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Mephistopheles (pronounced: /mɛfɪzˈtɑːfɛlizme-fiz-TAF-e-leez[15]), sometimes shortened to Mephisto[7] and once under the name of Molikroth,[14] was the lord of Cania and most powerful archdevil next to Asmodeus himself. Hell's greatest wizard was a walking contradiction, on the surface the cool and calculating Cold Lord and beneath that the grandiose and hot-headed Lord of Hellfire.[1]

I knew I smelled the tang of a goddess. This, too, I claim as mine.
— Mephistopheles[16]

Description[]

Mephistopheles played up his infernal image as much as possible, intentionally appearing as the classic archetype of a diabolical devil.[4][17][18] He was 9 ft (2.7 m) tall and striking, his handsome visage and charming yet unnerving smile of self-superiority contrasted by his more monstrous features.[18][1] His fiendish claws,[17] bright, crimson red skin, large, bat-like wings and impressive, curling ram horns all left his hellish heritage on proud display.[4][18] Another source of contrast was his dead-white eyes[19] against his long, straight, black hair, as well as his dramatic, flowing cape as dark as the deepest void.[4][2]

Earlier reports of Mephistopheles claimed that he once had an image more befitting of Cania. He had blue-black skin across his heavily muscled body; wings, horns, and claws a deep shade of blue, scales of sooty black, and eyes that were pale blue except for the red irises and pupils.[7]

The obese Baron Molikroth

When Mephistopheles was donning his Molikroth persona, he appeared as an obese man whose gross levels of fatness were frankly absurd. Despite being only 7 ft (2.1 m) tall he was still massive because he was wider than he was long, competing with creatures like hill giants in terms of sheer mass. Even when the waddling baron was swathed in clothes made from only the most ridiculously expensive materials that were the height of Sigilian fashion styles, all his foppish finery couldn't hide his ultimately foolish appearance.[5][14]

Personality[]

Mephistopheles was a being of razor-sharp instinct, careful suspicion and prodigious brilliance, a cunning genius[9][10][3] with an unparalleled understanding of Hell's political dangers and a great capacity for patient deception.[1] Foremost wizard of Baator,[10] his ordinary speech was like a whispering wind[7] and his cool, pleasant demeanor gave him the outward appearance of a princely gentleman.[9][1][11] He came off as sophisticated and charming when he spoke, an intellectual force of understated wit, reason and self-restraint. However, this was by no means his ordinary behavior, but a facade like Dispater's which disguised his true personality, a veneer of elegance as carefully crafted as his traditionally infernal appearance.[1][4][20]

Mephistopheles surrounds himself in blazing fire.

Despite his courteous persona, Mephistopheles was an unstable individual on the inside, the contrast between his cold surface and fiery core a perfect example of his existence as a walking contradiction. Mephistopheles was a vicious being with an outrageous temper, who when alone in his palace frequently flew into violent rages, his quick wit burning away when met with his underlying hate and frustration. In his shrieking fits of terrible wrath he would start tearing at his own skin and destroying his surroundings in explosive outbursts of fiery, magical destruction, his unpredictable eruptions of rage having been his undoing multiple times in the past. Although his conniving intelligence was certainly real, Mephistopheles was an emotional entity that was ultimately driven by his passions.[1][4][21]

Obsession[]

Mephistopheles suffered no distractions from his focus, his studious pursuits being of upmost importance to him.[10] Though he would entertain visitors purely for his own amusement, a rarity among the archdevils,[1] he hated any unwanted distractions and rarely gave time to anything not worth his personal attention. He was known for disintegrating underlings for the slightest annoyance, only allowing a few devils to speak without being spoken to, and sometimes executed his servitors based on the suspicion that they would bother him. Further cementing him as a contradictory entity was the strong but flickering nature of his focus.[9][10]

Mephistopheles's great intelligence often ended up mixing with his obsessiveness, as in his pursuit of knowledge he became fascinated with the most minor details. Though this allowed him to delve deeper into topics than typical wizards, his unrelenting focus had to be tempered by his responsibilities, and was ultimately undermined by his mercurial behavior. When forced by some political circumstance to stop what he was doing, there was a chance upon returning that some new project would catch his eye, at which point that research would become his new top priority. Because of this cycle of undivided attention followed by casual neglect, Mephistopheles had many useful discoveries ready to be accessed that he simply didn't know about.[10]

Pride[]

While his anger and neurotic tendencies were weaknesses, which he could either hide or use to his advantage, Mephistopheles' most damaging issues were his rampantly unchecked megalomania and recklessness in the pursuit of power.[1][4] Though he'd hate to be compared to Baalzebul, both archdevils seemed incapable of being content and compulsively overextended themselves, Baalzebul's plans collapsing under the weight of his unrealistic expectations and Mephistopheles becoming so absorbed in his plans that he ignored his overall wellbeing.[1][17] Mephistopheles's manifestation of greed however was somewhat opposite to that of the Lord of the Lies, who hid his goals through skillfully woven deception, since Mephistopheles's execution of wicked plots was always extreme and dramatic, his brazen ambition almost glorious in its nakedness.[1][4]

