Knights of Almeus

July 21, 2017:

Zatanna Zatara and Jessica Jones use her teleportation powers to take a detour to Sunside Heights in Oregon, where they hope to find some answers on Azalea's behalf.

Sunside Heights, Oregon

The enormous grounds of the biggest mega-church nobody's ever heard of.


NPCs: The Knights of Almeus, emitted by Azalea

Mentions: Azalea Kingston, John Constantine, Matt Murdock, Tony Stark, Red Robin, Jane Foster

Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

The grounds of Sunside Heights are enormous. Large enough to house the biggest mega church no one's ever heard of. In fact, all investigation leading up to this little trip will reveal only a muted presence. They do not push. Do not advertise. They are selective in who they recruit to their little corner of the Pacific Northwest, and family seems to be very important to them. It may be why Molly and Edward Kingston had come to Jessica Jones so very long ago to ask for help in finding their daughter.

Crickets chirp in the night, a summer swell of heat lingering in the night air as cooler winds prevail from the west. It smells different, a crush of nature instead of concrete and iron, with only the barest hint of smoke in the air. Even by starlight and a bare sliver of moonlight, the main church can be seen from afar. Lights do not light it at night, but it's shadow blots out the stars behind it, a structure that is made of modern materials but crafted to channel ancient power. It radiates it, casting the grounds in an oppressive glare for those who can sense magic. The kind of glare that should push back against those wishing to enter this place by a magical means, but that cannot contend with the power of a Zatara. More curious is that this magic is tuned, not a generic thing, meant to slow and drag on those cast in dark energies or foul origin. Devils, demons, spirits of vile intent would find this place anathema, and this is not the work of mere hedge wizards.

Here, near the camp that Az recounted from her younger days, the sounds of children are mute, well past the time for activities. Several barracks style buildings are spread across a campground easily half a mile from the church and just short of a large hill, one with a path that a few figures cloaked in darkness traverse. Some travel together, others alone, but all move from the camp grounds proper and towards this place where a flickering, burning light crests the hill. The scent of smoke intensifies as the wind shifts, but it is not stifling, leaving further evidence to where the bonfire site might be. The last of those to crest the hill disappear, and barely audible are the sounds of chanting in the coming chill of the night.


The more Jessica doesn't learn about this church, the more convinced she is that she's looking at a cult. This is behavior that is consistent with such things, at least as far as she knows. This will be her first investigation that's touched on one, really, unless one counts the Cult of the Cold Flame. But she doesn't…that's some other order of magnitude. This is different, somehow.

She has travelled more in the past several months than she ever travelled in a lifetime, though that aborted trip to Disney World at age 15 that shaped her wasn't her first. There were family camping trips, but always in-state. Now she's been to Germany. New Jersey. And Maryland. And Oregon. It always strikes her, how different places smell different, sound different. How their skies look different. Wigs her out a little, too, makes her long for New York. All this nature makes the place creepier as far as she's concerned, but…her mind is ever an anxious one, and she'd probably find some reason to be apprehensive even if the crickets and the darkness weren't doing the job.

She is dressed all in black, down to her bulletproof black jacket, black jeans, and black t-shirt. Indifferent to heat and cold as she mostly is, she opted for protection and stealth over comfort. In a way, it makes her feel like herself…though a more stable, stronger version of herself. She's brought her pride and joy, the night vision DSLR camera that only makes an appearance when her cell phone camera won't do the trick, and a pair of night vision binoculars. These she lifts to her eyes even now, watching those cloaked figures make their progress to the bonfire. "Ok," she whispers, having chosen a spot that keeps them well hidden in the trees. "We'll just let them all get into position, and then we'll move closer and see what these weirdos are up to."

God. It's good to be back on the job. It always is. This. This is where she is who she is, where she knows she's worth something, where she's utterly and completely and gloriously sure of herself.


The fact that the summer camp is teeming with magic - and not even the more rudimentary kind - is already interesting enough to Zatanna when she decides, with good reason, to teleport her and Jessica just at the fringes of the camp. A step further into the very boundaries of the grounds of Sunside Heights lets her know of the arcane barriers preventing the foul and profane from even venturing inside, drawing to a halt the moment she feels the electric thrum of a spell touch her skin, and setting her sixth sense on fire.

Clad in a black tanktop and a pair of ripped, black jeans with her fishnets worn underneath, the magician lifts a hand to signal Jess to stop, ice-blue eyes sliding towards the investigator. "There's magic here," she whispers through the thick brush and the field of relatively untouched flora surrounding them. "But it's not…it's a barrier spell, but definitely not the work of a novice. Either someone knows some ridiculous knowhow or the people running this place knows someone who does."

Searching the darkness, and given that neither of them are armed with ill intentions, they slip through the metaphysical wall unharmed. She checks her GPS now and then through her smartphone, trying to pinpoint the exact location where these camp counselors are supposedly having their campfires away from the campfire. But as usual when it comes to these sorts of things, magic tends to disrupt even the most advanced electronics; her reception keeps going in and out.

Jessica is, of course, more experienced in sneaking around places she isn't supposed to be in, so she is more than happy to follow the more experienced woman's lead. Crouching on the ground, boots planted on solid earth, the young woman nods; her instinct is to follow immediately, but with the sight of the fire burning in the distance, she knows there's no chance of losing their quarry. And once it's time to move, she does, keeping herself low, quiet, and pressed to the shadows. She has been around an actual trained ninja while sneaking around before, remembering Red Robin's words about the basics of keeping silent and being one with the darkness. At least with her clothes, it's relatively easy to blend into it.


