Hell. The word conjures images of despair, oppression, torture, and damnation. The 9 Hells is a place of evil beyond imagination. Ironically each and every one of us owes a huge debt of gratitude to the Dukes of Hell. It was the Dukes of Hell who first recognized the dangers of an Abyss unchecked and it is the Dukes who, to this day, wage a war against the never ending hordes of the Abyss. If it were not for constant warfare culling the demons of the Abyss the rest of the multiverse would have been overrun long ago. Even so, it is to this unspeakable place that you must go to destroy a devil and free Hans Drubal.
The harvester devil that met you in the Glaberzu’s lair was eager to move not wishing to spend another moment in the Abyss. He provided each of you writs of passage that would give you access to the first layer of Hell as well as portals that lead to the second. Although he did warn you that they were forgeries that only appear to be signed by Bel, the Arch Duke of the First. Once you arrived in the 2nd layer you would be on your own but he did tell you that Furcas could be found in the city of Dis on the second layer.
Stepping into the portal you are immediately overcome by memories of all of the worst moments in your lives. Memories give way to horrid nausea as your heads spin through a miasma of unpleasing colors. When your heads clear you are greeted with shrieks of rage mixed with cries of terror. Sprawled before you lay the gates of Hell. Ahead you can see a massive depression in the ground where a steady flow of mortals were appearing. Devils wielding large scythes lined the edges of the depression and herded the unfortunate individuals forward like cattle through a narrow tunnel and into Hell. To the right a more conventional gate stood with a pair of devils standing guard.
Approaching the gate Sveta looked down into the mass of people being forced into Hell. It was obvious that these were not souls of damned people but actual mortals who have been taken captive. Then Sveta’s sharp eye caught site of a huge orc. Pausing a moment to get a better look she was shocked to see her father, Durge Knucklebone, being forced along with the others. Knowing she had to keep her cool and not tip the devils off to her distress Sveta pulled the party aside and told them of what she saw. Unanimously, the party agreed to find a way of helping Durge.
Approaching the gate you presented your forged documents. Everyone was able to make their way through, although Grishma was detained for several minutes while his papers were more carefully inspected by another devil. Once inside Joselyn learned from a rather angry devil that anyone wishing to petition for the release of a captive soul would have to argue before Ashkult, the Judge of Hell.
Working your way into the fortress that lay on the other side of the gates you made your way to Ashkult’s court. You could see that you were not the only ones who were here on behalf of another. A man, with slightly fiendish features as if a distant relative had been a devil, was standing before a great pit fiend. There seemed to be a long history between Ashkult and the man as he was not given an opportunity to speak before the pit fields flaming gavel hammered the podium and the man was ordered away.
Intrigued by the presence of free mortals bearing writs of passage Ashkult allowed the party to make their case. You told the pit fiend that you were there to secure the release of Durge Knucklebone. Ashkult seemed flustered at first sending runners to find Sveta’s father. The steady flow of mortals into Hell had sent Ashkult’s bureaucracy into chaos, an intolerable state for any devil. Once Durge had been located the arguments were heard. Ashkult seemed unimpressed by your oratory skills and was growing impatient. Joselyn sensed that the negotiation was falling apart and appealed to Ashkult in the only way you had left, bribery. In the end, you traded three damned souls, stolen from the Abyss and safely trapped in iron vials, for Durge’s release. This was costly as those souls were being saved as insurance for your trip to the second layer of Hell.
Leaving Bel’s fortress you are greeted by the stark landscape of the first layer of Hell. All that lay before you was dust, rock, and gore from the countless Blood War battles that have raged here. Fireballs rained from the overcast sky occasionally striking an unwary devil. Orek believed that these fireballs originated from Zariel. The former Arch Duke of the 1st, Zariel was betrayed by Bel and imprisoned in a floating prison high above. The fireballs, Orek believed, were the physical manifestation of Zariel’s rage. Moving into the wastes, each step you took was a muddy mixture of dirt, blood, and entrails.
The nearest gate to the 2nd layer was inaccessible as it was located in the court of Bel himself. Your only other lead took you to Darkspine more than a thousand miles away. Darkspine was a mortal city that had been wrenched into Hell and destroyed. However, Orek believed that Darkspine had remained a thorn in the side of Bel as the mortals that remain conspire against the Arch Duke and often harbor demons that are cut off during the Blood War Battles that rage in the canyons of the first layer.
Sveta and Durge spent a lot of time catching up during this trip. He seemed disappointed that Sveta had so easily given up on Hope. Sveta explained to Durge what Hope, while in the womb, had done to Rosie but Durge was unwavering. “You don’t turn your back on family,” he grumbled. Perhaps it was his orc sensibilities but he was equally upset that Edge had turned his back on Sveta after the events in the Abyss. Sveta expressed her desire that, upon returning home, Durge retire his axe and help her raise Rosie. Durge said that he would but only if he is allowed to take both twins.
