By C. L. Werner
Koumajutsu: The Coming of Bagan
18 - [Epilogue]
The guards had dispersed from the doorway, allowing the tall, cadaverous looking British corporate shark to enter the hospital room. The inmate of the room was being held under charges of espionage, murder and crimes against the people of Japan. They were serious charges indeed and the employers of the injured man lying upon the hospital bed had no great desire to see his case go to trial. A large anonymous contribution to the Japanese CCI had arranged for the British businessman to visit the critically injured suspect.
Chairman Carmichael stared down at the bandaged bulk that had lately been one of the MARS corporation's top agents. The black man opened his eyes a fraction of an inch, the only movement his injuries would allow. Carmichael let a friendless smile slither onto his face.
'You are in bad shape, Riker,' the corporate man said. 'Very bad shape. The doctors doubt if you will pull through. If you do, you won't have use of your arms or legs.' Carmichael's voice remained flat even as he embellished the agent's injuries.
'I fear that the Japanese are seeking to charge you with all sorts of unpleasant things.' As Carmichael spoke the words, Riker's eyes opened wider in alarm. 'Not much to look forward to. A crippled vegetable locked away for life in some Jap prison.' The sinister, cunning smile retured to the Englishman's face. 'Of course, there is always another way out, for a man of your… unique abilities.' The black man's eyes grew wide with horror, even more so than they had at mention of the criminal proceedings. Carmichael removed a syringe from his coat. 'Just shake your head if you don't want to volunteer.' Riker began to blink his eyes frenziedly, straining his broken neck, but failing to move his head even by a fraction of an inch.
Chairman Carmichael leaned forward, letting the crippled agent see the syringe. The MARS executive smiled as he saw the tears streaming from Riker's eyes. 'Good, I knew a brave boy like you would be very eager to volunteer, to do his part to further the cause of science and all that rot.' Carmichael stuck the syringe into Riker's neck, depressing the plunger. The maimed man grew tense, then became perfectly placid. The monitor beside his bed gave a steady flat-line drone.
Carmichael calmly walked back into the corridor. They would find no trace of the poison he had pumped into Riker. And when the body was sent back to the States, the next of kin would dutifully turn it over to the MARS corporation, burying some other corpse in Riker's grave. Carmichael idly wondered if the experiment would succeed this time, then decided that he really wasn't interested.
Whistling a jaunty tune, the MARS executive strode from the hospital as nurses and doctors rushed past him into Riker's room.
Dr Otani watched as the immense Roc-class air-transport lowered the savaged form of the saurian creature to the sandy surface of Ogasawara. Nearby, the hulking shape of the giant theropod Gorosaurus watched the return of his fellow super-saur to the island. Dr Otani smiled as he saw the gray scaled reptile. He had expected the ever-hungry Baragon to be drawn to the site, but Gorosaurus had driven the burrowing monster away, saving the Monster Island technicians the trouble of erecting a temporary stockade in which to confine the monster.
Anguirus whined as the cables were withdrawn and his bulk came to rest firmly upon the ground. The saurian creature was more dead than alive, but Otani felt certain that his people would be able to nurse the valiant monster back to health. Indeed, private donations were flooding in to fund just that. The determination and courage Anguirus had displayed in his battle against Bagan had fired the compassion of the world.
The head of the Monster Island project only wished that his newest charge came with such a care packet. Nearby, the silent, still figure of the cyborg monster Borodan stood. Very little had been done to mend the damage done to the cyborg, one arm still ended in a blackened stump. Enough repair work had been performed to ensure that Borodan's organic components did not die and deteriorate, but otherwise nothing had been done to restore him. Dr Otani understood that there was an investigation of the UNGCC underway, to unearth who had built the cyborg and why its existence had been kept from the public. The memory of Gigan and its brutal rampage cast a long shadow and Borodan stood firmly within it.
Dr Otani walked slowly back towards the main facility. The atomic pile had been withdrawn back into the small reactor. Once again, Godzilla had failed to respond, proving, to Otani's mind at least, that the monster had not returned to the waters off Ogasawara. Just where he was, that was anyone's guess.
Overhead, the Roc transport craft streaked away. Otani understood that Mothra was still lying amid the rubble of Tokyo, another wounded kaiju to demand the attentions of Otani's small staff. Otani understood that some strange change had come upon Mothra, but he did not believe such tales. Of all the monsters that had been housed at the Monster Island project, Mothra was the only one he did not feel threatened by. He hoped that his men would be able to heal her injuries when she arrived.
