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A note from Void Herald

This chapter was chosen by my beloved patrons on Patreon. I hope you will enjoy it. 

The Crossroads.

Such was the nickname of Outremonde across the cosmos, for Earth’s twin was exactly that: a crossroads between various planes of existence. Heaven, Hell, the Elemental Planes... each had at least one gate leading to that world, hidden somewhere.

Ever since they had agreed not to make war on Outremonde directly, the twelve gods had each created a plane of their own and retreated there. Sometimes, they even shared one, such as Mithras and Leone’s abode in Heaven.

Among the most feared deities of Outremonde were the Dread Three, the godly triad of death, crime, and war. The collective nemesis of the shining Mithras, whom they opposed as mortals, the trio ascended together and remained friends even after divinity. When they gathered, blood was shed, wars started, plagues unleashed...

“Strike! It’s a strike!”

But more often than not, they just played games.

Camilla, goddess of death, vermin, darkness, and plagues, teleported into the Game Room to find other deities entertaining themselves without her. “You have started without me, traitors?”

An open space under a starry night sky, with the ‘ground’ made of clouds whom the gods could shape at will, the Game Room was the place where the Dread Three had fun, whether together or with guests. Her teammates hadn’t waited for her and started playing Shooting Star with the Moon Man and Dice.

The rules were simple: throwing comets at the heavens above and trying to hit something. Planets counted as more points than suns, since they were harder to hit.

“First strike!” A humanoid crow, the god Deathjester never left his home without his crimson harlequin costume—it helped hide the blood. Countless souls wailed from inside his scythe. “Which world did I hit?”

“Karcosa,” Veran said. The dwarven goddess of flames, war, and machines hid herself beneath heavy, tank-like battle armor of her own design. Stilts allowed her to stand shoulder to shoulder with her comrade. “Jesty, don’t get your hopes high. We’re playing with uninhabited planets.”

“Oh, phooey,” Deathjester said, disappointed, before turning to welcome Camilla while the Moon Man narrowingly missed a sun. “Hey, Cam! You’re finally here!”

The goddess crossed her arms and glared at her old teammate. A dark elf vampire with skin black as night in life, crimson eyes, and white wavy hair, Camilla dressed in a form-fitting black dress with a low backside, which enhanced her voluptuous figure. She always had fashionista tendencies while a mortal, making up for Deathjester and Veran’s lack of style, and the trend continued as a deity.

“Come on, don’t give me that face, we’re just starting,” Deathjester replied, before returning to the game. “Why were you so late anyway? You finally introduced AIDS to Outremonde?”

“For the thousandth time, I will not.” Camilla rolled her eyes. She liked her mortal lovers too much for that, and she preferred supernatural diseases like vampirism. “And that was private business.”

“I’ve been thinking all day,” Deathjester continued to vex her. “If a vampire makes love to a living mortal, does it count as necrophilia?”

“You’re in an awfully disruptive mood today, Jesty,” Veran replied, forming a meteor in her palm and throwing it at some solar system. Her comet missed the star by a huge margin, making Deathjester laugh. “Damn you, sun!”

“Of course I feel happy,” the harlequin replied. “There hasn’t been this much chaos on Outremonde since the Century War! So many laughs!”

“Indeed.” The last guest, the goddess Shesha, made herself known by teleporting in the room. “So many new opportunities.”

Everyone already knew what, and who would be the talk of the night.

“Shesha, good to see you. Have you finally considered sponsoring the Undead Labor Trade?” Camilla asked, ever the politician eager to advance the cause of undead rights. “With the new policies of the V&V Empire, the Undeathstrial Revolution can no longer be stopped.”

“I am still on the fence, considering the nefarious long-term side-effects of necromancy,” the greedy reptile replied. “I decided that I will neither support nor condemn the trade. I leave to my worshipers to make the choice themselves.”

“So each of your churches will decide on their own?” Camilla pushed, knowing she could convince a few to work with her.

“I don’t micromanage,” Shesha confirmed. “It decreases productivity.”

“Work, work, work,” Deathjester complained, as the game ended in a decisive victory for him; none of the other deities had an aim worth a damn. Especially Dice, who didn’t have arms. “Relax, it’s game night!”

