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Welcome to Sample Chapters taken from the 2004 Version of "Decimation Damnation"

"Goddess Gambit"

– Now available from Phantacea Publications –

Eyemouth over cover for Gambitsedonic eyes"For the Dead to Thrive, the Living must Die!"

So proclaims Nergal Vetala, the Blood Queen of Hadd.

When her soldier falls out of the sky she's not only back in the pink again – as in arterial – she reckons she's found the perfect foil through which to play, and win, a Trigregos Gambit.

She might be right as well.

Thus Ends 'The Thrice-Cursed Godly Glories' Trilogy

For more on the actual celestial phenomena upon which the eye-collages were based, click here. There's additional information re the Sedonic Eye here and here. The complete cover for Phase One #1 is here whereas yet another variation of it is here. The left eye double-click is the full cover for "Goddess Gambit", artwork by Verne Andru 2011/2. The right eye double-click is of Ian Bateson's enduring, 1986 Sedonic Eye as prepared by Jim McPherson, 2011. Gambit's main webpage is here.

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Welcome to Jim McPherson's PHANTACEA Mythos Online

"The 1000 Days of Disbelief" is not only 3/3rds Done, it's E-done (albeit for Kindle, not kidding nor kindling)

In part to celebrate the 35th Year of Anheroic Fantasy, Phantacea Publications is pleased to announce that "Feeling Theocidal", Book One of the trilogy, and all three mini-novels extracted from 1000-Daze are available on the Kindle platform from and a number its affiliates worldwide.

Alternative covers for Goddess Gambitcovers and characters from Janna FangfingersSubtitled Sedonplay, Sedon Plague and Sedon Purge, the mini-novels commence, continue and conclude Book Two of 'The Thrice-Cursed Godly Glories' trilogy.

Watch for e-versions of Book Three, "Goddess Gambit", and its full-length predecessor in the Launch 1980 story cycle, "The War of Apocalyptics", coming soon from Phantacea Publications.

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Like the first two mini-novels extracted from 1000-Daze, "The Death's Head Hellion" and "Contagion Collectors", "Janna Fangfingers" contains a book-specific character companion. An Auctorial Prefatory and the opening chapter extracted from Gambit round out a 230-page volume bargain-priced at only $12.00 per book CAD and USD, vastly less as an e-book.

(Please note: although their character companions are for the most part applicable to Feel Theo, in large measure they're not so much so to either War-Pox or Gambit, which tend to feature characters more prevalent in the phantacea comic books and web-serials.)

Together they carry on recording the multi-millennia-long chronicles of the gods and goddesses, the demons and monsters, of antique mythologies — the same seemingly endless saga also presented in the 1990 graphic novel, "Forever & 40 Days — The Genesis of phantacea", and the three, thus-far-published, full-length mosaic novels featuring Jim McPherson's Phantacea Mythos.

Variations on covers prepared for Goddess Gambit

Each of the mini-novels is complete unto itself. Among many another character, they feature Thrygragos Everyman and his firstborn Unities (the incomparable Harmony, Thunder & Lightning Lord Order and Uncle Abe Chaos) in their freewheeling prime. On top of that, Fangers presents a framing story set in 5980 Year of the Dome. As such it could be considered a prequel to the Launch 1980 story cycle that began in earnest with War-Pox and eventually picks up again in Gambit.

[Check out for extracts, synopses, teasers, and a grab bag of even more intriguing graphics pertinent to Phantacea Publications' 35th anniversary.]

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Cover for the Death's Head Hellion, artwork prepared by Jim McPherson, 2010Cover for the Contagion Collectors, artwork prepared by Jim McPherson, 2010

"Forever & 40 Days — The Genesis of PHANTACEA", a graphic novel with additional features written by Jim McPherson, "Feeling Theocidal" (Book One of 'The Thrice Cursed Godly Glories'), "The War of the Apocalyptics" (the opening entry in the Launch 1980 story cycle), the three mini-novels, "The Death's Head Hellion", "Contagion Collectors" and "Janna Fangfingers", that comprise "The 1000 Days of Disbelief" (Book Two of 'The Thrice Cursed Godly Glories'), the trilogy's concluding novel, "Goddess Gambit", the graphic novel "Phantacea Revisited 1: The Damnation Brigade", "Nuclear Dragons"(the second, full-length entry in the Launch 1980 story cycle), plus the latest graphic novel, "Phantacea Revisited 2: Cataclysm Catalyst", and "Helios on the Moon", the culminating entry in the Launch 1980 story cycle, should be available at your favourite book stops.

If they're not, kindly direct local librarians and neighbourhood booksellers to in order to start rectifying that sad situation. Either that or, if you're feeling even more proactive, click here, copy the link, paste it into an email and send it to them, along with everyone else you reckon could use a double dose of anheroic fantasy. It will certainly be appreciated.

Help build the buzz. The more books sell, the faster the PHANTACEA Mythos spreads.

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Covers for Feeling Theocidal and Forever and Forty DaysTwo Ian  Bateson covers of the same scene

Individual copies of "Feeling Theocidal", "The War of the Apocalyptics", the three mini-novels comprising "The Thousand Days of Disbelief" ("The Death's Head Hellion", "Contagion Collectors" and "Janna Fangfingers") and "Goddess Gambit" can be ordered from and its affiliates, including and, as well as from Barnes & Noble.

Libraries, bookstores and bookseller collectives can place bulk orders through Ingram Books, Ingram International, Baker & Taylor, Coutts Information Services, and a large number of other distributors worldwide.

E-books for Kindle, Kindle Fire, I-pad, I-phone and other applications can be ordered through, and other amazon affiliates worldwide. An interactive e-book containing the entirety of "Feeling Theocidal", as built specifically for Adobe Reader, is available direct from the publisher. (Certified cheques or money orders only, please.) E-books on other platforms are also available. Check you favourite online bookseller for the latest list and ordering instructions for Phantacea Publications. lists the latest releases from Phantacea Publications along with a goodly number of additional booksellers carrying them. Also listed therein are almost all of the PHANTACEA Mythos print and e-publications, including the graphic novel and some of the comic books.

Another interesting option for the curious is Chegg, which has a rent-a-book program. Thus far its search engine shows no results for phantacea (any style or permutation thereof) but it does recognize Jim McPherson (a variety of them) and the titles of many releases from Phantacea Publications.

As for the Whole Earth (other than the Hidden Continent of Sedon's Head, at least as far as I can say and always assuming it's still around in what be its 61st century), well, this page contains a list of a few other websites where you can probably order the novels in a variety of currencies and with credit cards.

Of course you can always email or send me your order(s) via surface mail. No matter where you live or what currency you prefer to use, I'll figure out a way to fill your order(s) myself. Just be aware that I can only accept certified cheques or money orders. Plus, I'll have to charge an additional 12% to cover Canadian and provincial goods and sales taxes as well as Canada Post rates for shipping.

I do use bubble mailers, though.

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Jim McPherson's phantacea Mythos Online

pH-Webworld logo, prepared by Jim McPherson, 2002

<< Double-click for a different logo >>

Decimation Damnation

Chapters One to Three

Summer 2004


Additional Information regarding "Decimation Damnation"

PHANTACEA on the Web

  • written by Jim McPherson
  • unless otherwise noted the web-design, photographs and/or scanning are by Jim McPherson
  • where applicable artwork is as noted in the mouse-over text

© copyright 2004 Jim McPherson

| pH-Webworld's Welcoming Page | Internal Search Engine | Main Menu | Online PHANTACEA Primer | Ongoing PHANTACEA Features | pHantaBlog | Information for ordering by credit card | Information for ordering by certified cheque or money order | Serial Synopses | Contact | pH-Webworld Miscellanea | Lynx to additional websites featuring Jim McPherson's PHANTACEA Mythos | Bottom of Page Lynx |



Greater Vancouver had been washed out to sea in the Second Great Flood, that of late November 1980.

So had much of the Fraser Valley. What was now called New Vancouver had once been a small town called Hope. The Fraser River emptied itself here, just as it had on the southern border of Old Vancouver before the Deluge. The Liberation Brigade's celebratory reunion, which was being filmed for everyone with a television on the reunited planet to see, was taking place in the gardens of old Hope's now reconverted city hall. It too was called Hope, though 'Haven' had been added to give it a better ring.

Outside it Wilderwitch, the only name she acknowledged with any regularity, was sitting on a stone bench away from the gathering crowd, of whom an ever increasingly many were uninvited. Even in the wondrous new reality of a whole-again Earth, celebrity retained its magnetic field and the surviving members of the supranormal Liberation Brigade, the Witch being one of the most comparatively ordinary, were well up there in the pantheon of Panharmonium.

Looking like the fit, albeit very baby-belly-heavy, off-white, gypsy-type she was, she had been counting down the days, weeks and months ever since she became pregnant and was now counting down the hours. Figured it’d still take a few more of them before she could start kicking back. Fifty-three might seem a bit old to be pregnant but it helped when you were a witch. Helped even more when you were a supranormal witch. Besides, kicking back was one of the things she did really well.

Spotting her sitting alone, Athena Zeross, age 7, decked out in her finest frills, blues and yellows for the most part, detached herself from a group of similarly attired children, and came rushing up to her. Blonde, though not quite as much so as her mother, whose hair was akin to Christmas tree tinsel, Tina was the youngest of three hybrid daughters of the new Master of Weir, Melina born Sarpedon, 60, Mel-Illuminatus as the Witch still sometimes thought of her. Before Mel‘s promotion, as it were, -- mostly due to a dearth of challengers in the wake of an anything except a dearth of death amongst her potential rivals for the title --, she was the High Illuminary of the Weirdom of Cabalarkon.

She was also, even before that, a one-time Althean witch-healer and a degree-granted, medically certified physician; had only reluctantly traded in her caduceus for the Master’s Mace. Her howsoever heroic, indubitably tragic and definitely late husband Harry, Aristotle, Ringleader, Tina’s Greco-Cretan father, also a Dr Zeross, was one of the main reasons there was a Panharmonium. Not to mention the remnants of a Liberation Brigade left to publish their memoirs and reap their rewards.

Not far behind Tina was her middle sister, Helen, whose thirteenth birthday was coming up on the approaching Autumnal Equinox. Although some of Mel’s apprentice Illuminaries were in the vicinity, Helen and their eldest sister, Persephone, 16, who was probably indoors, attending their mother, were Tina’s designated shadows for the day.

Were most days but today was special. Once the ceremonies started, their mother, a full-blooded, white-as-light Utopian woman, -- in contrast to full-blooded Utopian men, who were black as midnight on a starless night --, would be in Mastery mode. And before that there were all the announcements and formal greetings to be made and endured.

Obadiah Melvin Power, the patriarch of the once strictly Outer Earth based, Illuminated Faith of Xuthros Hor, was the nominal host for Hope Haven’s dedication and the festivities to follow. Since he was the father of her unborn child, as well as the father of her first and to date only other child, albeit thirty-five years ago, the Witch would have to be on her feet for most of the formal fluff as well.

Too bad she didn’t have a designated baby-belly supporter the same as Tina had sisterly shadows. Maybe what Tina had in that shoebox she was carrying would jumpstart the smile muscles.

“Look what slimy Auntie Fish caught for us, fat Auntie Wildie,” enthused the youngster, all but thrusting the box in her face.

