- For the book, see Demon: Earthbound.
Earthbound are a notorious group of demons known for their corruption. While the Fallen still bear some resemblance to humanity due to their human hosts and low-Torment, the Earthbound are utter monstrosities consumed with Torment and driven mad by depravity and worship. The Earthbound were summoned to Earth by mages centuries before the Sixth Great Maelstrom, giving them an advantage over the demons of the modern day. In ancient times, their cults extended into the hearts of great empires. They ruled from temples heaped with skulls that echoed with the discordant chants of the faithful, drawing humanity down a path of slavery and corruption. No longer angels nor wholly demons, the Earthbound are the nightmarish products of divine power and the darkest parts of the human soul.
Instead of inhabiting human hosts, they reside in inanimate objects known as reliquaries, either because they are too powerful for a human body to endure their presence, because they were summoned and bound into such an object, or because there simply was no suitable new human host around when they lost their old hosts.
The origin of the Earthbound can be found in Lucifer's five Archdukes, his most trusted advisors and leaders during the Rebellion. Each Archduke was in charge of one of the Legions, and they served him unquestionably. However, as the fighting wore on, some of them began to question Lucifer's motives and methods. When Lucifer proposed the Grand Experiment, they were further troubled; if humanity supplanted the Creator, would they really be any better off? When Asmodeus had a vision of humans ruling over the Fallen, it was all over. He and Abaddon created the Nephilim, half-demons meant to replace humans and be utterly subservient to the Archdukes. Azrael further helped develop them in exchange for their souls upon their deaths.
The Nephilim moved through the world with the same callous attitude of their creators: destroying humans. When they killed Lucifer's precious Watchers, he called for revenge, hunted them down, and wiped them from the face of the Earth. The Grand Experiment was ruined, brought down by Lucifer's own allies. Soon after, the Fallen (save Lucifer) were cast into the Abyss. There, the Archdukes, their great leader missing, stewed in doubt and anger, eventually convinced that Lucifer had betrayed them to the Creator in exchange for his own freedom. Their Torment eventually overtook them.
Lucifer had escaped, it turned out, but not by any kindness on the Creator's part. He remained hidden on Earth, teaching humanity the arts of sorcery, hoping he could eventually call back the Fallen, especially his trusted lieutenants, not knowing that the Abyss had turned them insane and hateful. Eventually, humans built five idols, one for each Archduke, and summoned them. The Archdukes quickly took control and began working towards humanity's destruction, much to Lucifer's horror. Other lesser Fallen were similarly summoned using sorcery. Eventually, 666 of the creatures that became known as the Earthbound were brought into being. They thrived in the pagan world and practically ruled Rome. However, with the coming of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, as well as the subsequent Age of Enlightenment, many mortals turned from their wicked ways, and by the 1600s, the Earthbound had all fallen into slumber. They remained that way until shaken awake by the Sixth Great Maelstrom.
Born in the closing days of the War of Wrath, the Grand Experiment was more than just a plan to elevate humanity from the depths of the Time of Atrocities — it was a last-ditch effort by Lucifer to shift the balance of power once more into the rebels’ favor and force an end to the centuries-old struggle against Heaven. The revolt of the Ebon, Silver and Alabaster legions and the grim campaign to bring them back under his control convinced Lucifer that the rebel host was too fractured to present a unified front against the armies of Heaven any longer. Unless the nature of the struggle was somehow altered, the Fallen would soon be defeated.
Not long after the conclusion of the Long March, Lucifer summoned his archdukes to the citadel at Genhinnom and laid out his plan. Since the beginning of the war, the Fallen drew their power from the faith of the human flocks they guarded, but in their pride, the rebels had not considered the full implications of this relationship. They did not realize that the human race, for all its imperfections and innocence, held a collective power equal to that of the Creator, and its potential was still largely untapped. That, Lucifer declared, was why Heaven wished to maintain humanity’s ignorance — so that humankind would not realize its own innate greatness and one day pose a challenge to the Creator’s authority. Therefore, the Morningstar reasoned, if the Fallen were able to accelerate humanity’s growth and provide full access to its nascent power, ultimate victory would be theirs. Once the human race ascended to the level of the Creator, Heaven would have no choice but to concede that the struggle had reached a stalemate, which would (in effect) be a victory for the Fallen.
The archdukes expressed their support for the Grand Experiment, but several of the legion commanders — particularly Abaddon and Asmodeus — drew their own conclusions from Lucifer’s hypothesis. If mankind could indeed match the Creator in power some day, then this left the question of what would be the fate of the Fallen when that day finally arrived. Certainly the Fallen would be worshipped no more. In fact, it was likely they would be relegated to mere servants, the same as they’d been before the Fall. The idea did not sit well with beings who had grown accustomed to adoration and absolute authority.
