Name: Lionel Hart, Nergal
Age: 6000 years old
Strengths: Nergal’s current living conditions are rather odd, considering the norm for summoned demons. Unless Tom manages to change the rules, no collaborating entity is permitted to indefinitely remain in the mortal plane. Some two hundred years ago, Otto Geier circumscribed most of what would become modern Walpurgis by foot and marker, and used it to fashion what is perhaps the largest summoning circle in history, at several hundred miles wide.
While Hart has technically never left his summoning circle, this does afford him a fairly surprising range of motion. It may also explain how tolerant he remains of his arrangement with the Geier family and the local chapter of the Gentlemen. On an average day, he tends to behave very much like any other civilian, down to owning a house, driving a car and keeping an office at the Walpurgis Sanctum.
Having been ancient Ur’s as well as greater Mesopotamia’s definition of war and destruction made incarnate, this particular fallen angel is a treasure trove of martial skill and battlefield resourcefulness, standing very close to Gabriel’s levels of prowess. Having begun as an angel and Fallen to the Pit, he has little trouble identifying the sociopolitical events that could trigger supernatural catastrophes on Earth. The strengths and weaknesses of both groups are well known to him, as well as the unique goals, foibles and proclivities of Ahriman’s Socratic demons. He doesn’t know all of Meris’ inherited demonic retinue, but has been smart enough to keep a foot in the door. He’s spent thousands of years regularly bribing the metaphorical Falstaff of Solomon’s old retinue, the boisterous and talkative protocol officer known as Nybbas.
From an outsider’s perspective, Nergal seems like a bit of a loaner, considering how widely worshipped and powerful he once was. From an entire Middle-Eastern civilization down to a single Austro-German bloodline after passing through centuries of near-complete anonymity; the proverbial and literal fall hasn’t always been graceful. A few centuries after having been roused from almost literal non-existence by the Geier family, he has now taken to ensuring the protection of his master’s holdings. This involves regular meetings with the WCPD’s staff, full-disclosure rapports with the Gentlemen and Jubal Whitney, and the use of the order’s available funds to keep their equipment up-to-date.
Casual if polite, cordial if slightly businesslike during official hours, Nergal does follow demonic policy and barters for items of trust and meaningful tokens of gratitude in exchange for guns and other assorted items related to armor and weaponry. The local police and the Gentlemen can choose from his frequently-updated stock at no charge, their use of his stock being part of a larger pact tying him to both groups. A bit like a warlord operating out of blacksites across the world, Nergal has managed to cajole a fair few of Belial’s assistants into turning coat and working on his forges, instead. Otherwise, his other direct forms of involvement involve teaching weapons handling and self-defense at common mundane fees, his approaches covering as much close-quarters combat as it does the basics of warding. His mortal persona’s enabled him to spend a few years successfully brokering for gun shows to be held in Walpurgis, which has only broadened his list of contacts. When Lionel Hart pointedly, if politely asks for a joint partnership between Holland & Holland and Lockheed Martin on a weapon project that leaves two teams of engineers on both sides of the globe scratching their heads, success is the usually expected outcome.
Weaknesses: as the usual weaknesses apply, so does the fact that he remains confined to the borders of one of Texas’ biggest metropolises. You can go on years in Walpurgis without seeing the same four walls twice, but that doesn’t entirely exclude repetition – nor does it exclude a greater sense of isolation. Hart uses the Internet to access the wider world and conduct his business, but his cutting-edge Porsche hasn’t set foot outside of the city for a good thirty years. There quite literally is a point along the highway leading back to Austin where Nergal can only stop the car, step outside and gaze ahead with some wistfulness. Taking one extra step makes him feel as though his chest is bursting. Otto has had years to make it clear he’d free his friend if at all possible, but Lionel knows the resistance isn’t coming from his summoner: for every two or three civilians who take in the town’s cheerfully Eldritch roots with no incident, many more would see it scoured clean of all folk magic, no matter how light or dark, and would break Nergal’s hold on a place he has grown fond of. Many talk radio hosts like to semi-jokingly consider that Walpurgis is a haven of black magic and devilry on American soil, but the current times have failed to present a more reassuring alternative. The spite of a warlock remains directed, he’d remind you, while the spite of a zealot burns everything it touches. Nergal, if freed, would run the risk of being attacked outright by the more ignorant locals.