Were Mephistopheles to become the King of Hell, it would take him less than an hour to start wondering why he wasn’t also ruler of Mount Celestia.
— Martinet, constable of Asmodeus[17]

Mephistopheles was perhaps the most entitled of the archdevils, an avatar of envy who resented the fact that he was "merely" the second most powerful archdevil. Always jealous of others, he couldn't get enough of prestige, wondering where his awards were when another was rewarded for service[17] despite having continually, confidently, and directly told Asmodeus he planned to take his throne.[1][4] Though willing to fawn if needed,[21] he normally didn't bother to cloak his intent with fake vows of obedience, truly believing that he was the rightful ruler of Hell, that his destiny was to rule it, and that he deserved to be worshiped as a god.[1][4] He constantly demonstrated this attitude anew each day, and likely wouldn't be satisfied even if he achieved this primary reason for existence.[17]

Molikroth[]

Hmmm. A new toy. Drop it in the glacier and we'll watch it die for a few years.
— "Molikroth"[22]

When donning the mask of Molikroth, Mephistopheles was a being without mercy that reportedly harbored great hatred for Asmodeus.[5] While an archdevil being cruel wasn't exactly unusual, Molikroth stood out by the sheer extent to which he took his sadism,[14] crushing most visitors between glaciers for years as a form of entertainment[22] and utilizing the powers of cold in such agonizing ways that even godly agents would want to beg for mercy.[14] He rarely left his citadel both out of a preference for victims to come to him and out of a complete interest in active and direct governance, as well as vigilant protection of his territory.[14][22]

Powers[]

Mephistopheles was a being impervious to the cold, not just due to having ruthlessly exposed himself to Cania's coldest temperatures, but because of his unrivaled mastery of hellfire. A corrupt and extremely potent energy with the properties of flame, hellfire was unimaginably hot and created by tapping into and mastering the profane essence of Hell and channeling into a usable form of power. Unless he chose to repress it, his body would emanate dark flames, causing anyone who touched him, or anyone near by if he evoked into a burst around him, to be scorched by the unholy energy.[1][4]

There are few problems that cannot be solved through the application of overwhelming arcane firepower.
— Mephistopheles[23]

To further his mastery of fire, Mephistopheles took up the study of wizardry, specializing in evocation magic modified to taint his foes with foulest evil, with a noticeable disinterest in enchantments and illusions. Given the nature of baatezu politics, Mephistopheles rarely traveled alone, often bringing two bodyguards with him anywhere he went and able to summon a few gelugons or pit fiends, often choosing the latter, while his accompanying servitors kept the enemy busy. Given his sense of self-importance, he believed anyone who dared attack him deserved no less than utter obliteration, and so let loose a barrage of offensive magical destruction from the rear of the fight, teleporting away and leaving his allies to their fate if met with a real threat.[1][4]

Though lacking the most powerful spells as a wizard, Mephistopheles' innate spell-like abilities more than made up for it. He could cast all sorts of ice and fire related spells, showcasing his mastery of both elements, such as cone of cold, fireball, and wall of ice or fire, meteor swarm being his most powerful and the one he could use only once per day.[18][1][4] He was also capable of inducing fear, either through an aura or via his gaze.[7]

As Molikroth, he specialized in ice-related magic so powerful that no known spell could fully protect one from his frigid powers. The longer one fought the Baron, the more frostbite would set in, and after several minutes the body would begin slowing down as cold induced torpor and numbed the reflexes.[14]

Possessions[]

It is not the weapon that is evil, but the wielder.
— Galena Todrick, hellfire warlock[24]

Mephistopheles' favored weapon was a three-tined military fork or ranseur.[7][17][2] He was known to have different types, such as one that could switch between inflicting fire, cold, and electricity, each three times per day.[7][17] Another switched between burning eternally and being covered in frost, and allowed the wielder to focus hellfire spells to be more devastating.[2][4][18] Aside from that and other magical items,[1] the laboratories in his home citadel were filled with spellbooks containing nearly every known arcane spell, allowing him to prepare almost any he pleased.[4]

Realm[]

Main article: Cania

Mephistopehles's realm was the gloomy, frigid wasteland of Cania[1] a realm of cold indescribable with words[17] so bitter that it was practically alive.[2][20] Cania outmatched the arctic sea of Stygia, which at least offered some relative form of comfort via the River Styx, in sheer harshness, the cold-hearted frost more like that of the Plane of Ice with the temperature in most areas being below −60  (−51 ).[22][17][20] Without magical protection, the merciless chill would quickly kill most life in hours, if not minutes, if not seconds, depending on how prepared they were.[10][17] Any warm-blooded creature could only survive for a few hours by wearing cold-weather clothes, and going to sleep (or otherwise being unable to move) was a death sentence in most cases.[17][3]

Mephistopheles in the Canian wastelands.

