Another Soul Joins The Halkost

The Scourge paused briefly to take in her surroundings. The air smelled of smoke and death. At her feet laid the broken bodies of her Greek foes, the followers of a false god. The corners of her mouth twisted into a cruel smile as the beautiful cacophany of gnashing teeth and snapping bones filled the air. The fighting spirit of the Iron Priests was broken, and yet the Karcist's onslaught continued. Her twisted minions beat and bludgeoned the defeated forces of Mekhane beyond the point of submission, a true display of sheer brutality and dominance.

The fleshbeasts piled the mangled corpses and groaning survivors before Karcist Halyna Ieva, still wearing that wicked grin that only victory could bring. Her eyes fixed on a man resting atop his fallen comrades. Clad in ill-fitting armor, the remains of his left arm hung by a thread of sinew; a large gash spanned his left thigh. His face was caked in blood such that he could hardly make out the imposing figure of the Karcist staring down at him, his mind so numb with pain that he hardly noticed the cleave of her scythe as it severed his feet at the ankles. What he did notice was the skin of his legs began to contort into bulbous tumors filled with pus and blood at the utterance of her prayer. The soldier felt the witch probing into his mind as he fainted from shock.

Another soul joined the halkost of Karcist Halnya Ieva.

"Dammit Gany, we're in the middle of a goddamn war and you expect me to just drop everything and go to some nutjob's kangaroo court?"

Ganymede paused and turned to Nevryn. "Yes, yes I do." The lich didn't wait for a further argument before returning to his work.

Shaking his head in disbelief, Nevryn hurried off after his mentor. "Well, sucks to suck. I'm coming cause you guys can't take this chick on without me. You know the shit she's done, and what she'll do to you guys if she wins." The young wizard shuddered at the thought. "If not for your life, do it for your TOES, man!"

Ganymede suppressed a chuckle at the sheer absurdity of such a statement, his permanent scowl cracking ever so slightly before returning to normal. While Brother Nevryn was certainly taking advantage of the rather unique situation that the Hand found themselves in, Ganymede did not consider the impending threat of limb severance and assimilation into a mad Karcist's braindead army to be a laughing matter. If he could have had it his way, those Broken God loons would have been out on their mechanical asses as soon as they showed up, but the request came from Bumaro himself, and Ganymede was not keen to invoke the ire of such a high profile visitor of the Library. After learning exactly what they were up against, there was no question that inaction was no longer an option.

The pair snaked through the aisles of the Wanderer's Library until they found themselves faced with an intimidating olive-skinned man clad in ivory robes. Nevryn forced out a small cough to alert the priest to their presence, at which he turned around and greeted his hosts.

"Brother Ganymede, Brother Nevryn, to what do I owe the pleasure?"

Nevryn opened his mouth to answer but was interrupted by Ganymede "What have you learned about this so-called 'Spear of Gallipoli', Alabaster? Each day that we are not taking the fight to her is a day that she spends growing her army."

"Without the Spear, her abominations would overwhelm us. Thankfully, I have recently learned that my brethren had claimed the artifact long ago, and so I have sent word to His Holiness to deliver it to the Library so that this plague may be put down."

"Excellent, please follow me." The lich turned on his heel and led Nevryn and Alabaster to a nearby conference room. Inside were a half dozen members of the Serpent's hand, all of whom fell silent as Ganymede ushered his colleagues inside.

Nevryn sat down at the head of the table and put his feet up, ignoring the look of disapproval from Ganymede.

"Now, let's talk about how we're gonna kill this foot fetishist."

Along the banks of the Sea of Marmara, a Way opened. From it emerged the combined force of two dozen Serpent's Hand agents and Bumaro's devout, led by an ancient Hand thaumaturgist and a Holy Priest of Mekhane. Silently, the group set off after the Scourge of Iron.

As expected, the twisted witch was guiding her abominations from village to village, assimilating all nearby life into her army. As the sun began to shine above the horizon, the forces of the Serpent and the Broken God descended into a bloodied town. Viscera and gore streaked the sands, remnants of the massacre that had taken place just hours earlier. Bloated abominations of flesh and fluid aimlessly wandered the streets, protecting their mistress on all sides. The scent of rotting flesh and decay on an immense scale permeated the air.

