For those who read Summus Proelium, a special commissioned interlude was posted yesterday. If you did not see it, you can click here to do so.
As Fossor does appear quite extensively in this chapter, including the revelation of his actual plan, a summary is at the bottom for those who do not wish to read about him.
Another week passed. A week where I learned more about summoning and controlling the ghosts in that awful tower room. I heard their stories, spoke with them, convinced them to try to resist while I used my power to manipulate them. Hours passed in that room under the watchful gaze of Ahmose while I practiced my Necromancy using his own people. Hours and days where he gave no further indication of his own feelings, keeping any that might’ve existed tightly bottled up. He was a stone statue, expressing no emotion after that very first day.
Then I’d been in this place for three weeks. Which meant it was Thanksgiving. Yeah. Thanksgiving in a place like this. Was… was that better or worse than spending part of Thanksgiving with that Fomorian like I had last year had been? I wasn’t sure. At least the bit with the Fomorian had been a brief visit and had ended with his death. Happy as I would have been to have this holiday end with Fossor’s death, I wasn’t going to lay any odds on it.
Of course, the son of a bitch couldn’t just let the holiday go without making a big production out of it either. And that was a big production. He had a bunch of tables brought into the arena area, each laden down with about eighteen metric tons worth of food. All the important people (those he wanted to show off for) from those battles were invited, filling up several dozen seats along those tables. We (that being Fossor, Mom, and myself), on the other hand, sat at a semi-circular table at the head of the others, clearly lording over the rest of the group or something. Whatever, the point was, Fossor had my mother and me sit there like feast-eating trophies.
I had to eat too. Not only because of how the psychopath would react if I didn’t, but also because I needed the energy. I’d needed all the energy I could get throughout these past few weeks in order to pull off what I was trying to do. My plan depended on it, so I wasn’t exactly in a position to refuse a feast even if Fossor had been willing to let me bow out. At least the thought of the look on that fucker’s face if I managed to pull the whole thing off made it easier to choke down the food while watching all the thugs and monsters at the other tables gorge themselves.
Beside me, Mom kept more of an eye on the people ahead of us than she did on the food. Not to say that she didn’t eat, because she did. She shoveled down more food than I did, honestly. But she wasn’t paying any attention to it. Her hand simply moved mechanically, taking food, putting it in her mouth, chewing, and swallowing, all without actually noticing anything about it.
Nor did she seem to be paying that much attention when Fossor stood up to thank everyone for coming when the meal was over. He went on a bit about taking the time to enjoy the little things, about how this simple human American holiday was amusing to indulge in (stressing the word indulge in a way that made his audience chuckle), and how glad he was that they’d agreed to this meal. There was some kind of joke about how he noticed that only half of them checked to see if it was poisoned, and that he wasn’t sure which half he should be insulted by. That managed to cause another weak titter throughout the room, as the people looked at each other, pointing out which ones had been either too brave or too stupid to check their own food.
Fossor let that go on for a few more seconds before silencing everyone through the simple act of straightening up a little bit. That was all it took. This simple, average-looking guy, who seemed like some small-town pediatrician or something, completely silenced the entire roomful of psychotic killers simply by straightening to his full (utterly unimpressive) height. He didn’t raise a hand, didn’t clear his throat, didn’t do anything other than straighten up. That alone made every bit of murmured conversation, movement, and any other noise completely stop. The whole gathered group turned their heads to focus only on him, going utterly silent.
Finally, once he had apparently sufficiently relished in the fact that he had so much control, Fossor spoke again. “No, no, I wouldn’t have any of you killed. Not on a day like this. This is a day for celebration. A day of thanks. And who better to thank than the people who have been such a great boon for my endeavors? You have all made yourselves quite worthy of continued life.” Slyly, he added, “Even if I would still be able to put you to work after death. Some things even I require the living for. Particularly for the extra mile each of you have gone recently to make yourselves useful. It has been noticed, and some of you are in for an extra reward soon.”
Whatever that meant (both their reward and whatever extra work they’d apparently done) I both did and didn’t want to know. I really didn’t, but I had a feeling it was going to be relevant soon. God, I just wanted to get out of this horrible place, away from these horrible people. I wanted to go home to my friends, to my family. I wanted Tabbris, Dad, Avalon, Shiori, all of them back. I wanted to be celebrating the holidays with them. With them, not with these monsters.
Eventually, our ‘host’ dismissed his guests, sending them away with a long procession of ghost escorts to ensure they all followed his rules about leaving the grounds without taking or leaving anything that could allow the location of this place to be tracked. There was some light, mostly good-natured (as much as a bunch of murderous psychopaths who willingly associated with someone like Fossor could be good-natured) grumbling about jumping through all those hoops on a holiday, but they did as they were told. They clearly didn’t dare do otherwise.