The icy hellscape suffered from violent snowstorms seemingly brought on by Mephistopheles himself,[10] the blinding, howling wind spraying ice and dust that stung at best and tore flesh from bone at worst. Filling the wild, frozen expanse[1][11] were jagged, cyclopean mountains and colossal glaciers that emanated a dim blue-white light, the only natural source of illumination in the entire layer. The glaciers endlessly grinded against and crashed into the mountains with the speed of a running man, causing avalanches consisting of several thousand tons of snow and icy rock to regularly collapse and overwhelm those below.[2][17][22] Death in Cania was swiftly followed by freezing, which encased the corpses in clear coffins of ice, preserving the expressions of anguish even thousands of years after death presuming they weren't destroyed.[1][17]

Despite these conditions, some small amount of life was able to carve out a hungry existence in Cania, the icy caves, hidden mountain valleys and deep crevasses serving as decent hiding places. Fiendish dire polar bears and wolves were said to prowl the land, having evolved effective immunity to the bitter cold, and supposedly remorhaz and glacier worms of great rarity were also present.[1][3] That withstanding, Cania was a layer so cold that even many devils found it inhospitable, the typically lower-layer dwelling pit fiends largely avoiding it. Only the gelugons, the primary residents and second in authority only to the pit fiends, although they were mainly guards, servants, and messengers, could comfortably exist in Cania.[17][22] Even after their self-exile to Cania's relatively warmer fringes, they were still the most common devils in the plane.[3] The few kocrachons that inhabited the layer were only mildly comfortable and left discipline mainly to the gelugons, although white abishai and hellcats were also found in some places.[1][22]

Civilization[]

Cania was, in effect, a giant laboratory/testing ground for the experiments of Mephistopheles and his scientists, where immense quantities of arcane energy could be released into the wastes without consequence. The testing of new spells, magic items and other supernatural techniques regularly caused local devastation, and the libraries and data storage areas of the plane were spread out enough so that one unexpected cataclysm didn't accidentally destroy other research. Insights could be made regarding the nature of the research by simply observing from a distance, and renowned archmages such as Mordenkainen were known to visit the horrible tundra looking for lost lore or information to help them in their own endeavors. As a result of Mephistopheles' wavering attention, supervising sages and spellcasters with incredible research could be found in long forgotten-citadels, as buried in ice and snow as they were in bureaucracy.[10][1]

Even uninhabited cities in Cania housed many secrets now buried under ice and only visible as distorted shapes, and when unearthed appeared prosaic and alien in architecture. Before Asmodeus even descended into Hell, Cania was a realm of grand cities, the remnants of that ancient power now preserved in ice in the form of strange spined creatures battling devas and archons, as well as their works, the icy tombs, lost libraries and palaces now haunted by ghosts and terrible undead. What kind of creatures dwelt inside these buildings was unknown and most devils would rather just leave the ruins alone,[22][2][11] although the ice-embedded buildings were able to provide some shelter against Cania's cold.[9] Perhaps it was this legacy of ancient power that compelled Mephistopheles to make his home in Cania, as it was said that it was in these tombs that Mephistopheles learnt of hellfire and obtained weapons powerful enough to give even Asmodeus some pause.[11]

The most famous example of these lost cities was Kintyre, encased between two icy mountains thousands of feet under the several ton glacier T'chemox. It was once inhabited by a duke who rebelled against Mephistopheles who, in response, entombed the city in ice, and many were loathe to try and undo his handiwork for fear of provoking his ire. Once it was only being explored by curious adventurers, but after recovering ancient texts, Mephistopheles learnt that his unfaithful duke's tomb may have been hiding several ancient relics invaluable to hellfire research, the Duke of Brimstone's anger once again undermining him and forcing him to organize expeditions into the forgotten, warded keep.[17][1][11]

Mephistar[]

Mephistopheles' primary base of operations in Cania, and perhaps the only notable area on the entire plane, was the citadel of iron and ice, Mephistar.[22][3] Mephistar was carved from the sparkling ice of the glacier it overlooked, the tremendous mountain of ice Nargus which, while temporarily settled between surrounding glaciers, could be controlled by Mephistopheles to steam over any lesser glacier. The city was like a gleaming, translucent, blue-white jewel of ice perched at the glacier's edge.[2][1] Though several misinformed poets quipped about how Cania was as cold as Mephistopheles' heart, they weren't completely wrong about his home mirroring him; just as Mephisto's cold exterior masked fiery passion, so to did Cania's cold mask the oddly warm and inviting nature of Mephistar.[17] Even before his hellfire experiments, Mephistar had lavish, heated baths and scented fires,[2] and when the huge doors of the walled citadel were opened, a rare occasion since most devils could teleport, massive steam clouds poured out, though they rolled over the side of the walls anyway.[17][22][2]

