Krampusnacht
Roleplaying Log: Krampusnacht
Participants
IC Details
Synopsis:

The annual darkly poetic reaping and punishment meted out upon cursed families and the worst children imaginable hasn't come to pass this year— people remembered, remembered the 5th of December with no merit, as the dark entity did not travel the wintry expanse to seize those beholden to him. No, the horned demigod emerges late, and against modus operandi, unleashing a savage and relentless hunt upon those soon to be besieged within a posh ski lodge. Why has Krampus gone (more) murderous and mad?

Other Characters Referenced: Deadshot, Enchantress, Jade
IC Date: December 23, 2018
IC Location: A ski chateau in upstate New York
OOC Notes & Details
Posted On: 24 Dec 2018 07:36
Rating & Warnings: R
Scene Soundtrack: [* ]
NPC & GM Credits: GM: Constantine, Deadshot and Enchantress: Owen Mercer
Associated Plots

The snow falls steadily, adding to an already noteworthy accumulation outside a ski chateau in upstate New York. Old growth forest that has yet to really begin to transition to hardwood stretches in all directions, seemingly as far as the eye can see, pine, fir, and cypress boughs heavy with the icy, wet snowfall that tops them, drooping towards the ground and adding a more pointed silhouette to the towering evergreens.

The last runs of the day are concluding as the sun dips low in the sky, temperatures degrading precipitously around the three-story lodge. Its eaves are hung with icicles both dulling and accentuating the strings of Christmas lights decorating the exterior, and efforts have been undertaken to keep the exterior walkways clear enough for passage— though the ongoing precipitation is certainly making that an uphill, and ultimately losing battle. Watch your step, in other words.

Inside is a different story: fires roar in several crackling hearths, pouring crisp white smoke and heat out the stonework chimneys, as guests from various echelons from 'well to do' on up, mostly, mingle within, savoring eggnog, champagne, brandy, and all manner of holiday fare— like sugarplums and shit. Holiday music is pumped throughout, not loud enough to diminish conversation, and milling ski-folk take full advantage in that background murmur of too many varied discussions going on for most eavesdroppers to follow; alas.

Outside, the thick clouds part momentarily, partially, around the waning gibbous moon, its light filtered through that dark skycover and the twinkling dimly among the curtain of descending, drifting diamond to cast a glorious silvery shadow across the expanse. In the distance, a wolf howls— are there even wolves in this part of the state?

It's soon joined by another, and another, until a chorus of perhaps dozens fills the slopes, reverberating off the mountains in irreconcilable directions thanks to the echoes, and the sharp wind. There's something -off- about it all, filling those who hear it with a creeping dread; the partygoers inside, however, hear only crackling fires, laughing conversation, and cheerful music. The poor sods.

***

It seems a shame to go through yet another year of this odd Terran holiday season without trying out all the things that Terrans tended to associate with it. Playing in snow, for instance. Something to put the impending space trip to free space sharks on Mars out of his mind for the time being.

Why anyone wanted to willingly strap lengths of fiberglass and whatnot onto their feet and throw themselves down a mountainside is something Rocket hasn't really managed to fathom. And Terrans called him crazy. Yet here the small Guardian finds himself, wearing an insulating coat and weather-appropriate clothes under it, his feet tucked into the fluffiest socks ever if not just for warmth, then to keep them from slipping out of the snowboots he wears. He's got a knit cap with a brim jammed over his head and ears, his gloves pulled off and resting on the chair beside him.

He's esconced himself in a corner by one of the fireplaces so he can surreptitiously check the firearms tucked into his coat haven't gotten frozen up from the spill he'd had in the snow after a failed attempt at snowboarding at Groot's urging. Or maybe it was for his own entertainment. The treenager was certainly turning out to be a bit of a jerk.

***

Only one dead is not a bad outing for Task Force X. High above the Atlantic ocean the military transport plane carries back the surviving squad members who all look a little worse for the wear. Deadshot covered in a mix of blood and something best described as black goo watches Owen Mercer snoring away in the horribly uncomfortable jump seat, his head bouncing off the side of the plane as they hit turbulence. The mix of the dark miasma coming from the unknown substance and the rough ride are enough to cause even the steeliest of stomachs to turn and nearly every other squad member is hugging a waste bin or sick bag.

"How the shit can this idiot sleep?!"

And then Deadshot gets a little glint in his eye as he turns to The Enchantress, the only one who seems to be both free from ichor and at peace.

"Hey witchy, any chance you can shut Boomer's trap so we can have a little peace at least?"

The witch suddenly out of her restraints and moving freely about the plane as easily as if on steady ground gets close to Deadshot's face and then to Owen's and then considers. Then a wicked smile of her own crosses her face and says, "I think I can do one better. If our moronic friend was unperturbed by the horrors of our outing, maybe he needs something more ancient to haunt his dreams."

Before Deadshot can even try to untangle what the hell she's talking about Owen Mercer's snoring ceases, or rather Owen Mercer ceases to be there to snore. He simply is gone from the plane. Only to appear in the air above the ski chateau, dropping still asleep onto the roof, hitting the snow which is not quite deep enough to cushion the blow. He awakes with a scream as he tumbles down the steep roof and into the snow below. He screams some more, even though he's no longer falling before stopping and standing up.

"What the hell?! Where…? What..? How..?" His abbreviated questions go unanswered as it slowly dawns on him what kind of place he has suddenly found himself. He's at least somewhat dressed for the cold, in all black gear, still quite a few boomerangs on him from the mission. He grumbles as he makes his way inside the lodge, picking up the nearest jacket and hat that look like they might fit him so that he can fit in. Once seated by the fire, he pulls out his phone and tries to figure where he is. Now if only it could also tell him why…

***

Her story on the kerfuffle in New York is written up and submitted. The photos she took have been appropriately paid for, and she noted her thanks to the Mysterious Jade who was so kind as to lend her the use of the camera. All got finished in good time for Lois to leave on her mini-vacation.

She's not quite so well-to-do as the others in this lodge, but she's saved her money and paid just like the rest. Lois spent the day skiing and being generally energetic, and now she's sitting comfortably near the fire in a fluffy lavender sweater and velvety black slacks. Her laptop has been stowed firmly in her room, as has her phone; she didn't want any of her usual habits taking over in favor of reading a good book.

Well. Reading a book. Reading, specifically, a historical romance novel while eating bonbons, which is apparently what she ought to be doing. It's not a task to which she usually sets herself. Still, the novel is only mildly awful and the bonbons — specifically, nice little chocolate truffles and a few pastel colored macarons — aren't so bad. There's also a tot of whiskey in her eggnog, which she reaches out to snag and sip.

Yeah. She's supposed to be relaxing. She's sure she is. But it doesn't feel like relaxing when all she can really think about is that list of people she wants to interview for a series of articles she's writing.

There's… a sound. Lois glances up at the nearby window, frowning. That had to be her imagination.

***

Tell Barbara she has to go to some really posh ski resort to slay a possible dark faerie that is describably darker than anything Brian Froud or Neil Gaiman could dream-up, and she's at least showing up to fit in with all the other snow bunnies. Her pristine white snow boots are lined in pale blue faux fur, and they match well with her fleece-lined jeans and blue hip-length sweater. Add the white snow jacket with its fluffy hood, her blue beanie that caps over her long, wavy red hair, and she looks like she could easily plop down with any other group of ski dolls and dudes in the lodge's lobby.

She's been popping in and out of the lobby and the perimeter of the lodge in a casual patrol, checking for signs of… what? She's still not entirely sure what she's looking for, but she's been told she will know when she sees it, so she trusts her instincts. She bounces her ways up to the hot chocolate bar where she drops a dollar in the jar, and fills a insulated paper cup full of liquid chocolate.

She glances slightly aside toward where Nico had gone, and in her glance… she double-takes back, staring at the familiar person who has just plopped down by the fire. "Owen…?"

***

Groot put it this way: the 'cool' kids are doing it. While he's not one to conform to societal structures, he honestly thought the practice of boarding over snow looked, in loose groot terms, interesting.

How he actually convinced Rocket to go with him is another matter entirely, but the effort has been worth it. Opposite of the raccoonoid sits the young teenage hoodlum/wannabe-boarder looking a little less worse for wear than his shorter companion, board propped and chartreuse jacket puffed. The clashing orange knit cap and the baggy pants hide the fact he's mostly made of wood, blending him into the scene…kind of.

Still wearing his snow goggles, Groot daintily sips his mug of hot cocoa, smacking his bark-covered lips after the draw before pausing. To hear the sounds? Nah. More for a short mental debate, he finally sighs, offering up the drink to Rocket for a taste. "I am Groot."

