12169/Pieces of Mind: Long Shadows (Pre-Finale)

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Pieces of Mind: Long Shadows (Pre-Finale)
Date of Scene: 30 July 2022
Location: Xavier's Mansion (Hallway, Infirmary, Stairs), Astral Plane
Synopsis: The Xmen and Jane react to the Shadow King's assault on Charles, working to rescue him.
Cast of Characters: Charles Xavier, Emma Frost, Tabitha Smith, Jean Grey, Jane Foster, Warren Worthington

Charles Xavier has posed:
The hostage situation has been going on for weeks. The Astral Plane housed a beautifully made, powerful sanctuary to help lost souls and minds separated from their bodies heal, with the eventual goal to return them to the bodies they were so rudely shoved out of. But now, all of those souls, in various states of being ripped to shreds, are forcefully being held inside that sanctuary - along with the creator, Charles Xavier, by the powerful entity "The Shadow King."

The stalemate has been rough: Charles holding Shadow King back, but the sanctuary was contaminated and is under constant siege by the psychic villain. Those that approach find the very walls covered in innocent souls and their thoughts and dreams-- as Shadow King keeps others away in his crusade to wear down and destroy his foe.

How did this come about? The Shadow King's canny plot involved forcing sorcerers to do his bidding, creating horrible rips to allow magical rituals to open passages into the Astral - of which the exact purpose is still unknown. Doing so caused ripples in the magical community, and several allies among the magi have surfaced, the most useful being Kels, a sorcerer that claims to have snuck into the sanctuary itself, but has fallen silent in the past day.


Then, late Friday evening, something impacts the sanctuary - but not just that. Many people in the X-Mansion will feel it, this hard BLOW, as if the two in the tug of war suddenly found their rope snapped!

Those observing in the Astral will witness souls shattering off of the sanctuary construct in splinters and shards, their screams physical in that realm, as they react, and try to claw away from the sanctuary that is trying to drag them in, like a hungry, gaping maw.

In the X-Mansion, a crawl of a black tendril, like a wet emotion of sticky dread, psychically passes over everyone - as a Shadow pulses out from Charles' physical location, tasting of those around... hunting something. "Where did you gooooo?" tut-tuts the shadow in many minds, as it looks, fat and confident in seeing victory shortly....

Emma Frost has posed:
This is bad. This is very bad. This was their method of holding the souls of teh bodily departed. And now they're at risk of being consumed if not wholly obliterated. This is the stuff of nightmares, and fully formed from the shadows. Emma Frost, htat had been sitting over in a guest room at the Mansion feels the psychic schism of things that break and shatters.

She goes to send out a psionic alarm, it jolting through minds like a tripwire darting about from consciousness to consciousness as quickly as she could to rouse and alert for those not in the reel of things.

<<Charles has fallen>> And now all they can do is stand and fight and hope that they can quickly stop the thing and contain it. Saving anything or anyone else that they could. Now is going to be a rough time over on the astral r ealm as Emma goes to pass along as much warning as she can.

Tabitha Smith has posed:
Everyone that's been in the know aboy what's happening with the Shadow King and with the Professor. Tabby's even been gettingt some extra training as a result. Whether it will help or not remains to be seen but she does come running with Emma's call for the fall of Xavier <<So should I do the thing?>> she asks while scrambling into the mansion. In uniform, sure it's one of her black and tellow tennis dresses but is it an actual uniform in it's functionality. Plus she gotta front up as an X-Man for soemthing this big.

Tabby was told she was going to be the meatshield. So how she does that is probably up to her but still a matter of when as she does her best to be all psionically stealthy for now. Her fear of putting her thoughts in the wrong minds fueling her need to minimise her psychic footprint. Till she's needed to make some noise.

Jean Grey has posed:
Jean has many duties at the school, even during the summers when class is out, with how many of the students also reside fully at the mansion. Of late, she has added another charge to her list, taking on much of the burden of caring for Charles' physical self as he remains in his psychically separated state. By this time, he has been moved to the sub-basement and their advanced medical facilities. It remains a largely a cautionary measure, as his vitals - carefully monitored - remain stable and strong. But any telepath can attest that mental damage can cause real physiological harm, and so there are various emergency measures on standby should they be needed.

For the time being, they can only watch and wait.

Jean happens to be down there now. While there is nothing to do, she sits beside his medical bed, in this case actually reading off some of the school work she's going through, forms and student reports and all sorts of silly things. It's something to fill the air... at least until those darker feelings do. Immediately, she's bolt-upright in her seat, looking to the medical bed. Then, a moment later, she lifts a hand to her temple in that familiar psychic gesture, as she reaches out to some of the others.

<<Something is happening. But... I don't know if that's right. I can still feel him, quite close. It seems like it's the structure itself that's been damaged.>>

Jane Foster has posed:
The Astral Realm: A traveller on the path heads to a seemingly impregnable sanctuary, an eye open for changes in the evershifting landscape or sudden spirit-like entities popping up unexpectedly. Here, Jane Foster treads very lightly until tremors rock the very essence of the place. Bombardment above lucid trees send her to her very knees, unceremoniously knocked over and left looking through swirling nebulous 'skies' at a fireworks show accompanied by wrenching screams amidst the ember glow of wracked agonies. A special kind of hell unfolds at some distance, but no distance quite matters in a realm of thought and impossibility.

Staying on hands and knees hasn't ever done much for people. Nor is it practical here.

