Come Hell or high water
Also known as Hell or Baator, the Nine Hells are the home of all devils, existing in the outer planes according to the Great Wheel Cosmology. It is a place of lawful evil where sinister corruption and institutional cruelty exist on a grand scale.
The Nine Hells are made up of nine layers, each one existing above the other with the first layer (Avernus) existing at the top of Hell and the ninth layer (Nessus) existing at the bottom. Each layer is ruled over by an Archdevil, hugely powerful and ambitious devils that have worked their way up to become the rulers of Hell. Greatest of all the Archdevils is Asmodeus, a fallen angel who rules from his layer of Nessus.
Geography of the Nine Hells
The Nine Hells are made up of nine layers existing one above another and appears as a gigantic mountain, turned upside down. Travelling down from one to another physically would lead to a drop of miles, but portals do inter-connect the various layers of hell. As a person travels down the layers of Hell, each layer increases in importance until the final layer is reached, Nessus, the home of Asmodeus.
Each layer of Hell is a terrifying place, though unique as well as each is fashioned after the Archdevil that rules over it, formed after their personality. This means that the layers of Hell have a changeable landscape as rulership of each layer does change albeit rarely.
The Layers of Hell
Each layer of Hell has been detailed below:
Avernus is the first layer of Hell and is ruled over by Zariel, a once beautiful angel that has been disfigured by her scorched skin. She is a general of Hell and aggressively defends Avernus and the rest of Hell from outside threats, particularly that of demons who can most easily access Hell via Avernus.
Dis is the second layer of Hell and is ruled over by the paranoid Archdevil, Dispater. Dis is a flat and barrne land with little more than a black, stagnant river running through it. The river flowed from a lake surrounding a huge city at the centre of the land known as the Iron City. The Iron City is hundreds of miles wide and several miles high. The screams of prisoners can be heard from below the streets in the terrifying dungeons. Dis is near indestructible within the walls of his Iron City, and so it’s here that he schemes, paranoid and protected with Titivilus acting in his place as his mouthpiece.
The third layer of Hell is Minauros, an endless, decaying bog, littered with dead bodies and a suffocating stench. Above the bog hangs the City of Jangling Hiter (also known as the City of Chains). It is able to remain hanging above the land through the endless efforts of minions and slaves who maintain the city’s abilitiy to stay suspended above the poisonous bog of the land. Minauros is ruled over by Mammon, an Archdevil of incredible treachery and greed.
Phlegethos is the fourth layer of Hell and an infernal and fiery place filled with volcanoes and rivers of magma. The stifling heat makes the place seem almost like the very air is alight. Lava even pours out of the caverns above Phlegethos, pouring onto the land below.
The city of Abriymoch provides some protection from the heat for visitors. It’s built in the caldera of an extinct volcano from hardened magma, obsidian and crystal. It is from here that the Archdevils Fierna and Belial rule. Fierna is the primary ruler, but capably aided by her father and former ruler, Belial.
Stygia takes on an opposite form to that of Phlegethos with a barren, icy landscape. A few islands are dotted among the sheets of ice with the river Styx carving a route through the ice. Upon one of the islands is built the city of Tantlin which forms the centre of governance for Stygia as well as a central trading point between the layers of Hell.
Stygia is ruled over by prince Levistus, a cunning Archdevil that has been entrapped in ice by Asmodeus for past crimes and must rule telepathically from his icy prison.
Malbolge is the sixth layer of Hell and its landscape is amde up of large obsidian blocks of stone, layered upon one another in irregular patterns. These blocks sit upon a pool of lava causing stinking clouds of vapour to rise up and alight the sky with a blood red colour. Fortresses have been carved from the natural stone of the land to form settlements.
Malbolge is ruled by the Archdevil Glasya, the daughter of Asmodeus and a hugely capable politician. Glasya is a woman of incredible beauty and is often the subject of the desires of other Archdevils.
Maladomini is the seventh layer of Hell and is a labyrinthine land filled with the ruins of old cities, mines, aqueducts and stagnant rivers. The Archdevil of Maladomini, Baalzebul, builds city after city, but never achieving the perfection he desires and starting again with a new city. The largest and most beautiful city of Maladomini is Malagard, a sprawling metropolis of towers and fortresses linked by a myriad of webbed bridges. Some rumours believe that Malagard has a million rooms and a complex dungeon labyrinth beneath its surface.
The eighth layer of Hell is Caniaand it’s a frozen wasteland and far harsher than even the cold of Stygia. Few creatures can withstand the freezing temperatures where glacial features travel with unnatural speed.
A great citadel stands in Cania called mephistar. It is from here that Mephistopheles, the Archdevil of Cania, rules. The citadel is built atop a gargantuan glacier that is controlled in its movement by Mephistopheles himself.
Nessus is a land of extremes with frigid wastelands, violent volcanoes, flaming forests and sheer cliffs. Within the blasted landscape is the citadel of Malsheem, whose walls are capable of holding millions of devils within its mountainous structure. From the deepest warrens to the highest spires, Malsheem is a veritable maze of verticality.
Nessus is the ninth layer of Hell and the seat of rulership for the entirety of Hell for it is here that Asmodeus himself rules. Asmodeus is both the original Archdevil and the creator of Hell from its beautiful beginnings as Baator.
History of the Nine Hells
The Nine Hells were originally a beautiful place known as Baator. It was here that Asmodeus, a prominent angel of He Who was (leader of all Celestials), guarded the prison of the mad god Tharizdub. Despite Asmodeus’ great virtue, he was not immune to the temptations of power and evil and he was corrupted by Pazuzu, a Demon lord, who convinced him he was too good for the job he’d been handed.
Asmodeus left his post and took a shard from the seed of chaos of the Abyss to use its power to lead a rebellion against He Who Was. This rebellion ravaged the land of Baator, turning it into the hellscape that it now is. During this rebellion, Asmodeus turned many prominent (and less prominent) celestial beings away from He Who Was including Alloces, Geryon, Bensozia and Beleth.
At the culmination of this rebellion, Asmodeus killed He Who Was, but before doing so, He Who Was cursed Asmodeus, trapping him in Baator for eternity. Following this rebellion, Asmodeus and the other fallen angels transformed Baator into the Nine Hells. Though many of these fallen angels later regretted their actions, they could not leave, they were now stuck as devils, exiled from Celestia.