Interview with a Demon Prince

sciborg2's picture

Warning--there is mention of necrophiliacs in this story, but no actual intercourse takes place. The quoted text is from Dante's Inferno.

Interview with a Demon PrinceSensates make the best field journalists, or so most out-of-industry people think. After all, who else is going to go to the frozen wastes of Cainia or the predator filled night of Karasuthra on a shoe-string budget for the experience? The problem though is the follow-up, the maintenance of contacts, the dedication to the story. Sensates find a lot of that to be a waste of time, time that could be used to have other experiences. Sensates are better as what we like to call "sniffers", people who end up finding the hints to what may be a good story. The other factions have their uses too--Guvners spot patterns, Anarchists are great for exposes, Dustmen are autopsy experts and usually objective...and the others, well, they're newmakers at least. The thing is, if you're searching for truth, you have to admit you haven't found it yet. That's why the Pawn's Eye View is--admittedly by our own estimates--the most widely read *monthly* publication on the Great Wheel. We're reliable, legible, and most imporantly--we're honest. We have no faction goals, no alleigances to secret masters. We do get huge contributions from Indeps and the churches of Torm and Dharmaraja, but our budget is on display for any suspicious sod to see. Now, the quest for truth is great and all, but every so often you wish you could take a step back and say, "Some things are better left unknown." Unfortunately, that's the only thing we really don't believe in. Maybe if it was some strange spell that gives you power over the Lady of Pain with a single word, we may let it go in the interest of public security. But sadly the chance to interview a demon prince that isn't Grazz't (the ham!) is too juicy to pass up. And of course, who better to handle it than me, B. Agnus, star reporter. So off I went to the cold, undead filled night of Thanatos with some Sensates and a Dustie guide, to see if I could grab the hottest interview yet this inter-March.


Thanatos is warmer than Ice, warmer than Caina too. The cold of the grave is, however, colder to the soul. Its about absence, about what should be there but isn't, and what is there feeling *wrong*. Can a whole layer of the Abyss die, and then come back halfway? This desert of black sand and corpses is like that, somehow scoured bare and smelling of rot all at once. My Sensate companions were almost amusing, breathing deeply to take in the scent, then vomitting in disgust, then breathing in again. I shook my head, thankful I was layered in magical protections which the Sensates eventually used to *buff* themselves, as the lightboys call it these days. Beneath its emotionless mask, the androgyne dromite seemed to think it had found the Dustie paradise. Apparently its simple brown robe provided all the protection it needed beyond its own psionic power.We arrived a few miles of a Dustmen Stronghold, the zombies and skeletons giving us a narrow but acceptable berth. The Dustmen were said to have a truce with all the walking dead, but I suspect Orcus was far more responsible for the fact that our weapons stayed in their sheaths for the duration of our journey. "Thank Orcus", I thought sarcastically, then cursed the unbidden joke and shoved it behind more pious--or at least appropriately blasphemous--thoughts. Often in the illustrations in Upper Planar tracts and manuscripts, Orcus's domain is depicted with rotting undead gleefully engaged in acts of torture and carnality. Those old woodcuts reveal more about the hidden perversions of the artist and clergy than the reality of this place.The undead are not happy here, save for certain lieutenants and possibly the visages. The normally mindless automatons of necromancy have a level of awareness here, not enough to improve their lot but enough to be aware of how miserable that lot is. Even the skeletons inspire pity, the bones of their bodies slouched and downcast when their tanar'ri masters are not present. Osiris loves the dead as he loves the living, and the unlife is prized by dieties like Evening Glory or even Nerull. For Orcus, the walking dead are tools for his own ends. Nothing more, and often less. Perhaps it was his own mortal origin that he despised, if the reports given by certain adventurers were to be regarded as accurate. His rivals, Grazz't and Demogorgon, were said to have far less humble beginnings. I had some trouble breathing as I reflected on this--after all, it was my job, not to mention my duty and my mission to get The Story. And this time, that story was meeting an ancient evil face to face. Now, you may be picturing me--if you haven't stopped reading that is--facing a gigantic ramheaded monstrosity clutching a terrible rod. But it doesn't work like that. For one thing, I will willingly admit that my pants would not stay dry in such a situation. And there is the fact that Orcus in all his power isn't to be trusted, and simultaneously isn't very trusting. This was the Abyss, where underestimating anyone or anything was often a foregone death sentence. And the fact that we had done six interviews with Grazz't (only three willingly) wasn't necessarily a plus in the eyes of his rival. So we would meet with an avatar of the Prince on his home ground, in order to at least appreciate a fraction of the Abyssal Lord's majesty. The Sensates were disappointed, or at least the water she-mephling was. The two males--a red-haired dwarf and a moon-elf were, in my opinion, faking with obvious relief. Our destination was a simple building of moderate size, crafted from white stone now shaded by grains of black sand. Dustmen aren't known for extravagance, but in that wasteland I felt like a king while eating their gruel and having to not share a room with the Sensates. The better to gather my notes, they said in their deadpan (no pun intended) voices. And I did gather, trying to settle my queasy stomach and think about the right questions. Should I start with the hardballs, or a little flattery? In the past Orcus was far less driven, but since his return he had changed. I guessed this interview was part of that change, and that most--if not everything--he said would be outright lies. That didn't change the fact that he had something to say to the Multiverse, and interviews can reveal truths even if the answers are all false. It depending on the questions, and so it depended on the reporter. Truth's Instrument. That was me. I just had to come up with the right approach.

