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A myriad of different sounds filled the darkness of his slowly waking mind, each note crying and screaming as an orchestra of mayhem. The croc man’s abdomen twitched, elbows sinking into the mud as he arduously slung himself forward, almost allowing himself to sit before the blurred sight of bloody flesh and fur crystallized in his cold, green eyes, ending the motion in a guarded crouch. Kant’s claws spread, tail curved at the perfect strike angle, body slowly rotating with hissing jaws agape.

Throughout his intense threat assessment of the area, he took a headcount of four strangers, and instantly regarded them as one would a band of reckless outsiders. Was it any wonder they were being attacked by the indigenous wildlife? Was it any wonder that the reptile felt an internal sense of pride at the fact that he was the only one not being treated as prey? Then again, such mindless beasts could easily try to pounce on him, and yet they did not, bringing a vague sense of duty, and obligation to his conscience that tempered his arrogance. He was alive for a reason, and life–irrespective of its origin–was not something to be taken for granted, thus he resolved himself to right his pride and seek out a solution to level the playing field.

Kant did not like taking sides. The bugs were hungry and required food to survive, and the others, whether he found them harmonious or hazardous to nature, possessed a higher chance of aiding him in his quest to resolve the strange feeling that beset them. Therefore, it fell upon him to ensure their survival, at least until he knew who among them were worthy of becoming his long-term allies.

The debonair man appeared to be in the most immediate need of aid, and the young lady with the magic lightning rod gave him an idea.

Water rose through the mud, spreading across the ground at one foot per three seconds. Soon the bugs would become less mobile, unable to pounce due to becoming boyant and having no solid earth with which to stand on, though nothing could be said in relation to their tree climbing skills. Spotting a sickly tree that appeared to be nearing the end of its life, Kant dove into the rapidly growing swamp and swam as fast as he could, splitting water with open jaws as his tail propelled him through the murk. Clamping his jaws around its stem, several long strenuous moments passed before he heard the bark crack and splinter, finishing the job with a swift tail swipe that sent the tree falling against another.

By this point the water level had reached twelve feet in depth, and the croc was busying himself scaling one of the healthier trees, whilst banking on the intelligence of the oddly dressed man, and thunder girl to take advantage of the opening he had given them.



Name: Kant
Aliases: The Grower and the Mover, The One Who Rots and Cleanses the Swamp, The One Who Feeds on Gluttons.
Height: 8ft
Sex: Male
Likes: A healthy diet of meat and berries, those who respect the swamp, and passing his knowledge down to future guardians.
Dislikes: Unhealthy creatures who would taint the swamp with their filth, people who cannot fathom the difference between a predator and a guardian, and the ones who say eating your enemies never solved anything. They clearly haven’t seen a person relieve themselves in a swamp.
Distinctive Features: His eye color changes based on how he perceives another's emotions.

Appearance: He is a tall, bipedal crocodilian with a bulky frame, and a leaning gait that is counterbalanced by a thick, sturdy, ten foot tail which serves as his primary means of propulsion, doubling as a powerful weapon capable of breaking bones. His skin is hard, bony, and appears to have integrated some features of the armors belonging to those he has slain for disregarding his warnings about respecting the swamp. His snout is sixteen inches long, claws six inches and curved. Consequently, the scales possess blunt, rectangular edges, particularly on his shoulders, elbows, wrists, and knees, whereas his torso is covered by what appears to be a more rigid second skin, functioning as pseudo plate mail.

Personality: Respect the swamp. It is his only rule. Do this, and Kant can be quite patient and accommodating to the needs of those who enter his domain. With this being said, he does not take kindly to any ecosystem being threatened and has an innate sense of when one is being endangered through willful recklessness. He understands that people need to eat, to build, and to ultimately maintain their civilizations, but he does not excuse those who carelessly disregard their capacity to think and act in harmony with nature. Those who willfully reject their own brains will find their skulls crushed between Kant's jaws.

The Third Lid: Everybody feels things. The spectrum of emotions is as vast as the marshlands, deep as the jungle, and at times can be as murky and oppressive as the humidity of the swamp. Not all feelings are dark, damp, and gloomy though, some shine bright like the sun, others are like a soft glow, and more still emit a pulse that traverses the line being hypnotic, mesmerizing allure, and terrifying brazeness that leads all down the path of rage.

Crocodiles use their third eyelid to filter out the water's obscurity, allowing them to see clearly through the depths. Kant's third lid not only allows the biological benefit of unobstructed underwater sight, but allows him to see the emotions of whoever stands before him, be it man, beast, monster, or devil. He can see their true, albeit momentary color, which is to say whichever feeling is presently strongest, he can see is literally presented to his mind as a spiritual wavelength reflecting a single spectrum of light.

Whoever so allows their true feelings to be witnessed by Kant shall also witness their color reflected in the eyes of the croc. Seeing red is, to put it lightly, more than just a metaphor when Kant is the one looking at you.

The Smell Of Magic, And The Taste Of Deep Water: Kant's nose can smell the supernatural, he can taste the ethereal flesh of spirits. He can sniff out a curse, detect faint enchantments, and he can likewise discern if something edible will have more than just the usual assortment of nutritional benefits merely by tasting it. He can likewise hold a ghost between his jaws, and crunch a cursed, or even blessed sword with his bite force, swallowing them back into the void.

Earth and Water: He can push the water, and shove the earth. He can nourish the green leaves and rot the brown bark, raise the deep above the knees, or lower it to a puddle beneath one's feet. All these things are possible at his physical touch, with water rising or falling at a rate of 3 feet per 10 seconds, and plants growing or decaying at the same rate, with a radial range of 20 feet.

Might Of The Protector: Kant is strong enough to lift a man with one hand, his jaws can crush stone, his tail can break bones, and he can roll a boulder with his powerful arms, chest, and shoulders. His claws are sharp enough to slash and pierce flesh, durable enough to parry swords, speartips, and can flick arrowheads out of flight if struck right.

Last Memory: A sudden, ominous wind blew through the swamp, followed by a dark vortex crackling with lightning swallowing him into its depths.

Additional Plot Hooks: “This world suffers from a malady. I will discern its cause and crush it between my teeth.”
The battle was roaring into motion, and Zucroas’ defensive preparations rewarded his offensive charge well. His horns pierced the bloody mist first, followed by his claws, both covered in dust, the physical functions of which were nearly invisible to the naked eye. The dust performed a critical, life-saving maneuver as it leaped off the dragon’s body, passing through the film covering his skin, coating itself with the protection it granted. Bright, heat-emitting yellow light beamed off the dust, increasing its speed, as the bottom half stripped whole layers of concrete off the atrium floor, producing an expanding cloud that rushed forward in the shape of a growing wave, the whole mass radiating maroon light.

If there were eyes that could perceive nanoscopic forms, they would see a swarm of autonomous draconic machines, known in their progenitor's mind as the draco machines-- they were bipedal like Zucroas, and possessed all of his traits: scars of the dead secreting an ethereal, gel-based solvent that absorbed, purified, and expelled harmful energies–a fantastical control over lightning, as well as other aspects of the electromagnetic spectrum, and were primarily responsible for controlling the existential ley-lines, the source of the maroon lightshow. Lastly, and most immediately relevant to aiding the dragon’s charge, were their tails that had been modified in real time to feature a deadly number of tiny, protruding blades capable of adaptively calibrating their vibration frequency to be exceptionally proficient at cutting through targets. Semi-detaching themselves at the waist, the legs raised into a sitting position, inclined at the knees, tilted sideways, and rotated into a horizontal axis with feet bent at an inward angle, causing them to resemble the broken, taloned hands of a clock.

