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Inquisitor Beta meets with Aellisin Koure and his new Æon apprentice, Exar Zaedek in Pan Post 152. They are in the Teknis Circle, which impedes supernatural powers, yet the pheromones of Koure act biologically and thus bypass the wards on the Teknis Circle allowing him to influence Inquisitor Beta. Exar's powers emerged unexpectedly and suddenly, which nobody noticed despite him working as a servant on Tangris. General Magog reports that a demonic battleship has arrived in the system, initially blaming the Æon Knights but it is actually Helebon of Earth seeking a god-destroying weapon to defeat the WriterGod. Their meeting is interrupted when a second Exar Zaedek appears as reports he, and all Exar's of the Multiverse, are being hunted down by the Peacekeepers of The Imperium. He then escapes the Witch-Wardens but a portal opens and Nyneve Ó Braonáin emerges. Koure and Exar run from her but are quickly cornered by another portal. When threatened, Koure gives Exar over and allows Nyneve to slay Exar. Nyneve leaves, not knowing the alternate Exar still remains and Koure promises not to give him away. Exar reveals that each time an alternate Exar dies, his own soul grows more powerful. The Imperium doesn't know which Exar will aid The Omega Reich with their devastating weapon so they intend to kill them all. Later, Inquisitor Beta takes Helebon's request to Inquisitor Alpha, who is an imprisoned Jovian who comes up with the notion of anti-power. Before the NeSiverse there was the Alpha Reich, which, after the destruction caused by the Four Horsemen, was in ruins at the hands of their enemies. Beyond a black hole lurked the netherverse where they found a powerful entity, which was would eventually come to be controlled by the bloodmancer Asmodeus of the Omega Reich. Asmodeus' greatest creation was the Phoenix Throne, upon which is seated one of the Exar Zaedeks of the Multiverse and is being drawn of power - power increased because The Imperium killed so many alternate Exars.

Post

Teknis Circle, Myst Sector, Milky Way galaxy.

Circa 10,000 B.C.

Inquisitor Beta: You're not very popular around here.

The alien man to whom the female witch-warden scientist-sage is speaking bares his teeth in an almost-feral smile.

Aeliesin Koure: Popularity is unimportant to me.

Inquisitor Beta giggles, which seems rather uncharacteristic for the Indran woman. The young avian man standing next to Koure notices this oddity, and frowns slightly.

Inquisitor Beta: No, I suppose not. But don't worry, you're popular with me!

Her face is slightly flushed, and the young avian man begins to wonder if the rumors about Koure's strange power over women are true. But surely not; after all, if they were, such supernatural control would be voided in the Teknis Circle.

Aeliesin Koure: Of that I am very glad, my dear. You have the...extra bits?

The young avian man's frown deepens, but he knows it is not his place to say anything. Koure and Inquisitor Beta have already exchanged bits of data and crates - hoisted via tiny dronebots, since Koure's soul-powered telekinesis was voided within the Teknis Circle - but now the inquisitor pulled out a small case and handed it to Koure.

Aeliesin Koure: Much obliged, my dear.

Inquisitor Beta: I look forward to seeing you again next year. But you haven't introduced me to your fellow Knight. I don't believe I've seen him before.

The young avian man standing next to Koure flushes a bit at the scrutiny, and hurriedly wipes the slight frown off his beak. He is humanoid, and covered in red feathers. A long black ponytail sweeps from the crown of his head to tumble around his shoulders. His arms have enough feathers that they will let him glide; however, until he masters his soul powers, he cannot achieve true flight.

Aeliesin Koure: He is not a Knight, but a relatively new apprentice. He is called Exar Zaedek. His soul powers awakened only very recently, and yet his soul seems to get stronger every day, despite him being a normal Tangris servant all his life.

Inquisitor Beta: Really? How intriguing! Why does his soul continually generate spiritual essence like that?

Aeliesin Koure: We do not know, but at the moment it only matters that he is accustomed to not feeling anything with his soul. Therefore it is less jarring for him to enter the Teknis Circle than any other Aeon, be he pupil or lord.

