Herald of Darkness

September 04, 2015:

Doctor Strange leads six other sorcerers to destroy the obelisks set by Apokolips agents. They succeed, but at a high cost. Now they have to face Libra, the Herald of Apokolips, who wants to punish them for their defiance.

New York

Characters

NPCs: Libra and about a hundred parademons

Mentions:

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

It has been a very long day for Doctor Strange.
Just a few weeks ago he compared trying to make a group of magic-users work together with herding cats to some members of the Justice League. A few days later he found out he was going to have to try anyway. The alien obelisks deployed by the agents of the mysterious Apokolipsian aliens resisted human science and his own magic alone proved insufficient.
But almost nothing can stand the magic of seven sorcerers working together, and the obelisks have not been an exception.
The cabal began in Russia, the first obelisks fell easily. The first was difficult because it was the first, but all the sorcerers were fresh and at the peak of their power. They breached the construct defenses, disrupting their workings, and shattered them into dust.
Then they teleported, again and again, hitting the obelisks all around the world. The first attack came in the Atlantic Ocean, Strange and some of the others felt it coming, but they were able to delay the enemy teleporting long enough for the ritual to finish. He called the Justice League when so they would have protection when they reached Gotham.
Gotham was hard. Some of the younger mages are faltering, exhausted, their voices raw from the chanting of words of power. Strange is forced to call upon more power to compensate, and he feels very tired himself. It takes too long, almost fifteen minutes. The obelisk crumbles, but several pieces remain.
'Those belong to Doom's' proclaims the armored king, reminding Strange he was promised fragments of the alien technology. Strange is honor-bound to agree.
Despite the time spent and effort destroying that device too, there is no attack in Gotham.
New York is the last one. Night has fallen, and the Seven form the arcane circle around the device. Loki and Rain are at once side, as proper for Master and Disciple. Doom and Wanda are at the other, oddly complementing each other, Order and Chaos. Zatanna and Timothy Hunter shape the magic with their wills as much as their words, and an exhausted Strange directs this impossible orchestra with desperate intensity. His throat hurts and his hands feel on fire, old injuries reminding him his limitations.
Then the sky turns red in an instant and splits open with a deafening BOOOOOOM. In a second, the air if full of armored figures. In the ground the agents of SHIELD and the soldiers of the US Army scramble to fighting positions.
But nothing can prepare for the arrival of the Darkness. This time Apokolipsian commander is no mere mortal super-villain. He is a figure clad in brass and midnight black; a staff in his hands, a balance hangs at one extreme, while the other is a broad-headed spear.
FOOLISH INSECTS. The entity's voice rumbles in the ears and the souls of all present. KNOW YOUR EFFORTS HAVE ONLY DELAYED THE INEVITABLE DARKNESS. KNOW I AM THE PROPHET OF APOKOLIPS AND THE INCARNATION OF ANTI-LIFE. THE GOD-PLANET IS COMING AND THERE IS NOTHING YOU CAN DO BUT BOW AND DIE.
Icy despair and weakness strikes all present. Most of the soldiers drop their weapons crying, and even many of SHIELD agents run away, or begin praying for mercy, to God some, to Apokolips others.
It is not just a psychic assault, the Herald power impacts on the wizards too sapping their strength and their magic. The spell falters as half the magical power is consumed in an instant. Strange screams words of power, pouring all he has into the faltering construct. Tim Hunter is the first one to react, adding the still vast power of the Merlyn to the casting.
The obelisk explodes.

One second on the verge of final triumph, the next second Wanda is on her back and struggling to rise from the ground. In her head is a new voice. Booming. Trying to dominate the others. Thankfully a fractured mind comes in handy at times like this. There is far too much chaos in Wanda's skull for Libra to even figure out which of they myriad personalities is the one to take control of. And that's before he even gets to the splinter of Elder God hidden deep within the witch. "What happened?" she manages to mutter even though she knows Doom won't tell her even if he knew. He's like that.
Wanda struggles to her feet, fingers twitching and spasming as she tries to draw on her depleted power. She looks up at the new arrival and cracks her neck from side to side. "So you are a living anti-life?" she asks Libra before shaking her head. "And people think that I am confused." She looks around to see how her compatriots have fared, ready to help any who need it. There is also a sky filled with armored demons to contend with…it always pours when it rains…and Wanda takes a deep breath before the ancient words start to spill from her mouth and her power builds once more.

