To Chance with Hell (Planescape)
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Welcome to the place in the planes where all the refuge goes! Gehenna is a place where mercy is absent. Its four volcanic peaks mirror this despair, offering no stable footing, only razor sharp edges and the occasional rockslide. Even the River Styx manages to be more dangerous here than on any other plane, filled with rapids and sudden drops. If the [Gray Waste]] is home to mental despair, Gehenna is home to its physical counterpart.
The plane is ruled by yugoloths, evil outsiders who often act as mercenaries in the Blood War. They’re the living definition of treachery; yugoloths have been known to attack their own kind to “save” a hapless adventurer, hoping to collect a reward.
By Jerini ap Nuatha
The Bleak Eternity of Gehenna, the Fourfold Furnace of Perdition, the bastion of the yugoloths. None of these names can fully encompass the reality of the plane. Gehenna embodies the concepts of greed, control, and self-serving evil tinged with enough law to create a hierarchy in which will is all that matters. That is, the will of the strong, for all others must follow or be ground to dust under the machinations and power struggles that consume those of true ambition. Yet even they are fooled, deceived by their own delusions of free will. Of all the planes, Gehenna is one of the least desirable destinations for a petitioner, for here amid the four mounts there is no chance of rising to become a fiend and gaining a taste of real power. Here there is no such hope, no hope at all, for even the most driven and capable of petitioners are at best simple resources for the yugoloths. True there are opportunities, albeit small ones, to rise to prominence as a tool of the “loths”, but there is forever an upper limit to how far one can climb, and so very far for one to fall.
Are you not lucky then, my nameless friend, that with your skin as my parchment, your life shall come to some better use? No, do not waste your energy trying to speak. There is no need to thank me.
Gehenna exists as perhaps the smallest Outer Plane of the Great Wheel. Its four layers are each a great fiery mountain only a few hundred thousands miles across, though suspended in a truly infinite and starless void. Each mount has its own characteristics, its own persona, but each is without pity or kindness, refusing even to grant level ground upon which to stand. There is not one foot of flat surface anywhere upon the plane, save in one of the few domains where a power exists to bend the plane or where the yugoloths have carved out areas for their own citadels. Oh, if one can avoid falling, rockslides, and streams of lava then Gehenna might seem pleasant compared to some of the more vicious Lower Planes. But that, like everything here, is exactly how we wish it to seem.
The yugoloths are the true power within Gehenna. We first began forging the plane from nothingness in the early days of Creation, with it becoming fit for the mass of the yugoloth race to migrate to only a few eons ago. We have held a stranglehold upon it since that time, controlling transit across the plane by the River Styx, as well as the few passable routes overland. It is fair to say that the yugoloths directly mirror the ideals of Gehenna: the strong control the weak, power is everything, and everything is admissible in that rise to power. One makes their own truth, while laws and rules are followed only as long as they remain useful. Likewise, the “loths” of Gehenna will tolerate a blood only as long as they can be made a tool or have power enough of their own to garner a grudging respect. Naturally, bargains are held to the letter of the law only as long as the agreement suits the fiend in question, but provided their convenience in holding to it, any agreement can be made.
The petitioners of Gehenna are rarely in a position to offer anything of value to the yugoloth, and thus live lives of constant misery and torment, making a meager yet defiant existence for themselves while ever fearful of native monsters, the progress of the Blood War, the sloping land, and the alternating fiery, frigid, or acidic environment they dwell on. They are spiteful and eternally selfish, mirroring the sentiments of the plane and its masters. The petitioners cling to the idea of free will and its expression, even if they no longer have any, even if their fate here within the Furnace of Perdition makes the concept a mockery. They are the evil that will do anything, betray anyone, and pay any cost in order to further their own ends. Never mind that the same ambition which keeps them standing ensures they are ever alone and weak, never mind that it is their selfishness that leads them to turn upon one another, without fail. They can only be bargained with when given a deal they cannot refuse, and even then, simply out of disgust of the outsider who, unlike them, is capable of trusting another soul, they‘ll sometimes betray them anyways.
Do you writhe now at the declaration of your doom? Rejoice, for your life will serve some purpose. Upon your flesh a testament is being written to the nature of the Fourfold Furnace and the fate of those who live here, a warning to all outsiders that come thinking to find fortune and power in hell. Is it more difficult to accept with all your memories taken from you? I assure you, your life was no better before I found you floundering in Styx. Yet the more you move now, the slower I must dig my blade and the less your skin shall serve as worthy parchment for my words.
