Abishai (pronounced: /ˈæbɪʃaɪ/ ÆB-i-shy listen; used both as singular and plural) or abishais, also known as scaly devils, were baatezu in service to the Queen of Chromatic Dragons, Tiamat. The draconic devils were, among many other roles, the guards and escorts of the Nine Hells' captives, processing them for torture when not corrupting mortals themselves.
Abishais appeared to be archetypal devils due to their strong resemblance to gothic gargoyles, being thin, clawed reptilians with large, leathery, bat-like wings. Their tails were prehensile, constantly whipped around their bodies and were tipped with a hidden barb. An abishai's eyes were slanted and from their fanged, snapping jaws came a rasping voice. Atop their visage was a pair of small horns, snake-like hair, and pointed ears. Strangely, their presence brought with them the smell of vinegar and a perceptible increase in the warmth of the air.
They came in five different colors: red, white, black, green and blue, but the scales that adorned their skin were duller than those of their true, chromatic counterparts. Their size was said to correspond to their station but in general they were 250‒500 lb (110‒230 kg) devils that could reach heights between 4‒8 ft (1.2‒2.4 m) tall.
Abishais were arrogant devils that viewed themselves as the purest children of Tiamat and as such viewed themselves as superior to both her other underlings and other baatezu. They drew both their philosophical stances and demeanor from their queen and swore fealty to her.
Their sense of rivalry extended not only to other devils but to different breeds of abishai, and due to their intense sense of classism they only interacted with abishais of immediately higher or lower rank, and even then on sufferance. At the same time, they were irritated by their own low status and state of servitude, and so took great pleasure in tormenting the few baatezu lower in the infernal hierarchy than themselves. In addition, they had a practically clinical fascination with discovering the depths of mortal suffering.
Abishai's were naturally armed with teeth, claws, and stingers strong enough to defend themselves with and, depending on the type of abishai, their tails caused a different effect tied to their chromatic type. By holding onto an opponent, their scales and talons could also dig into flesh, opening wounds. While capable of flight, they were clumsy and poor, making it easier for them to land on the ground when fighting.
Like most low-level devils they slowly but surely regenerated from any wounds not caused by holy water of holy weapons, implements that could cause them particular pain. The spells change self, command, produce flame, pyrotechnics, and scare were also at their disposal as well as the ability to call a few abishai or a small force of lemures to aid them.
Before landing, abishais would attempt to use illusion and charm-based abilities to weaken their foes before fighting them properly. Often this included the use of scare and suggestion spells to divide large mobs of enemies before swooping down to destroy their foes on the ground.
Scaled devils were both the torturers and wardens of the Nine Hells, but particularly of the first two layers, responsible for keeping watch of captives and processing prisoners to the correct layers. Wings, two or three abishais, were the most common grouping of their kind, in charge of hunting down fugitives that escaped from the prisons of Hell. Wails were groups of three to twelve that operated the prison compounds and guarded scores of captives. When not acting as prison guards abishais instead served as low-level grunts in the Blood War, assembling into large legions alongside other devils to fight off demons and any others that would try to invade Hell. Lone abishais often had the task of sending messages or scouting.
Individual abishais were also given the task of tempting and corrupting mortals with gold, gems, and magical items, and as such often had access to great resources despite their low station. Mortals that agreed to their vile pacts were often deceived as the abishai's gave magic of such intense power that those inexperienced in magic often lost control of it. Weaker abishai were some of the most commonly summoned devils, giving them ample opportunities to seduce mortals with offers of power, but they also disguised themselves as more powerful baatezu in order to tempt mortals that had willingly came to Baator. Contrary to what one might expect from dragon-like creatures, abashais did not personally care for gemstones and normally invested their wealth into protective magical implements, potions and coins, although rarely they could be found delivering gems to greater devils.