Appearance: appearing as a horned and fanged skeleton of some six feet two, Nergal doesn’t entirely shy away from his roots, while enjoying the occasional five minutes needed to freshen up his markers of professionalism. A dark blue three-piece is his usual weapon of choice, the vest set in a double-breasted cut. What would be a fob watch’s container pocket at the base of the left fold is instead typically used as a temporary coin colder for the Gentlemen, as Jubal’s colleagues and recruits are taught to use the order’s tokens as marks of “payment”. Tight-fitting and short black gloves nearly always cover his hands, which leaves his rarely-exposed hand and finger bones smelling and looking clean. He switches out his gloves regularly, as he appreciates giving a constant appearance of cleanliness in-between purchases. Setting him apart from the liches are two faintly flickering embers in his eye sockets, red where most skeletal undead would display blue flames. His right lapel usually holds up a small pin in the shape of a finely-crafted lion’s head. With the local police being in on Walpurgis’ rather unique defensive needs, it’s no secret that he also serves as the representative for Erra Arms, a largely fictitious personal defense brokering firm with very few living clients. The local authorities largely turn a blind eye on his proceedings, as long as he and his friends succeed in keeping demons and the Loyalists out of the city’s borders.
You’ll also occasionally catch him with a chained-together tasting plate and cup, the both of them worn on a necklace. The Gentlemen not wanting to make their purposes clear to their enemies, they’ve taken to employing stately euphemisms for virtually every aspect of their trade. As such, Nergal is Walpurgis’ finest sommelier, his excellent skill at pairing wines and spirits with foods and tobacco blends serving as a cover for his work as a security consultant and arms merchant.
Catch him on weekends with his wife Ereshkigal – or Erin Galbraith for short – and you’re liable to find him in markedly more casual sartorial compositions, although he never completely leaves a certain sense of visual respectability. His idea of letting loose involves a chinos, fine Italian loafers, something preppy along the lines of a Lacoste polo shirt, and a light blazer.
The same mostly holds in the presence of mundanes or people who can’t be made privy of what he was - but the horns leave. His bones, in the meantime, are covered with lean and tight-fitting Caucasian flesh, thin enough in the face that he’s very likely told to put on weight at least once a week – or finds himself asked if he has any relationship to Matt Frewer.
Behaviour: if someone told you that Lionel Hart had once been the harbinger of doom for an entire civilization and that the same man had once seen eye-to-eye with the Black Goat, chances are you wouldn’t believe them. Nergal would rather describe himself as a changed man, someone for whom the Fall had the desired effect. From the dizzying heights of pride and a sociopathic craving for violence and bloodshed, Hart has found himself forgotten, laid aside for thousands of years as the world developed – and consequently starved. Where so many among the Damned roared their incomprehension and their contempt at the churning and flaming skies, Nergal knew exactly what it was that those who made it to Pandemonium’s shores had understood. Pride in his own achievements – or depredations – was what was weighing him down.
Faced with this level of lucidity, Nergal took to carving a corner of the Pit into his own wizened image. To the Goat went the insolent spire, to Melmoth went the office complex out of time – and to Nergal went the gladiatorial arena. Endless war and gratuitous bloodshed were no longer of any interest to him, but the refinement of warfare struck him as being as noble as any other craft. To that end, he struck deals with the Vices as well as Pandemonium, barters that resulted in his claiming some of Belial’s most skilled hands for his own. Research, such as it was, involved his taking to Earth to possess any typical soldier in any era. Very much like Gabriel, Nergal fought on all fronts and took note of all of his findings. His interest, however, was almost purely academic.
Time passed. The Mesopotamian razer of cities and bringer of destruction felt the mantle he’d usurped so long ago fading away. Nergal was a demon in the eyes of the Coptic Greeks, now – no longer a former conqueror, but a Fiend. Something to be feared, consigned to a book and then locked away. As manifesting on Earth grew increasingly difficult, he refocused his efforts on seeing the ways in which his skills might benefit his home. As with any other arms broker, he presented his skills and findings to prospective buyers and hirers. The Black Goat only saw opportunities for subjugation in his work – which disgusted him - while Melmoth failed to find any benefit to creating an overqualified security workforce. His rent-a-cops didn’t need to master six martial arts, those they were charged to keep suffered through the daily grind! Why would a guard ever drop-kick a Sales team member; futzing with their rare off days entirely sufficed!
Only Pandemonium was suitably receptive, which both amused Melmoth and enraged the Goat. For centuries, Nergal would serve as an outside consultant of sorts, kitting out Bob’s peers with his designed hardware and training the support staff, police and security in the advent of an invasion attempt. These made for good years, as he found that while he’d enjoyed wanton violence, directing his sword was far more cost-effective. His relationship with Ereshkigal underwent a similar shift – from a torrid and passionate affair running for centuries on, to a more contented and focused relationship. Nergal and Kigal soon established themselves in Pandemonium proper, all the while never petitioning Ahriman for citizenship. Nergal felt his past as a mercenary would have made it hypocritical of him to ask for the slate to be wiped clean.
