Avernus. Oinos. Lunia. These are all names for the first layers of their respective realities. Much to the sorrow of the rest of Creation, the Abyss is no different in having a single layer which allows access to the deeper and more nightmarish terrors that lie beneath. In the case of The Abyss this first layer is known as the Plain of Infinite Portals, or the Layer of a Thousand Closets. However, in the common tongue it is generally named Pazunia. For the vast majority of those that dare to enter The Abyss it is the first layer they encounter. For those who are particularly foolhardy it is the last layer they encounter instead.
This is the topmost of the uncountable Abyssal layers. It is a barren, dusty place without life or greenery, baking beneath a hell-red sun. The dusty plains are broken by three features: huge pits in the earth, great iron strongholds, and the River Styx. The pits of this first layer are portals to deeper layers. Dropping down a given pit soon deposits the traveler into the associated layer, though jumping into random pits that lead to unknown planes of the Abyss is insanely dangerous. Most of the pits are two-way portals, but some are only one-way, leaving travelers stranded on the new layer.
An oppressive red sun, heavy with infinite age, bathes the layer in sweltering heat and harsh light. Angry shadows curtain the plains in places, concealing hidden menace. And everywhere are massive pits that plunge into deeper layers of terror.
On the edges of the great pits crouch massive iron fortresses, relics of the obyriths now inhabited by mighty tanar'ric lords who have not yet mustered the power to bend an entire layer to their wills. These warlike, scheming lords use special chambers within the fortresses to project themselves through the Astral Plane and onto Material worlds, where they attempt to sway events and attract followers and cultists. When so engaged, their physical forms are rendered helpless, protected only by the iron fortresses of the obyriths and the demons' own hordes of servitor creatures and pact-gained allies.
The armies of the Abyss continually clash with each other as the lesser demon lords jockey for position. They clash too with invading armies of devils from Baator, for the layer is one of the primary fronts of the Blood War. The methodical baatezu know, as the obyriths before them knew, that to control Pazunia is to control the whole of the Abyss.
Not all visitors to Pazunia come to fight. Because it is a gateway to most of the plane, the layer draws merchants, explorers, and occultists from around the Great Wheel, attracting the most diverse pilgrims of anywhere in the Lower Planes, let alone the Abyss.
The layer is self-contained, but is so large that huge sections of it remain essentially unexplored.
If one walks far enough toward the horizon, he eventually finds himself in the bordering plane of Pandemonium or Hades (depending upon the direction he walks). Those traveling in other directions reach the "edge" of the layer and are teleported to the opposite edge, often without knowing that they have moved. Due to its lack of discernible borders, maps of Pazunia seldom attempt to encompass the whole layer, but instead focus upon a smaller section bounded by the iron fortresses of locally influential demon lords.
More chaotic evil petitioners manifest as manes on Pazunia than upon any other layer of the Abyss. Local demons hunt these creatures for food or press them into war bands, driving vast herds of petitioners through the pit gates and into the deeper Abyss. Some remain on Pazunia to marshal the defenses of demon lords inhabiting iron fortresses. Demons view these pitiful creatures as little more than living shields and sacrifice them with impunity. Many manes willingly flee down unexplored pits merely to escape their pursuers.
Molydei press gangs wander the layer, picking off stragglers and collaring them to the town of Styros, there to depart upon the River Styx to the Lower Planar battlefields of the Blood War. The massive, two-headed tanar'ri seldom take on demon lords entrenched in iron fortresses, but they eagerly thrust wandering unaffiliated demons into their press gangs. Molydei are also tasked with provisioning the army and demand tribute from all they encounter. Those who cannot give are immediately conscripted and sent to Styros and thence to the raging wars of the Lower Planes.
A surprising number of merchants, mortals, and outsiders alike brave the treacherous Plain of Infinite Portals, for Pazunia's gates lead to unparalleled business opportunities. Those who fly the flag of the Dark Prince Graz'zt enjoy the best protection against banditry, but even this is far from foolproof.
The following creatures dwell on Pazunia and command considerable local clout.
Pazuzu: The Lord of the Lower Aerial Kingdoms has ruled the skies of Pazunia since before the fall of his obyrith fellows. Countless chasme, vrocks, and other flying demons that perch atop the jagged tors and pinnacles of Pazunia pay obeisance to Pazuzu and occasionally snatch travelers from the surface as sacrifices to their prideful lord.
Lawful good characters traveling on Pazunia risk a 5% chance of attracting Pazuzu's attention each day they remain on the layer, for the winged demon is always on the lookout for new innocence to corrupt and ultimately devour. In some cases, Pazuzu waits until goodly characters are in a difficult bind before sweeping in at the last minute and offering to help the unfortunate characters in exchange for some unspeakable service. He pays little attention to the other demon lords of the layer and seldom interferes with their business or their iron fortresses.
Aldinach: Like Pazuzu, the reclusive demon princess Aldinach delights in the perversion of the pure and innocent, but her methods are not quite so subtle. The Lady of Change commands a growing cult upon several Material Plane worlds that concerns itself with the abduction of righteous holy figures or sacred beasts such as ki-rins or lammasus. These pitiful creatures soon find their way to Aldinach's Egg, on the edge of the Grand Abyss, where they endure vile experiments that corrupt their nature and enslave them to her capricious whims.
Aldinach appears as a lithe humanoid woman with polished mahogany skin and long fingers that end in needles she uses to inject putrid sap into the subdued bodies of her victims. An alabaster mask obscures her monstrous face.
Baltazo: When the great demon prince Fraz-Urb'luu was imprisoned on the Material Plane by the mad archmage Zagig Yragerne, several opportunistic demon lords flocked to his abandoned layer, Hollow's Heart, hoping to make it their own. The ambitious minor demon lord Baltazo, a retired general with several Blood War victories under his ever-expanding belt, knew he could not hope to command Hollow's Heart, but he saw opportunity in the growing conflict. Instead of staking his own claim, he instead conquered the iron fortress of Shullen-Gat, on the precipice of the pit leading to Fraz-Urb'luu's lair. Commanding this gateway allowed him to subtly influence the affairs on the layer, affording him prestige elsewhere in the Abyss.
Upon Fraz-Urb'luu's return, the Prince of Deception wiped out most of the rival demon lords squabbling over his layer, but he saw value in a strong defense of the Pazunia gate. The two demons came to an agreement, and Baltazo now stands sentinel over the pit to Hollow's Heart as a sponsored vassal of Fraz-Urb'luu, for whom he sometimes acts as a diplomat or interlocutor.
Baltazo appears as an extremely corpulent human man with an elongated face and deep green skin that constantly fizzles and pops, spilling a variety of sickly fluids upon a poor-fitting military uniform festooned with dozens of ostentatious medals and ribbons.
Specific locations of interest on Pazunia include the following:
Aldinach's Egg: Aldinach's cultists bring their abducted charges to this ovoid iron fortress, where the wood-skinned Lady of Change warps them into twisted mockeries of be paladins, unicorns, and exemplars of pure good they used to be. The transformation grants them the half-fiend template and irreversibly changes their alignment to chaotic evil. Although these victims are occasionally crippled with remorse over what they have become, they cannot fight their new natures long, and soon give in to overwhelming rage and deviousness. Those strong enough to survive the rigors of Pazunia fiercely defend the territory within a mile of Aldinach's Egg; the weakest are eaten by the layer's countless demons.
The Egg itself is a towering structure packed with grim laboratories, operating theaters, and hideous audience chambers draped in the skins of failed experiments. Aldinach occasionally tolerates visitors who offer technology or magical lore that allows her greater malleability over her patients, but has little patience for those who do not share her enthusiasm for perverse surgeries. Guests who tarry too long are fed to the Brethren, a score of chaos beasts who dwell in the Egg's uppermost Forbidden Chambers.
Broken Reach: A succubus sorceress named Red Shroud built this fortress of crumbling stone towers atop a portal to the Outlands gate-town of Plague-Mort over 200 years ago, and the small community that soon grew up around it has served as one of the most popular gathering places on the layer ever since. The guests of Broken Reach include Blood War mercenaries, merchants coming to and from the plane of Concordant Opposition, and even mortal adventurers enjoying one of the few places on Pazunia where they are unlikely to be devoured by demons. Red Shroud displays little tolerance for violence of any kind on her grounds, but death matches occur with regularity beyond the rickety walls. The succubus demands obedience from her guests and expects them to back her if trouble breaks out.
Broken Reach houses dozens of visitors at any one time, many of them enjoying the relative comfort of richly appointed (and hugely expensive) luxury suites. Red Shroud knows her clientele, and hence stocks a huge variety of weapons and armor, which is available for purchase at three times the costs listed in the Player's Handbook. The demoness is a great poison enthusiast and offers a wide selection of venoms from the lowest pits of the Abyss. Such is her love of the stuff that she gives great deference to guests who offer her some new lethal substance.
When not directly engaged in business, it's best to give Red Shroud wide berth, for the succubus is capricious and untrustworthy -- you never know when she's about to order your death. Red Shroud is constantly on edge, for she has had to defend the citadel from mobs, githzerai, and even a minor Abyssal lord. Molydei are encouraged to look for conscripts elsewhere.
