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Baernaloths, also known as the Baern, were legendary fiends of the Gray Wastes, as devoid of emotion and color as the plane itself and among the multiverse's biggest enigmas. Thought to be a type of yugoloth, rumors claimed they spawned not just the daemons, but also the demons, demodands, and devils, and they allegedly knew the most about all creatures of the Lower Planes.
Baernaloths were gaunt, gangly fiends that stood 8 feet (2.4 meters) tall and had long, lanky limbs. Their gray skin dripped with pus and was pulled taut over their skeletons. Their oversized heads resembled the horned skulls of cattle or rams, with glassy eyes that leaked a vile yellow fluid and huge mouths consisting of nothing but teeth and a tongue.
Part of what made baernaloths so mystifying was their complete emotional detachment from the world around them. They brought strife and anguish to others through agonizing torture, foiling plans, spreading devastating rumors regardless of truth, or otherwise worsening the world. What was perplexing about their behavior, however, was that their acts of cruelty seemingly served no goal, whether for pragmatic reasons or personal pleasure. They spread misery as if they were machines, going about bringing sorrow with a mechanical methodology free from greater purpose or sadistic desire. Despite their disturbing disinterest in the pain of their victims, they committed their vile deeds without remorse or reluctance.
While most baernaloths viewed torturing as an autotelic activity and scoffed at the scheming of other yugoloths, there were a select few that possessed an inclination for planning. Known as the Demented, these baernaloths suffered from a mysterious madness, characterized not by disconnection from reality, but by a feeling of aspiration that was otherwise absent in baernaloths. Embracing both law and chaos, Demented baernaloths sought to subjugate various creatures of the Lower Planes in order to bring about the utter annihilation of all reality.
The baernaloths were thought to have been far more powerful in ancient times long before the Blood War, able to warp the bodies and minds of powerful celestials with mere speech, but their strength had waned over time.
A baernaloth had a pair of uncanny abilities that allowed it to further sow discord and suffering. If a target was within 30 feet (9.1 meters) and within their sight, any wound caused by the baernaloth's teeth or claws could be instantly and painfully reopened. This could be done three times per day so long as the wound was inflicted within 24 hours. Conversely, the damage caused by their claws could be instantly undone following the same stipulations, disregarding the need for line of sight. They also possessed several spell-like abilities related to mental manipulation, mind reading, and supernatural detection.
Whether magical or mundane, baernaloths refused to use weapons or equipment, instead relying on their natural abilities. They were intelligent enough to lead others if they were compelled to and were smart enough to utilize their healing ability in combat without jeopardizing themselves.
Baernaloths intentionally isolated themselves from yugoloth society, having long since vanished into the Gray Wastes and making no efforts to migrate to Gehenna with most other yugoloths. They lived as hermits, making lairs within towers so twisted and desolate that even denizens of Hades would find them menacing. Though they often wandered in solitude, baernaloths occasionally had companions in the form of night hags or nightmares.
Despite making themselves outcasts among the yugoloths, baernaloths were put on a pedestal far above what their relatively weak physical and magical abilities would suggest. Most yugoloths knew of their creation myth and so the baernaloths were very highly regarded.
The ultroloths in particular sought audience with the baernaloths, whether for guidance or power, but with few finding them, some never returning, and most merely left empty-handed. The General of Gehenna himself was well-known for his reliance on the knowledge of the baernaloths, and since baernaloths only advised ultroloths they saw as deserving, by whatever metric they used to determine worthiness, most others settled for asking the General.
The baernaloths most likely to be encountered were the Demented, as their desire to act drove them to work with others, whether baernaloths or otherwise. Some led parties of miscellaneous fiends in the Blood War, while some of the most prominent ultroloths were fortunate enough to have Demented as willing advisors and confidants. Anthraxus himself had a small personal guard of baernaloths that helped him locate and destroy his greatest enemies.
History and Rumors
Due to their absence from the Book of Keeping and the seeming inability of other yugoloths to become baernaloths, it was long thought that baernaloths were not truly yugoloths at all, but a more ancient and primal force. According the the Book of Derelict Magicks, a yugoloth history book written by a possibly mad daemon, the baernaloths were the original spawn of evil itself. In an attempt to win their never-ending war against each other, the forces of Good, Evil, Law, and Chaos created creatures to serve their will, with the baernaloths being the primordial children of Evil.