Plasma thrust blasted from their wings and foot soles, accelerating the lower-section into a violent, positively charged spin, followed by a revving that was neither seen, nor heard, yet boldly present in the execution of their objective; the revving of countless harmonic chainsaw’s growling activations. Function, fury, and a fine-tuned analysis of the blood mist's composition, relayed back through the maroon light, fed the machines all the data they needed to generate a counter-frequency that would disrupt the mist’s molecular stability. Multiple pass throughs would be needed to ensure every cell was sliced through and eviscerated, but the majority of the work was taken care of with unparalleled efficiency, partly due to the natural pull of protons and electrons attracting each other, resulting in the blood being forcibly sucked into the saw's lethal blades, and also because the draco-machines had feasted on the concrete floor, converting mundane rock into vicious, metal mayhem. Meanwhile, Zucroas’ tail swung hard to his left, throwing him into a turn that dragged his claws and talons against a surface that should not have been there, but nevertheless emitted sparks of maroon ether, his turn nearly finished.

Throughout the whole contest, using intuitive sight shared with him by the draco-machines, Zucroas tracked the mist’s displacement pattern that was caused by Kintar's evasive maneuver.

This chase was far from over.



A psychic specter swam through the ruins of her own psy-flame, but the apocalypse had only just begun. Kintar tried to bathe Zucroas’ world in fire, and now it was time for her to drown in the blood of his spirit, already whipped into a cleansing, oceanic surge via the flapping of his monstrous wings. Four colossal waves swelled up on all sides of the pyroclastic storm, towered briefly overhead the superheated cloud, and crashed down on top of it, leaving no room for escape, polluting a small portion of its vast mass in the process. In what felt like mere seconds, however, the ashen blemish was being crushed in the overwhelming tide, for even if its might were akin to a mountain that reached into Heaven, Zucroas’ determination was a thing that reached all the way down to Hell.

On Soran, he experienced the loss of his clan at the hands of aliens seeking to remedy a problem that was not theirs to solve–and still, he was able to find renewed innocence in a creature named Aludon. In the depths of Phlegethon, the two encountered a tormented cyborg without a purpose; his name was Tage, and though they were at first fearful of each other, eventually through the merging of body, mind, and soul, they became a single, unified being. Amidst the scorching winds of Kilamara's vast desert, the one became three, and together, primal love sowed the seeds of tragedy and trauma into a trinity of dragon, aptosite, and machine.

Lost and found.

Reclamation and reformation.

Damnation and salvation.

A personal violation against Zucroas’ mind was committed, and his solution was to counter-attack Kintar with her own reverse-engineered malice. An exploitation of his motivations was futilely attempted in order to pervert his emotions, and ascribe pathology in the place of basic, visceral psychology. Indeed, he was a beast prone to bouts of rage in the midst of that which threatened his soul–but such feelings were natural. More important than that though, and more precious than the preservation of his soul, was the preservation of his brothers. Keeping each other alive, preserving their bond...that's what mattered–that is what brought Zucroas to this palace of madness.

The woman's short-sighted understanding of Zucroas’ wrath had led her to naively denote–supplant the presence of sin in the place of an eternal instinct that existed in the hearts of all noble beasts. For that, she would pay.

Now the qualities inherent to her desires, to those which allowed her to plant such insidious seeds, and light such soul-blackening fires would come under attack. It began with a simple abstraction, translated to a pseudo-physical reality via the simple fact that fire was virtually impossible to light while underwater. This basic axiom malignantly multiplied itself, weaving its truth throughout the twilight yellow sky, quickly darkening into a star-dotted canvas that did not last long, as the cosmic darkness of space was aesthetically refashioned to the composition of a black ocean, with the zone betwixt that which dwelt above, and that which dwelt below being the only place not swallowed by the astral anomaly.

In mere moments the stars sank beneath the waves, thickening into mud, and smothered the stellar mass with its oppressive weight. Soon after, the mud hardened into a riverbed, whose cracks belched plumes of maroon smoke, symbolic of the plague. Soon, it would coming for Kintar too, and Zucroas had no intention of letting her out of the trap he secured through her hubris, evidenced by a hard glaze forming over the freezing surface of the ocean he created. In its depths, more of the elemental serpent drakes freely swam, taking full advantage of the woman who tried to feast on Zucroas’ anger, but instead found herself locked in an empty buffet. Now she was caught, the submerged storm nearly faded as more drakes manifested themselves through its remnants, maroon glow pulsing through their crackling forms on a wild intercept path, brazenly taking advantage of Kintar’s hollow feast in favor of their malice that fully aligned with the storm.

Even so, such an advantage could not be maintained for too long. It wasn't normal for forms to exist within a gelatinous ocean that reduced all things to empty potential. The fiend was no less susceptible here, as the ocean stickily clung to her exposed spirit, eating away at her ego with its digestive properties. Something was coming, a revelation was on its way, the sky hearkened as such with the billowing of more smoke through that dried riverbed.

Chaos will rise again.



Cellular carnage formed an organic smog of crumbling, ionizing matter, whirling around fast flowing eddies of crimson and maroon. Light from the latter bathed the room in its color, followed by a burst of purple from the scars of the dead's combined colors producing an inhibitor field constructed with the everpresent ley-lines, restricting the shadow's growth using a barrier that was two parts ethereal and spatial. This was far from the only effect though, for where the shadow faltered, a muddier darkness took its place, flowing in from the spirit world and merging with the space surrounding the reflections and Kintar's reorienting form.

Zucroas ground to near stop on the newly revealed floor, now composed of a maroon, hard light surface, the psychic tether connecting their minds having transcended the astral world to appear as something startlingly physical. It was dark like maroon, and coated in a thick, cosmic essence that sparkled with stellar radiance, stretching elastically as the dragon leaned into the last bit of momentum he had gained, pulling in all the electrons released by the harmonic chainsaw’s cutting action. His lightning filled eyes fully focused on her every disturbing move, which for him did naught but elicit a hostile grin, and a brief glint of cold, reptilian excitement steaming off his burning teeth and hissing tongue.

Then she fired those strange blades. The draco-machines broke the dam separating the abstract sky from the physical plane in several key spots, spewing artificial space-time that seethed with a primed electromagnetic pull, its properties amplified, compounded, and intensified by the ley-lines. A full-blown intercept occurred, sucking the blades down a smooth vector, accelerating their speed like bullets racing down the barrel of a railgun. Their first destination led them through the army of the damned, where the blade’s geometry distorting properties were given a conniving boost in power by another unit of draco-machines, whose initial directive had been to merely aid the serpent-drakes in combating the disgusting corpses. Now their directive had changed to environmental destruction. This was accomplished by drinking in the power those parallel universes they were connected to held, and through such nourishment, turned what was originally meant to be a precise attack designed to warp Zucroas’ body, into a weapon used to implode the shadow realm, and everything inside it–not through hijacking control though, rather through boosting the radial effects of the phenomenon to be globally devastating as opposed to locally decimating.