The Grand Abyss: The cliff walls of this great tear in the fabric of the Abyss bear an infinity of portals to other layers of the plane. Considered a layer of the Abyss in its own right, it is covered in detail below.
Lakes of Molten Iron: This series of steaming crucibles provides the iron that composes most of the weapons and all of the fortresses of Pazunia, making the surrounding area one of the most fiercely contended regions on the layer. The lakes range in color from scalding white to scorching red, emitting waves of heat that make for a difficult approach. Creatures within 100 yards of the lakes take 1d10 points of fire damage per round of exposure. Characters submerged in a lake take 20d6 points of fire damage per round, and even those who merely touch it take 2d6 points of fire damage per round of exposure.
The abandoned town of Raazorforge, on the banks of the largest lake, is home to scores of magma mephits who once aided in a massive forging operation here but who escaped when an entropic ship of chaos destroyed most of the community. Demons shun the site, making it one of the safer locales on Pazunia. The iron fortress Ferrug, on the opposite shore, couldn't be more different. It swarms with herds of armanites, murders of vrocks, and countless ravenous manes led by a willful marilith named Galizsheth.
River Styx: The bruise-purple waters of the River Styx flow throughout the Plain of Infinite Portals, breaking into numerous tributaries that disappear into the gaping pits and thence to lower layers of the Abyss. Some reverse waterfalls rush out of the portals and feed the river, which also stretches away to both Pandemonium and the Gray Waste of Hades.
Styros: The sullen, muddy garrison town of Styros marks the point of embarkation for the molydeus-captured demons forced to serve in the armies of the Blood War. The unfortunates are herded onto massive fast-moving riverboats powered by the combustion of souls, spitting cloying ash into the acrid air out of crude smokestacks. Babau officers abound here, abusing their charges with threats and random beatings. Strangers require some quick thinking and a great deal of cash to escape Styros without being thrown into the slave pens of a battlefield-bound war hulk.
Vanelon: A series of rose-hued marble pillars leads to the iron fortress of Vanelon, which guards the pit leading to Shendilavri, domain of the succubus queen Malcanthet. Whereas most citadels of Pazunia reflect the bizarre architectures of the ancient obyriths, Malcanthet has embellished Vanelon with sweeping towers and magnificent facades that would make it fit in the most romantic of Material Plane kingdoms. Such beautiful style befits the structure's role as home to her Favored Consort, an ever-changing position filled by whatever minor demon lord manages to strike her fancy at the moment.
Its current occupant is Mastiphal, the Hunting Sovereign, a handsome fiend with bright red skin, four arms, and a rack of ibex horns upon his angular forehead. The calculating demon lord gained Malcanthet's favor by presenting her with the head of a huge fiendish smilodon slain on the hunting fields of Spirac (layer 71), but his audiences with Shendilavri's seductress have become less and less frequent recently, and Mastiphal is willing to do anything to regain her attention. His servitor glabrezu zealously patrol the pit's perimeter, bringing any interlopers to the lord's trophy-bedecked audience chamber. Only tales of an invincible wild beast are enough to dissuade him from taking lethal action against spies, since a part of him longs to be free of the walls of Vanelon and back on the hunt.
- The river Styx flowing through it (as it does through the top layers of other evil planes).
- Large sinkholes which connect to other layers of the Abyss, possibly drilled intentionally by ancient demons.
- Iron Fortresses which guard the physical bodies of Demon Princes when they leave the Abyss to astral travel.
Broken Reach serves as a gathering point for Blood War mercenaries, a way station for travelers, and a place for trade. It contains the portal leading to Plague-Mort, making Broken Reach a gate-town as well.
Broken Reach is ruled by a succubus sorcerer named Red Shroud. Physically it's a set of crumbling towers with heavily defended walls, trenches, and spiky barricades. The town has extensive dungeons.
Pazunia appears to be relatively unthreatening at first glimpse. Although there is neither sun or moon above, a heatless and faded orange light emanates from the sky and illuminates the landscape with no discernible day or night cycle. Reddish-orange dirt the color of rust crumbles and scatters underfoot. Outcroppings of dun-colored stone stained with blood, bile, and viscera from endless warfare break the surface of the ground. Save for the wastelands closest to the lakes of molten iron, Pazunia is otherwise relatively though not uncomfortably cold to mortals and demons.
Like many of the other notable layers of The Abyss, Pazunia has a far more ancient history than any would suspect. The seeds of the layer in a recognizable fashion were first created in the sundering of The Abyss from The Mortal Coil as a congealed set of possibilities in which worlds remained forever burnt. As The Primal Coil developed, these possibilities were incarnated in a layer forever composed of molten matter, yet connected to other layers through vortices which could be passed through in order to reach other regions. The demise of The Primal Coil and its shattering into The Abyss as well as portions of The Mortal Coil transformed the vortices into regions which represented in a minor way each layer to which they connected. This phenomenon allowed those who held power in these other layers to extend a miniscule fragment of their power into Pazunia around each region, making it resemble the larger territory that they controlled.
When Pazunia was first discovered by the qlippothim they used their ability to mold Abyssal layers and their prodigious mental powers to transform these minor representations into massive iron fortresses. From these citadels the metal molten substance could be channeled into their own layers. There it was fused with demons in order to create powerful hybrid weapons against the Vaati and their myriad other enemies (which, quite often, meant each other as well as the rest of Creation). Nor was Pazunia during this time the first layer of The Abyss. Rather, it was regarded as a layer of intermediate number and minor importance in those ancient tomes which record Abyssal geography during and before the Second War of Law and Chaos. The unique property of Pazunia to mimic in a minor way the properties of other layers led to its alternate name as the Palace of a Thousand Closets (which is admittedly a crude translation from beings whose views upon language were quite distant from any mortal standards, and even most immortal ones).
Pazunia only became the first layer of The Abyss at the end of the Second War of Law and Chaos. When the Rod of Law was triggered it did far more than slaughter most of the prominent qlippothim and force the Vaati into relative insignificance. It also altered the connections of those Realms Beyond most affiliated with the Vaati's nemeses. The Abyss was sundered into two separate Realities and the smaller among them became Pandemonium, while the more significant portion was partially rearranged. As a consequence of this nearly unimaginable catastrophe Pazunia became the first layer of The Abyss and the entry point from which those foolish enough to attempt to reach greater depths would enter the Torments. However, even this interplanar disaster was insufficient to force it into its current state. This instead required the actions of Eltab, the Demon Lord of Ruin, in one of the most brilliant stratagems ever devised in the eternal battles of demons against demons.
Eltab was the first demon to realize that in shifting the relative location of Pazunia to the rest of The Abyss, the molten layer not only became closer to The Grand Abyss, but it also became vulnerable to dramatic changes in its basic geography. Both layers were qlippothic strongholds during Madness and Bile. As a consequence of this proximity, Eltab came up with a strategy that turned the qlippothim against themselves while destroying several of his balor rivals and granting him access to The Grand Abyss. First, Eltab convinced the balors that there was an artifact that would result in freezing Pazunia, or would freeze so much of Pazunia that it would irrevocably lose its power as a qlippothic stronghold. The Lord of Ruin then allowed knowledge of the artifact to leak to his enemies, who in their attempt to both defy and set back Eltab for their own gain, stole it from The Hidden Layer. Afterwards, Eltab's balor pawns brought the artifact to Pazunia where the qlippothim attacked it as well as its balor defenders as the latter attempted to activate it. However, the real triumph of the battle was that the artifact itself was a ruse. It distracted the ancient demons as well as the mazza'im from realizing that their true menace lay in the artifact's defenders and not the item itself. Each time the balors died their death throes, which had been magically modified by their contact with the artifact instead, destabilized the boundaries between Pazunia and The Grand Abyss. When the final balor died a miles-long gash opened up between Pazunia and the latter layer.
Within moments billions of tons of white hot metal began pouring down from Pazunia into The Grand Abyss. Even beyond being crushed by the weight of the liquid iron the heat involved vaporized an unbelievably vast number of qlippothim – decimating The Grand Abyss as their stronghold and as one of their major remaining holdings after the Second War ended. Upon Pazunia, only a few of the molten iron lakes remained after the layer had mostly drained, and they were woefully insufficient to keep supplying the qlippothim in their war against the mazza'im. This molten foundation of Pazunia eventually cooled and rusted over to form soil from the corrosion – giving the layer the appearance that it retains into the present day. The vortices that led to deeper layers of The Abyss similarly changed form, turning into black pools that resembled oil in appearance and viscosity that still led elsewhere in the Torments with a proper portal key. The metal itself was too valuable a resource to be allowed to remain in The Grand Abyss; it in turn was moved elsewhere throughout The Abyss by various factions where it was used for other vicious purposes.
