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"Awww you think I'm pretty!"  Ouroboros teased sarcastically and shook his head at the carnage around them.  "Messy amatures."  he murmured under his breath and moved to follow Aquaria a shadowy nimbus enveloping him as he descended slowing and controlling his fall and letting him hover just over the ground when he reached the bottom.

 

Limned in the shadows he'd summoned Ouroboros frowned at the statues, "Time flows differently in many realms, but it is not so static nor deterministic as prophecy would have one believe."  the dhampir suggested with a frown, "Not good likenesses regardless."    He drifted toward the statues on guard and ready,  "Mind games or trap our only way is forward and continue to be warrey."

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Aquaria squatted beneath her statue and peered up at it with staring eyes. In a soft, rumbling song, she answered Salvo - "Vhoka is a false god - and all he shows are clever lies. Believe nothing you hear here." And with that, she hopped after Ouroboros and past the still, silent statues, disappearing into the darkness of the temple proper, the howling of a distant beast echoing against the tumbling rush of the great Niagara behind them. 

 

Inside, the group at first found themselves in what seemed to be a slaughterhouse - a great stone-hewn room marred by the freshly recent corpses of some half-a-dozen human beings, all of them in what appeared to be the arcane robes of cultists or mystics. There before them was a great stone maw set into the floor, fangs jagged and bloody, each one as big as a man and the mouth itself some fifty feet wide. Whatever lay down below inside that mouth, dark and indistinct, was something of vast, malignant power; like watching just the outline of a shark with nothing but a thin sheet of glass to protect yourself. 

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Justice

 

"This is weird, right?" Robin asked Salvo, as the other two moved on, while she looked up at the statues. Don't trust anything, time moves weird, prophecy? Really? So the statues could be because of lots of things, right? Great.

 

Reaching the next chamber, she was happy that her armor included a helmet so the others couldn't see her grimace. Bodies everywhere, and they had died recently, and that big stone maw... had they smashed themselves against the stone teeth or what had happened here?

 

"I know I'm new in the whole magic game, but, is that some kind of sacrifice? Did they do this to themselves?" Full armor, still. She wanted to be ready for whatever was down in that hole.

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Salvo saw it simply enough. 

 

They were all filtering into the temple when suddenly she felt a crack in the middle of her spine and fell, helpless and paralyzed to the ground. From there, unable even to scream, she watched the horrific scene play out as Ouroboros and Sea Devil turned on Justice and cracked her open like a tin can to feast on the sweet juices within, then hurled her corpse into the open maw while chanting in eldritch tongues. Then Ouroboros took Sea Devil's trident and impaled her through the back while the latter bellowed "A SACRIFICE! A SACRIFICE FROM ALL OF US!" The blood called something from within the maw, something black and furred and writhing, that grabbed Salvo by the ankle and dragged her down to where teeth and claws awaited. 

 

"No," Aquaria was just telling Justice, "this definitely looks like they were eaten too." She bent down over the corpses, sniffing the air with her great nostrils, and said, "This...I smell the beast here, but...it is very strange. Those big sharp teeth from before, they did not do this...." Her eyes suddenly snapped open, bulging wide, and she dropped the fragment she was holding. "Look!" she demanded. "Come, and see!

 

 

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Salvo

 

Before Aquaria could reach the robe, a beam of unstable magic cut between Aquaria and the robe. Salvo's hands sizzled as she shut her weapon down. "Stop!" She stalked forward, the vision playing out in her mind. She glanced at the great stone maw, as if the temple's beast would appear between its jagged teeth any moment. "Careful, Sea Devil, all of you."

 

"I don't need to repeat it, but this place is cursed and so is anything within its walls." The light behind her visor darkened, emitting a low glare on her companions all. "And this temple is malicious and aware of our presence. It wants to inflict on us the same fate as the cultists. I saw it as a vision, except it was us as the actors instead of these idiots. Maybe all that was shown to me were lies but," She waved at the bodies and pieces of bodies littering the floor around them. "Look for yourself how these cultists fared. Ward yourselves against malignant control and influence."

 

Then she looked down at the torn robe, scanning it with her sensory suite. "This is not one of the cultist's dead here. Gaudier and more expensive, maybe it belonged to one of their superiors?" She looked up then, to the great maw and the sickening blackness within. "I think the answer is inside there. Something came from the maw and dragged the robe's owner into the depths of the temple. The cultists sacrificed them to Vhoka even as they killed each other. I saw this too."

