Demon Bear: The Fall

November 17, 2017:

The Demon Bear and friends <TM> attack the mansion. Part 1.


NPCs: None.


Mood Music: [*\# ]

Fade In…

Like most situations such as this trouble doesn't become apparent until it's right there.

As such, the day starts as normal as any other; wake up, get breakfast and then it's onward to classes, chores, or personal projects. It's only as lunchtime fast approaches that tremors upon other planes of existence pings subtle warnings that things are about to change.

It starts with darkness - a shadow forms in the sky in the west where the forested areas border Xavier's land. The 'cloud' begins as a smudge upon the horizon and then after a few minutes that smudge becomes a spot, then that spot becomes something infinitely bigger. Much like a cloud it resembles the dark blot moves. Quickly. Rapidly. Too fast for an actual cloud, especially when the weather and wind currents are so calm.

As it gets closer to the Mansion, that roiling 'cloud' reveals itself to be a mass birds. Crows. Red-eyed, glossy black-feathers and sharp beaks and claws.

For those with other-worldly senses, or heightened senses, they might be the first to realize something isn't quite right.

For one, this particular murder of crows is hundreds upon hundreds strong. They also move as a cohesive unit, completely in tandem with one another. They're likewise silent with only the wind whipping past their bodies possibly giving their position away.

For those with mystical and psychic powers, they too might start to feel something. A darkness approaching, madness and insanity, rage and fury. Animalistic in nature, but also magical.

Once the cloud is close enough the birds literally arrow their bodies at the Mansion. Tucking wings close and diving for windows and doors. Even the stone-face wall. This is about overwhelming what currently sits around the Mansion, invisible. Wards. Of the magical nature. Put in place by a certain demoness who resides within these hallowed halls.

As such, when the first wave of crows hit they actually don't do much damage to the actual building.

Instead the sounds of *splat splat splat* can be heard, as the magic within them is stopped by the wards in place.

But soon, those wards will be overwhelmed. Taken down by the sheer volume of birds that are purposely ending their lives upon them.

By this time, the students who are out within the yards (both front and back) realize something is wrong. Their surprise and then worry and finally fear lights up the psychic plane; their screams start to fill the air, as they begin to run.

Panic is here.

As for those who spend time out of doors around the mansion, Cloud should come to mind before most others. It's not that the leopard lives out there; she does actually have a room of her own in the mansion, though she is rarely there. She tends to sleep elsewhere in the mansion. Indeed, Cloud makes a point of moving around, spending the night with those in need of comfort, especially the younger students or those experiencing a crisis.

It's her thing.

But Cloud always spends a portion of each day out of doors, and most often on all four paws. Sure, she can enjoy a nature walk on two feet, but why worry about it when she can be quite happy and comfortable here and not worry about anyone being upset by her leopardly presence.

And that cloud is not 'right'. The leopard knows this pretty instinctually, and pretty early on. And she is fast. Really fast. Faster than a cloud, for certain. But she is not inside when it - the crows - arrive. No, Cloud is out back, facing the onrushing cloud - note the lowercase c, folks - head- and paws-on. She's not one for magicky wards. She has no idea such things are here, or necessary. But she leaps up to bat away crows, chomp 'em, whatever it takes. It won't be enough, of course. But she tries.

And Cloud does not let fear take hold. This is just determination. A very Zen, Shou-Lin attitude. What needs be done is done.

This is why Cloud is a heroine. Leopard. Thing.

Mark this day. Nate has real business being at the grounds this week. The eternal nomad/rebel is actually being teacher-like lately. He is taking a few mutants to Genosha in a 'diplomatic' mission and they needed training, so he is planning and running Danger Room scenarios. Getting them to work as a team (or at least not to be in the way of each other) and to get the best out of their powers.

Yes, he barely believes it himself.

Actually Eclipse is about the same age as Nate, but the other young man has little formal training. Nate has been in and out the X-teams since he was eighteen, and has been fighting since he was fourteen. He is the veteran one, odd as it sounds.

