Eye of the Snake

August 25, 2018:

The Asgardian ship Bilskirnir carrying the bulk of the Justice League chases after Atum's comet prison, but the first leg of the journey leads to a meeting with a terrifying opponent. (Emits by Doctor Strange)

Conceptual Space, Realms Beyond

An Asgardian spaceship, looks like a Viking spaceship but it is much larger and more magical

Characters

NPCs: Njordson and the crew of the Bilskirnir, Set

Mentions:

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

PRELUDE

After a 'sidequest' to deal with a gang of space pirates the cosmic ship Bilskirnir reaches the Solar System and docks with the Watchtower for a couple hours to pick up the Starktech gear they need to pinpoint the place where the comet left realspace. A few more heroes can also join the expedition.

From the Watchtower is only an hour to reach the point where Heimdall claimed Atun had been caught. The sun is close enough even good steel would melt, yet for those aboard the Asgardian ship it feels as little more than a warm summer day. Tracking down the comet takes about a day, bringing the vessel near Mercury, where Captain Njordson pauses to study his mystical navigation instruments. There is a barrier here the Bilskirnir can't breach. Nor could any mortal wizard, he claims. Doctor Strange is forced to agree.

But it was not unexpected. They are also several months behind the Comet, which is too much of a disadvantage. Fortunately there is a plan, by combining the energies of Donna's Universe Orb with very restricted time-traveling magics, the Bilskirnir will crash through all wards and find itself closer in space and time to the Comet. Only problem is the League can't return to realspace until August comes again. Unless they time-travel -back-. But Doctor Strange is staying behind, citing he needs to find the Mother of Demons before she obtains a powerful artifact she is looking for.


Diana spends her time aboard the ship as it traverse these dangerous wate—-spaces, and she spends it mostly to herself. She doesn't like being away from Earth, not even a little bit, it makes her feel far too disconnected from the troubles of the planet that face it every day it rotates through the solar system.

So the space ship is wandered, she paces really, throughout all of its corridors and open rooms that will let her pass into them. She wears her armor with sword and shield on her back ready to be used at any moment… and because its a rare occasion she even has a bow strapped to her back as well, with a quiver of white feathered-golden shafted arrows at her hip. Diana is a crack shot with a bow, but rarely does she ever have one on her, but now is such an occasion.

Diana inevitably returns to the bridge where Captain Njordson is located, she stands aside him and watches/listens to the conversations at-hand… but this is more than a little out of her element, so she stands, ready to give consultation when asked for.


For her part, Vivienne was rather quiet once they had gotten past the situation with the pirates. She was never one for a great deal of conversation or anything. It comes with the age. She was reading a book after making sure everyone was healthy and recovering. She was prepared to use her magic as necessary to help them get to where they needed to go, however. Now, as they are moving through such an odd space, looking ahead in order to watch for magical anomalies.


Donna stood in silence, standing at one of the few viewing ports which had been left over, angled so that the bright light of the sun was not shining directly in at the ship's passengers. The Universe Orb had been recalled from that unknown place where it resided when she was not using it. She had been silent for most of the journey back, or was it beyond? the fortress. Whether or not the rescued pirates and prisoners had been kept aboard or delivered to some other location for safe keeping she did not know. She had engaged with few of the crew, save, on occasion, her sister, having spent most of the journey in some quiet space where she had found, the Orb, enlarged to the size of something on the order of a basketball, its skinned stretched, the images that floated on it shivering and distorting, as reflections might be on the skin of a soap bubble. The orb itself glistened and shimmered, drawing the eye, but anyone who looked too closely might well risk being draw into the visions they could see there. Other earths, other worlds, other visions and variations of themselves. Just now though, the Orb seemed to be biding its time, hovering in the space just to the front and right of Donna, just on the level of her shoulder, quiet, and almost dim as it too waited.


