Mephistopheles


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Mephistopheles
Quasipower, "Lord of No Mercy"
AoC: Hellfire
Worshippers: evokers, arcane or alchemical experimentalists, disaffected Asmodeus worshippers
AL: LE WAL: LN,LE,N,NE
Symbol: Flame rendered in copper and gold
Home p/l/r: Baator/Cania/Citadel of Mephistar
Allies: Dispater
Enemies: Baalzebul, Bel, Olidammara
Favored Weapon: Ranseur
Domains: Evil, Fire, Law
Subdomains: Baatezu, Hellfire
Known Proxies: None
Mephistopheles
LE Male archdevil
Home: Citadel of Mephistar
Allies: Dispater
Enemies: Baalzebul, Bel, Olidammara
Pathfinder

Holding dominion over the frozen layer of Cania, Mephistopheles has stood as archduke since the dawning days of Baator. As one of the ancient celestials who served under Asmodeus even before the Pact Primeval, his name has ever been carved into the tablets of history, though always in the shadow of his superior.

Appearance

Mephistopheles pays exquisite attention to his presentation as the Noble's Noble. Projecting an air of charm and civility, he embodies the popular conception of the contract-maker: he has the diabolic features mortals and others may expect, such as blood-red skin, prominent horns, and bat-like wings, but his garb is always the finest of silk tailoring, and he is almost never seen without a dramatic cape or cloak about his shoulders, dark as the deepest void, nor his most prominent symbol, his personally-crafted ranseur. Though he stands nine feet tall and as of late is ever cloaked in an aura of hellfire, unlike many baatezu he prefers to ingratiate rather than intimidate. Never showing a bit of anger in public, he holds his notorious temper to private spaces; the cloud of destruction he's been known to leave in his wake in private chambers when things go poorly is an open secret across Baator.

History

Ages thence, Mephistopheles was the second in command of the legion of Asmodeus alongside Dispater, and his most trusted ally in the endless war against Chaos. Always at the side of his brother in arms, even as they increasingly fell to darkness, and even upon his storied exile to the land that would come to be known as Baator. It is said that even in these early days, his interests fell to the arcane, specializing his squadrons of erinyes in the mystical arts to better fight against the powers of the tanar'ri. And when he joined Asmodeus to the Nine Hells, he was granted total dominion over Cania, the Eighth; though second in significance only to Nessus, and though the chokepoint of defense to the realm that would be Asmodeus's own, its frigid nature stirred the first spark of disquiet and bitterness in Mephistopheles's diabolic heart. How dare Asmodeus curse him with a land so harsh and unyielding?

This seeming gift, however, was seen by Mephistopheles as nothing but a curse. Though he took firm grip of Cania, purging those Baatorian settlements that still stood beneath the glaciers, he loathed the land he was tasked with ruling. It was this insult that planted the first seeds of his now-noted desire of unseating Asmodeus and taking the throne of Nessus. A desire that he has ever been open about, even to Asmodeus himself. And yet no action nor censure has ever been levied against Mephistopheles for his open mutiny; despite his goals, after all, he has still followed the word of Asmodeus, still kept at his side, and still protected him from all outside threats as he ever had, for he is no fool. Indeed, his mind is easily the match of Asmodeus's, his plots renown for their complexity and success. Most noted by scholars and studied by lesser baatezu of these is what has come to be known as the Mask of Molikroth.

The Mask of Molikroth

In the decades leading up to the Reckoning, Mephistopheles posed as his own noble vassal, a pit fiend known as Molikroth who began to quickly climb the ladders of presence and respect amongst the nobility of Mephistar. This disguise none knew of but for four of his most trusted underlings: his consort, Baalphegor, for he could not hold such back from his love; the Chamberlain of Mephistar Barbas, for he was sure to identify the ruse otherwise; and his generals Nexroth and Hutijin, for he would never dare disrupt the chain of command to his soldiers within the Blood War upon the realization of his scheme. And when the time came and he sent his armies after Baalzebul, to weaken his greatest rival in preparation for unseating Asmodeus, at the same time now-Baron "Molikroth" went about his court fomenting rebellion against him; an act meant both to prepare for his potential loss, and to discover who amongst his court held the least loyalty towards him.

