Hopeless, the Gatetown to the Grey Waste
Hopeless is a colorless pit of apathy. It’s a grey tinged spiral of depression down to the gate to the Wastes at the center of it. Located roughly 1000 miles from the base of the Spire in the Outlands, situated between the other gate towns of Torch and Curst, sits Hopeless, the gate town to the Grey Waste. The burg sits surrounded by land more akin to the Three Glooms than to the Outlands, with the terrain no longer flat, but corrupted with rocky hills and twisting ravines before rising into mountains beyond the town.
Little of the town resides on the surface of the plane besides the brilliant, blood red stone gate that marks the only entrance and exit of the town, besides the gate to the Waste. The screaming gate as it is called, opens to a single broad street that spirals down into the earth, eventually reaching a courtyard with the gate to the Grey Waste. If nothing else it makes things in the town immeasurably easier to find, and also nearly impossible to hide from pursuit.
All the buildings in the burg flank the single descending street, composed of weathered gray wood, and pitted grayish stone. No colors mark the town, save for the screaming gate, and the dreary, melancholic air that hangs over the town only worsens as one descends down the spiral road, deeper into the city. Everywhere the situation is the same: depression, gloom, and apathy to mirror that of the Grey Waste itself in fraction.
The pall that hangs over the town strikes at both the architecture and the people who call the burg kip. Depression and apathy is worn by the residents like a tattered, smothering cloak, and while the city reeks of evil at times, most residents simply don’t have the energy or motivation to be cruel to any visitors.
With the proximity Hopeless has to the Three Glooms, one might think traffic to and from the eternally raging Blood War might run high. One would also be wrong. Thing is, there’s barely any traffic visible on the surface of fiends passing through the gatetown to reach the Waste and the conflicts beyond on the Battlefields of Oinos. At most there’s scattered numbers of fiends in transit that don’t stay long, and the number of mortal mercenaries makes up the only other group to speak of involved. Seeking their fortunes, and usually their deaths as well, in the war between Tanar’ri and Baatezu, mortal adventuring bands and mercenary sell swords flow through Hopeless in a rather constant, but low impact flow; barely a trickle in the grand scheme of the war. The Outlands simple doesn’t seem to be a major transit point for fiends, or those seeking to profit themselves in the war by their own skill at arms.
Beyond the surface however, Hopeless is the spigot for a flood of weapons and other tools and supplies of war that vanish down the spiral and into the Waste, endlessly feeding the conflict beyond. Much of the money gleaned from this smuggling and trafficking ends up in the pockets of a number of the Golden Lords of Sigil, though it’s almost a forgone conclusion that if indeed Thingol the Mocking is aware of this all she takes her own cut, or is paid both other, unseen string pullers, to avert her gaze entirely.
Though their hands likely remain firmly upon the ebb and flow of weapons bound for the Blood War through Hopeless, it is an open question as to just how much influence in the burg, if any at all, the Yugoloths bring to bare. With one of their primary strongholds, the Wasting Tower of Khin-Oin, rising above the battlefield of the First Gloom beyond the portal, it could well be assumed that the ‘loths have a silent hand in the power hierarchy of Hopeless. Or perhaps the burg is below their notice in the grand scheme of their machinations.
If recent history is any indication however, their influence in Hopeless is undeniable, if generally unseen and unspoken. Most of the caravans bound for Oinos have stopped in Hopeless for a time, then moved on, or alternatively stopped in Hopeless and then proceeded out of the town to the hills and ravines surrounding it, never to return to the city. The planar trade consortium also has been wary of sending caravans near to Hopeless in the past two years upon reports of heavy bandit activity in the Outlands surrounding the gatetown seeking to pillage or sell unlucky bloods into slavery.
In fact, several years back a number of caravans from Sigil under the banner of Spiral Hal’oight were attacked by brigands and raiders in the hills outside of Hopeless, around the same time there were reports of Mezzoloths seen in small numbers in the same areas by other travelers. Neither party is speaking of course.
