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Somewhere else 

 

There are many roads to the Temple of Vhoka, built on a platform deep above a bottomless sea, far out into the inky void of the Dreamlands that stretch on forever in an endless sky of ever-changing colors that the unwary do not study too long lest they find themselves studying the place for eternity.

 

The Temple is this - a low place like an iceberg in a blood-red sea, a small fragment of curled stone like an animal's tongue extending a story or two into the air, surrounded by jagged rocks like an unholy maw. A perpetual waterfall falls below through the mouth, down into guts that must be miles deep, but the temple itself never floods. Vhoka is after all very hungry. A line of stairs seemed to lead down into the water, if one is brave enough to do it. 

 

The roads are this, the curls and twists of the Cosmic Coil that leads one to this place through worlds enough and time. The Sea Devil arrived in this wise - erupting out of the bottomless sea with a maddened cultist in her grasp, the man's mad chanting interrupted by his gasp of astonishment. "What!? But no unprotected human could have survived such a spell - and lived!"

 

"None did!" agreed the Sea Devil before picking him up by the ankles and striking him against the rocky causeway until he was no longer a threat. after that she hunkered down on the island where she and her prisoner had landed, studying the distant fortress of her foes and the slippery stone pathway that led there. Perhaps she had come hastily but she knew that time in Freedom City would not last forever, and if they were not careful, there would be no saving those transformed by the cultists' spell. 

 

Her liver turned over at the thought of what had taken place - Lemurian sorcery, Lemurian magic, corrupted by Surface-Men again, this time to change the world in the image of one of their long-dead vassals! It truly was disgusting. She sat down next to her unconscious prisoner and sniffed the air, then after a moment's consideration opened her helmet and pulled a still-wriggling fish from her armor, tossing it in the air before catching it with her tongue and swallowing it in one mighty gulp. Normally she chewed but this was a stressful day, and a thorny problem. 

 

Surely she and Tarva couldn't have been the only ones to find the Road to this place? She would take the place alone in Dagon and Hydra and Singularity's name if she had to but the Lair of the Devourer was perhaps a bit larger than she had imagined... 

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For one such as Ouroboros passing to the realm of Vhoka was much like taking a step.  Finding it, or even knowing to look for it, had been considerably more time consuming.  The rite to trace the magic to their source lingered still around him heavy and almost palpable to those versed in such things.  His arrival was presaged by nothing more than the slight puff of displaced air as he suddenly came to the place standing a few feet away from Aquaria.

 

His eyes followed her gaze to the temple itself and he nodded agreement with her unspoken concerns.  "Aquaria In His Mouth, it is good to find even unexpected allies in the lair of being such as this."  he intoned deeply, he jammed his hands intot he pockets of the dark trench coat he favored and watched the temple, "Don't suppose you bring others to this cause?"  he asked with a sigh.  Facing a near god in it's home was not how he had hoped to spend his night but there was an incursion and he see it halted.  Even if it were just himself and the unusual deep one.

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@RocketLord

 

"Hallow's Eve! You hear me!" Nicole screamed on her throw-away phone, her voice high and shrill enough to hurt even through the phone line. "It's always Haloween when something happens! Why don't you think I never went treat-or-treating or drowned in pumpkin-flavored alcohol, huh?"

 

Set up on mind's eye were several screens, all showing various news channels and cities around the world. Scenes of chaos played out across all of them as werewolves ran free and wild.

 

"Cause there're jackasses out there who see skeletpn costumes and go, 'Gee guess I'll summon an undead horde' like some unimaginative. Low-budget. B-Movie. Hack!" Swept up in her rant, she slashed her hand across the screens and senr them tumbling from the desk in a crash of breaking glass and plastic.

 

A stream of expletives issued, heard from Robin's end of the line. Then she heard Nicole's voice again but as if she was speaking on another phone. "No, Comrade. I haven't pinpointed where in the Coil the energy is coming from. Why don't you ask someone who doesn't hate this?"

 

"Sorry, sorry," Nicole's picked up the phone with Robin on it as she checked her fifth empty cup of coffee and tossed it in the bin. She needed stronger, caffeine just wasn't working anymore. "The Freedom League and Aux is clueless as if they don't have all the money in the world."

 

Nicole's voice visibly calmed down as she talked to her sometimes-part-time student in the magical arts. "I'll tell you about that time I slapped Baal tonight last year after this but it's just like that but bigger and across the world. Portals everywhere but leading to the Cosmic Coil. I've got all my units and rituals working overtime and contacts across cities and I'm not picking anything useful!"

