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Meeting of Devils
Jp with LSP
Aldous, Souarous, and Jyneith sat around an oval mahogany table in the Varlandic home of Aldous's former wizard master, Umeffaeh, who the latter two understood to be recently deceased under suspicious circumstances.
Soularous looked at his fellow demon siblings and members of the Nine, and said, "Let's start with the first issue, Aldous. Why were you acting as a mortal's servant for years?" It was something that bothered him from day one, "I had to ask, it didn't make sense for you."
“It didn’t?” Aldous asked. “What didn’t make sense about it?” he questioned them back. “I admit… I was forced into it at first.” He showed them where the sealing brand once was. “That didn’t last too long, but I found the mortal world far more interesting than ours. So I decided to hang around. Never planned on staying as long as I did, but when the girl's mother vanished, and her father was absent regularly, she needed someone to take care of her, and what can I say, she grew on me.” Aldous shrugged. “Was my choice to make.”
Soularous gave a small chuckle, "And you doubted me when I told you all those years ago about this place called Aeran. However we don't have time to enjoy this plane’s many wonders. Incarius has been acting strange, more so than normal. I believe it has something to do with no other than... the Nameless. More of its minions have begun appearing of late. My old nemesis is long gone, just a puppet now." The King in Blue balled his hands into fists and a storm started brewing again outside. "Not only that, but the Nameless also have control of Emilia, Draken's mother. Draken is also presumed dead by them. He's alive, I can feel it, but he is somehow… divided." Soularous snarled, "Damn formless freak!"
“You need to calm down,” Jyneith said, placing a hand on her brother’s shoulder. “I can’t mask our energy signatures if you just keep throwing up storms like that and let every demon hunter and their mother know exactly where we are. You wanted to talk, so let’s talk. But you are going to alert everyone we are hiding from. Keep in mind we are in a large population centre and the headquarters of the Church of the Fair Lady is just down the next street. So get a grip.”
“Yeah, cool it,” Aldous said, “This kind of thing is exactly why you got sent back to the Abyss during your attempt to get revenge against Gelt. You just get angry, shout a bunch of nonsense no one but you understands, and then dive headfirst without checking if the lake is frozen.” He shook his head and let out a sigh. “You need to let us help you, and we need a plan in place, and we need to follow it, and not just abandon it the moment you THINK it’s going to plan.”
Soularous forced himself to calm down, and after a bit, the storm blew off. "This is why I would have never become a demon lord without your help brother. You speak wisdom." He looked up at the sky through the skylight in the house. "What do you think we should do about the Nameless? Already the King in White and the King in Black are acting against it. Should we do anything ourselves?"
“And what would you have us do?” Aldous asked in all seriousness. “Rally the troops, to fight a formless being that exists in places even I can’t go? Even you can’t be that suicidal.” He paused. “No...wait…” he said, “back up a second. Incarius you said is an agent of the Nameless? How do you know that?” He stood from the table and started to pace a bit, “If we have a way of sorting out who’s a stooge and who's just a normal person we could just start doing some damage. Draw the thing into a real conversation.” Aldous looked at the two to see if they were getting what he meant.
Jyneith nodded slowly, “We wouldn’t have to kill that many either. Just his best ones. Just some guy who runs a mill doesn’t really matter to the grand plan.”
Soularous gave a nod, "I see what you mean, brother. Have him go in circles while we figure out which is a victim and which is an enemy. To answer your question, it was The Dark One who informed me about Incarius being a puppet to the Nameless."
“Fine. Step one we go get these pieces of your son. Step two we deal with the puppets until the Nameless makes contact. Step three we get a team together. Not your kids though. We need more firepower than that. Don’t throw a fit but... I think we might need Goldie's help.”
Soularous looked at Aldous, "You're kidding right? There is no way in the hells Bathlazaar Gelt is going to aid us in our quest. Not unless it benefits him in some way. And as much as I would love to help gather my son and put him together, at the moment I don't know exactly where he is. Between the Nameless and Ar I am blind to what is happening in Zatar. So already, and no offense intended brother, your plan is faulty. Incarius wouldn't make a deal with us, and why would he now, even if he is a puppet to a force that hates our guts?"
“Correction, Incarious hates ‘your’ guts. I’ve never met the guy. Secondly, if we could do it on our own, would you have called on me to help with all this mess in the first place?” Aldous asked. “Way I see it is, a faulty plan is better than zero plan at all and just throwing yourself in the meat grinder and hoping it doesn’t chew you up. We aren’t just facing some archmage like last time,” Aldous reminded him, “We are fighting God adjacent beings here. We can die. It's not gonna be ‘Oops died’ and pop back up in the Nine Hells. Death could mean death for us, no reconciling with your love, nothing just blackness for ever,” he added. “So we do need some help from people strong enough to survive for more than a second, and are disposable. If the Nameless or Incarius kills Gelt, he’s just one less mess we have to deal with. Win Win as I see it.”
