August 24, 2014: Paul decides to see Limbo for himself. Surprise, Illyana is there too.




Mood Music:

Ever since he got the damned necklace, Paul's constantly buffeted by the knowledge of the nearest gates that lead to hell. Or that's how it feels. Really, it's not much different than knowing where all the nearest donut shops are except he knows that it's information coming from the Rapture and he's not really sure he likes it. There's a gate to Dis 4 blocks down on the L line. Over on 9th is one to the fourth circle. And in that alley right over there is one to Limbo.

Limbo. Illyana's pseudo-hell, if she can be believed and his cop's instincts lead him to do so. Within reason. Demons but not quite a hell in the same sense of the one he was trapped in. And he can feel portals to it all over the damn place once he concentrates on them. Some even wink in and out as he's paying attention which confirms what she's said about its accessibility.

What the… hell. He's off today. He's got his gun. And he's fairly sure he can get back, if not to this exact spot. Confirming what she's said will make the rest of it more believable. It stays open as he walks toward it and then he's through, standing there and staring at the landscape. "What a… " Hell hole. No, not really. It's missing all the souls in torment. "…shit hole."

Paul's obviously found himself on the outer edges of the area that the Darkchilde lays claim to, with it's blasted rock and twisted fauna. And, oh yes, the demons that lurk in the shadows, beneath the dry, dusty earth. In the distance, mountains rise and at the heart of them the soaring spires of a grand citadel.

What might be odd is that in the direction of that castle is signs of green, lush growth.

Yeah, Paul can feel the demons around him. They're like pinpoints of corruption in a field of corruption. "Don't even think about it." he warns in general. They can certainly feel the Rapture on his chest under his shirt. He hasn't a clue if they know what it is or if it's something demons all know instinctively since it's tied so closely to the hells. He glances back at the portal he came through but there's at least two others in easy walking distance and a few more closer to that greenery. It stands out like a beacon and is an obvious destination. He starts toward it in the easy jogging pace all marines know that can eat up miles even while carrying a full pack.

The transition from the blasted landscape to the almost paradisical greenery is like a knife's edge. The ground goes from dry and dusty to rich loam with no sign as to why. Paul can feel those eyes on him, but for whatever reason they don't bother his passing. He's bad it into the cool greenery before a voice breaks the silence.

"I don't usually get visitors." The tone implies that she doesn't particularly like getting them either, flat and slightly annoyed. Illyana is lounging against the trunk of a tree off to one side, looking somewhat out of place in jeans and T-shirt with those tall, heavy boots.

Paul pauses just outside the threshold of green to look it over before crossing into it. And once he does, he slows his pace to almost sight see and take stock of such a bizarrely normal parklike area in the middle of hell. The voice makes him spin before he even fully recognizes it. "I can see why not." His eyes flick to the blasted landscape. "On the other hand, I wasn't visiting or I'd have sent a message through Trent."

"If you're not visiting, are you invading then?" Now Illyana's tone turns mocking, her cold blue eyes narrowing slightly. She pushes away from the tree, moving towards Paul at a slow sort of saunter. "I wouldn't recommend it you know. Not without one hell of a plan." A pause. "Or an army."

"Are those the only two options?" Paul returns, meeting mockery with blandness. "Invading implies that I would actually want this place. I'd sooner have Goth… the Bronx." Yeah, Limbo beats Gotham. "How did you know I was here? Or is this where you always hang out." He can certainly see the attraction over the rest of the place.

Illyana's head tilts over to the side a bit as he speaks, and he can see the consideration in her eyes on how she wants to answer that. "Do you mean here, as in Limbo? Or here?" She glances at the grass and the trees. "And I do spend a lot of time here. It's mine. I can't just spend all my time on Earth and expect here to be happy running itself. As to the latter… I figured you'd be more comfortable talking here than if I showed up while you were still out there." She did make him run though. Now he's all sweaty and stuff.

How devilish! "Here here. And here." Paul answers, clearing that up completely. "Mostly I meant here in the park. But now you mention it, what needs to be run?" Do the demons get lonely without her and bored without people to torture? "And you didn't say how you knew I was here."

Illyana snorts softly at Paul's answer. Or lack thereof. Her lips purse a bit at his question and shakes her head. "Is it because you're a cop that you feel that you have to question everything. I hope it's not that you feel like you have a need to know. Because you don't." As to how she knew he was here? That just gets an arched brow. "Can you feel when a spider crawls over your skin?"

