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Excerpts from the Book of Fire: The Reckoning
Posted on Fri, November 12, 2004 by Farcluun
Osmund-Davizid writes "The recent (by immortal standards) turmoil in the Nine Hells has passed by relatively unnoticed by dwellers of the Prime Material Plane. Taken from fragments from the Infernal Records (called the Book of Fire), the sage-priest of Hextor, Patriarch Verminek of Eastfair, has recently uncovered valuable historical data concerning the Hell-shattering event known to mortals as The Reckoning. In a letter sent to the priests of the Arrowstrand cathedral, Verminek details his findings.

Excerpts from the Book of Fire: The Reckoning
By: Osmund-Davizid
Used with Permission. Do not repost without obtaining prior permission from the author.

To the collected hosts of the Scourge of Battle:

Just before Rauxes was engulfed by a severe magical disjunction (Foot Note 1), several of my more competent servants have managed to recover a series of folios from the Imperial Palace. These papers appear to be copies from the infamous Book of Fire – the records of Hell. While I suspect the authenticity of most of the recovered materials, one set of documents bears closer research.

These papers discussed the former hierarchy of Hell and what occurred in a titanic civil war in Hell itself, when the Lords of the Nine did battle against each other for supremacy and the title of Overlord of Hell. I have summarized the important aspects of them in this correspondence.

I caution those who read these words that all may or may not be true. The devils are notorious for spreading false histories among the truth, so as to mislead their enemies. There is rumored to be somewhere in the deepest vaults of Hell a record that is kept scrupulously true. But the chances that these copies are from that pure, unsullied source are slim indeed. Nevertheless, all the names and events recorded here contain some grain of true power, so I advise utmost discretion when discussing and using the information herein. Remember the old saying: “The arm of Asmodeus is long (longer then you think)”.

The status of the Nine Hells before The Reckoning: The nine planes of Hell were each ruled by a Lord, and archdevil of extreme power and abilities. These archdukes of Hell were masters in keeping their identities and the composition of their courts confused to mortal researchers (most notably, the Chronicles of Willam the Dogged got their author to become "missing" after their general release). The true identities of these Lords of the Nine by layer were as follows:

Avernus: The first layer of Hell is known as “Hell’s front parlor”. Some ancient sages have placed the Queen of Evil Dragonkind, Tiamat, as the ruler of this plane (FN 2). More recent missives have placed the female devil Zariel as the true devilish (as opposed to draconic) ruler of the First.

Dis: This layer has been ruled by the Archduke Dispater from his Iron Tower as far as human memory can record. His rule was marked for the stability of his court and the cosmopolitan flavor of his capital city.

Minauros: The ever greedy Mammon ruled from his stinking and sinking city of Minauros. Mammon often would neglect affairs of state in order to pursue wealth and trophies from the hunt.

Phlegethos: Belial has been the master of the leaping flames for uncounted millennia. By his side were his clever consort Naome and his daughter Fierana, making his court bound by blood relation and thus exceptionally loyal.

Stygia: Geryon was a recent Lord, awarded the rulership of the plane when the Lord Levistus committed treachery on the Queen of Hell and slew her. It was often commented that Geryon was not the most competent choice to replace him (FN 3).

Malbolge: Beherit and Batna were the co-rulers of this layer for many millennia, but together they broke the overlord’s rules on promotion of lesser devils. There exists a strict quota on the numbers and types of promotions an archdevil may make in a set period of time. Beherit, in some misguided attempt to increase Hell’s power, broke those quotas. With a heavy heart, Asmodeus ordered his executioner, Alastor the Grim, to administer the appropriate punishment (FN 4). Rulership of the plane was then given to Baalzebul as a reward for faithful service (it was Baalzebul who informed Asmodeus of Beherit’s breach of promotion protocol). Baalzebul, not trusting anyone but himself to actually rule the plane, appointed Moloch to be his viceroy (FN 5).

Maladomini: Baalzebul fell from grace as an archon. He was the most powerful archon to have fallen into the Pit, and was awarded rulership of a layer of Hell when it became apparent to Asmodeus that he was a consummate master of devilish intrigue.

Cania: Mephistopheles, consumed by pride and jealousy, ruled the frigid eighth layer of Hell for many millennia. While he was the most powerful lord (aside from Asmodeus), he never fully trusted his subordinates. Thus he would deprive himself of his most talented leaders when they would “show too much promise”.

Nessus: Asmodeus’ origins are shrouded in mystery (FN 6). As long as Hell existed, he has been its Overlord. His plane and court are largely unknown to mortal sages.

The Reckoning: The reasons behind this war of power and betrayal reflect the shortcomings of the devilish race as a whole. Without a single powerful deity such as our Battle Father Hextor to guide and shape policy, the fragmented Lords of the Nine grew covetous and jealous of each other in their lack of meaningful direction (FN 7).

