4937/Mystic Graffiti

From Heroes Assemble MUSH
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Mystic Graffiti
Date of Scene: 29 January 2021
Location: Bronx
Synopsis: A soul stolen by the Lady in Red sends mages and druids and Spitfire into the Aztec bone-path searching for answers. The Lady is banished but her demon remains, struck down in an exorcism. But when Anthony Druid tries to reclaim a human sacrifice, the dark Aztec god of winter has something to say about interfering with his midnight snack...
Cast of Characters: Meggan Puceanu, Anthony Druid, Amora, Julio Richter, Jacqueline Falsworth, John Constantine

Meggan Puceanu has posed:
~~Mystic Graffiti~~ It's a spot in the Bronx, not far from the great tow yard and the freeway. Anonymous, worn-out warehouses and unsigned manufacturing sites frame a destroyed, pitted road that looks like some great tool tilled it up. Most of the damage is in front of a large two-story warehouse and sagging, tired offices next door.

Across the street is another part of the complex, worn-out manufacturing and a ramshackle garage in crappy shape. Graffiti spills in disgusting tangles and lurid colours that leap and twist to the Sight, visceral letters towering over bent, broken scribbles that cower while paint leaks from the psychic wounds inflicted on them. Snarling geometric faces erupt in pops of pink and vomit-yellow, snapping at anything that goes past. RIP features buried within a tag that screams with distorted figures bent back on one another, chewing limbs, all maw and little else.

They smell of rot, squalor, meat. Fingers touching the wall come away wet. Foul shapes bend and bow. Their dance is a sickening thing.

The graffiti has been reported sporadically throughout the Bronx, something that didn't garner much information. In the past week, the offensive markings of this particular mural so close to a fairly well-travelled thoroughfare have been remarked upon several times, but cannot have been made before five days ago.

Meggan Puceanu has posed:
East 142nd Avenue and Concord Place, in the Bronx, lies off a fairly major bus route. Recent damage to the roads led to a few sorry traffic cones and "road closed" signs sprouting up, rerouting traffic away from an absolutely scarred and torn up road under snow. Attention filters through the grapevine, eventually landing on mystic ears. Eventually.

Turns out an upset city employee reported the 'profane, disgusting' graffiti tagged on a derelict building.

Another woman posted to NextDoor.

A few bored neighbours promptly spill complaints and pictures of the grotesque shapes with split tongues and long fangs, the naked bodies spilling blood and arched in a rigid dance.

A city councilor's office receives a few requests to paint it over, and shunts the request sideways to volunteer services, a charity, the community centre at Millbrook Houses. But still, the ugly artwork remains there, almost too bright, defiantly sketched.

About half-past two, something disturbs the peace. Dogs start howling, pulling at their chains. Birds fly away, not that many were much interested hanging around a light industrial site. Several rats go running in a neat line down the street, going straight for St. Mary's Park like their tails are on fire. A woman at the dog run in that park collapses and starts babbling about the men with the claws. One of the leylines surges and sparks, all the energy rippling through it going glacially cold and turning into black ice.

Just every day occurrences in a city layered in mystic detritus.

Anthony Druid has posed:
Because of his television show, Anthony Druid is often seen as almost a camp figure. Melodramatic, bombastic, thirsty for attention. All of that is true, but it often obscures the fact that Druid is nonetheless a potent mystic and psychic with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men. And while he often plies his trade now on syndicated television, he still truly cares and does his best to use his powers for good. In this case, one of his interns alerted him to social media posts about this activity. What had seemed to be a potential case of simple occult graffiti, a Satanic Panic sort of hysteria, instead caught Druid's attention. Something more was going on here.

And so he comes to investigate. Rather than wearing his garish superhero costume, he's clad in a long grey wool trenchcoat over a black turtleneck. He has an amulet bearing the mark of the triple goddess of Celtic myth around his neck and his bald head warmed by a trilby hat. He opens his mystic senses as he begins to walk the area, waiting for something to draw him in, some hint, some trail, some omen. He pauses to linger over a particular piece, the bloodied sight of sewn flesh remarkably detailed and vivid. "Intriguing," he says aloud.

Then the powers start to spark, that disturbance causing his awareness to rise, opening himself up to the astral plane as he intones in his deep, resonant baritone, "Who goes there? What manner of mischief is this?"

Amora has posed:
The Enchantress had a personal interest to all this that had been going on. Enough interest that she took some time off her own schemes to come and look into it. Yes, even Amora would make the 'sacrifice' of coming to the Bronx. Ugh, this certainly was no good neighborhood.. But ah well, where it comes to infernal forces mixed with Aztec ones? Even good neighborhoods have a tendency to turn to Hel quickly enough. And quite often literally!

Previous uses of her magick, tracing the connections between the two infernal forces at work here had led her to the area, but it was that damn music that had perked her senses and made her sure this was the place. Perhaps even a trap. But for that she was hoping she'd find other ..., interested parties that could pave the way for her. And look at that, disturbances in the astral...

Her form shimmers and she appears not too far from Anthony, dressed in a rather impeccable pantsuit, high heels, hair up in a bun and her shirt open one button too many, showing skin. "Infernal forces, of course. And of the darkest kind." she tells the man, pausing just so before adding, "Not my doing, of course." because that needs to be said.

She points towards the source, "The music. Do you hear it? It is a calling for the ritual they are wishing to do here."

Julio Richter has posed:
A Latino youth walks along the sidewalk in boots, skinny jeans, and a black parka, the mottled faux-fur lining of the hood brushing at the edges of his face. He turns to stare at the torn-up street as he passes through an adjacent crosswalk, and when his eyes face forward again, he's wearing a harried expression that lingers long after the cracked pavement is out of view. He would seem like just another nondescript resident of the area, right down to his obvious preference to be anywhere else, but upon close examination, there's a green sheen to his eyes and a whisper of light of the same color that snakes around his sleeves and hood.

