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Excerpts from The Libram Infernal: The Sixth Hell, Malbolge
Posted on Tue, January 04, 2005 by Legate
Osmund-Davizid writes "The histories of the Nine Hells would fill every library in Oerth and still not begin to scratch the surface of all there is to know. There have been incredible upheavals in the hierarchy of the Hells recently and one region that merits further investigation is the rock slide ridden plane of Malbolge. The lich-sage of House Darmen, Rexifer, has devoted his (un)life to studying the ins and outs of the Blood War. This is a brief excerpt from his proposed nine-volume set of treatises detailing the whole of the Nine Hells - The Libram Infernal.

Excerpts from The Libram Infernal: The Sixth Hell, Malbolge


By: Osmund-Davizid
Used with Permission. Do not repost without obtaining prior permission from the author. Excerpts from The Libram Infernal: The Sixth Hell, Malbolge

The plane of Malbolge is perhaps the most inhospitable (to devil and mortal alike) layer of Hell. To most prime material visitors to the Sixth Level of Hell, there seems little to this plane. It is a sloped plane of continual rock falls. The plane is a great hillside, with huge boulders constantly falling and crashing, providing a quick death to the unlucky and the unwary. In the metaphysics of the outer planes, this hillside is infinite, so the slope has no summit and no bottom. All about the hillside are iron and copper shod fortresses where the devils of the plane dwell and seek sanctuary from the falling boulders. To all appearances, these fortresses represent the only inhabitable areas of the plane. Nothing grows on the surface of Malbolge, the air is smoky, and the ground is hot enough to set parchment afire.

It has been postulated by several learned sages that the great slope actually floats on a bedrock of stone, and that this stone underlayer presents the true stability of the plane and houses its greatest secrets (Foot Note 1). These same sages (mostly from the famed Sorcerers’ Nexus of Rel Astra, but a few learned wizards from the Court at Rauxes have been know to forward similar hypotheses), also tell of several “islands” of stable rock that remain fixed on Malbolge’s slope. It is through these fixed islands of stone that one may access the Underworld of Malbolge. Supporting this theory is the fact that most of the copper fortresses have extensive dungeons and mines running underneath them.

Thus, there are two aspects to the layer of Malbolge, the violent clashing rock falls of the surface, and the corrupt subterranean mines and caverns that exists quietly below (FN 2). The ruler of the plane is said to be the Hag Countess Malagard, but in fact she is but one power of the plane. She provides an active, public ruler for outsiders, allowing the true ruler to stay in shadows, which is how he prefers it. This shadow ruler of the Sixth Hell dwells in the underworld part of Malbolge. While he has only recently asserted his rule, by controlling the underworld, he controls the more important half. This devil is known as Durgaloth – The Knight-Errant of Hell.

Please note the mere fact that because I was able to come upon this intelligence suggests that this information is not designed to be kept secret. Durgaloth does not expect that his presence be a completely unknown. If I could come upon the following information, it is clear that it should be known to others as well, and if Durgaloth desired to maintain complete security over his identity then this humble lich-sage would have no chance of even putting pen to parchment. I surmise that Durgaloth merely seeks to keep the appearance that the exact rulership of Malbolge is an open question. Keeping a lower profile must better further his long term goals.

The Lord of the Sixth: Durgaloth is rumored (among devilish circles) to be the son of Asmodeus (FN 3). Durgaloth himself is silent on the matter. What is known (again, only in devilish circles) is that Durgaloth was once a retainer noble in the court of Asmodeus in Nessus. He apparently had a special relationship with Bensozia, the Queen of Hell, as her personal knight champion.

Recently (at least as far as the immortal baatezu measure time), Bensozia was conducting a grand inspection tour of all the courts of the Nine Lords. She encountered the devil lord Levisticus in Stygia. This proud lord attempted to subvert her loyalty to Asmodeus using guile and charm. This attempt failed, as Bensozia was always incredibly loyal to her master. When he was rebuffed, Levisticus became enraged. He arranged to have Bensozia’s bodyguard ambushed and Bensozia slain. Levisticus was not able to shift the blame to someone else before Alastor the Grim arrived at his court. The sentence given to Levisticus was to be interred alive under the ice of Stygia. Alastor silently carried out the sentence and returned to Nessus with Bensozia’s remains in order to intern them in the grand palace’s tombs. The Wild Beast Geryon was thus promoted to the lordship of the Fifth Hell.

