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Slamming her gloved knuckles down into the slaver’s bulbous face, Siobhan watched as his head was forced down between his shoulder blades.Gelatinous flesh began bulging outwards around the epicenter of her punch, the man’s comrades backing away in horrified disbelief. They did not run far enough, however, and with a thunderous crack his inflating form exploded into a hail of bone fragments from his shattered skeleton that cut through their ranks.

“Grenadier Brick Fist!” The half-breed muttered, a red mist permeating the area as a dozen of the slavers collapsed. Barca was not excluded from this rain of bone, but he had - in a show of his endurance - remained standing despite the numerous lacerations now covering him.

His eyes trembled in his skull at the sudden appearance of this woman, and the even more abrupt slaying of his men. His bladed whip still in hand, the towering man steadied himself before this new opponent. “W-who the hell are you?! Are you with the royal army?!”

Judging by the evident shock on his face, Blackwell hadn’t indicated to him that there would be any individuals capable of seriously opposing them in the Queen’s army. Of course, Siobhan wasn’t a part of that group, so he wouldn’t have exactly been in error in that regard.

”I’m Grace D. Siobhan,” the redhead replied, ”How are ya?”

“How am I? I’m livid!!” He slammed his foot down with enough force to cause the ground beneath them to tremble slightly. “How dare you do this to my crew! I’ll turn that red hair of yours into a coat for this!”

Siobhan blinked at this, eyeing him for a moment. ”I think ya’d need about fifteen or twenty of me for that. Yer pretty fat.”

”Actually, one of my tribesmen tried that before. I really wouldn’t suggest it, human hair is too delicate - you could probably make a coat of their skin if you’re careful though!” Kailani called out from the candy shop, having been quite happy to follow Siobhan’s orders to stay back with Mushuro. Her dark brown gaze roamed across Barca, before glancing to Mushuro. ”Though, if you guys wanted a human coat I bet the big guy there could cover both of you. Not me though, that’s gross.”

Barca seemed momentarily stunned by their...overanalysis of his threat, but quickly recomposed himself and - with a heavy grunt - swung his whip through the air to begin his visceral rotation anew. That same howling whistle as before could be heard as his massive form moved on the much smaller Siobhan.

It was like he was practically glowing with a silver aura in that moment, the dirt beneath him bearing the scars of his assault even as Siobhan quickly leaped back away from him when he drew near. Releasing a roaring laugh, Barca grinned down at the comparatively diminutive woman. “Brahaha! How long do you think you can keep this up?! Sooner or later you’ll fail to dodge, and my whip will turn you into cold cuts!”

Bending her legs slightly in response to this, Siobhan took a hard leap away from the slaver to put some distance between them. It was no random jump, however, as she was now beside a sizable barrel. One which she could sense contained water. Grinning slightly, the redhead swiftly punched a hole in it to allow the liquid to begin pouring over her hand.

Barca had - in the meantime - nearly closed the distance between them, only to be forced onto the defensive as a series of glimmering orbs came flying at them. Quickly using his whip to deflect them, the slaver captain tightly gritted his teeth as more appeared in their wake, each wave coming in sets of five. “Nnngh…?!”

”Water shot!” Siobhan exclaimed with a broad grin, now throwing the deadly droplets at him with both hands. She had observed how many bullets he had been able to deflect from the royal army earlier, and so…

“GYAGH!” Barca yelped as one - and then five more - pierced his defenses, the blistering rotation of his whip breaking the moment he was struck. While the wounds he received weren’t so deep as to be life threatening, Siobhan knew they had like a right bitch...and that was enough to set him up for her next attack.

Closing the remaining distance between them, Siobhan twisted her hips and jabbed her fist forward into his massive gut. Rippling outward from the point of impact like a wave, a visible blast of air soon erupted from his back. This merely heralded the sizeable slaver being blasted clean off his feet as he went sailing across the town.

Soldiers and slavers alike stared up in awe as the massive human cleared the trading port completely, before ultimately impacting the mast of The Nathaniel Creed, the impact finally putting an end to his brief career in aviation. As the mast slowly collapsed onto the deck, Siobhan lowered her arm and exhaled.

”Probably didn’t kill him. He’s a tough one, he is,” she noted.

Mushuro shot Barca and the ship’s wrecked mast a disdainful look. ”If he wasn’t, I might have killed him already chains and tricks or not. Well, for now it’s better than he deserves.”

Beside the panda-garbed young man Kailani clapped excitedly, before glancing to Mushuro with a beaming grin. ”Don’t worry, I have an excellent recipe in mind for him if I can find a place that sells spices!” Returning her gaze to Siobhan the shipwright gave her Captain the ol’ thumbs up.

”Good work, Chief!”

Siobhan turned back towards her crew of two, offering them a happy and triumphant smile as she pumped her arm in victory. The slavers near the scene their captain’s defeat began to panic and flee from the redhead as she stepped through the hole in the store. ”Well, now that mess has been handled, care to come aboard my ship?”

”Presumin’, of course, you have no other business here?”

”Tch, well considering I dismantled roughly half of this island’s standing army, I think I’d better not have any business here for a while anyways. Let’s go. At least we stopped Barca.”
December 25th, 12:04 AM
Grim Grotto, Gotham City

“468-323-9078,” Samantha called off the number to Karen, who somewhat awkwardly typed it into her phone while giving her black Bombay cat an occasional aside glance. “And stop looking at me like that. It’s 2020, and he’s been living as a human for years.”

Karen shook her head at this, still a little disappointed that she wasn’t getting to see some kind of cool magic ritual. Oh well, at this point she was happy to take whatever worked. Pressing the call button, she sat the phone down on the table she was seated at, with Samantha leaping up onto it shortly after.

The phone rang… and rang… and rang… and just before it seemed it would logically cut to voicemail, there was the typical jumbling sounds of plastic that typically came with a landline phone and a tired, distinctly unamused voice that followed soon after.

”...So help me, if you’re calling this late to sell me goddamn windows…

”Is that a landline phone? How old is that dude?” Karen blurted out, causing Samantha to lightly hiss.

“Quiet!” She snapped, clearing her throat in the process. “Heya, Ted. It’s Samantha! Remember? I...uh, take it you’re aware of what’s going on outside?”

”Oh. Hey, Sam.” Ted responded, the annoyance in his tone rapidly ratcheting down to a friendly, but still somewhat tired tone ”And yeah, between the dead rising, the noisy goddamn bird ladies in the sky and the unconscious minotaur in my backyard, I figured something was up.”

There was a bit more shuffling and creaking, from his end of the line which sounded almost like someone sitting up on an old couch… and the distinct rattling of a beer-can or two hitting the floor.

”So, what happened?”

Samantha exhaled, wondering where to start. Probably should just get to the point. “Well, you remember the new Wizard, yes? Well, she has apparently lost her ability to transform, and it appears to be because someone has found a way to block the tether that allows the Rock imbue her with its power.”

A long sigh resounded from the other end of the line followed by a brief silence as Ted very quickly put two and two together.

”It’d have to be Zeus wouldn’t it…” He finally spoke, more to himself than to the feline, before his tone shifted and that hint of annoyance came back as he addressed Sam once more. ”Where are you now?”

Samantha nodded in response, even though he couldn’t see it. “Either he himself, or - more likely - someone has done something to him. Given that something has apparently happened to Persephone, and the dead rising months earlier, I dare say Hades is also in trouble.”

Karen listened to the conversation between her cat and the mysterious individual on the other side in silence, unsure of what she could add to the conversation.

“You know where Castle Kasimir is, right? In Gotham? Famous billionaire Zoey Kasimir’s place?” Samantha continued. “Well...we’re in a cave somewhere beneath that. It’s kind of been smashed.”

”I can find it easy enough, mind casting a little spell or something so I can pick you out from everything else?” Came the voice from the other end, accompanied by yet more shuffling noises that sounded an awful lot like someone trying to get dressed as quickly as possible. ”Gotham’s always had shitty reception.”

Sam chuckled in response to this. “It’s because there’s so much going on here all the time. But yes, I’ll do this for you.”

Turning to face away from the phone, Samantha’s eyes began to glow with a low orchid light as she drew upon the arcane energy pumping through the laylines of Gotham City. Karen watched with no small amount of interest as it slowly coalesced into a short cylinder-like shape on the ground. Transmuting from energy to a seemingly physical object, the glow of the arcane ultimately faded from it to reveal an open can of gourmet cat food.

Samantha promptly leaped down and dived into it.

”...Uh, she did it,” Karen muttered in the phone, pinching the bridge of her nose.

”Lemme guess, cat food?” Came Karen’s reply… not from the phone, however, but echoing off all the cave walls around her.

Before she could have time to ponder that, however, a massive gout of roaring suddenly erupted a few metres in front of them, lingering for only a few seconds before it abruptly subsided, leaving a… actually kinda short and relatively plain-looking olive-skinned man before them garbed in simple, jeans, work-boots, an old wife-beater and a flannel jacket, a ballcap emblazoned with the logo of some Canadian hockey team resting above his heavily scarred face.

”Yup. You are a creature of habit, aren’t you Sammy?” Said man found it in him to quip with a little smirk before he turned towards the blonde teenager and extended one of his hands. ”I’m Ted. Nice to meet you.”

Karen knew something like this was going to happen, that he would probably just appear out of nowhere like that. Magic tended to be that way, just letting people pop in on you unannounced. Still, she hadn’t been quite ready for someone so...diminutive. He was honestly pretty unimpressive looking if she was honest, though his face was covered in some pretty nasty-looking scars.

”Um, nice to meet you,” she replied in kind, extending her much smaller hand to shake his, watching as it basically swallowed hers whole.

Samantha, for her part, had simply released a low grunt at the man’s comment before continuing to eat the food she had just summoned. Apparently, she felt her work was done for now.

The massive Venus fly-trap-looking plant slowly maneuvered its way around the room, seemingly examining the new arrival despite its clear lack of eyes. Seemingly satisfied, it settled back into a neutral position.

”We remember you, Titan, we always have.”

The Green seemed almost angry at the man, like it had held a grudge against the Titan.

”Oh, look! It’s the part of my grandma that talks too much, what are the odds?” Ted quipped right back without missing a beat. ”Still cheerful as always I see.”

Samantha, by this point, had finished with her impromptu meal. Giving her mouth a few satisfied licks, she turned to stare up at the man. “So, I imagine you know why I’ve called you here: we need help getting to Mount Olympus in order to uncover what is happening and hopefully put an end to it.”

”I figured as much. But, well… taking you there is easy enough.” The now-outted Titan replied, releasing Karen’s hand and lifting it to enunciate his point in an (almost stereotypically) Mediterranean fashion ”But you do realize the minute I take you there, things will get very exciting, very quickly. Even disregarding Zeus, whoever else is up there right now will be more than a little unhappy to find a Titan knocking on the door.”

The cat offered him a light shrug. “You’re strong, and I’m certain you have some pretty strong allies on your side as well. Make some calls.”

Karen was thankful to know that she wasn’t the only one that Samantha could be rude and bossy towards, at the very least. She was surprised that attitude hadn’t gotten her feline friend in more trouble over the course of her long life. Then again, she was apparently a Rakshasa Princess. Go figure.

”Erm...what do you think will happen, exactly?” The teenager couldn’t help but ask. ”Do you have any clue what’s going on up there?”

Ted had just been staring down at the fuzzy princess for a few seconds after her remark, face screwed up in an expression that screamed ’Oh, you cannot be serious., and almost missed Karen’s question.

Thinking on it a moment, he took in a deep breath and clicked his tongue as he came across some way to articulate his thoughts on the matter.

