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The Last Temptation of Coco Meowmers(IC)

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January 1'st, 2018, 6.43PM 

Cold as hell and with freezing winds blowing in off the Atlantic

Liberty Park, Freedom City

 

"Well, he's not in the north woods. He's probably dead, let's go home." Trudy shoved the scarf back up over her mouth, looking longingly at the apartment block rising up to the east. Beside the frozen Heroes Knoll reservoir, overlooking the tall and brassy statues celebrating the fallen crimefighters of Freedom City's past, it was hard not to sympathize. There was no protection from the wind and the temperature would have been below zero anyway. It was increasingly unlikely Mr. Meowmers would have gotten this far.

 

The other five in the party muttered agreement, though Marsha did give the instigator of their four-hour long search a gentle side-hug.

 

But Serena, red-eyed and bundled up like a bison, was made of more obstinate stuff.  "H-h-he's j-j-jussst cur-r-rled up-p s-s-s-'mwere. Got-t-a k-keep looking!" She looked up at Jessica in mute appeal. 

 

A fresh, savage punch of wind hissed and rattled among the trees, splashing icily against the search party.

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Trudy was not Jessica's favorite person at the moment. They'd met through Serena and this was supposed to be a blind double date. Serena was the one Jessica adored... as a friend. They'd been close ever since Serena took her under her wing and taught Jessica about the clubs. Which paid good, which to avoid, who's good people and who's not. She and Serena grew close over the past year and a half. Friends who would do anything for each other. Ocean was Serena's current fling. He was pretty cool, knew where to get what you needed if you had the price. And finally, Marsha, the level headed out of the five. She was quick to dispense a hug or a kind shoulder. The friend's friend. A sage, kind woman who was all ears and advice.

 

The quintet had been searching for hours. For Serena's cat. Who Serena thought would stay with her in the cold. The cat was white. the ground was white. Unlike her date, Jessica held up hope for her friend. "Don't worry, hun," Jessica said to her friend, "CM is around here somewhere. I can feel it." She placed her hand on Serena's cheek, "my word." Serena cracked a small smile. Those two words from Jessica let her defenses down for just a second. Some inside joke between the two. "Just keep searching, Red," she said with a sigh, her arms crossed.

 

Trudy's gaze off into the distance gave Jessica a chance to be with her date. She slipped up behind her, wrapping her arms around the shorter woman's waist just as the chill hit. Jessica's demonic body warmth protected Trudy from the brunt of it. Not that Jessica needed the weather appropriate outfit, but she wore an ash grey sweater dress, and black leggings and boots to blend in. Not that her red skin would let her blend in anywhere. "Thank you, Jess," Trudy said something nice for the first time in about an hour. "Yeah, babe," Jessica said looking at the statues, "you've been a handful. But I think there's some good in you. If we find the cat, me and you could go single off. But only if my best friend is content." Trudy smirked, "yeah, Serena's good people. You though?" Trudy turned around and looked up, mock straightening Jessica's dress. Jessica laughed, "maybe you'll see how good I am."

 

It was dark now, and this place was totally different looking when covered in snow. Like some picture out of a Burton film.

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Jessica felt more than heard the slight ripple of amusement among the other women, but that was quickly overtaken by a small, soft whimper. At the very edge of hearing, a cat cried out for help.

 

Serena burst into action, her shuffling and sniffling vanishing as she transformed into a tiny ball of action. A jubilant scream of "Cocooooooooooo!" trailed after her as the young physics genius barreled off into the night to save her tiny pile of allergens and sleep-deprivation and steadfast companionship. Leaping the reservoir's frozen expanse in a single bound, Serena vanished into the black-white mass of frozen trees.

 

Trudy spoke up first "...We should go too, just in case it's not Coco." Taking Jessica's hand in hers, she set off after their mess of a friend, the others falling in behind them, shivering and joking.

 

Serena's trail lead to a small glade dominated by a statue of the heroine Earthsong, one of the many heroes who perished containing the Terminus invasion of 1993, when Omega walked into Freedom City and claimed the Centurion's life.

 

She was pressed up against a taller-than-average oak, holding her arms up to the quivering bundle of off-white that could only be her Khao Manee, Mr. Coco Meowmers himself. The odd-eyed Thai cat was rooted to its perch on a low branch, his claws fully drawn as he clung with all his tiny might.