Zee's thrown back as the Obelisk explodes, landing hard and loosing her breath. Scratches and cuts mar her face from flying fragments and the SHIELD issued body armour that she wears has seen better days. The teen mage doesn't have the protection of a hidden elder god - she only has her determination and will… which takes a moment to summons but summons it she does as she struggles to her feet, glaring balefully at Libra.
One thing about Zee - she generally doesn't speak in these encounters - and as the Parademons fill the sky, her eyes glow bright blue … and she speaks the words to a spell
~~ riA dniB ehT snomedaraP llitS ~~
A signature move for the Mistress of Magic - the air around the parademons stirs, slowly growing in force as it wraps itself around a group that are just about to hit the earth in front of her.

Kara was afraid but she would do her best not to show it; especially since she had come to get used to dealing with magical beings who could kill her just as easily as they killed anyone else. She needed to buy time for the magic users so she grabbed some of the pieces of shattered obelisk meant for Doom and called out to Libra, "Do you like the Yankees?"
She then shrugged and started pitching the massive pieces of rock at Libra and called out, "Batter up! Better hope you hit a home run back to Apokolips!"

The good news is the last obelisk seems to have been destroyed, but several of the magicians are down. Strange and Hunter have fallen, and Loki and Rain have vanished. Which leaves three against a godling and a hundred monstrous armored humanoids. The Parademons pull blaster guns and power staves and begins shooting. To the buildings, to the armored vehicles, the heroes and the mere humans too. There are not warrior cries or roars, as Libra won't allow them even those small displays of free-will and individuality.
Here and there some soldier or agent from the contingent that was watching the obelisk manages to answer the fire, but they are quickly forced to see cover or die in flames as the Parademons blast the whole area with their energy weapons.
A large group of them, well over a score, converges on the sorcerers, but becomes ensnared by Zatanna's spell. Unfortunately the spell that is not as strong or broad as the Mistress of Magic intended. Half a dozen of them break through and manage to pull forward. A couple crash-land, but still aim from the ground, and all of them open fire on Zatanna, Doom and Wanda.
Meanwhile Supergirl throws a large chunk of smoking obelisk to Libra. The projectile bats away a couple unfortunate Parademons and hits Libra. But the villain blacks it with his arm and it shatters in a thousand fragments. Libra responds Kara with a powerful force blast of stolen magical energy and flies down to confront the magicians. HOW DO YOU DARE RESIST THE WILL OF THE DARK GOD? SUBMIT. SUBMIT TO ANTI-LIFE.

Wanda suddenly doesn't have time to worry about the fallen as Parademons fire towards her. Despite all her power, she is only flesh and blood and so she can't afford to be hit. She throws up a wall of scarlet energy that is more than just a way of blocking the fire…though it does that…it is also a perversion of reality in itself. The energy and fire blasted into it disappears and then reappears behind Libra and slams into his back. His own people can shoot him as far as Wanda is concerned.

Zee hadn't been trying for a broad spectrum spell, she had indeed been focussing on the group of Parademons in front her… others being snared was just a bonus.
Seeing the bolt of magic directed at Kara, Zee hopes her friend can move quickly enough - the teen mage currently has trouble of her own. As Wanda's spell is released, Zee's is released just as quickly
~~ stelluB dnA eriF ylF oT arbiL ~~
Redirecting the bullets and fire … without realising what Wanda is doing … away from the mages to the godling himself.

Kara uses her heat-vision to try and fight against the force of magical energy heading her way before flying out of sight and heading straight up towards atmosphere. For all intents and purposes, it looked like Kara was running.