More coffee is needed. He is not very good at programing anything complex in the Danger Room. His scenarios are simple, brutal and over the top. But this time he is aiming higher. Where is Doug when a guy needs help?

So the cloud of crowds finds Nate at the kitchen, getting the fifth mug of the day. And considering a sandwich, since he skipped lunch, and breakfast. And sleep last night. Typical Nate-schedules.

It takes a bit to draw his attention. Nate is empathic, but only in a minor degree. Only strong emotions trigger his senses, and only short range. So the incoming madness becomes obvious when the darkness is already covering the grounds and he was already peering outside and looking for threats.

« INCOMING ATTACK » he projects to every listening mind in the ground. « ALL STUDENTS IN, GET DOWN TO THE UNDERGROUND COMPLEX » this is not just a message, he puts as much coercitive power into the transmission as he thinks it is safe.

Of course he is not going into the bunker, he steps out, his clothes shifting into his combat uniform and his telepathic senses spreading, looking for the directing mind behind the huge crow swarm.

That certain blonde demoness has been an elusive presence around the X-Mansion for the last couple of weeks. When she has been found on the grounds she's as often as not been in places that aren't her usual stomping grounds - the service areas, the attics, the basements - and if anyone caught a glimpse of her before she vanished again, she seemed to be taking an unusual interest in the mansion's outer walls. In some cases she might even have given the appearance that she was drawing on them with a fingertip, but if the terminally curious chose to investigate they'd have found the walls unblemished.

Until now. The moment the first bird dashes its brains out against the old brick of the X-Mansion, everywhere that Illyana had been the wards flare into life, twisted, intersecting lines that don't seem to quite obey conventional geometry suddenly burning with cold white fire.

Upstairs, behind a firmly closed door bearing a large sign that reads 'BEWARE OF THE DEMONS', Illyana Rasputina's eyes snap open. She'd been out late, again. Looking for Dani, again. Failing to find her, AGAIN. And as far as she's concerned that entitled her to lie in for as long as she liked.

It seems like something nasty has has other ideas.

Illyana rolls off the bed, coming fully awake in an instant, and moves straight for the window, throwing open the curtains - and pulling a disgusted face as a bird slams into the thick glass, leaving a trail of blood and feathers smeared against the pane as it slides off, dead. She frowns. Her wards wouldn't have activated unless… she reaches out with her magical senses, then curses fluently in one of Limbo's demonic languages. "You ARE smarter than the average bear. Sometimes I hate being right."

Illyana vanishes in a flash of light, reappearing in the kitchen - just in time to see Nate stepping outside. That prompts ANOTHER curse. "Nate!" She shouts at him, crossing to the door and slamming her palm against one of her wards, feeding it power but feeling it begin to crumble under the repeated batterings of the suicidal birds. "Do NOT go out there!"

The leopards claws and teeth are good at bringing the crows down. As is her powerful leaps into the air. She finds the glossy-feathered birds die as normally as anything else when their necks and backs are broken; their bodies crushed.

When those bodies are crushed within her mouth a surprise might be there for Cloud - instead of the typical taste of blood, what Cloud does taste is rot. The taste of decaying meat. The stench of death likewise joins that terrible mixture of taste. Once the birds fall inert their bodies quickly decompose and what's left behind might be even worse; beneath broken feathers and crackled bones, wriggling things can be felt. Maggots. Black-slug-like things and they are still *quite* alive.

Cloud also isn't left alone to continue her attacks. As soon as the crows realize she's killing their brethren four immediately change course and arrow for the large leopard. They intend to peck and scratch, striving to dig beneath the protective covering of her fur.

With Nate's appearance and message, the students continue their mad scramble inside, or rather to the bunker. They run, they scream, a boy even trip over another and falls to the ground. As soon as he's prone upon the ground four crows dive down at him. Rolling over the boy sees the impending attack and automatically flings his hands upward, to protect himself.

Illyana's warning to Nate apparently comes too late, as such, Nate isn't left alone either. A half-a-dozen crows focus upon the now costumed man. They swoop at him, the birds finally offering some sort of battle-cry, as they scream, "CAW!" All four aim to scratch and attack his face.

