He was triumphant.
Genius Loci walked along the rocky path with a strut in his steps.
“It worked!” he said aloud, uncaring for witnesses, “I had images in my head of what she would look like, but I never expected that! Talk about subverted expectations… And she named herself Maw, how adorable! Can’t wait for her pupae phase to end, that’ll really make things interesting!”
He idly adjusted his frock as he thought back to the fight.
“And that Lambent… Wow! I’m not sure why Burgundy was so set on getting rid of them, they’re a blast! I mean, it was literal… Whatever. Yeah, she actually hurt me, but what’s the point of it all without the thrill of actual danger?.. Soltana. We’ll definitely see each other again…”
He thought back to his potential miniature silk producer.
“And her friend, the Dugrum… L’yo… Eh, the Dugrum. He seems a solid foundation, but weak… I sure could use one. Although after this… Anyways, good for raising my daughter. A good, how they say, baiedae?”
Next on his mind was the potential mentor; the angel.
“That Diniel guy, whoo boy, I’ll keep any eye on him. Wouldn’t want it to be too boring. He’ll be a good teacher, but I’ll eventually have to wring those weaker traits of hope, mercy, and love from her. But he’s not a powerful angel compared to the other’s I’ve fought, so it won’t be that big of a deal. Now if he was an Arch, that’d be no good.”
The other crew member had to be tested, but he had potential enough to survive the first prunings.
“That hogboon… Not sure about him. He did survive the initial winnowing, unlike those other hangar-on Scarabaeidae… He is the unknown… And you know how I like unknowns- I love em!”
He let loose a raucous laugh, before settling down onto the best for last thoughts: Ruth.
“Ah Ruth… My Ruth. Lovely Ruth… She survived everything I sent her way, all of my tests, all of the intrigue of my city, and survived her great metamorphosis. She’s become a little me! She defied me and my expectations. She hates me and wishes me destroyed. She’s rebellious to me, subversive to my child, and will try to use Maw to destroy me. Gods above I love her; I couldn’t have chosen a better vessel! Maybe another millenia and I’ll win he heart over! Or not. Whichever happens!”
The next millenia would decide whether he kept her around or add her to his menagier of past glory. He had four victories alone coming to the Underrealm. From checking up on his begotten daughter, slaying the fallen angels, with one in his hold, Ruth passing his tests and finding her Ancath, witnessing the birth of his daughter, And now came the fifth. He confirmed the fae were still absent, absorbed in their tea party. The temptation to become lost in their glamor was almost too much.
But the goal ahead was stronger.
One had many opportunities to create life, but one did not get many opportunities to recreate life. The ones who crashed his doorsteps so long ago had planted an idea. And now it was bearing fruit.
“And what sort of fruit would it be? Who knows? Who cares!” Genius Loci laughed to himself as the glowshrooms went dark, trying to hide from his horrifying nature.
The Hive Vulnerado entered his view, the horizon filled with that twisted coiling green metal. He kept his presence null just as he got within reach of the hangar bay door. He let the Ancath presence flow out, just a tease of it.
He racked his knuckle along the mountainous door, knocking for entry.
“Open up! I have presents! Or is it presence?”
He let the Ancath manifestation wash over and into the hive like a foggy mist. And then he waited. And waited.
“You’d think they’d be quicker with their gods return-” he started to say but was interrupted as by the large doors slowly cracked open.
The light spilled down on him, as did the shadowy silhouettes of the curious Scarabaeidae. He could see it in their postures, in their compound eyes.
They needed it to be real, needed it to them.
They were right.
And they were wrong.
Oh so wrong.
“Afterall, I’m not just Ancath,” Genius Loci murmured to no one.
The Scarabaeidae parted for him, many brushed at his coat, attempting to feel if he was real.
He couldn’t help but grin at the reception. The only noise were their whispered tones, the shuffling of wing and chitin, and the low thrum of nacelles.
“So despondent,” he stated aloud.
None impeded him. All worked to remove themselves from his wandering path. Most of the buildings were vessels, having been stripped down to become static structures.
“How derelict,” he added, as he wiped a finger across the hull of a stripped down craft.
He walked the well treaded paths of the vessel, looking up to see the vessel’s roof had long been torn down.
That will definitely change here.
