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Meet the Iconics: Balazar

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

To join in all the gift giving going on today, here's a belated present for the season. Happy holidays from all of us here at Paizo Publishing!


Illustration by Wayne Reynolds

The final decade of the Age of Enthronement brought hope and innovation to the people of the Inner Sea region. In the north, Chelish explorers from Korvosa founded the city of Magnimar. In the east, Taldor and Qadira reached an uneasy peace after centuries of antagonism and open warfare. In the treacherous Mana Wastes of the south, refugees fleeing persecution in Nex settled the Duchy of Alkenstar as a beacon of light and progress in a sea of magic-warped madness. And not far away, in Nex's capital city of Quantium, the Arclords adopted an orphaned gnome child named Balazar into their most prestigious school of magical instruction.

Diligent students of the scribbles and writings of the long-lost archmage who founded that nation, the Arclords deciphered codes and texts from the margins of newly discovered spellbooks and concluded that "children of the First World" would play an important role in the magical administration of the departed wizard's kingdom. In the years before the death of Aroden, prophecy was a much more valuable currency in the lands of the Inner Sea, and in 4601 the tradition-obsessed Arclords scoured the gnome communities infesting their beloved cities for young gnomes to press into service. To prevent their great works from falling victim to what they considered a chaotic and untrustworthy race of childlike anarchists, the wizards culled only the youngest (and thus in their minds least corrupt) gnome children from their parents, imprisoning or destroying families with the temerity to go against the marginalia of the wizard who had founded the nation and declared the city open to creatures of all races so long ago. To the Arclords, any gnome resistance was a revolt against the ideals of the nation itself, akin to treason.

By 4606, the human god Aroden was dead, the power of prophecy was broken, and the Arclords' eugenics experiment was veering toward abject failure. As the gnome orphan brood developed into maturity in the decades that followed, they brought chaos and catastrophe to Quantium's magical academies. And at the center of that chaos stood Balazar: an impulsive youth with a temper to equal the bright red ferocity of his prodigious mustache, a burning match on a bed of tinder.

In the early years of his instruction, Balazar revealed almost no magical acumen whatsoever, preferring to spend his days conducting merry pranks on his fellow students and instructors instead of absorbing himself in the meticulous study of the Arclords' curriculum. When one such prank resulted in the transmutation of an instructor's tower into a living being of elemental stone (thanks in part to a mysterious glowing rock pilfered from the school's vaults), Balazar and three gnome associates found themselves expelled from the academy, exiled from Quantium, and sent on the first wagon train to Ecanus, the sprawling southern city whose world-famous fleshforges churned out a legion of horrors to bolster Nex's armies and terrorize its squalid countryside.

The Ecanus assignment was intended exclusively as punishment, but the city's masters welcomed the gnomes with open arms, eager that their unconventional attitudes, boundless creativity, and unpredictable obsessions might aid them in conquering one of the most enduring mysteries of the monumental fleshforges. For deep within the dungeons below the military complex, in a room designed by the Archmage Nex himself, lay an extraplanar rift known as the Void Chasm, a shaft of sheer sides and cloying, multicolored mists that had driven insane all who had previously gazed within it.

One by one, Balazar's gnome associates gazed within the abyss, and one by one they lost their tenuous grip on reality. Balazar watched in horror as the color drained from their hair and skin, as if the whole of their life from birth to bleaching transpired within the span of a few moments. When the emotional strain grew too great and the gnomes cried out in anguish, the pitiless fleshforge instructors pushed them into the trench, where their howls soon faded beneath the swirling mists. If the gnomes could not discover the purpose of the Void Chasm, the administrators reasoned, perhaps a sacrifice to the unknown powers below would do the trick.

As he stood on the precipice of the Void, Balazar wondered if perhaps he should have studied more diligently in the relative comfort of Quantium's academies. Reluctantly, he cast his gaze into the miasma and felt the weird energies of the Chasm worming their way into his mind. Worse, he heard whispering voices in the mists, calling out to him and begging him to step over the edge. At first he thought the voices to be those of his lost fellow gnomes, and called back to them one by one even as the color drained from his hair and he felt his mind slipping away. But the voices were not those of his friends. They belonged to… something else.

It took all of Balazar's limited concentration to sift the many voices from each other. Some were angry, demanding to be left alone. Others beckoned with honeyed words of sweet oblivion. But one voice among the tumult spoke softly and plainly. "I will help you," it said in reassuring tones. "Give me form and allow me to leave this prison, and you and I will become as one."

With the hands of the fleshforge administrators on his shoulders, about to give the final push that would send him into nothingness, Balazar tried to imagine what the voice would look like. He dreamed of a creature with a vast serpentine body, with grasping talons and horrifying scales. And, perhaps because he had not eaten that day and was growing hungry, he imagined the voice speaking through the beak of a monstrous chicken. And then, just as he felt the muscles of his captors tense for the final push, the creature he had imagined emerged from the Void Chasm fully formed and fully real, screaming a hideous avian cry and weaving through the air with serpentine grace. Its claws tore at the necks of the administrators, its hideous beak making a mess of their unbelieving eyes. And all along, in reassuring tones only he could hear, it spoke to him. "Do not be afraid, little one," it said. "We were meant to be together."

