"Boar!" Chert roared in warning, lowering his spear as he said it.
There was a crashing, and a bristling form rushed toward them. The thing was larger than a wisent and had tusks as long as a man's forearm! Its rush bowled over a sapling, and the earth shook under the impact of its huge, cloven hooves. Gord had time to think that a boar larger than an auroch was impossible – and then it was upon them.
Chert's aim was true, but the point of his spear barely scraped the creature's chest. There was a loud report as the spear shaft splintered, and then the animal was past. The barbarian had been knocked backward by the onslaught, and he lay stunned and bleeding against the base of a tree.
As the monstrous boar rushed upon him, Gord had sprung aside, jabbing it automatically with the spear he had gained from the enemy. The metal of the weapon was enchanted, but it only tore a shallow gash along the creature's flank as it went past. That was sufficient to make it bellow in rage.-The huge swine weighed a ton and more, Gord guessed, yet it stopped its mad charge and turned more quickly than the young thief would have imagined possible. Then it paused for a second, its little eyes glowing with both rage and a cunning that was more disturbing than its fearful tusks and impossible bulk. Gord shuddered but kept the magical spear aimed squarely at the monster's head.
"Come on, pig! I have steel for you to eat."
The boar shook its barrel-sized head, sending a spray of foam flying. The huge mouth opened… and the thing spoke!
"That twig you wave so bravely will serve only to pin your own ass, manling," it snarled, and with that it came again.
The thing went from stillness to full charge in a step, and it was all Gord could manage to leap out of its path and avoid the razor-edged tusks with which it meant to cut him to pieces. He was unhurt, but there had been no chance to so much as take a poke at the monster with his spear.
The boar-thing had halted its rush again and stood with its terrible little eyes locked on Gord. "It is good to have a test," it said in its thick, grunting voice. "I had thought never to find one of you as agile as a monkey," and it laughed a slobbering, squealing laugh that made Gord's blood run cold. Sensing an advantage, the devil-boar rushed again at that very moment. Its charge caught Gord this time, one tusk leaving a bloody trail across his chest and arm as it went past. It whirled and tried again, but this time Gord was too quick, and the monstrous thing thundered past harmlessly.
There was no chance to strike it, but now Gord was beginning to time the thing's rushes. The gigantic boar watched him again, running its prehensile tongue over its one bloody tusk while it did so.
"Yes," it said as much to itself as to Gord, "I will drink all of your blood, little man, before I devour your flesh." There was more promise in the tone than threat.
That tongue belonged to no pig. "What are you, boar-thing? It is clear you are no swine, were-type or otherwise."
"You'll never tell it, but know that I am what humans call a rakshasa – not one of the weaklings which are so known to your ilk, but a true one of my kind. I am come from the Nine Hells to feast and bring woe to all here on this plane you call Oerth," it rumbled in its hideous voice.
Gord spat at it, striking it full in one of its mean fiery eyes. "I am happy to know that, pighead, for I have never killed one of your sort before!" He spoke with confidence he did not feel, and hoped that nothing betrayed the fear that was inside him.
The spittle and the taunting brought the monster rushing again, and this time Gord not only avoided its attack but stuck the spear well into its rear ham as it went past. This caused the devil-pig to emit another ear-hammering squeal. Now it gnashed its jaws hideously and slavered and foamed as it did so. Eyes fixed on the young man who stood before it with a gore-tipped spear, the thing advanced slowly. It needed no run to gut this puny opponent with its curved tusks.
There was a sound of angry hornets and a meaty thunking sound came at its conclusion. Chert, with his leg streaming blood and a great bump showing redly on his head, had regained consciousness and attacked while the monster's attention was fixed on Gord. His broad-bladed axe, Brool, was buried in the creature's bristling shoulder! The barbarian gave a heave, his hugely muscled arms straining to free the imbedded weapon. Incredibly, the rakshasa seemed to shrug the blow off. The axe came free, but Chert lost his grip as the boar-thing jerked toward him. Gord had no choice. If he did not distract the monster, it would tear his friend to pieces.
The devil-boar was intending to do just that. It spun on its splayed hooves and began its rush toward Chert. The barbarian was scrambling madly to retrieve his fallen axe, and he would never be able to get clear before the thing had him! Gord lunged, striking just behind the creature's massive rib-cage, hoping that the spear would sink into its lungs or heart. Despite this attack, the monster savaged Chert terribly before it turned total with the one who had dealt it such a wound.
