Cole Protocol

Midroi fumed as it watched an entire company that was intended to be the hammerblow of force to show the library that whatever lies Damala's heir told, they were better served by Midori's banner. Instead? Midori peered through the eyes of their Ogre commander as the whole lot were caged in interlocking vines and trees.

Mana was spent to force them to stop panicking and Obey.

Then, one by one, they died. Dust drifted from the living prison of trees and vines as Midori saw the Company shuffle out of their respawners. He was not angry with them. They had followed their orders admirably and had behaved professionally.

The Ogre knelt as Midori addressed him. "You did well with what you were faced against."

"Thank you lord." The Ogre's rough voice was almost reverent as he addressed the dungeon he served.

A ball of black the size of a grape formed in front of the Ogre. More mana was spent and the Ogre took the orb in his left hand, and ate it.

Similar orbs appeared in front of each creature as they stepped from their beds, stumps, debris, and other markers where such creatures spawned from.

As one they marched wordlessly back to Midori's borders to relieve the forces pulled from the elfin and dwarven camps that served as buffer between his lands and where this Metis had served as his first obstacle.

None of his fliers were close enough in enough quantities to provide anything more than a distant image of the party at the edge of the baby dungeon's holdings.

Why weren't they pressing forward faster? these mockeries of champions long dead. Midori knew the form each were based on. Damala's Heir, this Lonely Hill. It somehow knew how enough of the prior age to do this.

The Library it could excuse. He knew the person the automata was based on would have loved working at a library. Had it not fallen for this monstrous deception, Midroi might have felt fondness for their choice in avatar to meet with.

As his armies marched Midroi's anger grew. The black threads crept into its vision as it saw the second Company engage.

This time they spread out. Archers paired with lumbering ogres to act as shield walls. Shamen countered attempts to use the local vegetation either to snare, or to turn the sculpted plants into weapons by withering them, sapping their life and channeling it into defending the melee skirmishers.

Something felt off here even as Midori could feel several of the enemy being infected with spores. Normally their minds should be open and clear. Even the ones that fought would give him useful data by what they chose to hide and what they chose to throw aside.

Here? An armored figure fell while shielding a white haired goblin rogue with its body. Midori tore into it's mind without bothering with the usual subtile touches he had with prior instances. There wasn't time, and so Midori hemorrhaged mana to sprout the invasive growths into something that could force past any mental barriers the animated armor might have held.

He heard three words before the armor dropped, its component pieces seperating as the animus holding them together dissipated.

Cole Protocol Initiated.

There? An automata manning a brass and gem encrusted ballista that fired huge bolts of magical energy was infected by an orc that ran into enemy lines before its body burst into contagion spores.

Instead of answers Midori heard the dozen or so voices in near unison speak.

Cole Protocol Initiated.

That name tugged at memory. Midori knew it from somewhere, yet couldn't grasp where.

Again, another fell. This one just after throwing the goblin rogue it had almost tagged out of harm's way. Again that damniable phrase.

It shouldn't have mattered. Each enemy unit infected landed in the deepest hole Midori had constructed. One who's only exit was guarded by a hall of traps and gates such that any attempt to break out by anything that had not yet been pacified was doomed to failure.

Midori was winning. It was slow and measured by the dozens or in one instance of some truly inspired spellwork by whomever was on the tower, several hundred at a time. Yet each of their losses was permanent. Each minion they lost might have been theoretically replaceable, but it would be unskilled and untrained, making it near useless in this kind of battle.

Yet Midori felt unease. The units that got near to quartet that advanced on his position died without being able to get into range for infection. Worse still. Metis was claiming territory. It was a thin strip of road between claimed dungeons, but it was ground that Metis held and Midroi's enemies were defending.

His unease grew into rage when Metis revealed its water avatar.


Deceiver. Devourer.

Liar. Destroyer.

Midori felt stupid. This had been HER play. that hateful woman.

Made midori focus all its efforts and plans into a boogyman while she had been quietly ignored just beyond his doorstep.

A memory flashed. Brief. A flash.

Ami's souless eyes stared down into Midori's as she held an obsidian blade covered in blood. Breathing slowed as Ami knelt to whisper words that couldn't be remembered. Gloating that she had finally won. Then. For the briefest moments. Just before black took him. Midori remembered a man standing there in mute suffering grief. Someone who was dead yet lingered.

Threads of black etched through Midori's vision.

SHE was here.

Surrounded by puppets designed to look like the people she murdered.

There were whispers now, as there had been ever since Midori had started using magically infused fungus to ensure troop loyalty. Those whispers had always been easy to ignore.

Now. They whispered the words Midori wanted to hear most. Revenge. Retribution. Remaking this world so She wasn't part of it.

Midori drank in the poisoned lies because in his heart he knew it made what was going to happen easier to live with if he wasn't truly in control anymore.

Vision blackened as mycelial threads wrapped almost tenderly around Midori's core, and then everything came into sharp focus. This fungus. It was everywhere. It couldn't act everywhere, but where even a piece of it existed, Midori could tap into its senses.

"Metis!" Ishida dove as a water whip from meti's avatar sliced into a wulfen Midori had inherited from the same dungeon Corwin had served.

Ishida rose, sword in hand, using the momentum of her roll to slice the straps of an armored opponent apart. "He's already starting to cycle infected units in!"

A grunt from Bonehead as he pushed back an elf that tried to step inside Hotaru's effective bow range. "Plan stays the same. Ami, how're you holding up?"

This got a grumble from Stone Soup. "Oi. Dead Naming."

"Right, my bad." Bonehead looked to Meti's water construct. "Sorry."

"No worries. I'm still on my land. Inflow is exceeding outflow." Metis paused to spear an elfin duo that were carrying what looked like lit bombs. "You?"

Midori howled. Mana torrented out as he forced Bonehead's guard to drop. The skeletal fighter repositioned. Midori forced him to leave Taru's side.

This caught Taru's attention. "Talk to me."

Bonehead let go of his sword even as he swung at the orc he had intended to stab.

Midori laughed as he made Bonehead turn. the amount of mana spent was above and beyond what he had to spend on anything else, but he was forcing this new unit to bend.

Bonehead picked his sword up as he looked to Taru. "Keys. Jacob."

"No." Her voice an order as she started running to him. "You can fight it off."

"Captain." Bonehead brought his weapon to a guard position. The blade trembled as it swung, meeting taru's bow as she brought it up to block.

Midori's laughter grew wild as he forced Bonehead to press. Even with a prodigious outflow just to control one unit this was the crack needed to stall out this desperate thrust by his enemies.

"Service Number...." Bonehead tore away from Ishida's grip. "01928-19912-JK Oh... One Nine Two Eight."

His hand snaked out, snatching her sword even as Stone Soup kicked his away. "One... Nine Nine...."

Midori's laughter turned to screams as the blade turned, its tip touching Bonehead's sternum.

"You. Will not." Bonehead's voice was labored, as if spoken through gritted teeth. "Have Me."

Bonehead's body dissolved almost the moment Ishida's blade pierced his chest.

Midori saw Taru's bow raise, and from that point until almost up to his very boarders his eyes were put out.

Yet he could not help but give a low sinister chuckle as Bonehead spawned inside the vault he kept newly squired and not yet loyal.

"I already do."


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