When Bensozia’s body was returned to Nessus, Durgaloth disappeared from the court (FN 4). Durgaloth was not assigned to accompany Bensozia on her tour and apparently blamed himself for her loss. He went on many quests to atone for the loss of his queen; these quests took him to the far reaches of the multiverse (FN 5). One of his quests landed him at the prime material world of Oerth.

Durgaloth’s involvement in Oerth: Durgaloth had traveled to Molag, the City of Shadows, and liked what he saw. Here was a society of mortals who understood the virtues of tyranny and oppression. This was a society where the strong ruled unhampered by such niceties as compassion and benevolence. In short, Durgaloth had found a home.

Durgaloth asserted himself into the Horned Society’s affairs, acting as an advisor to their armies and guiding policy decisions in Molag. He began to appreciate what an asset mortals could be to the affairs of Hell. He is thought to have been the guiding force and patron of the Shadow Corps, an elite unit in the Horned Society’s army. Through this fiendish support, the Horned Society grew to the point where it was able to successfully invade the Shield Lands in CY 579. Durgaloth’s Shadow Corps was in the thick of most of the heaviest fighting, most notably in the Battle of Axeport, where Durgaloth personally led the Shadow Corps in combat. Durgaloth slew the commander of the Shield Landers, Lord Hrothgar of Stahzer, in a personal duel. The holy relic-weapon Oathkeeper was likewise destroyed by Durgaloth. These events proved to be the turning points in the Battle of Axeport and thus the Shield Lands fell to the Horned Society’s might.

With the Horned Society’s occupation of the Shield Lands, Durgaloth once again found his purpose and direction. With the power he personally gained from his long experiences abroad and with the grateful assistance of an army of necromancers, wizards, death knights and the like, he felt confident that he could return to the hierarchy of Hell and assert his place among Hell’s noble rulers.

The coup in Hell: In order to reestablish himself as a duke of Hell, Durgaloth needed to gain followers and an army. He surveyed the carnage that remained after The Reckoning (The Reckoning took place while Durgaloth was traveling the Outer Planes). He judged that the situation in Malbolge was most ripe for a quick coup.

The devils native to the Sixth Hell long chaffed under the harsh yoke of both Baalzebul and Moloch. Both of these lords delighted in torturing their subjects, in fact, many devils in Malbolge have missing limbs or disfigured bodies from their lords’ displeasures. The Hag Countess Malagard was appointed to be the ruler of the plane after The Reckoning. She was an unpopular choice, being but a minor noble before The Reckoning and largely suspected of engineering Moloch’s banishment (and if rumors are to be believed, she is not even a devil, but a night hag!). Furthermore, Malagard seemed a very distant ruler, more concerned with her own research then managing the affairs of state, and she possessed a furious temper of her own, with surprise inspections that usually resulted in some devil being slain with her flaming sword.

So Durgaloth could count on getting popular support from the lesser devils, but he required leaders. He found them in the exiled rabble devils of Avernus. One of the long exiled noble devils that longed for a return to Hell’s hierarchy was Kochbiel, the former general of Malbolge. Durgaloth was able to inspire this former general to return to Malbolge and become his field marshal. Kochbiel was Beherit’s greatest general and he still had the loyalty of many devils in Malbolge. Durgaloth also contacted the exiles Rumjal and Nisroch, offering them positions in his court for his assistance. Finally, Durgaloth sought out the Serpent General Azazel (FN 6) and defeated him in single combat, earning his respect. With these four exiled devils at his side, Durgaloth was ready to move into Malbolge.

With Kochbiel’s knowledge of the inner workings of the plane, as well as his contacts among the lesser devils in the Copper Fortresses, Durgaloth was able to enter the Underworld of Malbolge undetected. Durgaloth brazenly broke the seals to the formerly deserted Palace of Beherit (FN 7) and gaining information and research through the many archives and laboratories there.

