Only by service to the gods might one be spared, for the soul is delivered immediately, under escort, to their final rest, whether the halls of the various pagan (dwarven/elven) gods or the Triune heaven where saints await judgment...
In the last years of the Old Dominion, the pagan gods warred among themselves over the fate of men they had made and used for their petty amusement. The Triune was principled and sought to offer men freedom and eternal salvation, and the like-minded gods flocked to his banner and became saints in the new religion.
But not all of them turned...
Some, like the gods of the dwarves and elves, were concerned with their own kind and kept to themselves. Others remained neutral and withdrew from mortal realms, doing so with the blessing of the ascendant Triune. Interestingly, many saints are still worshipped in their pagan guise, a source of additional power that might change the balance of power in some future upheaval...
|Maal Bael, from an illuminated manuscript |
recovered from the ruined Abbey of Saint Tabitha
But it was Maal-Bael, meaning "accuser" who refused to see men as anything but disposable servants and living playthings, even boasting that he had given them their greed so they would be easier to manipulate. Surely, these beings deserved nothing more than short, violent lives of debauchery followed by an eternity of sport at the pleasure of Maal and his followers.
And many did follow Maal, and, unlike the Triune saints, were elevated (or as Triune monks believe, demoted) to the various demon lords, who were given freedom to tempt men and offer binding contracts in exchange for their very souls. This is an unstable hierarchy, for the demons know no loyalties save that earned through strength and guile, but Maal is the mightiest of demons.
To quote the Triune verses (translated by Aen):
Maal Bael, thy words are venom
and the breath of your lies are boils upon
the flesh of men. God alone grant us
strength to resist your guile and the many pleasures
offered at the price of our salvation.
The Nuhleen Manuscripts (an admittedly pagan source), appears to suggest that Maal Bael was a cosmic prosecutor in some divine court, countered by Triune, the defense. In those days, both served an even higher power now lost to history and scholarship. And while the Triunes refer to Maal as "The Devil", he is, in fact, an actual deity, making the religion dualistic in nature and practice...