The Babel strategy was more successful initially than even Lucifer expected, ushering in a worldwide renaissance of wonder and majesty, but it was too much, too fast. Mankind gained vast knowledge and power, but none of the maturity and wisdom that such gifts required. Yet, some Luciferans believe even to this day that Babel could have succeeded, had it not been “sabotaged” by agents of Heaven. Many Cryptics agree that the Grand Experiment was betrayed, but they point to Lucifer’s erstwhile lieutenants instead. Regardless of the true cause of the collapse, the advent of the Civilization of Ashes, as the Fallen later called it, not only erased the gains that the rebels had made in human development, it actually eroded their awareness further. The tribes of man were scattered across the globe, no longer able to remember the tongue of the angels. Worse still, the ancient bonds of faith and loyalty humanity shared with the Fallen were broken, leaving the rebel host bereft of its strength in the face of a counterattack that was unprecedented in its ferocity. Not long after, Lucifer had little choice but to surrender the rebel army to the Heavenly Host. The Fallen went to their judgment beaten but unbowed, convinced that their last gamble could have easily gone the other way. Had humanity not splintered under the strain, Michael and his angels would be bound in chains, and the Creator would be the one made to answer for His crimes rather than their embattled leader. It was a conviction that many of the Fallen turned to again and again in the darkness of the Abyss, infecting it with their bitterness and hate until the once-noble vision became a dream of terrible revenge.
Torment & Release
Of all the imprisoned Fallen, none suffered the agonies of the Pit as fiercely as Lucifer’s chosen lieutenants, the five archdukes who had ruled Earth and mankind throughout the War of Wrath. Even Lucifer’s stalwarts, Belial and Dagon, were crushed by their leader’s disappearance, and the fury of the archdukes sent tremors through every rank of the exiled host. As the Fallen splintered further into political and personal factions, the archdukes decried their former leader and his misguided love for humankind. Having blamed mankind for the consequences of the Fall since the beginning of the war, Abaddon was the first to declare that mankind should have been enslaved from the start, its faith hammered into a weapon that could have split the Creator’s heart. The near-success of the Babel strategy only added strength to the archduke’s hateful vision.
As the Fallen lost their souls to the Abyss, humanity began the long road to recovery from the catastrophic collapse of the Civilization of Ashes. With each passing century, the sands of time obscured the ruins of the Age of Wrath, and each successive generation remembered less and less of the past. Fragmented memories became the foundation of superstitions and legends as humanity relearned how to till the fields, bend animals to their will and fashion tools from wood, metal and stone. In time, they built the first ancient civilizations, inspired by racial memories of past glory that humanity now experienced only in dreams.
Yet, although the Fallen were forgotten, the legacy of Babel remained. Human curiosity was as strong as ever, and the power to affect the forces of Creation was still there, passed down from generation to generation. A rare few discovered the talent that lay dormant within them, and it was only a matter of time before these would-be mages began to explore the limits of their power. Thousands of years passed as human mages pursued the elusive secrets of the Celestials. They eventually discovered the existence of the spirit realm and sensed a greater darkness beneath the lands of the dead, a place seething with the pent-up energies of a host of powerful spirits. From there, it was only a matter of time before the mages learned to penetrate the Abyss — a feat that no angel in Hell would have dreamt possible until the archdukes themselves vanished from the confines of the Pit.
At five different locations across the ancient world, in the shadowy sanctums of stone temples or amid the black waters of subterranean grottoes, the archdukes appeared amid circles wrought with blood-splashed sigils and surrounded by dozens of prostrate human followers. These fearsome angels felt the intoxicating rush of faith for the first time in aeons, and as each ceremony reached an ecstatic crescendo, a reliquary was brought forth and offered up to the five archdukes to welcome them back to the ashes of Paradise. Without hesitation, Lucifer’s lieutenants inhabited the idols sanctified in their names, sparing no thought to the reasons behind their unexpected freedom. Transformed by their suffering in the Pit, the five demons thought only of the vengeance they would wreak upon God and man.
Scattered across the globe, the five Earthbound — Belial, Abaddon, Dagon, Asmodeus and Azrael — wasted no time enthralling the mages and priests who had freed them from the Abyss, seducing them with gifts that sapped their will and left them enslaved to their dark masters. Like ravenous beasts, the demons drove their worshippers to ever-greater frenzies of worship and sacrifice, whetting their insatiable appetite for faith. The more faith they received, the more gifts they bestowed on the faithful in the interests of gathering more worshippers, sacrifices and slaves. Lucifer’s vision had given way to Abaddon’s merciless decree: Mankind was nothing more than chattel, to be used or consumed as their rightful masters saw fit, and Earth was a treasure hoard open for the taking.
