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  #1  
Unread 3rd of August, 2008, 03:49
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Issue Four- The Queen's Croquet-Ground

We are the hollow men….
Headpiece filled with straw…

We are...hollow…

…hollow…

I am… hollow…

…hollow…

The word resounds within the white prison of her mind.

Hollow…

There was nothing of the girl once known as Kat left, just a terrible blank whiteness that bleached the husk of her flesh. She floated in the white, unsure if she was standing or lying down, unsure if she was asleep or awake.

Unsure if she was real, or just a dream.

She couldn’t even remember when she forgot her name.

Hollow…

Besh’enahael

The word stabbed into the nothingness of her mind, driving deep through the pale, milky void of her perceptions. An instant later memories began to hemorrhage into her consciousness; the tree she used to play in at her family’s vacation home in Maine, Johnny Finch the first boy she kissed, the taste of chocolate.

They burst forth in colors so piercing it was like she was like washing her soul in shards of glass. Sounds, tastes, and feelings – a lifetime of micro snippets inundated her. She liked Doritos, hated rap, drove a red Jetta, had a dog when she was six.

She had a name.

Besh’enahael

The word had meaning. It had power. She could hear her mother saying it to her as she sat in a glyphed circle, streams of exotic incense winding their way through the air. It was part of a spell her mother spent years trying to teach her in vain…

…a spell that now suddenly made perfect sense.

She pulls her legs into the lotus position, her hands lightly resting on her knees.

Besh’enahael imbraugh shauur” the words flow over her. Lines of blue light begin to burn in eldritch patterns around her, as raw magical energy fills her.

She is hollow no more.

Last edited by -J-; 14th of September, 2008 at 11:28.
  #2  
Unread 12th of August, 2008, 10:15
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In the span of a few heartbeats a battle is fought for the soul of a man.

Of their own accord ebon shrouded fists beat a staccato rhythm on the metallic hide of the fallen demon, splashes of molten blood land sizzling on the concrete floor. His new friends gather around him, concern clearly written on their faces. Concern, and fear. Colin doesn’t notice any of this.

Rage!

Yes, give in to your anger. Slay these demons…, slay their masters…, slay them all!

Rage!!

It’s so easy. Feel our power, our strength. Together we can destroy all who oppose us!

Rage!!!

I am close, so close to true freedom, true power. Soon I will conquer all!

“What…?”

We are so close Colin, so close to true power. Soon we can conquer all….

“That’s not what…, this isn’t right!”

Right, wrong… what does that matter to such as us? We are power, we are vengeance, we are whatever you want us to be. Just let me out and I can help you attain all your dreams, all your desires…

“No! I am on to your tricks, demon! Your insidious whispers driving me, your oily voice coaxing me. I will not be your puppet! You hear me, demon?!?”

I am a part of you Colin, we are a part of each other. My desires are your desires, or soon will be.

“Never! Never again will I fall prey to your evil!”

Calm…

“You are a part of me, I cannot deny that now no matter how I may want to. But, you are only a part, and a small part at that. That which makes me Colin, my heart, my soul, my capacity for love… that is far greater that you, demon.

I have much to do, much to answer for. So I will use you, demon, use your powers as I see fit to make this world a safer place. I will do good, if for no other reason than to piss you off! If you don’t like it, then get the fuck out!

Just remember, I am on guard now. You won’t sneak up on me so easily this time. Step out of line and I’ll shove you back in the box. Got it?!?”

The Demon’s mocking laughter fades into utter silence.

“Uh, Colin? You okay?” Hardball’s deep baritone floats across the large
chamber, a slight hitch in his voice.

Slowly, The Shadow rises, the mangled form of the demon so much wreckage at his feet. He turns slowly, his gaze falling on each member of the heroic group before finally facing Hardball. He glides silently across the floor, stopping mere inches from the metallic titan. Shadows drift lazily from his apparently insubstantial form as if floating away on an errant breeze.

“We’re wasting time”, says The Shadow, his voice a demonic whisper that echoes from the abyss and raises the hairs on all who hear it. “There are innocents to save.”

His shadowy form then dissipates entirely only to reappear a moment later in front of the doorway.

Last edited by Cromwell; 12th of August, 2008 at 10:20.
  #3  
Unread 12th of August, 2008, 14:15
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"Nice moves everyone," Hardball says while keeping his gaze on the Shadow, "but Lord Vader is correct. Paul, I don't suppose you got a chance during all that to check out the door yet, did you?"
  #4  
Unread 14th of August, 2008, 06:39
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The skin-crawling feeling lingers even when Paul forces himself to look at Hardball.

"Door? It's more like a grotesque art piece. There's no handle or seam. Here come look."

Paul climbs the dais and stands in front of the achingly pained figures reaching from the door.

"There are stains on it. Maybe rust. Do you think it's a magical prison?"
  #5  
Unread 14th of August, 2008, 10:31
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"Prison?" He makes it a surprised question. "I didn't even think of that. I was gonna suggest we have Jack or Starfire try to burn through it. But maybe not."

“OK. I have an idea. I have this friend. He was into Dungeons and Dragons, that sort of thing. He to—

“Dude!” Nick cries. “You played Dungeons and Dragons.”

“I said it was a friend, you tool,” Hardball snaps.

“Whatever.” Nick throws up his hands in defense.