 

"Come dowwn, Coco!" Serena sang soothingly, stepping gingerly closer, eyes fixed on her pet. "What's the matter, little skumptchiewhiskers, why'd you run away? Bad kitty!"

 

So attentive an owner was Serena that she didn't see, though the other women did, the tree before her open two large red eyes and a large, toothy maw.

Edited by Ari

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Freedonians don't freak out easily. It's not a good instinct to have in a city where literally anything can happen. But the more common one could be just as dangerous.

 

"GET SERENA" Trudy thundered, already grabbing a stick off the ground and throwing it, with an accuracy that would have made her javelin instructor proud, straight into the tree's jagged mouth! The others pounded past her towards their friend, tackling Serena and manhandling her towards the edge of the glade with impressive speed, ignoring her anguished screams for Coco.

 

Before they had gone three feet, however, the tree had mashed the branch to splinters and pursed its lips. Blue fog rolled out and around the feet of the five women, solidifying into ice!

 

 

Twisting with a low growl, its branches swaying and crackling, the tree turned to Jessica and grinned.

 

"Well. Seems this century's crop is ripe already, eh Witchblood?" The tree snickered to itself, eyes narrowing and compressing to sheer blue points in its white bark.

 

A jet of the fog burst from its mouth, snapping into a crystalline prison around Jessica!

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With a pop and a hiss of displaced air, Jessica found herself held in place by great blades of ice, sprouting from the ground or curling through the air to pin her arms to her sides, force her neck to crane upwards to avoid one frozen shard aimed into her throat, and keeping her legs locked together.

 

The demonic tree creaked and groaned with triumphant laughter "The mighty Witchbloods! The last in my clutches, without the wit or strength to save even herself! Queen Shatachna of the Iron Hell will pay me a great price for the last of you wayward mortals, stripling! In life you were a waste, in death your only value is as a collector's item, a final, workmanlike piece to complete a glorious puzzle, a-!"

 

"Hey! You come over here and say that!" Trudy yelled furiously, struggling to free herself from the ice pinning one leg to the ground. "Laugh it up, she's gonna roast your ass clean off!"

 

The tree's face contorted "As you wish. Bearers!" The demon's maw grew to ten times its normal size, sending another wave of blue mist across the ice and snow. Almost at once the mist began to draw the frozen water into and around itself, shaping it into five devilish figures that shone like diamonds in the night, their eyes a pale and inhuman blue. Silently, the creatures stalked over to the women, seizing them in translucent hands by their wrists and ankles, taking their time as Jessica's friends resisted them fiercely.

 

"Struggle in vain!" the helltree boomed "Your efforts are futile, and your only hope is helpless!"

 

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Serena's love for her cat put her in precarious situations before, but none this dangerous! Which is saying something, as she and Jessica had been friends for a long time. Jessica winced when the 'tree' came to life. She was damn sure Coco was doomed now. But the girls had to get Serena away from the terrible timber. And what friends they were as if they snapped into action. Trudy, for whatever insensitiveness she had, made up for it in bravery. Jessica was going to make that woman's night if she got out of this.

 

Jessica was not fast enough to dodge the tree's breath, but desperate times called for desperate measure! It stung as the fire burned the ground around her. But she was free and could help. "I have no idea what you're talking about, Grandmother Wilow. But you've stolen my best friend's cat and have attacked us. So for you, your queen, and all of your buddies here, have a nice cup of GTFO." The next word out of her mouth sounded like 'Wrath' to mortal ears, but something about it sizzled, cracked in ways that mortals would never understand. A wispy blue-greenish thing - what looked like an undulating mass - appeared. Jessica pushed it towards the tree, boring itself into the demon topiary. "You want me, termite buffet," she said rising above the ground, "you can come have me." She looked to the group of friends, "get out of here," she shooed them away.

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The Hellish might clashed on sinful vigor, and with an anguished howl from Jessica's enemy the woken tree's icy sheathe bubbled and melted from its corpse-white bark. All but simultaneously, the icey soldiers who had risen at its command unceremoniously collapsed, their yelling cargo letting out a unified "Ufp!" as they hit the snow. 

 

Trudy looked mutinous, but the rest, Serena especially, managed to win her over by hoisting her on their collective shoulder and hustling off into the night, Marsha hollering back "You give it to 'im, Jessie! We'll...call the cops! Bye!" With that the quartet dashed off out of the frozen wasteland of Liberty Park, to where the light and reason(and indoor heating) of humanity prevailed against the winter night.