Your Dread Lord, what do you have to say to the rumors that you were, for a time, Primus of Modron? What do you attribute your incredible comeback in the face of overwhelming odds and enemies to?Did you ever love as a mortal? Besides death and hurting others I mean....

I had a mattress, but I ended up laying on the cold ground, my notes spread around me. I had meant to use magic to negate the need for sleep, but I dropped off quicker than I had expected to. Luckily, the scribbles touched by my drool were still legible. By me, anyway. Oh, I also was still alive and in possesion of my soul. That was good too.Grumbling, I rubbed my eyes open, and was greeted by an shadowy spectre whose face was covered by a mask possessing a mocking smile. "Come to Orcussss" it whispered seductively. If the twice-damned thing hadn't rudely intruded in my privacy, I may have realized it was inviting me to the interview. Instead, I figured that my afterlife was about to get a whole lot worse than the one I had believed myself to be headed for. (The Outlands, if you're curious.) So I said some things that I shouldn't have--namely some words of rebuking and protection. The creature hissed in pain, shifting back suddenly like a hummingbird in reverse-flight. It raised its claw, and a silver chain around my neck slipped out of my wrinkled shirt. On its end hung a jade pendant shaped like a quill on parchment in a circle of lightrays. Despite the mask, I could tell the undead thing was ticked. "Whhaat god?" It asked, unable to place the pendant among the holy symbols it knew of. I could tell it was trying to decide whether to kill me right there. I raised my hands defensively, wondering how understanding Orcus would be if I destroyed this thing. "No god," I stammered, "I don't serve any gods. Only the Truth. Only The Story." Did I just reveal my Source, and where did that fall in the hazy world of journalistic ethics? The undead-as-far-as-I-could-tell floated there for a moment, but it seemed to accept my answer."Come to Orcusss" The creature turned. I followed, gathering my notes in a pile that I tried to organize while walking."You're a visage right? Are you really an undead demon?" "No questionsss now....Master will give answerssss..." We went through several hallways, two stairs, and at least ten doors. This seemed to suggest a place larger than the one I recalled coming to last night. Though night and day were just hands on my Automata watch as it was always dark here so perhaps I misjuged the size of the building. Then again, this was the Abyss and even physical laws often became whims here. Then we came to a final door, double doors actually. Black wood, handles made from the skulls of ram heads, twice as high as a full grown minotaur. The visage turned again to face me, gesturing grandly at the doors."Your ssstory iss there. Will you go to it?" Its voice betrayed amusement. I pictured the thing being dunked into Lunia, but otherwise ignored it and placed my hands on a ram horn. Burning cold, painful inspite of my wards, but I managed to open make one door ajar using all my strength plus a clerical boost. I squeezed through this opening, heading into darkness.

