The almost muted sound of hissing filled the jovial, yet quiet, Rocoan Hall. Its walls were lined with drunk men and women who were thoroughly enjoying he spectacle before them. Sarahix had been given another victim to murder for the enjoyment of Eclava, whom had just returned from another hunting campaign that turned up several escapees from all those months ago. A look around would still see the Immortal Priest, Echush, crucified above the throne that seated Eclava. In the middle of the floor, a man was having the life squeezed from him, the powerful grip applied by the tail of Sarahix, who would, just at the point of his death, release him for a moment to capture his breath before reapplying her hold on him. He could not run, he could not hide, he could not plead. The snake woman was forever under the command of Eclava, and so long as the woman wished for his death, she would always deliver. On her own time, of course. Her piercing black eyes never left Eclava, staring deep into the Drow wenches eyes; an almost lustful look in them. Eclava gave a sharp nod, and the man found his ribs broken, one puncturing his lungs. Sarahix dropped him to the ground and watched as he died slowly, the first time she had taken her eyes off her master, her leader, during the duration of the exhibition.
To Eclava’s left was Fananatu whom had kept both of his roles prominent - though one was hidden from the Drow. He was not objective of these exhibitions, in fact, he longed for them. He enjoyed the darker side of the Apotheoses, though he did not agree with his position in them. While not as smart as Ivan or the elusive Falden, he was far more suited to lead than Edan-Es or Eclava. The Dragoniod stood to the left of Eclava and watched, waiting - he knew an order would come soon. There were still many escapees missing and Eclava had been determined to hunt each and every one of them down, so long as they remained in the hook, remained in her, and Ivan’s, territory. He had already sowed the seeds for the next search party, ordered the few men and women that would be prime candidates for the party to be in attendance so that he may choose them. They were sympathic to his cause and further more to that of the cause of many underground rebellions. They wanted to restore faith in the God’s, be it because they felt it was right, or because under the rule of the God’s their own fiendish ways of life. They did not know of his actual cause, of course, which was far more sinister and did not require the defeat of the Apotheoses, but more-so a changing of the guard.
The crowd jeered as the man’s life finally fluttered out like a candle’s flame on it’s last flicker. In the past few months, there had been a birth, a very special birth. It was that of a child, conceived by the rape of a minotaur by a formerly radioactive mutant. Its cries filled the Hall, though no one knew if they were the cries of a happy child, or a scared one. Furthermore, the use of ‘baby’ to describe the child would be wrong, the creature was of age now, though it were no more than five months old. Eclava had taken to experimenting on the child, rapidly advancing it to the stage of a young adult, roughly twenty two in human years and looks - yet his mentality had been severely stunted. It was naught more than a primitive killing machine, it knew nothing but murder and play. The odd creature sulked to the middle of the floor where the man lay dying, a thick collar wrapped around the creature’s neck, with an even thicker chain trailing behind it. To those unaware, the beast had the head of a minotaur, and the lean body of a man. It was deceptively quick, and deceptively powerful. Thus far, only one man had been able to control the savage beast, by a mix of brute force and the thing’s own instincts towards family - Fairst. The creature, in naught but a loincloth to cover his cock, leaned over the man and pressed his left palm against his face. For a moment, he seemed to ponder what to do next, before a single, sharp, metal blade seemed to materialize from his wrist and slice the man’s neck open.
Many in the crowd took a step back, knocking into those behind them, causing ale to crash to the floor. The beast did not seem to notice or care what was going on around him. His face lowered to the cut, which was spurting large reserves of blood into the air, reminiscent of a fountain. He lapped up the blood as it coated his lips and fur, some dripping down to his chest. For a while, he moved into his own world, as if no one else was around him - until a sharp jerk on the chain brought him back to reality. “GET OVER HERE!” A booming voice said over the noiseless crowd, accompanied by another tug on the thick chain. The creature was lifted and sent crashing back into a table, the metal that was in his body - which, unlike Fairst’s, was naturally occurring - ejected and jammed into the ground, halting his further movements. He roared viciously and turned to face his attacker, but immediately limped when he saw it was his father. The man dragged him back into the crowd, which had parted for the beast’s passage. Many tried to have little to nothing to do with the man-beast, out of fear for his enormous strength and savage brutality. Only one went so far as to taunt the creature and that was Sarahix, who seemed to be jealous of Eclava’s fascination with the new creature.
A voice called him and he reacted immediately. He stood before Eclava in a flash, hands together and face turned to the ground. “Yes, mistress?”
“It is time for another search party. I am going to send Charlotte, Valcherion, Vintus, and another to find more of the escapees.”