Exar Zaedek shuffles his taloned feet in embarrassment, when the speaker on the table between the Aeons and Inquisitor crackles, as an angry voice cuts into their conversation.

General Magog: Beta! Those damned Aeons have betrayed us!

All three in the room blink in surprise, though Koure retains his composure and replies smoothly.

Aeliesin: I can assure you we have not, General. What makes you think--

General Magog: A gods-damned demonic battleship is floating into our system!

All three listeners can't help but notice the irony. Magog is the nearly immortal offspring of an Ordimarian angel and an alien demon.

Inquisitor Beta: The Aeons have nothing to do with that, General. Is he relaying hostile intent?

General Magog's tone is sour.

General Magog: No, he's hailed us. Is asking for peaceful parley. Seems he wishes to do business with us. Never trust a demon, I say.

Aeliesin Koure: Never you fear, General, I have never trusted you.

Before Magog can process Koure's insult, Inquisitor Beta cuts in.

Inquisitor Beta: I'll see this demon, General. Please dispatch a full guard convoy to escort them for as long as they remain in the system.

General Magog grumbles, but acquiesces. The inquisitor cuts the comm, and looks at Koure, bemusedly.

Aeliesin Koure: I'd be rather interested in meeting this demon, and seeing what he wants with the witch-wardens.

Inquisitor Beta: I'd presume he is offering something similar to our arrangement with you Aeons; the trading of knowledge and intel. You may of course attend.

By now, Exar Zaedek is all but convinced that there must be some truth to Koure's rumored ability to manipulate women. To let them see her meeting with a demon? He shakes his head ruefully, not eager to meet whoever the infernal entity is.

Shortly, an witch-warden shuttle has ferried the battleship's demon owner to one of the Teknis Circle's many space stations, where Inquisitor Beta, Koure, and Exar Zaedek are already waiting. The door to the meeting room opens as two witch-wardens usher in the demonic visitor.

Helebon: Greetings, witch-wardens.

Exar Zaedek is a bit surprised by his appearance. While he is certainly of sinister aspect, as one would expect of a demon - he has a red cloak shrouding a black and unseen form, with a sibilant voice hissing from beneath the hood - he is also a midget.

Inquisitor Beta: I am Inquisitor Beta. Whom do I have the dubious honor of addressing?

Helebon: I am Helebon, warden of the Nine Hells of Terra, and most powerful servant of the WriterGod.

Inquisitor Beta: And why are you here? You must know that we witch-wardens do not feel very kindly disposed to supernatural entities, much less those who directly serve any deity.

Helebon: Because I wish to kill the WriterGod.

Dead silence greets his pronouncement. Koure finally breaks it with a chuckle, but says nothing.

Inquisitor Beta: Even witch-wardens have difficulty slaying deities. And we often choose not to commit ourselves to such endeavors, given the backlash that can come from such actions.

Helebon: Then give me a weapon. No one has to know it came from you.

Inquisitor Beta is silent for a moment, studying the diminutive demon.

Inquisitor Beta: We may be able to help you. I will have to consult with...my fellow inquisitors to develop a solution.

By this, Inquisitor Beta means traveling alone to the Loft to see Inquisitor Alpha, the most dangerous and brilliant of them all. If anyone could produce a god-killing weapon, it'd be him.

Helebon: I have not shown my hand to my master yet. So I have time before I need it.

Inquisitor Beta: And how would you pay for such a weapon?

Helebon: I am obscenely wealthy. My world houses the cosmic ultranexus of magic. I can offer many magical objects for study - I understand you often acquire those for the purpose of learning to foil them - as well as the riches that flow through Atlantis into my hands.

Inquisitor Beta: That sounds like it will do nicely. We will draw up specific terms once we have a weapon ready.

Their conversation is cut short when a sharp CRACK tears through the air. A blinding flash of light heralds a jagged tear being carved into the very air of the room. Koure and Exar Zaedek instinctively draw their soulsabers - Exar Zaedek's hilt, in fact, is double-bladed - but are unable to ignite them in the anti-super fields blanketing the whole Teknis system. Helebon takes a step back but draws no weapon; he is also powerless here.

Inquisitor Beta, however, slaps a hand down on the alarm.

