Christmas Castles III

Fateweaver stared down at the fluffy cap she reverently held in her hands.  All ten fingertips traced the delicate softness, as the heroine ruminated over the memories of her last encounter with this legendary headpiece.  Hundreds of years ago that had been, and she still remembered the events with crystal clarity.  No mien feat to be sure, since these particular eyes gazing down, with their almost transparent blue irises, had never actually seen this hat before.  The hint of a smile came to her lips as the conundrum of her existence surfaced once more.

She had difficulty grasping the scope of her being at times, and the notion of trying to explain it to someone else was too daunting a prospect to ever offer any solace.  Solitude was an easier mistress by far when pitted against the confused and guarded looks her story would bring.  She had found a place among kindred spirits where she could perform her work without question.  That was all that mattered, and she didn’t intend to squander such an asset.  Not when so much was at stake.  She could set her troubles aside and focus on the present, but memories were a force that could never be entirely avoided.  A tiny spark would surface from time to time, like the silk lined hat she now handled, and the flashbacks would race to the forefront of her mind.  Little good ever came of such interruptions, and more often than not, quite the opposite indeed.  She just needed to make sure that these sparks didn’t combust into wildfires.

A small figure had appeared next to her in the shallow snow, trying to punch through her mental fluctuations with a repetitive verbal assault.  Festooned with bells, colored ribbons and sporting curl toed shoes that looked fundamentally painful, the old overseer named Toom Toom continued his linguistic attack until he finally made contact with Fateweaver’s present day gaze.

“Ms. Weaver, welcome back,” Toom Toom offered cordially, nodding his head with a respectful jingle, “Not to impress upon the urgency of the situation, but only three minutes until launch if we wish to keep within flight plan parameters.”

“Of course, Toom Toom,” Fateweaver returned kindly, “Thank you for the reminder.”

“Think nothing of it, ma’am,” the wrinkled face demurred before a hand gestured her toward her idling transportation.

The thin woman crossed the intervening distance swiftly and stepped smoothly into the front of the enormous sleigh.  She seated herself in the majestically upholstered interior and marveled for an instant at how little it had changed since she last rode in this magical craft.  Before the waves of nostalgia surfaced further though, she pulled the iconic cap onto her head and turned her thoughts to the mysterious matters at hand.

Someone had put a hit out on Santa Claus!  Fateweaver shook her head in disbelief yet again at the crazed notion.  She had agreed to immediately lend her assistance after Jessica Kringle had called, and the more she investigated the matter, the less she favored what she saw.  There were holes within the weave of fate surrounding this holiday season, and that did not sit well with her.  More and more instances of these unexplained voids were cropping up, and she had so few leads to follow at present that it was becoming frustrating.

Just then, Toom Toom relayed the thirty second high sign, and Fateweaver gave him the thumbs up in return.  The great beasts before her snorted and pawed the packed snow in anticipation, and the visionary heroine tightened her grip on the reins in preparation for the initial force of lift off.

So many of her questions had been left unanswered, that she was actually looking forward to the next phase of the operation.  There was definitely trouble afoot, but the acquisition of any relevant information was worth the risk at this point.  As the deck elf signaled final departure clearance and her voice rang out with those eight classic names, Fateweaver found that she couldn’t wait to climb down her first chimney.  Events were starting to spin beyond her ability to see, let alone manipulate, and that was not only unacceptable but frightening as hell.  She had found no solid reason to involve the others just yet, and even though any of them would have come along if she had asked, how in heaven’s name would she begin to explain?  No, better to gather some more intelligence first.  Plus, there was no sense in ruining their quiet evening of celebration.


Gilgallon cocked her head to one side as the clickety-clack of debris danced its way across the floor.  The finger that pointed at the hearth was joined by the other three on that hand and a foamy spray of moist snow almost instantly filled the fireplace, extinguishing the blaze with a surprised hiss.  As the young girl had initiated this action, she had also floated off the sofa and spun in midair, flipping herself over so that she could peer up the chimney in one smooth motion.  Just as the teenager reached the brick work, another sizable chunk of debris fell into the packed snow drift, but this one rolled slowly down toward the floor with the precision of finely machined metal.

Dakota had been reaching to activate her com unit for a status update when her eyes registered the explosive nature of the grenade which had just dropped into their collective laps.  With an instinctive reaction honed by innumerable hours of combat, the tanker disappeared from her existing location, consumed by the very substance upon which she had been seated, and burst forth from the snowy floor some ten feet away with a warning shout.

“Cover!” Dakota barked as one hand closed over the impending blast.  Her other hand shoved Gilgallon away from the hearth an instant before a second grenade plunked down into the snowy drift at her knees.  The tanker used the momentum from her shove to tumble down upon the second explosive, landing face up toward the chimney.   A third of the compact explosives clanged down through the flue, and she reflexively pinned it to the wall with her free hand.