Although the current form of Pazunia was forged through klurichir-originated cataclysm, in no way did this moment of destruction have lasting influence upon its rulership. The ravages of strife and factionalization affected the klurichir as much as they affect anyone else in The Abyss-and in many ways, the transformation of the Layer of a Thousand Closets into Pazunia represented the high point of Eltab's influence within The Abyss as compared to the Mortal Coil. Between the other klurichir challenging The Lord of Ruin's power, and even those other mazza'im who simultaneously loathed the qlippothim, but also sought the destruction of the klurichir (particularly Kardum), Eltab lost ground to his competitors and those who otherwise sought his downfall and destruction.
Pazunia is currently the single most fractured layer of The Abyss in terms of who can be claimed to control what at any given time. More powerful beings can manage to control both a single iron fortress (or in the case of Graz'zt, several which he has managed to consolidate into Malevolus) and the territory around it. However, not since the Second War of Law and Chaos has any single demon prince managed to control or, for that matter, destroy much more. Even Eltab only succeeded in fragmenting Pazunia by bringing the strife of Madness and Bile to the layer. Furthermore, the presence of so many mortals and demons that get stuck upon the layer has resulted in the formation of massive destructive mobs. These hordes roam the land destroying all in their path that cannot defend itself from their attacks. On occasion they are paid or misled into attacking a rival's iron fortress to cannibalize them for resources, fresh meat, or far worse things. This fractious state also allows for the presence of beings that are otherwise extremely uncommon within The Abyss as spies and representatives from the other Realms Beyond seek to either learn more about The Abyss from Pazunia or descend deeper into its malign depths.
Pazunia is one of the least innately hazardous layers of The Abyss, and possesses no especially menacing properties. Mortals which die upon Pazunia arise as manes within a day of their death, but there are no special limitations against their being slain again and resurrected back as a mortal. Pazunia's ease of access also means that several archfiends that believe in being comparatively accessible (much to the sorrows of those who encounter them) are relatively likely to be encountered there. In particular, the nether fiend Charon, Ferryman of The Styx, and the demon prince Pazuzu are infamous for their relatively frequent presence within Pazunia.
Pazunian geography is generally discussed with reference to its three most prominent features: the Styx, The Grand Abyss, and its borders with Carceri and Pandemonium. As Pazunia becomes closer to Pandesmos the outcroppings and bluffs of stone grow more common until the landscape is completely broken apart, forming labyrinthine canyons and regions closed over by bridges of rock until eventually nothing is left but tunnels. In comparison, when Pazunia approaches Carceri. the Styx becomes abnormally wide as compared to the rest of the layer. The ground itself becomes increasingly worn down and swampy, with little change in altitude until it eventually becomes indistinguishable from Othrys. In either case, the transitions to both adjacent Realities take place over a landscape of twenty to one hundred miles, depending on whether travellers are more or less attuned to the nature of their destination.
Molten Iron Lakes: Some of the only extant remnants of Pazunia's ancient history consist of lakes of white hot, molten iron scattered throughout the layer. As a ready source of raw material for weapons they are highly prized by multiple factions throughout The Abyss, whether the faction consists of demon atrocities involved in The Blood War all the way to Demogorgon itself (who controls Deathshore, one of the largest lakes, indirectly, which is located mere hours away from the portal to Gaping Maw). Generally all of the lakes are guarded although the natures and powers of such guardians vary wildly depending on the beings involved. They range from heavily ravaged red or pyroclastic dragons (Draconomicon), bizarre, qlippothic monstrosities that are sentient relics of that ancient era, or even lakes where through long lost magicks, the molten metal itself has been invested with some minor degree of sentience and will erupt to immolate potential victims that do not appear to share its fickle loyalties or simply becomes bored and desires amusement. Still, in a realm in which everything is fought over by everyone many lakes either have their guardians defeated or co-opted. Practically every faction constantly scours the layer looking for unguarded or ineptly guarded lakes which they can conquer for themselves.
Pazunian molten iron does not necessarily count as a special material and apparently infuses no unique bonuses or curses materials created from it. The qlippothim, during the period of time when they ruled Pazunia, had special techniques that were capable of extracting far greater power from the molten iron than anything subsequently done by any of the mazza'im or surviving qlippothim after Pazunia was drained. If these techniques still exist, they are apparently lost deep within the layer or remain untold secrets held by the qlippothim.
Close proximity to a lake of molten iron (within 20 feet) deals 4d6 points of fire damage per round and forces a Ref save DC 20 in order to avoid catching on fire within the superheated air and taking 1d6 points of fire damage per round. Direct contact (much less immersion) in a lake deals 20d6 points of fire damage per round instead. Most of the major powers of The Abyss and several atrocities have either direct access to Pazunia's molten iron lakes or have minions that are responsible for them. Among the notable controllers of one or more of these lakes are Alvarez, Flauros, Graz'zt, Kardum, Lissa'aere The Noxious, and Ter-Soth.
The Styx: Although the Styx is one of Pazunia's most distinctive features, it also at its least destructive there. Within Pazunia, the Fort save DC for avoiding amnesia is 20. Victims of the Styx who make the save only slumber for a day upon touching or falling into its befouled waters. The Styx has no discernible source within Pazunia, and extends across the entire layer. There are several notable branches of the River of Sin, with one of the smaller among them leading directly into the left bank of The Grand Abyss and another, far larger branch leading to Durao instead. It provides endless cruel humor to demons and other fiends to restrain beings, toss them into the river in flimsy rafts, and then watch them fall over the edge of The Grand Abyss while screaming in terror. The Styx is also notable in Pazunia for its navigability. At its widest away from the border with Carceri is nearly two hundred feet wide across most of the layer while it can be only fifty feet wide in some of its more obscure tributaries.
Pazunian Hordes: One of the most unique of Pazunia's hazards comes in the form of its petitioners; chaotic evil mortals who, upon dying, were resurrected in a twisted form upon Pazunia as manes. While individually, a mane presents little threat except to the weakest of demons, the prospects of facing hundreds or even thousands of them simultaneously are far more daunting. The smallest hordes do not last particularly long in Pazunia. They are devoured by nalfeshnee and molydeus raiding parties in order to acquire fresh ammunition for The Blood War, for food, and for other, far more malevolent purposes. In comparison the largest of the hordes are serious threats. Hundreds of smaller settlements, and even some of the demonic camps around the lakes of iron or lesser known iron fortresses have fallen to the largest and most dangerous hordes, their demons slain and any living creatures found torn limb from limb for meat.
Fortunately, hordes are easily visible in the distance due to the din they create and the clouds of dust formed by their passage (Perception DC 20 allows for the detection of one within five miles and its direction). As they are comparatively slow, they are for the most part easy to avoid. The fastest Pazunian horde ever noted by those surviving such observations travelled at a rate of nearly two miles an hour, while the slowest (and much more massive) took nearly three hours in order to travel a single mile. Fixed locations are more difficult to defend from petitioner hordes, but typically spells and other means of dealing sufficient amounts of massive damage will deter them, forcing them to search for easier prey.
Portal Oozes: Virtually no form of life cannot be twisted and perverted by The Abyss, from mortals relentlessly tempted to guarantee their souls fall into it to animals subtly incited in such a manner as to destroy life around them. Even oozes are not immune to The Abyss' mutations. One of the better known and infamous-although not particularly dangerous to those aware of them among the Togarin (Abyssal oozes) is the portal ooze. A portal ooze devours any living creature, demonic or mortal, foolish enough to fall into one, and in all physical semblances looks almost exactly like one of the normal black pool portals within Pazunia. Even upon magical examination, a portal ooze can be difficult to detect as they subtly emanate an mind-affecting aura that suggests to those that get within 20 feet of one that they possess the proper magical auras and properties of the portal that one is actually looking for (Will save DC 21). Falling victim to a portal oozes' deceptions and attempting to use it allows the ooze to devour its prey, dealing 3d6 points of acid damage per round to such creatures (Ref save DC 21) and requiring a CMD check DC 30 in order to escape from its digestive slime.
There are two nearly foolproof methods of detecting portal ooze. The first is to have a being present that is sentient yet immune to mind-affecting effects. Most hordes of demon lords, princes, and atrocities that explore and war upon Pazunia typically carry at least one sentient undead creature with them that can detect a portal ooze's weak trickery (and typically annihilate the troublesome creature for forcing them to waste time). The second is mere patience. Portal oozes move across the plains of Pazunia at an incredibly slow, yet perceptible rate (Perception DC 25). However, patience is in short supply on a layer in which most beings desperate enough to flee into a portal randomly rarely bother to check where they are going-ensuring that the oozes are well fed and stably populated, despite the better efforts of most demons to destroy them. Unfortunately for most of the denizens of The Abyss, efforts to transplant the oozes to elsewhere in the Depths Below have so far failed. Portal oozes are believed to have been a mildly successful attempt by Zuggtmoy to reduce the utility of Pazunia to her enemies among the mazza'im.
Pazunia has few permanent settlements and it does not possess the demonic or undead metropoli of other infamous layers such as Az'zagrat or Thanatos respectively. Aside from its relatively small towns and those settlements affiliated with the molten iron lakes or The Blood War, the most populous locations in the layer are its iron fortresses. Some are remnants under continuous control since the days of the qlippothim, while others are affiliated with newer Abyssal lords. What all of them have in common is that they have at their centers guarded portals to other layers of The Abyss-and that for those entities given to casting or manifesting the spell, they provide ready access for those who seek to use astral projection to reach The Mortal Coil or other Realms Beyond.The specific details to open each iron fortresses' respective portal or portals are generally described in the appropriate chapter for the demonic personage that currently controls it.
