Song of the Ages

Hell is a state of mind

So this next bit is weird. And believe me, I’ve been so far down into the Deep that I’ve come out the other side. I’ve been to every country worth calling itself such and some that deserve hardly a moment’s notice. But this part was just weird.

So, we finally finished gathering those books imbued with some goddess’ missing wits, but now we were supposed to go around and find what she referred to as ‘keys’ so that we can foil that northern lich once and for all. The first one wasn’t bad. You remember us going to that besieged fort? Yeah, there was one in the hidden tombs underneath it. The next one? Well, apparently it was in Hell itself. Yes, I said Hell. Now, mind you, we dwarves don’t put much focus on the place. That’s where you go afterwards, not us. Granted, the lines a bit blurry with some saying we could end up there and others saying we’d have our own all to ourselves, but Hell itself doesn’t get brought up as often as I’ve heard you surfacers do. So the thought of intentionally going there just filled me with all kinds of heebie-jeebies.

Imma share a secret now, something that might cause people to avoid this place if they knew about it even though it shouldn’t be an issue now, but in the cellar here there’s a room that had a Hellmouth, a literal portal to Hell. We found it soon after we took over the keep and had to kill something that had just crawled out of it, but just plugged it up as best we could until we found out we had to go there. It’s not there anymore, so don’t hop up outta your seat on me, but it still was when we found out we had to go there, so we decided how else were we going to go there? We prepared as best we could, then shuffled over and started jumping in. As luck would have it, I was the last one in and, for whatever reason, the Hellmouth was having trouble swallowing me.

Yeah, I know how that sounds. Believe me, it felt worse. You may be thinking it was just some portal, but this was more a literal mouth and throat that connected the two places together. I’m sure scholars can explain why it’s like that, but I’m not them. So, it’s just how it is.

So, I’m sliding down this massive gullet and I somehow get stuck. It’s squeezing me hard, the place reeks of all things awful and I’m already on edge just knowing where we’re headed. Not my best day. Well, that’s when I decide I’ll attack the damned thing. Can’t say how I thought that’d make things any better, but I can’t say I was thinking clearly at that point. I start biting and clawing, I mean hitting, all around me. Next thing I know, I’ve ripped a hole in the side of the throat and I get sucked out into darkness. Somewhere between this world and the next and I’m just twirling off into the void, yelling and cursing until I black out.

My bad day had just gotten worse.

When I wake up, I’m at least happy to see I’m not alone. Most of the others are with me and we’re in some kind of stone maze. Winds are howling as we begin to explore and occasionally we run into other things wandering the maze, but looking back I’m pretty convinced that they were just lost in there, like I was. We leave some alone, we kill some, but after what seemed like only two days, we finally find an exit to the maze and I’m left standing on a cliff, overlooking something that was both less and yet more than I’d expected. I’d expected a lot more fire and brimstone, what I got was an endless plain where the ground itself seemed to be made of flesh itself, like I was just a flea on the back of something rotting yet somehow alive. I could see a few buildings, most made of the same flesh beneath my feet, but some made of honest to goodness stone. Doesn’t matter that those buildings looked like ruins or twisted versions of something you’d see in this realm, I nearly started crying to see actual stone in this insane world of skin.

I only found out after the fact that I’d been wandering around in a place called Pandemonium and had finally come to the Abyss, with Hell located somehow within the Abyss. I didn’t know that then though, so I was just lost. My friends had been behaving oddly ever since we’d entered that maze and though they were able to help me fight and kill some of the monsters we’d come across inside, their magic wasn’t working the way it should have been. Fulgen could conjure food and water, but I couldn’t touch the stuff, somehow. I’d ask them questions and would sometimes get answers, but nothing that, in hindsight, I didn’t know myself or couldn’t have figured out myself. I wasn’t paying attention to that though, but do keep it in mind because it threw me for a loop later on.

We made our way down the cliff and out onto the Abyss itself and met a human who had accidentally found her own Hellmouth. She was at least armed and armored, but she had been down here longer than I had and was more than a little touched in the head, if you know what I mean. I’m not sure how much of it was being in the Abyss and how much of it was from her formerly-mad goddess, but talking to her was odd in the extreme. We’d be talking and she’d seem at least sane, but then she’d start ignoring my friends and not responding to their questions or suggestions. I figured her mind was misfiring just like Fulgen’s had been when we saved him from the lich’s trap, so I didn’t push it.

Alice, that being her name and all, and I did follow a group she’d seen in the distance that did sound a lot like my own. We went to one of the nearby ruins only to find yet another Hellmouth. Not knowing what else to do, we went it and, luckily for us and for it, it spat us out where it was supposed to- Hell. Again, not as much fire as I’d been picturing, but the place was indeed hot. Felt like walking around inside of a forge. And wouldn’t you know it, there’s a whole city down there! Granted, it seemed full of nothing but devils and, upon entering, we killed an imp because why not? It’s an imp! That’s what you do around here, right? Turns out you don’t do that down there. We ended up surrounded by devils demanding our surrender and my friends just up and vanished on me, leaving just Alice and me against a whole city of fiends.

