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The Sacrifice of Others (Dead)

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Iblis Faust didn't make a habit of answering the calls of random summoners; but he had made an exception in this case. For one thing, the one calling him seemed to be exceptionally powerful; meaning he could pay a hefty price for whatever he desired. The most interesting thing however, was that this stranger knew certain things about him; certain names, and the right way to say them. Contrary to popular belief, there was no way to compel him to appear by speaking his name three times or some other nonsense, but this did make the summoner stand out. His interest sufficiently piqued, he arrived at the meeting place to find a strange sight before him. 

He had arrived on what looked like a dilapidated stage at the center of a similarly rundown stadium. Around him were hundreds, no, at least a thousand men and women, all clad in white robes and kneeling, facing the stage. Grinning, he looked around, clapping slowly as he did so.

"You've put on quite a show," though he did not yell, his voice seemed to fill the whole stadium as he spoke, "I'm quite curious to know what you desire."

@amenities

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Sometimes, to attain greatness, sacrifices must be made. For a man who could accrue a hundred bodies in a night, sacrifices were commonplace. Where, oh where had his family gone? Where, oh where were the Shaman of Fear? Cain was their ghost incarnate. He walked through shadow and light, indiscriminately shameless, indiscriminately unpunishable. The worst things that had ever happened to Cain he had done to himself. He was loathe to experience the pain of humans, determined to dive most willingly into anything that might pain him. For, to the Puppet Master, pain was one of several conducive doorways to the arching vaults of power he sought.

Death of a puppet was death to Cain. Death of one thousand puppets was one thousand deaths to Cain. The closer the puppet was to him, the more painful its departure from his grip. Substance abuse can cripple brain cells. Heavy abuse, over the years, begins to kill the cells. Losing puppets was like having cells wrenched away from Cain. Instead of lamenting or gaining them back, though, he intended to gain something reciprocal in return.

Now in the bare night, a stadium of bare Problem Solvers surrounded an arena with a lit stage, bearing one Iblis Faust. A name that rang a bell, sans the face.

Though the stage was lit, the men dressed in white to set them apart from the night in the stands, the rest of the arena was shrouded in dark.

"I'm quite curious to know what you desire."

Some hundred yards away, standing in the dirt, there simply was Cain’s naked figure. It might have been hard to see, because Faust wouldn’t recognize it until four or five seconds after he spoke. Either due to teleportation or earthly abilities he had already gained, Cain either materialized from the ground or only made himself perceivable at that moment. He wore nothing, his body coated in an aura of matte darkness that slowly slid along the color spectrum from dark brown to green.

“I desire a clone of myself that is the embodiment of the earthen god Alignak.” Cain spread his arms in the darkness, a bulb of green light coalescing upon his sternum. The bulb thickened, grew until it was an opaque neon green. It looked volatile, its wavering edges impossible to control. Cain held it there. His lips moved again. “How much sway over the earth around me can you grant with the lives of a thousand honorable knights?”

His voice was deadpan, his expression listless.

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Iblis sensed no deception in Cain's words; no attempt to swindle of trap him like others had in the past. A surprising amount of people thought that they were cunning enough to swindle an ageless creature of vast intelligence. To date, only one man had been able to pull of such a thing; and he'd had to sacrifice his life to do so. Rama, the first mortal that the djinn had ever respected, and the reason he believed them to have such potential. But he could reflect on the good old days later. Right now there was a bargain to be struck, and he was eager to do so.

"For such a fine offering, I could give you power on par with a Gaian archbishop."

He looked at the glowing green light, "But containing the power of a god is a delicate task even for me. It will take a bit of time."

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"For such a fine offering, I could give you power on par with a Gaian archbishop."

Cain’s body lurched forward at the words, digits clawing into the earth so that he crawled on hands and feet toward Faust. He did so with.. Unnatural speed, unnatural movements. If a human could be a spider in the multifaceted movement of its limbs, so was Cain. He had sideled to the edge of the light, the edge of the dark, the edge of the stage with disturbing speed. His fingers slithered over its edges, eyes wide with cretinous, devilish desire.

Suddenly a clawed hand wretched forth into the light that clothed Faust, protecting Faust; and in turn Cain, from whatever retaliation the man’s foray into Cain’s dark might render. Cain doled out respect on a per-instance basis. Today, with coin, he would allow you to live. Tomorrow he might not come; but in a week when perchance he did, without coin you were a whole new prospect. A… bodily prospect. Iblis was of the cloth that Cain would certainly regret muddling with, but in another scenario he might be foolish enough to try the devil.  Not today though.

