(BF19) Ragnablok Epilogue: The End is the Beginning

BrikWars fiction in long-prose form. Trigger warning: Walls of text

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(BF19) Ragnablok Epilogue: The End is the Beginning

Post by Bookwyrm » Tue Dec 31, 2019 11:40 pm

{Note: The full piece was going to end up being too long, despite my attempts to trim down, so keep an eye here, I will add pictures and more POVs once judging is over, some of which will tie into the rest of my Konvergence report.}

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~2~

The hustle and bustle of the Deadly Space Master Builder outpost ground abruptly to a halt as a small contingent of troops wearily made their way back into the base, clutching their wounds and half dragging their weapons behind them. At the head of the company, a warrior in white and lime green power armor hauled a worn wooden chest behind him with one arm, his other supporting a yellow-clad DSM engineer who was missing one of his legs.

“Medik!” The Master Builder Primus’ voice, a synthesized croak emanating from the reflective bluish surface of his helmet, stirred the rest of the base to action, as several DSM mediks in bright pink space suits rushed over to the battered group and began to radiate the most heavily wounded soldiers with their long medikal wands, closing lacerations and regenerating damaged flesh where the soothing azure energy touched. The Motivator-Class commander leading the medikal brigade paced quickly over to the DSMB Primus and helped him lower the engineer to the ground, and began waving her healing scanner over the hapless spaceman’s stump, gradually reconstructing the damage, and turned to her leader.

“What happened? We’d been monitoring the Konvergence, but we lost signal six hours ago. Was your mission successful, my Primus?” The Master Builder tapped a few buttons on a console located on his wrist, and the power armor surrounding him opened and allowed him to shrug out of the bulky equipment. He stretched his arms and went over to the wooden chest, dragging it closer to the motivator, and opened the lid.

“Our mission was not entirely a success, but I have learned many things, and our primary objective, the retrieval of these artifakts, was achieved. I was not able to reunite them with their true master, however. The destructive power of the Nexus proved to be too much for my men to handle, and we were not able to reach the Chosen One before he disappeared into the Singularitatem Nehellenium.” The motivator’s face fell.

“Then the prophecy… was it false? Did we place our faith in the Chosen One for nothing?”

“No.” The Master Builder Primus withdrew an archaic looking blade and a worn blaster with an OT crystal tip, similar to the weapons wielded by the MBA’s DSM Guardian Corps, but much older and humming almost imperceptibly with latent power. “The Blue Guy is the One we have been awaiting. He has brought balance to the old world, and in time, he will achieve his destiny in the new one.”

“But how? The Old Paradigm was utterly annihilated! He is trapped in its remains, and the Singularitatem was recovered by the Grand Galactic Empire according to what we were able to observe following the Nexus’ collapse…”

“That is what we must now turn our attention towards. Though we were unable to approach, I was able to observe, and I now have more knowledge regarding the nature of the black hole that has devoured the old universe. And I believe that there is more than one way to reach the world inside of the Nexus…”


~5~

Vasith Vindelvuur grasped the folds of his robe to lift them through the threshold of the dimensional gate, and wrinkled his face up in a grimace to adjust his spectacles as he passed through the thinned dimensional membrane, the surface a reflection of the area behind it, now distorted by ripples. The light in the space on the other side of the portal was a fair deal less bright than the gleaming star forge Hammerheart base he had left behind moments before, and his eyes adjusted to the new light level as he gathered in his surroundings. The others had already begun to arrive to the area, a demiplane prepared by himself and the Quantumsurfer ahead of time, and were taking their places around a peculiar cross-shaped table. The old mage looked around as other gates formed from spiraling multicolored flame, and more representatives filed in. Vasith returned a nod from Hektor Sootbeard, who had just entered the room, and paced over to the grizzled old dwarf, claiming a spot at the table next to him. The mild chatter died down as all attention turned to another figure in a maroon coat emerging from a portal, who adjusted his scarf over his shoulder and rapped twice on the wooden floor with a brass stave to quiet the assembled figures.

“Excellent, if everyone is here, then this meeting can be called to order.” Vasith piped up in response.

