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The Dark Eight was a coven of pit fiend generals who resided on Nessus, the ninth layer of the Nine Hells. They plotted and strategized the movements of Hell's armies.[1][3]

OrganizationEdit

Originally the Dark Eight had nine members, but after the death of their founder Cantrum, the remaining eight renamed the council rather than attempting to find a substitute for their irreplaceable leader.[1]

Contrary to what one might expect, their structure was democratic rather than hierarchical, where one member's actions could be voted on by the remaining seven. Befitting beings of law, the members of the Dark Eight were excellent in regards to teamwork, cooperating to accomplish their grand plans and for the continued prosperity of the baatezu. At the same time, the pit fiends of the council were still ambitious devils that viewed one another as rivals. More often than not, council members were left to their own devices, engaging in treacherous intrigues and political power plays to achieve their nebulous aims.[3] Keeping the Dark Eight focused on their duties was Asmodeus, sometimes directly and at others via the archdevils.[4] Unlike the infernal nobility above them, the Dark Eight were generals and each member was responsible for managing one aspect of the Blood War according to their personal judgement.[3][2]

Historians of Hell were often baffled by the Dark Eight's apparent immortality, as even after eons of conflict every member outside of Cantrum himself remained in power. This was despite the fact that the Dark Eight fought personally in the battlefields of the Blood War while still having to contend with the regular assassination attempts and internal conflicts of Hell. While it would appear that they managed to maintain their longevity through guile and cunning rather than magical powers, the very idea that the original Dark Eight remained in power was a devilish deception. In order to create the illusion of an invincible authority, members of the Dark Eight were swiftly replaced by a physically altered pit fiend formerly under their command whenever one could no longer fulfill their duties.[2][4] Combined with the loyalty of and threats of execution to those under their command, the secret of the Dark Eight had been kept for eons.[3]

ActivitiesEdit

The Dark Eight controlled not only the Blood War, but influenced every part of baatezu culture, particularly in ensuring that Hell's edicts matched the desires of the archdevils without overwhelming the common baatezu.[1] Occasionally, members of the Dark Eight left Hell and entered other planes in mortal guise to search for information and power, only revealing their true forms when in dire need or to deal with irritating entities.[5][6] The names of the original Dark Eight correlated with their duties and each possessed a garrison of forces on one of Hell's circles excluding Nessus.[2]

