Thirteen souls the devil took
And thirteen sons back he sent
Lust, Greed, Gluttony
Perversion, Wrath, Envy
Pride, Vice, Blasphemy
Sloth, Misery, Catastrophe
Printer's Devils are short, spindly creatures. Their humanoid bodies are topped by a flattish head covered in horny bumps. Their arms are long and lanky and usually drag on the ground leaving long, dark streaks of the inky substance that is constantly oozing from their skin. Their legs are short and stocky, but they can still run fairly quickly.
The typesetters of Ledenburg, a small town built on a mountain slope, were horribly distraught three hundred and forty years ago when their supply of ink was cut off at the source. The small village that they had been purchasing it from for years was hit by a devastating thunderstorm and wouldn't be able to produce ink for the next three or four years. Chagrined, the Printer's Guild held a meeting to try and determine another source that could be contacted for the required supplies. At the meeting a few suggestions were brought up and quickly shot down, including the idea of making their own ink.
But then, a tall, gaunt man stood up in the back row. He easily towered over the twenty or so men seated in the hall. The man was named Theodore Mephistori, he was the town's undertaker and he published a small paper on the side. In a ringing voice he spoke to the men. He said he could get all the ink that they needed for free, and helpers that would work cheap to help them. They all agreed that this would be the perfect solution to their problems, all but one. Anthony Terebilt, the head of the guild, smelled a rat in the honeyed words of Mephistori, and called him on it. He stood up in the face of the undertaker and asked him what small price the help would cost. That brought a sly smile to the face of Mephistori. He silkily explained that the, ah, person that he knew of was quite ready to negotiate the contract. The smooth tongued man won the Guild's support and was charged to go to his contact and request details on the time of shipment and the type of payment. That night, Theodore Mephistori whistled tunelessly under his breath as he walked home under the clear, full moon.
The next morning, tortured cries rang through the morning stillness. Sometime during the night thirteen children disappeared from their homes. All the men of Ledenburg turned out to search the surrounding woods and fields for the children, thinking that they might have wandered off or were playing some sort of game. However, five men with grim faces were led to the east by Anthony Terebilt. He was taking them to search the steep crags and cliffs on that side of the town. For hours nothing was heard in the town, but then a lone figure was seen coming from the east, stumbling as if he was carrying a heavy burden. As he neared it was seen that it was Anthony Terebilt, and in his arms he carried one of the missing children, but horribly bloody and bruised. Once in town, he gently deposited his broken but breathing burden with the child's mother, and then headed toward the town hall.
As soon as he had been sighted a runner was sent off to find the other searchers and call them home. When everyone was assembled in the hall, Anthony stood up to speak. He told them how he and the other five men had went to search the cliffs, and how they had found a horrible, broken mound at the bottom of the tallest cliff. All thirteen children were there. He spoke as if a great burden was weighing on his shoulders. He told about how he and the other men had started to bury the bodies, when he had heard a small sound coming from the pile. In a desperate haste he rushed to the bodies to find that one of the children was not dead. At this moment Mephistori let out an inarticulate cry and ran from the hall.
The next day Mephistori way found dead in his house. Apparently he had hanged himself, no one knew the reason for it, though. However, life was soon back to normal, or at least close to it. But the town would be disturbed once again in a few weeks when there was a loud knock on the door of the Printer's Guild. Anthony got up from his seat at the dais where he had been listening to one of the more influential printers in the town speaking about their continuing ink problem walked to the door and opened it. Standing on the doorstep were a baker's dozen of the most disturbing things Anthony had ever seen. They were the printer's devils. These were the source of ink and the helpers that Mephistori had promised them.
Of course it took years for the townsfolk to get used to their new servants, but any attempts to kill or get rid of them failed. So, eventually, life in Ledenburg readjusted to its new demonic inhabitants.
The printer's devils were actually imps created by Mephistori out of the souls of the thirteen children. Well, that was the plan anyway. Unfortunately for Mephistori, one of the children survived being pushed off the cliff by his demonic servants. That damned him. The deal made with the black forces was for thirteen souls, and only twelve were delivered, so another was taken.