While not much of a supranormal compared to some of the others, a few of whose abilities approached godlike, Wilderwitch did have an affinity for animals; could communicate with them on a empathetic level, as she sometimes described that aspect of her abilities, and indeed, should she be sufficiently persuasive, even get them to do what she wanted them to do. Consequently, she already knew what was in the box. “My hair look that bad, Tina?”

“What’s your hair got to do with anything?”

“When I forget to comb it out people call it a rat’s nest. And you’ve brought me a rat to nest in it.”

The Witch was right about that last. Her dark hair was so thick and long a lot more than a rat could hang out in it. She’d gone to the sweat house this morning, though, and in addition to having herself scrubbed nearly raw, made sure it was thoroughly washed and brushed down as straight as it ever got. As a result she was fairly confident nothing besides herself and her unborn baby were living in or about her body.

“It isn’t a rat,” Tina protested, opening the shoebox. Inside it was a rat-like creature but, Tina was correct, strictly speaking it wasn’t a rat. “It’s a tee-tee.”

Wilderwitch deigned to peer into the box. The rodent was no more native to the former Outer Earth than mermen and mermaids, Simian Sapiens, sentient Saurs, Lemurian frogwomen or anthropomorphic ant-men, though Myrmidons did figure in ancient mythologies, as of course did mermen and mermaids. Like all of the above it could talk, if you pulled its tail, and what it talked about was usually some story or another it traded for its life; hence the term tee-tee tales.

“So it is. Did you pull its tail?”

“Sure we did and it told us some stupid story about you getting almost killed by one of the Mother Murder Medusa’s Quadrang Nucleoids, Flying Doltaur, it called her, in Subcranial Temporis. But that isn’t what happened at all. Daddy killed Mother Murder on the Moon, right?”

“Sometimes tee-tees just make things up, Tina. But every tee-tee’s got two tales to tell, so maybe its other one’s better.”

“Read it for me then.”

Virtually every creature on both sides of the Cathonic Zone, when there was a Cathonic Zone, or Dome, separating the Inner from the Outer Earth, had individual markings. Tee-tees were no different in that respect, but their differences were more easily discernible than most animals. Besides the fact they could talk, and that each had a unique tale it could recount vocally, their most notable distinctions were their tails. Not only were they colourful, as if made up of dozens of multicoloured beads or nodes, they could be read as if Celtic knot-writing or the Incan equivalent, Quipo or Quippu.

“I’m not very good at that, Tina. You know Jordan Tethys, the Legendarian, the fellow who almost got boiled alive while your masterly Mama Mel was giving you birth on Shenon? He’s over there, at the beer pavilion, and he’s real good at reading tee-tee tails.”

“He’s creepy. He bites off their tails and sticks them onto his head. Besides, he always stinks of beer.”

“That he does. But tee-tee tails grow back, with a different tale to tell, and who knows, maybe he’ll let you keep it.”

“And maybe he’ll teach me how to read its new tail. Good idea, fat Auntie Wildie. Let’s go get gay, Paree.”

“I wish you’d stop saying that, Tinny,” said Helen, whose nickname was indeed Paree, -- after Paris, among other things the lover of Helen of Troy in Homer’s Iliad. “That was daddy’s joke.”

“So? Someone around here has to keep having fun. Come on.”

As Tina ran off toward the beer pavilion, yelling for her little friends in their pretty party dresses to join her, Helen, who had opted, instead of a dress, for a traditional, Utopian-style neckerchief, cream-coloured jacket, crewneck and pantsuit, the same as the young Illuminaries, paused before following her. She felt the need, which she never would have done prior to the start of Panharmonium and the end of almost everything else, to apologize for her baby sister’s behaviour.

“I’m sorry, Witch. You know how silly Tinny gets when she’s excited.”

“Better silly than severe, Paree. You’re overdue-stopping being such a miserable little Helen-Hellion. You should feel proud wearing one of your daddy’s rings.”

“They’re Percy’s now.”

“Not all of them, I see.”

“It’s for protection. Anyone comes at me, up they go. Or out they go. Or down they go. Way up, way out, way down. Too bad they don’t work for you, eh?”

“Oh, I don’t know. I’ve lots of other things that do.”

And so she did: rings and bangles and glowing things off of which she could materialize whatever she kept in her between-space bottomless bag; among them her metallic marigold, as she called the stunted eye-stave Mel gave her months ago when she was only the High Illuminary.

What she should have said, she reconsidered as Helen went to catch up to Tina, was ‘too bad they worked so well for your father’. She could also have said something like ‘at least we’re both still here’. But today was no more a day for showing off than it was for nastiness. Today was a day for celebrating survival.

And celebrating those like Mel’s much younger husband, Harry Zeross, her predecessor as Master of Weir, Saladin Devason, her twin brother, Demios Sarpedon, his wife, Saladin’s year younger sister, Morgianna, the White Witch or Morrigan. For celebrating Morg’s dead daughters, both of them, Tsishah Twilight and the Zerbranid, Andy, Andrea, Andaemyn. For celebrating those whose actions allowed there to be such a celebration in the first place.

As for those whose actions caused the near Armageddon everyone left had survived, their day was coming. She just hoped she’d be there to contribute to the devils’ absolute extermination.

Those she hadn’t already, that is.

On Christmas Day 1955, twelve year old Aristotle “Harry” Zeross, codenamed Kid Ringo, later to become Ringleader, used his teleportive Gypsium Rings to take himself and ten other supranormals to a tiny atoll in the Aleutian Chain of Islands in the North Pacific known as Damnation Isle.

Those he took with him were the six still-active members of KOC, the King's Own Crimefighters: Cerebrus David Ryne, Wildman Dervish Furie, Old Man Power, Radiant Rider and her adopted siblings, the Elemental Twins, Airealist and Sea Goddess. Took them along with their oft-times comrades in supra-doings: the Untouchable Diver, Blind Sundown, Raven’s Head and Wilderwitch herself. He left them there, in the Aleutians, to do what they had to in order to deal, finally, with Saul Ryne, Cerebrus’s twin brother, the dangerously erratic supra best known as the Magnificent Psycho.

They went at each other so comprehensively their bodies were never found.

For those who knew about the 17-year Secret War of Supranormals, who knew about supranormals or supras period, the prevailing theory at the time was their remains had been washed away when a tsunami rolled over the islet. Kid Ringo returned to the Alliance of Man's get-together then going on in Old Vancouver. He was administered amnaesthetics, -- memory-redacting drugs long used by the Antediluvian Sisterhood of Flowery Anthea, to which the Witch also belonged --, and promptly forgot he was the last of the supranormals.

On New Years Day 1956, Loxus Abraham Ryne, the born-with-the-century father of David-Cerebrus and Saul-Psycho, among others, resigned as chairman of New Century Enterprises. Already far richer than Croesus ever was, he intended to devote more time to the philanthropic Alliance of Man, as the Human League was known in those days, its burgeoning Academies of Man, and the panhumanist cause of Xuthrodism.

Alfredo Sentalli, then not quite thirty, took Ryne's place at NCE and turned it into the most profitable multinational corporation in the world. In late April 1960, Harry Zeross and Belificent D'Angelo, Radiant Rider’s decade younger sister, married in Toronto Ontario. Bel was promptly kidnapped and executed by a group calling itself the Worldwide Order with the Right to Life and Death.

In response to WORLD's threat, the Great Man, Loxus Ryne, immediately formed the Alliance of Man for the Extermination of Resisting International Criminal Associations. AMERICA became the vanguard of the anti-terrorist movement of the Sixties and early Seventies. It turned out to be extremely successful. Terrorism was reduced or, in some places, eliminated entirely, at least for the time being.

WORLD lasted until 1970. Before it went down, its leadership, a largely artificial man called Steltsar and a mysteriously faceless woman, a rogue witch known only as Strife, learned the real reason behind AMERICA's success. The Alliance of Man employed supranormals, specifically the King Crimefighters, their four friends, and Magnifico, as Saul-Psycho had begun calling himself.

Their deaths had been a ruse. Instead, apparently with the energetic elder Ryne's full knowledge, they had gone into deep cover. Bel's murder and Harry's subsequent disappearance in 1960 brought them out of retirement. After the destruction of WORLD they resurfaced, though still not as declared supras. Even in 1970 that wouldn't have been acceptable.

Obadiah Melvin Power, then as now a giant of a man with a great grey beard, replaced Ryne Senior as the patriarch of the Illuminated Faith of Xuthros Hor. David Ryne took over from his father as chairman of the Alliance, which he renamed the Human League after the onset of Panharmonium. Saul Ryne assumed his father's role as President of the worldwide Academies of Man.

Thus freed from all other duties, the Great Man redirected his formidable energies toward attaining his lifelong goal, namely to set up a meaningful United Nations in order to oversee the transition to a new, enlightened, war-free New World, -- the precursor to today's Panharmonium.

Yehudi Cohen, aka the Untouchable Diver, became the Israeli Ambassador to the UN in New York. John Sundown, a blind Cheyenne elder, became the inspirational and very influential spokesperson for the betterment of aboriginal societies throughout the globe. He travelled with his sable-black mare, Raven, and was a frequent guest at universities and on television talk shows. Gloriella D'Angelo Dark, as radiant as ever, resuscitated her career, fifteen years in hiatus, as an occasional actress, model and titular chair of Radiant Rainbows Fashion Emporium.

Despite the publicity thus gained, she maintained her role as the devoted wife to the brilliant but crippled, British-born astrophysicist, Dr Immanuel Dark, and mother to their famous, often infamous daughter, Estrella, who eventually married Magnifico. Well into her late forties Gloriel remained one of the most beautiful women in the world. Often cited as the ideal woman, most folks considered her living proof a devout Roman Catholic could be all things to all people. Except, admittedly, one or two fanatical feminists.

Four of the eleven continued to shun the spotlight. Two, Wilderwitch and Dervish Furie, stayed entirely out of sight; the other two, Aires, Airealist, and Thalassa, Sea Goddess, D'Angelo, went to work for Alfredo Sentalli on Centauri Island, off the coast of Maui, Hawaii. The twins didn't age, -- despite being born in late 1920, without witch-glamours they continued to look like they were in their early twenties. That was hardly all of it, though.

It wasn't until the events of late November 1980 that the reasons they were so seldom seen became evident. They, like Furie and the Witch, spent next to none of their time on the Outer Earth. In fact, until they were finally reconciled prior to going to the Moon aboard the Liberty, the twins spent most of their lives on the Inner Earth, the domain of all devils, and a lot of other things, trying to track down and dispose of Furie and the Witch.

In 1977 something was detected on the Moon. Aliens? A revitalized WORLD? Witches gone technologically savvy? Utopians rediscovering how everything kept on working in their Weirdom and then applying said rediscoveries in a renewed effort to destroy the Moloch Sedon and his hundreds of possessive devils. No one knew for sure but one thing was certain. Whatever was up there was bombarding the planet with thought-altering mind-beams.

The effects were quickly apparent. Governments began to topple, at first by revolutions, remarkably none of which were overly long nor bloody since police the world over kept embracing revolutionaries, then by democratically being voted out of power. Whole armies started laying down their arms and refusing to fight. In the void developed a new and never before seen spirit of global cooperation.

