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Incoming Wall Of Text, summary at the bottom.
I was slightly frustrated about a small section of Szuriel's backstory: Before she jumped off the slippery slope, Szuriel was considered a holy woman on some planet other than Golarion. Her article in "Rasputin Must Die!" tells us that she was a Paladin, meaning that she had to be Lawful Good before she lost her faith. Why she lost her faith is also up for questioning, as neither "Book of the Damned" nor "Rasputin Must Die" showed me any concrete information. They only said that her excommunication was for reasons unknown.
But who did she worship? Neither book mention who she believed in, and while "Rasputin" showed one of her practices being desecrating temples and holy symbols of Iomedae, she is such a common god that Iomedae might be too obvious of a choice.
But something in the iconography of Iomedae's symbol struck me. Iomedae bears a sword as her holy symbol, and priest of Szuriel usually invert the symbol as a sign of blasphemy. This way, they invoke the holy symbol of Szuriel, a sword with the blade pointed up. A black sword specifically, but not just any black sword; it represents Szuriel's weapon, the Lamentation of the Faithless.
I reread "Book of the Damned" again, specifically about Szuriel and her weapon. The Lamentation of the Faithless is mentioned as being wielded by every Horseman of War since the first. Yet, in her article in "Rasputin", Ortaro of the Ten Thousand Screams, her predecessor, wasn't noted as having it.
"Szuriel personally struck [Ortaro] down with her ebon-bladed sword."
So if Ortaro was the Horseman of War at the time, why didn't he wield Lamentation of the Faithless?
But then the weapon's implied history gave me a thought: Lamentation of the Faithless is implied to be the long-lost weapon of the empyreal lord, Melek Taus. Little is known about Melek Taus except the fact that she has been long since missing from Heaven. The reason why she is missing is unknown. Yet her blade is in Abaddon, in the hands of the Horsewoman of War, and it has been there since the first Horseman of War.
So if Melek Taus's weapon is there, why isn't she with it? For that answer, I go back to the "Book of the Damned". In it is a location known as The Menagerie. The Menagerie is a one-way portal from Nirvana to Abaddon, opened by angelic and agathionic forces to rescue the soul of a dead saint nabbed from the astral plane. Unfortunately for them, the daemons were already there, waiting to strike on both enemy forces. And so the angels and agathion were decimated. What makes this area so pertinent to my theory is that the book doesn't say who exactly fought there. Yes, the Four Horsemen are mentioned, but there are no mention of any specific Horsemen or Empyreal Lords that fought in the battle.
So this is what I see happening: Melek Taus took part in the battle of The Menagerie during an early period of Abaddonian history, back when the Four Horsemen were the first of their kind. Considering that they're the first, many of them would be seen as prototypes, barring Charon, the first and only Horseman of Death. Melek Taus is considered slain by the first Horseman of War and her weapon is presumably taken as a trophy, later becoming Lamentation of the Faithless.
But what if this was all planned?
As I've said before, little is known about Melek Taus. She was an Empyreal Lord in ancient history, and considered powerful or notable enough to have her own spot in Heaven. She also made her own form of unarmed combat, known as Melekatha. But if her designated weapon was a greatsword, then why did she make an unarmed fighting style?
The answer is simple, but an extensive reach: Melek Taus loved war. She loved it so much that she led every Horseman of War since the first.
I know that is a huge leap in logic, but it makes a disturbing amount of sense if you pile all of the evidence together. How did the Four know how to kidnap a priest and ambush the angels and agathions? Melek Taus told them how. If she is dead, then how is she still helping the Horseman of War? I said she was "considered" slain, and who is to say she didn't transfer her conscious into her sword just before she died? That way, she would be still considered sympathetic to the angelic forces, they would pay her respects and move on. "Melek Taus" would fade into obscurity, while Lamentation of the Faithless would live on.
So why are there so many Horsemen of War wielding Lamentation of the Faithless?
