It is known that in the ashen highlands of the 'Wold there are many folk of ill intent. What nobody knows is why.
The most common explanation is that the 'Wold is a land of exile. Where knaves are sent, knavery will follow.
But many believe that something darker is at work, for the ones who are shepherded out the great gate of the interior are the cutpurses, the unruly, and the disgraced; but the ones who come from out of the mist that sweeps down from the bases of the inverted mountains in the North, those are the damned and the murderous.
The priests of the great Magnifitrix preach that wickedness proliferates in the darkness at the edges of the world. When folk are cut off from the holy light, they become more and more cruel and corrupted, say the sermons.
However no one believes this who have seen the dark deeds done -- even in the heart of the Fulgent Desmesnes -- in the name of her holiness.
So from where come these villains? Where do they learn their strange tongues and their unearthly dirges? What inspires their fearful icons: the Argent hoof, the Spiral Wand, Our Lady Monocular?
Not even the Horse-thegns, who treat with the villains sometimes for aid in their bloody struggles of succession, can say for sure, though it is their belief that a toad-o'-the pit named Comes-For-More has coerced their allegiance, and therefore their souls, in a bid for apotheosis.
There is a tanner in Skeldkryk who claims to have come among a gathering of them in the woods one night, where they had slain a black swine and collected it's blood, and were forcing a captive fair-haired youth to drink of it.
The tanner swears that when the dregs of the fourth chalice had been forced through the youth's lips, her hair was made raven and her eyes changed to those of a beast, black-red with blood, and that she took up a blade and drew it across her bosom to the delight of the gathered fiends.
One of the warrior monks of the fortress monastery of Ceolmaran claims to have crossed the inverted mountains and come even to the bitterbreach itself. From the other side (in the direction, they say, of Helmrood that was), he says he witnessed a foulness insinuating through the air. He says it was as a murk that seemed to slither along the ground and to collect in the swales and hollows of the land. He says when he breathed it his head filled with visions of the pit, and strange signs, and a hideous cacophony. It was only the holy thought of the purity of the great Magnifitrix, he says, that saved him from running mad...