The forces of Hell and the Abyss are so evil the average mortal would go mad with just a glimpse of their far-reaching plans and all-encompassing wickedness. Indeed, mortals that tie themselves to these outside planes are thought by most to have sold their very souls, to have become so deeply malevolent they no longer bear any real similarity to other members of their race. But Hell, and the Abyss, are not the only Outer Planes, and not all fiendish powers are beyond the comprehension of the common person.
When neutral evil mortals die, if they have been wholly dedicated to the path of their alignment, their souls are consigned to Gehenna. Unlike other fiendish domains, Gehenna is not overseen by malefic lords bent on conquest or hatching schemes to topple the gods and swallow up the multiverse. No, Gehenna’s evil is less showy than all that but, far more insidious.
In the *Seven-Circle Realm, as its inhabitants call it, the home of pure, selfish evil is made. Here are the whisperers and watchers who sit over each person’s shoulder throughout the course of their lives, inviting them to take the wicked path, eschew what they know is right, embrace self-interest, and reject their charitable nature. Here are the mercenaries of the endless war between Hell and the Abyss, always switching sides whenever they receive a better offer—or so it would seem—though their fickle loyalty does nothing so much as prolong the war and ensure their eternal employment.
Here are the seven exarchs, each watching over one of the circles, each maintaining the strength of the sin they foster in the mortal world. It is a land of contradictions, where steadfast alignments are the law of one blasted acre and anarchy and mad-ness reign in the land beside it. It is a realm of subtlety, of shadows and whispers. This is Gehenna, and here our worst angels reside.
Creation of Hell and the Abyss
Some say Gehenna was the first land in the universe—the place where the first beings of any consciousness resided. Their selfishness brought evil and death into the world, resulting in the creation of Hell, the Abyss, and fiendish powers and the introduction of suffering in the multiverse.
Others say Gehenna’s roots are less grandiose: an accursed battleground between the older realms of the Abyss and Hell, Gehenna was a sort of no-man’s-land, its inhabitants the deserters from both sides of the war (and the malevolent residents of other planes that were drawn to the conflict).
Many believe Gehenna was not a plane at all until the gods of Heaven made it so. Fearing the potential power of Hell or the Abyss unchecked by the other, the Lords of Good made an agreement with the outcasts of Gehenna. These sad creatures received their own plane, power, and a place in the universe. In return, they agreed to record the evil deeds done by mortal peoples and, most importantly, to keep the war between their neighbors burning hot for all eternity. A Hell and Abyss at war are safer for the multiverse, the Lords of Good reasoned, and thus far it has proven true.
Regardless of the cause and true history of its creation, most agree that Gehenna is now the fiendish plane most tied to the Material Plane. Its lords aren’t just aware of mortal affairs—they watch and influence them. The inhabitants of Gehenna even include mortals who have made the Seven-Circle Realm their home, preferring the clarity of its raw evil to the Material Plane. Accessible by mortals, devils, demons, celestials, and creatures of negative energy alike, Gehenna is the hub of the fiendish planes, rendering it a place both deeply terrifying and profoundly useful for those seeking to make otherworldly alliances.
Gehenna is a great flat plane in the form of a giant circle. The outer part of this circle is called the war zone, for the simple reason that all around this outer circle the war between Hell and the Abyss rages. The war zone forms an enclosure around six smaller circles that, in turn, encircle one central circle. *They are the Circle of Wrath, Circle of Envy, Circle of Lust, Circle of Sloth, Circle of Gluttony, Circle of Greed, and the Circle of Pride. see links below
Each of the internal circles is ruled by one of the exarchs of Gehenna. These powerful daemons (mostly) are the lords of the Seven-Circle Realm, though they have neither supreme authority nor any firm laws. Indeed, each seeks only to further their own aims and strengthen the power of their circle.
Stretching out in all directions from the Seven-Circle Realm is a blasted wasteland worn down to craters and flaming pits over countless millennia of warfare. It is a place of blood, bile, and ichor, a place where suffering, pain, and fear are as palpable as a lover’s embrace. At all times, demons and devils fight their interminable war against each other, expending themselves in a desperate struggle for dominance in the planes. Goaded by the exarchs who rule the seven circles, opponents allow reason to play no part in the struggle.
Each setback, each defeat, merely spurs the losing side to redouble its efforts and resume the struggle for dominance. No victory is ever complete, just as no defeat is final. The fallen soldiers lie where they fell, fodder for the gluttonous demons and ravenous scavengers who slither and skulk across the battlefields.
What most find maddening about the war zone is that there is nothing to conquer, nothing to hold. Neither side sees value in the landscape across which they march. After all, the war zone was stripped of anything and everything of value long, long ago. Still, the demonic horde gathers its strength and throws itself against the bulwarks raised by its infernal enemies, sometimes breaking through and forcing the devils to retreat to some other squalid corner of the realm. And at other times, the devils chew up the attacking demons, breaking them on the points of their spears and sending them scurrying back into the darkness.
Since demons and devils use this place as their eternal battlefield, only breaking through to invade the Abyss or Hell rarely, such fiends are the ones most likely to be encountered here. The daemons have keen interest in seeing the fighting continue, and thus mercenaries sold by the various exarchs can be found swelling the ranks of one side or the other. Undead drawn from the Negative Energy Plane tend to stumble into the raging battle as well, though such beings often find themselves slaughtered and trampled by the hardened veterans pressing whatever advantage they can.
Outsiders who come to the war zone find the place uninviting and dangerous to the extreme. Visitors from the Material Plane might be conscripted to fight for the devils or assaulted and devoured by vicious demons. Only the most powerful travelers have a chance at driving off these fiends for any length of time, but even they discover the folly of exploring this realm when the number of enemies never seems to diminish and they, like many before them, find themselves victims to the unchecked violence that defines this horrifying place.