With spatial mass compounded, and the ley-lines circuitry so tightly interwoven into the freshly collapsed dimension, its existence became akin to that of a cosmic cannon ball. Reflection after reflection felt its kinetic punch, and in the event they were able to evade like the original Kintar had done, the space in which they resided would still suffer the effects of such a brutal collision, namely because when the draco-machines became apart of the mass, so too did the aspect of harmonic armageddon resonate through the absorbed power of the harmonic chainsaws.

The end of this extremely cunning attack was the atrium’s demise as the draco-machines tore it to pieces, the mirrors exploding, and Zucroas slingshotting himself at Kintar jaws first, all using the cord that connected them mentally, physically, and in all likelihood, fatally.
An umbral abyss opened its lightless maw, its hungry, swirling shadow pulling the elemental serpents into its dark gullet. Strangely, and quite unexpectedly, the drakes did not resist, for along the sides of their crackling, undulating forms, rifts in the forms of jagged scars traced an opening to a much deeper layer of the astral world. Within that layer, chaos reigned as the dominant spiritual force, and it was from such a disorderly place that a surge of shimmering red and blue substances poured out. It had a thick, gelatinous texture that was highly viscous, sticking to whatever it touched, and functioned as a digestive sponge to foreign energies by overwhelming them with the essence of its origin, reducing them to pure potential that was void of form and purpose. This ethereal plasmic membrane rapidly enveloped and conformed to the serpent's bodies, providing a pre-emptive defensive shield that would safeguard them against being destroyed within the vortex, and consequently gave them an uncannily invasive quality, as seen by many bloodshot eyes, whose realm they drained into.

Fully armed with the familial gift of protection, a vicious assault began as the serpents dove straight at the staring orbs, horn-tips spewing crimson clouds of nanoscopic dust in their wake, which itself emitted the very same maroon light used in sewing the many reflections together. In no time at all, they would make short, vicious work of their sight, just as they had done to the many throats of the women foolish enough to just let themselves be maimed.

The eyes…windows to the mind– the ones leading to Zucroas’ had been filled with scorching lightning, blinding in its luminance and hazardous to any entities attempting to pass through the electric inferno. If setting fire to his psyche is what she wanted to do, then she’d find her own burnt to a crisp as the same maroon energy used to bind and make clones of her reflections manifested as counter-offensive outlines around the drake’s eyes, strengthening the psychic connection to the point of it feeling like there was a giant, clawed hand wrapped around her throat, the sturdiness of strong, thick bones, and powerful muscle forming the bridge that forced stable passage. Here she would bear witness, and experience first-hand the wrath of the dragon, whose sacred space she sought burn down:

A purple ocean rose and fell beneath a fresh yellow sky, its waves whipped into a violent storm. Above it, a crackling cloud of smoke and ash rolled forward, dead remnants of the psy-flame blown into motion by tremendously flapping wings of the purest white, their length reaching both ends of the horizon. Behind the cloud, long, muscular arms hung, each bearing the jagged red and blue marks that symbolized the scars of the dead, both pouring waterfalls of red and blue gel into the astral ocean, giving it its unique color. Mounted atop the wings was a draconic face roaring endless, unrestrained fury, horns aflame and eyes seething static electricity, for the full brunt of its rage had been wrought forth by the woman's maleficent threat against his mind. Absent the restrictions of time and space, the apocalyptic stormcloud bloomed larger, vicious maws swelling, stretching, and collapsing in on themselves, only to lunge out with terrifying instantaneity, followed by an internal explosion that expanded the supercell outward, sending a wave of suffocating psychic energy that would choke her spirit’s voice like volcanic ash filling airways, raze her thoughts like pyroclastic flows shredding the land beneath a blotted out sun, and engulf her soul under the immense weight of a monster who vindictively wanted to crush, immolate, and bury her like lava smothering a person.

Back on the physical plane, Zucroas saw the vomit of unnatural blood and instinctively leaped, flapping hard and throwing himself into a backflip, his still firing beam gouging the upper wall and ceiling. The maroon lines siphoned a surplus of energy from the extra-versal gates, swelling with power as they gorged on extraversal nourishment, channeling it all into the beast as he hit the floor on all fours. Riding the momentum of his maneuver, Zucroas swung his head up, lightning beam thickening, widening, blossoming with intensified might and resilience as it made contact with the sanguine flood, vaporizing a trail through to the woman.

Before the path he made could seal itself shut, Zucroas turned off the beam and broke into a mad charge, the film that had initially coated only his claws now covering his whole body, much the same way the serpents had protected themselves. Bowing his head, the dragon’s horns aimed ahead of him, tips covered in a sandy crimson dust, as were his claws, talons, and tail, sparing no precaution as he aimed to skewer her upon his three foot weapons of war.
A permeable curtain of darkness appeared before him, and as something wholly unexpected walked through its veil, his hissing sharpened, aggression tempering into a cold stare of savage malice. Her deceitful appearance did nothing to calm his nerves, and in fact worsened his agitation, eyes filling with crackling blue light as the atmosphere shifted from palpable tension, and evolved into blatant, snarling hostility. By time she was thirty feet away, the scars on his arms had become aglow with primal spirit-energy, claws surging with a thickening film of blue and red light as he readied himself for the impending calamity that was about to befall this temple.

In the moments between her final steps toward the looming dragon, in the depths of crystalline mirrors, something besides the woman's many vile reflections slithered and flew as horned serpents made of lightning so often do. Matter-vibrations from the infinity of neighboring universes connected to this palace flowed along a network of maroon lines, synthesizing a ghostly membrane with which to grant significance and substantiality, and ultimately authenticity of form to the alluring visages. If the provocative woman was as perceptive as she was dangerous, she would see the colored lines fading into transparency, whilst feeling their existential threads sewing her skein to the ones in the mirrors.

Alas, when she arrived at her position before Zucroas, and the fiend raised her hand to what the beast read as a facade of benevolence, electricity accumulated at the back of his throat, chest filling as his hissing was replaced with loud buzzing. Within his mind’s eye, and possibly the woman’s own, he saw the serpent’s converge on the parallel entities, maws wide, and bodies moving in a murderous lunge that sunk fangs into throats. Whether she’d live through their massacre was anyone’s guess – not that she had time to make a prediction, for a densely packed beam of lightning the size of her own body was being streamed from the dragon’s mouth with an intent that was all too real.
He was on a journey. A personal quest to rediscover a long lost sibling who had been stolen from him by a mad demon. The same demon responsible for driving him into an equally insane trinity of myth, flesh, and steel – of primordial beast, artificial monster, and an accident born from the clash between a noble patriarch and a gluttonous experiment. A distinct lack of meaning for the third’s existence permeated every aspect of his soul, rendering his mind stagnant, and actions worthless. Consequently, the third piece of the abominable amalgam comprising Taluge had his nihilism resolved through the hellish merging of bodies, minds, and souls.

Through him, the way to reclamation of familial unity would be realized, just as the one who was sought had led Tage through the frozen labyrinth of purpose, melting the sealed exit and allowing him to emerge into the stellar warmth of spiritual companionship.

