Zodiac in the House of Death

September 13, 2016:

The Zodiac members Virgo and Libra are up to no good and messing up with the resting place of a dead god. Talisman and Dr. Strange try to stop them.

Buff Point, NY


NPCs: Virgo, Libra (Gustav Brandt) and the ghost of Zukala the Disposer of Souls



Mood Music: None.

Fade In…

Omens and portents are afoot. Most mages in New York can notice the signs. An important conjunction is about to take place, which means a good time for ritual magic. Those events are busy time for Doctor Strange. Many fools and lunatics think it is the right moment to summon demons (it is not!).

He has foiled a couple foolish rituals already when he arrives to Buff Point, to find ancient spirits disquiet and awakening. And a large contingent of strangely soulless beings, hooded and cloaked, guarding the ancient ruins.

It is not a quiet moment in time, when it come close to harvest. The spirits are starting to become disquieted, disturbed, and boisterous. Talisman is too in tune with these things to ignore them… Well.. When they whisper-call, or prod, but when the cry is predominant with a baleful tenor she has to cease and pay attention.

The hotel shower is shut off, long raven hair rung free of excess before it is flung back… "I get it. I go. I go…"

The flannelshirt is bound high upon abdomen, overlain by a hoody for the bite of the light chill of encroaching autumn while still-dripping hair hangs down her back and the door to the hotel room slams shut behind her.

…Meddling spirits…

But what she walks up to has those deep hazel brown eyes rimming with a light storm of electric blue, she shadows cast by coverage in Buff Point doing no service.

The spirits are in uproar, really. Strange is only vaguely aware, since those Earth spirits are do not communicate well with sorcerers of esoteric traditions, like the dimension-hopping mages of his order. But this place is truly ancient, and the crushing weight of a score millennia has just been lifted. Beings that should sleep until they were forgotten even by the gods are now stirring, and the lesser beings that ward them are whaling for help, not aware than no mortal remembers why are they there.

But they have been heard, nevertheless.

Strange arrived first, because he actually followed the omens, instead of waiting for the spirits screams. He wouldn’t have heard the screams all the way from New York. Only someone like Talisman could have.

Strange can, and did, feel the powerful ur-shaman approaching, though. He is waiting, cloaked in shadows himself while he studies the hooded figures a hundred paces ahead. “Elizabeth? I thought it was you approaching,” he keeps his voice low. “Watch out. Whatever is going on, there are some sentinels, and they are not alive. I feel no magic, so they must be robots.” Not a fan of robots. Strange’s magic is weak against those mechanical human constructs.

The mocassin booted feet tred silently over the earthen ground, long worn hide bending and molded to contours of her feet that can feel where to step and not. Tattered and stone-fades jens are tucked into the knee high tasseled footwear, clinging to lower body akin to the shadows to the foliage she is standing within, fully rising from her crouch when Stephen addresses her.

A soft tch passes Talisman's lips, upper tier curling away from teeth in distaste as her head even jerks to the side as a small smattering of spit is spewed to the ground. "Time and time again… Always the machines in a world not meant to ever be ruled by them." A pause and those eyes settle, but like a storm building power in the backdrop of dark and surmounting clouds.

"They need removed. What do you suggest Supreme?"

“I agree, and I suspect their masters are not machines. Can you feel them?” There are humans nearby, and one of them is both strong in spirit and shrouded. “If you have a simple way to remove the machines quickly, I would be you to do so. Otherwise we will have to use brute force, waste some energy and reveal our presence.”

"I am not in the art of removal… But distractions…" A cloying feeling comes over the crisper night air, borne upon a laden humidity that almost glistens… Stars strewn across a breath unseen unless you bore more then the mundane eyes.

A soft exhale and that blanket spun between fingers and stretched like a cats-cradle snd pulled wider, spread apart and gaining in density. But while hands spread they lift, and the blanket gains fur, dew laden instead of glistening like stars, and when that created veil falls over her the woman is no more. Instead a giant wolf falls to all fours within the brush and shakes the sensation from her fur - blue eyes crackling and fading to ember.

A moment of eyes meet and Talisman turns to walk into the opening and disturb the gathering. Anything to machines? No. But to anyone bearing knowledge of the constellation Lupus… They may see right through the spiritual guise given focus and ability.

The hooded figures react the second Talisman-wolf leaves cover. Three of them turns and begin walking towards her, while the other two stay close to what the shaman can see it is a hole in the hill’s side. « Elizabeth, I don’t think they will be less hostile to a large wolf than a human being »

Sure enough, the hooded guards pull out large handguns, silenced, and will fire at the wolf the moment they are at around 30 yards. By then she can see they have no faces under the hoods, and the metal of their hands.