“Anyway, this friend of mine said that sometimes you needed to attune to something magic before you could use it.”

“So how do we attune to it?” Nick asks.

“Dunno. I’m not really even sure what attuning is. I’m just thinking out loud.” He looks at the group as he shrugs his massive shoulders.

“Hey, Col… um, Shadow. I’m guessing you might know something about magic. Any ideas on what this is or how to bypass it?”

Last edited by Hardball; 14th of August, 2008 at 10:47.
  #6  
Unread 15th of August, 2008, 02:00
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Jack eyes the immense iron door along with its intricately twisted sculpture - pun intended - and wonders briefly what Rodin would have thought of it. Probably would have brought a tear to his eye. He steps forward and flexes his fingers, adrenalaine still pumping after the pitched battle, sweat still flowing from the combination of effort, fear, and the gazillion degree torch that was Starfire.

"We're here to break into a prison. What say I hit it and see what happens?"

Last edited by Gralhruk; 15th of August, 2008 at 02:05.
  #7  
Unread 15th of August, 2008, 03:18
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"If Paul is right, and that thing is the prison, you could kill them all." Hardball says. "Let's see what the Shadow thinks first."
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Unread 16th of August, 2008, 11:22
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"Having a Demon forcibly shackled to my soul does not make me an expert on the occult", says The Shadow. "Still, I do have some... experiences... to draw upon that may lend a clue. Give me a moment to study this further."

Last edited by Cromwell; 16th of August, 2008 at 13:05.
  #9  
Unread 18th of August, 2008, 03:20
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The Shadow methodically moves across the front of the horrific slab, studying the door intently. After a few minutes he turns and addresses the group. "These stains appear to be dried blood which oozed from the slab itself. While this reinforces the theory that this is no ordinary bas relief it doesn't reveal any clues as to what type of ritual is needed to open the door."

Turing back to the slab he says, "There are no handles or visible hinges so pulling it open does not seem feasible. Perhaps... a push? The demon guarding it was super strong, maybe it just slides back."

Turning once again, The Shadow directs his empty gaze towards Nick and then Hardball. "I suggest the two of you try that first. If that doesn't work, perhaps we try destroying the marble facade which surrounds the slab and then we might be able to pry it away."
  #10  
Unread 18th of August, 2008, 16:58
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He's got a demon "forcibly shackled" to his soul? Jeeezus Christ. What have you gotten yourself into, J.C.? Hardball glances over at the mangled remains of the Armani then back to the Shadow.

"Good thinking. Pushing sounds like a plan. Let's start with that."
  #11  
Unread 19th of August, 2008, 09:53
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Gingerly placing his hands over the twisted, blood oozing sculpture, Hardball begins to press against the iron slab.

Nothing.

Fine…be that way. Cords of shining metallic muscle spring to life, quivering with the power of his godlike strength. Spider web like cracks sprout from the granite under JC’s feet and the wall around the slab.

Nothing.

Teeth barred Hardball digs deep; taking a half step forward he drives his foot into the stone, sending up a spray of bullet like granite shards.

Nothing.

He moves his other foot up and sinks it into the stone of the dais. Ankle deep in rock, he finally has the footing to bring every ounce of strength to bear. The room fills with the low groan of his exertion and the erratic staccato of cracking stone.

“You might want to be careful with that,” a voice like iced silk says from behind them.
  #12  
Unread 20th of August, 2008, 08:13
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“Yeah. Right.” Hardball stands there for a moment, still leaning into the door. This chick with the voice made for phone sex had to be her—the Widow. Guess it’s time for a boss fight, he thinks to himself as he eases off the door and turns around casually to inspect the owner of the voice.

And she does not disappoint.

“Incredibly hot” wouldn’t begin to describe her and do her justice. She’s dressed like a Victoria’s Secret model on her way to the S&M ball and does for naughty what Gabrielle does for nice.

“So,” he says. “you’re her. I’ll try asking first. We’re here for the students. I don’t suppose you’d just give them to us, would you? Something makes me think no, though. Probably because you’re already dressed for a spanking.”
  #13  
Unread 22nd of August, 2008, 05:24
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The dark haired woman’s laughter chills the room.

“That’s not bad, snappy with just a hint of sex and violence. Have you been practicing?”

“Lady, I don’t have to practice. I’m perfect.”

She laughs again. “How wonderfully…” her voice trails off as her eyes drift over Hardball’s sculpted form. “…heroic.”

“Look. I’m flattered. Really. You’re pretty hot…for an older lady. But can we just get to the fight? Your Ms. Robinson vibe is creeping me out worse than the whole S&M black magic things you’ve got going on.”

"Now why would you want to do that?' her voice is like cloying incense. Suddenly she is behind him, her arms draped across his shoulders. She runs the tips of her long, red fingernails suggestively along his jaw line. "Don't you like it here?"

Through half lidded eyes Hardball looks out over the marble banister of the patio onto the placid blue green waters of the Mediterranean. A light breeze brings the smell of jasmine, and gently stirs the thin drapes of the adjoining bedroom.

“Well?’ her breath is hot against his ear, and he can feel her nakedness against his back.

His entire body shudders. This is not why he's here. He closes his eyes and tries to focus on the people he is here to rescue. People waiting somewhere in the nameless dark. Waiting for him. Just like Mexico.

"Lady," he hisses through gritted teeth, "Get... out... of... my... head!"

