In 4606 ar, Aroden, god of humanity, innovation, and story, died. No city in all of Golarion was wracked more fundamentally by this catastrophic event than Westcrown. The capital of Cheliax—an entire country sworn to the god of humanity’s worship at the time—Westcrown was the expected site of Aroden’s return and had spent decades preparing for the event. A massive plaza known as the Arodennama, complete with a towering statue of the god, stood ready to receive the deity, yet after his death, it took only a few short years for the church of Aroden to fall. The Arodennama was abandoned, and the entire country found itself in the grips of a civil war with fierce diabolists. The rise of the Thrice-Damned House of Thrune saw Westcrown’s further descent. After a brutal 30-year civil war, the diabolical House of Thrune seized control of Cheliax. One of their first acts as the nation’s new government was to move the capital and royal court north to the city of Egorian, emptying Westcrown of much of its affluence and prestige. Those nobles who remained behind were largely old families rooted in their traditions and their pride, content to rot in their declining home. While still a vibrant and important port, the splendor that had typified Westcrown for centuries swiftly waned, and without the noble court many commoners and merchants who had previously made a living pandering to the country’s elite were forced to move on, leaving whole blocks abandoned. Westcrown faded to a pale shadow of its former glory and became a playground for vultures eager to pick the royal carcass.
The Drovenge Shame
The Drovenges have always been the key family among the Council of Thieves. An incredibly wealthy and conservative family of moneylenders and property owners, the Drovenges weathered the fall of Aroden and the rise of the House of Thrune well. Led today by their patriarch, Vassindio Drovenge, the family has endured much in the years since Aroden’s death, but have kept a comfortable grip on their underworld holdings. Though not all the families that comprise the Council of Thieves can say the same, the Drovenges managed to retain a significant measure of their wealth, respect, and power. Yet that was called into question by Vassindio’s son, Sidonai. Arrogant and manipulative, the Drovenge scion was incensed upon the birth of his first offspring, a weak girl-child her mother named Chammady. Sidonai had wanted a son, a “true heir” to usher in a new era of power and prosperity for his family. In the weeks following Chammady’s birth, Sidonai schemed to sire a son with a divine mandate to flourish and rule amid the diabolical nobles of the country, who seemed only to respect their own. Although tieflings in Cheliax face a harsh life as secondclass citizens, Sidonai sought a way where he might sire a son with one of the archdevils—despite Asmodeus’s eight lieutenants being male—an infernal son whom the land’s Hell-obsessed rulers would have no choice but to respect. To this end, Sidonai bargained for the aid of a hag coven living within the woods near Westcrown. These hags were known as the Flies, and consisted of a Mother, a Sister, and a Daughter. The Flies presented the nobleman with a coin from the depths of Erebus, the realm of the archdevil Mammon, telling Sidonai to swallow the gold piece before he next bedded his wife. Pleased with the witches’ cultic solution, he departed. Doing as he was told, Sidonai ingested the coin, not realizing the truth of what the Flies had provided him. Mammon, the Lord of the Third, is in fact all the treasure that comes to lie within Hell’s vaults, being a creature of no forms and of many, a profane genus loci, an animating spirit. Thus, by swallowing the coin, Sidonai allowed Mammon to temporarily possess him and impart his foul immortal seed unto the criminal’s unsuspecting wife. Nine months passed, with Sidonai attempting to hide his infernal plot and downplaying his wife’s growing complications with her second pregnancy. The child birthed was a boy, yet said birth left no question as to the father’s true parentage. Disfigured with horns, silver eyes, and golden skin, the half-fiend’s unholy origin was obvious to all, particularly the babe’s horrified mother and, soon enough, the furious family patriarch. Vassindio Drovenge, believing his son’s wife had cuckolded his heir and brought shame upon his family, murdered the woman as she recovered from her long and exhausting labor. The brazen murder drew the whole story from a panicked Sidonai, who confessed to his father what he had done. Disgusted by his son’s insane plot, Vassindio ordered the death of all involved, and by that evening the lives of Sidonai’s house staff, his wife’s midwives, and even two of the hags his son had consulted in the forest were all cut short. Only two survived—the green hag known as the Mother of Flies (who was apart from her sisters when the murderous humans came), and Sidonai himself. Yet Sidonai did not escape unscathed. Furious, shamed, and doubting his son’s sanity, Vassindio gathered a generous stipend for his one-time heir and sent him to live among family members in distant Oparra, the capital city of Taldor. Enraged but fearful of his father’s recent display of wrath, Sidonai departed for Taldor immediately, yet he never arrived in Oppara and has not been seen since. Considering his son dead even before this disappearance, Vassindio mourned for the cruel fate that had come upon his family. No longer able to sire children of his own, Vassindio took it upon himself to raise his son’s children. Even though the tiefling baby embodied the shame Sidonai had inflicted upon the family, he was now Vassindio’s only male heir. After a long, dark night of the soul, Vassindio decided to let the tiefling live and named him Ecarrdian. Chammady and Ecarrdian spent their youths together among servants and cold luxury. Theirs was a family of two, where each was parent and playmate to the other, and the devotion they formed for one another grew strong. Whereas Ecarrdian was all but ignored by the family, Chammady had some contact with her grandfather, receiving occasional gifts and boons from him that she secretly shared with her brother. See also heard the jabs and mockery the house staff heaped daily on her brother. Fiercely defensive, the noble girl once cut one of her first handmaids with a broken wine bottle when the servant offered her brother but a playful insult, the incident resulting in the handmaid’s all-too-willing dismissal. Chammady grew resentful of the world and her grandfather and sought only to escape with her brother, yet the bars of their gilded cage proved far too thick, and the siblings turned to each other for their only comfort. Ecarrdian’s
