Oh my. This is ghastly and terrible and awesome.
Abattoir, City of Corruption and Hunger
City of Corruption and Hunger
In the badlands of Avernus where the River Styx first flows into Baator from Gehenna lies a sprawling metropolis of monolithic factories and elegant mansions as well as crumbling tenements and narrow alleyways filled to overflowing with homeless dregs.
A titanic sculpture—or possibly a natural formation, or even a petrified fiend or forgotten god—looms over one side of the city, resembling an enormously fat humanoid, its features so weathered that it's no longer clear whether the points on its head are ears or horns or both. From its gaping mouth vomits forth the River Styx, which flows over its massive belly, the vile river cutting a channel in the dark, slimy rock and flowing through the city itself. This is the city's primary portal from Gehenna, a mostly reliable path (deep enough for large barges to navigate) that the Styx takes just as it seemingly flows off the precipice of the First Furnace, near the city of Void's Edge, and enters the first of the Nine Hells. The dark, stinking river flows sinuously through the heart of the fiendish burg until it joins with the boiling River Pyriphlegethon, a waterway made of boiling blood that enters the Styx after long meanderings through Avernus and other, more distant realms. Some say they've spotted branches of the Pyriphlegethon as far away as the Outlands, the Abyss, and Pandemonium—sometimes taking the form of lava or pure fire—but it's so hostile throughout most of its length that even fiends find it difficult to navigate.
Those of poetical inclination, if not much planar knowledge, have claimed the Pyriphlegethon literally contains all of the blood lost by diabolic legions in the Blood War, somehow metaphysically transposed to the plains of Avernus. Others have pointed to the River of Blood instead, which flows into the Styx near Bel's fortress in Avernus's heartlands, and insist the Pyriphlegethon is a tainted intruder to the Nine Hells, and the city of Abattoir is tainted by its presence. The inhabitants of the City of Corruption variously embrace this latter theory, reveling in their taint, or deny it fiercely, pointing out that that the River Styx, the river of oblivion, devours the tainted blood utterly, leaving only stinking, wine-dark water downstream. Few can deny that the Styx contains more than its share of pollutants, particularly near Abattoir, a city remarkable in its filth even among lower planar cities.
So it is that Abattoir is a city of two competing metaphors. In one, it is the City of Corruption, city of filth and degeneracy eating away at the border of Baator's stern law. In the rival vision it is the City of Hunger, the City of Thirst, the Devourer of Corruption, the All-Devouring River, the city that drinks corruption itself leaving only the pure law of the Nine Hells to flow into its plane.
Many visitors, inhaling the putrid stench of the city, worse even than the stink of Void's Edge across the planar boundary, find reasons to doubt the latter claim. It has been derisively named the City of Urine or more vulgar things by those who point out that the burg's purification metaphor closely resembles what happens within a mortal's kidneys. But who is to say what Law should smell like, particularly the law of Baator? Few, regardless of their point of view, can doubt that Abattoir is, literally and figuratively, the cold disregard for the consequences of slaughter. It is where the vital fluids of life are callously and efficiently extinguished. It is where those who once fought bravely go to live out an ignominious end. It is where things that were once rich and vibrant—however wicked—are corrupted into excrement and filth.
Abattoir is, by the standards of Bel and the central bureacracy of Avernus, an extremely distant outpost, in fact the most distant of all major cities in Avernus, along with the ruined town of Darkspine and the military encampment known as Eight Devils Roaring. What all three of these settlements have in common is that they exist in "soft" areas surrounding major portals to neighboring planes. The philosophies they embody are close enough to those of other planes that they exist on the conceptual "edge" of the plane. Now, to be sure, the plains of Avernus are infinite, so one can travel, in theory, forever in the hinterlands beyond this "edge"—and it is also true that the region within this triad of settlements is also essentially unlimited in distance, as big as the imaginations of all those who believe in malign Law throughout the planes. Yet these "soft" regions are real, and if the philosophies of the inhabitants of these three places were to shift just slightly, their buildings, populace, and surrounding landscape would slide violently into another plane of existence.
