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The Circle: Come the Darkenss
Rplog-icon Who: Volstagg, Iron Patriot, Elsa Bloodstone, Mr. Sinister, The Darkness, Rain, Axiom, and Wiccan
Various Demons, Bova, The Mad Monk, Kierrok, Gaea, The Kaplan Family
Where: Mount Wundagore
When: 2013-08-30
Tone: Heroic
What: The stars have aligned, dark portents have appeared, and the end of the world is at hand. The Elder God Chthon is about to force his way back into this world and when he does it will spell the end of the time of mankind. There is one last chance to stop him. Weakened by his push through the barriers made by other Elder Gods to keep him specifically out of this world he will be vulnerable for a very short time.

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A long time ago, when the world was so new nothing had a name, something woke up.

It learned all about what was and what would be... but most of all it learned what couldn't be, what shouldn't be.

And it gave those things names, names it wrote on indestructible pages, because a namer has mastery of the named.

~ Diabolique, Darkhold #10

A sense of dread and darkness has been growing over the last few days and weeks. Those with magical and psychic abilities have felt it longest but even those that do not have any form of sensitivity to such things are starting to feel it now. The signs and portents are all pointing to one place, the peak of Mount Wundagore, where the Dark Lord will come and the world will end.

The War on Asgard has ebbed and slowed, the demon creatures that have been seen upon the battle field have pulled back preparing for a different offensive on an entirely new battle line.

As plans come to fruition and the fate of the world hangs in he balance a being that has yet to show her hand chooses to make her move. Across the Earth subtle invitations go out to a select few beings. Hero, Villain, and those that fall in between the definitions of both all that hear the call represent in some way the very things this hidden hand cherishes.

Before each of the people chosen an entry way appears bringing with it a cool breeze caring the scent of crisp autumn leaves, cinnamon, and vanilla. Beyond the cave like entrance that appears before them is darkness but a sense of warmth and love tinted with an urgent need for help.

Once those that accept the call step within the opening there is darkness, and a feeling that speaks of home and protection. In the darkness there is a feeling as if each person is not alone and a voice that speaks in a whisper like the light fall of water in a summer rainstorm.

Volstagg hears, "Joyful one, take up arms." A warm but soft hand is placed on Volstagg's shoulder and the light feeling of a ghost of a kiss presses against his forehead.

Rain hears, "Friendship can be the line between Good and Evil." The ghost of a feeling like a hand tucking a loos string of long hair behind her ear can be felt and there leaving the weight and feeling of something left behind there.

Elsa Bloodstone hears, "Some horrors are necessary, and not all are as they seem." In the darkness the handle of a new sword is placed into Elsa's hand.

Jackie Estacado hears, "Not all darkness is evil, and not all evil is darkness." In the darkness of where ever they are a handle of a handheld mirror.

Iron Patriot hears, "Forgiveness and a better life are possible no matter our pasts." Even through the armor there is a sensation like a soft female hand caressing Iron Patriot's cheek for a second.

Axiom hears, "Always have Faith little one." There is an added hint of pride in the voice as a piece of cloth is pressed into Axiom's hands.

The texture and nature of the Darkness that everyone has been floating in changes, there is a sensation of speed and then of being someplace with several other people. There is a sound like rocks shifting and suddenly the faintest flight flickering through what appears to be the mouth of a shallow cave that until seconds before had been covered by a loose collection of large rocks and snow.

Inside the cave the heroes all collected by an unknown power can now see one another and hear the sounds of chanting somewhere outside the cave nearby.

With a little light, or at least the ability to actually see now, the gifts given become possibly to make out. Behind Rain's ear is tucked a rose as delicate and fragile looking as the real thing but appearing to be made of carved Ruby and Emerald. In Elsa's hand is a broadsword with a bone white handle with an eye carved into the pommel that anyone who has seen the Sorcerer Supreme might recognize. And in Jackie's hand is a silver hand mirror that looks like a Victorian antique carved with images of creatures that look like nightmares designed by H.R. Giger. Axiom, has in his hands a piece of crimson red cloth, soft as can be and slightly warm with the edges frayed like some well worn and loved childhood blanket and with a silver broach shaped like a circle carved like a Celtic knot with a stylized Norse hammer with its handle intertwined by a pair of serpents curled in S like shapes that at least some of those present might recognize as a combination of the traditional symbols for Thor and Loki combined.

The trip isn't the first extra dimensional jaunt Elsa has taken and as such she's largely untroubled by the journey. However the shotgun in her right hand is raised, as stepping into strange portal without at least a little preparation would be foolish. She peers around the cave for a moment, before hefting the sword in her left hand to eye height, catching sight of the symbol set in its pommel. "Oh bloody hell. Isn't that trademarked or something? If I get turned into a chicken I'm going to have someone's legs." she murmurs to herself.

Elsa peers around the cave at the other occupants, the shotguns muzzle dipping. "Well, isn't this a rag tag bunch of bloody misfits," she says with a grin. "Elsa Bloodstone, slayer of general supernatural unpleasantness. Does anyone know how badly stuffed we are yet?"

Oh geez. Between her aunt's recent smashing and dealing with /that/ aftermath... Rain seems uneasy about this sense of dread. Darkness, she might be more alright with. It's one part of a cosmic equation, that's all. Rain seems surprised by the subtle invitation, and the distinct lack of metaphysical RSVP. She takes a deep breath, surprised by the vividness of all of the feelings and scents here. She isn't the strongest magic being ever, but she does and is magic. Wait. There's something in her HAIR?! Freeze. Moving will only ang-- wait. What.

She seems surprised what's there now, closing on purple eye trying to see it. Are there others here? Rain routinely journeys between this dimension and that, though she really disliked the Perv Dimension and Internet Manifested. Such humor and light are banished, swallowed whole by some conscious thought-serpent that thrashes away as the places clears up and she realizes what's going on. She looks owlish. Rain looks thoughtful. Chanting. Hm-- wait. She touches the rose in her hair. "Uhm. Well. That's -" She pulls off her hat, to avoid knocking it off. Long, dark hair falls out of her hat. "Oh geez." She's going to be /responsible/ for something here, isn't she? Words of cowardice linger. Well, no, not very brave... And then she hears Elsa. "Pleased to meet you, Miss Else. I'm Rain and I'm a witch. I am uncertain about how 'stuffed' we are, but it is something big and important."

