Demon Bear: The Guardians of the Galaxy

January 05, 2018:

This occurred in December before Dani was freed from the Bear.


NPCs: None.


Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

There are many creatures out in the physical and mystical world. Monsters that go bump in the night. That call the shadows their home.

One such monster is the Demon Bear. It's made its home upon the mortal plane and now with three heralds at its disposal, it does what it can to cement its power-base.

It searches for other objects of power to fuel itself. One such thing is a certain gem that resides with a certain young woman; Kitty Pryde. It's a pot of honey to the Bear and it beckons the Bear to consume it - subsume the potential power it holds within it.

As such the malevolent shadows that the Bear controls stretch outward searching for that elusive scent of the soul gem, weaving through the evening shadows that line the city-scape, both within houses and without, as it strives to find this lucrative pot-of-gold.

The shadows are like portals for the Bear and surely one of them will lead to the holder of the gem.

Kitty Pryde wouldn't consider herself near shadows. She wouldn't even consider herself catty-corner to shadow. However, she is tied to a gem that draws creatures of shadow. It's just that it has been a part of her routine for so long it has become something she barely thinks about until confronted with it.

The demon bear is something that has, also, been on her mind for a little while. Splitting her time, as she does, between the Guardians and the Mansion, she is currently in the midsts of one of those switches. Out on the streets of Midtown Manhattan, she has a bag filled with clothes she intends to wash at the mansion - much like a kid coming home from college - and a few other bits and pieces she means to bring back with her.

Tossing the bag over her shoulder, she gives the others a grin. "Alright, be good, you guys. I'll be back in a couple of days. Don't…blow anything up that doesn't need to be blown up." Pause. "And just because you want to blow it up doesn't mean it needs to be blown up." She gives them each a pointed look before turning toward the subway that will take her to the train that will take her to Westchester.

Such malevolent power. Such raw magic. It searches out for the most competent sorcerers. The most powerful magics. Yes, the tendrils of shadows search for the most skilled magic users in the world!!

"…oh my god Rocket! You can't have my hot dog! Make your own!"

…and they find the Guardians.

In Manhattan on the edge of a park, Peter Quill holds a hot dog above his head protectively. They all have seem to come out to see her off as she went back to the Mansion. Since its a boring place and none of them really want to go visit. There was a hotdog stand there. So he had to stop cause he was hungry.

As he does so though he looks over towards Kitty. A smirk is given towards her. "What? Defintally only blow stuff that needs to be blown up. That microwave at Zee's was askin' for it." There is a wide grin on his face, he seems much more comfrotable in her presence.

…and comfortable poking fun at Rocket.

"Why should I make my own when you got one already made!" Rocket retorts. This logic makes perfect sense to him. He waves distractedly at Kitty, and while Peter decides to give his attention towards her, the small Guardian decides to devote his attention to the obviously important matter at hand. Making himself a nuisance.

The moment Peter is preoccupied replying to Kitty, Rocket hops up behind him and onto his shoulder as he grabs his arm, clawed fingers reaching to snatch the hotdog from Peter's grasp. What a team.

"Sure, yeah. Ain't nothin' that don't deserve to be blowed up."

Hot dogs. They have hot dog carts. They should've done this a long time ago.

While chewing on one hot dog with the works and helping himself to another, Groot absently glances over at Kitty as she chides the scrupulous Guardians for any impending explosive hi-jinks. He grins, mouth full of mushed hot dog, and waves - perhaps as a sign that he's half-listening and aware of whatever is going on at the moment.

"I ahfm Grooft!" he says, accidentally spraying some of that mash out onto the street proper.

A great sendoff, really.

Most people don't realize the amount of shadows that surround them. Rarely do they see those shadows either. It's part of life, a given, and something that's ignore thanks to the consistency of it.

Shadows are just shadows, until they're not.

And when they're not terrible things tend to happen. Tonight will be no different.

Kitty offers her admonishments and the Guardians offer their goodbyes in-between bites of hot dog. However, before the brown-haired woman can make it into the entranceway of the subway and to the platform to the would-be trains, the scent of the gem is caught.

Upon a more metaphysical plane a corrupted awareness pauses, its attention shifting away from other things and over to a specific piece of New York City, where that group of friends can be found.

It doesn't take long for the Bear to sense what it seeks and once it does three tendrils of thought push outward from itself.

Awaken. The hunt commences.

For Kitty Pryde the first sense that something is possibly odd (not necessarily wrong) is the temperature. A current of arctic air can be felt close to the entranceway as a slim shadow nearby becomes something more than just the silhouette of a streetlamp pole.

The water vapor held within the air nearest Kitty Pryde likewise crystalizes and snow falls.

The snow is a herald of things to come, but that possible sign of danger is only a half-a-second of forewarning before the slim shadow begins to move and distort. From the depths a figure rises solidly upward. It's a woman, that much is apparent, but the majority of her figure is covered by a bear-pelt cloak. The head and upper jaw of the bear covers her head and shadows her face and whereas other 'villains' might call out some sort of bravado, the woman doesn't.

Instead her dark eyes track the area for Kitty Pryde and when Danielle Moonstar finds her, the black-haired Cheyenne raises her bow upward, an arrow already nocked.

"Uh huh," Kitty tells each of them before rolling her eyes and making her way to the subterranean passage. Shifting her bag, she quickly turns away from what is soon to be a fight between Peter and Rocket and the carnage Groot is already wreaking on his hot dog. Unable to help herself, she laughs and moves to pull headphones up over her ears to prepare for her journey.

As she does, so, though, the chill rolls through her fingertips and down her back. She shivers. The snow falls and unable to help herself, she tilts her face up. Kitty almost likes the cold. It reminds her of winters in Deerfield ice skating. In fact, she pauses and closes her eyes for just a brief second, reveling in the feeling.