“Not quite everyone, it appears the delegation from Frostborne has yet to arrive.” The maroon-clad figure grimaced.

“Yes, there have been some… unfortunate complications with learning the whereabouts of my fellow Quantum Surfer following the Konvergence, but at this juncture it cannot be helped. If you would reach out to the current head of Frostborne upon your return to Medivo, we can discuss the election of an interim delegate until I am able to divine our friend Ken’s current position. Now then, you all should at least be passingly familiar with me at this point, but in case you were invited by another of our delegates to this gathering, let me formally introduce myself as Bookwyrm of Axeleron.”

“Everybody ‘ere knows ye at this point lad,” barked Sootbeard with a roll of his eyes as he nonchalauntly took out an ornate pipe from a pocket and began to load it with tobacco. “Ye haven’t stopped makin’ a nuisance of yerself for the past two months about this Watchtower business, jus’ get on with it already!” Bookwyrm eyed the gruff miner for a brief moment and continued.

“Thank you all for assembling on such short notice, and I do hope to keep this brief, for your sake especially Delegate Sootbeard, but I assure you this is an important next step in the establishment of a formal Watchtower Alliance. Now then, let us begin. Master Vindelvuur, would you be so kind as to start us off with an Overwatch of the situation at hand?”
Vasith dipped his head in acknowledgment.

“Thank you Master Bookwyrm. As our friend has mentioned, I am delegate Vindelvuur of the Hammerheart.” He withdrew a crystal wand from within his robes and waved it in a quick pattern, and the cross-shaped table in their midst opened up at the center to release a large floating spherical mirror. Gesturing again at the reflective orb with his wand, he willed the surface of the mirror to change, displaying brief moving images. “There are currently a great number of threats to the various Castle-Class Worlds scattered throughout the newly retkonstrukted Brikverse. Foremost of these is the continuing push for colonization by the various warbands of the Brootalz, as they are the largest and so far, most aggressive of the threats carried over from the old world, especially due to their habit of press-ganging entire ork populations to further swell their ranks.” At that, an elderly elf woman in dark clothing and wearing round-rimmed spectacles stepped forward.

“Delegate Lysthys of the Misty Isles. I must interject, that it can hardly be called press-ganging when the bleeding urks are practically throwing themselves at the new Warbawss in hopes of being allowed to join their ranks, and the technology these ‘Brootalz’ acquired from the urk population of Novium is only exacerbating the problem. They are like a weed, they grow and spread to any area of unoccupied space rapidly, and choke out any life that happens to share a space. We need to act against them as quickly as possible.” Vindelvuur nodded in agreement with the elf woman’s words

“You are correct that the Brootal expansion is our most pressing worry, however, I caution those present not to jump to aggression so hastily. There are other threats that are also aware of the expansion, and they will use it as an opportunity to pounce on our undefended flank should we become too deeply engaged with the obvious foe. The Black Horde of the Damned, while not present in every sector, has been observed building their forces on the outskirts of some of your systems, which should be watched closely lest they spiral out of control while we are all otherwise occupied. Also noteworthy is news that the Swarm has resurfaced in Perwar, and has begun sending seed meteors through rifts to reach new areas of the multiverse. They can very quickly go from a pest to a menace, so I recommend your scholars keep an eye on the sky in the coming months.” The white-haired leader of the Traveler’s Society stepped forward this time, looking to Vindelvuur for permission to add to the discussion. Vasith gave him an affirmative wave of the hand.

“Delegate Cantwell of the Traveler’s Society. I hate to add more to your plates, but I’d feel remiss not to add that the Esoterica Metavoth is also beginning to establish a foothold in the greater universe now that Axeleron is no longer isolated from the rest of the Brikverse. We know that they have already entered into an alliance with the much larger Universal Kult of Brikthulu, as well as the ‘mind flayer’ slavers of the neighboring Anno Galaxy, and likely will continue to find more allies as they learn how to better navigate the new paradigm. They are extremely dangerous, especially now that the fabric of reality has already taken a hell of a beating since the beginning of Ragnablok.” Bookwyrm nodded at this, and Vasith dispelled the images from the mirror ball before allowing it to drop back into its place inside the folding table.