  • Baalzephons were the Supply Masters of Baator, responsible for keeping the legions of Hell fully stocked for the Blood War. Their agents provided rations and provisions, ensured that troops had usable and effective tools, and otherwise fueled Hell's war machine.[3][7] They led the Stygian Champions that worked under Levistus, swashbuckling forces that used superior mobility to outmaneuver the demonic hordes. When the infinite forces of the Abyss began to overwhelm Hell the Stygian Champions used their massive numbers against them.[2]
  • Corin forces specialized in espionage and information collection, ensuring that Baator was never caught by surprise. Their spies had infiltrated not only the ranks of the baatezu, but some yugoloth and celestial forces as well, although they specialized in demonic reconnaissance.[3] The Spymaster of Baator ran the network of secret agents known as the Serpentine Order in Cania, although the zealous devils in its ranks were known to report to Mephistopheles first and the Corin second. Their members also engaged in prisoner interrogation and assassination missions.[2]
  • The Marshall of the Pit was the title given to the pit fiend that assumed the mantle of Dagos. Such devils took on the role of strategists and court-martials, directing other generals throughout Baator in the Blood War and punishing baatezu that attempted treason in various ways.[3] The strategies of the Dagos were revised and reworked based on the intel gathered by the Spymaster.[7]Their garrison legion was known as The Few and was composed of a small amount of troops, although despite their low numbers they were a dangerous regiment. The Few dwelt in Avernus and specialized in teleportation, whether shifting behind or within enemy ranks.[2]
  • A Furcas was responsible for he Ministry of Mortal Relations that supervised interactions between important mortals and devils. While the vast majority of mortals were seen as vermin, some mortals had accrued enough magical power or combat prowess that they were worthy of a small amount of respect. Mortal Relations focused on corrupting and recruiting such mortals, missions that often left those in question feeling betrayed. All devils tasked with traveling to the Material Plane, whether for a summoning or to freely pursue targets, was briefed by Mortal Relations. Erinyes in particular reported directly to the Dark Eight, and specifically to the Furcas.[3][1] The legion commanded by the Furcas known as the Creeping Cadre formed relatively recently due to Malbolge's cancerous transformation. Their weapons were hideous diseases, festering poisons, enervating wands, scrolls of energy drain and other pestilent armaments.[2]
  • As the Chief of Research, a Pearza was responsible for researching new magic, techniques and technology capable of destroying the tanar'ri. They also specialized in interrogation through the expert kocharon torturers from the Knoll of Blades, an association that drove many devils to attempt to enter her ranks for quick advancement.[3] The legion known as the Walkers in Fire was also under the orders of General Pearza, a region of fire-wielding devils from Phlegethos that exploited the devils' immunity to flame by hurling fireballs at those below.[2]
  • The Minister of Promotions, known as a Zaebos, maintained the complex and expansive bureaucracy that decided on the promotions and demotions of all non-unique devils. Using the meticulously written records of Hell and Blood War reports from Dagos, it fell to the Zaebos to decide which devils rose through the ranks and which stayed behind. As the being responsible for preventing many promotions, the Minister of Promotion was possibly the most commonly replaced out of the Dark Eight, and most despised out of all the baatezu.[3] They were also responsible for Mammon's Gleaming Guard, so called for their pilfered and corrupted, but nonetheless angelically illustrious equipment. As the best-equipped of the garrison forces they were summoned when certain magical equipment was required.[2]
  • Zapans were responsible for contending with various immortal beings, normally with deception, including yugoloths, archons, the proxies of evil deities and even demons.[3] Under orders from the Minister of Immortal Diplomacy, devils were forbidden from stealing petitioners from the deities in Hell in order to avoid the cataclysmic war that would result from such a scenario.[4] The Minister was also in charge of the Iron Defenders of Dis, devils trained in engineering, tunneling, ending sieges, and holding ground.[2]
  • Zimmimars were the Ministers of Morale that kept baatezu legions orderly, in a sense making them responsible for covering the other Dark Eight when their mistakes caused rebellion. Not limited to encouragement, threats were also used to enforce obedience and eliminate insurrection with the minions of the Minister going around before battle to strengthen resolve.[3] They led the Maladominiaar, savage shock troops that used their indomitable ferocity to shatter enemy formations and divide soldiers.[2]

TacticsEdit

Ministries corresponding to each member of the Dark Eight were present throughout the Nine Hells and at least one of each type existed on every layer. Through these ministries the Dark Eight controlled almost every part of a devil's life and even in the event of the complete destruction of one branch emergency procedures were devised to continue their efforts.[8] Devils of greater status were more closely monitored in Baator and baatezu wishing to be promoted had to meet an immovable set of criteria.[9][10] If there weren't enough devils that met the requirements for promotion than a caste would be understaffed until enough competent devils rose up, although there were punishments for superiors if not enough devils could ascend or they tried to fill out the ranks with fodder.[10]

Every century, the Dark Eight gathered in a ceremony called the Ring of Cantrum with 100 osyluths in order to decide the promotion of the gelugons specifically. The osyluths gathered in a ring around the Dark Eight and provided information about the exploits and ethics of the recruits, making up one out of the nine votes.[11]

A rumor had recently emerged that the Dark Eight was planning a dangerous, lengthy and monumental, magical ritual known as The Bringing. It involved the sacrifice of a million soul larva that would be consumed in the process as fuel in order to help annihilate the tanar'ri. The baatezu had recently been purchasing soul larvae from the night hags at an increased rate although whether or not the ceremony was really being planned was unknown.The Dark Eight was also responsible for creating certain fiendish races like the maelephants and one of the Chiefs of Research had worked with Tiamat to create the abishai.[12][13]

Base of OperationsEdit

As the buffer between the Abyss and the rest of the Nine Hells, Avernus was run not by dukes and duchesses but by the Dark Eight. From within the inner regions of his Bronze Citadel, Bel strategized with the Dark Eight and so each possessed a household within his fortress.[2] The Dark Eight were said to descend into Nessus four time every year to hold meetings with Asmodeus about their upcoming plans for the Blood War, although other reports stated they met every sixty-six days.[4][5] This was also the site where they discussed potential promotions, passed down their decrees to the greater and lesser baatezu and generally spent their time when not commanding their forces.[3][6]

