CVnU: New York City

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#12551 Posted by Warsman (5413 posts) - - Show Bio
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#12552 Posted by ParagonxXx (5001 posts) - - Show Bio

@warsman: Very nice. :-)

Out of the sense of fairness, then, Thunderstorm will not be involved in this RP even though your invading her home. ^_^

@somebody_ I'll wait for you to post before I reply to Malekith with Blaze Rider.

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#12553 Posted by Somebody_ (393 posts) - - Show Bio

@paragonxxx: @warsman:

Cool! Quick question: Are you guys in the mansion or outside of it, like on the streets or something like that?

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#12554 Posted by Warsman (5413 posts) - - Show Bio
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#12555 Posted by Somebody_ (393 posts) - - Show Bio
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#12556 Posted by Warsman (5413 posts) - - Show Bio
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#12557 Posted by AkiraHoshi (80 posts) - - Show Bio
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#12558 Posted by Warsman (5413 posts) - - Show Bio
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#12559 Edited by Somebody_ (393 posts) - - Show Bio

@blhazerider: @cursedmalekith:

If they're anything I need to change or edit, let me know. Other than that, sorry for the wait! Enjoy!

Magic.

No Caption Provided

His sixth sense had picked up on it. The aura had appeared suddenly, like a dark cloud suddenly blocking out the sun, and, like a dark cloud, it had a certain gloom to it. Scratch that. It had a menacing, ominous power about it. The spider inwardly groaned in frustration. He really had wanted to finish his meal. The spider grabbed a napkin and wiped his mouth, setting down his half-eaten sub and wrapping it up before placing it back into his backpack. Pulling his mask down, his lenses' narrowed in slightly forced determination.

Better check it out.

Bounding across several suburban rooftops with ease due to his heightened coordination and agility as well as practice from all the time spent maneuvering about in the urban jungle that was New York, the spider soon found himself perched atop a sprawling mansion where the dark energy was most prevalent. Connor cocked an eyebrow at the unusual location. He expected somewhere more fitting, like a dark alleyway or underground. With a shrug, he crawled about the edifice, looking for an opening that would allow him entryway into the building.

Looks can be deceiving. Huh. The front door is open. Sloppy.

Entering through the front entrance, the spider clung to the ceiling as he focused on his clairvoyant sixth sense. Now at a closer proximity, he could sense the source of the dark manifestation, two individuals. Men from what he could guess from their respective statures. Dangerous. A heavy atmosphere had enveloped the Acrobatic Arachnid ever since he entered. These intruders exuded malevolent aura that was telling him to turn the other way.

Okay. Maybe not sloppy. Just confident? Something I’m lacking right at this moment.

Shaking his head, the spider continued downward, careful to not make a sound as he kept to the walls and ceiling before using the railing near the stairs as a walkway to make his approach to the bottommost sub-level. At this range, he could nearly make everything out about the room. The only other notable thing about the sub-level besides it occupants was the strange casket-shaped object they were surrounding.

That’s strange. But with magic, what isn’t? But I swear to God if Dracula is inside that thing….

Stealthily traveling down the staircase, the spider continued onward down in the basement and further, until he was just around the corner. The pressure in the air was intense and his sixth sense was flaring at this point due to the sheer arcane energies that surrounded the two mysterious individuals. His scarlet mask poked around the corner and his lenses widened in shock.

Oh, you have got be kidding me. Mother of something!

The spider couldn’t believe what he saw. A flaming skull wearing leather clothing and a chain wrapped around his torso radiating an intense, furious aura alongside what appeared to be an elf who radiated a darker, more sinister aura. The dark energy he sensed earlier was a manifestation of their two auras clashing against one another.

OhGod.OhGod.OhGod.OhGod.OhGod.OhGod.OhGod.OhGod.OhGod.OhGod.OhGod.OhGod.OhGod.OhGod.OhGod.OhGod.OhGod.OhGod.OhGod.OhGod.OhGod.OhGod.

What have I myself gotten into now?

Resting his head against the wall he clung onto to keep himself hidden, the spider slowed his breathing as he began switching out one of the cartridges on his web-shooter with a specially-marked cartridge. He made sure to steady his breathing and calm himself before formulating a plan.

The spider had heard rumors about the skull-guy. He made sure to keep up with news relating to metahumans in case it concerned him or the safety of the public. From what he could tell from the few short articles he read about the stories key witnesses described about the entity, this fiery cyclist was not to be messed with. The elf Connor had no clue about who or what he was, other than that this robe-wearing stranger was cloaked in mystical energies. Probably a spellcaster. But he still needed to stop them. Despite the danger his sixth sense kept reminding him about, he could also sense their intentions. They weren’t very benevolent. And he was almost one hundred percent sure they weren’t the owners of the house.

Okay. This better work or I’m screwed.

They were in an enclosed space, one that would make it more difficult for him to maneuver in. The plus side?

The same applied to them.

*THWIP!*

Flinging himself above their head with a web-line attached to the ceiling, the spider felt his back scrape against the ceiling. Landing on the casket, the spider fired off several strands of webbing from one of his shooters while the other fired a wide net of webbing. The singular, broad net was fired off in an attempt ensnare the bonehead’s fiery cranium. However, this particular webbing didn’t behave like his other webbing nor did it have the exact properties. While it had an approximate amount of adhesiveness, it was not as fibrous as its counterpart. Instead, it was more foam-like. This is because he was using his webbing’s fire-retardant variant, meant to put out small fires or ensnare opponents with metahuman abilities relating to flame. However, he was unsure of what its effect would be on the spiritual entity. Hopefully, it would just by him time as a blindfold of sorts if it didn’t put out the fire permeating from his opponent’s head.

Meanwhile, simultaneously, he fired off several strands in an attempt to ensnare the spellcaster’s limbs and keep him in place while firing more copious amounts of webbing at the caster’s hand to keep the magic user from performing any spells. A final glob of webbing would be fired in a bid to keep the caster from possibly speaking any incantations. Then, with the same shooter, Somebody fired several strands of regular webbing at flame-head's limbs, attempting to immobilize him as well.

Yo, uh, matchstick! I’m sure the owner would appreciate if you would stop smoking in their house! Thanks!” the Jovial Jokester quipped weakly as his "thanks" came out a little higher pitched than he intended. It certainly wasn’t his best quip, and he had nothing for the elf. It was his first time meeting one. An actual, bona fide, magical elf. However, what soon caught the attention of the arachnoid after his small wordplay was the faint magic aura the casket produced. A shiver cascaded over his body.

Guess this is what they're after. Dunno what’s in here, but I can’t let them have it.

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#12560 Posted by CursedMalekith (103 posts) - - Show Bio
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#12561 Posted by Somebody_ (393 posts) - - Show Bio
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#12562 Posted by ParagonxXx (5001 posts) - - Show Bio

@somebody_: Good post! ^_^

@cursedmalekith: That might not be until Monday. Father's day is tomorrow and I'm going to be rather busy for most of the day.

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#12563 Edited by BlhazeRider (51 posts) - - Show Bio

@cursedmalekith: @somebody_:

No Caption Provided

The Blaze Rider arrives in some kind of mansion and the two travel down into the dark levels of it's basement. Many artifacts are here, guarded by magical wards in order to protect them from would be thieves. But only one grabs Aidan's personal attention and that is the one that the trickster asked him to open. The Blaze Rider may not know what this thing does, but he is not stupid enough to open something when he doesn't know what will happen.

Before he can do anything, however, the Blaze Rider sees a red and blue clad spider themed hero land on a force field, likely magical, that protects the casket, which creates the illusion he landed on it. Huh. Good to know that bit of information. The casket is protected by magical wards. Whoever owns this place has been clever and smart.

As the fire retardant webbing blinds the Blaze Rider, nearly putting out his flame, he reaches up and grabs it. With incredible strength, he rips it off after a second or two of trying, then his flame erupting around his skull again. One look at the web head and he knows every sin that stains his soul, which aren't many. None of his sins scream out for justice. The kid is innocent, not guilty like the trickster beside him, whose sins cry out for justice to be done. The Blaze Rider was looking for an excuse to double cross the Elf. Now is his chance. Chains of mystic energy erupt from his body as they shoot forth, trying to stab into the trickster.

The double cross might surprise the web head since he wrongly believed the Blaze Rider of being a malevolent being rather than on the good side.

