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Lantern Hill, Freedom City

October 31, 2019

8:00 PM


Mia Mustafic-Markov looked especially spooky this Halloween night. She stood out front of a haunted house, her face marked with a false glasgow grin complemented by fake red blood, and her face was made even paler by white make-up, her eyes made dark and sunken looking by black makeup rimming them. Her neck had a similar false wound, and her denim jacket opened to reveal a white shirt marked by fake blood and three long slash marks over her belly.


Yet, the effect was diminished some by the fact that she was dutifully staring at the screen of her phone. She had decided to invite out her Orange Squad team-mates (and Danica!) for the night, in order to get to know them better. And what better way to get to know them than scaring the bejeezus out of them with a Haunted House? Yet, unfortunately, it seemed she was the first to arrive. Which did make sense. She could teleport, and most of them… couldn’t.


The choice of venue seemed cool. The Black House, they called it. Not the most creative name, but it was supposedly one of the scariest things ever. It traveled to different cities every year, almost always big ones, and was apparently so scary some people had to check into therapy after visiting. That probably wasn’t true, but it was a pretty great selling point and Mia wanted to check it out.


But right now, she was here alone. She looked back at the great mansion behind her, watching as people stumbled out, pale-faced, while more brave looking souls headed on in. Her attention turned back to her phone. Opening up her group text, she hammered out a reply.




Me: 8:00PM

Hey guys, its 8 . Everyone gonna make it okay? Want to get in there before it gets too busy.



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B there in 1 min  Danica texted back quickly. Sure enough, the quiet whir of Danica's Segway announced her arrival just moments later. She'd donned a fat yellow baby chick costume that covered her shell with its round-all-overness and covered her hair with a matching yellow knit cap. A half-mask orange beak obscured the lower part of her face, and she wore a bib that said "Let's Eat!" in puffy yellow letters. It was surprisingly adorable. "I'm here!" she announced, the beak opening when she spoke so her words were not muffled. The beak, it should be noted, had rather a lot of teeth in it. "I hope this place doesn't have too many stairs. I forgot to call ahead." 

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Ms. Thursday


Astrid heard her phone blowing up in her pant pocket but she had to ignore. Sure it was bad etiquette to ignore a text coming your way. Especially when you know its about you being late for something, but Astrid for once had a legitimate excuse for why she wasn't grabbing at her phone and shooting Mia back a "I'm a coming" text. It's kind of hard to text back when you're flying through the night air with a badass warclub occupying one of your hands after all. 


Apparently the rule against using powers off school grounds was still in effect but Astrid honestly couldn't care less. Flying around with Porrklubba was still freaking cool even after all this time and Astrid never passed up the opportunity to take a whirl. Plus, she needed the on-air speed if she wanted to get to this supposedly scary Black House place anywhere close to on time. She had an excuse for that too though.


Getting all decked out in costume ended up taking a lot more time than she thought it would. Getting the boots, pauldrons and stripped jumpsuit for her Ziggy Stardust costume had been surprisingly easy to procure once she found out that the drama club at Claremont was giving way some of their old costumes for free. It was the makeup that took awhile . Astrid could apply some killer smokey eyes with no problem but bigger applications sometimes got the better of her. Ziggy's red and blue face thunderbolt took a couple tries before Astrid felt comfortable showing her painted face anywhere but in the end she thought it was worth it.  


When Astrid finally spotted from above what she figured had to be Mia and Dianca in costume she started her descent back to the surface. As she did she took a look at this haunted house they'd be going through. The place seemed pretty bog-standard for a haunted house. From the outside it didn't look all that impressive. A big, dark mansion that was probably filled with fake spider webs and plastic bats. Astrid didn't see herself getting scared but she figured that chilling with her teammates would still make the experience worth it even if her heart rate barely shifted at all. 


"Hallo, hallo," Astrid called out to the pair, waving with her unoccupied hand as she finally touched the ground. "Sorry I didn't text you back, Mia. Had to focus on flying here. So this is the Black House, ya?" Astrid shrugged as she looked at it. "Doesn't seem to scary from here but who knows. Could end up being a real adrenaline rush."