A time had passed until he made it to the center of the hive. He stood upon the twisted metal ruins of a long forgotten monument. He could sense Scarabaeidae in all directions, their attention all upon him, waiting for him to speak.
“Oh wow, they definitely haven’t left much for me to work with! Oh well, that’s why I’m a god!” He said aloud, “Oh come on, laugh a little, you were only genocided! Oh, that’s probably still a sore topic…”
They glanced from one another to the god in front of them.
“Why are you down here, hiding away? You all gave up and entombed yourself as moldering chitin in the darkness of oblivion,” He let loose a subdued laugh, palming his cueball head, “well? You all felt it; I’m the real deal. I am the Ancath returned.”
The words hung in the air unchallenged.
And then one spoke.
“But you’re not Ancath. Only feel like them.”
Genius Loci cocked his head at the lone voice.
The small beetle was dressed in strange human garb, with a dress, apron, large rain boots, and an affixed bonnet of one who served in a tavern.
He needed to nip the rebellious in the bud early, lest there become a split.
“What is your name? He asked. It would be normal that a few remained awake.
“Bird! And this isn’t right, you are not right,” The smaller beetle shot back.
She’s right of course. I don’t look the part.
“Ah don’t be so boring, Bird!” He began, opening up his nine-fingered hand, “come here,” he ordered calmly, gesturing her forward with smile affixed.
Bird glanced around and then adjusted her apron in determination as she stomped to the front. The other Scarabaeidae bristled with tense anxiety.
“Who was your favorite Ancath; the one you held most dear?” Genius Loci asked, cocking his head as he knelt down as a father to a child.
Bird glanced around the crowd, confused by the question.
“Oh don’t be shy now! You all had your own favorites, right? Which one?” Genius Loci asked again.
He could see her trembling at the attention of the crowd and his own gaze.
“Kircraxian…” She stated with a whisper.
Genius Loci let out a chuckle at her choice.
“A good choice. Kircraxian, the Sage of Stars, whose role was of peace, knowledge, future-sight, trade, and craft.” Genius Loci stated calmly.
Are you ready? Genius Loci asked internally.
“As ever, my lord,” the deep being replied.
His flesh morphed and changed, becoming grander in scale. The Scarabaeidae retreated, gazing in awe at the new, yet familiar being. Bird stood still, staring blankly at the resurrected Ancath. The Scarabaeidae trembled in a wave at her presence.
Genius Loci, donning his stolen body of Kircraxian, Ancath and god of the Scarabaeidae, spoke. Or, it was more correct to say she was speaking through him. Her voice was deep, firm, and as mysterious as the galaxy itself. Kircraxian, the Sage of Stars. She clicked her four legs in procession.
“My children. Why?” She paused, letting it sink in who they were witnessing, ”why did you bury yourselves? Why do you hide down here as a living tomb?” She asked, gesturing with a white polished chitinous hand towards the ruins of their lineage. Bird floated as if on strings into the greater beings open palm.
The Scarabaeidae were quiet, the only sound was the thrum of the vessel. The greater being smiled down, her green fleshy mouth revealing pearly white teeth.
“I have returned after so long. So long ago… The god, Neon rescued me and the others from certain doom at the hands of humanity,” She began, her voice tinged with gratitude, “what they did was beyond injustice over a false attack and to continue the war even after peace talks.”
They all nodded. They all knew the events.
“And then they targeted us, one by one. Snuffing us out, destroying the Scarabaeidae,” she stated as she raised a hand to the heavens, “But now, arise. Arise and let us rejoin to our birthplace! To our birthright,” Kircraxian stated, her headdress flaring open like a massive ornate wing.
She let the words hang in the tense air.
“The god, Neon is to be worshipped as we are worshipped. He is our savior. He is wiley, clever, and most of all, cruel.”
The Scarabaeidae trembled at the last word.
“Arise to the heavens, and let mercy be discarded down into this tomb,” Kircraxian commanded.
“And for you, little Bird, who stood up with bravery. You were the first to stand up and still show your awareness, despite the desperate misery. You will be needed.”
Bird glanced around, grasping her bonnet over her head.
“W-what?” She replied, confusion setting in.
Poor Bird, doesn’t understand!
Kircraxian’s flesh morphed and compacted back into Genius Loci. He palmed his cueball head in one hand and held a squirming Bird aloft on her back in the other. He spoke with mirth.