As he suspected might happen, his primary scheme within the Reckoning failed, his armies turned against him by Asmodeus just as Baalzebul's. But unlike Baalzebul, a coup within his court led by "Baron Molikroth" resulted in his apparent death, with his faux identity taking the title of Archduke in his place. And so as Molikroth, he ruled Cania for decades following, never once the guise suspected by either his co-conspirators or his greatest enemies. Baalzebul himself is said to have courted Molikroth during this time, which if true assuredly brought no end of amusement to Mephistopheles. (Though none have risked asking either party the truth of the rumor.)

And when the identity ran the course of its usefulness, a mere handful of years ago, the facade was revealed, each and every one of Molikroth's original co-conspirators in the coup put to the ranseur for their lack of loyalty and ensuring that any future rebellious attitudes amongst his nobles would be suspect from that day forward. Asmodeus himself is said to have congratulated him for the centuries-long deceit, and the thoroughness of the disguise is still analyzed to this day.

Hellfire

However, in recent years, obsession seems to have taken hold in Mephistopheles. During the waning days of the Molikroth persona, ancient Baatorian texts were discovered by his lead researcher, the pit fiend Quagrem, in the ruins of the city of Kintyre. These texts described early experiments by Baatorian scholars in a new form of flame; one utterly decoupled from the element of fire, but founded purely in the essence of Baator itself. The city, once capital of Cania, was destroyed by Mephistopheles himself before these experiments could bear fruit, but when these notes were discovered, the concept immediately took hold of Mephistopheles's mind.

After abandoning his persona, he personally led efforts to enact these experiments. It was within mere years that he found success: the first manifestation of what he termed "hellfire". A flame made of pure diabolic energy, able to burn even those otherwise immune to fire, for there's no element to be found anywhere in its nature.

While this discovery is certainly significant — even Pearza of the Dark Eight has been seeking opportunity to visit the School of Hellfire and observe research in practice — all agree that the potential applications of this substance have taken far more of Mephistopheles's attention than is perhaps wise. Immediately integrating it into his own spark, his aura of blackened flame is now iconic, and the number of alchemical and arcane devices and spells personally developed by Mephistopheles himself, let alone his researchers, have only grown; the hellfire engine perhaps the most newsworthy, their conflicts against the tanar'ri ships of Chaos more destructive than any conflicts seen since the dawning days of the Blood War. However, these efforts have led to a noted reduction in soul-harvesting over recent years by the baatezu of Cania, as well as discontent amongst them. Even the icy walls of Mephistar have begun to show harm from the hellfire beacons ensconced throughout it, the air thick with a constant fog and many gelugons choosing to exile themselves from a citadel whose environment is increasingly hostile to them.

Between his focus on hellfire and his perhaps overinvestment in his growing cult on the Prime, many wonder if Mephistopheles is overextending himself, reaching beyond even his own impressive grasp. Should his efforts bear fruit, he could indeed pose a threat to Asmodeus, but if not, his downfall is almost assured; and this time, the one to unseat him may not be the result of a scheme.

Military

Two armies find home in Cania: Mephistopheles's personal legions, and the Serpentine Order.

Legions of Mephistopheles

Led by General Nexroth, Mephistopheles's personal legions are largely dominated by gelugons, including the famous 9,999 who guard the only known entryway to the layer of Nessus, though a significant number of malebranche are found among their ranks. However, recent research into hellfire has led to a significant increase in number of non-gelugon soldiers in recent years due to obvious issues with gelugon wielding the substance themselves, to the frustration of the caste that once held exclusive dominion over the layer. Bifrons, leader of the gelugon companies, and Tuncheth, the most decorated gelugon of Mephistopheles's army, have both been quite concerned over this shift, but their efforts towards encouraging Mephistopheles not to neglect the caste that has supported him these many eons have shown little success.

Serpentine Order

Ostensibly under the command of Corin of the Dark Eight with Mephistopheles officially responsible merely for upkeep, the Serpentine Order serves as the intelligence arm of Baator's armies of the Blood War, largely dominated by pit fiends in composition. Any covert duties are handled by this branch, including scouting, infiltration, and assassination, and the skills of its special operatives at posing as tanar'ri without succumbing to chaos are without compare. Of course, its leadership is somewhat questionable; General Hutijin of Cania, a long ally of Mephistopheles, is the direct commander when Corin is otherwise occupied, and any intelligence collected by the Order goes through him, and thus Mephistopheles, first before being passed along to the Dark Eight.