A short walk later, he pulls up across the street from the mural and stares at it, hands in his coat pockets. He's there, examining the lurid street art from afar, when the mystic terrain shifts. "¡Hijo de puta!" he snaps, whirling in place and staring at the ground all around him. Seconds later, he's jogging across the street, trying to stay ahead of the New York City Marathon, Rodent Division.

He keeps running until he jogs to a halt next to Amora, breathing heavily but raising one gloved hand from his pocket in greeting. "You are not going to believe what I've--" he starts to tell her, but then goes silent, staring at the other person present. "Wait, who invited Dr. Phil?" he asks incredulously, through a noticeable Mexican accent. "Guy's a total fraud." Julio makes not a whit of effort at quiet or subtlety with this comment, challenging the TV personality with his open disdain.

Jacqueline Falsworth has posed:
What draws Jacqueline to the site is the descriptions of the images. After the incident at her apartment, images of that nature seem a little too coincidental for the MI-13 agent to just let it go. She arrives on foot -- not surprising, perhaps, for a speedster.

She wears a dark nanomesh speedsuit, the colour ox blood with small accents of dark, burnished orange. Over it, however, is a brown bomber jacket that disguises the suit's lines and makes her seem less 'superhero-y'. Her cowl pulled back to hang like a hood over the jacket's lambskin liked collar, and goggles hang about her throat. A small brown leather rucksack hangs off her shoulders.

The spitfire streak of her passing has long since faded. Her hands are shoved deep into her pockets as she slowly walks the line of graffiti. To those with mystic senses, the woman's innocuous -- if eccentric -- appearance is belied by the fact her aura, the very sense of her true nature, all but screams 'vampire'. But it's daytime... which calls that reading into question.

She tucks a strand of strawberry blond hair behind an ear, glancing down the street as she hears the druid speak. Her ears rise faintly, curiously, and she turns to watch with interested eyes. Her observation is distracted only when the Enchantress and then the youth also appear, causing a pale brow to arch toward her hairline.

She doesn't hear any music. But she's heard too much about dark summonings lately... standing in a protective salt circle in her own kitchen while a medium was attacked by dark forces neither of them could easily fight. Thus, she starts to move towards them, listening and watching as she comes.

Meggan Puceanu has posed:
Using the Sight brings the lurid details of the mural into deeper focus. But the price is high. Awareness stings as if lashed by nettles. Teeth-aching cold assaulting the mind, a physical sensation radiating out from the tacky paint. Dancers seem to swell and pivot, painted strokes wobbling as they stamp their bare legs and fling their hands back in rapturous agony. A jaguar rears back, limbs twisting and fluid at non-Euclidean angles. Yellow bodies thrash as slender aquamarine darts pierce them, limbs and prostrate torso struck in a psychedelic swirl. Faces widen, mouths huge, flesh sloughing off muscle.

Staring too long at the livid greens and yellows even in mundane sight might induce a mild sense of vertigo, the clash with surrounding colours offensive to the brain. It hurts. Bits of music filter from somewhere, a definite Latin pop vibe, crackling and cut with static. It has all the elements of a club banger, interspersed with tongue-twisting choruses that belong to something more like a Catholic hymn or prayer. Sometimes Latin, sometimes Mesoamerican tangle hard to decipher. Purposeful, ponderous, gathering energy from a chorus of voices.

Worse, the crooked and battered stones start to bleed. Splotches of paint run thick and ichorous onto the frozen sidewalk, oozing into puddles. Minute ripples mark the vibrations shaking the thinning fabric separating one reality from another.

Nothing to worry about.

Anthony Druid has posed:
Anthony Druid places a hand to his forehead as the price of his second sight takes its toll, a sharp screaming pain behind his left eye leaving the orb bloodshot in the wake of it. He's doing his share of hallucinogenics - peyote, ayahuasca, absinthe, etc. - but this is something far more primal, chaotic, unhinged. Nonetheless, the arrival of the others and in particular Julio's comment cut through the static.

"Impudent whelp," he snaps. "I'm a member of the Avengers," he says. He rises to float into the air a bit, levitating under the power of his mind as he extends his hands out.

"Infernal forces, my dear? I have faced such before and prevailed. Present yourself, daemoniac! We have had enough of this unholy light show, these vile and repugnant images. Your diseased imagination holds nothing that can phase Dr. Druid!"

Amora has posed:
" Perhaps he is a fraud.." Amora says, apparently having no interest in going against Julio's assessment of Anthony, "But you may also note he is not running away like the others, is he? He has at least some measure of power." and she did see him reach to the astral. Also, no need to mention that the more meat to the grinder she gets the better. Hey, she doesn't want to break a nail.., or two.

When the man says he is an avenger it has Amora quirk a brow in curiosity then a wicked little smirk appearing on her lips. "Is that so...?" she lets the man get on with his show of force and casts a look at the young Julio, "Anyway, you were saying something, weren't you?" she gesturing to the walls ahead of them. "You know who these belong to, to the Aztec God of Ice and Death. Within, I believe a ritual might be getting prepared. Or at least the beginnings of one. When I saw .., something similar to this I saw a young woman, torn between worlds, the music over and over trying to turn her to the Aztec God. But ..., it also felt like a trap. So tread carefully.."

Crystal blue eyes take note of the approaching Jacqueline, head canting to the side at the aura felt in her. Interesting. "Classic features, interesting aura. Do you come to hinder or help us in this?"

With the four of them together she then says, "If we wish to stop this we will have to disrupt the prayer, and make way *inside* the place."

Amora has posed:
The Enchantress then adds quietly. "This mural. It is a two-way door." she explains. "There is a tear in the fabric of reality that will allow one to pass through. But to where it leads?" she shakes her head. "I do not know. Yet."

