Feature Writer: Pervect /
Feature Title: How the Tide Turns /
Story Codes: Ma/Fa, Fa/Fa, Coercion, Magic, BiSexual, Shemale, non-anthro, DomSub, Violent /
Synopsis: In their quest to end the threat the Prince of Demons posed to their world, the heroes had called upon many allies, including an ancient power released from the Well of Darkness. Even triumphant victory does not end the tale – for there is always another ruler called to serve, crowned as the new and resurgent Prince of Demons, fourth in title since the birth of creation /
How the Tide Turns
It happened with frightful speed. One moment we were almost triumphant, having battled our way through every foe and trap Wat Dagon had put in our way, from Death Knight to demon. We had just put down the risen legless corpse which had been the very last opponent, rising from the water near the gigantic oyster within which hid our true target, the trigger for the madness wave, flying up dripping and attempting to blast us with magic. Its attempt at ambush had failed miserably, four of us having used scrolls of foresight this fateful day. The twins, Delia and I all moved faster than the foolish zombie, Delia winning the race to react, casting a spell of disintegration that proved enough to end its threat, the pale ray striking unerringly and leaving drifting ashes to float down upon the waters, the sole reminder that a foul undead being had risen against us.
The enormous black oyster had snapped shut at our entrance, as if sensing intruders. Tharmas, the doughty lizardman warrior, immediately advanced on it, heavily enchanted adamantine greataxe slicing its way through the protective shell, Annalise stepping in to join him – her cold iron greatsword proving somewhat less effective at chipping the protective covering away. Soon we would have the nightmare pearl in our hands, and the Prince of Demon’s plans would be in ruins. Or so the plan went – straight to hell.
Fifteen foot in width, it cut through the air and planar boundaries, portal spinning open in less than a breath into a gate. Through it came the sounds of terrible battle, the city of Lemoriax in flames as Eladrin armies and the legions of Orcus pressed the demons, driving them back. It was the sight of Demogorgon himself, shouldering his way through the portal, that held our attention – and struck horror into our hearts.
The Prince of Demons towered above us, a full twenty four feet tall, his body at once sinuous like that of a snake and powerfully built like that of a great ape, two baleful baboon heads leering from atop lumbering shoulders, attached to which were two long, writhing tentacles. His torso was saurian, like some great reptile with an immense forked tail.
The Queen of Succubi reacted immediately, the kiss she had bestowed upon me allowing her full magical and telepathic access through me. I could sense her lashing out mentally through our telepathic bond, whispering at the Prince of Demons. Thankfully, I could not hear the communication, but it caused him to slump for a moment in dejected defeat, before roaring in energized fury – and focusing on me!
His twins heads shrieked in rage, and his overwhelming dual voice rang in our heads, “Fools! At last you reveal yourselves to my wrath. The audacity of your ridiculous plan is almost enough to convince me to simply destroy you. But here I find you at this, the heart of my tide of savagery. Know that even as my minions crush the last of your pathetic invasion, your own deaths will be neither quick nor painless. They will be works of wonder, tortures to inspire the ages. You will, at my touch, become legends!”
The Prince of Demons was fast – but not as fast as a diviner, a wizard who is usually a step or three ahead of everyone else. That Delia had cast faster moments earlier had been a rare fluke indeed. Gaylin used a spell of telekinesis as the oyster relaxed open, as though soothed by the mere presence of its master, sliding the gigantic black pearl it had exposed into her bag of holding, hiding away the nauseating aura of evil it radiated. Next was a whirlwind making its way through the gate with almost reckless speed, a living current of wind that spun down into a short elven woman, uncharacteristically stocky, with a wild silver-white mane of hair and jade-green eyes. Though badly wounded, she had lost none of the sparkle in her eyes, paired gleaming scimitars shining with holy power – the Whirling Fury herself, commander of the eladrin hosts, Gwynharwif, was at our sides, her presence greatly heartening all of us, but most especially her devoted champion, Annalise Greenheart.
The gate spiraled closed as Demogorgon roared again, one great reptilian head focusing on me, but I could not even feel whatever mental assault he hurled my way, the other attempting to summon a great demon for aid, and I contained a smirk as the attempt failed miserably. I knew keeping the treacherous little gatecrasher around would pay off, with his ability to block summoning magics in a large area. The demon prince was not done, advancing upon the eladrin paragon, who it clearly saw as the true threat, tentacles, lashing tail and dreadful bites savaging her, Gwynharwif’s exposed flesh rotting away at the touch of tentacles, blackening at the loud slap of barbed double-tail.
He quickly learned the error of ignoring us, as Faylin dispelled his magical defenses and augmentations with a sharp incantation, the abjurer easily shattering the weakened demon lord’s magic, wracking him with a terrible backlash of eldritch energies gone wild. Annalise and Tharmas charged in, taking a beating from flailing tentacles, but driving their weapons home, little Delia tumbling in, flanking and driving her shortsword deep, twisting it cruelly on the way out, almost crippling one ankle. Shadowfire cowered in a corner as our healer, Lornac, moved in behind the eladrin, the vast majority of her injuries vanishing at his golden-glowing touch, and Velnaris unleashed a storm of glowing missiles from her elven greatbow.