"Come to the bow, please," requests Strange through the Justice League communicators. The sorcerer has been preparing the casting for hours. A portal for something the size of the Asgardian ship is no easy task. Time travel is no easy task. So many things could go wrong!

Once Donna arrives, the doctor gestures her to come closer. "Please, activate the Orb traveling functions, but leave your mind open to the magic. There is a tracking spell and there is a time-shredding component. They need to go simultaneously."

Most of the crew of the Bilskirnir appears not to pay much attention, although they are all armed and armored. There was less ale and more sharpening of swords and axes in the morning. But magic? They do not appreciate spell-casting much in Asgard.


Diana hadn't wanted to disturb much of anyone so she'd kept her dialogue with others to a minimum, she was visually watching everyone who was with them on this trip to at least make sure they were okay as much as they could be while they waited. She held a great deal of concern for her sister, of course, but she keeps that sealed up and inside.

When Strange puts out the call, it doesn't take her long to appear near to where he is. She glances over to the others and then specifically watches Donna. "What happens if they do not 'go simultaneously'?" Diana has to ask then, her eyes going back to the Doctor to study his facial reaction to her question, she knows he keeps a lot of things bottled up himself but sometimes his face says more than his spoken words.


Donna stepped away from the viewing port, the movement, sensed, somehow by the ship, which closed it in her wake. She moved through the gathered crew, many of whom stepped out of her way as she went, heading towards where Strange had been doing its work. As she arrived beside him, she nodded, in answer to his words, a flick of her hand sending the orb to hover in front of him, growing in size and luminosity. So too, did the starfield that was her costume, the black darkening, which seemed an almost impossible thing, the starfield twinkling as though it was alive, a trick of the eye, perhaps, or perhaps not, as it took on the appearance of the sky itself, and the stars one could see if they looked up on a night with no moon. "It is ready when you are."


"Then we lose our window and we will have to think something else," replies Strange to Diana. "Maybe we cause a time paradox, always a mess. I will have to respond for it," he smiles faintly, "but I won't fail."

Once the ritual starts, Strange levitates to stand in the void, maybe twenty yards over the bow of the ship. First a circle of white light appears before the now stationary Bilskirnir, nerly fifty yards across, large enough the whole vessel could move through.

Then he casts to the Universe Orb, a bright line of golden force reaching from his hand to the artifact. The Orb goes black for a few seconds, then glows in quickly swirling, kaleidoscope lights. Slowly at first, But faster and faster.

Then space seems to shift around them. The sun and the stars move quickly around them as time unravels. Strange vanishes, and Donna is left with the directions to the dimensional displacement. There is a loud crack, like a thunderstrike. The ship lurches forward as the circle of light becomes a full sphere. And then, as the Asgardian sailors run to their posts, the vessel falls through the white hole.

"This is not what we expected!" Yells one of the sailors. "No! We have hit some kind of ward, full power head!" That was Njordson's voice. "It is a trap!" Yells a third voice.


Donna stood still as a sentinel, the expression that limned her face one of utter focus, as she felt the magic Strange sent at the Orb, felt it expand, finding that place that he wished for it to go. There was some part of her that railed against it, for she was the guardian of the Orb and it was her demense and not his. But she had lived too long to allow such jealousies to colour her actions. And so, the orb grew, brighter, whiter, larger as Donna reached out, the only movement she had made in long minutes, finding Diana's hand. There was no magic there, save perhaps the magic that always existed between then, that spark of soul that lived in Donna, but which had been born in Diana anchoring Donna to this place, this time, a fixed point from which to start, and, perhaps in time, to return, as she willed the Orb to exert its power, to pierce the ward and send them to where they needed to go.


J'onn has been meditating, floating quietly in a corner of the bridge — out of the way. His eyes open when Strange's voice is heard, though he stays where he is until Donna approaches him with the orb, at which point he drops to the floor, walking over to stand beside Diana.