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Poking at the bodies Ouroboros looked but sharply as the lance of wild magic shot past.  "Sacrifice or sacrament the lines blur when one is dealing with devourer entities."  He replied to Justice as he noted the same as Aquaria, "They fell on one another, difficult to say if in ecstatic fervor or outside influence."  he confirmed and looked over the more decorative robe.  "I've not known an unstable cultist who did not prefer more ornate garb when rising through the ranks."  He agreed as well and continued examining the bodies.

 

Ouroboros stood a frown etched on his features.  "Regardless of the source of their cannibalistic urges, rite or possession when Vhoka was awakened," he noted and nudged the robe with one booted toe, "This one is not among the fallen, or at the least not it's body."  The dhampir looked to his companions with concern, "If this was all to awaken Vhoka it is not out side the realm of possibility they succeed at least in part and the devourer now rides the flesh of the former leader."

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A shadow seemed to part and Ouroboros saw his father emerge from the pit, looking somewhat bedraggled but just as he'd last seen him minus the tattered finery and the blood on his face and arms. "Help me, son!" The white hand extended in his direction. "It was this thing that took me away from you, fed my hunger!" His red eyes stared wide as Avenger declared, "It's not too late!" Behind his father, Ouroboros could see a trail of sizzling hot blood magic that trailed away to where the Deep One had just moved, deeper into the heart of the temple. 

 

 

"I can hear them," said Aquaria, suddenly. "Lying whispers, everywhere. Do not be fooled!" she urged her friends, leaping not over the pit (for she knew better than to leap across an open maw for that way lay devouring) but along its side until she reached another door deeper into the temple. Loathe to leave the others behind, she turned to face them as she pointed with her trident. 

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Justice

 

They ate each other? Oh come on. Robin frowned, taking some big steps around the massive mouth that even Froggy seemed like she didn't want to get too close to.

 

"Do all all big magic things turn out like this? Every thing you discover being more horrible than the last?" Her voice wasn't shaking. No, not at all. This wasn't freaking her out at all.

 

She reached for her belt, but removed her hand again. She was almost ready to escape back to Z-Space, but she couldn't really do that, could she? They had to press on and find this Vhoka. She moved closer to Ouroboros. He at least seemed to know what was happening here.

 

"How do we deal with the leader if Vhoka is possessing him? I'm pretty sure that just beating him up won't help, right?"

 

After an answer or not, she moved past Aquaria and deeper into the temple. She could at least try to block any hits coming their way, plus, she could see in the dark.

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Ouroboros glared at the shadowy apparition eyes glinting with predatory light, "Careful now Vhoka, I'm liable to think this is personal you keep that up."  he growled.  His relationship with his father was, conflicted, to say the least at this point.  But if he knew one thing about Jack Faretti with certainty.  It was that Jack Faretti never pleaded to anyone for help.

 

He glanced to Justice ignoring the fals whispers and lies completely now.  "No, sometimes you meet a cute trickster god, but usually that's after the horribleness."  He stalked forward warily but resolute and nodded to Justice, "Well you can try a riddle contest but chances are he won't go for it."  the magus darkly joked with a vague smirk. 

 

"If Vhoka has taken a host or physical form he will take on some of hte weaknesses of that form."  he explained as he picked his way deeper into the temple following aquaria for now.  "Once weakened and restrained the possession or embodiment can be broken and the spell on earth he's powering can be broken."  when dealing with entities such as this there wasn't much beyond disrupting their plans to be done.  "Of course then we have to get out of his house and hopefully he's not too pissed about the whole banishment thing."  he nodded to the amulet that powered Justices suit, "It comes down to it that should do it, get Aquaria and Ni-Salvo out." he laughed under his breath, "I'm good at finding my way home."  he added with a wry grin showing a little more fang than he realized.  

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Aquaria's warning of lies in her mind, Salvo followed the others deeper into the temple, her sabatons stomping on the stone floor as if to scare away the visions.

 

"And sometimes you could find wonder without any form of horribleness," Salvo growls after Huang. "Yet I doubt primeval magic such as this one cares about any human-made concepts. They do as they do and it turns out horrible more often than not."

 

Salvo looks towards Aquaria, leading them deeper into the tunnel. "Sea Devil might have the specifics for your questions, Justice." She shakes her head. Her snort at the almost-use of her name comes out like a crackle of static. "I'll be glad to leave this place sooner rather than later. I don't know how you tolerate extra-dimensional travel so much. It's all some form of ugly evil and horibleness. Where is the dimension of eternal puppies and when is the next threat that will lead us there, Chosen of Heshem?"

Edited by Zeitgeist Blue
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Aquaria was expecting the lying song that came next but that made it no less unpleasant to hear. 

