» Forgotten Realms Calendar / Campaign Timeline     » Amassed Loot     » Monster Roster     » Current Party Stats    

A Devilish Dilemma

Theona’s Journal

Kythorn 27, 1373, The City of Doors

I guess we looked dangerous, because the first creature we came face to face with dropped down prostrate on the ground, trembling and squeaking, “no hurt!” Now, I didn’t trust the little fellow, a dark-skinned spiky devil complete with warfork, but it wasn’t hard to get him talking, and most of what he said was accurate enough to form a plan of action. Hixtali indicated he was one of the many guards of Lord Bel’s castle (that would be the large green building filling up one horizon) and was more than willing to get us away from where we were standing. He wanted us to go through the nearest portal; though after hearing it led to something called the “Front Line of the Blood Wars,” we indicated we’d prefer something a bit more like home. Hixtali squeaked that he would take us to see a bad sorceress called Hexla, who lived in a cave in the mountains. Seeing as we were heading there anyway, we convinced him to act as our guide.

The landscape was depressing enough already, but we soon came to the edge of a river, which our guide insisted we had to cross. River of Blood was an apt name— the vivid red waterway smelled of blood, and in fact the “waterline” appeared as if it was clotting where it touched the dryer ground. Hixtali waded right in, with the crimson liquid lapping about his face as he forded what was apparently one of the narrower portions of the river. The rest of us resigned ourselves to getting drenched in the stuff, though Tassar ended up riding on Dietricha’s shoulders, as he would have been completely submerged. The distance across was still at least 200 yards. Before we got to the other side, Deitricha cried out when something brushed her leg— and then latched on. We quickly got out on the far bank to find that two 3’ long bloodworms were attached to Deitricha’s legs. We got them off but she looked like they’d already done some damage. Thankfully her clerical abilities still seem to function, as she had to do some healing before she was ready to walk again.

We quickly proceeded to the foothills where the red mountain met the red plains, and Hixtali pointed to a cave entrance a short ways up. Refusing to go up with us, the little devil assured us that he’d be waiting right there when we came out. Rosorc rewarded the fiend with a bit of meat he’d had in his backpack. I suspect Hixtali departed long before he’d swallowed the last morsel.

We climbed the path up to the entrance and soon found ourselves in a cave strewn with bones and skulls (definitely demonic in nature)— and a small wooden hut. Now, I don’t really know why my comrades would trust anyone that lived in a wooden hut in a cave on a plane where no trees were visible, but William, at least, was delighted by the prospect of meeting a magic user, and ran right up to the door of the dwelling. An eye peeked out. And that was it— just an eye, no body. The eye must have been satisfied by what it saw, for soon a half-elf appeared at the door as well.

Tassar somehow bribed her to give him some ale, and was soon completely intoxicated by some suspicious-looking red brew (I noticed at this point that he also had acquired Hixtali’s warfork— and he thinks I’m a thief!). More disturbing, upon talking to William, Hexla decided she could help us get back to our home, but only William had the “spell components” she needed— silver eyes. Now, I’ve never had the heart to tell William, but those silver things he has stuck in his face do not look like eyes to me— I was rather sure he’d be better off handing them over and getting a proper pair with pupils and all, but there was no convincing him of that. He offered her some of his platinum hair instead, which was simply astounding seeing as she didn’t ask for it. She was quick to shear it off of him though. I assured William that, unlike the eyes, the hair wouldn’t grow back. Our last mage burned off his hair and it never grew back. My friends tell me that is ridiculous, that hair grows back, but I know for a fact that there are a lot of bald humans in Silverymoon that I’ve been neighbors with for years and years— their hair turns platinum just like William’s, and then it falls right off, never to grow back. Nearly all of them have eyes though.

At any rate, Hexla told us we had to follow the River of Blood south until we came to the Pillar of Skulls— apparently there is a means to find a portal home there. While we mulled that idea over, I remembered that we’d found some as-of-yet-unidentified magic scrolls right beside the portal that got us into this mess. I didn’t trust that Hexla would tell us what they contained, so I asked to buy two potions of “Read Magic” from her (though I had to borrow from Rosorc to pay for them). After seeing how she’d interacted with Tassar and William, I bade her drink one before I could assume the other would be safe enough for me to swallow. The good news is that the potion worked, but unfortunately, the spells revealed by this magical enhancement were of no immediate use to us. Deitricha has been looking at me disapprovingly, and Areon seems to be keeping to himself even more so than usual, though I’ve caught him watching Rosorc a few times. Every time I catch Rosorc’s eye, he starts beaming and stroking his beard.

