It should have been cold. It should have been dark. It should have been quiet.

None of these things were as they should have been within the dead city of Ixhasa.

First came the warmth. The waters began to roil with the heat though by the time any sign of the disturbance reached the surface it was almost unnoticeable. Fish used to the icy depths fled in panic at the sudden rise in temperature, their fear of change perfectly justified. It was a turgid swelling of power that rippled across the forgotten city.

Then came the light. Three lines of pale blue luminescence converged at a single point above the drowned metropolis. At first they simply appeared as thin strands but they quickly thickened and spread. The lines spread through sunken roads and crisscrossed over buildings. Seaweed and mollusks, unable to flee, burned away as the sheering blue light revealed a cadaverous city that stretched for miles in every direction. The glory of this imperial capitol burned away the shadows beneath the sea.

Last came the sound. A heartbeat beneath the waves. It was the throbbing of power, the stirring of those thought gone and the footsteps of a people finding themselves after thousands of years. It was a pulsing drumbeat that even those riding the waves above could feel.

At the center of the sprawling city sat a pyramid, the pale blue beams of light converging above its lofty peak. Within this pyramid was a throne, the nexus of the power now surging and cascading beneath the enlightened sea. Upon that throne sat the form of what had once been a man, though even in life they had called him 'Eternal'.

As the heat rose and the light flashed and the sound thundered his eyes opened with a terrible slowness, silver wisps of power floated from between desiccated lids. There was no gasp or motion, only awareness and power.

Ulix, the Eternal Emperor, knew what he had wrought and reveled in it. Immortality had finally found Ixhasa. It was a Gift for his Empire that he had delivered personally, though it came with a painful understanding of Countermay.

He saw the terrible, languid reality behind the world spread out before him like a flayed man. He turned his head with glacial speed, glancing from thread to thread, reading the weave of fate that was now visible to him.

It would have made him laugh if not for the crushing depth decompressing his lungs.

Around him he could feel the threads of destiny tugging as his people awoke to the same Truth, the same realization, the same grim determination. He did not need to send word of his orders or confer with his advisors and generals, they knew as he did where their fate was bound.

Above.

Dead men and women stirred in the heat and light beneath the ocean waves. Their marching feet sounded out a heartbeat where there would otherwise be none.

Ixhasa moved once more. The Gift of Ulix would spread and the Truth would be the Dread Army's legacy to Countermay.

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