Metamorphosis: From Dretch to Demon Lord - Ascension Released!

BLACKDIRGE

Adventurer
Ok, here it is the next NPC profile. For my regular readers, things will be a little different this time. The body of the story will be posted here in the story hour forum, while the stats for each stage in the NPCs life will appear in the rogue’s gallery. For those of you haven’t read my work before check out the rogue’s gallery, it’s full of it.

What follows is the story of Hazergal, who will eventually become the demon lord, Hazag. Hazergal was a powerful human mage who ruled a vast stretch of the area known as Vaasa on the continent of Fearun, on the prime material world of Toril. After decades of evil conquest Hazergal was slain by an earth mephit warrior named Nithrekel, whom the powerful wizard had bound as a servant. Hazergal’s death was the true beginning of his journey to power, as he became a dretch demon and there slowly climbed the ranks of demonic status, eventually claiming the title of demon lord and becoming a unique and terrible new power in the abyss.

For more information on Hazergal as a human mage and especially Nithrekel, see the following thread:

http://enworld.cyberstreet.com/showthread.php?s=&threadid=33823

Thanks for reading.
 
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BLACKDIRGE

Adventurer
Damnation: Part I

Death was not at all what Hazergal expected. It came too soon and was in all ways an altogether unpleasant experience. The pain of death was only fleeting; the faint images of his last seconds were faint shadows of sound and light that nonetheless left an indelible impression on his mind and soul. He remembered Nithrekel standing above him; the mephit wore a look of cold and certain hatred as he raised his sword above his head. The discordant hum of the sword descending through the air was maddeningly slow to Hazergal and the bright explosion of pain as the blade cleaved his skull was the only sound in his rapidly dwindling universe. The last sensation remembered from his mortal life was the lingering taste of steel as the traitorous mephit's blade passed through his mouth as it split his head in twain.

The arch-wizard that had terrorized the lands around Vassa for nearly a century was no more. All the power and influence he had painstakingly built over the years was destroyed with a single stroke of a traitor’s sword. The light and sound of life was replaced by the swallowing emptiness of a lightless void and Hazergal was thrust senseless into a limitless gulf of indelible night. As he drifted in a near mindless state he clung to the one thing in his mortal life that still mattered, hatred. Hatred for the traitorous earth mephit, Nithrekel, whom Hazergal had raised from a lowly servant to a powerful war captain. For all the gifts and prestige bestowed upon him, Nithrekel had repaid these kindnesses with treachery and death. The mephit had been bound through a planar binding spell and should have been unable to harm his master, but he had found a way. The traitorous mephit had forged an alliance with Hazergal’s hated rival, a powerful sorcerer named Sheveker. Sheveker and given Nithrekel the means to break the enchantment placed upon him and in addition render Hazergal powerless for a fraction of an instant, more than enough time to commit his foul murder.

Images of Nithrekel danced before him as Hazergal descended through the fathomless depths of an eternal darkness, kindling a tiny flame of hatred until it blazed bright within him. Plummeting blind and deaf through the void, Hazergal felt the reaching tendrils of darkness lash out at him, attempting to scour his soul clean of memories and power. The arch-mage railed against this theft, rallying around the bright spot of seething hatred he carried within him like a beacon through the fog of a moonless night. Tenacious to the last, Hazergal clung to his memories, fanning the flames of his madness with images of retribution on the architect of his destruction. The stoic face of Nithrekel floated within the arch-mage’s mind and he fastened onto it like a drowning man clings to bit of driftwood on a stormy sea. And slowly the darkness receded and Hazergal once again found his senses; sight, hearing, taste, touch and smell were all restored to him as the void that had held him for what seemed an eternity, gave way to dim gray light.

Spatial orientation could now be discerned as well, and Hazergal saw that he was slowly falling, sinking softly towards a flat featureless plane that stretched off into perpetuity. Below him as he drifted closer to the ground he could see throngs of humanoids and other not so identifiable beings huddled together in tight masses. From these groups voices drifted up to the falling arch-mage, voices crying out in a thousand different tongues. Hazergal strained his ears to make out words from this vast chorus and instantly he knew where he was. Prayers and pleadings echoed throughout Hazergal’s mind. Here an invocation to Tyr, lord of justice, burst from the lungs of a large bearded man and there a blasphemous slur of cryptic fawning meant for the ears of Cyric, god of lies and murder, slipped from the lips of a small swarthy half-elf, scarred and wretched.