”I’m pretty sure we can rule out this being Zeus’ doing. For all his faults, he’s always been pretty adamant about keeping the world safe as a whole, and if he was pissed enough to try and end it, you could be damned sure he’d make everybody know it was him.” He began, stroking his chin thoughtfully. ”That leaves… well, just about everyone else on that fucking mountain; if there’s one thing Olympus is, it’s a place full of immortal, vain, insanely powerful assholes. That’s why none of the nice Gods live there.”

Furrowing his brow as something occurred to him, Ted continued.

”...In fact, most Gods would make a big show of putting their name all over this, now that I think about it. It’s actually… strange that they haven’t done so yet. For as loud and obnoxious as they’re being throwing monsters every which way, they’re being very subtle about their intentions. Olympians don’t usually do subtle.”

Karen listened quietly to the short old man before her. Seriously, why were all the men in her life so small?

He didn’t seem to be able to pin the blame for this on any one individual, but was able to rule out the “usual suspects”, so to speak. Not that Karen, even after all the reading she’d done over the past year, was an expert on Greek she didn’t feel confident on making any guesses herself. Besides, this person was apparently one of the Titans, who would know better than him?

”Well, then how are we supposed to do this? I’m...kind of useless right now, if you haven’t noticed,” Karen muttered, scratching at the side of her face awkwardly.

”We get you inside, we save Zeus, you get your Magic Mojo back and if you’re feeling generous, you can stop him from violently murdering me the second we’re done saving the world.” The scarred man replied with a slight shrug and a hint of a smirk. ”Sound like a plan?”

Karen pursed her lips at his suggestion, glancing off to one side. He...seemed surprisingly confident in her ability to pull this off. Samantha did tell him that she had lost her powers, right? He’d heard that part, hadn’t he? ”How exactly am I supposed to save Zeus? I don’t think the little bit of magic I can manage right now is going to be too useful against literal Gods!

”Wouldn’t worry too much about that, we’ll be doing most of the fighting.” Ted Explained with yet another relaxed shrug ”...Also, I can do this.

‘This’ apparently meaning casually poking the blonde in the forehead with two fingers… which caused her to be immediately engulfed in a bright, crimson flame, which may have given her a bit of a start, but didn’t actually burn her or harm her in any way; instead, condensing around her frame and seemingly hardening into a red, scaled down version of her Arcana costume… with the addition of bronze-coloured armoured plating, and the mark of a flame in place of her usual thunderbolt.

”You’re familiar with the template responsible for your your transformation, right? Well, this armour’s basically a scaled back version of that.” Ted explained simply ”’Only difference is, instead of channelling the power of six gods through your body, you’re basically just wearing some of mine. Should help even the odds a bit.”

Karen yelped only slightly when she was engulfed in the strange fire, having experienced something similar in the past...albeit with electricity rather than flame. Unlike when she spoke the Word, however, she wasn’t transformed. She didn’t feel power flowing through her, or anything of the sort. Rather, it was surrounding her, like a literal suit of armor. She would imagine it was a bit like how Zoey felt in her Iron Fang armor.

”...You guys are bad about giving people the heads up before you do stuff like this,” Karen noted with a sigh. ”Still, thanks. Erm, what does this let me do?”

A grin made it’s way onto Ted’s face and he crossed his arms, very clearly holding back a laugh at the girl’s weariness about old men that hand out magic powers. After all, it wasn’t that they were bad at it, per se, it was that watching people’s faces when it happened never got old.

She’d find that one out herself at some point, anyway.

”Well, ya won’t be able to fly in that, but you will probably be able to ‘Leap tall buildings in a single bound’, as the comics say, and can definitely bench-press that armoured jalopy of a car over there.” He began, once again enunciating with his hand ”And, well… ya know that thing I know you do because everyone who ever was the Wizard does the exact same thing where they hold lightning in their hand whenever they want to look intimidating or they’re just bored? Try that now.”

Karen knew what he was talking about, he wanted her to channel magic into her hand. Why didn’t he just say that? Was this how she sounded to Raymond back in Arabia? Still, she had an idea where he was going with this: if it enhanced her strength and durability, then maybe it also enhanced her magic power in some way.

Holding out one of her hands, she curled her fingers into a claw and drew upon the laylines...only to watch as fire was almost-instinctively conjured instead of the simple arcane energy she would normally receive as Karen, or the lightning she would get as Lady Arcana.

”...Fire! That’s actually pretty cool!” Karen couldn’t help but smile at this. There was just something awesome about being able to control fire. Balling her hands into fists and pumping them in excitement, she grinned to Ted. ”Man, now I feel a lot better about going to Olympus! Let’s do it!!”

”Now, now… before we get ahead of ourselves, I’m gonna need to borrow your phone for a second.” Ted stopped the teen with a hand on her shoulder before she could start bouncing around the room, the slight grin he’d formed at the sight of her enthusiasm fading slightly as he thought what dreaded thing he had to do next, eyes turning back to Sam to show his pure disdain for the idea. ”...I gotta make a call.”

The entrance to the Grim Grotto from outside the manor opened, more than likely drawing the attention of the four inside. Stumbling through it was a ragged looking David O'Rinn, dressed in a shuffled suit and reeking of alcohol. His eyes fell upon Samantha the cat, some old guy having a conversation with Karen, and a giant potted plant that looked straight out of the Little Shop of Horrors.

"... Wait, Goddammit, Tommy did drug me!" the boy exclaimed upon seeing the plant.

”Who is this? I don’t think we’ve met,” the giant plant asked in the soft and nasally voice of Harris Herzog, leaning towards him and examining thoughtfully despite not having eyes. ”Hi, I’m Harris Herzog, I’m a friend of a friend of your… mom’s? I dunno, Grim just has a bunch of kids in her house and I don’t know, it’s weird right Josh?...”

A moment of silence passed.

”Josh says it’s weird, he also says he accidentally sneezed and now my face is burning. Fun times all around.”

”... What the hell?” Was all David could muster as the plant went off on a mini tangent. He paused, remembering his mom had mentioned a Harris a few times, and snapped his fingers. ”Wait, are you that bug plant dude with the tail my mom talks about? Or is that a different Harris?”

”Same one, I’m just using this plant as a vessel so that I can talk to you guys about the minotaurs and stuff, you know how it is,” Harris said, finishing with a sigh. ”I remember when I was surprised by a talking cat, that was a simpler time.”

Another strange moment of silence passed, the creature slowly moving through the air as if breathing. Well, it was breathing, but as if it were breathing with human lungs.

”Josh says hi, you haven’t met but he’s like my protege or something, I dunno, he came out of the sewers butt-naked and… oh, wait, I wasn’t supposed to say that.”

David blinked. ’... Man, this guy is frigging weird with a capital W.’ He began to move towards his suit, continuing to talk to Harris. ”Well Harris, my name is David, I’m Grim’s protege slash foster son. I go by Blackstar in costume.” He paused, finishing slipping into the suit and holding his helmet under his arm. ”... Where are Zoey and Malcolm? Do you know?”

The plant’s “head” nodded down thoughtfully as Harris tried to remember.

”Hmm, last I recall they left to go see about clearing the castle, It’s mostly been me… well, me and-”


”Yeah them, and Karen, she punched a minotaur. I helped.”

”Huh. A minotaur. I saw a few outside, I think.” David says, sliding on his helmet. He turned to Karen and the old man, his voice being run through a modulator, giving his tone a deep, almost robotic quality. ”Oh, and hey Karen. Why aren’t you in your hot fo- I mean Shazam form? And who’s the other guy?”

Karen raised a hand to wave to David, her cheeks reddening at his near slip. Normally she wouldn’t be embarrassed by this, given all the gross comments she often got from guys as Lady Arcana...but David felt like some odd kind of family, so it was a little strange. ”Simply put, I can’t transform right now. This thing I’m wearing is...well, it was given to me by this guy.”

She thumbed to the rather short man beside her. ”His name’s Ted. He’s a Titan.”

Blackstar paused, processing what Karen had said. ”... Titan? Like, the Titans? From Greek mythology?” He asked, mulling it over in his head. ’Well… It would explain the minotaurs and harpies and all that.’

”Yuuuup.” Ted replied flatly, nodding towards the boy ”...Might as well get that one outta the way now; things are only gonna get weirder from here on in, anyway.”

”We hope they do, Titan, so that you are the first to be slain!” The Green’s many voices roared at Ted, fury echoing in the roar of every single voice.

Green you… you okay there buddy?

”We have demanded your death ever since your foolish error, and you only continue to live because you are required to save our world, we will grow over your burning corpse, interloper!”

For a brief moment, the skin on the interloper in question’s hand cracked open, revealing flesh that glowed like molten steel as his eyes locked onto the potted plant with an angry red glow and steam began to rise slightly off every inch of exposed flesh on his body. For one single instance, the incomprehensible wrath only a Titan was capable of bubbled to the surface and the ground began shaking slightly to the tune of his heartbeat…

”Getting just a little tired of the comments from the peanut gallery…”

”Interloper is right,” A rumbling, modulated, and deep voice broke through the conversation from the door to the wine cellar. The armored visage of Grim stood there, glowing white eyes settled intently on Ted. ”Grim. You are?” The hero stated in a cold voice, heard even through the synthetic rumble.

Zoey didn’t like unexpected visitors. They tended to break her windows.

...And then it was gone, with a calming exhale as the olive-skinned man turned his head towards the new arrivals.

”Name’s Ted. I’m here to help.” He stated with a slight shrug ”...That is, if your petunias don’t try and kill me first.”

”Charmed,” Grim replied dully, staring at the man for a long moment more. Finally her gaze swept across the other occupants, from the giant plant, to Karen in yet another suit - she’d have the full rainbow soon - and finally to her eldest son. ”I see you’re ready to go as well, David.”

The teenager was massaging his temples, only for his head to snap up when he heard his mother’s voice. ”Wha? Oh, yeah, all ready, I uh… Woke up when I heard all the noise.” He went back to massaging his temples, muttering ”God I need an aspirin” under his breath.

Malcolm, for his part, just stayed as quiet as possible, the fact that the glowing eyes behind his visor stayed glued and locked onto David’s every move the only evidence that he was screaming on the inside.

’Don’t puke, don’t puke, don’t puke, don’t puke... The younger foster-brother chanted within the confines of his own brain, knowing there’d be hell to pay if Zoey found out he’d been covering for him this entire time while he went out boozing. ’For the love of God, man, we don’t need that shitstorm right now...’

Karen raised her hand to wave at Zoey and Malcolm as they entered, noting the tension in Zoey’s voice regarding their newest ally. She didn’t quite have the heart to tell her that there would be even more joining them soon. ”Hey guys. Did you get everything taken care of up there? I hope so, because I still can’t fly like this.”

”... Yes, we made sure to clear out the halls and brought more medical supplies to the bunkers. Patched up someone. I see you got a new suit - no more help from the Green?” Even as she spoke Zoey brushed passed the others, the armored suit hiding how the woman tensed as her back was put to ‘Ted’. However she was now examining David, her thoughtful hum distorting.

”Did debris from the shaking strike you?” She asked in concern, raising a hand to grasp onto her son’s helmet to pull up and check on him.

”Just a bit, nothing too major though. Add to that the fact that I just woke up like half an hour ago, and I don’t feel in the best of shape right now.” David replied, smoothly saving himself from the wrath of a thousand fiery deaths.

Karen smirked slightly, leaning against the nearby table for support. Too bad she couldn’t do the air-lean right now. ”I’m sure he’s fine. He just wandered in from the outside, after all.”

”... Excuse me?”