Julio Richter has posed:
"Criss Angel can do that, too, wey," the whelp in question points out with a roll of his eyes when Druid goes airborne. "Just 'cause the Avengers fell for it doesn't mean we're all that dumb." Tough crowd, for a matinee. That said, he doesn't argue with Amora's assessment that he might bring something to the table; hell, he'd assumed Constantine was nothing but a pain in the ass when he first met him, and after about an hour spent in the man's company, he had to admit that he was actually the biggest pain in the ass he'd ever met. That'll teach you to underestimate people.

Julio doesn't have the Sight, but that music is unmistakably familiar and grating on his last nerve; his extranormal senses have always been more of a surplus ear than a Third Eye, anyway. "That pop chant was going on when the street serpent attacked me, too," he says somewhat cryptically, pulling one hand from his pocket and letting a small, tarnished silver L-shaped pendant drop from his palm on a chain. There are traces of dark, cold magic radiating from it. "I can kind of understand them. It sounds like they're going to do another sacrifice. We might not have much time."

Even as he says that, he's grimacing at the bleeding walls. "Asqueroso," he breathes. "Who goes first? I... can't really trust my protections, right now."

With his focus on the wall, he hasn't really taken much notice of Jacqueline, yet.

Jacqueline Falsworth has posed:
At the mention of her aura, Jacqueline grimaces faintly, though it settles onto her features ultimately as a wry smile. "Help," she replies to the Enchantress, taking in the arrogant Avenger and the youth, as well. "This isn't the first dark summoning I've seen recently, either. Nearly tore a young medium apart and I rather like to avoid a repeat, if I can."

At least it's not on her kitchen floor, this time.

The Englishwoman turns toward the mural, giving it a careful once over with clear eyes. "I don't know much about Aztecs," she notes, "but I've done a fair hand of research into Apollyon, the Destroyer, since a spectre tried to kill me last week. That Latin chanting sounds an awful lot like what I heard in the pages attached to his symbol. So, I'm willing to hazard there's a connection."

She speaks Latin, yes. But she's willing to bet the others do, too. Most mystic types she's met are fluent in several ancient tongues, after all.

"I can offer you a more concrete translation, if you want," she tells the youth. "But you're not wrong. Someone's trying to become an avatar of destruction -- god or demon, I don't suppose much matters."

She considers the three others. "I can go in first, if you'd like. I'm damned near indestructible and I suspect faster than any of you. I can scout what's in there and let you know before it tries to kill you." Superspeed, superstrength, and impossible healing factor. It's a potent combination.

Meggan Puceanu has posed:
Whilst the others decide on their course of action, the mural continues to bleed. Those subtle vibrations build into a frantic staccato crack, jagged spikes lifting and falling back into the bright splotches coloured jade, vomit-yellow, teal, harsh black.

The hunters with their obsidian spears and macuahuitl fall upon one of the yellow bodies. Between the bursts of music filtering through, a sobbing scream in Spanish: <<Please, no, no, no.>>

Another crackle of static and chanting. Another moment and needles rain through the portraits themselves, thin darts crashing into the ground and stabbing anyone unfortunate enough to be so close to the fine, 3-inch long spikes. Ice, as it happens.

A rusty, bawling sob is almost unheard under it. "--don't take her---"

Anthony Druid has posed:
Anthony Druid frowns, "I'm rather past the point of humoring your skepticism, lad," he mutters as the gateway makes itself known. He mutters a blessing under his breath, gathering elemental power around himself, flames erupting around his right hand and swirling with heat at the sight of the ice.

"Rituals require conditions. Materials, timing, enunciation. You speak rightly, the chant must be broken and we must do our best to make sure that, whatever the purpose of this foul and malevolent working might be, we must do our best to stop it," He nods to Jacqueline, "If you speak it, I'll trust it to be so. But we, I think, will not be far behind."

Amora has posed:
The mention of Apollyon has Amora's gaze widen just so, taking in Jacqueline with more interest. "Ahhh, you are not here by chance then." the corner of her lips curling into a faint smile, "The two are connected." she explains. Apollyon, the Inescapable End, Gate of Entropy.., along with Itztlacoliuhqui, the Aztec God of Death and winter renewal. And you have seen the pages." before she wonders, "Blade's pages?" she questions.

A look then given to Julio, "Should I ask about this street serpent? It does seem you have a story to tell. But perhaps it can wait for another time. Right now we need to check on this."

And with that said she does seem to like Jacqs plan about she going in first. Because what's not to like about someone being the sacrificial element in case things go wrong! "The three of us should be able to aid you. Dr. Phil, Julio, would you both be dears and use your protective magicks in our friend here? As for me, I shall help in granting you the sight for the time you are on the other side. For your mundane sight might not be enough for us to discern what is on the other side. If you so accept." and if so accepted she will start changing in Asgardian, words of power, her eyes glowing in a deep jade color before she creates the connection towards the other woman, granting her temporary access to the sight, but also enabling Amora to see through her eyes. Because she wants to know what is going on.

"You may want to hurry." She then says. "The ritual is almose finished." casual tone too.

Julio Richter has posed:
Generous of Jacqueline to make such assumptions of Julio: even his English isn't that great. The fragments he's getting of the Mesoamerican chant underlying the pop song are, he suspects, being fed to him mystically, and he doesn't like where that train of thought leads in the slightest. At one stop along that particular line, he responds to the news of a burgeoning avatar of destruction with a grunt of "Better him than me."

Amora's suggestion of protective spells gets a grimace, and the response, "I'll do what I can to protect her, but I can't really trust my magic right now."

He continues to hold out the L-shaped pendant, explaining, "I think this belonged to the girl -- Leena -- who was kidnapped by Itztlacoliuqui." It has occurred to him that the relative ease with which he can pronounce that impossible name is further evidence of influences he'd rather not contemplate. Amora is right about their tight timetable, so he gives her the condensed version: "It was at the heart of a monster made of sewer that he sent to kill me. She's probably the one they're going to sacrifice." He looks with some urgency to Amora, then Jacqueline, and even (reluctantly) Dr. Druid, hoping that someone with more formalized mystical abilities than his own will be able to make use of the item.

