Apocrypha: n. biblical or related writings not forming part of the accepted canon of Scripture. Often considered illegitimate and heretical.
The divine are not what you have been led to believe. There is no one, true religion, and no religion is wholly true. Instead they are carefully curated manifestos of omissions, twisted stories, and half-truths crafted by the deities and delivered to the mortal realm to ensure their obedience.
“God” is not a sentient deity but a hands-off entity, more often a force or energy than a being that can observe and respond - though some angels believe otherwise. Angels are the keepers of God rather than creations and manage its use, funneling it to grant rewards and blessing or dish out punishments and hard lessons as they see fit, as well as sustaining themselves off it. Demons are simply a faction of angels . Each part of the world is governed and occupied by different groups of angels and demons - the angels and demons that ruled ancient Greece are different than those that did the Norse or the Maya - each with their own set of morals and skills. Many factions do not get along and wage divine war on each other, urging their followers to do the same. As religions rise and fall, spread and isolate, the deities must adapt; for example, the angels known as Anpu, Djehuty, and Maat to the Ancient Egyptians now answer to the names Izra’il, Munkar, and Nakir to modern, Muslim Egyptians. If angels do not adopt the new names and customs, or if their religion is wiped out completely (such as Mithraism or the Minoan religion), they can no longer harvest energy from their worshippers to return to God, closing their path to it and leaving them to wither away and die. If the religion is revived, even centuries or millennia later, the angels will be revived along with it. Demons, on the other hand, do not rely on God for sustenance, and will continue existing - albeit with severely wounded pride - long after humans have stopped believing in them. If humans begin to believe in a deity that cannot be portrayed by any existing angels in the vicinity, the angels will create a new one with energy from God.
“God”, “angels”, “demons”, “Heaven”, “Hell”, etc. are by no means the official name for any of these beings. Each region - both mortal and divine - has their own terminology. These are merely the most common terms used by English speakers. In general usage in the West, they refer specifically to those from the Abrahamic religions (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam).
Angels and demons each have complicated social dynamics depending on their region of the world and what religions are active there at any given time. In some factions, angels and demons are synonyms and used interchangeably. In others, what humans call demons are in fact angels that have been tasked with scaring the humans into compliance, or even an entirely different race of supernatural beings altogether. Still others only recognize one or the other, with no mention of the opposite anywhere in religious or cultural texts. In the Abrahamic religions, demons are angels that defied the will of God and revolted against Him, until they were banished to Hell, where they became hideous, monstrous beings hellbent on tempting and deceiving humanity into sin. In reality, this faction of demons are angels that saw their use of God as an abuse of power, dared to dissent, and were banished from Heaven. The angel Lucifer who led their rebellion, now dubbed “Satan”, created a pocket dimension for them to live in safety from the angels’ wrath - this became the Abrahamic concept of Hell. The angels and demons have a tenuous truce: demons accept tainted souls from the angels to punish and purify before returning them to Heaven; in exchange, the angels allow the demons to exist peacefully, and deliver to them the souls of animals and the unrepentant. Without access to God, these demons rely on these souls, which Abrahamic angels deemed unworthy for Heaven, for their energy to survive. This weaker energy has cost some demons their ability to change form, and tainted their appearance to be more monstrous.
Souls/spirits/life force are in fact just semi-sentient energy. Without a corporeal form, they are malleable and weak-willed. Many angels believe that souls of those who have sinned (according to the rules they have set in place or agreed to) are tainted with negative energy and are not safe to feed to God, and so deliver those souls to demons to do with as they please, or to punish and “purify” them before returning them to God. Modern Western demons restore sentience to the souls upon death so that they are fully aware and retain their memories of life, and punish them in the manner pre-determined (and often customized) until the negative energy is dispelled, and returned to Heaven - all at the order of angels.
Angels are all genderless and believe themselves to be above it, but allow mortals to assign genders for their own use (it helps their feeble minds comprehend them enough without breaking, so it’s easier to allow it). Demons sympathize more with humans and often adopt their social constructs, gender included.