Volstagg had taken a nasty spill as the travel ended and as he raises he announces, "Young woman I will have you know I am not some sort of misfit, I am Volstagg, Lion of Asgard, one of the finest warriors in the Golden Realm." He then says, "No I do not know the cause of the summons just that I was needed for battle. He then notices Rain and gives her a smile, "Do you know anything Lady Rain?" He hten nods as she speaks.

It's a resonance that the Darkness knows, one it has sensed here and there for millennia. Where the Darkness saw humanity as a vessel for its desires, a perversely corruptible symbiosis, the Old Gods felt only disdain. It was a fundamental rift that no amount of diplomacy would circumvent, and that's why Chthon wound up bound outside of time and space, and among the reasons why those ancient seals cannot be allowed to break. It's an argument that's been had time and again in growing intensity as those subtle ominous portents intensify, over what the Darkness views as rebellious, destructive children.

Of course, it's not even the only force of cosmic will that wants Estacado to intervene, in this case. What else is Jackie supposed to do, let humanity become squid food? The sheer amount of excrement would get on his nerves, for one thing. It's helpful that Jackie is already half-resigned by the time the doorway literally opens to bring him where he needs to be-- something that is all kinds of creepy to the Wielder.

As he comes out of familiar, comfortable black into the chilly outskirts of an icy cavern, Estacado turns the mirror over in his hands, smirks, and brushes his hair back from his face... taking an extra moment to examine the carvings as he feigns indifference and vanity. "My theory is we were brought here by the REAL Secret Santa." He offers the sarcasm a moment before lighting his cigarette with a lighter that seems to appear and fade without ever finding its way towards a pocket. "My understanding is we'd be preferable stuffed, though. Time to prove we're no one's damn prey."

    • It will be OUR feast, Jackie. ** Someone is rather wound up about the impending old world violence. Estacado just grits his teeth, and hums silently to keep back the psychic snark.

The dread and darkness may have been clawing at Axiom for weeks, battering agaist him. But as he's sometimes said, hope burns bright and that light stays lit. The war in Asgard, Sif's condition, what happened to Billy, and the trials of the world in general can't dim that sense of hope and faith no matter how hard they try. He'd been in the tunnels under Central Park when the entryway opened. The fact that it was one he didn't recognize was strange enough but then came that feeling. He didn't hesitate at all before stepping right in. He can't help but smile at the feeling of protection in the darkness, perking up quickly at the whisper.

"Always," Axiom confirms softly to the whisper, his cheeks tinting a little pink when he notices the pride there. Hands close around the cloth and the teen power booster idly rubs a thumb over it. He holds on a little tighter at the feeling of travel and stumbles when he arrives with others.

He first looks at the cloth, eyes going wide behind his mask. The symbols are easily recognized, Axiom running his unarmored fingers over it. He considers for a moment before carefully fastening it around his shoulders with the broach. He's just getting the sense that it feels right to do so. Looking up at the others, he tenses at the sight of Iron Patriot and Jackie but then there's Volstagg and Rain. Smiling, he blinks when he sees the items everyone has. Most of the items are just giving him a sense of 'important'. He recognizes the sword though, mostly from the symbol on it. "That's Agamotto's symbol," he chimes to Elsa. And that's the extent of what he knows about the sword. "I'm Axiom," he introduces himself. Armor on and in costume, he offers a smile. "And we're n-n-not stuffed at all. We got called here to do something important like save the world and that's what we're g-g-gonna do!" all excitement, enthusiasm, and faith here.

Fate was an ideology the Iron Patriot put stock in until recently. Given the backstory Fury and others had given him about the armor, what Lexcorp had done to see its creation, it was all so hard to believe. Yet the armor stood before him ready to go. His eyes scaled over the red, white, and blue before he stepped inside it.

"Psht!" the armor sealed itself around him. Moving forward as system came to life the armor clanged, banged, and crunched as it took the first step. "Time to find some trouble," he said and flinched a little. The modulated voice that came out was going to shock him for a bit.

When he stood at the cave the Iron Patriot heard that voice and couldn't move. Even if they only said one word it would still cause him to stand perfectly still. Fear, anger, confusion all of it surged through him. A word left his lips in a inaudible whisper. Visions of a funeral flashed through his mind. Everything about a perfectly still angel that rested in a pinewood box surrounded by a sea of white cousins made to look like the clouds. Everything about her still face remained etched in his mind as if it happened yesterday.

Patriot's Mother died when he was young. His Father acted as if nothing had happened. That a dark day was just a small rough patch, and nothing more, like getting a flat tire. All the sights and sounds of fresh cut grass, the smell of dug up earth, the smooth stone that etched a brief tale of his Mother when she was born, died, and a small insight of her character into the inscription. Clenching his fist the Patriot looked about and muttered, "You're not real." At least the anger that swelled in him would be a reserve to use against anything that came forward.

A chilly Winter cold wind blows from outside the cave, and no answer comes for the Iron Patriot from the being that speaks with a mother's voice but does not show herself save to transport everyone. Where ever everyone else was before hand it was around nightfall in New York, but where the group is now it is near to two or three in the morning. For anyone with a way to tell where they are the cave its self is in the middle of the Balkans in the small nation of Transia.

Once outside the small cave everyone was transported, if everyone starts to leave it, to the sound of chanting becomes louder and more obvious that it is being done in a language that most people would have difficulty speaking without foot long tongues and an extra larynx. The odd group of heroes picked to save the world will find that the cave is nearly to the top of a rather large mountain high enough to be well past the snowline.

Following the chanting leads to a large plateau like area with an alter made of stone. Massive stone monoliths like those found at Stonehenge surround the area and groups of men in dark robes stand around the alter chanting. On the alter is a large, not fat simply built on a slightly larger scale, woman covered by a white cloth that obscures any details past her size struggling with ropes holding her hands and feet to the altar.

Dotted around the area are demon creatures, like the ones carved on the mirror that Jackie was given only larger and more frightening looking, and by the alter stands two...beings. One a small older looking bald man dressed as a Monk and the other a nearly 12 foot tall winged demon with a single eye in the middle of his forehead.

The big one eyed creature rumbles growling out at the Monk. "It is nearly time." Before walking around the alter and running a hand along where the woman's face most likely is. "Do not worry Midwife. You who brought the mother into this world, who saved the vessel when it came, your blood shall bring him forth. One last birth, and your part in this will be over at last."