PossessionsEdit

Hidden within their base in Malsheem, the Dark Eight were rumored to keep the dagger of Ra-than, a sacred baatezu artifact of great historical significance despite it being a simple enchanted weapon.Its symbolic importance was great enough that the tanar'ri wished to acquire it in order to demoralize Hell's legions and possible even throw their forces into chaos.[14]

RelationshipsEdit

Outside of Bel, the Dark Eight rarely interacted with the archdevils and when they did it was to handle their mandates or compete for recruits.[4] The archdevils completely surpassed the Dark Eight in terms of power and influence, and were perfectly content to allow the pit fiends to deal with the Blood War so they could focus on their own affairs.[6][1]

The one exception to this rule was Bel, who used to serve under one of the Marshalls of the Pit and who had proved himself as a masterful warlord and devious schemer.[3] Bel was given his position as Archdevil after overthrowing Zariel by Asmodeus on the condition that he continued to assist the Dark Eight, now serving as their leader against the Abyss.[15] It was due to Bel's personal involvement in the Blood War that the Dark Eight supported his command and loyally served him, giving him increased protection from the normal cutthroat politics of Baator.[2]

Other devils had varying opinions of the Dark Eight ranging from completely loyalty to utter loathing. 106 cornugons were said to defend the Dark Eight with their lives, either out of terror or loyalty, and to join the guard regiment was a highly coveted position. Amnizus on the other hand sought to undermine the Dark Eight in any way possible, even ordering their servants to attack the minions of their superiors.[9]

HistoryEdit

Although no baatezu could remember a time before the Dark Eight's rule, all were aware of Cantrum and the council's original state as the Dark Nine.[3] There were several stories about the true origin of the Dark Eight and whether the pit fiends banded together on their own or if one of the archdevils were behind their existence.[1] Some said that Asmodeus formed the Dark Eight after an attempted rebellion by several archdevils as a form of reward for their loyalty that took power away from Baator's nobles while securing himself their obedience, and by extension the obedience of most baatezu. While Asmodeus viewed the Blood War as pointless, he saw its worth as a distraction and so unbeknownst to the pit fiends brought them together to perpetuate the endless battle.[15] In others it was said that Cantrum formed the Dark Eight in order to bring a greater order to the baatezu, joining with like-minded pit fiends to achieve discipline throughout Baator.[1]

Regardless of the original reason for their formation, Cantrum was eventually assassinated, although how was another matter of legend. The most well-known version of the story had a paladin named Ra-than crusading through Hell using a magical dagger forged in the Outlands. After slaying countless fiends for nearly a year he managed to reach Cantrum on the 333rd day and stab him in the heart, a move that killed Cantrum instantly even though the paladin never escaped Baator. Another version of the story was found in the ice of Cania within a ragged journal and was the one believed by most baatezu. In this telling of the tale, the paladin quickly perished within an hour of entering Baator, but a red abishai found the dagger and murdered Cantrum out of frustration with Hell's rigid caste system. Cantrum was said to have killed the abishai in his last moments but the story served as a message to baatezu of all stations. To the greater baatezu it was a cautionary tale not to underestimate what ambition and anger could do to even powerful beings, and to the lesser baatezu it was a hopeful, inspirational legend about how even the lowly and looked down on could change the system with enough courage and determination.[14]

