The Libram Infernal – Annex: The Politics of Hell in Malbolge
Date: Fri, January 07, 2005
Topic: Beyond Oerth
The lich-sage Rexifer of House Darmen has spent his entire (un)life in researching the Blood War. Some small fragments of his masterpiece, The Libram Infernal, have been made available to sages outside the ruined Great Kingdom. This excerpt details the political status of the newly formed Court of Malbolge’s Underworld, as well as the powers within that hierarchy.
Excerpts from The Libram Infernal – Annex: The Politics of Hell in Malbolge
Used with Permission. Do not repost without obtaining prior permission from the author. Excerpts from The Libram Infernal – Annex: The Politics of Hell in Malbolge
As I put in writing what has taken me over a lifetime to compile, I am compelled to warn the reader of the obvious: devils only let mortals know what they want them to know, or what will further their own plans. I have researched from a variety of sources and through a variety of methods the inner workings of the Nine Hells. What I have gathered here represents what I can determine is close to the truth. All of it may indeed be the truth, or possibly none of it. Let the researcher beware when attempting to apply the knowledge contained within.
- Rexifer, Lich-Sage of House Darmen
The new Hierarchy of Malbolge: With the dust still settling from the latest coup in Hell, the new ruler of Malbolge is busy reordering his court and ironing out the details of his rule. The details of Durgaloth’s coup are recalled elsewhere, but for now his greatest challenge is how to be generous in his rewards for service without giving away advantages. Thus, his first order of business was to clearly delineate the duties of his new vassals and establish relations with his fellow lords. As of yet, his promotions and restructuring has not offended the Overlord of Hell, so it is fairly safe to say that Durgaloth at present has the favor of Dread Asmodeus. Listed below are brief summations of the major leaders of Malbolge.
Durgaloth, Lord of the Sixth – Durgaloth’s first order of business was to arrange, through Hell’s constable Martinet, pardons for his subordinates who assisted him in his coup. Four of his main advisors were exiled in Avernus when recruited, and so had to be formally reinstated into Hell’s hierarchy. For Rumjal and Kochbiel, who were exiled more out of convenience then as punishment, this was an easy process. Hazzael was not difficult to reinstate either, as his fighting skills were judged too valuable for him to remain in exile. But Nisroch was another story. His skills at poisons are so great that he can slay devils with his concoctions. It is likely that Asmodeus sees such skills as valuable, so he allowed a pardon for Nisroch on a provisional basis. If Nisroch resorts to his past indiscretions of self-promotion through poisonings, he will likely be visited by Alastor the Grim. Durgaloth appointed these exiles to military commands, except Nisroch, who became his Foreign Minister. Thus his most troublesome new vassal is constantly being sent off on diplomatic missions so can not plot (too much) mischief.
Durgaloth then began assigning new positions to the old leaders of Malbolge. He appreciated Tartach’s assistance in the coup, and gave him increased powers and greater freedom to operate. One issue was that Lilith, Moloch’s former consort, was not content to simply become the consort of Durgaloth. Over the millennia, Lilith has gained power through the patronage of thousands of mortal spellcasters. She is anxious to start asserting her own agenda in Hell and wants to research new and powerful magics. Once she establishes her followers and hones her skills, she may in fact become more powerful then her lord. Durgaloth, feeling magnanimous in victory, allowed her to become his Minister of Enchantments in charge of researching battle spells and training devilish wizards, rather then press her to become his consort. But Durgaloth keenly needs the prestige and advice that a good consort can give him, and is likely to start searching for an acceptable alternative.
Rather then slay Malagard, Durgaloth kept her on as a figurehead ruler of Malbolge’s surface. Durgaloth feels he can get away with this due to Malagard’s isolation from her old peers and subordinates. Durgaloth is relatively sure he slew or turned all of Malagard’s loyalists to his cause, and she was never popular with the other Lords of the Nine.
The overall theme of Malbolge is crushing oppression on the outside, belying subtle corruption under the surface. It has been remarked by some ages that the planes reflect the personalities of their rulers, or perhaps the planes themselves mold their inhabitants to reflect them. At any rate, Durgaloth’s personality and proclivities certainly reinforce this aspect of the plane he now rules. His motto can be summed up as “Order through tyranny”. He is obsessive about rooting out chaos in all its forms.
