The Ominous Threat of the Firebird Box
Roleplaying Log: The Ominous Threat of the Firebird Box
Participants
IC Details
Synopsis:

Atli, Warren, Ali, and Loki discuss what's in the box.

Other Characters Referenced: Jean Grey, Rachel Summers
IC Date: May 08, 2019
IC Location: Warren's Mountain Stronghold
OOC Notes & Details
Posted On: 14 May 2019 16:08
Rating & Warnings: Rated B for Box
Scene Soundtrack: [* ]
NPC & GM Credits:
Associated Plots

Outside the wind howls in protest, as if it feels the weight of destiny as much as those heroes who inhabit the world below. Or perhaps that's just the sound of a goat protesting as Atli brings pulls back on his harness. "Fool of a goat! I said down! Not up! I care not what tasty bird you think you saw! Verily! That isn't even a bird, it looks more like a plane, or perhaps a man in red and blue!" There is a neat smack that brings the goat spinning about, which is good, because he very nearly ran sidelong into Glorywing's wonderful skytop home.

With much protesting there is a struggle between God and Beast, until finally Atli leaps from the goat to land deftly upon the balcony, something securely tucked under her arm.

"Fine! Go! Just be back in time to pick me up once I'm done telling everyone how easily swayed you are by that seductive man of steel!"

Atli takes a moment to look around, her ire melting away once she's done chastising the goat, and immediately steps up to the entryway, pressing her face to the glass and giving it a careful knock. In all the universe there are few things as genuine and good natured as the smiled of an Asgardian, especially when they are blissfully ignorant of any interruptions they might be causing, or ruckus they might be making by taptaptaping a knock on the window and peering around inside.

"Hello? Glorywing?! Verily it is your good friend Atli! I have come to talk to you about your prized nesting box!!"

As if to entice anyone who might see her through the glass to open the door she raises the bottle she brought with her, glowing runes shimmering around it's silver surface.

You see, someone recently taught her you should not arrive at a house unannounced without at least bringing a gift.

Of course, she also asked her Aunt-Uncle Loki to join her as well, since they offered to help decipher the meaning of this whole bird-person plot to destroy the universe or whatever damned thing it might be.

* * *

Outside the wind howls in protest, as if it feels the weight of destiny as much as those heroes who inhabit the world below. Or perhaps that's just the sound of a goat protesting as Atli brings pulls back on his harness. "Fool of a goat! I said down! Not up! I care not what tasty bird you think you saw! Verily! That isn't even a bird, it looks more like a plane, or perhaps a man in red or blue!" There is a meat smack that brings the goat spinning about, which is good, because he very nearly ran sidelong into Glorywing's wonderful skytop home.

With much protesting there is a struggle between God and Beast, until finally Atli leaps from the goat to land deftly upon the balcony, something securely tucked under her arm.

"Fine! Go! Just be back in time to pick me up once I'm done telling everyone how easily swayed you are by that seductive man of steel!"

Atli takes a moment to look around, her ire melting away once she's done chastising the goat, and immediately steps up to the entryway, pressing her face to the glass and giving it a careful knock. In all the universe there are few things as genuine and good natured as the smiled of an Asgardian, especially when they are blissfully ignorant of any interruptions they might be causing, or ruckus they might be making by taptaptaping a knock on the window and peering around inside.

"Hello? Glorywing?! Verily it is your good friend Atli! I have come to talk to you about your prized nesting box!!"

As if to entice anyone who might see her through the glass to open the door she raises the bottle she brought with her, glowing runes shimmering around it's silver surface.

You see, someone recently taught her you should not arrive at a house unannounced without at least bringing a gift.

Of course, she also asked her Aunt-Uncle Loki to join her as well, since they offered to help decipher the meaning of this whole bird-person plot to destroy the universe or whatever damned thing it might be.

* * *

There isn't any initial reply. Of course, this is to be expected; Midgardians don't seem to be very flexible people, and tend to like things like 'schedules' and 'day planners' and 'doing lunch sometime' (whatever THAT might mean). Overall, it means that they don't really adapt to sudden drop-ins very quickly. Often, Atli's had to wait several long minutes for even her friends to turn up when she comes to call.

Such it is in this instance. The view through the expansive glass doors is of a darkened sitting room, with no one in line of sight — though a banked fire in the fireplace, burned down to embers, indicates that someone is probably at home. Someone who was rather busy, and who was thoroughly interrupted by the Asgardian's call.

There is a tiny whirring sound as a discreet camera focuses on the balcony, and picks up Atli's declaration that she has come to discuss The Nesting Box.

About half a minute later, a brief glimpse of light can be seen spilling into the room from down a hallway for a few seconds before disappearing again, suggesting an opening and shutting door. Warren appears a moment later, hastily half-dressed in pants and not much else, his wings draped around his bare upper half with a sleepy lassitude. His blue eyes are sharp, however, as he crosses the room to open the doors.

"Atli," is his greeting, cordial as ever. Perhaps courtesy should have included a shirt, but Warren knows Atli doesn't care and he likes to be free from wing constraints whenever he gets the chance. "This does not come too soon. That box has, in fact, been on my mind. Come in."

* * *

"It's just someone on the team," mumbled Alison moments earlier. "The Professor had etiquette classes. They know not to open closed doors."

A disturbed pause. "Oh, God. Unless it's Logan?"

A second, far worse pause. "Oh — god — unless it's Scott." And Alison Blaire has been caught unawares too many inopportune times among her too long professional career, but she still hasn't had 'getting caught half-dressed by SCOTT SUMMERS' added to her personal tally, and she is going to fight down to the bone to ensure that never will happen.

Heretofore been confined to the bedroom for several moments, under the promise Warren will shoo whoever away —

— the bedroom door opens and closes after him. Alison Blaire was never really all that good at taking orders. And if it's Scott, the MOOD IS ALREADY RUINED.

Slipping out like a ghost, blouse already buttoned and hair smoothed down, Alison does her best impression of making all of this look as non-awkward as possible until — Atli?

An unlikely visitor, but not entirely odd, she steps closer with a hand raised in silent greeting, while surrepetitiously checking the wrinkles in her blouse sleeves. Her blue eyes path briefly to that box, but Alison defers to her manners. "You're up in the boonies, Atli. Can I get everyone some coffee?"