When she opens them again, though, hands up by ears, she - almost by chance - sees the woman in the bear-pelt cloak and the arrow nocked and drawn. Their eyes lock. Another precious moment goes by as she attempts to process this. She studies Danielle in a curious and stunned manner. The headphones snap over her ears as she lets them fall into place.

"What?" Her hands pull up in front of her and she starts to take a step backward. While an X-Man and a woman of action, this has taken her in surprise. "Wait!" While unable to phase completely with the gem in her pocket, she prepares to shift accordingly to allow an arrow to pass through her.


Peter shouts as Rocket scampers up his arm to nab his food. He staggers, shaking his arm as he braces his other hand on the hot dog cart. "You little trash panda! You're oweing me for that one!"

Obviously this is how professional space people work.

As Kitty though turns and shivers though Peter gets distracted again, Rocket successfully grabbing the food from his hand.

His eyebrows raise for a moment as flecks of white appear…but…just around Kitty.

"Thats…not normal is it?"

But then there is a hot chick appears. Hot chick in furs. With a bow.

Wait really. A bow?

"Wait seriously, is that a bow—-WOAH! LADY YOU COULD HURT SOMEONE WITH THAT!" Kitty being able to shift out of the way mitigates his worry somewhat but still someone just shot at her.

And his hand goes to one of his blasters. "You better put that away Bow-chick. Before you get yourself hurt!"

With his prize in hand, Rocket has hopped up onto the hot dog cart's umbrella thing, well out of Peter's reach. "You always say that but you know it's not true," he says, licking his chops in preparation to take a bite. Instead he pauses, turning his head to sniff. There's an odd scent, out of place for the fact that it hadn't been there a moment ago, but nothing that the small Guardian can determine to put a name to.

Kitty's shout and Peter's question have him looking back in the former's direction. "Oh crap, now what," he mutters. …and hastily stuffs the hot dog into his mouth because if Pete's actions are anything to go by, it's near boom time.

See? That was nice. There's no way Something Bad can happen when the GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY are around!

…For all of five seconds, anyway.

Being Groot, his reflexes are not always as spectacular as his friends'. In fact, the delay is very obvious. Too obvious. As everyone else notices the chill and the woman with an arrow aimed directly at Kitty and the gem, Groot is…in the middle of sending hot dog #2 down his tree gullet.

It isn't until he hears the commotion that he blinks, wondering what all is going on now. And hot dog #2 is still in the process of making its journey toward his mouth during this time. "I am Groot- ?"

Awaken, the call goes out. Somewhere in the dark, blue eyes flicker open. Winter stirs, and where it goes, snow begins to fall.

Ice crystallizes across the ground.

Presently, a sound starts to emanate from the park's trees, some distance behind the Guardians. On the other side of them, in fact, as Danielle Moonstar stands. It sounds like the tread of paws over ice, graceful and loping, four-footed like the trot of a dog. Only one thing is off about it: the crunch of the fallen snow under each step is quite spaced apart, as if each stride covered a large amount of ground, and the powder creaks in such a way to connote a great weight.

The shadows part eventually to yield a sight of what approaches: the black-furred figure of a wolf, blue eyes piercing through the darkness. They are fixed on Kitty Pryde with a hunter's focus.

Soon enough, its trot ramps up smoothly into a full charge. Its run is far faster than it should be, faster than can be accounted for… up until it draws close enough to reveal its unnatural size. At its shoulder it stands higher than even Groot, making its silence as it closes the distance almost unearthly.

It does not look like it wants to make friends with Kitty, once it gets to her.

Between powerful lopes of the monster wolf, its heavy paws cleaving up sliced cement and shucked snow —

— a small shadow separates itself from the predator's back, taking abrupt, fierce wing from that thick, black fur. From the beast's shoulders, a tiny bird takes to the sky, its feathers just as chitin-black, absorbing any light that hits it without reflection, like a living shadow in the shape, and no larger than, a sparrow.

The tiny bird moves like a dart, folding its wings and landing with a hop on a tree branch, then another, and then again, gleaning upside-down from its tiny feet, twitching and craning its head to look down on the group with one fixed, shining, black eye.

The songbird begins to sing. Small and harrowing, its voice beseeches the world around them, pulling in dark shadow, thickening and calcifying it like a towering wall of darkness all around the park, all around the group, effectively trapping them in. As its chatting voice pearls tiny notes, the cold begins to worsen and deepen, the wind picking up —

If they survive the wolf, the building, torrential storm is next to endure.

The first arrow releases with a sharp *TWANG*. It whistles through the air, the steel arrowhead deadly and wicked, on a course to bury itself into Kitty Pryde's chest. Specifically her heart.

Whether it hits or passes harmlessly through the X-Men, Danielle Moonstar continues to move.

Her head cocks slightly to the side at the arrival of two others. The Wolf and the Bird. That seems to push the woman to move faster, as the Cheyenne now shifts her attention from Kitty to the larger and noisier group; the Guardians.

With efficient movements the woman retrieves a second arrow from the quiver upon her back and nocks it against bow and string. The arrowhead wavers between Peter, Rocket and Groot, before it finally settles upon the loudest of the bunch - Peter Quill.

There's a second *TWANG* as that arrow releases. Straight for Peter and his chest, another shot aimed for the heart.

And while some might stop there Dani continues to draw, as a third arrow seemingly appears within her hand. It too is nocked and aimed, this time zeroing in on the largest member of the group - Groot. Whether Groot has a heart or not seems moot, as Dani's aim picks out the eyes of that hot-dog-eating living tree.

And when the arrow is sent on its way, Dani's dark brown eyes search out the last member, Rocket. A fourth arrow finds it way into her hand, but Dani doesn't fire it just yet. Instead the woman's empathic senses open and a torrent of emotion rolls from the woman toward Rocket. It speaks of cold and pain, of darkness, despair and of death. To lay upon the ground and give up. There is no escape from this trap.

