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"See, Fleur de Joie's nice than I am," Tiamat said, looking down at the Green God with pitying red eyes. "And I respect her, I really do. I figure she's got you bound up pretty good. But here's the thing." The woman crouched down next to their foe, frowning. "Here's the thing: I wouldn't trust me to stay down if I was just all wrapped up. So I can't really trust you to stay down, you know?"

Countless years of brawling had left Tiamat with a finely-honed sense for the force a body could take - bodies of all kinds, big and small, young and old. And so when she wound up with her mace, it was with the carefully-measured minimum strength necessary to render him unconscious...though she didn't envy the headache he'd have.

She stood back up, hanging her mace from her belt and dusting off her hands. Gaian Knight's extremely disapproving look got an (almost convincingly) rueful shrug. "Gonna owe Fleur an apology, I think."

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Comrade Frost kept the look of approval off his face, not wanting to fill the dragon with shame. "Hmm." He rubbed his chin and peered up at the rocky ceiling, then suggested, "God has died, or is at least sleeping. Let us find Fleur de Joie, and investigate welfare of His people." While he could have dug his own way to freedom, it was far faster to ride with Gaian Knight, so instead he pointed up at the 'cave' floor above their heads and shot an inquiring look at the geokinetic. "I have been in situation before and must be handled with kid gloves. Would be best to give local citizens some surety about fate of Green Man and their own future. Would not do to have them come looking for slayers of divine one in next generation." 

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"Fleur first," Gaian Knight agreed - or corrected, it was difficult to tell. His disapproving, still-glowing-eyed gaze was fixed on Tiamat until she got back onto the platform, and he had the terse voice to match even after she was on board.

Either way, his finger pointed not straight up, but off to the side in the direction they'd been initially heading. At his gesture, the earth opened up into a continuation of their tunnel, platform picking up and accelerating toward their companion. "Hopefully the so-called god will stay put. I'd take him with us, but I honestly don't know if he's safe to move."

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The Green God lay still, defeated. His limbs were bound by vines mightier than even those that ran through his system. The heroes of the Freedom League Auxiliary gathered before him, keeping watch and discussing what next to do with the city. As they did, thoughts ran through the defeated titan's head. He had been overthrown. Soon, the truth would out. The outsiders would arrive. The city would fall from his grasp. And he? He would be dragged away. Isolated. At best, imprisoned. At worst... dissected. 

 

His great eyes surged open. 

 

"NO!"

 

The great vines around him began to convulse, more fiercely than ever before. 

 

"I made this city paradise. I built it from ruin. I have made Eden on Earth."

 

In the antechamber, one of the vines snaked around the neck of what had once been the earthly form of Nathan Grovemont. 

 

"I would rather see it fall... than be defiled."

 

The sickening crack rang out through the chamber. And the great form of the Green God went limp, dangling within its cables. Seconds later, the ground below - and above - the heroes began to shake...

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Once she'd said her piece, Fleur tucked away her communicator and turned her attention back to the mummified Green God. It was obvious that his physical form was not contained in this one place, she'd sensed that much already and acted to bind it. But the core of him was elsewhere, somewhere close by, and would have to be located and secured. It was over that way, in the same direction as her colleagues' voices had come from. They must have engaged with the center mass, or something close-- 

 

All of a sudden, the body in the vines jerked as though struck, going limp in its bindings. Hastily Fleur took off a few layers of vines, revealing the face of the would-be god. He was unconscious, and she had no idea why. Well, one idea why, knowing how hotheaded her teammates could be... She jolted as the vines suddenly all seized up at once, jerking as though pulled with ropes. From the direction of the center mass came inarticulate male screaming, obviously the Green Man's voice, though she couldn't make out the words. There was a loud SNAP of breaking bone, and suddenly the body in her snare was not only limp, it was dissolving. The ground began to shake. 

 

Instantly, Fleur was on the move, teleporting herself to the central mass she'd found moments before. With a glance she took in the body, still surrounded in vines, head at an obscene angle, not breathing. The other heroes were gathered around, staring at it. "I said not to hurt him anymore!" Fleur shouted, her normally placid face showing a nearly unprecendented fury. "We don't kill our enemies!" Turning her back on the teeam, she plunged her hands to the wrists in the tangled vines and shut her eyes. The entire chamber was bathed in green light and the smell of spring flowers and newly mown grass. All the plant life that had been damaged and destroyed in the fight suddenly began to reappear, filling the room shin-high with plantstuff. "You're not quite dead," she murmured to the broken figure, "come on..." 