"Hello?" I whispered into the darkness. I stepped on something that cracked. Bones? I cast a spell of light, and saw that I was right. But I had wanted the light to be warm and golden, instead it was cold and azure. And upon the bones were bodies. Piles of them, naked and pale. It could have been a mass grave, but I could see several of those emaciated forms twitching. The looks on their faces told me they were exactly where they wanted to be, in languid bliss. "I don't think I'm supposed to be here." I said, turning. That visage was playing tricks on me. How many more pointless rooms would I have to test my dinner against---"Yes. You are." It was a woman's voice. I saw her bony form push itself out from the top of a pile, sending corpses and near-corpses rolling down. She stepped down, gracefully balancing herself on heads, limbs, and torsos. Her cheeks were sunken in, and her ribs protruded from underneath her skin, but there was something beautiful about her. In her white hair, a small pair of ram horns jutted. As she moved closer, I saw her eyes were just bright red blood, no irises or pupils. The liquid shivered while holding the shape of orbs, a drop running down her cheek. I wanted to be horrified, but what I mostly felt was desire. It didn't make sense at the time. It was as though that dark part in all sentients, that urge to give up and die, had been translated to lust. Lucky for me, and the reader, I am a professional. I knew I just had to speak, to get the ball rolling, to push past the enchantment."Were you ever a nalefshee?" It was something a friend had speculated on right before I came to do this cursed interview."I have walked among them upon the Mountains of Woe." She smiled mischeviously. A great non-answer. She pointed at a pair of human corpses stacked atop one another."Sit." I did so with only a second of hesitation. This was no time to quibble about respect for the dead, given the nature of my host. Immediately, I realized the one underneath me wasn't dead. Its all for The Story, Its all for the Story...Orcus as woman sat next to me on a large, mostly rotted ogre. Of course this meant she was looking down on me. A drop of eye-blood fell upon my pant leg. With Grazz't it was fine wines and cheeses, but this---"Do not even think of that one." She wasn't smiling. Its one thing to have a big mouth, but when its attached to your subconscious its harder to control. Still, a lot was on the line here so forgive me if I appear less cheeky in the following paragraphs. I gulped, then continued."Were you ever mortal?""I have worn the flesh of the dying.""Were you ever Primus?""If so, it was like a dream that fades on waking.""Did this dream make you feel an affection for Law?""Yes. The laws of Orcus." I pushed back my frustration."You seem to have been gone for a long, long time. Where did you go?" No quick, clever answer this time. She thought about it, wondering what she should say. Finally she spoke:
"I did not die, and I alive remained not;Think for thyself now, hast thou aught of wit,What I became, being of both deprived."
Seeing my puzzlement, she elaborated."I found myself floating as a corpse upon a sea of Mind. My dreams were the dreams of the dead, but as I am Lord of the Dead I was lord of my dreams. I dreamed prophecy and saw a black marble being eaten by an onyx-skinned man. Then my dream was an eye and I saw through the planes, where gears were being placed by living geometry between gears, changing the Law. Then I dreamed up foreign memories and saw a dead Time, where the white-skinned sidhe come from. Nine days and nine nights I dreamed, and I knew I had seen the workings of enemies. Not just enemies of mine, but enemies of the Wheel entire."[Editor's note: Orcus continued to ramble on and on about these three dreamings, but I paraphrased as I did not want this to sound like an interview with Demogorgon. A complete transcript is available at our Tradegate Office.]"Is the dark-skinned man...the one you don't want me to name?" "It was dream and it was an omen. It is up to the worthy to decipher the messages of the gods. Even the angels would side with me on this." He was right, though this mortal/immortal distinction is a large problem with planar politics in my opinion. The woman's blood-eyes watched me steadily, each blink squeezing a few red flecks in my direction. "Moving on then. In the past you were content