In the brief instant before the roaring explosions blotted out all sensory input, Dakota made out a pair of ghostly faces bearing tiny sneers at the chimney’s zenith.  Then–


The ambush had evolved so quickly, that the tanker had only been able to summon forth a fraction of her protective shielding.  Shrapnel and shockwaves rocked the room, but only after Dakota had absorbed the lion’s share of the explosions.  Still airborne, Gilgallon was tossed across the lounge, caroming off of a support beam and into the far wall.  Deadspring was already on her feet and moving, a length of lethal steel in her hand, as she rolled with the force of the blast to minimize the impact.  She landed forcefully in a crouch only a few feet away, wounds where the shrapnel had sliced her open already knitting themselves closed.

There was no sign of Dakota under the rubble from a goodly sized section of the chamber, and Deadspring bolted toward ground zero with her teeth gritted menacingly.  She planted one foot on a toppled section of wall and vaulted directly up into the gaping wound in the ceiling, bound for the rooftop above. Two Carnival illusionists had begun their descent into the chamber at that same instant, and their ethereal state did not impede or alter Deadspring’s flight path as the scrapper passed harmlessly through them and disappeared into the chill air above.

Gilgallon sprung to her feet and summoned forth her concealing mists in an effort to buy herself and the approaching Psy-ren a few precious seconds as the illusionists drifted into the room and prepared to launch the next wave of their assault.  Before further harm could be done though, the mass of debris around the ruin chimney seemed to take on a life of its own, as it rose up behind the two intruders and brought a thunderous mallet of rock and earth crashing down between them.  The pair flipped wildly from the assault as they hovered in midair amidst the moment of surprised confusion.

“We’ll manage here!” the living mass of rubble that was Dakota Sunrise shouted, “Check on the others!”

Tactical awareness and understanding of their ally’s capabilities were always thoroughly emphasized in coalition training, and both Gilgallon and Psy-ren responded without hesitation.  The teenager who wielded the fury of nature, wrapped the illusionists in the frigid cold of a snowstorm as she zipped away on a windy gust, just as Psy-ren sent disorienting psychic blasts at the attackers before propelling herself away in the opposite direction.

As Gilgallon barreled into the stairwell on nature’s wings, she heard Psy-ren’s calm, collected voice over the global com channel, relaying the pertinent details of the attack.  The teenager smiled at the poise of the sophisticated blaster, knowing full well that she would have been screeching like a lunatic had it been her delivering the alert.  Not much else crossed her mind after that moment because the pulse of synapse frying energy which hammered into her skull blinded her to all but the most primal reflexes.

The young girl careened down a flight of stairs and crashed into the reinforced concrete corner, crumpling to the cold tile in a heap of cloth and adolescence.  Her last vision before slipping into blackness was of rearing reindeer and huge muscled fists banded in steel.


Rising to one knee, Fateweaver coughed against the frigid wind as she gauged the approaching Carnival minions through one eye swollen shut in a bloody, bruised mess.  Control of the situation had quickly disintegrated as unrelenting waves of brightly painted villains had erupted forth from nearby catwalks and windows.  The flat rooftop in Brickstown had quickly devolved into a chaotic battleground.  She could hear her phantom allies keeping the pair of Master Illusionists distracted on the far side of Santa’s sleigh, but she knew the summoned decoys wouldn’t buy her much time.  A shout for help had been sent out to the first mind she had recognized, but the timing would be close.  The outcome of the ambush was still beyond the scope of her vision.

With a grimace of distaste, Fateweaver thrust her hands into the intricate array of fate lines surrounding her.  She hated doing it, hated having ever been forced to manhandle the weave so, but this particular doorway, once opened, would never be closed again.  Her arms twirled the strands into tight knots and then loosed them toward her enemies in a primal whirlwind.  She didn’t like to think about these workings, but the truth would not stay buried for long.  More and more frequently she was coercing the weave to do her bidding, and she was horrified by it.

Harlequins and strongmen were tossed savagely into the air as the heroine rose to her feet in the momentary reprieve.  Dodging sideways as a pair of razor sharp discs sailed by, Fateweaver plucked a single strand of fate and looped it around herself.  Her visage immediately shimmered, and the wound over her eye vanished from existence.  Continuing to move along the roof’s edge, she drew the remaining bulk of the horde away from the sleigh, but instead of confronting their imposing numbers, she chose to relocate the battlefield to more favorable conditions.

Snatching a hold of the gleaming lines which emanated from each of the Carnies, she pulled forth a terrifying image from their collective conscience and forged the horror into substance.  As the majority of the weak willed followers cowered from the conjured monstrosity, Fateweaver touched another rippling strand next to her and disappeared along its length, reappearing some distance away within the sleigh’s interior.  She instantly reared back in surprise at the little jester of a man that was sitting there holding the reins.  His physical presence did not startle her as much as the fact that she had not sensed that he was there.  Not a single strand of fate came into contact with the strange man.

