Demon Bear: SoaE: Matt Murdock

November 12, 2017:

While Matt Murdock tried to reach his friends to help with the rescue of Jane Foster, the Bear, watching from the shadows, takes measures to make sure the Devil of Hell's Kitchen doesn't make it to the meeting point.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Jane Foster is in danger. Missing. As such, the friends of both Jane and Bucky were called in.

Those friends answered.

It's just *some* didn't quite make it to where they needed to be. Exactly where they needed to be was a specific point within the wilderness that can be found within Westchester County. Where the trees, animals and wild-things still hold sway over.

As such, when Matt Murdock enters the woods (to get to that meet-up point) his heightened senses finds the typical things a person might hear and smell. There's the rustle of animals around - small creatures mainly and of the nocturnal variety. Birds as well. The nearly silent glide of owls and the occasional echo of a hoot can likewise be heard. The scents run along the same line - the sharp scent of Autumn rides along the air, as well as decaying leaves upon the ground, dirt and loam. Fairly standard for a heavily forested area.

It's only as Matt continues to find his way through the tree-lined area that things begin to change. It's, perhaps, a subtle thing that most normal people might not notice - the sounds around the forest begin to quiet, from both hunters and prey.

That quieting doesn't mean the animals are gone, it just means they're hiding. Matt, with his senses, can still hear their heart-beats and those beating tick out a pattern of fear.

They're afraid.

Scared.

And while Matt Murdock might not see it, the shadows around the man begin to distort.


The suburban woods of Westchester might as well be the wilds of Siberia to the so-called Devil of Hell's Kitchen, a life-long urbanite for whom a trek north of the Bronx is a rarity. But even if he is out of his traditional comfort zone, the black-clad man who stalks softly through the forest has special gifts enough to make sense of the foreign sounds and scents of his environs as he searches (in vain, and with growing wariness) for James Barnes and the rest of the company.

Which means that he hears the hush, the sudden halt of delicate feet and the uptick of a hundred tiny heartbeats hidden in the underbrush. The man lets out a little breath that wreathes into mist in the late-autumn air. His crouching walk comes to a sudden, deathly-still halt as he listens, casting his senses wider still for whatever it is that's raised the hackles of the local wildlife.


For the first few seconds nothing pings back upon his other-worldly sense.

Well, beyond trees, leaves, plants and so on.

It's only after perhaps twenty or thirty seconds pass, that new heart-beats seem to *literally* appear.

Those half-a-dozen heart-beats appear both above him and below; specifically within the branches of the trees surrounding him and scattered upon the ground as well. For those acute senses he can likely pick out the soft sound of shifting feathers. So again, birds, it seems. Though these are hardly owls. These birds are smaller than the great horned owl that's common within these woods.

As one the crows turn their gaze upon the stationary black-clad man. They stare at him, watching him, until finally one bird breaks the silence with a loud, "CAW!"

The sound is almost like some sort of signal as, once again, the birds move as one. They take wing in tandem to swoop at Matt Murdock. Their talons and beaks on full display to scratch and peck.

And while those birds try to attack Matt, the shadows around aren't idle either. They continue to twist and warp and a shift in temperature begins. It's growing colder and with the mercury dropping the water held invisibly within the air crystalizes.

Snow begins to fall.

Along with the snowflakes from within the shadows nearest Matt hands appear. Ghostly things, almost see-through, but with some substance as they reach and grasp for Matt's ankles and legs.

Those hands try to trip and tug, to get him to fall upon the ground and within the depths of the darkness that surrounds him.


Suffice to say, none of this is normal. Heartbeats don't just appear. Matt should have heard the flutter of wings, felt the subtle shifts and vibrations in the air that signaled the approach of the flock that looms menacingly over him. The sudden chill is equally inexplicable. It has been an unseasonably warm autumn on the East Coast, and the prospect of snow is outlandish.

So, magic. Matt was told very little by James about what exactly stole away with Jane Foster, but he did say it was likely magical. These sorts of challenges put Daredevil's supposedly "fearless" reputation to the test. The Catholic boy in him was taught to fear both God and the actual Devil, and some of those teachings were bound to stick on an impressionable (if unusual) mind. But he also came steeled for this sort of confrontation, and so with a grimace he'll reach for the billy club holstered to his leg — for all the good the well-crafted but utterly ordinary weapon will do him against….

….birds.