Tiamat herself employed the abishai's as her emissaries, having them act as her personal representatives. Less important servants sent messages to her worshipers, led small cults with sensitive missions, or performed other simple duties while those of higher status lead large groups, operated as assassins or served in her personal legions. Abishais willingly cooperated with the dragonspawn of mortal planes, often taking positions of great influence among them. Where Tiamat's mortal spawn represented her desire to subjugate the Material Plane the abishai represented the impact she made within Hell.
Fanatical loyalty was shown by Tiamat's servants, with most willing to die for her despite her complete disinterest in her own creations. In fact, it was because Tiamat showed complete disregard for her spawn that they felt the need to earn her attention through excellent service. The arrogance that the scaled devils showed towards others was partially a result of their inferiority complex caused both by the cupidity of Tiamat and the disdain most other devils, and indeed other abishai breeds, showed them.
Existing outside of the system, abishais ultimately answered only to Tiamat, and by extension her jailor, Asmodeus. While other archdevils could technically command them, they were rarely put to use since it was difficult to be certain whose orders a given abishai was following, and while crossing Tiamat was dangerous, countermanding Asmodeus's directions was fatal. At the same time, Tiamat was never short on abishais and so permanently sold some of her servants out in platoons to other archdevils, even going so far as to have sold the secrets of their physiology to other archdevils so that they could produce their own.
Most abishais were mortals that, for whatever reason, earned the favor of The Dragon Queen in life and who were rewarded with a fiendish form. Her non-dragon worshipers manifested in her realm as wriggling souls before she judged their worth, with those deemed acceptable being transformed through a horrifying process into white abishais, and all others being sold to buying devils in exchange for gold and gems. Those turned from spinagons into low-ranking abishai were generally viewed as too lazy or incompetent to rise to a higher status, with the only method of rectifying the situation being to diligently apply themselves in order to reach a more respectable station.
While some scholars thought that abishai's had to rise through every rank of abishai, possibly through aging, before they could enter a new form, such savants were mistaken. Each abishai breed was a distinct devil type and while they could go through every color rank, it was also possible for them to be promoted directly to other forms like the barbazu, kocrachon, kyton or even erinyes if they showed a particular excellency. The abishais were somewhat disconnected from the infernal hierarchy in general, rarely leaving their station even when it was possible to realign themselves with the standard path of advancement.
During the Time of Troubles, a group of thirteen abishai were marooned in Unther. The Cult of the Dragon in Unther considered this a blessing from Tiamat. Each of the thirteen maintained a lair in the Underdark below the city of Unthalass. In truth, Tiamat did not send them as a blessing; the thirteen enjoyed their freedom from serving Tiamat, and the high priest of the Cult was blackmailing them into following his orders lest he send them back to Tiamat in Hell.
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Least: Lemure • Nupperibo • Spinagon
Lesser: Abishai (Black • Blue • Green • Red • White) • Barbazu • Erinyes • Excruciarch • Ghargatula • Hamatula (Stony devil) • Kocrachon • Merregon • Osyluth • War devil • Xerfilstyx
Greater: Amnizu • Cornugon • Gelugon • Logokron • Narzugon • Orthon • Paeliryon • Pit fiend
Baatezu of unknown rank: Advespa • Dogai • Gulthir • Jerul
Araton • Burning devil • Fimbrul devil • Hellcat • Hellwasp • Imp (Bloodbag • Euphoric • Filth) • Kalabon • Kyton • Seared devil • Stitched devil • Succubus • Tar devil
Chromatic dragons: Red • Black • Blue • Green • White • Brown • Gray • Purple • Yellow
Gem dragons: Amber • Amethyst • Emerald • Sapphire • Topaz • Crystal • Obsidian
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Epic dragons: Force • Prismatic
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Draconic transformations: Air • Ascendant
Linnorms: Corpse tearer • Dread • Stygian
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Drow-dragon (shadow) • Drow-dragon (deep) • Half-dragon • Kobold (Dragonwrought • Urd) • Weredragon • Zar'ithra • Zekyl
Undead dragons: Dracolich • Dragonwight • Hoarder • Rathrea • Vampiric • Zombie