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Bayview, Freedom City, New Jersey
Friday, April 29, 2016
3:24 PM local time 

Even if the news had not been full of stories covering the several incidents around the world that appeared inspired by the Plagues of Egypt, the rumor mill at Claremont Academy was currently talking about little else.  Several Claremont students had already been involved in dealing with some of the incidents.  Frostbyte and Ardent had been there for the very first of the "plagues," over at Ocean Heights Amusement Park.  Reagemt had then been at the incident with several Deep Ones in Providence, Rhodes Island.  El Huracan and Sparkler had even been present at another during their ride along with the veteran hero Asad in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico.  And that did not even count the incidents at which Claremont alumni had been present. 

Thus far one of the biblical plagues had struck somewhere in the world each day for the past week.  There were at least two plagues left (if one went by the order they were supposed to fall), and if the timing held true, one should be occurring on this Friday.  But even with the anxiety that was hanging over much of Freedom City and other major cities, life had gone on at Claremont Academy, with the students attending their classes and training as normal.

It was a beautiful Spring afternoon in Freedom City when classes ended for the week at the school.  The weather was warm and the sun was out.  But even as several students made their way outside onto the grounds to take in the warm weather and sun, the sky began to dim.  It started faintly, almost as if a large cloud had passed over the sun.  But there were no clouds big enough in the sky. 

But it did not stop there, the day began to dark even more, as an unexplainable darkness began to spread through the sky over Bayview. 

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Woodsman knew a secret that his friends didn't know - a secret passed down to all the children who'd grown up in the shadow of the Forest Primeval. Sometimes heroes failed. Sometimes the most powerful people in the universe did everything they could to save the day and it didn't freaking work. He'd been on edge throughout the crisis, an edge grown worse as word of the extent of the crisis had spread through the campus community. But he'd kept his cool and avoided the arguments that would have gotten him 'campus service', kept his cool because there were more important things to worry about than his anger. When the darkness came, he was in his room, bow half-strung and bolts baking in their chemical baths. Glancing outside his window, he didn't wait for the campus emergency signal - instead whispering a single soft curse before he began reassembling his gear. The new stuff would have to wait for tomorrow. If tomorrow came. 

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The rhythm of fist hitting bag was soothing in a way that the simulation room never managed to be. After her introduction to the simulator, Robin had never felt fully comfortable down there but the normal gym provided a certain refuge. Her fist snapped out to send the bag swinging once more on its heavy chain as Robin started to squint against the fading light. Turning towards the window, she took in the utterly unnatural darkness with a grim expression. Nothing good ever happened under the cover of darkness. Not in her experience.


Snagging a flashlight from the supply closet, she broke into a run towards the quad. She imagined the teachers had scenarios planned and in place for most of the students but there were a whole lot of people in Bayview that wouldn't have that kind of protection.


A lot of bad things happened in the dark, after all.

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Huang emerged from his final class to pull his shades down over sensitive eyes and glare at the scorching line where the buildings shade came to an end.  His grumpy gaze swept out over the quad lightening slightly despite the glare as the end of hte week and the promise of a weekend misspent sunk in.  He outright grinned a toothy smile when he caught sight of her across the quad despite the glowering chaperone at her side.  He struck out across the sun lit lawn and squinted against the glare then eased his grimace as the suns glow ebbed.  Breathing a sigh of relief as he stood before Set and leaned in for a mostly chaste kiss, "You know you make everything a little better."  he whispered quietly as the sun seemed a little less bright with the god at hand.  Then he glanced up and looked to Sekhmet to shake his head, "That so isn't me." he assured then hopefully inquired, "A special present for our weekend?"  he asked the ancient god of the hidden darkness knowing full well the devouring darkness was instead Sets eternal foe.

Edited by angrydurf
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"Truly, you do lead a blessed existence," Set purred through a pleased smirk while Sekhmet made a distinct retching sound and looked pointedly upward and away with a roll of her eyes. The pair of Heliopolians wore they're typical anachronistic garb, foregoing any attempt at subtlety while among Claremont's diverse student body. Set had foregone her usual dreadlocks, however, a cascade of tight, brick red ringlets surrounding her face like a halo - or sun disk, as the case might have been. 