* * *

Spring starts to dawn into summer, and while New York has yet to shake off the entirety of the cool winds of winter, it's begun to warm at least enough that the brave mortals of the New City of York and Various Other Locales Not Important Enough to Name can begin shedding off a few layers or, in some cases, all of them save the traditional hastily-slapped on pants.

Of course, some people don't particularly enjoy being beholden to expectations, even if they might be the expectations of practical seasonal fashion.

"Well, would you look at you."

ENTER: Loki.

"I certainly hope we're not interrupting something important."

She wasn't there. And then she is. It happens some point between the lines of 'As if to entice anyone who might see her through the glass to open the door she raises the bottle she brought with her, glowing runes shimmering around it's silver surface,' and 'An unlikely visitor, but not entirely odd, she steps closer with a hand raised in silent greeting, while surrepetitiously checking the wrinkles in her blouse sleeves.' It's unclear when, exactly, she lands, as is the unfortunate truth of mixed narrations.

But the where is quite simple: here, standing behind Atli, where once was empty space, FAIR LOKI stands with grace and sympathy in her expression, dressed - to come around to our introduction - in a full mink coat like she had plucked it straight out of 1920s Hollywood just for this auspicious occasion; the furs shimmer between hues of black and jade, as if to just hammer home the point that this article of high fashion is something no one of this sad sorry mortal realm can ever possess.

Because Loki is nothing if not someone who shares freely.

"You'll have to forgive my once-and-future-niece," she apologizes, as she's sure Atli will not, "the bleak and desolate and ominous landscape that is ninety-nine percent of all possible futures does not have much room for a sense of propriety. Speaking of which, we have your lovely box to discuss!"

Her smile is understanding, kind. Fair, one could well say.

"Of the desolate and ominous variety, of course. Though we can certainly save discussion of this particular box for another time, should you be otherwise indisposed."

Loki certainly says it.

* * *

As the security camera shifts whirs, Atli's expression is caught in a sort of pause, eyes shifting sidelong to look for the source of the sound. As much ass he likes to think of herself as having battle honed senses, she doesn't see the camera at all. Her spear slowly rises, as if preparing to fend off this unseen, whirring foe, but soon enough the bare chested glory of Warren Worthington puts her mind at ease. What she does see As a matter of fact, she thinks Warren is being most courteous, leaving his abs free for all to view. What a generous host indeed! And so when Warren lets her in and offers his greeting, Atli makes her way inside and offers the bottle over to him.

"Yes, well, once you start thinking about firebirds it's hard to stop, I've found. And it seemed to be a firebird nesting box. Verily, have you opened it? Were their fire eggs inside? This here is for you, Glorywing, the finest spirits from a place called The Krakenhold. My understanding is that if you drink the tentacle at the bottom it's good luck!"

Atli beams as she continues onward into the room to look around, only to find the oncoming arrival of T H E D A Z Z L ER.

"Dazzler!!! Yes, and what a wonderful boonie it is! So very majestic, with all of the.. walls and fireplaces and whatnot, and being so very high up!" You'll have to forgive Atli, the arrival of the Dazzler has once again put her wide-eyed and star struck, but thankfully her Aunt Loki has arrived to be a grounding, responsible presence.

Which immediately results in Atli whirling around to regard her wonderful Aunt. "Loki!!! Yes, wonderful! I am glad you found us, and with such a glorious coat! Glorywing, Dazzler, my Aunt Loki will know just what to do. You see, especially when she is a woman, she has knowledge most profound. What? Indisposed?"

Atli looks between Warren and Ali then, her spear making an audible smack on her shoulder as she tries to puzzle out what Loki is implying.

* * *

"It's not someone on the team," Warren had mumbled in response, moments earlier, checking the security footage from his phone. "And it's definitely not Scott." Why would you even invoke that dread name here and now, Alison? "I think I have to take this. Just stay here, I'll be back before long." It has to do with space, after all, and Warren knows how much Alison loves space.

A few minutes later finds Warren letting Atli in the doors. "I haven't had a good track record with firebirds, to be quite honest," is his dry admission, "so — no. I haven't opened it. I haven't brought it anywhere near civilization, in fact. It's been here the entire time. I — " A bottle is handed to him, briefly interrupting him. "Ah — well thank you, that's very kind of you." He is not going to drink the tentacle.

He starts to close the door behind Atli, only to pause at Atli's exclamation of DAZZLER!! Warren slants a sidelong glance at her over his shoulder. You know the one. Do you ever listen to me? He starts to say something…

Well, would you look at you.

Warren's wings flare a little with his surprise, feathers standing up, as he finds AUNT LOKI suddenly occupying time and space in their midst. His blue eyes flick over to Atli immediately as he slowly shuts the doors, feathers sleeking back down as Atli enthusiastically greets her be-coated… aunt. Who happens to be a woman at this particular point in time. Who definitely wasn't one the last time Warren met her (him), which happened to be the FIRST time he met her (him) as well.

Atli beams about Loki's wisdom being even more pronounced when she is a woman. "I am pleased your aunt has selected the correct gender for the task, then," is his remark, a fine brow lofting. "I hope you excuse the dishabille — I prepare for company more thoroughly when I'm aware it's arriving." A bland smile. "At any rate, it's nothing so important that it cannot wait for a matter of 'cosmic calamity.' As it were."

Shooting Alison a rather nonplussed look, before closing and latching the doors, Warren regains his composure with aplomb and a neat flick of his wings to fold them, crossing the floor back towards the assembled. "It's the box I mentioned, Ali," Warren warns her quietly, before he lifts his voice again to address the Asgardians in his sitting room. "Shall we? I will produce the object in question, should you need it."

He does not explain 'indisposed' for Atli's benefit.

* * *

And then, there was a fourth.

It lends Alison a quick double-take that momentarily makes her doubt her eyes. And her eyes are good ones — none with Warren's acuity, but able to parse the more secretive of wavelengths and dress down light's illusions — but, when it comes to Asgard, she's always a step or several outpaced.

She double-takes transparently, but where most mortals would jump or waste seconds with their disbelieving pronouncements, Alison just adapts. Takes it with the patient air of someone long used to out-of-nowhere murder attempts on behalf of the Enchantress, or the months' long ambiguously-besotted stalking of the Beyonder.

Alison just looks mildly long-suffering. But, after a beat, she answers Loki with a receiving smile.

