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


Out of the eaves of the forest, the shadows only lengthen. Deeper through the unending dark of Helheim, further than even Hela knows, the graves of the departed are emptying - the overflowing dread encompasses the void. It goes here. It breathes here.

The Faceless One.

No Caption Provided

Malekith followed the strained path through the forest, though at times it seemed as slender as the fingers grasping at his ankles. They were crying for something, for mercy perhaps? But the King of Svartalfheim would be the last to grant it, scorching away their advances with a sneer and a sly malice building underneath his skin.

The air seemed colder, shorter. He found it appealing. Just like home. His magic worked here in tandem with the shroud of dark permeating the entire realm. A faint smile crept to his face each time the tips of his fingers unleashed a torrent of it, and a wider one still as it burned into the very souls of those who were trapped here. In all of reality, a place such as this just seemed entertaining to him. In his twisted mind, he could see himself living here quite happily.

But then the Beast crept upon him.

The treeline dissolved into a clearing. Malekith tilted his head in a curious manner, the observations gleaned from the display making him all the more attracted to dealing with the creature presented before him. Much to the chagrin of the haunted who have yet to be turned into prey, the Laughing God placed his hands together - and began the music of applause. It shook the silence free of its boughs of terror, and plunged them into the wider depths of complete lunacy. At length, Malekith even elected a cackle or two.

"You want to eat me, don't you?" his eyes returned the coal-black stare, and he dared to move forward - closer to the 'stag'. It drew itself as a monstrous beast, rising higher and higher, until its broken maw was on-level with the Dark Elf, face-to-face. Malekith held no fear, but rather a morbid curiosity.

He swept aside some of the drool with a thumb, evaporating it in a sizzling display of his powerful magic. His fanged teeth would expose themselves further; perhaps this tantalized Ezra even more, this closeness and expression of sorcery.

"I have come to bargain with you, Horned God," he inched closer. "Or, perhaps, you knew that already?"

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#52 Posted by Imperium (75 posts) - - Show Bio


Imperium stumbled cryptically towards the structure as he hoped it would be more than suitable. As he go closer, he could sense the presence of another being within, it seemed to be not quite supernatural, but quite human either. As he pushed the doors of the large castle apart with his maighty arms, he immediately saw something scurry into a dark corner where it believed that its wouldn't be seen.

The Soulless One wondered if the his own presence was recognized by now, while he was deathly quite, the sound of him opening the doors was not. Before the door swung closed, a ghostly chill flowed through the room and filled the air. The place was filled with small monuements showed how people once lived their. But based on the content of the items, they were all dead several times over.

He started to through as long series of halls that didn't seem to have been used on decades. Like everything else in the castle, the floor boards wre partially broken and falling apart. He went down a dark corridor leading to another room. Knew that if there would be anything worth while in this place, it would be there. He finally got to the of the hall and with one great shove, the doors swung open.

There he saw before him a man with sitting in the centre of the room. "Hello.", croaked his deep but groggy voice.

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#53 Posted by Musa_Bashir (1003 posts) - - Show Bio

@fraga said:


The Grim Pasture

The land was dead, a graveyard where only black trees grew and veins of trapped souls ran like jagged roots in the dry ground. Through the mist of gloom and dread, Fraga - the Warden of Saamas - walked with a woman draped lifelessly over his arms. Walking past the trees, his stride smooth and panther-like, Fraga's eyes swept through the wasteland of ancient burial chambers, mausoleums and crumbling chapels. There was a castle, old and waning, in the distance. Vincent awaited him. Glancing down at the woman in his arms, the Warden of Saamas looked on ahead, to the dead and crooked trees that surrounded them, to the wailing faces carved into their black bark. "They're empty", he sighed with a tired roll of his eyes and frustration brewing in his heart. "He must have pillaged the souls imprisoned inside the trees. Including hers", he paused, his gaze returned to the woman he carried.

No Caption Provided

She was beautiful. Hair long and light like a waterfall of liquid gold. Skin soft and without blemish. But her eyes were without color, without warmth. The Mad Strix had consumed her soul. Black cloak flowing with the cold wind, his hood and fur collar rustling while his armored shoulder plates caught the purple glare of the lightning crackling overhead, Fraga strode into the castle. Walking through it's grey hallways that smelled of dust and corpses, the Beast of Blackpool soon arrived at it's center; a forgotten throne room. There, his eyes found Vincent seated. "Charming", Fraga greeted, the curl of his lips suave, and his eyes mystifying. "Though I can't say the same for the lance you drove into my side", he reminded, face almost twitching in anger - yet his smile held. "A mistake I know. My fa.... Ezra toyed with our minds. Just as he now toys with the souls of the people here", Fraga scowled, eyes dropping to the woman in his arms. "She's not dead, but her soul is gone. Eaten by Ezra. She's an inert husk. Alive yes, but no longer a person".

Stroking her face, his gloved fingers grazing her skin, Fraga lay her on the floor, "Cold", his head shook before he stepped over her body. "Ezra has the soul lavaliere. One of six very powerful cosmic artifacts. His grants him dominion over souls. None of us are safe while he has it. Least of all your friend, Abigail. She, along with Musa, are not safe. Not that they were before".

Ooooh sh!t

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#54 Posted by Ezra_Strix (581 posts) - - Show Bio


"You want to eat me, don't you?"

