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The Lords of the Eight

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THE LORDS OF THE EIGHT, OR A LITERARY CRITIQUE OF FIENDISH CODEX II

The Eight Lords of Baator, diverse in temperament, entered the palace of their Sovereign united in awe and soul-trembling fear. The ten thousand legionnaires, except the Traitor who has disappeared, who guard the icy chasm that leads to it abased themselves as they passed down, but the saints of the Pit who stand at its gates remained absolutely still at their approach. Not until the forehead of each Lord had touched the paving stones before the gates did the saints draw them open. The mighty majesty, the terrible eternity, of the palace stunned them, as always, into worshipful silence.

The Lords had to wait for their Sovereign in a dark anteroom, seated in order of rank: Bel, Warlord of Avernus, known as the Vampire; Dispater the ancient, Archduke of Dis; Viscount Mammon of Minauros, who at other times preferred the title of Guildmaster; Lord Belial of Phlegethos, who lusted for his daughter; Levistus, Prince of Stygia, briefly free of his well-merited prison; Archduchess Glasya of Malbolge, the Sovereign’s unworthy daughter; Baalzebul, Archduke of Maladomini, the Lord of Lies, who once served the Seven; and Mephistopheles, Baron of Cania, once a traitor in truth and a million times in his proud heart.

Glasya was the first to regain some courage; she set great store by her parentage. Baalzebul spotted this at once, and oozed his enormous slug body towards her, angling it so his compound eyes caught hers. “Archduchess, I beg you to let me sing your praises. You are wise, brave, worthy, virtuous; competent, intelligent, masterful, a great leader; praiseworthy, powerful, just – I fear you!” Each word and phrase was imbued with the essence of falsehood and thundered down into her face from a huge grey bulk looming from behind a cloud of madly buzzing flies. Mephistopheles smiled; Levistus chuckled; Mammon would have cackled loudly, but didn’t know how.

Baalzebul reared back and cast his eyes broodingly around the table. “Your Highness, noble Prince, I wonder why you laugh. You should be courteous and kind to the young Archduchess: you are so superior in judgement and honour.” Levistus almost leapt to his feet, his cheeks flaming in rage. “Tell us, Archduke, why when you walked our Sovereign cursed you with the word: ‘Crawl.’” Baalzebul replied: “Our Sovereign is harsh. Our Sovereign is tyrannous. He cursed me unjustly; he cursed me wickedly; he cursed me to a worse fate than I merited.” Levistus shrank back into his seat, silent, but Mephistopheles called out, smirking: “I agree entirely with the first part, Your Grace.”

Dispater grated from his iron throat: “Silence in the Sovereign’s palace, you fool.”

Mephistopheles stared at him, shocked. Bel’s military sense of propriety was outraged. “What is this nonsense?”

Dispater stared at Bel with a gaze of fire. “You are a mutineer.” Baalzebul cried out in a silvery note: “No!”

Dispater stared at Mammon. “You are a kike.”

“No!”

Dispater stared at Belial. “You are a crazed goat.”

“No!”

Dispater stared at Levistus. “You are a lecherous wastrel.”

“No!”

Dispater stared at Glasya. “You are a stupid bitch.”

“No!”

Dispater stared at Mephistopheles. “You are an arrogant idiot.”

“No!”

Mephistopheles regarded him and Baalzebul calmly now. “You two have not gone mad. Tell us what you mean by this display, since it clearly represents some attempt to communicate.”

Dispater said: “We are the last Archdukes, the last virtuous lords among the Eight. The Sovereign will remove us first, then squeeze the good out of you, until only evil, wretched and contemptible, remains among his vassals. Then he will judge you and destroy you all for your iniquities, and rule a new and magnificent Baator alone.”

Levistus said: “Of course. You are virtuous.”

Dispater’s face sagged against its metal frame. “No, only compared to you. We too are guilty; we too merit elimination.” Baalzebul sunk among slime to the stone floor, almost making him a puddle. His voice bore a sadness that tingled the others with dread. “You lie, Dispater. You lie.”

Mammon piped up in the silence. “How d’you know all this?”

