Malagard was once an archdevil in the Nine Hells before being destroyed and replaced as the ruler of Malbolge by Glasya. Unlike the other archdevils, the Hag Countess was a supremely powerful night hag rather than an actual devil.
Description[edit | edit source]
The Hag Countess appeared to be a stooped, 10 ft (3 m) tall crone, made withered and hunched by the march of time. Her warty skin looked deeply bruised and was riddled with boils, blisters and open sores. What truly made her stand apart from other night hags were the feathery wings on her back, black and tattered like those of a fallen angel. The Countess's countenance was truly hideous, with eyes that glowed a hellish red, rancid breath that smelt of tainted meat, and course, gray hair as opposed to the night-black color of most night hags.
Personality[edit | edit source]
Although lawful evil, Malagard was more distant and whimsical than her more controlling counterparts. Still, she was no less corrupt than the other archdevils, being an incredibly treacherous and conniving schemer. She tolerated no insolence or foolish behavior from others, although she was not entirely unreasonable.
Powers[edit | edit source]
Malagard was possibly the weakest archdevil in terms of physique, having earned her place through trickery rather than toiling. She also lacked a heartstone with which to cure disease and become ethereal like normal night hags. However, the Countess was not as feeble as her elderly appearance suggested, for she was dangerously strong, had frightening agility, and moved with unnatural speed.
The Hag Countess had lived in Hell long enough to expand her retinue of spell-like abilities by learning forbidden lore, with more offensive options such as fireball and spells with long-term uses like animate dead and insanity, as well as enhance her polymorphing abilities beyond those of ordinary night hags. She retained the plague-ridden bite of the night hags and like other archdevils could summon baatezu to aid her, whether they had been a dozen or so lemures or a pit fiend. So long as the Countess was in Malbolge, she was practically invincible, as she could control every part of the layer, such as by causing swarms of meteors to rain down on her foes or start avalanches just above or below her enemies.
Possessions[edit | edit source]
The Hag Countess was skilled with, and reliant on in battle, a powerfully enchanted greatsword that was incredibly light when she wielded it and horribly injured anyone else trying to use it. The blade became more powerful when bathed in blood, and when the Countess was filled with fiery fury so to would the sword be engulfed in flames.
Realm[edit | edit source]
Malagard inherited the hellish layer of Malbolge from her predecessor, as well as the massive legions of devils and hell hounds that patrolled it. It was a rocky layer made entirely of slopes that suffered from constant avalanches due to the perpetual rolling of giant boulders, the only structures that survived being the Hag Countess's Copper Fortresses. Some were small strongholds while others were great citadels commanded by pit fiends, but all of them constantly weathered the persistent rockfalls, filling them with resounding, clanging noise and forcing those in charge of them to watch for stresses in the bronze.
Unlike the fortresses, which were made in relatively stable locations, the Hag Countess's personal keep was inside a boulder the size of a mountain that always rolled down the slopes of the layer on an unpredictable path. The fortress was not the domain of her court, but housed stables of nightmares, numerous annis hags, green hags and medusas, and was one of the best and most expensive soul markets in Baator.
Activities[edit | edit source]
Malagard was a trickster that took great pleasure in luring others to Malbolge, mortal or otherwise, before having them crushed to death by the boulders of the layer. Unlike the other lords, her nobles lived within the copper fortresses rather than being centralized in her personal domain, and one of her favorite activities was disguising herself and unexpectedly arriving at one of the fortresses to inspect it and test the guardians. The Countess enforced a "questions first, torture later" policy, and rudeness, let alone unthinking brutality, was unacceptable. She razed the fortresses of anyone that met her with disrespect or violence, as well as those that weren't looking after the fortresses properly.
The Hag Countess had little interest in baatezu politics or even attempting to overthrow Asmodeus, leaving such pointless squabbling to entities like Baalzebul and Mephistopheles. Rather than become the Lord of the Nine Hells, Malagard had the even more ambitious goal of ascending to godhood, although her examination of divine remains on the Astral Plane had given her no clues. Until that point, the Countess focused on solidifying her place in the Nine Hells.
Relationships[edit | edit source]
Malagard was once the consort and advisor of the former Lord of the Sixth, Moloch, but as a result of her betrayal he held nothing but bitter hatred towards her. Her main competitor at the time was his other spouse, Lilith, who through her inaction allowed the schemes of the Countess to succeed.
Asmodeus lacked any long-term use for the Hag Countess and she, having witnessed his overwhelming strength, tried to leave him be. Being the only archdevil that wasn't truly a devil, she feared that her peers would ally to depose her.
Malagard thought of lesser night hags as her sisters and like them used nightmares as mounts, her favorite being a particularly powerful one named Bloodcurdle. She traveled between the copper fortresses with her tribune, a pit fiend named Bileth, and employed the Prince of Imps, Beleth, as her spymaster.
History[edit | edit source]
For many millennia, Malbolge had been ruled by the archdevil Moloch for his excellent service to Asmodeus in repelling the eternal demonic threats of the Abyss. Like the other Lords of the Nine, Moloch was fueled by megalomaniacal ambition and constantly schemed against them, a favorable circumstance for Asmodeus that quickly fell apart due to the introduction of Malagard. Originally a night hag from Hades, Malagard acted as Moloch's lover and counsel, bolstering his already unwieldly ego with whispers of temptation and cajoling him into trying to take the Nine Hells for himself. Unfortunately for Moloch, his sinister seductress was truly in league with Geryon, the current ruler of Stygia and Moloch's immortal enemy. Not only had Malagard been unfaithful to Moloch in favor of Geryon, but, at the behest of the Wild Beast, she planned to hoist him by his own petard in order to increase her own standing.
