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Devil's Due (Closed)

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Devil's Due (Closed)

This is a closed game. Please don't post without asking first. Also, sorry for all the edits.

"Evil uses man, not the reverse."
- Fara, ex-paladin of the Zakarum




INDEX

Act I
In which one commits treason against himself, and a mighty devil falls from disgrace.

Act II
In which a remorseful angel traces back her footsteps to find the pieces of a missing puzzle.



Since before the idea of time was ever concieved, an endless battle has raged: pitting the fearsome spawn of Hell and the Abyss against one another, bringing death and mayhem to worlds beyond counting, and echoing even in the deepest recesses of lands most Holy; the eternal struggle, the war endless, or as it is more often called, the Blood War. On one side charge the howling hordes of the tana’ri, unruly children of Chaos; while on the other advance the legions of the baatezu, orderly bringers of Law and subjugation. The two races bear an inborn, bottomless and almost irrational hatred for each other, natural and supernatural opposites, and will accept no terms but the total annihlation of the other. Mortals and powers alike find themselves invariably drawn to the conflict, and many agree that were it not for it, the unending armies of Evil would’ve already laid waste to the multiverse.

But the Blood War is not just about devils and demons tearing each other to pieces. It doesn’t end after the colossal battle is over, on the rotting carcasses of charred and stabbed fiends, nor does it hold and just wait until the next skirmish to manifest itself upon the planes. For the Blood War is but another facet of a much larger struggle: that of Chaos and Order, applied to Evil; and so in fact it is ever-present, in a piece of graffitti roughly splattered in the City of Doors, in the heated discussion after the crime, and the cold precise dialogue of the philosophers; it lives in the hearts of all beings with reason, it beats with the rythm when a dancer who’s strenght is technique faces another who blazes with passion. It is timeless, all-spanning, and it will take more than the efforts of a couple groups of single-minded fiends for it to ever come to a conclusion.

And that is why most bodies who haven’t been directly affected by it find it a trivial matter altogether. A war that has been fought since forever with no chances of ending doesn’t seem deserving of much thought or attention to those that consider themselves outside of it, except perhaps for a few barmy cutters that want to make some danger jink out of it. In truth, not even the great lords of Hell or the Abyss care much for it, scheming and plotting amongst themselves as they’ve always been. In fact, the constant in-fighting on both sides might be one of the reasons it hasn’t ever ended. Or perhaps the profit of a third party – rule of three, aye?

The thin, ink-tipped orange proboscis lifted from the parchment, and up and over on the head it was rooted on, a left yellow eye twitched. There it was again, that voice in his head, ruining his work with its annoying, cant-plagued insights. A weird creature halfways bat and halfways mosquito, the fat stirge clambered away from its scrolls, and took flight with a loud, disturbing buzzing sound, crossing the library to land on an open window and stare with his brotherless eye to the grim outside. The lifeless, abandoned husk of a once ‘perfect’ city lay before him, not unlike the many other failures (as deemed by their lord and architect) that dotted the cursed expanse of Maladomini. Down below, a pair of stunted lemures ambled aimlessly through the marble streets, ocassionally glancing at the dim light of his window, the only one to shine in contrast with the skyless black above. A few more of their kindred toiled through the outlying wastes in an apparently random pattern. Each of the sorry blobs had been magically warded, however, to warn him of the proxmity of any unwelcome higher-ranked baatezu that would look suspiciously at the abandoned yet luminous library.

Stirges were not indigenous to this plane, even though a much bigger variant could be found in the Great Carcass above; and the Slug Lord’s servants rarely left the capital unless sent away into diplomatic or espionage missions. Whoever found him might not deem him dangerous, no, but strange: a lone stirge revising documents in an abandoned library would make for a rather memorable encounter. Given his master’s penchant for working out in the open, this wasn’t a risk they could take.

After mentally checking on his lumbering alarms, Phemur took flight again and returned to his parchment. He had a letter to write, and a number of documents to prepare. Soon, he thought, soon he would not need to run any more risks, for anyone else’s sake.

__________________

"You're loud, impulsive and you question authority. -That- is why I keep you at arm's lenght."
"Mmmm. And that is also why you keep me at arm's reach."

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Re: Devil's Due (Closed freeform game)

The howling of the buffeting, glacial winds is drowned by the deafening wails of ancient ice shattered beneath the inexorable advance of Nargus, the frozen mountain upon which Mephistar rises. The forsaken, insect-like gelugons retreat, casting bitter glances at the palace they once populated but were indirectly forced to abandon, repelled by the Lord of Contradiction’s new blazing toy. Within the Citadel, lights flash and consume as a dancer performs her craft, fending off three merregon with naught but her skill and burning passion. The veteran legion devils, the latest addition to the Baatorian armies and its new footmen, slowly circle Ka'atziel in the snowed courtyard, covering themselves behind their heavy alabaster shields and showing her the tips of their slightly oversized black longswords.

Various images of Mephistopheles himself surround the small arena, most of them carved on undying ice, except for the smaller, shimmering green one that stares at the spectacle with a smile too satisfied and too relaxed to be true; an avatar picked by the lord of Cania to oversee the ensuing battle. “Good” he declares in a smooth voice, letting that sole vocal ring in his illusory chords for just the right amount of time. “Hellfire is fueled by raw emotion: anger, frustration, fear... and yours burns with a passion matched by no other in my court. You have much promise.” Before he’s pronounced the last word, the snow beneath the merregon's clawed feet bursts away as they charge to attack in unison, their synchronization unbetrayed by the briefest meeting of their eyes –and yet predictable, for not once have they attacked on their own so far.


The merregon, footmen of Baator

__________________

"You're loud, impulsive and you question authority. -That- is why I keep you at arm's lenght."
"Mmmm. And that is also why you keep me at arm's reach."

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Re: Devil's Due (Closed freeform game)

Cathziel paced slowly in the courtyard, her dark eyes locked intently upon the three legion devils. For a moment her hellfire blast had brought a reprieve from the bone-chilling cold and she had almost felt comfortable, but as her flames died so did the warmth and once more came the freeze that gnawed irritatingly at her bare skin. ‘Good’. Her tongue ran across her lip at the utterance of the word. Praise, yes, that is what she lived for. Her fingers clenched in anticipation.

Her long, whip-like tail lashed as the devil steeled herself in a half-couch and spat at the ground, spattering the snow with spittle and fresh blood. One Merregon had claimed first blood; surprising her with a blow to her mouth with the hilt of its sword. Since that moment she had harboured a particular hatred for that one and had made a point of burning it the most.They had not come at her hard, but had hit with such a consistency and relentlessness that she was beginning to become irritated. But still, she had continuously fought them off with wave after wave of unholy fire that had left them hiding behind their shields to avoid the scorching heat and left her with beads of sweat upon her brow.

Focusing her anger, she exhaled. They charged. Unified they moved swiftly, but she was swifter.

The first shield came at Cathziel from the left and would have driven her onto the razor sharp blade at her right had the monk not slipped under the attack and whirled to meet the third Merregon head-on. As she turned her hands flared to life, weaving patterns through the air as she called forth the searing, unholy energy. The third, predicting her attack slowed its charge and raised its shield in defense, but no burst of hellfire came. Choosing instead to attack with her feet, Cathziel came crashing down upon her assailant’s shield with an iron-like blow that sent the creature reeling out of formation, staggering, stunned.

‘Separate them. Break their ranks. Then break them’. The woman turned artfully, putting the stunned devil to her back to meet the unified return attack of the first two combatants. Hellfire flashed as she struck out with an impassioned flurry of burning fists, trading a bloody-gash at her side for a blinding, scorching attack at one of her opponent’s eyes. The shriek of pain from the creature as it dropped its weapon in order to clutch its face was satisfying.

Firelight flashed, and so fluid were her movements that the female appeared to dance in the throngs of flame as she summoned a blast at the feet of the remaining Merregon. Behind its shield it retreated backwards from the attack, and further from its companions. When it inevitably slipped and fell on snow melted and flash-frozen into sheets of ice, the gold-skinned devil advanced on it, menacing and radiant and silhouetted in flame.

The touch of her burning hands was almost gentle as they closed around the weaker devil’s skull, but the heat delivered by her touch was the scorch of a slowly burning inferno.

Its death throws, cast upon the icy walls in silhouette remained locked in a macabre scene for some minutes before its thrashes ceased. Then slowly she got to her feet and turned toward the remaining two fiends. Panting, her breath lingered in soft clouds in the chill air as wisps of steam gently rose from the warmth of her exposed golden skin.

Red eyes flashed across the courtyard and then toward the remaining devils; one shaking off its daze, the other staggering to regroup with its companion. She shifted her weight, bringing a hand to cover the wound at her side as her attention turned toward the avatar.

"My lord", she spoke, bowing her head with a practiced, easy smile, "I am curious to know if you so desire to lose more ranks this day, or might one be enough to satisfy?"

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The greenish, magical image's consistency falters for a moment as his expression suddenly changes, deeply marked by an abrupt burst of irritation. "And whom is it that you seek to satisfy, drowborn? Would I cast but a magical placebo of myself if I had such a profound interest in your abilities? Did you really believe that the Lord of Cania would waste his time on your petty dancing!?" The avatar grows menacingly as his voice rises, looking down upon her with a glare more fiery than all the hellfire she's casted.

However, and just as quickly as he'd lost his temper, the apparition shrinks back to its previous size, even approaching Cathziel with a slow step as he folds hands in front of him and shows her an exact reproduction of his earlier smile. "No, my dear, it is not me that you should satisfy... yet. This is a service, a favour I'm conceding you: access to my secrets, my second most powerful weapon, and my training grounds. It is you who must decide when you are satisfied. But... " He stops at half the way to the she-devil, raising an open hand briefly only to close it in a fist and turn it back towards him in a pulling motion, as the ability to cast his hellfire is grasped, yanked from her spirit and taken back by its giver. "Nothing ever comes for free, and those who give gifts are either fools or liars. If you shall deprieve me of my spectacle, then you shall not have any more of my power - until you choose to please me again." As he speaks, the avatar resumes his march towards her. Behind him, at the western end of the courtyard, the tall double doors framed by images of guarding ice devils open loudly.

"But do come now, my dear. We have much to discuss now that I have personally returned. I wish I could have come earlier, but thanks to the latest yugoloth conspiracy, I find myself as planebound and unable to shift as the next baatezu. For the time being." The image vanishes in a soft waft of greenish smoke as it's pierced by the archdevil in the flesh, walking with the same light, comfortable step and an even more coying smile as he approaches Cathziel. Flanked by a heavily armored gelugon that regards the dancer with a cold glare, a rather alluring winged, blue-skinned female cambion and followed by a column of bearded devils, Mephistopheles walks bare-chested and unbothered by the cold, wearing only a flowing ebon cape, as long as the wind's ever blowing breath. Not dwarfed by the statues around him, he towers over Cathziel as he stops in front of her, weilding a close-lipped long smile that looks both finer and sharper than the tri-clawed spear he carries. Only the tips of his index and middle fingers touch her as he extends his left hand to lift her chin, letting him look into her eyes before swiftly and subtly inspecting the rest of her body, taking special note of her skin and muscles, and ignoring the gaping wound on her side. "Exquisite." he concludes, his voice halfways a purr, halfways a growl. The cambion behind seems to concur with a slight nod, under the deep hood of her heavy cloak.

Mephistopheles walks unbothered by the cold

"It is a shame that the Lord of Flies is unable to see the gem he's acquired for what it truly is." Expecting Cathziel to step aside and follow in tow, the archduke resumes his march towards the iron citadel, Mephistar proper, which rises behind the frozen walls of the arena. "A shame, but not a surprise. He's always been one to waste that which is most precious to him - his whole realm stands as a grim testament of this. I almost pity him for his lack of vision." His company follows as well, and it would be up to Cathziel to make room for herself - either by his side; with his subordinates; or behind the barbazu platoon - where she can't hear him and he won't care for it. The doors of the courtyard open to reveal the massive metal palace, joined to the rest of the glacier by chains thick as the chest of an earth giant. Pillars of steam and noxious, blackened green fumes hiss and whistle their way out of various vents and holes on the structure, like toxic eruptions from a colossal iron whale that's deeply stabbed itself on the jutting face of the glacier. As Mephisto advances, a series of metal plates are shot from the citadel, lining and loudly crashing onto each other to form a perilous bridge spanning the bubbling lake formed by molten ice.

"But pity is not for the Baatezu. It is not for any creature worth a single drop of our attention. And so, rather than pity him, I want to see him removed, and his wards put to good use." The Duke stops in front of the massive, red-hot iron gates as he flashes his smirk at Cathziel, should she be in the front row behind him. "I am pleased to see you have answered the summons."

__________________

"You're loud, impulsive and you question authority. -That- is why I keep you at arm's lenght."
"Mmmm. And that is also why you keep me at arm's reach."

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Dun-dun, dun-dun, dun-dun....... dun-dun.

Cathziel heard her own heartbeat cut through the silence a moment before the Lord of the Eighth exploded into rage. Her lips curled back into a snarl, but she was smart enough to retain enough grace to avoid retaliating in argument. Bristling and unwilling to match his glare, her questioning eyes slid away and down as her tired body tensed in anticipation of punishment. When none came she cautiously raised her head to eye his Avatar once again, scowling as the wound at her side began to knit itself together, producing a frustrating itch.

‘He is proud, perhaps more so than you. A bad mix. If you wish to live through this day you had best not anger him again’.

As the figure raised its exquisitely carved fist she inevitably stumbled a few feet forward, drawn off balance as she felt something grab at a piece of her very essence and yank it out. The bitter cold flowed back into her bones, an uncomfortable feeling quite opposite to the warm rush of power she had felt when the ability was first granted. Flicking her tongue out to wet her dry lips, she shivered bitterly.

Of course”. Her voice was carried on the wind toward the far gates as they suddenly swung open and her raven hair danced in the air as snow and ice whipped forward to greet the arrival of the Archduke and his Entourage. Caught entirely off guard, her breath caught tight in her throat.

Her expression was one of surprise, but it settled quickly into a practiced and easy smirk as her tongue steeled behind her teeth and her jaw hardened. Excitement, suspicion, anticipation, fear and cold hard ambition... the emotions vied for control as her attention was sucked in by the Archduke’s relaxed, hypnotic stride.

She had eyes for none other than Mephistophelees himself; the Gelugon she regarded with contempt; the Barbazu she outright ignored; they both were beneath her. As he grew closer, dwarfing her five-and-a-half foot stature she bent her upper body, greeting him with a formal bow, then settled into a relaxed stance, at ease with both hands behind her back. His touch at her jaw was electrifying and his compliments enough to turn her smirk into a close-lipped and satisfied smile as he played deftly into her wounded pride.

As the Lord of Cania marched on she chose to fall in at his side, eager to stay close yet careful to remain a respectful stride behind.

I am honoured to know that you appreciate my true potential.” The woman responded, tilting her head toward him as her tail swung languidly back and forth behind her. Her eyes returned shortly thereafter to the Citadel as she stood, basking in the warmth of its gates.

Believe me”, she purred, “The pleasure is truly mine”.

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The massive steel gates open with the pained screech of scraping metal, as warm vapors escape the citadel and pour into the cold of the layer. Another, much bigger open crescent-moon shaped courtyard greets them, flanking a huge round pit in front of an even more colossal structure. Much of the city that once surrounded the citadel has been lost, 'sacrificed' into the surrounding lake as the domed building that once housed the fabled Court of Mephistopheles was completely dwarfed by the gigantic three towers that were forged upon it. Of the massive iron titans that comprise the new Mephistar, two are subordinate in size and importance to the one in the middle, a claw-shaped spire of transpiring metal, which's upper floors bend forward to look upon a gaping, miles-deep chasm that breathes a foul greenish smoke. The long laments and hateful screams of what once were mortal men echo down below, their voices escaping the lamprey-mouth-like edges of the pit like a low background tune.

Even now, the icy behemoth that is Nargus shakes and complains at the weight and heat of its master's new creation, its pain echoing that of the almost exiled gelugons that populate the other glaciers. But it seems that not only the ice devils have retired from this place: indeed, the place seems to be wholly devoid of 'life', only populated by the scores of tall metal statues and images that dot the claw-like walls at even intervals - statues depicting not only the Lord of the Eigth, but several vassals and even scenes in vivid, lifelike detail; scenes of the legendary rise to power he expects to one day protagonize.

The barbazu did not enter the Citadel, instead remaining behind, and the gelugon parted a different way once inside, leaving Cathziel only with Mephistopheles and his cambion companion, who is now taking off her heavy fur-lined cloak - pointless in such warm temperature. The creature is beautiful indeed - halfways elven, halfways baatezu; with a skin of azure and an intrincate crown of small horns that twist and turns around themselves like vines of bone. A pair of finely adorned wings folds behind her, as the cloak burns away back to her quarters. She regards the other woman with a knowing, sly stare of her shining emerald orbs; as if she knew her since she was but a cub.

"As it should." That was Mephisto's answer at Cathziel's earlier own, and he had remained silent until the three of them were, by all appearances, alone. He leant forward, tilting his angular face down and closer to the dancer's, in such away she could feel the intensity of the dim, translucent flames that enveloped his skin, and the boring heat of his powerful glare. "You will find me a gracious host once we have got to know each other a little better, and an even more gracious lord once I've taken what is rightfully mine... so long you do your part well. For now, this is but an amicable meeting, but I do hope for a flourishing business relationship in the future... you will be allowed entry to this level of Mephistar, for now, but there are things to be taken care of before we can embark on a serious venture. This... " he gives a single, subtle nod to the cambion, " ...is Lady Antilia, the High Cantor. She will be your contact with me when I am too occupied to give you an audience. I'm confident you two will get along - you have much in common. And now, I will let you get acquainted: important matters bid my attention. Do feel welcome, dear, and remember that my hand is to be kissed - those who bite it lose much more than just their teeth." A bridge of jutting metal plates forms across the chasm, much like the one summoned above the lake, but the plates fall into the darkness as Mephistopheles leaves them behind to enter the main tower.

