The Isle of the DeadOut on the lake furthest from civilisation, there is a perpetual fog, and squatting in the centre of it is the Isle of the Dead. They say that the spirits of the departed haunt the fog and they are only partially wrong. Many of the dead transition to the underworld here, but they all must pass the Gatesman.
|The approach is quiet like thunder isn't.|
He lurks at the mouth of the tunnel, passed the trees, passed the other side doors down. Like a statue, draped in stone cloths, he stands in constant vigil, shepherding the souls of the dead down the tunnel. The living however, he stops, and tells that; "THE PRICE OF ENTRY, IS TWO OBOLS." If questioned about this, all he will elaborate on is that "THE LIVING ARE NOT PERMITTED TO TRULY SEE THE CITY OF THE DEAD".
If the price is paid, the Gatesman will place the coins on the eyes of the entrants, and they will affix there, the eyes on the coin opening, and they will be permitted to pass. From this point on, the entrant can see as if through a thick, misty rain; all desaturated, grainy, and colourless. When they leave, the Obols will melt into mist from their eyes, and their sight shall be restored.
If they ever remove the Obols while they remain within the threshold of the Gatesman's door, their own eyes will melt from their head, as the Obol's eyes burst into sepia flame and scream.
And how do you get Obols you may ask?
In the dungeon of course.
|Its a good thing they never made another one of these.|
But also this is what the dungeon looks like. Like this movie.
Soft candle-light illuminates parts of the town gently, like a soft luminous mist. The buildings grow both in luxury and repair as you rise up the dome. A cancerous mass of ruined building clings ungratefully to the edge of the dome, partially eaten by the deep black sea. It is all topped with a palace, measured well with spleandour and melancholy.
This is Hadestown.
|There are few views to the sky in the streets of Hadestown.|
They have forgotten the Stars.
The Jailor of the Phlegethon is a fractal being forged from many, many overlapping souls of great commanders and expert archers, forced into one multi-faceted thing. It stalks through the hallways, thundering steps echoing from its single pair of feet, many ears listening through its single set. When intruders are discovered (which only happens rarely) many arms draw back many bowstrings, though only one arrow is loosed.
But with that many experts aiming and firing it, it never misses.
And with as many minds formulating and concocting strategies, it is all but impossible to outsmart it to.
It can out act you in almost every way, but there is only one of it.
And it still dies like a man does.
CocytusA festering scab of hovels and fire-pits clinging desperately onto the dome, here lurk the few that Charon didn't take across the waters. Once it was a great house of the dome, but it slid, slowly and achingly into the water, and its ancient hallways still make up the foundation of this water-logged despond. It is partially submerged into the black sea, like its inhabitants, for they are not permitted to walk upon the dome. They did not pay their price.
Everything is wet, and cold, and miserable. No-one wanted to be here, many did not deserve to, but they had no obols. If you could give them a pair, they could pay the ferryman and step upon the dry ground again.
But who of any actual worth would end up here?
In fact, a few important people do end up in Cocytus for various reasons, especially adventurers and warriors. It takes a good deal of effort to find any of them. Shades in Hadestown generally keep to themselves, or their social circles if they ever form them. They also look a lot alike, especially when you're wearing your obols, but they really don't like it being brought up.
In particular, there are three places in Cocytus that shades tend to congregate; the Dive, the Crush, and the Vice.
The Dive is about as miserable a bar as you could ever find. Even more dissolute that normal spirits stretch themselves thin beyond thin, and no-one is even drunk, just depressed and pretending. Its quite obnoxious. It is run by an especially spiteful shade by the name of Ixion. He can tell you the names and sins of each of his patrons, and has a book of grudges that any particular patron has built up against him.
The Crush is what passes for a market here. Shades with nets hook and snatch up the scraps that tumble off the dome and peddle them, shouting to swap and barter for other things, like tickets to be spent in the Dive or the Vice. No-one has anything of worth, they just trade shit round and round.
The Vice is as close to a brothel as incorporeal, miserable beings can manage, mashing ghosts and writhing spectres. They are all deluded, and its the only thing that stops many of them fading away completely, such is their desperation.
You could also descend under the water into the ruins of the old house, where it is said that many treasures still lie. You don't need to ask about much to hear many more tales of the dangers that lurk in the black sea.
LetheThis is the house of forgetting, a bar of some notoriety in Hadestown. Here, many, many souls come to be even more dissolute than normal, sometimes to the point of fading away entirely. Its like the Dive, but classier, and set in the dusty shell, refurbished many times over the millenia, of an old and noble house. Ancient Frescoes peel away from the wall as drinks cups are manufactured from ancient jars and flower pots.
Occasionally, balls are hosted by the proprietor, Mighty Lord Eschataloc, who claims to be the best friend you will ever meet, insist on becoming the first person you meet, and is far too comfortable grabbing strangers by the shoulder as her pushes dead drinks on them. He desires to be everyone's friend and have as many links to the world as he can, so that he can delay his fading away. All his friendships are shallow and artificial, and he can't for the death of him figure out why.
AcheronThe fighting pits of Acheron are some of the best entertainment in Hadestown, if simply for the reason that here the shades which frequent it can genuinely be said to be having a good time.
There are 7 pits in all; three are for shade versus shade bouts, three for shade versus beast bouts, and one basically always empty pit. The beasts are generally abducted from the dungeon above, and the living can (sometimes) be paid handsomely for catches that will put on a good show in the pits.
The pay is in relics of older ages, so value is not always consistent, let alone guaranteed.
The final pit is almost always empty because your opponent in the final pit is the owner of the Acheron, Axis. Axis is bad news.
He stands about 12 feet tall, and is wreathed in terrible flames, and crowned with many horns, and has many arms ringed about him, at least, when he doesn't want to be civil about things. His head is also a skull most of the time. Axis organises the fights, and occasionally asks favours of those who do particularly well. Very few are not friendly with Axis (not to his face at least) and his connections make Mighty Lord Eschataloc of House Lethe quite, quite jealous.
StyxThe final great house, it is something of a temple, something of a gathering place. One thing about it in particular stands out, while within its walls, no harm can befall you, of any kind. Knives will not cut, fires will not burn you, and even hurtful remarks gutter and die in the throat of those that would say them (if the saying would actually cause any offence to any that would hear it). It is a neutral meeting place for the dead and those that would visit them.
It is all presided over by The Dour Dowager, a woman of some startling age, beauty (considering her advancement at least) and cunning. She has little stake in the schemes and politics of her fellow dead, but she does so enjoy knowing about all about it, and is more than happy to trade secrets with those who offer. It is also she that controls the schedule of who can make use of each of the Styx's private rooms, the price often being a piece of juicy, fresh gossip.
Together the three run the settlement fairly, if tersely and occasionally brutally. They are not above throwing shades into the lake and not looking back. They would do anything to continue the town's legacy, and their own standing.