The night stretches out to take hold of them from prying eyes, and with careful work between trees and buildings, not even starlight or moonlight will show them in any greater profile then those who went up the hill. Soon enough they'll find it before them, and though it grows steep in it's ascent they will find the brush opens up at the top and allows for a soundless venture into some trees just past where the path tops the hill. Before them, the world is cast in fire and shadows. Men and women gather around a roaring bonfire, a cage of some sort set in the center, with the blackened skeleton clinging to the cage, it's head thrown back to emulate it's last moments of agony perhaps, or a cruel mockery of laughter.

As the fire grows and swirls it becomes a near tornado of flame, billowing towards the heavens. Some magic is at work here to. A flicker of light that is not heat or fire shimmers around the bonfire, and the chanting, a mumble of latin, a recitation of biblical passages from the old testament, gives hint to old doom and coming salvation.

At least twelve of them stand in unison, each draped in a simple cloak or robe, and under it, shorts and t-shirts with catchy power phrases like Christ Believes in You! His Power is Your Power! Each of the gathered raise a sword, aiming it with both hands to high heavens. Off to one side is a series of blackened wooden racks that hold even more swords, each a simple hand and a half weapon of English or German design. The chanting grows, and the flame grows with it. Powering upward, then swooping downward with the dipping of each blade. Each time the fire rises, it widens too, threatening to engulf those who encircle the bonfire.

So very close, everything smells of smoke, and even at this distance the heat feels much like an open oven. Perhaps it smells like smoke because these plants here, at the very edge of where Jessica and Zee observe, show signs of being burnt.

"Power to protect, drawn from beyond!" A voice cuts through the night, from an older man on the other side of the fire, face unseen to them. "Power to teach, cleaved from the unclean! We go now, for those who cannot! We go now, for the future!"


Jessica's expressive face tightens in a scowl as she spots the burned and blackened body. Fury and disgust, but controlled, contained. Controlling her fury has been so necessary of late, will be so necessary in the future, and surely there's nothing to be gained by losing her shit now.

Instead, she lifts her camera and takes the first photo. Beyond freeing Az, it will now be necessary to shut this shit right down, and gathering the evidence to make it happen is very much on her mind.

Twelve, like twelve disciples, looking ridiculous to be murderers in catchy slogans and black robes. She snaps a photo of the swords as well. None of this screams Aztec to her, other than the sacrificial element, but…maybe there are reasons why that doesn't matter.

As they chant, it dawns on her.

These sons of bitches think they're warriors. Heroes.

It twists something inside of her, makes some faint unease twist at her gut. It's another moment for her to contemplate the very fine line between heroism, anti-heroism, and raw villanry. It keeps her up nights, sometimes, wondering if she's crossed the wrong line, wondering if it's possible to cross back after screwing up, thinking about those she has killed and those she has spared, those she has been willing to kill and those she has not, even as she resolves to hold firm to the ideals of the person she has decided to become. Moments when that person is called into question, even by friends, for what she has been willing to do, and for what she hasn't.

The look on her face is sober as she snaps photos of each of the participants. She says nothing, wishing she could ID that body. It would probably take a real forensics lab though. She wonders how many they've consigned to the flames. She wonders if they burned this person alive. And how the campers missed the stench of charred bodies at night.

She makes a gesture to Zee, careful, low, not wanting to catch shadows and flame. They'd best search the whole place. There are more secrets than this to find here. She's sure of it now. But not until Zee herself has gleaned all that can be gleaned from this madness and fury tonight.

How she wants to leap down there and render every one of them unconscious. But for this, evidence, and the law, can do what needs to be done, unless she very much misses her guess.


While Zatanna's expression is grim, she says nothing else as she watches the ritual take place. Ice-blue eyes focus on the bones in the cage, burnt and blackened and the recitations all around them, whispers carrying through the night. Whatever she senses twists at her expression from underneath the faint light of the moon overhead. Possibly, she is waiting for Jessica to finish taking her pictures before she presents her own discoveries to Jess.

It might also be that she might wait until after they're far away. She recognizes the look in the older woman's face.

She is young; some would say barely an adult, but by the way she manages to somehow rein her passionate nature in check suggests experience in these matters that belie her years, some sense of patience instilled in her. Magic, after all, is dangerous on its own and sometimes it's even moreso when it's interrupted - much like how veteran exorcists would always, emphatically stress that once a ritual starts it must be completed to its oftentimes messy finale. In this instance, she quietly makes a judgment call to let this continue until she is certain as to where it leads.

She shakes her head silently when Jessica tries to convince her to search the site while the ritual is still going on. "It's almost done." She risks saying that much at least. "You go, I'll stay here."

And the young woman has to stay, because she knows by the way reality bends and folds around them that they are trying to open a portal, and depending on what's on the other side, she may have to be around to close it.

It would mean outing herself. It could even possibly mean facing off against a group of mages, whose power and origins she knows very little about. She may have the element of surprise, but she has very little preparation as to what to expect. But in dividing up what needs to be done, perhaps they'll be able to acquire more information than if they stayed together.


The fire rises, taller than a three story building, thick enough to lick at the feet of those who stand around it. It rages, roaring in the ears, tingling the skin, almost to hot to look at, and yet there are still those who are closer. Then, reality fragments at it's core, and the fire is sucked inward. It will be in that brief moment that Zatanna Zatara will glean the full measure of what's happening before them, just as a wave of white-blue flame ripples outwards in a sudden shockwave. The plants burn, but they will not. The world around them shimmers and shakes, as a piece of the astral plane is brought to Earth long enough to shift this beacon to another. It is raw, driven not by a magician's finesse or a sorcerer's will, but by power in belief and relics seeped in ancient reverence.

In that way, it is the most dangerous of powers.

