A/N: I got into Worm recently, and I freakin' love it. Unfortunately, I own nothing of it or anything else that even looks vaguely familiar. I love the versatility and imagination of the powers on display, and thus I couldn't help but hop in myself. Kudos, Wildbow, kudos!
And since I'm a Castlevania fan (both classic and Lords of Shadow continuity), I had to get this out somewhere. There's going to be elements of both in here, but nothing truly concrete.
I know it's been ages since I've posted anything here, but, hey. I've lurked. And lurked. And lurked. I figured it's about time I stretched my creative muscles a bit, again. And holy crap, nine years since I posted anything? Yeah, this is overdue. I gotta kill my old muse, excuse me.
Yeah, LoS2 was somewhat disappointing, but there was good in there. Probably all the more disappointing because of that. If it had been a complete flop, it wouldn't linger.
Rage cold enough to freeze Hell itself. Hatred hot enough to sear every world that nestled in the heavens.
Power enough to reshape a world. The will to see it through.
I looked back and forth down the hall, trying to keep my head down. A chill whipped through the air, making me shiver, reminding me of the stickiness that covered me. It froze against my skin, making everything just that much worse. I shuddered away from the thought, but I couldn't help but be constantly reminded of it.
One moment, I had been in the locker, screaming, crying, begging for help. Laughter, their laughter ringing in my ears. The next...something twisting in space, far larger than I could comprehend. Raining pieces of itself down on the Earth, one coming for me, and then...something made of darkness and flame. And then this cold hall.
Was I dead? I wasn't expecting the afterlife to look like this. I sure didn't feel dead. I felt too miserable to be dead. So where the hell was I? I didn't know of any place like this in Brockton Bay. It never got this cold, there. Winters weren't exactly fun, but this was on another level.
I stumbled as I moved along the hall, the cold stone floors chilling my feet even through my shoes. Torches hung on sconces, warming things somewhat, but not enough to make things exactly comfortable. Even if I hadn't had so much toxic waste covering my legs.
At least the bugs covering me had quickly scattered or died in the chill. A small part of my mind was keenly aware that I would be joining them if I didn't find somewhere warm. And soon. My muscles ached, the exertion of my struggles to escape the locker, and I knew I'd just traded one predicament for another.
Stopping by one guttering torch, I basked in the feeble warmth it offered, before I pulled it out of the sconce and moved onward. Turning a corner at the end of the hall, I perked up as I heard the faint sound of falling water. Carrying the torch, I felt my way down the corridor, stepping carefully over the loose rubble that covered the floor.
I came to a pair of wooden doors, the designs on them intricate. Carved with golden dragons, in combat with much smaller massed knights. I pushed on the door, already dreaming of the chance to get warm.
It didn't budge. I let out a wracking sob. I was beginning to suspect doors everywhere hated me in particular. Along with everything else in the universe. Ever.
I screamed with rage and hit it, feebly, and the door jostled, opening a crack. Inward. I felt foolish, I hadn't even thought to try pulling on the rings of the door's handle. The roar of rushing water growing louder. Even better, heat and steam flowed from the crack between the doors, and in almost desperate need I pulled it open.
Before me lay an ancient bathhouse, a large pool resting on the far side of the room. The steam rising from the pool called to me, and I dropped the torch, the flame guttering as it bounced on the stone floor before it rolled up against a wall. Desperately I shed my clothes, not wanting to feel the sticky mass of congealed vomit on me a moment longer, the desire to get clean overriding all sense. I dropped my glasses atop my clothes and slid into the pool.
The heat of the bath soaked into me. I let out a gasp of pleasure and relief, closing my eyes as I no longer felt so horridly, horribly filthy. I didn't have anything unsoiled to work with, so I scrubbed my skin with my hands. I was vaguely aware of the filth coming off my legs, the clotted, rotting blood staining the water around me.