The Soviet Union was the first to voluntarily dismantle its biological, chemical and nuclear weapons development and deployment programs but public outcry in the States forced the Democratic President to begin doing likewise. The birthrate, especially in the Third World, dropped precipitously in three years but, correspondingly, the standard of living rose dramatically. Fossil fuels were rejected as untenable, as were nuclear power plants.

Tremendous strides were made, some close to overnight, at replacing them with renewable, non-polluting energy sources such as the windmills and obelisks capped with firestones threatening to make the globe resemble a spiny sea urchin. Lumber and mining companies started switching to agriculture in the theory that anything the planet needed could be grown in a sustainable fashion.

Unemployment skyrocketed initially. Inflation and interest rates plummeted. Banks and leading lending institutions were going out of business on a monthly then weekly basis. There should have been rioting everywhere, and there was, but the authorities did nothing. Sooth said many of them joined those already marching in the streets. Riots turned to peaceful protests to love-ins. The planet was in the grip of a collective form of mass hysteria, -- or, as it turned out, mass sanity.

A year after detection, the United Nations formed the Space Council and chose Loxus Ryne, then 78-years old, to head it. With his propensity for anagrams the Great Man renamed it the Society for the Prevention of Alien Control of Earth. With the cooperation of all the surviving governments on the planet, SPACE funded, built, and sent into Moon-orbit the United Nations of Earth Spaceship Liberty.

About a week later, on November the Thirtieth 1980, New Century Enterprises launched a multiply manned spacecraft of its own from Centauri Island. The Cosmic Express, as it was known, made an unexpected detour somewhere. A few minutes later it reappeared, intact except for one cosmicar. Blasting through the atmosphere it ignited its Gypsium propellant and rocketed towards the stars. Wilderwitch knew it was still out there, still on its way to wherever, but it was what it left behind in its wake, the greatest cataclysm Planet Earth had experienced in nearly six millennia, that mattered the most. And the last for all too extraordinarily many.

By the tenth of December, the Earth was whole again; had an eighth continent and a couple of billion less people. The Hidden Continent of Sedon's Head was no longer hidden. With the dissolution of the Cathonic Dome, dimensions were rent and the North Pacific returned to being largely a landform. The ocean had to go somewhere and it did. Millenarian fatalists who had bought property in Nevada and Arizona in anticipation of just such an event come the Year 2000 had their waterfront vacation sites twenty years early.

The crowd announced the arrival of Blind Sundown and Raven’s Head with the usual, all too obligatory nowadays, oohing and aahing. Looking up the Witch was tempted to join them. One thing about the two creatures of the cosmos was they knew how to make an entrance.

For a change it was a clear day, still warm as well. Summer was hanging on, though here in what most folks still called British Columbia, even if there was no British Columbian government anymore, nor a Canadian one for that matter, it was more commonly referred to as Indian Summer. All too appropriately given who, and what, they were.

The solitary cloud more like racing in than wafting in from the southeast, too low to the trees to be an actual cloud, was a dead giveaway. Lest there be any doubt about it, it lit up and was almost as immediately vapourized, revealing a truly spectacular sight. High above them, seemingly suspended on nothing except his much more impressive, even miraculous, mount, a native North American raised his Solar Spear, its spearhead flaring like a miniature sun, in a salute for all to see. He was riding, well, Raven’s Head had earned her name.

Mostly a horse with a raven-black coat that, upon closer inspection, was more feathers than fur, she had indeed a raven’s bird-head. Had as well the very much telescoping horn of a unicorn, or monoceros, extending out of her raven’s bird-forehead. As for how she flew, the talarial wings of Mercury fluttered furiously off both sides of her four fetlock ankles. As for how they kept something of her size aloft, -- Raven wasn’t just a big bird, she was a big mare, a nightmare to more than a few very much deserving some --, categorizing her as a creature of the cosmos covered that.

Raven’s rider was not Radiant Rider. That was Gloriella D’Angelo Dark, who was around Hope Haven somewhere and to whom the Witch, even if she was gypsy rather than Italian, bore a vague familial resemblance. It was John Sundown.

His eyeholes were covered in a beadwork blindfold. His headdress, what he called his ‘issiwan’, was a de-skulled but still be-furred buffalo’s head with its horns turned upwards. His star-cloak was also made of buffalo, its hide rather than its head. It being not quite autumn he had it turned fur-side outwards, the better to reflect heat instead of retain it.

Over his otherwise bare chest he wore a washboard vest. Although made primarily of beads, like his blindfold, it featured dozens of animal teeth and claws strung together. His pants and moccasins were as leathern as the Witch’s only Radiant Rainbows’ designed robe and shawl, -- she’d had to hire someone to stitch her clothes together since Gloriel’s Fashion Emporium refused to work with animal skins or by-products. No war paint though, she was happy to report.

‘Come along, my fine foetal friend. Time for me to get off our shared butt-end and start with the matters not a whit shit. But, hey, maybe we still have enough time to get lucky. Even with you belly-baking in the baby-burden-oven, it’s best never to miss an opportunity to go for a Raven-ride.’

For Wilderwitch, riding Raven’s Head was not the biggest highlight of that day, that dream, that nightmare, the end of the Panharmonium. Neither was the lowlight what Johnny did to the Male Entity not so long after she and Raven came back to Earth, -- though it was one explanation for the explosion that got her giving birth again, for the second time in her life.

By the time Hellion Helen brought her fellow prisoners, the Zerosses’ Utopian mother, Mel-Illuminatus, and Tina’s accurately identified slimy Aunt Fish, via her father’s rings through between-space to her side, the Witch was screaming bloody murder.

”Where’s my baby?” she kept repeating, screeching all the louder every time.

“She’s still scum-coming, Witch,” kept responding Fisherwoman, Scylla Nereid, Lady Achigan, Wilderwitch’s nine years’ older sister in more than just Flowery Anthea.

“Not her, Fucking Fish-face,” the Witch spat anew, giving birth yet again. “Fucking him!”

“Fucking Hell,” muttered Mel-Illuminatus, realizing what had happened. There’d been two after all. And the firstborn, a boy and already missing, was Satan Incarnate.

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Antiseptic stench, like smelling salts, awakened her.

Wilderwitch felt herself lying on her back, in a bed and wearing nothing but a linen smock of some sort. A hospital it was then. She did a mental inventory. No bottomless bag, no agates, no studs, nothing off of which she could materialize anything. Nothing internal either. Someone who knew witches had done a thorough job on her. She felt violated. Worse, she felt as vulnerable as she ever did. At least she still had the requisite two arms and two legs, ribs too. God, she hurt.

Opening her eyes she beheld a truly terrifying sight. The Demon glaring down at her was large and powerfully built, bare and barrel?chested, red?skinned, with obvious horns, a forked goatee, a droopy moustache. Bald on the top, he had a pair of almost penile-looking mutton-chops, a long, black ponytail and pointed ears. Half of his right forearm was missing.

"Yes," said the humanoid horror, "I believe you'll do just fine!"

Demon, hell! That’s a fucking devil! Epiphany came the moment she spotted only two eyes. Except one of them was in the centre of his forehead. Simultaneously came identification. ‘God and the Devil both,’ she muttered inaudibly. Unless she just imagined herself muttering it.

Gratefully she let pain pass and delirium render her insensate again. Should have asked what day it was. Would have been answered, if the demons’ king and the devils’ father-creator answered inanities, the 6th of Tantalar, 5980 Year of the Dome.

On the 30th of November 1980, the Cosmic Express was launched from Centauri Island, a mostly manmade Hawaiian Island off the coast of Maui dominated by three not exactly towering, but nonetheless distinct, not to mention extinct, volcanoes that once formed the tips of separate islets. Mere seconds after lift-off it was intercepted by the self-proclaimed Worldwide Order with the Right to Life and Death's Kamikaze Craft and blasted into a black space. Pinpricks of light, in their dozens, approached the vessel.

What were they, stars, faeries, angels? None of the above. Not strictly speaking, though they had aspects of all three. They were above, however, in the Night’s Sky, the Sedon Sphere, -- above somewhere, an Otherworld, possibly even the Otherworld of the Celts and just about every other indigenous peoples the world over. Weren’t, that is to say, below, in the Underworld, where their unkind kind is usually thought to dwell. Nor were they gods. Not anymore. What they were once, and were still, were devils.

Everything about the Express, including its very existence, was hush-hush. Other than in the highest corporate and national echelons of the Whole Earth, it might be said absolutely nothing was known about it. Yet even in those rarefied strata virtually nothing was known about its secondary fuel system, nor its major component, Gypsium. The Godstuff was teleportive. Seeing what was coming at him, the Cosmicommander activated it. Activating its Gypsium fuel fractured the Express, sent its constituent vessels, the hub-craft and six cosmicars, rocketing off between-space almost anywhere except this nowhere.

None of its crewmembers died, at least not immediately. All of them were, however, possessed by until then cathonitized devils. At least one Cosmicar, designated Cosmicar Four, shot out of the nowhere that was the everywhere in there, shot out comparatively not far from where it went in, Centauri Island, Outer Earth version. Empty of cosmicompanions, but not quite empty of anything else, it landed in the Aleutians, on a deserted, ice-rimed atoll marked on maps, even on Japanese maps, albeit in Japanese, Damnation Isle.

Twenty-five years earlier it had been the site of the then final act of what was known in those, for the year 1955, selfsame rarefied strata as the Secret War of Supranormals. There the last six active members of the King's Own Crimefighters, plus four of their oft-times comrades in supra-doings, took on their greatest enemy, Saul Ryne. Codenamed the Magnificent Psycho, the twin brother of KOC's leader, Cerebrus David Ryne, blew his mind. The six Crimefighters, their four comrades and Saul-Psycho were never seen again. Not on the Outer Earth; not before December 1980 anyhow.

Were not seen alive on the Inner Earth again either. Statues of them were; at least apparent statues of them were, in Centurium, replicated Versailles, the central cavern of the Subterranean Realm of Temporis. It lay beneath Sedon's Cranium, in the northern hemisphere of the Hidden Continent of Sedon's Head, as this Otherworld was known to its vastly divergent sentient lifeforms; a large majority of whom, perhaps surprisingly, were human.

These apparent statues, which stood in one place or another within Centurium for almost a quarter century, were more than just physical representations of the eleven supras otherwise obliterated that Christmas Day. They were their actual bodies hardened, and thereby preserved, by Solidium, what was also called Stopstone. Which was a good thing for all concerned because, for some unknown reason, the crewmembers of Cosmicar Four were no longer inside it when it crashed on Damnation Isle. And the one thing decathonitized devils needed to avoid being immediately recathonitized were sentient shells to possess.

That was the whole point of WORLD's Kamikaze Craft intercepting the Cosmic Express and blasting it into Cathonia, the Sedon Sphere that had separated the Inner and Outer Earth since the Great Flood of Genesis in 4000 BC. The Master Deva masterminds behind WORLD wanted to free their devic siblings, cousins and fourth generational devic offspring from the Cathonic Zone. In other words it was a jailbreak.

Outer Earth Hindus might take offense at devas being characterized as devils. After all devas to them were gods whereas azuras were devils. Then again Zoroastrians considered devas devils and azuras gods or under-gods to their Great God, the Wise Lord, ‘Ahura Mazda’. However, as Wilderwitch, if she was conscious, would be aware since she was born and sort of brought up in this Otherworld, the Head's devils could care less what anyone called them. They were as happy with Fallen Angels as anything else. Did not particularly quarrel with being classified as the devazur race either. Helped to explain a few things, sooth said.