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#12564 Posted by CursedMalekith (103 posts) - - Show Bio

@somebody_: @blhazerider:

Malekith was weakened in this realm, and especially in the proximity of both the iron locks as well as the fiery Hellion who continued to elude his charms and mental snares. The fact that someone else showed up only complicated things.

"Hm, interesting costume," he snapped.

He raised his hands into the position of Dark Fae magic, but found that they had been bound together with some sort of string. He stuck his tongue out in disgust, angling a finger so as to meticulously cut through the webbing.

"Is this seriously what Midgardians do all day? Set their heads on fire and throw gunk at each other?!"

The Laughing God scarcely had time to escape his bonds when the Hellion turned on him, predictably but with justification. The chain lifted Malekith into the air by his shoulder, and he visibly gasped. Yet, no physical harm had indeed come to him. His limb crumbled away and reformed in a stream of smoky shadows. Gripped in his fingers was the Leash of Mangog - the authentic article.

"I tried being hospitable, but oh well! There is a distinct lack of cognisance in Midgardians these days,"

He tossed the chain onto the ground and it burrowed into the ethereal world Mangog resided it. With his other hand he gave a mighty pull, augmented with a flash of Dark Fae magic. Even weakened, he could at least bring the Breaker of Worlds to Midgard for a bit of fun - or at least he thought.

Mangog sputtered and coughed on the other side of the portal, his rage boiling behind the immaterial plane. His palpable strength could be felt throughout the room - and he wasn't coming to Malekith's aid. The chain snapped, leaving the Laughing God with a working artifact but no Mangog to complete the bargain the Leash entailed. He gave a faint smile towards his friends, and placed his fingers together.

"Well, this is awkward," he began, knowing a counterattack to be imminent. He vanished, reappearing behind them, and started to intermediately spring and teleport up the stairs leading to the streets. Under a night sky, he could gather just enough power to leave back to Svartalfheim.

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#12565 Posted by Somebody_ (393 posts) - - Show Bio

@cursedmalekith: @blhazerider:

Sorry again for the slight delay. Wasn't feeling like myself yesterday and couldn't focus.

Well, the plan seems to be working.

Not even a minute later, both of his adversaries had torn from his artificial webbing with little to no difficulty.

$*(),” the arachnoid muttered under his breath. I thought it would hold.

His lenses slightly narrowed. Their strength concerned him and they held the advantage in numbers. With his initial plan being a failure, the hopeful strategist had placed in himself in quite the predicament. He was in the center of the room and the way out was barred by the intruders. He could have used the same method he had used to make his entrance to escape but chances were they would expect that.

In the few precious seconds Connor had, the spider began planning how to best combat his foes, not offering any response to the dark elf as his tongue danced with words.

Until he saw something he didn’t expect.

Blazing chains shot from the hellion like coiled snakes snapping at their prey. The arachnoid’s clairvoyant sense alerted him to the danger posed by the blazing rider, but it wasn’t Connor who was in harm’s way. The linked metal pierced through the elf by the shoulder. Connor’s eyes shot open in dismay. They were turning against one another. Why? However, the sudden onslaught had been for naught as the elf’s punctured limb had dissipated into smoke and reformed with a trinket in hand. The buzzing sensation at the back of the Webbed Wonder’s neck ascended to an all-new high at the sight of the dark elf with his chained leash. He had one instinct. Stop the elf from enacting his plan.

Too late.

The elf tossed the interdimensional restraint onto the floor before the arachnoid could react. The clairvoyant sensation erupted throughout his skull as an ethereal form of an otherworldly creature of unknown origin began to crossover to their realm.

Ah! #*()!” Connor yelped quietly to himself. I need to get the hell out of here!

Then the immaterial beast flickered from existence after the sound of the links connecting together broke into separate pieces. The sensation died down in the arachnoid’s head as he gasped a sigh of relief from the extrasensory pain.

Can’t let him escape. Who knows what he can do if he’s on the loose? What if he perfects that summoning of whatever-the-hell that was and sets it loose on me and skelly in revenge or just on anyone or some crap?

With these pressing concerns and anxieties in mind, the spider didn’t hesitate to give chase. He would have said something to Matchsticks like “Get him!” or “He’s getting away!”, but the spider still had little trust in the burning skull, unsure of what to make about the whole betrayal. He also didn’t feel like saying something so corny. So he focused on the chase instead. Hopefully, Matchsticks would have enough sense to do the same.

Leaping up the stairs and running on walls, the spider performed fluid acrobatic feats in pursuit of the mystical teleporter in an attempt to apprehend him. Appearing as nothing more than a blur as he gave chase, the Acrobatic Arachnoid was growing desperate, knowing he would never get a hold of the dark elf even with his heightened speed and agility.

PleaseworkPleaseworkPleaseworkPleaseworkPleaseworkPleaseworkPleaseworkPleaseworkPleasework.

Aiming his web spinner with pinpoint precision, his omniscient precognitive knowledge of where his opponent would port next would prove invaluable. Firing off a single strand of silk before the elf reappeared and port once more to make his escape, Connor would jerk the line and launch himself at the dark elf, which would no doubt with his Herculean strength also pull the elf into the air towards the arachnoid, in an attempt to tackle him before he teleported once more. If the artificial fiber found its mark and the spider could cross the distance between them with it before the devious, supernatural mage ported once more, the spider would begin to grapple with his opponent midair, leading the improvised assault with a frenzied swing of his fist at the elf’s head. Connor would hold back his strength of course, but not as much as he would if he was fighting any other normal human, hoping to deal enough force behind his punch to render the elf unconscious and unable to pose harm to anyone else.

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#12566 Edited by BlhazeRider (51 posts) - - Show Bio

@somebody_: (OOC: Not a prob, hope your feeling better now. ^_^) @cursedmalekith:

No Caption Provided

Ironically enough, the Blaze Rider stares coldly at the trickster as the Elf tries, and fails, to summon Mangog. Then predictably, the Elf begins to try and escape. The Blaze Rider looks up as his sight follows the Elf up the stairs.

The Blaze Rider promptly follows as fast as he can, but not as quickly as his spider ally who quickly gets ahead. He is tempted to use his chains again to try and snag the trickster, but the web head is in the way. Cannot risk hitting his ally.

Instead, the Blaze Rider tries something else. Should the web head fail in his attempted attack and the Elf somehow makes it to the main hall, then the Blaze Rider tilts his head as he stretches his hand out. He is connected to his motorcycle. It does whatever he commands it to do. And the bike is outside the mansion as it starts up, wheels on fire and does a half donut turn as the back tire burns rubber before it shoots forward like a bullet, blasting off at 200 mph. The bike blows through the font doors, turning the wood into so much kindling as the Blaze Rider tries to hit the Elf with his bike, but only IF the web head's attack fails or if the Elf manages to stay conscious and try again to get away. Hopefully, either way, the Blaze Rider's own attempt succeeds.

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#12567 Edited by CursedMalekith (103 posts) - - Show Bio

@somebody_: @blhazerider:

Malekith hardly ever felt physical pain, inflicted usually when he was fighting someone such as the Odinson. Yet, here in Midgard, his powers were substantially weakened when not in direct moonlight. The darkness of Svartalfheim effectively made him a god, but outside of his home-realm his addled magic could not hope to withstand much. He managed to teleport at the last second, coming close to the top of the stairs. He reached for the door, grinning like a madman...

However, his friends had other ideas.

The Spider reeled him in like a fish, having already caught him with a string of web. The ensuing blow to the Laughing God's face knocked him back to the stony steps, vaguely conscious. Yet after a moment he sprang back to life.

No Caption Provided

His nose bloodied, his lip busted, Malekith glared at the Spider with a malevolence impossible to fathom. The malignant weight of the Leash of Mangog would be as pleasant dreams and sunshine to what Malekith promised with that spiteful glare alone, his glacial eyes chilling the room immediately. He pointed at his hateful eyes, and then back at the Spider, almost ensuring something diabolical. But before he could make good on that edict, the Laughing God teleported away once more, making the distance between the two all the more unachievable as he opened the door with a triumphant sneer.

But, as before, his friends were proving to be quite the nuisances. His bloodied grin faded almost instantly as a bike, in fact the same bike his Hellion partner had rode in on, plowed into his chest and torso with all the subtlety of a freight train. The cataclysmic heat and roaring inferno of hot eldritch metal and hellish tongues of fire pushed him through the opposing wall, leaving the doors he sought freedom through in splinters.

