Edgedancer

What Happened In Astoria

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They had been walking for hours. Or rather, they would have been, had time been moving with them.

Eternity knew little of their intended destination, other than that it was somewhere to the south. Bringing enough air out of time to communicate was difficult, and it wasn't worth it just for an explanation. Doubly so when said explanation gave Truce an opportunity to gloat.

Slowly, the trees were thinning. Truce motioned for him to stop, before taking a few steps to the edge of the treeline. From what Eternity could see, there appeared to be a river ahead, with a few indistinct shapes that could have been buildings on the far side. ...Oregon, then? Accord is getting bolder.

Instantly, the world filled with sound again. Water flowed somewhere nearby; wind blew softly through the trees.

"What business does Accord have in Oregon?"

"Not just Oregon. Lucentia's domain. Look."

At the river's edge, things were clearer. The Diamond City sprawled on the far side, glittering ethereally under an alien sky. The river itself was dominated by a massive, improbably perched castle, like something out of a storybook. Carved from perfect blue-white ice, it stood guard over only bridge.

"You didn't answer my question."

"You don't need to know."

After a moment, Truce relented. She had never been good at holding her tongue. "For now, we're going to raise a bit of a fuss. Over the bridge and straight to the palace in real time, stopping for nothing and no one save Lucentia herself."

Eternity grunted. While surprising, if Accord wanted to give offence to some of the strongest Epics in the Fractured States, that wasn't his business. Maybe one of them would finally kill the slontze. "Let's go, then."

Truce looked back at him, a little puzzled. "I'm disappointed, Eternity. I was expecting more of a reaction to such a lunatic plan."

"I can't die. While that protection currently extends to you, to my great annoyance, that means Accord is the only one endangered by this venture. His death would be to my benefit. I see no reason not to continue."

She blinked. Only once, but any break in her composure was a victory for Eternity. "That is fair, I suppose." She took a breath and smoothed her dress, turning towards the bridge. "We'd best be going."

As they approached, the massive scale of the bridge and castle became more apparent. It was rare for an elementalist Epic to be able to produce and control that much matter. The only one that immediately came to mind was Lucentia, and most considered her to be a rather singular case.

The guardhouses at the bridge's base were somewhat less impressive; sturdy but ultimately mundane wooden constructions. Several armed persons could already be seen milling around outside.

"The fuss you were looking for?"

"Not exactly."

A few yards closer, and one of the guards finally raise their weapon, obviously judging them to be within shouting distance. "Hold! There is a toll, if you wish to cross!"

Glancing at Truce, Eternity raised an eyebrow. She shook her head subtly.

"Hold! I will shoot if you do not respond!" Do your worst.

The rifle flashed, and the world stopped. A bullet sat in the air about a foot from his chest. He could see the subtle distortion in the air behind it from the spreading shockwave. Center of mass. Professional. 

Reaching out, he touched it lightly. It instantly seemed to become more real, somehow, jumping back into true being as if called to life. It shot forward, thudding into Eternity's ribs. Bright spots swam in his vision as he staggered back. It felt like he'd been hit by a sledgehammer, even though he stayed unmarked as the bullet fell silently to the ground. 

The rifle's crack finally reached his ears. As if nothing was amiss, he and Truce continued to walk.

Another cluster of bullets followed, some aimed at Truce, others at Eternity. To an outside observer, none of them connected. 

They were within a few yards of the bridge before the guards finally gave up and fled. Absently, Eternity rubbed his chest. The pain had faded, but the memory was still sharp. Truce glanced sideways, curious, but, for once, held her tongue. 

"I imagine whatever Epic created this place is on their way. Solely human guards would be too easy."

They'd better be. Eternity stayed silent, simply reaching up to adjust the spear slung across his back.

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Winterspell was quietly sitting, sipping his tea when the alarm bell rang throughout his castle. Sigh

Lightwrought glanced out the window, waving away the servant that had been giving her a foot massage. "Hmm.... Looks like a few would-be intruders at the north end of the bridge. They must be Epics, or the guards would have dealt with them by now."

Winterspell rolled his eyes. "More Epic intruders? They better not be sent by our friend up north. Surely he would not be so stupid as to have his Epics walk onto my bridge so openly." The 'friend' he referred to was, of course, Dragoon.

Lightwrought chuckled. "Well, I'm sure you will make short work of them, my dear." Winterspell frowned and raised a radio to his face.
"Get Kinesis into position to bombard these two intruders. He is too useful to be idle, legs or no legs. I also want a read on their powers from Tag immediately."

With that, he walked into the wall, ice parting and reforming perfectly around him, and moved himself to the end of the bridge, remaining entirely encased and hidden within the ice of his fortress. When he reached the end of the bridge, he raised himself upwards, high than ground level, standing on a pillar of ice. "Greetings," He began, as the two Epics looked up at him. "What brings you to my domain?"

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Bioterror stalked his quarters, his new tail lashing behind him as he paced back and forth.

"Bloody teleporters." He growled. "Breaking my eye contact, making me need to actually fight seriously."

But that wasn't even the worst thing, the worst thing was that the shadowy one had managed two things that Bioterror simply did not allow. To actually have the nerve to escape when Bioterror had decided to kill the Epic, and taking along all the other with him! But worst of all was that he had trapped Bioterror, rendered one of the strongest of Epics powerless until he'd escaped from that prison of darkness.

The wall creaked as he spun around, tail smashing into it at high speeds.

"Not enough, it's still not enough."

His pupils thinned into reptilian slits, a cold, hungry gaze.

Bioterror was hungry again. He didn't feel true hunger, not since his transformation. But it was similar to the sensation he remembered from years ago, a yearning for more, the need to fill his body. But now he doubted that some cold pizza would quite do the trick.

His hand was already on the door, ready to leave and begin hunting. But then he shook his head, resuming his prowling again.

"New city, new ruler, need to play nice." He reminded himself.

But oh how that chafed, to be told what to do, to know that he had to deny his own pleasure for the sake of someone else.

I need a distraction.

But all he wanted was to chase down that bloody Epic and snap his neck like a twig.

Perhaps there was another way to get stronger, a way he dimly remembered from some of his early, hazy memories of being an Epic...

Bioterror took a deep breath, closing his eyes and recalling it.

Remember. Remember the feeling, the way you directed the power, directing that incredible destructive energy inwards, focus it..

Muscles relaxed, shoulders drooped, his tail ceased its thrashing.

Now, focus on all that unnecessary energy and eliminate it.

Colour vision? Pointless, distracting.

He opened his eyes slowly to a world dyed in black and white.

Digestive system? Don't need that anyway, redundant.

An odd sense of nausea arose as he shut down all metabolism is his stomach and intestinal tract.

Immune system? Also redundant, healing takes care of that anyway.

His blood grew hot as various cells grew quiet.

Sense of touch? Heat, cold both unnecessary right now, pain would only be a distraction, I need only my balance.