No answer. The silence hung thick in air deader than the Horned God's eyeless stare. Drooling, head hanging deep in the pit of the stag's black throat, Ezra was motionless, his face vacant - his intentions unclear. The silence held, and something maddening crept into the air, an uneasiness that ran cold down the spines of those who hung too close to the Mad Strix. An uneasiness that rolled into a soft chorus of voices that floated to the Laughing God's ears and whispered into his mind, growing louder and fouler as they plotted to harm him and claimed to control his thoughts. And there, in the throat of his stag, Ezra hung still and quiet, his black and empty eye sockets deepening, seeming more like tunnels for the Laughing God to walk into and be devoured.

"Have a seat"

And the voices continued, whispering in the dark elf's ears, discussing and scorning him, and shouting obscenities as they climbed in pitch and promised to peel and suck his skin from bone, to steal his life, his home, his everything - then nothing. Deafening silence. "Yes", the Mad Strix answered finally, his voice hideous and not quite human, face still vacant before abruptly stretching his arm to unnatural lengths, his bony fingers eager to wrap themselves cold round the Laughing God's ankle and drag him into the depths of the stag's stomach where instead of acid and stench - there was a dinner table, chandeliers and food platters, but of what, no one knew. "Have a seat", the Horned God'd smile, sweet and lovely. Draped in the darkest of suits, his face calmer and more human, but his eyes still a corpse's and hollow of something, Ezra nodded, "Please, continue".

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


"Don't make it so obvious," Malekith noted towards the drool rolling out of Ezra's mouth. "Just a taste? Oh, that's never enough,"

He laughed, an uproarious noise, a cacophony of cackling - even as the hands wrapped around his legs. Even as the supposed horror show opened up before him. To perhaps anyone else it would be the most terrifying experience of their life or afterlife, being swallowed by the enigmatic Faceless Owl. The eyes as deep-black as coals, buried under the same layers of ambivalence and such void of empathy that diamonds would pity the weight shoveled upon them. It was crushing, the mountain of emptiness in this man's gaze. He had long ago surrendered to his hunger. Hunger that would never be satisfied.

But his meal was fear. And Malekith had shown him nothing.

No Caption Provided

And so the Laughing God did not disappear into the burgeoning dark of the Strix's realm. His endless stomach opened before the two, rising around them in fleshy walls obscured by shadow. Unknowable depths in all directions, Malekith bowed his head.

"I humbly accept your offer, Endless One," he said with a wide smirk. The chair, same as any ordinary wooden construct, but he knew the mark of the devil in front of him when he saw it.

Faces stretched in the oaken material, varnished and polished at the height of suffering. He could still hear them moaning, trapped forever in that shape - or whatever shape Ezra desired them to embody next. He very visibly enjoyed sitting down, delighting in the torment their collective consciousness endured. Of course, anyone else would have suspected a trap. That would be when Ezra would pounce upon them, once they expressed any doubt in their minds. A clever ruse, and an effective one judging by the table and opposing chair. Even the tablecloth echoed of these delightful punishments, sewn into every seam.

Malekith leaned forward, grinding them with a distant and wet crunch under his elbows as he held his face forward in anticipation.

"You're going to love what I have planned," a low, sinister chuckle. "I have the means to overtake Alfheim, Realm of the Light Elves. I desire its land, and its territories. But the people?"

He clapped in tandem with his own inhumane cruelty.

"Light Elf, Aesir, it won't matter will it? Of course, when I open the door and let you inside... it's not going to be a simple matter of repaying me through bloodshed. I'll need a way to do the same to Asgard... and Midgard... and all the other realms. Countless souls for your little belly,"

He reached forward onto the table, practically clawing at the fabric. Something screamed deep under his feet, but he took no notice.

"If you help me unlock those doors beyond Alfheim. Surely you have..." the Laughing God's lips peeled away to reveal a wide, fanged grin, pointing at Ezra's throat. "A key of sorts?"

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#56 Edited by Imperium (75 posts) - - Show Bio


"Who are you? What is your place here?", the creature inquired.

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#57 Edited by _Dirge_ (3607 posts) - - Show Bio


No Caption Provided

Vincent's facial features momentarily shifted into a grimace before returning to a cold apathetic expression. Not even one's own soul was safe from The Mad Strix's hunger. In Vincent's mind Ezra was great devourer. The more he learned of the Mad Strix, the more Vincent wondered if such a being could truly be killed. Anyone can be killed. Even a God. "Nothing is safe from Ezra, is it?" The Blind Shaytan''s dull gaze fell to the floor of the ruined castle before seeking out the sound of Fraga's voice.

Vincent crossed his arms, "Apologies for all that. If it makes you feel any better, my sister drove this very sword through my spine." Vincent's left hand fell to the hilt of The Devil's Fang. Still, Vincent wasn't stupid, he knew his words would mean little to the Warden of Saamas. Fraga was raised here, in this dreadful play. For all the Heir of Cain knew that his words might only further anger Fraga. Still, Vincent smiled. "Feel free to return the favor. After Ezra's been removed from the board. That is, if I'm still among the living." He wanted to use the Mark to see this woman. To see the damage that Ezra had done. But he couldn't, Vincent hadn't killed in some time.

