Confrontation and Conflagration

October 24, 2018:

Illyana finds herself trapped within a void thanks to the Scarlet Witch. Jean Grey finds her within and the two have a friendly discussion on right and wrong.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

There exists a void.

Where there is nothing and no one.

Save one soul.

Or one soulless being.

The Darkchilde.

The red came for her and while she ready it wasn't enough. It stole her from her Citadel and her dark magics and threw her into the nothingness. Where sound and color isn't seen or heard, where life is non-existent, save for a demon.

There the woman finds herself locked away. Partitioned off from Limbo and the bulk of her power and while she can't be held here forever, it surely feels that way currently.

Those first few minutes weren't bad. Illyana Rasputina threw her power expectantly against the void, so certain of herself and her magics. Only the outright destruction of her magics wasn't enough. The void shunted it aside and silently mocked the demoness it held.

Then came the histrionics.

Furiousness first. Then rage. Then something akin to a berserker madness.

The screams of the Darkchilde found themselves silenced by the blankness around.

It's only now that the heap that is Illyana stirs and from the depths of her black heart she mutters hoarsely, "The Witch will pay for this."

And like the screams before these words are likewise smothered into silence.

That, however, doesn't stop the demoness from once more pulling upon her own personal power from within. Her eyes open and within them the silver fires of eldritch energy burn and it ripples onto the astral plane; a herald of things to come.


The astral plane fluctuates with the Darkchilde's enraged thrashings. Many miles north of New York, in the relative safety of Westchester County, someone with a hand laid perpetually upon those ethereal strings sits up in bed and opens her eyes. The moonlight coming through the window shines through the tumble of her long red hair, as she bows her head forward and palms her face into her hands. Her fingers staple against her temples, pressing in.

Jean Grey has never slept well, and in crises like these even less so. Opportunities to simply rest have been few and far between. It figures that this, this opportunity for which she has searched for weeks… would come now.

She can sleep when she's dead. Pushing back the sheets, Jean resettles herself, and closes her eyes, and steps through the veil.

The astral plane is a barren place here, so close to the rage of the Darkchilde. It is barren, also, because Jean does not choose to make it be anything in particular. Not yet. She moves through it — if one can be said to move, in such places — in an amorphous shape of her own, electing to watch and listen before she asserts too strongly upon the warp and weft of this astral space.

A voice comes to the Darkchilde, as if from a great distance; or perhaps it is a very close voice, and it is simply being whispered through countless layers of silk and sad thoughts.

Illyana. How did you come to be here?


Burn. She's going to burn free of this void.

No matter that it eats the Eldritch flames she creates and dampens the radiating heat as well.

This. Place. Will. Burn.

And her too.

Only before the flame can do what the Darkchilde wishes it to, a voice is heard. A familiar voice.

Jean Grey.

That causes a momentary cessation of her irate anger and somewhat mindless strikes against the void. It causes her to narrow those silvered eyes in consideration at who has found her here.

Then the Darkchilde turns.

Only the facade that's shown now is no longer the horned visage of a demoness entrapped. It's that of Illyana Rasputina herself.

Dressed simply, expression cleared of snarls and vexation, of wrath and ire.

"Jean." States the familiar blonde woman, with just the right amount of sardonic humor in her voice to sound real, "Can you give a girl a hand here? I'm stuck."

And just like that Illyana extends a hand outward; though, for herself, the demoness has no real idea just where Jean is. Just that she knows Jean is nearby.


There is no answer, at first.

Then the veils part, and firelight fills the astral plane.

Illyana may have cleared her visage of that demonic influence, may have assumed her normal face and features, but Jean comes to her as fire in the shape of a woman — as a walking sculpture of living flame. Her presence gives a phantom impression of heat for now, as if it were radiating through thick glass. In the vague burning shape of her, coiling lines of fire twist and rise, exhaling into smoke that trails her like a train.

"I see that," says the fire. "I've been searching for you. I thought we'd discuss why you came to be stuck. Not just the obvious reason — the reason within the reason."

The heat intensifies. "What have you done, Illyana? Why did you do it?"


Fire, flame and heat.

Anathema to what she is now.

Darkness. Blackness. Demon.

A creature that shuns the light, that turns away from the fires of life and of the living.

Seeing Jean as such causes Illyana's blue-eyes to narrow in both irritation and discomfort. If she were a cat her hackles would stand sharply upward. As it is -

All Illyana can do is play the game. For now.

Her hand stays extended outward for a few more minutes, her expression artificially hopeful, up until that muted heat sharpens into something that bites.

It causes the sorceress' hand to curl into a fist with a soft hiss of displeasure. "What have I done." She echoes, "Why did I do it." Comes the second sing-song reiteration of Jean's questions.

"Why ask the question when you could easily take those answers from my mind?" She makes a show of looking around the two, before her coy gaze returns to Jean's fiery form, "This is your realm after all and you have the power here."


At first, Jean does not answer Illyana's coy response. She hovers where she is, looking upon the deceptively human form of the Darkchilde.

