The city was enormous, stretching to a size that would rival most continents, in the crater of a volcano so high anyone standing on the edges couldn’t make out the ground on the clearest of days. But it was never clear, the air full of clouds of smoke and sparks that burned the lining of the lungs with every breath. Belkar didn’t even notice. He had bigger problems, the biggest of which was standing next to him in a robe that hid everything about him, from his features to his general body shape.
The place stank of ash and brimstone. Everything burned to touch, and all he could hear were screams. Looking down he realized why. The lava beneath the city was full of bobbing figures, screaming in torment.
“Suffering is good. Don’t you think?” The devil, possibly named Lee although that seemed unlikely, commented, with a voice that should have been given to some god of song, a deep, lustful voice that wass simultaneously pure and leaking with the greatest evil, beyond Belkar’s ability to understand. “They have to learn their place. Learn obedience. Through suffering, we are cleansed. We learn purity.”
"It also screws you up." Belkar quipped back.
"And? You're all meaningless. Even the purest of you is flawed, sick. You think you are important, that your sins are original, but I have known millions like you. Billions. And they all broke. But we need to keep your memories and your identity. So the lake can wait. Now come."
At first, Belkar wanted to resist, but then his legs began striding behind the cloaked figure of his own accord, and he stopped trying. He'd lost control of his muscles, resisting would only result in multiple broken bones, and whats worse he'd still have to follow the devil. His body moved of its own violation, driving him forward like one of the risen dead.
The city was made up hardened magma, obsidian and crystal squats, suspended above the lava through magic. The walkways were narrow paths of stone with no rails, that a single misstep would send you plummeting to the lake below. In the center of the city, carved from a single, unnatural looking spire, was a tremendous castle, sharp and hard as a blade, glowing red with heat.
Belkars feet would be bleeding if not for the heat that instantly cauterized them, and the hairs on his body had burned off. At some point his clothes had vanished, and he felt dimly he should be humiliated, but somehow he wasn't. Decency, from what he had seen, was the least of his problems.
He had seen plenty in his life, and thought he knew how bad it got, but that was far from the truth. He'd never even imagined a place so dedicated to pleasure, pain and perversion.
Friezes and statues depicting the most lewd and vile acts decorated the front of every building. Other places had iron cages hung above their doors, within which dull-eyed humans and other races flagellated one another or performed listless acts of coitus.
In a great courtyard, more then a hundred figures dressed in ceremonial robes lined the narrow hall. The ancient beings had bowed so long that the bodies within had long since crumbled to dust. He stared at the wretched figures, wondering what awful terror could have made them press their foreheads to the floor until they starved to death. Then he saw the cloaked devil leading him out of the corner of his eye, and had a terrible suspicion he knew.
Belkar suddenly realized exactly why he was being brought this way. The figure wanted to make him suffer, to realize exactly what was going to happen to him. And it was working.
At last they came to the citadel, and Belkar was shocked and surprised to find a beautiful place of marble and and gold, with drapes of silk and cloth of gold.
Belkar smiled. "So, I take it that was all a front, and hell's actually one big party?" He said, his voice rough and hoarse from the fumes in the air and the terrible burning thirst.
The robed figure turned and backhanded him with enough force to drive him off his feet and into a wall with bonecrushing force. "Speak when spoken to." He said, his voice making the cliche both intimate and terrifying.
Belkar nodded desperately. His arm was at a bizarre angle, the bone poking at the skin, threatening to jut out. His ribs were lopsided, the right side of his chest caved in. And he could feel the skin bubbling and popping where he'd been hit, pin so intense he hadn't even noticed his broken arm until he'd tried to push himself up with them. Emeralds and Sapphires and Rubies crystallized and burst in front of his eyes. his breath came in shallow gulps. and already he found his body jerking after the cloaked figure, like a bizarre puppet.
Then, suddenly and abruptly, he blacked out, and for a short time, escaped.
Something was dragging at his feet. Belkar opened his gummy eyes and saw his charred toes scuffing along the smooth stones. Two tall humanoids covered with sharp barbs, right down to the tip of their long meaty tails, held him by the arms, dragging him easily along a passage. The robed Devil who had brought him here was nowhere to be seen.
It was a struggle to raise his head and take in his surroundings. His mouth tasted of salt and copper. Blood, he belatedly realized. His own. His skin felt taut and slightly feverish, but whole. It was a wonder he was still intact.
Hot wind played across his face. Chains clinked softly, pure crystal tones that made his blood run cold. Then, the strong hands that held him let go, and he fell to his knees on the slate tiles. A mass of chains tipped with cruel hooks and barbs hung above him, swaying in the hot wind. The metal links chimed again, making him shudder.
Then he saw the figure, still dressed in his robes. "So much time wasted." He said. "Almost ten minutes gone by, and we haven't even begun."
Belkar found himself being lifted again, taken over to the waiting hooks by the two Barbed devils. "No, please! I agree! I agree to whatever you want! Don't do this!"
Chuckling cruelly, the devil shook his head in the hood of his robe. "You are not here to speak, you misbegotten bastard, but to suffer. You are here to learn your place." As he spoke, another devil handed him a tray of tools, which he inspected briefly. Belkar was forced once more to his knees. One of the devils inspected the chains thoughtfully, and reached for a gleaming hook, oblivious to the halfling's cry of terror.