Abrahamic angels have a strict, regimented hierarchy. They are divided into the first, second, and third triads, each with their own purpose and lower classifications. The first triad, the Seraphim, Cherubim, and Ophanim, are the most powerful of the angels. This triad live in a heavily fortified sector of Heaven called the Sanctum, nearly impenetrable to outside attackers, and are forbidden to leave in all but the most dire of circumstances. The Seraphim monitor and tend to God directly, ensuring the energy remains in balance and that the souls are fed into it properly, delicately, and at the correct rate. Originally protectors of the Garden of Eden, the Cherubim are the guardians and chaperones of God, escorting and delivering large portions of it to the lower triads to distribute as necessary. Cherubim also protect the Sanctum, and thus the faction’s direct access to God, from demons or other angels who would destroy or steal it. The Ophanim, according to Christian texts, contemplate the power and judgment of God. This means they are the angels that decide where and in what quantities the energy from God should be delivered as blessing, punishment, or otherwise.
The second triad are the primary intermediaries between the mortal and divine realms. They are comprised of the Dominions, Virtues, and Powers. Dominion angels take orders from the first triad and in turn govern the third. They oversee the operation of the Abrahamic territories and deliver messages to and from the third triad. The Virtues are the foremen and custodians of the universe. They ensure the natural world is in order, and govern the elements and nature. At the behest of the Ophanim, they may cause natural disasters or miracles. The Powers are the divine military. Their sole purpose is the defense of Heaven against demonic and heretical threats, including the continued subjugation of Abrahamic demons, and the invasion of other divine territories deemed to be a threat.
The third and final triad are the direct envoy between humanity and the second triad. This triad includes the Malakhim, Elohim (Archangels), and Ishim. The Malakhim are the Principalities, tasked with managing the Elohim and Ishim, and with guiding and protecting nations, institutions, and other organized groups of humans. The Elohim are the most important messengers, the only angels entrusted with critical sensitive information to deliver to humanity and guide the individuals chosen to be prophets. Finally, the Ishim are the lowest order of angels, who protect and guide individual people.
Rarely, especially devout individuals or those who were martyred for their faith are granted sainthood by mortal religious authorities. These souls are rewarded in Heaven by becoming the ingredient in the creation of a new angel, usually an Ish, powered by the newfound beliefs of the religious body that nominated them. This is the only way for a mortal being to become an angel. All but one - St. Guinefort, the only dog granted passage into Heaven - have been human.
The Nephilim are angels who were cast out from Heaven but were rejected by Hell, or who rejected Hell themselves. They are rogue wanderers, roaming the planet on the verge of existence and dissolution, because humans believe in their existence, but few worship them. As a desperate attempt at survival, many Nephilim have chosen heretical prophets to found small cults in their honor.
There exists a text called the Lesser Key of Solomon, written by mortals as a guide for mystical rituals to communicate with divine entities. Within it are two books called the Shemhamphorash and the Ars Goetia. In the Shemhamphorash is a list of 72 angels, their commanding officer, the verse of scripture used for mortals to invoke or summon them, and the demons they are assigned to monitor. These angels were selected by the Cherubim to protect Heaven against any future conspiracies or uprisings after the truce with the demons took effect, and to protect any mortal that would summon their assigned demon for just purposes. The Lesser Key of Solomon also contains The Ars Theurgia Goetia to summon independent spirits, and the Ars Paulina to summon minor niche angels, as well as other texts to describe general rituals and how to make the tools required to complete them.
Demons are not evil, nor is their goal to deceive, torment, or terrorize humanity. In fact, their mission has humanity’s best interest at heart. They seek to expose the angels for what they truly are and dethrone them, thereby freeing humanity from their role as unwitting fuel. The angel Lucifer, a newly appointed Cherub at the time, saw for the first time the Seraphim feeding souls into the light of God as as if tossing coal onto a fire. It unsettled him, and as time passed and he indulged his secret interest in the lives of humans, he grew to realize the gravity of their actions and the disrespect they showed another living being. He did not believe the mortals to be equal to them - far from it - but to cast the souls into God as they had was a disservice to the faith and loyalty they showed in life, oblivious to the truth of their fate. Lucifer raised his concerns to the Seraphim and other Cherubim, but they would not hear him; instead they urged him to keep his thoughts to himself, and reminded him that he, like them, required the energy from God to survive, and God needed to be constantly refueled. Angered by their dismissal, Lucifer instead discreetly recruited like-minded angels from the lower ranks. When enough of them joined the cause, roughly one third of the Abrahamic population including even Seraphim, Cherubim, and Ophanim that reconsidered their stance, they approached the remaining opposition. They threatened to descend to Earth and inform the humans of their deceit if they refused to do it themselves. They did, and a violent battle broke out. Many on both sides were slain, until the revolt was suppressed and all its constituents were forced to retreat from Heaven.
