Dark denizens of Hell, and creations of a Spirit King long ago. Large, three-headed dogs associated with hellfire, who traditionally serve both present and past members of Hell's royal family. Normally fierce, and incredibly protective, the cerberi of Hell are also very territorial. Cerberi feed off of spiritual energy rather than proper flesh, and often clash with souleaters on who might get the choosiest souls out of those dark ones sent to be devoured.
Average Lifespan:: 6,000 years
Average Height::20 feet at the shoulder.
Average Weight:: Several tons
Location Found:: Hell
*all statistics based on averages; extremes in any direction, or found in odd locations, are always allowed.
Species info credited to Blazeh/Verridith and JPG.
Appearance Giant, canine beasts with large fangs and sharp, tearing teeth. They are heavily muscled, bear three heads, and can range in build and fur type from a thick-furred wolf to a lean pit bull. Most often, cerberi are short-haired with longer, tapered ears, and can be found with fiery manes and glowing mouths, depending on how old they are. Most will have dark pelts with limited markings, though lighter-colored cerberi have been reported; things such as horns and scales have been seen as well, though are very rare.
Ancient cerberi are comprised almost entirely out of churning hellfire, and die when the life-fuel for that flame is entirely consumed. Sometimes, a soul-starving cerberi will rather violently burst into flame, raging in agony up until the point of its death.
Culture Any individual cerberus are known to be highly intelligent, though ferociously protective of whatever they have claimed, as well as highly territorial. They will challenge anything that threatens the parts of Hell they have claimed for themselves, as well as anything they've chosen to protect, such as a member of the royal family, their pups, or trusted friends. Most cerberi are easily bored, and may be seen playing with the undead, crushing their bones underneath large paws, or knocking skeletons apart to watch them rebuild themselves after.
Most cerberi are solitary creatures, avoiding forming packs and only coming together rarely to breed and raise pups, or briefly forming friendships with other individuals on the edges of their territories to spread news from other parts of the Realms and other worlds. Pups are kept until they are gangly sub-adults, then are chased out of their parents' territory, with the mates splitting up soon after if they do not choose to breed again. Most often, the same mates will come together to attempt to produce offspring year after year, though the conception of puppies is a very rare occurrence.
If a cerberus' trust is gained, one may be considered a friend for life, and something to protect. Older individuals enjoy discussing many topics with ones not of their species, and young cerberus pups will play with and chew on anything. Where most often a cerberus will share a single consciousness between the three heads, multiple personalities may come up where each head will be a separate entity. These are not known to survive long, and those that do often sport thick facial scarring from the quarreling between heads. It is thought that these tri-personality cerberi are pups that never separated, and are nearly always the only individual of their litter born.
Cerberi share a deep-seated distrust for those that share their purpose in Hell, the souleaters. As they both compete to consume souls, this causes great friction between them. In spite of this, they are capable of cooperating should the need arise - however this is rare and often requires necessity and desperation. Souleaters which cross over into cerberus territory can cause a scuffle to arise between the two species.
Abilities Descending from a Hell royal countless years ago, cerberi were gifted with the use of hellfire - a specific and deadly form of Hell's own reiatsu, a silver flame edged in deep red. It's a flame that burns with incredible heat, though it can be use in a variety of ways. Those things that it burns physically leave scars that can never be erased, and a feeling of constant burning even long after the wound has healed may still be felt. If used against other things created from reiatsu, it has a purification effect, burning away darkness and disease from everything it touches. As such, it can't be used lethally against being made of light reiatsu, though will completely eradicate anything of the dark.
Cerberi, along with the souleaters, were originally created to erase the darkest souls of Hell, as well as protect its borders. A cerberus will generally devour a handful of souls a month to survive, and can occasionally feed on fleshbound creatures trapped inside of Hell's boundaries, never to escape.
Before Kairn became Lord of Hell, there was another Spirit King that reigned for a short time; he was Kairn's grandfather, and had two children that bore the shifting gene. One was a young dragon that bore the shape of a man; his heart was gold, and his spirit pure. The other was a dragoness with a spirit of black and a heart filled with malice, and she bore the form of a large, proud hound.
Both of his children he loved greatly, but both worried him in kind. The son was too gentle, and sought to find a way to purify and release souls from Hell back into the Soulplane, giving them a second chance. The daughter was too fierce - she wished to eradicate every soul that entered, no matter what crime they had committed, her reasoning being that they could never be saved and would always taint anything they touched. Zaelus and Delphia were their names, prince and princess of Hell's royal line.
Hell was yet to be overburdened; the souls that entered it were the darkest of the dark, the most evil of those that had died. His chains only stole away the spirits of the truly horrible, and some had begun to grow in power even after death. It was one of these abominations that captured his son, once - took Zaelus and trapped him with the King's own chains. As the bladed links cut into his arms and legs, he pleaded with the spirit to let him go free, to seek redemption - but the creature just laughed in his face.