«No, but take the distraction!» Elizabeth responds, the mental nudging easy enough, almost a push to Strange as the cloaked figures begin to move and in doing so reveal themselves.

The lupus form is not small by any means, as a human in guise takes on a much larger beast even in illusion - it still has to fit the shape. Lithe, the fur a deep black that bleeds a blue and purple hue like a raven's wing, speckled and mottled with the mate of the aligning within the stars. But it is just aid from a spirit and a trick of the gaze, manipulated in the sparkling haze that takes specific eyes to truly see.

What did not was the flash of fang when her head lowered, ears lain back in their closing approach and the draw of weapons setting her into a motion that the beastial body only could harbor, springing in high paces that dodge and evade, but not taking her far so to keep their attention.

Doctor Strange shakes his head. So much for the subtle approach, now the masters of the machines will be alerted. But would have been very difficult to deceive the automatons regardless.

Considering the options, the Supreme Sorcerer selects a transmutation spell that won’t make contend directly with the artificial alloys of the robots, or force him to test is blasts of force on their metal hide. Instead he mutters for a few seconds and as the wolf begins to dodging bullets, the ground under the guards becomes quicksand, and the three heavy automatons sink quickly. Still, two more guard the entrance into the hill, over rocky ground.

« Did you know there were some unidentified ruins in Buff Point? » He projects into Talisman’s mind. « Amateurs archeologist a century ago claimed Vikings made them. But I know from past sorcerers records the Norsemen didn’t come this far south, and the ruins were pretty much fully destroyed by careless farming expansion. I wish I had investigated before. »

«I know nothing of your markers here. But the spirits, given time, will tell.» A pause and the wolf backpedals from the transmuting grounds and cuts into brush, heading for the two remaining. Any terrain left hard to human scaping was seemingly eased by the four legged stalk that took her like a shadow along the face of stone.

It was like hunting, but Elizabeth only followed what the spirits lead, guided by a beastial whisper and calling or the intuitions that would not come otherwise.

It was a moment before she reached the guards, her approach silent, although they had already been detected so there was no attempt to truly hide. Anticipation of the hunt… A thrust forward on powerful legs and she lifts from hind to lunge, but what would have been fang comes in the flash of a blade imbued with mystic energy from a human hand. The wolf was simply a cloak and illusion, broken when contact was made.

One of the robotic guards shoots at the incoming wolf, but the illusion makes it shoot well over Talisman’s head. The second one, however, produces a scythe and parries the woman’s blade. It is a rather unorthodox weapon for an automaton, but it handles the scythe easily, slashing at Talisman’s neck with a quick riposte.

Meanwhile Strange could say something about stubborn Canadian ladies, but Michael told him how Elizabeth was, so he should have expected something like this, right? A bolt of red light flares from his hand, hitting the guard with the gun and sending it slamming against the side of the hill. Unfortunately it recovers pretty quickly and begins firing at the mage.

«So, Stephen. You found speculated ruins, guarded by some typical creepy violent automatons. What else is speculated in this scenar—-!» Elizabeth needs to move quickly, and as the illusion falls from her shoulders like a heavy blanket it makes it easy to dodge the scythe by doing a not-so-graceful fall backwards onto her ass.

Stubborn does not even begin, but it about tips the iceberg. Elizabeth pushes back with booted heels, a motion meant to give space between her and her attacker, one large rock gripped, hefted into the air and just as it reaches face level the electric blue within her eyes crackles to life, extended hand and fingers radiating a blast that shatters the rock into bits of shrapnel meant to pelt their faces in the blast.

Strange uses his cloak as a shield for the first couple bullets, then summons a shield to stop the rest. “No. These automatons are not from here. They are using… hmm?” Alas, Strange fails at familiarity with modern firearms, but they are definitely high caliber automatic handguns by Smith & Wesson.

The scythe is not something one can find in the local guns shop, though.

The blast on rock directly on the face of the automaton works well to make it fall on its back, where it twitches a little. Apparently the featureless faceplate is not that tough, some shrapnel got through and damaged something important. Seeing it, Strange directs his next force bolt to the robot head. It goes down with with a satisfying crunching sound.

«Guns, and weapons of Death.» All encompassing, none the less when the scythe falls to the ground before the body hits beside it, Elizabeth's eyes still swirl, spark, and cast a golden glow from the edges radiating from the burning heart of blue heat within.