It is a testament to the stealth skills of Nisroch and the political connections of Kochbiel that Durgaloth was not detected by Malagard until he was ready to strike. First, he identified Malagard’s most likely mid-level supporters and had Nisroch attempt to assassinate them. Durgaloth judged that Malagard’s tribune Bileth and the pit fiend general Bethage were the two devils most likely to remain loyal to Malagard. He directed Nisroch to infiltrate Bileth’s Copper Fortress and thus start the coup. Nisroch’s poisons (which are able to affect devils) disabled Bileth.

Bethage and his force of nine companies of malebranche were sent to investigate Bileth’s sudden infirmity. Durgaloth met Bethage at the entrance of the fortress and challenged him to single combat. Durgaloth tore Bethage’s wings off in front of his troops and left him crippled at their feet. Kochbiel accompanied Durgaloth in giving a rousing speech that brought the malebranche over to their side. Durgaloth then appointed Rumjal to command Bethage’s old units (FN 8).

Now Malagard was forced to tear herself away from her studies (FN 9) to attend to this matter. Durgaloth wasted no time in sending messengers out to all reaches of Malbolge. Devils long kept under the heels of their rulers suddenly rose up and joined Durgaloth’s dread standard. The pit fiend Herobaal and his army defected to Durgaloth wholesale. The pit fiend Uzziel pledged her service to Durgaloth almost before Bethage’s body hit the ground. Most importantly, the legate Tartach and the witch-devil Lilith stepped aside to allow Durgaloth and Malagard to settle this dispute between themselves (and side with the victor).

Malagard still commanded a substantial force, but then Durgaloth sprung two nasty surprises on her. First, the Serpent General Azazel and a large force of barbazu devils entered the fray via a special gate linking Malbolge with Avernus. Azazel’s shock troops tore into Malagard’s rear and wrecked havoc on her advance. The greatest surprise, however, was Durgaloth’s gating of his elite Shadow Corps from Oerth to Hell. The Shadow Corps was battle tested from its invasion of the Shield Lands (FN 10) and its mages, death knights, and other high level mortals proved to a the final factor that tipped the confrontation in Durgaloth’s favor. Malagard could sense that she would get the worst of this confrontation immediately sued for parlay.

Malagard and Durgaloth disappeared into the Copper Fortress of Bileth for a time (FN 11). When the two returned from the fort, Malagard took a small force with her and trumpeted her continued leadership of Malbolge. She ordered that those forces who wished to stay loyal to Durgaloth be exiled with him through a gate within Bileth’s fort. Many devils entered the fortress with Durgaloth and from that time, Malagard has continued to act as ruler of the Sixth Hell, albeit without the support of the majority of her court (FN 12).

The devils who followed Durgaloth into the Underworld soon realized that this was no exile, but a victory, a path to greater power. The ruby, diamond, and sapphire mines of the Underworld were now open for full exploitation. Several rare metals could now be refined and smithed into valuable weapons and armor. The wealth of the Sixth Hell could now be recovered without fear of the crushing boulders of the surface. The grand old palace of Beherit was now teeming with activity. Durgaloth well rewarded all those who followed him into the Underworld. He gave many noble devils greater responsibilities and granted his subordinates freedom of action long denied them.

To this day, Durgaloth sits on the throne of Malbolge, pleased with his success and looking to solidify his rule. From the surface, Malbolge looks forlorn and largely devoid of large armies of devils. But woe betide to any unauthorized trespassers, for the legions of Malbolge stand poised under the surface. The politics of Malbolge will be described in an annex to be published later.

What remains to be seen is what fallout from this coup means for the rest of Hell. Durgaloth is unique among other Lords of the Nine in that he has a soft spot for mortals. He sees their potential for growth and their usefulness. His experiences here on Oerth suggest that he may once again turn his attention to our world and manipulate the Horned Society to greater heights.

It is said that the Lords of the Nine take on characteristics of the plane that they rule (or the other way around, the plane takes on the ruler’s personalities), if that is so, then Durgaloth’s schemes are certain to be subtle, oppressive, and with his involvement kept well in the background. Durgaloth may be a new lord, but he has been well trained and his experience is extensive, making him as formidable as any true scion of Hell.

Locations of note in Malbolge:

The Copper Fortresses - The surface of Malbolge is dotted with these small forts. Through them, Malagard gains enough material wealth to keep her small court afloat and to keep other powers from getting too suspicious about the exact nature of Malagard’s new status.

