A Most Glorious Quest

September 08, 2018:

Atli's trying to fix things again. With her noble companions Hercules, Rocket and Groot, they set out to find something key to defeating Gorr the God Butcher.

Some old bunker in whoknowswhereville

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Bucky Barnes, Jane Foster, Loki, Sloane,Thor, Valkyrie

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

Oh what woe hath befallen the Girl of Thunder, now that they are beset from some impossible threat. Well, the answer to that is quite simple.

None. Zilch. Who cares?

After all you can't just go wandering around the nine or ten realms, worried beyond belief that shadows might come alive and jump out and attack you! Well you can, but Atli won't. Nope, not one bit. Sure, as she walks along with Hercules towards their destination, she does keep a wary eye on all the dark places, counting on Toothbender's sharp senses to alert them as they make their way towards what Atli has promised is the key to solving all their problems.

That's right, if you are going to worry about such things, you need to do something about them, and Atli Wodendottir is a woman of action. A Princess of Power. No wait, that doesn't work. Hercules is the Princess of Power. Or.. Prince. Right. In any case, they make their way down this long, rural road, the mid-day sun blaring, and Atli with her spear perched on one shoulder.

"So you see, that's how I almost fixed everything." Atli finishes her tale of how she went into the past with Bucky Barnes, Jane Foster, the Guardians of the Galaxy, and her Aunt Loki, and nearly got obliterated by The Destroyer. It sounds nothing like a plan to fix anything, much less everything. And yet, here she is, and everyone survived, and she got to see a woman wield a magical hammer for once, so that was great. "Afterwards, I was injured, and much like you have cared for me in the aftermath of Gorr's attack, my friends did come to my aid. It is they I have asked to meet us in this place, which is very near the lair of a Hydra, or so the magical talking voice of SHIELD would have me believe. It is also said this Hydra holds the key to our current problem. You see, the problem with Gorr is that he is a coward. We simply need to bring him to us, where you, the strongest God ever to exist, and certainly much stronger than Thor, can hit him over the head with your mace."

She does not stop until they reach the end of the dirt road, where there simply seems to be some sort of impenetrable bunker made of concrete and steel built into the ground.

"Don't worry, I am versed in the magics that can bring him to us. We just need this one thing from the lair of the beast. Fair Rocket! Wise Groot! How pray thee this day? Also, where are you both?"

Surrounded by trees and really sortof just off the beaten path, the bunker does not stir.

**

Meanwhile Hercules, the PRINCESS of POWER (as established), seems perfectly relaxed. He goes so far as to unleash a mighty yawn, stretching his arms up over his head. That this is happening in the middle of Atli's story might be an insult - or perhaps it fills him with such confidence that he knows if they're together, no ill fate can befall them!

Or maybe the energetic aura that surrounded him from the fight has ran its course. He does seem… dimmer, somehow. Closer to human than god, even with the mace on his back and the invincible pelt over his shoulder.

"Sounds like a great deal of trouble," says Hercules of Atli's story. He picks a fallen leaf off of the strap over his bare chest. "and exhausting." Fighting? Fighting is good. Invigorating. Thrilling.

Quests get people killed. He stubbornly continues to think of this whole Godbutcher nonsense as a fight that's just taking its time, because otherwise it's a quest on his doorstep, responsibilities to shoulder, consequences to worry about. He frowns obscurely into the night, thinking about being in the middle of an undertaking that actually matters. Terrible.

"Doesn't have to be the mace," he notes. "Could end up just a good chunk of concrete. Always leave room for poetic interpretation when you're living a new myth." Herc manages a grin.

Once they're at the bunker - and they receive no response - Hercules shakes off a little of that ennui on his shoulders. "I'll try knocking," he says with a grin, and starts approaching the door. He clenches his fist until a few knuckles pop.

**

"Not far from your position now, Atli." The speaker unseen, his voice however comes up from the communicator he'd given Atli, once they'd found a sturdy enough material to house it in. Atli liked to do a lot of flying through rocks and buildings, after all. "Should be about a few minutes. Groot, remind me to work on adjusting the speed on this thing when we get back. This thing's crap for cruisin' in atmo— No don't touch that!!"

**

"I am Groot!" comes the high-pitched reply to the unseen and rough voice. It's followed by some kind of scratching noise, much like someone is trying to fiddle with buttons or parts that he shouldn't be messing with at all. "I am Groot!"

*

Oh, far be it for her to be offended, also, Hercules looks great when he yawns and stretches. Never will Atli take offense to such rippling displays. As Hercules gives his very Hero-specific advice concerning quests, Atli furrows her brow and crosses her arms, staring at the bunker as if it were some sort of puzzle to be solved. Thankfully, she seems to have brought the answer, as Hercules volunteers to knock.

"Yes, well, of course Quests get people killed. That's almost the only reason I go on quests, to kill some damned fool who needs killi-" The voices that come in over earpiece have her bring her spear to bear, whipping her body about too and fro. Mostly because she forgot about the little implant Rocket made for her, and that SHIELD helpfully put behind one of her ears with a needle made of the same stuff as the Shieldmaiden of Midgard's shield.

