4760/Xavier School Ski Weekend: The Hunger of the Night

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Xavier School Ski Weekend: The Hunger of the Night
Date of Scene: 17 January 2021
Location: Local Township
Synopsis: A group of Xaviers students and residents stumble upon a murder in the ski town, and track the perpetrator into the woods. The creature - a serial killer inhabited by the Wendigo-like Giwakwa - attacks them but is defeated, the evil spirit banished by Illyana's soulsword while the physical shell is blown to bits and smacked around by Talia and Rogue. Afterward, fearing the presence behind the possession nearby cave, Rogue moves to seal the entrance, and Jean (who arrives late to answer a text for help) aids her in sealing the rocks. Surely, its evil will never trouble the town again... or them!
Cast of Characters: Jean Grey, Tabitha Smith, Rogue, Illyana Rasputina, Paige Guthrie, Talia Wagner

Jean Grey has posed:
While the area at the bottom of the slopes gets called a town, it's really more an overgrown commercial strip aimed at the tourist industry, with a smattering of residents who work in those businesses. Killington's 'Apres Ski' scene (the fancy Euro term for post-ski drinking, clubbing, and other nightlife) is highly rated and quite popular. So while the season is going, the town transforms itno a very strange combination of upper class nightlife and small town, rural Americana. That nightlife also starts quite early, given the winter sun this far north: the slopes close at 4pm, and by 5 or 6, it's pitch dark, with people out partying like it's midnight.

It's under these conditions that the group of Xaviers students and residents is out and about, enjoying the chunk of free time they're given before being due back to meet up with the teachers (and shuttle bus) to return to the lodge. It's unsupervised time in a party town, so it's bound to be a little crazy.

What's probably not expected of their night out is something more familiar to the big city folk than the local small towners: the flicker of red and blue lights against the dark night, from the top of a local sheriff's department vehicle. Its parked just down the road from where the Xaviers bunch has emerged from whatever most recent shenanigans, around the corner of a bar styled like a rustic barn.

Tabitha Smith has posed:
Tabitha Smith is out walking and zips up her Extra-Furry Coat <tm> cause it's damn cold, then glances back over her shoulder to see if Paige is following her from the dining room of the lodge, "Yeah it's down here Paige!" she calls out, "There's probably nobody on the Super Jump but they have the lights on and it looks super cool," she explains as she walks down from the lodge to a certain area where the pitch dark is really pitch dark and she can see the lights in the distance.

"Gawd, it's pretty damn cold, where's my frickin gloves? Oh here they are!" Tabitha says as she rummages through her coat. She puts on the gloves. She looks across the landscape at the town too where there are also lights on.

Rogue has posed:
Rogue had come down to the town with the others to watch over them and make sure things were all right. She'd come under the pretense that Kitty would join her at some point, but she was starting to question whether the Prydeful one would hold-true to that promise or not.

They're tourists here, and Rogue's the one trying to keep the group safe and sound? Great!

"Well that place was interesting." The Belle says upon leaving the Bar Barn. "I don't know why they needed it t'actually smell like cows lived there though... that seems like a weird business decision."

Outside now, with the Police lights on the horizon, Rogue's eyes go in that direction. "Great. Perfect. This place is probably goin' full Rambo and there's someone held-up in a gun store shootin' the whole town up or somethin'." She starts to look around for everyone else..."Hey, gang!" Rogue calls out to anyone not directly with her. "Lets maybe consider headin' back soon." She offers some adult-ing advice.

Illyana Rasputina has posed:
On a technicality, Illyana Rasputina is not old enough to drink in Killington. She is, in fact, not old enough to ride the lifts alone and qualifies for the highest discount for a peak-day lift ticket. When it comes to Xavier's brood of students, a temporal technicality is hardly the full story and the state-issued identification backs up her right to a hot toddy if she actually wants one. Just what kind of mayhem can she and the others get up to during unsupervised time in a party town in Vermont's pocket of mayhem among all those rolling hills, country stores, and picturesque vistas?

It so happens to be a highly recommended Heady Topper in a bottle snagged from a local shelf, her fingers curled around the neck as she nurses it. Those pale, frost-rimmed eyes watch after the police lights illuminating the snowy grounds like a bad retake of the Fourth of July. Putting the bottle to her lips, she takes a long sip and taps her finger against the glass.

"Go away." The bottle does exactly that when told, swallowed up. Not before a small burgundy hand snatches it, though. The Russian girl in the blue coat, ski chic in every way, tilts her head to Rogue. "You wish to know what actually is happening?"

Paige Guthrie has posed:
Having snagged her own jacket along the way to fit over her sweater, Paige's head is covered by a thick fuzzy hood. "It's pretty darn cold, that's for sure." She says as she rubs her gloved hands together a few times to keep them active. She follows along after Tabitha easily with a bounce in her step.

"It's real pretty out here. We don't get all that much snow in Kentucky, not like this at least. Just seems like every inch of the world is covered in it. Hopefully next school trip we take has a beach." She says teasingly to her friend.

Talia Wagner has posed:
Temporal Technicalities are fun. Technically Talia may be old enough to drink. Maybe. Also though technically Talia doesn't exist. Lots of Temporal Technicalities tonight.

Regardless of those though she accompanied Xavier's at some encouragement off on the ski trip while her many issues are worked on by the big brains back at the Mansion. She may as well enjoy the downtime from her day job right?

This includes going on the evening excursion on the shuttle bus to town. Bundled up in borrowed reasonable winter gear, with mittens, that does wonders to cover up all of her odd features outside of her eyes one supposes.

