Loremasters and other scholarly folk always seek information to fill the gaps of their knowledge. With luck and skill, they can discover knowledge that some find useful, but they sometimes find that others believe that the lore they pursue would be best forgotten eternally. The passages below fall into the former category for many who must deal with Abyssal topics in their research and their journeys. Why not take a look and make your own decision on the subjects discussed, though? What harm could it do?
With great pride, we present the "lost" sections of the Fiendish Codex I: Hordes of the Abyss. Use the knowledge contained within these entries in good health.
The Woeful Escarand
Layer Number: 400
Ruler: The Lords of Woe
As the appetite of the Blood War threatened to engulf the whole Abyss in the millennium following the Upheaval, a cadre of nalfeshnee demons discovered a way to divert many of the larval souls bound for the Abyss to a centralized layer, where they could be gathered and promoted into useful demons according to the needs of the eternal conflict against the hated baatezu of the Nine Hells. The nalfeshnee established a looming mountain fortress at the center of a barren plane, and from ostentatious chambers within made themselves arbiters of multiversal justice.
Woeful Escarand still undulates with the quaking forms of newly arrived larvae, and the process continues much as it always has. Lesser nalfeshnee wrangle vast herds of the wriggling man-faced creatures through imposing arches carved into the Mountain of Woe. From there, each soul is brought to the chamber of a single nalfeshnee magistrate -- a self-styled "Lord of Woe" -- for immediate judgment. Looking down from its perch atop a burning throne, the demon barks charges and accusations at the larva, sometimes based upon its mortal life and sometimes seemingly based on nothing at all. Each Lord of Woe brings its own distinctive style and prejudices to the bench, resulting in wildly diverging jurisprudence. Generally, however, souls are judged as follows. Those with little promise become manes, fit only as food or supremely expendable soldiers. Souls that seem sufficiently evil and malleable become dretches, while especially proud spirits that need to learn humility become rutterkin, the deformed common foot soldiers in the armies of the Blood War.
Numerous one-way portals to other layers of the Abyss abound within the Mountain of Woe, with most newly spawned demons finding themselves deposited upon Pazunia or (especially) the embarkation layer of Durao, where babaus and glabrezus arrange them into motley fighting bands. The most despicable souls are brought deep below the mountain to the Pits of Despair, where they are transformed into broodswarms by night hags in league with the Lords of Woe.
By ancient pact dating back to the rise of the tanar'ri, the Lords of Woe may hear the appeals of demons on issues other than promotion. Demons make a mockery of the rule of law, so throwing oneself upon the mercy of the court is more often deadly than beneficial on a purely legal level. Exploiting the arrogant self-interest of the Lords of Woe by directly imploring them to hear a case, however, might ingratiate a desperate PC into the good graces of the curious magistrates, who constantly attempt to manipulate domestic Abyssal politics.
Few demons willingly submit themselves to the will of the court, laughing the whole thing off as Abyssal legend. Regardless, the pacts that created the court still hold even if they are no longer remembered, and by a series of events and actions similar to a complex spell it is possible to bind a demon to an immediate appearance at the court, although the exact rituals are a well-guarded secret. Such rituals always involve travel and arduous testing, giving them the character of a prolonged quest. These trials always take place in a many-terraced public chamber packed with heckling demonic spectators and dominated by an imposing judicial bench.
The result of a given trial often has nothing whatsoever to do with the evidence or witness involved, being rather a reflection of the nalfeshnee's momentary whim. Winners are determined by an opposed Bluff or Diplomacy check on the behalf of the accuser and accused. Knowing a judge's biases can often grant a significant advantage, as outlined by the following list of magistrates (by no means an exhaustive sample).
Bilwr: This exceedingly formal demon constantly refers to millennia-old precedent and consults musty documents from the early days of the Abyss when considering his judgments. Appeals to the "Great Demonic Tradition" grant a +4 circumstance bonus on the trial resolution check.
Qixxit: A paragon of playful sarcasm and incisive insults, Magistrate Qixxit has a deep appreciation for beauty and art. The character that impresses her as most cultured receives a +4 bonus on the trial resolution check.
The Marquesse of Loss: Among the subtlest of the Lords of Woe, this cunning schemer serves herself before all and is always on the lookout for an opportunity to increase her (already considerable) station. She particularly resents balors, granting a +4 circumstance bonus on the trial resolution check of characters who impugn these creatures in their testimony.
Oozewart: The rapid-fire decisions of this impatient magistrate come with no consideration whatsoever, for Oozewart believes that the best justice is the kind that touches the most lives in the shortest period of time. Characters who speed through their testimony and make a show of not wasting his time receive a +4 circumstance bonus on the trial resolution check.
Johud: This easily bored tyrant despises weakness and humility, granting a +4 circumstance bonus on the trial resolution check of characters who display great bravado and a -4 penalty upon those who show signs of timidity or desperation.
Generally, accusers set the demands to be adjudicated, while the defendant sets the flow of the proceedings, though the highly chaotic nature of demons ensures that few rules apply consistently. Losers are magically compelled to abide by the nalfeshnee's final judgment, courtesy of an overpowering version of the geas spell. Specific judgments are left to the DM, but should include highly abstract or surprising elements.
Table: Woeful Escarand Encounters
|| A single nalfeshnee (MM 45) leads a small herd of 12 larvae to judgment in the Mountain of Woe. The demon ignores mortals unless accosted.
|| Three aristocratic scions of Azzagrat (CE half-fiend human sorcerer 13) wander the halls of the Mountain of Woe after taking in a deliciously corrupt public trial.
|| A terrified mane (FC1 45) begs the PCs to help it escape its Blood War death sentence.
|| Five newly formed rutterkins (FC1 51) band together to kill the PCs and celebrate their first kill as fiends.
|| Without warning, the corridor fills with four malevolent broodswarms (FC1 31).
|| A furious Lord of Woe (20-HD advanced nalfeshnee; MM 45) stalks through the halls, eager for a fight after a particularly galling trial.