We departed the cave and headed south on a three-hour trek to the pillar. On the way we saw a squad of about twenty blue-skinned Baatezu (what the devils collectively call themselves), looking somewhat like tall dwarves, heading towards us, actively searching for trouble. We all scattered and hid behind some of the numerous boulders, and were doing a fairly good job of not being seen, until I noticed I could see Rosorc, or rather, a lot of the spikes on his armor and helm, sticking out from behind a big rock. There was no time to find him a better spot, so I tossed him a potion labeled “invisibility”—- that did the trick! The Baatezu were so loud in their plate armor as they clanked past us that I doubt they would have heard us had we been yelling at them.

The rest of the hike to the pillar went without incident. Before long we saw a line stretching up into the sky and out of view. As we neared, we could hear the cacophony of a multitude of voices, and realized that it was a column of heads stretching off into the— well, I would have said Heavens, but I suspect they stop quite short of that. A few dozen pairs of eyes locked on our party, and dozens of voices began to demand various things. Finally, an ogre head silenced those around him, and began an attempt at communication with us. It offered to give us instructions home in exchange for one of us! A fat head nearby demanded a fiend for providing the same information. An elf head suggested a means of departure from the plain, requesting only that we remove the large head from the pillar so the elf head could get a bit of peace. The ogre head was yanked out and tossed into the River of Blood (and continued its rant from there), though we are assured that it will take its place in the pillar again in due time.

The elf head, which once belonged to a merchant from some far off land called “Verbobonc” (“Always read the fine print!” he lamented), said that there was a portal to the south in a horseshoe rock. It required a special key— a brick from the road of Avernus. This would be a long red road we neglected to notice back by the fortress of Lord Bel. We’d either have to ford the river again, or go over a bridge to the south that was heavily guarded. While the elf head graciously gave detailed instructions, the fat head kept interrupting with suggestions to go west and find a circle on the ground. Even in Hell, the only really good advice came from an elf!

We headed off south first, to see just how “guarded” the bridge was. A very large fiend guarded the bone bridge, with quite a few minions keeping watch with him. We headed back on a three-hour trek to the narrowest part of the River of Blood. As we crossed, I felt something brush my legs and then heard a yelp from William. We got out of the river to find a bloodworm attached to him. It was immediately yanked off, but I skewered it with my rapier— one less critter to deal with when we cross back with our brick!

We headed towards the fortress and the “Blood Rift,” or rather, we skirted the fortress to the road. It was, indeed, made of red brick, though there was an entire army of fiends amassed on it. They weren’t paying any attention to us, but we kept our distance until they left several hours later. Occasionally, gouts of flame would burst from the ground near us.

Before I could offer to sneak out and get a brick, Tassar was off like a shot. I had a sudden mental image of him finding the only pit trap in the entire road and falling in, but he managed to grab a brick and started running back towards us.

Suddenly, about fifty winged fiends launched themselves from the top of the fortress, heading right for us! It took some convincing to get Tassar, who had thrown the brick to Rosorc, to keep running— he looked as though he would turn and fight the entire horde himself, and I think Rosorc would have fought at his side! Luckily for us, it didn’t come to that. First, a random ball of flame erupted from the ground, scattering fiend bodies everywhere as they fell from the blast. The remaining fiends, who were apparently answering the battle cry of another group of fiends heading towards the fortress, clashed overhead we ran like, um, Hell.

We raced across the river one last time, and, of all things, managed to nearly run into that squad of blue-skinned devils we’d avoided earlier. We took off as fast as we could, though with our shorter stature and overabundance of equipment, we probably looked like we were leisurely strolling along the path south. Luckily, the heavily armed Baatezu couldn’t catch up, so the slow chase began. We breezed past the pillar and thought we were home free, so to speak, when we passed the bone bridge— and all of its occupants. Things were looking grim, but then we spotted the horseshoe shaped rock just ahead. Sprinting for all we were worth, we got to the portal, only to find a fiend standing there blocking our way. The good thing was, that it caused the devils behind us to give up their pursuit.

The fiend, to be honest, looked like a darker version of William, being about the same height, though he still had his spiky hair. He said he would allow us passage on the condition we take a black orb he was holding with us— in fact he indicated we would not likely survive the trip through without it. As we agreed (there were not a lot of other options at this point) I called out, “Where does this portal lead?” to which he replied:

“The City of Doors.”

We found ourselves standing on a cobblestone street in a haze-shrouded ghetto, with lights high overhead. The orb was now useless, crumbled to dust. Looking up and down the street, we could see that it curved upward in both directions— way up. All manner of strange beings walked passed us— centaur-like creatures (though their bodies looked more goat-like), tall jaundiced-looking humanoids with sharp features, things with wings, and things with horns, mixing with others that likely were humans.

I could use a drink.

Posted by Kristin on March 30, 2004, 17:55 | Theona’s Journal