Preview of what's comin'. We're in the last three chapters or so of Vol. II. Vol. III is nearly upon us. Oswald's speech will be the last chapter of Vol. II.



Coat of arms of the Lincoln Family featuring a Bell of the Second Sons of Liberty,
Father Abe's political movement which reinstated the Office of the President

The house that the Log built!
Preview of what's comin'. We're in the last three chapters or so of Vol. II. Vol. III is nearly upon us. Oswald's speech will be the last chapter of Vol. II.



Coat of arms of the Lincoln Family featuring a Bell of the Second Sons of Liberty,
Father Abe's political movement which reinstated the Office of the President
We are coming father Abe~
Preview of what's comin'. We're in the last three chapters or so of Vol. II. Vol. III is nearly upon us. Oswald's speech will be the last chapter of Vol. II.



Coat of arms of the Lincoln Family featuring a Bell of the Second Sons of Liberty,
Father Abe's political movement which reinstated the Office of the President
Feel the power of my jev ordained liberty bell
Preview of what's comin'. We're in the last three chapters or so of Vol. II. Vol. III is nearly upon us. Oswald's speech will be the last chapter of Vol. II.



Coat of arms of the Lincoln Family featuring a Bell of the Second Sons of Liberty,
Father Abe's political movement which reinstated the Office of the President
For Lincoln and Liberty too!
This chapter on Lincoln might get split in two, because the formerly small bit about the "Father Abe Tribute Society" is quickly growing into its own animal. Preview:

Growing up in the shadow of such a titan of history as Father Abe could not have been easy on the generations of Lincolns that followed him. The man had restored the Presidency, executive power, outlawed Christmas, created Patriot-Saints Day, crushed the Southrons, freed the slaves, and died a martyr's death at the hands of a bomb-throwing assassin in 1861. As time went on, and his legend only grew, he became the Yankee equivalent of the European St. Nicholas, his ghost rising once a year and dropping down chimneys to deliver lovely gifts to children in exchange for good behavior and a glass of brandy left on the mantle. By the 1900s, he was an absolutely legendary figure, riding in an iron sled pulled by buffalo, a ghost rider in the winter sky. Shopping centers would frequently employ tribute artists of the fictionalized, mythical President in the holiday season to appear for photo opportunities with families and children. By 1930, the practice was so common and widespread that it would be considered unheard of for any self-respecting mall to not have such actors roaming the grounds, stovepipe hats upon their heads and sporting spindly tailcoats bedecked with medals, a sack of knickknacks and candies in tow. While some more creative impersonators employed ghoulish makeup and attempted to portray him as a conventional ghost or phantom, its tendency to scare small children led to most Father Abes merely portraying the man's "pre-bomb" appearance.

By 1940, the various Father Abe actors unionized and formed the Father Abe Tribute Society, which in and of itself gave rise to a strange subculture of men living every day as much like the Great Father as possible in a form of ritualistic reenactment. Though secret societies were supposedly banned after President Steele dissolved the Freemasons, the Tribute Society was still essentially exactly that, with various symbols, rituals, handshakes and jewelry associated with them. In exchange for donations and assistance with living their lives "exactly as the Father' in old fashioned log cabins, they would appear in parades, special events, and raise money for charities and worthy causes. They escaped persecution as a secret society largely thanks to this charitable bent and careful usage of donations to merely continue a minimalist lifestyle, unlike organizations such as the Freemasons "who set up earthly treasures." They would also frequently purchase and deliver toys to children of the lower class whose parents could not afford presents. All in all, if Steele wanted to sick his task forces on them and seize their funds, he probably could have, but it probably would be a harder sell than with the Freemasons to imprison a bunch of old men dressed up as Abraham Lincoln who deliver toys to poor children.