Broken Reach: For those beings lacking sufficient power to planeshift directly to their destination (or who wish to take a more circuitous route for the purpose of deception), their first sights of The Abyss come in the form of Broken Reach. The gate-town connecting The Abyss to the Concordant Domain of the Outlands, its current ruler (who insists that she has always ruled Broken Reach-and few would seek to challenge this claim to her face) is the ambitious succubus and skilled poisoner Red Shroud.
Broken Reach CE Large Town Qualities notorious, strategically located Demographics Races mixed (demons 80%, mortals 10%, half-fiends 5%, other 5%) Government magical overlord (Red Shroud) Notable NPCs Red Shroud (CE female 22 HD succubus/gestalt sorcerer) Ygrax Skullbiter (CE male 18 HD nalfeshnee) Notable Imports: food, poisons, weapons Notable Exports: incubi, succubi, weapons
When seen from the surface of Pazunia Broken Reach looks singularly unimpressive. Multiple fortifications surround the entire town save for a couple of safe passageways that are heavily guarded. Towers of decrepit and cracked gray stone emerge from the ground, none of them scarcely taller than fifty to a hundred feet tall. What other buildings are visible are squat and ramshackle in construction. Most of them seem to have little purpose except for watchtowers and lower priced flophouses for those beings uncomfortable with subterranean dwellings. This is a deliberate misdirection encouraged by the succubus herself-as most of Broken Reach is underground. Although Red Shroud has done much to expand Broken Reach's subterranean spaces, much of the gate-town still remains as her predecessors excavated it thousands of years ago.
Broken Reach's far more extensive dwellings consist of an interlocking series of caverns and buried halls that range from fifty feet below the surface of Pazunia to as far down as three hundred feet. There is no organizational system whatsoever in terms of what is stored where in the town. Red Shroud finds it personally bemusing that some of the most expensive quarters and meeting-halls can be located near a room storing ale, overripe cheeses, and relatively live meat for more adventurous or bestial demonic customers. A side advantage of this approach, not lost upon the succubus at all, is that lacking fixed locations also makes mapping the gate-town nearly impossible and far more difficult to viably invade.
The most important series of caverns contain the portal to Plague-Mort in the Outlands itself. It is located below the main hall, and can be sealed with but a word from Red Shroud herself anywhere in the gate-town with a ten-ton single slab of basalt which rises from the ground into a ceiling alcove and completely conceals its twenty foot diameter and height. As those particular chambers also contain Red Shroud's personal residences, they can also be sealed off if necessary from the rest of Broken Reach, and then re-excavated after a threat has passed or battle won. Otherwise, the portal itself requires no gate-key and can be used by anyone with little training in the ways of the planes.
Broken Reach produces little in any conventional sense. It also lacks dedicated access to any of the molten iron lakes of Pazunia, although maps indicating how to find them are sold within the gate-town (truthful and/or current information as to their guardians requires extra cash, naturally in advance). However, its proximity to the Outlands, as well as those other layers which serve as battlefields for The Blood War make it an invaluable crossroads between varying groups both planar and mortal. Not surprisingly, Broken Reach has acquired has a significant and very well-deserved reputation as a weapons trading station, although Red Shroud personally has very different tastes in terms of what appeals to her in terms of personal goods and still takes a cut off of profits made in the gate-town. Red Shroud herself is a master poisoner and is not averse to either personal discounts or 'encouraging' resident traders to grant discounts if she is presented with a particularly toxic venom or secretion.
Red Shroud trades in far more appalling quanitites than mere information, weapons, and poisons. In order to supplement her income (and prevent them from becoming potential rivals without the boundaries of her keep), Red Shroud has taken to selling off her succubus daughters by her current nalfeshnee consort, Ygrax, to those interested in them for pleasure or for augmenting their personal armies. Rumors persist that Red Shroud has found some way to keep track of her offspring sold off at Broken Reach's auctions and using the knowledge gained to augment her power and influence. If so, none but the most foolish and short-lived speak of this within Broken Reach's boundaries.
Red Shroud has an extremely strict yet naturally informal rule against fighting within the boundaries of Broken Reach. However, fights which take place outside the boundaries of the gatetown are tolerated (provided that neutral parties are not accosted), and sometimes even goaded on by Red Shroud either for her amusement, or towards the end of indirectly removing someone who she detests or got in the way of her whims on that particular day. Furthermore, although many of the hidden deals and schemes of The Blood War are planned within Broken Reach's boundaries, fights between factions are similarly not tolerated.
Similarly, Red Shroud and Broken Reach in general have little patience for internecine conflicts between mazza'im and qlippothim, or mazza'im and maleidolon. Otherwise and regardless of subtype, those demons that do not interfere with the scheming succubus' mercenary interests are tolerated. Those that are too disruptive, whether by inducing insanity upon her guards or through other, more subtle means, are made into examples. The fields and wastelands immediately outside of Broken Reach are strewn with the corpses of many such exemplars. Molydei 'recruitment' efforts and chasme spies in support of them are equally unwelcome. Although the former are allowed within the boundaries of the gatetown they are specifically disallowed from coercing new recruits within its boundaries, or getting so enthused with kidnapping or victimizing potential visitors in the area that their actions impede Red Shroud's otherwise profitable businesses. The two-headed mazza'im that break her rule find themselves used as experiments for the succubus' epic poison developments-or subjected to molydeus venom themselves.
Broken Reach is sponsored by no power of The Abyss directly. No atrocity more powerful than herself, demon lord, or demon prince, is directly responsible for Red Shroud's power and Broken Reach's success in terms of remaining at the planar crossroads of The Abyss and the Outlands. However, those who assume that this implies weakness on the part of Broken Reach or Red Shroud herself are fatally underestimating both the town and its ruler. Red Shroud explicitly expects all guests, regardless of competence or affiliation otherwise, to defend the city in the event of attack. Broken Reach also has multiple caches of weapons, potions, and an excellent collection of epic and nonepic poisons including both molydeus venom and several unique products commissioned from the Carcerian glabrezu and master poisoner Sinmaker. Each cache has been independently provisioned and designed so that no being, not even Ygrax, knows the full extent of Red Shroud's resources.
Beyond physical and magical violence, the succubus merchant has additional resources at her disposal. In those cases where Red Shroud has to deal with a threat nonlethally she has a simple, yet effective nonlethal means of doing so. She casts a modified bestow greater curse spell on her targets that makes them permanently incapable of passing through Broken Reach's portal. Most of such victims, forced to explain to those more powerful than them why they were unable to get to their destinations reliably, end up being slain-and in this way Red Shroud is never directly responsible for their fates.
Broken Reach faces many of the normal threats common to those who dwell within Pazunia, including petitioner mobs, rogue molydei desperate to empower themselves and keep more powerful demons somewhat satsified, demon atrocities attempting to bolster their armies, agents of goodness attempting to sabotage The Abyss in some minor way, and infernal saboteurs. Furthermore, Red Shroud and Broken Reach's mercenary attitudes have attracted the malign attentions of multiple factions, including a githzerai sect and a demon lord whose attacks on the town were defeated. Despite these ongoing threats, so far Red Shroud has managed to maintain control over her gate-town. This is a situation that seems unlikely to change in the near future.
The gate-town is kept in The Abyss through the numerous paradoxes of Red Shroud's mannerisms; strict and yet disordered, deliberated and yet maintaining a sufficient amount of disorder. By such means Broken Reach has not shifted appreciably from its location, despite efforts by devils to quietly infiltrate it on numerous occasions and increase the amount of law within its boundaries, and analogous efforts by some of the more bizarre slaad towards parallel ends through far more bizarre means.
Styros: Broken Reach is not far from the only town within Pazunia, although it is the largest and the most amenable to visitors and rival factions. Far less welcoming than Broken Reach, Styros is a vital marshalling point in The Blood War and a chronic menace to all that either approach it or find themselves noticed by its demonic denizens.
Styros CE Large Town Qualities notorious, unfriendly Demographics Races mixed (demons 90%, mortals 5%, other 5%) Government magical overlord (Litradaceus) Notable NPCs Tarnshaff The Grim (CE male 20 HD molydeus) Quoba (CE male half-elf sorcerer 19) Littradaceus (CE male 18 HD nalfeshnee) Notable Imports: dretches, manes, shipbuilding materials Notable Exports: dretches, manes, ships
One of the most deservedly ill-reputed locations in Pazunia is Styros. A sullen marshalling point for The Blood War, Styros is located on the shore of a relatively placid bay off the Styx, seventeen days’ travel afoot from Malevolus. Perhaps no place in Pazunia is as dismal as a perpetual oily rain falls over the barracks-town and its environs, turning the streets of into constantly churning mud deep enough to swallow an unwary soul or dretch. Even the demonic overseers of the garrison town must watch their steps (several continually stay in the air, atop floating platforms or by their own devices or powers). Surrounded by crowded barracks that are little more than corrals, Styros reeks with the torment of conscripted souls and the cruelty of the overseers, a stench that whips the demons into a frenzy of unholy glee.
