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THE DEVIANT DEAD
The legendary 30-Year Man didn’t so much dislike ale as it was well down his list of preferred malt beverages. He didn’t particularly dislike any of the Thanatoids either. Sooth said, which being a taleteller he always did, he’d completed a couple of full, 30-year life-allotments whilst covering the expansion of their empire in the 4700s and into the early 4800s. He had plenty of tales to tell as a result of them as well.
What he did dislike was wearing a garlic necklace.
Jordan Tethys was a scruffy looking fellow with a stubble beard and thinning, reddish-blond hair. He made his living telling stories; hence one of his nicknames: the Legendarian. He was wearing his favourite tweed jacket and a checked cap. Like him both jacket and cap had seen better days. Underneath the cap, stuck to his scalp by their own gluey ichors, were a half-dozen tee-tee tails. Tee-tees were talking rodents. He could also read the ridges and nodules of their tails, which contained tales. Pierced into his cap was what appeared to be an ordinary feathered quill. Appearances were deceiving. It was made of Brainrock-Gypsium, the miraculous Godstuff, the post Big Bang remnants of the Primordial Godhead, that, besides being teleportive and transmutable, composed devic power focuses.
The Legendarian looked to be of an indeterminate age, anywhere from his early thirties to his mid forties. Physically his body was only 32-years old. He lived rough, often in the streets; treated his bodies disrespectfully. At the most he could only hold onto them for 30 years; hence another of his nicknames: the 30-Year Man. At the earliest he could only get into them when they’d been around for 20 years.
This particular body had been, more so than belonged to, George Taurson. George had always been sickly; had died. Tethys had taken it over when he did; made it healthy again. That was an oddity of his deviancy, one of a number. George was his son. He’d been doing that sort of thing for going on 2,000 years.
Tethys claimed he was born of an ordinary man and woman around the start of the Outer Earth’s Christian era. The one that he knew of for sure was possessed by a Master Deva when he’d been conceived as well as born. He said his devic half-mother was Titanic Metis, she whose Brainrock cauldron Methandra Thanatos now owned. He denied he was a devil, although he did have a scar in his forehead about where a devil’s third eye would be. Significantly none of his offspring, or their offspring, had a scar in their forehead until he incarnated within them.
Two incarnations ago he was a woman. She was a nun. She was also a tippler. He, even as a she, drank a lot of beer. Hence his third major nickname: 30-Beers.
He was doing that now.
After a short nap, and a shorter flight from Aka Godbad City, he was in Petrograd, the coastal capital of New Iraxas, the subcontinent of Godbad’s north-easternmost province. Across the Gulf of Aka from New Iraxas was Old Iraxas, Hadd, the Land of the Ambulant Dead as well as living Iraches. He was in Petrograd as a guest of Ferdinand Niarchos, the provincial governor as well as one of most influential figures within Centauri Enterprises, the Corporate State of Greater Godbad’s real power. CE, Centauri Enterprises, was named after its founder, Alpha Centauri. Alpha Centauri was not his real name.
The Fatman, so-called, often to his face, because he was well-north of 400 pounds, was Tethys’s patron in Aka Godbad. They often drank together. Indeed, they’d been drinking together most of yesterday, the 29th of Maruta. The Fatman liked his stories and, in terms of length, Tethys had told him a whopper: ‘The Disunition of the Unities’.
It wasn’t a whopper in terms of verisimilitude, however. Even though the events he told him about took place five centuries ago, some of its characters were still around. One of them often used the Fatman as his shell. That was Thrygragos Byron. Another was Tethys himself. A third and a fourth were the Terrible Twins, Janna and Sraddha Somata. Well, the male of the two may not be around anymore. However, the female of the two still had a Crystal Skull attached to the torc she perpetually wore around her neck. It might contain Sraddha’s soul.
Tethys wasn’t the only one who referred to the governor as Weird Ferd. The largely CE-owned media-paparazzi often did as well. Even though he never bothered to get married, Ferd had lots of children. Some of them probably belonged to his father Gomez. In the decades the subcontinent was still a monarchy, one ruled by an aristocracy, Gomez was the hereditary Duke of the Duchy of Aka Godbad.
Thanks in large measure to Alpha Centauri, the subcontinent was nowadays a nominal democracy, the Corporate State of Greater Godbad. Thanks mostly to Tethys himself, Gomez was now dead and possessed of a Sangazur Spirit Being, Guardian Angel Gomez. Father and son still talked, usually via Crystal Skull-sets. Gomez was still fertile. His children were fully alive. The pollution of New Iraxas was nonetheless preferable to trying to raise kids in the Bloodlands. Sedon’s Inner Nose wasn’t called New Valhalla for nothing. In New Valhalla sibling rivalry was a blood sport.
Although Weird Ferd hadn’t required of him any Tethys Tales as partial payment for his room and board, he had required of him some backward drawing. Backward-drawing was one of Tethys’s talents. With it the Legendarian had thereby confirmed Ferd’s suspicions re Irache capitalism. Yes indeed, as well as in deed, folks cheated. Living Irache vampire-hunters had been gathering the powdered remains of freshly dusted Marutian or Sraddhite fat-cat bats and passing them off as two or three dusted, oppressed underclass, Irache vamps in order to collect a triple bounty from Centauri Enterprises.
Somewhat disquietingly, though it turned out Ferd had suspected this as well, the Irache bounty-hunters got their information as to the whereabouts of non-Irache fat-cat bats from scrawny Irache bats. He’d been particularly displeased when one of Tethys’s backward-drawings filled in with the familiar face and form of Night Owl, the chief Irache vampire in New Iraxas. While Night Owl was hardly the most imaginative of names, Night Owl was a very hardy vamp. He’d been around since the Simultaneous Summonings of 19/5920 and, as Tethys himself was fond of saying, he had his-stories.
He also had a pair of twin sons, both of whom were now dead and non-risen, a wife who died having them, whereupon she became a Lamia, which meant she had to be dealt with more terminally later on, and a deviant heritage. Which meant he was very difficult to deal with himself, though both Ferd and Tethys thought he had been. Until today, that is.
Something else about Night Owl was he chewed garlic. He did so because Second Fangs, Janna Fangfingers, found the smell of garlic appalling and when one of your sons was her mortal enemy, emphasis on ‘was’, his own discomfort was a small price to pay to keep her off his back. Or at least keep her too distant to rip out his backbone with her fang-fingered glove.
Born Janna Somata, in 5456 Year of the Dome, Second Fangs and her twin brother, Sraddha, were two of the non-devic main characters in his rendition of ‘The Disunition of the Unities’. The Terrible Twins were deviants. Their birth parents were hybrid Utopians, Zalman and Melina Somata. Paternally their devic half-grandfather was Lord Yajur, the Unity of Order; maternally their devic half-mother was Harmonia, the Unity of Harmony or Balance.
Most believed the third Unity, Unholy Abaddon, Abe Chaos, using a Trigregos Talisman, the Susasword, had killed Harmony in 5492. Certainly neither the Female Unity nor the curved, Brainrock blade had been seen since then. Chaos cathonitized Order, rendered him a star in the Night’s Sky, on the Prison Beach of Incain in 5495. He thereafter committed devic suicide by cutting out his third eye. Although that meant he could no longer possess anyone, chances were he was still around somewhere. No one knew where; probably no one cared where either.
Tethys, though, was glad Ferd gave him a garlic necklace when he decided to leave the governor’s staid domicile in order take a walk and taste the remarkably breathable night air of Petrograd. It wasn’t just the night air he wanted to taste either. Now that a majority of altogether alive workers from Godbad proper were living here on a daily basis there were some great public bars in Petrograd. Too bad he’d chosen one that didn’t have garlic garlands strung around its doors and windows. Vamps were public too.
Garlic wouldn’t do any good against Night Owl but right now it was certainly keeping Second Fangs far enough away for him to finish his getaway drawing. Which he did. It wasn’t perfect but it’d be good enough.
“Oh, don’t be in such a rush to flush, Tethys,” she fay-said, sauntering up to his table. “At least have another beer; for old times’ sake if nothing else.”
“Sorry, Fangs, but I’m particular about who I drink with. I hate being the person who’s drunk. Or haven’t I mentioned that to you before?”
“I expect you have.” She sat down unbidden. “Waitress, another beer for my friend here.”
The bar had become noticeably emptier the moment she walked in, all in white. Sleeveless cloak, stylish crewneck blouse and pleated skirt cut just below the knee, hose or leggings, stiletto-heeled boots, even the strip of white cloth she wore about her throat, like the Brainrock torc her devic half-mother wore about her neck, was white. The cameo attached to it wasn’t, however. He wasn’t sure cameo was the right for the ornament but he knew what it looked like: a crystalline skull. Very charming. And ever so appropriate for a vampire.
One thing he’d never quite figured out, despite nearly twenty centuries worth of incarnations, was how vamps could shape-shift clothes or jewellery out of their bat-forms. He supposed it had something to do with them being soulless demons. Not that most demons wore clothes they manufactured. Those that didn’t go naked tended to wear the clothes of those they ate. Still, one of these nights he hoped to see a bat, in a bat form, wearing a dress, tux or cape as if it was about to attend the opera.
Second Fangs was all white herself. Being originally a Utopian hybrid, she always had been, hair and flesh. Her lips and teeth were red, however, while her furry, fang-fingered glove was dripping. “Nothing for me, I’ve already had my fill for the night.”
“So I noticed,” he said. Her Brainrock glove was drenched with blood. The glove was once the power focus of First Fangs, a foppish Master Deva, a lowborn Lazaremist Illuminaries named Faustus Vladuca after some obscure figures from East European folklore. Her lover, Abe Chaos, had acquired it, with the Fop’s hand still inside it, for her when he still believed she was altogether alive.
“Been meaning to ask what happened to your third eye?” he asked, friendly like.
During the First War between the Living and the Dead, which Illuminaries dated from the birth of Janna’s lone offspring in 5480 until his death in 5538, Tethys had the misfortune of being killed then possessed by a symbiotic Sangazur, Guardian Angel Jordan. In 5495, Janna Somata, by then Second Fangs, was possessed of Nergal Vetala, the Vampire Queen of the Dead. Janna-Vetala had, he believed for a number of subsequent incarnations, eyefire-burned Guardian Angel Jordan out of existence, thus ending that particular incarnation.
“Oh, I haven’t had one for years and years. That an Illuminary star-chart sticking out of your satchel?” She didn’t expect an answer. She knew what it was and that was what it was, an Illuminary star-chart. “Not much use tonight, is it? I’m pretty sure Star Belialma’s still up there but there’s some big ones missing.” Belialma was Lady Lust, a onetime Prime Sinistral of Satanwyck, which was where demonic vampires originated.
“So there is,” he agreed, finishing off his beer. He hated to drink and run; not that he’d be running as such. “Lord Order’s the biggest one in the Lazaremist Quadrant but there’s an equally significant one over in the Mithradic Quadrant. Star Phantast is no piker either.” Star Phantast had been in the Night’s Sky for going on 2000 years. Tethys blamed him for his first death. “The entire Constellation Thanatos has vanished, too, so that’s got me in conspiracy theory mode. Non-Lazaremist firstborns tend to stick together.”
Phantast the Dreamweaver, along with Methandra and Tantal Thanatos, were firstborn Mithradites whereas the two Silverclouds, who were as married as Heat and Cold, were Byron’s firstborn, the only two who made it to the Whole Earth pre-Genesea. For most of their existence the Lazaremists had stuck together, too; so long as Harmonia, the Unity of Balance, Second Fangs’ half-mother, was around to stick herself between her two brothers, the Unities of Order and Chaos. Only then they forgot the togetherness part and started trying to stick it to each other; Unholy Abaddon being more successful in that department than other two.
The waitress was bringing him another pilsner. He eyeballed her. It was different waitress than the one who’d been serving him earlier. This one wasn’t wearing a garlic necklace whereas the previous one had been. She also had black skin whereas her predecessor was an Irache redskin. Her skin colour didn’t mean much; there were plenty of women with black skin in Godbad. Mind you, he thought to himself, tapping the tip of his Brainrock quill against his drawing, there were plenty of women from Marutia who had black skin, too.
