The Hell's Vengeance Adventure Path is here, and it's time to reveal the final iconic villain for Paizo's first Adventure Path for evil characters! Today we present the iconic necromancer, Nyctessa. Pathfinder Adventure Path #108: Hell Comes to Westcrown will contain Nyctessa's full stat block. You can also download the Hell's Vengeance Player's Guide, which contains all of the new iconic villains for use as pregenerated characters!
In the nation of Geb, the dead far outnumber the living—and they hold the reins of political power. Most of Geb's living citizens are slaves, chattel, or most gruesomely, food for their undead overlords. Nyctessa was born into this world, yet she straddled both sides of class and society, being a dhampir—the child of a vampire and a living human mother. The heart of a living being beats in her chest, but her flesh is infused with the negative energy that animates the living dead, and she inherited her vampiric father's taste for blood. In the laws of Geb at least, Nyctessa was neither wholly alive nor truly dead.
Nyctessa's father was one of the Blood Lords, the undead necromancers who form the elite of Geb's aristocracy; her mother, a slave concubine in her father's harem. Throughout Nyctessa's childhood, both her father and mother were distant figures. She was nursed by loyal human slaves, raised by ghoul governesses, and educated by vampire tutors. She was allowed to see her mother only a few times a week, and her father even less. Nevertheless, Nyctessa always remained aware of being groomed to be her father's heir. Everyone expected her to follow in his footsteps, study necromancy, become a vampire, and eventually perhaps, centuries later, inherit his position in Gebbite society and government as one of the undying Blood Lords. She dutifully enrolled in Mechitar's prestigious Ebon Mausoleum, the same academy of necromancy her father had attended centuries earlier, and she excelled in all her studies.
When Nyctessa came of age, the time arrived when she would be presented to Mechitar society and join the social and political scene of Geb's capital city. Most of the young nobles making their debut that night were the newly made spawn of penanggalens, wraiths, vampires, and other undead, but some were the skittish, living offspring of the few mortal Blood Lords who still clung to life. Nyctessa was the only dhampir, and she could feel the mocking stares of her peers, judging her, pitying her even. Neither dead nor alive.
In the early morning, before the sun rose, Nyctessa's father presented her with a gift as the ball wound down: her mother. Nyctessa knew what he expected of her. They embraced and Nyctessa sank her teeth into her mother's neck. She greedily drank the blood, gorged herself on it, and felt a heady rush of power as her mother's drained, lifeless body sank to the floor. Her father watched in silence. Nyctessa had taken the first real step toward becoming his heir.
Nyctessa returned to the Ebon Mausoleum to finish her studies, but during that time, she could not help thinking of her mother's death at her own hands. It was expected. Morality didn't even enter into it. Nyctessa had been told over and over by her governesses and tutors that no life—or death—equaled her own. Her mother had been chattel, and Nyctessa the scion of a noble house. And her mother's blood had tasted good. Almost from the moment of her birth, Nyctessa had been trained for one role, one destiny. Her future was planned out to the tiniest detail. Only now, she questioned whether that would be enough.
At her graduation, Nyctessa's father presented another gift: a staff made from her mother's spine and skull with which to form her arcane bond. This was the last straw, the last nail in her proverbial coffin. The staff was a symbol of her father's power over her, over her future, and the rest of her existence. She could not just allow him to steal all of that possibility from her. She would not just be a pawn in his centuries-long strategies and political maneuverings.
Nyctessa left Mechitar that night, paying for passage on a ship to Jalmeray. She took her staff with her, but did not say goodbye to anyone. Before she would promise herself to death, she would see what life had to offer. Nyctessa journeyed to Jalmeray, Katapesh, Qadira, and beyond to Taldor, Andoran, and Cheliax. She left behind her family name, her father's name, and during these travels, she witnessed life itself. A grubby, hardscrabble existence, always grasping for more—more food, more money, more land, more meaning, only to see it all stolen away when death inevitably arrived. A meaningless exercise, and always far too brief.
Nyctessa chose to live, but only until she had triumphed over life completely. She would be one of the immortal, the eternal, the deathless, what mortals call the living dead—eventually. She would return home and claim her birthright, but on her own terms, through her own skills and abilities. She would not become a mindless automaton, a starving ghoul, a thirsting vampire, or even a rotting lich, but something different, something new, something uniquely Nyctessa. She would do whatever it took. She would let nothing stand in her way. Nyctessa would find the answer within herself and her magic, and she would forever bridge the divide between life and death.