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Joygirl

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#1  Edited By Joygirl

Okay, as I promised, I'm doing a breakdown on each title here... and yes, I read each of them, from beginning to end.

LET'S GO

JamieWolfe7 - Captain Ireland - While I found the mythology used to be personally pleasant, and the research invested to be rarely remarkable, this is just... well, not really a story. While it has designs and backstory, the lack of actual forward motion and genuine prose makes it feel a bit limp. We don't really get a feel for Captain Ireland -- we learn WHAT she is, but never WHO. 3/10

BlueEcho - Lady Luxembourg - This really isn't bad, per se. It's decently written, tells a story (however simple), and even gives a strong inclination towards how "badass" the title character is. That said, this isn't without a number of flaws. Certain elements are exaggerated to the degree of being condescending ("Danger Man 53, Lady Luxembourg 842," Retrobot replied.), creating a feeling that the reader is being talked down to. We see early on that Lady Luxembourg is tough when she saves Danger Man, and the revelation that she's had powers all along is actually a fun twist that I didn't see coming -- but giving us an actual numerical value seems like overkill here, especially after it's already been made obvious that she's head and shoulders above Danger Man.

Secondly, I don't know these secondary characters, and after reading this piece, I still don't. They feel like old OC's that I'm unfamiliar with, possibly from other CCC's, but as far as I'm concerned in my reading, Danger Man and Retrobot are blank digital mannequins with no descriptions and no past. 4/10

4donkeyjohnson - Captain Norway - I have no idea what to do with this. It's cute, but... I... yeah. x/10

ImpurestCheese - The Tale of Sergeant San Jose - This piece is something I really wanted to be impressed by. It clearly has a story to tell and it technically does tell it. The inclusion of the sudden death of the supposed protagonist caught me pleasantly off-guard, and the message of peace and strength through unity was a really refreshing one. Unfortunately, there's a sense of hasty and messy writing that makes this message not shine through anywhere near as cleanly as it could or should. Bottom line, this story needed to be about twice as long as it is. Nobody realistically goes from "genocidal space titan" to "pacifistic hero of the people" in that short a span of time -- it wouldn't work in real life and it doesn't really work in this story either. If we knew more about War Chest, if we had more insight into his feelings before the events of the story, or if things were handled with a bit more patience, this could have been a winner due to how evocative it can be when it tries. As it stands, it gets a 5/10.

Batkevin74 - Captain South Ossetia - A cute idea, here, finds itself decidedly outweighed by the lack of description, clumsy dialogue structure, exhaustive amounts of ALL-CAPS SCREAMING, and vague racism. Most importantly, however, is the lack of any real "presence" to these characters -- Captain England stands out as having the most personality, simply in how stereotypical he is, but Captain South Ossetia could be surgically removed from his own story with an insignificant degree of impact. As I said originally, the idea is cute, and handled differently, the Coalition of Unrecognized Nations and Territories (I see what you did there, by the way; classy) could have been an interesting team with unique characters. 3/10

CBishop - The Second Reign of Women - I'm a bit confused by how I want to tackle this one, and I definitely find myself on the fence on it. As a story, it... doesn't exist, it's a news report that only really stands up as such. The way the news report itself is dealt with is interesting and the concept is fun -- as a running joke in a movie, I think I'd really like it, it's handled smoothly. My big issue with this is trying to find an actual protagonist out of the mix, the "character" that's being "created." By the climax, this roulette wheel of characters seems to have settled on the Sultana of Turkey, a character we know very little about and never see in action. The overall story isn't bad, but leaves me with something of a sense of confusion as to who I was supposed to be focusing on. Don't give up on this concept, but try to refine it a little more next time. 5/10

KCSSHD- The Man of Sin - Here's our masterpiece. Damn, dude, did you make up this world by scratch just now, or is it something you've been working on for a while? Whichever the answer, you have serious talent. Engaging descriptions, a world that feels distinct and lived-in, and writing that's non-indicative enough to keep the reader on their toes. I got really invested in the action and the world here, as well as the actual characters themselves -- it feels like "just another day in the life" of the Man of Sin while also giving us a pleasing look into the way he acts and operates in this dystopian political neo-noir action story. It feels clean and dirty all at once and I really, genuinely enjoyed reading through it. If you keep writing these, I'll keep reading them. 8/10

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Joygirl

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Read them all over. Despite the bizarre anticlimax, KCSSHD takes this handily. I'll have a more complete analysis on each entry tomorrow.

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Joygirl

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Trying to read through all of them. In a few days I'll have a full verdict on each and make my vote.