Today, Cain held forth a plasm of green energy. It was all of Alignak that he had gathered on the fateful night when he had killed a religious cult and taken its god into his stomach. Now, he offered it to Iblis as both wares and payment. The fact of the matter was, no matter how skilled or how arcane, one could never come in touch with such a volatile and dense mixture of power without forever being affected. 

When Iblis, the eternal mind touched the orb, his mind would plunge through arctic seas and the bellies of whales, piercing the hearts of giants and underwater leviathan, encapsulating the life of seals and ice mongrels, polar bears and Ice Suujali. Iblis would suddenly understand all that the god Alignak ever had, discovering all the knowledge of the ancient Shawnee Glacier; its borders with the sea and the Wastelands; the history and secrets of its kingdoms.

When the microchosm of energy closed in Faust’s grasp, when the blue light subsided, he would see Cain standing at the foot of the stage with both arms extended into the light, his hands cupped.

“I give these lives unto you, Iblis Faust,” he said, golden eyes gleaming in the stark night. “That you might place the earth in my hands.”

“How long, Faust? What besides the lives?" He said it as if the lives of a thousand fathers and sons were nothing. Such was the irreverence of Cain.

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The djinn didn't flinch at the unusual display of locomotion put on by Cain; though it did serve to reinforce the knowledge that the man was not conventionally human. For a moment he seemed to be appraising Iblis the way a lion might size up a potential meal. In a way he respected that about Cain. Only a fool bargained for what he might gain for free after all. But in the end the other mans mental calculus reached the only reasonable conclusion, and produced a glowing green orb of energy; a sight that fascinated even one such as himself.

Contained in that light was a being that Iblis would regard as a peer; or perhaps, in his currently weakened state, a superior. For a moment he felt a pang of sympathy for Alginak. He too knew what it was like to be confined to a cage, helpless to exercise any power over his own fate. For beings such as they, creatures of vast wisdom and power, such a fate was worse than any hell a mortal mind could conjure. Perhaps in different circumstances he would have freed the god from his predicament... but not today. Today he grasped the glowing form, and felt a swell of knowledge and understanding; a change in perspective that revealed truths he would never have even thought to ponder. Alginak struggled to free himself from the djinn's physical and supernatural hold, but it was no use. Soon the power of the god was under his control. 

Now would come the difficult part.

“How long, Faust? What besides the lives?"

"For such a powerful construct, I cannot simply reproduce your physical form," Iblis explained, "Flesh and blood alone isn't going to cut it. I will need to take your soul from your body, and deposit it into the new body as it gestates. At the same time I will slowly infuse the power of Alginak."

Iblis' smile darkened just a shade, "The process will take the rest of this night, but there is no way around it. If I attempt to simply place the gods power into an unready vessel, it will be destroyed. I should warn you that while it will not be painful, the experience might be... disturbing. When you are ready, we can begin."

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This was a place near enough Tia that, when Tia had been a thing, it could basically be called Tia. Instead, this farm town's actual name was Javon's Peak. A circular city on a giant hill with endless tunnels. These tunnels had been overrun with the sickened and crazed flooding out of Tia; it was rumored there still roamed clans of mutant-like people whose sight in the dark was escalated after all their time spent there. Still though, it was little more than a myth to Javon's Peak. In the center of the city was a large stadium, this one new and pristine. It was even equipped to withstand outside assaults should Javon's Peak ever need refuge from such a threat. Much better than the broken down, busted up arena in the southeast corner of J's Peak, not-so-affectionately referred to as Old Peak, which instead of sheltering the town from those tunnels held the direct entrance into them.

It was within Old Peak that a thousand honorable men and women sat compliant audience to the conversing Cain and Iblis.

Evil and volatility incarnate, the warbling ball of godly green energy cast a sickening light across the Puppet Master's face. Faust would feel something akin to the weight of atmospheric pressure exerting itself upon him. Truth be told, it was a byproduct of Cain's very beating heart, something he could only control in the same manner as one holds their breath; it was uncomfortable for him to suppress his energy and he rarely did. But now.. now it was incensed with Iblis and the orb in his hands, practically uncontrollable even in Cain's own skin. Disturbing, the way his dirty fingernails dug in against the wood grain; how he didn't look Iblis full-faced, his nose almost resting on the stage's edge and eyes like dinner plates unblinking on the magister. It might occur to Faust that he could just, simply, stomp down on Cain's face at this moment and maybe deal him terrible damage. It might also occur to Faust that something unexpected could go awfully wrong with such intent.

"For such a powerful construct, I cannot simply reproduce your physical form. Flesh and blood alone isn't going to cut it. I will need to take your soul from your body, and deposit it into the new body as it gestates."

