Asmodeus, Prince of Darkness, and the Archdevils of Hell

While Asmodeus is worshipped as the official patron deity of Cheliax, each of the other archdevils of the Nine Hells and many of the other nobles of Hell have their own following on Golarion. Mammon, in particular, has a strong following amongst Cheliax’s ambitious merchant class. So long as they do not challenge the authority of Asmodeus’s church or assert that Asmodeus is not supreme in the Nine Hells and on Golarion, cults of the Dukes of Hell are tolerated by the government and church.

The plane of Hell is the ultimate expression of evil order in the Great Beyond, of the weak subjugated to serve the strong, of complete obedience, and of unquestioning faith. It is not willful and random like the torments of the Abyss or purely sadistic and spiteful like that of Abaddon. Evil and obedience here are honed to a razor’s edge in service to a greater purpose: that of bending the will of souls and the very architecture of creation itself to the greater glory of the lord Asmodeus and his perfect order. It is the home of a myriad of devils and other evil outsiders and sadly the final destination for countless mortal souls.

The archdevils are the eight major devils who rule the first eight layers of Hell, the ninth of which is ruled by Asmodeus. Although they posses powers akin to godhood, only Asmodeus is a true deity. The others pay strict obedience to him, even while they tirelessly scheme against him and each other. Though they are each worshiped individually or as a group on Golarion, organized cults are rare outside of Cheliax. Those who do venerate an individual archdevil are generally lone cultists who on the surface are normal members of society, while also maintaining small, hidden shrines. The eight archdevils are Bel, Dispater, Fierna, Mammon, Levistus, Glasya, Baalzebul, and Mephistopheles.

Collectively, they are also called the Lords of the Nine, the Archdukes of Hell, and the Lords of Hell. They each control one of the plane’s nine layers and are the most powerful and highest-ranking devils. Unlike the chaotic evil demon lords of the Abyss, the Lords of the Nine (and all the baatezu of the Hells for that matter) are arranged in a strict hierarchy. The lord of the first layer has the lowest rank of the nine archdevils, while Asmodeus, the lord of the ninth layer, has the highest rank. Where the demons of the Abyss answer only to their own basic instincts, every single devil, at least in theory, answers to the Lord of the Ninth, Asmodeus.

Each archduke is a unique devil of immense power and influence, with his own resources: military, magical, and political, to rely on in the endless scheming that characterizes devilish politics.

Lord of the First: Bel, the Pretender, Warlord of Avernus

Black, rugged, and hopeless—in Avernus there is no escape, only potential for greater torment. Those who find themselves trapped upon the first layer of Hell might travel in any direction, finding nothing but countless miles of splintered iron, fallen souls, and the shattered bones of eons’ worth of failed invaders. Jagged metal, black rust, and molten tracts comprise the majority of the landscape, the layer’s skin rough and violent toward all flesh. Little grows from the plains of pitted iron, and nothing edible, only weeds more akin to barbed chains sprouting from the corpses of fallen wanderers, dead behemoths, and rusted scars in the pocked wasteland. Lakes and seas of molten metal make the land for miles around unbearable from their deadly heat, all the while belching forth deadly ejecta and clouds of poisonous gasses. Breaking the expanses of the rancorous deserts rise mountains of shearing blades, impaling a sky aflame with a perpetual apocalyptic dusk.

Bel is a former pit fiend of great power who controls Avernus. The Lord of the First sports the typical features of any pit fiend. He is a huge, square bodied creature with red, scaly skin and a gaping maw instead of a mouth. He also wears a belt made out of decapitated, still-living angel heads.

As well as being Lord of the First, Bel is one of the lead generals in the Blood War, commanding the Third Command, one of the three divisions of Hell’s forces. Asmodeus awarded him leadership of the Third Command after Bel committed the now-legendary Four-Cross, betraying Hell to join the forces of the Abyss not once but twice, only to ultimately betray the demons to the devils so thoroughly the Abyssal war effort was crippled for a century.

After the Reckoning, Bel betrayed his mistress and former Lord of the First, Zariel, in order to gain his current position. Rumor has it that his primary source of diabolic energy is actually his former mistress, who Bel supposedly keeps imprisoned underneath the Bronze Citadel, his personal fortress and Hell’s primary fortress in the eternal war against the demons.

