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188 The Black Skull Order Strikes Back!

 In a mansion in the suburbs of New York City a man wearing a smoking jacket sat on a sofa, in one hand he held a snifter of liquor and in the other a cigar. A young woman sat with him. The resemblance between the two was obvious, though his looks would be called rugged while she was a natural beauty.

The man was watching a replay of CCN's original broadcast of Mr. Skeletal's adventures in the Conquest underworld. He had no interest in the game itself, but business was good inside the game and the family thrived on it. But this Skeletal fellow, his gameplay had such gaudium vivendi. The man was tempted to buy himself a gaming capsule and enter the game himself. The man laughed at himself for thinking such a thing. He was an old man, over fifty years old, thinking about playing a game with kids half his age. It made him chuckle, but still, that Mr. Skeletal made him think.

"Papa," the girl next to the man said in a loving voice.

"Yes, dear?"

"You've watched this video so many times. I didn't think the game interested you that much," the girl teased her father.

"Not the game so much, but this boy, David Ruster, he has charisma, with some mentoring he would be a good addition to the familia."

"You can't be serious, papa!"

The man raised the snifter in his hand and took a deliberate sip of the Armagnac before answering.

"He has the makings of a good leader. But I don't know how we'd bring him in after the mess your figura de merda cousin made, and now he is under the protection of the Silvanas."

"I don't know what you see in him, Papa. He's rude, disrespectful and full of himself. Not to mention he's just a filling station attendant, a dirt-poor schlub who got lucky." Her words dripped with scorn. Born into wealth, her attitude of entitlement and superiority were ingrained from day one of her life.

"Caitlin!" the man barked angrily, "Never demean a person that way. That man was born poor and he was crippled saving your life! But he managed to turn his life around. He persevered, seized opportunity by the balls and showed character. Things that none of the pricks you call friends have done."

"I am sorry, papa," Caitlin lowered her head. She knew her father was right but still felt disgruntled.

He sighed and made a gesture to avert Bad Things.

"It's okay my dear. You must make things right with this young man. When we meet the Silvanas this week to resolve our grievances perhaps there will be an opportunity to speak with the young man about a friendship.

"Now go prepare for the Eastern conquest mission. The EU paid a lot for the contract, so you'll be the lead. Just make sure you get it done, they won't be happy if the king lives past the expiration date." He drank down the rest of his Armagnac and stood up.

Shaking his head he said musingly, "Who would've thought, taking contracts to kill cartoons. What's next?"

"They're not cartoons papa! Anyway, I'm heading into the game."

She went upstairs and to log in. She needed to do some grinding to be ready for the invasion. The Eastern kingdom was a high level area, even the weakest guards had levels in the 400s and many of the more powerful ones had wyvern mounts. Wyverns, the lesser cousins of dragons.

The campaign was bound to be long and difficult, but with the vast numbers of players they would eventually wear the Eastern kingdom down and conquer it.

***

Dave appeared in the Undead Frontier. He headed over to the temple to talk to Delvina. The Death Knights guarding the doorway saluted Dave as he passed through.

No one was in the temple so he asked the guards, "Do you know where Delvina went?"

"Lady Delvina is in the Dead-Realm. She is demonstrating her 'tender mercies' to a captive member of the Black Skull Order." The Death Knight smiled unpleasantly, the Order was universally hated by the undead.

"Thank you."

Dave walked to the Undead Frontier's teleportation gate. He input the coordinates of the Dead-Realm and walked through the gate and emerged in the Undead City's gate-plaza. The plaza was surrounded by well-to-do houses and upscale storefronts. The streets around the plaza area were clean and well maintained. If it weren't for the occasional undead walking the streets or coming in and out of the shops a visitor would think they were in a picturesque human city.

Dave hurried along the route to reach the Bone Palace and entered through the main gates..

"Kis'Shtiengbrah!" a tall gray-robed figure greeted Dave, walking toward him.

Dave met the figure's undead eyes, recognizing the handsome face. The undead before him was the Abyssal Knight, Samael.

He smiled, "Lord Samael, it's good to see you again. How go the plans for the invasion of the Third Raid Zone?"

