Relics of the Past
Long ago, so long that none but immortals can remember it, a human kingdom called Bael Turath expanded into a grand empire. As with all great empires, Bael Turath built itself up on the prostrate backs of conquered kingdoms. Assuredly, some conquests were just, and the world was better off without Bael Turath’s enemies. Of course, the people of the growing empire also fought and died in many wars for less than noble reasons.
Also as with all great empires, at its height Bael Turath was closest to its fall. It strained under the pressures of ruling defeated peoples. Noble houses schemed to carve out their own kingdoms or to replace their betters in the halls of power. Civil wars, seceding territories, assassination plots, famine, plague; Bael Turath endured all these threats to its existence and survived by only the barest of margins. The ruling family and others among the nobility prayed for a means of securing their country and their eternal dominion. Bael Turath had lasted for centuries, and they hoped to ensure its continuance for centuries more.
Alas, their prayers were answered.
The most avaricious, the most domineering, and the most paranoid – including the emperor himself – began to dream of a new age. They awoke from fevered sleep with visions of the future still floating before their bloodshot eyes. The empire could be saved. Indeed, it could grow to rival the greatest nations of history, perhaps even surpass them. Their noble lines would extend on into eternity. What price could outweigh eternal glory? With the full force of the emperor’s will behind them, chosen nobles were permitted to perform dark rituals that would put them in contact with the powers that would help them maintain their rule: the devils of the Nine Hells. This association with the devils showed the emperor the way. A month-long ritual, the Bloodfire Moon, would set Bael Turath on the path to true greatness. The head of every noble house had to participate. Those who would not did not survive that bloody month. They and all their families died on the sword or the altar.
Hundreds blood-signed their names in the Athanaeum, the temple where the first summoned devils appeared. Each noble house made a bond with a fiend through arcane pacts with names such as the Iron Crown of Madness, the Scarlet Claw of Hunger, Night’s Living Void, the Million Pains of Eternal Torment, the Heart of Fire and Iron, and the Cage of the Unnamed Master. When the ritual ended and the last soul was bent to evil, the nobility of Bael Turath transformed. There could be no doubt who ruled the empire now. Their pacts had given the nobles hellish power, and their bodies bore the mark of devilry. They had become tieflings, and any born of their bloodlines would bear the mark of their sins forever. The power of hell and the nobles’ shared vision of dominion not only secured Bael Turath but drove it to unsurpassed strength and incredible size. As the decades rolled on, the horror of the time of the Blood·fire Moon faded, and the people of Bael Turath began to care more for victory than virtue and to yearn more for wealth than liberty.
This ancient time saw the rise of another of the world’s greatest empires: Arkhosia, the dominion of dragons and their distant kin, the dragonborn. Such a great civilization as Bael Turath cannot long endure a rival, and after numerous skirmishes and lesser wars, the two nations engaged in the final War of Ruin: The slave armies and devils of Bael Turath clashed against the dragonborn clans and dragons of Arkhosia, and in battlefields awash with blood both empires were undone. In the dark age that followed Bael Turath’s dissolution, tieflings disappeared from the world.