As for Illyana she feeds energy into those wards, they flare and twist, as they valiantly try to hold back the avian onslaught. But, like everything, eventually there comes a breaking point and when that point is reached the magical shields flare BRIGHT one last time, before shattering into darkness.

When that's felt the crows (as one) let loose with a triumphant CAW.

Now their bodies aim for windows and those doors. Crashing against the stubborn glass until they break beneath their own broken bodies.

Inside, amass the chaos, a woman appears. She steps from a shadow cast upon a wall. A cloak made from a bear hide sits around her shoulders, with the head of the bear covering her hair and the majority of her face. Seeing the frantic running around, those students stricken with fear, it causes the woman to smile. Then she walks and with each step her appearance changes. The bear-cloak vanishes, her black costume is replaced with jeans, boots, a shirt. In one of her hands is her trusty bow, a quiver upon her back. Her expression likewise shifts; instead of something hard and calculating, she wears something stoic. Worried. That's appropriate, right?


Cloud is quick to spit out rot-tasting crows; she wasn't hungry before, and she is even less-so now. she was attacking to kill, and continues to do so, doing her best to stay clear of the maggots, no longer using her mouth but only her claws and perhaps headbutts if necessary.

But the bodies are accumulating beneath Cloud, and eventually she will face the problem that her paw pads have nowhere else to go but somewhere that a vicious evil maggot is wriggling. No open wounds for them to penetrate, but that may not matter.

The birds that aim for Cloud will find the leopard exceptionally agile and not at all unaware of their approach. This does not mean they cannot gain purchase for their attacks, only that it is anything but easy. She is more resilient than mere flesh and fur would account, but not by much. Her greatest boon lies in how rapidly she tends to heal injuries. But that may not matter, here.

Eventually, one of those birds is going to succeed in getting in a good and 'lucky' shot with a beak or a claw, and draw blood. What happens then is anyone's guess. Cloud certainly does not know; she's doing the best she can to protect and defend the school.

The opening may come when the student falls. Cloud is fast, and she reacts swiftly, leaping and sprinting as only a leopard can - no, she's no cheetah, but she is fast afoot, and not holding back - to reach the student and protect his fallen form as she has the walls and windows.

Whether that will be enough, or whether the student's powers might now target her as well as the birds, only the moment shall tell.

This time of year and with the holiday break Scott and the rest of the faculty present are at least not having to care for an absolute horde of children. It's more or less a rough third to fourth of their numbers. Those running are ushered through doors towards the subbasement where they will be instructed to hold unless this 'attack' requires they push in further.

Scott's stress levels during these times skyrocket, his brow etched together enough it feels like his forehead has knotted and his palms are sweating. It's not fear. Not for him at least. He hates the idea of the school also being a combat facility but despite all beliefs this is one of the safest places in the world for those 'mutant younglings'.
Why? Because of /them/. Those on alert and present. The X-Men.

"Below, move, move." With Nate's psychic shout it's not necessary to keep rallying everyone inside or to safety. Just direct them the right course which there are those who are not X-members capable of that.

Scott heads topside, pushing past the doors as the alarm keens through the building, third level code triggered by 'supernatural'. Those are the worst. The ones they are the least prepared for. Magic is never a strong point for the X-Men, their sole specialist is one Illyana Rasputin. A woman with more than just one foot always in darkness.

Cyclops in a grey button up shirt, slacks and 'old man' shoes of woody browns steps out the front doors just behind Nate. He heard Illyana's warning to Nate, unmindful of his own safety Cyclops is firing out a wave of red energy in projected swath of kinetic force towards the skies and that incoming Hitchcock nightmare. No time to spare to gaze upon the cloaked woman in it's mass or the Bear. Just the immediate threat punching in to the school's barriers like bloody potato sacks. "You heard her, get back inside, Nate!" When in doubt, differ to those with more knowledge.

"I can cut loose outside, not so much inside," points out Nate. He is not going far, he just wants a good shoot to the cloud of crows. When a few dive against him, he raises a shield on the way, letting the birds smash against it. Then concentrates a moment, drawing upon his full psychic power.