Both women will feel the wave wash over them, the explosion invisible to the world beyond for where it happens, but not to those in it's wake. Unfortunately, Az could not tell this part of the tale. To her, it looked only like a fire in the distance, a child's naive understanding about the world she had been sucked into.

Biting cold. Devastating chill. It cuts to the bones when the astral shockwave diminishes to reveal a place they will both recognize. Not by the spires of icy mountains before them, or the bite of the hurricane force winds, or even the lumbering shadows thrice of the size of normal men and colored blue, looming in the far off distance. It's the taste of the place, the smell of it. Ice given elemental form.

This is Jotunheim.

Here, on an ice plain with little but another frozen cage filled with blackened bones and encased in ice as means of cover, the twelve glance around, radiant light illuminating their now armored forms, each with a burning blade that gives them the head to survive here.

One notices the two out of place traveler, then another. Weapons rise defensively, and then Edward Kingston, known well to Jessica Jones, steps forward, his eyes wide.

"Ice demons!" Calls a young Knight.

"No!" says Edward, against the biting wind. "They are from our world!"

Another steps forward, a portly man with shock in his eyes. "Dear God. They will freeze in moments! Quickly, girls, come close, our light can protect you!"

There is a roar in the distance, from a cave a football field away. The Knights look, and then Edward too, before glancing back to Jessica and Zatanna.

"But the mission. Sir Kingston, we must not falter. Our reserves run dangerously low!"

Edward Kingston, father to Azalea, looks on, teeth gritting, decision hanging on his mind by the edge of a knife, and he does not recognize Jessica. Does not yet make a connection. For that, he does not realize that the Knights are not the only ones to make decisions here and now that might affect their course.


Jessica's features arrange themselves into a scowl as Zee suggest splitting up.

It looks, though, like she's gearing up to acquiesce, for all sorts of reasons. She reaches down to write a message into the dirt…

And then a serious WTF moment occurs. Her face screws itself up into its signature 'are you fucking shitting me?' expression.

It should be noted that she's not freezing to death. It is, however, cold enough for her to register it as being cold, cold enough for her to be glad she wore a jacket today. She does shoot a quick concerned glance over at Zatanna, but…she rather suspects the girl's own magic will handle it.

She turns her gaze back to Edward Kingston. Well, they've been spotted, and their quarry is apparently super concerned about them. She strides close, taking point in front of Zatanna so she can take any aggro from…anywhere, and anyone, really, and tries to modulate tone and temper.

One deep breath in through the nose. Five seconds. One deep breath out through the mouth. Five seconds. It's trial practice, right? Tibetan singing bowls, pools of water, and the sensation of loving everyone she loves.

Her face relaxes. "Fear not for us, for we wear the armor of God," she says, sounding calm, at least. And able to pull on some serious bullshit claptrap in the heat— er— chill— of the moment. "But what is the mission of which you speak?"

In other words…

What are you crazy fucks DOING?


She remembers this place.

Reality bends and warps, and engulfs her and Jessica into an alien word covered in ice, filled with fantastic frozen, red-eyed creatures. Her arms come up when it happens, light flashing before her eyes and cold numbing her skin almost immediately; the change from the slightly humid summer to sub-zero temperatures is stark and incredible, and for a moment, even she doesn't know what is happening until Zatanna's arms lower and she takes a look around. Her pale irises are wide with both surprise and recognition.

But the cultists, now donned in armor, are beckoning at them in an attempt to save them from whatever horrors lurk in Jotunheim - while she recognizes the place, the ice world in which Gottfried Muller had once thrown Dr. Jane Foster - she does not know its name, or its place in epic viking sagas. She parts her lips to speak, only Jessica plants herself between these modern day knights and poses her inquiries.

Pressing a palm on the center of the older woman's back, she whispers a few backwards words - it plants a mystical barrier over their skin and clothes, in an effort to protect them from the deadly cold.

She peers over the taller woman's shoulder.

"This is another planet," she says as a rejoinder. "Who are you guys?"


Edward looks to speak to Jessica, to address her Godly intent, but another roar sounds of a creature tempted by a scent that is familiar to it. There, in the dark of the cave, red eyes form against shadows encased in bitter ice. Because, you see, in this place, on this world, it need not only be a spirit. In this place, brimming with magic, filled with deadly elemental ice, it has taken real form. Coiled in anger at failing it's last mission, it is drawn from it's hiding place as no mere human Knight might have.

"We are the Knights of Almeus! We hunt the devils in all the dark places! No matter what world they rest on, what dimension or terrible ungodly hollow! This creature is known to us for t.." It roars again, and steps from the dark, coiled like a great cat with a demonic countenance, black and shaggy and covered in ice, it will be familiar to Zatanna most of all.

Because she is the one who sent it here.

The Hunter gives them no further choice, leaping at them an impossible distance, one bound, two, and it's almost upon them. The young Knight falters, eyes wide, stepping back. The light around him flickers and his nose nearly burns off from the terrible cold. Edward thrusts his sword high, takes it in both hands, and calls the battle. "Knights! To arms! Forward and t-" He is scattered to the wind at the Hunter pounces, shattering ice as it lands and batting Edward aside even as the Knight tries to swipe at it with a great slash of his sword.

The portly knight nearly backs over Jessica, but stops short to raise his sword and stab it into the waiting jowls of the great cat-thing. Another Knight, red headed and fierce, leaps at the creature from the side, to by his companions time, but the creature seems to take little notice. It has eyes only for the the woman that banished it to this place, that robbed it of it's purpose, that forced it to become an amalgam of cold and hatred. It leaps again, this time trying to get past the portly Knight, past Jessica, and to Zatanna Zatara.


Jessica Jones is not going to let it get to Zatanna if she gets her way. Or any of these idiot Knights, either, playing with things they shouldn't be playing with.