Atli calls her attention back — not without a pained glance to Warren, nope, she never listens — and her face gentles, equally habituated to the star-stricken way others get around fame. Even immortals around the mortally famous, she finds. "Well, you're always welcome, Atli. It's nice to see you. And to meet —"

Loki? The name is as synonymous with 'Odin', 'Thor', and 'basic mythological history' — and she sure dug into it, right after she was initially abducted to Asgard years ago — that something clicks. But Alison doesn't let that touch her basic etiquette. "Call me Alison," she offers to Atli's "aunt", and adds, "Same goes or you, Atli. I'm not the Dazzler all the time." Or much at all, really.

She maintains her trajectory toward the open concept kitchen. "You like coffee, too, Loki? Didn't see much of it up in Asgard."

Talk of the box, and Warren's remark, deflects Alison a moment away from playing hostess. She's quiet a moment, pensive. "I had a few questions about that thing, in fact. Might be good opportunity to roundtable some answers. I mean, we're obviously not opening it, right?" Right?

* * *

A puzzle is only as good as it remains unsolved. And so, with this wisdom in mind, sage Loki says thus to Atli:

"As the mortals tend to say in awkward circumstances best side-stepped — 'you'll understand when you're older.'"

With a pitying complimentary pat of her shoulder.

Soon thereafter, there are more important things to focus one's attention on. Hands sliding into the unnecessary warmth of her unnecessary fur coat's pockets once again, the bright green eyes of the trickster goddess roll Allison's way as she makes herself known; dark green lips tug at their corners in a gracious half-a-smile.

"Lady Allison, then," she greets, a font of politeness from her tone to the dip of her head. "I have, of course, heard so very much about you! It'd seem my family is rather stricken with you. Why, Atli here thinks you're a veritable muse! It must be difficult, to have both man and god alike so obsessed with you in ways both flattering and fatal. (Speaking of which, I'm terribly sorry about all the times Amora tried to ever-so-slightly murder you, she can sometimes be what I believe you mortals call a 'Mean Girl.')"

There are airquotes there, somewhere in that aside, before Loki — quite gratefully, of course — makes her way inside, her heels clicking on the flooring as she goes. Golden heels, it should be noted. Of course.

The lack of her ostentatiously bendy horns had to be made up for somewhere.

With a brief pause and a murmured, "Don't drink the tentacle, luck is not what it gives," at Warren's side, the God of Mischief makes her way into the chambers proper, a subtly critical eye turning to the furnishings of this place as she listens to the others talk.

"So, what should I call you, then?" she directs to the shirtless X-Man, gaze tilting towards him. "Master Worthington? Lord Glorywing?" That one has just the slightest bit more emphasis. Just a bit.

"So then! Cosmic calamity! How delightful! I think bringing the box out would serve us all well. Perhaps at the least it can serve as a bit of a visual refresher for just what sort of mysterious mayhem you Midgardians are bound for." She stops, here, to glance over her shoulder. They're not going to open it —

Right?

"In my experience, mysterious boxes of ill portents get opened one way or another. The only thing we get to choose is how we open it, and who gets horribly murdered in the process."

A poignant second passes.

"So! Let's see that mysterious box, shall we? I am certainly excited!"

* * *

There is a furious nodding at Warren when she mentions Loki choosing the correct gender, and then gives an enthusiastic thumbs up, even as Dazzler tells her something beyond profound. It really does nearly bring a tear to her eye, when Alison tells her she is allowed to use her given name. Eyes wide and stricken she looks between Warren and Loki, barely able to believe that she has become such a friend to a legend. It immediately makes her straighten her vester, and is she beet red and beaming like a small, Asgardian shaped sun? Probably.

But as Not-Always-Dazzler points out, they have other things to discuss besides her immense fame. "Wait, what? Of course we should open it! However will we know for certain what is inside? What if it's some sort of item of great purpose, powered only by those who possess feathers?" Immediately she looks to Warren with some amount of excitement, even as she settles into the sitting area and very carefully sets her spear on a chair all for itself. She's only doing this because Thor gives his hammer a bed, but she would never admit it.

Loki indicates Atli will understand when she's older, and her brow furrows as if Jane Foster were explaining magic math to her. As if on cue to pull her from her sudden confusion, Loki brings much more reasonable and well spoken explanation to what Atli was trying to convey. "Yes, exactly! I'd be happy to open it, since I'm quite difficult to kill, and if my fool of a Grandfather is any indication, a single murdering won't do much to me but perhaps make a mess of my hair."

The box itself, should it make it's appearance, is as it was before. A dark wood, perhaps a foot across in either direction and maybe four inches deep. It makes no sound when jostled, and burned into the wood is the Firebird that Atli often goes on about. A Firebird that seems to shift, and move, ever so slightly, as if on fire. A firebird wreathed in orange and black. Of course, when Atli sees this, her eyes alight.

"Or, perhaps we should simply ask Lady Flamefeather or Lady Firemind to open it. I wonder, perhaps it is simply something the firebird lost while Odin was chasing them all over creation."

* * *

Warren slips Alison a bit of a side-glance at this whole 'Loki' business. He recognizes the name too, certainly, though perhaps not as well as Alison might, after her repeated encounters of the Asgardian kind. His demeanor does soften at Loki's effusiveness as regarding THE DAZZLER's shining reputation in Asgard, however — and especially the apology delivered for Amora's antics.

Loki is the only one to date who has acknowledged that the Amora thing Wasn't Great. That alone casts him most favorably in the eyes of these two! As well as the warning about the tentacle, which has Warren quietly setting the bottle he's still holding aside on a nearby end table.

What should Loki call him? Alison demurs, skewing informal. And Warren? "You may as well with the Glorywing business," he muses as he crosses the room, because he has zero shame. "I've gotten rather used to Atli calling me that."

Just before he vanishes down the hall, he amends, "No, just kidding. Warren is fine."

He is absent a few moments, and so fortunately does not hear that the Asgardians' initial replies to Alison's 'we're not opening it, right?' question are both 'no, we are DEFINITELY opening it!'

He returns presently, carrying the box, which he carefully sets on the coffee table in front of the (very nice) sectional which Atli and her spear are occupying. He does so in time, at the least, to hear the part about 'perhaps we should simply ask Lady Flamefeather or Lady Firemind to open it — '

"No!" There is the weight of old trauma in that reflexive syllable. Warren collects himself a moment, smoothing down feathers which instinctively ruffled, before he adds in a more measured tone, "I'd rather neither of them get too close until I'm more sure what it is."

