The Lords of the Abiding Veil are the rulers of Uncity, the eternal holding pen where souls wait for their final judgement. Once sentenced, they are sent through one of seven Gates to meet their fate. Each Gate reflects either the virtue or the wickedness of the soul being judged. A soul who has led a moral life will go through the first gate, behind which, it is believed, lies Rusalok’s Infinite Garden. The man who is pure wickedness will enter the seventh and most feared Gate, behind which it is claimed lies The Daemons’ Pleasure. One can only imagine what awaits the judged of the Seventh! It is thought that various angels, seraphs and daemons guard these worlds, their kindness or depravity reflected by the type of Afterlife they monitor and guard.
The Seven Gates are located on the south west side of Uncity, just within the boundary of the city itself, before it gives way to the marshlands and forests beyond. Why there exactly, nobody knows, because nobody was there when the gates were first constructed. They have always been here, so it is contended. Entering into the Ring of Gates, the name given to the open-air arena in which the gates are located, the seven portals form an enormous ring roughly five hundred meters in diameter, each one positioned at exactly the same distance from another, like the markings on a clockface. Though of the same dimensions – roughly fifty meters high and half that across – each gate has a distinct appearance. Some are oval in shape, whilst others look more like obelisks, but each one appears stamped with clues regarding the nature of the Afterlife they lead to.
Gate1: Rusalok’s Infinite Garden
The first Gate is known as Rusalok’s Infinite Garden, and it is obvious why. Seraphs stand directly behind the Gate’s entrance, their wispy arms sliding up and down its frame, beckoning the few who have been elected to pass through it with encouraging, slowly moving hands.
Pure waters spill gently out of the Gate and onto the marshland of Uncity, a site at which two worlds quite literally meet in sodden, pooling grasses. Looking through the Gate, one can see the immediate scene: bright flowers and lush, verdant hillsides frame each side. In the distance, a city of pure white marble can be glimpsed far, rotund structures built upon one another until the whole disappears into a sky resembling water. The occasional bird plunges through it, rippling its surface and sending concentric coils out across its infinite expanse. The gate’s frame seems more of that world than Uncity’s, as though Rusalok’s Infinite Garden has exploded into life here, its growth and fecundity an irrepressible force that will not be held back by small considerations of dimensional separation. Thick branches and vines wrap tightly around each other to form a huge, circular doorway, the buds of leaves and fruit in an eternal state of expectation and hope.
Gate 2: The Mirror (Guardians Spirits: Children of the Cimeries)
The second Gate is called the Mirror, a huge portal that reflects the marshland of Uncity across its face, only in an optically distorted way, so that the grasses and wet bogs that extend all the way to the far away forests create a tunneled illusion within the gate, a cylindrical mural of sorts which, if one stares at it long enough, transfixes the mind to the point where one forgets oneself.
It is believed that on the other side of the gate, a world of unlived opportunities awaits the sinner, a land in which the inhabitant experiences nothing but eternal regrets and the ever-gnawing anxiety that had one acted differently in life, they may have experienced a more fulfilling existence both before and after death. The Afterlife of the Mirror is all illusion, all metaphor, all desire, and the persistent feeling of lack. It is said that the Afterlife of the mirror is populated by the children of the Cimeries, youngsters who forever transform from one person into another, mocking reminders of the individual the sinner could have been or should have been. It is enough to drive one to madness.
Gate 3: The Wandering Plain (Guardian Spirits: Daughters of Halpas)
The third Gate is said to open into The Wandering Plain, and looking through it, it is clear to see why. The grim wetlands of Uncity’s periphery merge imperceptibly with those that appear on the other side of the Gate and disappear into the medial distance, whereby a dark forest of pines cloaks the foot of a dreary mountain range whose upper reaches are obscured by a permanent, thick fog.
The scene through the gate is forever drab; rain wets the expansive plain, soaking it into natural streams and small rivers whose surfaces are ruffled by strong, horizontally gusting winds. It looks cold. Inhospitable. And that is the point. Here, on the Wandering Plain, there is no shelter or reprieve from the elements, neither warmth nor comfort to be had. Instead, the natural world of this Afterlife seems deliberately designed to discomfort and torment, the ache and weariness precipitated by one’s wet clothes and cold bones an eternally lived experience. Here, the land is lorded over by the daughters of Halpas, children of the Stork king himself, great flying creatures who survey the plain beneath to ensure not one inhabitant finds rest or protection from the weather. It is said they sleep in the pine trees of that far off forest, taking it in turns to patrol the Afterlife and chastise those tired, bedraggled sinners who would look for respite. But there is none to be had; there is only the rain, which day after day drives across the landscape without end.