A sigh escaped The Dublin Devil. "I could see through Ezra's cruel illusions with these cursed eyes. Still, the words those grotesque apparations spoke....aren't easily forgotten. I didn't even hear Ezra when he materialized from the shadows behind me. With but one touch, he infected me with such madness. In that instant I was betrayed by the senses that I relied so much on. The screaming and of those that I killed reverberated through my skull.The horrid smells of those long dead and rotting. My senses were amplified a hundred fold and recalled every horrid thing that I've done. I could still use my sight, but it was warring with my body. Like it knew I was infected with a foreign invader. He did all that with a single touch. And now he has a lavaliere. The soul lavaliere at that."

Vincent was taken back to the cells of The Montessi DaBrickashaw. To his last conversation with Ali. His enemy had told him about the lavalieres. Vincent shook his head, what could he do against such a power. He uncrossed his arms. "No one is every truly safe. But now...Abigailclaims she has a way to kill Ezra. But it's guarded. When I leave here, it'll be to aid her in acquiring that weapon. Musa is safe keeping that black tome that we stole from Ezra. But now....against a Lavaliere. I know a bit about the lavalieres, but what exactly can he do with this one?"

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#58 Edited by _Dirge_ (3607 posts) - - Show Bio


Vincent shifted his head towards the sound of this....being. He repeated the words' it spoke to him. "Hello. My name is Vincent. but I'm no one that matters. As for my place here....I don't belong here in this world. I don't really belong anywhere to be honest. But I'm here to learn."

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#59 Edited by Imperium (75 posts) - - Show Bio


Imperium cocked his head slightly to the left as he took another step towards the man sitting on the chair. "In that case, we are similar, but at the same time different. Over the course of years I have been called many names, but I am most prominently known as Imperium.", It said as it bowed its head as respectfully. "From the moment that I wondered in here, I knew that you were not of this world. You see, we share this trait. I come from a world that is quite different from this one. And yet, I feel at home.

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#60 Posted by Fraga (1155 posts) - - Show Bio


"Feel free to return the favor"

"I might", Fraga added, voice as smooth as his slow smirk. Glancing back at the woman he'd left lying on the ground, her skin as cold and dead as the black stone that grazed it, the Warden of Saamas shut his eyes - and felt it. "She's going to die. Without her soul, her body's little more than an emotionally and spiritually inert husk that will survive only for three hours more. Such is the fate of everyone who's soul is consumed by Ezra", Fraga paused, his cool eyes meeting Vincent's blind ones. "Such is the fate of Abigail if we do not relieve him of that lavaliere. Even if she's found the means to kill him - it - there is no use so long as Ezra has the soul lavaliere. Because trickery with the soul to prevent one's death becomes child's play with the lavaliere involved".

No Caption Provided

Folding his arms behind his back, his posture regal as he strode about the dead throne room, the Warden of Saamas glanced out the nearest window, and his eyes caught the violet flare of lightning crackling overhead. "On his own, Ezra is a monster. Because that's what he is. One of three nightmare abominations from the Black Hallows. But not here in the Grim Pasture - Phantasmagoria. A domain where wise men grow mad because the air shifts and changes into... into things not meant for anyone's eyes. He, along with two others, are from there. How he came to be? Why? I can't say. Perhaps even that is a lie. Perhaps he is the Black Hallows itself. All I know Vincent, is that he is something that should not exist. The two others as well. Which is why I've called you here", Fraga paused, turning away from the window to once more gaze upon the woman left lifeless on the stone floor.

"Once Ezra has been dealt with. You'll want to close all entry ways into this place. No one gets in, and not a soul peeks out. And you'll all need me in here to ensure that the other two do not escape. I'm going to curse myself to this world - to save yours", he almost scowled, taking a knee with a hand on the unconscious woman's head. "For now, I'll leave with you. To help you and that girl acquire the weapon needed to slay Ezra. And as for the book Musa has, it might have something to do with Ezra's origins, and the other lavalieres. Speaking of which, what he can do with the soul lavaliere", Fraga paused, stroking the etheric node in the woman's forehead and pouring a drop or two of his own soul in her empty body, "Is almost anything pertaining to souls". Eyes opened, the woman rose to her feet a host of some of Fraga's soul so that he may remain in the Black Hallows yet venture out into the other side.

"If he hasn't yet simply devoured all the souls he wants at once, it's because he doesn't want to.. or has yet to master the soul lavaliere". Facing Vincent as his and the risen woman's eyes glowed blue, the Warden of Saamas stepped forward. "She will remain here. She no longer has a soul so I was able to leave a fragment of mine in her. Through her, I'll still be vigilant of the on-goings here, in case Ezra reappears while we're in your world".

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#61 Posted by Ezra_Strix (581 posts) - - Show Bio


No Caption Provided

Hands clasped at his front, his cold and bony fingers creaking like wood as he stood a still statue at the head of the table, the Horned God listened - but said nothing. His gray skin cracked and peeled, and his lips seemed frozen into a grin that was there yet somehow not. Around him, the air grew cold and shifted again and again as a foul fog of voices echoed once more. They whispered and conspired, hissing and scratching at the ears of those who dared listen. At times they echoed as benevolent guides, yet a second later sang vile and malevolent songs, promising nightmares, swearing they'd claim the listener's personality and face and ruin their life. And the Mad Strix simply stood, petrified in stone, and his face widening and contorting into vacant madness as the nightmare voices gave him counsel.

