portals slip. An instant was all it took. It felt another’s intruding hand thrust itself deep into Conflagratorum’s metaphysical nodes and tweak them just so. Before Alzrius indignantly pushed out this interloper, it felt the portals of the layer briefly open and then lock themselves shut again. A honeyed voice whispered into its mind; “Speak now if you wish to survive.”
Alzrius grudgingly granted leave for a demonic herald to coalesce within its inner sanctum, even electing to ease back the tearing heat from a bubble in the centre of the hall, granting a modicum of comfort to the pallid stranger that appeared there. Coiling shadows lashed around an androgynous figure whose naked body glistened with bluish slime.
“The Dark Prince has the means and the know how to seize her and teleport her somewhere far, far out of harm’s way. He can do so at my signal. My Lord has little patience for dinosaurs, but, oh, SUCH great plans for the Abyss”. The figure smiled liplessly, eyes as dead and impassive as those of a fish.
“A new sun is rising. We Tanar’ri are born to rule, not squabble like infants smashing castles in a stinking sandpit”.
Until now, the Infernal Light had always sought to scour the shadows away, but this time the darkness felt unexpectedly reassuring and filled with tantalizing promise. With Shaktari raging at its very doorstep, what choice did it really have?
So Alzrius spoke for the first time in what seemed like an age; ‘Yesssss!”..........
Inside the Abyss: Allies and Enemies.
The Demon Lord Eblitis has long hated Alzrius for its role in corrupting and influencing the Efreeti. Eblitis considers himself the father of the fire genies and he detests any demon presuming to direct and tamper with his children. The Speaker in the Void despises the Lord of Infernal Light and works tirelessly to hunt down and sully its demagogues wherever they should start to gain a foothold in populations. Typically, Eblitis positions himself as a primal elder spirit of nature whose wrath is awoken by the stirring of the mob. He generally uses omens and enactments of ancient prophecy to keep a populace from being consumed by the Infernal Light. Eblitis’s most common agents upon the Prime are Walkers in the Waste, who command sinister cabals of shapeshifting cultists in worn cowled robes of dusty sackcloth. They seek to stifle its fiery passions with entropy and darkness, preferring for mortal souls to cower in superstitious isolation.
A formidable shapeshifter and extremely powerful Lord, Eblitis strives always to weaken the alliance between Graz’zt and Alzrius. He has sent multiple assassins and espionage agents into Conflagratorum, favouring psuedonaturally corrupted incubi and khayal genies. In truth, Eblitis exists outside of the normal dimensions and has phenomenal powers of omniscience; able to manifest himself as a void of countless eyes and mouths across multiple planar layers at once.
Though obscure within the Abyss, Eblitis is worshipped as a god by the khayal of the Plane of Shadow and he has frequent contact with their Malik al-khayal of the City of Onyx. He is well-known to both the Efreeti and the Dao, meeting and conversing with many powerful nobles amongst these peoples, including the current Grand Sultan of the City of Brass as well as numerous major contenders for the Great Khanship within the Great Dismal Delve. His strength in such places ensures that he can maintain strong clandestine cabals to stamp out any suspicious uprisings amongst the common folk, severely impeding Alzrius’s strength today beyond the Prime and the Lower Planes.
Shaktari disappeared suspiciously during the internecine bloodshed and carnage in the Abyss following in the wake of the Chaos War. A popular theory is that Graz’zt himself engineered her fall and subsequent incarceration in the Wells of Darkness, in order to secure the support of the Infernal Light for his own intraplanar warfare. The Liber Maleficarum alludes cryptically to a deeper link between Shaktari and Conflagratorum, speculating that this was once her original birth layer. Whatever the truth, Alzrius fears her greatly and seemingly stops at nothing to keep her contained. Even after she finally escaped the Wells of Darkness, she found that the Zealot’s Fire had been far from idle during her absence. The Marilith Queen found to her unbridled fury that all the major and well-known gates to her layer have been masterfully tampered with and rigged as one-way traps. Currently Shaktari remains trapped in Vudra, biding her time deep in the poisonous ocean. Should she ever find a way to elude her captors, she will no doubt seek her millennia spanning revenge upon Alzrius with everything she has.
