A note from Wutosama

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 CLiff warning, maybe, too busy to keep editing more. 

Oi Kuk-ryol began life in '21 as a war orphan under the care of the Great Leader's first spouse, the illustrious but short-lived Kim Kyi-Sui.

After Oi's induction, he quickly rose to power as the Vice Secretary of the National Defence Commission with his fellow orphans, each Awakening serendipitously to talents of their own. In '45, during the Japanese Occupation, he single-handedly defeated three Imperial Chrysanthemum Mages while retaking Incheon, earning a new lapel as the Secretary-General of the National Operations Department.

In '50, when the Great Leader demanded the reunification of both Koreas, Oi was at the forefront, wielding his spells of destruction, cutting down the American invaders.

Then, in the spring of '57, when the Americans pushed the People's Army back toward Pyongyang, Oi was the last of the twelve Generals to return to the great leader's hall.

And finally in the same winter, when the Great Leader gathered his Officers to discuss the Path called "Juche", the art of "Man mastering his destiny through autonomy, self-reliance, and independence" Oi was the first to take a spell to blasphemers who refused the Gift.

After that, Oi remained dormant until the spring offensive of '82. In Liaoning, Oi spearheaded the invasion of Northern Manchuria, leading the People's Army into northern China, crushing all resistance, succeeding in surrounding Shenyang.

Naturally, the living refused to surrender.
Oi didn't mind.
Once the walls fell, Oi entered with the will of the Worker's Party behind him, committing the city's one million exploited labourers to the ideology of Juche, freeing them from the cycle of brutal karma.

And when Oi's natural lifespan expired, he gifted his heart to the Great Leader as a keepsake, re-awakening as the Secretary-General of Shenyang, having attained the apex of Juche.

"Secretary-General, the PLA has decimated the Zom— the workers! AND their Tower has intercepted the ley-line powering our wards. The city— cannot hold."

Presently, Oi oversaw the assembly of the Disciples of Juche at Shenyang, sending only the most talented to receive higher education in Pyongyang.

"And what of it?"

"We should contact Pyongyang by any means possible! We need to relocate the Disciples of Juche! We need—"

The speaker was a Flayer of no small talent.
Oi extended a finger.
It's skeletal tip glowed pale green.

"— time to move our ingredients, we— NO!— Secretary! Mercy— I just—!" The Mage in the black robe wilted like a desiccated flower. Visibly, the pale shadow of his escaping soul fled from his body to twirl around Oi's withered digit.

"Who else would speak of weakness?" Oi asked his audience of a hundred Necromancers. As much as he needed the living to tend to the workers in his domain, their propensity for self-preservation was something Oi often found disappointing.

"None, Secretary!" the chorus chanted as one.

"Then move to your sectors and defend the city with your creations and your still-living carcasses..." Oi needn't move his jaws to speak, though old habits died hard, far harder than the frail flesh of the aspirants. "We shall hold Shenyang until the Great Leader sends the united will of the workers to chase these foes from our domain..."

"But for how long…" a Necromancer, this one a dark-skinned practitioner from the high plains, gingerly requested of Oi. "I DO intend to defend our home, Master. You know as well as we do that we have nowhere else to go. I merely wish more knowledge to ration our resources more effectively."

"… until I perish," Oi's cold voice rang out, resonating against their quivering souls. Within the hollow sockets of his gaunt skull, two pinpoints of illumination flashed, irradiating Oi's olive dress uniform. On his right breast, rows and rows of medals appeared almost like antiquated scale mail. "… and Shenyang falls."

The cavern shook, displacing enough dust to rattle Gulnaz al-Bashkir.

"Inkar, Inzhu, keep vigilant," the bearded Mage commanded his apprentices. "How's our flock?"

"Agitated, my liege." Inkar, with her eyes like dark pears and lips like red wine, replied in that husky manner familiar to Gulnaz. "Why wouldn't they be? There are more materials out there now than the last two decades combined."

"Don't underestimate our enemies." Gulnaz flattened his beard, surprised himself that he of all people felt so uneasy. "They have a Tower, meaning the city's defences are down. Our job is to hold this quadrant until 'help' arrives."

