V M Fighters of Faith

Sigmund Vrell

The First High Priest of Neo New Babylon
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Devon scribbled furiously on his clipboard as Opal gingerly touched some of the biomass that coated the walls of the basement menagerie. Since the genecreeper had arrived, the stuff had gradually spread across the room. Much to Devon’s annoyance, the blight wraith found it strangely appetising, but today he had found some use for its unusual tastes.

“We ready?” The genewarper asked, checking over his shoulder to ensure that all of the Eldritch beasts were out of the way. A section of the wall had been stripped back to its original stone and currently had a mining charge strapped to it, ready to blow.

“Looks clear from this side.” Agate replied telepathically, having navigated his way to the tunnel on the other side. “Just give me the signal before you blow it.”

“Alright, in three.” Devon said, right as Opal snatched the detonator and hit the button. The charge exploded with a deafening blast, showering the cultists in rubble. After the dust cleared, the shaman stuck their head through the hole, finding Agate standing a few metres away.

“I fuckin’ knew you'd do that.” The scout growled.

“Hey, I'm just keeping you on your toes.” Opal said innocently before Mother Chimera leapt over them and into the tunnels, eager to stretch her legs and hunt something. Agate opened his mouth to say something but froze as he noticed something further down the tunnel.

“What is… Oh gods…”


Sigmund sat in his room, scouring his tome for the next verse he would transfer to his notes. Just as he had found it, however, a boom, quickly followed by chorus of screams from outside caused him to drop the book. Suddenly on alert, the cultist rushed out of his room, prepared for the worst. What he found, however, was a single spider-like beast skittering across the temple floor.

“Where are the rest?” He asked, looking around as the spider began to scale the wall.

“There are more?” An androgynous voice shrieked from behind him. The high priest glanced behind himself, his eyes coming to rest on Opal huddling in an alcove. The shaman’s eyes were visibly terrified behind their skull mask and they gestured fearfully for Sigmund to come over.

“Oh, I thought there would be more than one.” Sigmund said, scratching his head as he walked over to the alcove. “How did it get in, anyway.”

“Devon kinda borrowed some mining charges and blew a hole in the wall of the monster room.” The shaman replied, keeping their eyes locked on the spider. “Then that came in through the hole and no one wants to go near it.”

“Devon blew a- He did what?” Sigmund said, his eyes widening.

“He needed more room for Mother Chimera to live and it was right next to some tunnels we don't really access much sooo…”

“Alright, whatever, I don't care. Why is everyone freaking out over this one bug?” The high priest asked. The shaman looked at him like he was speaking in tongues.

“What do you mean? Look at how big it is!” Opal replied, visibly shuddering. “I don't even want to get near it, I'll get torn apart!”

“You're too scared to fight it?” Sigmund asked before pausing. “Wait, everyone is too scared to fight it?”

“Well, yeah…” The shaman said, fidgeting a little. With a sigh, Sigmund tossed a rift bolt at the spider. The creature let out a screech before keeling over, dead.

“Honestly…” The high priest said, rubbing his temples. “Don't any of you know how to fight?”

“Well, some of us have some experience, but we’re not proper soldiers.” Opal said, emerging from the alcove as they saw the dead spider. “You'd expect some of these troglodytes to be able to squish a spider, but what can you do.”

“Right, right.” Sigmund said, rolling his eyes. “Call everyone to the main hall, we need to organise a meeting.”

“Eh? Everyone?” Opal said, their eyes narrowing beneath their mask. “Okay…”

Half an hour later, the entire cult was assembled in the main hall with Sigmund at the head of the procession.

“Thank you, everyone, for coming. It has come to my attention that none of you are especially talented fighters. So, as of today, we will be beginning a training regime.”

A murmur spread through the crowd. At the head of the group, Amy raised a hand.

“High priest, you know that we are all completely willing to train under you, but may I ask why we need to?”

“A cult needs to be able to defend itself.” Sigmund said, brandishing his tome. “Many would consider our gods unnatural, evil even. They would try to destroy us, so we must know how to fight back.”

The assembled cultists began to murmur again, this time with a mix of indignancy and enthusiasm. The murmuring stopped as Devon rushed into the room, Mother Chimera right behind him.

“Sorry I'm late.” He panted. “MC was eating a wampa and wouldn't come until she was finished.”

“MC?” Opal snorted, stifling a giggle.

“She's going to be training with us?” Amy said skeptically.

“Of course.” Sigmund replied. “It would be foolish not to use something like her.”

The cultists gave a chorus of agreement, however reluctant it may have been.

“Excellent. Let's get started then, shall we?”
 

Victor Wolfe

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The red glow from artificial light pierced down from the roof of Victor's private room, the glow stinging like an arrow to the brain as his body began the healing process, removing alcohol from his system and trying to save or replace the brain cells he had successfully killed off. He was drinking to forget something? Something about losing to someone he hated in a past world. Not that it mattered as for now those memories were gone. Hazily the emperor dragged himself to his feet and began to gather his attire for the day, one of about twenty similar outfits all with slightly different design features, he laughed as he knew that once again no one would be able to notice the difference. After all with a face as cute as Victors, who would even be able to tear their eyes from his glorious body to notice that the semes on the trousers of this assassins attire where red, rather than the flat black of yesterdays?

Whilst he had been having semi-regular meetings with Ahana over what to do about the neighbours Neo-Nippur possessed, (usually ending up with Victor pointing in their direction for Ahana to run off and kill them with reckless glee) He had not had the fortune to speak with the high priest of their state religion since they retrieved a piece of a map to something that maybe one day they would work up the energy to find, but at the moment Victor could not care less about. His little birdies had kept him up to date on the goings-on of the church but many of their stories seemed almost nonsensical, although knowing the Vrells this more than likely meant that they were the truth, the reality was often stranger than fiction with their blood.

Now mostly recovered from his hangover the assassin-lord ran a hand through his hair, returning it to its natural position, staring into the mirror he gave a wink and blew a kiss towards the gorgeous creature contained within its reflective surface. With a grin he checked a magic orb that had been placed just to the right of the doorway, the orb acting like a security camera giving him a view to the hallway outside. Unfortunately for the Emperor, a gaggle of groupies were standing outside the hall taking part in their enthusiastic chatter. Having no desire for his secret hideaway to be discovered by meer fan girls Victor started tapping his foot, as the orb allowed their conversation to be filtered into his soundproofed bunker of solitude.