“Indeed. I would advise extreme caution going forward for all of you and your people. The simple fact is that the old rules no longer apply in this new world, and things will likely start to get exceedingly… odd in the coming months.”

“‘Odd,’ he says,” added a knight in black and red armor with a rueful smirk and a twirl of his mustache. “Odd exactly how? Surely you can give us more than just that?”

“I wish I could, Delegate Farstride. Rest assured, as soon as I myself am fully aware of exactly what kind of oddities you might experience in this new broken universe, the Dragon Guard and the rest of the Watchtower Alliance will be the first to learn of them. All I know for certain is that the Pre-Konvergence universe swung much too far into the imposition of Order, which was the fatal flaw that allowed the forces of Ruin to infect and poison the old Nehellenium Galaxy, leading to the destruction of Ragnablok. Now, Ruin has been pushed back, but every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Now, it is extremely likely that the pendulum will swing the other way, into Khaos, and this does not necessarily mean it will always be for the better. You will all need to exercise prudence and stay vigilant for the sake of your people.”

“Now hold on jus’ a minute there boi!” said Sootbeard through a mouthful of smoke. “Yer talking about all this rot as if ye don’t plan to be present for tha inevitable shitstorm that breaks oot ‘ere any day now!” More eyes turned to Bookwyrm curiously, awaiting his response to the query. After a moment of thought, he spoke.

“I will be present, yes... when I am truly needed. However, for the moment, I’m sorry to say that it is imperative that I lie low for the time being and remain content with setting some things in motion behind the scenes, especially back on Axeleron and in the surrounding space. Much is happening backstage, and if this ‘play’ is to unfold as it is meant to, it is my responsibility as Custodian of Axeleron to make sure that the events backstage occur in their appointed time.” Vasith nodded in understanding.

“This is all well and good, and we will all do our best going forward to further the interests of our little alliance, but how ought we to proceed should you be ‘truly needed,’ as you say?” Bookwyrm gave a wry smile and slid a sealed envelope across the table to the mage in azure, and winked. “If the universe is about to shatter into a trillion pieces again, just send me a letter, and I’ll find you.”


~6~

Lights flickered on and off along the control panel as Doctor Solis’ fingers danced across its surface, flipping switches and turning dials in precise movements while other parts of the archaic machine gradually creaked to life. Several agents clad all in starched black suits stood at the ready behind her, awaiting the doctor’s orders.

“A-Gate model Epsilon-G5 systems online… Preparing to open hyperspace portal.” The doctor’s crisp voice spoke into a transmitter pinned to the lapel of her lab coat. “Permission to proceed?” Waiting for a response from the Seekers of Truth Mission Control, she turned to two of the men in black standing behind her and the console, and waved them towards the front of the room, where a large ring of machinery loomed over the small crowd of researchers and agents that filled the sealed lab. Adjusting her glasses with the end of her pen, Dr. Solis tapped a few more buttons on the panel before her, then stood and addressed her personnel over the A-Gate display. “Readings are indicating a 96.91% chance that the hyperspace tunnel created leads us to a planet in our destination sector, Planet A-X31. According to cursory scans this appears to be an inhabited world, low-tek level but high concentrations of dimensional flux present, which is ideal for our experimentation. However, it also means that whether the portal puts us out at our destination or the unlikely happens and we end up somewhere else, I will need all agents on high alert in case there are any hostiles on the other end.” The agents in black all nodded in unison, all identical in their movements. The sight still unnerved Dr. Solis no matter how many times she witnessed it. A voice suddenly buzzed in her right ear, snapping her out of the feelings of uncanniness.

“This is Mission Control, you are clear for activation. Good luck, doctor.” Tucking her pen behind her head into her tightly wound bun, Dr. Solis hit a few keys, then flipped up the safety cover and turned the key beneath. The spinning generator wheel on the other side of her panel flared to life with energy, and the agents stepped out of the path of the A-Gate, training their weapons on the opening of the ring. For a moment, everything seemed to be going according to plan. Then the dimensional gate opened, and things started to go wrong.

