God and the Devil are usually portrayed as fighting over the souls of humans, with the Devil seeking to lure people away from God and into Hell. The Devil commands a force of evil spirits, commonly known as demons.
The Bible and other canonical religious texts do not give the Devil a fleshed-out "origin story". Popular culture has largely adopted the version told by 17th-century English poet John Milton in Paradise Lost, where the Devil is revealed to have been God's highest and most honored lieutenant, who rebelled and later defected because of policy disagreements (regarding the exalted status intended for humans), and set up his own infernal kingdom.
Though the Devil is not specifically referred to in Judaism's Old Testament, some briefly-mentioned characters in that work were later understood by Christian theology to be avatars of him, most famously Satan (opponent), Beelzebub (lord of the temple or possibly lord of the flies), Lucifer (Latin translation of Heylel, meaning light-bringer), and an unnamed Serpent. The New Testament frequently mentions Satan, and subsequent popular culture has filled in more details for these aspects of the character.
The Devil is discussed rhetorically by numerous characters in Harry Turtledove works. He is particularly relevant to the plot only in the following stories.
The Devil in "Clash of Arms"Edit
Niccolo dello Bosco was an Italian spice merchant at the castle of Thunder-ten-tronckh in Westphalia during one of its renowned biennial tournaments. He was a small, skinny, excitable man who, when not travelling, lived in the forest outside Firenze. While not of a noble birth, he was armigerous, with his coat of arms as "gules a fess or between three frogs proper".
He chanced to meet Magister Stephen de Windesore in a tavern and the two began to discuss heraldry. Magister Stephen was surprised at dello Bosco's knowledge and, while he offered no overt offence, dello Bosco became angered over his disdain of him. De Windesore also became angry and challenged dello Bosco to a contest. Each would take turns asking a question of the other until someone could not answer making the other the victor.
The "battle" went on into the night, and the two returned to de Windesore's room at the inn. After several hours, dello Bosco announced he was tired of the battle, and asked de Windesore what arms the devil bore. Magister Stephen replied that only the devil knew that. Instantly dello Bosco revealed that he was in fact the devil, and carried Magister Stephen to Hell. The Englishman was briefly amused to learn that the devil's coat of arms was "gules a fess or between three frogs proper", but soon lost his sense of humor for this fact.
Niccolo dello Bosco can translate as Nick of the Forest. Old Nick is a folk nickname for the Devil, who in this story returns to Hell through a forest.