That her head was shaven did mean something. Only Sraddhites shaved the hair off their heads and Sraddhites weren’t very popular in New Iraxas. That she put the beer down in front of Fangs, skewing her nose as she did so, meant something as well. He squiggled his name on the bottom of the drawing but held off doing his getaway dot. He could as easily drink one-handed as he could dot his drawing with the other one.
“Really, Tethys,” Fangfingers, who knew him for the deviant he was, reproached him for readying his getaway, “I’m disappointed in you. We’re old pals, you and I. Besides, I haven’t turned everyone left in this room. Some of the Iraches Night Owl turned are no more offended at the smell of garlic than he is, which is to say not so much so as mine. And enough of them are as pissed off at him as I am. Bats shouldn’t rat on bats, even fat-cat bats.”
Using her glove she shoved the beer mug across the table to within his easy
reach. He was tempted. She was tempting him; mesmerizing him, put better. “In
other words,” he appreciated, taking it by its handle, “I was as
dead as you wanted me to be. Which isn’t at all, right? Not right away
anyways.” He took a sip. Beer would be the death of him yet. Again, make
“Janna’s nice, Jordy. No one’s called me that for, well, centuries. I’m perfectly capable of fighting my own battles; always have been, as you should recall. I’ll find Wily Old eventually, no matter what shapes he can take nowadays. Those stars you mentioned, I didn’t realize Phantast and Constellation Thanatos were missing I did, however, realize three others were, one in each quadrant: Star Straw-Man, Star Shovel-Nose and Star First Fangs. And even I can’t fight them all at once, can I? So, yes, I want a drawing from you; one of a certain Tvasitar Talisman.”
Tethys pretended to mishear her meaning. He flipped some pages back on the sketchpad he’d been working on all day. Most of them needed their backgrounds filling in, then his signature and dotting, but otherwise they were finished products. He ripped off three of the sheets, the ones where he’d done drawings of the Trigregos Talismans: the Amateramirror, the Crimson Corona and the Susasword. Poised his quill to dot whichever one she chose.
“You’re hardly the only one. Which one do you want?”
She scowled at him. Then she smiled, too toothily for his taste, unfinished beer or no unfinished beer. “Nice try, Jordy. You reckon you can get away that easily? In a puff of smoke no less. That’s my trick. One of them anyhow. I know what’ll happened if you dot any one of those things. The sheet will burst into flames. No, my lad. I’m quicker than that. And so are they.”
The beer hall had always been smoke-filled. Most taverns were; except in Aka-Godbad City, that is. Smokeless bars were another of the Fatman’s recent innovations in the name of ‘greening’. So distracted was he, though, he hadn’t realized the smoke in the bar, particularly around his table, had become a whole lot thicker than it had been before Second Fangs walked into the bar. Which was something else he’d always wondered about vampires. How could they travel about as mist? A decent fart would blow them away, wouldn’t it?
Then they had him, her vamps, demystifying out of all that smoke. Had him, arms pinned back against the chair, his quill shaken out of his grip onto the tabletop and his garlic necklace torn off and tossed against the wall, before he could dot a ditto to any of his getaway pages. Second Fangs leaned forward. Her breath was fetid. Nothing new about that. She licked her lips then bared her fangs. Nothing new about either of that either.
“Maybe I’m still thirsty, dearest, latest, incarnation of one of my last living lovers. Maybe I’m not. But they are, my bats. Then again, another of your howsoever recent pals, CE’s Fatman, has been providing us, day by day, with fresh food, night by night. So, here’s what you can do for me, 30-Years, if you want your 30 beers. You can draw me a Tvasitar Talisman, a trident, you know the one, and I won’t have to fight all of my battles all by myself. Abe Chaos could never say no to me.”
The nib of his Brainrock quill no longer just perceptibly glowed. It ignited instead, began to glow as brightly as a miniature sunburst. About time too, thought Tethys, having had enough sense to close his eyes, both of them, just before it did so. When he opened them again, the smoke in the barroom was even thicker and Athenan War Witches were all about the place, gathering up dust. They were bounty-hunters, too, although unlike capitalistic Iraches they’d have done it for free.
One of them was Morgianna Sarpedon, the Athenans’ Mother Superior, the Hellions’ Morrigan as well. Her maiden name was Somata, the same as Janna Fangfingers’ birth name. They were in fact directly, if distantly, by a few centuries, related. She was just as white-as-light too, only she wore a pantsuit rather a blouse and skirt. There was also, strictly speaking, nothing dead about her. Probably was something daemonic about her, though. The Morrigan may have been an honourific but it came with certain horrific perks, one of which was an invisible, de-brained demon. Of course she’d had to earn it and part of earning it meant de-braining it.
She congratulated him. “Well done, Jordy, though I have to wonder why you were so slow on the dotting. Good thing Sister Scylla here doesn’t trust anyone. Otherwise you would have been well-done-for.”
“Things are missing, mother,” said Morg’s daughter, the eldest of two, Tsishah Twilight, Shenon’s non-Lemurian Aortic. She was another one wearing a demon. Her demon wasn’t invisible. It made her look like a red-skinned Irache, not a pureblood Utopian. Which Morgianna very nearly was; it was only her mother, Pandora Mannering, who had mixed blood. Her father, Augustus Nauroz, was as pure as the driven snow; if there was such a thing pure black snow, driven or otherwise. “Her Crystal Skull and the fang-figured glove, where are they?”
“She got away,” said one of the other Athenans there, Janna St Peche-Montressor, Alpha Centauri’s daughter-in-law. During the Godbadian Civil War, Centauri had to foster out his son, whose first name was Yataghan, to a family whose surname was Montressor.
This Janna’s maiden name sounded French because it was; albeit Inner Earth French. She hailed from Dukkha, on the Coast of Fearsome Fobbiat, on the edge of Sedon’s Moustache, his Upper Lip, the same place Tsishah’s father, Tammuz Rhymer, was born and raised before he became Tom-Tiddly Taddletale, a recurring faerie-type. Other than many of the Mantel replicas of Subcranial Temporis, only Dukkhans had as their birth-tongue a language different from Sedon Speak; pre-Babel Babble as Tethys called it. How that came about was one of the post-Disunition stories he’d have told the Fatman, had he had the time.
“And you know that because you’re named after her?” queried Witch Isle’s other Aortic, the amphibious, Lemurian Frog Woman of the two.
Aortic Amphitrite was being sarcastic. She was also wearing a Mandroid guard-body as opposed to a de-brained demon; was more squished into it than wearing it, sooth said, like a humanoid frog preserved in amber. It kept her sprayed with ordinary, as in non-vampiric mist. Like Morgianna she was a Summoning Child, which meant she was approaching her sixtieth birthday. That was old for a Lemurian. Soon she’d have to submerge herself beneath the Head’s Interior Ocean of Akadan permanently.
The only reason she hadn’t done so already, she’d told him this afternoon, was because her deviant daughter Lakshmi, who lived in Subcranial Temporis, way up north, beneath Sedon’s Cranium, was first of all turning eighteen this Lazam, Friday on the Outer Earth, then the very next day, Devauray or Saturday, was getting married to a much older man, one Centurion Sophiscient by name. Jordy was of course invited.
Since Temporis was one of his favourite places on the Whole Head, even if the Thousand Caverns of Tariqartha were actually in its underside, and since he knew all the parties involved, he said he wouldn’t miss it for the world. Then he’d agreed to this hair-brained scheme Ferd and the Athenans put to him and his world very nearly ended, at least for the time being.
Which was why he whirled to rail at the eldest witch there. She was Amphitrite’s slightly older step-sister, the one the others, her-stories all of them, deferred to even though she wasn’t in any position of authority over them. She’d once been the Queen of Godbad, though, and still was the Duchess of Achigan, the dukedom at the tip of Sedon’s Lower Lip. Like Amphitrite she was amphibious, albeit with her gills discretely placed behind her ears instead of in her neck. That meant she was Piscine rather than Lemurian. It also made her an exotic form of human being.
Exotic in every sense of the word, including erotic. As much as he found Living Janna as irresistible, albeit in a living way, as he was finding the Undead Janna irresistible in a potentially deathly way, this witch was still by far the best looking of the lot who’d come to his rescue. That she was a deviant, like him and Amphitrite’s Lakshmi, only partially explained how she managed to hold onto her looks. Her human forbearers were very good looking as well. Not that he got any of them. Then again, once he incarnated in them, the boys much more so than girls, who didn’t lose their hair, started to look more like him than they looked liked themselves.
That she wielded three Brainrock power focuses, one of which, what she called her soul-net, had extremely coercive qualities to it, had nothing to do with how she’d convinced him to go along with tonight’s idiocy. Like Abe Chaos to Janna Somata, in all the incarnations he’d known her, which was all of the incarnations he’d had this century, even when she just a little girl he’d never been able to say no to her.
Neither had his current incarnation, he sort of remembered, when he was just a little boy and she came by Apple Isle for one of her infrequent visits there. He could now, though, he felt sure. “That’s the last time I let you use me as fish-bait, Fish-Witch.”
“Oh, do clam the oyster-shuck up, Jordan River,” the exotic retorted. “At least you’re still altogether alluvial alive. And that’s albacore-more than I can say about my nephew.” He hated it when she, Scylla Nereid, Lady Achigan, Fisherwoman, called him that. But, in a convoluted way his current incarnation, George Taurson, was indeed her nephew. Auntie Fish didn’t just have fish-stories, she had volumes of them.
He flipped a page, dotted a getaway-drawing, took himself elsewhere.
For the three Master Devas on Lathakra tuned into the Outer Earth’s version of Damnation Isle, via the scarlet fumes of Miss Myth’s purloined cauldron, the day and thereafter the night of the 30th of Maruta, YD 5980, the 30th of November, AD 1980 out there, the hand dealt them played out not quite perfectly but surprisingly well nevertheless. They had not as yet won any game they’d been forced into playing, by whomever, by whatever, but they were very much still in it, any and all of those games.
Time to pay the piper?
Not quite yet, though said piper had a notion as to how to get to the paying-part next-to-immediately. It was the same notion he’d had when he had to figure out a way to get word to the self-predetermined stars in the Night’s Sky he wished to help escape as to their rendezvous star-spots. It was just a matter of locating him.
“Refocus your scarlet fumes in on Lazareme’s Legendarian, Seeress. Bring me the head of Jordan Tethys, with his body still attached to it and its fingers still attached to his Brainrock quill. He can draw your outstanding children to Lathakra. Then we can both find a way to kill the meddlesome deviant once and for all time hereafter.”
“Once, both?” queried Tantal. “Haven’t I killed him a couple of times already?”
“You may have, Thanatos. I haven’t. And those I kill stay dead!”
Jordan Tethys didn’t just draw himself elsewhere, he drew himself a second skin and crawled into it.
Then he drew himself a tent, some bed linen and a bed to go with it. Whereupon he crawled into all of that as well. Couldn’t sleep, though, so he drew to himself the bucket of chilled pilsner he’d stashed at Ferd’s place for just such an emergency, pulled out the Illuminary star-chart the governor had given him earlier, went outside and sat down on a camp chair he also drew to himself. He had lots of stashes.
It was a nice night, clear and warm. Even at the end of Maruta, November on the Outer Earth, the first day of Tantalar by now, it usually was down here at the bottom of the Cattail Peninsula. The Prison Beach of Incain was about a far south as you go without drawing yourself off the Headworld entirely, something he couldn’t do. Unless it was from memory, in which case it was just an ordinary drawing, he could no more draw anyone who was on the Outer Earth than he could anyone between-space or in an area shielded by Stopstone. The She-Sphinx kept it spic and span, too. As the joke went, Incain wasn’t so much windswept as All-swept.
More than sixty, he’d concluded by the time he was ready to try sleep again. Could be even more, he supposed. Some of the missing stars didn’t have names attached to them; including the ones in an odd little cluster of very faint stars straddling the border between the Lazaremist and Mithradic quadrants in the northern hemisphere of the Head’s heavens. Someone had written ‘Damnation?’, with a question mark, in red ink, over the stars.