"Oh, right. My good friends are close. But, by all means, no need to wait on their account. Let us see what the Hydra's lair has for the Prince of Power. You know, there are books about you in Asgard's library, Hercules."

Atli smiles here, happy to watch the Olympian work.

"I didn't read any of them of course, but the pictures were very good, and my sister tells me there were a great many of your deeds recorded, and almost none of them were embarrassing."

Atli draws this particular point because Thor's history is quite well known to her, and much of it is embarrassing. But really, that just endears her to her grandfather. Mostly. As Herc approaches, he will notice the doors of heavy, sliding concrete and framed metal are grown over with weeds. Clearly, they have not been opened in some time. A veritable vault of mystery.

Meanwhile, Atli shields her eyes from the sun and looks around for her other friends.

**

Hercules's senses are closer than mortal than not - he has no opportunity to hear over Atli's earpiece, instead setting his mind to the upcoming feat. If a fight comes, she can hold them off for a moment. He starts to straighten as he moves, a breeze coming out of the still air to rustle his thick curls and cause the trailing end of the lion pelt to billow slightly.

Olympians never seem quite as radiant as when they're fulfilling their roles. Most don't make a habit of shirking them.

Hercules, God of Strength, runs a finger across the bunker door, looking for the seam. "Hydra," he mutters. "Funny you mention that one." One of the labors he couldn't have ever managed on his own. He finds the seam, stiffens his fingers, and shoves his hand in. Shattered concrete sprays up his forearm. "Remind me to thank your librarian for leaving out a good half of the tales, then."

The second hand joins the first. He braces himself, stomping his feet down, denting the ground and anchoring in. Herc draws a great breath, his lungs swelling, his back muscles surging.

With a controlled exhale, he starts pushing. Concrete cracks around his hands as steel groans, the locking mechanism of the door resisting for a full ten seconds before there is a violent snap. Hot sparks fly past his face. Weeds and ivy snap and scatter as the doors, no longer restricted, are thrown open with heavy, shrieking grinds. The mechanisms, forced to operate in reverse, emit several noises as various components fail, break, and fall off. A thin cloud of concrete dust spreads around him.

Herc coughs, wiping at his forearms. "Easy," he notes, a few beads of sweat on his forehead.

**

There's perhaps oddly enough, no sign of anything on the horizon. That's at least what one's eyes would tell them. On the other hand, their ears would eventually pick up a low whine just at the fringes of one's hearing. It's a sound easier made out once you knew what you were listening for, thinner than the hum of a jet.

And then there's a sudden gust, a strange localized phenomenon as it doesn't carry any further than the sparse amount of trees just a few yards from the road that Atli and Hercules had been traveling upon. Atli might hear some yelling over her earpiece that cuts in and out, right before, inexplicably, several branches abruptly depress inward as though something had brushed against it. Again, there's nothing to be seen, but then some of the branches snap, and if one strains the eyes they might make out the slight distortion now that they know where to look for it.

Something rounded bobbles lowly about the small stand of trees before sinking past the leaves and scattering twigs, dust kicked up as whatever it is appears to touch down for a landing. Then all at once it appears, the distortion dropping in place of an almost hideously yellow-painted ship with a bumpy, cylindrical top and two crude-looking wings sticking up like a big V. Honestly, it's difficult to figure out which end is the front of the thing. Someone's taken the liberty of painting a horribly toothy grin to help figure that out (maybe), the way that old World War fighters did.

A hatch abruptly opens and a ramp unfolds, where then exits one small furry mammal dressed in a blue and gray armored jumpsuit belted with pouches and at a pair of guns holstered at each hip.

"Groot! Come on! Pick up yer flarkin' Skittles later— NO don't eat that! …oi." He sighs, grumbles and runs a clawed hand down his face before shaking his head as he disembarks.

**

Crunch. Crunch crunch. Those are some skittles no one will ever see again.

When they first started, Groot was excited to be sitting in a weird vehicle that could fly them to their destination without having to walk or run or drive with wheels to the ground. Flying gave them more freedom, more air time. And more buttons that wanted to be played with.

Boredom is a thing that hits the tiny tree all too quickly nowadays, and the last few minutes of trying to push and turn all of the buttons and grips has gone from fun times to easy discouragement. Thus, skittles.

While keeping his gaze level with Rocket's, Groot shoves one last handful of fallen skittles into his wooden maw, chewing them good and hard as he follows after his furry guardian on little plant feet. After being in a seat for so long, he's ready to get back on the ground to run everywhere.

**

For the longest time, Atli is just looking around. Well, until Hercules begins his work. While Olympians might seem radiant doing those things they were meant for, Asgardians seem most radiant while watching Olympians do those things they were meant for. A gleam lights the Girl of Thunder's eyes as she watches Hercules do his work, a treat that puts those unread tomes in the halls of Asgard to shame, no doubt, spear leaning lazily against one shoulder, one hand on her hip and her brows lifting, as if she half expects the door to somehow resist Hercules and send him flying into a muscle bulging shame.

