Prime? Lesser? Great? What are the Evils in the Diablo universe, and what role do they play?
It’s understandable if you sometimes find it hard to understand what the Great Evils of the Burning Hells are, and which demons are in that terrifying host, in the Diablo universe.
To put it in its simplest terms, the seven Great Evils — often called the Seven so folks can get around talking too openly about demon lords — are the remains of the original Prime Evil, Tathemet, a beast of nightmare created when the Diamond Warrior Anu tore all that was corrupt and base from his being and cast it aside. This force of evil rose as a seven headed demon dragon, a monster of implacable cruelty, spite, and malevolence that wasted no time in waging a war with its brighter half. Eventually, both were effectively destroyed by this conflict, with Anu’s diamond studded spine becoming the Celestial Arch of the High Heavens and the mutilated corpse of Tathemet blasting through existence until it became the Burning Hells themselves.
The host of demons was born from Tathemet’s corrupt form, and the demon dragon’s seven heads became the Seven themselves. But the Great Evils are hardly either a meritocracy nor an assembly of equals. They are divided into the four Lesser Evils — not a name they chose for themselves, mind you — and the three Prime Evils, also known as the Brothers. Worse, things get even more complicated as we discuss the Seven, because in some cases — such as that of Mephisto, the Lord of Hatred, who sired not one but at least two children, Lilith and Lucion. It is not known who their ‘mother’ is, or even how they were ‘born’. However, it’s known that Demons can procreate in the Diablo setting, for Lilith herself is the mother of Linarian aka Rathma and considered the Mother of the Nephalem.
Three is a Prime number… of Evil!
There are three Prime Evils, which is just a fancy evil way of saying We’re the three who can and will beat up the other four, although that hasn’t always worked out in practice. Because we’re dealing with demons, it will likely not surprise you to find out that they’re egomaniacal self-promoting liars. It is debatable which, or if any, of the Prime Evils leads their group — some believe that the Primes are above the petty squabbling and backstabbing of the rest of the Hordes of Hell, but others believe the Primes simply transcend those creatures and that their betrayals, plots, and schemes are so intricate and complex that they are barely recognizable. For a singular example, see how Diablo managed to engineer the deaths of all other Evils into the Black Soulstone so that he might be reborn as The Prime Evil.
The three Prime Evils are as follows.
Baal, Lord of Destruction — the infamous middle brother of the three Primes, Baal was the one who corrupted the Worldstone, leading ultimately to its destruction by Tyrael, the annihilation of Mount Arreat and the destruction of Barbarian culture and the scattering of the children of Bul’Kathos. It was Baal who was trapped in the body of Tal Rasha the Horadrim, and as a result, when we see Baal in Lord of Destruction he’s the most human-appearing of the three Primes, because he’s literally wearing Tal Rasha as a skin-suit.
While Mephisto may be said to be the most intelligent and Diablo may be the most calculating, Baal is the most ruthless and destructive of the three, as befits his nature. Baal was also known as Tor’Baalos in the speech of demons and Bala, Spirit of Creation by the Triune sect that existed to slowly corrupted Sanctuary during the Sin War.
Mephisto, Lord of Hatred — Eldest of the three, if that can be said about beings all born when their progenitor died and they ripped themselves free of her body, like all the Evils Mephisto was once one of Tathemet’s heads. The Lord of Hatred, Dul’Mephistos is as dedicated to Hatred as his brother Baal is to destruction, but while he literally hates everything, he hates the Heavens far more than his own brothers and sisters. Mephisto sired Lucian and Lillith, who in turn created Sanctuary with the Angel Inarius and gave birth to the Nephalem, meaning that Mephisto is an ancestor to all of humanity. Mefis, the Spirit of Love in the Triune sect, is a warped version of him, and since the Triune sect was created by his son Lucian it is not surprising that Mefis was considered first among equals by the cult.
Diablo, Lord of Terror — the youngest of the three Prime Evils, and also potentially the most powerful among them, Diablo’s mastery over fear has rendered him utterly incapable of feeling it. The civil war in Hell that saw the Primes banished to Sanctuary was his idea, and Diablo proved to be a grand schemer even among the Primes when he managed to engineer the use of the Black Soulstone to place the essence of all seven of the Evils, including his own brothers Mephisto and Baal, within Diablo’s own body. This meant that for the first time since Tathemet’s death, Diablo was truly the Prime and Only Evil and perhaps still is, although hints that both Andariel and Duriel will appear in Diablo 4 imply otherwise.
It was Diablo, al’Diabolos, who corrupted the kingdom of Khanduras and started the events of the original Diablo in motion, and it was Diablo who corrupted Aidan into the Dark Wanderer and used his body to free Mephisto and Baal, leading to the events of Diablo 2. In the Triune sect, he is known as Dialon, Spirit of Determination.