 

But the hellish tree, rooted, literally, to the spot, was powerless to follow. It thrashed and flailed madly with its branches, setting the luckless Coco Meowmers into the struggle of his tiny life as he clung desperately to the branch of his captor, too scared and rattled even to mew piteously.

 

At last, with a final roar and lash of its bone-like limbs, the tree of Hell lashed out with a blasphemous invocation that sent a hailstorm of icicles several yards long, several feet thick and tapering to razor points raining down on Jessica! The other, lesser trees around her simply began to splinter and collapse under the absurd assault, shrapnel blasting at her from all directions! 

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One of the icicles came deadly close to piercing her heart, luck or fate or whatever, deemed that one to bounce off her chest. Though the second one got her arm but good. It was just a bruise. "It's just you and me now, Sappy," she shouted righteously, "now how about you give me some information." The word Envy came from her mouth, but the spirit attached to the word made it almost unrecognizable to those without mystic knowledge. The Envy spirit bore into the tree's soul, searching through it's great catalog of sins.

 

Floating towards the cat, she cajoled to it, "tsk tsk tsk, come here, girl, auntie Jess will take you away from this mean old wood block."

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Roaring incoherently, the Helltree's eyes rolled in their hideous sockets, the thing's howl resolving into a stream-of-consciousness "IcursedthemtoeverseeonlythebestinthosewhomeanthemharmandwhentheycameatlasttoruinIsweptalltheirgoodworksawaytheirchildrenAnnaFrederickhatedTysonhatedthatkidalwayssmilingandugh-!"

 

Meanwhile Coco, shivering with terror, exertion and the freezing cold, leaped for Jessica's arms, eyes wide as saucers and legs spread like a flying squirrel's. He missed catastrophically, burrowing straight down her shirt in a tiny, vibrating bundle of mewling misery, clawing his head out of her collar.

 

Meanwhile, the tree was evidently stuck in a reverie. "-evenwhenthelastonediedtheywouldn'tgiveupIhadnochoiceabandonedbetrayedoneverysidetheystillbelievedheldontohopenothingelseIhadtoappeartheyhadtohaveatalenobodywouldbelievethemIcouldpressthemsqueezethemremindthemallthetimeshehadthechancetocomebackfromthewarheldonallforthegulagtheybrokenotallatonceaquestionofyearsastumblethereadeadsheephereayearofdroughtandtheyweremineneverthoughttotakeanaxetothebarkandtheyweretheworseforit..." 

 

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Taking the cat, Jessica loved on the poor thing some. Pets and cuddles. The tree was stuck in it's own personal hell for a bit so she had time to chase down her friend and her date. Luckily she flew caster than they walked. "You stay right there, Woody," she grinned as it rambled on and on, "I'll be back to deal with you in a bit." Flying as fast as she could, she followed  the tracks of the group in the snow. She was no tracker, but she could see a line in the snow.

 

When Jessica caught up to the group, she landed in front of Serena, cat in hold. "I told you I'd get him back." She kissed her friend's cheek as she gave the cat to her. Jessica looked to Trudy with a smile reaching out a hand, "lovely first date, huh? I'll be back. I gotta go make some fire wood. Then we can get back to the fun stuff." She hugged Trudy before blasting off back in the direction she came. Again, following the footsteps.

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"Love you lots!" Trudy screamed after her "Bring some of it back so we can kick it during finals!"

 

Alighting back in the clearing of the Helltree, the fiendish foliage glared at Witchblood balefully as its unending spiel of misdeeds came to close.

 

"-andeversinceonrestlessnightsshe'llseethatplace:SilentFallsGAHHHHH" A great, lolling purple tongue splashed out of its mouth, draped across the gaping maw of the demonoak. Mustering itself by inches, the thing pulled its awesome power together enough to spit out 

 

"Taste some of your own medicine, false-fiend!"

 

before several more tongues lashed out and blasphemous syllables began to grate and howl along their twining lengths! Jessica could feel the building infernal power, the sheer hate, the corrupting, insidious powers of the Hells reaching a terrible crescendo!

 

The Helltree's eyes rolled in its unreasonable face, all its tongues rearing back as a tearing scream reached its fever pitch! A white fire of pure cold drawn from the Great Prison of the Cosmos's utter heart, the throne of darkness cast into hideous reflection on the mortal plane, burst from its throat! A cold that could turn limbs to lead, still a heart and turn blood into frozen blood!

