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.