Me? Shrugging off the sight of those four terrible eyes, a mental attack from which we were all screened by spell or inherent immunity in my case, I fired two rays, one white and freezing, one black and enervating. In a single moment of furious battle, Demogorgon had taken a terrible beating, and it was far from over.
Gaylin conjured a great hand made of force that moved on its own, rushing forward to grapple the demon as a dull gray ray shot from her pointed finger, draining the demon of strength. Weakened or not, the demon prince shrugged the semi-translucent fist off, and screamed in rage as Gwynharwif’s blades tore into him, the glittering scimitars’ enchantment buoyed by the bane talismans we’d provided her with. The eladrin was very impressive, moving with inhuman skill and speed, only one flickering slash failing to find its mark in a gushing spray of noxious black blood. The demon responded with terrifying fury, striking at her single minded, but she was wiser to his ways, or perhaps our spells had some effect, for the Whirling Fury took comparatively little damage – damage soon mostly repaired once Lornac cast a spell of restoration on her, rotting and blackened flesh again pink and healthy. We battered at the demon prince with spells and blades and it tottered. A collective pained groan sounded when Demogorgon healed itself of much of his wounds with a single flick of a tentacle, before teleporting behind Lornac and unleashing his full fury against our healer, who stumble away, reeling from another tentacle slap before snatching a scroll from an ivory case, spending its dwoemer to cast a healing spell on himself. With the demon prince focusing on our healer, which I had to grant was a wise tactical decision, it failed to dodge the crushing hand Gaylin had conjured and was caught for a brief moment, muscles visibly straining against its hold and flesh compressing in its crushing grip, before breaking free. That moment was enough for us to pound him, tossing the most powerful spells we’d been saving for just this occasion, recklessly throwing all the weight behind enchanted edges. Or at least, all but me – I kept a spell readied, and when Demogorgon again attempted to strike at Pelor’s servant, clearly hoping to finish him off, I raised a bubble of force about him, which weathered the terrible violence and dark demonic power behind the Prince of Demons’ blows with no discernible effect.
A virtual pincushion of arrows, with terrible bleeding rents in his scaly skin going deep, desperation was clear on the demon prince’s face as it attempted to teleport away, to live and fight another day – just as the Witch Queen, Iggwilv the Demon Whore, stepped into the room and put up a dimensional locking ward about us all. Merciless, we struck and blasted away, and I finished him off with a final battle spell, a conjured glob of viscid acid, which ate away at the flesh of both thick necks, paired heads lolling off, eyes blanking into death. Absently, I noted that Malcanthet, the Queen of Succubi, had not used me as a conduit for her magic during the battle, not supporting us at all beyond her admittedly effective initial telepathic attack.
Struck a mortal blow, the huge demon tottered and fell, a nimbus forming around his heads, resembling two dark crowns of energy. The crowns rose and quickly merged into a single crown, and a terrible death roar echoed forth, announcing the end of the Prince of Demons and a vacant throne. The succubus queen in my head demanded that I claim the crown, a magically backed admonition. It was obvious that she did not know my nature. Her magic was useless, her demand pointless.
With a single step forward, I claimed the crown. For however long I lived, I was now the Princess of Demons.
In an instant, I felt the weight of the Abyss landing on my soul, and reluctantly accepted the seeding of chaos in the depth of my inner essence, rejecting the pure corruption of evil with a massive effort of will. For all my power, I knew that even the greatest of gods tread lightly where the Abyss is concerned, its unknowable and unpredictable power thought bottomless. It is said that creation took place once the formless chaotic masters of the Maelstrom met the original masters of the Abyss, their battles allowing order to endure for long enough that creation came into being. Attempting to flout the Abyss completely would destroy me, at best. At worst, I would turn into a demon mind and soul, utterly vile and irredeemable. You can redirect a raging torrent, never halt it completely. I shuddered briefly as I changed, power and chaos rippling through me, altering my very nature.
Everyone was staring at me, mouths open, and I smiled widely at the dear companions who’d released me from the Well of Darkness little more than a month ago. Well, not Shadowfire – the unpleasant little gnome was still curled into a ball in the corner. Nor Gwynharwif – she was nursing her wounds, staring at me suspiciously.
Neither was Iggwilv frozen or astonished. The lovely, poisonous, dark haired and seemingly young woman smiled at me, “Do stop by some time, dearie, anytime, for a long chat.” She withrew the flask, the artifact she’d taken from us as her price for her aid, unstoppered it and used it to draw in the lingering motes of blackness and writhing smoke around Demogorgon’s corpse. As she drew in his essence into the iron flask of Tuerny the Merciless, capturing what was left of his ‘soul’, the dead demon lord’s body melted away into the Abyss, leaving what I knew instinctively was a permanent black stain on the ground. This would certainly prevent me from providing his corpse to Ahazu the Taker, demon lord and master of the Black Well, as a replacement for the prisoner we’d released, as I had personally pledged. It left me unaffected – with his tooth in my possession, I’d figured out that supposedly imprisoned demon lord’s plan, and had never had any intention of complying. Really, if you can’t lie to demons… ?