Don’t call us Lesser we’ve been Evils for years
There are still four other Evils, and they would likely object to being called Lesser at anything, if not for the fact that they feared the power of the Three. Still, led by Azmodan and Belial, the Lesser Evils did rebel against and exile the Primes to Sanctuary, although later Andariel and Duriel chose to ally with Diablo as he sought to free Baal and Mephisto. It became apparent that both Belial and Azmodan, in their arrogance and lust for power, were manipulated by the Primes to cause the civil war and the banishing of the Primes to Sanctuary as an end run around the pact between Heaven and Hell that forbade the demons from interfering with Sanctuary after the Sin War.
Despite the fact that all seven of the Evils were born from Tathemet’s heads, the supremacy of the Primes may come down to the fact that they considered themselves brothers, while the remaining four broke up into two pairs, with Andariel and Duriel calling themselves twins and Belial and Azmodan also considering each other siblings. This meant that there was no bond of fellowship between all four of the Lesser Evils, and thus, no way for the four to unite against their three elders until led to do so by the Primes themselves manipulating them.
The four Lesser Evils are:
Andariel, the Maiden of Anguish — Alongside her brother Duriel, Andariel took part in the Dark Exile following the Sin War but was quick to aid Diablo during his campaign to free Mephisto and Baal and corrupt Sanctuary during the events of Diablo 2. Why she chose to do this is unclear, although it may have had something to do with how Azmodan and Belial immediately fell to fighting over who would rule Hell following the exile of the Primes, and the belief that it was better to serve the three Primes when they returned to Hell with the corrupted Nephalem than to wait for Azmodan and Belial to finish their squabbling. She was the one who corrupted Aidan’s Rogue companion, Blood Raven, and led her to attack the Sisterhood of the Sightless Eye in Diablo 2.
Duriel, the Lord of Pain — Andariel’s ‘twin’ and the demonic master of inflicting suffering upon others, Duriel chose to back Azmodan and Belial during their revolt only to see the two immediately begin fighting over who would rule Hell in the absence of the Primes. Seeing the writing on the wall and perhaps convinced that the whole thing had been a setup, he joined Diablo and aided the Primes by guardian the crypt of Tal Rasha after Diablo successfully freed Baal, giving both demons a chance to escape. Thus, it was Duriel who allowed Baal the time he needed to destroy the Worldstone and thus helping to inflict great suffering upon the whole of Sanctuary.
Belial, Lord of Lies — All demons lie, but Belial is the master and most inventive liar in Hell. He’d tell you so himself, which does of course put one in a quandary — do you believe Belial about how good a liar he is? Certainly, we know that Belial joined Azmodan in betraying the Primes and eventually causing the Dark Exile, turning against his elders. There’s some debate on whether or not Belial manipulated Azmodan into the war, and more debate on whether or not Belial was a willing tool of his former mentor Mephisto, helping start the war for the express purpose of exiling the Primes to Sanctuary. Belial supposedly lost to Azmodan quickly after the civil war, but whether he submitted to Azmodan’s rule of Hell or fled to Sanctuary where he corrupted Caldeum is umknown.
Azmodan, Lord of Sin — just as all demons lie, all demons sin, so it’s not surprising that Azmodan sees himself as the rightful ruler of all Hell, a place literally built out of the corpse of a creature that was sin. Azmodan served the Primes for countless years as a general of Hell’s armies during the Eternal Conflict before turning all of the battlefield acumen learned in that endless war against his own kind, forging a fragile alliance with Andariel, Duriel, and his brother Belial that led to an eventual victory over the Primes and their Dark Exile to Sanctuary. After either defeating or driving Belial out of Hell, or perhaps both, Azmodan prepared the armies of Hell for a vast invasion of Sanctuary, seeking the Black Soulstone in order to ensure none of the defeated Evils would ever return to challenge him. Instead, he ended up inside it himself.
These are the Evils, the Evils in your neighborhood
That’s all seven of the worst of Hell, the demons that make other demons deeply uncomfortable, the former heads of the Prime Evil Tathemet themselves. We don’t know what happened to them all after Malthael shattered the Black Soulstone — they had all been essentially absorbed by Diablo in his attack on Heaven as the Prime Evil — but the fact that both Duriel and Andariel are said to appear in Diablo 4 implies that they’re all free now.
Are they upset with Diablo for his role in their imprisonment? Are the Primes resuming their control over Hell, or are Azmodan and Belial still waging war against them? With Sanctuary set to experience the return of Lilith, we don’t really know what her father or any of the other Primes are doing and that’s pretty terrifying. Diablo would approve.
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