The monsters he’d summoned weren’t a part of Byron, but he was still able to feel the trials and tribulations they faced.
What was the point of obliterating a world if you didn’t have front row seats to watch the destruction from after all?
As a storm howled over Cairo, Byron reveled with glee. As India became a staging point for intergalactic conquest, he cackled, delighted at the idea of an assault that would, itself, also be obliterated. Then there were the [Blood Blobs] which were dissolving half of Taipei. Those drew a standing ovation from him, which might have been awkward since the entire crew of the aircraft carrier was watching him with rapt attention. Given that he’d liquidated their minds he wasn’t overly concerned with any critiques they might make though.
It wasn’t only the Earth that was providing him entertainment however. He couldn’t reach back to the [Fallen Kingdoms] – because of that woman! – but he was able to catch tiny glimpses of it whenever anyone opened a portal between the two realms.
He should probably have been concerned about that portal business.
No reason to worry about that at all.
Portals open all the time.
How else could the Earthlings have gotten there?
Plus it was going to make going back to finish up the job he’d started so much easier
Which made sense and was a perfectly plausible reason to ignore them for the time being.
Through the perfectly harmless and not at all interesting portals, Byron spied the thousand armageddon’s he’d unleashed on the [Fallen Kingdoms] through Gulini.
Not that there were a thousand left any more.
Which was to be expected.
Some of them he’d barely put any effort into at all. Some of them he’d even let that foolish amateur Gulini have sole input on. And some had been solely for his own amusement. The world ending in a storm of [Infinite Paperwork]? Even he had to admit that would have been too silly to let stand..
More than just the silly armageddons had been averted though. From the peeks and glimpses Byron managed to catch, some of his more well crafted efforts had been overcome.
A single group of [Adventurers] had managed to transform the [Sun Eating Dragon’s Egg] into an [Adult Sun Eating Dragon] without the seemingly obvious step of allowing the dragon in question to eat their sun! Byron watched as the [Adventurers] and their new dragon friend exited the star system under the dragon’s inherent [Wyrmhole] powers, heading off to consume some of the other star, or have amazing galactic adventurers, or some other nonsense he was sure.
That was quite the disappointment but there were still hundreds of world ending threats moving at full speed to destroy the [Fallen Kingdoms] and Gulini had been correct, only one needed to be successful to clear a path to the true obliteration of the realm.
And then he felt it.
He’d been so happy a moment before. Watching a [High Wizards Tower] fall into ruin had been like biting into an ugly fruit and discovering it was a particularly tasty treat.
But his attention had been ripped away.
She was here.
A chill passed through Byron.
That’s just silly. Don’t worry about it. We knew she was here already. We’ve sent things to deal with her. Powerful things!
Powerful things like the most renowned horror of a sprawling dark cosmic milieu.
Yes. That Cthulhu thing. She was definitely dead.
No! Even Better! Consumed! Cthulhu devoured those who opposed him. She was gone, Byron was sure of it. Swallowed into the belly of a literally indestructible god.
That had been what he had felt.
Her being consumed.
Her being gone.
Her no longer being any kind of menace to him at all.
He risked a peek anyways.
Not a squeak of fright. Not a bellow of anger. The scream Byron let out was one of the ones that doesn’t really have an end date in mind. It was the sort of sound the suggested disbelief and rage had been cheating on each other with mind numbing terror and all three had just discovered the fact.
Human lungs have a significant limit on the volume they can produce. No matter how much cardio an Earthling might do, they would never manage to out scream a tornado, or hush a volcano, or out bellow tectonic plates crashing together to form a new mountain range.
Byron’s lungs were not quite so feeble however.
He didn’t know when he’d started thrashing on the deck of the aircraft carrier, but he did know it didn’t seem to be helping.
No matter how hard he banged his head into the metal, or through the metal, he couldn’t drive out the image he’d seen. He couldn’t pretend she’d hadn’t done exactly what he’d said she’d do.
It was the pretty pink bow that really got him though. He just couldn’t unsee that.
So he sank the boat.
It didn’t help.
Drowning was no good when you didn’t have to breath and pressure was meaningless to you.
He knew what he had to do.
He’d been trying to stay focused on the larger task, been trying to ignore the danger she posed to him in the hopes of avoiding Unknown’s fate. Byron was sure that it had been Unknown’s repeated and direct assaults on her that had led to each of the transformations he’d suffered, and was determined to learn from the mistakes of others. Especially the one where Unknown had succumbed to his current condition of ‘existing’ due to trying to battle against her.
How could his earlier self not have seen things clearly?
She was to blame!
She was always to blame!
So, given that, stay away from her had clearly been the most sensible thing to do.
And yet she’d followed him. Across worlds even! So, clearly, staying away was not a viable option. He needed to take the fight to her.
He threw up again.
It was a bad idea.
He did not want to face her again.
No. More than “did not want”. Because he wasn’t supposed to ‘want’ in the first place.
He simply could not face her. It was impossible. He literally could not risk it.
So, we’ll just accept that as a limitation? Just define ourself all neatly like that? We’re the one who can’t face our creator? Does the road back to oblivion go in that direction?
Of course it didn’t..
Which meant that, though it was impossible, Byron was going to face his creator once more.
