Chapter 110 The Battle of Ave’s Crossway

“A severed hand for you, my lord.” Offered the undead butler, whose noose was still wrapped around his neck. The butler gave a thinly stretched smile that looked as if the jawline might slink out any moment. The man had served as a butler for at some stately manor some hundred years ago and was still dressed in the same tailored tattered suit he had been hung in.

“Thank you, Katil.” Deo waved his hand, dismissing the butler’s platter and the severed hand. Katil turned and set it on the dining hall.

The hand would have belonged to a young Garghent Specter, Deo knew, a newly awakened Savant who met an unsuspecting end.

“Carn is doing well then.” Deo was pleased at that good news, for it was one of the only.

“Carn enjoys showing you his trophies.” Katil explained.

Deo leaned back in the dining chair, not his throne. That was behind him on the level above, up the wide flight of stairs that led to the top of the ziggurat. Deo sat at the head of the table, dining on fine fruits and baked grains. Deo was alone save for Katil the corpse butler.

“So Katil, tell me, any word from the frontlines, how is Bisult holding?” Deo grabbed a handful of grapes and ate them one by one.

Katil adjusted his cufflinks as he spoke in his remembered formal voice. “Bisult is losing ground rapidly. Garghent push is relentless. Reports suggest they will be encountering the first line of trenches at Ave’s crossway today at midday.”

Deo crushed a grape in his fingers unconsciously, the juice staining his fingers. Before Deo could react, Katil produced a handkerchief and offered it to him. Deo accepted it and wiped his fingers.

“My lord is frustrated.” Observed the butler.

“They are trying to draw me out. At this rate Ophir will be conquered before autumn.”

“You have plans to attend the day’s fighting, do you not, milord?”

Yes. I am arriving at midday, the same time as Garghent.”

“You have your attire selected?” Katil asked.

It was the last thing on Deo’s mind, but still important. “Pick something for me. Not too dramatic, it will be a long and hot day.”

“Very good lord. Once you have finished your morning wine I shall prepare your garment.”

“And the cathedra, have that brought to the exit gate.” Deo added.

“Of course.” the butler promised

Deo did not want his throne to see him on the bone cathedra so he would sit on it outside Ophir. That was also why Deo did not sit on his throne now, he needed a day away from it so as not to betray his throne.

“Have you thought of today’s strategy, lord?”

“No, and I need to think of it. You better get that suit ready, Katil.”

“At once, lord.” Katil bowed before departing from the ziggurat.

Deo grabbed his wine glass and nursed it until it was empty, savoring the rich and deep aromatic flavors with its floral undertones and sufficient sparkle. It was superb. Having access to all the cellars and wineries certainly had its perks. Katil chose the wine for breakfast, a light but powerful red champagne, an unorthodox morning selection on top of it being carbonated as a red. Katil always knew just what to choose. The undead butler was his favorite corpse. Deo did not understand how it worked, but Katil had his own personality that Deo didn’t directly order or micromanage. Somehow there was either enough brain left for Katil to act independently. Though this was not a great explanation as many other corpses had much more intact brains but could not behave as Katil did.

Deo considered it could be a tulpa, some unconscious thought-form that Deo somehow created and projected into Katil, totally capable of its own experiences yet fully aware of Deo’s own life and memory. It truly puzzled him but he did not dwell on the anomaly too much as the Aspect itself was beyond comprehension.

Deo shook his head, forcing his mind to focus on the coming battle.

Deo finished his glass before he even composed a general plan. He was not ready to leave and looked for the bottle. It was on the far side of the dining hall.

Deo commanded a serving girl on his corpse staff to the end of the table. She had been a kid when she died and was raised as an undead. Deo often used younger corpses for jobs like catering his meals and setting the table. The girl reached the end of the table, her corpse white skin almost as pale as her simple gown.

He ordered her to grab the bottle and bring it to him. “Pour the wine my dear.”

The undead girl filled Deo’s goblet. She set the bottle on the table and left.

Deo sipped his glass at a steady pace but instead of strategy thought only of his hatred for humans. Contemplating on all that he found unsatisfactory.

An hour and two full glasses later, Deo was pulled from his reverie by Katil.