The longer one stays within Hopeless, the harder the proximity to the Waste affects the poor sod. The skin takes on a gray, unhealthy pallor, known as a Wasting tan, and the eyes become sensitive to the presence of any colors beyond gray and soft black. Because of this, the ruler of Hopeless has decreed a literal dress code, restricting permissible colors to a thin spectrum of shades of gray. Deviation from this is the most common way for a newcomer to Hopeless to fall afoul of the citizenry, and then the town watch, including the beholders. The citizens may first only scowl and curse an offender, but progressing further into the town, or lingering with the bright colors may eventually provoke a mob of angry bloods throwing mud, stones, and even worse at the clueless.
The Wasting Hopeless shares the emotional wasting of the Grey Waste to a fractional degree. Every 72 hours spent in Hopeless, a creature must make a Will save (DC 10) or temporarily lose 1 point of Wisdom. At the end of every full month spent in Hopeless a similar save must be made or the creature will fall under the spiritual malaise that seeps into Hopeless from the Grey Waste and be unwilling of his or her own volition to leave the gatetown out of a sense of pure apathy and hopelessness. About this time is when the victim of the wasting also looses their coloration, becoming as grey as anything else in the town.
Little in the way of past time exists in the town beyond the taverns that cater drink to travelers and those depressive citizens who’ve taken to bub to inure themselves to the persistent gloom. The only other notable event to occur semi commonly in the burg to draw the attention of the citizens in any large numbers, are the frequent executions performed by Thingol the Mocking on those who’ve fallen afoul of her laws or simply offended her in some manner. These take the form of anything from being suspended telekinetically by two beholders, whilst a third disintegrates them one layer of flesh at a time, to being slowly turned to stone, the affected areas slowly shattered, and being returned to flesh for brief periods in between. Before these brutal executions, the offenders are always allowed a chance to perform on the large public stage situated next to Thingol’s palace at the first entrance nearest to the Screaming Gate, formerly the site of a large orphanage. So tales go, if the offended can in any way during their performance before execution, make Thingol feel any emotion at all, she will commute their sentence. The string of executions is long…
Hopeless is nominally ruled by a masked female human who goes by the name of Thingol the Mocking. Her rule is enforced swiftly and harshly if need be, by a large number of armed and well-trained thugs, and most impressively by the seven beholders who constantly float over and patrol the spiral street of the burg. The town adheres to the rigid guidelines set out by Thingol for fear of her beholders and the slow, excessively cruel and very public executions she relishes in holding for any who disturb the status quo.
Thingol the Mocking, the High Cardinal of Hopeless, is never seen without her bestial, snarling, wolven faced iron mask and her ever moving, dancing cloak of chains upon her shoulders. None have ever seen her face, hidden by iron mask and ebony hair, so it is said, not even her Beholders. But whatever visage lurks behind the mask is cruel and pitiless as the Three Glooms that lie so close through the gate that sits a scant 30 yards from her palace. When she speaks, her voice seems to project forth from the mask with a booming, commanding resonance, and woe to those who reject her dictates,
She is evidently an accomplished spellcaster, but she has never fully demonstrated her own powers. Indeed she possesses a bevy of unusual abilities that only hint at what she may, or may not actually be. All abilities given here are those gleaned from what she has exhibited in public in her years of ruling Hopeless, though many others may remain for some poor sod to discover. For instance, she may indeed possess damage reduction, but as she has never been injured during all her years in Hopeless, this remains an unknown quantity.
The seven beholders under Thingol’s command are bound to her in some way, either through enchantment, owed debt, shelter from the beholder’s enemies, or some other reason which remains dark. The eldest of the seven, Xarcoriax, nearly double the size of the others, is never seen more than a block away from Thingol’s palace and is rumored to possess some measure of control over his brethren or telepathic link to them at all times.
