Back when I was doing calls for characters on Reddit, I got a request from one of the people I did a character for. They’d asked me to draw another one of their villains – Satarie, an Aberration/Changeling Shapeshifter for a homebrew 4th edition game. I had agreed to do it. Eight months ago.
It was around the same time I was buying a house, and between all of the paperwork we were doing, moving money around, rebuilding this website, and everything else that was going on, I kind of forgot. Which isn’t entirely true – I’d remember at times I was really busy and fully intended on doing it after a big cycle of other work. But inevitably I’d have other things come up and get in the way. I have this bad habit of, when I’m procrastinating on a project, I go into a communications blackout. I felt so bad about not doing this, I’ve been avoiding reddit entirely for the last eight months. No more. I’ve finally got it done.
Satariel the Aberration, Changeling Shapeshifter Description
Class: Level 21 Shapechanger
Edition: Heavily customized 4e
Appearance: At first glance, Satariel appears to be an unassuming, twelve year-old human boy of eastern descent that, from all appearances, you would take to be the son of a baker or bricklayer. He has scruffy, dark hair, light brown skin, and wears simple, dark colored fabrics, mostly browns and blacks. But beneath his childlike-facade lies a soulless monstrosity.
Satariel is actually a twisted experiment in Far Realm biology gone horribly right. His “father” designed him as part of a genetic test to create a sentient life-form capable of withstanding the Far Realm’s mad influences. After exposing more than a thousand children to its deadening energies, one changeling child managed to survive, possibly due to latent psychic abilities or the species’ uniquely malleable biology. Despite these genetic advantages, his physiology was forever warped, and his sanity irrevocably compromised. Due to his exposure to the Far Realm, the molecules in his body restructured themselves in unimaginable ways. Satariel is capable of shapechanging to a far greater capacity than normal Dopplegangers or Changelings. In combat, he can transform his arms into makeshift weapons, including razor-sharp blades and tentacles, which take on an eerie pinkish-brown hue. He also seems to have some rudimentary powers over light, bending it to shroud himself in complete darkness. When wounded, his body reveals itself as comprised not of flesh and blood, but plastic-like matter, which regenerates itself at a rapid rate. His ability to shapechange transcends humanoid forms, as he can also take the form of various beasts or creatures, as well as puddles of far-realm matter should he need to make a quick escape or take an unsuspecting foe by surprise. Despite all this, he prefers to assume the guise of a sadistic, smiling child.
Backstory: The story of Satariel begins with a brief history of an even crueler villain, known in the last century as Mortressus, and in this one as Mr. St-Rosseau. Mortressus was an awakened chimera, a wizard’s familiar, and the victim of cruel experiments. He taught himself magic in secret until the day came where he could overwhelm his creator, taking his freedom by force. For centuries he pursued greater magical might, insisting that no being, not even the gods, would ever be able to force him to do anything ever again. When his natural lifespan was at its end, he delved into the dark arts, becoming a Lich and living for centuries longer than nature would have otherwise allowed. He saw the rise of empires, and the falls of emperors, many of which he directly or indirectly caused.
His ultimate pursuit was power, specifically, physical power. He had neared the apex of magical might, mastering all manner of magics over several lifetimes. However, if he could design a powerful enough body, he could surpass the limitations imposed on him by nature. His investigations eventually brought him to understand the Far Realm, and what was chained there: Tharizdun, the Mad God.
Imprisoned outside the universe by the gods during the Dawn War, Tharizdun was a threat to the cosmic balance between Law and Chaos. If Mortressus could harness that power, the universe itself could be reshaped by his every whim. While researching the prison of Tharizdun, Mortressus stumbled upon a force known as Uriel, a being who had been cursed to restart the Dawn War every thousand years as part of a pact between Gods and Primodials to end their original cosmic struggle. Uriel had been imprisoned in an icy tomb, in the body of an altruistic Deva who had defeated him nearly a thousand years ago. However, Uriel had now awoken early, and had time to organize his forces. Uriel’s plan was surprisingly in-line with Mortressus’ own: Take the power of Tharizdun and use it to split the universe in half, ending the struggle between Gods and Primordials forever. Each faction would get their own reality to control, all at the expense of nothing more than a few million mortal lives. A small price to pay when immortal lives were in the balance. Mortressus had time before Uriel would be able to assemble the fragments of Tharizdun’s heart to bring him back to life, and he needed a body capable of withstanding the awesome might of the chained god.
His research was fruitless until he stumbled upon the remains of the Tarrasque. The Harbingers (The PCs of the first campaign) had defeated it by crashing a ship made from the remains of a Primal Spirit into it during its weakened state, rendering it inert. Mortressus had watched this battle come to a fever pitch, and sampled the genetic material left by the beast. With it, he was able to craft an indestructible warrior, a half-tarrasque, who would serve a simple purpose: His new phylactery. By storing his soul in the beast until the moment was right, he was able to intervene in Uriel’s plans at the perfect moment, taking the might of Tharizdun for himself. However, the Harbingers fought back defiantly, and were able to destroy the power of Tharizdun, and seemingly Mortressus, once and for all. Or so it seemed.
Before the last battle with Uriel and Mortressus, the party sought assistant from an unlikely source: Asmodeus. His devils would keep the forces of Tiamat at bay long enough for the Harbingers to defeat the Chained God in exchange for a favor to be named later of Briggs, the half-orc gunslinger and member of the Harbingers. Briggs was a devout follower of the Raven Queen, and after her passing he was next in line to assume the place of god of death.
