The Decimated

By Moe Lane


It's astounding, really.

It's a fact - an incontrovertible fact - that one of every ten damned souls that arrive in Hell is immediately claimed by silent servants of Lucifer and whisked away to the Lower Hells. It's a fact - an indisputable fact - that none of these souls are never seen again. It's a fact - an irrefutable fact - that no demon ever voluntarily visits the Lower Hells, and certainly none ever voluntarily talks about that place. Even Demon Princes are reticent about their visits there. The conclusion is clear: what goes on down there must be foul beyond compare, even for Hell. But that's not the astounding bit.

The astounding bit is that nobody ever seems to think about the implications.

After all, just why would the Lower Hells and its presumptive citizenry be such a mystery? What does Lucifer gain from such a situation? As it is, the entire Infernal realm lives in abject fear of him anyway, from the lowest soul-grub to the highest Prince - and they have done so from the founding of Hell. As for 'foul beyond compare' - well, in theory having the ultimate punishment be hidden is a good idea, but it falls down in practice. Most souls in Hell have neither the inclination nor the time to be introspective (if they had either, they might have avoided being damned): this is one place where things are usually sufficiently bad that the concept of 'worse' simply does not have the same impact. Besides, what could be 'worse' than being slowly tortured into oblivion, in order to fuel the War to destroy everything that is good and right with the universe?

And as for demons and the Lower Hells - sorry, it doesn't make sense from that angle either. There's nothing that Lucifer could be doing Down There that isn't already being done by one or more of the Princes in the Higher Hells. The vivisection and torture of humans? Just about all of the Princes do that routinely. Dangerous and probably unwise experimentation? That's how Vapula starts the day. Slaking of dark Needs? Frankly, that would probably improve Hell's collective morale. In other words, anything so vile as to be beyond any mere demon's experience in sin and depravity is probably too arcane for them to even recognize - so, what's going on Down There, and why doesn't anyone think about it more?

Well... to get an answer, you'd have to do a few trivial things. The first would be to get out of Hell (as I said, trivial, right?); next, you'd have to make it into Heaven and be Redeemed (another trivial exercise). Once Redeemed, your next step would be to go into Destiny's service (not the most difficult thing, but then not the easiest, either). Once serving Destiny, it would be time to rise in the ranks by proving your worthiness and newfound willingness to serve, until you had free reign of the Library. It would be then that you would actually be told about the Special Collection. Once you had crossed those bridges, surely the task of convincing Yves himself that you could handle going in there would be a piece of cake, right?

Once those simple obstacles were hurdled, the next step becomes harder: you have to ignore just about everything in there. Skip past the Testament of Lucifer. Ignore the Book of Fate. Spurn the Prophecies of Uriel and cast aside the Temptations of Yahweh. Go all the way into the back, to where a simple cardboard box lies between stone tablets written in a script that predates this universe and a jeweled crystal with letters inscribed on it in fire.

Pull out the box. In it, you'll find ... well, snapshots. Lots of them, in no particular order: they each show a different person, engaged in various activities. Each person is wearing a simple brown robe with what appears to be a golden circle pinned to one shoulder. Some of the people are eating, some are writing, not a few are praying: in short, people doing people-like things. None of them seem particularly happy or sad: if there's a particular emotion prevalent among them, it's ... resolution, or maybe determination. No matter how many snapshots you take out, the box remains full.

But, if you look long enough, you'll realize two things. One is the background: as you look at more and more snapshots, you'll realize that none of these photos were ever taken on the corporeal plane - and that the place that these humans are apparently living is too stable to be in the Marches. And they certainly aren't in Heaven: even a former demon can tell when someone is joyful, and these people certainly aren't. Not in pain or torment, mind: just not... joyful. The second thing you'll notice is that all of the individuals praying are doing so under identical tapestries. What with all the different angles of the snapshots, it takes a while to make out what the tapestry represents. But, with a little effort and a lot of table space, you can arrange out a fairly decent gestalt. That's when you shudder.

These people are apparently praying to a golden scaled dragon, descending from the sun on wings of pure Light...


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