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Ice For That Burn? (IC)


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April 2021 

Lantern Hill Cemetery 

Late evening 

 

Raina had saved Comrade Frost's number on her phone at Talya's suggestion but that didn't mean she got a lot of calls from him. 

 

"Hello!" came the cheerful, oddly-accented voice when she picked up. "Is this fire witch? This is Dimitri Peshkov! Tell me are you free this evening?" Dimitri peered around the side of the crypt as he looked around for the groundskeeper, nodding in satisfaction when he saw the man had gotten off-shift. Things were so much easier now that the graveyard had decided to hire a company rather than actually pay a man to live on-site. 

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Raina's phone read "Creepo Coldhands," which meant she'd actually saved the number at some point, but for the life of her she couldn't remember who or why. She muted her phone without bothering to reply, then looked across the bedroom to her partner in crime. "Hey Merlin, who the hell is Dmitri Peshkov? Did I get really drunk and give some rando my actual phone number?"

 

Merlin, whose small head was dwarfed even by the child-size Dora the Explorer headphones he was wearing, didn't even bother looking away from his raid. He reminded Raina that it was almost certainly Comrade Frost, someone it was wise to at least be somewhat civil to if she didn't want further problems with the Freedom League.

 

"Ugh." Raina unmuted the phone. "This is Sparkler," she answered dutifully. "What do you need?"

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"How delightful! I need professional fire magic services for course of evening. Could offer rates competitive with South African mercenary agencies - ach!" There was a distinct silence for several seconds before he said, "Beg pardon, tripped on shovel. In any event, what do you say? Is all perfectly legal even under American law, and can guarantee possibility of future employment." 

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Raina could tell Merlin had paired her phone to his headset just by the way he gradually turned more and more her way over the course of the conversation, wearing the most wtf  look it was possible for a monkey to express. She had a feeling her own face looked pretty much the same. "You want... to hire me?" she asked carefully. "To do fire mage stuff." All at once she remembered what Talya had said about his powers, and exactly why she'd called him Creepo Coldhands. "This isn't something weird and personal, is it? There's no way I'm gonna toast your... whatever. That's nasty."

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There was a dead silence and then a sudden burst of laughter, quickly silenced. 

 

"That is...delightful. No, no, you are not even one-quarter my age, would be inappropriate," he said blandly. "Is just normal destruction of very bad monster. Cannot do myself as fellow is protected against ice magic, and if I try to use magical artifacts we might attract attention or even destroy lovely historical American cemetery." 

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Raina sighed. Destroying monsters was actual hero work, which meant that she couldn't really say no if she were going to keep her personal resolution to get back in practice at heroic stuff. It also meant that the whole thing about pay was just as likely to be the thanks of a grateful whatever as actual money. "Yeah okay, I'll come set your monster on fire." Merlin looked about as happy as she felt, but he didn't actually object as he turned to shut down his game. He was on board with the being heroic thing, maybe even more so than Raina was herself. "Where are you at?"

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"The Lantern Hill Cemetery, the one with wrought iron fence and the historical marker. Do not worry about Lantern Jack, is no longer an issue. I would give you directions but I am sure you have GPS on telephone. Is 21st century, yes?" He clucked his teeth and added, "You should likely come with invisibility as well, it will prevent troublesome questions."

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Raina sort of wanted to know more about the Lantern Jack thing, but at the same time she really didn't want to know if Comrade Frost could somehow cack centuries-old ghosts. "Fine, I'll be there in ten minutes." She actually went to the trouble of putting on her real costume for the occasion, just to avoid the minor distraction of having to maintain a double illusion with the invisibility. Merlin put on his tiny domino mask, grinning at her because he was a jerk, and then they were out the window and away on Raina's broom, shooting invisibly into the chill of the evening. She was definitely glad that her costume included leggings under the skirt. Getting to Lantern Hill didn't take long, and soon she was circling, trying to spot the vampire in the cemetery.