Tartach, Prime Minister - Durgaloth gave Tartach, the former legate of Moloch, the tasks of revitalizing Malbolge’s economy. Now the mining of the Underworld now has increased at a frantic pace. Tartach also is reinvigorating the many blacksmiths, mills, and armories of Malbolge. The warehouses of war are now being filled and wealth is starting to flow into Durgaloth’s coffers. Tartach is delighting in his new powers and is grateful for finally being free to exercise the power he felt was long denied him. He is using this opportunity to expand his personal power as well, directing many improvements to the new capitol of Malbolge and repairing the infrastructure of the Underworld.
Lilith, Minister of Enchantments – Lilith, with her mastery of magic and scores of mortal witch followers, may very well be the most powerful devil in Malbolge at present. She has cultivated a following among mortal sorceresses and this relationship has enabled her to slowly gain power over the millennia. Now that she is free from the constraints the past two rulers put on her, she openly wields her new skills in magic and has taken on the task of researching new spells and magic items with vigor. It is perhaps fortunate for Durgaloth that Lilth has shown no personal ambition to rule this plane herself, she seems only concerned with increasing her mastery of spellcraft. She maintains a tower at the base of Bethage’s Demise and is currently engrossed in studying frost and cold magic. An honor guard of gelugon wizards stands by her at all times, and she has two companies of gelugon troops permanently stationed at Bethage’s Demise for her personal use if required.
Kochbiel, Field Marshal – The only interests of Kochbiel involve warfare and strategy. He is overall commander of all Malbolge’s legions and has a personal army of fifteen companies of cornugon at his beck and call at all times. He seems to harbor no personal ambitions other then to be successful in all his battles, and thus is satisfied for now. But it is rumored that he seeks to celebrate his return to Hell’s Hierarchy with some great military offensive. Durgaloth must ensure that any major military action is directed away from Hell, such a campaign in the Blood War or on the Prime Material Plane, or else risk the wrath of Asmodeus, who is intent on keeping Hell stable.
Nisroch, Minister of State – The fact that Durgaloth would give the job of diplomat to a well known assassin reflects Durgaloth’s mastery of the double and triple bluffs of Hellish politics. Nisroch has been traveling to each of the courts of Hell, quietly telling the other Lords of the Nine the situation now in Malbolge and offering treaties and opening relationships. The other archdukes do not know what to make of Nisroch’s overtures. They suspect (maybe rightfully) that these visits are nothing more then a spy mission or an assassination attempt, but do not wish to act, for that is too obvious a ploy and the archdukes need all the diplomatic advantages they can muster, therefore they watch Nisroch carefully but allow him diplomatic courtesy. So Nisroch continues to visit the courts of the various nobles of Hell; at times being every inch the polite diplomat at other times acting most suspicious (infamously, he sent a mocking message to Duke Abigor, who he almost slew centuries ago - to add more controversy to this act, two of Abigor’s retainers dropped dead after handling the message). Presently, no one in Hell knows at any given time whether Nisroch is either on a genuine diplomatic summit or a subtle espionage mission.
Malagard, Minister of the Interior - Durgaloth’s first task after the coup was to dictate what the responsibilities of Malagard would now encompass. He gave her the title “Minister of the Interior” and her main task is to keep the problems of the surface world on the surface. She presents to the casual researcher a public ruler of Malbolge (though it is doubtful that the charade of Malagard still ruling the plane will keep much longer, after all, if I can discover this fact then surely many others can, but for the sake of simply adding confusion to outsiders, this ploy may be continued for centuries). She must now ensure that her plots dovetail with Durgaloth’s, and her plans are periodically reviewed by Tartach for compliance. Her feelings on this matter are kept to herself, but she was never one to openly play for power and she is basically left to continue acting as she had before. So Malagard is apparently content to let this state of affairs lie. Among the old Lords of the Nine, she is now almost totally without allies and is in no position to attempt to retake Malbolge from Durgaloth (nor is any other Lord inclined to render her any substantial aid, though they occasionally act as if they are open to the idea).
Hazzael – This devil gained much by siding with Durgaloth. His exile on Avernus ended and his name has been reinstated (from “Azazel”) to the ranks of Hell’s Hierarchy. He now commands thirty companies of barbazu and has been entrusted with defending Malbolge’s surface from any possible attack, as well as keeping an eye on Malagard. Hazzael was bested by Durgaloth in single combat, so he grudgingly respects his new lord. However, Hazzael’s ego is so great that he is beginning to show the same signs of pride and insubordination that got him kicked out of two successive dukedoms in the past. Durgaloth keeps him assigned on the dangerous surface of Malbolge to present Hazzael with difficulties of his own so he will have less time to contemplate disobedience. Durgaloth may secretly hope to assign his insubordinate general to some suicide mission and thus end his headaches from this quarter once and for all.