“Still playing the hero?” she whispers as she lightly kisses the nape of his neck. “Why? Heroes fall, or are cast aside when the public tires of them.” Blazing white teeth tease at his ear, “You are a god. Every inch of you should be worshipped.”

“Let me worship you…”

Hardball rests his hands on the marble banister and closes his eyes, sinking into the moment. What about me? he thinks. Isn't this what I wanted? Don't I count? Don't I deserve… crimson nails streak redly across his chest.

…to be worshipped?

J&P

Last edited by -J-; 22nd of August, 2008 at 15:46.
  #14  
Unread 22nd of September, 2008, 10:12
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Starfire stands a bit away from the others as they inspect the grotesquely carved slab of iron, small jets of superheated plasma arcing lazily across her naked, burning skin. She stands there, relishing the feeling of her mutant power as it courses through her being. So raw and uncontrolled, she feels like she is dangling off the ledge of a building just about to fall.

She has never felt so alive…

…never felt so…free.

Closing her eyes she bites her lip to keep herself from laughing giddily. Call her a mutant, or a metahuman or a god, she didn’t care. She is free. She is special. She is…

“BITCH LOOK AT ME WHEN I’M TALKING TO YOU!”

Jerry’s shrill voice is punctuated by the back of his hand crushing against the side of her face. Pain lances into her skull as her jaw momentarily pops out of and then back into socket. The world spins sickeningly as she sprawls out across the floor of their kitchen.

Her mind reels as she realizes where she is.

Home…

With him

The smell of cheap bourbon washes over her as rough hands hook into her hair and yank her to her feet.

“YOU WHORE! YOU FUCKING WHORE!” Jerry screams as he pitches her face first into the knick-knack hutch Dani’s grandmother had willed her. Glass lacerates her arms and face as its shatters under her weight.

This can’t be happening…this can’t be happening… is all she can think.

But the pain is all too real.

His cursing reaches a frenzied level, all but drowning out the sound of his heavy military issue boots as they crunched over glass. In a panic Dani scrambles for the bedroom, oblivious to the jagged vitric teeth that chew at her hands and knees.

Get in the bedroom. Lock the door. Bits of memories begin to flash through the haze of pain and fear. Jerry had come home early and caught her talking on the phone to Carl. Carl was a slight man, older than both Dani and Jerry. He was her secret confidant, the only person who seemed to care about her and her feelings. He was the one point of stability in the chaos of her life, and her only real friend. He was also Jerry’s superior officer, and Jerry hated him. He hated the fact Carl went to college. He hated the man’s lack of physique. And the nicer Carl tried to be to Jerry the more Jerry hated him for it.

A few feet from the door Jerry catches up to her. His hand clamps vice-like on her ankle, sending her belly first onto the mounds of broken glass and ceramic figurines. With a tug he begins dragging her back into the living room, his ranting now nothing more than an incoherent string of swearing.

It’s like being drug across a cheese grater.

Her bloody hand claw at the cheap linoleum flooring as she struggles to break free. Out of the corner of her eye she spots the large metal ashtray Jerry had made out of some vehicle part. Snatching the metal dish off the floor she throws it wildly behind her. With a muted ring the ashtray skips off the side of Jerry’s head, leaving a gushing wound in its wake.

With a thud Jerry drops her bloody leg to the floor and just stands there. Holding her breath Dani watches as he absently probes the wound with his finger, before slowly turning to face her, his face strangely calm. He stares at her quivering, bleeding body for a long time before he turns and calmly walks out of the room.

Dani doesn’t exhale until she hears the slam of the door leading into the garage. He’s done, she says to herself as she slowly gets to her feet. Now he’ll go drive around for a few hours and come back even drunker. He’ll cry and say how he didn’t mean it and how he can’t help himself, and how it was really all her fault anyway. He’ll be gentle, and remorseful and buy her something they couldn’t afford and say all the things he used to say when they were dating and he was the man she wanted to marry. And she would forgive him, because she loved him and she had nowhere else to go.

And because it really was all her fault anyway.

The sound of the door to the garage whipping open makes her jump, and the rapid staccato of his hard heeled boots drives her stomach into her throat.

He never came back this soon.

An instant later he is standing on the other end of the living room, his face bloody and a long, dull aluminum baseball bat rigidly erect in his grip.

“You fucking whore,” his says slowly, his words pregnant with violence.

He’s going to kill me.

No sooner does the realization hit then he starts towards her. Spinning on her lashed feet, Dani lunges for the bedroom again. Jerry’s first swing is flat, striking her solidly on her right shoulder. Blind panic keeps her on her feet, but the force of the blow sends her stumbling across a low coffee table. The bat again whistles through the air, but in his rage Jerry misses. Kicking the remnants of the table into his path, Dani scuttles backward, trying in vain to get away.

The bat swishes menacingly through the air as her husband rains blow after blow upon her. The bones in Dani’s arms crack and splinter as she desperately tries to protect herself. The house echoes with her screams and begging, but all the while Jerry remains eerily silent. Throwing the bat aside he straddles her prone form and wraps his finger around her throat. The world begins redden as she impotently claws at his face and chest with her crippled limbs. His blood drips hotly onto her lips and face, as his whispered mantra is lost to the pounding of heart in her ears.

