In the vast space of the Daemoniverse, an empty ship floated through the interstellar void. Slowly, a Daemon Warship pulled up near it, and its crew boarded.
The first of the boarding party, Goblins mostly, charged forward, only to be annihilated by the ship defense systems. Drath, the Korgrath general overseeing the operation, sighed and shook his head. This was why he sent the pawns in first.
This ship had once been commanded by Cthire, one of the Seven. He had frequented this vessel for months before his demise. In fact, he had been en route to rendezvous with the warship when the Rennite had killed him. The contents of this ship might prove extremely valuable. As a Korgrath in the service of the most evil entity in the universe, Drath enjoyed being useful.
Once the security systems had been bypassed, Drath and a few other Korgrath entered the vessel and began a full-scale search. At first, they found nothing but a highly complicated computer. It required a password, and so none of the Korgrath was able to access it.
Drath, however, had much in the way of knowledge, knowledge of the history of the Gehennians. Drath confidently walked to the computer, and spoke a single word. "Plasmine," he said.
The computer immediately logged him in, and showed him everything Cthire had placed on its database. After a moment of searching, Drath gasped with shock.
"We must contact the Dark King," he said breathlessly.
An hour later, on Inferno, Hectocapitus spoke to the Seven.
"An hour ago, a boarding party lead by the Korgrath Drath discovered Cthire's personal database, which shows a video. This video may prove to be very important to us."
He snapped two clawed fingers, and a hologram appeared.
It was a recording of some kind; it showed a spacecraft, silver in color, with two black stripes running down the sides. The ship was alone, and was about to combat a small fleet of Angeli.
Just as the Angeli ships grew near, and began to fire their weapons, the ship sprang into action.
At one moment, the ship was in the middle of their fleet, about to be disintergrated by oncoming fire. At the next, it was halfway across the battlefield, right at the rear flank of the enemy fleet. A blinding light issued from a cannon, and three quarters of the Angeli disappeared in a wave of burning plasma.
The remaining ships tried to flee, activating maximum FTL engines, but the striped ship fired some kind of pulse from its front, disabling them. The rest were then destroyed.
Each of the Seven were breathless. Finally, Hectocapitus spoke.
"It appears that Cthire somehow gained access to old Veiled One technology, and incorporated it into his ship. The Gehennian who can bring me this vessel will be much favored in my sight. Go forth and conquer."
The Seven did not need to hear more. Each left the room, plotting to lay their claim to the vessel.
Bloodburn went first to his great, black fortress by the Tower. There was much to do- first things first, he was going to get Deadflame and Horrorscorch with him. The Armageddon was in dock, and there were at least twenty other Deathships he could legitimately bring with him.
From the dark, staring walls of his castle he took his chest and its key, fearing lest it would be discovered in his absence.
Horrorscorch arrived first. "I am needed, father?"
"Get your ship and all the Zahhak you can gather. We head to intercept Cthire's last invention."
"Yes, my lord. But- why bring me?"
Bloodburn gave his son a hard stare. "Fire."
"Why do you need fire?"
"Can you name a problem that cannot be solved with fire?"
Horrorscorch thought hard for a moment, then relented. "No."
"Then get going."
Deadflame arrived, eyes showing evident annoyance. "What now, father?"
"We're going to catch a ship."
Deadflame snorted. "I have better things to do."
"Not this time. This vessel is the sum total of Cthire's work, gone rogue and free in the Daemoniverse. Hectocapitus will see it captured, no matter the cost."
Bloodburn's son mulled it over for a moment. "What kind of things can it do?"
"FTL jumps, plasma streams, disablement beams. All powerful enough to get a small Angeli fleet down."
"The Armageddon is more powerful that that."
Bloodburn's eyes flashed. "You know not the Armageddon's function. We cannot afford to see it abused in fighting battles easily done with other ships."
"What, then, is your ship for?"
The Foremost of the Seven, the Crimson-Scaled One, growled. "It is for when we are free of this universe, or when the Daemons are fading."
"Neither of those things will happen in our lifetime."
A memory flitted through Bloodburn's mind- the vision bestowed by an Angelus, the darkness closing around Inferno... "Something is wrong in this century."
"They say that about every century."
"No, they say that every century shall be the century where we defeat our foes here and move on to glory. But there is a shadow over these times, and there will be revelations like none since heaven fell."
"I always thought that was a childish phrase. Since heaven fell?"
Bloodburn's lip curled in a fanged smile. "This universe is not an old one, but old enough to have seen things which have been remembered in some form or another- a casual phrase, a way of fighting, a precaution with no relevance to the current situation."
