Cornugons (pronounced: /ˈkɔːrnjuːgɒn/ KORN-yoo-gon), also known as horned devils were greater baatezu that served as the first-rate defense troops of the Nine Hells. They were also known as malebranche (pronounced: /ˈmælʌbrɑːntʃɑː/ MÆL-u-bran-cha or: /ˈmælɛbrɑːntʃɑː/ MÆL-eh-bran-cha)—not to be confused with another type of devil with the same name.[note 1]
Cornugons were ogre-sized creatures whose bodies reached up to 9 ft (2.7 m). They were 600 lb (270 kg), roughly humanoid beings with bodies sheathed in repulsive scales. The presence they possessed was considered intimidating even to other devils, as their massive wings, sweeping horns, and serpentine tails furthered their frightening appearance.
Despite being among the most capable and cunning of the baatezu, cornugons were also some of the least likely to betray their superiors, making them powerful assets. The true source of their loyalty was a point of contention although they notably hated and feared those stronger than themselves and so acted to avoid risk to themselves. While some claimed their true nature was militaristic and disciplined others said their loyalty stemmed from laziness, and their love of battle from belligerence. Regardless of the reasons for their obedience, if thoroughly agitated they were capable of daunting rage.
The wings of a horned devil were not for show, allowing them to move across the battlefield far quicker than moving on foot. In addition to their ability to fight with their fangs and claws, cornugons inflicted infernal wounds on those whose skin they pierced with their tails. Such wounds persistently and profusely bled, slowly draining the victim of their blood and never naturally healing. Only capable medicine or skilled healing magic was capable of ending the bleeding.
Cornugons could choose to radiate an aura of fear around themselves within a 5 ft (1.5 m) radius, to terrify non-baatezu. They could also regenerate any damage they suffered except from good-aligned or silver weapons or inherently good spells. Cornugons possessed a wide variety of innately magical abilities, allowing them to hurl lightning, create incredibly dangerous flames and craft powerful illusions. They also had the ability to call upon a wide variety of devils, including a small mob of lemures, a group of barbazus, a flock of abishai or a few more cornugons.
Cornugons often fought with military forks or spiked chains, with which they would stun their enemies. They were bold in combat and rarely retreated even when dangerously outmatched. They typically swooped into combat from the air attempting to quickly disable and eliminate the most powerful threats first with their forks, chains or tails.
Spellcasters among the cornugons were infrequent. Few were willing to put aside their physical training long enough to become noteworthy wizards and only rarely did they retain any of their former allegiances to deities once they reached their place in the infernal hierarchy.
Cornugons occupied the lower circles of Hell, particularly Malbolge and Maladomini, where they served as its elite flying infantry. Their armies numbered up to 2,000 of their kind and only beings of pit fiend status were allowed to lead their infernal legions. Horned devils were also the elite bodyguards of Baator, desired by powerful gelugons and pit fiends alike to serve as personal guards and retainers.
Along with hamatula, cornugons were among the fastest advancing baatezu. Cornugons capable of showcasing their abilities through several military successes would be given command over vast armies of lesser devil soldiers. The only faster path to advancement from that point would be direct service to the Dark Eight, making it an incredibly desired position.
Cornugons that did prove themselves particularly exceptional were allowed to serve among the 106 cornugons already protecting the Dark Eight. Said cornugons possessed an extreme loyalty rarely seen within the traitorous depths of Baator, rumored to be willing to die for the council whether out of genuine devotion or simply out of sheer terror of the consequences for forsaking them. Cornugons that managed to serve with the 106, advanced relatively quickly for baatezu, reaching gelugon status within a millennium or so.
In the infernal hierarchy of the baatezu, cornugons were thought to be the least of the greater devils but still awarded with prestige for their rank.[note 2] Corugons often had names that translated into such things as "Bent Wing" or "Evil Tail".
In order to make cornugons more effective against the tanar'ri in the Blood War, experiments were performed to create a new form of horned devil. The altered cornugons could shoot bolts of acid as opposed to electricity and possessed browner skin and scaleless hands.