What a shame that would be.

But even as he strains and causes such perfect destruction, Atli is more than content with the outcome, throwing her fist to the sky in celebration!

"Well struck! Or pulled, or whatever. Verily, it stood no chance. I…" The sound comes for them then, low and menacing in a whine that pitches upward. Atli whirls again, staring at the distortion while wincing at the broken comm chatter.

Finally, when it appears, her eyes go two different sizes, staring at this majestic craft that seems to release Fair Rocket from it's depths, and then she brightens considerably.

"Rocket! What new contraption have you brought, it seems most angry, with it's mouth parts so fierce. And indeed, none shall see it coming, on account of it's invisibility cloak."

Groot is there too, and she gives what can only be described as an over-excited wave to her little tree friend, stepping aside to reveal the Prince of Power. "Dear friends, new friend, come, meet one another and rejoice. Rocket, Groot, this is Hercules. Hercules, this is Rocket, one of the greatest warriors I have ever known, and Groot, also one of the greatest warriors I have ever known. Though.. he is somewhat smaller these days. No matter, I am certain he will grow into it. Also, Groot, did you bring enough of those for everyone, hmm? Didn't your mother-tree teach you it's rude to eat and not share?"

The passageway downward seems to be forgotten, well, maybe not by Hercules. He's the only one who will be able to see the pile of skeletons waiting past his destruction, all dressed in Hydra gear, and looking as if they clamored over one another to try and crawl their way out, skeletal jaws opened wide in abject terror. Ah well.

**

Well, if the door resisted being pulled open, he would just have to use an ancient Greek trick.

Break the wall next to it.

Anyway, ripping the door open has pulled him a bit out of his funk. He scratches at his beard as he looks down into the passage. "Oh," he says. "The capitalized sort of HYDRA." Dying in an airtight place… their final breaths may have lingered. Hercules spits to the side in distaste.

He starts to turn toward Atli, grinning, the flirtatious twinkle finally back in his eye. "Most things I push and pull don't usually complain about the…" A vehicle Hercules recognizes as a space ship is disgorging a space raccoon and a space tree.

Well, it is Saturday.

The big man turns his back on the hatch and approaches, sandalled feet thudding on the ground. He brushes concrete dust off the front of his raiment (skirt) and grins at the newcomers. He's dealt with stranger - he can process a raccoon and a tree as things that can run around and talk. Lord knows his father has become worse to keep Hera from noticing what he's up to (sex. zeus is up to sex).

"It seems all of the warriors you know are the greatest warriors you have ever known, my lady. I would hate to see who you estimate at the top of your list!" He thrusts a dusty hand down toward Rocket. He only has to bend at the knees a little to reach.

But who is hairier? It's a near thing.

**

"You little monster…" Rocket mutters after the little tree tyke as he follows Groot down.

"Heya Atli." He gives the Asgardian a wave as he steps off of the ramp, grinning as she compliments the ship. Necrocrafts aren't really designed to be pretty, and maneuverability wise, Rocket's had better, but it functioned for transportation and could probably punch a decent sized crater into something. He pulls a remote device from his pocket and hits a few buttons, the ramp retracting and the hatch closing thereafter. Another click activates the cloaking, and it's like the yellow eyesore was never there.

"The invisibility's a recently added feature," he smirks. "Borrowed the specs off another ship I was helpin' patch up." Absently he wonders how things have gone with Valkyrie. He hadn't heard from her in a while, and while he might have been a little concerned, he was also glad he'd took 'payment' where he could get it, on the offhand he didn't receive what was initially promised.

"Hercules?"

The raccoonoid looks up at the man that Atli introduces to them, up and down, fuzzy brow furrowing, but he lifts his hand to take the larger one offered to him, dusty though it might be.

"Atli's got a knack for meetin' formidable and noteworthy peoples, what can I say," he grins toothily, puffing his chest out just a bit before he looks around. Dangit, where'd the tree kid go again? He needs to tie a rope to that squirt.

"So, that what we're here for?" he asks, jerking a thumb towards the open bunker, squinting a bit at the doors.

**

The tree is everywhere. Once he hits the dirt, he hops around, toddling off to one side, then back the other way. He eventually circles back around, abruptly stopping before the Asgardian's feet. When Atli chides him about sharing his snacks, he pauses mid-chew, glancing about as any childlike entity is wont to do when caught in the middle of a selfish act. But his expression becomes thoughtful - so thoughtful, that after another two beats he opens his mouth to let the now-mashed candies slide out onto a small hand.

There's some tree saliva (????) on it. And he offers this with a cheerful smile.

Outside influences or his own brand of genius, all signs point to Groot becoming more of a butt at times.

The candy is either taken or forgotten and dropped on the wayside as Hercules is introduced to the pair. He knows nothing of mythology, but he's sure he's heard the name before. Maybe from one of the animated films he watched. But this man! He looks nothing like the drawn images he's seen.