“Are we waiting for someone else?” Shesha asked.

“Nope,” Deathjester replied. “I sent Mithras an invitation card with ‘Nightlands’ written on it. He didn’t answer.”

Camilla laughed alongside her friend. As the deity of the sun, Mithras had never accepted that a vampire nation bordered his cherished Gardemagne. It didn’t help that the monarch, Orlock, had… peculiar beliefs as far as the sun god was concerned.

“Seven or so chapters to wait,” the Moon Man said, eyes turning towards him. “Mmm? What did I say?”

Deathjester shrugged, before crafting a table and chairs from the clouds. As the game master for the night, he invited the deities to sit.

As usual, only half the Pantheon attended the game. The more self-righteous gods, Mithras, Leone, Isengrim, and Cybele, preferred to play among themselves; and Mithras and the Dread Three couldn’t stand being in the same room anyway. Seng, the goddess of the sea, freedom, dreams, and alcoholism, usually got drunk with mortals while incognito.

And nobody in their right mind invited the destructive Sablar to that kind of game, ever.

Camilla sat between Veran and Deathjester, while Shesha sat between Veran and the Moon Man. While the same height, the gods would have appeared as giants to any mortal walking into the room, hills sitting around a plateau. Only Dice had elected to ignore the chair and hop on the table itself.

Camilla greatly enjoyed these opportunities to meet with her fellow deities. As the goddess of undeath, she did everything in her power so that her followers never passed on, allowing them to remain as ghosts, ghouls, or vampires. She thus had very little company in her realm, and usually resorted to hanging out with mortals in disguise.

“Okay,” Deathjester began, summoning a vividly precise, animated board map of all of Outremonde on the table. The design on the board took a life of its own; mountains of stone rose from the paper, the oceans of ink began to flow, and the names of the various cities of the world shone above key points. “Tonight folks, we play Outremonde Civilization.”

“Wartime edition?” Veran pushed. “Haven’t had a good one since the Century War, and I was too late for the Murmurin-Ishfania conflict. I want to test my new war golem on the field.”

“It will be for the next game,” the Moon Man said, before rambling. “When the four are one.”

“No prophecies!” Veran shouted, but the ancient star abomination couldn’t help himself.

“Steel boots will trample marble ground, as purple roses show their thorns. Blades in the night, shields of darkness, and bloodstained roots.”

“Great, just great,” Veran sighed. “I guess I will figure out what you meant in a year or so.”

“Aw, my friend, trying to figure it out is half the fun,” Deathjester replied, ever the optimist. “The other half, screwing destiny over.”

“No war,” Shesha said. “War is bad for global trade.”

A true warmonger, Veran insisted further. “But there are still fomors all over the world. Just a crusade, to finish them off. Or a border conflict. I can settle on one.”

“Veran, don’t be greedy,” Camilla told her teammate. “You introduced gunpowder and artillery through your Claimed champions last campaign.”

“I want to try new stuff!” Dice said.

“You dominated the Century War Campaign,” Deathjester added. “Learn to share, Smally.”

“Pfft, you say that because you have a field day with all the bandits and political assassinations that followed the war.”

“As Shesha usually says,” Deathjester cackled, “business is booming.”

“Look, the fomors are dead set on exterminating the mortals, and they don’t have souls to feel regrets,” Veran stubbornly clung to her position. While a warlike deity, she wanted her worshipers to rule a populated world, and not a silent grave. “I say we will never be safe until we wipe out every last one of ‘em. That Mell Odieuse is the new King Balaur, with teats. The best crowd control is death.”

“She is protected by Sablar,” Shesha pointed out. “The fomors are in no position to try anything big for at least another century, and the nations of the world are exhausted. It would be better for mortals to use the respite to build.”

"Yes, and Vainqueur Knightsbane will probably confront her," Deathjester added, "Which my intuition tells me will be a very entertaining conflict."

“Who is up for a more peaceful campaign this time?” Camilla raised her hand, everyone but Veran doing the same. Well, Dice hopped, which still counted as a yes. “Sorry my friend, you are outvoted.”

The dwarf crossed her arms while pouting.