He doesn't 'cut loose' often because he rarely has a target big enough to unfold his full power, smaller targets he can apply enough force. But this cloud qualifies as (freaking) 'big enough'.

His left eye pulses gold a couple seconds and then burst with blinding light. The telekinetic blast is broader than many buildings and hits dozens, if not hundreds of the birds with several tons of force, going on for a hundred yards into the center of the cloud.

"I can also draw their attention. But if there is magic at work here, you tell me where to hit, witch lady," he adds for Illyana. Scott warning makes him sigh. Damnit. Fiiine.

Nate doesn't listen. He never listens. Illyana should be used to it by now, but for some reason she still tries. Directing a long-suffering look at Nate's back, Illyana's about to shout at him again - and her wards shatter.

Illyana doesn't scream. She learned long ago not to scream, no matter how bad the pain gets, but this HURTS. In the instant that her wards collapse it's like all the crows are stabbing their beaks deep into her flesh, all across her body and all at once. She falls against the wall, using it to keep herself upright, while she sinks her teeth into her bottom lip until she tastes blood to keep the scream inside. Even so, a quiet, muffled noise of pain still slips out, and somehow that hurts even more. Shining silver armour appears around her body, a reflexive defence, but it's useless against the feedback from her magical shields shattering. From what seems like a long way away she hears Scott's voice as he shouts at Nate - and that gets her back off the wall.

No-one gets to see her show weakness. Especially not the boss.

Licking blood from her torn lip, Illyana calls to the others, a bit hoarse from not-screaming but otherwise back to her usual self. Aside from the shining armour, anyway. "You don't know what you're dealing with. These aren't just birds. You do NOT want to let them peck you!" Illyana grits her teeth. "Let Cyclops do the hitting. You need to keep us shielded and them OUT!" She swings around to Scott, speaking rapidly. "This is just the warm up act. Don't let Nate get killed… again… until I find the main event." Still trying to shake off the aftereffects of her magic being shattered, Illyana probes for what she knows must be coming.

The bear.

The boy is saved by Cloud's timely intervention. She's swift as a feather and so, the birds don't hit the boy, but instead Cloud.

Unlike their previous attacks, which were all peck and claw, these birds tucked their wings close to their body and dropped down like missiles. Their sharp beaks aimed to stab and impale. Now, instead of the boy, it's Cloud who must weather their attack - with her healing factor and tougher skin. Along with the birds she must also contend with the Boy bringing forth his own mutant powers. His powers are a simple thing really, control of the wind. Aerokinesis. As such, his upraised hands bring a gust of wind to push up and away from him, to fling the birds away. Only now Cloud might be the one being flung up and away and into the incoming Bird's path.

Perhaps her cat-like reflexes will save her here.

Scott's optic blasts tear ferociously through the birds. Bodies disintegrate, explode and some even find themselves breaking half. With each death the maggots held within those bodies burst free and rain downward. At least, the ones that survive the optic blasts do. They burrow into the ground, small points of magic that Illyana might feel, and the things go deeper before Illyana feels their path taking them away from the Mansion. Back towards the woods.

Where something else stirs.

For Nate, his telekinetic blast is much like Scott's optic blasts. They hit the birds and cause catastrophic damage to the flock, but this particular group is huge and keen eyes might realize the birds that are lost are being neatly replaced. Sometimes they simply appear above while others take wing from the ground below.

The sounds of glass shattering and crashes continue to be heard as the birds make their way into the mansion. Those that died on impact lay upon the carpeted floors, while their brothers and sisters stream within. Soon the inside will be just as unsafe as the outside.

Not that it'll matter in the next few minutes.

Not when the Bear finally stirs. From the west, again, a shadow appears. Only this shadow draws up from the forest. A long and large shadow and when it resolves itself in a recognizable shape all who look will see a Bear. A bear taller than any of the trees within that forest, taller than the Mansion, a veritable skyscraper of an animal. It walks like a man, upright, and the torso of the thing twists and turns, edges fuzzed and blurry. Only the head, the legs and the paws have any real definition. The eyes of the beast also cast an unholy light, madness whirling within them.