"You're trying to tell me that there was a place called heaven that fell, father?" Deadflame was incredulous.
"I am only speculating. But no more of that- we have a ship to catch and strip."
Death's Shadow watched the other Seven rushing about, preparing their ships and gathering fleets and soldiers. She had no need to do that- Umbran would provide the ships and soldiers, which the Antagonist was more than equal to.
A few dozen Reapers entered the ship. They were pretty much the only lower-castes she had any use for, as all the others were too odorous, noisy or stupid to carry out quick and strategic attacks.
The idea was for her and Umbran's forces to work together instead of going their seperate ways. It would make them equal to the largest of the assembled fleets, and give them the power of two Seven rather than one.
She just hoped that they wouldn't have to kill the others for it.
Snakesick sat on her haunches inside the ship's loading bay, staring out into the ashen sky and amongst the sputtering lights of Pandaemonium. "We go to Mother?"
The green Gehennian jiggled about, restless. "Why me if no Mother?"
"I can't leave you behind. It would be irresponsible."
"Not irresponsiful. Snakesick take good care."
Death's Shadow looked into Snakesick's eyes. "Remember the last time I let you 'take good care'?"
Snakesick scowled. "Was shiny."
"You're coming, and that's the end of it."
Darkshriek was also readying himself for the journey, assembling a flotilla of ten Deathships and a small army of five thousand- barely anything in Daemon terms.
He kept spies watching the progress of the other Seven, and was fully aware of at least two servants of the others looking down in him from roofs and pillars. They all knew to observe and be observed.
An explosion rattled the chamber as a Shadow Beast cracked open its cage. Immediately, Korgrath took control of the creature as another mounted it to be loaded onto the ship for travel. Countless Daemons scurried for their weapons, preparing for the coming challenge.
Ravana strode calmly into the room, observing progress. He could hear the cries of the Harpies above him as they were released to clear the skies for the fleet.
He wasn't worried about the others. He had Watchers deployed in every nook and cranny of Swarga Loka, ready to spot the servants of the other Seven. He didn't trust them. But then, it would be a funny old world if Daemons went around trusting one another.
Ravana walked up to a gigantic door. It was made of a thick metal, and perhaps 300 feet tall. Smiling, he turned to the Rakshasa to address them. He couldn't help but show off his creations.
"My servants," he boomed, "it might interest you to take a brief break from your preparations and watch a little feat of strength."
The Grakk gathered around to watch.
Ravana gestured to the door, which was locked. "I'm willing to bet that even the strongest Korgrath would not be able to break through this lock. I can bring my best commanders up to show you. Kumbi?"
Kumbhakarna walked up to his master. He knew that Ravana was the only one allowed to call him Kumbi, and that anyone else who tried would have their necks wrung in seconds.
"Try and see if you can crush that lock, burst through the door, whatever you can." Ravana stepped back.
Kumbhakarna grinned, and gripped the lock in his hand. He tightened, but it would not budge. Even touching it made his entire arm to start aching.
Failing that, he tried busting open the door. He did not even manage to break it by charging at it, slamming his horns into the metal.
He backed away. "I cannot do it, Master."
The other Daemons were surprised to see such a high-ranking superior be unable to do something---or obey their Master's orders.
"That's alright, Kumbi. Not even a Gehennian can open that door manually. And believe me, I've tried. But I know what could."
From behind Ravana, four Sirens fanned out, waiting for their Master's next command.
"Do your worst," Ravana said.
At that, the cykrons let out an ear-splitting scream, and attacked the door's lock. Within an instant, the lock was gone, and a hole rested in its place.
Ravana smiled again. Their other weapons had always amused him.
He opened the door, and everyone in the room immediately saw why it was locked.
A deafening roar emerged from the darkness, and a huge monster leapt into view. The winged terror had reptilian features, and immediately started stomping about the room, squishing several Grakk.
"Hush now," Ravana said to the creature. "No killing yet."
The monster stopped, waiting for further orders. Beyond the door frame, more of its kind stood, waiting for their cue.
Ravana couldn't help but smile again. He was quite fond of his latest project, almost as fond as he was with the Seekers. This cykron was created specially for this mission. It was quite simple to make really: take a Titan from Inferno, add a bit of mechanical elements, give it the enlarged head and claws of a Varuna, and you had a nice obeying servant with an additude the size of its body.
He sent the Riders off to make the long climb up to their saddles, and turned back to the waiting Daemons. "It's nothing more than a competition," he said.