* * *

"So I heard," Alison answers Loki with that reserved, celebrity diplomacy — speaking of the fans she's won of the Odinson family. Her eyes do drift a moment; she hopes "family" isn't plural.

She's never officially met Thor (rather avoided it, as much as she could), and Atli she finds harmless, even sweet. If not else for Atli — God, she doesn't hope Odin is a fan.

Admist doing something as commonplace as coffee-pouring, the so-named Songstress of Asgard answers Loki's description of Amora with an undisguised laugh. "You know, you're the first one to actually apologize for her. Not that I'm going to hold you accountable for any of it. But it's appreciated." She trays a row of X-Mugs. The branding really is out of control with these guys.

"You'd think with all the immortality and godly grasp of magic, she'd have conquered the inferiority complex," adds Alison to Loki, without a single hint of irony. "I almost feel sorry for her."

Where Warren — and not Lord Glorywing, Alison directs him a tortured glance at that suggestion — has offered up the sectional, she delivers a tray of coffee, cream, and sugar (all coveted Midgardian delicacies) and gestures a universal invitation for both winged man and god alike to partake.

The box draws Alison's eye, and she frowns bemusedly at it, her arms migrating to cross over her chest. Her body language is palpable: she doesn't like it, not in this room, not on Earth. She likes it even less that it's moving.

"I'd rather not test anyone's capacity of being murdered," she replies Atli, with a hint of a smile, though it doesn't dispell the worry haunting her eyes. Especially when Warren reacts quickly — very quickly — to keep both Jean Grey and Rachel Summers far, far from all of this.

"So," Alison begins, weary or wary or possibly both, "we can generally classify this box into one of two categories, right? If it relates back to the Cosmic McNugget, it means it could — I don't know — vessel it here, or wake it up from whatever it's doing, or piss it off, or make it remember that we all need to die in a fire. Or, if it's relating back to stopping same McNugget, maybe it just calls the entire Shi'ar Empire back on our heads to make Earth do some overwrought gladiator battle — and without the Professor to help with that diplomacy. Either way, we're going in knowing nothing, right? Among the four of us? Even if we don't let, say, Jean near the box, don't you think we should give her a chance to offer some insight?"

* * *

You know, you're the first one to actually apologize for her.

"Just one of several reasons I am a dastardly disgrace in my family's eyes."

And it is with true humility that Loki Laufeysdottir waves a dismissive hand through the air; her smile is one of a sympathetic nature. Perhaps one might even dare to call it bittersweet.

"Contrition is an act that Odin will not suffer to have the fruit of his loins dabble in. Not for real men of Asgard. But, as you can plainly see-"

And a pointedly demonstrative gesture to herself is thusly indicated here, with timing impeccable.

As Alison exults in pity for the sad state of Amora the Enchantress, the Goddess of Mischief lifts her brows in perfect unison. You'd think she'd have conquered the inferiority complex.

And Loki, bastion of self-reflection, shrugs a hapless shrug.

"Yes, it's quite sad, to see someone so obsessed."

And utters her words without a hint of irony. For, after all, what does FAIR Loki have to be ironic about?

"Lord Warren, then. It's very good to make the acquaintance of a feathered friend who is not Shi'ar! They are terribly bereft of any manner of a sense of humor, you know." With that, Loki accepts that coffee with smiling thanks, dipping down to pluck up a cup and take a sip. "Midgard always did have a much more generous palate," she muses thoughtfully, cup resting just at her bottom lip. "You know, they call this 'hot brown morning potion' in Asgard?" A second passes. She sighs, long-sufferingly.

"They never were particularly creative."

But, small talk must eventually give way towards more important exposition relevant to the narrative of the evening; and so as Warren produces that box, as Atli declares that they should have one of the Firebird Friends pry open the contents to see what happens only to have her suggestion flatly rejected, Loki —

Loki is currently crouched in front of the coffee table, sipping the contents of her cup with one hand as she prods the box with the other. Emerald magics spark at her fingertip with every nudge.

"Mm," she voices, wonderingly.

"This is truly splendid hot brown morning potion."

And then, green eyes look back to the other three. Her head tilts. "Well, I won't say any of you are wrong," she begins, generously, "but the key is not whether we choose to open this, but how. Lord Warren is quite correct — simply throwing it willy nilly at the host of universal nature is courting catastrophe, and I rather like living. YOLO-spurned strategies need not apply here. However… this box will open, one day. It would be best to figure out the best way and reason in which to do so. Your friends may very well have more insight than most when it comes to matters of Odin's most beloved bird."

A single, fine black brow lifts, just so.

"But before we get into all of that, let's have a sharing session! Tell me what you all know about the Phoenix Force."

* * *

It is the moment that Atli Wodendottir jumps in her seat, for she has never heard Warren Glorywing so very adamant about anything. It sends her head on a swivel, looking at Warren with wide eyes and very nearly spilling the beloved drink that Lady Allison had gifted to her. But all of that is soon forgotten, because Ali is telling her that her Plan, which would certainly Fix Everything, may not be the best course of action. At anyone else, she might scoff, and insist she is murderproof, but that smile melts away her ego and she sinks back into the cozy embrace of the couch to enjoy the brown morning potion.

"I think Lady Alison has a wonderful point. We should consult as many firebirds as possible. As often as possible."

There is a firm nod, because of what she remembers of her brief moments meeting firebirds, they were mesmerizing, and she is certain they are the key to this. She barely even notices when Loki is leaning in towards the box, far to engrossed in some distant, drunken memory.

Well, until Loki mentions the Phoenix Force directly.

Atli raises a hand, as if it were the only time in all creation she had the correct answer to a question.

"It smells of cosmic raven and unbridled, seductive rage!"

* * *

Warren takes up his X-branded mug of so-named 'hot brown morning potion,' thoroughly oblivious to any ironies flying about. "I do happen to know, as a matter of fact," he says dryly on the matter of the Shi'ar having no sense of humor at all. He doesn't even correct the appellation Lady Loki seems to have decided upon. "They're fond of their ritual combat to the death. Barbaric, really."

He seems to feel Alison's reproachful glance about the 'Lord Glorywing' business. His feathers puff slightly in wordless rejoinder, in a distinctly playful manner.

