Description: On a cold summer morning, in the time before the light, Alexis comes in flames of death's eternal reign. She rides towards the fight when the darkness has fallen down, and the times are tough all right. As the sound of evil laughter falls around the world tonight, she prepares fighting hard, fighting on for the steel through the wastelands evermore. The scattered souls will feel the hell, bodies wasted on the shores. On the blackest plains in hell's domain, Eadni watch them as they go. In fire and pain, now once again, they know. So now Alexis fly ever free, free before the thunderstorm, on towards the wilderness. There, her quest carries on far beyond the sundown, far beyond the moonlight, deep inside her heart and all her souls.
THe place was being watched.
The whole of the Chubu-Sangaku National Park was closed. Shut off by international forces; with the ways in and out blocked off. While the park was supposed to be in the process of evacuation in terms of the long-term inhabited locations, such as the temple, those processes were complete yet. And worse, there was a lot of resistance. But there should have been no tourists anymore. No hikers, no campers. Nobody but government agents should be coming in. And yet, at the weathered old shrine, long abandoned since the Meiji Restoration purged out the Buddhists, there was signs of activity. Strange phallic statues were erected around it; the broken walls and roof was repaired. And mats were laid out, making it a safe place to rest at night. It was hard to get in, with the cordons being set up still. But not impossible.
And especially doable at night.
In the hearth of the temple, deep in the forests around the Tateyama, the fires were burning. There were people inside, bound in black masks and body suits, the shape of shadows within it. Ninja. And outside it, where skulls impaled on stakes, glowing a light. There were many lights out across the Chubu-Sangaku National Park, strange eldritch lights that danced and furrowed. They had already sent someone out to find their guest, who had come a long way from Canada. A guest who would be coming soon, either escorted or forced, following the lights. And when she arrived?
She would get an audience with the Old Mother.
The black fabric of Alexis' hoodie and tights and face mask conceals the normally neon-white appearance of the Canadian's pale skin under the light of the moon and the stars. In fact, from a distance, she could almost be mistaken for a ninja, herself. Crossing the cordon is a stealth mission, and while stealth is not the punk rocker's forte, she's been flying under the radar for a while outside of a few choice appearances as Phantom Wolf and a Christmas special last season on Saturday Night Fights.
She limps a little as she comes off of a drop over a fence. Her ankle is still a bit swollen from her last wrestling gig; Moon Rabbit was always a bit of a stiff worker. As she creeps along, past the skulls on stakes, the flashbacks start to come. She remembers the look. It was very popular in Outworld.
Hanging in one of her hands is a double-bit axe with a wooden handle, something she 'borrowed' from an empty park station. It's not the chainsaw she'd been hoping to bring, but it's got the same diplomatic implication, and the same heft that she's accustomed to swinging around when she fights with her guitar as a weapon.
Something about the lights draws her. As she follows them, creeping along, she slowly brings the axe up to a two-handed grip, the hair on the back of her neck standing up underneath her hoodie. She can feel the gem pulsating between her collar and the cotton fabric of the hooded sweatshirt concealing it. That, or she's losing her mind, which would explain what she's doing here, wondering:
Where the fuck is the bitch that killed her?
There is an oppressive presence inside the temple.
As Alexis approaches, the eyes of the skulls briefly glow up, before dimming. The ninjas stand fast, their heads turning at the movement of Alexis... but otherwise staying back. As the steps draw up to the entrance of the temple, the source of the flames are clear. The smaller fires are in the braziers, lit up with the bodies and bones of -something- within them. But in the center, surrounded by the snakelike phallic pillars, was a great iron mirror, concave and filled with... something. Something black. It was ablaze, hissing and hot. There was an oppressive stench of pine in the air.
The witch is at the flames, the ninjas around her watching silently.
Eadni was garbed in burlap, the crude fabric tied around her in a dress. Her skin was brown and bark-like, her form hunched over behind the fire. There was a satchel at her side, bound in leather with human faces staring from it. Her long arms were coiling and cracking around the fire; her face was craggy and wrinkled with a long nose. Where her eyes should be, were only hollow sockets. "Sweet child... you've returned to your mother..." The words were soft and grandmotherly. But from the opposite side of the flames, her sockets stare with a cold predatory gleam. Her long fingers are curled over the dancing fire, weaving and shaping it. "Where is that flute I returned to you?" Her face curls into a smile, the rows of splinters like sharks teeth, with iron spikes driven in amongst them.
"Aren't you going to play a song for me, like before?"
Trudging into the temple as the ninja who've taken notice of her deign to back down at her approach, Alexis comes to a stop several feet back from the hunched, familiar figure that looms behind the fire. Sensing that there's something sacred - if in a twisted way - about the place, she does what any good punk would do: turns her head, hocks, and spits on the floor.