His body grew numb as his nerve endings slowly silenced.

In this dull, grey world, Bioterror took all that wasted energy... and chanelled it.

Active vision? Ramp it up to 11, force all that information through. Increase the energy consumption of the optic nerve, channel more blood to the primary visual cortex, process everything, see everything.

His eyes darted across the room, taking in every flaw in the woodwork, pupils expanding and contracting to fast to follow as his focus shifted from one spot to the next, blood vessels expanded, giving him an even more deranged look.

Next, plan your action, increase flow to the frontal lobe, focus it into the motor cortex.

The world began to slow as his eyes continued to move, his mind racing to make sense of all the visual information.

It comes easier now, more focus means more control, now... continue to adjust the brain activity and then pour all the excess into muscle fibres, force all the energy into them, force them to contract so fast they tear, create such explosive acceleration that not even a teleporter could react.

An inconceivably fast blur of flesh and then, suddenly, the gentle dripping sound of blood falling to the floor.

Colour returned to the world, everything went back to it's normal speed and Bioterrors eyes regained their ordinary motion. And an incredible burst of pain was felt through his entire body, but most noticeably in his arm.

Blood was flying back up into the wounds as his healing began to take effect but even so it was not an instantaneous process and his arm had been...

"Destroyed huh? Guess I'll need to work out how to make it stronger first."

His hand hung limply, held onto his wrist by only a few strands of muscle, his fingers were in even worse shape, several bones had been shattered completely and the shards were still making their way back from across the room.

It wasn't just his arm though, more blood fell from his eyes as ruptured vessels spilled their contents, the muscles throughout his body screamed in agony as they reknit themselves after having been forced to tear themselves into shreds, his brain felt like the mother of all migraines was visiting as it scrambled to make sense of the sudden shift in sensory information again combined with the rapidly changing blood pressure.

Forcibly calming his heart rate, he waited for his flesh to finish reverting to its previous state before flexing his hands before him.

"Not enough still. But better." He grunted, before closing his eyes again.

Bioterrors powers were not gentle, even when he used them on himself, even with the utmost concentration and focus it was far too violent. But it was a violent world, and if his body was going to be torn into pieces it was going to be by his own doing, not that of another Epic.

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Harkness clapped once. “Fantastic, I’m gonna go look for the moron that could destroy this entire city block in a new York minute, you run ahead and order some Enchiladas at this Crystal Duck restaurant. Sounds like a plan.” Then without a second to answer, Harkness reached down and picked up Antimatters pistol from his body-which was slowly decaying into that nasty tasting ash- and then shot himself in the head.

                He felt a rush of energy. Energy that had once made him sick every time he felt it. Now he felt excited every time he used it. It was a fast and sudden thing, like blinking, but when he opened his eyes, he was in a room looking out at a street containing two quickly decaying corpses and Mr. Death-Genie.

                Smiling, Harkness stuck the weapon into his jacket pocket and walked out the room with merry whistle.

 

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Ragnarok shivered against a tree.

                Something was wrong. But that much was obvious. But he couldn’t tell what! There was too much. He couldn’t tell what was real anymore. He saw floating words in the air, meaningless symbols that were etched into the ground. Shadows of figures that shouldn’t be there. Watching him at the corners of his vision. He couldn’t blink.

                Where was he? Outside of Astoria he knew. But where else? He had flown quickly, trying to resist the pain in his head. He had landed and that’s when the figures had begun to run from his vision.

                 Blinking brought them closer. Their whispering became louder. Words he couldn’t understand but somehow he recognized.

                He just didn’t know what was happening. He was always in control. There was always something he could do.

But not anymore. He had tried to grab them with his TK but they remained elusive to his power.

                Ahead of him they were moving, gathering behind trees and bushes whispering. They gathered into one place and began approaching him. He scrambled back against the tree as they merged into one figure. She had a slender build and long brown hair. But it was her eyes, bright blue eyes that calmed him as she approached.

                “It’s okay,” she said. “You can rest now,”

                And with that Ragnarok slumped against the hard surface of the tree and fell asleep.

                The nightmares greeted him.

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The Adventurer released Lockvaults arm as the two of them returned to their underground base. After the fight that morning they had explored the rest of the city searching for other quests or some more players to try and challenge that boss again.

In the end the two had returned here with little to show for it other than a slightly better understanding of the cities layout.

"But then again there's no strategy guide so we've kind of got to just keep forcing our way through til we find the critical path."  The Adventurer commented lazily as he threw himself into a couch.

He pulled a fork out of one of his pockets, pilfered during one of the many house raids he'd performed that day and used it to dig into a plate of spaghetti that lay nearby.

"Unless maybe there's a guild or something nearby. Might be worth looking into later." He mumbled through a mouth of food.

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Lockvault glanced at the adventurer warily, wishing he understood more than every third word out of the kids mouth. 'Let's see,' he thought, 'guild...' Nothing that he could remember told him anything about guilds. " Sure," he said cautiously, " though maybe we should check out the local royalty. Maybe they built in a political factor." Lockvault watched him, measuring his response.

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Part 1 of a collab between Aonar Faileas and me

 

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They had only taken a few steps onto the bridge when its owner appeared. Rising up through the bridge's surface like a swimmer from water, he was obviously the Epic that had constructed it.

"What is your business in my domain?"

Truce stopped, and Eternity fell into line just behind and to the left. He stayed silent. Diplomacy wasn't his job.

Truce put on a mask of a pleasant smile, and spoke lightly, although her eyes stayed as cold as ever. "We have none. Yours is simply the most convenient passage into Lucentia's. Do you happen to know if the Queen is in?"

.............................................

Tag's voice barked in Winterspell's ear as he listened to their question. "Be careful of the guy, boss, he has temporal manipulation. He's a powerful one, might be able to trap you outside of time, or something. Can't be harmed, either, looks like he can stop time before being hurt. As for the broad, she's just a vanilla."

The Ice King smiled. An interesting pair, with the vanilla doing the talking. Although some epics preferred it that way. Perhaps this man, with his time manipulation, could serve him in removing the High Epics of Astoria..... yes.... this could work nicely.

He finally replied to her question. "Well, I am sorry to say that she is unavailable at the moment. But she should only be a few days away. Perhaps you would be interested in staying at my keep until she returns? I promise that I treat Epic and their retinues, even those that don't serve me, with the greatest hospitality."

......................................

 

Truce's smile became slightly more brittle. Her left hand twitched in a vague shooing motion. Eternity figured that was his cue.
The world went silent. Eternity walked up to the statue that was their greeter. Tall and strong in the way powerful Epics tended to be, he would have cut an imposing figure.

Closer now, he could see the earpiece and radio the Epic wore. Wired. None of that, now. He plucked it from the Epic's ear, throwing it off the side of the bridge. Best see who he was talking to.

It wasn't a short walk to the castle, and from there, navigating it's maze of halls to the battlements was no simple task. Eternity, however, had nothing but time.