"Oh my god! Did you hear that Emperor Victor is apparently looking for his soul mate! I heard him talk about it at dinner last night, what a romantic!" the first of the three girls giggled.

"Yeah, looking for someone that can be his "true equal" such an idealist! What does he mean by that though? I wouldn't mind being his equal, have you seen that crown? Would look bitchin on my head, and all the servants, and the palace. Plus, the meal ticket you need to ride isn't bad looking either for all the stuff you get!" The gold digger maid laughed confidently.

"If I had to guess, looking at him maybe he is just a power-bottom? He needs a woman who can take control and push him onto his ass and ride him like a!" Victor chuckled at the vivid descriptions of what this lusty maid would like to do to him had she the time and opportunity a look of shock crossing the faces of the other girls as they had clearly never thought much about what happens after you snag a man.

Thinking about the first part of her statement he could not help but shrug both arms held up "well that is not untrue"

Fortunately for the assassin trapped behind enemy lines a knight in shining scumbaggery happened to walk down the hallway at that moment. The Elf-lord and oligarch stooge Sir Snobsworth waddled down the hall, his stature making the three girls all hold their skirts down a little more to prevent the snob from catching a glimpse of what they had underneath.

"You know my lovely doves, I am also a Lord. Of course, one with as high a standing as myself would never be able to marry women as, lowly as yourselves but I am sure that a mistress would not be such a downgrade? After all, our dear young emperor isn't the only man in this city that could make you ladies very wealthy!" A look of disgust crossed the faces of the girls as they all decided to walk away from the creepy elf, who seemed to realise that if they talked his reputation could be as dead and buried as the former lords of the city.

With Snobsworth chasing, after the maids, Victor took the opportunity to sneak out of his room, the door disappearing behind him and cloaking into the wall. His secret home within his new home now safe from the discovery of those not worthy of its splendour. And speaking of those worthy of its splendour Victor noticed that he had an unread message on his phone. He vaguely remembered sending out a bunch of messages to the contacts that had carried over from its presence in the last world. Apparently one had gotten back to him, and what a name to see. From: The prettiest flower the desert ever produced. floated across his screen as he quickly opened the message. His heart and spirits felt lifted as he read the message, one of his former comrades had made the journey here, with all of their memories intact.

Whilst he had not met the women personally he had seen her modelling spread that was going around Nippur in the same magazine issue that contained his interview, for once Victor had come for the articles, and stayed for the nudity. Dark skin that radiated with her beauty and more curves than the dunes themselves she certainly was a sight to behold. Ever since his experiences in the Moors with Gabriella that particular shade of skin seemed to do funny things to the emperor. Quickly he typed up a response.

"WOO! Finally a response, either Candy is still mad about that kicking incident, or he isn't in this world, Goldie might just be playing cold for now, I hope. But always it would seem that once again when all of our plans seem to be falling into place, and a semblance of sanity and stability is in my life, some interdimensional reprobate puppet master (hopefully not a smiling or angsty child, I am getting sick of dealing with both of those lording it over me) has decided that we are far to good at checkers, and has decided to place us into a game of 3D chess. But ever the tactician I managed to gather some good allies, one of them being the son of my dearest of... Gilgamesh damnit I miss him, Erik Vrell! Using my skills in the field of diplomacy I have managed to create a small Kingdom, not quite what we used to have but that is mostly due to the lack of brilliant people like yourself my dear. Anyways the place is called Inverxe I believe it is a moon? I have sent the location to your device and would love to see you there, it is an ice planet so I suggest dressing warm, or not ;) I am sure I could find ways to help with that"

He typed up the response so quickly that even grammar itself was forgotten as he had to make sure that this was not simply a trick, perhaps the crushing despair that was the isolation from his former friends would be light up by the smile of that goddess of a woman. Victors hand almost instinctively slapped his own face, what the hell was his mind going on about? He wasn't lonely, he was a cold-hearted sociopath who had an empire to run! And there was no room for distractions related to matters of the heart.

Whilst thinking about cute people he would like to explore like the dunes Victor remembered that the entire point of leaving his chamber was to head out and meet with Sigmund, After all, he had to check just what abominations against nature Sigmund was using their allocated funding toward promoting. Make sure that it would be money well spent, besides the assassin also had a little gift for his friend, something that was sure to knock his socks off. Did Sigmund wear socks? The assassin pondered to himself before heading out of the palace towards the steps of the cultists' headquarters.

Arriving to a surprising lack of cultists outside the pyramid Victor was intrigued as he climbed the steps, loud noises seemed to echo out from the entrance, eyes widening as the assassin started to run up the stairs wondering if they had minded to deep into a hostile tunnel and where now about to unleash untold evil upon their fair city Victor gripped the handles of his daggers, removing them from their sheaths as he approached the descent into the depths of the temple. As he entered wondering just what the cause for screams, unnatural growls and the sound of arcane bolts flying Victor was greeted by the flying body of a cultist.

It almost seemed to happen in slow motion, with Victors sped up reflexes allowing him to see the cultist that he assumed was the "Agate" from his reports weakly and slowly charge towards a towering monster made of what looked to be an amalgamation of other creatures? Some kind of chimaera he assumed. Only to eat a light sweep, the creature holding back but hitting enough to send the legendary virgin flying sideways into Victor's stomach.

Collapsing to the ground Victor glared as Sigmund came running over helping his disciple up. "Are you ok Agate? And I'm sorry about that Victor, I was trying to train my cultists, what good cult doesn't have holy warriors?"

Sigmund offered a hand to Victor who grinned, leaning backwards and swinging his momentum forwards to land on his feet. "Well if that's all they can manage on a charge then as soon as we run into anyone with tech above a mining lathe then they are going to be holey warriors. I take it the training isn't going too well?" from the crowd of zealots what could only be described as a "person" their gender unknown to even Victor from a glance stifled a snort. It would seem that Sigmund had made a few new friends in the time that they had been apart.

"Uh, I think it could be going better, to be honest, but never mind that, what was it you needed with us, Victor?"Sigmund said with a sigh realising that with the mischevious emperor around the training for a potential chapter of crusaders would have to be scheduled to a later date.