"Your statues look like dicks," the Canadian informs the crone as she lets the head of her axe rest on the ground, reaching into her hoodie with her free hand. From within, the bloodstained flute is produced, shaken out.
"You didn't have to tell that creep to play it, eh? Sharing woodwinds is gross. Fuck, I don't even want to know what's been done with it since. Especially considering that someone around here clearly has an obsession."
She tips her head back toward one of the statues mentioned before as she shakes out the infernal instrument.
"I boiled it. And disinfected it. And it still feels dirty. But, I've put my mouth on worse."
She lifts the instrument up to her lips, fingers finding the holes, and blows - a quick little ditty that somehow sounds sinister, like it's trying to be in major scale but comes across in minor.
She lowers it again.
"Now, are you gonna tell me what the hell is going on?"
"They are not mine."
Eadni says, almost jokingly. The ninjas only twist their necks slightly at the punk's hubris to their grounds. Eadni continues. "I brought the skulls; but my hosts inside on the stone pillars of their god. Don't worry. Nothing untoward has been done with it. I have kept it as precious as any fetish I own, a relic from the Mortal Kombat tournament. There were many relics." She falls silent, as she sweeps her arms apart. The flames part, roaring as if a bellows was blowing deep below. "It is always a lovely music, to hear from the heart. I wanted you to come, because someone, or something from the Outworld has come into this world."
She reaches into the fire.
The smell of pine and smoke becomes stronger, as Eadni draws her arm out from the flames. The fires drop down low, dying down into a low, blue heat upon the surface of the black tar within the concave mirror. "Her flesh is burning, as deep blackened embers roast on the limb. But between her thumb and index finger, she holds up a single yellow gem. It is flaming, burning with both the heat and the power deep within. She holds it up high over the fire, her hunched body stretching up high. She looks down at Alexis, and extends her hand, to show the shard to her. "With their arrival, the souls of the Outworld demand blood and death. They call for their victims, for another taste of the death. I only know a few of them. Reptile, a creature from their world. The blind swordsman, Kenshi. And of course... you, child." She cocks her head to one side, and the next.
"You have been heard their call too, haven't you?"
Alexis scoffs with faint derision.
"Oh, yeah. Calling it a fetish makes it sound /much/ better."
The punk slips her flute back into its hiding place inside her hoodie, edging ever-so-slightly closer as Eadni holds up the yellow gem shard that is burning in her grasp. Her jaw sets grimly as she listens and stares.
"So, yours too..."
She lowers her hood back from her face, pulling down the zip at the top of her sweatshirt and tugging away the mask that was already lowered to her neck in order to permit her to play the wind instrument. As she does, the choker around her neck is revealed, a white gleam flashing momentarily in the scarlet pendant that dangles from it. The red gem is pulsing.
"You're saying you didn't make this happen, then, eh? You're saying that they're back... in this world, this time?"
Her fists clench, one tightening around the grip of her axe and hefting it over her shoulder, the other balling at her side.
"That's what I thought. That they must be up to somethin', if the gem is awake again. And I got real excited, 'cause it was /so/ much fun last time."
Eadni can't help it if the old ways ran in conflict with the new.
And yet, as Alexis shows the old witch her own shard, the witch curls her head to the other side. "No, no, I did not bring this upon you. I have heard their voices too. You are not the only one in this world, after all, to have suffered so terribly." As Alexis hefts up the axe handle, Eadni recoils slightly, shifting her position around the flame pit. "But they are up to something. And I want to know what." And at her statement of how much fun it was, Eadni speaks softly.
"Would you like to join the tournament."
Eadni speaks directly, gently, letting the shard dance between her fingers, rolling between them like an ember floating over the flame. "I can make it that the dreams end, the hauntings stop, to silence the voices of the souls. I can make it where you are more powerful than ever before. And to sweeten the deal..." She clenches the flaming shard in her hand. It begins to smolder, burning a hole through her palm slowly. Black tar begins to ooze from it. "I can give you mine."
"Can you guess what my price will be?"
Alexis' hand twists around the grip of her axe as the witch speaks, tensing more at each promise; the end of the dreams, the hauntings, the voices silenced. There's no sign of trust on the Canadian's face; Alexis rarely trusts anyone, but she certainly doesn't trust the thing that killed her once.
"I'll join whatever tournament they've got cooked up. I'll beat an invitation out of someone for it if I have to."
Her aquamarine eyes narrow in suspicion as she lets the head of the axe tip back down to rest in the ground again.
"As for the price... I don't know what you're gonna ask for. Fetching your groceries? Watering your garden? Some other old lady shit?"
"You told me you want to know what's going on. I can find out. For both of us. Assuming you're still on the side of 'Earthrealm,' or whatever those fuckers call us."
"Yes, in a manner of speaking."