Fossor stood there the whole time, watching them all leave until the arena was empty save for the four of us (counting Kendall, who stood silent and motionless a few feet behind my chair where I’d left her). Finally, as silence settled in, he turned to face us with a small smile. “And what kind of Thanksgiving would this be without being able to enjoy a fun little game?”
“If I get to watch you go out on some field and get knocked on your ass by a bunch of giant football linebackers,” I informed him immediately without really thinking about it, “that might actually make the past few weeks worth it. Bonus points if you do it without any protection.”
Fossor chuckled a bit, watching me curiously. “Oh, it’s not exactly that kind of game, I’m afraid. How much amusement you’ll get out of it… I suppose that remains to be seen. Which we will very soon!” With that, he pivoted on one heel and started to walk, adding a simple, “Come.”
Somehow resisting the urge to literally bark at his snapped order, I exchanged a glance with my mother before we both reluctantly moved to follow. A thought brought Kendall after us. I was getting pretty good at controlling her through simple motions without focusing much on it. I could feel my connection to her through the web of power that encased her form. After three weeks of constantly having her follow me around, controlling her body that way was almost entirely subconscious. Again, I could say a lot of bad things about Fossor, but he was absolutely a good teacher. Which sucked in some ways more than if he had been a bad one.
In any case, the man led us out of the arena. Rather than heading for any part of the house I’d been in, however, he moved to a blank wall in one of the main corridors. As he approached, part of the wall shimmered before vanishing right before my eyes to reveal a grand-looking elevator.
I’d never been in this thing before. I never even knew it was there. Exchanging a quick glance with my mother revealed a look of surprise on her face as well. She’d been here a decade and even she didn’t know about this hidden elevator.
The fact that it was being shown to us now… I had a bad feeling. A really bad feeling. I was pretty sure whatever this game thing was that Fossor was going on about, we wanted nothing to do with it.
But what choice did we have? After that brief pause and exchange of glances, Mom and I stepped onto the elevator. I had Kendall follow us, just before the doors closed. Immediately, without Fossor actually touching or saying anything, the elevator began to descend. We were on the first floor, and yet we were going down. Way down, judging from the speed the elevator was moving at and how long it kept going. A full minute passed as we kept descending deeper and deeper. I glanced toward Fossor once or twice, but he just smiled at me, clearly enjoying this moment. Stupid fucking psycho.
“I would like to thank you, my dears,” Fossor was saying in a casual tone as the elevator descended. “The past few weeks with you in this place have been quite invigorating. You, Joselyn, have kept me on my toes for ten years now, of course. But with the addition of our dear girl here, I feel this place is even more of a… well, a true home. And now, celebrating this oh-so-human holiday with you has been very nice. I feel we’ve reached a new understanding.”
Mom and I exchanged a brief, silent look, before she found her voice first. It was edged with barely constrained anger. “This is not and will never be our home. But if you actually think we’ve reached a new understanding, why don’t you allow us to leave? We can even negotiate on visiting you on more holidays.” Clearly knowing the psycho would never in a million years go for it, my mother added a dark, “Maybe we’d bring some old friends you haven’t seen in a long time. I know they’ve been looking forward to seeing you again and… catching up.”
Fossor chuckled lightly, clearly not even a little annoyed at the words and implicit threat. “Oh, Jos, my dear. You have never been one for much in the way of mixed words, have you?” The elevator came to a stop, and he glanced to us with a small, knowing smile that made me feel queasy inside. “That’s one of the things I’ve enjoyed most about our time together, I must say.”
Everything this fucker was saying made warning bells scream louder and louder in my head. I had a very bad feeling about what we were doing down here, why Fossor was being so… reminiscent. I didn’t know what he was up to, but I was pretty damn sure neither of us were going to like it. Come to think of it, I was fairly confident a lot of other people wouldn’t either.
In any case, all we could do right now was follow along and react. Which we did, literally, by following Fossor out of the elevator and into what turned out to be an enormous chamber. Seriously. The room was about five hundred feet in diameter. Beneath our feet, the floor seemed to be made of literal bone, with runes carved into it. Runes that glowed various colors. The walls were red and violet glass, while the matching ceiling sloped into a dome. The room was empty, save for a pedestal of some kind set in the exact middle with something on it.
There was also power in the air, spread throughout the room. I could feel it. The power thrummed so vibrantly in this place that it almost made my teeth vibrate. God, what was he doing in here? What was this place for? The answer was, of course, ‘nothing good.’ But more specifically, I… necromancy. I could feel death energy, the same power I used to manipulate my golems, like Kendall right behind me (I’d almost forgotten she was there again). That same kind of web was spread throughout this whole place. It was woven into the bone floor under our feet. I even felt some of it automatically swell up into Kendall’s web, making her stronger and faster than she would have been without it. It was almost like a… a Seosten boost, sort of. I immediately focused on pushing most of it out of Kendall’s web, not wanting any of whatever it was in her. Not when I had no idea where it was coming from or what it was actually for.