The rules of Outremonde Civilization were simple. Each god could affect that world through three methods: guiding their followers, from priests to inquisitors; summoning Claimed champions or through their sphere of influence. While the gods could visit the mortal world, they held to a strict non-intervention policy after the last war between them… although everyone cheated when they could get away with it.

During War Editions, they usually set their worshipers against the others. The Century War had turned into one when the vile Sablar sponsored the fomors in their destructive rampage across Mistral, forcing the deities to settle on summoning and guiding champions to turn back the tide. Veran had had a field day using the war as an excuse to introduce new technology to the Mistral continent.

Overall, though, it had been a tense, brutal campaign. The mortals of Mistral had had a real chance of being wiped out, and only streams of summoned Claimed had turned the tide against King Balaur.

“First, before we begin, I want to address the flying elephant in the room,” Deathjester said. “Dragons. As you all know, thanks to Vainqueur Knightsbane, long may he live, dragons have started to take levels, which is awesome and spices the game up, but also opened a whole can of worms. I think I know everyone’s opinion on it, but I got to ask: do we lift the ban on dragon reincarnation for this session?”

“No!” everyone said almost at once.

“Dragons are forbidden—” Dice added.

“Until the end of times, yes,” Deathjester shuddered, alongside the rest of the deities. Camilla knew the god of crime had violated every single divine rule at one point, except that one.

“Thankfully, raw power alone won’t be enough to reach Valhalla,” Shesha shuddered. “Nobody wants another… Incident…”

“Jesty laughed over it,” Veran said.

“Yes, like at a joke so bad, so tasteless, it circled right back to good,” the crow prince of crime replied. “Agreed then, no dragon Claimed allowed. Dragons priests are allowed though, alongside the usual divinely empowered classes.”

“There are dragon priests?” Camilla asked, jealous she didn’t have one yet.

“Yes, one dragon, Icefang I think, tried to worship himself to access the class. Obviously, it didn’t work, but I wouldn’t rule out a dragon paladin showing up.” Deathjester closed his eyes while fantasizing about it. “I hope one shows up. Mithras would be so mad about it.”

“I suggest we play an Age of Discovery campaign,” Shesha came forward with an idea, the gods listening, “Sea monsters have made it impossible for mortals to cross the oceans… until now. Some civilizations, like the Teikoku, Barin, and the Thaoten Empire, have developed archaic flight; Maure created one functioning aircraft; and dragons. If last campaign’s focus was a worldwide war, I suggest the next one be an age of adventure and exploration.”

“Good idea!” Deathjester nodded. “I was getting sick of the Middle Ages!”

“I thought we were already moving out after the Century War,” Veran pointed out. “With the introduction of artillery, undead labor, and the new classes the system created in their wake.”

“Yes, but now we can enter the magitech renaissance,” Shesha said. “I trademarked the name. A new age of entrepreneurship, treasure hunting, and global trade!”

“And then culture clash will lead to more conflicts down the line,” Veran nodded. “I’m sold.”

“How much?” Shesha asked.

The Moon Man, who usually went along with everything when he didn’t rant, nodded happily at the suggestion. “I want to play discovery.”

“I agree too,” Camilla said with a sly smile. As the Thaoten were an undead empire worshiping her, she and her church had a considerable head-start in the campaign. She could spread her cult and the joy of undeath across the globe in no time.

“Roll me!” Dice insisted. “Roll me for new additions!”

“Alright, alright, democracy has spoken, this century’s theme will be the Age of Discovery,” Deathjester said. “We start with the Mistral continent, and Dice will take the first turn.”

The dice hopped happily, while the other deities exchanged glances. As magic and luck incarnate, Dice’s rolling sprees always drastically changed Outremonde. Deathjester had taken to letting him go first, so the other gods could plan around or after the fallout rather than before.

“Here is the state of the world…” Deathjester cleared his throat, before taking a deep, narrator voice. He always had a gift for theatrics. “The Century War has ended, leaving the Mistral Continent forever changed. The dread fomors, under the protection of Sablar, retreated to Prydain and the Dark Forest to plot further destruction. The Harmonian League and the Midgard Republic fell, absorbed by the almighty kingdom of Gardemagne, the merchant empire of Barin, or the vampire theocracy of the Nightlands. To the north, the warlords of the Winter Kingdoms fight both dragons and each other for dominance. The wyrm emperor Vainqueur Knightsbane has conquered the land of Ishfania, renaming it the V&V Empire. While the war has ended, chaos and confusion reign. What do you do?”