Edited by Cubismo
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Mia's eyes went wide at the sight of Danica, and a huge smile lit up her face. "Danica! You look adorable!" She said. She had been on the internet when the Five Nights at Freddie's boom had been on YouTube - all the boys in her middle school classes had been super into it, and a lot of the girls too. Of course, the scary effect the characters had in game was kind of lost here. "Thankfully for you, I did call ahead. They accommodate everyone. Equal opportunity scares."


Not long after arrived Astrid. Mia didn't know the girl very well, or at all really, but she was part of Orange Squad and so she had extended the invitation for her to join them same as everyone else. Would be a good chance to get to know her, anyway.


"Hey, hey, hey," Mia said appreciatively. "Loving the Ziggy costume. Bowie's great."


Looking between the two, she nodded to them. "Now we just gotta wait on the others and we can head in. In the meantime, I brought snacks. We're not allowed to eat inside, so we'll have to do it out here," she said.


Reaching into her dimensional pocket, she pulled out a few goodies. "So, got a few things here. Salt and vinegar chips, a bunch of Mars Bars, some Laffy Taffy... Pork rinds. For drinks, I got RC Cola, Faygo... Oh, and..."


She produced a metal water bottle, and grinned mischievously at them. "'Punch,'" she said, making airquotes. "If you know what I mean."

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A mournful howl pierced the night sky.  But the moon was a waxing crescent -- it had been a new moon just three nights prior -- so it couldn't be a werewolf... could it?  Wait, what was that? By that tree?  A figure approached, crouched, skulking.  It was hard to make out in the shadows, but it had to be a person... right?  Ah, but now it steps out, into the light, a jarring vision!  It wears the clothes of a man -- slacks, a long-sleeved shirt with pockets on either breast -- but there the signs of civilization end.  Its feet are bare, covered in fur, as are its hands, with long ragged claws.  But the face... that hideous face!  A low brow, pointed ears, an upturned nose, all covered in fur, framing a snarling mouth with great fangs coming up out of the jaw.  Yes, it was some sort of wolf-man... in grayscale!


"Hey, gang!," it said in a familiar Ukrainian-American voice.  "Ooh, nice costumes!"

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Like many 'gingers', Lulu took a great deal of pride in her red hair; she'd vowed never to dye it, and she really enjoyed coming up with looks to enhance her natural vibrance. This extended to Halloween costumes as well; growing up, she'd adored Disney's Kim Possible, which was an easy and inexpensive favorite, and she'd gone as Ginny Weasely a few times, including last least. But this year, she wanted to try something different, and after a little Googling, she found a look she instantly fell in love with, and with a little help from her awesome foster mom, should be able to pull off.


"Hey y'all," Lulu called out as she clacked towards the group in a pair of black party shoes; she was drssed as Sally fom The Nightmare Before Christmas, but how she might look at a Southern cotillion. The blue makeup had taken hours to put on, but the final effect was worth it! "So, we ready to have our spines tingled? Ooh, Mars bars!"

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Mia’s eyes went wide at the site of the black-and-white wolfman approaching them. Not in fear, but in appreciation. She whistled to indicate as much, looking Davyd over as he approached. “Dude! Nice choice, used to watch those movies with my dad,” she said with a big smile. “Loving the black and white look, too, really committing to the whole bit.”


Then, Lulu showed up. Normally, Mia would have disliked someone like Lulu. Pretty, popular, easily charismatic. Everything Mia wasn’t. But they had gotten a chance to bond over a recent incident, and Mia had vowed to try and get along with her ever since. After all, it seemed like Lulu had just as much on her plate as Mia did, just in different ways.


“Aaa! You look gorgeous!” Mia said appreciatively.


“Oh, man, I think we’re only short a person or two and then we can head in,” she said, before tossing Lulu a Mars bar. Then, she unscrewed the cap of her water bottle, and drank some of the ‘punch’. She made a bit of a face after downing some, and thought to herself she might have overmixed it a bit. Still, it would lend a little bit of courage.


