Upon This Rock

August 30, 2018:

Beset by strange and monstrous foes in the middle of attempting to enjoy a Grecian indoor bath of debatable authenticity, two gods and an angel (and two unlikely but truly marvelous allies) find themselves brought together by fate and deicidal machinations…

AIRE Ancient Baths NYC

Full of a loving recreation of ancient Grecian traditions, property damage, and ancient cosmic horrors.

Characters

NPCs: Black Berserkers, Gorr the God-Butcher, Thori, SCOTT ADSIT AGENT OF SHIELD

Mentions: Thor, Bucky Barnes, Jane Foster

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

THE SANDBOX OF EVERYTHING
LONGER AGO THAN YOU WILL EVER KNOW

Once, he believed there was a plan to the universe.

He had been taught, many, many years ago, the creation myth of his people. That the tears of their great and lonely God when he beheld the nothing of the universe became the foundation of everything. They became the galaxies, the stars, the planets. The continents, the rivers. The seeds of life that would one day make his people.

And so did tears of despair became tears of joy at the creation God had wrought in all his infinite wisdom.

He had been taught that. For a time, he believed that. But now, stranded at the beginning of all things, the void from which creation springs all around him, he knows the truth. Gods are children, fumbling in the dark, smashing their toys together without meaning, and angrily lashing out at all who dare interfere. They sabotaged his way home from the brink, thinking it would trap him.

Instead, it has only given him time to think. And to change.

And so he sits upon his lonesome rock drifting at the edge of all that is, the all black of his right hand pressed to the bloody wet red of an Elder God's heart, and he closes his eyes. He reaches out. Across time. Across space. Across the boundaries of everything. And he plans. Upon this rock, he will build his church.

But first, Gorr the God-Butcher needs his workers.

NEW YORK CITY
SOONER THAN YOU'D HOPE

Located in the heart of TriBeCa lies an "oasis of tranquility" (their words) known as AIRE Ancient Baths. Repurposed from a textile factory that was closed in 1883, AIRE has dedicated itself to tirelessly recreating the Greek and Roman traditions of indoor baths and spas to bring comfort to the body and the soul. Exquisitely crafted from the husk of the old and forgotten specifically to bring back the old and forgotten, it is lavish, and it is refreshing, and it is excessive.

And probably only passingly accurate at best, but you can't really blame people for getting a bit wrong. After all, it's still as refreshing as it is expensive. And really, very peaceful.

"That's my opening move. A soft little smile, and I slide 'em an iced mocha, and it works like a charm, every time."

"That's the weirdest thing I've ever heard."

"I'm serious! They love it! Swear to OH MY GOD WHAT IS THAT"

Usually.

The KTHOOOM that ripples through the foundations of AIRE Ancient Baths New York would be the sound of a nearby brick and mortar wall exploding into so much pancaked dust and debris as an eyeless beast of liquid shadow rips through it with a certain, legendarily hairy man of uncertain dress in tow. Candles — the sole source of light in AIRE Ancient Baths New York (for the ambiance, which makes it that much more expensive) topple over across the ground as a support beam cracks in twain, some spilling fire across wooden floors and some splashing harmlessly into the waters that the beast aims to crash both itself and its herculean prey into as customers scramble furiously to flee.

"THIS ISN'T LIKE HOW IT WAS IN ANCIENT GREECE AT ALL" says a fleeing bystander, who has no idea what he's talking about.

This is probably incredibly authentic. Hercules could probably tell him that.

Provided he doesn't have too much on his hands with his mysterious assailant — and the many more that seem to start literally -dripping- from the shadows.


"This is actually super authentic!" yells a powerful, strident voice, instants before being lost in bubbles.

O! Muse, we sing this night of a wayward soul, stout of arm and heady of liver, seeking some small measure of peace after a long day of performing feats of strength to delight, to amuse, and to profit. For what man, what God, would not wish to find a moment of relaxation in divine cleansing after a filling meal of lamb and veg?

But no sooner did HERCULES, The PRINCE OF POWER choose to rest his weary glutes on the locker room bench than did an assailant of unlight and unsight make merry with his body! O! Muse, we sing this night of peril. We sing this night of an end to irresponsibility. We sing this night…

…of reckoning.

Hercules barely manages to hang onto his towel as he is driven into the waters, bubbles of surprised air billowing from his mouth and nose. He fails for purchase somewhere until he feels his back crash into the floor of the bath. Air explodes out of his lungs, but now he has leverage. Herc braces his back and arms, drawing his knees up to his chest as his vision starts to waver.

The splashing impact into the pool is nothing to the column of water that angles outward from the tremendous force of the blow. Full half of its contents smash into the wall with a terrific sound, droplets exploding everywhere, thoroughly soaking the room and everyone still inside.

With the water depleted, Hercules glowers as he breaks the surface, the rippling waves barely obscuring everything below his adonis belt as he holds his towel, lazily spinning it into a twisted rope. He slips it beneath the waves, twists and cinches.

"Alright," he booms, shrugging his shoulders, muscles surging. "No clue what cursed lead brought you to my doorstep, but the homeless life has left me with much stress to work out." He pounds a large fist into a large palm with a large thud. "Want to try again?" Herc calls, head sweeping, taking in the rest. He squeezes his fists until his knuckles pop.

Going to be one of THOSE nights.


Angela's muse is currently indisposed. Her prose will be much more spartan.

On this night of wayward souls, a hunter has come to make ready for a hunt. Her tools are few, and fewer still for want of ways to avoid offending the far-reaching eyes of Midgard's celestial overseers, but her allies are of an acceptable quality. Hercules, for example, is both acceptably powerful and acceptably eccentric for Angela to desire his strength and put up with his need for public bathing rituals.

She was not disappointed when the attendant informed the two of them that, for legal reasons, the baths were not co-ed. Angela has discarded shame for the self-imprisonment is represents, but she imagines it would be extremely difficult to conduct a productive business conversation with Hercules beneath a certain level of undress.

And so, while the singing went on in the men's baths, Angela rested in the candle-lit waters on the other side of the facility. She closed her eyes. If she allowed herself to drift off, it was only after strict bargaining with herself. Angela would not be Angela if she didn't respect the price of her own watchfulness.

At some point, the singing becomes reckoning. It's a subtle shift.

The verbal portion of Hercules' retort concludes moments before Angela arrives to stand in the tremendous hole in the wall that is thanks to the just recent remodeling. She surveys the scene with dispassionate accounting. Her icy deathglare is somewhat undercut by the fact that she is currently clad in a towel wrapped around her midsection, her usually wavy and voluminous hair hanging straight and wet behind her.

"Do you recognize these beasts, Hercules?"

Angela tightens her hands into fists. The bones do not pop. She is well-oiled.

"I will encourage them to leave you to your hygienic rituals as part of our trade."


The mangled grunt of the Almost Goatlord echoed from outside, disturbing all but a few of the patrons of this waystation of culinary delights. Steeped in a history of victorious accomplishments that rivaled the vaunted heroes of Asgard of Old, it towered in a glowing yellow majesty, welcoming all into it's comforting interior and blessing them with the scent of delicacies with names the likes of which Atli Wodendottir, Girl of Thunder, had never heard before.

The question set before her here, at this House turned feeding station, hung with an air of indecision. Overwhelmed with such mighty options, she ignored the goat's woeful baying, a complaint that he, Toothbender, Almost-Goatlord, was not allowed inside to feast alongside his best of friends. Apparently, that was a Health Code violation.

"This has been a long week, what with almost dying to the Destroyer, and my Aunt Loki disappearing again," she announces to the waitress, who has mostly been staring at the goat who fogs the window with it's insistent leering and desperate attempts to get closer to the food within.

"Verily, I believe I shall not indulge in but a Smothered or Covered Browned Hash this day." With triumph in her voice, she announces her choice. "I shall have them, 'All The Way', as a God has right too! Also, have a triple portion brought out to the goat, and whatever spirits you have on tap at this, the most welcoming House I have yet been in. Tell the one named Waffle, I am forever in his debt for such hospit-TOOTHBENDER, NO!!!"

And that is how Toothbender, Almost-Goatlord, did indeed get his Waffle House hashbrowns at the cost of a very big pane of glass and a whole lot more of Atli Wodendottir's gold. It is also the story of how Toothbender got Covered, Smothered, Capped, and all those other toppings ALL OVER his goatly hide, while Atli earned not a taste of the divine glory promised to her at the end of a long week's hero-ing.