Suddenly Hazergal’s feet touched the hard packed gray earth and he stood alone among a countless throng of creatures all screaming, crying and howling paeans of worship to their patron deity. Through his long study of obscure lore Hazergal knew this place, it was known as the Fugue plane, a gateway and waiting place for the dead of Faerun. The dead were known as petitioners, and all memory had been erased from their minds save for their singular devotion to their chosen god. Naked and appearing much as they did in life, these petitioners were the basic building blocks for all extraplanar life. Their malleable forms ready to be transformed into whatever type of being their god desired. Archons and other celestials were the reward for the faithful of goodly deities while fiendish power awaited the loyal followers of the god’s of evil. A third class of petitioner also existed, those known as the faithless, and it was under this label that Hazergal found himself.

Devotion to the gods was an integral part of Faerunian society; the gods offered power, protection and the promise of life eternal. Nearly all beings that lived upon the face of Toril took a patron deity, from the greatest of human kings to the lowest scullery maid, good and evil, rich and poor, all venerated the gods and were rewarded. But, the few who took no patron god, through choice or happenstance, gambled with their eternal existence. Those that died without the blessing of a Faerunian deity became the faithless, lost souls that no god could rightfully claim. These hapless beings wandered the Fugue plane, shunned by other petitioners who instinctually recognized their horrid plight. Most faithless were nearly mindless, similar to their more devout brethren but Hazergal was different. The arch-mage’s considerable power and the circumstances of his death had granted him a singular focus that not even the dark mind-scraping emptiness of the void could overcome. Hazergal had arrived on the Fugue plane in possession of all of his mental faculties and burdened with the terrible knowledge that he was near powerless and alone.

Throughout his long rise to power, Hazergal had relied upon no one but himself. From the decrepit slums of Waterdeep where, as an orphan, he had survived by thievery and even murder, he trusted nothing but his wits and a steely confidence in his own abilities. When he had claimed a position as an apprentice to a notable mage, by killing and assuming the identity of the boy the mage had actually chosen, it was his hand that struck the killing blow. And years later as the old mage that had served as Hazergal’s mentor and teacher for over a decade died screaming in a magical conflagration started by his own apprentice, he called out to his god, but died regardless. Hazergal had not required the guidance of a deity to build an empire upon a barren plane of rock and scrub and eventually become one of the most powerful mages in all of Faerun, all this was done by the arch-mage’s own steady and confident hand. Not once had Hazergal let the words of prayer or devotion pass his lips, in all his long ascent from street urchin to arch-mage he had counted solely on his own resolve to see him through difficult situations, and they always had. No, Hazergal had never had any use for gods or their blessings.

Now that canny self-reliance that had served Hazergal so well in the past, worked feverishly to make the best of an impossible situation. Hazergal decided to explore a bit and gain a better perspective of his surroundings and so slowly navigated through the clumps of petitioners, keeping to the outskirts of the large groups and trying to remain as inconspicuous as possible. As Hazergal wandered he was treated to the awe-inspiring appearance of several deities as they collected their faithful and carried them off to receive their eternal reward. Each god or goddess had his or her own style of entrance, varying from the grandiose to the uninspired. Tempus, lord of battles, appeared fully armored in black, scarred plate mail in a cacophonous burst of steel clashing on steel. The Foehammer rode upon a blood red stallion that pulled a mammoth warsled that the god’s faithful eagerly climbed aboard. In contrast, Ilmater, god of virtuous suffering, appeared silently amid his followers, smiling and gentle. He would bid his followers to huddle around him and link hands and then the whole group, god and his faithful, would fade quietly from view.