"No, I pretty much questioned everything before I became a cop." Paul answers. "The instructors at boot camp weren't happy about it." And neither was he at the response. "You're saying you can feel everything that happens in this place?" He turns to look outside the park and toward the horizons. "Just how big is it anyway? Is it a planet? Does the world end at the horizon like that Star Trek episode?"

Illyana just shakes her head as he keeps up with his inquisitiveness. "'Everything' might be a bit much. But when something like you comes in? Yeah. I can feel it." Her lips quirk a bit. "Big ol' hairy spider." She says with a mocking sort of sing-song. As to how big Limbo is? She gives a shrug. "As big as it needs to be? The further out you get, the less stable it is. I don't know that it has an end but my influence ends when the land does."

Paul's not very hairy but he gets the point. "Interesting." When the land does. It's his turn to shake his head. He's just a cop, extradimensional physics are beyond him. About to ask another question, he cuts himself off and just looks at Illyana instead.

Illyana can't help but laugh as she sees him bite back the question. She shakes her head. "It's eatin' at you, isn't it?" She tilts her head towards the citadel in the distance. "C'mon." She starts to walk that way and the greenery seems to pull back to form clear path where there had been none, and though the castle looks to be a fair distance away, it quickly grows closer as they walk. As if they were moving a lot faster than just the easy amble. "So why are you here, Manning?"

Paul just shrugs. "Asking questions is the only way of getting information. I'm pretty sure the ins and outs of Limbo isn't in a book in the public library." He starts following Illyana, noting the strange reaction of the plants and how the distance compresses. "Are you deliberately clearing things from our path and shortening the trip or is it doing it on its own?" At the question, he shrugs again. "To see if you were telling the truth about the place." he answers simply. "If you weren't, I'd know not to believe anything you said. If you were, it make the rest more believable."

Illyana gives an amused huff as he says he was checking up on her, essentially. "I want to get to the citadel, Limbo responds to that desire." Illyana answers, if he considers that an answer at all. "You like to know details, without understanding the context. Which makes the answers almost worse than not having any information at all."

"Then give me the context too." Paul counters. "I want a full explanation but half the time lately, I don't even know what questions to ask so I just have to feel my way along and assemble as many details as possible in order to get the picture. It's like the three blind men all feeling an elephant except there's only one of me."

"Learning the context takes time." Illyana says as they walk along. "Years of learning to understand the concepts and vocabulary of magic, hells, dimensions, how they interact. The occult isn't a weekend crash-course, it's a lifetime of study."

"I just want the Cliff Notes version." Paul points out. "I'm not looking to cast spells or be a wizard. I just want to understand what this thing is, what the others like it are, and how best to keep them from hurting people."

"And something you people don't seem to understand, that there isn't a Cliff Notes version." Illyana replies with some annoyance. "The amount of information that has to get skipped over makes it almost more dangerous to give you people anything. There are big nasties that want to eat the Earth. There. How's that? As to what you've got?" She shrugs. "It's not something I'm familiar with. I certainly don't know what 'others' there are."

"A sword that embodies the Dark. A sword that embodies the Light." Paul answers, ticking them off on his fingers. "A sword that embodies the Balance between the Dark and the Light. A spear that pierced Jesus' side. Those are the ones I know of. I'm sure there are others. What they, or some of them, have to do with demons, I don't know. How they can be used to stop Elder Gods I also don't know. But I want to. Because while I'm sure you're all really good at keeping it from happening, no one can be everywhere so my partner and I need to get involved."

The descriptions get a thoughtful tilt of Illyana's head. "I'll have to do some research. Like a lot of things, it could be that I know them by different names." The gate of the citadel stand at thirty feet tall and they stand open as Illyana leads Paul within. The architecture is mostly Gothic in nature, but with a demonic twist. And some of the elaborate stone gargoyles start to move, turning their heads to watch Paul's passage with their mistress. Makes one have to wonder how much of the stone edifice is alive. "The Elder Gods aren't the only thing out there, you know." Illyana says, just in case he missed that part. "They are the ones that affect me most intimately though.

"Yes, I've been learning that. But they're also the ones coming to my attention at the moment along with just run of the mill demons." As the gargoyles move, Paul turns to walk backwards to watch them a moment before turning back. "I'd think it's in everyone's interest to make sure others know enough to help. And know enough to not get in the way."

"You asked for Cliff Notes and context. I'm trying to provide it." Illyana says dryly, looking over at him as he watches the very structure of the citadel seem to writhe and move. Spires even seem to shift position, to twist orientation.

