The uppermost layer of the Abyss is an inhospitable wasteland of scouring winds and scorched earth. Called Pazunia or the Plain of Yawning Pits by some, this layer swarms with demons searching for prey. But despite its armies of fiends, sandblasted terrain, and sweltering heat, the Plain of a Thousand Portals attracts explorers and merchants from across the planes. Most travelers come seeking the vast number of pits that dot the landscape: demonic portals leading to nearly every abyssal layer. The strategic value of the Plain of a Thousand Portals has served as a catalyst for endless slaughter. On the edges of great earthen cavities stand the iron fortresses that are the relics of the Blood War. These citadels now serve as palaces for lesser demons that have carved small fiefdoms from the wasteland. Demons pledged to Pazuzu name this expansive wasteland Pazunia, and no other demon lord has yet challenged the Prince of the Lower Aerial Kingdoms for his claim on this barren, unforgiving realm.
Size and ShapeEdit
Vast arid wasteland nearly five hundred miles across, its sky dotted with floating earthmotes; recursive.
Normal on the surface, switching to elemental buoyancy when entering the atmosphere (approximately four hundred feet above the surface).
Abyssal mutability. (Demon lords and other powers are able to influence their surroundings.).
The 1st layer of the Abyss, Pazunia is a portal-pocked desert that connects to locations throughout the Abyss and the planes beyond. Its dusty landscape has witnessed an untold number of battles, and is still regularly drenched with blood and ichor. It has served as a front in the Dawn War, the Blood War, and many bloody battles between demon lords and lesser fiends. The Plain of a Thousand Portals seems destined to be embroiled in eternal conflict. Beings that understand the history of this realm, however, look to the dusty landscape's horizon to glimpse its future. Once every millennium, an immense orbiting mote of elemental earth eclipses the dying star that marks the edge of the upper abyssal vortex, blanketing the layer in darkness. This earthmote, named A'othorh, heralds the end of one great cycle and the start of the next. This rare twilight lasts for several days, during which time the ever-shrewd Pazuzu defers his authority to the Queen of Chaos. During the occlusion, it is said that the Queen crawls up to the Plain of Yawning Pits from her demesne in the Steaming Fen, the 14th layer of the Abyss. At the Great Ziggurat of Oth-Magurloth, along the Blood River's central floodplains, the Queen of Chaos holds court with the remaining obyrith lords. Now, with the faint outline of A'othorh visible on the parched horizon, the denizens of Pazunia know the cycle's end is near, and disquiet spreads through Pazuzu's flock. Seers have prophesied that the Queen of Chaos will claim the Rod of Seven Parts during the next conclave, heralding the intervention of the Wind Dukes of Aaqa and the start of the next Chaos War.
Features and TerrainEdit
Fierce storms and frequent rockfalls gouge the plain, endlessly reworking its geography. Numerous maps of the layer exist, but these cover only small sections under the control of, lesser local demons.
Pazunia's most prominent feature is its endless expanses of barren, cracked earth. Subjected to millennia of scorching heat and other brutal elemental phenomena, the land's severe ecology is deadly to mortal life. Its hot winds reek of burned flesh. That stench, coupled with stinging grit, compels explorers to shroud themselves while crossing the desolate countryside. In addition to the unforgiving terrain, travelers crossing the Badlands must contend with supernatural hazards. Spinning clouds of gravel, formed from the bones of millions who have fallen here, are commonplace. Occasionally, these dust devils converge into shrieking cyclones, vicious storms laden with course grit that can strip flesh from bone and turn bone to dust in minutes. Infrequently, the Badlands see rain in the form of chaos-storms. Spectacular in size and appearance, malevolence burns at the heart of these tempests. The storms alter course to hunt down travelers, and the deluges change from common rain into sheets of fire, acid, or frost.
The Blood RiverEdit
The dark waters of the Blood River originate from a spring deep in the uncharted heart of the Plain of a Thousand Portals. The river meanders through the layer, occasionally breaking off into streams that disappear into the pits of Pazunia. The Blood River fills Lake Main as it cascades into the depths of the Blood Rift. Experienced explorers avoid the riverbank and the hidden dangers lurking in the fetid water. They cross the river at shallow fords and only in large numbers. Demonic ferry operators are occasionally seen piloting small boats and rafts on the river's turbulent surface.