"I am Groot," Groot beams, holding out his hand for a handshake from the legendary god. The same hand that once held candy, anyway. But large eyes soon wander past Atli and Hercules toward the giant bunker sitting cracked and silent, mouth rounding out to form a low yet curious noise at their discovery.

**

"Oh well, that's easy, it's the Man of Magnets. He can kill people just by thinking about it and verily his abs play the song of his people whilst he does it. Followed close by the Lady Ultraviolence, who will not tell me her name. Which makes me think she wishes me to pursue her to the ends of Midgard to find out. Perhaps not, but that is the impression I get. Of course, Hercules, you are quite high on the list. I think I may need to see you destroy a few more things with your bare hands to move up, however. Of course, it's sometimes difficult to rate everyone. For instance, the Mini Man of Magnets is no doubt an amazing warrior, but I have yet to see him flex his abs or whip anyone with his hair antennae. Verily, I shall have to revise my list again."

Indeed, it seems to send Atli deep in thought for a long moment, head tilted down and against the top of one hand.

Rocket's question draws her from her loin-stirring reverie about all the great warriors ever, and brings her to peek over and into the opened bunker. "Hmm. Last I had seen this place was rather active. Something SHIELD was 'sitting on' to gather 'information'." Yes, she makes air quotes. "Very well, let us descend into the belly of the beast. Rocket, Groot, I thank you for coming to our aide. We must defeat any who remain inside and uncover their stores. They have something we need to get at Gorr, you see, a fool of a creature who wishes to kill all Gods. And since I don't plan on being killed, we must plan on being successful in our quest."

Not a good time to mention again that quests get people killed. Shhh.

Only then does she notice Groot offering her mashed up candy bits, which she draws a line to with her mouth, showing her teeth briefly. Is that a smile? No, no it's not. It is a grimace.

That's okay, Toothbender immediately shuffles over to eat it, giving Groot a friendly nudge.

"Come friends, it's time for a bit of an adventure."

With that, she kicks a few skeletons out of the way and charges right on down the stares, lifting her spear high to cast light from it as electricity arcs along Jarnbjorn's edge. Blue illuminates what is a long hallway, and doors, each marked with various numbers. From her vestor, Atli eyes a napkin she scribbled something on.

"Right, so we simply need to find door one thousand and one, and then, apparently behind it, is another door, and behind that, what we need."

**

Hercules's hands are baby soft! A perk of regeneration. He chuckles at Rocket's assessment of what he would personally consider a run of bad luck.

He also takes Groot's hand, unconcerned with sugary sap residue (a mistake). Herc's eyes narrow slightly. He feels like the Allspeak has thrown a glitch. He defaults to nodding at him and pumping his tree arm with an, "Indeed!"

The introductions over, Hercules rolls his shoulders and neck, turning back toward the bunker. That's not how magnets work, he thinks, but ok. Maybe it's an outfit thing. Or maybe those infomercials were right.

Rather than kick skeletons, he just strides through them, disrespecting the dead with his sandals. He's walked on a few bones in his day. "Think of him like a really specific serial killer," he translates for the non-divine. "Who uses goo snakes to eat blood? We're still figuring out some of the minor details."

As Atli summons fulgurian light, Herc goes simpler, crouching down over one of the corpses with a few ripping sounds. He comes up with a femur wrapped in torn strips of uniform fragment, digging a flask out of his raiment and pouring something violently alcoholic-smelling onto the rags, soaking them completely. He then strikes the bottom of the flask against the wall with a scrape and a spray of sparks, lighting his old-school torch.

The sugary sap slowly adheres to the bone, ominously.

"One thousand and one?" He holds the torch near the top of the doors, spotting the numbers. "Ten floors, maybe? I hate these bases."

**

"Well. Perhaps. Or maybe just one very, very long hallway."

Atli peers down said hallway, relinquishing her own light source to bask in the brilliance of Hercules, no doubt one of the smartest Gods, in addition to being the strongest. Atli leads the way, and with Hercules' guilt-saddled words about quests making people die, well, she makes sure she's a dozen or more feet ahead. Really, it's been a thing lately. Gorr is her fault, because she failed to fix everything. Then there's the problem with the goat who keeps sneezing for no reason at all. Also probably her fault.

Not to mention what she did to Agent Sloane's room.

Sloane will forgive her. There's still time to make amends.

As they traverse, it is quite clear that one long hallway is exactly what it is, with narrow doors that they pass here and there, none open, and the little windows inside showing them to be simple storerooms of sorts.

Finally, thankfully, they arrive at the end. And of course, it's a massive door at the end of the hall itself, taking up the entire wall. This makes Atli smile, because, well, you know.

"Looks like the Prince of Power is needed once more! Verily, show my companions why they write so many songs about you! They missed it the first time!"

It could be that Rocket and Groot MIGHT not appreciate Hercules' abilities as much as Atli will, but one never knows. Atli takes a step back, already forgetting how she's supposed to go first so that if anyone immediately dies it's only going to be her, making way for Hercules to express his might.