//Get up.// The reminder to herself accompanies struggling back to her feet, forcing away the incipient curling of doubt in her gut. Souls continue to sparkle in a roughshod way overhead, and the pandemonium wind raking over her exposed limbs isn't going to get any better. Up; getting her bearings, she heads toward the sanctuary and its splintering souls rather than away. With any luck someone else might be there. Any bits falling near her can be gathered, pulled to her, possibly preserved for later.

Another, smaller but weirdly clear psychic signature in the Astral gloom is hers, sustained by a cosmic storm the size of galaxies who has opinions aplenty.

Warren Worthington has posed:
Warren lands on the back patio of Xavier's, dressed in his blue and white uniform. Investigating the cyborg attacks was becoming a nightly occupation for him. He stops to talk with a few of the students hanging around outside. As one of the few very public heroes, he was not shy about being seen inside the mansion in uniform. Little did the students know just how many others had their own.

The young man is busy laying the charm on thick when the building shakes. First Emma and then Jean's voices echo in his mind.

"I want all of you out on the grass at the gathering sites, now!" he says suddenly. His entire demeanour changes. Warren takes off at a sprint towards the secret access to the sublevels. On the way he catches a confused looking member of the staff and tells them to run a fire drill right now and get the students outside. The staff member nods in understanding and gets to it.

<<I'm on my way, 20 seconds>> Warren thinks, knowing Jean will often be paying attention to her teammates thoughts when things happen. It has been a while but the habits come back quickly.

Warren runs through the halls of the sub-basement, catching up with Tabitha, and bursts into the medical room. He skids to a stop and narrows his eyes. He is not at all certain what he is seeing, or what the shadows are.

"Jean, what do you need?" he asks, taking stock.

Charles Xavier has posed:
There's a bizarre, lurching sensation in the presence around Charles' physical body. It is as if the Shadow, now present there, asserting into the front of Charles' physical center, is a tether, pulling a lot of horror with it. Magic pools in lengthening shadows of black liquid, dripping emotion off the infirmary walls.

And there, the cleverness of the Shadow King is made manifest: to pull horrors, monsters, directly into the world around the person he is in possession of. << You have lost, why slowly die? Have some /dignity/,>> the Shadow King broadcasts to everyone. His inner eye is a long, lolling tongue, looking for Charles in other people's heads.

The shadowy, summoned monsters in the infirmary are starting to take on physical mass, made of a magic entwined with raw emotion. Their hollow eyes are empty as they take in Warren and Jean! These are minds beyond repair, perhaps - truly servants of psychic torment. There are four, and they are nearly fully formed.


In the Astral, Jane can sense some familiar magic nearby - Kels is active, and his magic is exposed due to his magic use near the maw. If he's aware of her approach, he's busy, trying to redirect the maw's flow somewhere else.


A thread of disorientation comes just to those aware of the little magical candle. This candle's elemental creature was used repeatedly, by the mage Kels, to speak the group while he was elsewhere; the elemental is known to be an avatar through which communication was possible. It is barely a flutter, but then expands out into a sort of small glowing yellow tennis-sized ball over the wax.

Tabitha may feel it first, as she had been it feeding energy so often, that it is there, but has barely any energy, and may soon go out.

Emma Frost has posed:
The comment from Jean Grey has Emma going to a defensive posture. In astral space, her form is turning over to that of flawless diamond, body forging over with it as she arryas herself in a level of redirected shields to try and block out everyone and everything. But she's not fast enough to manage to turn back the sudden invasion of the Shadow King that works it's way paster her defenses.

IN her head it's able to get several images before Emma goes to snap her mindscape shut over. From her position upstairs in ehr room, Emma staggers, falling down hard on the ground, glass she had been drinking one from hittin the carpeted floor and rolling, wasting extremely expensive wine.
    <<Ah, doctor, so sorry to make your acquiantance again..>> Emma might not ordinarily pay too close attention, but Jane's essence is almost -impossible- to miss, sl glaring is it astrally. <<You've come just at the right mometn to partake of the catastrophe>> Emma goes to start to try and engage the Shadow King directly. This is a creature like Selene.
    Emma goes to try and distract it over with small things. Memories. Microchasms. They had gotten thier story from Illyana. So Emma goes tos tart to bombard it over with things of a trivial nature. Charels outmaneuvering it. Petty failures. Schemes undone. Emma goes to play up those elements if she could of self loathing, trying to send back along the tendril the emotional sensation of -all- of those times one had messed up over and enraged at missing something so triival, being outplayed.. Emma starts tos end in a sea of them. Attempting to give the thing an onslaught of such disruptions.
    The creature is fickle, petty, and exists solely to act upon minor grudges from decades ago. Time to bait it.

Tabitha Smith has posed:
The candle elemental gets spotted and yes Tabby does maybe have a small soft spot for the critter being a good sport. The flickering out gets a worried look. It's glow still feels well kinda safe but she doesn't want it to go out.

There's a a flicker of her own plasma to try and stabilise it but Tabby also tries to communicate with the elemental directly. Or telepathically at least. <<Hey you okay there? You and Kel's both?> she queries while trying to recharge the little fire elemental. If Kel's is listening at all or even alive. There's two allies to worry about.

<<Looks like Shadow King decided now or never. Fat sack a crap>> she says and shakes her head. Keeping communications small and not wide open for now where most of her telepathic focus goes while plasma is generated to drip feed the elemental. <<Emma, Jean? Uhhm how's the Professor himself?>> she also asks out while looking to the redhead and Warren as he passes through on his way in.

