Aboard the ship he was simply known as The Dwarf, mostly because often the simple nickname is the best. He was from New Albion, which he spoke of with a mix of fondness and deep bitterness, and he had purposely left his birth city some 7 years earlier over a reason he would never ever discuss, not even while blind drunk. It was assumed to have something to do over his missing eye.
His life at sea had taken him around the world, and indeed when he initially left New Albion, it had been aboard a ship bound for the Orient, the farthest point he could conceive of. Since then he had traveled most places in between, although he currently was serving on ships engaging in the Arabian Run.
His secret shame was over his own weakness. He believed himself to be pathetically weak and amongst the reasons he had chosen a life at sea, was that he desperately hoped it would toughen him up and take away his pathological feeling of weakness.
Recently, his ship had been accosted by pirates. The fight had been brutal, but eventually the Dwarf and his fellow crewmen boarded the pirate ship. They were ordered to slaughter everyone aboard save for prisoners, who were to be released, given the pirate ship and allowed to find their way to safe harbor, fates willing.
During the battle the Dwarf found himself face to face with the daughter of the pirate captain. She was cornered and rendered weaponless and she and the Dwarf were at a face off. She pulled out a pair of sliver dice on a chain she wore around her neck and offered it to him. He took it and escorted her to the prisoner’s cage where he declared her to be a hostage of the pirates and she was promptly released. Before he and the others left the ship and the former prisoners to their fate, she kissed him and winked.
Two weeks later his ship was seized. It was assumed these attackers were also pirates, but in fact they were not even remotely.
He and his shipmates were taken to a nearby island on which Heaven, the 7 Purgatories, and Hell were located (built, actually), given a powerful drug and set loose to make their way from Heaven through Hell and back. They were monitored closely to see if, in the time limit allotted, any would do so with their sanity intact.