Presently, the consolidated form of the Raging Singularity soared on shadow-tinted platinum wings, propelled by yellow plasma emissions streaming from the tips as well as the soles of his feet, knuckles dragging and skipping across the astral sea whilst the burning propellant vaporized the surreal waters in their wake. Within the rising steam trail, a surge of animated scenes floated up; creatures warring, sadists torturing, inhuman youths frollicking through a combination of differing lands, spun and woven into each other in a manner too abstract for the mind to comprehend. An uncountable number, both simple and complex sprouted, blossomed, and withered into ocean mist, blown away and scattered unto nothingness – reflected in the twin hexagonal shape of a scarlet left, and sapphire right pair of eyes, pupils still and motionless on a draconic face whose serrated lids did not blink. None of it meant anything to him – a raspy, metallic exhale passed through barely opened jaws, everything appearing as mundane as blowing leafs in a damp forest.

A twitch of impatience made him snort, the scent of mundanity leaving him directionless, agitated, and irritable. His frustration amplified his desire, made his mind snuff out all irrelevant details like a blizzard blowing out all the smaller insignificant flames, letting only the brightest infernos survive the storm of longing.

Then it appeared like a bloodstained hurricane.

Nine and a half foot horns released a maroon plume from their tips, billowing everywhere and nowhere, drifting toward the cyclone and being vacuously sucked into the swirling clouds, blending into a liquid mix of decadence and impending doom. It reeked of foulness, triggered thoughts of his damnation, and attracted his wrath like a tower attracting lightning; he would strike out at it until the place was either fried to a crisp, or the difference was so insubstantial as to be non-existent.

Traveling into the storm, his emotions came to a boil, and no amount of magic would be able to hold him together, and thus…


A three-sided star rose over a lavender horizon. Its rays illuminated a frozen ocean, the cracks of which hid an infinity of nanoscopic organisms, compacted together into clumps of sleeping maroon. The first face of the stellar mass shone sapphire, assaulting the ice with repeated thunderbolts, gradually penetrating deeper and deeper through the stillness, several of them colliding and repulsing each other, which lead to seismic tremors and a full scale collapse of the glacier.

The crimson face rotated into position, blowing noxious coronal mass onto the broken land, melting away the glaze, causing the ice to fragment more and more until the cracking became splashing and sloshing. More fire was coughed out, hitting the water like globs of molten snot, hissing its surface, evaporating the whole of the ocean into a cloud of scalding steam that only incensed the swelling fury.

Finally, the last face – a mass of platinum, wrapped in shadowy coronal loops turned to view the destruction, but unlike the others, it did not seek to add to the carnage. Instead, a spread of electrical bass thrummed through the sky and plume, followed by high-pitched bytes like fingers racing over a control board. From the depths, a pile of maroon, nanoscopic beings stacked atop each other, constructing a spire that assembled itself in an ascending path toward the star, puncturing it at the point of high noon, and emitted an explosive revving sound, like a chainsaw cord that had been pulled by the hands of a giant.

A nuclear pulse shot pain, agony, and despair into the star, inducing a critical fission reaction that led to structural failure, and ultimately a break in the psyche. The three faces split, the spire's peaks branching out in equivalent directions, their tips expanding into hooks which secreted an amber substance, crystallizing along the arms and snagging the three stars in place. Originally, the crystalline material had been used to produce gaps in genome sequences, wherein new coding could be inserted to act as adhesive to bond foreign strands together – in this soulscape it held a metaphoric function, an abstraction of physical reality reverse engineered into spiritual glue. The strange matter branched upwards, surrounding the stars, and holding them in place, roots feeding on their mass, drinking an infinitesimal, but nonetheless sufficient to ensure their continued stability.

In the aftermath of this controlled mayhem, three draconic drones emerged from the clouds, each bearing a tricloptic set of enlarged eyes, all projecting bright spotlights of colors corresponding to the division of once singular radiant mass, whose ghost was a small, transparent sphere. An indefinite surveillance period was enacted, manifesting as constant orbiting rotations, made all the more necessary by the jagged rifts in the east and west of this domain, through which stellar mass was slowly sucked through…



Gray clouds, as dark as the perpetual midnight enshrouding Aeternus swirled into a descending vortex, its tail grazing the edges of a six-story red and white pagoda. Its pull tore half the floor off, and with it several prospective targets of jikininki, their victims falling to the streets in heaps of broken bones and shattered skulls. Ordering the oni guards to investigate the commotion, several units of red and blue-skinned demons brandished iron kanabo clubs and leaped into the tornado to bludgeon the intruder into submission.

On ground level, flanked by rows of gargoyles leaping from their perches, the tornado fizzled out just as quickly as it had arrived, leaving the massive metal dragon hovering in place, the jagged crimson and sapphire scars running from tricep to the mid-section of his forearms flashing a silent blare of spiritual alarm. A few of the stone demons charged Taluge, only for the beast to suddenly spin himself, accompanied by a loud revving sound shaking the glass of gambling window as thousands of micro-blades along his tail harmonized a counter-frequency to their brimstone flesh, producing a sharp embering ring as they were bisected and fell to the streets in shattered chunks of scattered rock. A mad growl quickly turned into a shouting screech as a permeable field of maroon enveloped his form, the deafening cry echoing for miles, its shockwave thoroughly disrupting traffic as it made tires pop, lights flicker on and off, and made the heads of lesser demons burst like blood-filled balloons.

His metallic scales peeled off, hundreds of thousands of wires retracting out of a secondary black layer, eliciting a pained shriek as several gallons of acidic green blood were tossed in random directions. Streetlamps melted, the faces of gamblers and their dealers alike dissolved, doorways collapsing as a strange combination of havoc and excitement ensued as many assumed this to be the start of a demonic parade festival, though others were not so stupid as they fled the scene. By the time the onis hit the ground, a cloud of acidic mist had risen to greet them, their corroding bodies shredded apart as shards of cybernetic steel cut them apart in a whirlwind of ascending shrapnel.

The rising shrapnel menace was quick to reassemble itself, tearing chunks out of minkas, converting wood and paper into a platinum skeleton, that was layered with off-white flesh, and finished with a shadowy rendition of synthetic umbral metal, forming the scaled armor of a distinctly bipedal form that was twenty-four feet tall, and quite broad. Yellow plasma emissions kept Tage aloft, scarlett optical units situated between serrated eyelids darting to and fro and search of a safe place to take perch as the second stage of the demerging process initiated itself.

Settling atop a smoke stack puffing the cremated remains of souls used to restore Aeternus’ power, the Offspring observed the revealed form of Alucroas, his biomass dramatically reduced, excess biomass used to sustain his previous form dissolving a crater into the street. A seam spread along his back, jaws split open horizontally, revealing a second mouth connected to a blackened skull, its lengthy neck functioning as the musculature of a gruesome tongue that hissed a deep, meaty, brazen hiss as it threatened everyone and everything that could hear it. The muscles on his rear and fore inflated, flexing with violent determination as it appeared the one was in fact made of multiple fused pairs, tearing and stripping apart, ending as one rib-cage literally slid free from another, connected only by loosely hanging ligaments and sparking ligaments magnetizing themselves to their original bodies.

Flexing his arms inwards, the seam along Alucroas’ back split wider, like he was tearing a shirt, when in reality it was Zucroas – the first half of the abomination flinging both sides of his back and wings to either side like a torn blanket. Excess vertebrae, neck muscle situated within the split jaws deteriorated and fell, bone pairs separating as the body of the second bipedal component of the monstrous amalgam stood up for a moment and dropped back to all fours. His black skin gradually whitened, scales shrinking down to a size unnoticeable without the aid of microscopic instruments. The fast detachment of separating spines emitted a disturbing sound, vertebrae unzipping, muscle and all wetly stripped and peeled away from each other, with the bottom tail slapping the pavement like so many fools who had used suicide as a futile means of escape from their deals.