Funds would be a touchy matter for sometime. The normal support of the UNGCC would be nonexistent as they scrambled to rebuild and refit the robot Mechagodzilla 2. Their best estimate would be to have the machine back in operation in six months. The machine's crew had been well protected by Mechagodzilla's thick armour and suffered only minor injuries. Only the Hiryu battleship had been a complete loss, repairs on the Flying Dragon being impossible. It was regretted, for weapons such as Mechagodzilla and the Hiryu were in great demand. Six months seemed a terribly long time. Already, there were reports of swarms of predatory Gyaos in the far corners of the earth.
The KNIFE team was presently investigating those rumours, at least those operatives who were still fit for duty. Agents Daxton and Shinjo were still recuperating from their injuries. A replacement for Sato had yet to be decided upon. Dr Otani wished them well. For the world seemed to have become a darker and more dangerous place, a place where a ghastly beast might lurk around every corner. The KNIFE team would certainly have their work cut out for them.
The young priest walked slowly between the pews of his church. In these troubling times, there had been more parishioners in attendance at the services than ever before. It was a sad statement that men did not turn to God except when they were afraid. Even the more traditional religions in Japan had suffered dwindling worshippers, and for a transplanted faith, the fall in congregations had been even more marked. But the new pall that had seemed to settle upon the world had driven a frightened throng back into places of worship, begging to be spared from the many fears that plagued the minds of man in these times. It was almost more than the young priest had been able to handle, he had been offering succor and spiritual support to frightened and confused people for several days now. In fact, it was only now, in the small hours just before dawn that the church had finally emptied.
The priest strode away, heading toward his own chambers. As he walked away, a sudden gleam of light from the direction of the altar caught his attention. He paused, glancing back the way he had come. There was an old man at the altar, a lit candle in his hand. The priest was confused for a moment, wondering how he had missed seeing the old man before. He walked back toward the altar, fighting off once more the call for sleep, at least until he had discovered if this lone parishioner needed his help.
The man was very old, like a walking scarecrow. His skin was pale and stretched tight over his limbs, his face gaunt, looking not unlike a jack-o-lantern. Scraggly white hair tried its best to cover his head and a fuzz of gray stubble covered his cheeks and chin. Tired, yet somehow keen eyes stared from either side of his slight nose.
'May I be of any assistance, brother?' somehow, given his great age, the priest couldn't manage to call the old man 'son'.
'I light a candle to remember a lost soul no other will pray for,' the old man replied.
'There have been many candles lit for the dead these past days,' the priest observed. 'What was the name of your friend?'
'He was my brother,' the old man said. 'It has been a long time since he could be numbered amongst my friends. But he was my brother, and I should honour his spirit and pray for his rest. Yours, I understand, is a kind and merciful God. Perhaps He will show some mercy on one who walked in the shadows for most of his days, who soiled his soul with the most dire of thoughts and deeds.'
'The forgiveness of Our Father is limitless,' the priest said.
'That is why I ask Him to show my brother mercy,' the old man's dry voice crackled. 'It would be unwise to ask the ancestors, for my brother disowned and forgot them long ago.' The old man rose, looking at the priest with eyes that were pits of melancholy. 'But that is the way of this age. We have all forgotten so many things, and now it is too late to remember them.' The old man began to walk away, his lean frame striding between the pews.
'Please, Father, won't you say a prayer for my brother?' the dry voice crackled. 'Perhaps you might light a candle yourself. A candle for poor mad Eiji Isayama.'
The priest nodded his head, turning about to look at the candle the old man had set upon the altar. Suddenly he remembered that he had fastened the doors of the church. He turned around again to go and unlock them for the old man, but when he did so he found that he was alone in the dark, silent church.
Moll and Lora watched as the huge form rose from the rubble of Tokyo. Great scars had scabbed over where Bagan's claws and horns had torn her exoskeleton, the maiming scars adding to the hideous appearance of this new, grim Mothra. The huge air-ship the UNGCC had employed to remove the injured Anguirus and Borodan from the city quickly wheeled away from the suddenly vibrant and active Battle Mothra. The ireful deity shrieked at the air-ship, but did not attack. Instead, the bat-like wings of the vast insect carried her upwards and away from the battlefield.