The victorious angels stripped Lucifer of his name, instead granting him the shameful title of Satan, and declared him and any of his sympathizers to not be angels at all, but demons. For centuries they crafted their own version of the story to tell humanity, painting Satan and his cohorts as arrogant, prideful, and duplicitous usurpers who sought to condemn humans to an eternity of endless torture. They hunted the demons down relentlessly on Earth and killed many more, urging humans to do the same, until Satan led his remaining forces to the safety of a pocket dimension. Unable to follow in any meaningful number and doubtful of the demons’ power and influence, the angels allowed them to stay there. Azrael, the Virtue of death who collects souls from the recently deceased and shepherds them to the Seraphim to be harvested, was sent to Hell to broker an agreement. He arrived with no guards or entourage and requested an audience with Satan, which was granted. Of the remaining angels, Azrael had been one of the most forgiving and diplomatic, and understanding of Satan’s views. His presence comforted Satan enough to believe the offer to be genuine rather than a cover for an infiltration.
They eventually reached the compromise that Satan and the demons would be permitted to live in Hell undisturbed, and could visit Earth at will. Doing so cost energy, which demons already had in short supply, making it nearly impossible for them to stay indefinitely, and thus rendering them an insignificant threat to angels in the mortal realm. In exchange, Azrael would deliver the souls of animals and sinners to Hell instead of the Seraphim. The demons were to punish the souls of those declared unfit for Heaven, and return them to Azrael once they had been purged of their sins. The demons would be permitted to keep the souls of animals and unrepentant or otherwise unsuitable souls to do with as they see fit. Generally speaking, the souls of animals are used as fuel; those of the unrepentant are handled based on the severity of their sins. Violent sinners who show no remorse are harvested or punished until they break. Harmless sins such as homosexuality, divorce, tattoos, etc and those who sinned purely out of necessity to survive or provide for their families are absolved upon arrival and never subjected to punishment. They are welcome to stay in Hell as long as they wish, or otherwise choose their own fate. Azrael remains the official envoy between Heaven and Hell, a friend to Satan, and the only angel permitted to come and go from Hell freely. The arrival of any other angel in Hell hearkens either a dire emergency or a declaration of war.
While the demonic hierarchy is more fluid than Heaven’s, Hell has a concrete caste system classifying three types of demons: basal, ancillary, and exalted. Basal demons are animalistic and non-sapient. They are used as companions, guardians, livestock, or beasts of burden, and many populate the vast expanses of unsettled land between the underworlds of different cultures. They are colloquially known to other demons as nethers. Ancillary or subaltern demons are the peasants, pawns, and footmen of Hell. They are semi-sapient and unwaveringly loyal to their exalted masters. They were initially intended to carry out the menial labor and allow them to focus on executive and administrative work, but have also formed the bulk of the building demonic army as expendable fodder. Both nethers and ancillaries were created by the exalted shortly after their arrival in Hell to aid in the construction of their new kingdom. With enough exposure to humans or exalted demons, a nether may attain sentience and learn to communicate with them, at which point they are promoted to ancillaries, provided they live within the Kingdom and not outside its walls or on Earth. While an advanced nether may surpass original ancillaries and even match exalted in intelligence, they can never become exalted themselves. Ancillaries and nethers are collectively known as Stygians.
The exalted are the ruling class of Hell. They are the angels who revolted against the angels’ tyrannical rule over humanity, but were defeated, later supplanted by the angels worshipped as gods who were overthrown by the Abrahamic angels. With a workforce of ancillaries, they erected a sprawling city, complete with a palace and high walls. From this stronghold they could recuperate and begin carrying out their own agenda: expose the angels’ treachery to humanity and turning the mortals away from them, weakening Heaven enough for a second siege to stand a chance. These are the demons that may be summoned by humans to do grant abilities or do their bidding in exchange for a favor - though selling one’s soul to a demon is a myth.
Exalted demons have a similar ranking system to angels, but where angels are restricted to the rank they are bestowed, the hierarchy of demons is far more diverse and mobile. Hell is a monarchial meritocracy - Satan reigns as sovereign, elected by the original group of angels he led in rebellion against Heaven, and all other ranks are bestowed by him based on the individual’s skill, talent, and accomplishments. He can promote or demote as he sees fit, or allow his higher-ranking subjects to make such decisions on his behalf. This means that some demons starting at the lowest rank have the potential to rise to the highest.