MembersEdit

  • Baalzephon was the only surviving member of the original Dark Eight, a calm and reserved pit fiend that used gifts and endorsement to secure her place among the other seven. She played the other members of the council against one another and her requests were rarely refused since she was in charge of dealing out their supplies.[3]
  • The current Corin was thought to be as passionate as a balor, swinging between brooding worry and frightening fury. In truth, his chaotic demeanor was an act designed to hide his true nature, that of a knowledgeable and careful schemer. While he always foresaw the worst possible outcome, any outward expression of surprise was a ruse put on to throw off his enemies.[3][2]
  • Cantrum was said to be a wise being driven by a desire to improve the efficiency and lawfulness of the baatezu.[1]
  • Dagos was the most direct of the Dark Eight, a contemptuous pit fiend that demanded discipline from all around him while believing that as a ruler he was above the rules. It was due to his rigorous demands of order, persecution of any mistake and intolerance of any form of corruption that those under him were promoted the fastest out of the entire Dark Eight.[3]
  • Furcas was the second longest lasting of the Dark Eight, but unlike Baalzephon played the newer members using bullying and blackmail. He sought out those he could use to accomplish his goals while ensuring that chaotic mortals were quickly destroyed. The latest pit fiend to join the Dark Eight was a restless devil that took on his name and who was unsettled by their own sickening legions in Malbolge.[3][2]
  • Pearza was the second-newest addition to the Dark Eight that for a time struggled to balance between guile and assertiveness. Despite commanding Fierna's fiery forces she found greater affinity with Mephistopheles and his hellfire research.[3][2]
  • Zaebos was both meticulous and cautious, forced to carefully watch his decisions due to the precarious nature of his position. He worked with Zimimar to prevent rebellions and was wary to keep good relations with the other members of the Dark Eight.[3]
  • Zapan was a wheedling sweet-talker that earned his position relying solely on his bargaining skills. His sycophantic behavior around the archdevils and deities earned him hatred from many but his ability to make tempting deals and manipulate emotions made him a capable leader. He called those under his command his "employees" and maintained his position using a stern but sympathetic persona. Furcas had originally intended to make Zapan into his protégé.[3][2]
  • Zimimar was a pit fiend whose friendly exterior concealed an exploitative personality. Her disingenuous smile was worn when conversing with the lowest devils and when crushing her enemies, and if morale was low she would adorn Avernus with more of the dead until it was raised. She had created an information network down to the level of the spinagons and her agents watched over mortal visitors and devils alike.[3]

ReferencesEdit

  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 Colin McComb (September 1997). Faces of Evil: The Fiends. Edited by Ray Vallese. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 28–29. ISBN 0-7869-3430-1.
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 2.14 2.15 2.16 2.17 2.18 2.19 Robin D. Laws, Robert J. Schwalb (December 2006). Fiendish Codex II: Tyrants of the Nine Hells. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 35–38. ISBN 0-7869-3940-0.
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 3.12 3.13 3.14 3.15 3.16 3.17 3.18 3.19 3.20 3.21 3.22 Colin McComb and Monte Cook (July 1996). Hellbound: The Blood War. Edited by Ray Vallese. (TSR, Inc). ISBN 0-7869-0407-0.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 Chris Pramas (1999). Guide to Hell. (TSR, Inc.), pp. 47–49. ISBN 978-0786914319.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Jeff Grubb, Bruce R. Cordell, David Noonan (September 2001). Manual of the Planes 3rd edition. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 116. ISBN 0-7869-1850-8.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Colin McComb (February 1995). “Baator”. In Michele Carter ed. Planes of Law (TSR, Inc), pp. 12–13. ISBN 0-7869-0093-8.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Colin McComb and Monte Cook (July 1996). Hellbound: The Blood War. Edited by Ray Vallese. (TSR, Inc). ISBN 0-7869-0407-0.
  8. Colin McComb (September 1997). Faces of Evil: The Fiends. Edited by Ray Vallese. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 37. ISBN 0-7869-3430-1.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Allen Varney, ed. (June 1994). Planescape Monstrous Compendium Appendix. (TSR, Inc.), pp. 19–21. ISBN 978-1560768623.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Colin McComb (September 1997). Faces of Evil: The Fiends. Edited by Ray Vallese. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 17. ISBN 0-7869-3430-1.
  11. Allen Varney, ed. (June 1994). Planescape Monstrous Compendium Appendix. (TSR, Inc.), p. 27. ISBN 978-1560768623.
  12. Allen Varney, ed. (June 1994). Planescape Monstrous Compendium Appendix. (TSR, Inc.), pp. 62–65. ISBN 978-1560768623.
  13. Jason Bulmahn, James Jacobs, Mike McArtor, Erik Mona, E.Wesley Schneider, Todd Stewart, Jeremy Walker (September 2007). “1d20 Villains: D&D's Most Wanted; Preferably Dead”. In Erik Mona ed. Dragon #359 (Paizo Publishing, LLC), p. 68.
  14. 14.0 14.1 Colin McComb and Monte Cook (July 1996). Hellbound: The Blood War. Edited by Ray Vallese. (TSR, Inc). ISBN 0-7869-0407-0.
  15. 15.0 15.1 Chris Pramas (1999). Guide to Hell. (TSR, Inc.), pp. 37–39. ISBN 978-0786914319.
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