Dispater (pronounced: /dɪsˈpeɪtɛr/ dis-PAY-ter) was the Lord of Dis and an archdevil whose extreme vigilance almost personified caution. The urbane Iron Duke ruled the Iron City from within his Iron Tower, and was legendary for his impregnable layers of defense.
Description[edit | edit source]
Dispater appeared as a 7 ft (2.1 m) tall, dark-haired humanoid with sable skin as cold and hard as iron. His infernal heritage was revealed in several aspects of figure: his glowing, red eyes, small horns, pointed tail, and cloven left hoof. The devilishly handsome archduke dressed in only the finest attire, such as his velvet gloves or red robes, and always wielded his mace-like rod.
Personality[edit | edit source]
A master strategist and expert in intrigue, Dispater had a well-earned reputation for being the most carefully calculating of the archdevils. His personal safety was always his top priority, and to catch him off-guard would be to outwit one of the most clever and resourceful beings in reality. During every step of his dominion he acted with patient cunning and unshakable discretion. Although he, like the other archdevils, schemed to take over the Nine Hells, he avoided taking big risks, not out of cowardice or insecurity but because of his unique view of the system.
Dispater viewed reality from the perspective of a contestant in an enigmatic game governed by unclear rules, and he analyzed the worth of everything by how it might help him glean its true nature. By solving all the mysteries of the multiverse, he would gain the best chances of winning, allowing him to control the Nine Hells and then the rest of reality. He held numerous secret techniques in regards to mining and forging for example, making him the greatest weapons supplier in Hell and possibly the multiverse, and thus making him an important entity for the devils of the war-torn Avernus. The chance to learn a new secret was one of the few things that could compel him to act against the other archdevils.
Despite his analytical approach, Dispater still held diabolical charisma and carried himself with appreciable self-control. He was calm and composed at all times and was undeniably persuasive, delivering reasonable arguments with the courtesy of a true gentleman. His ability to withhold his anger even when it passionately burned not only made him a dangerously suave entity, but was a source of personal pride for him.
However, behind Dispater's sophisticated posturing and soft finery was nonetheless a tyrant's iron fist, much to the chagrin of predatory members of his court. He was a malicious manipulator whose gentle words were laced with deceit and his acts of supposed charity were always political in nature. Among the archdevils, he was notable for rarely trying to force others to do his bidding, preferring to twist them into unwittingly carrying out his will. Even when committing acts of unspeakable evil, his chivalrous façade never wavered, and if someone did manage to break his iron-clad stoicism he'd rather destroy them than leave them alive to potentially expose his folly.
More recently however, a flaw had appeared in Dispater's seemingly invincible defense; his never-ending vigilance had been slowly transitioning into anxiety and paranoia. Unless otherwise forced to, he never left his city or even his tower, fearing a fate like Geryon or Moloch before him. No one was trusted, surprises were, at best, unpleasant, and he went out of his way to make clear who was in charge. The gloomy archdevil's paranoia affected his every action and the ever-cautious Lord of the Nine had at least nine escape routes and back-up plans at any given time.
Powers[edit | edit source]
The Iron Duke's touch could have two effects, each devastating on their own but when used in concert could easily fell the most dangerous of foes. The first effect allowed him to turn flesh into iron, rendering almost any organic foe an inert statue. The second effect almost instantly corroded metal, rusting up to a 10 ft (3 m) cube worth of material into useless pieces in an instant. Only the most capable warrior could retract their weapon after striking him without it turning into dust first, but magical metal could resist his power and nonmetal items were completely immune. Because those he turned into statues were only made of mundane metal, one of his favored tactics was turning someone into metal before rusting them into oblivion.
Fortunately for those who would try to combat him, Dispater always acted defensively, creating scalding gates of steel and walls of deadly chains to hold back his attackers while he summoned aid. Normally he would already have minions to fight in his stead, ranging from merregon grunts, moderately dangerous war devils and even pit fiends, who would keep the enemy busy while he evaluated their strength. Although pit fiends were his first choice of summon and he was also known for his use of erinyes, other devils might be called based on the situation, such as osyluths, barbazus, cornugons or gelugons.
