In Pan Post 5, Memnoch, ruler of Tartarus, enters Canada, Hell on Earth, with the intention of claiming a tithe on the souls there. He claims to be the ruler of all hells but old contracts, now void, once stood in the way of him claiming soul taxes from Earth's hell. Now he demands backpay. Mister Nine is urged by Majordomo not to agree to the terms and Mister Nine diverts the issue by declaring that a census will be required before souls could be provided per the tithe.
A Matter of Tribute
Canada, the 9th Circle of Earth's Hell. In the Great Granite Fortress, Mephistopheles - usually known as the Devil's Advocate, legal advisor to whomever happens to hold the position at any given moment - is taking numbers from a long line of people who wish to see Mister Nine, the current devil of Earth. As someone else steps up to the front of the line, he is shouldered aside by a tall thin man.
Person at the Front of the Line: I say, you can't cut line!
The tall thin man, who is wearing an 18th century style jacket and overcoat, mostly black but decorated with gold and red patterns, with a red-lined black cloak, doesn't even look at the person in front of whom he is cutting. Instead, he idly raises a finger, and the protesting person vanishes in a poof of flame.
This is actually a fairly normal occurrence, hell being populated by amoral denizens of all stripes. Nonetheless, the Devil's Advocate has rules to uphold; after all, enforcing those rules helps to keep hell, well, hellish.
Devil's Advocate: He was right, you know. You really can't--
The Devil's Advocate cuts himself off as he looks up from his paperwork to see the tall thin man. Although humanoid in his 18th century style outfit, his flesh is deep red, and his disturbingly charming smile reveals razor sharp teeth. His eyes are further strange; he has no pupils, the irises are white, and the 'whites' of his eyes are pitch black.
The tall thin man smiles at the Devil's Advocate's reaction, pleased to be recognized.
Devil's Advocate: Um, my lord, I, ah, that is, unexpected--
The tall thin man speaks a whispered word that reverberates sinisterly into the Devil's Advocate's ears.
Tall Thin Man: Name me.
Devil's Advocate: Memnoch...
Memnoch, for that is who he is, smiles further. He has countless forms, some of which are better known than others, none of which may in actuality be his true shape. This is the cosmic archdevil, the supreme fiend who rules over all the hells of the NeSiverse.
Memnoch: Aren't you going to announce me to your master?
The Devil's Advocate is pale, but he knows when he has the legal high ground.
Devil's Advocate: You can't violate Earth's sanctity. The Ancient One's contracts--
Memnoch hisses, and it takes the Devil's Advocate a moment to realize that it is gleeful mocking laughter.
Memnoch: The Ancient One is dead. His contracts that guaranteed your world's independence are null and void.
Devil's Advocate: You're the King of Lies, I can't just take your word for it--
Memnoch: Then take my presence for it. Where is the Ancient One to object, if he is not dead?
The Devil's Advocate is no fool. Regardless of whether or not the Ancient One is dead, Memnoch certainly holds it in his power to disintegrate the demonic lawyer for denying him entrance.
Devil's Advocate: Er, yes, very good, my lord.
In the throne room of the Great Granite Fortress, Earth's current devil - known as Mister Nine, formerly a member of Earth's premiere superteam, Hero Force One, under the moniker Acidspitter - is lounging quite boredly in his throne, as the Countess of Bathory drones on about her need for a constantly replenishing supply of virgins to sacrifice in order to maintain her complexion. When the door slams open, interrupting the vampire countess' rant, Mister Nine sits up interestedly, eager for any reprieve.
Devil's Advocate: Your hellishness, may I... may I present... Memnoch, Archdevil of Tartarus.
Hell's Majordomo, standing by Mister Nine's throne, pales.
Mister Nine: Oh, that's cool. Which circle does this duke come from? Nifty title.
The Majordomo leans over to whisper fiercely in Mister Nine's ear.
Majordomo: No, my lord, he is not from Earth's hell. He is the ruler of all hells in the universe.
Mister Nine: Now wait a minute, I was never told about any superiors I had to report to.
Majordomo: All hells except this one. By rights, he shouldn't be here, but he is immensely powerful. There was an ancient contract millions of years ago--
Memnoch: The contract has expired. I have come to settle the matter of tribute.