***

NICO MINORU was told that there was big trouble upstate and she could go and help out some guy Zatanna knows. While there was a minor rankle, as if she was dealing with her scraps, NICO MINORU doesn't get to go on a lot of trips because

HER PARENTS ARE DEAD (AND WERE EVIL)

so her answer was, indeed, "sure."

On the trip up she interrogated her feelings at some length. What is there to resent? She isn't the same person as Zatanna at all. Fair enough that Z's magic lacks her drawbacks. But other than that -

Why sweat it?

Nico is standing out on the deck of the chateau, gazing out into the dark as it snows. Snow is not something she is like, completely ignorant of - it isn't as if there are a shortage of mountains in California - but the experience, the taste, the smell, it's all different here. As the Christmas lights flicker, she draws the green military-surplus trenchcoat she has installed a big false-fur collar ruff on a little closer to herself and lets out an explosive sigh. It fogs in the air.

For a moment she feels alone.

A wolf howls.

Nico blinks slowly, and frowns when there's another. By the time there's four or five she turns and is coming back in, trying to catch the eyes of Barbara while mouthing 'hey' and jerking her thumb backwards. But she sees what Barbara sees. Nico moves towards her.

"Hey," she tells Groot, smiling in passing, "I'm Nico."

Forward.

Nico Minoru looks at Owen. She judges him immediately. Her eyes turn back to Barbara, and then she realizes - "Oh, you know him!" She looks back to Owen, who also gets a hand held out. "Hi. Are you here for………..?"

***

It's because of that mess with the reporter, she knows it. May's been tasked with 'overseeing' Rocket and Groot and their chosen excursion to this frozen hellhole. No, she's not fond of skiing, and she's not fond of the cold. But here she is. The unusual duo have settled inside, and she's content to let them sit there sipping hot chocolate and checking weapons so long as it keeps Rocket and Groot out of trouble.

From her spot in an easy chair tucked into one corner of the lodge's main room with a book in hand and a long since cold cup of chocolate nearby to complete the illusion, she's been people — and alien — watching. Her two 'charges' seem to have enjoyed their day. That annoying reporter is here too, annoyingly. The red-haired ski bunny in white and light blue keeps wandering in and out of the room. Either she's got something to hide, or she's got a health problem. The punky looking teenager (god, they look younger every year) apparently knows the tiny bladder ski bunny and the oddly dressed man who just stomped in and threw himself into a chair. She's not seen him around at all throughout the day, and there have been no cars arriving since at least sunset. This could mean trouble.

Setting her book down, she reaches to take the tiniest sip ever of her beverage, using the movement to watch everyone. Especially the man that punky teen is now greeting foolishly.

***

John Constantine is expecting to see a lot of Shit(tm) tonight. He's seen a lot of Shit(tm) before. Dealing with Shit(tm) is practically his stock in trade. What wasn't expected? Owen Fucking Mercer falling from the sky, hitting one side of the roof, and skipping like a stone down it, over and about himself. The Hellblazer takes a deep drag off his half-finished cigarette and squints at the toppled shape, listens as the door to the lodge opens, and the Boomerang Man goes to get warm. "It's going to be one of those bloody nights, isn't it?" Constantine murmurs to himself… and hits his cig again. Then once more.

The peaceful serenity surrounding the snowswept lodge is broken in synchronous ferocity. The woodline breaks in a burst of white powder— or more accurately, a half-dozen bursts as snow is violently dislodged by sheer mass and velocity. The audible wolves are also the first into view, not that the perimeter is well guarded— but they're also quite off.

Too large, just misshapen enough to trigger that journey into uncanny valley, their eyes no reflective or golden but deep pools of swirling blacks and starlit silver that has no sheen, absorbing rather than reflecting the light applied to them. They're a mangy mix of black and drab grays, and each muscular form is on a mission: barreling straight for the chateau.

In a matter of instants, they've crossed from woods to doorways, scratching, pounding with enough force to slam the reinforced portals inward, flexing dangerously against hinge and housing. Wood cracks and creaks its dismay, and the second wave emerges to advance on the lodge in turn on cloven hoof: they bear jagged antlers caked with long dried blood, each marked with the nicks and scars of untold battles. Some charge on all fours, some stalk slower, towering on two legs.

Their eyes mirror the wolves, and within that first minute, the sound of glass shattering joins the cacophony of battered portals. More darkly shimmering, ravenous eyes peer out from the trees, a multitude converging from all sides, as a massive figure several times the size of any but the largest heroes joins the cavalcade, snorting a call that's half roar, half howl, half keening bellow to the heavens: yes, it's 150% loud, too.

As the beast stalks its way to the party, as more of its horde forms up along flanks and behind, John Constantine… watches from the roof, and finishes his cigarette. "We're headfirst into the cocksucking shit." He murmurs into the communicator to Barbara and Nico. "But I'm guessing you figured that out. Try to corral the fuckwits somewhere defensible, or this is going to get really messy, really fucking fast." John finishes smoking his cigarette; he hits the flask of whiskey in his pocket, and peels the gloves off his hands.

***

Rocket for the most part seems to be ignoring the rest of the people in the lodge, but at Groot's offer to try his drink, the raccoonoid lifts his head. Peering over at the smug tree he eventually reaches out to wrap his hands around the mug and soak in some of that warmth before actually trying the drink itself. "Hm. Not bad," he concedes, reluctantly relinquishing the mug as he debates getting his own.

He pushes himself from his chair, meaning to casually get up, at least until the sudden noise that pierces the general holiday ambiance of the lodge. Standing up in the chair his eyes narrow as he looks around to see if anyone else in richville happy snowland's registered something wrong before he glances towards the door. Either some idiot couldn't figure out how to work doorknobs or…

—nnnope, nope. That's definitely something else.

Rocket jumps down from the chair and rushes over to the nearest window to look- or at least he would have but the stupid windows aren't particularly low enough for him to glimpse out of so easily without jumping up to cling to the window sill. About a second later he's suddenly dropping back down just as the glass explodes overhead, and he ducks and covers as shards scatter.

"Flark, so much for a vacation," he mutters before starting to scamper back over to the corner. "Groot!"

***

Barbara is approaching Owen those short few steps, catching Nico's glance — but missing it's intention as she's distracted by Captain Boomerang. She still has that cup of hot chocolate — the marshmallows she had scooped into it float as fat bloats of white, half-melted at her neglect. "Owen, what — " Then she draws up taller in her snow boots, tilting her head slightly toward the sound of the howls that now punctuate the air.

The sound of the Brit in her ear is enough to turn her head sharply toward the doors. "Damnit," Barbara breathes, and then she's turning back to Mercer. "Owen, take this, do not ask questions, and help me get everyone inside." She grabs his hand — hers still in her powder-blue gloves with the little tech patches on the thumb and first two fingers — shoves something into his palm. "Don't laugh, it's protection." It's a pouch if soft leather, tied with what looks vaguely like thin sinew. She hesitates, adding with a hope that he will get it. "A Magician gave it to me."

Then she is stepping toward Nico, drawing the punk girl in. "I got a ballroom in the back secured… I think we can get everyone in there." She thumbs back toward the hallway that leads to the lodge's modest ballrooms and meeting rooms.

Then she touches her ear, pressing against it lightly to speak into the earbud that she has connected to John and Nico. "We're on it, John."

***

When the howling turns into a solid door-banging, Lois leaps up and, leaving her romance novel flung aside (it wasn't that interesting anyway — the author was writing a romance novel/murder mystery and was not making either particularly interesting — heads for the same window that Rocket was rushing to.

"What the — ?" Lois manages to get that much out before what initially looks like a child starts trying to hop up to the window. Children, however, notably don't tend to have furry little claws or pointy little ears. Really, between this and the sight outside, Lois's reaction is forgivable.

"THE FUCK WAS IN THAT EGGNOG?!"

This much manages to come out before the window shatters. The 'what a story!' instincts are drowned out fairly significantly by the 'let's try to survive' ones, but Lois is not one to run insanely in a panic. There's a little redhead showing people down a hallway, and Lois starts herding partygoers that way as well. Even rich idiots will tend to react reasonably well to someone who seems to know what's going on, particularly when they fundamentally Don't.

***

Taking the mug back, Groot nods. He means to take another swig of it for himself, but gets momentarily distracted by Nico mistaking his words for an actual introduction. Which gets tiring in his case, but…she gets a pass.

Cute goth girl just said 'hey' to him. To him. Take that, Rocket.