Whether or not someone sweeps the necklace out of his grasp, he's going to take a deep breath; say "Well, fuck it;" and sprint headlong into and through the wall, trusting that Jacqueline will have no difficulty passing him to take point.

The impact is painful, many tiny sharp points of agony scraping across him, even where his skin is covered. But before too long, he's through the barrier, faced with a forking path: one toward the loudest music, one toward the pleading voice, and one, more substantial, that is practically exploding with the colors of the mural he just passed through. Hissing out another curse in Spanish, he puts his trust in his vibrational senses and sprints toward the cries for help.

Jacqueline Falsworth has posed:
Blade's pages? Jacqueline's brow arches at Amora's question. "No. I haven't seen Blade in many years. But, perhaps I should look him up again." That's something to know. Her old friend in possession of pages something like hers? Yes, she'll follow up on that.

*After* the current crisis is dealt with.

She gives Druid a simple nod, unsurprised by the assertion they'll follow. She expects it. She just figures if anyone can survive whatever booby traps are first through the gate, it's her.

"By all means," she says to the Enchantress. She'll take Amora's spell, certainly -- especially if it will help. Quite willingly, since her vampiric senses aren't quite on par with an actual undead leach's senses. She's still alive, after all... "Here we go, then."

She pulls up her cowl and sets her goggles and mask in place before she begins to run. She bypasses Julio long before he actually gets close enough to breach the wall. A stream of heatless fire streaks out behind her -- her spitfire trail. As she collides with the surface of the wards that protect the portal, she grunts with the pain of the crossing. Nothing like a face full of stinging nettles to greet the day. It is what it is, however. She can't do much to sweep those sorts of things away. They're just part of the fabric of the veil. At least it gives the others the heads up that they're there.

The cold within, the ice and snow that coats the path, doesn't much affect her. But the presence of ice does mean the speedster must be more careful with where she puts her feet. Crunchy snow is easier to run across that black ice, for sure.

There are three paths for her to explore -- and she can conceivably do each of them in the span of heartbeats, depending on how far they go. Music to the left, faint pleading cries to the right, and a cacophony of psychedelic light and sound like something right off that mural exploding in the air down the middle path. It's by far the biggest display.

The way the cries fade, she wouldn't be surprised if that way is a dead end. The music obscures anything down the lefthand path. But straight ahead is usually the wrong choice. But, for all she knows, they could all lead to the same place.

She senses Julio breaking right behind her and sets off in a streak ahead of him down that path -- toward the fading cries. Because she'd rather she takes whatever hard hits may be down that path before he does... and because no hero worth their salt can truly resist the cries of the helpless.

Meggan Puceanu has posed:
Energy ripples and flows in deranged tangles, scraping over the skin with countless tiny thorns. Those without the means to protect themselves from the launched ice needles get a body or faceful of the projectiles, and they sting as hard as any arrow launched at a short distance. Hungry for heat, eager to strip bits of life. No mercy there, eager to shed blood, even if it's just a stinging kiss of bare skin struck by divine missiles. For it isn't merely ice unless this were ice chipped off the glaciers that once shrouded the planet in their frigid embrace.

Where the pathways split and sunder, Jacqueline soon discovers distance really means nothing. A shape of a building surrounded by other, lower buildings rests to the right, but race though she might, the bone path reaches further and longer ahead of her. Broken metal links litter it. Bits of bone stick out from the frost-gelled snow along with zip-tie cuffs, knotted shoelaces, bloodied makeshift rope. None of the blood is -too- new, but neither is it old. The chanting's almost hypnotic, alluring with the pop bangers crashing out like a club.

To the left, down that fork, a shape wreathed in gold-green fire emerges. It's a person, clearly, silhouetted against another of those vibrant Aztec murals that itself seems to be bleeding the same paint as the one they entered. Its distance is significantly shorter to traverse, but slippery-slick. The grey shape of an entropic aura practically corrodes the very stuff of existence here, spiderwebs and smoke whirling together -- a familiar sight. Though as any of them approach, a woman in red is briefly visible behind the taller person in front, who doesn't slow in their advance.

Anthony Druid has posed:
Anthony Druid takes the necklace from Julio and, despite whatever conflict he's had with the boy, nods gravely towards him, "We will find her," he says simply. He focuses his mystic senses onto the necklace, getting a taste of the aura attached and allowing it to guide him, hopefully towards the girl and a chance at saving a life.

He floats forward, prepared to use his flame to ward off any of that icy rain should it blow towards them, even as he follows almost unconsciously along the pathway laid out for him by the necklace, drawn towards the right as the paths split for him as well, his hat blowing away at the rising, heated wind as he continues to draw on the elements.

With his mind, he reaches out, trying to seek the human girl with his consciousness, hoping to find both her location and offer comfort and hope. Focused as he is, the outside world fades a bit into the background, perhaps leaving him vulnerable, but that's simply the chance he'll have to take. The rightward path draws him in, even as he calls out to the others, "May the blessings of Cuchulain be upon you. Onward, friends! We can do this!" he calls encouragingly.

Amora has posed:
Amora is no hero. Let's get that right from the start. So cries for help? Not her problem. Music in the background...? Nope. Her focus is in the source of power, that left path, the one where the mural is and where those two figures start to emerge. She plods on slower than the others, letting them take the lead if there was any ..., complication. But now that they are in she is moving quickly, feet above ground as she flies, gesturing and creating a barrier to protect herself from those falling ice spikes. No need to get a scar or, Odin forbid, a tear in her pantsuit...

So she moves in towards the mural, calling out to the others, "Can you sense them? We have company. Infused with infernal energies. Entropy to be exact."

She makes way to where the duo is but before .., she does a little spell of her own. Illusion, subtlety, darkness. She calls on the energies available around, covering her presence with darkness and sending an 'image' of herself in front. What? Loki does it all the time! No need to risk her neck..