Dispater's very words were powerful and if he could not persuade someone with their contents he'd do so with their magical nature. Suggestion spells were one way he'd make distance, and when fighting he would section off powerful adversaries from their allies in order to dominate them uninterrupted. He could also blast people back with thunderous speech or utter an unholy word.
Dispater had various other abilities such as the power to create a symbol of pain, surround himself with a terrifying aura, or cause a fear or chill with his gaze. It was also said that those who attacked him would be forced to relive their worst memories in excruciating detail, whether it was as simple as losing a brawl or as supremely humiliating as a celestial's fall from grace. If a battle seemed to be turning against him despite his cautious planning and preparation he wasted no time teleporting away.
Possessions[edit | edit source]
Rumored to have been empowered at the same time as the Iron Tower, Dispater's rod was both a potent magical artifact and his symbol of ultimate authority. It was 3 ft (0.91 m) long, made either of iron and lead or adamantine, and shaped like two intertwined serpents. It acted as both a rod of rulership and a powerful staff of striking, allowed the wielder to smite the forces of good and could spew stinging acid.
Being focused on defense, Dispater also often equipped a magical iron shield and had been developing a suit of adamantine armor. The suit had a plethora of enchantments applied using methods only known to Dispater himself that could thwart magic, allow for survival in even the most hostile environments and achieve a host of other unknown effects.
Realm[edit | edit source]
Dispater ruled over the narcissistically named layer of Dis, the outskirts of which were interspersed with rolling hills plagued by hellcats, wild erinyes and supposedly, moving pillars of stone. The majority of Dis however was a flat, blasted plain with only occasional rises in the ground, or precipitous mountains filled with iron ore that created a maze of canyons between them. Iron bastions on rocky pinnacles filled with garrisons watched over the canyons and the iron roads paved within them. The cloudless skies were a thick gray-green, sometimes illuminated by flickers of lightning and the faint echoes of thunder, and were plagued by unending winds that fiercely and unpredictably hurled earthbound travelers through the air and made flying an ordeal for those that hadn't spent years learning its patterns.
Dis shared its name both with its master and the city that comprised most of it, the largest and most well-known domain in Hell, otherwise known as the Iron City or the City of Pain. It was speculated that the two were actually one in the same since the Iron City seeming infinite in size from the inside. The path leading to it foreshadowed its spatially anomalous nature, since only after treading a certain slope on a ring of mountains could one make their way inside. The winding path was composed of the broken skulls of the damned, and after a certain amount of time traveling the black iron spurs that jutted towards the sky along the road gradually became so thick that they were simply walls. As the walls grew larger, a traveler would abruptly realize that they had somehow already passed them without noticing, having rounded another iron escarpment only to be surrounded by people and buildings. It was said that if one walked far enough that they could exit the city and return to the ring of mountains it was surrounded by, although simply wandering aimlessly was likely to trap one in it and the vale it unevenly sat in for eternity.
The Iron City[edit | edit source]
The labyrinthine nature of the Iron City was partially a result of the endless construction work forced upon the petitioners. Work crews of shades that had been returned their memories in order to properly appreciate their agony, lemures, and other forms of petitioners were guided by spinagon foremen and watched over by perched abishai in the extension, contraction, remodeling, reconstruction and repair of the city, much of which was considered to be meaningless busy work. While Bel's alterations to the Bronze Citadel served to fortify it, the changes made to the City of Pain at Dispater's behest seemed wholly illogical. The condemned work gangs would lay down metal plates and erecting buildings one week only for the same team to rip up the streets and tear down the buildings the next, or for the crew a block over to be undoing similar work to theirs that was just freshly completed. While the changes made by the work crews were impressively quick, they paled in comparison to the way the city itself rearranged itself, for no matter how fast a cartographer sketched, the city was always different by the time they were finished.