Jean Grey has posed:
For a moment, Jean wrestles with the remnants of the sensation, wobbling on her feet, looking around, perhaps not totally sure what portion of everything she's seeing is in her mind or not, what is real and what is not. Her gaze snaps to the medbay door as it glides open in appropriately sci-fi style, and only here does her expression brighten. Dramatically so. "Warren! I'm really glad you're here." Quite impulsively, she starts to move toward him, only to pause as one of the slithering extrusions crosses her vision, halting in place, turning, looking around in concern, and finally back toward the medbay. "I don't- I don't know, really, we're still figuring out all of this, what's even happening, what we can do about it. But something's happened, changed. With the place Charles built for the lost psyches. And the creature responsible for it-"

A hand gestures in the direction of the darkness. The explanation should be self evident.

"-I think it's trying a new approach. We can't let them touch Charles." The outstretched hand, or rather the cuff of the blouse she's wearing, then starts to burn away, a yellow-orange energy crackling backward up her arm. Her clothing changes as it moves, melting into the skintight green of her uniform. At the same time, the same energy crackles out, reaching for the dark extrusions near his body, forming into the outline of an extended talon.

"I have no idea how real this is, if we can even fight it. I might have to leave my body to do more, I don't know. If I do, I'll be as vulnerable as he is."

<<What's happening there? I can't safely project, it's reaching into the real world somehow, trying to attack the Professor's body. I'm here with Warren.>> Indeed, she does him the courtesy of looping in to that little conversation, so he can hear what the others are reporting from realms beyond.

Jane Foster has posed:
The Shadow King will be sorely disappointed by stepping into Jane's mind if he wants anything recent of Charles Xavier. A meeting some weeks ago offers tremendously little useful information about his current whereabouts. The corrupted psychic sum of humanity's worst habits might pick up plenty of other juicy tidbits -- some concerning to him, and probably more that are none too good for the disembodied soul that hung from Yggdrasil's branches for many turns of the Moon.

Oblivious to that risk, Jane scoops up a broken chunk of soul, the first chair violin of a philharmonic. Her hands sting to the touch of a living psyche, scoring pink welts akin to poison ivy. "Shh, friend, I've got you. I won't hurt you." A promise as good as intent, while another meteorite pounds the ground and streams a shriek through the bloodied astral gloom. Popping the soul into the safety of her bag, she makes a hurried run to gather the fragment in its steaming, miserable pit. There's Kels in the near distance, superimposed on something horrifically dark and terrible. For a moment, her expression twists, eyebrows lowered and forehead creased. Whatever she's bound to say in /his/ direction starts and ends with, "Are you able to manage that--"

--"Ma'am?" Emma isn't called by name, even the mere astral traveller knows better. "Never a dull day. Careful of the big shadowy mouth." Seeing a diamond woman appear from nowhere is really quite par for the course. She snatches up the burning soul fragment, biting back the discomfort, drawn almost against her will. "Say if there's something better I can do." Saving souls and lives is an odd extension of the astrophysicist job description, but make of that how you will. The slender broken chains woven through her boots drag behind her, an ephemeral strand weaving off her right wrist. They don't go anywhere, and they should, terminating into cracked gossamer. A suitable place to stick excess souls, if it comes to that.

Warren Worthington has posed:
Two of the most precious people in Warren's world are in the infirmary, with horrors coalescing out of the shadows. On his way in, Warren vaguely noted Tabitha getting to work. Charles has been trapped for some time. Even Jean does not seem to know exactly what is happening. And Emma Frost of all people was just in his head.

But it is Jean's smile that Warren reacts to. They had been through so much with Scott, Hank, and Bobby, not to mention all of the others. Just being together was enough to make Warren believe they would be fine.

"Got it," Warren replies to Jean. He gives a flap of his wings and skips over a shadowy tendril to the opposite side of Charles' bed from Jean, back to their mentor.

"So I'm seeing... Monsters. And shadows turning into monsters. And Tabby sort of looks like she's about to set anything that twitches on fire," Warren says. "Pretty sure that's all real. Tabby! Let's give Jean and the prof some space!"

Warren surges forward toward the nearest emerging monster and uses his wings to give himself extra momentum as he snaps out a turning kick at its head.

Charles Xavier has posed:
<< Baaaaad Tooooouch, >> singsongs the Shadow at Jean's comment. "I already have his body, fools," comes from Charles's voice directly, in the infirmary. Or maybe it didn't. It could be illusory, to make them think that he does, in fact, already have Charles' body. That the blackness if flooding his veins like a sinister spiderweb into every pore of their beloved Xavier?...

Whichever it is, his full attention is certainly on them, and on Emma. Emma will feel the dismissiveness of his mind against her onslaught - but also that he IS looking at everything she's projecting, in case there are clues in there that he can use against her. He's starting to twist the visions she sends: changing the ending of those things, to situations where Charles dies instead, that sort of thing. It IS taking up attention, as he responds to mock her attempts to distract him. .... Right.


<< Tabitha, >> Charles' voice warmly expands in her head as she connects to the elemental flame. He's present, there's a strength there, but it is as if he were speaking from a very very far away place.

Cosmic power, itty bitty living space. Elemental-sized?

<< He does not yet have my body. If you can, delay... I am trying to find my way back to myself... >>


Kels glances sideways at Jane's question, and as if in answer, doubles the effort, with a lift of chin. The expression reads 'how dare you suggest I cannot' in type. Then the maw almost flays his astral hands off and he's forced to back off a step. Still, whatever he is casting is now opening up: a different gate than the maw. Kels points from Jane's chains, to his gate. Send them on that way instead! He then lifts a finger to lips. --- And be quiet about it.