The plane stretched on infinitely and Hazergal walked among the seething throngs of mortal petitioners for hour upon hour. His body, now composed of little more than tangible ether, required neither rest or nourishment and his staggering intellect was allowed to work unhindered by the physical limitations of the flesh. Hazergal racked his brain for everything he knew about the Fugue plane and its inhabitants. Unfortunately the information he had gleaned from years of study was less than helpful. Nothing existed in the dim gray expanse but petitioners; the plane was kept clear by an edict handed down by Kelemvor, the god of the dead. Although Kelemvor allowed no permanent inhabitants upon the Fugue plane, the occasional interloping fiend had been known to snatch a petitioner from time to time and drag them off to the lower planes. What the fiends did with these souls was unknown, but it was likely unpleasant in the extreme. Hazergal, who had summoned many a demon in his long career as an arch-mage, had no desire to meet any of the nefarious beings here.

As he wandered Hazergal occasionally attempted to speak with a group of petitioners but was met with the same reaction every time. Even before he could open his mouth to speak the group or individual he hoped to address would scuttle away from him, their eyes wide with fear and loathing. Hazergal was puzzled as to what they were so afraid of. Perhaps they feared his status as faithless as if his lack of devotion might taint their own souls. Regardless, he soon tired of the near mindless petitioners and sat down a good distance away from the huddled groups and put his formidable mind to work.

Hazergal mentally examined his options, which were few to say the least. Although he had been a powerful mage in life his transition into death had robbed him of much of his ability. He was no mindless petitioner but he knew that he was but a shadow of his former self, lacking the means to escape the Fugue plane or even defend himself properly if attacked.

Hazergal sat silent and lamented for his situation, for he saw no avenue of escape from his plight. The arch-mage’s thoughts turned once again to Nithrekel, and rage seethed within him. Not only had the mephit reduced all he had created to naught in a single instant but it seemed he had also doomed Hazergal to a dreary existence of perpetual boredom alone on the Fugue plane. Lost in terrible fantasies that featured Nithrekel dying in various slow and painful ways, Hazergal almost failed to notice the commotion stirring in the large group of petitioners some one hundred yards away from his seated form.

Cries of abject terror erupted from the tangled mass of petitioners as something large made its way through the cowering wall of naked flesh. Hazergal leapt to his feet and watched with growing horror as the bulky, scaled form of near perfect terror stalked from the throng of petitioners and into plain view. The creature was twelve feet of sinewy muscle wrapped in burnished iron hard scales complete with two immense bat-like wings and crowned with a head that was the birthing ground of nightmares. It was naked save for a kilt of beaten brass around its hips from which hung a cruel jagged edged sword that glittered foully in the dim gray light of the Fugue plane.

“A balor!” Hazergal’s mind howled in terror. Demons of the highest magnitude, balors were malice given form and were one of the most feared creatures in all of the lower planes. Hazergal had encountered the beasts before, typically when he summoned them to serve his bidding. Only once in his mortal life had he ever fought one, when a sorcerous rival sent one of the savage creatures against him. Hazergal had managed to slay the demon, but had nearly been killed in the process. He knew with utmost certainty that he had no chance of defeating a monster such as this in his weakened state.

The petitioners had fled the area around the balor and the huge demon seemed to pay them no mind as he scanned the barren landscape with his piercing hellish gaze. Hazergal stood alone not more than three hundred feet from the demon, as conspicuous as a blooming flower in the desert. Realizing his peril Hazergal turned to flee, but in his haste his feet became tangled and he fell to the earth with a muffled grunt. The demon’s massive head whipped around at the sound of Hazergal crashing to the ground and its gleaming red gaze fell upon him.

“There!” The Balor bellowed. “That one!” The demon punctuated his outburst by pointing an outstretched arm in Hazergal’s direction. A high piercing screech from the west answered the Balor’s condemnation and the shouts of more terrified petitioners rose up soon after.

Hazergal had regained his feet and was sprinting at a full tilt away from the Balor, it did not give chase but from behind him he could hear the frenzied beating of massive feathered wings. Hazergal dared a glance back over his shoulder as he ran and saw two dark shapes knifing through the air towards him. Two vulture-like demons, Hazergal knew them as Vrocks, were bearing down on him, talons outstretched to snatch up the fleeing prey. Hazergal was all too familiar with this type of demon as well, and knew they were well known for the cruelty and savage inclinations, even among other demons.

