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Fantasy Hunter's Moon: Ascendancy [IC] [CLOSED]

Sub Genres
  1. Action
  2. Adventure
  3. AU
  4. Historical
  5. Horror
  6. LGBTQ
  7. Magical
  8. Supernatural
  9. Zombies


Big loaf supreme
Portcrawl stood as proof that any community could recover from the attacks of pure evil such as necromancy. Even so Royland could sense the blight lingering in the air after those vile acts were committed. The people continued to prosper despite of it, even the war couldn't stop them.

"So..." The knight's horse slowed down to allow Camille's to catch up "This is Portcrawl. If Theodore's reports are to be believed this was nothing but a burning ruin filled with the walking dead. Your actions on that nights seemed to have born fruit."


Sautekh Nemesor
Camille galloped on the back of her horse alongside the others, yet as her steed rode on she took stock of how much Porthcrawl had changed in the span of several years. To what she was used to, it was both nostalgic and out of place. Many of her memories of this place were less than pleasant, given the significant injury she sustained with Wallace that nearly resulted in her death. Were it not for Aleister's intervention, she would perhaps be a werewolf or dead instead of riding through the reconstructed streets.

"it would seem so," the huntress replied to Royland after his observation, her tone somewhat wistful as her eyes continued to scan what was around her. "I suppose that is the best that I can hope for; the fights I battle to mean something. To fight for those that cannot fight for themselves. I only hope that the war doesn't destroy this place again..."


Roleplaying Procrastinator From Elsewhere
The voyage had been largely uneventful for Xiaòzhou, as he engaged in his personal rituals while also aiding where he could aboard as Rajko did. The uneventfulness was something he appreciated, allowing him time to practice in his mind. Xiaòzhou thought about the fact that Porthcrawl was a port on Grimtham Isle, where, from what he understood, all this began. He thought back to when he ran into Father Weston after the events on that island occurred, remembering his pain over what had occurred, and what led him to partake in all this in the end. He had never set foot on Grimtham Isle, so as the the port came into sight, the hermit smiled. Truly, time is cyclical, for them to ultimately return here.

Disembarking, Xiaòzhou largely found himself not really finding a need to comment. Royland once more had his particularities, Cassandra and Claire continued their routine, and so on, largely par for the course. When Rajko remarked on his ability to fly, the hermit merely whistled to affirm the same in his case. He would smile at the sight of Camille being recognized by someone from that original inquiry, the constable. Once his turn came to pick out a horse, he raised his hand and refused.

"My regards to the cavalry, what horses remain would be better served here," Xiaòzhou merely responded, before beginning to float off the ground, "My 'abilities' need not saving," as he comically sat in the air as if he were riding a horse in the first place, to prove his point, before returning to just merely floating. Xiaòzhou would keep up with those on horseback very easily, nodding as the coves they were to go to were elaborated upon.

Xiaòzhou would keep close to Camille in particular, given her personal experience with the affairs from years prior. He had to agree, if the destruction was as such as he heard about, then the fact the city had been rebuilt so was exceptionally impressive. The homes of the many, preserved, even in the face of the terror caused by the few.

"We shan't allow that to happen," the hermit responded to Camille, "just as we shan't allow the Abyssal forces victory."


Big loaf supreme
"A noble goal, but challenging for anyone my lady." The knight remarked as he looked around the town. "Even with the demons and undead filth gone, there is still the danger of war wiping it all away. Men have that habit of tearing each other apart." The wraith was silent to allow Xiaòzhou to speak. "One step at a time. We have yet to find the first artefact's location." Royland lifted his head and observed their surroundings again. There it was again. That same necrotic feeling lingering in the air. What did those blighters do to this town? "Can you recall something for me? Theodore's report mentions two necromancers weaving their magic here. When you dispatched them, did you happen to find any of their tools? Totems, books, fetishes and the like."


Sautekh Nemesor
The huntress certainly had to admire Xiaòzhou's optimism and drive, such aspects were proving somewhat infectious as it prompted a smile out of Camille. "Oui, we shall make our stand against these fiends. And we won't fail," she replied, though turned her head once Royland said his piece. It was true that they still had an exceptionally long way to go, but Camille could not afford to let the daunting task ahead of them waiver her determination.

"Their tools? To be frank I wouldn't recognize them even if they did leave them behind, other than a vague idea of what such implements may look like. Usually old, macabre, and strange. Perhaps all three," she starts, though shakes her head back and forth. "I know that one twin was practically disintegrated by Mariette's magic, as well as whatever she was carrying at the time. I'm not certain if there was anything else."


The Demon Fanatic
"Can you recall something for me? Theodore's report mentions two necromancers weaving their magic here. When you dispatched them, did you happen to find any of their tools? Totems, books, fetishes and the like."
"Their tools? To be frank I wouldn't recognize them even if they did leave them behind, other than a vague idea of what such implements may look like. Usually old, macabre, and strange. Perhaps all three," she starts, though shakes her head back and forth. "I know that one twin was practically disintegrated by Mariette's magic, as well as whatever she was carrying at the time. I'm not certain if there was anything else."

Cassandra soon spoke up, once Camille finished. "Rayne Devonshire was always one to craft odd little fetishes when it came to their dark work. I'm sure the Order found them during the cleanup of Porthcrawl, especially down in the sewers. I watched her make dozens of them." she explained, "That's likely why you still feel it in the air... They dumped so much dark magic into this city that it still lingers years later."

She then glanced up towards the sky. "They both carried necromancer's grimoires, though. I believe Rayne's grimoire should still be near where Marriete left her charred body. As for Tarja's, her grimoire may be in the possession of the constables of Grimsby to the west, near Peltragow. Both will need to be destroyed, unless you intend to let the public handle such destructive little trinkets."


Big loaf supreme
"No, they're too dangerous to be left alone." Royland turned his head to Cassandra "The magics used for their nefarious purposes will disperse in time, but it will be slow. The tomes however are another thing entirely. Reading though those pages has a corroding effect on one's soul, casting spells from it outright corrupts it." He was silent for a second. "Damn it Theodore, your negligence puts these people at risk." The grip on his reigns tightened "Again, we have to fix one of your mistakes." He sighed "Where did lady Mariette slay the necormancer?"


Worthless pleb
With a pet and command, Rajko set off with his fellow inquisitors on the steed. For the trip, Rajko adopted a stance of silence while his ears and nose picked up on his surroundings. There had been a foul, nigh-imperceptible odor in the air that vaguely reminded of rotting carcasses. A few paces later of the horses' feet revealed to Rajko that it is the residue of necromantic energies. This prompted Rajko to nod as he understood the knowledge. "So how does one become the manipulator of death? I doubt one could simply fall face first into an open tome of infernal knowledge and simply be enamored with gift of undeath? Or do they become the disciples of Liches, though they don't strike me as the type to take an underling under their wing." His gaze shifted from Ser Royland to Cassandra then back to the path forward. Giving an idle ear to anybody's answer.


Big loaf supreme
"For those that set themselves on the path of ruin, its always learned men and women with flexible morality. Those who specifically seek out that knowledge will find it. They merely need to try hard enough." Royland's responded to Rajko's query, facing forward to make sure they keep to the path. "In ages past, there were many tomes and scrolls that have been written and copied by demonic disciples. They're passed them along in innocuous disguises to spread around without arousing suspicion. Biographies, chronicles and even cook books if it means the cursed knowledge can find its way in the hands of those wanting it. Names or a symbol of some kind are usually how one seeking it out would recognize them."