The flames burn higher and hotter, strobing into the air, white-hot tongues licking outwards from a searing core. Here, in the astral realm, Jean's red hair is a supernova of streaming heat, a grand coruscation of heat and light. Her head lifts, and those pupilless eyes burn, white-hot.

Then it lowers again. She steps forwards… and straight out of the shell of her flames. Jean Grey emerges from the fire like a butterfly from a coccoon, her mundane human form shedding that skin and leaving it behind. It burns in the air behind her still, until it winks out with a last wisp of smoke.

She takes a seat, in a chair that was not there before. Her hands fold in her lap. "Because the Illyana I know," she says, "would not have let this come to pass without a good reason — or what she perceived to be a good reason."

Her head tips back so she can look up into Illyana's face. "I could take those answers," she admits. "But the Illyana I know is someone who deserves to be asked first, rather than forced."

Her green eyes close briefly. "You were preparing against an eventuality of this very nature. Why did it come to pass? You have become the architect of all you sought to prevent. Have they taken your mind?" Here now comes that subtle psychic pressure, searching. "Have they coerced your soul?"


The snarl of flame and heat rolls outward and over to Illyana Rasputina.

Where it hits it reveals the truth of what lies underneath the shade that she presents to Jean Grey.

Spots of silver Eldritch armor reflects brightly where skin and clothing once were.

Even so that true demon within is not yet completely revealed.

Instead Jean Grey's upward look is met by Illyana's matching downward stare. Disdain can clearly be seen within her cold blue eyes and that emotion only worsens as Jean Grey continues to speak her particular points.

The psychic pressure, subtle as it is, meets against a familiar wall though stronger than what it ever once was. The demonic taints encircles her mind as always, but the mental barricade can now be found to be prickly with psychic thorns. Like a burr that pricks and sticks against an offending object, and like a bur it carries with it a seed of darkness. To be planted far from the host itself.

"You are mistaken, Jean." Comes Illyana's response, her words cold, flat. "It has not come to pass."

"I have neither been forced or coerced into taking up the mantle I now hold. I took it willing. What you see now is what I have done to protect all those I considered worth saving."

With each word Illyana's seemingly normal appearance falls away to display what's beneath.

The Darkchilde.

Upon her brow, like a crown, the reddened horns sit. Her form can be found covered in familiar Eldritch armor, with her feet cloven hooves, and a spade-tipped tail completing her demonic appearance.

"Though now it seems a wasted effort. Foolish sentiment that I no longer have the need for."


"I see," says Jean Grey.

Her aspect remains passive, peaceful, but her upturned green eyes are resolute. The Darkchilde's disdain is met only with that infinite, slow-burn patience, as the psychic pressure around them both builds and builds. Yet for all Jean's strength, Illyana has always had powerful shields, and they are stronger now than they ever have been. Jean's psionic grasp closes, and finds burrs and thorns prickling into its metaphysical palm.

Pain flickers in Jean's eyes, but she does not let go. "Whatever you have stopped," she says, "the price of our civilians' lives is too high. You have taken the choice to stand and fight, from all of us who would face what it is you fear."

She stands. "Now people are dying in the streets because of the demons you have loosed. Because you chose to take this on alone! Come back with us. We will find a better way to stop this. A way that does not sacrifice all these lives — or your soul."

Jean steps towards the Darkchilde. "You cannot protect with corruption. It will never preserve — only destroy. Listen to yourself. You have forgotten why you took this burden at all. You have forgotten that you wanted to save."

No pyrotechnics this time. No grand columns of flame. Only the white-hot glow of her eyes, lost to the pulse of a familiar blazing power. Only the echo of an accipitrine shape around her, like a visible heat-haze surrounding her slight form. She draws closer yet, and her thrown shadow spills across the empty whiteness of the astral realm in the shape of a great bird.

«You have lied to yourself.» Jean's voice seems to come from everywhere, and nowhere. Her hands turn, palms outward, and their little corner of the astral realm starts to go up in slow, grasping flames. The heat rips at the Darkchilde… but the trouble is, in order to try to cleanse Illyana Rasputina, she must be let out of the void that traps her. «We will burn the lie away. We will make ash of what has failed.»


The Darkchilde listens to what Jean Grey says; the demoness' expression immutable.

She is neither moved nor angered by what the red-head has to say. She simply is.

Up until she's not.

A sneer tightens her lips as she says, "Your flaw is believing that we all can be saved. That the good in life will prevail. A foolish notion to believe especially coming from you."

And then Jean steps closer and the heat rises once more.

It sears and while the Darkchilde wants to recoil, she doesn't. Instead she too raises her hands, mirroring Jean Grey's stance, but instead of heat Illyana pushes outward with magic. The dark energy pushes against the encroaching flames, attempting to snuff them out, but the blaze greedily burns past the self-powered ward of sorcery.

It creeps closer and the Eldritch armor that encases Illyana's hands and arms begins to tarnish. To blacken. To take damage from the intensity of the Phoenix's bite. It draws a pained sound from the Darkchilde, but she doesn't try to escape the onslaught. "Yes." She hisses, "Burn the darkness out. Burn out what you perceive as the lie and watch what turns to ash."

"Watch Illyana Rasputina die."