“I’m certainly ready,” she said, shaking the bottle enticingly a bit.

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"No worries, Chelone, if there are stairs we fly." Leroy had stepped out of the darkness beside the haunted house, upper face covered by a pair of yellow sunglasses shaped like the top three points on a star, his clothing a riot of purples, pinks and blues with dark pants. Complementing the silver ring on his right hand was a bronze on his left, which tilted down his shades as he smiled winningly at Danica. "And we have some very. Good. Fliers."


"I love this hair!" he added giddily to Mia, shaking his head to set the black and unusually unadorned cube around his face to bouncing. "After the rainbow stripes failed to work, and Bismuth was cast beyond my reach, I never dreamed Garnet would be so simple!"


He looked around the team, shining with joy "Our first mission together! Spirits and rogues of the deadly manor, you will suffer the wrath of Orange Squad!" 

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"Oh, is that what ah think it is," asked Lulu with a mischevious glint in her eye, after she recognized the smell and facial expression. "Gimme some of that 'party punch'!" She took a decent-sized swig, then shivered and fanned herself as she laughed and handed it back to Mia. "Oh, that is vile, but bless your heart for brinigin' it, darlin'! Brrr!" She used her illusion powers to make her patchwork head spin a round a few times.


Now fortified against the powers of darkness, Lulu pumped her fist into the October sky. "Who else we waitin' on? Ah am ready to take this mother on! Woo!"

Edited by Heritage
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"Abigail, ja?" Astrid answered, quickly looking around to confirm that was the case. It wasn't exactly the most through search since the Asgardian almost immediately got distracted by what Mia was holding in her hands. She also noted Lulu's pained expression after taking a swig from said item but that only attracted Astrid to the idea of trying it out yourself.


The Asgardian made a show of looking disappointed at Mia. "Punch, eh? What would our poor headmistress think if she learned that something as corrupting as punch was being given to her impressible students?" Astrid made a coy smile. "Oh well. I guess we have to destroy the evidence if we want to stop Summers from finding out. May I?"  Astrid had a good swill of the 'punch' before handing the bottle back to Mia.


If Astrid was being honest the punch really didn't do much for her. One of the major downsides of drinking in the halls of Asgard was that all Earth alcohol had little impact in comparison, never mind the fact that Asgardians had a hell of a constitution for alcohol in general. It would take a lot more swings of that punch before Astrid got even a little buzzed and primed for scares.


Still, it was the thought that counts, and so Astrid made sure to give her compliments to the mixer. "Thanks for the booze, Mia. Pretty strong stuff you got there." After that she greeted the new arrivals, giving them all credos for their snazzy costumes. 



Edited by Cubismo
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Danica took the bottle with great curiosity, peering down the neck before pulling off her beak and taking a quick drink. The yuck face she made was impressive, and only made her not-scary costume more adorable. "I appreciate your hospitality, Mia, but that tastes like the time I left a Capri Sun open in the backyard all day and then tried to drink it." She passed the bottle back to her roommate, then ducked her head and arms into her shell, digging around till she came out with a can of Mountain Dew to wash the taste out of her mouth. After another moment's thought, she reached in, grabbed a small LED headlamp, and mounted it to the handlebar of her Segway. "Okay, I'm ready now!" 

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Davyd made a 'gimme' motion at Mia, and took a drink of the potent potable.  His physiology made is near-impossible to get even buzzed from it, but he still wanted to go along with the group.  "Whoof!"  His head tilted, "reminds me of something I had at one of my uncle's parties."  He passed the bottle back, then took a small compact from his pants pocket and checked his appearance in the tiny mirror.  "He wasn't allowed to bring any more drinks.  Knew a lot of good take out places, though.  Ah, good, good, no smears."  He glanced up at the group, "oh, yeah -- this is all makeup!  And I made the outfit, too!  Wanted to keep my skills up.  Besides, 'no powers while off campus,' right?"