It was from within this fortress city that Mephistopheles held court over ice devil legions as well as spinagon and cornugon staff all ceaselessly following strict, scheduled activities.[3][4] The citadel's levels seemed endless, but the three topmost terraces housed thousands of safe and cozy living quarters vaulted impossibly upwards, the bottommost levels being cramped and warren-like and the topmost residences being grand suites. Befitting the strange kindness of Mephistar, its populace was reassigned quarters based on promotion and demotion for the mutual benefits of both sides, superiors and inferiors kept separate to avoid the distress of the former or terror of the latter. It was within the higher regions of Mephistar that Mephisto's true palatial manor was placed, a castle where all furnishings and contents, even his throne, were constructed of subtly and intricately detailed ice.[11][1][17]

Recently however, Mephistopheles's experiments in hellfire had been proving detrimental for the overall stability of his domain. The foggy cloud around the city had grown more established, and the details of his estate had become more muted as they thawed and puddles formed.[1] Already the gelugons, once perfectly fine in the somewhat warm citadel, had begun leaving for the outer reaches of the plane, replaced by increasing numbers of pit fiends, cornugons and barbazus.[4][1] The Garden of Frost, a perfect facsimile of an organic garden in Mephistar and one of the few beautiful, if saddening, places in Hell, had to be repeatedly blasted with cones of cold to keep it together. From the 99-story School of Hellfire elsewhere in Mephistar came toxic clouds of effluvia that left a fair fraction of the citadel uninhabitable for non-devil inhabitants. Eerie bursts of hellfire, were becoming signature characteristics of Cania, and the inherent risk of Mephisto's hellfire strategy had to be growing more and more obvious, even atop the Cold Lord's slowly melting throne.[1]

Activities[]

From the wizard's tower that was Mephistar, Mephistopheles performed many tests, to discover more about arcane magic and the nature of the planes,[10] his most recent pet project being his hellfire obsession. He had spent a great amount of time mastering and experimenting with the new, magical fire, distracted him from the needs of his formerly favored minions, the gelugons, his realm's stability and his soul-harvesting efforts.[1]

With Cania's old power structure virtually upended, the ice devils fled to the mountain Gelineth and formed a retreat known as Nebulat, which stuck out of the mountain's side like a crystal fungus. Though none would directly condemn him, the discontent devils made many plans to resolve their situation, some scheming to undermine his lead researchers by finding or planting evidence of treachery, creating a new type of ice magic to win back his interest, trying to correct his behavior and others just plotting to replace him.[1]

Meanwhile Mephistopheles's attempt to grow his cult using hellfire had put him in large amounts of divine energy debt to some of the other archdevils, particularly Dispater and Levistus. He was taking a serious gamble, for though his success could ideally grant him the largest and most popular cult, failure would leave him devastated, and his investors would likely sabotage him if his risks seemed likely to pay off.[1]

Relationships[]

Servants[]

Burning Soul being called upon by a fire giant cultist of Mephistopheles.

Mephistopheles had several powerful devils in his retinue, including entire companies of cornugons and gelugons. In fact, despite recent times, the ice devils were bound to serve Mephistopheles before any other archdevil, similarly to Asmodeus's pit fiends or Levistus's amnizu.[11][3] Occasionally he brought in other creatures, such as the relatively new red dragon Testaron, who was bribed to come from the Material Plane to Mephistopheles's domain with the job of lounging around the throne room hall and making it look more foreboding. Mephistopheles also had children to help do his bidding, such as his half-fiend, half-elf daughter Antilia, not that anyone in his court knew she was his blood, who served as his double-agent against Baalzebul,[4] or the winged monolith of half-fiendish fire known as the Burning Soul, made through Mephisto's union with a powerful resident with the Plane of Fire.[6]

Mephistopheles's most powerful, and dangerous, allies were the pit fiends aristocrats of Cania who, along with many of the cornugons, dwelt on the rocky spires and pits of its borderlands. There were two companies of pit fiend nobility, each consisting of thirty-three individuals of equal rank, most of which were barely loyal to Mephistopheles and were possibly his greatest weakness. The pit fiends, as encouraged by the baatezu promotion system, were as strong as they were ambitious, and favored dissent and rotation in the ranks of the dukes and archdukes to better increase their own chances of promotion. Unless Mephistopheles became the official ruler of Hell, their loyalty would always be tenuous.[3][25]

A prime example was the pit fiend Nexroth, commander of several companies of cornugon whose total selfishness made Mephistopheles openly distrustful of him, only keeping him around due to him seeming the most reliable.[3] Also notable for his treachery, although not exactly directed at Mephistopheles, was the harried dean of the school of Hellfire, Quagrem, who tried to obtain useful insights from mortal magic-users before killing them in order to take sole credit for their discoveries, thus depriving Mephistopheles of their future usefulness.[1] While Mephistopheles would gleefully play the pit fiends off one another indefinitely, this ran the risk of creating open conflict in Cania, which another archdevil could use to their advantage. Unable to shift the ranks as it suited him, he instead,[3] on top of disposing of anyone too incompetent, simply arranged for anyone that rose too fast to be removed from the equation which both kept him in power and robbed him of his most capable nobles.[17]