Khalas, the first mountain layer of Gehenna, is crisscrossed by steep valleys, sporadic pits, and more frequently than not by raging battles of the Blood War. It exists as a great mountain of black obsidian and basalt, casting a crimson glow out into the ebon void, shadows stretching upwards from the dim flaming light. Tributaries of the River Styx reach the layer and steaming, boiling waterfalls fall from the slopes, mixing with the flaming rivers of magma that cross the surface and fill the air with a mixture of burning ash and boiling wind. Sitting upon the quickly plunging and cascading rush of the Styx lies the Teardrop Palace, seat of power and domain of Sung Chiang, the Chinese Pantheon‘s Lord of Thieves. The god‘s avatars are more willing than most to sit down and deal with visitors, but everything about the realm makes it clear how little one matters in the eyes of Sung Chiang. Khalas also connects to the gate-town of Torch in the Outlands. However, with the gate suspended in midair arrivals are bound to make their entrance by tumbling hundreds of feet down the mountainside and off into the void. Members of the Fraternity of Order determined to get a foothold in Gehenna have of late made efforts to maintain an outpost next to the gate, but unless you‘re explicitly welcomed and expected by the faction they‘re unlikely to lend a hand in aid.
Chamada, the second furnace of Gehenna, is perhaps the most dangerous, with its perpetually burning slopes covered in vast rivers of magma and dotted with spontaneous, explosive eruptions. The air is filled with a near constant rain of soft gray ash, blown in intervals of near storm-like intensity and periods of almost gentle ash fall. The burning slopes of the second mount are home to the Tower of the Arcanaloths, citadel of the planners, wizards, and contract binders of their race, a blot of utter evil even within the plane itself. The massive, mile wide and tall tower, decorated in bladed spires and etched in glowing runes holds the records of the yugoloth race and their own meticulous records of the course of the Blood War. Every contract and every betrayal is recorded here in perfect detail within untold miles of titanic carved vaults where petitioners lie strung and branded like books and parchments upon hooks and lines farther than the eyes can see, knowing only their pain and the details branded into their flesh.
Mungoth, the third furnace of perdition floats within the void in contrast to the first two layers and a harbinger of the fourth. While the Khalas and Chamada are covered in flame and burning rivers of magma, Mungoth is a dying volcanic mount, its slopes covered in ice and snow, broken only by the occasional minor eruption and a brief river of lava. The air, while peppered with ash, is more typically whipped through with blizzards and rains of acidic snow strong enough to strip the flesh from the unprepared. The petitioners of the layer are understandably hostile in their pain and discomfort, especially given that the layer is also home to Loviatar, the Finnish and Faerunian goddess of pain and torture. A rare spot of shelter from the layer‘s weather can be found in the Valley of the Outcast, an isolated chasm jutting deep into the basalt and ruled by a fire giant wizardress named Tastuo. She lives in constant fear of her enemies, but she is willing to provide shelter as long as visitors might wish so long as they threaten no harm. If you are not wise enough to question the reasons for such generosity, however, it‘s doubtful you‘ll live long enough to set eyes upon her haven. Krangath, the fourth furnace of perdition is a furnace in name only. In truth, the mount died untold millennia ago. A dead volcanic cone, its heat lost to the leeching of the void, leaving it a frozen husk, Krangath is abandoned by most of the planes residents. Even the yugoloths are less frequent here, though ever watchful of the layers residents, which include one of the powers of the orcish pantheon and Melif the Lich Lord, a powerful arch-Lich and, as some would suggest, an actual power. Little here is of interest to outsiders, unless they seek to visit in worship to the orcish powers of the layer, or to avail themselves of the necromantic magics of the tomb city of Hopelorn, demesne of Melif. Melif is paranoid and perhaps insane in undeath, fearful of the wrath of the yugoloth, against which his own power would be meaningless. Visitors, regardless of their power or intent, would do well to remain respectful, if the Lichlord doesn‘t simply kill them first.
Is there more to Gehenna? Yes, there certainly is. But let these words discourage planewalkers from seeking adventure in our little plane. Some may question the trustworthiness of my account, as well they should. No matter. Most will be wise enough to take their travels ever elsewhere, while the foolish will provide a ready supply of tools, slaves, and of course, more parchment.
Torch (Outland Gate-Town)
Description by Teman Albrack
Torch isn‘t exactly what one would call friendly. It‘s full of knights of the post and berks looking to sell information to or about you. The place is best described as a bit of gilt floating on top of scum, and that applies to the people, the place, the society, and even the food. So, I fully recommend you spend some time there, at least once. Afterwards you‘ll have an appreciation for the Dustmen‘s view of this life.
Torch is perched on and around three active volcanoes, called Karal, Maygel, and Dohin. The volcanoes are surrounded by murky acid-filled swamps, populated with giant frogs, rats, plague insects, and anything else disgusting that you can imagine. Once you get near the gate-town, get used to looking up—it’s what most of the berks in this burg do. Between the continuous haze of light that illuminates the area at all hours and the occasional lava flow, the locales are always up, always active. They‘re smart enough to have no interest in seeing the town slip into Gehenna, as for the most part that would make them very small fish in a very large pond.