As the dust settled, Malekith coughed and sputtered in a ruinous heap of smoking stone and rubble. His wheezing breaths were fractured, much like many of his bones. His ribs had been bent inwardly at an awkward angle, bruised and almost to the point of snapping entirely. His anatomy as a Dark Elf implored flexibility and agility rather than durability; perhaps that is what simultaneously damned him to this pain and saved his life.

"Uuuugghh," he began, seeing the faint outlines of his pursuers in the dust. "Y-You think you've... uggh... won?!" he raised a quaking hand to the ceiling, a final blast of dark magic piercing the walls up towards the night sky. The faintest lick of moonlight empowered his flesh, and allowed him to teleport that final distance to the outer reaches of the mansion. His body had been fundamentally broken, his pride shattered. He had no more reason to be here.

"I'll get that damned... BOX, it doesn't matter if it's buried in iron!"

The Laughing God spat a mouthful of his own blood onto the ground, wiping his nose and lip with his hand. The portal back to Svartalfheim had already been opened, and he stepped through without pause.

"You haven't seen the last of Malekith the Accursed!"

And with that, the night returned to its usual state of affairs as the darkness of Svartalfheim faded into obscurity.

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#12568 Posted by Rosso (5544 posts) - - Show Bio

Feck! Idiot!

Valentina weaved dizzily, unsteadily through the crowded streets, arms clutching tight to her left side. She was carried by heavy, shallow breaths, and each one brought with it a sharp pain. That blade'd cut deeper than she initially imagined. Then she didn't have much time. Escape or accomplish. Either within the next three minutes.

Her target: Peter Denning, a weekend warrior and cousin to Fred Denning, a man with outstanding debts, kindly placed on her radar by her new prospective company. Her mission: get some leverage to make Freddie-boy a bit more...amenable. But nothing that could be traced. The job paid less than two thousand and was not even an initiation. A preliminary audition, of sorts. But they offered her something, and if she could get in their good graces Valentina was sure the investment would pay off.

She didn't expect it to be this hard.

The seduction act was business as usual until, on the way to his hotel room, something nicked her purse strap, causing personal products, a blade, and several syringes to spill out onto the floor. Dennings figured something was up and went for the knife. She'd gotten it back, but not without struggle, and not without a few parting gifts before he bolted for the lobby. <Great. More crap for June to hide from Dr. Knightfall.>

Normally navigating a crowd was easy for her, a basic trick of the trade to blend in or weave around them. But not only had her wounds made it more difficult to be mobile; everywhere she went the obvious damage drew eyes and concerned remarks, ensuring the target was perpetually aware of her presence. Several times she stumbled, and at least twice she felt as though something had wrapped her ankles, but she'd always managed to catch her balance.

Slippery rat though Pete was, Valentina was a far superior athlete. Even handicapped, the speed and endurance of the trained killer were more than enough to pin her prey. <Still owe you for those marks. This is gonna hurt.>He felt it just as she did – her closing in, his chances slipping away.Aware of the turning tide, his strategy shifted and Pete turned around to make a plea—just in time for her to gore him off of his feet. They crashed to the concrete with an impact that left them both winded. Valentina dragged him to his feet, groaning and whimpering. A wave of nausea hit her and she staggered as she herself rose–

–and fell back down. Sensing momentary weakness, Denning shoved her and booked it into the street.

Last chance. She knew she didn't have it in her to get him. So, vision hazy, Valentina aimed a throwing blade as well as she could...

FWIP!—"Aah!"

It wouldn't stop him, not then. But Denning was a purebred wimp. He'd seek medical attention, and probably the authorities. That still left her plenty of time to escape the scene and made him easily traceable for later. Either she or her "friends" could pursue as they pleased. But for now, Rosso had to get away from the public.

A four-star hotel for shelter. For dinner, a large custom room service order, and a $40 bottle of Maker's Mark to ease the pain. Managing to acquire a first-aid kit as well, Valentina treated her injuries in the crude manner to which she'd become accustomed, wrapping her body tightly with gauze bandage.

Sooner or later she'd have to face the music. By then even if the job was finished, it was messy. That wouldn't look good. But she had to face them. She knew too much; if she didn't, they'd kill her. <Then, at the very least, accomplish the mission.>

But first...Him.

Denning wasn't the first job gone inexplicably wrong since the encounter that night. "Following me," she spoke aloud as though he might hear. Never could know for sure when he was or wasn't. Vague "I'm being watched" feelings and a streak of bad luck, not much to work with. "Sabotaging. But...why? What exactly are you after, Sir Grimm?"

Musing aloud to herself, Valentina opened her laptop and began searching private channels for any news regarding the vigilante Grimmwald. Reported sightings, vague rumors, and especially that grisly MO of his.

It gave her a shudder, to think she could've wound up like the others hunting him that night.

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#12569 Edited by Somebody_ (393 posts) - - Show Bio

@blhazerider: @cursedmalekith:

His fist met exotic flesh, snapping the esoteric enemy's nose like twig. Inwardly flinching, the sound reverberating through his ears as the elf flew across the room onto the stone steps of the mansion leading to the upper floors. The Agile Arachnid braced his own fall with a practiced roll, distributing the force of his landing throughout his body before stopping at a crouched position.

Guess he’s out for the count.

A sigh escaped his lips and a small grin graced his features. The situation was resolved.

Until the elf got back up.

Immediately, his body tensed. Anxiety took hold as Connor clenched his fists. Lenses narrowed as the precognitive paragon waited for the elf to retaliate. But he didn't. Instead, the malignant adversary gave an unyielding scowl before motioning with his hands, pointing at his own ice-cold orbs before pointing back at his unflinching lenses. A threat if the minor reverberation in his head was anything to go by.

The enmity was not lost on the Spider.

The Spider raised his forearm, making his signature motion with his fingers after he aimed his web-spinner and firing a thick net of webbing. However, all it caught was the stairs as the elf was gone, having ported to the doorway. Somebody cursed himself, having letting himself get distracted like an amateur. He let his sixth sense force him to hesitate when he needed to have acted.

Damn it.

Now the scumbag was on his way out the front door. That was until a mass of flame and fury brought the front door to splinters, blasting its way through and slamming itself into the escaping adversary. The Spider sprang upwards with his hydraulic legs, adhering to the ceiling to avoid being caught in the inferno of metal and fire.

What in the actual hell was that?

"What the hell?!" the young hero couldn't help but shout as he made mad motions with his hands at the carnage caused by the resident firecracker.

The Spider refrained from saying anymore as he dropped down from the ceiling, a bit of practiced acrobatics on his part to matched his practiced patience and a bit of natural talent via his meta-human coordination due to his unique genealogy. He could still hear a heartbeat, which kept his rage from flaring up at the bonehead.

"Y-You think you've... uggh... won?!"

Connor wasn't a doctor but by the way the elf was wheezing and the bike having impacted his torso at such high speeds, it would be safe to assume the supernatural sorcerer had suffered tremendous damage to his ribs. The fact that he was still conscious and breathing was a marvel in of itself. Getting no vibes from his built-in danger detector, the Spider slowly approached.

"I don't think you should be worrying about us, Poptart. You're-."

The reverberation in the back of his head returned with heightened fervor as he leapt back as dark energy erupted from the elf's hands, rupturing the ceiling and bringing down debris. A large, stray piece struck the wall-crawler by the head and neck, bringing him face first onto the tile floor. He lifted himself partially by one hand before raising his gaze to be greeted by the visage of the malevolent mage's curtain call.

"...the hell?!"

"I'll get that damned... BOX, it doesn't matter if it's buried in iron!"

The Laughing God spat a mouthful of his own blood onto the ground, wiping his nose and lip with his hand. The portal back to Svartalfheim had already been opened, and he stepped through without pause.

"You haven't seen the last of Malekith the Accursed!"

And with that, the night returned to its usual state of affairs as the darkness of Svartalfheim faded into obscurity.

"...the hell?!" the Spider mumbled as he gingerly lifted himself up before rubbing his neck. Shot. He got away. Damn it.

That's gonna leave a bruise. And are those...?

Sirens. The police were gonna be here any minute. Not surprising, considering all that had transpired here.

"Craaap."

The Spider turned his attention to the flamehead.

"Listen, Matchstick. I'll take the heat. Pun intended. You get out of here as inconspicuously as possible. Don't cause a scene and try not to break or burn anything. I'll distract the boys in blue. Just make sure to keep an eye on this place in case that "Malekith" guy comes back," Connor spoke with authority. This clearly wasn't up for debate.