As Faust spoke, another figure emerged out of the darkness almost exactly where Cain had been. This figure wore grey pants only, with wild red hair and a singular circle of black that took up most of his torso. It would take a second of staring to realize that Cain's shadow had bled out from the darkness in that moment; another second to comprehend that the black thing on his chest wasn't a black hole. Instead, in the third second, a line traced itself up from the circle bisecting the shadow's face vertically. On the shadow's forehead manifested a rune in a forgotten language. Beneath that rune, a label in Terric: Protection.

"At the same time I will slowly infuse the power of Alginak."

All of Old Peaks watched as Cain stood up abruptly immediately when Iblis had finished speaking.

"I accept."

He turned his back on Faust, on his precious energy, and walked to his shadow. The shadow glared at the Earthbreaker with katana in his eyes. A piece of Cain Rose watched in malice as another piece came to claim his life. What have I become, the lesser thought. No longer with sorrow but reptile precision and efficacy, what Poor Rose had become would willingly sacrificed body, mind, and now soul to reach ever greater heights. Cain's sharp teeth grinned at his shadow's expression. His sharp nails plunged through the black circle on his shadow's chest. His sharp shriek penetrated the night sky. The last ounce of something he had that could feel pain now wretched with its unfathomably hellish dismantlement. Pendulums, lotus flowers, auroras of black that was so dark that the colors on its edges were highlighted hyper bright cascaded off the duo of Cain's halves.

As the shadow stood, simply allowed the heartless Earthbreaker to reach inside him like a toy chest like nobody else on Valucre could, Cain delved in up to the shoulder. What looked like it would take a mountain of effort, taking an unwilling man's soul, instead looked like rummaging through stuffed animals to the Earthbreaker. That is, until he caught hold of it. Then the Earthbreaker was pulled INTO the shadow almost up to the torso. His bare feet made craters in the earth as he wrestled with something momentous inside his other half. Slowly, though, he withdrew.

From eons away came a carnal, snarling roar. From galaxies into the abyss, the Earthbreaker reeled out the original soul of Cain Rose. It was a jagged, swirling ball of blacks and reds and purples. The amalgamation was dark it was visually and physically painful to behold. An endless assault of claws and swords, of tentacles tipped with jagged fangs, stabbed and attempted to mutilate the Earthbreaker. His eyes were clenched shut, teeth bared, the stinging bass and treble of the monster's protest blasting his eardrums, all of Javon's Peak, with hurricane force volume. Stabbing between the ribs, on his eyelids, at his neck, his nuts, the incarnated soul took every cheap shot and aimed for every soft spot its endless limbs could reach; but the Earhtbreaker's flesh only bled. He did not slow, but bearhugged the entity, his arms bulging with heavenly power to suppress, compress the unbelievable creature. To crush it into submission. Punching, jamming, pushing, rolling it in his hands, the Earthbreaker returned to Iblis with a perfectly round, matte black sphere about the size of a baseball.

"Careful, that one's tricky," he said, tossing it up to Faust like a hackysack. Behind him, the shadow stood with rolled back eyes. His body was limp, seeming suspended only by the black circle, pinned up by the emblem on his forehead. Cain turned and looked at the shadow of his current self thoughtfully. "I think we can toss it all in there when we're done. What's next? Our thousand men?"

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Cain's soul would drive most men to the brink of madness; but Iblis Faust was not most men, nor even a man at all. The warped ball of energy had a kind of twisted beauty to it. In many ways it reminded the djinn of the home dimension he had left behind so long ago. Catching the orb with one hand, he felt a tidal wave of violent thoughts and emotions flood his senses; filling his mind with white noise. The thing in his hand did not appreciate being contained, and it lashed out as viciously as it could to escape. But however fearsome the soul might be, it was at a disadvantage; and Iblis quickly reasserted control over the orb.

On 8/16/2019 at 6:52 PM, amenities said:

"I think we can toss it all in there when we're done. What's next? Our thousand men?"

"Payment only comes once the job is finished," Faust explained, "And we've only just started."

Allowing the soul orb to float in front of him for a moment, Iblis reached up with his right hand and grabbed his left arm. One sharp jerk, and the limb came tumbling out of the sleeve of his shirt to the floor. The flesh and bone wriggled and squirmed until it folded in on itself. A few moments later, a human heart lay on the ground before him, completely devoid of the pulsing rhythm of a beat. Faust knelt over and held the orb over the disembodied organ.

"Now comes the tricky part."

