Latest revision as of 16:52, 11 February 2024
The (First) Pact Primeval - As Told By Asmodeus[edit | edit source]
The best way to understand devils and their ways is to listen to the stories they tell about themselves. The most famous of these tales have propagated as myths throughout all the worlds of the Material Plane, becoming familiar to mortals of all sorts. But as is often the case with legends, contradictions abound. For example, the tale of the Pact Primeval is the accepted version of the multiverse’s creation. But an alternate story claims Asmodeus as the fallen creator of the universe.
Countless cultures have their own versions of the Pact Primeval legend. The names of the deities featured in it change depending on where it is told, but the names of the devils are always the same. Perhaps this fact is what inspired Philogestes, the accursed philosopher of evil, to pen his famous proverb: “The gods exist in multiplicity, but Asmodeus is unique.”
As is the case with any myth worthy of the name, the following tale is true—whether or not it actually happened.
In the beginning—and even before—chaos was all that existed. Out of it came demons—the living manifestations of chaos. Time had not yet been invented, so the demons fought each other continuously in a vortex of disorder over an immeasurable period.
A state of raw chaos was intolerable to the universe, so a force arose to combat it—the power of law. From this principle of abstract order, a number of beings coalesced to combat the demons.
These new deities of law suited themselves in gleaming armor made of pure stability and took up weapons forged of ideal thought. Then they waded into battle against the demons. After the battle had raged for uncounted eons, the law deities felt the need to track their progress. They created numbers, to record the enemies slain, and time, so they could see how long victory would take.
Gradually, however, the deities of law began to suspect that the supply of demons was infinite. Weary of battle, they wished to move on to other projects, such as the creation of worlds and intelligent beings. So they made beautiful winged warriors to serve them and wield their divine magic, both in the endless war against the demons and in the worlds yet to be created. These beings, glorious in their diversity, were called angels.
The bravest, toughest, fiercest, and most beautiful of the angels was Asmodeus. He slew more demons than any other of his kind—more even than any deity. But as the eons wore on, Asmodeus and the members of his magnificent and terrible company began to take on some of their enemies’ traits, so as to fight them more effectively. Gradually, their beauty turned to ugliness, and the deities and other angels began to fear them. Eventually, the inhabitants of the celestial realms petitioned the great gods to banish Asmodeus and the most fearsome of his avenging angels. So Asmodeus was put on trial before Moradin, the god of valor.
The darkest of the angels responded readily to the charges, reading from the great tablets of law that he had helped to carve. “The first duty of law is to destroy chaos,” he argued. “I have performed this duty better than any.”
“You have made war, and made it well,” Moradin agreed. “Yet you and your company have poisoned yourselves in the process. Can you not go elsewhere, lest we become contaminated too?”
Asmodeus smiled, and the smoke of a thousand battlefields rose from his lips. “As Lord of Battle,” he pointed out, “you should know better than any that war is a dirty business. We have blackened ourselves so that you can remain golden. We have upheld the laws, not broken them. Therefore, you may not cast us out.”
The gods huddled together to discuss what they had heard. Great was their consternation when they could find no counters in their tablets of law to Asmodeus’s arguments. The dark angel knew the laws better than they did and could wield their clauses like a knife.
With the passage of time, Asmodeus and his warband grew ever more alarming in aspect. Fangs jutted from their mouths, their tongues grew forked, and they wreathed their bodies in mantles of fire. The deities built new citadels to escape them, but Asmodeus and his followers penetrated these as well. They sued the gods under their own laws, demanding full access to all the privileges accorded champions of order. The deities were distressed but could find no lawful way to stop them.
So the gods retreated to their great project—the creation of mortals, and of a verdant world for those favored beings to live on. But when demons invaded these worlds, the warbands of Asmodeus were called upon to stop them. Although the voracious demons were no easier to vanquish on the new worlds of Quelmar than they had been on the battlegrounds of the Outer Planes, Asmodeus and his dark angels generally succeeded in driving them back. Together, the gods and angels created barriers on the Material Plane to keep the demons at bay. They erected walls, threw up ranges of mountains, covered portions of their worlds with icy wastes, and buried the entrances the demons had used under vast oceans. Thus were the newly created worlds, like Asmodeus and his lot, scarred and made ugly for the greater benefit of law.