A stupid yet proud sort of grin is still stuck on his face right when things start going sideways, dropping as he turns his head. "— I am Groot?" Never mind that — Rocket tells him what his own brain is telling him to do, and that is MOVE. The mug's forgotten as he jumps up from his seat, lumbering into a dash after the raccoonoid Guardian for their 'snowboard gear.'

***

No. There's no way he knows anyone in … how did he get this far into the barren god-forsaken wilderness?! There isn't even a damn highway on the map on his phone. He's nowhere. And .. Babs? Owen's face, bruised, cut and with more than a little black schmutz on it contorts into a horrified look of confusion. He blinks at her and then looks around to make sure there aren't other people he knows here.

"Is this an intervention?"

Yes, that's what Owen assumes has happened. Someone teleported him into the sky above a ski lodge and dropped him on his head so that they could have an intervention. Except it's just Barbara and there's booze nearby, yes, Owen can smell the whiskey in Lois's drink from here. It's an issue. He doesn't actually listen to the answer from Barbara, he's up and off to find a proper drink.

Then the walls, doors and windows are assaulted. Owen looks at them and then back at Barbara and he growls, "Come. On. What did you do?" Yes, it's obvious that it's her fault. Why else would be suddenly here in the middle of nowhere, with her and what sounds like all the wildlife in the area has decided to try and kill him, just like he always knew they would. See? The first time he leaves the city and everything tries to kill him, (not counting Squad missions where he tries to kill everything, those don't count).

"Can I at least get a damn drink before Bambi tries to eat my face and fuck me in the soul?"

But then Barbara is thrusting something in his hands and telling him to hold on to them. He looks down at the pouch and sighs, "Fucking magic."

Tellingly the speedster isn't terribly fast for a speedster at the whole helping people in a crisis. But maybe it's because he is a speedster and feels like he has a lot more time. Well, that and he still wants to find a drink first.

***

Glass shatters. Wood creaks. This is new but not utterly novel to Nico Minoru. She hears the suggestion of John Constantine and it sounds solid to her. Looking around, she says, "Alright, we need to get inside here, something's happening and we need to move away from — YOU'RE ALIVE?!"

True Believers: Can you spot the moment when Rocket got out of his chair and started talking? Nico goggles at him for half a second, most unprofessional if perhaps justifiable.

She breathes out with great force. Reaching into her coat she grasps at what was, in her case, a zip-lock baggie, although no doubt its contents are similar to Barbara's. Nico's hands are bare for better or worse and she tells her, "Yeah, good plan."

A voice out there is familiar. Nico's head searches and then she says, "Holy , Lois Lane! Miss Lane! Please!" Nico says, gravitating towards her. "I love your feed. Listen, I need you to do something for me," a brief pause as the creatures outside scream. She reaches up to put her free hand on Lois's shoulder and clasp it.

"I need you to rip one of my earrings out," Nico tells her. "Just grab and twist, I'll be fine."

***

May hastily sets her cold chocolate and book aside and gets to her feet when the howls outside become audible, and at the first crash of something hitting the door from the outside, she's moving toward Rocket and Groot at a pace just short of a run. No, she's not thinking something supernatural is out there, she's thinking that someone has arrived to try and capture the two aliens, either for study or to take them off-planet for something even more nefarious.

She's not fast enough to catch Rocket before he approaches a window, but the animal bellowing and shattering glass doesn't reassure her AT ALL. "Groot," she snaps at the treenager, "Get your gear and find a defensible location. Now."

She turns in time to see the tiny bladder ski bunny incongruously starting to herd all of the now startled and panicky civilians further into the lodge. Good to see someone here has a steady head on their shoulders. She 'urges' a few of the people frozen in place to get moving as well as she heads toward the little knot of not-panicking people.

"Get to cover, all of you," she tells them brusquely, but her eyes zero in on Lane. The woman is annoying as anything, but she's still a civilian.

***

A man is torn bodily through another nearby window by a half-rack of penetrating antlers, gored and hauled into the snow, swiftly followed by the tearing of meat and the crunching of bone— eaten alive by otherworldly reindeer is a -bad way- to spend Christmas, boys and girls. Don't be naughty. Blood spatter the windowframe, stains chunks of the shards that continue to fall free in the wake of the violent motion, and to make matters worse: several doors burst inward, broken down and admitting the ragged-furred direwolves to the chateau itself. Despite the sign that clearly says SERVICE ANIMALS ONLY. No respect for rules, some creatures.

The glass that shattered near Rocket and Lois? That admits one of the bipedal, antler-bearing beasts, its unnaturally sharpened teeth showing as a snout opens in a series of sniffing, snorting huffs, and then screeches loudly, filling the area with preternatural terror that quickly makes Barbara and Lois' job considerably harder as a number of partygoers flee in chaotic sprints— too often right into the path of the encroaching direwolves.

The bundles Barbara hands out are a pleasingly (subjectively) pungent medley of mistletoe and yew shavings, incidentally sized to burn bright, fast, and fragrantly. On the snow-covered rooftop, John Constantine fixes his footing to not Mercer things up, and unfolds his arms with a flourish.

As the largest of the creatures, the shadowy, dark furred, cloven-hoofed monstrosity that walks upright far more swiftly and capably than any of its brethren, moves within the perimeter of the lodge, the Hellblazer acts. He calls out to the heavens in esoteric tongues, and the cloudcover momentarily parts. The light of the moon blazes all the brighter, and in a wide circumference around the besieged ski lodge, a circle of lunar energy draws itself, seemingly of its own accord, in sweeping, symmetrical lines.

They're paired, parallel, two circles running in tandem around the entirety of the structure, not so much melting the snow they touch as fusing it to ice, a brilliant crystalline assemblage of runic markings and ancient sigils connecting the interior of the outer circle's circumference to its partner's outer edge in a band of mystical energies. Silver-blue light sweeps skyward like an aurora in the north, and the chateau is encased within the column of nightfire.

"Alright luvs." Nico and Babs will be so happy with his accomplishment. "Bastard's stuck with us for the duration, now." GOOD WORK, JOHN? He plucks several pinecones from his trenchcoat's breast pocket and rolls them in his palm, red and blue flames licking from his fingertips, touching embers that seem to leap from the very core of the resin-infused seed pods.

***

"And you asked me if it was really necessary to bring the rifle!" Rocket huffs, both exasperated and smug as things explode into the lodge and panic ensues. He pauses a moment long enough to fix Nico with a look that may as well say 'get over it' before weaving between people rushing for the back at Lois and Barbara's attempts to get the civvies clear.

With one of the strange creatures inviting itself on in right behind him, Rocket turns and brandishes one of his pistols from within his coat. He would have pulled both but while it's nice for warmth, said coat gets in the way of other things. It doesn't however keep the Guardian from locking his finger around the trigger as he aims for the antlered beast's face.

"MERRY CHRISTMAS!"

He's been abusing the greeting terribly of late.

***

Triumphantly finding the bar and the boozey treasures it holds, Owen jumps over it and pulls a couple bottles. He sets two down on the bar in front of him. He pulls open the top on a third and takes a drink. Then taking the two bottles he flings them at superspeed at two of the nearest demon beasts. The bottles are meant to shatter and hopefully soak the were-deer with spirits for what comes next, a red tipped boomerang spewing flames as it spins is aimed to bounce between the two lead beasties.

"Oh fuck off. Just give me a lump of coal like in the stories you stupid evil shi-"

At this point Owen finally realizes that he knows one of the beasts. He yells, "Are these friends of yours Raccoon guy? Cause I gotta say, they're kind of shitty friends. Can't you like woodland creature talk 'em into not murdering the shit out of us? Not that I'm arguing with the shooting thing. Big fan of that." Yes Owen remembers that he's an alien raccoon like creature, but who knows? Maybe talking alien raccoons also have sway here? It's worth a shot. Maybe.

***

WHOA those creepy glass crashers are all too close for comfort. Groot flinches, the sleeves of his jacket catching some of the glass shards en route to his stuff. "I am Groot!" he yells in Rocket's direction, like the probablility of Something Bad Happening counts at this particular moment. As he backs up, he catches the order from Melinda in passing, scowling all the while. "I am Groot!!"

He doesn't need to be told twice about what to do! He's his own Ent!

Finally staggering over to the 'snowboard gear,' Groot buckles down, unzipping and digging out things that aren't remotely similar to snowboards. Not at all. That is a spacey-looking rifle and a large spear.

"I AM GROOT," he shouts over the din of creature noise, chucking the rifle over to Rocket with one hand once he gets his attention as the other finds a better grip on the spear. Teeth bared, he charges forward, creating a small defensive barrier between himself and whoever is still trying to get away from the insanity.