She has stuck pretty close to Rogue and Illyana so far on the night out, just quietly watching things. Which includes staring past them at the cops. "Do you think that is somehow our fault?" pause "I mean generically ours.. not like us specifically but rather some of the others from the school?"

Jean Grey has posed:
While the students and not-so students, adults, sub-adults, and time-anomalies as they may be, all stand around outside, checking out the incident from the distance, the locals have begun to rubber-neck a bit as well, a small crowd gathering. Mostly, it's people coming out of the bar, who pass nearer to the scene and pause to get a look. There are murmurs of shock and dismay, enough to suggest that this is definitely something a bit beyond a drunken altercation. As the crowd grows,, the not very wide street by physical necessity backs up a bit, such that the edges of the crowd get closer to the pack of X-youths, albeit with their attention turned the other way.

As they get closer, more and more of the chatter can be overheard. Happy-time friendly words like 'slasher' or 'icepick'. Maybe the students have even heard some of this before, vague rumors of a supposed serial killer that plagues the town, although no official FBI reports or the like list any such crime spree. But it's a small town, and -every- crime is big. Of course, those kind of rumors tend to go in some other, weirder directions too. Sasquatches and wendigos. As if , right?

Rogue has posed:
Rogue's not drinking, she's not that irresponsible. She does have a cup of coffee though, and it's not even spiked! She's wearing a hat that Illyana got her last winter too, a fancy hat no less, and when Magik speaks up, Rogue looks over at her. "What's goin' on?' The southerner asks, knowing that the Russian has an 'in' on stuff like this sometimes.

To Talia, Rogue glances and shakes her head. "I don't think this is us. This place has a bit of a party reputation, more than likely there was a fight, but... fights kinda draw us in like magnets, so it's probably best we sit this one out..."

Of course, their shuttle-bus back to the Ski Resort is further ahead closer to the 'trouble'...

Illyana Rasputina has posed:
Illyana raises her chin slightly to indicate the formerly pleasant barn, now the centre of gossip for the next season and possibly year. "Trouble. Not the kind with tires or stolen skis." A guess on her part comes in that frosty Slavic accent would make even stolen skis seem a diplomatic incident, but she raises a gloved hand to whisk her hair back over her shoulder. "I will look, and see the risk, da?"

Benefits to being both Russian and a bonafide Hell Lord coalesce into cutting through crowds with self-possession lacking in most generals and monarchs under a given degree of experience. She no sooner announces her purpose in that soft tone to the southerner, easily overhead by Talia and Tabitha, before stalking through the snow with the lightest of gaits to end up right in the middle of it all. All the better for gossip to roll over her, giving an indication of the problems that could lie ahead. Slashed tires, slashed torso, dismembered library book: they receive that same cool regard.

Casual small-talk with locals isn't her general approach, but winnowing through the onlookers and following the slope around for an easy vantage very much so.

Tabitha Smith has posed:
Tabitha Smith grins at Paige, "Yeah that's the best idea ever," she explains and looks back at the town down the road, "Yeah the police station's all lit up and shit---somebody's probably drunk!" she lets out amusedly.

"You know, I think peeps went to town," she explains and motions up the road toward the lights, then shoves her gloved hands into her jacket. She turns away from her Dark Place of Viewing, and heads up the road to town, following the lights, "Gotta keep movin, see this is where I need some tunes blaring to encourage me," she says, "Dammit, where's that shuttle bus, Paige? I need a damn ride. Bus runs all day my ass."

Paige Guthrie has posed:
"Don't look at me. Ah' don't know when th' busses run." Paige says as she comes to a stop next to Tabitha, then squints her eyes out into the distance at the sight of lights. Her head tilts to one side, then reaches up to rub at her nose with a mittened hand. Her eyes glance over towards Rogue, then off to Illyana before she heads off to explore the locals.

"Ah' dunno, that's a lot of commotion for something as ah' drunk driver or something." Her lips press together thinly before she glances over to Rogue.

"Whatcha thinkin', boss? This something we should poke our nose inta'?"

Talia Wagner has posed:
Talia glances over at Tabitha and Paige. She raises a heavily mittened hand and waves in their direction before looking back down yonder at the trouble.

As an aside ot Rogue "Well. Illyana will either figure out what is going on, or banish them all somewhere.. either way something will definitely get resolved in a couple of minutes I guess." sure she doesn't know this Illyana as well as the one she thinks of whenever she stares at her, but it isn't an uncharitable appraisal really for this one.

"You're right though Anne-Marie we should probably not get sucked into a fight..." she considers "Do you think there is actually a serial killer slasher here?" she looks around thoughtful.

Rogue has posed:
Rogue and Illyana are the ones in charge here, especially without the guiding light of a Kitty or a Piotr? Are they doomed? No, they'll be fiiii---

"Illy, hold u--!" And she's gone.

Rogue huffs out a sigh, her steamy breath puffing out between her lips in to the cold winter air. The Belle raises her gloved hand up to adjust her hat on top of her head as she looks over to the other girls with her. "We really shouldn't... If something went wrong, Jean'd go full fire-breath on us." On HER most likely.

With that said, Rogue's green eyes sweep around the main street. "Where's the god damn bus?" She's getting antsy now though.

Jean Grey has posed:
Illyana is boldest, and so Illyana sees it first. And maybe it's for the best, given her dispassionate temper: it is not a pleasant scene.