"Yeees", Ezra said, mouth never opening yet his voice creeping out soft and sweet like a child's. "Correct. Correct. Good. Good", he continued, stepping forward, his shoes clicking and clacking on the floor as the voices fell silent after their harrowing poetry:

"When the devil asks to dance with you, you'd best say never"

"Because a dance with the devil might last you forever"

"Oh don't listen to them", the Mad Strix giggled, "They're simply... nervous", he smiled, gentle and kind as the air grew colder and sharper, as though fingers yet unseen were pinching the Laughing God's flesh and trying to peel it back layer by layer till the white of bone poked out. With a single and sudden step forward, his leg stretching across the cold floor till he was standing behind the Laughing God, hands gripping the dark elf's his shoulders, he continued. "Bring me a sacrifice", Ezra demanded, his voice no longer sweet, but deathlike. "A god's flesh and soul", he resumed, the pitch of his voice lowering, fingers digging into the Laughing God's shoulders like daggers before the soul lavaliere hummed through him as he hoped to lick his guest's elven soul, to taste his spirit wet and cold before drawing back.

"Bring me a sacrifice", Ezra concluded, gone. Here, somewhere, everywhere.

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


The maddening circus of noise and voices swirled in tandem with the unseen hands prying and pricking at his skin. Malekith sat quietly at first, observing the Mad Strix. It had been so joyously interesting to watch the creature before him undergo the seething temptations of hunger, prying deeper and deeper into his reservoirs of patience. A tiger with very little room to run. A room with very little opportunity to escape.

The Laughing God found it infinitely curious. He couldn't stop himself from smiling wider and wider as the chances presented themselves, and Ezra held back just a little less each time. A single godlike soul now... or the allure of countless others later? Of course, Malekith could very well have lied. But lies were frowned upon in this realm, unless they were spoken by its master. The seething tide of unnatural things could pick them out otherwise. How was the Dark Elf King so sure about what he was being told in the first place?

No Caption Provided

He didn't. And that's what intrigued him most about this entire escapade. If Ezra were lying, he would have just killed Malekith slowly instead of allowing him this rare chance at Alfheim's gates. Of course, that was always part of the game when dealing with eldritch powers. Their games were long and laborious. Dreadfully silent in some sections, and then bestial the next.

"Tasty, tasty," Malekith pseudo-taunted the Mad Strix as his hands dug into his clavicles. No mere physical grip, but that of an entire avalanche of uneasiness and sin. A rampage of noise in his mind. The Lord of the Wild Hunt, for the first time, felt pain in this arena of consciousness. Though, even now, he found no fear to be derived from it. This was all the game of the Strix, the rules bent around Malekith's promise of a good feast.

A feast of god-flesh.

"You'll get more than that, my friend," the King of Svartalfheim proposed.

A sudden chill in the air - no, not the air. From within. Malekith felt the clawing upon his back as ice upon a window. Cracking, inching, freezing. It was absolutely tantalizing, the feeling of absolute fear. Nowhere, nothing, and Malekith emerged in the cold wilds of Helheim. Spat back out, so his task could be done.

"As Thor is no god without his hammer, then the Spark of the God-Forge will be your feast, wrought with energy derived from all of Nidavellir. The last of his kind, an Eitrison. That is where our bargain will be sealed."

He spoke to no-one, as the ghosts of Helheim were indifferent to his words. But his soul had been marked by the Mad Strix. He knew Ezra to be watching, and to be listening.

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#63 Edited by Clara Mass (8753 posts) - - Show Bio

There's no need for the rules anymore. The barriers between our worlds have fallen because the prime world has been sapped dry. Its seeds are now exposed to the poisons of the why behind it all. Afterward, the universal frequency echoed throughout the multiverse. A unique wail of pain that only I could hear. Demanding savior from the certain apocalypse. I have tried making deals with universal beings. I have tried acting against the pawns of why on my own. Yet, the darkness still looms over my head. Threatening to devour all that I've made.

Her violet eyes weren't well adjusted to the terrain. She squinted with utter disbelief as her hand caressed the face of a weeping tree. She's mystified despite her standing as the goddess of despair. It's a consequence of motherhood, her mother would have said. A softened perception as she stopped to ponder what lead this poor soul astray.

"I don't remember anything like this. This reality is...damnation personified." She was still adjusting to this new world. So much so, she couldn't remember how she first arrived in the Black Hallows. One moment she could taste the energy of one lavaliere and the next she was here. It was like a plate of leftovers abandoned at the kitchen table and her hunger was unlike any other. It needed to be satiated.

"I've tried playing hero, but this world's Clarice isn't very welcomed. That's why I needed a different approach." Her nails were long enough to cut into the tree, blood trickling down as she let out an almost bellowing exhale. She clasped her hands together over her mouth. Not so much troubled by the nature of this realm, but more so amused. Beneath her hands hid a devilish smirk. She could feel the presence of the one she sought out.

"I figured I'd find you. I just assumed it wouldn't be so...easy." She wore a black dress, fitting for a grieving widow. So, if she was asked who she was mourning then the self-professed queen would say the multiverse. Why, because of its blind ignorance of the greater evils at work. And like any mourning widow, Clarice Michelle sought revenge against those evils. She challenged the universal beings themselves. Hoping to use these lavaliers to destroy and remake the multiverse under her vision. It was this holier than thou complex, however, that left her open to attack, because as she turned around...the violet-eyed goddess was met by the appearance of ghouls reaching out for her throat.