Mister Nine raises his eyebrow, thoroughly unimpressed. He glances at the Devil's Advocate, who is rummaging through stacks of scrolls, no doubt in search of some legal recourse.
Mister Nine: So you come here, CLAIMING to be my boss - a boss which I've never heard of, by the way - and institute taxation?
Memnoch is unperturbed.
Memnoch: You have the right of it. A tithe of your souls I require, to be collected upon the sixth hour of the sixth day of the sixth month of the sixth year, every century.
Mister Nine barks a laugh.
Mister Nine: You're a bit early, then.
Memnoch: There is also the matter of backpay.
Mister Nine: More souls, I presume?
Mister Nine: Well, sure, take all the souls you like. Don't suppose you like withered vampire countesses?
For once, Memnoch is nonplussed. He opens his mouth, then closes it.
Memnoch: You... have no objections?
Mister Nine: Do you hear any? We're a bit overpopulated. Hell, I released a bunch of souls a few months back just to cut back on spiritual inflation. Take all you like.
A thought strikes him.
Mister Nine: Actually, do you want this job? I mean, it pays well and all, but my girlfriend doesn't approve.
Suddenly time halts. Everyone in the room freezes in place, save for Mister Nine and the Majordomo.
Majordomo: My lord, I do NOT approve--
Mister Nine: Say, neat trick. I didn't know you could do that.
Majordomo: The concept of time is weird and malleable in hell. I can pause local time for a minute or two. Several high-ranking functionaries can do it, including you. Now then, about Memnoch, you can't--
Mister Nine: Wait, I can do this?
Majordomo: Yes, it was in the list of powers and prerogatives of the position that the Devil's Advocate drew up for you. But Memnoch--
Mister Nine: That list? It was a book as thick as I was tall! You can't think I actually read it.
Majordomo: Nevermind that now, my lord! You can't give us to Memnoch!
Mister Nine: Why not? I'm in charge here, not you.
Majordomo: My lord, Memnoch does not seek to dominate us, as most devils do... heconsumes souls
'Mister Nine: What do you mean, consumes'?
Majordomo: I mean he devours their very essences, feeding on the emotions and power inherent to every soul. Much as Helebon did and Darkside does, but on a vastly greater scale. His metaphysical gullet is swollen with trillions upon trillions of souls from throughout the history of the NeSiverse.
Mister Nine: I admit, that does sound nasty.
Majordomo: Exactly! So you can't just offer him--
Memnoch: It is quite rude to talk about me as though I'm not here.
The Majordomo practically leaps his height into the air as Memnoch unfreezes from the stasis enveloping everyone else.
Mister Nine: Now THAT is a neat trick.
Memnoch: Cease your prattling, lackey. I have no desire for your master's position. Only that I am given the tribute that I am due.
Mister Nine: Right. Do you have a specific figure in mind?
Majordomo: My lord--
Memnoch: More of a... percentage.
Mister Nine: Excellent! Advocate! ...Advocate? ...Majordomo, if you could unfreeze everyone.
Devil's Advocate: Damn, being frozen in time-stasis always gives me a crick in the neck. Anyway, yes, I can file the requisite paperwork.
Memnoch: I do not require paperwork in triplicate. Merely my count of souls.
Devil's Advocate: Yes, but you see, we have to conduct a census to know the number that equates to your desired percentage.
Mister Nine: Unless you want to just walk around, randomly feeding till you're sated?
The Majordomo gulps. Memnoch is never sated. If he rises to the bait...
Memnoch: You are a gamesman, Mister Nine. Very well. Conduct your census. File your paperwork. But I expect my tribute and backpay, even if it takes you all eternity to calculate it.
Mister Nine: Sure thing. Glad I could help. Feel free to take the Countess of Bathory as a down payment though...
Al Ciao's Commentary
"In posts on HFO and NeSquared made recently before this one, Earth's autonomy from cosmic interference had been negated, so I wanted to show a consequence of that, as well as drawing a contrast between the well-established characters of Earth's hell and the newly created (by me) cosmic archfiend Memnoch.
Also, Memnoch has a different appearance here than when I first described him in HFO. This is due to the fact that Britt described him differently from my initial description later on, so I employed the idea that Memnoch is a master shapechanger to correct the inconsistency, and gave him a third appearance in this post.