Turning his back to the cyclist, the Spider would wait until Matchstick's back was turned before firing a small, light yet adhesive GPS tracker at the rim of the back of his jacket. It would help the arachnid keep tabs on the anonymous entity. Connor didn't need some anti-hero running around with no one watching over him, especially in his city. Sifting through his pockets, Connor found a small notecard and a pen. Scribbling down a few short sentences, he webbed it to a wall where it could seen and found easily.

Someone tried to break in. A (dark?) elf. Called himself Malekith the Accursed. Tried to steal your big, glowy box in the basement.

Might want to beef up security. Sorry about your home.

P.S. To the police reading this, make sure this gets to the owner.

- From Your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Guy

The Spider stretched out his fingers, cracking them before he faced his not-so-adoring fans, stepping out the destroyed and still smoldering doorway.

"'Sup, guys."

Um, sorry. Couldn't get this out sooner due to personal problems. Hope it's all good with you all and I hope you both enjoy it. =)

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#12570 Posted by ParagonxXx (5001 posts) - - Show Bio
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#12571 Posted by Grimmwald (3429 posts) - - Show Bio

@rosso:

"Sabotaging. But...why? What exactly are you after, Sir Grimm?"

No Caption Provided

Lurking in the black heart of a shadow, the Horned Saint slithered from end to end, his soundless footsteps dragging him through the darkness - and his ears catching Valentina's words. Her voice hung in the air, in wait of an answer, of confirmation that he was there, that her recent streak of misfortune was no coincidence but the doing of the devil. Instead, nothing but silence floated in the air. An unnatural stillness that raised the hairs on the back of one's neck. So Kellan stalked the shadows, his silence there to plant doubt in Valentina's mind. What if this is all in her head? Her mind playing tricks on her? Going crazy trying to add meaning and malevolence to a string of random events?

Watching the soft glow from her computer screen stroke her face, Kellan waited. Gloved fingers wrapped round a flash drive, ruby eyes gazing upon her laptop with devilish intent, the Horned Saint hung in the darkness - in the shadow world - with a predator's patience. For in his flash drive was a virus, one whose purpose was to end Valentina's interest in the Assassination Market. It would infect her system and she wouldn't know. There'd be no popups, no IP connection, no redirects. No files would be deleted, no information stolen, no emails breached. But slowly, imperceptibly so, the brightness of her screen would dim and dim till she was unconsciously squinting to read her emails and hit lists then - for a split second - a shock image would flash. Of her. Someone else. Something else. Something disturbing, scary. Perhaps biblical, perhaps geared to her beliefs.

But the image, shocking, disturbing and traumatizing, would flash, for half a second - then vanish. Minutes would pass and no trace of what'd happened'd remain. A week after, when she'd forgotten about it, when her mind is at ease, it would happen again. Each image more shocking, more traumatizing than the last. Eventually, slowly, fear and a total loss of mental security would creep into Valentina's heart, leaving her afraid of her own computer. Too afraid to use it for too long. Afraid enough to make excuses not to use her computer, check her emails, the Assassination Market. Perhaps, she could re-flash her computer? But oh to do so she'd have to move her files - use her computer - something she'd too traumatized for. A new computer then? Another system for the Horned Saint's flash drive to plug into.

So he waited in the shadows, watching for Valentina to type in her passwords and eventually fall asleep as he stood there ready to let loose something insidious on Valentina's heart and mind. It was cruel and tortuous. But it was necessary. She would take no more lives.

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#12572 Posted by Rosso (5544 posts) - - Show Bio

@grimmwald:

Valentina bolted upright, inadvertently tossing the covers from her upper body. It was cold. She shuddered, squeezing her shoulders tightly, and looked at the clock. 𝟺:𝟸𝟿 𝙰𝙼. Just four hours. Weary hands rubbed her eyes and she scanned the room...Silence. She fell back onto the bed. He was watching her, definitely. He had to be. Maybe not always--not all her jobs sense then had been as hard. But enough. She was even sure she could draw him out, but the method flew in the face of her entire thought process.

Not much time had passed. Better to wait til morning. If nothing else the likelihood would be higher then. But anxiety could be a powerful motivator. Vigilantes are most active at night, she rationalized it to herself. And, tossing the spread aside, Valentina pushed herself to her feet and traipsed over to the personal computer.

Aah! She raised her hand to shield herself from its blinding light, averting her eyes until they'd had time to adjust.

<Not a single report all night? Well...Learning more from his absence than from seeing the victims. Thinks he's smart but no one's a perfect shadow. Not even you.> She sighed, exaggerated and theatrical, and leaned back."Maybe I'll"

—!!

<What was that!?>

She whipped around. Looked back at the screen, then the room around her. The taunt died on her lips and in her mind. Valentina had her confirmation. He'd been there and she slept right through it. Suddenly the wound ached even more than before.

For the rest of the night she slept with all the lights on.

By the third, she'd moved hotels five times.

By the ninth she'd gone 3 for 7 on jobs, and all but two in the face of inexplicable complications. She had little to no contact with anyone she trusted and hadn't touched the Market in any capacity, taking jobs through more "primitive" means. Though isolation was painful, she couldn't risk any of her truly valuable contacts nor risk outing herself as a marked woman.

On the night of day twelve Valentina wiped her hard drive, reset the laptop to its factory default, and sent the thing up in a trash fire. Then she trudged back to that night's residence and fell back onto the bed.

"Okay. I give up," she said, a portrait of exasperation. Her arms flailed once and fell back down. "I'm done fighting you. Just come out and talk to me. Tell me what you want. If this is about that night I can give you my word I won't come after you anymore. Just...you can't keep tormenting me forever. You have to give me something."

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#12573 Posted by Somebody_ (393 posts) - - Show Bio
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#12574 Posted by BlhazeRider (51 posts) - - Show Bio

@somebody_: @cursedmalekith

No Caption Provided

It almost worked, Malekith had almost been defeated. The Blaze Rider moves to use his Penance Stare on him, but the Elf still managed to still escape. A fiery blaze erupts from his head, even larger than before, and his hands as he screams with unholy frustration as a sinner goes unpunished.

Then he hears a voice speaking to him from the arachnid themed hero:

"Listen, Matchstick. I'll take the heat. Pun intended. You get out of here as inconspicuously as possible. Don't cause a scene and try not to break or burn anything. I'll distract the boys in blue. Just make sure to keep an eye on this place in case that "Malekith" guy comes back," Connor spoke with authority. This clearly wasn't up for debate.

The Blaze Rider stares at the web head with hot anger, but it's not directed at him. Even if the Brimstone Avenger wants to argue the point, his work here is done and he has no reason to stay any longer. And he truly doesn't care if web slinger takes the heat for this. The fact the boy was more than willing to take the blame only meant that the Blaze Rider can get to other business. Justice calls, sinners need punishing and the Blaze Rider will answer that call.

The Blaze Rider walks over to his bike, righting it and getting on. Despite the thing having a terrible accident, it didn't appear to be the least bit damaged. The Blaze Rider looks at the spider man, seeing inside the boy's soul. This one is not guilty. With a roar of the bike's engine, Blaze Rider takes off for parts unknown.

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#12575 Posted by Sarah_and_Lara (236 posts) - - Show Bio

@somebody_:

No Caption Provided

By the time the police arrive and surrounded the Sensational Spider, Lara steps out of the shadows since she had seen the whole thing on camera. She almost stepped in as Thunderstorm but decided to watch instead since the heroes seemed to have things well in hand and she was right.

Lara sees the note attached to the wall and quickly reads it. She will definitely update security after this. But then she sees that web head raising his arms to the police who just arrived. She quickly glances at the mess the heroes made and blood on the carpet. She sigh's a bit, but it's nothing she cannot fix with a little money and hired help.

Lara Jones refuses to let the web slinger take the fall for this. Not on her watch. He's not the villain here. She snatches the note off the wall and tucks it in her pocket and then steps in behind the web head and then towards the police. When Lara speaks, she does so with British accent, "Please don't arrest this man, he's a hero. And if you don't believe me, I have proof since my security cameras recorded that he protected my home from a robber who tried to steal something from me."

Lara knows she doesn't have to do this, but she wants to. She winks over at the web head and one side of her mouth turns up into a smile as she whispers to him, "Your not getting bad press this time, I'm afraid. Your a hero in my book and I appreciate what you did here. Thank you."