No Caption Provided


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#64 Posted by Ezra_Strix (581 posts) - - Show Bio


A somber and cheerless wasteland, the Grim Pasture was no place for a wandering soul. For where to would it wander? To the graveyards where ghouls lurked behind tombstones? To the empty chapels and mausoleums that smelled of age and dust? Or to the burial chambers left to rot in a black sea of weeping trees? And yet there were those who came. Those like the woman whose fingers stroked the bleeding face of a dead tree. And whose joy and happiness drew drool from the gaping mouths of ghouls driven mad with hunger. The trees wept and the ghouls came, their tattered cloaks fluttering in the dry air, their black fingernails scratching away at their emaciated flesh as the foul and wet smell of decay followed them.

No Caption Provided

Needle-like teeth showing, their eyeless sockets empty of everything but gluttony, the air grew haunting as though joy could never be felt - and they reached out to suck the woman dry of her soul. But there was nothing. They were gone. Vanished as though never there to begin with. And in their place stood a woman so old and decrepit, her back seemed bent by age and her wrinkled skin was pallid like a corpse. She was small, a few inches shy from a dwarf, yet her face - sunken and wrapped in thick folds of skin - was abnormally large, larger than even her body. Her mouth, large enough to swallow the woman before her whole, pulled back into an empty smile and her yellow eyes met the woman's with a haunting gaze. She did not blink. She only smiled. And waited. Waited as the souls trapped in the surrounding trees cowered in fear of her, of the herald of the nightmare monster who roamed the Black Hallows consuming souls in the the thousands.

The monster that held the Soul Lavaliere and clung to it like a mother to her child.And the monster's herald stood, silent and waiting with a bell in her hand.

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#65 Posted by Mister_Surreal (9067 posts) - - Show Bio

Time to investigate.

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#66 Posted by Grimmwald (3285 posts) - - Show Bio
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#67 Edited by Mister_Surreal (9067 posts) - - Show Bio

@grimmwald: Yes, hopefully I can see you here sometime.

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#68 Posted by Grimmwald (3285 posts) - - Show Bio
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#69 Edited by Clara Mass (8753 posts) - - Show Bio


Her arms retreaded behind the cloak that draped over her body. Her violet eyes glimmering as tears slid down the creases of her nose. For all her years, she'd never known fear quite as much as her time in this universe. The rules were different here and though she was very much known for causing mayhem, this universe's version was eclectic in ways she never could have imagined. At first, her scream bellowed outward in a frenzied panic. Her arms shivered as the hairs on the back of her neck stood at attention. It wasn't until the sound of a bell chimed that she steadied her stance.

"This universe confuses me, but..."Miss Pierce muttered as she lifted her chin. She was a goddess. She was a queen. She was far more than whatever this cretin could ever be. So, why did she feel such a particular air of doubt? It wasn't human, but neither was she. It was less so. A materialization of this realm, but it's harrowing appearance left her transfixed if not troubled. And for that, the prime refugee clenched her hands so much so that her nails indented her reddened skin.

"...I think you know why I've come." Her heart pattered against her chest as her heels pressed into the gravel. "You do, don't you?" Clarice Michelle half-smiled as she approached the Black Hallows apparition. She was vulnerable, but that wouldn't stop her from finding the answers she sought. She hadn't come this far into the unknown for nothing short of salvation. So, she pressured the being with the softest inquiry. Fully prepared to fight if the Black Hallows willed it so.

"Tell me, creature. Are you the soul I seek?"

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#70 Posted by Grimmwald (3285 posts) - - Show Bio

@clara_mass: I'll have a reply ready in due time, mano.

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#71 Posted by _Dirge_ (3607 posts) - - Show Bio

Oh no...

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#72 Posted by Rosso (5281 posts) - - Show Bio

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#73 Posted by Grimmwald (3285 posts) - - Show Bio


At first, there was nothing. They'd walked through the portal - and into nothing but fog. Yet it hung thick in the air, a hazy mist that seemed to whisper in their ears. Phantasmagoria was unfamiliar, and the Horned Saint had been warned by his Orochi spy network not to trust his senses here. Holding Valentina by the arm, Grimmwald strode into the mist in earnest, his eyes watching as it shifted, and his ears listening, catching the soft chorus of voices echoing round them, discussing them, laughing at them, warning, threatening and mocking them. Tightening his grip on her arm, the Horned Saint glanced over his shoulder to lock eyes with the woman he'd forced into a joint role of prisoner and apprentice. "Control how you feel", he advised.

Phantasmagoria preyed on emotion, on feelings of longing, of love, and of fear. It taunted visitors with visions, mocked weak hearts with what they desired, and broken minds with what they feared. And Grimmwald did as he'd been taught by the Strigidae. He steeled his heart, cooled his blood, and uttered the words the Orochi'd instructed him to. "Ezra Strix". The mist froze, the voices fell silent, and nothing but dread lingered in the air. From the mist came Richard's laughter and Ashley's weeping. The Son of the Shogun driven mad by the betrayal of his friend, and the Knightfall Saint heartbroken by the fall of her lover. A harrowing symphony that grew louder and louder till it twisted into a sound as inhuman as the abomination that strode out the mist; an old, small-mouthed and long-faced crone with a giant's hand in place of her lower body.

