Demon Bear: Finale: Power Sundered

January 27, 2018:



NPCs: None.

Mentions: Magik and Rachel Summers

Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

Westchester County; an area that holds both the rich and the more desolate.

The group, for this day, this actual afternoon, finds themselves setting up shop in the fields of an abandoned orchard, a vineyard really. The place was once thriving, but now not so much. A wobble in the market brought the winery figuratively crashing down and to this day it lays fallow.

The storm that rages over New York continues to slam the area, but for this particular piece of land the snow and cold have abated somewhat. The thanks for that goes to Doctor Strange, who's employed his vast magical might to lessen the burden of low visibility and freezing temperatures.

"The Bear is key." Danielle Moonstar states to the group that's amassed outside, "We sever the link between the Bear and the Wolf and the Bird and we'll have a chance." The grim reality of their situation isn't hidden from the group, not with the stakes being as high as they are. Lives could be lost. Souls at the very least. "I've an arrow that should help with that - as long as we can hit the Bear with it. Keep in mind that when you attack them you're attacking their bodies. If we can't incapacitate them - well - we'll cross that bridge when it goes there."

Near Moonstar stands two other women; a red-head and a blonde. Rachel Summers and Illyana Rasputin. The black-haired Cheyenne reaches out to both women, her grip hard upon their arms, "Don't do anything stupid." She states quietly to them, then, "Good luck."

The blonde just offers a smirk before a portal opens beneath the pair and whisks them away. Off on another mission to protect the world. The reality even.

Once they're gone Dani returns her attention to the group, "Before I call the Bear are there any questions?"

Her gaze moves to each person, and biped, making sure to meet everyone's gaze.

The large burly bulk of metal in the shape of a giant Russian man is laser focused on the blond and the redhead while they discuss plans with Danielle. He hasn't spoken much during the lead up to the gathering, though he doesn't seem unfriendly, just quiet and maybe a little suspicious? He seems to relax a bit when the two women disappear through a portal, coming back to the here and now to focus. As much as he worries about his sister and whatever she is planning, he occasionally remembers to consider not dying himself. He is also grateful that Rachel is accompanying whatever horror-show of a plan Illyana side-stepped telling him about.

Dressed in a red and gold X-man uniform, with a large glowing sword strapped in a sheath on his back, he doesn't blend in… with anything. The most important part of his appearance though, would be the gleaming handlebar mustache made now of solid metal. It's glorious, and stands as a portent of coming victory. The sword is large, and would look ridiculous were it not in the possession of a metallic man who is over 7' in height. One of Piotr's large hands reaches back to grip the sword when Dani mentions summoning the bear.

"I am ready Danielle."

The Russian accent is thick and easily recognizable. There is no urgency in his voice, only resolve and hopefully support for the young Cheyenne woman.

Doctor Strange, clad in a dark suit and wearing a heavy charcoal hued winter cloak and a red scarf, looks somewhat tired. He has been using his own magic to attempt to keep the blizzard at a more manageable level. But as it happened the winter in the New York area was destined to be horrible anyway. Even without mad bear spirits. So there was no real counter for the blizzard.

He expected more sorcerers to be involved in this bear hunt, though. Illyana leaving makes him frown faintly.

Shaking his head, he turns to Dani. "Miss Moonstar," he offers, "I made something for you. Since the enemy knows about the Thunder Arrow, it will be ready for it. Therefore…" he pulls a silver arrow from his breast pocket. "I made a copy. With the blessings of the Vishanti. Good hunting." He gives the arrow to the young woman. "I will try to keep the bear contained. I have been crafting some new spirit-binding incantations."

24 Hours of Sleep. 24 Hours of Dreams filled with Flagellation, Torture, Hardening of one's core and resolve to be ready for a battle of unknowns and the hopeful conclusion to the nightmare of several. Emery Papsworth's preparation montage would be filled with shirtless pull-ups, the black angel wings tattooed on his back flexing during pushups. The swirl of long and short blades, going through drills. Hours spent on his knees, going through a rosary, counting each bead…his low drone through the familiar prayers sometimes faltering and requiring him to start over.

But at this moment he is wearing a thick black leather frock coat over a customized fencing vest that has been modified to serve as the home of several knife sheathes, hidden under that coat. It has been years since he dared to put this attire on, the turtleneck different from the usual button down that used to be worn. Dark pants, sturdy boots. A black bandana worn under a wider brimmed black hat, pulled down low to cast a shadow over his dark gaze and of course a pair of special fingerless gloves that also leave a portion of his palms exposed.

He is listening, yes, knives are sheathed, a special dagger at his hip, a sword strapped to his back and his pistols holstered at the small of his back. He is carrying a small black duffel bag and his hands are filled with a small black box, an electronic device of some sort. Its twin is in the bag hanging from his shoulder. He looks between Rasputin and Strange and then back to Moonstar. "If I get too rattled, I'll just picture meself playing Tarzan and The Doctor with ting one and ting two here and go to me happy place." That Irish lilt present and accounted for.

Out here's as good as in the middle of nowhere as anyone can claim. That's not really true, but the Guardians- or at least the two present- have figured that the less in range of collateral damage, the less they'll get yelled at for. And the more leeway they have in 'sploding things. And Rocket Raccoon has certainly come to do some damage.

He hasn't said much to those present, but then he doesn't really exclusively know them, although so long as they're all here for the same reason, it's all good to him. Dwarfed beside his tall and barky tree friend, the raccoon-looking alien nevertheless looks quite at home armed with what looks to be a hi-tech rifle of some sorts propped over his shoulder. It's the best he could come up with from whatever he's horded up in the Milano, bits of Sakaaran salvage and things he's slipped from S.H.I.E.L.D.'s own confiscated and salvaged parts because while Phil Coulson had given him permission to make some neat and Useful Things from what's been collected, he hadn't said any of it couldn't be used for personal projects. And Rocket needed a new boomstick. It's very personal. Especially when his last one blew up, but that was partially his fault and completely intentional. Dani knows why.

"Nnnope. Don't think so," the small Guardian replies at Dani's inquiry. He glances at Groot to make sure the big guy caught that, but he's pretty sure their personal tactics will be pretty much the same as always. Although now that they have a better idea of what and who they're dealing with, hopefully things will go better than the last time.

Robert Berresford had arrived with Doctor Strange, the cold has become an expected since the arrival of the Demon Bear. The entire ordeal of it physically, mentally and spiritually taxing for the Ghost Warrior.

The man's long dark hair is drawn back in to a tight topknot, tied with bindings, paint of red lines downwards under his eyes to spread low, chin to neck vanishing inside of a grey hooded sweater, a flannel jacket over this. His hands appear to be covered in reflective chromatic gloves but closer inspection says those are his hands, including the long razor tipped points capping each finger. Tattered worn jeans and tan workboots finish off the rather unimpressive attire compared to some near, each and every person beyond Strange and Dani Moonstar getting a once over, darkened red eyes studying them but he says nothing. The man is here to assist and fight the mad entity.

No rituals, blessings or chantings to be done, those happened much earlier, right now, it's time to steel ones mind and be ready for what comes next.

As stated, alongside the raccoon-shaped Guardian is a familiar sight to those who know them. The living, breathing tree Groot is…well. Groot. Despite being a tree exposed to the cold, he has no need for warm garments.

But unlike everyone else present, Groot is not exactly paying attention to what has been said. Large black eyes (along with his ever-changing attention span) have wandered off moments earlier, staring out at their surroundings before returning to the discussion, blinking away the daze once he refocuses. He figures he has to look like he's been there for the whole thing.

So Groot nods, making sure to play it off as best as he can. If there's anything the Guardians are good at, they're good at improvisation. Tactics. That's what it is. "I am Groot."

Piotr's words bring Danielle's sharp eyes back to him and her expression softens a touch. "Thank you, Piotr." The fact that he carries the soulsword, changed as it is, isn't lost upon her. Perhaps that will help turn the tide of this battle -

Then Strange steps forward and in his hands is a second arrow. That causes Danielle's expression to shift to surprise and thankfulness, "Thank you, Doctor." She states solemnly, accepting the second Thunder Arrow. She looks at it for a silent second before it joins its mate in the quiver that sits upon her back.

Then it's too Rocket Raccoon when he speaks - yes, she knows why - and the large Tree-Being named Groot, before finally moving to Emery (and that quip of his) and Robert Berresford.

"Thank you all." She adds, before she offers the last words of, "Let's get this thing started."

Turning now, Dani reaches out to touch Brightwind's neck, before her attention shifts inward. Within her mindscape is a thin ribbon of power, one that leads away from the woman and off into the metaphysical plane. Where monsters and gods play. Where the trail of the Demon Bear can be found, but most importantly where two souls within it are. A connection that binds mother and father to daughter, a connection that can't be lost, or shielded against.

That connection affords a sense of welcome by Dani, of love too. For those few seconds Dani basks in those emotions, even sending them back, but then reality presses in. There's a job to be done and so, Moonstar opens herself wide to that filament and pours all her physical and mental power into it.

The thread grows with the energy Moonstar pushes forth; it widens, strengthens, becomes like braided twine, before it becomes a thick rough cord, then finally a twisted rope of psychic energy. It shines with a silvery light and sings with a vitality against the darkness that it disappears into.

Then with a mental heave Danielle Moonstar pulls upon it. The rope grows taut as it tries to drag all those connected to those two souls to herself. To the group's physical location, to hopefully their defeat.

The ephemeral rope lashes out through the astral plane, its end stretching out far beyond the eye can see. The threads braid on themselves, cabling strength as they go, until far and away —

— something hits. The rope goes taut.

And Danielle Moonstar drags it home.

Against a normal, innocuous, afternoon sky, a welt of darkness, chitin-black, opens open, shadow venting free from it in a long sigh that trickles weblines of darkness through the air. It festers like a disease on the open air, coming with it the corrupted ozone to those that can sense it, the taint that means only one thing: demon.

It opens, and the Demon Bear comes free.

And it… hits the earth. And stays there.

The bear of Moonstar's lifetime of nightmares, the bear — that great, mad, powerful spirit — that was large enough to tear into the foundations of the nearby Institute… is no more.

Starved skeletal, its mangy hide hangs off its bones, its fur thinned out to necrotic skin. Metal gleams over parts of its body, attached and fitted and run with long lines of wires, cabling into the bear's limbs and throat and head. It looks up with sunken eyes, horrible and hateful, but the demon has no strength barely even to lift its head.

It pants heavily, weakly, in a state of prolonged death, and Strange will know: the Demon Bear has been used as a battery, nearly all its power shunted through the machinery grafted into its body. It reeks of technomagic, the melding of magic and science into a dangerous art. The souls inside, however, remain intact — though if the bear dies around them…

The Bear still has its shadow. That great cape of blackness that trailed it, freezing everything it touched, still fans out from its body now, a pitch-dark sea of nothingness. It is frigid death to touch it. Some here have seen their fellows dragged into it, to be tormented in awful ways.

It ripples. The darkness seethes, twitches, grows taut. And Something comes out of it, shedding the blackness like water sheds from something surfacing up from the depths.

Previously, those who fought the Wolf saw it as something still broadly resembling that totemic animal. This thing that claws out from the dark is only nominally a wolf, in that it bears the shape of one. All the energy of the Demon Bear seems to have been siphoned from it and channeled straight into the Wolf, and that power has turned the creature's body into a shifting mass of raw shadow and flickering anti-light. It holds together in its appointed shape, but at its edges, it warps chaotically.

Its left foreleg gleams, made of exposed and corroded steel, shadow pulled back from the corrupted metal like dead flesh shriveling back from the base of a rotting tooth.

Fury seethes in its blue eyes, as they stare balefully out from that shifting-shadow face. A snarl escapes it, and the Wolf launches itself straight for Dani Moonstar in a murderous rage.

She summons them? Pulls them to her? How dare she.

Jaw clenching, hand on the hilt of the sword flexing, Piotr is ready to face the demon bear the size of a building that tore open Xavier's school and nearly killed so many of those he holds dear. And then out pops the pile of mange, metal and meh that currently passes for a demon bear. His grip and jaw both relax in confusion, one metallic eyebrow raises as he looks at the bear and then at the group.

"I am not judging. Is it possible you pulled the wrong bear Danielle?"

He of course is horribly sincere, and just wanting to help, no shade. He is quick though to grasp the sword again and this time draw it when the hulking wolf shape appears from the shadows around the bear. He steps forward from the group, holding the sword with one massive hand in front of him. He says over his shoulder, mostly to Dr. Strange as he is aware Illyana has been working with him.

"I am new to wielding my sister's blade. She assures me it is as simple as stabbing. A lot. But she assures me of many things I do not believe."

He waits for the wolf to make its first move, knowing it can teleport through shadows, knowing that it is probably aware of the weapon he is wielding and the danger it poses.

"Flames of Faltine," is Stephen Strange's choice of curse words when he spots the miserable state of the so-called 'Demon Bear'. Some would call it technomagic. He has a better name: Necromancy. The use of stolen soul and life energy to fuel corrupt magic.

"Change of plans," offers the sorcerer. "The Bear is being used as a battery; we should to break those connections before freeing the captive souls. Be wary of the Bear's masters, as it is likely they will appear and attempt to stop us."

On the positive side the monster seems too weak to break free from a binding spells. Which is the first thing Strange casts at the spirit. A muttered incantation, and several quick gestures, sending chains of light flying to ensnare the creature and bind it to the earth.

And then the wolf appears, of course. He probably jinxed it. "Colossus!" He cries in warning. He is concentrating on the bear, so defending Danielle is up to the big Russian.

There's a glance over towards Groot, and the Raccoon, and the other gentleman with red eyes and Emery just tips his hat to them before turning his attention to Dani as she casts out the supernatural fishing line. He sinks to one knee, leaning forward and resting his arm against the knee after setting that box down beside his foot. He even shrugs off that duffel bag to rest at the ready at his other side. He's watching. Waiting.

His lips are moving, under his breath soft latin prayers being recited silently, the Irishman's dark gaze watching that festering portal open. Exaudi nos, Domine sancte, Pater omnipotens, aeterne Deus: et mittere digneris sanctum Angelum…" It peters out though as Demon Bear, his semi-brother in ability is just laying there. Horribly and preternaturally violated.