It was arrogance, always arrogance that brought them down. Iggwilv was completely unfazed, obviously intent upon leaving peacefully, never dreaming that any would dare threaten her, let alone be capable of dealing her harm.
I appeared next to her, taking the flask against almost no resistance, and touched her to release a spell. Instantly, she froze – in position, in time, in stasis.
“You… ?” Gwynharwif stumbled back in shock. The mortals were likewise astonished, staring at me wide-eyed.
“What?” I asked them, ignoring the mental chortling of the succubus queen. Malcanthet’s time would come. “The witch is treacherous by nature, living poison, a wretched blight. Surely you would not have her depart with such power in hand? No doubt she would have used it to gather an army and again attempt to conquer your world. This way,” I cast and conjured a shimmering prismatic sphere about her frozen form, adding a dwoemer for permanence and a mental alarm should any approach, “she is out of the game, if only for a while.”
“What are your intentions?” the eladrin paragon demanded, having conspicuously failed to sheathe her blades.
“Towards you? I would say that I owe the Court of Stars a great debt,” I nodded at her congenially. “I expect you want to lead your troops back home immediately, and I will of course not stand in your way. You are quite rightly suspicious – and this crown,” I patted my head, “might go to my head,” I heard the lizardman hiss in what I’d learned to recognize as amusement, relieved that at least someone appreciated my humor. “I mean of course, corrupt me,” I rolled my eyes at their dour demeanor. “Perhaps,” I suggested, “you might care to send an ambassador once I have my court in place. Of course first, I must set this plane I rule in order. Evict uninvited guests, school the errant children, bring about some … order.”
Gwynharwif sniffed at that last word, and the twins sighed in unison.
“As for you, my friends, I would genuinely advise you to depart with the eladrin host. You should not spend more time in the Abyss than you must,” I added gently.
“We’re not leaving you,” the twins said as one. In truth, I’d not expected any other response.
“Nor I,” the elfmaid admitted reluctantly, fingering her bowstring. She was clearly not entirely happy about her decision.
“I, too, will stand by your side,” the lizardman offered, and Delia nodded sharply once.
“Ahem,” Lornac blinked in astonishment. “Ah, I do not mean to be a spoilsport, but … there is just no way in heaven or hell that I would serve the … well, I suppose you’re now the Princess of Demons,” he shrugged. The tension in the room rose, the temperature lowering. Annalise looked torn, but after a moment of inner contemplation, shook her head and moved next to her patron.
“Of course,” I laughed lightly, “I did not expect you to make any other choice,” I nodded at him, then looked at Gaylin. “Gayle, let Lornac have the pearl, let him take it to the Court of Stars, that it may be properly disposed of. Do not touch it!” I warned him. “Use your ring of telekinesis,” I advised him, “it is a truly cursed thing, be wary of it. Do not let it slip from your grasp. I would have your word,” I turned to the pale-haired eladrin, speaking formally for once, “That you will destroy that,” I pointed.
“Of course,” she bowed shallowly, lips pursed.
“Let us leave this place, and the twins will teleport you where you will. The seaside gate and the gate you used as entry are still up, and will remain until you and yours depart,” I offered her and the priest and raised a hand to stifle the twins’ protests. “I appreciate your support, all of you,” I looked them in the eyes, one after another, “and I will need it, I will call you back to my side. But I cannot take you with me as I teleport and order demons about, it just isn’t safe. Once I have some measure of control, a stronghold with at least a modicum of safety and order, I will have you back in my new home, but not yet. I could not bear to lose you, especially to something senseless after such a triumph,” I appealed to their emotions. In truth, I also did not want them to see me order demons about, as that might well sour their enthusiasm and devotion. I weathered their protests, the eladrin, Annalise and Lornac weighing in on my side.
“No,” I insisted. “You have spent most of your spells, we would be without a healer, with no safe place to rest and recast our protections. Recall that I am not mortal, with no such limitations,” I offered, “and this is my plane.”
<Such concern for you … friends> Malcanthet’s silky voice whispered in my mind.
I was slowly opening up my awareness, allowing it to stretch and perceive the doings on my plane of existence, a full layer of the Abyss that called me Mistress, as we strode out of Wat Dagon. For a mortal jumped up to demon lord, learning to manipulate and control it would be the work of decades, and even then, only limited control could be established by all but the most exceptional. I’d fought and scrabbled my way to divinity centuries ago, before an angry god locked me away. Perhaps not quite a demigoddess yet, but still, much more than mortal. In fact, I noted as I led the way outside, instructing the twins to raise up a wall of stone to black the door and make it more difficult yet to release the witch, I had no mortal blood at all. A vampiric nymph for a mother, an unknown angel for a father, I was a miscegenation of the most peculiar sort.
I ignored the Queen of Succubi. The tool I’d used to gain divinity still existed, a focusing lens that purified power and fed it to me, hidden away in a private demiplane, a home I’d not visited for many centuries. Soon, the opening I’d permitted her would be no more, and her belief that she could exert influence over the Princess of Demons be disappointed.