Text flashed across the display, angry red block letters blinking on and off in warning; “CAUTION: DESTINATION MIS-MATCH!” Solis’ eyes went wide as she took in the information on the screen, and had just enough time to throw her body across the terminal and grab onto it with both arms before the portal fully sprung open, and a violent implosion from the center of the gate circle ripped the air immediately around it out of the lab and through the dimensional hole. One agent wasn’t so lucky, and was pulled through in the blink of an eye, spinning off into the empty vacuum of space before the man could so much as flinch. The yawning mouth of the portal continued to suck the atmosphere from the room, consuming loose debris and whipping up a cyclone of papers and wires that fluttered about in the chaos. Dr. Solis held on for dear life, and was just starting to feel her grip weaken slightly when the gateway, just as suddenly as things had gone wrong, began to stabilize and glow faintly with light from the destination on the other side, and she slid off the panel to the floor with a deep sigh. One of the agents got to his feet and rushed over to help the doctor up, and she took his hand gratefully, then turned her attention to the display. “DESTINATION STABILIZED.”

Something had interfered with the opening of the gate and redirected the destination portal. Her mind raced as she realized the implications of this fact, and looked towards the now equalized gateway before her. A figure was hovering a few inches off the ground inside the ring, the luminous surface of the dimensional membrane obscuring it from clear visibility. Her agents already had their sidearms drawn and pointed at the interloper, but Dr. Solis motioned at them to stand down as she looked on in wonderment. The man in black that had helped her stand turned to her with unnerving precision and cocked his head at her quizzically.

“Doctor…” he asked in an even monotone, “Do you happen to have any idea what that thing might be? Dr. Solis continued to stare at the levitating figure, which was turning itself towards them, and slowly slid her glasses onto her forehead as she looked on in amazement.

“That, agent… is the future...”

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Re: (BF19) Ragnablok Epilogue: The End is the Beginning

Post by Kommander Ken » Thu Jan 02, 2020 12:27 am

This is just reminding me that I need to work on more Ken-soap things a little faster.

Good read! Definitely like Sootbeard the best.

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Re: (BF19) Ragnablok Epilogue: The End is the Beginning

Post by ninja_bait » Mon Jan 06, 2020 2:58 pm

Concept: 10 - It gives me ideas, and that is good

Form: 7 - As a standalone entry I would expect the three stories to be more thematically linked.

Style: 8 - Solid

Voice: 8 - Same

Presentation: 8 - it's fine, good recommended listening
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Re: (BF19) Ragnablok Epilogue: The End is the Beginning

Post by MadMario » Thu Jan 09, 2020 5:16 pm

Concept and Theme - 10 - good link to past and future storylines
Form - 7 - It reads like several post credit scenes that make you long for the upcoming movies
Voice - 9 - good character interaction, clear structure
Style - 18 - very original and compelling
Presentation - 8 - good and solid
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Re: (BF19) Ragnablok Epilogue: The End is the Beginning

Post by Venge » Tue Jan 14, 2020 12:54 pm

Concept and Theme: 9 - A great expansion of BrikVerse lore and a nice addition to the Bookwyrm Saga.
Form: 7 - A little disjointed, I imagine the full version does much better with this.
Voice: 7 - It's part of a much larger saga, so there's not much in the way of backstory for the characters. Not really a flaw per se, just an observation.
Style: 17 - Not the most action-filled piece, but I think it works very well despite that not being the norm for BrikWars. Can't wait to see the longer version.

Presentation: 9 - Extra points for the music.

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Re: (BF19) Ragnablok Epilogue: The End is the Beginning

Post by Bookwyrm » Thu Sep 03, 2020 11:22 pm

~3~

The natural ambiance of a woodland glade drifted into the ears of Brootal Skout Kore Bawss Big Baaghra, slowly bringing her out of a deep slumber. Her eyes twitched as light filltered through the trees above and she opened them, blinking rapidly as they adjusted. A smattering of her warboiz had been standing over her, and as she came to and began attempting to sit up, they all let out a collective whoop of approval and began crowding around her harder.

"BAWSS! Ur finally awake! We wuzn't sure if youze waz gonna wake up!"