The wind that picks up from the song of the Bird whips around the black-haired woman and while the bite of coldness sharpens within the air, those notes of frost seem not to bother the woman at all.

The call goes out and while Kitty was able to phase through the arrow through her chest, the curse of the gem rises up again. The large wolf the size of Groot is met with widened eyes. "Oh, fuuuu——"

With a creature that size, she can't phase entire through its paws or whatever else it uses to attack. Scrambling backward, she yanks the headphones off her ears to dangle around her neck to leave herself better able to hear other attackers. "G-good wolfie? Nice wolf!" she attempts to placate the impossibly large blue eyed wolf even as she staggers backward. She's not fast enough, not able to phase through everything enough to completely escape, but she is certainly trying. A hand brings itself up against the bitter cold and snow that the songbird calls up. "Nice bird, too? Pretty bird? I…I might have a cracker somewhere…"

"Woah. Woah! WOAH!!" Peter can now see a horse-wolf and someone giving them chirping background music along with Arrow-chick. Who is still shooting. The Guardian's eyes widen as the second arrow is fired. The wolf's charge is a problem. The biting cold. This is not what he expected when he went to see Kitty off.

"Guardians," Peter says as the pistol is drawn in one smooth motion, the sudden burst of light and sound tearing from the muzzle of the weapon to incenerate the arrow in midflight. "I don't think they're here for the hot dogs."

"Groot! Take out that puppy! Its a bad puppy!"

It wants to eat Kitty. Therefor bad.

"Rocket you have any spare space-suits! Kitty might need em!" He adds as he slams the activation crystal on his armor and the face shield slams down into place, red film covering his vision as he scans the little group arrayed over him.

Rockets ignite as he goes sailing into the air, a pair of shots shot off to slam into the ground infront of the wolf to try to break that wolf's charge. Give Kitty some time to escape as he arcs in the sky in her direction.

The moment his hands are free, Rocket's reached behind him to pull out his favorite rifle, the one that's already practically his height and extends even longer. His ears perk with the new sounds that come, new smells, one that makes him shiver and not due to the cold. In response he mutters under his breath, turning his head as he sees the large form of the approaching wolf. "Oh, what now," he growls. But ya know? The bigger they are, the easier the target!

With disturbing ease he hefts it into position as he leaps down from the umbrella, deciding it's not the most solid place to be firing a weapon with that much power. Rocket feels something whiz past him as he jumps down beside Groot, beady brown-red eyes narrowing as he glares in Dani's direction. The woman's quick, he'll give her that! "Are those things on her side? An' who's she anyway!" He doesn't direct the question to anyone in particular, he'll just be happy with some answers! As Peter shouts at him, Rocket digs into a pouch for a disc-like object, flinging it towards the brunette. "Kitty!"

Not wasting a moment, the fuzzy Guardian pivots as he brings his over-sized gun to bear upon the arrow-shooting woman before…. Before…

Oddly enough, there's no follow-up fire, and the shout dies out, an indrawn breath choking it off as he stares at Dani, or some point past. His grip on his weapon slips, stubborn, cold fingers clinging to it, but the weight of it sags at an angle that won't do any good if he did have his finger on the trigger. Shoulders slumping, Rocket makes a sound akin to a whimper or a moan, dropping to his knees. He doesn't know what's brought it on, or maybe he does, but it doesn't matter now. The cold and despair has knocked, and something inside him has answered, something he's locked away deep, but maybe not nearly tightly enough. Shuddering as though the weight of his anguish physically settles upon his shoulders, Rocket for the moment seems lost to the present.


Arrows. Too many arrows. One flies right through Kitty into Groot's second hot dog, ripping it from his branchy grip and pinning it into his gnarled body. And he gasps because the travesty of a food casualty is too much to bear. With arms raised, Groot yells toward the heavens in that "I AM GROOoooOOT!!!" way…

…just as the next arrow strikes him.


Now that's just rude, he thinks. Fortunately, he doesn't have to worry about taking care of Dani since Quill redirects his attention to the unbelievably large puppy charging at them. And what do puppies like? Meat. He's sure of it.

Without even bothering to clear himself of the two arrows, the tree grunts, grabbing onto the hot dog cart with both hands. Hefting it up and over his head, Groot growls, bellowing "I AM GROOT! I AM GROOT!"* at the wolf before chucking the cart at it, condiments and all.

  • (The tone and pattern of his Groots may or may not have some semblance to a cartoon mouse's hot dog song.)

The Wolf does not appear to care about Kitty's attempts to placate it. It rushes through the rising storm that the Bird calls up, blue eyes glowing through the dark and the driving snow, fangs intent on one thing and one thing only.

The only thing that stops it is the blast of Quill's weapons as a pair of shots hit the ground in front of it. It skids to a stop so abruptly it almost sits down, claws digging into the earth as it veers around the blast. Its left foreleg digs in a little deeper, wreathed as it is in what appears to be viscous, living black shadow. Hints of silver show through the writhing darkness.

Take out the puppy, Peter tells Groot, and the Wolf's head turns as if it understands. Its blue eyes track the walking tree as he hefts the entire cart and FLINGS it.

The Wolf does not appear to appreciate this kind of meat.

It gathers itself and leaps, using its existing momentum, driving itself into the air over the cart's trajectory. Its own trajectory is very purposeful. It's aimed to intersect with the incoming Quill, and the Wolf clearly means to attack the Guardians' leader fangs-first.

At least this means it's distracted from Kitty— temporarily.

Spoken to, the songbird cranes down its little head, one eye swivelled down at the at a time. It takes sparingly to the air, having learned from past occasions — knowing well to show itself too long can get itself hurt. It moves like a little wraith, darting from tree to tree, moving little plumes of snow from branches as its feet hop from perch to perch, singing all the while. It holds itself at the wings of the fight — the wolf and bow-woman engaging the group — and studies from afar. Those watchful black eyes take intelligent blinks.