David’s eyes widened slightly, but he chuckled slightly. ”It’s a funny story. That’s because one of those damn things got into my room, I had to escape through the window and climb down to the ground. I came in through the hidden entrance outside, remember, the one hidden as a boulder?”

”...Excuse me?

David’s smirk fell. ”... Wait…” He paused, realizing his mistake. ”Oh, fuuuck.

Malcolm’s head and shoulders visibly slumped at that and a pained sigh escaped him.

’Oh balls…’’ He echoed internally. ’...So close.’

”Fascinating, we detect faint signs of wheat in the child’s stomach, mayhaps some hops. Another disgusting meatbag profiting off of the suffering of plant-kind, like everyone else.”

”Excuse me?!”

Karen’s eyes shifted slightly to the side, wondering if she should feel at least a little bad for starting that whole snitchalanch that just fell on David. The raised brow Ted gave her at that moment, however, informed her that yes, yes she probably should. ”...Sorry.

”Boys will be boys…” He whispered to her in more of an amused, uncle-ish kind of way ”...Buuuut that one’s probably gonna have a sore ass for a while, thanks to you. And judging by the guilty look of the other one? Him too.”

Without another word Zoey had yanked David’s helmet off and let it clatter to the ground. Her metal-encased hand grabbed onto his jaw as she examined him, noting his eyes and complexion. ”You have been drink- is that a hicky?! The guttural noise that was distorted by Grim’s voice modulator couldn’t quite be identified, though the way her free hand clenched it probably wasn’t anything good.

”You snuck out on Christmas Eve and - and you! The suit whirled around, Grim focused on Malcolm. ”You said he was in his bed while in the middle of a crisis?! What if he was hurt out there?! David this is an incredibly bad example - and you’re both grounded - I can’t believe - and in front of guests!

”... In my defense, I didn’t start drinking until after Seven Minutes In Heaven. And that was thirty minutes before I left, so it’s not like I was drinking all night.”

”Oh, goddammit Dave. We’ve already hit rock-bottom.” Malcolm groaned out at that last comment, not knowing what ‘Seven Minutes in Heaven’ was supposed to be, but seeing what those words did to his foster-mother’s blood-pressure all the same ”...Stop digging, already.”

Grim had gone silent, which was never a good sign. Silence either meant she was concentrating, on high alert, or so angry that she was biting her tongue to stop herself from saying something she’d regret. The armored visage of the Iron Fang armor just looked slowly between the two boys, fists slowly clenching and unclenching. Finally a deep, shuddering breath echoed from the helmet before she abruptly turned, focusing instead on Karen.

”Can I assume this,” She gestured to the red armor. ”Is due to not being able to transform still? What’s the plan?” The modulated voice ground out, anger simmering beneath the tones. There were more important things right now, Grim could recognize that despite how distinctly unhappy she obviously was.

Karen quickly nodded, all too happy now to accept the change of subject. ”Yup! This will grant me super not-dying abilities in the face of whatever horrible things await me!”

She could tell she was obviously much stronger than she was as a human, but at the same time much weaker than she would’ve been as Lady Arcana. She wouldn’t hold her breath about doing much more than surviving against the likes of a God...though she felt like she could probably manage their servants. I mean, Malcolm did survive with Zoey looking after him, so surely she could with a Titan at her back?

”I see. That’s good, in the face of not being able to transform.” Grim ran her eyes over the outfit, even reaching out to tap her metal knuckles against the chest plate and giving an approving nod. ”When do we leave for Olympus?”

”We can leave anytime you guys are ready, and hopefully my… brother... will meet us there.” Ted explained plainly, spitting out that last bit and casting a rueful stare towards Samantha. ”And from there, it’ll just be a long slog up some shiny stairs until we get to the gate. There’s wards on that thing stopping us, even me, from just porting into the summit, but we can get damned close.”

The massive plant-beast let out a throaty growl in response to the Titan’s words, baring a group of wooden teeth that suddenly shot into place from within the beast’s head.

”Whatever the case may be, we refuse to work alongside you, interloper, Harris Herzog will travel to Hades to reawaken Persephone, if any smart beings wish to avoid being brutally murdered under the Titan’s incompetent guidance, feel free to join us,” The Green growled in a cacophony of rage and distaste for the Titan.

”Ya know if you had a mouth, I’d tell you to kiss my ass, Old Growth.” Ted fired right back, another glint of red flashing across his eyes before he caught himself ”...But the Green is right, helping Persephone and perhaps more importantly, reviving the Lord of the Dead can only help us, so maybe we should split up.”

Karen lifted up her phone for a moment, tapping something into the screen. A second later, Zoey’s phone would vibrate to signal that she had just received a new text message. ”Zoey, I just texted you the details on how to contact King Orin. The…thingie he gave me is back at my apartment.”

”With me on Olympus, and Harris in Tartarus, there won’t really be anyone left to deal with this invasion,” Karen noted, taking a step towards the heavily armored billionaire. ”You should probably try and gather all our superhero friends and like...I don’t know, kick ass Impossibles-style!”

That probably wasn’t the best way to put that. This was important, after all. People were surely dying out there as they loitered around here. ”...And by that I mean, we should all be working together to beat this in our own ways! Us magic freaks can deal with the other world stuff, but I’d like to know we’ll have somewhere to come back to once we’re done.”

”You’re kidding, right?” Was the absolutely flat response Karen received from Grim, who gazed down at the shorter young woman. She swept a metal encased fist forward, gesturing to the red armor. ”Karen, you can’t even transform right now. Even with your own back up you can’t honestly expect me to just let you waltz off to fight literal Gods without me, can you?”

Grim shook her head, and something flashed across the white glowing eyes of the Iron Fang armor as a minuet motion had her bringing up her contacts. ”I’ll call Tank. I’m sure he’ll be happy to lead that particular battle for us.”

”What, the naked guy who jumped across the ocean?” Karen blurted out, folding her arms. She should’ve known Zoey was going to be stubborn about this. It was actually kind of foolish of her to expect the redhead to go along with it just like that. ”Look, next to me Tank is probably the strongest guy ever...but he never came across as the leader-type. What they need is someone to coordinate and organize them, Zoey...and who can do that better than you?”

”The Sea King, then. He’s a literal King, I’m sure he’ll be adequate at coordinating the defenses on land as he is at sea.” Grim responded calmly, crossing her arms. The metal scraped lightly against each other, the blood providing little protection. ”There are others that can do a decent job leading the forces here.”

Karen was starting to get irritated now. Resting a hand on her hip, she jabbed a finger right at the warsuited superheroine. ”Um, hello? The the whole fucking world is under attack by monsters! Nothing’s ever happened like this in...well, longer than any of us have been around! ‘Decent’ isn’t going to cut it right now. They need you, Zoey...the first person with the guts to be an Actor Activist again after so long. A human, to show everyone that even normal people can take a stand and make a difference in the darkest times.”

”I’ve already got every advantage on my side that I’m going to get. If having two literal fucking Gods beside me isn’t enough to help me survive this, then I don’t think you’ll be a deciding factor,” Karen added, glancing over to the monitors that were now displaying the devastation taking place all across the globe. Towering beings whom Ted would very much recognize now walked among burning buildings as harpies swarmed about them.

Karen returned her focus to Zoey. ”You don’t know shit about Olympus, but you do know how to inspire people. This isn’t about me, it’s about saving humanity.”

”... I could be a deciding factor,” Grim muttered under her breath, so low that it was mostly distorted in the modulator. Slowly her gaze roamed to the monitors as well, having followed Karen’s gaze. Though the helmet hid any expression on her face, beneath it her jaw tensed as her teeth grit together. Finally, she huffed lowly. ”... Just try to be safe, Karen.”

Grim reached out, putting a hand on the shorter woman’s shoulder and squeezing at the red armor. With a final great sigh she turned and walked to her computer, inputting the number from Karen’s latest text.

”Call Tank, Aquaman, and Jimmy Chong.”

As this conversation occurred, from the large plant came an odd sound, a clearing of the throat, but one that was clearly meant to bring attention. In fact it was painfully clear that this was the purpose, as the plant didn’t have a throat to clear.

”Er… Ted? I’m Harris. I’m not The Green, I’m his Avatar or whatever. He… they, want me to go to Hades to help there, but I kinda wanna bring…”

Harris seemed to struggle with coming up with the word to use, he hemmed and hawed, long stretches of silence going by as he argued with himself as to what was the right word.

Finally he sighed and spoke once more.

”I want to bring my…”

This last bit seemed to be the hardest.

”...My son.”

It took some effort, but he finally resolved to say it, it wasn’t as if Josh could hear him.

”Not… my real son, but close enough, he idolizes me, and it’d break his heart for me to leave him behind. I can go to Hades just fine by myself, but I need someone else to take him along, something about The Green being unable to transport physical objects.”

”Oh…?” Ted began, who’d been simply staring back coldly the entire time as the same plant who’d been shrieking death and hatred at him for the past hour suddenly… started doing that less so. Becoming more warm and… human.

Despite the circumstances the scarred Titan allowed a small, yet noticeable upward turn of his lip to occur on his face, almost as if he were actually smiling... perhaps even meaning it, too.

”I have a few ideas about that could be done, yes…” Ted stated flatly, not giving away anything quite yet ”But tell me, why the hell would you want to bring your son to Hades... pun intended.”

”My son is an eight foot tall blue demon with acidic body fluids and an ability to heal any wounds that he takes. He’ll fit right in,” Harris joked sarcastically, though he seemed reluctant to use sarcasm, almost as if the use of it made him worried. ”I don’t mean to brag myself but, I am the Avatar of the collective consciousness of all plant life on Earth. I do agree that he can be a bit of a… jerk sometimes, but I’ve taken hits from the Wizard for God’s… I mean, Zeus’ sake… nah that’s still not cool, I still believe in god and stuff even if all of this is proven to be real and wow I ramble when I’m nervous. But yeah, I survived getting hit by the Wizard, I broke to pieces but that’s not really an issue for me...”

Harris’ rambling continued on for some time afterwards, but nothing that he said post this point had any importance to the topic at hand.

Ted’s brow continued to rise as the Avatar talked… and talked… and talked some more. It was actually almost refreshing, after all the doom and gloom of the past hour or so to hear Harris awkwardly ramble on about his son as well as literally everything and anything he could think about to cover up his own nervousness… but, the Titan still needed him to get to the point at… well, some point.

”Harris.” He finally cut him off, a bit more gently than most in the room would think he would, after hearing his gruff, sarcastic tone for the past hour. ”...Is there a town by where you and your son call home? A river perhaps?”

Harris sputtered for a moment, slightly flustered at being cut off, he worried to himself about whether he had done something wrong, he thought to apologize, but that wouldn’t exactly help the situation when there was something clearly asked of him, why would he deviate from that?

”Er… yeah! Hope Springs, West Virginia, a few miles away there’s a forest with a few giant trees that are completely out of place, that’s where we live.”

”Alright then…” Ted began, looking down at Karen’s phone, still in his hand from having called his brother, as he began to use his google-fu to find ‘Hope Springs’. At the same time, he pulled a golden amulet, emblazoned with a silver and bronze skull from his pocket ”You see this? This is a beacon of Charon.”

Holding out for a solid minute for Harris to get a look at, the Titan calmly took a step back, vanishing into another fireball and returning mere moments later.

”I left it hanging from the weathervane on top of City Hall. Take it, dip it into the river and for the love of all that is holy... The scarred man explained, voice suddenly growing eerily serious, as if discussing a matter of life and death. ”Do not stiff the Ferryman.”

The plant nodded frantically.

”Got it, I really appreciate it,” he earnestly thanked the Titan. ”Well, I suppose I’ll have to meet you all around, I hope… that sounded wrong… oh well, Green says see ya… That’s a lie, he’s still pissed, but eh what are ya gonna do?... I should go.”

