There is a city at the frozen gates of Hell.
It is called Endurance and it is founded and maintained by pious people
of the land. Initially it was a just a small town, more of guerilla
outpost with a purpose of sneaking around, getting an intelligence on
demons and preventing the escape of stray souls out of Hell. Over time
paladins, clerics and templars, holy sages and warriors, sacred
arcanists and experts made the city a huge citadel, the starting point
of many crusades against Hell. Its shining light was is an obvious sore,
– demons gnawed on it with siege armies, brimstone leviathans and
subtle vice, yet without much success.
In such close proximity to Hell piety was not entirely a moral
choice, but also a necessity, protecting mortals from vapours and
whispers of Hell like a hazmat suit. Somebody’s sinning not only
questioned their purpose of being there, but made them – and the city –
vulnerable to environment, temptations and possessions. Through that,
the holy calling and the strict moral conditioning Endurance was the most
crystal-cut city of goodness in the whole land.
It still is. Amidst the ravaging, scraping, sickening, fading,
cut-throat and, more than everything, dying tribes of the rest world,
Endurance still stands as a shining beacon of goodness.
They still have heat and light.After all of the world, Hell
including, froze over Endurance still stands,
and maintain civilization, and prays, and follows the rules of goodness,
justice and mercy – no kidding, no sinister underlays, no totalitarian
state masquerading as goodness, it sincerely does.
They don’t venture out on crusades anymore, through. The Hell is just
as dead as the rest of the world and outer gates of Endurance are
pressed against a glacier tens-kilometre thick. It is the city under
siege of its own world and, as in every besieged city, everything is
But to remind you, Endurance stood at the gates of the Hell.
They are used to sieges.
It is just that nature of piety changed a bit.
You see, in order to have sufficient heat and light, the demons that burn in
each household must be fed. Demons ‘eat’ sins and sinners, and while
people are too valuable resource to waste, sin can be relatively easily
Sins in Endurance are quite meagre. Household demons, those refugees from Hell that managed to reach Endurance in desperate flight
before the world collapsed, would probably pass over such sins in better
times. But now it is all that they have. They are part of Endurance now
and have to survive on scarce resources just like everybody else.
City didn’t abandon piety. If anything, the piety became ironclad
because it is now the only way of survival. Without awareness of moral
decadence the sin would be meaningless – wolves don’t sin when they
kill, they just follow their nature, and demons won’t be able to sustain
themselves on wolves. To achieve its full potency, the sin must be raw,
full of remorse and regret after the action, it cannot become a habit,
just a a prayer cannot become a habit if somebody still wishes to keep
their divine powers, however they are scarce after the world's end, under silent skies. On another hand, too much of the sin and the city,
while shining brightly, will fall into anarchy and eventually kill
itself. Immortal demons understand this too well and they feed in moderation, because
neither of them wants to die.
So people of Endurance fornicate, and beat their spouses, and steal,
and spread maliciously envious gossips, and pridefully boast, and
stockpile more than they should. And then, after the demons are fed,
they pray and atone, and give to the poor, and make amends to their
victims, and humbly service to public with deep and sincere regrets. The sin tax system is set than nobody has to sin more than they should, and
households take shifts. As soon as children are able to perceive and
reason, they are made aware of the system and how important it is, and
why. The system is just and merciful, if not for an occasional hiccup
when the city is hit by ice-heavy storms and requires more heat.
Amidst the frozen world, at gates on frozen Hell, Endurance still stands, shining brightly.