Once we were outside, I spoke, “Lornac, Annalise, I would have your aid again, soon, against the Lord of the Undead. He lurks about, eager to relieve me of life and title. I would very much appreciate it if you could also convince Soldrinor,” the great Solar who had mustered Pelor’s angelic host in our aid, “to join us for that battle. It would not do to have Orcus as a divine being and Emperor of Demons,” I added, to the emphatic nods of almost everyone.
“I will speak with him,” Lornac offered with some reluctance.
“There will be rewards,” I offered. “I am sure there are treasures in Abysm to restore to the heavens, and it is within my power to transform you and Annalise into celestial beings.”
“Impossible!” Gwynharwif barked.
“Is it truly?” I smiled ever so sweetly at her. “Let me offer you a demonstration. Lornac, I believe you have a wand or scroll of holy smite – please use it on me.”
He blinked, but didn’t hesitate. The holy energy and burst of light failed to harm me.
“That you resist his spell is no great surprise,” Annalise offered dryly.
“Of course,” I realized. “Perhaps let me drink some holy water?”
I took the proffered flask and drank it down. Tasteless, really.
“As you can see,” I shrugged at their astonished looks, “I do not abide by ordinary restrictions. It is an old quality of mine. But time presses, and each moment we wait another of your people dies,” I looked at the eladrin sternly.
“Join hands,” Faylin instructed once she knew where to go, and they were soon gone.
I watched as the heroes I’d fought side-by-side with for what seemed like eternity, ever in a desperate haste to save their world from a fatal stroke, vanish, gone with plaintive looks and blown kisses.
An instant later, I plane-shifted away.
I could not afford to show Malcanthet too much, lest she attempt to copy my methods. She could use my senses, but they were of limited use to her with eyes closed. I could feeling the immense power of the artifact I’d spent three centuries crafting, the Purity Lens, an arm’s length in front of me. With quick, certain motions I stripped, tossing everything away – everything I wore and bore carried an enchantment of one sort or another. The succubus queen had made me her spy and conduit, but it was hardly a parasitic arrangement – she’d granted me a tremendous amount of power, power I was loathe to lose, power I meant to keep. Nude and utterly bare of all adornment, eyes still shut close, I approached the lens and touched it, activating its power – Malcanthet strangely silent in my head.
It built up, burning through me, purifying, seamlessly and painlessly cutting away the mystic thread the demon lord had attached to my inner essence, retaining not merely the power she’d granted me, but also making permanent the sacred empowerment provided by the Fountain of Beauty at the Court of Stars, a gift granted us after the service we’d given them in proving our worth and might, showing them that following our lead in waging war against the Prince of Demons would not prove a disastrous and foolish misadventure.
Personal power, however desirable, would not be enough to keep me alive. I needed armies, I needed generals, I needed fear and respect – or my realm would face constant invasions, endless assassination attempts. Without personal power, however, I could not, would not, be able to recruit generals who would gather and command the requisite armies, would not and could not bend Gaping Maw, my abyssal plane, to my will. Alone, despite all my power and experience, I was surely doomed.
Fearful but not hesitating, I opened Tuerny’s Flask and drank its contents, hand on the Purity Lens, awakening it as I gulped down the terrible, awful, disgusting remnant of my predecessor, eyes tearing as I fought to keep it inside, as the hum of the lens grew louder, its power flooding through me, rising, rising beyond anything I’d experienced before as the demon lord’s essence twisted in my stomach, as unpleasant as what I imagined deadly poison would feel like to mortals and others susceptible to such mundane means of death-dealing.
This was not painless and far from instantaneous. I writhed, always keeping a palm touching the glass by an effort of main will that had my eyes tearing with bloody droplets, as my body shifted and grew, as tentacles burrowed out from beneath my arms, as a double-barbed tail split the skin at the bottom of my spine, as I grew larger and pinkish fingernails lengthened into black claws, teeth growing sharp. It felt like hours of agony as I swelled in size and power, days of endless pain, a rainfall of crimson tears sliding down my cheeks.
It was finally over, and I did not hesitate, looking into the mirrored lens to see my new self. An explosive release of breath, a palpable almost physical sense of relief buoyed me, when I saw that I was far from hideous. I’d always blamed my vanity on nymph blood, and that part of me was not too terribly disappointed.
I stood perhaps twelve feet tall, skin a pale icy white rather than its former healthy peach. My nails were black, lengthened and somewhat pointed, but hardly claws, and most elegant looking. My facial features retained their perfection – or, rather, were almost a full order of magnitude more magnificent, now that the Queen’s Kiss and the effects of the Fountain of Beauty were permanent and divine power pounded so much louder in my veins. My figure had likewise not suffered, to say the least. My hair was no longer rich auburn, but rather an admixture of brown, red and blonde, looking as if the sun was shining on me. No longer violet in color, my eyes were a pale sky-blue.
Admittedly, the pair of long white tentacles jutting from my ribcage below the arms, of which I soon proved to have full control, were a jarring note, as was the double-pronged tail, startlingly long and flexible. I recalled the terrible use Demogorgon had made of his natural weapons, and presumed that I was likewise equipped, which was a marvellous outcome indeed. My wings were unchanged, merely larger to match my new size, white feathered and angelic, with a patina of silver on the last row, sharpening them into keen vorpal scythes. Opening my mouth, I saw how very long my tongue was now, noting that the teeth didn’t look much different. Of course, there was one other miraculous change, a feeling of immense and glorious power.
