What follows is the first in series of articles focusing further on the Pits of Hell. It’s meant solely as inspirational text for fantasy gaming, and is a companion piece to my articles on folklore-based Devils for the Castles & Crusades game. It is not intended as a serious work of theology.
The Pit of Envy
The Pit of Envy waits for those souls who in life loved malicious gossip, who spread lies for their own pleasure and gain, or bore ill will against those more fortunate than themselves. No being need fling such souls into the Pit against their will. All the Pits of Hell are baited traps, which the vice-ridden willingly enter.
After death, souls weighed down by the vice of Envy will hear the echoing sounds of whispered secrets and outrageous accusations. If those sounds are followed, the soul will come to a place of mists, where a gigantic sea-serpent’s head lies with its mouth agape. The echoing gossip will seem to emanate from within the monster’s mouth. This is the Hell-mouth of Envy, and might also be found in the Ether, in the Astral Plane, or even on any of the Material Worlds. The powers of Envy cannot, however, extend their maw into the gardens of Heaven, or the Planetary Spheres.
The Hell-mouth of Envy is large enough to enter, and richly dressed people, possessing all the objects the dead person desired in life, will be walking in and out of it. When the soul enters the maw, it is revealed to be the opening of a long, slimy cavern. Eventually, the soul will wander into a dead end that resounds with their own voice, screaming accusations against the people the deceased hated most in life. Suddenly, a sinkhole will open beneath the feet of the envious soul. The damned person will fall for what seems like days, until she impacts a surface of muddy slush and ice.
The Pit of Envy appears to be an endless frozen swamp under a solid gray sky, without sun, moon, or stars. Although cliffs and buildings will be visible on every far horizon, it seems impossible to actually reach them. In places, the icy surface of the swamp gives way to islands covered with dead weeds, or leafless, rotted trees. The ice is also occasionally riven by great slush-rimmed cracks, from which massive walls of steam, and jets of fire, will erupt. Everywhere in the Pit are the sounds of invectives and allegations, for the Pit of Envy is the courthouse of Hell.
The newly arrived damned soul will be left to wander across the desolation for some time, only to be unexpectedly apprehended by one or more Tormentor Devils. The soul will be beaten, bound, and dragged across the waste to a crowd of fellow damned souls, who seem to be attending a trial of some kind. The newly arrived damned soul will be pushed through the surrounding crowd and find herself in a fully appointed court, set up on the filthy ice. Behind the grotesquely carved bench will be a Marquis of the Accuser Devils, dressed in a parody of the attire worn by human judges. The sinner has arrived at her own infernal trial.
The damned will be thrown to her knees, as another Accuser Devil begins to read from an absurdly large scroll, exposing every one of the defendant’s crimes and embarrassing secrets. From time to time, the fellow damned who have been herded to the trial will be forced to step forward, identify themselves, and accuse the defendant of some wrongdoing, either real or fictitious. The trial will cover every hour of every day of the defendant’s life, with the prosecuting Devil dwelling at length upon how stupid, disgusting, worthless, and unforgivable the defendant is. If the defendant doesn’t answer a charge, they will be flogged, or otherwise tortured until they do. Often, the damned will be forced to torture their fellow damned, in order to instill resentment. Whenever the defendant speaks, she will also be charged at every turn with violating various arcane courtroom procedures, all of which add to to the time she must serve in Hell. Denying a charge, for example, carries a charge of slander against the prosecuting Devil. Simulacrums of all those the defendant has wronged (along with recreations of any relevant objects or places), will be brought before the court, where the counterfeit people will recount how much they were harmed by the damned soul in life.
When the trial is completed, after what seems like decades (during which no recesses will have been called), the defendant will be judged, using the most degrading and obscene language possible. Naturally, the sentence will add up to millions of years in the Pit of Envy. Afterward, the convicted will be flung into the crowd of damned, and a random former spectator (and witness) will be dragged before the court, and subjected to a trial. The whole process will be repeated, but the new damned soul will have the opportunity to revenge themselves upon their former accuser, by bringing a charge against them (and perhaps torturing them).