Operation Manifest Climax would see Father Abes come out by the droves to raise money to support wounded and disabled veterans returning from the front. In 1942, following the creation of the Concerned Citizens Charity under Warren Harding, hundreds of Father Abes helped to provide medical, financial, and moral support to residents of Old Mexico impacted by the Black Bliss Sootstorms. Disliking the "FATS" acronym (first Grand Emancipator Dave Clinton did not think that one through), 1943 saw the Tribute Society rebrand to "The Log Cabin Boys." The same year would see the first "Grand Gathering of the Abes" in Lincolnburg, Iowai, featuring over 3,000 tribute artists from all across the vast realms of the Union. In a hugely popular stunt, they began the "March of the Abes," vowing to march to Philadelphia to fundraise the construction of new homes for veterans. The event raised millions and helped many wounded men live happy, fulfilling lives in decent homes following their time in the tropical hell of Manifest Climax. It was truly a sight to behold several hundred Father Abes all marching together along the Destiny Road in the autumn of '43. Towns and cities that knew they could expect them to come through held welcome parties, giving the tribute artists snacks, dinners, and drinks and weighing them down with donations.
This chapter on Lincoln might get split in two, because the formerly small bit about the "Father Abe Tribute Society" is quickly growing into its own animal. Preview:
Father Abe is not only Santa, but the mall Santas are also the Shriners?
As someone else once said in a different context: "I didn't expect it to be how you described it, but now that you've explained it it make perfect sense that that's exactly how that would work."
It's been a few years since I read 1.0 and it's so surreal to see old maps and posters. It seems so strange that the Southron nations were independent well into the 20th century, even if the absence of the Battle of Baltimore does feel a bit strange in 2.0. Weird to think that Fuhrer Moustache had such a small role and that the consul system remained until the Oswald era.
I wonder if the Europans will ever go against the Supercatholics; it seems that two blocs that consider each other heretics would have gone to war by now
I wonder if the Europans will ever go against the Supercatholics; it seems that two blocs that consider each other heretics would have gone to war by now
Both sides know that a war would weaken them, allowing all of Europe to be gobbled up by the Loomies and the League of Nations. This results in an uneasy truce where both sides hate each other, but agree that a conflict would make things immeasurably worse for everyone.
I wonder if the Europans will ever go against the Supercatholics; it seems that two blocs that consider each other heretics would have gone to war by now
They probably haven’t mostly because both have bigger fish to fry at the moment. Europa is trying to stabilize its colonial empire and has had to do things like give India independence and nuke Egypt already, well the Supercatholics are dealing with their Balkan Conquests. Both are also surrounded by blocs that are massive threats to them, the Fascists in Britain, Germany, and Norway, as well as the Illuminists. They both hate eachother but even so they’d rather fellow Catholics rule their rivals than Illuminists or fascists.
So the next update might be the final chapter of PitD. I have a bunch of stuff about the Lincolns ready but I feel like it will interrupt flow and it can be easily added into Vol III. Oswald's Speech will be the final chapter of PitD. Who is hyped?


Chuck Oswald took a deep breath and stood erect while an adjutant checked his suit for lint and straightened his tie. They were standing in a private alcove off to the side of the Capitol Rotunda. Outside the little room, in the Main Hall, underneath a majestic mural painted by master artists that filled the inside of the dome, most of the main operators of the Union government were gathered at short notice and situated in folding chairs. Servants were scuttling about filling more and more of the room with chairs being delivered up dumbwaiters from the Capitol basement. Several members of the press were making their way in as well, press badges prominently slotted into their hatbands. Camera flashes were already filling the room like a lightning storm. Although no official statement had been released, almost everyone knew that Supreme Chief Oswald would only invite them to an emergency meeting for one reason: the death of Steele.

Chuck smiled as he looked out the slot on the wall. The alcove was normally a spot for security to stand watch, but now it was his waiting room as everyone got situated. Technicians were busy installing state of the art mobile broadcasting equipment, connected to beam live radio signals to the rest of the country via relays and amplifiers. This was his big moment. The adjutant, a young man in a blue ORRA uniform with a prominent crest marking him as a member of the 10th Unit, the Dragons of New England, told Oswald, "Well, sir, you look like a million gold eagles."