Instead, she tasted only the backsplash of water in AIRE Ancient Baths as Atli scrubbed the goat clean, wincing away as the beast struggled against being taken from it's natural, filthy state to a slightly less filthy state in one of the smaller chambers of the bathhouse.

This of course, did not go unnoticed by the other patrons in this chamber, which caused one kind of ruckus bent on a collision course with another: That of Shadow-Creatures busting through walls and a near-naked Man among men squaring for the second course. But Atli knows how to navigate this situation far better than the Waffle House incident.

It's time to be a bit of a hero.

"Toothbender, the time to redeem yourself is now!!" She announces, raising her spear high before leaping towards the nearest creature with a great cleaving swing. Her battle cry emulates her newest, greatest hero, the first woman she ever saw to wield the power of a magic hammer.

"BYJAPERY!!!"

Dressed entirely in ALL of her usual garb, but soaked through and through, the Asgardian sails through the air to smite ruin upon this shadowy enemy. But perhaps she was distracted by the way Hercules seemed to be so very ripply and onory in his disposition, or perhaps it's the appearance of that woman across the way, holding such an authoritative look, and yet, also somewhat resembling her in in several categories while exceeding Atli in all of them.

It all leads to her swing cleaving into a shadow-beast, but the counter sending her into a tumble that pancackes her upside down into the wall just next to Angela.


It's maw open wide, the beast has no answer for Hercules, no taunts, no soliloquys; no sound at all ripples from the sharpened shadows that is its teeth as it snaps and scrapes at Hercules' hide beneath those sloshing waves for the briefest moments before the reprisal. It is a muted frenzy. A silent berserker. And it is strong. As if, if it had a mind, every single neuron within it was dedicated solely to the very concept of dismantling everything that the PRINCE of POWER represents.

Unfortunately, such single mindedness does not lend to a particularly good defense.

The sound of water jetting upward fills the room as the blackened berserker is launched like an angry ragdoll. It writhes briefly against the spray of water gushing about it, as if still attempting to make its good-faith effort to dismember the God of Strength, but it's short-lived at best before it is formally introduced to the adjacent wall.

It is still crashing through walls in an increasingly fluid mess of shadows as those other sightless beasts rise from pooling unlight, tails snapping and thickening shadows viscously to their bleak lips. Claws twitch as several hunker towards the earth, scratching the wet wood of drenched floorboards.

Want to try again?

The answer comes in toothy maws widening as if to issue roars that never come, silent war cries unleashed into nothing before one bounds for Hercules in a smearing pounce of speed—

— only to be formally introduced to the smiting cleave of an angry redhead who wields violence as her native tongue.

No, not that one.

The other one.

Atli's killing stroke does its work, bisecting the beast viciously at the left shoulder — but not before its tail WHIPS into her with momentum and power that would shatter even the legendarily immense center of gravity of Volstagg the Voluminous; off goes flying the redheaded god of the future…

… but for a split second, the berserkers' attentions seem almost split. Half of them look towards Hercules.

The other half, towards Angela (and, of course, Atli, as she heroically lands face-first, just as intended, beside the mercantile and mercenary angel). Sightless skulls tilt as if in some alien measure of curiosity. Shadows spool outward.

And the beasts split in their lunge; several breaking off in a flurry of seething, silent rage for the faceplanted Asgardian and the threateningly towel-clad Angel, two of them leaping into the air in an attempt to pounce the dual redheads while two more come from beneath to try to drag claws across presumably more vulnerable Achilles tendons.

But the lion's share goes to Hercules still, a trove of the black berserkers seeming to almost meld and flow together as they race between each other in a pack to try to pounce, to try to claw — all of them oddly focused on the God of Strength as the sharpened weapons that are their fingers seemingly trying to slice into godflesh and draw fresh blood from the wellspring of those divine vessels. They divide, to attempt to conquer. Trying to keep these three separated, as if to keep them from pooling their strengths.

Berserk, but not mindless. As if something was directing their actions, like puppets on strings.


As Angela emerges, Hercules is rearing back as one of the Berserkers leaps at him, one hand out to gauge distance as his fist cocks back. He isn't enjoying himself quite yet - he hasn't gotten a proper measure of the challenge before him. "Be right with you!" he calls back, bubbles rising around his feet as his stance cracks the stone beneath.

His fist slams through empty air, scattering the steam and mist and goop in front of him.

"buh"

His gaze tracks to Atli, and he points his finger, oblivious to the increasing rush coming for him. "Asgardian!" he announces, grinning hugely. Herc gives Angela a conspiratorial look. "I can always spot an Asgardian." He winks, as though this should be impressive.

The God of Strength turns back toward the mass, eyes jumping around, taking it in as he squats with his arms out to the sides, hands open. "Also. No." One gets near and begins to scratch toward him - his arm shoots out like a pillar, intercepting its arm and pushing it up against its own head. If that is in fact an Asgardian, and the impact hurled her that hard, he can't afford to pull his punches. His forearm bulges with heavy, flat muscle.

He moves into a pankration sequence, letting go of the creature while slamming a knee into its chest. That foot comes down hard and he twists on his heel, continuing the motion into a wide scything kick, revealing the towel doing its level best to keep him within public rating. Water surges and rolls around him with the power of his strikes, refusing to settle in the pool. A claw nicks at his face - he barely shifts away in time, grimacing in surprise, and slams his head down at the errant Berserker's own.

He tries to scan around through the Berserkers. This many of them, he's going to need to get his hand on his weapon, and his mace is shoved into a locker across the building along with his sandals.


Next to Angela there is now an angry youth stuck to the wall by sheer force of unspent impact momentum. Angela slightly turns her head to observe the other woman out of the corner of her eyes. They may share a moment of looking at each other if the timing is right.

"You are not from here," says Angela. "Or you are a 'cosplayer.'"

There was a con near one of the hotels Angela recently stayed in. She learned a few things.

Then Hercules goes shouting about Asgardians. Angela, her white-iris gaze unmoving, develops a hint of a snarl.

But there is little time for introductions. A gaggle of sightless shadow-beasts comes upon them. Angela, her mind racing in analysis in a way that she cannot wholly defuse, recognizes the pack tactics at play here. The silent fury reminds her of any number of similar beasts she has slain throughout the blood-soaked stars. If their travel vector is shadows, that means —

When Angela decides to move, she moves with the instant, fierce decision of a predator. The sheer confidence in her austere economy of motion hints at either tremendous experience or some kind of supernatural foreknowledge of events. She steps backward into the beast coming up behind her, raising her foot and slamming it down upon the thing's neck. Its claws go off-target and desperate, gashing horrifically down her calf toward her heel.

Angela pays the ghastly wound no mind. Instead, she twists to the side in a clever way, causing the already-committed lunge of the first shadow beast to go off alignment. Angela's left arm blurs out, slapping aside the outstretched claws before her hand ends up on the beast's throat. The shadow-like goop spurts from where her fingers went too deep. She is not being kind.

This would be a very precarious position if Angela didn't immediately rectify that. Shifting her weight, sliding her foot forward to catch the floored beast at the sharper curve where its neck meets its skull, she kicks upward. The hapless shadow-thing, hooked by its anatomy as it is, is lunched sharply upward toward the ceiling. It strikes enough to crater but not to go through.

This means it falls. Angela is waiting, having wrestled the other beast down to its legs. It gives her a wonderful angle to swing it bodily into its plummeting kin. The sound the two make is horrific as they're wrapped around each other more than strictly advisable by most anatomical standards. Angela lets them go careening off into a corner of the pool.

She steps forward, her snarl now more clearly developed. The wound on her leg is already healed up as if it had never happened.

"YOU NEED MORE FOR ME!"


"Ha! That's right! Most impressive, Muscle-Man." This is Atli's response to both Hercules and Angela as she pulls herself free from the wall, dusts off her vester, and casts a beaming smile in Angela's direction. It would be about here that she squints at Angela, watching as she goes about on her rein of terror. One that brings her eyes into focus on their enemy. It steals her breath. It drains action from her to see them, impossibility filling her mind where vengeance should.

She recognizes them.

These Spawn of the All-Black pile towards her with great prejudice, maws opening to reveal black fangs and spittle that hisses as it impacts the water. And no sound, just a hollow thing, and the splashing and grunting of Hercules as a soundtrack to destruction barreling towards her.