Rumjal – This former lieutenant of Geryon bristles at being “merely” the commander of eight companies of cornugon. Rumjal enjoys playing politics more then warfare. Of all the former exiles, Rumjal is least satisfied with his current position and seeks greater glory. It is thought that he desires either Malagard’s or Tartach’s positions, but does not yet have the power to challenge either of them. So for the present, Rumjal will let matters lie, in all other respects he is loyal to Durgaloth for ending his exile. In the meantime, he hones his skills as a battle commander with his soldiers and is working to earn their respect.
Uzziel – Recently promoted from a pit fiend to the ranks of the nobility, Uzziel commands sixteen companies of osyluth devils (Foot Note 1). Uzziel proudly struts about the palace while her troops march through the thoroughfares of Malbolge. Her loyalty to her new Lord is thought to be absolute, even to the point of adoration. That is highly unusual in a devil and lends some credence to the rumor that she is seeking to become Durgaloth’s consort.
Herobaal – A mighty pit fiend, Herobaal commands nine companies of cornugon devils. He enjoys swooping through the vast caverns of the Underworld with his companies and searching the far corners of the Underworld for creatures to hunt and enemies to slay. There are so many unexplored regions in the Malbolge Underworld that Durgaloth assigned Herobaal and his companies to fully explore them and ensure that Durgaloth’s will is spread to those obscure, distant places.
Other powers in Malbolge:
Danjiael, Master of Infernal Law – Formerly a duke of Nessus and an assistant to Adramalech, Danjiael appeared in Malbolge recently to reopen the Academy of Infernal Law and its adjacent library. Rumors fly about his association with the Chancellor of Hell, but he appears to be legitimately concerned only with the Academy and its curriculum. He is known to be a harsh academic and second to none in his knowledge of legal arguments. “He can make an archon slay his brother and a slaad lord obey the law using only his voice” is the common gossip surrounding Danjiael.
Verithmirax – An ancient green dragon has a personal cavern in Malbolge. Rumored to be a personal friend of Durgaloth’s from his time on Oerth, (they met in the Fellreev Forest when Durgaloth was traveling with the Horned Society) this dragon occasionally acts as a steed when Durgaloth is at war. She was a tremendous asset when Durgaloth wrested control of the plane from Malagard and has been awarded with a fief in the Underworld, where she has a small contingent of abishai to assist her. Her relationship with Tiamat is unknown. Her present ambitions are centered around her brood of hatchlings, which she is raising to be the ultimate in Hell-born draconic perfection.
Bileth – Bileth managed to survive the assassination attempt by Nisroch. He escaped to the Seventh Hell in the confusion caused by Durgaloth’s coup. He suffered great torments at the hands of a furious Baalzebul, who took out his frustrations on his hapless ex-tribune. Presently, Bileth is trying to mount an expedition to retake Malbolge (Baalzebul spared his life for this precise task), by hook or by crook. He has little resources at his disposal and with the fallout of The Reckoning still recent, Baalzebul does not want to risk openly starting a campaign to retake the Sixth Hell, so Bileth is forced to simply spy and plot for the time being. He still holds a warm spot in his heart for Nisroch and may be working with Duke Abigor to settle their personal scores with “the Eagle”.
The Shadow Corps – The numbers of these mortals are unknown. What is known is that these beings represent the best and the brightest of the Horned Society at the height of its power. This collection of warriors, wizards, assassins, and death knights helped turn the tide of battle in the Horned Society’s invasion of the Shield Lands and accompanied Durgaloth (their patron and commanding officer) to Hell to assist him in his coup. The survivors of the coup are now extremely powerful and their experiences in Hell have made them even more formidable. They are now both more and less then human (if indeed they ever were). While many are working for Durgaloth now on his staff, a few may have started to return to Oerth to fulfill some mission or to seek revenge against the Horned Society’s enemies (FN 2). These beings are dangerous in the extreme and represent a true threat to all the nations of Oerth.
Relationships with other rulers: At present, Durgaloth seems to be in favor with Dread Asmodeus, who has tentatively endorsed Durgaloth’s new order. As far as the other lords goes, Durgaloth has no established relations with the lords of the first through fourth layers of Hell (though he plans on dispatching Nisroch to them soon). The Lord of the Eighth has been silent on any alliance overtures from Durgaloth and the Lord of the Seventh may very well be plotting his doom. But Durgaloth’s primary focus is on the Fifth Hell, or more specifically, its ruler.