"Of course I waz gonna wake up, do I look like some panzee skrub to you boiz? Now wut iz goin on here, wut happened??" Baaghra looked around at her current location, observing the thick foliage and telltale signs of a Brootal encampment surrounding her, and a mixture of BlackRock troops and more of her own milling about the clearing, accompanied by an assortment of the BlackRock war lizards that had become so ubiquitous in the past months. Behind her, a BlackRock Black Mage draped with a heavy fur-lined cape waved away the last remaining wisps of greenish magik energy that had been swirling around her head moments before as she lay prone on a crate of ammunition. "Where'z da rest of da Horde?"

"Uh... yeah... so wat happened waz... uh..." The scout didn't meet her gaze. "Well youze got hit in da face by dat red and bloo git wit da shiny stick when he shot some zappy-shit, and youze passed out and fell inta one a dose glowin cracks in da ground!" Her expression grew dark and the scout put up his hands to stay her irritation. "Don't worry about dat doe, we shot dat fuggin twerpy nerd dead aftawards. We went throo a portal thingy an found youze afta da battle wuz ova. But uh... Well youze got banished fer fallin' during da Bawss Battle and bein 'diz-grazed.' But it isn't just you bawss! Grimjaw also got imself shitcanned by da new Big Bawss Da Kaptain, and some otha boiz too." Baaghra let that information sink in before replying, a downcast expression on her scarred features.

"An you boiz? Youze also got banished?" The scout stood ramrod straight and puffed his chest.

"Nope! We Skout Kore fellaz decided ta banish ourselfz so we could go find where youze had gone an keep servin unda you, bawss! We haz been talkin' wit da BlackRock boiz who helped us find where you had landed and we tink we gotta pretty good setup here on dis planet, dey wanna help you ta start up ur OWN horde here!" She raised a bushy eyebrow at her man then looked to the Black Mage, who only bowed his head at her in acknowledgement.

"Iz dat so? Well now you haz my attenshun, why here?" Pulling a crude, kludged together scanner device from behind another stack of crates, the scout held it up for her to see.

"Well dere doesn't seem ta be any greenskins on dis planet, but dere IS a buncha Brootal tek lyin' around AAAALLL over da place here, and da Black Mage sez dat its probly reeeeeely old tek leftover from when Da Brootalz came by dis place last time. We wuz just about ta go lookin for some when youze started ta wake up." The burly ork woman pondered this information for a few moments before jumping to her feet and grabbing her helmet from the box pile to her left, tucking it under her arm, and gave a wide toothy smile.

"Sounds like a helluva plan ta me, fuck Da Kaptain, he can have da big horde, deyz a buncha dis-loyul Brootmum simpin' gits anyhoo. You boiz are da reel em-vee-pees here. Lets get ta work and show dis liddle planet whoz da REEL Bawss around here! What's dis place called anyhoo?"

"Uhhhh... I tink it wuz da same place dose nerd gitz were frum, some stoopid name like "Axel-Run" or somefin, I dunno, ask da Mage Man." Her smile widened, and she turned to the rest of her eager following.

"Well den, sounds like dese Axel-Run nerd gitz are in fer a roight proppa krumpin, right boiz?!" The shouts and bellows of her retinue were deafening. "Time ta make dem remember da last time we came through dis place! BROOTAAAAAAAALZZZ!"


~4~

The endless green of the Gameskape stretched into the horizon with no end in sight, and the only sound that could be heard by any being wandering through was the faint noise of a figure with a green sloping plane for a head beatboxing quietly to himself. Frobo the Swaggins, only recently promoted to the role of Horseman of Poop by the otherworldly Nega-Blok-Trix, shuffled across the felted landscape blowing a beat through his cheeks, and slapping on his stumpy upper legs in time to the rhythm, but his heart wasn’t in it. The strange little man had been wandering for who knows how long, trying to re-navigate to the black hole Konvergence in the center of the Battlescape, but everything had fallen into the spreading cracks and left nothing behind a long time ago, and now he was left wandering again, alone, just as he had before he’d been called to join the Horsemen. Frobo fell silent as he thought back to the time before Ragnablok, before his friends were obliterated by the machinations of the Quantum Surfers, who just wanted to mess up their fun. With no other soul within sight, he began to mutter to himself to pass the time.