As space shifts and bends around them, his expression doesn't change — not that it ever really does — but he looks more focused. Feeling helpless is not a situation he is really used to, merely watching as the crew works overtime. A moment later, his mind stretches out, beyond the ship, seeking the thoughts of any nearby.


Rocking a little on her feet, Niamh stares out the front of the ship and looks around, "A ward? How? I thought you were goin' to pierce through them?" She asks and looks ahead, staring a little and she idly raises a hand. Her eyes close as she tries to sense what is ahead. She really doesn't use her eyes much to see anyway but right now she's really focusing on what is unseen as she tries to figure out what it is that could be stopping them given the power they are supposed to be wielding.


Diana is unable to do much but observe and hold hope for the best outcome, she watched Strange levitate and her eyes only leave when she feels Donna's hand which she returns the gesture and offers a squeeze with her own. The voices starting to shout cause her to look toward the crewmen and she sees J'onn approach, and he gets a soft nod from her as he draws near.

"I have an unsettling feeling about this." Diana mutters then while her eyes go to seek out Strange's location once more.


ACT 1: THE SNAKE

Strange is gone. Or rather, he stayed in August of 2018. The ship moved back in time five months back. It should be March again. On Earth.

They are not on Earth or even in realspace right now, though. Donna can feel how the Bilskirnir is dragged through strange dimensions against her will and the power of the Orb, although a link is left, branded in the weave of the multiverse, anchored them to where they should be.

The ship shudders, groans. Bilskirnir is indestructible by any standard of Earth, but the forces arrayed against its enchanted hull are monstrous indeed.

Light returns, they are still alive, floating in an ocean of greyness, with a seemingly infinite chain of Earth floating among them. Most are blue and green planets, some are scorched red, and others are dead black. "What in the name of Hel," mutters one of the sailors. "Relax boys," grumbles Njordson, "we are in one of thise… how are they called? Conceptual spaces. It doesn't need to make sense. The ship survived the transition, so lets go back and…"

He falls silent.

J'onn feels it too, a presence, immense, ancient beyond belief. Dark, curious, hungry. Then, everyone can see IT. The Snake. A snake larger than any of the worlds in the chain of Earths, slithering over them, its tail reaching behind through hundreds of worlds, to the infinity. It is slowly moving towards the ship. A snake of black and green, scales larger than continents.


It's a strange sensation, this idea of being back in time. In March, the Martian Manhunter was in self-inflicted exile, still dealing with the immediate fallout of the Red Lanterns — some of which still lingers with him in this moment.

J'onn returns Diana's nod, all without his attention straying from his task, his thoughts taking him well outside the sphere of the ship. What he finds — it makes him physically stiffen, no small task, given he doesn't natively express his emotions through his body. "It is an ancient entity. Curious, but hungry, too. I would not risk that it's curiosity outweighs its hunger, Captain," he says, as he gaze settles on the thing. "There is something dark about it, and ancient entities rarely take the time to stop and consider what it would consider inferior."


For all that Donna woman who had been born of magic, in the years long ago, and that she commanded some small portion of it herself. Such things as these were far beyond her demense. And so, as the ship found itself in that place to which Strange had wanted it to go, she recalled the orb to herself, keeping it close and cloaked, so as, as best she could, not allow the snake to be attracted to it. Instead, she looked to Vivienne, and then to J'onn, to Diana, as she wiated to hear what they ahd to say about the situation, before she looked back to the snake which seemed to be approaching them. "This is beyond my ken. I do not think I have the ability to communicate with that thing coming towards us."


Looking at the incoming creature, she closes her eyes. The Lady of the Lake takes a deep shakey breath and then opens them before saying, "Avoid it…avoid it at all costs." She looks to the Captain and gestures, "Do not go near it! It is not to be trifled with and it is not Jormungandr! It is…far worse." She then looks toward the incoming snake and gestures to J'onn, "Can you mask our presence at all from it? I can try to mask ours with magic but I fear naything I do will only attract it more." She nods her head, "It is of the water…but it may truly be…the source of water throughout the whole universe. It is ancient and terrible."