"So let's win it, shall we?"
Arethusa looked out at the sweeping shores. There was much out there that could be used, but most of it wouldn't suffice today. This was a space mission, not the sea.
Her fleet was smaller compared to the others'. But did it pack a punch. Certainly so, after the Lentaa were driven out.
The Scylla itself was waiting at Arethusa's fortress, still as dangerous as ever. A large fleet of Harvengers rested by its side in preparation. The Grakk were getting restless---after years with no native race to conquer, they were eager to nab a trophy.
Farther off shore, Arethusa could see Saren Sharks breaching the surface. It was nice to get away from Unda once in a while, but still, she felt comfortable near the seas.
Snakesick was a bigger worry. Her sister had changed beyond recognition in Vesania, now a crazed wreck. They had not seen each other yet, after she returned. But Arethusa felt that this time would be when they met again.
But enough of that. It was time to go hunting.
The Korgrath was quite nervous. It was going to be an interesting chase, and quite fun, but it was his master that worried him. All of his master's men feared him.
And without warning, there he was now, right in front of him. The Korgrath stumbled and stood to attention.
His master blinked at him. "I like riddle. You?"
The Korgrath silently cringed. He had feared this ever since he started serving.
"Difficult dilemma, but easy. Easy easy easy. You look good. You will solve."
The Korgrath took a deep breath. There was a minute chance that it was perhaps possible to get this right.
"I give now...What talks and walks, what mighty fights, what hygiene crude and make good food?"
The Korgrath blinked. It was now or never.
"...Your personal chef?"
A grumble. "No. You!"
The Korgrath's eyes widened.
"Sorry. Bye now."
His master raised a hand, and a field of several thousand volts enveloped the Korgrath, who doubled back, screaming in pain. It seemed like ages that his mind was screaming.
His master put his hand down and then said, "Have good time," before ripping the Korgrath's upper torso from the rest of his body and munching it up.
Inside Bahamut's frazzled mind, he was thinking that at least the Daemon tried. There would be more to quiz soon.
He was well on the lookout for any spies. He'd love to make them talk.
But even if he didn't have to torture, he was still ready for some fun. A new Deathship awaited, built to the exact instructions Bahamut gave. It was perfect down to the last detail, and any servants who polished the wrong button were promptly eaten. The Jester was a magnificent piece of work, to be sure.
He thought it was just a little quest. It would be fun to take the shiny ship. He liked shiny. And Nemesis was a very good name.
Bahamut made a noise that sounded like a half-giggle, half-burp, and then shouted, "Want chef now!"
In the darkness of space, a ship lurked.
It was not dank and dirty, but menacingly clean. A dark and foreboding masterpiece that shined like a diamond.
"We have found something of interest, your Grace."
"And what's that?"
"The Daemons are looking for a Warship, one once owned by that pitiful imbecile Cthire. Its name is the Nemesis."
"It sounds valuable."
"Indeed it is, your Grace. It contains technology from the ancient Veiled Ones."
"Well, let's go get it."
The ship embarked, becoming a blaze of light, and engaged FTL.
Pharriel smiled. He liked these sort of challenges. It kept him entertained.
Glancing down at his newly acquired missile launcher, he pondered the Accursed Diamond's first move.
Umbran walked down the streets of Pandaemonium, quietly and doing his best to appear nonchalant. With a sigh of contentment, he entered Indigo's laboratory.
He found the scientist hard at work over some form of biological specimen. She had not seemed to notice his entrance.
"Hello, daughter of Cthire," Umbran said maliciously.
Indigo jumped, startled. "You alarmed me," she said.
"I know. Pack your things; you're coming with me. We're on a mission to capture your father's final and greatest invention, a ship capable of taking on an Angeli armada alone."
Indigo sniffed. "What do you need me for?"
"Cthire was a tricky individual. Chances are he put in some kind of security system so that only someone with at least part of his DNA could operate it. Now, no more complaints. You're coming with me."
She looked at a small container, containing a large black scale. "What about my research? The project you set me to?"
Umbran hesitated. "The Torment has a laboratory. You can continue your research there."
Indigo nodded. "That's it, I guess. Let's go."
Fire Opal groaned as Blazewing shook her awake. "It's time to wake up, dearest," said her lover.
"Cthire's last invention, a ship called the Nemesis, is loose and wild in the Daemoniverse. We've got to get it before the Seven do."
Fire Opal nodded. "What are we taking? The Childsgame?"