Bel is unpopular with the other Lords of the Nine, save Asmodeus, but has made inroads into forging an alliance with She Who Cannot Be Named, the long distant ancestor deity of Chromatic Dragons who no longer attends worshippers on Golarion. This un-named Mother of Dragons once maintained her home realm on Avernus; thanks to this accord, many abishai swell the ranks of his armies.

An inspiration to all devilkind, Bel attained his status by climbing the full ladder of diabolical promotion, from quivering lemure to full pit fiend, finally displacing Zariel and being recognized by Asmodeus as Lord of the First and one of the greatest military minds in the multiverse.

Bel is a cruel, violent and very blunt warlord whose main concern is the Blood War, the unending conflict between the chaotic evil tanar’ris from the Abyss and the lawful evil baatezu of Baator. As Avernus is often the battlefield upon which the Blood War’s daily fighting occurs, Bel is in charge of keeping the demons at bay and keeping safe the harvesting of the evil souls that come to the Nine Hells. Kept busy advancing the Baatezu agenda against demonkind, Bel is the only archduke that has not yet established a cult, though some warriors worship him.

Lord of the Second: Dispater, the First King, The Iron Duke of Dis

The gates of Dis, the Infernal City, stand open to all who would dare to enter. Leaving is another matter, though, as the second layer of Hell serves as prison to the souls of liars, false counselors, usurpers, parasites, and any who used the laws of their society to prey upon their brethren. Yet as the most urbane layer of Hell, more than just souls flock to Dis. Traders from across the multiverse barter with devils, diabolists, night hags, and ferrymen upon the Styx for safe passage to the bazaars of Hell, some trading their souls for just a glimpse of the endless wonders of the archdevil Dispater’s city.

An ancient being, Dispater takes the form of a muscular humanoid with rust-colored skin and an elaborate crown of iron horns. As a symbol of his rule and devotion, he ever bears the Eclipsing Eye, a sunburst-shaped staff of black metal that bears a blinking ruby at its top, through which Asmodeus might witness all. He often wears treasures drawn from Dis’s vast vaults, lordly regalia eclipsing the wealth of whole worlds. A master of illusions and a being of malleable form, he regularly alters his appearance to intimidate or put at ease those in his presence, depending on his current mood and plots.

Dispater never takes risks and almost never leaves his demesne, and then, only to the call of Asmodeus. At all other times he relies on his aspect to deal with the other archdukes of the Nine Hells. Dispater’s Iron Tower, a nigh-impregnable fortress, is itself an extremely powerful magic item that amplifies his powers and makes him nearly invulnerable while he is there. While he rarely leaves Dis, the Iron Duke can rely on his consort Mahathallah for intelligence.

Mahathallah is one of the four Whore Queens of Hell, former celestials who followed Asmodeus down to Hell along with the rest of the original angels and others who fled Heaven’s restrictions in the Fall. Unlike the other three Whore Queens, Mahathallah was a handmaiden of Pharasma rather than an angel, but she is similiar in her female aspect and in her near-archdevil level of power. Known as the Dowager of Illusions, Mahathallah is Dispater’s most recent consort and her intelligence network covers all of Hell and beyond, making her one of the most knowledgeable creatures in the Nine Hells. In terms of politics, Dispater and Mephistopheles, Lord of the Eighth, are allies and are usually scheming against Baalzebul, Lord of the Seventh.

Since Glasya’s (relatively) recent elevation and the apparent ease with which Asmodeus arranged it, Dispater’s already healthy paranoia has grown, prompting him to retreat further into his Iron Tower and work harder than ever root out traitors both actual and potential. He has also tried to distance himself from his allies and seek peace with his enemies to avoid having any enemies, a futile goal.

Dispater is extremely conservative, representing evil in its most stagnant form. The doctrines of Dispater are about contingencies and options. Dispater’s cult appeals to those who value stability as much as cruelty. They tend to build impregnable fortresses, carefully reviewing defensive protocol and possible escape plans. They include many hobgoblins, goblins, and similar humanoids.

While he rarely leaves the Iron Tower in the flesh, Dispater is one of the most gregarious of the archdevils and often sends emissaries to other planes. He has also had four wives and several long term consorts, and in the far reaches of the past there is, of course, his first love, a celestial from the days when Dispater was also an angel. No one can remember her name or anything about Dispater’s first wife other than that she once existed. Dispater is also the father of the Empyreal Lord Ragathiel.