It's a playfulness that dispels quickly as talk turns to perhaps having one of the two Phoenixes open the box. His response is reflexive and rather vehement, born of having seen one of his best friends consumed in Phoenix fire — and of memories of all the other messy business that accompanied that debacle. Warren stares at the box a little through Alison's logical hypotheticals, turning the mug slowly in his hands. He only seems to blink back to the present when Alison asks: really, shouldn't they at least consult Jean? She's actually vesseled the Phoenix, after all, spoken to it —

Warren doesn't look like he likes the idea, but he seems to recognize that perhaps he's being a little… overbearing about the entire matter. "Yes… she ought to know," he concedes, his wings slumping. "I…"

He trails as Loki starts to nudge the box. His blue eyes follow each green sparkler of magic with distinct wariness. At the least, the God of Mischief is validating his concerns about tossing the box into range of any sort of Phoenix, though the general consensus seems to be to consult those with actual direct Phoenix experience. "I'll catch Jean when I can about the matter."

Warren's wings slump a little more. He was transparently hoping to resolve it without having to court fiery catastrophes.

As for the request for what they know about the Phoenix Force? "So far as I know?" Warren begins, after Atli's enthusiastic entry. "A nexus of psionic power that merged with my friend and turned her into something unrecognizable, with the power to drain a star. Then it killed her." The truth is more convoluted, of course, but Warren does not remember the entire debacle fondly, so that is the summation he sees fit to give. "I have… heard of people having more… "positive" interactions with it, but that seems to be a function of chance rather than any suggestion it operates in any humanly-understandable way. Not a thing to be handled lightly."

* * *

Loki Odinson/Odindottir declares himself and herself the royal family disgrace.

"I know what that's like," Alison answers with a humourless smile, though her bearing never sharpens. Her father is the farthest thing from Odin, but Black Sheep seem to come universal. "Well. I like you so far. You're welcome to come disgrace yourself some more among us lowly mortals."

Helping herself to a seat, she takes her own mug of coffee — black, no sugar, no dairy fat, no joy in Alison Blaire's restrictive diet — she sits tightly, trying and failing to relax, but finding it near impossible within arm's length of that box. Exhaling out some of that latent anxiety, she lifts the coffee to her mouth —

'hot brown morning potion'

— and sets it back down, disturbed. So much for that.

She doesn't miss the way Warren ingests her cautions — especially with their deliberate withholding of information to Jean — and his deflation softens Alison's eyes. She thinks she deduces the source of that.

Atli proclaims the Phoenix Force smells of seductive rage. Alison stares at her for an extra beat. "Atli, dear, drink some more coffee."

Loki's group-question comes met with a beat of silence, as the ex-Dazzler ruminates what sadly little she knows. "Basically, what Warren said. Rachel is another vessel. I'm not as intimated on the details, but I think her — ah — communion was far less violent than Jean's. Which means that the Phoenix may not merge the same way with whomever it chooses. Or it's a cosmic roulette. Either way, it's obvious the bird has a type. You probably need near-omniscent levels of psionic power just to survive it, and even then —"

She grimaces. Partially from her own words, partially from watching Loki tap the Potential Box of Firey Death. "For all we know, it's a puzzlebox to the Phoenix Hellraiser dimension. And please tell me that comment about Odin and — you mean all those bird statues I kept seeing in Asgard — ah. Oh."

The image is planted in Alison Blaire's mind. It will never leave, not even after death. She frowns.

* * *

You're welcome to come disgrace yourself some more among us lowly mortals.

"You have my gratitude," replies the Goddess of Lies, with gracious sincerity. "My goodness! I do believe I may be coming down with a mythical case of the feels."

Let it not be said that Fair Loki's appetite for knowledge is not as voracious as a Phoenix's is for the cosmic hearts of stars.

Even for knowledge as forbidden as the dreaded "internet memes," cursed be their names.

And it is hot on the heels of this candidly crafted sentiment that they delve more reticently into talk of things more cataclysmic. Hot brown morning potion in hand, Loki rises comfortably onto her heeled feet, resting both hands and her X-Mug (she practically feels like part of the team, beleaguered as she is with such branding, it ought be noted) against her midsection as she considers each answer in turn. A nexus of psionic energies. A cosmic roulette. Killed their friend. Devours stars.

Smells of unbridled, seductive rage!

"Yes, well," Loki Laufeysdottir begins slowly, whereupon she indulges in a long, pointed sip of her caffeinated beverage with a dawning frown on dark lips.

"That is certainly something of a hot take. But!

"At least we know now to a certainty that you are a rightful descendant of the All-Father. As to the rest…"

And lo, does Loki sweep out one hand with a gesture most gracefully casual; and within the breadth of it does the box spark once more with green life along its painstakingly-carved emblem, until a great raptor of green flame spews forth from its depths, tinging rapidly into the raw orange-white heat of the cosmos as an illusory visage of the Phoenix rips through the room.

"… Let's begin at the beginning, shall we?"

In its wake, it leaves them all standing amidst a microcosm of the universe itself, as if one could fit all of creation within the paltry prison of a single, simple room.

Which is, of course, a description relative of these fair chambers to the narration, which are doubtless otherwise quite splendid by mortal standards.

"There is a balance to the universe. A narrative to how things work. As with most narratives, the cleaner and more concise, the better it works. But things in life, even a story, are rarely so simple, are they? You have tangents, digressions, sub-plots and - not to put too fine a point on it - needless, cosmic filler the likes of which you've never seen." As Loki speaks, the universe around them all grows, multiplies — and threading vines of green that connect it become more and more tangled and frayed with each mentioned complication.

"Any system bogged down by its own complexities will eventually strangle itself. It requires something to keep things in check. Coherent, if you will. At the risk of mixing our metaphors… it the occasional wildfire to burn away what doesn't work."

And here sweeps through the blazing wings of the Phoenix across the cosmos, setting aflame those tangled bundles of green threads knotting up and bogging down the universal tableau.

"Enter the Phoenix Force. The controlled burn of our universe."

It is all breathtaking in appearance, at least, if not mind-boggling in its scope, even compartmentalized for their viewing pleasure as it is. And in the middle of it, Loki gestures grandly with her well-branded mug, expression most-solemn indeed.

"What the Shi'ar in their all their inestimable arrogance claim as part of their pantheon is a fundamental force of creation itself. A spark in the system meant to burn away everything that does not work so that those that do may flourish. It is the beginning of the narrative life itself, the catalyst for its change, the editor of its existence…"

Solemn, as the flame grows and grows and grows…

"… and the author of its inevitable end."