The witch nods softly, before she extends her hand out over the low blue flame. The shard in her hand was burned in, but she opened it, as if ready for a handshake or something. "After you are done with the tournament, you will tell me all I need to know. Then. You will assist in tending the garden here, until the time comes where it does not need to be tended, and the park is fully reopened." It sounded to be relatively mundane. And yet, as she holds the hand over, she gesture, inviting Alexis. "In exchange, I will give you the power of two shards, and bind them within you. Bring me three things for the ritual. First, your shard, the flute you carved in your last tournament. And..." She looks up and down Alexis, and then, what she held in her hand. "... Yes..."
"And that wooden stick, it's the handle of an axe isn't it?
"Tending the garden of skull spikes and dick rocks?"
Alexis sneers at the idea for a moment, teeth flashing with disdain, but her lips purse grimly after the moment passes. She lets the crone finish her offer. She has people that need her. She considers bringing them up, but then, decides against it. There's no reason to tell a murdering monster who her friends are. And making a deal for the power of the witch's shard might be the edge that she needs to protect her family.
They don't need to know about it.
"Yeah. This is an axe," Alexis informs Eadni, holding up the tool with both hands. "The kind you cut trees down with. I brought it along 'just in case.'"
Resting the axe against her knee, the Canadian works the pendant hanging from her choker off into the palm of her hand, before pulling the flute from inside her hoodie.
"How do I know you aren't plannin' on just keepin' my shard?"
She does hold it out, but ready to withdraw if she isn't satisfied with Eadni's answer.
Eadni is intrigued, not quite certain of what the ending of it will mean. "Oh sweet child." She states, as she delicately bring her other hand over the wrist of the one with the jewel in it. Gripping it, she twists, snapping it off. Black tar dribbles and oozes down into the blue flames, as she drops the hand in. The fires begin to blaze up again, erupting up with... no heat. None. The cold flames turn grey as they break into a roaring conflagration. "If I wanted your shard, it would have been taken by now. But the shard isn't useful to me."
Her hollow, craggy visage hangs over the blazing grey flames. She allows her stump of a wrist to bleed in, letting her blood to fuel the consuming flame. "Drop them in, child. The soul shards. The instrument carved in sorrow and pain. And the handle for this weapon. Let their essence shatter and merge. It's too late to refuse. I would be cross if I needed to twist the ritual now..." And there is a smile that stretched across the shadows, as the pressure comes.
"And so would you~"
There's a visible urge to recoil on Alexis' face as the witch's hand twists until it snaps, her eyes widening and cheeks puffing as her stomach heaves imperceptibly under her hoodie. As much violence and horror as the teen has witnessed - and been subjected to - there's something impossibly wretched and retch-inducing about the casual automutilation, whether the thing performing it is human or not.
It's one thing to wish something on a being; it's another to witness it.
"Fine. No need to mess up your Depends, eh?"
Alexis steps up to the edge of the flame. She stretches the hand that's holding the flute out over the bonfire, letting it fall in first. There's little hesitation to accept the possibility that the damned thing might be lost forever. It's nothing to lose that she wouldn't happily be rid of. Then, in goes the axe.
And finally, the shard. There's a small faltering moment before she lets it drop, a silent apology to whatever is lurking inside, just in case what she's doing will have some unfortunate consequence for the lost souls, like eternal damnation.
There is an eruption of flames, as it falls into the black ichor. %
The tower of fire reaches up to the ceiling of the temple, the pillar spiraling at the heat that should be there, that would be there. "The souls of the damned. The spirit of the song. And a weapon to wield against the Outworld." If anything was coming from the flames, it doesn't show itself. Eadni just holds before them, as the shadows of the ninjas dance and flicker in the strange grey light. There was no penumbra, only the strict shadow and light. "There is one more part of the magic to offer, and the ritual will be complete. One more offering you must make. And it will need only your courage and resolve to make it." She reaches across the fires with her good hand, letting the other fuel the fire. Her palm is up, fingers outstretched. "Walk into the flames, Alexis Lovell" The witch purrs, hollow eyes staring from across the dancing flames. "Be reforged into the spirits of Mortal Kombat, so you may face your demons" She waits, offering her only good hand to help her make the final sacrifice.
The final offering.
There it is.
The part where the witch tries to trick her into getting herself hurt, or killed, all over again. At least, that's certainly what it looks like. Then again, could she really think that Alexis is gullible enough to set herself on fire willingly?
It's a dare, then. Alexis stares back into the abyss of Eadni's eyes, her aquamarine gaze not wavering. She's never been afraid to do something stupid to get what she wants. So, if it's a bluff, she's calling it. She steps forward, one foot at a time. She lifts a foot up over the fire. She hesitates a little as she feels the heat against the sole of her shoe - then grits her teeth as she stamps it down into the flame, hot sweat breaking out over her skin. Her heart practically beats out of her chest as she brings the other foot up, stepping in, the equal inverse of stepping into freezing cold water.