Within less than a century, in ancient kingdoms such as Babylonia and Sumeria, each demon’s circle of worshippers grew into a cult, then a full-fledged religion, with temples and idols carved in the spirit’s likeness appearing in cities, villages and households across the land. As the trickle of faith swelled to a steady stream, then a surging river, the Earthbound used their lore to sate their rage and punish the unbelievers with curses, plague and famine. Before long, the growth of the Earthbound religions brought them into conflict with other human pantheons, sparking vicious holy wars and secular conflicts alike. Given the autocratic nature of the archdukes and their practical need for temporal authority, it was only a matter of time before the demons turned their attentions on the rich and the powerful. Emperors, kings and queens were drawn into the ranks of the faithful with promises of even greater power and authority, and the influence of the dark gods spread across the ancient world.
Eventually, almost 500 years after their release, the Earthbound became aware of one another as their faith allowed them to extend their senses for hundreds of miles around the globe. Even in the glory days of the war, the five archdukes owed little loyalty to one another, jealous as they were of their territories and prerogatives. Now, caught up in the orgy of faith and violence that was slowly but steadily restoring their former glory, the Earthbound regarded one another less as comrades and more as competitors for the human riches scattered across the Earth. For this same reason, none of the five had been tempted to use their followers to summon more of the Fallen from the Pit. Every demon released, even bound into servitude, was one more with whom the archdukes would have to share the bounty of souls that the world offered.
Regardless, as the years passed and the archdukes labored to extend their reach, they came into contact with other Earthbound demons who existed in the guises of bloodthirsty human gods. For all that the archdukes tried to keep the summoning rituals secret, hunting and destroying mages who were believed to possess the knowledge, the arcane lore was too widespread to completely erase, and more demons found themselves freed from the Abyss. Most times, the Fallen were summoned in an attempt to gain knowledge or power and just as quickly returned to their prison, but on occasion, the demons escaped the grip of their summoner and found some artifact that could sustain them until a more suitable vessel was created. Sometimes the archdukes enslaved these lesser demons by invoking their True Name in complex binding rituals. In rare cases, their followers were destroyed and the souls of the Fallen were consumed by their former lords. In most cases, however, the weaker demons simply fled, reappearing later in another land in the guise of another deity and harvesting the faith of a different culture. The world was still vast enough that the small number of Earthbound could usually coexist without directly competing for souls.
Nevertheless, it was an age of savage empires and holy wars, of heroes blessed (or cursed) by the living gods and unspeakable rituals performed before idols of gold, basalt and jade. When the Earthbound clashed, armies of the faithful marched. The earth trembled and the skies rained blood, and whole cities were put to the sword. For many of the Earthbound, it was a glorious existence compared to the emptiness of the Pit, but Abaddon and the other archdukes were already looking ahead to something greater.
As the centuries progressed, the archdukes moved among humanity, gravitating to the most dynamic, technologically advanced societies with an eye toward building the worldwide empire they craved. They did not influence or alter events in any demonstrable way — the fate of one human, or 10,000, meant nothing to them as long as they received their tithe of faith. Instead, they placed power in the hands of individuals and let nature take its course. Over time, mighty empires flourished — such as the Medes, the Persians and the Greeks — each one spanning the world a little farther than their predecessors, each one maintaining its dominance a little longer than before. During this time, the Earthbound came into direct conflict with one another much more often as the field narrowed and the demons vied for ever larger prizes. The Fallen never battled directly, owing to the limitations and fragility of their reliquaries, so they fought proxy wars through armies of servants instead. Only very rarely did the battle result in the destruction of one side or another. Generally, once an Earthbound lost a significant number of servants, he would concede the region, city or person he had struggled over and retreat to replenish his stores of faith and flesh.
