The Ingaran Adventures
“Rescue of Phaidon, Part II: Journey to Hell”
Lord Issic: Half Human, Half Gold Dragon Warrior
Lady India: A gypsy Bard/Shadow Dancer
Lord Phaidon: A Tamer of the Beasts
Lord Alexander Maximus: The Gauntlet of Athena
Roland: The Chaos Lord of Oard
Phoebe: Sorceress, Initiate of the Temple
Kaletor: Cousin to Lord Phaidon
"If you are all ready?" asked Roland, eager to begin their journey.
"I am ready," said India.
"Ready as I will ever be," said Kaletor.
"By Athena's Grace, we are ready for everything!" said Alexander. Roland nodded and opened a gateway to Hell. A loud, horrible screaming resounded in the room, a chorus of the damned, and then the gateway swirls in front of them.
Roland stepped through. Alexander and the others followed. "Lead on Chaos Lord and we shall bring Chaos and Good to a land of Evil Order!"
Emerging from the gate, they found themselves standing in the ruins of a town that looked like it was decimated in a fireball battle between two wizards. The blackened buildings that still stood were punched with jagged holes and broken rubble filled the streets. Occasionally a fireball lit up the skies above them.
"You - travelers!"
From one of the small structures nearby stepped a tall, winged fiend, covered with scales and brandishing a nasty-looking whip. The creature strutted toward the party confidently, swishing and cracking its whip. "What's your business here?" it growled.
"Hail, fiend!" said Roland. "We seek a friend."
"There are no friends here; unless your friend is a traitor and you seek vengeance?"
"No. Perhaps this is the wrong place? We seek a man imprisoned by a great devil."
Alexander said, "We seek both a friend and traitor."
"You cannot go forward," growled the fiend. "Go back from whence you came."
"Do you know your way around here?" asked Roland.
"Aye. I know my way about. I am Montelado! I was once a retainer to a pit fiend general in the Blood War!"
"Once a retainer? What are you now?"
"Bah! I am the Guardian of Darkspine!"
"What is Darkspine and why does it need a guardian?" asked Kaletor.
The fiend waved its arms about. Dark rocks jutted up all over, and shambled houses lurked in the shadows of the rocky columns. "This is Darkspine! The Gate Town of Darkspine! HA ha! I guard Hell from intruders, don't you know." Another fireball exploded in the air, about thirty feet up.
"Where might we find the Citadel of Larbius?" asked Roland.
"Larbius? What kind of fiend be he?"
"Ice devil, I believe."
"Ah, perhaps on the Fifth Hell... Stygia. Or lower."
"I see. I don't suppose you can direct us there?"
"Guides are easy enough to procure."
"I assume that a fiend as magnificent as you would not be a guide, but perhaps you could direct us to where one might be procured?"
"I could, but my job is to keep you out of Hell." He cracked his whip. Three fireballs boomed overhead.
"But we are already here. It seems that you failed. Perhaps, Alexander, another gate could be created to the level of Stygia?"
Alexander shook his head. He knew the Lords of Hell did not permit unrestricted access to the Lower Hells. The fiend smiled.
"Gates will not get us there but the River Styx flows through all the planes but its waters are dangerous," said Alexander. "Its path cannot always be predicted and even if it could we would still have to start on higher levels and work our way down."
"I see," said Roland. "Tell me, fiend, was it your appointed duty to keep all travelers out of hell?"
"Yes," growled the fiend. "I will not let you pass on by me without the proper passes."
"I see. Do you also issue the passes?"
"No, I do not."
The fiend shrugged.
They saw a couple of people in the shanties run from building to building quickly.
"Look there!" Roland said. "More travelers! You should stop them."
One of them paused, held up a hand and rubbed his thumb and forefinger together. The person then vanished inside a shanty.
"They live here, human," said the fiend.
"I see," said Roland. The fiend wondered why the human continually insisted it wasn't blind. Roland looked around, winked at the fiend, then asked, "So, how much would it cost us to buy one of these passes from you, say?"
"Most 'passes' take the form of gems, you know," growled the fiend.
Alexander looked around with true seeing for the guy that vanished. He was in one of the shanties, watching through a window. Alexander also see fourteen other devils, watching invisibly from behind the fiend Roland was talking to.
"Perhaps you would like these?" Roland held up a bag full of gems.
