Narzugons, also known as hell knights, were powerful baatezu and the elite cavalry of the Nine Hells, riding across the planes on errands from their infernal masters. Their favored steeds and only desired company were the horrifying stallions known as nightmares.
There was confusion among mortal scholars as to the infernal caste of narzugons. Some called them lesser devils, while others classified them as greater devils. The wizard Mordenkainen went so far as to claim that they shared the same rank as the powerful gelugons.
Narzugons were ghastly, gray humanoids that stood over 6 feet (1.8 meters) tall and weighed 200 pounds (91 kilograms). They were fully encased in a masterfully constructed set of spiked, plate armor, and often wore trophies of their past victories. The pennants attached to their regular lances waved in the air regardless of the wind. Individual narzugons were practically identical and their eyes held immense sadness in them.
The dominating personality of a narzugon was anger. They despised everything—their masters, mortals, themselves, and their own immortality. Their anger partially stemmed from the knowledge that their deeds were obviously wrong, or at the very least distasteful, but that they were bound by duty to see them through.
This sense of honor and duty was rare among the devils, with narzugons preferring action and bravery over plotting and scheming. Stories persisted of narzugons that allowed their opponents a chance to surrender or retrieve their weapon if disarmed. While the rage of a narzugon was caused by their acknowledgement of their wicked deeds, their suffering was a result of knowing that their supposed virtue as mortals was false. Regardless of personal feelings, hell knights followed every command to the letter and showed rigid discipline in their actions and attitudes.
Any creature who saw an unmasked narzugon would see their worst fear in its eyes. If they held their gaze too long, their fears manifested as a hallucination that eventually blocked out reality, causing an effect similar to the phantasmal killer spell. Even their voices were capable of sowing terror in their foes and steeling the hearts of their allies. They also possessed an enhanced perception of good-aligned entities.
Narzugons had several innate spells they could cast. Once a day, they could use order's wrath and unholy blight. At will, they could use desecrate, doom, hold person, produce flame, and suggestion. Additionally, once per day they could attempt to summon other baatezu such as an erinyes or another narzugon.
Hell knights were practically never seen without their nightmare mounts, creatures that had been captured, tamed, and bound to the service of the narzugon with infernal tack. While narzugons readily engaged in battle, they kept the well-being of their mounts in mind and never needlessly sacrificed them. If their steeds were in serious danger, most narzugons would withdraw, often using their etherealness ability to escape.
When mounted atop their steeds, narzugons traversed the battlefield looking for a flaw in enemy defenses before choosing a target and charging. Narzugons began battle by commanding their mounts to use one of their special abilities once the knight had finished their charge, a devastating attack they always attempted to use. Outside of charging, narzugons had other methods of utilizing their mounts' abilities, such as using their greater maneuverability, engaging in ride-by-attacks, and turning ethereal to slip behind enemy forces. Once a hell knight's charge was complete, their nightmares often turned into a noxious cloud of smoke, leaving their enemies choking on fumes and giving the narzugon a chance to gain distance and prepare a second charge. A nightmare would reign in their smoke ability at behest of their knight so a narzugon could finish off an enemy themselves.
Against ranged opponents, narzugons fired volleys of flames at their foes while attempting to close into melee range. If uncertain of the course a battle was taking, narzugons removed their helmets to fill foes with nightmarish hallucinations. When fighting in legions, hell knights marched in perfect unison and led devastating charges against their foes. If on foot however, they gathered near choke points to hamper enemy mobility. A rare few narzugons practiced horseback archery, but most focused on training their ability to fight atop their steeds.
While narzugons carried different types of weapons with them, their most fearsome lances were those forged in hellfire. Hellfire lances were not only incredibly deadly, but also sent the soul of any creature slain with it to the Styx to be reborn as a lemure. The process was practically irreversible save for a quick resurrection, or the use of incredibly powerful combinations of spells, such as wish and true resurrection. Unlike normal weapons, hellfire lances were unique to their owners, bearing both an individual mark for the narzugon and for their master.