I nearly fell asleep there, in the pool, the blessed heat filling me, contrasting with the chill that had sapped so much of my strength. I lay there at the edge of the pool, feeling my strength return slowly, when the air began to taste...different. Coppery.
I opened my eyes and let out a scream. The steam was now stained a deep crimson, and the pool was filled with blood.
I awoke to face...nothing. It was utterly, completely dark. I started gasping as I flashed back to the locker, covered in insects and filth...
Only to scream as I realized I was still trapped in the dark. I could feel something soft surrounding me, but behind that softness was a hard barrier. It lay in all directions, and no matter how much I struggled, pushed, or kicked, there was no sign of it giving under my efforts. The only good part about it was that I had more room than in the locker.
Had to get out. Had to get outoutoutouthadtogetout!
The world twisted sickeningly, and then I was dumped onto cold, wet grass. The streetlights seemed to blaze nearly blindingly after that sudden shift. Oh, it was raining, too. Apparently even the weather hates me.
...who was I, again?
I was...I was...a slab of stone caught my attention.
Here lies Taylor Hebert
June 19, 1995-January 7, 2011
Oh. Oh hell. That brought a lot back.
I looked down at myself. The cold rain soaked through me, but it didn't hurt. Just made things leaden, unfeeling. I lifted my hands to see I was wearing a dress. A dark, black dress. I'd never worn it in my life.
The answer smacked into me like a baseball thrown by Alexandria. It was a funeral dress. That meant the space I had been in was...was...my coffin. I'd somehow shifted myself from inside my grave to on top of it.
I let out a scream to the uncaring sky.
Brockton Bay wasn't exactly the best town to grow up in. The house I grew up in was in rough shape, built back...I actually wasn't sure when. There was a coal chute in the basement, though, designed to heat the whole house, though it hadn't been used anytime I could remember.
...and why was my mind focusing on these details? Right, because I'd been standing here, in the pouring rain, at night, looking at my house. For at least half an hour. Every part of my mind that wasn't running on its own weird tangents was consumed by one thought.
What would happen if I walked up and knocked? Would my dad still be there? Would he be happy to see me? Would I frighten him half to death? Would I frighten him TO death?
My fingers trembled.
Regardless, I didn't see any good options. Steeling myself, I walked up to the front porch. I tried the door, and it was locked. Of course it was locked. I just needed to get my key...
Which was definitely not on me. I nearly broke down, tears welling up in my eyes. I walk away from my own grave and my house's front door is what makes me break down.
Okay Taylor. Think. Thinkthinkthink.
I walked around the back of the house, hoping to see if there were any lights. Any sign of life inside. The back door's latch had always been a bit finicky. Not quite 'open it with a credit card' but with the right jostle and just enough pressure, I could get in. That had been helpful when the Terrible Trio had stolen my keys, once.
I jiggled the doorknob, then pushed upward on the door and put my body weight against it. I kept jiggling the knob, waiting for the tell-tale click of the latch releasing, and...
The door swung open with a crack. I blinked as I looked at the doorframe. I'd completely broken it.
What the hell happened to me?
There was a whistle of something coming toward me, and it smacked right into my side. I let out a cry of pain as I fell to the floor, as the attacker advanced on me, baseball bat in hand.
It was my father, Danny Hebert, and he held the bat with both hands.
"...dad?" I managed to croak out. My voice barely sounded human, rough and raw. But it was enough to make him pause, his eyes widening.
"Taylor?" He managed to whisper in the darkness, his voice filled with a dreadful, horrible hope. We both froze for a few long seconds as his eyes examined my face, as I examined his. He was thin, pale. Nearly emaciated. All of his body fat was gone, and his muscles were thin, reedy. His mouth opened and the bat shifted as he tightened his grip on it.
Finally, he managed to speak. "Whoever you are, you've got a lot of nerve wearing her face."