The first generation of devazurkind was a solitary individual, the Moloch Sedon, who was resolutely male. The second generation consisted of his parthenogenetically-procreated children, the Six Great Gods and Goddesses, the three Thrygragos Brothers, one of whom was dead, and three Trigregos Sisters, all of whom were as long gone as they were indistinguishable from each other. Their offspring were labelled Master Devas and, until earlier in this century, the offspring of Master Devas were strictly azuras. Azuras were only Spirit Beings, like Master Devas had been for most of their multiple millennia of existence. Azuras, though, were so next-to-useless they could not even dominate those they possessed. Which was something full devils usually could do without any difficulty.

What happened earlier this century was two highborn Mithradite Master Devas somehow or other managed to possess, unless it was the other way around, the time-tumbling Male and Female Entities, Heliosophos and Trans-Time Trigon’s miraculous three-thing, the Mnemosyne Machine. These were the ever-recurring beings most responsible for creating Dark Sedon in the first place. Through them the lucky Master Devas, whose names were Tantal and Methandra Thanatos, begot ten new devas. Until the following Friday, Lazam as it was delineated on Sedon's Head, the Thanatoids’ Night and Day, their Four Elements and Four Elements were the only solid, fourth generational devils ever born.

One Fourth Generation Deva, Antaeor Thanatos, aka Demon Land, attached himself to the cosmicompanions-empty Cosmicar Four and, indispensably for the other five with him, Mithradite Master Devas all, had a very useful attribute. Demon Land found a way to recall from Temporis, densify and thereupon possess, one after another, the bodies of ten of the eleven supras lost here a quarter century earlier. Which was about when the good things stopped happening for the six devils and started happening for the long lost supras.

The main trouble for the devils was the supranormals' minds, or spirits, had somehow survived separation from their bodies. Had survived in what they had come to think of by then as a Limbo-like state of, at best, semi-consciousness. It was centred right there on Damnation Island and, once reunited with their bodies, they proved almost indomitable.

A moderately minor trouble was the sudden appearance of a non-Mithradite. The nearly never-cathonitized Master Deva, one Vayu Maelstrom, Devil Wind, had come outside through the Nagasaki Gap from the Inner Earth to the Outer Earth at the behest of his father, Thrygragos Byron, he whose age it was upon Sedon's Head, and his grandfather, the Demon as well as Devil King Himself. And Devil Wind proved next to unbeatable.

Battles galore were fought that first day after Limbo on Damnation Isle. Be it because of the Outer Earth's air or because, being mostly decathonitized, they simply could not withstand the formidable abilities of the supranormals, the devils, even Devil Wind and Demon Land, were vanquished by twilight. Not that, just as the supras had not done a quarter century before, they left corpses behind.

Individually these supras had names, most had codenames and one had just a codename. That one was Wilderwitch. Three had D'Angelo surnames, -- although only the Terrible Twins, Aires and Thalassa, codenamed Airealist and Sea Goddess, were definitely related. The third one was Gloriella D'Angelo by then Dark, Gloriel, Glory of the Angels, Radiant Rider, Rainbow, she whose father found Air and Sea on the day she was born in Rome and whose parents adopted them later on in '33. The fourth female was the lone non-visibly-human among them, the raven-doe who somewhat unimaginatively answered to the name of Raven's Head and whose equally unimaginative codename was Raven.

In addition to their leader, Cerebrus David Ryne, -- Cerebrus being his codename --, the rest were men. Like Air and Sea, who were identical twins, Gentleman Jervis Murray, Yehudi Cohen and John Sundown, respectively codenamed Wildman Dervish Furie, the Untouchable Diver and Blind Sundown, were Summoning Children. Which indicated they were conceived towards the tail-end of 1920’s simultaneous Summonings.

The tenth one was Obadiah Melvin Power, codename Old Man Power or simply OMP. No one, not even OMP, knew how old he was but, other than Raven, who may have been even older, every one of them wondered if the near-giant was their father. One of them did know whose father he definitely was, however, -- her daughter’s. Which was something else the oversized greybeard still did not realize.

Given names, married names, surnames, codenames, made up or legitimate, were one thing. After almost twenty-five years of their minds being stuck in Limbo whilst their bodies were encased in Stopstone-Solidium overcoats beneath Sedon’s Cranium, calling themselves the King’s Own Crimefighters, especially since four of them did not belong to KOC in 1955, seemed an out-thing. They needed a group denomination to better reflect their dramatically altered situation. Thanks to Cerebrus they got one. Denomination was damnation, as in the Damnation Brigade.

A collective name was nowhere near all they got over the course of the next few days.


Budding, top and bottom; bleeding, menstruation; puberty. Different order? Bloodshed, big hair, bottoming out? Life-loving Ants started early, 13, 14, 15. Not as early as love-loving, Lovely Lady Afrites, surely. Wilderwitch started early. As early as eventual gal-pal Sorciere, Johnny’s childhood bride? Surely not. Certainly had no kid of her own till she was 18. Or was she already 19 when the birth-pangs set in? On the cusp of it anyhow. She didn’t know the precise date of her own birth, only that it was around the Winter Solstice. Around now, in other words. Assuming it was still December, which she couldn’t be absolutely sure of either.

She’d had lots of lovers both before and after the birth of her daughter. Not so much so since Limbo, though. Count none. Except Jerry, who hardly counted at all. He was incapable of having children. Which saved on the birth control. First was the Osiraq Taurson. Then came, and came they did, in no particular order, that wicked Wiccan Fucking Warlock, that pseudo-supra-saviour Jesus Fucking Conquering Christ asshole, Jervis Murray, him so gentlemanly and un-reproductive, a different him, the oversized fucking faerie. All of them stank. Musk was a nicer word. All of them stank individually.

This one stank more so than most. She opened her eyes. He was black as midnight, albeit perhaps not quite as black as most pureblood Utopian males. Also had a beard, which marked him as a hybrid. Although neither had changed much, she recognized him less by the musk as by the thrust. Recognizing who he was suggested where she was, besides a hospital bed. It was the Weirdom of Cabalarkon. Was he still its Master?

“Good God, Sal, you look like hell.”

“Fuck you, Witch.”

“Appears I’m leaving that up to you.”

It was now, she’d have learned, has she asked, Sedonda, Sunday, the 7th of Tantalar 5980 YD.

On Friday the 5th of December the Damnation Brigade went down to nine members. Despite a quarter century in Limbo, the travails of Damnation Isle, the long trip from there to Vancouver, where D-Brig had begun setting up their new lives the previous Monday, and all that had happened since their arrival there, Thalassa D’Angelo, Sea Goddess, was still in the early months of pregnancy. Was fed up, wanted peace, no strife, no tribulation, wanted to concentrate on having her baby, Cerebrus’s baby.

So, alone, she boarded an airplane. Her destination was Los Angeles. They didn’t know if she made it or what had become of her afterwards. Nor did they know that by the time she flew off D-Brig only had eight members. What they did know, those that knew much of anything, was that, as of that night, Vayu Maelstrom, Devil Wind, was back on the scene.

He was whirl-winding overtop their newly purchased ranch house on the banks of the Fraser River in Vancouver’s remarkably still somewhat rural Southlands area. Wasn’t alone either. Had three other devils with him. Allowing for his three eyes, Maelstrom was the only one who looked even remotely normal, however.

Sure, he had blue skin and, when his lower body wasn’t a whirlwind, he wore only a fur garment covering his loins. Sure, his skull was mostly shaven and his long topknot glowed with the intensity of Brainrock, what Outer Earthlings had been calling Gypsium since 1948. Still, if he suppressed his third eye and altered his skin colouration he could pass for human. So could the lone woman among them, -- except Sedona Spellbinder was composed entirely of smoke.

About the only consistent thing about the third one, Chimaera Glimmenmare, was a mace, his Brainrock talisman or power focus. Otherwise he was changing by the minute: an air-strutting centaur, a be-winged Angelyc, a Simian Sapient, an ebonite demon, a preying mantis, the variations were endless. The fourth was just a huge, hovering head, completely hairless and with no body in sight; no head in sight some of the time either.

This was Great Byron, their Thrygragos of a father. Maelstrom, Glimmenmare, and Spellbinder were his Primary Nucleoids, which made them his chief enforcers. They were also his second born litter of three, -- Master Devas, who were as immortal as their fathers and solitary grandfather, were always born in litters of three because their three mothers, the likely, on some planet faraway from the Earth, still existent, three-in-one Trigregos Sisters, always gave birth at the same time.

Together the four of them could form the Byronic Nucleus. Which they did. Which was how D-Brig’s remaining members ended up on Sedon’s Head. Which was where, below it actually, they reacquired their ninth member. This ninth, OMP, had already found his own way there. Only he wasn’t OMP anymore. Well, he was and he wasn’t. Was also, put better, Akbar, Akbarartha, the titular Kronokronos Supreme of Temporis. Which was a subterranean realm; subcranial, to be just as precise.

Temporis was a devic protectorate, that of Dand Tariqartha. OMP-Akbar was the Dand’s half-son, hence Akbarartha. It had at least a thousand caverns, hence the Thousand Caverns of Tariqartha. The Byronic Nucleus dropped the rest of them off above it the night of the 5th. Within it, the next day, the 6th of Tantalar Year of the Dome 5980, as they quickly learned to count time beneath the Sedon Sphere, they, reunited, ended up fighting, and sort of winning, the War of the Apocalyptics.

Weren’t nine of them left by the end of it, though.

The Witch opened her eyes.

The Utopian glaring down at her was haggard but still handsome. Perhaps six?five and two hundred forty pounds, his beard and moustache poked out from around the surgical mask he was wearing. Otherwise he was dressed modestly, an operating room smock draped over an Arab or Egyptian style haik. Although turbans, often wrapped such that only slits were left for their eyes, were the most common headgear for men in the Weirdom, he had arranged part of the haik, a simple, oblong piece of unbleached cloth, to form a hood over top of his head.

Besides the Master’s Mace, a kind of sceptre, which he held in his right hand, his one concession to Masterly vanity was his personal chain of office. Depending from his neck, it was a necklace of ruby?red bloodstones upon which was attached a golden triangle with a single eye staring out of it. The hardly just ceremonial mace was a stubby eye-stave, the multipurpose weapon of choice amongst the Weirdom’s Trinondev Warrior Elite. It consisted of a 3-foot long, unadorned shaft with a smooth, leathern pod, an eyeorb or prison pod, atop it instead of a spiked, metallic-looking Brainrock head like Chimera Glimmenmare, Byron’s Stallion, had.

It was old, possibly pre-Earth-old. It also served as a Speaking Stick because, supposedly, no one could lie under the influence of its open orb. No not-always-illusionary gargoyle manifested out of its top, however. Trinondevs, the Witch recalled from visits to the Weirdom pre-Limbo, liked their gargoyles; took great pride in making them as frightening and ferocious as they could. They especially liked to show them off atop their eye-staves, their consequential labarums, during parades. In fact, seldom having much else to do, they loved nothing better than to parade about Cabalarkon City showing off how high and mighty they’d risen. The Master clearly felt he was show enough.