There's an inner darkness, a righteous shadow of his own just swirling under his skin, itching to be released, to take form as the monstrously upgraded version of the Wolf formally known as The Winter Soldier takes on a form of its own. He holds it back though, trembling slightly as he pushes himself to his feet, sprinting towards the bear and flipping himself into a roll to kneel beside the bear, whispering softly, as he wiggles his fingers and his jaw sets. "Oh, ye look like shite. Wanna show 'em how it feels brother?" His head held at an angle so only the curve of a smile can be seen. It is a smile filled with promise. Dark promises.

A sharp whistle cuts through the air. "Oi! Bitch of Wolfstreet! Where's yer wee mad mosquito of a mistress? I've got a pie to bake."

"Take a picture, it'll last longer," Rocket comments in Robert's direction, his own eyes still fixed ahead, the fur at the back of his neck rising slightly at the strange sense of things he can't explain, or perhaps more in anticipation of what's to come next as Dani does her thing. The thing that's drawn through is anything but what Rocket remembers of their first encounter with the Bear, and his fuzzy brows furrow as he stares at the thing. Oh, but the look it throws them is still pretty clear to read, and it really shouldn't be of any surprise as the Guardian swings his rifle into position, leveling it to take calm aim like putting down a sick animal.

But something else happens, and the raccoonoid's ears perk as the darkness around the bear shifts and takes shape of its own. "Oh. There they are," he snorts. His brown-red eyes note the leg, observe the rest of the wolf that's more of a suggestion than the creature it had been when Rocket had one hand and gun practically down its gullet. He grits his teeth, readjusting his aim, a disturbingly humanlike hand sliding along the side of the rifle to adjust a few settings with a turn of a knob and a slide of a switch. But already the wolf is moving, and straight for Moonstar. Rocket's seen things from that end. It's not a fun visual.

"Oh flarkin'- Groot!" he shouts as he darts off to the side to see about getting a better shot. Groot's better at being muscle, after all. Rocket on the other hand, well he knows what he's good at, although this situation makes proper application of tactics difficult. So, shooting it is. Stun setting. See, he's being thoughtful and actually built one in!

With everything that has happened, it comes and goes in shifts, from Dani being who she is presently to who she was when Groot and the others had first come across her. Being who he is, Groot doesn't hold a grudge for very long; in fact, he's not even sure if he's ever done so. Having to deal with her and the animal troop she came with was like another day in his book. Except when Quill and Rocket both had to deal with things that affected them badly and Kitty was threatened, that day was very concerning.

This in particular doesn't feel like it'll be easy. Still, if he can help it, he wants to make sure there isn't a repeat performance.

There is time spared to notice and give Robert the dumb-looking smile he's prone to wearing on occasion, but the appearance of what used to be a whole Bear and something that looks like the Wolf reminds him that this isn't really the time to socialize.

As Rocket yells, the tree's attention shifts once more, straight into defensive offense. Bolstering bark and branches all over his body, he grunts and growls back, stomp-rushing in an attempt to run interference with the Wolf's intended attack path. Because that seems like the best choice, running straight into things.

Talking raccoons with weapons and flying horses. Dani Moonstar's company may very well be more diverse than his own. He wants to remark about Rocket, say something or anything but Robert just finds the words appearing in his mind on the side of ignorant or possibly offensive.

Robert is thoughfully dwelling on this, playing silent and respectful watcher until Groot speaks, his composure breaks and he finds himself flinching to get a better look at what he thought was just a part of the terrain, the mutant-shaman-cyborg's state of surprise is short lived, brief as he is doing his best to remain stoic, when Dani looks at him he is recollecting, both dark brows risen to arches but she gets a nod, a polite curt one that is offering encouragement further insisted upon with a brief lock of eyes.

The second arrow gets a curious glance but nothing is inquired upon, the Vishanti blessing anything is a massive boon. It will help them well in their fight.

The preternatural sensitivity Ripclaw possesses and attunement to the spiritual realm is like a buzzsaws of sensation when the bear is brought forth, it's form not at all the massive terrifying beast it presented before, no, it is wrong, warped, the grafting makes his own bio-metallic limbs cord, talons opening up and elongating reflexively a lengthening sound like metal stretching and short finger claws peel forth into wicked looking mini-swords, serrated at the back of fingers and knuckling.

"This is not… " The man's voice for the first time heard since the gathering cuts off. Unable to form the right thoughts at what he is seeing to voice anything worth a damn.

Abnormal chalk white skin draws back around the curl of his lips, teeth showing, as he feels like a snarl could break loose, it's not just the bear but now a wolf? He has not encountered this. No, it would appear there are parts of this engagement he was unprepared for. Rocket's camera suggestion he doesn't acknowledge, nor Groots adorable-dumb smile or Emery's hat tip though outside of this he would have, likely in a well-spoken and polite manner. As is his default. Most days.

A lurch forward and the man who looks like he is ready to go chopping down trees is lunging around Colossus in a hunched very familiar 'Wolverine'-esque posture, claws out wide and stretched; almost raking across the frozen earth. He stays low, defensive for the moment and half-crouched, a low rasp breaking out in to words, "We have plan?" He isn't attacking just yet, no, he is positioning, trying to keep a cool head and focused. Losing his temper isn't a good admixture around supernatural creatures that can influence emotion or the mind. Close range is bound to happen. Ripclaw have his chance…

Expectations are met and not. Some hold to reality where others don't.

The darkening of the sky isn't surprising, but the arrival of the Bear or rather the look of the Bear, that is. Dani expected a strong Bear, enslaved, but powerful still. She expected it to look as it has before in her nightmares, large, shadowed, frightening -

The sight that greets her eyes now is enough to cause the woman to gasp in surprise. It forces a muttered, "Gods." But it doesn't stop there, not when the Wolf makes itself known. Again expectations are shattered and Danielle Moonstar's features pale. There's a spike of disbelief felt deep within her gut, but that doesn't stop the woman from immediately reaching for an arrow - a steelhead arrow, for now.

Piotr's sincere question is heard and all Dani can reply in response to it is, "It's the right one - get the Wolf and be mindful of the Bird!" She could say more, but Emery's helpful narrative about the Bird is heard. She also hasn't missed just how quick he is to go straight for the Bear. Both good and bad. Good, get the souls, bad, don't die.

Her bow raises upward, the arrow swiftly nocked, even as the Wolf leaps for her and Piotr steps up to intercept him. The *TWANG* of the arrow released might be heard as it hurtles for the great Wolf's shadow-twisted face.

Groot will find he has company in that headlong rush forward. Brightwind, the Asgardian pegasus, mantles his wings and with a scream of fury launches himself into the air.

As for a plan, "Get the Bear with the arrows." The Thunder Arrows she means, "Cut the power they're getting through him. Save them and the souls." And that second arrow that Strange created for her is tossed at Ripclaw, "Catch. Stab it or see if Rocket has something that'll launch this." And with that arrow out of her hands Dani moves, if she's the target, she'll run. She'll play rabbit (decoy) in this particular chase, no matter that the others move in to try and protect her.

The rope that connects her to her parents continues to light a path for her and Dani grabs it as she runs.

Strange's binds work, and fetter the Demon Bear in crossing chains of light: it binds the spirit down, flattening it to the earth, trapping those flagging wisps of shadow from escaping. It snarls, or tries to — the demonic animal is so emaciated it can barely manage a whuff of sound past its rotting teeth — and sinks its head down, suffering even to the burn of those light chains.

Just another wicked pain to add to all its many agonies.

For those headed to the Demon Bear, there seems to be no path of opposition, save the gigantic, hurtling form of the wolf —

Where's yer wee mad mosquito of a mistress? asks Emery.

"Here," comes his answer. Right behind him.

Out of his mid-afternoon shadow, the shape of a small black bird pulls free — and shifts, changes, shedding shadow-feathers to unravel into the form of a woman. On the tiny side, and looks like an everyday civilian — save for the blackness of her eyes, and the veins up and down her pale arms, like a corruption running through her blood.

How long can the body last without its soul? Jane Foster looks much worse than before. Worse — and pissed off.

She lashes out one hand, and energy shocks out at that strike toward Emery, like a concussive hit, attempting to send him in a beeline trajectory straight toward the wolf's jaws. A bite to eat.

As for Jane, she sizes up the group with her black, dead eyes, one after the other, cold and unimpressed. Even without a soul, the woman loathed being disturbed from her work. "If this to be my deadline — fine."

Shadow-magic wisps free from her hands. In one, she holds something familiar to Groot and Rocket, and maybe even others who've seen it before: the Soul Gem once in the possession of Kitty Pryde, now stolen.

In the other hand, Jane lifts for the sky. In an instant, the afternoon light is no more, as the world around them goes black, and the moon a red boil in the tainted sky.

New York, a distant skyline away, looks different. Not the ragged, cluttered buildings: but towers of equal shapes and sizes, repeated over and over. Neat. Orderly. Cold.

"A glimpse of what will be," promises Dr. Foster, through her illusion. "James," she requests, on a whisper.

The first thing that interposes into the Wolf's charge is Piotr Rasputin. The solid-steel form of Colossus is an intimidating sight, massive and unbreakable. A great wall to defend Danielle Moonstar.

Yet whatever the Wolf has become, fed on demonic energy by the Bear's new mistress, overtops even Colossus many times over… massive enough that if it weren't now smithed mostly of twisting, warping shadows, it would shake the ground with each bounding leap. It is not the size or strength of the organic steel mutant that deters the creature.

It is the sword Rasputin wields. A sword that registers with the creature in a widening of its blue eyes. It hesitates, slowing slighty… enough that Moonstar's arrow catches it by surprise. It twists, taking the projectile on its left shoulder, letting the shaft break on the steel.

That pause gives Groot and Brightwind their opening to run headlong into its side. A howl of rage escapes it as it's knocked from its paws. It twists to get its feet back under it, catlike —

— and sinks into a pool of shadows. Many here have seen it use this trick before, or been on its receiving end.

The question always is, where will it re-emerge?

It gets it answer when the Wolf exists out of nothing again, rising from the shadows draped between the trees, jaws fanned open in an attempt to catch and break Emery between those swordlike fangs. It seems the Bear's new masters remember its grudges — or perhaps, just its primary threats. It's trying to keep a berth from that Soul Sword.

Piotr braces for the wolf's charge, sword held in front backed by his gleaming metal frame. He narrows his eyes and smiles when the wolf decides to slow up and change tracks. Good, it is afraid of the sword. Piotr has no vain imaginations that the wolf is scared of him. As much as he would normally like to punch something that big, that's not the order of the day. When the wolf disappears however, he snarls with real anger and searches the area for it to reappear. It does so, but Piotr knows he doesn't have the speed to reach it, before it can shadow-port again.

"Strange! I need you to keep it still long enough for me to flay it!"

Jane and her mystical order of things is eyed, but not considered the primary threat. He's hunting a wolf.

/Get the arrow in the bear/
That has been a long time plan, it would not be his 'hands' that do it though, springing away from the Wolf and Colossus as they collide the arrow swiped while in motion and hes tumbling in a roll, sliding to his feet. "Rocket?" It's a clumsy grip when his fingers are extended like this, the arrow crossways in his palm and held with thumb. Everyone else had said their name but one, even the tree said a name. The raccoon.

"You, cousin Raccoon!" Rather clueless he may be an alien or 'other' direct assumption as this involves ancient spirits, Native mythology is that this friendly woodland creature armed with many weapons and attitude is probably an elder spirit given body, maybe an avatar. He really doesn't have a moment to spare and figure these things out.

"The Vishanti Arrow. I am a bad choice in this, a great spirit like you will know these things." Ripclaw is talking while closing the distance between the two of them, extending it out like some relay stick ready to be handed off so the next person in line can start running.

Disappearing wolf shadows are really annoying. Rocket growls as he loses the thing in his sights, lowering his rifle only enough to sweep a look around for it. But the bird has made its appearance.

At first he hadn't wanted to believe it, but it had been easier to see the link between the wolf and that metal limb. Rocket's never looked into those blue eyes long enough to see the resemblance there, but then he doesn't make it a habit of looking into anyone's eyes for that long unless they belong to fine lookin' dames. The bird's transformation is mostly missed, but the figure who stands there isn't as Rocket swings his attention over, and not without a small gasp. True, he hasn't talked all that much to Jane, but surely the overly curious, technically-minded if somewhat rudely staring-at-alien-raccoonoids is much more preferred to the dark-eyed woman tainted by darkness. It's not Jane. And it is. And that rock in her hand is all too familiar and shouldn't be in her possession. "Crap." Their surroundings change, Jane pronouncing weird things to come- yeah, flark this.

His hands tighten around his rifle's grip again, but with people being flung this way or lunging that, it's hard to shoot at anything without risk of hitting anyone. "Oh for-" Grumbling, he swings around with his weapon and very nearly aims for Ripclaw because it's not a very good idea to make a beeline for a trigger happy Guardian under such circumstances. "I AM NOT A RACCOON!" naturally is his initial response, like a knee-jerk reaction, but he sees the arrow in hand and his ears perk to hear him out. He looks at the guy oddly, and while there's a lot of things that don't make sense in that sentence, he's got the gist of it. And all the important things that go with it.

"Yeah, well. I am pretty great," he says oh so humbly, moving forward to take the arrow in hand. So this thing goes into side Bear, right? "Ugh, guess I have to offload…" Well, he's been having lousy shot opportunities anyway. He tugs the power cell from his gun, tossing the weapon back as he pockets the other, arrow moved to be held in his mouth. That's where you hold things when you need your hands, and if he's going to be making a dash for the Bear, he's going to need to be quick and light, and that's where his more natural abilities are most handy. Another quick check of where everyone is and he makes his move.

"I am Groot!"

It's his version of saying 'An opening!' as he and Brightwind bodycheck the Winter Shadow Wolf square in its side. The impact is jarring, but he recovers as well as he does, stumbling back a bit right when the wolf disappears.