It was said that the reason the City of Pain changed so quickly, both supernaturally and in the form of work crew orders, was that it reflected the inner workings of Dispater's mind. Despite being theoretically infinite, those inside always felt cramped and trapped, and the more paranoid Dispater became the tighter and more warren-like the city's streets became. With the overwhelming presence of scrying devices recently added, the walls had ears and the red eyes of statues moved. Dispater ruled the city from his Iron Tower, a massive structure with even faster-acting peculiarities than the rest of the city. It always seemed to be a block away despite the fact that moving towards it got one nowhere. The Tower itself could be seen from every point in Dis and from it Dispater could see the tiniest details of his domain, but it always changed form from moment to moment. Even without its oppressive features, moving through Dis was still harrowing since those without proper protection, such as thick leather clothes and padded or iron-shod boots, quickly found that almost every outer surface was glowing hot and horribly burned anyone daring or careless enough to touch the iron portions.
Despite its massive size, filled with iron ramparts, eyrie-filled towers, garbage-choked streets and dilapidated alleys, the City of Pain only had a population of about 400,000, but it was nonetheless an effective hierarchy with clearly and cruelly defined roles. Zombies, rot grubs and the occasional black pudding could be found throughout the streets along with iron gargoyles brooding in the squares and spectres being harvested for divine energy. Dispater employed over a thousand kocrachons within the city, while thousands of merregons and barbazus, as well as spinagons and succubi, protected it. Among the crowds that filled the streets were the parades of infernal nobles; Blood War officers and other important devils had mansions scattered throughout the city that broke its typical appearance.
While thoroughly unpleasant, the focus of Dis was industry rather than military, and it was one of the most accommodating place in the Nine Hells towards outsiders. Most outside dealings were conducted in an area known as the Fetters, so called because the outsiders that found themselves there can no longer seem to leave. Rare information was granted to the highest bidder, decent food and taverns mimicking those of the Prime Material Plane formed a 'tourist' economy, and the bazaars and foundries bought and sold arms, armor, artistry, magical items and infernal mercenaries. While thief gangs and crime lords fought over control of the sprawling slums, Dispater still ultimately controlled it through his spies and informants. Through special provisions added to contracts made in Dis, he appropriated a portion of every shady deal and contraband trade, whether it was made with devils, night hags, rakshasas, succubi or other fiends.
Activities[edit | edit source]
Dispater rarely left the safety of his Iron Tower, much less his city, only exiting if forced to by Asmodeus and always returning as fast as possible. He governed his realm through intermediaries and aspects and relied on minions to do his bidding, his servants being scattered throughout the Nine Hells all working to some elaborate end. Erinyes served as his messengers and heralds but he also made use of imp envoys with messages sown into vests designed to destroy both the messenger and message if removed by the wrong person.
With every archdevil to fall, Dispater's already healthy paranoia grew and his methods became more extreme. For example, the unpredictable and sudden fall of the Hag Countess to Glasya, seemingly with the support of her father drove Dispater deeper into the depths of his tower. After that he double-checked his exits, quadrupled his guards and increased the layers of intermediaries he communicated through, only directly seeing his most trusted servitors and instructing half of his servants to spy on the other half for treachery. Zariel's triumph over Bel only made matters worse and saw him take up residence deep within his libraries. He left daily governance and negotiation with mortal summoners to his herald Titivilus and a greater number of spies to monitor potential threats.
His primary goal was always to consolidate his current power and his plans could take generations to achieve results. After Glasya's ascension he tried to slowly drive out the voluntary, planar residents from his city through harassment, taxation and surveillance, convinced they were all sources of potential treachery. As for actual objectives, his main mission was the elimination of Baalzebul. The two constantly fought in wars of intrigue and expertly played politics, preventing the Iron Duke from further expansion, or at the very least that was how it appeared.