He couldn’t remember hearing of any Constellation Damnation before so he checked the date on the star-chart. Only a year old. That meant Melina Sarpedon-Zeross, the current High Illuminary of Weir, had overseen its preparation. He wondered if it was Mel or Morgianna Sarpedon who wrote it. Ferd said he got his copy from Morg, so he assumed the latter.
Mel, whose twin brother Demios was married to Morgianna, was a stickler for details so she’d know why it was called Damnation and what devils composed it. Maybe he should go up to the Weirdom of Cabalarkon and ask her. Besides, it had been awhile since he’d talked to Cabby. Too bad the Master, Mel’s brother-in-law, Saladin Devason, had gone off drinking since their near-death experience on Shenon, six years ago last Solstice.
He had, too. For a day or so. Being about to be boiled alive in a Lemurian soup-pot did make you consider slimming down; less temptation if you did. Beer bellies made for good eating, Mel’s much younger hubby Harry had joked after he rescued them. Harry’s jokes generally were in poor taste. Tethys sneezed at the memory. He always did.
That night he dreamt of a pink-furred Cheshire Cat all-hooded in darkness. Unsettling that. More unsettling was what was waiting for him outside his tent when, after dawn broke but before it burst, he got up to empty his bladder.
“Go away, Jordan Tethys,” said the She-Sphinx. “Go away or All eat you.”
“Hey, I was going to pee in the sea.”
Something was wrong here. All wasn’t usually so unfriendly. He was about to ask what was eating her when he thought better of it. She was manifesting herself as a cute, cuddly cub of a She-Sphinx with the peach-fuzzy face of a little girl that may or may not have been based on Morg’s Young Mommy Life. All wasn’t much larger than Cheshire pussycat-size, but he knew she could get herself a whole bunch bigger in very short order. He went away.
Better something was eating her than she was eating him.
“The mirrored eggs,” Jordan Tethys commenced while he waited for his lunch to cool, “Invoking what you call the Crown of Heaven in your prayers, and even why you Sraddhites tend to use curved blades, you know why all that is, so there’s no need to retell the story of the Disunition of the Unities to you.
“But do you know how they came about in the first place?”
In the first Weirsystem, multiple multi-millennia ago, and so far away it boggles the brain even attempting to comprehend just how far away it was, -- something like 200,000 light years I’ve been given to understand; which, as I say, I can only do with great difficulty --, the Moloch Sedon created the second generation of devazurkind. These were the Three Great Gods, or Thrygragos Brothers, and the Three Great Goddesses, the Trigregos Sisters. He did so to share his immortality, some of his powers and, basically, just to keep him company.
Stuff happens, as it has a wont to do, and the seven of them began to intermingle merrily. Yet all they produced were spirit beings. Try as they might to solidify their offspring, the third generation of devazurkind, Sedon and the Six Great Gods and Goddesses remained the only fully physical devils in the cosmos. Which isn't to say the rest of the devic race wasn't talented, -- being immortal certainly implies a measure of talent; if only an ability to avoid being killed. But they could only manifest those talents by possessing other sentient beings.
All this changed well over twenty-five hundred years after devils came to the Whole Earth. That makes it not quite two thousand years after Dark Sedon effectively turned himself into the Night’s Sky, Cathonia, the Cathonic Zone or Dome, in order to protect what was then known as the archipelago of Pacifica, the Places of Peace, from the Great Flood.
Today, beyond the Dome anyways, Pacifica is better remembered as the sunken continent of Lemuria. We of course know it as Sedon's Head, the Hidden Headworld, Big Shelter, and by so many other names that if you invented one for it right now, it'd probably already have been invented. We’d just forgotten it until a couple of minutes ago. We are talking going on six thousand years, recall.
The division between the Inner and Outer Earth was never entirely perfect. Rifts, cracks, gaps in the Dome remained or developed over time, albeit usually only to heal over again, also over time. Although greatly separated in terms of distance from the Hidden Headworld, which is situated in what amounts to its own dimension off the North Pacific Ocean, one of the most enduring of these gashes opened onto the twin cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, in what’s known on the Outer Earth as its Middle East. You know what happened to them, -- one way or another they were destroyed.
Howsoever that happened, and I know a number of variations about that, one or two of which are even scientifically based, at the same time they were destroyed the crater of a minor Headworld volcano known as Sedon's Peak began to fill with an extraordinary element, if I can use the word in a non-scientific sense. It wasn’t anything new; devils had known of Brainrock, as it’s known here on the Head, for as long as they’d been in existence. They also knew to call it Gypsium, which might surprise you if you were aware that most Outer Earthlings think that word wasn’t coined until not so very long ago, in their 1948, our 5948.
Be that as it may, let's remember we're talking devils here. Recollect what I said about them having talents? One of the most talented was a son of Thrygragos Lazareme far-ranging Illuminaries of Weir, who had their own way through the Dome back then, eventually named Tvasitar Smithmonger. Devils themselves referred to him variously; as often as not as Anvil these days, after his primary power focus. Which was, duh, an anvil.
More than four thousand years ago, though, I believe the term they most commonly used for him was the Artificer, after his main attribute. Which was making things.
“Like my father,” inserted Thartarre, smiling in a sadly reminiscent manner that Tethys found vaguely disturbing. As well as disruptive.
“Whose name was Holgat, not Tvasitar,” remarked the Legendarian, second-skinned as he was, persevering despite the interruption. “I’ll grant you there must be some sort of connection there. At least there once must have been between the devic Anvil and the azura Klannit in combination with the High Priest Anvil, Tvasitar Sraddha Quentin-son, and your Nanny Klanny. But, like I told you, I don’t know what that is.
“That said, I have it on good report that during what’s called Ragnarok on the Outer Earth, which is to say not much more than two hundred years before the Great Flood of Genesis, which is also to say when the Moloch Sedon became the Demon King as well as the devils’ king, a couple of firstborn Master Devas got hold of a pair of demons. Which made them solid long enough to have a child together.”
“Sorry,” said his one-armed host, apologizing for the interruption. “Dig in.” Tethys did. It was a savoury stew; very good too. He couldn’t identify the meat; didn’t want to know what it was either. He just trusted it wasn’t that sort of Dead Thing.
Swallowed and carried on: “Only she was just a spirit being …”
Illuminaries of Weir eventually name the two devils Tantal and Methandra Thanatos. The child they had, -- best call her an offspring, since she wasn’t solid --, was Klannit. Only they named her, not the Illuminaries. She’s the first azura in the known cosmos; not that anyone knows what an azura is yet. Pass forward back to where I started, more than two millennia later. Sodom and Gomorrah are twin cities, yes, but maybe that’s not their real names. Maybe their real names are Nikaya and Tivatimsa.
In case you haven’t heard of them they’re the twin Shangrilas that pop up randomly, in the Outer Earth’s Himalayan mountains, every century; pop up out there at the same time once every millennium as well. They feature in what little a few us do recall about the Simultaneous Summonings of 1920/5920. The former is the City of Wickedness, the latter the City of Blessedness. I can’t say for sure they were originally Sodom and Gomorrah but there’s persuasive evidence that suggests as much.
Regardless of what their actual names were, or are, I can say that Sodom is definitely the honourific assigned to the former’s king while Gomorrah is the honourific given to the latter’s queen. That’s the way it had been for multiple generations; the way it had been even when they were Weirdoms and their rulers were pureblood Utopians, descendants of extraterrestrials. They haven’t been that, Utopians, for almost as long; generations anyhow. His sacred symbols of office are a mask, a cruciform and a cloak of many colours; hers are a bloodstone tiara, a mutable mirror and a sword with a curved blade.
The twin cities are destroyed. One of the stories I’ve heard regarding that was it was because an asteroid containing a superabundance of Brainrock landed atop them. But that could be apocryphal, a later addendum to their legend. So are their respective king and queen of the time. Not so, as I’m about to relate, their respective symbols of office.
Because they were Weirdoms, were a couple of the places where ancient Illuminaries got through the Dome, fame of both the twin cities themselves and their eponymous rulers, Sodom and Gomorrah had long ago reached the Head. Wandering troubadours told or sang their stories far and wide. Some even claimed they were immortal. Well, they would, wouldn’t they? That’s the purpose of an honourific, to perpetuate the semblance of perpetuity.
Two of them were named, funnily enough, Jordan and Pusan. He was the musician of the two, the one who told the stories. She sang and danced. They were very much in love, these two. Their parents were against them marrying so they ran away. Their parents were pagans. They worshipped Mother Earth; not the Three Great Gods, who were the only solid devils on the planet now that Dark Sedon was up there in the Night’s Sky being dark.
Their mothers were more than merely pagans; they were Hecate-Hellions. That meant they belonged to the oldest Witch Sisterhood on either side of the Dome; one that was even older than that of Flowery Anthea. Which was named after Xuthros Hor’s wife, Hor being the Biblical Noah; not Thrygragos Lazareme’s highborn epitome of the Spring Season, of Life Itself.
They conjured up a pair of demons to go after them. These two were very old demons. Not that there’s anything natural about demons, other than Mother Nature’s their mother, and that includes aging or death. Put it this way, they still contained a pair of devils they’d acquired during the tail-end of Ragnarok some 2000 years earlier, pre-Genesea, when the Whole Earth was still the Whole Earth. We’ll save some time and name them now. They were Future Tvasitar Smithmonger and Future Klannit Thanatos.
The former was a gargantuan concretion of galumphing granite while the latter was seemingly composed entirely of reflective glass; a mobile mirror, in other words. In terms of demonology there’s stacks of variants on the former. Blockhead’s one of them, Gobble Stones is another, but the generic term I use is Rockhead.
The latter, though, shouldn’t be confused with the Diamantes native to the Crystal Mountain Range; they’re at least humanoid. The term demonologists use for mobile mirrors, and this shouldn’t surprise you, if you don’t know it already, is a Klannit. They were as in love as the two troubadours, which may have been how they caught their scent. Love stinks, don’t you know? Sorry, bad joke.
The troubadours, unaware of their demonic pursuers, were entertaining a bunch of Bandradins in a village well up the slope of Sedon’s Peak when it erupted. The ground’s groaning, its grumbling and rumbling, preceded the eruption. All the usual suspects followed; lava-rain and rivulets of same most devastatingly. By the time the demonic pursuers reached the village, well, you can imagine what greeted them. The village wasn’t so much still smouldering as what was covering it was still hardening. The scent still lingered, though. So even farther up the slope the demons tromp.
And what do they find up there near the top, the Rockhead and the Klannit? Why Jordan and Pusan as King Sodom and Queen Gomorrah of course, complete with their signs of office. Troubadours, no matter what they have about themselves, aren’t much for fighting. And demons, no matter how intelligent the devils they’re containing are, aren’t much for thinking ...
“Which,” said Tethys, interrupting himself this time, “If you could read tee-tee tails, which I know you can’t, is about as far as any tee-tee tail will take you before you have start filling in the blanks for yourself. However, like I said, I have it on good report …” The legendary 30-Year Man paused, suddenly, inexplicably, nervous. Underneath his facial second skin, the scar tissue in the middle of his forehead, what transferred with him, from one incarnation to another, began to itch ever-so-annoyingly.
He regarded his host just as much so distressfully. “Why are you looking at me like that, Tar? And why are you smiling like that?”
Blip! Transmogrification! Thartarre wasn’t Thartarre anymore.
“Don’t worry, Tethys. As much as I find your squirming amusing, it’s more a matter of me avoiding laughing in your face. Finish your lunch while I tell you what really happened. Of course you won’t remember it after I’ve left but you will remember it once I reveal myself to the entire Head.
“Which should only be a couple of days from now.”
Regardless of their actual names, the twin cities were destroyed when an asteroid containing a superabundance of Brainrock-Gypsium landed atop them. It wasn’t a fluke of cosmic happenstance. It was an assassination attempt. And it certainly wasn’t any ordinary asteroid. It had three peaks; had a name as well: Trans-Time Trigon.