Alzrius’s relationship with Graz’zt is complex and still poorly understood. At times it has seemed to act as a general at the Dark Lord’s behest, appearing personally on the Broken Scale at his Grand Palace of War. As Graz’zt has continued to rise in influence and power, he has made many powerful enemies. Focussing Alzrius’s frenzy and compulsion to conquer tyrants at the vanguards of his greatest foes has the twofold benefit of helping keep the dangerous wildcard Alzrius occupied and rather constrained from broader Abyssal politics. Graz’zt wishes to learn more about the ultimate natures of evil, law and chaos through observing the actions of the ancient and enigmatic sun lord. Graz’zt has already discerned a considerable amount about the true nature of the bond forged in ages past between this demon and the Ancient Baatorians. He is convinced that Alzrius is an important key to eventually smashing Baator and winning the Blood War once and for all.
For its part, Alzrius is far too fickle and primal to have any long term strategic plans of its own. It follows deep-seated urges to destroy the Baatezu, hoping to drag its age old foe Asmodeus down into madness and chaos. The Zealot’s Fire tends to come across as simple and out of touch to other Tanar’ri Lords. It is far too consumed in the frenzy and exhultation of the Blood War to care much about what happens within its own Plane. Most of the greater Demon Lords have scant interest in the Blood War anyway, seeing it as somewhat beneath them. Naturally, its alliance with Graz’zt has often brought it to blows with the legions of Orcus and Demogorgon. Alvarez the Purging Duke particularly despises Alzrius, largely due to a mixture of lies and half-truths about the Blinding Lord’s links with Baator and Asmodeus; fed to him by Eblitis the Speaker in the Void. Eblitis’s machinations have likewise ensured that it has never formed any lasting bonds with the demonic Fire Lords Marduk, Mot and Kardum.
Alzrius and the Blood War
With the rise of the Baatezu, the forces of Law conceded once and for all to the unsavoury role that evil must play within warfare. Washing their hands of the carnage and destruction, the increasingly pious and detached forces of the Planes of Law can no longer ignore the tyranny and horrors perpetuated by the fallen angels of Baator. In fact, they even once formally conceded this grim necessity though have since turned a blind eye to the finer details of Asmodeus’s new paradigm whenever possible. The Lower Planes swelled and bloated under a new influx of evil divine power. The modern day inheritors of Chorazin’s kin stand smugly at the nexus between both powers; soulless empty ravens who grow fat upon the ruin of all things.
Castigated as failed relics of simpler times, the Ancient Baatorians were systematically exterminated by Hell’s new angels. Asmodeus was unable to drive the Plane’s original Lords from their home altogether, and inevitably traces of the elder things have survived. The twisted and abstract flickers of Byon’Kmaa and his brood that remain in the foul and ancient bedrock will never be shaken, and they secretly retaliate by blocking Asmodeus from the deepest fonts of power available in the Nine Layers. At times, they even intentionally direct greater amounts of the mystical energy they once shepherded to actively bolster Alzrius and its Fire Bringers against the Lord of the Ninth, out of sheer whimsical spite. They no longer fight the Second Sun, whom they have long since come to welcome as the nemesis of their new conqueror.
One could easily believe that Alzrius was made for the Blood War as its very essence rages and rings with its call. When the war between the Tana’ri and the Baatezu was joined in full, it found a new and unlimited vent for its thirst for anarchy and carnage. Its ancient adversary Ahriman had now fully surrendered himself to evil, becoming Asmodeus the Lord of Hell, a modern embodiment of the same tyranny and blind authority that its father Tharizdun first sought to quash eons ago. Forsaking its own city to ruin and disrepair, it poured its heart and soul into destroying the Baatezu across the Lower Planes no matter the cost. The Fire Bringers carry Alzrius aloft across countless battlefields, howling in frenzy and driven onwards by their unshakeable zeal to smash tyranny and crush Law.