Broad stairs lead within the mammoth structure leading them up, up, up. Again there's that compression of distance, as soon they're standing on a jutting balcony with an easy thirty foot cantilever. Illyana sits on the low wall that encircles it. "I wouldn't worry about the demons too much. Most cause trouble on a decidedly smaller scale than the big picture items that need dealt with." Meaning they're more serial-killer level of badness than genocide-level of badness. "Far and away the more dangerous thing is when a demon manages to help someone get into a position of power and the human starts to muck with things. Then you end up with wars that can last generations."

Paul perches on the wall facing Illyana. "But yours don't do that. Because you've got them under control." It's really a question. He turns to look over Limbo from the new vantage point. "Just what is this place really? Full of demons. Looks like hell, feels like hell. But no people being tortured and it's loaded with gates to various hells. More than I've felt in Manhattan."

"Well. Mostly." Illyana says with a shrug in regards to having the demons under control. "Part of that whole 'running' the place? Is making sure that they fear pissing me off more than they want to go play with the people of Earth. Sometimes they're too stupid or too ambitious, and so I have a sort of side job of tracking down those that do manage to slither loose."

As to what Limbo is? She chuckles. "It's not really one of the Hells, no. Souls don't come here. It's… Everything and nothing. Everywhere and nowhere. Everywhen and nowhen. It's Otherplace. And it doesn't just touch on Hells. It touches on the divine realms, on alternate timelines. My predecessor, Belasco, failed his masters and so the Elder Gods trapped him here but he managed to gain dominion over it. There's a bond, between Limbo and its master and the realm can be shaped by the will and intent of that master. Belasco worshiped the elder gods and he was corrupt through-and-through. He shaped it into Hell. Even after I defeated him and took his place, I carry enough corruption that his influence lingers."

"So they're not under your control any more than prisoners are under the control of the law." Paul suggests. "They're just afraid of being caught and punished. And you're the warden." While he listens to the explanation about Limbo, he probably only get about half of it, lacking just the things Illyana spoke of earlier. "So you're…" He gestures out toward the blasted landscape. "…that much corrupt?" Holding up two fingers close together, he adds "And this much green, growing things?"

Illyana gives a slight shrug at the analogy. "Sort of, yes. And then they occasionally get a work-release where I have them come help me deal with bad guys." Usually in a rather permanent manner… but not always.

She looks out as he estimates her levels of corruption. "Belasco's plan to free the Elder Gods needed five keys to unlock the doors. Each key ended up being a literal piece of my soul. He managed to create three of them before I defeated him."

Paul is capable of doing simple math. "That's over half." Which is a bit worrisome. "So why isn't forty percent of Limbo green instead of that one little patch? If I've got the analogy right."

While it doesn't look like forty percent, the swath of green around the citadel is a decent sized forest. Probably a circle with a radius a third of the distance to were Limbo starts to really come apart. "Because the more I access the dark side of me, the magic, the more it eats at that green. And the two aren't directly connected. That's a whole other story."

Paul looks back to Illyana at her explanation. He'll just take her word for it. That, at least, isn't one of his problems that he needs to concern himself with. Except there's still curiosity. "So can you uncorrupt yourself? Help little old ladies cross the street? Run a fundraiser for a nun's convent? Say ten Hail Marys?"

Illyana gives an amused huff. "I can't regenerate the pieces of my lost soul." She points out. "If you think of it like a container, three fifths got scooped out and then the essence of the Elder Gods got poured in. It's part of me now, that corruption. It doesn't shake loose."

"Sorry to hear that." Paul considers that whole scenario a moment then shakes his head. "It doesn't seem right that you can be made evil against your will. It's supposed to be something you have to choose to be or do. Or so the stories go. I haven't actually been to church in a very long time."

"These are forces at play from long before there were churches." Illyana explains and then finally shrugs. "Besides, it wasn't against my will. I was six. Belasco told me loved me. Gave me a present. Promised me a great and glorious destiny. You don't need to know what it is you're getting into to say 'yes'."

"Oh. You said you killed him, right?" Cause that's definitely one of the things that warrants a death sentence. Paul looks back out over Limbo and asks "Is there anything I can do to help you?"

Illyana looks at Paul for long moment before she finally shakes her head. "No." Even though she really, really wanted to. And it was a sentence he earned a dozen times over. "I banished him."

The latter question gets a huff of amusement. "Pretty open question there, Manning."

Shame. "To somewhere? Or just from here?" Paul asks then shrugs at the question. "I'm a cop. It's my job to keep people safe. You qualify. You also seem to be keeping people safe so it's in my interest to make sure you keep at it. And unlike other magic types that I've run into on Earth, you're stuck here with a bunch of demons."