The storm batters worse in this contained system — circling on and on to batter all the Guardians with needly shears of wind that picks up with blowing snow: a thickening white-out that slowly makes it harder to see. Breath mists visibly. The temperature is dropping out hypothermic. Those with fur or bark may fare better, not feel it so much, but exposed skin will begin to numb with the warning of frostbite.

Then the songbird takes sight of Quill, in the air, aiming shots at the wolf. Its feathers flare out from its body, displeased, and it takes startling to the air. It knifes past him, nearly close to touch, though it does not — only close to sing him a few discordant notes of birdsong.

And then, through the fight, the storm, he will hear a voice call out for him —


It's a voice he's not heard in years. His mother's voice.

When Rocket wilts from the burden pressing down upon him, Dani raises her bow. That last arrow is sent on its way. Aimed to hit the large gun that the raccoon holds and then once that arrow is loosed, Dani's attention shifts again.

As the Wolf and the Bird focus elsewhere, Dani's gaze searches out Kitty Pryde. And when Dani's attention diverts, Rocket might feel the intensity of those feelings that batter against his sense of self and worth easing somewhat.

"Give us the souls." States the cloaked woman, her voice carrying through the wind, the snow and the chill held within the air, as she speaks since this started, "Now."

And as that snow continues to fall and the cold nips unerringly into exposed skin, the shadows once again move. One close to Kitty Pryde. From the depths of the shadow a large figure rises upward. A horse, with wings. Its coat, mane and tail as dark as a star-less night sky. The only color that pops from the darkness of its coat are its eyes. They shimmer with a blood red color and when they focus upon Kitty, Brightwind offers a low whicker of rage.

Then the winged-beast rises upon its hind legs, to lash out at the X-Man, with its front hooves. The kicks are aimed to knock her down, to try and knock her out, to render her incapacitated so they might take the gem with far more ease.

Kitty continues to scramble backward as the ferocious and larger than life wolf bares down on her. Even as she attempts to phase what she can, the Guardians gather the attention of the girl, the wolf and the bird. Even as that happens, though, the weather drops and she starts to shiver uncontrollably.

Rocket tosses the disc toward her as protection against the sudden freeze. It's a good throw, but her numb finger fumble it. With a muffled clink amongst the new snow that gathers on the ground about her. Her breath puffs out in desperate clouds of crystallized air. Shivering, she shifts through the snow. The distraction of the Guardians give her a necessary and blessed amount of time to snag the disc. Gratefully, she activates it and a suit ripples into existence around her. While clunky, it's made for space and therefore able to withstand the temperature. Immediately, she feels warmer.

As soon as the suit ripples over her body, Kitty has a new contender to deal with: Brightwind. Her eyes widen and she rolls narrowly out of the way. "You've got to be kidding me!" she gasps as she pushes herself up to a standing position as the winged horse attempts to knock her out. "Good horse?" That has yet to work, but she has to try.

"You guys aren't creepy shadows! Why are you coming after us?"

"Is that a horse with /wings/?!" Peter exclaims. "Like in that Clash of the Titains movie? With the metal owl thing?" The pilot does remember stuff from his childhood though.

He scans the battlefield though and notes something very important. "Rocket!" He calls. "Snap out of it! These guys are serious! Kitty could get hurt!" He calls out the slings around though the air. Both guns are out now and he snaps off shots towards the horse and the woman with the bow.

The bird goes zipping by then and jerks to the right to the side. "What the hell was that? Are hummingbirds attacking too? Lady what are you some kind of angry Dolittle?!"

He snaps off a few more shots as he hears the notes flow from the little bird. "Wait…oh god, Kitty they want the gem!" He heard her yelling about souls. "Get out of here we'll hold the—-"

And suddenly he hears a /voice/. He hears a very specific voice. A very familiar voice a voice that he hasn't heard in so many years.

He goes silent. He stops in mid air. Behind the mask is eyes are wide as he twists to track that bird.


His voice is very small.

He might say more, he might even do more. But suddenly a black furred shadow /slams/ into him, plucking him from the sky with bone white fangs as the wolf hammers into him.

He didn't even think to dodge.

Those jaws crush around him, only the energy armor he has is saving him from being a Quillburger. He can feel that already failing fast though. So…desprite times…

And at least snaps him out of it.

So he just jams the barrel of his blaster into the wolf's eye and starts to fire. While shouting. A lot.

"I am Groot!" The hot dog cart, discarded like leftovers by the massive wolf now focused on the Guardians. His raccoon friend, weirdly out of it and now somewhere on the ground not firing his weapons off as he is wont to do. Groot instinctively goes to see what's wrong, placing a large hand on Rocket's nonexistent shoulder, shaking him gently, urgently in the bitter cold. "I am Groot??" Worry fills dark eyes, leaving his rigid brow furrowed. "I am Groot…?"

But that's not the only problem. No, there's still other things happening. And the moment he tries to see if Kitty is okay falls right onto the wolf snapping its jaws on Quill. Swinging his great tree head around, Groot gets a clearer, more graphic view of the shot, squinting slightly at the quick flashes of light being fired from Quill's blaster.

And he gets angry. No one messes with his friends.

With a roar, the tree lets his free arm extend, whipping outward and around the wolf's jaw to try giving Star Lord a better chance of escape from the jaws of death.

The numbing cold only accentuates the achings of an old wound that Dani's stirred, even if unintentionally, those additional emotions dropped upon him nearly bringing him back to a past he'd thought he'd left behind for good. There was nothing he could do about things then and its his fault and there's no point to anything anymore and…

And then suddenly there's a frikkin' arrow blossoming from what or whomever he might be thinking he's cradling. That's not right. He feels himself being moved, Groot's concerned inquiries becoming louder as the haze of the emotional murk he's been thrust into ripples with Dani's attention shifted from him. While he still feels terrible about everything he can see his gun in his hands and the sparks emitting from the point where the arrow has punctured it.