She leaps, and she attempts to catch the cat midleap, to twist it with her immense strength, to slam it down into the ground, her teeth gritting. She tries to wrap both arms around it, both legs too, her waist twisting, her brown eyes blazing. Here is a target that requires no moral concerns whatsoever. She can just try to beat the shit out of it.

How refreshing.

The warrior woman almost laughs, unleashing her rage at last, her face twisting with it, offering a feral grin. Here is something she can JUST BE PISSED OFF AT. No consequences, no need to control herself, no worries about words she's going to regret later.

"Down, kitty," she cries, with glee.

In a truly fucked up fashion, The Knights of Alamaeus just took Jessica Jones to her version of Disney World.


"The way you go about it is dangerous," Zatanna points out, ignoring the sinking feeling she gets that the moment she says it, she is very cognizant of the idea that she sounds just like her father. "None of you have any training or education for the kind of magic you wield to do this— "

Oh god, John was going to be so mad.

She has seen the results of what happens when dabblers get their hands on powerful relics, her theory about the bones in the cage adjusting slightly at the knights' declaration. But before she could continue on in her lecture, the sound from the Hunter spirit catches her attention, so vivid and so familiar that she suddenly remembers that the last time she had seen Jotunheim wasn't in the GAC's centennial gala, but deep in the Bat Cave when she dared tread into the more forbidden avenues of Wayne Manor to find…

The knights attack, and so does Jessica. With glee.

"No, wait, it's— !" But they're already moving and she somehow has the time to rub her fingers against the bridge of her nose. Oh, Christ.

"Yawa sthgink!" she cries, hurling a spell to banish the knights away from the rampaging spirit out to get her, in an effort to launch them away from harm. With Jessica already moving to engage, she points her fingers towards the Hunter spirit:

"Retnuh rehtet!" Ephemeral chains, glowing the signature white-blue of Zatanna's pure magic, suddenly erupt from snow and ice in an effort to bind the rampaging predator and hold it fast for Jessica to…well. Beat the crap out of it.


The cat wails in that way that cats do when they cannot reach their prey, a sound so forlorn and disappointed that is almost sounds pitiable. But the Knights do not pity it, turning to rush the creature despite Zatanna's admonishment and it's only her magic that keeps them away. Cartwheeling through cold air they land in snowdrifts that send steam into the air like great pillars when their swords touch down.

Jessica's sudden slam and followup pummeling take the wind from the beast, shattering icy hide and forcing a howl from it's very center. She will find it's claws soon enough though, turning over and kicking at Jessica like any cat might kick at something that has touched it's belly without permission, claws digging deep into that armor she wears, but no farther.

A moment later these is a burning flash of energy as Edward points his sword and a bolt of white-hot fire lances out to catch the creature in the eye, blinding it from it's course as it writhes in Zatanna's bonds and loses it's grip on Jessica, suddenly opening it up to every frustration, every painful retribution Jessica Jones has had to hold in for a very long time.

"ZaTaNnA.,." It groans in it's Svartelf accent, the only word it had ever heard, echoing in the caves below Wayne Manor, as it was set to it's task!

"Knights! Help pin the beast, she has the strength of God himself behind her!"

Edward's command comes, and the knights pile on, some helping anchor those chains, others pinning a limb, but if not for Jessica's tenacity, they would be shaken from it's neck like a pack of hyenas from a lion.


Jessica barely registers the tether, barely registers the Knight's aid. She laughs like a demon herself when the cat claws her and fails to breach her Stark-made armor. She wraps her legs firmly around that belly and just starts barrelling her fists into it.

"You don't GET Zatanna, you flea ridden piece of— " Crap, these are ultra Christians who think she's got God on her side.


Great, now she sounds like The Tick.

Slam, slam, slam! "You get nothing! No cat toys! No cat bed! No balls of string! No nothing!"

Even without swearing, this is better than the freaking car that she beat up, with its pitiable wails that almost touch her crusty black heart. Only they don't. Cause it wants to eat Zatanna.

She isn't really angry enough to kill it, though she will pretty well knock it out. Something gets through; that Zee is really only trying to bind the thing, and wanted them to wait or something. A fist finds a big kitty jaw, and she slams its head down, knocking it out. This is more about having a legitimate target for her rage. She really doesn't enjoy hurting things, and sooner or later it drifts down to her that she's causing a lot of pain, and then she starts to feel kind of shitty and guilty…

And then she just kind of stops, panting.

"Guess we told you," she grumbles, now not sure what she feels. Damn it. At least she got like…2 whole uninterrupted gleeful minutes. That's gotta be worth something.

She decides to ask a question. "Zee? Why does the angry kitty know your name?"

As she continues to just sort of sit on its vanquished form. Ahem.


Zatanna stares as a gout of flame just shoots out of Edward Kingston's sword, blinding the Hunter Spirit. Bound and howling like a banshee, the magician would have done more, but something tells her that Jessica needs it, so all she does is stay out of the way and makes certain that the Hunter is bound as tightly as her magic can allow so that the private investigator can commence its beatdown.

And she does do that, beat it down. She winces faintly at the feline-like squalling the metahuman investigator causes until finally, it ceases moving altogether. Another spell has the chains binding around the cat-like entity more securely, and, for good measure, puts it to sleep. The question of where to send it now, if anywhere, takes up much of her conscious thoughts when Jessica turns to her and asks her a very important question:

Why does the angry kitty know your name?

"Uh…" the younger woman says, a sheepish expression overtaking her features as she rubs the back of her neck. "I may have…run across it before and….sent it here. Hunter spirits aren't exactly indigenous to this area, you know. It's a long story." And one that she doesn't even know how to begin, considering all the other secrets tied to that tale.

