Demons are evil, supernatural beings of intelligence, wit, and immense power. They do not normally interact with living creatures except to torment and kill them, and even when bound by a wizard, they are not easily led to divulge their secrets. For that reason, much of what we know about them is based on conjecture.
Demons are humanoid creatures. They are generally bulky and extremely muscular. The most powerful demons achieve truly gigantic proportions, rising up to heights of twenty feet or more. Some demons may be winged, and some may be in a constant state of immolation, surrounded by biting flames. Most have red skin.
Although most demons appear to have masculine features and many refer to themselves with masculine pronouns, there is no reason to suspect demons of having any real gender. Certainly, they do not mate or reproduce in the manner of living things.
Physical and magical traits
Demons have strength and speed surpassing that of any normal humanoid. Magic courses through every part of their body, and they are extremely resistant to almost all magical attacks. Because their nature is magical and not natural, they do not age.
In addition to having a potent command of fire and a natural affinity for magery, some demons possess the curious ability to freeze their victims in stasis.
As with undead, their physical form can be savagely disrupted by blasts of holy energy. However, the power that allows them to function as if they were a living being is far more complex than mere animation. Destroying the body of a greater demon may succeed only in temporarily banishing the creature, rather than actually destroying it.
Nobody knows where demons originate. Poets have imagined demon realms on planes far removed from our own, or simply deep beneath the earth. Since the discovery of Exile, the latter theory has gained plausibility. Demons favor the hottest environments and are not troubled by darkness. For this reason, there are many more found underground than on the surface.
There are two great centers of demonic activity in Exile: the sulfurous flats south of the Honeycomb, where the demon fortress of Akhronath was built, and the volcanic lands north of the Abyss, where Grah-Hoth made his second stand against the Kingdom of Avernum. Even so, scholars are in disagreement whether or not these underground lands are truly where the demons originate from.
Most demons show no signs of having any kind of personal life. Even the magi who spend their lives consorting with the creatures never speak of them as anything but supernatural servants or adversaries. However, rumors such as the story of Sastor's Dome suggest that hidden colonies of lesser demons might exist, where imps take on domestic and occupational roles. Furthermore, individual demons are often worshipped by tribes of evil creatures such as goblins and nepharim. Although they presumably have no need for mortal sacrifices, demons seem to welcome this attention.
Demons are vengeful creatures by nature, and they react with hostility when their shrines or belongings are destroyed by interlopers. Once wronged, they will stop at nothing to get back at those who wronged them -- even if it means helping the same living creatures they are normally so fond of killing.
Types of demons
There are three major tiers of demonic races, each of the greater two in command of the tier below it.
- Imps and their cousins the hordlings are the smallest and lowliest demons. They are the servants and footsoldiers of demonkind. Their schemes are small and petty.
- Full demons are the captains and thinkers who prevent the imp hordes from dissolving into chaos. One notable variety of full demon is the rare and mysterious mung demon. These large, mute demons radiate an aura of anti-magic, making them immune to most magical effects. Mung demons are named for the slimy mung that covers them, which can poison those the demons strike.
- Haakai are the most powerful demons. They have dominion over all the other demons and employ many to serve them. The greatest of the haakai are called haakai lords. They command magical forces beyond those of the greatest humanoid archmagi.
Demon names tend to be taken from ancient tongues lost to civilization, in many cases no doubt because the demons outlived the languages. See List of demon names.
Summoning and binding
Demonology is strictly forbidden by both the Empire and the Kingdom of Avernum. Despite these bans, there are few mages indeed who do not acquire experience with demons, either in binding them, in defending against them, or sometimes both.
Many mages are able to manipulate demons to their advantage. Spells exist which allow a mage to call forth a demon from unknown realms, bound as a servant. Such summonings are generally of very limited duration, but with proper preparation, including a pentagram and warding runes, a demon may be bound indefinitely.
If the mage is strong and the demon is weak, it may be coerced into serving the mage for some time. However, controlling demons is immensely mentally draining, and the stronger the demon, the greater the chance that the demon will break the mage's will and attempt to kill its master. For this reason, few mages dare to summon powerful demons, and those that do usually prepare special holding cells, which they reinforce with magic barriers.
The greatest archmagi have been known to achieve special pacts with demonkind. In return for favors and for pieces of their own life essence, Garzahd and Rentar-Ihrno were granted the allegiance of hordes of demons, as well as vast demonic powers of their own. Unsurprisingly, such contracts come at great price, and are disastrous for those of lesser skill. Sanity waned in the later days of both wizards. And infamously, Linda was driven to madness by the demons Adze and Grah-Hoth, whom she summoned, but failed to control. The Tower of Magi disaster this led to stands today as a warning to all wizards who would dip their hands into such dark waters.