First of all, the sheriff has done his level best at hiding the scene from the crowd. The body is off the main road, around the corner of the building, and the sheriff's car is arranged to create a barrier, although with effort or cleverness, one can snatch a look behind it. And there, well, obviously, the man is dead. One does not turn that much of the adjacent snow crimson and survive. What might be less obvious (to a bystander, if not a combatant X-person) is that the wounds are definitely more extreme than one would expect of even an attack with the weapons previously rumored by the crowd. His jacket, every bit as puffy as the average, conceals some of this from casual observation, but to a person who uses a sword, the multiple cuts, arranged just so, do look a great deal more /bestial/.

Maybe the sheriff knows this, making every effort to push people back. "Nothing to see here, folks, fella had an accident and the animals probably got to him, sad thing but there's nothing to be done-" The sheriff and his deputies, which are also rather numerous for such a minor incident, are making every effort to clear people back inside. Eventually, most do start to shamble off, 'accepting' the story. Or at least, relenting just to resume gossipping where it's warmer.

Illyana Rasputina has posed:
Level best efforts to hold back the public do not, in their way, inhibit Illyana from her icy survey over the fallen man. Just marching up to take samples in a Ziploc baggy might cause more trouble than it's worth, and earn her a disappointment-thrashing from Scott, so alternate means might be required. What pines and firs crowd the back of the lot give her some perimeter coverage, as does being clad in monochrome white with her natural pallor, but not enough to just mosey up to the corpse without someone taking notice unless they are next to blind. So after gaining a particularly long glance at those weapons, she is stalking straight for the edge of the trees, looking for the evidence of prints, broken twigs, bushes, shrubs.

Being trained by one of the better trackers in the school helps, but there also lies a deeper awareness at work as she makes that sweep. See, just a nice, innocent young woman, totally harmless. Come out, come out, wherever you are...

Tabitha Smith has posed:
Tabitha Smith trudges into town and spots the others, "Yeah Paige, there they are, probably lookin for the damn bus. I'm talkin to those guys about that shitty bus," she explains.

She walks up the town's street over to Rogue, "Hey! Hey Rogue!" she calls out and trudges up to her, "Hey Rogue, what's goin on? Oh---where's the frickin bus, by the way?" she wonders. She looks across the street at the carnage and frowns.

Talia Wagner has posed:
Talia comments to Rogue "Well... Illyana has definitely seen... Something." as the blond doesn't come walking back up to the two of them, now four of them, and instead seems to be headed off to check out the edge of the wilds there.

"I am sure she can handle it.. but maybe we should all go keep her company while she does her thing?" a sidelong glance and then a look over to Tabitha and Paige. "No bus yet, crime scene up ahead.. you two should probably stick close."

Paige Guthrie has posed:
Folding her arms over her chest, Paige glances to Rogue and Talia, then back out towards the disturbance where Illyana is at. She scuffs her foot into the ground as if she was impatient. With no bus, inspecting the accident is the only other source of excitement.

"Sure, no problem. Stickin' close."

With a glance to Tabitha, she jostles her shoulder with a light bump to it. "We'll get the bus at some point. Who knows, maybe you can blow something up later." She teases jokingly. "And by that, I mean not me."

Jean Grey has posed:
As Illyana has noticed, beyond the vague alley made between the bar and the next business beyond it, there is a bit of an open patch of snowy ground behind the businesses, and then a wooded hill. In fact, most of one entire side of the road is backed by such terrain. Terrain that eventually becomes part of the larger mountain range into which this road is tucked and where all these revelers will return in the morning to swish and slalom to their hearts content.

As for the bus and all that, the area where it's meant to meet the students is indeed a bit further down the road, but the appointed meeting time with the teachers is still a bit off. These shuttles run constant services up and down the strip and between all the various lodgings, so it probably won't arrive there until pretty close to schedule.

Circling around to the back side of the building and accessing that wooded area, Illyana will quickly come upon two contrasting facts, a piece of evidence and an /absence/ of the same. There are no tracks. Nothing physically disturbed. Not even the snow. An imposibility, in the natural world. Even a snowshoe hare leaves something.

But what there are, are a few noticable droplets of crimson in the snow.

Rogue has posed:
Rogue's eyes are down on her phone as she senses the others coming up on her. She's shooting off a text to Kitty and Jean back at the resort before she lowers her phone and looks at the other girls with her. "All right. We shouldn't leave Illyana out there by herself, even if she can take care of herself. So lets split up and go find her, but do /not/ go anywhere by yourself. Have your phones up--" She holds her phone up. "Keep the tracking on so we can find each other, and texts open an' ready t'send. Okay?"

Rogue turns in the direction she'd last seen the Russian and starts in that way. "Stick with me, or fan out, but /don't/ go anywhere alone." She reminds them.

Tabitha Smith has posed:
Tabitha Smith smirks and pushes Paige's shoulder lightly, "I'm not scared of no animals! They'll be all explodey if they try anything with me," she explains to Paige.

She then looks at Talia and Rogue and then sighs "This is so lame," she adds. She crosses her arms indignantly and stews in place. She leans forward, looking down the street at where the bus is SUPPOSED to be but it's not there obviously, "Dang, where do we look for her?" she wonders, "Illyaannaaaa!" she calls out loudly, "HEY! ILLY!"

Paige Guthrie has posed:
"Don't go blowing up animals, Tabby! Ah' reckon there is laws against that kinda thing." Paige says to her friend with a roll of her eyes upwards. "Ah'm pretty sure ah' can shuck into .. fur or something and ah' can pretend ta' be a bear and just wave my arms about hollering."

Speaking of hollering, it seems Tabitha has that down. She winces a bit, trudging through the snow after. "Roger, Rogue. Sticking close and not going anywhere alone." She confirms to the field leader of the moment.