“You’re getting a promotion!
He gently placed her down, tapping her rear and sending her careening towards the crowd.
“Now! Here’s the plan. We’re going to gather you all up, we’re going to repair these vessels, we’re fly to the heavens, and then burn it all to the ground!”
How does that sound?”
He could feel it. Anger was stirring at what was lost. Wings buzzed and chitin clicked at the misery they endured.
“You now have your chance for revenge. Vengeance. And then freedom.”
“Follow me and we will bury humanity, just as they buried you.”
“Their men will mourn. Their women will weep. Their children will shriek.”
“And they will beg.”
“With tears in their eyes they will ask for mercy.”
“And they will die.”
He loved that word in particular. It had so many hidden meanings and infirments, even though death was no more. It still got the point across in less than four letters and still had a chilling effect on those that remembered.
The Scarabaeidae were stirred, their buzzing intensified.
“So who’s ready to light the pyre? Who’s ready to ascend to the heavens once again? Who’s ready to burn humanity to ashes?”
“Kneel for yes!” Genius Loci shouted, ending his speech.
The crowd began to kneel, each one internally signing his contract. He loved easy victories.
He glanced at the naysayer, Bird, finding that she too had knelt.
“Now get your engineers. We’re leaving now!” He commanded.
Genius Loci began to tremble and vibrate. He split in half down the middle, two Genius Locis pulled away from one another, creating two. The crowd trembled in horror at what they witnessed. And then both Genius Locis split again, creating four.
The crowd was in an uproar over the implications.
“Well, you’re all here now,” the original Loci stated as he glanced to the others, “no funny business!” He heartily ordered, pausing to palm his mouth, “Good thing this isn’t business!”
They all let out a raucous laugh, shaking the hive and the onlookers.
“We’re all in this together-” the original began.
“And we all fall together-” one interrupted.
“So let’s make it-” another added.
“-A hell of a time, all the way down!” They all completed together.
Three of the Genius Locis changed, each becoming a different Ancath. Grim’ulder, Jiva, and Kircraxian appeared. The emotional vortex swirled into a torrent. Many were paralyzed, some fainted, most couldn’t move, and many worshiped where they lay.
Genius Loci was victorious.
And now he was showing off.
The ephemeral power radiated from the three, each with their own signal. The hive and its inhabitants broke.
The lone Genius Loci stared on, content with the results.
“Now don’t do anything I wouldn’t do!” He ordered his duplicates.
“We will!” They all added, their voices drowning out the bedlam. No one was sure if they agreed or disagreed with that particular order.
“Ahah, those kidders,” he muttered to himself as opened a green portal to the surface.
He walked through, ending up on the sandy oasis, the shattered remains of his experiment.
His robed retainer greeted him, covered in dusty sand up to his ankles. He had waited diligently.
“My god, Neon, the vessel is prepped, the newcomers are aboard as is the angel. We await your command.”
“My good servant,” Genius Loci began, “we will wait for a time here. Get everyone comfortable. The show is about to begin,” he added with warmth.
The servant made no emotional display, only bowing deep before shuffling the sand from his emerald robe.
Genius Loci walked to his vessel, seeing the large transport sloop was more populated than last time. The dozens of goblins and trows were robed, attending to the ceremonies and worship. It was strange what they all made up in his absence. A nod and a wave from him alone would create so many branches of doctrine; an odd occurrence. It was all very entertaining.
The goblins were rolling dice, trying to decipher messages from their god.
Who was right there.
Walking past them.
“All hail the god of all!” One of the goblins crowed. Genius Loci glanced at the smaller being, who froze from at attention. The god said nothing as he continued on, deep into the vessel. The goblins surrounded the one that spoke up, speaking in whispered tones to him. He passed his menagier filled with strange and horrific things. Many of his followers were prostrating themselves to these mementos to glory. It was always good to journal one’s victories, no matter how quaint. He traveled to the inner belly, in the very center. There the guest would await. Another robed figure trailed behind him, head lowered and chitinous hands clasped together. His voice was deep and revving, not pausing between words.
“My god, he awaits inside the cell,” the follower began.
Genius Loci paused in his step, turning to look down at the shorter one.
“Praetarca? Good. Follow,” Genius Loci stated coldly.
The Scarabaeidae commander who had nearly destroyed his plans those years ago followed behind, submissive and quiet.
