To Hell and Back

This is an adventure idea that’s been sitting in my un-played pile for a bit now. Haven’t really found the right group to run it for yet, but hopefully a DM out there can make use of it with theirs. No real stats, so system agnostic. It’s just the plot, so all spoilers.

An eternal woman (Heira) whose sleeping patterns determine the seasons fails to wake.

PCs begin to notice over time that winter has not ended, and spring has not begun. By now it is actually what is normally regarded as nearing the end of the summer months, but it has done nothing but get colder.

The PCs, an old adventuring group of level 16 or so, have long retired and are recalling old times in a local tavern when they are approached by a tall thin man with long black hair. He introduces himself as Heira (DC 25 knowledge local, history, nobility, DC 20 religion reveals Heira is the name of the eternal woman. If questioned about it he explains he is simply a figment of her imagination.) He says he has come to ask them a favor, he would like them to awaken his mistress. He explains that he is a servant to the eternal mother and she has failed to awaken. He gives them directions to her castle, which is nestled between the twin peaks of Oldveraugh. (DC 20 history, local, and geography. history and local reveal it is inhabited by Frost Giants, geography reveals it to be a horrible treacherous climb). He then warns them that his mistress’s other messengers may have gone out in search of help as well, and they should do their best to hurry in case some fiend finds her asleep.

Once the PCs arrive at the mountain, it is towering and imposing, its peak is split in two. The peaks cannot be seen beyond the clouds. After a week or two of climbing and being attacked by various Frost Giant patrols with worgs who warn them away, they reach a valley between the twin peaks from here they are able to see what appears to be a castle another two days march up the western-most of the two peaks. This is castle Meormver, The Frost Giant fortress. They are led by the brother and sister pair of Staubwar (berserker) and his sister, Emora (cleric). They are not pleased to see the PCs, if they reach the castle, but the PCs, if respectful, are granted an audience. Seems a family of white dragons on the far peak is encroaching on the Giants hunting grounds. If the PCs agree to fix this they will be granted safe passage on the mountains.

If the Pcs do not go to the castle and continue down in the valley they see no sign of life. Not a tree, or bush, not a bird. No tracks of anything. They camp here and begin their search. (Roll 1d6 for the amount of other groups that come this way seeking the woman. 50/50 friendly or not). After a week of searching (DC45) they find a rock wall that is not as it appears. They can walk through it as though it were water. As soon as they do they are in an immense toasty warm cave. It feels so good after being in the freezing snow for so long. Before them in the cave is an immense castle made of what appears to be solid Ice. This is the Woman’s castle known as Castle Tonidra, as can be determined when the PCs approach the front gates and it is carved above the entrance.

After searching the Castle they find it abandoned aside from her guardians. At one point they find an abandoned throne room, a frozen garden that looks like it was once lush with plants, and eventually they find empty sleeping chambers. The bed is made up as though it has not been used. (DC 30 search or arcane methods reveal that 3 large people came in here to the bed took something large from the bed and dispersed, if arcane methods used they can be tracked to teleportation to the fourth level of Hell, Phlegethos.

Phlegethos, the fourth level of Hell, is covered in hellfire, a magical fire that almost seems sentient. PCs take 1d6 fire damage each minute spent on the plane, if running or in combat make this 2d6, if trying to cast a spell DC 28 Concentration check or spell fails. The plane itself is a desolate wasteland. Made entirely of rock which in places is on fire, the closest thing to vegetation would be the flaming piles of humanoid skeletons. Jolting behind the skeleton piles and flames are diminutive reptilian devils. (Dc knowledge the planes DC 25 Imps). As the PCs move about, the flames seem to follow and swarm to them as though glad to have some form of sustenance. (DC 35 knowledge the planes check will tell them the direction to the town of Abriymoch). This layer is also inhabited by Efreet and Hell hounds. The Efreet may be convinced to help the PCs (possibly a forged travel pass) but the Hell hounds simply attempt to eat them. Off in the distance they can make out a tall, thin blue flame. (DC 30 the planes check to know it is Fierna’s palace)

Abriymoch is located inside an active volcano, travel on foot is almost impossible in parts of this town for those vulnerable to lava, and passage on the scorched gondolas are their only choice. Locations in this town of note are the home of the pit fiend Gazra, who patrols the first 4 levels of Hell looking for mortals without passes. The Diabolical Courts, which preside over matters of disputes between the Devils, led by Shamane, a corpulent Paeliryon. This town is also the center of the infernal weapons and armor trade , being in a volcano leads to very fine forges.

