Monday, August 30, 2021

Glory to the Dominion (Disgardium-9) by Dan Sugralinov

Glory to the Dominion
by Dan Sugralinov

Release - November 4, 2021


After reaching the Ruby City, the capital of Belial’s Dominion, I flew too close to the Coal of Hellflame and hit a shield of palladium – a defensive dome around the Great Prince’s residence. That put the Cursed Inquisitors on my trail, led by the demon Dantalian. The same demon who disincarnated me.

And so I had my first death in the Inferno, and the resurrection timer began counting down:


Remaining time to respawn 9… 8… 7…


I made my peace with Hakkar’s inevitable death while Dantalian was talking to the imp Rofokal, another Cursed Inquisitor who somehow managed to see the particle of Order within me – the thing that gave me my permanent Enemy of the Inferno debuff.

As I hung in the great nothing of post-death, I began to think, trying to figure out what would happen next.

Where would I revive? Ideally in the Inferno, but then what? I couldn’t change my appearance, and tiefling Hakkar’s service in Belial’s Dominion was at an end. I could say goodbye to any thoughts of getting the Coals in Belial’s domain – I’d have to try to get to the lands of Azmodan or Diablo, but they were years away… What a disaster.

If I revived on Kharinza… Then I’d have to assemble as many allies as I could and throw all our strength into defending Behemoth’s temple. I remembered that the king of the Commonwealth, Bastian the First, wanted to meet with me, and wherever he was, Emperor Kragosh would be too. The rulers would agree to help me, they’d assemble an army… But it wouldn’t do any good. Sure, we’d rally, we might even be able to use the essences to take out the legates and the undead horde… But they’d soon be back. Eileen and Mogwai could raise our fallen fighters from the dead and knock together a new army in mere hours, if not minutes. And we didn’t have so many Concentrated Life Essences. If we couldn’t defend ourselves… I didn’t even want to think about that, but I would have to.

I glanced at the respawn timer: 4… 3…

Not long now. Where Scyth resurrected would determine everything I did next. If he resurrected! Against my expectations, the digits of the timer didn’t stop at zero, but kept counting down: 2… 1… 0… -1… -2… -3… -4… If I’d had eyes, I would have blinked. What was happening?

By minus a hundred and forty-five, I started to panic. Idiot! Wondering where I’d respawn without even thinking about whether I’d respawn at all. The Inferno was a separate game dimension not yet integrated into Disgardium. The summoning of demon familiars to Disgardium by warlocks and the transfer of mortal souls to the Inferno – these were clearly processes that took place at the level of data exchange between servers.

−182… −183… −184… Nether, what was I thinking? The familiar curse word reminded me of the time I’d gotten stuck in the Nether – but then I’d had at least one option for coming back. How could I get out of the great nothing? There was nothing there, not even the interface! Well… Alright, the timer numbers were part of the interface, reminding me that time was passing, my body was alive in my capsule, but my character was simply… Simply stuck between worlds.

Simply! Nothing simple about it! My descent into hell had been a glitch in the system. It would be practically impossible to repeat. No doubt the AI had already patched the exploit, to keep players from stealing their way into hell before the new faction’s release. And the result? The character Scyth, or rather the array of numbers that defined him in the database of Dis…

–212… −213… −214… Wait, what am I saying? Scyth was gone from the reality of Dis, just like when I went to the Nether. Scyth was no longer in Dis’s database, which meant he couldn’t revive there! The Scyth character had been entered into the Inferno’s database, but its game mechanics were different, because there were no players there, which meant that there was no standard resurrection at respawn points. And that meant Scyth had played his last. The tiefling Hakkar and his impersonator Herald Scyth had met final disincarnation.

−2593… −2594… −2595… By now, all that concerned me was the rate of the passage of time in the great nothing on the Inferno’s server. I couldn’t quit the game myself; I had to wait for one of my guards to initiate the emergency exit.