 

"Waitaminute." Nicole's glasses glinted as she dove for a tablet on the floor, its screen cracked. She was clearly suffering from palpatations, pupils dilated, heavy eyebags, and hair done in a messy ponytail but she recognized the data for what it was.

 

She twitched.

 

"I'm... a genius."

 

She crowed in victory and dove for another pile of phones, picking her real one among the throw-aways and dialed a number.

 

@angrydurf

The call rang through dimensions to reach Huang.

 

"Hey Junior! Where's your mom? Or you'll do fine cause I need an Uber to the..." She leered at the screen. "Vhoka, stat!"

Edited by Zeitgeist Blue
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Justice

 

Alright, so, werewolves, right? Big, furry things? Claws and biting and everything? Robin had seen weird things lately, but this was just a bit much. And having Salvo yelling at her on the commlink wasn't really helping her concentration while she tried to keep a wolf from eating some other people.

 

"I'd ugh love to hear about that Baal slapping at some point, but I'm kinda busy here." She was holding her arms up, blocking the wolf that was biting and barking at her. Barking mad, right. "Gimme a sec, Salvo." Alright, Salvo needed her, so... "Sorry, I know you really don't mean to be all mean and hairy right now." Pushing her free hand forward, she pressed a small sticker against the werewolf, watching as the electric shock knocked it out, before turning back to the people behind her. "Alright, get out of here, find somewhere safe to hide, I'll... find a way to stop this."

 

She turned the link back on. "Alright, I'm back." Something about the Freedom League and the Aux being useless? Ouch, Salvo was in a mood. Not that Robin could really blame her, right? "Guess its up to the Emerald League then, right?" Someone had to do something, at least. "I'm coming for you, stay where you are for a sec."

 

Focus, a portal opening in front of her, a quick stop through Z-Space and the fully armored Justice stepped out in front of Salvo, just in time to catch the last of her talk with Junior, whoever that was.

 

"What's Vhoka, and how soon is Junior gonna bring us there?" Alright, Salvo had something. "You know I'm not gonna let you go alone, right?"

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Sea Devil stared at Ouroboros for a moment before bounding to her feet. Like most Surfacers he looked very much like...well, like most Surfacers, but the magic about and of him sang of so much more - of the song that lay between the worlds that all Deep Ones could hear. "Ouroboros!" she croaked, her voice low enough that it was no louder than a human speaking loudly. Luckily there was much noise hereabouts as the bottomless Sea of the Devourer struck the rocky shores of the causeway, pushed by the eternal turbulence of the Wind That Gives No Breath. "No, it is only me. There were transformations in the Castle and _this one_," she said, poking her still-unconscious prisoner with her trident, "would give only half an answer for how to walk this road." She struck the rocks with her trident and said reluctantly, "We have little time, and we must enter their gates and defeat them?"  

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"You were in luck he knew even that much."  Ouroboros sneered at the unconscious cultist in disdain.  Letting out a sigh he was about to step down the path when he paused with a confused frown and pulled a cell phone from his pocket where it softly vibrated, "Or perhaps not only ourselves..."  he mused as he answered and rolled his eyes at the manic energy from the other end of the line.  

 

"I'm older than you are you know."  he pointed out in reply to her chosen moniker, "Probably."  his exact age was something of a question given his nature after all.  He however let that much slide, "The Master Mage is seeing to it none of the actual victims of lycanthropy are caught up in the response to this pale imitation."  he explained succinctly, "So it would fall to me to attend to all of this."  he glanced to Aquaria and slowly nodded, "But you are in luck, we could always use some backup."  he admitted reluctantly wisps of inky void seeped into the phone as he tracked her location.

 

The words were only half out of Justices mouth when the air sliced open not unlike a portal to z-space and for a moment the endless starfield of the void was revealed before the portal was completed and through the shadowed veil the realm of Vhoka was revealed with Ouroboros and Aquiaria on the other side.  "I would hazard he'll bring you immediately."  the guardian of the hidden ways replied with a beckoning gesture. "Make sure you have double A's or whatever that thing takes and lets go."  he smirked to Salvo as he held the portal for them.

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Salvo

 

Nicole held up her hand at Justice in the universal sign for 'Wait' as the air sliced open, forming a multitude of colors in the starry void. She walked to a dark area of the dilapidated building for some privacy, the phone still to her ear. "I ain't the one who repeated highscool for nine years," Nicole shot back. Then she ended the call and pocketed the phone. The portal was here and she needed to suit up.