The sound in the back of Sekhmet's throat turned to a low growl as the sky above them continued to darken and the grin fell from Set's lips. "...nay," she clarified, shaking her head. "For once I shall not even attempt to claim credit. 'Darkness that can be felt' makes nine. Time grows short, oh She Before Whom Evil Trembles." The godling exchanged a look with her keeper before turning back to Huang. "Not to spoil the mood, sweet, but I expect the situation shall worsen dramatically before improving."

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The fearsome Warlock, more commonly known as Kyle, took to the quad immediately after class where he could talk on the phone with at least a semblance of privacy. "Hey, Mom. I don't think I'm going to be able to visit this weekend. ... I know, I know. There's talk of something big maybe happening soon and maybe they'll need my help is all."


"Kyle. Look up!" The familiar voice of Xeadach near his ear sounded alarmed. Kyle glanced up at the sky.


"No, Mom, I think I gotta go now. No, I mean now. I'll call you later." He put the phone in his pocket and rubbed the silky cloth of his cloak that was folded there. "I heard this was probably going to be something big, but..."


"Oh, yeah. This is big."

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Claremont's emergency signal began to sound, alerting students that they were to make their way to the emergency underground bunkers.  But the sky had darkened so quickly that by the time the signal sounded, it was already as dark as a moonless night, plunging the campus and surrounding area into deep shadows. 

While Huang could sense magic everywhere, only Set could see easily see through the darkness that had fallen over a section of Bayview.  The godling could see hovering in the air above the school a male figure with long blond hair.  The figure stretched his arms out to his side as he called out in a booming voice that echoed in the darkness, "Eight plagues hath been visited upon this world for its multitude of sins!  I am the ninth, Choshech, and I come to herald the death of the children of the wicked.  May God have mercy on your souls!" 

As he finished, Set could see shadows around the school starting to move, as they began to take humanoid form....

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Naomi was having an ordinary day at Claremont. There had been several incidents already. It was like the biblical plagues were striking North America for some reason. Not that she knew much about then to begin with. Her religious education, such as it was, was Hindi. But whatever. Other heroes had handled it before she even knew what was happening. This was a good thing. Especially after what had happened in the Goodman building. She still had nightmares, still was seeing the therapist. As a matter of fact, that was where she was when the darkness descended. Her eyes were effectively blind, but she could still tell where the walls were by how vibrations bounced off her skin and them. Signing that she had to go would be pointless, so instead she just moved. Her Claremont uniform (a new one, after the old one was burned) was in her backpack. It’s happening again. Something terrible. Please let it go better this time. Let me not be too late. Let nobody have to die. She changed fast and ran outside.

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Riley had just given Robin a quick, fierce smile when all hell broke loose. 


Woodsman dropped to one knee and pulled a bolt free from his belt, this one marked with a thin bit of fishing line that he hooked to his belt. Even as he worked, he called "He summoned things around ya, run!" he called to the nearby students, "Get 'nside and seal the doors. And light it up 'sbright as you can!" With that, he fired a shot into the air at the shadowy figure he couldn't quite see well enough to make a clear shot - the one that was ranting about sin and death. Talks too goddamned much. The arrow whizzed upwards, the line playing out - and then when the line pulled taunt, the arrow snapped, super-compressed particles of midnight mist within mixing with dried crystalline bear urine, creating a thick, stinking cloud that was over the heads of Claremont's students and so wouldn't interfere with their evacuations - but would hopefully keep the man upstairs from seeing what was happening below. 


You come down here and do your own dirty work, you sonofabitch! 

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"...Mistress of Dread, mayhaps the moment has come to exhibit the light and glory of all-blessed Ra," Set suggested with a tightness in her voice as grey eye focused on the floating figure hidden from the others' view. It was the first time Huang had ever heard her refer to the head of their pantheon without a shred of glib irreverence. Instead of languid grace he could feel her squaring her stance next to him, the warrior taking the place of the trickster in the span of a moment, one hand protectively going to his waist.