With an amused little smile, Antilia observes Cathziel expectantly, her cheek on her left hand, her elbow on the right one.


Lady Antilia, vassal of Mephistopheles

__________________

"You're loud, impulsive and you question authority. -That- is why I keep you at arm's lenght."
"Mmmm. And that is also why you keep me at arm's reach."

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A look of sly bemusement crossed Cathziel’s face as she turned to eye the Cambion side-on. By all means she would have appeared relaxed, were it not for the slow lash of her whiplike tail that spoke of her nerves and belied her outwardly courteous smile.

“My Lady Antilia,” Her voice was sly, rich in tone, yet still soft, “Rumoured daughter of Lord Mephistopheles himself. A creature of two halves; indeed we do have much in common.” She laughed softly, mimicking the cambion’s pose as the fingers of her right hand ticked her own chin. “I have heard many great things, and if you are indeed half as talented as you are beautiful you must truly command the courts.”

“So what is next? Should you enjoy it I can be quite the entertainer, but I daresay that you have little interest in my own endeavours as I have little interest in wasting your time.” The woman raised a brow and relaxed her stance, holding out her right hand to the room, “So, perhaps we may talk a little business? I am so very curious as to the meaning of such an impromptu audience with The Cold Lord Himself; certainly not a chance meeting I imagine.”

She pursed her lips, pacing softly as her thoughts became words, ”Perhaps you can indulge me? An avatar.. yes, that is to be expected, but curiously I now find myself invited within your walls and for what purpose?.”

Her eyes turned back to the red-skinned female, her stare calm, yet intent, “I might ask what is it that you have called me here to do, and how I might prove myself a useful asset to your court.”

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"Indeed we do." Her own voice is a melody on itself, each word a different note from the elven harp that played through her veins. "Though I must say that anecdotes of your triumphs haven't graced my ears as often as rumours of my person have crawled onto yours, that is precisely what I find most interesting about you, Lady Cathziel."

Always wearing that small smile, she takes a few steps towards her, circling her lightly as she traces a gentle, thin finger through Cathziel's collarbone, shoulders and back. Though her smooth, scale-less skin was red like ruby, it changed with the light, becoming purpler and finally deep blue with each step she took. "But you are certainly a charmer. I am quite curious about what sort of skills you have mastered, what gifts you possess - I hope they are not many, for if we couple them to that dazzling performance you've given us, one would have reasons to be jealous." After this second appraisal of her form, Antilia gives her back to Cathziel, starting her way towards the giant pit that opens like a great worm's maw in the center of the Citadel.

"But another thing we have in common, besides our mortal crib, is that I am too a performer, and entertainer." She looks over her shoulder to give her a dry smirk, "Though I suspect I could find your company as pleasing as your looks, I am not fond, and rather ill-suited to be anyone's overseer. That trait, we might not share. I do believe I am being put to the test as much as you are... and I do hope you take adventage of this truth I've given you, in a way that doesn't jeopardize any of us." As she speaks, a sudden green eruption breaks out of the pit, accompained by the wailing of the damned, rising several feet in the air like an unholy geiser. Unphased, and still looking at Cathziel over her shoulder, her chin slightly tilted upwards, Antilia continues. "Play nice, and I will play nice. Overstep your bounds, and I will bind you harder. There is no need for us to be rivals, not with such similarities that could easily make us sisters. Before we move onto our 'business', do we have an agreement?"

__________________

"You're loud, impulsive and you question authority. -That- is why I keep you at arm's lenght."
"Mmmm. And that is also why you keep me at arm's reach."

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The answering laugh that sounded from Cathziel’s throat resonated throughout the vast halls. Behind the Cambion the fiend silently slunk, with bare feet gently grazing the floor and her long tail swaying languidly with each stride.

“Charms? Indeed I have my wits, but what respectable businessman doesn’t?” She tilted her head, offering a coy smile, “But to inspire jealousy? Ha! Jealousy is no more than the feeling of being alone against smiling enemies.”

The corners of her lips twitched, easing into a snakelike smirk as she brushed up to Antilia’s side, red eyes reflecting the green glow of the pit. They settled on Antilia’s own, exotic and intense in stare. “And we are certainly not enemies. Indeed, I am sure we may even be able to help each other”.

Her fingers brushed gently against her lower lip as bemusement tickled across her face. Eventually the gold-skinned woman extended her hand, as if to shake. “I promise I won’t bite, My Lady of Song, you have my word”.

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Antilia's eyes narrowed for the briefest second. Like a hound master who holds her dogs by a choking collar, she relied on the fiends's desire to pull and set herself free to control her. As Cathziel closed the distance between them, she felt how her collar went loose on the other female's neck, oversized and easy to slip away from. Yet her expression quickly returned to its earlier unphased, if only slightly amused state as physical contact was made. As the hand was extended, rather than shake it, the Cantor took it and kissed it lightly. "The word of a creature of such high station is all I need. Now, if you are so kind as to follow me... "

She led Cathziel into the southern tower, a vicious metal claw that rose up from the iron floors of the citadel. "The metal was mined in Acheron. They say the Reforging of the citadel took half a cube of raw materials. The Lord of Dis lent the architects that designed the structure, as payment for an old debt to my liege. They say that the Lord of Flies was the first to be asked, given the beauty of his various older cities, but he violently refused." As she explains, Antilia shows her companion through various carpeted halls and hallways through the spiral interior of the tower, always ascending. "But despite how utterly interesting and enlightening you may find the history lesson... " She presented Cathziel with a smirk, " ...I am very curious as to your person, lady Ka'atziel. As I said, I haven't had the grace of hearing of your exploits save for a few Blood War 'engagements', not of military nature I believe."

Eventually, they step off the climbing, twisting ramp and onto a large room apparently destined for relaxation. A long table in fine clothes has been served with various different dishes, most of them meat, though a few seem to be garnished with different kinds of mushrooms and other more bizarre accompainements. The floor is carpeted in red, the same tone of the cloth covering the two roman-styled couches that rest, facing each other, in front of the table. On the other side the couches, a large portion of the wall is absent, replaced by a large rounded balcony overlooking a small part of the courtyard (it is facing away from the pit and its noxiousfumes) and the gigantic back of Nargus the great glacier, as well as the hailing snow storms beyond. A troupe of cornugons can be seen flying out of the pit in formation, circling the tower once, and flying away into the white, howling clouds.

Antilia walks with a very subtle sway of her waist towards the table, inspecting the dishes as she absently takes a leg of something and looks it over, before letting it rest back down on the plate and laying on her side on one of the couches. "It is known that only the Lord of the Nine, only the great Dark Lord himself can give full baatezu status to one who might not carry pure blood of Baator within her veins. And he has been notoriously absent the last few centuries. Which is why I am surprised to find not a cambion like myself... but a Pit Fiend of the highest caste. Such a remarkable accomplishment - for someone with so little recorded history as yourself!"

__________________

"You're loud, impulsive and you question authority. -That- is why I keep you at arm's lenght."
"Mmmm. And that is also why you keep me at arm's reach."

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Cathziel smiled slyly over one shoulder as she slowly crossed the room, each step of hers a measured stride. She paused by the entrance to the balcony, appearing to favour the open air to the confines of an enclosed room as she took in the scene outside. Then, calmly she pivoted on one foot to face Antilia and paused there comfortably with one hand placed delicately upon her hip.

“I assume of course you are referring to my little Tanar’ri” turf war?”. She sneered at the word, then shrugged her shoulders and continued, “A trifle of little importance in the grand scheme of things”. The woman kept her eyes on the Cambion as she crossed to the table and ran a hand lovingly along its cloth covering.

“But what of Ka’atziel the interloper?” She mused, inspecting the fabric with interest, “Deplorable halfbreed scum. Usurper. Lady of Ascension. Revered by some and source of unimaginable envy among the higher castes of Baator? I can assure you it was quite a painful procedure and I would not recommend it”. Her eyes flashed back to Antilia as she offered an amused little smirk.

“But how does a cambion seize so much power in glorious Baator in but a matter of months? I would imagine by carefully seeking out opportunity and enlisting the assistance of powerful friends”. She slunk over to the couches then, and slid herself down onto the one facing Antilia.

“I could tell you my story, but I do wonder if it is truly myself that is of interest, or rather the reason for and manner of my rise. Hmm? Of course the credit for my highest accomplishment rests in the hands of my fickle benefactor, The Slug Lord Himself.” She sighed, “And I will admit I am not entirely positive on what caused him to choose me. Perhaps my ambition. Perhaps my ability to drive results. Or perhaps I drew attention at the right time and was subject to but a whim; a low risk experiment to see if it could even be done.”

Her tail coiled slowly around her feet as the woman made herself comfortable, “The result is an unrivalled yet arrogant show of power by My Lord of Lies. ‘Look here at what I have created’.” She sneers, “What he fails to show is the cost of such power.” Her smile was snakelike, her voice low, “A painful procedure for him indeed”.

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"None of us is unaccustomed to pain. Not the purebloods who are ravaged and re-assembled in life by the torturer beetles, or burn for years in the pits of flames; nor us foreign seeds who suffer the constant burn of the scalding blood that runs through our mortal veins." Antilia studied her for a moment, carefully observing the way she moved, the things she touched, taking in all the resources she used to express herself. "Interloper... I do not doubt we share many nicknames."

For the first time since they entered, the cambion smiles, a knowing smile much like those seasoned merchants weild against skeptical customers. "But where your benefactor was fickle and forgetful, the Lord of the Ninth is tenacious, and he has the same power of memory for those who serve him well as he has for those that summon his vengeance." Once again, the Cantor stands, approaching her to rest a hand on the headrest of Cathziel's couch. "The Lord of Lies abandoned his experiments as he abandoned you. But he would see them to their finish. And he would honor you as the spearhead of the project, with so much more than a lowly administrative position, fit only for the scrubs among the amnizu."

She leans closer to Cathziel, tilting her face downwards so as to meet her so very slightly above eye level, though still making eye contact. Though tiny holes in her charismatic armor betray the bard's nerves, the fluidity of her movements and the boring, magma-hot gaze boiling in her orbs attest for her lineage: Cathziel could have, for a moment, re-lived the moment when he was approached by Mephistopheles himself, down and back at the courtyard after her demonstration. "Psyche subversion. You had found a way, a costless ritual to be tested on mortals, before the tana'ri sabotaged you. And for a time, you succeeded. Give us the details, the procedure... " She stands again, in a much more relaxed posture as she rests her weight on her left leg, gently bending the right one forward and sheathing her hands on her hips, "...and I think you know how well you will be rewarded."

__________________

"You're loud, impulsive and you question authority. -That- is why I keep you at arm's lenght."
"Mmmm. And that is also why you keep me at arm's reach."

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The sigh that escaped from Cathziel’s mouth was long and drawn out. Visibly sinking into the couch she appeared to relax for a second, with one arm draped over its arm and her fingertips tracing gentle circles across the upholstery. After a moment of thought her eyes fluttered open, and resumed their calculating stare.

“So that is what you want...” She sounded each word out, speaking slowly and precisely, then smiled and raised her brows as she sat forward, attentive once more, “A prize fit for a king, and certainly not a surprise to me. You are, after all, not the only one who has taken interest and tried to seize this information”.

Resting her elbows delicately on her knees, Cathziel gently steepled her fingertips together and stared up at Antilia above the rise of her hands. Behind them she held a wicked smile. “Lucky for you, I believe there is a delicious touch of personal interest that lies not just at my feet, but also at yours. I think it should be very interesting to see what events may transpire if our little partnership comes to fruition.”

“I will be willing to make a deal with you, My Lady. But..” She chuckled softly, and let her hands fall into her lap, speaking softly now, “Be warned this is not a secret I can just produce at whim. No doubt you are aware that the ritual is not a simple one; no easier than the binding of any creature of power, and the details I would not be foolish enough to carry around for no good reason.”

“I can get you access to them. But naturally I will need insurance; something concrete. As your wise lord just announced to me those who just give gifts are fools, and I am not foolish enough to barter on merely the promise of reward and honour.”

“You want the power to manipulate a being’s very essence, and for me to provide it you are asking me to perform the ultimate betrayal. Administrative position or not it is of great risk to me to invoke the ire of any Lord. Let alone one personally responsible for my creation”. She paused, and ran her tongue across her lips to wet them.

“But I am a creature of pride, and have been greatly dishonoured. Grant me a permanent position within your court, Lady Antilia and I will personally deliver the information myself”.

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A sickly burst of laughter, followed by sore coughing, echoed through a hallway high in one of Malagard's many towers, near the imposing Palace of Filth. An erinyes sat nearby, on a desk loaded with mountains of parchmentwork that rivaled the turret itself, being carefully observed by a fat stirge that had taken perch upon the window. The creature bore only one yellow eye, the left one, and though its mosquito-like head showed no emotion (he probably had none, being a beast and a soul-less familiar) that stare was powerful, imperious, irresistible; silently ordering her to remain calm and not do anything that could... well, not do anything at all.

Down through the hallway, behind a closed door that had been roughly marked with a smiling face, something moaned. It was a horrible moan, dry, disturbing, and it sounded like the throat emitting it had been pierced with a hundred needles. A different voice spoke, the same that had laughed before, but its words carried with them that same indescribable imperious aura that boiled in the stirge's stare. It was a jerren, a member of corrupted subrace of halflings, or it had once been: stunted, with a head too big for his emaciated torso. He also seemed to be one-eyed, his right eye being an exact copy of the stirge's, but the left socket hidden behind a rag wrapped around his head. "Nefleos, who gave you that note? Speak the truth."

In front of him, a blood-red quilled spinagon stood upright, completely upright, as if it had been tightly wrapped with invisible cord. It shifted uncomfortably, wincing in apparent pain, its bloodshot eyes fixed on the jerren's. "It waz one of greatah baat'zu! Wings an' horns! After it got angry and beat me, clipp'd mah wingz!"

The jerren smiled gleefully, a smile that stretched well past what it normally should. It looked as if a wide gash had been cut from his face, at uneven paces, and it was choke of piranha-like needle teeth, some splintered, all of them stained. "Good spiny thing. Now why don't you rest for a bit?"

With a welp from their owner, the spinagon's legs bent forward and back, and it slumped flatly on the ground, as if he had been released from a powerful hold. The stirge buzzed loudly into the room to perch on its master's shoulder, whispering to him through their mental link. -Does any of this serve a purpose? We checked the seal. It is as trustworthy as anything here can be.

Banzai turned to walk to a nearby table and climbed on top of it, like a bizarre, almost hairless monkey. He looked like a walking circus, dressed in purple and wine rags, and wearing an old humanoid skull on his head, its forehead carved with a strange sigil. "Of course it serves a purpose. I'm practicing my cruelty for when I get to be the overlord of everything!" The spinagon stood with some difficulty, recovering, and gave Banzai a weird look, not understanding if he was the one being addressed. The warlock answered its silent question without gazing at it, "Ya better leave now, ya're not invited to my dark council of darkness." The devil lifted off and flew out the window without as much as a nod.

-He thinks you are insane. So do I. The stirge commented.

"So do I... that's precisely the point." The master answered himself, glancing at the closed door. "There is no way I wouldn't be at this point. It is as it has to be. We don't need sanity, all we need is faith."

The stirge didn't seem convinced, and shifted its weight lightly on the jerren's shoulder as it leant forward to read those parchments his master was merely watching. -This plan will never work. These creatures have been decieving and betraying others and each other for thousands of years, we cannot possibly hope to best them at it.

"Hm, yes, but I have a secret ace up in my sleeve..."

-This is no lesser baatezu, this is a pit fiend. Even if we had the power to take her, what afterwards? What would we do with Cathziel?

Banzai snorted, rifling through the paper work until he found what he was looking for. He continued to speak to his little beast as it inspected it. "I -need- my mother. Without her, I fall." The famliar's eye looked aside towards his master, silently questioning him. The warlock presented it with a confident smile. "Faith, Phemur. Have faith."

Phemur just stared at him in disbelief, before giving up and turning to inspect the papers laid before him. - ...these are just doodles.

The jerren beamed, "I drew them! That's me and mother over there. You like them?"

__________________

"You're loud, impulsive and you question authority. -That- is why I keep you at arm's lenght."
"Mmmm. And that is also why you keep me at arm's reach."

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Cathziel raged down the hallway. The ceiling, looming high above her head was clearly made for a creature much larger than her current form, but her prescence was enough to fill the space and send lesser creatures scurrying for cover. Cut of glossy black obsidian the place was once truly beautiful but now irreprably harmed by years of decay and neglect.

Her day had not gone entirely as planned, and with teleportation unavailable her trip back to Maladomini had been long and arduous, devoid of the secrets of Hellfire or a place among the ranks of Mephistar. A lonely brazier, hanging innocently on the wall received the brunt of her anger and was discarded left to die, sputtering in her wake.

As she reached the door to her office she paused to take note of the smiley face etched crudely into its surface.

Within the office Aazazel sat patiently at the desk, her keen green eyes locked upon Banzai and his Stirge familiar. As their attention wavered and turned elsewhere, the Erinyes, feeling the mental hold lessen slowly slipped her right hand under the table and out of immediate sight.

Annoyed by the creature's insolence, she had half the mind to blast him with something slow and painful, but a sound echoing through the immense hallways stayed her spellcasting. Cupping her chin in her hand, with her elbow on the desk the comely creature slowly twirled one of her sandy-blonde curls around her finger as her expression turned from irritation to barely contained amusement and her green eyes focused on the door.

"Oh Ban-zai," her voice was a mocking sing-song followed by a peal of high-pitched, obnoxious laughter as the door slammed open, crashing loudly against its supporting wall and scattering loose papers about.

The smile on the Erinyes' face was positively angelic. "I think you're in trou-ble".

A barrage of different scents hit her all at once; leather and ink, the acrid smell of old paper; feathers and sweet perfume. Aazazel. Sweat and dirt; stale saliva and urine. Banzai. And the scent of another fiend. Her nose wrinkled.

Cathziel's fingers curled into the palms of her hands as she slowly entered the room, silent and glowering. Her eyes fixated upon the Jerren as her right hand came up to point at the graffiti on her door.

"What" She inhaled through her teeth, "Is this?"