Yeah, my bad day just kept on going, didn’t it?

So we surrendered. Now here’s the real kick in the head. Remember when I said that maze was a place called Pandemonium? Turns out it’s a place brimming with madness and hallucinations. My friends who helped me get out of there? All in my head. Yeah, Alice was crazy, but it didn’t make her wrong when she told me I came out of those caves alone. So, I was now prisoner to devils in a city in the pits of Hell, with only a madwoman by my side and I couldn’t even be sure if what I was seeing was real anymore.

My bad day had just hit rock bottom.

I don’t think we’re getting out alive...

Found myself in a place I’ve always wanted to explore: the abyss. Only place I can kill fiends and they’ll stay dead.
Can’t say it’s been pleasant. The experience has taken a toll on everyone and I don’t think we’ll all be getting out alive.
I’m concerned about completing our quest. Getting the axe may not be possible without some serious sacrifices.
If it comes to it, than I’ll do what needs to be done.

Another Entry From Fulgen's Journal

Abyss, Day 1:
Brought a pound of salt to help with the conjured food. Best decision I ever made.

Day 2:
Yoon likes it here way too much

Day 3:
If I get trapped in the Abyss and only get to bring two things with me, I’m taking Wyllo and this bag of salt.

Day 4:
Bag of salt is now a serious contender for top adventuring equipment. I might have to make it more important than crowbar.

There's too many paramilitary groups in this border nation

Alright, Yaavys, lets talk about The Lighthand. I really hope the our good steward can see how installing an extra-national, private army in The Hold weakens Sutherland’s sovereignty. I understand how more soldiers on the front is a temporary necessity, but I’m worried about the long term ramifications. What will be the nature of the agreement between Sutherland and the Lighthand when the current threat recedes? And, more importantly, what can we do to make sure the outcomes are beneficial to Sutherland, to Fort Dax, and to the Black Foxes?

See, Yaavys, I think that the Black Foxes, in order to show our support of the official government of Sutherland, should accept titles. This will strengthen the perception of Sutherland as a proper nation, with a robust organization and the authority to grant titles. Rather than simply the army between the civilized south and the barbaric north. It will also set a precedent for how Sutherland deals with unaligned groups occupying military fortifications. It allows Sutherland to demand the The Lighthand either become loyal to Sutherland or make their stay temporary. It looks much better for the interior security of this country to be maintained by “Countess Willow and her Black Foxes, the Knights of Sutherland” than by “The Black Foxes Mercenary Company”.

Other than the titles being recorded and some symbolic estates being awarded, nothing needs to change. The Black Foxes are already protecting the people by hunting rocs, vampires, and giants. We have dealt with cultists and bandits that threatened the people of Sutherland. We are already establishing an environment of industry, security, and trade that will benefit Sutherland for many years to come. We come to the defense of Sutherland when required, just as we did the recent assault on the Hold. We will only be more effective in all of these areas with the official enforcement of the Steward and the Grand Marshal.

I really am worried that The Lighthand will use Sutherland as vehicle to expand their power to the detriment of the people of Sutherland.

Not like they're saying

So, I admit, this next part was pretty strange for me. You know how the Hold’s defenses buckled and for a while the northmen took the place, right? Well, we were part of the forces that marched up there to retake it. Granted, we had a little something extra in mind we hoped to do while we were there, but overall I found myself marching with a large group of troops intent on taking a border keep.

Sound familiar? Yeah, I thought it would. The last time I was doing such a thing, it ended with such a slaughter, nearly ending me along with it too. Granted, when we went back there, it wasn’t so bad since it was a small group that time and we weren’t retaking the place, just killing what had taken up residence. But this time? It was eerily similar to the last time I marched with an army. Had me on edge the entire time, I tell you.

Now, most of the troops were going to be used like troops are- marched together until they die or kill. They would assault the walls of the Hold, but let’s be honest here. That place was meant to withstand any attacks like that, so what good was this going to do? It was practically throwing lives away. So why did they decide on that plan?

Turns out the generals had a plan and the dying soldiers were to provide a distraction for a small team to sneak into town and kill the invaders’ leader. Guess who they picked for that small team. No, go on and guess. Don’t give me that look, just humor me. Why yes! How did you know?! The Black Foxes had the honor of slipping in during a pitched battle and killing whatever passed for a leader in there. I think I’ve already heard a ballad or two being composed about it already, and let me tell you, none of them were like the real thing at all.

First, there was very little resistance getting in. We didn’t gut watchmen and hide bodies, we just slunk inside the fortress and then slipped up onto the main keep’s roof without having to slit any throats, bind any foes or gag any guardsmen.