I made a small cough as I pressed my hand to my side, where he hit me. Funny. It didn't even hurt now. The cough was more habit than anything. Desperately, I spoke. "Remember what you said to me, after Mom's funeral?"
He paused, anger and grief filling his face, the bat twitching in my direction.
My voice cracked as I made the words. "You said 'I know nothing is going to be the same now, kiddo. It may never be just okay ever again. But no matter what, I'm here for you, and I love you.'"
The bat slipped from his grasp, clattering on the floor.
Hot tea warmed my hands as I held the cup. My dad sat in a chair, facing me as I sipped from it, shivering and shuddering. The cold didn't seem to really effect me, but the warmth was pleasant, at least. His eyes were filled with pain and hope. He looked broken. I...felt exactly the same way.
At least I'd managed to get something to wear other than my funeral dress. Under the light, it was plain it hadn't held up too well. Splotches of discolouration where it had begun to rot. I hadn't noticed in the rain. Jeans and a t-shirt, that was much more...me.
Okay, I wasn't exactly very flowery with my descriptions, here. Give me a break, I'd just walked away from my grave today.
Dad's voice was rough as he spoke. "I kept your room just as it was since..." His voice caught, tears in his eyes. "They pulled you out of that locker, Taylor. It was the most horrible thing I'd ever seen. You were..." Deep pain filled his eyes.
I sipped from my cup, a lump in my throat. I shuddered as I remembered it. For me, it had just been a few hours ago. "I screamed, begged for help. I remember being laughed at. Then...I was in the graveyard. I just...came home." I swallowed hard, tears flowing freely. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, dad. I'm so sorry..."
He gently took the cup from my hands, setting it aside before he wrapped me in his arms. I sobbed into his shoulder, the well of emotions too much for me to handle.
I was in The Castle again. This time I was there almost the second my head hit the pillow.
This time, though, I wasn't cold. At all. Huh. Apparently The Castle didn't just sit on a mountain, it sat on a volcano.
How could I know that? Well, the streams of lava going around everywhere was a pretty good sign. You didn't need to be a vulcanologist to know that molten rock meant volcano.
I guess my dreams are weird. I wonder why I keep dragging up this kind of thing.
So here I am, in an enormous cavern that held immense equipment, the kind of thing a medieval smith would make for his forge, if he happened to be a mad Tinker too. There was a mould casting leaning against a crumbling brick wall that would have worked just fine as a wall to my entire house. It looked like it was for a sword. If Godzilla ever needed a sword.
Next to the casting looked like the entrance to the forge proper, and I felt interested in taking a look inside. There was just one little problem. The river of lava between me and the other side of the cavern.
And since, apparently, I couldn't fly like Alexandria in my dreams, I would have to find a way over there. This little ledge I found myself on wasn't exactly comfortable, and the heat was oppressive. Though I knew that in real life just being this close to lava would have cooked me to death already.
The ledge was small, and thin, but it did circle around the cavern. The light from the molten lava below was enough to make it easy to see, if a bit bright.
I'd like to say I confidently walked over the ledge with the confidence of Eidolon facing a street-punk. What I actually did was hug the narrow ledge and shimmy over, crawling on my stomach, keenly aware of the heat flowing over my arms. Still, I couldn't help but feel a little thrill, both of fear and excitement.
Well, I did once want to be Indiana Jones' sidekick when I was a little girl. I probably would have been less irritating than Short Round, anyway.
I stopped as the ledge came to an abrupt end. I carefully looked up. Wait a bloody minute. This ledge went all the way over there! I could see it clearly from where I started!
Stupid dreams. Hey, wait a second...
Carefully, I felt my way forward, putting my hand over the edge of the ledge. I wasn't feeling so much heat, there. I lowered my hand, and...solidity! It actually felt like granite.
And I couldn't see it. Creepy castle has an invisible bridge. Well, invisible ledge. This made no sense. But, hey, dream. What did I know?
So I kept bravely (timidly) striding (crawling) over the invisible bridge. Finally, I was on solid and visible ground, and I got to my feet.
