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Mun note: [Before y’all start facing Frigga’s army, a word of caution: they’re dolls. They don’t feel anything, and they’re sturdy. Take off their limbs, break them, punch a hole through them, it doesn’t matter. They’ll keep going. You’re unlucky if an Eir is near, she can fix them up in a snap. There’s a way to kill them in one go without having to be a mage, it’s in a one shot that I’ll post after a few npcs have died OwO But yeah, it’ll take a few more blows to get them to stay down. G’luck!]
Mannequins: Faceless white mannequins swarmed over the ground, knocking into each other, crawling over limbs and earth. The light would hit them just right at times and the faces of old dead ones would flash momentarily, but it didn’t matter. They remembered nothing, they felt nothing. They were out for blood. Kill everyone against the Mistress, they must die.
A final pounce, and the first of millions and millions of Frigga’s troops finally landed in the midst of the battleground where the rebels were. They seemingly exploded and spread, killing at least a hundred people.
Vox Arnason: Hel help us.
Vox shielded himself from the onslaught of mannequins. The sheer number of them was overwhelming; he couldn’t keep them away. The creatures latched onto Vox’s arms and legs, rendering his bow and quiver unreachable. He was in trouble.
“Someone get these Hel-spawn off of me!”
He flailed his limbs relentlessly, in hopes that he could ward them away from ripping him apart long enough for someone to intervene.
The Warden: He was too far away.
She let out a string of daemon profanities, impaling a Valhallan soldier with her sword and walking through two more apparitions. No. Too many soldiers. She wasn’t going to make it to him.
If Treepelt found out…
She cut off the thought and flitted to his mind, barely hovering beyond his consciousness so as to not alarm him. Let me in, boy. I can help.
Vox Arnason: Boy… oh Gods.
Vox cringed at the voice that had intruded his mind. It was familiar, but not in the sense he had hoped for.
Warden. Why should I trust you?
His thoughts were interrupted by more of the mannequins pulling at him, bringing him lower to the ground. This was bad.
On second thought, I’m dead anyway. I hate to do this, but… my mind’s open. Please, help me.
The Warden: I thought you’d never ask.
With a rush, she poured into his mind, and a few hundred feet away she managed to make her body dash and sink herself in the lake, digging into the muddy bed and freezing there underwater. She withdrew her essence entirely from her demon-made body and filled the scout’s every limb, every thought, every emotion. A few bridges snapped into place and suddenly energy and power was rushing through his body. She could feel her form changing, changing, there were a few bright flashes in his mind as she transformed.
Nalaagura placed his mind behind the iron shield that was hers and curled Vox’s limbs up tighter, building up a pulse of energy near the center of his chest. And then she released it. A thunderous blast of air ripped through the area with a huge ripping sound and the mannequin army was thrown backwards briefly, allowing him to regain control of his weapon. She stepped back farther from control and allowed his senses to mesh with hers. The Warden heightened his perception and stamina and magic buzzed around his hands, ready to be used at his disposal. You don’t know how long I’ve been waiting to do that, she said, unable to resist a devious grin. She materialized beside him, a dark, foreboding figure with black eyes and a dark hood, her lower faced covered in a mask. Shall we, Vox?
Vox Arnason: Let’s.
He gripped his bow once more, and pulled an arrow from his quiver. The sensations he could feel in his hands were incredible. The texture of the bow, and the mesh inside the quiver… it was all new to him. The world felt as if it had begun to speed up, with his heightened perception causing everything around him to come into focus.
I have no idea what to do here. We can’t take all of these at once.
He looked down at his arms, acknowledging the blood flowing from the gashes left by the mannequins. It flowed faster than it had time to clot, creating a panic in the boy’s head.
Please don’t let me die, Warden. Don’t let me down.
The Warden: Her white pupils rolled in exasperation and she flourished a dark hand, helping him draw the bow and sight down the arrow’s shaft. You have someone waiting for you. I swear you will return home alive, whatever it takes.
One by one, she helped him tear through his assailants, the powerful shots ripping through limbs and immobilizing the puppets. The entire time she guided him forward, towards a less intense area of the battle, for she could sense his wounds gradually worsening. The energy she fed him began to slack off a bit. We need to hurry. You need to pull away and—
She was distracted by a sudden, high-pitched, familiar scream above the roar of battle. Is that…?
Vox Arnason: …what was that?
Vox stopped abruptly, looking to the Warden. She had frozen in place as well, staring up to the sky. He felt her distraction disconnecting himself from her, knowing full well he couldn’t survive if she wasn’t fully at his aid.
Warden, what is going on?
The Warden: Nalaagura turned slowly to him with wide, horrified, unfocused eyes, seizing more tightly over his body.