"Will reinforcements from Pyongyang be enough?" Inzhu, the younger sister, demanded of no one in particular. Compared to her senior sister, Inzhu had honey-coloured eyes and a smile to match. "Aren't we all spell-fodder for that corpse in the People's Hall?"

"Inzhu!" Inkar looked around them. "The walls have eyes."

"Indeed, Inzhu," Gulnaz berated his Apprentice. "— but Master Oi is what we all aspire to be one day, the Great One permitting. Whatever he thinks of us, the path of Juche speaks for itself."

"Then, do you think we'll hold the city?"

"That's our business," Gulnaz al-Bashkir, the Summoner of Shelek, intoned with a hint of bitterness. "Know that Shenyang is our home now, and with it gone, we will perish."

Inkar shivered.

Her Master was, of course, correct. Until the trio's decade spent studying in Shenyang, they had fled from city to city, pursued by Human Mages and Wildland Demi-humans. Without the protection of a Theocracy or the blessings of an ancient religion, the free-practitioners of Necromancy were no more than rats bolting across a busy market choked full of terriers.

The two women remained mum.

Gulnaz sighed. He wondered if they'd been spoiled by the glut of necromantic energies welling from the city's mass graves. In Shenyang, there was an inexhaustible supply of corpses, both from its internal stock and raids conducted in Chinese-controlled Manchuria.

But now came the settling of accounts.
He should hardly be surprised, Gulnaz supposed. China's power had been on the rise; its population of NoMs has always been the densest in the world. How could a rising power stomach the presence of a Necropolis so close to its capital?

But it wasn't all bad news. IF Gulnaz and his fellow Necromancers held the bunkers, then the new materials left behind by the retreating Chinese would bolster their expansion into Jinzhou. If they could capture the Tower, then the rewards from Pyongyang would be unimaginable.

And if they failed?

As a whole, Necromancers didn't fear death. What they feared instead was a supreme sense of regret, that in having their lives cut short, they would return to the karmic circle, wasting a lifetime.

"Guurrrrgh—" the foremost rank of Zombies groaned.

Within the bunker's claustrophobic tunnels, the air turned oppressive; the walls grew slick with moisture.

Something was coming.

The area which Gulnaz guarded was the western quadrant of the bunker network under the People's Hall. Together, there were at minimum a hundred practitioners like him forming blockages in every segment of the subterranean bastion. Their goal, as the apex-embodiment of Juche in the People's Hall had commanded, was one of delay. For each hour they managed to hold off total annihilation, the likelihood of survival increased.

"Let's get to work."

"Resist Elements! Ghoul Skin! Ivory Armour!" Inchu was originally an Abjurer. With a few well-practised invocations, the trio grew clad in ivory plates of clattering bone.

"Link Sight! Death Tap!" And uniquely, Inkar was a rare Diviner capable of utilising the Craft with Divination. A novice Flayer, she could insert her mind momentarily into a semi-intelligent vessel.

"Great protector." Gulnaz walked forward as he began his chant, drawing a crimson Mandala in the air with a withered hand. "Protect your flock in this hour of need. ERASYL! Come to your brother in this hour of need!—"

Gulnaz winced as his life-blood anointed the magic circle.

"—Summon Dread Knight!"

The two women behind Gulnaz squirmed as their collective life-force fled from their bodies, blanching their vibrant, still-youthful complexions. Gulnaz himself shivered, his teeth chattering as the Negative Energy necessary for such a high-tier creature caressed his conduits, freezing his lifeblood.

A few body-lengths away, a dark mist, tinged with the scent of rot and decay, swiftly materialised the form of a man once known as Erasyl, the Hero of Almaty, a peerless Swords Dancer and a renowned Monster Slayer. In another life, he had been Gulnaz's half-brother. When the man had been alive, they weren't close. Now, the two were inseparable.

"BROTHER." The Dread Knight's voice scraped like rusty swords. "DIRECT ME TO YOUR FOE."

"I shall. But for now, protect us," Gulnaz commanded.

"AS YOU WISH." Erasyl turned to face the dark tunnel. In his hand, the infamous Black Blade, the life-sapping weapon formed from a Dread Knight's tormented soul, glimmered darkly. It was the creature's signature attribute— possessing the ability to cut through most Mage Shields like butter.