I walked carefully into the forge, taking a moment to enjoy the smell of treated leather, hot iron, oils and sweat. All right, it wasn't a pleasant smell, by any means, but there was something primal about it.
A flicker of shadows caught my eye, and I turned to see another chamber. The room was circular, and resting on a pedestal was a black orb, smoke and shadow writhing around it. It was almost hypnotic, and without thinking, I reached out and took it in my hand.
There was a shock, and sudden heat flowed up my arm. It didn't hurt, but it felt like every muscle in my arm had tensed up to nearly the breaking point before it relaxed. The shadowy orb rested in my palm, and I breathed with excitement. It felt good. Like I was holding fragment of pure power in my hands.
The orb suddenly cracked open, dark red blood flowing over my hand. I could feel it curling around my skin as if it was alive, my body readily accepting it. In a mere moment, my hand had what appeared to be a gauntlet made of shadow and blood. It seemed to be just begging to be used.
On instinct, I turned and cut the air with the gauntlet, and a long stream of glowing red shadow extended outward, forming a whip that easily shattered the pedestal the orb had rested upon.
I couldn't help it, I giggled. I really, really liked this. A moment's concentration, and I could feel the blood coursing through my veins, responding to my will. Freaky, but cool.
"...aylor? Taylor? Can you hear me?"
The Castle faded into crimson mist around me, and I opened my eyes.
I awoke on the couch, my dad watching me. He looked tired, worn, but at least somewhat more content. As my eyes opened fully, he gave a gentle smile and pushed my hair from my eyes.
I gave him a weak smile. "Morning, dad. Were you awake all night?"
He looked tired, bags under his eyes. I rose from the couch, taking his hand and giving it a gentle squeeze. He gently kissed my forehead in return. "Yeah. I was afraid that if I did, when I woke up..."
I nodded slowly. "That I'd be gone when you woke up." I pulled myself together, the feeling of my blood rushing through me helping to calm my emotions. "How long was I...?" I trailed off, not knowing how to finish my question. Dead? Only mostly dead? Pining for the fjords?
Dad's voice cracked as he hugged me. "Three months. It's April 4th." He gently stroked my cheek. "How did you come back?"
I shuddered. "Dad...I think something happened to me in the locker. I think I'm a parahuman. Last night, I just...woke up in my coffin. I'm not sure how I got out of there."
Dad listened patiently as I described everything. The bullying that started a year and a half ago, Emma's sudden turn from my best friend to worst enemy. How I was afraid of bringing any of it up to him, knowing how hard it already had been under the weight of Mom's death. How I had hoped my three tormentors had finally gotten bored of making me miserable, only to be pushed into my own private hell.
All the while, Dad's face had gotten more and more cloudy. Danny Hebert wasn't a very violent man, and he had a long temper. But when something happened to push him into rage, it was a thunderous, terrible rage. The kind of anger that would give any gang leader in Brockton Bay pause, if only for a moment.
Considering all of those were parahumans, that said something.
He surged to his feet and overturned the coffee table, everything on it scattering all over the living room. He spent a long few minutes ranting as I shrank into the couch, my eyes wide with fright.
Dad caught my expression and slowly, carefully reigned himself in. "I should have guessed something when Alan moved away a month later. 'Job opportunity in New York,' my ass."
I managed to crack a small smile. Of course he'd move to protect Emma. It was horrible, but it was also understandable. You do what you can to protect your daughter. Even if she's a murderer.
An odd thought crossed my mind. If I was resurrected, did that make her an un-murderer? I shook my head as I spoke. "We need to...do something, dad. Sooner or later it's going to come out that I've come back. I'd rather not get drafted into the E88."
Dad nodded. "This afternoon, we'll take a trip to the PRT building." He winced. "They'll probably want to run tests...even these days, a resurrection is something unusual. There's other explanations they'll probably look for, first." He held up his hand as I opened my mouth. "I believe you, kiddo, I know you're my daughter. But we'll have to prove it to them. Somehow."