The Elias sisters watched their deity depart, their faces filled with fear. The wrath Mothra had felt at the butchery of her mother by Bagan had caused her to assume such a brutal and militant shape, further darkened by the corrupting influence of the Heart of the Dragon as it consumed the earth's manna to restore King Ghidorah to gruesome life. They could sense the fury within Mothra, could sense the desire for combat, to see her enemies fall before her, to hear their death cries. They could also sense that this Mothra would hunt out her foes, she would not wait for evil to manifest itself. She would be the agressor, not the defender.
But what worried them most, what troubled the tiny fairies the greatest was what they did not sense within this new Mothra. There was no concern for protecting anything, not the land, not the innocent. She would hunt out those creatures she felt to be evil, she would give them battle wherever she came upon them, and she would not care how many innocent lives might be lost as a result of her relentless zeal in destroying the darkness that had fallen upon the earth.
There was a great emptiness within Mothra, where her hate for Bagan had been. And the Elias knew that Mothra would try to fill that emptiness with the lives of evil beings. And they also knew that no amount of blood would ever satisfy her in the end.
The Earth had become a dark place, a world of shadows and nameless horrors, and Mothra had become one of those horrors, a dark god of vengeance and wrath.
Moll and Lora cried as they watched the once beautiful creature fly away for they understood so very much about what she had become. Mothra, the goddess of life was now Mothra, the angel of death.
Within a gigantic cavern beneath the Siberian tundra, a vast cocoon pulsated and throbbed as tremendous energies gathered and nurtured the life within. The cocoon resembled nothing so much as an immense dirt clod, and as the energies gathered, the dirt-like surface began to bubble and stream like molten lava.
Suddenly, with a brilliant flash of crimson light, the cocoon burst open and that which it had nurtured crawled its way free. It was a gigantic shape of black, smooth shiny armour plates. The head was angular, sweeping back into a frill of serrated horns. Interlocking mandibles fronted the creature's head, a gigantic horn, a second jagged spur rising from its midheight position, fronting the insect's face. Pale, pulsating eyes glowed with a blue energy, like the rippling hues of the aurora borealis. The insect's body was utterly smooth, its six legs ending in sharp claws. As the monster wriggled its way free, the carapace on its back split open and two massive wings unfurled, drying in the chill air of the cavern. The wings were grey, almost like cobwebs woven together and sported a pattern of intricate swirls and whorls, a maze of darkness picked out upon a field of mist, off-setting the black shiny exoskeleton of the monster.
Upon the back of the abdomen, however, the exoskeleton was not entirely black, for there was a pattern picked out there in white, its resemblance to a crude death's head as unsettling as it was uncanny.
It had taken the monster a great deal of time to recover and restore himself after the cruel injury dealt him by the demon Bagan, and in drawing upon the energies of the Earth, Battra had absorbed some of the shadowy taint that now permeated the planet. But his purpose remained the same - to protect and preserve. And he could sense that already the planet was being threatened. Threatened by a very old enemy.
Battra's dry, hissing shriek was like dead leaves blowing across a grave, a sound of mourning and gloom. He would rise to meet this challenge, vanquish it. Vanquish all the many forces that threatened the planet, whatever they might be.
A figure strode from the night, watching as Chinese soldiers erected a series of flood-lamp towers above the ravaged scene of Bagan's triumphant victory against the first group of monstrous defenders to oppose him in this modern age. The stone carcass of Tuol was being attacked by a series of mechanical battering rams, pneumatic pile-drivers that were seeking to batter the stone statue into transportable chunks. Huge chainsaws, mounted upon tank-treds, used by the Red Army to clear-cut forests normally, were being trained upon the remains of the gargoyle-like Gappa. Chinese officers and scientists moved about the massive remains of the other monsters, using chalk lines to denote where they would be sectioned and then hauled away. Some of the remains would be studied, the rest would be burned, burned somewhere the Chinese felt any ecological complications would not affect their own populace.
The lone wanderer considered the actions of the men, grunting with disgust. There was no honour in their kind. How had he ever been foolish enough to believe that there was? All that had been sacrificed to protect them, and this was how they rewarded their fallen saviors. Only now, only after seeing for himself the enormity, the agony of the fate that mankind had escaped, did he understand how petty and miserable the species was.
For he had escaped. In the moment of the demon's destruction, he had escaped the hell-fire of the fiend's soul. Of all the countless millions writhing within that torment, he alone had been able to tear himself free. A part of him wondered once more if he had not taken something of the demon with him, if he had not been changed and twisted by the horror he had suffered. But another, stronger part of the mind wiped away such concerns and would entertain them no more. His experience had enlightened him, not diminished him.