"That brings your death," it rumbled through its bloody mouth. It was bleeding from its wounds, but it seemed no slower or weaker than before. It began to stalk Gord slowly, as if playing cat-and-mouse with the young adventurer.
Although his friend was unmoving, Gord doubted that the demon-boar had had time to finish the hardy barbarian with its terrible attack. Gord kept away from it, still taunting the thing and jabbing at its eyes with the spear. He knew he couldn't keep the game up much longer, however, for a single misstep and it would be upon him in a second. Gord wished he could somehow assume his leopard form – then he would show the blundering pig what a fight to the death was all about. It was impossible. He could certainly escape by vaulting into the trees, but that would allow the monster time to kill, even devour, Chert. Gord had to stand, man versus devil.
It nearly had him the next moment, as a fallen branch caught his foot for just a split-second. The thing lunged, but as it did so another spear flew through the air and struck it on its wounded shoulder. The weapon bounced harmlessly off, but it saved Gord's life. Gellor had come back.
"Gellor, stay back!" Gord shouted urgently to the bard. "It is a devil-pig, just as the villagers claimed!"
The one-eyed man had removed his eyepatch, Gord noted, and his long-bladed sword was in hand. "I see it, Gord," the bard said loudly. "It is a small and stinking little thing hiding within that great blubbery body!"
Gord jabbed and struck home on the distracted creature, and it gave a bellowing squeal of pain at the attack. The spear had bitten deeply into the rakshasa's jowl, slicing the skin there in such a manner as to reveal its teeth where its flesh had been cut away. That was sufficient to make it completely ignore the newcomer and concentrate all of its savagery on Gord. It came at a trot, and there was nowhere for the young thief to go this time. Praying, he placed the butt of his weapon against the ground, pointing its tip at the monster's heart, bracing himself as he did so. Gellor did his best to divert the rakshasa. He ran forward, sword extended for use as a spear, and yelling mightily as he came. This failed to make the monster waver.
With a squealing that spewed bloody drops ahead of its charge, the devil-boar came forward in an instant. The sound it made as the rigid spear struck its chest and drove into its body was more terrible than any the bard had ever heard. Just as a true boar filled with killing lust would have done, this creature came forward, disregarding the spear that had mortally wounded it. Its charge carried it to where Gord stood, and the tusks and teeth tore through chest and throat in a welter of fountaining blood. The spear went through the monster's whole body – heart, innards, all. As it killed the man before it, the thing itself died.
The horror of the scene froze Gellor for a second, and as he stood transfixed, the rakshasa seemed to deflate. Black blood poured from mouth and wounds as its legs stiffened and kicked in death. The spear was protruding from its chest and rear, but of the man it had just killed so horribly, there was no trace save a pool of red.
The demon Kostchtchie, a most powerful if despised lord of the Abyss, offered alliance to both Graz'zt and Yeenoghu, the demon lord of gnolls. This triumvirate, together with the dozen lesser beings who had made common cause prior to this pact, now held sway over fully sixty-six layers of the place. Certain other powerful demons of great stature supported the alliance, sending their servants and soldiers to the three.
A gate was opened between Oerth and the world where giants ruled. Bands of mighty hill, mountain, and frost giants roamed from the Howling Hills southward. Before them they drove the regiments of ores and hobgoblins who had sought to hold the land for the Hierarchs. These troops fled into the Fellreev or away into the open steppes, where the Rovers of the Barrens allowed them no mercy. Some took service with the kinglets of the bandit states to the east, for much of this territory had been freed of the grip of the Hierarchs but recently, and even troops such as these were acceptable to the newly returned rulers there,
Many regiments managed to return southward to Molag, though, where they thought there would be safety. Most died there. The city was soon under siege. First the wild kin of these humanoids made up the bulk of the attackers, but soon enough things far worse than troll and ogre, bugbear and gnoll, were there. The masters of the Hierarchs summoned monstrous creatures from the lower planes to fortify the defense of Molag. Hideous hordlings rubbed shoulders with even worse – daemons of all sorts, and the awful demodands of Tarterus.
In answer to this, the besieging force was sent demons when they cried for aid. The retreat ofluz's forces became a sudden advance again, as hundreds upon hundreds of demons of all manner were loosed to combat the Hierarchs' reinforcements from Tarterus, Hades, and Gehenna. Not only were these forces outnumbered, but many hordlings, secretly despising their masters and favoring the chaos of the Abyss, went over to Iuz. Men and humanoids, even those of power or fear-someness, stayed low and did nothing as demons fought daemons, hordlings tore hordlings or demodands, and were rent in turn.