Babau and moldyei swarm the regions around Styros, herding conscripts they have chosen and branded into private press gangs to sweep up further ‘deserters’ and heedless travelers into the embrace of Styros. The conscripts thus chosen might be said to have a slightly better lot than those marshaled from Styros, except that they end up as meals or fodder for their demonic sergeants more often than not. Even so, a few have attained a certain level of respect (such as it is in The Abyss) and have control over their own gangs; these are extremely few, and invariably headed by figures whose malice and cruelty are the equal of their Abyssal peers.
Styros, like most of the purely Blood War-related camps and settlements, is not under the control of any of the primary Abyssal factions or powers; the molydei, the Dooms of Darkness and Flame, and even the Lords of Woe take a dim view of interference with the conscription and embarkation of souls, and quickly launch reprisals against those foolish enough to try. The gangs themselves zealously defend their ‘purpose’, and when roused by raiders or attackers (mostly from hag or daemon-sponsored expeditions) they tend to cause serious trouble for nearby citadels and fortresses, forcing these to sullenly try to keep such attacks from occurring to avoid the headache of dealing with the gangs.
Littradaceus (18 HD nalfeshnee) is the token lord of Styros, though his leadership boils down to very little more than ensuring that conscripts come in and are mustered out without rousing any of the Abyssal generals’ ire over replacement troops. This he accomplishes well enough, despite the fact that his technical position of leadership makes him a scapegoat more than anything else. Littradaceus has nevertheless managed to gain a measure of prestige due to his efforts, attracting the attentions of several more powerful demons, including Ter-Soth, who has ‘invited’ the nalfeshnee to take over similar duties under him exclusively. This he has cautiously refused because he has a more personal reason to maintain his modicum of authority. Littradaceus is fascinated with using his deform ability to create ‘statues’ of creatures locked in the moment of their deaths and has built what might be called a museum of these masterpieces, a tapestry of deaths; he calls it a true chronicle of The Blood War. In addition, he uses this ability to sculpt ‘camp improvements’, quartering for more potent demons and guests forged of reshaped dretches and soulstuff.
Styros can be said to have a thriving industry in shipbuilding…if one considers a ramshackle raft a kind of ship. Conscripts lash together what materials are on hand into simple barges and platforms to take them down the Styx to the battlefields. Those materials required from elsewhere are gathered through raiding nearby, weaker iron fortresses or otherwise waylaying weaker groups of travellers or demons through the layer (which adds considerably to the amount of loathing possessed by all against the marshaling point). More than half perish in the sluggish waters due to the shoddy craftsmanship, though this is an acceptable level of attrition for the most part and provides the demonic inhabitants of Styros a great deal of amusement. On a handful of occasions, the Dooms of Darkness and Flame have commissioned squadrons of minor warships at Styros before major operations when the greater shipyards elsewhere are incapable of producing all of the needed craft.
Littradaceus maintains his power and his reputation by manipulating the gangs and playing them against each other. The babau-led gangs are at a natural disadvantage against the mighty molydei, and both despise the few gangs led by non-demons. Littradaceus keeps the less powerful gangs a threat to the others, supplying them with weapons or other payments to keep them firmly under his thumb while placating the molydei with the demonstrated success he has had with keeping the front lines supplied through his efforts and the occasional aid when their efforts cause trouble with the other towns and fortresses.
Press Gangs: There are literally dozens of known press gangs haunting the regions surrounding Styros and possibly just as many that ply the trade secretly. Some are endorsed or patronized by demon lords and princes (one of the more infamous molydei, White Shadow, is in the pay of Graz'zt), but most are independent of ‘official’ status. Around 50% of the gangs are led by molydei, 40% are headed by other demons (mostly babau), and 10% by daemons, other outsiders, or mortals. Several of the more notorious gangs are listed below. The leaders of these gangs possess unique brands which mark the thralls with symbols that cannot be simply erased. Treat these brands as an arcane mark with a DC equal to the leader’s HD to successfully erase.
The Black Hooks: The largest and most vicious band of babau surrounding Styros, the Black Hooks are led by three individuals; Davisaut (barbarian 8), Vaolkis (sorcerer 5), and Luyox (rogue 6). The horde is composed of over 200 babau, a few scattered tieflings, and a solitary goristro named Jhavolud that serves Davisaut unquestioningly for some unknown reason (it is the primary reason Davisaut maintains overall command and keeps his band competitive). Jhavolud carries an enormous cage of cold iron on his back to hold the conscripts the Hooks find, allowing them to spread themselves out into several smaller gangs to cover more territory instead of wasting their forces corralling and guarding their captives at a central point. Littradaceus, offended by the arrogance of White Shadow and the other molydei, lured the Hooks into the conscription business by providing the three leaders with modestly potent magical items and the enticement of further riches. Davisaut gained a magical trident, Vaolkis gained a bauble that creates illusions that only molydei can see (despite their true seeing), and Luyox owns a bracelet that allows him to become invisible at will. Littradaceus can destroy any of these items if he wishes as long as they are on Pazunia.
The Hooks range along the Stygian riverbanks and fens, stalking rutterkin, Stygian-drowned zombies, and other minor horrors that lurk there. On rare occasions the Hooks have been known to ambush the barges that have left Styros, recapturing and reselling as many souls as possible to pad their profits; the potent brands of most of their competitors are generally too difficult to remove, but even when there is nothing worth reselling to Styros the Hooks find someone else to sell to. They have contacts with two different hag covens, a representative of Pazuzu, and recently have begun to trade with Malevolus.
The Hooks’ brand is quite naturally a hook, with a three-pronged fork pointing down at the base of the curve.
Tarnshaff the Grim: One of the most successful herders in Pazunia, Tarnshaff is infamous in part because he is far more stoic than most of his brethren; he brooks no nonsense and is less impulsive in the zeal his brethren display in their endless task of promoting The Blood War. He also ranges farther out from Styros than almost any other ‘conscription officer’, occasionally showing up briefly on the streets of Broken Reach and the wastes beyond. His long forays bring him extremely large and diverse herds that tend to be much more desirable than those procured by others while also limiting his clashes with the other molydei and the babau press gangs (particularly his bitter rival White Shadow, the Black Hooks, Serpenem, and Quoba’s Band). His tasks include both the general herding of souls and deserters to Styros as well as replenishment of materiel, particularly the ever-in-demand molten iron. This mandate is a general one issued from Littradaceus, and even when Tarnshaff takes orders from another warlord or power he tries to ensure a cut of both supplies and souls to hand over to the dock masters of Styros.
Tarnshaff is served by 130 minions. Most of them are tiefling and rutterkin guards. The guards are supervised by bar-lgura and a dozen vrocks, with a hezrou named Yoi overseeing the recruitment effort. Tarnshaff’s lieutenant and sometime-consort Edriza, a succubus, manages the cauldron wagons and resupply missions’ particulars. Tarnshaff never employs minions that he believes have avoided serving on the battlefield, and has occasionally followed the careers of some of his conscripts in order to eventually buy or kidnap them back after they have experienced the ‘glories’ of combat in The Blood War.
The molydeus has unusually good relations with Red Shroud despiute her limitations otherwise. This is due to his elimination of several major threats to her reign that had menaced him as well. He has taken several successful contracts for both Vehnaremne and Kardum; he avoids dealing directly with Graz’zt’s minions or those of his allies, as he despises White Shadow tremendously and assumes that his rival is being supported by his home layer’s master (which is only partially true).
Tarnshaff’s brand is a wavy circle, with two sets of fang marks (lupine and serpentine) in the center; the irons are molded from his own teeth.
Quoba’s Band: Though rare, some mortals thrive on Pazunia. The First Torment is certainly one of the ‘safest’ layers of the Abyss for mortals strong and tough enough to survive dealing with demons. Spellcasters, for instance, find it useful to take charge of a press gang both to surround themselves with demonic guardians and to gain access to resources to further their research into The Abyss or to gain a reputation to peddle for influence with demonic lords and princes. This is particularly true for those with a specific interest in The Blood War and its generals, because the soul impressment machinery is the foundation for gaining power and notoriety among the commanders.
Quoba’s Band began this way, with the sorcerer Quoba (CE male half-elf sorcerer 19) arriving from the Mortal Coil to hide from his more righteous brethren after betraying his people to the drow. A molydeus challenged him, and after slaying the demon Quoba found himself in possession of a small mob of conscripts. They included a crippled glabrezu named Xocx and several fellow mortals who survived a party of mercenary adventurers that had found itself out of its depth. Quoba used his magic to set up a defensible position in the ruins of an iron fortress somewhere between Gallowsgate and Styros (the location is cloaked with illusions and other magic), and with information provided by Xocx started making inroads into the conscription trade. Quoba’s Band manages to survive because of Quoba’s magic and the tactical brilliance and sheer hate of Warrick Dvaltok (NE male dwarf ranger 16), a vengeful sociopath with a particular hatred for demonkind. The Band is entirely led by mortals, supported by the advice of Xocx (who actually has found working with Quoba mostly pleasant for the moment). They are approximately 100 strong, mostly mortals and a few contracted daemons (Warrick only grudgingly allows Xocx to be part of the group as far as demons go), with a contingent of six iron golems to provide extra muscle.