Lord of the Third: Mammon, the Grasping One, the Argent Prince of Erebus

No sickly sun or dying stars glare down upon the catacombs of Erebus. Vaulted ceilings, sometimes rising dozens of stories high, replace the heavens, their unseen stones dripping chill condensation and reeking seepage from on high. Huge blocks of gray stone comprise the entire layer, with even the most able burrowers finding only endless expanses of the dense rock even when other chambers should lie just beyond. Pillars as thick and towering as the Material Plane’s most massive trees fill halls with chiseled forests, their surfaces covered in grotesque sculptures and the still, patient hamatualas and barbazus that guard the layer’s treasures. Sewer-like channels wind their way through Erebus, channeling the filth of Dis above. Kingly ransoms litter the floor even in the most revolting of these passages, while in greater halls lie treasures whose splendor could blind, were but a spark cast upon their glory.

Now little more than an animating spirit, Mammon collected the riches of his tomb, creating from them a gleaming and infinitely changeable new form. Having spent countless ages in his current state, Mammon has adapted and now delights in his unique form. The vaults of Erebus have grown vast over the millennia, treasures of every imagining filling his realm and thus contributing to his body. Although he can take any form comprised of his domain’s treasures, at the heart of Erebus hangs the Argent Prince, a fiendishly beautiful, silvery representation of Mammon’s once angelic form. Mammon, Lord of the Third, rules over Hell’s treasure vault, the layer known as Erebus. He rules from the center of the city of Minauros, inhabiting a mausoleum-like structure of vast proportions.

During the Reckoning, Mammon allied with Dispater and Mephistopheles against Asmodeus. When Asmodeus finally proved victorious, Mammon was the first to abase himself before him, gaining the enmity of the other Lords. Aware that he has exhausted the Hells of allies, Mammon has focused on subverting mortals on the Material Plane via his cults, and using them to wage economic warfare against goodly states there. Mammon’s cult among mortals is one of the largest of the eight archdukes other than Asmodeus. As the patron of greed, temples to Mammon are ostentatious displays of wealth and obscene plenty, with every surface and ritual implement made of gold and encrusted with gems.

Mammon represents greed and ambition. He is two-faced, vindictive, and arrogant, always looking for imagined insults. Mammon’s servants wage economic warfare on good, prosperous nations in an attempt to collapse their economies, hoping that in their desperation the newly impoverished souls will turn to Mammon for salvation. He is indirect and venomous, known for speaking in riddles, never coming straight to the point even when giving orders. His servants emulate this behavior.

Lords of the Fourth: Fierna and Belial, the Pale Kiss and the Thorned Caress, Co-Rulers of Phlegethos

Any path in Phlegethon is either a struggle up a crumbling ascent of jagged flints and sheer escarpments, or a battle to maintain one’s footing in the slide toward the layer’s smoking heart. A slip in either direction means a hopeless tumble down slopes of flensing rock and rusty foliage, and little identifiable as the soul or fiend survives to reach the realm’s bottom. At this ash-darkened depth, the layer’s forges and Fierna and Belial’s palace form the axis from which the rest of the realm hopelessly spirals. The size of several mortal kingdoms, the forges of Phlegethon bore like massive iron screws into the molten wound of the layer’s core. Here, upon scaffolds and buttresses like the legs of gigantic leaden spiders, the choking infernal foundries transform the grist of the surrounding realm into weapons of vicious design. Both the base armaments of Hell’s legions and the impossible conceptions of the archfiends are crafted here, the greatest of which are forged of both metal and souls, creating alloys fundamentally infused with immortal suffering. Amid the smoke and screams of the forges rises the airy, twisting frame of the Idolisque, a place of seemingly placid reprieve rising above the heat and clangorous madness below, though little could be farther from the truth Fierna and Belial, the Lords of the Fourth, rule the layer of Phlegethos. They reside in the city of Abriymoch in a palace of jagged obsidian built on one lip of the caldera.

Fierna is described as a human-like, young, and incredibly beautiful she-devil sporting two small horns, a pointed tail and long red nails. Over the ages Belial has taken the shape of every race in the multiverse and more, his form being subject only to his infernal imagination. When dealing with other creatures, he takes on aspects he suspects them to find most alluring, delighting in flustering even the most disciplined. In council with his peers, though, he adopts a split form, his right half darkly fiendish, the left mockingly angelic.