But not faster than a heroic goat can barrel towards them.

Hindparts aglow in a all the colors of the rainbow, it's bleating roar drowns the ambitions of a few Shadow-Creatures before it's horns rend through, utterly obliterating one creature and driving two more through the nearby wall and into the light of day, where they will have to face a still-hungry, goatly hero.

A blink brings Atli back to herself, and she cries to the very heavens.

"YES!!!! Do you hear that you leathery fool! It is the sound of-"

Victory.

The rest pile upon her, four or five, driving her back and through the wall she mostly destroyed, a flailing tangle of Asgardian, Black Beserker, and the glint of a very special weapon.

As the fight spills out the hole in the wall and into the street, the clouds above pile in with a darkening vengeance, and while Gorr might need shadows to call upon his army, and this would seem to benefit him, they bring not shadow but terrible thunder, fury, and a flash of light that explodes just outside the bathhouse as Atli summons a lightning blast from the heavens to send her foes flying in all directions.

Stumbling to her feet, clawed and scratched in every which way, with one nasty wound dragging down the side of her neck, electricity arcs across the whole of her body and fills her eyes with a primal rage.

"Come, Gorr!! Show your face and know a might you could never conquer!! That of this muscular man, and his fire-haired companion! And also me! Verily, what i mean is, don't be such a coward and SHOW YOURSELF!!"


The sounds of their bodies breaking make more noise than these Berserkers do; the crack of an arm as it spears through its owner's unlight skull, spraying inky fluid like blood; the sound of its crushing chest, wet and mushy like something solid being eroded to so much mud upon the impact of that titanic knee; the ripping sound of its head being thusly removed from its shoulders with the wide sweep of a kick that skirts the edges of common decency in public prose.

The Berserker is a symphony of sound in its destruction — yet it is but one of a chorus. Another careens in, smashing through another pillar that holds this section of the baths stable. Chunks of beams from above fall, spilling candles in a rain of firelight as the shadow beast goes for Hercules' right arm. It grasps at it in its webbed claws, scratching, clinging, attempting to use the sum whole of its body weight and strength to hold that single limb down —

— and so too does another for his left arm.

All to try to hold him down…

… as a third leaps through the air, its right arm spooling abyssal shadow into the long and deadly point of a blade that impales downward for the Prince of Power's chest. The good news? A way might be open as the creatures try to close rank in swarm tactics around their descending kin. The bad news?

Dealing with the aforementioned descending shadowkin and its similarly aforementioned stabbing stick.

Two beasts come for Angela. Two find themselves decimated with the effortless experience of an Angel who has immersed herself in the hunt… but not without exacting their blood price.

And as those two Berserkers are so violently deposited, practically molded through sheer aggressive force, the other beasts react — not simply to Angela's words, but the splatter of crimson that now decorates the floor beneath her. A single monstrosity of cold deep darkness leaps through the air in a blur of all-black —

— intent to rush -straight- past the red-haired mercenary.

And when it lands near those pools of crimson, mere seconds later the thing is discorporating into an indistinct blob of shadowflesh, that seems to literally engulf the angel's blood. Like the Berserker was absorbing it into itself.

It's something that Angela may not have the time to consider, however; not when a mass of those shadowy beasts rush at her, flowing together as if to become one giant battering ram of wild limbs and gnashing jaws to grant her the refreshingly authentic experience of being ramrodded through several Grecian indoor pool walls, the beams above groaning ever-more precariously. Many more Berserkers, just as requested.

It seems they value their customers' needs here.

There are more that seem intent to chase after their brethren — but they are introduced to the broadside of a runaway goat carried away on beautifully prismatic exhaust. The two Berserkers remaining, bent at ninety degree angles on the horns of the almost-great beast, snare claws upon the back of the aspiring Goatlord, dragging heels into the concrete and asphalt of the outside world until their feet are literally eroded away under all the friction and momentum of trying to slow the uncanny animal down… but still they fight, one attempting to hammer the brave Toothbender's ribs, the other pawing at horns as if it were literally attempting to -rip them off-, despite both their states. As if they had no care nor concern. Nor anything.

Just tools, being wielded by an unseen smith.

And silence is the answer that awaits Atli Wodensdottir as she taunts that unseen force. It's almost mocking, that lack of response, that lack of noise. Like the silence of the gods, turning a blind eye to their mortal lessers. And yet, as she shouts, as that lightning CRACKLES around her to -pierce- through several of those beasts and incinerate them in so much plasmic fury… it does not go unnoticed. That lightning does not go unnoticed. Eyeless skulls turn.

And soon, several Berserkers detach from both their positions near Hercules and Angela, in a mad rush for Atli.

Only one pausing, to dive upon the feast of Atli's spilled godblood, soaking it into itself much as it did Angela's.


As the goat runs through with the camera's focus fully upon it, Hercules's shaggy head is occasionally visible through the mass of shadow creatures. He is watching it with an unreadable expression.

He then resumes his grim work. "You know," he says in snatches, coming up for air. "It would be nice," he front-kicks a small slice of them out from before him. "If these things just," an open-hand slap bowls one into three of its kin. "Jeered a little!" A Berserker wraps around his right arm, dropping from above, finally winning a few drops of blood through his divine skin. He cocks back to punch it off. "This is more like swimming in ugly waters than fighting!"

The second Berserker takes hold of his arm mid-swing. Even its weight and power cannot fully arrest an intent Hercules, but the drag does pull his fist away from true. He stumbles as his arms briefly tangle, which is the opportunity the creatures needed to drag him off his feet. "Koprophagos!" he shouts at them.

The third is beginning to wind up. Hercules strains, but his leverage is lost.

The enormous lightning blast startles the Berserkers, buying Herc the precious second he needs before they decide to charge Atli, reducing the density around him. His limbs find purchase where previously they did not.

"You DARE," he roars, "attempt to pin down the God of Strength?!" The ground cracks further under him, slabs of the stone forming the base of the pool rising up around him. "I? Anax Hercules Promachus!?"

The roaring of a selection of his epithets seems to fill him with yet further vigor. Muscles bulging and reddening, he twists one way and the other, wrenching the Berserkers off of the ground, his hands seizing on their arms for a change as he uses them to batter the third to pieces. He slams them together and, lifting his arms high, drops low as he slams them into the pool's floor with all of his remarkable strength.

The water around him no longer is. It blows away from him in a circular wave. The entire bath-house shakes, more of the ceiling collapsing down as cracks, rifts spread in the pool from the point of impact. Even foes as powerful as the Berserkers may be hard-pressed to stay on their feet near the impact zone. Hercules pulls his arms free of the stone he drove them into, dirt and gravel falling from them, the water dripping from his hair and beard.

"The blood," he says, unnecessarily. "They're after our blood."


Angela has a moment idleness in which to indulge. As always, she chooses to use it productively. She glances to her side, where Atli has taken the fight to the street. Lightning. The mask of her battle-fury does not slip. She has heard tale.

And then the beasts are upon her, come for another lesson in futility. She —

— recognizes that the leaping trajectory is off. Angela hesitates to see what this unusual madness is about, as it does not fit their patterns until now. A useful insight may present itself for gleaning.

Instead, the shadow-thing appears to suck the blood into itself. Her blood. Angela's lips curl back in a vibrant mixture of disgust and fury.

"Bonethief," she hisses. "Disgusting."

They dare by throwing off Angela's calculations through exponential combination. The flowing mass of murder-maws slams into the angel with eerie quiet, save for the immediate consequence of the entire mess plowing through no less than three reinforced concrete walls on the way out to the street. A clear trail of torn-up and torn-down destruction is left for the new wave of monsters chasing to join the pile-on.

For a moment, Angela is engulfed by shadow. The powers of hers witnessed by Hercules thus far have been remarkable: great agility, durability, and speed. The middle of the three has already proven insufficient against the divinely wicked teeth of these beasts. And now, pinned as she is, surrounded, trapped —

The storefront of the baths are gifted a new mosaic painted in liquid shadow. It is a bit abstract, but it speaks strongly of violence. Art is supposed to make you feel something, isn't it?

Angela, having crested the vicious cocoon of shadows and teeth by virtue of her fists, remains surrounded on all sides. Her eyes, wide. Her face, stiff. This is killing intent.