On the battlements, two persons stuck out immediately, although several armed guards were also in attendance. One looked important enough to be a minor Epic, standing at the edge with a radio to his ear. The speaker.

He removed that radio as well. Better safe than sorry. The Epic would have a nasty shock once time restarted; although Eternity's powers exactly didn't see eye to eye with physics, things he moved still tended to leave a bit of a vacuum behind. It would probably be several days before he regained his hearing, at least.

The second point of interest was the cripple. He was a non-sequitur among the castle's personnel, confined to a wheelchair and still heavily bandaged from whatever incident had put him there. An Epic, presumably, important enough to be summoned to a meeting of Highs, even damaged as he was. Something destructive then, or perhaps defensive. Nothing to worry about though, more like than not. Disrupting communications would make their point well enough.

After a another short sweep of the battlements, Eternity leapt back to the bridge's surface. Pain flared in his legs from the many-stories fall, his vision fading momentarily before snapping back into place. A rictus grin formed on his face. It was strange. Although nothing could harm him here, his body had always seemed convinced otherwise.

Back at Truce's side, he brought her and a large chunk of atmosphere out of time to brief her on what he had found and done. She nodded once, sharply, before turning back towards the Epic.

A sharp crack sounded; the ice-Epic flinched slightly, almost imperceptibly, some fluid too pale to be blood leaking from his ear. Not wholly invulnerable, then.

Truce spoke as his expression hardened. "Does 'hospitality' include surveillance by destructive Epics and armed gunmen? While the efficacy of the gesture is moot, it does not speak well to your intentions. I believe we would rather find whomever is ruling in Lucentia's stead. Perhaps they will be able to show more decorum."

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Part 2 of a collab between Aonar Faileas and me

 

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Winterspell flinched as a sharp crack filled his ear. His earpiece was gone. His burst eardrum turned to ice and melted as a new, healed one appeared, leaking water down the side of his face. He was about to demand an explanation when the Epic's servant began talking. "Does 'hospitality' include surveillance by destructive Epics and armed gunmen? While the efficacy of the gesture is moot, it does not speak well to your intentions. I believe we would rather find whomever is ruling in Lucentia's stead. Perhaps they will be able to show more decorum."

His expression darkened as the rude cur insulted him. They march up to HIS bridge, intimidate HIS guards, and respond to his civility by assaulting him and... and.... how did they know about the other Epics?

Winterspell realized in a flash that if this... temporal Epic had frozen time to remove his earpiece, then he could have done anything. Traipsed around the castle. Killed or captured his Epics. Fear replaced anger, but tempering the fear was... greed.

Winterspell forced an icy smile. "Of course. Deathgale is ruling this city in Lucentia's stead. You will find him in the largest diamond building in the city center, no doubt you will know it when you see it. You may cross my bridge... toll-free, for my esteemed guests." With a thought, he moved himself off the bridge until he stood on a column of roiling water above the river. The pair began crossing, and he smiled evilly. With a gesture, the ground beneath the Epic and his servant collapsed and refroze, and in an eye-blink both were encased to the shoulders in ice. Not too cold, or very dangerous, of course.

He swooped towards them, towering above the struggling pair. "Lets discuss... the terms of your surrender, shall we?"

..............................

The Epic's expression darkened further, before slipping into a false smile. Eternity had no doubt almost every word was a lie, but Truce seemed satisfied, so they resumed crossing.

A moment later, they were buried up to the chest in ice.

Truce shrieked at the sudden cold. Eternity sighed. Diplomacy may not be my job, but maybe it should be.

The Epic moved closer. "Let's discuss the terms of --" Time stopped.

"My turn." Eternity grunted, pulling one arm free of the ice, then the other. With an effort of will, he heaved himself up through the ice.

He turned to face the ice-Epic. Almost as an afterthought, Eternity reached down and pulled Truce up by the hair. Her face contorted with pain. "Peon! How dare you-" Eternity caught the hand that was about to slap him, calmy twisting it into a lock. "Accord's geas has no power here, Cynthia. Don't forget that."

After a moment, he released her, turning his attention back to the Epic. Now, what would be appropriate? He looked at his surroundings, suddenly feeling very slow. Of course.

Eternity reached down, touching the surface of the bridge. His fingers sank down into the ice. He stayed that way for what would have been several minutes, concentrating on what he wanted. A portion of the ice solidified under his hand. He pulled it free, revealing a large knife, simple but razor sharp. That should do nicely.

He positioned himself just behind the Epic, and pulled him out of time. "-your surrender, shall we?"

Eternity pressed the knife against his throat. "We shall not. That was a nice trick. I can do better." He dug the knife in a little more, hard enough to cause pain. "Now, most gracious host, I belive introductions are in order."

.................................


No sooner had he begun gloating over his victory, than he felt a knife press against his throat. The Epic was gone, and the woman was freed from his ice, two holes where they had once both been trapped. His eyes widened in shock. 

"We shall not. That was a nice trick. I can do better." The Epic dug the knife in a little more, and while it wouldn't penetrate his skin, it hurt slightly. "Now, most gracious host, I belive introductions are in order."

Winterspell swallowed, quivering in rage and humiliation. "My name..." He spat. "Is Winterspell, king of Icesteel Keep, and Lord of Columbia River. Who may you be?"

..........................
 

Eternity almost laughed aloud. Pretentious much? "I go by Eternity. I hope the reasons are obvious.

"She," he said, pointing to Truce, "is known as Lady Truce. She is Accord's emissary, under his aegis, and by unfortunate extension, mine."

Eternity raised an eyebrow at Truce, wordlessly asking if she had anything to add. She shook her head slightly before adapting to the situation in her usual fashion. A short, sharp spike of metal -probably a hairpin, Eternity thought- appeared in her hand from nowhere in particular, while she stalked towards Winterspell.

"Now that you are being less... obdurate," she practically purred, running the point of the pin along his jaw, "perhaps you will answer some questions."

She stepped away, absently spinning the pin through her fingers as she started to circle the Epic. "Three questions and three true answers, and you will leave here unmolested." A hint of laughter touched her voice as she continued. "In all honesty, your life is probably only worth two, but I've always been one for tradition." She was clearly enjoying herself.

"First. Why are you so eager to detain those who have business with your liege?"

 

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Collab post between ShadowLord_Lith and Voidus


“Political factor?” The Adventurer asked curiously, not many MMOs did stuff like that, maybe some loose faction loyalty stuff but political elements were usually more in strategy games.

 

“Maybe that Metal guy would know, he seems like he’s played around in this town for a while.”

The Adventurer wasn’t quite sure what it was but something about that player had just seemed intimidating, like a veteran who’d been through every raid, was equipped with nothing but Epic level loot and hit the level cap with so many characters that he could likely do it in his sleep.

“I usually prefer solo or small parties but then I don’t usually have this many difficulties, the conversation system in this is intense, programmers must have gone all out with the AI too.”