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It didn't take her long to spot the waving figure below, especially when she caught a glimpse of the magic that radiated from the walking dimensional rupture. When she landed, Frost was all smiles, dressed in an all-white suit that somehow was only a little dirty from leaning against a fairly large mausoleum. In the dark, his eyes glowed a distinct shade of red. "Hello, Sparkler," he said warmly, though the air around him was distinctly chilly. In the dark, it was hard to tell if the patch of grass he was standing on was alive. "And Comrade Monkey! Quite a pair, eh?" He was leaning on what Raina at first took to be a magical staff, but then realized was a mundane-looking sledgehammer. "Apologies for short notice in call but my friend Ace Danger was called out of country on business. Glad you could make it." 

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A slow, spiraling loop brought Raina down to about five feet off the ground, close enough to normal speaking level without giving up the speed and maneuverability of her broom. Creepo Coldhands looked even worse in the dark of a cemetery than he had in the light of the dojo last time she'd seen him, like something out of a creepypasta vid. The fact that everything around him was cold and dead and shivery-wrong with magic that smelled like musty dead things just encouraged her to keep her distance. She flicked her lighter and poured a fireball into her cupped palm, which helped steady her nerves a bit. She could feel Merlin snuggled up warm against her neck, no more eager than she to engage with the vamp. "So what am I blasting here?"

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"Oh, well..." said Frost, scratching the back of his head and assuming the expression of a man thinking it over. "Back in old days of Second World War, there was a Nazi fellow who indulged in necromancy and various black arts. After the war, he surrendered himself to the good auspices of America and taught the black arts to American intelligence so they could fight diabolical forces of Red Menace. He and I have fought, oh, quite a few times."

 

He tapped the side of the mausoleum and said, "Some time ago he used infernal magics to transform himself into undead so that he might never pay debts to demons, to raise upon the anniversary of his Fuhrer's death. That was last year, and I have spent time finding tomb since. Tonight is anniversary night when he wakes again, but this time, he has hot time with us, before he has hot time down below." 

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"Oh, so we're setting an undead Nazi necromancer on fire?" Raina's eyebrows went up as she studied the grave. "You should've said that in the first place, I'd have rustled up some friends. They're gonna be mad that I had all the fun." She cracked her knuckles, making the fireball spark and pop. She sent it floating over towards the mausoleum so she could read what was written on it. "What's his name? Anybody they taught us about in school?"

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"Oh, whew," said Frost out loud, wiping his forehead in a gesture of relief. "Your pardon. Have been ruined by years of secret-keeping and moral ambiguity, you know how it is."

 

The name on the tomb read "Henry Smith: 1920-2015. Beloved Husband, Family Man. "Well-Done, Thou Good and Faithful Servant"

 

"Do not mind epitaph," said Frost as he picked up his sledgehammer. "Is all lies, most are in my experience. Was minor figure in Thule Society during war," he admitted, "is how he ran under radar for too long." As he spoke, ice seemed to spread crackling over his skin and clothes, producing a pained expression on his face but no other signs of distress. "Here we go!"

 

And then he brought the sledgehammer against the marble of the tomb wall with a loud crack!

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"Whoa!" Raina jerked backwards, almost falling off her broom in her surprise as chunks of ice and marble sprayed everywhere. "What the hell? Are we actually excavating the guy instead of just waiting for him to come out?" She looked from the historic wall that Frost was savaging to the actual real-life door of the tomb, which appeared to be secured with a fairly simple lock. "And if we are, can't we just, like... unlock it? If you don't want to ruin the cemetery and stuff?"

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"Door is trapped," said Frost evenly as he readied another swing. "Tomb of bad man is fine, rest of perfectly nice people, not so good." He stopped for a moment and leaned on the hammer, then pointed, "That fellow right there, with the angel statue? Was horrified when I told him Nazi lay next to him, assured me that he would be quiescent tonight. But he and other haunts, will be irritated if their tomb is wrecked." He picked up the hammer and swung again. "Man inside will be _very_ irritated!" he added cheerfully. 