The figure strode from the shadows, walking toward the Chinese army operation. The form he wore was no longer what it had been, for it had changed. Now he was tall, his body lean and muscular with a pantherish quality of strength within it. His face was hard and cruel, his long hair black streaked with silver. Long moustaches and chin-beard dominated his face, where cold-blooded eyes stared. Long robes of crimson and gold swathed his form. No more was he garbed in a meek raiment, for meekness had no part in him now.
He had seen the light. Man was not a thing to be protected, preserved, and nurtured. Man was a thing to be dominated, controlled. Men must be driven, not led. Fear, not love or gratitude was the only emotion that could keep such filthy, petty creatures under control, the promise of cruel and painful death the only way to ensure their loyalty.
Henceforth, his old name was forgotten. Now, he would be Lord Conqueror, and all men would bow before him. Or they would die.
A dingy, filthy back alley in the wreckage of Tokyo. Amidst the ruin and filth, a lean cat crawled about, searching for any manner of sustenance. Clean-up crews and soldiers had driven the feline from the more devastated areas, where a most hideous fodder would sometimes poke its was from amidst the toppled masonry and concrete.
The cat's nose wrinkled in distaste as it saw a pile of reeking meat lying beside a trashcan. Still, the cat realised that such might prove edible and crept cautiously forward.
Suddenly the animal screamed as dozens of tentacles shot forward from the football-sized pile of goo. The tentacles pierced the animal's hide, pulling the writhing creature forward. As the cat's struggling body came into contact with the meat-like mass, the fur began to sizzle, the meat turn to liquid. The horrible thing began to feed, digesting the cat before absorbing its nutrients through the surface of its red, raw skin.
It was a stranger here, in this world of weird lights, smells and sensations. It had fallen through the ripple-hole left behind by the detonation of the Dimension Tide, ripped from another dimension by the awesome power of the Black Hole Gun. It was adapting quickly however, finding this strange new world very favourable to its constitution. Indeed, the carbon-based food it had discovered was proving to be far more nourishing than anything it had fed upon in its own dimension.
As the cat was fully absorbed, the pile of meat grew in size. Not greatly, but noticeably. Two glistening black eyes opened in the surface of the intruder. Not sensing any other food nearby, the pile of meat rose into the air, hovering a few inches above the ground, its alien mind willing itself to negate the curious downward tug of the earth's pull, for gravity was another foreign quantity of this new world.
The intruder from beyond slowly floated through the shadows of Tokyo, looking for something else to consume.
In the steaming hell of Thailand, a group of men were gathered about the ancient temple city, their tiny figures overwhelmed by the gigantic carcass looming before them. Most of the men wore tan uniforms, their lapels bearing the red-hued laurels and red bamboo shoot that were the emblem of their organization, but one of the men was quite different, clad not in a uniform, but a white suit, a panama hat perched upon his balding head.
'You are sure that your men have secured this area?' the suited man asked, wiping sweat from his forehead.
'You may rest secure that we will not be disturbed for quite some time,' replied the uniformed officer standing beside him. The man was a Japanese, as were most of his soldiers. A black eyepatch embroidered with a golden dragon covered one of the officer's eyes. 'Thailand is rife with civil war and rioting. The Thai officials are too busy trying to restore order to bother about a dead monster in an uninhabited border region.'
The man in the white suit nodded his head. The fear and horror Bagan had caused had resulted in many riots and at least half-a-dozen civil wars in Asia alone. It was indeed a very lucrative time for the weapons manufacturer MARS. The Red Bamboo had even approached their agents in Bangkok, telling them about what they had, at least temporarily, secured in the north of the country.
Luther Hackl was a mid-level executive in the MARS corporation, but he had big plans to change all that. And those plans now included both the Red Bamboo and the massive corpse they had in their possession. It would be very profitable indeed if MARS could engineer the installation of a friendlier government in Japan, one that might deal exclusively with MARS for their defense needs.
Once again, Hackl looked up at the broken, butchered carcass of the elder Mothra. He was already considering what the biological weapons division of MARS might be able to do with such a resource.
'General Yamoto,' the MARS agent smiled, 'I think we might just be able to help you. I think MARS will be able to match your needs quite well indeed.'