Quoba’s intention is to use conscription to bolster his forces as well as turn a profit for now as he tries to establish his own kingdom in Pazunia. Although a passable scholar, he is not specifically interested in The Abyss as anything more than a secure (to his tastes) place to gather power for his own desires. He has no grand delusions or ambitions beyond ruling his own realm (which may eventually bore Xocx into manipulating him), and though intelligent and charismatic as things go he has yet to make an impression on any of the powers in Pazunia, other than arousing the hatred of the other press gangs. Quoba’s Band raids other gangs regularly, especially the Black Hooks and White Shadow (Warrick is hesitant to attack Tarnshaff’s servants overmuch due to his power), and this is their primary means of gathering souls and conscripts.
Quoba’s brand is a crescent moon surrounded by two circles.
The Cage of Songs: In the time before Malcanthet triumphed over her rivals, other succubi vied for power against each other in what came to be called the War of Ripe Flesh, in which lesser succubi also found themselves either following their more powerful brethren or inadvertently sucked into their schemes. Among them, the succubus Neshema found herself drawn to the siren song of Lynkhab. Like the Lady of Regrets, the succubus Neshema lived to fulfill the lusts of others, but her own desires felt forever out of reach. Vainly she searched for the sinful embrace that would satisfy her wretched soul, but her efforts were fruitless. Eventually, her heart-pangs led her to the Sighing Cliffs, where she came to believe that her agony was the result of unrequited love-that as a mortal, her soulmate had denied her advances, dooming her spirit to eternally hunger for intimacy, but never feel its satiation. Seeking to find the creature that had so cursed her, Neshema followed a fleeting trail of evidence that suggested that the fabled Harmonica of Pandemonium would grant her the name she so desired.
Yet, like so many before, her quest failed and she neither found the legendary site nor the identity of her former love. Lost, she wandered among the Windswept Depths until eventually the howling winds blew her into the Cage of Songs. Drawn to the cacophonic cries of the oiled steel and stretched skins upon its spherical frame, Neshema became enthralled by it.
Since that time, Neshema has tended to the Cage and its howling song with an almost religious devotion. Much of what tenuous sanity she had, she lost lost during her stay in the Windswept Depths. Now, the mad succubus only half-remembers her reason for entering Pandemonium, for like an addict, the song of the Cage assuages the worst of her soul's anguish, numbing it like a man burrowing his sorrow in wine. Neshema clung to it even when the Cage of Songs migrated to Pazunia for some unknown motive shortly after the layer changed shape.
A number of fiends and similarly tortured souls have flocked to Neshema and her wailing cage. Included in this rag-tag flock are a band of vrocks hiding from The Blood War's call, a sorrowsworn demon (Monster Manual III) named Avelemet, a pack of fiendish gargoyles, and even a pair of harpies that were originally part of a group Neshema overthrew. Except for Avelemet, Neshema largely ignores the rabble, leaving them be so long as they do not disturb her and her maddened attempts to manipulate the Cage's song.
In her place, Avelemet leads the motley band. Beyond defending the Cage from would-be-usurpers, the sorrowsworn demon directs Neshema's minions to seek out and capture new prey to place inside the cage, as the succubus is ever eager to supply the Cage with a growing chorus of screaming souls. When not so engaged with Neshema in her experiments with the qlippoth's craft, Avelemet finds the company of the succubus its own prize -the demoness' melancholic soul a feat to its fiendish appetite.
However, Avelemet is not the only creature interested in the demented succubus and her singing cage. Not so easily forgetting the vrocks that escaped it and its master's need for troops, the scheming molydeus Ghoskenai (20 HD/gestalt ranger) was still searching for the runaway demons until he discovered the possibility of a much greater prize: the Cage itself. Since the Cage has vast powers to attract attentions and command beings for from its physical proximity, Ghoskenai has also ascertained that it could perhaps be used to attract massive numbers of dretches and other, lesser mazza'im in a similar manner. With such numbers at his disposal, he believes that he could either ravage or transform himself into a much greater form as well as use their numbers to bolster his increase in power. However, such ambitions as he has are quite a distance from completion-given that he would need to slay or control those beings affiliated with it currently, as well as figure out how to control the Cage himself without becoming another of its myriad prisoners.
Concurrently, the eye of Pazuzu himself has been caught by the recent activities of the Cage. For now, the Lord of the Abyss' Skies simply watches and waits, unaware that Abraxas is also interested in Neshema and her efforts to unravel the secrets of the cage and Pandemonium's cries, especially since it was the Guardian of Names that was responsible for directing the succubus to the Harmonica in her fruitless search for her past lover's name. Meanwhile, Lynkhab listens from afar, her dark thoughts increasingly turning to the demoness and the possibility that the Cage's power might unlock more than one succubus from its imprisonment.
A fantastically ancient artifact even by the reckoning of the qlippothim, the Cage of Songs had vast powers of imprisonment both spiritual and physical. The least of its powers involved ensnaring a being within its spherical form, drawing intended victims into it through songs of temptation and dissatisfaction. Within 600 feet the lure of the Cage is far stronger than the norm, requiring a Will save DC 40 in order to resist its powers. However, even at a greater distance, the Cage can sing to those that may be vulnerable, detecting thoughts of beings within eight miles of its physical form, and making suggestions to beings within four miles of it instead unless a Will save DC 32 is passed instead. Greater powers allowed it to steal the voices of victims nearby, using them to further its own deceptions or to guarantee their return to the Cage and personal corruption.
Deathshores: Although all of the molten iron lakes of Pazunia are prized, even when they are unguarded, one of the best known and most infamous is the one controlled by the Devourer of Souls: Deathshores. Deathshores' most prominent demon is the quicksilver-scaled marilith Xllistn (24 HD), who has been given unique power over the metal of the lake, as well as metal in general by the Devourer of Souls itself in order to ensure both that its control is maintained and that the lake's metal is always accessible for crafting. It is also rumored that should she attempt to betray Demogorgon, the ancient magicks cast upon her would cause her to melt away into nothingness and that it is only through its will that her life is preserved.
Molydei rarely attempt to raid Deathshores itself and its demonic defenders, including a team of fire-immune glabrezu 'smiths', are more than adequate to defend against petitioner hordes. If they are independent then no power would protect them from the wrath of Demogorgon as expressed through the actions of minions or allies such as "Saint" Kargoth or even worse, Daegoros. If they attack it under the aegis of a demon lord, then such a lord would face reprisal from Demogorgon personally. Furthermore, the swarms of lava and fire mephits aiding its demonic crafters make poor fodder for The Blood War. However, rival demon princes, particularly Orcus openly and Graz'zt through more subtle means, as well as some bolder demon atrocities, have little compunctions about hijacking caravans or diverting teleportations away from Deathshores in order to steal its weapons for themselves. Deathshores is located three days away from the left bank of the Styx and ten days away from The Grand Abyss. Minions of Demogorgon or those otherwise foolish or depraved enough to seek him out can find it in a day instead.
Glimpse: In the most distant regions of Pazunia is rumored to exist a region of insanity. Few beings search it out, and those few that are claimed to have actually found it typically end up in the Bleak House of Pandemonium eventually-both insane and homicidal in ways that seem to be unique to each individual and far beyond the power of mortal magic to cure. This region is generally called the Glimpse. Although there are fewer sources of information regarding this particular region than there are survivors of its effects, what little has been pieced together indicates that at one time there was an iron fortress over the region and that this stronghold was far more oriented towards keeping whatever was beneath it contained as compared to allowing any kind of connection. As far back as the discovery of Pazunia even before the Second War of Law and Chaos, there was apparently some kind of blockage in order to protect the layer from whatever is responsible. Those other details have been pieced together indicate that there is a sentient creature immobilized at the other end of the portal and that its powers appear to be far beyond even the qlippothic might in terms of inflicting madness. Although it lacks sufficient power to free itself, it still possesses enough power to drive into madness any being that gets too close to her at largely random intervals. Given the incessant state of conflict upon Pazunia, these disappearances and suicides have often been overlooked.
Although the exact location of Glimpse remains unknown (and in fact, might actually shift slightly through the inherent chaos of Pazunia), there do appear to be a couple of guidelines that help beings either find or avoid it. No survivor of Glimpse has ever been encountered closer than two weeks' travel from the Styx by land in any direction. It seems to be closer to the border between Pandemonium and Pazunia, as its rare survivors have mostly found themselves in the Windswept Depths.
Furthermore, those who attempt to find Glimpse often encounter a bizarre phenomenon called the Interminable Valley; a geological feature or an illusion in which beings appear to travel for six days only to find themselves exactly where they entered it, or dozens or even hundreds of miles away. Avoiding the Glimpse instead quite thankfully is apparently a good bit easier, and there are two methods by which this can be accomplished. The first is through a single planeshift, even if such involves a brief step into the ethereal plane-which implies that the connection from the Glimpse has mental elements. The second is through backing away from the Interminable Valley.