Talia Wagner has posed:
Talia nods lightly, like she is agreeing with Rogue's plan.

"Well I imagine it isn't a normal animal" she cocks her head a bit "Someone said Sasquatch..." she mulls that over hurrying a couple steps to keep up with Rogue now who is already walking.

She asks Rogue "Hey is there a team called Alpha Flight with a lady named Heather, goes by Sasquatch on the team...?"

Head on a swivel as he thinks about running into a wild critter anything like Heather but a killer.

Illyana Rasputina has posed:
The other students aren't forgotten, but Illyana failing to return with a bagful of evidence or a shake of her head about something innately dull, like theft, does speak for itself. She takes a parallel path to any tracks into the brush rather than out of it, giving an equally fresh path for the intrepid investigators to follow her in the event a hungry dog bursts out. Or something worse. Nothing to see in the woods sends her down to one knee, fingers ghosting in a sinuous pattern over the ground. Since nothing has taken the bait, she turns her focus to blood.

And a mobile phone, actually, for a quick text message fired back to Rogue summarizes it in simple detail: Murder. Man ripped apart by something armed or very strong. Blood back here, something washing out its presence.

Jean Grey has posed:
While the students are spreading out and doing their own bit of searching for their lost member, a small van with medical markings rolls up near where the sheriff and his men are gathered. Evidently, the local common sense approach to this situation is to get the body out of the alley and out of sight of the tourists and their wallets sooner rather than later, and worry about investigation... whenever. One of the deputies at least takes a couple pictures of the scene, but apparently the idea of cordoning it off for fancy CSI technicians is not a priority. If they even have fancy CSI techs (they do not). The body is getting loaded up, presumably off the the coroners, who at least will hopefully come to the conclusion that a coyote did not in fact do it.

As for the shouting teens, one of the sheriff's bunch does glance over, looking annoyed, more than anything. "You kids oughta get back inside. Its all this drinking and partying that leads to this kinda stuff. Hope your friend didn't run off, or we might end up finding her in the morning!" A true paragon of civic service.

Finding Illyana shouldn't be too hard if they put their mind to it, having seen where she headed and turned off. And once the sheriffs folk clear out, even the alley is empty, leading back to that mournful section of dark, wooded hills.

Rogue has posed:
Rogue, of course, is sending texts as she walks, because she's 20 years old in the year 2021. She reads the texts from Illyana and hears the words from her companions on this adventure. "Illy'll be fine, I'm sure, but we can't leave her alone all the same. That'd be rude, and we're not rude people." Or something.

The text FROM Illyana has her scrunching up her face in disgust though and she's soon thumbing one back...

(We're coming to find you.)

Then sends one to Jean

(Something is killing people in town. No, it's not us. We're looking in to it though.)

Whether Jean is near her phone, or lounging in a hot tub, is anyone's guess though.

"Yeah, sure, thanks Officer Barney." Rogue says to the Sheriff as she walks on past him with a smile in his direction before they're off toward the forest pathway to find their Russian friend.

"Okay, ya'll, keep your eyes peeled, and your senses primed, don't... ya know, make yourself a tasty treat for hungry monsters, yeah?" She's NOT a good tracker, but she did see the Russian Demon head this way, and her phone light is on now guiding their progress into the woods!

Tabitha Smith has posed:
"ILLY!" Tabitha shouts again, "Get your ass back here!" she adds.

She then frowns at the Sheriff's comments, "She's prolly kickin this killer's ass..." she mutters to Paige and follows Rogue along, snickering and chuckling at Rogue's comments, "Tasty treat..."

Talia Wagner has posed:
Talia avoids looking at the Deputy offering all that helpful civic minded advice. No need to spook him with her eyes after all.

Her questions will just have to be answered later with some juduicious use of search engines. Or who knows maybe it will be answered before the night is done at this rate.

She also makes sure not to stare into Rogue's light from the phone either, mostly because she has superhuman levels of being able to see in the dark. This snowy evening may as well be daytime for Talia as she looks around and into the wooded area as they work on tracking down Illyana. "Or you know the monster was spooked by all of the yelling Tabitha.."

Paige Guthrie has posed:
Giving a smile to the sheriff as they pass, Paige drawls out. "We'll be fine, sir. Ah'm from Kentucky. We got critters bigger than Volkswagon's lurking in our backyards." She continues into the woods, glancing over her shoulder once they are clear of the line of sight. She slips her mittens off and stuffs them into her pocket, then goes about shredding the skin off one hand until it's a shining surface of hard ebony.

"Prolly, knowing Illy, she's probably skinned whatever beast is out there and is currently turning it inta' a jacket." She cracks her neck to one side, keeping her head on a swivel as she listens.

Illyana Rasputina has posed:
The subtle path of blood drops is not one that Illyana goes off tracking on her own. She has seen those horror movies. Thanks to a few companions, she knows what normally happens to the one who doesn't stay with the group. They get eaten, woodchippered, or worse.

Phone in hand, the soft glow of the screen provides a means to follow her in the gloaming. She does not respond to Tabitha's shouts, much as that might normally earn a look over her shoulder.

<<Go around the building and up towards the garbage can. I'm 25 meters or so past that.>>

Sadly, Talia's joke goes unsmirked at. See?! Stay with the group. She stands there in white, beautifully non-camouflaged, and calls out into the trees with a forlorn, surprisingly soft tone: "Where am I? This isn't the right way at all." Rustle a few bushes, turn around in a full three-sixty, briefly baring her back, is an act of feint and damning innocence. Branches and snow crunch underfoot, hesitant. Stifled. Slow.

If something wants to come out, the wounded bird impression isn't bad.