In his house outside the Tokyo metropolitan area, Secretary Katagiri swirled the brandy in his glass. It had been a tense and dangerous day for him, answering the many questions posed to him by the Prime Minister and his cabinet. There had been talk of indictment, of disbanding the CCI for Katagiri's part in the madman Eiji's schemes. But Katagiri knew too much about his fellow politicians to hang alone, and no one else was willing to put their neck on the chopping block beside his own. They had readily accepted Katagiri's claim that he had been under the spell of the sorcerer, unable to act against the madman. It was a claim that allowed his fellow politicos to put the unpleasant affair behind them without too much outright corruption.
Katagiri's smile faded as he recalled the very vocal and vehement outrage of the KNIFE representatives when the security council reached their decision and absolved Katagiri and the CCI of any 'willful wrongdoing'. They could pose a problem, the chief of the CCI realised. Katagiri sipped his brandy. There were ways that he could deal with them if they became too much of a nuisance however. He had powerful friends, or rather, there were powerful people who knew better than to not be his friend, and if Colonel Kuroki became too big a thorn in his side, then he would find out just how far the favours owed to Katagiri could go.
Ryuzo Fujiyama placed a hand to his face, lifting the goggles from his eyes, wiping away the sweat that had been itching at his vision for the last ten minutes. The reconstruction worker took a moment to rest, leaning down beside his pickaxe. It was hard, gruelling labour, soulless and back-breaking toil. The enormity of the devastation was almost beyond comprehension. Yet somehow, someway, the debris always managed to be cleared away, the dead removed from their shabby graves amidst the rubble.
Fujiyama had worked for the Maritomo Corporation for ten years now, and scenes of kajiu-caused carnage no longer shocked and horrified him. Maritomo had made a fortune for itself by handling the clean-up of kaiju attacks, turning a profit where others had thought them mad. Right now was the public relations phase, manually digging out a few hundred bodies so that they might be buried in some semblance of wholeness. That would go on for a few weeks, before the public overcame its sentimentality and began to grumble about the ugly debris field. Then the heavy earth-movers and mechanized cranes would move in and the real work would start. Maritomo was paid by the ton, each ton of smashed concrete, shattered glass and twisted steel that they removed. They also had free reign on salvage rights for any construction materials. This was the sixth monster disaster area Fujiyama had worked, and he knew just how vast those salvaged materials were, and how in demand they would be once new buildings were constructed to replace their fallen predecessors. He also knew that those vast profits never trickled down to his own lowly level.
As the worker ponder that inequality, his eyes fell upon an object nestled amidst the rubble. He rose from his improvised seat and bent down, picking it up. It was about the size of his fist, and seemed to trap the sunlight as he held it up. The black gemstone was carved in some manner of figure, though Fujiyama could not decide what exactly it was. It felt strangely cool to his touch, and for a moment the thought came to him that it was somehow drawing the warmth from his body, as though it were a snowball or an icicle. The worker laughed at the foolish comparison and cast a crafty look around, seeing if any of his co-workers were within sight.
There was no one nearby. Fujiyama removed his jacket and placed the gemstone within it, bundling it up tightly. There was no need for his supervisor to know about what he had found. If the Maritomo Corporation was not going to give him a substantial pension, then perhaps it was Fujiyama's task to make his own security. With thoughts of greed, the construction worker stole away from the work site, eager to find a jeweler in Yokohama to appraise his discovery.
As he crept away, only one thing disturbed Fujiyama. It was a faint unsettling motion within his jacket-bundle. He told himself that it was just the stone being jostled about by the motion of his steps, but he could not completely shake the idea that the black gem was throbbing, pulsing with a faint flicker of its own vitality.
The night hung heavy over the ruins of Tokyo. The sound of the Maritomo Corporation work crews and the JSDF elements drafted to help them filled the silent city with a discordant din. Yet even this sound did not penetrate the stone walls that surrounded the small shrine. Lurking beneath the very feet of the towering skyscrapers that had escaped the recent battle, the gravesite of Lord Masakado Taira remained as it had been for centuries. Before the shrine of the guardian spirit of Tokyo, a middle-aged man wearing the white habit similar to that of a Shinto priest sat on a three-legged bamboo stool. A small bamboo table was set before him.
Shinkichi Yasuda had sensed the demise of his master, and so he had come here from his retreat far to the north, to tend the grave of Masakado Taira. It was his duty, one last act to honour his old mentor. The wizard smiled grimly, recalling the soft face and hard discipline of Hoichi. But the wizard brushed aside such recollections. The past was dead, there was nothing to be gained by dwelling upon it. It was the future that concerned him now.
