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Orcus ex machina

By GrimackReapum - MEMBER - October 23, 2015, 13:49:04

Sequel to 'Dramatic Return' (Click here) and 'Mask of Mimicry' (Click here)

This was incredible! Ned Marion, a.k.a. Hoodfella, had never felt so alive! He didn’t know what had happened exactly, but since he had awoken on the slope of Mount Zinit, he had felt so empowered. With this newfound strength and vigor, he had gathered his remaining hoodlums and together, they were tearing through the highest ranks of the Cult of Ogrest who were desperately trying to protect their self-proclaimed god Ogrest.

Their progress up the mountain was near miraculous, but this was not due to the combined talents of the hoodlums, but rather to one powerful artifact: Ned’s Mask of Mimicry. By some divine intervention, he and his mask had both survived Count Harebourg’s attack on their ship and as before, the mask had ‘remembered’ all attacks used on it. So now Hoodfella held the utterly destructive power of Harebourg’s Pendultimatum spell, rendering entire legions of Grambos into icy stalagmites.

Next to Ned, the Feca Arnold Shielder summoned another protective barrier around his companions as the previous one shattered under the incoming projectiles: “Boss, at this pace we won’t last much longer! We’ve already lost half of our companions!” “Not much longer,” Hoodfella yelled over the roar of the battle, “We’re almost there.” He muttered under his breath: “Almost there. Not much longer. Not much longer and I will fulfill my destiny.” He burst out into laughter as a nearby trebuchet of the Cult blasted into pieces.

In a dark hall, miles away from the battle, a similar laughter filled the empty darkness. On one of the larger piles of rubble, a few Goblins gathered to watch the spectacle unfolding at the end of the room: there Dramak the Second sat in his predecessor’s throne, controlling a plethora of puppets. They danced and moved at his feet as if they were performing a complex fighting/dance routine while others lay lifeless and broken.

Most of the puppets were about knee-high and dressed in hoodlum garments. The only exceptions were a life size puppet of Dramak himself that stood still next to his throne and the similar looking gargantuan puppet-statue behind the throne that mimicked the movements he performed with the paddles in his seat. “Ha, ha, ha! Such splendid spectacle! The final act is upon us. The next chapter of the World of Twelve will be written by yours truly!”

He had hardly finished his sentence or another of the hoodlum marionettes jerked spastically before it fell to the floor. On Mount Zinit Harlet, a female Osamodas, screamed: “Arnold!” She jumped on the back of her Boowolf and rode to where Hoodfella and Mechaflex the Foggernaut were leading the frontline: “This is madness! There is only the three of us left! Even IF we reach the Ogre, we will never…” Her plea was interrupted by a bellowing roar, followed by a rumbling of the earth.

“That is no longer an ‘if’, my dear,” Ned said almost grinning to Harlet. Before them the Cult of Ogrest scurried away as a large shadow emerged behind them. “Behold,” Ned said almost in awe, “the scourge of the World of Twelve!” With thundering footsteps, Ogrest revealed himself to the little band of heroes. Harlet O’Scarra could hardly keep her furry mount under control as the giant towered over the three of them, gnarling and glowering.

Back in his hideout, Dramak stood up from his throne and spoke, the words echoing both in his lair as in Ned’s mouth: “Ogrest! We are here to end your tyranny of chaos and suffering! Return what is rightfully ours or we will be forced to take it from you!” For a moment in time, all remained quiet as the Ogre just continued to stare at them. But before Dramak/Ned could speak again, Ogrest bent over and let out another deafening roar, almost blowing the threesome from the mountain.

After this display of power the Osamodas could no longer control her Boowolf and with his tail between his legs, he hurried down the mountain, his mistress still on his back, screaming commands. Ned’s mask on the other hand sizzled with power as it had absorbed the powerful sound-attack into its arsenal. “Yes!” Dramak resounded in his head, “do your worst, Ogre! A few more of those blows and we will be just as powerful as you.”

“Do not worry, fearless leader,” said Mechaflex beside him as he drew his Stasis-powered pistol, “I will not abandon you. Together, we will...” But before he could end his sentence, Ogrest’s open paw came crashing down, ramming the mechanical man into the ground. At Dramak’s theatre, the second last of his puppets fell to the floor. For a moment, Ned was taken aback by this display of brute force, but the voice in his head quickly brought him back.

Again, Dramak and Ned spoke in synchrony: “You foul brute! I am no longer a mere mortal! I wield the power of the gods and even you will dance to my tune!” The mask started to charge as Hoodfella called all its collected powers to launch in one combined attack upon the Ogre. In the process he became wrapped in a blue aura as the ‘eye of Dramak’ lit up on his mask.