Panic gripped Hazergal, for he could not outrun the demons and he was completely defenseless without the magic that had served him in life. The void has scrubbed every spell from his mind and without a spellbook he was incapable of preparing anymore. But still, his panicked mind groped desperately for the words of arcane might that would unleash a torrent of magical death on his foes, and much to his surprise and relief, he found them.

A spell sprang into Hazergal’s mind, one that he was quite fond of, and he skidded to a halt to turn and face the onrushing demons. Hazergal’s voice smote the air with magical words of power as he pointed an outstretched hand at the lead vrock. A shuddering line of concussive force burst from Hazergal and struck the lead vrock squarely as it dove towards him. The demons flesh was shredded by the spells destructive energy and it crashed to the ground in a quivering heap of pulped blood and feathers a scant ten feet from Hazergal.

The second vrock wheeled away and fled towards the Balor who stood screaming in incoherent rage at Hazergal and the remaining vrock. Hazergal wasted no time in congratulating himself and sprinted off again. He was unsure how he had been able to cast a spell without preparation but at this point it mattered little. Hazergal heard the great wings of the Balor stir the air as it took flight in pursuit.

The balor was upon him in seconds, it flew over his head and landed in front of him with a great fluttering of its mammoth wings. Hazergal again halted his forward progress and another spell flowed into his mind with almost casual ease. Hazergal pointed his index finger at the balor and five globes of magical force flew from his outstretched digit to strike the towering demon with unerring accuracy.

The huge demon stumbled back with the impact of the magical darts, but seemed mostly uninjured. It let loose a howl of rage and snatched the huge curved sword from its kilt and lumbered forward. Again Hazergal turned to run, but found his escape cut off by the other vrock who had crept silently up behind him while he dealt with the balor.

Another spell sprang to his lips, but the vrock was too close and it lashed out with a taloned foot, clubbing Hazergal on the left side of his head and sending him senseless to the ground. The vrock leapt upon him and Hazergal felt its wicked claws sink into his flesh. Could he even be killed in this transitive state? He wondered. He was spared the opportunity to find out by the harsh booming voice of the balor.

“Don’t destroy it, you fool!” the huge demon bellowed at its companion. “That’s the only faithless we’ve found on this entire miserable trip.”

Hazergal felt the vrock’s claws recede and the pressure of its body lessen. “Put the collar on it before it can get off another spell.” The balor commanded. And that’s just what Hazergal attempted to do but the arcane words died on his lips as he felt the cool touch of metal on his neck as an iron color was locked about his throat. All strength fled his body immediately and even the power to speak was entirely beyond him.
“There! You little blighter! Gave us quite a run for it didn’t you.” Hazergal heard the vrock crow mockingly down at him. He lay face down on the hard packed earth, unable to move. He understood the two demons as they spoke, for the tongue of the abyss, which they conversed in, was well known to him.

“I didn’t think they could do that.” The vrock said wonderingly. “They usually just stand there senseless while we scoop em’ up. He sure did for Drezekar, didn’t he?”

Hazergal felt the heat of the balor’s body as it bent down over his prostrate form. A rough taloned hand grabbed him by the back of the neck and hauled him bodily from the ground. The Balor held him at eye level, its piercing red orbs burrowing into him as it turned him this way and that, finally satisfied, it dropped Hazergal to the ground where he lay in an immobile heap.

“No, they can’t do that. At least not any that I’ve ever seen could.” The balor said to his vrock underling. “He is faithless, though. The mark of the undevoted is upon him, pick him up we shall take him with us.” Hazergal was once again lifted from the ground as the vrock slung him over his shoulder as the two demons began to move.

“We will take this faithless to Pyrak.” The balor said as the two demons made their way unchallenged through the throngs of petitioners. “Perhaps he can divine why this faithless is different from the rest.”

“Maybe the night hag’s will pay more for this one, Hedranatherax. We could split the share that Drezekar would have gotten” The vrock cawed hopefully.