“Ah, I had placed the wine on the far end to keep you from temptation. You need a clear head today lord. Luckily the trip to Ave’s Crossway is a couple hours, plenty of time to sober up.”

Deo shook his head. “Too late. I will bring the wine with me, if not my headache will be pounding.”

“Very well,” Katil agreed, “it cannot be helped. It was my fault in selecting the wine. I know my lord enjoys the fine drinks. I thought only of easing your morning stress.”

“No, this way is best. Me and the wine are one.”

Katil led Deo to get dressed and afterward they strolled to the gate. The bone cathedra, Kiasmus’ marrow chair gifted for the Siege of Vallis to be his battle throne, was placed on a platform and would be carried by undead like a palanquin.

The bone cathedra was lowered for Deo to step on it. He relaxed into the skeletal frame and set his goblet on the arm.

Several chests of supplies were carried alongside him, one of these full of wine.

Jan stood on the ramparts at the gate exiting Ophir next to Hege.

“You let him have wine?” Hege admonished Katil from above.

Katil bowed deeply. “I have failed our lord on his most important day.”

“Nonsense Katil, I am ready.” The last part was addressed to Hege.

“You’ve a plan then, for the day?” asked Hege with a gesture of his cigar hand.

Deo ordered the corpses to lift and begin the march. Jan unfurled his dark feathery wings and flew over Deo, hovering above.

“No.” Deo replied. “Take care of Ophir for when I return.

Hege grinned. There was no changing Deo. The kid had walked into Ophir one day and decided to take the city. He was a rare breed of man that could walk into any situation and completely dominate it, irregardless of preparation. Hege watched as Deo departed with his horde of undead.

Deo continued to sip his wine as he passed by line after line of undead, entrenched in ditches that spanned around Ophir from coast to coast. He had spent months ordering millions to dig trenches, dozens of rows that led all the way to the border of Ophir, which was at Ave’s Crossway, a highway that connected Garghent, Vallis, Ophir and Bast. 

Normally, no force would be able to push through so many rows of trenches and the millions of armed undead that guarded them, but Garghent boasted an impressive military with many powerful Specters.

“Jan, today you must stay near me. I will be the primary target as their goal thus far has been to draw me out.” 

“No harm will befall you.” the Seravim Aspect said adamantly. 

“Annana will be near me as well. She cannot be harmed either.”

“I will protect you and her with my life.”

“No Jan, not with your life. With your sword.”

Jan didn’t say anything but kept his face determined. 

Deo heard the thunder of troop movement before he saw it. Coming up to the juncture of Ave’s that met the four roads, Deo ordered his undead to settle several trenches from the first one. Behind Deo lay thirty more trenches before the walls of Ophir. Ahead of him were three trenches. Garghent would not pass him.

Deo saw that Garghent had not yet made its first attack on the trench, but they were gathering and preparing.

Deo caught a glimpse of Bisult’s Yarak falcon flying around. Bisult was with the zhoulba holding the flank further south. His falcon would confirm that Deo was there and he would spread the word.

Deo’s Specters fought in hit and run tactics, targeting any Specters too exposed. Veinbreaker, Carn, Arachnomania and Bisult were his only Specters present in the battle, aside from Jan and Obyzuth who were here with him.

Hege and the Veil Aspect were back in Ophir and Kiasmus was with Bubonica and Onager in the bone palace. Garriot as always was off in Goblin’s world.

In terms of Specters Deo was outnumbered probably fifteen to one, depending if Garghent was fielding all of them at once or not. In terms of the military however, Deo had tens of millions more, though not all were here at once, but they did fill the border from here to Ophir, as far as the eye could see.

Annana, the Obyzuth Aspect, made her way to Deo.

“Deo, you are here!”

“I am. You arrived just recently?” Deo asked.

“About an hour ago. I finished making preparations.” Annana gestured to a nearby hut, constructed of wheat and skeletons and wood. 

“It is large enough?” Deo questioned.

“Yes!” Annana’s eyes lit up. “I feel so very depraved.”

“Soon Obyzuth. Garghent is ready to throw themselves at our feet.”