***

Lois has just enough time to grab her own glass and to shoot the last of the whiskey-nog in the process of getting away from the… the… bipedal murder-elk?

"Okay, hunter's revenge," she mutters to herself. "Fair enough. Fair enough."

She grabs one idiot by the arm, braces herself, and yanks them from running toward an outside window to shove them toward the hall to the ballroom. "Do you want to die, you idiot? They're COMING from that way!"

But then she's faced with, apparently, a fan. Lois stares at Nico in bafflement even as the girl smacks a bag into her other hand. "You want me to WHAT? This is not the time for — what is this? I'm not ripping your earring out, kid; this is not the time for weird fetishes. What am I supposed to do with — "

Her attention is taken by a charging fucking wolf; she tackles Nico, trying to get her out of the way of the rampaging monster.

***

Barbara is stalled enough by Owen's antics to roll her eyes, and she gives him a serious look as he stalks off to get a drink. There's some weird parallels between the men she's starting to spend a lot more time with — primarily, they each need some kind of beverage before they can act like normal people (see John and Owen for alcoholic drinks, see Frank for massive intakes of caffeine). "Whenever you're ready, Mercer."

Then she turns slightly toward Nico as she moves off to intercept Lois Lane. The Gordon girl pauses, blinks, and recognizes her after a heartbeat, but there's not enough time to actually do anything with the fan appreciation. Perhaps this is because Rudolph just broke through the goddamn window and ate someone.

This happens a split second after May gives her orders, and Barbara is startled out of her initial response by the crash of glass, flash of antler, and bloodied crack of bones. She turns sharply, and grabs Owen at the elbow. "Fireplace poker. It's iron. I checked." Then her voice pitches lower. "Costume change."

Then Barbara is taking off in a bolt, pressing her hand against her ear as she speaks into the communicators linking her to Nico and John. "Nico, give that woman a weapon." Is she talking about May or Lois? Anyone's pick. But she's already lost to the panicked crowd as she bolts for the lobby desk, and vaults over it. May did say to take cover…

Once she's behind the counter, she ducks low for where the bell boys stowed her luggage. She hisses into the earbud: "John, I don't think you were 100% on the level with me about this." Though, perhaps, more likely, Barbara still hasn't quite made complete sense of the world that exists beyond — above and below — her own reality.

***

"He has a gun? You gave him a gun?" Nico says with wonder as Rocket storms past and then look at her. She grimaces for a moment. Her hand goes back into her jacket to pull out the baggies, which she brings out to distribute.

She can feel the change in the air. She tries not to look at the guy being ripped up by the evil reindeer. It's a horrible and senseless act but she's seen a few of them in her area around her. Lois Lane's gonna make sure that guy doesn't go unremembered, she tells herself.

Lois Lane's telling her about her weird fetishes. "What? No! Jesus! I'm a witch, I have to - uff!!" And then she's being tackled by Lois and she's on the ground. While there, she takes one of the baggies and bites partway through the plastic, sliding it to her other hand and wiggling it around to shake out the cold iron flakes inside of it towards the creature even as she wiggles out. "Right," she answers Barbara, handing another baggie towards Lois and saying, "This looks stupid but it's like kryptonite for these things. You understand what I mean?"

After that, Nico looks down at the carpet and takes a deep breath.

"Right," she says, "I'm gonna go die of embarrassment now." She reaches up to touch an earring, which is actually a piece of comm gear, as she tells Barbara, "Okay." The remaining unopened baggie - Lois's had more of those iron flakes, this one has what appears to be wood shavings - is tossed towards Melinda.

AFTER THAT Nico rushes away from others, towards the fireplace, trailing the cold iron behind her. Perhaps she intends to die? No: the iron flakes, she hopes, will make a barrier, and then SHE can get a stick to hit something with. Her face is still burning. Why am I doing this? she thinks. Why not make Mr. Tough Guy do it? Or what's her name? Or CONSTANTINE?

"So now that it's trapped in here with us, what do we do next?" she asks the communicator, sourly.

***

May's expression goes from serious to downright grim when a civilian is dragged outside by one of the … what the hell kind of elk ARE these things? Shoving a few of the remaining civilians toward the ballroom doorway and pulls a slightly odd-looking pistol out of her jacket, firing hastily at any wolf or deer things that get too close to anyone. She's firing hastily, though, and can only blame that for why these creatures — they've GOT to be aliens like Rocket and they're after the raccoon and the treenager — seem to be shaking off the dendrotoxin like nothing.

She's out of rounds almost too quickly, and has to pistolwhip a wolf and throw herself clear of its snapping jaws. She tosses the pistol out of the way, then pulls a completely incongruent item out of her jacket. A length of black silk shoots out from her hands to tangle in a deer's antlers and with a yell she YANKS on the silk, trying to pull its head aside and away from Lois and Nico.

The report for this is going to be even worse to write than the last one.

***

Rocket's shots ring true, May's aim is perfect— rounds tear into the features of the encroaching 'reindeer', they rip into flesh, they reverberate into bone. Aside from the kinetic impact, however? They do little to slow the beasts. In fact, the wounds left close over almost immediately after the reports ring out, as the one closest to Rocket snorts, lowers its horned skull, and charges the surly, diminutive alien woodland critter. They're clearly not close kin.

Intercepting it with the spear buys them moments— but not success, Groot's strength and reach proving capable at holding the beast back nonetheless. May's leverage similarly gifts her with half-control over a very unconventional rodeo ride, bucked and heaved hither and yon — and then it barrels straight for the brick framing of the fireplace, seeking to simply smash the agent against it. Owen is gifted with a touch more success: the flames certainly slow down the wolf and stag nearest him, surrounding them in conflagratory cacophony. The writhing creatures are joined by another as Nico propels that cloud of iron shavings— where they touch, they burn, they sizzle, they freeze.

Flesh melts, contorts beneath them, the cold iron eating through to the bone— and then pitting it in turn. The towering reindeer falls in a spasming heap, and not a moment too soon: the hallway beyond the entourage erupts inwards in a spray of splinters and compromised structure, admitting the slouching, lunging, and still ten foot tall form of the cloven-hooved, antler-bearing, wolf-mawed monstrosity that stands head and shoulders above the worst of the rest. It grips a fleeing skiier, lifts them high, peeeers into their eyes— and then throws them violently aside, stalking onwards towards the barrier of heroes… and those they seek to herd away, and protect.

"I'm not exactly a clairvoyent luv." Hard to be 100% on something like -this-. As to 'what now'? Well… "Someone in there is fuckin' marked." John informs Nico and Barbara through their channel. "Might be a hex bag, might be a magical brand." Let's hope, anyway. "See if you can trace it— whoever it is probably doesn't even know." It's a simple ask, right? Gathering around the outer edge of the circle are dozens— perhaps hundreds— more shapes. Wolves of all sizes, carnivorous, deformed reindeer large and larger. They keen, they howl, they vent hostile rage at the barrier— it's a barrier they might well compromise, given time.

John Constantine does not give them that. The pine resin coats his fingers, the flames lick higher. "Naur an edraith ammen!!!" The warlock incants, and his hands become plumes of blue-orange fire, tendrils licking reddish towards the sky. He hurls the burning seed pods outwards, and they rocket as if of their own accord to all sides of the woodline, sweeping along the snow-covered trees in a flashing hiss of steam, a sizzle as evergreens far too sodden to catch illuminate wreathed in flame, anyway.

"Naur dan i krampushoth!!!" Then, the fires sweep inwards, wreathing the edge of the circle and devouring snow and beast alike in a roaring chorus of outrage and agony, fires sweeping from fur to hide and scattering the assembled horde as they flee the uproarious, if temporary inferno. Half by intention, half from strain, the Hellblazer drops to one knee, angles his footing, and slides off the roof, dropping from the eaves into the substantial snowbank beneath with a pronounced, "FUCKING BOLLOCKS."

***

It works like Kryptonite. Oh. Also, someone outside is shouting in… Sindarin?

There's another fireplace not far away. Nico seems to have herself more or less covered, so Lois darts a few more paces to grab another of those fireplace pokers. Because if a few iron filings can burn them like embers, a fireplace poker ought to be like a flaming freakin' sword. She grabs the shovel, too, and chucks it over to Nico. "Will this work?"

A glance out the window shows English-Trenchcoat-Man, aka Servant of the Secret Fire, apparently, but Lois doesn't focus on it. She returns to the entrance of the ballroom, shakes out the iron filings in a line, and stands foursquare behind it. The next… werewolf (Lois is just going to call these things werewolves despite the fact that they're clearly not because there are no good words she knows for murderwolves) that comes remotely close will be getting a vicious jab to the gut.