 

And then the power blew up in its face. The howl, once triumphant, turned to anguished bewilderment as the Helltree froze itself, the white fire lashing around it and covering the thing in a sheet of unnatural ice that weighted it down to the point where it couldn't even move. It stared at Witchblood, beseechment for mercy in its beady eyes.

Edited by Ari

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It was such a sight. Jessica was mad at herself for not being able to pull out her phone in time. She was sure she'd get, what, ten... twenty views? Then again it was her fault for posting things on the weird side of the internet. Still watching this pitiful sight was more than enough for her.

 

"You're not the brightest, are you," she floated just out of reach of it, "let me tell you a story, tree. It involves a little bit of this," she raised her hand. It burned with hellish fire, "and a little bit of this," the other hand was also warm but glowed with a green light. "It involves a particular unsavvy tree from Hell that took a demon's friend's cat." She smirked, "I like multiple choice endings though." She reached forward with the fire hand, "in one ending, the tree becomes such a bonfire that the demon and her friends could have a nice place to sit by in the winter." She reached out the warm green hand, "the other ending has the tree going back to Hell to tell whoever sent the tree to piss off. Lest the have to come down there herself and deal with things personally." She floated slowly towards the tree. "What end do you want?"

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It's well-known fact among half-fiends who have to regularly deal with the forces that grant them powers beyond the ken of mortals or the span of morals that demons hate choices.

 

A choice implies that there's uncertainty, something to look at from outside oneself to weigh and consider. That which is anathema and antithetical to the entirety of demonic thought and philosophy. To a demon past and future are lies, illusions of change and possibility. There is only the single, immutable, present. A thing is as it will always be, and by hook or by crook that base aspect of a creature will be layed bare for all eternity, proof to the Heavens that they never were worthy or capable of existing in that blessed realm.

 

So in the case of the Helltree to choose was the worst punishment of all. A blasphemy darker than any it had uttered previously. The blue eyes turned to the dark fire, then to the light, then back and forth and backandforthan-

 

With a creaking, a rattling of frigid, snapping sap and wood, the thing pointed at the flames of Hell.

Edited by Ari

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Technically this had nothing to do with the carnal spirits. Her hellish fire was a byproduct of her demonic blood. Her lineage. All those millenniums ago when they, the demons and the humans laid with each other. Corrupting each other. In the end, the demons won. But that was then and this was now. Jessica smiled, "you have made your bed, now lie in it."

 

A scream that could be heard over the icy blankness of the park shot from Jessica's eyes, mouth and hands covering the beleaguered demon tree in hellish wood burning, ice melting flames.

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The Helltree melted away, evaporating before the fires of its home as they swept over and around it.

 

When the flames reached its face, the thing burst, scattering over Liberty Park with a stink of brimstone. The red light faded out. the stark winter night reasserting itself over the city and the corpse of the interdimensional invader.

 

In hindsight, there were a number of questions that could have been asked, but at that moment none of them seemed terribly important.

 

Later...

 

"See? Big ol' stump legs, scraggly hair, 100% Mrs. Spuresten Jess!" Trudy gestured elegantly to the Helltree wood caricature she had been making since they'd gotten back to the apartment.

 

Meanwhile, Serena and Coco Meowmers were playing on the sofa, while the rest had piled onto every part of the apartment sofa that wasn't a seat and were watching something with Julia Roberts in it.

 

"So, you okay, Jess?" Trudy looked concerned "Demon stuff, that's kind of personal to you, right?" 

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The smoldering flames died off of Jessica enough for her to enjoy her handy work. It was not the bonfire she expected. Gone back to Hell was good though. Not terrorizing cats. She smirked at the allegory. She just saved a cat in a tree. Maybe she would help a little old lady across a demon street next? She was sure there would be more attackers. Right now she had a group and a date to get back to.

 

~~~

 

Jessica laughed at Trudy's impression of the tree. She was kind of miffed that she didn't get a souvenir from it! Still she had a 'nice' date out of it. She smirked, "it was more particle board than real wood." She looked at the drawing. It was really good! She nodded at the demon comment, "then again, we have different circles. Treebeard wasn't any of my relatives. So don't expect him at the family reunion." She looked at Trudy, "we'll have to do this another time?"

 

"Yeah, another time," Trudy nodded. She wasn't half bad when she wasn't irritated. Second chances and all that. Some people didn't give Jessica that even.

 

~Fin~

Edited by Jessica Witchblood

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