Dukes[]

One might wonder, given the untrustworthiness of his pit fiends, how Mephistopheles was able to retain control over his domain, much less devote almost all his time research. This was thanks to his chief servant, the extremely powerful pit fiend Hutijin said to be one of Hell's greatest dukes and perhaps the quintessential duke. He was responsible for guiding Cania's pit fiend nobles, protecting it from all but the most concerted attacks. Without him, Mephistopheles's domain would soon break out into open civil war, which if combined with outside interference against the weakened Cold Lord would certainly spell Mephisto's end. Yet despite having the power to challenge his master, Hutijin was famously unwavering in his loyalty, treating Mephistopheles as a near-god. Some theorized the Cold Lord had something over Hutijin, yet he never abused the pit fiend's trust, the stability of his domain without him likely playing a big part in that decision.[10][3][26]

Mephistopheles's other dukes weren't to be underestimated either, such as his consort Baalphegor. Though typically appearing young, carefree and light-voiced, Baalphegor was a skilled, charming diplomat, capable tactician and able inventor, whose great value played some part in Asmodeus's toleration of Mephistopheles. The consort tried to be loyal to both Mephistopheles and Hell without having to choose between them,[3] though as of late, she had gone missing.[27] There was also the Cold Duke known as Bifrons, another commander who was known for his great physical strength, apparent vigilance and loyalty, and philosopher outlook. Clear-headed and dispassionate, he engaged in arguments of logic and reason when not working, though he was rather set in his belief that the strong ruling the weak was practical and that goodness promoted incompetence and mediocrity.[3]

There was also the untrusting and high-handed Adonides, the young-looking steward and administrator of Cania who roamed the plane with sixteen companies of ice devils looking for intruders and traitors. He suspected all pit fiends of treachery, including Hutijin, and every gelugon and cornugon of potentially being Baalzebul's spy, which to be fair some cornugons were. Adonides lacked authority in Mephistar since that fell under the purview of its arrogant and unscrupulous chamberlain Barbas, a lazy, fat and gross treasure-keeper whose dishonesty and greed was tolerated due to his brilliant deceptions in the name of security. Barbas had to be kept in check not only by the watchful scrutiny of Mephistopheles himself, but also Adonides and Bele, the somewhat impartial justiciar of Cania. Both ruler and judge agreed upon and regularly discussed the basic principles and certain specifics of what "justice" meant, and though they disagreed and Bele sometimes countermanded Mephisto, he would be out of office if their ideals were too out of line.[3]

Only Adonides, Barbas and Bele were free of the otherwise iron-fisted regimentation of Cania, but the Cold Lord wanted to know about their locations and activies at all times. None were entirely truthful about the specifics of this, but kept their delightful deceptions minimal so as not to tempt punishment.[3]

Archdevils[]

Among the archdevils, Mephistopheles wasn't looked upon with particular favor, the result of his blatant arrogance and unstable personality.[1] His greatest and most obvious rival was Baalzebul, each regarding the other with bitter hate and seeing one another as their biggest obstacle to taking the throne of Hell, although their hatred did have other roots. Like Dispater, the ancient Archduke of Cania saw Baalzebul's rapid promotion as worthy of enmity, while Baalzebul had come to see everyone else as responsible for his transformation into a slug, especially Mephistopheles. Each conspired against each other, the hatching of plans taking up a great amount of time and their more open antagonism towards each other being part of the reason Asmodeus left them in charge.[1][4][17]

Though Baalzebul was certainly a threat to Mephistopheles, and could possibly have defeated him and become the most powerful archdevil during the Reckoning, the Lord of the Flies tried to achieve too much at once, attempting to dispatch both his master and archnemesis, offending Asmodeus and causing him to intervene. Mephisto meanwhile, was undermined by the sheer instability of his court, relying on Hutijin to keep his great number of pit fiends in check.[17][3][26] His policy of destroying anyone who proved too competent caused his political and military endeavors against Baalzebul to suffer, and perpetuated the stalemate. Also on the Cold Lord's mental radar was the Frozen Prince Levistus, who he carefully kept an eye on.[17] One of Levistus's agents, the half-fiend Zanth, had a taste for good-aligned children, and so Mephistopheles sent minor devils to offer the rare delicacy, subtly influencing his decisions. Then there was Belial, an ally of Baalzebul, and his daughter Fierna who, if Belial came to Baalzebul's aid, Mephistopheles would try to use against her father, ideally as an ally and at worst as a hostage.[28]

