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"No day goes by where I am not tempted to return to my inborn nature. Zin krif haalvut se sulyek.[1] What is better? To be born good, or to overcome your evil nature through great effort?"
Paarthurnax, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
AngelSpawn 1732

When a hell-bell rings, a hellspawn gets its wings.


Being Evil Sucks, though not all baddies realize this or care. What really sucks about it is that those that want to give Good Feels Good a try often find it near impossible to fully pull a Heel Face Turn. This isn't for lack of trying, but because they're a demon, vampire, or other Always Chaotic Evil critter whose very body is Made of Evil. Kinda hard to walk into a temple and pray for Forgiveness when you spontaneously combust by crossing the threshold. This is a big reason why humans turned to monsters who held onto their humanity will angst at their abysmal fate.

So, what to do? Fallen Angel in reverse, and become an Ascended Demon!

The demon looking to ascend has a few avenues to explore. The most common are to go on a literal or metaphorical quest to Find the Cure. If their "evil nature" is biologically based, like viral vampirism or hereditary lycanthropy, finding the recipe for an ancient cure or researching a new one is one possibility. When it's mystical, getting an artifact (usually a holy relic) is another. The metaphorical route requires they try and get a benevolent god to "reformat" them into a human or even angelic body. This often requires doing lots of good deeds or having an epiphany on the nature of good. Sometimes, just getting a Soul in itself is enough to earn salvation from the Nothing After Death and a Reincarnation as a non-Always Chaotic Evil being.

Because Good Is Dumb, there's a fair chance that by refusing their evil nature they lose or dampen all of those nifty powers, though it also likely removes several exploitable weaknesses. Of course, such a feat may well do the opposite and take the "Suck" out of Blessed with Suck, and make them a top tier angel.

Though by nature the Ascended Demon will be very rare[2] it's not uncommon for there to be a Mentor who has done this before and is willing to sponsor them, or more tragically, failed and wants them to succeed as a redemption by proxy. If they really are the first to pull it off, an author might Inverted Trope the Last of His Kind and have the Ascended Demon redeem some or all of their peers and reveal they were Good All Along. This is especially poignant if the demons were once angels who fell. Expect an Enemy Civil War to follow as demon-kind is divided between "loyalists" and "redemptionists".

It's not all rainbows and lollipops though. Aside from the fear of backsliding into evil, the Ascended Demon has made enemies of his former kind[3], and likely faces the distrust of the good guys at the chance they're a Civilian Villain. On the whole, Ascended Demons are a good way to avoid the Unfortunate Implications that those The Usual Adversaries and Always Chaotic Evil races are completely irredeemable, and usually used to provide An Aesop that everyone can earn forgiveness.

Not to be confused with ascending to demonhood in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Examples of Ascended Demon include:


Anime and Manga

Comic Books

  • In the first appearance of Necron in Green Lantern, one of his minions demonstrates great courage and disagrees with his boss' invasion of the living universe. He "ascends" to become a Green Lantern that's free of Necron's influence.
  • Though Hellboy never becomes fully human or loses his demon heritage, he's a very persistent Anti-Anti-Christ. To the point that in one story his spilled blood sprouts lilies.
  • Batman & Dracula: Red Rain had this happen to vampires, although Joker's Oh Crap reaction was a bit narmy.

Film

  • In The Deaths of Ian Stone the Harvesters aren't really evil per se... but being extra-dimensional spirits that live off fear, and have long ago become addicted to the fear of a human facing death (and the easiest way to get that is to kill people), they are pretty close to Always Chaotic Evil. However a renegade Harvester has found an alternate power source capable of killing the other evil Harvesters... Love.

