|“||It cannot be avoided. My soul has been revived! The age of mankind is coming to an end! Joy, sadness, desire...all of it is finished now. I will usher in a glorious new future!||„|
| ~ Nicolai possessed by Astaroth
Astaroth is a villain from the video-game Shadow Hearts: Covenant. He is one of six lords of hell and a central antagonist for the third quarter of the game. Astaroth is initially invoked by the priest Nicolai Conrad to help Nicolai defeat his master, Grigori Rasputin, who himself had already invoked Asmodeus, one of Astaroth's rival Lords of Hell. Both Nicolai and the game's heroes soon find Astaroth is even more dangerous than Asmodeus.
Lord of Hell
Astaroth is one of the Lords of Hell, six demons, each said to rule one of specific region of Hell. Astaroth was fought and bound years ago by master summoner, King Solomon, the King of the Jews. Solomon did not just imprison Astaroth but also his fellow demonic lords Amon, Asmodeus, Baal, Gaap and Orobas. King Solomon gave each demon lord he defeated a name, thus robbing them of omnipresence by binding them in the forms of crests as real-world anchors.
From the start of the game Nicolai Conrad, an agent of the occultist terrorist organization Sapientes Gladio working as a spy in the Vatican, is trying to get his hands on the necromantic tome, the Émigré Manuscript. At first it appears Nicolai is trying to get his hands on the book for the organization's use; When it is discovered the group has a leader, who turns out to be the mad monk Rasputin, vizier to Russian throne, it seems Nicolai has sought-out the Émigré Manuscript for his master; But it is further revealed that Nicolai was in-fact commissioned to get the book for Kato, an ambassador from Japan; Even further caveat to the situation reveals that Kato had been sent not to deal with Sapientes Gladio but Nicolai specifically. Nicolai told his fellow cultists he was acquiring the Émigré Manuscript for their master but in truth was doing so for his own personal goal of usurping Rasputin. Rasputin had a plan in place to usurp the Russian throne, Nicolai had ambitions for the throne himself as he was Tzar Nicolas II's illegitimate son. Nicolai intended to kill Rasputin shortly after Rasputin killed his father and claim the Russian throne as "The rightful heir who had slain the devious traitor" (by all accounts Nicolai hated his father for abandoning him and his mother and was more than willing to see the Tzar and his legitimate family all die as part of the plan).
Taking control of a country would require many resources. Nicolai had made back-room deal with Japan through Kato, agreeing to represent Japan's national interests in exchange for their backing once he assumed the throne. Though Nicolai pretended to be representing Rasputin, Kato was fully aware of Nicolai's scheme stating that if Nicolai delivered them the Émigré Manuscript Japan would back "whoever happened to sit upon the Russian throne". Rasputin had acquired the bulk of his mystical powers from a demonic pact with the Lord of hell Asmodeus, so in addition to political backing for his coupe, Nicolai knew if he wished to stand a chance against Rasputin in a fight he needed a similar entity backing him; to this end Nicolai decided to use the Émigré Manuscript himself before handing it off to Kato.
After stealing the Émigré Manuscript from Yuri Hyuga, Karin Koenig and the other heroes, Nicolai began to study the book it while waiting for the hand-off to Kato. Nicolai understood a great deal about the dark arts, including where to go to commune with the fallen angel, Astaroth. Nicolai told his fellow Sapientes Gladio lieutenants, Veronica Vera and Lenny Curtis that they needed to go on a mission for their master, in truth of-course Rasputin had given no such order and Nicolai was just using the two as back-up for the expedition. Once reaching the end of the dungeon Nicolai communes with Astaroth and makes a pact with him. Nicolai takes Astaroth into his body just as Rasputin had done with Asmodeus. Rasputin had been slowly consumed by Asmodeus but Nicolai believed he could completely restrain Astaroth. It is unknown precisely Astaroth's feelings on the matter, whether he knew or cared about Nicolai's attempts to restrain him, but Astaroth considered Asmodeus a rival and humans to be weak so it is likely he either agreed to be bound by Nicolai counting on him eventually giving into his malice or he was just happy to have a link to the world again that would result in Asmodeus' defeat, if not envisioning both scenarios. Nicolai had a massive ego, and with his ambitions fueling him it seemed Astaroth could not initially influence him as Asmodeus was doing to Rasputin.