Sweeping into the room the woman gave him little time to answer. Bare footed and swift, she coiled around behind him like a snake, coming close enough for him to suddenly feel the heat of her breath on the back of his neck. Her own scent, blood, sweat, burnt silk and charred flesh, overwhelming. Her fingers, searing hot, crept up over his shoulders to dig into his collarbone as her voice came low in his ear.

"Tresspassing where you are not welcome.." Her snarl was as sharp as her nails, "For that alone I might just tear your limbs off until all that are left are bloody stumps!" Her grip released, without care, as she snatched the papers from his grip and whirled around to read what was upon them.

A few moments of eery silence passed as she shifted through the pages and eyed each of his drawings critically. As she got further down the pile, moving from blank sheets, to unused forms, onto signed contracts her growl rose from a low rumble in her throat, to an animalistic snarl unbecoming of such a charismatic looking creature. Slowly she turned about to face him, rage seething and distorting her facial features as she held up a particularly elaborate looking paper; one upon which the details of her psychic subversion, her bargaining chip, were ornately scribed.

A heartbeat passed before Cathziel lost it, slamming her hands down upon the desk on which Banzai stood. The force of the blow reverberated through the solid oak and sent the rest of the lose papers scattering.

"You arrogant little shit," She snarled, coming eyeball to eyeball with the half-man, "How dare you dig your hands into what isn't yours to touch!" Her claws dug into the wood grain, "And to defile the very ritual that maked you... you. Are you truly fool enough to think that your insolent scratchings would appease me?"

"I am blaming this on you," Her eyes fell accusingly upon Aazazel, who had begun to shift out of her seat. The creature, caught off guard, blinked in surprise and scowled.

"It weren't my fault", she sneered, "The little bastard had me--"

"In his thrall?" Cathziel cut her off, staring the lesser devil down across the desk, "For a creature of your status? Utterly pathetic. Sit down and shut up! Lest you swiftly gain the reputation of a snitch." With a hiss, Cathziel threw the offending paper into Aazazel's lap, "I want this reproduced. NOW. Word for word until it is once again, perfect".

"And you" Her long, prehensile tail lashed out, snaking around Banzai's ankle to yank him off his feet and lift him into the air, "I am giving you two minutes to explain yourself".

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The jerren's own eye twitched as Aazazel pronounced his name. He had always relied on his anonimity and his ability to make others look away from him to thrive, to sneak his way unseen into Baatorian nobility: Cathziel's fool, her personal buffoon, a rotten and annoying creature only she of mortal lineage could find humorous. Indeed, only his 'mother' as he called her knew his real name, only to her it was revealed; and it was only because the influence she already had over him that Aazazel's knowledge hadn't spelt doom for him. Had the erinyes not known it, he wouldn't have needed to steadily concentrate in order to keep her under his dominion.

He whipped around to face her, without thinking about the possible outcome of his next action: she was a threat, and to be ended. However, Cathziel's entrance stopped him right on his tracks and brought him back to reality. Phemur, having already predicted her rage, unperched from his shoulder and buzzed to the safety of a nearby window.

"Well, greetings, sweet mothe--!"

What is this? He loved her voice when she was mad at him, it was like the sound of a beautiful work of art being torn and ravaged at a quick, yet steady and unfaltering pace. A smile grew on his face at the thought, only to enlarge and show off his needle teeth as she threatened him. His was a creepy grin, no doubt, but a defensive one. For the longest time, he remained silent.

As she gripped him with her tail, he remained motionless, docile like a ragdoll on her hand. His 'mother' wasn't kind, but he had not suffered half of what her other underlings would've had under the same circumstances, up to the point where he almost took her for granted. Only one time he was truly punished - and he had learnt to fear her again. He half expected the same treatment again - this was the worst of his offenses in her knowledge - but at the same time, he wasn't really thinking about it. He was, in fact, fighting back temptation: she always smelled so tasty!

"Defile? A fitting synonym for 'improve', here at the Lower Planes. You see, I... " His eye darted to the window as he trailed off, and met his familiar's. Phemur had been observing out the window, and as it turned its head and their stares collided, their mental communication became apparent. The creature buzzed out from the office, leaving those inside alone, as Banzai's grin broadened even more. His pale orb focused on Cathziel once again, "I am glad you're finally here! I was afraid your little walkabout would take too long, as both Aazazel and me are quite unfit to welcome your honorable guests... "

A teleportation spell shimmered outside, as various circles of hellish runes carved in purple light drew themselves before the tower's entrance. Surprised by the prescence of a pit fiend in the layer (other than their usually transformed mistress), the lesser devils that warded the doorway approached her with suspicion, only to be met with a hateful stare and an authoritative tone that reminded them of their position. "TELL YOUR MISTRESS THAT THE MINISTRY OF RESEARCH HAS ANSWERED HER SUMMONS." While Cathziel vented on her underlings, an ominous prescence filled the hallways as it made its way towards the office, though it literally, physically needed the space as it was not cloaked in any kind of alternate form. Draped in a crimson cape pierced by the bony spikes growing from her shoulders, and escorted only by her two kocrachon assistants, Pearza of the Dark Eight quietly took note of her surroundings, and frowned slightly as it sensed the violence in the office.

__________________

"You're loud, impulsive and you question authority. -That- is why I keep you at arm's lenght."
"Mmmm. And that is also why you keep me at arm's reach."

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"Guests?"

The word was loaded; a rhetorical question dripping with incredulity and the promise of murderous intent. As Cathziel's ruby red eyes slowly turned upon Banzai's one he might have sworn her head swivelled around 360 degrees, such was the fury in her stare.

It was a furious but shortlived gaze, as her tail uncoiled to drop Banzai unceremoniously upon the polished stone floor. Lashing like a whip, it came dangerously close to smacking the Jerren in the face as the woman paced around her desk, and unseated the Erinyes with a glare. Coldly ignoring any response from Banzai himself she carefully gathered the scattered ritual pages and, gently rolling them up offered them to the angelic looking creature.

"Take this until I ask for it back. Show it to no one".

Aazazel nodded and silently tucked the item away beneath her dress, securing it beneath her rope-like belt. Retrieving a pair of spectacles, a quill and a writing pad from a nearby bookshelf the Erinyes moved to stand at Cathziel's right-hand side. Adopting a formal, scholarly stance she refolded her wings several times as she began to write, although it is unclear exactly what.

"E-excuse me m-m-m-Mi'Lady," A spinagon messenger peeked through Cathziel's open doorway, its eyes roving between the three parties in the room as it twitched nervously. With her chin settled on her fist, Cathziel observed it carefully as it bolstered its courage and delivered its message, "T-t-tha' ministry of research 'an implementation has arrived at yer request".

Cathziel sighed as her hand slid up to pinch the skin between her eyes, "And who have they sent me today?"

"N-n-no one." It responded with a squeak, "T-t-the Min'ster is 'ere 'erself".

"Banzai." Her hand fell and her eyes swiveled to the Jerren, "Pray, what missive have you sent?"

'No.. It could not be Pearza herself!' Aazazel's melodic voice echoed telepathically within Cathziel's head. Glancing side-ways at the creature, Cathziel caught a glimpse of surprise on the devil's face that mirrored her own. With one brow raised she turned back to the Spinagon and pushed out her chair in order to stand.

"Well, my door is open, B'ezu. Please treat my esteemed guest with respect and do not leave her waiting".

Cathziel's expression returned to one of practiced charm as the Spinagon bowed and scampered away. Her close-lipped smile was enticing enough, and her body language one of curiosity as she gently tapped her upper lip with a finger, her left hand clasping her right elbow.

'Banzai, what information have you dangled in front of her nose?' This time, it was Cathziel's voice inside Banzai's head. Although she did not turn to look at him, her eyes instead fixed on the doorway.

'Dark Eight General of the Fourth Legion. A bureaucrat, but of a prestigious sect'. Aazazel communicated as a dark shadow enveloped the doorway, rising to the full height of the carved stone frame. More than double the size of the tallest member of her company, the Pit Fiend Pearza easily dwarfed the other creatures as she was shown into the room. Calm and collected the gold-skinned devil remained stoic as a statue. To her right, the Erinyes looked visibly perturbed.

'Many devils who have quickly made names for themselves have done well in the ministry of Research. I've heard she is not the most violent of the Eight, but if the kocrachon were not an obvious hint, her department also oversees torture and interrogation.'

"Pearza". Cathziel spoke the name aloud, delicately tasting its essence, "Thank you for arriving so promptly; and choosing to visit me yourself". Her fingers danced across her lips as she regarded the taller creature, "A true honour".

'It is rumoured that this one is new in her position. She may soon find herself replaced if she does not quickly carve out her place on the Council. Perhaps this is why she visits in the flesh.

Of course.. If you get the attention of the Dark Eight, you have in your hand the ear of Asmodeus himself'.

This time, Cathziel's smile was genuine.

'How surprisingly fortunate'

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Banzai had not yet picked himself up when Pearza and her escort stepped into the office, but as he gazed up onto the pit fiend, the long gash he called mouth extended to its full size, revealing his little teeth and letting his long, carved tongue dangle out watering, like that of a hungering hyena.

The minister did not even acknowledge his prescence, or that of the erinyes. She looked somewhat annoyed as she regarded Cathziel, resting both her hands on a long and finely crafted skull-topped cane. "Ka'atziel." she answered with mustered solemnity, though she let some brash spill in her next statement. "I was expecting your underlings to be prepared for my arrival, at the very least." The kocrachons remained by her side - one of them standing very still and upright, only its various pincers and mandibles opening and closing erratically; the other seemed oddly interested on its surroundings and the conversation, closely and carefully observing each of the participants, and specially its lady. "But I am willing to overlook this in light of our successful joint work in the past. The merregons have proved to be an exceptional investment, and I am looking forward to the implementation of your riders and heavy infantry. You have proved your finesse at this craft."

Pearza gave her a low, almost unnoticeable bow of her head in recognition, yet seemed at unease. Something about her body language was not right - her movements were not fluid, her postures seemed somewhat forced; as if she was not in complete control of her body, or did not know how to use it. Pit fiends were regal creatures, only the most cunning of the baatezu ever reached the rank, and by the time they did, their control over their words as well as their bodies neared perfection. They could seduce a man into believing his own death by just shifting their position as they spoke. But this creature had none of that. Its voice went from angry barking to almost stuttering within an instant, and then she was barking again, as if to call attention away from her shaky, weak posture.

"Your argument is very reasonable. Project Subversion should always have been part of the Ministry of Research and Implementation's agenda, and together, we could perfect it and reap its greatest rewards, not for a duke alone, but for the glory of all of Baator. Give me the ritual, and I will secure you a place... at my side.

Banzai had stood up, slowly retreating backwards, just a few steps. Under the old, humanoid skull he wore as a helmet, the gold in his eye began lightly swirling, and the faintest murmuring escaped his lips, a quiet mantra in a tongue foreign to the Pit, yet not entirely unknown.

-Something is amiss.

His familiar's raspy voice snuck into his mind, replacing his mother's unanswered question. -Something is off with her. She has the appeareance and the odour of a pit fiend, but she does not feel like one. Banzai frowned, but gave him no answer. Despite everything, he was not capable of true mental communication in his current state - he could only recieve messages, but his answers had to be delivered through sound. They shared a mind, however, and Phemur intuitively confirmed his suspicions. -She is here, in this room. She was compelled by geas in the letter and she could not go back on her word. I can feel her. But I cannot -find- her.

'How do you force an animal out of its hiding place? With smoke, and fire.' A fleeting thought, a decision, and the slow removal of the helm from his head. A green binding rune glowed on it for a moment, and his hands burned as he very slowly began raising his voice and his chant.

" ...sin'zirum shirr'ak'qej sar-nazrrim, jira'rnaek lez shiraj. Kre'ktarej sin'zirum, sir'jerren nom Turaglas."

And with a deafening sound, the doors and windows flew shut.

Banzai's eye shone with a powerful yellow light, a light that sparked to life on the eyes of the twin deformed face he had scribbled on the doors, and apparently on the inside of the window shutters as well. The previously silly looking images opened horrific demonic maws, fitted with various rows of teeth, as the papers and forms he had scribbled took on flight and formed a shimmering vortex in the office, the doodles now glowing runes in a foul, chaotic language. The skull in Banzai's hands shaked and sputtered, and a crack made its way on its top, but it did not split. A shadowy formed climbed up from the shutters to the roof, and for a moment, its left eye glowed too.

Pearza shook and trembled and stepped back, "What treachery is this!?" She rammed the door with her shoulder, to no avail, while one of the kocrachons - the one that had been standing very still - helped her. The other beetle devil charged against the shutter, as the pit fiend looked around with horror, "The lord of Nessus will have your head!" But as it opened her wings and turned towards Cathziel, the gaping faces on the doors opened their mouths, and two long, thick tongues emerged from the golden depths, covered by barbs and smaller mouths, and dripping with acidic spit. They sprang forward and tied themselves around the pit fiend's forearms, pulling her backwards and holding her in place.

__________________

"You're loud, impulsive and you question authority. -That- is why I keep you at arm's lenght."
"Mmmm. And that is also why you keep me at arm's reach."

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"My apologies," Cathziel's lips curled back into a microexpression of hatred before her face regained its usual, neutral smile, "Next time I shall make sure to clearly announce your comings and goings to the spies of Baalzebul's court".

She moved as if to sit, yet Pearza's next announcement caught her entirely off guard and she halted the action and remained, folding her arms instead as a look of suspicion crossed her face. Merregons? Her blood ran cold. Was the fiend referring to her earlier meetings in Cania? No, their creation. She calmed. Well she certainly had no part in that. But that was the strange part, wasn't it? Her eyes narrowed, and slid to the ever smiling Banzai. Unreadable as always. 'What are you looking to gain from this?'

Your argument is very reasonable. Project Subversion should always have been part of the Ministry of Research and Implementation's agenda..

Cathziel was half listening, staying her tongue as she let the creature talk, hoping to catch a sliver of information that would make sense to her. Behind her, her tail began to sway; a clear tell of her mind in thought. There was something not entirely right about this conversation and a quick glance at Aazazel told her that her assistant had come to a similar conclusion.

The fiend paced around to the front of her desk and eyed the two torturer devils as suspiciously as she regarded their mistress. Her own movements, coordinated by a framework of sharp and powerful muscles were fluid and graceful as a cat's, and each perfectly balanced step stood in cold contrast to the awkward posture of the fiend before her.

It took her a moment to consider Pearza's offer, and she had barely gathered her thoughts as somewhere behind her Banzai began to chant.

"I believe there are many details that we would need to discuss before..." Her words trailed off as the glow of magic reflected on the stone walls. As the yellow light fell upon her golden skin, for a moment she almost appeared to glow herself.

As Cathziel yelled her voice went unheard as the doors and windows shut in unison. The sound made her visibly flinch, and though her strength was outmatched by only her speed the woman did not move, for there was no where for her to go.

"Treachery?" She snarled at the utterance of the word and whirled to face Pearza and her minions with both wings spread. Behind her, a rope was thrown by Aazazel as the Erinyes turned her sights on the warlock spellcaster. Thrown with deadly accuracy the thing came alive in flight, if snakes could fly, and attempted to entangle him in its lengths.

"The lord of Nessus will have your head!"

"I don't think so", Cathziel spat back, indignant, "All absent Lords do is gather dust". She drew herself up with a snarl, watching the creature as the slithering tongues bound it to the door. "Are you really going to crawl back to Nessus and tell the other Seven you were captured by a halfwit?"

She slunk backward, turning her full attention now on Banzai. Did he spy her as an impostor? Cathziel could only hope. For if this were indeed the real Pearza, she of course would be held accountable. But the image of the bound pit fiend brought forth a terror even more profound; she had greatly underestimated the power of the halfling.

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Banzai continued chanting, his eye going from the minister to Cathziel, when it sharply turned towards the one charging to the window, glowing. 'There you are.' But before he could focus his magic, something grasped him and put him face to the floor, as the rope coiled around him like a snake and wrapped his mouth shut.

The pit fiend struggled against the tongues that held it and pulled backwards, not dispelled by the warlock's tight situation. She roared with a new voice, the red skin that covered her bulging muscles burning and wasting away as she shook, breaking off the fake pit fiend shell to reveal a now rabid cornugon. The horned devil remained trapped, but the chaotic tongues that bound it began to bloat and bleed, and the kocrachon by its side retreated behind it, quickly turning to study the doorway for a way to dispell its wards.

The third torturer devil did not crash against the shutter: instead, it quickly appraised the scribings, hovering for the shortest moment, before turning around to face Cathziel. Its insectoid body bulged and grew, expanding to the last molecule before it split in half and wasted away into ash like a burnt cocoon. From within, the real Pearza emerged, and extended her hand, calling the skull cane to her grasp. "I expected a trap, but I am genuinely disgusted by your methods. You dare bring tana'ri magic into Baator!? You might be intelligent, Ka'atziel, but you're not worthy of my post!"

For the briefest moment, she looked at Aazazel, as if weighing her as a potential ally, before she spreads her wings, her scales taking to flame. "And you add injury to the insult by underestimating me so! You think that an erinyes and a sorry gnat are enough to take on one of the Dark Eight?" She snorted as the flames fed on the vortex of paper, creating a blazing tornado inside the already small and packed office - even though none of those present would've been affected by it. "There are no shortcuts, no easy ways to power. You may have had promise, but you were never meant to be one of us. This hasty and poorly executed excuse for an assassination is the final proof of it." With a powerful motion she raised her arms, telekinetically grabbing Banzai to smash him against the roof and dangle him by her side, making him face Cathziel. "Is this your secret weapon? Pitiful."

Banzai struggled to open his mouth, and to turn to look at Pearza, to no avail. And with the sound of ripping flesh and the pained scream of splurting blood, the tongues were torn apart, and the cornugon was free.

__________________

"You're loud, impulsive and you question authority. -That- is why I keep you at arm's lenght."
"Mmmm. And that is also why you keep me at arm's reach."