"GUARRRRLL—!" the Zombie vanguards at the fore of the arched tunnel met with their opponent.

"It's not a party of Mages," Inkar reported, her mind linked with the few intelligible Ghouls under her command. "Our enemy is—what is that? Ectoplasm?"

"An Ooze Mage, perhaps." The Summoner furrowed his brows.

"I think so." Inkar's voice grew shrill. "I think I see something. I'll possess one of the Ghasts to check..."
"It looks big; whatever this is, it's taking up the whole corridor."
"I see pale yellow light... looks almost like a willow-o-wisps..."
"Its eating our troops..."
"Ooo! The main body was hidden! I see it moving!"
"Let me get closer... I'll try to locate the caster for Erasyl."
"There's... no Conjurer? It's just— a thing by itself..."
"OH, GODS! It's looking at me! Heavens—EYES! So many eyes!"

"A quasi-ooze? What element is it?" Gulnaz cursed that of all the enemies; he had to run into such a troublesome foe. "Ink—"

"AEEEEEE! AARRRRRGH! IT HAS ME!" Inkar fell back, suddenly clawing at her face, her long nails digging into her scalp. With a scream, she tore out fistfuls of auburn hair. "INCHU! IT'S EATING ME! I CAN F-FEEL EVERYTHING! ITS… SUCKING ME UP!"

"Sis! Cut the LINK!" Inzhu caught her thrashing sister and channelled a smidgen of vitality to stabilise her anarchic conduits. "Master!"

"I-I CAN'T— BLUURRGH!" Inkar regurgitated a gutful of bile onto the floor.

"Erasyl!" Gulnaz commanded his Dread Knight. "Incapacitate her!"

The Dread Knight touched a blade to Inkar's thigh.

The woman's torso jerked just once as the vitality left her body, cancelling her Divination spell.

"Death Domain!"

"AT ONCE!" The Dread Knight lamented.

A dark haze exploded from below the upper-tier Revenant, filling the tunnel with motes of Negative Energy. Where it touched the Zombies and Ghouls, the creatures grew suddenly energised, falling into rank and file.

Inkar panted on the floor, her chest rising and falling arrhythmically, her skirt covered in sick.

"Sis, are you alright?" Inchu could see her sister was not alright.

"Hunger..." The girl convulsed, her pupils dilating, her eyes seeing nothing. "Emptiness, only hunger..."

"Sik!" Gulnaz swore. "Once the danger's gone, feed her a potion."


An ectoplasmic blob about two-meters across flattened itself against the polished concrete. At first glance, the globular entity was grey and colourless, inanimate in its passivity. Upon closer inspection, Gulnaz could see that there was a half-dissolved Zombie trapped within the blob.

"GUAARRGGL!" In the distance, the Horde continued their fearless charge. Usually, against a Creature Mage with an exotic Familiar, there was no better fodder than low-tier Undead.

"Go forth!" Gulnaz lacked access to Banish, so his only recourse was the empowered minions. Under the Dread Knight's leadership, the "workers" possessed heightened physical abilities and higher resistance to the Imperial Magic System's invocations. "Tear that thing to pieces! Wear it down!"


The rest of the gargantuan thing came into view.

"Sik…" Gulnaz felt his soul shrivel as an enormous eyeball pressed itself through the goo. "What is THAT?!"

"HUNGER—" Inkar writhed on the floor, clawing the concrete. "IT'S HUNGER ITSELF!"

Gulnaz quaked; neither the Summoner nor his Apprentice had the means to describe the creature they now faced. In and amongst the flood of grey-goo oozing through the tunnel, he saw an eyeball a full two-meters across.

And what an orb!
Its cyclopean sphere housed an octopus' W-shaped pupil, ringed in vivid emerald with a dark circumference and an amber core. As the creature slid forward, its depthless gaze seemed to swallow the world, refracting everything within its optic prison!

Their gazes met.

Gulnaz understood instantly the infinite malevolence transmitted by that slitted eye. Uncharacteristically, his body broke out with a terrific heat, making sodden the back of his silver-threaded robe.

He had to kill this thing!
His Astral Soul cried out.
Whatever the cost, he mustn't let it near him!