With the immediate problem set to rights, the witch turns to the Knights, frowning at them. "So which saint did you manage to acquire to fuel all of this?" That is, presently, her working theory. Given that the bones had been stuffed with benevolence and good intentions, charred and burned until all that was left were bones that somehow hasn't crumbled to ash, and still in a cage, and with the strange mix of magic and Christian influences, she has concluded that the body was not human sacrifice…at least, not one propagated by the knights themselves. Rather that they somehow found the remains of a martyr and used it to power their beliefs that they were some Supernatural Super Squad.

But it's dangerous; the magic is raw and untempered, powered by faith. There isn't a single trained magician among them - the basics are at least required to be able to harness the power of a holy relic. Even the Nazi priest that kept the facsimile of the Spear of Destiny in Berlin had that. While these people…

Ugh. John was going to be so mad.


"Move aside, it must be destroyed!" calls one of the Knights, his sword raised as he walks towards the cat, his faith causing it to burn against the cool air. Another Knight nods, and then Edward squares himself against Zatanna's questions, his eyes narrowing as she comes so very close to the mark. "Saints know fewer miracles than the men and women who power our beacons. They are our ancestors. The Knights who have come before us. But that is something said for another time. Step aside so that we might slay the beast, or Sir Langshire will never know peace. She is tethered to this creature, and to the evils that bore it to our world in the first place, coiled it in books of spells and kept it hidden from our eyes. Until now. Step aside, Jessica Jones. It will not know pain, for it is not truly alive."

That part, in some ways, is true. The Svartelf magic is darkness incarnate, but it had been since twisted, stretched out, made to hunger for the living. This place solidified it, as it does all things that are cast here. For a spirit that meant becoming corporeal. Odd, the way the metaphysical works on Jotunheim.

"Let us complete our mission," continues Edward Kingston, looking between them both, his eyes holding the pain of duty. "And I will explain everything."

Edward looks past Jessica here, and to Zatanna, the promise in his gaze cutting through icy wind and even the billowing horns of a Jotun hunting party beyond. It catches the attention of one of the other Knights, who edges closes to the cage in the ice, a silent question projecting into the silence of Edward's plea.

Should the beacon be lit?


"Yeah, okay," Jessica says, as she's recognized. She leaps off the cat and gestures at it. Have at. If they wanna kill it, that's cool by her. She just doesn't have the heart to do it. And there's an explanation.

She doesn't press Zatanna on her explanation, having a gut feeling that it touches on things she has no right to know. And given she currently has a massive amount of cause to really appreciate Zee's ability to be circumspect, she absolutely won't press. Indeed, she looks a little bit sheepish…she kind of lost her shit there…

But man. It felt good. Even the guilt can't last long.

She draws close to Zee instead, and pitches her a mutter meant for her ears alone. "Oh. Not murderers. That's good then. But I have to admit um…I didn't expect good people. What the f— er —fudge…does this…fudging stuff…have to do with our girl in the fish tank?"


Their ancestors. Zatanna furrows her brows. If they've been around for ages, why hasn't she heard of them? She does nod, however, when the older Kingston tells them that there will be answers forthcoming, but all in due time.

Wordlessly, she starts following the wake of the knights, taking in their swords, armor and regalia. She does not have Red's or Jane's photographic memory, but she tries her best to remember the details. Jessica's whisper has her inclining her head to listen, but all she has in reply is a very decidedly emphatic shrug.

Because really, she has no god damn idea.

So they press on into the frozen wastes of Jotunheim, her strides only stopping when they hear the distant clarion call of a Jotun hunting party in the distance. She crouches immediately, just in case.


Sir Langshire, a tall woman in her early thirties, plunges her sword into the beast to put it out of it's misery. Immediately, it unwinds, untangles from reality, sputtering into motes of light that spiral into the ethereal beyond. The beacon is lit with the tap of a sword, for in this place full of magic, it takes almost none at all to begin the recall process. Moments pass as the energy billows. The horns draw closer and closer, and finally, they are all awash in light once more.

When it fades, there is a bonfire again, but it has died away to reasonable size, and the cage seems to be missing. Only Zatanna will know that it is still there, hidden away on the astral plane to be called forth when needed.

The Knights now appear as they did before, swords in hand, no armor to be found. Edward looks between them both, and gestures to the small camp that is just outside the ritual circle, where little stools and chairs rest, unharmed by the astral flame that was used to transport them so long ago. "See to the children, brothers and sisters. See that they sleep without nightmare tonight, for another beast is slain."

Edward's words do not bring a cheer of victory, but a nod of respect, and as he sits he gestures, pulling the hood of his robe back to reveal ice blue eyes that seem oh so familiar, and dark, raven hair that matches his daughter's. He looks between them both, lets them get settled, and narrows his gaze on Jessica Jones.

"I might assume you have come calling because you've decided to let me know where my daughter is after all. But then, I could not imagine that would require the power of a true Magi like the daughter of Zatara here, in our presence. We have done so much to cloud ourselves from the presence of such powerful creatures, but I…" His gaze ticks down, and he looks almost harrowed. "I so wanted to see one of your father's shows when I was a younger man." it's clear there is pain here, because like Azalea, he did not get to do all the things he had wanted growing up. His rebellious years were spent on the stage himself. If only he could have seen Giovanni perform.

"But that is neither here nor there. Tell me your purpose. You fight demons as well as any with God's favor I've ever seen. Is there some devilry you would seek to destroy with the aide of the Knights of Almeus?"


Jessica Jones is a woman who is inclined to simply speak the truth without a lot of sugar coating. Her impulse is to simply tell Sir Edward all about his daughter and see what shakes out.