Thingol’s soldiers range from battle hardened former mercenaries in the blood war, to run of the mill street toughs with no formal training in fighting. Of the former group, their leader is a blood by the name of Jerican Blackblood, supposedly a former member of the crosstrading mercenary army of the lower planes ‘The Infernal Front’. He answers such questions about his past with a steady hand on his sword and a glare to chill a Gelugon. He serves almost as an intermediary between Thingol and the less trained of her guard, and it is clear that he detests the lack of discipline and in some, outright skill, among many of her soldiers.
While not officially part of the government of Hopeless, a fairly large number of former members of the Bleak Cabal have taken up residence in Hopeless, attracted by the desolate air of apathy and melancholy that swathes the city and those who call it kip like a gray suffocating blanket. They number heavily among many of the shops, stores, and lesser governmental posts in the burg, and while formally lacking central leadership, they could likely hold a measure of power over the populace, if only they saw a point in it all, which they don’t.
While no churches have an organized presence within the burg, followers of Hades, Arawn, Hecate, Jergal, Hel, Kelemvor, Cyric, Cegilune (rarely), Morgion, Shar, Mask, etc. are known to live within or travel through the burg. Additionally, a number of good aligned bloods have long held residence in the city under the umbrella of the Chapterhouse of the Sisterhood.
The Screaming Gate
At the top of the spire is the gate from Sigil to Hopeless. It is carved from a single block of brilliant, blood red stone, into the shape of a screaming humanoid face. The gate into Hopeless is the last chance to turn away before entering the gloom, and the sole mark of color in the entire city. Lines of erosion mark the face like lines of fallen tears, and the eyes are blank, blind orbs of smooth stone. The face appears to be in the throws of emotional agony. This harbinger of the gloom beyond stands in stark contrast to the colors beyond, but it matches the emotional gestalt of misery just the same.
Kip of Mealle the Just
This gray building of worn wood planking stands two stories high a short walk from ‘The Open Tomb’. A pair of black longswords are cut into a wooden plaque above the doorway, but otherwise no indication is given of the building’s purpose or residents. Here, the tiefling Mealle the Just, a former member of the Bleak Cabal, runs the portion that passes through Hopeless, of an arms smuggling operation owned by Spiral Hal’oight, one of the lesser of the Golden Lords of Sigil.
Chapterhouse of the Sisterhood
The chapterhouse of the sisterhood, contrary to the name, is an umbrella group of good aligned cutters who’ve come to Hopeless of their own free will to ministrate to the poor wretches who dwell in the city, unwilling or unable to leave the gloom. They are led primarily by an aasimar cutter by the name of Jerison Kasmat as well as Dianna Ormoland, and Arturus Fennisflame. The chapterhouse stands some three stories high, of smooth gray stone that stands out as soothing, whereas all the other buildings of the same construction seem depressive. The building is surrounded on all sides by high-buttressed walls, and the gate is constantly guarded. While the group abides by Thingol’s laws, they are hated by many of the citizenry for their actions, though Thingol makes no official comment. Inside the group provides healing, rest, food, and advice of most any sort by those willing to ask, and they patrol the burg’s streets, collecting the bubbers and the hurt and bringing them back for whatever aid they can provide the unfortunate. But they never leave the confines of the chapterhouse without their own heavily armed escort.
The Defenestrated Paladin
Widely known as the rowdiest inn and tavern in the city, this long, two story building of soot covered wood and stone sits near the center of the third ring of the city. It is owned and run by Vrikus Mel’Ort, a dusky skinned tiefling of mixed or otherwise indeterminate fiendish heritage, who manages to keep the fights and spilt blood to a minimum, or at least keep it confined to outside the inn, where the troublemakers are as likely to be disintegrated on the spot by one of the High Cardinal’s beholders than settle their fight amongst themselves.
