A Gift Befitting a King

There were fewer attendants in this version of the Divine Hall of the Supreme Pontiff and Imperator Callidus Magna than there were in the other, more commonly used one but this was still an impressive locale. Things were a bit skewed, though. The colors tended to lean more towards grays and dull metallic features were the order of the day. Callidus Magna himself appeared differently here as well. Instead of the form of a perpetually smiling elderly man with white hair and the strangely marionette-styled body movements Callidus Magna was a floating skull with colored jewels instead of teeth and pinpoints of dreadful red light in the eye sockets. The only attendants in this Divine Hall were Penderghast and a handful of spectral guards that seemed to shimmer from light to cloudy darkness and back again. The guests arrayed in a half circle before the throne of their master were the dejected and fearful members of the Diosian Lodge.

Being a lich is a wondrous and powerful thing. All at once you are among the most deadly and formidable spellcasters in existence, able to lay waste to entire nations with a few carefully worded incantations. Mortals flee in panic at the mere sight of you, and defeating you requires a level of planning few folks are capable of along with individuals skilled beyond anyone else and willing to face certain destruction at the hands of the lich’s unfettered fury. There are not many entities that can strike fear in the heart of a lich, or make them feel vulnerable.

Callidus Magna caused these liches to fear and they all felt vulnerable. An hour ago they had each of them been in their respective designated stations awaiting commands from the Supreme Pontiff and Imperator when suddenly they were magically bound and teleported to this spot. Now they stood before their lord and mulled over their predicament. Liches have a keen sense of magical power because it is the darkest of magicks that keeps them functioning. In this place, however, they could feel that all but the bare essential of magical energy had been stripped away from them. Nothing caused a wizard more alarm than to be robbed of their ability to cast spells and right now the liches of the Diosian Lodge were deeply and worryingly alarmed.

There were twenty individuals in this line up. Nine were the current surviving members of the Diosian Lodge, appearing as they would have anyplace else that their illusionary abilities had been rendered inoperable. They were the Witch Queen, Blade of Vengeance, Dread Admiral, Patriarch of Fate, Prince of Pain, Iron Count, Shadow Sovereign, Wraith of Bamnichron, and Mist of the Fen. There was considerable surprise to be had by everyone present at these last two inclusions because Mist of the Fen had not been seen for nearly three hundred years having turned against his peers for some long forgotten insult and Wraith of Bamnichron had simply dropped out of sight and been forgotten by the rest who were just selfish enough to pull off such a thing. The other eleven in the line were mere specters that represented the members of the Lodge that had been vanquished over the last several hundred years: Ash King, Eternal Fog of Damnation, Frenklar the Brazen, Obsidian Oligarch, Crimson Rose, Wyrm of Shadows, Clinician of the Abyss, Blight of Magicks, Raven Crypt, Grim Chalice, and Devil’s Prism. These were not as concerned with their current circumstances because they were after all only ghostly forms that had been haunting this realm since their earthly destruction. The only member of the Diosian Lodge that was missing from this unusual council was the Viceroy.

Callidus Magna had been spending the last hour berating these assembled minions and lecturing them on their faults and failures. None of them had been spared from his acidic and humiliating critique. None of them had kept to their original mandate. Every one of them had instead opted to pursue their own goals and gone their own way with the powers entrusted to them. Instead of readying the world for the rise of the Fourth Imperium and keeping as much of the Third Imperium intact as possible, they had turned into petty feudal lords albeit with staggering magical power at their disposal. They rarely lifted a finger to assist their peers when threats arose, held no loyalty to their oath to the Supreme Pontiff and Imperator, and had allowed their domains to slip into ruin and decay. Callidus Magna leveled at them the most crushing insult of all. Only one of them had remained true to his mandate and it happened to be the one member of the Diosian Lodge that all others treated with utter contempt: the Viceroy.

As if on cue there was a rippling in the room that looked as if somebody was parting the fabric of reality as if an invisible curtain was being parted. Through this opening could be seen the other Divine Hall of the Supreme Pontiff and Imperator, radiant in color and precious metals, placed exactly where this one stood. A glimpse of the occupants in the other Divine Hall was available for just a moment, and then through the opening stepped the Viceroy. The invisible curtain fell closed behind him. With a low cackle the Viceroy bowed before Callidus Magna and said, “All is prepared, most Holy Liege. I await your command.”

The hovering skull seemed to take on an unearthly radiant glow and the voice of Callidus Magna boomed across the hall with a fearful echo. “As you see, my most loyal servant has been granted the ability to come and go from the Haven as he wills. This is a power reserved for my most trusted and loyal of devotees, and as you might imagine none of you will ever accomplish this if you remain on your present courses. If you wish to excel in this new and glorious realm then you had best get busy on my agenda! I dispatch you all back whence you came, and I shouldn’t have to warn you again of your fates should you continue to fail me!”

And just like that the nine were sent back to their allotted stations to step up their respective plans to bring the Fourth Imperium the glory that Callidus Magna demanded. The wraith-like eleven bowed in subservience and vanished to continue their unknown duties in the Haven. The Viceroy was left alone with his master and their lackey, Penderghast. Callidus Magna now turned his full attention to the Viceroy. “You have done exceedingly well, Green King. If all had risen to your level the entire world should all be ours by now. What troubles have you that I might alleviate?”

Bowing again, the Viceroy said in his harsh, hollow voice “I want for nothing, your Most Holiness. At your command Fanolania will be dragged into the Haven one screaming soul at a time. Your revenge will be complete against the elven lords, and I will then turn your attention to the lands never conquered. The Fourth Imperium will be more glorious and encompassing than any before it! In that realm and in this, your ceaseless power shall grow with an intensity that shall overcome all that stand in opposition!”

With a piercing cackle, Callidus Magna said, “Go now, my faithful servant and attend to your earthly duties. Soon I will send word to advance into the beyond. Make sure Lord Verrat understands his orders fully. We will tolerate no complications this time!”

The Viceroy bowed again, and the invisible curtain behind him once more parted allowing him to back out of the Haven’s version of the Divine Hall and into the other. The fissure then closed and sealed seamlessly leaving Callidus Magna alone with Penderghast. “Keep a eye on my court, Penderghast. I think I might need to be elsewhere for a while.”

The undead servant bowed in a groveling manner, and whispered hoarsely, “As you command, Most Holy One!”