Victor looked at the rest of the cultists, most of them had not even broken a sweat yet, and knowing Sigmund he had allowed them to hold back since they didn't have easy access to fast healing, this slowed down mockery of combat only teaching them how to fight against people who are not even trying to kill them, and thus completely useless for gaining the experience that they needed for a real battle. "Well my dearest of friends I have a little surprise for you, but you cannot show any of your little paladins yet, I am sure they are all loyal to the cause and willing to die for Gal'skap and yada yada yada but right now we are going back to the good old days. You. Me, the bottom floor of the Pyramid, and no one else. Let us go!"

Before Sigmund or any of his cultists could react he found himself being lead towards the bottom floor of the pyramid, as far as he knew this room was just for a large spare storage area and was one of the floors of the temple below the ground of the city itself. Sigmund wondered if Victor had stashed something unpleasant in the storage area and was leading him towards a prank.

As Victor reached a blank wall he reached into his shirt pulling out a small key chain of crystals on a necklace, three different coloured crystals, one red, one yellow and finally a blue gem, all three glowing with the blue one outshining the other two. Placing this mysterious gemstone up against this section of wall the pattern of a doorway began to glow a faint blue, Victor pushing on it and pulling Sigmund through.


"Surprise! Do you like it?" Victor exclaimed as the pair stepped into a brand new laboratory. the clinical white surfaces and buzzing of computers, science apparatus and machines that Sigmund nor Victor really knew what they did. A lone figure typing away at a desk the only other person in the room. Victor just gave a look that suggested to ignore this figure as he began to explain.

"Well I figured that whilst we where out I would assume the mission a success and thus I had our homes redesigned, but the outside and rooms were not the only things I had spruced up I gave each of us our own little private havens, if we ever needed to escape from the rest of the world and be with what we love most, so I may have overspent a little but I managed to have a brand spanking new lab brought in for you! Now I know you like you dark culty locations, but sometimes grime and paper laying around everywhere does not make for the most controlled working conditions." Victor waved his hand towards the lab as he began to take Sigmund around on a tour, there where multiple plastic or reinforced glass windows allowing a view into what he assumed would be testing labs or containment for experiments. On the other side was a giant walk-in Freezer that could be used to store DNA or just food for whatever Sigmund decided to cook up.

The prospects ran through the cultist's mind all the prospective experiments that he had deemed too dangerous or foolish to try that could be practised in this place. The excitement on his faces revealing just how exciting this was for him. "what's the catch?"

Sigmund joked only for Victor's mischievous grin to reappear, Sigmund almost facepalmed, of course, there was going to be a catch, this was a very expensive and high tech laboratory that Victor had set up and clearly not out of the kindness of his heart. Was he going to ask for Sigmund to work on inventing new aphrodisiacs? Or love drugs? Sigmund was almost ready to refuse the idea of working towards the assassins immoral schemes as Victor, rather than doing his usual speeches simply turned the priests head towards the only testing chamber in use, a larger one than the rest, almost a cavern in its own right. Within the chamber lay the xenomorph eggs that Ahana has so graciously provided. "oh"

"I think you know where I am going with this, I will privately fund this little lab so that it never shows on any records of ours, as far as the rest of the world knows, it does not exist. You can invite anyone you wish to join you down here, but only those you trust utterly, and they must sign an agreement to not ever reveal to anyone what they know about this place, or that it even exists. Otherwise, their lives are forfeit." Sigmund swallowed, for once Victor was being deadly serious, no sign of a sudden reveal that his last few lines where all actually just a joke and that he would not care if everyone knew that the government had a lab for deadly bio experiments in the cities basement. This was some heavy shit.

"Now I want to know about progress with the xenomorph related experiments, they interest me greatly, the rest of the lab is yours to do with as you like and you do not need to report every little experiment to me, just what you feel I should know. I trust that you would not use this as a way to stab me in the back. I plan on taking one of our promising new recruits out on a little hunting mission later to gather you some... cattle to start a brood. The walls have been coated in an acid proof material so they should have a lot more trouble escaping than when other, less cunning opportunists have tried to harness their power." Victor smiled as he then pointed towards the man sitting at the computer typing away. He was middle-aged, with dark brown hair and a receding hairline, a wrinkle almost looking like a scar on one side of his cheek and two wrinkles clearly outlining his wide eyes.

"This is Bishop! An android, I bought him to help keep records for you and help you figure out what all the tech here does. Now whilst you two get introduced and you explore this lab a little. I think I need to stretch my powers a little and show those minions of yours what a real training session feels like! My last present for now!" Victor left the room, Sigmund not sure how to process it all as the emperor readied his blades.

Reaching the training room most of Sigmund's followers remained, the gargantuan chimaera having left probably to find something to eat. "High Preist Sigmund is going to be busy for a little while so, for now, I am going to be teaching you. I want you all to come at me and try and beat me!" The cultists seemed sceptical as Agate coughed and raised a hand, Victor rolled his eyes as he felt that a grown man should not need to raise his hand to ask a question. "Uh, so should we go and get Ahana, I feel this might get a little messy"


"Unfortunately our general is out on a mission actually being useful for once, please let me enjoy this whilst it lasts."

Agate once again seemed more sceptical as he asked: "So should we go and get some wooden training weapons or something?"

"If you wish, I do not know why you would give yourselves such a handicap against a clearly superior opponent"

"but what if someone dies?"

"Well, then they failed the lesson didn't they?"

"I was referring to you! There are more of us! And we don't want to kill the emperor!" Agate shot back at the emperors' sarcastic responses causing Victor to sigh followed by a chuckle.

" Listen up maggots, Victor's about to teach you the pecking order. It goes you, the dirt, the worms inside of the dirt, Ahana, Sigmund, Victor. Any questions?" Victor grinned as he cracked his neck and the cultists charged.
 

Sigmund Vrell

The First High Priest of Neo New Babylon
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Agate lay on the cold temple floor, his lungs burning and his limbs numb. As he groped half-heartedly for his short-sword, he couldn't help but note that the emperor was putting up much more of a fight than he had expected.

“You good, Agate?” Opal asked, crouching down next to the scout, looking suspiciously fresh.

“Come on, virgin! Get back up!” A voice called. Agate was too exhausted to pay attention to who was shouting at him, but hoped that it wasn't Victor. He couldn't help but find a second wind as Opal’s giggling rang out above him.