"As for those who might stumble upon them by complete accident." The knight looked to Rajko again "Many aren't aware of just how far they can go. A loved one passes or the they feel the reaper's hand on their shoulder and they find a solution in their desperation. Sometimes it doesn't need to be anything that drastic. I recall a decade ago there was a farmer who wanted to find new methods to raise stronger cattle. He knew how to read, but not what he was reading. The brew he made for his herd, he believed would result in more virile bulls, instead it killed them and subsequently brought them back with an appetite for flesh, much to his misfortune." He was quiet for a moment, before he added one final detail "If you've wondered why we banned the book 'Bovine studies' by Isaak Sleith, now you know."


The Demon Fanatic
"Where did lady Mariette slay the necromancer?"

"An old stone guard post, with an accompanying barracks, just outside Grimsby. A relic from the Age of Darkness." replied Cassandra, "We were using it for a short period, while the twins attempted to corrupt Rosanna with dark magic. Ser Tristyn, the dullahan knight you've encountered back in Eternis, was still corrupted at that point and had fought Rosanna and defeated her. We captured her, and attempted to turn her into what Ser Tristyn was at the time. The twins decided that the barracks were the best place to attempt that. It obviously didn't work, and Mariette killed Rayne with her own magical trap before they rescued Rosanna."

"So how does one become the manipulator of death? I doubt one could simply fall face first into an open tome of infernal knowledge and simply be enamored with gift of undeath? Or do they become the disciples of Liches, though they don't strike me as the type to take an underling under their wing."

Cassandra glanced to the inquisitor after Royland finished his own explanation. "Often, the kinds of people that pick up necromancy are the types to have such revolting personalities that nobody can stand to work with them. Thus, the need for someone or something that lacks the faculties to judge you. Plus, you don't have provide any form of sustenance for, say, an small army of skeletons. And necromancers often have some sort of evil ambition or drive pushing them to get into that dark art in the first place. Lichdom, revenge, dreams of conquest or domination, and so on." she continued, "With the twins, their path to necromancy started with the quest for revenge. They were orphaned at a young age, their parents dying from a pox. No one in their town would take them in, so, of course, they resorted to petty thievery to survive."

"The town grew to hate them, and mistreated them at every opportunity. So they eventually got tired of it. One thing lead to another, and they eventually began hearing rumors of undead and skeletons appearing in eastern Grimtham. Those sorts of rumors have always floated about Grimtham at one point or another, as Grimtham provides an excellent sort of getaway for those hiding from the rest of the world. They began researching it together, and eventually..."

She looked back to Rajko as she finished the sentence. "...they murdered and resurrected every single person in their little town. No more mistreatment, and they have a big happy rotting family of their own."

She glanced to Royland afterwards, then continued. "Ashwood heard of their work, and asked me to offer them a job. Of course, I had to kill the village in order to get to them to even propose it. The stench was horrifying, believe me." she said, "When they met Sazak, Sazak planted that little bug in their minds about lichdom. The lich from the Witlock Inquiry had achieved it long ago, during the Age of Darkness, and was practically a legend among the necromancers across the continent. That gave them a new goal. Achieve lichdom themselves. Ashwood assured them that they would be able to achieve that without hindrance if they worked with him towards his goals. And then the Inquiry showed up and killed them both."


Servant Supreme
Sebastian broke his silence as he followed the others. "Well, good riddance," he said with a sneer. "They sound like the stuff of nightmares, and we've got more than enough of that."

After a moment, he realized that his tone might have implied that he was referring to Cassandra or even the supernatural among them in general, and even if, in a broad sense, he was, he hadn't intended that remark to be a barb. He wanted to say something else to take attention away from it, but he couldn't think of anything quickly enough.


The Demon Fanatic
"Well, good riddance," he said with a sneer. "They sound like the stuff of nightmares, and we've got more than enough of that."

Rebecca spoke up afterwards. "Indeed we do. We have Icons to worry about at the moment. They're far worse than any necromancer." she stated. She glanced to Royland afterwards. "If our venture takes us in the direction of Grimsby, we shall deal with the necromancers' tomes. If not, I shall request that priests and inquisitors be sent to retrieve them."

Cassandra, meanwhile, cut a look back to Sebastian. Rebecca may have been oblivious to the tone Sebastian used, but Cassandra wasn't. She eyed him for a brief moment, eyes narrowing slightly, before shifting her attention forward as Claire spoke next. "There is a pirate cove on the western coast of Grimtham, that being Caleling Reef." she stated, "That particular cove I've only occasionally visited, as it was far too close to Peltragow for my liking. Plus, my crewmates were prone to get into far too many fights there."

As the group neared the western side of Porthcrawl, they noticed the section of wall there had been heavily modified. An arch had now been built into the wall, with a pair of large metal doors which could be closed quickly and baracaded to prevent anyone from breaching into the city from the ferry side. The doors were wide open at the moment, with various people wandering around the ferry and its dock. As they arrived on their horses, some of the constables cleared civilians out of the way to allow for the group to board the ferry.

The ferry itself was of moderate size, being just large enough to transport a couple dozen people as well as several crates and barrels of goods. Since they were leaving Porthcrawl by the ferry instead of coming to it, however, there were no crates or barrels here. In fact, there weren't any people aboard that were leaving the walled city. It would just be Rebecca's group, and their horses, as they ventured out. Hooves clacked across stone, then across wooden dock to the ramp of the ferry, with the group boarding nearly all at once via their horses. And once they arrived on the deck, they dismounted and prepared themselves for departure.

The constables waved them off, as the ramp lifted and ship prepared to depart. "Get settled in, ladies and gentlemen. Should just take an hour or so." called out the ferry operator. And a moment later, the ferry set underway. Pulling away from the dock and setting out onto the waters of the bay.

They were in for another short boat ride. And afterwards, a journey through familiar territory. At least for three of them.
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Worthless pleb
The knowledge revealed about these diabolical twins had certainly been grizzly indeed, Rajko was fascinated by the volume of it. He would have thought to be more speculation, except he has been proven wrong, a fact that he does not mind at all. In his life, he found that there is a certain level of comprehension required to hunt, harm, and hamstring the supernatural. For the mindless and soulless, that becomes particulars of their physiologic attributes, spiritual nuances, vulnerabilities, and similar. But for the half-wit and astute? The matter of the mind is an often undervalued and misunderstood practice. Having prescience of your opponents maneuver can be quite the useful talent to possess. That can only be done with analysis. However, this possesses a danger as well, study your target as much as needed and be wary that you do not actually find enlightenment in their credo. "I see, than—" Before he could reply to Cassandra, his voice was cut off by the sneering Daristeinian soldier. Eyebrow raised in an arch and a corner smile greeted Sebastian as Rajko eyed him.

"Hhhmm, I agree with you, Sebastian. Vampires are especially draining to deal with it, wouldn't you agree?" Rajko smiled past his cheeks and amusement at the pun that he just executed. The inquisitor remained silent for the remainder of the trek as they reached Western Porthcrawl, it seemed they would be taking another boat ride which only prompted a sigh and an eyeroll. But after he dismounted from his horse, he petted the creature's mane and scratched the ears. "I aim to name you Leofwine, selfsame my friend." The horse nickered with delight.


Sautekh Nemesor
Royland was certainly right to worry about the necromancers' lingering stain on this place, yet Camille knew that it would be foolish to detract from their current mission to search for them. While the huntress may have had a reputation for being cold in certain situations, she was never one to downplay the loss or endangerment of completely innocent lives. For that reason she stayed her tongue, continuing to look on the horizon even as the story of the Devonshire twins was spun. It was one that was easy to sympathize with, up until they used their pain to justify turning their home into a den of undead slaves.