AT the same time the Bear appears, Dani does too. Well, in the kitchen at least. She heard the shouted words of Illyana, the vaguely calmer ones of Scott's, and that's enough to bring her into the room with them. Their backs to her. Two arrows are already nocked within her bow, the bowstring pulled taunt, and as soon as Scott and Illyana are in her sights the arrows are released.


Aimed right for the middle of their backs - steel arrowheads ready to bury themselves in their spines.

Cloud blocks the attacks on the fallen boy with her own body, but not quite intentionally; she was willing, but her intention had been to swat them away. She just didn't get all of them, and then she 'caught air' and was flung up into their path. She twists quite acrobatically - it's those same feline body reflexes which mean she almost always lands on her feet - and swats, but she misses getting all of them, and two of them impale into her flesh before she swats them away.

Maggots in her magical feline flesh. They'll find their progress hampered, and may well be pushed out as the flesh tries to heal them away. But once they're in, they may well be able to continue, if slowly. Cloud twists about and then falls, landing on her paws, twisting madly about - like a housecat chasing its tail - as she tries to swat at her body, to use her claws to cut out the maggots before they get too far.

The real benefit of this is that Cloud roars. It's no basso rumble like a lion or a tiger, but a higher, smaller voice, raised in fury, a rasping cry. But it's probably enough to propel the boy, protected, to run for that door and the (relative) safety of the indoors.

The coming of the Bear is noticed; there's no way Cloud could miss it, frankly. But she is far too busy with herself to take action before it gets here. And Dark Dani's appearance was via teleportation inside, with no scent trace for the cat to pick up to alert her to the return of the missing Moonstar.

One damned unhappy leopard.

Nate steps back towards the door and seems willing to listen for once. Scott can blast better and longer then him, anyway. Dani standing there is not a big deal. He has no idea of any relationship with magical bears, and his telepathy is being bombarded by panicky thoughts from many kids, so he keeps mindshields up.

But he sees the giant bear too. "Shit," he mutters. Glass breaking, birds inside? "Alright. We need a plan. Your department, Illy, and Cyke. I will hold the fort here." He breathes deeply and spreads his power again, no restraints. A golden telekinetic dome forms over the mansion, a few feet from the ground so stragglers can get in, but most crows are stopped. Once he feels all the students are within the dome, it will go down and seal the mansion.

Largest forcefield he has ever done. Stressful. And hardly the strongest field, as he is spread too thin. But birds are not getting into the building anymore.

With both Scott and Nate in the fray, Illyana risks closing her eyes. Just for a moment. Just to block out what she can of the battle while she reaches out with her other senses, the ones the let her perceive the world beyond the physical. She doesn't need her eyes to see the birds fall, the energies that are animating them are clear to her, falling, burrowing, turning, racing away, like a forest of arrows pointing the way to their source.

Illyana's eyes open and her head turns towards the forest even before the sky begins to darken. She knows what she's going to see - and that makes her suddenly suspicious. All those arrows, telling her which direction to look. It's too easy. She doesn't trust easy.

The hairs on the back of Illyana's neck rise. There's something else, something right on the edge of her perceptions that holds an echo of the great shadow forming outside. And it's right behind her.

Illyana turns and shoves Scott aside with all of her strength, just in time for two arrows to slam into her armour. Steel shouldn't penetrate, but this isn't just steel. There's something more woven around those lethally sharp points, something that's had a taste of Illyana already. The sorceress convulses as the arrows strike her, the shining armour going dark, almost corroded as the arrows score gouges in the gleaming plate before it turns them aside. Illyana's breathing hard, through gritted teeth, but she's still up. And now the Soulsword's in her hands.

"Hi Dani." She says, not quite able to manage the bright and cheerful tone she's shooting for. "See what happens when you run off without talking to me?" She doesn't take her eyes off not-quite-Dani as she calls to the others. "Hold the bear. Don't let it touch you. And listen to me: Stay OUT of its shadow. There's something I need to do."