"Yeah. It's not a perfect ship, but it's our ship, and it's gonna help us get a perfect one. C'mon, dearest. We have a ship to catch."
This is madness, said Cthire, I beg that you reconsider.
"Sorry, father," said Voidbreaker, "But my mind is quite made up." Although his father's voice was only in his head, Voidbreaker couldn't help but speak out loud to him. The Korgrath seemed quite disconcerted with this.
Here's what you should do, said Cthire imploringly, use the Riddler to capture the Nemesis, and then bring it to Hectocapitus. He should be impressed with you; he'll certainly accept you into his forces. Think of it; you could be a Seven!
"Scandalous as it may sound to you," said Voidbreaker dryly, "I don't want to be a Seven. I've never wanted power. What I desire are the secrets of the Multiverse; the Nemesis is simply a tool to give me those secrets."
As a Seven, you would have access to all the secrets in Obeidon.
"Hardly. Besides which, secrets are only worth having if you have to look for them, not find them in some library. I intend to look for my secrets; and to kill anyone who gets in my way."
This is madness. You can't possibly expect to win against the Seven.
"Silly father. I already have."
Bloodburn looked out into space from the bridge. There wasn't much to see, but it was good to project images of death and slaughter on from his mind. The Armageddon drifted passively along in the darkness, the bow and stern waves from oncoming particles at FTL creating blue and red shockwaves that would be blinding if he wasn't viewing them through both the ship's and his own filters.
Horrorscorch and Deadflame were at the consoles, doing something. Bloodburn honestly didn't care what it was, as long as it wasn't going to damage the ship.
He overheard the word 'Snakesick', so it definitely wasn't worth paying attention to.
Finally, Horrorscorch came over.
"Where do we think it is?" He asked Bloodburn.
The great crimson dragon shrugged. "It's moving."
"Everything's moving, in space."
"Things move predictably. This ship will not be moving predictably, and may not even be in the Daemoniverse."
"Then... how can we find it?"
Deadflame came over. "All Deathships have active blackmetal hulls, so there are Cubi in them."
Bloodburn nodded. "All Cubi can transmit a signal to Inferno if their situation becomes desperate, through the Crossverse. It's not powerful enough to detect unless there are either billions of Cubi or they are within the Hellstar system."
"So we wait for the ship to get damaged."
Deadflame snorted. "No. We're currently transmitting a signal that will pre-emptively make those Cubi think they're going to die- a replica of a Julth Overlord's mass envelope shear."
The red dragon spoke again. "And we're the only Daemon ship which can make this signal, because we can amplify that of our prisoner."
Horrorscorch grinned toothily. "We're going to be the ones who get there first, aren't we?"
Deadflame took a Korgrath that had been listening a little too closely and snapped its neck. "Damn spies. He's probably already sent the message."
The Antagonist and its attached flotilla entered orbit by the Torment.
It was a sizeable group of ships- mainly Deathships, filled with soldiers and ready for the chase. Forty or so grey shapes hung in the blackness, and final preparations took place before departure.
Death's Shadow's ship docked with the Torment, and they all prepared to go FTL.
Inside the vessel, Snakesick was lying on her mat, one eye open and watching the two Seven members. She mumbled occasionally and traced patterns with her claws.
Umbran's Zahhak watched her dispassionately, and the Afrits just ignored her, hard at work at their stations. There were a few Reapers about, standing idly.
She smiled twitchily and closed her eye.
Darkshriek supervised the loading of the last few crates of supplies onto the Necromaniac, his deathship.
Dravahk, the Tekija that had been given to him along with the conflagration cannon, came up to him.
"Master, I don't think we're going to get there first."
"Of course we aren't. But we're going to use this as cover to carry out some unrelated... activities. Once all the Seven are off Inferno, establishing control over the Daemons there and gaining favour with Hectocapitus will be much easier. And we can get installing things in the fortresses of the other Seven."
Dravahk nodded approvingly. "Very devious, master."
Darkshriek chuckled a little. "Aren't I just." He then set his expression back to a slight evil smile, his most natural and his favourite.
"But we have to pretend we're up there, first."
As the small army they had gathered filed slowly into their flotilla, Darkshriek looked out wistfully over Pandaemonium. Then, he turned away, and Dravahk followed him into the deathship.
- The Seven
- Daemon Warship
- Veiled One
- Veiled One Technology
- Daemon Fortress
- The Tower
- The Armageddon
- Death's Shadow
- Shadow Beast
- Swarga Loka
- The Torment
- Julth Overlord