I remembered what I’d said to Maria and Roj during one of my breaks back to reality from the Inferno: Make sure the life-support cartridges don’t run out, change them in plenty of time. And do not press the emergency exit button under any circumstances! The bodyguards knew how to follow orders. If time here was still ten times faster than in reality, then I could be stuck in this empty gloom for months of subjective time!

−3544… −3545… −3546… I fell into a pit of despair for a while. At least in the Nether there had been a way to fight and try to get out of Nine’s prison, and then the hope of collecting all the Smoldering Nether Shards I needed. Here I felt as if buried in a locked tomb with no way out. There was a non-existent itch on the back of my neck, and my inability to scratch it made me want to scream.

-5783… -5784… -5785… Now I zoned out, staring into the darkness and trying not to look at the last digit of the timer changing every second. The font had turned red as if glowing with heat, the countdown burning into my non-existent eyes.

Suddenly, the void itself shook, quaked, vibrated with a voice coming from everywhere at once:

“Carrier of Order… Scyth, Herald and Initial of the Sleeping Gods… Enemy not of the Inferno, as my subjects believe, but of the New Gods!”

The vibrations shook me to the depths of my soul. I recognized the voice – I’d heard it while carrying the enemy flag during the trial battle. But although the voice of Chaos had then torn at me from the inside, now there was nothing for it to rip.

I had no mouth, so I answered in thought:

“That’s exactly why I infiltrated the Inferno, Great Chaos.”

I wasn’t calling it Great to stroke its ego. Chaos really was something greater than the gods, a fundamental part of the universe. Behemoth said that Chaos and Order are primeval, and their balance is at the core of everything, even the Sleepers themselves. I doubted such a creature would be vulnerable to flattery… Did it even have consciousness?

“Yes, now I see. The Sleepers taught you to hide your true form well. Even I did not identify your true nature right away when you were in the flesh. But now I see you for what you are, Herald of the Sleepers. I see your goals and motives, just as I see that your path is ended.”

Ended? So my character was done? The thought rang out in my mind with disappointment, but that was all – for some reason, my emotions were dulled. Fear, panic, hope – all those disappeared when I found myself alone with Chaos.

“What do you think my goals are?” I asked, mostly just to develop the conversation.

“The True Enemy has released his tendrils into your world,” Chaos answered, clarifying: “Into both your worlds.”

“You mean the Destroying Plague?”

“You sentients create much disorder. That makes it all the more amusing to watch as you try to systematize everything, as you think up definitions and give names to all that you encounter. The paradox is that the more you strive for order, the more disorder it brings you.”

“And the more chaos.”

Tiny changes can lead to unpredictable consequences, I remembered from our study of chaos theory in advanced math last year.

“Exactly!” Chaos said, and I felt joy in his emotionless voice. “When you try to bring order to something, your actions lead to greater disorder, because any system breaks down sooner or later. So it is with the Destroying Plague, which you think of as the True Enemy. But you see only that which is shown to you, Herald Scyth. And the one showing it is already falling into a place from which there is no return.”

“The Nether!”

“The Nether,” Chaos agreed. “The True Enemy of everything and all, who swallows up worlds and wipes clean entire universes. This universe is doomed, and the Sleepers will awaken. The True Enemy has already found a way into both of your worlds, Herald of the Sleepers. By absorbing them, it will become stronger, and balance will collapse in the metaverse. And that will be hard to fix even for me and the Orderlies together.”

His words gave me so much food for thought that I said nothing for some time. Chaos waited patiently. He had nowhere to be.

The Nether, then. Since our very first meeting, Behemoth had been warning me that the Nether’s breakthrough was coming. In creating the Destroying Plague, Nergal gave the Nucleus access to sources of power from the Nether, but apparently he overplayed his hand, and the Nether began to pull the Radiant God down… Or had the Nucleus escaped control? Whatever the case, I could no longer change any of it. My thought sounded out as a question:

“Is there really nothing I can do? If I could only get Coals of Hellflame, I could reach the lair of the Nucleus of the Destroying Plague! I know how to break its connection to the Nether! And I have a weapon against it!”