Illyana lunges for Dani with the Soulsword.

Any final students should no longer be a concern. The sub-basement will be housing them the only one out is the child Cloud has been protecting.

Scott's awareness is shot as soon as he finds himself thrust forward by Illyana, a stagger that almost leads to falling has him spinning in time to see just exactly why he was knocked aside. No thanks offered out. They're a team its what they do, instead he is lunging to grab up that last kid tucking him up under his arm almost as if he was an overgrown American football. Only coming to a halt once hes /thrown/ him in to the elevator and smashed a palm down to the keys to send him below.
Over the comms Scott's voice commands, "Get them headed down the tunnels to the hangar." No explanations, nothing further. The X-Men's voice cuts off immediately.

"Everyone is clear. Cloud, Nate, we refocus on supporting Magik. Keep everything off of her. If we have to level the mansion… do it. "

The maggots beneath Cloud's skin do wriggle and burrow, but it's slow. Slower than normal. Perhaps it's her healing factor, or something more, but the maggots are easier for her to pull from her skin thanks to their sluggish movements.

With the boy scurrying inside the outside is now relatively clear. Except for the dead birds, the living birds, Cloud and the Bear.

As the Bear walks the noon day sun causes its large form to cast a shadow. That silhouette stretches out before the bear and then goes further beyond the trees and onto the backyard of the Mansion. As the shadow touches the grass of the yard the air suddenly shifts, dropping rapidly. The drop is noticeable whether inside or out, as the chilled wind enters through those broken windows, and the open door. Likewise outside the water vapor held within the air crystalizes and snow starts to fall. A quiet blanket of white, almost serene and peaceful looking as it falls -

Though peace can't really be found just yet. Not when crows continue to swoop and dive and the Bear's shadow progresses so far ahead of the creature.

For Nate, it's now his turn to feel the touch of the Bear. It starts with the crows; much like the wards they bash themselves against the glowing dome. Dozens and dozens of bodies crashing into his hastily raised forcefield. They continue to throw themselves bodily at the dome, even as the shadow of the Bear touches it. When blackness meets light frozen fingers grasp at the telekinetic power-stunt. The touch is like frostbite. Painful. Burning. The shield slows the shadow down, but it doesn't quite stop it, as the edge of that dark doorway inches resolutely past the protection.

For those inside, and the leopard that remains outside, several things happens -

Illyana saves Scott with that shove. Scott gets the kid safely to the elevator. Nate holds his position at the door, straddling both the inside and outside worlds and Illyana finds her armor scored with darkness.

Illyana's lunge is seen and Dani moves. Her steps are quick and light-footed, quicker than a human's. Her clothing shifts again, reverting back to what she wore when she first arrived - bear cloak, black suit and face hidden by shadows. It's the cloak that feels the bite of Illyana's soulsword, as a small rent appears within the furred cloth, but that doesn't stop the black-haired woman. Her steps bring her closer to Scott and while the majority of her attention is on Illyana, that doesn't stop the woman from swiftly pulling an arrow and nocking it. The arrow is sent straight at Scott's chest. A heart shot. Then she's back to Illyana - this time instead of a regular arrow, an arrow of psychic energy forms within the bow and it's sent right at the blonde demoness.

And behind the visored man a shadow begins to shift and move. It rises upward from the floor and from the depths black-ghostly hands reach for Scott Summers, leader of the X-Men. To try and pull him into the portal that now exists there.

For those outside. the Bear is nearly upon the backyard, but before he can set paw upon ground a black shape from the sky above hurtles downward. It's aimed at Cloud. Brightwind, for those that know him, but changed. Darkness coats his form, his wings, mane and coat pitch black. Only his eyes, red and glowing, offer a contrast to the horse's coal-colored coat. Those deadly hooves of his are aimed for the leopard's form. Intending to stomp. Viscously.