The creature that was now more or less standing atop Zucroas pathetically tried to leap as his muscles and bones pulled themselves together, giving the drake enough time for his back to seal itself shut. Somehow it was enough, the physiological and anatomical structures of the two solidifying neatly into place, with Zucroas already raising back up into a full-standing position, the slender, almost feline form of Aludon with his sharply pointed snout, blood-red eyes, and lengthy tail that ended in a sharply curved bone leaping off. Acting on pure whim, Aludon immediately sprinted off, carelessly, and quite recklessly crashing through the window of a lounge where a demoness was just relaxing for a drink. Neither malice, nor aggression characterized his statuesque stop in movement, genuine curiosity born from an inexperience in interacting with beings outside of his trio, and it was very apparent in his wide-eyed stare.

As Tage watched on, his only concern being the safety of his companions, he watched Zucroas with caution as already, the drake was tapping into their shared existential ley-lines, the scarlet aura coated in a thick energy solvent. He felt the flow of souls rushing through the dragon’s nearly pure-white body, the blue and red scars of the dead snapping and crackling in an emission of wrathful sound that almost sounded like knocking on wood, and breaking of bark. His jaw opened wide, tiny human hands compressing into a blue, plasmic light, screaming and wailing pouring from his mouth as he unleashed a beam of pure anguish in the form of a super-condensed stream of souls flowing out as lightning, and aimed at what little remained of the pagoda.
A faint blue light crackled and streaked across the frozen sky, appearing to shine ever brighter as its draconic source flew closer and closer to the strange architecture. Sensing his destination was near, lightning built at the back of his folding wings, and was compressed into a tight space that was infused with a soft, red underglow as the beast tilted into a vicious nosedive, all of the accumulated energy blasting out behind him in a purplish explosion of heat.

Moving at close to sub-sonic speeds, Zucroas blazed a burning trail through the forest, melting the snow off branches, vaporizing the ice along the ground, and leaving a linear steam plume behind as he zipped toward the thing that had aroused his spirit. The cold air was no hindrance to his sharply pointed snout – as a creature that was not of the natural world, as a dragon whose breath was made of the second strongest force in the universe, he could smell spiritual foulness like a hound sniffing the bloodtrail of a corpse that had been dragged into the woods, and the critters flowing through his blood ensured he felt the threat pulse through every cell in his body.

Such was the gift his new brother had given him.

Round eyes as deep as the ocean dilated wide to take in the palace, big, black pupils a stark contrast to his nearly pure white skin, with scales too smooth and flat to be seen without raising them. Twenty-foot wings folded downward like an umbrella to catch the wind, and a flexible tail, the latter swinging forward and the former opening up to slow him down just enough so that his momentum would land him on the vines. His long muscular arms reached out, the jagged crimson scar on his left, and the sapphire one on his right showing briefly as he used his claws to slice through the thorns in a violent, fast-paced ascent to the entrance, nostrils still flaring as the scent of danger intensified with each pull.

Growing ever more anxious, Zucroas wings flapped furiously, turning his scaling into aggressive leaps, viciously gouging plant flesh as he eagerly, violently rushed up to a massive horizontal split in the cliff-face. The ceiling was spaced a generous fifty feet from the floor, though narrowing considerably at the staircase leading up to the entrance. Zucroas threw himself over the edge, claws raking, and heels cracking the brittle ledge, his attention focused solely on the entrance that he instantly ran toward and up, even going so far as to grab the steps with his claws, and bounding his way into the atrium.

Upon finally making it in, the drake felt his spine tingle, muscles tense, like there was an entity trying its absolute best to fill him with dread and despair for having had the gall to step right into its jaws. What was Zucroas’ reaction to this? His claws on hands and feet alike clenched, neck craned and head swung, tail raised, and altogether at once, made all his joints crack, slammed his tail back down hard enough to break the ground he stood on. As his head finished its swing, Zucroas lurched forward, opened his mouth to a deadly width, and hissed a deep, nasty, meaty hiss, fangs and molars glistening with spilling drool, greeting the supernatural threat with vicious, primal savagery.
Whoops, wrong part to throw my post in
The pair’s journey had taken them over a large cluster of grassy knolls, gaps steeped in oppressive darkness, like the sky was made of many giant, but slander hands pressing deep crevices into the terrain. All of them featured a peculiar, and more importantly treacherous pattern, far unlike the lands Jack and Marco had grown accustomed to traversing-- namely, that the knoll groups presented the most danger just after passing the start of a new cluster, wherein adjacent entryways had a tendency of intersecting along various parallel paths.

Reaching the end of their most recent hike, Marco folded the flaps of his overcoat above his waist, procured an 8inch navaja from his pocket and slid it between the cuts he had poked through the corners of his coat’s fabric. He gave the knife of a firm squeeze, closing and infusing it with just enough foul lumos to keep the makeshift knot from loosening.

“A skirt to surpass Mado Queer!” Jack exclaimed in a loud, meaty voice.

“CALLATE ESTUPIDO!” Marco snapped back, squeezing the knife hard enough to shut the blade almost completely, if not for the thickness of his coat’s fabric.

Sighing, Marco decided (at his own peril) to have the Mad Man remind him what they were doing here.

He knew never to expect clear answers out of his friend, nor could he count on him to be anything more than cryptically obtuse, but this time his pal with the black suit vest, charcoal slacks, and finely polished leather shoes, spoke with ominous clarity.

“A…” Polo’s eyes near rolled back as Black’s voice dropped in-depth, whilst climbing in false, high-pitched sarcasm… ”puppet.”

Marco’s tiredness faded as trepidation consumed his stark white face, slowly looking down at Jack, whose own expression was just as colorless, like a man who had lost his soul. He hated dealing with puppets. They were gargantuan sky beasts, servant hunters to a much greater predator--not quite as old as time itself, but old enough to make the two adventurers appear infantile by comparison. The mere thought of having to fight one of those things brought a sag to his broad shoulders.

Yet they couldn’t remain in this place for much longer. Jack Black and Marco Polo could both sense the voracious desire of those bastards between the knolls. They wanted them both, like a bad man needs a gang of thugs.

Groaning quietly, the Spaniard bowed, slamming his forehead against Jack’s modest-sized skull, neither of them so much as flinching from the impact. Marco’s pitch, feline stare met his most trusted man’s cartoonishly wide roof holes, the latter whistling in mischievous approval, the twin arches that framed the sides of his skull flaring slightly--the short, fair hair of the disgustingly tall, and newly resolved primadonna spiked and fell gently back down to to the peak of his brows.

A grating squeal screeched its way out of the pseudo-labyrinth that was the second half of the abyssal knolls, as if some umbral monster, dwelling in the atramentous first section had become aware of the pair’s fresh set of balls.

Broad grins stretched across the pair’s alabaster faces as they turned to face the inevitable confrontation with the beasts that were now the whole damn network. Up until this point, Jack and Marco went over the gaps by leaping, only ever utilizing the entrance when they had to, hence the precautions taken by the Spaniard with his jacket to avoid all the grab and trip hazards of that wretched maze. Jack never truly looked down on him for it-- he was his friend after all, and making fun of this prideful dude meister never, ever failed to entertain.

