Simon closed the drapes on his window, shutting out the last of the long summer twilight, and the noise from the town. He slid into the lonely double bed that he had once shared with Julie. His heart ached and he reached for the pillow he kept doused in her perfume to hug. He thought it was the tears in his eyes that were making him see things. He rubbed his eyes and looked again. In the faint light, he made out a naked man sitting at the bottom of his bed. He was twice the size of a normal man, dark haired, strong and handsome. He too carried the mark of Ubadah, though he was no Hero. Simon recognised the Singing God who had taken Ubadah’s form.
“We meet again, Simon Rufus,” the god spoke softly as though he didn’t want to be overheard. “I was disappointed that you didn’t take up my offer to join me. However, it wouldn’t have lasted; there are those more powerful than I who would reward your service. Travel with me, Simon Rufus; two naked gods together; two brothers sharing the glories of Chaos.” Simon felt his eyes closing and, though he fought against it, his eyelids felt as heavy as lead. He tried to speak, but couldn’t form any words. He tried to hold his scented pillow for comfort but it had vanished. Whether he slept and dreamed or whether he walked with his brother god he didn’t know.
They walked over a dry brown plain interspersed with red lakes. They were two naked brother gods, one dark the other red. There was a salty tang in the air, as if they were close to the ocean but the air was heavier and more foetid. A white mountain was visible in the distance and getting larger. It seemed to be their destination. Simon glanced at his companion and saw that they were the same size now; brothers indeed, as they crossed this strange parched land. As they neared the mountain, Simon saw it for what it was; a huge pile of skulls. And the lakes were lakes of blood. And he felt physically sick, for he knew that in his vengeful slayings he had contributed to both the ever-growing mountain and the ever-filling lakes.
A huge figure sat atop the mountain of skulls. Simon could make out little about it because it was clad entirely in a burnished suit of armour that appeared to be made of brass though it reflected a deep red colour from the surrounding lakes. One moment, they were walking towards it, heads craned to make out any details and the next they were seated at its feet, nestled amongst skulls as if they were sitting on an over-sized bean bag. A full visor covered the being’s face and it was outlined in white to look like a huge skull minus the flesh. Two blood-red orbs burned in the eye socket holes and other strategic holes provided access to its nose, mouth and ears. Clearly, it was humanoid in form. Simon had lost his sense of perspective. He was already twice as large as normal, going by the size of the skulls he was sitting on. The being towered above them, perhaps twice as large again. His companion kissed the being’s foot and cowered before it. Simon felt an urge to follow suit, but he restrained himself. His left hand went instinctively to his side to seek the comfort of Kin Slayer. Before his hand touched bare flesh, he already knew the Sword wasn’t there.
“Do not worry, Simon Rufus, you are safe here, at least for the present.” The voice was deep and booming as if it resonated in the suit of armour. The accent was unusual; Simon thought it almost sounded Welsh. “You have done well, Txazop, to bring Simon here. I am pleased.” Simon’s companion, who seemed to have finally acquired a name sat up, smiling. “How goes the transformation of your realm?”
“There is much fighting still going on. The aftertaste of Law remains long after the gods have been vanquished.”
“That is good, Txazop, more skulls for the Blood God’s throne and more blood for His lakes. Show no mercy. A day without slaughter is a day wasted.” The Blood God turned his helm and Simon felt the heat of His eyes burning into his flesh. “You know the exhilaration of slaughter, don’t you Hero? Even so far away, I felt your joy at Hamadan. I rejoiced as you harvested their souls for your Sword, for their blood and skulls came to me. You think that you have great power, and you do. Yet one day your skull will adorn my throne too. The skulls of the Heroes of Chaos have a special place in my affections.”
Simon struggled to break free from the Blood God’s gaze. He could not. “I serve The Balance, not Chaos,” he managed to whisper.
“I am Kharmeth, the greatest God of Chaos. You cannot gainsay me. You may think that you serve the Balance but you delude yourself. Join me! Embrace your real nature. Take up your Sword in my name and you will find true joy. Chaos will rule the multiverse and you can be the greatest Hero of the greatest God. Together we can overcome anything. Did I not send my minions and Txazop to help you overcome the Father? Only together can we thwart Gadiel. Yes, I support him now, for he seeks the domination of Chaos too. Yet, I suspect his motives. When the time is right, Simon Rufus, you will destroy him in the name of Chaos; in the name of the Blood God; in the name of Kharmeth.” The god paused and his eyes seemed to burn through Simon’s body and read his heart and mind. His very soul seemed to be scorched by the Blood God’s gaze. “You need my help to defeat Gadiel and I need yours. My reward will be to rule the multiverse for eternity. What do you seek?”
Simon answered keenly with honesty, although he knew that he couldn’t lie to Kharmeth even if he wanted to. “I want to live a peaceful life. I want my wife to get better and I want my son back. Is that so much to ask?”
The Blood God laughed and the tremors caused the mountain to move. Ripples formed on the red lakes and blood overflowed. “Compared to domination of the multiverse, it seems trivial and yet you ask for something that would tax even a god. There is a way to save your wife, though you will not like it. Well-named you your Sword, for it holds the solution. Let it truly live up to its name and kill her maimed body and mind, for it will free her soul. Her soul will be safe in the Ruby until we reach the end game. Then her soul will be released and she will live again. Join me and be victorious and I guarantee you will find the peace that you seek. Use Kin Slayer and use it well! You have one week to decide. Do not cross me, for you do not want Kharmeth as an enemy.”
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