Sebastian's bluntness seemed to match up with the stigma associated with his homeland, and while she could at least recognize the sadness of the twins' plight she was never one to spit on graves. From there Camille had to do her best to not retch upon hearing Rajko's horrible pun, but fortunately it did not linger for long. Rebecca's decision to stay on task was welcome, and she found herself nodding along in agreement. The Icons were doing far worse than any lonely necromancers could ever hope to achieve.

Once they boarded the ferry she dismounted from her steed and dusted off her pants, taking an opportunity to stretch as she looked out on to the water. The werebat seemed keen on naming his horse, which prompted the huntress to turn and look over her shoulder at her own animal companion. "Hmm, by the time I may figure out a name for this horse our mission will likely be over," Camille admitted with a slight grumble in her tone.


Big loaf supreme
Somewhere in the Abyss, 4 days ago

"So where are you taking us, Vulture?" Tiloc asked with an annoyed tone. They've been walking through the Hanging forest for hours now with barely any hint of where they were going. She assumed that they were heading back to the Wrath graveyard to find anyone else who hasn't picked a side in the war, but they passed the paths long ago. She didn't raise the question until now because she wanted to give Constantine a chance to surprise her like he did several times now, but her patience was starting to run out.

"Now why did you wait until now to ask me?" The cowboy shifted his head back to look at her "Learned to be a patient blood crazed lunatic while I wasn't looking?"

"You hurt me." Her answer was delivered with mockery "I have been rather restrained in our treks, don't you think? Especially with Boris and his sister."

"Tiloc, you tried to tear her throat out."

"And I didn't!" The blood priestess chuckled "She's a big girl that one."

"Werebears are like that." Constantine turned his head forward and ducked under a branch, noting a scratch on the bark "We're lucky that Kalinka took it so well and decided that you're fun instead of...insane."

"I aim to please." She shrugged, her smile revealed the jagged teeth underneath "I just like to please myself while doing it."

"Right." The wraith stood in place and turned on his heel to face her, one finger shoved in her face. "Never say those words to me like that ever again." He turned down the path they were taking once again and continued walking. "We're almost there."

"And what is there? You didn't answer me."

"Do you remember old Connor?"

"Yes?" She placed a finger on her chin as she recalled a comrade in their fate as a wraith. "He was a fiery one, but always got the work done. Until he ran afoul of Lozon's wrath and the old man had him killed."

"Well, that's not entirely true. He took a stance against Lozon over our role under the Icon of Wrath." As the walked Tiloc noticed that the ground was now becoming muddy and they walked through puddles. "But the old man's wrath wasn't going to be satisfied with a simple killing." Tiloc noticed something on one of the trees and reached out to it. It was a pinkish and fleshy. Her eyes widened as she realized what it was. The blood priestess's eyes followed it along the branches and notice it forming a guide like a thread from a spool. "I see you found his lower intestine."

"What did the old man do?" She asked as she started to gather the guts and wrap them around her arm. Constantine looked worried as she showed no hint of fear or worry, just excitement. "Tell me Vulture, I missed this chapter from our history."

"I better show you." They followed the bloody path and as soon as they rounded the corner, they could see a large tree. Its branches long dead and dried out, but still heavy with 'fruit'. Disemboweled corpses hung from them, swinging back and forth as the wind was pushing them. Tiloc marveled as she got closer with the intestines in hand. Her eyes tracing the fleshy thread and nearly gasped in amazement when she discovered that it was in fact the same rope from which they had been hung.

"Oh Vulture!" She dropped the pile on the ground and started to clap "This is amazing!" The priestess turned "I had no idea that the old man had it in him!"

"Yeah...I suppose amazing is one word to describe this." Constantine stepped forward, his eyes looking directly at the monstrous monument. He froze in place as he heard what came after.

"What is this? The dogs of that bloody I'm uncultured have come here to mock us?" One of the corpses started to talk "Do you have so little to do as lapdogs for some feckin demon lord that you come here to ogle at the bloated remains of your betters?"

"They talk. They're..." Tiloc turned around again and looked Constantine in the eyes "They're still alive?"

"'Course we are you mad bitch!" Another corpse barked "Your master didn't want us to just die and rest, oh no. He cursed us to hang and drip from these branches until the moon dies out."

"Aye, and for what? For having the dignity not to be soldiers for some Icon I'm uncultured!" The other corpses shouted in agreement "We were meant to help those shades find peace and in turn feed off their revenge." They started rabble rousing again. "We killed aye, but at least our butchering had meaning. But the old bastard wanted to kiss arse and lick boot of those above him so he..."

"Much as I like to hear you rant about Lozon, we did come here for something. Where's Connor?"

"Up above in the crown, lad." One of the corpses pointed with a free hand, that was missing its fingers "See if he will listen." A cynical laugh escaped his lips.

"Speak, Constantine." The voice from the top of the tree sounded like thunder "You're his favorite after all."

"I hate it much as you do, old friend." The cowboy sighed before continuing "The Abyss is changing. You might have heard the rumblings even here. Even now the resistance is preparing to storm the city of Greed and take over. Icons have fallen and those that remain are on shaky ground."

"And you'd have us join this war?" Connor was once a wraith full of fire and fury, but the years of punishment had left him tired and defeated. "Why? Because Lozon would have us?"

"I never said he did..."

"Don't play games with us, boy!" The other corpse spat out again "Why else would you be here?"

"Point." Constantine admitted with a shrug "You don't care for the old man and I get that, but so do many of our brothers and sisters from across the Abyss. They've been joining the cause because they know that we have a chance to set things right. As they should be." The corpses were silent, but he could feel their eyes staring at him. "As we speak, the mortal realm is waging a war that will plunge their entire world into chaos and demons have been pouring in to take advantage. If Taranoch succeeds then there will be no point for us to exist. We will be yet another group of damned souls. No better than..."

"Your pleas are heard, Constantine. You can spare us the rest of your speech." Connor interrupted, now with some life in his words "But what would Lozon have us do? He's the one who put us here and you...you were right beside him." The moments of silence felt like an eternity "Bah, of course you're without an answer. There is no forgiveness here and there never will be. I still remember the moment you turned that gun against me and it has burned me every moment as I hung from this tree." The wraith nudged his head slightly to look to the dark skies above "And yet, something in me stirs. Isn't that right, lads?" The hanged men started to look among themselves and suddenly one of them started to giggle. Another followed and then another until they all started to laugh. "The fucking audacity of you and your master!" Connor finally spat out again, making the hanged men stop. "Coming here to recruit us after letting us hang for centuries because we rebelled for the same reason he's going to war now. I'd fucking gut you if I could. That lights a fire in me that I haven't felt in centuries, you fucking arrogant I'm uncultured!"

"How is that you want us to fight exactly?" A hanged man asked "We're with our guts around our necks and some of us have barely an appendage intact."

"I can help with that." Tiloc finally spoke up "There's plenty of blood here for me to work with. I can fashion something with it to hold you together until we get you better help." She picked up the entrails she held before "Our smiths have been very good with improvised weapons."

"Bahaha, should have knows you'd work your twisted magics." Connor spoke again. "You put us in a peculiar spot, Constantine. Join with you and hope we win against the fecking king of the Abyss or continue to hang here, forgotten by everyone." The was a moment of silence from him but the other wraiths would murmur between each other. "Tell you what. Cut us down, heal us and we will join your fight." Constantine let out a sigh of relief and prepared his knife to start cutting "But..." That stopped the cowboy in his tracks "When this war is over and we will win it...I want that bastard Lozon alone for one final fight." Constantine looked to Connor up there in the top of the tree and could see that he had succeeded in one of his tasks. He nodded as he took the first swing to cut them loose.


"A familiar tale I've heard for many necromancers." Royland commented as Cassandra finisher her retelling of the story. When Rebecca reminded them of their mission, he had to reluctantly agree. The cleansing of the town from this filth would have to wait after they've accomplished their goals. Sebastian's comment was true however, less of the undead raising scourge to deal with.