***

Barbara Gordon has taken cover behind the check-in counter, and based on how the door opens to the backroom, it is safe to assume she has cloistered herself in the staff-only area of the lodge.

"I'll forgive you," she manages to John in her retreat.

It should be noted here that the Bats are nothing if not good at stagecraft. Barbara went that way, and a few moments of artful costume changes, the Batgirl launches into view as a sudden silhouette against the runic glow and bright full moon outside from what seems to be the other side of the room. She rolls up to her feet, and launches her own cold-forged weapons the same way she would throw batarangs. These are sharpened spikes however, soaring like thrown knives toward one of the beasts that is charging right for Lois. Then the Bat advances in quick, confident movements.

She forgoes holding precious to the communication chatter from John, and she shouts out toward those who are out here fighting the monstrous creatures. "They are after someone! They have a target!" Then she advances, and from the bag she had tucked under her cape, she removes several heavy weapons. "Iron. Sorry, ma'am." She assumes May is a cop at the very least. "I didn't make bullets this time."

But May is given what looks like a long knife of dull metal. Other weapons are offered around to those who need it.

**

"Ain't that what these holiday spirits things are about? —now ain't the time to deal drugs girlie," Rocket says, completely mistaking Nico's baggie-distribution.

"Seriously guy?! Just 'cuz I'm furry don't mean I'm acquainted with all your blood-thirsty Terran wildlife! I ain't askin' you if you know every Terran in this lodge am I?!" Rocket growls over at Owen. "Also! Not a ra—" Wait, what.

"Glarkin'—!!"

Not only do his shots not put down the wild creature as he'd intended, but the thing regenerates and Rocket tries scrambling to get clear as it charges. His pistol goes flying as the horns snag his jacket- stupid bulky winterwear! Twisting as he tries to swing himself around onto the beastie's head, sliding out of his coat. With his rifle en route courtesy of Groot, the raccoonoid shoves off of the antlered head to intercept his favorite firearm, somersaulting as he hugs it close to extend it with a simple shift and a click.

He's already depressing the trigger as he comes around again, aiming for the same creature. It might not work but it'll keep it off his back while he gets over the incoming and probably not very graceful landing.

***

Looking down at the pouch of rocks in his hands, Owen frowns and calls out to Barbara? "Was I supposed to hold this or throw it? Cause I kind of what to throw it?" Yes, Owen has never been very good at listening to and following instructions. But then he remembers the fact that Barbara did at least point out to him that the fireplace instruments were the things to use. He knows a little bit more about the mystic than one might expect so he knows that she wasn't being extra explainy about the iron for no reason.

He vaults over the bar and tumbles, grace-lessly across the room towards the fireplace. He grabs the poker and then looks at it like what the hell do I do with this? It's not even vaguely boomerang shaped. He grumbles and pulls a long dagger from his boot holder and then with some random duct tape he fashions them together. But oddly the pointy part isn't pointed forward. It makes no sense and really would fall under the long list of weird Owen things for most people watching, at least until he puts his frankenstein zombie-deer knife-poker into action. He flings the long poker with knife attached at the largest thing in the room. With a gloved hand, he points all his fingers up, igniting the dagger. Usually burning evil things is good in his limited experience.

"Look, I get it. But what if there were some secret woodland creature handshake? First off, I wouldn't doubt it. They're shady fuckers. No offense, here on Dirt they are." Yes, he's taken to the idea of calling Earth dirt after being schooled on it's 'proper' name by the !Racoon in a bar. And yes, Owen considers all woodland animals inherently untrustworthy so this is really just reinforcing negative stereotypes right here.

That bit of banter done, Owen reaches forward with the same gloved hand, hoping the tape on the dagger is strong enough to hold it and the poker when the dagger flies back to his hand. Sadly fire and duct tape don't mix and Owen gets just the knife back … the hazards of throwing all your good weapons. And well since it's the only effective thing, Owen's going after it, wherever it landed yelling, "I need my pokey thing back!!"

***

"STOP PROFILING ME," Nico shouts at Rocket, thus completing the arc of one who must come to accept a world in which Rocket Raccoon is a reality.

Nico reaches up when Lois hurls her a shovel and catches it. Looking at it, she judges the little ash shovel thinger isn't some plastic snow mover and says, "Probably!" with perhaps more decision than is needed.

The wall creaks. Wood splinters. Flesh yields and the massive thing raises upwards, rears in close, even as John talks to her. Nico reaches up to touch her ear and says to him, "Okay, uh - do you need support or -" She hears the echo-cadence of John's spell, sees the fizzling slash, and breathes out. So we're burning the forest down, Nico thinks, before she hears a wet thump that sounds human sized.

Nico breathes in.

She breathes out.

"Sorry, this is gross," she tells Lois as she raises her left hand to her face, sticks her pinky finger in her mouth, digs in a little - jerks her head, kind of like the wolves, forces herself to do it again - Merry Christmas, everyone!

"When blood is shed - Let the Staff of One emerge" Nico says as if reading out of the back of her Crime Bible, even as magenta light crackles around her eyes and the Staff itself seems to slide, fluidly, out of her clavicle, over the valley and through her coat, and into her hand it goes. Afterwards, swaying a little, Nico pushes herself upright.

"Ugh," she says. Then, with magical import and another crackle, "Reveal Occult Deer Bait!"

***

Good timing! Groot feels the brunt of the weight as he pushes the beast back, his other hand now free to steady the spear against the force of nature. Unfortunately, his feet are far from being planted firmly against the floor, slipping and skidding every time he loses some ground.

Of course, somewhere between this and that, Groot notices a Barbara who may have not been a Barbara out of the corner of an eye. That's right about when the reindeer takes a fall, the treenager stepping back just as he's passed a fun weapon.

There's a quick test, bouncing the object in one hand to see how balanced it is. "…I am Groot." He then growls, jumping forward, yanking the weapon back before putting all of his strength into the downward swing at the creature's head after Rocket escapes its antlers.

***

May backpedals hastily as the deer she'd tangled up charges her even though she's already dropped the silk. Her back hits the side of the fireplace hearth and the cast iron screen in front of the flames scrapes as she stumbles back against it. Object near at hand, it is now a weapon. She grabs up the screen frame and swings it as hard as she can at the deer's head, ignoring that the heat the frame had absorbed from the fire is burning her hands.

That was shockingly effective, but the screen was heavy enough that she lost her grip on it the moment it hit the deer and took it down rather messily. Serendipity, though, that's when Batgirl appears seemingly out of nowhere (though her hair is a familiar shade of red) and offers a long and heavier than steel knife. Cold iron. Like the fireplace screen.

"Ching-wah TSAO duh liou mahng," she half mutters to herself as she remembers the mostly ficticious 'lore' of an old friend's taste in questionable TV shows. But no time to dwell on that, there's a ten-foot tall THING in the building now, and she can't exactly expect Lois Lane to be of any use against it.

Gripping the dark-bladed knife in one hand, she pulls her paired butterfly swords with the other and charges the antlered, wolf-mawed monster, planning to distract it with her clearly shinier swords and aim for tendons with the dark blade.

She has a really bad feeling about this, but when doesn't she have a bad feeling about things?

***

It takes Batgirl a heartbeat to realize a clear fact: John Constantine has fallen off the roof. She curses under her breath before she turns slowly in a pivot on her heels, still squatting low. Her boot gives an uncomfortable squeak. There's something under her boot that is wet, sticky, and she must convince herself not to look down.

"John," she breathes softly into the earbud. "Get in here." Her words are a bit stronger than she intends, a bit more cautious. "Get inside now." She definitely does not want him outside right now.

***

The cold iron 'barricade' across the door stops the next wolf in line— but not the Krampus. The massive, dark hybrid simply roars and pushes right past it, stepping over it with an audible sizzle. It's bearing down on Lois, its massive visage snarling and black-eyed, a vision of death— when it meets its earthly counterpart, the deadly Agent May.

Her skilled feints and slices rend several nasty wounds into the beast, the agile agent slipping past the behemoth's guard as both Asgardian iron and the unwrought blade prove capable weapons, leaving wounds that do not heal. Neither does the monolithic monstrosity slow, however— it lashes out with clawed arms, with cloven feet, seeking to crush the Cavalry— or kick her -soundly- away with strength well in excess of that possessed by a human being.