A hand rises and presses fallen strands of pitch from her face, even a final sniff with a haughty lift of chin and for good measure fingertips crackle and that eldritch energy gives the two fallen guards another jolt that makes their bodies twist, jump and fall back as if they had just been defibrillated.

… Tip of the iceberg.

Rising slowly, skinned hands press to the earth, then dust off her jeans as she looks back to Stephen, the smile flashing white teeth his way in a still-lingering beastial grin. «Now I've worked up an appetite.»

Strange approaches quickly, offering a hand to help the woman stand. But too late, she does it herself. Looking at the fallen machines he sighs. “Lets hurry then. They know we are here and the more we linger then more ready they will be.” He gestures to the entrance into the hill, stepping over broken stone. Looks like the dug a couple feet, found a stone door and blew it up.

He said hurry, but when he sees the remains of the stone door, he stalls, crouching to pick some remains. “These are… Atlantean runes. Very ancient.”

The hand is glimpsed, a look that goes from the gesture to Strange and then to the entry. Elizabeth is already thinking about dinner, even as the intrigue tugs her along side Strange at the same urgent pace. Food can wait.

As he picks up remains her hand brushes along the walls entry, eyes closing, sensing, feeling if there is anything she would pick up from such a thing. "So that right there, debunks their claims of it being Nordic, although those people did come here long before the Puritans…. But everyone seems to forget about how real myths are…"

“Oh, yes. Atlantis had some colonies,” mentions Strange, “but they were destroyed by non-human enemies before the cataclysm. Of course there were tens of thousands of survivors that scattered all over the world. If they came here then the mainstream scientists might be completely mistaken about the origins of the native Americans.”

But there are no records of Atlantean ruins in North America he knows. Then again, the passing of 25,000 years leaves very little to find. Which means that… “magic, this place was preserved by ancient spells. They would be more intense deeper into the hill. But this was not a dwelling.” He stands up, and walks forward quickly.

The deeper they go the more Elizabeth changes, from appearance to demeanor. "Native Americans are a founding people as olde as your Atlanteans. Races were different even back then, even my people…"

Elizabeth now no longer holds a guise.

The hide, strips of fabric, red lining slowly paints its way along her facade with the hazel mercurial spin of eyes and the coronet rested upon brow. She stood within the domain as Talisman, with the knowledge gleaned from not only spirits but scholarly work of Archaeology.
"Not a dwelling. Then a preservatory…"

“You think so? I will tell you about ancient Atlantis in length some other day. Now we… have no time,” because they enter a large chamber. Huge. Cavernous. Much larger that is should exist in the small hill. “It is a tomb,” declares strange.

**» This is the tomb of Zukala, Disposer of Souls, God of Death. God of Atlantis « ** The spirits whisper to Elizabeth ears.

** » Help us, oh great binder. For we have grown too old and weak to stop the defilers. Great Zukala was slain by the All-Powerful Space Gods when trying to protect doomed Atlantis. But he is Death itself, and Death won’t rest eternal well. Should Him return, great woe will befall both mortals and immortals! « **

Bare feet barely whisper over the cold stone of the cavern, small anklets not even sounding out in every step she takes that separates the hide strips that form a scant skirt, teasing tails just along thighs and ankles. Parting is lined with a denser and coarser hide, dipping low along abdomen and up to spread along chest where the hem is inlain with further drops of strips of hide.

"A few knowledges to exchange then. It is proven. People do not open their minds, and that is why…" Talisman began but in her pace with the Supreme she stopped as they spoke to her, her eyes glassing over and that hazel blue taking over in shocks, lips almost mouthing their words but no voice coming past.
"Who are the Defilers, and how much time do we have?" Once snapped free of the spirits Talisman's coronet seems to pulse in tandem with her eyes, her breath taken..

“There,” points Strange, just as four figures turn around a corner. Two are hooded automatons, carrying cases of artifacts and ancient amulets. Another is a masked woman with red hair and a golden dress. The last is a man with a blindfold over his eyes and a simple grey monk robe.

“There they are,” states the woman. “Can we handle them?” The blindfolded man nods, stepping forward. “Leave. This night belongs to the Zodiac, as it has been foreseen. We found the un-findable, as Mercury is in the House of Virgo and all the secrets of the world were in the open to us.”

Talisman follows Strange's gesture as the four figures reveal themselves. «// Should Him return, great woe will befall both mortals and immortals! //» The words shared with Strange, but her lips do not move as she steps forward and the archaic blade she had used to attept to wound when she shed the cloak of Lupus shifts, growing in length to tap the base upon the ground and bear the adornments of her own extended artifact of mystical forging.