Durgaloth is bent on avenging Bensozia. He is thought to be planning some kind of military action against Levistus soon, but is not entirely free to act. Asmodeus has forbidden open warfare after The Reckoning. It is likely that Durgaloth will start a “cold war” with his hated neighbor, or else enlist others to assault Stygia for him (perhaps duping mortals?). Time will tell if the Queen of Hell is avenged by her former champion.
Durgaloth has cultivated many alliances with other lawfully aligned powers in his past, to include some dwarf godlings, Hextor, and if rumors are to be believed, even a saint (FN 3)! To Durgaloth, minor differences in ethos are secondary to the primary law-chaos divide. He will stand with the hosts of law against chaos first and foremost, but will never betray Hell. Thus has this lord, through military skill, magical might, strategy and cunning, gained a poison as the Lord of the Sixth Hell. May he never again turn his eye towards our world (or else Oerth would be in danger of becoming a vassal state to Malbolge!).
1: It is a common misconception that there are only a thousand osyluths in the Hells. What is true is that there is a special ring of one thousand elite osyluths that form a special police force for the Blood War. These devils are on the fast track for promotion. The vast majority of osyluths are formed into infantry companies or other units for the commands of Hell; their numbers are legion. On the same token, the numbers of erinyes are more then some sources report, due to their unique abilities and status only a few are in Hell at any one given time.
2: Some rumored members of the Shadow Corps include the archmage Yazmurden, the warrior turned death knight Jhanser, Lord Umbra the saboteur, the assassin known only as “The Darkest Shadow”, and the Grand Admiral Von Denessa. Another name keeps circulating in relation to this powerful group, a name that makes even the most powerful pause – Warduke.
3: The tale of a saint and a devil working together to stop chaos comes from a dubious source, the Grand Theocracy of Dimre. The story is probably myth, but with every legend there is a grain of truth.
STATS: First Edition Statistics for most of these devils can be found in Dragon magazine issues 76 and 91. Dungeon magazine issue 105 has the stats for Warduke, see Iuz the Evil for descriptions of the Horned Society and references to Yazmurden and Jhanser. Devils that were once exiled now have the ability to summon devils and use symbols (change from Dragon # 91). Hazzael can gate 1-3 barbazu with a 70% chance of success and use a symbol of fear once per day. Kochbiel can gate 1-4 cornugon and use a symbol of hopelessness once per day. Nisroch can gate 1-6 spigonon at 60% chance of success and use a symbol of pain once per day. Rumjal can gate 1-2 cornugon and use a symbol of confusion once per day.
Malagard’s stats are described in “A Guide to Hell”. Those unique devils not described in those sources are described below in 2nd edition terms. Include with each of them powers that are common to all devils:
Durgaloth: AC -8; MV 15, Fl 24; HD 17; hp 160; THACO 2; # AT 2; Dmg 4d6 +10; SA see below; SD +3 or better weapon to hit; MR 80%; SZ M (7’ tall); ML fearless (20); Int supra-genius (19); AL LE
He can use the following spell like powers at will: curse, chaos, detect magic, detect invisibility, emotion, ESP, feeblemind, fireball, forget, fumble, hypnotism, improved invisibility, message, misdirection, shapechange, wall of fire, wall of ice. He regenerates 3 hit points per round, can use a symbol of hopelessness once per day and can summon 2-5 cornugon or 1-4 gelugon once per day.
Durgaloth appears as a normal man, save for small horns on his head and bat wings, which can meld into his body at will. He wears grey tinged full plate armor and has the appearance and mannerisms of a noble knight or paladin. It is said that he always honors his word (once it is given) and subscribes to a twisted version of chivalry. He is also unique among devils in that he has very human tastes in artwork and has been creating a palace of great beauty in Malbolge (but this is likely to be only a surface appearance, as the dungeons of Malbolge are rumored to be as hideous and vile as any in the Hells). He fights with a long sword called “Bensozia’s Blessing” (treat as a long sword +4, defender, LE alignment, with intelligence and the power of speech, any other powers are unknown). His great shield + 3 bears the personal rune of Dread Asmodeus and the official Coat of Arms of Hell.