Inquisitor Beta: SECURITY! Portal breach!

As frantic tones jangle through the space station, the jagged tear widens enough for a body to tumble through. It somersaults, its skin steaming slightly with interdimensional drift, before standing up on slightly wobbly feet.

The newcomer looks exactly like Exar Zaedek.

Inquisitor Beta: What the hell--

Exar Zaedek: I don't know--

A loud boom rattles the space station.

Aeliesin Koure: What's happening?

Inquisitor Beta: High-capacity interdimensional lockdown was effected after your apprentice's clone appeared. Now someone else is trying to open a portal here.

She stabs a finger at the Exar Zaedek look-a-like.

Inquisitor Beta: Someone is following you. Who are you, what do you want, and what do they want?!

The door whooshes open as a contingent of witch-wardens rush in, quicksilver-bullet pistols leveled at everyone in the room except for Inquisitor Beta.

Exar Zaedek Look-A-Like: I am Exar Zaedek.

Exar Zaedek: What?! No, you're not, I am!

Exar Zaedek Look-A-Like: We both are.

Helebon: An alternate reality.

Exar Zaedek Look-A-Like: Yes. I am being hunted by those who want me dead. Who want you dead too, Exar. Who want all of us dead. All the Exar Zaedeks across the multiverse.

Exar Zaedek: What?! But I--

Inquisitor Beta: I will NOT have outsider business interfering with the Teknis Circle. You will be detained and deported immediately!

Exar Zaedek Look-A-Like: I'm afraid it's too late for that.

Another boom rocks the station.

Inquisitor Beta: Dammit, someone isolate that signature!

One of the other witch-wardens is listening to his earpiece.

Random Witch-Warden: Ma'am, the signature is attempting breach at places all over the Teknis Circle, but most commonly here.

Aeliesin Koure: You can here for protection.

The Aeon Lord is looking directly at the alternate-reality Exar Zaedek Look-A-Like. The other nods.

Exar Zaedek Look-A-Like: Yes.

Inquisitor Beta: The hell you're getting it!

Aeliesin Koure: He's already getting it. For the next several minutes until you deport him, at least.

Inquisitor Beta: Who's after you?

Exar Zaedek Look-A-Like: The Imperium Peacekeepers.

Everyone looks alarmed at this prospect, save Helebon, whose expression cannot be seen beneath his all-concealing scarlet hood. Two witch-wardens clamp cuffs around the Look-A-Like's wrists, but the Look-A-Like shrugs almost apologetically, and touches a device on his belt.

A boom greater than any previous ripples through the station. Fire fans out from the Look-A-Like. It is mostly harmless, but blinds and startles everyone else. At the same time, the homing device on the Look-A-Like's belt goes off, and thus the Imperium portal knows exactly where to open up next.

With a tremendous shriek, the witch-warden's interdimensional lockdown is torn asunder as a swirling portal opens in the room. The violence of it is so great that the walls crumple and everyone is thrown to the ground. When their eyes recover from the flames that poofed out right before the portal appeared, they see that the Look-A-Like is gone. His cuffs - and his belt - are on the floor, directly beneath the portal that has just spawned.

Out of the portal steps a femme fatale. A deadly beautiful woman with cold blue skin and white eyes, and long hair like a raincloud.

Nyneve O Braonain: There you are.

She is looking directly at Exar Zaedek - this universe's version - and smiles menacingly as she stalks towards him, unconcerned by all the witch-wardens who are starting to scramble to their feet.

Aeliesin Koure: Lad - she's after you!

He tackles Exar Zaedek out of the way just as Nyneve O Braonain dives forward, claws out. He grunts in pain as icy agony scrapes along his back, but hoists himself and his pupil to his feet.

Aeliesin Koure: Hold, woman!

Nyneve sways for a moment, as Koure's pheromones work to infiltrate her pores, but she shakes her head even as the witch-wardens stand and re-aim their weapons.

Nyneve O Braonain: I am too cold for your heat.

Inquisitor Beta: Fire!

The witch-warden's quicksilver bullets whizz through the air towards their target, but quicker than thought she is dodging aside. Koure pulls Exar Zaedek out of the room after him.