“But there are so many enemy Specters and I have not fought in a battle before.”

“Listen to your heart. That craving feeling. Feed it and the rest will become clear. Feed it and revel in the joy. Today Garghent suffers the way you suffered.”

“Truthfully? You dedicate this battle to me?” Her eyes were expectant and teary. 

Deo looked into them and thought how much they had changed. He had known her for a few minutes before she awakened her Aspect at the same time she lost her child, who somehow had awakened his own Aspect which she absorbed. Of course her life would be different from then on. The power and insanity that came with that sudden and jolting turn of events would turn anyone crazy, let alone a sweet nurse forced to leave her home heavily pregnant or else see her child raised as a thrall in Garghent’s war machine.

“Today is for you. Today Obzyuth, blood witch, is made known to the world.

At that moment Deo saw a figure from Garghent’s side of the border. An old man. General Draje, the Sortilege Specter.

Deo felt the gaze on him, felt hundreds of pairs of eyes, felt especially the eyes of Specters. 

Deo raised his goblet in acknowledgement. 

“Today you die, Draje, as I promised to you, softly, intimately.”

A signal from General Draje marked the start of the fighting. The battalions of Garghent troops surged towards the first undead trench up and down for several kilometers. Garghent would focus on the center where now that they knew Deo had been successfully forced to present himself.

As the fighting began, thousands of corpses obstructed the line of fire to Deo, preventing any lucky shot or stray bullet. Annana retreated to her hut while Jan remained ever watching, black blade at the ready.

Garghent would face return fire this time, the undead defending these trenches were armed with rifles and pistols. On top of that, Deo personally commanded his legions. No longer did Garghent fight mindless thrall. Today they fought a hivemind of the damned.

Deo ordered his corpse to fire in volley until whatever weapon they used needed to be reloaded and while they prepared the next volley of lead, other unarmed undead took their place, acting as meat shields.

Despite Garghent’s superior number of Specters, they could not simply storm the trenches with powers as most Specters did not have the durability to guarantee survival against millions of undead, especially the ones with rifles and weapons. Standard body armor would not prevent a mob of undead beating a Specter to death.

Garghent stayed careful, advancing its Specters with troops for support. There were, however, still a fair amount of Specters capable of driving a wedge in Deo’s trenches. 

Several of Garghent’s Generals, Specters like Emilo the Steelskin, Genjam the Chaos Blue, Hijo the Wild led troops to various point along the trench as Mancer class Specters fired and streamed out their powers.

Deo witnessed planets flying, lightning strikes, geysers of mud, flaming tornadoes, towers of clay, gusts of ice, implosions and tremors on top of grenades and machine gun fire and the screaming of soldiers in combat.
Deo kept his undead silent. 

Anteran the Electrum Aspect fired his special bullets into an undead, causing a swelling of gold and silver to grow like a tumor before bursting and sending shards into other nearby corpses. The Electrum continued to spread like an infection, though Deo noticed the damage seemed minimized by the fact that many of the undead did not get hit in a vital place. Normally they’d have bleed out but such was the benefit of using already dead soldiers.

Deo ordered a group of mudmen, those undead which formed from a single large bone and condensed soil, the most difficult to slay, to contain the Electrum infection. Deo let the Electrum infect the mudmen before sending them tumbling towards Garghent’s battle line. 

There were some fifty mudmen charging, bubbling and bursting silver and gold as they were fired upon by Garghent soldiers.

Most were gunned down, but one, with half his torso blown off and still bubbling with Electrum, made it in range to an unfortunate soldier. The Electrum burst and lanced into his shoulder. It bubbled before spreading to his nearby comrades. There was a bit of chaos and a decent number of casualties before they could contain the infected soldiers, letting them die from the Electrum without spreading.

Anteran fought more reserved from that point on.

Deo one at a time found a way to use his undead to counter the enemy Specters that were pushing too far against his trenches.

Emilo in Gargoyle form tried to brute a way into the trench. For this, Deo stopped using guns on him and simply ordered his undead to swarm and grab him, doing nothing else but holding. Another Specter had to rush in and save him, as eventually Emilo would be overwhelmed and forced to drop his form from exhaustion. 

