Hello, readers mine! Day Eighteen is upon us, and I’ve decided it’s to be a day for demons! We’re starting off with a trio of ancient and enigmatic sisters whose moniker is–well, you’ll see. Then it’s on to that oft-mentioned Cannoan Planar Hierarchy. Just who are these Planelords and what do they actually do? Then, at the spectrum’s opposite end, the scrappy Han Solos of demonkind: those unaligned with any particular plane.
This entry turned out to be just over 2000 words counting this intro, since I’ve always enjoyed throwing demons into my work. Must be rebellion against my Lutheran upbringing–anyway, ditch your salts because those don’t do a damn thing, and forget the pentagram unless you want to insult your date for the evening–here we go!
Snippet #1: The Three Queens of the Apocalypse (World: Creation’s Fringe)
No scholar has ever traced their origins, nor any diviner gleaned the lost answers. As far as Fringers are concerned, the Three Queens of the Apocalypse are primordial demons. Unaligned, each of the three wields staggering power. It’s known they number among the few true psionic demons of the Fringe; despite this, none of the three have ever been recorded as falling prey to demonic glut or mania. Their titles are more than dramatic flourishes; each of the Three regards herself as ruler of certain regions on the Fringe.
They’re also color-coded. How could it be otherwise? Mareel reigns as the Scarlet Queen, Brythisk as the Violet Queen, and Caerlyn as the Azure Queen–though in the third sister’s case, none can say exactly what she’s supposed to be ruling. Only Mareel resides at a known physical location: her sprawling palace, set into an oasis-sheltering series of cliffs deep within the Janik Desert.
Mareel’s personality has been described as domineering, appropriate to a woman who chooses to rule such a harsh land, and also motherly. The Scarlet Queen uses this to her advantage without shame; most people remember being scolded by their mothers, and are conditioned to respond. Despite this, Mareel is agreed to be the most even-tempered of the Three. She can be very sweet to those she deems worthy, and makes no attempt to hide this; it sometimes plays a vital role in her power games.
Caerlyn and Brythisk are both believed to be nomadic, and so more focus has fallen upon the epithets each sister has cultivated in their cases: Mareel is called the Scion, Caerlyn the Seer, and Brythisk the Savage. It’s rumored that Caerlyn has the gift of foresight, but too few have met her to confirm whether it’s true. There’s no arguing that Brythisk is savage. Establishing herself as the guardian of the wilds and of the ancient technology they often hide, Brythisk revels in battle, and takes great pleasure in seeing her opponents humiliated.
It’s open for debate whether the Three seek any greater purpose. Whatever it is they intend to do, it seems unlikely anyone will stop them doing it any time soon.
Snippet #2: the Planar Hierarchy (World: Canno)
In an ancient era, the first of all demons coalesced amid the emotional miasma which would one day become the Eight Planes. Each of these firstborn demons became a Planelord, and in that moment when their identities were new, Canno’s gods tore open the planes and bound these new Planelords to their own place in the Celestial Pact.
These new entities, these demons, they decided, had the right to existence and sapience as did mortals. However, because demons were pure spirits and so could not permanently die, they could not be trusted with unfettered agency. It did not then occur to the Planelords whether they might protest this binding and force the gods to relent.
Via this inauspicious start, Canno’s pantheon set the tone for relations between mortals and demons for millennia to come. “Here I am, hired to mediate a dispute by the free will of these people–people I like, I should add!–and all the while I feel fifty different sets of eyes on my back aiming thunderbolts at me!” This was the summary offered by Indegi, a Demon of Bonds, of her first manifestation on Canno.
Demons normally feed on mortal emotions, and whenever possible this trends towards symbiotic rather than parasitic connections: Demons of the Erotic create an extreme sense of well-being and enhance a long-term partner’s endurance, Demons of Family ease tensions between feuding members and help bring everyone together, and even Demons of Destruction thrive on the applause they get for blasting a rickety building down to clear the way for new construction.
While some of the Planes–namely, the Second and the Eighth–are aligned with negative behavior, these Planes have fewer members and are rarely summoned to begin with, keeping them quite weak due to sparse chances to gain power. “Besides which, if mortals are so uncomfortable about Demons of Malice, maybe they should stop filling themselves with hatred for each other and there wouldn’t be any,” as a certain High Seductress once put it.
The Hierarchy’s members often feel penalized just for existing, and older demons naturally feel resentment towards the gods. It helps nothing that their own Planelords do more to keep the demons in line than offer a counterbalancing voice, though events in recent millennia–the Loar War and its fallout, in no small part–have started to shift this pattern.
Otherwise, each Plane encompasses a multitude of spheres all organized under a certain theme. Demons can thus be referred to either by their planar alignment, which is the polite choice when meeting one for the first time, or by their chosen sphere, which becomes more proper once one knows the demon in question.
