Here is where I show how deep the nerd vein runs. This is from a campaign in a D&D homebrew module called “Midgard” that a friend of mine is running. Apollyon is a tiefling bard who has shaky morals to begin with and has known for a while that his father is a devil, although he has never met him. Tonight is the first time he met his father, who wants to make a deal with him.
It’s just something I threw together with sparse editing or flavoring to help my GM (game master) understand why my bard character is suddenly a Hexblade Warlock. So reader beware: this is incredibly nerdy and is high fantasy. Results may vary. Don’t operate heavy machinery while reading.
Thanks to a long series of events, Apollyon the bard and his party ended up being the saviors of the free city of Zobeck from Morgau’s undead invasion force. His name became known throughout the land and for a few weeks, he basked in the limelight. This did him no good since he had a tendency towards arrogance.
On the fourth night after a large feast in his and his friends’ honor, he came back to his room at the city castle. When he was getting ready for bed, a devil appeared suddenly into Apollyon’s bedroom. He was over eight feet tall with blue skin and broad, black-feathered wings, and wore a black tunic that was made of some unidentifiable cloth. He was intimidating, yet his face was kindly, sympathetic, and eerily handsome.
Apollyon drew his sword and looked around the room for his violin, which served as the focus of his spells. “Leave or I will kill you.”
“That is not necessary, Apollyon. You wouldn’t be able to hurt if you tried, and I come to you with only good will.”
“State your business and get out,” Apollyon growled.
“Look at you,” the devil said appraisingly. “You really believe you could harm me! You are becoming a power.”
“Is that why you’ve come to me? Empty flattery? Before, I was beneath notice? I have no need of a devil.”
“Before, you were merely an entertainer, albeit a pretty good one at that,” the devil said.
“A great one!” Apollyon interrupted.
“You were never in need of help because you were just another bard. Now, your need is dire, and I can help you. I am Choronzon of the deepest, and I am your father” He bowed deeply.
Apollyon smirked. “I have heard of you. Kemrath warned me about you. She said ‘never trust devils.'”
“And is your mother so trustworthy?” Choronzon asked.
Apollyon laughed. “You can depend on her to complete her duties obsessively and nothing more. There is a reason why I only trust myself, and that only barely.”
“Good child,” Choronzon smiled. “I am proud of you.”
“Considering the owner of that pride, I cannot help being underwhelmed.”
“Do not disrespect me,” Choronzon growled. “I do not give compliments easily.”
“Then go give them to someone else who will appreciate them,” Apollyon said.
Choronzon smiled. “You argue like a devil. I like that. I have come to help.”
“Do you think I, a great bard, have never heard of deals with the devil and how they always end?”
“I did not come here to bargain with you,” Chononzon said. “I have not come as a tempter. I have come as a father.”
“Oh,” Apollyon said mockingly. “And at last you feel the press of your fatherly duties! How nice.”
“Perhaps I do or don’t,” Choronzon said, shrugging. “But it is no matter. You are in grave danger.”
“I would think that my accomplishments prove that I am equal to any danger.”
Choronzon laughed. “So arrogant,” he said. “So much like your mother.”
“I am NOTHING like my mother,” Apollyon growled.
“That is just what she would say,” Choronzon said. “But no matter. I have come to warn and help you, child. Whether you will accept or not is the difference between salvation or your doom.”
“So, warn me and leave.”
Choronzon sighed and sat down, the chair creaking under him. As he sat, his wings disappeared into his back and he shrank down to the size of an average person. “You have indeed become known,” he said, “and not just in Zobeck. Your name has traveled to Morgau.”
Apollyon sat down on the edge of his bed. “Morgau?”
“Do you think Zobeck has no Morgau sympathizers here? Your dhampir friend might be one.”
“I am certain he isn’t,” Apollyon said.
“No matter. There are enemies here who have spread your name to Morgau. Their leaders are immortal and they a NOT forgetful. They cannot strike at you now, but they think in decades. And you… you are just a bard.”
“A powerful bard! I can turn people’s minds against them, make them attack their friends, break their hearts until they want to die.”
Choronzon smiled. “Do you think they don’t know that by now? Do you think they haven’t asked witnesses about what you can do? They have people who are immune to tricks of the mind. They will come, they will find you, and they will take you. You and your friends. And what will you do? Play the fiddle at them? Sing? You are powerless against them.”
Apollyon looked away, considering the truth of this. ”I have my friends.”
Choronzon laughed. “You are leaning on a stick that will break and pierce your hand. You know for a fact that the only one you can depend on is yourself.”
“Perhaps, or perhaps not.”
Choronzon shrugged. “Misplaced faith aside, you are not equal to your fame. You are not powerful enough. But I can make you powerful enough.”
“Here it comes,” Apollyon smiled.
“Make a pact with me, son. I can give you the power to resist them. I can give you the power to triumph. Only I can give you the power to become the lord you’re meant to be.”
“And only you can exact payment at the end and drag my soul to the nine hells. No thank you.” Apollyon said.
“I ask for so little and am prepared to give so much.”
“Your advice is to flee from the undead into the safety of a fiend. I don’t see a profit in this.”