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"Hang on," Raina insisted. "If you're gonna bash the place to bits, that means people are going to come around and look at it and try and fix it. You can't just leave a magic booby trap on the door for them to run into." Hopping down from her broom, she approached the door very cautiously. "It's definitely a magical trap," she murmured, her voice a little abstracted as her eyes followed the swirls and eddies of magical current. "But I can get around it, I think..." She reached into the pocket of her cape and pulled out a willow wand, nearly fresh and peeled under the light of a full moon, and touched it ever so gently to the top bar of the locking mechanism. "Open the door, Richard," she sang softly, "I've heard it said before, open the door..."

 

The lock gave way with a soft click and no disaster, swinging open just far enough to reveal what the trap would've been. "Magical poison," she muttered, "something that would look like a deadly allergic reaction. You'd be dead before the EMTs could arrive, not that an Epipen would fix this. Rude." It was disabled now, though, leaving the door ready to open.

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"Well," said Frost companionably, "not I precisely, as have limited internal circulation even of magical fluids." He set down the hammer and said, "If you really want to go through door, be my guest, but you probably do not want to be in close quarters with Heinrich, he is real nasty type." He had made good progress on the marble wall, which was crackling and crumbling with obvious eldritch magic inside. "Was going to use hammer later but thought, now was good," he said, slapping the dent he'd made in the wall like a car dealer emphasizing just how much storage it carried. 

 

At that moment, the sound of movement came from inside the crypt. There was a faint, audible grinding noise, as if a large mass of stone had been moved, and then the slow, distinct sound of scratching, dragging footsteps. Frost raised his finger to Raina and stepped to one side of the door, out of the way of the being inside who was just emerging with an ominous creak of the heavy door. 

 

Heinrich looked - well, he looked actually quite a bit like Bela Lugosi's Dracula, down to the widow's peak and dark, old-fashioned clothes, though the faint smell of sulfur and pentagram tiepin he wore bespoke a more sinister intent. Still, when he looked at Raina he smiled. He extended his hand in a beckoning gesture and said in a slow, accented voice, "Hello, childe. Did you come here looking for-" 


And then Frost stepped out from behind the corner and hit him in the knee with a sledgehammer. "Got you you beer-drinking Bavarian son of a bitch!" 

 

Heinrich yelled and clutched his leg, and didn't sound like an old-world aristocrat anymore. "Agh! You verdammt old schweinhund! The Devil will piss out your bones!" He gestured at Raina as he hobbled around and away from Frost. "What is this, your little Liebhaberin?" 

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"Who you calling a librarian?" Raina demanded, equal parts insulted and baffled. Not baffled enough, though, to fail to take advantage of the opening Frost's stupid sledgehammer had given her. A quick, cheerful hum had her placid little fireball turning into a mini-inferno as it sped towards the undead Nazi with unerring aim. It shattered against his chest, splashing bits of fire all over his cold, dead body. Raina used the moment of brilliant light to hum herself invisible and dive behind the nearest non-smashed mausoleum. 

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The attack worked, leaving the demonic vampire sizzling at the edges, as if Sparkler had taken his image and held it over an open flame. Cursing loudly in languages Raina didn't speak but sounded truly gutter, he made a gesture at the sky. "I do not need to see you to strike at you!" he declared as a bolt of eldritch lightning came crashing down from the sky and struck his tomb! The lightning missed both Sparkler and Frost, but the brilliant blue glare and thundering noise was powerful enough to send them both reeling! Frost seemed hit particularly badly and began cursing loudly in Russian. Heinrich himself flew upward on a sudden gust of wind, his flight made awkward by the way he was still trying to bat out the smoking patches on his seared jacket. 

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Even behind the shelter of her handy mausoleum, the noise and light of such a close lightning strike was awesome, in the original sense of the word. "Son of a-" Raina began, then trailed off when she realized she couldn't hear herself cursing. She took a second to check on Merlin, who was shaking all over on her shoulder, but seemed unhurt after sheltering under her cape. He indicated that he couldn't hear much either, but the damage should be temporary. And the inner-ear shakeup, he added when Raina shifted on the broom and nearly fell. 