It was purported that the baernaloths created the yugoloths after uncountable eons of sagacious contemplation, supposedly in the 20 mi (32 km) deep pit that would become Khin-Oin, with intent that their minions carry out their edicts to achieve ultimate victory for evil. This origin story was also linked to the most explanatory creation myth of the gehreleths, which supposed they were also created by a baernaloth known as Apomps. It was said that when Apomps and the other baernaloths were deciding the shape that their evil creations should take, Apomps went off on his own and ended up shunned for his chaos-tainted creations. A different version stated that he had made the gehreleths from yugoloth corpses (and horribly disfigured himself in the process), duplicating the yugoloth-creation process to breathe life into beings completely loyal to himself, though the end result was still bitter exile and oaths of vengeance.
Furthering the claims of creation by the baernaloths was the existence of immeasurably ancient texts that asserted both the obyriths and an ancient race of Baatorians were made by the yugoloths, although few outside of Gehenna and Hades believed them. Some said Pale Night, the so-called Mother of Demons, coupled with a baernaloth to spawn some of her Abyssal children, though similar stories substituted the baernaloths with other evil beings and all seemed based more on bias than fact. Bechard, an obyrith lord dying all too slowly in Yeenoghu's realm, sometimes told somber tales to those he trusted about a race of creators the obyriths abandoned before migrating to the Abyss, though only a fragment of his once vast sentience remained. One of the oldest obyriths, Cabiri, was thought to have learned some truth about the obyriths' creation during his Abyssal explorations after the tanar'ri uprising that led him to confront the obscure baernaloths, information sufficient enough for them to engineer his imprisonment in the still-young Wells of Darkness and prompt the retained interest of the yugoloths.
The baernaloths' true motivation behind the creation of the various fiendish races was fiercely debated among scholars. While some thought they were master visionaries that saw the course of creation and the best path for evil as a whole, others believed they merely wanted puppets who would create opportunities for them to exploit. Some reports claimed that the baernaloths created the first demon lords and archdevils to keep an eye on the respective races, though many alternative histories for both races existed, and supposedly after both tanar'ri and baatezu rose to prominence, the Baern suddenly left in ones and threes to the corners of Hades. However, considering the moral characters of both the ultroloths and baernaloths, it was not implausible that all of this was an intentional deception perpetuated by both, and that the creation myths were mere fabrication.
The baernaloths themselves claimed not to be responsible for the creation of the yugoloths, an idea supported by more recent reports that the yugoloths were a commission by Asmodeus provided by the night hags. The claim that only ultroloths could locate them was also contradicted by rumors of mortals doing that very thing, although according to those who allegedly did, the baernaloths admitted to only advising certain ultroloths. The fact that their enigmatic secrets were only confirmed to be true by the ultroloths themselves made it entirely possible that the creation myth was simply furthered by the ultroloths to justify their rule, if not outright invented.
Despite the myriad of suspicions surrounding their origins, the baernaloth influence on all fiends was near undeniable. Some theorized it was they who granted the night hags of Hades the ritual for the creation of altraloths, said by one Sigilian historian to be the result of the baernaloths trying to improve their creations like Apomps did, though given their general apathy, this explanation was often discounted. One baernaloth was believed to have engineered the release of the Marilith Queen Shaktari from the Wells of Darkness with intent to stoke the flames of the Blood War and escalate its violence. The Baern seemed to know more about all fiends and lower-planar creatures than any individual source and even if not their creators, they almost certainly possessed varied secrets and lost lore regarding the many forces of darkness.
- A blind, mad baernoloth called Harishek ap Thulkesh, otherwise known as the Blind Clockmaker, made his home in a demiplane known as the Clockwork Gap along with his terrifying creations.
- Daru Ib Shaitiiq was a baernaloth that didn't care for the yugoloth hierarchy, their plans, or even his own life in particular. He had experienced an emotion on the edge of remorse for his hand in turning the once celestial being Maeldur into a tool of the yugoloths.
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