The 'figure' approaches the duo. "Interesting setup you have here." words resonating with Allspeak, in that way that she can communicate in any being. It's good being an Asgardian!

Julio Richter has posed:
Julio's sprint carries him down the right path after Jacqueline and just a bit ahead of Anthony. True to his word, though, as he feels the vibrations of the pair approaching from the left, he puts up what protection he can, sending forks of vibration down into the alien firmament of this plane, roiling the ground in a resonant cascade that culminates in a jutting, angled wall of stone being levered up in front of the leftmost path. It is not by any means enough to fully block off that road, nor will it impede Amora in addressing the strangers, but it should at the very least delay their advance and hinder direct attacks.

As he doesn't feel the telltale quiver of footsteps ahead, he slows and then reverses course, letting the others effect the rescue while he stays behind to offer Amora what support he can. His first step is to feel for stone objects being carried by the pair; he has a suspicion that there might be an obsidian knife concealed on one or the other of them, and if so, he's going to try to liberate it with a swirl of geokinesis. For preference, he'd like it to fly toward him handle-first, but the important thing is to get it away from the heart-stealers.

Jacqueline Falsworth has posed:
Jacquline's dark eyes catch sight of the woman in red, to be sure. Claws enlongage on her fingertips and fangs grow in her mouth as she streaks towards her. The pupils of her eyes swell until no iris or sclera remains -- only the reflective black of her vampiric nature. Between her and the woman is that gaunt, skeletal thing with its entropic field and a heart in its hand. Let Amora talk to the woman; Jacqueline intends to take out the hunter/protector thing that stands in the way.

More importantly, she wants that heart. It's the astral plane. Maybe the owner doesn't have to die... Providing the owner is a victim like the girl and not another ghastly thing that deserves to be put down.

Spitfire blazing behind her, adding fleeting light to the darkness, she launches herself at the gaunt creature, claws extended. Superstrong, superfast, and a monster in her own right, her claws slash towards its collar and throat. She'll rip off its head, if she can and retrieve the stolen heart from its cold, dead hand.

Even as she collides with it, however, the entropic field around its body rips a cry of pain and rage from her throat. It doesn't stop her at all. It doesn't even slow her. But her flesh bears the marks of the entropy, regenerating as fast as it is destroyed. And her suit shows signs of wear, though it is more resiliant than one might initially expect.

Meggan Puceanu has posed:
<<You have made no payment to be here, Goldtongue.>> Listening to anything speak in classical infernal language of Hell broaches madness, to hear too long. This is all that can be said by the approaching 'man' before Jacqueline slams into him. It.

The wall, in kind, gives a protective barrier that seals speedster and ghastly infernal monster from sight. Julio is fast, but the Englishwoman is faster. The dark figure advancing down the left branch resolves through the wispy shadows of its aura, a circular globe dancing with falling ashes and rising smoke. It's obvious from the get-go something isn't quite right. That elongated body isn't made in human proportions. Much too big in the torso, gangling arms bulging and bearing two hinges, not the single elbow. Those gnarled, curling hands end in serrated nails shining with a metal sheen: light, dark, blackened. Hard to say what they are, but just seeing the hooked, cruel talons might be enough to induce a shudder. Pustules and ridges cover the body; the skin is red in blood, but a patchwork of smooth, hard sections and those awful nodules. Barbed points jut out where joints are, on the shoulders, up the neck. The head isn't entirely human, only vaguely like it. Jacqueline's claws won't find purchase easily through the bonier plates, the thick and hardened carapace where the points are. There are softer sections, of course, as they crash together.

A helm-like shape, more than likely, a maw of awful, grinning teeth. She shows her fangs and it smiles right back, snapping teeth at her shoulder, the brimming black ichor of a darker, yawning destruction lacing its barbed tongue. Dark, gleaming eyes shine under the pointed brow-ridge. It has a vaguely Greco-Roman feel, if bisected by a horror conjured up from the depths of a bog. What ragged raiment attires it is purely laughable: the shredded bits of a hoodie, a pair of jeans bursting and torn with every demented step. She can at least get her hands on the heart: still wet, sticky, throbbing with demented little jerks as the electrical signals not sent from the brain are filtering their last through dying synapses. Copper bright, sticky wet.

No stone for Julio on the Lady in Red, and the living substance of the demon is pure hell.

Leena's life presence dimly throbs to the chanting and the rhythm of the music. It's hard to detect her through the swirl of infernal magic suddenly brought to bear. She is alive, terror and despair dull in the distant tone of her aura. Not much else to go on; the responses are slow, like someone drugged. Drunk. Sleepy?

A gasping awful cold announces another terminus of the Astral pathway being ripped open. The brunette presses her fingertips to her artfully painted lips, and steps through a narrow fissure wreathed in grape leaves, spindling wicker, and the smell of burnt incense and amber.

Anthony Druid has posed:
Anthony Druid sees the horror beginning to melt and twist through the realms around him. The Lady In Red has a mesmerizing presence in her own right, for a man such as Druid who is vulnerable to the charms of the fairer sex, but the underlying pulse of Leena's life in his hand, grasped through the resonance of her necklace, helps him to keep grounded.

"BEGONE, TEMPTRESS!" he shouts, pushing forward, "This is a realm of lies and shadows, but I am no stranger to such!" he calls and he wraps his hand around the L amulet, focusing his attention on that faint presence, squeezing hard enough that the edge draws blood in his palm, his own blood smeared on it as he pushes his psychic self outwards to try and locate the innocent girl at the heart of this abyssal conundrum.

Amora has posed:
A very brief snort mars the otherwise perfect features on Amora's face once she hears the woman's reply to her words of 'greeting'. But well, it's not as if she could expect much different considering the not-so-subtle approach from Julio and Jacqueline. <<And you attempt to take that which is not yours to take, Obsidian Acolyte.>> but then she smiles as the escape pathway is taken. Sensible at least.

