It’s so nice to have everything going according to plan. What was I thinking, working with Enki and Bast? It wasn’t the first time Moloch had wondered that, and he doubted it would be the last. Enki had been an unstable element. Moloch had admired his near obsessive focus on a single goal – he could relate to it – but his mad plan to merge nanoverses…if I had thought it could work, I never would have worked with him. Bast would have been fine to work with, but If she’d understood the full scope of Moloch’s ambitions, she would have stabbed him in the back faster than he’d betrayed Ishtar.
And I never planned to stay loyal to her. His hands twitched at the thought of Ishtar’s name, a gesture he was almost not aware of. Just a reflexive one, triggered by the thought of wringing her by the neck until it snapped it half. Letting her go to stop Enki had been galling. You’ve waited so long for that moment, he reminded himself. Just a little bit longer was for the best.
Especially because Enki might have been able to pull it off. Seeing what he could do with just two nanoverses, Moloch honestly thought Enki might have been able to hold the Sun back if he’d had enough of them.
And we can’t have that.
In a way, it was funny. Enki had become something so terrible, Moloch had been forced to allow defeat to make sure he was undone. Almost like the old days. Except for a few important details.
That thought made Moloch chuckle to himself, the raspy, wet sound he favored for how much it unnerved humans.
“Something amusing you, Moloch?” Uriel asked, crossing her arms across her chest. Moloch sighed at her voice. I preferred the last guy. Lucifer and his minions had been devious and manipulative and wholly focused on mortal sin and suffering, but they hadn’t been insufferable prigs about it. Uriel had somehow become more arrogant, not less, since her Fall.
“Just reminiscing, Uriel. About days long gone.”
“I know how long.”
That would have stopped Moloch cold if the fallen angel hadn’t been firmly leashed by their bargain. “It’s good to know things,” he muttered, turning back to Olympus. “I don’t recall part of our deal being you ruining the moment.”
“You should have specified in our deal, then.” Uriel gave him an impudent grin. “Since you did not, I can do as I please.”
Moloch turned away from her, not willing to let the insolence spoil the mood. Everything is going perfectly, he reminded himself. The gods of Olympus were turning on themselves. Even if they decided to aid Ishtar and her cohorts, it would be the remnant, the survivors. They were done, and would be ash soon. His real targets had taken the bait, and their first fight against one of his enhanced monsters had resulted in them needing to recover their hungers. They’d come to fight soon, and Moloch would crush them.
He could not wait to see the look on Ishtar’s face.
“Sir?” It was one of his cultists, enhanced by sacrifice and monstrous ichor. Moloch couldn’t remember his name. Or, more accurately, Moloch cared about this cultists name as much as he cared for the blades of grass he was currently standing upon. “Some of the others approach. Athena and Dianmu. They’ve stopped near the southern ridge.”
Moloch furrowed his brows. “Well, we should not keep them waiting, should we?” Moloch turned to head towards the barricade to the south.
As the cultist had stated, Athena and Dianmu stood there. Moloch couldn’t see the others, not from here. It doesn’t matter. They’d come, in time. Maybe these two had realized the folly of opposing him and were trying to get sanctuary. If they are, offer it. Until things are done. He doubted he’d be that lucky though. Athena was as steadfast as they came, and Dianmu had never betrayed a cause – not even when she herself was betrayed. I wonder if she’s still sore about that?
They were just far enough away Moloch didn’t bother ordering his outriders to hunt them down. Instead, he drew up to make sure he was clearly visible over the crude fortifications of bone and sinew.
“Moloch!” Athena bellowed, her voice amplified by Dianmu twisting reality as she spoke. “You have invaded the home of the Olympians. You have committed foul acts against both man and god. You have destroyed nanoverses for personal gain, ending trillions of lives to create monsters. You-“
Moloch twisted reality to amplify his own voice. The time to conserve power was almost at an end. “As much as I appreciate being reminded how incredible I am, Athena, I assume you have a point?”
If the interruption bothered Athena, she didn’t show it beyond rolling her eyes. “I’m giving you a chance, Moloch. Surrender, and we will imprison you in the Labyrinth. You’ll live your life there, but you will not face Real Death, and you will have a domain to shape to a degree.”
Moloch burst out laughing, and with the twisted amplification, his cackles echoed horribly throughout the entirety of Elysian Rest. “You are giving me a chance, Pallas Athena? I have every advantage. I have an army remade to kill gods. I have monsters that would rip you shreds. I have your dear Eschaton’s sister,” and here Moloch gestured, and Isabel was drug over to him by her chains. Moloch ignored her protests and lifted her high so Athena could see. Uriel tensed. Don’t worry, Uriel. I won’t harm her. I remember our deal. They don’t know of it, however. “I have an angel on my side! You have a few gods and…nothing else.”
Ryan, Ishtar, and Anansi were cresting the hill to join Athena. They exchanged some quiet words, and Moloch tapped his foot, waiting for a response. His fingers twitched again. He could reach out right now, direct his full power at the cluster. They’d never see it coming, they’d never imagine it. You’d never see the look on their faces. The plan, Moloch, the plan.
Besides, what could they possibly do to him?
As if they had senses the thought, Athena turned back to him. “Iacta Alea est!” The die is cast. As a group, the five gods raised their hands and lowered them.
That’s when the explosions started. Over and over, explosions along the sides of the Elysian Rest. All around them, the walls of the Labrynth were wracked with staccato burst of detonations that shook the ground Moloch stood on. Moloch looked around, wildly. Dust was filling the space the explosions had occupied.
And from behind the dust came dozens of roars. “What.” Moloch said. It wasn’t a question. He could tell exactly what was going on. He could already see the first creature emerge from the smoke and dust, a trio of Chimeras bellowing from all three heads. They were followed by a hydra, growingly and hissing as it slithered free. Scylla, the creature that had blocked Odysseus from his return to Greece, was the first Moloch recognized, a massive woman that crawled across the landscape on tentacles that ended in ravenous wolf-jaws.
The first what didn’t seem enough. “What.” Moloch repeated. This wasn’t part of the plan. This wasn’t part of any plan! “This is madness,” Moloch shouted across the pass at Athena.
She didn’t answer. She and her companions were already charging, trying to stay ahead of the wave of monsters they had unleashed.
In his grasp, Isabel stared laughing. “What is so funny?” Moloch growled. “What is so goddamned funny?”
“My brother…he used to play this nerd game with dice. And every time they were near the end of the game, people would…” She snorted and had needed a moment to collect herself. “would wonder what stupid-ass thing he was going to do next. No one could plan for it! Drove the head nerd, the DM, up the wall.” Isabel got her laughed under control and gave Moloch a defiant grin. “No one can plan for my brother.”
Moloch snarled at her and tossed Isabel aside, issuing orders to his troops. Isabel rolled with the throw as best she could, coming to a stop at Uriel’s feet.
Ryan, what the hell are you doing? Isabel wondered. Unleashing a ton of monsters was stupid. Or maybe it wasn’t. But Moloch had an army, Ryan had a mob. For all her bravado, she was not even remotely certain Ryan had any idea what was going on.
Isabel glanced at Moloch, making sure he was still focused on his army. He was out of sight. She reached down to her pocked as best as the chains allowed.
It was still there. Isabel glanced at Uriel, who nodded. Almost time, Isabel thought, her heart pounding. It’s almost time.
She just hoped that, if this was going to go badly, it would be enough to turn the tide.