What if the iron maiden was not just a fanciful turn of phrase, but was actually inspired by a real entity? If that were the case, there’s no question that the iron maiden would be an homage to the original mistress of torture and traps, the crucidaemon.
The crucidaemon’s evil is the indifferent evil of the torturer who never questions an order and the indiscriminate evil of a bear trap or land mine. Unlike a devil, who tortures to punish and ensure submission, a demon, who tortures to ruin and maim, or a kyton, who tortures in pursuit of artistry and transformation, the crucidaemon tortures purely to prolong the agony so long that even her victims’ very souls give up hope for an afterlife. A victim who expires and then goes to Heaven—or Hell—is an unacceptable loss to a crucidaemon. She wants her victims chasing only oblivion.
That’s not to say crucidaemons don't take pride in their work—they do, to the point of obsession. Which means that if your PCs escape a crucidaemon’s trap complex, they better kill her on the way out…or she’ll just come back to throw them into a far worse nightmare next time. That’s how horror works, right? There’s always a sequel.
Adventurers are hired to retrieve an important dissident from a remote prison colony. When they arrive, they find all is not well, even by labor camp standards. A suspicious number of the guards are grimspawn tieflings (see Blood of Fiends). Strange gray fogs roll into camp, sapping memory and vitality. The infirmary has been given over entirely to juju zombies. Whoever the commandant of the prison was, he or she is long dead—or transformed. A crucidaemon runs this place now.
After being overwhelmed in a demodand’s citadel, a party of adventurers find themselves stripped of their gear and thrown into a dank oubliette to await the lord’s pleasure. Salvation comes from an unlikely source: a crucidaemon nemesis from a previous adventure. Utterly obsessed with the adventurers since they escaped her clutches, the crucidaemon refuses to let them die at the hands of “muck-covered Abyssal savages.” But while she helps with their jailbreak, she is also constantly taking notes on their tactics and weaknesses. Moreover, she tries to rig their final escape from the citadel (such as by choosing the right planar portal or substituting alternate spell foci) so that the adventurers land back in her lair on Abaddon.
Barricades have gone up in the streets. The doors to the debtors’ prison have been thrown open. The guillotines have been torn down. Revolution is in the air! But the authorities have circle mages on their side, able to call down fire and summon beings from across the planes to restore order. One such summoned crucidaemon is particularly effective, turning the rebels’ own barricades against them. Some she rigs to collapse; others she covers in greater glyphs of warding set to explode. Already fragile, the rebellion will collapse is she is not stopped.
—Pathfinder Bestiary 3 62
“Iron Maiden? Excellent!”
A wee bit more on crucidaemons can be found in Todd Stewart’s Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
If kytons owe inspiration to the Hellraiser franchise, do crucidaemons recall, say, the Saw films? I don’t do horror so I have no idea. Your thoughts?
I’m no expert (I only read Avengers Spotlight as a kid, and not the main Avengers titles), but the crucidaemon in the Bestiary 3 looks an awful lot like Marvel’s Jocasta. I wonder how Machine Man feels about whips and chains…?