”Best of luck, Harris.” Ted stated with a small grin ”...And seriously, pay the Ferryman, you don’t wanna get on his bad side.”

The plant raised a leaf in a poor parody of a salute, it was kinda cute in a way.

A moment later the massive plant’s head went still and drooped under its own massive weight once more, like physics had finally noticed its existence, it began to brown due to dehydration, and one last leaf fell from the stem, resting on the ground.

As the plant fell limp the ground, the scarred, flannel-clad Titan cast his eyes back towards the Wizard and Grim, brow raised as they said their parting words.

”Well, Kiddo…” He stated, raising a hand and materializing another portal into existence with a snap of his fingers. ”...Ya ready to go?”

Yes! Karen replied, stomping towards him impatiently. She had been ready for what felt like ten, no, fifteen minutes now!

Karen was so very thankful that Ted’s long conversation with Harris was finally over. Seriously, she knew that the plantman needed to get to Tartarus and that it was important, but did they really have time for them to ramble on like that? The world was kind of in the middle of being invaded!

”Let’s do this, old man!”

”That’s the spirit, Kid…” Ted chuckled a bit as he rapped her on the shoulder and led her through the fiery hole in reality ”Just, uhh… little warning about my brother though, he’s a bit…”

”WEHEEEEEL! IF IT AIN’T MY LEEEEEETLE BROTHER AND SHAZAM’S TIIIYEEENY LEETLE GIRL-WIZHAIRD…” Came the thunderously loud, though oddly strained voice of a massive man in a ten-gallon hat, improbable sunglasses covered in rhinestone and a garishly shiny jacket with tassles hanging off the entire length of his sleeves.

December 24th, 10:59 PM
Grim Grotto, Gotham City

A low rumble - akin to thunder - echoed throughout the Grim Grotto. They could hear the sound of the scores of mythological creatures outside attempting breach the barriers put in place upon the activation of “Lockdown Mode”. How long they could hold was anyone’s guess, however, given that they were designed with humans in mind.

The monitors of the Grim Computer now displayed a sky swarming with harpies outside, as minotaurs, centaurs and even a few mighty cyclops all converged on the Kasimir residence. The four that had attacked them earlier had apparently gotten ahead of the main body, and that was perhaps fortunate for all of them.

Lowering herself down onto a nearby crate, Karen placed her head into her palms. Her powers were gone. That meant she was useless. What was she supposed to do now? How were they supposed to fight such a ludicrous number of superhumanly powerful creatures without Lady Arcana?

“Blegh…” Samantha shook the frigid droplets of water free from her fur after having dunked her head in an ice cold bucket. “ unprecedented, as far as I’m aware. It shouldn’t be possible to break her connection to the Rock of Eternity: she’s the Wizard, the avatar of its power!”

”Well, clearly it is, because here we sit at the mouth of Shit Creek without a paddle.” Malcolm added with an exaggerated shrug, either remarkably calm given the situation or remarkably good at hiding how much he was freaking the hell out.

Language,” Zoey muttered, almost unheard as she was more or less unfocused from the conversation going on behind her. Spread before the billionaire on the monitors she instead kept track of the fight outside, the siege on her castle.

And Jaina thought buying a castle was stupid. This’ll show her.

Outside the defenses on the castle were activated and lit up, many of them admittedly non-lethal - from the sticky tar-like substance that shot out like cannonballs, dragging down harpies and centaurs, to the painful riot pellets that just seemed to bounce off a cyclops. Even the more lethal options were having difficulty getting a grasp on anything - though the armor piercing rounds from a few of them were making headway, just not nearly fast enough!

On the bright side, the front door’s flamethrower was as sufficiently cool as Zoey thought it’d be when she drunkenly installed it one night.

”Is there anyway to the Rock aside from Karen?” The billionaire finally demanded as she tore her gaze away from the monitors, only to stalk passed them. For a moment she reached out to the equipment locker containing her usual supplies, only to grimace and turn instead to the suit of armor positioned stationary in the metal framework holding it in position. The arms of it were open, showing the inner workings, but Zoey was quick to close them up and move to start opening the back.

This was not a good time to be testing a piece of prototype equipment, but what choice did Zoey have? Grim’s usual outfit would do little against that.

“None,” Samantha gently shook her head in response to Zoey’s question. “That is normally a good thing, as it means nobody but the Wizard can access the myriad artifacts of power stored there, or tap into the limitless pool of raw arcane power the burns within it.”

Karen slowly looked up from her hands at this, glancing towards Sam. ”How exactly am I connected to the Rock, anyhow?”

“By a ‘tether’, of a sort,” Samantha replied. “It is imperceivable to all but the most magically attuned, its frequency unique. It is the line that the divine thunderbolt you call down travels through.”

The blonde tilted her head slightly at this explanation, her arms partially folding as she cupped her chin in one hand. Something about her explanation was gnawing at the back of her mind now. Wait…

”If I’m connected by this tether, couldn’t someone maybe sever it?” Karen proposed.

The black Bombay cat quickly shook her head in reply. “Not without killing you. Besides, if that was somehow the case, then it would send a catastrophic ripple throughout the magical world...the Rock of Eternity cannot exist without the Wizard to embody its power.”

Karen pursed her lips for only a moment before amending her suggestion. ”Then...maybe just block it, somehow? So that I’m not really separated, but I can’t transform either?”

“...I wouldn’t have thought so,” Samantha noted. “To even attempt to do something like this, you would need the exact frequency, and it is a short list of beings that have the means to obtain it.”

”So we need to find a way to unblock it, while dealing with a myriad of … mythical creatures…” Zoey trailed off, her voice drifting from behind the high-tech suit. After a moment she stepped out from behind it, eyes narrowed. Her hand gripped the metal framework so tightly her knuckles were white, and her eyebrow had begun twitching once more. Greek mythological creatures. Blocking the power of someone powered by six Greek gods. So tell me, Sam, would a God have the power to block the Wizard’s tether?”

Samantha’s head perked up at this, her eyes falling onto the the redhead. “...Not just any God, but if it were the one through which the Rock chose to facilitate Karen’s transformation through, then...perhaps.”

”So Zeus?” Karen pushed off the crate, glancing to her cat. ”You said his power was copied onto me, right?”

“To be exact, your six patron deities’ combined power acted as a ‘mold’ through which to contain the Rock of Eternity’s infinite magics,” Samantha elaborated. “Anything less than this would be unable to withstand the tremendous forces constantly at work within the body of Lady Arcana.”

Karen’s face seemed to light up at this, the teen immediately turning to Zoey. ”Quick, Zo! Do you have like...any potted plants or anything down here? Some kind of living plant!”

”Why would I have a plant down here?! Do I look like a plant person? Me? Metal and tech and sometimes I forget to eat, let alone feed a plant?!” Zoey’s eyes darted left and right before she almost snarled, abruptly going to her equipment locker and grabbing another rifle, leaving it on her work table beside the first she had retrieved.

”I’ll get one. Stay here. Malcolm, which closet is Buttloaf in?”

”Third floor, sun-room down the hall from Dave’s room.” Said walking affront to privacy stated with a with a raised brow, staring upwards through all the stone, steel and concrete over their heads at the mayhem going on above ”...One thing sticks out, the bigger ones don’t seem to be able to fit through some of the windier, narrower stairways we have. So that’s probably your safest bet.”

A thoughtful hum was Malcolm’s response, before Zoey just gave a short nod. Finally the billionaire moved to the armor once more. The joints and panels along the back gave a leaking hiss as they opened up, and it was a bit awkward wiggling in, but it fit comfortably - of course it did, she built it herself to her own specifications. The hum of machinery came to life as the various magitech parts came to life, the back closing up and metallic arms twisting to come loose from where they hung in the framework. When Zoey spoke once more her voice rumbled, deep and low with the built-in voice modulator.

”I’ll grab the plant and Buttloaf. Use the computer to reach me if needed - if you need to run get in the Grim Jet, tell it to activate autopilot. Make sure David is with you - the emergency systems should already be moving his bed to the hangar. Remind me to finish installing the one in your room after this, Malcolm,” Absently she patted his head with a thickly encased hand before picking up the rifle, moving toward the entrance of the Grim Grotto.

”Be safe, you two.”

Karen quietly paced about the Grim Grotto, her eyes closed in concentration as she felt the laylines that ran through the castle, the city. They were really agitated right now, due to the presence of so many mythological beings. She could feel the little hairs on the back of her neck practically standing up straight from what was happening in the sky. It felt like it had literally been ripped open.

“You feel it, right?” Samantha kept pace with her. “The barrier between their plane and ours has been ripped open, allowing them to freely spill out.”

Karen pursed her lips so tightly that they grew pale, the strange sensation beginning to develop into a stabbing pain in the back of her skull. ”Why would Zeus want to do something like this, if he’s the one who helped make the ‘mold’ or whatever?”

“We don’t know if it is Zeus, Karen,” Samantha reminded her. “And even if it is, the mold for Shazam’s successor was forged thousands of years ago. He may have had a change of heart in that time, especially given that you are a child.”

Karen’s eyes shot open at this, giving the cat an irritated look. ”You have no idea how fucking rude it is to keep using that against me, when your crazy band of Gods and Monsters forced this on me!”

“You accepted it willingly!” Samantha fired back.

”I had just been scared shitless by ghosts, shot, and then abducted by some scrawny old Space Wizard! I wasn’t exactly in a good state of mind, okay?!” Karen jabbed a finger in the Bombay’s face, which she didn’t hesitate to bite down on.

Releasing a pained screech, Karen furiously rolled on the ground trying to pry the irate feline off her with a string of curses.

Malcolm, for his part had been paying little heed to Karen’s pacing for the past half hour, having been staring up, stone-faced and in muted silence through the ceiling since Zoey had left, seemingly not at all distressed by what was happening… well, outwardly anyway. The fact that as soon as she’d left, Malcolm immediately found an empty box-mag to deftly toss between his hands that soon was joined by a wrench, a hammer and a bean-bag bouncing from knee-to-knee as he watched his foster-mother’s progress spoke more about the boy’s worry than his voice ever would.

Of course, if there was anything to snap him out of his reverie, it would be Karen screeching and rolling on the ground as Sam, the fuzzy and powerful decided to take a chunk out of her fingers, causing him to lose concentration and sending everything he was juggling clattering to the ground.

”Oh, fer…” Malcolm started, but reined himself in as he took a deep breath and turned to the dynamic duo across the Grotto, and their very literal catfight. Exhaling to calm himself and wiping his face in a gesture of irritation as he strolled over and calmly grabbed hold of Karen’s wrist just as he gently pinched the back of Sam’s neck, pulling the two apart.

”Guys? Not helping. The boy growled as he placed Sam down on a workbench and gave her a scratch behind the ear before offering his hand to the blond to help her up ”We kinda got bigger things to worry about than whatever the hell this is.”

Finally deciding not to give Karen a choice in the matter and just yanking her to her feet, Malcolm finished.

”So if you could both just save it for when we’re not dealing with harpies, minotaurs and giant one-eyed-monsters, that’d be great.

A whining started up from Buttons, him having been alternating between pressing up against Karen or Malcolm’s ankles, in this case with all the commotion having squished himself underneath the work table. However now he edged out, his whining becoming more prominent - just to bolt up when the Grim Grotto’s door once more opened.

Grim stepped inside once more, the voice modulator rumbling with every heavy breath that escaped. One of the metallic arms of the suit was around a potted plant, the end of her hand clutching onto the scruff of Ker the Corgi, her other hand free - even of the weapon she had carried out with her. However, a healthy smattering of blood ran up her metal-encased fingers, scrapes of teeth along the paint of one shoulder, and there may have been a few feathers in one of the blades of the flight pack on her back.