The remote mountainside, the cold hike up to dark ceremonies... the big surprise for Jackie? Not so much otherworldly horror, as the ensemble cast. He takes those initial moments cracking wise to just get a feel for the people-- and godlings-- around him. The inexorable pull of extradimensional hazard is all but overwhelming at this proximity, with the Darkness' anticipation and enthusiasm resounding in Jackie's head alongside.

"Well shit." Estacado intones, drily. "Ugly bastards got started without us." his eyes burn like embers, a brilliant orangish yellow, and along the mountainsides shadows birth inky demons out of nothingness. In the skies, drifting dark clouds swirl closer, the wild stiration of the impending demonic birth twisted to new ends, the distorted cloudcover pregnant with more than rain.

Elsa looks around as the various heroes, villains and anything inbetween introduce themselves. She nods to Axiom as he recognises the symbol on the swords hilt. "Well spotted. I hate it when I'm right." She sighs. "Glad we got that sorted. Just a teensy little thing. What ever you do don't lose the weapons, objects or otherwise weird little items you've just been handed. They're going to be incredibly bloody important." Elsa aims the point of the sword at Rain, specifically the rose in her hair. "Especially that. Also try not to lose your minds with the existential horror of all this, that really would be terribly inconvenient."

Elsa squares her shoulders and turns to the cave entrance. "Right children, we've got a world to save." Elsa strides out of the cave entrance, sword resting on one shoulder, her shotgun aimed ahead of her. As the sound of the chanting reaches her ears, her eyes narrow. Elsa picks up the pace, boots crunching on the stone. She casts a look at Jackie as his eyes burn brightly. "Looks like you've got a few problems of your own, darling." She returns her attention to the matter in hand, sizing up the ritual before her with a grimace. "Right. Sod it." Elsa strides forward, aiming her shotgun at the cyclopean demon. "Oy! Bollocks! Enough of that!" She sends a slug blasting across the mountainside towards the demonic creature.

Well, Rain recognizes a couple of faces. But there's no time for meeting and greeting. She blinks at some of the others. An iron suited man, Axiom, Elsa... Jackie, for sure. And Volstagg. She smiles, waving to Volstagg. "I'm not sure. These - gifts are really powerful though, at least the rose and sword," She squints a bit. Rain has to work at sensing some magic, others comes naturally. "Distinctly Old feeling." It's a foreign feeling, sinking like a supernal chasm that she could stand at the edge of and grow dizzy just from looking. She nods at Elsa. "Sure thing." Right, rose in hair important. Then again, hair on head. Head ALSO important. Can't cast without it.

There's a look to the Iron Patriot, concerned. She follows the others, hesitating to go in front. There's an anxiousness to go see, and a primordial dread that was passed down from ancestors long ago. She has to admire Elsa's initiative, eyes going wide as plates. Wait. A monk. He might not be wearing pants, but he's bound to be flammable. Rain looks totally zonked out, for a couple of long, heart thumping moments, and the guy's robes might burst into flames if he's not fireproofed.

At the chanting the Lion of Asgard draw his own sword, he looks concerns, "I was only given a kiss." He then adds with a smile, "I guess I cannot lose that." He then walks with the group out of the cave, "Maybe the one with the robes knows something." He muses. Then the pants burst, "Well if seems it is time." He raises his sword high and lets out a bellow, "To battle." He then runs faster than you would guess a man of his size would be able to., granted it is only normal speed but given his girth that is impressive.

Walking with the others, Axiom tenses when he sees the sight ahead. "Don't worry. We'll get through this," he assures Elsa. Eyes scan over the demons and he frowns. "More of them..." he trails off. The monk gets a long look, Axiom wondering if he's seen that one before. It's the one-eyed demon that catches his attention though. "Kierrok!" he recognizes him right away. "Don't let the demons sting you, they're poisonous. With a p-powerful poison," he warns the others, drawing his staff and flicking it out to it's full length. "Rain, you should probably g-g-get in the air," he adds, starting towards the alter. Any demons he can't dodge around or over will be getting smacked with an Eternal-Forged weapon until he can get by them.

Looking at Elsa the Iron Patriot shook his head. The Demon was bound to be mad and their location was given away, if it already wasn't. Also, he wasn't about to be shown up by a shotgun. "This is how you get their attention," a hand suddenly rose up with the palm pointing outward. It moved slightly up, down, back and forth until he said, "Fire in the hole." Red energy lanced out from his palm as an energy blast went toward the Cyclops, the eye specifically thanks to advanced targeting systems built within the suit. "Be ready gang," he said to the team knowing things were going to get interesting now. Also he did not want to be rude, "Iron Patriot. I was given a bad memory and nothing else."

The Monk nods at the one eyed demon. "All is prepaid." He says raising a surprisingly simple knife in his right hand while placing a large leather bound tome on the alter next to the woman. That can't be right, what kind of cultist uses a plane simple knife instead of some giant overly designed wicked looking dagger?

As Elsa steps forwards yelling at the cyclopean demon the thing moves far faster than anything that size should and actually gets between her and the Monk. The demon seems unfazed by the shotgun blast as it eyes the assembled heroes. "Little one, you have found me and you brought me more little friends. I think I shall leave you to last so that you can watch your friends die at the hands of Kierrok the Shatterer of Souls!" The demon calls out looking at Axiom before bellowing a challenging roar.

At the sound of the Roar even more smaller demons start to appear, coming out of hiding places answering the call to battle. Kierrok charges forwards to meet the Lion of Asgard in battle since he seems to be the one in a real hurry to close the distance.

As Rain casts her spell she can feel something very different is going on. The magic is not only easier to reach and use, but when the fire starts it is not a small thing but a massive inferno that bursts into life around and through the Monk. The problem comes in that the fire is just seconds too late. The explosion of flames comes just as the plain knife stabs into the womans stomach. Although the knife is not stopped the flames do at least a part of their work blasting the ghost that Axiom has faced before back into whatever part of the Netherworld that Chthon had plucked him from.

The blast from Iron Patriot is unfortunately blocked by the ill timed jump of one os several of the N'Garai demons headed straight for the heroes who all but explodes in a messy way when he is struck.

While everyone else starts to fight another cave like opening forms not far from the plateau on which the standing stone surrounded alter was built inside of which is the last person to be brought to this fight by an unseen hand.

Wherever he was Mister Sinister received the same call as the others, and the open invitation through a cave. Unlike them he was not deposited with the others but in one closer to the scene of the ritual to end the world shortly after everyone else.

In the darkness of the cave before he was delivered Mister Sinister heard a voice like that of a fond, if slightly disappointed, Mother. "Life is evolution, but change is not the only goal." A light touch like that of a womans hand could be felt upon his cheek before there was light and the man was deposited in the middle of chaos just as it starts.