It's a goddamn Hitchcock movie, Matt thinks to himself as his new enemies take flight. He's not wearing his body armor, so talons and claws will find purchase on the fabric of his costume and skin of his shoulders and forearms and neck, though in doing so they'll also risk bludgeoning from Matt's weapon — detached and turned into a twirling nunchaku — that literally flails through the air seeking the cawing predators with deadly arcs. Fighting a flock of birds is a new one, but if it were just that a grit-toothed Matt could probably hold his own.

But quiet, only half-substantial tendrils of shadow complicate matters. His heart thuds hard against his chest as he feels the chill circle his feet. Distracted as he is by the rending beaks and claws trying to cut his flesh to ribbons, he senses their approach almost too late, kicking against the snaring shadows as he he does his best to stagger backwards and away from them.


Beaks and talons catch on the cloth of his costume, likewise upon the exposed flesh. Others find themselves smacked ruthlessly by the billy club.

Those that are hit squawk with pain and anger and the sound of the bird's bodies hitting the ground can easily be heard. With each hit a new scent also joins the smell of the forest; decay. Death. The pungent scent of rotting meat.

That's not the only oddity either -

Where the beaks bit and the claws scratched, Matt might feel the slight burn of those small wounds. Normal, really, but what's not normal is the vague wriggling sensation that's now felt beneath his skin. Those wriggles soon turn to burrows. Or burrowing. Beneath those cuts something can be found. Something decidedly alive and small.

To complicate matters even more are those shadow hands. When he lashes out with a kick he'll find the majority of the force behind his attack meets little to no resistance. Along with the that, when his foot passes through the shadows coldness immediately tries to seep past the protection of costume and boot, to burn the skin beneath.

And all the while, those birds, which now number three, continues to swoop and dive at him. They're trying to harry him further along, with beaks and claws, and slaps of their wings. Or perhaps they're simply trying to keep him off-balanced. So that when he staggers backwards, away from them, a shadow sits there, waiting.

And when he's no more than a pace or two away from it, the trap springs. With absolutely no sound the shadow rises upward, off of the leaf strewn floor, and reaches out to envelope Matt Murdock, the Devil of Hell's Kitchen.

To pull him into its cold and bleak embrace.


There's certainly enough to set Matt off-balance: the felled birds that seem to turn instantly to rot, the biting cold from those tendrils at his ankles and calves, the sense of something(s) burrowing under his skin where the crows made their bright-red rends. And that's not to mention the fact that the strange entity that seeks to envelope Matt makes not a sound as it approaches from behind him.

Because as much as Matt's alter-ego seems to move and behave as if he has eyes in the back of his head, he truly is blind. A shadowy specter that makes no sound and has no scent is even less detectable to him than to anyone trying to pierce the dark of these woods with their working eyes. Which means that when the well-laid trap is sprung, a struggling Matt Murdock falls into the grasp of whatever shadow has been stalking him.


Into the darkness Matt Murdock falls.

At first it might feel like 'down', but after a few seconds of falling any sense of direction is lost. Along with that loss of up, down, left and right, is likewise any noise and any smell. The only thing that can be sensed is the terrible cold around him. The touch is like frost and settles heavily against a person.

The tumbling within this dark ether continues for seconds, minutes even, far longer than intended as the stone around Matt Murdock's neck shields him from the shadows. It actually causes them to fluctuate and roil around him - confusion for a minute, before those movements become harsh. Angry. They lash out at Matt, pushing him one way, then another, as they test the wards that protect him. With each strike the touch of winter intensifies, until finally the spells set within that stone shatters.

For Matt, perhaps it gives him the sense of a bubble popping - the protection offered dissipating with that feeling.

Then he tumbles faster. Falling further and further into the darkness. An unending fall, until it's not as the world *changes*.

When reality reasserts itself Matt finds himself back in Hell's Kitchen. Atop a rooftop. A familiar spot, a familiar activity, in a familiar red suit. The sound of cars below traversing the night-time streets can be heard, as well as the typical night-time pedestrian traffic. All seems in order. All seems good - for Hell's Kitchen.

And like Hell's Kitchen that 'quiet' only lasts until it's broken. Nearly-silent footfalls streak across a neighboring rooftop. The gap between the buildings is such that there's a quick leap and the figure sails neatly through the air. Her, because it is a she, vault aims to bring her right on-top of Matt Murdock. A sai is held within one of her hands and is poised to bury itself into his back.


Matt's living nightmare seems to finally with the shattering of that pendant around his neck — a gift from Zatanna Zatara after his last brush with dark magic. It breaks, and all the undead crows and clutching shadows and the strange force trying to choke him with the cold of the grave are suddenly banished. He's home, here on the rooftops of his beloved neighborhood, heady with relief at the sudden rush of sounds and smells.