"Disgusting," muttered Alabaster under his breath. He had heard tale of Sarkic abominations of the flesh, but to see them with his own eyes was both surreal and supremely offensive. Its very existence was an insult to Mekhane, glory was he, and so it would be his divine pleasure to reduce this plague to dust. He turned to his associates, fury burning in his eyes. Ganymede gave the priest a silent nod, and so he delicately drew the Spear of Gallipoli from its crumbling sheath. The weapon was ancient, and its age showed, but it's power was immense. Alabaster raised the spear, whispered a silent prayer to his Broken God, and let it fly at the nearest shambling corpse.

Held together by tumors and sinew, the artifact skewered the beast, causing the flesh to peel away as if heated in a crucible. The creature let out a miserable shriek as it died, and the Spear dutifully returned to the skillful hands of the iron priest.

The Karcist turned, as if on instinct, knowing that her halkost was now under attack. Removing her hood, she raised an arm and sent her horde of diseased mutations to tear the foolish aggressors limb from limb. Quick to meet the leprous automatons were Alabaster's devout, clad in plate and mail, wielding all manners of swords, axes, and maces.

Ganymede stepped forward and produced a dagger from his robe. Using the dagger to cut the flesh of his palm, fire began to flow from the wound. The lich hurled a thaumic flame into the crowd of bodies as he reveled in the familiar scent of burning flesh. The other Hand thaumaturges followed suit, attacking Ieva's halkost with an assortment of incantations and conjurations. Nevryn watched his teacher complete his spell before quickly darting into the fray, a pair of freshly conjured ethereal blades in hand.

Ieva slowly came into view at the rear of her force, flanked by a pair of behemoth amalgamations of limbs, torsos, and faces, not all of which were human. She watched with sadistic glee as the two groups slaughtered one another, for she knew that for every one of her halkost to fall, another could take its place. This petty show of wizards and apostate priests would crumble, and then they would march for her.

Alabaster spotted the Karcist as he hacked through flesh and bone, and began to prepare a divine rite. He thrust the Spear towards the sky, and a surge of energy rippled through the weapon. It glowed a fantastic crimson color, and pure thaumic energy radiated into the air around the priest. He leveled the spear, aimed directly for Ieva herself.

In a brilliant flash of electricity and fire, a crack rumbled through the shaft of the spear and into the head, and a vicious beam flashed towards the sky, the recoil of the blast knocking his aim far away from the Karcist he intended to smite. The eruption of energy indeed rocketed towards the Karcist, but in doing so, it split off into multiple branching bolts, striking friend and foe alike. Before Alabaster could yell out a warning at the catastrophe he unwittingly caused, the weapon cracked, encasing him in an explosion as the weapon succumbed to the degradation of time.

Oh, how the sky burned.

"Holy fuck," muttered Nevryn, dragging himself out from the rubble.

Looking at the iron priest who had damned their resistance, he suppressed the urge to vomit as the man leaned heavily on his staff, far more gory than any of Ieva's machinations. Alabaster had had most of his body vaporized, the man being held together only by a metallic skeletal framework that was damaged beyond the point of repair. A massive wound to the face revealed that part of his skull was metal. Though his organic eye - or at least what used to be one - was only a mess of vitreous fluid dripping from a fragment of steel.

Turning away from Alabaster, the roguish warlock searched the battlefield for signs of life. Instead, he found only empty armor and shadows etched into the ground, the only remnants of his former friends and colleagues. As far as he could tell, there was little indication of his allies ever having been on the battlefield, and if there was, it was indistinguishable from the destroyed halkost of Ieva.

Looking back at the zealous fool who had doomed them all, Nevryn watched in disbelief as Alabaster forced himself to his feet while staring at Ieva, who had emerged from the explosion virtually unscathed. The priest stumbled forward and drew an ornate blade from his hip. Pointing it at the Karcist, he let out a bellowing war cry, before being interrupted by Nevryn.

"Screw this bullshit, you fuckin' metal nutjob" the young wizard shouted, leaping forward and dragging Alabaster away. "I'm not gonna let you just die here."

Ieva did not give chase, and instead watched the pair with scathing disgust and hatred.

Nevryn quickly opened a Way and dragged Alabaster through it.

"Let's hope Ganymede's phylactery is still working…"

Once again, the Scourge paused briefly to take in her surroundings. Once again, the air smelled of smoke and death. However, laying at her feet were not the broken bodies of the Mekhanite heretics, but instead, the charred remains of her halkost. Dead and twisted, their bones littered the streets, their ashes hanging like dust in the air.

It was of little consequence.

The Karcist set off to harvest more souls.

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