And least things are forgotten, the book laying by the shroud covered woamn, feels liek the sword and rose given tot he heroes earlier, magic so immense it is hard to be belived but filled with a malevolence.

Elsa grits her teeth as the knife sinks into the unfortunate womans flesh. "Well that's bloody torn it!" She aims her shotgun at the charging N'Garai demons, blasting a few of them apart. "We need to disrupt the sodding ritual! These little gits are just a distraction." Elsa sidesteps another and decapitates it with the sword in her hand. "Link up with tubby and lets get a bloody defensive line going!"

Shatterer of Souls. Sounds ominous. And - Rain seems surprised. Her will working is working a LOT better than ever. "Aw, nuts. I really gotta learn to speed cast." And at Axiom's warning to take flight, she calls her magic broom (don't judge - it's very eco friendly) into her hand and hop on. She nods at Iron Patriot. Now on her broomstick, Rain's brain is in a bit of a frenzy. But that book. And the lady. Maybe - if she can - Deep breath. Adjust hat. Be brave. There's a shivering fear as she takes off and moves to free the woman and pick her up. "I think that book is important -" She's not going to talk much further, opting to avoid horrible death.

Volstagg meets Kierrok head on, sparks fly as Asgardian steel rings off of demonic claws. The two foes seems well matches nether is able to get much of an advantages over the other. Blade and claws both are kept from finding their mark but Volstagg attempts to catch Kierrok off guard with a kick to the midsection.

"Now." It's murmured with a dark humored grin as Jackie's compatriots join the fray, and all hell (perhaps quite literally) breaks loose. There's no eager banter, little obscene wit sprinkled into the mix for the job at hand-- the conjured Shadowspawn know only their hunt. The Old Ones may have reserves... but the Darkness is bottomless, and eager to meet them. Over and onto the peak they clambor, scaling walls and passages where no human could find a hold as simply as sliding up the shadows. Hungry, inky gremlins torn from a place as primal as their foes hurdle up and over onto the plateau, charging without hesitation from the rear and flanks, invading the ritual from every direction.

It's chaos upon the birth of chaos, black and horrible with gnashing teeth and shredding claws. The only order to their onslaught: they target the weakest demons first, in a fearless wave that's only buying time for the shadows that frame the ancient mountain. Another half-dozen pair of glowing, otherworldly green eyes join from the sky, dropping on shadowy wing to reave talons belonging to some primordial raptor down on more formidable members of the gathering horde.

They don't just kill or incapacitate: they feast, devouring the Old Ones with voracious intensity-- . Estacado himself makes no hurried moves towards the battlefield, sauntering behind his more hands-on compatriots and whistling an ominous tune. The shadows at the base of his long duster come alive when a small demon breaks ranks and rushes the seemingly unarmed human, surging outwards like a serpent to devour what quickly becomes three chunks of Meat-that-shall-not-be-Named.

"The only one g-getting shattered here is you, jerk," Axiom snaps back at Kierrok. "And you were a lot more fun as an action figure!" he adds, ducking under some claws swiped his way. He's a bit surprised by how powerful Rain's fire spell is, Axiom thinking for a moment his powers might be working without his knowledge. Shaking it off, his eyes go wide when he sees that woman stabbed. "Oh no...Rain! We're g-going to need your healing powers!" he calls. His eyes narrow at the book. He's got an idea what it is but he can't be sure until he's closer. He scowls a little at the increased demon activity even if the new demons as 'helping'. "Deal with that after," he mutters, using his staff to vault himself up towards the alter. "Volstagg! H-heads up!" he calls before applying his boosting powers to the Lion of Asgard. No mimicry yet. Instead, Axiom's rushing for the alter. "H-hi, ma'am. Don't worry, I'm here to help you, you'll be okay," he tries to assure he as he looks for a way to start untying her.

Seeing Rain work magic on a level that seemed to shock her, the eyes told a story, Patriot was shocked about the broom. A magical person with a broom was a bit clich. Pushing off the ground he took the skies completely unmoved by the sound of creatures ripping and tearing at other creatures. Flying through the air he muttered, "Need to ask for a shoulder mounted weapon." Arcing upward he idly floated in the air. Smiling he shot out toward the little demons that matched the one that made a sacrificial lamb of itself. Red lights filled the sky as he tried to peg off as many targets as he could. Anything small that could have been taken out in one shot was fair game.

Out of everyone here Patriot knew he was the least magical person here. Hell, he was seeing fire spells, demons, cyclops and still wanted to argue about the existence of magic despite the empirical evidence. Anything that he could do to clear the floor of the small stuff to let heavy hitter roam was the plan. When enough of them were clear he would start at the heavies. Plus with people using creatures it was hard to tell who was friendly and who was not. Maybe if some of the horde were killed it would give him more insight.

As he's plucked from his lab and placed amongst the chaos, though a chaos shielded somewhat by the cave-like portal, Sinister looks around and frowns slightly. He had been in his lab only moments before and now... This. "Survival, of course, is the goal... Change is simply the most efficient way of reaching it," he clearly doubts he'll get a response, though for a moment, he seems almost chastised. It fades just as quickly as it appeared and he finally steps out into the battle proper.

"Fighting like animals, and here I am without my pack of wolves. No matter --" He takes a moment to size up the situation, watching with a grim sort of amusement as the heroes battle to reach the altar that he's arrived conveniently close to. Rain's insight seems particularly meaningful to him, though, and with a puff of black smoke, he disappears, only to reappear directly next to the Book. Without looking at it, a new ribbon stretches out of his back, looking exactly like the others in his cape and curls around the magical artifact, and hoists it up to disappear underneath the cape itself. At the same time, he moves towards the Altar-woman's side and smiles to her, Axiom, and Rain. "I can't help but notice you've been stabbed," he says, words smooth as silk, "Perhaps I can help."

Having training and experience fighting Elsa would know that there should be at least some resistance when slicing through bad guys with a sword, especially those that have exoskeletal armor. When she swings the sword there is no more resistance than the air would give her as she slices through N'Garai. See the power of the Sword of Bones, the first and greatest weapon forged on Earth.

As winged Darklings come into the fight they find themselves matched by reserves amongst the N'Garai. Larger than the typical ones and with wings like the ones that adorn the back of Kierrok the new forces clash with Darklings rending and tearing where they can and eating thier little cousins with the very same glee that the Darklings show at feasting on them.