 

Salvo stepped out of the room with Justice, fully armored and armed, just as the portal completed its transformation and revealed both Ouroboros and an armored frog on the other side. Salvo recognized the Star Knight armor from the Deep One she had met at a gathering a year ago. She knew the name of Aquaria, the one who had established the ritual shielding for that gathering, though Aquaria would probably not be able to connect Nicole and Salvo together. She was not wearing Bellios to the party afterall.

 

"My batteries burn eternal in the forges of war." Salvo said as she strode past Huang to the lip of the blood-waterfall, blood-red water splashing from her sabatons, and looked down at the bottomless edge. "This is the Temple of Vhoka," she told Justice. "Built above the boundless Sea of the Devourer, in the void of the Dreamlands, and passable through the twisting paths in the Cosmic Coil. Take care lest the madness of the Deep grip you for all your days, short as they will be." She turned to face her companions, nodding at Aquaria as a greeting. "The Sea Devil among the Surfacers. Your reputation precedes you. You may call me Salvo."

 

She stepped beside Huang. "This is Junior."

Edited by Zeitgeist Blue
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Justice

 

Aaaand a portal opened right while she was talking. Yeah, alright. Immediately. The portal was kinda familiar, looked almost like her own Z-Space portals, but different enough that she knew they weren't about to just walk into Z-Space. Salvo got into armor and led the way, so... alright, she could trust this.

 

And on the other side, she saw a frog-person in an armor and "Junior". Her own armor didn't really reveal anything about her, it wasn't form fitting or anything, but even then, he body language told enough as she looked around while Salvo introduced the Temple of Vhoka. No, she did not like this even one bit.

 

"So... is this like Tuesday for you magic types? I mean, I've seem some weird stuff, but this is something else."

 

Salvo pretty obviously knew the guy and the frog, that was good enough for Robin. "I'm Justice. I guess Junior's not really what you want to be called? And you?" She tilted her armored head slightly towards the frog person. Honestly, if it wasn't for everything else, the frog would probably have freaked her out more, but, well... there was everything else going on around them.

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"This is a bad neighborhood," croaked Aquaria to Justice, glad she had remembered the English word. "Vhoka is the False Devourer and he is big trouble. He tells his cult that they are the great hunters and that at the end of days they will eat. Hah!" She laughed at the self-evident absurdity of such a notion, then struck her trident on the ground again for emphasis, and then said, "This is Ouroboros," pointing to Huang. "It is a strong name - it means the serpent that devours itself. But do not try and eat anything here," she added, "the beasts that swim in the Bottomless Sea are not for the hearts of Surface-Men. We should enter their lair - but there will be many traps and tricks. Vhoka is the False Devourer."  

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"You practice that one in the mirror?"  Ouroboros asked with toothy grin and swept a hand out over the expanse before them.  "More relevantly it is here that the entity these cultists called upon dwells."  he explained more succinctly.  "All the freaks come out on Hollows Eve."  He answered Justice with a belabored sigh.  "It's probably the second worse thing about the holiday after the bigotry and appropriation."  By which he meant the monster costumes and horror themes overall.

 

He nodded agreement with Aquaria and gestured to himself, "I am the Chosen of Heshem it falls to me to ensure incursions of extra-dimensional power such as these are thwarted."  he explained further and examined Justice for a long moment flicking a glance to Salvo and back, "Not your work, far to unassuming."  he opined and seemed to be looking through Justice for a moment, "Hmmm interesting."  he shook off whatever distraction had seized him however murmuring to himself, "Another time."  and pointed to the temple.  

 

"As Aquaria,"  he paused and raised a brow at his companion, "Or do you prefer Sea Devil?" he clarified before continuing, "As she has said Vhoka styles himself a devouring god."  he seemed thoroughly unimpressed, "We approach him in his home which is not without risk but it is necessary if we are to correct the works his followers have wrought."  he turned to head toward the temple on silent feet, "Take care and be ready."

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Salvo

 

Salvo pointedly ignored Ouroboros, instead turning to Justice. "The realms are littered with ritual magics and arcane symbolism, ready to be used. Our world stands always at the precipice and if it were not for the guardians and masters of the myriad disciplines it would have fallen many times over."

 

"Guardian." Salvo looks to Ouroboros. "Master." She looks at Aquaria. "Every second we delay is a second the curse runs free. Lead the way or I will."