Planar scholars have endlessly debated the ultimate goal of Alzrius, and the implications that this will have upon the Multiverse. An obscure tome known as the Ex Infernus postulates that Alzrius will one day become the fires of the end times that will burn away Creation itself. The more paranoid researchers suggest that the Second Sun is simply the tool of much more subtle and devious players like Graz’zt, or dark forgotten Powers from the Grey Wastes. The infamous Thin Man of the Mad House has repeatedly made cryptic allusions to Alzrius seeking eventually to pull Asmodeus towards Chaos. He argues that the Fire Bringers are impossible for the Baatezu to beat, for they thrive upon oppression and brutality, and seem to draw power from the clash between authority and freedom itself. It might be that Asmodeus can only combat Alzrius through the weakening his own Lawful resolve and falling further still.
The beings of the Upper Planes find the Fire Bringers disturbing and deeply problematic. The Infernal Light forces the Archons of Celestia to critically examine the atrocities they inadvertently permit upon Baator and their own roles in the Blood War. The Fire Bringers are particularly dangerous to eladrins, as their ferocious passion for the destruction of tyrannical regimes resonates a little too closely with their own outlook. There is something insidious and infectious about Alzrius’s cause to them, tempting freedom fighters to become terrorists, and beckoning the warriors of Arborea ever closer and closer to the Abyss, through the enticement of righteous retribution.
Nevertheless, the Celestial hosts are unable to ignore Alzrius altogether, for they rightly fear the consequences of leaving its feud with Asmodeus unchecked. The Celestials grimly realize that as the Blood War rages, countless mortal souls are being lost to evil forever. A handful of Monadic Devas are accordingly charged with watching the Inner Planes and the Deep Ethereal carefully in search of Alzrius’s cults wherever they begin to rise. A few especially pious Saints and Apostles of Peace have managed to successfully quell major Fire Bringer uprisings upon Prime Worlds. As the Harmonium has risen to power and great influence they have emerged as a major enemy of the Fire Bringers, who in turn view the Hardheads as being targets every bit as worthy of their wrath as the Baatezu.
Conflagratorum, Layer 601
Alzrius’s home layer is a vast forsaken wasteland that appears to have been struck and cleansed by catastrophic energies. The sky is typically an ashen grey and flickers with electrical storms. Sporadically it bursts into blazing white light that can quickly blind anybody unable to cover and protect their eyes. Most of the Layer is comprised of an endless desert called Scorched Earth, representing the spent and forsaken aftermath of warfare. Corrupting radiant energies dance over the rocks and cacti here in luminous glowing haloes that cause most mortals exposed to suffer a prolonged and painful death, involving nosebleeds, skin lesions, loss of teeth and fingernails and vomiting blood.
There are many volcanic vents and lava flows, and huge swaths of Scorched Earth are far too hot for even tanar’ri to survive in. Formally, all of Scorched Earth was as hot as the Elemental Plane of Fire, but in recent centuries Alzrius has grown lax in shaping and maintaining this realm, so there are much newer stretches of blasted wastes that are much easier for appropriately protected planewalkers to survive in. Beyond scarce packs of nashrou and occasional giant ekolids and Sorrowsworn, there are few demons here. Cruelly, the Manes that arise here have no protection against the Layer’s energies and most die in less than a day. Eventually, most souls here become incorporated into the twisted cacti and rock spikes that dot this landscape, both of which appear, upon closer inspection, to be composed of the twisted faces of damned souls.