With the help of the spymaster Beleth, she counselled him to join Baazelbul's alliance and rebel against Asmodeus during the Reckoning of Hell, convincing him that once Asmodeus and Mephistopheles defeated each other he could dethrone and destroy his the Prince of Flies and cement himself as the new Lord of the Nine. Both she and her co-conspirator expected him to be defeated, but in the case he somehow managed to succeed his armies had been arranged to betray him by the end of the battle. The temptresses' promises of power quickly. but gradually, won Moloch over and he joined the war only to be met with utter failure. After the Reckoning ended, Geryon instructed the night hag to deceive Moloch into making another ill-advised move; refusing to admit defeat.
Even as the other archdevils retreated, Moloch remained firm in his insolence, having been tricked into thinking Asmodeus would respect his strength. After failing to humble himself and practically insulting the Lord of Nessus, Moloch found himself cast down by the furious Asmodeus. Malagard, now the Hag Countess, was installed in his place, and her first act as the ruler of Malbolge was not only to banish Moloch from the sixth layer but from all the Nine Hells, with all his attempts to retake his layer having failed. The truth behind Malagard's betrayal was commonly believed and acknowledged by most authorities and Asmodeus's choice to put the Countess in charge mystified even the knowledgeable spymaster.
Death[edit | edit source]
One morning, the Countess suffered from awful convulsions, collapsing onto one of the slopes of Malbolge while screaming in agony before the ground itself shook. From there, Malagard cancerously expanded, her body parts becoming one with the terrain as the layer she was familiar with controlling used her to remake itself. Her hair became forests of giant lice and other massive vermin, her skull a giant fortress and her teeth a collection of ivory ores. Her fingers were transformed into ivory towers and her ribs became bizarre mountains that encircled Malbolge, all the while her internal organs ruptured into lakes of bodily fluid or turned into an intestinal tunnel system.
When the land settled, the remaining survivors of the catastrophe reemerged and her death echoes finally stopped, Asmodeus's daughter Glasya ascended from the lower regions of Hell on a palanquin held aloft by imps, claiming herself the rightful ruler of Malbolge. The former chancellor of the Countess, a paeliryon named Axacrusis, was forced to eviscerate themselves after questioning Glasya's claim, their undying form used to feed the imps. The loyal followers of the Countess that tried to avenge her were trapped and tortured in the towers made from Malagard's fingers, particularly the nightmare Bloodcurdle after hurling Glasya into a lake of bile, while those that submitted to Glasya, such as the precariously positioned Prince of Imps, were absorbed into her circle.
The decision to place a night hag in the role of an archdevil, one that befuddled so many devils thinking themselves to be far more suitable candidates, finally made sense with her demise. The Hag Countess was simply a diversion, a placeholder fiend to watch Glasya's spot while the mysterious father and his deviant daughter worked out their relationship. However, the exact nature of the Countess's death was peculiar and prompted speculation, such as the recent reports that Malbolge was still a mountainous region, or whether it was the doing of Glasya or Asmodeus. Later reports even posited that the Hag Countess caused her own demise by amassing souls in a failed ritual meant to grant her godhood.
That was even if Malagard's transformation could be classified as a true death, since it was unclear if Asmodeus could simply kill the archdevils at a whim or merely change their forms. From the rotting carcass of the Countess emerged the kalabon devils, living remnants of the hag with fragments of her broken mind. They were tortured beings whose mind-rending mental anguish left them as little more than pathetic tumors stuck between muttering and weeping in pain. Outside of their wish to kill everything around them, their singular compulsion was to merge together, forming colonies of cancerous flesh in an attempt to regenerate the Countess. Each one wanted Glasya dead, enough so that they attacked anyone bearing the scent of her or her close associates and that the new Lord of the Sixth was regularly attacked by them, and it was only because of Glasya's commands that they hadn't achieved their primal desire for wholeness.
Appendix[edit | edit source]
Appearances[edit | edit source]
References[edit | edit source]
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- Rich Redman, James Wyatt (May 2001). Defenders of the Faith. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 96. ISBN 0-7869-1840-3.
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- Robert J. Schwalb (October 2007). “Infernal Aristocracy: The Dukes of Hell”. In Chris Youngs ed. Dragon #360 (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 42–43.
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- Brian R. James (November 2007). “Infernal Aristocracy: The Dukes of Hell, Part II”. In Chris Youngs ed. Dragon #361 (Wizards of the Coast), p. 35.
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- Robert J. Schwalb (December 2011). “Codex of Betrayal: Glasya”. In Steve Winter ed. Dungeon #197 (Wizards of the Coast), p. 4.
- Robin D. Laws, Robert J. Schwalb (December 2006). Fiendish Codex II: Tyrants of the Nine Hells. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 73. ISBN 0-7869-3940-0.
- Robin D. Laws, Robert J. Schwalb (December 2006). Fiendish Codex II: Tyrants of the Nine Hells. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 120–122. ISBN 0-7869-3940-0.