To date, four crusades have been launched against the demons of the Worldwound, and while all four have had varying degrees of success and failure, none have yet driven the armies of Deskari, Lord of the Locust Host, from Golarion. A brief history of the war follows.
First Crusade (4622 ar–4630 ar)
Although a fair number of holy warriors came to Sarkoris’s aid in the first several years after the Worldwound opened, the church of Iomedae did not declare the First Crusade until 4622 ar, as the repercussions of Aroden’s death significantly delayed the church’s ability to respond to the growing crisis. By the time the First Crusade reached Mendev, the demons had long since seized control of central Sarkoris, and had claimed significant portions of Mendev as well. The First Crusade bolstered the defenders of Sarkoris and Mendev, boosting both their numbers and morale, and the sudden increase in the enemy’s strength caught the demonic horde unprepared, causing them to retreat back to the Northmounds. With Mendev and southern Sarkoris thus liberated, the crusaders remained in the region to help rebuild—an offer Mendev welcomed gratefully, but one that the disparate and proud clans of Sarkoris accepted more reluctantly. In any event, for the next few years the demons seemed content to focus their wrath upon Sarkoris’s Northmounds, battling primarily with the surviving Sarkorian clans desperately attempting to reclaim their family lands, while Mendev remained relatively unmolested.
Second Crusade (4638 ar–4645 ar)
When a second wave of demons erupted from the Worldwound in 4636 ar, the crusaders had settled into their new homes in Mendev. They again took up arms against the demons, expecting a short series of fights and boasting that this time they would drive the host back to the very edges of the Worldwound itself. But their expectations did not come to fruition. This time, the demons pouring from the Worldwound were not only more numerous—they were better prepared. Rather than the haphazard, chaotic, self-indulgent mob the crusaders previously encountered, the marauding demons were now legions driven by powerful commanders. Under their commanders’ direction, the demons orchestrated strike forces, teleported behind enemy lines, drove their enemies toward their advancing ranks, and then crushed their opponents between them. The armies of the marilith Aponavicius captured the crusader city of Drezen using such tactics, forcing the church of Iomedae to finally call for the Second Crusade. Even with the influx of troops from the Second Crusade, however, it quickly became apparent the demons were going to win. Fortunately for Mendev, the demons aimed the bulk of their devastating attack westward and southward. The impending loss prompted the leaders of the Mendevian Crusaders to make a fateful decision— they pulled their support from Sarkoris, allowing the demon army to descend on what remained of that land, and instead concentrated their efforts on erecting wardstones along the West Sellen and Moutray rivers. The price of their actions proved steep, but, as the wardstones flared to life, the menhirs contained the demons within lost Sarkoris and saved tens of thousands from grisly deaths. Yet despite this success, the near- total loss of Sarkoris is generally regarded as the final capstone on a disastrous crusade.
Third Crusade (4665 ar–4668 ar)
Now contained within Sarkoris by a combination of the wardstones, increased pressure from the Mammoth Lords, and the distraction of an entire nation to plunder, the demons continued to press against the borders but seemed largely content to revel in their captured realm. Meanwhile, as the years passed, the Mendevian crusaders grew more and more corrupt—in part due to the subtle machinations of the cult of Baphomet, which had successfully infiltrated numerous companies and faiths throughout Mendev, but also because the resource-strained church of Iomedae had increasingly accepted less trustworthy members into its war effort. The church launched the Third Crusade primarily as an attempt to galvanize the crusaders, but as its focus kept turning toward self-destructive witch hunts and internal squabbling, the crusade collapsed under its own corrupt weight. Ultimately, the Third Crusade accomplished very little within the Worldwound—apart from delighting and entertaining Sarkoris’s demonic masters.
Fourth Crusade (4692 ar–4707 ar)
After decades of Abyssal rule, a dangerous new addition to the demon armies arrived in the form of Khorramzadeh the Storm King. Scholars of the war are divided as to whether or not the Storm King had been ruling from Iz all along, or if he was but the latest arrival in the region. Regardless, the Storm King’s first assault on the border resulted in no less catastrophic an event than the cracking of the Kenabres wardstone. The ferocity of this attack caught the crusaders off guard, but in the end the wardstone held. In response, the church of Iomedae called for the Fourth Crusade. This crusade proved to be the longest and most grueling of the crusades yet, lasting 15 years and ending more as a result of wartime exhaustion than anything else. The demons lost very little, and in the six years since this crusade’s whimpering conclusion, morale along the Worldwound’s borders has reached an all-time low.
The Crusades today (4713 ar)
You have always known the crusades were your destiny, whether because you believed in their lofty goal of driving demonic influence forever away from Golarion, or simply because you grew up with it and know of no other life (or even because of something in between). But you know that the crusades are populated by people, first and foremost. Many of them are good, noble even, but many of them are as dangerous as any of the worst thugs that can be found in the darkest alleys of Absalom.
Outnumbered and facing an assault from evil outsiders, the crusade today has no compunctions regarding race or creed when it comes to outfitting its forces. Able-bodied men and women from all over Golarion are welcome so long as they are willing to fight. But, while accepted into the rank and file, it is not common for non-human races to rise highly in position. Aroden’s influence as the God of Man, and Iomedae’s inheritance of that mantle after his death (though of more benign mien), has created an underlying layer of intolerance and xenophobia.
While nearly every human ethnicity in the Inner Sea region can be counted among those who fight against the Worldwound, some say the Kellids are the most passionate about healing the Abyssal wound. Their homeland of Sarkoris fell when the Worldwound opened, and many Kellids in Mendev’s army fight not only to ensure the safety of future generations, but also to redeem their ruined homeland.
Elves, perhaps, hold the most prominent places aside from humans in the crusaders’ ranks, having fought their own demonic incursion in Kyonin against the demon-lord Treerazer for many centuries. Half-elves are often from that region, looking to escape the racism of their elven peers and lend their demon-fighting skills to people who will appreciate them.
Halflings are seen within crusader ranks, as well, though most often in the “traditional” role the race holds on Golarion: that of servants and informants. But, mounted strike forces of Halfling cavaliers can be found, and their small size and their dogs’ agility is often prized by their commanders.
In addition to defending the continent from demonic horror, a fair number of dwarves have joined the crusades battle the Worldwound in hopes of reclaiming a lost Sky Citadel within its borders. Jormordun, it is rumored, has been found, and returning it to the fold is a noble and worthy cause.
Gnomes, as always, have their own enigmatic reasons for wanting to join the fight against the demons. Their arcane skills are prized, but their fickleness often takes them away from Mendev as suddenly as they came in the first place.
Half-orcs, teiflings, and other obviously non-human races usually hold the lowest of positions within the ranks of the crusaders. Often, merely being a member of these races is as dangerous to one’s health as proclaiming an interest in demonic cultism. They have earned their place due to their strengths (be it the physical prowess of a half-orc or the unique resistances of a teifling), but will always be regarded with suspicion, it seems.