to torment the living dead who came to you. What about now? What are your goals?""Torment? I am a teacher of the dead, in hopes they may live beside the living. My punishments are designed to set them free, and is not Freedom worth any price?" "So long as someone else is paying it, that is always the claim of tyrants." The Orcus as woman only stared blankly. My boldness surprised me, I had to remember that we were not equals. Orcus was evil in a way I could not understand. Or was he?"Why do you seem so human? You seek to conquer, to hurt, to control. All your desires, all your goals, they seem so akin to any mortal. Is divinity so petty that it is simply a matter of scale?" The woman's eyes narrowed, squeezing out tears of blood. I felt as though a fist was crushing my heart. A blood-tear struck my face, spattering into my eyes and gasping mouth. It tasted like wine, but stung in my eye like acid. I could see tortured figures trapped in the liquid red of her gaze."One day the dead will outnumber the living. Necromancy will be more than magic, it will be the means to Life. You will be surrounded by the dead while you wake, and they will touch your mind while you sleep. The floor of your house will be a graveyard, and even moons will be too bright. And each day when you return from dreaming up the dead, you will thank Orcus that you are not placed among them. I am master of death, but I will be master of life as well. You see, dying one, divinity comes when you can see your dream in Time like the sculptor sees the statue in the unworked marble, and know that you have eternity to hammer the future to fit your vision." The invisible hand let go of my heart, keeping me among the living. I was not in a position to disagree with anything he had said. In any case, I had definitely heard the Cosmic Game described less poetically. I coughed, breathed deeply, and continued."Why undeath? Why not fire, or acid, or darkness?""Undeath is immortality bridle by a leash. It is the anger of the dead at Death, at Life, at their own unholy circumstance. Undeath is the joke of the Great Wheel, and I have always been a being of good humor. Ultimately, I consider myself a teacher of Life. But one needs a mirror before one can understand Life's gift." "But are you not undead now yourself? Or at least at some point weren't you?" The woman looked long and hard at me before answering. The phantasmal victims in her eyes became recognizable. They were those I cherised in my heart. Once again, I felt it being squeezed but this time by my own worry. "What is death and life to a god?" Still, Orcus seemed irritated. To become that which he regarded with such contempt, I can't imagine it had been pleasing. Then again, unlife was a tool to him and it had allowed him to triumph over god-death. The part of him that was necromancer must be proud of that fact."You asked what my goal was now. My goal is to bring peace to the Abyss. When all the layers are like Thanatos, will there not be peace?" I began to wonder if he actually believed his own rhetoric."Won't that bring Order through conformity?""Chaos takes care of itself. It will blossom in my deserts as will the tanar'ri. Unified, they will crush the baatezu and black sand will scrub clean their tryannical filth from the planes.""I did not see you as a patriot.""Patriotism is a belief. I do not speak from faith but from precognition. It is destiny.""And your rivals? Will they stand aside or be crushed?""In time, the lesser Lords will join me against the others, for my rivals are enemies of the Abyss. The Dark Man seeks to conquer Everything, and will thus risk his fellows. He speaks of peace with baatezu, though tyranny is in their blood. Every word he speaks is a lie, and you have given his lies to the people six times over. And Demogorgon plays a game no one remembers. He speaks of the Old Ones, of milk oceans and waters of chaos. The present is nothing to him, he fights memories of proto-gods now forgotten. I offer my people the legions of the dead, so that they might be spared the agony of battle. And if they should fall, is not undeath a reprieve from oblivion?Only I can give the tanar'ri true freedom because only I can give them victory in the Blood War." "Have you ever loved?" The woman looked at me with amusement."Love is an excuse for Lust, fit for those who need another to measure their worth.""How old are you?""Life emerges in absence, then descends into absence once more. Death precedes life, and I stand between Life and Death."