Oh, that tears it.

With a feral snarl, Rocket hauls himself to his feet, nearly stumbling again for the cold that's tried to overtake his small body. His small hands twist at dials and flick switches, detatch and reattach wiring with urgent speed as the rifle shudders and the sparks brighten, emitting a high-pitched whine.

He starts to run, not very far as he whirls himself around to build up momentum so he can fling the overloading rifle towards Dani and her evil horse.

The Bird's snare is, as they say, 'super effective.'

It's enough to stop Quill in the air, motionless and stunned. Perfect prey for the Wolf's closing jaws. Its momentum bears the airborne leader of the Guardians into the ground, and its blue eyes shine madly as it shakes its head, trying to grit its fangs down through that armor to reach flesh.

Of course, the downside to having to use one's jaws to attack is that leaves one's face exposed to counter-fire.

The Wolf howls in rage as the blaster starts firing point-blank into its left eye. That alone is enough to get its jaws to release, fangs loosening their grip. Groot's rocketpunch does the rest, the tree's extending limb surprising the creature sufficiently to sock it in the jaw and send it reeling back.

The Wolf shakes itself with a snarl and half a whimper, its left eye a dripping ruin of black ichorous shadow. Clearly ticking Groot up several notches as a threat, the Wolf launches itself into a charging run for the tree-alien…

…only to dissolve suddenly into a pool of shadow moments before it would impact Groot dead-on. There is a moment of silence… and then the Wolf reappears suddenly from a shadow directly behind Groot in a whirling misdirect, trying to slam bodily into the tree from a direction Groot might not be bracing against.

That voice still calls to Quill through the circling storm, the oppressive cold:


"Peter, take my —"

When the wolf's jaws come down, his mother's drifting voice is lost to the wind.

The bird's song catches as it watches from its lofty perch, turning its head on sudden, chickadee-quick twitches, before that blaster shot holes out the giant wolf's eye. The songbird hops back in dismay, and answers that heresy with a sharp, discordant cry, feathers puffed out, wings outstretched.

Decision made, it bites its beak down on the branch what holds it, pecking free little splinters of bark and collecting them. It takes to the air, moving through the surging storm — none of those torrential winds seem to touch the little bird, or disturb its flight, or impede the way it releases those broken bits of bark into the air, like some sort of anointing spell cast.

The bird then begins to sing.

The park around them starts to awaken and rumble to life, perhaps to Groot's greatest surprise of all — terran trees pulling out of their frozen positions and creaking life into their great branches, and then —

— all to turn on /him/, trees grouping up on one of their own, trying to lash on his limbs and painfully pull. More of those skeletal, winter-dead branches also twist down toward Rocket, for a moment almost identical to his best friend — only these seek to trap, hurt, bramble, and bleed.

The songbird lands back on the mangled wolf, ever so tiny, but ever so powerful, its song changing and warping into something to heal those bleeding shadows.

Escalation seems to be the current game.

Blaster bolts fly, people dodge (or try to), horses rear, shadows move, dissolve and seemingly reappear of their own accord.

For Dani and that evil horse of hers, they're both quite unaware of that overloading gun that hurtles towards them. Their attention is focused on Kitty Pryde and the soul gem she carries. Peripherally Danielle Moonstar is likewise aware of the Wolf and the Bird, as well. And while the Wolf is hurt and the Bird so angered, Dani stays focused on the prize at hand.

And while that laser focus could have been her downfall Brightwind catches a flash of that gun that's coming at the two. Seeing its immanent arrival near his mistress the winged-horse abandons the stomp-game it was playing with Kitty Pryde.

With a flex of wings the Pegasus literally jumps in front of Dani, wings flaring to shield the woman -

A small super nova flares when the gun explodes and the energy lashes into the horse's wings, his body, even his legs. It burns into the coal-colored coat and the poor beast screams a sound of outrage. Of pain. An echo of that sound can be heard from Moonstar as she likewise shouts, "BRIGHTWIND!" Then much like the Wolf, Moonstar and the injured Brightwind suddenly disappear within nearby shadows.

And as the trees come to life thanks to the Bird's call, a shadow behind Kitty Pryde shifts. From the depths the bear-cloaked woman rises upward and with a flash of teeth, she growls, "You will all pay for what you've done!" That last word ends on a terrible note, a growl that sounds completely animalistic and with that sound the cloak that shrouds Danielle Moonstar's form shifts to something more. It merges with skin and bone and in a matter of seconds a rather large Bear is now near Kitty Pryde. Curved claws of ivory are lashed outwards at Kitty Pryde, trying to burying them deep into her leg.

And elsewhere, a much larger Bear wraps a winged-horse in the cold touch of healing shadows, even as the Demon Bear's attention shifts towards the mortal plane.

Escalation is practically the Guardian's middle name. However, Kitty does not hear the voice that calls to Peter, nor does she see the other Guardian's anger and foray into the battle. Her attention is very narrowly focused on the winged demon horse as it attempts to crush her with its hooves. With a mesh of phasing parts of herself as well as dodging, she keeps mostly ahead of the hooves.

What she does hear is Peter calling out that they want the gem. Eyes within the spacesuit narrow and she attempts to slowly back away. It's an involved process as the horse is adept in its quest to stomp her out. A reprieve is given when the flung gun streaks right by her and toward Dani. The horse moves to protect her and she scramble backward, breathing heavily.

Get away, that's what she should do. Keep the gem safe. However, she finally turns to get a better view of what is happening: Peter firing on a wolf that is bleeding shadow and disappears. The small, powerful bird is missed in favor of the sudden new evil Groots that emerge to try and grab at Rocket. Instead of running away, she scrambles forward, clunky in the armor. She tries to grab any part of the space raccoon and phase him into safety. "Rocket! Grab my hand!"