… and consumes the entirety of that faux-universe, until all that is left is the room they all previously stood in.

"It is a cosmic force of existence itself. An expression of pure evolutionary impetus. As such, there have been several occasions wherein it has found itself attracted to a mortal shell that represented the pinnacle of that era's evolution, with a markedly and inexplicably strange preference towards redheads. So yes," Loki summarizes, eloquently,

"that would be why all those bird statues in Asgard."

Because that is important to be clear on, before they continue onto the box.

* * *

Through it all, Atli listens to Warren's very first hand account of Phoenix interaction, her eyes alight with possibility and an odd sort of hope. She is on the edge of her seat, attention rapt as his wings and face tell the tale of someone who does not want to tell tales - at least not to any Firebirds that might be his current friends. Confusion knits at her brow until Alison reminds her of her Brown Morning Potion, and so she nods. "Yes, of course, Lady Lasersong."

Clearly, Atli just can't bring herself to call T H E D A Z Z L E R by her given name, and Lasersong sounds so very good with Glorywing. Well, at least in her mind.

The Asgardian finishes off her morning potion as instructed, just about when Ali is wondering about those Phoenix statues. "Indeed. Odin is quite the fool, but he has excellent taste in Firebirds, and skills of great seductive prowess and untold power are baked into the royal bloodline. In fact, both you and Odin are oddly similar in this regard, Lady Lasersong. You have excellent taste in winged bedfellows, and have the power to unite or destroy whole worlds with your speech alone. Hmm, perhaps we could do with a statue of you, with Glorywing sitting on your arm. Somewhere nearby that bathing pond at the fortress of the X-People. I'm sure we could make it much better than that old fool Odin's." Atli chinrubs as she considers, and her smile grows as she's clearly imagining just that: A tiny Warren sitting on the arm of a giant Ali.

Indeed, from what she's seen of the grounds of the X-People, this would Fix Everything.

She almost beams when Loki confirms her lineage, but is still thinking about the statue she wants to build, right up until this image is blasted from her mind when another is thrust upon them all in the span of a moment. Starlight from all of creation twinkles in her blue eyes as her Auncle shows her the concept that surrounds such primal forces.

Enthralled by such spectacle, she waits for Loki to finish before speaking up, blinking away the afterimage as it burns away to leave just this room.

"Well, do not be to hard on the bird people of the Shi'ar, for when the people of Midgard brought you into their pantheon, certainly they were adopting a cosmic force of… fun. And green. And great big bendy horns."

Atli says it all in a kind of daze, as if still processing it all. Her gaze turns to her Midgardian friends, among the most powerful and capable in the world. She chin-rubs again, sets down her brown potion mug, and sinks deep into thought.

"So it seems the Shi'ar wish to meddle with the firebird for some foul purpose or another, and it has to do with this box. Perhaps there are Shi'ar not far from here we might beat that purpose out of."

As always, Atli has the most intricate plans.

* * *

Atli, dear, drink some more coffee.

Warren grimaces. He's already trying not to think about all the bird statues, and Odin, and the Phoenix, and now this? "I'm not sure that's a good idea." A pause. "And we don't need any statues."

But he sobers as Loki launches into the tale of the Phoenix, from the very beginning — complete with a fantastical display of legerdemain that would impress even the most stoic eye. Warren's feathers stand up a little in alarm at the initial blast of illusion — he's already on edge as it is — but after a moment he discerns its all part of the show, and his puff diminishes back down to normal levels.

Not that the story leaves him feeling much more at ease.

It's all material that Warren had a vague mental picture of, mostly through conversation with Jean and firsthand experience with the Phoenix, but presented in a much more explicit way that outlines the philosophy — the driving desires — behind the Force which was behind the first great loss Warren ever suffered in his life. And Jean's death was the first real tragedy that blackened Warren's charmed life — other than the wings which sprung out of his back as a teenager, of course, though he no longer regards that change as tragic, per se.

It does not make him disposed to look on the Phoenix Force favorably… no matter what positives it may have in its eminent duality. No matter that it may ultimately be a neutral, governing facet of the universe itself. Warren's chief experiences with it have been to see its destructive face.

The flames, as they consume that little mini-universe, reflect in his narrowed blue eyes.

"Slash and burn, essentially," he summarizes. "Cull the weak and let the strong grow. A philosophy I've heard before… though it's a bit of a rough deal for the ones culled."

His eyes turn down to the box. "Of course it stands to reason the Shi'ar would want anything connected with what they view as a god," he says. "But I am concerned what they would do with it. The last time I saw the Phoenix run rampant…" He glances at Alison. "You're right… Jean and Rachel do need to know; in the event anything happens, they'll be… prepared."

A pause. "It would be convenient to beat it out of some Shi'ar, if there's any still around. I suppose that wouldn't be diplomatic, though."

* * *

Like a starflare, light and colour swath out of nowhere and paint the open air in a complex, life-like dance —

And Alison Blaire is quietly besotted. The burning body of the Phoenix does not startle her like it does Warren, and she remains calm at his side; his eyes can see farther than hers can ever dream, but she can see far more deeply. Light cannot fool the Dazzler. Her gift does not blind her to Loki's deft, magic-born constructs; rather, it bestows her with an additional dimension behind those creatins, where she can witness and admire the plaiting of countless wavelengths.

And as one artist to another, she appreciates the performance.

The story pulls her in, and she barely blinks, much less deigns to look away, absorbing the visual lesson of the Phoenix's place among the order. Her eyes reflect the spreading wings of the Phoenix, and all its fire that culls cosmic complexity down to embers. A line furrows between her eyebrows.

Something troubles her about that narrative, though Alison does not immediately say — her attention turns sidelong to mention of 'Lady Lasersong,' a term that goes answered with an amused upturn of her mouth. But Atli does not stop there, as it is the Odinson way, going on about winged bedfellows and statues and tiny Warrens and —

"Th — that's not necessary, Atli," Alison answers, voice strained. Strained because it sounds like she's trying to hold back a laugh. "But thank you for the thought."

She gentles back into seriousness, crossing her legs and twining her hands, looking astride at Warren's account of Loki's story.

