“And lo, just beyond the waking world at the very borders of where our dreams begin, there waits my master. He thrashes and writhes in the darkness of his realm, for he is eternally famished. I will shed your blood to appease his hunger, and your screams will nourish me just as your life essence nourishes him.”
Lord Hesten Graf, the Red Hand
Where there is good then there must also be evil; such is the law of universal balance. Where good men stand tall in service to the people, craven men will seek to bring them down, if for nothing more than the pleasure of their abasement.
The Diabolists represent all that is evil about the souls of men. They seek power and supremacy over others simply for their own sake, rather than any lofty ambitions to benevolent rule or the improvement of society. They are without compassion, though each possesses a surfeit of malicious cruelty that they wish to visit on the citizens of Mellorian.
They are men and women from all walks of life, from every race, religion, and creed. It is said that one may know an Acedian from his looks and from his works, but this is not so for a Diabolist. The members of this secretive cult take great pains to hide their affiliation, for it is proscribed by law in the Covenant of Justice that a Diabolist must be executed once their guilt has been proven. No clemency or mercy can be shown to them, for it is well known they are a cancer upon the world that must be excised.
The populace is watchful for signs of their presence: unexplained murders, disappearances, and the mutilation of livestock. A hunter from the Order of Malleoch is never long in arriving once a report is made of these events, so the Diabolists have been very cautious about their acts of ‘worship’. Their evil rites are conducted in secret, and their victims are carefully chosen to cause the least amount of attention, but eventually they cannot help but reveal their presence by a spate of missing or dead victims.
Diabolists do not draw power from the World Tree to fuel their magic; they call upon the immense power stored in the blood of other living things. Unfortunately for the unwilling victims of this art, to do this a Diabolist must violently shed that blood. It grants them sorcery of hideous power, able to scourge the flesh from an opponent’s body, or putrefy their organs from within. It grants them the power of death and destruction, and Diabolists are only too willing to put this into use. Though humans are not naturally inclined to magic, the study of blood-sorcery has been around for many thousands of years, and can easily match anything that the Great Houses can offer.
In recent years there has been a worrying rise in the frequency and audaciousness of Diabolist atrocities. Something has emboldened them to draw the attention of the Order on a scale that has never been seen before, and the greatest thinkers of Mellorian are perplexed as to their ultimate goals. To court such attention is usually ruinous for their cult and so the question as to why they are flirting with disaster at this time concerns the rulers of the land greatly.
House Myrke and the Order of Malleoch have made an alliance to better detect and apprehend practitioners, but even with their prodigious resources they cannot stem the tide. Mellorian is becoming an ever more lawless place, and in the far flung wilds the people are not safe from the depredations of an organised cult of Diabolists. Soon the clamour of the people will force the Princes to act, and there will be martial law across the continent.
Unknown to all but the most senior Diabolists, the increased activity is due to the emergence of a new Diabolist leader. The scholars, and the wider public, still believe that though Diabolists can operate together to perform their rituals and keep their secrets, they are a fractious collection of miscreants and so are incapable of organising at a continent-wide level. In this, they are dreadfully wrong. A new dark power has risen in the peaks of the mountains surrounding the T’pvar pass, and the shadow of its coming shall soon be felt throughout the land.
This new leader has allowed his followers free rein in their bloodletting to direct the attention of the Order elsewhere and so that a bold plan can be enacted. The High House of the Order is situated close to the World Tree on the Emteph plain, deep within the great central desert. By emptying it of the most gifted Wizards and hunters that Malleoch possess, the Diabolists hope to catch them unawares, obliterating their great foe and leaving the way open to even choicer targets. It will be a black day for Mellorian, should they achieve such an objective.
Though Mellorians consider that they are on the cusp of a golden age for their civilization, in truth they have never been closer to destruction, such is the potency of this new threat. If it is not checked soon, there will be darkness within the land, and the children of evil – the demons, shall gain a permanent foothold in the material realm.