Episode 15: Pharaoh's Folly
by David Noonan
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Ixecudor of Ymog
Ixecudor of Ymog

Kneeling in the desert sands, Viktor decided he was having a very bad night. The wave of riots, terrorism, and wars that had spread across the globe in last few hours were disrupting or swallowing whole his various cults. A rival endbringer, the ancient Egyptian Neferhe, was in the process of making her god, Set, manifest in the real world. If she succeeded, the world would descend into chaos and barbarism, wiping away every technological and societal advance and causing all of humankind to revert to savagery.

And that's not the bad part, Viktor thought. Wrecking the world is just the prologue to destroying it completely, which will happen in short order if I don't stop her.

Viktor regarded the spiraling network of obelisks that dotted the Saharan desert. Each obelisk had white-robed priests surrounding it, some chanting and some writhing on the desert sands -- whether in agony or ecstasy, Viktor couldn't tell.

Viktor turned to the hulking figure behind him. A black creature of fang, feather, and tentacle, it floated a few feet above the desert floor, its tendrils leaving lazy curlicues in the sand. "My star-spawn, the time has come for you to hunt. Consume the minions, but leave the obelisks alone for now. Neferhe will falter if she feels the chant weaken."

The star-spawn's reply was a profane croak, syllables of gibberish that Viktor felt thumping in his chest more than he heard. Then it began to glide across the Saharan sands, hovering within each dune shadow in turn.

Viktor called after it. "You'll find soldiers guarding the outermost obelisks, but they are no danger to you. But my enemy undoubtedly has an abomination or two of her own in the desert sands, so beware!"

With a quick incantation and a wave of his hands, Viktor refocused his perceptions at a point in the sky far above the obelisk network. From this eldritch vantage point, he could see his abomination floating toward soldiers dug in among the dunes.

The abomination rose above a large dune, then swooped toward the soldiers. Viktor's astral projection grinned an insubstantial smile from the sky as he saw a pillar of fire light up the desert night. Scratch one tank. Below him, most of the soldiers were fleeing in terror, although a few had fallen insensate in the presence of the star-spawn or were clutching at their own eyes to expunge its horrid sight. One brave soldier lifted a rocket launcher and aimed it squarely at the abomination. The rocket whooshed toward the star-spawn, briefly outlining it like a photo negative against the desert. But the star-spawn croaked another gout of gibberish and landed atop the soldier. When the abomination lifted off again, there was no sign of the soldier and a jumble of broken glass where once there was sand.

Viktor's perceptions were snapped back to his body suddenly as he felt a coil tighten around his left bicep. He ripped at the constriction with his right arm, but his hand caught only air. It's just a tenuous manifestation of Set, nothing more, he said. But if it's getting through my natural defenses, that means Neferhe's ritual is almost done.

And the network of glowing red obelisks stretched nearly to the horizon. Even my abomination can consume the living only so fast. What if I confronted Neferhe directly? I might delay or distract her, but I'll be at ground zero of her power and thus more or less at her mercy.

Another quick, difficult incantation, and Viktor was standing atop the rock outcropping, panting heavily as he gasped, "Neferhe . . ."

The olive-skinned woman smiled cruelly, holding a wavy-bladed dagger and clutching at a ceramic medallion over her purple robes. "Viktor. The clouds foretold your presence. Are you presenting yourself as an offering to Set?"

"We both know that Set is just the means to an end, Neferhe."

"And what great glory is that, dearest Viktor? Think of it! The gods themselves are just tools for me. Behold the ruin of the world, Viktor, and weep that I will accomplish what you could not!"

In the back of his mind, Viktor could feel his star-spawn battling with a demonic abomination of Neferhe's creation. He was careful to keep his face a mask as he felt his star-spawn tear into the flesh of Neferhe's red-skinned abomination. She lost The Butcher when she attacked my castle, and she was too busy working on the Set summoning to properly replace it. And if I can keep her busy, she won't realize that her abomination is overmatched.

"Don't end it all, Neferhe. You can put Set's power to more . . . focused purposes. You could rule here, create a dynasty far greater than any of your ancestors -- or the descendants that didn't spend four thousand years sleeping in the sands."

"You think I want to rule here, Viktor, you fool? That's the weakness I saw in my father's eyes when he brought Set forth at the dawn of time. I could see that he wouldn't go through with ending it. He was going to . . ." She spat the word out. ". . . focus on remaking the world in his image, not ending it all."

My star-spawn has won, and now it's consuming her priests, Viktor thought.

"I'm not weak like that, Viktor. I'm going to end it all, probably before the sun rises."

Viktor paused, then gave Neferhe a tight-lipped smile. "Look around you, Neferhe. Some of your red obelisks have gone dark. One by one, they're crumbling into the darkness and being consumed by the sands."

Neferhe looked about her, wildly. "W-what? No -- Set draws nigh! The world convulses in chaos!"

"For how long? I know a little of your history, Neferhe. I know what happens when this ritual gets interrupted. So do you, of course. You were the one who interrupted it last time."

Neferhe fell to her knees and began screaming. Sand began to sting Viktor's face as he prepared the incantation to whisk him from this place.

"The sandstorm is coming, Neferhe. And this time, it'll bury you for good."

To be continued...

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D&D Nonfiction Selections, Round 1
Oroon Rising - Chap. 9
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Oroon Rising - Chap. 8
Episode 17: The Final Destination
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Oroon Rising - Chap. 7
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