Barbara's weapons, proffered and suggested, prove effective as well: thrown weapons drop a pair of wolves that had flanked in opposite directions to breach the line of heroes, while Lois' stabbing reflex earns her the same treatment from Krampus that May received: this time in the form of a visions backhand and lunging charge.

It's easy for Rocket to conclude, perhaps, that his rifle was the trick necessary to turn the tide, just because it couldn't -possibly- be those rinky-dink throwing knives, much less Owen's not-at-all-a-boomerang solution, or Groot smacking the thing with a dull iron blade. Right? The head explodes around the time the rifle shot impacts, and that should be good enough for anyone. The poker also does its job when hurled to fell one flaming reindeer— but it's also wedged in the writhing, smoldering corpse. And guarded by another that's taken to charging around, flailing at our heroes whilst on fire. Let's give it a hand folks: that looks painful.

Nico pays a price for her magic: but there's always a cost. In this case the payoff is her nigh-omnipotent artifact drawing an ethereal trail for her to follow down the hallway amidst the cloistered civilians: specifically one very sweating, very large man in expensive loungewear. A state assemblyman, for those who are politically savvy, or just curious. Sewn into the lining of his jacket is the blip Nico seeks, and the man is indeed oblivious to its presence, freaked out of his mind, and unlikely to cooperate with being partially stripped: have fun with that!

Plucking himself up out of the snowbank, covered in ice and frosty white, Constantine drags himself towards the now -ample- entrances to the lodge and does as he's bidden: which he was already planning, thank you very much. Seeing the scene within, stepping out of the frying pan and into the fire, John just shakes his damn head. "Thought you said you'd forgive me." He mutters into the comm, sarcastically as hell.

'John, hurry, come in here, it's super dangerous and you need a good smack to the head.' The warlock pulls a poultice of herbs and yew and a hewn branch from his coat, and begins murmuring to them as if each were a precious, beloved pet. Or possibly he's whispering an important incantation he doesn't want to draw attention to, but let's pretend he's incompetent as fuck, it's more interesting.

"Keep that big fucker pinned down, it gets this job done we're all bloody well fucked!" The magical circle outside illuminates brighter, the sharpened bough of yew in John's hand smoking white without apparent flame, its cloud building in a voluminous swirl that's mirrored in the foggy blue illumination surrounding them.

***

Rocket's been growing dangerously satisfied at being able to blow heads off of things. This likely won't help in that, anyway. It does make him feel a little better seeing it happen, especially when he lands rather roughly on the floor, his shoulder taking the brunt of it, and he practically curls around his rifle as he tumbles to a stop. That'll bruise…

Hauling himself to his feet, the Guardian glares over at Owen, and he might've said something in retort but the goth chick is doing something friggin' weird that he's glad he hasn't eaten anything yet.

"Now that's just all kinds of wrong."

He's not quite sure what she's going on about, other than vaguely getting the idea that these ugly creatures are being drawn to something. Or someone. Well, someone else can deal with that. He has plenty to shoot at, and shoot he does, teeth bared in a snarl as he does so.

Then something even bigger enters, and naturally Rocket's drawn to the larger target, letting loose as he punches the power up on his super-illegally modded out rifle. Okay, maybe it won't work as well but he's stubborn and is going to give it a shot anyway. Get it?

***

Wait a second. That's the agent from YESTERDAY. "Why Agent," Lois grits out, holding her poker in front of her as if it were a claymore (the sword kind, not the explodey kind), "we need to stop meeting like this. A girl could get the idea she's being followed."

Meanwhile, Nico has actually bitten HERSELF to get the blood that Lois didn't bloodlet, and she stares in some astonishment at the result. "Kid," she says, "you got moxie." A greater compliment she does not have.

But then the… the Krampus? The Krampus. Okay. The Krampus is bearing down on her, and it's sprinted across her line of iron filings as if it were no more than, say, a smudge on the carpet. The color drains from Lois's face, and just about now she thinks that maybe she should have pushed her little panic button —

Too late. She jabs upward viciously when the creature comes within jabbing distance, and it seems to actually succeed! The poker goes in like a hot knife through Krampus-gut. Wrenching it out, she manages to smash the poker HARD on the creature's knee juuuuust before it smacks her aside.

Cue Lois flying through the air. Cue Lois glancing to her side to see that Batgirl is here. Cue Lois rethinking her life choices. Cue Lois crashing into a wall.

She collapses there, grumbling some expletives under her breath and gathering herself to her feet, using the poker to prop herself up. Nothing's broken, thank God. Except that chair. Oh. Maybe a rib. Ow. Probably just bruised, but Lois is, shall we say, winded.

***

Groot is…right in the line of splatter, but it's okay. He's a tree. The same can't be said for his awesome snowboarding clothes, however. Are splatter effects still on trend? Whether they are or aren't, Groot's too busy being irritated by the fact his stuff is gross now.

Oh, but the weapon? The knife-looking thing? He's so keeping that. Good luck trying to get it back from him now.

Right now, his eyes are set on the other targets. Especially that huge Krampus one. Whatever it is, it ugly, and it doesn't care about his image. With the deepest roar he can muster, the young treant RIPS his pants off to free up his legs (pants are so ANNOYING how do people wear them all the time) like a basketball player ready to rumble on the court, charging headfirst at the Krampus because what is self-preservation??? "I AM GROOOOOT!!!

***

"I changed my mind," Barbara snaps back, but her words are a bit strained. This might be because she's arching away from a slash of claws and ducking from a snap of teeth, and then she's driving two spikes up through the bottom edge of the twelfth ribs to puncture what she hopes is lungs. She's met with a splatter of blood across her purple leather and black cowl. She is buried under its weight, having to roll aside to avoid getting sandwiched between dead monster and floor.

Then she presses herself up, digging her feet under her as her treads manage to not slide on more blood despite its thick, sticky coat. She focuses on John's actual orders, following his lead. When the Krampus faces off with May, the Batgirl takes up a flanking position just as Lois Lane goes flying through the air — and then Owen because Mercer just took a hit to his own chest to go flying through a wall with a crumbling of plastic and wood. She is torn on which ally to go after, or to hold her position.

Ultimately, she holds her position. She takes out a paired set of weapons that closely match her favored tonfa. She starts being a nuisance at the Krampus's hindquarters, and just misses seeing Groot strip off his pants angry LeBron style.

***

The Staff of One, dark and glamorous as it is, is reassuring in Nico's hand. With the power of her cursed bloodline, she can, at least, protect her Twitter follow and the remaining innocentish richish people. She sucks in a deep breath and reaches up to her ear.

"I know where it's going," she says - loudly, so everyone can hear. "Is this what you expected?"

Then Lois tells her she's got moxie. Nico recognizes the slightly retrograde phrase, because she actually does put on her podcast sometimes even if she has shamefully not gotten on the patreon. "— Thank you," she tells her. "Uh. Be careful, okay? I have to do this, but everyone's important. That includes you," and she almost swings the Staff of One to tap Lois on the shoulder, but at the last minute opts not to.

Lois can see that she has no reflection in the Staff of One's glossy head, but Nico does.

Nico then turns and runs, following that magenta trail that, from experience, she knows only she (maybe Constantine?) could see. She stumbles as she goes. She pants as strain takes her past Melinda May, because she's already feeling exhausted, given everything. She grits her teeth as she contemplates the figure who she can see in her mind's eye, and that faint ghostly image is already showing herself from a different angle, revealing Nico's top five dissatisfactions with her own appearance along the way.

Strain is coming to her and somehow the knowledge that someone in specific there, who is now, in a sense, counting on her, makes her struggle for the spell. Her memory goes backwards to the now-ominous nights in memory where her mother would go into the master bedroom and listen to old albums very loud, albums she never questioned. Experimental music doubly distorted. Number nine. Number nine. Number nine. Number nine.

Oh no, Nico thinks, am I hallucinating?

She pivots the Staff of One to point towards the man bearing what she seeks. There's no time to argue with him. She should have smashed her own face into the brickwork instead of asking for the help like some stupid fangirl. The negative emotion heats in her gut like a furnace and she says aloud, "You - Become naked" and the spell is cast, aiming to rip the man's loungewear clean off and pull it to her hand!

***

This kind of fighting May is sadly more familiar with, though never against a ten foot tall creature. And — she'll have to remember to thank Thor again later — her butterfly swords appear to be doing as much damage as the iron blade. Useful, but ultimately it'll be futile. She can't get more than superficial cuts in on the thing as it's too big and too fast, and she's going to get hit if this doesn't end soon.