Without a word Zoey dropped Ker none too gently, the little buttloaf not seeming to mind as it bounded over to Buttons, and then proceeded to stare at the other occupants of the room. It looked like Karen had been rolling around on the floor from how mussed up she was, and Malcolm was wound tighter than a guitar string. Finally she just shook her head and dropped the potted plant in front of Karen with a grunt.

”Hey guys it’s me again,” Harris said, attempting to be joyful despite the worry and tiredness that was clearly in his voice, he was finally able to talk to them without fighting a giant beast created through bestiality. He couldn’t say he was exactly pleased to have to discuss this however, especially if what The Green was saying was true. Speaking of…

“So, you all clearly know a bit of what’s going on, so I’m not exactly going to... want to... waste your time,” he said haltingly, seemingly unsure of his word choice. ”I do have a friend who knows far better than me what is going on, so I’ll just let him talk.”

Harris went silent for a moment, and when he next spoke his voice was replaced with a booming voice that seemed to come from multiple mouths, it spoke English with an unidentifiable accent, unlike anything on Earth’s surface, both lyrical and harsh in diction.

”Humans,” The Green stated as a greeting. ”Wizard,” The Green said again, directed this time at Karen.

”I have lived for many millennia, and I have only once seen such an event as this. I am connected to many entities, including the Greek gods that you, Karen Hernandez, claim as the source of your power. You mortals amuse me with such grandiosity but that is not an important topic. As a result of my connection to many entities, when they are disabled I am made aware, and I am to believe that one has been disabled. Considering the presence of Greek figures and the dead walking my Earth, I am given to believe that Persephone has somehow been neutralized. I aim to bring Harris Herzog’s consciousness into Hades itself in order to reassert order. If you have any questions I may prove able to answer them.”

”How many fucking gods are there?” Grim muttered under her breath, so low the words distorted in being deepened.

Karen didn’t hesitate to rush over to the potted plant after it began to speak, only offering a quick nod of gratitude to Malcolm for - rather harshly - jerking her to her feet. Smiling up at Zoey for - clearly - going through quite a bit of trouble to get it for her, she placed both hands on either side of the pot and stared down into it so she could listen to the message of first Harris, and then the Green. It was...quite informative, to say the least. Things were starting to make a bit more sense now.

”Neutralized...could that have happened with the Gods on Olympus, too? Even Zeus?” Karen’s head swivelled towards Samantha, who had quickly ran over to join her and the Green in their conversation.

“Zeus somehow neutralized?” Samantha seemed unsettled by the prospect. “Well, in an infinite universe, I wouldn’t say it’s impossible, but even if that were the case, your base powers are duplications of theirs and not dependent on their continued existence. If, however, someone has subdued Zeus…”

Karen leaned in towards the cat slightly, tipping both herself and the plant forward towards her as if to pressure her to continue. “Not really the time for dramatic pauses, Sam.”

“Whenever you speak the previous Wizard’s name,” she continued, a small hint of irritation lacing her words, “the Rock of Eternity releases an intense concentration of its power in the form of Zeus’s divine thunderbolt. This travels down the aforementioned interdimensional ‘tether’ directly to you...though you can redirect it, with a refined enough understanding of the Rock’s power. If Zeus has been subdued, however, then it is possible that someone is using his divine thunderbolt to somehow ‘block’ the one you call down.”

Karen’s eyebrows knitted slightly, trying to comprehend the cat’s rather wordy explanation, feeling she could have simplified that quite a bit. But there was something she said that piqued her interest. ”Wait, so if I can control it...then could I just have it, like, take a different route than the tether to me? One they couldn’t think to block?”

“Yes,” Samantha replied, causing Karen’s eyes to momentarily brighten, “If you had sufficient control over the Rock’s power. You very much do not at your current level of experience. You would far more likely send it off into space and into some unfortunate planet.”

The light once again fading from those brown orbs, the teen sunk slightly at this. ”Oh. Right…”

”Don’t worry,” Grim had moved to the work table at this point, wiping off the blood, guts, and occasionally feathers that adorned her armor from the solo excursion through her home. ”We’ll think of another way to… open the tether. Or reroute it.”

The potted plant sat unmoving as The Green overheard their conversation.

The Wizard’s abilities have been blocked somehow, they’re discussing alternate methods to enable her to transform.

You can transfer my consciousness through yourself, correct? Is it possible for you to move her lightning bolt through yourself?

It’s not something we’ve thought of trying, and she has no ability to connect with me.

Here’s a funny thought, ask her.

The Green grunted and a number of its other voices began to complain, but the majority seemed to be in agreement, it’s not something that they’d think of doing, but Harris Herzog had a way of forcing strange actions into acceptably successful plans, his input would be considered.

”Harris Herzog has come up with a possible solution. We are not a physical object, The Green, we are a small realm unto ourself, able to hold consciousnesses and transfer them across planets and realms. Perhaps it could be possible to transfer the lightning bolt through ourself, we are unsure as to how you could access us, but we are sure a method could be constructed.”

Karen blinked at the idea, before looking towards Samantha as if to ask if she had any input on the matter. The cat stared up at the plant for a moment, seemingly considering their options in silence for the next minute.

“You could bring the thunderbolt to her through this method,” Samantha concluded, causing Karen to once more brighten in hope. “But that’s only half the problem. The lightning represents her connection to the Rock. It is a stream running down the tether. The Green will need to host this cosmic stream of raw arcane power, and its native realm may suffer damage through the effort. If the Green suffers damage, than so does every form of plant life on Earth, am I correct in this belief?”

”You are correct in this belief. However, we are a conglomeration of every single plant on the planet, representing trillions of life-forms, we have yet to be damaged in any way other than external, and unless this raw arcane power is strong enough to completely destroy the entirety of Earth, we should suffer only superficial damage, and even if this power is enough to cause us damage, we will not be damaged for long.”

The Green presented itself as knowing everything, however, this was not one of its areas of expertise, they were unsure themselves if this would work.

“Well, if you’re certain of this then it is certainly worth making the attempt,” Samantha replied. “But then the problem evolves: how do we connect Karen to you?”

Karen raised her chin at this question, remembering Harris’ appearance. ”W-wait, will doing this transform me into a bug-woman or something?”

”I’m never putting another plant in my bedroom again…”

The Green felt a slight amount of amusement at the young wizard’s question.

What are they saying?

Karen Hernandez has expressed distaste towards being forced into taking your appearance.

Kinda rude but okay.

The Green would have rolled their eyes had they any.

”That is not a worry, Karen Hernandez,” the green reassured in a way that was not at all reassuring. ”We never stated we were certain, feline, but in the long time that we have existed, we have learned to take a few risks,” The Green lied, it hadn’t taken risks for the majority of its existence, it was only thanks to the success of Harris Herzog as their Avatar that they had begun to attempt more risky behaviors.

”Thankfully, entering your conscience into The Green should be easy.”

The potted plant extended a web-like tendril that approached Karen slowly, seemingly aiming for the back of her head.

”Fuck off for a second, Green,” Zoey snapped harshly, before turning the glowing white gaze of her helmet to the teenager. ”Karen, you don’t have to do this if you’re not okay with it. We can find another way.”

Pursing her lips slightly at the approaching tendril, it was impossible not to feel a small twinge of fear work its way up her back. ”’s fine. I’m okay with this…”

Karen was so not okay with this...but she also knew what was potentially at stake here. In the time that Grim had been gone, the Grim Computer had began displaying reports from around the world of streams of mythological creatures pouring from the sky. What was happening here at Kasimir Castle was some overblown attack on her, but the prelude to a full scale invasion by some hostile outside force.

Her duty as the Wizard was to safeguard this world from outside threats, like Samantha had so often told her...and she had chosen to live as a heroine, even if she complained about it far too much. No matter how she turned it around in her head, it had been her choice. She couldn’t back down now.

”...Let’s do it,” Karen smirked, stepping forward into the web of tendrils.

The connection was made, and Karen’s consciousness entered The Green.

To an outsider, it must have looked something like a Jackson Pollack painting, a mass of unconstructed blobs floating in empty green space. The largest of these blobs turned towards her, agonizingly slowly.

”Oh hi Karen, didn’t expect to see you here.”

”Karen Hernandez, welcome to The Green, if you wish to take your time to prepare first, we shall wait, time in The Green passes far slower than that outside,” The Green’s deep voice boomed through the emptiness, taking time to enunciate every syllable of every word.

To an outsider it must have been maddening.

”Harris?” Karen’s…’eyes’?...darted about the impossibly alien world, her mind struggling to comprehend everything she was seeing. If she had believed the Rock of Eternity to be a strange place, it honestly didn’t have anything on this. It felt like she was no longer...alone in her mind?

Or rather, it felt like she was a small piece of a greater whole, one tiny section of a single finger on a person’s hand, if even that. A mere joint in the greater biological machine of the Green’s enormous body.

”Holy sauceballs...this is what you see all the time, Harris?”

”Only when I close my eyes… or sleep… or daydream. It’s not all that bad when you’re used to it, the biggest worry is the time dilation, but I’ve found it helpful when I’m trying to think up a plan.”

“Unnghh…” Karen stood on wobbly feet, a zombie-like state. Slowly, a glob of drool slid down her face. Samantha could only stare up at her owner/ward/apprentice in concern, wondering what she could be seeing in that moment.

”Karen?” Concern managed to filter through even the synthetic roughness of Grim’s voice modulator, the older woman stepping in front of Karen. The low glow coming from the helmet’s eyes swapped to an odd, light-pink color as Zoey looked over her, metal-encased hands resting on her arms. Finally a low growl sounded from her and with a flick of her wrist a hook shot out from the suit’s arm, grasping onto the nearby chair with force just to be yanked over. Guiding Karen’s near comatose body to sit the billionaire continued to nearly growl, the sound reverberating in the modulator as she grabbed a somewhat oil-stained cloth off her worktable, using a clean edge to wipe away the drool. ”This isn’t exactly a good sign in humans, Green.”

”She will be fine, as long as her consciousness exists within ourselves, that part of her is functionally invulnerable. Her physical body is in a safe place as well, unless we’ve been lied to,” The Green again reassured, this time to Samantha. The strange thing was the fact that the more times it tried to reassure, the less reassuring it became.

”So...does this mean that no matter where I am, we can communicate?” Karen questioned, trying to scratch her face but somehow uncertain if she had any hand at the moment to do so with.

”So long as the connection exists, you will be able to speak to Harris Herzog and ourselves,” The Green confirmed with a monumental slowness. ”It may be difficult to maneuver while still maintaining the connection however, it would either take immense concentration or complete body replacement, as in the case of Harris Herzog, in order to be conscious in both planes at once.”

Karen chuckled in response to this, an almost self-deprecating sound. ”Well, I’ve been in over my head for over a year now. What’s one more extraordinarily impossible thing to deal with?”

Focusing her mind in much the same way she did when she melded the arcane energy of the laylines into the various shapes she desired, Karen immediately felt the strain of essentially trying to be in two places at the same time. It felt like her eyes were trying to stare off into opposite directions, like the respective sides of her body wanted to turn away from one another. It…hurt, in truth.

”Nngh…” An audible grunt from the teenager resonated throughout the Green, but she didn’t stop. Even as the pain mounted, she kept on pushing. It was like she could see her own skin tearing as her mind and body tried to function independently yet simultaneously.

”Gggnn,” A flash of consciousness returned to Karen’s eyes, her body now seated, which made things considerably easier in that moment. She could feel her entire body start to tremble from the strain of being in two places at once, her fingers balling so tightly that her knuckles went pale.