Gate 4: Of Mortar and Pestle (Guardian Spirits: Clergy of Raum)
So called for the appalling scenes depicted on the walls of this obelisk gateway which fourth-tier sinners must pass through. The column is by far the tallest gate of the seven and looms ominously over every other in the Division Bell. Its surfaces are washed in movement, twisting shapes that slowly writhe beneath a shroud that wraps around the entirety of the structure.
On closer inspection, the shapes are arms, legs, faces, languidly, weakly clawing at the gauze that smothers them, the outlines of a thousand human mouths suffocating beneath it, sucking at the imaginary air. Lower down the obelisk, heavily cloaked figures peer down on those that approach it, each one carrying a mortar and pestle. With robed hands they stir and crush the human bones that are its contents. Those who pass through this gate, it is contended, face an afterlife of cannibalism, force-fed the flesh of those they have wronged in life, physically or otherwise. The punishment is overseen by the clergy of Raum (the daemon of greed and spite), twisted priests who forever dole out the appaling food and oversee its consumption by sinners.
Gate 5: The Shattered Trail (Guardian Spirits: Disciples of Asmoday)
The Shattered Trail lies behind the fifth Gate, a long, winding path up the face of a mountain whose peak is not discernable through the portal. The path runs like a jagged scar, criss-crossing the face of the mountain before terminating at the upper reaches and then descending. And that is it.
The sinner has no choice but to walk, and keep walking, else they are frozen in place, doomed to look upon the world before them as spectators, entombed but eternally conscious, alive but in perpetual agony from the chill. Some choose such a fate rather than continue the climb, but for those whose hope in a better future is as incurable as the fear and despair they feel towards the present, they ascend and descend, wishful that this time things will turn out differently. The disciples of Asmody are said to be guardians of the trail, large, beaked creatures who mock sinners as they navigate the path, throwing stones at them which bruise and injure. They pick up the suicides who have thrown themselves from the mountain’s peak and set them on their feet again, for here, there is no escape through death. In the Afterlife, death is forever.
Gate 6: Valley of Oil (Guardian Spirits: Sons of Flauros)
Behind the sixth gate lies what souls call the Valley of Oil. Through the gateway, fires can be seen raging on both sides of a deep trench that exits into a wide basin whose surface glows like roasting coals. Dotted across the vale, large, identical structures bow and bend like hobby horses, pouring onto the cracked earth oil from huge, swinging vats.
The earth explodes when the liquid makes contact and storms of fire race outwards, like terrible waves of a cyclonic sea. Nothing can live here except the sinners unfortunate enough to call this place home. With each vat that empties, with each eruption of heat and flame, the sinners’ skin is burnt from their flesh, so that there is never a moment when the meaning of excruciating, impossible pain is not known and felt. If that was not enough, the sons of Flauros reside here, walking the land and whipping the miscreants with flails, tearing pieces of flesh from weeping raw bodies and tossing them into the fires. The Gate itself speaks of terror, its oval shape a monstrous, mad eye that flexes and pulses expectantly, its frame an intensely compacted, heated vapour that hisses in the air. It is hard to meet it with one’s gaze, so souls tend not to look, even as they are thrown through it into the valley itself.
Gate 7: The Daemon’s Pleasure
The seventh Gate is believed to lead to the Afterlife known as The Daemons’ Pleasure. It is of the same dimensions as the others, a sort of egg shaped orb made of sharp, bent steel, as though its frame has been subjected to aeons of blasting. Unlike the other gates, nothing can be made out of the landscape and world that lies behind the portal.
It is shrouded in something that resembles molten lava, a swirling liquid-like coagulant that turns slowly counterclockwise. Every so often, the face of the gate darkens as shadows pass behind it, amorphous and undefined, before disappearing within the tumult. A scaffold about twenty meters high faces the Seventh. Here the sentenced climb, and when the time arrives, they are thrown into the portal by guards, a ceremonial spectacle that adds weight to the seriousness of crimes that must have been committed for someone to end up here, looking directly into the eye of the Seventh. It is the last place anyone in Uncity wants to end up in when they first arrive, and it is the first place they think of when they lie in bed on the eve of their sentencing, wracking their brains for any deeds they committed in life that could see them condemned to pass through the Seventh.