The Evil Pockets – Pearza of the Dark Eight, Minister of Research and Implementation for the Blood War, maintains many ditches and pits on the surface of Malbolge for conducting experiments that may prove useful in prosecuting the war effort. These experimental areas are collectively known as the Evil Pockets, and cover a wide variety of experiments, from testing new armor to researching spells. The falling boulders occasionally wreck a project or two, but generally Pearza is content to experiment here, as it is far away from prying eyes and is a very hostile environment (thus it is the perfect place to test certain war machines).

The Underworld – In general, this region is a vast series of deep caverns. Some caves are so large as to be able to house an entire mortal nation! In the physics of the outer planes, there seems to be no limit to the size or depth of these tunnels and caves (in most Prime Material worlds, the crushing pressure of the earth above would make such caverns impossible). The Underworld is lit up by a reddish glow that seems to have no discernable source, and most of the Underworld is plagued by a constant bass rumbling noise from the rolling boulders of the surface.

The Underworld houses great pits filled with burning sulfur, pitch and acidic fumes. The air is harsh and smoky, making it difficult for mortals to survive without magical aid. Despite the heat, there are many ice glaciers carving canyons throughout the Underworld. The edges of these glaciers are steaming from the constant contact with the hot bedrock. Occasionally, a volcanic plume of lava will erupt, presenting a constant threat to any travelers.

Least devils and the souls of the condemned are made to labor in the endless mines of Malbolge. They are also made to suffer in the infinite number of ditches that criss-cross the landscape. Great tombs of burning stone and fire house mortal petitioners in many of these ‘evil pockets’ and the devils assigned to administer them take morbid pride in their work.

The Palace of Beherit – Set in an impossibly huge, deep cavern under Malbolge’s surface, this infernally grand and beautiful castle is now the epicenter of Durgaloth’s government. Spinagons flit about the parapets on their various missions, companies of osyluths and barbazu march through the courtyards and even some mortals (the Shadow Corps) follow the will of Hell at this citadel of evil. From here, the rumbling noise from the surface boulders are muted.

This palace is filled with stunning terraces and is remarkably free from the usual gruesome décor common to most devilish fortresses. Durgaloth is said to appreciate fine art, and has many display studios filled with trophies of war and art objects looted from a thousand battles (FN 12). Only within the confines of the palace can anything grow in Malbolge, and Durgaloth has reopened Batna’s Poison Gardens: lush greenhouses of deadly poisonous plants and fungi, filled with acid pools and beautiful but venomous insects.

Durgaloth has visions of reestablishing Malbolge as a center of devilish power and intrigue, and it seems that for now he has the permission of Asmodeus to continue to build up his power base. Martinet has made several official visits, and Durgaloth has been sending out diplomats and couriers (assassins and spies?) to the courts of the other devil lords, hoping to make alliances and smooth over misunderstandings (bribe and threaten?).

The Mines of Agony and the Caverns of Ancient Baatorans – The wealth of Malbolge comes from the torturous system of tunnels and mines that winds its way all through the Underworld. Uncounted numbers of nupperibo and lemure toil endlessly to extract gemstones and metals, both magical and mundane, from the deepest reaches of the plane.

But there are some tunnels where even the devils fear to tread. There are rumors of a race of ancient evil, the Ancient Baatorians, that predate the devils. These freakish beings reside in the darkest and deepest pits throughout Hell. They seem to be in some kind of stasis or slumber, and the Overlord of Hell has directed that none may make any contact with them, at the risk of death. Durgaloth has standing orders that at any sign of these beings, the tunnel where such contact was noticed be sealed and warded.

Bethage’s Demise – After defeating Bethage in combat, Durgaloth wanted to make an example of him. So he dragged Bethage’s still twitching body to the mouth of a great glacier in the Underworld. Durgaloth thrust the body deep within the core of the glacier, where Bethage would be slowly ground into the stone of Malbolge by the movement of the glacier over an eternity. This glacier now bears Bethage’s name and is used as a symbol of Durgaloth’s power. It is also important as the center of the gelugon devil legions that dwell in Malbolge. The steaming edges of the glacier also provide for many magical experiments in using frost and cold battle magic.