“There rose from the ranks of the archdevils two who made all save the Overlord himself tremble with their power: Baalzebul the Lord of the Flies, and the Lord Who Knows No Mercy, Mephistopheles. Forever plotting and scheming to undo the other and take the scepter of Hell for himself, the two maintained an aeons long stalemate across the nether regions. Eternal was their quest to gather allies, marshal their armies, ready their spies, and complete their plans. Battle lines were being drawn and war, with the inexorable movement of a steady glacier, was inevitable.” - from the Notes and Chronicles of the Lich-Sage Rexifer

These two archdevils eventually, through guile, diplomacy, and show of strength, gained the alliance of the other Lords of the Nine. Baalzebul had his viceroy Moloch, Belial, and Zariel at his side. Mephistopheles could count on Dispater, Mammon, and Geryon to fight with him. The Infernal Armies moved upon each other with frightening speed, back and forth across the planes of Hell. Each of these factions moved against the other with the plan that with the other faction destroyed, they would gain enough power to challenge the Overlord of Hell himself.

The full extent and histories of the fighting would fill several dozen human libraries. It is sufficient to say that the battles raged across all nine layers of Hell, with the forces mostly fighting to a standstill. At the critical juncture of what was to be the titanic final battle, Asmodeus stepped in and ended the civil war.

During all this time, Geryon was in Asmodeus’ employ as a spy to the machinations of the archdukes. When the proper moment arrived, he gave a mighty blow on his great horn and that signaled the end of The Reckoning. A great pit fiend general in each of the rebelling archdevil’s armies turned upon their masters (FN 8). Almost as quickly as it begun, the revolt was over.

The loyalist pit fiends were taken out of their former positions and given new duties and greater powers. This body was thus dubbed “The Dark Eight”, and given exclusive control over the conduct of the Blood War and other matters of the day to day running of Hell.

The rebel archdukes were to fade into the background, working on the more esoteric aspects of rulership. But Asmodeus used this opportunity to clean house and the effects of his judgments echoed throughout the infernal regions.

Fallout from The Reckoning: Most of the archdevils were allowed to keep their lordships. But with the new promotion of the Dark Eight, as well as some shifting of the nobility of Hell, the lords were significantly reduced in power.

Dispater lost his majordomo (promoted to the Dark Eight) and was forced to make his avenger Arioch the commander of his Iron Guard (to replace Bel, who took over the First layer of Hell in the aftermath of The Reckoning). Mammon shamelessly debased himself to avoid punishment. Asmodeus, not being impressed by this display, ordered that his daughter Glasya be removed from Mammon’s court, thus depriving Mammon of one of his best advisors. Belial moved further into the shadows and gave his daughter more active role in governing his plane, but it appears that he suffered the least from the reordering of Hell. Baalzebul was cursed with a new form, that of a slug-like beast, and his rulership of Malbolge was taken away from him. Mephistopheles’ court was shaken up by Asmodeus as well. But the biggest changes occurred with the rulership of the first, sixth, and fifth planes.

Zariel, reeling from absorbing most of the losses in The Reckoning, was assaulted by the great pit fiend Bel, the former commander of the Iron Guard of Dispater. Bel had been flexing his muscles and ambitions long before The Reckoning. Bel was active in amassing more power by adventuring to the Abyss and performing a deep undercover mission to entrap an army of demons. After The Reckoning, Bel attacked Zariel in her weakened state and defeated her. He kept Zariel alive in order to drain her power in some unknown manner. Zariel still struggles against her bonds, but her essence grows ever fainter. Presently, Bel is the weakest of the archdevils, isolated politically and mistrusted by his own staff. He is further tasked with maintaining an army of Hell to defend against Abyssal invasion, thus his attention is divided between repelling invasion and managing the plane.

Moloch alone continued to defy Asmodeus long after The Reckoning was lost. Instead of impressing Asmodeus with his stand, Asmodeus sent Alastor the Grim to execute Moloch. Moloch managed to escape and may yet be plotting to regain his position in the infernal hierarchy (FN 9). Publicly, a minor noble named Malagard was elevated to be the ruler of the Malbolge, but the learned sage of House Darmen Rexifer has proposed a more covert rulership of this plane (FN 10). The truth may be one or the other, both, or neither.

Geryon, the one archdevil who remained loyal to Asmodeus was, incredibly, cast out of the hierarchy. This is what most mortal scholars have been led to believe. The truth is more complex. Geryon fell prey to a long dormant contingency plan of Levistus. A revolt of Geryon’s court, led by the magistrate Herodias, forced Geryon and the forces loyal to him out of the plane of Stygia. Herodias then completed the rites to awaken Levistus. Asmodeus, rather then move to oppose the revolt, offered the plane back to its former lord.

Asmodeus gained much from this arrangement. Levistus was back in charge, but has no freedom of action (as he is still trapped in a great iceberg). Geryon is now very anxious and motivated to please Asmodeus and get his rulership back. Asmodeus has sent Geryon on a variety of quests “to atone for his shortcomings and prove himself worthy of reinstatement to the rank of archduke” (FN 11). Some have theorized that Asmodeus only intends to snatch the plane away from Levistus at a later date, in order to keep on torturing him over an eternity. No mortal sage can claim to be able to follow all of Asmodeus’ scheming, and it is likely that this plan will see many twists and turns as time marches on.