By this time, the archdukes were no longer the same beings who had been called up from the Pit. Lost in their hunger for revenge, they paid no heed to the changes that slowly overcame them during the course of hundreds of years of worship. The ritualistic devotion of thousands upon thousands of human hearts and minds did not come without a cost — as human beings provided faith, their perceptions and beliefs shaped the Earthbound as well. Little by little, like water shaping a stone, the archdukes were becoming the monstrous, bloodthirsty gods they pretended to be. Their minds were filled with visions they could not explain — visions derived from the feverish wishes of their most zealous followers. By the time the city-states of Greece rose to dominate the civilized world, all but the most recently released Earthbound were no longer of the Fallen, nor were they truly human gods, but something in between. If anything, their madness deepened as they dwelt upon wave after wave of human dreams and desires, their thoughts becoming increasingly alien even to themselves. Still the archdukes fought and schemed over the rising human empires, pushing them to ever-greater heights and moving on when they ultimately fell. They came away wiser than before each time, adding to their store of knowledge as they moved on to the next great nation eager for wealth and power. By the rise of the Roman Empire, it seemed as though their labors had been rewarded at last.
Within a few centuries, the entire civilized world bowed to Rome, and there seemed no end in sight to the power of the empire. With much of the human race subject to Rome’s will, Abaddon and Asmodeus — former rivals now allied in their pursuit of power — began to experiment with the wholesale subversion of the empire’s populace. Mere worship, they realized, would not be enough for their ultimate goal. The more widespread their believers were, the more haphazard their patterns of worship became and the less consistent the level of faith they received turned out to be. Instead, they needed tools, living sources of faith that they could harness virtually at will. For that they would need to crush humanity’s will, tainting their followers’ souls until all that was left were virtual mirror images of the demons’ own. They needed a race of beings who existed only to fulfill every wish of their masters. And so the two archdukes set to work.
Naturally, their efforts met considerable resistance, both within the empire and without. Rival Earthbound sent their worshippers to strike at the fringes of the empire, while ordinary humans within the army and senate fought valiantly against the canker of perversion that was poisoning Rome from within. There were many setbacks, but the demons were patient. What they did not expect was that even as they labored, the Earthbound were sowing the seeds of their own decline.
When the Earthbound first returned to the Earth, the widely scattered human race worshiped a vast pantheon of gods and spirits. As the demons consolidated their influence, many of these older beliefs were supplanted, and the plethora of religions steadily shrank. By the time of the Roman Empire, many different gods and goddesses were given obeisance by the empire’s subjects, but the precedent was well established for empires to force the belief of a central religion on their populace. This tactic had invariably directed the faith of the subjects to one Earthbound or another, and it had served the demons well for thousands of years. They never dreamed that the day might come when this institutional belief might be used against them.
It began as a fringe religion in Palestine, spreading through the ranks of the dispossessed and the downtrodden, but over time, its worshippers spread across the empire, reaching even into the heart of Rome itself. Christianity owed nothing to the efforts of the Earthbound. Indeed, its origins were so obscure that the demons were not even aware of its existence until it had gained a considerable and very dedicated following. However it began, they quickly saw that it was guided with skill and an almost preternatural purpose that survived persecution and attempts at corruption. What was worse, its tenets advocated the worship of a single god that was not of the physical world, and it repudiated the pantheistic beliefs of the current day. It seemed almost tailor-made to destroy the source of the demons’ power, and it was gathering strength. Several lesser Earthbound had already been driven from their seats of power, forced to seek new followers in adjoining countries.
Abaddon and Asmodeus turned the full weight of Rome against the Christian movement, and for a time, the movement’s followers met death or imprisonment wherever they dared show themselves. Yet still the religion persisted. The followers seemed to benefit from their own invisible patron, but however hard the Earthbound looked for the presence of another demon, their efforts were always in vain.
And then disaster struck. In a telling blow, Constantine I, Emperor of Rome, declared his conversion to the Christian faith. Almost overnight, the vast machinery of the empire was turned against the gods and goddesses worshipped by her people. Abaddon and Asmodeus found themselves at odds with the juggernaut they’d so painstakingly shaped. At that point, had they struck with the fullness of their power, the Earthbound could have wiped Rome from the face of the Earth. The power-hungry demons still believed, however, that they could prevail indirectly by playing on the greed and ambition of Constantine’s rivals and convincing them to supplant him and destroy his reforms before it was too late. Yet the emperor proved more clever than the maddened Fallen suspected, and by the time they realized that direct action would have to be taken, their opportunity had passed. The emperor’s reforms were well advanced, and the huge well of faith that sustained the two demons was already dwindling fast. Their best opportunity lost, the Earthbound were forced onto the defensive, and would remain so for the next 1,500 years.
What followed in the wake of Constantine’s reforms was one reversal after the next as the power base of demons across the empire were systematically attacked and either destroyed or driven underground. As the Earthbound were denied their worshippers, they were forced to fight among themselves for regions and populaces outside Rome’s direct influence, weakening the demons even further. Before long, many lesser demons were so weakened by the constant battles that they commanded the last of their followers to take their reliquaries into the wilderness and hide them, so that they would not be discovered and consumed by any enemies. These weakened demons then went into a sort of slumber, hoping that the day would come when Rome would be no more and the persecutions would end. It was the shape of things to come.