The sudden emerald beams that fire across the devastated landscape are not from any source that was mystical. The searing blasts are firing dead at Libra from his rear left, a slab of concrete that had been collapsed by the explosion was now being flung into the air with immense force.
A single hand was raised, coated in metal, and it's palm was searing by now with the frequency in which the mighty Doctor Doom was assaulting the enemy. A loud roar comes from behind the mask as he lets loose another volley of bolts right at Libra's rear back, he was actually putting his all into it at this range. He knows better than to approach what he didn't understand (which was why he took time to properly scan the enemy before he revealed himself.) As Doom stops quite a ways away, he's already engaging a certain system within his suit, and narrows his eyes in anticipation.
"Your world will belong to Doom, in time, now leave this one be!"
That's when another provoking volley fires dead at the back of Libra's head. Doom is antagonizing him?

Having power sucked from one isn't the most pleasant thing in the world…but it's not like Loki hasn't been the underdog before — up against powers different, and sometimes stronger in ways, than his own. So now Loki turns to his own guile and cunning to remain a part of the action.
However, Libra's powers are impressive and he'd like words before completely doing him in.
It's why he appears before the other villain, "You do realize that this is completely the wrong way to go about things." He looks to Doom…he'll have to speak with that one later… "The three of us could have spoken…divided up this world…given you what you asked for, but now, I'm afraid you've been far too greedy and we're going to have to destroy you."
He seems smug, perfectly calm, yet his sword is in his hand, ready to be used.

Heat has little effect in the magic blast, but Kara manages to get out of the way just in time. The blast makes a good-sized crater on the ground, and when the smoke disperses there is no trace of the young Kryptonian. Libra spares not a second on pondering about Kara's fate, it is normal to run away from him, after all. The Herald lands a few yards from Zatanna. A hand is raised and a shield of magic blocks the blasts of the Parademons.
Except a couple that comes from behind, thanks to Wanda's chaotic magics. Small thing for a creature like him that is stealing Kryptonian and Asgardian toughness. But it surprises and staggers him.
And angers him, too. When Doom comes shooting, Libra turns and raises more mystical shields to stop his blasts. "Fools. Free will shall not be tolerated. Your resistance means death!" He is not projecting anymore, but his voice is cold and hollow. "Kill them all!" Loki's appearance gets him a snarl of annoyance. "You… wait. By the Fire Pits, I feel godhead energy within you. But you don't belong to this world. Leave now and you will be spared. For a time." The villain is not raising his staff-spear against Loki. But why should he? He has the enhanced speed and reflexes stolen from Kara, so he believes he has little to fear from Loki's blade.
And the remaining Parademons come rushing, drawing battle axes and huge knives.

"You are nothing but a thief" Wanda spits out at Libra. "You have no power beyond what you steal. Is this the kind of 'warrior' your God Planet depends upon?" Her chaotic wall falls as she strides towards him. "Then steal from me…if you dare." She stands there in front of Libra, hands out by her side. "Though I think you are afraid. Or you should be. There are some things a thief cannot handle." Wanda's magics work subtly as she speaks, changing, mutating, so that if he does draw from her he will be drawing weakness. It will feel like magic but it will rot him from within like a virulent cancer…as it is doing to Wanda while she waits.

Zee's not going to go head to head with Libra or the Parademons… fighting as she's been for the last number of months has taught her that sometimes, most times, indirect attacks work best. Leaving Libra for Wanda, the teen mage focusses on the swarming parademons…
~~ eriF dnA gninthgiL etimS ehT snomedaraP, dnuorG nepO rendU s'arbiL teeF dnA yruB mehT, dniW lwoH dnA dloH mehT nwoD ~~
A complex spell, without a doubt and Zee's eye shine like neon as she channels her power, pouring it into the weaves to the make fire and lightning crackle and spark, the earth shake and open, wind blow to hold them down… she's done it before and she can do it again.