But now they both had something to make fun of, now they both had a weakness to exploit.

Jack laughed and screamed hysterically on bolting feet, zigzagging his way passed the intersecting thumb and index walls, covered in vines, and whose thorns pistoned out in an attempt to impale the Mad Man. A strange, black wheel with a wide split in the center manifested before Jack, connected to his own index finger by a long string of darkness that he was quick to allow himself to be reeled in by. Shielded from the death-trap, his audacious defiance of the murderous environment rapidly accelerated into an axiomatic onslaught of absurdly agile turns and wall-riding via the mindlessly simplistic shape of a child’s juiced up yo-yo.

A trail of destruction, both human and inhuman, angelic and demonic, earthly, and alien littered the pathway. He ran over generals of armies from planets unheard of, simple tellers of strange food-based currency that could make a honey badger’s white blood cells commit suicide, six-eyed normies, dodecahedron professors who pushed political agendas. Not everything he ran over, sliced up, or scared badly enough for it to leave a brown trail for his wheel of carnage to pick up, and cut a septic infection into was a super sentient, down on their luck shmuck though. Or at least, they weren’t anymore.

Following a parallel cluster, Marco, still butthurt from his amigo’s earlier jab, undid his coat’s folds, turned it inside out, and ran his essence of sickly yellow lumos along what appeared to be hundreds of blades lining what was now the coat’s exterior. In his right hand, the navaja slit the throats of antennae-eyed rip-off merchants, gutted the abdomens of arachnid seductresses, blinded precognitive schemers. With his left hand, he pinned the reaching roots using the power of a kingly legion, each encrusted in hand-sized diamonds, slung from his favorite deck of playing cards.

As he unleashed hell, the threads of his jacket unwove with the firing of his knives, embedding into the bloodstained walls along his path of slaughter. He knew what was waiting for them at the end of the knolls, as did Jack, who had deliberately let himself get punched in the face by a very muscular ogre that had to move about sideways in order to not get stuck.

Jack’s head shot up like a pez dispenser, yo-yo shrinking back to normal size, but not before being flung over the ogre’s head, deploying a circular saw made of energized will, and pulled it back through brute’s occipital lobe, splitting his head in two. Unlike a pez dispenser, but far more useful than the ogre’s split skull, Jack’s head enlarged to three times its normal size, making it just under the size of two basketballs, and began tauntingly repeating a phrase that, to modern generations might just be prehistoric. To those pathetic wretches who couldn’t even succeed at being life-hacking scumbags, and sought to assimilate whoever so happened to enter their un-humble abode of corruption, it was a foreshadowing of their final failure: to escape the hellish escalation about to be wrought by two men who had learned to harness the whimsical chaos that permeated the Darkness.

“NUH UH UH!”

A violent downswing, head encased in a sheen of dark energy, Jack’s face hammered the knolls, releasing tremendous explosions that upended dirt, ripped apart roots, and crushed the spines of all who were in the way. A carnivorous mastodon with stumpy feet, that once used its thick, but not quite long enough trunk to beg apes to hand it fruit, instead used its extendable teeth to skewer and eat them right before receiving its “meal” felt the pez dispenser that was Jack break its skull, bite off its tusks, and launch them at exit ways like miniature warheads. Like the other oversized freak, he also had a purpose, enabling the Mad Man’s bizarre method of delivering justice to victims that would likely never see or hear of their uncanny avengers.

“NUH UH UH!”

Mayhem. Monsters. Carnage. Demons. Panic. Liars. Misfortune. Thieves. Oblivion. Predators.

All of them.

“NUH UH UH!”

He swung everywhere. He hit everything. Nothing survived. Nothing was allowed to escape, and the nothingness that comprised the worth of the countless dead souls of the knolls would come together to make one last stand.

Spilled blood and mashed bone, crushed flesh, and scattered shit, flowed to the sealed exit, soaked through the soil and started to congeal into an unholy mass. The clouds parted, revealing a castle that, while appearing up close, used a maleficent force to non-locally project and cast its magic through a bolt of arcane lightning, empowering the mass to transform itself into an abomination capable of withstanding the duo’s relentless killing spree.

Eight elephantine legs burst from the side, venom soaked tusks protruded from the front, curving like meathooks set to stab deep, narrow pits into the earth. Spiked shoulder pads grew over its knees, silken spinners growing atop sprouted trunks emitting a seducing sound, meant to lure their killers into a fatal embrace before tying them up. A final pair of fleshy arms grew from the monstrosity’s rear, wielding two giant clubs wrapped in thorns that ended in root tips meant for sucking the life out of whatever it could manage to impale.

“NUH UH UH!” Jack shouted with a vibrato capable of shattering that abomination’s big dumbo ears had it been smart enough to grow any.

“You did not say the magic word!” Marco shouted in plain English.

Enraged, the monstrosity fired its tusks at the pair, only for Jack to launch two spheres of condensed darkness from his mouth, engulfing and incinerating ivory projectiles before blowing up its two front legs, fissuring the ground as it fell forward. His taunt came once again. Marco raged back at the beast, the buttons of his white dress shirt resembling coins for just a moment as he furiously tugged on the threads of his overcoat, pulling the terrain he had hooked his knives into up and overhead in the shape of a colossal, diamond strewn dome.

“NUH UH UH UH, CABRON!”

“They didn’t rub their magic wand enough!”

Struggling already, Jack and Marco delighted in the creature’s futile acts. Did those worms think for even a moment they could defeat the psychotic best friends!? The difference was never a matter of strength or power, it was of conviction, of desire: a lowly desire for wealth, for influence, for status, authority, and a million slave wives to pass on their lineage could never hope to kill them. These beings wanted to preserve themselves, their livings, and all it would ever lead to was maybe a slightly larger knoll, for the Darkness, despite all its whimsical glory, knew from their past collective failings, that it would all eventually fail once again-- infighting, greed, power mongers, warmongers, harbingers of chaos and discord.

It all fell apart so easily, because it had all been built and established on weak morals, held together with glue that could be dissolved with a baby’s toothless saliva.

The nameless abomination hurled its clubs at Jack, and this time Marco yanked hard enough to rip his knives free, shredding the weapons to wood chips with a flurry of daggers. Then it tried to charge on its four remaining legs, trunks emitting spineless words for the weak, that for a moment, might have reached the ears of a lesser region, but those miscreants were few and far between, for the wall of diamonds caught and reflected the sound using the dome an orpheum sound echoer.

This counter-strategy led to the monster’s undoing as it heard its own message of “JOIN THE KNOLL, BUT FIRST PAY THE TOLL!” being driven back into its own ears. Stupid as it was, easily seduced as it was, the moronic colossus actually started begging to join its killers, believing them to be their ticket to the big leagues. The absurdity of how fast it was all happening would have astonished Jack and Marco, had they not seen acts like this play out a million times over. Normally they wouldn’t even bother giving these jerks the time of day, but knowing that they had to face a puppet spurred their need to seek and destroy it, and if engaging a cluster of nobodies in a fight meant achieving that goal faster then so be it.

“LET US JOIN THE KNOLL!” It cried again, web spinnerettes attempting to entangle and pull the duo closer, who only kept repeating their phrase of “NUH UH UH!” back at the imbeciles, who just couldn’t seem to get it through their head.