In the infirmary, two of the ghastly things lunge towards Warren as he surges towards them. If he doesn't move, he will find their claws QUITE physical, exerting freezing chill -- but he's quick, and their claws may snap on nothing. One takes the kick, which makes it pause a little, as if it didn't know what to make of being hit. It's new to being a monster! They aren't extremely swift compared, but are large, floating horrors with empty black eye sockets, gaping twisted forms that are, but aren't, humanoid: they are whats left of several humanoids crushed into a single wraith. Still, the infirmary is in their favor: there isn't lots of space to dodge or fly about, and the other two are almost fully formed.

Emma Frost has posed:
All Emma can do now is keep up the distractions and try and buy the others some time. She's got an inkling as to what exactly Jane is up to.. But for nwo, that's none of her business. And outside of any sort of interference from her anyways. It's at least givign a peace to those they couldn't save that were left in pieces. She's not aware of the flickerings of the candle and the other portions of existence.

Emma is still in her own room on the ground, propped up in an arm and nearly incoherent, not noticing of anyone else around her as she's giving her full focus over to th astral if one were to rush in there or be interacting with the candle. She's just sort of culre dup over on the ground and braced on an arm.

Emma goes to counter the visions as the Shadow King goes to twist them. The thing seems to have a loathing of Charles.. Emma goes to start playing this up instead as the reversals go on. Counterings of where Charles falls to the Shadow King in turn are made to ones where the Shaodw King is instead wrapped up over in a small ball, faded away, shoved over and forgotten. Shot off into space. Nothingness. Cut off over from everything.

Emma goes to then fill the blankless with laughter. Mocking, reverberating laughter. From her. From dozens of her. Each of them looking slightly different. To this is added the strong sense of -nothingness-.

For psionics, there are places where there is nothingness. The void. Dead zones in the astral realm. Emma cannot make them but she can give the -sensation- of them.

To th Shadow King Emma in turn tries to give that total senseation of -nothingness-, cut off from all else. All senses. All data. Everything but being a ghost locked away in the vast depths of space for eternity, molecules slowly falling out to the fickleness of the wind.

Tabitha Smith has posed:
This is real stuff so when Tabby touches base. And Warren in the mind link senses her attempting to feed an elemental tries to get her focused on mission. <<Hunker down, we're gonna tie this ass up iun knots!>> Tabby puts that knowledge she has in the back of her brain and keeps her poker face going.

There's more plasma fed to the elemental. And to Charles if he can access it. But soon she's rushing down and out of Emma's room to go and make the entity work a bit more. <<I'mma do the thing!>> she directs to Emma, Jean and any one else. <<Put the thing between it and the thing I'm doing!>> Tabby really has no idea what she's doing but as she rushes past with a squeeze of Emma's shoulder out into maybe a third point between Emma, the professor in candle. The body of the professor in the infirmary. Tabby dashes out to that triangular point.

With a fair bit of concentration she tries her best to focus and well. Broadcast her location. But on top of that she fakes a mind voice. If it's chasing her it's not chasing anyone else and they can work to protect both sides of Charles Xavier. It's an attempt at his voice in her telepathic bullshitting <<To me my X-Men!>> They suggested a trap. Make a nasty one. It doesn't get much nastier that maybe being stuck inside the head of someone often percived as a mindless bimbo.

Jean Grey has posed:
Jean's transformation continues, conscious or otherwise. As she pours out more energy, more of it flows backward over her, the sizzling progress burning everything else away to leave her in green and gold, with the mark of her not-entirely-friendly passenger on her chest. Yet those cosmetics are probably the least important detail!

As Warren surges forward, so too do her extended firebird talons, another soon joining the first, and then each expanding in turn, the individual talons almost becoming appendages in their own right. One extends along each side of the winged mutant, joining in combat. Unlike Warren, there is no reason for them to dodge or weave, or to avoid contact. They lash forward without hesitation, each blazing talon seizing one of the forming things of darkness. She has no idea what to expect of the interaction, but frankly, caution is not in the calculus with Charles at risk... and for the Phoenix itself, whatever say it has in this, what is death to the avatar of rebirth? Fear serves no purposes.

Thus the blazing talons grab, seize. And then they crush. They burn. Not as fire, not as precisely, but as the aggressive deconstruction of matter at their boundaries.

"We have to get him clear, fight these off- so I can HELP." Clearly, to her, fighting shadow monsters in a medbay falls short of the definition, even if she very clearly is helping. But there's clear frustration, at being stuck with something mundane. At being kept from aiding Charles. The true Charles, that struggles elsewhere, outside this scope.

Jane Foster has posed:
Jane is not cognizant of a psychic or physical battle waged for Charles Xavier in Westchester while she dwells in the Astral Realm and Manhattan -- and about six other planes simul-terminously. Coterminously? Spatial correspondence via novel erratic quantum superpositioning has its limits. Broken souls shed from the sanctuary remain scattered far and wide. She collects those nearby, risking being cut by the force of their emotions and the candor of their screams. No blood comes from the lacerations or burns; she simply loses colour to her complexion, dram by dram. But no matter how painful it is to share intimately in someone's agonies, she soldiers on.

Kels' unfinished comment earns a pointed stare, his reply entirely not what she was saying -- an impression spun around in the scent of shimmery grey musk, crushed spruce, and warm rain. She doesn't project thoughts with the maw anywhere close by, herding several recalcitrant soul-motes onward with delicate coercion... and basically chasing fireflies through the spectral wildlands to the glowing gate. Most aren't with it enough to go on their own. Psychic trauma blinds them to all help from the brunette in jeans dashing about, struggling against her grip until shepherded through. The gate's call beckons strongly enough to align them all in a magnetic north, and anything coming close gets pulled to a lodestone on the other side.