"Thank you, son. I appreciate it. This is going to be a moment long remembered," Oswald replied. After a few more minutes of waiting, Oswald left the alcove and summoned his personal bodyguards and was met with stiff salutes from everyone present. He could see the worry in the eyes of the bureaucrats and officers present, an almost primal fear. The last Presidential succession had resulted in turmoil and civil unrest. In the face of the ongoing revelations about Reverend-Colonel Sunday, civil unrest was already a massive issue. Now, they knew the Atheling was likely dead, and a rather wild young man stood ready to inherit the proverbial throne. Sweat dripped down their foreheads and glistened in the lights of the overhead chandeliers that illuminated the vast mural.

As Oswald marched in, a group of hangers on fell in lockstep with his group, including the new Supreme Justiciar, Abraham Lincoln V, as well as Hendrick. He shook their hands vigorously before he turned, ascended the few steps to the podium, and tapped the microphone, sending a squealing feedback through the loudspeakers. Then, he began his monologue.

"My fellow comrade-patriots. My fellow Americans. Today we learned that nothing is forever, and that even mighty oaks will eventually fall. For the last three decades, our country, our vast Republican Union, has been dominated politically, religiously, and privately by one man of singular Pinnacle stature the likes of which we have never seen since the days of Father Abe. For three decades, we have been in this era of Steele, an era of unbroken and incomparable strength in the face of all adversity, of all blights, attacks, and troubles. For three decades, my father-in-law and Commander-in-Chief, our beloved President of the Union and Atheling of the Manifest Destiny Party, has kept us safe, rooting out debauchery, treason, and occultist subversives the country over. For three decades, this country was blessed with the iron resolve and unbending will of Michael Custer.

"This was a man who, in his desire to fight from the front lines of the Nippon War, changed his name to Joseph Steele and proved himself an able and stalwart defender of our liberties, earning himself innumerable decorations and the unceasing thanks of a grateful nation. It was this same man who, during the Great World War, once again took to the skies in his aerofleet and immolated the Kingdom of California, destroying the last Bonapartist finger clawing its way at North America's throat. It was this same man, Joseph Steele, who succeeded his father, our late and beloved President and Atheling George Armstrong Custer, and ended that global conflict and took us, kicking and screaming, through the most deadly and widespread pandemic in modern history. It was this same Pinnacle Hero that, for the last forty-odd years, lived in secret with the endless suffering that comes from a diagnosis of tuberculosis. This is a perfect description of the character of President Steele: he showed no weakness, not yesterday or a thousand yesterdays before that. The meaning of a man is to see what needs doing and do it. This, with the patience of Job, did Joseph Michael Custer-Steele do. Last night, our beloved leader left us to be with Jev and his late, dearly missed and much beloved son, Marcus. Our President, our Atheling, has died. In his sixty-eight years on earth, he has shaped and molded this planet like few men ever have, and even fewer will ever do again. Despite his humble origins of being a common street urchin, President Custer saw something in this little boy, this unknown orphan, and praise Almighty Jev that he did.

"Effective immediately, I, Charles A. Oswald, was administered the oath of office and was sworn in as your new President and Atheling. We are experiencing an unparalleled era of fast-moving global geopolitics and continued military operations of a vast scale in the Southern Continent, and no time was left for pomp and circumstance. I will be formally sworn in, publicly, at a future date by our newly appointed Supreme Justiciar, Abraham Aaron Lincoln V, a man who will play a pivotal and key role in shaping the policies of my administration. I come to you today to tell you, do not fear, for the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. The continuity of government is unfolding before us, exactly as per the last will and testament of the late President Steele. Let our people now that I, as their new President and Atheling, stand tall beside them, united with them in their grief at the passing of our glorious leader, but that I also stand tall to help us go forth into a brave new Pinnacle Future as we approach the further fulfillment of prophecies and continue to act as an instrument of both Jev's love and Jev's wrath.