"I can understand some sort of fundamental check-and-balance on a system," she adds, "but we excuse these forces as part of the order because there's no will behind them. Wildfire goes where it's dry. Tornadoes follow the path of least resistance. But the Phoenix, by all accounts, is sentient, and there's something paradoxical about death being governed by something that's alive. For it to live out its ultimate purpose, it has to go against self-interest and kill itself. And now it's seeking out different orders of life, like it's indulging a curiousity." She lets out a weary note of exasperation. "—It's having intimate somethings with Asgardian kings in manners I don't even want to think too hard about."

It's a lot of words at once out of a woman known only for her singing. Alison Blaire, the covert intellectual hiding under cover of a pop star. Whatever this tangent is, she seems intent on exhausting it; her pause is brief, only long enough to push a hand through her blonde hair. Her eyes reflect an instant of memory, and her voice thins, pianissimo. "Personally, I've seen what happens when cosmic power gains consciousness. It's… not the natural order. It's a baby with a handgun.

"So," she continues, making her point: "opening any sort of box… I'm recommending caution. A lot. Of caution. I don't see as much as playing our part in some inevitable universal fate. We're making choices, and these sentient cosmic beings can easily make choices back."

And thus spoke Dazzler, the killer of buzzes.

Exhaling, and reluctantly seeing out her own hot brown morning potion to wet her throat, she favours Warren with a glance when he agrees with alerting Rachel and Jean. Her eyes soften with appreciation, but it's an instant, because now there's talk of Shi'ar —

"Wait," Alison implores. "Wait, wait, what? How is that not a bad, bad, reckless, bad idea? Suppose us surviving that encounter, Any Shi'ar worth interrogating are probably important enough that all this could be seen as an act of war! Against Asgard, or Earth! Or worse, they love the whole thing and want some more, and New York becomes the new Thunderdome for some intergalactic MMA tournament? What do we do, just kidnap a Shi'ar battle general and ask: so, what's up with this red hot Phoenix box?"

* * *

"I was joking," Warren reassures, though perhaps it's serving as a necessary reminder that his usual 'extremely dry humor' probably isn't the best practice around, say, Atli.

* * *

Thus does the story end. And so begins —

But the Phoenix, by all accounts, is sentient, and there's something paradoxical about death being governed by something that's alive.

— THE CRITIQUE

"That is the question, isn't it?"

Alison Blaire, of course, arrives at an inevitable conclusion in chasing that question to its end. It should be noted, dear readers, that at some point during this dressing down of the flaws in the Phoenix Force's existence, its boggling Bird Box has found its way into Fair Loki's delicate grip. Cradled casually, like an innocuous reminder of all the potential problems that are likely going to arise from its depths in very short order.

Imagery is often so very important.

"Imagine you are a wildfire. All you think about is burning. Maybe you are drawn towards things that help you burn brighter. Dry leaves, perhaps, or an arsonist's lovingly deployed accelerant, or perhaps even the passionate flames stoked by young Atli's tenderly rendered statues of birds and those who loved them," because it merits mentioning as a possibility, "regardless. One day you are drawn to one of particular flammability. Except it is a stimulant laden with something you have never known before — sentiment. Thoughts. Feelings. Hopes, dreams. Fears, hatreds. Such very tiny things, but wholly incomprehensible to you. Your flame spreading on a combustible you can't hope to relate to, and yet are forced to, what do you suppose might happen then?"

A long finger taps once, twice, three times upon that emblazoned sigil on the box.

"Well, perhaps that's a story for another time. For now, the mystery box!"

A box they seem to have many varying opinions on, such as 'beat people up until they tell us more' and the very slightly different 'don't beat people up because they might blow up the earth.' Loki listens to all comfortably, of course, the shimmer of her fur coat transitioning subtly with the mild shift of her body weight onto her right foot.

"It is very true that the Shi'ar are especially prone to simply decimating things they want, or have issue with, or desire to 'fold into the loving embrace of their culture.' But! That itself implies something, doesn't it?" A dark brow lifting, the corner of Loki's lips quirks in a promising smile. The promising smile of opportunity. "If the Shi'ar are not exactly known for their subtlety, why then wouldn't they just send an entire fleet to raze your surreptitious shark men off the surface of Mars and thusly claim the box themselves? Or, better yet, send their dashingly be-mohawked blue meanie to accomplish more or less the same feat for an insignificant proportion of the manpower? They're rather fond of that one." One hand frees itself from the box, spread outward.

"Perhaps, your avian adversaries must act subtly… because they do not have their empire's support." In which case —

"You would be rightly able to utilize the my brother's most favored method of diplomacy, free of regret!"

Probably a tempting possibility. But, as if to cut someone (Atli) off at the pass, Loki wisely raises a Stalling Finger, and continues: "Of course, we have dreadfully little to work on. This mystery box of yours could be for anything. Is it something the Shi'ar made for their appropriated god? Or is it something the god itself made to keep out of the hands of others? Is it the thing we need to avert disaster, or is it the thing that causes it? That's the problem with a box unopened: it is everything, and nothing, all at once. Regardless…"

And here, the box is offered once more to Warren, with a pleasant smile.

Did you think she would try to take it for herself? Shame on you. After all —

"… I believe your firebirded friends may be our best, perhaps only, avenue towards learning more. Don't you?"

— she's fair Loki.

* * *

0f course both Warren and Ali's opinions on the matter are paramount to Atli, and she weighs them in kind as they dissect Loki's wisdom on the Phoenix. "Hmm. Perhaps it only knows how to be something other than a fire-winged genocidal space-monster from joining with so many lovely people with the best of hair colors." It may be surprising at all that Atli somehow ingested and understood what Loki just said. Does Atli flip her hair and beam like the sun, just a little? Yes, yes she does. "So in a way, it having a mind of it's own may be the only thing that keeps us from being burned in the fires of creation. In fact, if it does show up, I volunteer to grapple it until it becomes a part of me, where it shall learn what wondrous people Midgardians are, and no doubt spare you all from it's horrible culling notions. Learning of Lord Stark's history alone should save us. Perhaps I can teach it to enjoy pizza, instead of stars."

Atli's gaze grows distant with the possibilities, but this is short lived, because Loki makes another good point. "Yes, Aunt Loki is right. If this were the will of the Empire, they would wash over us in a feathered wave. Which sounds nice at first, but would probably involve a whole lot of death and destruction. Yet, they must know something of the movements of their people, and especially when they are dealing with singing ice demons."