If that behaviour wasn't cause enough for concern, Sekhmet neglecting to shoot back a rebuke surely set off some alarm. Instead the taller goddess let out a leonine roar that resounded through the campus as her sun disk flared to life behind her head. The halo outlined her asymmetrical black hair with manifest divinity and bathed the perhaps two dozen feet or so around them in the glaring light of the noon day sun but at its edges the darkness clawed in a way no natural shadows should have. Undeterred, she announced, "Thy mercy be unneeded and thy judgement less than nothing, coward!" Golden flames erupted about her fists, the same hue as her sun disk. "The Eye of Ra be upon these mortal youths and no harm shall fall upon them!" With that she launched herself toward the group of half formed things crawling from the pitch.

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Nighthawk didn't talk but her smile was grim, even if it couldn't easily be seen through the darkness. She sensed more than saw the shape taking form near her and reacted before she could process what the threat was. Her fist swung through the air and slammed full force into the brick behind where the shadow creature's head would have been with a loud crack of the brick shattering under the teenager's blow. 


"Can't hit em with fists. Going to have to get creative. Think you're going to have to light your arrows up, Woodsman. Burn 'em. Or magic. Whatever you got, stick with what works." Nighthawk's voice cut through the dark, clear and calm as she shook brick flecks from her fist and ran towards where she remembers Woodsman standing. She was going to end up having to play interception again for people. "If you stick close, I'll see what I can do about getting between you and them."

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Sekhmet's roar of frustration as her target failed to crumble beneath her righteous fury was briefly drowned out by a clap of thunder somewhere overhead. Simultaneously a streak of crimson lightning cut through the preternatural darkness like a blade stabbing through a heavy curtain, striking one of the shadow creatures squarely in the chest. The flash last just long enough to illuminate Choshech's minion as it was torn apart into scraps of blackness that blew away of the accompanying gust of hot, desert wind and the cold expression on Set's face. "I had a pithy insult prepared but a cloud of bear piss to the face conveys the sentiment rather more fully, methinks," she mused at the edge of Sekhmet's little bubble of light. The godling hunched forward for a moment as large, avian wings sprouted from her bare shoulder blades, the rich hue of the feathers matching her lightning. They flapped once experimentally as she looked back up at the being attacking the Academy, divine eyes no more inconvenienced by Woodsman's distinctive tactics than the shadows. "Tis no time for pride, sadly. Mayhaps a change in stratagem, She Who Mauls."


"Rrraaagh, and what suggestion have thee, then?" Sekhmet growled as she continued to lash out at the growing number of shadow creatures. The fires around her fists seemed to burn at them where conventional attacks failed but they were still uncommonly quick and sturdy and in her diminished form the warrior goddess was having little success beating them back. Her nose wrinkled at the odour descending from overhead, doing nothing to improve her mood.


"Be we not gods?" Set spread her wings and tried to calculate from where the arrow had been launched before looking to Huang with a smile that was less confident than either of them might have liked. "Tis the handiwork of your angry classmate with the crossbow, aye? Might you describe him as an outsider from a inhospitable, faraway land? Tasked with the slaying of beasts whether his efforts are appreciated or understood, so on, so forth?" She placed on hand on her hip and gesture grandiosely with the other. Calling out to Sekhmet again she added, "And surely we can find someone generally violent and in possession of freakish upper body strength. Tis just such an institution, after all."

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The Warlock known as Kyle could now see three of the shadow creatures clearly by Sekhmet's light. He blinked at the bright sunlight and explosions of darkness. Well... this should be interesting.


As he moved toward the fray, he drew his cloak from his pocket and unfurled it. These creatures like shadows? His cloak of shadows draped over his shoulders. His robes flowed from its folds and enveloped him. His eyes became glowing embers in the inky blackness of his cowl.  I'll show them shadows.


As the Warlock strode forward chanting a demonic verse, his hand raised towards a shadowy creature, wisps of a faint, purplish glow coalesced around him. With a final unholy syllable, he thrust his hand forward sending a shadowy, skeletal hand flying through the air at his target. The shadowy hand seemed to have a mind of its own, tracking its prey and sinking into the chest of the shadow creature.


The creature exploded in shreds of blackness.


"Yesss," hissed the tiny imp on the Warlock's shoulder. "Delicious..."