The redhead tenses, extends, rears back, and then slams her fists directly into the pavement. The next moments happen quickly: the shadow-things are burst apart back into component creatures, flung in all directions along with a few chasing kin who got too close to the shockwave. Angela stands there briefly, free, and then she disappears.

A cold and wild wind blows through the street. Angela reappears a split-second later, several feet away. The airborne monsters explode into a shower of severed limbs and mauled bodies behind her, pieces flying in all directions.

The next wave comes upon Angela. The murder has not left her eyes. Her body is streaked in blood from wounds that have already healed. They will come for her. They will want something that does not belong to them.

The first creature leaps for her. Angela flickers forward, appearing by its side. Her arms blur invisibly, and she has already turned away by the time the beast has exploded from a hundred strikes across the length of its body. Two more come from odd angles, trying to flank her. Angela seemingly teleports forward again, and the two beasts with her — she has them both by their tails, and repeatedly swings them into a faux pillar that takes three strikes before collapsing. It was enough.


It is a dire predicament, to be certain, for the Goatlord-Who-Is-Not, and given Toothbender's advanced reasoning skills, highly developed temperment, and obvious knack for a cautious approach to any battle, he does the only thing he really can do with twin berserkers trying to claw his horns completely off. There is a sound born from the heavens, but not called downward in the way such dark magics often are on Midgard. No, this comes from the rear of the goat, it's rainbow-tinted trail turning to a bright flash of Bifrost energy that takes the goat and it's new friends on a ride.

ON MUSPELHEIM.

Brogus, Firefiend, nudges at a smoldering rock with his firespear, and then sighs to his companion, Grobus, Flamekin. "So what do you feel like doing today, Grobus?" The flash of light interrupts the response from Grobus, who no doubt already knew that a goat would arrive bearing fresh entertainment, Toothbender spinning, thrashing, and finally kicking every which way until he sends the two Shadow-beasts spiraling into the group of fire demons that Brogus and Grobus are, in theory, the leaders of. They look to one another, and look at the rising shadows.

"Burn?!"

"Yes BURN!!!"

"BURN IT'S MOUTHPARTS ESPECIALLY."

"ALL SHALL BURN!!"

ON MIGARD

The revelation that Hercules is not simply some 'Swolebro' as the Midgardians call them spurs her to a renewed action, and watching him earn his title in real time by cowering the very earth beneath him and utterly destroying those creatures who dare enter his range sends her heart racing. So too does the way Angela turns these creatures inward with such power and impossible speed it is nearly unthinkable to track, her eyes wide as she struggles to take it all in, for not since witnessing the Man of Magnets crush a whole host of men in metal suits until their insides spilled out has she been privvy to such wondrous violence.

It only occurs to her then that Loki may have warned her about this woman. What was it he said, in her dream? "Hello there, Shieldmaiden of Destruction. Would your name happen to be Ultraviolence? Because that was qui-"

'They're after our blood'.

This brings Atli's attention to where it belongs, and she points her spear at the one who thinks to sample her leavings. "Unhand my fluids, shadow-puppet, they are not for idle lapping!!"

The many creatures come for Atli, and while she conducts herself in most battles as someone without a care in the world, these are the creatures that ruined her existence, in a time far from this place. They were different then, under the command of the Butcher of Worlds, but never did she get a chance to pay him such vengeance as he deserved. Today, she rises to the level of her happenstance companions, whirling her spear about and diving towards her foes with a long arc of Thor-blooded might that shears shadowy flesh. They go low and high, and she meets them at each turn, thrusting and parrying, treating them all as if they were worthy combatants instead of simple tools, and putting Old King Thor's training to good use, until finally landing atop the one that thought to drink her in, and instead letting it drink in her spear.

Whirling, almost back to back with Hercules now, as the building crumbles around them, she begins again. "As I was saying, Lady Ultr-"

Black shadow splatters over her as Angela annihilates several of the creatures, leaving her covered in horrible ichor THAT UGH GOT IN HER MOUTH and oh thank the realms she's in a bathhouse… that HERCULES KNOCKED ALL THE WATER OUT OF.

Atli spits the blackstuff sidelong, grimacing as if she were a Jedi Master savoring fresh blue milk, and then she prepares to for the next wave. "Hel's bells."

Because she knows better than anyone, this could be unending.


The Berserkers are strong — tremendously so. Their grip is as iron as it is cold, like being touched by the bleak nothing before divinity inflicted creation on all.

You DARE attempt to pin down the God of Strength?!

But they are not nearly so strong as the God that bests exemplifies it.

Against a paragon of power such as this, numbers are their ally. But even numbers cannot contain the raw amount of force that Hercules brings to bear in that brief sliver of precious, distracted time. Two used as weapons obliterate the third. And with one singularly mighty blow…

… as Angela and Atli wage their war outside amidst swerving traffic and fleeing citizens, they will see the entire, refurbished factory shudder tremulously. As if it was being rocked by an extremely localized earthquake. Glass shatters and blows outward. Ceiling crumbles down. Water gushes out of blown out openings to spill onto the streets and mingle with bright blood and sloughing shadow.

And within that billowing shockwave, the body parts of broken Berserkers caught in the impact point fly through the air surrounding Angela and Atli like a rain of abyssal detritus.

Within, there is little else inside the bath house, smote raw by the fist of god, but the selfsame god that did that smiting. Hercules' path is free and clear to his weapon, where —

MEANWHILE, AT THE LOCKERS

We lied. Hercules is not the only person inside the bath house.

Swinging his way out of the shower stalls, SCOTT ADSIT, AGENT OF SHIELD is all but oblivious to the violence around him thanks to the glories of ultra-large headphones and the relaxing tunes of Rupert Holmes' 'Escape' played on repeat. He hums along, somehow, some way, only able to sing parts of the lyrics as he goes rifling through his locker —

— when the entire building shakes so violent that SCOTT ADSIT, AGENT OF SHIELD is thrown right off his feet.

"WAGH I'M GOING TO DIE!" SCOTT ADSIT, AGENT OF SHIELD proclaims bravely, hands swinging up over his face. When he doesn't, in fact, die, he blinks, waits for the tremors to stop, and looks outside…

… to find a small army of shadow monsters facing down farting goats and barely clad gods and also someone looks like they're just teleporting around like in one of those Japanese animations.

He stares, for a long moment of silence. And then he sees it. From the corner of his eye. A glint of gold. A legendary weapon. His eyes widen at the adamantine weapon. "By the power of Greyskull…!"

People out there need his help. And with this, he could help them—! "Okay. Okay Scott. You can do this. This is your time to shine…!"

And this is the story of how Hercules may very well find a balding, out of shape agent of shield dressed in the world's saddest towel slowly trying to budge his golden mace out the doors of the lockers with both hands. His entire scalp is red with exertion.

"I… have… the power…!"

SCOTT ADSIT, AGENT OF SHIELD really doesn't, though.

BACK OUTSIDE!

The Black Berserkers do not think, unless they are told to. They do not feel, unless they ae allowed to. They simply attack, and attack, and attack, every blow of their limbs, every carve of their claws, every swing of their blades, infused with the cold unpleasant nothingness that seems to reject and repel the very essence of what makes a god.

They are a piece of a greater whole, limbs being swung at pests that invade and disease populations with nothing of benefit to provide. They are the fly swatters.

These deities, the flies.

And yet powerful flies they are. The Goatlord brings a pair to the land of fire where all things will one day burn in the glorious ends of time, given a preview of the opening act as fire demons swarm upon them en masse, far, far away. Many more are carved apart by the edge of the Jarnbjorn; the weapon built to cleave the armor of Celestials treats the Berserkers' raw unflesh like the softest of butters, creating a veritable fountain of ichorous black fluid to complement the destruction that Angela rains in from above before she ends it all by IMPALING that one, feasting Berserker straight through its skull. It slumps, lifelessly.

Violence rings through the skies above. So many fragments of liquefying abyss splatter across the streets below, perhaps adding or diminishing the property value of various adjacent buildings depending on how much people in New York are still enamored with superhero culture. And through it all, the angel is barely seen, butchering the implements of the Butcher in a matter of moments. In the aftermath?

A brief reprieve. A moment, perhaps, to catch their breaths. The shadow creatures' numbers are thinning now, but there ae still a plentiful amount more. Another wave will be coming.

Because this reckoning is one that can never be sated.

Hel's bells, utters Atli. And as she does — a Berserker LUNGES at her from behind, claws going for vulnerable throat—

"Well, I'm certainly not going to find a better opening than that."