Against the Babel Specter, Deo sent pickaxe and shovel wielding undead to tear down the towers, causing mounds of dirt to fall and make it even more difficult to reach the trenches. Soldiers tried to keep the undead from the towers but with each slain undead, a dozen more were there to take its place.

The mudmen proved to be another solution against the annoying Fulmen Specter, Marcarios. Hales’ unit commander. The low conductibility of soil and mud made the lightning attacks disperse easily. Even for the soil that contained large amounts of water, the electricity did nothing to destroy the central skeleton nor was there any need to worry about nerve damage or muscle control. Deo’s mudmen were the best example of his raw power. Needing hardly any piece of a human corpse to create an animated drone.

At one point a star was lobbed over to Deo, a gift from Hales the Solar Aspect. Jan flew up and met the star, slicing the plasma ball, killing it.

Coming from the blind spot the star came from, was a lance of spectral green. Upon destroying the star, Jan found himself impaled by the Spectral weapon which pinned him to the ground.

Prion, the Gemini Aspect, flew where Jan had just been flying. Its inhuman expression turned to Deo seated on his bone cathedra, still sipping wine from a goblet.

A chain of spectral green materialized in Prion’s hand. Deo pointed a finger up, and following that movement thousands of undead raised their weapons and fired toward Prion.

Prion flashed and disappeared, flickering from location to location. Deo adjusted the aim of the undead each time. 

Prion was unable to get his chains wrapped around Deo before Jan came flying back. Prion retreated rather than stay and duke it out.

Jan made to follow but Deo’s voice cut in. “Jan! Do not chase him. They are simply testing our defenses.”

Jan scoffed, his voice changing slightly to be high-pitched and ethereal. Black smoke plumed from his body in an aura of decay that blanketed the air around him. 

Deo smiled. Jan’s Aspect grew stronger still. He was becoming less human and more fallen angel with each fight.

Although Garghent’s Specter could not necessarily hold a foothold in the first trench, the soldiers slowly took ground, advancing the battleline closer and closer. 

Trench fighting posed many hazards for the attacker, trench fighting an undead army posed a few more. Normal shots that could kill a man would do nothing to an undead. The undead did not lose or suffer any coordination or fatigue. It mechanically aimed and fired where a target could be seen. A professional soldier would always be more effective individually, but a horde of undead controlled by a single mind meant fighting against an intelligence that turned that mechanical soldier into a precise killing machine.

Deo made Garghent pay for every meter it gained in his border.

As the fighting continued, dust and debris and smoke from powers made the battlefield hazy. Deo took advantage of this to send undead crawling in through the bog. With so much going on and the rush of bullets that made combat a slow and dangerous game, undead snuck in and snatched unsuspecting soldiers, dragging them back to the trench screaming and helpless.

Deo was collecting prisoners.

Deo made sure to have their limbs broken before ordering corpses to drag the limp prisoners into Obyzuth’s hut. There, the screaming would last only a moment longer.

Deo adjusted his undead as required. Sending reinforcemcents to breaches in the trenches, pulling back undead when a strong Aspect was about to devastate his corpses, minimizing his casualties and then having them surge on the offensive. Deo felt for the ebb and flow of the fighting, sensing where Garghent would strike next and where they neglected.

“Garghent is losing momentum.” observed Katil as he uncorked another bottle of wine.

“It means something big is coming. They would prefer to kill me today.” Deo replied as he held his goblet out for a refill.

As if telling the future, a loud boom came from Garghent. Something huge had descended from the sky.

Deo relaxed further in his chair, snuggling into the bony backrest and letting his arms and legs ragdoll over the edge.

“Draje.”

Draje had activated his Sortilege Aspect. The spread of Major Arcana cards being shuffled by some force of their own in the space in front of him. The card he drew would become his form for a short duration. Everyone knew of Draje’s Aspect. The old man famously wielded a powerful and diverse Aspect.

Deo saw a figure standing head and shoulders above the rest on Garghent’s side. The figure looked like an ancient man, with a golden laurel adorning his long flowing hair. Massive and thick robes of royal reds and golds covered a suit of steel armor. A white beard the length of a person flowed from his face etched like granite.

