Spirits defend me, for I have seen such darkness, that my sky is always black. In the heart of that wasting land, Noshiki, I have been tortured by the most dire of horrors. Taken as a child by the brutal cults of the Erinys, I was twisted out of my innocent form, washed over with dark magic and convinced to destroy by murderous whispers. I have killed my own people and eaten demon flesh. I live now under lock and key in the Convent of Saint Dakara’s Will, having been crippled in battle; unlike my fellow Erinys, I begged the Seraphim for mercy, pleaded the Spirits.
Mercy cannot be granted to me in full. But what could be given, I now have. My body is weighed down by heavy chains, and I am locked in a quiet, reinforced bedroom, where I can hurt no one.
The Dakarans watch me, every day. Whenever sanity begins to slip, I try to beg of them to save me. But what has been done to me cannot be reversed. Hours from now the terrors will take me again. I will lose my mind, I will give in to the voices, I will rave and thrash and try to hurt others. I will have to be restrained, sometimes given strange herbs. All that I can accomplish while lucid is to write this tome for the blessed women of Dakara. This is the only action of vengeance that I can take against the woman who destroyed me. I will reveal all of her powers and allies.
I will lay her bare. I will insure she and her ilk are known to all Seraphim, my true sisters, so that our holy protectors are best equipped to fight the war against the dark. Even if it destroys me.
This will be my compendium of their secrets. A tool of justice for all time.
Demons are twisted spirits, representing various agonies and weaknesses. They feed off these Cardinal Pains, and their forms are given to them based on their chosen form of sustenance. The Erinys, tragic enemy of the Order of the Seraphim, are the foremost mistresses of all that is demonic. Only an Erinys can ascend to the rank of Demon Queen, a creature of power and dark majesty unmatched beneath the skies our Spirits gave us. From the greatest Oni to the weakest Urk, all demons bow before an Erinys. Only Archdemons dare to oppose them. Yet, their goals usually align. Demons, even Archdemons, seek only to consume. Erinys just give them a convenient killing field, a grim table to feast on.
I was once an Erinys. The state of my mind cannot be described. The things done to me defy decent explanation. You may doubt that I can deliver any lucid account of the things that cackle at the feet of the dark knights. I cannot sway you – I can only describe the horrors I’ve witnessed and fought alongside, and hope you heed my words on the subject. I hope to teach you to identify and to defeat many demons in this series of tomes. It is my last action.
For soon, I will go truly mad, lose myself forever, and die. The madness I suffer is one that you will never experience. But if faced with a demon, perhaps, for those few seconds, you will know the disconnected insanity of Noshiki, as you stare into those wicked eyes, and strike against that cursed flesh. Do this enough, and some of it might stay in you, like a rotting in your soul. Yet you will never be as gone as I – let that be your strength as you read on.
Lesser Servant Demons
The Order of the Seraphim bolsters itself with volunteers, bright and determined girls who at a young age decide they wish to pursue the life of the convent knight, becoming Cherubim. Erinys have no such luck. To grow their warbands, they must attack civilization, and take young girls to whom they can apply their dark arts. Erinys call these kidnapped girls Nymphs. Each Succubus (the leader of an Erinys cult or warband) treats its Nymphs as she wants – some consider them disposable and laugh when they are abused, while others keep them to herself as personal treasure.
Each Nymph will grow to be an Erinys, if she survives. She will be no common fighter, but a lady of a dark kingdom, a marshal of the Erinys cults. Thus, even in the most reckless warbands, there is always one entity below a Nymph in the food chain, someone more expendable than even the littlest and weakest of girls. Nymphs take out freshly-incited anger upon them, often as a rite of passage. Full-fledged Erinys kill them for sport, or make them kill each other. They are numerous, and they cannot even look an Erinys in the eye, so lowly is their existence within the warbands. The following demons are the truly disposable rank and file of the Erinys. They exist and serve only to kill, consume and die.
URK: Pale, green and gray, pig-faced beasts, with leathery flesh that looks in places to be covered in mildew. They have sunken chests and round protruding bellies, and thick arms. They have tusks upon their faces, and bloated red eyes. They are aspects of brutality, seeking to feed on fear and agony. The Erinys, or at least those women who are still capable of bright emotions, will laugh at them as they die. They are refused weapons and armor, and are too low-minded to make them, so they fight with bones and stone. They are just a touch shorter than your average fox-eared Iomadi, and just a touch stronger. These beasts are common. They represent the anger you or I could have, the anger that could make us fight and hurt our kind. They don’t so much reproduce as fester out of the ground in killing fields. There is no trick to defeating them, avoiding them or finding them. They are brutish and renowned for their stupidity, and fall in battle any swift blow.
GNOLE: Cackling, hyena-faced fiends that walk hunched forward on two legs, dribbling thick saliva upon the ground, the Gnole is more cunning and cruel than the Urk, though often more cowardly as well. Their long limbs hold on to cruel implements, jagged chunks of metal wielded like swords, thick clubs studded with nails jutting at haphazard angles, crude razor blades on rusty handles. They are forever laughing, and the cacophonous laughter that accompanies them can warn of their presence. Though it often seems to come from everywhere at once, and from no discernible mouth, as such it hardly serves to inform one of the number and position of the creatures. Gnoles approach cautiously, maneuvering around terrain, waiting until they perceive exhaustion, injury or confusion in their prey, before attacking. It is best to attack them boldly, to drive against them without fear. This can be difficult due to their raucous and unsettling laughter, but the beasts perform poorly without the upper hand, and they are as fragile as any being of flesh, and often fight unarmored.