Free-floating chunks of earth, known as motes, soar above the parched plain of Pazunia. These sky islands vary greatly in size, altitude, and foliage. Some motes are barren rock, but others support a dusting of plant life or whole forests riddled with freshwater ponds and streams. These high-altitude forested motes are the only consistent source of fresh water on the layer. Pazuzu's flocks of winged demons gather in the Over-Realm, and have formed settlements on many of the larger motes. Long considered the de facto ruler of the layer, Pazuzu solidified his claim on the Plain of a Thousand Portals when he moved his aerie of Lord's Rook from his former demesne in Torremor (the 503rd layer of the Abyss) to a great earthmote in the Pazunian sky. The higher explorers roam above the Plain of a Thousand Portals, the closer they come to the Elemental Chaos. The point where the Abyss ends and the Elemental Chaos begins has never been clearly defined. Ancient primordial predators stalk this hinterland between the planes.
Rusting iron bastions and towering ziggurats are scattered across the blasted landscape of Pazunia. Some of these locales are well guarded; others are abandoned, waiting to be discovered and plundered.
The ruins of a great town lie abandoned alongside a lake of molten iron. Raazorforge, once known for its impressive forging operations during the Blood War, is now remembered for the striking palace that floats in the skies overhead. A colossal steel chain rises out of the parched earth at the center of Raazorforge, anchoring a soaring earthmote high above. Atop the earthmote is the Bastion of Skycleave, a majestic djinn citadel of flying buttresses, vaulted porticos, and soaring domes adorned with stained-glass windows. Centuries past, an unknown curse befell the town of Raazorforge and the citadel floating above it. Demons shun the site, making it one of the safest locales on Pazunia, or so scholars believe. For travelers who have nerves of steel, the primordial-forged chain offers an arduous climb to the floating isle.
A colossal stone structure of multicolored step terraces, the Great Ziggurat of Oth-Magurloth is the largest known structure on Pazunia. At the start of each millennial cycle, the opulent temple atop the edifice serves as the meeting place for the Queen's Conclave. The Queen of Chaos presides over this gathering of the unknown obyrith lords. In the centuries between conclaves, scores of acolytes defend and maintain the temple and the ziggurat's sprawling subterranean complex. Most demons, including the demon lords, avoid the Great Ziggurat for fear that the site is cursed. A labyrinthine subterranean complex stretches for miles beneath the ziggurat and is filled with monsters and hazards. The dungeon culminates at the Well of Entropy, a portal said to be the only connection to the ruins of the obyriths' former realm.
Built on a gigantic earthmote whose size pales only in comparison to A'othorh, Lord's Rook serves as palace and aerie to the demon lord Pazuzu. The complex's main structure is carved deep into the floating island. It is adjacent to a magnificent open-walled cathedral from which Pazuzu observes his realm. While in the cathedral, the demon lord perches on his Blinding Claw throne, a powerful artifact fashioned from the talon of a fiendish roc. It is embossed with gold and studded with rubies the size of vulture's eggs. The Blinding Claw remains fixed in space, hanging unsupported in the open air. When Pazuzu scouts other realms, he brings his throne with him. The demon lord travels with his personal guard on such excursions, the Six Wings of Pazrael. Each guard is a mighty balor commanding hundreds of advanced vrocks. While Pazuzu is away, a murder of vrocks defend Lord's Rook. When not roaming the Abyss, Pazuzu can often be found in the world, where he spreads pestilence and lures mortals into his flock.
The largest settlement in the Plain of a Thousand Portals, Plague-Mort was once a thriving city of the mortal realm. It was drawn through a huge demongate millennia ago, quickly devolving into the grimy, disease-ridden colony it is today. More a collection of somber ruins than a proper city, Plague-Mort swarms with pestilence and is scoured by stinging grit. The city straddles the Blood River at its intersection with the River Lethe, a smaller tributary. This confluence attracts merchant traffic without which Plague-Mort would collapse. The settlement is still a miserable slum filled with sick and distraught mortals desperate to flee the Abyss. A yawning demongate stands at the edge of town, but the portal operates only in one direction. From time to time, confused mortals stumble from it to become Plague-Mort's newest citizens.