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Joygirl

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Joygirl

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i am Captain Norway!

there is norway you can beat me, oslo thereis norway you can escape me

thankyou for your time

fin...no Norwiegan :)

Will Lady Norway suffice? ;)

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Joygirl

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Yo, everyone! I heard from @wildvine that the 50th CCC was underway and decided, since it's such a big milestone, I should work on something for it. Took me a while -- honestly I'm surprised I even made the deadline -- but here it is!

The Lady of Norway

“Smaaash!” the lumbering thing bellowed, his command swiftly carried out by his own hand. The enormous, unwieldy weapon with which the creature was suspiciously proficient stormed its way through another building, this one a hardware store, sending shoppers and employees alike running from the ruins, seeking cover, crying out for those they’d lost contact with when the support beams fell and the roof began to collapse.

The thing in question -- that which was beating its way through the city of Oslo one building at a time, wielding a “hammer” that appeared to be a fire hydrant bolted to a length of steel beam -- had arrived mere minutes before now, his presence heralded by the thunderous collapse of a hotel, followed by a bestial roar of delight. It stood tall at around eight feet, its body corded with thick, bulging muscle and wrapped in a stretched, veiny membrane of lusterless, jet-black skin. Mismatched body armor composed of sharpened rebar and truck tires covered his massive body, leaving his proportionately small, hairless head ironically exposed.

Another swipe of that pendulous bludgeon sent it raking through yard after yard of brick and metal and wood, sawing its way through a tattoo shop with a single flick of the monster’s wrist. It was only now that the beast properly introduced himself to the people of Oslo, though his garbled, distorted bellow seemed more like a declaration of self to the universe than a genuine greeting. Considering that he was single-handedly reducing the Norwegian capital to rubble, it also seemed more likely. “Behold Smashnir! The Smashinator!” a brief pause, a moment to catch his breath and lower the gigantic, makeshift hammer. “...Smasher of Things!”

Unfortunately for the self-declared Smashnir, a complication was already in the works for his hitherto-successful smashing spree. For the city of Oslo, unknown to many, had a defender... in fact, all of Norway did. Maybe not the best known hero, perhaps not the most powerful, definitely not the most responsible. But nonetheless, a woman who had been ordained by those who had first forged the Nordic Peninsula, a woman with the power to protect those she called her brothers and sisters, the lead guitarist of Hela’s Kiss -- and a woman who happened to frequent tattoo shops.

Thea Lokken ducked backwards as the scavenged hammer blasted its way through the store, thanking Odin she’d only been in the waiting room for a new tattoo rather than halfway through getting one. She took in a deep breath as the wall collapsed fully, giving her a better look at the roaring behemoth in the streets outside, moving towards the next building in his path, this one only a small, local grocery shop. It was her job to make sure he never got that far.

Glancing behind her to make sure any other inhabitants of the shop were either hiding or had fled, she slung her black electric guitar from off of her back, taking a firm grasp on the neck of it and whispering in the old tongue; “Mighty Odin, grant me the strength to protect your creations....”

The burst of light and rush of wind went unheard and unseen by those who were already distracted by the escapades of Smashnir the Smashinator, Smasher of Things. Thea’s secret would remain intact for today, not that it would have given her pause were her identity at risk -- protecting the city was her first priority, and needed to always be. The sides of long, thick blonde hair formed spontaneously into a storm of braids; jeans and a black Sabaton t-shirt shimmering and shifting, forming into a set of dark, nordic battle armor. Her eyes darkened, her tattoos expanding and intertwining, covering more of her body in runes and markings... and that guitar took on its true form, that of the great battle-axe named after those who had forged it. The great battle-axe known as the Wings of the Aesir.

With a direction of her will, mythical winds lifted Thea into the air, propelling her forward and upward -- clumsy for a moment until she was able to grasp the “reins” of her powers more easily, the young heroine still a bit unused to exercising them. Beyond a few muggers, she was new to her new role as the protector of the country, and flight had thus far not been on the list of things she’d needed to practice.

“Heads up, j’vel!” Thea shouted out, catching only enough of the rampaging brute’s attention for him to swing his hammer in her direction, the soaring axewoman only narrowly moving out of its reach in time. When he didn’t feel the impact of his club against a small, fleshy creature, Smashnir finally turned, his tight-skinned rictus grimace turning down into a more frustrated scowl. “Behold this!”

Hurling herself in mid-air towards the lumbering titan axe-first, the Hidden Defender of the North built up as much momentum as she could, to ensure that she made the most satisfactory “splat” sound possible when Smashnir’s hammer swatted her out of the air like an insect, sending her crashing into the sadly-intact wall of a nearby IKEA.