Fortress Malevolus: It is called ‘The Jewel of the Abyss’ and it is one of the strongest and most well-defended of all the scattered outposts that litter the face of Pazunia. Built of the black timber of Azzagrat and ebon stone carved in secret from the Infinite Labyrinth, it is proof to nearly any assault, despite the uncounted devils (among others) that have thrown themselves against its walls. Most famous of all is the fact that it is considered as neutral as any place in all the Torments can be so called; though the fortress is claimed by Graz’zt, it is part of his policy that almost any lord’s thralls may be admitted to Malevolus as long as they declare their allegiances openly and in no way try to disrupt the operations within the fortress.
This view may seem naïve considering the nature of demons in general; despite this, the intrigues fostered within the walls of Malevolus have never threatened its strength. Malevolus is perched on top of a particularly large nexus of portals, seventeen in all, that reach to all of Graz’zt’s possessions, Hollow’s Heart, and those of several other princes generally not hostile to the Six-Fingered Lord (in theory) or those with no central authority but large numbers of lesser demons and resources valuable to war. These portals were discovered by Graz’zt, and the fortress was constructed in part to stabilize them permanently. It is therefore both strategically important to the enemies of Graz’zt and a singularly difficult target for the same. Within Malevolus there are individual servants and embassies of many beings. Not all of them are of Abyssal origin. Only those of Demogorgon, Pale Night, and Orcus are specifically barred although some agents of all three exist quietly nonetheless, saboteurs and spies that seek a method to undermine the fastness or its true purpose.
Malevolus is no center for what passes for demonic diplomacy, however, nor is it truly anything more than its forbidding appearance implies; it is a marshaling ground and strongpoint in The Blood War. Lord Graz’zt may not have his full attention solely focused upon the eternal struggles between Perdition and the Torments, but he recognizes more than some value to investing in its outcome (and certainly he has a more significant investment than Orcus currently). To this end he laid the foundations for Malevolus very early in his rise to power, with the specific intent of crafting an impregnable hold against the incursions of Hell. For the most part he succeeded, a feat in and of itself in the ever-changing Abyss.
This stability is not perfect, naturally; Malevolus has had a long series of governors and lords, most of them balors of modest power and cunning chosen as much for their lack of dangerous ambitions as they are for their ability in battle. The last such, Zaranhar, was of no particular note among this long roster except for two facts; he was slain in the only seriously damaging attack ever attempted by the Dark Ministry, and thus that his death ushered in the only truly illustrious master of the mighty fortress: Zaxarus, Hero of The Blood War.
Zaxarus (half-fiend human rogue 17/assassin 7) is a cambion, considered by many before his rise to be a fairly talented spy and agent for Zaranhar but otherwise of no great standing. The powers granted by his fiendish parent, a marquis gloom serving Eldanoth, secured him personal power enough to rise into his modestly important position. It is said, however, that he had one failing; his perverse love for Zaranhar’s mistress and chief tactician, the marilith Alamanda. Many saw it as a weakness from his human mother’s side; his skills, however, kept most of the inhabitants of the fortress from attacking him out of spite, and Zaranhar tolerated his spy’s feelings with cruel amusement.
The half-fiend’s love for Alamanda nearly spelled disaster for Malevolus, when at an arcanodaemon’s advice he unwittingly betrayed it to an unknown celestial that sought to ensure a successful attack by an army of Hell against the fortress. In return, however, the angelic creature also betrayed itself. Upon releasing Zaxarus, it granted the cambion an aura of heroism and inspiration, and branded him with the title of ‘Hero’. He returned to Malevolus too late to save Zaranhar and Alamanda but he nevertheless rallied the remaining demons of the fortress to victory. His spirit, however, was shattered by loss.
Now the half-fiend, formerly despised and held in contempt, is lauded as an invincible warrior and hero by all demons that come across his path; this charisma has swelled Graz’zt’s already huge forces and attracted many powerful fiends to his service, all of whom have sworn utter loyalty to the death for the great hero. Zaxarus now rules Malevolus, but he takes little joy in his exalted station. Haunted by his betrayal and the death of his beloved, he has no drive to lead or govern but cannot bring himself to leave what he considers his just punishment. Indeed, he has been changed in more ways than just his almost visible charms; his demonic blood has begun to repel his mortal side, causing his appearance to marble, consisting of swirls and random patterns of black, red, and white upon his skin. By his newfound powers, Malevolus has become more invincible than ever.
Malevolus is defended by a multitude of demons of many kinds, most particularly babau, armanites, and chasme. In charge of them are twelve generals, the Nightmare Lancers, that have been restored since their predecessors were slain in Zaxarus’ betrayal. These lancers, led by Kausharon the Bloody-Handed (armanite barbarian 18), were chosen by Graz’zt but have had their allegiances switched to Zaxarus. With their lord’s melancholy they focus with blind faith on defending Malevolus until and unless Zaxarus stirs himself to some plot demanded of him by Graz’zt.
More than demons guard the fortress, however and some of the oldest and most powerful of Graz’zt’s viper trees are planted outside its gates in twisted groves. Demonic engines of innumerable designs line the walls and the outer fortifications. Some dating back to the ages when the qlippothim ruled while others are built and designed in Az'zagrat expressly for Malevolus’ defense. Blackstone gigants (Fiend Folio) carved into the forms of goristroi and forged of demonic iron and rock patrol the perimeter of the fortress in endless bloody circles, Last and most dreadful of all, the fortress is guarded by twin horrors in the form of Violent Spite and Murderous Grief (nabassu rogue 7/shadowdancer 10). Both were chained to Malevolus by Graz’zt himself with cold iron bindings that supernaturally allow them access anywhere within the fortress and out to a limited space beyond the walls.
Malevolus is located approximately six days' travel by conventional means from the left bank of The Grand Abyss. The frequency of travel to the Fortress means that there are typically caravans carrying supplies to it which can be found with little complication on a daily basis.
Recurring Slaughter: Pazunia has been marked by war and strife since Madness and Bile first came to the layer in ancient days. One of the most bizarre and infamous locations epitomizing turmoil upon Pazunia is Recurring Slaughter.
Some time after the defeat of Turaglas by Orcus and Demogorgon both sent armies to Pazunia in order to claim as much of its territory for themselves as possible. Each of them used bizarre magicks upon their respective forces in order to prolong the lives-and unlives-of their minions. In Orcus' case, he used the Lash Embrar to actually create undead with a semblance of true regeneration so that unless they were totally destroyed they would eventually reassemble themselves back into corpses and skeletons. Demogorgon's tactics were similarly unusual if more powerful and it created a mobile region that depending on how many of his demonic minions were present within it, would allow them to heal themselves and even warp those who did not follow Demogorgon until they were either completely incapacitated or even destroyed.
Neither demon prince's tactics worked as they intended. When the battle took place towards the boundary of Pandemonium, their magicks were recombined and altered by The Abyss in an unique manner. Both armies utterly annihilated each other-but instead of the combatants on either side remaining permanently dead they were trapped in a loop-forever condemned to repeat their battle but with no possibility of either final victory or utter defeat. To this day at sporadic intervals the demonic corpses and broken bodies reassemble themselves, pick up their weapons, and proceed to slaughter each other until they are all dead again-only to repeat the cycle at some later time. Even attempting to escape the location provides little relief for those trapped within it as those that attempt to do so are teleported back into it if they get 1d4 miles away or use planeshifting. It is a physical incarnation of the hatred that Demogorgon and Orcus possess for each other.
Although Recurring Slaughter is extremely dangerous, it is still raided irregularly by those attempting to steal the ancient magicks of the demon princes responsible for its creation for themselves-as well as those seeking more mundane treasures in terms of the artifacts of the combatants or even pieces of their bodies for spell components. Although the latter types of efforts have generally proved more successful, there is still a hidden risk to such acts of theft. On occasion the artifacts taken from the location are tied to it to such a degree that they may actually draw whoever currently owns them back to the battlefield-even across planes and from The Mortal Coil. In such cases a Will save DC 36 is required to prevent the inadvertent planeshifting.
There is no obvious pattern as to what will trigger a recurrence. Beings that have been able to explore the battlefield safely upon one occasion have found themselves hacked down the instant they set foot upon it or teleported into it upon other occasions. Still, the rewards acquired from the region continue to tempt those either clever or foolish enough to attempt to probe it.
The Scarlet Promontory Rising high from the Pazunian wastes near the borders of both the Outlands and Carceri is an enormous red mountain and one of the only notable mounts in this region of the layer, the rocks stained in a series of swirling crimson colors sometimes seeping and flowing like blood down the sides of the mountain and surrounding bluffs. The Scarlet Promontory is topped by a smashed dome and a series of massive ruins that extend deep within the mountain. The ruins are made of stone cut from Carcerian rock which makes them secure from divination and Abyssal quakes.