A harrowing freefall and reality lurches. The souls cast through hopefully go somewhere useful. One of them does. Ice-shrouded limbs crackle as they move unevenly, splaying across the frozen floor while magic rolls over her. Only with luck is she nimble enough not to wipe out, bounding away from a rapidly approaching frost-hewn rail. Sliding uncontrollably for an ornate set of stairs isn't really helpful either, especially on /four legs/.

Warren Worthington has posed:
Warren's kick connects with the shadowy monster in front of him. He smirks wryly at its almost confused reaction, while flaming talons join the fight. And there it is, the flash of insecurity, insignificance in the face of the powers of his teammates like Jean, Charles. The physical metaphor is a perfect manifestation of what has haunted him so many times; the simple fact that of the five, he has always been and felt like the least.

The moment passes as it always does, smarmy arrogance and bravado and deep, genuine desire to help covering it over, but it is a distraction. Warren has little room to move and his momentary wrestling with a fragile ego makes him slow. The first of the claws swiping at him misses, but the second rakes across his left arm. The cold burns at least as much as the cuts.

Warren bicycle kicks at the monster that clawed him, pulling off a tight backflip and landing at the bed again.

"Time to go?" Warren asks Jean. He eyes the distance to the door and where the monsters are, ready to scoop up the professor and go on Jean's word.

Charles Xavier has posed:
<< NO! Do not endanger yourself as a host, Tabitha---! >> answers Charles, immediately. He sounds FAR stronger when Tabitha feeds the elemental, able to directly answer! Unfortunately, it seems Tabitha baited Charles out just as much as the Shadow King...

The Shadow King mentally looks right at her, and she'll feel that horrible eye of Sauron on her mind. She may well get her wish -- mostly because he picked up on Charles there. Hopefully Tabitha has some resistance from being mind flayed.


The monsters that Warren has engaged try to rush towards Tabitha's direction, which does give Warren a great opening on one of them for the bicycle kick and it collapses in a heap. They acted like they were just ordered to go there, without any heed for anything else! Which means Charles' body can be picked up without their interference.

Jean's monsters are working entirely just to defend themselves, as Jean lops off pieces of their weird limbs. They are (wisely?) protecting their main bodies, but Jean's successfully tearing their claws off, which is making them look pretty damn ineffective while they try to regenerate new claws!


There's a slight press in the side of Emma's awareness -- Charles is there, risking contact to try to find her aid in protecting Tabitha from whatever bad idea Tabitha is cooking up. But that's all it is - the elemental on the candle can only send these little bits of telepathy. It's a weird little cage, and Charles folds inward, working out the key to it now. It won't hold someone of his level for long, particularly when he's trying to save a student.


In the Astral, the 'better option' portal is being held open by Kels, and is now better positioned to siphon lots of lost souls off the maw before it consumes them. Lots of souls being sent 'somewhere':

All around Jane, lots of little animal constructs now contain lost souls. A squirrel sits down, while two small doves blink in disorientation. Five rabbits huddle together. It's really disorienting to be drifting towards an abyssal maw as a tortured soul, and then suddenly be one of many furry animals inside frosty bushes. In a pinch, the empty frost animal constructs of the magical palace on the Bronx Leyline will do as housing. ...Sort of.

Emma Frost has posed:
Now is the time to switch from offense to defense over and to try and give Tabitha some cover as the girl takes her place on decoy duties. Emma is very, very familiar wit the girl's capacity for chaos. It makes her psionic signature easy to pinpoint and enhance. it also makes it easy to replicate. So Emma starts filling hte psionic sphere with decoys. Dozens upond ozens of incarnations of Tabitha are popping in to existence now as they are driving RV's back and forth. Playing at the pool. bouncing around like ping pongs. And to each of them Emma adds a detonator. As soon as contact is amde over with them, they would explode, adding more to the chaos. The eruptions wouldn't necessarily inflict any damage, but the name of the game was distraction. And stalling. The harder time the Shadow King has with picking out it's true target is all the more time for the rest.

And then Emma goes to get a senes of where everyone is in this chaotic little game. The things she does.. Emma goes to grab up one of the cases that her wine bottles come in. It's heavy and reinforced. It can take the candle and keep it stable. Emma goes to run along, heading through the hallway, down towards the stairs..
    All the while as more and more Tabithas would apparate over into appearance, like confetti, erupting and exploding and adding more to the merry malfeasance. Emma rushes along now, coming over to the top of a high staircase. The stairs are long and will take -time- to get down. Seconds are precious now. Emma just looks over stairs, bannister, stairs, bannister.. Dignity, bannister.. Dignity..
    With an elegant sigh and a mental note to murder anyone whom ever shows awareness this happened, Emma Frost, clad in satin bathrobe goes to hook one leg up and over hte bannister, braces the case under a shoulder.. And goes to slide down at high speed. She arrives over at the bottom, near where Jean and Warren are coming up with the case. Bathrobe.. not so much.

    "Not. A. Word."

Tabitha Smith has posed:
Tabitha in her attempts to be a beacon and a distraction. With maybe enough of Xavier's presence in her mind enough she can take that and lead the Shadow King on a merry chase while she runs physiclay towards. Well downstairs and then outside to thefront yard. She needs the room to fight if need be. So maybe eventually she's not that far ahead of the monsters Jean and warren had to tangle with.

<<Gotta catch us! Gonna get out paced by a crazy ass blonde! Sucks to be you Shadow Dingus!>> she taunts. It's absolutely a bad idea. But she's got the mental trailer park revved up. Where the entity stomps. The trailers that contain her mind will drive about wildlyto stay out of Shadow King's way.