“Nnnngh...” Thea groaned as she started rising back to her feet, concrete dust sliding off of the darkened iron plates of her fitted armor. “Thanks for the durability, Thor,” she mumbled as she stretched out slightly, tightening her grip on the Wings of the Aesir before calling out once more to the massive creature rampaging through Oslo. “Hey! You think denying the people of Norway affordable, do-it-yourself furniture is gonna get me off your back? Think again!”

This time her aim was true, calling on the winds to guide her forward and catching Smashnir off-guard, the ghoulish titan not yet able to acclimate to something that could withstand being smashed by him. Having the blessings of the Norse pantheon had a way of making things trickier for supervillains, as it did now -- the gleaming, wing-shaped blades of her axe sunk into the beast’s shoulder, splitting its way past the rusting rebar armor like a woodcutter chopping through a mildly knotty log and driving into the flesh beneath, drawing forth a well of milky, viscous white blood.

“Raaargh! You smash Smashnir the Smashinator, Smasher of Things? Nobody smashes Smashnir the Smashinator, Smasher of Things!” the beast bellowed out in rage and rarely-experienced pain, lashing out with his hammer once more and missing wide. Thea was too close now, having already eliminated the reach and distance advantage that Smashnir the Smashinator, Smasher of Things had exploited in her first headlong assault. Now, with her boots dug into the creature’s waist and her free hand clutching tightly to the edge of his tire-armor, she was able to easily evade his arcing, clumsy attacks, slamming her axe down against the creature’s shoulder again and again. She kept hacking at the same spot while the dark-skinned monster staggered and stumbled about the swiftly-evacuating streets of Oslo, finally penetrating more deeply into his thick, durable flesh.

“Maybe you should have thought of that before you destroyed that fresh batch of piping hot, perfectly-seasoned meatballs.” One last mighty downward swing of her axe left the armor in shattered pieces, finally shearing through the giant’s thick bone and sending the entire appendage toppling down onto the street. Smashnir let out an agonized shriek as his left arm was chopped from the rest of his body, collapsing with a heavy thud and leaving the dark ogre barely able to lift his “hammer.”

Despite the wound already beginning to heal over, the beast now focused more on escape than further destruction, desperately attempting to shrug Thea off of him as he reached down to grab his fallen appendage, clumsily trying to carry both it and his weapon before the choice was made for him. Thea set one foot on the massive, severed arm, guarding it with a menacing brandish of her axe. “This time, you leave with your life. Your limb, I keep.” Oooh, badass. I think I’m better at this than the standard banter. “Never return.”

“Smashnir... only wanted... to smash...” the giant let out another agonized wail, sounding genuinely dejected and dragging his weapon behind him as he tried to scurry out of the city, going back the way he’d come, not that anyone was yet certain where exactly that had been. A trail of milky, gooey blood marked every step of his retreat until the beast vanished completely behind the tree-line of Oslo’s outer limits, escaping alive but by no means unscathed into the countryside of Norway. He’d done his damage, but Thea had made sure he’d think twice before returning... and this time, she’d be ready.

Taking a moment to catch her breath, Thea looked down at the white-encrusted blades of her enchanted axe, twisting her hips from side to side in a weak attempt to “work out” the dull ache in her bones from that hit she’d taken. She’d have to be glad the gods had been so generous when they’d gifted her with her powers -- on her own, there was no way she’d have lasted more than two seconds against that... whatever that thing was. Smashnir, apparently. The Smashinator. Smasher of Things.

As the creature vanished behind the tree-line, Thea drew in a deep breath, steadying herself. Her first real fight. Easier than she’d expected, but definitely left her aching. It was the sound of cameras and gasps, however, that most took her off guard -- a sound that was getting closer and closer, more numerous, almost cacophonic. The ordained heroine slowly turned, facing the half-destroyed west side of Oslo to be greeting with hundreds of faces of those who had survived. Some looked fearful, others adoring, many hopeful.

“Was that her?”

“Did she drive it off?”

“She saved us!”

Thea took a slow step back, her grip loosening slightly on her axe as she was trapped in the headlights of hundreds of citizens of the city she’d saved from the creature. They were talking about her. Somehow this was the part of being a hero she’d expected the least. Battle and injury, yes. Even the bit of odd detective work where it was needed. But the cries of the crowd, many snapping pictures of the daylit, dumbstruck axewoman, was... overwhelming. Almost agoraphobic.

“Hero of Oslo!”

“The Lady of Norway!”

“Daughter of Odin!”

