Vested Interests

Summary:
March 19, 2015: John Constantine heads to Limbo to make sure that a certain demon queen doesn't have… plans for everyone's favorite Mistress of Magic.

Limbo

Illyana's part of Limbo, even as stable as it is, is a bit? schizophrenic. The landscape is oddly mutable. Specific landscape features - rocks, boulders, flora, fauna, hills, and so on - tend to sneak off when they're not being watched. The best one can do most of the time is describe the general character of the area you find yourself in and these tend toward one of two extremes.

In many places Limbo is a blasted wasteland often (though not uniformly) composed of brown-red rock, parched soil and a very unhealthy looking plants where any can be seen at all. It's the kind of landscape you imagine was been fed a steady diet of bile, hate and neglect for ages on end. On the other extreme, portions of Limbo are almost idyllic primal wilderness replete with soft grasses, tall trees, unearthly flowers and clear babbling watercourses. The divide between the two is often so stark as to be jarring, a line running down across the landscape as if drawn with a straightedge in many places.

Only two features remain constant anywhere in Illyana's Limbo. One is the looming citadel in the center, visible from pretty much everywhere. The other is the demonic inhabitants. The closer one gets to the citadel, the more stable one finds both of these.


Characters

NPCs

  • S'ym

Mood Music:
[*<http://insert.video.or.music.link.here>]


Limbo isn't one of those 'inaccessible' dimensions by any means, but it's also not one of those places that you want to blunder into by accident. A refuge of sorts for the creatures of Elsewhere that want to avoid the eternal struggle (or just lay low for a few centuries), it's a place that can eat you alive in a very literal fashion.

But Constantine is like a walking Fromer's Guide to the Multiverse, and he knows the safe places to land. Places where the powerful watch but the ambitious don't loiter, keeping it relatively safe for passers-by.

Constantine opens the door from the House of Mystery and steps onto the plane of Limbo, closing it firmly behind him. He tucks his hands into his duster pockets, finds a pack of cigarettes, and lights up, smoke billowing immediately around him. With a few puffs to brace his nerves he starts walking with a purposeful step, heading deeper into the heart of Limbo.


Limbo touches both everywhere and everywhen. Limitless in its expanse but the portion that most consider Otherplace and that Illyana calls Limbo, is the stable 'heart' of the dimension. As the saying goes, beyond here lies madness. Sometimes in a very literal sense.

Just because this area is 'stable' however, doesn't mean it never changes. And it might be rather different than Constantine last saw it, if he hasn't been by in the last few Earth-time years. Where he touches down is lush and green. And that Green is fairly expansive. At the heart however, is a familiar sight. The black, imposing figure of the Darkchilde's citadel. Formerly Belasco's. A dark heart amidst the Green which stretches out and then abruptly seems to give way to a dry, blasted landscape with a knife's edge. While it blends in, the spot that Constantine 'landed' in was once, long ago, a certain mutant sorcereses garden. Back when that was the only Green to be found in Limbo.

Just because it's lush and green however, doesn't mean it's not still Limbo. Not still dangerous. If one isn't careful, the flora will kill you as gladly as any of the fauna of this place.


Well, when in Rome… Constantine starts hiking, heading towards the Citadel. If you wanna see the boss, you go to her office, right?

Objectively, it takes him about an hour of good walking to get there. He stops at the door, nods at a guardian politely, and bangs on the doors a few times.

"John Constantine to see Illyana, please," he informs the doorman politely, dragging on his cigarette heavily and jamming his hands into the pockets of his coat.


The large demon at the gate kind of… looks confused at Constantine. Admittedly, he's more brawn than brains and let's face it. Illyana doesn't get a lot of visitors. There might be smoke starting to come out of the gate-guarding demons head as he tries to process the simple request when a low, gravelly voice sounds beyond the gate. "He's lookin' for the boss."

The purple-skinned demon stands about eight feet tall, a huge mountain of a beast with an open leather vest and a cigar clamped between his sharp teeth. Yellow eyes fix on Constantine. "Whatcher business?"

Other demons start to appear, heads poking out from the shadows. Edging out from deeper within.


John swaggers up to the demon and stares at it, narrow-eyed and making cigarette smoke billow around his head. Helpfully, it's a cigarette blessed by a a friar with a nicotine addiction. "Look mate, I'm here to see Illyana. You can either be the guy who helpfully brought me /to/ her or you can be the head I helpfully give her to show how bloody inept you cocking idiots are," John says with irritation marking his tone.

"I'm John bloody Constantine, mates. I'm the reason Heaven has gates and Hell has an ID policy. Either show me in politely or I'll raise a stink and a fuss, and believe me when I say my tantrum is going to make the Enola Gay's payload look like a child having a cry over spilt milk, got it?


S'ym chews on his cigar a bit, and then leans down some and reaches up to pull the thing free and exhales a long breath into Constantine's face. "Big talk f'r a little man."