The Book, that is important and maybe not the best thing to draw attention too. Not with the ghost of Aelfric the Mad Monk having just left it behind while he pulls his ectoplasm back together. Several of the winged demons break off to attack Rain, but luckily they are a bit slower and far less maneuverable than she is on that broom.

Volstagg is a fair match for Kierrok a fact that has him laughing as he parries and strikes at the Asgardian blow for blow. "Little God, how useful you shall be as a snack for our Master." He growls. Of course that boost from Axiom comes at just the wrong moment as a now even stronger Volstagg manages to get through his defenses slamming into his stomach knocking the demon general back several feet. "You will pay for that." He growls before his tail suddenly strikes out aiming to slice the God.

As Axiom and Sinister both reach the alter the woman under the shroud lets out a groan that sounds almost like a moo. A sound that makes more sense once they can see that the woman is apparently an anthropomorphic cow. "No, must...heard him say...as long as the blood flows the portal..." She gasps out trying to warm the men that have come to her side something important.

That something important, of course chooses that moment to happen. As the book is pulled up under Sinister's cape there is a tug as if it is being pulled by some unseen hand in the direction of several standing stones. Between the stones a small rip in reality has started to appear, growing larger and swirling with dark red and black energies. "That is mine." The voice slithers across the battle field quite as a speaking voice but still able to be heard by everyone as if there were no other noises. From the dark portal steps...a young man of maybe 17 years at most. He is dressed in dark black tunik and pants with a red hooded cloak that flows behind him pulled up over wild black hair. His eyes are black like shadows and at his sides stand two N'Garai equal in size to Kierrok.

Iron Patriot's attacks do much to clear the field of battle, and for a moment it looks like he is making a major dent in things killing scores of demons at once. That is, until the portal opens. As the young man that is obviously the master of the demons strides forwards a host of demons pour through the portal as if there were an endless supply of them on the other side.

Elsa beams as her new weapon effortlessly cleaves one of the attacking demons. "Rock." Her expression is quickly sullied as yet /another/ hero takes flight before the onrush of demons. "Oh don't mind me, I'll just stand here and do the bloody hard work!" Her first shotgun runs dry, but with a quick flourish she's exchanged it for its twin in the holster on her back, making a field goal of a N'Garai who tried to take advantage of the lull in her assault. "Sod."

It's then that a chill runs up her spine as the wave of Darkness washes over the battlefield, reaping a great toll on the N'Garai. Elsa shoots a look over her shoulder as Jackie casually saunters across the mountainside. "We're supposed to be reducing the number of incoming demon bastards, not adding to them! I'll be having words with you later, sonny." Still, its effectiveness can't be denied. The combined effort of Iron Patriots strafing runs, Jackie's demons and Elsa's boomsticks hopefully provide a stern rearguard to the other heroes endeavours.

A flick of her gaze alights on the figure who suddenly appears next to the ancient tome. "Someone please tell me he's on our side. I mean, he doesn't look like he is but there's a demon spawning loony behind me and apparently he's working for us." As the onrush of demons intensifies again, Elsa shoulders her Remington and grasps the Sword of Bones with both hands. "Right, balls to this. Clanky! Spooky! We're missing all the fun. Let's make a hole." She charges forward, hewing into the ranks of demons, attempting to forge a path towards Volstagg.

Well, someone's already at the woman and - Jackie's doing his thing. It's impressive and terrifying all at once. She's glad he's not on THEIR side. She'd even normally toss a cookie for the darklings. Maybe a whole bag of cookies. But she's got little dudes on her tail. "I can help with healing in - just - a second-" She's made friends! "Sorry Ma'am!" Poor Elsa. Wait. "- Need a lift -?" For now though, it's time to try to call down the lightning on the little jerks behind her. If only she had a witty quip about air hazards. Oh well, still somewhat impressive. She'll try to move in if Mister Sinister doesn't have the healing covered - wait, who is that dude? And his cape? Nevermind. /Focus/.

His reflexes boosted as well as his strength, the Mighty Volstagg swing his sowrd out with the intent of intercepting the tail before it can stilng him, weather it fails or not he closes on Kierrok lungeing at the creature with a cry of, "For Midgard and the Golden Realm." He smiles as he spots Elsa fighting her way to him, "That is the sprit, they cannot help but fall before our flashing blades."

"Whoa," Axiom jumps at the sudden appearance of Sinister. For a moment he gives the man an odd look. One of those 'almost deja vu' looks he quickly shakes off like he used to give Lor-Zod. It's not nearly as important as things happening. When he sees the book and getting that feeling of wrongness just by being near it, Axiom shudders. "Darkhold..." he trails off. "You should p-put that down. Quickly," he tells Sinister, having been told just how dangerous a single page is by Dr. Strange. A whole book full of them has to be worse. He doesn't seem in the least bit fazed by the fact that the woman is a cow. He's dating a lizard-guy after all. Looking up at Rain, he gives her a concerned look before attention returns to Sinister. "Can you heal her? Quickly?" he requests.

And then there's the portal. The voice sends a shiver racing up Axiom's spine and he turns quickly. Eyes widen at the familiar sight and Axiom swallows. His grip on his staff tightens and he takes a deep breath. The demons get a glance before Axiom steps forward. "Chthon," he frowns deeper, eyes glowing with the same blue faith power they always do when he's boosting someone. "You're g-going down and you're getting out of my friend here and n-n-n-now," he says firmly.

Seeing that portal open up and the demons pour out made Patriot smile. Despite all of the chaos, confusion, blood, guts, fire, magic, red eyes, gun shots and everything else...a clear target presented itself. Rushing toward the horde more energy blast lept toward the various demons. "Hi there!" the robot voice said as it tried firing several shots toward the portal master.

He knew demons would fling themselves in front of the shots so he tapped on part of his armor. While not installed yet it didn't mean Patriot didn't have the parts. All he did was press a button and wait. What went undetected by most was a sonic emitter with a twenty-foot radius. Anyone without hearing far advanced the mortal threshold were fine. People with amplified hearing may be out of luck...The device was designed to turn Kryptonian's super hearing against them. Most dogs cringed at dog whistles. They would rithe and yelp in pain. This was the same thing except for people with superhearing...well it had one difference. S.H.I.E.L.D. once again provided the tech but the origins came from a power hungry man. That man wanted to see Aliens bleed and maybe go deaf from the little device. Sometimes demons had big ears so maybe that meant their hearing thresholds were a bit higher. Then again this could have just left Patriot open and exposed.

