Rise of the Runelords
main villain of Burnt Offerings
The primary villain of “Burnt Offerings” is a bitter aasimar woman named Nualia. A foundling raised by Sandpoint’s previous religious leader, a man named Ezakien Tobyn, Nualia’s childhood was lonely 4 and sad. Her unearthly beauty made the other children either jealous or shy, and many of them took to playing cruel jokes on her. The adults in town weren’t much better—many of the superstitious Varisians viewed Nualia as blessed by Desna, a sort of “reverse deformity.” Rumors that her touch or proximity could cure warts and rashes, that locks of her hair brewed into tea could increase fertility, and that her voice could drive out evil spirits led to endless
awkward and humiliating requests over the years. Poor Nualia felt more like a freak than a young girl by the time she came of age, so when Delek Viskanta, a local Varisian youth, began to court her, she practically fell into his arms in gratitdue.
Knowing that her father wouldn’t approve of a relationship with a Varisian (he wanted her to remain pure so that she could join one of the prestigious Windsong Abbey convents), they kept the affair secret. They met many times in hidden places, a favorite being an abandoned smuggler’s tunnel under town that Delek had discovered as a child. Before long, Nualia realized she was pregnant. When she told Delek, he revealed his true colors and, after calling her a slut and a harlot, fled Sandpoint rather than face her father’s wrath. Nualia’s shock quickly turned to rage, yet she had nowhere to vent her anger. She bottled it up, and when her father discovered her delicate condition, his reaction to her indescretions only furthered her shame and anger. He forbade her to leave the church, lectured her nightly, and made her pray to Desna for forigeness. In so doing, he unknowingly nurtured her growing hate.
When the runewell in the Catacombs of Wrath flared to life, Nualia’s own anger was a magnet to its magic. Seven months preg- nant, the wrathful energies suffused her mind and she flew into a frenzy. She miscarried her child later that night, a child whose monstrously deformed shape she only glimpsed before blanching midwives stole it away to burn it in secret. As the child had been concieved in the smuggler’s tunnels below town, in close proximity to a hidden shrine to Lamashtu (the goddess of monstrous births), the child itself was deformed and horrific. The double shock of losing a child and the realization she had been carrying a fiend in her belly for seven months was too much. Nualia fell into a coma.
As Nualia slept, she dreamed unhealthy dreams. Fueled by the wrath from below and the taint of Lamashtu, Nualia became further obsessed with the cruel demon goddess and the conviction that her wretched life was inflicted on her by those around her. She came to see her angelic heritage as a curse, and the demon-sent dreams showed her how to expunge this taint from her body and soul, replacing it with chaos and cruelty. When she finally woke, Nualia was someone new, someone who didn’t flinch at what Lamashtu asked of her. She jammed her father’s door shut as he slept, lit the church on fire, and fled Sandpoint.
The locals assumed Nualia had burned in the fire, a tragedy made all the worse by the death of Father Tobyn as well. Yet Nualia lived. She fled to Magnimar, where she enlisted the aid of a group of killers known as the Skinsaw Men. With their aid, she tracked down Delek and murdered him. Yet his death did not fill her need for revenge. Sandpoint and its hated citizens still lived.
Seeing a kindred spirit in the tortured woman, the mysterious leader of the Skinsaw Men gave Nualia a medallion bearing a carv- ing of a seven-pointed star called a “Sihedron medallion.” Nualia learned that she had a larger role to play, and that her dreams were a map to her destiny. Taking the advice to heart, Nualia returned to Sandpoint, and found herself drawn to the brick wall in the smug- gler’s tunnels where she and Delek had conceived her deformed child. Nualia bashed down the wall, and in so doing, discovered the Catacombs of Wrath and the quasit Erylium, also a follower of Lamashtu. For many months, Nualia studied under Erylium’s tutelage. During this time, Nualia received another vision from Lamashtu—a vision of a monstrous goblin wolf imprisoned in a tiny room. In Nualia’s dreams, she learned that this creature, a barghest named Malfeshnekor, was also one of Lamashtu’s chosen. If she could find him and free him, he would not only help her achieve her vengeance against the town of Sandpoint, but he would be the key in cleansing her body of what she had come to see as her “celestial taint.” Nualia wanted to be one of Lamashtu’s children now. She wanted to become a monster herself.