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Down in the campus' gardens, Waverider sent a blast of sound toward one of the shadows that Nighhawk had engaged, hoping to cause the summoned creature to shift its position and provide the other superteen an advantage should it attack her.  The attack worked as planned, the shadow moving slightly to one side, but of course it helped serve to draw further attention to the sound controlling teen. 

Up in the sky, Chosheck coughed slightly as the smell Woodsman's bear urine enhanced cloud exploded between him and much of the grounds below.  But the tall man simply climbed slightly in elevation, as he drifted over toward an edge of the cloud. 

"You think a simple cloud of smoke will save you from my wrath?  The darkness will swallow you all!"

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"Just once I'd like to get through a fight not smelling like bear pee..."  Huang murmured to himself as the smoke and smell erupted overhead and with a gesture summoned the telltale floating runes of his protective magics.  Peering through the gloom not for the first time wishing more of that vampire stuff had stuck Ouroboros smiled, "You know beautiful it is and where there is smoke and bear pee what you're looking for can't be far behind."  he opined and pointed toward the dorms hoping he was right and Nighthawk and Woodsman would prove as inseparable as usual.


Planting his feet he incanted gathering power in his palms, "By Abbridon, Heshem, and Lamal, the power of the Triluminary is manifest in the light of the Modrossus!" And with a thrust of his palms a searing blue white light carved through the gathering gloom lancing toward the shadowy forms at the edge of Sekmets light.


"This way."  Ouroboros called before leading the charge toward what he hoped was a hole he'd carved in the encircling shadows as he tried to unite his group with his classmates nearer the buildings.

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While the ring of sunlight created by Sekhmet shone like a beacon in the midst of the darkness that had fallen over the school, the animated shadows within the ring, or gathered along its edges, were still very much active despite the reduction in some of their numbers.  The shadow Sekhmet had attacked turned towards the goddess, lashing out with shadowy claws that bit into her glowing form. 

Moving along the edges of the sunlight ring, two other shadow creatures launched bolts of dark energy at both Set and Ouroboros, both attacks hitting their marks.  The two targets felt an unnatural chill shoot through their bodies as the blasts of dark energy struck. 

Warlock similarly found himself under attack by one of the shadow creatures, which slashed its claws across his back, producing a similar chilling feeling.  Elsewhere in the school Quad, students that had been making their way toward the emergency shelters came under attack by a trio of shadow creatures, trying to fight them off to limited effect.  One of the students screamed in the darkness, as a blast of dark energy knocked her to the ground... 

Back in the schools gardens and grounds, the animated shadows finished forming, and quickly set off after any students still within the area.  Nighthawk found herself facing two of the shadow creatures, and while she could not hurt them, she was not about to gamble that they were unable to hurt her.  Dodging from side to side, the teenager was able to avoid both as they tried to slash at her with wicked looking claws. 

Woodsman and Waverider both found themselves being pursued by other shadow creatures, both of which fired blasts of dark energy at the two teenage heroes.  Both were able to dodge out of the way off the attacks, but from the sounds of things other students still not yet to the bunkers were not so lucky, as two nearby sounds of pain echoed in the darkness as other shadow creatures flew around....

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If someone had clearly been able to perceive Woodsman in the darkness, they'd have seen the round pupils and heard the steady breathing - the same reflex that had taken him months earlier in training when he'd 'killed' Dr. Metropolis. You see me. You see me. "Hey! Hey!! I'm over here!" yelled Riley, catching the attention of more shadow creatures before firing another bolt loaded with noxious chemicals at his feet, the cloud blocking the gaze even of the shadow creatures. Running backwards out of the cloud, Riley spun and fired a bolt directly upwards - this one attached to a line hooked to his belt. When the bolt hit the heavily-secured steel above, Riley began climbing upwards, leaping from window to window, using the line for guidance in the dark more than actually supporting his weight. 

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  • 1 month later...

A shadow creature's deadly swipe was absorbed by the undulating shadows of Warlock's cloak. Without breaking stride, he glanced at the creature and sent a ghostly hand that ripped into its shadowy form, sending dark whisps fluttering to the ground.


