Levistus, The Lord of the Fifth, The Rogue Archdevil, is the imprisoned devil prince who rules Stygia, fifth layer of the Nine Hells. Buried alive within an icy glacier, he rules his realm through influence and avatars. He is the Infernal patron of vengeance and betrayal.
- 1 Description
- 2 Abilities
- 3 Relationships
- 4 Worship
- 5 Realm
- 6 History
- 7 In other worlds
- 8 Publication history
- 9 Creative origins
- 10 Reception and influence
- 11 References
Levistus' true form is almost impossible to discern from outside the vast iceberg which now imprisons him. His frozen tomb is a mountain of ice almost half a mile across, and he is visible only as a faint, dark shadow buried deep within. While is true appearance is not widely known, one artistic depiction of Levistus shows him with strong eyebrows, a sharp goatee, spiked hair and sharp, pointed ears.
When he projects an avatar to mortals, Levistus appears as a darkly handsome human man, always adorned with the finest of clothing. His clothing is often dripping wet. His eyes are all black; this, and his pointed teeth, are the only clues to most onlookers that he is not human. He is six feet tall, with very pale skin, dark hair, and a goatee beard. He wields a glistening cold iron rapier and main gauche.
Charming, bold, and ruthelessly ambitious, Levistus remains confident and courageous, despite his imprisonment in ice. He is a rake and a bounder, espousing the eternal truth of betrayal, of how it is inevitable that all creatures violate whatever trust is put in them.
Levistus is an honorable duelist. He will always offer to fight an opponent in single combat, and keep his word as long as his opponent agrees to the same terms.
Levistus accepts only visits from those he deems worthy, a respect he gives rarely and grudgingly. He has been known to keep guests waiting for years.
Like all devils, Levistus is of lawful evil alignment.
Levistus has the power to inflict amnesia upon his enemies. He will often let his enemies live in this wretched state, just to taunt them about the identity of their past life. Even those who are able to resist the may lose a full year of memories.
From within his icy prison, Levistus can communicate telepathically with other devils within a radius of ten miles.
Levistus has no friends among his fellow Lords of Hell. He is alone among the rulers of the Nine in ignoring the rules and strict hierarchy followed by powerful devils. The other rulers of Hell will often co-operate in order to put down Levistus' constant self-aggrandizing schemes.
He has particular enmity for Asmodeus, and seeks to free himself in order to exact revenge on the Dark Lord for imprisoning him. Levistus' schemes include a plan to manipulatie Asmodeus by using spies to subvert the Dark Lord's most trusted advisors.
Conflicts between deities and Lords of Hell are rare. Nevertheless, two gods living on Stygia seek to overthrow Levistus: Set, of the Pharaonic pantheon; and the shark-god Sekolah. Set's battles are fierce, but mostly centered around clashes of minions rather than true attacks, and Shekolah seems prepared to bide his time. Such open conflicts between deities and Lords of Hell are rare.
Belial and Fierna (and Fierna's consort Gazra) also dislike the ice prince, though he has tried to win Gazra over to his side. Belial has his sights set on Levistus' realm.
Amon the Wolf, a powerful former devil servant of Geryon, hates Levistus more than any other devil. Levistus has placed a bounty on his head. Amon enjoys few things more than destroying Levistus' cults.
Glasya openly states her desire to kill Levistus, cut out his heart, and eat it, in vengeance for her mother's murder. Asmodeus has forbidden her from doing so, and she has insufficient forces to make it happen.
Levistus is unpopular with the other Lords of Hell, and has no real allegiances.
Levistus occasionally hires Beleth, Glasya's spymaster, in order to learn current information about Material Plane.
Minions and servants
A ruler of the fifth layer of the Nine Hells, Levistus has great forces at his command. Notable dukes and powerful underlings under Levistus' control include:
- Agares, who has 31 companies of osyluths. Former vassal of Geryon, he entered Levistus' service and controls the eastern extent of Stygia.
- Amon the Wolf, former spymaster whose duties included uncovering the schemes of Levistus' enemies, since defected to Levistus' rival Geryon after being driven out by Agares. He commmands 40 companies of osyluths.
- Erridon Alaka, a male gelugon socerer who dresses in regal finery, and serves as Levistus's spy and informant.