"The plans are close to fruition. And you, young undead? I heard you suffered a grievous defeat. Don't let it discourage you. Always remember Kis'Shtiengbrah, defeat is meaningless to the undead, we always rise again."

"Thank you, lord Samael. Yes, I will be reviving my undead soon. As you said, we always rise again."

"So, what brings you to the palace, do you seek an audience with the king?" Samael asked.

"No, I'm looking for Delvina. I have reliable intelligence about the location of the Black Skull Order's headquarters."

Samael's demeanor changed, anger and menace radiating from him in almost palpable waves.

"How exact is this information?" he growled.

Dave showed Samael the map Jura had given him.

Samael looked at the map and said grimly, "This changes things. We will have to postpone conquering the Third Raid Zone!"

Samael strode across the hall quickly, climbing the spiral stairs of the Bone Palace. Dave followed behind until they were in the throne room where the king was holding court.

There were two undead already in the room, bending the knee before the king. One of them was the Abyssal Knight Arch-Lich Dagla, the other person was an undead female elf he didn't recognize. Dave inspected her.

Permission to inspect required!

Dave frowned, this had happened before when he tried to inspect Samael.

"Childe! We are pleased you have returned to see Us," the king's tone was calm and gentle like a grandparent.

"Did you successfully escort my daughter to her new home?" the king asked

"Yes your Majesty, I escorted Lady Eleanor to the mansion, but I was not allowed past the gate."

The king frowned.

"Dementi, go to Moria and confirm that the princess is safe."

The Elfess saluted and disappeared in a puff of black smoke.

Samael gestured at Dave, "Your Highness, Kis'Shtiengbrah has important news."

"Then speak, Childe." The king waited patiently.

"I went to the Northern Regions to help a friend. While on the quest I was given information about the Black Skull Order's location. It's on this map."

Dave held the map up for the king to see.

The king gestured and a page appeared, taking the map from Dave and presenting it to the king.

The king unrolled the map and examined it.

"So, you not only forged an alliance between the Ice Queen and Our kingdom, you also found the location of Our sworn enemy! We shall reward you accordingly in due time. For now you have Our permission to join in the extermination of the accursed Order!"

"Thank you, Your Majesty," Dave said.

"Delvina!" The king spoke loudly.

Space tore open and a veiled woman appeared. She bowed to the king.

"Yes, Your Majesty,"

There was blood on Delvina's hands, she'd been working when the king summoned her.

"How goes your interrogation?" The king asked.

"Nothing so far your highness. But in time we should have some useful information," Delvina said.

"No matter, we have obtained the location of the Black Skull Order. Summon all the Doom Knights for this effort. The campaign to conquer the Pharaoh's Tomb is postponed until this other matter is finished. My legions will march south on the morrow to eradicate the existence of the Black Skull Order."

Just as the king finished his words the Undead Elfess appeared back in the king's hall.

"Your Majesty!" The Elfess' tone was filled with worry.

"Speak."

"Everyone in the manor has been murdered! I could not find Her Highness princess Eleanor!"

"WHAT?!" the king's outburst shook the entire palace.

"Your Majesty, one of your servants managed to leave a message before he died. Three words written in his own blood: Black Skull Order."

The last vestiges of the king's courtly public persona disappeared, rage and wrath burned across his face and his body trembled with the need to unleash the violence erupting in his soul.

"THEY DARE!? We move on the apostates NOW! My legions will march within the hour! To the Southern Desert!"

The king rose from his throne, a pitch-black sword materialized in his hand. As he raised the light-devouring blade he proclaimed, "I shall join the legions myself to scour this infestation from the world, root and branch!"

By Royal Decree, the will of His Majesty, the Undead King!

The legions of the undead are marching!

Step forward and join them, for today the undead legions rise from their slumber to slay the apostate infidels!

No mercy!

Alarms clamored in the palace and in the distance throughout the city of the undead. Soon there came the sound of men shouting, the tread of boots and weapons clattering. Horns blared out calls to arms repeatedly, it seemed as if the entire city was mobilizing.