Fan Fiction

Literature

  • Simon R. Green's Tales from the Nightside series has Pretty Poison, an angel who fell to become a succubus and then re-ascended to angel.
  • In The Guardians, Lilith is a human-demon hybrid bound to serve Lucifer, but through The Power of Love she manages to renounce her demonic side and Ascend to full humanity.
  • According to the Ars Goetia, several demons listed in it aspire to become this, and actually delude themselves into thinking they'll succeed, after a set amount of hellish penance. Given that these demons also usually teaches mankind various sciences and natural wonders when summoned, one has to wonder if there's some form of cosmic irony in play, there...
  • In the Disgaea Novels, this happens to Vyers.
  • Lash in The Dresden Files, via Heroic Sacrifice. Or more accurately, a Heel Face Turn, and it is assumed she ascended.
  • While operating as a sort of Noble Demon to begin with, Extirpon in The Gerosha Chronicles views himself as an ascended demon when he unlocks the other half of his Marlquaanite abilities - the ability to heal others when charging up positive energy. With negative emotional energy from others, he was only able to heal himself, and otherwise had only the power to destroy, humiliate, and undermine. His blue-purple glow effects switch over to glowing white and gold when channeling his "positive battery."
  • Stationery Voyagers:
    • The literal case of this is not possible with the theological doctrines concerning Volition Dilemma and its expiration dates. Good angels are confirmed and cannot rebel; evil ones are constituted and cannot repent. However, abstracts and forces of (super?)nature, as well as symbols, can be corrupted/perverted and then have their honor restored.
    • The Lightning Zebra concept first became identified with the dreamer-prophet Sorbiko. Its mission was made manifest through Minshus' life, death, and resurrection. The Lightning Zebra concept was then twisted and perverted by Maraldos and Clandish Consto under the command of Captain Nonpriel, who bonded the Zebra identity with Consto through the Cybomec body. Both the Zebra and the Cybomec identity had their honor and purpose restored after being stripped away from Consto and later bound to Richard Ribando. Consto was then forced to assume the Preamble identity, and became that which the Zebra was supposed to destroy.
    • The Crimson Owl identity allows Laura Herrante to come back whenever she is killed, provided she remains a technical virgin. Until the Wizard Wilter twists it to reanimate her non-beheaded corpses into zombies. And shooting the zombies down only produces more of them. Balontir also perverts it, so that he can keep coming back, provided he isn't "hit by something moving fast in the place where the Hourglass was destined." Which turns out to be the subway train that Philidrio first got off of when he was shot in the subway. The zombies are defeated by simply letting rapists loose to fight the zombies and then exiling the surviving rapists to another continent to start their lives over away from both prison and society. While an unpleasant thought, it does destroy Wilter's power. And it restores the Crimson Owl's integrity.
    • Liquidon's Mikloche power shines like an angel; but becomes "The Dark Glow" when he gets too powerful. The Corruption is then reversed, but at the expense of Cindy sacrificing herself.
  • In Tolkien's The Silmarillion, the Maia (angel) Ossë had thrown in his lot with Melkor, but eventually repented and returned to the good side. The book doesn't make clear just "how far" he fell, since he was not one of those who fell right at the beginning during the Ainulindalë. Nevertheless, he was fighting with the demons against the angels for a while there. Though in most ways he tried to make Arda 100% compatible with Catholicism, Tolkien explicitly disagreed with the idea that anyone could be truly irredemable.

Live Action TV

  • Angel wanted to be this.
  • Forever Knight, sometimes.
  • Reaper had a group of demons who were trying to overthrow Lucifer through being nice. One of them apparently ascended to angelhood after death, though the finale indicates that angels can be pretty ruthless too.

Mythology and Religion

  • The 17th century Lemegeton and 19th century Dictionnaire Infernal (both demonology books) depict Marchosias, a literal Noble Demon looking to achieve this trope.
  • According to The Other Wiki, official Catholic doctrine declares all Fallen Angels i.e. demons irredemable, completely unable to repent or return to Heaven. This is because all angels have Super Intelligence. Whenever they have a choice they know exactly what they are doing and so never change their minds.