 

Then she looks up to the Temple of the Devourer. She has cleansed fear from her heart, and only determination sits within her thoughts. Her armor whirrs its approval and the anticipation. There were enemies to deal with and danger to oppose. And though she was out of her element, things were truly simple if you boiled down to it. Shoot at anything that stands in their way, and don't stop.

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Justice

 

Yeah, alright. Robin would do her best not to eat anything here. Aquaria? Sea Devil? She was... weird. But alright, Robin had seen weird stuff before, and it all kind of paled compared to everything else going on around them.

 

"Alright, bad magic people do bad magic, good magic people handle it. Got it." She slammed her fist into her open palm for the effect and took a step forward. "I'm not gonna pretend I know a lot about magic yet, but tell me who the bad guys are and I'll stop them." 

 

Was she as confident as she made it sound like? Hell no. This was weird. So, so, weird. She had dealt with weird, but just about anything had an explanation, not just magic. Even her amulet had to have some form of explanation, even if it was magical and... all of this was just so weird.

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"You are all so nice!" Aquaria croaked cheerfully to the Surfacers, who had gone from asking which name she preferred to calling her a master of magic. That was only a little bit true but there was no reason to worry them when they were about to battle together against the forces of the False Devourer. "It is Sea Devil when I fight," she assured Ouroboros as her armor (which decidedly did not look magical - indeed looking more like a Star Knight's armor than anything else) closed around her body, leaving only her face faintly visible through the armor and her voice echoing with a mechanical undertone to its booming bass. "Let us go to their doors!" she said, and sliced a hole in the air in front of them with her crackling trident. A rent opened in the air, tentacles wrapped around its edges, revealing the exterior doors of the Temple of Vhoka. Without another word to her companions, Sea Devil hopped straight through. 


On the other side, Aquaria knocked by dint of her trident on the great doors of the temple. "Behold!" she bellowed. "We have come among you!" 

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Sea Devil hesitated, frowned, then struck the gate with her trident with more authority. "CAN YOU HEAR ME!?" she bellowed at the gate, sounding annoyed as her allies joined her. "I can hear their spells talking in the walls but they act as though they do not hear me." She opened her armor and sniffed the air, a sound like a snorting seal, then made an alarmed noise that seemed to come from something other than the powerful stink that lay around the place. "I smell blood," she commented, pointing with her trident at the door. "And guts. In there.

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Ouroboros was about to suggest a more subtle approach might be in order.  Of course as Salvo had said time was of the essence and it seemed Aquaria had made that point moot.  He He sighed and offered a shrug to the battle suited heroines, "As you say time is of the essence."  He agreed and followed through the portal to the gateway of hte temple itself.

 

He carefully examined the structure both mundane firmamenta nd the arcane underpinnings with a keen eye.  "Heavily warded."  he offered frankly, "Can be unwoven but may take time."  He let his gaze sweep across the surface once more and raised a brow at Aquaria's revelation.  "Sacrifice perhaps?"  he inquired and shrugged, "No matter we must get in."  The young Dhampir pointed to the bastions high above, "If they notice we'll be quite exposed and will need some cover."  he suggested looking to the group then Salvo in particular, "You got anything to Crack wards like this or are we doing it the old fashioned way?"  he asked with a smile and laid a hand veiled in shadow on the wall as he began the process of diffusing the wards.

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Salvo

 

Salvo stepped up beside Ouroboros as the vampire laid a hand wreathed in shadow on the gate. Wisps of shadow curled from the hand and Salvo mimicked the action, laying an armoured gauntlet on the wall. "I really really hate other-dimensional magic. There's no telling what will happen," she said as purple electricity began to spark from her gauntlet. She threw a thumb back at the unconsious Thule wizard. "But if they can get in, then it's possible."

 

The gauntlet electricity grew more frenzied as more information was drawn into Salvo's systems. She could see the primal magic from the temple take shape, data and information to be decoded. Then she found the shadowy Void, its tendrils snaking through the wards of the gate in ways both effective yet increasingly complex, so much so that she could barely match the pace. Yet she was familiar with Ouroboros' magic and she slotted her own magic to compliment the Void filling through the Wards.

 

Her brows furrowed in concentration at the challenge she and Ouroboros faced. It was slow but steady, and she realized that she was lagging behind, slowing their progress. Soon the gate-wards would have halted them completely and perhaps even reverse some of their efforts. This wouldn't do.