"Spine Splitter!" Gulnaz's conviction was immediate. Materialising a wealth of inscribed and harvested Demi-human spines, he let loose a whole year's cache of painstakingly crafted ammunition. "Creature! Perish!"


The first lance struck, exploding into ten-thousand fragments of swiftly expanding bone, ripping apart the all-seeing eye, rupturing the meniscus and shredding its membranes.


A second spine followed the first seamlessly, driving the creature back, allowing it no opportunity for regeneration.


The third and fourth Splitters erupted, covering the concrete walls with ten-inch fragments of razor-sharp ivory. Concurrently, bursts of Negative Energy, enough to sap the life from anything capable of holding even the tiniest mote of vitality, saturated the tunnel, furthermore empowering Gulnaz's minions.

"Well done, Master!" Inzhu had Shielded them from their Master's spell. Panting from the exertion, she cradled her still-gibbering sister.

"That should keep its Summoner honest." Gulnaz grinned. "Flock, tear it apart! Finish it off!"

"GURRRRL!" In lock-step, the Zombies rushed forward, flailing their engorged limbs, gnashing their jagged jaws, a symphony of teeth conducted by the Dread Knight.

SPLAT! The response from their unidentifiable foe was instant.
Without warning, the grey goo multiplied, expelling a new wave of scentless ectoplasm. Where it touched the Undead, the Horde grew helplessly paralysed. When it landed on the bone shards, the ivory-like surface turned black with decay.

"I-Impossible!" Gulnaz felt the Negative Energy in the area fall away as though syphoned into an enormous vortex. "What manner of creature is this? Do they have a sanctioned Necromancer on their side—? Bone PRISON!"

A pair of bony claws enclosed around the incoming tendrils. Gulnaz knew it wasn't enough to subdue a being such as this, but there wasn't much a Summoner could do other than feeding it Zombies until its caster ran out of mana. "Erasyl! Stop that thing!"

"I OBEY!" The Death Knight made the gesture of drawing a bow, materialising a shadowy bow easily the height of one of the Necromancer's Apprentices. "CREATURE! PERISH!"

Soundless, the arrow left the bow. In life, Erasyl had been a peerless spell-fighter, and in death, his body performed with equal aptitude as a Dread Knight.


The Blight Arrow, a quivering construct of corrosive Negative Energy mixed with the unerring Magic Missile, struck the incoming creature between the fingers of the Bone Prison. It was one of the reasons why Gulnaz favoured the defensive spell, for trapped targets were easy prey for his all-powerful Dread Knight.

But this time, the damage served only to grow the blob haughtier, angrier, more lively. The compressed Negative Energy within the blight-afflicted projectile seemed only to feed into the creature's hunger. Within the span of a few stunning seconds, the ectoplasm squeezed past the wall and flooded into the corridor, rolling over the Undead as though an enormous eruption of dark gelatine.

"A Colossal Ooze?" Inzhu pulled her gibbering sister onto her feet. "But that's a tier-fourteen creature! Who can control such a thing! Oozes are mindless—"

In her arms, Inkar wept hysterically. "FLEE! We must flee! Go to the Master! There's no limit to the fiend's hunger! It'll consume everything! Our minions, our mana, our everything!"

"Shut her up!" Gulnaz had no time to deal with insane Apprentices. "Erasyl! Attack it directly!"

The Dread Knight became a black blur. As its mummified legs kicked off the ground, the warrior's shroud-wrapped lips let loose a wailing Banshee's moan, flooding the tunnel with soul-rending echoes.

"DIE!" The Dread Knight drew its blade and swung.

SPLURK! The blade plunged into the midst of the enormous grey blob, cleaving through the ectoplasm and striking the concrete floor with a Clang!

Erasyl's eyes, long since reduced to twin points of unhallowed light, gazed into the gloom.

Inkar hugged herself against her knees; her expression transformed into one of jibbering despair. "T-That's not even its body! That's just its voracious excretions! I saw— I SAW the creature! It has eyes—so many eyes— and mouths, SO MANY MOUTHS!"

"Where is she getting the energy?" Gulnaz felt his scalp crawl, his patience at wit's end.