“You know, I've been getting a lot of virgin jokes lately.” Agate stated as he sat up, glaring at Opal. “Ever since we got back from that time in the tunnel.”

“You don't say.” The shaman said, scratching their chin and failing to meet his gaze.

“I do say. You wouldn't happen to know anything about that, would you?” The cultist asked, his voice dripping with accusation.

“Man, the weather today is crazy.” Opal whistled, gazing off into the distance.

“Opal. We live in a cave.”

“That's what makes it so crazy, that there's weather underground.”

“OPAL!”

“Say, where's Devon gone off to?” Opal wondered aloud. “I bet that bastard’s skipping out on training.”

“Uh… I don't know.” Agate said, scanning the assembled cultists unsuccessfully for the genewarper. “Maybe he-”

As the scout turned back to look at Opal, the shaman was nowhere to be found. What he did find, however, was Victor’s grinning face. “On your feet, buddy.”


In the bowels of the temple, Devon was making his way through the twisting, turning corridors as he heard an “OPAAAAAL!” ring out from several stories above. He glanced up briefly before dismissing it, returning to his mission. Before he could make much progress, however, Sigmund seemed to pop out from a nearby wall.

“Hiya Devon!” The high priest chirped. “Want to perform some black ops biological experiments with me?”

“I… Sigmund, I'm offended that you even have to ask.” The genewarper sniffed, following the head cultist into the secret laboratory. Devon glanced around, nodding approvingly. “Nice place.”

“Thanks, the emperor made it.” Sigmund grinned. “Speaking of the emperor, shouldn't you be in combat training?”

“I was but Mother Chimera got bored and ran off. I was on my way to go get her.”

“Ran off?” The high priest asked, surprised. “That's not like her.”

“I know.” Devon said with a little shrug, walking over to the glass window and peering inside. “I guess she doesn't want to listen to the emperor. So, what're these things?”

“Xenomorph eggs! Beautiful, horrible Xenomorph eggs.” Bishop said, whipping around to face Devon.

“Fff-shit! How long have you been there?” Devon gasped, jumping back.

“On what scale?” The android asked, drumming his fingers on the tabletop. “I've been here since you came in. But I've also been here since the lab was first constructed.”

“But Victor said that he built this lab when we went to the magma core.” Sigmund said, raising an eyebrow.

“This is true.” Bishop said, his eyes drifting into a thousand-yard stare. “It's been… What, a month? Two?”

The cultists glanced at each other. “And you've been here alone…?” Devon asked, inching away from the android.

“Yes. Until the emperor delivered these beauties to me.” Bishop said, kicking off and rolling his chair over to the glass, caressing the window gently. His head suddenly flicked around to look at Devon, an intense look on his face. “Do you want to see the trick I've been practising.”

“I… What?” The genewarper asked, mystified.

The android rolled back over to the desk, grabbing a large knife and poising it above his hand. He paused for a moment before he began rapidly stabbing the gaps between his fingers, his expression rapidly turning manic. Devon’s expression was aghast as he noticed the many, many divots in the table, shooting Sigmund a horrified look. The high priest could only shrug in response as Bishop finished his trick, slamming the knife into the desk.

“So? How was that?” The android asked, breathing heavily.

“Nice.” Devon replied, somewhat unsure. Bishop gave him an eager nod before returning to his work, typing away at the computer. The genewarper crept over to the high priest. “What's with this guy?”

“His name is Bishop.” Sigmund replied. “The loneliness hasn't been kind… But, he knows what he's doing.”

“Right…” Devon said, shaking his head and walking back over to the window, peering at the eggs. “I don't want to rain on everyone’s parade but don't we need a queen if we want more than a few xenomorphs?”

“Oh, lord no!” Bishop called from the computer, not even turning around. “In the absence of a queen, a new one shall be spawned.”

“Huh…” Devon mumbled, scratching his chin. “So. Who’s gonna be our Guinea pigs?”

“Dwemer, probably, knowing the emperor.” Sigmund said dryly. “We've not received any test subjects yet, but can probably expect some soon.”

“Fine with me.” The genewarper said with a shrug. “Human, Dwemer, whatever.”

“It's not fine with me!” Bishop said, slamming both fists onto the desk. “Xenomorphs are bad enough with human DNA, what do you think elf genes are going to give them? They'll be harder, better, faster, stronger! And what if they start slinging spells or making clockwork robots! It'll be game over for us!”

“Bishop, quiet.” Sigmund snapped. The android withered before him, turning back to his work, grumbling about something technological that the high priest didn't understand. “Let's hope we get those test subjects soon.”
 

Victor Wolfe

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Letting out a yawn the emperor proceeded to crack his neck, the echo from the stone causing a chorus of groaning from the grounded cultists, a sadistic grin all they could see as they looked up, bruises, black eyes, and cuts making it hard to move. Victor meanwhile nonchalantly spun his blade upon his fingertips, looking, bored? "You know, for a bunch of supposed holy warriors, you lot are weaker than Opal's knees when our high priest gets all prophetic on our collective butts. It is such a disappointment really, I mean, to put it bluntly, had I wanted to, I would now have enough blood to paint this entire pyramid."

The assassin waltzed over to one of the cultists who still had some fight left in him, struggling onto his knees, his forearms pushing against the ground to try and get up. Victor knelt down and gave him a small pat on the head in approval before jumping back up to land a well-placed kick to the sternum of the downed man, sending him rolling flat onto his back.

"Not even one of you left a mark worth talking about, and I have yet to even break a sweat, I come all this way and offer you all a chance to prove yourselves worthy to work for this wonderful civilisation, and this is all that you can come up with? I thought it was against our religion to have orgies, but all I see is a bunch of pathetic weaklings lying on their backs and getting pounded, whilst begging for more!" Victor chuckled, his innuendos causing more groaning from the cultists than his neck crack had. From the ground rose one of the hooded cultists, their legs shakey, and a large cut on their eyebrow spilling crimson blood down their face.

"It's hardly a fair fight, you have been doing this for years, we are villagers, miners and scouts, how are we supposed to go up against someone like you? With damn magic powers and all the experience in the world." He proclaimed confidently causing a small rallying cry from the other downed cultists, Victor turned his head sideways as he examined the individual. Eventually smiling as he listened to his ever so bold speech, giving a mock clap as he finished.