 

"Justice!" She called gesturing at the hero. She reached out with her hand. "I need more power. Your amulet has it."

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Justice

 

Blood and guts. Of course Aquaria smelled blood and guts. Things just had to get better, didn't it? Salvo talked about interdimensional magic, Ouroboros said that it was heavily warded... Alright, she understood some of it, she had been studying with Salvo, but still... This was way beyond her.

 

"I know tech. This... isn't. This is way too weird."

 

Power? That she could do, at least.

 

"Alright, I'll try to direct it, just... give me a sec to fiddle with the controls a bit and... get ready, alright?" While she spoke, she brought up her right gauntlet and brought up a hidden display, fiddled with the controls a bit, and then reached out to grab Salvo's hand. "Its gonna sting."

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With great concentration, mystics and magic pooled their powers against the accumulated wards of the Cult of Vhoka - mighty barriers indeed, as befit a cult whose power crossed a whole world. It took multiple attempts and precious time across a night that they all knew was slipping away, but with one last great effort the outer wards dispelled. Sea Devil lent her power to the effect too; eldritch magic of a watery sort curling along the edges of Surface magic, helping their spells slide their way in past the eldritch wards like a key fitting into a lock. 

 

With the wards down, the outer door of the temple began to rise, the thundering of the waterfall that had been pounding underneath growing louder. Up here it was a long, dizzying look down past the falling Niagara of bottomless sea down to where the main body of the temple lay below; but more urgently to notice there were bodies. Or what was left of them, anyway. 

 

Sea Devil made a strangled noise when a head rolled past her and struck automatically with her trident, catching it with a sickening schlump before it could fall into the turbulent waters at the temple's edge. At least I did not catch it with my tongue! she thought quickly. There were other heads here too, and parts of bodies - but it was hard to tell what had done this to them, and where such an assailant might be - at least until one took a close look. The bodies had been piled against the inner side of the door, which was marred with deep, narrow gouges and the marks of failed spells that had evidently not cracked it own.  The armored Deep One peered into tiny Surfacer eyes and repressed a shudder. Would only a piece of them live on, in wherever it was that Surface Men went? 

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Salvo

 

The wards broke. The outer door rose and Salvo stepped inside to witness a scene of carnage and massacre.

 

Her head snapped to Sea Devil as the Deep One speared a decapitated head with her trident. Then Salvo's looked down once more. Her eyes narrowed, though she felt no fear or disgust. What she felt was an increase in paranoia, her armor's sensors spiking in response to the unknown danger. "There is something here," she said, stepping over the bodies and body parts to go deeper into the temple. "Though whether it'd be a temple guardian or the Thule Society's ritual gone awry, I can't tell."

 

She pointed at an arm with the patch of the Thule Society half-soaked in blood. "Idiots. They clearly don't know the forces they're messing with or this wouldn't have happened. I don't know if I would have preferred actual competent practitioners over this, but the ultimate mission remains the same. We stop the ritual and keep a eye out for anyone or thing who wants to harm us."

 

She stood farther down the temple than the others, looking straight ahead as she sent radar pulses down the ancient corridors and chambers. If she could pick out anyone left alive, they might get more information of their adversaries.

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Ouroboros nose wrinkled in disgust at the scene before them as the wards were overcome by their combined efforts.  "They were proficient enough to all up whatever did this, do not mistake fanaticism for incompetence."  the dhampir countered as he began to gingerly pick his way past the carnage.

 

"We'll need to be on guard for other cultists as well as whatever did this, it is not impossible those with more strength used these as bait or sacrifice to appease whatever did this."  The stench of blood and viscera was thick even to normal senses and he was grateful that portion of his fathers heritage had thus far at least skipped him.   He nodded agreement with Salvo, "Right keep moving, this is already more time in this place than we should like to have spent."

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Justice

 

"You gotta be kidding me..."

 

Magic wards broken? Great. Body parts rolling around them? Disgusting

 

Robin clasped a hand up over her mouth, or at least the mouth piece of her mask, and offered a shocked gasp when Aquaria held up the head. "Could you... let that go? Please?"

 

She hoped she wasn't being rude, but... no. She really didn't want to look at that head. 

 

"Give me a sec, I'll get in front." Robin reached for her belt, adjusting a dial. With her other hand, she reached for her helmet. Her visor changed color light blue. Small rainbow portals opened around her, pieces of armor flying out from them and attaching to her armor, bulking her up considerably, before she stepped out in front and moved on. "Alright, let's go. I really want to get out of here."

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