After initial defeat at Rasputin's hands thanks to a curse Nicolai had laid on Yuri for him with an artifact called the Holy Mistletoe, Yuri, Karin, new ally - Anastasia Romanov and the other heroes fled the Russian court. Yuri's friend and Nicolai's former captive Roger Bacon, knew of the man called Jovis who Rasputin had learned his spiritual rites from and brought Yuri and the others to Turkey to find Jovis in hopes of finding a way of defeating Rasputin. While they were gone Nicolai continued to serve Rasputin and prepare for the Tzar assassination all the while with his own plans in place. Yuri would reacquire the form of the demonic lord Amon, whose spiritual power would render Yuri immune to the curse and might destroy the shield Asmodeus had placed around Rasputin. Before they left Jovis warned Yuri that he sensed that someone else had also invoked the power of The Fallen Angel Astaroth and to beware for Astaroth was even more powerful than Asmodeus. On the eve of the Tzar's return, Rasputin's assassin would be stopped by Yuri. Once her father was safe, Anastasia promptly presented her him with photographic proof that Rasputin had arranged the attempted assassination. With Rasputin's plans in ruins he quickly fled the court with the help of Veronica.
Yuri and the others pursued Rasputin, fighting through Veronica. With Veronica's death Rasputin made his getaway to Sapientes Gladio's airship as it bombarded the palace. Yuri transformed into Amon as flew off after him, doing combat with him on-board the ship, breaking Asmodeus' shield, destroying the ship and beating Rasputin to within an inch of his life. With Rasputin in critical condition and nothing left to lose he fully invoked the power of Asmodeus. Invoking Asmodeus revived Rasputin, granted him even greater powers and called forth a gigantic floating fortress, Nicolai was watching safely from the side-lines below as the ship was destroyed and the fortress took shape.
Nicolai entered the fortress effortlessly and proceeded to speak with "Rasputin". With so much of his original plans in ruins Nicolai was concerned about recouping their loses. Expressing his concerns at that point appeared to amuse Rasputin as he claimed to have known of Nicolai's scheme to kill him once he killed the Tzar. With his scheme's laid bare Nicolai outright asked if Rasputin really had no plans to assume the Russian throne. Rasputin stated that politics were beneath him at that point and he simply intended to use his new demonic presence to flood the world with demons, enslaving humanity. Rasputin stated that time no longer mattered to him, however long it took to destroy mankind he would endure and relish wiping out humanity slowly even if it took 500 years, all he wanted was to savor it as they slowly died-off, oppressed by his demonic hoards. Nicolai saw Rasputin had been fully possessed by Asmodeus and stated as such. The statement seemed to annoy Asmodeus. As Asmodeus readied to strike Nicolai down, Nicolai revealed Astaroth's aura around him and Asmodeus understood the situation. Nicolai said that while Rasputin was weak-willed he had the discipline to resist his benefactor's influence while still employing it. Nicolai further stated that Yuri's fight as Amon had demonstrated that he could fully invoke Amon without being possessed by him, which meant his will-power was incredible, and thus he was certain Asmodeus would lose the fight when Yuri and his friends arrived. Asmodeus was amused at the presumption, stating that their business had not ended and once Amon/Yuri arrived and was destroyed he would conclude his business with Nicolai/Astaroth.
That night as Yuri, Karin and the others slept before their attack on Asmodeus' fortress Nicolai visited Karin in a dream. Nicolai had long since been enamored with Karin and came to offer her safety from Rasputin's demons, a place at his side and whatever her heart desired including bringing her family back from the dead. Karin refused Nicolai's advances. Dumbstruck at first, Nicolai insisted he truly loved her. Karin said she saw him as nothing but a con-man who got by on his good looks and charisma but was actually a wretch of a human-being deep down. Definitively shot-down, Nicolai tried to throttle Karin but lost concentration in his rage and the dream dissolved as Karin woke up.
The next morning Yuri, Karin, Anastasia and all their friends assaulted the tower. Making their way through the dungeon they confronted Rasputin and quickly realized he was completely possessed by Asmodeus, who was sadistic to an insane degree. Asmodeus would eventually be defeated returning Rasputin to normal and leaving him to die as he was prior to invoking his powers in the first place. Rasputin admitted he finally saw what Nicolai had meant about Yuri's will-power. As he lay dying Rasputin told Yuri that he still needed to attend to Nicolai who had made his own pact with Astaroth. Rasputin said Nicolai had gone to Aponia Tower at the Vatican, where he had first tricked Karin into helping him retrieve the Holy Mistletoe that had cursed Yuri. Thus with his dying-breath did Rasputin aim his mortal foes against each-other as the tower crumbled.
Yuri's ally Gepetto said that he had heard of Aponia. It was an Inquisitional dungeon originally and their were many magics upon it that sealed the Malice of those killed there within the tower so as not to strike out and poison the Vatican. After a long trek upward the party finally reached the top. At the top of the tower they found a very unhinged Nicolai in front of a large ornate door. Nicolai, proclaimed Aponia's top floor was a vault. The tower had been built to filtered out Malice, spiritual vices cast-off from mankind. Nicolai then opened the vault freeing a bound-up stream of Malice which poured out of the doors and in all directions as Nicolai marveled at it's beauty. Nicolai said that with the Malice unleashed the World War would escalate and turn even more bloody. It became obvious Nicolai had started to give into Astaroth with both Rasputin's change in plans and Karin's rejection and as such was under his influence. Nicolai then transformed into Astaroth to defeat his foes as the world was flooded in Malice.