The exalted hierarchy borrows titles from feudal European nobility and military. Immediately below Lord Sovereign are the four kings of Hell: Baal, Belial, Asmodeus, and Paimon. Each rules over one of the districts surrounding the central palace; Baal in the east, Belial in the north, Paimon in the west, and Asmodeus in the south. These demons are Satan’s most trusted advisors and generals in his army. They command the largest numbers of troops, Paimon with the most at 250 legions, and Belial with the least at 72. In the event Satan is permanently vanquished or otherwise unable to rule, the exalted will elect one of these kings as the new Lord Sovereign. Below them are the Princes, a rank appointed by Satan or the kings rather than inherited, followed by Dukes, Marquis, Counts, and Barons. These ranks serve as Brigadier, Colonel, Major, Captain, and Lieutenant respectively in the army.
At the bottom of the ladder are the Knights. This is a pseudo-class that falls somewhere between the exalted and the ancillaries. Knights may be high-ranking ancillaries, especially intelligent nethers, or low-ranking exalted demons, not quite qualified to be a baron. They are primarily comprised of the creations of the exalted, or minor deities from dissolved Pagan religions. However, the mortal soul of a human or animal may be knighted for exemplary service or righteousness in the eyes of the Lord Sovereign. Knighted humans are generally those the Bible would deem sinners or evil, but who strived to do good in the world regardless. Knighted animals are rare, but usually members of vilified species who exhibited notable loyalty, bravery, or were martyred in defense of their kin or humanity. This is the only way for mortal beings to become demons.
Demons are featured in the Lesser Key of Solomon alongside the angels of the Shemhamphorash. Their list is called the Ars Goetia. Like the Shemhamphorash, this book lists 72 demons, their abilities and specialties, the rituals to summon them safely, the angels that oppose them, and their seals. These demons are the surviving high-ranking members of Lucifer’s original revolt, which Satan holds dear and trusts with important tasks, and have been stripped of their angelic names. They were at one point captured, cataloged, and sentenced to an eternity servitude by mortals. The humans bound them in servitude to humanity with the help of the Shemhamphorash by branding their flesh with a seal. In the presence of another instance of the same seal, the brand will burn as it did when first applied, to a severity and duration chosen by the seal’s keeper in order to keep the demon under control. Some use magic to conceal their brand as a matter of pride, but this does not hinder its effects. Many of the Ars Goetia have become jaded to humanity’s plight after centuries of subjugation by only the most patronizing or pitiful of men. They no longer care strongly about the wellbeing of mortals, if at all, but remain only out of loyalty to Satan himself.
CALEB ST. CLAIRE
Spoiled upper-middle class white boy who is convinced his life is the actual worst and rebels against parents who aren't actually all that strict on him. At all. Convinces a friend to teach him how to summon a demon to spice things up and cause a little mayhem, but bites off more than he can chew. Summons a demon far more powerful than he's capable of handling, signs a contract, and accidentally falls in love with him.
Powerful Cherubim and 71st angel of the Shemhamphorash, overseer of divine justice and substitute leader of the Cherubim. Entrusted with monitoring Dantalion and ensuring he behaves in accordance with divine law while on Earth.
Grand Duke of Hell, Major in the demonic army, original defector from Heaven alongside Lord Sovereign Satan, master of illusion and mind control, and somehow employee of a hotshot teenage brat. Tired of humanity and all their bullshit, but would still choose them over Heaven. Does his best to call Caleb out when he's being an ass, and is genuinely surprised when it actually works. Starts to tread into forbidden territory when fondness and pride turn into something more.
Lord Sovereign of the Kingdom of Hell, former Seraphim, and leader of the rebellion against Heaven. Uncompromising and quick-tempered, but compassionate toward his subjects. Maintains his own strict moral code holding freedom and self respect paramount.
Caleb's long-time classmate and best friend. Somehow goth-er than he is, and more knowledgeable on demonology and the occult than a girl her age has any right to be. Stubborn, independent, and fearless, even demons have a hard time shaking her.
Prince of Hell and twelfth demon of the Ars Goetia. Dantalion's direct superior and the closest thing he can call a friend. Light-hearted but with a sadistic streak, mischievous, sneaky, and a lover of chaos. Has a soft spot for Caleb, having experienced a similar if far less fortuitous relationship to theirs in the past.