Treepelt Halfpaw: She had thought she could escape out of the healing tent and fight with everyone else when she heard Orskaf’s battle cry. She figured if she could get to the place where the dragons were tied-up, she could release them and those who had not had time to mount them could join them in battle. Treepelt had raced out of the tent and towards the temporary dragon stables, hearing and seeing the battle raging beyond the dungeon and seeing it creep closer. But everything seemed still and quiet in the shadowy dungeon.
I can make it! I can make it!
A throwing knife flashed past her face and she yelped, pulling up short. It stuck in a rotting wooden beam and she whirled around, lungs heaving. A thin, red-haired fox half-breed in dark clothing was advancing towards her, flipping her next knife to hold it by the blade and throwing it in the same manner. It skimmed past her arm, leaving a thin red line before clattering to the ground. There was almost no time before she was upon Tree, wrestling her to the ground. There was a dirty squabble, involving teeth and claws, and then the fox managed to wrestle one of her hindpaws onto Tree’s throat and began pushing the blade slowly downwards, quivering and shaking, towards her chest. Gasping, the cat half-breed wrapped her hands around her arm, digging her claws into the red fur but it wasn’t enough; she could only deflect it.
A final push and the blade went downwards, burying itself in the soft flesh of her shoulder. A raw shriek tore out of her and she kicked the fox off with her feet, throwing the light figure a few yards away.
Please Warden, we have to go! Now!
Vox pulled against her control she asserted over him. He pushed himself through mannequins and warriors alike, pushing them away with his quiver and kicking the legs off as many as he could. The blood running down his arms and dripping off of his fingertips mattered not to the boy who’s love was in jeopardy.
You have to help me do something!
I’m moving as fast as I can!
She surged ahead of him, finding the cat-child and recoiling in terror at what she found. Nala quickly encircled and incapacitated the attacker, pinning down her mind and rendering her senseless. Hurry, Vox!
Vox threw himself to her side, lifting her head and torso for support. She was bleeding profusely from her shoulder, and he could see in her face that she was in a lot of pain.
“Oh Gods, Tree, I will fix this… it’s going to be okay…”
Vox ripped off a portion of his shirt, using his teeth to rip the remainder that would not pull off, and created a tourniquet. He wrapped it tightly under her arm and over the wound, pulling it slowly to see how she was tolerating the pain.
“I’m so sorry, Tree, I know this hurts. Please just breathe.” His voice was shaking, and he hardly noticed the tears running down his face. The trauma and adrenaline had shifted his attention completely to her.
Her breathing was shallow and tortured; even the slightest movement caused agonizing pain to shoot through her upper body. Tree faintly felt Vox’s arms around her and hazily stared up at him, feeling hot and cold at the same time.
“I thought…I could make it…” she rasped. “I thought I would…be able to…get the…d-dragons…”
Treepelt gulped. “I’m s-sorry…”
“Don’t be sorry, dear, please… I love you, okay?… Tree, you’re going to be alright. Just take deep breaths.”
He slowly lifted her to her feet, and moved her onto his back. Careful to keep her arm extended, Vox shifted her weight to sit more against the side of her that was not wounded. He could feel her shaking; gasping and in hysterics.
“We’re going to get out of here. Warden, you need to guide us out.”
Very well. She winced as her name was said aloud but she tugged at Vox’s mind, pulling them back through the dungeon. She looked up from under her dark hood at Tree before turning around, barbed tail whipping back and forth, walking quickly into the shadows. It’s safer through here. I will begin to lead others who are wounded inside as well.
Treepelt hacked sharply in surprise, pushing back from Vox’s shoulders in her weak state. “Y…you said…the…the Ward…”
No it can’t be it’s not possible it’s not her she didn’t she wouldn’t dare—
“I did, Tree, but I need you to understand… I had no choice. She saved my life; I had to let her in.”
He felt as if he said too much. He didn’t need to mention the possession, but it was probably better to air it out now rather than later.
“We’re going to be okay. She’s going to get us into a safer place in here.”
He bobbed with the added weight in his back, in pursuit of the Warden. The two took caution to avoid any stray debris still lingering. It was still quite dangerous in the dungeon, but more so with the attack occurring.
Revulsion pulsed through her and she looked feverishly at the back of his neck from where her head rested on his shoulder, as though she could use it to tell if he had been tainted or marred by the demon. “Saved your…how…do I know it’s…not her…talking…?” To have the one she hated most inside the one she loved the most caused her a pain deeper than the wound in her shoulder.
Little one. The Warden revealed herself to Treepelt as well, glancing guiltily back at her but avoiding eye contact. He is not being influenced by me in thought or word. You need to believe and trust him. I do not wish harm upon either of you.