Uzziel: AC -5; MV 15, Fl 24; HD 14; hp 98; THACO 6; # AT 2; Dmg 3d8 +6; SA none; SD +2 or better weapon to hit; MR 60%; SZ M (7’ tall); ML fearless (20); Int genius (17); AL LE
Fanatically loyal to Durgaloth, Uzziel runs her units as a secret police of Malbolge, hunting out suspected agents still loyal to Baalzebul and spying on the plots of Malagard. She also suspects Tartach of being less then completely loyal to Durgaloth and works to ensure that the profits from the mines fully reach their intended destinations. It is rumored that she wishes to become Durgaloth’s consort and is maneuvering herself into that position by demonstrating her zealous support.
She can use the following spell like powers at will: curse, chaos, cone of cold, detect magic, detect invisibility, emotion, ESP, feeblemind, forget, fumble, hypnotism, improved invisibility, message, misdirection, shapechange, wall of ice. She regenerates 2 hit points per round, can use a symbol of pain once per day and can summon 2-5 osyluths once per day.
Uzziel appears as a coldly beautiful human female, with snow-white hair, delicate horns, and pale white skin. Her eyes have cat-like pupils and are ice-blue in color. She loves to dress in sinister and elaborate uniforms while she drills her soldiers. Her small wings are usually kept under a cloak, and they are bat-like in appearance. She wields a fancy field baton (treat as a mace + 3) as a symbol of her command.
Danjiael: AC -3; MV 9; HD 13; hp 89; THACO 7; # AT 2; Dmg 2-5; SA see below; SD +3 or better weapon to hit; MR 80%; SZ M (6’ tall); ML elite (13); Int supra-genius (20); AL LE
Danjiael is one of the weaker nobles in terms of personal strength, but his power is in the ability to use words and thoughts against his enemies. His speech acts as a suggestion spell or a confusion spell, as he desires. He can strike rather ineffectively with his hands if forced to fight, but usually uses spells or underlings to do his fighting for him. He is usually accompanied by a group of assistants, often students from the Academy of Infernal Law seeking his guidance or patronage (typically erinyes or osyluths).
He carries many volumes of Infernal Law with him in a great black case and with these tools to research, he can find a loophole in any law 75% of the time. This power enables him to break metaphysical rules with impunity, even ones that can result in his destruction. Example: using his powers, he can nullify the effects of spells cast against him by finding a loophole in the laws of metaphysics. Thus, he can avert the effects caused by a blizzard by manipulating the laws of thermodynamics to adjust to his particular surroundings, reducing the damage he would normally take from it. This power can not be utilized in the heat of battle unless he is well protected and uninterrupted while he does his research (about 1-20 rounds of searching is required for a simple problem, the DM must adjudicate more complex questions). This power is more often used conventionally in diplomacy and negotiations. He can call on this power once per day. If the briefcase is somehow wrested from him, a terrible hellish curse is bestowed on the thief, the effects of which are always painful and fatal. The books contained within are likewise so cursed and trapped that none but Danjiael can make any use of them or even peruse them without his permission.
He can use the following spell like powers at will: curse, chaos, detect magic, detect invisibility, emotion, ESP, feeblemind, fireball, forget, fumble, hypnotism, improved invisibility, message, misdirection, shapechange, wall of fire, wall of ice. He regenerates 2 hit points per round, can use a symbol of persuasion or hopelessness once per day and can summon 2-5 erinyes or 1-4 cornugon once per day.
Danjiael usually appears as an ancient man, with cold eyes, bent over with age with a hunched back. This is thought to be his true form, though he can change his appearance to suit different purposes. He walks slowly, using an ornate cane to assist him. This cane has the powers of a staff of thunder and lightning (very feared in the Hells). His lips are full and his voice can be altered to be any tone or pitch he desires. In any form he assumes, however, his tongue is forked, belying his nature.
Finally, The lich-sage Rexifer was described in Ivid the Undying. He dwells in the Darmen keep of Spiral and his field of specialty is the Blood War and the baatezu and tanar’ri. He has no concern for the politics of Ahlissa or House Darmen, and so is carefully watched by Princess Baaneth of Darmen to ensure that Rexifer’s findings do not reach the ears of any rivals. Treat Rexifer as a lich with the abilities of a 15th level wizard. He has many magic items to assist his research into the outer planes and is always willing to discuss with his few visitors any news from the nether regions.
Excerpts from the Book of Fire: The Reckoning
Excerpts from The Libram Infernal: The Sixth Hell, Malbolge