"Oh, here, I shall hold the bone torch."

**

Walking is the worst type of adventure. Walking reminds Hercules of, well, walking. Walking in different times, different climes. Travelling with fellow heroes, with friends.

But times pass. The company of his kin chafes and the company of man is transient and painful. Small wonder that he only seems to relax with members of other pantheons. Even Atli has gone quiet in the walk - she may admire him, that much is plain for him to see, but his latest labor has been making sure that few really know him, and he's reaping those rewards.

He shakes himself. Too gloomy by half. Must be the skeletons.

The new door looks more formidable than the bunker door, which is alarming. That means they're more concerned about something getting in or out of here than they are of the base itself. He sucks noisily on his teeth. "Right," he says, "I've got a few more doors in me before I need a sandwich.

Herc starts marching toward the door, holding the femur out toward Atli. Neither of them are aware that his grip has become quite permanent.

Soon. Soon.

**

These poor people and their lack of having things that make life so much easier. Like flashlights. Sure, it's handy to know that in a fix when you don't have anything you can always grab someone's discarded femur and turn it into a makeshift torch but to Rocket that's just plain gross and if he had to pick between them, he'd go for Atli's light source. But then her's is also a weapon.

Rocket's a little preoccupied as he fishes out a light and flicks it on to add to the two sources, turning over things from earlier in his head as he follows the two down, trying to keep an eye on Groot. After a moment he hands over his flashlight to the tree tyke so he can have his hands free to hold his guns (much better!) and Groot can be occupied with being a torchbearer as well.

But no, there's an important point that he needs to rewind to and it's been bothering him more so than the crapton of useless millions that he and two other mercs had supposedly 'won' while running through some screwball gamemaster's amusement park of death. Red-brown eyes widen as it hits him.

"Whoa, whoa, whoa— Hold on. You said Gorr, as in that Gorr that we were supposed to be taking down back at Donuts? —Chronux." Yeah, Chronux. That sounds right. "This is still a thing? What about all that stuff we did on Asgard? That was Asgard, right? I kind of lost track of who we were supposed to be fighting once everything went to hell." And then Jane became Thor and he can't ever scrub that image from his head. It's okay though. He's not the only one.

There's a clattering of bones as Rocket nudges a pile with the end of his gun, and he steps back and resumes walking, nose wrinkling at the smell and at their surroundings. How long has this place been like this? Was it abandoned?

"…a sandwich?" He looks ahead, glancing towards Hercules. "I dunno how you can think of food at a time like this. 'ey Atli, what are we lookin' for exactly?"

**

Hercules, immediately, the hand-off growing perilously near, "I can always think of food."

**

"…how is it I'm always surrounded by people like this?" Rocket mutters to himself with a sigh.

**

Hercules pats his stomach.

**

It's probably a good thing Groot misunderstands Atli's grimace for a semi-toothy smile. At least the goat friend appreciates a good half-chewed bunch of skittles!

Thankfully, at the present moment, Groot is suddenly preoccupied from trying to swing off of Rocket's arm to holding a shiny flashlight. "I am Groooot~" He clicks it a couple of times, making sure it works before leaving it alone, its bright circle of light bouncing about the darkness and over skeletal remains.

Eee.

Not that he's freaked out about the remains they've left behind. Nothing is scary about skeletons that don't move. But now the plant is wondering about the whole door trick Atli talks of. "I am Groot!" he pipes up and bounces in place, expecting both a door opening and maybe some more food. It's their fault for bringing it up.

**

When offered the torch, Atli reaches out to take it, staring at Hercules for the longest moment as he fails to relinquish it to her. Then she looks to the torch, and then back up to Hercules, giving him a beam of a smile. "Don't worry, Prince of Power, I have it." A firm nod. Yes indeed, she has the torch. She even gives a little tug. Of course, this could become a gag all it's own, filled with a back and forth and perhaps one or more person's embarrassment, but what it really ends up doing is taking their attention from the door.

Which has slid upwards, rather than apart or sideways.

There, between the heroes and the next door, where their prize awaits, is something else.

Rocket's question demands answer, however. So does Groot's question, but she doesn't quite understand why he's asking that just now. So she'll let someone else answer it.

"Hmm, Gorr? Asgard? Oh, yes, I remember something about that. I'm sure that we did our best, but I'm not sure our best was enough. Personally, I blame Thor." Not that Thor was there. "No, really Hercules, you can let the torch go at any ti-"

It roars.

Then, it lunges.

This underground lair was a store for the end of the world, with enough rations to feed the thousand men or so stationed here. Most of them perished below when the oxygen recycler stopped working. But at least fifty of the men are right here. Or what's left of them.

Bodies twisted and mangled and fused, flesh repurposed to become something else. Something with five distinctive stalks and a bigger, bestial body and a tail. It wails all over with fifty or more mouths, the eyes rotted out of each of the Hydra soldiers that make it up, and the smell, of course, is absolutely horrible.

