Punishment in Hell typically corresponds to sins committed during life. Sometimes these distinctions are specific, with damned souls suffering for each sin committed, but sometimes they are general, with condemned sinners relegated to one or more chamber of Hell or to a level of suffering.
The plane of Hell, sometimes referred to as the Pit, is the ultimate expression of evil order in the Great Beyond, of the weak subjugated to serve the strong, of complete obedience, and unquestioning faith. Its tortures are not willful and random like the torments of the Abyss, or purely sadistic and spiteful like that of Abaddon. Evil and obedience here are honed to a razor's edge in service to a greater purpose: that of bending the will of souls, and the very architecture of creation itself to the greater glory of the lord Asmodeus and his perfect order. It is the home of myriads of devils and other evil outsiders, and sadly the final destination for countless mortal souls.As well as "hellish", the adjective to describe Hell is "infernal".
The ecology of Hell is quite intricate, but is fundamentally based on the acquisition of mortal souls. Should a mortal soul be damned, it joins the masses of suffering petitioners in Avernus, Hell's first layer. The reason for damnation can vary but is usually because the mortal revered or bargained with diabolical forces, their soul was stolen or purchased on its way to its final destination, or the mortal failed in the worship of another deity and was cast as a petitioner from its patron's plane.
Once in Avernus, lesser devils marshal the petitioners for a long, perilous journey to one of Hell's deeper layers. It is traditional for the soul to be sent to a plane for punishments appropriate to the soul's crimes, but greater devils in need of (or owed) slaves can also demand them. Upon reaching the realm of their damnation, petitioners are tormented at the hands of devils, other fiendish beings, and the deadly machinations of Hell itself. Inevitably these souls go mad, forgetting their mortal lives and they eventually become little more than automatons of fear and hatred. After ages of such existence, the cruel processes of Hell change the soul into something usable. Vile souls are transformed into the loathsome lemures, while less worthy souls are used as building blocks in infernal constructions. Many are simply destroyed.
Although Hell is a boundless realm of torment and suffering, it is often thought of as a series of stacked or nesting layers bounded by the Maelstrom. A traveler must pass through each of these in order to arrive at the next lower one. Each is overseen by one of Asmodeus' lieutenants, the dreaded Archdevils.
Layers of Hell Edit
- Avernus - The first layer is ruled by Barbatos, and is a volcanic wasteland where souls assemble, are judged, and are sent to their appropriate layers for eternal punishment.
- Dis - The second layer is ruled by Dispater, and consists of a large city that provides soldiers to the other layers.
- Erebus - Erebus is the third layer of Hell and is ruled by Mammon. It consists of the sewers of Dis and includes the counting house in which Hell's fortunes are listed, its supplies cataloged, and its soldiers equipped.
- Phlegethon - The fourth layer of Hell is ruled by Belial, and contains the hideous forges of Hell, where unsuitable souls are recast into something more fitting to the infernal eye.
- Stygia - Stygia is the realm of Geryon and the temples and libraries of sin and heresy; it is here that the temptation of Hell is practised as an art form to be mastered.
- Malebolge - The realm of Moloch is a smouldering forest of false reward and spirited hunts of the damned.
- Cocytus - In this infernal realm, the damned watch the feasting of devils from cages of ice afloat glaciers and frozen oceans; here the archdevil Baalzebul holds dominion.
- Caina - Caina is a realm of iron and torture, where steel cages hang suspended over a nearly sentient darkness that spreads in all directions; the archdevil Mephistopheles rules here.
- Nessus - The nearly unknown layer of Nessus is the heart and foundation of Hell and contains the palace of Asmodeus.
Geographical Features Edit
Although each layer is geographically and morphologically distinct from the others, they share a number of features or traits in common.
- The fires of Hell are a common linguistic and literary image but hardly compare to the malicious and deadly reality of actual hellfire. It burns without need of fuel, and can be found easily in water, rock or air. Stinking of sulfur, its flames burn with an unholy radiance that disproportionately harms good and moral creatures. Hellfire is most commonly encountered in the layers of Phlegethon, Malebolge, Cocytus, Caina, and Nessus.