Then the deities of order made a horrifying discovery. The mortals they had created—their pride and joy—immediately set to work tearing down these barriers. They scaled walls, climbed mountains, and traversed glaciers to let the demons back in. Upon returning to the Material Plane, the demons ran riot, destroying one earthly paradise after another.
The deities were angry but also confused. “Why did my sweet Gnomes do this to me?” cried Garl Glittergold, who had created them.
“I invented mountains and set my clever dwarves as their protectors!” thundered Moradin. “Why did they tunnel under them and into the demon crypts?”
The gods wailed and lamented until Asmodeus came to them with the answer. “Your mortals are taking these actions because you gave them minds of their own.”
“Of course we did!” said the deities. “Without free will, the choice to follow the law means nothing.”
“Indeed,” replied Asmodeus, crushing a small insect that had crawled out of his neatly trimmed red beard. “They are curious creatures, these mortals, and the demons have promised them freedom. Soon they will learn that the liberty dangled before them is that of absolute anarchy, and that in a demon realm, they are free only to be destroyed. But by then, it will be too late for them. You might create more worlds and more mortals to people them, but I promise you, the same folly will recur eternally.”
When the gods realized the truth of the dark angel’s words, they were downcast. They rent their garments and wailed in despair. “I have the solution that eludes you,” said Asmodeus, “one that will allow your precious mortals to retain the free will you have so beneficently given them. The problem is this,” he continued. “Your law is one of voluntary obedience. You command the mortals to abjure chaos, but what happens when they disobey you?”
The deities had no answer. “We are their creators,” moaned Yondalla. “Of course they should heed us.”
“Indeed they should,” replied Asmodeus, bowing gallantly to Garl Glittergold. “But they do not, because there can be no law without Punishment.”
“Punishment?” muttered the host of deities and godlings. “What is this Punishment of which you speak?”
Asmodeus pulled it from its sheath. At this time, Punishment was shaped like a mighty sword, though it has taken on many forms since then. “I have invented this item for you as the ultimate weapon of law. When laws are broken, the wrongdoers must be made to suffer as a warning to others. Thus, mortals can choose between the paradise of rightful action and the torment of wickedness. A few will suffer Punishment so that the majority can see the consequences of lawbreaking.”
The gods were disquieted by this pronouncement, but as usual, they could find no flaws in their champion’s logic. How could mortals be expected to choose virtue if evil went unpunished?
At last, one of the godlings stepped forward and said, “Yes, retribution is the basis of all law.” These words transformed him on the spot into the deity now known as Bane.
On that day, the deities began to see that law and chaos were not the only principles in the universe. Good and evil were natural forces in the cosmos as well. So the gods separated themselves from one other on that basis. Deities such as Torog and Bahamut offered patronage to Asmodeus’s poisoned angels, while Pelor and some of the others drew back from them still more.
So the deities handed down their new laws and sent their clerics through mortal lands to announce that the punishment for sin would be torment. The gods were pleased with the arrangement. They truly thought that everyone would obey and that no one would actually be punished.
But as mortals died, some souls trickled into the celestial planes who bore the stink of transgression. Asmodeus, aided by Bahamut, Torog, and others of his dark brigade, set about their lawful punishment. They flayed these sinners, and burned them, and placed them on racks.
The shrieks of the damned reverberated throughout the heavens, and the flowers in the gods’ idyllic gardens dripped with blood. The deities of law tried to shut their ears, but they could not abide the horror. So they put Asmodeus in chains and again charged him with high crimes against them.
“I have merely done what I said I would, under the laws you drafted,” said Asmodeus. Again, the gods had to admit he was right.
“But I have a proposal for you,” the grim champion continued. “You wish to see the law upheld, but you do not care to witness its ranker consequences. So to preserve your delicate sensibilities, my followers and I will take our project elsewhere. We will build a perfect Hell for you. You will gain from its existence but need never lay eyes upon it. We shall put it… there.” And he pointed to an empty land, which is now called Baator.
“Yes, yes!” said all the deities. “You must move your Hell there, forthwith!”
“Nothing would please me more,” said Asmodeus. He extended his hand, and a ruby rod of power appeared in it. “But first, we must make a pact.”
“A pact?” asked Moradin suspiciously.