Gnoles are marginally more respected than Urks. They are treated as pets moreso than cannon fodder, but even so, the Erinys who hurts her own kind will think little of hurting a pet dog.
AKHLUT: The gray hounds of Erinys are known as “Akhlut.” They are ferocious beasts, with sleek, almost whale or shark-like heads filled with razor teeth, and long bodies and legs covered in bristly fur. They are swift runners and fierce trackers. Many a time I commanded these beasts myself. Spirits defend those souls whom I ordered taken by the hounds. When the Akhlut run there is a terrible whistling, as air goes through their bristles, and then they pounce, and lock jaw against limb, crippling the opponent. Attacking in packs, they can outmaneuver defenses and shock formations. In body, they are still only as durable as a big dog or wolf. Strike their bodies and hope to kill – they will insure that any attacks made against their limbs and head will fail, but their body is a broad and long target for any kind of strike. Among the Erinys, it also taught that if an Akhlut becomes unruly, the casting of blue flames will frighten them.
TINDALOS: The Tindalos are foul, flying conglomerates of tainted air, in a rough shape that suggests a sharp head, a serpentine spine and long bony arms, like a partial skeleton, never wholly solid. These beasts are said to be able to track the enemies of the Erinys through the boundaries of reality – where they are commanded to go, they shall appear. They can spy on anybody, it is said, and can only be found by very perceptive viewers. The wraiths inhabit corners and angles, and when they enter a place, a subtle foulness takes to the air, which disappears along with them. They are difficult to strike, as they are gaseous, and vulnerable only to burning, as it takes the air from which they are composed. Few Erinys can communicate with the Tindalos hounds, and as such while one might see them accompanying the Erinys, this does not mean they can be put to purpose. To communicate with the hounds and order them to act takes a powerful diviner or seer.
VISVA: One of the lowliest of life forms walking the soils of our spirit-blessed world, the Visva is a crawling mound of slime and carrion. This being is only clean several days after each meal, once it has completely digested whatever unfortunate thing it has consumed. They might be a graying yellow when first conceived, but they will quickly become a crawling wedge of filth. Visva are heavily resistant to nearly all forms of attack, and often becoming moving shield walls for Erinys or Nymphs who can hide behind them. To burn them only makes their forms roil and bubble. Blades go through the body to little purpose. Shells and rockets smash into the creature with few effects. Bullets seem to go in one way and then out the other. Defeating these creatures quickly requires their forms to be magically frozen first, and then attacked.
KITSUNE: At first blush a Kitsune is just a Iomadi. A person like any other, with fox-like ears and a long fluffy tail. A very kept person, always well dressed, lean, with supple limbs and a beautiful face, with good hair, and whatever kinds of features are most appealing to its particular target. The Kitsune’s true form, however, is animal-like. Its face will slope forward into a fanged snout, clearly unlike the face of any person, and its hands will become claws. Often used for dirty tricks, like pretending to seek refuge among a community the Erinys wish to target, preying upon the generosity and good will of our people. The Kitsune is quick and strong, but not one for battle. It is a beast of lies and intrigues, feeding upon the vulnerabilities and desires of those around it, or of a particular person it attaches itself to, like a false lover.
These six are the common servants of the Erinys. As a rule, all of these beings might also be encountered alone, or under the supervision of other entities, such as reckless magic users and foul necromancers. They may also be encountered in the Arch-Dungeons, such as our terrible underground Pampa sea. As an Erinys, I took the counsel of many foul individuals, who hide demonic consort behind public faces. Even here in Sargasso there might be Lords and Ladies with Kitsune consorts and using Visva to safeguard dark secrets. They are accessible as far as demonic servants go. If difficulties in communication and leadership can be overcome, they can be uses for several dark deeds.
The Lesser Arts of Demonic Combat
All demons above can perform magic to some extent – all spirits can, and demons are tainted spirits. However, they, like Spirits, have unwritten, unspoken rules and restrictions upon their magic. The Tindalos is said to be able to travel through time. But it cannot, or at least, it has never been seen to do so. And from consorting with Kitsunes (as many Erinys do, for they are more personable than other demons) I learned that the Tindalos cannot actually affect the past or future, or relay what it has seen there to anyone but other Tindalos. This is just one example but it serves an important point. There are limitations imposed upon all Spirits which also apply to demons. There are things they cannot affect.
Still, one should be wary of demonic magic. One thing they can affect quite easily is your form, particularly if they catch you with a fireball or a thrust of kinetic force. Always expect magical attack.
There are several tools that are purported to work against demons. It is said that they can be stayed by a holy item presented with conviction by one who puts his or her faith in the Spirits: such as the yellow flowers of the Ashoka tree, or a carved bamboo staff. Sacred Tulsi leaves will also stay a demonic presence. Spaces consecrated with such plants are off-limits to demons. Even a Kitsune in its disguise will never tarry long in such a place, as Tulsi irritates the very essence and core of their being. Note that these techniques will not kill them. But they allow you time to defend.
When fighting a demon, you may feel that your blows are not connecting. Do not be fooled by this. It is an alien experience, to strike demonic forms with mundane weapons. You will not feel the same as when sparring with a mortal being. Rest assured that some damage is being done. Demons are not invincible, even the most powerful have bodies and suffer wounds. Keep your faith and always aim to kill. As a rule, one can only tell a demon is dead if it vaporizes. Many turn to a black, sand-like substance and blow in the air when truly dead. Don’t simply leave behind a corpse.
I can almost smell the air of the wastes again. I hope to scribe my next tome soon, once I have calmed. Oh spirits blight me, I hear voices. I hope I can hang on long enough to write of more advanced beings. Already recalling these monsters is taking me back to dark places. I should rest. Yes. Chain myself again and rest.