The skin on Jack’s face disintegrated its way up the entirety of his face, incinerating his hair, and leaving naught but a plain, bald head that appeared to be made of dark-gray onyx with a vague, sandpaper texture. Transparent smoke wafted off his cranium, teeth white as snow bared in an emotionless stare that made him ditch the taunt he and Marco had been repeating for a full five minutes now. His hysterical laughter took on a smooth, velvety gutteralness, his real voice a far more masculine thing than the post-pubescent mockery of a clever and affable late teen male, eyes downcast on the worthless being he and Marco were about to reduce to cinders.

“WHY!” It pleaded, its voice almost sounding innocent despite how malicious it had proved itself to be.

“Because that thing in the sky,” Jack said, looking up, “deserves to die.”

“Just like you, puto.” Marco complimented.

Marco’s blades aligned together in front of Jack, assuming a broad cone formation, spinning so quickly as to blur the blades into a drill that glistened and sparkled what little light managed to pierce the clouds. The ashen shadows rising off Jack’s head flowed into the cone, imbuing them with the aspect of darkness that made the Mad Man unique among the various inhabitants roaming this strange universe: deterioration, not too unlike Marco’s aspect of denigration that sought to weaken through disparaging ridicule, a trait as of late unseen, and likely the very reason he had reacted so loudly to Jack’s meaningless insult.

Regardless of who they were, and what their abilities represented, what this thing was, and what it represented were being slowly eradicated as the darkness wielded by the two travelers perforated its physical essence with a hundred skewering stabs. Flesh and bone received narrow, diamond holes, quickly filling up with atomizing dust that spread and aged the lethargic chimera to crumbling particles, which themselves decayed the nothingness they were born of, lived as, and died as.

The remnants of their petty existences weren't even fit to float on the wind, for their toxic stench might have choked the life out of a more promising villain.

Once it was all over, Jack emerged, back to his good old funny self, the mask he used to filter his true nature through and served as his face resumed its cartoonish facade. Marco turned his overcoat outside in, the legion of diamond-encrusted kings returned to their master’s playing cards, and he could finally walk without having to worry about his friend’s stupid little jabs.

The castle in the sky disappeared, the clouds closed up, and as the light began to fade, and the Darkness returned to its normal state, the two pals could see marshlands dotted with enormous pines, and two figures waiting in a meadow.
The pair’s journey had taken them over a large cluster of grassy knolls, gaps steeped in oppressive darkness, like the sky was made of many giant, but slander hands pressing deep crevices into the terrain. All of them featured a peculiar, and more importantly treacherous pattern, far unlike the lands Jack and Marco had grown accustomed to traversing-- namely, that the knoll groups presented the most danger just after passing the start of a new cluster, wherein adjacent entryways had a tendency of intersecting along various parallel paths.

Reaching the end of their most recent hike, Marco folded the flaps of his overcoat above his waist, procured an 8inch navaja from his pocket and slid it between the cuts he had poked through the corners of his coat’s fabric. He gave the knife of a firm squeeze, closing and infusing it with just enough foul lumos to keep the makeshift knot from loosening.

“A skirt to surpass Mado Queer!” Jack exclaimed in a loud, meaty voice.

“CALLATE ESTUPIDO!” Marco snapped back, squeezing the knife hard enough to shut the blade almost completely, if not for the thickness of his coat’s fabric.

Sighing, Marco decided (at his own peril) to have the Mad Man remind him what they were doing here.

He knew never to expect clear answers out of his friend, nor could he count on him to be anything more than cryptically obtuse, but this time his pal with the black suit vest, charcoal slacks, and finely polished leather shoes, spoke with ominous clarity.

“A…” Polo’s eyes near rolled back as Black’s voice dropped in-depth, whilst climbing in false, high-pitched sarcasm… ”puppet.”

Marco’s tiredness faded as trepidation consumed his stark white face, slowly looking down at Jack, whose own expression was just as colorless, like a man who had lost his soul. He hated dealing with puppets. They were gargantuan sky beasts, servant hunters to a much greater predator--not quite as old as time itself, but old enough to make the two adventurers appear infantile by comparison. The mere thought of having to fight one of those things brought a sag to his broad shoulders.

Yet they couldn’t remain in this place for much longer. Jack Black and Marco Polo could both sense the voracious desire of those bastards between the knolls. They wanted them both like a bad man needs a gang of thugs.

Groaning quietly, the Spaniard bowed, slamming his forehead against Jack’s modest-sized skull, neither of them so much as flinching from the impact. Marco’s pitch, feline stare met his most trusted man’s cartoonishly wide roof holes, the latter whistling in mischievous approval, the twin arches that framed the sides of his skull flaring slightly--the short, fair hair of the disgustingly tall, and newly resolved primadonna spiked and fell gently back down to to the peak of his brows.

A grating squeal screeched its way out of the pseudo-labyrinth that was the second half of the abyssal knolls, as if some umbral monster, dwelling in the atramentous first section had become aware of the pair’s fresh set of balls.

Broad grins stretched across the pair’s alabaster faces as they turned to face the inevitable confrontation with the beasts that were now the whole damn network. Up until this point, Jack and Marco went over the gaps by leaping, only ever utilizing the entrance when they had to, hence the precautions taken by the Spaniard with his jacket to avoid all the grab and trip hazards of that wretched maze. Jack never truly looked down on him for it-- he was his friend after all, and making fun of this prideful dude meister never, ever failed to entertain.

But now they both had something to make fun of, now they both had a weakness to exploit.

Jack laughed and screamed hysterically on bolting feet, zigzagging his way passed the intersecting thumb and index walls, covered in vines, and whose thorns pistoned out in an attempt to impale the Mad Man. A strange, black wheel with a wide split in the center manifested before Jack, connected to his own index finger by a long string of darkness that he was quick to allow himself to be reeled in by. Shielded from the death-trap, his audacious defiance of the murderous environment rapidly accelerated into an axiomatic onslaught of absurdly agile turns and wall-riding via the mindlessly simplistic shape of a child’s juiced up yo-yo.

A trail of destruction, both human and inhuman, angelic and demonic, earthly, and alien littered the pathway. He ran over generals of armies from planets unheard of, simple tellers of strange food-based currency that could make a honey badger’s white blood cells commit suicide, six-eyed normies, dodecahedron professors who pushed political agendas. Not everything he ran over, sliced up, or scared badly enough for it to leave a brown trail for his wheel of carnage to pick up, and cut a septic infection into was a super sentient, down on their luck shmuck though. Or at least, they weren’t anymore.

Following a parallel cluster, Marco, still butthurt from his amigo’s earlier jab, undid his coat’s folds, turned it inside out, and ran his essence of sickly yellow lumos along what appeared to be hundreds of blades lining what was now the coat’s exterior. In his right hand, the navaja slit the throats of antennae-eyed rip-off merchants, gutted the abdomens of arachnid seductresses, blinded precognitive manipulators of future events. With his left hand, he pinned the reaching roots using the power of a kingly legion, each encrusted in hand-sized diamonds, slung from his favorite deck of playing cards.

As he unleashed hell, the threads of his jacket unwove with the firing of his knives, embedding into the bloodstained walls along his path of slaughter. He knew what was waiting for them at the end of the knolls, as did Jack, who had deliberately let himself get punched in the face by a very muscular ogre that had to move about sideways in order to not get stuck.