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Re: Devil's Due (Closed freeform game)

Aazazel stared at the room in horror, slack jawed and immobilized by the sheer scale of what had unfolded in mere seconds. In her thousand years of servitude and scrivening, never had she witnessed such a scene. As Pearza revealed herself the Erinyes saw her gateway to ascension suddenly flourish like a flower in May, only to be yanked violently away as her plan to piggyback off the work of her mistress crumbled into ash. All. Because. Of him.

'Release the halfwit!', the mental command by Cathziel brought her focus back into the room. With a barely visible narrow of her eyes, the Erinyes obeyed and released the rope enchantment, once more allowing Banzai the freedom to move. As she watched him struggle in the pit fiend's grip her expression seethed with venom.

Ma'am, might I suggest a tactical retreat at this point?'

The request went unanswered as Cathziel calmly assessed the situation at hand, ignoring the Erinyes to focus on the details. Seconds, milliseconds had passed but to her it was as if the world moved in slow motion. The cornugon, snarling and twisting in its binds did little to attract her interest. It was the sudden movement of the seized Banzai that drew her eye. She considered leaving him in Pearza's thrall; a distraction and a retreat sounded like a viable option, and this entire mess was.. indeed, his fault. But no. At this point retreat would only do her further dishonour. And besides, his punishment was going to be her satisfaction, and hers alone. As he dangled like a piece of meat before her eyes, she almost, almost smiled.

And so you must fight fire, with fire.

"Your post?" Cathziel turned calmly upon the real Pearza, head held high and regal in her small size, "How arrogant of you to assume that I want your position." She rolled her neck as her bones popped and cracked and her golden skin rippled, forming into glistening red and black scales as as her body doubled in size. Gold dripped off her like liquid to reveal her true form, as lean and muscular as her humanoid guise. From her shoulders rose a pair of grotesque wings that unfolded and flared dramatically, hiding the quivering Erinyes behind her. Wreathed in smoke and flame she panted as she laughed, a glutteral, snarling sound as her chest heaved and spittle dripped from her dog-like maw.

"You come to me hiding behind a smoke screen like a frightened dog, and yelp like a pup when even halfling can smell a rat. I too expected more. Tell me, Pearza of the Eight, do I smell fear?" She extented a claw toward the other in a mocking bow, "You seek to make me look bad, to strip me of my power; a commendable sabotage, I grant you, but what of yours when I take away the creatures under your control? No. My power rests on an idea," Her face turned toward the captured Jerren, keenly staring him in his singular eye as her snout lowered, "and there is nothing more powerful than an idea who's time has come."

She gave Pearza a second to follow her gaze, holding it on Banzai, enticing her to indulge in her curiosity.. and then she moved. The now free cornugon, with its unquestionable loyalty had naturally advanced and struck out at her, and Cathziel had waited for it to make its inevitable attack. Its spiked weapon though thown with skill, missed as it was outdanced by the faster, more powerful combatant.

Mirroring the tornado of flame in the room and with practiced grace Cathziel shifted her feet, throwing her immense weight as she made her first attack count; a powerful roundhouse kick that connected with a sickening crunch against the creature's chest. Her tail, sweeping with her motion followed up with a swift and crushing blow to drive the creature to the ground.

Behind her, at the back of the office Aazazel pressed back against the wall and quietly began to chant...

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Re: Devil's Due (Closed freeform game)

"Sabotage you? You arrogant, glorified cambion, it was you who led me into a trap in the first place, rather than take your only chance at a profitable future!

Pearza's own eyes narrowed as she listened, momentarily captured by Cathziel's riddles. At the same time, however, a spell swirled around the cane in her grasp, and she ordered the ritual in her head while, subtly led and acting out of instinct, she gave the creature she held the briefest, most superficial glance. It was just a second that their eyes met. It was enough.

Pearza, of the Dark Eight. No. No. That is a title. Tell me your name, your TRUE name! The voice spread through the pit fiend's head like a corrosive fluid, frying her thoughts and neurones, devouring its way towards the very core of her identity. Pearza found herself unable to move, unable to look away from the mesmerizing, glowing golden eye as Banzai wormed his way into her spirit like a hungry flesh worm. Pompous... little... mortal... YOU THINK YOU CAN DOMINATE THE BAATEZU!? She roared, both in Baator, and within herself. YOUR OVERCONFIDENCE HAS GOTTEN THE BEST OF YOU, JUST AS IT HAPPENED TO YOUR MISTRESS. YOU, FILTHY CREATURE, TELL ME -YOUR- NAME!!

Banzai's own eye began to water, and he stated shaking in her grip, victim of sudden convulsions. He shook and quivered, and began screaming, as his will, while powerful, could not match the pit fiend's own focused, blazing spiritual might. Pearza growled as she leant closer and closer to the jerren, slowly but steadily forcing his mind to retreat - it was exhausting, like pushing a granite block of monumental proportions through the angry waves and into the ocean; but at the same time it was exhilarating, for every moment she felt the warlock's will subdue to hers, and his pain gave her strenght. So locked was she in this mental duel, that she did not sense the prescense that stalked her from above...

The cornugon's bony chest creaked and cracked at the sheer might of the kick - it was not just the strenght and raw bludgeoning power of the blow, but the majestic, awe-inspiring sight of the pit fiend's skill while delivering it, that had it numbly crash against the floor and mark its fall with a star of crevices. Its attempt to get on its feet was as fast as it was clumsy, and it had to be repeated before he could stand again, holding onto the wall with a hand. As the splintered bones painfully rammed and fused with each other, its stare locked on Cathziel, half expecting a finishing move, and as soon as it caught a breath, it launched itself at her with renewed vigor - a feint, as it seemed to ready its chain to swing at her head, but with a whip-like twist, it lashed at her feet.

The beetle devil's spellcasting skills were limited, and it could not found a way to dispell the wards that held the doors shut. It attempted to comunicate telephatically with his mistress, but there was no answer. Without orders nor a way to escape, it turned, and its bursting nerves swiftly froze into calculation. Cathziel was too formidable an enemy, it would need to study her before it could help the horned devil and - the erinyes. Was she casting? She was casting. A deafening buzz of its wings lifted him inmediately, and powered his jump as it attempted to stab its proboscis on the erinyes's neck.

Banzai was pinned onto the ground, his mind on the brink of unraveling as he trembled. Pearza held him down with both hands, viscous, oily black sweat seeping through her scales, but a triumphant grin expanding on her face in a crescent shape, dripping with vile pride and ecstasy. Soon the halfshit's soul would be nothing but a broken vestige of---

~THUNK~

Pearza shook on her place as the missile hit her right between the shoulders and on the base of her bony neck, at the exact spot where it connects with the rest of her spine. Flawless. She trembled lightly, raising her head to look at Cathziel in desbelief as the deep blue of her eyes began to pale and brighten, as the fat stirge that had launched itself at her like a torpedo burrowed to lodge into her body like an insect digs in fresh dirt. The pit fiend tried to articulate a word, but her breath escaped her, her jaw watering and hanging down limply as she lost control over her facial muscles - a sorry, disturbing visage. The great councilwoman wobbled on her knees, trying to clumsily stand up - until a thick, long tongue shot out from below and wrapped itself around her colossal neck, bringing her back down. She held herself with her hands, but her face was yanked down, her bloodshot eyes to meet the jerren's one orb, which shone with renewed fulgor. His maw was wide open, full of teeth and hunger, and it was his own physical tongue that had her bound as her mind boomed cavernously with his silent, unholy command.

'TELL ME YOUR NAME.'

Pearza did, and her eyes emptied.

__________________

"You're loud, impulsive and you question authority. -That- is why I keep you at arm's lenght."
"Mmmm. And that is also why you keep me at arm's reach."

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Re: Devil's Due (Closed freeform game)

“No”. The word was but a whisper, “Not I”.

Her eyes slid from the Cornugon, struggling to rise, to Banzai and Pearza, predator and prey. “Behold” Her voice suddenly amplified, “The wretched creature that summoned you here”.

Metal flashed as the Cornugon struck out, drawing Cathziel’s attention immediately from the mental struggle back to the combat at hand. Its arm moved as it brandished its devilish chain in a manner as such to remove her head, and, distracted by Pearza’s shouts, Cathziel fell for its feint and ducked to avoid a blow that never came.

---

Toward the back of the office, Aazazel stood near motionless with her keen green eyes locked upon the battle of wills and her face a statue of disapproval. Her fingers, the only part upon her that moved, instinctively roved and twisted through the air as a dark magical energy gathered at her fingertips, crackling like lighting as it was summoned by the dark arcane words that rolled effortlessly off her tongue.

Her mind was full of calculations. Who was winning this fight? Her fingers momentarily paused, clinging to the power at their tips as she searched for a clue, an inkling of which way their internal battle ranged. Who was her target? Pearza? No, she never wanted to invoke the wrath the Dark Eight; but Banzai had it coming. He wasn’t even one of them. Her eyes flicked to her mistress, otherwise engaged. One ‘miscast’ would go unnoticed, her hand raised. She would never know.

Aazazel’s hands were consumed by a dark, crackling energy as her spell flared to life. Around her, the room filled with the sound of buzzing. Buzzing.. no that was not right. She looked up just in time to see the shadow of the Kocrachon moments before it descended upon her.

----

The blow never came. A feint! Cathziel reacted too late.

The weapon struck at her feet and tore at the flesh of her left leg as its barbs took deadly hold. Reacting to the pain her head tilted back as she filled the room with a deafening snarl. She whirled instinctively, and cast upon the floor a spray of sticky black blood with each powerful step. With every movement the weapon acted like a snare, biting deeper the more she pulled.

The Cornugon snickered, drunk on bloodlust, and gathered its might to yank on the chain; to trip her. But its eyes widened in surprise as its its weapon unexpectedly fell slack and its powerful pull caused it to stumble gracelessly backwards and into the door behind it. Glaring, Cathziel was advancing on it, having seen the followup coming and stepped into the attack.

“You got up”. She growled, “Your first mistake”. Blood dripped from the infernal wound on her leg and it hurt to move; a wound not easily healed, but she didn’t care. A quick switch of her body weight and she had returned the motion, stepping her leg and her weight backward to pull on the chain still held in Cornugon’s claws. Her footwork was fast, sharp, and more than that; gracefully executed.

The fiend, caught off balance, tripped and fell toward her.

“Your second”, As it stumbled forward, slipping on the ichor that slicked the stone floor she caught it by the horns.

“Was thinking to engage me on the ground”. A smile, a horribly satisfied, snakelike smile cracked her face. And with a deafening crash, the two large creatures fell together to the floor.

-----

Too cornered to move anywhere, and too deep into her spell to change her mind, Aazazel held her arms before her, bracing to fend off the creature as her wings protectively curled about her and she stubbornly spoke the last few verbal components of her spell. Her hands, crackling with necrotic energy flared to life as the Kocrachon crashed down, stabbing with its needle like appendage to find flesh at the join of her neck and shoulder. As the two fell against the wall, Aazazel’s face twisted into one of pain as the creature took in its face, the full, raw draining energy of her spell.

---

The very ground shook as the Pit fiend and the Cornugon rolled, sending paperwork scattering as they descended upon each other like animals, raking with their mighty claws and devastating bites. Their grapple was violent, but brief, and ended with a bone crushing CRACK! that echoed sickeningly around the small office. Reeling backwards in pain, the Cornugon stumbled as Cathziel kicked it away, falling once to its knees before it regained its balance. Its hands came to clutch at its head, where one of its horns was now a stub, broken, with the remainder of the bony growth held fast in the Pit Fiend’s ironlike grip.

Metal screeched across polished tile as Cathziel rolled to her feet to rush the staggering Cornugon with her shoulder, dragging the still snagged weapon with each stride she took. With an ear splitting crunch she slammed its owner against the door, splintering the bony creature’s already broken chest under the weight of her body. As it slumped she danced backward to adjust her grip on the horn in her hand, and drawing the thing around in an arc she sank the point of it into the Cornugon’s chest, snarling into its face as she forced the improvised weapon through flesh and bone and deeply into the wooden door behind.

She gave it a few seconds to struggle, watching as its broken body twisted in pain and attempted to knit itself together before she grabbed the creature’s own tail and ended its life. A coup de grâce? No, she gave no such mercy as the pit fiend, shrinking slowly into her much more appealing disguise took the glistening, blade-like barb in her hand and sliced open the fiend’s midsection, gutting it from navel to collarbone and spattering the ground with blood and viscera.

----

Pinned beneath the weight of the Kocrachon, Aazazel squirmed. Her spell, though not intended for it, had hit home and severely weakened the creature, draining off its power enough that it was no longer able to support its bulbous body on its skinny appendages. But despite her efforts, she was cornered and pinned and the creature pressed on intently.

For a moment she had felt it, the soul-crushing, flashing pain that the torturer devil was able to unleash through its proboscis, lodged deep in her shoulder. She had arched her back, spasming as she screamed in pain that spread across every inch of skin and down every wing-feather. And then it was gone and her mind was clear, its weight lifted as the fiend was torn off her by her beautiful, gold-skinned mistress.

As she pushed herself up the Erinyes heard the crunch of bone splitting and a sickening squelch as she felt the tremor of the creature’s death throes through the stone floor. In front of her stood Cathziel, ever dazzling in her glittered silks. In her hand she loosely held the Cornugon’s chain weapon, with the brained Kocrachon smeared at her feet.

“Impeccable timing as always, My Lady”, The Erinyes gasped as she clambered to her feet, slowly raising a brow as she catalogued the carnage surrounding her.

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Re: Devil's Due (Closed freeform game)

As the wards holding all entrances shut dispelled around them, the doors to Cathziel's office broke and fell apart on the floor, having sustained great punishment under the fiend's crashes and the warlock's disrupting chaotic magic. Only his spell held them together, shielding the room from anything that wanted to get in or out - and preventing the sudden blaze of demonic energies from being felt outside and attracting unwelcome, probably rabid baatezu enforcers.

Pearza slowly, weakly lifted to a stand. An enormous, red scaled hand felt the fallen desk by her side, and then the walls, looking for a place to secure a grip and avoid falling once more as her body dangerously tilted forward. She seemed to stare for a moment at Banzai, who's tongue had uncoiled from her neck and fallen limply on the floor, where he now laid, motionless and apparently unconcious. Her gaze then travelled to her right hand, which trembled as she raised it before her face, opening and closing it, inspecting her twitching fingers. She focused, and soon regained control of her pulse. Reaching forward, she carefully grasped nothing in the air, then pulled her arm back, and repeated the motion. She stretched her back, standing to her whole height, and opened her wings as much as she could in the office corner, lifting her tail and letting it fall heavily on the floor, twice. A loud, jarring noise came from out of her mouth, as if she had forced her throat to do something it shouldn't, before her voice came out in a pained hiss, her eyes lit with a bright yellow glow. "SUCcess."

Banzai coughed a bit, and turned on to his side, letting his tongue roll back into his mouth before he opened his own orb to look at his new, 'improved' familiar. "Good." He said, his own throat rather sore, "Let some of her essence out though. It's gonna take you some time to properly emulate her, so let's not give anyone more clues. Pearza/Phemur regarded him with a completely neutral, unreadable look, but the jerren could intuitively understand his silences. "I mean your eyes. Change them. Hers are blue."

"I cannot change my eye-color without using magic." The creature protested. "The baatezu's true sight might not pierce a physical flesh shield like the one she used to disguise herself here, but standard illusio--"

His master interrupted him with a firm, yet calm tone, as if lecturing an angry child. "You can, if you let some of her essence out. Don't you even think about reminding me that it's dangerous - you can do it. So just do it."

Phemur stared down at his little master, obedient, but unphased. After a second, Pearza's blue colored his eyes. "Done."

The halfling stood as well, leaning on Phemur/Pearza's tail as it came close for just that purpose. "Well! It seems that our little ambush had a happy ending after all. Experience points for everyone! Except you Aaz, you're like an extra. And almost no collateral damage - we should unlock an achievement for that." Banzai's happy beam was accompanied by the left window shutter breaking off its halfways molten hinge and crashing down the tower, to smash at the side of a surprised hamatula. Unphased, he approached the desk to lift up some forms that were sprawled on the floor."Well, nothing that can't be replaced anyway." As he picked up the papers, they crumbled to ash, and the green vapors of a free soul whiskered away through the window with a soft whisper. " ...I never liked that guy in the first place. If you have to sell your soul to big bad devils to get some kinda power, then you didn't even deserve power in the first place. Am I right? And besides! We got a new ally, and nobody got hurt in the process!" As he turned around, he saw the split cornugon and the green-smoking rotten kocrachon on the floor. "Uh... free food! And what I meant was, -you- girls didn't get hurt in the process." He offered them his best non-defensive most annoyingly giddy toothy grin.

Oh, his mother was bleeding. Hm. And Aaz had a nasty hole on her neck she was rubbing. "Bah, who cares about Aazazel anyhow?" He thought aloud, before turning to admire Phemur's new body. "I think this was a great, very rewarding encounter. I can't get over how easy it was, too! This Pearza character didn't have much to offer - no flashbacks, no secret last minute abilities, nothing. I can't believe someone like her could've kept such a position since the Reckoning. I can't believe she was a pit fiend in the first place!" He reached over to pat lightly on the creature's knee, "See Phemur, what'd I tell ya? All these devils are the same. You just dangle some opportunity in their faces and they'll be on it like a pack o' rabid, starved... well, jerren. Hah!"

__________________

"You're loud, impulsive and you question authority. -That- is why I keep you at arm's lenght."
"Mmmm. And that is also why you keep me at arm's reach."

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Re: Devil's Due (Closed freeform game)

The tension in the room was palpable. The air silent, save for the heavy breathing of the Lady Cathziel as she struggled to calm her pulse. The borrowed weapon, still dripping blood and brain matter swung gently from her clenched right fist, and her ruby eyes were locked upon the other pit fiend, narrowed in cold thought as if her look alone could pry answers from the creature.

Behind her slowly lashing tail the Erinyes Aazazel blinked, her mouth agape as she struggled to make sense of the situation. As the window shutter broke off, she flinched and began to shake, pointing her finger at Banzai and his new familiar.