“Empororororer PalpaPee… Derpa Fett… Krust KrAb… I misss yiou guys… and I promise I’m gunna venge ur croaking,i found another sicknatsy crew and tuey’re goinh to help me kill thosr stupid Quan-Dumb guys… if I cna ever get the FUCK out of thsi plase!” He kicked at a lone loose round tile and sent it spinning into the distance.

“Butt now my nu frendos are disappeared two! Passive Ass and Cheef One-Ei, r gone, and Coldett, and Idont no wat happened or were yiu peeple went wile I wuz walk-ing back… but im gonna help get u out of de big black buttwhole that sukked up all the uinvers. I swere that! Den we’ll korrup the whol ficking world, so taht those Quatro-servers wil stop blowin up my frends and then we can just chillax wile bein just totaly fresh bruh! An then weel go get beers an nachoes an—”

“You are talking to yourself. Are you crazy?” Frobo whirled around at the sudden interruption of his monologue.

“People that are going crazy should look to find something to occupy their time! You need a hobby!” The speaker was about his height, wearing an off white gray sweater with a fleur de lis pattern, and a black graduation cap. A vacant expression lingered on the odd figure’s face, his eyes bugging out and seeming to look in two different directions, and he held a large yellow book under one arm. Frobo craned his stumpy neck to get a look at the cover, a chaotic mess of text and imagery, with the words “How to Start a Hobby in LEGO, including Brikwars, and Lego Mindstorms: Advancing Beginners, Getting You Started Volume #1” emblazoned upon it. Something about it reminded him of another book he had seen recently, the one held by Blueguy as he strained against the black hole of the Konvergence, but this one had almost a complementary resonance, something he could clearly sense with his abilities as the chosen of the Nega-Blok-Trix.

“OkaY well hobees are cool i geuss, but who in the frickk r u?” The figure gave a stiff bow, touching the edge of his cap.

“My name?s Sam Enrico, publishes books to help you get started with a hobby to help you achieve you?re set goals!” Frobo nodded at that.

“Im Frobo the Swaggins, and ugot a prety cool book, wood yu liek to com with me an an EPIC QEST? I hav a verry ver impirtent mishin and dat book mite reely help!”

“Questing is a regular activity that you can do for pleasure, typically during your leisure time.”

“oh-KAY, I gess ill taek that as yes?” Frobo began to walk forward again slowly, glancing behind him, and after another few moments of staring blankly in either direction, Sam Enrico began to dutifully follow behind. Frodo’s sharpie-mustachioed mouth turned up in a grin at his new companion. “Kewl, oparation BRING BACK CONCAVE DOLPHIN iz onnnn now boiiii!” He raised his hands to his face and began beatboxing again in earnest as the two strange minifigs continued their trek across the landscape, this time with Sam occasionally chiming in with an accompanying stilted “yo” or “wut wut” echoing out as the two slowly disappeared over the unending emerald horizon.

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Re: (BF19) Ragnablok Epilogue: The End is the Beginning

Post by ninja_bait » Fri Sep 04, 2020 4:18 pm

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Re: (BF19) Ragnablok Epilogue: The End is the Beginning

Post by Bookwyrm » Sat Sep 05, 2020 12:36 am

~8~

Thunder rolled as darkened clouds churned and writhed angrily around the tip of a looming obsidian spire lancing up into the sky like a black, poisonous thorn, the entire fortress carved from a single titanic shard of black crystal piercing out of the endless Plateau of Leng. The High Priest of Brikthulhu steeled his nerves as he approached the inner tower’s main gates. Despite the eerie piping and echoing coming from the multitude of tunnels and passageways scattered along the surrounding walls and grounds, the inner courtyard was all but empty but for himself, the two Esoterica praetorians guarding the entrance to the inner sanctum, and the occasional fluttering abomination darting overhead from one opening to another. The pommel of the cult leader’s heavy maul striking the ground kicked up tiny fragments of the sharp obsidian gravel as he used it like a walking stick, the sphincters unable to penetrate the thick wraps and robes covering his body but forcing him to occasionally shield his exposed eyes nonetheless. The guards, already expecting his arrival it would seem, wordlessly opened the gates to him and dipped their black faceless helms to him in acknowledgment of his rank as he passed by. He returned the gesture, then began the long trek up a spiral staircase leading to his destination.

