[RUINS OF THE INTHIAN SPELL-TOWER; MARCH 04, 2019 WR]
The slaughter was such that even the sun shadowed its face from the crimsoned beach. The carrion-eaters feared even a single nibble upon the tempting feast before them — except the flies and the worms of course. The vermins’ incessant buzzing was a constant over the sound of crashing wave and the voices of the dying. Worst of all was the stench of opened wounds and ripped bowels– even the howling sea-wind couldn’t disperse its putrescence.
Troll and Gnome, Elf and Nightkin, lay sprawled, dismembered, or worse yet, alive but incapacitated as the insectoid Yao-Guai made their rounds. Whether basked in limpen sunlight or shadowed by boulder, shipwreck or monstrous cadaver, none escaped the demons’ gaze. They sought, they fed, and they slew. Most unfortunate were those that found themselves on the other side of a Spider-Wasp’s ovipositor — their suffering would be prolonged and more horrifying.
Years ago, Anubisath’s Arctic Star fell and reduced the Vicious City to a few rocks poking out of a corpse-ridden sea. Of that City, only the Inthian Spell-Tower survived the onslaught. Home and hive to the cult-magicians of the Qabbalim, it had been interwoven with defensive magics and runic energies so potent that even a falling boulder of ice could not shatter it.
Yet now it lay in ruins, as gnawed and shattered as a femur savaged by a ravenous hound. Its magics were undone with a grace and power that only one type of being could ever possess: the deific, horrific Immortal.
It is to the heart of these ruins, away from the buzzing coast, past warped flora and amidst broken brickwork, that the trio dragged their victim. The screams of the dying and the demon-fodder became distant.
Her bearded visage watching every side and every shadow, the First Daughter of the Yao-Guai led her comrades to the Seething Court. Behind her and dragging their gift with one monstrously large arm was a man once known as Terasu Shin, once revered as the King of Kenrei, now an infested corpse-puppet hopelessly in love with a horror beyond horrors. Trailing last was the Jack of Knives, formerly Qabbalim, formerly deceased, and now the greatest assassin-priest of the mistress they all served.
At their arrival, the Yao-guai Viziers parted to let them pass. Though thankfully rare on the battlefield, Yao-Guai Handmaidens were aplenty here, some veiled as a Sha-ir courtier, and a few even fanning their monarch with gigantic leaves. Spider-Wasps perched on ruined walls and broken pillars, buzzing songs to the Immortal that birthed them from quivering corpse-flesh.
Shin tossed their captive into the strange runic circle in front of the Immortal and they all knelt as one to her. Their monstrous minds were misted with pheromone and magics, thinking all three titles were one and the same. The three peered up to her and wept with despair — there would be nothing in the world that they loved more than she.
With all the pagentry of a ballroom host, Portia descended. She was as beautiful as she was terrifying, as graceful as she was mighty, and as vainglorious as she was deathless.
“Welcome,” she gestured to her Court. “Favored Son. I’ve been expecting you”
Their captive stood up, cloak and robes shredded and bloodied. He was gaunt and hollow, robbed of the dozen demonic parasites that armored him and gave him strength, wisdom, and spellpower aplenty.
“Portia.” he spat the name as a curse. “Or is it Ishri?”
“Ishri? Silly little Vallah, writing and gossiping about me. No, my sweet — it is Portia now. When you have power enough to kill a god and take their mantle, you too have power enough to change your true name. Moreover, you need not fear those who would know it — indeed, you need not fear me, my Son.”
“No! No! No!” he fought against the buzzing in his head and the toxins in his lungs. “You are not the Dark Mother! She…she…loves her Children.”
“Ah, my sweet, but I am! And I do! All my children love me and despair.”
“Our mother is love,” spoke the First Daughter as she rose with the others. “Our mother is all.”
“My Queen is the Eternal Tide,” stated Terasu Shin, solemn as a mountain. “You cannot hope to stand against it and keep your feet.”
“Kneel before our Goddess, heretic.” The Jack of Knives snarled and drew plagued steel. “Your beachhead is gone, as is all of your sea-scorpions! Submit!”
The Favored Son, high-priest of the Dark Mother, screamed in defiance. He launched himself at Portia, if only to claw out one of her many eyes…if only to lay a single scratch upon her rune-carved carapace.
But swifter than sin itself, Terasu Shin caught him instead. The Favored Son was held fast and forced to kneel before the Immortal.
“Oh sweet darling, you had me dangling above three webs!” Portia clucked her tongue and counted out her options finger by finger. “I was to make you birth more of my babies, I was to have you join me, or I was simply going to feed upon you.”
Her prey screamed once again, from frustration and from the Kenrei King’s poisonous talons.
Her smile widened darkly and her eyes glimmered with a spidery excitement. “But instead, I will make an example of you.”
The Jack of Knives laughed cruelly while the First Daughter remained quiet. The buzzing of the Spider-Wasps and the mock whisperings of the Handmaidens melted into a sudden silence. Even the sun seemed to dim in the sky as Portia gathered Power to herself.
“Let me ask you a question, my dearest, sweetest High-Priest: do you know how Lector killed all the followers of Woden in one fell swoop?”