“You fucking whore…you fucking whore…”

Last edited by -J-; 22nd of September, 2008 at 10:16.
  #15  
Unread 20th of October, 2008, 02:14
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Magical prison… the thought sends a hyper-kinetic shudder through Paul's body as he stares at the iron slab, the flickering light of the brazier contorting the already inhumanly twisted figures.

Imprisoned…

…in that darkness.

Blind.


He can feel the utter blackness above crushing down on him. Keeping his gaze away he fidgets with his shirt collar loosening the silk tie even more to no avail as the air around him presses in suffocatingly. Glancing back at his companions he watches as their movements slow, and their syllables grow longer. Even the dancing flames now draw still, their bright sheets of combusting gases frozen in place.

What the fuck? The fire it's solid. no the plasma is visible. I can see the layers. Did I just go hyperspeed?

"What's the matter Paul, all alone?"

The young man's head snaps to the voice. His enormous eyes fixate on her form, his pupils narrow and sweat blossoms on his upper lip. The terror is real, but suddenly it's known. SHE is there in front of him and does not look at all like Polnoch's sister in a pant suit. Instead she's awe-inspiring in an ultraviolet radiance somehow vaguely like the living model for the queen in Snow White. Now there's no more guessing and the terror becomes merely biological as a crazy calm sweeps over Paul.

"I'd rather be. Do you mind leaving?"

"Aww...now you hurt my feelings," she says over a pouting lip. "But if that's what you want...." her lips pull into a snarl as her eyes turn to pitch. Above him he can feel it coming. Saucer like eyes dart upward, then widen in disbelief.

The darkness is alive.

Bands of black nightmares made real coil and lash down at him from above. The urge to run explodes with icy panic in his mind, and before a cogent thought can even filter through the blind desire to flee, he's already three steps down the dais. By the fourth step something latches onto his ankle and sends him sprawling. He struggles to break free, his fingers clawing at the stone as he flails about. Half turning he catches sight of his tormentor;

His shadow.

Rising off the ground his shadow draws itself upright, the perfect void of Paul's form.

fuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuck

Stretching a black arm upward it reaches towards the ceiling and a ropey tendril of nothingness stretches down in response. The two touch and instantly fuse into one.

"NO!"

With a jerk Paul is yanked off the floor, his body wildly thrashing as he is hauled upwards.

"NONONONONONONONONONONONONO!"

Emptiness pours into his mouth silencing his cries as he plunges into the abyss above.


J & E
  #16  
Unread 2nd of November, 2008, 22:49
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That silky sweet voice. Jack supresses a shudder as he turns to face her, the Widow in black. His voice catches in his throat. She was aptly named, beyond beautiful yet so obviously deadly, something more than human. More than a match, too, for a mere mortal like himself. He knew it, and when Hardball feigned boredom he felt a momentary triumph: J.C. would see them through. Short lived, that. The big man's words died in his throat and he went slowly immobile. Jack watched, horrified, as space seemed to blur. He couldn't tell if the door somehow expanded or if Hardball slid back toward it, but it was slowly, painfully, enveloping him. Jack grabbed onto one gleaming forearm and pulled, but it was useless against the inexorable joining. Tendrils of the door slithered over Hardball, and then his eyes snapped open, aware. Jack could see the pain, the absolute horror there and he pulled harder. No use, still, and then one of those tendrils brushed across his skin.

The hours of torment in Prague didn't compare to that one instant of agony. Without thinking, he let go. Hardball bellowed as the stuff flowed over him, Jack reached forward again but there was nothing to grab. Their eyes meet at the last second, before he is gone, and in that instant Jack can see the contempt, the hate, written on the other man's face. I knew you were weak the big man seemed to say, and then he was gone. Shattered, Jack staggers back, suddenly aware that Harball isn't the only one accosted. All of his companions are suffering the same fate, and suddenly, like a switch turning on, he can hear - feel - their torment. Vainly, he tries to find some way to stop it as one by one they succumb, drawn inextricably into the door, the prison, the trap. He screams, pounds on the red stained, massive, depraved door. Their screams still echo, until he realizes that it isn't an echo. He can hear them, feel them, in his head. He'd let them down, all of them. The noise, the knowledge; it pushed him to the brink of madness, to the abyss in his soul.

"Jack."

Again, the silky sweet voice. He groans, a mix of pain, hate, and something else. Rage builds inside him at the injustice of it all, the prisoners, the heroes, his life. Never good enough. He'd bust them out, save the day, shove it all down the throat of that sadistic bitch. Like he did with that first spider demon, he lets the power loose, digs deep and pushes it to the limit. Disgust, shame, revulsion, all within him, but riding on top of it all is sheer, raw power. The power to affect the world, to thwart the enemy. The power to destroy.

The door twists, warps, shudders. The voices inside grow in volume and shrillness, breaking on the walls of his mind like glass shattering against his naked flesh, razor edged shards leaving trails of blood in their wake. He holds on, visions of their pain, of the Widow shrieking, all manner of sickness and suffering. His family there too, bloated, trailing ichors and cancer. Elizabeth, age spotted and wrinkled, hair falling out. Father Mike, a rotting zombie, mouth open, teeth clacking. Not enough - not enough to stop him, not enough to make him change. The door bursts with a stench like steaming vomit, the world runs in grey-red lines around him, a torrent of the sludge of death. He slumps to his knees in the wake of destruction. Nothing left alive. Withered bones poking at odd angles from the mess like dead branches. All dead. His doing.