Knowing nothing of the change that has been wrought, Cloud does not react defensively in any way to Brightwind's sloping dive. Indeed, the leopard expects that her winged equine friend is coming to help; she judges based on scent, not sight, as she is busy judging the approach of the shadow, avoiding it, preparing herself for fast and agile hit-and-run attacks on the bear when it is close enough to engage.

As such, the leopard is in no way prepared for the vicious stomping attack of those hard, shod hooves, moving at such incredible speed. The cat cries out again, rolling away, thrown by the blows. Bones shatter, blood sprays, and the cat tumbles away, coming back up to her paws, wobbling and very concerned. What could have happened to her friend to cause such as this?

The cat visibly limps and wobbles as she starts avoiding the pegasus, still looking for an opening to attack the bear. Her agility is not quite what it was, given the broken bones - rapidly healing, but also healing wrong in some cases - and given the pain. But she is a well-trained and capable fighter, and knows how to put aside pain: the key is not minding it. She has to avoid Brightwind while doing so, but she is aware. What her claws may do to the bear is anyone's guess, but upright like that it is far less stable, and its ankles and those tendons a noted weak point she is far too intelligent not to exploit.

At skyscraper size, she is unlikely to get to the bear's ears, as she would in a fight against a real bear, however large it might be.

With the student safe and descending to join the rest who are enroute out of direct harm Scott is back in the action, space being cleared from kitchen only to be interrupted by a hasted evasion of that incoming arrow. A lurch of broad shoulders to the left and the offending projectile *thwips* past only to feel an entanglement of hands upon him. Unnatural shadows in origin. It's a jerk forward as Cyclops tries to peel free. An outburst of eye lasers hit the floor in front of him then rip upwards. It blinks out and re-opens directly in to the shadows only to find he's been consumed by them entirely. Drawn in with that umbral snare. Around him nothing but unlit gloom.


That dome is a psychic shield trying to keep black magic demon thing at bay. They are not opposed energies; the light of the shield is a weak electrokinetic sideshow. Physical hits of the birds are weak, but the corrupting magic is unpleasant, as Nate is linked to that dome and receives psychic feedback.

And then the shadow slides over the shield. Cold and dark at a level that transcends to the psychic. The young telepath has never felt anything like that. It is worse than the Shadow King gnawing at his thoughts. He pours more energy into the shield, but the darkness still leaks through, smothering the golden light. "Hnnng. Can't… it is not physical, it is something else." Blood starts flowing from his nose and ears; icy cold grips his mind and the light from his left eye dims from gold to orange, then dull red.

He falls to one knee, and screams in rage and pain.

Illyana didn't telegraph her strike, didn't adjust her footing, didn't even take a deep breath. Just shifted from her defensive stance into her thrust with fluidity and speed. Illyana's trained with Dani, sparred with her. She respects the Cheyenne - but she expects her blade to find its mark.

She doesn't expect Dani to dodge. The slight pull at the tip of the Soulsword's blade as it slices through Dani's cloak isn't much consolation.

Illyana's momentum carries her a couple of steps past Dani, and the arrow's already lancing toward Scott by the time Illyana spins around. She knows what's coming next, and Dani's psychic arrow misses high as Illyana drops through a portal. Illyana's not fleeing. Far from it. She reappears behind Dani, Soulsword ready to swing…

…and hears Nate scream, and Scott pulled under. A flash of light, and Illyana's gone again, this time to Nate's side. Her eyes fix on Dani, but she's talking to the being that's pulling her strings, not her friend. "We're not done." She snarls, and drives the Soulsword into the ground, falling to one knee beside it and pressing the palm of her other hand against the ground. A few words are spoken hurriedly under her breath and a circle enclosing a pentagram flares up, silver flames surrounding both her and Nate. It's the best she can do at short notice.

Scrambling back to her feet, she takes a couple of running steps and dives into the shadows after Scott.

The stomp connects. It pushes Cloud out of the way, which is good, as Brightwind - Darkwind now - slams into a landing from that attack. Once upon the ground the black winged horses rears onto its hind-legs and screams a sound of triumph and challenge.