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"It was not us," said Frost, feeling an unaccustomed flicker of guilt. What was it about the woman that made her so maternal even when she was so many decades his junior? Feh. "He simply...murdered himself. The fool." He wasn't that worried by the accusations; even Fleur wouldn't think he'd break a corpse's neck instead of freezing it, and Tiamat would surely have smashed the body to ribbons if she'd been suitably wroth. Hmm, now there was an image. He looked disgustedly at the corpse, then said to the others, "In any event, one of us needs to be on the surface to see what is happening. I will go." With that, he billowed as a white cloud up the tunnel Gaian Knight had dug up towards the surface where Fleur had come from. He couldn't fly particularly fast, as he knew from long experience, but he could certainly outpace even a running man. Within a minute, perhaps two, he had boiled up onto the surface to see what was what, solidifying again so he could use his communicator. 

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Fleur worked as fast as she could. The original body was swiftly approaching brain death, but something of the Green Man's consciousness remained in the plant body. That body might rapidly be turning to dead wood, but there was still oxygen in its capillaries, and still roots that extended up into sunshine. It would take titanic effort to revivify... but if bringing him back would stop the city from plunging into chaos, she would have to do it. 

 

There it was - a tiny mote, receded into the darkest depths of the plant's awareness. But she was able to stoke it, and soon, it radiated out to suffuse the form. Sprouts cropped up on the bark on the titanic plant, light returned to the eyes -- and the Green God, paralyzed and at Fleur's beck and call, could only fix a glare of terrible hatred towards her.

 

---

 

Above, meanwhile, Comrade Frost found the city had fallen into chaos. Some brick of a man in a costume had collapsed on the sidewalk, black tears running from his eyes. The dryads, likely, had fallen limp, appearing dead to the world on what was left of the sidewalk. But all that was minor compared to the great trembling beneath his feet. The trees were shaking so hard they were splitting down the trunk, the vines that had grown up around the buildings were lashing blindly and ripping bricks from their moorings, and the great roots that ran through the ground were rushing so fast that the earth split around them. The Green God was resurrected, but his distant limbs were still undergoing their death throes -- and they were trying to rip San Francisco to pieces. 

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Gaian Knight and Tiamat were hot on Comrade Frost's heels, the former in no small part because he could feel the earth tremor in a deeply unsettlingly wide area. Getting above-ground to see the plants' struggles in action only confirmed his worst fears.

"Tiamat, we need you in the air," he said, taking stock. "People are going to be stuck on those buildings, and we need them down before the vines bring them down the hard way."

His companion wasted no time in returning to her familiar, scaled form, but she hesitated. "I'm...not going to be able to make it all the way across the city," she cautioned. "I mean, a couple of the nearby buildings, maybe, but--"

"Tiamat." It was the closest he'd ever come to snapping at her, and that was enough to get her into the air.

Gaian Knight barely noticed. His attention was inward, on the faintest ghost of the connection he'd made earlier, tracking down Fleur de Joie and the 'Mother'. His eyes glowed through his goggles, feet shimmering gold where they touched the solid ground as he reached deep into that anchor, sinking himself into the foundation of the world. He could feel them - all of them, the roots, the plants, the vines, thrashing and surging as they fought. The plants had eaten into the earth, surrounded it, grabbed hold with parasitic fervor.

All across the city, the earth grabbed back.

From every crack and crevice dirt and stone flowed upward, climbing and crawling across buildings and plants like plants had crawled across them first, a city - a county - of petrification and clawing stone lattices surging straight up to slowly but inevitably seize anything that wasn't human.

"We probably need to calm or kill these plants if they don't die out soon," he said, in a calm tone completely at odds with his tense and outstretched body, and in a voice that sounded like it was at the far end of a stone tunnel. His sword had, at some point, drawn itself unbidden and hung motionless in the air in front of him, point down. "I am pretty certain that I can't keep this up for long."

