[This story is an Expanded Multiverse sequel to Scott McGough's classic Magic fiction piece The Interrogation.]
On a nearly forgotten continent, during the time of the Phyrexian Invasion...
The sullenly smoldering furnaces failed to illuminate the dark, metal chamber. The air and ground growled. A grinding vibration carried through all. It dulled the mind and drowned speech, overwhelming all with the furnace chant: "Consume! Destroy! Reforge! Improve!" But from within the gloaming a deeper grind sounded, a grind with a more nuanced meaning than the chant of the furnaces. Listen for a few moments and you would realize that the grind was a voice.
But then, listening for a few moments would lead inevitably to torture, dismemberment, and rebirth as something new, something more compleat
The voice ground in the dark:
"My masters told me your kind were arrogant. I see it is true. You dare threaten me even now, lying split apart like rotten fruit upon my tables!" A clanking suggested the shaking of a head in disgust. "Disgraceful. Everything you do justifies your extermination."
A sudden wet sliding became audible over the grinding in response and an acerbic, crumpled voice responded: "Everything we are was made possible by your kind's failures."
With a roar and clank, the furnaces churned suddenly higher, the doors gaping open as if responding to the tension in the room. They revealed a nightmare tableau.
One creature lay upon a vast stone slab, vivisected. The creature had dragged itself partly upright upon the vivisection table to administer its reply, ignoring the wet sliding of its own innards. As befitted his kind, his flesh was warped and terrible to behold, misshapen in power, bloated with muscle and magic. If any but his kind (and the orcs they fed upon) still lived upon the now desolate island, they would have felt revulsion and horror.
Unfortunately for this malformed meatling, his captors were as horrible as he, if not worse. They had not flinched or hesitated in their work as the uncovered the jewels of his vitals, dissecting him alive and laying his guts upon the slab. They throbbed, still attached, in the glow of the furnace.
This nameless, meaningless, hopeless prisoner glared at the monstrosity questioning him. He loomed twelve feet tall, fused flesh and metal, a humanoid torso upon a four-legged
body. Upon one arm hung a black mana battery, ripe with power, and a three clawed pincer for channeling its potent magic. Upon his other fleshy arm the vat priests of his home world had grafted a bone blade as sharp as adamantine.
His title? Ksixxes Thrak, General of Phyrexia. His mission? To conquer the prisoner's small world.
Or, perhaps... almost perfect. Perfect except for the fact that the enemy kept coming back, swarming over his forces like pale, misshapen maggots, dying by the hundreds, by the thousands, and still coming. And his prisoner still held on in the wreckage of his body. Thrak felt an unfamiliar sensation.
He felt doubt.
The general gestured to his prisoner. "Elaborate, meatling. Tell me more."
The twisted being relaxed back again, blood and ichor oozing slowly from a few of the organs that had been torn off in his sudden shift. "Let me tell you a story, spawn of Yawgmoth." He could sense the general shudder at the mention of his dread lord. As the furnaces slowly closed in the belly of the Processor--for this is where the interrogation took place--the red glow illuminated a grin.
"Once, long ago, when we were nothing but little wormlings on this world's surface, some of your kind came to this plane and the Order that made us. Your agents gave dark secrets away under torture, and put a temptation to the master breeder. You led him to deeper and deeper darkness, till finally the Order put him to death."
"Phyrexia revenges itself against hubris, no matter how long it takes." The general intoned this like a mantra, like a priest reciting a liturgy. To the general's annoyance, the prisoner only gave off a choking, gurgling noise, the laughter of a being drowning slowly in its own blood.
"Don't lecture me. I know all about revenge."
In the dark, the general frowned. "Finish your story quickly, meatling. Our great campaign yearns for compleation, an honor you shall not be afforded."
The voice rasped out again from the dark. "Our ancestors were the product of the breeder's hubris. We were his great final creations. Eventually we rose up against the Order. We consumed all. We decimated the counterinsurgency and slaughtered its leader undetected. As the other nations of this world fell to turmoil before waves of orcs and shelled ones, we thrived. As thallids fed on the blood of elves, we spread. We adapted to the cold. We drained the land's vitality out from under the fungus folk and overran the last bastions of the humans. Through it all, we obeyed the final imperative of our creator, bequeathed to us before his execution."
"And what was that?"
