Yazakouris, the Prophet
Were it not for the powerful protection of Bel Aloth, and others within the Wasting Tower, I am certain one of our kind would have released Yazakouris the Prophet from his suffering long ago. It is not in our nature to abide weakness, much less endure his broken mind. One might say that his many flaws are his own; yet, at the same time, the Prophet is neither more nor less than what we have made him into. He is not entirely to blame for his pathetic condition.
Over the many years, I have done… a bit of research into the history of my ‘dear’ colleague. He spawned as a perfectly normal mezzoloth, not from one of the spawning pits beneath the towers, but from the soil of Oinos in the wake of a major Blood War engagement. (From the Field of Broken Spears, to be precise. Long ago – before humans came to any prominence in mortal affairs, to convey a sense of the timeframe involved – this area commanded several strategic portals, but most of the portals have become inactive over time and most Blood War actions have moved elsewhere.) A vast number of fiends, including a number of yugoloths, had died in battle scant hours before, so his spontaneous creation was not regarded as especially unusual.
His progression through the yugoloth hierarchy was simply boring in its normalcy. In each case, from mezzoloth upward, Yazakouris showed little sign of what he would eventually become. Those who recorded their observations of him agree that he was unusually sly, even for one of our kind, but also more than normally cowardly. (Cowardice, of course, is not necessarily regarded as any kind of fault among our race; bravery for the sake of being brave is merely stupid, and will definitely induce your superiors to manipulate your ‘bravery’ to serve them.) In his lowest forms, he would lay down on the ground of Oinos and pretend to be dead, then deliver a fatal blow to a would-be victor, on several occasions.
Yazakouris actually suffered through the rituals of Purification before I did – he is, if only by a scant few decades, my elder. It is only at this point, at the Purification Grounds of Nazatkira, that his story intersects with mine. He entered these ancient, unhallowed caves forty years (by Sigil reckoning) before I did, and left them forty years before I did.
What outsiders do not generally understand about these rituals is that the process of Purification is regarded as sacrosanct. What that means to a yugoloth is that, while it is not supposed to be interfered with, in reality the entire process is utterly corrupt, at every level of the hierarchy. If a candidate is disliked too greatly by one of his superiors, it is a trivial matter to see that he dies during the Purification. If that candidate is disliked by one and favored by another, he may purchase his survival through careful bribery. Understand, now, that truly unfit candidates very rarely make it through, no matter how many allies they have accumulated. It is merely that a candidate must not only survive the obvious tests. Each time he undergoes Purification, he additionally must survive the secret test – whether he has gained enough allies that his enemies will not simply have him killed while he is helpless.
Something – I know now – is not right, not normal, at Nazatkira. While the majority of Purifications are perfectly normal – the candidate is either transformed in the usual way or dies – some of them have gone remarkably, disastrously wrong. The most notorious instance is that of Yazakouris himself.
When he emerged from his Purification, his form was indeed that of an arcanaloth, but his mind was completely broken. He stared off into nothing; he held long conversations with unseen persons; sometimes he would shudder and twitch, or become completely still and unresponsive for hours on end. His speech was mangled; he would often repeat himself, or completely lose the thread of a conversation.
This sort of thing has happened before – a candidate survives the process alive, but insane. It is likely that Yazakouris would have been routinely destroyed along with the others, had some of his utterances not proven to be true. Two ultroloths of much influence and prestige, who had been closely allied for millennia, finally betrayed each other on an Oinian battlefield, turning much of yugoloth politics into a bloody mess for some time. Yazakouris predicted this event mere days before it actually took place – and soon began to make other predictions.
The Purifiers began to realize what they had, but he might still have been destroyed – as one who might, in a fit of prophecy, speak of very politically inconvenient matters. It is here that Bel Aloth, having heard the reports of her servants on Mungoth, came and claimed him as her personal vassal.
As if his story were not unpleasant enough already, it now became even more so. Yazakouris had survived the trials of his Purification, it seemed, only to become a virtual prisoner of the Wasting Tower. He was not treated badly – at that time – but was forbidden to leave the section of Khin-Oin where his mistress had chosen to place him. There he was carefully studied, his utterings recorded, for several years. The Prophet became increasingly unhappy with his confinement, but was powerless to do anything about it.
Over the span of a few decades, his powers of prophecy gradually dried up. His mental state worsened even more, until he became completely, uselessly insane. When he was lucid, Yazakouris spoke little other than to beg to be released from the Tower. At first, Bel Aloth appeared to believe this was a trick on the arcanaloth’s part, and had him tortured until even she was convinced the Prophet was not attempting to deceive her. (To this day, his terror of Bel Aloth is extreme. I envy him not at all.)
With care, and very diligent monitoring, the ultroloth released him, at first to cautiously prowl around obscure corners of the Prime Material Plane. Within only a few years, his powers began to remanifest, and his usual insanity became more manageable. To wit, it appears that the Prophet’s powers only work if he is permitted to wander. (To the extent that anything can frustrate the Serene One, this fact might – that she cannot simply imprison Yazakouris in some dungeon of the Wasting Tower, as her personal prophetic pet, until the end of days.)