Relationships[edit | edit source]
Servants[edit | edit source]
Dispater's favored servitors were erinyes, natives to Dis appreciated not only for their beauty but for their unfaltering fealty and competence, traits looked for through traps, tests and demonstrably excellent service. They earned increased influence throughout Dis and were rewarded for displaying such characteristics. Patrolling Dis from the skies, they would head towards the city and alert other erinyes or important individuals when spotting intruders, presuming they weren't already in a group in which case only one would leave while the rest attacked. They carefully observed enemy numbers and appearance before leaving and their goal was possibly to capture not kill since entities and items able to better his standing were something Dispater always desired and destroying something he might possibly want was a quick way to anger him. His chief erinyes was the horribly scarred disciple Ustyhrin-ja, a paranoid devil that was loyal to and only trusted Dispater.
Besides the erinyes, Dispater employed constructs such as iron golems to do his bidding, the most famous and recent of which was Talos. Procured by Dispater through unknown means, the ancient golem was wrongly thought to be created by the Iron Duke, but it nonetheless obeyed his commands.
Dukes[edit | edit source]
Labored in by stench kows and spinagons and home to mephits, achaierai and rakshasas were the great estates of Dispater's dukes, laid between the Iron City and the distant hills of Dis. The rakshasas occasionally earned leadership positions in such households but were too independent and ambitious to be left unwatched. Orthodoxically infernal in appearance, the duke known as Bitru was the strongest of Dispater's vassals and commanded 70 companies of erinyes, each raised within his fief. Similarly, the warlike general Alocer, a lion-headed devil that was greatly proficient in most weapons, led 36 companies of erinyes and rode about his estate on a nightmare. Perhaps the most bizarre of his generals was the patchwork quadruped known as Merodach, the leader of 21 barbazus companies that combined a wolf's body, a serpent's prehensile tail, huge, feathered wings and large, spreading longhorns.
Dispater's consort was the old and relatively weak duchess known as Lilis, a cautious diplomat that cemented her position through strategy, political wariness and by providing Dispater access to a spy network to rival Asmodeus's. Meanwhile, Dispater's provost, Biffant, managed the Iron Tower itself with a team of two messenger erinyes and six spinagons servitors guarding him at all times, his cunning and almost precognitive levels of forward thinking compensating for his lack of courage or assertiveness. The two portly devils showed an uncanny level of mutual understanding, teamwork and trust that exceeded typical expectations for devils to the point that they seemed closer to each other than to Dispater, although they had nonetheless shown their lord unswerving loyalty, granting him control over his domain that brought envy to other archdevils.
The most notable of Dispater's dukes however was his nuncio, the satyr-like, silver-tongued devil known as Titivilus. Dispater had Titivilus serve several roles, acting as his ambassador, advisor, messenger and harbinger, his trust for the duke being so great that he left governance of Dis to him and allowed him to speak and act on his behalf. It was unknown if any message sent to Dispater was ever actually received by the archdevil himself. In truth, Dispater's biggest mistake was likely putting Titivilus in charge, for while he was justified in being paranoid towards outside threats he had neglected to protect himself from his own fear. Titivilus was not in his position for his strength but because he always knew exactly what to say at exactly the right time to get his way and confuse others into seeing him as a friend. After gaining his position as Dispater's right hand, he had been preying on Dispater's paranoia, convincing him that even Asmodeus himself was part of an innumerable number of conspiracies out to dethrone him.
He insulated his perilous position by killing critics or those that would expose him and creating problems for his master for him to solve, thus making himself seem more valuable to Dispater. Those whose disdain manifested as hatred were terrified of the consequences that trying to take him down could incur and most were simply afraid of him with the exception of one; Arioch the Iron Avenger. As Dispater's enforcer, the avenger protected the city, searching for those that defied, displeased, obstructed or crossed him, and as his bodyguard he accompanied him everywhere that he could be in potential danger, typically outside the city, and warded him from the pestering of devils from other circles of Hell. While Titivilus thought of the Iron Avenger as his peer the two would quickly destroy each other if given the chance.
