Part the First: Plans Go Awry
The last year has been hard. Very hard. The damnable nuns of the Silver Sisterhood have pressed their attacks, again and again. Leading mercenary companies and militia levies deep into the eastern wastes, destroying many fortresses and holds of the Demonancers, as well as depleting the cannibal tribes that the Demonancers have relied upon for their troops and support. In fact, the campaigns against them had been so successful that the Demonancers have been forced to retreat back to their last redoubt, a keep deep in the eastern wastes. It is a desperate time for the Demonancers, and their leaders, the Black Triumvirate, are preparing to take desperate measures…
The Triumvirate walked into the summoning chamber, with their demon-possessed guardians at their sides and apprentices trailing behind them, leading a gaggle of strangely docile and silent women and children in their wake. The first in was their senior member, Torquil Alatar. At first glance Torquil was a fit, handsome man in his late forties. Slim and tall. He was clean shaven, with a lean face and piercing blue eyes. His close cropped brown hair was just starting to gray at the temples and he was dressed in a nobleman’s garb, with knee-high polished boots, dark trousers, and a clean, white silken shirt. This ensemble was covered by a long high collared and sleeveless duster, crafted of a dark green reptilian leather. Like the clothes the flesh wore, the flesh itself was a garb of sorts. For this had once been the body of a noble, a duke from a long forgotten state - the duke, whose very name had been forgotten, along with his duchy and house, had once opposed Torquil Alatar. A grave mistake, as Alatar, invoking the blackest of necromancies had cast the duke’s soul into the void, to be consumed by the predators of that dark realm, and then had stolen his body. Making it his own.
The second member of the Triumvirate walked to Alatar’s right. She had the form of a beautiful maiden with golden hair and luminescent blue eyes, she was as much a girl as a woman. However, like Alatar she was many centuries old and dwelt in a stolen body. She wore a dark, plum colored velvet gown, which would be scandalous on one so young, as it revealed much. And her golden hair was plated in an intricate braid. This was Evanora Niev, and her soul was as black as her locks were fair. For she was a connoisseur of torture, death and fear.
The last member of the Triumvirate walked at Alatar’s left side. She was a tall, beautiful woman from the mythical eastern kingdoms, her almond eyes were a shocking green, and her straight, midnight black hair cascaded to the floor. She was surprisingly tall and broad-shouldered. And if you looked closely, her beauty was of an androgynous nature. In fact it was rumored that this member of the Triumvirate, Yukiko Tatsuo, was not fully female or male, but some combination of both. The rumors also suggested that this was a copy of Yukiko Tatsuo’s original form, recreated in her hapless victims via dark sorcery.
The group entered the large dark chamber, its ancient stone walls lit by fluttering torches. In the center of this vast chamber was a circular depression, approximately fifteen feet in diameter. Dominating this circular depression was a vast pentagram chased in gold - the summoning circle. Over the centuries the most evil and vile deeds had taken place here. Pacts had been made, as well the required sacrifices and blood rituals to seal them.
The ritual was arduous, as one would imagine, for summoning a demon of such power to the material world would be no small feat. The thirteen apprentices had been reciting a throat torturing chant that lasted for a full hour, as a narcotic white powder was burned in golden braziers. The thick white smoke coiled around the apprentices and filled their lungs. The burning powder had strong hallucinogenic properties. The longer they chanted and breathed in the smoke, the more their minds and souls began to enter the higher - and lower - realms of possibility.
As the ritual neared its apex, Torquil nodded to one of the demon-possessed figures behind him, a dwarven warrior clad in dull gray plate armor. The armor actually had what appeared to be granite stalagmites and crystalline patches growing from it - a clear sign of the enslaved earth elemental bound within. However, this detail could easily be overlooked, because it was not his armor or weapons that people noticed first, it was his eyes - the yellow and red reptilian orbs of the demon that was bound into his flesh, that and his mouth full of twisted inhuman fangs.
The demon-dwarf stepped forward and took a golden dagger from the hand of Yukiko. Several still chanting apprentices stepped forward with golden bowls as the demon-dwarf began to cut the throats of the strangely docile - and obviously drugged - women and children. The apprentices, after catching the blood in the golden bowls, stepped to the golden braziers, which were still billowing with the coiling white smoke, and poured the grisly contents into the flames, turning the white smoke into a thick, red mist. As they did this the remaining apprentices tossed the bodies of the murdered innocents into the center of the summoning circle as the red mist floated on its own to the pile of bodies. After several more minutes of chanting the pile of bodies began to merge, forming a grisly column of flesh and bone which then formed an archway. Suddenly the chanters ceased their chant and then He stepped through the archway into the world.