Hunching forward slightly, the blonde’s eyes flickered up at Zoey and Malcolm, and then down at Samantha and the plant in her hand. The lattermost wasn’t even necessary anymore, since she could communicate with The Green even without it. Still...she felt some strange affection for it now. Standing slowly on wobbling legs, she carried it over to the nearest table and gently sat it down.

”You shouldn’t be standing so soon,” Zoey rumbled, following at Karen’s heels as though afraid that she’d collapse at any minute. Considering how she woke it didn’t seem unfounded. Her fingers flexed at her side, ready to move at a moment’s notice.

The longer Karen did this, the more used to it she got. At first she couldn’t really speak clearly enough to carry on a conversation, but as minutes passed, the pain subsided into a mere pressure. It still felt really unnatural, however, being in two places at once...but she felt it was needed for what she had to do.

The Green let out what could almost be considered a chuckle. The noise left Harris awestruck, he had never, ever seen The Green in any mood resembling whimsy.

”Unexpected, but quite impressive,” they conceded, returning to their neutral voice as usual.

Taking another minute to cement her concentration in this state, Karen’s eyes slowly ascended to the ceiling as small grains of dust began to sprinkle down onto the table she was leaning over. The Grim Grotto was being shaken, which meant the castle above wasn’t faring too well even with all of Zoey’s advanced defensive measures in place.

”Zoey, open the hangar,” Karen glanced to the redhead as she pushed off the table and began to walk towards the entrance. ”Okay, Green, are you ready for me to say it?”

”We are prepared, Karen Hernandez,” The Green responded quickly and yet slowly at the same time, speaking to both portions of Karen’s split conscience. ”Show us the Wizard’s power.”

”Wait hold on what is she going to do? I didn’t hear the conversation, what about the Wizard’s power? Say what? I’m so confused.”

”Hold on,” Zoey reached out, grasping onto Karen’s shoulder to stop her stride towards the hangar. ”Take a few minutes, at least! I haven’t even had a chance to look you over properly, your reactions aren’t exactly indicative of a healthy state right now.”

Karen reached up to squeeze Zoey’s hand reassuringly, offering the redhead a smile. ”I’m fine, Zo. You know I need to do this.”

”Destiny and magic, yes, I get it, that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to go out to fight monsters right away after merging your consciousness with all plant-life on Earth! Fuck, let me go handle them for now!”

Another rumble acted as Zoey’s response to this, a large stone crashing down onto the metal floor below. ”I don’t think the Grim Grotto is going to survive that long...besides, you saw how many are out there right now! Only Lady Arcana can do this.”

”We promise you, it will work, we refuse to allow this planet fail, our lives depend on it,” The Green responded, again attempting, and failing, to reassure.

”No, you’re not the only one who can do this! Mythical creatures or not, I’ll disable them in the Grim Jet while you - you’re not going to listen to me, are you?”

Karen smirked at this, spreading her arms as she stared up at the ceiling once again. Focusing this time on her newfound connection to The Green, she shouted with everything she had. ”SHAZAM!”

In that instant the potted plant that had been sitting on the table exploded, showering the area with shards of clay as the blinding light of the divine thunderbolt cleared the distance to Karen in an instant. Vanishing in that moment, the thirteen year old was replaced by a familiar adult woman...but changed.

Instead of the familiar purple uniform, it was now a deep emerald. Vines snaked their way up her arms and legs, all of them ultimately converging around the thunderbolt that still shimmered at the center of her chest. It felt so different, but there was something else…

There was pain.

”Unnnk,” Lady Arcana raised her hand to her head, her connection to the Green being far more clear now even conscious thanks to the Intellect of Mnemosyne. She could see the stream of arcane power flowing through it, just like Samantha said, flowing into her even if it was no longer visible to normal eyes.

”Idiot,” Grim grumbled lowly, not hesitating to step closer to Lady Arcana. It was obvious that she was looking her over, checking the veritable God for any obvious injuries as well as taking in the morphed look. ”I wish you’d listen to me - are you in pain? Just disorientated?”

Lady Arcana glanced over at Zoey and couldn’t help but chuckle as she answered. ”Ngh...yes. But I’ll manage long enough to take care of those creatures outside.”

Brave idiot.”

The arcane power flowing through her - them was certainly enough to destroy the Earth...but mere destruction wasn’t what was happening. It was...changing things. The exposure to raw arcane power was twisting and mutating the natural life that existed within that realm. Something like couldn’t remain as it was for long. But she needed it, for just this short while.

”I...nnn...I know, it hurts,” Lady Arcana spoke to The Green, ”B-but please keep lending me your power, until I’ve cleared the castle.”

”Hmm…” The Green mumbled, its voice morphed and distorted. ”This is a strange sensation, I’ve never felt this ‘pain’ before.”

”So uh, I don’t want to alarm anyone, but my arm just grew to the size of a beach ball, is that normal? I don’t think that’s normal.”

”We will try, Karen Hernandez, it may be difficult, but we will not fail this planet.”

Lady Arcana smiled at this, nodding. ”Thanks...I’m not going to either.”

With that, the now jade-colored superheroine lifted off the ground and rocked out of the now open hangar. Ascending high into the skies above Gotham, the sight she beheld was both horrifying and breathtaking. The skies had been blackened by the wings of harpies, and the castle looked to be a mere shadow of itself, the defenses overwhelmed by the surge of mythological beasts storming through it, the front walls having collapsed.

Gotham City itself was under siege by the creatures, chaos and panic clear in the street as people fled from the army that had seemingly attacked out of nowhere. It was all too much. She hadn’t dealt with numbers like these since Arabia, and at least then they weren’t intermixed with civilians.

She wanted to help the people, but at the same time, the creatures would soon break through to the Grim Grotto. The Green couldn’t keep this up forever, and if she was to have any hope of saving the world from this, she needed her friends.

As she willed herself towards the army that was tearing apart her home-away-from-home, Lady Arcana flexed her fingers. Her powers simultaneously felt familiar and different. She still had all her normal abilities, but there was something else there now. An additional the grass on the front lawn, to the trees that grew there. That’s right, she’d seen Harris do much the same before.

Now that the energy that fueled her was running through The Green, she felt a far greater connection than she had as Karen. Slamming down onto the asphalt that made up the pathway from the castle, Lady Arcana pressed her hand to the surface just as several dozen minotaurs, centaurs and cyclops turned towards her. Before they could so much as wiggle a toe, a small forest of branches erupted from the Earth, ensnaring the frightened and flailing creatures within their electrified grasps. Lightning crackled through the newly formed trees, instantly paralyzing and incapacitating them.

”...Holy Sauceballs, I definitely couldn’t do that before! Karen remarked in astonishment.

”But that’s my thing! Dammit Karen,” Harris said disappointedly, before realizing with a small gasp. ”Did you just run electricity through wood? The Green is gonna kill yo-”

”Did you know tomatoes are fruits? I always did but no-one ever listened to me, except me, and me, and me, and the other me, and the other one who is a tomato.”

”Nevermind I think he’s occupied.”

Lady Arcana’s eyes shifted slowly to the side upon hearing the conversation The Green was having with itself, knowing that she had better hurry up and take care of things here. While the electricity didn’t seem to harm the branches, that in itself showed just how much she was messing with things that probably shouldn’t be messed with right now.

”Let’s hurry and run them off then. There’s plenty of plants out here, so help me!” She replied to Harris, ascending high into the sky towards the flock of harpies. They had given her trouble in much smaller numbers back in March, but she had a far better handle on her speed and flight now. Attacks that traveled at the speed of sound weren’t going to hit her.

Dodging and weaving around the sonic screams of the innumerable bird-women, Lady Arcana began to draw upon the laylines and form a sizable orb of arcane energy between her palms.

Harris was taken aback by the request for aid, but he supposed there was nothing stopping him. In an instant a number of plant tendrils shot from below, grabbing onto a number of harpies before they could react, pulling them into the ground below and burying them under a mass of plant-matter. Even if they weren’t human, it still felt weird to kill them, they were just human enough for him to not want to kill them.

”Woah, I think I have plant-cancer, my fingers look more like… apples.”

”I am full of apples! They speak to me!”

”I’ll help as much as I can, I just hope that I don’t start acting like our friend Green over there.”


Karen felt a cold bead of sweat slide down the side of her face at The Green’s increasingly...eccentric commentary. Glancing down at the beach ball-size sphere of energy between her hands, she willed it to take on the properties of electricity. Raising it high above her head, she hurled it into the mass of harpies. With a crack of thunder unlike any that could be produced by nature, it exploded into a wicked web of lightning that forked between each individual within the massive flock.

Like a something out of an apocalyptic film the bird-women began to fall to the ground, unconscious. She had been careful with the amount she had used...having faced them before as she had, Lady Arcana at least had a good idea of just how much juice these things could take. By combining the Intellect of Mnemosyne with the Speed of Hermes, she was able to quickly count their numbers and calculate how much wattage she would need to light them all up like Christmas trees.

At this point, only some of the T-Rex sized cyclops remained, with most of the centaurs and minotaurs at the castle having literally been wrapped up. Slamming down into one with a hard left hook, Lady Arcana couldn’t deny how satisfying it felt to bring down something that big, to hear it’s body thud to the ground.

Harris watched as Arcana basically defeated every single threat. After asking him to help. Despite not at all needing his help. He watched as the colossus crashed into the ground. In order to feel useful he grew vines around the creature’s arms and legs.

Yeah, now I’m useful.

”You were!” Lady Arcana reassured him. ”You kept the guys on the ground occupied for me. Gnn…”

The pain in her skull was starting to become unbearable, even for Lady Arcana. She’d managed to focus on the battle and ignore it for the most part, but it was simply escalating to a ridiculous extent. ”I need to get back to the hangar…

”Yeah that’s probably a good idea, The Green’s trying to make me purchase an avocado.”

”I told you, no browsing! Either purchase or I’ll eat your kidney and spank your monkey!”

”Oh god it’s getting worse. Oh hey, my eye just turned into a basketball, that’s fun, hey Josh! Look at this!”

Lady Arcana weakly nodded, pushing herself off the ground as she drifted through the air unevenly towards the hangar. Drifting inside the open cave mouth, she came to a tumbling crash-landing inside, ultimately ending up sprawled across the metal floor on her back.

“...S-Shazam…” Lady Arcana croaked out, the formerly potted plant - which had mutated into something more resembling an oversized venus flytrap by now - once again releasing the thunderbolt in her direction. In a flash, the overgrown heroine vanished, being replaced by the thirteen year old Karen Hernandez again.

From the plant, once again came the un-distorted voices of The Green, which gasped and growled, many of the voices complaining, and many more being emotional for perhaps the first time ever.

”That was quite strange… to say the least,” The Green understated. ”It was intriguing, however.”

The portion of the plant that remained attached to Karen de-attached and pulled back to the plant, removing her from the hivemind and allowing her to relax.

”We’d rather not have to do that again, if we are to be honest, but it may prove a necessity, perhaps next time we should channel it through the physical form of our Avatar in order to ensure a smoother transfer…”

”Uh, hell no? I saw what that did to you both, I’m good thanks,” Harris responded indignantly. ”On another note, what now? I believe I was supposed to go to Hades, but clearly Karen needs our help in order to transform, unless one of our other friends believes that they can fight a god if it turns out that one of them is a bit of… a dick? I mean they already were but… more than usual?”

The pain had subsided the instant she had returned to the form of Karen Hernandez. Being disconnected from The Green shortly after had certainly helped as well. Pushing herself up slightly, the blonde shook the dizziness from her head. Eyes shifting over to the potted plant, she couldn’t help but note that Zoey and Malcolm were now gone. Where they had gotten off to?