The prince could have easily shifted and torn the soul apart. When his father and sister heard about his capture, Delphia nearly went mad in rage - but the King cautioned patience, for acting too quickly may harm his only son. For the one who had captured the prince was a demon named Terorisuto, known for tearing his enemies asunder and donning their bloody bones as his armor. He was chaotic and insane - and completely unpredictable.
However, Delphia was not one to watch and wait - not like their father. As the King paced and worried, she stole away from Castle Oblivion and shifted into the shape of a hound to travel in stealth, moving underground and through the hellfire-caverns. There, she remained undetected - but she made one very grave mistake. The princess believed herself and her family to be immune to the hellfire around them; that nothing of their Realm could harm them in the slightest, despite never being told as such, nor trying it herself.
It was only when she emerged, blazing and burning and screaming from the hellfire set deep in her flesh, that the King saw what she had done and knew what she planned to do. He could not stop the blazing beast as it - she - careened towards the demon-spirit and her captured brother; its eyes burned as hellfire churned both inside of it and out - a hollow shell filled with nothing but reiatsu and rage.
The exact events of the battle have been lost to time, held closely by the remaining members of Hell's original royal family. However, it is known that Delphia became a beast of churning hellfire, a dog in shape with no soul left - it attacked and destroyed the demon-spirit, and tried to take the life of the young prince as well. The King was able to save his son, but at a price - he had to slice away Zaelus' right arm as the hell-beast tried to devour him, body and soul.
The princess had become a monster that rampaged through Hell, destroying and corrupting all it came across. Wracked with grief, Zaelus refused to confront what had been his sister, even after the healer-mages had healed the wound where his arm had been. The Spirit King long debated on what to do about the beast, knowing that to confront it directly - even as King - would risk far too much.
But to allow his daughter and the beings she spawned to live would be an even greater sin.
One night, the Lord of Hell knelt and prayed to Shiranui for guidance; the god had been away for some time on some divine errand, and did not know of Hell's plight. At once, however, the divine dragon returned, appearing in the skies in a blessed, searing burst of light. What has happened here? he demanded, seeing the hell-beasts and their rampages. When the King told him about Delphia's madness, and the taint of the hellfire, the spirit god sighed. Then I will end this. But your daughter can only be stopped by you, Lord of Hell; and you alone. Take this, and find her. You will know what to do once the time is right.
He gave the King a small, gleaming scale; a simple trinket, it would seem, but one that held more power than anything in the entire Realm. Taking it, the man shifted into his true form of a dragon and winged away, seeking the beast that had been his daughter. When he found it, he landed before her and changed back into the form of a human, holding the scale in one clenched fist. "Delphia!" he called, but the hellfire-beast did not respond. It had just destroyed the soul of an elf - and fed upon its essence as it snarled and panted, eyes wild with the silver-scarlet glow. The King held the scale aloft and approached, other hand upraised. Perhaps, he thought, he could reason with her.
But it was not to be. The hell-creature whirled and sprang at him, knocking him to the ground. He saw nothing of his daughter in its eyes - felt nothing but the pain of hellfire burning at him as it held him there. He did not have the will to destroy it… but then, the scale flashed, and the hell-beast yelped in sudden pain. As it moved away, the King rose, grief in his eyes as he watched his daughter scream. The hellfire-hound began to convulse, and Shiranui's voice echoed suddenly, sharply, in his mind. Take my scale and hold it close. Tell her that you love her, as all fathers love their daughters. And then, I will make all right.
The King did as he was bid. But he felt himself suddenly weaken; his words, repeated over and over, began to wither as he felt his knees give way and fall. Light spun away from him, swirling towards the hell-beast, who's fire had begun to fail. Weaker and weaker he grew, and Shiranui spoke to him once more - one final time. You have served well in your time, King. But you have let beasts ravage my Realm, and your daughter's death no fault of mine, but of yours. You will be the catalyst that leads to a new beginning, however; your soul will be mine, to weave with what I may. Be forgotten by all but your kin, and let your name never again grace the pages of history. This is both your punishment, O King, and your reward. Farewell.
The King's final words were those he repeated to his daughter, over and over - words that vary by the teller of such tales. His essence swirled around the beast that had been Delphie, taking its form into the sky, molding it with the god's beautiful light. A hound it became, once again - a canine in shape, with a coat of shimmering silver and three heads, each pair of eyes a different color. Hellfire burned within it still, but contained and controlled, and Shiranui wove a new soul to implant within its burning heart. As he set the beast down, he spoke to it, and the three heads bowed in reverence. You are no longer a royal of Hell; you are cerberus, one of the cerberi of this Realm, tasked with helping its King uphold the balance. You will guide him until your death, as will others of your kin and kind. You will be loyal to none but Hell, and forever serve until hellfire consumes you entirely.
And so each hell-wrought beast that day became a cerberus, guided by Shiranui's will; the King was no more, and the mantle fell to his son, Zaelus. Theories behind why Shiranui gave the cerberus three heads vary, but it is told by those in Hell that each head represents the balance that they are tasked with upholding: the dark, the light, and the everlasting neutrality in-between.