---------------------------------------

“Yeah, I heard they made it as life-like as possible. That’s why everything is so difficult, and why everyone tries to run away from us. They notice weird things happening and get out of there fast.”

 

There, he thought, maybe that’ll help keep him out of trouble. He begged the kid, silently, not to suggest they join one of the factions he had mentioned, that would be all he needed. Especially if it was her faction. He shuddered, pushing the thought aside.

 

“So, what do we do next? Are we checking out the factions or do you have some minor objectives in mind?”

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Ragnarok woke and for the first time in a very long time he didn’t have a headache. The sensation was odd. He had lived with headaches since he was small. They had become like the noise made on the streets of a busy city, annoying and persistent and now it was as if the entire city had been emptied overnight while he slept, leaving him alone in his head.

                He arched his neck, trying to stretch the muscles in his neck. They were sore.

                “Well it’s good to see that you’re up and about.” A voice said behind him. “I was getting bored.”

                He spun and seized the person with his TK… or tried to. The person didn’t even flinch when he grabbed her. In fact, she was sitting in a camp chair with a book out and was reading. A look of disinterest across her face. She turned a page.

                He took a step back. What- no that wasn’t possible. He tried to grab her again. He felt the powers respond. He knew that they were working, but they didn’t seem to affect her.

                He stood there, arm outstretched and feeling slightly panicked. She must be some sort of canceler. How else did she withstand his Telekinetic pulls?

                “If you’re done trying to force choke me I think you have somewhere to be,” she said, turning a page. For some bizarre reason the thought occurred to him that she couldn’t possibly have read that entire page that quickly.

                “What- who are you?” he said. Raising some rocks off the ground. If he couldn’t hurt her with his TK directly maybe some well-placed rocks would-

                She sighed and closed her book. “Would you put those down, I’m fairly certain you couldn’t hurt me even if you tried landing a mountain on top of my head.”

                “I could try,” Ragnarok said.

                “Mn-hmn,” She said, “I’m sure you could. But let’s try not to waste this miraculous gift from heaven you have on smashing my face in, alright?”

                They waited in silence for a few moments, then Ragnarok released his TK allowing the heavy stones to fall to the ground. If anything, she had certainly made him curious

                “Who are you?” he demanded.

                “Just call me Lizzy.” She began walking towards him. Ragnarok frowned. There was something wrong with the way she walked. He couldn’t put a finger on it just yet though.

                “Lizzy.” He said. “That’s not much of a name for an epic.”

                “You’ll find that very little about me matches the tropes you see in other epics.” She said. She walked passed him.  He followed her with his gaze.

                It was then that Ragnarok finally realized something.

                “You’re not real are you?”

                She spun on him. “What do you mean I’m not real? I’m standing right in front of you.”

                “You’re a hallucination aren’t you? I went crazy after the battle. And you are the aftermath of what happened.”

                “I- that’s preposterous.”

                Calamity. She was a terrible liar.                

Wait. What?

                “Yeah? Then explain to me why when you walk you don’t rustle the twigs and leaves on the ground or leave tracks in the dirt.” It was hard to pay attention to actually. His mind seemed to slide of certain details about her, such as the way she walked quietly. It was like trying to remember an elusive memory, only at the same time, not like that at all.

                “So what?” he said. His chest hurt from his fight with the other epics. He would likely need to stitch those cuts closed. “Can you read my mind? Or is it like that one guy in that book with all the smart illusions and then that other guy who shoots people using the insane guy’s arms?”

                “WH-what?” she said.

                “Or am I just schizophrenic?”

                Lizzy looked at him for a while. “Sparks,” she finally said. “You’re certainly mad, but I don’t think it’s in the way you think you are.”

                “A likely story,” He thought about it for a moment. How would Stormeggeddon react to her hitman going crazy?

                That line of thought raised another question.

                Why hadn’t Stormeggeddon contacted him? Usually after a failed catch of the day, she would contact him within minutes, or sometimes during, the fight with the other epics. And now she had been silent for a good… ten minutes?

                Hey Stormeggeddon, you worthless piece of slime, you in here?! he thought. Nothing. Something like that should’ve gotten him a reprimand instantaneously.

                Hmn… looks like I’m out of a job. Good. He had never like working for that Witch. Even when he had no idea about her mind control abilities.

                There was a breeze, and Ragnarok realized that he didn’t have most of a shirt on.

                “Well, since I guess were stuck together, I should probably take you with me to get supplies.” Ragnarok said to Lizzy.

                “What?” she said, “No, we need to go back to Astoria to—“

                “Okay then. Its decided,” Ragnarok glided up into the air. “Race you there.”

                “Yet another ridiculous--,”

                Ragnarok sped off.

 

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                Most epics saw shooting weapons as underneath them.

                It was a darn unfortunate fact. Guns were fun to shoot, and they looked cool. Yup. Never discount the way an assault rifle over your back makes the vanillas quiver.

                Harkness stood on a rooftop fingering the trigger of his Magistrate .60 caliber rifle. The rifle was a special project of his, decked out with Gravotonics, electron compression in the magazine, suppression, long range scope—which had its own library of perks--, remote firing, motion detection, and the added bonus of just looking plain LEGIT. It was a favored weapon in his life, something he’d been using ever since he became an epic.

                And he had its sights set on Ice steel keep.

                Time to see if patience yields results. He thought.

Edited by WarriorMark16
added the second part.
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In theory, all problems were currently under control. Deathgale had send those two oddities after Ragnarok, the shadow Epic had been fought off, as had the Destructors and while it has been sighted, the Tidebreaker hadn’t made any moves to attack them yet. However, the fact that so many major disturbances had happened in such a short time was worrisome on its own accord. The easiest explanation was that information about the queen’s absence had been leaked somehow.

 

It could have been simple bad luck but either way, it had reached a point where he was no longer comfortable just sitting down and dealing with every single thing as it revealed itself. That meant he would have to prepare. However, he’d loathe to announce that worry with a large show of force, especially if there wasn’t an information leak in the first place.

After pulling in some information from Mary, Deathgale settled on a small team to look into things. First off, he would have to meet with Bioterror. He could dress it as a chance for him to prove that it was Brightdeath that ruined his performance last time.

To cut out the time of waiting after a summon, Deathgale used his smoke form to fly towards the other Epic’s new residence. He moved through the spaces between the doors and the walls to pull into the opening hall. The smoke swirled back together into his physical shape, while separating the smoke from his cigarette from his body. Once he was in his human body again he waved for a servant to lead him to a suitable room and fetch Bioterror.

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A gentle knock sounded at a door, after receiving no response there was a somewhat more insistent knock and a question.

The rooms occupant was unable to hear either knock or question however, his ears having been separated from the rest of his body when he tried to headbutt a steel column.

Once more the blood , flesh and bone fragments that had been scattered around the room flew back, reintegrating back into Bioterrors body. Cricking his neck to one side he waited for the delicate bones in his inner ear to finish reforming correctly.

