Gifts from Below

A Walk Through the Planes – Part 60: Gifts from Below




In the 135th issue of Polyhedron (April 1999), Erik Mona wrote a three-page article titled “Gifts from Below” that covered three magical items gifted from demons that might be used in a campaign. All three write-ups are in fact directed towards typical adventures in the Prime Material Plane, which caused me to go back and forth a bit about including this article in the series, but all are also heavily linked with the Outer Planes and events that occurred elsewhere in the multiverse. As such, the lore here should be of interest to any real Planescape fans, even if it’s about as peripherally related as you can get while still remaining relevant.

The Flame Amulet of Alzrius, Bloodmarker Weapons, and Relics of Unlife are described as “more than simple magic items, less than artifacts,” which is to say that they are quite powerful and atypical as far as magical items are concerned, but not singular objects. They’re used for the corruption of mortal souls on the Prime Material Plane, and the article posits that it’s this activity that is of key importance for demons wishing to become lords and princes. “Through all of the variables involved with gathering power for tanar’ric ascendance … there is one that seems forever constant: the corruption of mortal souls.”


The Flame Amulet is given a backstory involving an alliance between the demon lord Alzrius and the archomental Imix, and the item itself is interesting enough. Likewise, Bloodmarker Weapons are powerful, cursed items that can be used to drag the souls of both their users and their victims to demonic servitude, and may predate the demons themselves, linking them with some of the cosmological changes we’d see many years down the road. Mona writes good flavor text for these items as well, and it would be worth reading if just for these two entries, though probably not something I’d include in this series. However, it’s the Relics of Unlife that have particular relevance to Planescape, in specific to the dead god Orcus. 

The PDF I found of this publication isn’t exactly the highest quality scan. Good luck with that to anyone else looking to read it.

At the end of Dead Gods, it’s most likely that players destroy the last vestige of Orcus. We’re going to ignore the fact that he was resurrected for third edition with no particularly good explanation for this, as Erik Mona was writing in the interim period between Dead Gods and Orcus’ resurrection. What, then, happened to the Wand of Orcus, his powerful artifact, when Orcus was destroyed? Mona heavily—by which I mean you’re not supposed to be able to miss it if you’re aware of the adventure’s content—hints that it broke into these relics, more than 600 of which were spread across the Prime Material Plane. 


Each of the shards radiates heavy traces of magic, and are believed by some sages to be the broken fragments of a recently destroyed artifact of great power, perhaps even a soul item for some powerful and now-absent Abyssal personage.

The article also notes that these relics seem to be the “shard[s] of a shattered staff or mace of great size,” and that they are being pursued by a “special contingent of Yochol [sic.] Tanar’ri” who scout the layers of the lower planes for individuals cursed by them, though “strangely, these Yochol are not under the command of their race’s creator, Lolth, but appear to be the servants of some other power of the dark elves.” Which is to say that they’re being pursued by Kiaransalee, who is still trying her best to keep Orcus from returning. And if that weren’t enough, the item’s actual functionality is concerned almost entirely with the undead, as well it should be. 

With this item, Mona offers us a bit of an epilogue on the entire Orcus saga. In this version of reality, like Orcus himself the wand was destroyed and these shattered fragments are all that remain of their former glory. Unfortunately, TSR/WotC decided to ignore this epilogue completely, making the article (as well as the original adventure…) little more than a footnote, but it’s still an interesting piece of lore that I’m guessing few of the even more obsessive Planescape players ever stumbled upon.

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