Now petitioned by the Geier family and the Gentlemen, Nergal is the type to acknowledge that he does embody and profit from a crucial part of the military-industrial complex, while still attempting to apply baseline-sufficient and professional levels of force to any situation that requires it. Some Seducers have commented that Lionel and Erin would both technically be eligible for a full pardon and guaranteed Ascension – essentially a return to Angelic grace – but Pandemonium and Walpurgis’ weaponsmith and arms dealer tends to believe he can do more good if he keeps one foot in the shadows.
This obviously colors his martial approach, as he’s now spent a good thousand years perfecting the art of deterrence over outright elimination. He might break limbs, but he’ll warn you beforehand – just as he might position himself for a sleeper hold after asking you to stand down. On the other hand, if he has to outfit someone whom he knows will have no choice but to kill someone else, he likes to offer up weapons that will do the job quickly, efficiently and as painlessly as possible if used by skilled hands. This makes him look down on SMG manufacturers as well as automatic rifles, as he wholly agrees with the Gentlemen’s battlefield ethos. A single bullet should always suffice. Anything more is inhumane in its design.
Not only this, but entering partnerships with the Court of Solomon has enabled him to discover the value of a good round of slander or libel. Reputations aren’t living beings, those that carry them remain entirely alive after the fact. As wary of producerism as he is – which makes him chafe slightly against Melmoth – Nergal would rather his and Walpurgis’ enemies fell by the hands of demons with charges similar to those of Agares or Nybbas. If Agares was Solomon’s spymaster and stands as Meris’ modern-age tabloid spin doctor, Nybbas mingles laziness, craftiness and strong powers of observation into a somewhat Falstaffian character. If Nergal needs to burn someone to cinders in order to protect his town, he’ll turn to Solomon’s boisterously idle master of ceremonies to find dirt beyond what Facebook alone could cover.
As reformed as he is, the artistry of war still profoundly drives him. In a sense, part of the old bloodlust has been reformed into a fairly competitive spirit that only succeeds in keeping his agenda filled up. Between his neighbourhood’s Softball league, the chess club his neighbours’ children put together, Airsoft runs for Walpurgis’ Waldorf staff and a few Gentlemen – along with a solid investment in Fantasy Football teams – he gives the sense that what he calls “creative opposition” actually serves as a gauntlet of sorts, out of which Walpurgis’ best and brightest tend to emerge.
Goals: Nergal’s strong fondness for the Geier family as well as the Sanctum’s staff would drive him to sacrifice everything to protect Walpurgis from outside threats. He’d gladly extend his vigil further and would offer to send a few Gentlemen to Hope to have a Sanctum founded there under Jubal’s authority, but his bonds to the old Texian resistance’s roots would keep him anchored in Walpurgis.
While he isn’t incarnate, his living in a city-wide pentagram enables him to largely act as if it were the case. As he only Veils himself as Lionel Hart when travelling outside of his neighbourhood, Nergal and Ereshkigal have made up an odd community around themselves, comprised of tight-knit Squids, Automatons and Warlocks of various stripes. Otto Geier being more of a close friend than an outright master, his life on Ash Street sometimes reads more like a snapshot of suburban glee than the workings of a demon living amongst mortals. Domestic bliss also counts for a good chunk of what he’d like to protect.
History: while Lilith lived out the last of her mortal days in Nineveh and Lagash, other fallen angels had taken to Ptah’s example and had assembled cults around themselves. Nergal and Ereshkigal were of the lot, and ruled over Ur by proxy, having asked for bloodshed as payment for continued peace across the sometimes feuding Mesopotamian city-states. To foreign scholars, Nergal and his wife were bloodthirsty monsters bloated on grotesque sacrifices, while the locals knew them as a couple of a regal and patrician sort, who placed an immense amount of respect in the mortal arts of warfare. They certainly did kill thousands in their day, but each of their sacrifices died parrying hits, offered one final chance to display their martial prowess before two genuine aesthetes of the craft.
Still, blood did flow, and the couple loved it. They were powerful, they were feared, and changed their guises as needed in order to walk unimpeded amongst those people they effectively ruled over. They weren’t as overt as Ptah himself was and never were insistent in demanding tribute for their claimed divinity, but their taking lives obviously didn’t sit well with the Host. So, as the trials came and the Fall became clear, a bitter sort of lucidity washed over the couple. Where the one who would become the Black Goat opposed Gabriel for as long as he could, Ur’s shadow court simply bowed their heads before the verdict, and Fell in silence.
Power and grace might avail the average swordsman on the battlefield, but these two values had no clear place in the Pit. Resolute in his desire to restore some semblance of order to the wastes beyond Pandemonium, Nergal turned a caldera into a gladiatorial arena of his own devising, one which quickly became a guilty pleasure among the Pit’s more sapient sorts. Most never participated and only ever attended performances, but Nergal made it a priority of his to always take to the center ring himself, sword and shield in hand, to remind the assembly that wanton bloodshed had no place here. Hits had to be measured, form and poise had to be considered. Perfection had to be achieved. Leonard saw in this a chance to bolster his ranks, and so petitioned Ereshkigal. For a time, Erin joined the Goat’s guard, only to slaughter his closest retinue after growing disgusted with his treatment of the Damned. Fiend or otherwise, she and her husband believed that kicking someone who was already yielding was beneath them. Predictably, the Black Goat’s reaction to their shared principles was one of snide hypocrisy.