 

"Everything about this is gross," Raina groused, even if her words fell on her own deaf ears. Clinging to her broom for dear life, she aimed for the big, Nazi-shaped target painted gray-white against the dark sky. "Eat butt, ya ding-dong," she muttered, shooting a massive fireball at the necromancer before shooting off for safer climes, outside lightning range. 
 

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The fireball worked all-too-well, striking Heinrich on his billowing cape with a brilliant flash of red. Raina couldn't hear him curse but she could certainly imagine it as he began frantically slapping at his flaming outfit. The effort must have distracted him because he tilted and fell out of the sky entirely, disappearing from sight behind one of the nearby mausoleums. Nearby, Sparkler couldn't immediately spot the form of Comrade Frost, but the hovering cloud of icy white mist with two red eyes in the center of it certainly gave her an obvious clue. If said cloud was saying anything, she couldn't make it out. A moment later Heinrich revealed where he'd landed in spectacular fashion.

 

He didn't look so good, wooden fragments from a tree he'd hit actually protruding from his skin, but his power seemed unfaded as he hurled a bolt of lightning from his fingertips at the icy cloud that was Frost. It was a hit, a palpable hit, and the cloud seemed to disperse slightly, but it was hard to tell if Frost was actually impaired. Raina could just make out Heinrich's lips moving but whatever terrible ancient oaths he was chanting; she couldn't hear them. 

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Frost was about as effective fighting this necromancer as Raina had been against that motorcycle gang, so she had to sympathize with him a little even if he was still a creeper. Certainly enough sympathy to have her looping back around after the next lightning strike faded away and lining up another shot. The Nazi necromancer was in pretty bad shape, like, real bad, corpsey-fall-aparty sort of shape, and another hit might finish him off. She took the risk and came in closer, still invisible, just to like, make sure that this guy was really as bad as he was cracked up to be. The giant swastika medallion around his neck was enough to convince her. She gathered her power once more and shoved it into him like the heart of a star, and in moments the undead creature was no more. She had to fly backwards quickly to avoid the puff of acrid smoke and ash that was left of him. Merlin silently approved. 

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"Hah!!" By the time Raina and Merlin landed to check out the scene, Frost had recovered from the attacks on him but Heinrich certainly hadn't. "Take that, you goddamned Fritz!" he declared, standing in the midst of the ashes with a triumphant look on his face. "Sparkler!" he called, spreading his arms. "I could embrace you but I will not." He gave the ashes a good kick and said, "Delightful! That will keep him dead a long time. Maybe I hire you again next time, eh?" He knelt down, brushed a few ashes out of the grass, and spat something bloody on the ground. "I hope you like fire because when I finally end you," he told the grass, "you will feel much of it and it will be very hot!" 

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"Wait, he's not dead?" Raina asked skeptically. "I literally burned him to ashes, that's pretty dead. Do we need to spread his ashes over running water or some Dracula BS? Because I'm not doing that, but if you have a shovel to go with your giant hammer, I mean you probably could." She remained on her broom, floating ten feet up and ten feet away from Frost, just in case he rethought his position on hugging. "He hasn't got minions in that mausoleum or anything that we need to pick off still, right?" 

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"Oh he might be dead," said Frost, "but has resurrected every time I've killed him so far. That's Fritz for you, like damned cockroaches they are." He spat again, and climbed to his feet. "If I don't see him next year, I double what I pay you. Hey, speaking of paying, let us see what is in mausoleum! Hardest part was finding damn place, let me tell you..." He led the way inside, the ceiling low enough that he had to duck slightly on the way in. 

 

It wasn't exactly the tomb of an Egyptian Pharoah, but Heinrich Adams had obviously been buried with the loot he planned to use to escape the jurisdiction and start a very prosperous life somewhere away from Freedom City. "I will just be taking this," said Frost, picking up a fairly substantial black-bound grimoire that stunk of truly sulfurous magic. He stuck in his jacket and suddenly that particular smell was gone, gone, gone, at least as far as Raina could tell. "Are you interested in items?" he asked Raina as he pulled the lid off a wooden crate. "Oh hah, better not give you this, young lady like you wouldn't know what to do with...what was he even going to do with this much cocaine, anyway?" 

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