Exar Zaedek: What are you doing?!

Aeliesin Koure: Fool! Can't you see that look-a-like has set you up? You are bait to throw that icy witch off his scent!

They run down another corridor - more internal walls crumpled by the violent portal opening from moments ago - and Nyneve O Braonain rears up in front of them. They skid to a stop, and Koure flexes his fingers automatically to summon his soul-blade, only to belatedly remember that he cannot while in the Teknis Circle.

Nyneve O Braonain: This bird is not worth your life. Step aside.

Aeliesin Koure: You seem supernatural. Why are you not affected by the Teknis Circle?

Nyneve O Braonain: Is that what that is? Smart thinking, bird. But unfortunately for you I am still quite fast and strong even without supernatural enhancement. Now. Step. Aside.

Exar Zaedek is cringing behind Koure, and then gapes in disbelief as the Aeon Lord, after a moment, does indeed step aside.

Exar Zaedek: Lord Kour--

His exclamation is interrupted as Nyneve stabs him through the heart. He looks down disbelievingly as his life ebbs from him. Koure walks up to him, his façade unaffected by the accusation in Exar's dimming eyes.

Aeliesin Koure: I'm sorry, lad.

Then Exar Zaedek's eyes close for the last time.

Nyneve O Braonain: Well, can't say I've seen that happen before. You're smarter than anyone else who's ever tried to protect my targets.

Aeliesin Koure: I would welcome a match with you outside the Teknis Circle, when my soul can exert its force.

She bares a savage grin at him.

Nyneve O Braonain: Would you now?

Aeliesin Koure: Some other time, perhaps. You have what you wanted. Will you leave us in peace?

Nyneve's reply is a whoosh of air as she zips off. With another violent series of booms that shakes the space station, the portal vanishes. Koure looks expressionlessly at the body of the Aeon apprentice at his feet. He knows Inquisitor Beta, Helebon, and the others will still be trying to figure out what happened.

Aeliesin Koure: I know you're there.

Exar Zaedek Look-A-Like: Clever man. Or did you spot me somehow?

Aeliesin Koure: I am too clever to tell you which. I will keep your secret. No Peacekeeper shall know you are still alive.

The look-a-like snorts.

Exar Zaedek Look-A-Like: I doubt you have any way to tell them even if you wanted to. But I appreciate the sentiment. And oh for pity's sake, can we strike the "Look-A-Like" bit off the script now? I'm the only Exar Zaedek in the post anymore, since the first one introduced is dead.

Fine.

Exar Zaedek: Many thanks.

Aeliesin Koure: I confess curiosity as to why you're being hunted.

Exar Zaedek: The Omega Reich.

Aeliesin Koure: Never heard of them. Some despotic regime?

Exar Zaedek: You could say that. The Imperium got wind of intel that says I will be a great asset to the Reich, granting them access to a terrible weapon.

Aeliesin Koure: So they sent their Peacekeepers after you.

Exar Zaedek: After all of me. They don't know which of me is supposedly going to do this. So they're being...thorough.

Aeliesin Koure: Brutal, but I admire their resolve. Do you intend to help this Omega Reich?

Exar Zaedek: I am not evil. So no.

He sways a little, slightly dizzy.

Exar Zaedek: Ugh, it's always a headache, getting adjusted to greater soul influx.

Aeliesin Koure: Greater soul-- you're absorbing the lad's soul?

He nudges the shoulder of the dead Aeon apprentice with the toe of his boot.

Exar Zaedek: Not exactly. I didn't realize this for a long time, but apparently when someone, anywhere in the multiverse, is killed, his alternate selves gain a marginal increase in power, as though the very essence of that self is being spread among fewer copies. Since so many of me are being killed, the increase in power is far more than marginal by now.

Aeliesin Koure: Indeed? I may have to look into that. That explains why this poor lad went from powerlessness to immense soul potential so quickly.

Exar Zaedek barks a bitter laugh. Then, with merely a nod, he vanishes. Another boom rattles across the space station, though not nearly as violent as before. Koure stands there for a moment, then kneels to pick up the dead apprentice's body, before bearing it back to the room with Inquisitor Beta.