Ally?! She’d have mangled your weasel little brain if you hadn’t had the first shot. Do you know what in all the nine hells have you done?” She shrieked, “The Lord of Nessus is going to..”

“Silence!” Cathziel spat the word, holding up her free arm to halt the movement of the taller devil, who had paced angrily forward toward the Jerren. “The Lord of Nessus will not know. At least.. not yet.”

Her eyes fell to the carnage on the ground, and then swivelled to the Erinyes herself, “Do something useful and get rid of this evidence; I am sure you have a spell or two that will help. Then task someone to fix this door. Clearly the structural integrity of this building is lacking and unfit for the greater Baatezu. It should be replaced immediately”.

She exhaled slowly as her flustered right hand began to tiptoe around the room, and walked slowly toward Banzai and his new familiar. Though her transformation showed no outward signs of injury, in stride the fiend clearly favoured her right leg over her left and the scent of blood from her person was obvious. Limping, she came to a rest in front of Pearza with her arms folded and her left foot resting gently on the heel of her right. In her hand barbed chain continued to swing methodically, and glinted in the light of the window.

“Phemur..” She tilted her head, staring up at the pit fiend, “If that is truly you, then I must say I am truly shocked. If only promotion through the ranks were always this easy. I might find myself jealous”. Her face contorted into a wry smirk as her head swivelled to regard Banzai.

The ramifications of this power could be to your benefit as much as your curse. Treat him gently. He will be more receptive.

“And.. you”. She held her hand out to him, “As much as I am displeased by your insolence, I find myself impressed as ever by your cunning..” Her fingertips reach out as she grazes his skin gently with her claw-like nails, providing he comes close enough, “How... indeed did this happen.. And what of the real Pearza I wonder.. is she watching us, my dear? Do you think your little pet skilled enough to keep a pit fiend on a leash?”

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Re: Devil's Due (Closed freeform game)

Banzai chuckled much like a hyena would, baring his teeth in that grin of his as Aazazel approached. "But I -did- have the first shot." As Cathziel regarded Phemur, the pit fiend's eyes found hers, but said nothing in return. Intelligence swirled in them, but he was not commanded to speak, nor asked a question, and so he remained silent.

Incapable of true telepathy, the jerren answered to mental questions as he answered any other: out loud. "Oh mother, I assure you there's nothing to fear from Phemur here. He is my familiar, and a special kind of familiar at that. He doesn't really have a mind of his own, he's just another part of me, and as much a threat to myself as are my own arms and legs." He didn't come close enough, he came as close as he could to her, even wrapping his arms around her waist if that didn't mean losing them. He smiled up at Pearza with pride, "And that is a good question. Phemur has loosened his grip enough to summon her eyes, it's probable that she is recieving some kind of information from them. That shouldn't be enough to set her free, though. Phemur took special measures. Didn't you Phemur?

The parasite was now being asked a question, and did not delay in answering, looking at Cathziel. "Flesh and spirit are one and the same for creatures born of belief. I burrowed in and took control of the place where her nervous system should connect with the rest of her body - thus also rendering her spirit unable to communicate with it. It is nigh impossible for her to release herself now that I hold her, just as it would be impossible for us to attempt this manouver again if she ever does, for she will be prepared for it."

"There you go, the scholarly answer. But the real answer is that she won't because she's not meant to. There are no coincidences here, Cathziel. Only consequences." He smiled broadly up at the creature he adopted as his mother, and his long tongue snaked out of his maw to coil around her arm - yet at a distance, without touching it. As it approached her elbow, it quickly returned into his mouth, allowing the jerren to speak again. "This, mother, is but your first of many triumphs." He quickly stepped back and turned to climb onto Pearza's tail, which raised him up to meet her at eye-level. "Have faith." And a second time, his sick laughter and coughing echoed down the halls of a tower in Malagard.

Banzai ambled through obsidian halls and hallways, looking all around him, searching, sniffing; his tongue carefully packed inside his enormous, closed (for a change) mouth. The least of the baatezu that noticed him - and he's hard to miss, his stench can be felt about a mile away - scurried out of sight, having heard the rumors of the fate that might befall them should they stick with Cat's fool.

Cathziel sat at her desk, large enough to occupy a larger creature, but as always she seems far more comfortable in her half-fiend guise. Reclined in an oversized chair, the female brooded silently, lost in some sort of thought as she lazily peruses some documentation in her hands. The carnage in the room had been removed, and the door fixed, but the scent of blood and the cracks in the stone floor spoke of the violence that occured several days past. She sat up as the door opened, kicking her feet off the chair arm to rest them gently on the floor. From the other side of the desk she surveyed the creature with one brow raised. "It is customary to knock before admittance. Banzai. How can I help you?"

"Oh I know! I just like to do away with customs and conventions because I'm a dashing rogue type and all. Besides!" The jerren walked towards and around her desk, to rest his elbow on the arm of her chair as he smiles up to her, "I know I'm always welcome into my mother's embrace."

Cathziel said, "A fact that could be disputed. You will knock before entering from now on. Understand?" She raised a brow at him over the paperwork in her hand. "What do you want?"".

The jerren mock-growled, assuming a 'scary' stance with his hands pretending to be outstretched claws, "Grrr, you'll always knock before entering, Banzai! Rargh! I'm a stressed pit fiend and I'm PMSing all the time! You need to take a break, mother. All this work and no sleep is gonna clot up your brain and make it go 'pop!' What'cha doing anyhow?"

Cathziel opened her mouth as she considers debating the topic of her fertility, and then clearly thinks better of it, remaining silent as he clambers on the furniture. Her eyes following him, suspiciously. "Circumventing my questions as usual, I see. But regardless, I am working, it is none of your business and yes, it is mind.. numbing."
Her eyes roll somewhat, and for a moment she seems to scowl, before replacing the gesture with a pleasant smile. "What are you doing, dearheart? Plotting and scheming?"

Banzai bares all his teeth as he shows his masochistic defensive smile, "Hm, well, I was just sitting out there bored out of my skull when I thought, hey! Where can I find mother that she won't be able to run away saying, 'Not today Banzai, I've got a lot of work to do', 'not today Banzai, I need to get to the office', 'not today Banzai, Aaz is in the office, I'll get you some ice cream later.' And I said, the office! And that's how I got here and we're still not making out so there was obviously a flaw in my reasoning somewhere."

Cathziel appears bemused as she flicks him on the nose, and settles back into her chair. She does, however, set the paperwork down -inside- a drawer.. as if afraid it'll somehow get damaged. "Well then. Let us play a game; I grant you all the personal time you need; and you can answer my questions from now".

Banzai 's eye glints, "Ah, a very dangerous game! And a chance to ruin everything. I love it."

Cathziel 's smile grows catlike, "So you are plotting behind my back. How .. devilish of you." She sighs, "How can I disapprove."

Banzai seems somehow comfortable still clambered up on the back of her chair, on all fours, "Well mother, the only way I can give you that little push forward, is from your back."

Cathziel says, "Ah. So, this" She gestures with a finger to the imaginary, cleant-up damage in the room, "Is all in my best interests. I see. Hardly comforting".

Banzai leans forward, the tip of his nose touching the tip of hers. "I wasn't born to bring you comfort, no, quite the opposite. Comfort breeds complacency, stagnancy. It is a death curse. Discomfort is what keeps us moving forward. Yes, this is in your best interests." His eye flashes with a yellow glow for a moment, "As is everything I do. You birthed me to better yourself. I am your mount, your tool, your weapon. I am your shield. I am your sword. But not one meant to be weilded in your hands, not one you can command with your voice. I work unbound to free you, while you are a slave.".

Cathziel eyes him, eye-to-eye, "And so you plan to free me from what? My race?" She smirks, "Tread carefully, little one. Remember, I am not fond of surprises."

Banzai 's facade has been slowly abandoning him, and his serious tone matches his expression. Usually unreadable - now, however, he's an open book. "Your fear."

Cathziel genuinely seems taken aback, either by his answer or his frankness and she appears broody again, over some minging thought before her expression returns to stern diapproval, "I see".

Banzai grins, "Is there anything else you would like to know?"

Cathziel says, "So many things. But there is no fun in it if you just tell me everything". She stands now, stepping around him, and clearly favouring her right leg over her left, "No.. Such information is better.. drawn out. If only to extend the game." Raising her arms above her head, she stretches, spreading her wings as wide as the walls will allow before folding them again, "So what is it that you would like to do?"

Banzai looks at her over his shoulder, "I think you know very well what I want to do. There is no escaping your charms, mother, not for me, nor any other creature with a sense of beauty.".

Cathziel chuckles, placated by flattery as always. "How nice of you to say" She holds her hand out to him, as if to guide him into her lap, "It might benefit you to say nice things more often."

Banzai is easily led anywhere physically close to her, "Nothing I can say will please you as much as your mere visage pleases me... " he leans closer, whispering, " ...although the best displays of affection, are delivered from mouth to mouth."

Cathziel leans back in her chair, her amused smirk masking her true emotions. Her scent, of rich perfumes, amber and spices, is overwhelming. The bare skin of her arms and stomach, as always, inhumanly warm. "And never for free", she regards him slyly, "But I do take payment in secrets. What use do you have for Pearza..."

Banzai squints and his own smirk crawls up halfways through his face. The clash of his own torrid odour with her perfume would really be sickening to anyone with a nose nearby - it's a wonder Baatezu don't breath as much as mortals do. In stark contrast, his own skin is cold, in fact, he seems to be in a constant (but very, very light) shivering state. "Payment that was delivered earlier in this meeting, at the behest of your game. You had the grace of the first turn and asked your question... and I answered, truthfully to boot, considering that was never a stated part of the game's rules.".

Cathziel lifts a brow, unable to argue with his point. And with a gentleness unbecoming of her position, leans forward to meet him face-to-face and lifts his chin with the index finger of her other hand. "Perhaps. I have been terribly neglectful it seems." She speaks softly, locking his one eye with an intense stare. Holding it for only a second she leans in then to press her lips against his.

Banzai blinks, again, genuinely surprised by her gentle reaction. For a moment, he is as disarmed and vulnerable as the most unsuspecting pawn, her stare having overcome him much more effectively than any domination power - he closes his own eye, returning her affections with a warmth born from surprise, an elation fueled by the sudden realization of something entirely unexpected at the moment.

Cathziel lets it linger, sensing the Jerren's emotional switch and drawing out the moment. Perhaps merely to tease him, or maybe just a practiced action brought forth from a life of pleasing others. As her mouth draws away from his, biting at his lower lip softly, her hand slips from its place at his jaw, over his shoulder where her fingers brush the back of his neck.

Banzai 's own hands snake around her waist, and he lifts his orb to gaze at her for a moment. Again, he is open like a book - and struggling to close, to shut itself from her scrying gaze. Though his small grin marks the final closure, in his eye, the instrument of his power and the straight road to his soul, a bookmark lingers on the chapter she just opened. It manifests in a single, unvoluntary whisper, "Mother... " before he leans in to kiss her again, this time much more passionate, more...hungering.

Cathziel 's own eyes close as her fingers curl into his hair. His passion, his driving hunger was.. satisfying. More than the physical touch of flesh on flesh; this ran deeper. It was the knowledge that she had reigned him in once more, and it was his hunger for her, his need, and his desire that gave her leverage, gave her power. Ignited by a spark, her nails dig lightly into his scalp, matching the bite in her kiss.

And much to the jerren's dissatisfaction, someone knocked on the door.

The intense heat in the depths of the glacier's metallic bowels was enough to boil most mortals alive - Mephistar was truly reforged by the same smiths that had raised Dis from a fiery sea of bronze, molten evil. Unbothered by the temperature yet clad in flowing crimson robes to keep her own stable, lady Antillia guided her returning guest and the creature that toiled after through the spiraling catwalks that circumvented the Pit of Misery - Mephistopheles's own little imitation of the fabled Pits of Flame.

"The souls harvested by our dedicated collectors are the recyclable fuel of the Pit of Misery." She gazed for a moment at her father's marvelous creation, as the long, ethereal green flames grew like wispy columns. They burnt the air and blackened the metal walls they licked, rising with a long, literal wail and slowly dying as the laments faded. "It is their suffering that we burn and use. The rest of their psyche, once depleted of its pain and anger, is sent to Dis to serve as... well, what ever it is they do with it. Every soul here belongs to my father." She turned to look at her guest of honor, smiling. "It is here that everything begins, lady Cathziel."

__________________

"You're loud, impulsive and you question authority. -That- is why I keep you at arm's lenght."
"Mmmm. And that is also why you keep me at arm's reach."

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Cathziel was not looking at her host; her manicured hands twitched and clasped tightly around the ornate quarterstaff that pressed against her cheek. Silent and still, her eyes were following the swirling rise and fall of the flame as it simultaneously lit up and muddied her crimson orbs.

The fiend had come to Antillia’s summons draped in beads and emerald and gold silks. Dressed always in easy flowing lines and intricate embroidery, her outfit was cut low at the front and high at the hip, baring enough flesh to entice the eye to wander, yet not quite enough to truly satisfy that curiosity. And every so often she might shift her weight in such a way as to accent another curve, or display an inch of flesh, should her hold on the Jerren’s attention span wane and his mind start to wander.

Yet, she stood still for some time, basking in the warmth of the pit before she turned her head and graced Antillia a nod.

“A beginning. And where some things as they are find their end. How..” The woman pursed her lips, as if searching for the word, and glanced back toward the flames before returning her gaze to the cambion, offering a nefarious grin, “Poetic.”

“And perhaps a metaphor for the blossoming of our.. relationship.. Hmm?”

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Re: Devil's Due (Closed freeform game)

"The fungi feed and thrive on the dead, but they do not blossom." Banzai gurgled amongst snickers, his eye twitching as he looked at the damned fire.

Their host was about to answer Cathziel when the creature spoke. She blinked, pausing for a moment, before presenting them with a short, calm giggle as she covered her mouth with her fingers in a ladylike manner. "What are you yammering on about now, little one? Don't worry, there are no fungi or the like here. It's much too dry inside the Pit for them."

"Oh but there are." he grinned in her direction, though he didn't seem to be looking at her. "Hiding under bloody rags, quite a sight for the siblingless eye."

"Oh? Well, do call me whenever you see them, I will get the janitors to clean them." She smiled at Cathziel, "Such a random, amusing little fellow. Does he ever make any sense? You should bring him to court sometime, I am sure my father will appreciate his antics." She turned around, and kept walking on through the steel walkways, descending deeper into the Pit. "Where were we, though? Ah, yes. It is rather poetic, I agree. My father has taste for the fine arts, and mastery over them is one of the things we share... " she glanced backwards, smirking at the disguised pit fiend with a glint to her eyes, "...one of the many things we share, some of which, I have hopes of sharing with you." And briefly, a flicker of azure flame danced in front of Cathziel's own, in response to the gracile movement of Antilia's hand. "I am, after all, the High Priestess of the Church of Hellfire."

The creature had been following Aazazel for almost a whole hour now. The small, spindly cloaked figure was visibly inexperienced with stealth, and in his nervous, constant checking of wherether Aaz had noticed him or not, he had revealed himself many times already. Bezu. The most cowardly spinagon of the lot, and of an even smaller frame than the rest of his peers, he was frequently bullied by his own kind and rarely assigned jobs that entailed leaving Cathziel's tower. His docile nature had condemned him to an eternity as Maladomini's most pitiful messenger, and what was even sadder was that he seemed to prefer it that way. Whoever dares to say miracles have no place in Hell better have a damn good explanation as to why he wasn't taken for Blood War fodder or higher-up rations otherwise.

All in all, he was the least likely creature to cook up a plot of any kind, if just because he knew himself unable to do so. Or so most of Cat's henchmen thought... yet there he was, stalking an Erinyes, and none other than Aazazel herself. As soon as he found himself detected, and depending on the grade of violence this was made known to him, his words would jumble in his throat as his fear shook him violently. He might even sob slightly as he apologized, though it wouldn't take a long interrogation to get him to confess: "I has warning!"

Antilia's private chambers would put the most ambitious, luxure-loving rakshasa's to shame. Built in elegant bronze and pearly marble and dressed in tapestries of the deepest scarlet, the central room - in which she and Cathziel dined - was dominated by the enormous image of an unholy flame. It was sewn with the very soulstuff that burned outside, and it was beautiful and terrifying at the same time. "I was unable to offer you a spot at the court, but this isn't much different, and it's a position full of opportunities. The High Cantor continued as a human servant, who's eyes had been sewn shut, offered her another piece of a meat better left undescript. After gently pushing the platter and the sweating man aside, she stood and slowly circled the table to situate herself besides her guest."You will be above the rest of the priesthood, second only to me in the whole of the Church. You will benefit from all our resources and portals, and you will get the chance to involve yourself with the court in more than one ocassion... and eventually in your own name, maybe."

The crimson liquid swirled lightly in the cambion's glass as she raised it on toast, inviting Cat to do the same with her own. "To us." She said with a small smile. After taking a sip of wine, she retreated to sit one of the comfortable feather matress. "You said today, that the flames of Misery could be a metaphor for our blossoming relationship... and you were very accurate. It is raw emotion that fuels our hellfire, and..." She let the tips of her fingers dance on Cat's shoulders, before her eyes set on the pit fiend's, her smile waning as her thick, midnight blue lips pursed lightly. " ...it is also no coincidence that fire is often associated with passion."

Above and outside, though still deep in the iron bowels of the glacier, Banzai waited by the twin steel doors that marked the entrance of the Church of Hellfire's inner sanctum. Here, the temperature was considerably lower, and undressed servants toiled among the few cambion, tiefling and mortal members of the church that were allowed the honor of residing near their High Priestess. Almost no true baatezu could be seen here, but it was the slaves that called Banzai's attention. Their hearts were drained of all emotion, and their souls were as naked as the rest of their bodies.

He turned to gaze at the one real devil he had seen since he had come down here, an enormous, lurking and gray-skinned malebranche that stood guard by the door, and whose vacant gaze had not left the warlock for a single second. "So... what do you do for fun down here?"

"MORGANOTH IS NOT HERE TO HAVE FUN. HE HAS ORDERS. HE DOES NOT SPEAK WITH STRANGERS.