Following the Reckoning Belial was demoted from ruler of Phlegethos to mere figurehead, with Fierna taking the mantle of leadership and Belial publicly wearing the mantle of leadership. This situation suited both just fine until Glasya’s ascension to rulership of Malbolge. Since then Fierna has struck a fast friendship with Glasya, and at her urging is moving to gain greater independence from her father (and rumored consort). Moreover, since the death of Fierna’s mother Naome (Belial’s former consort), both she-devils now share the mutual grief of having a dead mother. This fact caused them to become even more united.

Belial, for his part, has been attempting to keep tabs on his daughter’s behavior without provoking her to greater autonomy, even putting many of his schemes against Levistus, Lord of Stygia, on hold. Belial is also considering various actions against Glasya, to make her a less appealing role model for Fierna. He is fully aware that the line he treads is thin, however, as any obvious strikes against Asmodeus’ daughter could not only inspire his own progeny to rebellion, but be construed as moves against Asmodeus himself.

Belial teaches his followers to revel in the pleasures and pains of the flesh. He delights in manipulating mortals. He also enjoys killing, craving the sensation of hot blood splashing against his body. That said, he is not a fool, and knows when to cut and run. Members of Belial’s small cult devote themselves to trickery, seduction, domination, and secrets. They are generally more interested in personal than political corruption. Fierna’s cult is still young, having developed only in the past few years since the ascension of Glasya, and as such as not yet settled on a definitive agenda. Her followers are an extremely varied group of outcasts, exiles, and malcontents.

Doloras, the Lady of Pain, one of the four Whore Queens of Hell, resides on Phlegethos. It is whispered that she was the one responsible for freeing the kytons from Hell, from which they escaped to the Plane of Shadow.

Lord of the Fifth: Levistus, the Frozen Duke, Imprisoned Lord of Stygia

Every lie spoken throughout the planes condenses as a drop of poison to flood Stygia, the fifth layer of Hell. Amid the tangled swamps and fetid jungles rise moldy ruins, mired temples to false deities, and whole blasphemous cities. The waters of the Styx mix with the layer’s venomous bogs, creating noxious moors before flowing into vast black seas. And within a kingdom constructed from the despoiled holy places of fallen divinities writhes Geryon the Serpent, the ancient source of all heresies and end of all faiths.

The Lord of the Fifth, Levistus, rules over the layer of Stygia. He appears as a six-foot-tall humanoid with very pale skin, dark hair, and a goatee. Were it not for his entirely black eyes and pointed teeth, he could pass for a human. In the days of his freedom, he wore loose, silken clothing and carried a glistening rapier. However, at the moment, he is visible only as a black speck a quarter-mile within a towering mountain of dark ice that floats at random about Stygia.

Asmodeus imprisoned Levistus in ice for a past betrayal, namely attempting to ravish and eventually killing Bensozia, consort to Asmodeus and mother to Glasya. Levistus was, for millennia, trapped and unable to act within his icy tomb, but recently Asmodeus made an inexplicable gesture to his lover’s murderer, displacing the formerly loyal ruler of Stygia, Geryon, and passing the position over to the frozen prince, though leaving him trapped within his tomb. Levistus now rules his layer via telepathic instructions issued to his many amnizu courtiers.

Asmodeus’ strange actions puzzled both Levistus and the other seven archdukes. Levistus’ open hostility to his peers endeared him to none of the Nine Hells’ other rulers, and the Lord of the Nine’s apparent indifference stymied followers of devilish politics for some time.

With Glasya’s elevation, however, a theory has arisen to explain Asmodeus’ maneuvering. Geryon’s energy was never transferred to Levistus. Instead, the theory goes, it was used to promote Glasya, whose personal might ballooned in the wake of the Hag Countess’ overthrow. In the meantime, Asmodeus tolerated Levistus’ blatant trouble-making and arrogance as a distraction for the other archdukes from his plans for his daughter and Malbolge. Levistus himself has reluctantly come to accept the theory, though he doesn’t much like its implications. He has stepped up his efforts to break out of his tomb, though it continues to thwart all attempts, magical and physical. His devils are chipping away at the iceberg, but for every inch they gain two more build from the sleet and snow constantly blowing across its surface.

Levistus’s followers are thugs, rogues, and swashbuckling bravos generally in pursuit of some great betrayal or act of vengeance.