After reaching the clouds, Kara paused a moment and looked down towards the battlefield with her enhanced vision. The Ley Pendulum was held in her hand tightly and she drew upon its powers, since it was one of the only real things she had that could help her against magical enemies.
Floating for a few more moments she announces to herself, "Well.. no time like the present Kara. Here goes nothing!"
Multiple sonic booms filled the air behind her as she flew directly towards the ground like a missile, aiming right for Libra with her fist outstretched forward holding the Ley Pendulum.
She prayed to Rao that she would be able to hit the sorcerer who was distracted by Loki for the moment seemingly open to her attack.

As Loki addresses Doom, the god only gets a passing annoyed glance. Doom immediately recognizes that Loki has drawn the attention of the 'New God' that has appeared. This in the end works out for him, until he realizes the dire situation Wanda is in. Doom lets out an irritated growl before he lifts his other arm and points his palm right at Wanda. Without a second thought, the monarch fires a blue bolt right at Wanda's back…and upon impact the bolt seems to ripple across her body to no visible effect.
"Concern yourself with your own well being, Doom will not assist you again."
He assisted her by covering her in a skin-thin barrier of magnetic energy, he has already devised that this Libra has a source of power that he is familiar with. Doom already begins to make his move, raising up one fist and clenching it once as he activates multiple small holes within the lining of his armor.
"Hmph. Annoying god, leave the sight of Doom's glory."
Doom would aim his hand right at Libra…and fires an unusual odd-colored green beam. Upon striking Libra's staff, the beam brilliantly arcs…back to Doom!
"Seized due to your own distraction with the Asgardian. You are mine."

Loki glances about at the others as they continue to challenge Libra. "I -am- interested in hearing more from you," he offers, his sword lowering. "Return the power you so rudely took from me and I shall wait," he gestures, "by the fire pit." Not helping, not harming.
Of course, the others decide to get in on the blasting and there's an exasperated sigh at the sonic boom and Doom's own attack against the staff.
"You people have no sense of drama. Really."
There's a 'tsk tsk' before another Loki appears behind Libra and stabs him with the sword. He does, however, lean in to murmur, "I was listening, you know. I probably could have helped your cause, but you've proven yourself too weak…" even after stealing some of their powers.

At Zatanna's command, fire and lightning strikes the Parademon horde, breaking their charge and scattering them, several of them dropping injured, unconscious or dead. A crack opens on the ground under Libra, but he just hovers over it.
Wanda challenge and Doom's actions only draw his attention an instant, but he states arrogantly: "Mortal gnats. ALL POWER belongs to Apokolips. You live only for our pleasure."
He was going to add something for Loki but the Loki he was looking proves to be an illusion, and he gets stabbed in the back. All the way through the back, as Loki's blade goes all the way to appear through his chest. Kryptonian invulnerability does not work against magical swords.
And then Kara hits him at hypersonic speed.
Contrarily to what Supergirl thinks, Libra is not a sorcerer. His power derives from a cosmic force called the Anti-Life. He has stolen great magical power from Loki and the others, but he can only do some crude effects. He is pretty though due to his New God physiology and the invulnerability he has stolen, but when Kara impacts, there are no magic defenses.
What happens is a violent impact, the shockwave alone shatters glass a mile around, Loki, being so close, feels as if a Frost Giant had backhanded him. Vehicles flip over, Parademons fly back and crash against buildings. Zatanna and Wanda are going to be half-deafened for hours.
The silence after the impact is also deafening, pieces of concrete from the street fall during several seconds and a large crater stands in the place where Libra was a few seconds ago. Libra himself rises slowly, pushing dirt and stones off him, still with Loki's sword still through his chest. He takes a step and stumbles, obviously pretty battered.
"Youuuu… will… paaaay…" he coughs, and falls to his knees, his hands try to grip something. But there is nothing there.
Doctor Doom has his staff!
"NOOOOooooaaaaaaaaarrrh…" Libra shakes badly, his outfit, brass tarnished and the darkness covered in dust, somehow seems to less dark than before, and his tall, powerful form seems to shrink a few inches.
Then he falls, his face hits the shattered ground. And he begins bleeding.
Everyone feels their stolen power returning quickly. In a minute, they are as good as new.