Soularous gave a nod, "I feel like we are meeting for the first time all over again, already you have a grand plan when I'm just getting information." He chuckled a bit and looked up, glancing to the side. "How long do you plan on hiding there?"
Aldous turned thinking Aggie had been eavesdropping all this time, but instead from the shadows appeared the King in Black, in his dwarf form.
"I wasn't hiding Soularous, I just arrived. My brother and your father have made a grave mistake, and because of it, he's dealing with Ar in Zatar to save some very important mortals from the Nameless. I do have to say Aldous, I'm impressed by your strategic mind. However you always had plans whenever the time called for it." Soularous looked a bit surprised to see the greatest being that the demons call, The Dark One.
Soularous was the first to ask, "You're awake?"
The dwarf grunted in response, "As much as I love having the eldest of my children and grandchildren do my work while I nap, the invaders woke me up." He let out a soft tick of annoyance.
Aldous rubbed his temples, “Chit-chat later. Details now…” he said. “I don’t have time to just listen to you blather all day. What mistakes do you refer to, and what important mortals? Short version please.”
The Dark One nodded. "I will be concise then. My brother decided he wanted to make use of the Being's discarded champions and have them help Draken. It worked, but thanks to him doing that, Orla Carling is now a hostage to one of the Nameless's important servants. They’ve enslaved her and are treating her abominably. Horo, now Reise, Severos and Orla's fragmentary essence who had been created as a decoy, are also in Zatar searching for her. All in all it’s a complete mess."
Soularous gently rested his head on his hand, "It just gets more complicated, doesn't it?"
Jyneith blinked slowly. “You say all of that like it’s meant to mean something to all of us. Who are those people? What does the Nameless want with any of them? And why did this Horo change his name from Wandering to Wandering?”
Aldous thought for a moment. “I know one of those names,” he said. “Orla. She was a genius florist. Used to buy enchanted roses from her when I was living a few years in Opra Dale long before the werebears destroyed the place. She had a whole big garden on top of a building where she grew all sorts of other flowers, a lot of them even that I’d never seen before. Strange but beautiful hybrid species. Herbs too. Her talents were unique and nobody could quite copy her, but they sure tried. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery no one has been more flattered than Orla. As far as followers of Fernoia go, she seemed utterly benign. Not like that Maelwin creep. He had this weird obsession with masked sex parties.”
"Orla is the one who saved Draken, and probably one of the few people he would listen to any more. She has value there. Reise, if I'm correct, had something happen to him in the Alps. I saw him collapse. As for Severos, he was the guardian of the Mortith for the past two years," Soularous explained.
“The Mortith?” Jyneith said. “Kelmoran’s book?”
“The same. It is thought what’s left of Kelmoran resides inside it, but the greater part of his soul may be--”
“All of you stay on topic,” The Dark One grunted, "You must understand that the Nameless took Orla because she is one of the last sparks of pure natural chaos, making her one of the biggest threats to it. Reise, he's just a mystery. Some of his abilities defy even my understanding, and that alone is an issue. Severos has potential greatness to him but in his current state he would just be another pawn for the Nameless’s goals.The Mortith has severely weakened the lad, spiritually. Reise is so enraged at the moment he refuses our aid, and plans on trying to kill my brother. Mind you, it’s not an unreasonable response to my brother’s behavior. Impersonating the Being flies against all the conventions of how we operate and interact with mortals."
Soularous shook his head, "A foolish mistake really to try to kill the King in White. The last person that thought they could kill him ended up a black paste."
“Yeah because as a god he’s just so invincible, huh? Both of you are idiots!” Jyneith said forcefully. “Aldous is right. This is why our kind is killed so often and why Soul’s kids now comprise most of the current Nine lords of hell. You all talk such big talk. You underestimate humans at every turn thinking you are truly untouchable. But you should take heed, and not fall victim to your own hubris. Look what Gelt did to Soul. And as far as Reise, a man who stands against any of us and doesn’t show an ounce of fear, a man who proclaims he WILL kill your brother... Well, you shouldn’t take such threats with a grain of salt. You should be the ones afraid.”
“Especially as you say some of his abilities defy your understanding,” Aldous added.
The Dark One scratched his chin. “Horo is not of our cycle, and is as alien as the Nameless, if not so obtrusive and inimical. The Wandering Dog has actually been in Aeran for over a century in the guise of different forms, and only recently have I even taken notice of him. I believe Fernoia was the first and originally sent Orla to learn the man’s secrets.”
“How do you know he’s a man and not a god?” Jyneith asked. “He sure sounds like one, The Being and the Nameless are both beings outside typical understanding, so how would we know he’s not something you just haven’t figured out yet?”
“A deity that has made themselves flesh and blood to experience all that a real man might experience? It's been done before," the Dark One supposed. “I will admit there are many peculiarities about Horo, as well as hints of a possible connection to the Being…”
“I look forward to making this man’s acquaintance,” Aldous said. “If he is indeed a man…”
“Could Horo actually be the Being?” Jyneith asked.
