Against the Worldwound
A century ago, the death of Aroden transformed the culture and politics of the Inner Sea nations. In the distant north in a land once known as Sarkoris, it changed the world itself, knocking Golarion out of metaphysical alignment in the direction of the Abyss, a nightmare realm in the Great Beyond, screaming with wicked souls and vicious demons.
Until the world split open and demons emerged to raze and ruin the entire nation, Sarkoris was a sprawling scrubland north of Numeria known for its fierce, painted warriors and bizarre witchery. Yet even before the end, Sarkorian mystics spoke of ascendant chaos, a thinness between this world and the next. Strange, ravenous creatures traditionally stalked the mysterious tombs and barrows of the stark region in central Sarkoris known as the Northmounds, where the cult of the demon lord Deskari, Lord of the Locust Host and usher of the Apocalypse, had long tormented the people of Sarkoris. One of Aroden’s many miracles during his early years as a mortal wandering Golarion was his defeat of Deskari and his cult—by driving the cultists and their demonic patrons into the Lake of Mists and Veils, Aroden made the Northmounds safe again.
Just over a century ago, strange signs that the cult had returned to the region manifested. The people of Sarkoris worried, but were confident that the prophesized return of Aroden to the world would put a final end to the cult’s machinations. But as all soon came to realize, no such return would occur. When Aroden died and the world suffered under the wrath of weeks of storms, Sarkoris entered its final dark hours. Ill tidings came to horrific life as vile abominations quickly overran the Sarkorian clan-holds, scattering their inhabitants and spreading the legend of an insidious taint in the north, centered on the Worldwound, a mile-wide cosmic blight limned in black flame southwest of the barbarian city of Iz. The closer one approaches to the Worldwound, the more the physical world itself becomes unpredictable. Terrain changes before the eyes, shifting form with a torturous deliberation that seems to cause pain to the earth itself. Foul creatures spew from the madness at the center of the blight, monstrosities from the depths of the Abyss; almost overnight they became the undisputed masters of Sarkoris.
As word of Sarkoris’s swift and dramatic fall spread, the church of Iomedae was equally swift to react. Still reeling from the loss of their deity’s patron, an obvious threat like a demonic incursion was precisely the thing that the Iomedaean faithful needed to stave off true despair—her champions and priests threw themselves into the crusade against the Worldwound with an almost reckless abandon, not only to blunt their own horror at Aroden’s death, but also because they believed it was their responsibility to pacify Sarkoris and seal the Worldwound—to finish the job that Aroden had started so many centuries ago with the first defeat of Deskari’s cult.
To this end, the leaders of Iomedae’s church and those of several other religions decreed the First Mendevian Crusade, as well as the three that followed. Zealous followers of the Inheritor from throughout Avistan still travel up the Sellen River to Mendev in an attempt to support the crusaders. The first efforts to pacify the Worldwound met with considerable success: the demonic hosts were driven back and the crusaders stood sentinel over the land.
The malign, almost sentient chaos of the Worldwound, however, was not content to stay within its carefully proscribed borders. The northern crusader city of Drezen formerly stood within the borders of Mendev, but in 4638 ar, the counterstroke of the demon-hordes overwhelmed its guardians and protective enchantments, and the entire city fell under the influence of the Abyss. Tens of thousands of pilgrims and warriors drowned in the demonic wave that followed, depleting the armies of Mendev and necessitating the Second Mendevian Crusade.
The new influx of crusaders helped to stabilize a new front line along the Sellen River in the wake of this disastrous reversal, and the creation of the first bulwark of magical defenses, known as wardstones, helped to contain the demon horde’s growth. Aside from constructing this tenuous hedge to keep the demons from spreading farther south, however, little progress has been made in purging the land of demons, who seem to grow in number with each passing month. The subtler fiends managed to create such unrest and suspicion in Mendev that the Third Crusade was effectively dissipated in witch hunts, paranoia, and internecine bickering rather than fostering meaningful advances at the front. Fortunately, the demons themselves were far too independent and disorganized to take advantage of their enemy’s indisposition—their own mutually destructive tendencies make coordinated action very difficult. Minor victories and defeats characterize the past several decades of struggle.