Jean Grey has posed:
Illyana can follow the blood easily. In fact, it may occur to her, in her otherworldly grasp of things, that the regularity of the crimson trail is every bit unnatural as the absence of a physical one. Any examination, look, touch, even taste, marks it as the genuine article. But the pattern is too clean. It is an even drip, drip, drip, almost as if in time with the beating of the organ that originated it. It is the kind of thing that would be in a movie, and is not like that in 'real life.' In real life, it would be a mess.

And while Illyana tracks, the others can catch up with her. By the time they reunite, they are in the thick of the forest, among the dark trees, with only a touch of silver moonlight on the snow beneath their feet. Nothing seems to counter-stalk the Russian, but she has found a path, strange as it is. It leads between the trees, toward-

Well, that is the question, isn't it?

Rogue has posed:
Rogue's attention was split between texting and thinking about all of this lumped together. "Ah..." She starts then, glancing back to Talia. "I don't have a lotta experience with Alpha Flight, honestly. I ... tried findin'em once, before I came t'Xavier's. Someone out west told me that they could help me deal with my mutation, if I could find'em. They pointed me up toward Calgary, and that's... eventually how I ended up goin' t'Xavier's instead, ironically."

Is that Irony? She might not know the definition of that word... or how to use it properly.

As she gets another text, she follows the instructions and leads the group around to where she sees the dim glow of Illy's phone. "There, that's gotta be her." Rogue tells the others and trundles onward until the catch up with her. "Hey." Rogue says, her steamy breath puffing out in to the winter night.

"Was it not just a bear attack or somethin'? These towns suffer bear attacks, randomly, don't they?"

She's from Mississippi, she doesn't know!

Talia Wagner has posed:
"This whole world is really strange... and coming from me that is saying a lot." she doesn't explain that. I mean Rogue and Illyana are aware of the why there. "Though nine times out of ten you end up at Xaviers." she notes helpfully to Rogue.

"When is it ever just a bear attack..." she notes amused as she looks around alertly now. Peeling the cap off to expose her blue pointed ears so she can hear better, not just that awesome nightvision in action out here in the woods now.

Jean Grey has posed:
They go a little further, follow the trail until it comes to a place where the trees break, around the foot of a more serious rise in the terrain. In the center of this rising formation, there is a break in the rock, a crevase or cave of some sort, dark and yawning. And at the midpoint of the snowy clearing, standing directly before this opening and headed toward it on the same trajectory that Illyana has been following...

....is a figure. At a glance, and from behind, the figure is no obvious monster, but has many human qualities. For instance, it is wearing a jacket, a long winter affair that would be perfectly in keeping with any local resident. Its- his maybe? Hair is long and somewhat scraggly. But his back is to them, and they cannot see his hands. Moreover, despite what seems a shuffling gait, the figure does not disturb the snow at all, but seems to walk atop it.

DING! Rogue gets a text back from Jean. Timing, right? << Killing people? Hold on, I'll be right there. >> Hold on, it says. TOO LATE.

The figure stops.

Illyana Rasputina has posed:
"Giant bears in Vermont? Nyet, they exist more in the west." Illyana knows generally the disposition of Vermont as a less than scary Green Mountain kingdom. This is her greeting to the others tramping up the slope between them. Too many passes through the trees without any hint of a gruesome murder has her already on edge, an invisible spindle of energy starting to form in her hand just in case. Some silvery effusion of moonlight makes the place lovely, but finding her way through the terrain with dangerous company at her shoulders is so much more fun than doing it on her lonesome.

Rogue's phone going off hopefully is quiet. The icy blonde slides her device into the pocket of her coat, and that casual unbuttoning of the top toggle gives her freedom.

"All worlds are strange. I have seen enough to know," she tells Talia in an aside. Checking Paige's footing, she holds up a hand slowly to slow them, a modest warning. Cyan sparks gather under her lashes like frozen dewdrops, any vestige of humanity in that gaze utterly lost.

Talia Wagner has posed:
"You got me there Illy... all worlds are pretty strange." she peels off her mittens and stuffs them in hjer pockets now to leave her hands free as she looks around.

Of course the mittens were justr in case she needs to really cut loose.

Because she can see the fact the figure up ahead is walking atop the snow not sinking into it, no matter how fresh it is. "That, is not human." she whispers best she can to the others with her.

Rogue has posed:
Rogue's phone couldn't possibly have a louder *DING* sound effect, in that it's a Star Wars blaster sound. So where once was quiet forest noises and young women bravely (?) tracking down a killer in the woods, now has a Han Solo laser gun noise *PEWING* in to the darkness.

Rogue's eyes dart down to her phone to read the text. "Jean's on her wa--" She cuts herself off as she 'feels' something up ahead, then hears the others talking and shoots her eyes up to peer in to the dark.

Her phone light is raised up to aim at the 'person' up ahead. "God, where the hell is Logan, he lives for this kinda thing..." She mutters.

"Hello? Are you the killer? Because if so we're here t'arrest you." The southern gal says up toward what Talia just declare to be not human.

Illyana Rasputina has posed:
The sorceress shakes her head slightly, pale hair barely rippling. "Wishing he were here," she mutters under her breath. Instigating the mysterious stranger in the woods always turns out well! Expelling a breath through her parted lips casts silvered condensation into the air, flakes settling gently, a few dispelled towards the others. "Stay out of the cavern. This one might not be in control of itself." No other languages present themselves as an option for translation to another language, little as she might like it.

Fingertips curled in towards her palm, and she picks a path through the powdered snow and ice. "Separating the two might not be easy, da? It has too wrapped up in its selves."