Once Astaroth/Nicolai is defeated, Kato arrives and seals the door before more Malice can get out. Kato had arrived to save Nicolai, for Japan still had a vested interest in both him and the newly discovered demon within his body. Yuri naturally disliked the notion of letting Nicolai go but Kato used the party's weariness from the battle to his advantage halted Yuri before teleporting away with Nicolai's unconscious body in hand.
Yuri and the others would make their way to Japan to retrieve Nicolai from Japanese custody. Kato had turned Nicolai into their top researcher Dr. Hojo, who was researching paranormal powers and how to stimulate/control them. While Nicolai was being prepped for Hojo's experiments, Kato used the Émigré Manuscript for his own experiment to reincarnate his lost love and commending officer, Yoshiko Kawashima. While the reincarnation took place Kato reported into the Minister, Ishimura, shadow ruler of Japan and the one who had sent Kato to set-up the deal in the first place. Content with Nicolai in custody and the key to both Japan's influence over Russia and unlocking a supernatural arsenal, Minister Ishimura gave Kato his blessing to use the Émigré Manuscript for his project as a reward. Kato would use the Émigré Manuscript to stabilize, rapidly age and mature a clone of Yoshiko Kawashima created from a piece of her DNA. He named the reincarnation Ouka and began training her as a loyal soldier while Hojo's experiments with Astaroth took place.
Hojo had been told many things. First off his primary goal was to unlock the secret to Astaroth's demonic powers. Hojo was also told to safety extract Astaroth from Nicolai's body with his machine, to both allow Astaroth to be studied in-depth and possibly subjugated. Lastly Hojo was told that Nicolai needed to survived, as Japan still needed Nicolai to be used as a political pawn to claim the Russian throne for them. Though Hojo had Nicolai for months prior to Yuri-and-company's arrival in Japan, Astaroth had evaded the machine's sensors before they could fully lock unto him while Nicolai was in the theta dream state. Nicolai had to be given over a month's break in-between attempts or they risked permanently damaging his mind. Yuri and his friends get to Japan and in short order meet one of Ishimura's political rivals, Naniwa Kawashima, Yoshiko Kawashima's father. Naniwa would eventually come to befriend the team and instructed his bodyguard Kurando Inugami to guide them through Japan in their quest.
Hojo's experiments reached a head as a small portion of Astaroth's energy was transferred into a dog, killing the creature, possessing it's remains and turning it into a gigantic demonic monster called Shoki. Though Ouka attempted to restrain the beast it teleported away and Kato ordered his team go find it while Hojo re-calibrated the machine. Kato and his team found the creature attacking Yokohama, Kato told the team to stay back and watch while Yuri and his friends attended to the situation. Once Shoki is defeated Kato thanks Yuri for his assistance. Though Yuri recognized the fake Yoshiko Kawashima he had many other questions too. Kato, seeing Yuri would not be scared off and feeling he owed him some small explanation tells him Nicolai is in the Hojo research facility but cautions him that if he decided to go anyway he would be attacked the second he sets foot inside.
Kurando guides the party to the facility and they make their way inside, fighting off security and in the deepest parts of the lab creatures created as part Dr. Hojo's rogue experiments. When the party arrives in small alcove over-looking the the extraction device Dr. Hojo and his team were just prepping for an attempt to go after Astaroth again as Nicolai once again entered the theta state. Dr. Hojo was excited and assured Kato he was certain he knew what to do that time. Momentary success shortly slipped through the science team's grasp as Astaroth had emerged briefly only to hide again beneath Nicolai's ego. With the news Kato told Hojo to call off the session, however Hojo, at his patience's-end refused to face failure again and ordered the experiment continue and extract Astaroth even if they needed to destroy Nicolai's ego to get to it. Despite Kato's attempts to stop him Hojo pushed the project forward and the machine began extracting Astaroth from within Nicolai's ego, tearing it apart in the process.
The experiment had succeeded, at least as far as Doctor Hojo was concerned but Kato chastised him for his rash choice, for the only thing containing Astaroth up til then had been Nicolai's ego. "Nicolai" promptly awoke twisted into an inhuman state and effortless destroyed the machine's shackles. Astaroth then floated down to Yuri and his friends as they came out from the alcove to confront him. Astaroth said that Nicolai was completely under his control thanks to the machine. Astaroth announced his awakening would herald an end to man-kind and quickly teleports away to attend to his plans. Kato and his team leave as well to try to find and stop Astaroth.
