NPC - The Render

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Zimrazim's picture
Joined: 2007-01-14
NPC - The Render

“In the matter of mortal souls, understand first and always that we work with a substance that is fundamentally impure, by its very nature. Even as mortals are incapable of utterly sinless weal, even their most corrupt cannot wholly abandon hope, mercy, or pity. The soul of a holy martyr or a guileless infant will contain the seed of darkness; the anima of a mortal who has destroyed entire civilizations still remembers the light of Elysium.”

---excerpt from the Liber Animae, preface

“Oh, the Render? Powers, the only good thing I can think of about him is that he’s not often seen by living mortals. After you’re dead, sure.”

--anonymous (mortal) greybeard

“It is to my greatest and, indeed, everlasting regret that I have been unable to piece together the true name of Vashanhusur (vah-SHAHN-hoo-sur), called variously by the titles Render of Souls, Shaper of Souls, Maker, Creator, Decider, and Animancer – and probably also others I do not know.

Here I shall record all that I know of him. Hopefully it will give pause to other mortals foolish enough to consider bargaining with such a fiend, and perhaps even offer insight to his enemies (who are, happily, legion).

First, as to his race. As all who study that science called diabology or demonology know, there are many different varieties of fiends. The one called Vashanhusur is a Yugoloth – specifically, an Arcanaloth, though he is ancient and his power vast even by the standards of that caste.

As many of my readers will know, an arcanaloth in his true form is generally described as manlike in appearance, but with the head and fur of a jackal or dog, and savage claws. In his true form, the Render is easily distinguishable from most of his kind due to his coloration. His head, jaw, and markings are clearly those of a black-backed jackal, such as may be seen on many Prime worlds (or so a druid of my acquaintance tells me), but other than those black markings, every bit of his fur is slate grey in color. Some speculate that this is due to the incredible amounts of time he has spent in the Grey Waste, specifically at his experiments in the Wasting Tower – but more of that later.

He favors robes in comparatively sedate and conservative colors, often a mix of grey and dark blue, and always wears a particularly large and heavy amulet (that is reputed to contain the intact soul of an archwizard from the long-dead empire of Netheril from the Prime world of Toril). While usually well groomed, the Render is unusual in that he has been known to neglect his appearance at times – specifically, when he is engrossed in some experiment or extremely focused on some scholarly matter, or shortly afterwards. (He has been spotted looking actually disheveled a few times.) While, by comparison, the King of the Cross-trade in Sigil is always impeccably groomed and spends a great deal of time and energy on her looks and dress, the Render is often adjusting a stray tuft of fur moments before some meeting or audience. His robes tend to be heavy and winter-weight, as befits his home on the Third Mount of Gehenna.

In his manner of speech, he is unusually precise, even for an arcanaloth. The only time a mortal would ever hear an ‘ain’t’ out of him, or an in’ instead of ‘ing, is if he is impersonating a mortal who doesn’t use good grammar or enunciate well. (When dealing with inferiors such as minions or random mortals, he will go so far as to correct a ‘who’ being used rather than a ‘whom.’) Consistently poor grammar irritates him.

While any arcanaloth is generally said to carry an expression of vast intelligence in his eyes, those who have seen it have remarked that in the Render, it is burningly so, almost to the point of madness. I myself have seen a similar expression in the eyes of certain exceptionally gifted mortal inventors, scholars, and once in a priest of Gond. In a mortal I would call it almost a sense of divine mission, but in a fiend… I am not sure what to call it.

Even among yugoloths, the Render is unique, a fact which has undoubtedly contributed to his power and status. He is said to possess the ability to perceive even the most minute details and qualities of the soul of any mortal being, living or dead – an ability his own superiors haven’t hesitated to put to use. One of his names is ‘the Decider,’ for it is said that he holds special authority within Khin-Oin to decide the fates of the damned souls that come to be within its walls. An ultroloth may tell him ‘I need ten thousand souls for my project,’ or ‘I need five hundred souls to pay this particular tanar’ri,’ or simply ‘This soul is mine to do with as I please.’ For the majority of souls, however, the Render has the authority to order that a particular soul be dissected into its component parts (the capacity to love, desire for revenge, envy, hunger, hope, whatever), resold, devoured, used in the construction of the Tower of Incarnate Pain, sent to Helekanalaith to supplement the stacks of the Tower Arcane, and so on.