The inn caters primarily to non-residents of the burg, those with some sense of emotions and motivation enough to contribute to the atmosphere within. Fiends abound here, as much as they do anywhere in the city, but it seems a preferred spot for them and mercenaries traveling to the Waste to join with other groups bound for the Blood War in a circuitous route.
The Open Tomb
Well situated in the middle of the 3rd ring of the city sits the low, one story, mausoleum shaped tavern called the Open Tomb. The mix of patrons tends to be half citizens of Hopeless, and half outsiders, but more the outsiders who don’t wish to cause trouble, or seek anything more than a meal and a room for the evening. The inn tends to be as silent as the namesake.
The owner is a silent, melancholic woman with a long swath of waist length silvery gray hair who goes only by the name of Ashen Sirah. While some remark that given the name of the tavern, its shape, and the proprietor’s disposition, she might have once been a member of the Dustmen, its more likely her lack of emotion and passion is simply the result of having lived within Hopeless for many years. Or as others rumors have it, that she was a former member of the Bleak Cabal who lapsed into the Grim Retreat and only the emotional sapping of the burg keeps still the more outward show of her insanity. She’s not one to hold much of a conversation, so while the ale may flow, her tongue does not and the truth remains dark.
The Castle of Bone
This thin, three story circular tower of stone, carved to resemble a collection of piled and stacked bones, sits near the end of the first ring of the gatetown. Of all the inns of the city, it is rumored to contain the most rumors, chant and darks for those bloods who’ll spend the jink here for bub, a meal, and a room for the night. It caters mostly to travelers in the city, and more unusual kinds as well, from adventuring bands to graybeards and sages to, as the same rumors say, an avatar of the Torilian god Cyric who frequents the inn to torment the patrons.
The rather unique and rarely seen owner of the establishment is a rail thin but seemingly young tiefling by the name of Kestrin Ulket. The times he frequents his own establishment he makes a show of speaking with the night’s patrons and mingling with the crowd, likely seeding the floor with the very same rumors that make the establishment profitable. How he comes by those that happen to be true is another question entirely.
The Charnel House
This shoddy stone kip just within the 4th ring of the spiral has lain dormant and empty for years. Shunned by both visiting bloods and citizens of hopeless alike. The chant goes that a decade or two ago the resident, a man by the name of Terlic Boevalt, had gone barmy and launched into a killing spree. Starting with small animals he gradually worked his way up to drunken bubbers, the homeless, and visitors of the town seeking lodging. Eventually his normally apathetic neighbors noticed the stench of his rotting victims and reported it to one of Thingol the Mocking’s patrols. Once they forced the door open, they found a literal charnel house within. Since then the house has been silent and avoided like a plague by the residents of Hopeless, the acts of its former owner having been above and beyond the level of evil the residents of the city would normally pass off as normal, inured to the insidiousness of the Waste in some measure as they are. The tales fail to mention the fate or condition of Terlic however, that remains as dark as the pit.
The Palace of Thingol the Mocking
The palace of Thingol the Mocking, High Cardinal of Hopeless is a collection of towers, spires and manors that sprawl in a grand complex from the depths of the spiral courtyard out to, and over in colossal stone archways the 5th, 4th, and 3rd rings of the ever descending spiral road. The only public entrance to the Palace sits at the base of the spiral, abutting the Spiral Courtyard and is heavily guarded by Thingol’s soldiers and at least one of her seven beholders at all times. Several of the spires that rise above the Palace have open archways built into the stone, presumably for the beholders to enter and exit the domain of their mistress at their leisure. The palace can be seen from anywhere in the city, being a constant reminder of the desolate, and nigh unchangeable situation within the town that citizens come to accept as it is daily reinforced upon them if needed, and even if not.
