The hero stepped through the portal into a vast chamber carved from stone. The edges of the chamber stretched away into inky depths. In front of him and in every direction as far as could be seen stood stone pedestals, like altars. Upon each sat a man or a woman with legs crossed. Each wore a blindfold and held aloft a large scale in their right hands. On both sides of the scale were piled rocks and beads and other tidbits of varying size. Next to each person on the pedestal was a third pile of stones and other sundries.
Between the rows of pedestals moved figures the hero had only dreamt of in his wildest fancies - pixies, elves, demons and angels. Seemingly at random, one of these creatures would slide over to a pedestal and add a stone to one side of the scale held there, or perhaps remove one. Occassionally they would add or remove several stones. Invariably, this caused the scales to teeter and rock, and the person who held it would paw about on the stone around them for a rock or piece of wood and add it to the scale, returning it to balance.
Just as the hero was taking this all in, his guide emerged nearby. "We must pass quickly through this realm, my lord," said the guide. "It is quite dangerous."
"What is it?" asked the hero, frightened by the strangeness of it. "What are they doing?"
His guide fidgeted, wringing his hands. "They toil without rest to keep the scales balanced, my lord. And as you can see -" he indicated a passing pixie, who grinned fiendishly at them before tapping another scale, sending it teetering wildly. "They have much to contend with," finished the guide.
The hero stood quietly, considering. He had seen many nightmarish and exotic things in his travels, but nothing that compared to this place. "What happens if they can't balance the scales?" he asked.
The guide pointed. "Look."
A young woman sat desperately adding stones to her scale, but to the wrong side. It teetered more and more out of control, then finally the entire thing fell from her hands and crashed to the floor. In a heartbeat, she had vanished.
"If they cannot balance the scales they die, my lord," said the guide, looking pale. "Please, we must move quickly."
The hero nodded and they rushed between the stone pedestals, making their way to the other side of the chamber and the portal that would take them past this realm to the next stop on their journey. As they moved through the chamber, the hero observed many more people vanish as their scales tipped too far to one side or the other.
Finally, they had reached the second portal. The guide uttered an incantation and a hazy opening appeared in the rock wall before them. The hero turned to look one last time at the strange realm. "What place is this?" he asked, full of curiosity and awe for a people who could endure so much.
"It is the mortal realm," said the guide. "The land of men."