“Mistress, if I may. We may have more luck in weeding them out if the people that were sent blended in with the crowd. As you well know, these people protect their own, and having new faces could weed them out. In anticipation of you accepting this offer, I have already assembled a squad of people here anxious to prove their loyalty to you, my Mistress.” Fananatu waved his hand, beckoning for Jonathon, Sin, Forsoff, and others to come over. “These people here are run of the mill, in terms of abilities, yet deadly effective in infiltration. They are the perfect candidates to sneak into the underground rebellion to glean much needed information if we are to crush these people before they take root and mount a vicious attack."
Eclava thought on this point for a moment, and nodded her approval. “They are to leave in two hours if they are to begin their search.” Her words were short and to the point. She rose and walked out of the hall, signaling the end of the exhibition.
Fananatu smiled as his head rose and turned, leading his adventures back to his chambers where they could speak in peace.
* “All this time and we are still not yet ready for his arrival.” Asclepius spoke quietly to the Wolfen God across from him. “However, as long as Michael remains as he is, then all shall be fine.” Michael had been stuck in a near catatonic state since it had been revealed he was at fault for the way things were now. While they knew little of the man they were dealing with, it had been surmised that he was human - they had the most curiosity, the most drive, the most cunning. The medicine man walked to a large table with scattered plans atop it and began to pack the papers up into a satchel for safe keeping. None could see what they were working on or it would all be for naught - surely, they would tell the rest and Movius and Asclepius would be forever watched. This sort of traitorous behavior was unheard of among their ranks and would forever be so. *
± “Hush, Medicine Man, you are still the most hated of the gods, the most untested - if not for your advancing in medicine, you would still be on the ground, subject to the whims of the Apotheoses, the whims of ‘The Grey‘.” Movius watched as Asclepius grimaced at this thought, even he feared The Grey. The only man to seem to be on par with his abilities as a medicine man. “Anyway, things are progressing exactly as the man stated they would - soon we will be free to roam the world without the restrictions they have placed on us. None will be able to deny our might - nor my hunger.” ±
* “Says the chained wolf. They’ll never fully allow you back into the world, and that is why you need me, that is why we need him and he needs us. Yes, things are progressing as planned, yet, I feel that the Drow is getting close to us. She suspects something, it’s almost as if she knows something underhanded is going on. What shall we do about her?” *
± “There is nothing we can do, except wait patiently. She is of no importance, her time is steadily coming to an end.” Movius moved out into the Halls of Heaven, watching the empty expanse before heading down one of the nearby corridors. The rest of the Gods were gathered, still watching the map of the world, a map that changed constantly, yet was easily read by each of them. They knew what was going on and that was what hurt them the most. They could do nothing to help those who needed them, those who still prayed for their God‘s to come down and smite those who stood to oppress them. They knew some had to be praying, but their faith had been so smothered by the kind words turned vicious war of the Apotheoses it was waning, and waning fast. Movius reveled in this, because while he was bound by the same rules, but his race did not strictly abide to a God, therefore, he was not bound to them. His betraying them would not effect him adversely at all. ±
The rest of the Gods watched as Movius entered the room, though none said anything to him. Lloth eyed him suspicious but her lips did not part in any quips, instead, she returned her gaze to the Hook, or perhaps more importantly, Rocoa. Those who had lost faith no longer appeared on the map, nor did those who had no faith to begin with. In times before the Apotheoses, the map was bright with individual dots, but now, it was getting dimmer and dimmer; with only key places being lit. Something had to change fast if they were to be able to mount a return, or they would forever be left in Heaven.
Ivan watched as those now under his eye scurried about their lives. Unlike Eclava he was content with letting them slave in the fields, or in the houses, doing whatever the saw fit in their leisure time, so long as it did not go against the doctrine of the Apotheoses. Denelii, his Skin Beast, stood at his side; though he was in the form of a Claymore, the legendary Claymore than rarely ever left the presence of Ivan. He reached out to touch the sword and stroke its hilt; it seemed to pulse with life. “Soon, my friend, we shall add another to our collective.” He had already gained another being by the name of Stephan, though he had enjoyed watching Stephan’s charge practically kill the man under the guise of trying to save him. He never knew what became of that soul, what was his name, Jarod?
Ivan rose from his seat and walked out to the streets of Port Jinn - the sun beating down upon the flesh of those out and about. Children, with their damaged innocence played, but shrugged away from Ivan. His soldiers bowed as he passed them. He smiled at this outcome, though, out of the corner of his eye, he saw something that caused him to frown deeply.