“No,” the Dark One said. “I have known Fernoia since we both stepped from the primordial stuff in the Before Time, as has my brother. There is a story about her you are unaware of and one I am not at liberty to divulge. But suffice it to say, Reise ain’t her. Reise is the stuff of another plane of existence entirely, which makes him an unknown quantity. How dangerous of one we can agree to disagree about, Jyneith.”
Soularous looked worried, "So the King in White can die, then what will happen, the end times?"
The dark one grunted, "Not that simple, you see, we don't have just one name, meaning we don't have just one form. In another land, we are known as the White Lady and the Infernal Matriarch. What the Wandering Dog fails to see is, what will happen if he kills my brother, the energy, the power, all of it that makes him the King in White, has to go somewhere, so it will go to the nearest being that is compatible, may it be by personality, ideas, blood, or magic. Then, he just will return."
"Hang on, you're saying the King in White is a mantle of some sort?"
The Dark One nodded, "It can be, why the hell do you think I been doing, our other forms aren't this old, there needs to be a new generation, that's what the Dark Court was made for, so I can be everywhere on this world, I was born from the darkness of this universe as my brother was created by the light. However, to kill one of us isn't a simple act, and is more trouble than it's worth. That is the point I was making."
Aldous slapped his hands on the table. “Soul, you of all people should know what kind of destructive force someone who had something taken from them they care about is. This Reise guy, had someone taken from him. Because someone else was brainwashed into doing it. If you don’t see how wrong you are in letting this forced relationship between your son and a kidnapped girl go on, then I was right when I said you will never deserve godhood. Why must I always be the voice of reason?”
Soul prepared to snap back, but was wacked in the head by the Dark One, "My brother never planned on having those two stay together, if anything, she should have left with Reise a long time ago. The love life of Draken isn't his concern. If that was the case, Soularous wouldn't have so many children."
The demon lord rubbed his head, "Why did you hit me?"
"I know how you are, you were planning on saying something extremely stupid. So allow me to be the one to say this. Get your head out of the clouds, you aren't some god. Not yet, you are the Storm of the Abyss, so act like it!" The Dark One spoke harshly, but made his point clear. "Now, Aldous, I would like you to open the forbidden scriptures, the ones no one was allowed to have. Soularous, you deal with Incarius. Jyneith can stay here and recover from her imprisonment. Aldous, you are one for intelligent mind games, and I think you might like the cerebral opponent I have in mind for you."
Aldous raised an eyebrow. “Okay, I’ll bite. Who is it?” he asked.
"The Nameless's silver-tongued servant, Sabriel. Too long has he been running rampant in Aeran, and as I see it, the only one who should be lying and tempting mortals are the dark beings of this universe such as yourselves." The entity chuckled, "After the Nameless is gone, maybe we can play some good old games of good and evil again."
“Fine, at least let me whip up something for Soul to keep his promise to me.” Aldous shot Soul a look, “I’ll make you a pocket space to fight Incarious in. It’ll let out whomever wins, so you better win or we’ll have bigger problems with a pissed off angel to deal with.” The Incubus King looked around and grabbed the first thing he saw, a napkin ring. Waving his hands in a fluid motion, small gossamer strands of light connected and vanished into the ring. “Just say Ianuae, and you will be transported to a place to fight that won’t kill innocents that have no stake in this fight.”
Soularous took the ring, "Got it, don't worry, I'll make sure he'll never get up again."
The Dark One gave a nod, "Good, now, it's our turn to play dirty. Oh and one last thing, Jyneith. I need you to come with me mentally. Aldous, how much do you trust the human Aggie?"
“She is like a daughter to me, or the closest thing I’d ever have to one,” Aldous answered, “So I’d say very highly. Why?”
"I need her to watch Jyneith and Soularous for a bit, impulse here can't go fight Incarius just yet, or else we might lose him. The Nameless has a piece of itself inhibiting the angel, we need to weaken it first. Also, I need Aggie to watch Jyneith's body while her mind has a testimony for the one who freed her, but also imprisoned her, the Purifier."
“Okay I’ll get Aggie. I think she’s off playing with her new cat that might be her dead mother reincarnated,” Aldous said, walking off. “Hopefully Enanth doesn’t return when this is all going on. That’s all we’d need.”
Soularous looked at Jyneith, the Dark One chuckled, "Ah, mortals and reincarnation, never able to figure out how to reform themselves after death, only partially. Maybe Jy and I could help unite mother with daughter. When this whole Nameless business is finished, I'm going to teach this generation of mortals a thing or two about the Dark Arts."
“Or you could not do that,” Jyneith said. “Mortals don’t need the dark arts, they are plenty capable of killing each other already.” She got up to go with Aldous to meet Aggie, and the Dark One motioned Soularous to do the same.