John's started to gather himself a crowd now. A rather eager-looking crowd. Sadly, what they're eager for isn't likely terribly nice.

"S'ym." A feminine voice cuts across the courtyard with a snap and heads turn toward the broad staircase that leads up and into the citadel proper. Average height, blonde hair cut in an unusually long bob. She's in a slightly oversized T-shirt, jeans, and aggressive leather boots with heavy silver skull-shaped buckles. She starts down the stairs, and demons part like the Red Sea. "I suppose this is your version of knocking?" She asks with some rather snarky amusement.


"Bloody hell, mate, you need to switch toothpaste," John advises S'ym, crinkling his nose and waving a hand in front of his face. "Maybe something with a lower sulfer content, eh?"

When Illyana shows up, he looks to her, then reaches up and pats S'ym's cheek condescendingly. "Better let the grownups talk, mate," he advises the demon.

John Constantine moves to meet Illyana halfway, his dumpy mien one of indifference and confidence. "Guess it's past time we finally met, Lady Limbo. Nice to see the place under new management," John quips. "Belasco couldn't run a McDonald's, in my opinion. Nice to see what you've done with the place."


Illyana stops at two steps from the bottom, letting John come to her. It also keeps him from standing taller than her. Her lips quirk in a smirk at the title. "Mmmm. From what I've heard about you, I figured I could die happy skipping this little meetup." Her tone is slightly mocking, her attitude like she doesn't take anything seriously. But one doesn't manage to hold Limbo if that were truly the case. "What is it you want, Mr. Constantine." Because no one just drops into Limbo to hang out or socialize. Jericho doesn't count. He lives here. Obviously, John has an agenda, and Illyana's not a smalltalk kinda gal.


John cocks an eyebrow at Illyana. "You wanna do this here in front of the rabbling peasantry, or inside? Preferably over good wine, or, better scotch?" he asks the blonde Queen of Limbo.

John obviously knows who Illy is, and his mien is one of conciliatory respect. "Scotch is always good. And I understand Belasco had a pretty fair wine cellar back in the day. Don't know if he drank it all before he started going completely knackered in the brainpan, though."


Illyana regards John for a bit before she raises one hand and opens a stepping disk at their feet. In Limbo she can teleport directly from place-to-place. In this case she moves them to the music room. It actually looks rather normal. Just the view is off. There's a grand piano that seems to be the centerpiece but there's also a seating section in one corner with a small bar. A flick of her fingers and Wards seal the room off. There does happen to be a smattering of alcohol there. "I prefer vodka, but there might be some Scotch in the mix. I take it you had dealings with my predecessor?"


"When I had to," John says, taking the teleportation in stride. He moves to the bar and promptly plows through the bottles with little regard for propriety, finding some workable scotch in it. "Hmm. I could do a Manhattan, or an Old Fashioned," he says in thought. He holds bottles aloft at Illyana. "Can I fix you one, luv?" he asks the blonde ruler of Limbo.

"I'm actually here about a lovely dark-haired lass from my end of reality," he says, going about whipping up a drink. "Zatanna. I've got a bit of a vested interest in making sure she gets on all right. I hear you've been hanging out with her quite frequently of late. When the Queen of Limbo takes an interest in a mere mortal, I raise an eyebrow- especially when the mortal is the daughter of a dear friend. What's your angle, Illyana?"


"Whatever you're having." Illyana says, more to join him in the social aspect over any actual desire for a drink at the moment. Her internal clock says it's still early! She takes a seat, crossing one leg over the other as she leans back and ahhhs with a smirk. "Zee." She says, repeating the name.

"The question might more accurately be, what's her interest in my Familiar. Because she kept showing up around him." Of course, most Familiars are like, birds or cats. Maybe an imp.


"Your familiar?" John asks, arching an eyebrow. He finds a convenient container and pours out what's in it, whips up the makings for an Old Fashioned, and pours a glass for each of them.

John walks to Illyana and passes a glass off to her, clinking his against it in an amicable toast, and takes a long swallow.

"She's a good lass, Illyana," Constantine tells the woman. "I'm just a wee bit concerned. She's got too much talent for a gel her age, and I'd hate to see her get picked up and used for less than purely altruistic purpouses. You savvy?"


Illyana clinks her glass against his in return and takes a small sip. "Why Mr. Constantine, I do believe you are threatening me." Her manner is still relaxed though, her tone amused. "You don't know me, and so I don't expect you to trust me. But I don't have any ulterior motives of the dark and demony. She helped me out, and I appreciate that. I may teach her a few lessons but I'm not out to harm her. Any more than being my friend tends to come with." Limbo has a tendency to corrupt those that spend time here, and Illyana's life is far from a fairy tale.