Physically, Tabby is pushing her bioelectric energy into generatingmore plasma, psionically swirling streams around her once she's outside on the lawn and ready to fight. With Emma adding extra telepathic Chaff she beams her thoughs to a few of those illusionary duplicates. Adding some extra mingled psionic signatures and with her plasma coalescing into bombs ready to blast at her discretion. Every fake Tabby starts getting a bomb to fight the monsters coming for her!

Jean Grey has posed:
"Go!" Jean agrees-slash-commands, as Warren swoops for Charles. She doesn't really know if a physical escape is meaningful - if the Shadow King won't just manifest more attackers wherever they go - but the dark creatures are HERE with them, obeying at least enough of the laws of physics that proximity seems to hold some relevance.

And there's another reason.

The manifested talons clutch, hold, ripping and shredding even as the black creatures seem to grow anew. This continues until Warren is clear... whereupon her efforts redouble. Jean fears doing things like this; Charles, in fact, would probably scold her for it, with efforts they once made to seal away the creature in her mind. But being that he's the one in danger... Charles doesn't get a say. And so once Warren's wings carry him and his cargo into the hall, Jean sprouts wings of her own, the manifestation becoming more than a pair of burning talons, but rather a full aura that enshrouds her, the firebird's silhouette.

It is both arms and armor, then, as she attacks in many directions, lashing out with power more fully unleashed, claw and talon and slashing stroke of flaming wing, although their physical shapes are perhaps more symbolic, in comparison to the weight of telekinetic might thrown against them, or the sear of that destructive cosmic fire. Soon, she has engulfed the whole room, and it is no longer a combat of gestures and maneuvers, but of simple energy, thrown against the dark creatures.

Hank will have complaints later, no doubt, for the state she'll leave his medbay. He can get in line!

Jane Foster has posed:
In the great, epic ballad of foiling the Shadow King, Jane gets to be a relative footnote about peppering stolen souls to some random corner of Brooklyn that's about as warm as an overly decorated Versailles meat locker. History tends to remember the efforts of the flame-taloned and razor-winged, less the physicists, and that's okay. Quite frankly, seeing victims safe matters more than facing down a tyrannical astral spirit.

Not a word on the record about spinning out and gamboling about. The deer manages not to crash out entirely on the steps, though she digs her hooves -- pointy, delicate, sharp -- in and leaves furrows if the ice isn't appropriately enchanted. Kels' spells are otherwise working, but staying out of harm's way is as alien to her as being a dishwasher/barback paid below minimum wage is to Emma.

That means approaching the gate and who knows if it's one way? Both ways? A flood of souls pushed inward makes going against the tide hard, and the white deer -- yes, it's just getting worse -- lowers her head and stubbornly pushes forward. A deer with a silver-shod foreleg at that, please don't kill the new arrival bouncing through into the Astral realm again. If the gate won't let her, then?

She cuts a portal herself.

Warren Worthington has posed:
Warren makes eye contact with Jean when she tells him to go, and cannot keep the concern from washing over his face. But he just nods, scoops the professor up and takes off for the door with a wing-assisted run. Warren feels the heat behind him and runs harder. He comes out of the subbasement and into the foyer just in time to see Emma at the top of the stairs.... Coming down to the bottom of the stairs.

Warren opens his mouth to say something. Closes it. Opens it again. Thinks better of it.

"Emma, Jean's transforming," he says, trying to put what he just saw Emma do out of his mind. "There were shadow monsters down there, but that's the least of our problems if she loses control.... And what is going on? Can we wake the professor somehow?"

The absurdity of the moment registers briefly on Warren. Standing in the foyer. Emma Frost just sliding down the bannister. Chatting while carrying Professor X unconscious in his arms. Warren glances out the front doors of the mansion, still swinging wide. Tabitha out there... Being Tabitha.

"Do you have any idea what's going on?" he asks Emma. "Cause I really don't. I was just coming to the mansion looking for a snack."

Charles Xavier has posed:
<< HA HA HA, little silly children. You think you are distracting me? So cute and pitiful you are! It is I that hold your attention, while I take your dear Charles' body. I will make his heart beat slower and slower, I will collapse his throat with a thought, I will --- >>


Phoenix has fried all four of the shadow monsters, and the anchor for the Shadow King collapses heavily. He hangs onto Charles' body with a little thread, too weak to continue to taunt the group. He perhaps has realized, has looked backwards, and straddles a retreat....


On the Astral side, the retreat starts to manifest, over the maw itself. Time to go -- for Kels, anyway. He runs rather directly into Jane was she cuts herself a portal to reappear. And has time to comment dryly, "I'm going to be blamed for that, aren't I," of her state, before pushing through the portal himself. "I'll hold it open another twenty seconds, tops, but that's all," he adds to Jane before going through to the Bronx. There's a dozen souls left, perhaps, that can be saved from the gaping maw: but it's cutting it close, with Shadow King's presence growing like a sudden cancer in the Astral.


<< Lend me your stability; together we can push him from our home >> Charles spreads, across to the other psychics, requesting their focus, their aid, to protect him as he returns to his own body -- while forcing the Shadow King out.

Emma Frost has posed:
Emma goes to stagger along with the candle,e ven as she gives a death gaze to Warren, "Not. One. Word. or I will wipe this from your brain and replace itw iths omething far more traumatizing." Her place in the pecking order confirmed.