On board the ferry, he dismounted, leaving the horse to go back from whence it came. It wouldn't be needed for a short time, so there was no need for it to take up space while they waited.

"A simple name is always best for horses." He offered advice to Camille "Something that comes to mind often enough should do."


Servant Supreme
Sebastian maintained a straight face as Cassandra looked back at him. Even if he hadn't meant to cause offense, he wasn't going to apologize for his careless words. The others quickly reacted in a manner that suggested that they understood his intent, so he reasoned that if Cassandra took umbrage, it was only because she had a guilty conscience- deservedly, at that. He followed along with the group as it reached the ferry dock and took his horse aboard.

Like the others, he began to think about naming his horse. He decided to use the name of the hero from the fiction he had been reading on the long train ride. "I'm going to call you Dantès," he said with a smile.


Roleplaying Procrastinator From Elsewhere
Xiaòzhou kept to himself once the discussion on necromancy and the antagonistic twins which used them in the past inquiry began. Putting aside his own reservations on the matter, he found himself immensely interested in the surrounding knowledge and knowing more about what had happened during that original inquiry. He nodded, however, once Rebecca reminded them that the Icons are far worse than any necromancer.

He listened attentively to Claire noting their next destination, and once he got aboard, he slowly floated onto the floor. Another hour to pass, and the topic of horse-naming has come up to aid in its passing. He smiled at the sight, a bit of peace born out of the care of another.


the writer
As Azathor followed on his chosen horse behind the other, he stayed quiet as he listened to the conversations unfolding without any particular need to barge in as many of the topics didn't concern him. He did however roll his eyes as Rajko's joke and was tempted to tell the werebat to shut up, but stayed his tongue as they approached the ferry. Azathor dismounted and led his horse aboard as well before taking a look at the vessel and shrugging. "I liked the last boat more." he commented, before seeing the others naming their steeds. He cocked an eyebrow then looked at this steed, who in kind responded by snorting and nodding its head towards him as if it was trying to say something to him.

"...I think I'll just keep calling you Horse for now." he said jokingly, to which it only replied with another, quieter snort.


The Demon Fanatic
As the others got settled in on the ferry, and began to switch to the topic of naming their horses, Cassandra glanced to her own horse. She eyeballed it for a few moments, pondering just what she would call the creature. Something simple, maybe, though not as simple as what she had heard Azathor name his. And then a name suddenly came to her, as if someone had just whispered it into her ear.

...Call him David.

Cassandra froze for a brief moment, her mind venturing far back into her memories to the source of that particular name. Someone she had known, someone she had loved... someone she had killed. Her eyes rolled in their sockets, shifting to look towards Claire and her own horse. Well, she had done the same with her horse. Named it after someone she had known and cared about... so...

She reached up and brushed the neck of the horse with her hand, a faint smile appearing on her face. "...David." she spoke quietly. The horse seemed to like it, pushing into her hand as she pet its neck.

Rebecca, meanwhile, had already settled on a name for her own. "I shall name you Arthur." she stated, a wide smile on her face. "Let us hope you live up to the memory of the Arthur that came before you."

The horse seemed to nod in response, with a singular snort.


The Demon Fanatic
The Highlands (Occupied Territory)
Northeastern Atraca, near the border with Tsavania

"So, why exactly are we here again?" asked a gruff voice. The source, a man who's hair was cut short enough to appear bald, scratched the side of his jaw. Running his fingernails against the skin beneath his thick beard as his yellow eyes glanced between the other individuals standing near him. "I know this is supposed to be that one god's house, but we're supposed to be trying to locate those artifacts for Lord Taranoch, right?"

"Sazak invited us to witness Thiasis' death. He said it's the start of a 'new age' for all of us or something."
said another. This one was also rough but far more feminine, its source being a long haired woman wearing a set of fancy black clothes with golden trim. It seemed like the sort of outfit a noble would wear, or at least someone that was far wealthier than most. "I, for one, find this place rather dull. Though I've never been one for forests and log cabins. I prefer more urban environs."

"Yeah, because that's where all the money and jewels are." said a much fatter man, sitting on a tree stump nearby. A green apple in hand, with a large sack of other foodstuff next to him on the ground. He burped afterwards, before taking another large bite from the apple. Spit and bits of food stained his mouth and moustache, but he never bothered to wipe it all away. A common sight when it came to the Icon of Gluttony. "I hope Sazak saves me at least a piece of him. I've always wanted see what the gods taste like."

Two other women nearby looked on as he continued to engorge himself on the food, both bearing disgusted expressions on their faces. The taller of the two, bearing the appearance of an elf wearing a green robe with the hood pulled over their head, soon spoke afterwards. "I've been told Thiasis is rather handsome. At least I'll get to see if that's true before Sazak slaughters him." she spoke.

The other woman, dressed in marauder-like leather garb and wearing a bandana, cut her a look before speaking herself. "If he's handsome, I'll never hear the end of it." she stated, shaking her head afterwards. "You'll be like 'Oh, Sazak could have just weakened him! I could have enthralled him!' You already have enough toys."

The elf frowned. "You have plenty of toys too, little sister. You just crave everyone else's." she responded, motioning a hand to the others. Her sister frowned as well, folding her arms as she sulked.

Yet another woman nearby, also wearing a hood but with a far more lavish looking set of armor covering the rest of her body, chuckled softly. "Ralvas mentioned how much you two like to bicker. I'm starting to see what he was talking about." she said, a toothy smirk appearing on her face. "Anyway, I'm eager to see what Sazak has in store for Thiasis."

They would soon find out, as all of their attention was quickly drawn to the cabin. The reason? A flash of light was unleashed inside. Bright, with a yellowish hue. And a moment later, the cabin exploded in a massive yellow fireball. Chunks of wood, and bits of glass and dirt were sent sailing into the air, easily reaching several hundred meters into the sky. Some even blew past the Icons as they stood in the treeline, none moving but all looking on in surprise.

A body hit the ground and skid through the dirt as well, flipping and flopping till it smacked into a tree trunk a few yards away. And from the burning remains of the cabin stepped Sazak. Fire coated several portions of his armor, quickly dying out and simply shifting into steady streams of black smoke as he marched across the yard next between him and the man whom had been slung outward.

A sneer marked Sazak's face, as he gripped the handle of his zweihander tightly. Each step making a loud clack, the Icon power walking across the distance between him and the god whom was now struggling to get up. "I told you, Thiasis. This would have been far less painful if you simply let me kill you." he stated loudly.

As he arrived, he continued. "Instead, you decided to defy me. Of course you would. I imagine Undite, Velin, and Adona will too." he muttered, grabbing onto the god's tattered shirt and pulling him up. His armored fingertips tore the shirt even more, but the god would manage to climb to his feet as Sazak finished. "And so, you've condemned yourself to die like a mongrel. It makes sense, honestly. You berserkers are not too far off from werebeasts, right?"

Thiasis went to speak, but Sazak's fist soon caught him across the side of his jaw. Knocking him sideways, back down onto the ground. Blood stained the ground as well, having been knocked from his mouth alongside a few broken teeth. Sazak's expression didn't change, as he gazed down through his long black hair at the god. "Any last words before I snuff out that little flame you call a life?"

Thiasis coughed, spitting more blood onto the ground, before starting to laugh. Which only irritated Sazak more. "What's so funny?" the Icon asked.

"Y-You... really think you're going to win this. That's what's f-funny." said Thiasis, rolling over onto his back so that he could gaze up at Sazak. "...Y-You made all these plans... Spent a-all these years biding your time... and in the end... it'll be all for nothing." And then, the god gave the Icon a broken grin. "I-I pity you."