A blade far heavier and larger than even Garriot’s Orgblade was drawn.

“He has drawn the Emperor, lord. He seeks to challenge you.” Katil spoke with some antagonism.

With every step the Emperor took the ground shook. Each step brought him closer to Deo. The Emperor was a slow moving giant impervious to almost any weapons. The undead threw themselves at the Emperor only to be crushed in his natural path or obliterated by a sweep of his blade. Rifles did nothing but bounce off his skin or armor. 

The Emperor delivered one swiping strike along a section of the trench, clearing it entirely of undead. He stepped over the ditch and continued in a direct line to Deo.

Deo had to patch the breach but already Garghent’s Specters and soldiers started to capture the zone. 

Deo grit his teeth and took a large swig of wine. He sent droves of undead to run at the Emperor, tossing themselves at his legs in an attempt to slow him down. He walked at the same pace he had been.

The Emperor crossed the next trench, though Garghent’s army could not follow. Deo noticed Specters coming his way to strike jointly.

“Jan,” Deo hissed in anger. “Take out the other Specters. I will deal with the Emperor.”

Jan nodded and soured into the air, reengaging with Prion while simultaneously trying to block large planets and stars and a host of other ranged Aspects.

Deo supported Jan as best he could but most of his efforts were focused on the Emperor which caused his battleline elsewhere to weaken. 

Garghent would be redoubling its effort everywhere, meaning Bisult, Carn, Veinbreaker and Arachnomania would be preoccupied.

Annana the Obyzuth Aspect was unready. Deo could easily just move backwards but she was still in her hut and would be in no condition to leave. 

Deo ordered the undead to climb the Emperor which did nothing to stop him. Plus there was some crack shot picking off the undead that climbed on the Emperor’s back.

No matter how many corpses blocked his path, the Emperor could cleave through them or brush them aside like a bear brushing off termites.

An otherworldly screech pierced the battlefield and its echo was just as shrill. The noise came from Jan who dove at the Emperor. The blade of the Emperor came up in a flash and blocked Jan’s attack, the sword completely halting his charge.

Prion wrapped his spectral chains around Jan and yanked him from the Emperor. A furious scream followed Jan’s entrapment. He was blasted by a series of powerful elemental attacks from various Specters. He plummeted to the ground with torn wings and his body singed and steaming from fire and lightning.

The Emperor moved on gracefully cleaving his way through.

Prion appeared above Deo. Chains dangling from the Specter’s hand. He swung them around and tossed them at Deo.

Katil leveled a revolver and fired at Prion, catching the flying Specter off guard as Prion had only anticipated attacks from around Deo, not coming directly from his right hand.

The chains didn’t quite reach Deo as Prion reeled from the shot wounded, and forced to retreat once more as more undead fired at him. 

The Emperor walked unabated still, passing the third line of the trench.

Deo kept swarming the Emperor to no avail. They bashed and stabbed and shot and pounded on the Emperor’s armor but only mashed their weapons and bodies against the impervious armor of Draje’s Aspect.

In a puff of black smoke, Jan ascended into the air with a sonic wave. The screaming intensified and seemed to be produced by a choir rather than a single individual. 

Jan attacked the Emperor, who deflected each strike Jan made. Jan flew around, sending lighting strikes one after the other, but the Emperor always moved faster. The huge frame of the Emperor unnaturally matching the movements of Jan’s agility. The blade coming up and descending in flurries, reflecting every attack the miniature Jan attempted. Whether the attack came from above, behind or directly head on, the Emperor put out little effort to defend it and never once changed course.

The Emperor barreled through the next trench. The swarm of undead now completely covered his legs, though this did not slow him. Jan kept up the pressure as the Emperor’s support was now too far out of range to do much. 

Deo was losing the entire first line of the trench to this assault, but there was nothing he could do while the Emperor closed in.

At last the horde of undead forced the Emperor to stagger, his knee buckling from the relentless undead. The Emperor could not afford to ignore Jan’s attacks and so the undead kept their pressure without consequence.

The Emperor was close to Deo. Very close. Less than twenty meters. Separating them were thousands of undead, packed tightly and pushing against the Emperor.