For many moons Trans-Time Trigon had been orbiting the planet’s moon. Or else it had been sitting atop it. It didn’t contain just a superabundance of Godstuff either, though it would have by the time it destroyed our cities. Initially it would have also contained the time-tumbling Dual Entities: Helios called Sophos the Wise and his female counterpart, the Mnemosyne Machine. This last, Machine-Memory, is a three-thing who could be wholly humanized by possessing a devil. Or being possessed by a devil, as is often the situation.
Two more confounding beings are difficult to imagine. It’s said Celestial God Himself, or Herself, or Whatever, couldn’t have imagined them. Which was proof, their mere existence, that there was no such thing as an Omniscient God. They originated somewhere, the Dual Entities; they had to have. Then again I’ve also heard it said they’re the Male and Female Principals and, as such, originated at the same moment the cosmos did. In which case they’re the ineffable God and Goddess of Natural Duality, as opposed to the duality of good and evil, which is a burst-bladder of bilge-water as far I’m concerned.
To give an example of their ineffability: When he’s killed, which he often has been, she goes back with him, into the time stream. When she goes back into the time stream she takes with her Trans-Time Trigon, of which she’s its innards; its intelligence, put another way. There’s no question she‘s mostly machine whereas he’s mostly mortal. Both are Brainrock-blessed, if that isn’t a misuse of the term ‘blessed’. Yet, to give another example of their ineffability, they time-tumble randomly.
In his Fifth Lifetime, she more than him, it had to be said, they and a then fully alive, Utopian scientocrat from the first Weirworld, one Cabalarkon by name, concocted the Moloch Sedon. That said, two of his lifetimes earlier Sedon was already around. And it was in his third lifetime when the Female Entity discovered devils could humanize her. So, when Sedon destroyed her then, in the Third, she somehow had to make him, Sedon, two of the Male Entity’s lifetimes later, in his Fifth. She didn’t, there would never be any devils around to humanize her. She enjoys being human, being Miracle Memory, which is the name her human form takes.
So she did; helped Heliosophos and Cabalarkon make Sedon. The Moloch rewarded Cabby with a form of everlasting life, albeit as a kind of psychic vampire. He rewarded Helios with his fifth death. And when Helios dies, like I said, he goes back into the time stream. She does too, taking Trans-Time Trigon with her, her Mnemosyne Machine aspect does anyhow. They, Helios no less so than Memory, now that devils exist, have been trying to destroy our All-Father Sedon ever since.
Call it payback for Deaths Three and Five, if nothing else; Deaths One, Two, Four and Six, for all I know, because it was now early on in Helios’s seventh lifetime. It’s not quite two thousand years after Father Sedon raised the Sedon Sphere, out of his own essence, in order to separate the Inner Earth, his Headworld, from the Outer Earth. Trans-Time Trigon has been out there, in the heavens, for awhile now. They’ve been looking for Sedon, in order to destroy him. They’ve decided King Sodom, of Sodom, or Nikaya, or whatever, is him in human form.
After taking themselves safely elsewhere, into Thrygragos Varuna Mithras and Kore-Discord as I eventually discover, they launch Trans-Time Trigon at him, at the twin cities. A big bang ensues; one of the biggest bangs the planet’s experienced since another asteroid, and presumably this one was a cosmic happenstance, wiped out the dinosaurs.
Only King Sodom isn’t Father Sedon. He’s me.
“Got me yet, Jordy?”
“Never haven’t, Smiler. You’re Sedon’s stooge. Might someday, though.”
“Ever the optimist, eh? That’s two things we have in common.”
“At least two. One of which is we both have Tvasitar talismans. Except I’ve three to your one. None of which I had something like 4000 years ago.”
Our cities are destroyed but we aren’t, Queen Gomorrah and I. It’s exceedingly difficult to destroy Master Devas, as you’re well aware. We come through the Dome; emanate through it might be a better way of putting it. Our symbols of office aren’t destroyed, either, but our daemonic bodies, composed as they are of subtle matter, have been severely damaged. And, yes, that means we knew about power foci before I assumed the identity of King Sodom and she became Queen Gomorrah; before Thrygragos Sedon, his two brothers and their devic offspring, the Artificer included, did as well.
Sooth for me said, which I don’t always do, -- one of my more recognizable
Outer Earth nomenclatures is Ahriman or Aryanman, Judge Druj in the Zoroastrian
religion, and Druj means ‘the Lie’ --, we knew about them long,
long before anyone on the planet, ourselves included, even knew what a devil
was. That’s because we had existed long, long before devils came to the
Whole Earth some, what?, 730 years prior to Sedon raising the Dome and not quite
2700 years prior the Dual Entities destroying our cities. We knew about power
foci because neither of us started out as devils.
You’ll have heard Ptah manufactured the male Sphinx that eventually took root upon what became Egypt’s Giza plateau in one of two ways. He did it either by using technology developed in the far-off Utopia of Weir, that of the first Weirworld, which he’d somehow managed to acquire, or else by employing the discredited science of Old Eden, the Whole Earth’s indigenous, yet stunningly advanced, lone pre-Golden-Age civilization.
While there’s a remote possibility they might be six of one and a half dozen of the same, it’s likely you won’t have heard how Ptah animated it. He did so with my symbols of office. His despicable mate, Trishtar Thrae, had somehow got hold of Lilith, and with her my queen’s talismans. They thereby shamelessly used their concomitantly combined feminine wiles to coax mine off me, Daemonicus. Whereupon they gave them to the First Patriarch
Perhaps fittingly he didn’t use mine to capture me. Instead he turned the tables and used them to capture Lilith instead. Then, with her inescapably within the Osiris Sphinx, he proceeded to render it immobile by taking them back. Needless to say, he kept mine and let Trishtar Thrae keep Lilith’s. Thus they, clever bastards the pair of them, took our place as the King and Queen of Daemons.
When he retired as First Patriarch he passed mine onto his successor and third-born son, Pseth Ra. She did the same; passed Lilith’s onto Pseth’s mate, their second-born daughter as it happened, whose name, curiously enough, was Azura. And so it goes, century after century, from one long-lived patriarch to the next, and from one equally long-lived patriarch’s primary wife to the next.
All this time I’m still around, Daemonicus is to be clearer; albeit only in the sense that my body hasn’t altogether disintegrated. Without my power foci even my daemonic, nominal subjects feel no compulsion to pay me any heed. I’m useless; so useless I grow increasingly moribund. So, for literal centuries I might as well be dead. Or imprisoned in the Osiris Sphinx with my beloved Lilith, for that matter.
My consciousness doesn’t reactivate, as it were, until sometime after Droch Nor has become the seventh patriarch of Golden Age Humankind. We’re now talking circa 730 years prior to Sedon raising the Cathonic Dome. Nor’s wife, by whom he had the eventual eighth patriarch, Amemp Tut, the Biblical Methuselah, goes by name of Lamia. She wears Lilith’s power foci, the crown and mirror, and carries the curved blade with her wherever she goes. But she’s recently been possessed by an extraterrestrial Spirit Being, a third generational Master Deva. Since devils didn’t have names in those days, let’s keep it simple and call her Lamia too.
Howsoever we call her, she’s a member of Thrygragos Lazareme’s exploratory party, -- the Sedonshem is sitting on the Moon by now --, and as such she’s only recently arrived on the then still Whole Earth. She’s Lilith’s; Nor’s mine. I reawaken inside him. We hit it off, the devic Lamia and I. She wants to become both individually solid and individually powerful. I convince her that the only she can accomplish both her aims is by her possessing my Lilith. Which naturally means she’d have to first help me free Lilith from the Osiris Sphinx.
There are lots of other Master Devas on the Whole Earth as part of Lazareme’s expedition. My daemons are responding to me again. Let’s be magnanimous and say they’re responding to us again, shall we? Yes, let’s do that. We form together, devils and daemons, fuse them with our symbols of office. Become, well, if she’s Lamia and lamia, in much later Outer Earth history as well as mythology, are a form of gorgon, let’s just refer to what we become as unnameable.
It wears a crown, the Crown of Hell rather than Heaven if you’re tetchy about that sort of thing. Has a face that’s more like a mask, always grinning, -- that’s my influence --, with mirrored eyeballs and fangs like curved blades. Its hide is multicoloured and in order to maximize the squeamishness quotient we make it into an indescribably huge snake. As the Unnameable, we attack the immobile Osiris Sphinx.
Unfortunately, although we could have easily demolished it, that wouldn’t have freed Queen Lilith for the simple reason everyone the Sphinx held was as fused with it as we were into the Unnameable. Destroy it we destroy those we wish to free. We reason the Sphinx needed my power foci before it could release anyone. Dare I give them up, so soon after I’ve reclaimed them from Droch Nor? More to the point, should I choose to keep them about me and try to take over the male Sphinx instead? And if I did, could I hold onto it even long enough to force it to release my Lilith? I’m dubious but it turns out Lamia is duplicitous.
Alorus Ptah’s still alive. So are all the other patriarchs, Nor and his predecessors, and so are all the anti-patriarchs, including Cain, Slayer of Abel, whom many believe was the Male Entity in his first lifetime. So too is Trishtar Thrae, the Biblical Adam’s Eve. Cooperatively, using, I’m saying, Old Eden’s forsaken science, the same science that accounts for so many of the Head’s planetary unique, yet still extant and thoroughly exotic lifeforms, they duplicate Ptah’s feat of something like 800 years earlier.
They manufacture a mate for it; a female equivalent, albeit one with wings. It’s just as immobile but there is a way to mobilize it. And how might they be able to do that?, you won’t have to ask. By animating it with Lilith’s power foci of course. Lamia goes for it, animates it, dominates it. She’s finally as individually solid, in the form of a female sphinx, and as powerful as her male counterpart. She suppresses or captures dozens of Lilith’s daemons and her devils within it. Only she turns it on me and the remaining daemons and devils in my side of the Unnameable. I panic, reanimate the Osiris Sphinx with mine and seek to defend ourselves.
They played us for fools, did Ptah and Thrae more so than anyone else. How could we have been so stupid? That to me remains the real, evermore unanswerable Riddle of the Sphinx. What’s left of what we formed, our Unnameable of some 700 years before the Great Flood or Genesea, is devoured by the pair of sphinxes. Their gambit won, Ptah and Thrae take back our power foci, three for him, three for her, and after implanting the two sphinxes on opposite sides of the planet, they immobilize them again. Henceforth, amongst our sometimes unkind kind anyhow, they become known as Giza’s Androsphinx and Incain’s Gynosphinx.
I, as Daemonicus, manage to survive yet again, though I have no idea how. Come what has come down to us as the legend of Ragnarok, I believe I must have absorbed a devil; the same devil you sometimes remember, when I’m with you, as Smiler. Unless he absorbed me, that is. Point being I can’t distinguish between my daemon-self and my devil-self anymore.
We are one and the same; have been since Ragnarok, which you’ll recall was when Father Sedon became the King of Daemons.
“And how did the Mighty Moloch do that?, you might want to ask. Should you feel so inclined to do just that, asking. Which I’ll assume you are, silently. You are eating your lunch, as am I, and unlike me you hate talking with your mouth full. Allow me to smiley-happily answer you.
“Although it should be needless to say, I feel it needful to say: It was my idea.”
You’re a skyborn immortal, I say to Sedon just before he tosses the Ragnarok Roll, the dice of which eventually turn up not so much the Twilight of the Gods as the death of Jaro Dan, Odin, the long retired Sixth Patriarch of Golden Age Humankind. And thanks to you, so am I. Once upon a time, however, there were earthborn immortals; they’re called daemons. The twain have met in me. I am both your firstborn son and the son of Mother Earth. As the latter I had myself three, call them power foci or talismans: a mask, a cloak and a cruciform.
You’ve a couple of firstborn sons. Pay them no mind. But they have had, I have to say, via their second generational sisters, many a talented offspring. One of their most talented, via Thrygragos Lazareme and his Trigregos Sisters, is the Artificer. Have him remake for me my talismans and I shall thereafter make you King of Daemons.