Without looking away from it, she shapes the first phases of a protective spell, dropping a flicker of mana into building it.

Jean Grey has posed:
After stopping, the figure slowly turns. One could put it on Rogue's phone and its charming PEW PEW, but dramatic timing aside, they all share a bit of blame: the creature makes no footfalls, but the same cannot be said for their lot, every step lightly crunching through the frost that tops the undisturbed snow before sinking deeper in. Also? They're all pretty chatty, and it may well sense their very life essence or something equally creepy. Who's to say?

Ultimately, what comes to face them both contradicts and attests to Talia's observation: it clearly was a man, clearly has a human shape, a human shell. But it may well be that is all that remains, that thin vestige. Beneath his long, scraggly, appropriately serial killer-esque hairdo is a long and gaunt face. His eye sockets are dark, either shadowed or... empty, it is hard to say. His teeth are the most obvious, bared not just by expression but by the absence of lips.

His hands are withered, skeletal beneath tightly drawn skin, with fingernails grown out into frightening looking talons. One clutches an object- it is, in fact, some kind of ice axe or pick, matching the urban legends. The other holds a human heart, which somehow continues to beat, even now. All three weapons, teeth, claws, and axe, show signs of fresh blood.

Facing them, the creature stares for a few long moments.

And then, with just a single strange snarl of challenge, its body languagge changes, curling over the heart protectively, before turning away and resuming its shuffling steps toward the opening.

Talia Wagner has posed:
"MMmm yup, about what I expected before he turned around. The over under though is on Zombie or Possessed By Evil..." pauses a breath. "Did they make the Evil Dead movies here?"

Not really all that helpful a line of dialogue. Still she isn't about to fire off a hexbolt without Rogue or Illyana saying to take the monster down. Not her show to call shots in.

"So.. uhm.. are we putting it down?" that was really to the two X-men present. "Can your sword seperate it from the host Illyana?"

Rogue has posed:
Rogue's eyes are on the 'guy' as he turns around and just presents himself as something right out of the damn Walking Dead. "Good... lord all mighty..." The southern girl sums up her thoughts on the 'guy'.

Her eyes dart over to Illyana who's conjuring up some magic, so that's good, before she looks over to Tabitha. "I hate puttin' things down just cause they 'look evil'. I feel like that kinda approach is gonna get me in trouble some day..."

She then looks back to Illy and motions at her. "T'be entirely honest with ya, Sugah. This looks quite a bit like your field'a expertise, so I'm just gonna provide support." She raises her phone up and keeps her light on it 'it'.

"Through illumination."

The Belle looks back to the town's direction though. "I'm willin' t'bet that Officer Barney's gonna be headed this way soon t'check on us young nubile females who wandered off inta the woods durin' a murder investigation though." Was it a murder investigation, or did the local police really think it was just some random animal attack?

Illyana Rasputina has posed:
The monster turns on them to make a challenge, like any predator defending its territory.

Not unfamiliar or unexpected, really, though the tense lines in Illyana's figure are mostly covered by the white ski-jacket doing wonders to smother the possibility of any tarnished metal armour taking form. Then again, midriff-baring designs, though really quite awesome for summer, is utterly impractical for a winter-locked forest. Another breath escapes, and she invokes that spell, the branching lines and a narrow circle cascading over her.

"Da, but first things first." A simple statement of fact about the incandescent sword nowhere in sight confirms an idea, no more. "Taking candy from kroshka will make him angry. Be prepared for a tantrum, da?"

They get warning with the Belle raising her phone for a light source that might attract their wretched monster, if it finishes fawning over its favourite toy. Simultaneously, a portal snaps open with pinpoint accuracy over the heart to consume it and the Demon Queen drops through another fissure in reality, her stepping disk leaving a glittering icy line for just a moment.

Not heading -too- far, but sometimes being up in the trees is a little better from a tactical perspective.

Jean Grey has posed:
And poof, the heart is gone!

As Illyana has foretold, this does seem to upset the creature a great deal. Also to confuse it. Whatever its origin, the monster hardly seems to possess more than a bestial cunning, and it would appear no comprehension of the dimensional forces involved in this theft. It gives a sort of rasping gasp of surprise first, but then turns back around and snarls. Maybe it doesn't really understand where its prize went, but these people are the most proximate sources of any kind of challenge. Also, and equally important, they're probably the nearest set of replacement hearts!

It makes a display, holding its arms wide, brandishing the axe, and then charges forward. Illyana? Rogue? Talia?

Maybe there's some tiny ember of instinct that the blonde Russian bears the blame, if only because she made some noise in its direction, but it's attack really isn't that precise. It runs toward her, yes, but its violence is very generalized. Warm meat is its main target, and anyone who gets closer is an equally valid target.

Talia Wagner has posed:
"Wait what taking candy from kroshka means what in laymans terms Illyana?" eyes widening a bit. She can sort of feel the spell get released though, fur on end just a touch. Thanks Mom.

Then she realizes what happened there because the heart is gone. Also then Illyana goes .. stepping and it is just Rogue and Talia on the ground not in a tree. "Damnit." her dad would be disappointed but after years of reality hopping, she cusses sometimes.

Now seems like a good time.

Though thankfully it seems to be hellbent on going after her tree not the two on the ground. "Oh hey.. smarter than a zombie. Odds of possession going up by the moment." and well she knows a thing or two about possession.

Which she is in no mood to try on this thing.

Instead she points her hand at the monster and unleashes a Brimestone Hex Bolt letting it blaze across the snowy clearing towards the monster charging Illyana's tree.