The Main Annex of the Library of Infernal Law – Now that the Underworld has been reopened, some of the facilities long lying dormant have been reinvigorated. Chief among these is the Annex of the Library of Infernal Law and its adjacent Academy of Infernal Law. A minor noble from the court in Nessus has been reassigned to this facility to teach Hellish law to aspiring erinyes and other select agents. This noble is the patron of evil lawyers and the author of many of Hell’s contracts, Danjiael. The classes focus on using the power of law and legal precedence to Hell’s advantage when dealing with mortals and immortals alike. The school has been filled to capacity and now construction is beginning on an expansion wing to this grim edifice.

NOTES:

1: Looking at the situation logically, with Hell being only nine layers deep, it would be impossible to think that an entire layer would be practically written off by the hierarchy of Hell as too dangerous to exploit (devils never fail to exploit things that can benefit them). While the surface of Malbolge presents very real dangers to the devils, and thus remains basically a hinterland of Hell, the underlayer, with its mines and caverns and secret fortresses, is where the wealth of the plane is concentrated and why Malbolge is worth a lordship to the hierarchy of Hell.

2. The word Malbolge itself translates from ancient Oerdian into “evil pockets”, thus lending credence to this theory.

3. Or at least the son of Bensozia (with the father uncertain), as is evidenced by the unusual level of devotion and sentiment he has exhibited to her. Most human sages do not believe this to be true, the wisest among them do not even venture a speculation on this subject. You may make your own judgments about the wisdom of this author in even breeching the subject.

4. There are some rumors to the effect that Asmodeus resurrected Bensozia sometime after her assassination. This has not been proved or disproved, as the court in Nessus is notoriously difficult to research. Such a sensitive issue may well be beyond what any mere mortal (or lich) sage can hope to know with any degree of certainty.

5. It is known that Durgaloth spent much time scourging himself in the Pit of Flame as penance for his failure to protect Bensozia. He then joined up with Hell’s elite First Command in the Blood War. He took part as an officer in the Hellish army that invaded the 212th layer of the Abyss. He led an elite unit that specialized in stealing Abyssal artifacts and assassinating demonic leaders. He then occupied himself in eliminating the enemies of Hell throughout the Outer Planes, to include slaying a powerful Slaad Lord and many demons.

6. “Azazel” is the name forced upon the devil Hazzael as punishment for his disobedience. I will continue to refer to him by his exile name for simplicity’s sake (although my sources report that his old name has been reinstated into Hell’s Hierarchy by Durgaloth as a reward for his assistance).

7. Baalzebul refused to allow his viceroy to dwell in any permanent abode to deny Moloch any potential power base. Baalzebul also ordered Beherit’s old palace in the Malbolge Underworld to be sealed off to all of the devils of Moloch’s staff. It has remained deserted after The Reckoning, as Malagard saw fit to continue the policy of keeping her subordinates on the move throughout the Copper Fortresses and out of the Underworld (except for a few mining operations), and thus preventing them from amassing any power themselves. This attitude proved crucial to Durgaloth in gaining support from Malagard’s court.

8. Rumjal was a former lieutenant of Geryon’s, banished for infidelity with Cozbi, Geryon’s consort. He was known more for being a political and administrative genius then for his skill at leading armies, but he is a powerful combatant and readily slipped into the role of general. His success in leading Bethage’s old command during the coup resulted in being permanently assigned to the post, a position he is not entirely happy with but accepts for the time being.

9. Malagard seemed more interested in attaining godhood then in anything else. She often was absent from Malbolge, searching for clues to gaining power throughout the multiverse. Durgaloth planned his coup to occur when she was away on one of her research expeditions.

10. The timing of this coincides to just before Iuz’s massacre of the Hierarchs of the Horned Society at the Blood Moon Festival. The powerful Shadow Corps was thus saved from destruction by being away at the time (and it also seems likely that had the Shadow Corps been present in Molag, Iuz’s coup would have not succeeded as it did), and are now ready to return to Oerth to exact revenge on Iuz for his treachery.