Anger quickly washed over Sazak's face, his yellow eyes glowing intensely as he glared down at Thiasis. And a moment later, he lifted a leg only to bring it down onto the god's face with a brutal stomp. It was followed by another, and another. Six times he stomped onto Thiasis's head.

And once he finished, he lifted up the zweihander. Tip pointing downward towards the ground. The Icons would then watch, as he drove the great-sword down. Straight through Thiasis' head. Sazak had slain a god right before their eyes.

The rage faded slowly from his face, but wouldn't fade entirely until he spat upon the god's corpse. Then, he removed his sword, hoisting it onto his shoulder and walking over towards where the Icons were standing. And as he arrived, the first to speak would be Keggoth. "Another god slain, though it was a bit quick. I'd have figured you'd have taken your time." she said, folding her arms and smirking.

Sazak cut her a look, before moving his attention to the others. "It was tempting, but we have other pressing matters." he stated, "My source on Grimtham informed me, before I went to deal with Thiasis, that Rebecca Witlocke's little party has arrived on Grimtham and is moving to locate Gyasis' Amulet. Our Lord wants that amulet. You will retrieve it, correct?" He finished the statement by pointing to both Vegras and Istres. Both nodded. "Good. Prove to all of us that the two of you are better than your predecessors."

"Oh, we are." responded Istres, while Vegras simply grinned.
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Big loaf supreme
The Abyss-Near the city of Greed

"He wants to what?"

"One on one duel with you."

"And you agreed to it?" The demon squeezed the bridge of his nose. Or what passed for one, given his visage.

"You wanted him back into the fold and I didn't see any other way to get him to join." The wraith shrugged. He didn't think much of it, truth be told. Connor had signed his death warrant, but that was neither here nor there at the moment.

"At least he has the decency to wait after the war." Lozon lowered his head as he looked over the map in front of them. "I should be thankful that this is not a more common condition for an alliance."

"Lucky." Constantine was silent for a moment as he looked at the same map "You think this will work?"

"The battleplan was solid already. With the men you manage to secure, our banner strength is above what it was before we switched sides." The demon pushed several pieces that represented the different wraith forces along the map. "We have combat groups, each with their own tasks to prepare the battlefields for the larger army, but our biggest prize is right here." Lozon pointed to the marked spot on the map." The garrison of wrath demons that has taken up camp outside the city walls is no random war party looking for a fight. We spotted Gnev'hen's banner flying over their camp."Constantine recognized the name instantly. It was the same demon lord that had decimated the wraiths and broke off Lozon's horn. This wasn't just some military operation, this was a blood feud coming to a boil.

"He either intends to draw us out or is desperate to meet us on the battlefield first. Likely a trap by those behind the walls, hoping our army would get distracted by him." The demon patriarch sneered "I intend to spring our own trap instead. He's our sworn enemy, so I begged Lady Annen for a chance for us to take care of him." He next pointed to the larger piece meant to represent the bulk of the wraith force. "He can't refuse meeting me in combat and we can exploit that weakness. Draw him out and have our smaller groups apply pressure though hit and run attacks while he chases after us. We'll bleed them dry and then use that blood for one of Tiloc's rituals." He looked at Constantine, those black pools unnerving anyone who would look at them directly. "These maneuvers are all a show. A spectacle for those atop the walls to gawk at. Tiloc has been preparing a spell that requires a large supply of blood that the wrath demons will graciously provide a fresh batch for." Something resembling a smile crept on his face. "You'll know what it looks like when it happens. A feast for the eyes to make our hosts focus on the wrong part of the battle and for us to gain our own revenge."

"That's a serious plan, that." The wraith nodded after Lozon was finished "But I wasn't asking about it. I meant the war." Lozon glanced towards him and then back at the map. "Right, above my paygrade." He faked a cough trying to chance the topic. "What's my part in all of this? Doing a hit and run?"

"No, we have another task for you entirely." Lozon pointed to a piece near the city walls. "You have history with the city and its inhabitants short of you being a greed demon yourself. You'll lead an infiltration team to work your way inside, through whatever means you can. Once in, you have to sabotage the defenses anyway you can. Open gates, break machinery, destroy supplies, kill high value targets, sow panic...just make sure that they fear the inside as much as the outside. Once the army is through, you are to link up with lady Annen's forces and help navigate through the streets." Constantine placed both hands on his hips as he contemplated his orders. "Go rest up while you can." The demon tilted his head backwards to direct him out of the tent. "You'll be needed soon enough when Annen gives the call."

The lack of any real answer to his question and getting saddled with that heavy of a task on short notice didn't assure Constantine of anything, but picking at it now would be useless if not counterproductive. Instead he nodded and left the tent quietly for somewhere he could rest. Somewhere even in the Abyss that offered some respite. Colette's medical tent. Inside however he saw she was arms deep in stitching together some of the wraiths they had recruited.

"Oh, Constantine!" She waved him over as she saw him walk in. "Come in, you can help me with this one." The cowboy moved closer with a few uneasy steps and placed a hand where she directed him to. "Hold the skin together while I pour the concoction on the wound." He did as he was told and watched as the potion she brewed sizzled and melted the skin together. Much to his surprise, the other wraith didn't seem to care or notice. "And with that monsieur, your last wound is fixed." Colette stood up straight after she put the flask away "The tonic should wear off in an hour, so you'll start feeling some numb pain. Take this and you should be fine."

"Aulright then." The wraith said as he took the other flask from her hand. He turned to Constantine before leaving, "Shades. We're fucked without them." The cowboy had to nod in agreement as he let the other wraith leave. 'Yeah, that's why we owe them so much, buddy.' he thought as he sat down nearby.

"Where did you find these men?" Colette asked as she took off the apron she had stitched together from random cloth. "Half of them look like they've been eaten alive."

"I picked them from a tree." He gave her a dry answer. The shade tilted her head, placed her hands on her hips and gave him a look of disbelief "I'm serious. It was a hanging tree."

"I did notice marks on a lot of their necks now that you mention it." She had one finger up to her chin as she thought about what he said "Not made of any rope I've seen either. And a lot of them had their entrails hanging out..." Her eyes widened as she made the horrific realization and looked at the cowboy "How in the name of the Abyss did they survive that?"

"We have anger issues that make us harder to kill." He shrugged. "Doesn't dull the pain, none." A chance glance to the bottles on her table gave him an urge "Speaking of...I might get roughed up real bad real soon..."

"And I'll be treating soldiers from the battlefield." She cut him down before he could even ask for a tonic "Demon, wraith or whatever else, they're gonna be taking priority and I need all the tonics I have so they can get back into the field."

"Can I smoke at least?"

"Only if you lend me one or five."

"Deal." He chuckled and fished out a pair of cigarettes. She picked up one with her clawed hand and he snapped his finger for a light. Both managed to synchronize their smoking like it was a routine. Forming a large cloud above them.

Acquiring a carton in the Abyss was worth a small fortune for anyone not a of some nobility or high ranking officer. It was incredibly lucky that he stumbled upon a box of them on their last raid. Spoils of war, but desperately needed. The taste reminded him of different times, before this war and before the Abyss even. A time before he pissed it all away. Colette had a similar connection to these things. That's what she told him at least. The money she scrounged up would go to paying her train ticket, drink and something to smoke.

"Reminds me of the Escarian cafes." She started talking "I spend so much time there as a student. Talking and arguing with other students about the lectures we sat through." She looked to him "Did you have anything like that?"

"Saloons I guess." He shrugged again "I was never smart enough for anything beyond gambling. Were those cafes known to have blood all over the floor? You're getting nostalgic over them now."

