The pit fiends of the Dark Eight are Baalzephon, Corin, Dagos, Furcas, Pearza, Zapan, Zaebos, and Zimmimar. Each rules a legion from each of the layers of Hell, excluding Nessus, where Asmodeus holds his forces for a greater conflict yet to come. They rule the devils beneath them and meet in the fortress of Malsheem in the ninth layer of Nessus. Other than planning the next Blood War offensive, they also have the power to determine which devils get promoted.
When they are not leading their armies (which is a rare occasion, indeed), they reside in Nessus. When away on some errand of hellish nature, they often appear in malefic human guise.
The group was originally called the Dark Nine (reflecting the plane's nine layers, of course). The ninth member to this illustrious gathering was Cantrum, who was acknowledged by the rest as their leader. Cantrum was murdered by a disgruntled underling, and instead of trying to replace their irreplaceable leader, the rest re-organized and called themselves the Dark Eight.
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.
Bel does not have the support of the other Lords of the Nine, save Asmodeus, who often call him the Pretender. Neither Mephistopheles nor Baalzebul trusts him thanks to his all-too-ready betrayal of his mistress. And while any of the other Archdukes would have gladly dethroned Zariel themselves, Bel's uprising wiped out most of their own operatives. However, none have moved against him, in appreciation of his valuable efforts as a buffer against the demons and his command of the Dark Eight. He has curried some favor with Asmodeus by spying on other lords and passing on the information to Martinet, the constable of Asmodeus. He also has the support of the Dark Eight, support that should not be overlooked.
Bel has made inroads into forging an alliance with Tiamat, deity of Chromatic Dragons, who maintains a domain on his layer. Thanks to this accord, many abishai swell the ranks of his armies, and abishai torturers carve bits of Zariel's flesh off her body in her cell beneath the Bronze Citadel. Bel consumes these giblets, increasing his power.
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.
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.
Dispater never takes risks and thus 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-impenetrable fortress, is itself an extremely powerful magic item that amplifies his powers and makes him nearly invulnerable. The Iron Duke gets all the necessary information from his consort Lilis. Known as the Iron Maiden, Lilis is the only consort Dispater has been known to have, and her intelligence network covers all Baator 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 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's touch instantly corrodes metal and can convert flesh into iron. A favorite tactic of his in combat is to transform opponent into an iron statue, then immediately rust him away into dust.
During the Reckoning, a failed rebellion against Asmodeus, 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 nine archdukes. As a patron of greed and lust, 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 enjoys subverting evil dragons to his cause, a fact Tiamat keenly resents.
Mammon was once lover to Glasya, and since her elevation the diabolical rumor mills have been working overtime. Some devils contend that the two have rekindled their awful union now that Glasya is out from beneath Asmodeus' watchful eye, while others assert that Glasya harbors burning hatred for the serpentine archduke over his refusal to fight for her love.
Mammon's touch inspires overpowering greed and lust for treasure in his opponents, causing them to attack allies and friends in a wild attempt to steal their valuables.
Fierna and Belial are archdevils who resemble slightly devilish-looking humanoids. Fierna fights with a blade of fire that she summons at will and Belial, with a mighty ranseur.
Following the Reckoning Belial was demoted from official to unofficial ruler or Phlegethos, with Fierna taking the mantle of leadership and Belial 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.
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 within his tomb, unable to act, 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 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 troublemaking 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.
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.
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.
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. Prior to Baalzebul, Malbolge was ruled by the archdevil Beherit, who was destroyed (along with his consort, Batna) by Asmodeus for disobeying "restrictions upon the elevation of devils."
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 had refused to leave.
Baalzebul currently resides in the city of Malagard, 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.
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, sluglike 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.
Mephistopheles appears as a nine-foot-tall humanoid with hell-red skin, horns, and wings. He prefers to wear dramatic capes of the ultimate blackness and carries a magic ranseur that burns eternally.
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'.
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.
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.
Curiously though, the legend of the Pact Primeval uniformly fails to mention earlier inhabitants of Baator, the so-called Ancient Baatorians. Yet the myth admits that Baator, or some previous version of the plane, was already extant when Asmodeus and his brood arrived to turn it to their use.
