Hell’s a bit of a downer. It’s all red plains, rocky crags, and fireballs, and rivers of blood. At least at this layer. And rumors say this layer is the “pleasant” one. Armed with the knowledge from Hexla the party trudged out into the realm of suffering, having to keep a good watch over poor Matty who had woken with a fever and a swollen hand that seemed green and squishy in places. He had become practically comatose and susceptible to hallucinations, making him easy to lead around, but unlikely to respond to any kind of stimuli. Many of the party were in agreement that this was indeed the perfect Matty ‘9 Fingers.’
Following the directions that had been given them, the group found themselves at the base of the Pillar of Skulls. A tall column of hundreds of heads (some in varying states of rot and decay) argued back in forth and insulted one another, completely paying the group no mind. It took Rose beaning one of the skulls in the head with a rock to get the thing’s attention. But as soon as the Pillar learned they were seeking information, the entire entity began to shout out requests for services that would be used as payment for the information they sought. There was a request to sacrifice a party member, one to knock out the prominent head, one to bring back and fiend, and one for the name of the spell key for this layer of Baator. While the thought of sacrifing Matty was tempting, Moo attempted to intimidate information out of the Ogre head instead.
After the intimidation had ended, the was little left of the Ogre head except bits of skull and brain matter. Luckily this was exactly what one of the other head’s had requested to begin with and it provided the group with what it thought was the closest portal. “You leatherhead!” said another. “That portal’s five days from here.” Another argument irrupted, and the party was forced to decide which head’s information to follow. Since the majority of the Pillar had suggested a portal they claimed was within a day’s travel away and only required the brick from the Great Avernus Road to activate, the group felt that was likely a better option than a five day trek that required a fiend’s spine. But when they came across a disgusting, rushing, congealing river of blood there was a quick open vote to start heading on that five day hike. Did we mention hell sucks?
Deciding that a river of blood may be the worst of their worries in this place, Rose started tying the group together and wading into the shallowest section of the flowing river she could find. The iron-rich muck came up to their waists (but perhaps only up to Moo’s loincloth), and they began to forge their way across (most likely thanking their Gods that they weren’t born Halflings.) Just as their journey across began, suddenly a school of worm like parasites began to leap from the red gook and attach themselves to folks like leeches. It seemed getting to the opposite shore took precedence over destroying the creatures and the party quickened their pace, only having to stop whenever a rope between them got too tight. Zoren once attempted to move further than his rope (and the Minotaur attached to the other end) would allow, and nearly broke a rib for his troubles. Finally, crawling to shore, the party finished off the remaining blood leeches and took a breath. Matty, appearing at first to have not been harmed at all by the whole deal, seemed to have the worst of it when an engorged leech was discovered attached to his rear. On the plus side he probably won’t remember that. Unless Moo reminds him just to be a jerk.
Not far from where the group had gotten to shore there was an abandoned ruin of Teifling architecture. Moo, having had just as much of hell as he could stand, pushed the party onward without giving the ruin another thought. Rose longingly stared at the ruin as it faded in the distance, swearing that she could see the possible treasure within waving them goodbye. Ahead of them stretched the black Avernus Road that had been mentioned by the Pillar of Skulls. At one end stood Bel’s disturbing and vast fortress. What had seemed a barren field not long ago, was now teaming with entire armies of devil’s. Getting to the road at this point would likely end in death. Though eternal torture was also a good possibility according to Sheldon’s passenger.
The group moved south down the road hoping to either find an opening in the march big enough to sneak a stone from the road, or wait for the parade to move on. After what seemed like hours, a large, red figure flew out from the castle and ordered the army to move out. Once the road cleared the party made a break for it. As luck would have it a brick from the road was partially sticking out enough that Moo was able to grab hold and yank it (and a few other stones) free. A shriek behind them made them realize that what they once thought was a dark cloud, was actually an endless number of flying devils that were trying to catch up with the rest of the army. Noticing the intruders on their land they swooped in for the attack. The group ran. You could say they ran like little girls but if you were chased by thousands of flying fiends you probably wouldn’t handle yourself any better.
The chase was intense, and the moment someone found themselves lagging behind they felt a slash at their back, or, in poor Sheldon’s case, swooped up and bounced around like a basketball at a Globetrotters game. With most of them completely out of breath, and driven by pure adrenaline alone, the group ascended the stone steps to the claw-like outcropping that held the portal out of this miserable place. Perhaps it was due to their continuing luck (bad luck is still technically luck), but standing in front of their only known way out, was another fiend. This fiend, in human form, introduced himself as Arkel-Mens. He hoped the party had a pleasant stay in Avernus and asked that in return for them leaving the plane they would do him the favor of taking a pearl-like crystal orb with them to their destination.
Moo was skeptical and considered just pushing his way past this Fu-Man-Chu reject. Sheldon’s dark passenger seemed okay with the favor. And Rose agreed to the task, taking a moment to leave behind a note that she had hopped would be found by Bel, accusing Arkel-Mens of treachery. As the party stepped through the Arch, the terrain immediately changed to the bustling city of Sigil. A city that appeared to be built inside the center of a ring, and that stretched up and over their heads. Creatures of all sorts wandered this market area of the city, including a few fiends that seemed to fit in just fine. At first the party worried that people were considering them strange and out of place, but in the end it was simply because they were walking the streets coated in drying blood. Both the brick and the orb they had been given had disintegrated. Sheldon’s passenger chuckled to himself about Arkel-Mens’ continuing idiocy.
Using Rose and Sheldon’s knowledge of how city’s work, the group managed to track down a pink-haired Tout named Kylie who, (for money of course) showed them around and answered questions. When asked about where they could sleep and get cleaned up she lead the way. First to a fancy looking spa where the party and their gear got first-class treatment and walked out very spiffy (Moo declined the bows in his hair), including Matty who had undergone a special spa treatment and had been cured of the green slime poisoning that had infected him. Course, much to everyone’s dismay, this got him talking again. And he had quite a bit of talking to do to catch up. Unfortunately the portal from Avernus seemed only one way.
Next Kylie lead them to a tavern/inn called the Fortune’s Wheel. Reassuring them that despite the price they would find good lodging, safety, and most likely good work if they ask the right people. She offered the name Shemeshka (the owner of the inn) as a possible person to speak to regarding work, but warned them that they would have to catch the ‘fiend’ in the right mood. For now. The party sleeps. Tomorrow… work. With the exception of Matty who’s probably picking a bar fight. It’s good to see he’s feeling better.
XP for all present:
A brick from the Great Avernus Road. (Probably worth a lot more in memories than it is gold.) A damn good breakfast at the Fortune’s Wheel. (Hotcakes and boar bacon. No butter for Moo.)