The fiend held out his clawed hand. Roland handed him the bag. "Thank you. And, how much to assure us safe passage here? That is, without folk jumping out from burned out buildings to attack us."
"You will have to deal with jumpers on your own, human."
"I see. Well, good day." Roland walked past the fiend.
Roland walked past the fiend and the others followed.
"Keep those eyes of yours going," said Roland. "That is a handy trick. Now, to find the river Styx."
Alexander said, "The ruins of previous gate towns are strung out in a more or less straight line between Darkspine and the River Styx. By following the ruins, we can get to Styx."
"Ah. That is good to know. Thank you."
The ruins around them were a gutted collection of shanties among large spines of black rock. Roland walked toward the remains of some burned out buildings, then veered toward a shanty. "Keep a look out," said Roland.
Inside the shanty were several large insects on the floor. It was a mess inside. Roland knocked and said, "Hello?"
Silence answered him.
"I know someone lives here. I have gems to offer the man who aided me, and more if he will act as our guide."
A man lifted up from beneath a pile of old clothes. It was the man who helped them.
"Hello," said Roland.
"Why did you aid me, sir?" Roland asked the man.
"Bar that," said the man.
"You bloods looked out of case."
"Indeed, we are."
"Garnishing the baatezu sod is the best way to keep you from the Dead Book."
"But why should you care?"
"Don't care none, 'cept I am a Chaosman too."
"How do you mean?"
"Ah, I'm no bubber, mind ye. I won't be bobbing you, that's for sure. I know a chaos blood when I sees one."
"I see." Roland didn't think he was lying, but had a hard time understanding the man. At least the man seemed sincere. "Would you act as our guide along the way to the river Styx?" I ask him.
"Am I a leatherhead, you asks? I can find you a better guide than I, fellow Chaosman. The chant, however, is not good concerning you berks."
"What is the 'chant'?" asked Kaletor.
"Then, accompany us and help us to find a better guide," said Roland. "And along the way, perhaps you can tell me what you know of chaos men."
"The chant is dark, so far as you berks go." He got up and motioned for them all to sit down. "Better let me find the cutter you need and bring him to you. He won't like me bringing the clueless to his case."
"Very well," said Roland, taking a seat. Alexander looked around before sitting down. The man slunk out of the door.
"I don't suppose we are in a great hurry, Alexander?" asked Roland. "I mean, I don't think Phaidon is going anywhere."
Alexander said, "I do not like this place, I feel like I am walking around with an archery target on my back"
Roland smiled grimly. "Hmmm. There is an air about it."
"We don't have to be there now but I am sure Phaidon needs us to be as quick as possible. Larbius is probably doing untold things to test his faith and while I have confidence in his will Larbius can take his toll on people."
"Indeed. Well, let's follow this for a bit and see where it leads. If you will indulge my curiosity?"
It took a bit of time, but soon enough, the man entered again, and a very short, 3'2" man walked in, dressed in red leathers.
The short man asked, "Are you the berks looking for a cutter to guide you?"
"Aye," said Roland. "And you are the leatherhead?"
The short man became angry. "Who you calling a leatherhead? I can put clueless like you in the deadbook faster than a baatezu on the bub!"
"Forgive me, but I don't know the terminology here."
The short guy turnd to the first guy. "These berks are barmies!"
"Clueless, I'd wager," said the first guy.
"You are a guide, yes?" asked Roland, not wanting to lose the guy's attention.
"Yes, I am a guide."
"Indeed. We are clueless. That is why we need someone like you. What do you desire in return?"
"Jink, and someone to lead a barmie revolution!"
Roland smiled and rattled another bag of gems. "Do you wish to guide us or not? One thing I am not here to do is beat about the bush."
The short man held out his hand for the bag of gems. "No bushes to beat, anyways, blood."
Roland gave him the sack. "Now, you there. Come with us, and tell me what you know of chaos men." He stands and prepares to leave.
Roland bowed to the short guy and bid him lead to the river.
The short man led them out. "Chaos men? A bunch of barmies, if you ask me, but they are good at giving 'em the laugh, that's for sure. You tied up with the Chaosmen, are ye?"
"I'm not tied up with them. I just wish to know what you two know about the business."
The guide said, "I ain't no high-up man, make no mistake, but I ain't no namer, either."
"All right," said Roland, raising an eyebrow. "You said you were once a chaos man?"
"Some bashers feed folks the chant that all Xaositects are barmy. See, most berks can't tell the difference between loony and chaotic."