The high priest was not a man who feared many things. Besides the oily tentacles of his dark god, there were very few sights in this world that could genuinely frighten him. Even as he passed by other floors of the stronghold and caught glimpses of some of the eldritch entities at work within, all eyes and tendrils and amorphous shapes, his already hardened mind barely registered the horrific creatures. Yet as he approached the throne room, a knot of anxiety throbbed in his gut, and dread lingered in his thoughts as he went through his report over and over, trying to make his imagined words sound marginally less like desperate groveling. As he reached the end of the stairway, his pace slowed and his brain became more frantic in its attempts to justify his actions in the preceding conflict. When nothing he could think of made his admissions sound any better, he took a deep breath, the knot in his core tightening, and again approached another set of doors, guarded by another set of praetorians. Exactly as the others had before, they inclined their heads and opened the passageway to their master’s throne room. The high priest again returned the bow, but kept his head down as he entered the sanctum, avoiding meeting the gaze of the figure awaiting his arrival. He approached the dais in the center of the room, and stood at the base of the stairs leading up the raised platform to a throne of ebony crystalline blades that towered over him and even the two seven-foot tall figures standing on either side of it. He chanced a brief glance up at the creatures, bipedal reptile-like entities with razor-edged teeth that lazily twirled equally razor-edged knives in their long fingers. One turned its gray cloaked head towards the priest and a flash of malevolent ruby light glinted in its eyes as it grinned down at him, and he quickly averted his gaze once again.

“High Priest,” a high pitched voice rasped, the words dripping with contempt, “would you care to explain to me what, exactly, happened during the Konvergence...” The man swallowed hard, his voice catching at first, and he cursed himself inwardly for his own weakness before trying again.

“Y—Your grace… as you know, my men and I departed for the site of the destruction to aid the allies you sent us to meet with, but when we arrived—” His words were cut short as the figure on the throne barked, the words laced with subtle power;

“Do not disrespect your master by staring at your feet, worm. You will look upon me as you speak.” He felt the words eat their way into his brain and his neck twitched involuntarily as the compulsion forced him to turn his gaze towards the tall lithe person in twisted black metal armor and shimmering dark robes, glaring down at him without a shred of warmth through the slit in the angular black mask covering their visage. “Proceed.”

“Yes your grace.” The knot twisted more and he had to fight to keep his growing nervousness out of his words. “As I said, we arrived at the site of the Konvergence, among those of the Kult of Brikthulhu you sent us to aid, but things had already devolved into utter chaos long before our arrival. Conflict raged as far as the eye could see, with countless combatants. The sky itself had fractured, and every broken chunk of reality was grinding and colliding against the other as they were pulled into the singularity. The forces of the Four Horsemen themselves had swarmed the area!” The priest conveniently left out the unsettling rumor he had heard from one of his men, who had spotted a figure in the cacophony that might have even been their enemy the Quantum Surfer, knowing full well how poorly the resulting conversation would go for him, even if the story turned out to be untrue. “Even with our forces aiding them in their mission to summon an avatar of Lord Brikthulhu to the battlefield, our allies would have been obliterated in the ensuing conflict, so Lord Kath believed it prudent to cut our losses and retreat for the time being. I merely presumed that since our purpose there was to aid our brothers in Brikthulhu with their mission, it only made sense to—” all that followed were a series of gasps and and similar monosyllabic choking noises as the enthroned specter raised its gauntleted palm to him and formed it into a claw, as blinding stab of pain siezed the hapless cultist and his mind exploded with agony as his brain stem was suddenly squeezed by unrelenting telekinetic power. Fighting to maintain consciousness, he collapsed to the ground, now completely delirious with fear.