“10/10, would smash!”

“Have the old gods returned to us?”

“Can I get an interview?”

Thea backed away slowly, looking from side to side to find a place to escape to, finding no offer of asylum in the shattered remnants of the structures she’d been too inattentive to save. Catching her breath, she summoned the wind once more, letting it lift her up and shoot her away into the dark green countryside of Norway. Wherever she went, she had to get out of Oslo, just for right now. She could return later, maybe. Out of costume.

Who was she kidding. She had to return. Her apartment was in Oslo. And band practice was at seven.

o-o-o-o-o-o-o

“You poor creature.” Her whisper was a dark promise of something that couldn’t be understood. Infectious like a disease, intoxicating like a drug, soothing like a caress. Velvet darkness slithering through and around Smashnir, sifting through his ears, penetrating his mind, filling him. Completing him. “How you suffer.”

“Smashnir... just wanted... smash....” The black-skinned ogre-creature clawed weakly at the grass beneath him with his single arm, curled into a ball in a pool of the sticky, milky white substance that had gushed from his wound. Much of it had healed over, leaving a messy, gaping, scabrous stub, but the beast was left drained and whimpering with pain from what he had endured at the hands of Oslo’s protector. “Fix... everything... smash a better... world....”

Shadows slithered and eddied around the fallen behemoth, cradling him, comforting him. “You will, my knight. You will create a better world. We will create a better world.” That poisonous voice faded to a whisper, its location still difficult to place. “My world.”

“But... no smash without... arm....”

Only then did the source of the voice become visible to the fallen Smashnir, the darkness of the forest coalescing, collecting, taking form. “Don’t worry, my knight. I shall save you. I shall uplift you. Be mine, swear yourself to me, and I will recreate you.”

Trying to pull himself upward, Smashnir set his one hand beneath him and pushed up, struggling to get to his knees and finally looking up at the figure before him who know spoke, as dark, ethereal and beautiful as a nocturne. A woman in black, black of hair, pale gold of skin, her eyes shimmering with the vivid scarlet of a rose -- two almond-shaped pools of blood that met Smashnir’s own gaze, locking it to hers. Beautiful, exotic, yet comforting, drawing him in.

“I... swear....”

“What is offered cannot be undone,” she whispered, taking his chin in her delicate hand, those vivid crimson eyes boring into Smashnir’s narrow, pale blue ones. “You would embrace Euphoria?”

A slow nod. “...Let Smashnir smash again.”

Laying her hand on the shoulder equivalent to Smashnir’s severed arm, the woman arched her back slightly as dark power coursed through her, a curious mixture of life and death -- a necrotic revival, manifesting in tendrils of deep, effervescent red energy that seeped from her hands, spiraling past the scabs and hacked flesh and imbuing itself with the pale wound. Bonding with Smashnir’s physiology, the strange magic imbued him and extended itself, replicating and enhancing what it found, mapping out the lines of a new arm with bone and blood and muscle and flesh and skin.

The new appendage was different than it had been previously, pulsing blood red beneath the transparent charcoal casing. It was larger, longer, the hand at the end thick and powerful and tipped with vicious, jagged claws. Struggling to his feet, Smashnir’s piglike eyes widened as he watched the replication and growth of his new arm. Something that both was, and was not a part of him. Something new. Something better.

“Are you pleased, my knight?”

“Y-yes... yes!” Smashnir roared with joy, flexing his new hand, staring at it in awe. “Now I can smash again! Maybe even crush! Smash viking girl who took Smashnir’s arm!”

The woman in black arched a brow, tilting her head to the side. “What viking girl?”

o-o-o-o-o-o-o

One week later...

“I dunno, man, I saw some of those pictures that leaked. She looks like the real thing.” Felix said, coaxing a slightly off-pitch bung sound from his bass guitar as he attempted to tune it. Gangly, red-haired, smooth-faced. Not the type anyone would take for a metalhead if they didn’t know already... or if he wasn’t in corpsepaint.

“Hot, too. I dig all the dark eye makeup. And you know what they say about a woman who can handle an axe....” Aksel Madsen, drummer, would-be limelight-thief of Hela’s Kiss, and the opposite of Felix in every way. Aksel was a true viking, with his forked blonde beard and stockier build. Also, traditionally, the hardest to tolerate of the four.

“I wasn’t aware that anyone said anything about axe-handling. Ever. Except in direct relation to chopping wood.” Erika, rhythm guitar and vocals. Infuriatingly tall, enragingly pretty, stupidly talented. Every day that passed was a day that Thea had to physically restrain herself from snapping Erika’s neck and trying to suck her powers out through her esophagus. So far she’d managed to hold back, but it was getting harder.