The uppermost layer of the Abyss is well named. The Plain of a Thousand Portals serves as a gateway to deeper layers of the Abyss, thus drawing an endless number of merchants, pilgrims, and explorers to Pazunia's bleak environs. Most of the pits are two-way portals, but others stranded travelers in deeper layers with no way to return. Anyone who enters a pit is instantly drawn away to the abyssal depths. While in transit, a traveler has no control over his or her movement. Although the journey takes a matter of seconds, some portal users swear that they have seen other layers while en route. The following are a few of the better-known pits of Pazunia.
Few sights are more bizarre in the parched Pazunian wastes than the Angorogo ice sheet. Covering a vast swath of Pazunian desert, this glacier grows larger every year as it slowly swallows the surrounding landscape. At the ice sheet's heart is an immense crevasse, its icy depths plunging toward Soulfreeze, the 566th layer of the Abyss. A great stone bridge spans the frozen gorge below the rim of the crevasse. At each end of the bridge, stout fortresses are carved into the permafrost of the sheer canyon walls. A powerful jarrlak named Thaclighaua claims this pit, which is guarded by his ice archon rimehammer legions.
Few demons dare to approach the shadowy waters of the Pool of Madness. None wants to draw the attention of Dagon, Prince of the Depths. The shallow pool is only five feet deep. Diving into its tepid waters plunges a swimmer into the twilight depths of the Shadowsea.
Similar to the 503rd layer of Torremor where this pit leads, the interior of the chasm is a tangled latticework of rope bridges, wooden ladders, and jangling chains. Vast aeries teeming with winged demons line the uppermost reaches of the chasm. These demons are loyal to Pazuzu. They guard the pit, ensuring that Lamashtu and her servitors do not escape into the Plain of a Thousand Portals.
At the height of the Blood War, devils constructed this towering iron fortress. Citadel Ug'ggot stood as the forward outpost of the forces of the Nine Hells as they laid siege to the Abyss. With the cessation of the Blood War, the devil garrison at Citadel Ug'ggot retreated, abandoning the rusting stronghold. Today, abyssal eviscerators overrun the citadel. A pit descending from the citadel's central bailey offers access to a dozen abyssal layers left abandoned in the aftermath of the Blood War.
The Fetid Pit of Vakorcha is a sweltering salt mire dotted with outcroppings of moss-covered rock and tangled vegetation. The air is thick with biting and stinging insects, and the sodden earth seethes with vermin and parasites. The pit is a sucking wound of putrescence that leads to the Steaming Fen, the 14th layer of the Abyss and the reputed lair of the Queen of Chaos. The mire is home to a trio of menacing bebiliths that maintain loyalty to Miska the Wolf-Spider. Vakorcha, the largest of the three bebiliths, is able to lure victims to the Fetid Pit through haunting dreams and hallucinations.
The ruined town of Sotholo perches over a large sinkhole that connects to Vorganund, the 52nd layer of the Abyss. Thralls of Yeenoghu rule the settlement, gnoll slavers that round up lesser demons and sell them in bulk to the highest bidder. The town's slave pens are crowded with pitiful manes, slack-jawed dretches, and lumbering rutterkins. Among the dozens of well-known slave sites in Pazunia, Sotholo is known for the blue dye slavers use to mark their stock. Made from the brightly colored scrub that grows around the pit, the dye is added to the slaves' gruel and quickly spreads to skin and chitin alike. Slaves from Sotholo are easy to spot in an engagement, since scores of blue demons charging across a battlefield are a memorable sight.
The Plain of a Thousand Portals was a major front during the Blood War. Vast legions of devils marched against wave after wave of battle-frenzied demons. For a time, the devils controlled vast expanses of territory. The great iron fortresses dotting the landscape are a testament to the devils' occupation. After the Blood War ended, the devils withdrew, and for the first time in long centuries, stretches of Pazunia have returned to desolate wasteland. Travelers can roam Pazunia for days without encountering another creature. However, the Plain of a Thousand Portals might be the Abyss's most populous layer. A regular influx of merchants and explorers are willing to brave its dangers to reach Pazunia's numerous gates and the riches of the Abyss. The Plain of a Thousand Portals is also home to more varieties of demons than any other layer of the Abyss, including avian types not encountered elsewhere.
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