Once Yuri and the others escape the lab, Kurando agrees to take them to his village where his mother lived. Kurando's mother, Saki, was the chieftain and powerful oracle whom Kurando was sure could find Astaroth. Deep in the mountain forests of Katsuragi Kurando brought his allies to the peaceful village of Inugami and escorted them to the village's scared alter at the Fountain of Sukune, where his mother waited for them. Saki Inugami greeted the visitors, said she had foreseen their arrival and then prepared to use the Fountain to divine Astaroth's location. The waters began forming a vision of the stars which soon focused on Earth, then Japan, then Mount Fuji and deep underground until Nicolai possessed by Astaroth was revealed. But as the Fountain's gaze came upon Astaroth he seemed to feel it and stirred from his meditative state. Astaroth reached through the divination and the Fountain of Sukune's very waters. Saki warded away Astaroth's reach, which only encouraged him to project his Malice through instead, shattering the ward and entering Saki's body. Astaroth took control of Saki's body and forced it to fight her son and his companions.
Once Saki is defeated she returns to normal and falls, unconscious but still alive. When Saki awakes she thanks the party for exorcising Astaroth's control over her then tells them where to go, Mt. Fuji, The Immortal Mountain. Saki says that the mountain exists on top of a ley-line, a spiritual nerve on that flows through the entire planet. Saki's says that Astaroth was marshaling his forces over the ley-line and was preparing to blasted it apart creating a chain reaction that would destroy the planet, starting with Japan. With their objective clear, the party leaves for Mt' Fuji.
After arriving at Mt. Fuji and traversing several sacred teleportation shrines through the ley-lines, Yuri and the others arrive at the volcanic under-chamber of Mt. Fuji where Astaroth dwelt. They saw that Kato and his team were already there and very much the worse-for-ware, having been soundly beaten by Astaroth. Yuri thanks them for their bravery and tells them to rest up while he and his allies defeated Astaroth, though they warn him to avoid his nails, as they were poisoned with Malice, one scratch and he'd die a painful death. Undaunted, Yuri steps toward Nicolai's body and confronts Astaroth as the demon makes a grand proclamation about the end of the world. Yuri replies by asking Astaroth for a single request before he ends the world, Astaroth condescends to humor the request and asks Yuri what he wishes.
|“||What do you wish, human?||„|
|“||I wish for you to shove it! You know where.||„|
Astaroth becomes enraged at Yuri's insolence and attacks. In his second battle Astaroth is much bigger, has more abilities and greater stats from his battle in Aponia Tower, as he has been freed completely from the restraints of Nicolai's ego. Upon defeating Astaroth the demon will return to an arcane crest as his worldly binding and Nicolai will return to normal, although still very weakened. Astraoth's crest can be equipped by the party, granting a member the most powerful holy magic in the game.
Skills and AbilitiesAstaroth has the power to project Malice from his, and by extinction Nicolai's, body harming those nearby and momentarily diverting others from harming him. Astaroth can project bouts of light that inflict holy damage on his foes. As stated, Astaroth's nails are poisoned with Malice and one scratch is all it takes to inflict a deadly poison. Astaroth appears to be hovering at all times both in his first and second form. Astaroth's initial form is roughly ten feet tall but in his second stage his size is at-least twenty feet. Like Asmodeus, Astaroth has both the power to create demons and bend space around himself, however unlike Asmodeus, Astaroth seems to be much less reliant on other demons and is never seen summoning one other than as a result of Dr. Hojo's experiments. Astaroth seems to have been entirely held captive by Nicolai's ego, which was fueled by both his ambitions and his pride, however with his ambitions dashed Astaroth, begins to slowly corrupt Nicolai as Rasputin had been by Asmodeus. In Aponia Tower Nicolai is uncharacteristically finicky and appears to have no real motivations of his own, probably acting on Astaroth's suggestions. Astaroth was still contained by Nicolai's pride for some time unable to take full control until Dr. Hojo inadvertently released him.
Descriptions of the creature keep referring to Astaroth as a fallen angel and his grand proclamations seem to suggest Astaroth believes he is fulfilling a higher purpose by getting rid of humans, which he views as vermin; However as he is willing to destroy the planet to get rid of humanity, he is likely delusional in this regard. Unlike Asmodeus, Astaroth wants the world destroyed in a very immediate fashion and is not willing to settle for generations of oppression, seeking instead a simple Apocalypse. Though Astaroth wants the destruction of the entire planet in a very intimidate fashion he is also domineering and sadistic and his in-game description states he likes to dominate humans and make them slaughter each-other, not as a means to an end but rather just as an amusement while his larger plans unfold.
- The portion of the game with Nicolai, Veronica and Lenny help go on their search through Astaroth's realm is part of Shadow Hearts: Covenant director's cut and not part of the game's original release.
- Like the other Lords of Hell, Astaroth is a demon from the real life Lesser Key of Solomon, said to list the lords of hell King Solomon discovered and bound.
- In-real life the original Astaroth was a Sumerian love goddess.