“Yes, indeed,” said Asmodeus, producing a document with a wave of his hand. “It is to your benefit to ensure that we, who labor for you in a place you will not venture, continue to carry out your will. This agreement specifies the fate of damned souls. In exchange, it allows us to draw magic from these souls, so we can fuel our spells and maintain our powers.”
“I’m not sure I like the sound of that,” said the flinty Moradin.
“Your concerns are entirely understandable, O Maker of Dwarves,” said Asmodeus in his most reassuring tone. “But since we will be separated from you, we will not be able to draw our powers from you, as we always have. You would not wish to make us gods independent of yourselves, would you?”
“Assuredly not!” huffed Moradin, appalled at the thought.
“So instead, take this lesser measure, and simply sign this pact,” he said with a smile. Thus, the law deities signed the agreement that determined the boundaries of Hell and the rules for the transmission of wicked souls. Today, mortals know this document as the Pact Primeval.
Once it was signed, Asmodeus, Bahamut, and Torog decamped to Baator, which was then a bleak and featureless plain. With them went a host of other dark angels that called themselves erinyes.
“What have you gotten us into?” Torog moaned.
“This place has nothing!” Bahamut complained.
“Just wait,” said Asmodeus. Then he explained his plan.
The deities of virtuous law reveled in their newly purified celestial domains, now free of the cruel angels’ degradation for the first time. It was not for many years, in mortal terms, that they discovered an alarming drop in the number of souls being transmitted to their various heavens. Upon conferring with their clergy, they realized that devils were corrupting mortals and ensuring their damnation by turning them toward evil.
The deities formed a delegation, which set off immediately for Baator. To their surprise, the once-featureless plain had been transformed into nine tiers of monstrous horror and torment. Within its confines, they found countless souls writhing in pain. They saw these souls transformed, first into crawling, mindless monsters, and eventually into an army of powerful devils.
“What goes on here?” Mielikki demanded.
“You have granted us the power to harvest souls,” replied Asmodeus. “To build our Hell and gird our might for the task set before us, we naturally had to find ways to improve our yield.”
The war deity drew forth his longsword of crackling lightning. “It is your job to punish transgressions, not to encourage them!” he cried.
Asmodeus smiled, and a venomous moth flew out from between his sharpened teeth. “Read the fine print,” he replied.
The New Pact Primeval (792 PR)[edit | edit source]
Following the events of the Second Infernal Emergence, the original Pact Primeval was renewed. With the Gods watching on, The Last Around and Asmodeus agreed on the new text, which would restore Quelmar, let Asmodeus keep Hellmar to himself, and ultimately create peace again. The text of that Pact is below:
"EACH GOD WILL BE RESPONSIBLE FOR PUNISHING SOULS THAT DISOBEY THEM. LOST OR ATHEISTIC SOULS WILL BE CLAIMED BY ASMODEUS. ALL BEINGS UNLAWFULLY SLAIN SINCE THE BEGINNING OF ASMODEUS' SECOND INCURSION WILL BE REVIVED. DEVILS ARE COMMANDED BY ASMODEUS OR HIS FOLLOWERS TO PROTECT THE REALM OF QUELMAR AND THE PANTHEON FROM DEMONS. CORPOREAL DEVILS ARE LIMITED TO HARMING OTHER FIENDS. DEVILS MAY NOT INFLUENCE MORTALS TO COMMIT EVIL. ASMODEUS IS RESPONSIBLE FOR PROTECTION OF EVERY REALM FROM DEMONS."
Fiendish Interpretations of the Pact[edit | edit source]
As could only be expected, the seemingly simple words of the pact left it open to interpretation by later fiends. As soon as a hundred years after the creation of the new pact cunning devils have found ways to circumvent some of its restrictions. While still bound by the terms of the pact, some devils have found that "influence" and "evil" are terms open to interpretation. The pact also does not forbid "enabling" or "supporting" mortals' evil acts. The pact also applies only to activity within the plane of Quelmar, so activities in the neighboring elemental planes and the feywild are unaffected, as are activities in demiplanes–many of which have since been created solely for the purpose. Some fiends have determined that training mortal agents on other planes and then sending them to Quelmar serves their purposes well, often with promises of great power in the hells should the mortals act in the devils' interests during their time outside their master's "influence."
There are other potential areas of ambiguity for devils to act in events, but how and when they will take advantage of these gaps remains to be seen.