"Well... " the jerren smiled lightly, though his ears tingled uncomfortably. Why did all the big devils have to yell every time they opened their mouths? Maybe they were too used to telepathy by the time they got that size. " ...I know your name is Morganoth, so we're not really strangers then, are we?"

__________________

"You're loud, impulsive and you question authority. -That- is why I keep you at arm's lenght."
"Mmmm. And that is also why you keep me at arm's reach."

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“To us.”

Cathziel brought her glass to her ever smirking, wine-stained lips and closed her eyes as she drank deeply. The wine was bitter in contrast to the flavours on her plate, yet crisp and refreshing, and as her ruby eyes opened to settle on Antilia her vision swam. Comfortable in this place and languidly reclining in her silks of green and gold, the Lady Ka’atziel, The Hellcat, Usurper, The Sovereign Whore, looked as much a natural part of the scenery as the tapestries themselves. As Antilia talked, the woman extended her arm and allowed her cup to be refilled, and brought it back to her lips to sip once more. It had been many years, perhaps a century since she had developed her deeply frustrating immunity to the effects of alcohol, but despite the annoyance, she still had a taste for fine wines. And the wine was wonderful. Yet the fiend knew that it was not the drink that had gone to her head, but the opulence and sheer grandeur of her surroundings that had her swooning.

Her be-forked left hand prodded at a butter drenched mushroom as she mused; another of her favourite treats. Indeed, the entire evening had been far more decadent, more alluring and entertaining than any evening spent in the vapour-polluted skies of the stagnant, decaying labyrinth of Maladomini. Perhaps that was Antilia’s point, she thought as she speared the mushroom on her fork and crushed it between her teeth. Blotting the butter from her lips she returned her eyes to her ever charming host and smiled. After all, she had to admit that it was, indeed, a very good point.

“Yes...” Her flesh rippled as Antilia’s fingers danced across her bare shoulder, and she lightly lifted her hand to catch the other woman’s palm. “Passion runs ripe through my blood, as it does yours. Despite the fact we each possess something that the other wants, it boils down to more than that... It is but a simple fact of what and who we are...”

“I believe I was rash in demanding a place in court after such a brief introduction,” The woman chuckled softly as her exotic eyes fell upon Antilia’s pursed lips, and then to the woman’s own.

“And so you must forgive me for pushing; you see, I had to see exactly how far your fingers might stretch.” Her eyes twinkled as she raised the other woman’s hand to her lips, where she planted a gentle kiss on the back of it, “Like all precious things in this world, such desires must be earned..”

Rife with paranoia, Aazazel the Erinyes paced methodically across the tangled web of bridges and walkways that made up the magnificent black city of Malagard. Her comely face was twisted into an expression caught somewhere between fear and hate and from behind, visible to her cowardly shadow, she carried her tension in the stiffness of her shoulders and sandy, feathered wings.

This was bad. This whole situation was very, very bad, and certainly not the position she had signed up to be in. Watch the cambion, whisper in her ear. This simplest of tasks had inexplicably become a thorn in her side almost overnight. Yes, the job had been easy until she had watched the half-breed suddenly vault to power. The slave had become the master, literally. What a supreme sort of irony. And despite the gaudy show of power by the Lord of Lies, Asmodeus had still not stepped in. No. He had disappeared almost immediately after setting her on this idiotic task and worse. Had left her no one to report to!

There had been no whispering in Cathziel’s ear after that, and Aazazel had loyally done her duty as scrivener and right hand. But now this; the betrayal of one of Asmodeus’ own. This was too much. This situation was spiralling out of control and the Erinyes had unwittingly walked into the epicentre of a brewing storm.

Annoyed, she pinched the bridge of her nose as she turned a sharp corner and vanished out of Bezu’s side.

‘My Lord.. What part in this scheme am I supposed to play?’ Her thoughts echoed loudly in her head, but went unanswered.

A soft beat of her wings had lifted her swiftly to a narrow perch, where she balanced on the remains of an angelic looking statue, carved into and now decaying against the obsidian wall. Beneath her, the spinagon shuffled into view and skittered nervously down the walkway. Aazazel watched him for a minute or two, letting him slowly grow frantic at the thought of losing sight of her before making herself known.

Her rope came out of nowhere, and drew a squeal from his throat as he was lassoed and bound by its length. As Aazazel descended from the skies, hovering in the air, angelic and horrifying before landing astride the struggling creature, his words spewed out, unintelligible.

“Be-zu”. She hissed. Drawing her face close to his as as she hovered over him. “Following me? A dangerous past time. I just learned a new spell, you know, and I have half a mind to fry you”. She paused for dramatic effect before striking him with the back of her hand, enraged “If you don’t tell me what you’re doing here!”

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"No! Don't hurt me! I come with warning! I come for you!" Bezu shivered in terror, squirming desperately under the rope's grip. After the backhand hit, and he realized he was still in one piece, he seemed to calm down a bit - though his spines kept shaking lightly. His bulbous eyes turned on their sockets towards Aazazel, and stayed on hers for a brief moment, before circling around and back away as the creature whispered, "Bezu heard him. Nefleos, yes! One-eye's aide. He was whispering, he's always whispering when he recieves a message. He whispers it lightly to himself, he listens to his own voice so he remembers it."

The spinagon made a pause, and looked around them in a most paranoid way, specially above, before continuing in a lower voice. "From the minstry of research, again. 'Get Cathziel's assisstant', Nefleos says. 'She's to be promoted and reassigned. She will work for the Minister now.' That was Nefleos whispering." Bezu's eyes suddenly turn back to her, stopping for a moment near the base of her neck, before slowly and reluctantly climbing to hers.

"Promoted... reassigned! To minstry... I don't trust Nefleos. I don't trust the minstry! When the minister came there was rumbling and shaking in the tower. It sounded like a fight. Everyone heard it! And then she left alone but she came in company, and she... and everything was okay." Bezu's tone suddenly becomes urgent, and he leans towards her as much as he can while tied. "No good can come to Aazazel there. Refuse the promotion! And come... come with Bezu." His eyes glint with ambition, "I will take good care of Aazazel! We leave the minster behind. We leave the tower and the dreadful, ungrateful lady-pit-fiend behind too! Bezu knows places. He knows where the Risen hide... he knows of Archimedes. We can go there. It's safe! I promise... " He pauses for a moment and gasps, as if the words refused to come out from his yapping purple mouth. After a second of doubt, he barks with fear and spittle, "Bezu loves Aazazel!"

Antilia smiled lightly, her slanted eyes almost closed as she gracefully bent down to clean the wine off Cathziel's lips with a gentle brush of her own, softly caressing them with the near imperceptible aperture and closure of her mouth. Her breath was warm on the pit fiend's face as she spoke without leaning back, "My fingers can reach many places, and though it hasn't been often... " her hand lightly treaded its way up Cat'z knee, with the grace of a spider approaching an inmovilized, helpless prey, taking its time, letting her victim squirm - or in this case, enjoy. " ...it wouldn't be the first time my nails graze one of the deepest, darkest secrets of Baator."

The High Cantor's striking green eyes opened once more, revealing themselves to her guest in all their splendor, and they were indeed quite more fetching when beheld up close. She smiled with amusement, and fully closed them as she nibbled superficially on the place where Ka'atziel's words took form, delaying her answer. An ignition on the other female's part would hold her vocal attentions for a bit longer, though her face would soon retire and she would moist her mouth with more wine. Her body would remain, though, and even try to gain more territory. Soon it wouldn't be just their silks that rubbed rythmically on each other, as the servants began playing slow, yet powerful percussion and aromonic strings.

Kinda pointless to caption this one

__________________

"You're loud, impulsive and you question authority. -That- is why I keep you at arm's lenght."
"Mmmm. And that is also why you keep me at arm's reach."

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The Erinyes stared hard at the creature as he spewed forth his confessions, smirking lightly as each of the Spinagon’s movements twisted him further into her rope bind. Tall and slight of build, her mass of sandy-blonde waves lent her an air of gentleness that stood out against the polluted blackened sky. Her wings and face were an angelic facade, yet her emerald eyes were accusing and sharp and cold in the gloom.

But try as she might Aazazel did not possess her mistress’ patience, nor self control, and as the lesser fiend lent forward and lowered his voice anger overtook her expression.

“You dare speak out against your superiors?” Her hand struck the back of Bezu’s spiny head as she paced around his prone form, “Your ‘ungrateful’ lady pit fiend has offered you the gift of her service and you dare to speak of betrayal?” The Erinyes laughed as she crouched beside the creature, “You know.. one little word into the wrong ear..”

Her voice was soft and kind, she smelt vaguely like vanilla.

Her voice amplified, echoing off the stone. “AND SHE’LL PERSONALLY BITE OFF YOUR HEAD”.

The rope around him loosened as she rolled the creature under her foot, “That’s what happened to the Minister’s lackeys. Politics. Get up.”

Enraptured by those captivating, halcyon blue eyes, Cathziel’s breath caught in her throat at the touch of Antilia’s lips. As the Cantor slyly refilled her wineglass, the fiend stared at her for a moment with one brow gently lofted in surprise before she caught her composure. There was something about a woman’s kiss; passionate and firm, yet soft and pliant that was comforting. There was no mistaking it for the kiss of a man. And Cathziel had known many men, women too, yet none quite as delightful as the one that currently graced her presence and warmed her lap.

A touch on her flesh, as crimson-blue fingers traced up her thigh made the pit fiend shiver. Bemused by the thought, she turned her lips to her wineglass and her body to the roaming touch of Antilia’s hands. Once upon a time the price for her flesh had been gold, rare jewels, or fine silks, and now she was wined and dined in the halls of the Devil himself. All for the promise of secrets and political stance, how things had changed.

Her eyes flashed upward, catching and holding onto the other woman’s gaze once more.

But even in hell the game was still the same.
Everything in the world was about Sex.

Her lips curved up into a smile as her hands slipped around Antilia’s svelte shoulders, to bare crimson flesh as her golden fingers deftly unfastened the cambion’s robes. As the new skin was exposed, Cathziel kissed it until their lips met again and their silks of emerald and crimson, and empty wineglasses were discarded to the ground.

Skin against skin, the pit fiend shifted her weight, pressing her hands into the cambion’s body to turn her onto her back and down into the sheets and took a moment to admire the two of them together, the colours of blood and gold, perhaps her two most favourite things.

Even in hell, everything was about sex.

Except for sex.

As she straddled her lover, Cathziel couldn’t help but grin.

Sex was about power.

‘If you truly love me you would not be so stupid as to squeal so loud.’ Aazazel communicated telepathically as they walked; the spinagon sulking cowardly ahead and the Erinyes pacing methodically behind.

A multitude of thoughts were running through her brain. Intensifying her nervousness about the whole situation. Was this a test? A trap? Or perhaps revenge on the murder of the Minister? Perhaps this creature was telling the truth. If then, what did she do? Hide from Cathziel’s.. no.. that demonic halfling’s senseless schemes? If Baalzebul knew about their betrayal of Pearza would he be angry? Probably. And if Cathziel fell, Aazazel would take the fall too. But if she could find out where the fabled Archimedes hid, there was at least some sort of leverage. Her fingers twitched in anticipation. Had she prepared enough spells today? The Erinyes exhaled through her nose, steeling her expression.

‘If you want to remain alive, you will communicate telepathically. Not all fiends are as nice as me, you know.” Her sing-song voice reverberated within Bezu's head. She smirked at the thought, ”You are going to take me there. And since I am so terribly kind, I’m going to give you a chance to explain what exactly you think the Risen are going to do for me..”

She extended her arms, and shoved the creature forward, an indication for him to pick up the pace.

“And if you lie to me, I’m going to see that Miss Ka’atziel knows precisely how unfaithful you are and how ungrateful you think she is. ”.

As Cathziel breezed through the double doors that led to the foyer in which Banzai was waiting, her good mood was almost palpable. Her hair, previously worn unbound was now tied back from her face and pinned high upon her head; a style she was wont to create when forced to get her hands dirty. Although upon her neck still danced beads of sweat that made her skin glisten and caused her dress to cling in awkward places. But for now it didn't bother her. And were it not her appearance, or the scent of wine and sweat and women that would give away whatever acts of debauchery had just gone on behind closed doors, it was certainly her cat-like smile that was the culprit.

Pausing in her purposed stride long enough to pause at Banzai’s side, the fiend nudged him gently with her staff. “We return to Malagard now, dear; my business here, is done.”

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Banzai sat crosslegged, peering quizzically at a set of peculiar markings, scribbled with chalk on the floor. The malebranche hulked above him on the glyph's opposite side, his weight resting on his oversized arms in a position reminiscent of a gorilla's, empty stare fixed on the drawings between them. Four lines, crossed in a pattern that reavealed nine somewhat clumsy squares. Inside each square there was one of two marks: a cross, or a circle. Apparently, the key to resolve the complex puzzle was to arrange either three Xs or three Os in a straight line, as the discarded cadavers of already finished similar puzzles littered the wall and floor around them - always with three Xs crossed on them.

"Smelly sweat dripped through the jerren's dirty skin. This had been one of his greatest challenges yet - he was cornered, with virtually no way to escape defeat. But ah! There may be yet hope for salvation! With a grin, he reached forward to grab the piece of chalk, the weapon that would ensure his final victory."

"MORGANOTH DOES NOT UNDERSTAND WHAT BONER IS SAYING."

"All will be revealed soon, my friend! Have faith." Quickly and with a sure grip, Banzai scribbled an X on the final square, completing a line. After taking a moment to admire his work, he stood, raising a triumphant fist in the air. "Victory is mine! All your base are belong to us!"

The hellish giant leant forward, peering at the playing field with confusion. "BUT MORGANOTH WAS CRO--"

"VICTORY! Sweet and delicious! It was a fierce contest, but it couldn't end any other way. My CR must be like, three times yours, you can ask anyone in Malagard if you don't believe me." He stood up and reached over with a diminutive fist, showing it at Morganoth with a grin. "GG?" The staff poked his shoulder twice, and with a gentle tip of his skull to his opponent, he tagged along Cathziel.

"Yes mis--" The spindly creature's maw clamped shut, 'Yes mistress. No mistress. You are very kind, thank you mistress.' He was capable of telepathy as all other fiends - but his mind was weak, and so was his grip on his own short-lived, fleeting thoughts. They escaped him and poured over the telepathic canal, only a few, only the worst that could slip. 'Maybe angel was right. Maybe she's bad like the rest. Maybe Bezu should have fled alone. Maybe... '

He scurried through the streets of the city, through alleys and bridges, more a like a mouse than a bat at least until he used his wings to propel himself to a nearby ruined building. He dared not to fly in the open sky: only short leaps, aided by the leathery limbs that grew from his back. Bezu shrunk and cowered as they passed in front of the Palace of Filth, one of the most recently abandoned parts of the colossal structure, right across Cathziel's tower. He hissed lightly, "We go quickly..." '...we go quickly now, not want to be seen...' His wings spread once more as he leapt onto a stony ledge on the wall of the Palace. It was partly hidden behind the debris of the ruined second story, and piles of garbage and refuse that rivaled their mistress's spire in height. Through there they continued upwards as the city extended below them, a sight to be admired were it not for the mountains of trash in the middle.

There was a conmotion near the obsidian turret, too. Hamatulas creeped through the ledges and rooftops below them, at least seven around Cat's lair. A small troop of merregon had assembled around it, led by strange, large elephant-like fiends. After a few moments, more devils came out from the tower - its workers and inhabitants - escorted by barbazu and at least two bone devils. Expecting them outside was a fat amnizu that looked all too pleased with himself. He began pointing around at the evicted prisoners (for that's what they seemd to be, with polearms and stings aimed at them) and barking orders. A group of about four or five insectoid torturer devils scribed and confirmed his commands, checking and leading Cat's henchmen away after the merregons took hold of them. The legion's cuirasses were different from the black and red standard issue: these sported the markings of the Dark Eight, and a couple wore blue cloaks with Pearza's glyph.


The Amnizu barked his orders

'The Risen will keep us safe. Yes! I know. I have been with them! See how they take them? They won't take us, because the Risen will shelter us...' The ledge came to an end, and he opened his wings, pointing to a hole in a tower a short distance away. It was a part of the palace, and it wasn't very far from the current front of the building, though it was so high up that even in a close corner like this, it was uninhabited. Covered on the side by a ragged, hangling flag, it was nigh impossible to see the entrance from a different angle unless one was specifically looking for it. 'There is entrance. Well, one. We go there and take stairs up to big hole, then storage, and hidden trapdoor to-' A surprised squeak cut his explanations short, as a larger, crimson spinagon approached them, flying from the city.

"Miss Aazazel... " Nefleos hissed with a small mid-flight reverence, "I have an urgent message for you, from the Ministry of Research and Implementation."

"So, did I miss anything good? Why are you so sweaty? How'd the date go? Did you guys eat pork? I love pork. Did you mate? Can I join next time? Oh! Can Morganoth join? I bet he likes pork too." Banzai's incessant chatter could've been almost -almost- as insufferable as how he insisted on sniffing at Cat's legs and behind as they walked out of the pit.

The escorts Antillia had provided left them alone at the edge of the pit, and nobody seemed to follow them to the portal. A broken ring of metal, halfways buried on the snow not far away from Mephistarr, stood in silence. Drawing the blood of an ally was the key, and fortunately enough Banzai's did the trick. He didn't particularly enjoy it, but neither did he complain, figuring it's better to have a cut than to lose your teeth - and he loved his teeth. The ring, large enough for horned devil to pass through, sparked to life as shifting red and purple light ignited within, burning the air and turning into a different substance altogether. The portal manifested as a viscous, bulging liquid. It was inconvenient, for it did not allow one to gaze onto the other side, but because of this inconvenience it was forgotten, and only a handful in Baator knew of its existence or working condition.

"First on the other side is a-!" He jumped straight into the portal, dissappearing into the gooey ether before he could finish the sentence. He would probably repeat it once she was on the other side with him.

Except he couldn't, because his face was being brutally pounded on the ground as Cathziel emerged from the portal.