Kyle commanded the little imp on his shoulder: "Protect any student you see in danger of imminent harm. Use your magic." 


"You mean...?"


"Yes.  I'll owe you one," he muttered.



Edited by DevilsAdvocate
grammatical error
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  • 2 weeks later...

Robin danced and weaved in and out of the shadows that seemed zero'd in on her. "I can't hit smoke with anything. Gonna have to get maybe a torch or something along those lines," she commented in a grim undertone. Relying more on her ears than much else, she heard the whizz-tink of Riley's arrows and then the slightly different timbre of the line being shot towards the roof. Height was better than staying on the ground. 


"On your tail," she warned Riley since she knew better than to sneak up on him in the midst of a battle and found her own purchases to follow him up towards higher ground. 

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  • 2 months later...



The shadow wrapped form of Choshech drifted high over the center of the large quad seeming to devour what light fell upon him in the unnatural twilight it had summoned.  "The Night has fallen."  the darkness intoned voice echoing in the chaotic quad,   "Go gently to your final judgement and suffer not!"  it commanded flinging arms wide as an aura of deeper darkness erupted as the shadows sapped the strength of the students standing to fight or fleeing it's wraithlike minions.  Around the quad students and staff alike faltered and fell into unnatural repose as the evil above surged in power.  Those in the buildings were safe perhaps for the time being but if not stopped who knows what horrors Choshech may yet unleash.

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The mystic wards around him flared to life as the shadowy blasts of Choshechs creatures slammed into the dhampir absorbing the blows leaving him unscathed.  Magefire flaring in his fists as he glanced back to see Set and Sekhmet set upon by the shadows he shook his head, "No no no no." he murmured with worry as the Heliopians were staggered by the blows.  All around him he could hear the cries of fear and pain, Woodsman Nighthawk and the other students far from the wavering light Sekhmet had called forth, above the one responsible for all this floated spouting it's nonsense about judgement and his eyes flashed glowing red as he shrugged off the burst of shadowy power sending so many to slumber.


"The just man fears not the night."  Ouroboros intoned darkly as he rushed back the few steps to Set and her guardian, "And we've had just about enough from you."  he growled and planted his feet firmly on the ground in the center of the quad.  Claremont academy and its precursor institutions intentionally or through happenstance had been built atop a nexus of several Ley Lines.  To the mystically inclined they thrummed with power, and accordingly students were expressly forbidden from tapping into them.   Huang had never been one for rules though.  As he reached out and seized the powerful mystic energies suffusing the campus he lifted slightly into the air a swirling wind stirring his coat, "The lantern of heaven staves off the dark, as the light of righteousness scourges the unjust."  the magus chanted voice echoing with power, "By the Beacon and the the Aegis, by the Light of the All-Seeing Eye, the Darkness shall be Banished and the unjust man laid bare.  Light of Abbridon abjur this unnatural night!"  As the final words of the spell were spoken a dazzling pulse of light flashed forth from the young sorcerer driving back the darkness and destroying the animate shadows where it struck.  Above Ouroboros' outstretched hand hovered a brilliant beacon of golden light illuminating the quad as bright as day.


Chosech stumbled and fell from the sky landing weakened but uninjured on the ground still cloaked in his own darkness though it warred against the shining light as the kneeling plaguebearer rose to his feet once more.  "I'll keep this going you all take that bastard down."  Ouroboros called as he strained against a power he was more conduit to than master of now.

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Lookit his eyes. He sees Huang. He sees Huang. 


Woodsman fired from the shoulder a bolt that exploded in Chosech's face - the flash was impressively bright and loud, and the cloud that doused him foul-smelling from the the way the shadow controller began to cough and gag. Running like Hell, Riley joined the small group of his friends, taking shelter behind one of the quad benches to work on a second bolt. He didn't exult, didn't issue commands - he waited for his friends to begin their own attacks on a target that was now as blind as he'd tried to make all of them just a few moments earlier. 