childhood proved even more painful than his sister’s, mocked by servants when they thought he couldn’t hear, scolded by tutors for the slightest mistake, and denied even the smallest overtures of familial love and respect. He came to loathe his grandfather and his army of servants—not just for their stuffy ways and slander, but for their race, developing a burning hatred for all humans save his beloved sister. Even upon entering into their
majority, Chammady and Ecarrdian found that escape from their family’s ways would not prove as easy as expected. Their grandfather proved watchful and domineering, assigning the pair duties within his dusty mercantile and criminal empire. Well into his eighties, the old man remained vigorous and hateful, and the Drovenge scions began to believe that the old man would never die and their freedom would never come. The plot was simple and obvious, but Chammady spoke it first. The siblings would kill their grandfather and Ecarrdian would take control of the family. In fact, with their grandfather’s power and prestige, why stop there? Why not lop the head from the hateful corpse that was Westcrown and claim the entire city as their own? Finally, they would be the ones to be obeyed—their grandfather’s empire, an entire city, and more would be theirs to rule. The siblings mulled the plot for years, but nothing came of their dark fantasies. Finally, though, old Vassindio decided to send Ecarrdian to Taldor to address the family’s failing ventures there. The two Drovenge men argued, as Ecarrdian had no wish to travel abroad and saw (rightfully) the assignment to Taldor as forced exile, but the patriarch would not be denied. In only a few months’ time the tiefling would go to Taldor, to return when the family’s holdings there were again secure—a sentence of years, if not a lifetime. Chammady took the news hardest, but refused to mourn, for now was their time to act. Vassindio would die, Westcrown would be theirs, and if the pair had to shatter the criminal underworld, throw the entire city into
chaos, and draw upon the power of Ecarrdian’s true father to succeed, then so be it!
The Relics of Shadow and Sun
In the months before Aroden’s death and the fall of the Chelish way of life, two bedraggled Pathfinders returned to Westcrown with a harrowing tale. Pathfinder Donatalus Bisby and his erstwhile chronicler Ilnerik Sivanshin returned from a grueling 3-year expedition to the Mwangi Expanse, 2 years after the Pathfinders had given them up as lost. With tales of cannibals, simian demons, jungle rot, hideous monsters, and river madness, the pair’s account of the grisly and varied fates of the other 45 porters, servants, and explorers (including several other relatively well-known Pathfinders) who had accompanied them into
the jungle was hushed up by the Society. All the lone two survivors had to support their wild tales was a curious relic they’d managed to salvage and bring back from a strange and ancient jungle ruin. This relic consisted of two interlocking components—a golden bird’s head and an obsidian bat’s head. The bird head represented an ancient sun deity, while the bat’s head depicted a foul demon of the night. These two deities were the foundation of the long-dead civilization whose ruins Donatalus and Ilnerik had gone to the Mwangi Expanse to explore, and the relic’s recovery was an incredibly important find, for the Pathfinders had long sought more clues into the nature of this ancient and mysterious society. Donatalus’s return was much celebrated, and the Pathfinder’s glory and acceptance into the Chronicles seemed assured, yet as Donatalus’s star rose, Ilnerik grew increasingly jealous and bitter. Finally, consumed by this jealousy, he broke apart the relic and fled Westcrown with the bat head component. He suspected that on the markets of Nisroch in Nidal, the shadowy bat head relic would fetch a fair price, yet what he hadn’t known was that, together, the two relics symbolized a single dualistic concept—the balance of light and darkness. Separated from the sun idol, the bat idol had no counterbalance, and with each day of Ilnerik’s journey toward Nidal, he grew more sickly—his flesh began to burn in the sun, his hunger grew but the thought of food nauseated him, and he was unable to sleep at night and barely able to function by day. He crossed the border into Nidal on the same day Aroden died and Cheliax erupted into chaos, and by that evening, Ilnerik had crawled into a cave and died—only to rise with the next moon as a vampire. Ilnerik spent the next century in Nidal, becoming a master of the shadows of the night and learning of the true powers of the bat-head relic—such as the fact that the relic was sacred to a now-dead demon lord of bats and shadows named Vyriavaxus, and that it granted its owner all manner of power over various beasts of shadow, including the ability to call them up and bend them to servitude. His standing in Nidal grew yearly, and it was not without a delighted sense of irony that Ilnerik returned to Westcrown after being secretly contacted by the new government of Cheliax to provide a service—he and his shadow beasts would serve in Westcrown as the midnight guard, to ensure that after the fall of night, the city’s citizens remained safely in doors, lest beasts of shadow take them down. Today, Ilnerik’s allegiance has shifted away from the Arvanxi family and to the Council of Thieves—to Ecarrdian and Chammady Drovenge, in fact, with whom he shares the desire to claim Westcrown as his own.