“I’m just sayin’, I’m sure she knows her way around a shaft, eh?” Aksel chuckled darkly as he set up his drums, laying the sticks on top of them and reclining against the back wall. “Maybe we can actually get this thing started if Felix ever finishes tuning his guitar.”

Erika shrugged, shuffling around the center of the garage a bit before finally sitting down on the steps leading to Felix’s mom’s house proper. “I’m more interested in the hero girl anyway. Not like we’re gonna suck any less today than we did last week. What are they calling her?”

“I’m telling you, it’s a hoax!”

“Lady of Norway,” Felix answered, ignoring Aksel. “I think she’s badass. You see the pics of the monster she brought down? Yeesh. Thing was like a Troll from one of the old folk tales.”

“You don’t believe in all that stuff, do you? Odin and all that? Dwarves under the mountaintops and all that Lord of the Rings crap?” Erika scoffed.

Thea finally spoke up, having tuned her guitar off in the woods before she actually came to practice. This was definitely a conversation she was more comfortable sitting out, but sometimes it was more suspicious to say nothing at all. Right now, nothing weighed on her mind more than being found out. “Well, I mean... you know what they say...” she chuckled weakly. “Odin promised an end to frost giants, and I don’t see any frost giants anywhere.”

“Hey, I don’t think anyone asked Thea,” Aksel said with a little grin on his bearded face. “What do you think about this Lady Norway... whatever-she-is?”

“Um.” Thea froze, swallowing hard and fidgeting her hands along the neck of her guitar. “Uh, she seems cool, yeah? She’s fine by me. I mean, if we have dragons then we may as well have a knight, right?”

“I was thinking more about whether you think her boobs are too small. But I can imagine you not wanting to bring that up.”

Thea chewed her lower lip awkwardly, slowly scooting her legs up to perch her feet on her stool, hugging her knees in a half-assed attempt to conceal her unremarkable chest.

“Aksel! Don’t be an ass!” Erika barked, but was quickly interrupted by the garage’s side-door opening and two nearly-identical young men stumbling through it.

“Avatar!” one of them blurted out, before clearing his throat, taking stock of those inside of the garage and trying to tone it down. “Thea. We have dire news.”

“Who the hell are you?” Aksel growled, starting to stand up, but Thea quickly hopped from her stool. How the hell had these two gotten here? Actually, maybe not the best question. They were borderline-omniscient scouts by nature, after all.

“I’ve got this, guys, don’t worry!” the Lady of Norway said, slinging her guitar around her back and rushing over to meet the two intruders. Huginn and Muninn were their names -- the all-seeing ravens of Odin, now in human form to lend their assistance to Thea. To anyone else, they appeared merely as two young men, boyish, both pale, black of hair, dark-eyed. More “cute” than handsome, undoubtedly related but twins only ambiguously.

“Friends of yours?” Felix murmured.

“Um...! Cousins! This is Huey and... Mu... ey.”

“Those are not our names,” Muninn began to say, furrowing his brow in confusion. “Avatar, your task remains unfinished, there is much to be undertaken--!”

“--And we were just going! Aaaaall three of us! See you guys later! Hopefully Felix will have his guitar tuned by then!” Thea yelped, trying to forcibly shove the raven brothers back through the door they’d come from, following them out and slamming it shut behind her.

Silence fell as Thea and her two “cousins” stormed out of the garage as quickly as they’d arrived. Felix blinked, staring at the door they’d left through.

Bung.

o-o-o-o-o-o-o

No showing up at band practice! I can’t have people knowing who -- or, what -- I am.” Thea scolded, catching her breath now that she’d gotten the brothers out of earshot. Both tilted their heads at her for only a moment, so curiously bird-like even in their human forms.

“The burden of duty remains yoked, avatar,” Huginn said gravely, folding his arms across his chest.

“I got that part! More to do. What is it? I got rid of the big... thing. The ogre or whatever it was.”

“Something had come to Norden, avatar. Something dark. Something we had hoped would never return.”

“Already, her influence grows.”

“If left unchecked, her wickedness will infect the people. Dull their minds, harden their hearts, glass their eyes.”

“You are she who was chosen by Odin, avatar. It is you who wields the might of Thor, the wisdom of Frigg. You alone hold the runed blade of Tyr.”

I know all that stuff! Okay, what is this darkness, where do I find it, and how do I kill it?”

The brothers looked at each other for a moment, then turned to Thea once more. “You do not kill her, avatar. Banish, defeat, expose, whichever you wish. But that which has long been unliving can never truly die.”