The rulers of Abattoir must therefore manage a tight balancing act. If they are too harsh in cracking down on lawlessness—and Abattoir is without doubt the most lawless city in all of the Hells, though this is not saying much—they risk it sliding too far from the portal to Gehenna and losing its importance and status as a gate-town. This cannot be permitted to happen if they are to maintain their own prestige, such as it is, as well as their relative autonomy from Baator's bureaucracy. And yet, if things get too out of control, the city will slide into the somewhat less orderly plane of Gehenna, a terrible loss to the morale and real power of Hell (likely merging with Void's Edge which, located at the bottom of the Styx's path down the furnace of Khalas, is a cesspool in its own right). In this worst-case scenario, the punishment inflicted by the Lords of the Nine would be inconceivable in its severity.
Abattoir is not, it should be emphasized, the only path from Gehenna to Baator, although it is a major trading route. There are numerous other portals and tributaries of the River Styx, all of them tightly defended by fortified towers.
The fiendmouth portal to Gehenna is navigable in both directions. The path upstream is difficult, as the angle is sharp and the current is fierce, but magic or the strength of styx-swimming beasts can drag it through to Void's Edge on the other side. Travelers going in either direction experience a moment of amorphous, pulsing blackness, the experience of reality temporarily suspended. Whether it is the magic of the portal or the proximity to Law, the route is very consistent as Styx routes go, with a relatively small chance of a traveler ending up lost on a random lower plane.
The force of the splash made as the traveler arrives is directly proportional to how close Abattoir is ideologically to Gehenna. If the splash is too great, possibly striking some of the travelers with amnesia as they come in contact with wayward water, it means Abattoir is growing too rigid in its lawfulness. If the splash is too gentle, it means Abattoir is growing too wild, and its rulers initiate a harsh crackdown on all nonconformists. In those times, eccentrics, foreigners, and dissidents are casually turned into meat. The size of the splashes are accordingly measured with great care, with regular reports to the city's leadership.
Abattoir has three major districts, being built along all three banks where the rivers join. In the central wedge, which gets narrower as the two rivers merge into one, is the Meat Processing District, where the bulk of the city's slaughterhouses, warehouses, slave pens, and mills are located. Along the riverfront are many docks, enough to host the thousands of barges that travel up and down both rivers every "day," as such things are reckoned in Hell. On the outer bank of the River Styx, a high region offering an easy view of the other districts' roofs, is the wealthiest section of town. Though not all of its inhabitants are rich by any means, they all have places to keep their things in when they're not working, places where they can hide from the ubiquitous eyes of the authorities, places where they can rest. Some of them are extremely wealthy, owning stakes in the cattle ranches, the factories, and the prisoners and slaves that the mills grind into meat. They have luxurious manses and even fortresses dominating the skyline. Loiterers and the homeless are strictly forbidden here. On the outer bank of the Pyriphlegethon, continuing to the same side of the River Styx, is the poorest section of town, where poorly-kept buildings are often deathtraps and where many inhabitants have no homes at all. Of course, devils have no real need to eat or sleep, at least not as mortals do, but having to roam in the open like animals offends their pride and breaks their spirits. The streets in this district run with raw sewage and blood, both substances pouring from the factories and from one another.
The most distinctive thing about Abattoir, as should be clear by this point in our travelogue, is its overpowering odor. The rancid smells wafting from the slaughterhouses and pens, from the open sewers and the rivers they run into, and from those inhabitants who have lost all pride and concern for their appearance is appalling. In the high district it is just tolerable enough that long-term inhabitants are able to forget about it, most of the time. Those with the misfortune to dwell in the lower districts suffer constantly and eternally in the way that only the damned can suffer. There is no escape from it, no possibility of acclimating to it, and at its worst it can kill a mortal within minutes.
