Magnum Opus' Muse Arcane

Magnum Opus Herself

The Shame of the Baatezu

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This story begins a long time ago, cutters, with a series of scraps of ancient parchment I unearthed on an expedition to Thoth's Great Library. If you've ever been there, you'll understand why I tarried inside the place for longer than I'd intended, but that's another story for another time...this piece of history can't wait to be told. Are you sitting comfortably? Doors bolted and veil spell in place? Good, then I'll tell you what I learned...

Ever since the baatezu first appeared in the Lower Planes and learned that they were not alone in their fiendishness, they have been resentful. Of the yugoloths, that is doubtless, but they resent and fear the tanar'ri even more. 'Course, they ain't about to admit that for a single second, berk, but you can take it from me there's more than just hatred of opposites. To the baatezu, the tanar'ri represent an uncontrollable force, a wild and savage side to evil that cannot be tamed, and an unpredictable foe. Perhaps they hate the tanar'ri because they cannot understand their ways, or perhaps they see a side of themselves that they'd rather forget. Perhaps it's a bit of both. Whatever the reason for it, though, only a leatherhead doesn't know that the fiends loathe each other.

So, for the fledgling baatezu race (for even immortals begin from nothing), the Great Chaotic Threat was one that had to be dealt with, and dealt with fast. Of course, "fast" for immortals is a great deal slower than "fast" for us mortal races, but the concept conveys a sense of urgency nonetheless. At this early stage in fiendish history the baatezu were still a young force, evil to the core but small in numbers. Unlike the vast Baatific Empire of today, the race was spread across all the seven layers of young Baator (it was not always as now, as I shall explain presently) into many warring princedoms and duchys and kingdoms. Each had more severe and unforgiving laws than the next, and none could ever agree on anything,

It was an unknown and unnamed figure that united the race for the first time. The surviving descriptions of this Unifier are few in number and vague in wording, but lead me to believe the creature was bladed of head and mighty of hand. A young Lady of Pain, perhaps? This alas is mere speculation on my part; I cannot prove a word. Neither will I venture as to why this being wished to unite the race, unless the growing tanar'ri hordes troubled him (or her) as much as it did the other races of the planes. According to Ye Prime Days of Byator the unification took "juste one nyte of Longe Knives and then t'was all done". However it occurred, united the baatezu were, by blood and by steel, and as one Empire they formed an army which was larger than any that the Multiverse had ever before seen.

Still, against the despicable horde of the tanar'ri, this was not enough. Besides, the nobles and princes did not care to fight in the skirmishes themselves, and many of their subjects were too weak to be of use against the ravenous denizens of the Abyss. The baatezu high-ups realised they needed a breed of warriors amongst them, and set out to create one.

The first attempt, created from centuries of breeding of baatezu and some unknown (now extinct?) planar race (known in ancient texts simply as razorkin). Sources suggest that this race came from neighbouring Acheron initially, though it has since vanished without trace. In any case, the spiny beings that resulted from the corrupted union proved to be less than perfect, and perfection was what the baatific princes demanded from their warrior farms. The disappointed high-ups slew both breeders and their stock in their thousands, lest the tanar'ri should learn the dark of their failure.

However, a select few of these warrior-fiends escaped from their captivity, and live to this day in hidden cities in the deepest layers of Acheron, known to us now as bladelings. Their first histories tell of a burning bladed Lady who led their people to freedom and then simply vanished. Again, the resemblance to the Lady of Pain occurs. What can this suggest of her early dealings with the planes? Alas, I cannot prove a word.

Following their disappointment with the bladelings, the baatezu soon learned of a new race from the Prime Material of great rapaciousness, greed and potential for evil. Apparently, these beings were crushing and destroying civilisations of elf and dwarf (for whom the baatezu have little love) not only by choice, but also by their more successful military might, faster breeding and stronger individuals. From the hellish plane the baatezu watched and drooled, sending forth temptresses in the form of Erinyes and kidnappers in the form of Osyluths. Over the years a sizable number of these humans, as they called themselves, were brought to Baator.