The shadows that coalesce behind her are missed in favor of helping her friend. Perhaps without that protection, her perception and peripheral would be better equipped to feel the bear's presence before the attack. As it is, she only gets a moment's danger sense to realize that she is about to be mauled.

Instinct kicks in and she starts to phase. However, Peter's warning that they are after the gem rings in her mind. If she uses her powers enough to let the bear's attack pass through her, the gem will drop to the ground - free for the taking. And so, instead, she stays solid. The bear form of Danielle crashes Kitty to the ground. Curved claws rake at the space armor, starting to pierce through it as they get a good hold on the phasing mutant and the armor cries out in protest.


That mantra goes though Peter Quill's head as he screams and holds down his blaster's trigger. He can feel ribs compress and bend in ways they shouldn't. The teeth straining against his energy armor as sparks start to flicker from its activator, signialing an imminate collapse…

…right before Groot gives the wolf a haymaker.

As the great beast staggers, Star-lord shoots free. Screaming off on boots of fire as he arcs into the sky for a moment to get himself some breathing room.

…and then he sees the ice. The wind. The trees. All turn against them.

"I frickin HATE magic!"

The bird's song reaches painful levels as those words in the familiar voice he hasn't heard since he was abducted.

Which only serves to make Peter Quill /really/ effin angry.

"Rocket! Groot!" He calls out as he arcs back round. "You remember when we had that discussion about how we shouldn't kill people. Or break things. Or do too much property damage? Or raise too much hell?" There is a flick of his switch, an ominus humm from his blasters as he switches the elemental tech weapons to full power. "Yeah. Forget all that. WE TAKE EM DOWN!"

Gloves are off on this one.

Mostly cause he's mad.

"I think the bird is magic! Do something abou—IS THAT A FRACKIN BEAR?!"

Yes. That is defintally a frackin' bear.

One pistol is holstered as he suddenly tilts down, tearing though the night right towards the bear as he fishes something out of his coat. Something that he attempts to slam a odd metalic piece to the side of the bears face.

That piece would be one of his spare rocket boots.

Which he then activates to put roughly a lot of torque on the side of the creatures head. Cause shooting it when it has claws in Kitty might end poorly.

As his arm snaps back, Groot braces himself for the worse. Just as he goes on the defensive, the wolf suddenly vanishes, leaving him in the thick of swirling, dark-mattered mist.

He then remembers: wolves don't usually disappear like that.

He barely gets a word out before he's heavily slammed into the closest tree, flying up off of his feet, feeling the impact straight into his very core. Although it may not have been like getting hit by a semi, he thinks it's a close second.

Momentarily disoriented, Groot shakes his head. "…I am Groot…" He can't pinpoint where the wolf has gone off to. Now he has to worry about the discordant birdsong and all of the other trees - including the one he crashed into - moving and being alive and actively trying to rip him apart. "I am Groot!?"

But the Star Lord, giving him and Rocket permission to have a No-Holds-Barred smackdown against everyone and everything within the vicinity?? Now that he can work with.

On his part, Groot rages. He rages against the trees that have already ripped off one of his arms, rages as well as he can with one working arm and some spiky bits growing off of his body as another layer of protection. He's angry, but he's having a great time giving back!

Trees don't do that, only Groot does. Rocket leaps up and expertly runs across the branches and limbs that come at him. For all his objections to being called some Terran creature, he still posesses quite the maneuverability and skill of one, honed into a living weapon. Rocket looks around, "ExCUSE me - we'll pay?? You're the one doin' the freaky crap!" Rocket shouts as Dani intones doom upon them. These people make no sense!

"Uuuuh, no I don't think we ever had such a discussion, Quill. You must be outta yer flarkin' mind." Really, did Peter have to ask? Rocket would say more, but he's a little busy trying not to get skewered by trees. Something pokes at him as he's trying to dart between evil Ent-ities, and he realizes that these branches are loaded with sharp edges he'd be better off not coming into contact with. His eyes go to Kitty as he catches her movement and then she shouts, and he makes a leap, grasping for her hand. It's the strangest sensation seeing brambles and limb swipe at and completely go through you. But there's other things happening that while Kitty may be preoccupied, Rocket for the moment is not. "Kitty, behind you!" he shouts, clinging to her arm as the beastly thing makes a swipe for her.

His other hand reaches into the pack flopping about behind him, wrestling out a smaller firearm that he levels at the bear thing, squeezing off multiple shots at near point blank.

The Wolf's mangled left eye starts to stitch as the Bird sings on. The dripping shadows writhe, mend, and knit. It does not light back up that cold, glowing blue— that will take more time, and more of the Bird's personalized attention— but it seems on the way to healing over.

Its attention turns towards Groot. Fangs bare in a snarl.

If it is aware of what happens with Moonstar and Brightwind, it does not react— much. Not save for a brief glance in the winged horse's direction as it takes a direct hit for its mistress. Its jaws open briefly — is that a wolf smile? — before it reorients back on the heavier-hitting Guardians, intent on preventing them from intervening to help Kitty with the Bear.

Groot temporarily occupied with the trees the Bird has bewitched to life, the Wolf makes a beeline back towards Quill and Rocket as they attack the Bear. Its one remaining eye focuses on the raccoon malignantly. In the wild, there's really usually just one interaction between wolves and raccoons —

The monstrous creature darts in, waiting for the raccoon to become solid enough again to be furiously bitten.

The perch of the songbird on the wolf almost hides it from sight: that thick, dense fur so tall it covers the tiny creature upon its landing, immediately swept up in its tangle — suffocated down to an earnest little *cheep*.

But the bird sings constant, riding along now on wolfback, feet tight in roost, and small wings only flapping to balance and orient against the inertia of the predator's lunges.

