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 present the iconic assassin, Emil Kovkorin. Check out Pathfinder Adventure Path #105: The Inferno Gate for Emil'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!
Emil became the source of great scandal when he was born to a pair of affluent merchants in the Andoren capital of Almas. Normally a tiefling in Andoran wouldn't raise many eyebrows; however, Emil's parents were former nobles who had refused to face exile and instead grudgingly capitulated to the growing zeitgeist that gripped Andoran during the People's Revolt. Though they had never roused enough ire to warrant a visit from the Eagle Knights, the Kovkorins were quite vocal about their dissenting opinions on the eradication of the aristocracy, often clashing with their nation's lofty, democratic ideals.
Emil's parents tried to hide the boy's fiendish nature from the public, but the young tiefling's distinctive tail—and the smoke that poured out of his differently colored eyes whenever his emotions got the better of him—made their attempts futile. Convinced that the old money in Andoran took part in seditious practices against the government, rabble-rousers pointed at Emil as proof that the former nobility were truly loyal to themselves, House Thrune, and even Hell itself. Enemies of Emil's family used the boy as a rallying point for those who shared their views about Andoran's overthrown class system, and fingered the family for being part of the Seven Houses, a conspiracy of one-time nobles who still used their wealth to influence the nation.
In truth, Emil's parents did indeed belong to the Seven Houses, and had recently accepted a large sum of money and promises for security from House Thrune in exchange for swaying votes in the People's Council in favor of laws that might benefit Cheliax and delivering information on Eagle Knight activities. At first, these accusations hardly mattered to the furious noble couple, who had faced the same opposition before. However, they saw their Hell-spawned son as a political liability and locked him away in a cellar beneath their impressive manor house. But when the Eagle Knights finally came calling to their estate, Emil's parents chose exile over death, and abandoned their 8-year-old son along with their other gifts from House Thrune.
The estate fell to the government, and a few weeks later, the bureaucrat who came to catalog the new assets—an elderly minister of trade and commerce from the Demarchy Assembly—discovered Emil in the basement, sitting in a cloud of smoke and tears. Whether in an act of egalitarian charity or wily foresight, the minister adopted Emil as his ward, taking the boy back to his home.
For the first time in his life, Emil freely walked the streets of his home city, though he soon learned that his noble heritage attracted as much negative attention as his fiendish one. He quickly became deft with disguises—much more so than his parents had been. He found that he enjoyed the feeling of power that came with anonymity and a changeable identity in these undercover excursions, though he struggled to find an identity that fit him. Under various guises he fought in brawls down in Portside, spied on the logging operations in Timberfell, and snuck in to performances in the Theater District.
He also had a taste of his parents' former high-class lifestyle, thanks to his mentor. The old man groomed the lad for a landscape of political intrigue, paying for a swordfighting trainer and bringing Emil along to dinners, balls, and other high-society functions in Almas. Emil never wore a disguise at these events, at his mentor's request; the crafty politician liked how the tiefling's eerie eyes unsettled his political opponents.
Emil delighted in this as well, and soon began finding other ways to subtly advance his mentor's agendas—in secret, of course. A rival politician might lose an important document, for example, or an uncooperative union organizer might get in a fight with a stranger on the street and end up with a broken jaw. Emil never cared much about the actual politics involved, but thrilled to see his power displayed in his targets' suffering. With each misdeed, Emil's schemes grew increasingly cruel, vindictive, and enjoyable.
All this came to a head one day when Emil returned home to find his mentor fretting about international trade negotiations. A Drumish diplomat apparently had some incriminating evidence against Emil's patron, and threatened to expose everything unless Druma received extraordinarily generous terms. With sudden inspiration, Emil excused himself calmly and walked down the hall to his chamber, his eyes wafting trails of smoke in barely contained excitement.
Later that night, a half-elven Eagle Knight approached the Drumish embassy—which had once been the mansion of Emil's parents—with an urgent message for the diplomat to be delivered to his hands only. The earnest young Eagle Knight was granted an audience, and as soon as he and the diplomat were alone in the mirror-trimmed parlor, the disguised Emil pounced, driving a dagger up through the man's jaw. As the would-be blackmailer bled out in the tiefling's arms, Emil caught his reflection in one of the large silver mirrors on the wall. Smoke coursed from his eyes—one black, one red—and the warm blood flecking his skin made his sharp-toothed grin all the wider.
As he dropped the lifeless body to the ground, he realized he'd been searching for this identity all along, the mask he would wear forevermore: he would be the face of death in Almas.
Since that night, Emil has claimed dozens of unsuspecting lives—sometimes for gold, sometimes for fun. He has never lost the thrill of walking in public disguised, knowing he possesses the power to end the life of any person he meets on the street unnoticed. Nor has he forgotten the exhilaration of watching a victim die, not even when he took a bag of gold from a Lumber Consortium officer to end the life of his adopted father.
Emil doesn't frequent state events anymore unless he is working, but he is intimately familiar with the already-rotting underbelly of the ruling class in the young nation of Andoran, and takes contracts from government officials as often as from those with more private interests. Each time he kills, he lingers to watch death take hold of his new victim before vanishing back into the night, leaving nothing more than a few wisps of smoke.
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!