The jaws of it's five heads all lurch for Hercules and Atli, the living amalgamation of HYDRA producing.. a Hydra. Of rotting bodies.

Atli snaps off part of the torch and takes it with her, leaving the bottom bit for Hercules. Fangs made of femurs show Hercules that someone else has used his trick, but for a far more deadly purpose, and they do dig into Godly flesh with some unusual tenacity, as if they were powered by something otherworldly.

**

Most other people would've been comically dragged along in Hercules's wake after grabbing the adhered torch, but Asgardians are not casually dragged. The Olympian wasn't even looking! He just stuck out the torch and made assumptions. When Atli grabbed it, his arm quickly reached the limit of its flexibility, causing Herc to come up short like a dog on a chain.

It's the candy shell particulate, you see. It helps the binding.

Normally, Hercules would come up with a crude line about the bone, but he's scowling down. "I'm trying," he says, opening his hand and wiggling the fingers. Groot's sticky mass (another crude line) glistens in the firelight. Grabbing the bone with his other hand, his attempts to pull it away only result in cracks beginning to form.

Speaking of cracks, there's an amalgamate zombie hydra! "Balls!" Herc shouts in earnest alarm. Even he still has room to be surprised. Atli snaps half of his bone off (a crude line we won't dwell on) and scatters, leaving the god to face down an oncoming mouth on his own.

He moves quickly, crushing the adhered bone in his hand in a burst of powder and shoving his hands out, catching the… primary mouth of this head. His feet slide across the concrete as he keeps it propped open, fetid breath blasting into his face and toward those behind him.

"Come on! A lion clone and a zombie hydra? I've been going out of my way NOT to offend my stepmother!"

**

*BLAMBLAMBLAMBLAMBLAM*

That is the sound of two heavily customized and overly modified space pistols being fired repeatedly as soon as a target presents itself. Rocket would have started laying down fire the moment he smelled trouble, the putrid scent offending in its own right. That it was attached to something physical, and even more disturbing, moving, is both a blessing (in that it presents an actual target that can be fired upon) and a curse (because seriously? That is gross. That is beyond gross.)

There are things Rocket would have liked to say regarding Gorr and Atli's uncertainty about whether or not things had been handled correctly, but words don't get people much anywhere, and oh hey look, there's a giant mass of something that sure can't be natural and it's coming their way practically begging to be fired upon. And the Guardian is all too happy to oblige.

"Groot! Stay back!" he shouts to the little one as he springs to one side to try and find another good angle to shoot from as Hercules hold the thing, or grabs for one part of the thing. His tail frizzes out a bit, the surfacing end of a shudder as the stench of the thing practically rolls out with the creature's emergence.

**

"I am GRoot!!" These are words that shouldn't be repeated, but they certainly help sum up the reaction to the monstrosity Groot sees with his very own eyes. He's surprised, and he's instantly sickened by the stench even if he doesn't have any real nose holes to offend.

Dry retching, the tree heeds Rocket, dancing back with the flashlight, its light maniacally jouncing about the walls as he clings tight. "I am Groot!" Calling out to the others isn't the best idea, but he doesn't want to remain useless. He hefts the flashlight in his arms, turning it to face the next closest head in order to temporarily blind it. It may be an effort made in vain if every other head keeps moving, but here's for a first try!

**

All of Hercules Bone-Woes are lost on Atli as the creature attacks, and while the God of Strength has great success in keeping it's mouth at bay, Atli does not react so quickly and finds herself snatched up and tossed about, slammed from floor to ceiling and back again, all while grasping half of Hercules flaming bone. Finally she thinks to stab the creature in the eye, but then she finds it doesn't really have eyes and ends up putting it out on a corpse head like a cigarette.

"Rocket, I think we may be in need of your-"

But Rocket is a true friend, and truly on point, and already blasting great chunks off of the thing, but a head comes for him anyway, chomping and snapping… and then getting burned away to pieces.

The burning stump lashes at Rocket instead!

Atli draws her spear, grimacing as the fangs of the creature dig in, but she has a fang of her own, and stabs back, prying until the creature is forced to drop her.

Oh, and Hercules will find that there's a very human mouth inside the amalgam mouth he's holding open, and it reaches out to bite at his nose. Not that it has the strength to hurt him but it's beyond disgusting.

Clearly, Groot has a similar plan to Atli, and he will also find the head coming at him does not have eyes at all. It does, however have a mouth.

So it immediately swallows little Groot.

"GROOT NO!!!"

Atli can only watch in horror, thrashing and slashing with her spear as Hercules proves right, and that quests certainly are The Worst.

**

Well, if you asked Hercules right now, he would prefer if the zombie amalgamate hydra was also a ghost, because then he could just leave without guilt.

"Blades and fire!" he shouts, painfully aware that he now has neither. But he was mortal the first time he encountered a hydra, and his did not have a mace forged at the hand of Khalkeus Hephaestus.