Among Mephistopheles's actual allies, at least nominally, was the Iron Duke Dispater, the two of which shared seniority and a desire for knowledge.[10][17] Dispater was drawn to Mephistopheles's power and respected him as a true member of the baatezu race, unlike the relative upstart Baalzebul, although recently, Dispater tried to present himself as a friend to all and enemy of none, distancing himself from allies and trying to make peace with rivals in a futile attempt to assuage his paranoia.[1][17][13] On top of that, Mephistopheles's court had to be on constant alert for Dispater's agents, as the secret-loving archdevil was pained by the idea that Mephistopheles knew something he didn't.[10] Once the two of them were allies with the greedy Mammon, but the speed with which the spineless serpent sold them out at the end of the Reckoning marked him as undesirable to all archdevils.[28]

Perhaps Mephistopheles's strangest relationship was with his master Asmodeus, for he was the Prince of Evil's most dangerous enemy and most capable ally. Despite Mephistopheles making it abundantly clear that he dreamt of the day when he could depose his lord, Asmodeus still seemed to trust his counsel when offered. The relationship was further clouded by the existence of Glasya, to whom Mephistopheles was something of a godfather.[1][9][11] Several reasons behind this relationship, (Mephisto's rivalry with Baalzebul and the usefulness of Baalphegor), had been presented, but a more simple and underlying possibility also existed.[1][11][3] Mephistopheles was potentially the only individual archdevil that Asmodeus feared, whose mastery of hellfire, knowledge of ancient secrets, and duty as guard of his realm made him a deadly and great enough asset to tolerate his threats. Though Mephisto couldn't yet oppose Asmodeus, both watched to see if circumstances changed the nature of the situation, the Lord of Hellfire waiting until his adversary made a big enough miscalculation for him to make his move.[1][9][11]

Worshipers[]

Mephistopheles was in something of an irritating situation when it came to cults, as despite being second only to Asmodeus, he had one of, if not the, smallest cults out of all the archdevils. Mephistopheles had been so effective in making himself the image of the devil that he had become generic in the eyes of many mortals, frequently confused with and believed to be the same as Asmodeus to the point where the Overlord of Hell left it to him to operate many of his cults.[13][1] Not only that, but further blurring any sense of identity was his symbol, or rather symbols, since he constantly adopted new icons to represent himself.[4] As someone who adored worship as a god, this mistaken identity was frustrating to no end.[1]

Still, even before his recent discoveries, Mephistopheles had some distinct brand of corruption, existing as a patron of magic and the source of many warlock pacts.[1][11] He had the advantage of having the lowest quotas of the archdevils but with the limitation of the highest standards. He and his harvesters specialized in luring skilled wizards and cunning sages into making deals by playing on their curiosity and ambition, the offer of magical might by itself often seen as proof of that mortal's greatness. Most of these types of cultists also sought to crush their rivals with said magical power, and gained the ability to deflect and absorb magic through the deal.[10]

While skilled, the mortals being lured into Mephistopheles's traps were targeted due to gullibility or ego, and while the arrangement offered them magic it also ensured them misery. Mephistopheles's façade of charm only needed to last until the aspiring caster signed away their soul, and after death they would face decades of tedious routine, deep regret, and isolation to prevent dissent. The agents of Mephisto carefully avoided statements about their lord's behavior and actions, and the clever clauses in the signed soul contracts allowed him to destroy the tricked sages with a word. Sometimes entire wizard guilds and sage conclaves fell under Mephistopheles's sway, as did magic-using beings like storm giants or oni.[10]

Hellfire[]

The offering of hellfire is yet one more way the fiends have worked their claws into our world. Each mortal who thinks to master this fell power is yet one more fool offering his soul to the Lord of the Eighth.
— Alód the Traveler, planeshifter[24]

Mephistopheles's recent insights into hellfire gave him a new way to appeal to mortals, even despite the fact that it's diabolical nature typically required a sacrifice of the user's own vitality to be called upon.[24] The beauty of offering hellfire laid in its accessibility; most types of magic required the user to slowly refine their skills and/or progress along a path of understanding on how to use it, a dangerous road of adventure being a frequently used method. Mephistopheles's cultists could offer the dark energy to even the most inept persons of influence, granting them an easy, painless, path to power, prestige, and dominion.[1] Because this plan was as much a method of gaining souls as it was of increasing Mephistopheles's influence on the Material Plane, being lawful evil wasn't a barrier of entry to join the cult.[13]

Ritual[]

Mephistopheles, Lord of Hellfire and Duke of Brimstone, I call upon you in your fiery elegance. I pledge myself to you, rightful King of Hell. One day your dark power will reign supreme.
— Nhagruul, hellfire master[4]