Lord of the Sixth: Glasya, the Dark Prodigy, Archduchess of Malbolge

Malbolge is a constant reminder to all of Hell of the price of failure. The realm’s last ruler, the Hag Countess, had ambitions far beyond her abilities and her failure resulted in her titanically enlarged corpse reshaping the face of Malbolge. The Hag Countess’s bones are Malbolge’s mountains, her hairs its trees, her blood and humors its waters. Glasya’s fortress, Ossiea, was created from the grotesquely enlarged and distorted skull of the Hag Countess. It is a white, domelike structure, five stories in height, whose eye sockets have been filled with windows made from blood-red glass. A windpipe-like tunnel leads downwards to the subterranean kitchens and servant’s quarters’ the pink flesh of the walls still expands and contracts as if inhaling and exhaling in great slow breaths.

The Princess of Hell is incredibly beautiful. She has copper-colored skin and dark red or black hair. She appears exceptionally human except for her bat-like wings, horns, and a forked tail.

The current Lord of the Sixth is Glasya, daughter of Asmodeus and former consort of Mammon. Glasya ascended to her lordship in the dramatic displacement of its former ruler, the Hag Countess. The move has many of the other lords scrambling. Glasya appears as a supremely beautiful humanoid with copper skin, wings, a forked tail, and small horns.

The archdevil Baalzebul once ruled this layer through his Grand Viceroy Moloch. Moloch was cast down when he defied Asmodeus during the Reckoning—the general rebellion that ripped through the Nine Hells ages ago. Most authorities acknowledge that it was the Hag, one of Moloch’s most trusted advisors, who counseled Moloch to rebel. The Hag was then set in his place as Lord of the Sixth, and Moloch fled and went into hiding.

Some stories even say that Glasya had a hand in manipulating Mammon, Dispater, and Mephistopheles into war against Zariel, Baalzelbul, Moloch, and Belial, and egging Dispater and Mephistopheles into rebellion against Asmodeus. Scholars debate whether Glasya did this on her own or as Asmodeus’s agent, but regardless of her motivation her actions in fomenting the Reckoning mark her as an expert manipulator among the canny and suspicious archdevils.

Until Glasya’s promotion Malbolge was the hardest layer of Baator to traverse, being a never-ending slope bouncing with eternally rolling boulders. The Hag Countess, its former ruler, was not actually a devil but a supremely powerful Night Hag from the plane of Hades. The Hag Countess resided in a stronghold that was the core of a mountain-sized boulder which perpetually rolled down the slopes of Malbolge. None of her nobles knew exactly where it was or on what path it rolled. When she occasionally visited them in their copper fortresses, the nobles hosted her, though they rarely knew that it was her due to her expert disguises.

Then one morning, the Hag Countess was wracked by terrible spasms, collapsing down the eternal slopes, which soon after began convulsing with earthquakes, turning itself inside out. The Hag Countess was seized by the soil of the layer, then held fast as she underwent a massive transformation, her body growing to titanic but inconstant proportions. Her skull ballooned to the size of a vast fortress as her ribs distended and bent into massive, arching mounted ranges that circled the whole layer. Her innards were buried, becoming subterranean passageways and her organs burst, forming lakes of bile and viscera. Her fingers became ten white towers, strands of her hair turning into greasy white trees, her teeth sinking into the earth to become a source of ivory for mining. As the surviving inhabitants of Malbolge crawled out of the ground where they were buried, a golden litter descended, bearing the new ruler, Archduchess Glasya.

Malbolge is now a place of stark contrast, with aching beauty juxtaposed with horrific ugliness. From the Hag Countess’s colossally swollen skull she raised a great palace. In her corrupted flesh she planted lovely gardens. The souls sentenced to Malbolge are subject to experimentation, some made so beautiful that to look on them is to become enthralled and others reduced to hideous, twisted forms, mockeries of flesh trapped in eternal torment.

After the Reckoning but before conquering Malbolge, Glasya was made Queen of the Erinyes by her father. The current Queen of the Erinyes and one of the four Whore Queens, Eiseth, resides on Malbolge in her foul palace Widow’s Cry. This damned fortress is covered in hooks from which hang the impaled bodies of history’s greatest chauvinists.

Glasya detests Prince Levistus and is using her intelligence networks and fledgling cults to gather information she can later use to gain her father’s approval to destroy the Lord of the Fifth for good, in revenge for the murder of her mother.

Glasya has been worshipped since before she conquered Malbolge, and she has one of the larger followings on Golarion. Her appeal stems from her being something of a rebel within the infernal aristocracy, an outsider who managed to triumph despite the myriad enemies surrounding her. Mortals who feel oppressed or trapped in unbearable familiar, social, or cultural situations see Glasya as a prime example of a survivor in harsh conditions.