The Render must concentrate on the object of his study for several moments when he uses this power – giving a mortal the impression that the fiend is looking through him rather than at him. However, he can and often does this over the course of normal conversation. If a mortal really doesn’t want his soul inspected so closely, it’s said that many spells of the kind that counter divinations will do – but if Vashanhusur is absolutely determined to see the nature of a particular soul, he will probably find a way to do so.

It is said that a great lord of Baator (the tales differ on exactly which one) once, as a test, introduced the Render to nine powerful evil mortals. He had told the Render before the meeting to take note of each of them closely, and that when all of the mortals were dead, he would challenge the yugoloth to identify all of them as larvae. Three hundred years later, he invited the Render to behold a great pit, filled with literally thousands of squirming larvae. Vashanhusur examined the contents of the pit for some time, then unerringly picked out the larvae of the mortals he had met briefly three centuries before.

His ability to discern souls, however, is not so terrifying as the uses he makes of those souls, for Vashanhusur uses the souls of mortals in the same way that a human wizard might use a component for magic items. As a mortal wizard might look for ‘the blood of an ancient red dragon’ or ‘a bar of Baatorian green steel,’ the Creator is always looking for ‘the soul of one who has betrayed three times, then was betrayed in turn,’ or the soul of an exceptional inventor or sage, or the spirit of an especially insane madman.

Among the baatezu and tanar’ri, especially, he is famous for creating some of the most powerful and feared weapons (magical axes, swords, etc.) held by bloods on both sides of the War. All involve at least one soul in their creation. Sometimes the soul has been essentially destroyed as an independent entity; other times it is largely intact, sentient, and aware of its fate. Vashanhusur has also, over the course of millennia, littered the Prime Material worlds with a number of powerful weapons of the ‘inevitably damns the soul of the wielder’ variety. He is also rumored to be able to create weapons that, when used to inflict a killing blow, can cause true death to a particular kind of fiend, on any plane. Usually this is a ‘true death to baatezu’ or ‘true death to tanar’ri’ weapon, though a few ‘true death to guardinals’ weapons are said to exist. He has never created one that would have this effect on a yugoloth, and likely never will. In any case, very few of these weapons exist, and they’re said to take an incredible amount of time to make, as well as requiring souls with very specific and hard to find qualities.

Vashanhusur’s creations aren’t limited to weapons, of course – it’s just that the Blood War creates such a market for them. He’s created a variety of other types of magical items (all generally involving an intact soul or some sundered aspect of a soul, such as ‘the distilled hatred and fear of a hundred violently xenophobic elves’). He has littered the planes with soul-drinking items (swords, mirrors, bottles, gems, and the like), which have a remarkable tendency to return to him eventually, filled with souls. In collaboration with other arcanaloths, he and they are capable of creating powerful artifacts – some of which have devastated Prime worlds or contributed significantly to the course of the Blood War.

He is not indiscriminate – indeed, unlike so many fiends, the Render has shown himself to be very picky about the souls he acquires. The qualities he seems most interested in are excellence and, after that, novelty. While a typical arcanaloth would not hesitate to tempt a beggar or a farmhand into damnation, Vashanhusur gives the impression of having little time for or interest in such. He has been known, on the other hand, to go to incredible – some might even say excessive or ludicrous – lengths to claim souls he is especially interested in. In general, the Render favors the souls of extremely intelligent and inquisitive minds. I suppose this is true of all arcanaloths, but in him this tendency is exceptionally pronounced. He seems to most crave the souls of inventors and those who follow what some have called the Promethean arts – very gifted philosophers, playwrights, poets, engineers, and such. On the other hand, sometimes he has shown great interest in very strange souls – madmen whose insanity is of an unusual nature, for example. He has shown interest occasionally in great military commanders, famous thieves, skillful advisors to nobles, and so on – people known for doing something especially well. Very rarely, he shows interest in a seemingly ordinary mortal whose special qualities are clear only to him. If he finds a soul (already deceased or still living) of especially great interest to him, he won’t hesitate to outbid other fiends for it, or even to attempt to buy a mortal’s contract with another fiend.