"Here for my Lavaliere hm?", the crone asked, the deep and rich voice of a man flowing out her throat. Calming himself, a deep breath in and out, Grimmwald held Ezra's gaze and his voice came clear, "Yes". And yet, as the crone drew closer with a crawl of the thick and thudding fingers in place of her legs, Grimmwald couldn't help but feel his nerve shrink. This thing was... it was not right. It was simply not right. "You want to make a deal", Ezra smirked, lips widening at the sight of Valentina. "Most people wouldn't believe me but... I do hope he's being good to you", Ezra asked, an enormous and fat finger stroking the redhead's face. "Now", Ezra growled, his voice more monstrous than before, less human and more other, "Your soul for the stone. Now. Give it to me".

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#74 Posted by Rosso (5281 posts) - - Show Bio

@grimmwald: Had he been anyone else, anywhere else, she might have sought his confidence. Genuine concern or just a sadistic lie, it almost didn't matter. Anyone who showed an interest might have been able to remove her from her present situation, but thus far the one man who could've affected her situation for the better suggested himself but an emotional fool, crying for brother. Her grip tightened, nails digging into Grimmwald's arm as she thought bitterly of Hawkshade's pleas—his inaction. Valentina knew nothing of Strix or the Black Hallows, but...not in that form and not in that place. The mere thought of confiding to that thing churned her stomach and nearly doubled her over.

"Your soul for the stone. Now. Give it to me".

Mouth ajar and unable to help her utterly puzzled expression, she alternated looks between the hag and her captor. Faint utterances squeezed their way from the back of her throat. She wasn't even sure which of the two she was asking, but she had to know. "M-my...Whose soul is that?"

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#75 Posted by Grimmwald (3285 posts) - - Show Bio


Grimmwald'd heard Ezra's voice, felt the nightmare monster's voice rumble through him down to his bones... and there was no mistaking the cold chill running down his spine. He'd masqueraded as a devil for so long, and now - here - he was standing before one. His mouth dry, Grimmwald held the Mad Strix's gaze and poured every ounce of courage and nerve into his heart. He couldn't falter, couldn't wilt, not when he was so close. But as his ears caught the soft echo of Valentina's voice, the Horned Saint glanced back at his prisoner, only now feeling her fingernails digging into his arm like daggers. "Mmm... so. Give it to me. I can take it. Eat it", Ezra rasped, a woman's voice wrapping round his, "Eat you", the Mad Strix grinned with starving eyes and saliva trickling from his lips down his chin.

"I'll just... take it!", Ezra declared, the giant hand in place of his lower body ready to snatch Valentina like a stick and squeeze the soul out her body. "Wait!", Grimmwald called out, drawing Ezra's eyes to his shut eyelids. "Leave her. Take mine. My soul for the stone", the Horned Saint paused, "You'll find more to feed on in my soul than hers", he doubled down. "Oooh... good", Ezra smiled, the giant hand's fat fingers wrapping round Grimmwald's body and squeezing like boa constrictors till his soul climbed out his mouth for Ezra to consume. Panting, his skin as pale as snow, Grimmwald collapsed to his knees, his body shaken and the monster satisfied. The Mad Strix vanished into the mist with a parting gaze Valentina's way - and the Soul Lavaliere fell into Grimmwald's hand. But it had cost him his soul. Without it, he was an unfeeling abomination. No love for Richard neither Tessa, no love for Ashley, and no possible rise from the dead should he ever fall. His soul was no more, and if he died - there'd be nothing. No different than an object breaking beyond repair.

Was it worth it? To save the world by torturing and punishing evil as he'd vowed? To do a thankless deed for a world that'd continue to spin no matter if he lived or died? At the cost of losing everything and everyone he held dear? Only time would tell. For now, on the ground, his hand holding on desperately to the Lavaliere in his possession, Grimmwald composed himself, stood to his feet and met Valentina's eyes with something dead in his eyes, as though he'd never feel joy, never feel anything till the day he died. "Let's go". He didn't hold her, not this time. He simply walked towards the portal they'd come from, and with her, would return to the temple - to set his apprentice free should her 'loyalty' remain.

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#76 Edited by TheMaskofMany (619 posts) - - Show Bio
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The blackness sprung up unbidden from a hidden corner, one of the countless dangers found within the depths of the labyrinth that is the Maze of Vha'shii. The hole opened, humble at first, but soon to grow into a gaping maw more fitting of the creature which had spawned the gap in the dilapidated world. From within that gap welled the deep waters, the spring from which souls both emerged and fell, churned and dissolved, where they bobbed up and down within its depths, the lucky to scratch the surface, the unlucky to never return, to drain into the black and join the depths as bits and pieces of the eternal waters, chewing others into those same bits of soulstuff that comprised the murky, metaphysical fluids.

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Then came the creature itself. The bubbling, churning mess coagulating in the form it always took. The bulging eyes formed from the dull shimmerings of light reflecting from the water's surface, the hard shell pooling itself together from the muted colors all around it. The thin light cast from countless souls seized across the centuries fading, fleeing before the monster taken physical form in the immaterial world of the Hallows.

It soaked in an air heavy laden with despair, the forlorn kingdom reeking of misery and rot. It bathed in the glory of the place it once called home, relished as it drank deep from the hollow hearts of the inhabitants. It did not despair. In the presence of the ghouls it saw no nightmares. The few foolish enough to wander within its presence found no soul, nothing to incite fear or despair in, only void. A void that called to them, drew them forth into a nothingness more profound than even their own, than that of the haunted hills and putrid peaks of the Black Hallows. Beneath the gray skies, the purple fog fed into its bones, and the souls that made its body screamed and cried. They would see not see these skies. They would not know these horrors. But they would know nightmare all the same. They would be enveloped by those churning tides, a maelstrom bolstered by its renewed presence at this palace of despair. They would be rocked along those soul cut waters, their beings dissolving into its own until their individuality was worn into rounded pegs that it could swap out at will, snap into place as their souls lost all semblance of their former selves, became dreary and desolate. Passive. Tamed.