Although a volcanic islet at the time, what in time became known as Sedon’s Peak was already sputtering. We’re still talking pre-Genesea, when today’s Headworld was the archipelago of Pacifica. The Future Tvasitar acquires a humanoid shell skilled in metalworking, a Vulcanian as they were known in classical times on the Outer Earth. As a just as solid but much less fragile entity – I’m a daemon, not a humanoid – we retire to this geologically unsafe islet. After a great deal of trial and error, during which Future Tvasitar crafts for himself, among many another useful thing, an anvil, a hammer, and a pair of pincers out the islet’s scant Brainrock, we succeed in replicating my signs of office.
As pre-agreed, we turn them over to Father Sedon. He uses to them to acquire the real ones from the then current patriarch, the Tenth and last patriarch of Golden Age Humanity. That would be the Biblical Noah, though we know him as Xuthros Hor. Does so very perspicaciously, does Sedon. By mentally causing them to fuse together, albeit in his possession not Hor’s, Sedon does indeed become the King of Daemons as well as the All-Father of devic kind.
Although he successfully divides the loyalties of my daemons, his daemons now, such that some of them turn against the Golden Age patriarchs, one of whom, the aforementioned Jaro Dan, dies in the ensuing conflict, he can’t altogether claim their loyalty. That’s because daemons are chthonic, not Cathonic; are earthborn, not skyborn, put just as accurately. And Hor’s wife, whose name was Anthea, still has hold of my Lilith’s power foci.
Time to have Future Tvasitar forge replicates of them, the blade, the mirror and the crown, you’d think. So do we, but it doesn’t work. Why? Because they only work for women? Possibly. That’s certainly how it seems anyways.
No doubt both sides hoped Ragnarok would prove to be the determinative engagement between Golden Age patriarchs and devils, but it wasn’t even close. Nor do I believe the fact Hor’s wife continued to hold onto my Lilith’s power foci and, with it, the allegiance of her daemons was much of a factor in the ongoing stalemate between the two sides, though it may have been. Finally the ever-intransigent, yet verging on impossibly resourceful Tenth, Hor himself, unleashes the Great Flood of Genesis and Sedon is forced to raise the Cathonic Dome out of his own essence to protect Pacifica from its ravages.
Sedon raised the Dome in our Year Zero, 5,980 years ago. On the Outer Earth Hor lived for another 360 years. The Bible states he and his family, and they and theirs, for generations thereafter, repopulated the Outer Earth. But, as any archaeologist on either side of the Dome will tell you, that’s another boatload of bunk and balderdash. What would have been flooded, had he not raised the Dome, was the archipelago of Pacifica. Whatever else wiped out so many humans as well as devils wasn’t just water. It was waves of chthonic energy. I believe Anthea may have generated those waves by using Lilith’s power foci, but I can’t swear to it.
What I will swear is that the Whole Earth was now made up of an Inner and an Outer Earth. Furthermore, the Androsphinx was in what’s now Egypt while the Gynosphinx, the Headworld having thoroughly dried out in the first few decades of the Dome, was on Incain’s beach. Both sphinxes were immobile and both also contained many devils. I sought to liberate them; had an idea how to do just that. By now, I should preface, Sedon’s experiencing trouble maintaining Cathonia, his Sedon Sphere, its integrity. He’s afraid it’ll collapse.
My idea is to reanimate the female sphinx. In order to do that, I prevail upon him to return to me my symbols of office. Partially because his Brainrock replicas are superior to my originals, which means he can fuse them together again anytime he pleases, he does so. He also gives me the replicated versions of Lilith’s power foci. Although the originals are presumably still in the possession of Hor’s Anthea on the Outer Earth, I’m stuck on the Inner Earth, with no way through the Dome short of Sedon deliberately collapsing it. Which he doesn’t have any intention of doing. Nonetheless, I reckon I can use the replicas to animate the Gynosphinx long enough for her to release the devils she’s holding prisoner.
And I do, except rather than release them, she inhumes me. Which is when I make the amazing discovery that her digestive tract, if I can call it that, is linked to that of the Egyptian sphinx. I’ve my symbols of office. I’m carrying replicas of hers. The Androsphinx, on the other side of the Dome, pukes me up. Only it’s not just me he pukes up.
Kings need their queens and while we were on the Sedonshem, Mithras’s Virgin, the future Methandra Thanatos, having rejected him over and over again, Sedon made a ninth-born Mithradite Master Deva his queen. He hasn’t been with her for a very long time, -- as you may have guessed, or already know, she was lost during the assault on the Androsphinx. Not anymore. When the Androsphinx pukes me up, he also pukes her up. Only she’s now irreversibly fused with my queen. This two-in-one entity acquired many names over the subsequent centuries but I have always preferred Astraea, the Queen of Courts, so that’s how I’ll refer to her.
Now that we know we can use the sphinxes to traverse the Dome any time we please, we stay on the Outer Earth long enough to track down Hor’s Anthea. Astraea has Lilith’s replicated foci. They work for her. So she pulls a Sedon, fuses the real ones with the replicated ones; fuses them in her possession, as he did. Losing them costs Hor’s Anthea her life. Tough kitty litter, I say. She was a menace and, even though circumstances have forced me to make common cause with some of them, her descendant witches remain just as much so.
Sedon’s still having trouble maintaining the Dome. Plus, to put it simplistically, he’s horny as hell. By using his replicas of my foci to overrule me and my originals, he usurps me, joins with me, joins his replicas with my templates at the same time. Whereupon he impregnates my Astraea, whom he calls Astroarche, Queen of the Stars. They have a daughter. She’s immortal, still exists, usually on Apple Isle, as a perpetual 7-year old. And, as near as I can make out, is of absolutely no use to anyone.
The next go-round they have a son, a Sed-son. He turns out to be mortal. So does the next one, although by then Astraea/Astroarche and he/me have returned to the Head, as we’re calling Pacifica now that it’s filled-in and begun to take on its head-like silhouette. As soon as the second Sed-son comes along, well, what do you know? Surprise, surprise, Sedon stops having trouble having maintaining the Dome.
He goes back upstairs, gets greedy, insists his Queen of the Stars join him in the Headworld’s Night Sky, in order to share his heavenly throne. She resists; somehow senses going from earth-based to sky-based will kill her. So he reluctantly leaves her down here with me; her with her amalgamated talismans and me with mine. Then Sed-son Number One dies on the Outer Earth and, lo and behold, guess who has trouble maintaining the Dome again.
That’s the formula then: So long as at least two Sed-sons are alive, one on either side of the Dome, adding chthonic to Cathonic equals a stable Sedon Sphere. So it is at least once a human generation, on both sides of the Dome, he comes out of his heavenly perch and mates with his earthy Queen of the Stars. The rest of the time she stays with me, as my Astraea, my Queen of Courts.
On the Headworld our court is in Grand Elysium, what’s now Pettivisaya, the City of Wailing Souls, in the Ghostlands. In time we divided our court on the Outer Earth between the twin cities: my Sodom and her Gomorrah. Ironically enough we’re both happy, Sedon and I, he in the Night’s Sky and me down here, in a share-and-share-alike manner of speaking.
So maybe I do become his surrogate. Or his stooge, if you wish to call me that. As you might expect, I have a different perspective. Consider our relationship as follows: his is the heavenly kingdom whereas mine is the earthly kingdom. That’s certainly how I thought of it. And she’s as content as we are; maybe even more so. Because she’s the Perpetual Presence whereas we both need and cherish her.
And that remains our situation for damn near two millennia. Then the Unities come time-tumbling back into our ever-linear time-space. Then they seek to assassinate us, they with their tri-peaked asteroid, their Trans-Time Trigon. They don’t succeed but it’s a near thing.
Our daemonic bodies, as hardy as they’ve always been until then, are suffused with molten Brainrock. They’re dying externally. As you’re aware, the Godstuff Outer Earthlings call Gypsium, that’s the ticket for sending daemons on their merry way back to whatever hell spawned them. Which nowadays on the Head is commonly Satanwyck. Our individually fused-together power foci are all that’s holding us together.
We get lucky. Or maybe it’s more a matter of the Devil providing. The two Bandradin troubadours, Jordan and Pusan, are still alive. The cascading rivulets of lava have left them only one way to go, though, and that’s uphill. We possess them. They should keep us going until our daemonic forms heal or we acquire some already healthy replacements. As their paramount couple we send out a far-spoken summons for just that.
The first two daemons to respond are a Rockhead, as you call it, and a Klannit. We should have realized that they were there far too quickly for it to be a response. We’ve an excuse. The lava lake of Sedon’s Peak is already filling with over-proof Brainrock-Gypsium and the fumes are affecting our daemonic brains in ways we’d never experienced before. So we’re a mess and our shells aren’t in much better condition. The fumes are knocking them out on their feet. They aren’t doing the Rockhead and the Klannit any good either.
Even if our daemonic aspects, our brains and bodies, are dying within our humanoid shells, we’re still their King and Queen. We’ve six recognizable power foci between us; talismans they should realize make us, no matter what we look like, their commanders-in-chief. They shouldn’t be able to attack us but the low-watt dullards do so anyways. They’re nearly brainless, desperate to complete their mission and get away themselves.
Spiritually speaking we’re simultaneously Master Devas. We devils are nothing if not wilful beings; our will to survive knows no bounds. You’d think we’d have everything going for us. At the very least we should be able to transfer ourselves, howsoever disembodied, to the Rockhead and the Klannit, right? Wrong. How were to know the Rockhead was containing Future Tvasitar and the Klannit was containing Klannit Thanatos?
Shouldn’t we be able to displace them anyways? He’s a Lazaremist and Klannit isn’t even a devil. So what if they’ve as much of a will to survive as we do? We’re their seniors as well as their superiors in every way. I can’t speak for Astraea but I didn’t even try. In fact I believe Daemonicus’s brain actually died due to exposure to the Brainrock fumes and it very nearly took mine with it. It may even be that the Lilith aspect of my Astraea did as well; unless it was already brain dead.
Put obviously, the Rockhead and the Klannit hadn’t just avoided an assassination attempt by asteroid, didn’t have to ride a wave of Brainrock crashing through the Dome and especially didn’t have to take over a couple of deathly weak troubadours who couldn’t fight their way out of a soggy paper bag with a pair of sharpened drumsticks. Put appreciably, we’re so wrecked it’s a wonderment we’ve lasted this long. Put plainly, they’re stronger than us. Put embarrassingly, they overpower us.
They disarm and disrobe us, Gomorrah and I. They throw our six, combined power foci into the rising lava lake, where they melt away into so much slag and Brainrock slush. They cart us away, back to Jordan and Pusan’s respective parents, mission accomplished. And what do their parents do, their Hecate-Hellion mothers in particular? They forcibly part us. Her parents, using her mother’s Hellstones, move north, to Daybreak, which was still on the coast of the Head’s far-eastern, occipital regions in those days.
As for Jordan’s parents, they put him to work tilling the fields. His mother even ensorcelled a Hellstone in order to compel him to stay on the family farm. She couldn’t have known she was compelling a Master Deva at the same time, but she was. When my consciousness fully returned I discovered I was still in Jordan. He was getting on by then. Nonetheless, he was in remarkably good shape for a hard-working Bandradin of that day and age. My daemonic form, wholly healed, shared his fitness. Him having both it and me in him could well be the reason for his comparative healthiness.
Before his mother died she removed her spell and he was free to take up lute and panpipes again. Even more years passed before we, me in him, him again a wandering troubadour, found ourselves back at Sedon’s Peak. I was shocked to discover the Artificer was now in control of the Rockhead. Its daemonic brain had died, you see, in the Brainrock fumes still emitting from the lava lake. So had the brains of the hundreds of daemons that responded to our psychic scream for assistance all those years ago.
The Artificer had combined all those de-brained daemonic bodies with power focuses he crafted for Master Devas who, in their shells, had come calling on him after they heard the story of the Cousins and how they became individually solid after acquiring the Trigregos Talismans. After revealing myself, -- the Artificer had forgotten I existed of course --, he made me a power focus of my own, my panpipes. Which I still have.