The inhabitants of Abattoir, regardless of district, are mostly outcasts, devils no longer welcome elsewhere in Baator but not considered to be worth killing, at least not this far from proper civilization. Most are spinagons, barbazu, abishai, and hamatulas, once proud soldiers in the infernal legions until they offended their superiors or were caught breaking some petty rule. It was flee or be destroyed, from one town to the other, until they ended up as far as they could get while still remaining within diabolic society. Some particularly egregious offenders, some of them former nobles, wander alone in the infinite hinterlands beyond. Others have fled into Gehenna where they attempt to live as daemons do, contrary to their instincts and nature. The inhabitants of Abattoir are spared either of those fates, a fact for which they are grateful and even a little arrogant. At least, humiliated as they are, they still have those they can look down upon.
Those devils who are not outcasts are mostly amnizus posted here in towers on either side of the river in order to watch for invasions from another plane. They have legions of abishai beneath them, but they rely on the myriad inhabitants of Abattoir itself for the majority of their defense. They may be outcasts, but they remember their patriotism—or at least their hatred, which amounts to the same thing—when confronted by Blood War armies. Some have been restored to the favor of Bel and the Dark Eight by bravery in battle here. Though Abattoir is mostly a trading city, demonic raids are not uncommon, though they are not as threatening as they were in the days when demons held the Bridge of Khalas. Still, the sheer mass of extremely frustrated devils dwelling here means it is among the least promising points of invasion.
Some of the amnizus belong to the the local gangs and fraternities organized by the city's outcast inhabitants, having fully integrated themselves into Abattoir's life. Even those who remain independent of the city's factions tend to be less concerned with their superiors elsewhere on the plane than is typical for their kind.
A sizable community of rakshasas dwells here as well, enjoying the local cuisine and the relative freedom from the rule of the archdevils. The rakshasas dwell almost entirely in the wealthier district, throwing nightly parties and inviting only the creme of Abattoir's society.
There are also a fair number of immigrants from Gehenna, scheming 'loths, arrogrant greater barghests, and odious phiuhls, vaporighus, and mephits. They are treated with suspicion and hatred by the natives of Baator, but dwell here anyway for the sake of the wealth they gain as merchants or because they fear their fellows back home even more.
Finally, a small group of illithids dwells within the city, feeding on the brains of slaves they purchase in its marketplaces and selling the rest of the bodies on to other, less discriminating buyers. They seem largely transitory, arriving from larger illithid settlements on other planes such as Ilkkool Rrem.
Unlike the situation in many planar cities, there are very few mortals tolerated in Abattoir. They quickly end up in the cages and slaughterhouses for the most part. Two small sects do exist, however. The first, known as the Eaters, is a group of mostly wealthy and powerful mortals invited to Abattoir by the Ministry of Mortal Relations—often by imps and erinyes—to take part in feasting on their fellow sapients as part of a longer program of corruption. They seldom remain long; they are kept in the city just long enough to make sure their souls are thoroughly lost, and then returned to the Material Plane to do the bidding of the diabolic hosts, convinced that such culinary delights await them in the afterlife for all eternity (though the fine print rarely lends its support to such beliefs).
The second sect is known as the Eaten, a group of pathetic mortals who believe that their spirits might somehow become part of or even take control of those who devour their bodies, if their deaths are accomplished with the proper ceremonies. They eagerly seek out Eaters in the hope of becoming part of something—or, more properly, someone—important. Most of the Eaten are completely deluded. Rumors continue that a few demented spellcasters have actually found ways to make this happen, however. The devils don't care—one enthralled soul is as good as another in most cases, and one ingenious and courageous enough to seize control of an institution by allowing him or herself to be devoured might be a worthy servant. If one of the Eaten somehow manages to control a diabolic host, this too might be useful, and if a devil being ridden by one of the Eaten manages to make itself some kind of threat, its unorthodox nature is an excellent excuse to destroy it.
The illithids usually stand aloof from both the Eaters and the Eaten, too canny to become diabolic pawns or to poach stock that the baatezu consider to be exclusively theirs.
The Ministry of Mortal Relations is fairly weak and unimportant in Abattoir, so far from its centres of influence, and so the two mortal sects are relatively insignificant in the larger life of the city. They are, for the most part, seen as curiosities only.
There are no fallen celestials in Abattoir, at least not for long, as their meat is prized the highest of all.