Not that she doesn't immediately reach out with her own magic, senses expanding, taking advantage of that tangible entropy present all around, on the unpredictability of it all to attempt and find a hook to the woman's magic, a signature that may lead to something more about her.

The bony monster right now? Amora isn't really focused on it just yet.

Julio Richter has posed:
Julio doesn't really have time to wonder why the speedy Englishwoman has gone all pointy. He's never seen an episode of Buffy, and when the movie vampires he is familiar with transform, it's generally into a bat. The couple of vamps he has met in person were just sort of weird and didn't interact with him much.

He can hear a hideous resonance coming off that creature, though, and although he doesn't trust his magic at the moment, his mutant abilities have been honed over the past year. With a shuddering burst of green light, he drives a fissure into the glacial firmament, splitting it along a lightning-bolt crack that splits open beneath the creature, creating a crevasse half a meter wide at the surface and narrower the deeper it goes.

"Please don't know how to fly..." he mutters to himself. Unless the creature does, in fact, take flight, he should be able to snag at least one leg in the ground, pinning it in place.

John Constantine has posed:
Constantine's worked ritual magic in weirder places. The shower attached to SHIELD's medbay isn't too bad, all things considered. No smoke alarms, no one likely to burst in demanding an explanation of what Flora is doing sitting cross-legged in the middle of the room in the center of an alchemical ritual sigil.

Incense burns low and steady, mingles with tallow to curl around the woman's body. Aside from her slow and measured breathing, and her straight backed posture, one might think her asleep.

Flora's an accomplished medium but this sort of venture into the Astral is the sort of voyage few people are mentally prepared to take. Constantine leaves Flora's spirit behind and flies through the Astral on invisible wings of his own willpower, hopping nodes of thought that *blip* him across the country. Fragmented visions of Constantine appear in Gotham, Seattle, Boston, and ultimately the Bronx. The tangle of clashing, violent energies is an easy beacon to home in on. Here his approach becomes cautious and Constantine lets himself slip into the void between reality and the pure Astral. Willing himself into invisibility the magus canvasses the situation and makes his approach-- circling the Lady in Red and her demon pet, waiting for the opportune moment to strike.

Jacqueline Falsworth has posed:
The monster's teeth clamp onto Jacqueline's shoulder. Again, she cries out in pain and rage, but she still does not stop. One hand wraps protectively around the heart it previously held in its hand. The other, slides down over bony plates to find a softer entry spot. And there, she shoves her claws deep into its body at lighting speed, strength and speed both combining to overcome the resistance of its softer skin.

It dimly registers with her that the fact its wearing the tattered remains of jeans and a hoodie could mean it was once human. It could mean it was once Leena. But her goal is to get it to tear its mouth away from her shoulder. Because once it does -- even if it takes a chunk of flesh with it -- she'll push away, heart in hand, and retreat to a safer distance.

Especially with a fissure opening beneath it.

Of course, if it doesn't let go... she'll just have to fall along for the ride.

Meggan Puceanu has posed:
With the insistent shout from Anthony a compelling reason to vamoose, the Lady in Red vanishes into that fissure in space. The extra nudge and blood sacrifice accelerate the process. Blood means something, to the cultures that birthed Itztlacoliuhqui and shaped their gods. She's gone.

Grape leaves shudder and reorient inward like so many overlapping spearheads or shields, a most distinctive pattern with a pointed ridge. Darkness swells and collapses the gateway with a gasp of burnt incense hanging hard in the air. That entropic field destroying clothes and eroding stone, ice, and metal remains strong but weakened without the overlapped globes the woman and the demon exuded.

Mind, the hunter is strong enough on its own to not worry. A hard swing of the fist in an upper jab means to strike Jacqueline hard in the ribs. Then the earth cracks, meaning to swallow it up. The demon flexes, its oversized double-segmented arm doing things arms just should not do, bracing though it means sacrificing a grip on her besides its teeth. It shakes her in its off-balanced state, sacrificing the heart, but snapping and digging those needle teeth in. The trip will force its jaws open, give her the means to get away.

Anthony Druid has posed:
Anthony Druid tries not to take too much pride in the vanquishing, although he certainly does feel a measure of it. Ego is not something in which Druid tends to be lacking. Seeing Jacqueline in danger in the distance, he pauses in his seeking and summons forth an invocation of Celtic power, calling upon the power of nature to unleash thorny vines from beneath the beast, trying to entangle it and open it up to attack once Spitfire manages to wrench herself free.

He drops to his knees and pulls out a back of elm ash, smearing it over his fingers and using it to begin to craft a circle around himself, rapid-fire smudging done by rote and memory, wrapping himself in protection as he prepares to attempt to craft a portal between himself and the sacrificial victim, hoping to pull her from danger.

Amora has posed:
<<Got you...>> Amora murmurs musically when the Lady in Red escapes through that fissure, her keen eyes studying and following the magic flowing about. Not that she dares to go much /further/ when she senses the other presence there. That's not someone to disturb..., yet.

Glowing jade eyes turn towards the demon that is left, watching the struggle and reaching towards the ice water that surrounds this infernal realm. It feels quite natural here, to reach and touch those magicks, bending them to her will, a sharp, large spike of ice forming up from coalescing water, infused with entropy. She flickers her wrist in an almost disdainful manner and the spike flies at high speed towards the off-balance demon, aiming to pierce it through the chest.

So it's not said the Enchantress didn't actually lift a finger to attempt and defeat this ritual!

Julio Richter has posed:
When the demon stumbles into Julio's fissure, he leaps upward, fists in the air. "SI!" he bellows triumphantly. He's not going to say this out loud, but every single time he has tried that trick before, whatever damned thing he was fighting turned out to be able to fly, and it has been no end of frustration for him. The fissure isn't all that deep, of course, but as the thing's claws slash grooves in the icy ground, trying to drag itself free, the mutant drops back into a crouch and shifts his tectonic aura. Sliding one green-limned foot across the icy ground, he narrows the crevice, intending to trap and partially crush the creature -- somewhat poetically, given his dealings with Aztec magic -- in the jaws of the earth. It can billow out waves of entropy all it wants; old stone still holds fast.

