Zargon was an elder evil of unknowable origin, an eldritch abomination entombed under the ruins of a fallen city for his vile ways. The Devourer in the Depths demanded his endless voracity be sated, and if freed, would try to conquer the world and drown it in torrents of slime. Known as the Invincible Tyrant for his indestructability, even the ancient immortals could only trap him, for even if killed, Zargon always returned.
Zargon was a truly repellent monstrosity, a horrifying, vaguely humanoid figure whose only resemblance to ordinary beings was a head, torso, and shoulders. His exact height was unclear, but his hulking mass loomed over most others; from the ground to his horn tip, he was about 30 ft (9.1 m) tall, but he had been reported to stand as low as 15 ft (4.6 m) and tower to nearly 35 ft (11 m). The calloused flesh of his muscular torso bore marks from endless injuries, crisscrossed with oozing wounds, cankerous tumors, and smoking clots formed from the dribbling brown slime that fell from his chin.
Instead of arms, Zargon had knots of flesh at each of his shoulders, three on each side, from which six long tentacles, each tipped with a razor-sharp barb, lashed out like a whip. Similarly, he had six muscular tentacles at the base of his body, a wriggling nest of thick appendages that managed to propel his putrid form. The tentacles shot out, grabbing or stabbing the terrain to pull him forward, but also slithered and slid in the thick pool of gray goo that he was constantly surrounded in. Wherever Zargon went, a foul trail of blood, slime, and undigested body parts was left in his wake.
Though all of Zargon's form was abhorrent, when looking upon him, one's eyes were inexorably drawn to his hideous head. His reptilian visage hosted a wide maw filled with sharp, curving teeth above his dripping chin. A long, black horn with silver speckles (its reported length ranging between 2‒7 ft (0.61‒2.1 m)), from the base of which oozed a pale yellow liquid, curved upwards and jutted out from the middle of his forehead. Outdoing all these traits in repulsiveness however was perhaps Zargon's most disturbing feature; his bulging, bloodshot, cycloptic eye.
Zargon was an entity unaccustomed to dealing with problems that couldn't be handled using brute force, physical or otherwise. He was so direct as to be reckless, his arrogance so great that he scoffed at gods, though his overpowering strength and tenacity compensated for such hubris. He blasted his enemies aside with powerful magic before crushing any that still remained, and even the imminent threat of death would not stem his ferocity, since he knew that even if destroyed, he would inevitably return. However, it was important to recognize that Zargon wasn't stupid. He was a cunning creature with great amounts of arcane and religious knowledge, a keen ability to recognize intent, and a powerful force of personality.
While certainly evil, showing callous cruelty to those that saved it, it was unclear where Zargon fell on the scales of law and chaos. On one hand, he was a rampaging creature of destruction driven by a terrible hunger and seemingly unending need to kill, a far cry from the traditional diabolical dealings associated with devils. However, Zargon's hunger for flesh and death could be tempered, and in a sense, he embodied a kind of primal tyranny. Upon realizing that his status as a "god" made getting victims easier, Zargon was willing to play the part, using his fearsomeness to demand worship. The appalling appeasements made to him came in the form of living sacrifices (preferably humanoids) for him to devour, as well as various treasures, and in return for regular tribute, he refrained from going on a killing spree.
Whatever horrible place Zargon originally came from, he showed little interest in returning. Part of the evil he embodied, as could be seen in the society that twisted into a vile reflection of him, was decadence. Even before being propriated, he found the ample supply of weak, soft prey (humans) to be to his liking, and their worship granted him many unforeseen advantages. Rather than try and take some distant plane, Zargon sought to rebuild the fallen empire around him, to mold a new kingdom in his own slimy image.
Zargon possessed ungodly levels of strength, and used his many tentacles to strike and constrict his foes dozens of times in the span of a few seconds. His appendages had great reach and the barbs at their end were perfect for embedding into flesh and bone to hold his victims still. If not simply crushing them, he could rip into his foes with his many teeth or gore them on his mighty horn. When fighting Zargon, the problem wasn't so much hitting him as it was trying to make any wound stick. He regenerated from injuries with a speed that surpassed that of a tarrasque, and his limbs would grow back (if he didn't reattach them first) in a mere minute if cut off. Acids and electricity were useless against him, and cold was of debated levels of uselessness, although he was not immune, only resistant to, fire.