"I'll explain afterwords. It would confuse you more now if you knew what was going on." Candle in hand, Emma goes to place it over near the body.
    <<Madame Grey can take care of herself, Warren. Have faith in her to do what needs to be done>> Emma goes now to help guide Charles' back to his body as best she could, while going to lance out over at the Shadow King. Emma goes to launch barbs at it. Figuratively and lierally as she takes out shattered edges of the astral plane melted away and shorn by the fighting and the fires. She sharpens them under duress to fine points, and then she goes to start to barrage them by the dozen, filling them with power and launching them at the tendrils of the Shadow King. Barbed blades made of nothingness and the void, thrust out with all the rage and control that Emma can muster given the circumstances as she keeps up the barrage as best she can. Intent on making gaping holes in the thing for the others to work on enhancing and banishing.

Tabitha Smith has posed:
The response from Tabby is a telepathic grin. <<Lamo Dingus, you were chasing me while my friends did their thing. Now Imma do mine!!>> she beams at the entity and moves back to meet everyone else. With her, from the Tabby illusions created by Emma and bestowed a bomb. Well. Tabby starts pulling them all back. And when she spies the candle, she grins. The next part. It's what she's been doing with the elemental just about every time she encounters it.

She feeds it.

All that plasma comes back and starts energising the flame. And the Professor. <<Welcome back!>> she says with nothing but warmth for the man that gave her a home and a family and places her hands on either side of the elemental flame.

Tabby's telepathy might not be much. But her original power. That's a lot of psionic energy to pass on. Not quite Jean levels but every little bit helps.

Jean Grey has posed:
Destroying them was the easy part. This is the hard part.

As the shadowy creatures burn away, Jean pulls back. Or, well, she tries to pull back. To an extent, she must be successful, because in the following moments the hallway beyond isn't immediately ripped into nothingness, and then the mansion, Salem, Westchester, New York state, the Eastern seaboard, the hemisphere, planet, and so on. Things really could be worse! Still, Warren's fear isn't unwarranted, even if he's missed a chapter or two of Phoenix nonsense. Emma isn't wrong, not entirely, but neither is the moment trivial. Fear is the right reaction, even for Jean.

The talons draw back, the wings curl around her. An embrace, a reminder of their presence... and their hold. The energy flows back into her, through her eyes and open mouth, through every pore, and between the molecules of her flesh. The two have their bargains, their odd detente. The cost, today, is less than a star... but it is not nothing.

After a few moments to compose herself, Jean sets out to catch up with the rest (it probably takes another round trip of the elevator, to bring her up to the scene in the foyer!). When she arrives, green-and-gold still covers her, nearly painted on her skin, another reminder, but the aura is gone. She looks troubled, determined, but... not insane, not cackling. "Is... everyone alright?" she looks to Warren, or maybe to Charles in his arms. She's already partly absent, however, as the end to the physical encounter allows her to at last answer her mentor's call. Her hand is already on her brow. To Emma, it is probably obvious how much -less- of her joins them on the other side, but still, Jean gives what little she has left.

Jane Foster has posed:
The manifesting bleed that embodies the Shadow King blackens the wound on the astral plane, so entirely different from Kels' gate and the burned prismatic rainbows around the doe's portal. Some large and predatory ascends from the depths of the abyss, and everything smaller and less substantial has the grace to flee.

Except Jane, such as she is, but that's another matter. Space collapses behind her. A lone animal spirit bounding through a realm of dreams isn't so significant, is it? She tosses her head at the sorcerer, not deigning to answer his threat spat in warning. Trotting on ice-rimed hooves with some obstinate intention to stay at least vaguely graceful is less an act of pride, more steeling herself to a task beyond the ken of a scientist, a woman trapped in a temporary vessel that should melt any time now. Any time. The little things count.

She darts in a fast bound after the furthest of the souls, and there comes the moment for the turn, the twist in the act that shifts the narrative just a smidge. Her astral body quivers and shoves against the confines of a tawny, proud-necked deer to assume what it is -- wings and all, gold-etched feathers unfurling in all their ferocious grace and the single doe becomes a whole procession of huntresses in a ring around her.

Unlike the multitudes of Tabithae, the Ioannai are all real, all substantial projections here in their own right. Mirror images to one another, splinters of time unbound in a heartbeat but for the annoyed doe herself. However many fragments of souls are then in the province of a psychopomp to retrieve, her reflections sweeping across space to acquire the lost. Soon as they reach one, soul and guide arrow for the gate. Delivery is enough to eradicate the Valkyrie's echo, collapsing back into one less self.

Twenty seconds proves almost luxurious, except for the last bit about Jane having to flee herself before the Shadow King makes a snack out of her. As she came, then, smartly retreating. It's not fleeing if it's strategic and you can blame Loki for it.

Warren Worthington has posed:
Warren lays Professor X gently on the ground as Emma gets to work. He looks over his shoulder and sees Tabitha coming and nods.

When Jean comes through the door, Warren lets out a slight sigh of relief and grins. Fear, yes, but for his friend. And now passed, seeing her alright.

The winged mutant steps back to give the others room to work. It's hard not to be slightly in awe of the power of his teammates. He may not understand what they do or how they do it, but over time the young man has learned to respect their abilities. If he ever came close to feeling humble, it was working alongside other X-Men.

Charles Xavier has posed:
Professor X leans on his X-Men, reminding himself inwardly to not try to fight alone. It is something he has required of them: their teamwork, their strength together as a whole... and it is something the Shadow King can never truly possess. Enough trying to do it alone.

Charles may not have a lot of wattage right away, but finesse, yes: he can guide those mental blades of Emma directly to the right spots, he can harness what Tabitha offers and make huge use out of her contribution, to build and forcefully shove anything out of his home territory --- his own body.