The djinn pushed the black orb into the heart, meeting no small amount of resistance as he did so. Once the soul had been put into the heart, the organ began to beat steadily. Iblis stood up and turned to Cain.

"I'll monitor it throughout the night, smack it around if it tries to misbehave. By sunrise we should have a fully grown clone."

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The shadow's eyes were rolled into the back of his head, new black figures representing strength and suppression exuding from the black orb on his stomach. Meanwhile his greater part, the greater parts of Cain, watched Iblis as he began the ritual. So Cain would have to keep these thousand in his control for the duration of the night. He looked around at all the men, then back at Iblis, then the heart, deducing that he too should be paving symbols for backing up his control over the thousand sacrifices for the remainder of the night.

Cain began toeing lines in the dirt, blood gushing willingly from the uninjured toe to fill the gashes he made in the earth with Cain's ichor. Meanwhile hollow wind blew through the caverns beneath the Old Peak. 

They were largely unguarded. It was true that for great power, not only great sacrifice but great time must be given to the process. Cain was reminded of this at every step, ravenous for power to the point of obscenity and great violence. It had served him well so far, but had done little for his patience in times like this night. Still though, Iblis was a way to his means.

"Payment only comes once the job is finished," Faust explained, "And we've only just started."

When Faust spoke the words, a flash of indigence moved over Cain's expression. What, he thought for a moment, would happen if he decided not to pay after acquiring his new power? It wasn't that Cain wasn't willing to sacrifice honor over these thousand men, but that he valued and respected the true process too much to sully it with his more devilish inclinations. Iblis Faust would see the temptation in Cain's eye as he wrenched his arm away, but as if Rose were willing it upon Faust, he would see the temptation quelled with the businesslike hardening of his expression while he toed the blood emblems in the sand.

"Let the night begin," said the golden-eyed Cain.

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One of the thousand white robed supplicants was a woman named Sarah Wilhem. Supposedly a native of the land, her heart long since belonged to another, to duty, to an organisation known as the Order of Force Majeure.

She was not compliant to the madness that was going to unfold.

Sarah needed to get out. She had a partner in crime, a fellow Seeker with whom she had taken responsiblity for infiltrating for this night. If she did not return she was sure he would send warning, but the woman needed more details. Her hands felt clammy and she paled with fear, holding herself still through sheer will. She had to get more information to pass on, on this clone of Cain, the god Alignak they attempted to harness, and any potential weaknesses in the ritual. A thought came to her, of only she had her bow and throwing daggers. Ten paces distance might have been enough to end the threat before it even began. No, she dismissed the thought. Such beings had ample protections in place against an ambush like that. 

Edited by Fierach

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For a fleeting moment, Iblis thought that Cain would do something profoundly unwise; but the other man thought better of it. Not that the Djinn could fault him for thinking of such a thing. Greed was a fundamental part of the human condition after all. So many throughout history had been undone because they didn't know when to stop. Cain was special in that regard. Today he would gain what he wanted; and that was enough for him. Admirable.

The next several hours proceeded smoothly, the body growing just as he'd hoped it would. At this point the skeletal structure was fully formed, and some muscle tissue had begun to cover pale white bone. In the chest cavity the heart was still beating; still pulsing with eerie light. Alginack had been quiet for a little while now. It was almost as if it had given up and resigned itself to its fate.

But then something seemed to catch its attention, and it began to struggle once more with renewed vigor. Iblis had to redouble his efforts to keep the god contained.

"Somethings wrong," he hissed, "Alginack senses something!"

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Cain’s naked, ghostly form stood sentinel to the main exit to the tunnels. He was sentinel to the entire outside world. Somehow, little did he know, a rat had slipped through the cracks before he even took post. No real matter; for this exact situation was the reason the “Protection” seal was painted on his shadow’s forehead.

Sarah Wilhelm of OFM found herself in their midst as a result of a piece of intelligence that led her here to interfere with Cain and Iblis’ ritual. After all, rarely does one infiltrate a shutdown arena to orchestrate a 1,000-man sacrifice without word seeping out. Even if every single one of them was a puppet long acquired by Cain, their procession of white robes through the tunnels under J’s Peak en route to the old stadium could conceivably be poisoned with a rat or two. Looking around, one as keen as Sarah might notice the singular feature all of the puppets around her shared: somewhere on their body was an area of purplish swelling. Some of the masses were beneath the puppet’s clothes, but some were on places like necks and hands, or even faces. These synthetic brains dictated that the puppets act in certain ways. More than simply exterior attachments, these brains had spread respective nervous systems through the host bodies. Were these typical puppets of Cain, the masses would have dictated that the puppets— whether in a dark alleyway or broad daylight— exterminate the foreign body in their midst. These weren’t typical puppets, though; they were programmed simply, docilely, for the night’s occasion. These limited automatons wouldn’t play defense, but Cain’s shadow would. It would be the Cains’ jobs to protect the program. Still, Ms. Wilhelm would have to keep still if she didn’t want to alert the frozen bodies to the free one’s presence. 