The Lord of Hellfire offered magical power at unrivaled speed,[13] for even though other archdevils learnt how to bestow hellfire to their minions, despite his efforts to keep it for himself,[21][29] on top of some warlocks discovering how to tap into Hell's essence while just experimenting with eldritch blasts,[24] Mephistopheles was its original inventor and greatest master, giving him a unique edge.[1] Other hellfire warlocks had to have a fair amount of magical and extraplanar knowledge to call upon it,[24] but the disciples of Mephistopheles, known as hellfire masters and hellfire stewards, had no such obligation. Depending on what the whims of the granter, typically a higher-ranking cleric, even a favored initiate of incredibly low ability could gain access to power surpassing that of many accomplished magic-users.[4][13]

A hellfire master of Mephistopheles

Initiation into Mephistopheles's cult first required a show of cruelty, the sacrifice of an intelligent being in magical flame, typically while the victim was still alive so as to provide screaming chorus to the silent prayers. Temples to Mephistopheles were strange, hidden, distant places often filled with great fire pits in which to conduct a sacrifice, rigged to suddenly flare at the appropriate times and on top of which were slabs of blackened stone to serve as altars for the ritual.[1][13][4] A potential aid in this process would be the Book of Brimstone, a tome written in Infernal by a Mephistopheles worshiping monk, who shortly after writing it went mad and was lost in the Canian wastes. It was rumored that only four copies of the book existed, the first half consisting of the proper ways to worship, adore, sacrifice, and become a disciple of Mephistopheles, among other rites, and the latter a small collection of vile arcane spells.[6]

Hellfire masters were much like Mephistopheles himself; obsessed with fire, donning red and black garb, wielding ranseurs and hiding great anger. On occasions where speech was required, they yelled rather than spoke, infected with their lord's same unpredictable anger.[4][21] They were capable of independent action and working in groups equally well, whether their partners were wicked schemers, violent megalomaniacs, devils, or other wicked fire creatures like hell hounds or salamanders. Apart from those looking for easy power, Mephistopheles promoted himself as a "god of hellfire" to those who revered flame, as well as devil worshipers that had become dissatisfied with their current archdevil patrons. Fire giants were known for their attempts to become hellfire masters,[4] and Mephistopheles was known to try to appeal to frost giants as well.[18]

An aspect of Mephistopheles.

Aspects[]

Mephistopheles used aspects in many situations, and they weren't afraid of death knowing that they'd be recreated if destroyed. On the rare occasion when they left the Nine Hells to create new converts, they would mix with almost any society, devil or mortal, and sometimes even venture into the battlefield of the Blood War. They irregularly appeared in the Realms, normally bringing several other devils with them when they did, and it was rumored that an aspect of him was trapped in Undermountain.[18]

History[]

Mephistopheles was an ancient entity, a being rivaling even Asmodeus in terms of age, and during his time as an archdevil he had been responsible for many infernal innovations aside from hellfire.[13] Millenia ago, he had entrapped a race of mercenary fiends similar to the mezzoloths in Hell, keeping them in a state of perpetual servitude and giving rise to the gelugon baatezu.[11] The fiendish surgeons within his palace augmented a breed of hell hounds, the fearsome Nessian warhounds, with even greater abilities, making Mephisto's pit hounds even stronger, bigger, crueler and fiery than Asmodeus's.[6] He captured the blood and tears of Baalphegor in a vial to create a powerful artifact known as Baalphegor's Grace, allowing the user to summon a group of erinyes known as the Blessed Angels that were ultimately loyal to him, although he originally intended to loan it to favored cultists before he lost track of it.[27]

One of his infamous schemes was before the Reckoning, when he donned a secret identity as the archdevil Baron Molikroth. He "deposed" himself using this alter ego and ruled for a great amount of time before finally revealing his true identity. The traitors who co-conspired with Molikroth to overthrow Mephistopheles were ended along with the deception.[2][4] When the Reckoning actually occurred and Mephistopheles's faction of Dispater, Mammon, and Geryon, went up against Baalzebul's faction of Zariel, Belial and Moloch, his entire plan was undermined by a spy in his ranks; Geryon. Geryon was secretly siding with Asmodeus, and with a blow of his horn, the pit fiend generals of both armies turned against them. Despite the blatancy of his rebellion against Asmodeus, he was perhaps the archdevil that suffered the least, not cursed like Mammon or Baalzebul, cast down like Zariel, Belial, Geryon or Moloch nor left to stew in his own paranoia like Dispater.[17]

Attack on Toril[]

Not too long after 1372 DR, a drow matron known to history only as the Valsharess managed to bind Mephistopheles into her service on the material plane, in Toril. Aided by his powers, she proceeded to conquer much of the Underdark, and even went on to try to expand her influence on the surface, attacking Waterdeep through Undermountain.[30]

Mephistopheles arrives in Waterdeep.

