It took time for Lamont to regain his composure, but he was a Skald and he would bend like a pine in the blizzard, but he would not be broken. Aver us left him precious few options, none of which he liked, but to become paralyzed with indecision now would be a death sentence. He could seek a way out of hell, although it would be difficult and leaving was not guarantee of his safety. The Nine Hells were the nexus of those souls who lived lawful lives, but evil ones none the less.one in every thousand of these souls was deemed diabolical enough to become Baatezu, which meant they were absolutely lovely company in the feast hall as far as he could tell. The planes who's portals connected to Baator were similar in nature, although a little less extreme. The Infernal Battlefield was just as lawful, a place of steel, rust and war, albeit less intrinsically evil. Alternately, The Fourfold Furnaces were equally evil, but less orderly. Neither option was good, although if he could avoid the latter, he would. There was also one gatetown that led to the Concordant Opposition if he could reach it, but from his readings, its portal was likely under heavy guard.
There was also the slightly more insane idea of depending deeper into hell. The second layer was composed of one massive, impossible city called Dis. It may be just as dangerous, but at least there he could purchase some food while he made further plans. There may even be a portal there to safer shores.
There certainly were gods in Hell as well and he could entreat them for aid, but he doubted that any would be willing to aid him. The gods of Hell were not known for their generosity.
He could try to prove his worth alive to the Baatezu by slaying any demons he encountered. He knew that demons were in many ways the opposites of devils, as they were malevolent manifestations of chaos from an entirely different plane, known as the Infinite Layers of the Abyss. The greatest races of demons, the Tanar'ri were engaged in a never ending war with the Baatezu for dominance over all Evil. That. Did give him an idea though.
As creatures of Chaos, the Tanar'ri were likely to be drawn into Loki's hoard during the final battle. Perhaps he could convince some of the Baatezu to ally with his Lord. Most of the Ćsir would never consider such creatures to be allies, but Heimdall was guardian and a patron of both protection and orderly conduct. As twisted as these creatures were said to be, they had something in common with his god and very soon, they may too have a common foe. It wasn't a great idea, getting into bargains with devils but it could be useful and it might just spare an innocent from the upcoming slaughter down the road.
He resolved in his mind to head for the gate town and then make a judgement from there whether he could make it to the safety of the Concordant Plane and out of the Lower Planes. The other plans could serve as contingencies if they were needed. He was still leery of taking any random portal he found, the hunter in him wanted to know what to expect first.
While he didn't know which direction to travel yet, that would be soon remedied. With a short string of arcane phrases, he extended his senses into the magical fabric that permeated the multiverse. He had heard scrying be described in many different ways, but to him it had always been the same strange sensation. He felt like he was being immersed in a river, but instead of water, it was made of the finest strands of silk. From there he took the role of a spider, feeling each line and testing for vibrations until he found exactly what resonated with his mind. And there it was! A settlement of at least a hundred souls, two days solid march away. He could feel in in his bones the this was the right direction, the spell only detected permanent settlements, so it was unlikely it picked up a mustering band of soldiers. He cast the spell once more, seeking an even larger settlement, just to make sure he hadn't inadvertently found some warlord's citadel. This time divination picked up a completely different location much further away. That, at least, comforted Lamont as he began picking his way through the jagged landscape.
Both days were difficult, as it quickly became apparent that underneath the sooty and blood-soaked the ground was at best unstable and at worst razor sharp. More than once in the first hour, Lamont had to use valuable healing potions in order to keep himself a state where he was able to keep moving. The constant stream of raining fireballs wasn't helping either, but those at least we're blunted a little by the equally constant snow, who's ill effects he was in turn able to avoid with his magic. As far as me could tell, there was no natural cycle of day or night in this place, so once he had made sufficient progress, he sought out a snow drift and hollowed out a cave to overnight in. He reinforced this with protective wards and abjurations to ensure that a rogue fireball didn't bring the entire thing crashing down on his head in the middle of his sleep cycle.
It was far from the most restful night he'd ever had, but it was better than nothing. Lamont broke camp quickly, took his bearings of the mountains he had been following the day before and struck out again. As he moved from open plains into the mountain passes, the environment too began to change. Instead of a lifeless wasteland, Lamont began to encounter groves of deeply coloured yew trees. These were far more gnarled and twisted than the yews of Cis-Midgard and at first Lamont was wary to approach or pass through them. He doubted that anything was innocent in this place. Eventually it became necessity though and he endured his paranoia by acting as a true Skald.
The Skalds of Transgalica were an ancient order of magic users dedicated to the recovery of knowledge and harmony with the natural world. The majority of their members were bards but Lamont himself would be referred to as a wizard in other lands. Nonetheless, he still possessed the wilderness survival skills he needed to get by and had considerable curiosity about the natural world. He quickly realized that each trunk was wrapped around or split by some sort of weapon and from there formed a cage of branches, encircling at a distance whatever parts remained exposed. Buzzing flies made their roost in the leaves while pale, red eyed bolas spiders flung their lines of silk and glue at them. More than once, Lamont stumbled upon a host of maggots, each the size of a small dog. While they were no real danger to him, they neither knew nor cared for anything other than unending hunger. The maggots threw themselves at him, trying to tear at any piece of warm flesh they could reach with their mandibles. He defended himself by forming pure orbs of sound in his hands that could literally tear apart the giant insects.
Lamont was also taken aback by what he found inlayed in the bark of the yew trees as be observed them. He had expected these dark trees to be matched with the suggestion of horrific images to unnerve any lost souls or wandering mortals who may happen upon them. Rather, each tree was inlaid with words and script, some of which were in languages he recognized, other which were utterly alien to him. He decide not to read any of them, both because he need to keep moving and because he knew that Baatezu were good with words, so there was no need for them to trick him again. He wondered why these trees grew here, and what they really meant. Were they the contracts of every solider that the Baatezu had damned to the Blood War? Had these words been the oaths of knights who swore themselves before foul tyrants? Or perhaps they were a record of the lies spoken by the Baatezu and the Faustian contracts they used to corrupt unsuspecting souls?
Something shook Lamont out of his thoughts. The forest had changed somehow. Where once the trees were wide apart and randomly dispersed, he had entered area where they they were tightly clumped, with many dozens of them creating wide ring-band. These formed concentric circles within each other and Lamont realized that he was less then two hundred feet from their centre. He also realized that the frozen, screaming faces in the yew's trunks that he had expected earlier were now visible on the outside of each ring, as if they were all fleeing from whatever Lamont was approaching. The runes were still visible, but now they were all in the same language and arranged in rising spirals from each tree's trunks. No more were there weapons bound into the trees either, they grew straight up on their own. Now Lamont was well and unnerved, but he could not bring himself to turn back. He had finally placed what disturbed him so. The air was filled with the smell of ozone and ash, and there was a faint light coming from the central ring ahead.