Whether this was simply a guided dream, or a projection of his spirit, or whether he was really there, on his knees in the blazing, glowing sand, Vicis did not know. All Vicis knew he'd made a deal with the Warden of Carceri, and that deal had led to his carefully constructed life, his deals and studies and connections, falling apart utterly. And now the Warden was before him, seated on a palanquin that walked about on two or three dozen arthritic arms and legs that grew out from its own base, reclining underneath a canopy of hanging and flapping skin. The Warden's eyes blazed in the shadows. With pleasure or anger, Vicis could not say. He didn't particularly care, either, even though the entity before him was surely within the one hundred most powerful beings of the lower planes. His life as he knew it was over, and he was feeling somewhat nihilistic.
"You have some explaining to do, Warden."
The Warden of Carceri shifted on his ambling throne. "Do we? We should think what has happened is perfectly clear." His voice rumbled and rasped, though he had no mouth.
"You destroyed my life."
"We gave you a task. You might have thought of its consequences before carrying it out."
"I had influence, Warden. I had wealth and connections. I could have served you better as I was."
The Warden of Carceri scoffed. "You serve us as we choose. Did you think our gifts would come without sacrifice? You, who have never given nor offered anything without something assured in return? We recognize our own, and it disturbs us that you are unable to do the same."
Vicis sneered. "I knew there would be a price, and I was prepared to pay it, but I never agreed to have my life's work thrown away."
"You have agreed to every term, or else you would not be here."
"You deserve NOTHING!" The Warden's voice cracked like thunder. He was standing now, his bizarrely featureless skull towering nearly twenty feet above Vicis' cowering form. The stinging desert winds shifted, reacting to his anger. "Nothing, save what we bestow upon you. You presume, mortal. You presume to have any say in the details of your service, when your only choice is to accept or to refuse. That shackle about your wrist is invincible against any force, save your own hand. Remove it and you are free. But know, warlock, that if you do so you will be lesser than you have ever been. Will you renounce my gifts to you and walk alone in a world that hates you...or will you accept my kindness?"
Vicis, huddled against the sand, dared to look up to the unreadable face of his patron. The Warden held out a long-fingered hand, and Vicis' right hand, bound in a black shackle that was the mark of his servitude, lifted on its own accord. A chain of spectral blue energy appeared between him and the outstretched hand of the Warden, and across that chain pranced a minuscule green beast, all rubbery limbs and sharp points, with a whipping tail longer than its own body.
"We do owe you a boon, Warlock, though it is not your place to tell us so. This is your servant. It is bound to your will as you are bound to mine. It will answer your call without complaint, which is more than I can say for you. Its name is Myriad."
The tiny fiend tiptoed to the end of the spectral chain and hopped onto Vicis' shoulder, transforming mid-leap into a toad. The chain vanished. Vicis turned to look at the creature that had alighted on his shoulder. He felt like he had gained a fifth limb, that this being was a pure extension of his will. But then he felt the creature's own thoughts bubbling against his own, thoughts of joyous violence too crude and foul to be called mere mischief, and he knew that this new gift would have dangers of its own.
Vicis looked up, startled. His patron rarely addressed him by name.
"Never question my will again," said the Warden of Carceri. Then he waved a dismissive hand, and Vicis awoke.
*****Personal D&D campaign work! This is Myriad, my own character's familiar. He's a quasit, a tiny species of demon that can take the shape of a toad, bat, or centipede. I began this piece all the way back in August or September, and worked on it very very intermittently over the intervening months. Good feeling to finally have it done!
This is a somewhat embellished version of a scene that happened in the campaign. Vicis, my character, can be seen here: m0ai.deviantart.com/art/After-…
The Warden of Carceri is an Ultroloth that I made up. Sort of a counterpart to the General of Gehena, which is the highest ranking Yugoloth in official D&D lore.