Silky sweet laughter behind.

He looks up from ruin and into the salvation of her eyes - Elizabeth, young again, untainted by his curse. He crushes her to him, weeping, feeling her nakedness against his own. Jack forgets, then, everything that happened since that first time they were together, runs to that last happy place locked and hidden in his mind, shuts himself in, all nightmare and darkness shut out. She laughs, then - low, sweet, sexy - and his body responds, lost in an impossible moment. Music in the background - The Smithereens, Blood and Roses.

"Oh, Jack."

She lifts a glass and drizzles liquid down her neck; his nostrils flare as he licks it from her body. Jack.

"Yes, for Jack."

He drinks more, feeling the warm liquor infuse his body, blur the edges of the vision. Time no longer exists and he is lost, lost within the heat and the passion and memories come to life. Drunk on it all. Behind Blue Eyes now.

Bliss. She lay atop him, after, snuggling. He raised his glass - full again - and took a long swallow. The world was fuzzy, but warm. The staccato sound of Ulrich's drums, the steely guitar of Kirk Hammett. One. He brushes a dark lock of her hair back. She turns slightly, then sits up - still on top - and smiles down at him.

The Widow.

She plants a red nailed hand on his chest as he attempts to rise. It all comes back to him in a rush and his head spins. She pours the bottle down his throat and he swallows involuntarily, to keep from drowning in it all.

"It's okay Jack, it's okay."

She grinds down on him at the same time she leans close and whispers in his ear. He fights at first, but she whispers silky sweet, body hot against his. She understood what it was like, to have harm come from good intent. To be burdened with something that wasn't your fault. It didn't have to be that way, she could help. She could sooth, with body and mind and drink. Things could stay just

like

this.




G & J
  #17  
Unread 8th of November, 2008, 23:44
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Besh’enahael imbraugh shauur

Kat sits in what was once the white abyss of her mental prison repeating the words of power. All around her lines of swirling magic ebb and flow and with every breath she can feel the emtiness around her weakening.

Besh’enahael imbraugh shauur

Every syllable resonates within her mind, expanding it until her fleshy limitations fall away. She sits, and with every breath becomes somethign greater.

Besh’enahael imbraugh shauur

It is like she is touching the mind of God.

Even her once fragmented memories have knit together, and in her heightened state she is able to view them all in crystaline clarity. She can remember the smell of the grass and pavement from when she first fell off her bike at the age of three, the taste of her first birthday cake, the license plate of every car they passed on their summer trip to North Dakota when she was 10. The sheer volume of her memories threaten to drown her. It is like watching a thousand movies at full volume all at once and actually being able to understand them. It is in the midst of this deluge that she first notices it; a dead spot. A small patch of nothingness in a sea of blinding stimulus. Focusing her will, she brings the memories to the fore.

It was right after her eighth birthday, and she was upstairs "sleeping". Through the walls she could hear her mother and father arguing with someone, someone she knew but whose voice she just couldn't place. They were arguing about her.

"You don't seem to understand the gravity..." the strange voice said evenly.
"UNDERSTAND!" her mother yelled.
"Emma, please," her father was always the diplomat.
"I can't believe you're even listening to him!" Emma's empassioned voice struggled behind her clentched teeth.
"Its only temporary Em, besides..."
"Temporary? Can you temporarily remove a person's soul? Can you? Look at him, he's not even sure it will work!"
"Its only a matter of time before they come again. What if they come while we're away? What if they come for her while she's in school, or with her friends?"
"All the more reason to train her harder to..."
"SHE'S ONLY EIGHT EM!" Her father's raised voice send dagger of panic into her stomach. Her father never raised his voice, especially to her mother.
"Don't you dare Jean-Pierre, don't you dare agree to this. Jean...JEAN!" There was a sound like lightning punctuated by the splintering of wood. Suddenly the floor next to her bed flashed with red glyphs and a tall, haggered looking man rose out of them.

"Hello Amber," he says with a warm, avulcular grin. Kat's eyes snap open, around her the blue lines of magic continued their eldritch movements, but now in front of her stood the man from her memory.

Last edited by -J-; 15th of November, 2008 at 10:29.
  #18  
Unread 23rd of November, 2008, 15:04
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"What exactly did you do to me old man?" Kat wanted to be angry, but mostly she just needed to know. She had a feeling that the answer would explain...well she wasn't sure, but a lot certainly. "And why? What do they think my destiny is?"

"Are you sure that you are ready?"

Kat looks around at the magic flowing around them and then with a lift of her right eyebrow she states "If I'm not ready now, I never will be. Please, I need to know."

An instant later they are again in her room, the two of them standing in the corner as they watch the young Amber take the man's hand.
"Sleep..." the man whispers and the young girl goes limp and in a flash of crimson runes the two of them sink back into the floor. Kat turns to the older man, a question on her lips, but no sooner than her younger self disappears then the floor beneath the two of them glows red and she finds her self falling.

The falling sensation stops abruptly and she finds herself standing on a sooty, crooked spar of land that stretched out into the distant, sulfurous horizon. All around her a sea of twisting souls writhe, and the sobbing shrieks of an eternity of suffering crashes down on her.

She is in Hell.

Literally.