There are only thirteen devils in Ledenburg, or the rest of the known world, for that matter. All of them appear the exact same to the humans around them, but to each other, and to others with demonic or magical traits, they appear as different as the sun is from the moon. Each one shows itself according to its own traits. Gluttony, the eldest (first child to die), is rotund, Sloth is slow moving and atrophied, and so on. They are all fairly weak and mainly unintelligent, except, that is, for Malevolence. The one soul that knew what was coming was that of Mephistori. He kept his memories and his hate for the town, especially for Anthony Terebilt, who he perceived as being at fault.
Fortunately, the spell that created them makes it so the printer's devils must obey all of the printers in Ledenburg and their descendants, in anything they say to do. Needless to say over the past three centuries these descendants have used their power over the devils to do mischief. Murder, theft, and treason have all been committed by them at the behest of their masters. However, the black, inky substance that the devils continually leave behind them always serves to point out the culprit.
As the ink of the devils never smudges or blurs even if gotten wet it is much sought after by men of science and magic alike. So, recently, the printers of Ledenburg have started bottling the ink to be sold in outside markets for exuberant prices. Of course, mages have been buying it for their spell books, and a few governments have also started using the ink in important treaties and contracts.
Something that the printers of Ledenburg don't know about their infernal servants is that, even thought they have stayed faithfully active for the past three centuries, they do have a limited lifespan. Each one can only last for about three hundred and fifty years in the mortal coil, and the time for their departure is soon coming. When they do leave for the warmer climates of Hell, all their ink will come with them. For those papers lining pigsties or sitting forgotten in the cellar of someone's house, this would not be a calamity of any great proportions, but for those who have used the ink inscribing their spell books or writing important documents, it would be a disaster.
But the devils themselves know what is coming, and for years Malevolence has been thinking of ways to stop them from eternal damnation. Now he knows how. The sacrifice of innocents will continue their existence. The way in which they were created is what will continue them.
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? Responses (12)-12
Well, this submission shouldn't have been overlooked. I might change the summary tag to make it look more interesting than a list of sins.
Wicked little things. Malovelance is Mephistori right?
Yeah, I thought I pointed that out clearly enough, might have to adjust it though.
I like it, and I thought that it was pretty clear that Mal was Mep, but that's just me.
I like these ink-stained critters! I picture them to be purplish.
Anything that starts with, "The type-setters of Ledenburg..." gets my attention. I immediately get a late medieval euro vibe.
Nice touches on them having to obey the printers and the limited lifespans.
I guess my only nagging thought is, why was it so difficult for Ledenburg to get some new ink? Thunderstorm prevented village from making ink? Is ink that hard to manufacture in a printer's society? You know, now that I think about it, i have no idea how ink is made :-)
Anyhoo, that doesn't detract from the interesting lifeforms, but the premise seems slightly contrived. Also, I'm not sure the 7 sins part is effective or necessary for their origin, but no big deal.
all in all, good though! Visiting this place would be fun for PCs
Actually, the seven deadly sins just seemed fitting for the devils, and their appearances just follow from the names.
you know what this place needs? A visit from The Ink Drinkers! muahaha.
Nicely done. If governments who hold important treaties or secrets were to find out about the devil's lifespans, they could seek to make sure they did not die, regardless of the price.
What everyone said above
Sweet. This one has it. I love it from the name on. A few plot hooks would be nice though, maybe I'm getting lazy over the years.
Interesting. Just a few comments, I'd like to make. First, I take it the perfect ink whether used or not will vanish when they die/return to hell. That in itself could be a lever for another deal. Second, I think that one of these critters would make an excellent hell's attorney type of a character. Third, it seems odd to me that the souls of the dead children (and Mephistori) are somehow in the devil's bodies. Does that mean that the devils wanted to return to their respective families? Like I said interesting. I have a use for this.
It is both very new (ink devils) but as the feel of classic morality fables. I found it interesting. But the ending of the story is a let down: the undertaker hangs himself and the town gets all the ink they need.. The idea of the devils taking the ink with them is great, it is allegorical and humorous, i would rather have seen that folded into the narrative. A modernist(ish) take on these would be to have summoned to 19th century, early 20th century ad agency. These ink devils could introduce negative advertising centered around their own sins.