Chapter 49: The Rescue

There is no horror worse than to stare with mortal eyes into the depths of hell. The mortal mind cannot grasp beyond the horizons of pure evil. We have born and died in a world of balance; a world of black and white and gray. The people we meet are not pure definitions of good or evil. Anger and revenge filled every paladin's heart at one time or another. Love touched the dark heart of a necromancer, though small that touch may have been. Our people walk a rope of good and evil. It is why the gods watch us. It is how we grow.

But around our world, in the cracks and seams of our lives, there is a darker world. There are many dark worlds. There is Disease; there is Nightmare; there is War; there is Fire. There is Torment.

Torment's webwork of steel and stone stretch through a sky of blood over waters thick and black. Torment cries and laughs in the heart of despair. To look upon it is to feel the crushed spirit of hopelessness. To see the twisted beasts walking the labyrinth of its web-like sprawl is to see true horror. Few mortals see the devastation of Torment. Few ever escape its clutches. There are a few, however, who have felt the steel-barbed whip of Torment. Lost souls fall through the seams of life and into eternal pain and despair. Twisted beasts of coarse fur, yellow tusks, maws of white poisonous fangs and cloven hooves roar and rip into the mortals trapped in this prison world.

Time has no meaning in the demi-plane of Torment. Sometimes it gushes in a black river. Other times it is a single red drop of blood falling for centuries. A denizen of Torment cannot say how long it has been since mortals entered the red world freely. It is not frequent. So it was a surprise to see six mortals step through the white crackling rift that tore a wound through space and time. As much as it surprised the demons of Torment, the fury of their attack surprised them even more.

The crack of lightning shows the twisted walkways as the rift tears open time and space. On the backdrop of black and red the six mortals show blue and gold and silver. They show no fear of the world they entered. They hold weapons themselves forged in the planes. They are Planewalkers, adventurers familiar with the outer worlds and they came with purpose.

For centuries, Gtzzg walked the impossibly suspended walkways of Torment. He crushed bones in his huge hands and ripped into the soft skin of thousands. His yellow eyes gleamed and his thick hair stood up on his massive shoulders. He was the first to attack these intruders. He wanted them before the other demons; the sightless screaming telepathic ravens, the tentacled constructs, or the wolves; got to them.

Gtzzg roared his psychic roar and held his massive claws out as he rushed in. None in the party moved. He reached the group of mortals but never landed a blow. A mace, gleaming white with internal power and forged to battle just such a beast, smashed into the demon's skull. Plates of bone and gushing black blood splashed onto the ancient stone walkway. The mace crushed half of the demon's mind. He couldn't see out of one eye. His mouth opened in protest to this impossible situation when the mace came in again. The demon knew no more.

The adventurers hit Torment like a white hot scythe. They hewed and cleaved through dozens of the Plane's demons. The six mortals sprinted through fountains of spraying black blood, severed limbs, and the tainted smoldering ruins of their foes. Arrows streaked silver across the dark red sky, tearing demonic ravens out of the air one after another. The mortals ran with purpose, navigating the twisted walkways as the demons of the Plane did.

They ran into a smaller of the plane's cell blocks, a huge block of black stone carved with images of torture and pain. Two guards, massive wolf-headed beasts with horns protruding from their backs and shoulders, held their ground. They saw the rush of the adventurers and prepared their telepathic attacks.

A dozen arrows tore into the face and chest of one, blinding him. A bolt of lightning crashed into the other, sending it into convulsions. The cruel demon-slaying mace smashed into the jaw of the electrocuted wolf-demon sending its teeth back into its head. A slice of flashing silver, the thin edge of a heavily enchanted blade, cut through the neck of the other blinded demon and deep into the wall behind it. The head spun through the air, over the edge of the walkway, and tumbled into the black water hundreds of feet below.

The swing of an enchanted hammer smashed the steel door into pieces. White light poured into a room that only knew darkness. A figure, tiny and broken, cowered away from the light. The thin figure was naked and pale.

Loral stepped into the cell. His golden armor shined with an internal fire. His white hair hung in his face matted with sweat. Black blood covered his silver hammer in his right hand and sizzled off of the burning shield attached to his left. He went to the figure in the corner, dropping his hammer and placing his hand on the figure's shoulder.

"I'm here, father." Loral's voice cracked and a tear cut a clean path down his grimy face. He gently embraced the figure who did not return it.

"It's time to go home."