And after that?

It could claim more. Feed again, and again, and again, claiming more and more victims, until it was sated.

But it would not be sated. Not ever.

*Edited for grammar

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#77 Posted by Ezra_Strix (581 posts) - - Show Bio
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#78 Posted by Rosso (5281 posts) - - Show Bio


It was a stupid, pointless question. She knew before she asked and she did anyway, helpless to stop herself while some other piece of her begged her to remain silent, become as small as possible and not draw any attention. She felt her physical form shrink even as it grew; and as the thing from the abyssal plane encroached, threatening to devour her essence, though she couldn't look away Valentina clutched her longtime tormentor like a child would a safety blanket.

And just like that, as a response to her call or the natural course of his machinations all along, he came to her rescue. Forced from his side, the dark aether of the Black Hallows threatened to sweep her away like a river current. With no ground beneath her and nothing physical save for Grimmwald and the Mad Strix, Valentina anchored herself by naught but a new sentiment, tethering her to the man of many faces. She puzzled over the gesture, ultimately uncertain what to make of it but understanding at least that in that place, Grimmwald was the closest thing she had to an ally. He'd just mad a colossal sacrifice on her behalf--Or not, but he didn't have to do it. That, she hoped, meant something.

She helped him to his feet, her grip iron-tight, and hesitantly opened her mouth to give thanks, but this time she said nothing. For the time being, nothing mattered but getting out of that place.

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#79 Posted by Rosso (5281 posts) - - Show Bio

"Control how you feel."

Grimmwald's advice stuck out, a remnant of her last journey to the Black Hallows. She relied on no sense to guide her. The journey was a tandem effort that saw Valentina walking along a virtual tightrope of possibility with no net to catch her if she fell. The Soul Lavaliere offered her shelter. While Phantasmagoria threatened to overwhelm her mind through her fears and feelings, the lavaliere offered protection for the deepest parts of her inner self. But the stone was deceptive. She knew, based on their prior conversation, that it was waiting for her. Testing her. Were she too weak-willed to endure the horrors of her mind as reflected by the Black Hallows, the stone would bail her out. But in doing so, she would prove what it'd asserted all along: that she was too weak of will to control its power and not succumb. Teeter too far on the other side, and she would fall in just as Grimmwald had. There her journey as a conscious, thinking being would end until she and the stone were parted or she met her mortal end while under its influence.

The lavaliere held "memories" of that place, it'd told her. Clearer memories than she. Her experience was virtually nil by comparison, her mind purposefully fragmented as a means of surviving Grimmwald. That had been, to her own mind's register, an entirely different person. Yet as she'd trained herself long before, Valentina could reach into the memories of each persona. There, the method was open to her. Steeling her mind, she called out just as Grimmwald had, "Ezra Strix," distorted echoes of her voice travelling for miles around, and prepared for the Black Hallows' response.

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#80 Posted by Hawkshade (4933 posts) - - Show Bio
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#81 Posted by Ezra_Strix (581 posts) - - Show Bio


Where the mist rolled, silent dread followed. Of Phantasmagoria, almost nothing was known, and none held control over when more would be known. There the mist shifted, and twisted the echoes of the vanished into a harrowing testimony to the fate awaiting those who linger for too long.

"Please. Sit"

"Ezra Strix"

The name floated, and it's echo sat still in the air till the fog parted, swallowed whole by a dining hall bathed in still shades of red. In the dining hall's heart was a table. On it was a meal, it's smell hideous and wet, disabling the nose, sickening the stomach, and leaving the mind to wonder of what resembled turkey but smelled of anything but. And yet, at the head of the table sat a man. Well dressed, slick hair and eager to eat. He was old yet his skin ran smooth like a newborn's. His cheekbones were sharp like blades pushing out against his skin, and his mouth abnormally small. He was beautiful yet hideous. And his eyes met hers with a mute gaze. With no shade of humanity, only a hopeless pit, as though he were a blind creature with no eyes and no mind. Only a stomach, for whatever the turkey was, and what Valentina was.

And yet, he smiled. "Please", Ezra finally spoke, voice soft and nearing a woman's pitch, "Sit". Staring, his eyes like the mute abyss behind a closet door, he glanced at the Lavaliere on her person, and his smile grew, the sound of creaking wood stretching with his lips. The Mad Strix had no soul, but he had wielded the Lavaliere before, mastered it. And he found it a likeminded thing. That it had again crossed paths with him was pleasant.

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#82 Posted by Rosso (5281 posts) - - Show Bio

Love it.

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#83 Posted by Rosso (5281 posts) - - Show Bio


The Black Hallows would have been fascinating, if it wasn't so sickening. So intent on disturbing every sense to the greatest possible degree that anyone and anything existing in that place seemed nearly unfathomable. Yet, it was enticing, Valentina found herself thinking even as she doubled over retching, before she realized the discord within. Was it the influence of the Soul Lavaliere that'd once dwelt there, desiring a more worthy owner? Or maybe, after everything she'd been through, she was more disturbed than she realized. Where her thoughts ended and everything else began was becoming more blurry by the minute. It was a world of ruin whose native denizens were no more safe than any lost traveller who happened through a mysterious portal by accident.