Trouble was coming. Tessa did need to be a genius to work that one out. Despite her certainty of that fact however, she couldn’t help but feel a little giddy.
“He knows how to dance?” Rip asked. From the uncertainty in her voice, she was still struggling to believe what she was seeing.
“He apparently knows the [Harlem Shuffle],” Matt said. “Wait? [Harlem Shuffle] is a magic word?”
The thought should have been worrisome. If parts of regular, old, mundane Earth history were receiving the [Fallen Kingdoms] special terminology treatment, it meant the two worlds were blending even more deeply than Tessa had imagined, which was probably an apocalypse in its own right.
But Kitty Cthulhu had summoned a building sized boombox and was busy entertaining the people he’d been trying to destroy just moments earlier. It was hard to do anything but laugh at that sort of apocalypse.
An unstoppable, indestructible, Elder God had become a cut and cuddly, if still absurdly gigantic, kid’s mascot character.
And Tessa had been the one who’d stopped him.
“However much I mess up from here, at least I managed to do this,” she said on the private channel she shared once more with Lisa.
“I’m still curious how you pulled it off?” Lisa said. “You made a whole new spell up. On the fly. We’re not even supposed to be able to cast spells here, and even if we were back in the [Fallen Kingdoms] spell creation is something that only the NPCs can do, and that only happens during the reality ripples that come along with an update. So, how? Just how?”
“Partially, it’s because I was able to spend some time looking at how our spells work,” Pillowcase said. “And I’ve got several archives worth of enhancement theory woven into my brain.”
“Partially it’s also because I have a ton of unclaimed abilities as a [Void Speaker],” Tessa said.
“And partially it just seemed like an appropriate situation to take a ridiculously dangerous risk,” Pillowcase said. “Not to mention that Fari got us so many more connections to Cthulhu’s essence than we could ever hope to need or want.”
“You had mentioned that you were working on a banishing special though,” Fari said and added quickly, “Apologies if this channel was meant to be private? The encryption on it is weak enough that I couldn’t be sure.”
“It is,” Lisa said, “but you raise a good point.”
“The spell I was working on was somewhat loosely defined,” Pillowcase said. “I was counting on a lot of environmental factors to help it work. With what you gave me though, I had enough access to the heart of what Cthulhu is, which let me grab hold of the god spark within him.”
“Oh. OH!” Lisa said.
“It wasn’t enough for a full divine power up like the last one,” Tessa said. “I couldn’t have taken Cthulhu’s self away from him no matter what I tried. What I figured out I could do though was to use it to change him into something he already was.”
“The form we see before us is an alternate shape he can take?” Fari asked.
“It goes deeper than that,” Tessa said. “Cthulhu was created almost a century ago in stories from Earth. However the [Fallen Kingdoms] became real, the same thing or something similar happened to Cthulhu’s version Earth. The thing is though that there’s not just one version of Cthulhu out there. Other writers have told stories in his world, and about him. A lot of other writers in fact. So which one is the truth? If the original can be real, why couldn’t the others? Some of them are far better known than the first version is.”
“That is a very powerful spell you wove,” Fari said. “It crossed multiversal boundaries. That’s not something personal magics are capable of in my home universe.”
“It shouldn’t be something that magic is capable of here either,” Lost Alice said.
“I know, and that does worry me,” Tessa said. “The fact that I was able to do that..” she pointed to Kitty Cthulhu, who was helping clear some of the rubble from the battle. The buildings were a loss, but being able to move cars and trucks through the streets was still valuable. “..suggests that something in this world is breaking down badly.”
“That’s likely why we’re here I expect,” Fari said. “We have a few methods of multiversal transport but most of them are accidental, and while our current trip appeared to fit that category the odds are steadily diminishing given that we appear to have arrived precisely when we were needed most.”
“Believe me, we’re grateful for that,” Tessa said. “If you hadn’t shown up, I think all we might have managed would be to taste good before Cthulhu finished digesting us.”
“I’m glad we were able to help,” Fari said. “And I know Mel and Darius feel the same. Unfortunately, I don’t know that there is much we can do about the basic laws of reality unraveling. For problems like that we typically turn to the Crystal Empress.”
“I’m going to guess that’s not someone you can call at the moment?” Lisa asked.
“Not directly,” Fari said. “She does sometimes hear our prayers though, so if all other hope is lost…”
“I think if all hope is lost, it’ll be up to us to find some more,” Tessa said. “I could be entirely wrong, but the other thing that felt like it helped pull the spell together? It wasn’t the magicaI theory I know as Pillowcase, or the undefined powers I have as a [Void Speaker]. It wasn’t anything with power at all. It was just regular old, boring me.”
“Impossible,” Lisa said. “You are many things, but oh my god are you not boring.”
“I was,” Tessa said. “And that’s okay. I didn’t have to be anything special. I was just me, unexciting flaws, and unremarkable strengths, both stuffed into a pretty unexceptional package. Take away everything I can do, and maybe that’s what I’d go right back to being. It’s still a part of me after all. And an important one. One that has something none of my other personas do – a connection to how this world was without any magic, or super science, or anything else out of the ordinary. I anchored the spell on that side of me, so that it could be a part of that purely mundane natural order. I don’t think I could have done that with any magic that was going to change the world, but for a spell that was going to save it? I think that’s exactly what we needed.”