Stalking forward the emperor filled his tone with dry sarcasm as his glowing red eyes and shit eating grin showed total dismissal of this individual. "Well wasn't that quite the little speech. There are however some, let us call them? Factual errors? Yes, we will go with that. For one thing, I am in no way, shape or form going all out, In my own world, you would have not even been able to make that speech because the pressure from my killing intent would be totally suffocating to one as weak as yourself, in the last world I was in I would have probably broken a bit of a sweat and killed most of you with relative ease. In this world, there would not be much of you left to even make my art with after my daggers finished eviscerating your body if I went all out. The second thing is that you seem to think it is my experience that makes it so easy for me to put you down like this. No, put seven years old me in this same situation and yes it would be a lot harder, and I may even die from the injuries. But I would take all of you with me. Because I am a survivor, none of you have that fire in your souls, the spark that no matter the situation, the issue or the trouble, that you will think for yourselves and get through it. No instead you will run off and bother Sigmund, or go to Ahana or come to me to fix your problems. But do you want to know a little secret?"

As Victor reached the exhausted warrior he dropped to a knee dodging a vicious sword swing aimed for his neck, using the momentum from his position the assassin sprang into the air his fist meeting with the cultists chin sending him about three feet into the air, landing on his back with a crunch and thud, Victor could almost see the stars in his eyes as he sarcastically hit out with. " We are not always going to be here!"

Now it was Agates turn to face the ire of the emperor, a short sword outstretched to keep the raving sociopath at a distance, Victor shrugged his shoulders as he started to circle the former scout, his pace casual, but gaze giving away predatory intent as Agate spun on his heels keeping the blade level to Victor's neck as he focused all of his attention on trying to get the air back into his lungs.

"Now you see, at least some of you are learning, no reckless charge, keeping his breathing steady despite the stress of the situation, and look at those eyes! Constantly locked to my own, ready to react at the slightest hint that I might make my move. You don't actually want to get hit, you fear it. But you don't cower at the prospect. Finally some progress. Where this a purely sword based duel I feel given the reach of my own blades and those quick reflexes from being a scout I assume you have, I may actually be at risk of getting a nasty wound here. " At the last word Victor chuckled as he dropped the blade in his right hand bursting forward as he grabbed Agate's wrist before he could swing his blade. The surprisingly strong grip of the Emperor forcing the cultist to drop his weapon as the assassin moved under Agate's still gripped arm, swinging his leg backwards sweeping the initiates legs out from under him the momentum causing him to flip facefirst onto his belly. A low cry echoed against the stone floor of the temple as Agate felt the blood from his now broken nose drip down his lip and onto the cold stone.

"Now, you did learn so I think you are due a reward, my comrade. A little motivation that is sure to make you want to go all out should this sort of situation ever arise again." Agate looked up from the floor, his face bloodied and bruised from the impact.

"Really?" He asked. Victor smiled as he placed his dagger behind the downed man's knee, the blade in the air as the hilt fit snuggly in the back of the joint. Agate seemed confused but allowed the emperor to lean his leg back holding the dagger in place. A loud crunch echoed out through the chamber followed by a scream of pure agony and laughs of joy as the emperor leapt and landed both of his feet onto the front of Agates lower leg.

"I don't want anymore heroics from you today, and since you seem to have the most potential here, consider that a little motivator. Get stronger, come at me with all you have, I might even go at you with half my strength again and if you eat your vitamins and say your prayers, you could give me the same back one day. Maybe... Maybe I go at a third my power next time, less useful but might give you the positive reinforcement before five years have passed." Victor said sarcastically. leaving the wounded man to suffer as he skipped towards Opal who had been trying to crawl away.

"And where do you think you are going... You know, I am about ninety per cent certain I know your gender, but revealing that to these failures would be far too much of a reward for them, thus I think I will leave it for the suspense! I do see why Sigmund keeps you around though, you have more fire for life than the rest of this cult does as a collective, it has really been something to watch as I put the rest of these mutts back to the ground where they belong. Ohhh, actually." Victor leaned into Opals ear.

"Why don't we kill off good old Siggy, and I put you in charge of the religion around here" Opal's eyes went wide. Taking a moment they seemed to think it over, leaning close to respond.

"DIE HERETIC!" They shouted as from out of their robes Victors dropped dagger seemed to almost materialise as it shot towards the emperors face.

Turning at just the right second Victor escaped with only a nasty cut on his cheek and a wicked toothy grin on his face.

"Next time, aim for the torso, its a bigger target, neck and head stabs are for style, not effectiveness. Still, the closest thing you people have done to real damage so far, so congratulations, you win a prize!" As Victor readied his own blade, keen to leave a mark just as he had been left with he felt a sudden stabbing pain in his lower leg, literally. Gazing down the assassin found a short sword stabbed downwards cutting through the bone all the way through to his foot.

Agate had crawled over to his blade, and dragged himself slowly towards the emperor, lunging forwards with the last of his strength, the momentum carrying the blade forwards. In his single moment of distraction, Opal panicked as she planted the golden dagger directly into her target's chest, the dagger cutting through bone like butter as it shredded Victor's internal organs.

Gasping for air that would not stay the lord of Neo-Nippur fell back against the wall, sliding downwards as blood painted the stone in as fitting a mural as Victor's legacy could leave. His face turned pale as the cultists seemed to spring to life. Sure it was the most brutal training they had experienced in their lives, but how would they explain to the rest of the citizens that they had just committed regicide over a training session, how would Sigmund react?

"I don't feel so good Mr Agate" Victor spluttered, as blood spilt from his lips with every word. The glow from the eyes of the assassin faded as his head slumped. Silence filled the room as the cultists looked down.

A chill shot down the spines of Agate and Opal, as a finger poked each of their shoulders. Was it Sigmund? What would he say now that they had murdered his comrade in arms? They steeled themselves if there was one lesson to take from the glorious bastard they had just killed it was that they had to face their fears and fates head-on, Opal turned and Agate rolled onto his back, ready to accept their judgment day. Their jaws almost hit the floor.

"Opal sweetie, whilst that was a good thrust, you really need to work on one-liners. And with balls like that how are you still a virgin, because even if the size ain't that great you are clearly the little engine that could my friend! As for me well? I think I need a better line too, I don't feel so good is so last year" Victor stood, unscratched, his formerly dead body disintegrated as the emperor clapped for his would-be murderers.