The humans did indeed make a good host for Blood Warriors. As baatezu bred with human, the race of tieflings were first spawned, in their millions. The weakest were murdered and the strongest forced to breed again in a massive programme of eugenics. Over countless centuries the baatezu tried to create a master race of warriors. Fortuitously, this evidence corroborates with another contemporary account of young Baator which I have read in the Great Library of Damnation in the Grey Waste. Though I did not understand the reference at the time, it mentioned "tymes when halfbreeds outnumber'd [the] fiends themself, but [that] these tymes hav long been past". Of course, now it makes terrible sense...

Alas for the tieflings their 'halcyon' days on Baator were not to last. While many examples of strong and evil antiheroes were born, the tiefling race as a whole all-to-often displayed the most despicable traits: individuality, disrespect for orders, compassion and even goodness!

For the evil baatezu, this was simply intolerable. This time the baatezu were more stringent in their elimination of their mistakes. They dug pits of death and caused annihilation of such great magnitude that it was said the screams of their victims could be heard at the Spire itself. In fact, the evil deeds were such that even Baator itself was unused to them, and the killing fields of Avernus and Minauros sank like lead hearts down through Baator. While once there were seven layers of Baator, the pyres and furnaces sank to form Phlegethos, and the mass graves of a million million became dark Nessus itself.

When I read this, I thought it too inflammatory not to investigate myself. Taking a portal from the Pentacle ("there are many secret ways into Nessus", as the saying goes, "but few ways out"), I saw for myself the chasms and gorges that riddle the layer. The rock there was strange, of a kind I had never before encountered. A little digging soon revealed the dark of the matter: It was full as a slaad's belly of bones, skulls and fossilised blood, miles deep, corpses frozen with horrid expressions of anguish and pain, the like of which I shall count myself lucky if I never see again.

"Thee Dead did fil the deepest pyts
and stil blocked out the skye"
- Songs of an Ancient Baator

It seems the baatezu were not content with mere genocide. As I had been led to believe in an apocryphal religious tome of Ilsensine's mind flayer priests, the baatezu had taken more than the tiefers' lives. The illithid holy text stated: "And the Evil Ones did wail and gnash their teeth, and they did swear never to deal with [the] soft-skinned betrayers for a thousand thousand years, and they tore the lives and hearts and souls and minds from their own children and children's children, and burned and slashed and stung them dead. With [their] minds many they made one, and [that] One is with us still..."

In order to profit from their "investments", it seems the baatezu plundered anything of value they could find from the corpses of the millions of tiefers. All of the cadavers I examined that day on Nessus were missing eyes and hearts, and the tops of their skulls had been chopped off -- presumably to remove their brains. Ancient records of yugoloth truename traders (rescued by my own fair hands from a ruined skull-tower in Oinos) show that these organs were purchased and used by not only 'loths, but also merchants and wizards in Sigil and beyond. When one considers the possibility of such a grisly harvest, other nebulous writings from the period begin to come clear...

The Historica Empirica of the rilmani notes a great upheaval in the Balance at that time as millions of tiny voices cried out, then merged into one single voice louder than had ever been heard before. The Varaxi Klorr of the bladeling religion also mentions this, calling it "The Time of [the] Mind-See". For many years, noted archaeologists have assumed this referred to the emergence of psychic powers in the bladeling race which was subsequently submerged by the fervour of religion or the arrival of magic, but I beg to differ. I maintain that this mind-see was in fact a literal Mind Sea...the baatezu had pooled together the disembodied brains of their children to create a vast lake of intelligence in Nessus.

Perhaps the most damning of all I learned was that the celestials, such that they were of the time, knew of the atrocities that were occurring on Baator. In a tome I rescued from the flames of a temple on Lunia, I gleaned the following passage: "And the pure gods and folk of the Heavens heard the pleas of the half-fiends, and turned their backs, for no good can come of lives spawned of evil's loins." Surely this despicable act of wilful ignorance should not go unnoticed? How can beings of good and light simply wash their hands of the plight of an entire race of creatures? Did they refuse to offer the tieflings asylum in their "holy lands", perhaps, for fear of the corruption of their own race? What terrible selfishness these beings harbour within, and they have the gall to categorise themselves as 'good' and stand upon a pedestal? Would they do the same were it the githzerai today, or have they learned their lesson after the deaths of millions? We can but hope they have.