The most obvious rulers of Abattoir are the gangs who dominate so much of its life. The natural reaction for many devils, confronted with chaos, is to organize themselves. In Abattoir, they do this with frightening gusto, eager to subordinate themselves to any charismatic leader in order to gain new purpose in their existences. These leaders take a variety of forms, from militia leaders who run their gangs like the military to priests of strange cults worshiping gods of blood and filth. These gangs even dominate the wealthy parts of town, where they often manifest as secret societies and cabals. Members of these groups are, if anything, more fervently devoted to the principles of Law than their counterparts elsewhere on the plane. Unfortunately for them, the real masters of the city keep these all of these gangs at odds with one another, balancing their powers so that no gang gains superiority over the others and creating enough disorder to keep Abattoir balanced on the edge. The order they seek is forever corrupted.
The osyluth police have no such divided loyalties. They report to one master, a gaunt pit fiend called Ibriex. Most of the time they are unseen - some believe they have the ability to become invisible, while others believe they are stored, packed closely together, in an underground warehouse until they are needed. They appear, as if from nowhere, whenever things get too tumultuous, brutally purging the city of troublemakers or those who merely look at them funny. There always seem to be exactly enough to get the job done and then they disappear until they are needed again.
The preeminent member of the rakshasa community is Raja Babar, a morbidly obese fiend with two elephant heads. Gray, leathery skin covers his body, but his backwards-turned hands end in talons as fierce as any of his tiger-headed kin. Raja Babar owns one of the largest of the city's meat-processing plants, and has managed to hold on to it despite the pressure of the devils and their gangs. The rakshasas treat him with great deference, although many of them belong to various cults, cabals, and secret orders as well, sometimes many at once, often disguised as devils of various sorts. Raja Babar identifies most with those who revel in the city's filth and depravity. The sect he belongs to, the Order of Filth, seeks advertise its devotion to corruption and impurity.
The cornugon Endukim is Raja Babar's primary rival, the owner of several smaller plants and a ship-building firm. The two moguls despise one another and are constantly seeking to undermine one another's business. Endukim is also the leader of a secret order that teaches that the chasm at the city's edge will ultimately swallow the entire plane. This order controls several gangs throughout the lower class district. He identifies with the Order of the All-Devouring River, who emphasize the purifying nature of the city and the River Styx.
The unique devil Maugdha is the center of Abattoir's power: the living incarnation of the city's stench and corruption, or the living incarnation of its all-devouring hunger, depending on who you ask. She is a towering hulk, resembling an amnizu in the same way that a tiger resembles a house cat, only severely altered; whether these alterations are official, given to her by one of the Lords of the Nine, or of her own design is not clear. Her body blossoms with dozens of wide, grinning mouths, snakelike tongues leering from within their depths, and green slime flows from it not in slow drips, but as a river flows. Her manse is flooded with sizzling, devouring liquid, which runs into gutters and eventually joins the River Styx.
Maugdha was once, it is whispered, a noble in the court of the Lord of the Flies, a powerful baroness who presented herself as Baator's answer to Juiblex. There are three rumors explaining her fall from grace: the first is that Beelzebub simply tired of her, erasing her odious and unpleasant realm in order to make way for a new shining city. She sought new patronage with Mammon, according to this theory, but was rejected, and so she took over this squalid metropolis at the edge of Avernus as a poor substitute.
The second theory is that Maughda left Beelzebub's court willingly, tiring of its intrigues and desiring a place that she could dominate as the unquestioned ruler.
The third theory is that Maughda is still secretly in Beelzebub's employ, working for the Lord of the Flies to advance his interests in the realm of Bel. Perhaps it is this rumor that terrifies those who dream of supplanting Maughda the most. Some have tried to find ways to use it to their advantage, too, trying to gain the attention of distant Bel to the possible threat to his power, but thus far to no avail.
Abattoir's primary export is meat from slaughtered stench kine, gathras, mortals, petitioners, and nupperibos, processed in its Cyclopean mills and shipped downstream to feed the hosts of Hell. Some of the city's cattle, both four-legged and two-legged, are kept alive (in order to ensure their freshness) and shipped upstream into the darksome towns of Gehenna, where diabolic merchants sell their cramped and filthy cages to the yugoloths, barghests, vaporighus, and other inhabitants of that plane.