"Unlike you -" And here the Darkchilde strikes out at Jean Grey, reaching to grab the other woman's arms in a tight vice-like grip, "There would be no resurrection for her, only the finality of death itself. Just another victim added to a list of destruction that's much longer than my own."

"It's rather hypocritical of you to come to me and speak of lies and death, and the so called wrongness of my actions when yours were and are so much worse."

And while she speaks to Jean Grey and reveals some of she feels, what she thinks, ultimately Illyana's words are a stratagem in itself. For when the void cracks the Darkchilde seizes upon that small breach and pulls upon great swathes of magic from the combined Limbo and Earth.

Of darkness and devilry.

It brings a crackle of Eldritch flame to her eyes and her expression turns to a smile.


"I believe all should be saved," says Jean. "Not that all can be saved."

There is an eerie echo to her voice. "There is a small difference."

Psionic fire and flaring heat contend with the dark and cold that encase Illyana Rasputina. The withering flames bite at Illyana's armor, even as she suddenly strikes out and latches onto Jean. The psion hisses in pain and something beyond pain — the sound of two complete opposites clashing, perhaps — but she holds firm. Her glowing eyes stare into the Darkchilde's as she makes her taunts. As she speaks of Jean's own crimes. Of her hypocrisies. For half a moment, her heart wilts within her. Her list of the dead is already so long.

Watch Illyana Rasputina die.

Jean hesitates half a moment. The rising flames pause. Then her head bows slightly in resolution. "Better dead than a demonic shell of oneself," she says. "Better dead than a lie. I have died for my crimes, and will die again."

Her head lifts, eyes white-hot. "And again."

The flames burn hotter. "And again."

The void cracks open, just a bit. Jean stops speaking. This is the one split second she has in order to try to free Illyana before the Darkchilde escapes. All her focus pours into a sudden assault of light and fire, the woman hurling the flames of life itself into Illyana in an attempt to burn her clean.


A small difference.

There's truth there, but the Darkchilde's gaze remains triumphant. Truly, in her mind she has the upper hand here, especially when the other woman drops her head faintly.

Then that triumphant look falters when Jean lifts her head back up. Her words bring a note of discord within the Darkchilde's black heart. A vague sense of warning that perhaps, with this particular battle, the Demoness has over estimated the person she's fighting. Or under estimated her own cunning.

Whichever the case may be, the Sorceress feels that vague twinge of alarm within herself and it causes her expression to shift to something more serious.

To something that looks closer to worry even as Jean finds her determination and resolve solidifying once more.

And with that courage the flames leap upward again.

Scorching. Blistering. Brutal.

They set fire to the demoness and the Darkchilde screams with pain. She drops to her knees as the heat and radiance sears into her. As it seeks to burn the darkness out.

Upon Illyana's Eldritch Armor hairline fractures appear and the crazed lines zig-zag outward from her hands and arms, and further downward. Patches of the Promethean metal begin to flake off and fall within the void, the shining brilliance revealing burnt skin beneath it.

And still the Darkchilde holds onto Jean Grey's arms. Her grasp tight, growing tighter as her hands spasm from the pain, but she doesn't let go.

That scream ends in something like rusty laughter. Her mirth ending in something of a guttural sound, as the demoness rasps, "You will not defeat me."

"I was born from pain. It's what raised me, what taught me all I know today."

It's what's made me who I am, what I am."

Now her eyes open and the Demoness looks up at the red-headed woman. "I cannot be defeated."

With the void now opened the Darkchilde pulls upon all that is hers to call upon. The magics that have made her who and what she is this night. The magic that now lashes outward to slap mightily at Jean Grey.

A force that is both concussive and metaphysical. Something to push the astral self of Jean Grey away from the Darkchilde, but to also sunder and break it. To force the Bird back to its roost, to its body.


Illyana's screams find an echo in Jean's own heart. The Darkchilde shrieks in pain, and Jean shrieks with her in a voice only half human. Her telepathy, after all, can never be turned off. Everything the Darkchilde feels, so too does Jean Grey.

But she does not stop. She does not relent. She has one chance and one alone to end this. She will save Illyana, or they will all die in the trying.

The Darkchilde, of course, has other ideas.

I cannot be defeated.

Freed enough of her void to dig deep into her eldritch powers, the Darkchilde summons all she is to beat back the light and heat of the woman who was once a god — beyond a god. Jean's head snaps back, her long hair streaming. Both of them burn, their astral bodies flaking into ash wherever the fire touches.

She could call for It. She could cry out for It. It waits there, out in the wings, Its burning eyes watching her — waiting to have her again. To take her again —

She hesitates.

Dark magic breaks her hold and scatters her to the four winds of the astral plane.

Miles away, Jean's body arches in her bed, spasming with the slap of her astral self being punched back into her physical form. She drags a great breath into her lungs, her eyes flaring open, before her convulsions pitch her out of the bed and onto hands and knees beside it. She shakes for a long moment on the floor, blood pooling in drips onto the floor beneath her bowed head.

"Illyana," she finally whispers, pressing her hand over her bleeding nose and eyes. The flow stems a moment, before crimson begins to seep again between her shaking fingers. "What price will be paid to end this?"

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