The furnaces burst open again, illuminating the cathedral like space, drenching the prisoner in hellish light, exposing his twisted, enraptured smile. "We had to prove ourselves against the return of the followers of Yawgmoth."
The general looked at the prisoner for a few moments, a few throbs of the processor. Then, he laughed. He laughed loud and long, a horrible, boiling, braying, crunching laugh. "You proud worm, you... you utterly ignorant fool! You think you are the center of this world, when across the sea there lie vast continents that have never heard of you! You boast while lying split upon my tables, ready to be consumed by my engines!"
Around them, the hellish glow began to die down again. As the chamber, this temple to wastes and screaming metal, shrouded itself in darkness again, the general leaned in close to his prisoner. "You talk of your great creator. Let me tell you something."
Endrick Sahr, your great creator, now lies in the Seventh Sphere, with Mishra, and Gix, and all the other fools who dared to challenge the will of The Ineffable. Their screams echo through Phyrexia as they suffer for their crimes. The Ineffable scourges with a mighty vengeance all boastful men and machines. After your body is flayed, you, too, will arrive there."
In the darkness only the grinding of the processor sounded in the background. The general felt satisfied. His prisoner's will finally lay as shattered as his body.
Thrak was quite surprised when the prisoner spoke again, quietly, thoughtfully. "We are not... imaginative. It never occurred to us that simply traveling over the sea would bring us to other lands. How stupid
. But now... now you have given us the key, as you always did, as you always will."
"The will of Yawgmoth inspires even those insects that work against him."
Once more the furnaces opened and the hellish light revealed new participants in this tableau of horror. The general's faceted eyes widened at the sight of the newcomers
: seven robed and twisted figures, mandibled, with a bony head and four beady eyes. Around them languished countless misshapen, oddly-limbed and pale creatures. And above them... above them, lurking in the shadows, undetected as they entered, hovered the Necrite
s that had allowed the others in.
Thrak understood, in that moment, the plan that ensnared him. This champion of thrulls, this master of worms, had plotted his own capture, his own torture, his interrogation. It was not a capture at all, but an infiltration.
The general aimed his mana battery arm at one of the bony thrulls. The seven raised their hands, however, and he felt the spell dulled, dying on the ends of his claws. These beings grew to power fighting black wizards and had adapted accordingly, it seemed. Thrak spit the name of one of his demon masters--the most dread curse he knew--and dove toward the nearest wizard to strike it down, but it was too late. The seven raked their claws across the throats of a number of their followers, and pure black mana spilled out into the room. The fleshy, pale followers mobbed him and he lashed out with his bone blade, kicked with his insectoid legs, hacked and stabbed and destroyed them, but their deaths seemed only to fuel the torrent of dark energies.
And then, Thrak felt rather than heard a movement from the vivisecting table behind him. It was not the shifting of a dying being but the stirring of a predator. The Phyrexian general tried to turn, tried to move, but was weighed down by the corpses of the thrulls. He could hear the enemy's approach. Finally, he yanked his legs free of the clinging dead and near-dead meatlings. He spun and raised his bladed arm--
In a single movement, the Phyrexian general found himself spitted, speared like an insectoid curiosity, upon razor sharp claws.
The dissection table was empty, its former occupant now standing before him, smiling with its three mouths, its organs even now slithering slowly back into its chest cavity. The champion
had been regenerated. The black mana from the sacrificial ritual drifted into him, reknitting bones, binding organs, growing second (third, fourth) arms, joining the one already stabbing into Thrak's vitals.
"My people know all about slow revenge, Dog of Yawgmoth." The thrulls closed in around Thrak as the furnace began to die down again. "Unwittingly you gave us the will to survive our masters. And now... unwittingly you have given us the world. Thank you, General, for providing the information we needed. This has been a most informative interrogation"
The doors of the furnaces clanked to a close.
All was darkness.
The thrulls began to feed.
I wrote this fairly early on in the project and I always kind of liked it, but never got around to revising it to a point where i liked it. I just did a final revision of it, and I think I'll submit it for a vote shortly, but I'm curious to hear what people think of it, since only Szat commented on it the first time around.
Incidentally, has everyone read The Interrogation
? Because you bloody well should. it's one of the great pieces of old lore, and one of the things I'm going to be collecting soon, if all goes as planned.