Yes, Groot remembers that neat Wolf party trick. Considering his last experience with it, he doesn't like it as much as he would have if it wasn't used against him and his friends.

"I am Groot?" The ent says in slight disbelief, hands forming fists just as Jane goes and does something weird with the Soul Gem and the sky above. Because wait, he and Rocket know that woman. Jane. Jane is a friend. She's doing something weird that he's VERY sure not many terrans can do, but it doesn't stop him from glancing upward with his mouth hanging open in surprise. "I am Groot…!"

Bear held, that is part one. Supposedly the hard part, but actually the hard part is going to be stopping the two soul-less mortals than now have all the Bear power, backed by a soul-storing artifact.

Oh well. It is not as if he expected an easy battle. Although it would have been nice JUST ONCE. Holy Agamotto.

"Yes. Very well," he responds to Colossus. "I am going to be able to do this just once. But I think the Winter Soldier is the greatest threat. And…" Emery is going to get eaten if he doesn't stop monologing. Bad sorcerer habits.

"In the name of Crimson Cosmos," he yells, raising his hands, now glowing bright red. "I invoke the might of the Unstoppable One. Cyttorak Scarlet Bands, bind my enemy, the Shadow Wolf, in the unescapable chains!"

Blinding red light forms long streams of crimson, think as paper, a few inches wide. The rush the shadow wolf and stop it mid-jump. Not quite touching him, they seem to freeze the very space and time around the giant beast, rendering him barely able to move and extremely vulnerable to the charging Colossus and his borrowed Soulsword.

It's nice when a team functions as one. The X-Men on their best days are a well oiled machine of interworking parts that function seamlessly. They have very few of those days. But Pete has been in the heroing business long enough that he is moving for the wolf even before he hears any acknowledgment from Strange of his request.

The mountain of metal muscle (alliteration!) can move surprisingly quickly despite his size and composition. He is charging the wolf and can hear the enchantment as he approaches. The timing is exquisite. The wolf is trapped in mid-jump, leaving a lot of soft underbelly exposed. Colossus brings the soul sword up up in a sweeping motion, across the midsection. If it were a real blade and a true wolf, it might spill out some intestines. Here, Piotr is hoping for more of a soul leaking back out.

There is no yell, no loud battle cry. Nope, it's way more intense. Just a low whisper in Russian.

«My sister sends her regards.»

Where's the birdy? Oh! There's the birdy. Emery looks over his shoulder as the emmergency of Darth Jane with narrowed eyes. "Oh /tere's/ the pretty birdy." He murmurs before WHAM, he is knocked to the side by the marvel equivalent of the lipstick taser of death. Only its not lipstick. Its evil. And technovoodoo.

There are moments he thanks his more adventurous choices in lovers because although his body jerks, he's rolling out of the strike with a hand yanking something out of his pocket. He looks up in time to see the wolf flying at him. "…so she's handfeedin' your fat arse now?" Oh gawd, not again. But the bite never comes and he can exhale, looking back over to Jane with narrowed eyes. It is the narrowed eye stare of a father with a willful daughter. It is filled with disapointment and resigned understanding. It is the look you give your 16 year old when they got caught smoking in the loo. Not because they were smoking. But because they got caught. "I'm gonna need ye BOTH…" He points between the now chained wolf and the evil bird. "To take time to tink about what ye've done."

And he squeezes whatever is in his hand activating those small boxes he had brought with them.

On a frequency too specific for most species a ultrasonic blast of sound begins resonating. Ultrasonic Bird Repellants. The internet is a blessed thing.

But his focus now has shifted to Evil Goth Tweety Bird and her Depressing Lisa Frank Impersonation. A hand goes to his back to draw his sword from the sheathe on his back in a fluid motion. "This is what happens when ye play wit' souls. Somebody other than yerself paddles yer pet psychopath."

The Bird appears, or rather Jane Foster does.

With her arrival the world shifts, changes, and the order she wants to impose is seen. All those buildings so neat, so nice, like a cascade of ones and zeroes. Everything in its place. Everything where it should be.

Except for those here today. Those who step out of their assigned seats and try to stop the two.

Around her things happen, but Dani is focused mostly on the line of power she has a hold of. She pulls upon it again, but instead of trying to bring the Bear here, Dani reaches for the power that feeds the Wolf and the Bird. She reaches to leech it out of the woman's hand, to steal away that which makes them both so powerful. The shadows.

Brightwind, for his part, is back in the air, hovering as his angry blue-eyes watch the trapped Wolf. Hooves lash at the air, but while the Wolf is trapped the pegasus simply waits.

The Wolf, lunging for Emery, suddenly finds his movement… arrested.

The creature SNARLS in confusion and fury as red light suddenly winds about him, ribbons of energy caging him abruptly in midair. The Wolf thrashes, violently, but the bands hold. It brings its left foreleg to bear in an uncanny echo of the man it was before demonic influence ripped away his soul, but the bands hold even against the wild force of the steely limb and its flashing claws.

It's left wide open to the charge of Colossus with his sister's borrowed Soul Sword.

The slash of the blade cuts deeply, and a YELP of pain escapes the creature as a shower of shadows pour free of the injury. There's no internals to the monster, no showering of viscera — it is too warped into darkness for that — but much of its essence does seem to leak free from that wound.

It whines, a high note blending pain and rage, and renews its struggles in those bands. Its head turns, one baleful blue eye fixing on Piotr with a mad furious stare. Those jaws part, and the Wolf — so typically silent in these engagements — finally responds, words snarling past those bared fangs. Russian, just as Piotr speaks it.

«Oh? My woman sends hers…»

The Wolf continues to struggle physically against his binds, but soon enough it becomes clear they are unbreakable by any physical means he can muster. He whines, insistently, for Jane, for the shunt of additional soul-energy necessary for him to translate his form into pure shadow.

The Bear's shadow pulses in response, an almost tidal pull. The Wolf discorporates into liquid darkness and drips between those bands, returning temporarily to the Demon Bear's shadow to reconstitute. At the least, it means a brief reprieve…

…up until the Wolf rematerializes, staggering out of shadow, weakened, but still intent on slamming his steel left shoulder into Emery to try and shatter the insidious box hurting Jane.


Tony Stark sat in his lab. His newest gadget clutched in his hand. Peering at it, tweaking it to fits just what he wants it to. Its quiet there, the battered gageteer, bandages everywhere, leg in a brace of his own making. He doesn't have anything better to do while he's healing…

…and then a beeping starts…

…from a sensor he tasked with a very specific thing.

"SIRIN?" The inventor raised his head like a wolf tasting the sent of blood. "Is that what I think it is?"

"Er…yes, sir. But it would be a bad idea to follow up on it!" Fzzzzt. "That's like, instant couch territory."

"What did I tell you about me and bad ideas?" Stark replied as he set his tools down on the table. The satalites he had tasked with tracking the last of the virus that attacked his home had something. Slowly he stood. "Throw some colors on the new baby."

"Sir…this is?"

Tony cut his AI off. "And give me some music I can montage to."

SIRIN almost sighed as Stark stepped up to the coccoon of his own making. The cryslisis of a new Iron Man suit. The genisis of his new technology. The doors of the super-tech fabricator slide open as steam rolled out from the interor and the opening strands of Kansas 'Carry on My Wayward Son' began to poor from the speakers.

"That'll do."

Minuites later the roar of a new suit tearing away from Stark Tower echoed into the night. Pepper was going to be /so/ mad at him. But this? This was partly his fault. This was partly his doing. He was going to fix it.


Jane's shadowed form might be able to feel it first. Ripples of quantum energy coming from the direction of New York. The faint rolling report of a sonic boom in the distance. That disruption, that souce of pure energy, was closing at speed. A faint light on the horizion. A shooting star flinging itself this way. The ripples of a quantum field generator tearing and distorting energy patterns ahead of it. A challenge and a warning all at once.

The others on the ground, that song is still playing. Blaring from external speakers as the newest Stark Suit rips its way towards the source of Jane's horrible nightmare world.

~Carry on my wayward son~
~For there'll be peace when you are done~
~Lay your weary head to rest~
~Don't you cry no more~

"This isn't very subtle, sir." SIRIN's voice is dry in his ears.

"Yeah well, I'm not feeling very subtle right now."

The tiny and corrupted Jane Foster, drawn here, turns her black eyes back on the chain-tethered Demon Bear. It stares at her with a look of undisguised hate. The feeling is more than mutual.

Already her mind is calculating how to operate under these accelerated variables: her own fault. She thought she covered for any extraneous setbacks. Created diversion. Unit tested virus on Stark. Confined Jones until the spell can be dealt with to integrate her into the System.

It was not her plan to begin today — to begin now — but she will adapt. Blurring through shadows, able to teleport back and forth through the darkness that now covers this isolated territory, the shadow-magic circulating through her calls forward a device.

A laptop. A simple, ordinary laptop, manifested into being, connected into those wires cabled off the Demon Bear. Technomagic. Necromancy, as Strange called it. Jane has a spell to unleash.

Soul Gem in hand, she turns on the Demon Bear, silent, dead-eyed. No grand villain speeches from Jane Foster. No dedicated story of what she intends to do. The machine intelligence has no time for it, no arrogance, nothing but —

Cut through with the sword, the wolf cries suddenly in pain. «My woman sends hers…» transmits James Barnes's soulless voice.

Fury opens up Jane's face. Murder shines from her dead, black eyes.

She blurs through the dark, shadow-magic wisping from her body like a black fire, though to the magic-sensing like Ripclaw and Strange, this isn't a traditional magic: it's forged with mathematics, calculating, calibrating, like runes run with equations to make a feat possible.

Such as when Jane suddenly snaps to a stop next to Colossus, and drives a tiny fist straight into his metal chest. Physics bends and distorts to her will, and with a shudder of sonic momentum, KNOCKS him away like a hurtling, metal projectile straight through the air. It WHISTLES past Tony, and is gone.

He may end up somewhere in Jersey.

Shadow streaming from her knuckles, Jane turns around in quiet rage — as Emery detonates his own surprise. It hits fast and hurts BAD. The sonics stagger her, and the woman drops to her knees, unable to restrain the pained scream as she folds both hands over her ears, unable to move, speak, think for the sound.

It's a window to get to the Demon Bear for Moonstar and others. The wolf goes to destroy the box. And Jane, with what little she can do, grits her teeth and wills a single thought.

It is a magic pull, a transmission out to Something to call it near. Especially as, to her, and through her shadow link, she can feel Iron Man's incoming approach.

There are two additional servants the Bird has in her call.

The first is a blinding SHOCKWAVE that attempts to careen toward Tony if he does not calibrate an evasion in time: MK 40, his suit Shotgun.

The second comes MK 24, Tank, flying overhead beside its steel brother, all cannons upraised to unleash a volley of fire down at the group below. Both suits, still hacked, still whole, and under Jane's control.

Oh, well this works out fine. Everyone's too busy dancing with the Wolf and creepy Jane. Rocket makes his move for the Bear, although the moment the shadows begin to writhe and the Wolf goes melting into it, the smaller Guardian has his smaller handgun yanked from his holster and aiming. Again, it seems like the Wolf's more intent on the other man in the fancy coat. Wow, what do they have against that guy? -other than the fact that he's got something that seems to work against Jane?

His finger starts to squeeze the trigger, but Rocket holds off, shaking his head and holstering it again. Bear first. That'll make things easier then, right? He drops to all fours to eat up more distance in quicker time, but his head cocks as he races towards the bear, teeth still clamped over the arrow. That sound, what's that sound?


As the second suit comes in firing he throws himself forward and tucks into a roll. Those…are some pretty sweet looking pieces of technology- no, Bear, stab the Bear! He can't do much down here without heavier artillery or until they get within better range to lob explosives anyway. So he runs, calculating the distance, and when he's within a more reasonable space, Rocket launches himself towards the shadowy heap, grabbing the arrow from his mouth and grasping it in both hands as he brings it over his head and down.

Everything continues at a pace so hectic Groot hasn't been able to process completely. He watches as the actions play out: Ripclaw attacking outright; a sword in Colossus' gleaming hand, poised to strike; the wolf that is supposed to be a friend baring its teeth as Doctor Strange binds it with chains, restrained but fierce as they speak in a language foreign to his ears; Moonstart acting as a decoy while Rocket temporarily puts the arrow in his mouth to switch things out of his new gun; Emery's boxes and their ear-screeching frequencies, startling and confusing /him/ as they go off; the muffled yet rising sound of a song he may have heard some time ago…

…And then Jane, not looking anything like the Jane he remembers, flawlessly ridding them of their metal man, barely touching him as he's sent flying off into the sky.

Oh, Jane. This isn't how she's supposed to be.

Somewhere within all that is going on around him, Groot moves, shambling, then striding closer to where Jane stands. He winces right as she collapses to her knees from the sonic noise, rasping breaths of worry loud in his nonexistent ears. Eyes narrowing, he forces himself to move faster, each step staggering to slow himself down once he's close. Huge, branch-like arms are outstretched, trying to reach for her, trying to grab onto her. To shake her. To /hug/ her. "I am Groot…"

Forget his own safety. He doesn't need it.

Robert Berresford has been and witnessed many things in his lifetime, some of it wrapped in distorted glitch riddled memory pockets that have been corrupted by a box meant to over-ride sentient thought, much of it through the world of dreams, spiritual encounters and the astral plane.

This blending of techno-magic, it's new, it's very real right now and clearly unanticipated by himself, likely the others as well from all reactions, it's like the Backwards Man promised, feasting on his kin and grinning. Promised? Close to prophesized. Right now the only thing to do is react and stay on course, assist Moonstar and Strange as he swore he would.

"Not. A raccoon." Ripclaw corrects, humility shown towards the fuzzy war-spirit thats pretty closely looks like a damned raccoon to him. Who is Robert to argue with the great unknown and it's first children.

Full intent for the cyborg was to return to the fray, join Colossus in full engagement against the wolf but things have changed drastically in the span of heartbeats, a teleportation, Jane-Birds(?) re-orientation on the battlefield which further displays the flare of the foreign mathematical and science woven mysticism, something far beyond a minor dabbler like Ripclaws understanding.