"Bu-bu-but you are supposed to be dead! I watched you die!" Opal yelled.

"Oh come on Ops, do you really think that if I was in any danger of rejoining the endless void that I would have let you hit me with that blade? Or let Agate stab me in the leg." Victor proclaimed these revelations as if they were supposed to be the most obvious pieces of information in the world, like a teacher talking to a student that had just asked what two plus two was.

"wait... Let us hit you?" Agate glared up at the assassin who had dislocated his leg. Agate had taken some pride in the idea of sneaking up on the emperor, stalking him like he would a beast in the tunnels, now he was going to have the wind taken out of his sails?

"I said I was only using about half of my abilities, if I really wanted to, at any time, you could all have been ripped to pieces with a rather gorgeous red landscape painting left on this wall. But I love all of my people so I had to teach you a lesson that you will never forget. And one that you had to learn before you could ever become competent fighters and defenders of the faith."

"And what lesson would that be oh wise leader" Opal shot at Victor with their sarcastic tone.

"That when it comes down to it, and it is life or death, you chose life. Never die for your country, your religion, or your morals, as much as being a martyr is painted like this, glorious and honourable way to die, don't. It's stupid, your job and mine is to make the other guys die for their faith and beliefs. Essentially, if you have a weapon, and someone is coming for you, never hesitate, look them in the eyes, and run them through without any mercy, because either they will try to do the same, and then it comes down to skill and experience, or they will hesitate and you will win every. Single. Time."

A loud "ohhh" of realisation echoed throughout the training ground Victor satisfied with his work.
 

Sigmund Vrell

The First High Priest of Neo New Babylon
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Sigmund was slumped against the desk, his tome laid open beneath his head. Devon sat on the other side of the room, repeatedly placing a pencil onto its tip and letting it drop. Bishop, of course, was absorbed in his computer.

“Gods above, I'm bored.” Sigmund groaned, turning to Devon. “When are we supposed to receive some test subjects?”

“I dunno.” The genewarper shrugged. “Maybe we should go ask Victor.”

Sigmund sighed and sat up, slamming his tome shut. “I haven't got any better ideas. Let's go.”

“Don't worry, I'll hold down the fort.” Bishop said without looking up from his computer, his tone utterly sincere.

Sigmund gave him a nod as the cultists left the lab and made their way to the makeshift training grounds. To their surprise, however, it had become a miniature battlefield, complete with cultists strewn about like corpses.

“Mother Chimera is still off doing gods know what.” Devon sighed. “I'm going to go find her, I'll just be a minute.”

Sigmund nodded at the genewarper as he turned and rushed down the temple corridors. The high priest then turned back to the practicing cultists, just in time to see Agate’s leg get snapped like a twig. Sigmund froze up for a long moment, wondering if he was suffering a hallucination. Had Victor really just done that? Surely he wouldn't cripple the cultist in such a way just for making progress. Right?

The high priest watched in horrified silence as Victor stalked over to Opal, loudly declared that he had figured out their gender, and then proceeded to whisper in their ear. Whatever it was, it was clearly enough to disturb the shaman, who promptly slashed Victor’s face. The cultists landed a couple more blows on Victor, including one to the heart. As Opal’s blade struck home, Sigmund almost felt his own heart stop. His mind immediately shot to what was going to happen next.

“The menagerie still has that hole in it for Mother Chimera. We can probably escape through there.” Sigmund muttered to himself. There was a part of him that mourned for Victor, despite his display of cruelty but moments ago, but his own safety at the forefront of Sigmund’s mind. Thankfully, Victor reformed nearby, apparently unharmed.

“What did I miss?” Devon asked, tapping the high priest on the shoulder. Mother Chimera grumbled as she dropped to her haunches behind her creator, evidently displeased about being brought back to training. Sigmund released a sigh of relief, suddenly realising that he had been holding his breath.

“A lot.” The head cultist groaned as he strode forward into the room, his fellow cultist's in tow. Victor turned to Sigmund with a disproportionately happy smile and began making his way towards the high priest.

“Ah, Siggy, I hadn't expected you to come out so soon.” The Emperor said, wrapping his arm around Sigmund’s shoulder and leaning into his ear. “Have we gotten any results yet?”

“No, Victor, we haven't.” The scholar said, shrugging off the taller man’s arm. “We’ve not been giving any subjects yet.”

The high priest glanced around at the bloodied and battered cultists, his gaze lingering on Agate longer than the others. “Victor, what is the meaning of this? You agreed to train my cultists, not to maim them.”

“How are they supposed to learn if there's no real danger?” The emperor asked with a wry grin.

“And Agate?”

“It's motivation.”

“M… Motivation?” Sigmund asked, aghast. “In what world? I've seen men die of wounds like that.”

“Um, that's not very reassuring, Siggy.” Agate grunted, his face visibly paling. The scout was attempting to stay as still as possible to avoid damaging his leg further.

“Amy.” Sigmund called. Within a few moments, the muscular cultist was at his side.

“Yes, high priest.” She asked, obviously exhausted but determined to serve.

“Take Agate… Somewhere. Just get him out of here.” The head cultist ordered.

“As you wish.” Amy nodded, walking over to the injured cultist and gingerly picking him up.

“I'll handle it.” Devon sighed, motioning for Amy to come with him. The pair exited into corridor and disappeared into it, Agate’s groaning growing gradually more distant until it faded to silence.

“You’re taking it too seriously, Siggy.” Victor said, dismissively waving away his concerns.

“Victor! We have no healers!” The high priest said, almost shrieked, through gritted teeth. “Agate will be lucky if he walks again.”

“He’ll be fine.” Victor snorted, turning back to the procession. “So, shall we continue?”

“No!” Sigmund snapped. “This ‘training’ is over!”

The emperor looked at the high priest for a moment before giving him a sickly sweet smile.

“Look, Sigmund, I apologise for what I did to Mr. Vir- I mean Agate.” Victor said before leaning in again. “Now, let's discuss our little project.”

“We need subjects.” Sigmund said after a long, shuddering sigh. He was obviously getting nowhere with his distressed wailing. “Send us some and we can begin testing.”

“Of course, of course.” Victor said. “You just had to say so!”

“Thank you. I'll be heading back to the… Room, now.” Sigmund sighed. He felt as if he had aged ten years in the last ten minutes.


