Cutscene: Infernal Construction

March 27, 2018:

Illyana begins construction on the X-Men's fall-back position in Limbo.

Demonic Limbo

Illyana's part of Limbo known as Othersplace or Demonic Limbo; even
as stable as it is, is a bit schizophrenic. The landscape is oddly mutable.
Specific landscape features - rocks, boulders, flora, fauna, hills, and so
on - tend to sneak off when they're not being watched. The best one can do
most of the time is describe the general character of the area you find
yourself in and these tend toward one of two extremes.

In many places Illyana's Limbo is a blasted wasteland often (though
not uniformly) composed of brown-red rock, parched soil and a very unhealthy
looking plants where any can be seen at all. It's the kind of landscape you
imagine was been fed a steady diet of bile, hate and neglect for ages on
end. On the other extreme, portions of Limbo are almost idyllic primal
wilderness replete with soft grasses, tall trees, unearthly flowers and
clear babbling watercourses. The divide between the two is often so stark as
to be jarring, a line running down across the landscape as if drawn with a
straightedge in many places.

Only two features remain constant anywhere in Demonic Limbo. One is
the looming citadel in the center, visible from pretty much everywhere. The
other is the infernal inhabitants. The closer one gets to the citadel, the
more stable one finds both of these.


NPCs: S'ym



Mood Music: None.

Fade In…

A strong, gusting wind blows across the exposed surface of a wide volcanic plateau. What vegetation clings to the surface, low-lying and oddly twisted as it appears, seems almost to hunker down against the onslaught. The sky above is ochre, and clouds the colour of dried blood swirl and churn, as if seeking to tear one another asunder.

A single human figure stands in the centre of the plateau, unbowed by the wind, undaunted by the violence of the weather overhead, though her long, blonde hair whips out behind her as she surveys her surroundings. She takes her time, turning in a slow circle to scan the horizon in all directions, then crouching down to run a hand across the ground, taking a pinch of the thin topsoil and rubbing it thoughtfully between her fingers before finally looking up again.

Directly in her line of vision, in the distance, a citadel looms atop a tall plug of volcanic rock. Somehow, whichever way one looks in this place, that citadel is always visible, never quite slipping from the corner of one's eye. She regards it for a moment more, before rising to her feet and brushing off her hands on her ripped black jeans.

"Remind me why I thought this was a good idea?" Illyana Rasputina asks the wind.

"Beats me, boss babe." A hulking, demonic and very purple figure that was almost certainly not present a moment before replies, taking a drag on its ever-present cigar. "But S'ym likes it. More souls for Limbo." The demon smiles. "S'ym looks forward to meeting them."

Illyana looks over her shoulder at the much larger demon. "You almost sound like you want me to change my mind, S'ym." She hold's the demon's gaze until it grumbles and looks away. Then it's her turn to smile. "For now, be somewhere else. I have things to build, and I'd hate for a construction accident to happen to you."

The demon takes the cigar out of its mouth so that it can grin down at its mistress properly. "This is a big working, boss babe. Limbo hasn't been reshaped since Belasco's time. Sure you can handle it?" The demon is openly goading her. She knows it, and still she feels her jaw clench.

"Anything Belasco could do, I can do better, demon. Anything. Don't forget it."

A disc of silver-white light appears and swallows the big purple demon, but not before he can get the last word. "Temper temper little Darkchilde. Belasco would be proud."

Illyana stares at the empty space so recently occupied by S'ym, her teeth gritted and her fists clenched. Part of her wants to bring S'ym right back and make him answer for his taunts in the most painful manner she could contrive.

Part of her understands that that, too, would have made Belasco proud.

She turns on her heel, the sky above her head darkening as if in response to her mood. There's a charge in the air, as if before a thunderstorm, and there's a flash of silver in the gathering gloom as a silver longsword flashes into existence in her hand. Acting without hesitation now, she reverses the blade and stabs it down into the ground at her feet.

The plateau shudders, as if it were a great beast that had just been pinned in place, and flickers of silver flame race out from the sword, flaring from cracks in the ground as they speed away. Illyana releases the hilt of the Soulsword and takes a step back. In this small area, Limbo's mutable nature has become something more permanent.

"Now for the fun part." Illyana says, in the tone of someone expecting what comes next to be anything but.