“Sounds like fun. But you guys aren’t really giving me much to work with.”

Muninn, this time, took the stage, breathing in deeply and attempting to explain. “Deep in the forests of Norden, she rises. A creature far from the Eastern lands, hundreds if not thousands of years old. She sweeps across nations, erecting temples to herself, drawing forth those who seek her poisonous aid.”

“Already this has begun. The actions of the creature Smashnir have created need for her. Those without homes, those without jobs, they are falling to her influence.”

Thea furrowed her brow. “Wait, those without jobs? This is Norway. We have like, the best economy ever. They can just get unemployment until they find a new one.”

“She grasps any opportunity, any glimmer of hopelessness, anyone who feels outcast or dejected. Anyone with the seed of doubt in their heart can be corrupted by her malice. She’s darkness, she’s toxic.”

“She’s delirium.”

“She’s Euphoria.”

“Oooh, I heard that capital letter. Okay, so I find her and hit her with the axe, once you tell me where she is. And by the way, his full name is Smashnir the Smashinator, Smasher of Things.”

“We will take you to her, avatar,” Huginn said grimly. “But know that this foe is not merely one that can be stricken down with the Wings of the Aesir.”

“Well... we’ll see about that. “Hit with axe” is kind of my big battle tactic.”

“You possess the wisdom of Frigg, even if it is not known to you. Use it, avatar.”

Thea sighed deeply, slinging her guitar from off her back and holding it firmly by the neck. “Got it. And... quit calling me avatar.”

Muninn tilted his head. “What, then, do we call you?”

“Mighty Odin, grant me the strength to protect your creations...” Thea closed her eyes as she felt the crackle of wind and electricity sweep around her, encircling her, enshrouding her. Her guitar transformed into the runed axe she had used to fell Smashnir, her simple clothing forming into a sleek set of dark armor. Even her hair and makeup changed with the transformation, enough that her bandmates had managed to, somehow, not recognize her. Finally, she looked up to the raven brothers and inhaled deeply. “...Call me Lady Norway.”

o-o-o-o-o-o-o

Spiraling around one another’s glossy black bodies and with Thea close behind, Odin’s two ravens soared throughout the tall, dark woods of Norway. Small bits of snow still clung to the ground in wet patches, but most of it had managed to melt -- or had been stomped away by black metal bands shooting music videos. The temple they had mentioned, however, soon came into view.

Tall, dark, and spindly, Thea didn’t realize until she’d gotten far closer that she’d been looking at the tower the entire time, mistaking it for one of the tall trees of the forest. Thin thorns and spires mimicked branches, and it wasn’t until she was upon it that Lady Norway understood what she was looking at the entire time.

The ravens finally landed some hundred yards away from the tower, their tiny forms expanding and shifting into human bodies once more. As Thea lit beside them, they looked from her, to the tower. “Your greatest test lies ahead of you, avatar.” Huginn murmured.

“She will be within. Possibly others. She tends to uplift those around her, those with enough power and wickedness within them to be of use,” Muninn added with a nod, then turned back to Thea. “We cannot join you in this, Lady Norway.”

“What?” Thea exclaimed. “Why not? I thought you two were supposed to help me with all this... hero... avatar stuff.”

“We guide and protect you. In matters of war, you are the avatar -- not we. Ásáheill, avatar.”

The brothers shifted back into ravens, then took off into the darkening sky -- leaving Thea alone. She flinched when she heard one of their caws some ways off. They were gone now, hundreds of yards away. She was alone in this completely. One girl, a metalhead from Oslo who’d never fought anyone before in her life, against some kind of demon cult leader.

Well, what was the worst that could happen?

“Ásáheill,” Thea whispered, tightening her grip around her axe and moving towards the tower. Tall double-doors were open, whispers of madness and peaceful darkness echoing out from the gloom they led into. She didn’t see any people, not yet -- maybe she was early enough to prevent the corruption of any innocent lives.

Finally steeling herself enough to take a step inside, Thea felt a chill run down her spine. The style of the “temple’s” interior was bizarre, the architecture implacable and the decorating a strange blend of cultures, most pointedly drawing from Imperial China and Victorian England, creating an aesthetic that was both exotic and baroque. She also noticed quickly that the place was dark... quite dark.

“I’m so glad you finally came, viking girl. I’ve been expecting you for a while, now.” The voice seemed to come from all angles, formless, accompanied only by a soft, pale glow that was slowly bringing the interior of the tower into better view -- even moreso as Thea’s eyes began to adjust to the dark. “You despise me, don’t you? You came here to destroy me. Destroy what I’ve created.”