When the Darklings are devoured, killed, or otherwise incapacitated.. well, they fall to dust, as if ashen, and then so much smoke. They can be torn and sundered like any other foe-- but real death? That's another story. Their essence persists, the Darkness is an avid recycler. As the larger N'garai turn the tide against the Darkness' air support, the clouds burp forth hateful ravens by the murder-- they peck, they claw, they generally work to harass and hurt their prey to make mopping them up that much easier. They also settle on those felled by another's stroke with eager fervor.

"Just a suggestion, but let's -not- give it to him." Estacado's assessment of the book. Approaching the other side of the altar and summoning a second terrific maw from the shadowy ground itself, Jackies draws a line in the proverbial sand. Those endless hordes of demons coming through the portal? The Darkness gets an early start on appetizers, a third appendage appearing as the apparent serpent's draconic, sharp-tipped skewer of a shadowscaled tail.

"Ah, how... Peculiar. Why would anyone want to make a cow-woman? Hmm," Sinister asks, looking up to Axiom as he wonders if he could heal her, "Oh of course. I have an extensive background in... Well this sort of thi-" Suddenly, he's cut off as the Book he had been pilfering was tugged upon by some otherworldly force. Luckily, Sinister's got enough strength to hold it for now, but it's clear he has little interest in battling to the death over it. He turns from the altar and looks to the boy emerging from the portal with a bit of a smile. "Ah, well this certainly changes things. By all means, you may attempt to take it back. Tell me, do all--" He looks around, listens for half a second to all the shouting from the heroes, especially over Jackie's contribution, and continues, "Demons take the form of adolescant boys?" He glances back to Axiom, looks at him expectantly for half a second, and then snaps his fingers off to the side before pointing at the newcomer. "Well go on. 'Take him down,' or whatever it is you do. I shall stem the woman's bleeding and hopefully close the portal." He looks back down to the cow-woman, smiling again, "That is what you were trying to say, wasn't it?" Without waiting for an answer, he begins to work, finding fabric of any form to serve as a makeshift bandage, even if he has to tear it from her clothing.

The young man lets out a small laugh apparently hearing Elsa despite the noise and chaos. "Oh I am on your side hunter of monsters. Without my children your life would have been so dull Vampire slayer." The second title given to Elsa is all but spat out, but that is to be expected since Chthon is said to be the one that spawned the first vampire.

Kierrok's tail is fast, but no match for the flashing blade and enhanced speed of Volstagg the Mighty, Lion of Asgard. The end of his tail gets cut off causing the large demon to hiss and then roar in pain. "Mistake little God." As he roars the two extra large N'Garai at Chthon's sides look to their master a moment, and at after being given a dismissive gesture all but grin as they lope off on headed for Volstagg and the other Elsa as she cuts a bloody swath through the battle field.

As Axiom moves to stand off against the Elder God of Chaos and Darkness Chthon only sneers. "I think, little street rat, I have decided." He says before pointing at the young hero and sending a massive bolt of lightning right for him from his finger tip.

As Jackie strides across the battle field using the Darkness as a weapon as much as his Darklings something happens. With each step closer to the altar, and the book that Sinister has picked up, the mirror he was given grows warm for a second and with each step away it grows cold.

Iron Patriot is right, the demons throw themselves between the young man in the red cloak and danger. He is wrong however about why. They are not protecting him, any God that needs protecting from a mere mortal is better off as food than master, but because they are in a rush to fight and kill. Being breed for nothing but death and destruction the N'Garai do not for the most part care if they die. The sonic waves do fell the first wave of demons to get past Iron Patriot's weapons, but they are quickly replaced with a second wave that seem to be lacking eyes or any external organs that might be used as ears who seem immune to the noise.

When Sinister speaks to him Chthon cants his head and grins. "No, but the youth of this vessel has its advantages. Mutant child not born woman, youngest of a new line not descended from...well lets not name the one who fancies himself anything more than my pale grey shadow."

While Bova is gravely injured it does not take too much work to get her bandaged, and once the blood actually stops the portal shrinks, and starts to close but at a very slow rate.

Chthon adds after SiniSter gives his leave to Axiom to try and take down the Elder God. "Dismissed, as well you should be. You have far too much faith that you can do anything to save your friend boy."

Elsa glances skyward at Rain as she lays about herself with the sword of bones. "Hold that thought darling! Suddenly this has become a lot more fun." She returns Volstaggs grin with a wry smirk. "I'm going to put out his sodding eye when I get there!" Elsa raises her voice above the din of battle. "Oh lovely, its the witty banter part of the fight. Bog off you tentacled monstrosity, I'm busy."

Her attention is suddenly grabbed by one of the larger N'garai as it is directed towards her. "Come on then, you horrid little object." As the giant demon nears, Elsa kicks one of the lesser N'Garai in the unmentionables, causing it to double over. She then leaps on its back and with a kick of her legs flies through the air towards the giant N'garai sword blade point first.

"Okay!" Rain nods. She'll stay up above them. Mister Sinister seems to have medical training, though she's watching to make sure her healing services aren't needed. There is a concerned look for Iron Patriot. Dude seems a bit weird but you probably have to be to get a suit of metal and stuff. Rain will deal with a few flying minions, pulling twin pistols - who seem to double as relics, channeling both bullet and magic blast.

"Ah a new foe." Volstagg almost sounds gleeful as the large N'garai comes at him then he does the strangest thing. He starts to sing, not is any language those present likely know, but any who happen to speak Ancient Norse would recognize it as a bawdy drinking song, other may guess that based on the meter, it should be noted the boost from Axiom has not helped his singing voice but does help the Lion of Asgard take the fight to the demon as he presses forward like a true warrior-born.

"Look. Little boy." It's a good bet Jackie's intentionally derisive, that or it just comes naturally as breathing to him. "No one cares about your mom." Beat. "Or.. that poor schlub's mom. Not even me, and boy does it make that bitch cry every time." He takes a step forward, and another, one with each moment rented in flippant disregard. It helps that two draconic serpents of teeth and terror flank him-- that every time a demonic claw rends through snapping maw, it reforms from shadow and black angrier. Each dragon of darkness snaps for necks with the precision and speed associated with predatory snakes-- one after the other in quick succession.