— at which point a shimmering portal of green opens up above Atli and her assailant. And out drops —

"MURDERMURDERMURDERMURDER"

An adorably, fluffily enthusiastic murder machine of a puppy, eyes blazing as orange as the fire that spills from its maw as it lands upon the head of the Black Berserker, biting angrily and belching bubbling flames into its shadowy hide, distracting it long enough for Atli to make her killing blow.

A Hel hound. An adorable little Hel hound. Property of —

"Don't let me interrupt," mentions the raven-haired Goddess of Mischief, perched in a step of shimmering green up above them all as she carefully flips through a smartphone. "It looks like you all have your hands full."

And certainly, they do, as that last wave of Berserkers come leaping from the rooftops, bounding for the two redheads outside with relentless, murderous intent, several of them detaching to try to -tackle- Atli into the well-bloodied Angela as several more spring upon the Berserker she murdered to start to devour -it-.

Is Loki Laufeysdottir going to help?

"FEAST UPON YOUR FLABBY HINDQUARTERS!"

Obviously she already is.


O! Muse! We sing of… continuing a scene after a break…

Hercules (prince of power etc.) has a moment after his horrific shockwave, having cleared the space around him for several yards, set off multiple car alarms, made a local dog go bugfuck, and knocked over a distant night secretary's coffee. He exhales, wipes goop off his foreams, makes sure his towel is tightened (but not too tightened) and trudges off to the locker room as though nothing is happening.

He happens upon the legendary SCOTT ADSIT, AGENT OF SHIELD pulling away at his mace, and not in a gross way. "Good eve!" he announces nonchalantly, reaching over him to secure his sandals and raiment. "'scuse me."

The towel hits the ground.

A few moments later, a properly-clad (for his standards) Hercules pats SCOTT ADSIT, AGENT OF SHIELD on the shoulder, reaching over to grip his mace further up the haft. "You're trying, friend, and I respect that." He easily pulls the legendary weapon up and out of the locker, potentially with SCOTT still attached.

THEN

Herc steps out from the hole in his once-favorite bathhouse (though truth be told he didn't feel too strongly about it one way or the other) with his golden mace over one shoulder and a possibly upset agent over the other. He gives the Hel hound a narrowed look for a moment before he picks out the subtle differences between it and the type he's used to. "Does the Asgardian bring a goat and a dog?" he muses, looking around and spotting -

"Loki!" Hercules calls up. "It looks like someone stole your scary-teeming-black-hordes prank!" He lifts the mace up toward her in salute. "Looking good, by the way. New shoes?" Before the Berserkers notice he's back, hopefully, he steps to the side and swings his mace into the mass going after Atli, holding SCOTT ADSIT, AGENT OF SHIELD toward her by the nape of his neck. It's not as uncomfortable as it seems - Hercules has deceptively soft hands.

"Can your goat give this poor soul a ride somewhere safe, or do I have to throw him?" He looks at him. "With your consent, of course."


"I am no shieldmaiden," Angela spits while in the middle of her sometimes-unseeable rampage. One may hope that she is only spitting because there's so much violence being done and it's hard not to sound a little angry while you're working hard like that.

There is a momentary peace. Angela seems to hesitate briefly, but it is only her idiosyncratic way of assuring that there are no further shadow-things about to immediately strike. When one's senses are as keen as hers, sometimes glancing wildly about is the lesser of sensory options.

Angela straightens her posture, running her hands alongside her head to get her hair back into place. It has mostly dried now thanks to all the wind rushing through her hair, and her fingers threading through seems all it takes to give it a more put-together sense of controlled volume.

Some people are blessed.

This frivolous gesture hides the grim parade of thoughts in Angela's mind. She plays the last several moments of combat through her mind. She feels again the sensation of nothingness that came when her skin was split those dozen-odd times, and the many more where she split their skin. It is not mere antipathy. No, she has felt the dissonant repulsiveness of the Hellspawn many a time. This was something else.

Something that could hurt her with ease. Her, mistress of all hunts. If not for her speed —

A berserker approaches. It makes no noise, but Angela can hear the noise other things make in its passing. She does not show great concern for it because she can tell it's about to attempt to murder Asgardian. It is about the time that the portal opens that Angela begins to think that perhaps she should play a card from her sleeve and put on some kind of clothing.

Angela turns, finally, to glance at what's come of all this. She observes dispassionately the mouthy little fangy animal — operational difference between the non-mouthy little fangy animals they're fighting — but grows subtly yet visibly perturbed when she looks up to the floating woman.

Angela has never seen her before. But, she feels like — there's — something? The not knowing but feeling like she should makes her teeth ache. Hercules gives her an excuse to stop thinking about this as he comes out, also dressed and talking names. Clearly their bathhouse agreement has concluded and she may move on with her life. There are Asgardians here, but the ruse is not yet dead. They must already suspect her as Hercules does, of simply being someone of certain means.

"There are more coming. I have nearly had my fill of this novelty."

Angela flickers again, disappearing. A second later, she is once more in place, but is now grimly buttoning up a dress shirt to match her 'new' slacks and dress shirts.

"Your Greek baths are a tactical weakness, Hercules."

Another tactical weakness is worrying about clothes when another wave of Berserkers comes manifesting from nowhere and bounding into the strangely familiar redhead next to you in an attempt to tackle you both. Angela turns to glare at the last moment, and then elects to reply in kind by throwing her shoulder into the whole mess and counter-tackling Atli back into the Berserkers with enough force to send them all scattering in every last direction that can be scattered to, like a bomb-burst of bodies.

Angela skids to a halt. She begins to roll up her sleeves very tidily.


'MURDERMURDERMURDERMURDER'

Never a more pleasant sound has Atli ever heard, as this adorable murder-puppy appears and begins mangling the creature that sought to be her end. It draws her eyes wide, watching the unbidden carnage through to it's end, until finally she shouts most enthusiastically. "Good dog! Now go and do that again and again to all the rest of those things and the-" But then the rest are coming, and Atli is tackled over and towards Angela, losing her cape as she goes in a tumble of claws and fangs and malcontent, one that seems ready to assure the end of Thor's noble line.

And while that line might indeed end one day, it is not this day.

Once again, as if to answer the question of the Prince of Power, the Bifrost doth appear, and one can imagine a crescendo of music playing, as if to signal some (false) hope that a hero has arrived to save the day. Really, no one would blame you for thinking that, but instead the goat has only brought about thirty fire-demons with him.

Oops.

Brogus, Firefiend, tumbles to the pavement in the aftermath.

Grobus, Flamekin, tumbles after.

Twenty-Eight others rise behind them, and all have the same reaction to this odd place.

Not nearly enough things are being BURNED. Including these shadow things, which seem so very resistant to BURNING.

"BURN! BURN!"

They clash with Shadow-Berserkers, each fire demon wholly unmatched, but they do fight in a very unfair way, piling three or four on one in much the same way the Berserkers sought to do to Atli. Smoldering and shaking his hide of ash, Toothbender seems to hear Hercules' request, and flying through the air he does snatch the errant Agent Adsit from the Prince of Power to carry him out the other side of the building, and possibly leaving the rest of them to die. Really, Toothbender favored Hercules here because he seemed to be winning the most. It is all Atli can do to not call him a disloyal cur.

But what of the Wodendottir? Well, she's being piles upon by avatars of death itself, and indeed with the goat having decided to save someone else, and the distraction of the fire demons being little more than that, she might well be doomed. But Angela's countershove proves Atli's Asgardian mass a good weapon, and while Angela is buttoning up her clothes, Atli is tumbling end over end until she finally comes to a halt herself.

"Well if not a Shieldmaiden, then I would know the truth of you, for I have had my share of impressive warriors this week, and you deserve your rightful place as someone to aspire to. Your Hercules friend over there, and all his muscles on his muscles, Noble Barnes, solemn but fierce, and then there is the Woman With The Hammer, and my Aunt Loki, with her great big bendy h-"

Just then she spots Loki and sits up, giving a sudden, over-zealous wave.

"Aunt Loki!! Is that your dog?! Do you have a moment to spare your great big bendy horns to help in our bo-"

Atli really has no luck finishing her sentences, for even as she rises - a great shadow-spine spears through her mid-section from the back. "Erk!!"

There is a flail of her spear, which does the job, but the shadow bit persists, and the beings are indeed still coming.