***

Grand Lord Inquisitor Alpha: A god-killer?

Inquisitor Beta: That is so. Can it be done?

Grand Lord Inquisitor Alpha snorts. He is in his eternal prison in the Loft between the three suns of the Teknis Circle, and Inquisitor Beta has visited him, standing outside his luxurious cell.

Grand Lord Inquisitor Alpha: The question is never, can it be done, but how long and how many resources will it take?

Inquisitor Beta: Which of our projects do you think has the greatest chance of succeeding?

Grand Lord Inquisitor Alpha: None of them. Well, I'm sure any of them might succeed at killing a deity, given enough application, but this is the WriterGod we're talking about.

Inquisitor Beta: I confess I've never heard of him. He doesn't seem a bigwig. Do you really think him that dangerous?

Grand Lord Inquisitor Alpha: Tsk, you witch-wardens aren't as knowledgeable as you think. The WriterGod is possessed of unfathomable power, though he rarely demonstrates it and instead maintains his low profile. However, there has been a notion running through my head the past umpteen eons...

Inquisitor Beta: Yes?

The imprisoned Grand Lord Inquisitor pauses, his eyes flicking across his compatriot. From reading subtle cues in her body language, he can tell that she is not entirely herself. She doesn't seem to be totally controlled, only influenced, and the influence itself doesn't seem to be exerting any demands on her.

He concludes that she has recently come into contact with a powerfully pheromonal species recently. He supposes it might be considered his duty to inform her and the witch-wardens of this potential hole in their security, but as he sees it, he is under no such obligation to inform his jailers. They treat him well, provide him comfort and luxury, and give him challenges to satisfy his mind - but they are still jailers from whom he cannot escape.

So he passes over the topic and answers her question instead.

Grand Lord Inquisitor Alpha: I call it anti-power...

***

Before the NeSiverse.

Other universes sparkle the Deep Void. And more and more of them are ground under the heel of the Omega Reich. The Amalgamated Powers are constantly pushed back, despite more allies flocking to join them everyday. Jagisk Ttocks' regime is too powerful, too brutal, too inexorable to stop or even slow down.

In the Heinyrios cosmos - more commonly known as the Henryverse - the first major cradle of multiverse civilization still remains, albeit in ruins. The great city of the Alpha Henries, which once spanned an entire star system is now collapsed into a gigantic black hole, with a corona of detritus around it.

Since the Four Horsemen, empowered by all seven seals, destroyed the Alpha Henries' stellar megalopolis, some say the ruins are under a curse. The blood red sun, slowly collapsing over eons, once cast baleful light over the ruins, and those who picked over the remains died horrible deaths.

Eventually, the sun collapsed into a black hole, which grew so immense it swallowed up almost the entire of the former solar system it inhabits. Now none approach it.

At least, until the Omega Reich's bloodmancers came. They flew directly into the heart of the black hole (using unfathomably powerful magic and science to do so) and found a tunnel into a netherverse there. The curse is real. In the wake of the Four Horsemen's sevenfold apocalypse, a netherverse had formed, and in it a terrible entity had been born. Or perhaps it was always there, and merely awakened.

Jagisk Ttocks and his bloodmancers made pacts with it, enslaving it to their will. Now, against all knowledge of physic, there is a vast castle floating inside the black hole, floating on the surface of the netherverse, with the stars of the Henryverse visible through a tremendous gap above them, where light enters the black hole.

All manner of monstrosities inhabit this wretched bastion, not the least of which are many bloodmancers, working their foul rituals. Chief among them is the Asmodeus, the avatar of the netherversal entity. Ttocks lured it into the Henryverse, providing a form for it to take, and trapped it in that avatar, bound to his will.

Now the Asmodeus broods here, conducting its rituals with the bloodmancers and fueling terrible weapons for its would-be master's wars of conquest.

EditorGod: Damn, my eyes are bleeding. Cool it with the wall of text, will ya? What do you think this is, Fun Highemp Expositions, Int'l?

Uh... You like talking heads better?

EditorGod: At least it breaks up the long hard to read paragraphs!

Fine. Here ya go.