Like the wolf's own little pocket healer, it settles into perch at its withers, whistling notes that mend those broken, bleeding-ichor shadows. It pecks its beak fussily down on the wolf's thick hide, pulling on a tuft of that fur, and chirping with a brisk, puffed-out shake of its feathers, tail briefly fanning. As if to say: don't do that! gets me nervous!

Eventually, however, the call of nature takes it course, as wolf covets the meat of raccoon. The bird swivels on its lupine perch, attention focused back on Groot, its voice whistling through the storm, focusing on those living trees that battle with another — the tree from space.

These trees, twisted and corrupted, do not speak back, and when Groot savages them in turn, they do not bleed sap, but that same, black, shadow-ichor, like a disease of magic running through their branches and roots, rotting them out. Corpses of trees, they are, twisting silently in their horrific attempts to savage him further — but his rage returns upon them, splintering their huge bodies, cracking their part, mulching two of them entirely as they fall lifeless.

Those ivory sickles dig deep into the space suit, but they don't pierce completely through. Instead they act like hooks and slowly, the bear that was formally Danielle Moonstar, begins to pull its prey closer to itself. It perhaps succeeds in dragging Kitty a foot or so toward itself before Peter drops down toward the two. That movement from above brings the Bear's gaze up and while it snaps at the flying man, that spare rocket boot hits home. When it ignites the Bear finds itself being pushed backwards, even as its other three claws dig deeply into the cement beneath its feet. Still, though, even with Dani-Bear being pushed away it continues to have a nice hold into the leg of Kitty's space suit.

The gun that Rocket produces is seen and while the Bear growls a warning the smaller ring-tailed Guardian easily opens fire upon the Bear at point blank range. The energy bolts sting and sizzle and melt into the fur of the Bear's face and neck. It's enough to cause the creature to fling its head around, like a rabid wild-thing, which (thankfully) knocks the rocket boot from its head.

And while it senses the Bird and the Wolf so near, that doesn't seem to stop the Monster from calling forth the shadows. Those pools of darkness so near jump even closer, like puppies waiting for the command from its master, and now that command is given. The largest shadow slides beneath the Bear and with a crinkle of muzzle it shows sharp teeth to the raccoon and Kitty and quickly now, it sinks downward into the depths. Intending to take Kitty Pryde with it.

For those closest a current of nearly sub-zero air can be felt emanating from that dark portal.

A part of her wonders what it is for the Guardians to truly let loose if everything previously has been done in a sense of restraint.

The claws rake into Kitty and even though every instinct screams at Kitty to phase away from this, she remains solid. However, that doesn't mean she doesn't struggle. Hands quickly raise up to smash at the bear's face as she kicks upward with her somewhat free leg in an attempt to dislodge the bear.

Of course, this would all be moot without outside help. A bear is quite a bit stronger than a young woman. Peter's boot comes smashing into the scene. The X-Man attempts to keep a grip on the ground, but the hook of the claws keep their hold and she is dragged backward. In fact, she is pulled even closer into the bear's dangerous grip.

Rocket's attempts at the gun to help dislodge her have her holding onto the raccoon even tighter to try and keep herself steadied. Kitty twists and sees the shadow wolf bear down upon all of them. The subzero temperature starts to build. It's such an extreme cold that she can even feel it through the space suit.

She could let go of Rocket and allow him to take his chances with the wolf that took multiple blasts to the face and came out fine. Of course, she can't allow that. However, she can also start to feel the shadow and the cold surround her.

Between Rocket and the gem in her pocket, she'll choose Rocket. "That crazy wolf thing is behind you!" she warns Rocket. "If I get all shadowy, I'm letting you go, so be careful!" Slowly, she starts to phase her entire body slightly. She's trying to give everyone enough time to escape while keeping the gem in her pocket as best as she can. It's a losing battle, a stop gap.

Escape is not a concept that the Guardians ascribe to when it comes to friends in trouble.

I mean really. They don't have that many. They just can't afford to spend friends frivolously! Gotta keep the ones that'll actually put up with them.

"Dammit Kitten! The one time you don't have your sword with you is the one time you get attacked by a magic ice bear?!" Of course that doesn't mean that they'll be quiet about it. Thats just a physical impossibility. Banter is how they keep themselves from going insane.

"Dammit Rocket! Don't tell me you slept though all those talks! You know the ones that were all about us not getting thrown off Earth! The ones were Kitty told us not to kill people! I mean come on I only slept though half of those!" He's arking around, the distraction of his slowed down the bear but he didn't stop it. In fact he might have helped it a tiny bit at least.

Gaze sweeps the battlefield before he's zooming back in towards the portal and the wolf.

"Rocket! Feed it a taser grenade! The bird's on its back it'll get em both!" He hopes. "Groot! Kitty needs an anchor! Hurry with the tree hugging!"

And Peter? Peter just dives right towards the portal. Armor fritzing out enough that he can feel the cold of the magic even though his energy suit he snaps his pistos up towards the angry beast and the magic portal.

The barrel of those weapons blaze red-hot for a second, sudden steam bursting from the weapon as it counter the cold and throw streams of flames into the bear.

And the portal.

The other arm reaching to try to give Kitty another point of anchor. Not even caring that he might get bit for it.

Groot makes a disgusted, uncertain noise at all of the black leaking from the trees as he does whatever he can do in such circumstances, smashing the closest ones to create some breathing room for himself. "I am Groot!" Another chunk - from him? From them? - flies off to the side somewhere, followed by another attempt at tree tossing.

Among Quill's yelling, Groot pauses, turning to catch up on whatever is going on over on their side. A silent gasp is given as Kitty's problem is briefly narrated. "I am Groot!!" He's coming to help! Even with one arm and less of a side, the tree alien strides over, letting his good arm grow out to reach the young woman.

He's not sure if he can even reach her on time, though. He still has trees after him. He wants to help Rocket and Quill, but this is basically helping them too.

Reaching. He's being the anchor…if he reaches her.