"No...just...Desperate to remember better times I guess." She sighed. The silence lasted for a long time before she spoke again. "Do you think there's hope for us? After the war?"

"I asked the same question earlier. Know what I was told?" He looked at her and she shrugged "Trust the plan. It will work out." Worst lie he ever told, but it seemed to have worked for now. The shade seemed content with the answer. As much as someone in her position could be. Anything to help keep her hope for liberation alive. As for him, he prayed to whatever gods would listen that this plan would work.


Servant Supreme
The Land of Greed​

There was a sound like thunder that swept the landscape, a desolate, rotting imitation of human civilization, sick with avarice taken to its insatiable end. From crumbling hovels and empty shells of barren industries, the damned looked up from their fruitless toil, their fingers raw and bloody from scraping away soil unfit for life and prosperity, backs scarred from the savagery of demon and rival mortal alike, and at once their faded minds are filled with fear and confusion unlike any they've felt in their squalid afterlife. In the distance, beneath a cloud of dust and magicked, billowing smoke, stood an army of ten score thousand demons, the assembled mass of avenging fury that accounted for a mere half of Tariun's ever-growing rebellion.

Kept to their eternal task of gathering wealth the land could no longer provide for Keggoth and her lieutenants and favorites, the damned were unaware of any happenings beyond their sight. They did not know, for example, that the Icon of Greed had taken to the mortal realm to do Taranoch's bidding, leaving behind her ill-prepared subordinates to coordinate a defense against the rebellion, nor did they know that Thorgran had done the same to the Land of Gluttony, entrenched as it was in its own struggle against a local uprising. Keggoth's lieutenants thus divided their forces haphazardly to defend two frontiers, and would undoubtedly lose them both.

They had, however, taken note of the increased presence of their own tormentors The demons of Greed had been called home to Erebos, but for what reason, their charges could not have guessed; what the fallen mortals now viewed was beyond comprehension. All around them, the forces of Taranoch assembled to defend these lands. Disorganized, chattering, they took to the rooftops in search of signals, some semblance of coordination. Flares of magic and flags of semaphore rose above the ruined landscape that encircled the palatial estates of the demon nobility and the unfathomable hordes of wealth within, their golden city walled off from the tormented by towering battlements. Horns were blown and drums were beaten, and a battle cry of indignant malice rose from those torturers' throats as they viewed the distant army's challenge.

The defenders always believed themselves unassailable, based on the merit of their class. They, too, had been deceived by their masters.

As they awaited the commencement of the battle, however, there was one truth which eluded them not because of some great lie, but due to pure, ignorant optimism: they believed that the pretender herself, Tariun, would be facing them this day, and was presently somewhere among the infinite throng. They imagined themselves pouncing upon their foes, tearing them limb from limb in the snaking, claustrophobic roadways which turned the ruinous city around them into a labyrinth at ground level. They held onto the wild belief that they would somehow corner her and bring about her demise, at once ending the challenge to Taranoch's reign and commencing the greatest bloodletting and feast of flesh that the Abyss would ever experience henceforth.

They could not have predicted that Tariun had entrusted such a critical attack to her subordinates, just as Keggoth had done for the defense, and that the commander of the largest portion of this army, Azathor, had been forced to do the same, as he was currently in the mortal realm. His senior-most lieutenant, Mariette, once a mortal vampire and a servant of Sazak, now a powerful demonic mage, had thus risen to command not just her own unit of five thousand, but all of Azathor's forty thousand, and was now in overall command of the operation, bearing down on the Land of Greed with no less than 200,000 demons.

She was clad in spiked armor, now well-worn from the years of battles she had faced. Despite this, it was impeccably clean, as if no blood or mud had ever touched her. It was the same with her skin and hair. Thin streams of reddish smoke rose from the gaps between the plates, a constant reminder of the hellfire at her fingertips, the source of both her strength and the reason no foreign particle could reside long on her person- the foulness was literally cleansed by fire, every battle. Nearby, the lieutenants Annen, Neroph, and Mazkas gathered to confer one final time before the great confrontation could begin. Each of them commanded tens of thousands of followers directly, and could pass on orders to the dozens of lesser officers that had brought along smaller, irregular units to join the grand army.

The lieutenants' bodies were hidden from view, cloaked in the darkness of their conjured smoke for this brief conference. Mariette addressed them first. "Camarades, the scouts sent by Annen have reported back. Our enemy has not deviated from their two-pronged strategy, and there is no relieving force we will need to contend with. We will proceed with the attack as we envisioned it last night: I will take Azathor's army into the heart of Erebos and contend with the strongest opposition. Going by prior experience, we can safely assume that they will commit far more than they can afford to lose to the goal of decapitating the rebellion." She spoke confidently, but not enthusiastically. The weight of each decision on the course of history weighed heavily on her mind, and even after meticulously planning for several days on end, to the point that another detailed discussion was totally unnecessary, Mariette was troubled by the thought that a simple victory was not enough.

Anything less than decimation would fail to satisfy her, and not for any vain reason. Every night, alone in the dark she sensed the danger of the Icons' return, and the overwhelming need to crush their subordinates, their entire base of power, before they could supplement their failing underlings with strength that could turn the hitherto fortunate tides.

Annen gave a spiteful smile as she reflected on their accomplishments. "We have not allowed enough to escape our path and provide warning. They still do not know with whom they're dealing... They'll be as lambs to a slaughter." Her comment drew a round of approval from the others. Marette and Mazkas, both former mortals, nodded despite their dour expressions. Neroph, however, was himself a demon of greed, and looked upon Erebos with a mixture of love and contempt that he could barely contain. For him, this was both a homecoming as well as vindication, as he picked his side early in the rebellion, before the Land of Greed's capitulation had become a certainty.

"They're desperate to be rewarded, like dogs," he added with the smooth voice of one accustomed to all the finer things in life, underpinned by the darkness of one aware of how such finer things can corrupt and destroy. He sighed and brushed aside his long, black hair. "They have no love of Taranoch or Keggoth, but they'll go to any lengths to please them if it helps build their fortunes higher. You can bet that when they realize they're about to lose all of it, they'll either throw themselves on the pyre, or beg to join our side."

Annen shook her head. "By this point, the former is more likely. Given what we've found stashed away, unused in prior battles, it appears they value their riches far more than they could ever value life itself."

Mariette nodded in agreement. "If they possessed the intelligence to be useful allies, they would have been inspired to join us long ago, as you did," she said. "Nevertheless, every defector or prisoner is one more set of hands we deprive the enemy of, and your mere presence will assure them that surrender will allow them to avoid the slaughter, so to speak," she conceded, casting a glance at Annen. "While you are securing a passage for their escape, Annen will send her reconnaissance units forward on their 'special mission.' Mazkas, you will hold in reserve until the moment is right."

Mazkas, who until this point had remained silent, nodded dutifully. "We need to trick them into believing that victory is possible, or else they won't be so eager to stand their ground. Once they begin to crack, I will be there to help you finish the job." She had nothing else to say; having risen to prominence within the grand army so suddenly in the prior year, she silently seethed with a desire to lead herself; had she been given as much time to learn and grow as Mariette had received, then in all likelihood this would be her army to command, and her great victory. But at the moment, it was a quiet consensus that she was the least of the four lieutenants gathered today, and would not receive the credit she rightfully deserved.

However, the war was far from over, and even Mariette sensed that Mazkas would achieve great victories of her own further down the line. Should they all prevail, it was easy to imagine Neroph inheriting the Land of Greed due to his foresight and loyalty to the rebellion. Annen, likewise, stood poised to take a leadership role, as she expertly coordinated efforts among every level of the uprising, from Tariun's inner circle at the top, to the novice demons and wraiths at the bottom.

