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alderwitch

So, We Meet Again [IC]

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It took some careful planning, but in the end, there was a lovely picnic in a most definitely unnaturally well-shaded corner of a luxurious park in a quiet corner of Hanover. Well, more accurately, it was supernaturally well-shaded. The trees bent a little closer together combined with some gently nudged cloud cover from Taylor mucking about with a wind pattern here or there and, voila, perfect picnic conditions.

The baby was dozing softly on his tummy on a baby blanket spread over the picnic blanket. Taylor'd kicked her sandals off. It was too warm even for her usual combination of jeans and tank top so she had traded it for a light sun-dress.

"This was a great idea," Taylor opinioned, "If I spend too long in the house, I get stir crazy. For some reason, working just doesn't count. Oh, well. Did I tell you we're thinking of moving?"

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"Really?" Stesha asked, surprised. She'd half reclined in the grass just off the edge of the blanket, and a fairy ring was slowly spreading around her, apparently without her conscious direction. "But your place is so nice, and you put so much work into it. Especially the nursery, and I know you don't have a lot of time to spare on home improvements. Why would you want to leave now?"

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Victor Cross, known as Zealot amongst the twisted cultists he hunted, normally kept to the night much like his prey. However after his humiliating defeat in being used as a crude missile against a fellow student by some over muscled demon he had found himself in need of proving himself once more in the eyes of his teachers as well as his fellows within the shadow academy.

He had discovered the twisted grove with its ensorceled plant life some time prior and had taken what time he could from his studies to stake it out and stop whatever foul rights were defiling the otherwise pristine park. His nostrils filled with the foul stench of magic as the women and small child arrived to their secluded corner of the park. The champion of righteousness peered at the trio quaking in rage.

He knew that woman, the one that had escaped his clutches before with the foul beast she commanded. He wouldn't give her the chance this time but he must ensure that they could not harm the child doubtless the innocent blood they spilled to feed the foul sorcery permeating their comely forms. He would not be drawn away from his duty this time by their enchantments however. He would save the child and vanquish the witches and deliver the poor infant into the hands of the Order for training. The Zealot carefully waited for the perfect moment to strike.

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Zealot muttered a quiet prayer of protection as the witch caught sight of him. He had clearly been to lax after so easily catching her unaware last time. He stepped back letting the shadows envelop him only to emerge within the gloom of their bewitched glade. He understood the risks inherent in attacking a witch on the ground of their choosing but with the life of an innocent hanging in the balance his hand was forced.

He burst forth cracking Witchbreaker in the vile sorceress's direction to keep them away from the child as he tucked and rolled to his feet having snatched it away from their ritual preparations. "You will not feast on innocent blood this night foul witch." he decried as he clutched the infant to his breast as it began to wail. "I will not stand by and let your blasphemous touch harm another." he challenged his scourge ever moving before him prepared to deflect whatever sorcerous vileness they directed at him and the child he had rescued from their dark ritual. He kept his eyes on the women as he whispered soothingly to the baby, "Hush now, I'll protect you from the witch and her thrall, the Order will see you raised to Righteousness."

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Taylor noticed the presence of the closest thing she'd come to having as an arch nemesis and her eyes had narrowed. Before she could do much to react, however, he was making with the speeches and vaulting out of the shadows to snatch Jack Jr. up in his arms. The fact that he seemed to think that he was 'protecting' the baby from their fell sorcery did little to mitigate her panic. She remembered all too well what that whip could do and had really no idea what its ability to drain magic could do to the baby. She didn't want to find out.

"Give me back my son and I might not feed you the back end of your whip," Phantom gritted out as her costume exploded out of the Eye of Heshem with a crackle of Eldritch power that thundered in the small clearing and all over the ground, reality itself started to rip into small rents, spilling the Void into the clearing with unnatural shadows and bolts of lancing white power.

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Stesha gave up her pretense of indifference and rolled up to her knees. "What the hell do you think you're doing?" she demanded. Instantly, vines began to boil up from the ground and snake down from the trees, grabbing hold of the interloper and wrapping him like a green and leafy present. Only the baby was entirely untouched in the mass of green.

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Zealot stood firm against the assault of otherworldy energies cradling his body around his tiny ward protectively as he was scoured by the raging forces of the void yet emerged from the storm unscathed. "YOU SHALL NOT HAVE THIS CHILD DEMONESS!" he called out defiantly as he readied his whip once more.

As the very plants around them turned on him he shouted, "What foul sorcery is this!" Zealot struggled to evade their leafy embrace but to no avail. As the vines cinched tighter Jack Jr. vanished with a pop of air collapsing around where he had been. Zealot looked upon the enchantresses who had so neatly ensnared him, "Lured in with your homunculus." he spat bitterly, "Do your worse witches you shall not break me and you shall suffer exquisite damnation for your blasphemies against all that is holy."

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"Jack!" Taylor gasped from behind Phantom's mask. Without pausing to do more than notice the hum of magic in the air, she reached out to rend a large gash in reality, leaving a ragged edged portal hanging in space and dove after the baby, without sparing a second thought for Zealot. She vanished through the inky black rip in reality, searching about frantically for the thread of her son's mystical presence.

