Hell is a Hieronymus Bosch painting made after 1490.

Vadim, the Hell Tried, led an ill-fated expedition to the Infernal Realm. He lost. And he won.

Pursuing Bargasus, a great devil who had ravaged five villages, Vadim cried, “We shall avenge you! Justice demands we pursue him to Hell itself!”

Thus he and his companions disappeared through a magic portal leading beyond Midgard, and they eventually reached the Pit. Vadim and his company—a knight and his troop of paladins, plus Alane, a skilled archer whom Vadim loved—made surprisingly good progress, slipping past guarded gateways and beneath the shadows of enormous iron fortresses. They battled devils and terrible monsters as they made their way to the realm of Insidius Vlor, Duke of Kovacis, where an ambush at the Pits of Despair separated the companions. The infernal duke captured Vadim.

The devils tempted him with many trials—yet kept him alive—in hope of turning his soul to evil. First, he was locked in a dungeon. As days and weeks went by, it was clear he could never escape. He found that he could not contact his god to replenish his spells. After many days he grew more and more hungry. At this point, Insidius Vlor visited him.

“I will feed you this banquet I brought for you if you will denounce your god and join my infernal armies,” the duke offered.

Vadim struggled to resist the wonderful sights and smells of roasted meat, fresh bread, and frothy ale before him. “Life is more than food,” he said at last. “It is better to die of hunger than to eat and give your life to evil.”

So the duke decided he could not turn Vadim with hunger and gave him cheap victuals to eat.

Some time later, he brought out Vadim and led him to a beautiful palace. It was opulently decorated and the interior was comfortable and sweet smelling.

“Sit down and make yourself comfortable,” the duke offered.

As Vadim sat and looked around, a woman appeared and approached them.

“As you can see,” observed the devilish duke, “Alane has already decided to join me.”

Vadim looked up at her and said, “No! It’s a trick!”

But the newly horned Alane bent over and whispered in his ear and Vadim knew it was his beloved. He buried his face in his hands in horror. Vadim had persuaded her to join his rash crusade. And now she was one with the cause of Hell!

“Enter service to His Dis-Grace,” she murmured, “and you and I will be together forever.”

Though utterly dismayed, Vadim still refused to abandon virtue and join the duke. Back in his cell, he wept for many days.

After untold weeks, Vadim was again brought out by Insidius Vlor and led to a cobbled square where a huge devil was chained between great obsidian pillars. It was none other than the horned devil Bargasus, the one he had pursued all the way from Midgard. Snapping a long barbed whip, the duke bellowed, “Here is your quarry! I will give him to you to punish any way you desire. Or if you wish, have him disjoined into a swarm of lemurs for ninety-nine years! Only give me your pledge that you will join my infernal armies.” Then, drawing closer, he spoke softly, “I could surely find a replacement for him, but instead I will give you his rank and position as well!”

At this, Vadim the high priest paused and considered for the first time. After several long moments, he replied, “No. I cannot accept your offer for I have already pledged my service to my lord Volund.”

In a rage, the duke threw his great whip to the paving stones with a terrible noise and seized Vadim by the throat. He almost tore Vadim to pieces, but then, glaring into Vadim’s frightened eyes, he threw up his arm and a cloud of black brimstone transported the pair to a craggy cliff overlooking a vast and terrible pit of boiling blood. The mortals languishing therein suffered horrible torment as pitiless devils poked with needle-sharp forks any trying to escape the bubbling gore.

Insidius Vlor held Vadim by the shoulders over the steaming cauldron a hundred fathoms down. “You worthless servant of the celestials! Do you imagine that you have any value to . . . your god?” he yelled unwilling to pronounce the Forger’s name. “You are a fool to come to Hell against the counsel of your own father. Yes, I know he told you not to come—that it would not serve the cause of justice. See what your foolishness has wrought? Do you think that your god will take you back now, since you have brought ruin to his paladins on such a failed mission? And what about Alane? How will you explain her fate to her family? Do you imagine that your solitary return will bring you anything but excommunication and your church anything but unspeakable infamy? YOU will be a vagabond and a derision to all who see you and know the shame of your failure!”

“I AM a fool!” Vadim cried. “I wanted to bring revenge upon Bargasus. In my pride I led my comrades and my true love on a hopeless crusade. I deserve to be dropped in this boiling pit and suffer a lifetime for what I have done!”

“Then suffer!”

And Insidius Vlor hurled Vadim down into the terrible boiling pit!

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