"All my fellow countrymen, from Rhode Island to Oxacre and back, can agree that no man can compare to Patriot-Saint Joseph Steele. I do not wish to compare myself to him, and will not be attempting to put on such a costume and false persona. I am not my late father-in-law, and my late father-in-law is not me. During his many years in office, he attempted to use his Fundamentalist work ethic, larger-than-life personality, and charisma to bind this nation together. Rallying to his strict adherence to moral doctrines, our government passed the Focus on the Family Act, and several other moralistic laws, in an attempt to curtail wanton debauchery, sexual chicanery, adultery, and disgusting lifestyles repugnant in this country. However, it is my opinion, as President and Atheling, that this attempt at policing the bedrooms and backrooms of America, that we not only overstepped our boundaries as a government, but that we violated our citizens' inalienable rights to spread their fluids and seed as they wish. This is a Fundamentalist nation belonging to a Fundamentalist people, a Jev-fearing and righteous folk, and we do not need to be investigating the private bedroom affairs of every Tom, Dick, and Sally. Effective immediately, the Focus on the Family Act is repealed. All those currently serving sentences pertaining to it are hereby ordered to be released at once and they all be given full pardons, including those currently serving in the Redemption Legions. The era of the government meddling in the private, personal lives of its law-abiding citizens is over.

"In addition, the late great President Steele was a... stubborn man, set in his ways, and he had no faith in the businessmen of this country to uphold and respect our laws and goals. During the Yankee Stadium incident of 1927, President Steele allowed then-Supreme Chief of ORRA, the guttersnipe Wormist infiltrator George Patton, to carry out a mass execution of businessmen that the traitor Patton convinced him were enemies of the state. Some of these men deserved to die, but many others were wrongfully accused and wrongfully executed. Effective immediately, stipends will be paid to the families of these victims of injustice, and I will be ordering a memorial to be placed inside of Yankee Stadium, where these deceased men lay at rest in a mass grave underneath the outfield. To the victims of this Worm-tainted injustice, this dark ritual carried on right under my late father-in-law's nose, I say but one thing: I apologize. Not for my actions, but for the actions of a government infiltrated at the highest levels by occultist lunatics hellbent on using our late President's steadfast moral code to carry out such gross acts of injustice. To the distinguished gentlemen of the Economic Clans, I say: I am on your side. My administration will be a pro-business administration. By releasing the Clans from the overbearing Steele shackles, we will bring our recessed economy booming back to life. By releasing the Clans from this witch-hunt, at last, we will experience the power of the American economy at its fullest, a Hercules unchained. Let it not be said that the Republican Union--a nation rebuilt from the ground up from the fires of war and foreign subversion by the titans of free and unregulated industry--hampered the coal-fired bellies of the mega-corporations. We are building Jev's Kingdom on Earth, and we can't do it unless we are all in this together.

"In the coming years, I wish to oversee the establishment of an All-American Congress. Congressmen will be selected by our State Governors and will serve terms of six years. They shall meet in Philadelphia six months out of the year to discuss minor changes to law and to petition the State Governors and myself as President for new laws, policies, and regulations. The establishment of such an All-American Congress is becoming essential as the size of our territories and conquests grows by the hour. In a modern state, the largest in history, it is unnecessary and meddlesome of myself to rubber-stamp every law and minute detail of every policy. I will, of course, retain the right to Presidential Veto, and can eliminate any law I deem unfitting or un-American. I also retain my right to fire our elected State Governors, and this policy will carry over to these All-American Congressmen. Governors will, as well, be able to appoint and terminate these Congressmen at their leisure. This is not a slide into the mob rule of democracy and Euro-Asiatic Illuminism, but rather a logical and streamlined system that will enable myself and my administration to keep our eyes on our ultimate prize: the fulfillment of our Manifest Destiny.