The police, of course, question Lara and she shows them the security feed of the Sensational Spider and Blaze Rider preventing an Elf from stealing a box. Lara remains vague on what the box is, just saying it held valuable jewelry and stuff. The police buy the lie, trying to take a statement from the web head if he's still around. Either way, Lara manages to prevent the web head from taking the heat for this. The police then ask about the man with the flaming skull. All of the video feeds are blurry when it comes to him and Lara explains she has no idea who he is, but she has heard of the urban legend of the Blaze Rider. Some of the police officers show fear, apparently having heard the horror stories too.

When the police are finally satisfied and go home, Lara calls a construction worker to offer him a job.

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#12576 Posted by Grimmwald (3429 posts) - - Show Bio

@rosso:

He followed her, the Horned Saint. He always followed her. Always lurked in her shadow, stalking her, preying on her mind, taunting her with a grin she couldn't yet see. It was predatory. Cruel even. Malevolence in the name of justice, done to break the mind of a killer so that she would kill no more. I do what most heroes don't have the courage to. I make the tough choices, Kellan always told himself, the echo of his thoughts there to keep him tethered to his goodness instead of allowing him to slip back to the cold-blooded predator the Strigidae'd raised him as. It might not always be right, but it's always necessary. So long as I don't lose myself... forget who I am. Kellan... I'm Kellan. Not Grimmwald.

Arms folded before his chest, face changed, Kellan hung in the black embrace of the lamp's shadow. Valentina's words rang clear, floating to his ears as his eyes, hidden from sight, met hers. She looked tired. Of all of this. Sleep would not help, not when her every waking moment would be with him there. Always there.

"Just...you can't keep tormenting me forever. You have to give me something"

Something... the word sank into his mind - and the Horned Saint stepped out the shadow a woman. Hair long and dark, like curtains draping over shoulders. Eyes large, hazel and mystifying. Lips full and rosy. Face symmetrical - too symmetrical - and body muscled and athletic. It was him. But he would never admit it. He would never tell her. Never give her security, reveal that it was him, even if she knew. So he stood there, confirming only that someone was there, tormenting her. He'd given her something. Stepping forward, strides slow and panther-like, the Horned Saint walked to a chair left some feet from the bed - and sat. One leg folded over the other, eyes on Valentina's, Kellan tilted his head an inch to the side, face still void of any expression, as though he were considering her, her words, something.

"I've watched you for some time", he said, a woman's voice flowing out a woman's mouth, raspy and smooth. "You're quite good at this. You're given a name, an added bit of information here and there, and you find your prey, then pounce like a predator. Quick kills. Talent. A lot of talent. With the potential for a lot of good or a lot of evil. Perhaps something in between. Whatever pays best, correct?". A smile. Small but there.

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#12577 Edited by Rosso (5544 posts) - - Show Bio

@grimmwald:

The theatrical display of an entrance was largely lost on Valentina, who lay, unmoving, on the bed for several moments. Eyes resting, half-closed, on the ceiling, her chest rose and fell. She was aware of the thing, just...not yet ready or willing to dignify its presence. Non-reactive, aware but utterly defenseless, she was no predator. Potential prey, almost...offering itself up, neck exposed, a gesture of submission.

Then it spoke. Valentina sat up. Looked over the girl who'd come from nowhere, eyes curious and scanning. A messenger? Or some kind of thrall? Or, among his myriad abilities which included teleportation and some kind of heightened sensory awareness, shapeshifting. It didn't change a thing. One way or another, Rosso the Crimson had no doubt her words would reach Grimmwald.

In spite of her situation it was hard not to smile, to naturally take pride in the work of one's hand. It was good work, and she knew it. But she didn't respond, not directly. She didn't care or where Grimmwald or his lackeys cared to take the matter. Or, indirectly, a means of taking back control, Valentina started her own conversation.

"It would seem you've got me at a disadvantage, true. But I know about you too. I know you accessed my computer, so I know you read Japanese. Tech savvy, or at least you've got friends. But who would want to be friends with the Devil? What kind of person is that?" She squinted, leaning forward and staring into the woman's eyes. Watching for any reaction at all as she spoke. "Some kind of ethereal creature? A 'family' of sorts? Mind control?"

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#12578 Posted by Grimmwald (3429 posts) - - Show Bio

@rosso:

Nodding, smiling, grinning, Kellan maintained the facade, kept wearing the woman's skin, hair and eyes, kept speaking in her voice - even moving as she used to during her life. "Oh", the Horned Saint paused, one hand covering the woman's chuckling mouth, "I see. I didn't introduce myself. Told you nothing about myself but asked a lot about you. That was rude. Am I being rude?", Kellan asked, feigning sincerity as though it were true and his own. "We should play a game. Seeing as how we both have questions", and there came the smile as rosy lips pulled back and curled wide and beautiful. "We take turns. Ask each other questions. And we answer. But one rule. No answering a question with another question".

"So", the Horned Saint began, standing and striding closer with a predatory gleam in the eyes till he was no longer walking but sitting, cross-legged on Valentina's bed. "Let's begin! But since you're being a good host, letting me sit here and talking... you can go first. I'll answer. I promise".

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#12579 Posted by Rosso (5544 posts) - - Show Bio

@grimmwald: Even as the puppet veered too close - Too close! - and took a position beside her, Valentina refused to cede ground. She watched, glaring and guarded, like a wolf gauging a rival, and when Valentina spoke she looked into the woman's eyes not as though speaking to another person; but as though she were gazing into the lens of a camera.

She started, simply, "Is Grimmwald watching me now?"

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#12580 Posted by Somebody_ (393 posts) - - Show Bio

@sarah_and_lara:

Quickly wrapping things up.

Sup, guys.”

Please don’t shoot me.

No smiles or smirks emerged from the boys and girls in blue from his little jab at humor. Officers’ sidearms were aimed at the web-slinger from behind their squad cars, boxing the Spider from all sides. They had set up a quick perimeter around the house, such was protocol when dealing with an unknown meta-human within a confined space or building. With the limited information they knew, they had to be cautious. Imagine their surprise when they saw that it was the vigilante or hero, depending on what light you saw the web-head in, the Spider walking out the doors. Witnesses’ reports had aforementioned that the Spider had entered the house and afterwards that an energy blast had ripped through the roof of the building. Without any clear answers as to what happened, they had to discover the cause of the disturbance and gather any and all information, doing only what they were trained to do.

Place the arachnid under arrest. To them, he was neither a hero or a villain. Just an unknown variable.

But before anyone could say or do anything, another variable entered the fray.

"Please don't arrest this man, he's a hero. And if you don't believe me, I have proof since my security cameras recorded that he protected my home from a robber who tried to steal something from me."

A woman.

And apparently she was the owner of the (previously) fine establishment.

There is a God.

She winks over at the web head and one side of her mouth turns up into a smile as she whispers to him, "Your not getting bad press this time, I'm afraid. Your a hero in my book and I appreciate what you did here. Thank you."

Um, are you off your meds? I'm part of the reason your home is totaled.

Incredulous would be one word to describe how he felt with his lenses widening a fraction to give off some semblance of his emotion.

"Um, you're welcome?" he quickly whispered back, turning his attention now to the officers asking him several questions. Connor gave any information he could before making his leave.

But something nagged the back of his head. She lied about the box. His sixth sense gave him a knack for seeing through deception.

Sifting through the Internet via phone while packing up, Connor made sure to remind himself to pay her a visit.

After he had gained as much information as he could about her.

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#12581 Posted by CaptainNova (31 posts) - - Show Bio

“When you leave New York, you are astonished at how clean the rest of the world is. Clean is not enough." Fran Lebowitz

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#12582 Edited by Grimmwald (3429 posts) - - Show Bio

@rosso:

Like a predator looking to pounce, the Horned Saint recognized the tension sitting on Valentina's shoulders, the tightness of her posture - and smiled a smile as harmless as it was cruel. Hands rested atop his thighs, Kellan breathed in, then out, naturally, as though the skin and hair - the body - he wore was his. Valentina's question floated to his ears, their eyes met, and Kellan answered. "I'm watching you", he said, but then who was he? The woman whose skin he was living in? Or the Strigidae antihero? In that very moment, he was both. He had to be. To play his role but never allow himself to forget why he was doing so. Because Valentina was dangerous, driven, and well-connected. If left unchecked, unshackled, un-tortured, she'd grow worse, kill more, do worse.