Diana's eyes move over the sights before them, the different worlds that pass them by. But her ears focus on the words from the others and its not till the Lady of the Lake speaks that Diana looks over to her and then back to the others. "I… agree…" For what good it is, Diana is not in a position to help their situation this moment, but she does stand ready though something warrant her skill and abilities. She releases a light exhale, feeling anxious and nervous, that tingling sensation when she knows combat to protect the lives of those she cares about is teetering on the edge of breaking out around them… she steels herself to prepare for it.


"It makes Jormungand look like a river lizard," states one of the sailors in response to Vivianne's comment. "Conceptual space, Karls," replies Captain Njordson. "Aye, but doesn't that means it is so large because it is that powerful? That we are less than fleas in comparison?"

Njordson thinks for two seconds. Then curses loudly. "That is exactly what it means! Lady Donna, get us out of here! Men, turn the ship around. We don't have a harpoon big enough for that monster!"

As the Lady of the Lake weaves masking spells, the Snake pauses, opening a mouth larger than the moon, it seems to taste the 'air' for a second, then slithers forward a few worlds more. *I can feel you, travelers. I smell the blood of the young gods. And… ah, one of mine. Do not hide for me. For where are you going? I am everywhere*

That was not a voice. It feels as if the
WHOLE UNIVERSE IS ADDRESSING YOU.

It is also a powerful mental compulsion. The kind J'onn can deflect only with great effort before it takes hold of the minds of the crew. And comes with the impression the creature is -barely- trying.


J'onn's gaze snaps towards Vivienne's. He doesn't frown, but he looks thoughtful. "I can try. But to do so means I will need to make contact with its mind." He exhales, and his eyes close a second later. He stretches out and…

Do not hide from me.

It is rare that J'onn's effect reflects so physically, and yet his entire body shudders with the effort to try and deflect that command, battling with all his might against something that is likely futile, since the creature completely outclasses him. Still, he tries, unable to focus on anything but the effort to prevent it taking control of the crew. His, «Hurry!» is a telepathic thought to Donna, full of strain and some amount of mental pain. «I cannot…!»


Donna stepped forward, leaving behind the anchor she had made for herself in her sister, her hand making a sort of flicking movement, as she tossed the Orb away from her, the artifact immediately growing until it was nearly half her size, and she herself seemed diminished before it. She seemed to pay no mind to anyone within the ship, nor the creature coming for them. Not even its words seemed to phase her as she bent all of her will and effort to finding a route through the space into which they had been sent, seeking for the place they should be. She was still, silent as the grave, and only Diana could hear the woman's scream, coming along the line of mental communication they shared, feel all of the force of Donna's many years that she poured into the Orb. And not just this Donna, but drawing, as she did from every Donna she had within her, all of their many wills bent to the task to take them away from the danger approaching. As for the orb itself, as it grew, those assembled might well be able to feel the power of the thing, its soul, as exerted the power which had been given onto it to know all places in all the many universes which made up the multiverse.


Wincing at the power of the snake, Niamh looks at J'onn before looking to Donna. She takes a sharp breath and then looks out the back of the ship before she looks to the front. She frowns at the speed at which people are moving compared to a snake that is the size of all the universes. She considers this situation and then looks over at the area outside. She pits her will against the creature but can feel it crushing in.


Diana paces behind the others now, back and forth as her eyes stay fixated on the enemy they may potentially be facing. "We have to separate from this." She says to everyone. "We have to get out of here." It feels like a ticking time bomb nearing its final tock. Diana's head shakes softly left and right, her hair flowing behind her shoulders in the soft breeze passing over her. "Donna?" She asks her sister. "What is going on?" She's more than a little confused and feeling more than a little helpless with all of this.


The Snake blinks.
With eyes the size of America.

