Following on from part 1, in which I talked about some of the world background, I’ve been thinking about how demons work and what life is like for them.
One thing I touched on but didn’t elaborate much is that the Land Form can change. They’re based on local animals, with the ability to go bipedal at will if not already, with the initial shape chosen based on whatever happened to be nearby when the demon first arrived. It’s not set in stone, however; any demon can reshape themselves to resemble another animal that is nearby at the time (exact definition of “nearby” TBD).
Any demon can do a full “reset” change, but those with the skill can perform a partial change, most crudely resembling a half-and-half mix of what they were before and the new form, but true experts in the art can adopt a single, carefully chosen feature. Because of the skill involved and the added potential for self-expression, chimeric forms are generally (but not universally) considered more attractive than those based on a single species, all other factors being equal.
This is not something that has to be done alone. Any demon can receive assistance from a form artist to become a chimera, though results are less precise than the form artist could perform for themselves. Their services are consequently in demand, both to help others achieve a desired form and as teachers of the art.
The initial arrival and ensuing war are recent enough that the exact mechanics of adopting a new form are still being discovered, and form artists who exist now are mostly those with a natural talent for it that has given them a head start.
No matter how carefully designed, a demon never completely resembles the animal they have based themselves on. They always have horns, and those with forms that would naturally include forms rarely have them in the right shape. A demon’s horns are unique to them and never change in shape as their form changes, only in size.
Their colours also tend to be like nothing in nature, apparently random, with vivid primary colours common. Some will repeatedly change into very similar forms to get another try at a colour they like, and some manage to look like they’ve been tie-dyed.
Identity, death, and the Storm
The distinction between life and death is a new one for demons. In their natural state back in their home world, the boundaries between individuals are blurry at best, and most only began to think of themselves a single, distinct beings after coming to the new world. This was, in fact, one of the major attractions.
Becoming a distinct being with a physical body also introduces something new: the possibility of dying. This is a possibility many demons have encountered first-hand during the war. Unlike the world’s native, fully corporeal beings, demons die twice.
The first death is bodydeath. When a Ghost Form is killed by a metal weapon, or a Land Form by anything at all, the demon reverts to what was once their natural state, a formless spirit. Such spirits cannot exist here for long, and in many cases, the second death, souldeath, will soon follow. Souldeath is the final end for a demon as an individual, as the spirit energy that held them together unwinds and joins the Storm.
The Storm is an enormous dark cloud hanging over the site of the very first portal. Every time a demon souldies, it grows as little. It boils and twists, lashing out at random with bolts of lightning in an alarmingly wide area. Anything that once lived under the Storm fled or burned long ago.
Among demons, “the Storm take you” is considered one of the harshes curses imaginable. Faced with this possibility, some long to return to their original world, though no way to do this is known.
However, this is not the only possibility after bodydeath. If there is someone else nearby, and both are willing, a bodyless demon may enter the body of another, and remain there permanently. Some demons remain too attached to their newfound individuality to consider joining or being joined by another in this way, but the appalling death toll of the war has made those sharing a body a sizable minority.
One is the most common number of minds, followed by two, but some demons have made it their mission in life to save as many from being taken by the Storm as possible, and a rare few bodies have hundreds of like-minded souls within.
Less commonly, this may also apply to the local sophonts (who I still need to design), some of whom remember the brief days before the war when demons were friends, and were willing to share their lives with one. These people are distrusted every bit as much as the demons themselves.