During my Nessan ordeal, I probed the plane with psionic powers and devices. I discovered psychic trauma of such terrible extent that the shock killed my psionicist companion dead as an Astral Power and rendered me unconscious for Spire-knows how long. The fleeting images I recall were of a grey pulpy pool as large as nine Prime Oceans, seething with intelligence and malice, more vastly powerful than anything before or since. It seemed the baatezu were the first to invent the Illithid Brain Pool, and they did so with a flourish!

Interestingly, Elemments of Kontroll, an obscure and very dense fiendish magical text of the period, makes mention of a new advancement in magic of binding and control, calling it geise. Could this be the ancestor of the enchanter's staple geas? I wonder if this magic, in its purest form, was cast upon every brain in that sea, to force the melded mind to do the bidding of its fiendish creators?

Here the story is picked up by the Maeleficum Maelificorum, a treatise on the religion of the baatezu race. It mentions a plane-god of such evil intent and knowledge that the baatezu themselves were afraid of their creation. Baatzuvian texts usually make the arrogant assumption that the powers are the invention of their worshippers, but this is the only reference I have found that contends the race were ever less than equals of their powers.

So it seems that the baatezu weaved their terrible new enchantments over the mind pool, binding it to their will and their whim. After centuries of trickery and guile, they persuaded the mind to reveal its most dark secret: Creation. Whether the baatezu had planned this from the start of their scheming it is impossible to say, but the end result was exactly what they had wanted. Under the god-mind's guidance, the fiends created a whole race of warriors of exceptional skill and strength, and named them Barbazu. In Old Baatzuvian this name cryptically translates as Sea-borne. These warriors, as we know all too well today, are the mainstay of the baatezu war machine, and have won countless battles against the rampaging tanar'ri. Other dark whispers I have heard suggest the Nupperibo have also been twisted and mutilated by the self-same rituals. I could not possibly comment...

However, the Mass Mind was vastly more intelligent and resourceful than the fiends themselves, and plotted against them despite it magical shackles. As the rarely-spoken fable (related to me by an amnizu confidante who believed me an erinyes) goes, it would surely have destroyed the arrogant race forever had it not been for the voice of a single good soul who spoke softly to a spinagon she had loved in life, warning him of the danger he faced. The fiend told his superiors who told their superiors, and soon the whole race knew of the plot to split Baator asunder. Greatly angered, the baatezu shattered the mind with evocation magic greater than has ever before been seen or since. The god-mind replied with incredible force, gouging deep cracks in Nessus until earthquakes shook the whole Lower Planes. These 'quakes are mentioned in several texts from Gehenna and Acheron, so while the details may not be entirely reliable, it seems at least something terrible occurred on Nessus in that time.

The ferocious revenge of the baatezu wore on for many days and nights, and the ichor of the mind-sea drained away and became the River Lethe and the Styx. Curious how the polluted waters, to this day, drain the memories of those who drink from them. Perhaps the mind-sea still hungers for thoughts? The fiends doused what remained with acid and oil, and set it aflame for one thousand and one days. However, a small part of the sea escaped from harm, draining energy from Caina to stave off the fires...and this is why the eighth plane of Baator is so terribly cold. Pooling the last of its energies, it slipped through the planar border itself, and though it was weak and wizened when it arrived on the Outlands it was still as powerful as a god. Hiding itself away in the caverns near the Spire it became Ilsensine, the illithid creator power. Imagine how mighty it must have been in its heyday! This also suggests the reason why Ilsensine has remained out of place on the Outlands when its moral and ethical stance resemble so closely the Baatezu from whom it was spawned: It cannot return. Perhaps the sympathetic Outlands understand this and therefore allow its domain to remain unshifted? Neutrality works in strange ways, my friends.

And what of the soul who betrayed the evil scheme of the Mind? It is said she lingers on, untouchable by the baatezu, a single spark of light in the darkness of Nessus. I saw no evidence of this, but the myth is a persistent one. I cannot possibly comment.

So this is the shame of the baatezu. They are not ashamed of the evil they did, not for a second, but that they created their own worst enemy. For while the fiends and the illithids through Ilsensine may pretend not to remember these events of aeons past, they do, and it galls both to know of the other's continued existence. Mark my words well, one day, when Ilsensine's wound are licked clean, the planes will once again resound with the screams of many, though this time it will be the baatezu screaming.

Alas, I cannot prove a word.

 Magnum Opus

 Inspired by "A Beginner's Guide to the Holocaust", published by Icon Books.

 Consult the Mimir Again