“No, the game is over for you, former Herald of the Sleepers. According to the laws of creation, if you aliens from another world die in Disgardium, then you will be resurrected; your avatars are recreated as soon as they disincarnate. However, you did not die in Disgardium.”

“And demons…”

“Do not resurrect unless their killer so desires it. Which is out of the question in the case of the Cursed Inquisition. In addition, you…” Chaos gave a laugh, vibrating through the aether, “…are not a demon. The result is a paradox. You are doomed to spend your short life in the Inferno, but you have no place here, so there is only one way out: to destroy you, to wipe you out of reality. The only way to do that without violating creation itself is to cut the life from the body in which your mind resides.”

Chaos let me think over his words. At first I had been more worried about losing my character, but then, when I fully grasped the meaning of his words, I was horrified. If this insane AI had taken control of my incorporeal character, then that meant he could make my body obey his commands – speed up my heartbeat, shut down my organs, boil my blood and raise my blood pressure to deadly levels, or just switch close off the veins carrying blood to my brain. Whatever he wanted. They would be pulling Alex Sheppard’s cold body out of his capsule. And some time later, millions of non-citizens would follow him, straight from the capsule to the crematorium. If not billions! I clutched at those numbers:

“Great Chaos, you said that nobody causes more disorder than sentients. That means the more of them there are, the better for you, right? If I die, there’ll be nobody to prevent a genocide in both worlds, and the Nether will be so strong that nobody will be able to stop it!”

Chaos heard out my thoughts, admitted:

“You are right. The more sentients, the stronger my laws. And your disincarnation does not work to my advantage.”

“Is there nothing that can be done?” I asked hopefully.

“Not in this timeline of the Inferno. But there is an infinite number of others, each with its own flow of time. I can return you to a timeline where you have not yet done anything irreparable, but have still reached the Ruby City. And if you fail again – you can try again.”

“Are there other options? Can you take me back to before I went there?”

“Other timelines in which you have not yet reached the Ruby City will take too long for attempts, cutting off other options, so we will not consider them for now.”

“How many attempts do I have in total?”

“As I said, there are many universes, and time flows asynchronously in infinite variations of the Inferno. In the overwhelming majority of them, you have already disappeared or are close to it – Cursed Inquisitor Dantalian is on your trail. But in some, you have only just appeared and have done nothing irreparable in the Ruby City. That means that your number of attempts is limited.”

“I hope I’ll have enough… Wait! If you see all the alternate universes at once, and the outcome of events in each is different, then can’t you just send me to a timeline where I’ve already reached my goal?”

“Such timelines do not exist. And even if they did, Fortune has no access to the Inferno to direct your fate into a favorable branch of the metaverse. But best you concern yourself with there being any outcome at all. After all, once all the branches in which you survive are exhausted, if you still haven’t achieved your goal, I will be forced to return to my initial plan.”

“Kill me in my own world? In both worlds?”


“Well, I hope luck is on my side.”

Sighing mentally, it occurred to me as soon as I was back in the Inferno, I could quit the game and leave my capsule right away. At the same time, I realized that my thoughts were shouted into the great nothing right beneath Chaos’s nose. But he ignored them:

“Sentients believe in luck, in chance, in serendipity. You know that better than anyone, Fortune’s Favorite. But stretching the odds, your goddess’s favorite hobby, is nothing but a dangerous game with me.”

“So you won’t wish me luck, then?”

“Why do you need luck when Chaos itself is with you? Get what you need while you have the chance. As for your idea of escaping the power of creation…”

So he did hear my thought about leaving the capsule. ‘Escaping the power of creation,’ uh-huh.

“Uh-huh,” Chaos said, confirming my thought and chuckling again. This creature wasn’t just sentient, but was capable of emotion too. “You give up too quickly, Alex Sheppard, known also as Scyth. At this moment, a word which sounds ridiculous here, where time is powerless and frozen, you have six hundred and sixty-six attempts.”

“Six hundred and sixty-six? Why am I not surprised..?”

That final line echoed into the darkness, and just as I realized what he’d called me, I sensed that Chaos was gone.