He offered me a different daemonic body as well. I took it because, well, he said I better. Poor old Jordan had collapsed when I, in my Daemonicus form, stepped out of him. He looked about to die and the Artificer said All-Father Sedon cathonitized devils who killed lesser beings. An individually solid Master Deva all by my lonesome I took myself to Grand Elysium and, in time, reacquainted myself with my Astraea, the Perpetual Presence. She’d forgotten about me, too, as it happened, and had already taken up with a recurring deviant, the Attis.
And you know what six Sacred Objects he’d acquired by then, and kept until Thrygragon, don’t you? They weren’t quite the same as when either Astraea or I had the originals or their first facsimiles naturally; hers especially. By dedicating them to our mothers the Artificer rendered them deadly to anyone else. But they’re virtually identical in appearance. I even understand there’s a fourth version of them, the Trigregos Talismans anyhow, in the Weirdom of Cabalarkon, not that I’d ever chance going there to verify it.
Even if I could figure out how to avoid Trinondev eyeorbs, and with all my firstborn as well as residual daemonic abilities I shouldn’t have any problem doing that, I dare not. He, the Moloch Sedon, would almost certainly notice me. Before I realize he has, he might reason I’m there to kill Cabby and decide to cathonitize me. Or worse. He’d be right, too. The only reason the Devil has kept Cabby going for so long has to be because, if you kill the undying Utopian, you kill him, Sedon. Not that you’ll remember I told you that.
Here’s something else you won’t remember when I’m gone. Although, as I told you, I’m fairly certain Daemon Queen Lilith’s brain died on Sedon’s Peak at the same time the brain of my Daemonicus aspect did, her body survived. I know that because my Astraea, Sedon’s Astroarche, had it; still had it when she became better known as Pyrame Silverstar, the Pauper Priestess. But Sedon finally decided to cathonitize her, to make her his Queen of the Stars in fact as well as name, thirty years ago.
Because she was threatening to get herself in position to kill Cabby, I reckoned he’d done so permanently. That said, and while it’s true that, as of Sedonda, her silver star’s not up there anymore, thirty years is an awfully long time to be without her down here having Sed-sons. My conclusion is she lost Lilith’s body to the Female Entity.
That happened before, during his Eleventh Lifetime, which lasted from 5909 until 5950. Starting around 5918 Methandra Thanatos got hold of her and her beer-guzzling buffoon of husband got hold of the Male Entity. That’s how the ten, fourth generational Thanatoids came into existence. It took me some doing but I managed to sort that out in the mid-Twenties. Silverstar gained control of Miracle Memory again and, with her, regained Lilith’s body, what was humanizing Machine-Memory.
But the coincidence of her being cathonitized at the same time Helios was killed for the eleventh time does beg the conclusion I’ve made, wouldn’t you agree?
“Ah, I see from your eyes you do. Good.”
“Good lunch too, wouldn’t you say?”
“On the contrary,” differed the Smiling Fiend, “What I would say, and am about to say, is that when Helios was killed, Memory took Lilith with her, and Trans-Time Trigon, back into the time stream.”
“Sounds plausible. Assuming daemons can humanize her, too.”
“Glad we’re agreed on that much. Let’s hope you figure out the same thing after I’ve left because the Dual Entities are back. And if the Outer Earthlings don’t take them out this time, which they should, and if Father Sedon doesn’t either, which he shouldn’t be capable of doing by then, well, it may be it’ll fall to you, or someone like you, to finally do something permanent about them. Otherwise I’d have to delay revealing myself to the Head and you wouldn’t like that, would you?”
“As if I’d obey.”
“I suppose when you’ve survived an assassination attempt via asteroid, what’s a bolt of lightning amongst share-pals, eh?”
“There is that I’ll grant you. Let me tell you something else for free before I go, though. Through certain associates of mine currently on the Outer Earth I’ve already ensured the Thrygragos Talismans have been torn into so many Brainrock shreds and fragments. As for the Sisters’ talismans, well, that’s why I’m here. I expect that’s why you are as well. I know where one of them is and I gather you do too, albeit only in proximate terms.
“While it may be both of us would like to see it destroyed before anyone else gets hold of it, neither of us is foolish enough to go nearer to it than we already are. They’ve a built-in survival instinct, those things; a mutually protective, ‘all for one, one for all’ aspect to them. So I’m not even going to try to destroy it. Nor am I going to make any effort to compel anyone else to try to do so.
“‘Let sleeping dogs lie’ is one aphorism that comes to mind. But here’s a better one; one I not so much made up as have made my motto: ‘Out of sight, out of mind’. So, be consoled, I’m no more going to kill you right this minute as this Holgatson is going to act upon a sudden urge to kill himself.
“No thanks needed, Jordy.”
“None given, Smiler. I just wish I’d wake up with a intuitive need to crawl out of this second skin of mine. It’s becoming almost as itchy-irritable as you are.”
“That much else I will grant you. Good intuition, by the way, going to the Weirdom of Cabalarkon on Sedonda. Congratulations. I have you now, though. Outside of Cabby’s Weirdom I can find you anytime I want from now on.”
“Since I won’t remember you can do that, allow me to say, as a kind of goodbye, I hope you’re the only one.”
“That’ll have to be your business. Mine here is about to be concluded. Return the favour, Tethys. Congratulate me. I’m about to become a smiley-happy, daddy Daemonicus, four times over.”
“Am I invited to the baptism?”
“Not to worry about that either. I’ll make sure you’re there. You might need to bring some thermal underwear, though. I fully intend for it to be a baptism by fire.”
Third eye opens. Eyefire burns. Blip! Transmogrification!
PSYCHO SOUL GRENADES
The flying gunship carrying General Quentin Anvil, along with the two helicopters he’d assigned to accompany his chopper, got off cleanly. The general had the best pilot in the business with him. The other two didn’t; didn’t fare so well either. Nergal Vetala and her soldier, her golden-brown warrior, her Attis, walked on the air. He ran across the sky, blowing apart first one then another helicopter with OMP-Akbar's Homeworld Sceptre.
He was going for the third one when its pilot dipped it low, toward the Lake’s surface. It exploded upon impact. Everyone on it successfully leapt off first. All of them could swim. Some of them might even make it to shore. Just as in the expansive moat surrounding the Bloodlands’ Sanguerre, Lake Sedona had mono?horned sharks.
Fisherwoman and her aquatics removal crews only concentrated on Dead Things.
Led by once again Field Commander Golgotha Nauroz, two truncated units of more than a dozen Trinondevs collectively formed a shape like a flying ant with its black-as-midnight body divided into head, thorax and abdomen. It had two antennae off the head, six legs off the underside of the thorax, and a pair of wings off the upper side of the thorax. It soared into the night's sky. Ignoring her soldier, the Trinondevs guided their thus not so much so rampant as motivated gargoyle straight for Nergal Vetala.
Golgotha and one of his group leaders reached their eye?staves out of the mental energy made manifest enclosing Weir’s Warriors Elite. The eye-staves became the ant-gargoyle’s antennae. The orbs at their tips opened; a single, disembodied eye poked out of each antenna on prehensile tendrils. They focused on the Vampire Queen. She felt her devic eye bulge as if it was about to burst out of her forehead. She struggled to close it, abolishing dozens more of her azuras in the process.
Two more Trinondevs stuck their eye?staves out of the ant-gargoyle in place of its front legs. Two more disembodied eyes poked out. Before they could focus on Vetala, her soldier was on the scene, running on the air, blipping into and out of sight like the self-psychopomp he’d become. Swinging Akbar's sceptre like a baseball bat, he swatted the exposed staves. They snapped like toothpicks. The communal gargoyle momentarily faltered. The golden-brown warrior brought his stolen sceptre against it. The Trinondevs inside were rocked but the chitin-like exterior of their mental manifestation didn't crack. Another blow and it might.
Golgotha and his collective retreated to Sraddha Isle. The Vampire Queen mind-to-mind commanded her soldier to carry on; to take the Utopians out one by one if necessary. She didn't care if he killed them or not; she had oodles of others to finish them off, ones whose only real skill was killing. What she wanted him to do was destroy the prison-pods atop their eye?staves.
Extraterrestrial devices from Old Weir, they were designed to automatically capture and hold onto devils indefinitely. Unexpectedly, they could also confine their azuras. It wasn’t automatic. They had to concentrate on doing so, but they could, and that could prove catastrophic for her. Although she had thousands left, they were spread throughout Hadd and she was loathe to waste anymore of hers here than necessary.
Her azuras weren’t just what kept her Dead Things moving. After all she’d been through these past three or four days; they were what was keeping her going. Had been, in all likelihood, for the over thirty-five years prior to her Attis falling out of the sky last Sedonda and Cloud General Kronar finding him for her.
She’d seen how Nowadays Nihila had dealt with eyeorbs on Dustmound: Gypsium channelled via her chains in the form of lightning strikes. Without the Susasword, she was afraid her Attis lacked such a handy-dandy distance-delivery system. From what she’d seen of it, Akbar’s sceptre worked best with contact. Still, with the Amateramirror full-up and therefore useless except as a shield, she trusted the Crimson Corona would come up with something.
Obediently the evidently undying neo-demigod raced after them. Vetala telepathically ordered her vulturous Cloud General to have his Vultyrie and their Sangazur-animated riders come out of the sky’s non-vulturous cloud-covering and trail in his wake, shooting out the bright light and strafing the ramparts from high above. She hadn’t been able to gather more of the Forbidden Forest’s Indescribables in one place such that her Attis could transport them to Sraddha Isle. For some reason, Kala Tal, her spidery litter sister, had blocked access to her protectorate.
Neither had she brought in any more regular Haddit Zombies to aid in this assault. That was a strategic decision dictated by the presence of so many Trinondevs already on the island. However, ever since dusk she’d been having her bats-of-burden vampires, the ones that carried Dead Things from place to place when Janna Fangfingers was acting as her regent, collect as many of them as they could into one massive army.
For the time being it was centred on Diminished Dustmound. After her experience with the Thanatoids and Silverclouds, she figured the sheer preponderance of ambulant Dead Things in one place should thereby render it her inviolable protectorate. However, once she’d acquired what she came here to acquire, she’d also have herself a rapid deployment unit.
She reckoned she had something better than demons or regular Dead Things for tonight’s assault anyways: the berserker attack-bats Second Fangs had been intentionally starving for weeks in preparation for a night like this. Bloodlust-blind, butchery was foremost in their minds. Tonight’s anticipated slaughter wouldn’t be indiscriminate, though. They were to target Utopians, anyone with black or black and white striped skin, anyone who had an eye-stave.
Her psycho-bats were similarly tasked. She drifted back, not wishing to expose herself to the Trinondevs and their eye?staves again. The psycho-bats didn’t. They went into the Weird; came out inside the ant-gargoyle. Externally it had been black-as-midnight. Abruptly it became white-as-daylight. Primarily that was because that was what it was, internally lit-up. It was a set-up. Golgotha wasn’t afraid of repeating himself.
Brain-bulbs as light-bulbs. You couldn’t make them go incendiary in such close quarters but incandescence was just as effective. As expected so were the Godbadian-manufactured eye-shields. The Trinondevs who came out of their consequently dissolving ant-gargoyle atop the monastery’s fortifications emerged blinking, singed and thoroughly covered in dust. Had they been in Petrograd they could have pocketed a sizeable bounty.
They weren’t, however. They were alive, though. For now.
Perhaps neither of them should have gone back into action right away. Certainly they had no intention of doing so when they returned from Diminished Dustmound to Sraddha Isle, leaving the Susasword where it was, still attached to Vetala’s Brainrock throne. Once bitten, twice shy, and all that aphoristic claptrap in a crab-trap.
Not that Fish had been bitten as such.