As you push into the wastes you can see the man who had been thrown out of Ashkult’s court in the distance ahead. Without trying to be too conspicuous you moved as quickly as you could to catch up. When you finally caught up to him the man was justifiably wary even refusing to give his name. You told him that you were traveling to Darkspine and if he wanted to accompany you he could. The man reluctantly agreed to join you as far as he was going being extremely evasive about his destination and motives.
Continuing your march you found yourself in the maze like canyons that separated Darkspine from Bel’s fortress. Luckily your new companion seemed to know his way through. Eventually, your guide led you into a box canyon and up to the sheer cliff in the rear. “Here we need to climb,” he said sternly. Raudrogdos made the climb easy as his giant frame went up first with rope allowing the others to easily climb behind. At the top of the forty foot cliff the party was sandwiched between another, even taller rock wall to your right and a large mound in front of you. Suddenly the sound of snarling and barking could be heard approaching.
A large pack of hell hounds came sprinting around the mound while a pair of mezzoloths led by an ultroloth came up over the rise. Joselyn and Raudrogdos charged up the loose earth of the mound while the others met the hell hounds. The hounds proved to be no match for you as they were hacked to pieces easily. However, the yugoloths proved to be a far greater challenge. The ultroloth used its powerful magic to stun the yet unnamed companion and Raudrogdos also fell at the hands of his spell casting. Once the hell hounds were dispatched the rest of the party joined Joselyn on the mound. By this time the yugoloths were falling back. Seeing that the hounds were all destroyed the ultroloth vanished leaving the two mezzoloths to be destroyed.
Grishma quickly realized that something was wrong with Raudrogdos. Examining him Jia realized that he was dead but a spellcraft revealed that his soul had been trapped by the Ultroloth. Orek believed that there was still a chance to save Raudrogdos if you moved quickly.
After the battle your stunned guide was able to stand again. Since you had not taken the opportunity to dispatch him while he was down he seemed to be more at ease with you and introduced himself as Hirogan Hammerson. He said that he is the 13th descendent of Jarl (a name you recognized as an exemplar) and Svoelf Hammerson and that his family has been petitioning for the release of Jarl’s soul since being taken here as the result of a faustian pact. Hirogan also felt that he was the last hope for his great grandfather as he had no heir or any prospect of having one.
Hirogan told you that he knew of a faster way to Darkspine but that the trip would be costly. He explained that a pair of Hezrou that had been cut off from the demonic armies had set up a teleportation service in the canyons and that at the cost of a soul would take the party to Darkspine. Having traded the only souls you possessed for Durge’s release you had to convince Hirogan to cover the party from his own stock.
Hirogan led you to the lair of the Hezrou that was hidden by an illusion. Hirogan asked that the party wait outside while he went to negotiate. Coming out a short time later he insisted that the party give their word that no hostile action will be taken when entering the lair. Joselyn demanded to know what the problem was to which Hirogan answered, “the Ultroloth is in there.”
Immediately upon entering there was a tense standoff. Joselyn tried to convince the creature to trade the soul of Raudrogdos back. The ultroloth was being difficult and would only trade it for one of Sveta’s children. Finally, Sveta, having enough of the yugoloths insults, jumped forward and smacked the iron flask containing the giants soul from his hand. The ultroloth grabbed Sveta by the throat screaming “thief!” in its best guttural common. Orek grabbed the flask from the air using mage hand while the two hezrou laughed at the spectacle. The ultroloth released Sveta but warned that this wasn’t over and teleported away. Raudrogdos was revived once his soul was released.
Teleporting the thousand miles to Darkspine the party appeared in a dark basement of a ruined building. The entrance of the basement had been hidden by rubble. This appeared to be the best place to rest and a watch was set. You were not attacked during your rest but you did hear the sound of an individual being hunted in the streets outside. Judging from the sound outside, the hunter took down his prey.
After resting, Hirogan led you to the Pig n Poke where he had hoped to find a contact of his. The tavern was a three story cobblestone structure and was the only business still operating in Darkspine. Pushing open the door you saw a bizarre collection of clearly fiendish creatures. A harvester devil was tending bar while all eyes in the commons shifted to you. As alien as this place was you couldn’t have been more shocked when you looked at the bar and saw Sumaki grinning at you.
In virtual disbelief you approached your former companion and greeted him. He informed you that he no longer worked for Rhal Bansdu and that he had found a new master. Curious you asked him who he now worked for. Sumaki asked you to wait in the commons and jogged upstairs. Coming down moments later Sumaki told you that he was on his way. Watching the stairs you could see a man coming down. To your horror it was Cuthalion.