Kneeling down, Illyana presses a hand to the ground and closes her eyes, reaching deep into the foundations with not just her magic, but her soul. Since the moment Belasco twisted a fifth of her soul into the first bloodstone, Limbo has been part of her, and she's been part of Limbo. She draws on that connection now, more deeply than she ever has before.
The changes begin deep beneath the surface. An underground stream, the waters black and corrupted, diverts from the channel it has spent centuries cutting through the bedrock of Limbo, turning upwards and becoming clearer and cleaner as it does, the impurities leached out of it.

Deeper still, rock shifts and the heat from a previously undisturbed magma chamber is allowed to rise. Above, still kneeling on the ground, Illyana smiles. She doubts anyone would willingly drink the waters of Limbo despite her efforts, but every fortress needs a well, and heat.

Her focus shifts now to her immediate surroundings, and shaping them to a vision she holds in her mind's eye. Where beneath her knees had been dirt, smooth hexagonal tiles appear and spread across the ground, ending flush with the walls of dark stone that begin rising all around her. Within moments she is at the centre of a large six-sided room that builds itself a high, vaulted ceiling.

She should be in darkness, but she's not. The Soulsword is burning with a silver-white light, and so is she. The smile has gone from her face, replaced by a frown of concentration. Limbo is her domain, hers to control, hers to shape as she will… but Limbo is a hell dimension. The very stuff of Limbo is tainted and corrupt. It answers her call, but the shapes it wants to form aren't the clean lines of her vision. They're twisted, wrong, sharp and barbed, and part of Illyana likes it that way. The harder she fights to bend Limbo to her will, the more the desire to let Limbo have its head seeps into her.

From beyond the chamber comes the rumbling of ever larger, heavier slabs of stone as they rise ever more improbably from the ground, the sound becoming fainter as the arcane construction moves further away from the epicentre of the power that directs it.

The relentless pace never slows, but by now both of Illyana's hands are pressed against the flagstones, as if she's having to physically hold herself up. Her head is bowed, and the occasional bead of sweat falls from her brow. Her breathing is harsh now, coming in increasingly laboured gasps, but those are the least of the changes afflicting her. The Soulsword still shines bright, silver and untarnished, but the light from Illyana herself is beginning to flicker, the silver-white starting to become interspersed with an angry dark red.

She remains there for a minute more. Or an hour. Or a year. Time passes strangely in Limbo. But finally, finally the work is done. Illyana slumps forward as the strength goes out of her arms, but manages to rally in time to catch herself before her head hits the floor. Awkwardly, painfully, her legs cramping as she moves them, Illyana shifts her position until she's sitting with her legs drawn up, her arms looped around her knees. For a while she stays like that, until her breathing steadies, and then she reaches up a hand to wipe her sweat-sodden hair from her face.

And freezes as her fingers encounter the horns. A harsh word is snapped out into the semi-darkness, and a hovering flame appears to light the chamber, while a flash of light brings a mirror to her hand. What looks back at her from it isn't her chosen face. The skin is sallow, the eyes featureless gold, the teeth fangs, and curling back from her brow are a pair of ram's horns. Illyana squeezes her eyes closed, concentrates, and opens them again.

The same demonic face looks back at her.

She scrambles to her feet, adrenaline defeating her exhaustion, and staggers over to the Soulsword, clamping her hand around its hilt. Silver-white light explodes from the sword, and Illyana is remade. Unusually tentative, she reaches a hand to her head again, probing for her horns and finding nothing but smooth, unblemished skin. Reluctantly, she releases her grip on the Soulsword, and lets out a relived breath when she remains… her.

"Not yet, Belasco." She says to the empty chamber, and pulls the Soulsword from the floor. "Not yet."

She looks around, surveying her handiwork for the first time. Each of the chamber's six walls contains a high, carved stone archway, five of them framing only blank walls, while the sixth provides a way out. Illyana looks at that arch for a long moment, then slowly shakes her head.

"Exploring can wait. I need a shower."

And to be somewhere other than Limbo for a little while. With a flash of light, a portal opens and she steps through without a backward glance.

For a moment or two, all is darkness. And then the cherry-red tip of a cigar appears in the gloom, the small point of fiery light barely suggesting the brutish, tusked face of the smoker.

"Not yet, boss babe. But maybe soon. S'ym can wait."

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