Every so often, one of the damned who has been especially enthusiastic in condemning or torturing their fellows will be given a gaudily jeweled amulet, which exempts her from being tortured. Of course, the Devils will also explain to all the other damned souls that if they steal the amulet and wear it, they will themselves be exempted from torment.
The sham trials in the Pit of Envy continue into eternity, forming the entertainment of the Accuser Devils. In fact, the Accuser Devils are entirely the prisoners of their own obsession with the failings and crimes of the damned. Sometimes those damned who indulged in multiple vices in life will be subjected to a trial attended by various castes of Devils, in order to determine which Pit the sinner will spend eternity in. From time to time a trial may actually be attended by an Angel of Death, who will serve as the Defense Attorney. In Hell, such Angels take the form of black, raven-winged skeletons. Some say that deserving souls are even sprung from Hell by the efforts of the Angels of Death.
There are many courts scattered about the Pit of Envy, handling not only the trials of the damned, but also the disputes of the Devils. Thus, all castes of Devils can be found in the Pit of Envy, but the Accuser Devils are naturally the most numerous. When they are not handling the suits of others, the Accuser Devils will sue each other for wrongs both actual and imagined.
In the center of the Pit of Envy is the great Archdevil of Envy, known as the Crooked Serpent and the Father of Lies. He appears as a titanic, serpentine creature with numerous small legs, fins, and wings, with his tail stuck in the ice of the swamp. A second look reveals that his body actually consists of a series of grotesque reptilian monsters, eternally trying to swallow each other from behind. He is attended by a host of Accuser Devils, who perpetually read him accounts of all the trials conducted in the Pit. The horrible monster is said to know all the secrets of anyone it encounters, including having use of all magic spells those people carry in their memories. The Crooked Serpent cannot escape the imprisoning ice of the Pit, because that ice is the manifestation of Envy itself, the cold inability to ever feel joy for the good fortune of another.
Harrowing The Pit of Envy
Although the frozen swamp of Envy can seem endless, it is actually contained within a vast, deep crater. Built into the cold, steep cliffs are elaborate facades that each mark an entrance into a palace, legal library, or evidence vault tunneled out of the solid rock. The facades are set at various heights along the rock face, linked to the icy floor of the pit by an extensive network of exterior ramps and staircases. The structures are owned by various Accuser Devils, and inspection of the facades will reveal that every one appears to have been vandalized and subsequently rebuilt, sometimes unskillfully. That is because each Accuser Devil employs a gang of Tormentor Devils to deface the facades belonging to its rival Accuser Devils, and another band to protect its own facades and repair damage.
The palaces, libraries, and vaults are perhaps the most interesting areas of the Pit of Envy, from the point of view of someone who wishes to wrest treasure from Hell. The subterranean palaces of the Accuser Devils themselves are richly appointed, but subject to constant pilfering at the hands of the gangs of Tormentor Devils employed by rivals.
The libraries of the Pit contain volumes that detail the laws that govern not only Hell, but every other place in the Cosmos. Also present in the libraries are books that contain the secret sins and crimes of every sentient being, although finding the desired volume is a exercise in boundless danger and crushing frustration.
The evidence vaults of the Pit contain the simulacrums that are presented at the various trails in the Pit. Although these simulacrums look and react as if they were real, they are actually masses of rotted flesh, insects, and serpents, disguised by illusions. Also stored in the vaults are the instruments of torture that are used in court (the actual torture itself being performed publicly, so all can enjoy it).
The tunneled-out areas of the cliff wall connect to an extensive series of slimy caverns infested with various reptilian monsters. These caverns link up to the seemingly endless cave and tunnel system that eventually leads to the other Pits of Hell, and even the mundane world. The cave system is sometimes exploited as a backdoor method of entering the Pit, by other spirits and their mortal agents.