Baalzebul recovered. He said: “True, it is a mystic and hidden thing. There have been no signs; the plot is utterly secret.” Mammon hung his head from his serpent neck, though he still didn’t know what the signs were supposed to have been.

Dispater said: “When we rebelled against the Sovereign only Geryon repented; he was sincere; he was the only one to be purged. Were the Sovereign merely cynical, he would have rewarded Geryon’s loyalty; were he concerned for virtuous government – well, he reinstated Levistus.

When he destroyed the Hag Countess he gave Malbolge to his daughter, like a conquering demon glutted with ravening, when there were a thousand legions of powerful and righteous commanders for the choosing. Were he cynical, he would have appointed the former; concerned for virtue, the latter. He has appointed a miserable whorish nullity. You who have known him for millennia, is he ruled by paternal affection?

A century ago, Belial would not be here, for his daughter held the lordship of Phlegethos. His daughter is Glasya, dwarfed still further. I remember the days when dainty gross bathing-vessels and mountainous gold-leafed wardrobes were bathed in the light of the Sacred Fire. What did Fierna ever offer our Sovereign? Can you tell us, Belial, why he accepted your abdication in her favour? Your silence is not surprising.

Bel the Warlord, who demands absolute loyalty from his subordinates, is a mutineer who still sucks the soul of his commander. I am older than all of you and I do not recall a time when Zariel was disloyal or negligent. Certainly in her days and before our mercenaries were treated like the scum they are, not paid handsomely for failure, negotiated with as superiors, and allowed to run contract auctions with the demons. Did the Sovereign appoint you, Bel, to embellish Khin-Oin with his money? If not, then why?”

Glasya’s annoyance now outweighed her fear of her elders. “He destroyed the Hag Countess to elevate me. The Hag Countess was a foreigner, so her rule was a blasphemy. Why not dump one of you?”

Baalzebul ignored her. He gazed straight at Mephistopheles, who had met that gaze for millennia; now the baron felt the fires in his soul gutter low. The ranting rebellious spirit that embodied bitter hatred for the flaws and imperfections of the world, which fouled itself with flies and falsehoods through frustration at the lowness of mundane and extra-mundane Beauty and Truth, which was ultimately pathetic and therefore laughable, had become a dreadful wraith of conviction and contempt. Baalzebul did not say it, but Mephistopheles heard: “You, O Lord of Cania, are mighty and cunning; you are wise and powerful beyond the strength of your Sovereign.” He felt the lies he had told himself, and they chilled him.

Seeing his discomfiture, Levistus attempted to take command. “I, for one, think that the Archduchess really has something! And I can think of more objections. But I won’t raise them, since you seem to be convinced. Tell us, what do you propose we do about this problem, since it obviously threatens our existence?”

Bel was relieved to find a leader. “That’s right. You’re moping and whining, not offering solutions.”

Dispater said: “I am too old and too sinful to fight our Sovereign again. I will rule my realm and wait for righteousness and purity to return and shake the foundations of my city in fury, and topple my Iron Tower in ringing shards.”

Baalzebul said: “I am not so despairing. I will rebel. I will fight back. I will continue my struggle for the Sovereign’s throne.” Now Levistus, knowing Baalzebul’s mighty will and his dreadful persistence in all his aims, was struck into silence. Belial, who had tormented himself with shame and guilt for centuries, had never had stomach to fight back. Mammon shouted: “No! No! I will not be destroyed for breaking a contract I never signed! I have ruled for millennia in my own just way; I am the only money taxpayer of our Eternal State; I love and abide by iron laws that the Sovereign did not decree and must respect.”

Dispater said: “All this is true; perhaps, then, you alone will be spared. It would be no hardship to you to lose your viscounty.”

Mammon smiled. “No, a hardship, but a survivable – yes, a distinctly survivable one, I think.”

Bel hung his head. “So I have to go, then? When I did Zariel I reported direct to the Sovereign – it wasn’t exactly a mutiny . . . He spotted what I wanted quick enough, gave me a sealed order to do the job . . . he’s the Commander in Chief . . . was it a LTCC test? Suppose so. Thought I was beyond that, thought I could just take orders straight at last, when he gave them . . .”