Hell knights were the elite cavalry of Baator, responsible for carrying out the will of their masters throughout the infernal circles like the twisted reflections of knight-errants they were. They were often entrusted with important tasks that required either quick responses or long-term solutions on other planes, thanks to their trustworthiness—an incredibly rare trait in the Nine Hells. While individuals acted as messengers, envoys, and champions for greater devils, pairs of narzugons were often sent to the Prime Material Plane to track down escaped prisoners and rogue devils that had managed to escape Hell. Their other tasks might include the reclamation of lost evil artifacts, the destruction of good temples, leading wicked cults, or spearheading devilish legions, making their role similar to that of adventurers.
When attached to units of infernal armies, narzugons often served as standard bearers, but when organized into their own massive squadrons they became truly fearsome cavalry legions. Some narzugons were members of a military company known as the Order of the Nightmare, named after their iconic steeds. The hell knights' lack of duplicity made them easily one of the most valued weapons in the arsenal of a devil leader, as did the fact they preferred to earn treasure and magic items through conquest and looting rather than as a reward for service. They were especially useful to the archdevils of Hell, to which unquestioningly obedient champions were an immeasurable boon. Unfortunately, narzugons swore allegiance to a particular lord until death and the vast majority were under the banner of Asmodeus, who did everything in his power to prevent other devils from acquiring knights of their own. Despite this, not all hell knights directly served Asmodeus, and every archdevil, duke, and minor baron had at least a few narzugons under their banners.
Hell knights rarely associated with Hell's other denizens, except when commanded to by their superiors. Often, their only companions on their unholy quests in the Material Plane were their trusted nightmare companions. Trying to force a nightmare into service normally led to the creature's resentment, but the strong bond of loyalty between master and rider marked a narzugon and nightmare as true partners in wickedness. A hell knight's greatest ally was their steed and while that was traditionally a nightmare, they were capable of choosing other mounts. In Cania, mammoths were often used by narzugon elites, and in Avernus, narzugons known as ash riders mounted aerial patrols using wyverns. Narzugons were also capable of riding greater barghests, fiendish dire boars, and chimeras. The greatest of hell knight champions were known to take even evil dragons as their mounts.
Narzugons were former paladins who in life, either made an infernal deal with a powerful devil, or were deceived into betraying their deity or order, often by Asmodeus himself. They could also be created from the souls of those who showed blind, unfeeling obedience to evil superiors.
Aside from the above methods, narzugons formed naturally from the spirits of great mortal warriors who followed the letter rather than the spirit of the law. Their insistence on the rules regardless of consequence was a false virtue that resigned them to eternal service within Hell.
Narzugons were found in all layers of the Nine Hells but were most populous in infernal strongholds and palaces.
Many legends existed across the world about the origin of the hell knights. It was believed that the first narzugons were servants of the unknown deity that Asmodeus himself once served, a being referred to as He Who Was. Asmodeus deceived the deity's servants into betraying him, an act that permanently damned them to his service, before Asmodeus killed his former master.
- Baldur's Gate: Descent into Avernus
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- Mike Mearls, Greg Bilsland and Robert J. Schwalb (June 15, 2010). Monster Manual 3 4th edition. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 57. ISBN 0786954902.
- Jeff Grubb, Bruce R. Cordell, David Noonan (September 2001). Manual of the Planes 3rd edition. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 167–168. ISBN 0-7869-1850-8.
- 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), pp. 125–127. ISBN 978-0-7869-3940-4.
- 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. 158. ISBN 978-0-7869-3940-4.
- Mike Mearls, Jeremy Crawford (May 29, 2018). Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes. Edited by Kim Mohan, Michele Carter. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 17. ISBN 978-0786966240.
- Adam Lee, et al. (September 2019). Baldur's Gate: Descent into Avernus. Edited by Michele Carter, et al. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 212. ISBN 978-0-7869-6687-5.
- Jeff Grubb, Bruce R. Cordell, David Noonan (September 2001). Manual of the Planes 3rd edition. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 167. ISBN 0-7869-1850-8.
- 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. 11. ISBN 978-0-7869-3940-4.
- Adam Lee, et al. (September 2019). Baldur's Gate: Descent into Avernus. Edited by Michele Carter, et al. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 7. ISBN 978-0-7869-6687-5.
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