“Tell me, Praetarca, what would you say if I told you the Scarabaeidae were to rise again?”
“Then I would worship the one who resurrected them as a god,” Praetarca answered without pause.
He let out a chuckle at the answer. Praetarca was always a smart subordinate after his beating and restoral. He almost took the fun out of things.
“Then go outside and witness the glory,” Genius Loci ordered with a grin.
“What..? You…” Praetarca sputtered, his internal mandibles clicking in shock.
Genius Loci had never told him. It was always more fun to make him believe the Ancath had vanished when they were in fact just a few feet away.
“Go,” he ordered again. Praetarca left hurriedly, a panic in his steps.
Genius Loci was alone at the sealed entrance to the prison. He phased through the door, not bothering with the formalities. Barthin stood, stock still, his time lock still in effect. His sword and shield were confiscated, no doubt with casualties among his followers. Their deeds would be immortalized, if he had cared to remember their names.
He brushed his disquieting hand against Barthin’s helmed head. Or it was his head, he couldn’t tell. He grabbed an instrument from the wall, its coiled pipe running from the wall to a strange mask. He hooked it around Barthin’s front mouth vents, securing it tight. He needed to test out the angel’s capabilities for the hellfire-drive of his own design. He cut off the magic he had stolen from Diniel a tad, just leaving his head free. The angel instantly attacked, breathing his hellflame into the mask.
Genius Loci didn’t budge as it worked beautifully to take and absorb the angel’s output.
I was worried he would have overloaded it. Glad I put in this redundant overload vents.
The angel couldn’t move his neck, and was stuck staring red hot death with its sole glowing eye. It understood what was happening and relinquished his hellfire. He made no noise, and simply stared on.
“Hello!” Genius Loci greeted, his massive grin almost eclipsing his face.
The angel silently stared.
“Uh-huh, uh-huh, fascinating,” the god chided a he scratched at his porcelain, “look, blink once for yes, twice for no. Are you able to speak?” He asked. The not speaking portion of the interrogation would get boring fast.
The angel blinked twice.
“Can’t speak? Hmm, was it taken from you?”
“Taken from you… By Lucifer?”
Two blinks in rapid succession.
“Whoa calm down there! I’m just trying to figure you out!” Genius Loci replied, holding up his hands in faux surrender.
“So not Lucifer… You’re fallen… Adonai took it?” He asked, pointing a lone finger at the angel.
A single blink.
He let out a raucous laugh at that, shrieking like a goat.
“So Lucifer is enemy to Adonai?”
The angel blinked in response.
“Fascinating… I had this odd idea you were different friendly kingdoms or something, both searching for the Seals… Wow, I was way off!”
He clasped his hand together, making his mind up.
“Alright, well, this is boring. I need you to speak. So… There!”
His pointed digit lept from his knuckle, landing on the angel’s head. The angel began breathing hellfire, his eye glowing madly at the strange squirming limb.
“I just need to…” He muttered as he gripped the angel’s long slender neck with both hands. He cut off more of the magic and felt the neck attempting to writhe and resist under his hands. The angel was strong, but Genius Loci had him pinned. His tendril finger slithered down into the angel’s eye. It thrashed and raged, breathing hellfire as whatever the god was doing appeared quite painful.
And then all at one the angel ceased breathing fire and started to gag and gurgle, emitting noise from his throat.
“Ah, there it is. It’s a simple to matter to build a new vocal cord, even for an angel. I would know, I’ve taken enough of them apart!” He commented, barking with laughter as he held firm to the angels neck.
The angel slumped in defeat at what the god just completed.
Genius Loci stepped back, hands clasped as he gazed at the beaten angel.
“Well? What are your first words? Has it been centuries? Millenia? Longer?” He asked playfully.
“Lucifer…” The angel spoke, his voice soft despite his size and intimidating presence.
“Awww, how adorable! You’re still holding out hope!” Genius Loci stated with a chuckle.
“Lucifer, she was supposed to be the one to first hear my voice again…” The angel replied, a deep sadness ringing in his voice.
Man, it’s not a good week if you haven’t made an angel cry. And what a week it has been!
“Well, too bad! You were crippled and I refuse to have my followers with ailments; it’s part of the perks afterall!” He shot back.
“I will not bow,” Barthin shot back.