His eyes had just returned to their usual reptilian appearance, albeit still somewhat bloodshot, in time to see the door opening slightly, one of the servants timidly looking around as he entered.

Bioterror leapt accross the room in an instant, pinning the servant to the wall and growling in his face.

"I said, NO DISTRACTIONS."

The servant grimaced in pain and fear, lowering his head and apologizing profusely, his ribs had just started creaking when he managed to stammer out the word "Visitor" and Bioterror dropped him.

"Knock next time." He growled before prowling out into the corridor to see who had come, it had to be one of Astoria's leaders, no other Epics would bother coming to greet him, and sparkles would have just teleported into his face if their previous encounter was anything to go by.

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The somewhat confused servant sat in a heap on the floor for a few minutes, feeling tenderly for what seemed to be several broken ribs. Still, by most Epic standards it was a fairly mild rebuke, his limbs were still in tact at least, as was the rest of the city block they were standing on.

He gingerly brought himself to his feet, coughing painfully as he did so. Leaning heavily on the wall he pulled himself in the direction of the kitchen, a few broken ribs would not pass as an excuse for failing to serve drinks.

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Bioterror walked into the room where a man stood waiting for him, the well dressed one from yesterday who sent them to the shadow tower. Deathgale as he'd later learned, though he still didn't know the extent of his abilities.

"Sorry to keep you waiting." Bioterror said, forcing his annoyance at the interruption down and attempting to adopt a business like tone that seemed like it would appease Dethgale.

He extended a hand in greeting, morphing the clawed fingertips back into something more normal so that it could be comfortably grasped.

"What brings you here today?"

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Part three of a collab between Blackhoof and I. 

The woman, apparently the representative of some Epic named Accord, gloated in a disgusting and unseemly manner. Winterspell felt his rage grow as she laughed at him. A mere human, laughing at him! But his rage cooled as he considered the strange Epic behind him. His powers.... they were unlike any Winterspell had ever seen. What could this Eternity even do? Any move Winterspell could make, Eternity could escape, or freeze time. It was too risky, when he didn't even know what Eternity was capable of. He needed to play along, give them what they wanted... and find out how to get revenge later, if possible.

If they wouldn't serve him, they were his enemies.

"First. Why are you so eager to detain those who have business with your liege?" He glanced to the side, and noticed for the first time that no-one had emerged from the Keep, as they should have done immediately. And the word, it was strangely silent. What was... oh. He noticed the water beneath him, and it was completely motionless. A bird hung in the sky, an immobile speck. The world was frozen in time.

Winterspell smiled, fighting down his sudden panic. He needed to get back inside time immediately, lest he be trapped here. "I'd be more than happy to answer your questions, I'll cooperate fully. Please, just un-freeze time and step away and we can discuss this in a civilised manner."


Truce shook her head disdainfully. "You are no fun." She sighed. "Eternity, please show Winterspell the full extent of our hospitality. Release him."

Eternity inclined his head, in acquiescence, and mentally banished Truce back into the regular flow of time. He kept his knife where it was, leaning a little closer to the ice Epic. "If you wish to survive this with your mind intact, you will listen, and listen well.

"In a few moments, I am going to stab you through the heart. It will hurt. Quite possibly more than anything you have ever experienced. After you are done screaming, you will tell Truce everything she wishes to know.

"Once she is satisfied, we will help you with your coup." Winterspell stiffened, clearly surprised. "High Epics are rather predictable. If you weren't planning one before--which I doubt--you are now.

"Truce will have conditions. I, however, want only one thing in exchange."

Without clarifying, Eternity released Winterspell, kicking him in the back and sending him stumbling forwards. He froze in place; an impossible statue just about to fall. Eternity stepped around him, carefully placing the point of his knife just beneath Winterspell's sternum, angled upwards.

Time restarted. Winterspell's momentum drove the knife up through his lungs and heart. Blood spurted over Eternity's fingers, turning into water even as it flowed. Time stopped.

Winterspell slid to the ground, gasping with pain. The ice knife was buried to the hilt in his chest; the edges of the wound had turned to ice themselves, as if it were some spreading infection. 

Truce, animate again and none the wiser, grinned widely. "Oops. I forgot that Eternity is not much one for hospitality. Let us try again, shall we?"


Winterspell gasped as the knife penetrated his chest. While the injury couldn't kill him, it sure hurt.

"Oops. I forgot that Eternity is not much one for hospitality. Let us try again, shall we?"

His flesh reformed as he groaned through gritted teeth, expecting the knife to pop out as his body reformed. But it didn't. He glanced down in confusion, pain throbbing through him, and saw that while his wound was icy, it wasn't reforming as it normally would. Either something was wrong with his powers, or his bodily functions didn't work as normal in this out-of-time place. He shivered, and not just from the pain.

"Very well, I will answer your questions. My... attempts to detain you were simply a response to how powerful my Epic told me Eternity was. I am planning a coup, and I thought that such a powerful Epic would be a vital part of my efforts, capable of disabling or trapping the very powerful High Epics that rule over me. What are your other questions?"


Shunting Winterspell back into the regular flow of time, Eternity turned to Truce. “Thoughts?”

“Nothing I didn’t already suspect. Two more questions to get a general sense of his capabilities, perhaps negotiate a deal, and we’ll be on our way.”

“Fine.”

She waited a moment for Winterspell to animate again, and spoke. “Given that you are already planning a coup, the next two questions are simple. What exactly are you up against? Accord has some information on the Epics that rule here, but it would be good to know which support Lucentia, and which will turn, as well as their exact power. Likewise, what are your capabilities, and how do you plan to overcome the likes of Lucentia and the Metal?”


Winterspell scowled. "I have a plan that is coming together. The Metal can be distracted and blinded, and Lucentia is currently out of town. By the time she gets back, this town and all its Epics will have sworn loyalty to me."

He gave a brief rundown of the main Epics that governed Astoria and enforced its laws in Lucentia's absence. Over the years, he had gathered detailed information about their powers, capabilities, and personalities. He provided enough information to satisfy them, but withheld the best tidbits- and any speculations he had about their weaknesses- to give himself an edge.

"Well," He finished, "does that satisfy your curiosity? Can we help each other? I believe your powers of time manipulation can be very useful for dealing with foes such as the Metal, so he cannot interfere when I capture or kill the other Epics. Shall we form an alliance?"


My powers are something of a parlor trick compared to the Metal's, but I suppose a distraction could be possible. Temporarily. Despite his observations, Eternity remained silent. Winterspell didn't need to know what he couldn't do. 

"Perhaps." Truce sounded pensive, as if she hadn't realized the magnitude of what was arrayed against them before. "We may even be able to help with more elements of the plan than just combat. Now is not the time to hash out the details of an alliance, but if you give us a time, we will return, to draft a formal arrangement. We will agree on exact terms then." 