The Eight Planes are as follows: the First Plane is the Plane of Destruction. Its members exist mainly as peddlers of spectacle. Why blow up a person when you can blow up a cloud and bask in the cheers? The Second Plane is the Plane of Malice, encompassing spheres such as vengeance and psychopathy. These demons are horrid people, but also very few and rather starved. The Third Plane is the Plane of Chaos, meaning everything from whimsy and spontaneity to gambling. They make fine companions during a night’s drinking, just don’t expect help with the hangover.
The Fourth Plane is the Plane of Withering. Though associated with abandonment, loss, failure, and the like, it’s vital to remember these demons feed on emotional responses, not the stimuli themselves. It’s impossible for any sapient being to be attuned to the most devastating of another’s personal experiences and not develop some sympathy. The Plane of Withering has thus grown more popular over time; its members predominantly offer comfort to those who wouldn’t otherwise have any.
The Fifth Plane is the Plane of Presence. These demons choose spheres such as peace and poise, eagerness, joy, satiation, and so on. There’s no reason not to like them, and most folks do in fact like them. The Sixth Plane is the Plane of Bonds. Its members’ spheres include oaths and promises, rituals and religion, traditions and culture, and even family and friends. It’s one of the two most powerful planes both because its members are exceedingly trustworthy and because its members’ spheres include the underpinnings of literally all functional socities.
The Seventh Plane is the Plane of Flesh, the Sixth Plane’s rival for most powerful. Its spheres include pregnancy and birth, sex as well as love and romance, feeding and dining, and even arts and craftsmanship. Its members are a colorful bunch as well as the most popular to summon. Last and usually least, the Eighth Plane is the Plane of Power. Despite its name, it’s the weakest Plane over all–long-distance power accretion can only do so much, and few mortals are foolish enough to trust such demons.
On those few occasions when a Demon of Power does manage to manifest on Canno, the consequences can be catastrophic–with gods and mages and kings to feed upon, such demons gain strength at horrifying speed. And the Eighth Plane’s own ruler can be scarce indeed when the time comes that these underlings must be brought to heel…
Snippet #3: Unaligned Demons (Worlds: Any)
Every so often it chances that a demonologist chooses to summon from outside a known hierarchy or order of demons, such as the Cannoan Hierarchy or the Demonic Assembly of the Greater Fringe. It takes extraordinary courage to do so, for the answer will almost certainly come from an unaligned demon. In theory, such demons should be quite weak; they lack the supportive framework and constant shared power gains of a planar hierarchy.
Indeed, most unaligned demons wield little better power than an apprentice mage, and planar hierarchies often recruit unaligned demons through the promise of safer, greater strength. Yet, the most powerful demons on record, including the Three Queens, have always been unaligned. The reasons for this are ill-understood, but it means that to summon an unaligned demon is to risk meeting an effective demigod who answers to no power save themselves.
Further muddying the waters, unaligned demons are not bound by the “feeding” structure of a hierarchy: they may have whatever combination of spheres they wish, drawing power from whatever they like. An unaligned demon can even indulge seeming paradoxes, such as feeding on friendship and loyalty as well as betrayal.
To put the issue this way is unfair; unaligned demons are free sapient beings, and as such most do try to be good people. It’s their freedom in itself which makes mortals feel more threatened by them–that, and the less-scrupulous planar hierarchies love creating propaganda against unaligned demons both to cover themselves and weaken these potential competitors. This said, a planar hierarchy provides stability to its members’ identities which unaligned demons just don’t have. An unaligned demon is at far higher risk of both demonic glut and demonic mania.
Demons experience demonic glut when they feed too actively upon the emotions around them and cannot fully subsume all the power they gain at once. This makes them increasingly delirious, prone to losing control and engaging in further feeding. If this should happen, they’ll likely fall prey to demonic mania: a hyper-active feeding frenzy in which they utterly lose themselves to the surrounding emotions.
Without a flesh and blood body with its own persistence, it’s just will and power that anchor a demon’s life, and so a demon in this state can literally eat themselves to death; eventually they pass a point of no return. Their entities give way entirely to their sphere–which should be but one part of a complete identity–and they fall apart. Though by indulgence rather than pain, their spirits are still shattered just as badly.
This leads to a final, ill-understood wrinkle about unaligned demons. Because they lack any planar hierarchy, they’re already at far higher risk of destruction through outside stimuli. With a demon’s risk of addiction to their own sphere intensified by a psionic’s innate perception of emotions and the surrounding world, one would expect them to succumb to glut and mania instantly.
In theory, unaligned demons should thus be the worst choice of demons for psionic power. Yet, the only psionic demons in history were unaligned. What’s more, this tiny handful include most of the aforementioned demigod-like demons. Demonologists have to agree there’s a key answer to the origins of psionic power itself in this seeming paradox.
Few, however, are willing to risk contacting as many unaligned demons as they would have to in order to find it.
Woo, as I said, this ended up being quite the marathon post! I thank everyone for bearing with me, I doubt I’ll do one quite this long again. As always, let me know your thoughts down in the comments, like, share, all that handy engagement stuff! If you like, my Twitter is right here, and I’m trying to be more active there. Still mostly art retweets for now, I fear–look, my friends are talented, alright?