Warren suggests that her plan would not be diplomatic, and Ali goes much, much further.

Together they give Atli the best idea.

"Verily, that's it! If we challenge the champions of the Shi'ar to ritual combat on Earth, they will not see it as anything but a contest. No wars, no enmity, just a challenge to see who has the best warriors in all the realms. Come now, I am sure a few of the X-People and myself can beat some answers out of their best! Finally, a chance to fight alongside Lord Glorywing and Lady Lasersong together! And also the firebird women!"

Atli has left her chair by this point, and has her spear thrust skyward, her plan to Fix Everything all coming together.

But, Loki does have another point. Atli's spear drops a little. "But perhaps you are all wiser than I, and the firebird women should perhaps, give their opinion."

Atli chinrubs again, and seems willing to leave the decision up to her wiser, glorious companions.

* * *

Warren is quiet as Alison says her piece. Quiet, perhaps, because she's got very good points and he's giving her logical dissection of the matter some due thought; quiet, perhaps, because he's thinking about all this in the context of Jean Grey, and what he saw happen to her.

What do you suppose might happen then? Loki asks, most reasonably, after her invitation for them to imagine a certain scenario.

"I saw what happened," Warren says, his voice a little strained. "It wasn't great."

Alison's seen her share of cosmic forces given sentience, too, and her thin comment on the matter briefly draws his eye. His right wing brushes her in a brief, reassuring nudge.

Yet transparently wary as he is about all this, he knows that he is operating off very limited information, compared to what Jean would know personally — what Rachel would know personally. Even caution has to bow, here, before the specter of sheer necessity; the box needs to be seen by those actually bearing the Phoenix at this point in time, much as he fears another incident of that wildfire blazing suddenly out of control again.

As far as potential Shi'ar Thunderdome ritual combats to the death? Warren sighs audibly, though whether because he's aware the idea is bad and exasperated Atli is entertaining it, or because he's regretful the idea is bad and thus they can't just do it, is up for debate. Loki does bring up an interesting point on why the Shi'ar haven't come razing the Earth with their ships — perhaps the sect of Shi'ar seeking this box aren't sanctioned — but the risks in provoking the Empire are still significant.

"I'd rather not jump into the ritual combat thing again too soon," he says, "if I can help it. The first time around was unpleasant enough. If Jean or Rachel can ferret out something about this box, we might not even have to get to that step." Sad as it is that it's an actual step to consider when dealing with the Shi'ar.

To that end, he takes the box back from FAIR LOKI with a sigh, and a disgruntled flick of his wingtips. "So first," he says. "Let's talk to Jean about it all."

* * *

The insight into the nature of fire gives the ex-singer pause. Alison Blaire is another unfortunate witness of Jean Grey's first death — a front row audience to see just how that entity found her, corrupted her, and how hard she fought just to find her soul through its enticements — and though the memory troubles her, she's never attempted to mitigate old nightmares into deeper thought about the Phoenix. About what it was, about how it must have felt. Loki weaves an insight that makes the horror feel like it's within reach.

Is that how it felt for Jean? With that — thing — in her head, her soul?

"That makes… a strange sense," she comments, sounding humbled and wary both. "Strange, and terrifying. It makes life sound like an irresistible drug. And now a death apocalypse is having Baby's First Spiritual Awakening, and it's hungry for more hits."

Alison's mouth tics at a corner. "Avatars of death shouldn't have sapience. Believe me. There was a whole movie about it, with Brad Pitt — it was awful."

Through her own weak jokes, however, she keeps half-an-eye on Loki, especially as that curious box finds itself back and manipulated within the Goddess of Lies' hands. With no reason yet to be cautious — after all, Alison likes Atli, and Atli's straight-forward nature would invite a fair judgment of her family, right? right?, and if an Asgardian really wanted that box for her own purposes, she could have easily forced it days and days ago — there is little suspicion in her eyes; rather, Alison's dismay is directed wholly on the box, itself. If it comes of the Phoenix, she doesn't trust it, and she doesn't like it. Not a single bit of it.

Overall, she cringes to see it touched at all.

This is why space terrifies her. Full of unknowns: sentient, punishing unknowns, bestowed with power beyond human imagining, and equipped with only a fledging capacity to understand what humanity entails. The Beyonder terrified her to the marrow, and it was past what he did to her. It was what he represented, what he could do, what he was, and it narrowed the meaning of her existence down to nothing. To realize that he is just one variety of it, and there's others, worse ones, that —

Warren's nudge brings her back. Alison slips him a glance, first surprised, before her face softens down to a wordless thank you. Her head is not the best place, at times. Especially sharing a room with a Phoenix box.

Then Atli, with her brave, warrior's words, is enough to pull Alison's attention entirely off that box. Because Atli has absolutely and horribly construed Warren's joke as a declaration to invite some sort of Shi'ar Empire Olympics down on Earth to —

"No, no, no, Atli, dear, no," is Alison's very quick and very adamant reply to that. Both hands up, palms out, she pleads a full STOP to that thought. There's something cringing, too, in the way she appeals; it is not a mortal's fearful supplicating over the potential wrath of a god, but something else — like she's terrified just of hurting Atli's feelings.

She's just so… special.

"I promise there will be opportunity for us to — fight — together," she entreats. "Just not this way. Earth is still busy fighting itself — it's nowhere near ready for galactic ritual combat."

Fortunately, Warren and both Asgardians are in agreement about their next step — consulting Jean and her future-born daughter. Her latent worry does rhyme with Warren's — the unfortunate task of bringing both women closer to this — but it seems they're at a dead end. And 'opening it, right here, right now' is not an option.

"Sounds like we have a plan," Alison declares, with a wan half-smile. "Good work, Fellowship of the Death Box."

* * *

Atli speaks up immediately when Ali mentions that movie. "Rocket an Groot and I saw that one! The part where he is suddenly run down again and again by vehicles is most horrific! What even was that?!" She cringes, and makes two quick zooming motions with her hands.

Of course, the rest of what Alison has to say holds wisdom, and if she were worried about harming Atli's feelings, well, worry not. She rises, looking to her Aunt with a notion of thanks etched on her face, and then to Lasersong and Glorywing. "Verily, put in a good word with Lady Firemind for me. I shall regroup with you once you have discussed the matter with her and Lady Flamefeather, and then we will assuredly Fix Everything."

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