I’d achieved my lifelong wish and goal. I was now a true goddess, if a rather minor demigoddess. I could feel my very few true worshippers, the twin archmages, the elven archer, the lizardman warrior, the halfling trickster. They believed in me, truly. It was uplifting, the knowledge that I was a deity, though I knew that it brought with it new dangers, new concerns, an entirely new game, where the currency was worship, religious devotion. I was the Demon Princess of Power, the goddess of … power? Demons? Daring, success, skill, magic, ambition and immortality? Of sorcery and blood right of magic?
Magic was where my divine powers lay, I knew immediately, a tremendous increase to my already impressive sorcerous might, but there were other, mightier gods that claimed magic – some of them jealous, all of them stronger, more knowledgeable and more experienced. My mouth dropped open when I felt my stream of thought split, diverging into two distinct and different minds, one contemplating my newly risen divine power, book of faith and the gathering and instructions of priests and worshippers, as the other ‘mind’ planned my campaign on Gaping Maw. It was disconcerting, and with a flex of my will, there was just one of me back inside my head. However much of a shocking surprise, it was also excellent news, that I’d inherited my predecessor’s power to act with twice the speed of anyone else. That I could merge back into one meant that I lacked his vulnerability, the twisted inside conflict that had made Demogorgon’s two heads each other’s worst enemy, that had brought about his defeat.
Another effort of will allowed me to shape shift, returning to my old familiar form, which somehow felt a bit cramped. Stretching a bit, finding myself even more flexible than previously, which was saying quite a lot, I went to the pile of items I’d tossed and began to redress, staring with speculation at the semitransparent dome of force that occupied much of the great hall, a permanent magic I’d erected to imprison and hold at bay an adamantium golem, a terribly powerful construct I had not been able to defeat … which would likely prove a trivial challenge, here and now. Wasteful, I mused, vowing to find a way to bend it to my will as my personal shield guardian. It was the last remnant of the lost and forgotten lich-lord from whom I’d wrested this refuge. He’d left me so much lore, treasure and magic that I actually bore a lingering fondness for him.
I dressed quickly, starting with the golden clit ring, whose enchantment was something that had sent Malcanthet into paroxysms of laughter. Perhaps she was merely jealous, though I rather doubted there was any perversion that one had not already participated in or otherwise experienced. Supple drakescale boots of swiftness, rings of death ward, fire immunity and free action, twisting to put on a sorceress’ dress and a vest of protection around the wings, clasping bracers of force roundst wrists, sliding on gloves, fastening belt and adjusting headband just so, tucking away battlewands, scroll-cases and potion vials, finishing with cloak and brooch. Just to make sure, I called forth my rod of battle, Quicksilver, from the gloves of storing, before putting it away and plane shifting back … home.
The Screaming Jungle was appropriately loud. The Abyss had grasped my wishes and directed me near the battle. Though my transformation had felt interminable, it had actually taken mere minutes. I knew that with Demogorgon’s fall, his armies had broken and scattered. I could sense six demon lords in my realm, though with little more than a vague sense of direction, rather than actual location, not quite enough to teleport to their side. Orcus and his legions were hell bent on conquest. Graaz’t was probably departing, if temporarily, to bring his armies against me. Those two were going to be a problem. I could also sense the ancient and powerful Dagon, my neighbor, Demogorgon’s former … ally? Of a different breed or race of demon, once rulers of the Abyss, I knew him to be one of the greatest, most ancient and most knowledgeable of fiends. I doubted he would see much use in me … at least, initially. He, too, was departing – for the present. Abraxas was an unpleasant surprise, and I quickly understood. He sought the treasures of Abysm, Demogorgon’s stronghold. I trusted its defenses to hold him … for a while. The Lady of Night, Nocticula was an unexpected complication, the mistress of shadow demons and patroness of assassins whose carnal exploits were a source of jealousy for Malcanthet herself. Shax, demon lord sadistic torture and bloody murder, was another newcomer, no doubt come looking for blood to sate his twisted appetite.
The sounds of the nearby battle were growing louder and more ferocious, and I quickly assumed my true form, splitting my minds and calling weapon to hand, advancing cautiously. It was simple, really – I needed generals, and part of our trickery in diminishing Demogorgon had been to put his two children, his two greatest generals, at odds. Hours or even days later, they were still fighting tirelessly, too evenly matched for either to triumph over his brother. They lumbered into sight, two gigantic monstrosities only slightly smaller than their progenitor, but distinctly lesser of power. For all that, they tore through great trees like kindling, heedless of all else in their struggle.
I did not tarry to watch and revel in the almost mesmerizing fight, which any arena over the planes would pay almost anything to host. I enacted my will, casting domination magics over both, making them mine – if only temporarily – with an ease I found almost disappointing. Both were terribly wounded, but were healing swiftly, wounds closing with visible speed and rippling of scaled flesh. I took from its holding place the second secret I wanted none to learn, thin silver collars I fastened about their thick necks, collars of eternal servitude, which turned mere domination into true loyalty, and prevented anything mortal from breaking that chain – only in death could they be removed. The thin bands sunk beneath the thick skin of their muscled necks, and I could see in their auras as the spell of compulsion leaked inward, seemingly fading away.