INSIDE

"C'mon… Adsit… you can do it…! You were gonna be… an Olympic archer-!!"

So says SCOTT ADSIT, AGENT OF SHIELD, brimming with such immense determination that he looks liable to burst a precious and vital blood vessel at any moment. Or that might be from the strain of trying in vain to emphatically tug the legendary mace of Hercules.

But not in a gross way.

Which is precisely when he introduced to the legendary mace of Hercules.

But not in a gross way. You prudes.

"By Odin's beard…!"

Perhaps the wrong choice of words, but suffice to say, SCOTT ADSIT, AGENT OF SHIELD is rendered utterly dumbstruck by the presence of the actual Olympian that he just sort of stands there face red as a beet about to explode from exertion until Hercules just up and plucks his mace up and waltzes away with it.

With SCOTT ADSIT, AGENT OF ASGARD just sort of dangling from it like a helpless, confused, (balding) kitten.

"… Why couldn't I have been a god…?"

Woe be to the tragedy of SCOTT ADSIT.

AGENT OF SHIELD.

OUTSIDE

"Rrg! Shadowflesh tastes like goat piss! Puke you into the Ginnungagap!"

So proclaims the overeager Hel pup as he takes a big chunk out of his newest, ablaze prey.

Which does not in the least stop him from continuing to bite and tear off chunks of shadowstuff in all his zest for violence, clung to the back of the Berserker and wholly unstoppable until the very second the flailing Berserker grabs and -chucks- the furry fiend by the scruff through a shattered wall of the bathhouse just as Hercules waltzes his way comfortably through (with SCOTT ADSIT in tow).

"PLAY FETCH WITH YOUR SORRY SCROTUM!"

CRASH

"ghh"

Give him a second.

"best of all dogs"

In the meantime, Loki, Princess of Lies, seems quite comfortably content with watching all of this unfold from above like a fascinated audience member watching a particularly bizarre play (just like the classics of old); the services of her animal are quite clearly all she really need offer, which is why she is happy to strike up conversation instead. To wit:

"Was that my prank? I could have sworn that was Hermes. Perhaps my memory is finally failing me. Either way," muses Loki to Hercules, as a gaggle of shadowbeasts are bludgeoned into the heavens by a single stroke of that gilded mace, mangled bodies spiraling past the trickster like a wave of limbs,

"I was certainly not quite as committed to the bit as all this." A second passes by.

New shoes?

"Close." The Goddess of Mischief taps her gilded crown. "New horns. I have to say, your new accessory looks quite fetching on you, too."

From his shoulder perch, SCOTT ADSIT, AGENT OF SHIELD waves weakly.

And next:

"Yes, I suppose I'm the one who's been saddled with him," explains Loki to Atli quite amiably, astutely overlooking her request for help as fire demons spill out of a puncture wound in spacetime; for every one Berserker they bring down, five of them are smothered to death under the violent force of the black beasts, ground into cratering concrete or guttered out on the end of a burning blade or hammered into so much flaming paste by literal hammers even as they do their good work in burning down and distracting the creatures' numbers, bit by bit. "It's quite a long story, which normally I'd be more than happy to indulge in-"

*SHUNK* goes the shadowy tip through Atli's abdomen, before its wielder is thusly smited by the broad edge of the Jarnbjorn.

"-but I rather think this isn't an ideal story time. Suffice it to say, you can certainly find intriguing things in the deep dark depths of Hel when people simply do not want you to find them."

And for Angela:

No words are spared at all as the angel spares that decisive counter-momentum to bowl through Asgardian and Berserker alike in a true show of unbridled efficiency. Loki simply looks Angela's way as she looks hers.

And she smiles her sweet, little smile, as she innocently muses on the lost dark secrets of Hel. If that smile looks somehow conspiratorial in such a context, well…

The Goddess of Mischief certainly can't help people's perceptions, can she?

But it is just as the hunter rolls up her sleeves in the classic 'takin' care of business' stylings of olden times that the Berserkers react. They would seem almost unending as they claw their way back up, as they seem to just /sprout/ from pooling black nothing — and yet, their tactics seem to change yet again. Those that charge are just as frenzied and fanatically committed to attempting to kill their chosen prey as they have been since the beginning, and yet — they are not all attacking now. Several of them — the ones, it should be noted, who have been obsessively stealing scrapes of blood when and where they can — start to simply /dissolve/ away into winding, inky strands of abyssal smoke, wafting swiftly upwards into the heavens and seeming to almost… slip between the little openings of space and what is when they can get high enough away. Those that remain — some lunging upon the injured Atli to try to pin her to the earth and gorge upon her, some dropping on Angela from above to grip at limbs and try to -tear- them off of her with all their forceful violence, some tackling even Loki, just trying to enjoy her evening, towards the ground to impale her on a horde of blades (rude).

And some of them—

"I EMPHATICALLY DO NOT CONSENT."

— some of them fly for Hercules, powerful maws first, as SCOTT ADSIT, AGENT OF SHIELD lets out his bravest, shrillest scream.

"I CONSENT I CONSENT THROW ME"

They are trying to kill. To murder gods and assorted others like zealots to a cause.

But it is clear, to anyone with seasoned experience: they are just stalling for time. These are the dregs. The last line.

Buying time, for their kin to escape past the boundaries of what is.


Perhaps if Hercules had managed to be wounded more - which he most certainly would have, if not for a series of lucky breaks during the fight - his spirits would be more dimmed. He waggles his mace at Angela with a broad grin. "Hey now! This kind of thing only happens at the bad Greek baths!"

The goat appears with a pile of fire demons. 'Bad goat,' thinks Herc. Toothbender then snatches the Shield Agent out of his hand, shortly after his emphatic consent. 'Good goat,' the thinks, coming around quickly. Taking one second to make sure the demons aren't coming after them - or surrounding buildings - he finishes: "Besides, there aren't a lot of socially acceptable places to get in a fight while fully nude in modern society. The march of time is a real nightmare."

He somehow manages to wink at Angela, Atli, and Loki simultaneously. This is the power of a god.

The posturing exposes him, his desire to flirt almost as much of a fatal flaw as his impulsivity, temper, and susceptibility to a centaur's very bad blood. Any response to Loki is delayed as a Berserker's maw closes around his left forearm, piercing through and drawing a generous spurt of blood. "Fuck!" he cusses, smashing down at it with his adamantine mace, clenching his fist tight against the pain.

Even having her nature more firmly confirmed by the way she speaks with Loki, the sight of a speartip bursting through Atli's body is alarming and bracing, though the sight of his own blood is what really does it. The god of strength spits on his hand, eyebrows drawing low beneath his leather headgear, and he sets is forward foot before stepping into the rush of Berserkers coming for him, chopping across into their mass.

"You know what, Angela?" He gives his head a shake, clearing more water from his thick curls. "I think I'm agreeing with you on these things overstaying their welcome."

Perhaps foolishly, he takes Loki at her word that this one isn't on her - which fits. Loki would never do something so gauche as to set a horde of beasts that don't even talk shit on him without at least leaving a cryptic message in a plate of grits 'n' eggs.


Angela briefly ceases her neatly-aligned sleeve rolling when she feels the celestial hum of the impending Bifrost event. She watches with a countenance that is as neutral as one can be while looking so stern. Maybe she can't help it. Maybe it's how she was raised.

Her otherworldly cred is only futher built when her reaction to the sight of thirty fire-demons teleporting in to do battle with a horde of ominously silent shadow goop monsters is to watch. That all sides of this muse-sang story may be told equally, it is a novel thing to watch. By the end of it, Angela ranks the fire-demons poorly against the shadow-things. The Midgard tournament bracket progresses.

Angela turns her head to send a glare toward Atli when the younger woman utters words about knowing truth. There is a certain aggressiveness in her posture and expression that makes it seem like she's about to offer some brutal repartee. This never comes to pass because Atli won't. stop. talking.

Until she's impaled. Angela decides that this is cosmic balancing of the scales and silently accepts the divine hand of market forces.

Said divine hand also delivers into Angela's lap a piercing taunt in the form of a dialogue aside that Angela knows to be obvious foreshadowing. The person who would yell about it being obvious foreshadowing is not here right now, so Angela merely thinks it.

Thinking about it makes her frown. This provides a lovely bit of symmetry between the luxurious and theatrical smiling woman floating casually in the air and the spartan and blunt frowning woman standing with martial poise on the ground. No one is here to yell about this symmetry either.