- Hellmouths are living portals in the fabric of Hell itself, most commonly appearing as disgusting rents in the ground, devilish faces, or open orifices. They connect the various layers of Hell and are, therefore, heavily fortified and guarded, with a devil of at least infernal duke status assigned as overseer. A few extremely rare hellmouths connect to other planes, most commonly the Abyss, the sewers of the planar city of Axis, or a world on the Material Plane.
- The River Styx
- The River Styx begins its passage through Hell in Avernus and runs through several of its layers, passing through planar portals or hellmouths. It serves as a passage from Avernus through Dis, Erebus, Stygia, Malebolge, Cocytus, and Caina before passing to other planes. In its course can be found countless souls who have lost their memories, aquatic fiends, and planar traders.
The Abyss: Edit
The Abyss (pronounced uh-BIS) is a plane in the Outer Sphere dedicated to the rule of evil unfettered by law. Also referred to as the Outer Rifts, it is accessible through huge rents in the Maelstrom, opening into fiendish depths, vast beyond imagining. Sporadically, the demonic occupants of the Abyss will pour from these rents to menace one plane or another, and sometimes even tear their way into the Material Plane. The Abyss is possessed of many layers, strung together by the River Styx. Many of these planes are ruled by powerful and unique demon lords or, indeed, gods.
Realms in the Abyss Edit
The Abyssal realms are pockets in which the fabric of the Abyss has slowed its relentless, changing insanity to a near-reality pace. These places are often ruled by a demon lord, either thanks to the lord's own power over the area, or simply because demon lords are attracted to a place to build a fortress and armies. Some Abyssal realms have remained relatively unchanged for aeons and these are designated as anchored realms, or anchor realms.
The two primary races that inhabit the countless layers of the Abyss are the ancient qlippoth and the prolific demons, which act as metaphysical bookends to all the numerous races of the Outer Planes. The qlippoth are believed to be some of the most ancient, or perhaps the oldest races of the Great Beyond, while the demons are the youngest. The qlippoth had already existed for eons when the Abyss first revealed itself to the rest of the multiverse, while the demons were originally created by daemons from the souls of evil mortals. When the influx of evil and lawless souls began rising steeply, the demons grew beyond the daemons' ability to control, and are now the most prolific of all the fiendish races.
Abaddon (pronounced AH-bah-don) is a wasteland of infinite and apocalyptic proportions that is home to the daemons. It is dominated by the citadels of the Four Horsemen, but includes vast stretches of uninhabited wastelands, and smaller holdings of minor warlords and vassals. Abaddon holds the headwaters of the river Styx, which flows from here out through the Maelstrom, often touching Hell and the Abyss to eventually pool below Pharasma's spire.
Most of Abaddon is unnaturally quiet, like a land depopulated by war or plague, and is covered in a cold, black mist. The air feels heavy and rotten, and what little light exists is provided by a strange, sun-like object in permanent eclipse.
Citadels of The Four Edit
- The Throne of Flies - The citadel of Pestilence, ruled by Apollyon. Plaguemere is a vast swamp of disease and torment surrounding the citadel, which is a huge afflicted corpse, perhaps that of a dead god or protean lord.
- The Drowning Court - The citadel of Death, ruled by Charon. A rickety collection of artificial islands chained together above a whirlpool, it as at the heart of Charon's domain, the fiendish river, Styx.
- The Cinder Furnace - The citadel of Destruction, ruled by Szuriel. Surrounded by plains scattered with massive knife-like projections of obsidian, swathes of ash, smoke, and bone, and blackened lesser daemonic fortresses, Cinder Furnace is carved into the heart and walls of an immense dead volcano.
- The Weeping Tower - The citadel of Wasting, ruled by Trelmarixian the Black. This minaret of mucus and pus pulses, fluctuates, and trembles with internal lights and screams. Here the hideous experiments on the nature of the soul and its torture and destruction are carried out.
Daemons are the most populous of Abaddon's inhabitants, born of mortal souls who died a most terrible and violent death. They feed upon souls and are ruled by the Four Horsemen, who epitomize the four main ways of mass killing: war, famine, plague, and death from old age. There are rumors that a fifth horseman exists, an archdaemon of incredible power who rules the Four, but others claim that he is dead, and the Four now ritually devour him.