Many times since then, Yazakouris has prophecied great events – to the continuing profit of our race. It is an irony of his affliction that his knowledge of the future rarely benefits himself. Another yugoloth would relentlessly use his foreknowledge for personal profit, but Yazakouris is rarely lucid enough to carry out truly long-ranging plans or develop a strong network of allies, minions, and contacts.
Such a glorious irony it is, to have clawed one’s way to high caste, only to realize that one is merely the tool and puppet of others…
The Prophet is, in the ‘worldly’ sense, very poor for an arcanaloth. He claims no stretch of ground for himself in all of Gehenna. He has caches and safe houses here and there across the planes, but no proper lair of his own – aside from the rooms set aside for his use in the Wasting Tower, which he avoids entirely.
His poverty is particularly expressed in his ruinous personal appearance. Ever since the moment he emerged at Nazatkira, the Prophet has had an emaciated, scrawny look, so that he appears not so much as a predatory jackal but rather some half-starved pup. As he cannot usually be bothered to take care of himself, his clothing is usually something brown or grey, ragged, threadbare, and dirty. Occasionally I or another arcanaloth will have him properly clothed, bathed and brushed, if he absolutely must be presentable, but it seems a futile endeavor.
Aside from uttering prophecy, however, there is at least one thing at which my ‘dear’ colleague has proven himself moderately skilled: the corruption of mortals. Specifically, Yazakouris plays at empire building, on those obscure Prime worlds of his. He goes out of his way to find very young worlds, or worlds with very little prior extraplanar influence, and arranges those worlds to his liking. He especially favors primitive worlds with high magical capability but little magical knowledge among its mortal inhabitants. If the people of that world are already inclined toward evil, so much the better. Concealed in human form (or whatever race he means to impersonate), the Prophet will find some tribe or nation among them, and promise to raise them up to great power and wealth, if they will but pledge themselves to his service…
All of that would be perfectly fine, if he did not dare to go a step further than most of us care to. To be blunt, he has gone so far as to sire offspring on some of these mortals, resulting in a small, but increasing, number of half-breeds and tieflings descended from him. Most of us – depending on philosophical leanings – are either annoyed, disgusted, or outraged at how Yazakouris cheapens the blood of the Baerns in this way. Especially since the one doing it is one of the most flawed of our number…
As for these abominations themselves, they tend to end up at or near the top of whichever social ladder the Prophet has decided to create on that world. They often (but not always) disguise the physical signs of their heritage when around outsiders. In the past, I have heard Bel Aloth express curiosity about whether Yazakouris’ prescience was a trait that could be inherited. So far, the answer has definitely been ‘no.’ The Prophet’s bastard offspring have shown no particular signs of precognition… but quite a few have inherited his insanity.
These pet empires of his provide Yazakouris with something of a power base, but he can never stay for very long – usually a few decades at most. The nature of his affliction will force him to wander, so he has left numerous worlds only half-corrupted, his power base not fully solidified. Still, he does manage to do the work of Evil, in his inadequate way.
The prophecies of Yazakouris have a single notable limitation. To emphasize, Yazakouris is incapable of predicting any future in which the forces of Good are dominant. Oh, surely we would prefer it if he could – it would give us great insight into the movements of our most annoying enemies. However, Yazakouris cannot be what he is and truly believe in such outcomes.
Oh, it is easy enough for one of us to say: "Logically, the forces of the guardinals, aasimon, and so on, are going to win sometimes, foil this plot, win this soul, every now and then. History can demonstrate this." Actually believing it is another. Every yugoloth believes, in the very marrow of his bones, that the ultimate future outcome is the total dominance of Evil. Yazakouris is no exception, and as such he cannot predict futures in which the forces of the Upper Planes actually do well for themselves.
That is not to say that an enormous amount of insight cannot be gleaned from his utterances. He may, for example, predict a battle on the Grey Waste in which a band of guardinals make an appearance – he will simply never predict them doing any great damage. (It would be very easy to remark here about the general impotence of the celestials, but I will forbear from doing so.)
One last thing about him. Most of the time, Yazakouris is widely perceived – not least of all by myself – as a madman, mostly ineffectual, a disappointment to his entire race, only preserved for his powers of prophecy. That is not entirely all that there is to him. Oh, yes, his madness is very real. His prophecies are real. Inside that afflicted mind, however, in his lucid moments, at least part of the old Yazakouris is still there, still plots and schemes as he can. In that sense he is still capable of being dangerous; a crippled jackal can still bite. I have not forgotten that mezzoloth, in the ‘childhood’ equivalent of our race, who would pretend to weakness as he lay supposedly dead on the soil of a Blood War battlefield – just before stabbing another fiend through his vitals. Such a lesson is not to be forgotten when dealing with him.