Yasuda stared down at the colorful cards arranged on the bamboo table. He smiled, for the cards showed the city, its soul, its vitality, and its honour. Now there was only one card more to draw from the tarot deck, that which would show Tokyo's future.
The wizard's smile grew as he drew the card, seeing that it was the maid of Fortune. He reached forward to set the card in its place on the table, to affirm the prosperity for Tokyo the cards had foretold. As his fingers left the card, however, a chill breeze snatched it from his fingers. The little rectangle of bone flew away, dancing across the dirt. Yasuda rose from his seat, walking to the card, lifting it from the dirt. The wizard turned the card about, for it had landed facedown. As he did so, he gave a snarl of alarm, dropping the thing as though it were a venomous serpent.
The image on the card had changed. It was no longer the fair wispy haired maid of Fortune. No, its was the learing, blue-skinned, horned visage of the Devil, its three eyes glaring balefully from the card.
Yasuda looked around him in apprehension. A second icy wind whipped the other cards from the table, scattering them about the shrine. Yasuda ran toward each one, recoiling as he stared at them. Each of the cards had become the same. Each showed the blue-skinned Devil.
From somewhere in the night, in the dark, the fell laughter of a demon sounded, its mocking tones making themselves faintly heard by Yasuda, promising misery and suffering and above all, death.
A sky of ebony darkness glowered above a dead, wasted landscape where rivers of molten lava crawled like great fiery maggots, their burning embers glowing in the preternatural half-night. Ghastly lightning crackled through the ebony sky, illuminating the great expanse of a limitless plain. The air was filled with the wails and moans of tormented souls, the lost cries of the suffering damned.
A horned head rose from the massive bulk of an armored shape. The ponderous jaws beneath the massive nasal horn opened in a grunt-like bellow of wrath and rage as the figure's eyes glared at the desiccated landscape. The cry echoed across the molten slag-fields and the ash-gray wastes. Echoed, and was answered.
Shapes moved within the darkness, shadows taking substance, hatreds given form. The darkness gathered about the armored beast, gathered and descended.
A great giant, clothed in plates of blackened steel armor, a gigantic spear in his hands, his head that of a scarred and savage boar, a single red-hued eye blazing from the center of his forehead, lunged at the armored beast with the horned head. Thrusting the spear forward, the giant was knocked back by a slashing stroke of the black beast's bladed tail.
Bagan snorted in wrath at the spear-wielding giant, but already another foe fell upon him, a gaunt and lean spectral creature with the head of a slavering hyena, with eyes the hue of moldy pus. The scavenger beast ripped at Bagan's back with plague-ridden claws, the dragon only narrowly avoiding the attack. Bagan's jaw dropped open, bathing the eerie ghoul with fire and flame. The blazing ghoul fiend fell back, his mangy pelt smoking, his rotten skin sloughing from corrupt bones.
Ropes of snake-like flesh wrapped about Bagan's neck, coiling about his neck, strangling the dragon beast. Bagan closed his own paws about the coils, forcing their owner to face him. Bagan found himself facing a leering, scaly creature with two ape-like heads. The ape-heads howled and snapped, the coils grew tight again. Bagan snapped his powerful neck muscles, allowing his nasal horn to descend, slashing through the serpentine tentacles. Green ichor vomited from the injured limbs, which served the twin-headed horror in lieu of arms. But even as the double-headed nightmare fell back, a sleek black goblin-fiend with eyes of flame and weilding a double-bladed axe leapt to the attack. Bagan whirled to face the opportunistic assassin, catching the hungry axe upon his shoulder instead of his neck. Bagan's paw ripped forward, and a slasher disk cut through the laughing fiend's face, pitching it to the ground.
And still they came. A five-headed dragon with breath of flame and ice. A gigantic man-like brute with a hammer. A grinning fiend with a beaked face and wings of chromatic flame. A towering pile of filth, from which small and pestilent things squirmed and about which clouds of flies swarmed. A brooding, houndlike warlord with gore-dripping axe and fanged whip. A swarthy humanoid thing with the body of a serpent and the horns of a ram. And still more shapes, looming from the gathering darkness, converging upon the plain and the sound of battle.
Bagan's roars of rage echoed into the nether-regions of the Pit. And something in the Darkness laughed. For Hell will ever reclaim its own.