(Another long one. Can't seem to be concise when writing action sequences...) The next diggle god made its appearance in the next chamber. This room was more suited to the presence of a diety, consisting mostly of an empty amphitheater with a roof held up by rough stone columns. Although there were no furnishings or decorations in the room the sheer size of it was impressive, as was the engineering prowess that must have been needed to create such a place deep beneath the earth. Now, it would be misleading to say that Dredmor’s next foe appeared in the chamber. In fact, it was already there and waiting for him when he entered, a figure at least twenty feet tall, proportioned like a diggle except for the unusually square head and presence of a war-drill spear in each flipper. The lich tapped his teeth absently as he stepped down into the amphitheater. “Apparently the Fertility God was not the only warlike deity in the diggle pantheon,” Dredmor said by way of greeting. “What do you want with me, diggle?” The Diggle God raised his weapons above his head and clashed them together, screaming, “VICTORY!” Dredmor’s eyes dimmed to a spiteful glow. “Is that so? But I’m afraid I never offer that to another.” It wasn’t quite clear to Dredmor exactly what diggle god he was dealing with now, but when it leveled its twin spears and charged he was instantly certain that there would be no clever way around this fight. He ran one thumb along the Might Ring of Krong, an artifact older than any other he had yet found, and also the talisman of power which he had owned the longest. He had held it in reserve for a long, long time, even going so far as to forgo its use when the eyebrowed ones fought him in single combat. But then, if he lost to a mere human he would always rise again. That was by no means assured against a deity, even if it was just a diggle. The ring vanished from his finger as Dredmor’s will sent it spinning through the aether. Marcus Brody would be glad to have it back, even if it was being returned by the same person who had stolen it once upon a time. As the God of Artifacts, Brody was closely connected with Krong, God of the Anvil. Dredmor had never known how Krong’s Mighty Ring had wound up in Brody’s possession, but he knew the connection was deep and old. Brody gave powerful rewards when humans brought him mundane artifacts for his hoard. A divine artifact brought power beyond imagining. Dredmor was not the type to make deals or offer services when he sought power. But a direct exchange- that he could understand and accept. For the first, and perhaps the last time he would accept the power of a god. Wreathed in an aura of inconceivable arcane fury, Dredmor raised his staff and met the diggle god on equal terms. Their battle was far beyond the mortal ken. In that dark stone coliseum, might beyond the lot of humanity was brought to bear. Magics were invented and forgotten in an instant, the potential of worlds expended to gain inches of ground, armies of heroes summoned and laid low all in the name of triumph. The world groaned, fate trembled and cheeses more terrifying than limburger were created and consumed. Dredmor wove the raw stuff of the sky into a thousand burning suns and his nemesis smashed their cores and left their cooling, dying husks to be trampled underfoot. New and grotesque breeds of diggle warriors arose from their wreckage only to thrash and die as Dredmor tore the very air from the room. Chaos and order, creation and destruction chose sides, betrayed one another, and ultimately became nothing more than sword and shield in the hands of the combatants. Their savage battle lasted uncounted thousands of years, stretched across the surface of a thousand worlds, and yet it was over in the time it takes to draw a breath, leaving the arena around them untouched by their awful deeds. Dredmor’s jaw was broken in four places; his teeth seemed to hover in their grin simply because to leave it would have displeased them. His robes and cloak hung in tatters, the powers from Brody were fading. Not even the Mighty Ring of Krong could sustain him forever if he spent its power so lavishly. The diggle god had fared somewhat better. His hide had been beaten from yellow to a dull, bruised brown and one of his war-drills had broken, leaving him to swing the other with two hands. The resentment of a creature not used to loss burned in its eyes. “VICTORY!” It screamed, sweeping its spear toward the lich. “VICTORY!” Dredmor blinked away from the attack, the dwindling of his powers back to a more normal extent leaving him feeling weak and disoriented. Spending the Ring of Krong had been a gamble, one that hadn’t payed off quite as well as he had hoped. He was back to parlor tricks. The diggle god leapt this time, clearing the entire bottom five levels of the amphitheater as if taking a single step, his spear whirring through the air. Among Dredmor’s many injuries were several bones broken in both feet. Not enough to stop him from moving but enough to slow him so he couldn’t dodge, and he didn’t trust another blink to take him out of the deity’s reach. But long before he had been a lich he had survived on the maxim that strategy was greater than power. While having both was ideal, Dredmor knew that it was cunning that would win this battle and it was high time he put it to use.