But what would become of the former mortals? Despite their power, neither were particularly well-regarded by the lesser demons who obeyed their orders. They were simply too new in a world which measured a history ten times the length of the mortal realm. And while Mazkas fully-embraced her new life and destiny among their kind as an alchemist who had now mastered enchantments of the Abyssal variety, Mariette had yet to adopt a name natural to demonkind, and had made no plans for herself beyond the war aside from living in peace with Cassandra for the rest of their damnation.

For the moment, at least, she knew her role, as did the others. "Oui, you will either be the master stroke, or you will save us, should the enemy surprise us with some yet-unknown ploy. And should I die," Mariette added, thoughtfully, "you will take command of Azathor's forces in my stead."

Now, finally, Mazkas grinned with jagged teeth. Even if she would receive little credit for the battle itself, this acknowledgement of her strategic importance was enough to rekindle her enthusiasm for her limited role, and made her eventual accent seem that much closer. "You'll live, witch. I'll earn that command someday, not inherit it."

Mariette raised her hand, spreading her bladed fingertips wide so that a ball of fire formed with a ruby glow. "You heard Mazgas. Let us destroy these imbéciles bâtards today, so that she can have her glory tomorrow!" The other lieutenants flew to their positions as the orb of fire contracted on itself before exploding, sending a shockwave through the air and clearing away the conjured smoke. Now, the enemy could see the leadership of the grand army, and howled in indignation that Tariun had not just sent her underlings, but that not even Azathor had deemed them worthy of his attention. Gripping her sword, Mariette held it aloft and sent a column of reddish hellfire high into the sky, eliciting a battle cry from the grand army that echoed across the plane.


The Demon Fanatic
It had been quite a long time since Xager had the chance to bear witness to a proper siege. Hundreds of years, in fact. And this was shaping up to be a good one, from what she saw when she arrived on the battlefield via portal.

She didn't come alone, however. Emerging from the portal behind her, a small detachment of wrath demons that had had been following her lead since the capture of Sheol. Battle-hardened by years of conflict with the forces of Taranoch, they had proven themselves time and time again until they were assigned to operate under Xager's direct order. Thought lately, they were fewer in number than they had been previously.

"Form up. We're to locate Mariette, and provide whatever assistance is needed." stated Xager, glancing back to her unit before looking towards the now clashing armies ahead of them.

"And how do we locate her?" asked one of the wrath demons. A shorter woman, with ash colored skin and black hair that had been half shaved off. She was heavily scarred, with cuts and burns covering most of her form. One of her eyes was apparently dead in its socket, faded and grey as a massive rough burn covered half of it. The horn above the eye had been broken off, leaving only a rough stump in its place, and the hair behind it had been partially scorched away. It seemed they had shaved that side in order for it to look a bit more normal. In her grip, a vicious looking two handed axe.

"It should be fairly obvious." stated Xager, "Look for the Hellfire. She's usually at the heart of it."

"Of course, it has to be fire."
remarked the woman, which forced a chuckle from one of the others. A larger wrath demon wielding what appeared to be a bastard sword of abyssal origin. She cut him a look with her remaining good eye, grunting afterwards, before looking back to Xager.

Xager motioned afterwards for them to follow, drawing her swords as she started to jog lightly away. "Let's get moving. They'll be pushing deep into Erebos, and we'll be needed there." she called out, as the others began to chase after her.

"What about Annen and her 'special mission'?" called out the male that had chuckled before. "I heard she might need a little help too!"

"No need. She'll have all the help she needs soon enough. I just hope she remembers the words she was told to say once she locates her objective."
responded Xager.
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Servant Supreme
In the Outskirts
The fallen mortals broke into hysterical panic at the approach of the grand army, but they had nowhere to run to, no shelter to hide in; what few buildings existed which could serve as one filled so quickly that the latecomers found nothing but violence awaiting them in the overflowing chambers. Their masters gave the signal to let arrows fly- what few, crude guns had been seen at the beginning of this war had long disappeared, while others were taken as trophies and displayed in the very halls they were defending. Nonetheless, the volley they unleashed presented a terrible danger to both the aerial mages as well as the demons approaching on foot, as the bows they employed were constructed with inhuman strength in mind; the arrow shafts fashioned entirely of bronze, with heads dipped in iron.

As the dark cloud of missiles reached the airborne mages, there was a rumble in the sky- hundreds of small concussive blasts which collectively formed a barrier, deflecting the arrows and robbing them of their energy. They, and dozens bodies of dead or wounded mages, plummeted from the sky, littering the crumbling slumlands below. Behind Mariette and Azathor's heavily armed and armored vanguard, Annen's lighter raiders fanned out, covering as much ground as they could to remove traps and thwart enemy attempts to get behind the main line. Their work was made easier thanks to advance units which had already scouted the battlefield in the darkness of night, clearing up lanes of safe passage.

The archers repeated their attack several more times, and were joined by massive ballistae hurling explosive shells into the sky from the top of the wall. Down below, several warbands of wrath demons took up position, eager to absorb the brunt and bask in the bloodshed of the attack. Perhaps too eager, as it would soon be seen, as a large gathering of wraiths exposed itself between Azathor's forces in the middle and Annen's raiders on the fringes, and were set upon ferociously by Gnev'hen's camp almost immediately. The wraiths appeared to shatter into a wild retreat, dodging falling arrows as they hurried away, but in truth they were following a known safe route, and raiders hidden along its flanks began to ambush and harry the wrath demons, oblivious as they were to the trap they were falling into.

Finally, the mages reached the top of the wall and summoned forth a cloud of smoke not unlike the conjuration which had hidden their commanders before. It swept over the battlements, blinding and choking the archers and artillerymen who began firing blindly at the darkness ahead of them. However, the mages had all flown high into the sky, and were now hovering above the storm-like mass they had created.

"NOW!" Mariette yelled, concentrating a blast of hellfire in her palm before throwing it down like a grenade. The hundreds of mages who had joined her did similarly, or else threw down physical weapons like spears, onto the opposition, and hammered the wall with every furious element they could generate. Caches of explosive shells for the ballistae detonated across the battlements and sent stone bricks and viscera showering down on the battlefield below.

Before the conjured smoke could clear, enemy mages burst from the cloud behind the vanguard. Mariette turned and realized that the defenders had charged in at the last moment, attempting to intercept her own forces in a melee. Some had probably been killed by the magical onslaught, while others might have even been wounded by friendly fire. She almost felt like laughing, but she could only scowl when she realized who had come to greet her.

"Ah, the witch is back," spoke Knasus, Keggoth's second-in-command. Just before the grand army was assembled and began to exact its will on the Land of Greed, Knasus and Mariette had battled on the frontier just south of the Land of Dead Kings. Her five hundred recruits battled him and his personal guard, no more than a hundred, and not only had it been a costly defeat for her, but he had nearly taken her life. He seemed calm, almost bored with the onslaught taking place on the city he was ordered to defend. "Tariun is placing an awful lot of faith-"

He paused mid-sentence to catch an axe which had been thrown at him from behind, and with a quick pivot, hurled it into a different nearby mage, catching her in the jaw and nearly ripping her head off. She tumbled lifelessly to the ground and exploded into gore on the cobbled roadway below. "-in a lowly servant girl," he finished speaking, his voice no less emotionless than it had been before. He slowly floated through the air toward his foe as combat continued in the air all around him. "You seem confident as well. You aren't running like you did before."

Mariette silently seethed at his calmness. It was impossible for him to save this city, or even himself, with such a force arrayed against him. And yet he continued to taunt her, as if he had an ace up his sleeve, even though they both knew that she was far stronger than the last time they met. She refused to play his game, however, and stayed silent as he stopped just short of her. He turned his head to the side, looking away from her, and put his hand up to his ear, goading her to speak up. Instead, she lifted her hand as if to strike him with her gauntlet, causing him to turn in the blink of an eye and grab her arm.