When the dust had settled, Asmodeus collected on his bargain. He wanted the soul of Mortressus. Briggs was furious. Mortressus had slain his ship captain, and was his personal nemesis. But the magic of Asmodeus’ pact was greater than even that of a god, and he had no choice but to hand over the soul of his arch-nemesis to the Lord of Hell. Asmodeus needed Mortressus, for Mortressus was part of an even greater plot that had been put into motion by Asmodeus more than ten-thousand years ago. Mortressus would be Asmodeus’ eyes and ears in the mortal world, and he was to rendezvous with the Qliphoth, an organization whose stated mission was to reaffirm the power of the gods in the world, as well as provide guidance to the fledgling orc nation of Daran Fhaugm while acting in capacity as an emissary of Perdition, the city of devils and their worshipers. He was to aid the orc nation of Daran Fhaugm in severing the World Tree’s connection to the Primal Spirits once the ritual of the Qliphoth was ready to be enacted, a complex process which would ensure that the gods could safely return to the world and assume control once more.
However, Mortressus had other ideas. His initial plans to assume control over Tharizdun worked, but only briefly. He was able to glimpse the infinite truth of the Far Realm: It wasn’t a place, but the space between places. And there were powers out there that eclipsed even the gods. And even if he weren’t driven mad by ambitions of power, he had in no way escaped his initial fate as a wizard’s familiar, as he was a prisoner once more. He was nothing but a slave to Asmodeus’ wishes. He would need to think bigger.
His initial plan, an indestructible body, had nearly worked. But now he would need an army of invincible beings instead. Beings capable of taking on the gods, including Asmodeus, to whom he was nothing but a rabid dog on a chain. Luckily, he had a trump card, and the perfect conduit to the Far Realm: A shard of pure, elemental evil, carved from Asmodeus’ Ruby Scepter, and given to him by the Lord of Hell himself.
He used the shard to commune with the Far Realm, studying its power. He decided that, rather than sever the connection of the World Tree to the Primal Spirits entirely, a being capable of harnessing its power fully could instead wield the full might of the primal spirits, turning it against the gods and eventually, the worlds beyond even the Astral Sea. He began to study the effects of the Far Realm on all manner of creatures, to understand what it would take for a creature to survive. After more than a thousand tests, he found a being capable of surviving its profound effects, a young Changeling, forcibly separated from its mother.
However, the exposure left it warped and twisted, barren of empathy or kindness. Mortressus decided that, although the child entertained him, it was not wise to leave his plans in its incapable hands. Instead, he used the child as a research specimen, in order to better understand the effects of the Far Realm on living tissue, so that he could properly prepare a more competent protégée in the future. In time, the child developed a perverse loyalty to Mortressus, akin to that of a son desperate for his father’s approval. Mortressus denied him it, but nurtured that yearning. The child did inevitably prove useful to Mortressus. Asmodeus required constant surveillance on the Qliphoth, to ensure that the other gods did not betray him in their pact to reclaim the world, and Mortressus appointed the child in his stead. The angel Thaumiel reluctantly gave the child the name, “Satariel,” the concealer.
Eventually, Satariel was given the task of secretly escorting four special children, who were kidnapped to serve in the Qliphoth’s ritual, to be kept in a secret holding facility until the time came when they were needed. The children were put unconscious and packed into a caravan, with Satariel hiding in their ranks. His task was simple: Masquerade as a child unless a threat to the safety of the children arose. When the caravan was attacked by a band of ravenous kobolds, Satariel thought about stopping them. Then he decided it would actually be funnier to watch the kobolds eat a few kids first.
The kobolds were acting on a vision from their high priest, and had a ritual of their own to perform. And then they got hungry. The kobolds would go on to steal two new children to use in their ritual from a neighboring barony, drawing the ire of a ragtag group of investigators (The new PCs). After rescuing the remaining children, the party discovered that they came from cities across the world. Not wanting to draw attention, Satariel lied, saying he was from Rizier, the furthest city from their current location. Bafflingly, the party decided to take it upon themselves to return the missing kids. Satariel decided to stick around, hoping they would get themselves killed in the process.
Satariel followed the party around the world, playing the part of distraught child missing his family, and pretending to connect with one of the party members, a half-orc named Domri who also strove to connect with his own father figures. All the while Satariel reported back to both his father and the High Sephirot, Thaumiel, who had taken a special interest in a party member of his own, a Deva girl who he believed was the one destined to break the Wheel of Regeneration and free the Deva from the mortal realm forever. The party had made a critical error, drawing the ire of Mortressus by stealing the shard of evil from him while visiting Domri’s father in Daran Fhaugm. The shard was encased in an anti-magic field, and well-guarded, but Mortressus needed it back. At the perfect moment, the Qliphoth coordinated an attack on the party, as well as the two homes of the previously-returned children. The party was quickly defeated, and surrendered the orb in exchange for their lives. However, Satariel took except to their lives being spared, as his father had been wronged. In a fit of rage, he attacked, nearly killing the chosen Deva. The other Qliphoth members were forced to subdue Satariel and escape quickly with the orb in tow.
Satariel serves as a point of contention in the Qliphoth. His presence is unwelcome, but a necessary evil, and his loyalty is fleeting at best. However, without the vile guiding force that is Mortressus, he could turn into an even greater threat to the sanctity of life. If he has a place in the world at all, it’s surely acting to its detriment.