The visionary woman was only afforded a brief glimpse of this new intruder, enough to register that he was wearing the red and white cap which belonged to Kris Kringle, before her mind was blinded with a psychic flash from an advancing Master Illusionist.  Her decoys had finally faded back into the weave, leaving her to fend for herself.  Fateweaver reflexively allowed her own existence to unravel just enough so as to blend with the infinite variables of fate that constantly surrounded her.  She vanished from sight just as the little jester snapped the frantic reindeer into action with a crack of the reins and a brisk shout.  The invisible heroine collapsed into the oversized bag of presents as the sleigh lurched forward toward the edge of the rooftop.

Shrieks of outrage from the Carnival mistresses sent a host of minions converging on the escaping vehicle.  Fateweaver felt a booted foot plant against her collarbone and heard a cheery voice sing out, “Move along, move along my dear.  Just move along!  Nothing at all to see here!”  She grabbed the boot in an attempt to hang on but quickly felt her balance shifting unfavorably toward the approaching throng of Carnies.

A trio of strongmen latched onto the back rails of the accelerating sleigh, and the jarring jolt cast both driver and passenger crashing into the front of the small cockpit.  Fateweaver’s sight returned just in time to be unceremoniously replaced by starshots of pain as she ricocheted over the dash and onto the front of the sleigh.  She held on with one gloved hand and saw her small counterpart rise up with a fierce look in his emerald eyes.  That ire was directed elsewhere though as he wheeled on the caterwauling Carnies and pulled a small package from some hidden niche in his outfit.

“Back to your tents, freaks of the show!” the man barked at them, hurling the fist-sized package onto the ground, “The prize tonight is mine!  By the snow, let us go!”

The fancifully wrapped gift burst open with a wintry rush, and a Winter Lord emerged from the snowy rift, accompanied by a host of its minions.

‘The Gamester!’ Fateweaver’s mind snapped to attention at the display.  Then she suddenly felt the familiar tingle of a presence nearby, and in the brief respite offered by the snowbeast’s arrival, she snatched at a nearby strand of fate and yanked with gusto.

Gilgallon appeared above the battlefield in a golden flash, further announcing her arrival by summoning a fearsome storm cloud that began raining lightning bolts into the rooftop mobs below.  Floating down toward the sleigh as she assessed the chaos, the teenager sent forth her numbing snowstorm which hampered the efforts of most of the opposing forces.

The Carnival followers had their hands full with the frostlings that waded into their numbers, and when the Winter Lord brought a great iceberg foot crashing down, the strongmen holding the sleigh lost their grip in the resulting shockwave.  Santa’s sleigh launched forward once more and shortly thereafter, careened off of the rooftop, dipping severely before the charging reindeer righted the craft and gained some altitude.

Fateweaver rolled with the lolling vessel while Gilgallon fired several bursts of warning fury over the Gamester’s head.  The more veteran of the two women finally got her knees under her and rose up over the lip of the sleigh to confront the trickster inside.  Unfortunately, a small army of windup men and machines were now lining the seat in formation and immediately opened fire on Fateweaver to the cackling delight of their nefarious master.

A knowing grin crossed Fateweaver’s features as she took cover and shouted over the shielding lip, “This would be your last chance to surrender peaceably, Gamester.”

“I say the sack, the sleigh, the gifts are mine!” he bellowed defiantly, “The King of Toys until the end of time!”

With a rumbling crash, the mountainous form of Dakota Sunrise appeared directly above the ascending vehicle and dropped with hammering force into the close quarters.  “Who ordered an extra helping of coal?” she asked jovially.

The weight of the tremendous tanker’s impact yanked the reindeer up short with shocked grunts and knocked the sleigh once more into a precarious roll.  Everyone grasped madly for handholds as gifts and military miniatures were tossed wantonly into the chilly night air.

As the wildly flying craft sailed across the starry sky, Fateweaver and Dakota rocked and wrestled the Gamester for control of the legendary sleigh amidst explosions of energy as Psy-ren and Gilgallon swooped along behind, catching falling packages and exchanging fire with mechanical toy terrors.  While far below, those citizens of Paragon City still awake marveled at the festive nighttime display and were warmed by the hearty laughter which sang out as the Lethal Ladies rang in another spirited holiday.

Idling quietly in a cherry red SUV in a nearby alley, a pair of glittering eyes gazed upon the spectacle through the open driver’s window.  The jolly old face broke into a wide smile as the tinted glass rose smoothly, and the four wheel drive vehicle went merrily about its deliveries into the wee hours of Christmas morning.

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