”Where’s…” She started, only to see Samantha bobbing up to her, the two puppies desperately seeking to knock her over with their enthusiastic affections. She didn’t seem particularly happy about this.

“They went to ensure that the castle - or whatever is left of it - is secure,” the cat explained.

Karen released a small exhale of relief, though a part of her still worried. Why was Malcolm going there? Any one of those could rip him limb from limb with utter ease. Still, she needed to focus on the task at hand.

”Um, Harris makes a good point. The whole world is being invaded right now. We need to find a way to resolve this.”

Samantha nodded once at this, her paw moving to shove away the face of Buttons as he eagerly tried to lap his wet little tongue against her face. “I’ve actually been giving that some thought while you were gone. I think you may need to travel to Olympus.”

”O-Olympus?!” Karen’s eyes widened. ”Like Mount Olympus?”

“The very one,” Sam confirmed. “Whatever is behind this invasion and the blocking of your ability to transform is likely there.”

”Hmmph, perhaps the right idea… it does beg the question of how you will defend yourself.”

”Maybe you should have thought about that when you had the Intellect of Mnym-myna-myno… intellect of the really smart guy. Also I’m just kidding don’t hate me.”

The Green seemed frustrated with this.

”We are able to transfer consciousnesses, and as we have just learned, magic, through ourself, but we are unable to transmit physical forms, and considering the gods’ domain is usually outside mortal purview, it also begs the question of how you may get there, especially without your Wizard abilities.”

Samantha - as much as a cat was able to, at least - smiled in response to The Green’s question. “I have somebody I can contact whom I believe may be able to help with that.”
November 2nd, 2020
Tartarus, Realm of the Dead

“It would seem the revolt has been quashed, husband,” Eris smirked, lounging back in the obsidian throne of Hades. Idly running her equally dark nails across the surface of the golden apple that once sparked a bloody war amongst mortals, she smiled. “Maybe now you can at last find the Spark. I would certainly hate to think what father would do to you if you couldn’t!”

A low rumble of distaste issued forth from Ares’ throat, the God of War diligently observing the scores of mortal souls that were now at work digging their way deeper into the bowels of the underworld. “Once I have obtained the Spark, even father will not be able to oppose my power…”

“I certainly hope not!” Eris exclaimed, releasing a cackle that rebounded off the walls of the great palace that surrounded them. “The sight of your repeated emasculation at Zeus’s hands has almost lost its charm!”

Tightening his scarred hands, Ares' eyes flared in indignation at the mention of his previous failures. “Be silent woman! You only sit on that throne now because I toppled Hades from it!”

“T-throuh...treachery…” A strained protest called out to him, the War God turning to look upon the sight of the former Lord of the Dead. Metallic lances had been impaled through each of his limbs at the wrists and ankles respectively, with a final one emerging from his torso. One could not truly kill a child of Cronus so easily, but there were ways of disabling them.

Ares scoffed at the defeated God’s protest, folding his arms as he returned to gaze upon the countless million souls who were carrying out his excavation. “Your attachment to that pathetic woman was your undoing. Blame Persephone, not I.”

Releasing another laugh that echoed through the palace halls, Eris slid from the throne and floated towards Hades, placing a finger beneath his chin. “You were just so worried when she fell ill with that mysterious illness. Would you have trusted me to cure her so readily in a better state of mind, I wonder?”

Ares grunted again at this. Hades had been so focused on the state of his wife that he had failed to take notice of him drawing his blade. Without even the subtlest notion of betrayal, he was laid low by his attack and impaled against the wall before he could recover. His wife had come up with that part of the plan, as she delighted in incessantly reminding him. Nevertheless, had it not been for him sowing the seeds of conflict throughout the world, he would never have possessed enough power to strike such a grievous blow, even by surprise.

“You...think Zeus will...forgive you for this…?” Hades rasped out, futilely struggling against the lances running through him, only agitating his wounds more. “You will fail, like all the other times…”

“When I’m through with this wretched place, it will not be I who begs for forgiveness!” Ares snapped at the broken God, towering form turning to meet him once against. Clenching a gauntleted fist in his direction, a smirk played across his face. “You never even knew it was here, did you? The source of all of our powers...a spark of the God Wave.”

Hades raised his head slightly, confusion evident even when commingled with pain. “God...wave…?”

“It predates even our birth by eons,” Ares explained, spreading his hands to emphasize the immense span of time. “Every God from every world, every sorcerer and creature possessed of extraordinary power...they all can trace the origins of their powers to this primordial force. It is as old as our universe itself!”

The God of the Underworld narrowed his weary eyes at Ares, his lips settled into a frown. “How...would one such as you...learn of this power?”

“The Oracle,” The God of War’s smirk parted to revealing his gleaming teeth.

Hades’ eyes widened at the name, his body shuddering. “She...has…”

“Returned, yes,” Ares chuckled. “With the restoration of magic, the one who carries the soul of Delphi has awakened once again. She isn’t even aware of what she is, and the Gods...they no longer give Earth the attention it is due. But I-”

“-Have a wife that is far more observant than any of them,” Eris interjected with a laugh, running a finger across the cheek of Ares in an almost taunting manner, a low growl his only response. Turning to Hades once more, she leaned against his former throne. “I visited her in her dreams, a place of raw depravity the likes of which few mortals could appreciate. From there I was rewarded with a prophecy: whoever shall retrieve the spark of the God Wave from the bowels of Tartarus shall topple Olympus and unleash unparalleled destruction upon the Earth!”

Upon hearing this, Hades made yet another attempt to tear himself free from his restraints, the ancient deity seemingly using every last ounce of his remaining strength in the ultimately futile attempt, his defeated form finally slumping forward. “M-madness…”

“No, the first step in building paradise,” Ares corrected him. “By seizing total power from the apathetic Gods of Olympus and cleansing the Earth of the human vermin that infest it, I shall usher in a new Golden Age full of perfect beings who want for nothing!”

Slowly turning back to his endless horde of slaves as they continued to carve out the bowels of the underworld, his lips settled into a smile. “The age of Ares.”
Siobhan had simply kept her eyes closed for most of her time in the Cobblertown jail. For over eight hours she had rested in preparation for the battle to come. She wanted to be at her best...and besides, sleeping made her metabolise food much more slowly. Given that she’d gobbled down her prisoner’s rations without ever waking, that was quite useful.

It was only when the sound of battle filled the air outside that those emerald eyes at last parted, the redhead glancing up at Kailani. She could already smell gunpowder on the wind seeping through the window of her cell, causing her to smile.

”Looks like they’ve started,”, she mused, still laying against the back wall with her legs splayed across the floor.

Almost immediately in the cell adjacent to Siobhan the bronze skinned shipwright shot up from her position flopped against the floor, nose pressed to one of the bars facing the guard. The past eight hours had been so boring. Kailani had tried asking the guard questions, counted the bricks, told the guard about Pekelo Island, napped for an hour, informed the guard how to properly cook a person while eating her prisoner rations, drawn a doodle in the dust on the floor, and had just been asking the guard a question about his armor.

The poor guy looked so relieved.

”Alright! Time to get going? If we’re quick I might be able to see the shops before we have to scram!”

Siobhan listened to the ruckus outside for several more moments, before slowly nodding her head. Best to confront Mushuro before he got too worn out. She wanted to see what he could do at this best, after all.

With but a single motion, Siobhan hopped to her feet. The guard outside her cell immediately turned to face her. “Hey! Don’t think I haven’t been listening to what you two have been saying - much to my regret! I’m not going to let you just walk out of he-GYAGH!”

Siobhan slammed her fist into her cell door, knocking it clean off the hinges and into the young man. Slammed between the hide speed web of metal and the stone wall behind him, he slid to the ground with a groan.

”Righto, let’s be off!” Siobhan chirped, reaching out to likewise tear Kailani’s cell door free.

”Great! Let’s grab his helmet and get going!”


“Hkk,” Guntag weazed out, blooding coating the ground beneath him as he stabbed his blade into the ground for support. He had managed to partially deflect the strike aimed at his leg, but it had still cut deeply into his armor. His sword was also starting to show cracks along its wouldn’t be able to stand up to many more of those powerful strikes.

Spitting bitterly at the younger man’s feet, the Captain of the Guard readied his blade for the third time. “Come on then, monster! I...I won’t back down, even if it costs me my life!”

Mushuro raised his sword high overhead this time in a stance different from any he’d used before, prepping to take Guntag down with one final slash. But instead of dashing forward into range yet again, he brought his sword down in a single downward stroke, not only sending a shockwave of cutting force toward the Captain, but shattering the pavement of the street and sending that toward him as well.

Guntag felt his blood chill as he watched the sword descend almost in slow motion, his body too slow and battered to react in any meaningful way at this point. This was it, wasn’t it? The end of his ultimately meaningless resistance. What had he been hoping to accomplish by coming here? He hadn’t even managed to give his men time to retreat…

Wincing his eyes shut, the Captain of the Guard prepared to embrace his death. May the Queen forgive his pathetic ineptitude…



That was a technique that she had seen before on the Grand Line. It involved striking - or slashing - with enough force that the air itself bends before your attack, becoming part of your offensive power. It could be blunt force, or in this case even a cutting blade of wind.

This was why Siobhan had kicked it from the side, knocking the attack off course and causing it to slice its way clean through a building behind them. Hopefully that wasn’t the baker, or Kailani would have to wait on that cake again.

Immediately twisting on her heel, the redhead punched the air in front of her. The shrapnel cast up by the attack was immediately suspended in air by her Arabesque Brick Fist, before quickly being launched back where it came from: towards Mushuro.

”So ya actually survived this long?” Siobhan glanced over her shoulder at the Guard Captain. ”Ya must not be total fodder, then.”

“B-Blackfin…?” Guntag muttered in apparent shock.

As if to respond to him, Siobhan allowed her fin to pop out of the slit in the back of her brown overcoat. She had kept it suppressed the entire time she was in jail so that she could rest against the wall, but now she felt like letting everything hang out. After all, she was in recruiting mode right now!

”... And Kailani! I don’t have a cool nickname though.” Said girl commented as she popped up behind Guntag, happily clutching her prize from the prison - the guard’s slightly dented helmet.

Mushuro paused for a bit as the two rescuers arrived and his attacks were deflected, apparently sensing even in his half-feral state that these two were different from the enemies who had come before them. Either that, or he was simply puzzled by his attack being deflected with such ease and the older swordsman not being reduced to a cut up pulp.

Eventually he got over his hesitation and decided to charge in with a one handed thrust toward Siobhan, apparently trying to probe her defenses with sheer speed as his brief moment of using actual tactics and skill apparently faded with his duel.

Siobhan took a quick step forward when Mushuro charged in, wanting to put a little distance between them and Kailani. Reaching out with her gloved hand, it met the oncoming tip of the blade...or not, as the sword was stopped roughly an inch away from her palm by the raw water pressure that flowed out from it. Against most opponents, this would then send them flying backwards, but in this case the struggle ended in what could roughly be considered a stalemate with them both skidding back a short distance.

”Woah, ya weren’t coddin’ me about his strength, Kailani!” Siobhan noted, her lips turning up into a smile. Without a second thought, the redhead forcibly expelled her current set of human teeth and pushed her shark chompers out, just in case she needed them.

Rubbing her jaw from the effort - it hurt like a real bitch - and spitting a small wad of blood onto the ground, Siobhan cracked her neck. Extending a hand towards him, she curled her fingers inwards in a taunt. ”Come on then, it’s time to burst ya!”