"This brings us to the biggest and most important part of my dearly departed father-in-law's legacy: Operation Manifest Climax. The attack on Cuba by the Infee fleet was preceded by the treasonous sale of documents to America's enemies, from the highest echelons of our military. When President Steele should have been focusing on the administration of the Hammer of Jev, the armed forces of our New Jerusalem, he was instead prying into the bedrooms and backrooms of America's homes, rooting out alleged sinners even as he planned offensives in the company of un-American traitors and spies. As he dispatched teams to round up so-called womanizers, adulteresses, homosexuals, and the like, Judases in our midst were selling our military plans to our mortal enemies for a few shreds of pocket bacon. While President Steele became quickly aware of this problem and several arrests and executions followed, still more remain, still hidden within the recesses our our deep state. Earlier this morning, I ordered the resignation of Supreme Marshal Acme Acton. While his own moral character is beyond repute and his many decades of service to this nation is surpassing admirable, in his old age he allowed, by no means purposefully, traitors to worm their way into our war rooms and high commands. I immediately hired Brigham John Barnes as our new Supreme Marshal. This man, much younger and quick-witted, will serve as our first Negro Supreme Marshal. And I say to any who would dare attempt to impune his honor or reputation of heroism based on the color of his skin: you sicken me, and you are no patriots. I expect all troops of the Grand Army to follow this man's orders without hesitation and without question. If I hear any stories of racism within our ranks or society--something which unfortunately survives and to which my late father-in-law once again turned a blind eye to in his haste to win personal glory before death arrived--I will stamp it out with the fire and fury of the God of Moses in my veins. Ask any soldier who has fought on the front line of Manifest Climax and he will tell you that the color of the man fighting next to him was irrelevant. The bond of American Brothers under fire together is far stronger than the color of one's skin. This generation will be the generation that ends the scourge of racism forever.

"I have the highest and utmost trust in Supreme Marshal Barnes to carry out his duties and bring Operation Manifest Climax to a close by the year 1950. With the power of our atomic arsenal of Peacemaker Bombs, the remaining hordes of Inferior cockroaches in the Southern Continent will be a small, meager obstacle to overcome. At long last, the full might and industry will come to bear on these enemies of Jev. By 1950, not only will our conquest of this New Zion be complete, but so too shall our conquest of North America. We have signed an agreement with the Inferior Illuminists in Moscow, and their government has agreed to vacate the region known as Russian Alyaska by the year 1950. The age of European and Asiatic colonial administration in the New World is over, praise be to Jev our Father, praise be to the Prophet Burr whose words of prophecy become more true with each passing day. With each hour, these holy prophecies are drawn from the darkness of history and become a part of our collective national Pinnacle Future.

"The year 1950 will be one remembered as a new birth of freedom, a new dawn for our republic. In the year 1950, we see a glorious day when Old Glory flies from Alyaska to the Straits of Magellan. From pole to pole, the New Jerusalem shall stretch over the largest and most prosperous empire, the greatest civilization, since the days of the Adamites. President Steele was unable to see us through this crisis, and his poor health and trust of the wrong people hindered our inevitable march to victory. Rest assured that I, as your new leader, will not sleep, will not rest, will not sit idly until our Manifest Destiny is achieved. In 1950, I will oversee a moment long-whispered about, long-imagined in the hearts of our countrymen, past and present: the creation of the New United States of America.

"It is part of our collective cultural memory that Father Abe, before he was callously killed by an anarchist in 1861, had considered restoring the name of the Old Republic. After so many decades, it has become an unspoken element of our national spiritual canon that such a name can only be brought out of retirement in celebration of the Ultimate Victory. President Steele wished to see that day arrive, and to be the father of the New Republic, but could not carry on any further. That Ultimate Victory, that Pinnacle Triumph, is now upon our threshold. We resolve, today, in Jev's name and dedicated to the memory of our Patriot-Saints, to restore the Republic. If not us, who? If not now, when?

"In the coming days and weeks ahead, my fellow Americans, I will speak to you again. More information on the funeral of my beloved predecessor will be forthcoming, as well. Effective immediately, I order all flags to lower to half-staff, and we will begin a month of mourning. I know that Patriot-Saint Steele is, without a doubt--wherever his spirit may be--listening to us at this moment, and I know he is as sad as I am that he will not be here in the flesh for the 1950 Year of Jubilation. I am sure, however, that he would wish for all to pray to Almighty Jev for the success and long-life of his successor. He was not a perfect man, he was not a perfect leader, but he was the leader we needed. And now, as we march to national perfection, as we strive to achieve our Pinnacle Manifest Destiny, I am sure he is looking down with a tear in his eye and joy in his heart as I speak to you from this podium inside the rotunda of our national Capitol, the center of our Fundamentalist American Civilization. Let not your hearts be sorrowful, for he is now at rest. President Steele, your watch is at an end. Rest easy. Until Glory, Comrade-Patriot. All hail."