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Stesha was already patting herself on the back for the success of her snare when the baby suddenly disappeared. "Jack?" she gaped, watching Taylor disappear into the hole in reality. "Crap! I'll deal with you later!" A wave of her hand had a massive pink flower opening on the end of one vine, and swallowing the hapless villain whole. Stesha dove blindly after Taylor into the black void without a second thought.

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Zealot felt the bods loosen as the ensorceled plant consumed him. Many would have despaired entrapt within the seemingly impenetrable prison but not Victor Cross. With unshakable faith he began to pray and soon the Witchbreaker Scourge began to glow with divine power. Drawing it back he lashed out at his prison over and over until he managed to breach the green walls and slip free into the park.

He looked back at the scene with a sneer. Next time he would be prepared and he would make the witches pay for this humiliation. With that he vanished into the shadows to recover and prepare.

***

Within the void Phantoms senses gave a lead as to Jacks whereabouts he wasn't far luckily. Fluer found herself suddenly in the space between worlds. In a place defined by its very absence of anything. Stretching in all directions inky blackness breached only by strange flares of eldritcht lightning. Every fiber of her being screamed that she did not belong here in the depths of the void so far from the near realms Phantom used as prison and storage.

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Taylor was used to the disorientation of this realm but she felt Stesha tumble through after her. She flailed a gloved hand out for her blindly, grasping onto whatever she found. She could hear the baby's shrill and frightened crying and sense him but she was just as blind as Stesha visually.

"Its okay, its okay. Mommy's right here." Taylor soothed as she towed Stesha towards the cry, reaching towards the baby with her free arm. "You're safe. Just..."

Don't teleport blind again. The very idea was enough to set Taylor to shaking all over again.

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Stesha screamed as she tumbled into airless, weightless space, a scream that cut off abruptly as the reality of "airless" sunk in. She tried to snatch a breath, but there was just nothing there. "There's no air!" she squeaked, grabbing desperately onto Taylor's arm in the pitch darkness. Everything felt so overwhelmingly wrong, it was hard not to give into the temptation to give up on conserving air and just start screaming. This had been a really, really bad idea. Far away, she could feel her flower portal being ripped open, a sensation that crawled down her spine as just one more awful creepiness, but there was nothing she could do about it now.

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Taylor blinked and realized quite what a plight her erstwhile passenger was in from the squeaking and the death grip on her. Wrapping her body around the baby, she reached her hand out to hook fingertips into the Veil again and yank open another hole, her aim only vague at best. The three of them tumbled out onto a darkly polished table in the center of some sort of meeting. Taylor had really aimed for Jack but a quick glance out the window showed that the sun had set at some point while they were in the void and they were certainly not in the apartment. Fortunately, Taylor had the baby turned into her shoulder to try and soothe the hiccup-y sobs, her shaking hands still protectively curled around the infant. She landed on her knees, hard, with Stesha still clinging to her shoulders and her cheerful sun-dress twisted up around her legs.

She blinked, more than a little disoriented, especially as her sixth sense was still jangling. It was about then that she realized that Jack was in the middle of some sort of meeting.

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The room fell dead silent for a long moment, everyone staring at the terribly unlikely trio that had just fallen out on the polished wooden conference table. There were a dozen people there: a combination of impeccable dark suits and slicked back hair mixed with pale-faced ravers who looked like they'd stepped straight out of an all-night dance. The room smelled of blood and perfume, both possibly wafting from the servant in the corner, carrying a massive carafe full of a dark red fluid she was just pouring into the coffee cup of the man sitting at the head of the table. Jack was out of uniform and in another: his tight white shirt and black leather pants making him look like the king of the room. Which, in fact, he was.

He was on his feet in an instant, even as the people around him startled to theirs as well. "Everyone out!" Jack called, command in his voice and fangs in his mouth. "Seal the doors and guard against attack! If the super-thugs have found where we are, we could all be in peril! I'll deal with these three!" He slammed his fist on the table, hard enough to make it shake, and the sheer power of his command had the other vampires moving, some scrambling for the doors while others vanished in smoke and mist. Jack shot Taylor a look, his eyes wide, looking wildly for the baby.

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Stesha squeaked again at the yelling and noise, but this time when she did so, there was air awaiting her reflexive inhalation. That made her brave enough to open her eyes and look around, though without quite releasing her death grip on Taylor. They were in a room, sitting on a... a table? People who looked like the folks who stood outside clubs all night and didn't get in were streaming out of the room as fast as they could, and the whole place smelled like copper. It had to be Jack's place. She took another deep breath, then another. "Is he okay?" she asked Taylor, looking over her shoulder for Jack Jr.

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After the last vampire had fled the room, Taylor narrowed her eyes and double checked that there wasn't a lurker in any of the corners with all of her mystical senses before she uncurled around the baby to check on him. Jack Jr. was still making those plaintive noises although he'd stopped the "I'm so terrified" shrieking that had just about broken Taylor's heart. He blinked at the bright lights and made another mewling noise of complaint, tiny fists opening and closing as they grasped at air. This time it was her son that Taylor used those mystical senses on and she managed a shaky, "He's fine. Just fine."

