A Slice of Hell

Posted January 9th, 2011 in Worldbuilding by Seth

AHG’s artists have been working to create a deep and compelling visual style for Perdition, and meanwhile Darren and I are trying to render an equally rich literary foundation for the game. As Darren mentioned, we are drawing on the epic tradition surrounding Hell and Hades, consulting a smorgasbord of Classical and Medieval sources. And we are also writing some history of our own, giving Hell our own spin. As promised, today we have a snapshot from our “new history.” It explores a notion we’ve been kicking around—what if Hell is, unlike many portrayals, a very dynamic and embattled place? What if the people who arrive there have the power to change it? What happens when a person of great power and charisma finds himself in Hell? This small slice of fiction gives you a peek at the answers we’ve come up with. Enjoy!

* * *

Up above the bright world turned, but the deep stood still while Victor burned.

Nothing about him could be considered human anymore. A mortal onlooker would see nothing but a charred, twisted form; gnarled, claw-like hands stretching up from the liquid fires of the Phlegethon; and a hideous, contorted face wracked with one all-consuming scream of torment, anguish, damnation. He no longer remembered his name, or the surface, or the gentle caress of daylight. All he knew was fire, and the one scream that flowed into the past, into the future, coming full circle to meet itself and encompass all of time.

Dimly, at the very edge of his awareness, he felt something—something that was not the agony of fire. It was a tiny island of a moment marring the uniform surface of a horizon-spanning sea of torment.

And then the sulphurous waters of that sea receded, boiled away, vanished in an instant, and where before their roiling turbulence had overwhelmed his every perception and thought, he now lay gasping on the silent, cracked ocean floor. As he became aware of himself again, he could feel the gritty dirt digging into his forearms and shins. He was kneeling, back bowed and head lolling, arms flung out in front of him. He returned to himself after an eternity of oblivion, tentatively taking stock of his thoughts, his senses, his limbs. It was not like waking up after a long and deep slumber, because Victor could remember nothing of sleep after his eternity of waking damnation.

Victor. His name was Victor. For the first time in his memory, he lifted his head and held it up, unbuoyed by the searing river. He glanced to the left. To the right. Behind him he could see the blistering banks of the river Phlegethon, and in front of him stretched a grey forest of mangled trees. And towering above him stood his rescuer.

Clad in warped, soot-stained mail and ragged patches of tunic stood a… being. Not a man anymore, but nevertheless someone who pulled at Victor’s derelict mortal memories. The sagging spires of a crown adorned his stormy brow, the circlet of gold melted onto his forehead. Rivulets of molten gold ran continually down his face, leaving metallic trails on his soot-blackened skin. His eyes glowed like torches set at the bottoms of deep wells. What might have been a kingly mien lay twisted by deep-running currents of rage. Behind him stood a silent host of gaunt souls, some still dripping the boiling blood and fire that flowed in the Phlegethon.

Through a gap in the ring mail on the man‘s chest, another light peered out. It smoldered a cold and unforgiving blue, and in its feline shape Victor recognized another eye. Victor squinted through the dim light of Hell and saw, on the dark and begrimed tunic that might have once been red, the emblem of a lion.

Victor opened his mouth to speak, but only a dry rattle escaped his throat. A cough wracked his body and he wet his cracked lips. “My liege,” he croaked, and bowing his head returned to his sprawl of obeisance.

“Rise, sir knight.” The words rumbled above Victor like thunder. Victor gathered his wasted legs under him and tottered to his feet. His savior’s left gauntlet still dripped liquid flames from where it had reached into the Phlegethon, and his right hand held a sword stained with cloudy ichor. Looking more closely at the shapes around him, Victor could discern the hewn remnants of fiends, no doubt his former captors.

“Follow.” Victor’s lord turned and walked along the fiery banks of the river, scanning its seething surface. Victor obediently pursued, his legs steadier with every step.

“My lord,” Victor said after several paces, “do we seek escape from this place?”

His king plunged a hand into the river and hauled up a writhing form. He flung it to the ground and waited like a brooding thunderstorm while the damned soul collected itself. “To what end?” the monarch rumbled, almost to himself. “To live as wraiths in a world that has forgotten us? Or perhaps to find final oblivion at the surface?” The soul before him had its pale, watery eyes open now, and they moved like frantic caged birds, seeing for the first time in centuries. Victor’s lord stood immovable as a ravaged mountain. The blue feline eye under the chainmail narrowed, and flames danced in the king’s distant gaze. He studied something beyond the banks of the Phlegethon, musing on some dark vision.

“No,” he finally said. “We move against the Betrayer. This dark place will be ours. We will be free, one way or another.” And without another word he strode once more along the infernal river, the dark host shambling silently after him.

Victor stood and considered. In life he had said he would follow his lord to the gates of Hell. Now he knew his loyalty ran even deeper. Hope rose like a furious sun inside him, and he knew he would fight until he was no more. He set off, for the second time rallying to the banner of the Lionheart.

* * *

Darren and I will keep writing and refining, so stay tuned! Thanks for reading!

Stay classy,

Seth

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