She quells it. In this case, spilling the whole truth may shut him down. He’s a good man, and it seems all of her assumptions about religious nuts trying to pray away the gay might have been hasty. It might not have been “gay” that upset them, but the fact that their daughter simply imploded her life and began acting erratically. If that’s the case, she feels deeply sorry for the way she’s treated the Kingstons, and resolves to pay back her deposit.

Somehow. Short of raiding her ‘Operational Fund’ she’s broke. She still has no idea how to use it, and because she’s barely been able to work thanks to the trial she’s not at all sure how she’s going to meet all her expenses without tapping into it as early as 2 weeks from now.

A problem that’s neither here nor there. In the meantime, there’s some careful speaking to do. And questioning people to get information which may help solve a case is very much in her wheelhouse, even if 99% of this mostly still seems to be in Zee’s.

“I have cared for your daughter in my own home as if she were my own foster daughter,” is the partial truth she offers instead. And it’s true. If her own blood daughter were lousy with an Aztec god and had nearly melted Hell’s Kitchen, Jess still would have sadly stuffed her in Stark’s box.

“But as to our purpose, Sir Kingston,” she says, “Have the Knights of Almeus had any dealings with the Aztec spirits, either as friend or foe? The Obsidian Butterfly, the Sky Serpent, or any other?”

And of course, the woman in leather does not strive to explain why she’d be here in the dead of night, having snuck onto their grounds with Zatanna Zatara, to ask such a question…but she keeps her gaze intense, serious, as if to convey that she’s here on God’s own work…

Or, at least, work that really, really matters.


As Edward Kingston turns to her, her lips part. She still isn’t done because she fully believes that they are playing a dangerous game - to wield powerful artifacts without any training in magic was just asking for disaster in the long run. Girding herself to square toe-to-toe with the man on the issue her lips part to speak, but then he mentions her father and as with anything regarding Giovanni Zatara, his daughter is wholly distracted by it. “That’s…surprising,” she says, sliding her hands in her pockets. “When Az said you were religious, I thought…you know. Fire and brimstone sorts and not being so kosher with magic.” Under certain passages of the Bible, what Giovanni did for a living would be considered the work of the devil.

But that doesn’t seem to be the case; the Knights would be hypocrites indeed if they thought magic was evil when they use it to defeat the dark, or whatever it is they are attempting to do.

Jessica, as always, taps into her experience as an investigator, asking questions that aren’t just relevant, but important ones that could explain everything in one fell swoop. She might think this is her wheelhouse, but Zatanna is no detective; when it comes to questioning, she largely takes her cues from Jessica and Red Robin, individuals infinitely more practiced in the art than she is.

So she falls quiet, listening in, curiousity lighting up her ice-blue stare.


When Jessica speaks of housing his daughter, his gaze sweeps over her with a scrutiny that could cut to the bone. He shares his daughter's gaze, a piercing thing that has nothing to do with the creature living inside her. Finally, Edward decides, this is not the woman who tempted his daughter from her husband-to-be. Her questions prickle him, drive an uncomfortable notion that races up his spine. He laces his hands in front of himself and bows his head. But it is not until Zatanna speaks of fire and brimstone that his dour mood cracks. There's a small smile, and his gaze ticks up to her.

"Because we are trained in magic, my dear, we know it's source, it's cause. We do not condemn it as devilry except for those who wield it as such. But we also do not use it here, on this world, unless there is great need. The Knights of Almeus have left the realm of magic on God's Earth to those who have souls made to withstand it. Our duty is to guard the world from threats from beyond, like this Obsidian Butterfly you speak of. In this way, we limit our involvement here only to those creatures who are tied to other worlds. We keep to our mission, our Blood Oaths."

He reaches then for a bag that was set in this little camp, and pulls forth an amulet he had left behind on Earth, should he fall. He stares at this strange thing, with engravings of no Earthly consequence, with a peculiar reverence. "It is not permitted to tell our tale to those who walk this Earth, until they undergo our rites. Slaying a beast alongside us, on a distant realm not meant for our kind, is perhaps as close as either of you will ever get. This belonged to Almeus, the First Pilgrim. We called him that because he came to this Earth from a realm eternal, a place called Muspelheim, and made this his home. Made our belief his belief. He summoned fire with his fingers, and holy light burned in his eyes. That is what his Knight Crusaders thought, in any case. We learned later his true nature, a man born of another world. Alien, in every way. But divine in our eyes. He believed in Christ, our Lord. And so, to our doors come those who find a higher calling. Some are sorcerers. Most are those gifted with the blessing of Almeus. You see, the thirty Knights who served beside him basked in his divine light when he perished. The families of those men are our the core of our order until this day, and like Almeus, Belief powers our magic, with the guidance of those who who know the sorcerous ways, as it has always been. That is why I sent you, Ms. Jones, to find my daughter. She had a higher purpose awaiting her, and threw it away for.. what, exactly? Some pleasure of the flesh? Some misguided rebellion? Or perhaps she was never strong enough."

He tosses the amulet back to his bag, as if it has lost all meaning. Or perhaps the idea of his daughter losing her faith has stolen his own. His expression sours again, and finally, once he's done explaining their order to Zatanna lest she decide to cast Zatara's Final Judgement on them, he answers Jessica's question. "The creature you speak of was defeated in the early fifteen hundreds, by Sir Vasquez, the Golden Blade, and driven from our world. She will rot in Tamoachan forever, though be assured if we had a Beacon there, she would die this very day for the ruin she caused her own realm, as well as ours. Sir Morris saw to that in.. 1982, was it? His blood oath had revealed some piece of her left behind, some Devilish thing that could move from body to body. I remember because of his sacrifice. He and his men all perished with the creature, leaving it no one else to jump to."