John Constantine has posed:
It's the hit John was waiting for.

Constantine surges forward through the Astral as the demon is battered by spellpower. It reality it bleeds that sulfurous black ichor but in the realm of potential, it leaks gobbets of what will and focus the creature possesses. Bleeding drains the body, but the magical wounds drain the spirit. Both contribute to weakening the beast and staggering it.

Impaled by ice and stone and vine it's already off balance when an invisible mass hits the demon hard and knocks it backwards. There's a glimmering flash of light and a vaguely translucent man wearing a trenchcoat appears, kneeling on the demon's chest. One hand drives to the skullplate, the other digging into the great wound ripped in its chest.

It screams and thrashes arms, trying to fight back as a steady stream of Latin-sounding conjugates echoes from no discernable location. Try and struggle as it might the demon cannot lift Constantine's spirit nor can it wound him, trapped by the words of power the Hellblazer invokes.

"Precipio tibi quod redire ad tenebras!" Constantine's voice echoes against the minds of the others present and he slams all his unconstrained willpower against the tenuous binds that hold the monstrous entity in the mortal realm.

Jacqueline Falsworth has posed:
Jacqueline feels her ribs crack and break as the demon's fist slams into her side. She has no air to scream, a rib puncturing a lung. Nevertheless, she pushes off the monster with strong, runner's legs when its grip shakes loose. Bloodied, droplets spray the battered snow as her body arcs through the air, flung as much by the monster's own shake as by the thrust of her legs. She grunts heavily as she crashes into the ground several yards away, rolling with the impact, the heart cradled close to her chest to protect it.

She lays there, still for several long seconds. Not unconscious, no. She's waiting for her ribs to knit enough that she can breathe the way a runner needs to breathe. Then, she struggles to her feet, the wound in her shoulder and others across her body knitting as she does.

Flesh smooths and scars fading clear away. Her suit is torn, worn to tatters where claws and teeth rent furrows in her flesh and where her limbs and joints fought against the creature. But it's whole where it needs to be, sparing her immodesty in the cold. Though her eyes remain full and black and her fangs remain behind bloodied lips, her claws recede. She looks down at the heart in her hand and inhales its scent. Then, she raises her head, seeking more of that same scent. She's not got a particularly sensitive to anything other than blood. But when it comes to blood? She's a veritable bloodhound.

Go figure.

She wants to find the body to whom the heart belongs. But Druid's magics have woken something else, she thinks. And Julio's stone will be better proof against whatever comes than her own frailer form. Spitfire streaks behind her as she heads straight towards the other mutant, fully intending to put him between her and whatever's coming.

"I have the heart!" she tells him, skidding to crouch behind his shoulder. "Something bigger is coming. And I think we need to protect the heart from it."

Especially if it's Leena's.

Meggan Puceanu has posed:
All seems to turn out well.

Entropic energy whirlpools around them at the exorcist's shout. Its black eyes flare with hellfire, a gout of void-black flames spat from its lips at John. They swirl, drops of absolute nothingness that consume anything they touch. It's just not there anymore.

But Jacqueline's body aches even as she heals. An infernal taint clings to her, plain as day to the mystics and maybe herself. Patterns of cobwebs vining over her shoulder. It will fade, surely, from that ashen grey tattoo.

Shit, meet fan.

The temperature plummets by forty degrees in a heartbeat, snapping frostbite fangs into exposed skin. Flash freezing the aid renders those magical vines rimed in a glistening black craquelure, the ground glistening like a dull obsidian mirror. Bones jostle and flex, a great serpent stirred from hoary sleep, shoving up icy boulders and blocks. Aside from Amora, it's bound to dislodge everyone standing in the rattling shudders convulsing the path. The Enchantress surely feels the subzero temperatures but doesn't quite suffer as human flesh would, and the centigrade keeps falling. Mist congeals from nothing, dimming the already shadowy pathway, smothering out shapes in its coils.

A heave exhales a billowing, desiccated breath of the north. A smell ripe with cold, ashes, and blood.

Julio's body comes alight in weirdly vibrant green like the spilled paint and life force vanished in the snowy bone-path. Interlocked scaly outlines join together in a weird net. A sheet of incandescent sawtooth mail spreads down his torso, a long 'tail' wrapping around his waist, as if to protest THIS IS MINE! in slow, poisonous intent. It's an alien take on armour to western eyes, patchwork brindling, incorporating a street sign and a few tamale wrappers (from where?) for some reason.

Chants escalate, lilting and falling as they have before. Except here no magic is needed to hear the words, the ominous undertones that become triumphant, ecstatic. Electropop wails in Spanish. That ring with primal shrieks and ululations that scour to the bone. Louder, more tangible sounds than ever, like two Baptist choirs dueled out their favourite hymn.

Shadows crackle. Winter seethes. Something very, very big is coming.

Anthony Druid has posed:
Anthony Druid feels his circle being battered by ice and darkness, the shadows surrounding Leena too thick for him to pull her directly through. Not without pulling her to bits. Not without doing more harm than good.

At Spitfire's cry, Druid unleashes as mighty gout of mystic flame, blasting open his circle and blowing away that frozen carapace that had started to form around him. "Milady, consider yourself protected!" he cries. He flies towards her, sigils forming in the air around him as he laces ward on top of ward, putting himself in the line of fire and trying to intercede between her and any demonic threat, "Friends, spirits, warriors, gather here! It is time for us to make a stand!" he calls, sweat beading on his bald pate, still dressed like a college professor out for an evening of crabcakes and not a sorcerer standing at the precipice of Hell. A precipice that is rapidly retreating before them but only in the way that the local fauna flees at the approach of a mighty predator. "Brace yourselves!" he cries.