Jack’s head shot up like a pez dispenser, yo-yo shrinking back to normal size, but not before being flung over the ogre’s head, deploying a circular saw made of energized will, and pulled it back through brute’s occipital lobe, splitting his head in two. Unlike a pez dispenser, but far more useful than the ogre’s split skull, Jack’s head enlarged to three times its normal size, making it just under the size of two basketballs, and began tauntingly repeating a phrase that, to modern generations might just be prehistoric. To those pathetic wretches who couldn’t even succeed at being life-hacking scumbags, and sought to assimilate whoever so happened to enter their un-humble abode of corruption, it was a foreshadowing of their final failure: to escape the hellish escalation about to be wrought by two men who had learned to harness the whimsical chaos that permeated the Darkness.

“NUH UH UH!”

A violent downswing, head encased in a sheen of dark energy, Jack’s face hammered the knolls, releasing tremendous explosions that upended dirt, ripped apart roots, and crushed the spines of all who were in the way. A carnivorous mastodon with stumpy feet, that once used its thick, but not quite long enough trunk to beg apes to hand it fruit, instead used its extendable teeth to skewer and eat them right before receiving its “meal” felt the pez dispenser that was Jack break its skull, bite off its tusks, and launch them at exit ways like miniature warheads. Like the other oversized freak, he also had a purpose, enabling the Mad Man’s bizarre method of delivering justice to victims that would likely never see or hear of their uncanny avengers.

“NUH UH UH!”

Mayhem. Monsters. Carnage. Demons. Panic. Liars. Misfortune. Thieves. Oblivion. Predators.

All of them.

“NUH UH UH!”

He swung everywhere. He hit everything. Nothing survived. Nothing was allowed to escape, and the nothingness that comprised the worth of the countless dead souls of the knolls would come together to make one last stand.

Spilled blood and mashed bone, crushed flesh, and scattered shit, flowed to the sealed exit, soaked through the soil and started to congeal into an unholy mass. The clouds parted, revealing a castle that, while appearing up close, used a maleficent force to non-locally project and cast its magic through a bolt of arcane lightning, empowering the mass to transform itself into an abomination capable of withstanding the duo’s relentless killing spree.

Eight elephantine legs burst from the side, venom soaked tusks protruded from the front, curving like meathooks set to stab deep, narrow pits into the earth. Spiked shoulder pads grew over its knees, silken spinners growing atop sprouted trunks emitting a seducing sound, meant to lure their killers into a fatal embrace before tying them up. A final pair of fleshy arms grew from the monstrosity’s rear, wielding two giant clubs wrapped in thorns that ended in root tips meant for sucking the life out of whatever it could manage to impale.

“NUH UH UH!” Jack shouted with a vibrato capable of shattering that abomination’s big dumbo ears had it been smart enough to grow any.

“You did not say the magic word!” Marco shouted in plain English.

Enraged, the monstrosity fired its tusks at the pair, only for Jack to launch two spheres of condensed darkness from his mouth, engulfing and incinerating ivory projectiles before blowing up its two front legs, fissuring the ground as it fell forward. His taunt came once again. Marco raged back at the beast, the buttons of his white dress shirt resembling coins for just a moment as he furiously tugged on the threads of his overcoat, pulling the terrain he had hooked his knives into up and overhead in the shape of a colossal, diamond strewn dome.

“NUH UH UH UH, CABRON!”

“They didn’t rub their magic wand enough!”

Struggling already, Jack and Marco delighted in the creature’s futile acts. Did those worms think for even a moment they could defeat the psychotic best friends!? The difference was never a matter of strength or power, it was of conviction, of desire: a lowly desire for wealth, for influence, for status, authority, and a million slave wives to pass on their lineage could never hope. These beings wanted to preserve themselves, their livings, and all it would ever lead to was maybe a slightly larger knoll, for the Darkness, despite all its whimsical glory, knew from their past collective failings, that it would all eventually fail once again-- infighting, greed, power mongers, war mongers, harbingers of chaos and discord.

It all fell apart so easily, because it had all been built and established on weak morals, held together with glue that could be dissolved with a baby’s toothless saliva.

The nameless abomination hurled its clubs at Jack, and this time Marco yanked hard enough to rip his knives free, shredding the weapons to wood chips with a flurry of daggers. Then it tried to charge on its four remaining legs, trunks emitting spineless words for the weak, that for a moment, might have reached the ears of a lesser region, but those miscreants were few and far between, for the wall of diamonds caught and reflected the sound using the dome an orpheum sound echoer.

This counter-strategy led to the monster’s undoing as it heard its own message of “JOIN THE KNOLL, BUT FIRST PAY THE TOLL!” being driven back into its own ears. Stupid as it was, easily seduced as it was, the moronic colossus actually started begging to join its killers, believing them to be their ticket to the big leagues. The absurdity of how fast it was all happening would have astonished Jack and Marco, had they not seen acts like this play out a million times over. Normally they wouldn’t even bother giving these jerks the time of day, but knowing that they had to face a puppet spurred their need to seek and destroy it, and if engaging a cluster of nobodies in a fight meant achieving that goal faster then so be it.

“LET US JOIN THE KNOLL!” It cried again, web spinnerettes attempting to entangle and pull the duo closer, who only kept repeating their phrase of “NUH UH UH!” back at the imbeciles, who just couldn’t seem to get it through their head.

The skin on Jack’s chin burned its way up the entirety of his face, incinerating his hair, and leaving naught but a plain bald man’s head that appeared to be made of black solidified ash shaped into a face. Transparent smoke trailed from his cranium, teeth white as snow bared in an emotionless stare that made him ditch the taunt he and Marco had been repeating for a full five minutes now. His hysterical laughter took on a smooth, velvety gutteralness, his real voice a far more masculine thing than the post-pubescent mockery of a clever and affable late teen male, eyes downcast on the worthless being he and Marco were about to reduce to cinders.

“WHY!” It pleaded, its voice almost sounding innocent despite how malicious it had proved itself to be.

“Because that thing in the sky,” Jack said, looking up, “deserves to die.”

“Just like you, puto.” Marco complimented.

Marco’s blades aligned together before Jack, gathering into the shape of a cone, spinning so quickly as to blur the blades into a drill that glistened and sparked with what little light that managed to make it through the clouds. The ashen shadows rising off Jack’s head flowed into the cone, imbuing them with the aspect of darkness that made the Mad Man unique among the various inhabitants roaming this strange universe: deterioration, not too unlike Marco’s aspect of denigration that sought to weaken through disparaging ridicule, likely the very reason he had reacted so loudly to Jack’s meaningless insult.

Regardless of who they were and what they represented, what this thing was, and what it represented were being slowly eradicated as the darkness within the two perforated its physical essence with a hundred stabs, hollowfying flesh and bone, whilst burning and atomizing them to the nothingness they were born, lived, and died as, not even fit to be scattered on the wind.

Not even fit to fall to the ground and stain the knoll that at one point, might have made someone a good and peaceful home.
Once it was all over, Jack emerged, back to his good old funny self, the mask he used to filter his true nature through and serve as his face resuming its cartoonish look over his face. Marco turned his overcoat outside in, the legion of diamond-encrusted kings returned to their master’s playing cards, and he could finally walk without having to worry about his friend’s stupid little jabs.

The castle in the sky disappeared, the clouds closed up, and as the light began to fade, and the Darkness resumed its normal state, the two pals could see marshlands dotted with enormous pines, and two figures waiting in a meadow.
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