“And that’s fine, you can either assist me or stay here and fuel my engine, your choice!” the god stated
“I will do everything I can to destroy you,” Barthin replied.
“Again, you tried. You failed. I can go round two or three if you want; it’ll end the same,” Genius Loci retorted with a shrug.
“So let me ask you this, Lucifer was going to heal you. Why didn’t she just heal you immediately? Why have a crippled angel? It makes no sense,” Genius Loci asked, waving his upturned hand as he spoke.
“We bore our scars and grew from our failures. We are stronger for having them,” the angel explained.
“More like gimped for keeping them!” The god chided with a laugh.
“I became a better warrior-”
“Still lost to little old me! And I was outnumbered! And even then, it makes no sense to go into battle while wounded,” Genius Loci interrupted, “And Lucifer let you go into to battle while wounded, that makes her a poor leader. She didn’t heal you, that makes her a poor god.”
The angel stewed silently at the rebuke of his god.
“Now let’s theorize that you destroy me and escape. Where would you go?” Genius Loci inquired, palming his porcelain head.
“I would return to her side, your head as a gift to her,” Barthin replied coldly.
“Right. But what would she say when you spoke? Would she not have many questions herself?” the god challenged.
The angel blinked several times, the revelation settling in.
“What would she say when she senses the taint of demon on you?” He inquired.
“She would never reject me. She is the pinnacle of grace and mercy-”
“She kept you crippled. It inhibited all of your fighting abilities enough to lose to a single angel. Diniel defeated you with ease. I rescued you. I healed you. So who is the greater god now?” Genius Loci challenged again, twisting the details of the battle.
Barthin trembled with rage.
“Lucifer abandoned you. Can you dispute this?” the god asked, a smile splayed wide.
“She will rescue me,” Barthin countered.
“Did she rescue this guy?” he countered as he displayed the soul of another fallen angel.
Barthin’s eye went wide in recognition.
“Cardial… You were the one-”
Genius Loci put on a faux blush as he waved off the attention.
“Oh you! Yup, that was me! I stole his magic and broke his body,” he began, getting within inches of the angel, “I gripped his head in between my hands and squeezed until there was a shriek of angel and metal. I slowly crushed his skull until he crumbled to dust. His final thoughts were of Lucifer. He wondered why she abandoned him.”
He made up the last bit, but Barthin was already enraged, his faith shaking.
“No, my covenant still holds. She will give me grace and glory will abound from these trials,” Barthin firmly closed shut.
Oh ho, a little too heavy on describing the destruction of his friend. He might have sensed my lie.
“A covenant? Ah, that is right. Now that you say it, I feel a strong one. Almost on par with those Seal holders,” Genius Loci stated as he tapped his spherical skull, ”however, It’s still not as strong.”
“You could never break a covenant,”
“This is true. I can’t. But I know one that can. Not Adonai’s covenants, but anything less than that…”
The angel trembled at that, his first visible sign of fear. Actual fear.
“You can sense lies, can you? Then you know what I state is the truth. Think about it. You’ll have your covenant annulled and nowhere to go. An angel without a purpose; without a god. How long would you last?”
The angel hung his head low.
“Don’t despair! I Don’t ask for much. In fact, if you sign my contract, I’ll let you keep the covenant. I’ll let you keep that little bit of your old identity, because I am a god of mercy, after all,” Genius Loci offered, flinging a proverbial metric ton of horseshit with his last statement.
The angel glanced up, his eye flaring.
“You know binding an angel in a demonic contract will always leave holes due to the covenant taking priority. You will lower your guard and that is all it will take,” the angel stated firmly.
“Oh I guarantee you will try. It wouldn’t be fun any other way,” he stated with a quiet chuckle, “Or I could just call in a favor and have the covenant removed, but we all know a broken angel is no good to me! I’ve already invested a ton in you right now! And besides, I do appreciate a bit of independence in my attendants. It’s a give and take; you understand!” Genius Loci turned to leave, “Think on it. I’ll leave you here for a bit and let you decide. Either way, you’re in a bind with only one good way out. Take care! Oh and when you do want out, just blink once for yes,” Genius Loci stated as he waved the angel away.
“Wait,” Barthin implored.
The Emerald God of Dark Knowledge turned.
The angel lift his head gazing at Genius Loci.
He blinked once.