No options. No ability to fly, run faster than a speeding bullet or traverse space and time the man goes for the nearest target, the bear, its energies, dark and corruptive are still present, still oozing out and filling everything near it with blighted malice, palpable to his supernatural awarenes.

A soaring leap, the blades protruding from his right hand stretch to their limits, curling all fingers in to a beak like lance and he descends, fully intent on plunging his weaponized appendage in to the Wolf that is going after the box. He cannot reach Jane, his faith in Great Spirit and Moonstar giving him belief they can handle the bear. The wolf, he can at least attempt to distract meanwhile, save whatever magical box Emery is employing.

Invoking an entity like Cyttorak is something Strange doesn't do except in the most dire circumstances. In this case it was due to the chance to take out the Shadow Wolf before it ate Emery. The light of the Vishanti would have been perhaps more appropriate and could have caused both Bucky and Jane to flee.

Too late now. If he does a second invocation he risks the wrath of worse than the Demon Bear.

And the Bands of Cyttorak failed. Well, not failed, broken. They were truly inescapable until the Soulsword passed through them. The disruption was great, and the wolf shadow-stepped, still conscious and able to fight. Miscalculation.

And Colossus got taken out, along with the Soulsword.

"Mixing physics principles with magic. Unimaginative. Mechanical. Powerful with a large power source, but lacking all subtlety and finesse. Doctor Doom plays that game much better, Jane Foster. At least he has a spark of artistry."

He gesticulates, but no chanting, he is talking. "Sorcerers are not limited by physics," he claims, as swirling orange light covers the area, deflecting the MK24 volley into the Mirror Universe. Reality splits - Jane's illusion becomes distorted, unsymmetrical, like an Echer lithograph that mutates as it is watched, manifesting impossible mathematics that hurt the eyes.

Evading something moving hyper-sonic speed is…iffy at best. Impossible at worst. This is not the best.

"Sir! Incoming hostile! Its the Mark 40!" Fpzzzt. "Did you /have/ to make it that fast?!"

He manages to get out of the way of the full force of the charge, though the collision at that speed still sends him spiraling out of the sky. The suit smashes into the dirt, tumbling over and over to dig a furrow in the forest before he slams against a tree with a /clang/.

WIth a shake of his head the Iron Man gets back to his feet, head tilted back up at the sky. "SIRIN. Calculate tragectry. Give me a fireing solution." The red and gold suit moves, the sleek lines of the brand new suit catching the light of the blood moon as it stalks out of the forest. There is a whine that comes from the back of his hands as he raises one arm towards the sky. caluclating his lines of fire to try to sweep a bright ruby red light of a weapon grade laser towards where the Mark 40 might be.

Hoping to cut it down to size.

As he does it, a tiny launcher pops out of is shoulder. The puff of a launcher sending a trio of micro-missiles towards where Jane works.

…they don't explode though…

Instead they impact the ground near where Jane's laptop its and suddenly scream out that same quantum resonance field Stark used in his tower. Ripping and tearing into Jane's magic, pulling, disrupting, giving her the /biggest/ migrane.


Part of him, doesn't like causing tiny Jane this pain, and he has two boxes. One on the ground over > there and the other in the duffel bag over --> there. He cannot focus on the incoming beacon of awesomeness that is Tony and his cool music. Why, because DemonWuff is all up IN HIS FACE again.

There's a soft cough and gag as the impact sends Emery skidding a few feet, kicking up grass and dirt and leaving a groove but he's lashing out with an arm to wrap around the other man/demon/creature from the woods in a grapple. Something cracks, he can feel it but there's years of training that allows him to wheeze out. "Jaysus H Christ on a Feckin' Cracker, why do ye smell like you crawled directly out of Mostly Dead Smokey over there's anus?!"

And his box, not him, his box is getting an assist in the form of Red Eyed Scissor Hands. A quick glance over to Jane and the Giving Tree and then back to the matter at hand. Its a split second and there's a flicker of something his eyes as his tenous grip on holding back the shadows that curl within his own depths.

His voice is still lilting and soft but deeper and edged with a hint of a hiss. "Her princes in the midst thereof are like wolves ravening the prey." There is a flash of his eyes as he drives that sword he was holding down into WuffBoy's foot. "To shed blood, and to destroy souls, to get dishonest gain…" WHAM, yeah. Samael has come out to play. And he's still Irish.

If successful he will be headbutting the former WS in the fase. "Sound familiar boyo?"

For those that have just joined -

A battle rages in an abandoned vineyard in Westchester County.

The storm that has engulfed New York isn't seen or felt within this area, thanks to the touch of Doctor Strange.

While the Vineyard is still around the ragtag group currently a much darker image overlays the area. This particular image is of a neat and orderly city - where everything is in its place and not a single thing is out of order. A blood red moon hangs high above the tidy might skyline of 'NYC', even as a battle rages in the air (between Iron Man and his suits and a winged horse) and the people below on the ground. Several people can be found attacking the giant shadow wolf (Emery and Ripclaw), while Groot can be found near Jane, and Rocket Raccoon can be found near the Demon Bear itself.

The Demon Bear is no longer the same creature from before, it's now a skeletal, thin and mangy thing, and lays chained upon the ground via mystical bindings.

As for that Wolf - Brightwind turns furious eyes upon the Man turned Beast, as it disintegrates into shadows and escapes Strange's prisons. And while the Wolf reforms, before the winged-horse can slam into him again the sky fills with noise.


Along with the sounds of several Iron Man suits in flight. That's enough to bring Brightwind's head around, his bright-eyed gaze focusing upon Iron Man and the other controlled suits. With a defiant scream the stallion tucks his wings close to his body and drops downward. He barrels towards the nearest suit, the Tank, attempting to slam Asgardian Steel shod hooves into the suit that hangs in the air so menacingly.

For Rocket Raccoon, and anyone else looking that way, there's a sudden flare of magic and light, as the arrow he brings downward at the Bear transforms into something more. Into an object of divine power. Solid light is now held within Rocket's hands (paws?) as the arrow stabs deep into the Bear. The chained Bear can only groan, too weak to even roar, as the light shunts deep into its emancipated body. Its features twist into a silent pained snarl as the Bear's body shudders from the radiance of the arrow. What fur and meat that's left upon the body begins to disappear, eaten away by that light, and from within some of the tethered souls begin to struggle.

Their ephemeral bodies rise upward above the Bear's ragged form and hang there, like wispy ghosts.

Hazy shapes, still bound to the Bear itself.

A man hunched over in pain, a sorrow filled woman, a man and a woman their blurred hands clasped together.

By this time Dani is likewise moving for her own god-touched arrow, a hand reaching for the quiver strapped to her back. Only she falters for a second, at the sight of those souls appearing above the Bear.

About the time the Wolf hits Emery, it realizes the sound is not emanating from the man himself, but from two distinct locations near him. It starts to turn, to deal with the threat… and a few things stop it.

The first is Emery's blade through its right forepaw. The second, Emery's headbutt to the very tip of its nose. The Wolf rips its paw backwards, bisecting it on the blade — a yelp of pain escapes it, but the wound starts to seal back afterwards, smoke and shadow stitching the split paw back together. The creature bares its fangs back to the molars in the face of such defiance, gearing up to lunge forward and snap Emery in half in its jaws.

Then the third thing happens to it. This happens to be Ripclaw, landing on the Wolf's broad back and burying those namesake blades deeply into shadow-flesh, between the creature's shoulder-blades.

The Wolf screams a furious note in mingled pain and rage. The temperature drops precipitously in the area, as the Wolf pulls instinctively on the power source feeding it. A mind that does not know magic, has no finesse in casting it, touches a vast source of magic. The inevitable result?

It reacts to what the Wolf knows best, and what the Winter Soldier at the creature's core knows best is the COLD.

The flare of corrupt magic starts to war against Doctor Strange's nullifying effect on the weather. The wind starts to howl. It is not a full snowstorm yet — it fights uphill against Strange's control, pushing back against his calming spell — but the gusts carry intermittent snow and slicing shards of ice, and the frigid temperatures are in itself dangerous.

With a violent SHAKE, the Wolf seeks to sling Ripclaw free, to throw him in the direction of the one noise-emanating box that it can clearly see on the ground. With luck, the impact will break both. It turns baleful blue eyes on Emery —

— and the MK 40 Shotgun bullets down from the sky. Tony's fired laser, calculating its intended trajectory, slices a glancing hit on the thing, slowing it considerably until it can re-calibrate. Which, of course, means it's only moving at a few hundred miles per hour, instead of a few thousand, when it arrows down to try and snatch Emery, jet him clear up into the sky… and drop him.

Staggering through its wounds as they rapidly knit, the Wolf makes doggedly for the other box in an effort to break that one, too. Where it walks, frost coats the ground, and grows up into drifts of ice and snow.

The noise off the box bores into her. It eats like an acid through her mind. All she can do is palm over her ears, suffer, and try to endure — though even then, through the noise, comes something else.

Beyond all things going on, one thing in particular steals Jane Foster's complete attention —

Strange's insult earns a lash of her eyes, pitch-black, as fury makes that blackness climb her veins, webbing her arms, her throat, her face. Whatever stripped of her soul, the empty vessel has an echo left behind, and among that — her professional pride.

"You MAGICIANS," Jane snarls, venom spit off the word, "are all the same!" Her voice twists and catches at syllables, tainted with something unnatural. Shadow smokes off her skin. "Arrogant and OBSOLETE. You will be reordered into my system. Physics is not a limitation. It is being. It is the end. I have CONQUERED IT."

And she has — been rightfully distracted.

Several things happen at once. Rocket drives the arrow down into the Demon Bear, and Jane shudders, feeling the excision of those souls, her black eyes turned in rage and dismay. There's not much else she can do, not with the noise box — and the wolf responds, the two bridged in that current of magic, one seeing to the agony of the other.

The bear is compromised. And Stark has moved his devices to her laptop, the activated quantum field negating the work she needs to finish, and Jane needs to go to it, needs to —

Her moving eyes try to calculate Strange's reality sculpting, the demon-possessed, uninhibited genius of Dr. Foster attempting to write an algorithm through pure chaos to command the other MK 24 Tank suit through — and attempt to take a shortcut to drive the suit more quickly towards its master. It barrels down at Stark, wanting only to drive and barrel him into the ground, one reinforced hand straining to reach for him — reach for his faceplate to want to crush.

As for Jane, she tries to move — but can do nothing, instead finding herself swept up into the arms of a living tree, as Groot does what he can to hold her in place, to restrain — to embrace the cold vessel that has lost its soul. Before, Jane looked up at the alien with nothing but awe and wonder.

Now, her black eyes are dead, as cold and empty as space.

I am Groot… he asks. "Not any longer," Jane quietly disagrees.

The bear's stolen magic wreathes against her skin, flickering like black fire, before it suddenly ERUPTS — like an explosive blast of energy inside Groot's arms. It's like tightly hugging a bomb, which now seeks to detonate him away — to shred him.

That power stretches off her in the shapes of unfurling black wings. The sound boxes devastate, and she flickers, crossing through shadow, intent to nullify those drones and go for her laptop.

And in the midst of all of this - the tug-of-war for the weather, bullets and various projectiles falling from the sky - a mote of light suddenly appears right on the path of the stalking wolf. With what is happening, anyone armed with mystical senses within range would have to be supernaturally blind not to sense what is happening, and the magical maelstrom generated by several forces at war with one another is enough to call the attention of several persons who make it their business to meddle whenever something this large and this worrisome happens.

And as it stands, they happen to be familiar with this one, too.

The mote enlargens and the brightness of it intensifies, coalescing into an open gateway that carves a path for two figures to tumble right into the middle of the fray. Perhaps she could have elected the safer route - teleport them at the fringes and the like, assess the landscape before attacking. But that was never Zatanna Zatara's way. This is after all the woman who, in John Constantine's long memories for such things, had them rocket up to the sky and dropped them like space marines in the middle of a human sacrifice ritual, once, to stop it.

Good news: Here comes the cavalry.

Bad news: They're right on the path of a charging wolf.

"Oh, SHIT!"

Is what she elects to say, instead of a friendly hello.

Both palms come up to call up a sudden wall of invisible force, spiraling from the ground and up, in an attempt to throw the Fenrir-formerly-known-as-Bucky-Barnes away from them.

There is always satisfaction in accomplishing what one sets out to do no matter how insane, leaping on a wolf in such a fashion even for a man of Ripclaw's particular irregular nature it's unwise, especially when it's a creature you don't exactly comprehend, a teleporting lupine birthed of foul magicks and soul altering diabolism.

That claw thrust in, impaling the fuzzy haunch as it is opens, the other hooking in preparing himself to once more carve open more meat and see what lies inside only to end up bucked forth, head snapping back Robert's teeth CLASH together hard and hes glad his tongue wasn't between them, snarling and gritting them down hes then hurled, launched with a snap that has him twisting in the air trying to reposition only to come down on his shoulder, slamming hard, sliding upon it and a craned neck to careen loudly in to that 'box', legs up and full torso colliding with enough impact one would think a car just got rammed by a charging bull.
Air erupts from his lungs and he ends up in an ass over elbow flip-flop of bio-metal cased arms and long jeanclad legs.

Definitely no 8 seconds.

Physicists, bah! Doctor Strange is (was) a surgeon. Best of America. Smarter than you (and you too!). He thought he knew everything.

Okay. He is still arrogant.

"Now you see the wave, but you don't see the particle," he quips to Jane. It is a physicist joke, said with a completely deadpan tone. He has been dissing dark wizards for forty years, so he knows how to poke at them and keep them angry.

Unfortunately Jane and James they still have a pretty terrible amount of power at their fingertips. Even as the Bear falters, the Wolf punches through his weather-control magics and threatens his control of the battlefield. That won't do it. He grabs the amulet he was keeping under the cloak.

"Enough. Enough of illusions, unholy shadows, and enough false winter," he declares. "In the name of Agamotto. THERE WILL BE LIGHT."

The amulet opens, a wide beam of holy light burst forth in the direction of the already injured shadow wolf.