As Cloud hobbles away, she'll find the crows continuing to assault the shining dome of light, and the Bear continuing to advance. It's only when the leopard attacks the Bear's very solid ankles, that something shifts again.

Not the Bear itself, he ignores those nips and claws, but its shadows reacts. A section of the silhouette twists and stretches outward, away from the Mansion and toward the large cat. Hazy black-hands reach for the cat, moving to try and to encircle all four-paws to pull her downward, into the cold and chilled depths within.

While the arrow misses Scott's chest, it doesn't quite stop the black hands from pulling him inward. For Scott the world is now dark. Black. Cold. Frozen. He falls and falls and falls, downward is the general feeling, though most at this point would find their sense of direction lost with the lack of a reference point.

Illyana's snarl finally prompts a response from Dani, or the thing that currently is Dani, "We aren't." She states, her voice low and rough, and while her bow raises once again for a shot, the blonde erects the ward around Nate and sword and then willingly flings herself into the shadows.

That's enough to cause Dani's bow to lower slightly, her gaze turning to the shadows that hold both Scott and the Demoness. "Foolish."

Then her gaze turns to Nate, screaming with his pain, and his rage. Suddenly her head cocks to the side, a definite listening posture, and while her bow was being raised toward Nate it stops. Pauses. Then lowers and she waits.

Though the Cheyenne woman doesn't have to wait long. Seconds after her bow lowers, the Bear comes upon the glowing dome of light. Its darkness is a dichotomy to the light and that's enough to cause the Bear to raise one great claw-tipped paw before it smashes it down *hard* against the telekinetic barrier. The edges of those claws flare to life as it connects with the psychic energy, and with that energy Nate might feel a new sensation added to that pain of his. Want. Not necessarily need, but definite greed. It wants to pull the man's soul through the connection between the dome and the psychic. The song of anti-life upon its claws flares to life then, striving to reach through the essence of the psychic shield and to the man.

An added pressure already upon the man and his psychic construct - how much longer can he withstand it all.

Hobbling and unsteady, still Cloud the X-leopard fights valiantly, determined and undaunted in spite of her pain, weakness and discomfort. Many of her best allies often forget that the leopard was trained as a Shaolin nun. She has a will that few non-psychics can match, and she can push past a lot of pain.

Still, there are things the leopard cannot do. She is amazing. She is wonderful. But she is no immortal champion, no demon, no Power. So she fights, and hard. Sadly, it seems the bear itself does not even notice all of her hard work, and that has to be a tad disheartening and frustrating.

But before Cloud can really worry about that, she is beset by a horde of grasping greasy black claws of shadow. Some she avoids, but all she cannot, and eventually she lands in the wrong spot and stays a moment too long, staggering, hissing with pain as her broken ribs protest, and the claws snatch her paws. She struggles, and pushes away with those not yet caught. But she is held, and all too soon those paws too are captured.

With one final valiant snarling, hissing cry, the leopard is pulled into the cold, the dark, the shadows … falling … falling …

Nate ears bleed with the bear hits his shield, and he feels the monster trying to drag his soul, his astral self out of him. But that is not so easy. The Astral Plane is common ground for psychics and supernaturals, and Nate is a powerful psychic inside a magical ward.

But the dome shatters at the pressure, and Nate almost loses consciousness from the feedback, falling down to a side.

Through bloodshot eyes he spies 'dark' Dani. "Ah… you…" he gasps.

Give him a second, he will stand up and punch the possessed woman in the face. As soon as he can make his freezing brain respond, that is. As soon as he can stand, which he does only very slowly, the skin very pale at the pale glow of the Soulsword. There are all shadows all around him.

The shield outside is sundered. The Bear roars it's triumph at defeating Nate Grey.

For Dani, she smiles. A small thing, but it too shows the pleasure she feels at defeating those within.

Because all were defeated. All. Even the sluggishly moving Nate.

"You lose." She says to the man, the only witness left within the kitchen.

Then the black-haired Cheyenne turns away and walks into the same shadow Illyana and Scott Summers fell into.

Outside the Bear readies for the second stage of assault. To bring the Mansion down -

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