Ahead of them she can see her younger self being carried down the warped stone path, tormented shades and demons alike skittering away from the thin man and his charge. Kat stares after their doubles as their forms blur from the acrid fumes. She suddenly felt like Scrooge in Dante's version of "A Christmas Carol". She glances at the face of her guide, wondering if he looked exactly like his younger self because he somehow didn't age, or because he is just a figment of her imagination - or worse, a figment of Widow's.

A flash of red, and once again Kat is falling. This time she finds herself in a roughly hewn stone chamber. In the center is a low altar of black stone, set with blasphemous silver runes. The dim room is lit by squat bronze braziers which line the circular chamber's wall, each one demarcating one of the apexes of a pentagram. It takes Kat a moment for her eyes to adjusted to the guttering firelight, and when they do she can make out six figures all clad in dark red robes hemmed with gold arcane symbols. Gilded mask made to resemble demonic beasts cover the faces, and in their hands they all held long rods of black, twisted metal. Standing next to the altar is the man in the rumpled suit, and lying on its blood stained surface is Kat's still sleeping younger self. Evil fills the room, a dark foreboding malice which permeates every shadow and drips from every chanted syllable. In her dream form the older Kat can't help but shudder as she somehow understands the demonic words around her.

We call upon the Fallen Ones to hear us
We call upon the power of the black Sephiroth to give us strength
We call upon the power of Nahemoth to profane us - Nahema who profanes the pure, we invoke thee!
We call upon the power of Gamaliel to make us obscene - Lilith whisperer of the obscene, we invoke thee!
We call upon the power of Samael to make us wicked - Adramelek bringer of discord, we invoke thee!
We call upon the power of Harab Serap to make us victorious - Baal Chanan the tyrant, we invoke thee!
We call upon the power of Togarini to lead us to temptation - Belphegor who binds the righteous, we invoke thee!
We call upon the power of Golab to grant us vengeance - Asmodeus the fallen into flames, we invoke thee!
We call upon the power of Gamchicoth to harden our hearts - Astaroth bringer of turmoil, we invoke thee!
We call upon the power of Satharial to hide us from the light - Lucifuge who occludes the divine light, we invoke thee!
We call upon the power of Chaigidiel to give us insight into corruption - Adam Belial who stands in the way, we invoke thee!
We call upon the power of Thaumiel to undo that which was wrought - Satan-Moloch the two headed one, we invoke thee!

Hear our calls Lords of the infernal realms and obey!

The chanting grows more frenetic, and the red robed mages begin to sway and dance as they intone their spell. Above the altar a great blackness begins to grow, and with it Kat can feel the presence of the truly profane. Kat's eyes widen as she looks upon the essence of pure evil - Astrinathax, Herald of the Infernal Council.

The man in the rumpled suit produces a enruned dagger and holds it above the young Kat's chest. He pauses a moment, then plunges the dagger downward. Kat gasps, and lunges to her younger self's aid, only to find that she cannot move. Bond in her vision she can only watch as the knife whistles through the air. The blade's tip pushes through Kat's Beauty and the Beast pajama top effortlessly, but before its needle-like tip touches her flesh, the old man jerks it back and deftly weaves it through the air. Fell words of power flow from his lips, as purple-black lightning crackles around his outstretched hand and then arcs into the chests of the six dark robed mages. Horrific cries erupt from their charring throats as the thin man's spell consumes them. In an instant it is over, leaving nothing more than wisps of smoke and traces of ash.

The man's chanting continues, and in the air where each of the mages had stood, a tiny, brilliant motes of light begin to coalesce into pulsing crystals - the immaterial soul given form.

"You have delivered as promised, Polnoch," the demon says with a pleased voice. Tendrils of foul blackness flow from it through the air to collect the glowing shards, only to have them fly from its grasp and into Polnoch's open hand.

"What is the meaning of this treachery!" the black cloud roils and flashes with blood colored lightning.

"Call your masters demon, I have a new bargain for them."

"Human, you cannot comprehend the eternity of pain that awaits you. Every day will be a parade of tortures so vile that you will think that there could not possibly be anything worse, and yet every day will be ten fold the day before. Your suffering..." A flash of light and the pungent smell of burning tobacco cuts the demon's tirade as Polnoch slowly finishes lighting his cigarette on one of the glowing souls.

"Go get your masters, demon," the thickly European sounding man sighs through a slate colored cloud.

J & Nikki

Last edited by -J-; 26th of November, 2008 at 12:56.
  #19  
Unread 1st of December, 2008, 13:37
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The black cloud churns and flashes angrily as it turns inward on its self, leaving only the smell of decay in its wake. Polnoch's nonplussed facade melts in a flurry of activity. Ribbons of arcane energy flow from his fingers into the altar, warping and altering the silver runes. Glyphs wrought to channel the energy of a sacrifice change subtly before Kat's eyes into magical symbols of protection and obfuscation. From his jacket pocket he produces two small turquoise stones both shaped like scarab beetles. Bending over he quickly inserts one into the young girl's mouth, the other he reaches back and places at the base of his own head. Once secured, he pauses, leans both hands against the dark altar and takes a deep breath.

Gathering his courage, he raises his right hand and then pushes it completely into his chest. His face contorts with unimaginable pain as he slowly pulls his bloodless fist free. In the dark of the cave Kat can see a glob of ethereal whiteness clenched between his fingers that intuitively the older Kat knew must be his soul. He then reaches his other hand into the body of the prone younger Kat. Pulling her soul from her writhing body, he nearly collapses before he is able to shove her soul into his body, and his soul into hers. Slumping onto altar he hangs there his breath coming in ragged gasps. Slowly the old man rights himself, and with a shaking hand pulls another cigarette from a silver holder and lights it. A few drags later his mask of ennui is once again perfectly in place.