“Roll for new magical weather conditions!”

“For each country?” Camilla winced in fear, as did Shesha. Both favored a specific country, the Nightlands, and Barin, respectively.

“Moon Man, since you have no favorite country, please roll the dice,” Deathjester asked. The ancient moon beast grabbed Dice with a tentacle and threw it on the map.

Then the slaughter began.

“Barin, one! Global warming! Dry weather and fiery winds! Winter Kingdoms, four, cool weather and strong hail!”

With each roll, Dice introduced new effects on the map. A fiery sirocco moved towards Barin’s dominions in the south, much to Shesha’s frustration, while ice shards shredded the north of the map.

“Gardemagne, ten and seventeen! Nice summer to the south, acid rains to the north!” Deathjester cackled at the result; soon, clouds began to unleash green ink on some areas of Mithras’ beloved kingdom.

“Nightlands,” Camilla winced, as Dice landed one its fifteenth face. “Fifteen, rains of blood!”

The vampire goddess sighed in relief, as crimson rain drenched her beloved vampire country. Luck smiled on her.

Which left only one country…

“V&V Empire, twenty!” Dice sounded overjoyed at the result, introducing an unknown weather pattern to Outremonde. “Rain of slime!”

Tiny green clouds formed above the former Ishfanian territories, raining slime creatures like water. Camilla hoped Vainqueur and his troops were hungry, because they would have a jelly feast for a meal.

“None of these are natural weather patterns!” Shesha protested. “You cannot rain jelly!”

“I’m a god, I don’t have to make sense!” Dice replied. “I say rain of slime!”

By the end of the turn, all of the continent’s weather had been altered for the season, Dice leaving the permanency of the changes to chance.

“Who wants to go next?” Moon Man raised a tentacle at Deathjester’s question. “The lord of madness has it. For fairness, we will play in a clockwise turn, and I will close the Mistral round. Moon Man, what do you do?”

“To confirm, I heard I had a prophet,” the Moon Man said. “Does this mean I have a cult?”

“Yes, for the thousandth time, you have followers,” Camilla replied, annoyed. The Moon Man forgot he had a religion almost every session, to the point he had the smallest pool of worshipers.

Sablar had more. When you were less popular than the god of destruction, you had to ask yourself questions.

“In that case, I order all of my followers to travel to the Moon.”

A short silence followed the declaration. “Come again?” Deathjester asked.

“We’re playing Age of Exploration,” the Moon Man replied calmly. “I ask my followers to brave the one true frontier, space. They will join my children on the Moon so that we can shake tentacles in harmony.”

“Wow, you’re skipping a lot of intermediary steps there.”

“This is great!” Veran had taken the declaration in stride. “I can introduce magical missiles in fifty years top!”

Deathjester sighed. “Will that be all?”

“My one true prophet shall lead my flock to the stars,” the alien deity added. “I have spoken.”

“Hasn’t Dice claimed that one first?” Veran asked. “You too, Shesha?”

“He’s easy,” Shesha replied, who had claimed him too. Somehow, the way she worded it implied another thing entirely.

“Shesha, you go next,” the crow prince of crime said. “Even if it will be hard to top the Race to the Moon, what do you do?”

“I order my church to invest in overseas travel,” Shesha said. The most calculating and practical of the deities, she favored logistics over flashy displays of power. “To bolster the age of exploration, I increase the reward for exploring undiscovered areas. Since the monster-hunting market is overcrowded by the new dragon competition, exploration will become more lucrative.”

“Boring, but nice,” Deathjester commented.

“Then, I introduce paper currency to bolster the economy, starting with—”

“Already done.”

Shesha made a short pause. “What do you mean, already done?”

“Manling Victor, Grand Vizier of Murmurin, is already plotting to introduce paper clips as the official currency of the V&V Empire,” Deathjester replied. “It hasn’t been made official, but they started using mimics to print it. Emperor Vainqueur gave it the go, since he thought it would make less gold for manlings and more for him.”