"My turn", his smile widened, eyes never once breaking from Valentina's. "What is your dream?". A simple question. But one that could unveil something. Anything.

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#12583 Edited by Rosso (5544 posts) - - Show Bio

@grimmwald:

Inside the response irritated her but Valentina didn't show it. As mildly annoying as it was, it was also informative. She would allow this...puppet-person, Grimmwald or not, to both set the rule and the informal norms of the game. Valentina thought awhile, but gave no consideration toward the question she'd been asked.

"Non sequitur. Afraid I have to call you on that one. If I'll commit to playing your game, you cannot avoid committing to an answer. So we'll agree on one more rule. Equivocation of the kind you just invoked is not allowed. I ask you a question, you answer the question. I ask you, 'is Grimmwald watching me,' it's a yes or no question. Answer it - properly - or the game shall not continue. Once you do, I will be happy to answer yours."

Then she stood and took a seat opposite her guest, leaned back and kicked her bare feet upon the bed. Now she was finding her comfort zone.

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#12584 Posted by Grimmwald (3429 posts) - - Show Bio

@rosso:

Like whistle of a wind, Valentina's words - her demands - floated. They glided to the Horned Saint's ears, and as he sat there, on her bed, as himself but not himself, his face fell blank. No reaction. Only nothing. And he sat there, with pale fingers of moonlight reaching through the window to stroke a face void of any and all expression. "Control", the Horned Saint smiled, like a corpse brought back from the dead. "You wish to reestablish control. Natural, it's natural. A stranger comes in, touches your computer, there was no control. Okay. Here", he said, eyes more intent now, as if glued to Valentina's gaze, "You have... control. Is Grimmwald watching me, you ask. I answer. No", he lied, yet somehow told the truth. What lay beneath the woman's flesh, looking through her eyes and speaking with her voice - was Grimmwald.

But there on the bed, it was also the woman. Her body, eyes, hair, everything. They were both watching her but also not watching her. "Your dream".

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#12585 Posted by Rosso (5544 posts) - - Show Bio

@grimmwald: Valentina gazed stolidly into her eyes, unsure what to believe. It was her nature not to trust. She'd have been deceptive if not lied outright. As it were, there were only two rules, and she'd intentionally left out "no lying" as a suggestion herself (though she felt she hardly needed it - deception is much less interesting if you're not always telling the truth).

Maybe, maybe not. Either way, he'll know of this. Unless this turns ugly. Then you'll be dead.

"My 'dream?'" She giggled. "When you put it that way it sounds...I don't know, weird. It's not the kind of thing I'd usually associate with someone like myself, 'dream.' It sounds so noble.

"I've never thought of myself as having 'dreams,' that way. But!"Valentina kicked her feet down and rolled the chair so she was sitting directly adjacent with the woman, walking her hand up the length of her leg and speaking in a slow, rhythmic tease. "I, have been waiting...All. My. Life. For someone like you," prodding her chest once, "to come mess with my mind."

And again she sat back. "Why put the hit on Grimmwald, on himself?"

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#12586 Posted by Grimmwald (3429 posts) - - Show Bio

@rosso:

Nodding, understanding, the Horned Saint breathed in deep, then out deeper. "It does sound noble", he smiled, calmly, growing more at ease in the woman's skin - or feigning something. "Maybe dreams are not for you. You're a different kind. There are people who don't dream. Can't sleep, always awake, always having to look over the shoulder because you don't have anyone, but too many enemies...", his words trailed off, soft and quiet like a whisper. Meeting eyes with Valentina, the Horned Saint raised his brow as he felt her fingers crawl up his leg like cold strokes of ice. "Mess with your mind?", he asked, feigning genuine confusion, "You think I'm here to mess with your mind? Ah... a mistake".

"I'm making you better. Teaching you things. Showing you", the smile returned, hands coming to rest on his thighs, looking through the woman's hazel eyes as he held Valentina's gaze with them. "He wanted to meet you. He'd heard rumors, about you, the Assassination Market. Couldn't be sure about both, so he wanted to see. See how dangerous you are", he answered, somewhat honestly, though still choosing to leave out his attempt at evaluating, even molding, her ethical standards. "What would you like to do?", he asked, leaving the question vague and open to interpretation. A question yes, but also a set-up.

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#12587 Edited by Rosso (5544 posts) - - Show Bio

@grimmwald: "Oh yeah." Valentina smirked, nodding her head. "Processing..." Recalling. "I remember he said something about some 'website,' and now you and this 'market.' Related?—Rhetorical. Don't answer that," she said, bracing a hand lightly on the woman's thigh. "I think you both think I'm more well-connected than I am, but I'll just take it as a compliment."

"What would you like to do?"

"Right now I'd like to move past the peons," she said without a moment's hesitation or pause, "or whatever you are, and speak with the Devil himself. This game would be a lot funner with him...or Dr. Knightfall. I really enjoy her company."

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#12588 Posted by Grimmwald (3429 posts) - - Show Bio

@rosso:

No Caption Provided

"Maybe", the Horned Saint shrugged, his face and voice - the woman's - feigning a willingness to concede Valentina's point, that she was less connected than he believed her to be. "Maybe it's a way to protect yourself. No allies. Too many enemies. Can't let them know everything about you. Can't make one mistake. One slip up, things could become difficult. Smart. You're smart", he smiled, one that shrunk as he felt her hand, cold and calloused like his, on his thigh.

"Dr. Knightfall"

The name echoed in his mind, yet as thoughts of Ashley swept in, there was no discernible change in expression. No odd tic. No widened or shrunken smile. Nothing. Kellan, a Strigidae with ice water running in his veins, was a seasoned player of calmness. Instead, his role as this nameless woman held true. He sat there, on Valentina's bed, pretending to be someone he wasn't as silver strokes of moonlight glittered his eyes. "I don't know who that is", Kellan shrugged a second time, at ease and as though he truly didn't know who Ashley was. "But if you want to meet the Devil, he's not hard to find", he smiled, "At night, he's everywhere. Look for him, you'll find him. Easy. Or... I can take you to him. Now".

"Unless", Kellan smirked, lips curling with something predatory, "You want me to go and you find him alone. But even if I go, I'll be back. Tomorrow. Or not. Maybe the day after. I don't know", a third shrug, and a smile, "But I'm a part of you now". And he was learning. More. About her. And Ashley was playing her part, growing close enough to Valentina to peel her back layer by layer. Kellan would do the same. He only hoped not to lose himself the more he committed to his role in Valentina's life.

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#12589 Posted by Rosso (5544 posts) - - Show Bio

@grimmwald:

This was getting frustrating. Again. She wouldn't show it - she'd been refining her own mind and poker face with world class criminals since she was five - but the whole of the encounter felt something like swatting at gnats. She ignored the woman's assertions about her connection to the market with a shrug - Oh, well. Not my job to help you get accurate information, came the registry in the part of her mind that accepted every lie she told as objective truth.

"Sure." She smiled as she accepted the "offer." "Take me to him. Just because I'm passing you up for someone more interesting doesn't mean we can't continue to entertain with the game."

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#12590 Posted by Grimmwald (3429 posts) - - Show Bio

@rosso:

No Caption Provided

"More interesting? Than me?", the woman paused, brow wrinkled with confusion, "Than me?". Left brow raised for a second or two, the woman shrugged in mock defeat, "Oh well. To each their own. Come with me", the smile returned. Shuffling off the bed, it's wooden frame creaking long and thin from the woman's shifting weight, the Horned Saint held Valentina's gaze and stood. "Get dressed", the woman urged, "Unless you plan to meet him like that. Maybe bring weapons. There could be blood. Or not. Just a suggestion". Allowing minutes to float by, the woman met eyes with Valentina and climbed out the window, certain that Valentina would follow. "Just follow me".

Like a spider scaling a wall and leaping from dresser to dress, the woman moved, claiming rooftop after rooftop with the acrobatics of a superhuman gymnast. Flipping, twirling and cartwheeling as though boneless, the woman - finally - stopped. As the night's cold breeze swept through the rooftop, the woman turned round, dark hair flowing like a wild mess. "There", the woman said, pointing at the peak of the highest building. "Go there". With a slow step, the woman strode towards Valentina, eyes trained on hers, inviting her to get lost in the unblinking tunnels of that mystifying hazel gaze. A step closer, an inch away, the woman smiled, strode into Valentina's personal space - and walked past her. "I'll see you again. Or not. Depends on how your talk goes".

