Another boring page flipped regarding the final days of the Sunset Empire. Rumors abound about how the Empire ended and none of these theories seemed to feel right. “Who am I fooling?” Demetrius asked himself, so exhausted that he was speaking to himself. “I have no idea how they ended either, and how am I supposed to pen a paper about it by tomorrow?” Demetrius was a young and frail Tiefling. Being raised in an orphanage on the outskirts of Kharon’s Crossing where food was scarce and generosity was almost unheard of, tended to have that effect on children. There was only one person in his life that he knew cared about him and that was Matron.
“Matron” was an aging human maid that ran the orphanage. If she had a name other then Matron it had long been forgotten. She had been a successful seamstress that worked inside Kharon’s Crossing, running a shop that tailored to the more elite crowd that attended the fine opera house, The Open Hall. Even though she was successful and fairly well off, she could not bear the sight of the beggars that waited for her every day outside. She would often put aside the expensive dresses that had been ordered for an important party at the Golden Lady in order to hem one of the street urchins pants to prevent them from catching their death in the colds of winter. She could not stand the thought of one of those children sleeping in the alley between her shop and the Open House, while the cold winds came howling down off of the Shatterspire Mountains. In her mind there was no recourse, therefore, she sold off her store, bought a small home on the edge of Kharon’s Crossing, begged for some meager aid from the council, and took the children in.
She was never able to take them all in, but for the many that she helped she was able to set them up with jobs in Kharon’s Crossing as apprentices, pages, runners, jobs where the willingness to do work was the most important part of the job. The Matron had a single failure. Little, sickly Demetrius was the one that she could not find a profession for. Whenever he helped out in the barn, shoveling manure and carrying buckets of feed, he would nearly pass out from exhaustion. When he helped the carpenter he was unable to swing the hammer correctly and the carpenter would always have to follow behind him and redo his work. Day after day she searched and searched for something that he would excel in. Finally she found something, quite by accident. Not only was he quick of mind but he actually seemed to enjoy learning. When he applied himself to his studies he was always top of the class. She had brought in a tutor that taught the children for three hours a day, he never seemed to take well to her teachings. However, when it was time to turn in a write-up or take some sort of exam he was always top of the class. One day she decided that she needed to confront him about it.
“Demetrius?” she asked lightly as he poured over one of his books by candlelight, “How do you do so well on the tests when you never pay attention during class?”
Demetrius replied in his too deep voice “Miss Strandford is an imbecile who does not even understand the material. Look here!” he pointed to a page of the book with a sly smirk on his face “Here the book claims that dark powers leveled the dwarven race! Why does she claim that it was a plague? How could a plague possibly silence a God?”
Demetrius excitedly read a portion of the book to Matron “Powerful magics were wielded by irresponsible hands and loosed without thought. Through all of this chaos an entire people disappeared. Dwarves were never seen again, and it is said that even their god no longer answers prayers to him.”
Demetrius, with his eyes filled with fire looked Matron in the eyes and asked ”...and a plague caused that?”
Matron took a step back and began to think to herself. Common wisdom was that it must have been a plague that destroyed the nearly forgotten race of the dwarves, but what Demetrius was claiming here, and it was confirmed in the book, seemed to make so much more sense. Could this child be correct? She waved it off and went back to her chores. So many chores piled up for one who dedicates her life to keeping at least ten children in her home at all times.
Demetrius smiled at the fond memories but shook his head briefly and returned to his studies. He started to get tired and bleary eyed as he turned the page again. He decided that he was going to set the book down for the night and take a rest so he would be attentive in the next mornings class. For tomorrow, they were going to be studying the origins of some of these “dark magics” that were said to have leveled empires. But Demetrius knew that those magics were just mishandled. He knew for certain that in the hands of the right person, or Tiefling, those magics, even if they came from dark sources, could be used for the betterment of those around him….They could be used to give back to Matron all that he owed her.
With these thoughts running through his head his eyelids began to droop and his eyes started to close in the sparse attic room that was more of a closet, but one that he had been allowed to claim as his own. Not an easy feat, in a home full of orphans. He realized that his studying was at an end for the night so he leaned over to blow out the tallow candle, because if he allowed it to burn out by itself, as he had so many times before, he knew he would feel Matron’s wrath once again.