"Two words, breath mint." Rocket growls back at the bear despite the face full of teeth. He feels Kitty's grip around him shift, nodding at her warning. He'd picked up that whiff. Being surrounded by predators sure is doing a number on his senses! "Kitty, I know you've always had objections about bombs an' me storing them under the couch and making them out of the television remotes but if you're thinking of doing something crazy like we do, then I know you'll use this in good health."

With her still hanging on to him, Rocket slips his other hand into a pocket, slipping Kitty a marble-like object with a few fancy doodads, at least one of them being an obvious switch. In the next moment he's coiling, ready to launch himself- up onto Peter's head to use as leverage so he can fling himself at the incoming wolf, shouting at the top of his lungs.

His free hand digs something from his pack, his teeth bared as he prepares to meet those fangs, and as they close in he tries to shift his weight around, flinging his tail to the side to help. The wolf'll be able to chomp at him, and while he'll find fur and blood, he'll also find metal as Rocket makes sure his gun keeps those jaws from closing completely. He just needs enough time to slip that taser grenade in.

The Wolf notices those reprimanding pecks. But it doesn't seem to think it merits any reply other than a humorous flick of one ear. Things happen.

Its focus is on the Bear as it tries to drag Kitty into the frozen depths. As Quill rockets in to try to recover her from it. As Rocket gives her a weapon, presumably to use against it. The Wolf lunges into a run, fallen snow flinging up from its long strides, fangs bared, aiming for Rocket…

…only to find the raccoon flying to meet it. This is highly irregular.

Irregular enough that it hesitates. In that critical moment, Rocket lands square on its lower jaw, using his gun to keep himself from being immediately bitten in half. The creature snarls, shaking its head violently in an attempt to dislodge Rocket and his payload and send both flying, though whether it succeeds is another matter entirely.

Eventually, the songbird's attention shifts and falters. There is one advantage: those corrupted, living-but-not trees stagger and fall in their pursuit of Groot, that taint living their tall bodies to shudder and fall, broken, along the snowing ground.

There is one disadvantage: the little bird turns its flaring black eyes on Rocket, currently sailing toward the wolf's jaws to meet it head on. That gun finds purchase among those razor teeth to keep those larger jaws from snapping down —

— and, in its place, Rocket finds himself face-to-face with the worst foe of all.

A streak of black, and then a tiny, fluttering bird in his face, beating little wings, shrieking, and pecking angrily, come in full and valiant defence of the wolf.

Its ferocious, flappy onslaught may hamper the inward trajectory of that taser bomb, because there's just little getting around a little, screamy sparrow that's trying to get a beak full of raccoon fur and yank it out.

Probably doesn't take more than a swat to slap it away.

He can feel the wolf's teeth digging in as the beast flings its head back and forth in an effort to dislodge him. Rocket tries grabbing at the wolf's neck with his feet to keep from flailing too much, his other hand more or less trying to hang on to the teethy lower jaw so he can deliver the payload.

And then there's a flurry of feathers and a fresh introduction of pain coming in the form of that annoying bird. Yeah, Quill? The thing's not on the wolf anymore so this isn't gonna work very well except- Rocket realizes that he doesn't have to try jamming this dumb grenade down the wolf's mouth in that case. He snarls at the annoying bird and pulls his hand and the grenade back, eyes flicking back and forth between the wolf and bird wildly. This is gonna hurt. It's also going to be a careful matter of timing.

Waiting for the bird to dive back towards him, Rocket slams the grenade towards the wolf's head to trigger it, simultaneously releasing his grip on the gun in its maw as it swings its head around again to send him flying. It….probably isn't going to be a very soft landing what with all the trees about, moving or otherwise, but it's better than being chewed on and hit by a tazer shock. …okay, maybe about fifty-fifty.

The Guardians of the Galaxy fight with all their worth.

Groot. Rocket. Peter Quill and Kitty Pryde.

They fight against Bird, Wolf and Bear.

Kitty Pryde kicks at the smaller Bear and lands several hard blows to the things face, and muzzle, which causes Dani-Bear to lose her precious hold upon the leg of the mutant. And while Dani loses that hold upon Kitty that doesn't seem to stop the Little Bear from disappearing within the depths of the shadow beneath it.

It's only with the disappearance of Dani-Bear that it soon becomes clear that she was just making room for something larger, something worse. Something that reaches outward from that shadows with one great paw and arm. If the Guardians crew thought the Wolf was large, the arm of this particular beast is even bigger. The claws upon that paw are more talon-like with the ivory keratin holding a darkness to it; a blight that holds a sinister note to it.

That note reveals itself to be a song of unnaturalness which might be heard and felt by the others. It's an aria of anti-life. A hymn that speaks to a person's soul and tells a tale of pain, of woe, of unbinding from the physical self.

And as it offers that song to the subconscious the actual claws of the monster drop straight toward Kitty Pryde - holder of the Soul Gem. It's only from the timely intervention of Peter Quill and Groot that the woman will find her soul still within her body - still intact. And while her soul is quite safe what isn't is the gem that she holds. That strike breaks both the physical hold and the not that Kitty Pryde has upon the gem. It severs the metaphysical bond that binds the two together and the gem itself is ripped from the woman's pocket.

With that prize now in hand (paw) the massive furred arm retreats back into its shadow realm with a rumble of pleasure, of happiness, of darkness.

Even with its retreat several other shadows shiver to life. One for the Bird, so brave in her attacks to defend her mate and the second for the Wolf, who feels the bite and sting of electricity as that grenade delivers its shock and awe.

And when the frenzy of the field of battle dies down the Guardians of the Galaxy will find the snow stopped, the wind quiet, the earthen trees no longer mobile. All that's left to show a battle had occurred is their own wounds (if any), their own memories, and the uprooted trees that lay there like fallen soldiers strewn carelessly across the ground - their 'lives' lost thanks to the Demon Bear.

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