While Nergal’s cult floundered and withered, Ereshkigal did manage to conflate herself with the figure of Kali, and endured for centuries as a hushed and whispered name on the lips of Punjab and Kerala’s Thuggee warriors. The late nineteenth century did see Ereshkigal and Nergal taking to the British-ruled province a scant few years before Archie’s arrival in India, where they unsuccessfully attempted to wrest control of the local Thuggee sect away from Amaxi and the Others. Nergal had harbored plans for a branch of insurgent Thugs plying Infernalism in opposition to the Squids’ depredations of his wife’s last remaining cult, but this didn’t quite pan out. The both of them were left battered and bruised and were forced to venture to Pandemonium to ensure their rest and recovery.
Being once more outside of time, the couple spent a small eternity in the company of the Infernal City’s Seducers as well as of Ahriman himself, as they both healed and refocused their efforts on thwarting their rivals’ uncouth conception of martial skill. At Nergal’s behest, Ahriman spent a while with his mind cast across the flow of Time, as he fished for an adequate petitioner for Ur’s repenting despot. He found a match in Southwestern Texas, in 1836. Other summons had been made in the past, it seemed, each of them shored up with a piece of the Infernalist’s own soul – left to whomever would seek to claim it… Not wanting to lose time, Nergal jumped at the chance and followed the chain, finding himself at the German border in 1791. The Napoleonic Wars had reached the manse of one Otto Geier, and all of his family, safe for his infant grandson, had been killed by advancing French troops. Mad with sorrow, the gentleman farmer had drawn on his adolescent fancies and a boyhood interest in the occult, and willingly consigned himself to damnation, if it would only protect what remained of his family.
Rare are those Infernalists who make the ultimate sacrifice for good reasons. Otto proved to be one of them, as even as his form grew increasingly inhuman, his mind and heart remained true. Otto, Nergal and Ereshkigal made an odd trio along with young Martin – but the Geier name endured and soon crossed oceans. No landowner would cede a plot to a man as physically corrupted as the future lead Warlock of Walpurgis, so the family and its crediting demons went overseas. Their timing was unfortunate, however, as they reached the Gulf of Texas in time to watch as druids wearing pistol belts and Native American shamen having co-opted ogham runes beat back advancing Spanish detachments with all the gut-wrenching terror they could offer. Now wearing the bones of his son and of his daughter-in-law in a suit of dark power, Otto was all-too glad to shore up his new neighbours’ defenses. Kindred spirits did exist after all, it seemed – proof that the powers of darkness could be plied towards noble ends. Having studied under Ahriman, Nergal and his wife both tended to agree.
Unfortunately, there was a sizable hitch in the works: neither of them could manifest freely, even if Otto had verbalized their desire to help what had soon coalesced around the Gentlemen’s Southern Sanctum. So, slowly, and across several years, an advanced exercise in urban planning took place. Where most developing cities wait for their needs to grow and reach outwards as needed, Walpurgis had to learn how to develop inwards, first stretching out to its definitive borders and then redefining their use with the passage of time. Considering, the outline of Nergal and Ereshkigal’s shared binding seal took ten years to chart out, only a bird’s-eye view recognizing oddly winding streets as the strokes of giant sigils. Ten years to plan all major avenues, all crucial exchange lanes and overpasses – all of it possible only thanks to a healthy dose of Divination and a welcomed dose of patience from two of the Fallen.
By 1850, the couple was corporeal and lived out its life as one of the city’s best-kept secrets. On paper, Lionel Hart and Erin Galbraith are always from somewhere out of town, somewhere in their forties, and tend to exude an unpretentious and casual air of success. The Geier family has since followed suit, Otto watching as his surviving grandson would himself become grandfather three times over. Today, the Geiers are to Walpurgis as the Bucks are to Hope, with their attached burden of fate not succeeding in tempering their good cheer and workmanlike ethos. Similarly, Hart and Galbraith are welcome at most tables, rarely tend to pay for their goods and services, and still manage to exude a general sense of humility in regards to it all.
If Nergal works people and guns, if he turns fists into weapons and turns guns into outright threats, Ereshkigal puts her own spin on self-defense as well as her eye to her husband’s business deals and finances. She’s the one who, as she puts it, shakes hands with the real devils in her industry – half-secretary, half-security consultant as she essentially is.
The less-empowered types, the undecided, the morally shifty and most mundanes who get slapped around by greater powers go here by default.
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