Monstrous forms hopped and ran, crawled and wiggled, flapped and fluttered in a terrible dance of death and destruction around the city of Molag. Many demons died, but still more came daily, until the whole place was ringed with them, and the air above the city became unsafe for any who did not serve the Abyss.
Then the Dukes of Hell took an interest in what was happening. They sent legions of their servants to assist the masters of the Hierarchs because their cause was one with Nerull and the rest. Cohorts of abishai – blue, red, green, black, and white devils of winged sort – appeared in the sky to contest with the demons there. From spined devils to mighty pit fiends, the Nine Hells sent forth their companies.
Those who had lesser power died, destroyed forever – whether daemon, demon, demodand, hordling, devil, or any other of the foulness being belched up from the vile lower planes. The terrible battle raged day and night for a week. When it finally ended, all of the things summoned were dead or returned to their own places. It had to be thus, or else the great rulers would be drawn into the contest, and none – demon, devil, or otherwise – cared to risk this over some petty piece of the Prime Material Plane at this particular conjunction of probability, The Hells were satisfied that they had checked their Abyssal foes. There was time enough to take from the demon-spawned Iuz that which he had stolen.
Nerull seethed with fury at the setback, but Tarterus wavered, and if he continued to fight openly then, more likely than not, other of the lords of the Abyss would unite to oppose the conjunction of Evil. The Reaper too decided to bide his time.
Molag fell to the mundane armies of Iuz. The cambion's realm now extended from the Dulsi River in the west to the verge of the Fellreev Forest and the banks of the Ritensa in the east. The writ of Iuz extended northward to the Cold Marshes and south to the Veng River and the border marches of Furyondy and the Shield Lands. Bandit lordlings now pledged their fealty to Iuz, while ambassadors from the nomads of the cold northwestern plains and the strange realm of Blackmoor came with gifts and offers of alliance. Even the master of the distant holdings called Stonefist considered such steps, so great was the fame which came to the cambion upon his overthrow of the Hierarchs.
Of the Hierarchs themselves, not even Iuz knew for certain. Those who had served these men had either died or taken service under their new master. Some few escaped, of course, for the Ten had surely managed to flee somewhere. Rumor said that they had been carried far to the south, but nothing was known beyond this tale.
As the month of Sunsebb brought the chill of winter to the land, the ones who opposed Evil wondered what would follow. Perhaps the night and cold would be upon Oerth forever soon, and spirits dimmed and hearts grew heavy at this prospect. Others, though, understanding full well the contest between Chaos and the rest of Evil, were glad for the seeming victory of badness. These wise leaders sent messages of encouragement to the others who neared despair. "When Evil fights Evil, Good folk prosper. Do not lose heart, for Iuz truly stands between us and a world of utter darkness! There is hope yet."
It was not all well with Iuz. The victories were hollow to the cambion, for he had to share them with the two women who seemed determined to make his existence a hell – no; worse than that. Ordered and regimented as it was, Iuz thought that such would almost be preferable to what he suffered. Iggwilv held the Second Key and would not give it to him. With it in her possession, Iuz dared not argue strongly, let alone attempt force. Zuggtmoy, meanwhile, directed his every move, with Iggwilv's advice and blessing. It was intolerable! Only he knew that somehow he must tolerate it all, biding his moment, the time when he actually gained the Second Key and stood above the two who ruled him as he had ruled others.
Winter howled over Dorakaa, and Iuz wished that the reconstruction of his new palace at Molag were done so at least he could enjoy the benefits of that warmer clime. Thinking of the fair shores of the Pomarj, where snow never fell, Iuz wandered off to the dungeons below his dreadful palace in Dorakaa to see if a little amusement there might cheer him somewhat.
Returning the former captives took several weeks. Moon and his friend and longtime fellow mercenary, Patrick, would not have it any other way. They saw most of the women and girls safely to their respective homes. Of course they were given rewards, the compensation being a few coppers or a gold orb, depending on the financial capability of the grateful relatives concerned. In the process, Patrick won the favor of a nice-looking lass from a small village in the Viscounty of Verbobonc. Nothing would do but that she be returned home last; of course, and Moon cheerfully agreed to the plan. Eventually, the three brought their weary horses to the stable of the girl's home.