The Emperor pushed back, pitching his massive strength and weight against the corpse mob. Deo’s undead directly next to the Emperor were crushed under the pressure.

Deo noticed the weaker leg was now the back leg as the Emperor had managed a step. He would be in swinging range soon.

Deo sipped his goblet.

“Genuflect in my presence, Emperor.” Deo demanded.

Deo commanded his undead, all at once, to stop pushing against the Emperor, but instead to change directions and pull. The undead behind the Emperor, however, pushed against that back leg and all the energy the Emperor put into moving through the horde was now converted into momentum in his direction. His back leg gave out, forcing his knee to slam into the ground, causing the ground to tremble as he fell.

The Emperor ignored Jan now, swinging his blade left and right, cleaving hundreds of undead to pieces.

Jan flashed by, cutting a large gash on the Emperor’s granite face. Little relative damage. But Jan turned and dove back, cutting another gash. Blue blood trickled down the Emperor’s face.

The Emperor lurched up, rising back to both feet.

“No!” Came another deathly screech from Jan. The Seravim Aspect flew directly down on the Emperor’s head, lodging his blade deep in the Emperor’s skull.

It forced the Emperor to remain on one knee.

A hand moved to grab Jan but he tore the blade out from the Emperor’s skull and slashed the giant palm coming for him.

The Emperor was now completely overrun by undead that had climbed his back and began to cover his eyes and stab into the wounds Jan already made.

The Emperor reversed his blade, raised his arm, and slammed it into the ground. He used the blade as leverage to try to prop himself up. Jan did not let him. The angel flew at the Emperor and stabbed his eye. The grating of the blade against the eye suggested the orb was made of something like glass. Jan was exuding black decay and the smoke traveled into the crack in the eye and began to rot it.

This time the Emperor was successful in grabbing Jan with his free hand and tore him off his face. The Emperor tossed Jan some several kilometers away like it was nothing.

The damage was done. The Emperor struggled but was being taken apart, piece at a time as the undead worked chisel away the hardened skin. Chunks of the Emperor’s face started to crumble.

The Emperor made one last effort, pulling his sword from the ground and collapsing forward, arm fully outstretched and blade reaching for Deo.

At this point Deo commanded the bone cathedra to move a few steps backwards.

The Emperor’s mighty blade landed just shy of Deo, crushing some undead that had been standing there.

The Emperor began to melt. His form was destroyed and the body of the Emperor disintegrated leaving behind an old man.

“General Draje. Welcome back to Ophir.” Deo greeted.

He ordered the undead to bash a fist into his mouth, crushing his teeth. Other undead went to work destroying his elbows and kneecaps. Another reached in his mouth and ripped out his tongue.

There would be no last words for the top of General Garghent, the tyrant military commander who had schemed so many operations against his own people and the rest of the continent.

“What is all that noise?” Annana came out of her hut, wide-eyed and covered in blood. Her hair was a tangled mess but she looked completely ecstatic.

“I have brought you someone. He is one of Garghent’s top leaders. He was responsible.” Deo hardly needed to say what he was responsible for.

Annana’s eye lit up at the realization. “Oh! General Draje?” she giggled and teared up at the same time. 

“I will have him brought in.” Deo ordered his undead to drag the crippled Draje to the hut.

Deo did not care that the second line of trenches had been breached. Garghent was fighting like madmen to reach their General. Powers were going off, some of them getting dangerously close to Deo. But Jan came gliding back, furling his wings as he landed by Deo.

“Excellent work, Jan.”

Jan nodded, face full of hate and fury.

Deo didn’t care that Garghent threatened to break through because he ordered his undead to counter charge. He’d lose a lot this way, but denying Garghent their General was more important.

Deo saw planets and stars slam in succession like a hammer striking an anvil.

No matter, the day was won.

Deo was impressed by Draje’s lack of noise. He did not scream but more like growled at whatever foul thing Obyzuth was doing inside the hut. He heard a mix of moaning, screaming and laughter come from her.

Deo put Garghent into a standstill, halting their vindictive advance at the second trench.