He was fully ten foot tall. His skin was a dead gray color and he was bald. His mouth was a mass of needle sharp eel-like fangs that his thin lips could not begin to cover, and his eyes were solid dark-green, nearly black voids. His only apparent garment was a ragged, dirty black full-length robe. From which two straight “poles” seemed to grow, straight up from his shoulders, and past his head a good two feet. In between these poles was a macabre banner that consisted of several flayed and stitched faces that were stretched into empty eyed masks of eternal horror. He was actually a malign entity, a demon from ancient times. He was known to the Multiverse at large as Utatash, the Lord of the Venomous Hive, for reasons that would become apparent in time.
Utatash surveyed the Material world around him. He regarded the mortals in the chamber, three were beings of power, his would-be binders. Ahhh...I can see the waves of darkness and old pacts radiate from these three. Long have they trod the road of screams. Foolishly they believe their souls are their own no doubt. Utatash said to himself. He then made note of the demon-hosts behind the three binders, taking a greater interest in the armored dwarven warrior then in the others. A powerful and hate-filled warrior-demon inhabited his flesh. But look at that. Not all that hatred is the demon’s. The dwarf’s soul is still aware in there...just a spark, and some of that hatred is his...how interesting. I wonder if his tormentors even realize his soul is still in there? Utatash then regarded the apprentices. Weak fawning fools. Wait? What is this? How delightful...I recognize this one...Utatash gazed upon one young apprentice in particular. Ah, he still has the same stink of fear he had as a child...how grand.
Emmanuel shook in terror, it was him. How could it be him? He was brought back to his childhood more than twenty-five years ago. To the death of his parents. Members of a small witch-cult. He remembered the night the inquisitors came. And worse he remembered when his mother had invoked a name...a name so vile that it was torn from his young mind, like a page from a book. And a face appeared in her full length mirror. The face that was before him now! He remembered his mother’s desperate pleading voice, speaking in a tongue he should not know, yet a tongue he understood.
“Save me, oh great one! Spare me from the fires of the damnable inquisitors!” She pleaded.
You dare to invoke me sow? And what do I care for you or your insignificant coven? Emmanuel heard the horrible face say. In a voice that caused him to void his bladder. He had nightmares for years afterwards, about this face, about this voice…
“Spare me and I will give you this child. My son. His soul is pure!” His mother, a hate-filled and unloving woman, grabbed him by his hair and brought him to the mirror. He screamed and sobbed in terror.
You promise this pissed soaked little piglet to me if I spare you from the tortures of your enemies and from the pyre, little witch? The face asked her.
“Yes! Great one! Deliver me from my enemies!” His mother screamed out.
Granted. I promise that you shall not suffer your enemies wrath...you useless and weak disappointment of a woman. With that the mirror shattered and its shards shot forward with killing force. They pierced his mother’s face, her eyes, her throat and a large one tore through her open screaming mouth and emerged from the back of her head.
Emmanuel looked down at the still twitching body of the tyrant who had dominated his young life. Not a single piece of the mirror had touched him. He heard the horrid voice still and looked up, the figure was still there in the mirror frame, but this time he could see a bleak and hellish badlands behind him. The figure grinned down at him, Oh little Emmanuel, she is now safe from their tortures, she dwells in the glories of my kingdom. Along with the rest of the coven. Never let it be said I do not keep my promises. And as for you, one day I may come for you...or I may not. And that is a promise. With that the terrible figure faded from view.
He had escaped and spent his young life as an urchin, in utter poverty. Until his talents as a binder of elementals began to manifest. He had forgotten all of this...as if it had been repressed? It had been the stuff of nightmares. In fact even now, he avoided looking into mirrors without even realizing why...
But now his nightmares were here...and in the flesh.
Torquil stepped forward and addressed the demon. “Greetings great lord Utatash. We are the Triumvirate of the Demonancers, and we have summoned you to humbly ask your aid in our ongoing war against the whores of the Collegium Argentum, who are nothing but the proxies of the seraphim choirs.” Alatar's voice sounded surprisingly young and smooth. Lending strength to the rumor that he had stolen the voice from a handsome golden-haired youth. A minstrel that had resisted Alatar's advances.
The demon seemingly ignored the Binder, taking in his surroundings. He paid particular attention to the gold-lined summoning circle that he found himself trapped in. Most likely examining it for any weaknesses.