- Zammasir was a cantankerous cornugon who, alongside nine other cornugons, was tasked with thwarting escape attempts and securing dangerous devils into punishment cages within the Pit of Flame.
- In 1st edition D&D, horned devils were called "malebranche", an Italian word that can be translated as "evil horns" or "evil claws", and they were depicted as bearing either military forks or spiked chains. In 2nd edition, horned devils were now called "cornugons" and except for no longer being described with military forks, they were nearly identical in all other respects. With the coming of 3rd edition, however, cornugons and malebranche were two distinct creatures, the former a greater devil and the latter a lesser devil. The malebranche now appeared with military forks and were larger creatures, and they did not have the other powers and abilities described for the cornugons. 4th edition seems to have ignored cornugons and only has malebranche, which it calls "war devils" and never "horned devils". It used identical art as drawn for one of the 3rd-edition malebranche. These devils carry tridents but are no longer huge devils. Finally, 5th edition seems to have merged the two kinds of devils again, calling horned devils "malebranche".
- Fiendish Codex II: Tyrants of the Nine Hells, p. 10, places horned devils above both ice devils and erinyes in rank, but this conflicts with well-established lore prior to its publication. 5th edition returns to positioning horned devils as the lowest of the greater devils, below both erinyes and ice devils.
- Mike Mearls, Jeremy Crawford, Christopher Perkins (2014-09-30). Monster Manual 5th edition. Edited by Scott Fitzgerald Gray. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 67–69.74. ISBN 978-0786965614.
- Skip Williams, Jonathan Tweet, Monte Cook (July 2003). Monster Manual v.3.5. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 50–51.55. ISBN 0-7869-2893-X.
- Allen Varney, ed. (June 1994). Planescape Monstrous Compendium Appendix. (TSR, Inc.), p. 21. ISBN 978-1560768623.
- Gary Gygax (December 1977). Monster Manual, 1st edition. (TSR, Inc), p. 22. ISBN 0-935696-00-8.
- J. Paul LaFountain (1991). Monstrous Compendium: Outer Planes Appendix. Edited by Timothy B. Brown. (TSR, Inc.), p. 5. ISBN 1-56076-055-9.
- Frank Mentzer (January 1985). “Ay pronunseeAYshun gyd”. In Kim Mohan ed. Dragon #93 (TSR, Inc.), p. 28.
- Colin McComb (September 1997). Faces of Evil: The Fiends. Edited by Ray Vallese. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 16. ISBN 0-7869-3430-1.
- Colin McComb, Monte Cook (July 1996). “The Dark of the War”. In Ray Vallese ed. Hellbound: The Blood War (TSR, Inc.), p. 49.51. ISBN 0-7869-0407-0.
- Colin McComb (September 1997). Faces of Evil: The Fiends. Edited by Ray Vallese. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 22. ISBN 0-7869-3430-1.
- William W. Connors (October 1992). Hordes of Dragonspear. Edited by C. Terry Phillips. (TSR, Inc.), p. 4. ISBN 1-56076-333-7.
- Robin D. Laws, Robert J. Schwalb (December 2006). Fiendish Codex II: Tyrants of the Nine Hells. Edited by Chris Thomasson, Gary Sarli, Penny Williams. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 51. ISBN 978-0-7869-3940-4.
Least: Lemure • Nupperibo • Spinagon
Lesser: Abishai (Black • Blue • Green • Red • White) • Barbazu • Erinyes • Excruciarch • Ghargatula • Hamatula (Stony devil) • Kocrachon • Merregon • Osyluth • War devil • Xerfilstyx
Greater: Amnizu • Cornugon • Gelugon • Logokron • Narzugon • Orthon • Paeliryon • Pit fiend
Baatezu of unknown rank: Advespa • Dogai • Gulthir • Jerul
Araton • Burning devil • Fimbrul devil • Hellcat • Hellwasp • Imp (Bloodbag • Euphoric • Filth) • Kalabon • Kyton • Seared devil • Stitched devil • Succubus • Tar devil