The Promontory is inhabited by numerous draconic undead. They range from massive spectral wyrms to half-draconic skeletons; among the most dangerous of all are the bodaks, for every reported specimen of these horrid undead is of uncommon size, malevolence, and power. Even those terrible monsters are dwarfed by silent ghosts of dread majesty, dragons that in life must surely been old and powerful. All of the draconic undead encountered in the area around the Promontory thus far have been of red heritage, but there is no indication of their former identities or affiliation. No creature that rises in the area of the Promontory is capable of communication in any way, and it is obvious that this constraint infuriates the already maddened unliving creatures, enhancing their maliciousness and spite.
The Scarlet Promontory’s rock and soil are stained a deep red in marbled hues that speak of a great downpour of blood that once rained down and seeped permanently into the area. In ages past, when Tiamat inhabited The Abyss and fought in the Second War on the side of the Queen of Chaos, a great many of her wyrms were slain by the vaati over the Promontory, their blood staining the ground below and seared into its fabric by the Dragon Queen’s wrath. For many ages the Promontory was ignored and uninhabited in its relatively remote corner of Pazunia. This period of silence ended some centuries before the Great Fall when an army of red dragons and their minions occupied the mountain and its environs, ignoring their demonic neighbors as they built the massive edifice which housed their nameless lord, a red dragon of great size and power. With their powerful magic and skilled soldiers they rebuffed all attempts by nearby powers to investigate but they never made a move beyond the bounds of their small realm. Several years after the draconic fortress was completed some terrible but unknown catastrophe occurred that slew every inhabitant and shattered the structure, raising all the dead residents to guard its secrets in eternal silence. Since that time, no creature has managed to penetrate the undead perimeter and enter the ruin, though flyovers have revealed swirling vortices of energy and more undead within the dome and its broken outbuildings.
The Promontory is modestly obscure, having sparked little interest in general among the demons. The occasional attempts to sift the ruin invariably prove too costly and unproductive, and since the undead do not stray beyond the limits of the area or seem to have any agenda it is mostly left to itself. Aside from the implications of draconic hoard wealth hidden among the ruins, there is nothing to tempt most of the Pazunian warlords into daring further investigation. The Promontory is several weeks’ travel from the nearest significant iron fortress across mob-filled barrens and the increasing perils of the planar boundaries as factors which render any expedition a largely unprofitable exercise but one still attempted sporadically for the rewards of treasure and knowledge.
In more recent centuries the region has been the focus of some attention, as dragons serving Tiamat have established a small outpost just beyond the Promontory’s influence to discover what occurred within. Led by Yuhorruluk (female great red wyrm/unholy ravager of Tiamat 10), the group is made up of ten other red dragons of mature adult and old age, roughly a thousand soldiers (mostly Spawn of Tiamat and half-draconic mortals), and a small clutch of four umbral dragons whose expertise in dealing with the undead made them a valuable asset to the expedition. Yuhorruluk has augmented her minions with any demons she can bully into service, but she has taken pains to do this beneath the notice of the molydei and any nearby warlords and thus has very few to call upon currently. Whether Tiamat or her servants know anything about the former inhabitants of the Scarlet Promontory or the circumstances that befell them is a well-kept secret. What seems clear is that the Queen of Evil Dragons pursues this without any apparent mandate from Perdition.
Aguledeljan, a red dracolich (32 HD), was attracted by the necromantic aura of the Promontory more recently, and has been carefully watching Yuhorruluk’s activities to find a means to explore the Promontory without her interference. So far, he has had no success in subverting or controlling the undead of the region. This has piqued his curiosity but he has currently rejected contacting Falazure for guidance. Because of the unusual nature of the Promontory’s effects, he has been reluctant to raise minions of his own or bring those he has from his lair elsewhere in Pazunia.
Another silent watcher is the arcanodaemon Siumon (18 HD/master enchanter 6). A representative of another draconic power (though he has no knowledge of his true master, being a mercenary bought for the task), Siumon is tasked with divining precisely what occurred at the Promontory, while simultaneously frustrating the attempts of Tiamat’s expedition. It is the latter task that Siumon finds appealing; after losing most of his minions in the first foray into the Promontory, he has decided against further attempts on his own part and focuses on sabotaging Yuhorruluk’s progress. He has been attempting to wheedle the service of other daemons and even demons to undertake the more hazardous side of his mission, with little success.
Within the ruins lies only one creature that is not undead; the fiend Quesatchk (24 HD glabrezu necromancer 18). Once a far less unique glabrezu, Quesatchk has acquired ravages that have made him far more 'draconic' in nature such as a breath weapon, relevant immunity, and a more potent bite than normal-implying that The Promontory itself is being partially assimilated by The Abyss into becoming a ravaging circumstance in its own right.Quesatchk is able to sense things outside the ruin through the undead, and can command them at will. As yet Quesatchk has kept himself hidden from the factions observing his demesne, though he is more than aware of them and what their intentions are.
Vendetta Aerie In a distant past the Plains of Gallenshu (Layer 377), once belonging to the varrangoin, was completely and utterly overrun by the mazza'im known as the armanites. Not all of the varrangoin were present there and scattered survivors maintained colonies throughout The Abyss and The Mortal Coil when possible. The largest colony of them present within Pazunia have established a place where they scheme towards the destruction of those mazza'im that annihilated that which they had built; Vendetta Aerie. Beyond keeping the varrangoin alive and allowing them to regenerate their numbers, albeit slowly, the immediate goal of Vendetta Aerie is otherwise quite simple: slaughter as many of the armanites throughout Creation as possible in vengeance for their act of mass slaughter.
The aerie is strong enough to pick off sporadic groupings of armanites that are unfortunate enough to find themselves alone within Pazunia and without any significant support (or witnesses) that could report their annihilation to other concerned parties. However, the preferred method of Vendetta Aerie's operation consists of taking assignments indirectly for the slaughter of particular armanites well known for their actions upon the Plains of Gallenshu-who in turn arrange it so their intended targets are waylaid within Pazunia at a sufficient distance from the Aerie to prevent its location from becoming known. These sorts of arrangements are mostly made within Broken Reach, where the marquis half-fiend Therrez (human rogue 6/Abyssal bloodline sorcerer 14) holds court and pays for his remaining within the gate-town with items and poisons acquired from The Mortal Coil and sent to him by varrangoin supporters of the quiet war effort.
The current rulers of Vendetta Aerie are a triad of arcanist varrangoin (Fiend Folio) named Llx, Vull, and Sxaj. The two most potent among them, Vull (Enchanter 20), and Sxaj, (Illusionist 20) are both accomplished enchanters, while the third is Llx (Evoker 18) is a potent evoker instead-who is called upon to destroy any creatures that the others' spells have failed to deter (a circumstance that given the remoteness of the Aerie has thankfully for them occurs infrequently at best). The remaining population of other varrangoin consists of arcanist and lesser varrangoin with less power and a comparatively small number of controlled rager varrangoin.
The structure is protected by a combination of aerial magicks which deflect attempts by flying creatures to reach it as well as potent enchantments, given that illusionary magicks are of dubious utility against a form of demon well known for its ability to true see. The nature of these spells is two-fold. First, they dissuade any being that is not a varrangoin from travelling further towards the Aerie. The second element of these enchantments consists of an extremely powerful spell that convinces beings that even if they have actually seen it, or any of its varrangoin residents, so long as the varrangoin themselves do not physically attack whoever is in the region, they have actually seen nothing instead. So far these spells have been sufficiently powerful to deter the vast majority of wayward demons that have stumbled upon their sanctum-and those few that have not been dissuaded have either been undead or other creatures that were little trouble to kill and otherwise dispose of the remains. Beyond its magical defenses Vendetta Aerie is one of the most remote locations within Pazunia and is thirty days away from the right bank of the Styx towards its border region with Pandemonium.
The schemes of Vendetta Aerie extend far beyond avenging themselves upon what armanites they can catch and kill in The Abyss. The most significant issue that they still possess is that although they are capable of procreating independently, it takes place at a much slower rate than upon the Plains of Gallenshu anywhere else in The Abyss. Ultimately, their goal is to device a massive magical ritual capable of allowing them to breed freely throughout The Mortal Coil. In this way they would be able to replenish their numbers at a much greater rate-and eventually become a much more powerful faction. Such a ritual is of interest to many demons within The Abyss (particularly the qlippothim) and so this goal is the most closely guarded secret possessed by the leaders of Vendetta Aerie.
Pazunia Knowledge (the planes) Table Knowledge (the planes) DC Sample Information Acquired 10 Pazunia is the first layer of The Abyss. The pools of oil upon the layer are portals leading to lower layers of The Abyss. 15 Many of the better known layers that have specific rulers have iron fortresses which guard their portals. 20 Not all of the pools of oil are actual portals. Some of them are instead a form of ooze found only in Pazunia that impersonates portals to lure prey. 25 Pazunia has not always looked like it does currently. It was originally controlled by by the qlippothim, who prized the layer for its myriad connections throughout The Abyss and the molten metal which could be used to make weapons. Only the lakes of molten iron now remain of this original state, and it was changed partially by Eltab. 35 You are aware of some of the more obscure and/or menacing locations within Pazunia-and just as importantly, how to potentially avoid them.