What, then. Was his trek through the woods just a dream? Is this a dream, or a continuation of one?

No, neither, he realizes with a sudden, stark moment of clarity. Whatever this is, it's no dream. Because for the last sixteen years, Matt Murdock's dreams have all shared one common denominator:

In my dreams, I can see.

Which means, of course, that this is something else entirely. And that's enough to have his guard up, his senses attuned and cast outward, ready to catch the familiar rhythm of her running feet, the pattern of her racing heartbeat, even the catch of an elegant breath on the air as she makes that leap and vault. Here, against an (arguably) human opponent, the proverbial eyes in the back of Matt Murdock's head do their job and he's spinning and arcing his torso back to deftly avoid the sai and snap back into a punch at the landing figure.

All that is just reflex, though. Survival instinct. When his mind catches up to his body and registers (It's her, it's her…) his mouth parts in shock. "Elektra?! he shouts.


It is her.

There's the familiar beat of her heart, familiar scent and the familiar sound of her movements.

When he lashes out with that reflexive punch, Elektra is already twisting her body away; much like he just did. She deftly avoids that punch and likewise puts a step or two between them. That shout and his apparent shock is enough to bring a light laugh from the dark-haired woman. "Come now, Matthew -" She begins, amusement evident in her voice. "- have I truly caught you so off-guard? Or perhaps you no longer find this game we play amusing."

And while her words are light and somewhat sing-song-y that doesn't stop her from stepping close again.

She strikes out with her left sai as she stabs the point at his torso. Though really, that's a feint, as she immediately follows that move up with her right hand flashing forward, that sai turned inward, so the heavy rounded end of the hilt might strike the man, should it connect.

That second attack is aimed for Matt's face, specifically to crack against the cheek, or the jaw.


It's only after that brief flurry of exchanges, with each of them mirroring the other as they dodge their own best efforts, that Matt Murdock realizes he's not in his old mail-order black costume but his new set of body armor. The very one Jane Foster built for him in a gesture of gratitude and trust. That fact goes some distance towards grounding Matt amid the waves of shock, not the least because he remembers — vividly — how the suit was rent apart in the maelstrom of Wakanda.

This isn't real, he thinks to himself.

But it feels real, and she sounds real, taunting him as she does, as she always did. And it feels real, because even though he won't let her strike him in the gut, he'll feel the impact of his forearm as it blocks her thrust — not to mention the pommel that lands on the sculpted temple of his helm in her follow-up. It jars him, but Jane's expert handywork serves him well and blunts most of the impact. He counters immediately, savagely, sending an elbow in the direction of her aquiline nose.

"This is no game," he rasps.


It may not be real, but it feels it.

The beating of hearts is heard, scents smelled upon the breeze, and the sounds of people and cars below, and birds roosting within the gutters and eaves of the buildings.

It all reads as 'life' and 'real' and not a dream.

Not a dream.

The hits to his arm and head likewise hold weight and strength behind them. The reality of these shadows is almost absolute.

His savage rejoinder of elbow to face, specifically Elektra's nose, is swift. She sees the move coming and while she begins to bend herself backward, away from him, she's not quite fast enough. As such, his elbow connects hard to her nose. The crack of her nose breaking is heard, easily heard by those with heightened hearing.

A grunt and a puff of air leaves the black-haired woman's lips, but that doesn't stop her from pushing (quickly) past the stars and the pain to retaliate.

A slim foot lashes outward, intending to hook around his own ankles - to yank his feet from beneath him, to get him to the ground.

And while she strives to knock him down, her now slightly nasally voice says, "Everything is a game. Everything. To stop playing you'll have to *win*. Can you do that?"


Matt hears the cartilage and bone strain and snap on impact, smells the rush of coppery blood in the air, and finds himself wincing — while at the same time hating himself for wincing. After everything she's done, he owes his former lover nothing — not even sympathy — and this shadow-mesh faux Elektra he owes even less. So he thinks as she successfully sweeps at his feet, sending him briefly sprawling on his back, wind knocked briefly out of him.

That's your problem, kid, the crotchety sound of his one-time mentor voice sounds in his head, as it so often does. Thinking. Don't think. Don't get caught up in the bullshit. Just be in the moment, and kick her sorry ass.