There is such a blessing to being supernaturally supported to be physically disciplined and having alot of both Spanish and Irish stubborness to add grit to your resolve. His sword found a home in BuckWolfstastic's foot and its freed in a gross way and days of pubs of the past come swirling back with that headbutt. Such fond memorie and he answers the mighty beast's baring of his teeth by flicking up the brim of his hat and narrowing his eyes as he blows an air kiss. "What was that? Jane's fallen down the well? No….what? Oh, she's gone completely round the bend?"

Thank God for Ripclaw, helping Emery once more avoid getting. stuc k in Evil Dog Bucky's mouth. And then something happens as he glances over in timeto see the souls starting to get released, he's resheathing his sword and turning smoothly to try to start running towards the bear.

Only to get snatched up like a well dressed hare getting snatched the fuck up by an evil eagle. He sighs and looks up. "How teh…what, she's made Stark her bitch too? Has she no standards? I mean damn they are both beautiful man but…"

Then he's being dropped with a yelled out.

"Fuuuuuck yooooouuu…." He looks towards where he saw Brightwind though as he falls, reaching out a hand as he plummets towards the ground.

It would be nice to say that this grand conflagration of magical energy woke John up out of a dead sleep. It would be nice because it would imply that he was getting sleep of any kind, even interrupted that way. Not so: out of one case and into another, work has had him in its slavering jaws, worrying at him like a gristle-furred bone.

Needless to say, he's in a fantastic mood already when he feels something erupt through the warp and weft of magic in the tri-cities area, a rupture in the fabric of things that stands all of the hair up on the nape of his neck and has him reaching for his mobile phone, laying his hand on it at approximately the same moment Zatanna appears through a rift in the subterranean Brooklyn flat.

"Ah," is what he said. "Good." And then after a pause during which he adjusts the lapels of his coat, waiting for her to open the next rift with his brows dipping down and tone gone dry: "Is this the magical equivalent of that obnoxious twee thing couples do where they finish one another's senten-"

The answer may never be clear. They step through, and all John sees is wolf.

"Ah, Christ! Bone, 'tanna, give us the bone!"

It doesn't mean what you probably think it means.


She's secured. Safe - or maybe he's keeping everyone else safe by distracting her? Groot has no idea; so long as there's no imminent explosion occurring at the same time he's doing the hugging bit, it doesn't matter to him. The less damage to his friends, the better.

A brief glance is all he takes before looking back down at the small woman he holds onto, the corners of his mouth turning upright into a softer version of his tradmark easy-going (and dumb) smile.

"Not any longer."

…And then it falters.

These words resonate in Groot's head, leaving confusion in the wake of worry. Dark eyes widen the more Jane's appearance changes and warps. That once friendly, starry-eyed visage is gone, vanishing in the flame-like substance now surrounding her on the brink of devestating everything within its current radius.

"I am…" Groot has no time left to think. No time to warn anyone.

So he tries…and builds.

Branches and twigs intertwine around and away from his body as fast as he can possibly generate them, forcing himself to be quick about it. Every bit of it twirls and tightens, latching onto the next closest part to weave and wreath. And he grimaces. "…GROOT!!"

It barely has time to go around them entirely once the black erupts from within.

The sound is hard to ignore. Wood and splintering debris are sent flying, scattering and swirling in the cold wind.

And Jane stands alone.

Oh gosh what did he do now- oh wait. That's good, right? Glowing…glowing is good? And awesome. He probably looks awesome now. Yelling for the full effect, Rocket plunges the arrow down. It's…kind of anticlimactic but the Bear seems in no position to protest, but all the same, Rocket bounces back, feeling better having his gun in hand in case the whole thing goes pear-shaped. Instead he's almost blinded by the light that envelopes the Bear's form and he throws his other hand in front of his face, peering out between his fingers as forms start to float stream away from the heap that's less like a Bear and more like people.

"Uuuuh…." That's what's supposed to happen, right? But then why didn't it stop Jane and her bitey sidekick? He doesn't have to think long as the moment he asks himself that, he remembers. That soul rock was their responsibility too, and they screwed up on that part. Rocket throws a glance at Dani, she's got things covered right? Already he's making a sprint back for the rifle he'd left over yonder, letting himself have a better look at the rest of the battlefield, for that's what it surely has become. He shudders against the whiff of the frigid cold summoned by the Wolf but his eyes are going back towards Jane, automatically seeking out his partner in crime who practically towers behind her. The appearance of a familiar magic user and her plus one is only a blip registered out of his peripheral as one moment Groot is there embracing Jane like the idiot tree that he is, and in the next…blackness errupts. From his friend.


Raw shock hits him colder than the wolf-born winter, but little Guardian continues to run. He's forgotten about his rifle. He's still got his smaller weapon in hand, and the small spark of rage he feeds and stokes into a full flame as he cries out in fury at Jane, charging at her, firing with reckless abandon. His friend. His friend.

Knocking the Mark 40 from the sky is no easy feat of enginneering and there is a split second to feel smug before Tony Stark looks around the rest of the battlefield.


"My god what kind of motley crew is…why does the racoon have an arrow? Is that tree talking? Why is the moon red?! Is that a technobear thinwhat are the…someone don't tell me those are souls. The hell did I just land iIs that an actual pegasus?!"

This last comes as Brightwind tears into Tank. SIRIN of course has to pipe up then.

"Yes, sir!" The AI exclaimed brightly. "Judging from the shoes and saddle its from Asgard!" That burst of static comes as the sardonic tone inevitabily follows. "The more you know."

At least his generators seem to be working to keep Jane at bay for now so the inventor has time to think, not much time of course. If though he can get to that laptop he might can reverse some of this. Even as Ripclaw gets thrown round and the damaged Mark 40 goes after…Emma butler? WHAT EVEN IS HE DOING THERE AND WHY DID HE JUST PUT HIS FACE THAT NEAR A WOLF'S MOUTH?!

Wait. Hold on. Back up. /Jane/.

His eyes snap to the woman in the grip of a tree seconds before everything around there blows up. "Great. They are mind controlled. Again. What is this the fourth time?! At least Fishnets is he—oh god FISHNETS! INCOMING WOLF!"

He's helping.

"Some people just have a knack for it, sir." SIRIN says helpfully.

He turns towards that laptop…a split second before Tank tears though pure chaos and clowns him right in the face.

Battered as he is physically he does indeed go down under the assault of his own creation. His weak leg gives way and he finds himself on his back once more. One hand pinned under him, the other locked up with a suit that is just as strong as he is. Tank's other hand closes over his visor, blocking Stark's view as he hears the metal groan against the strength of the grip.

"SIRIN. Activate Prometheus Protocol." He growls out as he grapples with the other suit. Slamming an elbow into the corrupted Tank to give it enough pause for SIRIN to do its work.

"Sir, it hasn't been tested yet…"

"No time like the present! Do it!"

Wires shoot out from Tony's suit. Jacking into Tank. Tony Stark is no techno-wizard. He's an engineer. He's the best engineer of his age. He doesn't work like Jane does. He doesn't work like anyone else. He deals in application. And he's had a week to experiment with that virus that Jane slammed into him. What worked. What didn't. What's effective. What's not. No he's not a wizard.

He's Tony Stark.

Pure code, backed by SIRIN and FRIDAY's processing power slams into the corrupted suit. Carried by a thousand thousand nano-machines, each and every one broadcasting light from every spectrum that he could manage to fit on a tiny robot. Tiny holographic projectors, a variant of his firework technology filling Tank's circuits and interior with the brightness in a dozen different spectrums. Burning against the demonic shadows as he tries to force his will back into his creation.

Its been rogue for too long.

Here comes the cavalry indeed. One might well expect the arrival of Zatanna and her beau, summoned by the clarion call of powerful sorcery. Magic knows magic, and all that. But how would one explain the sudden, nearly silent arrival of one of the Tri-Cities area's least magically inclined? The so-called "Devil of Hell's Kitchen" is a brawler. For all his flashy moves, he spends the majority of his time beating on glorified gangsters.

What's he doing here, suddenly in the middle of a grand melee between sorcerers and technologists? How did he even find it? The man, masked by a bandana that obscures the top-half of his fair-featured face, isn't inclined to say. Isn't inclined to announce himself one way or another, really. He's no Zatanna, barreling into the thick of it. Instead, he waits under cover of vineyard and shadow, watching briefly while —

While Jane Foster seems to blow up what seems to his strange sense of the world nothing so much like a motherfucking Ent with little more than her mind. And while Bucky, in his feral form, makes leaping bounds for Zatanna and Constantine. People he knows are not just useful, but potentially critical to the purpose that summoned him here.

Constantine asks for a bone from his lady. It isn't what he intended, to be sure, but Daredevil has one of his own to offer. It's Jane Foster's own handiwork, appropriately enough — an escrima stick forged out of some special alloy that he doesn't pretend to know the precise qualities of save that it is fast and durable and has laid low many a hoodlum at this point, whether they be Russian or Wakandan.

And now it's hurtling at high speed towards the wolf.

Hooves strike and while the winged-horse of Asgard is upon the edge of a berserk rage, he's not quite there yet. As such, when Emery falls yelling that expletive of his, Brightwind flicks out a wing and turns midair. Then he plummets. It's a race now. Who's faster? Emery's terminal velocity, or the magical steed of Asgard.

Thankfully, for Emery, the Asgardian pegasus is faster.

The white stallion edges past him and then underneath the falling Soul-Seeker and with a bone jarring thump, the man finds himself safely upon Brightwind.

For Dani, her attention is split between the battle and the souls that hover above the Bear's trapped form. The battle is almost glitchy in her mind - one minute slow, the next fast, and other times a mishmash of distorted images. Ripclaw is thrown from the wolf, Emery is pulled up into the air, the tree named Groot explodes, Strange evokes Agamotto's eyes and the Calvary arrives.

Even as Rocket runs away from the Bear, Dani runs toward it. The sacred arrow and her bow are held in her left hand, but her right stretches out towards the shapes of the enslaved souls. As she nears the enchained Beast the two souls that hold hands turn toward Danielle Moonstar. They extend their opposite hands to her their shapes indistinct.

"Mom. Dad." She says softly, breath stolen from her lungs. "I got you." She states and as her fingertips near the two souls, their shapes become clearer. A woman, similar in looks to Danielle solidifies, and then the man. "I got you."

Are her final words and then with the might of the Valkyrior behind her, Danielle grasps those hands and pulls. Where she goes the souls follow.

And Danielle Moonstar leads them away from the Bear and its two Masters.

The Wolf manages to fling Ripclaw clear, a shower of black bloody ichor trailing in the man's wake from the grievous wound he inflicted. It does not try to check where he falls; it is already moving again, though not for long. Before long, the charging Wolf finds something interposing suddenly into its path. Two familiar figures, falling out of nowhere, directly in its way.

Its eyes narrow, in an expression that looks a little bit like 'what the fuck—?'

And it slams straight into Zatanna's hasty barrier, flung up just in time, with enough force that the magic splinters. The Wolf staggers back a pace, briefly dazed… and open for the sharp and sudden strike of Daredevil, launching forward with that weapon Jane herself made for him.

It slams the Wolf sidelong along the jaw, rocking its head to one side. The thing's near blue eye turns towards Daredevil, baleful, and the Wolf snaps its jaws back around in an effort to seize the man in those crunching fangs — and fling him as a projectile towards John and Zatanna as they gain the field of battle.

A field of battle which is rapidly growing colder and colder, the wind howling up to a fever pitch as the Wolf pulls the Bear's energy to oppress Strange's spell away. Of course, the Sorcerer Supreme has no intention of conceding control of the field, and he reaches for the Eye of Agamotto. The Wolf has only time to whirl before the light strikes him.

The holy light sears at the demonic energies powering through the creature, and it loses enough of its grip on the Bear's power that the rising storm falters and ebbs. But the holy light has a double effect: it strips illusions. It banishes falsities. And for the half-second the Wolf is inundated in its light —

— There isn't a Wolf. There is a crumpled man, shrouded in decades of blood, clutching a head that has been tampered with far too many times, with a left hand made of steel.

The light passes. The Wolf ripples back into being. Weakened but still standing, it snarls its fury — but then glances towards Jane, as if called by some wordless communication. By some sense of danger. Rocket, careening towards her. The Wolf's gaze swings towards the sky.

And the MK 40 Shotgun, still thralled, rips down from the clouds in answer, slamming into the ground between Rocket and Jane, blocking the shots with its armored frame before answering fire with its repulsors.

The Wolf itself is running again, on an interception course to the one person far too close to something Jane critically needs: towards Tony Stark, attempting to disrupt her laptop and all the arcane energies it coalesces.

The MK 24 is just on the cusp of being brought back under control when the Wolf SHOULDERS it aside violently with a clang of steel shoulder against steel shoulder, and tries to pin Stark beneath a steel left forepaw. Fangs flash down to carve into Iron Man's suit, intent on ripping it wide open to get at the man within.

The genius of Tony Star makes war against the insidious machine intelligence of Jane Foster without her guiding soul. MK 24 Tank presses down, its joints humming as it presses in the weak sides of Stark's faceplate, a machine patience in the dead way it seeks to crush his head inside his own creation. A fitting end for a meddling man. A man who does not know when to cede. Who does not know his limits. Who does not know —

— hw to stop. And he doesn't. His recalibrations tunnel through that corrupted code, breaking it apart, until — Tank's grasp falters and loosens. The suit is his again.

In the wake of Groot, fallen, mulched — spread in a far-reaching bed of broken branches and splintered bark, the empty body of Jane Foster stands.

Shadow spits and curls off her flesh like coronal flares, fanning in the shapes of long, void-black feathers, in them a total absence of light. The use of that power affects her visibly, negatively, deteriorating her tiny body worse than it was before — deteriorating to hold what it should not, what it was never meant to contain in lieu of a human soul — as she breathes shallow, wet breaths. She exhales a breath of smoke. Shadow fans off her eyelashes, as her black eyes turn.

She looks at Rocket, cold, impersonal, apathetic, a vacant mirror for the little raccoon's rage and agony, looking straight through his grief and feeling nothing. Nothing but the void.