Waiting, patiently for the precise moment that Valentina'd blink, the woman'd disappear, sinking into the nearest shadow and stepping out elsewhere, in the shadows of another rooftop as Grimmwald. And there, shrouded in darkness, the Horned Saint stood as still as a statue, his ruby eyes ready to meet Valentina's and... talk. Perhaps.

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#12591 Posted by Rosso (5544 posts) - - Show Bio

@grimmwald:

And just like that, she was gone. Neat trick, thought Valentina, derisively sarcastic. By then she'd ceased to be surprised; she'd seen Grimmwald appear and reappear, dodge bullets and apparently peel the faces from others who'd hunted him. Another vanishing act - be it him or simply someone connected - was just another note to be taken.

For several moments she stood there, savoring the silence and alone. Considering the threat. "Depends on how your talk goes."That was comforting, somehow. No illusions about the rules. They'd done the dance before. She, and he. And the others. But this time, she would enter—and exit—alone.

Guess we'll see how it goes.

Rosso the Crimson raced across the rooftop and threw herself into an aerial somersault. A series of successive acrobatic leaps carried her from foothold to foothold, across windowsills and vertical walls alike til she reach the building, which she ascended with a relatively old-fashioned grappling hook. A lout POP! as it deployed, tensed, and auto-retracted, carrying Valentina to the top.

"Well then." She waved a hand before her, giving him a hostess' welcome. "Would you like to begin, or shall I? There is quite a bit I would like to say to you."

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#12592 Posted by Grimmwald (3429 posts) - - Show Bio

@rosso:

No Caption Provided

Arms crossing over his chest, the Horned Saint stepped out the rooftop's blanket of darkness. Shadows dancing over his face, lips pulling back into a smile so subtle it was barely there, Kellan met eyes with the woman he'd made his prey; Valentina. Body still as if turned to stone, eyes as unblinking as they were red, Kellan caught her wave and words. "You came to me", he rasped, voice deep and striking, "Feel free to begin". Indeed he imagined she had much to say to him. A lot of venom to spit, frustration to pour out, curses to scream, accusations to make. He was curious. He'd terrorized Valentina just as he breathed air - with nay a thought. Every attack on her sense of security, every prod at her sanity, it drew something gluttonous out his heart. A hunger.

And while Ashley nurtured his capacity for good, Valentina - through no conscious effort of her own - reminded him of the predatory thrill from the worst side of him. A side he'd hoped could have been left dead and forgotten like his Strigidae days. But as he held her gaze, he wondered. Would she lose control? Give herself to the cocktail of emotions he'd stirred in her heart and mind, or thought he had? Would she question him? Ask why he was doing what he was doing? After all, the Horned Saint would never tell her the truth. Would he? As his gaze raked her up and down, searching for signs of fatigue, for messy hair and bags under her eyes... it didn't matter.

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#12593 Edited by Rosso (5544 posts) - - Show Bio

@grimmwald:

"'Ladies first.' A gentleman," she said with a smile and slight bow. It'd probably been her most genuine expression all night. The exasperation was all real, true; but now it would begin to pay off, as meticulous planning throughout her ordeal would ensure. The fly caught in the widow's web, and he didn't even know it. She bowed, for some genuine respect in the fact he'd earned her fear. He and one other, just the two of them, drastically changed her views on vigilantes since smuggling into the United States of America. And she smiled, for their positions had been reversed. She, the overconfident assassin hunting "easy prey" in a "hero," had become his prey, falling unwittingly into his trap. And now he, in his perceived superiority, had fallen for hers.

Still, she'd be careful not to fall for the same trick twice. She'd check her ego, and she wouldn't underestimate him. As ever, her life depended on it.

"I have to give you credit, sir. For many things. You have no idea how much I've thought about you since that night. How much I've tried to get in touch with you, only to have you slip right by me...and all I wanted to do was talk." The assassin began to saunter about, carrying on casually, as though catching up with an old friend - though the furthest she'd let him out of sight was the very edge just before her visual periphery.

"You nearly killed me." Her hand brushed over her stomach where she'd been nearly eviscerated. "Except for some quick thinking and the generosity of a very nice doctor, I would have died. Now, I've not lived for very long, but I've been alive long enough that most people my age have had many visits to medical facility. This was my first. At least that I can recall. Possibly ever. And I've seen the reports on the others hunting you that night. Gruesome stuff. I begin to wonder why I've not become like the rest of them. Not that night, nor any night after."

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#12594 Posted by Grimmwald (3429 posts) - - Show Bio

@rosso:

No Caption Provided

Catching her smile and following her bow, Kellan stood motionless as the tension hung in the air between them. Hugged by the dark arms of the shadows around him, the Horned Saint lifted his chin, and watched Valentina's fingers stroke the gut he'd butchered many nights ago. As she went on, her words floating to his ears, her hair caught by a gust of wind and dancing in the air like a flame, Kellan said nothing. Mute and with unmoving features of stone for a face. He knew of Ashley's role in saving Valentina's life, and of her role as the assassin's mentor. A role Kellan had given her in his quest to peel Valentina back layer by layer. Calmly leaning his back against the cold concrete of a wall, the Horned Saint's eyes held Valentina's with a gaze as red as blood.

The fading echo of her voice lingered in the air, and her question stirred in his mind. While his dermal senses stalked the air for nearby listeners, recording devices on Valentina's person - anything she could use to study him - Kellan toyed with her curiosity in silence. Why had she survived? Why had he allowed her to? Did he see a glimmer of hope in her broken soul? Was she redeemable in the way he believed himself to be? Could she be saved? Or had something else awakened in him? Something that was evaluating her, prodding her fortitude, mental and physical, and testing her skill. For what? No one knew. None but he. He had her answer. But as he glanced at the healed flesh of her gut, he wondered if she even deserved to know. It was... early. "And you nearly killed me", he answered, voice flowing out his throat cold and low, lips teasing a smirk that never came.

"You wonder. Thought about me. Thought about your situation". Those who'd accompanied her the night her bullet'd burrowed into his leg... were not so fortunate. Alive, yes. But crippled. Paralyzed. Faceless. They were not dead, but they wished they were. "What does your gut tell you?", he asked, fighting the low chuckle from escaping him, "No pun intended". He could just tell her why, unravel the mystery behind his interest in her. But where was the fun in that? It seemed Kellan, like all flawed predators, played with his food before eating.

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#12595 Posted by Rosso (5544 posts) - - Show Bio

@grimmwald:

As ever, Rosso the Crimson was armed with many weapons and devices. To record him? Nothing overt, nothing extremely noticeable. He would hear no buzzing, no microphones or playback indicators. As far as she'd been concerned preliminary study had concluded, and all she'd needed was her mind. "The Devil's a funny man." She nodded in faux-appreciation of his joke. He wasn't. It wasn't even clever.

"Well we'll get to that. But first, I've been wondering about a few more things." Valentina stopped pacing and took several steps toward Grimmwald.

"You hurt me bad. But as we both recall, I also did a number on you. You're not dead, so what happened?" Her arms parted in a questioning gesture. "Who treated you? I'm thinking you must have gifted friends in the medical field as well. Wouldn't it be funny if we had the same doctor? The two of us, gone to the same person to be patched up for the injuries that we gave one another? Doctor Knightfall is such a gracious host. A real saint. A miracle-worker!

"But that was just an emergency for me. I heard through the great vine that you two are closer than that." She remained loosely on-guard, just in case he decided to lash out, but felt mostly confident that he would not. His entire game til now was predicated upon extreme emotional control. And if he was anything like most veterans of the game, he'd conceal it most when it meant the most to him.

"I think...when the doctor saw you, she must have wondered what happened. Does she know what you do? Does she know it was you who tried to kill me? That it was I who tried to kill you? That might make both of our next visits a little awkward."

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#12597 Posted by Rosso (5544 posts) - - Show Bio
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#12598 Edited by Grimmwald (3429 posts) - - Show Bio

@rosso:

"The Devil's a funny man"

"And you're just brown-nosing", Kellan taunted, mouth curled into a smirk of mock gratitude. Red eyes trailing her every step, studying the pace of her stride, the Horned Saint gazed upon her legs like a predator ready to sink into her rear thigh. And as he watched her, he listened, catching each word that flowed out a throat every instinct told him to wrap his hand around and choke. Ashley. Of course she mentions Ashley, he thought, face as cool as ice as Valentina's voice floated to his ears. Lifting his eyes from her legs, Kellan met Valentina's eyes - ruby to emerald - and answered her questions as though they were about colors and not the woman he so deeply cares for.

