Azathoth and Nyarlathotep
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A pair of dieties Azathoth and Nyarlathotep rule the universe. Nyarlathotep serves as Azathoth's aide and messenger, whilst Azathoth merely provides a figurehead, sitting at his throne in the nucleus of Chaos.
Azathoth, whose name is often preceded by "The Daemon Sultan", "Him in the Gulf", or the "Seething Nucular Chaos", is in a mindless coma-like trance, brought about by the hypnotic dances of the members of his court. The reason for this is his total lack of anything resembling sanity or sentience. He still, however, retains his position as supreme ruler of the universe, no matter how incapable of that job he may be.
First mentioned in the short story The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath, he appeared several times in other works in the Cthulhu mythos, steeling his position as an inescapable horror within the fictional universe. Though he possesses unimaginable power both psychically and heirachially over the other entities in the Lovecraft universe, he would only use them if brought out of his trance. Thus, to protect the universe from destruction, dancers in Azathoth's court must keep up their antics for eternity.
Serving as Azathoth's messenger, it would, should Azathoth ever be awoken from his slumber, be up to Nyarlathotep to carry out Azathoth's orders and destroy the universe, a job Nyarlathotep is very capable of.
He was first mentioned in the short story Nyarlathotep in 1920, here:
He had risen out of the oily blackness years ago, and was always shrouded in mystery - constantly changing forms. No one had ever seen Him truly, for one day he would be a shapeless blob lounging around in Azathoth's court, the next he would be a bespectacled, beetle-like man with a polished globe for a head and a black, dying heart.
Worshipped by sparse cults in northern Canada, Nyarlathotep has influence the world over, from Iraq to Britain and back to Iraq again. Despite Nyarlathotep's inability to show his true form, he has nearly unlimited power, and will use it without hesitation. He has been shown to vastly manipulate other entities in the Lovecraft universe and dancers in Azathoth's court, and has shown to defy even the laws of the universe. In addition to this, he was briefly involved in a Shoggoth-hunting
murder attempt accident, in which His close friend Shub-Niggurath was badly injured with unimaginably vast amounts of psychic enegry.
Azathoth's Court and Dancers
Azathoth's court, located within the very center of Chaos, is constantly flooded by godlike beings. The sole purpose of Azathoth's court, throne, and dancers, is to keep him from awaking and, with his vast powers but absent mind, destroy the universe entirely.
Sometimes the court is used for it's initially conceived purpose, and major decisions effecting the universe are made there. However, these often correlate to the task of maintaining Azathoth's complacency. These dances, perfomed day and night, usually involve flattery of the Blind Idiot God, ceaseless and nonsensical babbling, and shameless displays of self-promotion and egoism. These "sessions" of the court usually last for several hours or may drag on for much longer, depending on Azathoth's mood.
Lovecraft never intended for Azathoth's Court and Nyarlathotep to be used as metaphors for, say, the British Parliament, but it is often used for just that.