A spreading ooze of darkness creeped out of Obyzuth’s hut. It was more complex than the absence of light, the darkness had form, like a light source that emitted shade. 

A pulsing, beating sound started to drum, rhythmic and foreboding. The beating had a clear source, some meters in front of the hut where the darkness gathered and swirled organically, amassing around this drumming noise.

The air grew chilly and a foul sulfuric odor, different from that of gunpowder, perfumed out from that same shadowy mass.

A stream of blood coming from Obyzuth’s hut made its way to the dark center, being absorbed actively, drawing in to the mass.

The drumming grew louder.

Deo realized it was the beating of a heart. 

The mass started to take on a bloody shape. The shape of a distorted animal.

The darkness could no longer hide the center as the shape increased in size with each pool of blood that drained and gathered into it.

As if carved from a single great heart, a statue of a horned creature stood erect, giving off an intimidating presence.

The statue pulsed and beat, blood coursing in and out of it with each contraction.

The darkness dispersed out, bathing the landscape in a faded red and black, as if all other colors were sent into hiding. Even the sun’s light was dulled.

It reminded Deo of his own twilight as the light drained into the dead for a brief period.

This was still different, more like an agonizing and existential shade had been cast over, the source of which a bleeding heart statue of a horned creature giving off an unsettling disturbance.

A voice pulsed out, matched in cadence to the beating of itself.

“I. Am. RAM.”

The voice was infinitely loud and dreadful, appearing in the mind rather than as actual noise. The words cut through like a flaming sword of awful trepidation.

Obyzuth’s stillborn child. She had said his name was Ram.

Ram had an Aspect somehow. And somehow that Aspect lived in Obyzuth.

The bodies were sacrificed for Obyzuth to summon Ram’s form.

Deo realized that RAM was looking directly at him and that it was looking directly at everyone.

No matter where one was standing, the statue always faced you. It faced everyone individually.

Deo felt himself being magnetized to the statue, without even moving he felt the distance closing.

He tore himself away from the statue’s bleeding red eyes.

“What manner of Aspect is this?” Deo whispered. He had dropped his goblet without realizing, the wine staining the ground bright red, the only color allowed to exist here in RAM’s plain.

Deo glanced again at the statue. It was oscillating blindingly fast, vibrating faster and faster with each anxiety inducing pulse of the heart statue.

“BEFORE ME. PROSTRATE.”

Hundreds of soldiers, both of Garghent and Ophir, alive and undead, appeared around RAM, fully prostrated on the ground, in apparent worship of the statue.

What went on Deo did not know, but it seemed the weak-willed were pulled in, including his own undead, into the influence of the statue.

The prostrated group finally stood up, their eyes gleaming with the reflection of RAM, even after they turned away from it.

They were mind controlled it appeared and they zealously charged. The movements were unnatural for man or corpse.

Somehow RAM could take over Deo’s control and improve on their abilities. 

These ardent mind-slaves of RAM drove into Garghent’s line of soldiers in the second trench, tearing and ripping with supernatural strength.

Garghent soldiers began to panic, seeing their comrades reduced so easily to vicious enslavement by some demented, horned statue heart.

Some terrified soldier broke and ran, starting a panic when he yelled to retreat. The cry was taken up and despite the effort of different leaders and Specters, they were forced to bend under the pressure of Deo’s legions. The sweltering red environment made for a chaotic and alarming scene and the retreat was disorganized, causing further undue casualties.

After all the mind-slaves of RAM had been slain, the red faded out and the statue ceased to pulse and whir. It disappeared in a pillar of smoke, leaving behind only a scar of corruption where it once stood.

Garghent was beaten back for the day.

Deo had won for today.

“I am surprised you did not succumb to the statue, milord, considering how much wine you had your inhibitions must be lowered significantly. I could feel the draw from you.” Katil said.

“That is not my god.” Deo answered moodily.

“And what god do you serve?” Katil asked.

“I serve the god of death.” Deo replied.

“I do not follow, are you not the god of death, milord?” Katil inquired.

“I am. And you serve me, fetch my goblet and fill it.”

Katil bowed and wiped the dirt from the lip of goblet and poured another glass for the god of death.

The end of arc 10: Undead Trench Combat

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