 

They followed the bloody trail through dark corridors lined with hideous statues of beings torn apart by a great clenching maw, until at last they came to a vast cavern where an obscene thing crouched atop a vast cyclopean throne, about it and echoing from the deep darkness the sounds and hooting of Deep Ones like a gigantic chorus, the thing itself the size of a small skyscraper when it stood, a monster of vaguely anthropoid outline, but with an octopus-like head whose face is a mass of feelers, a scaly, rubbery-looking body, prodigious claws on hind and fore feet, and long, narrow wings behind. As they entered it rose to its hind legs and gave a terrible bellow, raising a trident larger than a tractor-trailer over its head. 

 

"Dagon the king, in his raging," quoted Sea Devil as she unconsciously craned her neck to look upward, her tone like one confronted with abomination - albeit not quite the tone a Surfacer would have adopted here. "You will not fool us!" she bellowed at nothing in particular, raising her own trident high in mockery of the false song of her god before them. 

 

And then Justice was conscious of a dripping sound that wasn't coming from the rocks or the fish-frog god-thing - but of something just above her head... 

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The beast that leaped down, snapping its jaws at Justice's face, wasn't a werewolf anymore than Salvo, Justice, and Ouroboros were chimpanzees when removed from their costumes. It was somehow a pure, ultimate evolution of lycanthropy, its hands and feet ending in clawed digits, its fangs wicked sharp, magical, transformative energy curling around it like flame around a burning wooden icon. It was humanity reshaped by magical power into something pure, malevolent, and hungry for flesh. It bulked a good ten feet tall and its eyes gleamed with an unholy light that on closer inspection was in fact the gleam of undersea light off tiny ivory teeth around each socket. When it howled it gave a terrible howl, deep and loud, and its call was that of the primeval forest that had once been man's ultimate terror. 

 

Having no fear of mammals beyond those she encountered every damned day, Aquaria bellowed in return as she leaped for the beast, thrusting a trident that glowed with searing green energy - that the creature deflected with a swipe of one mighty paw! 

 

And then, with great affrontery given its savage nature and visibly bloody, dripping mouth, the creature growled and laughed all at once as it declared "Fools! Fools! Ultimate power is mine! Vhoka will feast on your lives and take them for his own!" 

 

"FALSE GOD!" Sea Devil bellowed, back on her feet and mad as Hell. "Your flesh is unworthy!" 

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Salvo

 

Salvo whipped towards the beast that had leaped among them. Her head strained upward at the mass of savage fur and muscle, bristling with violence in every movement. Savagery made flesh. It towered over them all as its god's avatar and its howl reverberated through Salvo's armor, plates and gears shaking with the primeval magic that poured from the beast beyond werewolves.

 

It was a predator made perfect and unholy.

 

Yet, Salvo-Bellios was not a woman but a weapon, fear excised as the weakness of mortals. Her machine-body powered up and the metallic roar crashed in defiance against the beast. The Sea Devil bellowed as she leapt, spear in hand, and the war cries echoed through the temple in tortured disharmony.

 

"Tear it out yourself, monster." Salvo slammed her arms together as Aquaria was pushed aside. Her voice boomed as fire grew within her, flowing through her armor's Soul into this dimension. "If you are strong enough." She felt it, the breaking point and she could no longer hold it within.

 

"Back, Sea Devil!"

 

A pillar of flame roared, unleased from her palms, and tore through the wet air towards the beast. The stone floor in its path was seared black with the intense heat. It was hellfire and it grew larger and more alive with afterimages of the damned. The fire crashed upon the beast like some hellish parody of storm waves.

Edited by Zeitgeist Blue
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Sea Devil heard the warning and leaped away, scuttling along the rocky ceiling of the makeshift cave that held them, avoiding the fiery blasts as they rocketed towards the beast. Alarmingly, the beast gave a low growl and suddenly inhaled the flames that surrounded it, not only seeming unhurt but actually growing noticeably, until it towered so high its head brushed the ceiling above. It roared as what were distinctly suckered limbs erupted from its torso like some unholy merger of wolf and octopus!

 

"FOOLISH MORTALS!" it bellowed as liquid flame rose high around its feet, casting a sickly reddish glow across the scene, which was now revealing itself to be a roughly-dug cave deep in the body of the stone beneath the temple. "THE MAW OF VHOKA CONSUMES! IT CANNOT BE CONSUMED! BEAST AND WHELP AND BROKEN THING AND FLESH THAT HIDES - ALL WILL BE DEVOURED!"

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