The source of Zargon's immortality was his horn, without which he could no longer regenerate and would be substantially less resilient. Removing the horn from him would require formidable strength, and even if removed, Zargon still regenerated in a different way. Upon being slain, Zargon's corpse would be reduced to chunks of runny, slimy flesh while the horn remained intact, after which it would "regrow" him, causing his flesh to reform around the horn.
In the past, this form of regeneration purportedly took years, but it had been known to happen in mere weeks if not days. More recently however, it was said that Zargon would spontaneously reform in the depths of Lake Moldvay beneath the ruins of the lost city of Cynidicean. While some legends said Zargon would have to come retrieve his horn, other reports said that it would disintegrate a day after his death and be with him when he revived.
The only way to permanently defeat Zargon was to destroy his horn, and the only way to do that was to cast it into volcanic fire. It was disputed whether any lava pit would be sufficient or if it had to be the Eye of Zargon, a bubbling pool of magma also underneath Cynidicea said to glow as redly as Zargon's own eye. The smoking crater was surrounded by fire elementals, salamanders, lesser efreeti and other monsters, and one would have to cast the horn in before it disintegrated.
The gods were unable to discover how to destroy Zargon's horn. As an elder evil, Zargon was immune to all divination spells of divine origin, and he had a generally horrible influence on divine beings and their followers. All divine spellcasters within 100 mi (160 km) of Zargon, despite being able to cast the spells they had already prepared, were prevented from receiving new ones.
Various other magical effects applied to him at all times, including truesight, tongues, and nondetection. He had various spell-like abilities, including the power to create magic circles against good at will, shoot waves of slime and lightning bolts thrice a day, and create an acid cloud and mind fog once each day. He had a preference for lightning bolt, slime wave and mind fog, but was cautious enough to reserve acid cloud for when foes got close.
Despite being able to exist indefinitely on land, Zargon was an aquatic creature that swam faster than he crawled. Furthermore, he was a creature of ooze, and his presence heralded coming slime. A gray grease covered a 30 ft (9.1 m) radius around him wherever he went and persisted for a minute after he left. He also had the power to summon oozes known as corruptures, cancerous creatures that came into being wherever wilderness was warped by poison and sickness, or where the normal laws of reality were repeatedly broken.
Part of what made Zargon an apocalyptic threat was his foul slime. Every few dozen seconds, he could spew forth a massive deluge of acidic, brown goo from his horrid maw, and those he bit into were also infected with the substance. Over the course of several days, if not treated with a remove disease or heal spell, those polluted by the slime had their vitality, intelligence, and personality slowly reduced until they either collapsed into puddles of grime or transformed into the terrifying humanoid oozes known as the whelps of Zargon. Whelps were mindless killing monsters with only the barest sense of instinct and horrific hints of their past, and continue exposure risked infection with the same vile pollution that had corrupted them.
Even worse was Zargon's effect on the world around him. Zargon's corrupting influence, (the combined, unintended effect of countless innocent deaths, the worship of his cultists, and the manifested unrest of the gods) contaminated the land and caused the emergence of eerie weather patterns. Most notable of these meteorological distortions was when it rained the same brown slime as was found within him, a slime that contaminated all exposed water and any who came into contact with it. The activities of Zargon's cultists to awaken him could worsen this weather manipulation, expanding its duration and area of effect. Were Zargon to fully escape his prison, the entire world would be subject to hourly, overlapping, atmospheric disasters, and no one would be safe as his foul slime rained over all.
Though it wasn't known where Zargon originally came from, he was rumored to be buried deep beneath an area known as the Valley of Death, a sandy basin in the Giant's Belt Mountains on the edge of the Dust Desert Raurin. Hidden within the valley was the subterranean city of Cynidicea.
In ancient times, the small city of Cynidicea was the capital of the mighty Imaskar Empire. Though the area around it was a massive desert wasteland, it was transformed using great magic, technological engineering, and extensive planning, into a fertile paradise. When their last king and queen died, a great ziggurat, the most important building in the city, was constructed in their honor. Little remained of the original city, for all that was left not overtaken by the desert sand were a few crumbling walls and exposed blocks, though the imposing ziggurat in the center of the ruins had stood the march of time. Only the top of the stepped pyramid was unblocked by sand, though a few breeches in the walls could potentially allow one to sneak inside, and it wasn't known if the lower floors were still intact enough that the underground could be accessed.
