Although the Gold Goblin stands in a much-neglected neighborhood and the building itself has long stood dormant and empty, it makes a comeback as the big day comes. Crowds of participants and spectators mill about on the street or file together through the main doors to sign up for the tournament. Overseeing this gathering is a larger-than-life-size statue of a goblin, apparently cast in glittering gold, that stands atop the entry stairs with a smirking expression of satisfaction on its face, as if personally enjoying the crowds that shuffle past it into the doorway beneath the gambling hall’s gilded dome.
Just inside the main doors, two sultry beauties scantily clad and wearing faux bat wings, devil horns, and tails play the part of alluring succubi. Both are employees of the Gold Goblin, and they cheerfully register contestants for the tournament and process entry fees. Armed guards stand nearby to either side of an immense treasure chest into which each patron’s entry fee is added. The guards are on hand to not only protect the money, but to prevent any overzealous admirers from trying to dare the infamous touch of a succubus.
Beyond the registration table is the hall’s game floor. Dozens of gamblers, waitresses dressed as succubi, and bouncers mill about the room, wandering amid tables offering various games while dealers shuffle cards, roll dice, and spin wheels. Moving through this throng are a dozen more of the barely clad, batwinged vixens serving drinks and batting coal-black eyelashes flirtatiously for tips. In the center of the chamber is a short podium atop which sits a massive gold chest affixed to the floor by similarly gaudy chains. On either side of it stands a barechested bouncer in the exotic garb of some foreign sultan’s court. Each stands with muscled arms crossed over his chest and with a naked scimitar of prodigious size tucked through his waistband. High above them, from the hall’s cloth-draped ceiling, hangs a brass birdcage within which crouches a small, bat-winged, pointy-tailed devilish creature that sulks as it gazes over the room and occasionally rattles the bars threateningly.
“Welcome, one and all, to the Gold Goblin Gambling Hall and your chance to cheat the Devil and win back not only your soul but all of his gold as well.” He says this last as he pats the large chest before which he stands. “I hope you found your reception by the Devil’s lovely temptresses suitably entertaining.”
This is met by a general murmur of laughter and a few catcalls.
“Let’s take this moment to thank Old Scratch himself for attending this event. Not only did he loan us these lovely, dark angels, but he also emptied the deepest vaults of Hell itself to provide the gold for this tournament.”
With this, Saul directs the crowd’s attention up to the imp in the birdcage. At the sudden attention, Old Scratch flies into a flurry of rage, banging the cage bars, spitting, howling, and screaming vile epithets in Infernal at all assembled. His theatrics are received with guffaws and even a smattering of applause. As the crowd dies down, Vancaskerkin continues.
“Of course, he plans on replacing what he loses in gold with the souls of those of you who don’t win. The tournament rules are quite simple—as you play, you’ll earn more chips. And with those chips, you’ll be able to bribe your way out of the current Hell you’re trapped in, working your way down deeper until you get to Old Scratch’s treasury. Currently, all of you are Old Scratch’s prisoners in the first of the Hells, Avernus. If you want to work your way down to the ninth circle, you need to win games. Each time you win, you’ll be awarded a golden eye. If you come in second, you’ll get a silver tooth. And third place wins a copper heart. These bits of flesh and bone are what the devils use in Hell for currency, and they’re what you’ll need to pay in order to bribe your way into the next layer of hell. The first player to win a game after reaching Nessus not only keeps his winnings for that game, but also earns back his soul and the ten thousand silver coins that the Devil put up for this tournament. You can, of course, decide to cash out your winnings at any time you want, but if you do, or if you run out of money entirely… well, that means Old Scratch gets you.”
Vancaskerkin grins evilly and the caged imp cuts loose with another profane tirade.
“And that earns you the Devil’s Mark and an escort out of the game hall until the tournament is over. What, you ask, exactly is this Devil’s Mark? Well, it’s something too utterly horrible to even contemplate. The forfeiture of your very soul, it is. But I suppose I can show you what it is— gods know I more than deserve the Devil’s Mark. In fact, better
make it two, girls!”
With that, the two succubi accompanying him lean over and each firmly plants a kiss on Saul’s cheek with her ruby-red lips. When they pull away, their lip rouge has left clearly visible prints in the same shocking red on his cheeks.
Saul beams as he cries out, “The Devil’s Mark, everyone!” which is greeted by a flurry of shouts, catcalls, and hoots. “Now, let’s cheat the Devil and take his gold!” which prompts one more rabid flurry from the imprisoned fiend above, and with that, the tournament begins.