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13 Stages of Hell


13 Stages of Hell is a companion to the text of Ascension, which itself seeks to demystify the geography and politics of Hell, as written by the only known soul to have traversed the underworld and escaped to salvation. This here document includes a sketched map of the underworld, with a brief description of each of the important locations, arranged roughly in the order in which a given soul might encounter them, were it to find itself wandering throughout Hell. Use the map as guide, and click on the red marker icons to read about the various locations of interest.

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Limbo (The Antechamber)

The newly deceased awakens upon a cold stone altar, in a dark cave lit by torchlight. This is Limbo, The Antechamber between realms. An opening in the ceiling of the cave yields to the passage of an Angel, descended from Heaven, to pass judgement on the deceased's soul. If redeemed, the soul accompanies the Angel on its return journey to Heaven. If not, the Angel recedes, the opening closes, and the torches fizzle out, leaving the deceased in complete darkness. Minions of hell then climb from the cavernous depths to claim their prize, dragging it down into Dis, The Underworld.

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Dis (The Underworld)

A rocky slab of a continent, separated from the rest of the world, isolated from all other realms, and suspended in a sea of eternal darkness, Dis is The Underworld, home of the demonic angels who once dared to oppose God, and prison for all those damned souls deemed not worthy to share in the divine glory of the holy realm. There is only one passage out of Dis, and it is impossible for a tainted soul to traverse it.

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Tartarus (Total Darkness)

The condemned soul, having been dragged by demons out of Limbo, finds himself shrouded in total, utter darkness. The walls close around him as he is trapped inside his own coffin, as one buried alive. This is Tartarus, known as the catacombs to some. It is a series of mazelike tunnels dug into the rocky ground of Dis. There is absolutely no light to guide one's way. Skeletal creatures man the tunnels, in their relentless effort to dump the inhabited coffins into the abyss of Sheol. For a soul to escape the catacombs, it must pass the guardians, who are personalized manifestations of primal fear. Only by conquering one's fear can a soul avoid falling into the abyss.

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Sheol (The Bottomless Pit)

Sheol, The Bottomless Pit, known to some as the abyss, is the eternal grave into which condemned souls are pitched. Approaching the pit, the screams of the forever tormented ring in one's ears. There is no escape from Sheol. Once you slip into the hole you can never return. As you fall unendingly, your only company is the incessant wailing of the fellow damned.

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Har Megido (The Ancient Battlefield)

A warm wind sweeps interminably across the barren rocky hills of Har Megido, The Ancient Battlefield. Stories tell of a great battle fought on this broken plain, between the armies of God and the Devil. The Devil won on that day, and instead of facing him directly, God chose to cut his losses and seal off Dis from the other realms, even forsaking his own Angels who were taken prisoner. If ever there was a testament to the fearsomeness of the Devil, it is to be found in the tortured memories whispered across this battlefield. Today, the broken plain is tended by fierce hounds and grim reapers, whose job it is to harvest wandering souls and send them on to hell's capital, Pandaemonium.

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Pandaemonium (The Throne of Perdition)

Pandaemonium is The Throne of Perdition, the Devil's seat in Dis, and home to the Devil's most loyal followers. The Infernal Chamber hosts 13 thrones, one for each of hell's top generals, all powerful fallen angels perverted beyond recognition by their illicit sins. There they debate and quarrel, and divvy up the souls brought in for torture, before they are carried on to the dungeons where their punishments will be meted out.

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Nastrond (The Hall of Suffering)

Deep below the lowest dungeons of Pandaemonium lies Nastrond, The Hall of Suffering. Rumors of the intense suffering prisoners endure in Nastrond frighten even those used to the tortures of Pandaemonium's dungeons, but mercifully few are sentenced to such terrors. It is said that the last remaining hostages taken in the ancient battle of Har Megido - the few Angels who remain faithful to God through even the most ineffable torment - are chained there. Nothing else could account for the horrid screams that sometimes emanate from those depths; screams that shake the entire foundations of Dis, and are felt throughout the realm.

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Chaos (The Yawning Chasm)

The demons of Pandaemonium delight in the suffering they inflict on condemned souls, but all souls become accustomed to their suffering in time. To maximize the demons' pleasure, it is therefore necessary to replace tired old souls with freshly terrified ones. The new ones are harvested from the plains of Dis, and the old ones are carted out to the edge of the continent and tossed into The Yawning Chasm that lies beyond. Approaching the shores of Dis, a great roaring can be heard. This is Chaos, the void. Into it thrown, all matter is irreversibly destroyed, broken down into its fundamental constituents. Here, the soul's fate is not everlasting torment, but simple nothingness. The True End.

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Sodom & Gomorrah (Sister Cities of Sin)

Named after the biblical legend, these sister cities were founded by and are home to the renegade souls who manage to break free from their tormentors on the path between Pandaemonium and their would-be eternal end at Chaos. Having been "broken" in the dungeons under Pandaemonium, the souls inhabiting the Sister Cities of Sin are prone to acting out their perverse sadomasochistic desires in open hedonistic displays throughout the cities - and they have no qualms about forcefully including anyone within sight. In these cities there is no law but perversity, and absolutely anything goes.

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Gehenna (The Valley of Fire)

Gehenna, The Valley of Fire, is located beyond a tall mountain range, by means of a narrow path that cuts through the mountains. The valley is flooded with the flaming bile that stirs underneath Dis' rocky crust, which is spewed out of the mouth of a nearby volcano. The river itself is on fire, and only by passing through these searing flames can one access the Labyrinth.

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Labyrinth (The Garden of Oblivion)

Labyrinth, known also as The Garden of Oblivion, is a maze of stone ruins, seemingly the remnant of what once must have been an expansive settlement, but all memories of its past have been erased. This stone garden is haunted by woeful spectres of forgetfulness, and weary lost souls who cannot remember their purpose, let alone their way. The dull, open corridors invite fatigue while the myriad passages encourage wayward wandering, and the stiff air seems to actively induce amnesia. Travellers are advised never to enter the Labyrinth, unless they are prepared to spend eternity there.

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Erebus (The Inverted Pillar)

At the center of the Labyrinth stands a great monolith in the shape of an inverted cross, which at its base (pointing towards the sky) is attached to the peak of Erebus, The Inverted Pillar. Growing downward from far above, Erebus is not unlike a gargantuan stalactite. It serves as a distorted mirror image of the mountain of Purgatory, which reaches up to Heaven. The one and only exit from the realm of Dis lies far up towards the base of Erebus; understandably, ascending is far from a trivial matter. And the foul winged beasts that claim the heights add to that challenge. But, those precious few who manage to overcome all previous obstacles in reaching Erebus will find the task of climbing this mountain upside-down not the hardest of their trials - not by far.

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Purgatory (The Flames of Absolution)

Up in a cave near the base of Erebus lies the sole exit from Dis, a trans-realm gateway guarded by Abaddon, Angel of the Abyss. But to reach Purgatory, and have a chance at laying eyes on the divine realm, one must first pass through The Flames of Absolution, as a test of spiritual fortitude. Only pure souls can survive this journey, effectively barring passage to the twisted and forsaken souls of the damned. Abandon hope, ye who are damned, for all the suffering of eternity will not render you fit for ascension. But perhaps there is yet some way...

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