The applause inside the Capitol was overwhelming as President Oswald stood back, saluted, and departed with his guards. Half an hour later, he murdered Steele in his bed. The Pinnacle Future had arrived....



From the dank corners of his filthy cell, the man once known as Big Bill Jennings was curled in the fetal position, his groans of anguish and pain barely escaping his lips. For years, since the swarm of men in dark suits and masks had "rescued" him from his Norfolk prison in the Confederation of the Carolinas, the Southron Worm devotee had been subjected to brutal and crippling beat-downs nearly every day. His diet consisted of stale bread, water, and some sort of gruel concoction that apparently gave him enough energy to stay alive, all slid in, slopped on a metal tray, under a slot on the door. The only light he had came in through one barred window far overhead. He could hear seagulls regularly, sometimes even the horns and klaxons of distant ships, and the roar of the waves as they beat down on the shore of wherever the hell he was.

Once, he had used his cot as a trampoline of sorts to get him high enough in the air to grip one of the bars. Using all the strength he had, he had pulled himself up, losing a fingernail in the process, and gazed out on a small rocky shoreline and the endless sea of beautiful blue. Palm trees let him know this was indeed the tropics, but he had no idea where he was, other than that obvious generality. Almost as soon as he had successfully gripped the bar of his window, guards in black slacks, white button-ups, and black neckties came in and began brutally beating him, taking away his cot and leaving him the pile of rags straw he currently called a bed. It was more of a human nest. The smell of the ocean helped to somewhat drown out the smell of his own sick fermenting in a bucket that was emptied once every two or three days. He had once been a bear of a man, well-endowed with a wide chest and a large paunch. Now he was emaciated, a shell of the man he had been.

"Oh, Worm! Oh Great Faceless One!" he exhorted mournfully, not for the first time by any means. "Oh, Ye Crowned and Conquering King, your humble servant beseeches you for your favor and forgiveness. I schemed against Grandmaster Armitage with the upstart Patton. That was why the Awakening did not follow the Congo Dam! I betrayed thee not for thy glory, but for mine. Three men, all thinking themselves to be the vessel of The Worm is the highest sacrilege! Oh, Worm! Please. Please help me, and I will do thy bidding forever, forever, forever, and ever, oh, Worm!" His cries became garbled by his wretched sobs and tears streamed down his bruised, skeletal, and pale face. "I beseech thee, Oh, Worm!"

A moment later, he could hear the sound of footsteps approaching the wooden door of his cell, keys jingling. The door was unlocked and flew open, and several familiar, unnamed men rushed in their white shirts and black slacks, clubs in hand, and began wailing and beating on Jennings, shouting and barking at him to shut up his ceaseless exhortations.

"We warned you, Jennings!" screamed one man with a gruff voice. "Just your lecherous pie-hole or we'll break every tooth you somehow still got in your damn skull!"

Jennings gasped for air as shiny leather oxfords kicked him in the gut over and over and a club came down on his left ear, sending a dreadful ringing and deafening him temporarily on that side. As he spat up blood onto the stone floor, he begged them to stop. "Please! Please! I don't even know why I am here. Just kill me! Just fucking kill me! Please!"

As the blows ended and the men chuckled at him lying there in agony, the tallest of the bunch replied, pointing his club threateningly, "You know why you're here, you stupid old man. Search your feelings."

"The only feeling I have," muttered Jennings as he painfully dragged himself toward his nest-bed in the corner under the window, "Is pain. I know not why I'm here. It's been, oh God, what, years? I don't even know. I don't even know. Are you Gamble's men? Are you what? I don't know, dammit. I don't know. Just please kill me and get it over with. Please."