It's about then that another wave of screeching Darklings crest the mountaintop, for all the blood and fury serving as little more than hungry distractions for the approach of Estacado and the Darkness. Clenching teeth, even if he can't cross his fingers, Jackie lifts the mirror from beneath his coat and confronts Chthon and his portal with the reflective surface, a cloud of inky black replaces Jackie's coat more and more fully about him as he moves-- anticipating, or perhaps simply excited.

"Uh oh," Axiom yelps, throwing himself to the side. He winces as he hits the ground, skidding a moment before starting to push himself up. He shoots a look at Jackie as he gets to his feet. "Buddy, you're helping n-now but don't think I won't take you down just as hard if you hurt him," he says simply. Getting back up even if he can feel he's hurt his arm, Axiom gives a little smile Chthon's way. "That's where you're wrong. There's n-no such thing as too much faith. And who said I'm g-g-going to save him? He's saving himself," he says, starting to walk towards Chthon. "Wiccan! I know you're in there and it's t-time to wake up. C'mon, I know you c-c-can do it. I have faith in you and so do all the others. Your parents, your brothers, Thor, Sif, Speed, Hulkling, and the rest of the team. We all know you c-can do it. You're strong and one of the greatest heroes I know. Stronger than this ancient j-jerk and I know with all my heart you c-can kick him out of your body and then we'll send him packing back where he came from. So please, wake up. I miss my best friend and I want to t-t-team up and be heroes with you again, man!" he calls, walking towards Chthon-Billy.

Noting that demons with ears can be hurt by sonics is something to include on reports to superiors. Demons without ears and organs were another issue. Shooting at them he tried to use the old plan at getting rid of them. "Divert power to thrusters," and he tried just barreling through the demons. The only way to stop this was to hit the source. As stupid as it would be anything that could have caused a disruption of the cause's power could have rippled to the others that were fighting demons. Maybe. If he made it through the demons and close enough to the source he tried shooting several blasts toward the portal master.

Sinister grins as he works on the 'homo bovine,' offering over his shoulder to Chthon as if they were participating in a pleasant conversation, "Practicality, now /that/ I can respect." As Axiom reveals the identity of the possessed child, Sinister smiles even wider, "Tell me, can you still use the child's mutation while you possess him?" With the woman's bleeding stemmed, he pats her on the head and promptly tears out the longest hair he can find, slipping it into a pocket on his costume before he turns his attention fully to the portal and the book. He transfers the Darkhold to his hand and continues to hold it in place with that surprising strength of his. Then, he sends out a broad reaching telepathic wave with two objectives. First, to search out the minds of the N'Garai to see if they even have one, and if it's even possible for him to turn at least into his psionic slave. And secondly, he attempts to reach into the mind of Billy, though this is done with extreme caution lest the demon currently at the helm tries to return the favor. "Your failing, Demon Child, is that you lack subtlety. I would give you a lesson were the circumstances different, but alas... Take comfort in the fact that your efforts here will be remembered..." For himself, he flashes a truly Sinister smile and states, quietly of course, "And studied."

Do not judge Chthon's witty banter too harshly, he rarely gets to practice it and the teenager whose head he is inside of is doing his best from inside to frustrate the elder horror even if the best he can do is a light influence in his choice in words.

As for Elsa, she manages to get herself launched airborne with ease sword catching the little light in the area as if flashes downwards and cuts the giant demon in half. She is probably going to be very disappointed when she is not allowed to keep this sword, but for now she disappears into the crowds of demons hacking and slashing her way through like a happy monster hunter.

As another of his kind moves in to challenge Volstagg Kierrok drops back some his eye casting around the battle field watching his kind be slaughtered by the mortals. The fact that the power of at least two of his own God's siblings seems to be at play and his being one of the rare N'Garai that had the brains and skill to earn a name he decides to let some of the younger dumber members of his race weaken the God a bit.

The new challenger for Volstagg rushes at him heedless of danger, dodging projectiles and Darklings on his way. It is not as skilled as Kierrok, but it is stronger and once its skin is penetrated the fact that its blood is acidic becomes fairly evident.

Jackie, is all but ignored by Chthon. The Darkness may be formidable, and able to tear through his demons, but given that Chthon named all that is unnamable and is the primordial evil (along with his brother Set who is just being prissy and refusing to take either side in this fight) it can not exactly do him any harm. He does however keep his eyes on Axiom while idly waving at Jackie sending waves of energy slicing through the serpents he keeps creating.

The pull on the book grows steadily stronger and stronger, at least until it can slip out of the hands (Or ribbons?) of Mister Sinister and fly right to its master. The problem with bad timing is, that even Gods can have it. The Darkhold manages to fly right past Jackie as he holds up the mirror.

The instant that the Darkhold strikes the mirror it vanishes, and the slowly closing portal snaps shut. There is a backlash of energy that radiates from the mirror that oddly only effects evil magic striking down a good portion of the N'Garai that had come through the portal and even making Chthon at least flinch a little. Or, as for just a second his eyes look like those of a real human instead of black orbs maybe make the kid he is possessing flinch.

When Chthon's eyes for a second become Billy's something else starts to happen. Axiom starts to glow, faintly at first but with greater intensity as he beseeches his friend inside of the Demon God to fight back. As the glow grows Chthon flinches back from it, as if it were something that actually caused him discomfort or even pain.

Rain manages to take down several of the flying NGarai with her pistols before a small strange thing becomes evident. After the Darkhold disappeared the rules have started to change and any of the demons that came close to her have started to smoke and burst into flame. With each demon that dies, now that the tables have been turned, the rose in her hair starts to tingle just a little bit but not in a bad way at all.

Under normal circumstances trying to get into the mind of Chthon or anybody he is wearing would be a bad idea, but at the moment there are just enough cracks in his defenses that Sinister can get in. Inside he can see something others might not realize, Chthon not only can use Billy's mutant powers but has been doing so. The God has been using all its own strength just to hang on to the body through barriers between this reality and where Chthon really is that make the best that Sinister has ever seen look like less than tissue paper. Inside of his own mind Billy has been terrorized, tortured, and worse but never quite broken...and as the glow from Axiom reaches him inside there he starts to fight back against the roiling darkness that had filled his whole nature from the start.

Rain trusts the fellow in the snazzy cape to do that healing thing. There's a sympathetic look towards Iron Patriot and she's relieved Axiom is giving Wiccan a pep talk. She blinks as the Darkhold disappears? And the rose in her hair tingles. She closes her eyes a moment. Strange. Oh well, time to strafe some demons! "Um, please beat those things." Yeah, she's not terribly eloquent. Again, glad that their side - is well, their side. Those Darklings, that dude in the suit and all of it, making her head spin. Time to make some demons burst into flames. Have at you!