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' parting from his plane of origin was not peaceful, following the signing of the Pact Primeval. Physically cast from there, Asmodeus fell and fell, wounded to within an inch of his life from his crashes. His wounds still bleed today, every drop of blood forming a new pit fiend, fanatically loyal to the Lord of the Ninth. These pit fiends patrol the canyon of Serpent's Coil, viciously attacking any interlopers.
The Lord of the Ninth is so powerful that within Baator he can work almost any magic as an act of will, reaching into the realms of the other archdukes and reshaping their domains (or the archdukes themselves) with but a thought. Asmodeus emits an aura of submission so powerful that nearly any creature in proximity to him feel overwhelming compulsions to bow before him and submit to any and all of his commands without question. It takes a supreme act of will merely to resist.
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 drool of Tiamat, 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. With this additional power, Asmodeus intends to harvest additional divine power with which to speed the healing of his wounds. Once the wounds are healed, Asmodeus plans to strike a temporary truce with the demons, pausing the Blood War just long enough to begin an apocalyptic final struggle between Good and Evil. Following his victory, he will resume his annihilation of demonkind and take his rightful place as ruler of all things.
Notes and Revisions to Asmodeus: Early issues of Dragon magazine such as the article, "The Politics of Hell," in issue #28 mention rumored older kings such as Lucifer or Satan that Asmodeus deposed. This idea was never considered canonical, but an allusion to it resurfaced in a vague reference decades later in the Book of Vile Darkness''.
It was revised completely in Fiendish Codex II: Tyrants of the Nine Hells, when Asmodeus was confirmed as the original founder of the current, Baatezu dominated, Nine Hells during the signing of the Pact Primeval. Manual of the Planes mentions a supposed legend that the form of Asmodeus seen by the other archdukes and visitors was merely a specter or aspect, and that his true form, that of a titanic, serpent-like devil, resided at the bottom of the canyon known as "Serpent's Coil," so named for the outline he made when he hit the surface of Nessus, still wounded from his fall out of the upper planes. Fiendish Codex II does not directly contradict the story, but does seem to retcon it, mentioning in its description of Nessus that Serpent's Coil is shaped for the spiraling path Asmodeus fell, and that Malsheem sits at the bottom of that canyon. The assertion seems to contradict the idea that Asmodeus's "true form" was serpentine, and brings it into line with the Pact Primeval account. Most angels, after all, are humanoid in form. The idea of his wounds, however, remains. In 2nd Edition's Guide To Hell it was stated that Asmodeus was a Lawful Evil or corrupted Lawful Neutral serpentine entity, who along with his Lawful Good counterpart serpent Jazirian, was responsible for the current ring-shaped structure of the Outer Planes. Asmodeus fell once their embrace ended as they struggled over the proper role of Law, eventually plummeting all the way to the serpents coil in Baator. Guide to Hell claimed that his wish was to destroy all creation by making all sentient beings atheists, and thus negating the belief energy holding the Outer Planes together, so that he may fill the void and create it entirely in his own image, without the help of any other deity.' Few of these theories have appeared in subsequent books, or possessed a foundation in prior material, though the theme of Asmodeus as a fallen being of Law has remained. Second Edition's Hellbound: The Blood War and Faces of Evil: The Fiends present another version of Baator and Asmodeus's history and origins. These sources state that the Baatezu only supplanted the original natives of the plane, the Ancient Baatorians, and were themselves first created as the lawful spawn of the General of Gehenna's purification of the early yugoloths. The chronology of the Blood War in Hellbound also states that Baator's Lords of the Nine only appeared in their positions around or slightly after the Blood War began, but also before the existence of deities. Asmodeus himself is left intentionally dark and largely undefined, though his power is made clear, with more detail devoted to the history of his race and their conquered plane.
In the second edition of the game, the Lords of the Nine were initially erased from the game. Later on, they were re-instated, but several of the members deliberately resemble little from the original nine. After the initial period of the second edition, an effort was made to bridge the changes; thus Baron Molikroth was revealed to actually be Mephistopheles in another guise, and Triel was revealed to be Baalzebul's name before he fell from grace. Late into the second edition and continuing into the third and current edition of the game, Fierana (later Fierna) became Belial's daughter.
Geryon and Moloch remain exiled and bereft of their former positions, and Tiamat's position has been clarified to explain that she was never a member of the Lords of the Nine, despite the very early inclusion of her as Lord of Avernus in the first edition.