Previously, an adventurer fleeing the briefly re-activated, but once again falling, Netherese city of Undrentide into the Plane of Shadow had come across a strange relic that they had used occasionally to access the small plane of a strange creature known as the Reaper. This item was in fact meant for the leader of a cult of Mephistopheles, and contained a piece of the devil's own flesh. Later the adventurer, by then quite famous and powerful, came to Waterdeep to aid the city in its struggle against the Valsharess's forces. Mephistopheles manipulated the Valsharess to eventually bring the adventurer into her inner sanctum, where she ordered him to kill them. At this point, her control over Mephistopheles was loosened, since the relic carried by the adventurer bound them to the archdevil, and by ordering him to kill the adventurer she broke the pact which she used to bind him.[30]

Instead of complying, Mephistopheles left the adventurer and his party free to duel and kill the Valsharess. He then sent them to Cania in his stead and set out to conquer Toril, intending to turn it into a new layer of Hell that would go down below the Ninth and make him the new supreme ruler of the plane. He raised the dead souls he had gained from the recent battles between the Valsharess and her enemies as a special form of spiritual army and began to follow a similar course of conquest to hers, advancing from the Underdark to Waterdeep. However, the adventurer, who had by this point grown in power far beyond that of most other mortals, was able to escape Cania by learning the Reaper's true name, Hecugoth the Abandoned. They returned to Toril and banished Mephistopheles back to his old domain before he could destroy the City of Splendors. It could be deduced that since Mephistopheles remained a threat to the planes as nobody's slave, the adventurer either did not learn his true name or simply chose not use it to its full potential for whatever reason.[30]

Ascension[]

Mephistopheles after absorbing a fraction of Mask's divinity.

Mephistopheles's plans to become a god finally came to some form of fruition during the Spellplague. Mephistopheles had persuaded his half-breed son, Magadon, to release the devil inside of him and therefore bring himself and his fellow companions Erevis Cale and Drasek Riven to Cania through some manipulation of Cale's ability to travel through shadows. Mephistopheles then proceeded to kill his half-breed son after Erevis promised Mephistopheles a portion of the god Mask's divinity. He did this as part of the agreement, not that he discussed it with Cale, saying that he would kept half of Magadon's soul with him as collateral until the delivery. Erevis later returned to Cania and sacrificed his life for the return of Magadon's soul, giving Mephistopheles the divinity he so desired, although with an unexpected cost.[16]

It was at this time that Riven, who used his new demigod powers obtained from absorbing some of Masks's divinity to travel to Cania, paid Mephistopheles a visit. Riven attacked and nearly decapitated the archdevil, and told him that if he ever stepped out of his domain that Riven would utterly destroy him. Mephistopheles replied by telling Riven that he would come back and would be waiting for him though he himself seemed to think that Riven would come back under the impression he would return for Cale at some later date. Even in the obtainment of divine power, his defeat withstanding, Mephistopheles was still undermined. Once Mephistopheles had fully recovered from Drasek's ambush attack, the insult to hours of injury revealed itself in the form of an icy cairn at the bottom of his domain, at the bottom of which laid Erevis. The rest of the divinity cheated from him was still down there, but no matter what he used, whether it was the power of hellfire, legions of furious devils, or teleportation, he couldn't enter or even scry what lurked beneath the shadow-leaking ice.[16][31]

Making this worse was that during the Spellplague, Asmodeus had managed to absorb the half-murdered Azuth, who had simply fallen through the Astral Sea into Hell. Mephistopheles's divinity was only a fraction of Mask's power, which itself was only a fraction of the power taken from Kesson Rel, and while he was trying to finish obtaining the last of it, Asmodeus left him second-rate through sheer luck. Though he realized that the unbreakable ice was likely some ploy of the Lord of Thieves, Asmodeus's calls to his domain were filling him with dread and pushing him to act. He feared Asmodeus was prepared to punish him for trying to dethrone him and, befitting his ego, would rather try to obtain godly power and orchestrate a coup in his limited time than beg for mercy while hoping to evade his wrath. As Mephistopheles suspected, Mask was trying to manipulate him, although not exactly in the way he thought.[31]

In 1484 DR, after a century of trying to break the ice, Mephistopheles chased the one clue he had, the existence of Erevis's son, Vasen Cale, believing he held the secret to getting to the bottom of the cairn. This was in fact, all part of Mask's plan; Vasen was a powerful and dedicated servant of Amaunator and the reunited father and son duo managed to strip the fragmented remains of Mask's divinity from all holders. Though Vasen intended to have his father receive the power, Riven decided to take on the divinity, effectively becoming the reincarnated Mask. Mephistopheles meanwhile found his plans thwarted, forced to flee the scene through teleportation without any divine spark while choking on his own blood and guts.[31]

Appendix[]

See Also[]

Appearances[]

Adventures
Baldur's Gate: Descent into Avernus
Novels
ShadowbredShadowstormShadowrealm
Video Games
Neverwinter Nights: Hordes of the Underdark

References[]

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Connections[]

The Lords of the Nine
Asmodeus
The Archdevils
BaalzebulBelialDispaterFiernaGlasyaLevistusMammonMephistophelesZariel
Other Unique Devils
BelGargauthGeryonMalagardMolochTiamat