Truce looked to Eternity, pins she had brandished as weapons disappearing somehow into the sleeves of her dress. "For us, it is time we were going. We still have others to meet, if we wish to get a complete picture of the events here. I would appreciate it, Winterspell, if when we return to normal time, you are quick to call off your guards and allow us passage. While they will not achieve much, the noise is bothersome."


Winterspell smiled. He had secured the fractious, but useful, alliance of at least one powerful Epic in his plans. But more happily, he would be pleased to be returned to normal time, and leave this unsettling and terrifying realm of silence and stillness.

"Of course," he replied. "They will be ordered to stand down instantly. I have nothing to gain from irritating valuable new allies, after all." He bowed, "I hope we can come to an accommodation."


"Thank you. That is our hope, as well. Eternity?" 

A thought, and Truce froze, reentering normal time. Eternity took a step closer to Winterspell, looking the man in the eye. "Remember what I said."

He stepped back, and the river below began to flow again. Muffled shouts could be heard from the fortress in the distance. Winterspell's wound closed, ice cracking.

"Well then, we'd best be off. We'll be back sometime around sunset, if that is agreeable. Our entrance of course will be subtler the next time around." 

With that, she began walking to the fortress's gate, allowing Eternity to fall in behind.


Winterspell winced as his wound healed, pain ebbing away as his body resumed its normal, immortal functions. It felt good to be back in real time.

His soldiers were still aiming at the guests, but they waited for his command, completely unaware of what had just occurred. "Men," he called, "Stand down. These Epics are our guests and our allies. And open the gates!"

With that, he flew into the air on a tentacle of water and returned to his fortress, while the gates creaked open to allow passage to Eternity and Truce.

Lightwrought looked at him strangely as he landed in through the window. "You weren't gone for very long. And you are letting them through, despite their rudeness? Without extracting a toll? What happened?"

Winterspell grimaced. "Lets just say that they are powerful Epics indeed, but I did extract a toll. They will help me in my plan of domination. At least while I figure out a way to destroy them...."

Edited by Aonar Faileas
Changed colouring to be consistent.
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It was to be expected that the room Deathgale had to wait in was fairly lifeless. There had by no means been time for Bioterror to furnish it yet. The bare nature of it however did nothing to

make his wait more pleasant.

 

While Bioterror didn't appear immediately,  the wait at least wasn't long enough to be considered an insult. Only a minor slight that would be filed away in case they amass. He still held on to the information, if only because their queen would want to know if she could expect her subjects to jump on her call, even without prior notice.

 

At least Bioterror had the decency to apologize. A good attitude was important to conducting business, solely to spare him from having to administer disciplinary action. The undercurrent of annoyance was a blemish on his behaviour. Something that would be reason for punishing a lesser Epic. With his powers, however, Bioterror should prove himself valuable enough to avoid such rebuke. Though he was already getting his second chance.

 

Deathgale took Bioterror's hand in greeting. The way it shifted was an interesting sight, though by far not the most grotesque aspect of the Epic's body. An appearance like his was likely a gift for intimidating weak minded underlings. Something to consider, if he ever had a public task for him.

"To get to the point, work. You of course know already of the attempted attack by the shadow Epic on our town. This wasn't the only attack of its kind in a very short time span and while none of them were any more effective, their timing is suspicious to say the least. If you're interested in the investigation I'd like to give you the details."

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Winterspell smiled as his messengers raced out across the bridge, heading to Astoria. They would carry hand-written invitations to each epic in Astoria, inviting them to a grand display of power and might tomorrow afternoon.

For you see, he had been "challenged" to a duel by that upstart pyromancer, Hellfire. From the perspective of his colleagues, this would be an interesting, or at least diverting, show between two elemental epics with opposite powers.
But of course, that was all part of the ruse.

He didn't wait for the affirmative responses to return hours later when he flew himself out to the middle of the bay, hundreds of metres from the shore, and began constructing the arena.

With a mighty gesture, reminiscent of Moses, he raised the sea. Four pillars of water rose from the centre of the bay, slowly climbing like reverse waterfalls a hundred feet in the air. He held his arms still, and the pillars halted. He lowered and spread his arms, and the top half of the pillars broke like melting wax, flowing in the air to meet each other and form a thick, high basket of water, a rectangular prism between the four pillars. Closing his fist slowly, the pillars began freezing. From the seabed to the arena, the pillars slowly became solid Icesteel, harder than stone or metal. As the arena itself began freezing, he molded it into a wide coliseum, with row upon row of bleachers and two special boxes for the government epics overlooking a wide, circular dais, on which the combatants would "fight".

With a smile and a flourish, Winterspell put the finishing touches on his work of art, and froze it solid. He was ready. He activated the microphone in his ear and said, "Dragoon, the Arena is finished, and the invitations have been sent. The plan is in motion, for tomorrow afternoon."

 

 

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Deathgale’s smoke form gathered within the box Winterspell had set aside for them for his little spectacle. By no means was he the first one to arrive, different from the common rabble flooding the bleachers or the likes of the Metal he had work that was too important to postpone on a whim after receiving an invitation just the day before. However, he was still arrived well in time before Winterspell started his little show.

 

“Cuttin it close, eh, Smokey?” The Metal said. He accompanied the greeting with a slap to his back that was hard enough to dissolve him into a cloud of smoke.

“I’m punctually.,” he responded once he reformed. “Don’t think you can be as rowdy as you want, just because Winterspell is putting on a show.”

“Oh come on, let your hair down and enjoy yourself some. Just because Lucentia is gone doesn’t mean you have to be the biggest killjoy around.”

 

Deathgale simply responded with a growl, no point in wasting his effort on him. He glanced over to the pedestal holding a vessel filled with blood. It was as much a presence as Bloody mary would give. She may have been the one that decided to indulge Winterspell’s little show but at least she has the good sense to stay protected. He himself wasn’t quite as optimistic. Letting Winterspell demand so much attention in the current situation seemed unwise. Though, with some luck it would flush out all the other maggots squirming around the city, so they can round them all up.

 

Apart from the three of them, the box was empty. They opted to leave the second box to some of their more worthwhile minions, like Bioterror. It was up to them if they’d use the offer. Deathgale himself had nothing else to do but wait for the fight to start. With some luck nobody would bother him until then.

“Hey Smokey, think I should go ask Winterspell what kind of background music he wants?”

It had been a vain hope.

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Bioterror took a seat in the box that he'd been informed was for his use, along with perhaps a few other notable Epics in the city. He'd considered ignoring the invitation and skipping this even entirely, but he had no idea who this Winterspell was, what kind of power he wielded, both supernatural and political.

Taking a grape from a nearby bowl, he reclined in his chair, looking only slightly oddly shaped as opposed to his previous hulking reptilian mass. This did seem to be a formal event of some kind, so he'd left most of his biomass back at the house, assuming a form that was more or less human, although his muscles would appear oddly shaped to an observer.