“Tetradian and Bagromar, you will work together and gather armies. End all invaders quickly, except for Orcus and his legions. Reduce those, hurt them, but make him think we are weak and tottering – they will be somewhat confused, as I will soon deal with the commander of his XIII Legion Decapitus, who also commands the vampires of his IX Legion Exsanguinos. Orcus himself is with his first legion, the Legion Thanatos. Avoid him personally, and the other demon lords – I will deal with them myself, calling you to me as needed. You now serve Lorathalis, Demon Princess of Power. Your duty is the safety of my realm. Any questions?”
“No, Mistress,” four mouths uttered in unison. Exercising my new telepathic powers, I ordered them to be about their task, and both teleported away almost instantaneously.
A good start, I thought to myself, then recalled Demogorgon’s favored servant, who lurked in the collection of islets known as the Claws of Belcheresk – the great balor Belcheresk, whom Charon had kept busy and held at bay with his legion of aquatic daemons during our invasion. Thinking back, I recalled my companions’ talk of the demon lord’s prison, from which they had rescued their former employer and noble patron, Divided’s Ire, an island in my realm. They had slain most of its denizens, but a few had escaped their ire – the marilith general Lillianth, the fallen angel Saureya, and the bullywug lich known as Orgoth the Despoiler.
One after the other, I decided, all would serve.
Teleporting into the former prison, I found it overflowing with undead, and was forced to destroy a few, following their retreat to face their lich master. The tiny thing, little more than skull and bones and necromantic energy, was paralyzed with fear and indecision at my presence, finally regaining enough composure and presence of mind to prostrate himself in abject terror.
“Orgosh, little one, I am Lorathalis, Demon Princess of Power. Do you serve me?” I inquired.
“Yes, oh great mistress,” its hollow voice resounded with fake enthusiasm.
“You shall take your little army to the shore and gather a greater undead host to oppose the legions of Orcus. You will support my servants, Tetradian and Bagromar, and obey them. Once that one departs, you shall have a reward, ahem,” I fingered my chin, “perhaps turn this into a necromantic laboratory?”
“Yes mistress,” it was clear that this was not quite the reward the lich had sought, but I had more important things to do than pander to its no doubt twisted desires.
“Be about it, then,” I ordered, stopping myself from departing when I noted that Orgosh was hesitating. “Was there something you wanted to say?” I demanded.
“Yes mistress. There is a powerful creature dwelling in the volcano’s caldera. Perhaps you can make some use of it? I am not sure what it is, but a powerful destructive spell will no doubt awaken it.” He was clearly afraid that if he was somehow wrong, I would hold it against him.
“I shall try that once you depart – if it is something unmanageable, I do not want your little legion here destroyed for nothing,” I decided.
“Most wise, mistress,” he nodded with seemingly real enthusiasm. “I will arrange for immediate departure,” he added following a wave of my hand signalling ‘move, ‘ hurrying off to muster his troops and see them off – with a quick telepathic sending, I informed my twin generals of this development.
Lillianth proved to be more difficult to recruit, for a scrying spell established her current abode at Sigil, where the Lady of Pain suffered no godlings – or even the mightiest of greater gods. Pondering possible solutions for a brief moment, I settled on writing a note, signing and sealing it, and flexing my new powers – calling a little messenger demonling to my side, a wretched winged quasit. It was annoyingly obsequious, but clearly took its quest most seriously. That I opened a gate to allow it transport to a known entryway to the City of Doors that should lead near his goal impressed it deeply, and it clearly memorized the instructions I provided, including the marilith’s present location.
Casting another spell of scrying, I looked at the image of the general Orcus had left in charge of his XIII Decapitus Legion, a jaundiced looking half ogre thrall. With an effort of will, I shifted back to the relatively unassuming and angelic-seeming form in which I would be recognized, and quickly prepared a full mantle of empowerments, mostly defensive spells. In a trice, I was there, reacting first and enjoying the look of surprise on his ugly features. A diamond-patterned meteor swarm left him and his closest advisors roasted. I unleashed three more meteor swarms and called up incendiary clouds against the necromancers I could locate easily, reducing dozens of them and scores of undead and demons to ashes. Telekinetically collecting most of the more powerful of the surprisingly large number of magic items that survived the inferno, I teleported away before organized resistance could be raised against me, leaving them with a parting gift – half a dozen summoned angels to contend with. I was pleased that I’d not lost that precious ability with my transformation, to simulate holiness, the darkest of evil, churning chaos or icy law, at my will. Wondering again at that last, given the infusion of chaos I’d been forced to accept with the demonic crown, I attempted to summon a lantern archon with a spell. Then an axiomite warrior from the clockwork city. Neither worked, and I frowned at the loss, knowing that I was now at least somewhat vulnerable to order and its minions, and that I could no longer easily deceive them or bend them to my will, their very nature rebelling against everything I represented. Perhaps I could corrupt them, I smiled darkly, and enacted the next step I’d planned on, mentally formulating and casting the greatest of mortal magics, wishing for five more new generals. Oh, I was not quite so foolish as to frame it that way. What I asked for was not the entities who would serve me, but information on those most suitable to serve me as generals. I digested the images and knowledge that appeared in my mind, very much bidden, and repeated the spell, this time asking for a dozen would-be high priests who would be the most suitable for me and have the best chances of quickly increasing the ranks of my worshippers. After recruiting those, I knew that there would be no choice left. I would have to face the Master of the Final Incantation, the demon lord Abraxas, in single combat, and claim my towers of Abysm. I could almost feel the dice rolling, the Abyss churning, as my decisions shaped the future.