Court of Mephistopheles

Mephistopheles's court is often active, both by locals of Cania or higher seeking audience with either himself or Asmodeus, or members of his own nobility seeking favor or merely basking in power. Closest among his nobility is of course his consort, the Duchess Baalphegor, ever his companion since his dawning days in Baator. She often serves the role of ambassador, her tactical mind and maneuvering of Baatezu politics granting her respect from nearly the entire plane, including Asmodeus himself. Her diplomatic talents exceed even that of her partner, a fact he openly and proudly admits.

Managing his court and household are the steward of Cania, Adonides, and the chamberlain of Mephistar, Barbas, respectively. While Barbas has served since before even the Mask of Molikroth, Adonides was brought into the court only after the previous steward was slain for his aid in the faux coup. Bele, the Justicar of Cania, manages petitions of dispute or claims, passing them along to Mephistopheles only as needed; again a more recent selection, for the previous Justicar was also an ally of "Molikroth", but utterly devout in their duties ever since they were chosen for the role. Most popular in the Court is Antilia, a half-elven alu-fiend bard who fills the halls with song between meetings or discussion; often of praise for her master, yet despite the repetitive subject matter, it never fails to delight.

The nobility as a whole was well-devastated following the removal of the Mask, with well over half of Cania's nobility slain for supporting Molikroth. However, a few noted pit fiends from before the ruse — all of whom were allies of Baalphegor in her "government-in-exile" — have returned happily to the Court following, most prominently Buldumech, Guland, Silcharde, and Sphandor.

Cult

The Cult of Mephistopheles is a fairly recent development. Previously, Mephistopheles's efforts in growing worship on the Prime were largely limited to aiding the Cult of Asmodeus in growth, to the point where many mortals confuse the two baatezu even today (a fact that brings him no end of ire). However, upon discovering hellfire, it wasn't long before he realized its potential not just as a tool, but as a means by which he could establish his own base of worship.

His cult thus varies from most other diabolic cults in a number of key ways. First, a lesson learned in aiding the growth of the Cult of Asmodeus: rather than usher those who convert to his name on to their end before they can recant, he instead encourages them to spread word of his name, not just aiding through word of mouth but providing a reputation of being on the "kinder" side of such religions. His own cult is much more open than many, allowing in those disaffected by the more prominent Asmodean cult, and even holding some members with no interest in collecting souls for Cania, but purely in arcane or alchemical research.

Second, his initiates are granted the ability to conjure hellfire almost immediately. Understanding the appeal, he views offering such spells so early in an initiate's career a means by which to encourage greater worship; a gift to the loyal rather than a promise of later reward. And this does seem to be paying off, with great numbers of followers wielding dark flames drawing even more eyes.

However, this is paying a price: between the energies needed to grant hellfire conjuration, the slower collection of souls, and the lighter enforcement of worship rituals often needed by early cults to sustain their patron, Mephistopheles seems to be expending far more divine energy than he is collecting in hopes to recoup this in the future. Indeed, rumors have spread that he's been forced to request a loan of energy from the divine wellsprings of Dispater and Levistus merely to keep his cult operating; whether he'll be able to maintain this or collapse under his own weight is still a question on the minds of many diabolic scholars.

Temples of the cult are noted for their dark, fiery aesthetics, including pits of flames set to flare up at opportune or dramatically appropriate times as needed. Despite the broader membership of the laity, the innermost core of the cult does indulge in sacrifices to Mephistopheles as any other diabolic cult; its victims are bound to altars of black basalt and burned alive with hellfire, the act consecrated to the Lord of Cania.

References

  • Book of Vile Darkness, pgs.62-63,143,146,149,158,161-164
  • Dragon #76 - The Nine Hells, Part II, pgs.26,28-31
  • Faces of Evil: The Fiends, pg.32
  • Fiendish Codex II: Tyrants of the Nine Hells, pgs.5,28,36,38,41,65,69-70,81,119-120,143,145,153-155
  • Manual of the Planes (3e), p.122
  • Planes of Law: Baator, pgs.13,24-25
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