Constantine snorts, audibly. "If I was threatening you, luv, you'd know it. It'd sound something like 'I'll undo the ruddy threads of reality that separate Limbo from Hell and I'd unleash the Three Princes onto your demesne'," he says. "/That's/ a threat."

"This is just a friendly social call, my Lady," Constantine informs Illyana. "Zatanna is both a friend and an obligation to me. I felt like it was appropriate to be sure we both understood that she's… what's the phrase, 'off-limits'?" Constantine quips.

"That said, though, I've heard good things," Constantine compliments Illyana. "You've got quite a reputation in the community- first mortal running Limbo who isn't some bloody madman or sorceror with a bent sense of morality."


Illyana chuckles. "OK. You're doing the precursor to threatening me. But that's alright. I don't get as offended as most to threats." They're just how one talks when dealing with demons. "As to being 'off limits'? Mmm. You might need to be a bit more specific about how you define that. She's my friend, which makes her sort of 'mine' in a demonic sense." She doesn't elaborate as to how much 'hers' Zee almost let herself be.

"And I know a lot of folks that would argue the 'mortal' bit. Seeing as how I've had most of my soul cut out." She certainly pings as a demony to those that sense stuff. "On Earth I make claims to being a Hero. Maybe I'm not the brightest or shinest thereof, but I still like to think I can still rock the White Hat."


"Well, I'll phrase this more directly," John says, throwing back some of his scotch. "Don't go turning her into a mortal vessel or a conduit or tricking her into selling her soul, and I think we might end up as friends, savvy?"

"And yes, you /do/ have a certain reputation," John concedes. "People on the rock like to say you're a good friend, and you generally keep the chaos to a minimum. That's why this is a friendly social call, and not me walking in with a nuclear-option preamble."

His tone is frank but not unkind- a power in the world of the weird talking to another Power, in an open and civil fashion.


"Not something I'd do on purpose, normally." Illyana assures John. And she at least seems honest enough. Demons, Limbo demons at least tend towards directness and aren't usually prone to lies. But she's also human, and that always seems to gum up the works and makes things unpredictable. She is rather careful in her words since she might be part of the reason Jericho's now a magical battery and she also made him her Familiar to save his life. In general, she's careful to stay away from statements of commitment and absolute. She lives in too grey of a world.


"I'm glad we're on the same page, then," John says, moving to a comfortable seat and dropping bonelessly into it. "I do apologize if I came across as a bit more blunt than usual. I know demons aren't exactly known for candor /or/ discretion, believe me. Makes unexpected humans from the mortal plane with bad manners even more intolerable, I'm sure. Suffice it that I'm concerned about a friend, and I hope that's excuse enough?" he ventures, lifting his glass to Illyana once more, in apology more than toast.


"Demons respond best to directness and a show of force." Illyana says with that amused drawl again. "Honestly, having grown up around it I prefer straightforwardness to trying to guess what the hell someone's trying to get at." She assures him. "I don't tend to get prickly unless someone puts me in a bad position." If he'd threatened him in front of her critters, she would have had to respond. But here? They can skip the posturing. "I like Zee. I'm a bit worried about her. She's powerful and a bit too trusting for someone playing at that level. I know I… made something into a bit of an object lesson and she was a bit sore over it."


"Sore I can deal with. Feelings mend," John points out, slipping as comfortably into a seat as if it was his own home. "But even if she doesn't know the stakes, she's buying into a high-hand game. It takes some concerned parties to make sure she doens't end up as some demonic thrall."

John takes a long sip of his drink, regarding Illyana with pursed lips. "I like Zatanna, too," John informs Illyana. "I've known her since she was a gel. She's the daughter of one of my oldest mentors. I owe it to him- to both of them- to make sure she comes into her power smoothly, without blundering into a hellpact."


"Agreed. And she'll draw them like ants to honey." Illyana says, swirling her drink slowly in her glass. The choice of metaphor was deliberate. Because Zee can be so very sweet. "And honestly, I don't have a lot of friends that understands magic. How it works, what it means to me, the prices it can demand. I like that I can share that with someone who isn't a bazillion years old." Her glacial blue eyes glint at him a bit, teasing the 'old man'. She's only a few years older than Zatanna, but she has a lot more miles on her. "I also remember what it was like to be this young girl with a whole lot of power knowledge and expertise and all folks see is the first bit, dismissing me out of hand." She's ruled Limbo since she was 14, and while luck helped she only did so because she had the skill and knowledge to follow that up.


John smiles at Illyana. "No one is going to argue that you didn't earn your spot, luv," the Hellblazer assures Illyana. "I just wanted to make sure that Zatanna was an ally and not just a stepping stone to future power. Too many blighters with a foot on the pulse on the multiverse are happy to have friends that can be put on the pyre."

"It's the difference between me and the Princes, you know?" John says, mulling over his drink. "They think mortals are the key to power. I think mortals /are/ power, and best left to their own devices."