As the last portion of the ritual comes, the fire shifts a final time.
The energy shifts away from grey, into nothingness. Consuming oblivion, shifting and flowing, reshaping beyond the bones and skins, and deep into the very souls. The fires were not cold, they were not hot, they were nothingness, the purest form of sensory deprivation that could be. And with it, comes the barrage of souls washing over her. For a moment, there is a cacophonous chrous howling into Alexis, a hundred thousand fold greater than any nightmare she had experienced so far. But amongst the shrieking hellscape, comes silence. No, not silence. Every voice was as loud as it was before. But Alexis suddenly was the loudest. Alexis was the sound in command of the chorus, she was the chorus now, as every soul was an extension of hers, every voice was an extension of her voice. Under her feet, ankle deep in the boiling tar, the metal of the mirror begin to shudder.
The mirror clenches.
Metal consumes amongst the perfect flame, the solidifying the conflaguration around Alexis. The blackened mirror weaves and contorts into skin like runic tattoos, the magic of the souls and the flame interweaving with the flesh. The power fills, as steadily, the flames consolidation like an ooze around Alexis. The fire is all gone now, becoming one with the body of the girl who braved those flames. Alexis would be standing there, alive and well, but transformed. And at her feet, encrusted in the hard black tar, would be the remains of the two artifacts; the flute and the axe handle, reformed what was now an entirely new tool, a weapon forged of the same ritualistic metal that was born within Alexis. Eadni reaches down, and wrenches it from the tar.
"What a curious looking axe..." The witch begins, struggling to hold up the weapon as she inspects it.
It's nothing like what Alexis had expected.
She had expected to burn, the way that Eadni's hand had burned, at worst. To blister and peel. As the kid who played with matches, and the teen who had picked a fight with a demon that had resulted in a barn set on fire, she had some inkling of what to expect. That inkling is wrong.
The closest thing that she's experienced to it was being in the state between dead and alive. A state that had only ended when she'd produced such a banshee wail that her heart had exploded. Her heart is a drum inside her now as that same feeling rises up again. The souls wail around her as they're released by the ritual, joining the flame, then flowing into her.
It's not until the howling dies down that Alexis is aware that she was at the center of it. Her lungs are empty, and she gasps as if emerging from a deep pool of water or something worse.
"Jesus," she gasps as she doubles over, sucking in air. She feels different. The way that she'd felt once before, and yet, not as strongly as now. Yet, at the same time, intoxicated, like she's stepped into a different body, into eyes and lungs and legs that aren't her own.
Her focus slowly steadies, her vision coming to focus on the axe that Eadni is holding.
She recognizes what it is.
She reaches a hand out, latching onto the neck of the instrument of destruction, firmly, as if the thing is hers, but not quite wrenching it away as is her instinct.
"You need two hands to use it," she tells the witch.
Then, taking the weapon, she holds it in a familiar posture, with one arm supporting the axe-end, the other pressing against the metal cords that run from the instrument's head to the body, then strumming. It's noise that comes from it, but with the control of the soundsmith wielding it...
"It needs tuning. And maybe a strap."
Alexis whirls the weapon around, reversing her grip so that she's brandishing the hybrid axe-guitar as an axe. She gives a practice swing. It feels light and easier to wield than her usual instrument - but that seems to be more about her than the weapon.
"...but, it'll do, eh?"
Eadni releases the weapon, as Alexis reveals her new form.
She curls her gnarled fingertips over the dried ooze of the tar that runs through her, over the stump of her sacrificed hand. The sound, the images. Each one was a reflection of the soul of the one being sacrificed. And Alexis was at this point, sacrificed. A tool, a pawn. A rebellious pawn, that would very likely be as much trouble as she would be worth. But for now, another piece on the board. "Yes, it will I suppose, sweet child." Purrs the old witch, as she steps back. "You have your weapon. You have your power. And you have your debt and promise. Go to the tournament. Seize back your vengence and your life, with renewed power. Learn what you can with these outsiders. Return to me for answers..."
"And for the conclusion of your debt."
As Alexis slings the axe across her shoulder like a veteran lumberjack, she can't help but feel somehow the most Canadian that she's ever felt, and as the glow in the runic tattoos formed of the melted mirror starts to fade, she can't help but feel somehow more metal, either.
"Don't worry. After I settle this shit with -them-, I'll make damn sure to give you what I owe you."
And with that, the rogue pawn turns back toward the path from whence she arrived, departing step by trudging step past the phallic standing stones, the light slowly fading until she's consumed by shadows.
Log created on 20:47:35 06/14/2022 by Eadni, and last modified on 12:08:18 06/20/2022.