More lore for Darkest Nights. Or rather, filling out the bestiary. This time it’s about some of the lesser forms that demons can take.
Demons are outsiders to the mortal realm, having never been born or lived. Some say that they are souls judged as unfit to even become human, and when compared to some of the evil human scum that exists, one can draw a conclusion about their character. They are a nasty bunch, the lot of them. Scheming, twisted, and delusional. Oftentimes they embody one or more of the cardinal sins, and these have most likely been drawn from the demons rather than the other way around. However, many demons have been driven partially or entirely mad by centuries or even millenia of torment, as they live in a torturous realm. This is called the nether by scholars , and by priests it’s Hell. It is the Abyss.
But now, it’s time for some actual examples of demons. When they enter the mortal plane they can take many forms, depending on their personality, power, and circumstance. Most lesser demons are, if not harmless, not entirely out of regular people’s league. A group of soldiers properly equipped could handle a single lesser demon without too much trouble. But in addition to greater physical capabilities, a demon also has other, stranger abilities. Those are the ones you really need to look out for.
Lesser demons are on the whole a fearful bunch. If they actually manage to make it onto the material plane they tend to not want to risk returning to the nether. They wish to carefully gather spirit essence to grow stronger, and eventually ascend to a greater demon. This almost never happens. They need for a large amount of power gained while in the mortal world, coupled with their weakness lets few reach their goal quickly. And if they fall back into the Abyss billions of other hungry demons all wish to steal their hard-earned energy. Demons are both greedy and jealous.
Imp, or Homunculus
If a lesser demon is directly summoned from the nether, this is the form it most often takes. One needs a pile of fresh meat, some clay, and human blood; this is what makes up the demon’s body. It creates a malformed humanoid creature, small and gangly. Its thin limbs seem to bend unnaturally, and unless covered in lots of clothing the thing is unmistakably inhuman. If you conceal it in wide garments, and most importantly, make it wear a hood, it could pass as a child at a glance. However, a single good look at the head reveals it. It’s a faceless globe, only split by a wide mouth full of sharp teeth.
Imps are often obedient, as their summoner can cancel their already short existence in the material plane. The body usually collapses within a month or two, but with proper rituals the respite can be extended to last exactly one year and one day. They have little to no supernatural capabilities except an extreme resistance to dying. Their thin flesh and bones seems unusually resilient, and they just don’t seem to die unless chopped to bits.
Manikins are humans with a lesser demon latched on to them. If the demon wishes it can suck them dry on life force, leaving them dying in a violent fit. This, however, isn’t usually the case, as the demon would lose its grip on the real world and fall back into hell, unless it somehow acquired enough power to possess another victim. Thus, most manikins’ physical condition is unchanged, if not bettered. The demon slowly influences the host, whispering in the night and prodding it to action. Step by step, as more cruel acts are committed, the demon can merge with the host completely, and acquire its soul.
Manikins seem just like regular people at a glance, but at closer inspection they are somewhat discomforting. Maybe the eyes are too wide apart, or those shoulders are just too broad. Maybe the manikin’s steps as he follows you are just too fast compared to how long his legs are. Some things are just wrong. Not by much, but it’s enough. Apart from these distortions they have some minor powers. Even more than homunculi, they are too strong for their size, and as many of them are large to begin with this gets dangerous. They also heal very quickly, recovering from mortal wounds in only a few days, and their sharp senses work well in the night. They are hard to sneak up to, unless they are distracted by pleasing activity, whatever it may be.
The process of creating manikins are much more obscure than that of imps. One needs at least two living humans, a sacrifice and a host, as well as some kind of cursed item. After that follows rituals concluded by making a mark somewhere on the host to bind the demon. The mark is permanent and noticable, but will fade to a scar if the demon is somehow removed or destroyed.
An unimaginative but informative name explains a lot. This kind of demon violently murders as much as it can. In many ways it’s like a manikin, but one that has lost control. They cannot bear sunlight, and it weighs them down tremendously. They will die quickly if caught out, and as such they hide deep inside during the day. This is the only thing they fear, and otherwise they gladly charge straight into certain death, flailing whatever weapon at hand. They are all huge and muscular, outsizing even the tallest men. They are incredibly strong, and will fight until literally hacked into a bloody paste. They won’t heal naturally, but recover with each victim it kills, causing a wounded one to go on an even worse rampage.
Often these don’t last too long as whatever local military exists is roused, and the monster is utterly destroyed, but there are exceptions. Sometimes, another demon or powerful occultist can restrain the demon’s fury, forcing on it a metaphysical leash. As long as they either let or order it to kill regularly the leash will hold as well as the owner’s willpower, but if held back too long it becomes impossible to control. It goes berserk on a unimagingable scale, until it breaks apart due to the violent strain.
Slaughter demons are created from manikins who have another demon bound to them, if this demon is a mad one. And there’s no lack of those. The ritual is even rarer than the one for manikins, and includes multiple sacrifices and torture of the host.