Her worshippers cluster in areas of political unrest, where a small push might turn the entire realm to the ethos of lawful evil. She is also interested in realms that uphold traditional gender roles, teaching the wives and daughters of powerful men how to become the powers behind their thrones. Her clerics’ favored weapon is the scourge. Glasya favors brothels and bordellos and fronts for her temples.

Lord of the Seventh: Baalzebul, Lord of the Flies, the Fallen One, Archduke of Maladomini

Harsh environs beyond all mortal reasoning and any natural extreme typify the seventh layer of Hell. The majority of the layer lies frozen, some regions perpetually trapped in a deadly mortal winter, while other realms lie in the grip of such absolute cold that adamantine becomes brittle, words freeze as they are spoken, and flesh shatters. No true land exists in Maladomini, the domain covered in bleak, continent-sized glaciers adrift on an icy black ocean. Incongruously, mountains of ice march across the realm, their peaks coming to slick, razor-sharp points. Even volcanoes regularly rise amid these summits, some spewing magma, others brimming with the opposite—roiling pools of fluids so cold that they violently freeze anything that comes near. While unquestionably deadly, these volcanoes allow for much of the mortal life on the layer, their heat forging endurable valleys and their lava flows forming temporary passages through regions of unbearable cold. Huddled in countless dales lie shuddering communities of disappointed souls, camps of elite diabolical soldiers, and whole frozen citadels and cities drawn from the Material Plane—wondrous places now eternally silent and sterile.

Petty laws of mortal physicality hold little sway on the seventh layer of Hell, vast icicle islands floating above the glacial land, sometimes colliding and shattering in jagged splinters and castle-sized hail. Blizzards of flensing ice splinters and winds capable of sweeping giants into the steel gray sky also rage across the realm, grounding any attempt at flight or hope for an escape from the freezing plains.

Prior to the Reckoning, Baalzebul took on the appearance of a tall, dark-skinned humanoid with compound eyes resembling a fly. However, as a result of his role in the Reckoning, Asmodeus transformed Baalzebul into a giant slug-like creature which trails feces and garbage wherever he goes. Flies crawl over his body at all times, and his arms are tiny and malformed.

Baalzebul, the Lord of the Seventh, rules over the layer of Maladomini. He was once an Archon of Mount Celestia named Triel, but he was cast down into the Nine Hells and soon after Asmodeus promoted him to devilhood in a dread ritual. Baalzebul climbed the ranks of devilry, eventually becoming Lord of the Seventh, deposing the earlier Lord and expunging all mention of that entity.

The Slug Lord is the only Archduke to have two official consorts: Baftis, his first and actual consort and Ardad Lili, one of the four Whore Queens of Hell and his viceroy’s former consort whom he was forced to rein in due to her large number of worshipers on the Prime Material Plane. While Baftis is too scared of Baalzebul and too spineless to even think of acting unauthorized, the strong-willed Lilith is not exactly loyal to the Slug Archduke and has schemes of her own. While not an archdevil in her own right, Ardad Lili holds an exalted position in Hell and is often called the Queen of Hell by her mortal followers. A master seducer even among the dukes of Hell, taking great pleasure in debasing and manipulating men, who she calls the ‘dimmer sex’.

Baalzebul once strove for devilish perfection in all things. Thus, Maladomini is dotted with ruined, abandoned cities, and petitioners were constantly building new cities for the Lord of the Seventh. Newer cities are built atop the ruins of older ones. As each city is finished, Baalzebul’s dissatisfaction forced his subjects to begin anew. Baftis is sealed up in one of these ghost towns that she has refused to leave.

To punish Baalzebul for plotting against him during the failed rebellion known as the Reckoning, Asmodeus transformed Baalzebul’s formerly angelic body into a melted, slug-like form. As a result, although Baalzebul now only openly plots against Mephistopheles, Lord of the Eighth, his undying anger still burns for Asmodeus, as does his eternal ambition for the throne of the King of the Nine Hells.

Baalzebul currently resides in the city of Malagard, formerly a beautiful city still under construction, with perfectly straight boulevards, fountains of delicate yet terrible visage, and towers that reach faultlessly straight into the blood-black sky. Recently, Baalzebul has given up on trying to prevent its demise, allowing its archways to droop and bridges to crumble as dispirited devils shuffle through ever-expanding rivers of trash. The fatalistic melancholy of the Lord of the Flies has struck the entire layer, interrupted only by occasional (and short-lived) frenzies of cleaning and repair. Baalzebul spends most of his time in the Palace of Filth, a building-shaped pile of fecal refuse that was once his grand castle. He periodically hollows out new rooms and reinforces slumping ones with layers of slime that ooze from his bloated body.

