[Wait, so you were contacted by the big cheese himself to become one of his lackeys? And this was like… five-hundred years ago?]

[That is… correct. It was… difficult… to refuse, but I did not wish to surrender my obsession. Arconidem would not have allowed me to pursue knowledge freely.]

[I imagine he was super impressed.]

[Quite the opposite.]

[I know… it’s… never mind. So there’s only three Heralds right now, since you refused to be the fourth?]

[No. Only three demons, no matter how powerful, could not influence all of the third stratum. There are others, but these three are the oldest and the strongest. Soon, they will evolve to tier nine and no longer be able to sustain themselves in the third.]

[Any chance we can just wait this problem out, then? If they keep rampaging around, they’ll eventually reach max level and then be out of our business.]

[They would not be forced to descend until after the wave. Would you risk three tier nine demons running amok in your Colony’s lands?]

Uhhh… no.

[So that’s off the table.]

[I recommend the opposite approach. We should hunt them down and destroy them before they have a chance to grow stronger.]

[Cool plan, I’m down. Now give me the gossip. You know about these three? Their species and evolutions? The tricks and tips?]

[I can give some general information. We will not go into battle blindly.]

[Awesome. Invidia? Try and remember all this, if you could.]

[I willsss remember all of it!]

[No need to make it competitive, but that’d be great. Thanks, Invidia.]

All eyes turn to… the big eye, who stares back at us, unblinking.

[First and foremost is Torrifex. At tier eight, he became a Pure Demon, which I speculate may be the path that Arconidem himself took to ascension.]

[Oh snap. So he’s another proto-ancient in the making?]

[I think… not. If Torrifex were to evolve all the way to match his god, and I do not know what tier that would be, how would he hope to defeat a creature so much older than he? Also, if Arconidem holds power over the demons, he is unlikely to want to share it.]

That’s a good call. I don’t feel like any of the Ancients I’ve heard about are into sharing and caring all that much.

[As a Pure Demon, Torrifex embodies all that is typically demon and the nature of this stratum. As such, he possesses great control over fire and smoke, along with brute physical violence.]

[He really struggled to cut through my carapace, but the fire-blasts were something else,] I muse.

[I believe that Torrifex did not show his full strength against you. Though it is possible I am wrong. I don’t know how strong you have become.]

The big eye gleams with avarice at the thought of learning about my capabilities. Probably another reason he wants to tag along.

[Let’s get back to the enemy.]

[Of course. The most fearsome of Torrifex’s powers is his mastery of fire, which he can wield in any number of ways. His entire body can ignite into demon flame, and I would not recommend being within reach if it does.]


[His sisters, Pyrixan and Somonax. Pyrixan is an Empowered Ash Demon. Her aura of destruction is so strong, it can break an enemy down to nothing just for drawing too close to her form. Her power will eat away at anything she touches, annihilating it completely. If she gets ahold of you, escape as quickly as you can.]

[Oof. That sounds tough to deal with. Can she apply the effect at range?]

[She can, but it loses much of its power. The closer your proximity, the more deadly the danger.]

[Right, not a fan of that.]

Ash is a native element to the third stratum, and it’s an absolute pain to deal with. Little flecks of ash fly everywhere, mixed in with the smoke and dust in the air, but when they touch a wall or bump into your carapace, they start to eat into it. If your buildings aren’t made of the right stuff, or treated in the correct way, they’ll fall over in a week.

Luckily, my diamond carapace has been dense enough, and regenerates quickly enough, that I don’t really notice. It’s a pain for Tiny, but Invidia keeps him healed up. Crinis has to constantly replace small patches of flesh to make up for the losses, but the demons themselves are immune. Something about their tough black skin resists the effect.

The home field advantage.

[Somonax is a Greater Massacre Demon.]

[That sounds… rough.]

[Indeed. She wields many, many blades, each formed from the blood of her enemies. In terms of cutting power, she is far above even Torrifex. I do not recommend you test your carapace against her.]

[I may not get a choice.]

[True. Her mind is lost in a killing frenzy most of the time. Her obsession beats strong within her, and that makes her powerful. The more we demons are in sync with our obsessions, the greater our strength.]

[I guess that means you’re a pretty powerful chap then, doesn’t it? I can’t imagine you could get any more obsessed with knowledge.]

The big, floating eyeball considers my words for a moment before bobbing a little.

[There are always… limits. To throw oneself as deep as Somonax has, will grant great strength, but to all intents and purposes, she is lost to her need for massacre and violence. Were I to do the same, then little would remain of me outside of my drive for knowledge. I would become as she has, a thoughtless thing, drifting and aimless, consumed utterly.]

[Seems like that would make it harder to get knowledge, not easier.]

[Indeed. I must have control over my thoughts and emotions, otherwise I will learn fewer things. If not for that, perhaps I too would have given myself over to Arconidem and surrendered my obsession.]

The more I learn about the demons, the more I worry about them. They really do have a rough time of it, in more ways than one. Of all the monsters I’ve encountered in the Dungeon, I feel like they get the worst deal. As I ponder their harsh lives, I can’t help but turn my eyes to Invidia. The poor little dude didn’t have the best start in life, being captured young and raised by golgari shapers.

I wonder what he will become obsessed with as he evolves and how deeply it will draw him in. The idea of my little green-eyed monster losing himself to some sort of fugue state isn’t a pleasant one.

[Alright then. I think we have what we need. Let’s roll out!]