I sank into the couch, sighing. "I'm not sure how. I guess they can just do a paternity test or something..."
He gently squeezed my hand. "We'll figure something out, okay?"
We shared a hug. It was all I could do to keep from bursting into tears.
The sun was bright, nearly painful as my dad drove toward the PRT building downtown. I kept having to shade my eyes from it, grimacing. I could feel my skin tightening, hurting on every inch of it exposed to the light. It was almost as if the sun had a grudge against me, personally. To try and stave off the effects, I pulled my hood up over my face. It still hurt, but at least it wasn't so torturous.
Besides, compared to the dark, I almost preferred it. When it was too dark, I kept on remembering what it was like inside my locker. And my coffin. Both at once, sometimes.
As he pulled into the PRT parking garage, I let out a sigh of relief. Dad shot me a look of concern, but I gave him a smile and he smiled back, if a bit weakly.
"Time to face the music." He said, his voice filled with false cheer.
I just blinked, managing only to shake my head. We got out of the car and walked into the front entrance. I looked around with interest. It was a wide open room, several pillars near the back walls and hallways, with none up front. My eyes spotted several sprinklers and nozzles in the ceiling. Some of them looked to be the ordinary fire sprinklers, but the other ones weren't familiar to me.
I somehow knew I was missing something. Something I'd learned about a while ago, but just couldn't bring it up. Then I blinked.
"I can see..." I whispered. I didn't have my glasses on, hadn't even thought of them since I woke up in my coffin, and yet my eyes were clear. All right, superpowered laser-eye surgery!
My dad shot me an odd look as we walked up to the receptionist, a pretty, thin blonde. She was obviously there to put the best face forward on the PRT. Made sense.
"Welcome to the Parahuman Response Team headquarters for Brockton Bay. How may I help you today?" She said with an astonishing amount of perkiness. How much coffee had she had already?
Dad managed to return the smile. "Danny and Taylor Hebert, for one O'clock." I managed to make a small nod. Stupid shyness.
She took a moment to look at her computer, and gave a nod and a smile. "Excellent. You're expected." She tapped a button on her intercom, and spoke. "Greg, Heberts for one here."
"Got it. Be there in a moment."
Danny and the receptionist shared an awkward smile as I fidgeted. The light pouring in from the front windows made for a nice view, but it wasn't comfortable for me. I'd be happier once I got inside an office or something.
A pleasant-looking young man came from the back halls, giving us a friendly wave. When we approached, he smiled at us. "Hello there, Daniel, Taylor. I'm Greg Landers, and I'm supposed to escort you to the interview room."
My dad nodded, gesturing. "Please, lead the way."
Greg led us through the building, bringing us to a plain room. I noticed more of those nozzles in the ceiling. We both sat down while Greg pulled his phone from his belt, making a quick text. He gave us a grin. "Armsmaster should be here shortly. Please, make yourselves comfortable."
We nodded, then Greg walked away. I gave a nervous smile to my dad, and he gently patted my hand. "It's all right, Taylor, things are going to be okay."
I appreciated the sentiment, even if he was lying. Things hadn't been okay for a long time, now.
The door opened, and in strode Armsmaster. He didn't have his iconic halberd with him, but that didn't matter. In his blue and white armor, the man probably had a hundred little gizmos designed for just about everything.
He didn't offer a hand, just a curt nod. "Mister Hebert." He looked to me, though I couldn't see his eyes through his helmet. I could just barely see his mouth through his beard. "And you claim to be Taylor Hebert."
Anger surged through me as I got to my feet. I'm being accused of this, now? "I am Taylor Hebert."
He paused for a moment, his lips curving into a frown. "Miss, please calm down. I'm here to help. We just need to verify a few things."