The Spiral Courtyard stands at the lowest end of the burg’s single, descending road, paved in scuffed gray cobblestones that seem pitted and etched as if by acid. Here where the gloom seems thickest and most oppressive, in its center stands the gate to the Grey Waste that will deposit a seeking, or unfortunate blood onto the layer of Oinos. The gate takes the form of a deep, decrepit circular well plunging into the earth filled with a liquid best described as a cold, liquid tar. With the correct gate key, plunging into the well will send a cutter through the gate, or the liquid can be commanded to flood out of the depths and immerse most of the courtyard to enable the transport of larger numbers of people or items.
Plots and Rumors
Just who or what exactly is Thingol the Mocking? The chain clad mistress of Hopeless, her face hidden behind an iron mask, shaped like the abstracted face of a snarling wolf, has been a cruel mystery ever since her arrival in Hopeless some seventy years ago. When asked by those in a position of power enough to enquire, she spins a tale claiming to be a wizardress from an obscure prime world since destroyed by powerful magic. Of course the dark of it all remains just that, dark. She certainly hasn’t given any proof of the claim, nor is she likely to do so in the foreseeable future. However, persistent, and well-suppressed rumors claim that she is anything but human. Alternately the scap flies that she’s either a shapeshifted fiend, either Yugoloth or Baatezu, or, more commonly, a Night Hag. What one of the Grey Ladies of the Waste would be doing outside the plane, and apparently not involved in the larvae trade is curious, but neither again does the fiend theory hold much water when examined. But none have gotten close enough to truly check what hides beneath the mask…
While the gate to the Grey Waste takes the form of a well of cold but seemingly molten black tar, it can be commanded to overflow the well to allow for transport of larger objects or groups from Hopeless to the Waste. Typically the well then floods out and fill nearly half the spiral courtyard. However of late, the flow from the portal has been increasing to the point of lapping at the steps of the Palace of Thingol the Mocking. Some graybeards have suggested that the burg may be so saturated with evil it may risk sliding over to the Waste entirely when the well eventually floods the city and drags the entire populace along with it. But more of note is the reports from some residents of creatures emerging from the well seemingly composed of the same black tarry substance. Some bloods have claimed to have been attacked by the creatures, others to have given chase and seen them vanish into the stone of the nearby buildings and leaving no indication of their passing. What are the creatures exactly? Thingol has declared the rumors and tales as merely the addle coved ramblings of barmies and bubbers, and woe to any who dispute her ruling on the matter. But some bloods have taken to wondering if the town is truly in danger of sliding, and if the beings have some connection or not. And if not, then if Thingol has more reasons than apparent to dispute the tales.
Recent rumors within the Castle of Bone, from sources who seem to neither exist the next day, nor provide any proof of their allegations claim to have been witness to some particularly unusual meetings within Hopeless. One thug in the employ of Thingol the Mocking who, while deep in his cups, claimed to have overhead an Arcanaloth within the Palace of Thingol the Mocking speaking of ‘The Wheel within Wheels’ and ‘the coming conflict’. The soldier in question was executed the following day by slow disintegration for supposed public drunkenness unbefitting his post.
The rumors speak of furtive Yugoloth agents seen within the burg, including a robed and cowled figure, and a veritable pack of escorting Nycaloths seen exiting the Palace of Thingol the Mocking. The darker and most unsubstantiated rumors lay blame to the recent ‘loth activity in Hopeless on increased activity on the Waste in the layer of Pluton, supposedly connected to the sudden re-emergence of Anthraxus the Decayed, formerly the Oinoloth and Lord of the Wasting Tower of Khin-Oin on Oinos. The chant would lay claim to him seeking to re-ascend to his former position, by brutal force if needed, from the current Oinoloth, the Ultraloth Mydianclarus. Others claim that whatever the activities of the ‘loths in Hopeless, Thingol the Mocking has at the very least been paid or otherwise ‘convinced’ to turn a blind eye, or eleven in the case of her Beholders, towards their presence and actions. Be they agents of Mydianclarus seeking to bastion his own base of power, or Anthraxus seeking to regain his, there’s likely more to the tale, or as is the case with many rumors, nothing at all.