Random Bloodmancer #1: I need another planet's weight in blood.

Random Bloodmancer #2: No can do, the stock is depleted.

Random Bloodmancer #1: What, again? Why don't we keep reserves for situations like this?

Random Bloodmancer #2: We do. They're saved for the Asmodeus though. Gotta keep him happy, or he'll slaughter us all.

Random Bloodmancer #1: Nonsense. He is bound to Supreme Lord Ttocks' will.

Random Bloodmancer #2: Maybe he is, and maybe he isn't. But you think Supreme Lord Ttocks would care if he devoured the souls of a coupla peons like us?

Random Bloodmancer #1: ...you might have a point. When's the next shipment of concentration-camp blood come in?

Random Bloodmancer #2: Tomorrow. I think our reserves will last the Asmodeus until then... I hope.

Random Bloodmancer #1: Maybe we should go check on him, make sure he isn't getting, you know, too hungry?

They look at each other, blanching.

Both: Nahhhh.

Random Bloodmancer #3: Pansies, the both of you. I'll go check. Fortunately, the new experiment seems to be working rather well at keeping him sated.

Random Bloodmancer #1: Awesome, thanks - I'll say a few words at your funeral!

Random Bloodmancer #2: Nice knowing you!

[b]Random Bloodmancer #3 rolls his eyes and strides off. He navigates the demon pits, the zombie garden, and the 13th clock tower before arriving at his destination: the infernal chapel. Blood-red, void-black, bleached-white skulls, and pink smiley faces are the sinister motif throughout the castle, but none more so than here.

A throne sits beneath a stained-glass window, but it is no ordinary throne. While exquisitely carved from pure orichalcum, it binds its prisoner to its seat, with wires and electrodes and other unpleasant things injected into his skin. Hence the bloodcurdling screams.[/I]

Random Bloodmancer #3: I say, quiet down, can hardly hear myself think.

Exar Zaedek: You...sit here...and see how... how you like it...

The avian man Exar Zaedek - one of him anyway - is imprisoned here, in the Phoenix Throne, the greatest and most cruel creation of the Asmodeus and his bloodmancers.

Random Bloodmancer #3: Come now, at least appreciate the brilliance of the contraption. It feeds on your soul to keep you alive and immortal, while simultaneously providing sustenance for the Asmodeus and a powerful new fuel source for our bloodmancy rituals! Also for other unspecified foul magitech that the Writer is assuming we probably get up to around here.

Exar Zaedek: I do...already know...know this, you know.

Random Bloodmancer #3: So you do! Don't know why I felt the inexplicable urge to give some exposition on it. Those Imperium fools...all that time they were trying to eliminate you so that your imprisonment wouldn't empower us, yet in killing so many of you, they beefed up your soul essence phenomenally! You, among all your alternate selves, already had an extraordinarily full and potent soul, and now it is obscenely rich with spiritual essence thanks to your assassinated copies!

Exar Zaedek: You're...expositing...again.

Random Bloodmancer #3: Oh, weird, so I am. Say, have you seen the Asmodeus around?

Exar Zaedek: Behind you...

Random Bloodmancer #3 whips around to see the Asmodeus. The avatar is humanoid in appearance, with long white hair and pale skin. His frame is gaunt and tall. His eyes are red pupils set in white irises set in black eyeballs. His very presence is chill.

The Asmodeus is utterly invulnerable, save for wooden stakes, silver, and the sunlight of the brightest and purest stars. Even those won't kill it outright, only weaken it.

Asmodeus: .....

The Asmodeus never speaks, yet the weight of its un-words is terrible and crushing. Random Bloodmancer #3 rubs his temples.

Random Bloodmancer #3: Hey there, Asmodeus, buddy! How ya doin'?

Asmodeus: .....

Random Bloodmancer #3: Well, glad you're well-fed! Don't want you picking off any of us, amirite?

Exar Zaedek: He is...full but...always...up for...more...

Random Bloodmancer #3: What are you on about?

Another scream is heard from the infernal chapel, this one uttered by a different throat than usual. Random Bloodmancer #3 is never seen again. As promised, Random Bloodmancer #1 says a few words at his funeral.

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