Rogue has posed:
Rogue's eyes look back the way they'd come quickly, the other girls on their expedition to town tonight having stayed back at the forest's edge with the police cars.

Illyana's magic draws Rogue's attention back, but where the Demon Queen was, now has her 'Willowing' herself up in to a tree?

"Oh god." Rogue murmurs then before looking over at Talia. "All right, relax. I got thi---"

Talia's hex power makes the Belle tilt her head to the side. "Wow." She says then before starting to track the creature with her phone's light. "Keep hitting it with that if ya can!"

Jean Grey has posed:
As the creature charges, a few things promptly become clear: First, it certainly moves faster than a human, whatever unnatural force that animates its dessicated body doing so with admirable vigor. This is somewhat multipled by the way it glides across the snow's surface rather than running normally, and it moves almost like a skater. So it closes the distance pretty fast. However, the second fact is more reassuring, and becomes apparent as Talia targets the speed-skating ice-demon and gives it a good hex blast: the bolt hits its shoulder, and quite trivially blows a hole through it, spraying bits of Gore-Tex and jacket-stuffing along with bits of dessicated human flesh and chunks of bone out the other side.

Then, back to the bad things: this doesn't seem to particularly cause it PAIN or slow it down much. And as it nears the tree, it makes a swift and impressive leap toward its perching target. It leads with the ice-pick, though its open maw suggests that it may have ideas about a follow-up.

Illyana Rasputina has posed:
"Da." With that confirmation of possession, Illyana remains very much treed, though far from a hopeless cat in need of the fire department to help her down. The branch remains stable as she crouches there, hand on a branch, fully content to play lure.

"Can you get the pick?" she calls as the monster comes tearing across the distance, maybe or maybe not kicking up clods of snow. Leaping, because why not be as frightening as an undead Hank? Otherwise, that sparkling bolt tearing through her hyper-focused awareness for magic streams with a doubled register of known qualities. Chaos, brimstone.

She shrilly whistles at the remnant of a human, gauging the speed it can use and that axe used to chop limbs or humans with equal measure.

Flinging herself from the tree isn't far, three or four meters, something well practiced. By the time she hits the snowy ground, sliding back with the momentum, the metal plates are already spindling up her legs and spreading in a tangle of midnight-shocked silver so different from her brother's augmented skin. Not so different perhaps as the forest goes incandescent for the torrential silver fire poured down from no moon hung in the sky. The Soulsword's flames run down her hands, swallowing even the hilt, and unlike its usual sabre shape, this time it's something more on par with a greatsword's length. Not the enormous weapon she can use to chop down trees Paul Bunyan style, but a double-handed upswung strike to act as a guard or the separation of soul and state is -bound- to cause it a bad day.

Talia Wagner has posed:
"YUCK.... I ..hate zombies so much... though I still think this is possession but I am pretty sure we can rip this thing to pieces." TJ sounds disgusted. "And it won't stop the force animating it... Ask me how I know way too much about zombies later..." she shrugs off the heavy winter coat and kicks off the shoes she had on, ditching the things encumbering her now.

"On it." she notes and then well she goes towards instead of away from the monster. Flinging a couple more hex bolts as she hurries into the face of danger to provide backup.

"Illyana.. I'm.. totally sure you know this.. but in case you don't... your sword should be able to cleave possessions away from hosts...." not that she has seen the sword. They may be fucked if this Illyana doesn't have a soulsword. Then the sword is there "Oh thank god... .. Go for the eyes Boo!"

Rogue has posed:
Alright. Fine.

Rogue sets her phone down on a branch to her right so that the bright ass high beam of floodlight lumens pour in to the woods that they're facing off against this zombie within.

"You wanna be like that? Tryin' t'hurt my friends?" The Belle asks the creature, as she leans down and picks up something alongside the forest pathway. "Lets dance then."

And under her left arm, Rogue is now holding the trunk of a felled tree, pushed off of the walking path by forest services to help keep the pathway both clear, and easily identified by a cordoned-off direction to keep walking.

Now though, the tree trunk is shedding leaves, snow, and forest-filth as the Belle holds it like a battering ram, and suddenly launches herself forward!

Cracking of branches, rustling of leaves, and the rush of wind is heard as Rogue charges at the zombie with the blunt-end of a sawed off giant tree trunk!

Jean Grey has posed:
The creature knows nothing of the soulsword, or it shouldn't. It certainly doesn't seem to slow down in the face of its target producing a weapon, and with its speed, there is actually still a very real threat to Illyana in that pure game of bladed chicken. Or, there is very nearly one. Perhaps if it possessed a /little/ more in the way of human cunning, and less, as it seems, animal hunger, this might end differently. As it is, its ravenous desire for the taste of a heart at least a few degrees warmer than its own (this is Illy, let's be real) makes it quite mindless in pursuit of her, and this predictability does aid her in timing her strike.

Plus, there's another factor playing against it: IT IS BEING SHOT WITH SOOOOO MANY HEXBOLTS.

Indeed, by the time the crazed thing reaches its destination, it is debatable whether it truly constitutes a complete human figure, with numerous sulfur-smoking holes burned through its torso, half of its face, and even destroying one of its legs (which, surprise, does NOT stop the magical ice-skate express). Yet it still has its ice-pick, the arm hanging on by a bony tatter as it swings toward Illyana's forehead-

Yet in the less-than-a-blink instant before that, the blade sweeps through its ruined chest and the creature is instantly undone. Suddenly, it is just a corpse falling at her with a pickaxe, which is still maybe sort of dangerous...

...until Rogue joins a moment later with her arboreal battering ram and sends the body sailing.