The situation really couldn’t get any worse, she thought dryly. In the middle of a battle, with her inside of Vox’s head and trying to convince a wounded Tree of his innocence. Just fantastic. She moved all the quicker, pulling him along and starting to sense a rough trembling coming from underground. Keep moving.
Lust: She was waiting for them.
The earthquakes had begun; that was the signal that she could leave the wolf alone underground and head up to the surface. The child licked her lips excitedly, cracking her knuckles and lusting for blood. Behind her waited a group of mannequins, rattling in the shadows.
She has possessed the boy. They’re coming. Wonderful. She kicked the ground, sending tremors towards the approaching scout and half breed, throwing them off balance. Eir grinned maliciously, “Welcome back, demon.”
Vox Arnason: The ground shifted unexpectedly, throwing the trio off balance. The Warden held her ground, but the additional weight throwing off Vox’s center of gravity caused him to topple over, but not before turning into Tree to allow her to land on him.
“Augh! Odin-blasted tremors… you both okay?”
Treepelt Halfpaw: Tree gasped as she landed on Vox, staring up at the thing blocking their way. “M’fine,” she panted. It was only then that she noticed his bloodstained arms and shifted off of him as fast as she could so she could not hurt him further.
The Warden: Your welcome is not needed, she snarled, stepping in front of them with her astral form. Get out of our path and leave the wounded to themselves. It is lowly to attack those who cannot defend.
“I was just trying to be nice! What is it with you and that rabbit, always trying to leave, eh?” Eir shrugged, still smiling. A mannequin clicked loudly, echoing slightly, “I am insulted. Mistress Frigga only wanted to talk. And I want to play.”
Vox Arnason: “Who is that, Warden?” Vox inquired, shielding Tree with his left arm, “Are we being followed?”
He looked to his side to a Treepelt trying to scurry away from home, a fear in his eyes he recognized from an incident months before.
“Please believe me… there was no other choice, Tree, I was going to be ripped apart. She’s only doing this to ensure my safety, and now yours.
“I’m begging you to just hear me. I didn’t want this, I swear.”
Treepelt Halfpaw: She kept scooting away, shaking her head mutely. It was her worst nightmare: it was Ragnarok, they were back in the dungeon and Vox was possessed by the Warden. Oh, and they were both about to die. Her shoulder pounded and her vision went black and spotty for a few seconds. “N-no…”
The Warden: It is a handmaiden of a foul being, she sniffed, continuing to back up and protect the couple. She caught a faint noise and was disgusted to discover a swarm of minions behind the little goddess. Leave us.
Eir snapped her eyes open, a manic light in them, teeth bared and dripping uncontrollably with saliva, limbs twitching with anticipation. She growled, shivering with excitement. She fluttered her lashes at the trio, almost seductively, “Let’s play.”
Rattles echoed in the darkness, then the group of dolls erupted, all ten of them swarming towards Vox and Tree.
Vox Arnason: “Oh Gods, Tree! Come on, we need to leave! Now!”
The boy grabbed the cat halfbreed around her torso, and threw her on his back once more. She was still not entirely coherent of the situation unfolding, and initially resisted his assistance.
The Warden held, creating the only boundary between the dolls and the couple. Vox could feel her anger and fear growing, as the connection they shared had not wavered.
“Warden, we have to ward them off! I’ll do what I can; we just have to keep moving!”
The Warden: Go! Get out of here! Another blast of air radiated from around Vox and caused the walls to shake and tremble and rocks began to fall from the ceiling and the walls, blocking the puppets’ way. Nalaagura launched herself at Eir’s mind, sending every needle and shard of pain and anger and fear she could at her consciousness, attempting to break it beyond repair.
Lust: A falling wall crushed one of the dolls, immediately snuffing out its life as the seal broke. The rest were blocked, but Eir merely cocked an eyebrow and grinned further, “You’re not getting away.” She raised a small hand, and blasted them away. The mannequins swarmed past the Warden, heading straight to the fleeing scout. One eager puppet snapped its teeth, barely missing his heels.
Eir squealed in delight, laughing as she met the Warden’s challenge, “Did you really think that would work? You didn’t even put a dent in the Mistress!” The goddess matched the attack, mental clashing and buzzing in the air. She mixed in the blood lust and raw chaotic glee, fueled by the sounds from outside and the scene unfolding before her. A mannequin had a fistful of Tree’s hair in its fist, pulling her back harshly. She let out a manic laugh, shrill and echoing, “Perfect!”
Vox Arnason: Vox felt Tree wrap her arms around his neck, causing him to halt mid-stride and nearly fall over. He could hear her screaming behind him, in very real pain.
