Nightmare Regent Blue
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Mountains and valleys. Trees that fell apart into sharp crystals from too sharp a gaze. Fog. Cold. The sky was blue-gray, and the three moons were only vague specks in the distance. No significant water, but damp and moldy all the same. Only one native animal, and it was the Vopling: a mold-grazing, winged worm. Flightless.

Though the competition was fierce, Asphodel was, by far, the gloomiest afterlife in all Corbenic.

The deceased never settled there for longer than a few days at a time, and only out of necessity. Only two poor fellows lived there permanently. One was Belphedge, the king of Asphodel. When his subjects escaped to friendlier planes, he buried himself alive in a dry creek bed, and never found the motivation to dig back out. One can only hope he's satisfied.

The other was the Hill.

The Hill found his home in Asphodel over 14,000 years ago. It woke up from a great and miserable sleep to a stabbing pain in the back of his head, poison leaking into his brain – and before he could even fight back, he was in the Great Desert of Corbenic, amid the rest of the bewildered dead.

After a brief rampage of devourment, the Hill discovered, to his horror, that he wasn't hungry at all. In life, fistfuls of squirming striders and weeping humans would have been a blessing. Here, they were optional, and a bit of a waste of energy.

With his life's purpose lost, the Hill wandered in search of a quiet place to brood and plot his next move – Asphodel. If anything, it reminded the Hill of his old homeland.

Millennia passed, and still he sat, frustrated. Though he had been called the Devourer in life, passers-by now called him the Forgotten Giant, Living Hill, or simply the Hill. Forests grew on his flesh, and itchy clutches of Voplings festered in his skin. The will to scratch them was all but lost.

And there it sat, in silence.

“By your forever-unremembered name, the Malikir Tsoh, I demand to speak with the Dread Devourer of Worlds, Bane of Erikesh – Date of Death August 27th 2031, Earth, Multiversal Iteration 1L.”

For one thing, this was the first time anyone had spoken to him since the days of Keshpeth and his Ten Thousand. For another, this creature knew his true name, and didn't confuse him with whoever that “Scarlet King” peasant was.

Still, the Hill hadn't been in the mood for a conversation in 14,000 years.

The Hill's eye opened, tearing apart gnarled tree trunks that had formed on his lashes. The ground shook as he turned his neck for the first time to identify this bizarre creature.

In the valleys to the far north of Asphodel, there sat a tiny group of dropships, several soldiers, and a radio dish pointed toward the Hill. The words “PERCEPTION-AUGMENTED TRANSLATION ORDINANCE” sat painted in the dish – words that had no Erikeshi equivalent, so they only annoyed the Hill further. At a small podium at the base of the dish – a human military commander of some sort, and the source of the strange voice.

“My name is President Girard Niang of the Three Moons Initiative,” continued the voice. “I come bearing—”

“Go away,” said the Hill. His voice cracked; his throat was nearly mummified from neglect.

“I'm afraid that's not possible, Devourer. Not until you hear what I have to say.”

”You forget your place, human.”

A brief pause, and the human replied: “Suppose that makes two of us, then.”

The ancient sparks of anger and hatred began to form in the Hill's heart – welcome after such a long absence. ”And what, do you think, is my place?”

“A throne. I seek a mighty warrior-king, said to have laid waste to countless nations. I seek the one who laps up the flesh of armies as if their screams are the finest mead – well, I think that's how the saga puts it, it's been a while. Maybe wine? – no matter. Point being, you're supposed to be the Devourer of Worlds, the Conqueror in Fire – and here, I only see Wallower in Self-Pity.”

A flash of fire shot from the Devourer's nostrils, igniting the forests that had formed there. “None have dared to disrespect me and—”

“Lived to tell the tale?” said the President. “Very well. I'm standing right here. If you're going to devour me, you might as well get it over with. I've had a good run, haven't I?”

Several minutes passed. The Devourer glowered at the President, hoping he'd give in to his fears and escape. No such luck. Clearly, this man was a warrior with courage unmatched by even Keshpeth and his ten thousand. (That, or it was the 73 island-mounted railguns aimed at the Devourer's head from the second moon, but that's a story for another time.)

The Devourer sighed, and closed his eyes. ”Did you come to mock me,” said the Devourer, ”or do you seek something of importance?”

“Wait, weren't you going to devour me? Or was that just—”


“Fine, fine. Here's the thing – the Three Moons Initiative have something to give you.”

”I want no gift.”

“I think you will, once you hear what it is.”

”The one thing I desire is peace, and you continually deny me. Go away.”

“We can give you purpose. A great battle is coming, Devourer. Now is the time for all good men, gods, and otherwise to come to the aid of the Earth, Iteration 2N. We can't cross the anti-organic aperture into 2N – but your flesh is a different matter entirely. And on the other side, you will find an opponent worthy of —”

An arm, covered in scales, trees, and terrified Voplings, pried out from the side of the Hill. Forming a fist, it slammed the ground. The surrounding mountains split and caved in upon themselves. Fissures cracked open into the acidic subcontinental coral reefs of Asphodel. King Belphedge was shaken from his grave – he fell into the scalding waters, grumbling that his nap had been rudely interrupted.

”GO. AWAY.” roared the Devourer.

They didn't.

“There, see that?” said the President. “That anger? That's the kind of energy you miss, isn't it? You and I both know that you don't want be cooped here forever, brooding and sulking.”

”Yes, I do!”

“So, what, you're just gonna be an angsty little lump in the Asphodel skyline for all eternity?” the President laughed. “JALAKÅRA as my witness, this is rich. Wait until I tell Keshpeth.”

“You will do NO SUCH THING!” A few of the President's soldiers clutched their ears from the shout.

“Okay, look, Malikir Tsoh, you want me to leave you alone?”


“Fine! But on one condition.”


Get your shit together, Devourer! The Foundation in 2N doesn't even call you Apollyon-class anymore – but I do! I believe that you can turn this around. Don't let the fact that Iteration 1L killed you in your sleep keep you from bouncing back. I believe in you! And when this is over, instead of fearing you silence, the people of 2N will sing your praises in their taverns until they vomit, hailing you as a hero! All we ask is that you make that first step forward.”

An hour passed of uncomfortable silence. The radio dish was folded back up. The soldiers returned to their dropships. Niang cursed under his breath, mumbling something about “we'd have better luck weaponizing Striders,” and was about to board the skiff back to his airship –

– when he heard a grumbling phrase, one of the few he recognized from his non-translated Erikeshi. It meant “who is my opponent?”

Earth, Iteration 2N. November of 2035. As per the Three Moons Initiative's instructions, the doorway containing SCP-2317-K had been launched into space, six months earlier. Niang said it would buy them “a few minutes.”

Cooperation with the Initiative hadn't been smooth. Contingency Zadok-9 "Nightmare Regent Blue" was downright lunacy, but one answer was better than none.

The Administrator of the Foundation sat in her bunker's office, her finger hovering over the enter key, under a CRT monitor from 1982. A prompt on the terminal asked for final confirmation of the Ganymede protocol. The Devourer's seventh chain had broken only an hour ago. With any luck, she thought, he'll kill us all in one blow. Won't have anything to clean up, that way.

Her phone rang – O5-1's number. She picked it up.

“Okay, three updates,” said O5-1. “One, the Devourer just crossed the orbital path of Mars, and is expected to make landfall with Earth in thirty minutes.”

Her finger twitched over the enter key.

“Two, a second Devourer has appeared over the moon, and it's headed directly toward the first one.”

Her eye twitched. “A second Devourer?” she said.

“Affirmative. Three – the second one has three crescent moons painted on its back.”

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