“You look even worse clothed, Sal.”

“So you remember last night. I was worried about that. Nothing I can do about it now, though. Nothing I can do about this either. Leg’s got to go, Witch. Cut it off!”

Which was when, desperation retaining consciousness, the Witch unleashed her fearsome soul-self. Ordinarily when it was outside her she sunk into a trance. Didn’t have that luxury today. Sent it directly into the Master of Weir, jolting him, Saladin Devason, off his feet. Even though she was strapped to the operating table, an intravenous drug-drip attached to her left arm, her Doltaur-damaged right leg exposed for amputation from the hip down, the orderlies moved to pin her shoulders back while a male Utopian surgeon raised high her own cut-anything blade.

Her soul-self came out of the Master. It was visible, monstrous to banshee-behold. Although always intangible, it was a match in terms terrifying to anything even the most twisted of Trinondev could imagine in terms gargoyle. The sounds it emitted were just as illusionary, as were the lights going out in the operating theatre. Didn’t mean those in the room thought they hadn’t gone out, however. Her soul-self went into the surgeon. It was freezing cold. He dropped the blade, shivering too hard to retain his grip.

Someone else barged through the swinging doors into the theatre. That someone was carrying what might be mistaken for a stunted eye-stave of her own; albeit one with non-gargoyle manifestations. While it had much the same capacities, it wasn’t just an eye-stave. Had a short pole with an orb atop it, yes, but it was decorated with twin snakes entwined along its shaft and had a pair of highly stylized wings spreading off it around the orb atop it.

It was a caduceus, the traditional symbol of the medical profession. In olden days heralds often held something similar when they went about their duties. In fact, she recalled, seemingly the very person now noisily bursting into the operating room once told her the word itself came from the Doric Greek ‘karykion’, meaning a herald’s staff. She was no herald, though. At least she hadn’t been pre-Limbo. Might be one now of course. She was, however, a doctor; had been the last time the Witch saw her anyhow.

Could it really be her, still so comparatively young? Might she be her daughter? No, she looked older than the maximum of 25 any daughter she could have had could be. So it had to be her. Pureblood Utopians, the Witch had almost forgotten, didn’t age at the same rate normal men and women did; normal supranormals, with the exception of the Elemental Twins, Aires and Thalassa, did either. Then again Utopians were not strictly human. They were extraterrestrials; rather, their ancestors were when they first came from the stars to the then Whole Earth some six thousand years ago in pursuit of the Sedonshem.

Like all pureblood Utopian women she was white-as-light. And she was pureblood, not a hybrid like the Master. Even if she wasn’t whom she appeared to be, the Witch could tell that because she was not so much expressionless as her look of concern seemed chiselled onto her face. Ambulant alabaster, that was how the Diver used to describe her, Melina Sarpedon.


“High Illuminary now, Witch. Sorry it took so long to get here. I just heard from Gloriel you were here.”

“Where’ve you been?”

“Being kidnapped, thanks for asking. I only just got released and sent back. You others, get out. I’m her attending physician as of right this second.”

Saladin was on his feet again. Unlike Utopian women, Utopian men could register expressions instantaneously. His wasn’t concern, though. It was either anger or outrage; more likely, knowing him, the latter. “It’s too late for her, High Illuminary. The leg has to go.”

“I’ll be the judge of that, Master. I am a doctor, remember. Have been for something like 30 years.”

“So you are, Dr Zeross. No one better for the job either. Allow me a word or two before I let you get to it. The Witch’s knife’s sharper than any of ours, by the way.”

Sort of winning came with a hefty price tag.

Which was why at least one of their number hardly knew anything anymore; if he knew even that much. In what amounted to a cruel case of poetic justice, since he was the one who got the seven others still with him in Vancouver on the night of the 5th to join up with Bodiless Byron and his Nucleoids, that one was their leader.

At least Cerebrus David Ryne was still alive, albeit just, but Air, Aires D’Angelo, Airealist, might not be. He’d vanished in Temporis minutes if not hours before the usurper, Lakshmi of Lemuria, who had only turned 18 the day before, arrogated the title of Kronokronos Supreme from OMP-Akbar and ejected them upstairs: to Sisert, the Silent Sands of Cathune, Sedon’s Cranium. That was where Ringleader, Harry Zeross, now 37 or close enough to it that it didn’t make much difference, found them just as the sun was going down.

Harry had accidentally observed the Witch and Akbar in action against a devil, one Freespirit Nihila by her own naming, down below in the Faerie Garden of Temporis. He still had the same teleportive Gypsium rings he had when he abandoned them on Damnation Isle in ’55. These he used to transport the now again only eight members of D-Brig to the Weirdom of Cabalarkon.

Harry couldn’t tarry. Harry was in a hurry. He had a task to perform for the Master of Weir, Saladin Devason. That task was the recovery of the Trigregos Talismans, one of which, the Crimson Corona, the Witch had brought with her from the Outer Earth. She’d lost it, though, in the Faerie Garden. Lost it to the selfsame, self-named Lazaremist Master Deva, she who also claimed to have once been Harmonia, the Unity of Balance.

Not so. Harry had taken care of her, whomever this Nihila was in reality. He was the one who lost it. But he knew whom he had lost it to and that was why he was in such a hurry. The bastard he’d lost it to was Vetala’s Soldier. He had a name, Dmetri Diomad, and a title, Cosmicaptain of Cosmicar Four. Was a bastard too, Dem’s Dim, the never acknowledged son of Demonites, Harry’s dozen years dead, 12-years older brother, and Roxanne nee Heliopolis Kinesis, a Summoning Child slightly longer dead.

This Diomad, Vetala’s Soldier, had somehow managed to obtain all three talismans, the two besides the Crimson Corona being the Amateramirror and the Susasword. He’d therefore played and evidently won the Trigregos Gambit. Wasn’t endgame yet, though. Harry could still get them back, what the Utopians of Weir called the three Sacred Objects. Not that they were anywhere near sacred to devils. Were in fact proven effective against devils. Which of course was why the Master had sent Harry in search of them in the first place.

Utopians of Weir existed to destroy devils, the Moloch Sedon foremost, but also the two still extant Great Gods, Thrygragos Byron and Thrygragos Lazareme, their spawn and the spawn, or offspring, of the third Great God, Thrygragos Varuna Mithras, who at least had the common courtesy to be fifteen hundred dead and, much more importantly, staying dead. Which was quite an accomplishment for an immortal. Utopians had come to the then Whole Earth for that express purpose, to destroy devils and the ever-spreading evil they carried with them like a kind of universal contagion.

Come to the Earth ten years before the Genesea, the Great Flood of Genesis, and had stayed here ever since, unable to go anywhere else primarily because little of their originally extraterrestrial science and technology worked the way it was supposed to work anymore. Oh yes, also unable to go anywhere because the suddenly Inner Earth, where they were stranded, was now covered, over under sideways down, by Cathonia, the Cathonic Dome or Zone.

They were thereby isolated in what amounted to another dimension, an Otherworld, from whence there was no escape. Not in number and not on their millennial ships, which were stuck beneath the Dome with them. Besides, why would they go anywhere if it meant leaving the devils behind alive and, as the Inner Earth’s deities, which many of them had also been on the Outer Earth until around 2000 years ago, dutifully, even fanatically worshipped?

The thing of it was, Vetala wasn’t just the devic Queen of the Dead. She was the also vampiric Queen of Hadd, where Dead Things walked, animated by Haddazur spirit beings. It was in Hadd, old Iraxas, a south-central region of Sedon’s Head, the Hidden Continent being the size of Africa, that the Corporate State of Greater Godbad, a veritable subcontinent in the Head’s south-westernmost corner, Sedon’s Mouth, Lower Jaw and Goatee, was currently waging a war between the Living and the Dead. And, gee, Harry, Ringleader, Rings, their old pal and ever-so-childish mascot, the Ringo Kid, could sure use some supra-duper help fighting the good fight against the bad blight.

When Rings brought them hither, to Sedon’s Devic Eye Land as Cabalarkon was sometimes referred to since the Headword was indeed shaped like a three-eyed devil’s head, from the left side perspective, Gloriel had been barely moving, the Witch barely conscious and Cerebrus barely alive. The other five, though, OMP-Akbar, Dervish Furie, the Diver, Sundown and Raven’s Head, were not so much raring as willing to go.

So it was, where once there were eleven supras left, not counting Ringleader, now there were only the three in Cabalarkon.

Wilderwitch was back in the same private hospital room where she’d been before being carted off to have her leg amputated. She wriggled her toes. All ten of them wriggled back.

“Thanks, Mel,” she said to the only other person in the room with her.

The High Illuminary of Weir, Melina born Sarpedon become Zeross, snapped awake, -- she’d obviously dozed off in her chair. “Huh?”

“I said thanks.” The Witch could see dawn breaking through the window behind where Melina propped her chair, and herself. It was, to say the least, very illuminating. “Mind telling me what day it is?”

“The morning of Demetray, Tuesday, the 9th of Tantalar, YD 5980. And you’re welcome. Mind if I ask you something?”


“Why aren’t you and Gloriel any older?”

“That could take all day.”

“Go ahead. You aren’t going anywhere.”

“Thanks again. Mind if I ask you something first?” Melina nodded. Was, for the Witch, a wonderment her head didn’t fall off. Another thing she’d all but forgotten besides how slowly they aged was just how literally statuesque full-blooded Utopian women were. “Dr Zeross, as in Dr Harry Zeross?”

“Yeah, and he’s one too, a doctor. We’ve three kids.”

“Cradle robber.”

“Better than being a grave robber.”

“Don’t worry, Mel. It’s me, still all of barely 28, if that, to boot. Not that, like you just said, I’ll be doing much in the way of booting for awhile. I’m not possessed either. At least I’m not possessed by a Sangazur and, this being the Weirdom of Cabalarkon, I can’t be possessed by a devil, can I?”

“Not unless her name’s Pyrame Silverstar.”

“Or the Moloch Sedon.”

“Sedon’s resolutely male. He stays out of women. Put better, he doesn’t possess them, if you get the distinction.”

“Afraid I already have!”

The Weirdom of Cabalarkon began its existence in the Year Ten PD, pre-Dome. Earlier that same year, some 4000 years before the Christian era supposedly began, Utopian millennial ships finally traced the Sedonshem to the Whole Earth. The only solid devils way back when, a decade shy of six thousand years ago, were the Moloch Sedon, whose essence had composed the Sedonshem just as it now did the Sed-Sphere, Cathonia, were he and the Thrygragos Brothers.

These last were the Headworld’s three Great Gods: Unmoving Byron, already bodiless and as of a few days ago once again a star in the Night’s Sky; Lazareme the Libertine, who’d been mostly asleep on Tympani, the Isle of the Undying One, in the middle of the Aural Sea, Sedon’s Ear, for approaching half a millennium; and Varuna Mithras, who was fifteen hundred years dead and to date had exhibited no signs of recovering.

At the time the other devils, then numbering many more than the five hundred Illuminaries claimed survived the Great Flood and made it to the Head, were possessive spirit beings. Which made it very difficult for the Utopians’ Trinondev Elite, the Warriors of Weir, who were neither all male nor bored-to-tears, gargoyle-manifesting near-sycophants in those bygone millennia, to track down and either capture them in their prison-pod-eyeorbs or find another way to nullify them.