Inzhu jammed her fingers into her sister's mouth. Of the two, Inkar was usually the one who was calm and collected, and that made their difficult circumstance all the more precarious.


Inchu looked up, then immediately wished she hadn't.

"My God…" Her Master was staring at the newly descended horror.

First came the gibbering mouths, each screaming incoherent nothings in a low, raspy whisper that stunned the ears and filled their minds with spleen rupturing terror. As Inkar had foretold, there were far too many mouths than was possible on any being that could exist in the Material Plane. At a glance, Gulnaz counted three dozen or more, some with human incisors, others with the canines of carnivores or the molars common to grazers.

Embedded between the multitude of mouths were the eyes, each an emerald orb, wetly nestled within slimy pockets, all of which stared without blinking. As the creature slid forward, the eyeballs spun, searching for something the Necromancers could not see. When finally the eyes settled on the Mages, each of the creature's observers felt as though they held its undivided attention.

"PERISH!" Erasyl swung his sword again.

This time, the black blade plunged into one of the creature's endless maws.
The mouths opened.
Erasyl's hands slid in down to the elbows.
And when the Dread Knight retrieved his extremities, his limbs were gone, appearing as though his hands had never existed.

The Dread Knight looked down.
Lacking pain, it grew confused.
But on the opposite end of its Empathic Link, its controller wasn't so apathetic.

"ARRRRGH! YE GODS!" Gulnaz felt such sympathetic agony that his hands might as well have been wrenched from their sockets by a great and powerful vice.

"Master!" Inchu acted on reflex. "Bone Barrier! Bone Splinter!"

A wall of bone skittered into place, simultaneously launching blasts of ivory shards. To Inchu's dismay, she couldn't even penetrate the ichorous slime.

"It's too late—!" her sister, now freed, began to howl. "—IT HUNGERS! IT —COMES—IT—COMES— FOR US ALL!"

"Huk!" Gulnaz circulated just enough stolen vitality to regain his clarity. His return, however, came too late. The pocket dimension he had dedicated to nurturing his Dread Knight faded, appearing as though he had never had a Familiar at all. "What is this?! How can— Arrrrrgh!"

Up ahead, the Dread Knight was halfway inside the gullet of an invading army of mouths, the upper portion of his Undead body reduced to a half-eaten carcass.

The sight was as unsettling as it was beautiful; for all the lives he had drained, Gulnaz had never before seen such a display of abominable, unadulterated horror. Each maw, restricted by the Dread Knight's natural resistance, could only take off a mouthful and no more. Yet, with so many mouths baying for the Dread Knight's mana-infused body, Erasyl's shrouded form lasted no more than a few frenzied seconds.

"To think you have found rest before me..."
Gulnaz of Shelek allowed his hands to fall. He readied himself. A Necromancer shouldn't fear oblivion. A Necromancer's death should be dignified.

"IT COMES IT COMES IT COMES—" Inkar howled, welcoming the end in her own way. "I am here! Monster! I AM HERE!"

"Master, I can't hold it!" Inchu vomited blood when her Bone Barrier broke.

The ectoplasm pushed forward.
Minion after minion advanced into the mincing mouths of madness, not slowing the Shoggoth's march by a single second.

Gwen was used to being stared at.

As a "beautiful" child, she had been paraded incessantly by her attention-seeking mother. And when her mother was absent, which was often, it wasn't queer for strangers to follow her with their eyes whenever she trained back to Forrestville. At Bondi, she sold as many Cornettos as the number of times she was hit upon. In university, she embraced the fact, wallowing in admirers and concurrently gaining an unpleasant reputation. Finally, as a junior at McKinsey, she learned to bathe in the gaze, convincing herself that from Sydney to New York, women everywhere all did the same to get ahead of the curve.

But this was a whole other kind of attention.

"So..." Gwen smacked her lips. "With all those mouths and all, do you speak?"

Four hours after the summoning, she sat cross-legged with Ariel in her lap, Caliban propped as a backrest, and Golos beside her, close enough to sniff her hair.

All around them, covering the former MSS basement from wall to wall, mating with the concrete, was the ectoplasmic manifestation of the "Shoggoth". All in all, about four hundred eyes looked upon Gwen and her familiars, while on the ceiling, an enormous, central eyeball stared directly downwards.