Two weeks later...

Big Bill Jennings watched a spider in his cell consume a fly. He watched the shiny black widow molest its body and prepare it for consumption. In sheer boredom, he had taken to feeding the poisonous creature insects that flew in through the window of his cell the last few days since it had first spun its web. He contemplated how easy it would be to harass the widow into biting him, but he remembered surviving numerous deadly bites in the Congo. His body was apparently just well suited for enduring poison. He sighed. The spider began its feast.

The sound of footsteps and keys could be heard approaching from the other side of the door. He expected either a metal tray of slop or a beating. He honestly no longer much cared which it was. Several men barged in and he braced himself, but instead of beating him, they grabbed him under the armpits and dragged him to his feet. "Come with us, and shut your fuckin' mouth, Jennings."

This was it. This was surely the march to his death. He had not, since his arrival, been outside of this room and had caught only fleeting glimpses of the hallway between meals and beatings. Even at his arrival, he been bound, blinded, and gagged, so he had no clue what the outside of this cell actually looked like. His first glimpses seemed to confirm his suspicions that this was an old Spanish fort somewhere in the Caribbean. A worn and faded Spanish crest adorned the wall between two candle sconces that gave off just enough light to walk down the hall. Another door was flung open, leading to a courtyard. Old cannons sat rusting beneath a collapsed flag pole. As a goon punched him in the gut and ordered him to keep moving, Jennings assumed this was to be last and only fresh breath of outside air and sunshine before his murder. He inhaled, even though his ribs ached. The sun stung his eyes beyond belief, nearly blinding him. Instead of being murdered, however, he was whisked across the courtyard to an old officer's quarters.

As they descended stairs into more darkness, he gave up on trying to figure out what was going on. A large metal door, of more recent design and retrofit, was swung open and Jennings was thrown in, his body hitting the tiled floor in a heap. The men turned and left, closing the door behind them. Electric lights were a sight for literal sore eyes, and he tried to focus his eyes as he pulled himself onto his knees, wheezing and coughing. The room looked like it had been touched up recently, and the tiled floor was polished and modern. Several cabinets and odd pieces of office furniture adorned the place, and a large desk sat at the far end. Two cloaked figures stood there, one in front of the desk, and one behind it.

"Jennings, crawl forth," said the figure standing in front of the desk. No features could be discerned from under the hood. Only a pair of gleaming patent leather business shoes gave the character any description. His voice sounded vaguely English. Jennings slowly approached the desk, sometimes trying to stand and walk but once again pathetically falling over and having to restart the process. By the time he was within an arm's reach of the man's patent leather oxfords, the figure asked him, "Jennings, do you know why you are here?"

The Carolinian architect and polymath felt one of the shoes rest on his shoulder and lightly but forcefully push him downward. "I am a Wormist. A servant of The Great Faceless One. I... I suppose that is why. Please, help me. Or kill me. Please."

"Pathetic wastrel," scowled the man in the shiny shoes. "You are here for your treachery against the Grandmaster, in whose presence you currently grovel. You are lucky we did not sacrifice your flayed corpse on an altar by now."

Terror, real, genuine terror, shot through Jennings' heart. This wasn't the depressed fear and hopelessness of the cell, this was a primal horror, pure as can be. The other man, the hooded figure standing behind the desk, was somehow Charles Dexter Armitage, the Messenger of the Worm, the Prophet in the Dark. The most evil man, the Beast 666, himself, now stood before him, the man who had betrayed him and destroyed the sanctity and purity of the Congo Dam summoning ritual. If Jennings had not sought his own glory, instead of The Worm's, perhaps The Worm would have already took charge of Armitage's body and the world would be worshiping at the black altar of The Crowned and Conquering King. "Oh, Master Armitage!" Jennings' wept, retching and nearly convulsing. "Forgive me, kill me, forgive me, kill me. I deserve nothing and no part of the Black World to come."