Above all, Asmodeus has cemented his position and is now the undisputed Overlord of Hell. Many have speculated that nothing happens in Hell without Asmodeus’ hand in it, and they may be right.

Regardless, knowledge of the current political schemata of Hell is extremely important to our priesthood, as we are forced to deal more and more with varying factions of Hell in order to further our own goals here on Oerth. Increasingly, we are in positions of having to negotiate between devils from one Lord or another. With the guidance of Hextor, we will bend these servants of evil to our will, as this is just and proper. As always, I remain Hextor’s humble servant and thusly end this treatise.

Iron Will, Iron Fist! (FN 12)

NOTES:

1. Just what exactly occurred in Rauxes is still the subject of more speculation then fact. Certainly, anyone trying to pick through the remains for more information does so only at extreme peril.

2. The basic theory put forth that Tiamat was the ruler of the plane was that she was undisputedly Avernus’ most powerful resident. Her relationship with Asmodeus has been impossible for mortal sages to accurately determine. She apparently acts as a warden of sorts for the gate leading to the next level of Hell, but beyond that, she has no other discernable duties to the hierarchy of Hell.

3. Indeed, Geryon and Mammon both were considered to be weak spots in the hierarchy of Hell. If it were not for the competence of their respective staff officers, they would likely have been overthrown ages ago. But a great price comes with such reliance on the work of your staff, as Geryon so sadly discovered after The Reckoning.

4. This was the highest level execution of a devil for thwarting the will of the Overlord for as long as records were kept on the matter. Asmodeus paid a price for his heavy handedness. The other Lords of the Nine took offense at this harsh treatment (unworthy of a Lord) and thus the seeds for The Reckoning were sown.

5. Giving an archdevil two planes to rule was an unusual move for Asmodeus. It is likely that Asmodeus judged (correctly) that this appointment would only fuel Baalzebul’s ambitions and thus divide his attention all the more. Baalzebul never really gave his viceroy any independent powers, so he was constantly shifting his attentions between Malbolge and Maladomini. It is also likely that Asmodeus wanted to deliberately goad Mephistopheles into open rivalry with Baalzebul.

6. See A Guide to Hell for a theory on Asmodeus’ origins. It may or may not be true, but at any rate would only be hinted at by the most obscure references and divinations.

7. The relationship between the priesthood of Hextor and the devils is a complex one. Verminek’s treatise reflects the prevailing attitude of the priesthood towards devils – they are useful servants and allies to Hextor, but are fatally flawed by not being completely subservient to Hextor’s will.

8. The pit fiend generals were (in order of their planes of origins, from first to eighth): Furcus, Baalzephon, Zimimar, Zaebos, Zapan, Pearza, Dagos, and Corin.

9. Moloch escaped to the Prime Material Plane and is mustering forces to attempt to regain his place in Hell. See the adventure The Apocalypse Stone for details.

10. The Lich-Sage of House Darmen has been amassing information in order to publish a nine volume set of missives detailing the whole of the Nine Hells. Time will tell if any of this eccentric sage’s works will ever see the light of day, as the Darmen household tries to keep all Rexifer’s research to themselves.

11. One of these quests was detailed in the adventure A Paladin in Hell.

12. A popular saying among the priests of Hextor. It refers to the strength of will needed to exert order upon your subjects – iron will. Sometimes, just willpower alone is not enough, and force is required – iron fist. No priest of Hextor has ever shied away from backing up force of will with strength of steel.

ADVENTURING HOOKS: Players can get involved with the information presented here in several ways. First, the priesthood of Hextor, as well as that of the Horned Society, would find this information invaluable. The party could be hired to be couriers of this information or be hired to intercept it by one faction or another. This could springboard into further involvement in the outer planes. Certainly, devils would attempt to destroy unauthorized disclosures of their secrets. House Darmen, The North Kingdom of Aerdy, and the Hextorian Church all have interests in keeping such information to themselves for their own dealings with the fiends.

SOURCES: Ivid the Undying, “Guide to Hell” by Chris Pramas, Dragon Magazine Articles in Issues # 28, 75, 76, 79, 91, and 243, The Greyhawk Wars Adventurer’s Book, Hellbound: The Blood War boxed set

Related:
Excerpts from The Libram Infernal: The Sixth Hell, Malbolge

The Libram Infernal – Annex: The Politics of Hell in Malbolge

"
 
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Excerpts from the Book of Fire: The Reckoning (Score: 1)
by Wykthor on Fri, November 12, 2004
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Hey, great job OD. I especially liked the theory why Geryon was ousted. BTW, is there anyone who liked the canon ruler of Malboge (The Hag Countess)? Or i's just me that finds her a bit too lame :-) ?



Excerpts from the Book of Fire: The Reckoning (Score: 1)
by Maraudar on Tue, November 23, 2004
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Like that the infernal is getting attention.




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