Little is known among mortals about this group of powerful pit fiends. They are rumored to be the leaders of the whole baatezu race. Some barmies claim they are the forebears of all the devils. They are supposed to weave schemes involving millions of souls and years...
But don't listen to that screed, berk. These lies are but the work of an overheated brain, or possibly a web of crafty misinformation spun by the fiends themselves. Yet, the last one may very well holds true...
First, the Dark Eight members are not the leaders of their despicable race. That honor belongs to the Lords of the Nine, who are discussed elsewhere. Suffice to say they are far above the power level of even the Dark Eight, and they follow their own agenda. However, one of them was deeply involved in the creation of the Dark Eight, and still maintains many ties with the Leaders of the Blood War.
Here is the key word. The Blood War. The ongoing, raging and hopefully eternal conflict for the control of the lower planes. Baalzephon, Corin, Dagos, Furcas, Pearza, Zaebos, Zapan and Zimimar are the generals and ultimate masterminds controlling baatezu movements and actions in the struggle. That's why short-sighted graybeards are mistaken into believing they rule supreme over the lawful fiends. They merely forget that a devil's life is above all one of a soldier. Occupations, hobbies, jobs ? These words mean nothing for the baatezu. There's only the Blood War. If one wants to prove himself worthy of promotion, he must be brave (or rather, succesful) in the battle. If a spinagon wants to have something to drink, even if it's only a flagon of bad wine made from minaurosian sour razorvine grapes, he must at least kill one ennemy. If he craves better spirits, such as the famous stygian frozen black ale, he'd better be patient and bid his time until he is promoted to gelugon...
But how did it all start out ? How was the Dark Eight initially formed ? Who were its original members ?
Legend has it that long ago, a particulary clever pit fiend named Cantrum saw the need of a powerful board of leaders to guide his race to victory. Therefore, after enlisting the benevolent protection of the Lords of the Nine, he gathered eight like-minded pit fiends, who became known as the Dark Nine. Cantrum was eventually murdered by a paladin (although some alternate stories have a rogue abishai kill him), and the Dark Nine renamed itself the Dark Eight to honour his memory.
Or so the legend goes. But the truth is much darker...
When Asmodeus, Lord of the Ninth, somehow found a way to overthrone the Ancient Baatorians, the baatezu began to roam the Nine Hells unbound. Now the unquestionned and only embodiement of Baator, they grew in number and in strength. They were eager of power, and more they had the might to enforce their desires. Soon the most prominent pit fiends fancied themselves as the masters of their home plane. Some of them built sprawling palaces which were so lavishly furnished that they belittled the baatorian gods's. In their barracks mustered large armies of bloodthirsty devils.
The Lords of the Nine were amused by this situation. They saw the baatezu as boisterous children, and they could not imagine that they could pose a real threat to their leadership. Yet one of them was more perceptive. Asmodeus worried that the baatezu could eventually become strong enough to oust them. In order to decide if he had to take steps, he carried out an experiment. Asmodeus secretly contrived to place the pit fiend Bel, one of his pawn, in the higest position in Avernus. Bel, whom Asmodeus knew as possibly the foulest and most power-hungry baatezu in Baator, was unaware he was being fiddled by the Lord of the Ninth.
The experiment ended up as an astounding success. Bel fared better than Asmodeus could have dreamt. After only a few century Zariel, Lord of the First, totally vanished from public life. The other Lords assumed she had merely decided to retire for awhile, issuing her commands through the worthy Bel, who surely deserved it. But Asmodeus knew better, having glimpsed at the grim fate of Zariel in Bel's dungeon. Yet in spite of his power, only when the Dark Eight became powerful enough and respected did Bel, the newly appointed general of the First Command, dare to reveal his coup.
Now fully aware of the impending doom that may befall him if nothing was done, Asmodeus isolated himself in his fortress of Malsheem to ponder a solution and take advantage of the seemingly unruly situation. He came up with the Dark Nine.