Lord of the Eighth: Mephistopheles, the Merchant of Souls, Archduke of Cania

Scouring winds blow endlessly across Caina, hot gales seemingly swept from some vast but unseen fire. These burning siroccos sweep waves of burning ash and jagged rust over the layer’s little amount of land and stretch anemic black clouds rimmed in embers across the sky. Below, a vast expanse of stone monoliths rises from the yawning, inescapable blackness. Some call these the bones of Hell. On each of these precarious spits of ground rises an unknowably tall pillar, the largest reaching more than a quarter mile across, while the smallest barely have room enough for the single, lonely souls trapped upon their tips. Chains dangle between the gulfs, some eroded, time-pocked and dangling limply into the dark, while others grip link to desperate link in miles-long reaches. In still other places, ancient bridges of failing steel brave the emptiness, their framework skeletons home to desperately clinging souls and monstrous wraiths. And ever below waits the darkness, an impossible depth that seems to roil and move and even breathe as though it were some terrible and incomprehensible living thing. The damned souls of Caina know that the endless vistas of shackled spikes are Hell, but fear that what lurks hidden below might be worse.

Forceful and proud, Mephistopheles oozes charisma and can charm with a gesture. His skin the color of embers over Hell’s scarred plains, he bears a triune of elaborate horns and wings like some infernal solar. Donning fantastic jewels and the robes of an exotic prince—his garb stripped from mortals unable to fulfill their bargains—he looks very much the part of an emissary of some decadent and darkly fantastic empire, which is true after a fashion. Never far from the Merchant of Souls’ hand is his adamantine quill, Visineir, said to have been scratched from the pit of Nessus by the dragon god Dahak himself.

Mephistopheles once engineered his own coup, replacing himself with Baron Molikroth. However, Molikroth was just an alias of Mephistopheles, and that duplicity has now ended, as well as the lives of “Molikroth’s” co-conspirators. Mephistopheles failed to unseat Asmodeus during the Hells-wide rebellion known as the Reckoning. If it weren’t for his canny consort Baalphegor, whose mere presence greatly protects him from the Lord of Nessus, Mephistopheles would, likely, have been at best demoted upon the Reckoning. His largest rival is Baalzebul, and his court runs thick with plots against the Lord of the Flies.

Recently the Lord of the Eighth has been devoting most of his time and incredible amounts of energy to his pet project, that of mastering and experimenting with Hellfire, a new form of magical fire with new and interesting properties. This obsession with the enterprise has caused a virtual upending of Cania’s power structure, with the Ice Devils that once stood at its peak forced to migrate to the colder mountains on the fringes of Cania.

Mephistopheles’ goal is the expansion of his material plane cult by offering mastery of Hellfire as an incentive. However, the expansion is taking a toll on his soul-harvesting efforts, and he is being forced to borrow divine energy from the other archdukes, particularly Dispater and Levistus at an alarming rate. Mephistopheles is risking much in his gamble on Hellfire, and if it pays off, his mortal cult will be larger and more popular than any other archduke’s, including Asmodeus’.

Until recently, Mephistopheles operated cults for Asmodeus as part of his vassalage to the Overlord of Hell; many mortals do not realize that he and Asmodeus are separate beings. He has been slowly weaseling out of these duties in favor of establishing cults of his own, based on promising his worshippers control over hellfire, a magical substance of his own design. These hidden cults do not restrict themselves to lawful evil members. Clerics, wizards, warlocks, and sorcerers are his most frequent converts. His covens typically consist of schemers and megalomaniacs. Fire giants and other fire-based creatures often attempt to become disciples of Mephistopheles.

Despite his recent efforts, Mephistopheles’ influence on the material plane is not as strong as in Baator. Many mortals confuse him with Asmodeus, thinking them one and the same. This fact amuses Asmodeus and frustrates Mephistopheles to no end.

Lord of the Ninth: Asmodeus, Prince of Darkness, King of the Nine Hells

Nessus is a double hell. Much of the layer’s surface appears as an Elysian realm torn in the wake of some terrible holocaust. Foreboding forests of ashes hide lakes and seas of poison. Volcanoes endlessly erupt upon the horizon, spewing lava that never falls from the lifeless heavens. Deep fissures split the land, their depths emanating sickening crimson light.