The void she means to impress on him, and everyone else. They do not understand. Few do. Few would. Understand the gift she means to give them. So tired of pain. So tired of others in her mind — HYDRA and demons — and even more so —

James Barnes. Jane feels him through the shadow. Pulled apart in every way. Ripped so many times. Angry, like she is. So angry. Even now, she murmurs a soothe to the wolf as he fights for them, tears apart for them, bleeds for them. Hold just a little longer, and she will have this finished.

Two souls leave the battery. She must move now.

The MK 40 suit lands to intercept her between Rocket, catching his shots against its armor, aiming its palms forward with that doppler charge of repulsor fire— and as for Jane?

Twisting down into a pocket of shadow… the corrupted Jane Foster erupts outwards in a tide of power tethered to a ozone-rush of her technomagic, a willing siphon on the last shreds of the Demon Bear's twisted life. It suddenly begins to convulse and shake, fighting with sudden, desperate strength against Strange's light chains, tilting its head back to howl a monster's broken agony up into the sky. Shadow vents away from it —

And into Jane, covering and concealing her, until she erupts with spreading back wings, their ends dripping shadow ichor, and unravels into the call of a thunderbird. Taking to the air, the creature swoops for the wolf's back, its wings curving down, and it melds totemic — power hitching with power in a strengthening storm.

"Too much disorder," comes Jane's dead words. "I solved for chaos. I resolved entropy. Too much noise. Too much pain.

"Now integrate."

Shadow lances out from her untouched laptop, and a running script fills its screen: page after page of code in a joining of magic and mathematic logic.

Another eruption of dark fights against Strange's delivery of light, as an illusionn — or is it? — spreads outwards?

Westchester begins to reorganize. Reformat. The chaos of the spreading woods shudders and reorients into perfect, orderly rows and columns, and the snow is a perfect, pixellated sheen, each snowflake repeated endlessly like a single fingerprint. To Matt, the clearing's frequencies all seem to vibrate at a single, peaceful hum, and the air smells like mechanized ozone. No life. No worries.

Something begins to press on everyone's minds, though with differing magics, differing abilities — all felt differently. But it is a creeping singularity. It wants to REORGANIZE, REROUTE, RESTORE. This is GOOD. This is ORDER.

The virus of her making, this worldwide attempt of a mental recalibration, wants to path from body to body, mind to mind %r%r and even enough for everyone to begin feeling each other's surface emotions. Hearing each other's thoughts.%r%rThere is not much time to stop her.

The Wolf slams against her barrier and it forces her back, bootheels digging grooves into the snow. Zatanna hears John's call for the artifact, but she is presently holding the large threat in front of them at bay, and it's only when he turns his attention to the Devil of Hell's Kitchen that she is able to let go of the barrier. Reaching into her back pocket, she tosses the artifact towards John, the antiquated bone whirling into his grasp.

"Do it," she tells him. "I'll keep an eye on the field."

She turns back to what's in front of them, and above, every breath leaving her in progressively thicker puffs of mist when the cold starts to breach whatever it is that Dr. Strange is doing, but it is not until she hears an anguished roar that she acts. Spinning around at the sound of it, her stare catches Rocket and the splinters of wood that Groot has been reduced to. Her jaw grows slack.

"Groot…?" she says, weakly. "No…it can't…he's not…is he…?"

The Guardians may have moved to the Triskelion to be closer to their SHIELD minders, but for a time, they were guests at Shadowcrest. For a very long time, actually. Enough to celebrate Halloween and Christmas there. Groot had been her tree.

She put a star on top of him and everything.

Temper puts color on her cheeks, Rocket's cry still ringing in her ears. And whenever she gets angry, Zatanna gets reckless - that has not changed in spite of the trials she has had to endure to win the Blood of Isis' power - pure creation, which she presently bends to her will as she whispers a backwards incantation, rolls magical energies between her fingers like taffy, and…

Another directive suddenly fills her mind, distracting her from her spell. She has felt something like this before, when she tried to purge the corruption from Kinsey Sheridan just a few days ago; a fell thing that is only half-magic, spreading from one consciousness to another in an attempt to reprogram her very soul.

It casts a wider net, this time. She can sense it bleed, permeate through the landscape…the people within it.

She redirects her efforts, her control surging through space, to reach out and convince reality to do her bidding once more and attempt to do what she had done to Kinsey Sheridan, but on a bigger scale; to stitch an ephemeral matrix at the very edges of the half-magical program that Jane is attempting to levy against their surroundings and push back - to slow the spread and give the rest what they need to focus on the task at hand. They do not have a lot of time, so she attempts to make more of it for the people trying to stop this by trying to slow the effects of the reprogramming. Lips peel back to bare her teeth at the strain.

"John! I don't know how long I'm going to be able to hold this!"

The Eye of Agamotto should be a good way to strip the dark magic off the Winter Soldier and Jane, but the stream of light ends the second Strange feels what is coming, the reality readjustment spell. A spells which will kill them all, too.

No. That kind of 'order' is the end of life, magic and even motion. It is raw entropy. "Stop," he commands, but quietly. There is no simple magic to stop Jane's construct. And he had already called Cyttorak.

But still, he has no choice. "With the sign of the Vishanti, I call upon the might of the Elder Goddess of the Sky," he chants, "oh Lady of the Stars, I beseech you to grant me the Mighty Hands of Oshtur, so this dark magic is broken!"

The second invocation of the night comes to a high price for even the Supreme Sorcerer, as alien mystical power of different poles clashes within his spirit and body. The spell-shattering entreaty hits Jane's reality warping like a tidal wave, but Strange himself crumbles to the snowy ground, eldritch mist rising from his body.

The oversized and mighty jaws of the beast formerly known as Bucky Barnes close tight on Daredevil's chest and midsection, lancing through the flimsy and insubstantial protection of his compression shirt — not to mention skin, muscle and tendon, delicate organ tissue, cartilage and bone. The vigilante already feels pain more deeply and acutely than most. This blinding agony puts wriggling shadow knives and Wakandan laser panthers to shame. Somewhere in the detached, elevated corner of his mind he's carved out for himself with years of meditation training he marks it a new record.

It's that same mindful part of him that allows him, even amid the torture and the furious throw that sends him hurling, to subtly alter his trajectory. He's used to being in a state of freefall, and the angling of his body to avoid unfortunate impacts, to send himself to the ground for a — well, less graceful landing than usual — spares Zatanna and Constantine the nasty collision that the wolf had bargained on.

It also leaves Matt Murdock coughing up blood and bleeding out more of the same onto the snow covered ground as Jane Foster begins re-orienting the world in her own image. Kinsey, he thinks, as he spits out dirt and blood and snow, struggling in vain to roll over from his stomach to his back. If I die, then Zatanna's magic fails and Kinsey —

Another voice, then, in his head. Raspy: Then don't fuckin' die, kiddo.

But even that psychic kick in the pants rings hollow. It's easier said by some long-vanished mentor than done. This is, absent medical attention, a mortal wound. He can feel his blood seeping out, his organs shutting down, he can feel —

It all start to repair itself just as quickly, as Jane Foster's magic begins reordering Matt Murdock's damaged body in much the same way she's reordering the whole of creation. This sorcerous stitching, too, is a painful act — or would be, if the soothing subliminal messages implicit in Jane's virus weren't numbing him to the pain of his own restoration. "You really shouldn't have, Jane," he says with a grim, gallows-humored little chuckle as he pushes himself slowly upward to a rise.

Its working. Its working. HA IT IS ACTUALLY WORKING!

Tony can see it, the light code bruning into the demon code. Tunneling though the multi-layered order of the systems with brute force and little tactics. Knocking the house of cards down as the inventor regains control.

Of course then the damn Wolf has to get mad about it.

Cables snap like kindling as the Wolf slams hard into Tank. The Mark 24 goes flying, rolling across the snow as its slowly reconfigured into something of perfect order. Something entirely unnatural. Something that makes Stark's head hurt.

As the consciousness gets closer and closer together there is a sound on the edge of Bucky's conscious mind. Whatever is left of it inside that Wolf. Its not a single thought. Its not even a chain of thoughts. Its a flood of them. A river. Endless and speeding by faster than most minds can process. Numbers and calculations, thoughts and obesevations, they are flung by at supersonic speed. As Bucky's mind brushes against even the bare edge of Tony's.

This is what gives even Emma Frost a headache.

Individual thoughts swim up. Idle observations(find out who chick with arrows is. WHY IS THE RACCOON TALKING AND GIANT. Possibily left the stove on.) mix with a babble of equasions as Stark stares up into the jaws of his death. He fights, as the Wolf tears though his armor, he punches, struggles. More thought rush up to meet Bucky as eyes flicker behind his crushed faceplate.

He is tired.

So goddamn tired.

He hurts, right down deep into his soul. Body mangled. Bones broken. He hurts. Every time he tries to make something good for this world something happens. Every time. Someone steals it. Uses it. Breaks the world worse using his creation. Why does he keep trying?

Would this be a better end. Everything nice and neat and ordered?

Metal screams as claws tear into it, opening his suit up like a tin can. Revealing the delicate inner structure in a hail of sparks and exposed supertech.

Jaws come down ready to finish the job.

Emma was going to be /really/ mad at him. So was Pepper.

Then the jaws stop, movement arrested by a pair of silver and black metal arms.

"Forgive me, sir. I seem to have been taking a nap." JARVIS' voice comes from the speakers of the Mark 24 as the newly reclaimed suit grabs the massive wolf in a headlock. "I am afraid I'm still not quite feeling myself though."

All feelings of what could be are suddenly washed away in a sudden flood of new caluclations. "That's alright buddy, I'll fix ya up later."

Then the battered Suit he's wearing suddenly swings its arms forwards, trying to grab the Wolf's lower jaw in one fearsome metalic hand. Wrapping a grip around the Wolf's fangs as a very specifc whine comes from /both/ suits. The sound of the chest beam warming up.

Brilliant light, energy, heat and shear force tear free of the pair of suits. Both point blank intending to lance into the wolf. Tony knows that its a last ditch gambit. There isn't even any hesitation once he's locked on the course of action. He hopes the wizardly types can deal with the magic, but keep a giant evil wolf entertained? That he can at least do.

…he's going to ruin both of his suits. Again.

Time slows down for Emery as he is free-falling through the air living out an adrenaline junkie's wet dream and there's nothing but trust extended to that beautiful previously thought possibly mythical creature that plummets after him. A level of trust that he doesn't show many humans, let alone flying horses. (He Only Knows One). It is a painful and jarring THUMB of Pegasus Bag meets Reaper Nuts and he doesn't even have it in him to cuss about it. Its a quiet resignation that a testicle may or may not be crushed at the moment.

That does not stop him from leaning forward to gently pat and collapse a bit against Brightwind's neck as he murmurs softly in Gaelic his gratitude and appreciation. From here he can see the battle below, the explosion of the Love Ficus, the magic being thrown around. Shadowy figures creeping in from the shadows. Sentient Trash Pandas. Dani and her Parents. Everybody Hates WolfenBuck. Escape to Witch Laptop. The Iron Ladyman. Magic Michelle. So many things. Its a slow motion spectacle racing against the reality that events are escalating at a speed that does not match the reactions of an observer.

"…they are all children." A pause. "Except for the wolf. His arse is almost as old as mine. But mebbe he has arrested development." He speaks softly to the Pegasus. "Just babies…" He exhales softly and pats the Pegasus's neck. "Lets make sure yer girl comes home to ye, hm?" And he points to a location for the winged mount to head to.

The 'Butler' is dropping into a crouch as soon as it is safe for him to jump from Brightwind's back, light on his feet he has a couple of feet to go as he shrugs out of his leather coat, exposing the vest of knives and the holstered pistols and the other shorter blades in other sheathes. He's rolling up his sleeves as he moves quickly, exposing the tattoos on his forearms, fists clenching and muscles flexing. "Kyrie, eleison. Christe, eleison. Kyrie, eleison…." Is murmured before he takes a running dive towards the body of the agonized demon bear, bared arms and hands exposed for best contact and eyes flashing as his head falls backwards and his lips part, a faint glow showing there too. He reaches down deep within the core of his being to reach out with the tendrils of his ability and plug in his own gifts into Battery Bear. "…Sancta Maria…ora pro eo.."

And then he opens the door, full hospitality wing. The phantoms of people strangled, burnt to death, decapitated, stabbed, shot, smothered…from different points in history, gruesomely etheriel ghosts still showing the wounds that killed them and they circle as Emery's eyes roll back to show only the whites and his lips keep moving. "Omnes sancti Angeli et Archangeli, orate pro eo…"

And as one door opens to accept someone else's pain and darkness, his own rolls through the conduit.

Spray Tans? Club music? Ridiculously high hair on both genders? More makeup and less clothing than one might think humanly possible? THIS IS NEW JERSEY!! It takes a while for Colossus to come to after the spectacular hit that Jane laid him out with. He is literally waking up in a different state. He brushes horrible club going gorillas and goombas out of his way and makes his way outside. They scream at him cussing in various forms of butchered semi-italian, but he is a man on a mission. The last time he was in New York, however long that's been, he was going after the wolf, perhaps that was a mistake.

Over his X-Men Comm he calls out: "Illyana. I am in a terrible place called Seaside Heights. I need a return trip. Preferably above the bird woman this time."

A shining circle of light appears in the sky above Jane Foster. There is barely anytime to even register the light before a quarter ton of metallic Russian comes crashing down above Jane, magic busting soul sword hoping to sweep through her and cut through her and if she is still atop Bucky, well then all the better.

"I will admit that was a good punch. But not good enough."

There's only so much one can do when your path's suddenly impeded by solid metal. It's too late to be regretting not going for his rifle, but as Rocket hurls himself out of the MK 40's return fire, his anger hasn't much abated. It's burning on full now, and his thoughts are fixated upon nothing but destruction for the anguish of seeing his friend obliterated. It's undeniable how close the two friends had been, having gone through thick and thin, from one end of the galaxy to the next. Rocket had lost someone before. He hadn't ever wanted to lose anyone again. This tears open an old wound, the sorrow and pain, the loneliness buried under a snarky and at times obnoxious exterior.