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Set stumbled and hit the ground with a grunt as the shadowy talons that had been cutting into her bare arm abruptly dissipated. Muttering something rude under her breath the godling shielded her eyes against the preternaturally bright light with her uninjured forearm while even her divine vision took a moment to adjust. It took another beat for her to realize what Huang had just done. "Oh you magnificent idiot," she berated him, doing a poor job of keeping worry from creasing her voice. "I swear to myself, should you burn yourself out with your ridiculous mystical showboating I shall follow you down to the Underworld and throttle you myself." Squaring her shoulders and jutting out her chin despite the scrapes and bruises she called to the similarly regrouping goddess to her right. "Meanwhile, Lady of Slaughter, let us proceed with our own ridiculous mystical showboating, hm?"


Sekhemt shook her head vigorously, growling dangerously and looking about for any remaining shadow creatures upon which to visit her wrath. Bristling with the knowledge that the fight had very clearly not been going in her favour she let out a brief snort before sparing a look in Ouroboros' direction. "...with haste, then." She quickly scanned the battlefield, visibly fighting her own instincts to dash directly into the thick of the fray. "Her," she decided quickly, pointing across the grass. "Strong arms and bold actions. A warrior born."


"How unexpectedly poetic; we had best check you for cranial injuries once tis all resolved," Set suggested before cupping her hands around her mouth and shouting. "Oy! Angry bow fellow and punching girl! We shall take your evidenced desire to fight the very bad floaty man as implied consent, aye? Excellent! Try to think theologically neutral thoughts, please!" Folding her legs under her and sitting on the grass she extended both hands to Sekhmet who with a final grumble took them in her own and followed suit. In unison the Heliopolians closed their eyes and began concentrating.

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Nighthawk didn't exactly understand fully what was going on but she trusted Huang's girlfriend and her companion well enough to nod hurriedly as she went to leap between the threat and their schoolmate. Ouroboros had clearly spit in the bad guy's wheaties, so to speak, and she had every intention in putting herself between any blows he might level in the young magus' direction. No one was more surprised than Robin when the warmth of the sun's rays surrounded her, giving her already prodigious leap additional depth. She landed with even more liquid grace than usual. Her snarl showed of teeth that might have been a touch too sharp as her curls took on a distinctly mane like cast. She didn't have time to worry about her clothes bleaching to white and gold or the bangles that studded them with Sekhmet's mark. 


Instead she surged forward, slashing upward with the gold tipped claws that burned with the sun's warmth. "Don't touch him. Don't touch them." Robin's growl was lower than usual, "No further."

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Compared to Huang's booming chants whatever Set and Sekhmet were doing was silent and subdued. There were no higher beings to call upon, no arcane names to invoke. For all they wore flesh these were fundamental concepts made manifest, crystalline pure power reaching out to the infinite complexity of a mortal soul and finding resonance. It took but a blink of will but the danger lay in the balance. Power of that kind could turn even a readied mortal to salt and ash or drive them to madness in an instant while opening up even a god at the fullness of their power to vulnerabilities few were willing to invite. In their diminished states, however, the Heliopolians could afford no caution. Every scrap of righteous fury, every mote of mystical might would be needed and damned be the consequences.


It was the thunder that sounded first, booming overhead just as winds began to kick up around the seated pair. Set's brow furrowed in concentration while Sekhmet's lip curled away from pronounced canines. The wind was joined by circles of golden flame, orbiting around the goddesses, faster and faster. Brick red dreadlocks lifted into the air in defiance of gravity along with bangs in tawny-striped black. Little points like the negative afterimages of fireflies danced about wildly. A thin trail of brilliant ruby blood escaped from the corner of Sekhmet's mouth. The muscles in Set's bare shoulder's went rigid as she made a pained sound. Their eyes shot open as one, blazing pools of silver and gold.


"Witness true wrath divine, you @#$% poseur," Set muttered under her breath in the sudden vacuum as the flames disappeared and the sky went silent.


In that held breath of an instant the heaven opened up with a deafening boom. Crimson lightning streaked down in a dozen jagged shafts of sizzling power, converging on Woodsman and engulfing him. Simultaneously a single shaft of light so strong and so pure it burned as liquid metal surged down alongside the lightning, washing over Nighthawk. Everything was light and heat and the cries of thousands of years of warriors raising their weapons in defiant promise.


Behind Ouroboros the Heliopolians slumped quietly to the grass, unmoving.

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