Archdevils[edit | edit source]
For a long time, at least in name, Dispater was an ally of Mephistopheles, although he envied the Cold Lord and was greatly perturbed by the possibility that his arcane studies had uncovered a secret he hadn't yet learned. The two shared a deep hatred for Baalzebul, with Dispater's loathing stemming from the fact that the Slug Archduke was, in his eyes, just a fallen archon and not a 'true' baatezu like Mephistopheles, although only someone as ancient as Dispater would be aware or care about such semantics.
Dispater was once an ally of Mammon as well, but the sniveling serpent's display of craven pleading towards Asmodeus and the speed with which he sold him out broke their partnership. However, Dispater himself was nonetheless cowed after the disastrous ending of the Reckoning, considering himself lucky to still be in his position. He was the most loyal of the archdevils, the beckoning of the King of Hell being one of the few things that would prompt him to leave the Iron Tower, and would need extraordinary persuasion to attempt to betray him twice.
Asmodeus wasn't the only devil that Dispater had changed attitudes towards, him having gained a new political perspective after Glasya's rise. He tried to civilly distance himself from his allies and make peace with his rivals in order to establish himself as a neutral party, a futile goal for a being such as himself in the Nine Hells. The other archdevils nonetheless coveted his secrets, such as the occult trick that allowed him to siphon vast amounts of divine energy from woeful spectres that repented just too late to obtain a second chance.
Worshipers[edit | edit source]
Dispater supported soul harvesting territories able to reliably produce with little effort, rewarded those that managed to improve their yields and was willing to trade territories and minions with other archdevils. He was not above trying new plots and, compared to other devils, seemed focused on engaging in the soul trade, sending his envoys to pursue endless schemes throughout the Material Plane. His interest and skill in the trading of souls was rooted in his obsession with obtaining secrets; he desired the souls of secret-seekers and bargained with those who already had important secrets of their own.
Both Dispater and his soul harvesters recognized the subjective nature of value and the imps under his command diligently explored the Material Plane searching for pieces of, sometimes seemingly random, information to use as bargaining chips, such as the identity of a mysterious figure in a potential mark's life. A peasant that stumbled across powerful arcane magic could be convinced to enter an infernal pact in exchange for information about the future economy while a powerful archmage could be cajoled into entering their own deal in exchange for the spell.
Dispater was the archdevil, if not most known then most understood, by mortals and the patron of war and intrigue. His followers upheld the principles of planning and strategy, thinking like generals and having the prowess of warriors. Despite being defensive to the point of sequestering themselves, they were never truly trapped since part of Dispater's doctrine was the idea of making contingencies. When combat was necessary, they made sure it was on their chosen the battlefield and under their terms.
They showed an extreme attention to detail, particularly devils that lived in Dis, and so had to be unerringly wary. They also had exceptional martial prowess with almost all weapons and armors, especially those of iron. More supernatural abilities included the power to summon erinyes, turn their bodies to iron, cause items to rust, detect the presence of metal, and teleport away in order to escape harm.
Cults devoted to Dispater did exist, but they weren't actually encouraged by the Father of Strife, rather he tempted influential individuals with promises of power. Dispater's agents weren't actual rulers but those who ruled behind the throne by blackmailing the actual authorities with scandalous secrets and hidden weaknesses, such as villainous viziers, ministers and councilors. His true disciples were suspicious to the point of being paranoid and despite preferring to have others fight for them, they typically had few real allies and so had to employ mercenaries and other minions to enact their will.
His actual cults were similarly secretive and militant, representing evil in its most stable, and thus stagnant, form. They were conspiratorial in nature, often attempting to overtake existing religious and government organizations. Warlike humanoid races like goblins or hobgoblins revered the Iron Duke as the image of indestructibility, and rogue mind flayers occasionally appealed to him seeking knowledge that would allow them permanent freedom from the elder brain.