Only a few from the initial fall of Cynidicean managed to live past the cataclysmic times during Zargon's rule, with many having either rebelled, hidden themselves, or moved away from the chaos. Of those that stayed, only those who fled underground, where the ziggurat's catacombs were being developed before Zargon's appearance, survived. The cult of Zargon, whose members had already built living quarters and temples within the cavern in order to live closer to their lord, assumed absolute control over the remaining Cynidiceans. Despite demanding they rebuild Zargon's "realm", (houses were constructed from the rock of the ruins above and fungal crops were grown next to an underground lake), the much smaller kingdom was in shambles. It was infested with undead and other monsters, and was constantly falling apart, partially due to Zargon's destructive behavior and partially due to neglect.
When Zargon and his worshipers were buried, he in particular was sealed within solid stone, trapping him in a kind of dormant state. Though he was struggling to escape, he was in some sense asleep, and would likely need help to break out. Physically digging him out was possible, and certain actions, such as a significant betrayal with the blood of the victim spilling onto his horn, would further speed his rebirth.
Zargon had supposedly killed gods in the past when they manifested before him, his debilitating effects on divinity making him a dangerous threat against them. Many deities were unsettled by him at best and afraid of him at worst, though the holy trinity that had ruled over Cynidicea before his arrival had survived his takeover. Among them was Gorm, the lawful neutral god of storms, justice, and warfare, Usamigaras, the chaotic neutral god of healing, thieves, and magic, and Madarua, the neutral goddess of birth and death, as well as the changing seasons.
Of the trio, Madarua's warrior maidens provided the most active resistance against Zargon, controlling several key passages in the upper sections of the ziggurat, for she urged them to resist his tyranny and restore the city to its lost glory. The grim and demanding Gorm had few surviving clerics, while Usamigaras's shadowy magi cult had failed to take decisive action, partially due to their leader secretly working with Zargon's minions for personal gain.
Despite his typically antisocial behavior, Juiblex, the demon lord of ooze, was a potential ally for Zargon. Both had the same general goal—widespread, slimy destruction— and it was thought by some that Zargon's freedom would grant the Faceless Lord a great increase in power. However, if such an alliance were to be forged, it would also make Zargon an enemy of Zuggtmoy, the Queen of Fungi and Juiblex's archnemesis.
Zargon's main worshipers were the descendants of the Cynidiceans that had been trapped underground who, after centuries of dwelling in the dark, had become pale, white-haired, and sensitive to bright light. Each generation was smaller than the last, although there were outpost ruins that served as "farms" where Cynidiceans would be raised for the purpose of sacrificing later. Zargon's cultists, known as Zargonites, controlled the remaining Cynidicean population using a variety of techniques, including fear, the use of hobgoblin mercenaries as guards and soldiers, and a small cabal of wizards and sorcerers to provide magical support.
One of their most potent methods of control was the elixir of fantasy, a hallucinogenic sedative made from a kind of distillated mushroom that caused the drinker to fully believe they were something else. The cultists tightly timed the dosages they put in the water supply so the citizens would function for the eight hours they had to work, and most were content to spend the rest of their time on the narcotics. Many had forgotten that there even was an outside world and spent most of their time, and an increasing amount of it, playing out their favorite fantasies while using elaborate masks and costumes to enhance the experience. Tiny sects of Cynidicea's former religions managed to avoid this fate and once tried to cure the others of its foul influence, but the attempt ultimately failed.
Though the black stone temple of Zargon, where the high priests and their most loyal soldiers were housed, was the largest building in Cynidicea, complete with holding and torture chambers, chapels, and various defenses, the services were poorly attended. The Cynidiceans still worshiped Zargon, though originally the offerings were just a way to appease him, with the Cynidiceans feeding slaves, criminals, and war prisoners to the monstrosity to keep it under control. Over time however, a cult started to sprout around Zargon that viewed the victims as religious sacrifices, and the worship of Zargon eventually became the norm. The indulgent Cynidiceans began looking for unusual pleasures like strange drugs and rare intoxicants, seeking the loss of self that came with partaking in such things.
Though Zargon was an eldritch being that inspired fear and insanity, he was no god, yet his clerics still gained spells through unknown means, perhaps purely from their commitment to the ideals Zargon seemed to represent. All wore golden masks depicting a one-horned monster with four tentacles sprouting from the chin, and had general tendencies towards tyranny and oppression. His worshipers weren't necessarily cooperative with each other, and violent coups, whether by blade or by poison, weren't unheard of. Zargon was also known to serve as a patron for warlocks, although he wasn't necessarily aware of this. Were he to break free, it was incredibly unlikely he would show any particular favor to those that freed him, unless destroying them and turning them into whelps could be considered favorable.