With the exception of him. He made himself right at home. He'd tamed those dread halls and the vast expanse that housed the terrors. He was comfortable. Could those things be taken from him and made her own? The lure of secrets grew stronger for every moment she spent there, like the place itself was corrupting her thoughts. Was it possible for a place to be alive, devouring those within? The being in front of her...Was he in control here, or some sort of simulacrum bait dangled before visitors' eyes so they wouldn't realize until it was too late? He could've been a victim himself. Along this line of thought, she wondered what kind of man he'd been before. Began constructing a life with a family, a job, pets, perhaps—

No! Focus!

Please, sit.

How lovely. An invitation, something in her thought. Her face cracked into a smile and she walked along the length of the table, sitting not at the far end as she'd intended, but one of the seats nearest him. For the second time ever* she swore she heard a stone laugh, inhuman and cold. This was too dangerous an old friend. She had to get away nothing to worry about.

Once she was seated the Lavaliere seemed to relax its grip. Valentina stood and moved one seat down, reasserting her own will (if only for herself), yet cautious of the message a full retreat to the other end would send.

"I've come for a soul," she blurted and her mouth snapped shut. The pungent odor of the meat, worsening as she sat, had already wafted into her throat, and her mind was split between focusing on him and fighting off nausea.

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#84 Posted by Feral Nova (58084 posts) - - Show Bio

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#85 Posted by Rosso (5281 posts) - - Show Bio

@feral_nova: I can't tell if that's "anxiety because I love her and I'm worried for her safety" or "anxiety because I don't trust her and what's coming next."

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#86 Posted by Feral Nova (58084 posts) - - Show Bio


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#87 Posted by Rosso (5281 posts) - - Show Bio
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#88 Posted by Ezra_Strix (581 posts) - - Show Bio


Don't sit so far away, something whispered. The air? No. Ezra? His mouth hadn't moved. He simply sat, his eyes bottomless like the dark halls of a house larger inside than it is outside as he held her gaze.

"I've come for a soul"

The request hung in the air, as did Valentina's voice. Ezra's smile faded, and the red of the dining hall deepened. And awaiting Valentina's voice - was silence. Less than silence. A nothingness that was deafening and suffocating, noticed less by the ears and felt more on the skin. Calm and his body uttering no sound, the Horned God set his fork down. His arm stretched from the elbow, contorting and elongating to the sound of snapping branches as it passed over the few seats between him and Valentina. His hand stretched to the side of her face, a gentle gesture the Mad Strix hoped she would politely allow. Yet his hand - his skin - that seemed as smooth as sealskin, would feel like a leper's foot in ash should he touch her cheek.

At times his guests could not hear him. His voice was too quiet, inflection too soft. And he wanted to be clear. His hand sought to tuck the woman's hair behind her ear to expose it, and the Mad Strix'd lean forward, head enlarging till it's shadow dwarfed her, and his lips brushed an inch away from her ears. "And what soul would that be? Ah... and", his voice sweetened, enormous eyelashes grazing her face as he blinked, "How will you be paying for this? Hm?".

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#89 Posted by Rosso (5281 posts) - - Show Bio

There's only one thing I can immediately think to offer...but it would be such a jerk move.

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#90 Posted by Rosso (5281 posts) - - Show Bio


Black Hallows' dark æther coiled around her, subtly menacing. Here, that which had mass felt immaterial. The formless and immaterial was anything but. From moment to moment nothing was the same. The one constancy, that it was all menacing, always. She'd almost begun to lose herself to her own mind's paranoia and wondering. Until, unexpectedly, Ezra's actions focused her.

Trying to ruin me. Make me lose control. He was doing it. Yet Grimmwald's words and the Lavaliere's blended in her mind, and there she found solace. She was stronger...She could control herself. Just as she had then. Compartmentalize. Dissociate.Become no one. No one has no feelings to manipulate. She could do it. Make it a game, another temporary persona.

She was No One, and she felt nothing as she slapped his hand away.

"I think you know exactly which soul I'm talking about. But very well. The man who brought me here before. Grimmwald. Kellan," she re-stated, recalling what Ashley had called him, and uncertain which name called more to the essence of his being.

Still, she could not be certain what would be worth the trade to the Phantom Strix. She doubted any individual soul was worth much of anything to him.But the leverage was. "His suffering. I can give you that. That's what you like? You feed on it? I'm sure that, through the lav-...the stone, I can connect you. And, I can give you another. This one, pure. Probably more so than any soul you've ever encountered, fed upon, tormented...probably ever. I can guarantee you that."

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#91 Posted by _Dirge_ (3607 posts) - - Show Bio


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#93 Posted by Rosso (5281 posts) - - Show Bio

@feral_nova: I am appalled and offended that you would imply such a thing.

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#94 Posted by Feral Nova (58084 posts) - - Show Bio

@rosso: No you're not, you're proud of me that I would think that :P

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#95 Posted by Rosso (5281 posts) - - Show Bio
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#96 Edited by Feral Nova (58084 posts) - - Show Bio
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#97 Posted by Rosso (5281 posts) - - Show Bio
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#98 Posted by Feral Nova (58084 posts) - - Show Bio
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#99 Posted by Rosso (5281 posts) - - Show Bio
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#100 Posted by Feral Nova (58084 posts) - - Show Bio


You just want an excuse to fight Ashley! :P

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