Mushuro’s expression did flicker through something similar to surprise before returning to his apparently usual bestial rage, but in response to both his attack being stopped and his opponent sprouting a new set of teeth, he simply charged in again only to draw the sword he’d sheathed before the start of his first duel and unleash a weaker, close-in variant of the air wave creating draw-cut he’d used to batter the artillery strike away from himself, perhaps recognizing on some instinctive tactical level that if she stopped his sword at close range again, she’d hopefully be hammered by the air pressure instead.

Siobhan this time didn’t attempt to counter his strike, instead using her powerful legs to push herself off the ground and to the side, her body becoming a blur of motion as she darted to the swordsman’s flank, leaving a trail broken cobblestone in her wake. Her entire body twisting with this motion, her leg lancing out in a kick aimed right for her opponent’s skull. Thousand Brick Roundhouse Kick!

She had thought he would be strong. That was her honest hope, and he had not disappointed her. She would ask why somebody like him was hanging out in West Blue, but then that would make her look a little silly.

Mushuro was taken by surprise as she managed to completely evade his technique and flank him, without a doubt. But he was able to roll with the impact of the roundhouse at the last minute and avoid getting his head taken off, tumbling through the air to flip over and plant one of his swords into the street to avoid being sent flying too much. Then he tore his sword out of the ground with a growl and rushed her again, before using a similar sword-planting trick and swinging around his own blade’s hilt like an acrobat to deliver a close-range strike with both of his feet.

”Huoo?” Siobhan blinked in surprise at how quickly he recovered from that attack. He hadn’t even paused for a breath before he was once again on the offensive! That took some pretty impressive endurance, even if her blow had been shallow thanks to him diluting the force of it.

Quickly raising her arms in a cross block, she withstood the swordsman’s attack, although she found herself lifted off her feet by it. Being propelled through the air against her will by the force of the double kick, she felt the splinter of wood at her back as she smashed through the wall of an unfortunate General Store, the various goods inside smashing to the floor as she took out a large shelf on her way.

Reaching a hand up to run her fingers through her hair, she shook her head. Yeah, she definitely wanted to this guy to be her swordsman. He was way above the slaver trash he had been sailing with up till now!

Still, she could tell that this wouldn’t remain a duel between them for very long.

The sound of gunfire and clashing swords could already be heard in the distance, Blackwell’s men having already stormed the shore. With the soldiers no doubt demoralized and shaken by Mushuro’s attack, she doubted they were faring too well right now.

Dusting the wood chips off her coat, Siobhan hopped to her feet and stepped out of the ruined store, offering the berserk swordsman a smile. Raising her hand, she jabbed her index finger in his direction. ”You’re really strong, Mushuro Takeuchi. I’ve decided you’ll be mine now!”

Indeed, she couldn’t be more happy. If they had fought even just a year ago, well...she couldn’t say for certain that she would be the one to come out on top. Whatever was afflicting him turned him into a mad beast full of aggression, but that surely wasn’t his default state of mind, right?

Hopefully she wasn’t underestimating his durability here, because the only solution she could think of to snap him out of this was to give him her best shot. Tensing her left leg, her calf and thigh both swelled. ”Come on then.”

Mushuro just screamed in fury and charged her head on in response, crossing the distance between them pretty quickly and looking to take off her head with his sword without any real consideration for the tactics of the situation.

Watching him close in on her at blistering speeds, her entire world stopped. The sounds of battle in the distance became silent, the town around them dark. The only thing that existed in that moment was Siobhan and her opponent. When his sword drew back with the intent of removing her head, the half-breed reacted instantly.

Driving her left leg forward into his upper thorax, the darkness was instantly blasted away by what sounded like the cannonfire of a Marine Battleship, dirt and any stray debris surrounding them being blasted away in an instant. Two Thousand Brick Side Snap Kick!

Unfortunately for Mushuro, at that exact instant his allergic reaction wore off. Momentum still carried him straight into the kick, but without the allergy driving him forward in a berserker rage he didn’t have the power to take such a strike. Now it was Mushuro’s turn to go rocketing off into the distance and smash into a building, unable to roll with the kick this time due to its sheer speed and power and the fact that he’d more or less started passing out the second his berserker state wore off. In fact he became something of a projectile, smashing through a thankfully abandoned restaurant hard enough that the building partially collapsed ontop of him, leaving him out cold.

Exhaling a measured breath following the aftermath of her attack, Siobhan lowered her leg. Shifting her eyes towards Kailani, she offered the jungle girl a light smile. ”Righto. Let’s grab him up and get him out of harm’s way!”
”That was a surprisin'ly astute observation, for the likes of you," Siobhan noted when she mentioned Mushuro’s strength.

Siobhan then gently shook her head in response to Kailani’s question, always finding her antics amusing. She seemed so perpetually happy and accepting of everything that happened…it was an attitude she could genuinely respect! Have to keep looking on the bright side in a world with so much darkness in it, or it’ll drag you down with it.

”Nah, I just didn’t want ‘em to call off their attack by messin’ up the guards here. Wouldn’t want ‘em gettin’ suspicious, now,” she explained, not caring in the slightest if the guards heard her speaking. What could they even do to her, anyhow? ”Once Mushuro starts tearin’ this place up, that’ll be our cue.”

The guards seemed to offense at this and turned to glare at the redhead. “What was that?! You s-said M-Mushuro Takeuchi is coming here?!”

She nodded only once in reply, the pair seeming to pale in response to this. Glancing to one another, one of them quickly ran for the door while the other continued to stand guard. They were probably going to tell that Captain Guntag what she’d said, for all the good it would do them. If Mushuro could be stopped by the likes of these guys, then he wouldn’t be worthy of being her swordsman.

Though, she had to wonder how he’d ended up working with wankstains like these guys. Maybe he really was just another slaver?
Cobblertown Prison

”Well, we might as well get some rest!” Siobhan exclaimed, easing back against the wall of her cell. Folding her hands behind her head, she grinned over to Kailani in the adjacent pen. ”We want to be at our best when Mushuro gets here!”

The guards had escorted them both to the local prison - just a tiny little place with a few cells, really - without any further incident. The townsfolk had looked terrified of them as they passed, even though they were shackled at the time. At least the guards didn’t get too grabby when they searched her for weapons. Apparently they were all on edge due to the Queen’s proclamation, and one could hardly blame them for feeling that way. From everything she had gathered, Blackwell didn’t take kindly to any sort of opposition to his domination of West Blue.

He had, after all, wiped out the Five Great Families that once dominant the criminal world here and absorbed their remnants into his armada. Unlike those gangsters, he wasn’t content to amass power from the shadows, but nevertheless had connections where they were important.

Namely the World Nobles.

”I wonder what he’s like?” She mused, noting that there were two guards watching over them right now. Probably more waiting outside.
“You’re both insane!” Caleb snapped at the two girls, practically jumping from his chair. “Please leave, before you...I don’t know, bring an even worse calamity down upon me!”

Siobhan snickered at this, and offered the geezer a wave as she joined Kailani at the door. ”Cheers! Thanks for the brew!”

They would need to really push themselves to get there, but with her supreme abilities as a navigator behind them, she wasn’t worried! They would beat those pirates there and either take Mushuro from them, or kick his ass if he was just another slaving bag of shit..Either way, she wouldn’t feel like it was a waste of time!


Cobblertown, Cheribo Kingdom
Four days later

Welp, this wasn’t how she had hoped things would go. She honestly didn’t think she would have much in the way of trouble, given that she was pretty much an unknown in these parts. Even if this was apparently the largest trading town on the island, she didn’t figure they’d be aware of Grand Line pirates...but this Queen had apparently done her homework.

“Don’t move, you damn pirates!” The Captain of the Guard snarled, his pistol joining the dozens of rifles that had been leveled in their direction.

Siobhan’s eyes darted about the town. It had been swarming with guards when she first arrived, but she didn’t pay them any mind. She figured they were just here to protect the town from Blackwell’s men. Most of them had likewise ignored her, buying her tradeswoman cover story…

But then that annoying Guard Captain showed up.

“The Queen had me memorize several hundred bounty posters in case Blackwell tried to infiltrate us beforehand!” The Guard Captain sneered at her, being only slightly shorter than herself. “You’re ‘Blackfin Siobhan’, aren’t you?!”

She had, of course, worn her scarf and retracted her fin before coming here. That would normally be enough...but this guy apparently had a really great memory! ”I am! News?”

“What?” He blinked in confusion, but didn’t seem to dwell on it. “I am Captain Guntag of the Cheribo Royal Guard. We know we cannot count on the Marines to prosecute anyone working for Blackwell, so I am placing you under arrest on the authority of the Queen!”

Siobhan pinched the bridge of her nose at this, really not wanting to have to beat up a bunch of stupid, horribly misinformed guards over this. ”Ya really think I’m with a slaver? Are ya sure ya know who I am?”

“I know you’re a pirate! That’s all that matters!” He attested, ushering his men closer.

Siobhan balled her fists slightly, her eyes narrowing. For a moment she considered just laying them all out where they stood...but wait.

RIght, she came here specifically to wait for Mushuro Takeuchi to arrive! If she beat up everyone here, then the guys he was sailing with would probably think something was up and not land. Well, maybe. In any case, it wasn’t a risk she cared to take. No, there was a better way to go about this...and boy was she glad that she didn’t need any weapons to fight!

”Fine, ya got me! I surrender!” Siobhan raised her hands with a disarming smile sliding across her lips. ”I’ll go quietly.”

Nodding once, Captain Guntag directed his men to shackle her wrists, one moving to do the same to Kailani.
Meanwhile, back on Batotoi Island...

“It’s been about ten years since his reign of terror started,” The old man - named Caleb - explained, having seated himself at a table Siobhan had set upright for him. Finding enough coffee grounds remaining to brew the three of them each a cup, he greedily gulped his down despite the steam that poured off it. “Bueh…”

Leaning back in her chair with her arms folded behind her head, Siobhan quietly listened to the geezer talk about the situation in West Blue. She didn’t like the things she was hearing, mainly because it was hitting just a little too close to home for her liking. ”I heard he was still a slaver, that Blackwell.”

“Oh, he is,” Caleb nodded, downing another mouth-searing glob of the brown liquid. “Took near every man, woman and child that wasn’t killed or wounded in the fighting, if they weren’t too old to be useful to em’…”

The redhead nodded once in response to this, letting her arms briefly fall to her side before she folded them beneath her chest. ”That’s what he does, sure. All slavers, in fairness.”

Caleb grunted his agreement, staring down at what remained of his coffee. “At least we aren’t those fools stuck in Cheribo. Their Queen has practically put the brand to the lot of them already.”

Now this caught the half-breed’s attention, causing her to quirk a brow as she leaned forward. ”Cheribo?”

“Kingdom to the southeast of here,” Caleb explained. “It’s Queen openly declared that she would no longer pay Blackwell’s protection tax. It’s basically the same as challenging his authority here, and bringing attention to how the Marines turn a blind eye to him. S’why I retired.”

Siobhan’s emerald eyes narrowed at this, a smile slowly playing across her lips. ”Then that seems like our best best to catch up to Mushuro!”

The old man practically slapped himself in the face at this, an amusing gesture to observe, to be certain. “You really have a death wish, don’t you girl?”

”If I die, then so what?” Siobhan shot the geezer a beaming grin, hoping up from her table. She hadn’t even touched her coffee, it wasn’t really her thing. ”But I won’t. An’ if that Mushuro’s really a bastard as ya say, I’ll just bury his arse and be done with it!!”
Okay, I need people to speak up if they need to do anything still before I move the RP forward to the Big Event that will send off Year One!
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