The human mouth extends out toward him. Herc immediately slams his forehead into it, crunching it against his headgear. His back swells again, his feet slowing, slowing… and he takes a step forward. Another.

He turns his arms to the right, as though he were carefully turning a car. That is when the beast swallows Groot.

Quests.

The God of Strength roars with anger and frustration and explodes into motion, wrenching leftward with all of his strength, concrete dust puffing out from around his feet as he cracks the ground.

"Cut him out!" Hercules roars. "Its necks are as snakes, it can't be that much different if it bothered to take this form in the first place!" He reaches over his shoulder and removes his mace from its harness. The head clicks against one of the hooks on the way up, letting out a beautiful ringing chime. Adamantine.

**

Rocket's fingers are practically locked in place around the triggers of his guns, but they aren't quite made to whittle away at a fleshy mass like this, and by the time he decides to concede this point the remaining stump of what he'd been blasting to slaggy bits is close enough to smack him. He brings up one of his guns to absorb the blow, which isn't all that much when he's already smaller than the two humanoids, and he's sent flying a few feet, landing in a rough tumble into a pile of bones.

"Ugggh…." he groans, shaking his head as he shoves himself up, blearily looking for Groot. He spots him, the flickering light drawing his eye as the little guy attempts to shine the beam at the monstrous creature as though he wielded a weapon himself. Except it's not working quite the way Groot had planned, and when Rocket opens his mouth to cry out, it's Atli's voice that actually sounds first as she shouts, his own voice hoarse as he yells, "GROOOOOOOOT!!"

He's already seen his friend get blown up to bits. He'd seen him die. He is not letting it happen again.

"RRRRrrrRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGHHHHH!!!!!!!!!"

It's a warcry. It's raw rage refusing to give in to anguish. Because Groot's a tough little sapling and he can't die just because some glarkin' freakish mess of a monster swallowed him! Guns in a deathgrip, Rocket charges, ignoring his bruises and burns as he starts laying down fire again, thumbing up the power on each gun to boost its output.

Cut him out! Herc shouts! But the raccoonoid's not the one with the blade. But he'll blow a damned hole in this sucker if he has to, yelling all the while.

**

And Groot…is gone.

Forever.

Actually, rewind that: when Groot tries to blind the head rushing at him, he sees that it has no eyes to blind. He also realizes that 'This was a Bad Idea' and 'What are the odds of that even happening?' prior to immediately being swallowed whole. And the last thing anyone hears on the outside is a shrill, tree-ish screech.

DOWN, down, down a disgusting black tract the little shrub alien goes, rolling head over heels in the most uncomfortable way ever. His flashlight lulls along after him, hitting every bump and wet thing that can do without any anatomical nametags.

Garble. Guck. Gross.

Amid the wet interior sounds, he can hear the muffled cries of his friends. Their fear. Their rage. And his initial sense of fright then turns over. Groot scowls, face alight with the flashlight staring straight at his head, clawing and scrabbling at the sides helplessly until he gets fed up. He takes that cue of 'cut him out' as advice, hands malforming into weapons that can pierce and slice through organic matter. The ferocity in each swing increases, tearing at putrid flesh and hacking away at the walls as the fight outside of the thing continues-

-Something explodes. Not really explodes, but splatters a chunk outward from the hydra's body near the base of one of its necks. And there's a wooden point sticking out of where the flesh used to be. Another point shows up as the other vanishes back inside, the motion repeating constantly, violently, until something bursts forth. Groot screams at the top of his lungs once he pops out of the hole and hits the air again, making sure to keep cutting its entire head off.

**

Hercules drives it back, twisting a head to a sickening snap that makes the creature writhe in some otherworldly pain. Rocket unleashes every bit of technological hell at his disposal, heat blooms dancing along it's body and sending chunks flying every which way. Atli's blade, glowing with electricity, sears through flesh and bone long dead.

But Groot shows that no matter his size, he is still a Groot, and with great wooden fury befit of a world-tree branch itself, there is an explosion of slashing, piercing, and thrashing Groot-limbs that rend the thing into a pile of dead parts and leave it a scattered, obliterated mess.

Quests.

The stuff legends are made of.

Atli rises, staring at awe at the violence that Groot unleashed as she rises to her feet. Eyes wide. Mouth agape, she points at Groot with her spear.

"Verily, Groot is the greatest warrior I have ever seen!!"

Because of course he is.

The creature is bested, and Atli staggers towards the last remaining door. Of course, this one just has an open/close button like the other doors throughout this place. "My friends. My companions. We have done it. With what is behind this door, we can defeat Gorr."

**

Hercules twists with quite frankly far more force than was necessary. The shockwave sends a ripple up through his neck of the hydra, fragmenting horrific flesh off in a spray. Imagine a single beat pounded on a wet drum.

The head comes off entirely, along with a section of spine formed out of several spines coiled around salvaged sinew. Worse, it's still functioning, still snapping, until Groot explodes out of the beast. The moment the spark of animation leaves it, the head starts falling apart into its component chunks, dropping gobbets of flesh, joined bones rattling to the floor. It happens quickly.