But the timer finally worked like it should:


Remaining time to respawn 3… 2… 1…



Chapter 1. Hero of the Thirteenth

The noise of the big city crashed down on me: passersby chattering, steamers honking, chaotic billboards crackling with energy. A little imp carrying a bundle of newspapers arose before me:

“The Dominion Times, special price for dominion legionaries! Just five gold!”

“Get outta here!” Abducius barked fearsomely, stamping a hoof.

“Wait!” came an unfamiliar voice from the side. “I’ll buy one! I want to read what they said about our victory!”

I turned and my jaw dropped – Lerra was standing there, alongside… the weedy imp Rupert, the second instiga of the cohort! He was dead in the original branch of reality, so he was clear proof that I was now in another. Did that mean I could end up in one where my legion lost, too? Probably not – Chaos would only send me to alternate universes where I’d made it to the Ruby City. Wait! How did our fight against Azmodan’s Sixth Legion even go in this reality?

“Rupert?” I stared at the imp in disbelief. “Where did you come from?”

“Uhm…” Rupert squeaked as he paid for the paper. “Are you feeling okay, Decanus?”

“How could he be?” Lerra purred, stroking me on the cheek. “Our decanus has never been in a big city before. He’s a little lost. Right, Hakkar?”

“That’s right, Lerra,” I answered the succubus, my eyes still glued on Rupert. Then I said to the imp: “Let me take a look.”

He handed me the paper without protest. I calmed down as soon as I read the big headline: Tiefling rookie brings victory to the Thirteenth! Well, at least that was the same as before.

“Remind me again, Rupert, how did you survive?” I asked, handing the paper back.

“Don’t you remember, Decanus? You saved me! Out of the whole platoon, only you and Lerra and Abdu survived, and I nearly didn’t – I made it to our Wager with you, but there…” The imp shuddered, his large Adam’s apple bobbing. “There…”

“Rupert threw himself on a paralyzing bomb,” Abdu continued. The demon gently stroked the imp on the head. “He was faster than me. I saw the bomb and realized you wouldn’t make it if it went off. I ran at it and tripped over Rupert – he was running for it too.”

“Rupert got blown up, an enemy wyvern rider absorbed his chao,” Lerra added. “But you took him out and took the chao back. Then you revived Rupert…”

“Although we tried to convince you not to!” Abdu grumbled. “You showed weakness, Decanus. Lerra and I are grateful, of course. Rupert is one of us, however you spin it. But everyone else… Let’s just say you didn’t do much for your reputation. We had to start a rumor that Rupert owes you a ton of money, and that’s why you resurrected him.”

“Come on, guys!” Lerra exclaimed. “Let’s take a stroll! We can buy some souvenirs, then head to the bar. Or are you guys headed for the brothels?”

“We’ll go broke,” Rupert shook his head doubtfully. “A bar would be better.”

“The Limping Marilith it is, then!” Abdu said, looking at me. “It’s not far from here, Decanus, just two hours on foot.”

“Not far?” I chuckled. “Why walk for so long? Isn’t there somewhere closer?”

“Sure, at three times the cost. Everything is expensive here, near the Great Prince’s residence.”

After some deliberation, we headed for the Limping Marilith after all, the same tavern where the Cursed Inquisition found me. Frankly, I didn’t care what my soldiers’ plans were, because I’d already made my decision.

Another commotion broke out at the crossing again – the very same devil thief grabbed a couple of bags and ran for it. I took advantage of the distraction to go into Stealth, then Clarity, and flew toward the spire of the tower. Now I was going to really let loose! Chaos himself had told me to try the simplest options first. There it was, the Coal of Hellflame, almost within my grasp. I definitely had more than one attempt, so why not try brute force first? Sure, it might be suicidal – the Cursed Inquisitors had immediately executed me last time just for touching the palladium shield, – but the risk was worth it.

If I managed to steal the artifact, I could fly away from the Ruby City at full speed, log out of Dis and tell my friends to let Flaygray and Nega know that it was time to pull me out. There was a chance that the Summoning Pentagram wouldn’t work, but both the satyr and the succubus were confident it would. As for how Dis’s controlling AI would react, that remained to be discovered. I’d take Uncle Nick’s old advice and cross that bridge when I came to it.