Tapping on his collar, he set some slightly softer than usual music to play while he waited, there was little chance of him getting to fight personally any time soon so nothing too dramatic, perhaps something melancholy? Heart of Courage?, no, after the fall perhaps?
He relaxed back, closing his eyes as he let the music wash over him before reluctantly opening them again. This would be a good chance to observe some of his competition, and a good place to gather information.

He had accepted Deathgales offer to lead the investigation on that shadow Epic but how did you investigate a sparking teleporter? You found a place that looked interesting, and watched the shadows, that was how. It was not particularly likely that he'd find his quarry here, but if nothing else he'd learn about some of the other Epics. And if that shadow-slontze did show up, then Bioterror was ready to pounce at any moment.

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hours earlier...

 

Clouds roared beneath him, a white contrast to the red streak burning through the sky.

He was alive. He was free.

He was back.

Ragnarok soared through the sky above Astoria, taking in the view, the vibrant skies, the crystal structures, that random dark spire in the sky, everything seemed better, in a way.

Freedom would do that to a person.

Deaccelerating, he touched down in a quiet neighborhood near that ice castle.  there was something he hadnt noticed before, a giant ice arena of some sort. he wondered for a moment what he had missed.

“Wow,” lizzy said. “That was subtle.”

“I tend to be a show off,” Ragnarok said tightening one of his gloves. “In my free time.” he’d gotten a new set of clothes, and now had a good sized back pack.

Lizzy snorted, “That will work here. Definitely. With that wonderful little entrance you made for yourself.”

“It wasn’t that bad.”

“You wrecked two buildings in less than three minutes.” she reminded him “you’re not exactly gonna be popular with the locals.”

Ragnarok paused, “Maybe not all the locals” and with that he began walking towards the ice castle.

 

 

 

Edited by WarriorMark16
making it less bold and more sensible
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Hours Earlier.

With his lieutenants surrounding him, Winterspell waited in his Keep and made sure that all was prepared. Wireless cameras were hooked in across the arena, ostensibly to film the action, but in reality to give Blindsight a full view of the arena in full night-vision. When the plan began, it would be necessary. Secret compartments and bombs had been placed by him within the ice itself, and his agents had been trying to ferret out the weaknesses of Deathgale, Mary and the Metal. So far, they'd only narrowed down Deathgale's weakness to have something to do with seafood or fish. It would have to do.

"Blindsight." Winterspell turned to his most trusted adviser. "Are you prepared with directions for our Epics? You will be our eyes and ears in the command room." Blindsight nodded in response. He knew the plan well- he had devised it, after all. But Winterspell did feel the need to vocalise things, it helped him think in stressful situations, and right now he was more stressed than he had ever been. Although he didn't show it.

"Sir!" A voice crackled in his earpiece- Fish on lookout duty.
"Receiving?"
"That Ragnarok is coming back." 
Winterspell raised an eyebrow, and scowled. "In broad daylight? He could be seen! Have a detachment of soldiers escort him inside-"
"Uh, sir... he is flying. Right for us! Do I have permission to engage?"
"No Fish you do not. Just when he gets to you, invite him in and we can-"
"Sir, lookout!"

With that, a wall rumbled and the sound of an explosion filled the Keep. Alarms began sounding and guards readied their weapons, but Winterspell just growled. Another explosion, closer this time, and then a second later the wall to his right crumbled into water and steam. Ragnarok stood, smug and proud. Winterspell glared at him. "If you have come to offer your services.... I accept. Now get to this table and stop blowing up my Keep!"

 

 

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Now

Hellfire saw the arena on the river. It was an impressive construction... for a yank. 

He stood in some ruins on the far side. Banarang had left hours ago- taking the Destructors and the forces of Dragoon and skirting around behind the city using Blackwave's ship. Hellfire hadn't been paying too much attention, but something about attacking the city from both land and sea while he used his powers and destroyed the high command of Astoria. The deal was, of course, that he would cease his duel with Winterspell once it all began.... but he wasn't done with that yuppy yet. No, Hellfire was going to finish him off, once and for all. But first, he would go along with the plan, and once the Astorian Epics were dead, Winterspell would be next. He wouldn't live to see the success of his little plot.

With a smile, Hellfire took off, fire bursting from his hands and feet. He felt the wind in his hair and was glad he had remembered his sunglasses to protect his eyes. In seconds, he had shot over the river, and was hovering above the arena. The crowd below cheered, but it sounded more forced and was tinged with nervousness. It was hard to cheer for any Epic, but the crowd seemed to feel that inadequate enthusiasm could be dangerous.

Hellfire laughed and shot towards the arena full-blast, landing in the centre of the duelling ground with a thud and a blast of flame. The ice beneath him cracked and steamed, and he found himself standing in a puddle an inch deep. He spread his arms and began walking the edges of the arena, flame dancing on his fingertips.

Then a great door began opening, and he readied himself for battle.

..........

Winterspell took a deep breath.

Everything around him was cold. The air was frigid, every wisp of wind like the caress of a frozen hand. Mist came from the breaths of those around him, human and Epic alike feeling the bite. Only he was immune. He was made of ice- in more ways than one, and the cold would never concern him.

He and his entourage were within the arena, beneath the seating, facing the entrance to the duelling ground. A cheer went up.... Hellfire must have arrived.

He nodded to his lieutenants, and Nightstand put a finger to his earpiece. "The phoenix has landed, and the white eagle rises. I repeat- phoenix landed, white eagle rises." The signal was given. All his forces were on alert, and taking their final positions. Dragoon and the Destructors would be hiding out of sight down the road, ready to attack the city. And right now, Eternity should be about to approach the Metal and take him out of the fight with his powers of time manipulation. Winterspell wasn't sure how much luck he would have- all he could do was hope. Now it was time for the show, and the charade, to begin. For a time, at least, until everything was ready. The doors opened, and with a heavy sigh, Winterspell entered the light.

 

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Spoiler

This is intended to be a final post to give Astoria somewhat of an ending point, much in the same vein of Comatose’s final post for Corvallis. The same rules concerning people still being allowed to post apply here.

For the vague story of Astoria bringing us to this point, the idea is that the attack currently being set up in the thread starts but doesn’t go quite as planned. The fighting is fierce and most of the city gets destroyed, to the point that the attackers eventually retreat. Not because they have lost outright but because there is simply nothing to be gained from fighting anymore. This post picks up when Lucentia eventually returns to her city.

However, for that segment to be properly comprehensible, I first need to bring Nighthound’s story to an end. Given that at the point of writing this, there is no agreed upon end of Portland, some of the details here are vague or otherwise abstracted. The important part is that Ray has done her best to gain Voidgaze’s help in escaping from Nighthound and the following is the conclusion of that, taking place at roughly the time the attack on Corpsemaker comes to a head.