Do you speak? Gwen again attempted to communicate through their Empathic Link last time, she swore the Shoggoth was somewhat intelligent. Dear Shoggoth, please blink if you can understand me, any odd eye will do.

Her answer returned in the form of unpleasant vertigo.
Were it not for the suppression applied by her Essence, Gwen was sure she would be lying in a pool of her own sick.

"Oi, YOU! Cease that insolence!" Golos growled, crackling electricity. In his human form, the re-summoned princeling was sweating profusely. Gwen could tell that her Wyvern was too proud to be terrified, but his body-odour made for a terrible liar.

"Gogo, move aside a little." Her nose twitched. "You're too close."

"Calamity! I am trying to protect you here." Golos' rotten-meat breath washed over her delicate face.

"Right." Gwen grimaced. She would soon have to introduce Golos to another human invention— mouth wash.


"Gwen, how are you holding up?" Walken's breathless voice came through her Divination Device. "Your Ally is doing very well, its breached nine sectors in the western quadrant in the last three hours!"

"Eric! Where are the others?"

"They're with me. I am tracking your Shoggoth through the Eye of Providence. It's amazing! Girl! AMAZING!"

"You can track the Shoggoth?"

"It's still your creature." Walken sounded like he had gone for a run. "It's got your mana signature."

"And you're recording its... actions?"

"All of it," Walken replied. "Hold the fort, my girl, and we'll have this in the bag. The Proctors and the Generals, they're all astounded! Everything you're doing, EVERYTHING! It's all unprecedented!"

"How deep has Shoggy gone?"

"Wouldn't you know?"

"I possess no desire to Sight Link something with THIS MANY eyes, Eric. I want to keep my sanity. Thank you very much."

And it wasn't just the eyes. There were tentacles as well, with sucker-mouths. Like Caliban's innards, the Shoggoth's limbs were akin to slithering lamprey things unique to the Void. Whatever the "Shoggoth" might be in actuality, it remained a product of her imagination in unholy matrimony with the essential elements of the Void.

"How's your health?" Walken calmed himself somewhat.

"I took precautions." Gwen eyed the eyeballs. "The beginning was a bit dodgy. I drank some of that infused Maotai just in case. I think the Shoggoth can perpetuate itself now. Maybe its attained equilibrium? Found a cache of vitality? There's still a kick from the residual Negative Energy flooding the base, but the feedback has since ceased."

"Can you control it?"

Gwen shook her head.

"Once it stopped... nursing from me— it stopped responding."

"Can you banish it?"

"I hope so. The Mandala's still active..."

"Does er... 'Shoggy' respond to friendlies?"

"It's non-reactive toward Cali, Ariel, Gogo and I."

"... Shall I see if the PLA can find out? In the name of Spellcraft?"

"Eric! I don't think that's a good idea—"


The walls shuddered. At once, a hundred eyes began to spin in orgiastic agony. Gwen let loose a low-moan. The sensation bleeding through her Emphatic Link was indescribable. It was as though a frigid icicle had just passed through her amygdala.

"Shaa! Shaa! SHAA—AA!" Caliban began to wail, growing suddenly larger.
"Ee Ee?!" Ariel's fur bristled with sparkling motes of electricity.
"Calamity!" Golos growled, his ridged horns crackling with power. "Something dreadful is coming this way! Look at my feathers!"

Golos' plume, a signature genetic trait of its mythic father, was bristling like a quill boar's bone spines.

Gwen activated detect magic, though the Shoggoth covering the walls made her effectively blind.


Her Divination Sigil screeched, striking her spine with such poignancy that she grew momentarily breathless.

What was it?
Her senses searched the room of eyes.
It wasn't the Shoggoth straining against its cage, of that she was sure.
If so, it could only mean the danger came from an outside source.

"Eric!" she Messaged her instructor for advice. It was a CC penalty to do so in the middle of a quest, but the last time she had felt so in danger was when Sobel showed up in Sydney. "What the hell is happening! Shoggy's going nuts!"




A note from Wutosama

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Bio: I write on the phone and edit at home. Times are tough!

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