But whatever box of Pandora that Jane has opened serves to keep him from that precipice. He's not the only one who's lost. He's not the only one in pain. He's not the only one who wants to seriously tear something apart. His fury had wavered, but then anger's still there, and it taps into something more primal, an ancient power that's in no way his nor even in the least linked, save for one happenstance: the source happens to be in his pocket.

The ancient artifact so carelessly kept and naturally forgotten now awakens, roused by the raw fury of Groot's loss, clinging and crawling to the surface from its forced slumber. That power seizes Rocket, not in any way what Zatanna might have imagined when she had thought to assist, but perhaps it's for the best that she hadn't succeeded as the raccoonoid begins to transform. The gun is dropped, the little Guardian on all fours, teeth grit as the cursed thing's magic crawls over him, changing him. Chaos battles Order, and with the push of the others it gives enough space for that power to hold. Rocket grows- not gigantic, and not a raccoon. Antlers sprout from a massive head, scales and bulk hardly showing much of any trace of the raccoonoid save for the slight striping of its tail and the patches of fur.

A bilgesnipe.

It's maybe eight feet at most in length but it's mad and there's a wild look to its eyes as it turns and barrels straight for the MK 40 to seize in its mouth and fling as far as flingable.

What is it about nature again? A continuous cycle that never ends?

Or perhaps it's the coding. Spring is still a long ways off, but things have taken a different turn, forming order where there was once chaos. Winds shift and blow either which way as the others are still preoccupied with emotions and physical weariness, almost as if it's gathering together sad piles of bark and twig. Invisible hands work to form something out of what used to be a towering tree giant, shaping and molding, refining every part into…Groot.

A smaller, 1/32 scale version of him, anyway. Math. It appears a few steps have been skipped to save everyone the time and trouble of finding the proverbial needle in a mulched haystack before giving up altogether the moment Colossus makes it back in from his impromptu trip to New Jersey, leaving the new form as it is.

Tiny. Awake. Maybe a little dazed.

Huge black eyes blink several times as small hands push and pat at the debris still covering him, staring up at…well, nothing.

…Because there's certainly nothing going on in the middle of where he is in relation to where everyone is still attacking Jane and the dead Bear, nope, no siree.

It'll all click once he realizes that, yes, there's a rabid-looking monstrosity that looks like a raccoon-like friend of his charging the scary lady and ooh that's shiny.

"I am Groot," comes Groot's trademark phrase, sounding like it's been recorded on the high speed setting of a tape deck. Yeah, he's gonna need some popcorn for this or something.

The massive impact of wolf against barrier sends John reeling backward with a hand flung up, arm in front of his face in expectation of those jaws: he knows altogether too well what they feel like, the memory of being run through with them still painfully vivid.

As the wolf turns its wrath on — is that Zorro? How did he wind up…? — Zatanna retrieves and throws John a bone (not like that) and John snaps it out of the air with one lightning-quick hand-

-just in time for things to go from bad to worse.

It's the first moment that John's had to actually orient himself to what's happening beyond the charging fury of the thing that used to be that rarest and shortest-lived of all the unfortunate creatures on earth: a friend of his. He twists in place, putting his back to Zatanna, trusting that anything to come at the pair of them from that direction will have a hell of a time getting through her en route to him. It lets pale, blue eyes watch as the thing that was the bear is chained, by — oh Christing tits on a bull, it's Strange, fan-bloody-tastic, nice cape, you wanker — and a bloody pegasus, and a robot (it's not actually a robot, it's Tony Stark in a suit, but whatever: John sees robot), and a…an exploding tree-person, fine, and then a small raccoon…person?…with a firearm who begins turning into something that is not a raccoon person but a, a-

"Jesus Christ," John says, because there isn't enough time to say something about every last thing he lays eyes on that requires something said about it, not least because the next thing he sees is a puddle of shadow coalesce around-

"Jane," he breathes. Elegant fingers tighten around the artifact in his hand.

-but it isn't Jane.

Not really. Not any part of her he knows. All of the pieces of her that matter are missing. Her genius remains, the sordid suffering around them evidence of its aggressive insistence on continuing to exist, but none of the parts of her that made him willing to open the door to her are there at all: not the joy, not the dreamy enthusiasm for discovery or the girlish humor, not the bashfulness, not the foot-stamping pique. None of it.

He allows himself one single beat of something very like regret before his expression closes and he lifts the relic in his hand and gilded energies begin to sheathe over him, faint highlights around the contours of his wiry frame.

"I made such a mistake with you." A fist of power buckles through the center of him, funneled into the object thieved from the museum of mathematics. Everything in him turns to stone, bent on the singular purpose of putting Jane Foster down for good.

"But don't worry, Jane," he murmurs. The icy cast of blue irises sheens over with gold. "I'll fix it."

And he might have, if the rolling wave of reordering hadn't chosen that moment to pass through him, and try to impose static, sterile order on a man who dangles at the end of the marionette strings of fate, luck, and chance.

The feedback is explosive and instantaneous. The buildup of power in him oscillates violently in response, bounced back and forth between two opposing poles of influence over reality. Blood explodes from his nose, and the air around him glistens with something like heat-shimmer as the fabric of everything strains and buckles, wrinkles and bisects, vagaries of potential at vicious war with the nullification of the very same.

The Wolf pins Iron Man to the ground, and nails him in place with one heavy steel forepaw. The creature snarls in a blind fury as it savages the armor, ripping it apart. Partway through, it feels the Bird come to rest on its back — a thunderbird now — mantling in to directly funnel it the strength they both stole from the Demon Bear.

It doubles the power of its efforts. Its fangs peel easily through the tough armor, prying it steadily open to get at the man inside. Tony Stark.

Stark. Huh. Stark. Bloodthirst… murderous purpose… a cold night, and a sentry moon hanging overhead. And Stark. A night he had to kill Stark.

He's killing a Stark right now.

This feels familiar.

The thought disappears again, as Jane's spell starts to take hold. Minds start to run together like paint, to blend, and for a few brief moments the thoughts of Tony Stark are as clear to the Wolf as his own. The exhaustion there, the pain, the agony of watching the products of one's own hands cause nothing but death and pain to the world…

…it resonates, briefly, with whatever is left of James Barnes under the soulless husk of the Wolf. For half a moment, the creature hesitates, and an answering mote of exhaustion flickers across that thinned barrier between all their minds. Not the exhaustion of watching one's acts all turned to wrongness, but the exhaustion of bearing the burden of so many evils committed while not in one's own right mind.

…not in one's own right mind?

The Wolf doesn't have time to think about that before suddenly, the restored MK 24 seizes it about the neck. It has only time to thrash one surprised struggle before eradicating light PUNCHES into it from two angles.

The sheer force of it rips the Wolf away from the Bird, blasting it back clear across the field. It comes to a skidding halt on its side on the ground, smoking, and does not get up.

The thunderbird's spreading wings drink all the light from the sky, crowning the horizon in endless black. Its dead eyes look up at the blood moon it makes.

Perfection, it thinks, as its script absorbs and rewrites. And peace.

The bird runs its beak through the wolf's coarse fur, a single, wordless touch like a promise. Its black eyes turn, fixed on Constantine, turning a moment's glance — perhaps understanding what weighs his own eyes. There is nothing of Jane Foster left in this creature, in this monster. A shadow, empty and cold, before it closes its eyes. It awaits the new system —

— as Zatanna pushes back, in a one-woman stand against the oppressive wall of its program, drawing from her immense power to barrier its contagion growth, and hold. It seethes against the shape of her soul, pieces of the code burning when it touches too close, the gestalt learning as it progresses. It seethes against her. It will rewrite. It will reorganize —

It grants opportunity for Strange to make his call to the elder things, the old ones, drawing on elemental chaos — something primordial and old, older than these light-eating shadows: a place of Nothing from which the void began. The program cannot compile. It stops. It looks at What Was.

It breaks and consumes itself, logic wrought into madness, and the program shatters. Organization fails, and falls away, lessening to nothing until Zatanna can no longer feel it, and that presence eels out of everyone's minds, the damaged code destroying itself to nothing.

The thunderbird feels its failure. Lifting its great head, the creature screams violent dismay, fury venting shadow from all the ends of its black feathers. It sweeps up its wing, summoning power and all it has left.

MK 40 Shotgun answers with enslaved compliance. The suit turns its repulsors toward the magicians —

— and mulches, suddenly BITTEN through by the monster that was once Rocket, hooking its arms to try to push back against those jaws before a winch of his jaws crunch through its chestplate. The suit sparks and goes lump, tossed away like nothing, a dead weight lost to the woods

With one more loss of its small army, the thunderbird hisses with threat, then with a fan of its wings, reaches out with a thousand cutting tendrils of shadow, nothing left for it than to forcefully integrate the way the wretched Bear did. If it cannot build its system now, it will at least GO FOR THE SOULS.

But Emery is quick, on horseback, and reaching his gift into the bear. And he has a gift for its turncoat heralds: the gift of pain.

Those shadow tendrils stutter and disintegrate, and the bird screams in mindless agony, cutting up its wings as it tries to hang onto the wolf's back. In one last gesture, it tries to curl itself down over the other shadow herald, perhaps to protect, perhaps to shelter —

And Piotr comes home from Jersey.

Tony concussively BLASTS the wolf away, and their totem connection severs with a violent rip of shadows, and the thunderbird twists, looking up, its black eyes reflecting the way Colossus barrels down from above, aiming the point of the soulsword.

It punches straight through the bird.

It hits the earth with a thin, wet cough, and flaps its wings in a slap of feathers. They hit the soil and begin to melt, bleeding liquid, shadow melting away. It disperses, and all that is left is Jane, tiny with that sword through her, black-eyed and empty, but losing all her power.

The shadow has only one place left to go. Back to its master. Back to the bear.

Brightwind catches Emery and at his words, about everyone being babies, the winged-horse can only offer a snort of agreement.

He's old. Older than Emery even.

Still, the children below are their wards to keep safe so, Brightwind drops down to the space Emery points at.

Almost she has them free.

Almost the faded and washed-out shadows of her parents are away from the grasp of the Bear. Or rather Jane Foster.

Almost …

But not before Jane transforms into a mockery of a Thunderbird and takes wing to the Wolf. Then the corrupted magic she controls reaches out, to their group. Rewriting their brains, the reality, pushing them into neat and orderly boxes. It causes Dani's steps to falter, for her to sink to her knees, for the thought of her parents to drift away.

There is only order. There is only service to the whole. There is no place for individualism. Resistance is -

Before that thought can complete the brush of other minds touches her own. It's enough to cause her to blink a few times, startling a little out of that forced compliance, and then the apparition of her parents lay their hands on both her shoulders. The influx of emotions from them helps to shake loose a bit more of Danielle Moonstar.

Enough that she looks out to the field of battle, sees the Raccoon transform - finds Emery nearby, sees so many fighting the same battle as she, the scent of blood sharp in the air.

Resolutely she pulls her bow up, the sacred arrow too, and with slow ponderous movements the woman nocks the arrow. It's pulled back and her target is there - the bird. The shadow bird.

Her target is acquired, but before the arrow flies true something changes.

Emery might feel it first. The connection between Bird, Wolf and Bear trembles. The song of unity between the trio misses a beat, skips a few more and then suddenly the connection shatters.

Fur regrows, muscle reappears, bones strengthen and its eyes glow. IT rises from the ground regaining ALL that was lost. The chains that Strange bound the Bear with snap with an audible sound and as it levers itself upward those yellow, insanely angry eyes fall first upon Emery. The nearest. The one who had a hand in some ways for the Bear to overthrow its Masters. « Thank you, *brother*. » The Beast rumbles and then the Bear rises to its hind-legs - standing tall like a man. Flush with its power and it roars its triumph.

That call of success wakes Danielle Moonstar from that stupor induced reality. The arrow snaps upward and finds a new target - the Bear. "Gods." She swears, that word sharp, then to ALL who still stand, who can still fight, "Hit it. Hit with everything we have." She shouts, even as the Cheyenne warrior finally looses the arrow upon the true enemy of this world.

The arrow arcs high and speeds toward the Bear. It flares bright with its divinity and buries itself in the Demon's chest.

There are alot more Sanctes, and it goes from Albel to John and other saints in the invocation/chant that falls from Emery's lips. He can feel it under his skin, like tiny sharp blades scraping againstn the lining of his very veins, his eyes glow just a bit brighter from the strain. His breathing does speed up but remains even as he reaches out to tangle his invisible hands in the wires and tendrils of the unnatural connection.

So many regrets. Like, he is sure he left a kettle on somewhere.

When he feels that connection snap, his body jerks and spasms slightly, gasping in one breath and then another as he stares up at the sky with eyes that do not see and are still rolled back in his head. In his mind the whispers of relief, even knowing the road ahead for both Jane and the Bucks will be painful and filled with shadow if they survive this.

As the demon bear fills back out like a bouncy house that had been leaking, Emery is moving with him, trying to keep at least one hand in contact with the gradually recovering Bear.

He wheezes out a soft chuckle at the 'thank you' and gropes blindly with one hand at his waist to tug free his parrying dagger. That is stabbed into the bear where his left hand had been resting. He just sucks some pinkish tinged saliva back into his mouth and spits off to the side. He flicks something on the hilt of the dagger and the damn thing ignites. "Mercer sends 'is regards…" Then he slumps forward, waiting for the moment, the opening he needs, hoping and praying that the 'heroes' gathered will take care of wearing it down enough for him to guide the souls home.

He made the bear a promise. He intends to keep it.

He might be a twitching almost comatose eyes rolled back and unable to be awakened pile of leather, Irishman, and knives when this is all over. But Emery Papsworth, as fake as his name may be, was Samael first. And he, is a man of his word.

Ripclaw's head is at a straight angle from his neck, full out horizontal and in a shambling drunken zombie walk he two steps, one way then the other. Both hands rising up to grip his jaw, palms being used to right it, a snap-crackle-pop and he winces, red eyes unfocused, far away zero back in to pinpoints, the sight of the Thunderbird is the first thing he sees, a welcome sight, a guardian of wind, it's flapping wings once saved one of his favored tribes from a great fire, a fire that blew through the mountans, awash through a forest and then defeated Blackfoot indians walked through, covering their ankles to their shins, a story the victorous claim is why they were given their namesake. White settlers encountered them that way.
Which tribe does one believe though?