Perhaps Melek Taus didn't like the first Horseman of War. Maybe they were too crude or too boorish for their tastes. So Melek Taus, in the form of the ebon-bladed sword, simply leaves for short periods of time in search of better candidates. Over generations of Daemon-kind, she searched for mortal wielders capable of showing the intelligence, the strength, and, most importantly, the moral conviction to further the title of Horseman of War.
It is over these generations that she finds better and better candidates to corrupt and mold into her perfect wielder. Once she has suitably corrupted them, they die at the apex of their monstrosity, where their souls are automatically sent to Abaddon and become Harbingers. From there, Melek Taus can easily observe and manipulate the quarrels of the Harbingers, ensuring that the current Horseman of War stays in his place until he is dethroned by her latest champion.
And what better champion than one of her former paladins, so maddened by an engineered betrayal and excommunication that she conquers possibly an entire world? After all, Melek Taus was once Lawful Good too.
In regards to Melek Taus's characterization, she is a blank slate; anything is possible with her. She could be more violent than Vildeis and more of a fallen demigod that Mahathallah. So why not her, especially when she has such a distinct connection to the Horseman of War?
To summarize my madcap theory: The long lost and forgotten Empyreal Lord Melek Taus is secretly Lamentation of the Faithless, the signature weapon of every Horseman of War to ever exist. As Lamentation, she has chosen and corrupted candidates to better serve as the Horseman of War, the most current wielder being Szuriel.
I know this theory is a HUGE reach and might make me look like Charlie Day in the "Pepe Silvia" scene, but DAMN, if this wasn't fun to write up!
I like it, too. Not sure I see how Melekatha fits in, though. When would Melekatha have been created?
I am uncertain when Melekatha was created as its only mention is in the Player Companion Book "Cheliax: Empire of Devils", and even then, it only lists Melek Taus being the creator and its connection/rivalry with Hamatulatsu.
|Todd Stewart Contributor|
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My opinion on the issue isn't canonical since I'm not a Paizo employee, but my assumption is that Rasputin Must Die was in error in its statement. The intention of the other published material on the topic in BotD3, Bestiary 6, etc is that Lamentation of the Faithless vastly predates Szuriel and has been a badge of office for the Horseman of War well prior to Szuriel holding the position.
In all fairness the text in RMD doesn't point out that Szuriel wielded Lamentation of the Faithless at the time she slew Ortaro. It's a reasonable assumption given the wording, but it's also possible to say that she was already wielding a black-bladed sword at the time and conveniently replaced it with Lamentation of the Faithless once she formally claimed the position of Horseman. She might have simply been a rather proud harbinger wielding a sword that would provide her the iconography of her desired position well in advance of having said position.
|Todd Stewart Contributor|
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That all being said, this is a really awesome bit of speculative world-building on your part. It's highly dependent on Melek Taus's true nature of course, and outside of a few things, they've been... de-emphasized... in canon since their original mention - they didn't appear in Chronicle of the Righteous for instance when it would have been a good place to expand on them a bit.
Of course their nature and what exactly happened to them is an intentionally open-ended subject precisely because it lets individual GMs go in wildly different directions with Melek Taus the Peacock Angel depending on their own campaign needs. The direction that I went with her in my own home game is likely wildly at odds with what many would do, and that was the point of being so nebulous about the lore in the first place. :)
I like your take on her here.
|Todd Stewart Contributor|
I'm personally glad that they're decanonizing the Peacock Angel, for reasons best left unmentioned here. :/
I'm not actually sure why (but I'm certainly open to elaboration here or via note, etc). Obviously it's inspired by Yazidism, but that in itself is heavily syncretic, and Pathfinder has never shied away from using divinities or legendary beings from real world religion or from mystical traditions and sources arising up from them (Christian and Jewish mysticism providing tons of demons and devil's for instance).
Melek Taus in PF has largely just been an obscure and ideally referential tip of the hat to the source. The overt material doesn't carry any fate or nature of the archon's absence by intent.