I flew with extreme care to avoid touching any of the numerous demons flying through the air. Not all the species here had wings, but even the winged ones couldn’t dream of flying until they got at least a yellow star. With no respect for the laws of physics and aerodynamics of the real world, demons weighing over a ton soared through the air, banking gracefully in air currents and somehow managing not to hit each other. At first glance their movement seemed chaotic, but the more I looked, the more I noticed there were things like lanes in the air clearly defining the direction of travel.

Rising high above the tower, I couldn’t help but look out across the Ruby City. The capital sprawled beneath me from horizon to horizon. Only in the city center did skyscrapers pierce the sky of coal and flint. Further out in the city, I saw flashes of flames and huge squat buildings belching out smoke. Fire and fumes were all over the Inferno, but here in the Ruby City they blotted out the sky in huge clouds crackling with the black energy of chaos.

A few yards from the blinding Coal, I ran into the invisible forcefield that the inquisitor had called palladium. I was knocked out of Stealth, but Clarity didn’t go anywhere. I watched as waves rippled out from where I hit it, as signal lights flashed all across the dome in waves and an alarm began to sound.

Moving a few feet back from the dome, I used my most powerful weapon: Crushing Spirit Shock. Even without my multiplied stats, Spirit Shock dealt two hundred million damage, but with them, and with the bonuses from my stars…

My channels of spirit emptied all their power into the core burning brighter and brighter in my chest. Seething with concentrated willpower, the core contracted smaller and smaller until it turned into a black hole threatening to suck in not only me, but the entire Inferno…

A tangible stream of deadly energy struck into the palladium with the weight of a planet. Boommmm! Almost a trillion damage hit the defensive dome. I lost Clarity, started to zoom away…

But couldn’t avoid the shockwave. The palladium reflected a hundred percent of the damage, its counterstrike hitting at once and cutting through Equanimity and Diamond Skin of Justice.


You are dead.


Remaining time to respawn 9… 8… 7…


Chaos’s voice vibrated in my head: Fifty-eight remaining.

The sharp drop in my number of remaining attempts from six hundred and sixty-six down to fifty-eight made me realize that playing with Chaos wouldn’t end well. Small wonder the citizens of Andara, a stronghold of civilization in ancient Disgardium, turned into demons as soon as they touched Chaos, into creatures whose treachery and cunning inspired legends in all worlds. Chaos must have been lying when he spoke of an ‘infinite’ number of parallel universes. It was grade-six math: even a billionth of a percent of infinity is still infinite.

I cursed myself for trusting that I’d have a bunch of tries. Chaos had said there were six hundred and sixty-six timelines where Hakkar hadn’t yet attracted the attention of the Cursed Inquisition. While I had been expressing my surprise at seeing Rupert alive in this second timeline, time had marched on in the others, and in some of them Scyth-Hakkar must have touched the palladium, cutting off some of my options.

I kept wondering – was this possible in Dis? Was the Scyth in the other timelines the real me? Or had a twisted, but truly godlike AI copied the world’s kernel and generated a bunch of variations of its own universe, where Scyth in Hakkar’s body was just a character played by another AI, some model of my personality? Something similar had happened in the Nether, and then it was like I remembered everything that had happened to the virtual Scyth in my absence. But here I had no memory of anything that had happened to the other Hakkars.

Maybe this multiverse and its time paradoxes were entirely parallel, isolated processes launched on the Inferno’s main server? Maybe all these variations started with my arrival here? That had to be it; if these dimensions had existed millennia ago, the differences would have been far greater! Maybe in some of them the other princes had captured the Dominion, which meant that there was no Lerra or Abdu, no Thirteenth Legion, even no Ruby City.

It was also fully possible that this was the Chaos AI solving a resource problem: if his power was limited by something like Faith, then the more worlds he created, the greater the resource…

The technical details excited my imagination and I wanted to consider them, but as usual, there was no time.

It was time to act.

Release - November 4, 2021

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