But, in the meantime, she's completely ignored Lois because she's got much bigger literally to deal with. She'll snark at the reporter later. Taking advantage of Batgirl's presence and flanking position, she feints one way to get the creature to turn its back on the masked woman. Her gamble: that the Bat will take the opening, annoy the thing into turning back toward her, and then May can aim for a proper hamstring.

***

Shooting the minions didn't do a lot. Shooting Krampus -even harder- doesn't do a lot: but Rocket sure does make a good show of it. It's far more dramatic than cold iron knives and blades or a fireplace shovel, and everyone can appreciate that from their favorite non-docile not-terrestrial animal. Knocking away Owen, knocking away Lois, Krampus remains beset by Batgirl and Groot.

Theoretically, they're equipped to 'kill' the beast: but killing such a fae in this world is far from a permanent solution… particularly when the creature is bound by dark geas to do the bidding of something, someone that is not it. Nico's decidedly… decisive solution to the issue at hand leaves her with an even more alarmed, suddenly nude elected official. He screams all sorts of bloody murder, points the finger right at the punky sorceress as the OBVIOUS culprit to the entire mess. And the Hunt's target? That shifts to Nico as she takes possession of, but has yet to destroy, the ritual beacon.

Luckily for Ms. Minoru, the skillful interplay of Melinda May and Batgirl prove efficient, if hazardous indeed, at occupying the creature's attention: and then the stabbing mania of the treenager joins the fray. The three of them buy time. Inflict damage. If they had to defeat the beast in out and out combat, it might be hopeless. Their target is too strong, too fast, too resilient, taking even the cruelest of the hits like a superficial scratch, apparently intent to fight onward until the last of its blood is sapped away.

Thankfully, that isn't the intention here tonight: John finishes one verse of his chant, redoubling his rhythm, and blows at the plume of smoke rising from the yew. It swirls across the distance between himself and the battle, and the warlock makes himself focus, finish. It's heartless, right? He shows no outward sign of the terror within, the death around him, the peril faced by ally, hero, and lover alike. He just gets the job done; that's the way through.

The smoke swirls above the creature, spiraling up towards the ceiling and drawing into the visible spectrum a silvery cord that connects from somewhere else, somewhere far removed, to an iron shackle eating into the flesh of the otherworldly deity's neck. Runes like those surrounding the lodge glimmer in moonlit fervor along that band of metal, and the light outside reaches a blinding luminescence, shrouding the lodge in brilliant, blue-white ambience that further accentuates the pure white smoke, the ethereal fog rising around them.

"Destroy the fucking bait!!" He calls out, half shouting to Nico, half using his communicator, which is probably an uncomfortable approach, but they've got bigger problems. Constantine kneels, presses his palm to the floor with the pouch of alchemically mingled herbs and enchantments between them, and begins murmuring anew, eyes darting between the beast and its assailants… mostly Batgirl, if we're being totally honest, here. He doesn't even immediately snark back at her, which is a minor miracle seldom accomplished without an adamant 'Shut up, John' and some ample distraction or another.

***

"The bait. Will it burn?"

Lois IS next to a fireplace, after all. Of course, getting the girl to the fireplace will involve getting her past the Krampus, which is a pretty dicey prospect. Still, Lois isn't giving up.

She manages to get to her feet, taking one, two, three solid breaths. There's a box of fireplace matches on the hearth, and she grabs those in one hand, gripping the poker grimly in the other and giving it a few seconds in the fire. Stalking forward then, she chucks the box of matches underhanded toward Nico, then takes the poker in both hands. The Krampus is mostly occupied with Batgirl and the Agent just now, which gives her the opportunity to slip up behind, crouch, brace herself, and stab upward into what she is pretty sure is the Krampus's, uh, sit-upon. His fundament. His posterior.

He's getting a hot poker to the ass.

***

Shoot a thing enough and it's bound to die. Okay, that's not necessarily true, especially with some of the things that Rocket and Groot have found themselves pit against. But it sure makes him feel a lot better. Shooting things, that is.

If nothing else, he can at least hope to be a distraction, but this big guy sure looks like it's not having any of it. Scowling, Rocket eases his finger off the trigger if only to reevaluate his targets. When next he fires he goes for what would normally be vital points on something of lesser stuff; eyes, joints, limbs- if he can't take the thing down for good he can at least try to slow it down while the others whittle away at it.

It's not that he's unfamiliar with magical things. Having been living with an Asgardian on and off again for the better part of the year, he's seen more than his fair share of weirdness. In this case? It's become clear to him that there are people qualified (hopefully) to handle things like this, and in that he's more than happy to let them do their job so long as it actually does something.

Which is why he doesn't question the actions of the hobo who's slipped into the lodge and started doing his own magickery. He's not sure what the man's going off about with bait but it makes sense to him. Something's drawing Big Ugly, so clearly you get rid of it to get rid of Big Ugly himself.

This magic stuff ain't so difficult after all.

"I'd suggest explosives but I'm guessin' you guys would want something more delicate for this sorta procedure."

***

"I am Groot!" shouts Groot from whatever side he's on, grunting with each blow dodged or returned from the Krampus. The knife in hand stabs at one of the thing's thighs in a motion that can easily turn into a small knick or one that cuts through the air. The spear has more reach, but it has no magical properties, only doing the job of thrusting at the target before flying backward in defense.

He, much like Rocket, knows squat about magic or its supernatural connections. This is weird, everyone's doing weird things, might as well try to keep the creature busy as the experts get their own hand in.

***

The shout from John spikes before her earbud dials him down so he doesn't burst her eardrum. She's turning sharply with her twinned long knives, and she slashes at the goat-like tail of the monster, aiming for the place where it meets his sacrum. The spin carries her fully around until she's in a half-squat, and when she looks up, all she can see is the spirals of ethereal smoke that connects the Krampus to something far above, something that cannot be seen beyond the signs of the shackles.

The magic is felt — as it often is to Barbara. It's a sensitivity she's never been able to fully understand — that intuition that is a clear and precise human instinct combined with a sympathetic soul. She hesitates too long, and barely dodges from the claws that come for her from the Krampus in his rage.

"Nico! Any day now!" Batgirl's voice is harsher, terser than Barbara's. It is something that comes with the cowl — all Bats tend to go for the more severe. This is said though on the heels of Nico setting magical fire to the satchel. She is aiming for one last hit, one kiss good by with the hard edge of her iron blades.

***

Nico catches the man's tattered clothing and says to him, "SORRY!" before wondering for a moment what this will do for the forces of superhuman registration. Then she yelps and twists as a voice rings in her ear, and she shouts back, "Don't YELL at me like THAT!"

The Krampus points at her. Nico realizes, deep in her soul, that she deserves it.

She deserves it but that guy didn't, Nico thinks, unless he's a — here, a leaping Rocket Raccoon crosses her thought balloon, concealing exactly which political party Nico levies her hatred towards, although you can probably guess. Even then, not like this. Not like this.

Lois is there! She throws Nico some matches; Nico catches them. This stuff is silk, she thinks. How can I make it burn fast enough to keep the Krampus from killing that raccoon mutant or that cool tree mutant or Batgirl!

Of course, Nico thinks.

"Silk to Flammable Old Synthetics," Nico says. With a flare of magenta light the damaged pajamas become… well, they look the same but way cheaper. Nico drops them on the ground, stomps, squats, and lights a match.

They go up like theater flare paper. Nico stands by, Staff pivoted, in case any clear thing should emerge — but if there was something in there more durable than the original cloth, perhaps it too was changed, because soon enough, Christmas is interrupted only by a chemical-fire smell. And then, the bait is gone.

***

May sees an opening when Groot harasses the creature, Batgirl gives it some serious slices to think about and Lois… shoves a hot poker where the sun don't shine. She has to give the reporter that much — the gal's got a pair of brass ones the size of Nebraska.

She darts in and slashes at the monster's hamstring, and just for good measure, where an achilles tendon would be in a human. But taking that second swipe isn't without a price. The thing's lashing tail slams into her side and knocks her well clear. She hits the messy, disgusting floor hard and tumbles to a pained stop near where Rocket is considering another way to perforate their adversary.

***

The flames that lick over the man's once posh ensemble at Nico's bidding do their work, though their warming glow burns near-black and cold as the small satchel concealed in the lining goes up. It's such a small thing, an unassuming thing— and here the poor fellow loses his knickers over it. Still, it could be far, far worse for him. … whether or not he realizes that is another issue entirely.

As soon as the enchantment is purged, the beast's demeanor shifts. Rather than fighting furiously with Batgirl and Groot, those still standing in its melee range, Krampus suddenly leaps back several spans— and takes a cold iron poker to the ass. That's simply not cricket. Lois is about to be on the receiving end of another blow when John finishes his incantation, and the herbal compound erupts outwards in a rushing mist, fragrantly filling the room.