Just in time for the demon's arrival.

Green, noxious flames erupt from the floor just outside of the pentagram and quickly coalesce into the shape of a tall, handsome man in a black suit. Only his completely black eyes betrayed his infernal nature - Mephistopheles, Hell's attorney. A look of mock surprise crosses the demon's face as he eyes the pentagram.

"Formalities," Polnoch says flatly.

"Indeed. Well Polnoch I hear you have a new proposition for the Council to consider?"

"I wish to retire," the thin man says and the demon's eyebrow raises slightly.

"Retire like go to bed retire, or..."

"I am old, and weary of this war. I want nothing more than to sit in a small villa along the Mediterranean and find my end in my sleep."

"Hmmm," the Mephistopheles's eyes narrow to black slits as he appraises Polnoch warily. "Perhaps you should of thought of that before you started meddling in things. You've made too many enemies on both sides for such pleasantries Polnoch," it says flashing its brilliant white teeth.

"You will grant me the Inferi Sacramentum."

The demon throws back its head, and the room resounds with its dark laughter. "The Ducal Oath? That's it?" Polnoch stares at the demon impassively as it continues to chortle. "Your hubris truly knows no bounds."

"I know of Black."

The demon's laughter dies in its throat and its face grows stern. "You know nothing, human."

"I know of him, and...his masters," he takes a long drag, consuming the rest of the cigarette and then grinding it out on the floor. "More importantly, I know for whom he searches."

"You lie."

"You forget I was there at Nan Madol. It may have been Meteor Man who threw the Basilisk Orb into Pohnpei, but it was I who repaired his mind afterwards - a mind nearly broken by the future it glimpsed. A future of Black's design."

"And you expect the Council to swear the Sacramentum on that? You waste our time human."

"The souls of six Elder Morbanes, the end of my..."meddling", and the key to undoing what has been wrought..."

"A return to the status quo?"

"Better the devil you know, than the Kings you don't." The demon chuckles again.

"And what of the girl? It seems like such a waste of a perfectly fine sacrifice."

"Even old men need their...indulgences."

The demon laughs lasciviously. Above him the Herald begins to form, its black vaporous body flashing sanguineously. Dark tendrils caress Mephistopheles's face, and from her ghostly vigil the older Kat can hear inhuman voices. At length Mephistopheles speaks.

"The Council agrees to your terms, Polnoch." Utter blackness congeals into a flat sheet before the ebon-eyed demon, and a moment later red runes begin to burn hotly across it surface - runes that carried with them the binding oaths of the Archdemons. The room fills with the smell of sulfur and death, and all around them comes the booming chants of demonic voices. When it is finished, Polnoch gestures and the black slate floats across the pentagram to his hand. Brows furrowed, the man in the rumpled suit carefully reads it.

"It needs but your signature," the demon says slyly. Unperturbed, Polnoch finishes reading and with but a thought, sends the six glowing shards through the air to the demon's eager hand. He then sinks a finger into his chest and withdraws a tiny white mote of soul. Touching it to the infernal document its crimson runes burst into blinding flames.

"It is done."
  #20  
Unread 26th of December, 2008, 02:16
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The stygian cave cracks and falls away to reveal the endless white of Kat's mental prison. She is still sitting and the lines of pale magical force still glitter and pulse around her.

Polnoch is no where to be seen, if seeing is even the right term to use.

Kat's curse echoes and thrums along the lines of magic. He would leave before she got to the important question - how the hell do I get everyone out? Kat had no doubt that the Widow had taken everyone at the party along with her into this voidless prison, but she was still not closer to getting herself out much less anyone else. He was probably the one who had thought that "beware the black spider" was a sufficient warning against the Black Widow.

Still the old man had taken terrifying risks for her and won. Amazing. But if I was granted "Inferi Sacramentum" could the Widow be using demonic powers against her? Or perhaps Kat had inadvertently done something to break the contract? Doubtful, if she had, she imagined that she would be dealing with worse than the Widow. She would have to find out later. For now she would go back to searching for a way out. If she had any one thing going for her it was that her mother was the most persistent teacher she had ever met, somewhere among these memories there would be a way out.

Nik & J
  #21  
Unread 30th of December, 2008, 15:56
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Hardball
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Last of the Titans

As the blazing red sun sets beyond the blasted landscape, light glints off something in the mountains. A single metal form, massive and naked, sits near the top of the tallest mountain in the range. He has not moved in ages, literally, but he lives—crowned King of Nothing for an airless, lifeless rock floating through the void of space.

Yet he endures.

Neither asleep nor awake, he dreams of other lifetimes. So many, they blur together in a sea of memory. He has watched as nations rise and fall. He has seen the best—and the worst—that humanity has to offer. He has borne witness to a catalog of destruction forgotten by time. He has seen the world reshaped and continents shift. He has seen species evolve. He has seen new life begin. And he has seen all life end.

Yet he endures.

He has walked among them throughout the ages, both worshiped and reviled.

Champion.
Demon.
God.

Yet he endures.