Here silence grips all things, a depth of despair so palpable as to muffle all noise and make even the slightest whisper ring like a scream. Beyond these corrupted natural features stand the works of devils and the damned. Roads paved in the skulls of fallen princes lead between vast palaces, connected either underground or by reaching cloisters. Little differentiates between terrain and temple in Nessus, armies of enslaved souls having sculpted vast tracts and whole mountain chains with elaborate and terrifying statuary, facades, spires, and shallow shrines, all raised in the Archfiend’s name. Monuments in a thousand different styles pierce the sky—many created from squirming mountains of soulwrought flesh—their tableaus revealing grim lies of Asmodeus’s past and foul promises of a hopeless future Asmodeus, the King of the Nine Hells and Lord of the Ninth, is the only archdevil to possess the power of a true deity. He resides in Malsheem, located on the lowest layer of Baator, Nessus. He is rarely ever seen by his rivals or followers in Hell, and only when the elite of the Nine Hells gather in any one of a hundred different audience chambers does Asmodeus make his presence known, usually in the form of an unprepossessing humanoid thirteen feet tall with black hair, dark skin, a black goatee, and eyes of flame.

According to the Pact Primeval legend, Asmodeus was once the greatest of the angels, who were servants of the primal deities of law, created to combat demons in the age before ages. As the battle went on, Asmodeus and his company grew ever more poisoned by their combat against the infinite hordes of the Abyss. The deities grew restless at seeing him and his tainted companions, but could not find clauses in their laws that would allow them to cast him out. Further, they were distressed that mortals were choosing to disobey law, choosing the so-called liberty dangled to them by demons, rather than adhering to the dictates of the gods of law. Asmodeus, seeing the predicament, proposed that the gods establish punishment and retribution, as a way to giving consequence to mortals who chose not to follow law. Asmodeus’s masters agreed, and assigned him and his brood to administer the punishment. So as to spare them the sight of mortal souls being eternally tortured and made to suffer, Asmodeus chose the (apparently empty) plane of Baator as the site for his new Hells, and demanded that he and his dark company be allowed to harvest energy from the souls they punished for their sins, or they would have to be made gods themselves to have the strength to manage the task. Thus the “Pact Primeval” was signed, and the baatezu—devils—were created.

Of course, there are other legends. One such states that Asmodeus was one of the two primeval beings, brother to Ihys, the entity who introduced the concept of freedom to mortals. A great war followed between the gods, the first conflict between order and chaos. The two brothers eventually faced each other on a battlefield on a distant world, where Asmodeus offered his hand in brotherhood to Ihys, then stabbed his brother through the heart with his wicked spear. In a last act of sympathy for his brother, Asmodeus allowed Ihys’s dream of freedom to stand. He then created Hell as a monument to the old ways of absolute, merciless order and as a warning of what he would one day make anew.

As undisputed master of the Nine Hells, Asmodeus commands fear and respect from all who occupy his realm, even evil deities. Working constantly to expand evil law, Asmodeus directly opposes celestials and goodly deities, his minions fighting the agents of good, murdering them whenever and wherever they can. Asmodeus also works to contain, and eventually destroy, the chaos of demons and the infinite Abyss. As long as they exist, he will never achieve his eventual goal of ruling the multiverse unopposed.

Asmodeus is never without his Ruby Rod, an artifact as old as time itself and symbol of office for the ruler of Nessus, and of Hell. A 4-foot shaft of solid ruby, the ruby rod was crafted from a single ruby of incredible size, bathed in the blood of a thousand mortal sacrifices, quenched in the acid pools of , and polished with the tears of 777 angels. The rod itself functions as a weapon of epic power, delivering streams of vitriol, crackling death, or frigid wind. Its majesty often leaves creatures staring helplessly at it, and its magic can save its wielder from even the most grievous harm or ailment.

Asmodeus has recently achieved a long-standing goal of strengthening further his grip on the Hells, through the taming and elevation of his daughter Glasya. Of all the archdevils, only Asmodeus has the respect of any of the good or neutral gods. He penned the contract of creation and is the only being to hold the key to Rovagug’s prison. While they may not trust him, the other gods accept him as one of them, a long step up from even his closest rival in the Nine Hells.

Asmodeus, Prince of Darkness, and the Archdevils of Hell

Into the Wild (KingMaker AP) karlprosek