Rome did indeed fall — torn apart by internecine struggles and the depredations of demon-worshipping barbarians — but the damage had been done. Christianity was too well entrenched among the civilized world, and it harnessed the efforts of humanity against the Earthbound in ways that the demons themselves sought to claim for their own. The numbers of the Earthbound steadily dwindled, with more and more of the demons driven into slumber as their worshippers were destroyed. What was more, the world itself was inexorably divorcing itself from the affairs of the supernatural. As religion drove humanity to shun belief in the supernatural, revolutions in thought, philosophy and technology were having a subtle effect on human minds. Over the course of the medieval period, the human race found itself on the path of reason and self-determination, learning the skills and making the tools to master the world for themselves instead of praying for intercession from gods and spirits.
The Renaissance was the death knell for the rule of the Earthbound. Already reduced to a handful of demons eking out a fitful existence in remote parts of the world, the remaining Earthbound, including the archdukes themselves, saw that further resistance was futile. Human faith dwindled with each passing day, and the temporal power of the Christian Church was more than a match for the weakened demons. More than ever, the archdukes suspected that there was another force behind their undoing, someone or something who had influenced the Christian faith from its inception and forged it like a weapon to break the demons’ power. Belial, the Great Beast, whispered that perhaps it was Lucifer himself.
By the 1600s, the last of the dark gods had succumbed. Once they became too weak to defend their reliquaries, they went into hiding like others before them. Many forged pacts with their last worshippers, promising good fortune and prosperity for their descendants in return for service, perhaps hundreds of years later, when fortune might shift in the demons’ favor once more. As their reliquaries were buried in the earth or dropped into the depths of the sea, these ancient spirits sank into maddened slumber, waiting for the day when they would rise again.
The object containing the Earthbound's essence is called its reliquary. Reliquaries can channel and contain vast amounts of energy, and are far superior to human hosts in terms of raw power (as an example, no Fallen can affect an area with a radius of more than a few miles with their Lore, but some Earthbound can potentially affect the entire planet at once). Unfortunately, having a body that can't move, has only a dim perception of its surroundings, and is completely without sensory input besides sight and sound isn't that much of an improvement compared to the Abyss. A reliquary's essential blank-slate state and lack of a moral compass furthermore provides no relief from the millennia-old wrath and madness of the Abyss, and as a result the Earthbound degenerate further and further as time wears on, unable to escape their own Torment.
Earthbound are so far removed from their angelic state that they no longer bear the Visages of the house they once belonged to. Instead they develop unique forms with far more power than their old forms. However, to reflect their twisted forms, they also bear grotesqueries, which are deformities that render mortals into mindless, babbling beings; even the most debased, tormented Fallen must turn away from an Earthbound in utter disgust.
The first five of the Earthbound, and now strongest of them, are the Archdukes, the Five Lieutenants of Lucifer:
- Asmodeus, a Neberu whose visions revealed that humanity would rise above the Elohim and hated them for it.
- Abaddon, a Rabisu who conspired with Asmodeus to supplant humanity with the nephilim.
- Azrael, a Halaku who assisted in the nephilim's perfection, and collected the souls after their destruction.
- Belial, a Lammasu who was once Lucifer's greatest supporter and most trusted lieutenant, and is now, as the "Great Beast", his fiercest enemy who exists purely for his former hero's destruction.
- Dagon, an Annunaki who also advised and was held close by Lucifer. He now desires to transform all of humanity into soulless, mindless clockwork beings, much in view of the Technocracy.
Lesser but still well-known Earthbound include:
- Avitu, a former Angel of Knowledge and Understanding, now Demon of Ignorance
- Baal, a Rabisu who claims to be an Archduke, even though he was a lowly fell knight. He has accumulated an impressive amount of power through his claims.
- Enshagkushanna, a vassal of Belial who nearly lost his carefully gathered power in Los Angeles when Lucifer reappeared.
- Kupala a demon that dwells within the soil of Transylvania.
- Manishtusu, the Lord of Murder, who controls and manipulates the street gangs of Los Angeles.
- Nikanuuranu is a Neberu that has formed a pact with the Inconnu's inner circle, the Council of Twelve, to conceal their base from the outside world.
In Hunter: The Reckoning - Wayward, a video game for the PlayStation 2, the final boss appears to be an Earthbound.
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