Amora has posed:
The tang of blood and ice in the air is palpable, Amora squinting her eyes at the sudden cold, the way it attempts to cling to her immaculate skin having the Asgardian grit her teeth at the effort she has to make in resisting it.

"Pulling at the girl has awakened something else. Much stronger. This way Itztlacoliuhqui comes." or maybe not if she has anything to say about this. And usually Amora does *like* having the last word.

So she starts to enchant powerful Asgardian words to the air, weaving and creating a counter to the growing prayers and hymns, infusing them with Asgardian power, with their own hymns of glory and conquest, clearly attempting to countermagic the connection still hanging in the air and that is bringing the REALLY BIG PRESENCE to play.

"You may want to join your efforts with mine if you wish to get out of this alive." Again, all said very casually, the frozen air about her starting to glow with a green hue, chin rising up and she unleashing her full magic against this oncoming wave of death and cold.

Julio Richter has posed:
Julio gives a sharp nod as Jacqueline slides into place behind him. He's drawing upon the icy power of this realm's firmament, preparing to summon stone walls, fissures, earthquakes -- maybe even a wave of rock they can both surf to wherever the stolen heart belongs -- when the more official druid of the group delves a little too deep and the very creature Julio has been tiptoeing around the whole time they've been here suddenly takes an interest.

As the glowing outline of that reptilian tail wraps around his waist, the Mexican mutant glances downward, hisses, "Mierda," and then reaches out with one bent-fingered hand as he is plunged backward into a sort of mystical darkness. He's still there, but as the outline of that roughly scaled body coils around him, he is buried under figments of rubble, obscured from sight and Sight alike, his movements impeded, his powers reduced, and his connection to this plane suddenly tenuous. There's a tremble in the Earth and a whisper in an ancient tongue, but that is all.

John Constantine has posed:
Constantine flickers momentarily into view. "Bloody hell, that's a fucking Aztec -god- coming this way!" Constantine snarls. There' a peculiar disconnect between his mouth moving and his words; heard more by the mind than by the ears. "And it's at the full state of its powers," he adds. The magus flickers in and out of visibility a few times.

"We've got to do something to weaken it before it gets here. Shift the magics around. Otherwise it's landing right atop a ritual specifically made to empower it. It'll wipe the bleedin' floor with us," he prophesies. "The Asgardian might make it out of here but the rest of us won't be but a shitstain on the stonework."

Constantine flickers to a new position, further away, and starts gathering motes of his willpower to him. Not arming himself with a weapon-- not yet-- but gaining any possible intelligence he can on the area in the moments before the ancient puissant entity makes itself known.

Jacqueline Falsworth has posed:
Jacqueline's flesh can withstand the cold. Indeed, cold rarely affects her, even such a cold as this. But the fragile heart fluttering in her hands? Perhaps it needs more warmth than her labouring body can provide. Thus, she welcomes Druid's intervention.

Still, the ground shakes and she is on her knees, curling over the heart to protect it. It's not like she'll be able to use her speed to its greatest effect with all the ice that swirls around, in any case.

Resilliant as she is, however, her shoulder aches with the cold and the entropic taint that stains it. She has no idea how long that will plague her, but she knows there are people she can go to for help later. Perhaps even some here.

Her healing lungs ache with the cold as well, though in this case it's because she still breathes deeply, trying to ascertain if the heart's body is at all near to hand -- and whether or not the great serpent coming straight for them is between her and it.

Her head comes up briefly as she hears Constantine's voice, not that she knows it well. But she does know where the rumpled old bastard *should* be. That he's managed to join this fight tells her he's a lot stronger than he might otherwise have seemed, caught in the body of the Latina medium. And what he says really doesn't reassure her.

She tucks closer around the heart, making herself into a fetal ball to protect it. "Oh, bloody hell," she mutters, echoing his words. Because she doesn't have magic to add to this party. Just resilience, strength, and speed.

Meggan Puceanu has posed:
The bone road lies dark and foreboding under leaden skies that prove hard to see in the storm. Maybe it's a mercy that it softens and scrubs out what comes. An inchoate, huge figure resolves in monochrome at a distance. He paces down the opposite branch of the path from where the demon tangled with an Asgardian enchanter, mortal exorcist, speedster, and rock druid. The bastion where Anthony made his stand is the first to feel the abominable cold, the blood-curdling stillness. Itztlacolihqui is arattle with bones and obsidian jewels on his pectorals, an elaborate headdress swinging with pale hair and basalt feathers. The worst, perhaps, is the blindfolded face in its utter blackness, speared by white lips as harsh as the divine arrow that formed him. But a god whose name means "Curved Obsidian" really should be darker than dark. Every step is accompanied by a peculiar swish, sending flurries up. Ice and snow whirl around him in frantic dervishes, the shield at his hip and curious bone-white broom in his hand almost at odds with one another. He radiates cold as the path crackles and shimmers under him, reinforced by the season ruling New York, in his high hour. Behind him, from a mist-shrouded building barely visible in its lurid glow, the music radiates with the ferocity of a church service and a nightclub. Voices swell in unison around the rattle-crack of shattering ice and breaking bones. Of the awful majesty, never beauty, of an Aztec power in the flesh.

Far behind him, dwarfed by the doorway is a kneeling woman with her arms over her head, a prostrate position of fear. Withered maize leaves are on her waist, otherwise she is naked. Her bare feet are streaked in red.


A druid's, perhaps. Or her own.

English. Spanish. Portuguese. Mixteco. Latin. Creole. Carib. Mayan. Tsetsal. Nahuatl. The same song plays over and over, scorched between the chant and the fever-dream electronica.

    "Thank you, Curved Obsidian, for
    your sacrifice to preserve
    These cleansed ways,
    It is we, the children of earth
    Heed us, sister seed, who is sustenance,
    Heed us, Curved Obsidian, for we entrust
    Into your hands our sister,
    Who is sustenance.
    Take her,
    Claim her!
    Praise Curved Obsidian!
    Bring down the Black Knife!"