Baalzebul: “What a brilliant hope that was with Nine Lords in Baator instead of One! I am sure, Bel, that you would like to serve as one of nine supreme commanders; I am sure that would like to serve under them. Do you of all of us not see that truth can never be spoken, unquestioning obedience never be practiced, war against evil never be waged, by a citizen who must play off feuding nobles against each other?”

Hooves clicked in a shadowy corridor; Martinet, the Sovereign’s herald, appeared in the doorway. He bowed courteously. “The Sovereign will see you now, my lords.”

The Eight Lords proceeded to the throne room of the Great Fortress of Nessus, preparing themselves inadequately for the sight of that terrible verse engraved on the throne of patriotism:

“Say: He is God, One.”

Evil's picture
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Joined: 2005-11-12
I like your story, it is

I like your story, it is well written and well prepared, so congratulations. I would especially compliment you on:

-Making the devils talk like devils, using elaborate sentences

-The Sovereign's master plan.

-The fact that you don't mention the name of The Sovereign.

That said however, I seriously doubt if Belial would torment himself with guilt and shame, and Dispater would accept to be eliminated by The Sovereign without resistance. Laughing

Frogretoric's picture
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Joined: 2006-01-26
Beautifully executed, the

Beautifully executed, the interactions between them fit very well.

Center of All's picture
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factotums
Joined: 2004-05-11
A very thought-inspiring

A very thought-inspiring idea of the interactions between the Lords and the reasons why some were destroyed or purged and others still survive.

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Lord of the Dice's picture
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Re: The Lords of the Eight

It's a great story. Though I doubt Belial would feel guilt. Though all of the Lords of Hell are evil, I consider Belial the evilest.

ripvanwormer's picture
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Joined: 2004-10-05
Re: The Lords of the Eight

Well, they are lawful evil. What is Law, without guilt? If they only fear punishment, they're no more lawful than demons. Guilt is the law that regulates itself, rather than the law that relies on external punishments and rewards. They think of themselves as righteous, because theirs is the true Law. Their law may be evil by the standards of the Heavens, but it is just as orderly; its virtues may be corrupt by the standards of Arcadia or Mechanus, but they're still virtues, of a sort. The things that make Belial feel guilty may not be the things that would make you or me feel guilty, but it is still a conscience that propels him to do his vile deeds.

If the Dark Lord of Nessus is the embodiment of righteousness and purity to them, and their sin is to fall from its exacting requirements, their notions of guilt and conscience must be very different from our own.

Lord of the Dice's picture
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Re: The Lords of the Eight

ripvanwormer wrote:
Well, they are lawful evil. What is Law, without guilt? If they only fear punishment, they're no more lawful than demons. Guilt is the law that regulates itself, rather than the law that relies on external punishments and rewards. They think of themselves as righteous, because theirs is the true Law. Their law may be evil by the standards of the Heavens, but it is just as orderly; its virtues may be corrupt by the standards of Arcadia or Mechanus, but they're still virtues, of a sort. The things that make Belial feel guilty may not be the things that would make you or me feel guilty, but it is still a conscience that propels him to do his vile deeds.

If the Dark Lord of Nessus is the embodiment of righteousness and purity to them, and their sin is to fall from its exacting requirements, their notions of guilt and conscience must be very different from our own.

You make a good point. They regard Asmodeus as their god, so they would feel guilt as they sought to kill him for their own power.

sciborg2's picture
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Factol
Joined: 2005-07-26
Re: The Lords of the Eight

Very well told - and as someone who dislikes Asmodeus as being too high above the other Eight, that is saying something.

The last line really hits you.

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Azure's picture
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Joined: 2006-05-17
Re: The Lords of the Eight

Very good. You seemed to do a good job in making each Lord have a different voice (though to be honest yo lost me a bit in that, guess I'll have read it again). I loved how Baalzabul spoke all in lies.

Wondering a bit about the last line. Is that really the phrase carved on the throne of Hell in judeo/christian theology?

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