His eyes shot open as he walked through a fugue plane. The wavy gray smokes waved to and fro on every side of him and before him was a kindly looking Tiefling sitting on a throne. He spoke and the words seemed to come directly into his head rather then out loud. “Demetrius” the Tiefling said, “I have been watching you for some time now. I know the feelings of inadequacies you harbor, I know how you strive to be something better, I know that you realize your place is higher then those around you.”
Demetrius probed on the inside and found that while the words of this individual were stirring they weren’t exactly what he was feeling. “What is this? Who are you?” he asked.
The Tiefling looked him up and down then replied “I am Dormicon servant of the Raven Queen, you have a strong understanding of the gifts that my kind can grant, and I feel that you are more deserving then some that have been granted my talents in the past.” A twinkle shone in the eyes of the demon as it flashed quickly to it’s true form, a dark red and much larger version of the Tiefling form that it presented itself as when it flashed back. “I can grant the powers that you seek.”
Demetrius looked up to the demon that appeared before him and responded “I am nothing like the power hungry emperors that ruled during the times of the Diamond empire!” Demetrius exclaimed with the fire retuning to his eyes, “I have no desire for that kind of power, I only wish to have the power to help those around me!”
Dormicon looked slightly shocked for a second, it was clear that he had not been rebuked like this in quite a long time, he recovered quickly though and put his hand in his chin and nodded “Then you have passed the first test young one.” Dormicon explained, “That was merely a test to see if you could responsibly wield the powers that I have spoken of, in fact I am more in search of one of your particular…zeal” Dormicon leaned forward and placed his clawed hand on Demetrius’ shoulder then began to walk around him waving his other hand out and making a window appear in thin air.
“You see Demetrius” Dormicon said, as he pointed towards the window. “I am in fact in search of someone like you that could help me bring about my will.” As Dormicon explained this an image of Kharon’s Crossing appeared in the window, but instead of poor children running through the streets and shops boarded up, an image appeared of seeming comfort. Children were walking with their parents on one side of the street and on the other side, an older grandfather was buying his children candied treats at the confection stand. “You see this is what I seek, young Demetrius, in a world like this, it is much easier for people to learn how to responsibly use the powers that I am able to bestow. If I was only able to grant my powers to some worthy person on your world, I would have more of an ability to influence the world towards my eventual goals.”
“And what would those goals be?” Demetrius asked as he stared longingly into the vision that had appeared before his eyes.
“Creating an order on your world that will recognize my powers.” Dormicon explained as he flashed back to his demon form quickly returning to his appearance as a Tiefling. “It is a complex matter of politics here in the demon realm, but basically with you representing me on your world, and my granting you certain powers, I will be able to gain powers here. You will be able to use your powers to better the life of your Matron”, as he said this an image appeared of Matron sleeping on the ground of her bedroom while four children slept fitfully in her bed. “and I will be able to gain influence here in my realm.”
Demetrius contemplated this “It seems simple enough, what would you require of me, friend?” Demetrius asked as he turned to look up at the demon that had walked around him.
“A simple boon is all I require” Dormicon said and waved again to have the window change to some arcane symbols. “I merely need you to draw these symbols on your floor in red paint. Surely this is not above your talents young one.”
Demetrius looked up at the complex runes and arcane symbols that appeared in the window, his nimble mind already storing them for later. “But I have no skill in magic,” he protested,”while I’m sure I can replicate these symbols I wouldn’t know what else to do. What else would be required of me?”
Dormicon chuckled slightly and patted Demetrius’ shoulder in a fatherly way. “You see that is why I brought you here Demetrius. Your skills are much stronger then you suspect! Your kind has an innate link to my realm and it is even stronger on your world due to some of the… events… that have transpired in the past. All you need to do is draw the runes and open yourself to me, I will take care of the rest.”
Demetrius smiled and nodded “And you will grant me the powers of the ancients? The powerful spells of a mighty Warlock?”
Dormicon nodded “All you need do is agree to be my agent and I will grant you these powers, that only you would be able to use so wisely.”
Demetrius pulled away slightly and thrust one bony hand out to shake. “Then you have a deal Dormicon, I will be your agent in our world.”
Dormicon smiled and accepted the handshake. “By the ancient pacts and ties of blood, it is done, young one, go back to your world and draw these runes as I have displayed them to you, you will be rewarded.” The symbols appeared once again but they had already been written on the walls of Demeterius’ mind. These were the keys to change his life.