Brainrock was teleportive. The energy blade, due to the volition of whomsoever or whatsoever, had gone through her Vesica Piscis, her bellybutton bauble. It went out of her back into Demios Sarpedon. Chary sort that he was, he’d encased himself in a thought-balloon before he took her hand and went with her from the monastery. Regrettably, even with the oldest eye-stave in existence, he couldn’t quite deflect it away from himself harmlessly.
Both suffered a consciousness-robbing rush but he’d also suffered a nasty gash in his left side. Fish’s Vesica Piscis had once been a devic power focus. The energy blade hadn’t even touched her. Or, if it had, it was just with its radiance. Time passed, awareness returned. She was tending to his wound. She looked positively lustrous with vitality. Despite his non-arterial blood loss, he didn’t feel too hard done by himself. Maybe Gypsium-Godstuff, having failed to kill him, had decided to reinvigorate him instead. Psycho-bicycle was next.
They returned to the monastery the same way they’d left it, via between-space; came back to the same place as well, Ringleader’s quarters. The clangour was approaching deafening. The monastery had to be under attack. Times had changed since they’d been away. Rings, Dr Aristotle Zeross, Harry, the Gypsium-gifted supra once codenamed Kid Ringo, was still snoozing on his bed. Now, though, Demios’s daughter, Andaemyn Sarpedon, was lying as if dead on the couch. She was encased in a mind-globe. So was Morg’s one-armed man, Alastor Molorchus; only he was being held aloft, above the floor. Someone had torn off his head-bandage.
Were both of them as drugged as Rings had been? By the same person, too. They could ask her. She, Garcia Dis L’Orca, was there. Except, for some reason, she was enclosed in a mind-globe. They could have asked Young Death what was going on. Only he was as well. Three of Garcia’s War Witches weren’t; their guns were drawn, however. Five of Golgotha’s Trinondevs were also there. Presumably four of them were maintaining the brain-bulbs while the other one, like the Athenans, was on Ringleader guard duty. Bar none, the person they wanted to ask what was happening was the Untouchable Diver.
It took a couple of minutes to get around to it.
“Pretender,” cried the unoccupied Trinondev, spotting Sarpedon and Fish, minus her Mandroid psychopomp, materializing out of the Weird. He was promptly encased in his own brain-bulb, projected off his own eye-stave. The ones encasing Andaemyn, Young Death, Garcia and Molorchus dropped the globes in which they were holding them. Then their globes dropped over them, the Trinondevs.
“Five at once,” said Fish. “Splish-splash-splendid, Demios.”
“Best I’ve overridden at the same time is ten. Psycho-bicycle chains?” He was referring to the three War Witches. Their weapons were across the floor. They were on the floor, chained to each other.
“Nothing bottom-feeding about soul-selves. Not to a top of the food-chain witch.”
Garcia was on the floor, trying to catch her breath. It was hard to breathe inside a mind-globe. So was Molorchus, on the floor. He wasn’t trying to catch his breath. He was dead to the world due to the fact he was plain dead. Underneath where his head-bandage had been earlier in the day was a noticeable hole in his fore-skull. It wasn’t a trepan bore-hole. It was a veritable fissure made by a large calibre bullet. Auguste Moirnoir, Young Death, was reaching for a cigar. The Diver must have dove into the floorboards; was nowhere to be seen. The alarms kept on ringing. Ringleader kept on snoring. Andy kept on breathing.
“Scum out, scum out, wherever you are, Diver,” said Fish.
“You two first,” came a man’s voice from Ringleader’s bed. It wasn’t Ringleader’s voice.
The illusionary forms of Fisherwoman and Demios Sarpedon vanished. “Like some anchovy-answers first,” she said. Her voice also seemed to be coming from Ringleader’s bed.
“Oh, for fuck’s sake, you assholes,” said Young Death, lighting his cigar. “We’re all on the same side here. It’s Mommy Morg that’s been dealing with the Dead.”
“And betraying our goddess in the process,” agreed Garcia, getting to her feet. She raised her hand; had something in it. It was a Crystal Skull. “And this is how.”
The mind-globe encasing the chief Trinondev lowered such that it uncovered his head, allowing him to speak. “The Master’s alive, traitor. He’s ordered you arrested. Young Death, your daughter, the dead man and the rogue Athenan, they belong to you filthy Sarpedons. Field Commander Nauroz wants them held until he can deal with them. Your Morrigan of a wife got away. If you’re going to kill us get it over with.”
“He’s right to a point,” said the Diver, playing one of his famous hunches and rolling out of Ringleader’s sleeping body, where he’d gone in case he had to get Harry away in a hurry. More of Zeross’s rings had vanished but the Diver looked solid enough. Unlike Fish he couldn’t cast glamours, verbal or visual. “Skull-Face doesn’t trust any of them. I’m not sure he even trusts me. He said I better stay here and look after Rings. Left me here with five Trinondevs and three War Witches to look after me, I’m thinking.
“Vetala’s Soldier is Rings’s nephew. He’s leading the attack on the island. He’s a bad one, a veritable Gypsium Man, and I’m having trouble metabolizing Gypsium. I keep blipping.”
"Blipping?" came a voice out of the walls. It was Demios’s voice. Somehow Fish must be scrambling it to disguise where they were between-space.
"Don't know how to describe it any better, Ace. Physically I’m half-here, half-there, in and out of between-space, but mentally I’m more like passed out or asleep. This sort of thing happened one other time, in early '47, just after I helped Magus Maxius and the rest sort Davy out, make him Cerebrus. I retired then; stayed mostly out of action for the better part of the next five years. Which was when so many of us, you, your wife, even Fish there, got sucked into that SDL mess. Now it's happening again, after twenty?five years in Limbo and back barely a week.”
Magus Maxius was a long dead Scottish supranormal, a Summoning Child like so many of them. He’d suffered a nasty fall in early 1938. Actually, thanks to her uncle, like Andy had today on the plain just below Dustmound, it was more of a drop than a fall. It left him a quadriplegic. In the late Thirties and early Forties Melina now Zeross acted as his nurse.
Davy was David Ryne, Cyborg Cerebrus, D-Brig’s erstwhile leader. He hadn’t been dead when they left him in Cabalarkon with Wilderwitch and Gloriel on Devauray but he might be by now. The SDL was the Supranormal Defence League. Davy’s cousin, Jesus Mandam, the Conquering Christ, once Barsine Holgat-wife’s thought-twin, though it turned out they might not even have had the same father, let alone the same mother, wanted supras to go public.
Although Fish was already back beneath the Dome by then, in September of 1952 he called together every known supranormal, active or inactive, even ones who had been redacted, had their memories reedited such that they believed they had always been a Normie or Norma Normalman, to do just that. Under the SDL’s banner the gathering took place in Vancouver Canada. They never did go public.
“It's getting to the point where I’m afraid to use my abilities; afraid using them will kill me. Can’t re-retire yet, though. Furie, Sundown, Raven, OMP, they’re stuck in the prick’s mirror. I’ve got one of your oceans of notions I can get them out. Hell, I know I can get them out. We three go up there, just the three of us, we’ve a shot. It’ll be just like the old days.”
“Demios?” That was Fish’s voice, from somewhere. The Diver hated talking to air.
“I’m up for it. Watch out for my daughter, Trinondev. Anything happens to her, I’ll be dealing with you.”
“Gush, Garcia,” Fish again. “Stay out of the piranha pool. We survive the dive, we’re going to have worms of words. Get your ass in gear, Diver. Time to polish off a mirror.”
“God, I love it when she doesn’t fishify.” The Diver dove upwards. Into the ceiling and kept on going.
Trigregos Incarnate strode the battlements.
The first Trinondev he encountered raised a protective force field. Guided by the Crimson Corona, he did not try to blow it apart. Rather, when he clubbed it with Akbar's sceptre, he had it absorb its energy. Worked too. He grabbed the eye?stave from the startled Trinondev with his free hand, the one that once wore First Fangs’ Brainrock glove; the hand the forearm of which the Amateramirror was attached. Bopped the orb atop it unto powder, banged the stave against the Utopian's head for fun, dropped it and walked on by.
As the semi-dazed Trinondev fumbled to pull out a replacement eyeorb from his rucksack he was shot dead from above. Significantly he didn’t rise anew. Vetala was nowhere to be seen, could be hiding in the clouds. Two hundred plus Trinondevs on the island, a dozen prison-pods each, an afternoon and evening of them, Weir’s Warriors Elite, sweeping the monastery and the tunnels beneath it with open eyeorbs. Do the math. Golgotha really was a cagey old codger.
Three more Trinondevs confronted the golden-brown warrior. They’d been well instructed on what to do. They bombarded the Amateramirror with mind-generated energy beams then levitated away to be replaced by three more who did the same thing. They were trying to break out the four members of the Damnation Brigade held within the mirror and they were almost succeeding. He found himself concentrating on keeping the remnants of the Brigade within it. Additional Warriors of Weir in dyed-indigo robes, veils drawn, assaulted him from behind. It was as if they were seeking him out instead of the other way around.
Again guided by the Corona, he waited until at least twenty Trinondevs were surrounding him then slammed the head of Supreme's sceptre into the ground. Bolts of energy burst every which way. All were directed into the orbs atop the eye?staves. They were deadening bolts. The disembodied eyes drooped down on their tendrils, dulled though not expelled. He let the Trinondevs flee, humiliated but unharmed. Until, that is, the attack-bats came a-slaughtering.
Atop the ramparts, where strobe-lights were still flashing without any perceptibly detrimental effect, particularly on the berserker-bats, groups of left-behind Godbadians, War Witches and brown?robed, shaven?headed Sraddhites were clustered around Godbadian gun-emplacements. It was as if cannons, machine guns and missile launchers were as much sacred objects to them as the two he was wearing. Much of the artillery had protective metal-plating over its top and to its anterior. Besides as shielding they were using the emplacements to blast the vulturous Cloud of Hadd out of the sky.
He waded through them from behind; began pounding armaments into slag. The guns silenced, living Vultyrie swooped lower. The desire for vengeance overcoming caution, Sangazur-animated Dead Things jumped off them. He left them fighting furiously with those of Living who still were among the living. Brown-Robes seemed to relish melee conditions. He went looking for more Trinondevs and their toothpicks for eye-eggs.
Something drove into him; crashed into him. He barely noticed it. A woman hopped off it, vanished. It was, he decided, some sort of flying jet-ski. It was crushed. It was mashed. It had tentacles, like a gelatinous octopus. It was crusting him. He raised Akbar’s Homeworld Sceptre in order to smash it into smithereens. A brain-bulb formed around his arm. There, over there, an out-of-uniform Trinondev encased in his own though-balloon. It was as much a matter of strength of mind as it was a literal arm-wrestle for his arm and Akbar’s sceptre.
Something dove into him, a man in a wetsuit wearing crimson-lensed goggles. He’d wondered what had become of the Diver on Dustmound earlier in the day. He wasn’t wondering where he was now. There was a flash, he flashed. The Diver had a thing for Brainrock, his Brainrock. Then he was in a struggle for his other arm, the one on which he’d strapped the Amateramirror. The Diver was trying to breakout his friends.
The woman was back. She had an oversized fishhook, a fisher’s gaffe; a fisherwoman’s gaffe. She gaffed him in the head. She was trying to rip off the Crimson Corona along with the top of his skull. Her octopus, it was inside him; it was trying to eat him from the inside. Its suckers were toothy orifices.
He … needed … more … Brainrock.
No more talking walls.
The five Trinondevs and three War Witches were able to move again. The alarms kept on ringing. Ringleader kept on snoring. Andy kept on breathing. Garcia stepped on a witch-stone and was gone. Young Death was just as gone. Momentarily thereafter the Trinondevs were as well. As were the War Witches. Finally, so was Ringleader, bed, blankets and remaining rings. Blankets were particularly welcome where he was going.
“Where’d Morg have you send him, Al?” queried a voice from behind him. The one-armed man turned slowly, making sure he could position the rotator cuff of his missing arm in the direction of the voice, which sounded vaguely familiar to him.