11. It has been rumored among some devils that after Malagard and Durgaloth began their negotiations, the Constable of Asmodeus, Martinet, arrived to act as the mediator. Thus, the hand of Asmodeus (for his hand is a part of all Hellish transactions) directed that Durgaloth become the ruler of the Underworld while Malagard continued to administer Malbolge’s surface.

12. This lack of support has forced Malagard to be more involved with her plane and less harsh with what few forces she has left to her at the surface of Malbolge. Secretly, the great wealth of Malbolge is being funneled to Asmodeus by Durgaloth through various channels. Perhaps Durgaloth is just a front for the will of the Overlord, ensuring that Asmodeus has the wealth of multiple planes coming into him to fund some dark purpose…

13. Indeed, one of Dugaloth’s prize trophies of war is the shattered remains of Oathkeeper, a holy weapon of the Shield Lands that Durgaloth captured in the Battle of Axeport. He has also commissioned a breathtakingly beautiful portrait of Bensozia that he has displayed within his audience chamber. Again, the rumors fly as to why this devil lord shows so much affection for the queen, and rumors as to Durgaloth’s parentage persist.

SOURCES: “Guide to Hell” by Chris Pramas, “Faces of Evil: The Fiends” by Colin McComb, Dragon Magazine # 28, 75, 76, 91, “The Divine Comedy: The Inferno” by Dante, “Paradise Lost” by Milton, “A Paladin in Hell” by Monte Cook, Hellbound: The Blood War, The Living Greyhawk Gazetteer, Ivid the Undying for details on Rexifer

Related:
Excerpts from the Book of Fire: The Reckoning

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

"
 
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Re: Excerpts from The Libram Infernal: The Sixth Hell, Malbolge (Score: 1)
by cwslyclgh on Tue, January 04, 2005
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this was very good... I am impressed to no end... I will defintaly be using at the very least oarts if this for my own game.



Re: Excerpts from The Libram Infernal: The Sixth Hell, Malbolge (Score: 1)
by cwslyclgh on Tue, January 04, 2005
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this was very good... I am impressed to no end... I will defintaly be using at the very least oarts if this for my own game.



Re: Excerpts from The Libram Infernal: The Sixth Hell, Malbolge (Score: 1)
by Kirt on Wed, January 05, 2005
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Excellent work, good list of references.

A brief description of "The Reckoning" would be helpful, as you refer to it several times but do not explain what it was.

Since you have read the Inferno, and you write some about the psychological nature of the plane (a dangerous, chaotic surface with a corrupt, organized interior), I would be interested in your views on what sort of souls end up here. What were the damned like that have been consigned to Malbolge?




Re: Excerpts from The Libram Infernal: The Sixth Hell, Malbolge (Score: 1)
by Maraudar on Wed, January 05, 2005
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Very good. My compliments on the way you presented the material.



Re: Excerpts from The Libram Infernal: The Sixth Hell, Malbolge (Score: 1)
by Wykthor on Wed, January 05, 2005
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Esplendid work! You managed to turn one of the most ill-used infernal layers to a a sound, interesting and complex site. I liked the idea of spiriting away the shadow corps and their return - it will ift nicely in my campaign. You also gave a decent layer ruler (Malagard was disappointing in canon sources...). BTW, I would love to see some cross-over with GRR Legions of Hell (or its 3.5 compilation, The Book of Fiends) :-) .



Re: Excerpts from The Libram Infernal: The Sixth Hell, Malbolge (Score: 1)
by Kirt on Wed, January 05, 2005
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Ah, I see. The Reckoning is at
http://www.canonfire.com/cfhtml/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=500


I was annoyed when I learned of the "hidden" canon invasion of the Shield Lands, before the Greyhawk Wars. The involvement of Durgaloth would explain canon events rather nicely...

1. Durgaloth shows up in the HS. His advice and instigation lead to the sucessful invasion of the Sheild Lands.

2. Durgaloth returns to the Hells. The Shield Lands are sucessfully recovered from the HS.

3. Durgaloth calls for the Shadow Corps. This leaves the Hierarchs relatively undefended, and they fall during the Blood Moon festival.

4. The (Iuzian-controlled) HS invades and conquers the Shield Lands in the Greyhawk Wars.


Well done. I do have to say that the Shadow Corp sounds too much like Iuz's secret agents, the Shadow Claw. Other than that, excellent work.




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