It seems Edward Kingston can claim knowledge of magic, at least somewhere within this order, but his knowledge of current events on the East Coast seems to be somewhat lacking.


“She was not weak,” Jessica says softly, sadness casting over her entire face.

Sadness that nearly brings her to tears, in fact, though she holds them back.

“Nor really all that rebellious.”

She looks back at Zatanna. She’s going to tell him. “Sir Kingston, your daughter was taken. By this enemy. Xihunel, the Sky Serpent. Her body was Shanghai’d, and we thought there was no way you could understand. She has been locked in an epic struggle with him, trying to hold him in her own flesh, keep him from reaping destruction wherever he walks. That was the piece that Itzpapalotl left behind. Further, the Butterfly is certainly out now, for she has meddled in all of these affairs. Right now…I kept her in my home, I thought…maybe just caring for her would bolster her in the battle till a solution could be found. Zatanna has been working on that solution, but Az is swiftly losing the battle. She is currently voluntarily on lockdown in Stark Towers. We came here tonight because she told us of this place, had no idea what was taking place here. We came for answers, hoping to help her.”

But in that story, she hears an answer. She glances at Zatanna again, then wets her lips.

She curses the grief and sadness that comes out of her own voice. It sounds so…so weak.

“If you need to set a beacon of some kind…if that’s what it might take to end this, to fix her— I’ll go. I’ll set it. I don’t care what it takes.” A worrisome thing to say, with the trial just one week away and her testimony apparently more potentially helpful— or harmful— than she ever would have imagined on her own.

But she’s trying to take care of everyone. Everyone that matters to her. And she promised Azalea she’d help her somehow. She’s been helpless, completely and totally helpless. And now, here, she sees some kind of a way.

Jessica Jones has never done helpless well. She has to move. She has to act. The fact that she had to turn the whole thing over to her wizard companions, with only her uncertain and faltering prayers to Someone to contribute beyond that, had torn her up inside until she’d finally had to let it go for her own sanity.

To Zatanna: “You did say that right? Itz had to go before we could fix her? And if they perceived Xihunel as some piece of herself that she dropped, then…then there’s an answer in there right? Some sort of thing you can do with that? Right?”

She is so lost in this field, all of this cutting of souls, splitting of them, trading them about like the salt and pepper shakers, merging them together and touching them like live wires. But ‘they need a beacon set, only it’s somewhere dangerous and they couldn’t manage it so someone has to?’

That. That she can do.


That is what his Knight Crusaders thought, in any case. We learned later his true nature, a man born of another world. Alien, in every way. But divine in our eyes. He //believed in Christ, our Lord. And so, to our doors come those who find a higher calling.//

Zatanna’s expression eases into one of mild confusion, scratching the side of her neck with a fingernail. “…so you’re….scientologists?” she wonders. Her befuddlement, at least in this part, is genuine.

But when Edward goes into further detail, after the glance from Jessica, the black-haired witch nods. Not that the investigator needs her permission, but if information about his daughter is what they need to barter in order to obtain the facts that they require, she is all for it. Though she manages to hold her tongue; the picture painted by Azalea about her father is not great, and while he seems to be relatively concerned about her well-being, she wonders how much of it is really for Azalea herself or the destiny she is going to inherit as part of this order. Her mind can’t help but backtrack then, to the time she discovered her father was more than he seemed.

Unlike Edward Kingston, however, Giovanni Zatara gave her a choice. It didn’t matter how young she had been - five or six - but he had not forced her into the path she was on now.

“The Obsidian Butterfly does have to go, if not just to keep her from interfering with our attempts to help your daughter,” Zatanna says at last, glancing once at Jessica before fixing her own stare at Edward. “If you and your knights have any experience in dealing with her, or pieces of her, any tips would be appreciated. I’m with Jess there, too. If it need be that I need to go to Tamoachan myself to plant a beacon for you and your boys to do what you do best, I’m for it.”

At least she wouldn’t be fighting the goddess, herself. That would, at least, be of some relief to John, if they just elected to open a pathway in which other warriors can engage the Skeletal Goddess.


The quip from the mage almost draws a smile, and Azalea's sense of humor is somewhere hidden behind that piercing gaze - he might even make a joke about Hubbard's little cult, and their true origins. But Jessica has a tale to tell.

The change that overtakes him as he listens to Jessica speak of his daughter is almost palpable in the cool night air. The stages of grief roil in his eyes, but he is not a man who was made to bend or break. He holds steadfast until the very last of her words, and when Zatanna speaks to him he will be on his feet. His fist shakes at his side, as much with rage as anything else. He is not a large man by any measure, but in that moment they will both feel his power, threatening to boil over.

It is a power born from emotion, and no matter what he thinks he knows of magic, it is clear that Zatanna is right - it is dangerous, raw, and undisciplined. The air around him shimmers for but a brief moment, but he steadies himself as he speaks. "It should not be possible. These creatures that haunt the world from beyond, each of my brothers and sisters are born with a blood oath for those most dangerous. Such a connection cannot be ignored. If this creature still stalked this Earth, we would know.. we would…"

His voice cracks, and there is some measure of understanding that dawns on him. A hand comes to his mouth, and he swallows his failure as a father, as a mentor, because they did not verify the destruction of this beast, or realize Azalea's blood oath was the same as Sir Morris. When his hand falls away and he looks between them, there is murderous intent in his eyes. "The Obsidian Butterfly once sought to subvert an entire culture for her purpose, to breath life into her realm. When she failed, after my order stopped her, that creature was all she had left to keep her creation alive. She plays at Godhood, and should suffer for it.. but a beacon is not easily set. We have not set one for a century. There is no one who yet lives with the power of martyrdom. There are no bones in our vault that could serve it's purpose."