"A chaosman doesn't see or hear things that aren't there - but he might suddenly remember something from an hour, a day, or a year ago, and comment on it."
Roland nodded. "I know that feeling. You were once a Xaositect, then?"
"Aye, I was a Chaosman, but they must have given me up for Lost years ago."
"How did you come to be in Hell?"
"Scragged by the Baatezu, you know, but I eventually gave 'em the laugh. They tried, but couldn't give me the rope!"
"Did you die and come here? Or are you living and trapped?"
He laughed. "Nah, I ain't in the Deadbook... yet."
"Out-of-town, perhaps, but not really Lost, you know."
"I see," said Roland. "Right. So, tell me. Do you know anything of the men called Chaos Lords?"
"Aye, I have heard of Chaos Lords. High-up men, right?"
"Maybe. I suppose it depends on how you look at it. I hear that their cities employ Xaositects. How far to the River?"
"Ah, not far. Not far."
Beyond the shattered town lay rocky wasteland, stretching out endlessly in all directions to the horizon, where it met the spotless, blood-red sky. Far off in the distance they could make out another cluster of buildings, though it was impossible to judge whether the journey would take a few hours, a few days, or a few months. The air was lit by fireballs twice the size of a human head that careened across the landscape, ducking and rising before exploding like flaming flowers. Those bursts were the only sounds they heard, apart from the occasional screams that seemed to ring across the entire plane. Sharp stones of obsidian and quartz littered the hot ground, making travel difficult.
Alexander Maximus asked the man in red leather, "Do you have the dark on a berk by the name of Larbius?"
Roland interrupted his answer, asking, "Did you work in Pandemonium, or Sigil, or a chaos city?"
The guide opted to answer them both. "Aye, I have worked in Sigil, and I know some of the chant on Larbius Prama."
"What do you mean 'the chant on Larbius Prama'?" asked Roland, confused by the answer.
"I mean just what the blood asked me, Chaosman."
Alexander shook his head. "We've got most the chant, we need the dark on him. But anything is welcome."
"You need to be careful bandying his name about, blood. A lot of people will be peery if you ask just any berk."
"But you aren't just any berk, now are you?"
"Well, the dark of the matter is that he has been spending a lot of time on Sigil."
"Really," commented Roland. "Doing business?"
"Sold a lost panther there not too long ago," said the guide. "Chant is that he is going to turn some sod stag."
Alexander Maximus glanced at Kaletor. Kaletor shrugged.
Roland asked, "Who'd he sell the panther to?" The guide shrugged.
Alexander said, "You got anymore chant on the sod he is trying to turn Stag, or where he sold the panthers to?"
"Nah, don't know who he sold it too, but I heard that the poor sod is a trap to bring his daughter to Hell."
"Why does the ice devil want his daughter to come to Hell?" asked Roland.
"Man, that is dark. You said it, chaosman. That is the true dark."
"So, you don't know either?"
"No, it is dark to me also. If he has a daughter, then I pity the sod."
Roland asked, "Since you seem to have a bit of the dark on Larbius, perhaps you know a quicker way to reach his citadel?"
"Going to that cutter's case is just plain barmy, Chaosman. You'll be scragged for sure. But the blood is right. I ain't just any leatherheaded berk. If you need to get to that cutter's case, I can peel it."
"Then... peel it," said Roland. "As payment, I offer you a way back, if possible. I will try to get you un-lost."
"It'll take some garnish. Do you have plenty of that jink left?"
"I have plenty of garnish."
"Pike it, Chaosman. Take me back to town, and I won't be turning stag on you."
"I'm afraid I don't understand you," said Roland. "You want to go back to town? Why?"
"Man, because I am sick of being out-of-town. You know what I am saying?"
"Ah. Yes. So you are agreeing to the arrangement I offered?"
"We'll bob your cutter, and peel our way to his case and... yes, I am agreeing to 'your arrangement'. Any of you a knight of the post?"
Kaletor asked, "What is a 'knight of the post'?"
"Man, that is a knight of the cross trade, understand? Bar that, okay. I shouldn't have asked."
"None of us are knights any more then you are a Cony-catcher," said Alexander.
The short man laughed. "Too bad, then. A knight of the post could have helped us save your chaosman some jink."
"Do you mean a sneak?" asked Kaletor.