Resistance. It is amused and surprised. It/He LOOKs at J'onn. It is a good thing J'onn is an old and experience Martian, with a mind like steel and the experience to stand such glance. A human telepath would have cracked like glass.

* Martian. Fire-born. Godlike but Mortal. You are in strange company *

Then slithers close to the Asgardian vessel, the hiding spell brushed aside.

* Listen to me
I am the God of Water
I am the God of the Oceans, the Rivers, the Lakes
I am the God of Rain, and the God of Tempest
I am the God of Wrath, I am the God of Rage, I am the Lord of Destruction, I am the Father of Murder
I am the God of the Scaly Ones, the Fish, the Dragon, the Snake
I am Set, the Greatest of the Elder Gods. The First One. The Master of all Worlds
Surrender to my will, for I hunger *

Overwhelming compulsion. But too late, as the Universe Orb sidesteps the spells that bind the Bilskirnir to the 'conceptual space' and Donna pulls and pushes the vessel, retreading the path back to the gateway Doctor Strange opened.

It is a bumpy ride, but the Bilskirnir is nearly indestructible. So after a few terrifying minutes and a good look to Set's planet sized open maw the Justice League and the Asgardian crew find themselves alive. Floating on the Astral Plane. Shaken, but not eaten.


He recognizes this creature. Or more: the Martians have a name for it. And for the first time in a long time, the Manhunter is afraid.

"I am in worthy company," J'onn counters, speaking the words aloud — with effort. Certainly, it would be easier to merely answer the God telepathically, but the Martian knows it to be important that his counter-parts, human and super alike, can hear. "We merely pass through. We do not mean to disturb—"

But whatever argument he was hoping to make is futile. The snake slithers aside his protection like it was nothing, though to J'onn it is as if a tear. A noise escapes his throat, sinking to his knees, as the compulsion takes over them all. The ship rocks, and J'onn makes no effort to keep himself upright, thrown to the floor in the aftermath.


'We go.' The sound, the words, came from everywhere and nowhere, and seemed, in that moment, to drown out even the words of the Elder God, as the Orb grew even larger, at once, to the eye seeming to be both within the ship, still hovering in front of Donna, and growing beyond them, taking in the whole of the ship. It was not Set's voice, nor Donna's. It simply was. As for Donna, she stood transfixed, unable to spare even an ounce of attention to anything but the task before her, her body entirely rigid as she pushed herself and the orb further than she had ever had cause to do before.

And then they were through, into the place, that, the Gods willing, they had been intended to be. And in the instant that they arrived, Donna collapsed, not unconscious, but seeming to have been drained of every bit of strength she had. As for the orb, it seemed to shrink back into itself, a delicate, fragile thing which returned to her, winking out a moment later, as she sent it back to that place where it rested when she did not need it.


Diana feels the pressure to step forward and do something, but what can she really even do? She remains still throughout it… as much as she's able anyway, up to when they finally pass through and then Donna collapses—Right into Diana's arms because she's there to catch her sister, her reflexes honed to help her when she falls and she lowers her down into a crouch, to let her relax and get a moment of rest from whatever she'd just gone through. Diana's right hand comes up to stroke some of Donna's hair out of her face and then she looks up, up to see where they were now. "Are we safe?" She asks, now looking over to J'onn for answers?


A slow breath escapes the Lady as she looks down and shudders visibly. Arms come up and hug herself lightly as she idly rubs her arms befoer she turns to look at Donna. She moves to Donna and looks up to Diana and states, "We're far safer than we were." She then idly calls upon water from seemingly no where and idly sets it against Donna. A soft glow comes from her even as the exhausted Donna will feel a soft and slow warmth coming from the glow. Energy flowing back into her slowly but surely like an otherworldly IV drip, "She'll be fine."


It takes a moment for J'onn to pull himself together, still mentally dazed by the effortless strength and power of the snake God. He looks somewhat unsettled, which is unusual enough for the normally neutral-appearing Martian to perhaps be alarming. For a moment he focuses, his thoughts stretching out, seeking any sense of the thing that tried to eat them.