"THERE SHE IS!" "Sieze her!" Barbed devils and hamatulas surrounded the lady and the portal. A whole regiment expecting her. "Tie the small one! And cover his eyes! That's the source of his power!""I will tear them out if he moves. Did you hear me, little guy? I'm going to eat your pretty eyes if you move a finger." Spears and sharp spines were aimed at Cathziel, but no fiend yet made a move to attack her.

"Lady Ka'atziel, in the name of Lord Baalzebul, Lord of the Flies, Visionary Paragon of Perfection, you are charged with treason against your liege, the Dark Eight and the Dark Lord himself."

From behind the column, escorted by an armored cornugon she could reconogize from court, a smooth voice spoke in a polite, and just a tinge nervous tone: a very handsome man—save for his tiny pointed horns and transparent, housefly-like wings. Though he tried to stand tall among the other fiends, he seemd to tremble slightly under his black tunic and gulp as his eyes and Cat's met. She could easily reconogize this man: Neabaz, herald of Baalzebul. An inexplicably esteemed pet. A coward.

"We are here to escort you to the Palace of Filth now, where you will face your trial."

__________________

"You're loud, impulsive and you question authority. -That- is why I keep you at arm's lenght."
"Mmmm. And that is also why you keep me at arm's reach."

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Re: Devil's Due (Closed freeform game)

"THERE SHE IS!" "Sieze her!"

As her feet stepped from the frozen wasteland to warm, polluted stone the She-devil felt her heart jump. Her nostrils flared, the only thing about her that moved, as she was met by the scent of blood, steel and betrayal. Behind her, the portal zipped closed, gone until once more summoned by the spilled blood of her ally, and by now Banzai, although bloodied, was out of her reach.

Her lips curled back into a snarl as a spear came too close for comfort and would have grazed her throat had she not moved ever-so-slightly out of the way. An apparent mistake, as the barbed devil that held it withdrew the weapon and shifted nervously away from her sharp gaze. As her eyes scanned the column, searching for whomever was in charge she did not fail to note that not one of the fiends had moved to actually attack her. Good. She still had their fear. And at least that was something.

"Lady Ka'atziel, in the name of Lord Baalzebul, Lord of the Flies, Visionary Paragon of Perfection, you are charged with treason against your liege, the Dark Eight and the Dark Lord himself."

Yes. It appeared that someone had sold her out.

Her eyes closed momentarily as she considered her options. There were too many enemies to fight, but she was swifter than she was strong, and she could fly. But if even she could flee, where would she go? The ruins of Maladomini were expansive, a twisted labyrinth, but... disgusting... and lacking in friends. Her eyes opened, falling upon the captured Jerren. If she left him behind he would surely be killed and without him she could not cross back into Cania. Without Aazazel she had no hope of easily reaching the prime.

Aazazel. Her blood boiled as her eyes narrowed. The cowardly wretch was not here. Either she had fled, or was the one behind this mess. After all, who else would have known the truth about Banzai’s eyes?

"We are here to escort you to the Palace of Filth now, where you will face your trial."

A long, low laugh echoed from her throat as she raised her gaze to meet the eyes of her captor. In another lifetime she may have found the Duke quite comely, were he not so spineless. But it was truly jealousy that had kept her from ever taking a liking to him. As he trembled under her scrutiny her lips curved up into an attempted smile that landed half ways in a sneer, and never made it to her eyes.

“What a pleasant surprise, Neabaz”. She rolled the name venomously off her tongue, as if tasting it. “I am truly flattered that you feel you needed an entire legion to escort me. Are you that afraid of my bite? Pet?

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Re: Devil's Due (Closed freeform game)

Power is lies.

That was the truth of Maladomini, its creed and its currency. It was the one axiom to rely on, the only path to walk. Every word, every gesture, every sideaways glance, it was all lies. Lie, and you will be rewarded.

That too was a lie.

As the baatezu dragged Cathziel through the filthy, slime-covered halls of the palace, devils and dregs of all planes and stations mocked her and yelled at her, they spat at her and bragged about their own superiority and how they never feared the promoted cambion. Liars. The ones that were really powerful, they looked away. They didn't care. She was no more, and all she'd ever accomplished was just another lie.

There was a familiar scent in the air, a brief breeze that didn't smell like muck or feces. A soft perfume, wine, and heat. She could barely see a pair of exposed blue legs as she passed by them, and the musing white smile of the High Cantor above them.

The trial was also a lie. Her guilt and sentence had already been decided long before they chained her enormous, fiendish true form to the dusky blue floor. It was the heralds that argued and debated, displaying their skills of word and judgement in a pathetic, sensationalist show meant to impress the master. The Slug Lord himself spoke not a word. More than a slug, though, he resembled a gigantic, bloated and sickly white larva, writhing ocassionally on its ornate orichalcum throne. It was hard to distinguish his front from his rear, and by the way he moved, it seemed as if he was feasting on the piles of garbage behind him rather than deciding on his favored's fate. Besides her, but at a safe distance and held with a number of significantly thinner chains, the bloodied, gagged and eyebound Banzai was crumpled on the floor, the foot of a grim barbazu on his head and recieving a fair amount of kicking every time he so much as coughed or gargled.

She was given the right to speak and defend herself. A lie, since nobody cared for what she had to say, and all her words were lies anyway. Lies that had been discovered and lost all their value. Just more noise to feed the herald's debates and long-winded explanations and demonstrations of intellect.

After what could've been days of pointless debate in the cold chamber, Cathziel's sentence finally came. It was then that Pearza's envoy made her appearance, accompained by her kocrachon assistants and her hulking obsidian maelephant guards. She paid barely to no attention to the heralds's squabbling, presenting them only with a short but solid claim to Banzai. Apparently, she had bought the ritual and all related products of psychic subversion from Baalzebul himself, and Banzai (as the sole survivor of the process) was one of her new belongings. Her cold blue eyes did not once set on him, or Cathziel for that matter. After claiming her little new experiment, she dragged him away by his chains.

The Lord of the Flies spoke with a gagging, strangulated voice, his words vomited out in a painful and sickening infernal. "KA'ATZIEL. MY ONCE FAVOURED. YOU ARE A DISGRACE." He did not turn around to address her, or perhaps he had been feeding through what should've been his anal cavity the whole time. Despite the strangled sound, his voice echoed through the hall, powered not by his organism but by his sheer authority over the infernal realm. "YOU WERE GIVEN POWER AND RANK. YOU WERE RAISED, LIFTED HIGH ABOVE THE UNDERGROUND MORTAL FILTH THAT BRED YOU. YOU WERE GIVEN THE BODY AND MIND MOST PERFECT IN BAATOR. AND ALL THAT, YOU SQUANDERED."

The heralds nodded and whispered praises to their lord's wisdom to each other. The lesser fiends laughed, or screamed, or yelled, and a select few were not paying attention. Those with some degree of power in Maladomini found their way to the front rows: this was the only really interesting part of the trial, if there was one. Former allies and jealous rivals surrounded Cathziel - some she could recognize: mostly unique devils or cornugons. Others, such as the black, faceless figure that stood in Pearza's former place, she could not.

"YOU WERE LIKE MY DAUGHTER. AND THE WAY I BIRTHED YOU, YOU WERE TO BIRTH OTHERS. MY MOST VALUABLE PROJECT. BUT INSTEAD OF FULFILLING YOUR DUTIES, YOU WASTED MY RESOURCES ON YOUR PETTY CONFLICT WITH THE TANAA'RI. INSTEAD OF GIVING ME PERFECTION, YOU GAVE ME CAMBION-LINGS THAT ONLY WITHERED AND DIED." Few suitable mortals survived the subversion ritual, and those who did all went missing. All except Banzai. "YOU LOST EVERYTHING, AND WON ME NOTHING."

"AND NOW, YOU BETRAY ME IN THE MOST INSULTING MANNER: BY BEING DISCOVERED. YOU ARE A FAILURE IN EVERY POSSIBLE ASPECT. I GAVE YOU EVERYTHING YOU HAVE EVER HAD, AND NOW I SHALL TAKE IT ALL BACK. I STRIP YOU OF YOUR RANKS AND TITLES, OF YOUR RIGHTS AND POSSESSIONS, OF THE RIGHT TO COLLECT ALL DEBTS YOU MAY BE DUE."

Various runic circles flared to life beneath Cathziel with a burning, red light. They begain spinning on the floor as the nearby fiends stepped back, the ones that held her down scrambling away for safety. Her chains burnt, molten metal running down her body and splattering the floor as a force lifted her up in the air and stretched all her limbs out to the maximum.

The Subversion Chamber wasn't very different from any of the other "laboratories" (torture chambers) in the fortress, as it was only recently rearranged for its purpose. Sigils and scriptures covered the walls and floors, virtually every surface except for the white marble altar where the subject would lay. Aazazel and Nefleos were escorted by a small group of legion devils. Bezu had been left behind, cowering and watching helplessly as the erinyes abandoned him with the promise of a new, safe station under Pearza's vigilance, or charges for aiding her mistress with her treason.

She was now in the Knoll of Blades, headquarters of the Ministry of Research and Implementation. A mixture of a cathedral and an underground hive, it crawled with insectoid kocrachons. Narrow tunnels led to chambers and laboratories where dozens of specimens of all races writhed and twitched in agony - even those whose fire had been snuffed out long ago; so skilled were the devlis at torture that their cursed attentions were still effective beyond the frontier of death.

Across the archway and on the opposite side of the altar, Pearza worked surrounded by her assistants. The hellish beetles added and erased patterns in the glyphs around them, communicating with their hideous chattering noise. A hulking maelephant stood guard behind the minister, and another stepped to block the entrance behind Aazazel as soon as she was delivered in.

The clacking of a beetle announced her prescence to the pit fiend, who turned around to facethe erinyes. She was wearing a voluminous cloak on her hunchbacked form, probably to hide the deformed wound where the stirge had burrowed. "Good. Lay on the altar, Aazazel."

The maelephants wouldn't wait long for her to comply, and at the first sign of hesitation, her arms would be grabbed and she would be forced onto the altar.

"Milady. We have Ka’atziel's runt in our power." Spoke another pit fiend as she entered.

"Then make all the arrangements for his conscription to the war effort. He departs as soon as possible with the rest of the mercenary and mortal rabble, and in utmost secrecy." Pearza approached her slowly, unholy magic burning in her hands. "I do this because I am compelled to" she spoke in a tone that almost felt apologetic, "but I assure you, you shall suffer my master's attentions no longer."

As her aides approached, scalpels in their little claws, Pearza gave them the order. "Prepare for psychic reversion."

"I STRIP YOU OF THE GIFT OF FORM. WHAT OTHERS WORK TO ACHIEVE FOR MILLENIA, YOU STOLE AND SQUANDERED."

Her fangs shrunk with hurt beyond words, her horns twisted and removed themselves form her head, yanked off by an irresistible force. Unspeakable pain would wreck her senses as her skin began burning and peeling off, falling down like a broken chrysalis: the pit fiend crumbled, revelaing the ashen cambion beneath.

"I STRIP YOU OF YOUR INFLUENCE AND YOUR MAGIC. YOU ARE NOT WORTHY OF THE GUISE NOR THE GIFTS OF BAATOR, AND YOU SHALL BE ITS CHILDE NO LONGER."

Streams of fire and raw magic shot out from her orifices, her powers, rejuvenation and inmunities drained. They spread in an amazing light show through the chamber, absorbed by the circles beneath her. After a torture that seemed endless, the force that held her up twisting her limbs and threatening to break her apart suddenly let go. She fell on the rotten, filthy stone floor below, where the pentagrams's glow slowly died down. Her strenght drained, it would take her some time before she could recover, or even stand up. At an unseen signal, the horned devil that dragged her here stepped forward to stand tall behind her.

"SINCE INCEPTION YOU OWED TO BAATOR. YOU WERE GIVEN A GREY WRAPPING, TO TELL YOU APART FROM YOUR WORTHLESS SIBLINGS. YOU WERE GIVEN WINGS TO SPREAD IN DEMONSTRATION OF YOUR POWER, TO SOAR UP THROUGH THE RANKS AND REACH THE PINNACLE OF PERFECTION. YOU WERE GIVEN OPPORTUNITY. THAT TOO, SHALL BE TAKEN AWAY FROM YOU."

An incredible weight fell on her back as the cornugon put its enormous right foot on her. Having grasped her wings, the creature's teeth showed in a vibrant smile before it heaved and yanked. Bones creaked, tendons were cut. It heaved and yanked again, and they came halfways loose with a horrible sound. The relieving of her wings took three powerful yanks, but the pain would last for much longer.

"AND NOW YOU HAVE GOT BUT ONLY ONE POSSESSION: YOUR LIFE. YOU MAY KEEP IT. IT IS WORTHLESS TO ME. GO NOW. HIDE AND SCURRY AMONG THE FILTH AND THE RUINS, AND TAKE YOUR MISERY WITH YOU. THE LORD OF LIES HAS NO INTEREST IN THE PITIFUL LIVES OF VERMIN."

And Cathziel was dragged through the Palace floor, broken and bleeding, and shoved through a window into the filth down below.

--End of Act I--

__________________

"You're loud, impulsive and you question authority. -That- is why I keep you at arm's lenght."
"Mmmm. And that is also why you keep me at arm's reach."

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Re: Devil's Due (Closed freeform game)

Cathziel had never been one for politics; that had always been Aazazel's job, but even in her ignorance she had known the ruse for what it was from the moment she had stepped into the room. And without the Erinyes and her knowledge of Baatezu society, Cathziel had never felt such terror as she did than the moment that she had been chained to the chamber floor.

Initially she had tried to speak; attempted to sway them with her words of silver. But these were fiends she pleaded to and not men, and her words, empty as a tin can, fell unheard upon deaf ears.

In the end she simply remained silent. Silently she watched the tireless debate, silently she watched Pearza drag Banzai away, and silently she accepted her punishment. She barely heard the words, and more blinding than the light of her transformation was the blinding pain that finally broke her silence, although she herself was unaware that through it all she was screaming.

The transformation was agony, but the humiliation that washed over her as she fell upon the stone, unable to rise, was far, far worse. Eventually she crawled to her knees, hiding behind her inky-black hair, her skin now silver-grey and half covered in jet-black scales that reflected in the light, an oily, rainbow sheen. Her hand came to her neck, where at her throat lay the scar where the slave collar had bitten into her flesh many years before.

The taking of her wings was the greatest injustice. As she realized what was happening she had scrambled to flee, and had tasted blood when her chin hit the tile as she was pinned. The first tug broke bone and bloodied her fingers as she dug her nails into the stone floor and screamed. The second came with the sickening sound of tearing flesh, crunching bone, and a soundless gasp as the air was pulled from her lungs. The third yank was the worst, as her flesh and bone was ripped away, showering her with blood and string-like tendon and shredded flesh as white spots danced in front of her eyes.

Her first instinct was to become fetal, to curl on her side but the pain from her mutilated back muscle was too much to bare. Her body shocked and shaking, she arched and twisted, gagged and vomited up bile. Baalzebul was speaking again, but the gasping Cambion could not make out the words. Her vision swam and disembodied shapes moved around her. A hand grasped her by the tail and she tried to scream out. Don't take my tail. Please don't take my tail too! But the words would not come. Bloody and broken, and barely conscious she was dragged through the palace and thrown into the dark.

Aazazel was nervous, nothing unusual for the usually high-strung Erinyes, but right now, she felt, was definitely a good time to be nervous. Vaguely she wondered what had happened to the Pit Fiend Ka'atziel. Probably nothing good, but at least it wasn't her problem any longer. A smile almost cracked her face as she was forced through into the room with Pearza and her attendants.

"Ah, Good 'eve, Mistress Pearza." Her voice felt weak, she cleared her throat and refolded her wings at her back, "I just wanted to thank you for the opportunity to work along side the.."

The Erinyes halted mid sentence at the realisation that she was not being heard. She raised a hand, considering a protest, and immediately thought better of it.

"Good. Lay on the altar, Aazazel."

"E-excuse me?" The pretty woman faltered, flustered, and struggled as she was swiftly seized and forced down upon the slab.

"A..a-a-ah" The Erinyes pleaded as they held her down, "All I did was follow orders! Everything I did was out of loyalty to my mistress!" She shrieked, and then fell silent as Pearza turned to face her and began to speak. Aazazel listened, but there were only four words that truly resonated.

"Prepare for psychic reversion."

"What?"

The Palace of Filth was enormous; comprised of hundreds of buildings; a mixture of splendour and rubble juxaposed against and into eachother as each building was lovingly erected and instantly abandoned in pursuit of a bigger, better project. The effect was magnificent in its neglect; a twisted labryinth of rooms and courtyards, almost a city in itself so expansive was the compound. Above, and soaring into the polluted sky rose a collection of needle-like spires, and surrounding the entire complex rose a mountain of filth, rubble, and forgotten things.

Forgotten and alone, it was into one of these abandoned corners that Cathziel had crawled, broken, bleeding, delirious. She had tumbled for what felt like forever, bouncing from one ledge to another as she had scrambled to catch herself, to haul herself up and to inevitably slip and fall when her fingers failed to find purchase on the slick marble wall. On her hands and knees she had half-climbed and half-dragged herself across a ledge and through a broken window, and had gracelessly fallen through onto the other side. Panting, the ashen-cambion lay beneath the sil for some time, slowly walking her fingers down her scaled ribs and counting each spot where it hurt. There were many places.

Get up, her voice resonated in her head, too exhausted to actually speak, You will bleed to death. Or infection will take you. She did not want to die today.

Tears welled in her eyes as the female rolled to her knees, leaving smears of blood where she had lain and across the tile as her hands slid across the cold stone floor. Her fingers touched something soft. Fabric. She instinctly drew it in and clutched it close for comfort as her delicate fingers ran across its surface, gently feeling out the texture. Her memory was swept away to the deserts of the Calimshan and the many bazaars, filled with fine fabric and rich spices. This piece however was a simple curtain; a fine weave, but crafted here in hell. Long ago that might have been something Cathziel would have have delighted in, but not now. The Cambion's pointed teeth flashed in the dark as she snarled and ripped the item in half, in half again, and once more until her strength left her and the drapery was nothing but strips.