He snapped the compact shut and stuffed it back in his pocket, then tuned to the house and puffed up his chest.  "Let's do this!"

Edited by Dr Archeville
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"Yes, with ours and all the powers of Hell!" A purple and black dragon spilled from the sky, landing next to the group and sending a gout of flame roaring into the sky!


It twisted its serpentine neck to look down at Leroy" "Okay Likun. That's all you're getting outta me. This paint smells awful and I don't even like Sleeping Beauty."


"You refused to wear a pink ruff and not have to say anything all night. And you called my suggestion of using magic to change your scales 'obscene'." The prince shrugged, "You left me no choice, Dio."


"We were going to be Jack Frost and Re Ash!" Dio gnashed his teeth, sinking onto all fours and resting his huge head on the ground, golden eye blazing. "You stood on those little legs ten months ago and looked me in the face and told me I was going to be the triumphant love-interest! This is a betrayal!


Leroy patted the dragon gently on the head. "Look at it this way: am I actually an immortal superbeing created by pure, enduring love?"




"But you are a mighty dragon mystic, with the powers of another world at your back?"


"S'pose." Despite himself, Dio was perking up a little, his back ridge frill sparkling as it waved eagerly back and forth.


"You are. And when you remove that paint, will you stop being glorious and majestic?"


Dio's thin reptile lips pulled back, revealing the great crushing slabs of his 'teeth'. Leroy patted him lovingly again and turned to the rest of the students.


"Ah! Ms. Thursday, how wonderful to see you! I must refuse the "punch", one should have a clear head when venturing into certain doom!" He smiled at Mia. "So, Soliton, what is the plan?"

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"This is the Black House, then?" Abigail Storm asked, striding up to the rest of her squad.  She was wearing knee-length black velvet dress with long sleeves and a white collar, some black wedge-heeled shoes and black tights.  Her hair was done in two Danish braids, she had on black lipstick and an understated a smoky eye.


Her ever present medallion was still there, with its strange symbol only those deep into the magic community would recognize.  Or avid fans of the late Eldritch.


"Looks lovely."

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Leroy spun and gasped at the sight of Abigail "Arcana! Welcome! That 'Anata of the Always' costume is delightful! So appropriate for the end to this skulking shack!" 


Dio grunted, eyeing the Black House dubiously. "Smells like there's been bad deaths."


"Oh hush, that is merely to ward off off the cautious!" Adjusting his three-point shades, Leroy grinned wolfishly, "We have nothing to fear from the likes of some rotted wooden corpse. Oh! Arcana, I heard Crystal-Gazer kindly brought some fortifying "punch". If it is half as mighty as the "punch" Mother takes when she talks with Lavernius, you will gain the heart of a chimaera and the mind of a sage!"

Edited by Ari
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Mia watched as the others partook of the punch with a grin. Sure, it wasn't the best, but she saw this as a bit of a bonding ritual. Her grin only got bigger when the final people arrived, meaning that they could head in.


"Yes! Everyone's here," she said, but her eyes narrowed when Leroy said Lulu had brought the punch. "Hey, hey now. That's my Hawaiian punch and crummy vodka. If Lulu brought it might have some half decent booze in there instead of American Pride."


She decided to keep rolling, however. "Okay, but here's the plan. We all stick together and head on inside. They apparently do large groups so we won't get separated. There's no tickets or anything so we can just head in."


She took a big swig of the the punch, and felt her whole body shudder. "LET'S DO THIS," she said in a guttural voice, before storing her goodies back in her dimensional pocket. "Everyone follow me!"


Marching ceremoniously up the steps, Mia lead them into the Black House. Strangely, when it came time for Danica to approach, the steps flattened into a ramp so that she could ascend easily with her compatriots. Once inside, the mystique was instantly lost. Clearly fake cobwebs hung from the ceiling with rubber spiders, while plastic skeletons sat in front of red lights that illuminated the entryway. The floors were simple wood, the walls painted black, and cheap halloween noises pumped obnoxiously through the speakers.