Sighing in quiet concern, I blinked and was away. There were not many who would refuse my blandishments. One way or another, true power finds a way to attain goals, and none of mine would go wanting.
The first and easiest was on fire. Literally, as an efreet wizard attempted to encase the great giant in molten copper, to immobilize and choke him, as ten other efreet armed with a plethora of edged weapons flew around him, earnestly trying to hack him apart, and six others employed great copper-strung bows and war magic against him. Kushlar took hit after hit and shrugged them off, only a few strokes managing to mar the comely bronze skin with blood and deep wounds, the great giant roaring with rage as he shook off molten metal and cleaved two of his much smaller tormentors apart with a blazing greataxe larger than either. In full battle rage, he annihilated the bounty hunters who had foolishly closed with him with a cold, calculating fury and frightening speed, unbothered by arrows or spells since I’d slain the seven wiser efreet who’d kept their distance with a single precise coneblast of ice, easily overcoming the Elemental Plane of Fire’s distaste and resistance to casting water-aligned magics.
“And who might you be?” the bronze giant’s deep voice questioned my presence. A huge, surprisingly handsome brute, he was shaved bald and clad in heavy breastplate of enchanted adamant, with powerful dwoemers issuing from belt and boots, lesser ones from rings and amulet.
“Your savior, if you are willing,” I shifted back into my true form – only bigger, over matching him in size by perhaps three feet, close enough to allow him to feel the weight of my divine aura. I quickly had to close tentacles about him to prevent the giant from toppling once he began reeling in awe, knees trembling.
I quenched my aura, frowning at the unanticipated response. Before I could offer further words, he bent fully down to his knees, “I am most willing to serve, great one, but know that by taking me in you will incur the wrath of the Sultan and Vizier…”
“Of the efreet, of the City of Brass, of course I know, and have enough powerful enemies that they are little more than ants to me, Kushlar,” I touched him and restored him to full health with a small effort of will, knowing that I could only do so a very few times every day – goddess or not, I was not much of a healer.
The awe in his eyes took hold inside, and I felt the connection as I gained another worshiper. Smiling in pleasure, I raised him to his feet with a powerful surge of the tentacles still grasping him, reducing my size to match his – and leaned forward to kiss him on the lips, hot and hard.
“I am Lorathalis,” I stepped back, amused at his gasp of astonished surprise and the hardly surreptitious attempt to adjust his crotch, “Princess of Demons, goddess of Power and Sorcery, Ambition and Success. I have slain and replaced the former demon prince,” I refrained from uttering his name, more than willing to allow his memory to die with him, “and have need of generals to rule my armies and lands.”
I’d overwhelmed him with repeated shocks, so the announcement did not rock him as badly as it would have, coming at him cold. He hesitated for the briefest of moments, wisely choosing to declare his loyalty and worship. I telekinetically retrieved every bit of magic the efreet had carried, gathered Kushlar in my arms, and shifted home, depositing on the ground near Bagromar.
The great demon was not startled, as I’d informed him beforehand of my impending arrival. One of the large demon-apes near him reacted before thinking things through, pouncing at me claws outstretched and mouth gaping open to expose an impressive array of jagged teeth, meeting an emerald ray of disintegration in midair, fading to dust before reaching me.
“This is Kushlar, Lord Bronze, my new general,” I informed Bagromar. “Give him an army and instruct him – he shall answer to you for now.”
I’d split my minds, allowing one to work on identifying the more powerful items I’d won, and gave Kushlar a pair of ioun stones to set in his amulet, explaining briefly, “Regeneration and sustenance,” before vanishing.
I reappeared in another layer of the Abyss, Occipitus, whose demon lord and master, Adimarchus, had recently perished. An unusual layer even among the myriad strangenesses to be found in the Abyss, Occipitus contained a piece of Heaven, sacrificed to repulse a demonic invasion, the detritus of law and holy energies making the entire plane not entirely safe for demons – especially with the occasional roaming or imprisoned celestial. Few demons called it home and fewer yet visited, for it had a somewhat deserved reputation for being cursed. Of those who came, many sought to claim it for their own, to ascend and become a demon lord or merely own control a layer of the Abyss and call it home.