Rocking back and forth and with her teeth grit in pain, Cathziel slowly and dutifully wrapped her wounds, binding her back and chest with the lengths of cloth and knotting them tightly with her trembling fingers. With the task complete she took a breath to steady herself and pushed herself to her feet, collapsing instantaneously as her vision swam and closed in.

She did not feel the impact as she hit the ground, only the disorientation and discomfort of her wounds. The ground here was dusty, but cool, and smelt pleasantly of earth. She had gone as far as her adrenaline could take her and all of a sudden all she wanted was to sink into the floor. She closed her eyes; the idea of sleep was enticing; she hadn't slept in a long time, and she was very very tired.

Perhaps this was not the best place to rest... the thought crossed her mind

But sweet unconsciousness quickly swept all that away.

Perhaps it wouldn't be so bad to die after all.

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Re: Devil's Due (Closed freeform game)

Although it took several hours of casting and exorcizing, we completed the reversion ritual without significantly compromising our schedule. I have mixed feelings as regards to the result. We succeeded in reverting the subject to an earlier state of being, but the cost was too high for what was accomplished. The subject, an erinyes, was exsaguinated from most of her fiendish qualities and abilities, and reduced to a mortal form. The primary goal of the experiment had been attained. However, we couldn't remove the entirery of the taint within her, and as such the end product was more similar to a tiefling than any kind of natural mortal breed.

We experienced many setbacks during the process: some of our own essence was consumed to fuel the ritual, as expected. What we couldn't accurately predict was the backlash of the plane in the face of this corruption. Baator itself lashed out at us, costing me two of my subordinates and the loss of one of my vessel's limbs. (I was afraid this event could trigger a rebellion on part of the spirit whose body I'm in possession of, but she remained remarkably quiet.) The death toll was of three kocrachons (one consumed by the ritual and two struck down by Baator's searing white flame) and one maelephant (also taken by the plane.) The ritual was also very taxing for the subject, not only in terms of bodily and mental agony and truama, but also causing the loss of much of her soul-material and vitality. Her frame is wiry and weak, with symptoms of advanced malnourishment, and one of my subordinates is conducting a psychological exam on her as I write. There was a suprising amount of wasted by-product: the aforementioned soul-material burnt and elluded our grasp during the ritual, possibly fueling the plane's backlash. Looking for a solution, my master's own delirious theories come to mind, one related to a particular legend, regarding the first of the yugoloths and an artifact known as the heart of darkness. I disregarded these 'sources of inspiration' as he called them as simple myth, yet now I wonder if that's the piece I am missing for this puzzle.

This particular train of thought led me to unnerving, disturbing thoughts. As I began to investigate on the matter, I was overcome by a certain kind of anxiety I can't truly explain, but only augmented as my host named it for me (speaking for the first time since our association.) She called it

FEAR.

I realized that this fear permeated my every thought regarding the yugoloths, and as I delved into my own psyche I began to doubt many of the facts and mental structures I relied on, structures that had rested ignored and undisturbed ever since my birth. For instance, I analyzed that the compulsion to continue with these experimets is different to the one that forced me to obey my master, which accounts for how I've managed to break free from one but not the other. The one I'm still subject to, that of experimentation, feels more primal and its roots have dug much deeper into my psyche. Could it be from another source? Could it be that the being I considered my master, of whom I am a part of, is not truly my master? I do not have much recollection of the circumstances of my birth, but it always bothered me that Banzai's intuitive, instinct-driven spellcasting wasn't of high enough level to perform a soul-splicing ritual like the one I am a product of.

A soul-splicing ritual of notable similarity to the subversion/reversion we've been compelled to perfect. One that seeks to emulate an impossibly ancient event carried out by the most unspeakable of fiends.

The pit fiend's stare was fixated on the chitinous wall's gothic design as her claw danced over the leathery skin scroll, etching the infernal scribblings with the fire of Law.

"Unity of the rings", he would've said. Unnerving thoughts indeed.

Bezu perched on one of the many spires of the Palace, gazing at the city and the abandoned ruins that surrounded it with wide, tearful eyes like a miserable, hooded gargoyle. He had lost his position under the Lady's service, he had compromised the Risen, and worst of all, he had let his beloved Aazazel go with that nine-times-damned fiend, Nefleos. How? How could she turn her back on him like that? Spiny claws gripped the stone tightly as he clambered down into one a window, hiding from the expanse of Maladomini outside. He loved her! He had finally confessed his undying love for her, and she was following him - she'd rise like he had done, free from the yoke of Evil, and together they would flee from this cursed place. They would leave Baator behind, screw the baatezu! They would also leave the Risen behind, screw Archimedes! And they would be free, in some unknown, empty idyllic plane, without fiends or celestials to bother them with their moral issues.

But no, no they wouldn't. No, because she preferred to go with Pearza instead. To become some monstrous pit fiend's assistant again. How he hated them, and how he hated her! What if -he- had become a pit fiend? Then she would come crawling to him, yes, but Bezu wouldn't have her. No, he would chain her and lash her until her pretty skin was red and leaking, and then he would burn her, and maybe then he would bed her. Then she would finally understand that it was him she should've been with all along, but it would be too late, because he already hated her. Hated her, and every single other--- no. Bezu ducked his head and started viciously scratching himself with his claws. No, no! Hate is wrong. Hate is evil. He had risen, he was not Evil's slave anymore. No, no. No. He needed to go back, go back to his friends, his -real- friends, and tell them. Tell them that he couldn't bring her, and that the baatezu could find them.

Bezu stepped again on the window's edge, and prepared to take flight. He could still make it back in time if he hurri--

FOOSH

Something fell right in front of him. It was large, larger than him, and it hit the parapet an inch in front of him with a loud, fleshy sound before bouncing off and rolling through the sloped roof. The spinagon peered down blinking as the body -that's what it was, a bleeding, dead body- crashed into a garbage pile, bounced a couple more times and finally slumped lifelessly on the ground. As he squinted, he could make out the shape of a woman. Could it be...

...it was. He saw his lady, Ka'atziel, twitch and crawl amongst the filth. She was part of the filth now, her skin ashen and decrepit, her hair a tangled mess, and bleeding holes where here wings used to be.

Bezu's eyes narrowed. Gritting his fangs, he opened his wings and swooped down like a resentful vulture.

Bezu swooped down gritting his fangs

"Move filth, MOVE!"

A whip cracked on the back of Banzai's head, making him stumble on his chains. His eye still bound, he could not see the surrounding planescape, but the rugged ground beneath his feet and the flashes of dim light in the dark as he tilted his head up helped him recognize the barren waste of Avernus. Before and behind him trudged a line of slaves with their sobbing and insane muttering, either fodder or rations for the military devils that kept close watch on them. Most of the jerren's flesh wounds had already closed, fiendish fast healing being one of the gifts he recieved through psychic subversion. It did not come for free however, and the curse that the Prince of Hunger had cast on his whole race an age ago weighed heavily on him: he needed to eat soon, or he would go feral. And the baatezu would not tolerate that: he could feel their hatred focused on him, his chaotic nature revealed to them without the osyluth's skull protecting him.

His march seemed to last for months, and every split-second was torture as the jerren's burning stomach contorted and loudly demanded its tribute. That was the price his people paid for their transformation, the price his father bargained for them on what their uncorrupted bretheren took to calling the Cursed Spring. As raiding parties of deformed goblinoids chased and hunted the halflings like stray cattle, a lonely warlock with a book about his own sized drew feverish symbols on the ground in a lost hill. A thousand biting mouths of smoke made a silent deal with the elders that day, and three tribes of the furry-footed folk drank from their new lord's bitter, acidic bile. Banzai son of Garzai felt his innards wheeze and squeeze, moaning in agony as a void was torn in them, devouring everything and depriving him of all but the neccessary nourishment to keep biting and swallowing. Turaglas, a name he had learnt many years after the pact was sealed, had turned them into new little mouths to feed him - mindless, gibbering thralls, yes; but he had also given them new weapons. Their jaws twisted and enlarged, their teeth able to pierce through the toughest armor, their digestive fluids able to dissolve all but the hardest rock and metal. As Banzai followed his late father's footsteps, he unlocked new gifts latent within him, and learnt to commune with his sleeping, barely sentient malefactor. There was one thing Turaglas would not leech from him: knowledge. Banzai devoured tome after tome, he ingested cleric and warlock alike, and when he re-enacted Garzai's ritual, it wasn't the Prince of Hunger that heeded his call.

It was Fate itself.

And he knew it was his destiny to one day consume all that existed.

The hard wood hit his face as he was thrown into the barge. The salty smell and the moaning of the Styx shook the ship as more slaves were dumped on him, and snorted a complaint as the scaly fiend descended on it. As his hunger overcame him, his senses became clearer. A fat, plump amnizu checked a list and ordered the ship loose. Time lost its meaning to him, and the boundaries between the events that unfurled became blurry and dulled, as though everything happened simultaneously instead of in a sequence. Blindly hitting his face against the wood beneath him, he found a loose bolt, and with a streak of blood on his forehead, the jerren tore his blindfold off. His eye glowed brightly as he raised his head, flashing his dripping teeth at the black abishai that turned towards him.

"What do you think you're doing you little insane piece of--"

The creature could speak no further. Enraptured by the sigils on the warlock's eye, it could only squeal as its body jerked forward and his limbs started viciously attempting to cut the chains, finally tearing it apart at the cost of his fingers. Banzai stood, stumbling to the side as the river reacted violently. The amnizu turned round, but as he gaped at the conmotion, a snarling Banzai fell on him like a rabid feline, his fangs sinking into the obese devil's crown, his eye and his overpowering hunger fighting to subdue fiend's soul-less spirit. The slaves jumped on the freed abishai, beating at it with their bare hands and their chains, and the Styx, unwatched, rebelled as well. A powerful wave fell on them, and Banzai bit deeper into his prey's head as they plummeted into the inky waters.

__________________

"You're loud, impulsive and you question authority. -That- is why I keep you at arm's lenght."
"Mmmm. And that is also why you keep me at arm's reach."

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Re: Devil's Due (Closed freeform game)

Sparks lived briefly as heavenly steel clashed with infernal chitin. Their ruse discovered, the tome archon and the mortals rushed towards their goal while the rest of the celestials remained behind in a hallway carved in flesh and stone to buy them time. A long, deep moan of pain echoed through the cliffs of Chamada as the Crawling City's thousand legs clambered up the ledges, the hive stirred as fiends innumerable swarmed the great citadel.


The Crawling City's thousand legs clambered up Chamada

"Back, monsters!" The hound archon's wide blade cleaved through the piscoloth, tearing one of the chtonian monster's pincers apart. Removing the moaning creature from his sword with a heavy foot, it yelped as a tiefling's enchanted dagger found his shoulder, but shattered the devilspawn's face with a powerful elbow. Turning round, he raised his blade and brought it down on the rogue's chest, who died with a gasp. "Succoria!" he called, looking around as he braced for the next wave. "Everyone! On me! On me!" A powerful parry blocked the two tridents coming on him, and with a growl, he pushed the mezzodaemons back and onto their mates. "Diabolo! Their power lies in segregation! They can't beat us if we fight them as a single unit!"

Two justice archons rallied to his side, but the third couldn't make it: as she turned around, two mezzoloths tackled her, gripping her by her arms while a larger, evolved tripod-like fiendish insect penetrated her with its spear-tipped legs. On the end where they came from, the magical wards gave in as a nycaloth struck the doors down with its massive axe, waving it over his head and sending mighty wafts of foul-smelling air their way.

__________________

"You're loud, impulsive and you question authority. -That- is why I keep you at arm's lenght."
"Mmmm. And that is also why you keep me at arm's reach."

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Re: Devil's Due (Closed)

Succoria!

Her head turned. She focused her attention on the Hound Archon for but a second; crucial seconds that could buy life or bring swift death.

By the time the fourth Justice Archon noticed the trio of Mezzoloths that were bearing down upon her companion, it was too late. She moved to aid, but the hallway was narrow and her wings too wide; she had not been fast enough in flight. As she hefted the enormous greataxe in hand, her silver-blue armour gleamed brightly in the light of the braziers on the wall, and utterly paled in comparison to the splendor of the holy blade as the archon brought it to bear.

"Rana!"

Her friend dropped as the fiend's spears punctured armour and angelic flesh like paper.

Succoria's pained cry pierced the air like a lance, and hung but for a moment before it was transformed into a scream of rage, a herald of angelic fury as her aerial attack reigned vengeance down from above. As she dove upon her target her immense blade clove the first creature in two, releasing with the sickening crack of splintered bone and lacerated flesh as it lethally buried itself in the thorax of the second. The third fiend was equally unlucky, and still struggling to remove its legs from the body of the injured celestial when Succoria's wide blade took it in the neck and in one clean sweep neatly sheared its head from its carapace.

"Don't move!" The celestial landed in a flurry of soft feathered flight. "Shh.. It's ok".

Rana shuddered as an armoured gauntlet felt for purchase and forced her onto to her back. Her breastplate was splattered with spittle, bone and blood, and fear reflected in the archon's eyes as she gazed up at her rescuer.

"Su.."

Succoria's hands shifted to the Archon's waist, tracing out delicate symbols as she spoke the arcane sounds of healing. As her breath came back in easier gasps, Rana's hands lifted to grasp her friend. "Su. We can't... For every one we bring down, there are two more! There are too many!"

"And two more yet for each one we do not kill!" The cleric pulled Rana to her feet as a heavy blow from the Nycaloth's axe tore the great doors off their hinges and send a tremor that echoed down the hall. Under her gauntlet Succoria could feel Rana tremble.

"Rana, look at me!" Succoria raised the visor of her helm to stare her companion in the eye, "You do not need to beat the hoarde, you just need to hold them. Bottleneck them here, fight as one and you will tear through their ranks. Go."

A forceful shove sent the younger celestial skittering back toward the Hound as Succoria spread her wings and took flight.

"..And what about you?"

"You and I may return in another life.." Succoria turned her eyes down the corridor and then back to Rana. "Those mortals can not, and to be imprisoned would be a fate worse than death. I must go to them."

The celestial hung in the air for a second, and as the Nycaloth and its companions tore into the room, slipped away down the hallway on a beat of soft wings and silent flight.

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Re: Devil's Due (Closed)

"SU! No! We need you! Come ba--!"

From the moment she crossed the mighty doors into the war room, Succoria knew there was no way back. Her mind would at least wobble in confusion as she entered a place that was simultaneously the highest tower and the deepest chamber of the city, a place of flesh and blood and dark, terrible stone. The cavernous walls were lined like a ribcage, and the stony floor ran over the bulging muscles of the city's gargantuan legs. Lines of beautiful images in vibrant stained glass pierced the bleeding skin of the hall, depicting scenes ancient beyond counting, and schemes that had yet to be planned. Some of them were undescipherable, some were maddening, and they seemed to be ordered in an ever-changing pattern: at first it was chronological, then by merit, and finally by causality, until one realized that many were both cause and consequence at the same time - and had either to look away or assimilate the loth's thought patterns, with all the risk that entailed.

But despite the battle raging outside, everything in the war room was eerily quiet, calm, and orderly. There were no bodies, no signs of violence: only the multidimensional charts of many cosmologies and, standing at the center of all, the General of Gehenna, facing his foe in silence.

Because now could she see him, even though it seemed he'd been standing there for ages: Archimedes, of the mighty Seven, the tome archon, her commander. He stood tall and broad, feathery wings spread in a demonstration of power, the holy light that made up his body blazing beneath the armor and the eagle-hooded cloak of purity. The rivals stared at each other, locked in a contest fought not with the body, but with the spirit itself. Such was their bearing that the air seemed heavy, and its pressure would soon be unbearable.


Archimedes stood tall, feathery wings spread wide

A hand touched Succoria, and the scene suddenly changed: blood bathed the hall, the bodies of dying fiends littered and writhing around. A short, beautiful elven maid of green hair lay dead in a pool before her, her burnt hand gripping the holy symbol that hanged by her neck. A few paces away, the wounded ranger shot his ballista-like contraption up into the air, his heavenly canine companion and the broad, heavily armored paladin keeping the yugoloths at bay. On the other side, the monk pounded down a veteran marilith with calculated brutality and cold perfection. Her face expressionless, she shined a powerful outsider on her own accord: she had achieved perfect harmony of body and soul, and her technique was more than enough to outmatch the fiend she fought. Above, Achimedes and the General exchanged blows, their blades (broad and colossal on the celestial's part, thin and twisted on the fiend's) ringing with the deafening clash of right and wrong. So hard to follow was their fight, that just looking at them hurt the eyes. A squeeze of the hand that had gripped her brought Succoria's eyes to her waker's face.

"Su, I need you to focus." said Ariella, her eyes boring into the lesser angel's. She was a throne archon, Archimedes's second in command. As such, her features were impossibly beautiful yet terrible to look at, as righteous wrath and vengeance was flesh onto her, and her skin was lit with golden flame. She suddenly shoved Succoria aside, her weapon clashing with that of the General, who seemed to be in two places at the same time. The force of the blow drove her back against a wall, cracking it, but she parried the attack nonetheless. The general's blade grew and twisted and shot about like lightning made metal, striking repeatedly like a vicious needle.

On the other side of the room, the paladin's blade found its way into the thick torso of a dog-headed winged fiend, but the beast died gripping it. Weaponless, he fought off the infernal beetle warriors with only his gauntlets. "Ro, cover me!" The ranger did his best, his cross-shaped crossbow firing up to four consecutive bolts before the mechanism jammed. A hissing mezzoloth fell on him, forcing him to rely on his jagged dagger, while the paladin grasped a yagnoloth by its little arm and delivered a series of heavy punches to the fiend's stomach. The golden hound jumped on the insect that had pinned his master, ending its life with a rabid bite - at the cost of a trident cleaving deep into his side. "MEL!" His master bellowed, but the dog was already gone.

__________________

"You're loud, impulsive and you question authority. -That- is why I keep you at arm's lenght."
"Mmmm. And that is also why you keep me at arm's reach."

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