Despite his crushing strength, Mariette did the same with her other hand, only to be caught there as well. She was counting on it- and within the same moment she turned her wrists over and gripped him by the forearms before erupting her whole body into a cloak of hellfire. He screamed, more in surprise than in pain, before rearing his head back and headbutting her multiple times in the face, which Mariette returned with equal fervor, if not equal strength. In disbelief, Knasus stone face gradually melted into apoplectic rage as he spoke to her through clenched teeth: "LET. GO."

The two demons began to pull each other through the air erratically before Knasus gained the upper hand, barreling the two of them into the stone wall. Mariette's armor skidded along its surface but took the punishment well until they reached the ground, where the greed demon had positioned himself so that his foot was against her chest. With an agonized roar, he straightened out, slamming Mariette into the ground on her back and freeing his arms at last. The pointed tips of Mariette's gauntlets had driven through the flesh down to the bones, and his hands were burned to char.

They quickly began to mend themselves, as did the bruising and bleeding on both of their faces, but in his rage, Knasus kicked Mariette in one of her horns with such force that it didn't just break, it shattered into splinters that embedded themselves in stone. The impact was enough to disrupt Mariette's concentration, extinguishing her flames. She expected him to stomp her in the face, or perhaps employ magic to take his revenge, but Knasus didn't get the opportunity.

Instead, he was forced to turn and intercept Neroph's sword, the force of which was enough to crush the exposed bones in one of Knasus' arms and cause the limb to fall away. Blinded by rage, Knasus leaped at him, screaming in Abyssal tongues as he stabbed his former friend with his own severed bones. Neroph wheeled backwards in dismay while Knasus threw up his other hand, grabbing onto Neroph's face and unleashing a blast of ice which temporarily blinded him. But now, Knasus realized that his leg was just as brutally torn as his arms from when he ripped it free from Mariette's grasp. He saw his opportunity to escape for the moment and heal himself, and that was exactly what he did.

Neroph stumbled forward, rubbing his hands across his stinging face and sweeping flecks of ice out of his hair before falling to one knee, offering his hand to Mariette where he remembered seeing her. She took it, and the two helped each other to their feet. Neroph regained his senses as they took stock of their surroundings. There was blood all over the ground- huge puddles of it, far more than what would be natural even at a battle as cataclysmic as this. The two armies continued to fight each other in these streets awash in filth, too focused on their own personal battle to notice the sorcery at play. This was blood magic, they both realized, and exchanged a knowing smile. They could chase after Knasus if they wanted to, but Mariette needed to heal as well, and in the meantime, there was a prime opportunity to help rally the forces on the ground.


Big loaf supreme
Lozon rode forward towards the encampment with the rebel banner flying high on his back. The plan needed them to provoke the enemy first, so he would spare no effort. As he neared, he began to yell.

"Hear me, you wastes! Your time serving the Icons draws to an end. Your loyalty will be rewarded with death and your efforts for naught, From the old world's demise a new power will rise. One that your corpses will provide its foundation. So come out of your hovel, Gnev'ehn. Your lord is nowhere in sight for you to posture and faint any amount of skill. Or are you afraid of an old man putting you to shame?" He could see the demons in the camp begin to move. Soon an armored figure would emerge forward. Lozon smiled as he turned his horse around to join the other riders. As soon as they saw that the enemy force was marching out to meet them, they turned and ran.

The demon horde chased after them. The banners of Wrath flying violently in the wind as the soldiers charged after the wraiths. Gnev'hen's own steed was leading the pack as he chased after his quarry. Yet as they started to catch and his excitement grew, the demon would be denied his prize.

"NOW!" Lozon could be heard from the front and soon after the wrath demons would find themselves facing more than the souls of the damned. Demons, shades and beasts left their hidings spots and started to descend on the enemy vanguard like a swarm. Violent magic and unstable alchemist concoctions being tossed in their direction would soften up the flanks and back of the enemy force leaving them exposed to the arrows, spears and gnashing teeth and claws. Armor and flesh melted into one as those combined forces began to hammer the abyssal soldiers as they kept their mad pursuit going, forcing many of them to break away in desperation only to be met with more slaughter. As for the main wraith force, they quickly turned course.

"RIDE THEM DOWN!" The wraith's commander barked "ROUND THEM UP! LOOK INTO THEIR EYES AND HEAR THEM BEG FOR THEIR LIVES!" They charged towards their foes while the raiding and flanking maneuvers never ceased. The clash between them was a chaotic cacophony of violence as blade rend flesh from bone, bodies lie disfigured and infernal magic would be unleashed. The wraiths harbored frustration and hatred towards Gnev'hen and his lackeys for what they had done to them at the start of this war and it would all spill out on the field. Every strike, every kill would be another sacrifice for their revenge.

"You!" The demon commander finally found his target amid the chaos. "I'm going to enjoy butchering you and your pathetic rabble!"

"Do come forward then." Lozon taunted his enemy with spread arms. "Let me see you fight someone who fights back."

"I'll make you kneel you pathetic old..." Gnev'hen stopped in his tracks as an arm reached out and held his foot. The demon looked down to see a shade on the ground. He lifted his other foot and brought down an armored boot to crush the creature's head. Then another appeared from behind and gripped his arm. Then another would hold his same foot. A third would jump on his back and stab him in his shoulder through the plates of his armor. "You honorless.." The demon let out as another shade cut him across the small of his back, bringing him to his knee.

"Oh you speak to me of honor now? Hah. With age comes wisdom, child." Lozon taunted again. "Not that you'll live long enough to see it." He approached the scene as the shades started to pick at the other demon like vultures "These faces should be familiar to you. You put them to the sword in your mortal life and have been craving your life ever since." He stabbed his own sword in the ground and knelled while resting his right hand on the hilt. "You're were stronger than me boy, I bear the marks to show it." He pointed to his broken horn. "But not strong enough." A grim smile formed on his face. He stood up and plucked the sword from the ground. "Take heart. With your death, they're finally free." Lozon plunged his sword straight into Gnev'ehn's neck, finally killing him. With his expiration, the shades started to glow. Their revenge finally given to them after being denied for so long. They could finally move on, but the patriarch made no illusions about his action. They had no reason to be thankful for him after he denied their rest for so long. He just knew he took the first step in a long journey ahead. For now he ordered his force to retreat and prepare for further orders.

The skirmish was coming to a close as more wrath demons fell and blood would spill. The wind started to shift as the next phase of the battle had begun. The land they stood on was prepared ahead of time. Nearby, surrounded by a small retinue, Tiloc danced. A full smile revealing the jagged maw adored her face as she did. Her retinue held torches that burned an unnatural red and chanted in a long forgotten language. Eventually the priestess' motions would begin to have an effect. The blood would begin to shift and move towards her. The puddles joining together into pools and eventually forming a shallow lake. Her dance became more erratic as her motions began to draw blood in guizers from the lake. The crimson waters' own movement would imitate her until she would suddenly stop.

"Ezcotzin, lord of the soil and drinker of god's blood, hear your humble servant." She talked, the smile never leaving her face with her arms raised to the sky above. "Accept this offering we give you and send us an avatar of your might!" The ground began to rumble and shake. From the lake of blood emerged a beast of nightmarish size and it unleashed a deafening roar. Those defenders who still observed from atop the walls would feel fear grip every fiber of their being as the massive blood worm set its sights on their army. Behind it on the ground, the priestess let out a mad cackle as their plan had worked. "Go avatar! Take our enemy as your own and gorge yourself full!"
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