The moment of impact, Doom was well aware she was coming due to his sensors. The instant the staff hits his magnetic palm, he spins around and slams it into the ground like a pike. His barrier swells around him and in rather comfortable silence he watches the eruption of the impact. He would chuckle to himself lowly within his protective shell, standing there proudly with his staff. As he would turn it over in his hand, examining it closely before his sensors lens flip down over his eyes.
When the shockwave and dust begins settling, he lowers his barrier and turns his vision towards Libra. That's when the Doctor would make a low hum.
"Hmph…Not even worth my time now…"
Doom would just stand there, watching and completely unscathed from the conflict as he holds the staff at his side as if it was his own.

Wanda had no idea what Kara was up to…but thankfully Doom was on the ball to protect her. How will she ever live down owing Doom? The impact still sends her reeling as the force field around her tries to absorb the energy. But there is sooo much. Wanda collapses to her knees, her own magic is also weakening herself at the same time but she waves it away with a flick of her hand. It seems the violence will be today's solution. A gasp as her magic returns to her and she uses it to lift herself upwards and hover over the shattered ground and huge crater.
There is actually some pity for the bloodied and broken Libra. He is just a pawn after all. Wanda looks over to Zatanna with questioning eyes…and then a questioning voice in her fellow mage's mind. 'Do we kill him?' Her chaotic magic glows bright as she debates what to do with the fallen monster.

Loki does get knocked back from the impact and it takes him a moment or two to recover, but he's made of tough stuff, even if some of his power was taken. Having it return certainly helps. As he gets to his feet, a hand brushes dust off of his coat before he moves to retrieve his sword from the vessel that Libra was using. "If you don't want him to die I suggest you do something about that rather quickly," is offered calmly before he steps closer to Doom.
"I'm not entirely sure that should belong to you," he glances at Libra's staff at his side.

It's tempting… Zee sprawls as the concussive force hits her and sends her flying again. When she finally picks herself up and dusts herself off, it takes her many, many long moments as she looks at the downed Libra. Oh… it would be so easy… to end it and the threat … but Batgirls words ring in her mind - SAVE ALL - and her own compassion finally surfaces.
Shaking her head towards Wanda… No… SHIELD can take him… he might be useful for research. Alive would be better.
Making her way to the depowered godling, she casts one more spell
~~ dniB sihT gnieB dnaH dnA tooF, laeH miH woN ~~
Regardless of the temporary deafness, which is receeding, she speaks "Hand him over to SHIELD to be put in custody. I know their scientists will want to know about this tech." That's not a question and she'll not back down either.

The remaining Parademons are not much of a threat. It has been a while since the brutes felt any spark of free will, so they are slow to recover and terrified at the prospect they might need to think for themselves again. They try to escape, and barely put a fight if they are attacked.
The fallen man is identified by the authorities as Justin Ballantine. A minor super-criminal codenamed Libra. He fell out of radar a couple years ago. What he just did makes no sense considering his previous record and capabilities. Then again, much the same could be said of Mind Wolf, Unicorn and the others. Regardless, his mind is reduced to that of a drooling catatonic. It will take a while before he is able to speak, if he ever recovers.
Looks like the good guys won (and Doom and Loki too). Except… is Apokolips still coming?

Kara allowed the others to handle the parademons for the most part only assisting as needed, between power draining and other issues she was not feeling the best. She had to thank the Ley Pendulum once again for aiding her in the hour of need, because without it she would have been screwed.
A glance is given to Doom possessing a powerful magic item but she didn't know he was a villain and wasn't in a position to stop him.
"Good work everyone. Looks like we saved the world."

"Then our deal is done, Strange…"
Doom says that lowly, and eyes Loki as he comes too close. Doom doesn't even move, he doesn't even flinch, and he definitely does not relinquish his new trophy. The man in metal would just stare down the Asgardian with cold eyes…He's waiting for his signal to be responded to. He's called for his 'personal driver' and is calmly sorting through his thoughts after such a display. That's when the Quinjet engines begin to sound in the distance as it starts to come in to retrieve the Doctor.

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