With a frustrated scrabbling of claws, suddenly Shadow King pulls away into the Astral, towards the maw of souls that he built -- but doesn't linger in the Astral. Instead, much like a child throwing a tantrum of sorts, he disappears into the astral Maw, and closes it behind him. Few souls are there-- only what the maw initially took, but that isn't zero. What will he do with those he did manage to take....? Were they special?

Questions for later. Jane returns to a large flock of confused little animals. A raccoon looks up at her questioningly. "So, feeling like an overworked Disney Princess?" 'Kels' says to Jane from wherever he is. It's amused... not mocking: observational. He's taking a break from it all.


Charles gives Warren's shoulder a quiet pat as he's put down, staying strong... but not for very long. "Perhaps... I should have slept this month," Charles says quietly, aloud, while extending what feels much like a mental hug to the group. A hug wherein his pride glows like a vibrant candle.

Emma Frost has posed:
Charles is back in his body for now. Emma goes tos lowly brace herself up, giving a quick gaze over at Charles to make sure he was breathing, then over at Jean with an assessing gaze. WEll aware within the next fifteen seconds Jean will be giving her full attention over to Charles for the forseeable future and putting off what might be her own exhaustion and possible pain for a bit.. Emma would go to deftly interrupt. "Jean, I'm going to be buying you a spa. I expect you to make use of it. You're allowed to take Rogue with you there. Warren can handle the staffing. Can't you Warren?" Emma gives Warren 'the look' that is shareda mongst the uber rich and those for whom randomly buying small towns on a whim can share.
    "I'll let you know when I've found one and purchased it and can sign it over to you."

Tabitha Smith has posed:
Tabitha's power. Maybe one day might ignite a sun. Instead numerous little miniature orbs of plasma. Feed the elemental. "Everyone wants a piece of Tabby today!" she says with a smirk to Jean while she keeps channeling and charging. Her eyes glowing blue when that spark of biolelectricty flows through her iris enough to obscure them. Compared to the glowing yellows and reds of the ionising gasses swirling and leading to restore the Professor though the elemental flame attached to the candle.

If this was for a bomb she could probably level the school itself, herself.

Boom-Boom is getting very tired but also, maybe about as happy as if she did level a building. They're getting the Old Man back together.

The sound of the man's actual voice in her ears gets her finally stopping and maybe before anyone actually hugs the man, moves the candle just aside so the elemental isn't knocked aside. That fella gets props too for helping.

"Sleeping through your birthday is a party foul! But we're working around that!" she says pretty wiped herself.

Jane Foster has posed:
<<Princess? That would be nice. Make things easier, all said and done.>> A dry crack of humour breaks through the ice. <<My kingdom for a nap, if it would do anything.>> Fatigue from holding souls doesn't repair itself through sleep. There is no respite for Jane through mundane means. No food or water serves as balm for knitted wounds, and neither will any amount of rest aid mending damage done by screams and memories.

At that point, she barely cares, finding somewhere akin to a corner to drop in a crumple of fabric, metal, and cold, cold skin. It scarcely matters at all but for the mute awareness of others held in suspension. <<What's next, Elsa?>>

She, of course, is awaiting the Disney scientist-princess, but Belle must be the closest they've got. Maybe Anna. Roll up those sleeves, and it's time to do whatever work is needed.

Tomorrow night, she'll stay in with takeaway. Maybe.

Jean Grey has posed:
As the Shadow King flees through the maw, Jean relaxes, slipping wholly back into the real world...

...to be greeted by the sight of her mentor stirring in Warren's arms. As much as she looks spent, exhausted, her face nonetheless lights up. Emma's guess proves accurate, as she hastens to join the pair, even as one kneels to set down the other. Almost too-fast, she's back to work, again gesturing as she seeks out the mind of the nearest student and sends them a quick message. "I'd say we should rush you down to the medbay but... I kind of made a mess." She gives a helpless, yet still overjoyed smile. "How does your regular old bed sound? If you didn't manage this one, I think you've definitely earned the next month off!"

Moments later, the purpose of the earlier effort is revealed, as a younger student comes, pushing one of Charles' various chairs. And together with Warren, she'll endeavor to get him up into it. She uses the opportunity to do a few quick fussing checks of her own, touching one of his wrists to get his heartbeat, and other little, fleeting details. And then when he's finally well settled, she steps back slightly, starts to speak, hesitates, and smiles again. "I'm- well. You know." For all his effort in training her, to Charles, she's an open book. And soon, she moves around behind him, as if to grab the back of the chair. Unecessary, of course, as it's powered like all of them, but a gesture she often undertakes. "Are you hungry? You must be! Let's get you something first..."

She's going to be fussing like this for a while!

Warren Worthington has posed:
Warren gives the Professor a smile and stands up to make room for Jean to fuss when she comes to.

"You want me to hire some masseuses, or /be/ the masseuse?" Warren jokes to Emma with a big, shit-eating grin. The world returns to normal so quickly for him.

He helps gets the Professor into his chair and smiles to see Jean being Jean. When she moves around behind the chair, he touches Jean's shoulder gently, smiles and nods to her.

"Tabby, you hungry? I'm starving," Warren says, stepping back from Jean and the Professor. "I make the best omelettes. They're so good, Emma might not even gag on them. You in?"

Whatever the response Warren saunters off in the direction of the kitchen.

"Don't you owe me dinner or something, Ms. Frost?" Warren calls over his shoulder. "I hear feeding me is a great way to keep my mouth shut..."

Charles Xavier has posed:
Charles' smile is welcome and agreeable to the ideas about food, and returning to some sort of normal tone. He hasn't spoken to any of them, not really, for a month. He missed them too.

The Shadow King's plans fade to the background. No, not gone: but family is very important, too.