“You presume much, High Priest.” The black-clad warlord stood from their throne and descended the stairs slowly, tightening their grip slightly and raising their contorted grasp to force the held cultist to rise and look at them once again. “I’m honestly surprised at you. This was the moment you wished for, yes? That is why I ordered you to finish Lord Kath’s mission for him. You were to summon an avatar to wreak havoc on our enemies and glorify your dark master! It would have secured our alliance with the greater Kult of Brikthulhu, where you might have had the opportunity to rise in the ranks of your god! And you balked at the opportunity because you got cold feet about a little chaos? I’m disappointed.”
The man could only get out fragments of desperate pleading through his anguish. “You failed to even attempt a direct order I gave you to complete a task you were both enthusiastic about and highly suited for... truly a shame. It seems you must have forgotten how I pulled your miserable pustule of a congregation out of the muck and filth of the Renlothian sewers you crawled about in, ‘serving’ your… narcoleptic cephalopodan thug of a deity… how I gave you all purpose again, how I will bring your god in his true, unlimited form to this reality once my Lord Metavoth is returned… Do you think he will look kindly upon you on that day for this, hmmm?” Tears began to form involuntarily at the edges of the agonized high priest’s vision as his head silently screamed in pain and horror. “Gross insubordination is not a trait I will tolerate in anyone that has pledged their fealty to my house. However…”

The figure reached the foot of the dais stairs and stood over the prone and trembling form of the broken man, who looked up at them for fear of his life. Raising their one clenched hand while kneeling down, the cultist was lifted to eye level with the tenebrous figure, and they raised the visor covering their face with the other. “I am not without mercy, especially when we’re all under such… extenuating circumstances. After all, everyone makes mistakes.” The black faceplate slid up the helm with a hiss, exposing an angular, pale feminine face with blood-red lips framing a predatory smile and pitch black lenses for eyes, devoid of any sclera or pupil. The dark pools bored into the high priest’s throbbing skull as his vision swam and drifted in and out, and he slowly felt the raw, unfiltered terror and suffering seep out of him, replaced with a cold, emotionless numbing, as the warlord before him seemed to drink in his misery. Her grin widened even further, unnaturally so, and she brought his face up to within a few inches of hers. “Even I make mistakes, you know. For example, I made the mistake of thinking you were up to this task. Even worse, I grievously miscalculated the nature of the Konvergence, and had the Esoterica Metavoth gotten involved, if we had played our hand too early, it could have been absolutely disastrous for our goals. Had something gone wrong with that black hole…” she shook her head and chuckled darkly. “Well. Suffice to say, that particular error was on my part, and had it not been for your unexpected cowardice, had you done what I originally ordered you to do, it might have been much more inconvenient for me in the end. So…” The pressure on the cultist’s brain suddenly released and he fell to the ground abruptly, panting for breath. “I will concede that your cowardly disobedience worked out for both of us this time, and for that reason alone, your wretched life will be spared. But do not think of letting something like this happen again. My mistakes are my own. I will succeed, or fail, at finishing my father’s work, on my own merits, and next time an offense like this is brought to my attention, you will not be treated with such gentleness and care. This setback is a learning opportunity that I do not intend to waste. I encourage you not to waste it either.” She stood, towering over the groveling cultist. “Do not forget what I’ve done for you. Do not forget what I can do to you. Do not forget who. I. Am. Is that clear?” He nodded quickly, coughing out a weak affirmation,

“Y—yes… my lady Ventra. I a—am deeply—”

“Silence,” she interrupted, whirling and turning her back as she ascended the stairs once again, and as her eyes broke contact with his, the fear came flooding back stronger than ever, overwhelming him like a wave. “Depart from my sight, before you make me change my mind with your pitiful sniveling.” Without looking back, the high priest scrambled to his feet and began to run, stumbling and tripping over himself as he fled. The piercing sound of his master’s clear, harsh laughter rang out behind him, echoing off the slick black walls of the fortress throughout the room, as he struggled to maintain balance, but the knot in his chest had consumed him, and he no longer registered anything but panic. Through the doors of the throne room he ran, and this time, the praetorians did not so much as flinch or acknowledge him in the slightest, as he sped between them and down the spiral staircase. Sinister laughter continued to ring faintly, mingling with the otherworldly whistles and cries of the aberrant creatures filling the tower, and the high priest could no longer determine if he was hearing the remnants of lady Ventra Moraz’s cruel hysteria, or simply the tortured echoes of his own broken mind.

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