Evanora stepped forward with a look of rage written upon her beautiful stolen face and her eyes flashed blue fire: “answer him damn you!” She screamed. Torquil placed a calming hand upon her left shoulder and addressed the demon again.
“Lord Utatash...” He began.
I have heard you mortal. The demon said nonchalantly without looking up. Tell me, why would I care about you or the angel-worshiping cows you war against? The demon’s voice seemingly came from everywhere - and nowhere at the same time. It was like the sound of untold maggots and worms writhing in a rotten carcass. A horrid gnawing that formed words.
“Because we know your true name.” Torquil answered matter-of-factly.
This finally caught the demon’s attention and he looked up sharply. Is that so? You play a dangerous game little binders, a dangerous game indeed.
With that Yukiko uttered a phrase, a phrase that no human throat was meant to utter. It was a blasphemy against the world. If sin had language, it was this. And as she uttered the phrase, she threw a handful of powder - a mixture of silver shavings and the salt from the tears of angels - into a burning brazier. The effects were instantaneous as Utatash was wracked by silvery white lightning which obviously caused him great pain. Though he stood rigid and smiling during the process.
“Now Lord Utatash, where were we?” Torquil said, a smugness apparent in his voice, now that the Triumvirate had revealed its position of strength.
One could feel the rage powering off of the demon even though it kept the sneering smile on its face. I told you all those years ago that I may come for you. Well now I have. Come to me, my child. It is time for you to come home to me. To dwell with your mother in the glories of my kingdom. For as you know, I keep my promises. The demon finished with a surprising gentleness in its tone.
“What?” Torquil said as the other members of the Triumvirate began to grow alarmed.
“Something is not right!” Evanora said urgently with a slight edge to her voice, as Yukiko reached for another handful of powder.
I told you all those years ago that I may come for you. Well now I have. Come to me, my child. It is time for you to come home to me. To dwell with your mother in the glories of my kingdom. For as you know, I keep my promises. The demon said with a surprising gentleness in its tone. As he did all those years ago, Emmanuel voided his bladder. As he looked down at his feet in embarrassment he again heard the demon scream in pain and rage, which caused him to stop chanting and look up quickly.
His mother was there...how could this be? Being wracked with silver lightning!
Emmanuel! Help me! The inquisitors are killing me! Come to me my son! Save me from their torments! She implored him.
Emmanuel ran forward...breaking the summoning circle with clear intent.
“Stop him!” Torquil commanded and the two closest apprentices to Emmanuel tried to grab him. Emmanuel straight armed a young woman to his right, breaking her nose with his palm. The man to his left grabbed him by the arm as Evanora fired a beam of killing eldritch power toward them - missing Emmanuel and catching the other apprentice in the back of his skull, The apprentice let out a quick yell, more like a squeak really, as his head ceased to be. Emmanuel shrugged aside the headless corpse and crossed the circle. The moment he broke the circle he burst into flames and was immolated in mere moments. But the damage was done.
Utatash cast his arms straight up to the ceiling, causing the sleeves of his dirty robe to fall past his elbows. What happened next was hard to comprehend as his forearms rapidly swelled to more than double their size and his gray skin began to split like over-ripened fruit. Releasing swarms of fist sized green and black wasps which raced forward to ravage the remaining apprentices who screamed in horror and agony as the swarm tore into them. Body after body fell, lifeless to the stone floor, each was a deep purplish-red and bloated with hellish venom. Many still bore inch long stingers protruding from their wounds.
Yukiko conjured a globe of solidified sound around herself and the rest of the Triumvirate, this humming barrier was powerful enough that any demon wasp that struck it was pulped instantly. And Evanora continued to fire several more magical beams of power at the now free demon, however they failed to strike the brute as her aim was fouled by the swarm.
Torquil turned to the demon-hosts and shouted: “Protect us!” At that command the demon-dwarf charged forward with the other lesser demon-hosts in close pursuit.
Utatash turned his attention to the demon-hosts as they moved to engage him. Ah, such beings, living hatred bound in stolen flesh. I set thee free! And with that pronouncement he thrust both of his hands forward and a vibration rippled through the air. It hit the demon-hosts like a hurricane force wind, their bodies turned to dust in an instant, as hideous, inhuman “after-images” exited them like smoke - all except the demon-dwarf. An after-image of a horned demonic creature exited from him, and like a vapor dissipated with a silent cry. The dwarf fell backwards onto the cold stone ground and lay unmoving.
Yukiko screamed to her fellows: “we have to get out of here! Now!”