“I came here to keep Norway safe. That’s what I care about,” Thea said guardedly, lifting the Wings of the Aesir slightly and keeping the axe defensively in front of her. “To do that, I need to stop you before you endanger its people.”

“Endanger them? By granting them peace? Solace?” The voice grew warmer now, sickeningly comforting, but... comforting nonetheless. Soothing. “Giving them acceptance in a world where it is so hard to find?” The words began to take form, the soft glow coalescing into a human shape, that of the most beautiful creature Thea had ever laid eyes upon. Moonlit, seductive, sinister... but beautiful. “Do you even know a single thing about me, Lady of Norway?”

“I... I mean, no... but I know you have to be stopped.”

“And who told you that?” The woman took a step forward, seamlessly slow, confident yet cautious. “Your storm crow companions? Those who control you, using you to fight their battles for them?”

You possess the wisdom of Frigg, even if it is not known to you. Use it, avatar.

“I serve the old gods. I serve Odin. Huginn and Muninn may be weird, but... I trust them. And I trust them a lot more than I trust you.”

The woman took one more step closer, her expression wounded, shattered, her hand extending to lightly caress along Thea’s cheek. “So brave. So loyal. Shame that you chose your loyalties... unwisely.” Like the mist she’d formed from, she seemed to disperse, revealing the hulking entity that had been lurking behind her for who knew how long, motionless in the darkness. New and improved, bigger than before, his pale eyes now laced with red streaks and the veins boiling beneath his translucent skin. “Destroy her, my knight.”

“SmaaaaaAAAASH!!!” Smashnir lashed out like a man possessed, leading by swiping out with his massive, makeshift hammer, then following up with a flurry of slashes and swats with the unbalanced, gigantic, pulsating arm that had been gifted to him. Backpedaling as quickly as she could, Thea was barely able to get her axe in front of her, causing the first strike to only send her skidding backwards -- but the follow-up with that unholy, bloated appendage battered and raked at her, forcing her to retreat farther back into the dimly-lit tower temple.

“What... are you?” Thea gasped, her eyes widening as Smashnir descended on her like a mad dog. Long gone was the big, dopey, destructive creature she’d seen in Oslo only one week ago. This new Smashnir was different. Determined, brutal, feral, assaulting Thea with attack after attack, setting her on the defensive, desperately chopping at his attacks as she backpedaled in a semi-circle around the temple. With the fairly small floor area of even the base of the tower, Smashnir’s massive height and reach were rewarded, forcing her to retreat while simultaneously not allowing her the room needed to truly escape his zone of “influence.”

“Sir Smashnir! Smashnir is better! Dark Lady fixes Smashnir!” Letting out a bellow, he reared back his “normal” arm, the one that still held his huge, pendulous hammer. “Smashnir the Smashinator, Smasher of Things!” He whipped his arm forward, tossing the huge bludgeon outward as if it were a throwing dagger or axe. Instead, it tumbled immediately to the floor, creating a sizeable crack in the tile.

“Um?”

“Sorry. Smashnir saw in movie once. Maybe Fixer too big to throw.”

“No worries.”

Wasting no more time, Smashnir slashed his throbbing new arm in front of him as he stampeded forward, grabbing his hammer (“Fixer,” apparently) mid-charge and lashing out with it. This time Thea was pinned, too close to the temple wall to truly dodge out of the way, not without taking another hit. If only she could get enough of a breather to counter-attack, but so far, that was not written in the stones. Unable to go up or to either side, Thea ducked down to her knees and wished for the best.

Fixer slammed into the tower wall with enough force to take a massive chunk out of it, shaking the temple to its foundation and letting in a burst of weak sunlight that helped cancel a bit of the gloom. The scream of rage that followed it, however, was even more thunderous. “Fool! You dare destroy the temple?!”

“But... you said Smashnir could fix....”

Thea took the opportunity to dive between the troll-thing’s legs, clasping her axe tightly and rolling forward, giving herself some space to move and looking around for the source of the voice.

“Not my temple, heathen! It must remain standing!”

Oh yeah? “Is that so, dark lady?” Lady Norway said tentatively, keeping her distance as Smashnir began to turn around once more, moving a bit slower now that his confidence had been deflated. “What must it remain standing for?”

There was a silence from that voice, and even Smashnir looked a bit befuddled -- not that this was too very unlike his default state.

“So... if it must remain standing, then I probably shouldn’t do this?” Thea backed up a little more, turning just enough to chop her axe to the side, taking a chunk out of the twisted stone that made up the windowless tower.