«I do..» he starts to answer Diana telepathically, something he rarely does, switches back to a verbal answer halfway through as if remembering, "…not sense it nearby. Whereever we are, we have traveled out of its immediate reach." His gaze focuses on Vivienne, nodding to her when she tends to Donna.


Most of the Asgardians lose their footing and go rolling over the deck as the Bilskirnir is yanked out of Set's trap and into the Astral Plane. Not Njordson, who begins barking orders even halfway the Orb's wormhole. Damage report! Bring me the sextant! Take the injuried under-deck!

They have ale for J'onn and Donna. Strong enough to give a buzz even to a Martian or a demi-god. Asgardian’s remedy for most ills.

"We are back to track," announces the captain after being reported no casualties and just minor damage to the ship. "And the trail of the comet is clear, the chase is on!"


If not for Diana, Donna would have fallen to the deck, and even with Diana's help, she only just managed to make it to the floor without injury. For all that Donna was a woman grown, she seemed in that moment, a husk, as small as any child which needed only reassurance that she would be well again, her face turned away, seeking her sister's comfort. She did not fight Vivienne, as the Lady approached her, her voice soft, barely a whisper as she felt Vivienne's magic begin to replenish the strength she had exerted in the bid to escape the Elder God. "Thank you. All of you." Whatever she and the Orb had done, only the combined force of all of them had seen them through. She took the ale offered her, though she did not allow herself to be taken below decks. And even the ale she took only a small sip of, turning to Vivienne instead, "I would prefer water." Any sort of buzz now…might not be such a good idea.


Diana denies aside any alcoholic drinks that are offered toward she or Donna. "We are not in a position for alcohol. We need to remain clear of mind while we are not entirely safe. Drinks like that are for moments of peace and celebration, not for… when we are 'Partially Safe' at best." She looks back to her Sister then. "Are you okay?" She asks her. "What you did was… brave, I am impressed." She looks then up to Vivienne and J'onn. "Where do we go from here?" She asks them. "Where did Strange go?" Wonder Woman is wholely out of her element and its pretty obvious, but thats not to say she won't strive to adapt and adjust to learn and to process the dilemma before them.


J'onn, used to being wholly unaffected by any sort of beverage Earth can provide, takes one of the ales without thinking, drinking deeply. For a moment, he kind of stands there, head turning left and right. Lifting a foot. "I feel… strange," he reports, like he's bemused by all of this. He doesn't answer Diana, seemingly distracted by the very odd feeling.


If they won't take any, the Lady sure will. She takes a long draw from it and then looks down at Donna and her work on her. She looks up to Diana and states, "Strange is to stay behind. We have our mission." She nods her head and then looks to the others around before saying, "We reach the comet and we get what has been taken." She snods her head, "Whom has been taken in this case."


Donna, much revived by the magic that Vivienne poured, haha, see what I did there?, into her, finally simply settled onto the deck beside Diana, seeming to have no small desire to conserve her energy while they seemed not to be in too terrible danger. She accepted water gratefully, taking slow sips as she came back to herself. Once she had done, she turned her attention to Diana, "I am alright, only…tired. We are both tired." Clearly, she seemed to mean both herself and the orb, "I think…that I should not try to use it again, except at greatest need…save it for when we must return with the one we came for." She smiled, though it was a faint thing, "Brave? I do not know, Diana. I did what I had to to save us from that monster."


The ship's doctor hrmphs at the refusal of the ale. Heretics. But brings a less alcoholic healing beverage nevertheless. They have a well-stocked infirmary in the Bilskirnir, despite appearances. Asgardians are not barbarians, they just look like barbarians.

Sometimes they also act like barbarians, but they have a very advanced the magic-tech civilization nevertheless.

The proof: The Bilskirnir navigates the Astral Ocean, swiftly.

TBC

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