He managed to wrestle himself loose from Tree’s grasp, turning sharply to face the imminent danger. He could see the mannequin taking hold of her hair – and her flailing in a vain attempt at freeing herself.
“Get the Hel off of her!”
Vox tackled the doll, dismembering it and leaving an arm gripped tight into Treepelt’s hair. Two more dolls clenched themselves by their teeth into Vox’s left arm, sinking like daggers into his already battered flesh.
“Agh! Thor almighty!”
He kicked the legs off the mannequins, with their teeth still lodged in his arm. He could feel them nearing bone, and his head began to spin from the pain and adrenaline.
Treepelt Arnason: “VOX!”
Tree wanted to race forward but she was so dizzy from pain that she could hardly stumble upright. I can’t…I’m no good like this…I…
Her eyes flashed up to the ghostly shape of the Warden, standing stiffly in front of the girl; she kept looking frantically back at them, unable to physically do anything to protect them. And she did want to protect them. Tree realized that now, however nonsensical it sounded. Reaching back slowly, she unhooked the mannequin’s fingers and tossed the arm to the ground.
He’s going to die…if I don’t…
…get in here, Warden.
The Warden: Nala couldn’t even formulate words to Treepelt’s request for a minute.
Are you insane?! she roared, keeping their conversation hidden from her assailant.
Please…he’ll die…if we don’t…
Her eyes darted back to the two, and the half-breed locked eyes with the demon.
Gritting her teeth and wrenching part of her consciousness away, she pushed into the girl’s familiar mind, keeping Vox as her anchor, and flooded her entirely, cutting off every sensation of pain and pulling her to her feet, pupils thin as a blade and face locked in a snarl.
“L͚͓͓̪̰̜E͑̿ͧ̏Ä̙ͭ͑ͯ͐V̭͎̽͑Ḙ̝͍̣͖̠̾ͣ̚ H̓ͮͮ͂̑͛͆Ḭ͎̞̹̎͂̃̏M̥̈́̊ͨͨͫ ̙͊A͚̪̥̣̯ͤ͐L̞̇O͎͓̝͖͉ͣ̄ͮ̓̊̿ͣN̠̗̻̆E̼͛ͧ!͕̠ͦͬ!ͧ̒ͣ̌”
Vox Arnason: Vox felt the Warden’s presence dissipating from within him, and grew worried. He held on to her; there wasn’t a chance that he was going to survive this onslaught without her assistance.
Warden, what are you doing?! You can’t leave now, we’re going to di-
The boy saw Tree out of his peripheral vision – the slanted pupils, the darkened gaze… the eyes of a familiar scene playing out in front of him.
“Tree… you let her back in…?”
He could tell that she had placed her faith into the demon, for the first time since his rescue at the Lake. There was an aura of understanding between the two, as they shared in the elevation provided by the Warden. He had almost pushed out the pain caused by…
The mannequins! Odin, I’ve been distracted…
He turned back, punching at the dolls with his free arm. They were ripping at his flesh, pulling back skin and exposing bone. He stifled his screams, pulling as much willpower from the Warden as he could.
Please don’t let me die.
The Warden: I won’t.
Both Nalaagura and Treepelt turned to look at Vox simultaneously and the Warden’s eyes flared brighter. She began to do something she had never attempted before–she ever so slowly began splitting her anchor between Vox and Tree, distributing equal amounts of power between both of them. She surged harder than she ever had before, her astral form flickering and warping as she bent over in pain, splitting herself between the two. The very air seemed to hum and shiver as her essence diverged and then she straightened, baring her teeth, her new form coalescing. She helped Vox shake off the mannequins from his arm, leaving horrific bleeding gashes that caused him no pain, and brought him to his feet as well.
“Leave now,” the three of them said in unison, “or die. You cannot defeat us.” Dust swirled loosely in a cyclone around Vox and Tree’s hands began to burn with heat.
Lust: Eir fluttered her lashes again, smile getting wider, “A challenge! Now things are getting interesting.” The earth shook beneath them, then it heaved, launching the goddess towards the couple at an alarming speed. She cackled loudly, licking her lips, hungering for blood. Her right hand shot out, claws extending absurdly long, reaching Tree even before she did. Two fingers pierced right through an unfortunate mannequin who was in the way then into her shoulder.
Treepelt Halfpaw: Tree stumbled backwards but the pain was still numbed by the power surging through her. She jerked her head up, snarling, and then her hand came up and thrust the claws out of her flesh, a sharp sizzling sound cracking through the air as she crushed them in her hand. Then she stepped forward and shoved the girl back with inhuman strength. The Warden winced slightly. But her possession held strong.