In the long years after the Great Destruction sundered Taladas, much lore of the world was lost. For all but the most learned, little is known of the empire of Aurim, which for well over a thousand years covered most of the continent, or of its many dynastic rulers. Aurim was a realm of wealth and splendor, but many of the emperors who reigned over it were cruel and vile – and none was more foul than Maladar an-Desh.
No annals tell when or where Maladar was born, or what his birth-name was; if any such records existed, he surely had them burned and their keepers executed. As a result, there is no mention of him in the surviving histories until shortly before his ascent to the throne. In those years he was a warlord, a powerful sorcerer who worshipped the dark god Hith. The land over which he held sway was Desh, a small province in the south of Aurim.
Maladar’s rule over Desh was unexceptional, with little to elevate him above the empire’s countless other warlords – until one fateful summer evening, when he orchestrated a coup against the reigning emperor, Pharsho XIV, and the warlords who supported him. Using fell magic, he slaughtered them all in one night, by various means – Pharsho himself by causing his crown to turn to a tightening circlet of razors that tore his skull apart. When the bloodletting was done, and all his rivals were dead, Maladar took the throne for his own.
Soon after he rose to power, it became clear that his ascent involved dark dealings with some great evil, be it a demon from the Abyss or even Hith himself. Whichever it was, the price was great: in return for the throne, Maladar either cut or burned off his own face soon after his coronation, leaving only a ruin of bone and gnarled, blackened flesh, with no eyes or nose or even a lower jaw. Afterward, he usually wore a hood to hide his ghastly deformity, casting it off only when he meant to frighten or intimidate his enemies. Still, folk quickly gave him the sobriquet “the Faceless,” which he bore ever after.
Maladar’s rule lasted more than a hundred years, though some histories claimed it was shorter in an attempt to downplay the extent of his power. Using his magic and the imperial armies, he conquered several outlying kingdoms and annexed them into Aurim, and beat other foes into submission – most notably the Uigan tribes of the steppes of Tamire.
Under his rule, Aurim grew even more wealthy and prosperous than ever before. Its people lived in fear, however, terrified of displeasing their ruler. Those who offended Maladar died horribly, either impaled in the Square of Spears outside his palace, or howling in torment in the dungeons below. On occasion, and entire city would rouse his ire, and such cities nevered survived his wrath. Most notably, the port of Am Durn was wiped from the map by a vast wave that Maladar summoned.
As is often the case with tyrants, however, Maladar’s rule ended bloodily. Convinced his generals were plotting against them, he murdered Aurim’s seven greatest warlords in his own throne room. Within moments of their doom, however, Maladar fell as well – not by the sword, but by poison, added to his wine by his own cupbearer, a young prince of the Uigan. Thus Maladar died an ignoble death, in agony.
Death, however, was not the end. Maladar had prepared for his own ending, and had prepared a secret sanctuary deep beneath the ground in the northeast of the empire. There, he hid a statue made in his likeness, and when he died his soul went not to the Abyss but into that statue, called the Hooded One. His plan was to wait a few centuries before re-entering the world, with the help a group of fanatical servants known as the Faceless Brethren. Once freed, he meant to reclaim Aurim for his own, with an eye toward ruling the empire forever.
Fate, however, had other plans. The Destruction brought Aurim to ruin, and the location of Maladar’s sanctuary was lost. Thus, he abided there for a thousand years, waiting in darkness and silence for his servants to loose his bonds. He might have waited forever, but recently a band of treasure-hunters finally found the Hooded One while digging through the ruins of Aurim. The statue made its way west, to the Imperial League of the minotaurs.
Before long, the Hooded One’s return earned the attention of both Hith and the Faceless Brethren, which reformed among the city-states of the Rainward Isles. Using a complicated strategy, the Brethren brought war and ruin to both the League and the Tamire, and stole the Hooded One back, bringing it to the depths of the Neron jungles. There, at last, the Brethren freed Maladar from the Hooded One, and though his soul was thwarted from claiming its intended host – a young boy the Brethren had raised from birth for that purpose – he did manage to possess the boy’s father, the warrior Barreth Forlo. Taking control of Forlo’s body, Maladar has begun the journey to Hith’s Cauldron, the sea of molten rock that is all that remains of the heart of Aurim, in the hopes of raising his empire anew.
But that journey had just begun, and will prove more difficult than even Maladar realizes …