- Machalas, who has 11 companies of hamatula. Former vassal of Geryon.
- Trinity, a female hellcat who serves as the voice of Levistus, declaring edicts for others to carry out, and directing Erridon and Zanth.
- Zanth, a male half-devil human rogue who serves as Levistus's enforcer, killing potential rivals before they become threats.
- An unnamed mad pit fiend who ruled the city of Tantlin until Levistus destroyed her; frozen chunks of that pit fiend are now valued as protective amulets.
Levistus is believed to control the anmizu devils, which he uses to manipulate the balance of the Nine Hells in his favor.
In the Material Plane, the devils of Levistus are tireless in their duties collecting mortal souls. Devils of Levistus recover more souls than those of any other archdevil.
Some tieflings owe their Infernal descent from the mark of Levistus, with whom their ancestors formed ancient pacts. Such tieflings are nicknamed the Broken Mirrors, and said to bring misfortune upon others.
Though not a true deity, Levistus is followed by a small number of cultists.
Levistus's symbol is a rapier blade stuck in a cube of ice. He had a different symbol once, but it is long forgotten.
Levistus is the Infernal patron of vengeance and betrayal. His cult is relatively small, and members rarely meet one another or form groups. His followers tend to include thugs, rogues, assassins, militant bards, rangers, rakish fighters, loners, prisoners, desperate fugitives, those shunned by society, and especially those seeking vengeance.
A few monks follow him, particularly the Monks of the Frozen Eon headquartered in the city of Icerazer, which is devoted to him.
The adjective for people or things or Levistus is Levistan; e.g. a group of Levistan cultists.
Those cultists who pay homage to Levistus are called Bladeravers. His priests prefer elaborate fashions and wield the rapier, resembling swashbucklers more than any traditional image of clerics. Most are little more than thugs and killers. They devote themselves to the ideals of vengeance, betrayal, and sword fighting.
The cult is not known for gentleness. Victims who survive the cultists of Levistus may well remain traumatized, with some becoming avenging executioners, dedicating to the murder of all cultists of Levistus.
Notable clerics of his include the half-fiend harpy Azediel, Arch-Priestess of Levistus, who runs the center of his worship in the city of Icerazer; and the tiefling Narlael, High Priest of the Cathedral of Levistus.
Cultists pray to Levistus in a ceremony which involves dropping chunks of ice into boiling water. Most clerics of Levistus cary a small iron cauldron to serve as a portable shrine.
Some devil-led cults practice elaborate human sacrifice rituals, but only as part of an elaborate ritual to summon powerful fiends into the world. More commonly, cultists simply kill to acquire souls, in exchange for which Levistus will offer promises of great rewards.
Followers of Levistus rarely meet in one place, so temples in his name are uncommon.
The greatest temple of his is the Cathedral in Existus, in the floating iceberg-city of Icerazer. Its spires reach nearly 200 feet high and are carved from blue ice.
Levistus is the ruler of Stygia, the frozen fifth layer of the Nine Hells. Here he rules from within his icy tomb, a massive half-mile wide iceberg floating in the harbor by the ice city of Tantlin.. It bobs slightly in the water, and unpredictable currents slowly shift its position over time.
Stygia is a frozen ocean of gargantuan icebergs, with dark skies full of lightning. Devils construct great fortified cities upon its glaciers and icebergs, and inhabit the shores of the black river Styx as its winds its way through the realm. Great bridges are built between the icebergs.
Levistus maintains complete control over his realm, despite being encased deep within a great iceberg, and remains fully aware of the goings-on within the Fifth Layer of Hell. If he wished, Levistus has the power to simply manifest an avatar outside, but he is content to remain imprisoned while he plots his future conquests. Levistus is safe within his icy prison, and cannot be harmed even by magic.
Levistus is one of the most ancient of the ba'atezu lords.
Eons ago, when Asmodeus first wrested control of the plane of Baator from its now forgotten master, Levistus was one of the those who fought by his side, and so he was rewarded with lordship of the realm of Stygia.
Tale of betrayal
Almost immediately, Levistus began plotting to overthrow Asmodeus and wrest control of the Nine Hells for himself. He approached Lady Bensozia, consort of Asmodeus, and mother of Glasya the Dark Prodigy, proposing an alliance.