Somehow, Balazar and the avian entity that called itself Padrig managed to win their way free of the fleshforges, of Ecanus, and even of Nex. As he fled up the eastern coast of Garund on a succession of merchant and smuggler vessels, Balazar and Padrig grew closer and closer to one another. Padrig explained that he was a bodiless being known as an eidolon, and that only Balazar could give him structure and form due to the affinity of their minds and souls. As the gnome made his way from Nex to Katapesh to Absalom, Balazar grew more and more adept at shifting Padrig's form to add more legs, terrible wings, or other features fitting the dangers and situations at hand. When things got too dangerous to be seen with a magical creature or when discretion was more important than protection, Balazar dismissed Padrig to some extraplanar hidey-hole, only to call him once again to his side when needed.

Although a great deal of the young Balazar's mischievous spirit remains, the horror of the Void Chasm remains with him to this day. Other gnomes often confuse his stark white hair for a symptom of the insidious bleaching that threatens all gnomekind, but through his constant and relentless travels Balazar remains as engaged and full of life as any of his healthy gnome brethren. When other gnomes inquire about his "condition" with the best of intentions, Balazar sometimes flies into an impatient fit of grumpiness, chastising his would-be helpers and instructing them to mind their own business.

Privacy is very, very important to Balazar, for the Nexian wizards he betrayed have not forgotten his singular mastery of the Void Chasm. Agents of the Arclords of Nex dog his travels at every stop, pushing him further and further away with each season. Balazar knows that each new stop—however temporary—will provide him with ample opportunity to learn new things and meet new people, to master the magical craft that always eluded him in Nex, and to do honor to the friends and colleagues he left behind. Despite occasional moments of maudlin reflection on all he has lost, Balazar takes comfort in his enduring friendship with the eidolon he recued from oblivion so long ago. As long as he travels with Padrig, he knows he will never be alone.

Erik Mona
Publisher

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Tags: Balazar Iconics Meet the Iconics Summoners Wayne Reynolds
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10 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Truly, this is a Christmas miracle! All hail Eric Mona, who has returned to bless us with this most noble of gifts. Seriously, this is awesome! It's good to see this done, and I'm sure you're glad to not have to deal with all the "Where's Balthazar" comments.


11 people marked this as a favorite.

w00t! Delightfully horrific, creepy, and... heartwarming? I definitely want to see Balthazar and Padrig in an AP.

And as I seem perpetually hungry for bacon cheeseburgers, I am both disturbed and intrigued by what form my eidelon would take.


9 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

He stared into the Abyss, and the Abyss stared back into him.

This was a really cool story. It gives an interesting origin for Balazar's summoner powers, while also tackling some of the mystery of eidolons on Golarion. Makes sense that they might be connected to Nex- he of the extradimensional/planar tendencies.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Maps, Modules, PFS RPG Subscriber

Nice.


Huzzah!!


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Merry Christmas to everyone at Paizo!

and here's hoping for peace on earth, but not Golarion:)

Scarab Sages

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

At last! *sheds a Christmas tear*

Silver Crusade

Yay!!!!!!


Fantastic. Truly top notch.

Silver Crusade

12 people marked this as a favorite.

Way to Grinch it up, Nex.

did not expect the chickensnake's origin to be that touching ;_;


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Very gnome-y.

Shadow Lodge

HUZZAH!!

Shadow Lodge

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Cool

Now you just have 11 more to do after the ACG.


This is one of my favorites of these stories, and the first that made wish I was actually playing the character!

Shadow Lodge

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Balthazar got a cool Christmas gift, and his story was cool Christmas gift. Very Gnomish. Thank you.

New Years Resolution for Balthazar: Be in a AP.


Well, damn. Good thing I didn't take that bet on that an ACG class would get a back story first.

Silver Crusade

Nice synchronicity between Balazar/Padrig and Lini/Droogami's origins too. :)


4 people marked this as a favorite.

Nice! This little bit of flavor has allowed me to understand the Summoner just a tad bit better.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

BEST CHRISTMAS EVER!


Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Cards, Companion, Maps, Modules, Pawns, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Kthulhu wrote:

Cool

Now you just have 11 more to do after the ACG.

11? There are only 10 new classes in the ACG.

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32, 2011 Top 4

Well worth the wait!
And to all a good night!


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Nice.

Quote:
And, perhaps because he had not eaten that day and was growing hungry, he imagined the voice speaking through the beak of a monstrous chicken.

I laughed.

Lantern Lodge

Pathfinder Tales Subscriber

Taste like chicken, if chicken tasted like Eidolon!

Shadow Lodge

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Gnomes are silly.

But I think this is a good silly.

Contributor

Valantrix1 wrote:
Nice! This little bit of flavor has allowed me to understand the Summoner just a tad bit better.

That was my favorite part; the idea that the eidolon needed Balazar to give it a corporeal form was neat.

