Exalted: Modern – The AbyssalsMay 2, 2011
When the Usurpation occurred, as in the Creation we know, many of the Solars found themselves suddenly ghosts in the Underworld, stripped of all their power but similarly freed from the Great Curse. However, some of them, approximately thirteen, harbored a festering hatred of all life, a desire for vengeance not merely against the Sidereals and Terrestrials, but against all Creation. The Neverborn sent emissaries to those thirteen and made them Deathlords, as we know them.
However, the Deathlords’ chance to utilize their new power against Creation never came. There was no Contagion, no Well of Udr, no Balorian Crusade. When the cataclysm happened and the Kukla woke, the Neverborn and their Deathlord allies were caught entirely off-guard. Initially, they could not have been more pleased: the Neverborn believed the Great Curse had done its job on the Sidereals, and they had destroyed Creation in their madness. The undead Primordials waited gleefully for the Kukla to annihilate Creation, and for their agony to cease.
When the full scope of the Sidereals’ plan became clear, the Neverborn raged. Not only had the Sidereals not destroyed Creation, they had in fact protected it from the Underworld. Through manipulation of the Loom of Fate, the shadowlands that had once been prevalent on the surface of Creation had all been gathered, not into cancerous holes that would eventually devour the world, but into a lifeless shell, a protective case around the new Earth. The very weapons the Neverborn had planned to use to destroy Creation were now its aegis.
The cataclysm flooded the Underworld. Ghosts from all over Creation filled the Deathlords’ realms in a storm of chaos. Worse, the shattering of the world had profound effects on the dreams of the Neverborn, which in turn affected the shape of the Underworld itself. No longer was it simply a mirror of Creation. Instead, the Labyrinth spread with terrifying alacrity, and the Underworld broke and crumbled like Creation itself.
Suddenly faced with more subjects (and rivals) than they could have imagined, and with no stable foundation upon which to build, the Deathlords had to spend much of their time and resources simply building a base of operations. Simply learning to survive in their new world took centuries, let alone actually taming the ghosts that dwelt there. The very landscape became inhospitable to ghost and Deathlord alike, as the Neverborn, tortured by how close they had come, writhed and vented their endless spite on the world of their nightmares.
Eventually, the Underworld settled into something resembling stability. No longer resembling Creation, or even Earth, the Underworld has become a cyclopean morass, a chthonic realm of shadowy horror where ghosts struggle against Oblivion, Lethe, and one another in an endless drama. The Deathlords themselves, more than eight thousand years removed from anything resembling humanity, have become as unspeakable as the realm they inhabit and their dark masters, alien and eldritch, ghostly puppeteers moving the strings across worlds.
When the Ebon Dragon brought the location of the Jade Prison to the attention of the Neverborn, they initially despaired. How could they possibly reach it? Their minions were mad, their gateways to Earth were more than a mile in the air, and the prison itself was guarded by the Elemental Dragons. But, of course, the Ebon Dragon had a plan. In exchange for fifty of the Exaltations, he promised to show them a secret way through Malfeas into the depths of the Earth, where the Deathlords could send their monsters to distract the Elemental Dragons. The Neverborn agreed.
As in the Creation we know, the Deathlords succeeded at opening the Jade Prison, but failed to capture all the Exaltations. Fifty were tithed to the Yozis, leaving approximately a hundred for the Neverborn. These became the Abyssal Exalted, Exalted of murder, sent to finish off the helpless world.
Two problems immediately arose. The Deathlords could still reach Earth, but the Abyssals could not conveniently return to the Underworld for training. Furthermore, even if they did, they could not logistically lead their armies back to Earth to raze it. As such, the Abyssals have found themselves mostly stranded on Earth. Some manage to learn Necromancy from the Whispers in their minds, finding doorways into the chthonian Underworld, but most have to make their own way, learning by trial and error how to use their Charms. Worse, they still bear the spark of a Solar deep within them, and without the indoctrination of the Deathlords, those sparks strive to rise up and fight for redemption.
If you choose to play one of the deathknights, what path will you walk? Will you be a force of Oblivion on Earth, murdering the world to free the Neverborn from their slaughter without their support? Will you seek redemption, to cure yourself of the Black Exaltation and become what you were meant to be? Or will you eschew both paths, and choose instead to remain what you are, an avatar of death on Earth, and carve out the shadowy, sepulchral kingdom that is your right?
Modern Abyssals are chosen by the Deathlords in the same manner as canonical Abyssals: exceptional individuals can be contacted at the moment of death and offered the Black Exaltation instead of the horror of the unknown. However, the Deathlords no longer remember how to even pretend to be human. They tempt the potential Exalted with offers of alien knowledge, power unknown, and vengeance, as always, but the Abyssals-to-be know the true nature of their patrons. Thus, most modern Abyssals lack even the illusion that they are serving some benevolent beings. Thus, they tend toward extremes: those who regret their fiendish deals almost immediately, or those who wholly embrace the nihilism of their abhorrent masters.
Abyssals in Exalted: Modern begin play with one free dot of Resistance, one free level of Ox-Body Technique, and the Charm Injury-Absorbing Discipline at no additional cost. The Abyssal Command, Liege, and Underworld Manse Backgrounds are unavailable at character creation, but can be taken later during play once the Abyssal manages to make contact with the Underworld. In all other ways, Abyssals use standard character generation rules.