 

Nighthound slipped away from the collaborations attack on Corpsemaker at the first chance he got. His sister should be able to handle it. Either way, it wasn’t like Corpsemaker or any of his flunkies could kill her. The worst that could happen was some bruises to her ego, at which point he would have to listen to her talking about all the mistakes everyone but her made. He really hoped they weren’t about to spark this up.

 

Once Corpsemaker was out of the way, the mock alliance between them and Thoughttown would come to an end. Lightward’s Empire of light would presumably follow soon. Either way, today was the last day their guards would be down towards him and he had nothing to gain from not backstabbing them. What better moment to pick off his prey?

 

He left Ray and C4 out as bait in a house not far away from where they had send in Voidgaze. It hadn’t gone past him that Ray was holding on to Voidgaze as her big chance to escape. He hoped she would try to rescue her. Killing her then might just be the last push to break Ray.

 

He’d also stashed a couple of hounds there out of their sight just in case he needed an alarm system. None of them had perished yet, so he knew they hadn’t escaped yet. When he arrived at the house, he did find the door open. Seems like his timing was about perfect.

 

When he entered, he also picked up a couple of paint he’d placed there. A bit further inside he found Voidgaze and her walking grease dispenser just freeing his pets. The nearby hounds stirred the moment the girls’ chains were broken. He held them back for now.

 

Ray was the first to notice him, she bolted and stabbed him with an energy lance. “Honestly, is that any way to greet your master?” Nighthound said as he casually continued to walk towards them, pushing the lance further through his body. “And you, Voidgaze, so nice of you to look after the girls but it’s not their time to go on a walk yet.”

 

He came to a stop as close to Voidgaze as the lance in his chest allowed him to and then twisted around. Along with the motion he slammed one hand against the lance, levering with his body to knock it away from Ray. Once she lost grip of it, the energy dissipated.

 

Voidgaze didn’t answer him, instead she simply stared at him. He could see her waiting for the moment he attacked. He could basically taste her fear. This would be good. He had one hound on the upper floor throw itself against the wall as hard as it could without completely breaking it. Voidgaze jumped, turning towards the noise.

 

At the same time he threw the content of one of the paint buckets at her. She didn’t have the time to react anymore. Big Al did. The little Epic jumped into the paint. His death if he wanted to get involved. He kicked him in the stomach, hard enough to throw him into Voidgaze instead.

 

She caught him as gently as she could but either way, there was no chance he’d stand up anytime soon again. Some of the paint splattered over at her but not enough that he’d want to risk getting in close already. Instead he started moving one of his hounds and walked over to C4. He dropped the second paint bucket on one of her hands, roughly. “Now really, you should know better than to go along with them, nono?”
 

C4 barked in response but he didn’t pay much attention to it. He had trained her to see the nono as the signal to excrete her explosives and that was all he’s after right now. There wasn’t time for more playing around. Voidgaze had laid down her boyfriend and seemed was about to attack him.

 

Then his hound broke in through the window. Ray stabbed it to one of the walls with an energy lance. Voidgaze, assuming his ace in the sleeve was dealt with, attacked him. Nighthound threw the second paint bucket. One of her sleeves reached out to disintegrate it but before it could make contact, C4 detonated it. Hot pink paint splattered all over Voidgaze.

 

She reeled back and reached inside her robe. He should be able to crush her skull right now but they she’d just reanimate. He pulled out a gun and shot her in the leg instead. She crumbled and Nighthound gripped one of her arms that ended up flailing around. He broke it. Then-

 

Ray shot a lance through him and into Voidgaze, killing her. So much for dismantling her until she was at his mercy. He jumped Ray and pushed her against the wall. ”I appreciate the effort but you know that until she’s back, it’s just the two of us?”
“Sp-”
Nighthound punched her in the stomach, ending her insults into a grunt. “Sorry but we don’t have the time to flirt. I’ll have to tie you down before your friend comes back.”

 

Something threw itself at the back of his legs. He looked down and found that it was Big Al, pretty though to still be moving. Ray used the moment to headbut him. “I told you this-”

He could just barely catch a glimpse of a pyramid shaped pink paperweight before Ray slammed it into his mouth. Then she used her powers. A lance significantly thicker than her normal ones sprung forth from the object and pierced through his skull. At the same time, it pushed back his head towards the ground with enough force to break his spine.

 

His legs were still pinned by the walking fast food, so Nighthound kicked him away. That still left him with the lance. Ray used it to push herself up to to the ceiling, out of reach. He’d rather not rip it out of his head, that could end messy. That left him with one option, he braced his feet against the wall and pulled himself up on the lance with his hands.

 

Calling the climb pleasant would be a sparking lie but he did make progress. Ray throwing her shoes at him didn’t change that. He came close enough to Ray, he reached out to grab her. At the same time, he could see the wall next to him bleach.

 

His feet were gone before he could do anything and a vaguely human shaped white nothingness stretched out of the wall. Voidgaze reached out and simply cut through his stomach and one of his arm.

 

He held onto the lance with his remaining hand but then Ray dissipated it. They both fell to the ground, she on top of him. She pinned his one arm under her body and brought the paperweight down on his head. And again. Again. Agai-

 

Days Later

 

Bloody Mary, Deathgale and the Metal had gathered outside the remains of the diamond garden, once they learned that their queen was about to return. Mary wasn’t sure if she should be afraid of how displeased Lucentia would be with them or excited. If she was returning from Portland, Nighthound should be with her. Her worry wasn’t alleviated by the Metal just lunging around like the worst he did was forget dusting his room. Not that chiding him would yield any results.

 

The wave of diamond Lucentia was riding on came to stop in front of them and crumbled. She stood before them alone, behind her a man sized casket. Mary ignored whatever Lucentia was saying and rushed to the casket. She pried it open and inside found the badly mangled body of Nighthound. Not healing. No. No. No no no no no!

 

Someone put a hand on her shoulder and turned her around. Lucentia was looking at her, instead of her usual scowl she didn’t seem sure what expression to make. Multiple times she opened her mouth only to close it again without saying anything. Ultimately she simply pulled in Mary for a hug.

 

Sparking what? Lucentia had been with Nighthound and she let him die. And now? Trying to comfort her? Mary pulled out of the hug and meet Lucentia’s eyes.

“I-” Lucentia started to say but Mary interrupted her with a quick kiss, blood from her lips prickling into Lucentia. She could see the color drain from her face. First, because of the fear triggered by her weakness, then because Mary literally drained all of her blood outside her body. Leaving her an empty shell that fell to the ground.

 

Deathgale sprung into action but he was blown away in his smokey for by the Metal. He walked over to Lucentia’s body and kicked it away. “Calamity that felt good. So we good now?”
“No,” Mary said. “Leave me alone. Just go and destroy things or whatever you do.”
“Sure, I didn’t had a good rampage in a while anyway.” With that he pushed himself away into the sky.”

 

She walked over to Nighthound’s corpse. It all just felt empty. Eventually, she removed his bloody tattered cloak and put it on herself. The people that killed him still had to be out there. She’d show them her sorrow.

6

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