Roland looked down to the little guy. "So, when you say that you can peel it, how quickly can you get us to our desired case?"
"Peeling it takes some time, Chaosman. Are you in a hurry?"
"And what is a knight of the cross trade?" asked Roland. "Yes. I am in a hurry. That is, I don't wish to be here any longer than is absolutely necessary."
"But not so much of a hurry that we want to risk more blinds then we have to"
"Well, we will hurry along then." The short guide looked at Phoebe and India. He nudged Alexander. "Are these two kepties?"
"Kepties?" asked Alexander. "Got to forgive me blood. I ain't no cord baby but I ain't well-lanned either."
"Gotcha, blood. Kept women. Kepties. Married. Belonging. Owned. Got the dark yet?"
Alexander laughed. "A berk would be hard pressed to kept those two"
"Ah, perhaps I can give it a peel, eh?"
"I'll do my best for you when we get back in-town but I give you fair warning you may not want to pay that music."
"You may be right, blood, but I think she could use a papa."
"Fair enough, but I warn you that the blood we are going after has the dark on one of them."
"No one owns me," said Phoebe. "Yet..."
The short guide said, "I may be little where you can see, but I'm no palooka where you need it!"
Phoebe blushed, despite her recent experiences.
"Are you talking about me?" asked Phoebe.
"Yeah, I am talking about you, rib. You've settled my heart, snack, but I will heed the blood for now."
Phoebe said, "I don't need a papa, but you are kind of cute."
"Snack, you have definitely settled my heart!"
Phoebe smiled and put her hand on the little man's head. The guide said, "I'm a square john when it comes to you, snack."
She smiled. "I know you are."
Alexander commented, "I believe she is taken twig to you already."
"I believe she has, blood. I believe she has! Mmm!" He blew Phoebe a kiss. "Hit or miss, woman. Hit or miss!"
Phoebe glanced at Roland. "Well. We'll see..."
Fireballs continued to explode, near and far, as they walked. Several times they had to throw themselves to the ground. They didn't know if they had walked merely several long hours, or for several short days. A large dustcloud appeared on the horizon, and the low rumbling thunder made them thirsty for rain, but this was a different kind of storm.
A huge, black mass emerged from the haze, streaming into thousands of distinct shapes - a scrabbling horde of baatezu.
"Should we take cover?" Roland asked their guide as he watched seething masses of melted lemures and blobby nupperibos spill forward from the front ranks, spurred on by jeering, gargoyle-like abishai. Toward the rear, army banners were hoisted by an honor guard of barbazu that surrounded a monstrous pit fiend. Overhead flew a small squad of a dozen or so black abishai.
"Yes, we should cover! They'll put us in the deadbook for sure!"
"What would you suggest?" asked Alexander as they looked around for cover among the rocky field. Kaletor tried to help everyone hide, covering them in hot volcanic rocks. Alexander cast minor image to help everyone look like the ground below them, but he found it difficult. His access to his patron goddess was limited at best here.
The army passed them by, not finding them. Alexander prayed the whole time they were overhead, frustrated by the apparent loss of divine connection.
"Praying may not be all that wise," warned Roland. If Alexander resumed his connection to his goddess, that might lead the devils toward them.
After several days (as far as they could tell - the sky didn't darken or lighten a bit), they saw a dark, rancid waterway cutting through the landscape.
"Styx, I presume?" asked Roland. "Is this the quickest way to the case?"
"Aye, this is the Styx."
"So, blood," said Alexander. "Mind if I ask what the chant is on you?"
"Nah, I don't mind. Just a halfling that got scragged doin' something he shouldn't have gotten scragged doin'."
"Your armor makes me think you might be part of the Red Death?"
"Nah, just to fool the barmies." He sat down on the edge of the Styx. Soon, a huge sailing ship made its way along the river, toward their location.
How do we go on from here?" asked Roland. The halfling stood up. He pointed to the ship. "The demonwing, Chaosman. The demonwing."
"Ah," said Roland.
"You in with any of the Thought guilds?" asked Alexander.
"No, not a member of the thought guilds, either." Again he indicated the ship. "Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years ago, the demon god Demogorgon had an idea. Considering that the layers of the Abyss were uncountable, expendable, and malleable, he commissioned demonic bloods and cutters to take an entire layer and make of it a sailing ship. This ship, called Demonwing, can take berks to any place in the Lower Planes. We peeled it from the demons, and are using it to revolt against the devils."