When the catacombs were being constructed for the tombs of King Alexander and Queen Zenobia, the workers accidentally stumbled upon the cavern Zargon had been sealed inside. Encouraged by the find of a freshwater lake and enough space for a small city, their curious excavating ended up releasing the Invincible Tyrant from uncounted centuries of imprisonment. It was unclear if the Cynidiceans had naturally become complacent over time, plunging themselves into excessive hedonism after their many successes, or if Zargon's release had heralded their fall, and their decadence came as a result of his oppressive regime.
Whether or not he started it, Zargon's dominion made the effects of Cynidicean indulgence far worse. The city's decay left it weak and incapable of properly defending against barbarian attacks, and whilst such things rarely needed justification, it was possible that, having run out of others to sacrifice, the Cynidicean cultists had been stealing away those from surrounding lands to sacrifice to Zargon, provoking their ire. The events surrounding Zargon's defeat were shrouded in mystery, but eventually the remaining Cynidiceans were forced underground and he was trapped once more.
Rumors & Legends
Zargon was an entity so ancient that not even he could remember where he came from. It was said he was worshiped by primitives in the past who were wiped out by the ancestors of the original Cynidiceans while Zargon was trapped in hibernation, the digging of their descendants an unfortunate accident. Legends about the lost city of Cynidicea were hard to come by, suppressed by religious groups seeking to hide the nature of events and the inability of the gods themselves to deal with certain entities. Some believed that he was the creation of an ancient wizard whose investigation into life's mysteries had disastrous consequences. Others theorized that he was spawned by some crazed immortal as a servant, perhaps as an avatar, or maybe even as a physical shard of such an insanely powerful creature. Still others thought he was a former demon prince, exiled from the Abyss for unknown reasons.
Some stories however, purported the elder evil to be a different kind of fiend, that Zargon was, in fact, the original Overlord of Hell, and father of the long-forgotten race of ancient Baatorians. Eons before Cynidicea, as the story went, the Nine Hells of Baator was a terrifying kingdom abound with evil and rife with running slime. Zargon ruled the realm along with various Baatorian lords, until the arrival of Asmodeus and his allies. The invading force managed to mostly purge the plane of the previous authority, with Asmodeus killing the most, but since he was incapable of permanently destroying Zargon himself, Asmodeus ripped his horn from his head and flung it to the Prime Material Plane.
If the story was true, the remaining Baatorians seemed to have disappeared; some were said to have been enslaved while others laid scattered about Hell in the form of belief essence, seeping through mind and matter in strange forms both unknown and unknowable. The only remaining members seemed to be the nupperibos, the "young" of the race, and only the archdevils and perhaps a few of the Dark Eight, knew about their heritage, hence the decisions of such beings to prevent the indigenous creatures from existing long enough to mature past their tentacled state by turning the potential rivals into lemures.
After being driven from his domain, Zargon reformed around his horn enraged and craving another chance to fight those who stole his home. After spending centuries climbing the shaft created by his horn plunging through the earth, he emerged and set upon the mortals around him. Unable to stop his destructive rampage, the Cynidiceans sacrificed many to appease him and raised up Zargon as a tyrannical god-king, something Zargon felt Asmodeus would never attain. As Zargon's foul influence continued to spread, and his slime bred new monstrosities, the Invincible Tyrant tried to rally the creatures, with intent to forge an army to take back his home. But with the growth of his power, Zargon came to realize that the Material Plane could be his instead.
According to this legend, a charismatic barbarian leader known as Zankar united the tribes surrounding decadent Cynidicea and led a concentrated horde against them, only to find the streets slick with blood and slime under Zargon's rule. Despite the blessings of the gods and his own great power and stamina, Zankar's several day long fight with Zargon ended with his failure since he was unable to permanently injure him. The deities tried to destroy Zargon themselves but some were slain and others were retreated, only for Zargon, who might have proved victorious, to be confronted by Asmodeus. While indifferent to the death of the gods, allowing Zargon to roam free was an untenable issue for Asmodeus, so Old Hoof and Horn stepped in one last time. Immune to his god-disrupting powers, Asmodeus managed to seal Zargon in solid stone and bury most of his worshipers alive and possibly killing many members of his existing clergy in the process.
This story in particular was suppressed since the idea that Asmodeus saved the day where the gods failed would be a dangerous legend to let spread, but it was possible that none of these stories were true at all.
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