"Do you believe in Justice?""Justice is what the weak have made to rule the strong. Even primes have noted that." I noticed that Orcus did not like to speak on the subject of Justice, or Order. It seemed a part of him was conflicted on the topic, or that he wished to appear so for my benefit."Its been said that you slew several gods, including Maazecorian, with a word of power." Orcus seemed surprised at this, but only for moment before his female incarnation regained its composure."All words have power that diminishes with each iteration. Such is the way of language and listeners." I could tell this comment was for my express personal benefit.I began to find it hard to focus on Orcus's words. He began to lecture me on the virtues of necromancy, and how Good would make the planes weak and degenerate paradises where no one would attain glory through adveristy. He spoke of trees that had become liches, a forest that had been burned down though the phylacetries were rocks touched by roots deep beneath the now consecrated ground. He recited litanies that ancient kings had sung as they faded into death, giving their last breaths over to the Ram's Head. He began to randomly state what a worshipper was doing somewhere on the Prime. While one or two were engaged in the expected debauchery, I was surprised how many were tilling fields or awaiting the birth of children. Was Orcus their protector or was this a toll to keep the dead in their graves? How had the demon fooled so many, especially during the years when he had been absent from the Cosmic Game? I could not write his words down fast enough, finding each answer drained me more and more. Finally, I had to get up. I felt as though I was drunk. I declared the interview over only to fall among the corpses and necrophiliacs. One of the latter crawled toward me, but I was too paralyzed to resist. She whispered in my ear...."Wake up! Wake up damn you!" I felt a tear hit my face and run into my mouth. It tasted like salt water instead of blood. The voice was hysterical, but this madness was borne of a sane love. It was my lover of six years, the half-elf Sharizad.I opened my eyes to startled shouts of "He's awake!" and gasps of those very persons I had seen tortured in Orcus's eyes. I felt incredibly weak and realized I was tied up in bandages. One of my Sensate assistants, the elf, stood near me. "My lord, you lived through quite an experience. Thank god the blood loss did not claim your life! The clerics of your faith and my herbal arts have healed most of your body. Had we treated you sooner...""Sooner? What was the delay?" I began to wonder why I was in an actual bed, with actual sunshine coming from the window. I doubted that the Dustmen had become more accomodating, nor had Orcus redecorated his layer in this fashion. The elf looked guilty, but also surprised. He glanced at the dwarf with a look of contrition. Obviously there had been an argument regarding my treatment."You insisted we wait. You wanted to make sure we got the story." Now I was more confused than before."Story? But the interview--" The mephling broke in, her voice somwhere between disgust and awe."Apparently Orcus gave you the interview in your sleep. And he transcribed it for you in Abyssal. On your flesh."
Undeath...Life...Freedom worth...thank Orcus...Divinity is...Only I...WoeThough mostly healed, I still had scars on my body and face. Broken bits of Abyssal that would mark me as touched by the Prince of Undeath. It disturbed me, and made me feel violated. But I took heart. Orcus had obviously meant me to either die and serve as a warning or bear his hideous penmanship for the rest of my life. Instead, I was scarred but for the most part made whole. The power of the Truth had freed me, protected me in return for my dedication to it. I touched the scar that spelled the Tanar'ri Lord's name, running my fingers across it. With a prayer, I twisted the scar. I hissed as the magic painfully broke the script, turning the word into gibberish."I got the interview, you bloated larva. Now get ready for the soddin' expose." I whispered my threat, promising to prove to the Prince how dangerous *ordinary* words could be.

Andyr's picture
Joined: 2005-08-21
Chilling! ...


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