“Stop.”

“You do realize that the more you tell me not to, the more I’m gonna.” Thea’s lips curled into a smile as she slammed her axe into the same section of wall, calling upon the might of the Aesir to fuel her strikes and causing more of the stone to crumble away.

“My knight! Stop her!”

Smashnir was more watching, now, than actively participating, his look of befuddlement now transformed into abject confusion. “Viking girl pretty good at smashing...” he murmured, looking from the hole Thea had made, down to his own hammer, then glancing at the hole that he himself had made. “But... Smashnir is the one who is supposed to smash....” The beast-man looked back up to Thea, watching her attack the environment around her, seeing the delight and satisfaction in her eyes. The joy of smashing.

“Smashnir is the one who smashes!” he roared, turning and sending his hammer blasting back through the wall, using his newly enhanced strength to take out massive chunks of brick, each strike like a clap of thunder, the shouts of Thor himself.

The tower rumbled and shook, swaying now as the cracked foundation struggled to hold up the temple’s great height. Bricks and chunks of marble were tumbling from above, now, causing Thea herself to attempt to take cover, but Smashnir held no such self-preservation instinct. He was in his element, he was at peace. He was smashing. He was fixing it. Fixing everything.

“Idiot! Stop! You’ll ruin... everything...!”

Lady Norway summoned the winds about herself once more, rushing through an opening in the wall at the last moment as the tower began to topple from the bottom down around Smashnir, burying him in tons upon tons of stone, wood, metal, and marble. Thea caught her breath as she soared out into the forest above the tower, watching the entire thing collapse, watching it submerge Smashnir... then watching a billow of scarlet mist with a woman’s screaming face streak out from the ruins, burbling, shrieking sounds echoing out around it as it dispersed into the skies of Norway.

“Whew.”

Thea closed her eyes for a long moment, floating in mid-air and trying to calm down after what had happened. One thing she knew for sure was that it hadn’t gone the way she’d expected it to, that much was certain. “That was intense.”

Flying some distance away from the collapse and back into a less creepy section of the forest, Thea finally settled back down onto her feet, taking another deep breath before releasing the enchantment that had been bestowed upon her, dissolving the armor, turning the Wings of the Aesir back into her electric guitar. No longer Lady Norway -- now only Thea Lokken.

“She won’t be gone forever, you know,” said a soft, familiar voice from behind her. She didn’t need to turn to recognize it as the dour, serious tone of Huginn, especially as the second raven settled on a branch in front of her.

“Are they ever?” Thea sighed. “We probably haven’t even seen the last of Smashnir.”

“Such is the destiny of the Avatar of the North. It’s a tireless task, with little thanks and no reward.”

Muninn, the second raven, shifted into his human form, now sitting on the branch with his legs dangling off of it. “Are you willing to accept this burden, Thea Lokken? Will you be the savior of your people? The defender of Norden?”

Slowly, the girl nodded, looking down at her guitar, then back into the woods where she’d left the ruins of Euphoria’s temple. Everything felt different now, like she‘d conquered an obstacle that, in some strange way, changed who she was as a person. She wasn’t just the lead guitarist of Hela’s Kiss anymore. She was Lady Norway. “Yeah, it looks that way. The people need a hero, right?”

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Joygirl

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For me it's the opposite, I get really awkward when writing male characters and for some reason, the traits I put onto them feel forced or archetypal. I thought I did an okay job with Cassian, but the only thing that made Dirge work was embracing the fact that I could just write him as a macho douche. Subtle, no, but entertaining.

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Joygirl

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I'd go with the first. I generally consider gaelic myth to be more enjoyable than japanese, and Skull Kid (that's Skull Kid, not Majora) is a really cool and unique look.

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@scorpion2501:

TECHNOMANCER // Moonlyte

The last thing she'd expected was for the creature to charge directly towards her -- traditionally, using a long-range weapon had kept her out of that situation in the past, as much as was possible. It came as no surprise then that she found herself wondering what on earth went wrong as the beast went for her, attacking her and driving her backwards, struggling to fight the creature off with a weapon that wasn't suited to doing so while gritting her teeth against the intense pain of the bite.

She got her moment of respite, however, when the Sidder grew distracted, charging the foppish diplomat who was performing surprisingly well in this fight, even if his sword looked more like an unnecessarily long letter opener than anything else. Finding the nearest stable surface, Moonlyte leaned back and propped one arm up, aiming her gun once more at the beast's flank, favoring a low shot in the event that she might be able to blow apart one of its fragile-looking legs.

> Attack with Steampunk Gun.

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Joygirl

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