Illyana Rasputina has posed:
"I know!" Eyes narrow and the flames writhe around the Soulsword, intensifying to a shard of fallen starlight. Normally those edges won't catch on anything of flesh and blood unlessed summoned, and without fail, the pitiless sorceress needs no curbs on her artistry. The fire enough might be enough to convince it to retreat, in a normal eye, but some foolish monsters never learn.

Regret is far from being present, the edge-on crash of Soulsword and rotting flesh proving that. For the moment Illyana is singularly focused on keeping the others tactically covered. Swiveling to the conflagration of brimstone-scented bolts and one hell of a tree trunk being swept so impressively forces a recalculation, ducking out of the way to avoid a treeing.

Not the cat kind, the bludgeoning sweep aside for stealing her tea that one time by ACCIDENT kind.

Talia Wagner has posed:
TJ skids to a stop in the snow as Rogue charges past her with a tree trunk "That'll do... That'll do." she muses as she watches the sword strike wit hit acting like it's wires were snipped and then the t-ball practice with the corpse.

She lets it all settle for a moment in the crisp night. "Mmm. Magik do you think that the thing possessing it is still floating here, or do you think the source of the problem is in the cave." she turns to look at the cave squinting a bit, darkness providing no obstacles for her.

"Might have been a one off... maybe old fashioned Wendigo of legends..." she shivers "Undead are the worst..."

Jean Grey has posed:
And just as quickly, the forest fall quiet and still. Well, other than a muffled *whumph* some apprxomimately three and a fraction seconds later, when the remaining portion of the smoking corpse lands a great distance away. Without its snarling, they are again alone in the snowy waste. It is a calm moment, one for thought and reflection, in that isolating, frozen landscape.

Then there is a howl.

Not of a beast, but the wind. An icy breath that rustles through all the trees, that sweeps up the excess of fresh powder that sits atop the harder frost, turning the air to a sparkling, visible thing. And that breath, they'd swear, is not blown from the heavens, but drawn, sucked inward, toward the dark gaping maw in the cliffside.

It howls a few moments, and then is quiet again.

The answer Talia is asking for? Or pure coincidence.

Rogue has posed:
Rogue touches back down on to the forest floor with her tree-ram held in her ahnds. She watches the aftermath of it ... all, and then just unceremoniously drops the felled tree back on to the forest floor with a thud of the earth at her feet being shook by the sheer weight of the massive timber landing solidly.

"Fuck, why can't we just have one quiet weekend away." She exhales, breathlessly, before she turns around and looks up in to the tree to check on Illyana, then looks toward her shining phone and Tabitha.

"We better head back---"

Rogue looks over to the yawning cavern mouth, the creepy vibes rolling out of that thing are enough to send chills down her spine. In fact, they remind her of a memory long long ago, the night her parents vanished.

This, of course, has a reaction in the Belle, one that Tabitha (and maybe Illyana?) get to witness.

In that Rogue is up in the air again and flying toward the cave, but... not to enter it. She flies to it and starts to beat the ever living hell out of the cave's portal entrance until it comes apart and seals up with fallen rock and debris!

Punch after punch, after punch, until it all comes down inside what was the yawning mouth.

Talia Wagner has posed:
"Line drive with bases loaded." she says cheerfully as Rogue lands and drops the tree at her feet. "And well.. probably because of some fate thing or something. Like mutants and trouble are entwined inextricably..."

The wind howling and it all ominiously seeming to come from the cave does make her fur stand on end once more. "Guh" she notes very articulate.

"Mm... that is .. definitely a solution... or at least a bandaid..." she murmurs watching wide eyed for a moment. Then the young mutant woman turns and heads back to her ditched shoes which she hates wearing anyways, and her jacket are and fishes them back out of the snow to shake off and put on once more. Thankfully no funny hopping on one foot, she is very flexible and agile, as she gets the shoes back on.

"We should head back before someone comes to find out who was blasting with dynamite."

Jean Grey has posed:
The rock has no particular defensive qualities, although the geological formation itself looks to be a rather ancient and formidable one. How does a rock look formidable, one might ask? It's hard to say, but that's the thing about nature, how it can carry a quality of scale and grandeur far beyond mortal man. Of course, Rogue is well beyond said average mortal, man or otherwise, strong enough to make a mark on mother nature... if not to dissuade her ultimate course. The cave may be as old as the mountain, but after tonight, it will have a different look.

It's clear she'll never easily collapse the entire cave, not without a scale of destruction that might have rammifacations far wider than their little clearing below. The town where their friends are gathering for the shuttle bus is in would-be avalanche path, after all. But with some controlled smashing, she can bring down enough surface material from above and just inside the entrance to fill it with a pile of loose debris. Good enough for government work, as they say.

As the last of these blows are landing, a shooting star appears in the sky, albeit figurative rather than literal, as Jean Grey finally arrives to answer her texts. The fight only took moments, so it's not a bad response time, all told, and the fact that she shows up body-suited with a crackling energy aura shows that she was ready for the worst. Instead, she finds Rogue fighting an inanimate natural formation.

"What are you, hey, careful with that, the snow could-" And then the floating, lightly crackling figure stops, and her expression changes, goes dead cold. "Let me help." Soon, there are telekinetic talons reaching out to join Rogue in the 'restructuring,' clawing, lifting, and more importantly, molecularly melting down the pile of rocks, fusing them into a proper seal.

When it's done, she lands in the field beside the others, and her costume melts back into a normal jacket-form. "Everyone OK? You know what, tell me on the bus, if we hurry back we might just still make it."