“How do you know that, Jesty?” Camilla asked, Shesha considering the news. “Have you been infiltrating that country?”

“Please,” Deathjester pleaded guilty. “I have eyes everywhere.”

“I knew that place would be interesting,” Shesha said. “I increase all of my church’s investments in the V&V Empire, and I end my turn.”

The next player was Veran, who, as usual, began her turn by ordering her worshipers to destroy the sun and Mithras. A would-be warlord trying to conquer the surface while a mortal, the Dread Three began when she hired Camilla and Deathjester, then freelance necromancer and assassin respectively, to assist. While the invasion failed, they had bonded over killing knights and stuck together as adventurers afterward.

“Next, I introduce a new kind of monster to Outremonde: the Lava Golem.” As Veran spoke, a miniature of the monster, a monstrous titan of magma, manifested at the edge of the map, “Expected level to take on: fifty. Then, I special summon a Claimed with knowledge of making AK-47’s in the Winter Kingdoms.”

A small, dwarf-shaped wooden piece appeared on the north of the map.

“Why are you summoning a person who can create this weapon in the country with the least resources to build it?” Shesha frowned.

“Because they are the most likely to use it,” Deathjester replied. “They have a big dragon problem.”

“About that, since dragons are now getting stronger, I think it’s unfair for everyone else,” Veran added. “So I create and distribute new Dragonslaying loot items all over the world, and I inspire my clergy with the knowledge of how to forge more. I end my turn.”

“As if it will do them any good,” Camilla said with a knowing smirk, as her own turn began.

“Cam, will you introduce new undead again?” Deathjester asked, hopeful. “I suggest the dracolich. Please, take the dracolich.”

“Lich is a class, Jesty, not a spontaneous condition,” Camilla reminded her ally. Not that it worried her. Considering how fast dragons leveled up, it was only a matter of time before one succeeded.

What could she do though? Unlike Deathjester, who reveled in his terrible publicity, Camilla didn’t consider herself evil; she thought the world would be much better when everyone could enjoy mortal pleasures as an undead, instead of passing on. She had pushed for the legalization of necromancy, and after centuries, her wish had finally been granted. At this point, she only had to encourage and preserve the trend.

“Everything is already going well for me this session,” she admitted.

“You’re not skipping your turn, are you?”

“Of course not, Jesty. I have my church officially recognize the V&V Empire; support their undeathstrial minion pension plan; and generalize it among my followers. Everyone will now gain the possibility to rise as a sentient undead, against a donation.”

“Would you be open to multi-religion bundles?” Shesha proposed.

“Of course, but undeath will remain a fundamental right for everyone, as the key to happiness,” Camilla replied with political-mindedness. “I will not budge on this.”

“Cam, Cam, you’re mistaken,” Deathjester said. “The secret of happiness is to kill everyone who makes you unhappy, and then one day you will be dead for good too.”

Camilla smiled back at him. In spite of failing constantly, the assassin always maintained a positive attitude; he had never given up on his dream to kill Mithras, even after failing dozens of times. “Believe what you want, Jesty. I end my turn.”

“Which leaves me,” Deathjester hung back in his chair. His friend knew that the cunning rogue had arranged to go last, so he could see the others’ strategy first.

Which the trickster immediately moved to disrupt.

“I command the winds, to redirect the brunt of the weather changes towards Gardemagne,” Deathjester said. “Can’t have my new favorite country suffer from slime depredation for too long. Then, for karma’s sake, I order my followers among the Nightblades to claim any dragonslaying weapon they can and distribute them to bandits across the world. Finally, I activate my trap."

Another piece of wood, this time human-shaped, appeared right next to Veran's own.

"I special summon a Claimed of my own in the Winter Kingdoms, and I order him to murder yours, Veran.”

“What?” The goddess jumped on her seat. “Why?”

“Because of too many guns. And on these wise words, I end my turn.”

And that was only the first continent.

They had seven more to go.

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A note from Void Herald

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Void Herald

Bio: I'm a European warlock living in the distant realm known as France, spending half my time writing and the other half managing magical websites.

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