Amy gently laid Agate down, placing him on the squishy biomass that coated the menagerie floor. In the chaos upstairs, Opal had managed to slip away from the crowd. The shaman crouched next to the injured scout, grasping their mask in their hands, their face contorted with concern.

“How is it?” They asked anxiously.

“Probably not as bad as Sigmund was making it out to be, but still not good.” Devon tutted. He gestured to the air and the genecreeper shot towards Agate. The creature moved beneath his leg and extended a spike into it, injecting him with a numbing venom. After a few moment of waiting for the venom to take effect, the genewarper gently prodded Agate’s leg. “Can you feel that?”

“Uh, no…” The scout said, slightly concerned.

“Alright, good.” Devon nodded before grabbing Agate’s leg and snapping it into place. The scout winced at the sound of bone shifting but felt no pain. “Amy, can you go get something for me to make a splint from?”

“Sure thing.” She nodded. The cultist left, leaving her compatriots to sit and wait. Mother Chimera sat in the corner, looking forlornly at Agate.

“Well, am I going to be okay?” The scout asked anxiously.

“Well…” Devon began, running his hand through his hair with a sigh. “I don't know how bad the break is, so all we can do it put you on crutches or in a wheelchair and hope.”

Mother Chimera let out a low whine as Devon finished his sentence, drawing looks from the others.

“What's her problem?” Opal asked, raising an eyebrow.

“She's upset that Agate got hurt, same as you.” Devon said, raising his own eyebrow.

“Huh… Didn't realise she cares that much.” Opal said with a sniff. “Plus, it's not that that's got me upset.”

“Oh? What’s got you down?” The genewarper asked, curious.

“Victor said that he knew what sex I am.” The shaman said quietly.

“Well… Does he?”

“He's probably just talking out of his ass.” Opal sighed. “But it still pisses me off. What if he said something and everyone started going off of that?”

“I'm sure no one in the cult would do that, Opal.” Agate said. “None of us care what's in your pants. You're still a crazy, genderless maniac to us.”

“Thanks, Agate.” The shaman said, smiling weakly and running a finger down their mask before putting it back on. “That said, I've decided to kill the emperor.”

“Opal!” Devon and Agate cried simultaneously, aghast.

“I'm kidding, I'm kidding.” Opal said with a little chuckle.
 

Sigmund Vrell

The First High Priest of Neo New Babylon
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After his outburst, Sigmund had decided not to continue the experiments. He had instead retired to his quarters and wasn't coming out anytime soon. At least a day had passed by and he was feeling no better, his head swimming with thoughts.

“I am grateful to Victor, I really am.” He thought to himself, sitting on his bed with his legs held to his chest. “But I cannot simply ignore his sadism and cruelty. I cannot allow him to hurt my followers or less them astray anymore.”

The high priest ran a hand through his hair and let out a deep sigh, unsure of what to do. As he did, however, his ears pricked up. A pair of voices could be heard down the corridor, and they were getting closer.

“How are you holding up after yesterday, bro?” One of the voices said. Sigmund recognised it as the voice of Diamond, one of his cultists.

“Been better, been worse.” The other voice muffled, belonging to the cultist Nuummite.

“What hurts worse, dude? The physical scars or the mental scars from Victor’s smackdown?” Diamond chortled.

“Eh? What are you talking about?”

“Y’know, man, your little speech with the ‘factual errors’. The emperor sure told you, huh?”

“Oh, that. I thought you were serious for a second.” Nuummite sighed, giving a little chuckle in response. “He's just talking shit, honestly. Like that bit with about him beating us at seven.”

“Careful, bro, don't let him hear you said that.” Diamond chuckled. “He might go all out on you and make some art.”

“I doubt I'll be worse off than Agate, the poor bastard.” Nuummite muttered. “You two were scouts together, right? You ever seen an injury like that before? Or the recovery, more importantly.”

“Er, not really, dude.” Diamond said. “If someone takes a hit like that in the field, they're usually about to get eaten anyway.”

“Hmm. What about that comment on Opal’s gender? Do you really think he knows?”

“I dunno, he might. What's more important is that it's a pretty big dick move to say that shit.”

“Oh?”

“Like, if Opal is non-binary, it's not cool to say that you’ll tell everyone they're binary.” Diamond said.

“I didn't know you were so educated in gender identity.” A third voice said, a woman this time.

“Oh. Hello Sarah.” Nuummite sniffed.

“Sup, Sarah.” Diamond coughed. “Maybe you can go relay that to Victor, just like everything else we do.”

“Please. I'm not giving him anything more, none of us are. Not after yesterday.” Sarah said, a hint of disgust in her voice. “Have either of you been to see Agate?”

There was a moment of silence during which Sigmund assumed that the two men were shaking their heads.

“I did before. He's stable physically, but he's not doing so hot mentally.” Sarah said, the contempt in her voice turning to sadness. “He's just used to running around a lot, I guess. He's just crashed and burned in his room.”

There was another somber silence outside, longer than the last.

“I don't like the emperor very much anymore.” Diamond mumbled, receiving murmurs of agreement from the other two.

“Well, I've got prayers to do.” Sarah said with a little sigh. “See you around.”

“Bye Sarah.” The two men said.

“Damn, dude, I'm hungry. You think it's lunch time yet?” Diamond said, his voice slowly fading as the two men turned down the corridor.

“Only one way to find out.” Nuummite chuckled. Soon, Sigmund was plunged back into silence, left alone with his thoughts once more. Malcontent was spreading, and Sigmund could feel it worming its way into his heart. He wasn't ready to lose faith, yet, however. There was room for Victor to redeem himself yet. The high priest stirred, contemplating what he could do for the day, when he heard the sound of paper being disturbed. Curious, he turned and looked down, finding himself staring at an envelope on his bed.

“How did this get here?” Sigmund mumbled to himself, picking up the letter and inspecting it. He was certain that it wasn't his yet, as he turned it over, he found his name scrawled across the back. The cultist was simply fascinated now. He eagerly ripped open the envelope and extracted the note from within, revealing a letter written in the profane language of the old gods.”