The millennial ships had not fluked upon the Earth. They were led to this planet by none other than the Male Entity himself, Heliosophos, Helios called Sophos the Wise. For him it was a much later lifetime than the one he spent on the Inner Earth in the first half of this century and as always, if just as inexplicably as Heliosophos recurring again and again, lifetime after lifetime, whenever and wherever, he was accompanied by Trans-Time Trigon, a tri-peaked land formation imbued with Brainrock.

Also as always, with Helios and Trigon came the latter’s innards, the Mnemosyne Machine. Of the three, Machine-Memory had to be by far the most miraculous. Which was why Miracle Memory was the most common name of her human persona. Ironically, given her male counterpart’s abiding passion, lifetime after lifetime, whenever and wherever, was to eradicate the entire devazur race, she could only become human if a Master Deva, one of their Great Gods and Great Goddess parents or, as she’d proven in one of their earliest lifetimes together, the devazurs’ All-Father, Dark Sedon himself, humanized her.

In the five years pre-Flood he spent on the Whole Earth before being killed again, for the umpteenth time, and consequently tumbling back into the time stream for another howsoever many lifetimes, the Male Entity had no luck finding Sedon and his firstborn sons. He did, however, quickly locate the tub of Cathonic Fluid containing yet another undying one, the Utopian geneticist Cabalarkon who, rightly or wrongly, Sedon regarded as his father. It was buried right here, where Helios and his Utopian followers of that distant era subsequently began construction on the Weirdom of Cabalarkon.

Still was, the tub and Cabalarkon himself, though nowadays it lay in a separate crypt, a tomb-room incorporated within the Catacombs of the Sleepers. Next door, in a crypt and tub of his own, now lay Cerebrus David Ryne. Above the catacombs was the huge central square or plaza of Cabalarkon, the city proper. Massive, cyclopean stonework structures, interspersed with spiralling obelisks, most of which had pyramid-like caps on them, surrounded the square.

The caps are firestones, Persephone Zeross was telling silver-haired Gloriella D’Angelo Dark as they strolled around, the former showing the latter the sites of the city. They’re made out of some unknown combination of metallic or crystalline substances, or both. They semi-glowed, like embers in a dying fire, in the near-winter sunshine.

That building’s the old palace. Folks still call it the Masters’ Palace even though the Master, Saladin, lives in Skyrise, that really, really ugly, Outer Earth looking skyscraper looming up over there, behind the really, really pretty old stuff. Lots of officers and higher-ups in the temporarily currently, since the early Fifties, all-male Trinondev Elite live in the old palace along with their wives and families. A significantly large percentage of the officers, their wives and their children living therein are clones. Kind of neat, eh?

Even though it’s more museum than anything else, a repository for all sorts of originally extraterrestrial doodads and gewgaws that don’t work anymore, we call that there the Grand Cathedral. Utopians don’t not have deities so it’s not dedicated to any God, gods or goddesses. Certainly isn’t dedicated to any devil either, like the terrible Thanatoids of Lathakra who kidnapped me and my mom and my sisters and forced daddy to go to the Moon in order to get back the rest of their kids.

However, those three towers are highly suggestive of Trans-Time Trigon’s three hollowed-out spires, so it was undoubtedly built to honour the time-tumbling Dual Entities; one a man and one a woman, as you might expect. Gloriel may have encountered them pre-Limbo, in her youth or teens, since their eleventh lifetime ended in 5950.

A third incredibly antique, yet pristinely preserved edifice bordering on the square’s over there. That’d be the Citadel of the Thinkers. Many of Mama Mel’s Illuminaries and some of the scientocrats of Weir work there. Think of it as the Weirdom’s university and you won’t be far off the mark, Percy put to her. As for all obelisks, well, no one knows for sure, let alone how, but, due in some measure to the firestones atop them, they provide the power that ran the Weirdom today and had run it for multi-millennia.

Named after a famous figure in Greco-Cretan Mythology, one who was also kidnapped, albeit by a God of the Dead rather than a God of Death, one whom Romans called Proserpine, Persephone was a hybrid, half Utopian, half human. Having been born 16 years ago this month her youth, more so than anything else, probably accounted for the fact she was so little the worse for wear after her ordeal on the Frozen Isle of Lathakra.

It was there, off the east coast of the Head’s immense Cattail Peninsula, Sedon’s ponytail, where Percy, her mother Melina and two younger sisters, Helen and Athena, spent an entirely unscheduled weekend away from the Weirdom as the very much unwilling guests of the Parents Thanatos. As it turned out, Tantal and Methandra were two of the Master Deva masterminds behind the Cosmic-Express-caused breakout from the Cathonic Zone on the 30th of Maruta. As such, howsoever indirectly, they were as responsible as anyone for the fact she, Gloriel, Radiant Rider, was able to go for a stroll.

Like all those who came back, -- except for Saul-Psycho who hadn’t come all back and then apparently not for long --, she had not aged despite losing twenty-five years in Limbo. That meant, at a physical age of only 22, Gloriel wasn’t much older than Percy. She looked and felt rough, though; much less lively than her guide. Still, as weak and obviously burnt out as she was, she was on her feet again. Glad of it as well.

Would, mere moments later, be radiantly riding again. Would be glad of that, too. Provided she could stay away from more of those damnable but for some reason, not already damned to Hell, devils who damn near killed her and the Witch, as good as killed Cerebrus and may have, for all she knew, killed the others wherever Percy’s father took them on the 6th.

A rainbow on a clear day, sunny but cold, arced upwards, away from the square. Went not all that far from it, only as far as the Master’s imposing, stunningly modern-looking, as in Outer Earth modern, metal and glass Skyrise. Whereupon it went straight through the window into a private room in the ICU-section of Skyrise’s lower floors.

Therein Wilderwitch was resting and Melina, who was too exhausted to rest, was conducting yet another examination of her patient. It resolved itself into her, the once again rainbow-haired Radiant Rider, wearing only the white modesty gown she conjured when she was using her supra-talents.

Sounding like a little girl who couldn’t contain her excitement, but who could resist a sudden urge to go to the bathroom, Mel’s youngest, Tina Zeross, perhaps, Gloriel made the announcement the two witches, the Althean and the Anthean, had been hoping to hear: “They’re back!” Then, before either Mel or the Witch could respond with the inevitable ‘who?’, she caught herself. Now she sounded crushed, defensive.

“I mean some of them are back.”

The two who weren’t were Ringleader and the Diver.
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Wilderwitch must have given him something, one of her myriad potions from out of her bottomless bag, in order to deaden his death-throes and thus grant him a painless passage to an endlessly unconscious sleep. Only the next thing he knew that day, what he still thought of as the 6th of December 1980, he found himself immersed in some sort of semi-viscous substance.

Buggered up as usual, didn’t you, Witch!

Breathing should not have been possible but he was somehow getting air. He, Cerebrus David Ryne, was calm and, although he could not move, he could see through the stuff. A big, bearded black man holding some sort of stubby mace- or sceptre-like object was dripping blood into his mirror-walled coffin, if that was what it was. He was speaking into his mind.

"I am Saladin, Master of Weir. You are in the Catacombs of the Sleepers, beneath the great central plaza of the Weirdom of Cabalarkon. The liquid you are lying within is known as Cathonic Fluid. It will keep you alive until my scientocrats find a way to rebuild then rewire your headplate into your skull. First, though, assuming we can rebuild it, your brain tissue has to regenerate sufficiently for us to have any chance at a successful rewiring operation.

"Happily you are not alone down here. There are literally hundreds of others in the immediate vicinity of your sepulchre, many thousands more lying in the Slopes of the Sleepers that forms a virtually impenetrable wall around the inland periphery of my realm. All suffer from Imminent Death and, to be frank, virtually no one will ever recover.

"You may be more fortunate. Like me, you are what we call a deviant. You have powers, the full extent of which I shall determine in due course. From time to time I will visit you, to see how you are doing. You may wish to do me some favours. I have many enemies but, within the Weirdom, I am next to God Himself.

"Next to the Devil Himself rather, -- but only for the nonce!"

In New York City on Monday, December 8, 1980 some deservedly kept nameless, rapidly homicidal publicity hound killed John Lennon, arguably the most popular of the former Beatles, -- the Beatles at one time being by far the most popular pop group in the world, either part of it. On the same day, Mithrada the 8th of Tantalar, 5980 Year of the Dome, the Living won a decisive victory over the Dead on Dustmound, in Hadd, old Iraxas.

Demios Sarpedon did not so much miss it as he was in no shape to participate in it.

The reason for that was Melina now Zeross's exiled-for-30-years, black-as-midnight twin brother, along with his wife, Morgianna born Nauroz, raised Somata, the Headworld’s most celebrated Utopians not living in Cabalarkon, had been through a lot of late, on both sides of the Dome. Mithrada-Monday’s final battle only culminated on Dustmound, though. It raged all over Hadd for hours and hours, as it had done for days and days before that. Sraddha Isle was only one battle zone but there, within the Sraddhite Monastery, with the Living spilling blood inside and outside the ancient edifice, was where he lay.

As much as he might have wished otherwise, he had no choice except to stay there, in a chamber well-guarded by Godbadian marines armed with splatter packs. Could do little except toss and turn on his cot, fighting off the drugs Godbadian medics gave him to rest. Had to fight off the drugs in case he’d soon have to fight off Dead Thing bursting into it and taking a fancy to his head. Or, possibly after lopping it off, his body. Godbadian drugs were good. Recipes came from the Outer Earth, didn’t they? Or, yawn, not!

He wasn’t even awake when word came to the monastery the battle for Dustmound was won; that the latest War between the Living and the Dead was as good as over. Neither was Andaemyn, his and Morgianna’s zebra-skinned, 27-year old daughter. Truth was he was in much better condition than Andy, who’d barely survived an unconscionable assault upon her person by Morg's year older brother, Andy's maternal uncle, Saladin Devason, on Sedonda, Sunday, the day before the final battle on Dustmound.

Had to be admitted, as he’d only been informed that morning, Demetray-Tuesday, the 9th of Tantalar, they were both in infinitely better shape than Mama Morg. Hard not to be. She was dead. Far worse in some respects, he was told by Thartarre, the one-armed, shaven-headed High Priest of Sraddha, his friend and hers, she’d turned traitor and was fighting alongside the forces of the Dead at the end.

The High Priest also told him she was slain by Blind Sundown, who was not his friend, nor hers, obviously, as she was attempting to kill Wildman Dervish Furie. Some gratitude that. Sedonda-Sunday, the day before Mithrada-Monday’s victory, Furie was all that stood between Andy and Saladin finishing her off.

‘Flip a coin, Sal’, Demios could just hear the Wildman, who was his friend and should have still been hers as well, say. ‘One side’s cracked ribs, a broken leg or arm or neck; other side’s a permanent disability, lifelong wheelchair at the minimum. Either way Zebra Girl there’s going to an infirmary, not a mortuary.’

Give him credit, taciturn but politic fellow that he was, Thartarre did try to put a positive spin to the grim news of his wife’s last seconds. At least, he was pleased to report, Morg hadn’t gone to her own private morgue only to get up and fight anew. Instead, she managed to wrap herself in a shroud-like chrysalis of her Night-Mare-gargoyle-eye-stave’s making. She may have been fighting with the Dead but she didn’t want to fight as one. The woman did have some pride left after all. And it was still there to collect, should he be so inclined.

