Late summer, Chiron’s Hill, Trevain
At the behest of her newly-acquired patron, the Winter Queen, the Latz emissary in Chiron’s Hill, Anführer Orimine Leviathan der Infernal, gathered a group to head into Autumnhaven and attend to a disturbance in the Fey realm. She took with her Helenas Olara, the half-elf bard who witnessed the pact that brought her into the service of the Fey, and Brother Otto, a young human monk who in his uncertainty over his forced sojourn from the Monastery of the Moving Seasons had been causing some trouble in town. Helenas was moved to follow the tiefling by an encounter with Kaethel Lonair, an elf bard who had studied under her old master, Leif, and believed that the threads of fate were wound closely around the emissary. Brother Otto for his part, had recently been counselled by Athram the Mason, an old dwarf local, that the path to the humility he had been instructed to find may lie in service to others.
The band followed chill winds sent by the Winter Queen to guide them to a small hill in the forest which appeared to have had all life burnt off its top by some kind of infernal magic. Exploring around the hill, they were attacked by a bear that appeared to have been touched by the dark magics that the site contained and was driven by an unearthly rage. Despite its vicious assaults, the party managed to kill the beast and proceeded to explore into the cave it had emerged from.
Inside they found a room with some kind of pentagram-like design on the floor. Cautiously, they attempted to test the pattern and moved on to trying to break it. Nothing seemed to have any effect whatsoever until Brother Otto’s arm crossed the boundary. All of a sudden the whole room flared up and with a swirling of magic and a strong smell of brimstone they found themselves transported to a far more hostile place!
They were standing on a stone outcropping, hemmed in by great claws of rock on all sides but for a small exit. The sky above was a smoky red and the smell of sulphur and ozone was overwhelming. A small spiny figure backed slowly away from them until it bumped its head on the rocky claw behind it.
The group questioned this being, who gave the name Halitsu. They learnt that they were not far from the fortress of Bel, a name Orimine was vaguely familiar with as a devil lord in the service of Gaatesh. Halitsu, who appeared to be terrified of the “invaders”, had little other valuable information, but was able to direct them to see the Mad Witch in the mountains to the west. Helenas forced the devil to swear that he would not reveal their arrival to his lord and the party took their leave down a long winding path to the plains below.
As they descended, they looked out across endless barren plains, punctuated by large armies of fiendish creatures, often in pitched battle. Fireballs crashed to earth here and there and a river of a disturbing crimson colour snaked along in the west. Beyond that, they could see the mountains that were their destination.
Their travel across the plains was uncomfortable, but otherwise not too dangerous as by travelling carefully, they were able to avoid the large groups of fel beings that roamed about. They crossed the river, which upon close inspection was a river of blood with ghastly faces floating about in it, at a ford, managing to keep themselves largely away from the foul liquid and soon could see a plume of white smoke, a clear sign of the witch’s abode, as the abundant smoke elsewhere was thick and black, rising from the base of the mountains to the west.
Their reception was not as hospitable as they had hoped. A dwarf woman with wild white hair emerged from the cave where the smoke originated and accused them of being fiends before snaring Helenas in a web. The party managed to talk her down though, and after testing them with holy water, she allowed them into her cave.
Inside the cave, which was illuminated by magical means, they found a hut. The observant Helenas noted that the hut appeared to be the right shape and size to have fitted on the remnants of a structure she had found on the top of the hill earlier and after talking to the witch, who introduced herself as Eileena, the group learnt she and her whole residence had been transported here some 25 years ago by some kind of magical misfortune.
Eileena was not able to tell them how to leave the hell they’d landed in, but she did direct them to the Pillar of Skulls, which she said would give them the answers they needed. She fed them and allowed them to rest and asked them to do her one favour – to deliver a figurine of a female human warrior to her adoptive daughter in Chiron’s Hill, Jillup.
The party forged on the next morning to the Pillar of Skulls, which truthfully, was more of a pillar of decapitated heads in various states of decomposition. As they arrived and spoke with the pillar, several heads offered information in return for a service from the party. In the end, they took an elf head’s deal, to knock the ogre head that seemed to be the dominant head out of the pillar, and were given the location of the exit portal they needed and informed that the key was a coin from Bel’s personal treasury.
The party was disheartened by the notion of having to sneak in and out of an archfiend’s fortress. They discussed what was to be done until they settled on the gamble that they hadn’t needed a key to get in, so maybe they wouldn’t need one to leave. With that agreed upon, they headed off to the east to the portal.
Unfortunately, there was no crossing at the river this time, so the three had to wade waist deep through the blood. Helenas argued vigorously against it and was still on the west bank when to worm-like creatures attacked Orimine and Otto who were already halfway across. One sunk its teeth into Orimine, but Otto was able to stave them off. All of this did nothing for Helenas’s willingness to cross, but eventually she was convinced … just in time for the third worm creature to attack. Otto struck quickly and the group made haste to get out on the other side.
Once again, the party was careful to avoid the denizens of the war-torn plains as they travelled back to the east. After some hours walk, they spied the raised area that hosted the exit portal. As they started on the last leg of their journey, a large group of devils flew past their position. The party held their breath as the fiends went by and kept going for a moment, but then, as one they wheeled. Knowing the game was up, they broke into a sprint for the portal.
As they drew near, it looked like they were going to make it despite the onset of exhaustion, but then they saw a lone figure standing in their path. He was around nine feet tall and unmistakably fiendish, bat wings on his back, horns on his head and dark red skin. The party slowed their pace, preparing themselves for assault from both sides, but miraculously, the flying fiends too slowed their pace and came to halt, hovering to watch and see what would transpire.
The fiend that blocked their way introduced himself as Ar’kle-mens and informed the trio that he was willing to let them leave on one condition: that they deliver a letter to the very same Jillup that Eileena had asked them to take the figurine to. Helenas looked at the situation for a moment and concluding that it may be their only chance at survival took the letter, carefully avoiding verbally agreeing to any kind of deal in the process. As he had promised, Ar’kle-mens stepped aside and ushered them by.
As Brother Otto stepped across the line of the pentagram that marked the portal, once again, it sprung to life and with a swirl of magic, they were transported back and found themselves in the cave, face to face with Welford …