He steadies himself as best he can, for it is not the failure to his daughter in all the ways that should matter that lights the fire of conviction in his heart, but instead his raw, unflinching dedication to his mission. "If my daughter has been joined with this creature, then she is my daughter no more. The world is at stake. If she remains anchored here, she has greater plans. Only the life energy from this world can sustain her failed illusion on the other side of space and time. She will not stop until we are destroyed. Bring me to what is left of my daughter, and I will do what you have not. I will end this."


“Um. No.” Jessica says, her entire mien changing. Her sympathy evaporates, her face goes hard. Her eyes narrow and go flat as the faintest hint of a sneer twitches her full lips upward. She folds her arms across her chest and plants her feet.

“Zatanna and I haven’t spent all these months trying to save her just so you can stab her after she’s fought her ass off to remain who and what she is. And who she is, by the fucking way? Is a hero. Not just because of how she’s fought Xihunel, but because she’s fought for others. She has gotten hurt, she’s faced danger, she’s risked everything to help other people. To free the captives, to stand in front of innocents.”

Whoops. There went that attempt not to swear.

The very idea, that she, a scuzzy private eye from Hell’s Kitchen who has truthfully only known this girl for less than a year might be less quick to give up on Azalea Kingston than her own father.

Though didn’t she herself spend some time wondering if it might be time to take Azalea to the beach for a sunset and a bottle of painless poison, so she could die with dignity in the arms of a friend? The thought makes her hate herself, but she ignores it. She had abandoned it as soon as Matt Murdock had told her that they would find a way, exercising his unique power, at least when it comes to her, one that has nothing to do with super senses.

His ability to restore the dried up wells of her faith, her belief, in herself, in others, in something better. Every time.

She quashes that thought too. She doesn’t need to be distracted by the sudden woosh of the bonfire she’s got inside of her despite her demurrements, her lies to Zatanna on this front, her attempts to be okay with being just friends because she really, truly values him as a friend as well. And she kind of is okay with it, but that doesn’t seem to be doing much to quench the torch.

Stop woolgathering, Jones.

“We just told you we would risk whatever we needed to risk to set that beacon, Knight. You’ve seen my strength. Actually you’ve seen about a fraction of it. You’ve seen her magic. How about we think instead of rushing to stab someone? What does it take to gain the quote-unquote power of martyrdom? Someone gotta die, or is it a bit more subtle than that?”

How is it she, believed by the world to be a violent bruiser, usually is the one who ends up telling people to use their brains and their words? Even though her anger is rising like the tide she continues to think, to investigate. But it’s clear she is ready to fight all twenty of them if she thinks they’re going to hurt Azalea Kingston.


And throughout it all, Zatanna remains silent. Ice-blue eyes fix on Edward Kingston as he demands that they relinquish Azalea to him, and at Jessica’s white-hot fury, triggered immediately when asked to sign the death warrant of someone she considers her own. She isn’t silent not just because of the tempers and raw emotion brewing around her, but also because if there is no other method left, doing that might be necessary. She doesn’t want to think about it, but the possibility has always been there. She remembers the look in John Constantine’s eyes in their conversations about the problem.

But she isn’t John, also. She acknowledges the possibility, but at the moment, at least, she does not accept it.

“I’ve been told constantly that even with magic, there are things that should be possible,” she speaks up, finally. “But so far, in what I’ve been involved with, and the things I’ve done with others I know, I haven’t seen a limit yet. I know you were educated and raised to believe a different way, and your experience probably tells you something different. But let’s suspend our current beliefs for the moment. Say it is possible to place a beacon in Tamoachan. What will that require?”

In the end, nothing has changed: Itzpapalotl has to go.

And so the raven-haired witch concentrates on the hows of the problem.


There is a tension that fills the air as the fire of Edward's soul clashes with the infinite power in Zatanna's. Chaos versus calm. Jessica's resolve forces a squaring of shoulders, a will to fight. But it drains. It drains because he sees in these two people the reflection he would rather have in this moment, that of someone who could dare hope to save Azalea. It's in the lines that deepen the shadows on his face, and the way his eyes tick to the ground in shame at what he had suggested. Resolve or not. Mission or not. The two women before him are of stronger character than he, and their words ring true.

His hands find his face as he gathers himself, finally slicking back over his hair. "The beacons are not just a means of travel for us. They are our way of drawing power from God himself, to extend our souls to our skin in the form of armor, to give our swords the power to cut through even the strongest enemy, and draw upon the divine fire itself to smite them down. There comes a time when a Knight is one with the divine, and in that time, they retire to the role of Pathfinder. We use the astral realm to find those places that haunt the dreams of our children, those places where the greatest Blood Oaths hail from, and it is to those places a Pathfinder will go, knowing they will never return, but that we will forever have a gateway to that realm to strike down those who would harm us."

Finally he looks up at them again, his rage, disbelief, fading into a tired harrow, a shadow of the man who had so momentarily sought to destroy his own kin. "None of us possess this power. None in a hundred years have become a Pathfinder. I can give you access to our library. It has more information on Tamoachan than I could ever commit to memory. You, Zatanna Zatara, have a family name worthy of the world's debt, and so I will give you the benefit of the doubt. If you think you can use the knowledge there to travel to this place, we will aide you however we can. But I fear that in her own realm, in a place she built with ancient power, she may be unstoppable. Though…"

There's something there. Is it hope? "…I pray it is not true."

He reaches for his bag, and the amulet, fingers wrapping around it before he gestures for them to follow. "Come. I will give you tonight and tomorrow to study. It is all I can promise before my order asks too many questions, for while I will give you this time to save my daughter's life, my order might not if they knew the truth of it."

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