Tabletop RPG

  • The Dungeons and Dragons sourcebook "Book of Exalted Deeds" on good-aligned characters has one chapter on forgiveness. It features an orc chieftain sparing a girl's village because she had saved his life years earlier and a good-aligned illithid.
    • An illithid? Canonical Spelljammer character Estriss, obsessive Adventurer Archaeologist (Lawful Neutral with some Good tendency). Forgotten Realms got Sangalor of the Secrets, outcast from his city and priest of Ogma (Lawful Neutral).
    • A Dungeons and Dragons web article famously had a succubus paladin. Here are the stats, and here is the adventure.
    • One of the (Many) nicknames for Planescape's Lady of Pain is "The fiend of blades", started by someone with the theory she is an ascended fiend. Given that he wasn't flayed (like people who give... less than flattering nicknames) and lived long enough to die of natural causes, this indicates there isn't really an issue with the term.
      • In Pages of Pain she remembered being a daughter of Akadi and Poseidon and Set's fiance. That is, Lady is a born Power, has the Pain sphere/domain, as a gift and would be a goddess if she didn't refuse to.
    • In The Candlekeep Compendium, there is a certain Erinyes who is rescued by a gnome adventurer as a mission from a Chaotic Good deity.
      • There was a chant about the agathinon Janarr and erinyes Nalura working in mortal disguise on the Prime. They sort of just did their jobs--she tried to seduce him, he tried to turn her attitude up to celestial standards. Before they knew whom exactly they faced, both succeeded. They had to hide from their respective bosses from that point on, though.
    • The Kalashtar from Eberron all have a soul-bond to an ascended Eldritch Abomination, which works on the same general principle.
    • K'rand Vahlix is a general of the Risen Fiends who have fled to the various Upper Planes, organizing them into the Celestial Hosts, and is so powerful and good-aligned that he is completely unafraid of any Deep Cover Agents that might assassinate him, which is the main obstacle to most Risen Fiends associating with each other.
  • In Legend of the Five Rings the demon Okura no Oni affected the honor of the Lion Clan through Kitsu Okura, and at Oblivion's Gate slew her father, Akuma no Oni. She ascended to become the Guardian of Tengoku and she is now seen guarding the Gates of the Celestial Heavens.
  • In Vampire: The Masquerade the fabled state of Golconda allows a vampire to transcend just about every physical and spiritual weakness of vampirism. The Enemy Within is muzzled, blood requirement drops to almost nothing, and various caps and restrictions vanish. Tellingly, the vampire is immune to Diablerie... their soul is no longer tied to their blood/body and can't be eaten.
    • In Vampire the Requiem the above is one of three suggested outcomes for reaching Golconda. The best one is a return to humanity. The worst one? Complete balance with the Enemy Within... which means the vampire is in perfect harmony with a remorseless gluttonous raging monster.
  • Another World of Darkness gameline with this possibility is Demon: The Fallen. The titular demons have the choice to either try to recover their lost grace by reaching zero torment (only possible with RP, no game system allowed that) or spurning their newfound humanity and chance at redemption by Slowly Slipping Into Evil. Unlike Vampire, Demons who eschew use of their demonic powers and One-Winged Angel form are at a disadvantage compared to their morally laxer peers.
  • In the Mystic China RPG from Palladium games there's a literal Ascended Demon class, where as you gain levels you lose demonic traits and gain human traits until if one survives all the pitfalls the character will be reborn as a human being with only dim memories of its former life.
  • Exalted features two possible examples of this:
    • The Abyssals are Exalted by the Neverborn, who corrupted Solar shards to serve death and the Void. Thing is, underneath all that necrotic taint, there's still a glimmer of innate Solar nature. It may very well be possible for an Abyssal to seek redemption and become a Solar again... and if that happens, then they don't have to deal with that pesky Great Curse.
    • The Infernals are similarly corrupted Solars, only their shards were tinkered with by the Yozis as part of a scheme to escape from Malfeas by making Creation just as bad. Infernals don't have innate Charms as other Exalts do, but instead have a direct connection to their Yozi patrons that allows them to use their magic. There's just one problem that the Yozis didn't entirely consider -- that relationship may go both ways. So, with enough time and effort, an Infernal could possibly convert one of the demonic masters of Creation to good.
      • Alternatively, Infernals using the right Heretic Charms can redesign themselves into Primordials 2.0, taking and improving the designs that the Yozis used before being ripped inside out, castrated, and imprisoned. The resulting being literally containing worlds and having multiple souls. It doesn't require the character to be good, or even define good, but it does involve long periods of spiritual meditation and reformatting one's own souls, and it's hard to get worse than being one fifth Ebon Dragon, the Cosmic Principle of Dickishness.
    • Sidereals with access to Greater Astrology Charms actually have one, An End to Darkness, that allows them to hand this out willy-nilly. If they find a demon that wants to leave the service of Hell, they can cast this Charm and transform them into a god that will serve Heaven. The only downsides are that other demons will be out for that god's blood, and the Sidereal takes a large amount of Paradox in the process.
  • Interestingly, the infamous So Bad It's Good game World Of Synnibarr has this as the origins of its "angels": they are all "devils" that decided to start helping out the mortal races instead. It actually manages to make sense in context.