He was.

Sometime after Melina left her the morning of the 9th, the anaesthesia finally kicked in big time and Wilderwitch was as out of it as she’d been since Harry deposited her in the Weirdom. When next she was aware of her surroundings, she immediately sensed she wasn’t in the private ICU room anymore.

She was about to open her eyes when she heard voices. Keeping her soul-self invisible she let it come out of her long enough to see who was speaking. The only one in the room with her was Saladin Devason. He wasn’t talking to himself, however. It just seemed that way.

“Look at that leg. Only thing this Witch will do fine is dying.”

“I said she’ll do just fine, son. I didn’t say she couldn’t do with refinement.”

Wisely she recalled her soul-self and chose to go back to sleep. She’d find out the date later.

The Sraddhite monastery, the main headquarters for the forces of the Living, was a cyclopean structure akin to a Mesopotamian, Tower of Babel ziggurat. It was built early in the Head's history on one of many Islands dotting Lake Sedona. Whatever its original name was, it was renamed Sraddha Isle roughly four centuries ago. Which was about the same time it became a bastion of the Living amidst the 360-degrees, lake-surrounding Land of the Dead.

Because of both its strategic and symbolic value, Nergal Vetala, the Vampire Queen of the Dead, made Sraddha Isle, not just its monastery, one of her primary targets. Sent not just her Dead Things and their allies, for the most part afterlife revenants dropped by huge, mutated, fully alive and minimally sentient vultures collectively known as the Cloud of Hadd, against it either. Sent her soldier, Trigregos Incarnate by then, against it as well. Which was a good percentage of the reason Demios was confined to a cot when the final battle for Dustmound was fought.

Victory as far as those who actually needed to breathe were concerned only partially accomplished, Sraddha Isle remained the occupational forces’ HQ. Most of the bigwigs there were from Hadd’s territorially immense neighbour to the west, the Subcontinent of Godbad. In spite of it being homeland for Great Byron and his tribe of Byronics, the Sarpedons, including his white-as-light twin sister Melina from long before she married Aristotle Zeross, were members of Alpha Centauri's inner circle.

And Alpha Centauri, the Fatman, through his Centauri Enterprises, effectively controlled Godbad. Which was why, the Fatman being for the most part a straight-shooter, it was officially known as the Corporate State of Greater Godbad. As such, because of their comradeship with the Fatman, Demios was well-known and well-respected by Godbad's military higher-ups.

Although it took him a couple of days to get mobile, he had no problem convincing Godbadian General Quentin Anvil to transport him to where Morgianna fell. Didn’t even have to use the coercive capacity of an open eyeorb atop his eye-stave. Which definitely was pre-Earth, may have even been pre New Weirsystem, it was that old. Probably wouldn’t have anyhow. He didn’t approve of mind-bending as a matter of principle.

Sooth said he was something of an iconoclast when it came to eye-staves and eyeorbs. Unlike Morg, whose favourite gargoyle was a ghostly white mare’s head, a Night Mare’s head she termed it, he didn’t approve of the essentially harmless practise of manifesting gargoyles atop them. Said it was pointless, a waste of brain power. Which, brain power, was not only what charged them – eye-staves and their orbs worked best in cities; in fact they quickly ran out of steam outside of populated regions – it was what made eye-staves and eyeorbs do what they did.

Which was quite a lot, all things considered. The Utopians of old Weirsystem really were geniuses. Too bad their descendants here on the Earth, especially those living in the Weirdom of Cabalarkon, were mostly congenital idiots.

If pressed, though, he’d admit the reality of the situation was a tad different. No matter how solid a Trinondev could make them, he disapproved of the practise because his despised brother-in-law approved of it. Nonetheless, the proof was in the proverbial suet pudding, wasn’t it? Fat lot of good manifesting gargoyles did the sad sack excuse for a squadron of Weir’s Warrior Elite the ordinarily quite capable clone, Golgotha Nauroz, led against the Dead. Their casualty rates were among the highest any band of the Living suffered in Hadd.

Much better to have used the protective, force-shield-like thought bubbles they could project to hurl explosives and other incendiary devices at Haddazur-animated Zombies than to manifest gargoyles. About all gargoyles were good for was making the Ambulatory Dead fall down, dead already, laughing; those that had mouths left such that they could laugh.

He had yet to see a Dead Thing Walking that wasn’t scarier than any silly gargoyle.

Since around the turn of the 56th Century of the Dome Hadd had been covered by thick, sun-blocking, yet remarkably rain-free clouds. That it never rained in Hadd, while the largely impassable Diluvian Mountain Range that formed its northern boundary was the wettest area of the Whole Earth, was of course devil-doing. Using Outer Earth technology the Godbadian Air Force salted the non-vulturous Cloud of Hadd, thereby causing a torrential downpour that swamped the Land of the Dead.

Dustmound was a repository for inanimate corpses, native Iraches for the most part, ironically ones who once worshipped Nergal Vetala as their Life Goddess. These bodies therefore amounted to the Vampire Queen's reserve squads. Most Dead Things could not abide falling rain or running water. It was so bad fresh water actually dissolved the vulnerable ones. Hit by the deluge these reserves were decaying, liquefying, at an unheard of rate. Dustmound itself was in the process of collapsing when Morg was killed. As a result the ground was so unstable no effort had been made to retrieve her remains at the time.

After over four decades together Demios, who had earned the codename Blackguard while acting as her protective shadow in their years prior to marriage, felt obliged to get hold of Morg’s chrysalis-caked corpse before, now that it was drying up again, a Haddazur-occupied abomination broke through her cocoon, took it over and thereafter turned her into a Haddit zombie. After all wasn’t that why, to prevent it happening, she’d used her last gasp, mental might to wrap herself up in the first place?

Would, if she had been taken over, be an indignity to have to kill her more thoroughly, as it were, the next time they met. He, or whoever encountered her shambling corpse, would first have to mutilate it, de-arm and de-leg it in order to stop it from moving, then immolate or otherwise make an ash of its meaty detachments to stop them being stitched together and Haddazur-animated again.

The Godbadians provided him with an armoured, all-terrain vehicle and a driver. They were joined by a couple of Thartarre’s Sraddhites, warrior monks fully equipped with splatter packs containing incendiary devices brought from the Outer Earth by brother-in-law Aristotle Zeross, Ringleader, Mel’s much younger, wholly human husband, the week before. Once they arrived on what had been Dustmound they discovered, in place of his wife's body, a statue of her, one far too big and heavy to hoist into the back of their ATV.

It had to be a twisted joke. On the Outer Earth, prior to becoming the Ants’ superior circa ’53, the Master’s year younger sister had been codenamed the White Witch. Even though, as a hybrid, her face did wrinkle and crinkle, albeit very slightly, she was often described as a walking statue. Whoever had replaced her cocooned corpse with a genuine statue must have known that. Whole thing smacked of faerie tricksterism and Demios knew a couple of sick-humoured tricksters capable of pulling off just such an elaborate stunt.

They were Young Life and Young Death, Hush Mannering and Auguste Moirnoir. The former often visited the Fatman, Alpha Centauri, at Centauri Enterprises’ headquarters in Aka Godbad City, while the latter actually lived in the Sraddhite Monastery. Before being devil-cursed, covered in faeriedust and morphed into perpetual seven year olds, they believed they were Pandora Mannering and Augustus Nauroz, Sal and Morg’s parents.

Regardless of who made it and how it got there, Demios vowed that before he died he would erect it in the central plaza of Cabalarkon City, the very heart of the Weirdom. Trouble was erecting this maddeningly mysterious, even mocking statue of his wife there probably couldn't happen until he had overthrown Saladin and become the Master himself. Still, with ever-expanding Godbad's help, he figured it wouldn't take much more than a year to achieve his lifelong goal.

Why shouldn't the Corporate State of Greater Godbad, which in large measure was responsible for the conquest of Hadd and which was also the most Outer Earth modern civilization on the entire Headworld, add the Weirdom of Cabalarkon, the Head's most ancient one save, perhaps, for that of Corona City on Apple Isle, to its list of satellite states?

Looking around he spotted a well-kept woman of indeterminate age, maybe somewhere in her thirties or early forties, on the largest hump of ground in the nearby area; what, because it was just a pimple of its former self, the Sraddhites dubbed Diminished Dustmound. She was dressed like a widow: hooded, veiled, and all in black. Was bending over, intent on sifting through the dirt seemingly looking for something of value.

It wasn’t raining but, due primarily to the non-shambling, even graceful way she moved they figured she couldn’t be a Haddazur-animated zombie. Nor, since it was broad daylight with nary a cloud in the sky, could she be a vampire. While she did have chalky, ghost-white skin, that didn’t mean much. There were lots of men and women on the Head without much in the way of skin pigmentation; his late wife for one.

Even from this distance they could see it crinkled and wrinkled so she was no Utopian pureblood. Her clothing and the fact she had jet black hair, so long it stuck out underneath her hood and veil and all but covered her upper chest, indicated she was not one of the multinational Warrior Priestesses of Sraddha either. They wore brown robes and, man or woman, invariably shaved their skulls.

That she was dressed as if in mourning might mean she lost a mate, friend or lover in the final battle for Dustmound and, ultimately, all of Hadd. That her complexion was so pale, and her hair so dark, they further agreed she was probably one of the far-ranging, seafaring Pani merchant folk who hailed from Krachla, at the southern tip of the Penile Peninsula, of which Hadd was its shaft. That she was here at all suggested she had come in on a witch's stepping stone

There were plenty of Witch Sisterhoods on the Inner Earth. Most stemmed from the life-loving, so-called Superior Sisterhood of Flowery Anthea, which was named after the wife of Xuthros Hor, the Biblical Noah, and as such claimed to be antediluvian. So did the Hellions, only they claimed to be much older than the Ants and pointed to the fact they worshipped the chthonic, as in earthborn, Mother Goddess, as proof. Which, while it did make them anti-devil, devils being skyborn or Cathonic, unfortunately tended to make them pro-demon, unsavoury sorts that most demons were.

Then there were the Athenan War Witches. Even though she didn’t carry any visible weaponry, that’s where they figured this mysterious woman’s allegiance lay. Athenans were named after the Olympian Goddess of War and Wisdom. Athene was probably a devil. Of course for all he knew, not having made a study, like sister Melina had, as to which onetime worshipful goddesses were or were not devils, she may just as easily have been a complete myth.

Athenans claimed to be as life-loving as Ants and Alts, Althean witch-healers also like Mel, but, boy, were they murder on the Ambulatory Dead. And the Undead, most specifically vampires. Battling bats, as they termed it, was their specialty. In their youth both Scylla Nereid, Fisherwoman, who’d been in Hadd fighting at his side, and Sorciere, John Sundown’s decades gone wife, were trained primarily as Athenans.

Morg had lots of connections to the War Witch Sisterhood as well; had had, make that. So did Andy. But no one had more of a connection to them than Tsishah Twilight, Morgianna’s, albeit not by him, first and only born besides Andy. Tsishah was the Athenan Mother Superior. Was also the retiring Anthean Aortic of Shenon, Witch Isle. No contradiction there apparently, because War Witches only made war, in the killing sense, on those already not-alive.