Matt turns on to his side and makes to try to rise. "If that's true, what does winning even look like?" Matt says through clenched teeth. He knows it isn't her, but it's a pressing enough question that he'll voice it anyway. Could this void he's in have answers beyond the memories it plucks from his mind? Could it fill in the blanks between the woman he'd known before and what she'd become?


The scent of blood is soon accompanied by another sound - droplets hitting the rooftop. They're irregularly spaced, as the woman moves, and with each splat it might give a vague impression of just where she's going.

She's moving to stand in front of him.

That's it. Stand.

It's only when he gets to his knees, almost back to standing, that her voice sounds again. "Why Matthew, " She drawls, "I expected better of you. You should have it figured out by now -"

And with her words Matt Murdock's world changes. Again.

Along with this heightened senses - smell, hearing, touch - he'll suddenly find something thought lost returned to him; his vision. Something that was so cruelly taken away when he was younger. It starts as a twinge behind his eyes then it morphs to an itch, before it moves to something close to pain. Whether the costume that Jane Foster actually built for him allows a person to 'see' or not, this one does.

As such, when his vision goes from darkness to light, he'll find the form of Elektra Natchios' before him. Bleeding, bloody, but smiling as she finishes with. "- Winning looks like me."


She's rounding on him, turning to loom over him as he gets to his feet. Perhaps she's ready to stab him with one of those three-pronged daggers of hers, perhaps? She held off on killing him in the real world, but who knows what rules this dreamscape Elektra is even bound by? He's ready for that eventuality, certainly, attention attuned to the slightest intimation of an attack on her part.

What Matthew Murdock is not ready for, however, is what happens next.

In his dreams he can see, but it's sixteen-year-old vision, all of the pictures faded like old photos left in the sunlight. It's the guesswork of his subconscious, a world frozen in amber and inevitably distorted by memory. This, though? This sudden un-blinding? This is the real deal. It's the New York City nightscape circa 2017, and Elektra Natchios is in front of him. He can see her for the first time ever, with a smile bloody and cheshire, and immediacy of it all leaves him at a slack-jawed loss. She's as beautiful as he'd guessed, and more revolting than he could imagine. And he knows, without question, that this is no guesswork of a vision — it's her. It's the world around them. It's as real as it gets.

"Elektra…" he breathes, at a loss. Unsure of whether to fight her or

There's a tug, at his armored leg, a feeling not unlike the one he felt from that tendril of shadow that led him here. But it's paired with Stick's voice: "Come on, Murdock, get up." Though there's a lilt of cockney to it that feels out of place. Not Stick: Constantine?

The world — beautiful and rich and endlessly dark — begins to dissolve into red and his breath catches. "Elektra?!"


Elsewhere, in another part of the shadows another man reaches out with his powers. That attack destroys the cohesion of the darkness and while Matt Murdock is 'further' away, distance doesn't seem to matter. Not within this shadowed world of the Beast.

With that, the vista around Matt Murdock, and the woman, begins to vanish, to melt away. It's slow enough that this particular Elektra has enough time to say, "You will have to kill to win. Don't let friendships get in the way - they're a hindrance, not a help. Sentiment is for fools." She adds, before her form scatters like the leaves and with that vision breaking apart, so too does his vision.

The world dims and blurs, before blackness reasserts himself.

Then he's moving again. Upward, versus down. Toward the light, versus the dark. Whatever Constantine did it's quickly shuffling him out of this dream-world, this nightmare.

Before he's expelled completely from this world, an echo of a familiar masculine voice reaches out of the dark. A voice not heard for a very long time. "Be careful, Matt - your friends, there's danger."

Then with those last words the world returns to right. Or, at the very least, Matt finds himself once more in the forest. Snow upon the ground, but no longer falling.


On Elektra's parting advice, the visual world dissolves before Matt Murdock's eyes for the second time in his life. And even though he knows that everything he 'saw' so vividly was a twisted, fun-house version of the world as it is, he still feels a pang of loss somewhere behind his rubs as it — she — shatters and scatters in the fast-growing wind.

Then, after he receives that whispered warning from… who?… he's suddenly back in Westchester. He's laying flat on his stomach, feeling each blades of grass under his palms, slick with what's either night-dew or melted snow. He hears the forest fauna tentatively reasserting their presence with their own living nightmare passed. He smells pollen, and musk, and lingering rot. He feels the rips and rends in his clothes, though blessedly no wriggling of worms beneath his skin.

He pushes himself up to a hasty rise, gathers his club, and stumbles forward in search of friends he's been told are in need.

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