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trollthumper

But Maybe Everything That Dies Someday Comes Back (IC)

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Benny fled across the floor of his dead kingdom, leaping over craps tables and dashing between rows of slot machines. Like before, his emotions seemed to leech out into the souls he passed -- only instead of benevolent mirth and joy, the various souls were beginning to scatter in fear.

Benny was almost at the seat of his black throne when his mind was filled with the sound of a thousand dreamers shrieking in their sleep. He collapsed at the base as Nick and Kid Cthulhu caught up. "You can't do this to me," he spat out between gouts of ectoplasm. "I made this casino. It's my dream. You can't take it from me."

Nick's claws coalesced out of the spirit-stuff that saturated the air around them. "It's a good dream," he said, "but its time has passed. Time to wake up." Nick drove his claws into Benny's chest, rending through ectoplasm like paper. Benny's ghost let out a scream like an air raid siren as it dissipated in a storm of light and ectoplasm, leaving nothing behind.

"Huh," Nick said, examining where the ghost had been. "You'd think he would've left behind his toys. Unless..." His attention was called away by a very distinctive sound -- crumbling stone and rending metal.

"KC! The casino's collapsing!"

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KC watched Nick destroy the ghost's spirit. He heard the casino begin to crumble around them, and a nearby piece of concrete demolished a slot machine right next to KC. There wasn't another moment to waste. His wings were deployed, and he grabbed Nick around his waist and began to bound towards the entrance of the dead casino. He picked up speed and took flight. Jerry floated ahead of them, shoving slot machines and poker tables out of the way as though they were cardboard boxes, the crumbling wood and sparks flying around the two of them in Jerry's wake. As they reached the entrance, Jerry threw himself at the glass doors, and they shattered. KC shouted as he flew faster, pushing himself faster than he had ever gone as the casino was demolished behind them. He flew out of the front door, and crash-landed on the pavement, the two of them doing a few somersaults before coming to a stop. As the two dusted themselves off, they could see the casino folding in on itself (no pun intended) like a house of cards.

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Nick looked back to the wreckage of the casino to see the ghosts milling about and clutching their heads, as if shaking off a stupor. The wreckage of Benny's throne formed a field of black, jagged stones... which slowly molded together into a black portal. Out of it walked three men clad in black and purple robes, bearing the regal manner of a pharaoh's sarcophagus. Nick wasn't sure at this range, but he thought he could see where the straps of a mask had cut into the flesh of one's face...

"Looks like Benny made some powerful enemies in the Underworld," he said. He then looked up to Kid Cthulhu. "Looks like the clean-up crew's shown up. Hit the haunted house. Without the suction effect of Benny's mojo, we should probably be able to take it out."

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"Welp, back to Kansas we go, Dorothy. Let's roll, Jerry." KC said, making his way back. He waved to the clean-up crew as he walked through the rubble, his shoggoth in tow. He might have attracted a few strange looks from the ghostly janitors, but probably not. They had more than likely seen worse. Before entering the portal, KC turned around and saluted to Nick as he walked into the portal to Freedom City.

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Nick and Kid Cthulhu touched down outside the haunted house, with Jerry tumbling behind them. The trio walked the house backwards, from exit to entrance. The pathways through the house were still dark and empty, and Nick was beginning to wonder if he hadn't screwed the pooch. Then he heard the voices coming from the last corridor before the entrance.

"...fifteen minutes! We've had arthritic grannies with heart conditions who complete the house in less time! No one else is going in there. I don't care if you have to call the cops, or the fire department, or the Freedom League--"

The barker fell silent as Nick and Kid Cthulhu emerged from the door to the haunted house. A crowd had gathered at the sight of the barker arguing with his masked employees, who looked a bit less sinister under the bright lights of the boardwalk.

"It's okay, folks," Nick said. "The maze in there just runs a bit deep, is all. It ain't bad." He gave one of his wicked grins. "Almost gave me a scare. And that says a lot."

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KC breathed a sigh of relief."Yeah, that was some scary stuff. Probably one of the better haunted houses I've been in. Let's get outta here, Nick." KC said, taking a deep breath. He smelled the familiar smells of the fairgrounds: cotton candy, hot dogs, and fresh popcorn. It was a comfort to know the two of them were back in the real world.

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Nick walked down the boardwalk alongside Kid Cthulhu, trying to take his mind off the encroachment of the Underworld. To help in that endeavor, Nick bought some fried dough and offered to split it with Kid Cthulhu.

"So, here's what I think happened," Nick said to his squamous friend. "Benny mentioned a strega -- Italian word for "witch." My guess is he somehow got some sort of practitioner to bind his soul to Freedom -- the Boardwalk, in particular. The other side of that deal is that he ended up going to Hades. Now, I've only managed to get across the River Styx once, but I know some of the details about the place. There are supposedly three judges who pass judgment on the dead. And the guys who came up from the wreckage looked like pretty authoritative to me." Nick swallowed the dough. "I think our guy managed to pull one off on the judges of the dead. Take their power, use it to build his own kingdom. Would explain why all the legal talk made him run."

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"That does make sense. I'm glad we took him down, in any case. I'm sure there will be plenty more ghosts in Freedom City that need taking care of. Hopefully next time we'll meet a nice one, like Casper." KC said with a big grin. "Either way, I'm really glad we were able to team up. Send out the Cthulhu signal if you ever need me, buddy. Oh, have you heard anything about the Claremont Academy?"

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"Sure, I think you told me about it when we met at Lantern Hill," Nick said. "Academy for superpowered teens, right? What, do you think they need someone to teach would-be Potters about the somewhat-gray arts?"

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"Pssh." KC said, his tentacles fluttering over his face. "They let me in, didn't they? Plus, doesn't Siren have a few links to Voodoo? You should be fine, Nick. Just don't raise the dead or anything silly. There's a fair number of mystics that should be able to help you out."

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Nick thought on it. It would be interesting to work along other heroes -- and other mystics, at that. But still...

"It's a great opportunity," said Nick. "But I've kind of got a job right now, with someone who goes way back. I don't want to leave 'em out in the cold. However... if it's possible, I could definitely do a guest lecturer thing. And, hey, we could see where it goes from there."

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"Sure thing, Nick. I mean, I imagine it's better pay than just a necromancer. Who knows...maybe you'll even meet a cute teacher there." KC said with a sly wink. "So until then, peace out, Nick. KC said, holding up his fist for a fist pound.

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Nick pounded fists with Kid Cthulhu, knuckles touching on pseudopods. "I'll see you around, KC," he said. "Who knows -- maybe here. I mean, I think I'm actually starting to like the Boardwalk again."

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"Pssh. I dunno about you, but I'm staying the hell away from here. Maybe. Well, nice seeing you, Nick. Hope to see you at Claremont." And with that, KC crouched down, extending his nightmarish wings from his back. He flapped them a few times, and did some stretching, and took off, his green skin clashing against the warm colors of sunset.

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