As the ritual began, as the Earthbreaker finished the circle with his blood and took his place at the arena entrance, the Shadow remained suspended in animation for a few minutes as the print of Cain’s clone imbued with Alignak’s power began— for long enough that Faust might forget about his body, hanging there, pinned with its toes barely touching the ground. Then, the black “Protection” rune illuminated with golden gilding on the Shadow’s forehead. Four spiderlegs of black sprouted from its back, lifting it about 5’ off the ground. Like a spider tending to its prey, the construct jittered to the far east end of the stadium. Climbing up walls, the Shadow’s white-eyed body lilting this way and that, the spider construct came to hover over each puppet. When it did, the Shadow’s arms stretched to either side of the puppet and an endless black twine emerged from each hand, spiralling around the body and wrapping it up. Each body swivelled as if on a spit for about 10 seconds before resolving, all wrapped up.

In this way, the shadow made its way across the arena. Sarah would see it incoming from afar, growing closer and closer as the minutes passed.

The circle in the middle of the arena bubbled and simmered as if the blood Cain had put into it were boiling.

"Somethings wrong, Alginack senses something!"

The enspidered Shadow’s head whipped to face Faust.

“What is it?” came a far-off voice like Cain’s from the skeletal mass’s heart.
 

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Patrolling the thousand able-bodied geomancers, Cain's Shadow was so close to Sarah that she would be able to see the muscular ridges on its arachnid legs shifting with each step. The "Protection" rune on the spiderlegged Cain's head began glowing with a red light the closer it grew to Sarah. By detecting the consciousnesses that were under its control, it was able to create a grid of foreign entities within the crowd. Foreign entities were, of course, unexpected— but in a world of endless possibilities they were not to be ruled out.

Down below, the heart of Alignak began gestating into a galaxy of cells and wisps of light. Down within the catacombs, in the utter black, the most certainly undead Cain's heart emitted a similar light to the one in the arena. With each step his intimacy with the arena and earth surrounding it grew, so his eyes did not need light to navigate the black corridor. Soon it would become clear that Cain was not simply stalking the secret entry halls in defense, but with greater purpose.

A robe of dirt rose to clothe him, and soon he would emerge within the cool night of the city. Meanwhile the spiderling Shadow was practically upon Sarah, having sussed out everything but the exact seat she in which she sat.

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It no longer mattered who might have come to impede their plans. The deed was done. A layer of flesh now spread across the form of the clone, and its form was lowered to the ground where it landed in a crouch. Now Cain had what he had asked for. The time for the Iblis to take his payment was nigh.

COME TO ME

The Djinn's voice echoed through the air as the wind suddenly picked up into a whirlwind that howled like the souls of the damned. Shadows seemed to distort around him until he stood like a silhouette against a spotlight. A mouth of jagged teeth opened on the form, a fierce red glow emanating from it. The souls of those assembled were pulled from their bodies to swirl like dust in the cyclone. 

Once every soul had been extracted, the cyclone narrowed, and was drawn towards the Djinn's glowing red maw. In seconds the souls had been devoured, their energy absorbed before being sent to the afterlife. The wind died down, and the light became normal once more. Iblis stood on the stage, a wide smile on his face.

"Our deal has been completed. It's been a pleasure doing business with you. Feel free to call on me again if you wish."

With that, the Djinn disappeared to parts unknown.

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Small Summary:

Cain makes a deal with a Djinn named Iblis to fully assimilate the power of 1,000 capable soldiers named Problem Solvers, as well as the power of Alignak, directly into his body.

Full Summary:

Cain Rose stalks a city near the fallen Tia and singles out a Colosseum in which he can hire the services of a djinn named Iblis Faust. There, he gathers 1,000 of the 12k top-tier soldiers called Problem Solvers he took from Tia to be sacrificed in order to assimilate the power of all these soldiers, as well as Alignak, directly into his body.

Meanwhile a spider composed of the body of Cain's Shadow patrols the thousand soldiers to prevent any uprising from the possessed souls about to be sacrificed.

999 of the souls, save the implant from the Order of Force Majeure, are assimilated into the orb of Alignak's power, the orb then assimilated into Cain's body. The power of all these entities are acquired while the one OFM representative is allowed to escape with their energy signature tagged.

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