"Have heart, Hercules," says Angela. "I sense this scene is near finished."

Again, Angela is working for two right now.

The final wave comes. For Angela, it comes as a tidal wave of shadowed maws crashing down from above. Angela's pale-irised focus briefly on the strands winding their ways toward the heavens. She recognizes a rearguard maneuver when she sees one.

As the rest of the besieged are dealing with the frenzied last gasps of the Berserkers, Angela tenses in preparation. The world slows around her. She looks up at the incoming fiends. They are cunning, but not clever. They seek to block her with numbers and threat of teeth. What they do not know is that Angela does not need wings to fly.

The redhead pushes off from the ground, leaving a webwork of cracks in the pavement from the force. She bursts through the attack of Berserkers, choosing one to face rather than them all. The horde pierced, the two of them go tumbling upward. Angela wrestles with the cold-skinned creature, blood streaking the white of her shirt as she strongarms the beast into a disadvantageous position.

There, in the sky, a resounding CRACK. Angela lets go of the beast, allowing it to slide off her knee whre she broke it. A puddle rains to the ground.

Angela, her flesh knitting together once more, turns her attention to one of the last departing strands. She glides forward, using both hands to attempt to yank it away from where the others are escaping.

She has wrestled snakes before. It is very annoying. However, she is currently very annoyed.


Pain spills into Atli Wodendottir's soul, an eternal mix not unlike the one she felt in Asgard's vault of old, facing down a beam of lancing heat that would have obliterated the only people in this world that might call her friend. Here and now, it is little different, save for who menaces them. Not some soulless metal monster, not with Odin barely tugging it's strings. No, these puppets are directed in a different way, sourced from the same thing that was responsible for her future's fall. The black substance seems to coil back into her wound, wisping away with the death of the one who bore it, but the pain and anger do not go with it.

Before they all saw it, a flash of her heritage born in a blast of lightning to send these creatures scattering. As they come for her now, a last desperate dash, it does not occur to her that they have some malign purpose, other than ripping her head off. Here, in the presence of a woman who stands tall and proud, and snarls at her in that cold disregard, she is quite honestly reminded of her mother. Here in the presence of a man who tears creatures limb from limb with a happy, reckless abandon, she is quite honestly reminded of her father.

Both lost to another oblivion.

Atli shall not let such kindred souls find loss again.

Lightning coils around her arms, the storm complains across the whole of the city's sky, and as Gorr seeks to bring a shadow due for any who might be his enemy, Atli brings thunder in the same way. Bristling in the air, they will all feel it, raising the hairs of the arm and scenting an ozone miasma, something at least one here may be none too fond of.

But such is the measure of anger that Atli has, that Gorr would seek to destroy her new friends, companions in battle, that she unleashes the total power of heritage, and the sky begins to rain small bits of fire…

Just before it begins to lay siege to each an every shadow with a cacophony of lightning strikes that pile upon each and every one of them again and again, energy lighting them up from the inside as the heavens burn and Atli holds her spear to the screaming sky.

Maybe Gorr isn't here to be killed. Maybe she can only scorch his fingertips by burning the puppets at the end of them, but oh shall she test the measure of his resolve in this way, as she unleashes the full force of her fury.


And away goes SCOTT ADSIT, AGENT OF SHIELD.

"oh thank goddddddddddddddd-"

He was probably thanking Hercules there.

Probably.

Blood is scored on the God of Strength. Jaws sink with cold certainty, bloodying Hercules' shoulder just as greedily as it bloodies its gullet. Seconds later, its body is thusly smote from its head like a the angry removal of an engorged tick. The thunderous blow -splatters- the thing across the ground.

And as Hercules demonstrates the limitlessness of a God of Strength by all but obliterating the rush of Berserkers that silently scream for him with one titanic chop…

… other Berserkers lunge on the soupy remains of their splattered, blood-soaked kin, absorbing, devouring.

Fleeing.

Others, leaping upon the good Lady Loki, tear at her. They dismember, ripping at limbs, clawing at face… and yet they seem to pause, confused, for the briefest moment, as no godblood pours fresh and free from her multitudinous wounds, not from her severed arm or fractured skull —

*SHUNK*

The reason for that becoming painfully clear as the sharpened tip of the Laevateinn impaling them all straight through.

The Loki beneath them dissolving into shards of green like some sort of Final Fantasy boss, the one behind smiles sweetly, even as green magic lights up the shadow-soaked edge of her buried blade.

"That was very unkind, you know. I was in the middle of some very vital narration."

And they thusly /explode/ as chaotic jade magic unwinds them all into their most basic elements, a silent symphony of cold nothing splattering the walls of the shattered bathhouse to add to the Jackson Pollock painting Angela has crafted of it. She feels the icy ichor splatter across her cheek. Dark green lips twist.

"Uch. Rude. Thori! Show them what we do to the rude, please!"

And out of the depths of the bathhouse leaps THORI—

"Not Thori!!"

— NOT THORI (insists the Hel pup), soaring to viciously attack the face of one of the encroaching Berserkers with fiery maw and cocked leg.

"Canine of Calamitous Intent! BEST OF ALL DOGS!"

"He's a bit of a work in progress, but he -is- very passionate," explains Loki, ever-mildly. "Much like his namesake."

Whether that is a good thing or a bad thing, well, Loki leaves that to the audience to decide.

As it stands, the throngs of strange mute threats have diminished greatly by the time that Angela demonstrates to them -exactly- what she is capable of. Heavensward she flies; some of them cling to her like contrails rippling off the back of a rocket, but the sheer g-force of her acceleration eventually sheds them all, leaving them to peel off of her in a hail of shadowy debris splattering helter-skelter across the cracked and ruinous streets below. They are soon join by their broken companion, rent at an ugly angle, the breaking of its body its only sound as it descends limply and wetly through the heavens.

Heavens that soon start to swell with the plasmic heat of a coming storm of both a figurative and quite destructively literal variety.

Sparks of static racing up the back of her neck, ionizing air filling her nostrils, Loki just closes her eyes, sighs in a suffering way, and takes a single step backwards, under the helpful roof of the devastated AIRE bath house.

Enemy or ally, a Loki can never be too careful when there is thunder afoot.

And with blinding flashes of lightning, unbridled physical force, deleterious speed, mischievous magic and the enthusiastic cocking of legs, those remaining Berserkers are wiped off the face of the earth — leaving painful, harrowing reminders of their existence in the bleak black smears that freshly decorate the earth amongst cracked concrete and scorched asphalt.

And through the storm, Angela finds her prey; she grips upon twining strands of dark and finds herself wrestling with a snake that seems to be persistently, mindlessly slithering through unseen boundaries in space.

That Angela may be snake wrangling in four dimensions might be cause for slightly further annoyance is likely a tribute how greatly terrifying a hunter she truly is.

Eventually, it is torn free from its cosmic escape, even as the others disappear. And beneath her:

Nothing left now, but the signs of glorious battle, baptizing the bathhouse as a now truly authentic Ancient Greek experience.

"The End!" proclaims Lady Loki, capping off the tale being told in lieu of any other storytellers that might be woefully lacking. She wipes off her hands, Laevateinn disappearing in a crackling flash of emerald as she surveys the destruction.

(meanwhile, in the background, Thori Deathripper lunges upon Hercules' herculean shadow with a cry of "MURDER TO ALL SHADOWS!", mauling the overcast ground with gleeful abandon)

"Well, that was quite disagreeable!" Loki exclaims as Thori spits fire at shadowy pavement with a snarl of "bastard bastard bastard". Her brows heft, just so. "You still have a knack for getting yourself in trouble, don't you?"

And given the current roster, it is patently unclear who she's talking to.


"I DON'T LIKE THAT"

Hercules brings his mace down on one of the Berserkers as it consumes his blood. He punts at another one before grabbing onto his arm, gritting his teeth. Ironically, Hercules feels legitimate pain so rarely that he's kind of a baby about it.

Atli calls down the storm. Angela becomes a wind of slaughter. Thori does, shall we say, a big atacc. Hercules has no such grand display that he can accomplish without shattering New York a little further than would be socially acceptable.

What he is is implacable. Herc slaps at his wound one last time, growls through it, and gets to work. His mace is more like a farming implement than a weapon in this, as the Berserker horde finally things enough that he doesn't have to kill one thing to have room to kill another thing. He stands in place, kicking and crushing until, gradually, things wind down.