The vrock’s words sent chills down Hazergal’s spine. His memories, which were largely intact, told him that night hags often transformed petitioners into vile worm-like creatures called larva. These larvas were used as living currency among the denizens of the lower plane, their life energies used to power magical devices or simply consumed by hungry demons. Hazergal’s mind quailed in terror, but he was helpless to resist, the iron collar about his neck held him in complete impotence.

“Silence, fool!” the balor barked at the vrock. “You will get your share and only that, I will take Drezekar’s share.”

This sparked a fierce argument between the two demons as they walked, their words becoming more an more violent until finally the debate over who would receive the slain vrock’s share was decided by the balor’s sword. Hazergal felt his body once again tumble to the ground as Hedranatherax’s blade removed the vrock's head and it lost its grip on the wizard’s limp form in its death throes.

“Now all shares are mine” the balor chuckled to itself as it scooped up Hazergal. The demon walked on for what seemed like hours until finally, ahead glittering in the Fugue Plane’s perpetual gloom, a glowing window of magical energy hung suspended in mid air. Hazergal could see the portal as his lolling head bouncing against the demon’s shoulder and he knew his doom was sealed. The massive balor moved towards the egress that certainly led to the abyss and Hazergal resigned himself to damnation.
 
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Nifft

Penguin Herder
As usual, great! I think you should get a contract from WotC to populate Faerun -- your characters seem to tie in to each other's stories better than most of theirs.

-- Nifft
 

pogre

Legend
So glad you chose to post this in the Story Hour section! I do not spend much time in the Rogue's Gallery, but that is about to change. I look forward to your next installment.
 

Thomas Hobbes

First Post
Well done as always, Blackdirge. :D I don't remember though, and a quick search of the thread revealed nothing- did we ever get Hazergal's mortal stats?
 

BLACKDIRGE

Adventurer
Thomas Hobbes said:
Well done as always, Blackdirge. :D I don't remember though, and a quick search of the thread revealed nothing- did we ever get Hazergal's mortal stats?

Nope. Never got around to it, but I am working on them now. I will post them in the rogues gallery in the next couple of days.

Thanks for reading, and making the journey over here to the story hour forum.

Dirge
 

Grim

First Post
Wow... this is already looking good, Dirge. As a devoted fan, I gotta say... Go You!

As a little aside, the most recent of your classic monsters (Or, second most recent, i guess), the one where you said "this will be the lowest CR monster here", inspired me to write up a bunch of low CR monsters.

Well, I've been meaning to do so for a while, but now that school's out for summer, I have plenty of time to both work for money to buy books (most recently savage species and the latest dungeon), and to stat up monsters, and I've gotten pretty good at it.

But I have two questions for you:

One: How do you backwards engineer skills? I cant for the life of me figure out how WotC comes up with its numbers, especially for the climb and swim skill.

Two: Do you have any tips for writing up backgrounds for templated monsters. Because I can't really think up any beyond "Funky magic made this", "funky evolution made this", "funky circumstances made this", or "no one knows."

Well... i'll be posting some of my monsters in the Rogues Gallery soon enough.

Your fan,
Grim.
 

arbados

Explorer
Hey Blackdirge I have never checked out the story hour before and decided to just take a look. I started to read this post and said "WOW"!

It is truly awesome and I do alot of fantasy reading. While reading it I felt I was reading the history of an npc which exists in the game I run. Of course he had no history in such splendid detail. I got a real feel for the arch-mage and am really on edge waiting to see the next installment.

Keep up the great work. You have just added another fan to your storyhour!!! ;)
 

BLACKDIRGE

Adventurer
arbados said:
Hey Blackdirge I have never checked out the story hour before and decided to just take a look. I started to read this post and said "WOW"!

It is truly awesome and I do alot of fantasy reading. While reading it I felt I was reading the history of an npc which exists in the game I run. Of course he had no history in such splendid detail. I got a real feel for the arch-mage and am really on edge waiting to see the next installment.

Keep up the great work. You have just added another fan to your storyhour!!! ;)

Thank you kindly.

I am always grateful for the praise and support the Enworld community extends to its fledgling authors, I know it has been a big boost to my confidence as a writer.

If you would like to read any of my other work check out the rogues gallery for my other NPC threads.

Thanks again for the kind words. :)

Dirge
 
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