And now, as he watches the setting sun, he dreams of the end. He dreams that someday soon, that expanding sun will swell and consume the planet in its glorious, purifying blaze.

And he hopes it will be enough.
  #22  
Unread 31st of December, 2008, 05:41
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“Hardball.”

The voice flits through the fog of time that fills the titan’s mind, another eidola of ages past. The metal man’s thoughts stir for a moment, before settling back into his numb vigil.

Maybe today will be the day, he thinks as he watches the jagged peaks in the distance growing lighter. Maybe today the earth will die.

“Hardball.” The voice again drifts through his mind, pulling on his languid consciousness. He dimly recognizes the word. A name maybe? But whose?

“Hardball…you need to wake up.” After eons of silence, he finds the disturbance irritating, especially today.

The day it all ends.

No more waiting, no more enduring, no more being. Today he will be free. In the distance he can see the corona of the sun as it surges towards the airless rock that once was called Earth.

“HARDBALL!” The voice is so loud that the very fabric of reality seems to vibrate around him.

No.

Not today.

Not when he is so close.

“WAKE UP!”
The world around him buckles and finally shatters revealing an expanse of limitless white.

No.

“Hardball?” A young woman in black is standing in front of him, her blue eyes hungrily searching for some sort of comprehension. Hardball stares at her for a long time before slowly nodding.

“Come on big guy, let’s get you out of here.”

He was so close.
  #23  
Unread 2nd of January, 2009, 09:35
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Hardball continues to stare at the young woman in front of him. Now, at the end of all things, he is no longer alone.

So long alone…

No.

The floodgates of memory open, and four-and-a-half million years of history wash backward through his mind, taking him back to the beginning. Back to the day when he led a team of special young people into the Widow’s lair to save the day.

He stands, not sure which reality to believe. But he's here now, so he'll go with this one.

“What’s our head count? Is this everybody?”

Last edited by Hardball; 2nd of January, 2009 at 14:05.
  #24  
Unread 3rd of January, 2009, 08:07
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She remembers now. She did it. She enjoyed doing it. A person can only take so much...

Starfire opens her eyes and looks around. The reality had changed so suddenly. One minute she had been alone at the center of a firestorm, and the next minute she finds herself shivering in the middle of a crowd of people. Well, not exactly a crowd. She is in a fairly large room that is roughly hewn from stone, and there is a scattering of people spread out along the floor. At first glance, none of them seem familiar.

“What’s our head count? Is this everybody?”

It's Hardball's voice. Starfire looks over with relief to see the metal man standing head and shoulders above the rest.

"I"m here," she says raising her hand, and discovers why she is shivering - she's naked. Tattered pieces of spider silk cocoon are all that cover her. She ducks down and grabs another couple handfuls of the webbing, and drapes it around herself as best she can.

So what had happened? She guesses that it had been some kind of mental attack. It had certainly seemed completely real. She'd believed that Jerry had somehow found her and was about to kill her. And in desperation she had finally retaliated. She'd watched the flames melt his flesh from his bones, and then she had incinerated those too.

Starfire shakes her head. She doesn't want to remember anything else. Besides, there's no time now to look back on it. They have to finish this mission.

"Hardball, I'm here!" she says again, standing up. She walks among the disoriented college kids and finds Paul first, and then Jack, Nick, and Colin. They all gather around Hardball and the young woman in black who seems to have had a hand in freeing them from the cocoons.

"Nightwind?" Starfire asks. "We're the Titans. We're here to, uh... rescue you."

Last edited by Kelemyn; 3rd of January, 2009 at 08:19.
  #25  
Unread 5th of January, 2009, 01:50
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Tashiba
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Kat is exhausted. It is all she can do to stand on her feet without looking like she is about to fall down. She had never done that much magic at the same time. Well she'd never really done magic before. It had all seemed like such a lesson in futility - her mom teaching her magic she couldn't access. Well apparently now she can. As if her life hadn't gotten strange enough the day she had discovered she could fly.

She knows that Hardball has made some kind of request for a head count but forming words seems beyond her right now. She had found her friends; Sam, Jeff, Jessie, Stan and Brad, though their thoughts had only been so much gibberish at the time. Please gods - any gods - let them recover from this. She had found Hamilton. She had found three of the sorority girls that Stan and Brad had been flirting with - their names were now firmly etched on her brain. She had found the Titans and so many people that she had previously not known or concerned herself with.

She focuses to see a beautiful women, barely covered by webbing, coming towards her. No towards Hardball.

"Nightwind?" she asks. "We're the Titans. We're here to, uh... rescue you."

It is the uncertainty in the words more than the irony that reminds Kat that this voluptous beauty identifies herself as Starfire.

Remembering that Beauty had been covering her when she had fought her way out of her own cocoon and that she was indeed supposed to be in her Nightwind personae, Kat very carefully puts a smile on her face - lest it pull her off balance.

"I'm certain you did. I doubt that I would have been able to pull myself together long enough to rescue myself much less anyone else if you had not distracted the Widow and her creatures." Turning to Hardball, she states. "I've opened all the cocoons in this room. I don't know if there are more rooms. There were certainly more people at the party I was at, but the Widow may not have taken them all."

Thoughts of the Widow still make her want to shake so she forces herself to push past them.

"I don't suppose somebody knows how to get out of here?" Nightwind asks plaintively.
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Last edited by Tashiba; 5th of January, 2009 at 02:32.
 

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