The most fanatical of Alzrius’s Fire Bringers sometimes leave the battlefield and undertake pilgrimages through this blinding desert. Typically, such maddened travellers quickly lose their sight to the energies here, though some even choose to actively burn their own eyes out. These lost zealots claim that their god speaks to them through the flames that erupt from the geysers there. Many Abyss-tainted or half-fiendish Fire elementals live in Scorched Earth, typically fighting in a discorporate and diffuse manner akin to that of the Zealot’s Fire itself. For this reason, cold energy area spells are a must here, as many of the fire creatures present are too amorphous to be easily affected by conventional attacks. The strange pyrophors are not uncommon here either.
The Gorge of Satharagan is avoided by even the natives. Shrouded in steamy vapours inimical to the fire creatures of the layer, the site is rumoured to predate even Alzrius’s first appearance on the 601st Layer. The dark is that the original Obyrith Lord of the Layer crawled here to die after being mortally wounded by the Queen of Chaos herself. Rumours persist that Shaktari is fascinated by this place, and will pay handsomely to learn more of its secrets.
Conflagratorum’s namesake city was once a looming edifice composed of a substance resembling black obsidian, but appearing to have been organically secreted like chitin. Its eerie fluted towers and vast Chitinous Crucible Plaza are crumbling and shattered from past warfare. Alzrius never bothered repairing the city after Shaktari’s attack, preferring to leave the devastation as a constant reminder of the oppression and cruelty that its followers must fight in its name. Today many babau and armanites have joined its cause, yet most prefer to fight amidst its roving Fire Bringers rather than lingering here. Most of the remaining populace are corrupted fire elementals, azers, salamanders and the like, who wish to spend their lives nearby Melting Point and the heart of their Lord. The ruins have become something of a Blood War mercenary camp in recent years, with a particular emphasis placed on recruiting Inner Planar forces to fight for the Demons. For the right price, travellers here can even secure passage out of the Abyss to the City of Brass. Alienists are intrigued by this city too, and cabals of the deranged mages sometimes come here to study the more intact glyphs and sculptures in the ruins.
Melting Point itself is a gleaming, shimmering tower of incandescent liquid brass that ripples and undulates like a bizarre sea creature. The heat here is unbearable to most forms of life not totally immune to fire damage. This fortress is the only site on the Layer that Alzrius personally wards and maintains. It constantly emits a blinding incandescent glare in all directions. Cultists here sometimes throw captives right into the tower’s walls as offerings to the Blinding Lord. Even foes immune to heat damage will find themselves stuck fast in the tower’s liquid metal walls. The Zealot’s Fire is almost never seen outside Melting Point save as a diffuse fiery penumbra playing over its chosen thralls through which it occasionally deigns to speak.
Losing Oneself in the Light:
The Fire Bringers; Servants, Cultists and Legions.
"... increasing disregard for law pervades this land—the growing disposition to substitute wild and furious passions in lieu of the sober judgment of courts, and worse than savage mobs for the executive ministers of justice"
-A. Lincoln 1837
The Fire Bringers are the modern day inheritors of the harshest and most brutal aspects of the spirit of revolution and political upheaval, but their sect is, on one level, as old as sentient mortal life itself. They come from all walks of life, but most are the down-trodden and marginalized underdogs within a society, who are later inevitably joined by romantic and delusional member s of the bourgeoisie. Fire Bringers never start out as evil, and are initially completely justified in their actions. Alzrius and his thralls prey upon their feelings of rage and powerlessness, ultimately shaping them into monsters willing to commit grievous atrocities in the name of social change and retribution. Finally, Fire Bringers stop caring about anything except their endless campaign for upheaval and punishment, declaring war and hatred upon order itself. Unsurprisingly, Fire Bringers wield flaming torches, and often throw flammable splash grenades too.