From the look on Mom’s face, even if she didn’t have quite the same Necromantic ability, she felt that power too. She felt it enough to frown, hand finding its way to my shoulder and squeezing it reassuringly. And also, I was pretty sure, to show herself that I was still there.
Fossor waited for a moment, clearly knowing just how much we were feeling from the room. After a few seconds, he literally winked at me before turning to walk with a snap of his fingers for us to follow. I really, truly wanted to stab that son of a bitch a few dozen times. Fuck.
Instead, all I could do was walk beside my mother as the two of us followed him right up to that pedestal. With each step, my bad feeling got worse. I didn’t want to be here. Even more than I didn’t want to be under Fossor’s control or in this house in general, I really didn’t want to be in this room. We had to leave. We had to get out of here. Please, God, just let us get out of here.
Instead, we walked with our psychotic megalomaniac captor until we could see what was on the pedestal. It was a rope. The rope, I realized, as soon as I saw the thing. It was the Hangman’s Rope that had been stolen months earlier. Well, most of it, aside from the piece that Gaia had obtained and used as part of the ‘break the Revolution Eraser spell.’ The rope was just sort of lying there on the pedestal, with more of those runes carved around it. The pedestal itself, as it turned out, was also made of bone. Those runes were directing the power up through the bone pedestal and into the rope itself.
Yeah, this was bad. This was really fucking bad. I didn’t know exactly what this asshole was up to, but it wasn’t anything remotely positive. And with each passing second as I stared at that noose, the runes feeding into it, the bones all around, and Fossor’s smug fucking face, my certainty that this was really bad grew worse and worse. There had been a heavy stone sitting in the pit of my stomach for awhile by that point, and it was currently rolling around in circles.
“What,” Mom started in a voice that hitched a little bit before she caught herself, “did you do?”
“What did I do?” Fossor echoed, his own voice filled with casual amusement. He was clearly enjoying himself, drawling a slow, “It’s more about what you have done, my dear. You have been such a… wonderful ally, such a powerful tool to have. I’m afraid you’ve done your job a little too well. Better than I ever expected. The benefit of having you here with me all these years has far exceeded what I expected.”
There was a brief pause then as he waited for us to say something. Neither of us did. We were silent, staring at him until he went on. “Unfortunately, I am nothing if not an overachiever. And, helpful as you are, I’m afraid I just need so much more. Now that I see what one of you is capable of, how much better would life be with all of you?”
“What… the fuck is that supposed to mean?” I blurted out loud.
Giving me a sly look that made that boulder in my stomach go into overdrive, the man replied, “Well, to put it in layman’s terms, I’ve been quite busy since you arrived. Since before you arrived, honestly. But even more so this month. That stolen Olympian Necromancy of yours, I’ve examined it in everything you’ve used it on. All the tests I had you do were also tests for me. The energy you’ve used in reanimating things like your old friend there,” he nodded toward Kendall, “had more than enough left over for me to harness and use in my own project here.”
My mouth opened and shut. “You… you’ve taken the Necromantic energy I’ve been using in all your tests and… siphoned it? But… why, what for? You have your own power. Your own–” Then I realized. “Powers. When I accidentally brought Rudolph back, he still had his powers. Your necromancy doesn’t work that way.”
A broad, approving smile appeared on the evil fuck’s face. “Precisely. Somehow, the power you use allows raised Heretics to retain their stolen gifts. I simply appropriated enough of that, without you noticing, I should add, to run this spell right here.” He gestured lovingly and proudly toward the pedestal with the rope. “Without both of you, this never would have been possible.”
Mom figured it out first. “You’re going to do the same thing Gaia did. You’re going to use the noose to send a spell through everyone connected to it, through all the Heretics. Only you’re not sending information, are you?”
The resulting chuckle made me shudder, as Fossor confirmed, “Indeed. With the aid of you both, the lives of each and every Heretic connected to this rope will end like that.” His fingers snapped, the sound echoing through the room.
“And then they will be raised once more, powers intact, to serve under my discretion and control.”
Everyone. He was going to kill everyone. Every Crossroads and Eden’s Garden Heretic. Everyone who had been touched by the Heretical Edge. He was going to kill all of them and raise them, powers intact, to be his own personal army.
Unless Mom and I stopped him. Right here… right now.
Another week of training passes. Fossor forces Flick and Joselyn to have Thanksgiving dinner with him and an assortment of his ‘allies and minions.’ Afterwards, when the three of them are alone, he reminisces about the time they’ve spent together before leading them down to a secret chamber deep underground that has been heavily prepared with incredibly powerful magic, including a pedestal that has the Hangman’s Rope on it. Fossor then reveals that he has been studying, siphoning, and using Flick’s necromancy power because it allows her to bring dead Heretics back with their powers. Now he’s going to use the spell he’s created to kill and reanimate every single Bosch Heretic in existence, turning them all to his minions. Unless Flick and Joselyn stop him right now.