"Does she know what you do? Does she know it was you who tried to kill me? That it was I who tried to kill you?"

No Caption Provided

"No, no and no", he said simply, amusement creeping up his spine as the shadows danced over his face and smirked for him. "Or... yes, yes and yes? Perhaps, no, yes and no? Another combination?", he shrugged, feigning ignorance. Ashley knew about their battle. She knew most of the extremes he went to, had gone to. Most - but not all. But something in his heart had blackened after falling during the Shadow Knights' battle with Alpha Dog. He'd changed and had begun a journey to complete a needed transformation if he was to spend the rest of his days terrorizing evil, criminals, and the morally questionable. He would be their lack of a conscience, their karma closing in with each breath, and the nightmare they woke up still in. He wouldn't kill. But only because it'd be merciful. "But I understand why you're curious. You want to see what'll happen if you tell her that I peel the faces from the skulls of murderers, terrorists and so on".

"That I torture their minds and bodies. That they live out the rest of their days without their eyes, faces, some even without the ability to walk or move below the neck because of me", he paused, eerily calm about it all. "So go ahead. Tell her", he shrugged, then smiled, "Or would you like me to record a confession for you to take to her or anyone else you have in mind?", he asked, almost sincere as his head tilted an inch to the side. It wouldn't stop him. Ashley was a woman like no other. He treasured her. Adored her. Respected her. Looked up to her. And loved her. But he would do almost everything in his power to control, mitigate and punish the criminal and super-villain element, regardless of what his friends and loved ones thought of it - and him for doing so. Even Tessa. Even Richard. And even Ashley. Holding Valentina's gaze, the Horned Saint's smirk held. She didn't know him. Who he was. What he was capable of.

I've been a longer my entire life. I love Ashley, Richard, and Tessa. But if they turn their backs on me, then funk it, he thought. I came into this world alone, I'm down to go out of it alone too. "So", he paused, "You wanna know why I didn't take your face or paralyze you from the neck down... well, you seem to know a lot about me", he taunted, "Why don't you guess?".

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#12599 Edited by Rosso (5544 posts) - - Show Bio

@grimmwald:

"Because, Grimmwald, I don't need to guess. Filling in a few details here and there, but I know all the important parts."

She took one step closer.

"I know the doctor knows, because she showed me."

Then another.

"Not intentionally, but it's not her fault. Bleeding hearts don't cover it up so well as the others..."

And another.

"...like us."

She stood there, less than a meter from him, heart pounding a paradiddle. But in her face...exhilaration. She bore all the excitement, the confidence and fear of certainty. The truth was to be feared. But Grimmwald was not the first man to make her feel fear, and he would not be the last. In closeness Valentina had effectively amplified his advantage but now shared a similar enjoyment as he did herself. "Here's what I think.

"First, I think you were intrigued by me. Maybe...'Why is she so young?' I get that a lot. Or I thought, maybe you were infatuated. Not uncommon, wholly plausible. But no. Infatuation's to petty for someone like you. Not when you've got a perfect lover in Doctor Knightfall—and I do mean that honestly," she said with a smile, hands raised. "But in me you found...novelty. Wonder. A break from monotony. And more.'Why does a girl like her do this?' It was an accident, at first. Or, pardon my English, maybe not the right word. Not accident. You were...surprised, to see the praying, destitute scavenger from Black House when you entered that building."

There was a hint of mockery in her voice. Of him, of the situation, even her own performance in the introductory act. His appearance was unexpected, then. The act, hasty and crude, compared to her usual work. It was a surprise he'd left her without further prodding but at the time she assumed it the simple naivete of one she'd assumed to be a hero.

"Oh, I had you pegged the first time. You're just as bad as I am. No, worse. I go where the money is but at least I'm honest.You let me go, when you could have done otherwise. You allowed the doctor to continue treating meand I know she was aware - at the latest - three days into my treatment. She wouldn't turn me away because she's a good woman, if such a thing really exists. She wouldn't dump me in the streets to die. But you could've taken the burden off of her shoulders. You could have captured or killed me the instant you found out. Laid up in a bed, none of my gear, hardly able to move, I couldn't put up a fight. We both see the truth, but...so much easier to justify, no?

"Killing me would have been a waste. Because, Grimmwald, you are interested, and you are selfish. You must have considered the ramifications of letting me go. That while you run around, pretending to be a hero, cleaning the streets of misfortune, I make a living on death and pick the innocent from my teeth. You knew that I would go on killing...

"And you let me go anyway."

She stood in his face, chest to chest now, wearing a full Cheshire grin.

"Because you and I, we're one and the same. Sick. Deranged. Predators. Because I'm not like the other enemies you encounter, because I interest you, and because You. Love. The chase. Because if you killed me in that bed then the chase would be over. And that, to you, is more important than the innocent lives I may endanger while I breathe and walk freely."

Just as it had appeared, suddenly her smirk faded, as though some disturbing thought occurred to her, and mingled her sadistic pleasure with derision. Valentina fell back in several slow steps.

"And you corrupted her too. She's not a worse person, not in action or mind. She's no different than she was before. But you clouded her mind. Doctor Knightfall could've treated me, kept me in my bindings and locked me away once I'd been healed. But you convinced her to let me go. So you could keep on chasing. Love. The only thing that'd make a righteous woman like her turn a killer back on the street—and, thanks to her treatment, helped that killer get back on her feet so much faster."

Arms extended at her sides, her eyes—her entire being beckoned. Well...?

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#12600 Posted by Grimmwald (3429 posts) - - Show Bio

@rosso:

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Arms still crossed over his chest, back still leaning against the cold concrete of a wall, the Horned Saint listened, his ears catching Valentina's every word, every subtle shift in inflection - while his eyes, red pits of mystique, held hers. "Heh", he smiled, a low rasp of laughter flowing out his throat, "Hero... pretending to be a hero. See, that's where you're wrong, Red. We're closer now, Red's good", Kellan taunted, the shadows - at his feet, on the wall, everywhere - slowly wrapping round him and turning his clothing black, "Or perhaps you're confused. It's normal. Most people don't know, they just assume", he shrugged, amusement curling the corner of his mouth into a smirk. "Hero. Pretending... nah. That's not me. It's never been me. I'm an avenger", he said, striding forward as she strode backward.

Each forward step matching her retreating ones, Kellan - the Black Mirror - continued, "I set out to punish and torture. To do what heroes just don't have the balls for. The nerve for. What they have too much good for", his smirk held, arms coming to rest at his sides as the moon's lurid glow draped over him. "Why? Not for the money - obviously", he almost laughed, his footsteps silent, his movements eerily perfect like a predator made of water stalking it's prey. "But because I'm good at this. And because I like it. I suppose that's a little selfish. But isn't everything we do selfish? You kill for the money. People pray so they won't go to whichever punishing afterlife they believe in. Others do good deeds because it makes them feel good about themselves... maybe even shapes the world around them. You and I aren't different because people aren't that different. At least in my opinion"

"Course, I could be wrong. I mean, my first impression of you was of a damn street rat. And yet here you are, confident and psycho-analyzing me", he laughed, low and cool and amused. "But seems you're wrong too. Or at the very least, you're only half-right on why I didn't capture you or whatever". Kill? I don't kill, he thought, It's too easy. Too kind. Doesn't change anything. Slowing his steps, the Black Mirror rolled his neck, "Or maybe you know why and you just didn't say so to make me think you don't know. It'd be smart after all. Like a fighter tricking their opponent by making their opponent think they've timed them. In any case, we're in this for long haul, Red", he said, turning and giving his back to her as his eyes swept through the dark streets below.

"Or at least I am. Who knows... you might die tomorrow", he trailed off... dermal senses zeroed in on her for even the subtlest of movements. "But if you're right about me being so into this game of cat and mouse with you... your chances of survival go up. Because I'll be there, watching you, making sure nothing happens to my favorite little mouse. Or not. But if you believe we're so similar, then let's strike a deal". What deal? He wouldn't say. Not yet. After all, why waste his breath? He needed her interest first. Let's see what that answer's gonna be...