Bensozia refused Levistus' offer, and rejected his advances. Levistus murdered her pit fiend guards and slaughtered Bensozia on the spot. Only the pit fiend Martinet, the Voice of Nessus, escaped to tell the tale.
Martinet's version of events are quietly disputed. Another version of events tells that Bensozia accepted Levistus' alliance in secret, only to be discovered by her daughter Glasya, with whom Levistus also carried out a secretive affair. Jealous, Glasya murdered her mother. To main order, Martinet covered up the issue by murdering all of Bensozia's other guards and pinning the murder instead on Levistus.
Regardless, Martinet's version of events were widely accepted.
Reckoning of Hell
Levistus remained imprisoned during the Reckoning of Hell, a war between two major factions of devils in the Nine Hells. Of the Dukes of Hell, only Geryon remained loyal to Asmodeus.
Some centuries or millennia after Levistus' imprisonment, Asmodeus suddenly deposed Geryon for reasons unknown, and restored Levistus to his original position. However, he did not release him from his icy tomb, forcing Levistus to direct his realm indirectly from imprisonment. This limited his power considerably.
Asmodeus' reasons for stripping his faithful duke Geryon of his title are utterly unknown, and by all accounts it appears to be entirely unjustified. However, it has been observed that as a result, Geryon has focused all of his efforts on regaining his position as Lord of the Fifth, making him exceedingly easy for Asmodeus to manipulate at some point in future.
Levistus spends his imprisonment plotting vast, elaborate schemes, with the ultimate long-term goal of destroying his many enemies and replacing Asmodeus as ruler of the Nine Hells. To this end, he operates great networks of spies and agents in the courts of other archdevils.
Since his imprisonment, Levistus has hoarded mortal souls as a source of power for use in future. Devils in the service of Levistus travel the planes to sign contracts with mortals in exchange for their soul.
His devils also spend a great deal of effort maintaining infrastructure within his realm, such as running a fleet of icebreaker ships to keep strategic waterways open and constructing bridges between the inhabited great icebergs.
In other worlds
In Eberron, Levistus is one of the rakshasa rajahs defeated in the Age of Demons. He was imprisoned beneath the ice of the Frostfell, and is served by the Lords of Dust. Levistus is not his true name, which is lost to history.
AD&D 2nd edition
Levistus is first mentioned in Planes of Law, Baator (1995), p.13,20-22,24, and in the Planes of Law Cosmological Tables and Hierarchies of Baator poster. He is further detailed in The Lords of the Nine, Dragon #223 (Nov 1995), p.10-18.
He is later described in Planescape's Faces of Evil: The Fiends (1997), p.31, On Hallowed Ground (1996), p.50-51, and finally in Guide to Hell (1999).
D&D 3rd edition
The most detail on Levistus can be found in Fiendish Codex II: Tyrants of the Nine Hells (2006) and the Book of Vile Darkness (3e) (2002). Levistus is mentioned in Manual of the Planes (3e) (2001), p.121, where he is incorrectly asserted to rule Phlegethos, and his connection to Cryonax is referenced in Princes of Elemental Evil: The Archomentals, Dragon #347 (Sep 2006), p.32.
The iceberg city Icerazer, fortress of the cult of Levistus, appears in Frostburn (2004). Player's Guide to Eberron (2006) describes Levistus in that world as a rakshasa rajah imprisoned at the end of the Age of Demons.
He is described in Dragon #361 (Nov 2007)'s Infernal Aristocracy: The Dukes of Hell, Part II.
D&D 4th edition
Other sourcebooks to mention Levistus by name include Monster Manual 3 (4e) (2010), Dungeon Delve (2009), the Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide (2008), Player's Handbook Races: Tieflings (2010), the The Book of Vile Darkness (4e) (2011), Arcane Power (2009), Manual of the Planes (4e) (2008), and The Plane Above (2010).