It is especially important to note the influence Vashanhusur has had on fiendish thought over the course of thousands of years. It is said that among quite a few fiends there seems to be little or any difference between any two damned souls – that larvae are as alike as two grains of rice. His Liber Animae or Book of Souls catalogs a huge number of different types of souls and how more ‘high-quality’ souls can be distinguished from those of lower quality. No fiend can hope to match his powers of discernment in this area, but the book describes how a fiend without his gifts can tell broad differences. In his words, “I would rather be overcharged by a night hag than see – once again – the anima of a dreaded and feared archmage, a terror of his kind, almost entirely lacking any of the impurities of Weal, be devoured by a peckish barbazu.” While the Lower Planes tend to harbor many forms of anonymous, ignominious damnation, Vashanhusur has done much to advance the idea of more specialized, individualized torments for specific souls. In this sense the Creator has done something that few mortals and even few fiends manage – he has made a difference, on a cosmic scale.

It is a blessing that the majority of mortals will go their entire lives (though not necessarily their afterlives) without ever encountering the Render. He is not like A’kin in the Lower Ward, to whom anyone may speak, or even the Marauder, with whom anyone may at least seek an audience. He spends the majority of his time deeply absorbed in experimentation in Khin-Oin, in his personal home in a well-guarded fortress on Mount Mungoth, or travelling the planes and Prime Material (either well guarded, incognito, or likely both) prospecting for souls of the type and quality he wants. He has his share of hirelings and minions (some mortal, some not), but for an arcanaloth he’s harder than most to gain access to.

He’s not without enemies, of course. Pretty much every celestial in the Planes would love to see him killed, trapped in some remote demi-plane or inside a magical device, or otherwise removed as a threat, even if they’ve never met him personally. He is said to have some kind of ages-old rivalry with, of all beings, the seemingly inoffensive guardinal Tripicus – it’s said to have started with some kind of obtuse scholarly or philosophical dispute. Tripicus publishes a book about a Prime civilization he especially likes, and Vashanhusur works to have that civilization destroyed or turned to evil. The Render sells a dozen powerful weapons to a tanar’ri lord and his minions, and celestial-forged weapons later get offered to the same lord at a lower price. Their game has gone on for centuries.

Over time, both the baatezu and tanar’ri have actually tried to kidnap him, in hopes of forcing the inventor to work for them directly, instead. Twice they actually succeeded, eventually resulting in the Render escaping… and the painful downfall of the kidnapping party within a decade or two. The Render never involves himself in the battles of the Blood War directly – on a level of personal greed, he has enough power and wealth that he doesn’t need to, and his superiors wouldn’t let him in any case, for they value him greatly. To some extent he is protected from the scheming of other yugoloths, for his abilities are unique, and some claim that his superiors will not permit him to actually be slain permanently. (Being humiliated or tortured, or losing prized property and possessions, are another story, and indeed his fortunes have both risen and fallen many times over the course of his long existence.) It is whispered that he is under the command of (and in some ways held in check by) an ultroloth who is the head of research for the entire race – and who makes him look as soft and gentle as a deva by comparison. Almost nothing is known of this being, however.

One of the few, if any, ‘good’ things about the Render is that he very rarely, if ever, actually enters Sigil. It isn’t clear if he is even able to enter. He clearly has much more status than the average arcanaloth, and perhaps may have so much more raw power that the Lady forbids him entry to the city. On the other hand, he may be simply a very old, very canny arcanaloth with a lot of possessions, influence and allies, and simply avoids Sigil for other reasons (such as the risk of plenty of individuals who’d love to kidnap or otherwise seriously inconvenience him). Perhaps he visits the city very rarely, incognito – it’s hard to say.

It is whispered that he is at least a nominal ally of A’kin, and some of Vashanhusur’s creations have made their way into A’kin’s shop, to be sold to unwary mortals and planeborne alike. Simlarly, it is whispered that he and the Marauder are not allies. While Shemeshka has yet to kill someone for simply mentioning his name in front of her (as she has in A’kin’s case), they appear to generally avoid one another and not collaborate. The cause of this apparent mutual dislike is unknown, but perhaps helps explain why the Render isn’t known to visit Sigil.”

-- Arethir of Narfell, a human wizard with an ‘interesting’ soul


BoGr Guide to Missile Combat:
1) Equip a bow or crossbow.
2) Roll a natural 1 on d20.
3) ?????
4) Profit!

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