The countdown to the Hell's Vengeance Adventure Path continues, as we reveal the next iconic villain that will appear in Paizo's first Adventure Path for evil characters! Today we get our first glimpse of the iconic Hellknight, Linxia Benzekri. Check out Pathfinder Adventure Path #104: Wrath of Thrune for Linxia's full stat block, and keep an eye out for the upcoming Hell's Vengeance Player's Guide, which contains all of the new iconic villains for use as pregenerated characters!
Linxia Benzekri was born and raised in Khari, the Chelish enclave on the northwest corner of Garund. Although ethnically Garundi, Linxia always thought of herself as Chelaxian. After all, Khari had been part of Cheliax since long before she was ever born, and though Linxia's parents kept their Garundi surname, they gave her a traditional Chelish first name. Her family long ago abandoned the clan ties that define many Garundi, and while Linxia's grandparents still occasionally spoke Osiriani in private, it was never spoken in her own home, and Linxia never bothered to learn her native tongue. To Linxia, the mighty ruins of the Arch of Aroden that tower above Khari were more a symbol of her heritage than the city's Rahadoumi sandstone architecture.
When Linxia was still a child, her parents sent her to an Asmodean convent. Both of Linxia's parents were successful merchants and traders, and though they were not religious, they felt it was important for their eldest child to receive a good education if she were to join the family business. At the convent, Linxia learned the grand history of Cheliax, how House Thrune unified a warring nation with the blessings of Asmodeus, and the necessity of laws based on those of Hell itself to preserve an ordered society.
Linxia returned home a teenager, now a loyal Chelish citizen ready to do her part to support the empire. But she was taken aback when she overheard her parents talking with an old family friend about a secret cabal of Garundi gentry who wanted to return Khari to "its rightful home" of Rahadoum. Horrified that her parents were involved in such a treasonous plot, Linxia reasoned that her parents' friend must have lured them into the conspiracy, so she immediately reported them to the city guard, the dottari.
That night, two Hellknights of the Order of the Rack—dressed in their characteristic night-black armor and flayed-skin cloaks—came to Linxia's house to arrest her parents for sedition. As her parents were hauled away in chains, loudly proclaiming their innocence and begging the impassive Hellknights to show mercy, Linxia only watched in silence. If her parents were truly innocent, then she trusted the law to exonerate them.
Linxia's parents were judged guilty that same night, and the next morning, Linxia went to the city square to witness their sentences: scourged with whips until their backs looked like the exposed musculature of the Hellknights' armor, crucified, and then disemboweled. Through it all, Linxia watched without emotion. She was not happy to see her parents' excruciation, but neither did she feel sadness. Even though she still believed her parents were duped, they had been found guilty of treason and had to be punished. The law had spoken.
Three days later, when her parents finally succumbed to their tortures and died, Linxia made a decision: she would become a Hellknight herself. Her parents' crime was not their own—they had been misled by a friend, and paid the price. As a member of the Order of the Rack, however, she could help protect other innocents from such dangerous whispers and prevent them from suffering the same fate. The Hellknights personified the law and order that guarded civilization and prevented it from sliding back into barbarity; people like the "friend" who had deceived her parents were criminals whose actions threatened the very fabric of society.
As a symbol of her dedication, Linxia shaved her head and got a tattoo of the Order of the Rack's symbol—a spiked torture wheel—on her forehead, so every time she looked in the mirror she would be reminded of her goal, her purpose, and the terrible consequences of failure. Linxia traveled to Avistan and presented herself at the gates of Citadel Rivad, headquarters of the Order of the Rack, and was accepted into the order as an armiger, a Hellknight squire in training.
Linxia devoted herself to her new calling, honing her mind and body for the trials that lay ahead. She had received basic combat training at the Asmodean monastery, but under the tutelage of the Hellknights, she learned to fight in heavy armor, mastered the sword and whip, and learned strategy, tactics, and engineering. When not practicing the arts of war, Linxia obsessively studied in Citadel Rivad's library, memorizing the tenets of the Hellknights' philosophy, the Measure and the Chain. To strengthen her resolve and desensitize herself to pain, Linxia regularly and willingly underwent the Order of the Rack's reckoning, purging herself of weakness and undisciplined thoughts by drinking boiling water until her throat scarred and left her voice a ragged rasp.
Before Linxia could become a full Hellknight, however, the Order of the Rack had a test for her loyalty. One of Linxia's brothers had been arrested for attempting to rekindle the spark of rebellion that had been stamped out in Khari with her parents' execution. He had been tried, found guilty, and brought to Citadel Rivad for sentencing. Without hesitation, Linxia drew her sword, and looking straight into her brother's eyes, beheaded him without remorse. Like her parents, Linxia's brother had broken the law. Justice was served.
With her training complete, her loyalty and dedication to the law tested and found sufficient, Linxia faced her final task: single combat with a summoned barbazu. All around her, many of her fellow armigers failed in this final trial, slain by the devils' barbed glaives or succumbing to infernal wounds and infections they suffered at the hands of the fiends. But Linxia succeeded, emerging bloodied but triumphant, her studies, training, and most of all, her determination, leading her to victory.
When she had recovered from her ordeal, Linxia was accorded the full rank of Hellknight and granted the symbol of her station: a suit of Hellknight plate armor, bearing the same flayed musculature motif as the Hellknights who had arrested and executed her parents. Now Linxia serves as a righteous bastion of law against the chaos of insidious knowledge, corrupt philosophies, and rebellious thought. With her sword, she enforces conformity and justice to preserve a peaceful and ordered society—no matter the cost.
Stay tuned over the coming months as we reveal more of the villains you'll see in the pages of our first evil Adventure Path, Hell's Vengeance!