Mia stopped, blinking. This looked... Different than she had imagined. Her eyes drifted over to a young woman sitting behind a desk, dressed in a cheap witch's costume.


"Ohhh," the witch said in a nasally Jersey accent. "We got ourselves a whole gaggle'a you. Well, you can head on in through that door when you're ready, but I gotta warn you of a few things first. The big thing is this is one way - you can't turn back and around. If you go in, you gotta go through all the rooms. There are 5 of them. Second, if any of you have heart conditions, you shouldn't go in. Might kill ya. Third, try not to pee yourselves, it sucks to clean up."


Mia stared, then looked back at the others. "Uh... Kay."

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Astrid greeted Leroy warmly and did the same when Abigail arrived on the scene. After some talking with the squad, Astrid followed Mia and the rest into the Black House. She looked the place and quickly zoned in on the fake cobwebs and plastic vermin and skeletons scattered around the room. Yep, it was as she feared.


When the witch at the front desk gave warning Astrid couldn't help but roll her eyes. It might have a jerk move, but the pee comment was a bit of an over-sell. "Ja, sure, we'll keep that in mind," she said sarcastically before realizing that Mia was suddenly staring at all them with a very bewildered look on her face. Astrid awkwardly scratched her neck and tried to say something encouraging. "Might not be what were hoping for, but hey, it was still a good excuse for us to all hang out together, Mia. Plus, we can always go somewhere else after this."

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"We make no promises." Leroy could not have changed more suddenly, arms folded and face schooled into a study of dispassion. Even more surprising, that was all he said.


Behind him, Dio tried to look inconspicuous. Nudging Davyd he muttered "Hey, uh...I didn't look anything up before we came. Are we supposed to...nitrate? is that traditional?" His tail stirred agitatedly across the floor, eyes swiveling to take in the decor. "I mean...it is kinda unsettling, all this fakeness. Like we're about to be turned into dolls or something, you know?"

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Davyd howled appreciatively at Dio's entrance, and smiled (as best he could) when he saw Abby.


To the Joisey Witch, his reply as "don't worry, I'm house-trained!"


"Well, unsettling's kinda the point," he whispered back to Dio.  (I'm in a haunted house, chatting with a dragon.  Just an ordinary Halloween night for a Freedom City teen."I mean, it is a bit more camp than I'd expected, more kitsch," he sniffed at some of the decorations, muttered something about cheap latex, "but that sort of thing's as much a part of the holiday as the more serious scares.  Though I'd like to think that if there really is some sort of witch or goblin or other nasty at the center of this, they'd spend a bit more on the decor..."  He looked to Leroy, then back to Dio, "they have Halloween where you two come from, don't they?  Or something like it?"

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It was nice to see Abby out and about; she rarely socialized with the rest of the squad. But the stairs suddenly turning into a ramp seriously freaked Lulu out; of course, this was Freedom, where you had to expect the unexpected, but thst degree of thoughtfulness seemed too good to true. Once inside, however, things seemed a bit more mundane; maybe they just opted to splurge on some high tech stairs? It would explain the cheapness of the rest of the decorations.


"We have been warned," Lulu intoned mock-ominously. "Dare we venture forward?"

Edited by Heritage
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Danica grinned as she rolled up the new ramp, pleased enough about being able to get in that she was more than ready to play along with whatever the house had to offer. "It looks spooky to me!" she told the others, clearly for the benefit of the employee, and gave a nearly-convincing little scream as her head brushed one of the fake cobwebs. "If everybody's already used the bathroom, I guess we're ready to go in!" Leaving the light on her Segway flipped off to increase the ambiance, she rolled towards the cheap--looking door. 

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Mia sighed, and headed toward the door. At the very least, they could have gotten this over with before the night was through. She cast one last look at the witch, and smiled at her. “Wish us luck,” she said awkwardly.


“Oh, you’ll need it,” the witch replied sunnily, but Mia could have sworn there was something like malice in her eyes when she said it. Chastising herself for getting psyched out on what was clearly a cheapo Halloween house, Mia headed on inside.