The God of Strength lets the golden head of his mace hit the ground tip-first with a musical clink, leaning on it. His left hand is soaked with his blood, leaving a streak on his cheek as he wipes sweat from the corner of his eye. He sucks in a breath as he glances at Atli. "When we have a second, could I see that weapon of yours?" Then, finally, he pushes upright, bracing the mace across his back, hanging his arms on it. He grunts as he stretches, midsection flexing, his back making a series of pops. "Alright," he says to Angela. "What'd you want to talk about?" Herc grins at her.

BUT ALSO, IN MARGIN DOODLES:

"Wait." He looks at Loki. "You named it 'Thori?'"

"BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA"


From the ground, a silent drama plays out as Angela flies back and forth while wrestling a shadow snake. The redhead zips this way and that, twisting and pulling, becoming entangled and disentangled. It is difficult to tell how much of it is intentional and how much is a peril of cosmic snake wrangling. It may be best not to question an expert.

After the lightning has cleared and the day has been won, Angela floats back into conversational range and alights upon the ground. She has the snake wrapped around one arm, tail clutched in that same hand while she pins the head with her free arm. Neat and tidy, just like her shirt.

Her shirt that is now soaked in blood.

(Angela is still frowning.)

"Our conversation necessitates postponement until the matter of my stolen blood is resolved," says Angela. The snake thing on her arm squiggles. Angela bashes it against a nearby car hood. It ceases squiggling.

Angela turns her hard gaze upon Loki, whose name she now knows because half of Hercules' use as a companion is that he will loudly shout out everyone's name when he sees them. Everyone requires a Greek chorus for exposition.

"You clearly know more than you are willing to easily share. Name your price so that we may begin negotiation."

(In the background, "BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA". Angela is tremendously straightfaced, though not straight faced.)


Don't look exhausted. Not in front of the other Gods. Don't do it Atli.

Too late.

She too staggers forward, one hand on what remains of a pillar that IMMEDIATELY crumbles away and has her stumbling over. Fuck, indeed. Finally she takes a steadying breath and rises from those ashes, using her spear to keep herself upright her brows lift at the request of Hercules, whom she would indeed show her spear, if she did not need it to keep her balance.

"Yes, yes. Perhaps, if my Aunt Loki is keen, she might make us all her famous bacon pancakes and I shall let you examine Jarnbjorn, because by then I will have a chair."

'You named it Thori?'

Atli's features screw up at this, for she does not see what all the fuss is about. "Verily, tis a fine name, worthy of The Best Dog. Come Thori, let us all revel in victory together, and for you, a fine stack of pancakes or steak, or whatever it is you eat, but just not my goat. Thori. Hmm. An oddly familiar name but I'm not sure where I've heard it before."

Oh and look, Angela has a pet now too! Everyone has a pet now!

Except Hercules.

Unless you count that SCOTT ADSIT fellow.

Atli squints at the shadow snake thing, and then indicates with a little jab of her spear. "I'd put that thing far out of it's misery, Lady Ultraviolence. You see, it is but an extension of Gorr, the God Butcher's will. He's a bit of a villain, mostly wishes death upon all Gods because of some sort of terrible tragedy upon his family that I couldn't be bothered to remember as I rocketed back through time to save you all from this very eventuality. Which, I thought I did, but didn't quite hit my mark. But don't you worry, now that we're all the best of friends, I'm certain my Aunt Loki will humor us with pancakes and conversation for the low, low price of.. wait, price? For revels? Dare not ask such a thing, for our company is free, as we are companions now!"

As tired as she is, she means it, beaming a smile and still holding her stomach wound, which bleeds and bleeds and bleeds.


You clearly know more than you are willing to easily share. Name your price so that we may begin negotiation.

There is the tiniest quirk at the corner of Loki Laufeysdottir's lips. The bright greens of her eyes fall on Angela in a familiar way hard to place. It is, how do you say, one of those tiny flourishes of obvious foreshadowing.

Like the shadow of Damocles' sword being cast over a person. If one wanted to be excessively grim about it.

Dark green lips part past that smile.

"Why, I believe-"

BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Slowly, Loki's lips purse shut again. Slowly, Loki looks at Thori, somehow trying to position his fluffy puppy body to headbutt the shadow-cast concrete.

"Piss! Ow! Upon! Ow! The milksop-shadow! Ow!"

"… Truly, it was just the first thing that came to mind."

But! There are deals to be made, and Loki of Adoptive Asgard has never been anything less than an avid dealer. Sometimes even doubly so. As Angela helpfully bashes that blood-thieving serpentine creature into non-action, Loki once more begins to speak —

— before being interrupted once more by helpfully jumbled exposition courtesy of Atli.

Who offers it all upon the honorable altar of friendship.

And so did Loki make the most bemused of faces.

"… Well, regardless of all that heartstring-tugging rabble, I'm unsure how much I can elucidate about this subject, but I can surely be inspired to endeavor to try! I believe my dear niece is correct though-" not about the friendship, good god no "-a bounty of breakfast goods would serve as a wonderful cornerstone to the start of what I am sure shall be a delightful and prolonged business relationship."

She is sure, of course.

"Besides, I'm fairly certain the prodigious Prince of Power already owes me for that little incident in Constantinople. So!"

Hands clap together. Loki smiles bright. She points, to an endless horizon.

"Swiftly, to the Hut of Waffles!"

To the start of a delightful and prolonged business relationship.


Atli is staggering around.

Herc is kind of a softie.

The big man shrugs his mace onto his back and, without asking or warning, steps to just sweep up the wounded Asgardian into his arms.

"You'll heal quickly, right?" he says to her. His brows draw together in some light concern, shifting somewhere a little closer to seriousness. "Stay off your feet for a bit, it'll speed it up."

"Come!" he says after Loki. "Nothing like grease and some of the wine tucked away in my leathers after a horrible violent battle against minions of a monster I've never heard of!"


Angela and Loki share a moment of dire potent. They —

Okay. Nevermind. Atli and Hercules barreled into it. Angela purses her lips.

"Very well," Angela agrees. She briefly considers the snake on her arm, and then glances back to Atli for a final glare. It is an uneven situation because Atli is being dragged along in the safe muscle forest of Hercules' overgrown pectorals.

"Nothing is free, Asgardian. Everything has a price."

And then Angela sets off to an institution that knows this sacred truth: Waffle House.


Normally Atli would shrug off such advances, at least until she had had a shower, but in this case it is acceptable, and as Hercules mentions spirits tucked away, she opens her vester to reveal not one, but three flasks of Asgardian spirits, her thumb thrust to the sky shortly thereafter, before she is claimed by the Atlisleep.

'Nothing is free, Asgardian. Everything has a price.'

This she remembers in her dream. This, a dream of books where pages turn on their own. A nightmare of being forced to learn things secondhand, as her sister might enjoy.

Verily, the Ultraviolence and her words haunt her, even as her body recovers, not to rouse until the scent of coffee and pancakes overwhelm even the darkest nightmares.


AT THE EDGE OF EVERYTHING
THE CORNERSTONE OF A NEW AGE

Upon this rock he builds church.

What was once nothing more than a blasted fleck of cosmic dust has through eons of stellar accretion, built itself into a blasted fleck of a planet. No life lives here, in these cracked fissures of a world resting at the end of universe.

No life, save one.

Tendrils of black flow towards the pallid claws outstretched in waiting for them. Wreathed in sacred vestments of inky unlight, the priest of this bleak, planetary church smiles placidly as he feels those tendrils wind across his arm. They coil, like double helixes in his grasp, bearing gifts.

Two gifts of godsblood, ushered from a faraway planet he knows all too well.

He reviles the very -feeling- of the divine genetics running through him. Like he can taste the cruelty and pointlessness of their existence imprinted in their very blood.

But they have their use. He words the blood. He works the shadows. Godly genes provide the blueprints for his craft, the bleak black his material to forge with. Deep within the bowels of this world that was once little more than a rock, he toils. He builds. He creates.

Two stolen sources of blood. Two new sources of life. One large, threaded with muscle. The other tall, built with a hunter's grace.

Two, of an endless throng of the same.

And as he looked upon his work, Gorr the God-Butcher smiled with joy.

For he had found the workers to build his church.

His shrine to a godless age.

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