The idea was to focus the mind of the baatezu on something else. This gathering of nine dedicated pit fiends, under the leadership of the baatezu hero Cantrum, was given a message to spread : "Why should we be happy with Baator, when there are so many planes to conquer ? Are we not the mightiest beings in the multiverse ? Who are the hated tanar'ri to dare mock and challenge our rulership ? Something must be done !". And indeed these words striked war lust in the greedy and ambitious hearts of the baatezu. Soon the Blood War reached a new stage and turned into the world-spanning conflict we are now used to.
But even the most carefully planned swindle may eventually go awry...And Asmodeus learned it the hard way, much to his dismay. Fact is, Cantrum somehow discovered the secret motives of the Lord of the Ninth despite his glibbness. The actual way Cantrum stumbled to the truth is unknown, although I strongly suspect that the Yugoloths were involved. Some of the secret records I was able to read when I sneaked into the Tower of the Arcanaloths suggest that at one point Cantrum met the legendary Agalareth, the black-furred arcanaloth author of the infamous tome Revelations of the Blood Raven. But this is a story for another time. Anyhow, Cantrum was infuriated and in his outrage he foolishly threatened Asmodeus to betray him by telling the truth and having the baatezu armies attack the Lords of the Nine. These words spelled his doom. To enact his covert retaliation, Asmodeus released the soul of Caranthis, an upright paladin Cantrum had been keeping in his jail and torturing for years, and incarnated it in the body of an abishai who served as Cantrum's butler. And as was to be expected, Caranthis rushed to Cantrum at once and hacked him to pieces, just before himself was killed by the pit fiend's guards.
After that, the beheaded Dark Nine, still unaware of Cantrum's treachery (or was it Asmodeus's ?), decided to change his name and became the Dark Eight, for there was no replacing the great pit fiend. Asmodeus himself pronounced Cantrum's glorious obituary, and there was much mourning. Then the Lord of the Nine promoted Furcas as the new leader of the Dark Eight, a perilous place he has managed to keep so far.
Officially the Dark Eight has remained the same since its creation. No one can ever hope to become a member of the Dark Eight, and the only way out is death. Ask any baatezu, up to gelugon, that's all the chant he knows. Most pit fiends don't know more. The Dark Eight was, is and always will be Baalzephon, Corin, Dagos, Furcas, Pearza, Zaebos, Zapan and Zimimar. Period.
But that's a lie, berk. And somehow it's also the truth. Yes, it's rather confusing, but it's both. Fact is, death happens, even to the Dark Eight. And wether it is asassination or war or whatever, eventually the pit fiends in charge of the Blood War may die. In this case, they have to be replaced, for the Dark Eight must remain eight. A new pit fiend is secretly promoted to the rank of Dark Eight member, and takes the name of its predecessor with its ministry. The deceased pit fiend is quickly forgotten, as if it had never existed. No one else is ever aware of the change. This mascarade has held on for millenia, and it is not likely to end soon. But why do they feel the need to impersonate their ancient brethrens ? The answer is twofold. First, they are heroes. Baatezu love their glorious leaders, although it is in a peculiar, twisted way. The Dark Eight members pose as the epitome of what a baatezu wants to be : they are cunning, powerful, glorious. They are walking legends, and to die for them is the greatest honor. If everyone follow their commands, the Blood War is only a matter of time. Eventually, victory is at hand. Secondly, it is a mean of protection. To belong to the Dark Eight is everything a baatezu craves for. There is no better and more desirable position in all the baatorian society. The Nobles baatezu may rank higer, none of them have this aura of glory. They are but lofty devils who care nothing for the baatezu cause and the Blood War, only interessed by the furthering of their Master's plans. Therefore, if it was publicized that any well-deserving pit fiend could one day belong to the Dark Eight, they would all become obsessed by the idea. There would be murders, traps, much plotting and scheming, and in the end the very essence of the Dark Eight would be threatened and its efficiency would be nullified.
Hence the secret.
Of the eight (well, nine) original members of the Dark Eight, only two of them have endured the perils pertaining to their duties : Baalzephon and Furcas. The latter has been the leader of the Dark Eight since Cantrum's demise. Here follows a description of each one :
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