The interior of the first room was completely empty. Just bare floor-boards and a 30-by-30 room. No furniture, no ghouls, nothing. “Aw, come on!” Mia said miserably. Yet once all the teens filled in, the door slammed shut, and something really weird happened: The door seemed to fade out of existence. Before Mia could react further, the lights suddenly cut out. It was black, so black that none could see what was going on even with the most potent of supernatural senses. Then, it felt like she was plummeting. Mia tried to teleport herself back out of the room, but despite her attempts, nothing came.


She screamed.


Then, suddenly, the lights were back on. Except now, she seemed to be standing in a court-yard. Green grass surrounded her, enclosed by brown brick walls. She felt different. Looking down, she saw her costume was gone. In its place was a soft, white set up of comfortable draw-string pants and a button up long-sleeve shirt. Mia looked at her hands to see long, thin scars running up her forearms, and doubled-back.


She was even more shocked when she got a look at Danica. The most confusing thing was that, in addition to the uniform, she wasn’t green anymore. She looked… plainly human. Mia’s eyes went wide. “What is going on?”


She didn’t have long to question. A man in a red sweater and slacks ran up, a little name-tag pinned to his right breast declaring him to be “Dr. Harlan”. He looked between the group.


“I heard screaming, is everything okay? No one's hurt, right?" he said, his tone like that of a concerned teacher or parent.

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Danica looked around the yard for a minute, her eyes wide. She bounced on her heels. "Wow, I feel light!" She bounced again, her eyes going almost comically wide this time. "Wow, I feel fast!" She took a few steps, stumbling a little on her left leg but still moving nearly twice her normal creeping pace. "Mia, look how fast I am!" She ran around the courtyard, laughing and pumping her arms in a very ungainly sort of run and completely ignoring the arrival of the stranger. "This is so crazy!" 

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Leroy had not laughed at the sight of the empty room; marching right into the center, adjusting his sunglasses and clearing his throat, Leroy was about to make some droll, laconic comment when the floor vanished.


Mia's scream as they fell was echoed by the even more terrified shriek from the boy and the bellowing wail roaring from Dio's throat. "The ocean, the ocean! We will drown in the deep!" he was yelling, when suddenly the world was lit again, they were standing on soft earth and surrounded by the wonderful close press of warm brick walls, and someone had come to check on them.


Springing across the lawn, Leroy flung his arms around the man in the red sweater and hugged him as hard as he could. "It was horrible! I thought I would die-! Wait." Frowning, he disentangled and stepped away from the other man. "Dr.? How...how is that intended to frighten? Soliton, Crystal-Gazer, Arcana, what do you make of this?" He turned to the others, blinking at them in their new outfits, "Ah...Chelone, where is your mighty shell? Where did my costume go?"


"Prince, you've changed. Your eyes...it's just like the dream." The dragon was hunched on the ground, one golden eye turned to his charge, the giant reptile trembling like a very large scaly green leaf.


"Oh, Dio, you are imagining things!" Leroy laughed nervously and turned to a window, the laugh dying a gurgling death as he stared into two warm, kind brown eyes. The scars were shallower, too,  thin gouges where human fingernails had torn at his face. 


"Dr. Harlan," Leroy whispered, rooted to the spot, "Is Nnamdi Azikiwe still President?"


Dio let out a soft, horrible hissing noise of sheer distress as he slithered across the grass, digging madly at the ground n the centre of the courtyard. The soft mud seeped back under them, refusing to make so much as a toehold under the increasingly frantic, mud-splattering efforts of the dragon-priest.

Edited by Ari
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As Dio dug, something strange happened. Though in the moment the grass seemed to part to show the mud beneath, somehow, after a few moments the mud would always return. More concerning, perhaps, was the fact that no one seemed to notice the giant dragon having what appeared to be a breakdown in the middle of the courtyard. 


In fact, not even the Orange Squad (and Danica), save Leroy, could see Dio anymore. He was as invisible to them as he appeared to be to everyone else in the courtyard. It seemed as though whatever was happening here had obscured Dio from notice. 

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