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"We are not here to solve the problems of this world, only prevent the invasion of ours." She paused, amber eyes narrowed as she cocked her head to the side, considering. She sighed, "This city is lost, and those outside will need to be contacted to adequately handle the refugees. Though I doubt the abnormal plant growth will survive their master, the risk should not be taken." The dryad paused. "Kill the plants."

A long time ago, Willow would have been indifferent to what was happening to San Francisco, it was a given that if left to its own devices things would eventually settle down and balance out though at a tremendous cost. Part of her recognized this, and her basic winter-influenced nature rebelled at the notion of intervening, but her time with the Interceptors had.. changed her.

"We need to be quick about it. Frost, Fleur, combine your efforts. Tiamat and I can attend to those the Knight's efforts won't save."

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For a moment Fleur didn't respond at all, or seem aware of what was going on around her. She sagged against the bier of vines, her arms still buried in the greenery, her eyes closed. All at once she seemed to snap back to herself, straightening to her full height and opening eyes that glowed a shimmering green like the light in her portals. The flower crown she wore in her hair writhed as it grew, plaiting leaves and blossoms through her hair and spilling over her shoulders. 

 

She grabbed the Green Man by the shoulders and gave him a quick, sharp shake. "Call them back!" she demanded, her fingers digging in. "You made this, you don't get to take your ball and go home. You fix it, or I'll do it for you, even if I have to sap every ounce of energy you've got and leave you an empty husk." With that, Stesha sucked in a breath and stumbled backwards, her eyes fading back to normal, if slightly wide, blue. 

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There was a spark of rage in the eyes of the great plant construct, burning like a bonfire. The Green God, now locked in the body of his gigantic marionette, looked at Fleur with pure hatred for a few good seconds. And then, the fire went out. He said not a single word, but while he was perfectly willing to die, he was not willing to be reduced to a helpless husk. The plants that shook with the fury of the world tearing itself apart slowly stilled, returning to their past state. The Green God said nothing. He merely stared with loathing. 

 

The fight seemed to have gone out of the Green God, as if he knew that any attempt at rebellion might result in being pruned back to a mere splinter of a being. Instead, he said nothing as Willow and Fleur worked to separate him from the floral network. The matter of what to do about the plants - whether they were to be cut back or left to stand - would have to wait for another day. 

 

Up above, the city was coming to terms with the changes - the seeming death of the Champions and the dryads, the great quake, the rumors of what might or might not have happened to the Great Mother. Both above and below, decisions would have to be made... 

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As soon as the plants stopped threatening to tear the city apart, Gaian Knight dropped like a puppet with its strings cut; his sword fell too, clattering lifelessly to the ground as its owner sat on his knees for a moment painfully hacking up what appeared to be a lung full of dirt. He did get back up to his feet, though, picking up his sword and moving like someone who'd just run several more miles than they should have.

"Hey, Tiamat," he called out, wiping loam out of the corner of his mouth as the dragon swept in with the last of her rescued civilians. The stone encasing the city had already started to crack and crumble, slowly turning back into soil and gently sliding down the surrounding buildings.

"Hmm?"

"If I ever try to do that again, I want you to smack me upside the head."

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"The Champions are dead," reported Comrade Frost bleakly, the icy hero having scouted the city as a cloud of fog while the others repaired the damage as best they could. "I found them all," he said shortly, wiping his hands on a pristine white handkerchief that didn't stay white for long - not with the black, tarry fluid on his gloved hands wiping off. The other heroes had seen Frost snarky, nigh-murderous, and occasionally amused, but the veteran hero looked truly unsettled by his find. "They had been dead a long time." He looked down at the black-eyed corpse who had fallen where the heroes had risen from the Earth, the last remnants of one of the city's former defenders.

 

"A fungus in the brain had eaten away at everything, and grown into the nervous system. He must have been controlling them from the beginning." He bent down over the final corpse and looked up at the others. "I destroyed the rest, down to the last fragment. I do not think zelenyy chelovek used these powers on others, but such things cannot be left to grow wild, on this or any other Earth." And with that, he put his hand on the corpse's face, closing those dead eyes before the entire remains began to shift to first blue, then white as the heat was drained right out of it, transforming a human corpse into a crumbling block of ice. "I'm sorry,my friend," he murmured quietly as he worked. 

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