"Armitage is dead," said the voice of the figure behind the desk, in a blunt and uncaring Yankee tone. Jennings felt more horror and confusion at those words. Armitage surely had found an escape. The Beast 666 was more clever and had a keener mind than nearly any man alive. There was no way the Grandmaster was dead. And then, if he really was dead, who was this supposed Grandmaster in the room? The strange voice certainly wasn't Patton. There was no way that cripple had taken over the Order. The figure behind the desk, hands behind his back, walked around and stood next to the man in the shiny shoes. "He was executed two winters ago. Wormfood now."

Jennings' nose pushed itself against the floor and tears streamed down his face. For some reason, he mourned the very figure he sought to overthrow. That man had taught him the Dark Arts. He was truly the most gifted sorcerer that ever lived. And now he was gone. "Then who is... is the Grandmaster?"

There was silence before Shiny Shoes said, "Jennings, we have an offer for you. A way out. Freedom. I wouldn't offer it to you. I would love to decorate this room with your brain matter. But the Grandmaster insists, and so it is spoken, and so it is done. Stand up, dammit."

After he did so, grabbing onto and white knuckling the desk just to keep from falling over again, he tried to gaze into the hood of the supposed Grandmaster, to see who this new dark lord was who dared to call himself Emissary of The Worm. The Grandmaster said, in what Jennings was realizing as an upper class New England accent, "I have an offer. You will become a dark lord, answering directly to me. You have suffered three years of torture and purification. You can refuse, in which case I will strangle you, myself, right here, right now. If you agree, not only will you become a dark lord, all your titles and rank within the Order will be returned to you. Everything will be pardoned. You refuse, it's death. But if you say yes, you will do exactly what I say, when I say it, and I will know the second you even consider treachery, do you understand?"

"Yes... Yes, my Lord," Jennings said, still barely remaining on his feet. "I... I accept. I am your humble and obedient servant. Thank you for your mercy."

"It's not out of kindness, Jennings," said the Grandmaster. "I couldn't give two shits about whether you live or die. But several groups within the Order have gone rogue and I need you to track them down, because you always liked to ingratiate yourself with every hanger-on in the entire faith. And I need you, a fugitive from justice, a prison escapee, to be the public face of our Order. I do not seek the spotlight. I merely do The Worm's will. And I want all the heat off of me, do you understand?"

"Yes, Grandmaster. I swear fealty and obedience. Thank you. Thank you!" Jennings slumped to his knees again, feeling like he could pass out at any given moment.

"Now, Jennings," said the Dark Lord, "For us to have this understanding, I need you to know who I really am. And if there ever comes a day where you dare to speak of my identity, outside of our conversations, I will have you killed by the nightfall. Do we have an agreement?"

"Yes, Grandmaster. I swear."

"Very well," the man said with dry satisfaction. At that, he reached two gloved hands up to pull down the hood of his robes, revealing a mop of sandy-brown hair, a chiseled jaw, and a piercing set of blue eyes. Before Jennings stood the Emissary of The Worm...

...Charles Oswald.


In the year 2525, if man is still alive
If woman can survive, they may find

In the year 3535
Ain't gonna need to tell the truth, tell no lie
Everything you think, do and say
Is in the pill you took today

In the year 4545
You ain't gonna need your teeth, won't need your eyes
You won't find a thing to chew
Nobody's gonna look at you

In the year 5555
Your arms hangin' limp at your sides
Your legs got nothin' to do
Some machine's doin' that for you

In the year 6565
You won't need no husband, won't need no wife
You'll pick your son, pick your daughter too
From the bottom of a long glass tube

In the year 7510
If God's a coming, He oughta make it by then
Maybe He'll look around Himself and say
Guess it's time for the judgment day

In the year 8510
God is gonna shake His mighty head
He'll either say I'm pleased where man has been
Or tear it down, and start again

In the year 9595
I'm kinda wonderin' if man is gonna be alive
He's taken everything this old earth can give
And he ain't put back nothing

Now it's been ten thousand years
Man has cried a billion tears
For what, he never knew, now man's reign is through
But through eternal night, the twinkling of starlight

So very far away, maybe it's only yesterday

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