Our story starts not in the decaying bureaucratic empire of Taldor, but across the Inner Sea in the nation of Osirion. A nation of great pride and greater secrets, which rose to legendary heights during the Age of Destiny, led by majestic, all-powerful pharaohs revered as living gods by their subjects. Here is where our story begins, with one of Osirion’s most powerful, and infamous rulers: An-Hepsu XI.
All of Osirion’s pharaohs were obsessed with their own existence after death, believing that their status in the Great Beyond would mirror that of their mortal lives only via specific inscriptions within their resting places, the ritual sequestration of actual wealth and possessions, or the representation of those things in glorified form. While many of those grandiose tombs have long since been lost to time, they did exist, and records attest to their vanished grandeur. Of the greatest pharaohs, the greatest numbers of records and legends exist, and virtually no hyperbole can be considered too far from the realm of truth. Yet there is one pharaoh, one of the most powerful, for whom all records describing the tomb have been lost or hidden.
The Pharaoh of No Rain, An-Hepsu XI, otherwise known to history as the Incorruptible Pharaoh, ruled Osirion with unquestioned might for nearly four centuries. Likely sterile, unable to father children and already the last of his dynastic line, the pharaoh turned his potent mastery of the arcane to first extending his life, and later to ensuring that he would never die by mummifying his still-living flesh. A powerful and respected ruler prior to his embracing of undeath, few of his subjects would have resented his status, as it assured them of stability and continuity in their lives, but given the anti-undead dogma of the Church of Pharasma, the pharaoh simply never mentioned it, and it would be another 80 years before it was even suspected. When a freak roof collapse buried him under a ton of rock, the nation prepared to mourn for their dead leader, but when dug free 5 days later the god-king rose unharmed and continued with his duties. This and the mummification wounds visible on his body after the accident made all of his subjects aware of his true nature, though by then the common folk were powerless to stop him.
Such was An-Hepsu’s arcane power that his legacy may have inspired the undead sorcerer-king Geb, but many records of his unnatural rule seem to have been purposefully destroyed or hoarded in secret by the clergy of Pharasma and Nethys. What is known is that, over time, the pharaoh’s ambitions knew no limits, and his sanity grew tenuously thin even as his knowledge and power grew ever greater. Filled with tremendous hubris, the pharaoh expanded Osirion’s power while conducting experiments of dire nature and dealing with terrible beings from the planes.
While the exact trigger remains unknown, eventually the clergy rebelled and the pharaoh’s reign came to an abrupt end, signaling another long descent in Osirian influence and power. No mention exists of the Incorruptible Pharaoh’s tomb, though dire legends suggest that An-Hepsu XI was never destroyed, that his would-be killers were unable to permanently disperse the monster that he had become. Even as they divided his physical remains, his spirit clung to his flesh and willed the pieces to return to each other. The priests and their allies imprisoned him, sealing his mummified organs and body in separate containers. The prison-tomb they fashioned for him would contain his unholy spirit and broken form in the mortal realm for eternity, denying him earthly freedom or otherworldly release.
Sequestered away from the royal and holy necropoli, with any followers unable to bury the body parts in the desert due to the risk of invoking the elementals’ rage, the Incorruptible Pharaoh’s tomb has always been rumored to exist somewhere within the Pillars of the Sun, Osirion’s central mountain range. Potentially located within a hidden valley or carved into one of the formidable granite peaks, another legend says that a true pyramid was built and then carefully and magically obscured to resemble a normal mountain in the remote and unpopulated range’s interior.
If true, then the phylactery remains to this day, warded to prevent the banished pharaoh’s regeneration or its own destruction by future generations that might prove capable of the act, forever denying him a true death and the potential for whatever afterlife awaits him in the Great Beyond. The prison-tomb might also contain, not wealth or the contents of any other royal sepulcher, but the most dangerous and potent of the Incorruptible Pharaoh’s creations and whatever artifacts he had gathered in the long twilight of his rule, hidden away lest any others attempt to retread his footsteps.
The Staff of the Pharaoh
In Rumored to stand at the center of An-Hepsu’s tomb is the key to the Pharaoh’s imprisonment: his arcane staff. Once thought to help the pharaoh force planar summonings to submit to his will, the staff was turned against him to keep his mortal form from ever being restored. When the clergy left An-Hepsu’s tomb, the staff remained to keep the Pharaoh prisoner for all eternity. Historical surveys of the Pillars of the Sun reported a great increase in magical energy after the entombment of An-Hepsu. It is said that the power held within his staff in conjunction with the spells cast by the Pharaoh’s clergy could be felt by people throughout the valley. These magical energies have been reported to be felt up until the present day, yet the acoustics of the valley prevent any lone adventurer from pinpointing the tomb’s exact position.
Sometime in 4717 Absalom Reckoning, archaeological surveys within the Pillars of the Sun showed a remarkable decrease in the magical energies in the area. An investigation led by Golarion’s Pathfinder Society discovered that tomb robbers had somehow managed to locate the tomb of An-Hepsu and steal the rod. They traced the rod to the port city of Totra where it left on a ship bound for Taldor. The Pathfinder Society has made it one of their top priorities to recover the staff and return it to its rightful place before An-Hepsu XI is resurrected and returns to rule over the people of Osirion.
The Pathfinder Society
The Pathfinder Society is a globe-spanning organization based out of Absalom, the world’s largest city. Founded more than 400 years ago by a consortium of adventurers and scoundrels, the group has grown and become more formalized, headed by a council of 10 members known as the Decemvirate. Just who the Decemvirate are is unknown, as the members themselves remain anonymous. On paper, the ultimate goal of the Society is to keep power balanced throughout Golarion, but the full picture of what the group does is not even fully understood by its senior members, the venture-captains.
Venture-captains coordinate teams of Pathfinder agents in their assigned regions, tipping them off to ancient legends, passing along newly discovered maps, and supporting efforts in the field. Each venture-captain oversees the activities of several different Pathfinder field agents, who in turn conduct much of the exploration and adventure that fuels the Society as a whole. Venture-captains are fairly autonomous but still answer to the Decemvirate.