Video Games

  • Valen in Neverwinter Nights and Neeshka in Neverwinter Nights 2 can end up being good demon-blooded people if your character tries hard enough.
    • For that matter, your character can end up as one too.
    • Due to the number of times Aribeth passes through the Heel Face Revolving Door, some of her later incarnations come across this way.
    • Persey in the Tales of Arterra mod discovers a conscience and develops into a priestess of the goddess of love by the end of the story.
  • The player character in Dark Messiah can end up this way with one of the good-aligned endings. You lose your ability to transform into a demon and your succubus advisor, but you gain a bunch of top-tier holy gear after purifying yourself.
  • Similar to the Succubus Paladin in DnD above, in the MMORPG Mabinogi, the NPC Kristell was once a succubus, but after falling in love with the druid Tarlach, she became the priestess at Dunbarton.
  • Ashrah, from Mortal Kombat fits this. She's a demon, formally from the Legions of Hell, who gets betrayed and has a Heel Face Turn in regards to Black and White Morality. She comes across a sword that purifies her, every time she slays a demon with it. She becomes a Woman in White. Her plan is, to gain enough purification, that the evil or taunt, that resided in her demonic creation, no longer exists, to the point of the Netherrealm (Hell) being UNABLE to keep her presence inside, for you cannot exist in that realm without a taint on the soul. So she'll eventually be expelled out of that fiery wasteland. The problem though? She's turned a bit Knight Templar, or Ax Crazy because of this obsession.
    • Granted, it's still unclear whether any of this is actually happening, or if the Kris is just a Manipulative Bastard of an Empathic Weapon that's making her think killing certain targets will saver her soul in order to make her into its instrument of genocide.
      • Her ending in one of the games reveal that the Kris really works, but the rate of purification is proportional to the evilness and power of the target. Also, once the user is ascended (and safely expelled from the Netherrealm), the sword stays behind to repeat the process for another demon.
  • Worlds In Global Battle Locked, the sequel to Nexus War, has Redeemed demons and Fallen angels as third-tier classes. The Redeemed's skillset has a strong emphasis on protection and debuffing over dealing damage.
  • Planescape: Torment has Fall-From-Grace, a Succubus who runs a pleasant brothel of platonic prostitution. However, she still feels some loss from her ascension to a good-leaning Lawful Neutral cleric from a Chaotic Evil existence, hence the name.
    • There is evidence that her "fall" is more than a little uncomfortable for her, as her race is evil incarnate in a universe where belief governs the laws of physics and 'being evil' is as much a part of their existence as 'breathing air' is for humans. Despite your party being composed of only those in true torment, Ravel claims that Grace suffers more than any of your companions. This is pretty amazing, considering how your remaining party members are tormented.
  • A Satyr in World of Warcraft who came to his senses and seeks redemption culimnates when he uses parts of his former tribe and rips out his own heart to use in a potion to save a child dying of sickness. He doesn't actually ascend though: He just turns back into a night elf.
  • Paarthurnax, leader of the Greybeards, from Skyrim views himself as such; dragons are inherently born to conquer and dominate, and he supresses this desire only through meditation and great effort. Though the Blades doubt this, and it's hinted he might not be quite as good as he seems.
  • Flonne has become this, as of Disgaea 4: A Promise Unforgotten. That is to say, she was originally an angel, but in the Good (and canonical) ending of the first game, the Seraph turned her into a Fallen Angel. Not much of a punishment (or even intended to be one), since she gets to stay with her friends Laharl and Etna, and her personality remains the same. By D4 she has apparently gotten a promotion, and his now an Archangel, once again serving the Seraph (and is the boss of the new Vulcanus).

Webcomics

  • Caliban of Narbonic, who renounces his demonic powers and becomes human. Turns out he's less motivated by virtue than by getting away from some demonic loan sharks who are after him, but once that's sorted out he seems quite happy to live as a human and gets a job at Starbucks.

Notes

  1. Approximately, "honor fights the touch of power."
  2. (rising from evil is much harder than Slowly Slipping Into Evil, after all, see Milton's page quote on The Atoner)
  3. (which might not be much worse for them since they're Always Chaotic Evil, remember?)
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