Rituals[edit | edit source]
Initiation into a cult of Dispater involved the ritualistic sacrifice of an intelligent being on an iron altar in the presence of an erinyes supervisor that would report it to Dispater afterwards. Fighters and combat-oriented rogues and rangers were known to submit to him, being powerful soldiers that wielded iron axes and swords. Dispatian clerics donned gray attire and were often covered in iron from their heavy armor to their maces to the masks that hid their facial features.
Dispater's temples were often hidden and remote and always easily defensible with various escape routes, secret passages and traps to create options for its occupants. Even if not temples, all disciples mustered the most well-defended bases possible, the greatest owning literal fortresses with armies at their command. Commonly, cultists simply hunkered down in their outposts reviewing protocols and backup plans.
Avatars and Aspects[edit | edit source]
Dispater's avatar had been described as a 10 ft (3 m), yellow-skinned figure with the horns of a pit fiend and his aspects, which looked similar to himself, wielded weaker versions of his rod and wore clothing as exorbitant and resplendent as their master's.
If possible, Dispater always sent aspects to deal with situations outside of Dis that required a certain amount of personal attention, such as tempting intriguing mortals or societies and entreating with the other archdevils in Nessus. Despite often being made to fight, they were hesitant to fulfill their purpose since they shared Dispater's paranoia, in regards to both his safety and their own. Because of this they avoided risky fights, rarely ever committed to battle, had at least one escape planned and when pressed tried to kill the most dangerous opponent as fast as possible to secure their survival. They bewildered their enemies from afar and creating iron barriers to keep them from getting close, always looking for potential advantages in combat and surrounding themselves with minions.
They were most comfortable when surrounded with devils under their control but saw commanding mortals as a disgusting task for lesser devils. While one might think that, having lived in the paranoia-fueled Iron City, that the aspects would be able to relax on the Material Plane, the lack of distrust among the denizens only further agitated their sense of suspicion. Those around them felt more fearful than what was typical of their race and the aspects went out of their way to foster an environment with the correct amount of paranoia, although they were still more adept at handling society than Dispater himself. Though sometimes summoned or created by cults, many times Dispater's aspects in Faerun were looking for souls that would, or could be made to, experience regret for their misdeeds before death, allowing them to be turned into spectres and used to collect divine energy.
History[edit | edit source]
Dispater was an archduke of unimaginable age, ancient even by the standards of his peers. Untold eons had passed since he first rose to power to the point where his origin could no longer be remembered by most, and unlike figures such as Bel he defied classification as a "type" of devil. If the tale of the Pact Primeval was to be believed, he was formerly an angel that worked with Asmodeus, Mephistopheles, and other dark angels that would become the first erinyes, to transform the barren wasteland of Hell into an industrious plane of torture and punishment.
Dispater was thought to have mediated the deal between Tiamat and the githyanki, his original deal of receiving the entire race's soul having been rejected. Dispater received the soul of Gith as a kind of insurance for Tiamat upholding her side of the bargain and granting the githyanki red dragon mounts. Unfortunately for the Lady of Avarice she unknowingly violated the terms of the agreement by demanding the githyanki assist her in one of her battles, not in itself a violation and indeed a part of the pact. Unbeknownst to her, one of Gith's last requirements was that the githyanki always carried on the Eternal Crusade against the mind flayers, and by ordering them to temporarily put it aside, she broke the deal and released Gith's soul from Dispater's coffers.
Rumors and Legends[edit | edit source]
The fact that Dispater left so much of his domain in the hands of Titivilus led to theories that the two were in fact one in the same, either that Titivilus was some form of disguised Dispater or that the herald had removed or replaced his master without anyone else noticing.
Appendix[edit | edit source]
Gallery[edit | edit source]
References[edit | edit source]
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