It's not the true one. No, its that abomination, a mockery. Realization comes to, just as blood seeps down the side of his milk white skin, painting it further in a smear of red that his palm plants in place, marking there. It's dull, his senses, he landed with enough impact it's just a whisper, the sounds around him, muffled crunchy noises and muted shouts, colors blurring together but the bear, the thunderbird and then Moonstar's words, "Hit it. Hit it with everything we've got."

Ripclaw did not come here to lay in a pile of drool and saliva, no, he came to lend aid, to fight and to put low the Mad Bear spirit plaguing them all, his own sacred totemic spirit, so bound through him it influences his mutant metamorphic nature, a bear, Bearclaw, Ripclaw.

A howl erupts from him, his shoulders throw back and one hangs far too low, disjointed, out of socket with tenden ripped where it should connect to wiring, doesn't matter. He throws forward, launches himself in a arm dragging run while the other claw sweeps to and fro, forward to back, full on savagery now as he sets to unleash like some primal creature on the Bear, a rabid abandon in to bloodlust. He'll even bite the son of a bitch if he gets a chance because… tit for tat after all.

Ripclaw in this state won't move for anyone, he also won't care if people shoot through him though either. On the positive side of that…

The maelstrom of power from the man pressed against her lashes out like a whip, and between her, John Constantine, and the unconscious Strange, they're able to do something about the world's seemingly inevitable reprogramming just as everything else happens at once. There is horror on her features when Jane and Bucky fall, even after everything. The sound of her name chokes into the back of Zatanna's throat, like something barbed, unable to crawl out save for a sharply exhaled breath.


Her stomach sinks and privately, she can't help but wonder whether she has lost three friends today.

But Moonstar calls for them to act, and she's able to catch sight of the crawling shadow just as it lands on the Bear and it reconstitutes before their very eyes. Gritting her teeth, she lets go of her ephemeral matrix and turns to the creature, circumstances fanning out the white-hot flames of her own ire. Squeezing her eyes shut and clenching her fists, when they open again, the blue of her irises are gone. Arcs of white-blue energy ripple over her slender form as her form slowly starts to rise from the ground.


Her voice echoes strangely. Her heart hammering wildly in her chest and buckets of adrenaline pouring into the open channel of her veins, somewhere deeep within herself, she recklessly plunges both hands into the center of her father's seal…

…and cracks it. Just a small piece. Just a little.

But despite how little it is, how small the piece…

Power explodes from her, a column of light churning from the ground in which she is hovering and shooting upwards to tear into the sky. Fingers curling by the knuckles, she rounds on the entity that is the source of this. The source of their latest spate of miseries. Her lips part in a snarl.


The column of light recedes. Not because she's calling her magic back, but because she is directing all of it towards the Demon Bear. As Ripclaw leaps, that is when she strikes, underneath, a full on coruscating blast of pure magical energy, just underneath the entity's ribcage to utterly obliterate its lower half if she can.

Oh, giant bird. And a wolf. And a bear! Baby Groot is tickled by the fact these are all existing creatures, pushing himself up onto his little feet so that he can wander about the field. He catches sight of the pegasus and Emery up above as he does this, meandering a bit on the path as people start attacking the giant bear.

That's what they were told to do, right? Attack the bear? That was what he heard. Because that, for some reason, sounds like a good idea.

And lo and behold, Rocket's gun is lying there some feet away from him.

Perking, the little thing runs as fast as his little legs can carry him, closing the distance just as everything becomes Sensory Overload. Which is Not Fun.

His face scrunches into a scowl. "I AM GROOT!!!" he cries at the top of his lungs, hefting the gun with all of his strength. Aiming it is a whole 'nother story, unfortunately, and the recoil sends him bouncing backward.

Keeping the soul sword pinned through Jane, just in case she decides to pop back up and ruin everything again, Piotr now has time to try and make sense of the scene around him. The chaos is impressive and makes very little sense to the large Russian mutant.

"Bozhe moi."

And then the bear begins to rise. The frantic actions of those around them, many who were not even here when he 'went on vacation', are ignored now. There is the beast he came to face. The one who tore his home apart and tortured so many of his family.

Compared to the bruised, bloodied and battered heroes here, Piotr is in good shape. He's nearly impervious to damage in his metallic form and save some need for eye bleach (eesh Jersey club wear), is nearly unharmed. He is basically a breath of fresh air, one that happens to be carrying a mystical weapon meant to disrupt and disburse magical constructs and creatures. For the moment, he decides that Jane is not the immediate threat. But he is willing to revisit that decision at a moments notice.

Ripclaw and Zatanna's assaults cause Pete to need to approach with a little more caution but he charges all the same, taking a not very graceful chop at the head of the bear. Off with your head.

«"You have done enough harm demon."»

Hey. That actually worked.

For a second Tony Stark just lies there, looking up at the night sky where just a moment before his impending death loomed. He can hear the sounds of battle from far off. It would be very nice just to lie here and let someone else take care of it…

A bear roars.

A woman screams.

…a different woman starts speaking backwards.

Urgh. Magic.

With a groan that is felt down to the depths of his soul Stark raises. His suit is battered, the paint marred. The armor shattered but still mobile.

/Hit it with everything you got!/

"Simple. To the point. I like it. JARVIS! Time for a high five."

"Are you sure, sir? It does not seem very…dignified."

"Try to bear it. HA! See what I did there?"

There is a soft sigh. "Yes, sir."

Even as he returns to banter with his creation Tony's suit is screaming though the air, circling around to the other side of the bear as it stands up. As it roars. "SIRIN calculate blast plane so it avoids friendlies. Forward calculation to the other suit. Fire on solution…"

Tank speeds though the air directly opposite of Stark, one hand raised towards Iron Man. Iron Man raises one hand back…

Both repulsors fire directly at each other, bisecting somewhere around the bear's middle. The resulting blast is more implosion than explosion, except along the angled plain where the two beams meet. A disk of destructive energy releaced to scythe though space as the center of the two energy blasts collapses in on itself will all the subtlty of a newly forming black hole. A very visceral warning of the ancient saying of 'Don't cross the streams'.

That devistating plane of destruction is angled just so it should miss those intending to stab, bite, molest, or otherwise maim the newly restored demon. He doesn't want to hurt anyone else.

…just that thing.

That thing he wants very dead.

There's only something so satisfying about munching metal and tossing it to the scrapheap. The suit had only been a minor inconvenience. The true threat still remains. The were-bilgesnipe turns about, letting out a slobbering snarl. The shadows are retreating, but the Bear is still there. Perhaps in this current state of mind, Rocket is unable to comprehend exactly what's going on, but he senses the challenge, the threat.

Perhaps by the urging of Dani and the subsequent attacks made by the others, the big and unearthly creature bellows and then makes its charge. It is no way as lithe nor as quick as Rocket had been, and yet there must be some small part of the raccoonoid's mentality and instinct that affect its movement as it tears towards the rejuvenated Bear in a zig-zagging pattern that while possibly trying to avoid a direct path in front of or into anyone can't really be guaranteed for its size and bulk.

And hopefully Ripclaw and whoever else takes the fight up in close quarters won't get caught in its path as the bilgesnipe lunges, maw wide open to grasp the Bear and do similar to what it had that power suit.

Colossus drops, Iron Man strikes, and the wolf and bird are felled. In their wake, the true enemy and original enemy is revealed — a resurgent Bear ready to take on all-comers.

It is liberating for Daredevil, who to this point has been constrained by an unwillingness to use lethal force against almost anything. Robbers, rapists, drug-runners, murderers — even the bodies of possessed friends that he needs restored to accomplish his ultimate goal.

But a demon? A demon this Catholic boy can fight, and hold nothing back. And he came prepared for it, too. No blunt escrima stick this time, liable to break and shatter bones but unlikely to snatch a life. Throwing knives, part of a parting gift years ago from his old master, the gift itself containing equal parts chastisement and affection. Sooner or later, the gift of deadly weapons seemed to say to him, You're going to have to cross that line.

Here he can, and here he does. Hurling the three blades at his belt, one after another in lightning-fast succession, at the bear. It's not a barrage of magical energy or whatever crazy tech Iron Man uses for those suits, but it's what this son of Hell's Kitchen has to offer.

And, for whatever it is worth, each one strikes true.

John spits blood. It never lands on the ground, instead caught up floating like debris in intangible veils of mystical force. Golden sparks crackle over it, feeding on the inherent power in it and causing even that small cob of glistening red to begin to boil as it churns away, spooled into crimson thread in the gyre.

It shouldn't be possible for him to hear Zee's voice in all of the chaos, but it whispers across more senses than his body can account for on its own. The grief in it wins an echo out of him, but it's silent, impossible to sense save by the young woman with the misfortune to be bound to him by a silver, astral thread: for better or worse — so often worse — a tie to all of the most honest things in him.

John's life is a parade of painful choices made in the face of his own suffering: in spite of it, in exacerbation of it. Tonight is no different. He has no sense of whether or not their eradication of the bear will mean the destruction of two people who found their way further into the labyrinth of his existence than most ever manage to do, but the uncertainty means nothing at all. Whatever it is in him that answers Zatanna's choking, sinking, anxious sadness exists in isolation of everything else, and it's the everything else that gathers what power was lost in the moment he reeled between warring forces, and channels it into the item he's holding in his hands: the notched bone.

Synchronicity helps.

The wild improbability of fate bridles at the insult of Jane's magic and rips through him, unstable and infinite. It howls through the vessel of his body, spirals down the lengths of his arms and invests that sacred, ancient piece of history with so much energy that it can't survive the onslaught: it breaks apart into tiny motes that bubble up and out of his hands like gas in champagne, caught in the massive currents of Zatanna's unleashing above him. They glitter like stars as the swirl up and into that jetstream, delivered into the substance of the bear itself.

Magical and physical attacks surround the Bear; from the arrow, to Zatanna, to Constantine, to Piotr, Ripclaw, Rocket, Groot, Tony, Matt and Emery.

The shadows struggle, the Bear howls, and while it's strong its own strength cannot compare to the onslaught.

The lower half of the Bear disappears, the shadowed torso pulls in on itself, the limbs are effectively mauled, while rents appear in its upper body, near shoulders and heads. So much power thrown at it and it can only offer a cry of surprise, of fury, of pain and finally despair. The shadows bleed away, disappear, they return to whence they came. From the stars. From the earth. From another dimension altogether.

Emery, the good man that he is, upholds his promise, as does Danielle Moonstar. The souls trapped within are pulled free, tattered and frost-bitten, but whole. Mostly.

One goes to Emery, the Nanny that was never forgotten. Two remain near Dani, her parents who must soon journey onward, and another for the man who started this all. A young man burdened with a curse, but with all that has happened and all that has occurred, that familial curse is now broken. For good.

Brightwind likewise steps up, his coat shining with an ethereal light, and with purpose he takes hold of the last two souls. He brings them over to Wolf and Bird.

To Man and Woman.

Jane and Bucky.

A chuff of breath and a nudge of magic and the two are made whole again.

For Jane a tendril of emotion might be caught from Brightwind - sorrow and duty. For Bucky it's slightly different - irritation and annoyance, but still a sense of duty from the Asgardian as he fulfills his obligations to lost souls.

Then the Pegasus steps away, its blue eyes shifting to look at Rocket Raccoon. Puzzlement is there upon its equine face, but that's a conundrum for later.

There is no Wolf, in the place where the Wolf fell. Not after Brightwind's (grudging) ministrations. There is only a man, lain on his back. A man who still looks much the same as he did, that day many months ago, when he flew to save a woman he loved from the clutch of a demonic force.

At least, James Barnes looks the same physically. His expression tells a different story, his dazed features displaying his struggle to reclaim his mind after months of enslavement.

Again. He let this happen. It was him.

His head turns, and his right hand shudders across the ground to find Jane's, lacing his fingers with hers to feel she is alive.

That assurance secured, he slackens in the lingering snow. His blue eyes stare off into the middle distance.

"Please tell me," is all he will repeat, over and over, "I didn't kill anyone."

Where the soulsword put her down, the wasted, broken thunderbird moves no wing, makes no last call. It melts into a woman, a small, nondescript one, her body a cold, empty husk, excised through, rent with pain, and broken. Without its missing piece, she is doomed to die this way, and with no dark magic to sustain her, it is coming soon.

Then the soul joins the empty vessel, and the songbird is no more.

The black recedes from her veins, her flesh, her eyes — until all that remains is tiny Jane Foster, inhaling sharply, and gazing up into the sky. It is not cognizance that comes — she was always aware, in a way, her mind and her memories —

But everything else. It hits like a knife in the heart, a sudden, twisting wrench of the last three months, and everything she did, everything it made it do, and everything he —

James, is Jane's first thought.

He already is reaching for her hand. Hers trembles in his, before it tightens back.

James Barnes speaks. For her part, Jane Foster is utterly silent, lurching closer to curl in, sitting among the broken pieces of bark and branch and hold him through his whispers, as the tears roll from her eyes.

Please tell me I didn't kill anyone, repeats a soul-battered Bucky Barnes, ad infinitum.

"Not tonight you didn't," comes the raspy, familiar voice of the person most likely to have perished this night. He stands over the two fallen — perpetrators? victims? both? — with fists clenched and lips pared back in an exhausted grimace. Plumes of frosty air come with every exhale.

He can't begin to sort out what he feels for the two people at his feet, laid bare in all their suffering. Lingering anger, aching sadness, profound disappointment. Guilt too — stemming from the knowledge that, in the end, saving them was so far removed from his motivations, even if they are (were?) dear friends who so clearly needed saving.

"But I can tell you that, if you don't come with me right now, you may end up doing as bad or worse to someone you don't even know," the man in black murmurs, stretching one arm to — yes, gently — try to bring Jane to a rise. There's sympathy in his tone, to be sure, but also grim purpose and resolve. "Come on, you two. We're heading to Jersey."

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