Volstagg is caught off guard by the acid blood. It burns the large god searing his flesh. Normally this would cause him to cry out in pain but the extra energy allows him to focus and battle through it. He dispatches the acidic creature as the already formidable healing powers of an Asgardian are doubled by the effort of Axiom early preventing the acid from eating into his flesh further, pain yes but his muscles and bones are not seriously damaged. He calls out to Billy, "think also of your family, those that care for you, those that love you. Do not let the demon take those people from you."

    • No. JACKIE. Devooour him. We want Chthon!! ** It hisses in his mind. It's almost deafening, even over the din surrounding him. "Yea kid. Take a damn number." Somehow, Jackie seems less than terrorized by Eddie's warning, holding his ground steadfastly and spitting the cigarette he lit at the battle's onset to one side. "One way or another, this world can't take what's about to happen." It's not an apology. It's not even hesitation, though anyone who says Estacado cares little for innocent life... doesn't know the trail of blood behind him. It -is- as close as Jackie has gotten to serious intimation of some knowledge of what he's doing here, and the stakes, all night.

"The rest is up to your friend." It's murmured aside, with an unflinching frown. Estacado doesn't particularly care if Eddie hears him or not. The demons are incidental, confronting Chthon? Even with all the powers of the void that preceded creation, it's not something Estacado is inclined to pursue. ... at least, not if he can avoid it. Sealing up the entity's spellbook and snapping that doorway shut? Seems like a good start, to him. The volatile Darklings are banished alongside the Nameless in that pulse of purifying energy, but Jackie's font is at best momentarily interrupted-- seperate from the sentient gremlins.

Estacado tucks the mirror safely away behind him, as if within shadow itself-- stepping back to a more defensive posture and waiting to see the outcome of the obvious inner struggle.

All the flashing energies, flying books, and dying demons don't stop Axiom. Even as a few of the N'Garai slash at him with claws, he dodges past and keeps walking even if some cut him. Sinister's words get a glare from Axiom for a moment. "Rain! Blast him please!" he says, pointing at Sinister. He's got no idea who Sinister is or the extent of his powers but everything he said sounded evil. So blasting time. Turning back to Chthon-Billy, Axiom keeps towards him. The glow gets a momentary pause, Eddie unsure of where it's from. He keeps moving until he's close enough to try to grab the other young man in a tight hug. "C'mon," he urges. "You can d-do it, Wiccan. I love you like a brother and you're stronger that Chthon ever could be so kick him out and we c-c-can get back to being heroes like we both want to be," he urges, holding on even if blasted or attacked. He'll hold on.

Sinister observes all that roils beneath Billy's mind and simply... grins. "I see now why you took this boy as your vessel. He's quite... interesting. I also see why I was brought here... Mutants, as it were, happen to be my speciality, and I have developed a little trick. Here, allow me to demonstrate." Here comes the sketchy part. Under normal circumstances, a demon Elder God would probably be more than a match for Sinister's telepathic might, but with Billy fighting back and the whole mess of chaos raging around them, he attempts something fairly bold. Calling on his knowledge of the X-gene, Sinister very simply attempts to shut off the part of Billy's brain that controls his abilities. It's tough, even under the best of circumstances, but what with the book gone, nothing's left to distract him, and he hardly has any other option. Sinister can fight, but he's an intellectual first and foremost.

As others join in the call for Billy to fight for his body, and his soul, the glow spreads. From Axiom to Rain, from Rain to Volstagg, from all three of them to Billy. Chthon is dangerous, he is darkness and evil and power from the very beginning of time. There are two things that he can actually be harmed by. Faith and love. Both of which are pouring from his friends into him, and through him Chthon who is at least for the second weakened by being cut off temporarily from the book where he invested most of his power that still exists on this plane of existence.

Chthon tries to blast Axiom, to force him and the damned faith of his away but his magic his power fails in the critical instant as suddenly Billy's power to control his own x-gene being cut off. As Axiom manages to grab Billy and hug him there is a scream, like something dark and powerful and perhaps the very source of the so called primal scream howling and a flash of blue and white light.

In the light there is a brief afterimage of a shadow belonging to something whose true from would likely drive men mad and then a moment of pure and unexpected silence.

There is a flash golden light mixed with blue fills the air as dawn breaks on the horizon. In the light of the day break over Mount Wundagore the last of the N'Garai either burst into flames or flee as their God is driven off once more. The bovine women vanishes as though she was not there, making it a lucky thing for Sinister he has already taken a sample of her hair for DNA, and where she lay on the alter now clear of blood sits a woman.

To describe her would be inadequate because to nearly every person she is different. To Volstagg she has tanned skin and hair od spun gold, to Rain she would likely have brown hair and be dressed in earth tones (if she had anything on at all), and to everyone else she comes in various shades of motherly nature Goddess. Why? Because that is what she is. Jord, Geae, Bright Mother, Mother Nature, every myth and religion holds such a woman, and she was all of them.

In one hand she holds the rose, the other the silver mirror and across her lap lays the Sword of Bone. "Thank you my children. My brother is defeated, but far from gone. Rest, and know I am proud of you all." She says before there is the scent of fresh cut grass, pollen, and bright spring breezes and blinding light.

Before the light fades there is an impression, a series of images that are both real and somehow not. The sword laying in a dessert being slowly buried under sand. The rose growing from a wild rose bush growing in a glade in the middle of a dark forest. The mirror lays on a layer of thick dust in a Victorian amour in a long forgotten wing of an abandoned mansion.

Then the light clears and everyone is where they were before. Injuries are healed, damage to equipment fixed, and only the memories seem to remain of what happened. With the exception of Axiom. Instead, he finds himself sprawled on soft carpet in a room obviously belonging to a teenager. Clean and neat there is a computer in the corner, a series of bookshelves crammed with books and action figures, the walls covered in posters of Superheroes, a few up and coming musicians, and one of a shirtless skater all of them some variation on a theme of broad shouldered and blond. The door to the room is cracked open and the smell of fresh foods and the sound of a friendly family argument can be heard.

"Am not!'

"Are Too!"

"MOM! MAke him stop touching me!"

"Aaron! Leave your litle brother alone and eat!"

"ok, ok."

"Mom? When is Billy coming home?"

"Duh! You remember what Teddy said. As soon as he, Axiom and Hulkling are finished beating up the bad guys and saving the world."

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