Demetrius’s eyes quickly opened back in his bedroom and quickly worked to relight the candle he had put out while lying in utter blackness. He shook himself and started to doubt what he had just experienced, thinking that perhaps it was just another dream, but when he looked down at the book that he had been reading he saw confirmation of his dream. In place of the text on the next page, the arcane symbols were there. It was a reminder and a warning. Demetrius looked down to his hands and seemed to see a pulsing blue fire emanating from his fingertips. He knew what he had to do, he instantly cleared the floor as much as he could and grabbed a beaker full of red paint that he had been saving for an art project he was supposed to do and started to paint on the floor.
As he began painting he started to feel as if there was something guiding his hand. The symbols began to form up under his delicate brush and they started to glow with an eerie greenish light. Demetrius heard a pale laughter that seemed to emanate from nowhere and his hand started to furiously paint the rest of the symbols. He knew at then that he had been duped! He started to hear the sounds of otherworldly demons eager to enter his world and wreak the havoc that their kind was known for. Demetrius screamed and tried to pull his hand away from the symbols but found that his hand had taken on a life of it’s own. Dormicon’s voice echoed loudly in his head “It is almost complete young fool! It is so easy to deceive any of you mortals once we find what which desires pull your strings.”
Demetrius let out a groan and looked down to see that the symbols were over half way completed and a shimmering portal was beginning to appear in front of him. On the other side of the portal were all sorts of demons that he had read about in the past, one appeared to be a mighty six armed Balor that had two fearsome imps on it’s shoulders. The upper body of a beautiful voluptuous woman was attached to the body of a hideous serpent and was making lewd cat calls to Demetrius as the portal started to become more corporeal.
Another voice suddenly arose in Demetrius’ head. “Foolish Tiefling what have you done?” the voice demanded of him.
The voice of Dormicon returned to his head. It’s arrogance had multiplied as the circle became more complete. “Begone lowly Astos, it is done, my hordes will feast on the mortals in their own realm and I will gain the power to banish you from the upper realms of the netherworld back to the lower levels of the Abyss where you belong! Your power will be mine.”
The voice of Astos sounded more faint as if it was being pulled away but it pleaded with Demetrius and pushed a whisper of power into his mind. “Young one, you must release this power and cry out my name. My power will disrupt the portal. Do it now before it is too late!” and the voice faded completely.
Demetrius looked up again from his reverie and saw that the complex diagrams were almost complete and the succubus was fighting with a common four-armed demon to be the first in line to come out of the portal and claim his life. Demetrius could only imagine what these demon spawn would do once they were released into Kharon’s Crossing. Demetrius brought up his other arm into a fist, focused the power inside him and let out a mighty cry “ASTOS!”. Flames erupted all around him that ate at the portal and destroyed the symbols at his feet.
The evil presence returned immediately. “Fool!” Dormicon screamed into his mind. “Do you realize what you have done? Now I will never be able to enter your realm! You will die a thousand deaths when you come to the netherworld. I will claim you and when you are brought broken and shattered to face me, little one, I hope you remember this taste of the destruction that will be wrought upon you!” As Dormicon screamed these final words in his mind, Demetrius passed out and the flames that were around him flared up causing the entire room to go up in a conflagration of sickly green flame.
Matron heard the screams downstairs and had already started to come up the stairs when she felt the explosion rock the house. She could feel the heat as she rushed up the stairs and heard the flames as they hungrily licked at the walls of her home. She screamed as loud as she could for the children to evacuate and hurried up the stairs to grab Demetrius. She entered the attic and was nearly overcome by the intense heat and billowing smoke. She dashed through covering her face with a cloth she had picked up along the way and found Demetrius lying on the floor surrounded by fire. His natural resistance to fire had protected him so far but even that would not allow him to survive much longer. Matron ran in and grabbed his limp form, just hoping that he still lived and jumped through the flames again out the door and onto the stairwell.
She flew down the stairs and heard the children crying as she made it to the ground level. She yelled for the older children to grab the younger ones and take them outside immediately, smiling to herself when she saw that some of them had already done so. She made it outside on adrenaline alone and collapsed onto the broken cobblestones of the streets. She had suffered serious injuries while rescuing Demetrius and finally succumbed to the intensity of her wounds. On the edge of consciousness, she thanked Avandra that it appeared all of her wards were going to make it out in one piece. Somewhere above her a cleric of Avandra was praying for her. She tried to force out some words indicating that he should see to the children first, and she passed out.