There are few things that strike fear into the hearts of men and women as much as a demon. In history they have been portrayed as vile monsters, horned beasts and snake-like creatures that resided in the underworld. Today their portrayal is a bit different. They might appear as a cloud of black smoke, or perhaps might not have physical bodies at all. Possession seems to be their preferred weapon in the 20th and 21st centuries, turning family and friends against one another, corrupting the innocent with their vile ways.
Demons play a central role in Archangel and the Shadow’s Advent series. They are the plague that covers the new Earth. I knew from the onset of the series that I wanted demons to be the mainstay enemy, the common denominator of evil. So I needed to figure out how I wanted them to look, act, talk, and - most importantly - how they were able to take over the world when faced against the awe-inspiring might of Heaven. I wanted them to be different from what we are used to, yet somewhat familiar at the same time. So I took a few different elements and combined them to make my ideal demon: the brutal, horrifying nature of the old, bestial demons; the corruptive possession ability of modern demons; and the overwhelming, horde nature of creatures like zombies.
“I thought it was an earthquake when it started. It wouldn’t have been the first tremor to shake the house, so we weren’t worried. It went on for too long, though, became too violent, for it to be a normal quake. Yasmin went and looked outside, peeking through the curtains. I still remember how beautiful she looked with the glow of the sunset lighting her face. Even with the shaking, she looked so peaceful.
“Until the light was blotted out by… something. Some monster - no, a pair of them - smashed through the bay window. They were massive, taller than any person I’ve ever seen. And they were disgusting. Their skin was a sickly gray wrap that clung to their bones. I could almost see the veins bulge with each beat of their horrid hearts. Their faces were like monstrous wolves. As clearly as I can remember Yasmin’s face in that glowing warmth, I can remember their snouts, lined with vicious teeth, burying into her body.
“She didn’t scream, she didn’t cry. She just looked at me and told me to run.”
Demons are legion. There are billions of the monsters, possibly even more, and they use their numbers to devastating effect. Imagine a swarm of vicious creatures, razor sharp teeth, vicious talons, all with an insatiable thirst for human and angelic blood. But they are not just mindless things; all demons can speak and live in a somewhat civilized, hierarchical manner.
And it is within this hierarchy where demons differ from one another. While the vast majority are terrible, canine-like monstrosities, there are those who are something much worse. The nobility amongst demons - the earls, barons, marquis, and duchesses - are far more terrifying, something straight out of nightmares. Their noble blood has changed their bodies, putting them a step above the rest of the horde.
These nobles are gifted with some sort of edge over other demons. They might be stronger, smarter, larger, or more powerful. Regardless of their strengths, noble demons do not share the same appearance as other demons. They might look similar to other animals - for example, Botis in Archangel is snake-like in appearance - or they might appear as something more monstrous entirely. This is especially true for the most powerful of demons, the princes of Hell. Second in strength only to Lucifer himself, these beasts of the underworld do not make their appearance until later in the Shadow’s Advent series.
“You think that’s bad?” Burt slurred from across the fire. “At least you only had to face the dogs.”
“Shut your mouth, you drunk. She saw the love of her life eaten in front of her.” James was quick to try and shut Burt down. It didn’t work.
“You have no idea what I’ve seen. What I’ve lost. You think we are safe, even now? We thought we were, boarded up in that school. We were careful, stayed out of sight. We had the doors barricaded so that a truck could hit them and it would still probably hold. But then they came; led by a beast none of us had ever seen before. It was like a man mixed with a lion, but bigger than any person I’d ever put my eyes on. He smashed through the doors like they were made of glass. Then the other demons, the dogs, came in. They dropped their swords and their spears so they could use claws and teeth instead. But the lion, Jesus. It was the worst. I saw it pick one of my friends up and crush his skull like it was nothing. As if it wasn’t there.”
It isn’t just the most powerful among the demons that led to their victory, nor was it their sheer numbers. Like angels, demons have their own power to call upon. In keeping with the traditional idea of a demon, I knew that they would have to be able to possess people. But, like the creatures I was fashioning, I wanted this possession to be somewhat different than the norm. So, instead, demons in Archangel can possess humans by projecting their consciousness into them. It means they gain complete control of the human, but it leaves their own bodies unconscious and vulnerable. It is a risk, but it can pay in folds.
Beyond possession, many demons are skilled in their own form of infernal magic. Just as angels draw on the power of Heaven, demons can harness the fires of Hell to weave magic. To this end, infernal magic is almost exclusively destructive in nature and is especially effective against angels.
“I’ve seen all sorts of demons,” Sandy broke the silence around the fire. Her words were soft compared to the harsh crackling in the middle of the group. “The goat, the bull, the snake. Mostly from a distance. They are terrifying, but not nearly as bad as the demons you can’t see
“I was one of a handful of survivors who were lucky enough to be protected by angels - two of them. They were incredible and kind. But more than that, they could stand against anything that came at us. Then, one night, we were sitting around a fire just like this. The angels were actually laughing, something we had been trying to get them to do for months. All of us were laughing, all of us but one.
“I guess the angels had let their guard down, because they didn’t notice that one of us had been possessed. Before anyone knew what was happening, when we were still laughing with each other, the possessed one jumped up and killed the angels. One had its throat slit, the other a dagger through her eye. Then the demons showed up and made short work of everyone else.”
At face value, demons do not appear to be any sort of match for angels, especially since we are first introduced to Uriel, an archangel. But it isn’t through brute force that the demons were able to beat their divine adversaries. They have a number of tools at their disposal, both magical and physical, which allowed them to win the war on Earth. And now that they have it, what exactly can an archangel do? You will just have to wait and see when Archangel is released.
“That’s awful, Sandy, I’m sorry,” James shook his head and stared into the flames that danced between them all.
“But wait,” Burt’s words were not slurred anymore, as if he had sobered up. “How did you get away?”
Lily looked up and met his eyes. A smile creased her lips. Something about her gaze was off, as if she was not really there. The bonfire that had been keeping them all warm turned black. The light cast by its flames was barely bright enough to illuminate the gaunt, gray bodies that swarmed over the camp.