"There's the difference there. I'm not looking for more power. What I have comes with enough of a cost. Hell, Limbo's my home and responsibility more than an asset. I won't go so far as to say that I'd give it up but I didn't take it for power." The blonde's tried to run away from it in various ways more than once. That way only ends in tears.

The sorceress regards John as she sips her drink again for a long, quiet moment. "Given your rep, I was expecting more vitrol on your end." She admits with a slightly feral grin. "You're generally not fond of demons, I'm given to understand."


"It's not that I'm not fond of them," John says, pursing his lips. "It's that most of the Hellbound have no qualms about ripping the living souls from mortals to keep themselves on Earth for a precious few years. Cast someone into Hell, then pass Go and collect two hundred pounds."

"Most of Limbo I've no beef with," Constantine tells Illyana. "They like to be left alone. They know that messing with the mortals will get my attention. I just like the less informed numbers of your ilk to know that they can't run roughshod over Earth-dwellers. As I said, though, I've heard you're not that sort. That's why I knocked, instead of parking a bloody armada off your balcony."


"By and large my critters try to sneak off to earth to either outright eat humans or to raid the ice cream section of your local grocery store." Illyana says somewhat drily. Even if her demons kill someone, they don't steal away their afterlife along with it. One of the things that makes Limbo a not-quite-Hell realm. No traffic in souls.

"That being said," She says more somberly. "I recently found out that one, N'astirh by name, made a bargin with an Earth organization by the name of HYDRA for some unknown 'payment'. And what he provided was… substantial. N'astirh's from Limbo, but he lives past the edges of my rule." So not really one of 'hers'. "So that's worrisome and if you find out and stomp him, I'm totally OK with that."


"I've no problem with stomping on their necks if they're in my plane of existence," John says with a lopsided grin. "Just as long as we all have an understanding of who is doing what to whom, why."

"Tell me more about N'astirh, though. He sounds like the kind of evil bloke I'll end up crossing paths with sooner than later, to be honest. What is the blighter like?"


"Most of Limbo's demons are fairly weak. Especially when you're comparing against traditional hellbeasts. Not big thinkers, usually more brawn than brain. N'astirh is one of those rare exceptions. He's the equivalent to a master mage and has spoken of being Belasco's apprentice in the past. He's got a voracious appetite for magical knowledge, which explains HYDRA messing with things that combine everything from Wicca and Hermetic practices to Mayan blood magic and necromancy. He also tends to play for the long game." Illyana explains, her manner more grim than her earilier almost lighthearted snark. "He's much more like the demons people typically think of. Crafty, wicked smart, with all-bad intentions."


John frowns, brow furrowing in contemplation. "Sounds like the kind of arsehole who's going to end up on my bad side. Historically, that's not worked out for them," John tells Illyana.

"I don't mind handling him if he starts walking my side of the street," he assures the woman. "And it sounds like we have some aligned interests, honestly. Between protecting Zatanna and putting a boot to the arse, I think we should work together, rather than work separately."


Illyana is the one that lifts her glass towards John now. "I can do that. I've been on teams for a long time now." Something that most mages don't usually do. They tend to be very lone-wolf sorts. "I know that a group can do more than an individual." Even if on occasion she has to help them figure out what's best. Without them knowing it. "I think there's a number of us that have all been trying to keep magical nastiness from spilling out onto innocent bysanders. We're likely all working harder than we need to."


"You feel overworked when nothing's going wrong. It's when it all starts going down in a handbasket that you start feeling /understaffed/, not overworked."

He takes a long sip of his hootch. "I've heard all that about you, too. You work well with teams. Not a talent most Hellspawn have- and believe me, it's a talent. I'm glad to know you're not just looking out for friends, but looking out for the greater good."


Illyana arches a brow at him over the rim of the glass. "You've been doing your research." She notes dryly. It likely helps that as part of X-Men: Red, a lot about her can be found on the internet. "But yeah. I know I'm corrupted, but I like to think I'm not a lost cause." Unspoken is the 'yet' that often feels inevitable. "It may not be my nature, or my instinct, but I do try to be good." She just has to work at it.


"Anyone who stares into the abyss deals with it staring back," Constantine says, badly mangling that quote. "It's how we manage that which defines us as people. Do we embrace the darkness or bear light into the shadows?" he says, venturing it in the style of a koan.

"I think we'll get on well, Illyana," John tells the blonde queen of Limbo. "We seem to have similar goals and persuasions. And I think we understand one another well."


Illyana's blue eyes seem to dip darker, like shadows moving behind the icy depths. Most people don't like meeting her eyes for too long but never know why. It's that lack of most of a soul that sends their lizard-brain screaming. "Mmm. I believe we do indeed." Which might make them… very odd friends. As each recognizes that occasionally. You need to decieve even friends to save them.


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