Second, I hear people talking about us raining down on that giant and his guard like death, but believe me, it was nothing like that. None of it was impressive, since most of us ended up falling into the middle of his war council. They probably were more confused than intimidated. We certainly weren’t making a good showing at first, which is probably why they didn’t run or call for more guards.

Now, I will give those song-writers props on the giant himself. They got that pretty spot on. Except for the axe part, he didn’t have one of those, just two large shields he kept hitting us with. But he was certainly a sight to behold. A towering behemoth of steel, smoke and rage, I like that description and it fits. Or it did fit until all the fighting died down. Nothing is really towering after having its head cut off. Guess we’ve become quite adept at dealing with behemoths.

Once that was done, we paraded his head around the fortress, scaring off most northmen that we came across. From what I hear, the battle on the walls really turned in Sutherland’s favor once news got out that their general had fallen, but we didn’t really stick around to see. You see, we had another reason for being there and we hoped to be done with it by the time our troops retook the crumbling fortress. What was that reason, you ask? Well, buy me another round and I’ll tell you, but let me give you a hint, it involved the crypts and a lost, holy relic.

Yeah, you want to hear that part of the story, don’t you? So about that round of drink…

The Worst Adventure Of Fulgen's Life

Fulgen smashed his mug down hard on the counter, shattering it. “You don’ unnershtann’, Bree!” he bellowed. Then he fell off his barstool, mostly on purpose.

“Shorry! I’ll fix it, jusht…” He rolled over and started picking up shattered pieces of the mug off the floor, ignoring the cuts in his fingers. “Ish too outlannish! It breaksh the audienshushh shushpenshunn of dishbelief! Ish one thin’ to shay, ‘oi, yesh, we killed a draggnnn’ ‘coz when people hear that they shay ’shure, a fire-breathin’ draggnnnn’, I can believe that, but prolly werenn’t ash big ash he shaysh.’”

Fulgen crawled back up onto the bar and scraped all the shap pieces of his mug together in a pile. “But thish thin’, tooootally diffren’. You tell them you hash a jaunt off the globe, three trialsh, an’ a chat with a god, nnnobody believesh it. Ish just a fairy tale. Thish ish the worst adventure of my whole life! My whole life, Bree!”

Fulgen spread his fingers and put both his hands on either side of the pile of shattered ceramics. He closed his eyes, and hummed a tune that sounded almost like a lullaby. He stopped after a few notes, frowned, then started over and hummed all four bars of it. The mug stood up in an instant and was in one piece again. “An’ nobody up there even tellsh me why the ghosts ish followin’ me ’round… I really wanna know… Might make a good shtory…”

Things officially got weird

So we plugged the books into the machine, and got transported to Elysium. Fought an angel. I died. Wyllo offered to take my place, luckily it was a test and I was brought back to life. Met the Red Flame, and made her uncrazy…

Yeah… it’s been a long day

Message Encoded in the Book of the Dead

I imagine the dwarves will not be happy that you corrupted one of their sacred texts. Then again, if it is made constant, as the machine I have built intended, they will have never known it was corrupted to begin with. This is where you will hide the last knowledge, the location of the lock itself, where I have buried Eadwig’s dark heart, his corrupted Spark of Creation. I have built a great vault, sealed with three keys, buried beneath the City of the Dead, Samar’s city on the Plains of Chaos.

Secret Text in the Book of the Dead


A second story written on the back of a "friendship bracelet"

Once upon a time there was a young girl, a nun named Sellah. She had a talent for telling fortunes, and could use magic to purify poisons and diseases.
When plague struck her city Sellah worked hard to help people who suffered from it. During that plague the duke feared for his life, and ordered the temple send their best healer to his household. Sellah was instructed to use her power on the duke and his heir twice each day, though they were perfectly hale, leaving her no power to help anyone.
Each day Sellah begged the duke to let her return to the city to fight the plague, and each day Sellah was refused. After fifteen days of begging, Sellah ceased and said nothing. That night the duke said to her, “shall you ask to leave me again? I grow tired of this.” Sellah bowed, and said nothing.
The next day Sellah put on the clothes of an old woman, and approached the inner gate of the duke’s manor. She told them that she was a witch who had evaded the guards and brought a dire portent for him and his heir. The duke listened, and had her sit with him at dinner. There, Sellah cast the duke’s fortune and read it to him. “Unless you release the healer you keep in your walls, you will die of the plague.” The duke laughed, and ordered Sellah hanged. Only when she breathed her last did he realize her disguise. He was furious that his healer had escaped him in death, and in anger he had her temple looted of relics and burned.
The next day the citizens revolted. The duke fled with his heir, and within a week they succumbed to the plague and died.
The ashes of Sellah were gathered and a new shrine to her was built on the ruins of the duke’s manor. No city, town, or village within seven miles has ever suffered a plague of disease, worm, or pest.


I'm sorry, but we no longer support this web browser. Please upgrade your browser or install Chrome or Firefox to enjoy the full functionality of this site.