Punishment. (A reimagining of Hell)

Avernus was a vast and beautiful continent, located at the edge of the Kingdom. It was surrounded by a large river that sprawled far into the horizon, with every part of it that was not tamed by people being covered in forests. And at its very centre, a bright red lake — its crowning jewel.

The sunlight of the Kingdom’s endless day was making its way through the forests, whose autumnal leaves turned it into warm pastels, covering the continent in eerie reflections of orange and red shades.

The foaming river around Avernus kept its citizens locked in, with newcomers being thrown off boats onto its banks every day. You could often catch people staring into the river’s depths, mesmerised by its eerie glows, grasping at their lost memories of a world that laid beyond it.

Many tried to swim their way out, but the unforgiving currents spat them back on the shores time and time again.

Everyone knew they were trapped, but the region itself was vibrant and full of life. Wars and violence, like all sins and desires, became nothing more than echoes of distant memories — after all, there was nowhere to go and nothing worth fighting over. For better or worse, people were living peacefully and life was good. For many of them, it was even better than anything they’ve known beyond the river, whether they remembered it or not.

But their newfound ways of life were darkened by the shadow of their purpose. A mission that kept them enslaved to their old ways, trapped in the cycle of violence they have tried so hard to put behind them. A mission none dared question, fearing the wrath of the King.

For you see, past the river, busy streets and lush forests, far into the lake, there was a small island that broke the otherwise perfect line of the horizon. The orange sunset and reflections of the leaves paled in comparison to its crimson colour.

On that island, a deformed man was tied with heavy chains, bound to a large rock. The man had been beaten, burnt, cut and skinned alive more times than he could remember. His blood, both fresh and dried, was soaking the ground and flowing into the lake, giving it its red tint.

But of all his grievous wounds, the worst of all remained the bones sticking out of his back, no doubt little more than broken ribs at this point. He was still aching for the parts of himself he’d lost — the parts that were taken from him.

A group of four men was paddling away on a wooden boat, having fulfilled their gruesome duty for the day. In the distance, they saw another boat heading for the island. When they got close, they waved to the other group — at this point, the greetings had became a daily ritual, driven by force of habit.

Only this time, something was different — the men were unsettled, their eyes fixated on the hooded figure sitting in the boat headed for the island. They met his gaze for a moment before turning away in fear and paddling more vigorously towards the shore.

The injured man grunted and looked defiantly at the men stepping out of the boat. He was utterly disfigured, but his dark blue eyes were full of conviction, stating the same defiant message they have been repeating for ages: “You haven’t broken me yet.”

The hooded figure was the first to step out of the boat, his brittle and sickly silhouette overshadowed by the three large men standing behind him. The wrinkles on his face betrayed his age, but his eyes remained young, studying the prisoner intently. Dropping his hood, he stared at the prisoner with pity and sorrow in his gaze.

Recognising the figure that was long etched into his memory, the tied man tried to scream, but all that came out of his charred lungs were gurgled noises, covered by the cacophony of his chains rattling.

“I’ve missed you, my son.”

After shooting a look of hatred to his father and through a slur of unintelligible curses, he finally turned his attention to the crew that was towering behind him. They were not the real threat, but the anger and passion in their eyes was one that most people of Avernus have long forgotten.

They must have been new here.

With that, Lucifer took a deep breath and steeled himself in anticipation of the vicious torture the new-come sinners had in store for him.

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