In a few places near the city, the landscape itself has turned to meat, the powerful iconic force of the city's nature transforming stone into glistening muscle that is quickly taken over by maggots and dissembled. This isn't common, but it happens.
The screaming lotus is a plant native to Maladomini with a vivid red or purple blossom. To most fiends, including tanar'ri, yugoloths, petitioners, rakshasas, and kytons, its effects are intoxicating but not debilitating. To mortals, it is a deadly poison, and it is this effect that gives the lotus its name. Those who ingest it and fail their Fort saves (DC 15) are wracked with incapacitating pain, allowing them to do nothing but shriek and writhe as the lotus blossoms erupt from their flesh. They would quickly die if not for the fact that the plant keeps its victims horrifyingly alive as long as the plant itself survives, so gardens of screaming lotus plants are filled with the choruses of their tortured hosts. The plant can typically live a year on one victim, though if watered regularly with blood it can survive indefinitely. Harvesting it, however, kills the plant and the victim that now depends on it to survive.
The screaming lotus would surely be found throughout Baator except for one final wrinkle: to baatezu (and tieflings with baatezu blood) it is a powerful narcotic, so potent that those who smoke it, eat it, or drink it brewed in tea must save ( Fortitude, DC 20) or be left comatose in a rapturous, hallucinagenic state for 2d6 hours. Worse still, each subsequent time it is tried the effect only increases (by an additional 2d6 hours if another Fort save is failed). Long-term screaming lotus addicts have sometimes gone into permanent comas, trapped in eternal delight for the length of their immortal lives. For this reason, screaming lotus is strictly forbidden throughout the Nine Hells. There are some to say that the plains of Maladomini were once covered with the blossoms, and it is for this reason that the layer was turned into a ruined waste. Whenever a patch is found, it is destroyed by baatezu patrols by the decree of the Dark Lord of Nessus. Outside Maladomini, living mortals are needed to incubate it, but in Maladomini it grows wild. Since the ascent of Glasya in Malbolge, the plant has spread to that layer as well, feeding off of the tortured flesh of the Hag Countess. What this might say about Maladomini's own past is intriguing.
The screaming lotus is thought to have been brought to Abattoir by Maughda, and in this place, far from the eyes of the Lords of the Nine, its presence is unofficially tolerated except in times when the authorities feel the need to crack down on all signs of disorder. Those who the lotus turn completely catatonic can always be rendered into meat, after all. Most of it is grown underground, in the bodies of suffering victims, and is covertly smuggled to the city's docks and ports.
There are hidden dens throughout the city where devils go to smoke screaming lotus, often inhaling the stuff along with living mephits for extra spice.
Raja Babar is seeking to expand his business, hoping to wipe out Endukim once and for all. His rakshasa minions have been causing trouble on the Material Plane, disguised as devils advertising their loyalty to the Order of the All-Devouring River. They've been abducting prominent mortals and dragging them back to Abattoir, hoping someone will follow them and trace their clues to Endukim and his clique, destroying him by mistake.
Maugdha, for her part, is itching to expand her business as well, in her case by forcing the city at the other side of the portal to slide into Baator, merging with Abattoir and doubling her holdings. Her servants have been assassinating prominent leaders in the sister city, those who lean too far to the middle of the Law-Chaos spectrum, and encouraging the spread of Abattoir's Law-gangs among the other city's citizens.
I think that a word or two are missing from this sentence.
That said, this entry is very good. I look forward to reading more of your work, as always.
BoGr Guide to Missile Combat:
1) Equip a bow or crossbow.
2) Roll a natural 1 on d20.
Excellent. I like how your cities connect to each other!
Health Resources: Register family with 911 services, so providers will have info prior to emergency/disaster. Also mental health info & hotlines, articles, treatment assistance options, prescription assistance, special needs registries, legal aid, and more!
Well after reading this all I can say it's basically common to each and every state or country. Not a single place is left for corruption, and if there is corruption then definitely hunger takes place.