The Nine Hells are no place for the mortal soul. Indeed, heroic beings are usually destined for far loftier calls from the heavens, while the fiery infernos and the bone-chilling wastes are reserved for the toughest and most deadly of creatures within the multiverse: the devils.
Of course, the occasional unfortunate soul might find themselves on the wrong side of a contract, written in all good faith but by the most slippery of minds. And let us not forget those who would peddle such dark powers, forming pacts on moonless nights: warlocks and cultists.
The plane known as the Outlands is a neutral territory that connects to all other planes. It is home to the city Ribcage (named so for the rib like protrusions of rock that surround the city) that somehow connects to Avernus--the first layer of hell where Tiamat resides and Zariel, the fallen angel, rules over an ashy, dust covered wasteland. However, this connection is not reliably predictable, with some travelers needing to wait weeks in Ribcage before the city finds itself in Hell. On the other hand, almost any devil can simply bring a willing creature to hell with them.
With the exception of using gates to get in and out, it can be hard to leave hell, especially some of the lower levels. Since you can’t teleport directly out of hell, adventurers require an exit strategy before beginning their journey. Aside from proper preparations, gates, or riding the memory-sapping river Styx into an even worse fate, one can make a deal with any devil to be taken out of hell.
Those who manage to arrive in Ribcage are often drawn to the flashing signs of bright, vibrantly colored lights. These planar travelers from all reaches of the multiverse bustle and cajole through the sprawling markets making their way to the unavoidable tavern.
The tavern is wreathed in dozens of colorful lanterns and awnings that support a massive banner that reads: “The Highway.” The name comes from an ancient proverb by forgotten bards relating to its proximity to the nine hells.
The first floor is a wide-open space is crowded with tables. Three horseshoe-shaped bars jut from three corners of the room. A spiral staircase in the last corner leads up to the second floor.
Hanging from the stone walls are hundreds of worthless items from around the multiverse: gears from the great machines of Mechanus, flasks of eternal fire from the City of Brass, a broken wagon wheel from the demiplane of dread, Barovia.
The second and third floors of the tavern are well appointed and exceedingly comfortable for mortal visitors. Each room comes with three beds covered in thin, supple leather blankets – servers suggest that guests do not ask to the origin of the leather.
There are also three trunks with locks, a dresser, a washroom with a half-barrel shaped tub, and a silver mirror which can be used for scrying. Each suite also has a magic circle carved into the floor and ceiling that prevent fiends from entering. The tavern offers a guarantee to any mortals staying in his establishment: no fiend will ever harm them while inside one of his rooms.
There is never a dearth of incredible entertainment opportunities at The Highway. Many mortal entertainers reach an unnatural level of success by bartering service or portions of their soul to the devils of the Nine Hells.
The tavern is renowned for paying off entertainers' debts to other devils in order to have them perform. More than a few such entertainers have several years, if not lifetimes, of service before their contract is fulfilled. Even still, the owner is seen as a much more doting patron than many other, crueler devils.
In addition to food and drink, the tavern offers a wide array of spellcasting services.
The stones that make up the ‘ribcage’ for which the outlands town is named casts a long shadow across all the buildings. Including a few that stand out against the otherwise dreary village:
Nearby stands a one-story stuccoed building with stained-glass windows and clay roof tiles. Ten-foot-tall walls enclose a large courtyard outside the southeast corner of the building. The locked, closed wooden doors to the courtyard are engraved with images of smiling nymphs dancing and frolicking in water. The bathhouse is open from dawn to midnight.
The building located across the street from The Highway tavern bares a sign called “The Dark Museum.” Its doors are sealed and windows are shuttered closed. Three infernal symbols are etched into the stone doors, one that you might recognize as the sigil of Tubidu.