Once in the town The PCs can feel free to investigate as needed, they are generally steered toward the courts which keep records of which Devils have and have not gone to the material plane and to which location they went. But most denizens of this city are not friendly. The names on this list are Lady Fernia and Lord Belial along with a bunch of names they do not know of (knowledge the planes for info: father and daughter, daughter is currently in charge). If the PCs ask about finding them they are almost always dissuaded, but they are told that they are the rulers and directed toward the palace.

Between the palace and the city, the PCs pass the pit of flame. A mile wide lake of fire, into which devils and anyone who breaks infernal law is placed. Surrounding almost the entire thing are buildings and cranes, hanging from the cranes are barred cages of force, some contain Devils, some Demons, and some humanoid corpses. The Pit is run by the pit fiend, Zammasir he is in charge of a legion of Horned Devils who operate the cranes day and night. Anyone sent here spends their time submerged, and minimum sentences for infernal crime is around 20 human years for petty theft. So long as the PCs have not been convicted of a crime, he is incredibly nice and even willing to show them around. If they are on the run though, he takes every measure to capture them and see they serve their time, a certain doom for them (the pit deals 9d8+9 damage a round, if immune to flames they need a DC 35 will save to focus and concentrate).

Fernias Palace is so gargantuan that the PCs, after they approach, can see nothing else, They also cannot see the top, for it seems to scratch the roof of this layer. If they go to the main gate and attempt an audience through proper diplomacy methods (DC 40) they can secure an audience the next day. In the mean time they are given lodgings to wait. The lodgings are lavish beyond most characters imaginations, and to refuse them is taken as a grave insult. At the least they will lose their audience, and at the most they will be slaughtered on the spot or taken to the pit or even the dungeons below. When the PCs meet with Fernia she is pleasant and seems to be cool and collected. She seems very sure and satisfied. She insists she knows nothing of the matter of the missing woman, and says that she is terribly sorry to hear of it (sense motive reveals she is lying). She is willing to let the PCs keep their lodgings for their stay in her realm though as they search for her. She winks at a male PC (with a charisma of 20 or over) and suggests he stay in a special chamber near her own; if he accepts she makes him her new suitor. Should they accept, her father visits them in the night.

During the PCs second night after arriving and meeting with Fierna, her father Belial visits one of them via a secret passage in the room (search DC 30 to find before this point). He informs the PC, whoever it may be, that this was his castle originally and that his daughter has only recently taken it from him due to the machinations of Asmodeus, the lord of Nessus the ninth layer (know the Planes). If the PCs can manage to get the copy of Asmodeous’ pact with the celestial beings to Belial, he would be very grateful, and able to reclaim his layer from his daughter. With a grave look on his face he tells the PCs, “If you do this for me, I would be in your debt and willing to give back your lost woman from my daughter. As it stands now, my daughter is supreme on this layer and nothing can be done to return your woman to you.” He says it is unknown even to arch-devils like his daughter where Asmodeous keeps his copy. There is rumor that a copy is also kept on Machinous and on Celestia, but he does know exactly know where, and those planes are infinite and probably just as guarded. He then leaves the PCs telling them never to speak to him again until they have obtained the pact.

Now the PCs have the option and suggestion to head to Nessus in search of the pact. The best and easiest way would be through the portals between the layers, but depending on if the players obtained passes and how legal those passes are, the players may wish to use another method. If they take the portals there is no way for Asmodeous to know they arrived on the plane, and if they dimensionally hop in somehow, most major Devils on the plane are alerted. Unfortunately for the PCs, the gates are all guarded by Devils of a decent rank who check the validity of the passes, so the PCs have to hope fake passes are good. Alternatively, The Lady Fierna has a private portal in her palace, as do all arch-devils, which the PCs may be able to convince her to let them use. Possibly again through the use of her new suitor, or someone becoming her new suitor. Her private portal leads to Sawtooth Gorge outside the fissure at the top. Other portals may lead to random destinations, each leading to its own place. To find out where they lead requires asking the Devil in charge of it, and if he knows he may not be willing to say.