Barsine Mandam was sitting on the edge of the couch. That was why the voice sounded familiar to him. Even with fangs, morbidly pale skin and a third eye, she looked super for someone who had been dead for thirty-five years. He supposed she would be caught dead wearing something that revealing after all. Of course thirty-five years ago Alastor Molorchus might have been all of seven and living on Aegean Trigon.
“Sorry,” he apologized. “But I can only hold onto one dead thing at time.”
“Oh, I get it. You’re not Al. You’re what’s-his-name, Gush, the Morrigan’s Young Daddy Death, right?”
“You have me at a disadvantage. Have we had the pleasure?”
“I’ll have my answer first.”
“Lathakra, if you have to know. A little girl wanted her daddy. Wanted to kill me herself, too. Which I didn’t think was appropriate. So I did a deal with a devil. King Chicken-Shit Cold couldn’t bring himself to kill me himself so he had one of his snowmen do it for him. I was gradually freezing to death anyhow so an icicle spear up the Ying-Yang was a welcome relief. Hardly felt it actually. Wouldn’t, would I? I was mostly bum-numb by then.”
“The devils you say. Shame that. Those rings of his looked ever so useful this morning. Trinondevs to the left of me, Trinondevs to the right of me, teleport-holes beneath them and off they go into the wild blue yonder. I really will have to do something about those irritating Thanatoids someday. Guess you’ll do for now.”
Alastor Molorchus had never been to the Prison Beach of Incain. Young Death had. All, Incain’s self-proclaimed invincible She-Sphinx, devoured devils, didn’t she? She, the Mandroid Monster Maker, also held onto something devils referred to as the Unnameable but he knew to call Demogorgon. It was a conglomerate devil; conglomerate because, if the stories he’d heard were at all accurate, it had earned its other name long before Dark Sedon raised the Cathonic Zone out of his own essence 5,980 years earlier. Its other name was Devil Eater.
He, via the one-armed man, let her have it; sent her there. It occurred to him Incain would be a good place for her soldier as well. All the Invincible was also known as the Mandroid Mother Machine. Mandroids smothered Brainrock. He hoped she was hungry. He ran out of the room. Molorchus was no self-psychopomp and there was no readily reflective mirror in sight.
The alarms kept on ringing; the clangour was deafening. Andy kept on breathing, with no one left to guard her. Except perhaps for a dead, semi-soulless Irache warrior woman sheltered between-space off a witch stone her Mama Morg left in one of her pyjama’s breast pockets.
Young Death knew his tunnels; sent them there. Five Trinondevs and three War Witches found themselves in those tunnels. It was dark. Brain-bulbs as light-bulbs. Eye-eggs could be incandescent. Five were incandescent. Gush’s workforce, Haddit Zombies the lot of them, were lying dead to the world everywhere they walked. Weren’t getting up again either.
This was new. The Athenans tossed away their bullet-pellets. They’d had enough. No cannon fodder them. They took their time walking out. A pair of them, a Trinondev and a Samarandin, took even more time before they emerged deep beneath the monastery’s ziggurat. Nine months later, they hoped, the world, either side of it, would welcome yet another Zebranid. Or two. Maybe even three.
So much for the uneaten eight. Young Death was a good guy.
He got it too, the Brainrock. The one-armed man was on the scene. Was that the Crimson Corona on his forehead, just below the bullet-hole. Had she turned traitor again? How could he be on his feet with a hole in the head that size?
Then again how could he, a week ago Cosmicaptain Dmetri Diomad, still be on his feet?
Molorchus did his G-string-thing. Vetala’s Soldier took it in, atomized the psycho-cephalopod with the tentacle-mouths where its suckers should have been. More. Molorchus obliged. He won the three-against-one tug-of-war; repulsed them all. The Diver blipped; Fish turtled; Demios staggered backwards, the wound in his side bleeding again. More. The one-armed man gave him all he had left. The Crimson Corona was back on his head. He wanted it there; no traitor her. He vanished. That, he hadn’t wanted.
Young Death fell out of Alastor Molorchus. The one-armed man was draped in darkness; his face all that was visible. It wasn’t his face. It was pinkish; had three eyes. He was smiling.
“Not bad for mortals. Take a memo, Morg. Invite to coronation.”
Clams have legs. Clams have eyes. Clams have antennae. Clams have two antennae. Clams have an eye at the end of each of their two antennae. Everyone grew tired of Fish’s interminable fishisms eventually. Equally so, everyone eventually told Fish to clam up. Twisted sister that she was, she didn’t clam up. She turtled instead. Her Vesica Piscis, her bellybutton bauble, was shaped like a clam. She turtled inside it, between-space.
Turtle-shelled as she was, it developed legs and antennae, with eyes at the end of them, the antennae. Ommatophores, that was the word for stalks terminating in eyes. Antennae, ants, Antheans, that was fishily funny. She wasn’t thinking right. Came with extending so much of your psyche into your latest psychopomp, even if it was a metamorphic Mandroid, her psycho-bicycle, then having it atomized. Oh well-the-seashell, her soul-self hadn’t altogether atomized with it.
Wait a minnow-minute. That was Judge Warlock, wasn’t it? Couldn’t be. She knew who Judge Warlock was, the Outer Earth’s last living Sed-son; knew where he was as well. Someone else must have got hold of his Daemonicus form. Someone else who just happened to have three eyes? Too late to ask him. He’d just vanished. Young Death, you idiot. I told you to stay out of the piranha pool. Berserker bats, rabid rampant. Catch you later, Gush. Good spurt that. Claws must have hit an artery. They would. Throats had arteries.
A turtle’s shell bore a superficial similarity to a flying saucer. Her protective covering was akin to a razor-clam. Flying saucer, razor-clam, Vesica Piscis once a devil’s power focus, Brainrock-Gypsium was teleportive, berserker bats had spotted Demios, the wound in his side had opened again. Blood drew bloodsuckers. It was her, flying saucer razor-clam flying-Fish, to the rescue. When it came to dusting vamps Godstuff, applied invasively, beat silver or wood any night of the week.
“I’ve got him, Fish,” said the Diver, who recognized a flying saucer razor-clam when he saw one. He did too. Hadn’t blipped for long; couldn’t afford to blip for even the few seconds he had. He’d spotted Demios in trouble just as she had. Had thought to himself that it would be nice to be able to get to Sarpedon in time to prevent him going the way of the Black Death, as he remembered Young Death, as Auguste Moirnoir.
Thought and was there, just in time to render Blackguard, the Ace of Spades, Sarpedon’s two supra-codenames, intangible. He could do that, virtually always could. He’d never teleported all by his lonesome before. Seems he could do that now. Metabolizing Gypsium had radically amplified his abilities. About time he was good for something besides being dispatched by devils and one-armed men.
Attack-bats attacked in packs. Fish only buzz-sawed through three of the four berserkers attacking Sarpedon. The fourth one passed through Demios-Diver, their dual selves, as if they were ghosts. It whirled just as Fish, whirring, dusted its fellows. It looked very confused. The Diver took the vamp’s look to be confusion, rather. It was a reasonable supposition. Demios was momentarily confused himself. After more than a quarter-century of not seeing the Diver in action he’d forgotten most of what he could do.
Attack-bats were only partially humanized. Still had a howsoever expressive bat’s face, fur and wings. They didn’t wear tuxedos or opera capes but they were human-sized. Pre-Limbo one of the Emperor Mammalian’s Manimals looked like an attack-bat. That Manimal wasn’t a vampire. He did feed on blood, though.
Many of the Manimals were carnivores. No surprise there. Some of them were hunters. Nothing wrong with that. It was what they sometimes hunted that was wrong. Supranormals weren’t supposed to kill. They were allowed to defend themselves, naturally. Fish, Moirnoir, Blind Sundown, Raven’s Head, Sorciere, Slipper, they were among the supras who defended themselves lethally.
Sarpedon had it in a brain-bulb. He knew a variety of ways to vanquish vamps; could do it with both ends of his eye-stave. Brain-bulb as a light-bulb, why not? A Vultyrie plummeted onto the ramparts. It must have been shot down by a War Witch, a Brown-Robe or one of the Godbadians who hadn’t been evacuated. Young Death tumbled out of it. A Sangazur-animated Dead Thing was pinned underneath it; was trying to free his gun-hand; gun with it. Young Death tumbled into him. Had him shoot himself in the head. That hurt humongously but it would at least slow him down. Tumbled out of him.
“The Sangs, Daddy Dem,” he shouted. “Get airborne. Suck them out with your orbs.”
“I can’t do both,” Sarpedon shouted back. His Sarpedon-head shouted back, make that. His other head was wearing crimson-lensed Gorgon Goggles and a black, rubbery hood.
“Leave airborne to me,” said the Diver one of their two heads.
“You can’t fly, Yehudi.”
“Maybe not, Ace. But if I can soil-swim, I should be able to sky-swim. Should be able to keep you untouchable at the same time, dick-dildo.”
He should, he could, and so he did. So did they. For awhile.
Gush rushed across the battlements, leapt into her. He knocked her over; couldn’t enter her. What’s wrong with this picture?
Fish, Thartarre and Golgotha were nearby, in close proximity to each other. They were observing the fighting more so than participating in it themselves. They saw their collision, not what led up to it. Regardless, this was worth investigating. Under the umbrella of Golgotha’s mind-globe, the three of them scooted to where the other two had fallen.
“Stand back,” demanded Thartarre, apprehending her condition. “I’ll fire her.”
“What for?” Garcia Dis L’Orca cried out anxiously, though not exactly apoplectically. “I’m fine.”
“Heart in hand tells a different story,” observed Young Death. “Unless that isn’t your heart in your hand.”
Fish had told both Dis L’Orca and Young Death to stay out of the piranha pool; to stay out of trouble. Like glamours, which she seldom used, she wasn’t very effective when it came to ordering folks around. She’d been a lousy queen in her day. They hadn’t given her any heed.
The forever-seven Voodoo Child could force Sangs out of Dead Things. Could take over the resultantly rendered inanimate corpse and reanimate him or her. Had Dis L’Orca been killed? Was that what he’d been trying to do? Gush had been killed at least once that she’d seen so far tonight. And, if Dis L’Orca hadn’t just been killed, then that wasn’t her externalized heart she was vainly trying to shove back into her torn-open chest cavity.
“Then why couldn’t you get into me?” Garcia put to him.
What twigged him she was dead, presumably had been for quite sometime as well, was the attack-bat. In the main, attack-bats killed first and ate later; much later, unbridled butchery being their re-eminent objective. Having felled her from behind, this particular attack-bat tore Garcia’s heart out of her chest and was in the process of having a quick chomp, as if it was an energizing chocolate bar, when the War Witch, albeit without a heart, blasted him point-blank with a shotgun full of silver buckshot. Whereupon she did the same to the next attack-bat who came along.
“What wizardry is this?” gasped Golgotha, over-dramatically. The War Witch had just wholly healed right in front of his eyes. He rephrased his question rhetorically. “Oh, I see. What witchery is this?” Fish first cast a glamour about Garcia. Fish second cast her fishnet about her.
“Sorry, staffs, but there’s something fishy here and it’s not me.” She grabbed Young Death by his neckband, dropped and stepped on a witch-stone. ”I’ll let you know when I get to the sea-bottom of it. Stay albacore-alert and abalone-alive until then.”
With Dis L’Orca netted but not protesting, Young Death squirming like a naughty boy with mom twisting his earlobe, Fish disappeared for the nonce of the night.
Moments later the Diver came out of the Grey in front of the Sraddhites’ High Priest and the Trinondevs’ Field Commander. He still had two heads but the Demios of the two looked ghastly. “Dem’s had the bun, Skull-Face. He’s something for you. You can’t keep it, though.”
The battle continued; wound down as more and more Sangs keeled off their oddly night-flying Vultyrie and didn’t get up again. Only now it was Golgotha Nauroz who wielded the oldest eye-stave in existence. It was appropriate in that Ubris Nauroz had gifted it to Sarpedon and Golgotha had been cloned from Ubris Nauroz. Even though the vamps fled as daylight approached, he still hadn’t given it back to him.
Demios wouldn’t be able to do anything with it for awhile anyways.
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