“Agreed!” Shouted Evanora.
Torquil shook his head, “very well”.
Baerdus woke suddenly - it’s gone. For the first time in decades, its foul presence is gone! Baerdus was dying, he could feel it. Too long had that thing been inside of him like a cancer, eating away at him. He had fought it, but it was too strong...too powerful...the things it made me do! The murders, the horrors it committed wearing my face! Baerdus wept tears of grief and rage. The godsdamned demonancers had bound that horror into his flesh and had used it to rape and murder time and again.
Baerdus reached up to his face and tufts of beard were falling out...I have freed you Baerdus, but even I cannot save your life. The warrior-demon that was bound within you drank too deeply. The sands of your life run out in mere minutes...but your tormentors are still here, Take your vengeance! Meet your fathers with a blade in your hand. A dark voice whispered in his mind. Baerdus looked down, there was the golden dagger “he” had used to murder the helpless women and children - another atrocity he had to endure.
Baerdus crawled to his feet, his head swaying, but he saw the yellow haired bitch’s back was to him. He charged forward and plunged the blade into her lower back.
Evanora screamed as the knife pierced her kidney. Both Yukiko and Torquil turned to her and saw the aging and dying dwarf behind her. “Baerdus?” Torquil said as he noticed the hate filled glare in the dwarf’s eyes. “I will see you in hell you black heart-” Baerdus never finished his curse as Torquil spoke a black word of power and the dwarf’s head exploded.
“Torquil!” Yukiko shouted as she opened a portal and carrying the gravely wounded Evanora, stepped through it. Without a backward glance Torquil was quick to follow her.
Ah, it would appear this little drama has played out my lovelies. Utatash addressed the swarming wasps as they continued to sting their rage and hatred into the corpses on the ground. An observant viewer would’ve noticed that the wasps were beginning to decay - their wings were beginning to wither and fall off and their color was fading. Apparently their time in this dimension was limited.
But, I think there is still fun to be had in this world, don’t you? Utatash walked to the remnants of the fear-racked apprentice, just gray ashes really. The demon aimed his right hand at the ash and it gathered in said hand, as he raised his left hand, palm up and several wasps landed in it. With a sudden motion he slapped both hands together and then let the mess fall to the stone floor. After a moment the mess started to grow. It soon took the shape of the previously dead apprentice. Satisfied with his work, he walked over to the corpse of the headless dwarf.
So much anger and wrath. It would be a shame to let you pass into the sea of souls without your vengeance satisfied friend dwarf. Utatash said out loud. Again he aimed his right hand - this time at the headless corpse on the ground and its chest burst open, and the dead dwarf’s heart flew to Utatash’s hand. Utatash then raised his hand and dozens of the remaining wasps flew to the heart and began stinging it. After a moment Utatash returned the now venom filled heart back to the headless corpse and it began to flop uncontrollably and the corpse began to change.
As this process continued a figure walked up behind Utatash. Utatash turned to see Emmanuel standing behind him. Naked and stained with ash. As soon as Utatash turned to look upon him, Emmanuel fell to his knees.
“What is your bidding my Master?” He said with true reverence and awe.
Ah, Emmanuel, my servant. I have brought you from the glories of my kingdom to stand at my side. I have decided to take an interest in this war after all.
“But why my Master? Surely this world does not merit your mighty attention?” Emmanuel said with humility.
What you say is true my servant. However, honestly? I just want to see what happens. Utatash replied smugly. Just then a great despair filled cry rang out.
Turning to the source of the sound Emmanuel stared open-mouthed. For there was a beast with the body of a great dog, a war hound - save it had the head of the once possessed dwarf. Beard and all. “What have you done to me?!” The dwarf-headed hound screamed at Utatash.
Well friend Baerdus. I could not save your mortal form. And when your enemies slew you, your soul was bound to the void. Do you know what horrors dwell there? Utatash asked.
“You have turned me into an abomination! I am more a monster than I was before!” Baerdus screamed once more.
Really? Is that true? Your mind is your own. No demon possesses you. Yes, you are a blasted and twisted being. But I cannot command you to slay innocents like they commanded you to do. Your heart is yours. I have given you the chance to avenge yourself - and your fallen kin. Then I will release you and you may stand in the halls of your fathers - avenged.
“How do I know you will release me?” Baerdus asked.
Serve me in this, track down this so-called Triumvirate. And I promise to release you from this mortal coil. Then you can enter the halls of your ancestors with at least some honor. And as Emmanuel can attest. I always keep my promises. Utatash informed the once-dwarf.