The terrain of Nessus is much more hospital than on Phlegethos, but that does not say much. It is perfectly flat, saying something for the order devils crave, and circular spanning an average radius of 2000 miles. Outside of this disk is an endless field of magma. The flatness allows one to see for miles in all directions, before vision fades out. But that is of little use to adventurers as any inhabitants of this plane live in the fissures that run deep, crisscrossing the plane. Few bridges span the canyons and those that do are either trapped or guarded. Depending on their location the PCs should either find their way to some form of city, or begin to gather information about the location of Asmodeous’ pact. Knowledge of the whereabouts of his pact are not things one talks of openly on the ninth level, and anyone asked about it immediately stops talking and begins to leave (Diplomacy 35 to convince them to stay). Even if convinced to stay, Asmodeous has spies all around, and they will have something to say about this within days of the PCs first questions. (assassins come 1d4+1 days after first question). Eventually the PCs may piece together enough information to find out that the pact is kept at the fortress Tabjari, which is under tight guard somewhere in the Reapers Canyon.

If the PCs make it to the Reapers Canyon, they can wander the sides of it for days without a sign of anything. This canyon is uninhabited by all but the most fearless Devils, and so encounters are far and few between. After a few (2d6) days the PCs notice a large steel and glass outcropping from the inside of one of the offshoot canyons. This outcropping is the outer layer to Tabjari.

If the PCs investigate they realize that Tabjari is impenetrable from the outside and they must find another way in. They also notice that the fortress seems to be built into the side of the canyon, implying that part of it is underground. If they climb to the top they can see a building off in the distance. Unsure as to how far, they can walk to it. This building is a temple of Asmodeous, run by mortal disciples who Asmodeous picked himself to protect the entrance to the fortress. They are quite unhappy to see the PCs and urge them to leave as soon as possible. If they find out what the intentions of the PCs are they attack immediately. (level 12 cleric and blackguards). Their leader Azreal (level 20 blackguard) carries a key that leads into the vaults below.

The vaults below house Asmodeous’ greatest treasures along with his greatest traps. After a long treacherous journey through the pitch black trap filled tunnels They can eventually make it to the Secret chamber containing his Pact.

As they Enter they are greeted by a Horned red skinned man (Asmodeous) , who seems oddly somber. The room is illuminated as he speaks. He says he has been watching their progress and was wondering when they would make it to here. They took longer than he had expected. Then 3 pit fiends reveal themselves, and he explains that he must now play out even though it has been a great joy of his watching (insert any of the companions that died along the way) die, and seeing them all struggle so. He knows how this is going to play out, and they might as well surrender to him now. When they refuse (if they do) he says, he assumed not but thought to offer anyway. If the PCs beat this encounter, they need to find a way to get the pact out of the ruby.

As soon as that encounter is ended the PCs have 6 hours to leave the plane and make it to the fourth layer again. If not, 2 more Aspects arrive to finish the job. Keep in mind teleportation does not work on this plane, but the portals do. Hopefully those portals will take them to the 4th layer, because otherwise Asmodeous has control on those layers as well. On the fourth layer Asmodeous can still get at the PCs, but teleportation works as normal. If the PCs can hand the pact to Belial, he then stops the aspect of Asmodeous with a threat of destruction or hiding the pact. This causes the actual Asmodeous to appear, and the two begin bargaining. Belial is happy to bargain to earn the PCs amnesty for their transgressions, Asmodeous is not so happy, but is in a much lower position and really has no option on the issue.

Belial keeps his promise, sending for his daughter to return the woman. She arrives looking quite sad and pitiful carrying a sleeping woman. She is allowed to maintain the palace and offers for the same PC with high charisma to stay with her. If the answer is no, she sulks off.

Belial then offers the PCs free transportation to the material plane. The PCs should probably take the woman home, if they do the area around the entrance to he castle is remarkable unfamiliar as Spring appears to have come at last. They enter her palace and the walls appear to be covered with some form of moss, and the floor covered in grass. As they enter her chambers she awakens and thanks them greatly for returning her to her home. As the PCs leave the cave containing her castle they find themselves unable to return to it.

*Corrected for grammar and typos 7/23/2020

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