That said, it was a little predictable, the story's language felt a tad repetitive, and compared to other Meet the Iconics, it feels rushed. (Compared to Irmjika's specifically, which is longer and has a less linear story structure to it.)

That said, it was nice to see this finished at last! Hopefully now that someone has penned a possible place where a summoner's eidolon comes from, we'll see more done with the class in the future.

You know, if someone can figure out a way to make the class less complicated and less incredibly easy to break apart into sharp, campaign-rupturing pieces. :)

Sczarni

Yay, good backstory for ol' Balazar! He's pretty adorable.


Kinda hard to believe that Nex's national alignment is neutral in light of this story. They seem pretty evil.


THANK YOU!!! Having been in love with the Summoner concept, I have been waiting for this for so long. Absolutely not disappointed!

Paizo Employee Publisher, Chief Creative Officer

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Axial wrote:
Kinda hard to believe that Nex's national alignment is neutral in light of this story. They seem pretty evil.

Much of this story took place over a century ago. It also deals with the Arclords of Nex and the Fleshforges of Ecanus, neither of which I would classify as "good guys".

Dark Archive

4 people marked this as a favorite.
Erik Mona wrote:

It also deals with the Arclords of Nex and the Fleshforges of Ecanus, neither of which I would classify as "good guys".

The Fleshforges sounds like the sort of place where the 'mad wizard' who first created the owlbear would be hailed as a visionary, and find steady employment...

And none of those owls or bears were volunteers!

Shadow Lodge

12 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

gosh, balazar's so lucky. all i got from staring into the void was this incessant drumming stuck in my head.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Path, Tales Subscriber

So glad to see the last of the current crop of iconics get his due.

Now to wait in anticipation for the ACG iconics!


6 people marked this as a favorite.
hxcmike wrote:
gosh, balazar's so lucky. all i got from staring into the void was this incessant drumming stuck in my head.

I'm sure you can see a Doctor about that.

Dark Archive Vendor - Fantasiapelit Tampere

5 people marked this as a favorite.

This was great! I absolutely loved it. I hope to see Balazar in comics soon! And please, make a miniature for padrig.

Sczarni

Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Cards, Companion, Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber

Padrig ? The Nothrog wizard from Warlords of Accordlands ?


Man, I really like Nex's magical meddlings!


Christmas present of the year!


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion Subscriber

Good backstory


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Erik Mona wrote:

It also deals with the Arclords of Nex and the Fleshforges of Ecanus, neither of which I would classify as "good guys".

I'm noticing a very strong "Science is Bad" vibe here. Am I interpreting this right?

Paizo Employee Publisher, Chief Creative Officer

6 people marked this as a favorite.

Not in the case of the Arclords. That would be more of a "dogma is bad" sort of thing. The Arclords, after all, try to glean Nex's intent from diaries and marginalia, some of which is probably fake and all of which is thousands of years old.


Is there some book besides the Inner Sea World Guide which has more information about Nex (the person and the country)?


Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Legends Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber
NoncompliAut wrote:
Is there some book besides the Inner Sea World Guide which has more information about Nex (the person and the country)?

The Legacy of Fire Adventure Path has at least some more information about the person, particularly book 4. I've only played through it so I don't know more than that.


Kerney wrote:

Balthazar got a cool Christmas gift, and his story was cool Christmas gift. Very Gnomish. Thank you.

New Years Resolution for Balthazar: Be in a AP.

Maybe we can convince JJ to play nice and let Balazar be in his AP ;)

Ha! Yeah, right.

Grand Lodge

1 person marked this as a favorite.
AlgaeNymph wrote:
Erik Mona wrote:

It also deals with the Arclords of Nex and the Fleshforges of Ecanus, neither of which I would classify as "good guys".

I'm noticing a very strong "Science is Bad" vibe here. Am I interpreting this right?

I would say that it's more of a matter the dangers of unbridled hubris with no regard to the price paid by others which is the true evil. The fleshwarpers after all had no compunction against sacrificing anyone in thier aimless persuit of power. (not the sake of knowledge, but to develop weapons for war). Unless you are of the opinion that such searches excuse any harm inflicted in the process, you should not be seeing a science persecution theme in this story.

Mary Shelley did not write her novel because she believed that science over all was evil. It was mostly a cautionary against people like Lord Bryon, whom it is believed she took as a template in developing the character of Dr. Frankenstein.


Interesting, and whatta 'stache!

Silver Crusade

This is an awesome Christmas treat. I love the story, and it just made that character and class more interesting. Thank you. Great job Erick.


It's a Christmas miracle! I've been waiting for this character be expanded on since this site first started exploring the origins of its iconics. Of course now I'm only more curious to learn more about these two, hope they pop up in the comics at some point!


An awesome backstory to go with that pimpin' outfit. Cool. Made me like both gnomes and summoners a lot more.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Maps, Pawns, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Love it! More! Please!

Silver Crusade

Just realized that the timing of this was doubly fitting what with Balazar and Padrig being on the previous year's Christmas card. :)

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