Still, Tsishah was never without weaponry. So maybe he’d have Andy break the news of Morg’s demise to her. Then again maybe he better do it himself. Andy, who swore she was a Hellion, not an Athenan, and therefore very much more inclined to fight than flee, like father like daughter in that respect, was in no shape to defend herself. Might not even live long enough to leave Hadd alive. And he certainly wasn’t going to allow her to walk out of Hadd any other way.

There were of course other kinds of Dead Things on the Head besides ones animated by Haddazurs. Be that as it may, he had no reason to have any similar resolve with respect to this Black Widow, as he was already thinking of her. He was curious what she was looking for, however. Obviously just as curious, and a whole lot more agile than he was, one of the bolder Godbadian servicemen patrolling what was left of Dustmound went up and spoke to her.

When he came back he said she had broken a mirror and was trying to find its pieces so she didn’t have any more bad luck. They’d talked for a few minutes and since she seemed friendly enough he offered to help. She declined; said it kept her busy, that she had all eternity. Thereafter, since over the course of the next few days she was often seen again, Diminished Dustmound became known as Haunted Dustmound.

Should have called it Demon Mound!

Although he had no idea how long it was between periods of wakefulness, Cerebrus did manage to fight off unconsciousness once in a while.

Usually he opened his eyes and, once he adjusted them for the lightless conditions of his situation, focused on himself, reflected as he was in the mirrored underside of his stone coffin. Thereupon he would stretch out the tentacles of his mind in an effort to connect with that of the others, become frustrated and promptly go back to sleep.

Sometimes he managed to make an at least tentative contact with the familiar mentalities of his six fellow members of the Damnation Brigade now living within the Weirdom: Gloriel, Furie, Wilderwitch, OMP-Akbar, Johnny and even Raven, absolutely inhuman, if perhaps not so much so inhumane, as she was. As yet, though, he could not communicate with any of them telepathically. Not even the Witch, who was by far the most psychically sensitive.

The experience was unsettling, too much like Limbo. Except he could both see, in the mirrored lid, and sense his body, -- something he did not have and therefore something he could not do in the quarter century his mind or spirit was lost in the Grey. There was another difference. In Limbo he had company. Often Thalassa was there; sometimes one of the others, the Diver or OMP predominantly. They could talk. But here there was no one.

He railed silently against his loneliness, his impotence. He had a body and, Goddamn it!, that should make him stronger than he was in Limbo. Then again, on Damnation Island back in '55, his headplate had not been damaged. Clearly the Cathonic Fluid abetted what mental might he still retained. The combination was all that was keeping his brain functioning, albeit at such a low level; all that was preserving his life.

One day he awoke determined to get out. But how? Kid Ringo, Ringleader, wherever he was, assuming he wasn’t dead and buried or otherwise disposed of by now, could teleport via his Gypsium rings. Upper level witches like Wilderwitch, the White Witch, Fisherwoman and Sorciere got around the Weird or the Grey, or whatever they were calling between-space these days, on witch-stones. His paternal cousin, the now 27-years dead Jesus Mandam, aka the Conqueror, King Conqueror or Conquering Christ, could also teleport.

Cerebrus did not have access to rings, witch-stones or howsoever Jesse got about inter-spatially. Wilderwitch, though, had a soul-self. He had seen it, a frightening sight if ever there was one, and he knew from firsthand experience a few of the supranormals he’d come across during the Secret War of same, the roughly ten years he was able to participate in it as a supra and not as a drooling, bed-wetting near-vegetable, could externalize their ectoplasms, as it were. Externalize more than that, too, some of them.

His godfather, Sedon St Synne, whom he’d learned that first few days out of Limbo back in Vancouver was still somehow alive, wasn’t one of the latter but he was one of the former. He called what he could do Wayfaring in the Wild Weird. Perhaps he, Cyborg Cerebrus, could learn to become a Wayfarer in the Wacky Weirdom. First, though, he had to concentrate on sending his consciousness, his spirit as he conceived of it, outside the stone sepulchre where his body was stuck. Which he eventually did. Which was when he met the Ghost of Cabalarkon, the one-eyed, undying Utopian born in the far-off planetary system of the first Weirworld.

"Lot of us around, Cabby? Spooks, I mean?" Cerebrus inquired familiarly after the ghost, who said he could call him Cabby if he wanted, introduced himself.

"Not as many as you might think considering where we are. It's not that Sleepers don't want to come out and play. Or even just have a look around. It's more like they can't. You see, Sleepers can be revived with blood. A couple of drops and they'll sit up, take notice and even talk to you. A pint or so and they'll step out of their sepulchres and walk around for a while. But if people don't come to see us, don't drip blood in our vats, we just stay under.

“Our situation is somewhat analogous to why folks leave flowers on their loved ones' graves. They figure if they don't show they still care their loved one's spirit will become moribund; have a more difficult time resurrecting. Neglect atrophies us. In my case, the Master often visits me. In the case of most of these others, no one visits them."

"So they're more dead than sleeping."

“More, yes. But not dead. Many of those within these catacombs would revitalize if you sacrificed a baby. Some would get out and run a marathon if you cut open your arteries and drained your life's blood into their coffin. But you'd be dead and they wouldn't be running around for long. They'd need more and more blood. And, if they didn't get it, they'd die the Immediate Death, not persist in a semi-permanent state of Imminent Ditto."

"So you, we, are vampires."

"Not really. Without immersing ourselves in Cathonic Fluid, we would certainly die. If we got out and tried to subsist on blood, we wouldn't last very long either. Our appetite would be insatiable. No, much better to stay in our tubs and wait for Utopian scientocrats to find the key to immortality. Or the cure for our particular disease or physical affliction.

"And that last has happened, although not in Saladin’s time as Master. His predecessor, Kyprian Somata, who was also his great grandmother, was an Anthean, their Mother Superior as it happens, but she was also a patron of both Science and the Arts. She, her Illuminaries, Ants and scientocrats actually did come up with cures once in a while; vaccines for example were discovered in the early years of her reign last century.

"This Master, though, is a troubled man. I believe he wants what's best for the Weirdom but he’s cursed by his own heritage. Masters of Cabalarkon, which is the original and only true Weirdom left on the Whole Earth, should not be sons of devils. They should especially not be Pyrame Silverstar's son because that might make him an incarnation of the Moloch Sedon, the Demon King; the devic All-Father who regards me, somewhat inaccurately, as his father.

"This Pyrame, whom her fellow devils address as the Pauper Priestess because she has neither a talisman to call her own nor a protectorate to call her home, is an amazingly yet, as far as I’m concerned, inexplicably unique individual. For reasons beyond me and indeed beyond our Illuminaries, only she can bear mortal sedons, small case. However, since she’s been gone thirty-odd years, Saladin may well be the last Sedon on the Head, -- although again there’s undoubtedly at least one other left beyond the Sedon Sphere. Otherwise, so the Moloch Himself informs me, the Dome would collapse and either the Headworld or lands surrounding the North Pacific Ocean on the Outer Earth would be overwhelmed in the resultant Second Great Flood."

The Moloch informs you?

Oh yes. In fact every year around this time, the Winter Solstice, he pops by for a visit. Hey, who knows, maybe he'll even say hello to you; emphasis on the Hell.

Something to look forward to then. How"ll I recognize him?"

“Not a problem. Sed isn’t the most imaginative of deities and, make no mistake about it, he is a deity in here, the top dog of the top gods. You’re an Outer Earth Christian, aren’t you?”

“I’m not overly religious. Neither were my parents. My mother disappeared when I was only nine or ten but my father was, and probably still is, the patriarch of the Illuminated Faith of Xuthros Hor. That’s the Biblical Noah, by the way.”

“We’ve met.”

“Noah or my father?”

“Noah. He once dribbled some blood into my tub. You were saying?”

“Um, right. Christian? Yes. At least I was baptized and brought up a Roman Catholic.”

“Then he’ll come to you as you’d know him best. He’ll come to you as Satan.”

The morning of Sedonda, the 14th of Tantalar 5980, General Quentin Anvil authorized a Godbadian helicopter crew to retrieve the hefty statue of Morgianna Sarpedon that someone had left on Diminished Dustmound.

Demios Sarpedon was still feeling poorly a week after his encounter with Vetala's Soldier on Sraddha Isle. Even with the lift supplied by his impossibly old eye-stave, he was still moving slowly as well. Nonetheless, he insisted upon being there in order to ensure all went well.

As the statue was being winched onto the carrier copter, he again spotted the Black Widow, as he and the Godbadians thought of the night-shrouded madwoman who had been as good as haunting Diminished Dustmound for most of that same week. Supposedly she was trying to piece together a mirror broken during the decisive battle for Hadd.

Why would anyone carry a mirror into battle? Could it be the Amateramirror, one of the Three Sacred Objects he, his wife, both her daughters, Ringleader and many another had been trying to find for decades now? Had to be. Masters of call-me-Cabby’s Weirdom brandished a replica of it on important occasions but Vetala’s Soldier, Trigregos Incarnate, had been wielding the long lost original on Sraddha Isle a week ago. It, the original, was gone now. By all accounts OMP, Kronokronos Akbarartha now, had destroyed it the next day.

So was Vetala’s Soldier, again reportedly due to his ill-advisedly tangling with the amazingly alive and apparently unaged membership of the newly christened Damnation Brigade. He, a lifeless, eyeless husk of prematurely decrepit humanity at the end, was buried beneath Dustmound as it collapsed in on itself. There was, however, as Thartarre was hardly the only one to report, a tinge or tingle of something else about the whole episode. Like everyone he’d queried on it, though, Thartarre’s memories of what that was exactly were muddled and fast-fading.

Demios decided he’d have to limp over, using his eye-stave to provide some degree of support as well as levitation, and have few words with her. He wanted ask her about the connection, if there was one, between the mirror whose remnant shards she was single-mindedly sifting around in the dirt looking for and the Amateramirror. Might even use the coercive capabilities of his eyeorb to ensure her soothsaying.

First, though, he had to supervise the carrier copter lifting the, to his mind, even more singular statue representing Morgianna aboard it. As he was doing so, he spotted someone speaking with the Black Widow out of the corner of his eye. The man, if man it was, manlike shape anyhow, was dressed similarly to her, entirely in black. Only it, his clothes, if clothes they were, it really was hard to see from this distance, distracted as he was, had dozens of spotlight sparkles glinting off what Demios took to be his all-covering hood and cloak.

Where had he come from, who was he and why did he inspire such an eerie impression of the night’s sky? When he looked again both had vanished.

"You'll be Gomorrah," the male said.

The Black Widow, arrayed as she was in her own self-generated murk of darkness, regarded him in an absentia sort of way. "I was. Partly. But, believe you me, even if you don’t believe in me per se, that was a very, very long time ago.”

“I believe you’re Gomorrah, then.”

“Then believe I’ve been called many things in my days and many more nights, both before and since. Believe, further, you are trifling with Mother Earth’s truest servant, her most loyal daughter. Believe, finally. I am warning you off.”

“I’d rather warm you up.”

The Black Widow raised her veil. He was starting to intrigue her. “You look vaguely familiar. Should I know you?"

"Down here I'm sometimes known as the Judge."


"Close enough.”

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