The Order of the Abbey
The Devil in Scarlet
Cardinal Nikolai was the alias of Argoth, Lord of Hell, during his time in Western Aggravail in which he attempted to sieze power in the Universal Church and use a generation of Year of the Ram children to fulfill several apocalyptic prophecies. As Nikolai, he was the Cardinal of Arimathea.
Nikolai first entered prominence in the game while the party members were still children living at the Morningstar Abbey. One evening shortly after the party’s first adventure, a dwarf traveling north through Arimathea stopped at the abbey to spend the night; over dinner, he told the brothers and the boys the news that the old Cardinal of Arimathea had died, and Nikolai had been named his replacement. This news upset Abbott Teris very much, not only because of his good relationship with the old Cardinal, but also because of Teris’ distrust of Nikolai. It is not clear exactly how much Teris knew or suspected of Nikolai, but he never directly implicated him as Argoth or any other kind of infernal outsider.
Shortly after this news, Nikolai sent Faust and Barris to the abbey to end Teris’ tenure as Abbott. They succeeded, but did not manage to capture the six boys from the Year of the Ram, as it is suspected Nikolai may have instructed them to do.
After the party finished their apprenticeships and training, they began adventuring in the Twilight Lands, and largely lost track of Nikolai and his activities. In the course of an early adventure, Guy encountered a Ravvid who made Guy promise to one day destroy Cardinal Nikolai’s ring, although it was unclear why.
The party did not encounter Nikolai again (except through a run-in with Faust), until a good while later, when they were taken prisoner in Arimathea and placed in the dungeon of the Cathedral of Arimathea. There, they met Nikolai for the first time. Nikolai demanded that the boys pledge their services to him. When they refused, Nikolai stormed out, claiming to already have a Year of the Ram child under his control. In addition, during this capture, Nikolai obtained the Imperial Scepter from the party, which gave him control over Malus.
Upon their escape from the Cathedral, the party, Art, and Ethan happened upon Nikolai’s chambers, where they found a large summoning circle that required a considerable amount of evil to create. The boys destroyed the summoning circle, and promptly left the Cathedral.
Later, while traveling in the Bodian Protectorates, they foiled a plot by Nikolai to assasinate Cardinal Aloe, one of Nikolai’s political enemies. The party dispatched Barris, who had been sent to carry out the job, and obtained a ring that allowed them to communicate with Nikolai.
When the party founded The Freelands, Nikolai attended the summit of nations along with Luth, King of Arimathea, Lord of the West, Doogal’s twin brother, and a member of the Year of the Ram lineage. Nikolai’s intent on attending these meetings was to coerce the party into signing the Church Treaty, which The Freelands decided not to do.
Shortly thereafter, Nikolai traveled to Larst, where he began a campaign to have the Universal Church’s College of Cardinals choose a pontifical leader. The party traveled to Larst to attempt to influence these discussions as they were certain that Nikolai intended to win the election. The party uncovered a massive conspiracy of bribery and mercenary-dom, paid in gold coins that Brixmore determined to have been forged in Hell from the souls of the damned. This raised considerable alarm among the party, and Brixmore developed an elaborate and dramatic plan to reveal the bribes’ infernal influence and to destroy the money.
The party attended several debates and conferences on the matter of elections, even going so far as to back their own candidate. When the election came down to two parties, the party summoned a massive representation of Western Aggravail’s power into attendance, including King Gorom of Tutia, several Seekers, members of the Fellowship of the Golden Eagle, Illrean Rangers, Fifty Gnomes, and other governmental and heroic agencies. Under enormous pressure from the College of Cardinals and other agencies to account for accusations brought before him, Nikolai took the podium of the debate hall in the Basilica and revealed himself as Argoth, Lord of Hell.
This revelation ignited the Battle for the Basilica, an enormous skirmish that resulted in the deaths of several innocents, Churchmen, and heroes. After destroying an artifact found by Herbert (the 2nd Gnome of the Fifty Gnomes) in the catacombs of the Basilica that kept Argoth impervious from harm, confronting and defeating (but not killing) Malus, and wading through an army of infernal creatures, the party confronted and destroyed the material prescence of Nikolai / Argoth, forcing him back to Hell.
Nikolai’s revelation and death spurred massive reform of the Universal Church, creating a widespread distrust of the Church hierarchy that will take a long time to rebuild.