“Now I will prove once and for all that I am the greatest mind of all times! Bow to me, you dimwitted dolt, and realize you are nothing before me!” At these words the entire mask lit up under Ned’s black cowl and he braced himself to launch his attack. “Fire!” Dramak shouted from the top of his lungs, but before the command reached Ned’s brain, Ogrest smacked the ground between them, causing him to lose his footing.

As he fell over backwards, the mask fired a powerful beam… h armless into the air, parting the dark clouds over Mount Zinit. It did lit the sky and was seen as far as Kelba. “No!” Dramak clenched his fists as he jumped on his seat. “Get back up your feet, you puny puppet, and destroy that beast!” Ned tried to regain his bearings and got up just in time to see Ogre stretch out his backhand and slap him right in the face.

Of course, when the most powerful creature on the planet slaps you in the face, you don’t simply say ‘ouch’ and compose yourself. But Ecaflip still had some hand in Ned’s destiny as the blow did not kill him. It did however propel him off the mountain at breakneck speed and into the clouds, beyond all sight. Even beyond Dramak’s control.

“NO!! It cannot be!” Dramak screamed as he tore the upholstery from his throne. “No! No! No! NO! I was so close! The stage was set to perfection! This final act unfolded beyond all expectations! It should have resulted in a beautiful climax…” For a moment, the silence returned to the wrecked theatre. Dramak the Second dropped into his seat, the huge Dramak puppet in the back slumped over and so did the life-size puppet next to the throne.

The only sound audible was once more the falling of drops from the ceiling into small puddles below. The Goblins shuffled uneasy and were about to return to their task when suddenly their master became alive again: “But wait, this play still has an epilogue! The actual lead has not yet perished.” He grabbed the Hoodfella marionette and dropped his cowl, revealing the white mask. “The true hero still holds the power of Ogrest, Harebourg and countless others!”

He held it up to the life size Puppet Master who slowly rose from the floor: “As long as it is unbroken, it still play its part. Now only to find it…” The Dramak puppet slowly rose his arm and pointed towards the Hoodfella puppet. “You are right! His crippled corpse must still hold the mask! Now if only he comes back into range of my powers…” Dramak held his helmet with two hands, seemingly focusing his thoughts.

“Now how long can it take for someone soaring through the skies to hit the ground?! The Ogre’s not that strong.” The Puppet Master tilted his head, as if in doubt of his controller’s statement. “Right,” Dramak sighed as he unfocused again, “one thing at a time.” He filled his lungs and shouted in the emptiness: “GOBVIOUS!” The Goblins on top of the pile jumped and dispersed between the rubble. In the back, behind the piles of debris, a slurping noise was audible.

Dramak was already tapping his fingers impatiently when a strange figure appeared before him: a man dressed in a costume that can only be described as a mascot manhandled by a team of one-armed seamstresses. His face and shoulders were covered by an oversized goblin head wearing goggles and his hair tied on the back of his head with an elastic band to resemble a dusty mop. Below the mask, he torso and arms were bare and painted in the same gray-brown color as the mask. White pants and black boots finished it off.

“What took you so long?” Dramak scolded. While he had a normal posture when coming in, the sound of his master’s voice suddenly turned him into a groveling little rodent: “Sorry Master, had to find a good place to put bag down, without raising suspicion.” “You think an adult man in a goblin costume wouldn’t raise suspicion in the first place?” Gobvious seemed to think this over, but Dramak didn’t give him the time to come up with a probably insufficient answer

“Never mind! Where are we at the moment?” “Port of Sufokia,” the mascot man muttered, “wanted to take a boat to Wabbit island.” “What?! To that rodent infested hell hole? To the origin of my predecessor’s demise?!” He grabbed one of the hoodlum puppets and hurled it at the mouth of the oversized mask. Gobvious yelped in pain as the wooden projectile hit him right between the eyes. “You incompetent oaf! Don’t you dare get on that boat!”

As he wanted to pick up another puppet, he suddenly halted: “Yes, he’s back in range… and in Astrub, of all place. Nice neutral grounds. This will surely help us retrieve our little ‘trinket’.” His eye gleamed with joy as he outstretched his hand towards his cowering masked minion: “Stop your sniveling and listen up.” Abruptly the man stopped whimpering and stood to attention. “We are heading to Astrub. Find us the best ship around and I’ll deal with the crew.”

“Yes Master,” Gobvious uttered and with a blank stare he headed back towards the exit while Dramak the Second treated himself to an outburst of dramatic villainous laughter echoing through the theatre. When the masked man reached the end of the hall, he got on hands and knees and crawled through a tiny exit, his large wooden head hardly fitting through.

In one of the alleys of Steamulating Shores, a scruffy-looking haven bag twisted and turned before it spat out the unfortunate Gobvious on the cobblestones. The minion didn’t seem to mind much though as he picked up the bag and head out to port, with only one thought on his mind: please his Master and bring him to the shores of Astrub.

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