The Thralls of Alzrius are sometimes called Demagogues. They are always potent orators and they favour alignment masking magics to assist them in rallying the people around them against tyrants. Priests and Thralls of Alzrius always have Weapon and Torch as a bonus feat (Dungeonscape), and favour the torch as a weapon. Demagogues are usually Chaotic Evil Hellfire Warlocks, granted the use of a range of Lawful Evil abilities through their Lord’s pact with Ancient Baator, especially the unusual and deadly ability to evoke hellfire. Demagogues draw power directly from the anger and violence of the mob around them, quickly becoming potent spellcasters as the intensity of the violence increases. They favour spells that protect and strengthen their followers, preferring to blend seamlessly amongst them rather than standing out as leaders. They are more than willing to risk the lives of their comrades, enjoying forcing their enemies to perform evil actions to root them out.
The strongest Thralls can summon diffuse Aspects of Alzrius itself to shroud their mobs in a nimbus of blazing white fire. Sometimes Demagogues will hatch elaborate plans to unleash doomsday weapons upon the strongholds of their enemies, revelling in the collateral casualties reaped in service to their higher purpose. Many of the orphans and refugees created by such attacks eventually become Fire Bringers too, anxious for vengeance for their heartbreak and ruined lives. The most terrible thing is that most of Alzrius’s thralls usually have no idea that they have succumbed to evil at all, seeing their increasingly crazed actions as totally justified and necessary to combat their tormenters.
The Fire Bringers exult in carrying Alzrius’s light itself upon their flaming torches. The presence of the Zealot’s Fire is alluring and dangerous to the weak-willed for gazing upon it is to invite temptation to join the howling vigilante mob and enact justice against the deserving. The Zealot’s Fire usually has a Will DC of 12 to resist, though the size and frenzy of the mob, and the powers of one of its Thralls can intensify its allure, raising the DC.
The Fire Bringers are a dreaded legion in the Blood War, battling fanatically against the forces of the Harmonium and Baator. They are especially dangerous in battle, because armed resistance from Law-aligned enemies simply increases their fanaticism and battle frenzy. Every member of the throng cut down simply fuels their fire with added vitriol and justification. Today, most demonic Fire Bringers are armanites and babau, though they are joined always by a berserk horde of carnage demons, which Alzrius favours over dretches.
Fire Bringers can come from any Race, but are a constant threat in any region on the borders of any large lawful military civilization. Particularly brutal city militias create ripe conditions for Fire Bringers to secure a foothold, especially during times of hardship or famine. They also commonly arise as backlashes against the tyranny of powerful beings like illithids or vampires. Fire Bringers are still prevalent amongst the peoples of the Plane of Fire, despite the best efforts of Alzrius’s many enemies.
Jaros the Heretic is an enigmatic Efreet mystic who appears near the City of Brass every few centuries and attempts to instigate a mighty Fire Bringer insurgence. Wherever he comes from, he is ancient beyond belief and possessed of epic level powers of persuasion and radiant sorcery. The Grand Sultan fears him greatly, and even though each of his revolts have been barely quashed in the past, their instigator always slips away like a ghost . Jaros has been reported upon other Inner and Transitive planes too.
Alzrius uses an advanced phoelarch called Blazing Glory as its herald on the rare occasions that it has any need for one, especially upon Blood War battlefields or within other layers of the Abyss. Generally though, it prefers to manifest an aspect of its own fire to speak through the masses themselves that carry it forth.
Deep in Scorched Earth resides a burnt and ravaged Sorrowsworn whose eyes are always covered with bloodied bandages. This entity calls itself the Scouring, and speaks only in cryptic riddles about the destructive fires of the end times. Rumours persist that the Scouring has some link to obscure Powers from the Grey Wastes of Hades, perhaps even guarding a portal to that plane somewhere in the desert. Others claim it to be a darker and bleaker aspect of the Zealot’s Fire, or an incarnation of what Conflagratorum is becoming; the spent and forsaken shell leftover when the glories and passions of battle have expired. It is often sought out by the odd thralls who choose to leave the battlefield and quest for truth in Scorched Earth.