“You don’t see the power,” Choronzon pleaded. “Only I can save you!”
“And then damn me after, father.”
Choronzon leaned back. “I would never… not to my own son.”
“Filial duty doesn’t become you,” Apollyon said. “Talk to me honestly. Or as honestly as your kind can.”
“I am as honest as I can be. You are becoming a power, but you are not one yet. It would be best for Morgau to kill you now rather than wait for your power to grow. I can help.”
“And how would you help without me making a pact with you? Because I will never do that, father.”
Choronzon leaned forward and thought. “You will not make a deal with me, but perhaps you can make a deal without me. I can still help you without your soul being sold in the bargain. I know powers of the shadow realm. We are aligned with each other, but not of the same kin. You can fight the shadow with shadow.”
“So what monster are you going to deliver me up to now,” Apollyon smiled.
“No monster and your soul will be safe. But it does require sacrifice. Any power like this does.”
“And here it comes. Devils always demand a price.”
“This is not a price that I collect. This is the shadow realm we are talking about now,” Choronzon said. “However, I have just the sacrifice in mind. It will do perfectly, and it will not cost your soul.”
“Which is?” Apollyon asked.
“Kill one of your friends. You can substitute their soul for yours. That is a fair payment for power.”
Apollyon laughed heartily. “Just like that? Lead one of them to an altar, stick a knife in their back, and suddenly I am powerful?”
Choronzon shook his head. “It doesn’t have to be an altar. You can kill them anywhere. Kill them mercifully, like in their sleep. Or leave them to die in battle without you striking a single blow. The location doesn’t matter. Magic like this only requires intent. They don’t have to die in terror, and no one even needs to know you did it. I can help you with this.”
Apollyon nodded. “I bet you can! No.”
“You were more than ready to let a friend sacrifice a finger to get you where you wanted to go.”
Apollyon protested, “it was his decision, and his finger was instantly returned.”
“You were still very ready to let him sacrifice a finger for your own ends. You didn’t know his finger would be returned, but you did it anyway.”
Apollyon shrugged. “So what if I did? There’s a large difference between a finger and a life. Even you must see it. Besides, I need my fingers more than he needs his, even if I have a surplus.”
Choronzon shrugged. “Well, a sacrifice of something must be made. You won’t give up your soul and you won’t kill a friend of yours. Yet the shadow grants nothing for free. If you made a deal with me, I wouldn’t demand any sacrifice at all!”
“Eventually you would. You would only delay payment.”
Choronzon leaned back and thought. Then he smiled. “Knowledge,” he muttered, then leaned forward. “You can feed the shadow your knowledge.”
“So, I can turn into an imbecile,” Apollyon laughed sardonically. “Becoming an idiot will absolutely help me against Morgau. Brilliant!”
“Not all your knowledge. Just some of your knowledge. Merely a sacrifice of some ability to gain a far better power. It is necessary. While you feast and soak in praise, Morgau plots. They never sleep. They will find you. You must sacrifice something. Not everything, but being part-devil you must know that nothing is ever free. The shadow will grant a powerful boon to you. You will be able to defend yourself.”
Apollyon sighed and laid down. “This is ludicrous.”
“This is the only way. I cannot guard you, your friends will eventually leave, and you can only depend on yourself. You must have something besides music to protect you.”
Apollyon thought deeply. “If it must be something, I know what I would give.”
“Yes?” Choronzon asked, a small smile appearing.
“My most recent knowledge. My ability to steal someone’s shadow and impersonate them. I can already change my appearance at will. I will sacrifice a couple months’ worth of learning. NOT memory. Just learning and growth as a bard alone. That is what I would sacrifice to the shadow.”
Choronzon leaned back and started intoning in a deep growl. His eyes rolled upwards into whites while the shadows of the room grew around them. He seemed to fold into the shadows, his form dimming and diminishing as though the whole room was being stretched away from Apollyon.
Then suddenly, Choronzon snapped back and the room was as normal. “They accept the offer,” he said, looking relieved.
“So what will they give me in return?”
“The ability to defend yourself. The ability to summon a special weapon to you and imbue it with power. The ability to weave magic in a different way that you are used to. You will be a warlock, son.”
“Yet still a bard. The sacrifice will happen as you sleep tonight. You will trade, you will become more powerful than you can hope to imagine, and you will be safe against Morgau. It is all I can hope for considering you will not make a pact with me.”
“And no soul needs to be sacrificed?”
Choronzon shook his head. “No soul. The deal is not with me. I am merely its broker. And I have never acted as such before. You do not know the high honor I bestow upon you. Even kings are too low for my consideration. And through my deal, I have saved you. I only do it for my son. I am so proud of you.”
Apollyon shook his head. “Only words. Truth is exclusively in actions and not words, father. My dwarf friend taught me this.”
“He must be wise for a dwarf.” Apollyon laughed.
“Not at all. He’s the one who sacrificed his finger. If he was wise, he would have talked that elf into chopping off her own finger for the novelty of it. He is merely useful.”
“Spoken like a devil.”
“Which I am not,” Apollyon said.
Yet, Choronzon thought.