“Greetings Friend, I hope this letter finds you well.” It began. “My scrying has presented me with visions of your efforts to build a military, and also of great challenges that have imposed themselves upon you. I commend your efforts and wish to relieve the burden placed upon you. In order to do so, I have dispatched a pair of my faithful to aid you. They do not respond to my teachings, but I feel as though they will benefit from your guidance. As such, I implore you to take them into your flock and do with them as you see fit. Enclosed in the envelope is a gem that shall lead you to a predetermined meeting place. Maybe the gods watch over you. Signed, a friend.”

Sigmund read and reread the letter about half-a-dozen times, wondering if his eyes were deceiving him. There was no doubt that the one who had sent the letter was the mysterious stranger that he had met in the gem village. New followers sent directly to him to partake in his teaching, how exciting! The cultist rummaged through the envelope and, sure enough, there was a small gem inside. The high priest looked at it for a moment, admiring its deep blue colour before wondering how it worked.

Sigmund rolled it around in his palm in wonder for a moment before gripping it tight, focusing on it as if it were a breach crystal. Sure enough, they crystal flashed brilliantly as information flooded the high priest’s mind. In an instant, he knew exactly where to go, as if he had known all his life. Driven by instinct, Sigmund left his room, grabbed a torch and traveled out of the temple through the hole in the menagerie. He navigated the tunnels as if they were his home, quickly approaching the meeting point, his heart racing with excitement.

As he neared his destination, he saw the flickering of another torch coming from a bend not far ahead. The high priest eagerly crept over to the corner, nervously coming around and facing what awaited him. Waiting there was a man who Sigmund would have previously considered a giant, but after spending some time with the giant women of the village he simply considered large.

He was heavily built, which was plain to see with his naked chest, muscled arms crossed over it. The top half of his head was covered by a steel helm, the bottom half obscured by a large but well-kept beard. He also wore a pair of leather pants with what appeared to be cultist robes tied around his waist, trailing down the back of his legs. If that weren't enough to show that he was a cultist, the countless eldritch symbols tattooed across his chest and arms would be. A massive axe was resting against the wall next to him, the many notches in its blade testifying to its use.

“Um, hello?” Sigmund asked nervously. Though he wasn't colossal, the man was still large and could have easily squashed the smaller man. The muscled man turned to the sound of his voice, a startled look flashing across his face before settling into a snarl.

“You are high priest?” He growled, hefting his axe and approaching Sigmund.

“Uh, I am.”

“I AM YORN!” The massive man roared, slamming his chest with his free fist. “I come to fight for you!”

“He's really hamming it up, huh?” Another voice giggled in Sigmund’s ear. Now it was the high priest’s turn to be startled. With a jump, his head whipped around and for a moment he thought he was staring into a rainbow. After a moment, he realised that there was a young woman’s face but inches from his own.

“Huh! How did-” Sigmund started, turning back to look at Yorn, only to find the woman standing next to him.

“Yorn, you big dummy.” She huffed, punching his elbow as she couldn't reach his shoulder. “This is our charge, you can let down the act.”

“You're right, you're right.” The big man chuckled, running a hand over his helmet. “Sorry, high priest. I do it to throw people off, and you just get used to it after a while, y’know?”

“Sorry, I'm trying take all of this in.” Sigmund said. The girl turned away from her burly comrade and turned to the high priest, a giddy smile on her face.

“I'm Cordie, pleased to meet you!” She said, taking his hand in both of her own and shaking it vigorously. Yorn had looked a bit odd at first, but he looked veritably average compared to his compatriot.

She was somewhat shorter than Sigmund himself, something that had been beginning to feel rarer and rarer on Inverxe. Her hair was a jet-black tangle, as if it hadn't been combed in weeks, yet her cultist robes were perfectly clean. She was pale, and her veins were easily visible beneath her hands, trailing dark lines through her skin. Her face was relatively normal, save for two features. The first was her ears, which were pointed, like those of an elf. The second was her eyes. Her sclera was as black as her hair, and her pupils were missing altogether. Her irises, however, reminded Sigmund of a kaleidoscope, a pair of ever-shifting pools of fractal patterns and vibrant colours.

“Sigmund. A pleasure.” The high priest said, slightly more taken aback. “So, you two are the new members of my cult?”

“Yessir!” Cordie grinned. Yorn simply nodded.

“Excellent. I'll lead you back, we can talk on the way.” Sigmund said motioning for them to follow. “So, what gods do you follow.”

“I just kinda pray and hope for the best.” The shorter cultist said sheepishly.

“God of the breach.” Yorn said.

“I see… So those runes?”

“Summoning runes. I summon them through my body.” The big man grinned. “Think a shapeshifter, but with just a part of my body, and shifted parts have a mind of their own.”

“Oh, fascinating.” Sigmund said, slowing down a little to inspect Yorn’s tattoos. As the men slowed down, Cordie took little mind, continuing on ahead at full speed. The high priest and his new follower watched her go for a moment before they turned to each other. “If I may ask, what is she?”

“No one knows.” Yorn said with a shrug. “We don't think she's an elf, and she's definitely not human.”

“I figured from her eyes.”

“It's not just that, her blood is the same colour, and she just doesn't... work right. there's something off about her.” The muscled cultist grumbled. “If Cordie gets killed, she’ll heal right back. I don't think she even understands what death is. And she always seems to be in too many places at once.”

“What are you guys talking about?” The young woman asked as Sigmund felt a sudden weight on his back. Cordie leap-frogged over the high priest and span around to face her fellow cultists.

“We were just discussing my meathead act.” Yorn said, as if expecting it. “That reminds me. This stays between us three, alright? No one else is to know.”

“Certainly.” Sigmund nodded.

“He's pretty convincing, isn't he?” Cordie giggled. “It might not be all an act, though. As if you wouldn't open with ‘Hi there, I'm Yorn’ to your new charge.”

“You said that before, didn't you? Charge, what do you mean by that?” Sigmund asked.

Cordie and Yorn looked at him for a moment, then glanced at each other, and back to the high priest.

“Y’know, we’re your new bodyguards.” Cordie said. “24/7, 365. We’ll be by your side.”

“You don't say.” Sigmund said, surprised by this new piece of information. Despite this, he was impressed by them so far. Perhaps this wouldn't be a bad arrangement. “Well, that works just fine for me. Just as long as I get to sleep and use the lavatory in peace.”

Cordie opened her mouth to say something, but a look from Yorn silenced her. Hopefully wouldn't be a bad arrangement.
 
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