"He's still trapped within this plane. The Elder Gods put that on him. But he's banished from the lands I hold so he's out at the fringes, battling the other demons that think to make a name for themselves." Illyana pauses. "Or at least, that's my guess. He's beyond my sight."

The offer of help gets a mild smirk. "I do spend time on Earth. I just need to make sure I don't let things get out of hand here as well." So she spends more time here than most people would like. "And I think it's going to be the other way around. Hill, from SHIELD, she wants me to help you find out what you're capable of."

"Whether you can leave or not, you're still saddled with this place and a bunch of demons." Paul points out. "All you magic types should get together and form a club or something to compare notes. Or maybe you already have and no one's mentioned it to me." Since he's not a magic type. "Yes, she said something about that but didn't go into specifics."

"A few of us have touched base about a few issues." Illyana says with a slight shrug. "But we've been busy and finding each other can be a bit of a chore." Because they all make sure they're warded from prying magical eyes!

"I'm waiting to hear back on how she wants to do payment for services rendered." She smirks at Paul. "And then we'll see what you can do. Shirt is optional, by the way."

"See? If you had one of those magical crystals to give people, you could let each other know when you need to talk." Paul says with a shrug. Such a simple solution, really. "And how does she, or you, propose to go about that? You just said you don't really know anything about the artifact. And I'll keep that in mind."

"Sounded like she wanted something else tested, as she implied some massive collateral damage. Not so much with the portals to anywhere." Illyana points out. "So I was going to give you things to hit to start with and work you up from there." The bit about the magic crystal gets a roll of her eyes. "Yeah, and they're so easy to make. Why don't you just whip up a few for me?" She says, mocking him. "Like I said, you lack context. To send a message, they need to be powered somehow. They need to manage to be a fairly neutral kind of magic. They have to not draw undue attention. They need to be able to get past personal wards while not breaking them. And that's just for starters."

"Both the wizards I know have them." Paul points out. So how hard can they be to make? Course, they're both some of the most powerful magicians on the planet most likely but he doesn't know that. Whatever. "Hit things? I already know how to hit things. I'm a qualified instructor in Krav Maga."

"Then why did she want me to throw my pets at you?" Illyana asks, head tilting to the side. She doesn't bother to difnify the bit about the crystals from other wizards. For all she knows they're becons to everything that goes bump in the night or lets them spy on whoever has them. Or both.

"I don't know. She didn't tell me what she had in mind." Paul answers with a shrug. "I already told her I wasn't going to fight captive demons, anyway. Or ones with orders not to run away."

"And despite what most people think of them, they're mine. I'm not going to sacrifice them until there's real cause." Helping Paul find out what he can do does not apparently count. Illyana seems to have some sense of responsibility to the creatures, beyond just keeping them in line. "Since gateways are your thing, I'm OK with you using Limbo as a shortcut. I don't know that you'll want to though, my critters usually need a pretty hefty incentive not to touch humans that decide to come traipsing through."

"Well, I'm not exactly defenseless against them. I'm pretty sure it wouldn't be good for them to try anything." Paul cautions. It's more a feeling since he hasn't actually had to fight any yet. "I don't know how much of a shortcut this would be though so it might be best for them if I just stayed out."

"They're not stupid. If they think you aren't worth the trouble they should leave you be. But Limbo has more naturally occurring portals to, well, just about everywhere than likely anywhere else. So. If you need it, I'm giving you permission." Illyana's tone is rather bland as she watches him with those cool eyes.

But will they think that is the question. They'll find that out sooner or later. "Didn't you say something once about them blinking in and out a lot?" Paul asks. "Are they likely to still be there by the time I get to it?" It would make the trip to Gotham a lot quicker even if he needs to jog for a half hour.

Illyana gives a slight shrug. "Hard to say. It's pretty random. Sometimes they just move, other times they re-orient." Illyana doesn't pay a lot of attention to it, since she can make them open when and where she pleases. "Now. Since you're not a nasty invader that needs smacked around, I do have some things to go take care of. Can you find your own way home?" She smirks at him, since he should know she can open a portal right here to wherever it is he wants to go.

"I probably can." Paul answers. "But it would be quicker if you could open one. It'll upset your demons less if I'm not wandering around and gives them a chance to get used to the idea."

Illyana chuckles and nods. A wave of her hand and a portal back to New York appears. Once he's through, it winks out behind him and now the nearest one to Limbo is a fair distance away.

Well. That didn't go too badly, right?

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