The sickening motion is best described as liquid.

Hercules pulls a face, stepping back and shaking out his hands. "Need to remember to bring towels when I leave the house." He experimentally sniffs the back of his hand. He won't do that again.

As he steps away from the pile, he points at Groot and Rocket. "Good. Blades and fire. Classic." He's a little energized again. He adjusts the two of them a notch higher in their estimations - it's equally important to stay cool and very hot in a crisis.

Herc decides to keep his mace in hand as he comes up behind Atli. "One hopes, anyway." He leans over her shoulder, using his mace to push the button. The sooner they get this part over with, the sooner they're out of this tomb. "I hate killing monsters for little reward. If we're really lucky, there'll be a little beer money."

**

Light is a continuous flare from the muzzle of each of his guns as Rocket trains them on a target impossible to miss, his face contorted in an unending shout as he fires with reckless abandon. Blasts sear and send rotted and twisted flesh flying. Between that and Atli's charged spear, the burnt smell is nearly overpowering, especially for Rocket who would wish some of his senses weren't as sharp as they were.

Hercules does an impressive job of ripping apart the creature with bare hands, but although the carnage to follow is enough to induce one to lose one's lunch, the raccoonoid is nevertheless flooded with relief and just that much more pride as he sees Groot practically explode from some other part of the fleshy chimera. They'd just watched Space Balls the other day too. Rocket would wipe a tear but everything is gross and there's blood and wet pieces of things that he doesn't want to know what they were, everywhere, soooo that's not happening.

With the threat over, he finally relaxes his grip on his guns, toning down the power levels before they can go critical before shoving each into its holster. He's breathing hard, worn out from yelling and holding blazing weapons steady, but it doesn't stop him from stumbling over to where Groot is to pick him up, goo and all. To Atli, he manages half of a smile at her assessment. To Hercules, he gives a thumbs up. "That was super disgusting, and I think you an' Groot needa be hosed off." He glances down at himself and frowns. Ugh. Okay. Maybe he needs to take another bath, himself. Eyeuch.

As Atli goes towards the door she claims holds the answer to all their (?) problems, Rocket slowly starts after Hercules as the other goes to join her.

"There better be somethin' worthwhile in there after all that."

**

With his little chest heaving, Groot's rage meter drains quickly. He leaps down from the body as it falls in a way a body shouldn't, the flashlight clattering wetly across the floor somewhere on the other side. Shaking off as much as he can, he's still gross to a certain extent, coughing and gagging as he pats himself down.

Now that everything has calmed down again, he notices that they aren't fighting the hydra anymore.

…And as soon as Rocket comes over to get him, said 'greatest warrior' whimpers and whines, reaching up without hesitation until he's stuck (literally) to the not-raccoon's side.

After smushing his face into Rocket's suit, he peeks up at Hercules, then to where Atli has stopped. Another set of doors? The last set of doors. He can't help but think along similar lines as the rest of them, a faint glint of interest lurking somewhere behind his tired gaze.

**

"Worry not, Hercules, God of Strength. Tonight we all drink on my coin, and until none of us can stand, for finally we have the means to bring that coward Gorr to justice."

The door begins to open, an answer to questions asked but thus far not answered. Slowly it rises, and with it, a golden sheen is cast across all of them, so bright and warm that it almost washes away the foul stench of the creature they just defeated to reach their God-Killer-Killer prize. Or maybe that's just the cold, refrigerated air. Either way, it is glorious. Stretching on for a good fifty feet or more, the massive room contains brick after brick of that golden glory. Measured in inches, each individually wrapped piece glimmers even behind the shielding barrier of wax paper.

There, before them all, stacked to the ceiling and of the highest, purest quality, is ten thousand pounds of the key to victory over Gorr the God Butcher.

And you better believe it's just Butter.

With a gleam in her, Atli looks away from the ten thousand pounds of butter, and back towards her companions.

"Rocket, we must fetch the ritual book and begin construction at once. We'll make the biggest, ugliest butter statue* the world has ever seen, and then we slay he who thinks he can slay Gods."

**

You know those comic pages where it's just six panels of the exact same expression on someone? Maybe some people are moving around in the background, or there's other dialogue going on?

That's what's happening here. Herc is standing with his fists on his hips, looking up at the pyramid of glowing Pulp Fiction butter. His face is attentive and expectant as he tilts his head slightly back.

Beat.

Beat.

Beat.

Beat.

Beat.

Hercules glances slightly to the right, directly at a nonexistent camera man, his expression not changing.

**

"………………………………………………………………………………………………………."

There are seriously not enough ellipses in the world to fill in the space that Rocket would have conveyed were it not for lack of patience and time.

He takes in a breath. Hikes up Groot a bit higher against his chest and looks between Atli and the confused Hercules. But really, who can blame the latter?

…and then the Guardian turns around on his foot and begins the process of looking for ideal places to set up charges because SO HELP HIM he is going to blow up SOMETHING and BE HAPPY ABOUT IT.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 License