|Cosmology / Powers and Deities / Dramatis Personae /
Rules and Mechanics / Character Creation / Equipment
The ninth layer is the deepest realm of the Nine Hells, a plain shattered by rifts deeper than the deepest ocean trench. Many of the ravines and canyons here teach thousands of miles into undifferentiated, dead stone. Most of the trenches seem natural, but some appear as if they were cut or blasted into the land. Rumor has it that an offshoot of the Styx flows here and there, dropping into trenches and trickling its way across the layer. Few know how to reach this tributary, if it exists at all.
A rift of incredible depth and width lies immediately below the layer boundary between Cania and Nessus (the Pit up in Cania leads to Malsheem in Nessus). Malsheem, the Citadel of Hell, rises in its dark, elegant, fiendish beauty from the trench. The stronghold is monstrously large, rising miles above the plain. But like an iceberg above water, its visible spires and fortifications are small compared to the vast halls contained within the trench. Malsheem is the largest known citadel in the Outer Planes. It is big enough to house millions of devils, an army larger than any fielded in the Blood War. Asmodeus, master of Malsheem, Lord of the Ninth, and undisputed King of the Nine Hells, holds these hordes in reserve for a cataclysmic battle he foresees that will dwarf the “petty” maneuverings of the Blood War. The citadel is so vast that it is nigh unmappable; Malsheem’s secrets are known only to Asmodeus himself.
Brutally repressed rumors suggest that there is more to Asmodeus than he admits. The story goes that the true form of Asmodeus actually resides in the deepest rift of Nessus called the Serpent’s Coil. The shape seen by all the other devils of the Nine Hells in the fortress of Malsheem is actually a highly advanced use of the project image spell or an avatar of some sort. The secret rift, formed by Asmodeus’s plummeting body when he first arrived in the Nine Hells, spirals inward over the course of hundreds of miles. His titanic, mileslong form still rests here—and his wounds have yet to heal. His acid-black blood pools in the hollows of the rift, a substance fouler than foul.