Then show us how. Spoken to the spirits that spoke to her. Talisman braces herself for their own desires.

"There are no secrets here for your taking. You need to learn how to ask a bit nicer!"

Strange looks around and sighs. “You fools. You have removed the warding artifacts to prevent a dead god from returning to unlife. Drop your stolen loot, it should not leave this chamber!”

The woman in gold hesitates, but the blindfolded man shakes his head. “It is of no consequence to us. The Zodiac Key will easily hold this dead spirit at bay if the necessity arose. But you… it will be your task to stop him, am I right, Supreme Sorcerer? Not our problem. Yours.”

“If you know who I am,” replies Strange, anger in his voice. “You should know you can’t stand against me. Yield now!”

The blindfolded man steps forward, taking a martial arts stance. “Usually so. Not tonight. Venus and Jupiter are in the House of Libra. Fortune, and harmony, are -mine-.” He jumps forward, and Strange launches a barrage of bolts of light, a dozen or more, that twist therough space forming a veritable rain of power. Impossibly, the blindfolded man dances through them, runs up the wall, gyrates in the air and… Strange raises a shield of force in his way.

Libra punches through the shield, shattering in a million fragments. His fist never touches Strange, but the mage is sent flying against the distant wall by the sheer force of Libra’s Chi, hits hard, and crumbles forward unconscious.

Then the whole place trembles, cracks of darkness slitter through the walls, and the temperature drops from cool to subzero in seconds. Talisman can feel a vast, ancient and dead spirit awakening.

Now the bangles around ankles rattle. Talisman steps between 'Libra' and Strange as his body thrusts back and slumps to the ground. Eyes narrow and the chill is not only felt along bistre skin, but seen upon the exhale that plumes a fog from her lips.

The staff reformed in her hand spins, the pommel slamming into the ground that rattles with awakening, but the split in the earth is combatted with her own as she positions herself ally to foe. «YOU DARE! Your trinkets have no hold when you awaken far more! And as it wakes, it desires….Sleep!»

Empty hand reaches towards the four, fingers turn, heavenward and the curl in, cusping as if a becon, but that Coronet flares to a blinding arch of light that criss crosses like lightning around her form. A conduit. Exactly what Talisman is as the spirits take what she offers. A bit of power, a push with that of her own command to make them fall as they had made her friend. The Sorcerer Supreme. Stephen….

They'll all sleep then…

The chamber shakes again, and the spirits that guarded the tomb wail in despair. Libra stands his ground, drawing a warding sing with a hand to defend from Talisman’s magic. “You can’t defeat me with mind tricks, youngling. I am a master of the self.” Virgo, however has no such defenses. The woman is a genius criminal, not one of the greatest supernatural martial artists of the world. She faints.

But before she hits the ground, the blind Libra catches her and runs away, the robots in tow. “Farewell. Ah, you probably should awake the magician. I didn’t hit him too hard.”

Discretion is the best part of valor. Libra is not too interested in facing whatever is waking up
Whatever comes as giant hand of darkness rising from the floor, gaunt and shimmering with necrotic energy. Zukala must be a giant, on top of a dead god.

Virgo and Libra exiting the House of Death, leaves Talisman standing there. There were others? But they did not matter, the only thing she knew to do was keep the spear tipped staff planted, letting the powers run their course as the spirits took their hold and that empty hand that had beckoned for the sleep now splays, those archs of light sparking out and forming like bolts before it all seems to reverse with a shift in suction.

The wind should not exist here, but her attire shifts, casts around feet and thighs, hair plucked from neck and shoulders to pitch behind her and join the hands extension from the ground and the darkness that heralds.

But what the hand may not expect, is hers taking it. Not to help, but to hold.

“By the Hoary Hosts of Hoggoth,” mutters Strange, struggling to stand up. The dead Death God is a rising slowly, leaning in a staff, gaunt and skeletal, and clad in ancient purple robes that somehow have stand the millennia. But as he stands, he seems to falter, his gaze on Talisman.

And slowly, very slowly, he bends a knee.

And then, he fades away, back to eternal slumber.

The cracks on the chamber are gone, and the guardian spirits sing praises to Elizabeth all the way outside the tomb. “I will call upon some of my allies,” comments Strange, “this tomb should not be in Earth at all. We will move it to one of the underworlds. And then we will seek this Libra fellow and his tomb-raiding friends, and have some words.”

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