Aspertron the Flayer, once a great and mighty angel, a fallen Solar wholly consumed by wicked impulses, supposedly from a malign artifact he had destroyed, was far from the picture of beauty and grace he’d once been. Still a towering, heavily muscled humanoid figure with six ragged black wings, his metallic skin was splotchy as if with rust, his nose gone, an angry red wound oozing greyish-green pus taking its place. Armored in a night-black coat of umbral dragon scales, he bore a pair of vicious looking scourges which he twirled around as he leered at the figure below him on the ground, pinned like a butterfly on its back with spears thrust through the meat of wrists and shins. Her screams had fallen silent, as the tortured woman had lost consciousness.
Again, I was surprised by the ease of taking mastery of this powerful, dreadful being. Aspertron did not stand a chance, approaching at my mental command and bending neck to accept his silver collar. Just so, I had another great servitor, which rather than send to Tetradian for induction, I posted in Wat Dagon, a watchful guardian over Iggwilv’s temporary abode. I had plans for her, and too many were aware of her location and incapacitation. It would not do for Malcanthet to steal her, or worse yet, free her. After attuning him to the prismatic sphere and alarm spell I’d erected, which would allow him a great advantage should he have to face battle in that chamber, and before sending him through the gate I conjured, I warned him to be ready for my call, for I would require his services soon against Abraxas.
The lovely half-elf maiden he had taken for sport was something more than merely mortal, I noticed as soon as I focused my senses on her. With smoke rising from her left eye, a pupil-less purple ovoid that glowed with internal light, and an aura that showed her connection to the planar layer of Occipitus as clear as bright day, she was key to its dominion. No wonder a would be demon lord had been so pleased to capture such toothsome prey. And lovely she was, with dark red hair and exquisite features, a powerful arcane caster by her aura – almost a match for one of the twins. This was too good an opportunity, despite the press of time behind my back – the secrets of the Fleshforges of Lemoriax would be gleaned by Orcus’ minions should I tarry overmuch, and even the defenses of Abysm could only hold for so long against a full bore assault by the demon lord of forbidden magic and his entourage. It was certainly kind of him to clear the way for me to claim full possession of it, I laughed softly as I cleared the bloodied spears from her limbs, and picked up her scattered gear – eyebrows rising in respect at the power screaming forth from her two-handed sword, which I recognized instantly as the Ashen Blade, formerly wielded by Adimarchus.
Shifting down to my quasi-mortal form, I knelt by her side, cradling her head in one hand as I poured an elixir of love down her throat, followed by a potion of healing. Her wound did not quite knit closed, but they stopped bleeding, edges blurring, and her eyelids fluttered, consciousness returning when I kissed her awake.
“Better?” I whispered and gently caressed her softly pointed ear. “You’re safe now,” I added.
“Who?” she gasped out, eyes looking at me with what instantly turned to puppy-like devotion, eagerly quaffing down the third concoction I poured into her mouth, a long-term healing and easing solution, which also fortuitously induced a healing sleep.
“Sleep, Sweetling,” I brushed her eyelids close. “I am Lorathalis, Princess of Demons,” I told her sleeping form with a half smile and a shake of my head. I could feel her inside, another worshiper. It was not enough, however, for the effects of an elixir of love could be broken. I did not care for the possible ramifications of that path, so I took her with me to my private realm, burning her love for me deep inside, irresistible and unquenchable – just like the twins, the lizardman, the elven archer, and even Annalise. Only Lornac had been too suspicious of me to easily seduce, and there was no need to press. I had eternity to make him mine, and patience to match.
Of course, I could not leave her here, and she needed further healing. The Abyss was not the best place for that sort of thing, I acknowledged freely, and contacted Velnaris mentally. Even the lowliest of demigods could freely contact their worshippers at their will.
The elfmaid was startled at the mental contact, then overcome with joy, babbling about the research undertaken for means to destroy the great black pearl of doom, and the magnificence and hospitality of the Court of Stars. When I explained that I had in my hands a young woman who had taken severe injuries at the hands of a demon, a brave young half-elven warrior-mage with an aura of weal, she quickly inquired and informed me that she would be welcome and well tended, hesitating for a moment before adding that I, myself, would not be welcome. Unperturbed at the obvious, I gave her a mental kiss, flooding her with warm emotions and feelings, before sending the little redhead over. I could feel Velnaris crumpling down to her knees as I closed the link, sparing myself her embarrassed admonitions. Velnaris was a bit of a tight ass, always insisting on what she called ‘proper decorum.’ Literally, too, her ass was delightfully tight, and she grew ever so embarrassed when I had her begging to pound her harder … there.
The last three generals I’d seen in the wish-inspired vision were more difficult propositions by far. One was a powerful ogre-mage, a conquering Queen on the material plane, who would probably serve me better by subjugating that world. Another was a great and dark titan, but his prison would not easily yield, even to such as I. The third and last was possibly the most capable and dangerous, a marilith of astonishing martial prowess, but she was held imprisoned in Dis, the city of iron, possibly in Dispater’s own great tower, wherein few could face him, let alone triumph. Of course, there was also the issue of reaching the second layer of Hell, past the battlefield of Avernus, where invading demon armies ever contended with devil citadels and legions, for Asmodeus’ will did not permit anyone direct access to the lower levels. Naturally, there were ways and means, but such would require some time.
There was time yet, and I made a quick and hopeful choice, splitting minds to see if any disagreement would ensue. The die was cast, and I faded away.