It was only then that Taylor's eyes started to fill with tears. In their entire relationship, Jack could probably count on one hand the number of times he'd seen Taylor with tears tracing down her cheeks as she managed, hiccuping, "He just vanished into the Void, Jack! I didn't even know he could DO that! I'm going to toss that crazy monster such a beating when I get my hands on him! Him and that stupid, stupid whip!"

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Jack wasn't smart and he wasn't quick, not when it came to thinking, but he knew his enemies well enough. Only one of them used a whip, and only one of them had ever made Taylor break down like this. Zealot. By the time he'd thought that fast, he was already holding Taylor, his arms strong and secure. "But you're all right, and Jack Jr's all right..." He was holding on to both of them. "It's going to be all right," he promised her. "We're going to find him, and we're going to make sure he never does this again." I left him intact once. He shot a look at Stesha. "Are you all right?"

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Jack's sudden movement brought him nearly nose to nose for a moment with Stesha, who was still hanging on to Taylor. She fell back, sitting hard on her butt on the table with her hair starting to fall from its pins. Her eyes were wide and her face a pale greeny color, but she seemed a little more composed than Taylor. "I'm fine," she told Jack. "I couldn't hold onto him," she reported to Taylor. "I tried. He managed to get out of the vines and out of the plant I shoved him into. I should've stayed behind to make sure he didn't get away, but I wasn't thinking. I'm really sorry."

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"It's okay," Taylor said, trying to get emotions back under control as she automatically went to patting the baby's back while he wound down from his fussing. Her eyes were wide in a face that was almost as pale as Stesha's for completely different reasons. "You were really great. If the baby hadn't just vanished like that, we would have had him. I can find him again. There's no place he's safe from me, now. We'll find him."

Taylor's gaze went dark and stormy for a moment as she relaxed into Jack's arms and finally turned the baby over for him to check out as well, while she gave an abbreviated but at least more coherent version of the story, "We went to the park for a picnic and I guess he noticed us. Or at least, me. He dove out of the shadows and just snatched the baby up, shouting about how he was going to save our sacrifice or some sort nonsense. Stesha restrained him and then the baby just popped out of existence. Scared me half to death. I followed the baby and Stesha followed me into the Void."

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"He...wait, what? The baby just popped out of existence?" Jack thought about that, and his eyes widened. "The way I pop out of existence, or the way you pop out of existence? What exactly happened?" It was distracting enough to take him away from his plans for the immediate future, and all he would do to make sure Zealot never again threatened his family. "And what exactly did Zealot do?"

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"I think he staked us out," Stesha opined, fruitlessly attempting to push the pins back into her hair and just making things worse. "Not us, but the park. He shouldn't even have been able to see us, it was so secluded where we were. And it's not like he could've followed either of us, the way we travel. I wonder if he was attracted by the fact that I used some extra power on that little grove, making it sun-resistant. It might have been a fluke, he noticed it and laid in wait for anyone to come along. And that's why he just ran in there blindly?"

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"He can track magic so he probably noticed something. Either that or my adjusting the cloud cover," Taylor agreed and then looked at Jack to respond to his more distressing questions. The idea of Zealot didn't frighten her the way that the baby had just nipped off to the Void. "Definitely the way I pop out of existence. He was so scared when Zealot picked him and he just shrieked and shrieked and then 'pop!' he vanished. It had that dimensional buzz to it, so I jumped after him. He managed to pop himself right into the Void."

Taylor paused and then added now that her brain had caught up to it, "He didn't seem to mind the lack of air in it, either, come to think of it."

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Jack thought of sharp knives and spilling blood, the feel of flesh ripping in his hands. "All right...all right, well, I guess it wasn't just _my_ powers he inherited," he said with a thin, hard smile. He took the baby and cosseted him, holding him warmly in his arms. "Good boy," he told the so-tiny, so-fragile infant. "Good boy, you're so smart. If you guys can track Zealot, now would be a good time, before everyone comes back in."

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Stesha, who'd honestly been mostly preoccupied with getting her breath back and making sure she hadn't lost any important body parts in the Void, suddenly clued in on the conversation. "Wait, wait, wait, wait!" she demanded, sitting up straight on the table and dropping her handful of pins. "That was Zealot?" she asked, with a wide-eyed look to Taylor. "Oh my god, he's the one who... oh my god, he had his hands on the baby! I didn't realize..." Even the green had leached from Stesha's face by now. She'd heard enough from Taylor last year that even now she locked her windows when Derrick wasn't staying over.

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"I'll look now," Taylor straightened her skirt from where it had tangled around her thighs and went to get down from the table when she caught the utter horror in Stesha's tone and pivoted, "Oh, yes, That was Zealot. I forgot, you've never seen him."

And now she had, while out of costume. Taylor winced and it was her turn to apologize, "Oh, Stesha, I'm so, so sorry. Don't worry, Jack and I are going to make sure he won't come for any of us again. I promise."

Taylor didn't mean they were going to KILL him of course. Although, at the moment she was closer to considering that acceptable than she had ever been at any point in her career before. There were lines, however, that heroes did not cross. "Ever."

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