He is referenced in the Codex of Betrayal digital magazine article series, including Codex of Betrayal: Beleth, the Witch's Viscount, Dragon #365 (Jul 2008), Codex of Betrayal: Geryon, the Broken Beast, Dungeon #176 (Mar 2010), Codex of Betrayal: Glasya, Princess of the Nine Hells, Dungeon #176 (Mar 2010), Codex of Betrayal: Alloces, Dragon #373 (Mar 2009), and, most notably, Codex of Betrayal: Levistus, Dragon #427 (Sep 2013).
The warlock attack powers Chains of Levistus and Ice Blades of Levistus are named for the archdevil. Followers of his are described in Channel Divinity: Amon the Wolf, Dragon #428 (Oct 2013) and Dragon #383 (Jan 2010).
An Eberron interpretetion of Levistus is described in Dragon #408 (Feb 2012), p.Eye on Eberron: Baator, in which he was only recently imprisoned.
D&D 5th edition
Levistus is mentioned in the Dungeon Master's Guide (5e) (2014) as an archduke of Hell. He is also named in Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes (2018). A warlock ability named Tomb of Levistus appears in Xanathar's Guide to Everything (2017).
Levistus appears to be an original creation of Dungeons & Dragons.
Levistus' personality is likely based on his role as ruler of the fifth layer of Hell. In Dante's Inferno, the Fifth Circle of Hell is reserved for those who commit the sin of Wrath. The name of Levistus' realm in D&D, Stygia, may come from the adjective Stygian, referring to the river Styx.
Dante does not describe the Fifth Circle of Hell as icy, as its D&D counterpart is, but a watery marsh. Many are trapped there beneath the water, holding eternal grudges and yet unable to free themselves.
The concept of a god or immortal being imprisoned for all eternity as punishment also appears in Norse myth Lokasenna, where the god Loki offends all the other gods of the pantheon, and as punishment is imprisoned in a cave until the end of days.
The name Levistus has a biblical, ancient tone, though it appears to be an original invention for the Planescape sourcebook Planes of Law (1995), and is not drawn from any real-world mythology.
Reception and influence
- Book of Vile Darkness (3e) (2002), p.154-156.
- Manual of the Planes (3e) (2001), p.121.
- The Lords of the Nine, Dragon #223 (Nov 1995), p.10-18.
- Fiendish Codex II: Tyrants of the Nine Hells (2006), p.148-150.
- Guide to Hell (1999), p.42-43.
- Codex of Betrayal: Levistus, Dragon #427 (Sep 2013), p.17-23.
- Fiendish Codex II: Tyrants of the Nine Hells (2006), p.54-60.
- Planes of Law, Baator (1995), p.24-25.
- According to Guide to Hell (1999), p.35, Baron Molikroth is an alias for Mephistopheles.
- On Hallowed Ground (1996), p.51.
- Planes of Law, Baator (1995), p.20.
- Planes of Law, Baator (1995), p.21-22.
- Book of Vile Darkness (3e), Web enhancement (2002).
- Book of Vile Darkness (3e) (2002), p.143.
- Codex of Betrayal: Amon the Wolf, Dragon #428 (Oct 2013), p.23-27.
- Codex of Betrayal: Glasya, Dungeon #197 (Dec 2011), p.1-9.
- Princes of Elemental Evil: The Archomentals, Dragon #347 (Sep 2006), p.32.
- Codex of Betrayal: Beleth, the Witch's Viscount, Dragon #365 (Jul 2008), p.42.
- Monster Manual II (1e) (1983), p.44.
- Infernal Aristocracy: The Dukes of Hell, Part II, Dragon #361 (Nov 2007), p.29-39.
- Faces of Evil: The Fiends (1997), p.31.
- Wizards Presents: Worlds and Monsters (2008), p.74-76.
- Winning Races: Bloodlines of Bael Turath: the Broken Mirrors, Dragon #383 (Jan 2010), p.70.
- Frostburn (2004), p.42-43.
- Frostburn (2004), p.177-198.
- Fiendish Codex II: Tyrants of the Nine Hells, Web enhancement (2006), p.15.
- Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide (2008), p.81.
- Complete Scoundrel (2007), p.27.
- Dungeon Delve (2009), p.60-65.
- Guide to Hell (1999), p.32-33.
- Book of Vile Darkness (3e), Web enhancement (2002), p.3.
- Player's Guide to Eberron (2006), p.67.