The tendrils of smoke about that tether tighten, the runic overlay on the collar brightens considerably to match the exterior lights— and then the iron is simply vaporized, vanishing into nothingness as it falls away through the air. Freed of its shackles, the dark god narrows its eyes on those around it, lifts its head skyward, and howls an angry protest, stalking one way, and then the other. Good work once more, John, the beast is now free of whatever was compelling it— everyone's safe, right?

The rake of a warlock has an ace up his sleeve, naturally: the Hellblazer speaks his intent to relinquish bindings and protections over this place, and the containing circle of protection around the lodge similarly shimmers into nothingness, drawn back into the sky like so much inverted stardust. For a moment, it looks like the creature might unleash its wrath: but then it's freed. A dark grey mist suffuses everything around them, swirling, blotting out vision, and as it clears… so have the beasts of the hunt, the dark lord of the Yule, and all evidence they were ever here save the shattered chateau, the blood of the victims, and the exhaustion of our heroes.

Shaking off a smoking hand that smells of burnt flesh, John closes his fingers around his palm protectively and rises back to his feet, brushing ice from his sodden trenchcoat with a huff. "Well, that could've been bloody worse, eh?" Eh? Eh?!? Tired, shielded blues scan over those gathered, across the bodies, across the wounded. The sound of approaching sirens echoes off the mountains in the distance.

***

There's a moment where Batgirl is on the verge of attacking the beast, even if the demeanor has changed. Though she gives a stall, waiting, watching — and then stumbling back a step or two at the howl. Her eyes dart up sharply toward the beast as it looks around, and there's a fearlessness in how her eyes meet its. Then she hears the last of John's words, the way the whole air changes as the magic is released — like breathing out a breath that was being held.

Only once all has vanished in the swarm of darkness does Batgirl relax a bit more, her heart still pounding harder that she'd like in her chest, reminding her that — while she has held her fear in check — it is still there. John's words break through the moment after the fight is done, and she turns toward him with a lift of her brows.

Just barely there's a twitch to her lips at the Magician, and then she nods toward Nico with a more apparent smile for the young witch. "Good work." Her gaze passes over the others, giving each a slight nod of her chin once she's decided everyone is alright, no one is badly hurt, and… then she hears the sirens.

"Time to go," she tells John and Nico both.

***

She's alive. They're all alive — no. Not all. In the sudden silence, which lasts for only an instant before the panicked sounds of partygoers rise up again, before the distant sirens make themselves heard.

Faintly, in the ballroom, a querulous voice can just be heard: "This never happens in Aspen!"

Lois lets the poker drop, running a hand over her face and looking among the others. May gets a polite nod and a murmured: "Still not going to tell me who you are?" But tonight, she's not going to insist. Nico gets an appreciative nod as well, and as Constantine announces his feelings, she walks back in to take a look at him. And Batgirl. And back to him.

"Who the hell are you?" she asks, more or less as politely as she can.

But then everyone's making plans to leave and Lois just lets out a weary breath. Not even truly irritated, more just resigned. "This is the…" She thinks back. "I think the third worst Christmas I've ever had. If you — " She points at Constantine. "Or you — " To Nico then. "Can tell me what god I've offended and how to apologize, I'd appreciate it. Until then, Merry fucking Christmas."

She glances then to Groot and Rocket. Shrug. "You two going to stick around?"

***

May's tumble into his vicinity has Rocket pull up his rifle, stepping over to check on the agent and cover her in case any more surprises come their way.

The girl in the mask yells and inwardly the raccoonoid's inclined to agree. The smell hits him, something burning in the lodge somewhere that manages to overlay the smell of blood and spilled alcohol. It's a nasty concoction of scents in general. And then Constantine finishes things off, the scent of herbs cutting through everything else, making the small Guardian snort as his senses are assaulted. Yeugh, it's like someone barfed some kinda funky air freshner in here!

Yet Rocket watches the unfolding, his rifle brought up again as the horned beastie is abruptly freed of its shackles, his finger curling ever so slowly around the trigger, ready to start this all over. He manages to hold off questioning the man's actions just yet, and though he can't rightly understand it, there's just that crawling of unnaturalness still at work in the air before finally it coalesces in the eventual disappearance of the nightmarish creatures that had assaulted the lodge.

Nose wrinkling, Rocket tries to catch a whiff of anything more than the heavy scent of herbs in the air, but it seems everything's cleared up. He heaves a sigh, powering his rifle down and compacting it with a jerk of a hand. Looking to make sure Groot's faired all right, well, save for his clothes anyway (and where the heck did his coat go off to? and his hat for that matter…), Rocket then turns his head towards the door, ears perking at the sound of sirens. "'course they show up right on flargin' time…" Not that he believes they would have been able to be of much use.

The girl with the pointy eared mask has a good idea though. Looking around to retrieve the pistol he'd lost earlier, he pauses and looks to Lois. "And have'ta answer a bunch of dumb questions that they won't believe? I'd rather go fight some space trolls."

***

So much wailing. All of the attacking. Groot is also difficult to stop in the middle of the demeanor shift, staggering forward just as the Krampus gets away. "I am GROOT," he shouts at the beast, calling out its retreat as he fronts, arms rising halfway in a 'come at me' gesture.

Except there is no more fighting. Everything's resolved magically, so there's no reason to continue beating up on something that ruins his little ski resort vacation.

That and the arrival of the fuzz.

"I am Groot," Groot groans, rolling his eyes under the massive goggles he still has on his face. He also gets that everyone's on the same page with leaving the scene as fast as they can, but he does answer Lois with another "I am Groot." Because he's not going to stick around for the cops to try arresting them for something they technically didn't do.

***

"The bloody specialists, luv. Be glad this wasn't more of a clusterfuck." Constantine answers Lois more or less as politely as he can. Or maybe not. "The naked bloke has some powerful enemies. Though probably one less, real soon." Spirits like that one? They don't take kindly to mystical compulsion.

Setting it free is the simplest path to preserving everyone now, and everyone who isn't targeted by its malevolent karma-seeking fury… but it's sure not great for someone else, now or down the road. Sometimes there are no great options. Then he nods to Batgirl's assertion, and steps in closer to her, offering over a hand, and the other to Nico.

"That flightstick good for getaways?" He inquires of Miss Minoru— if not, he'll resort to his own alternatives. But why put forth effort he doesn't have to, right? A nod is passed around the room, not quite respectful, not quite dismissive; it acknowledges the efforts they put in to abate this… alongside the fact he'd be just as glad to forget it even happened. "You sure are, sproutman." Groot. He's definitely Groot.

***

Nico exhales.

She looks at Constantine then, clutching her evil blood staff. Breathe in. Breathe out. Batgirl approaches her and Nico watches her and she nods once to her in reply, before someone says 'this never happens in Aspen' and Nico speaks aloud but clearly.

"Yet," Nico answers her.

To Lois, Nico says, "You didn't offend anyone. I'm sorry if you've been having a ty period but I just like, I want to say that sometimes even when we hope and try and pray and everything, bad stuff just happens and there's nobody we can pay off or anything." Nico is silent uncomfortably for a moment after this Christmas sentiment, and then says to Lois, "You're amazing, I mean it. Uh, if you see Superman tell him hi?"

Nico's eyes then turn towards the hard and upright form of Melinda May. Towards Groot and Rocket for a moment, then back to Melinda May, long enough for it to be slightly uncomfortable.

Nico then checks a fashion watch on the inside of her wrist. She seems to be waiting for something.

While she waits, Nico looks towards Groot. That's like the tenth time she's said it. Nico is starting to get the idea of what's going on. Poor guys, she thinks. Then to Constantine, she says, "Oh, you mean this?" Her eyes turn towards Batgirl and says, "Christmas-time in Hollis Queens."

Flash!

HOLLIS, QUEENS

"Did Zatanna tell you about the staff?" Nico asks John as the wind blows. Fortunately they're right near the train stop. She digs the communicator out of her ear and stuffs it into his coat pocket as she does.

***

It takes May more than a couple of seconds to shake off the hit from the monster, enough so that by the time she's moving to stand Rocket is standing over her protectively and the thing is already gone. She picks up on the sirens a bit more slowly than everyone else, and sighs faintly (Rocket likely hears it just fine). This means MORE reports for her to fill out.

Reaching for her swords and the iron blade, she stiffly moves to stand.

And then Nico says something involving Hollis, Queens.

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