Memories came in a rush. Putting in documentation to the school staff about being bullied, hoping for change. Being ignored. Everything coming down to pretty-girl-says with friends against me alone. Never being believed or having any backup at all.
I saw red. There was a flicker of movement at my side, but I didn't notice much with my gaze on Armsmaster. "Verify? I ended up dead because the fucking school wouldn't verify that I was going through hell. Because all they listened to was the popular girls, and not the 'problem student.' Know why I was a problem student? Because I was attacked every single day! By Emma Barnes, Madison Clements, and Sophia Hess."
Armsmaster had been shifting slightly as I spoke, but he froze at that. "Are you sure?"
My anger turned into a tide of white-hot rage. He doesn't believe me. Nobody ever believes me. They always said I was lying to get attention. And one of the heroes I looked up to as a kid was just like them. "Are you calling me a liar!?" I was moving forward before I knew it, my hand tingling.
Armsmaster raised his hands, taking a step toward me, closing the distance.. "Miss, please, if you don't calm down, I'll have to restrain you."
This little gnat presumes to give me orders? "Don't tell me to calm down!"
Armsmaster grabbed my wrist, and on instinct, I flicked up my arm. A red streak flicked from my hand, slashing against Armsmaster's chin, making him stumble back as his lip was suddenly bleeding.
I looked down at my hand, my forearm covered in the shadow-gauntlet. I froze in surprise.
I looked up to meet my father's eyes. Danny's eyes were wide with surprise and fear.
Fear of me. My dad was afraid of me.
That snapped me out of my anger, the irrational rage replaced by horror.
An alarm sounded, then suddenly the nozzles in the ceiling swivelled. I let out a shriek of surprise as they started spraying a foam all over me. I tried to move, but it quickly hardened. I became all the more frantic as the foam began covering my face, cutting me off from the light in the room. I began to panic as the world was cut off from my senses.
Please let me out! I won't tell anybody if you let me out! Pleasepleasepleaseplease...
There was a rip of displaced air, and I was free, right in front of Armsmaster. He stumbled back in surprise, before he began reaching for his belt.
I moved on instinct. I had to get out. They were going to push me back in the locker where I'd be bitten and stung and I'd cry and...I pushed him against the wall with all my strength, and he slammed into it, hard. Turning, I raced back the way we came, tears flowing down my face.
My dad was afraid of me and they were going to lock me inside a box again! Nononono!
The nozzles that held containment foam aimed my way, and I instinctively zigged, zagged, and dodged as they sprayed. Once I reached the front entrance, I could see the sunlight being cut off as metal shutters started coming down. If I could just get through those doors, they couldn't put me back in a box!
Ten feet from freedom, foam managed to tag my leg. I fell to the floor as it hardened, panic overcoming me as they covered me completely, now they had a stationary target. I screamed through the foam, the feeling of being enclosed yet again scaring me. Not again not againnotagainnotagain!
There was another sickening twist in the world and then I was seeing, and standing again, right before the front doors.
The front doors that were now sealed shut by the shutters. I hit them in my panic, knowing freedom was inches away. I clawed and scratched at the shutter, doing negligible damage, trying my best to do something, anything to get away from these people who were trying to lock me away in the dark again.
A group of four PRT troopers approached, carrying what looked like flamethrowers. It wasn't, though, as they began spraying more of that containment foam at me. I shrieked. As if in response, the world twisted again, and suddenly, I was outside, blinking, then whimpering as the sunlight started irritating my skin.
I turned and dashed across the street, deftly dodging as a car came to a screeching halt just in front of me. I ran as fast as I could, knowing that I'd likely be caught if I couldn't pour on the speed. I went up the street, through an alley, excitement and sheer fear broiling in my head. I'd be hemmed in on foot rather quickly if I couldn't get twisting twirling screeching avoid hard surfaces find space dodge red eat bug avoid tree claw bird and...what?
How the hell did I get on the rooftop of a building three blocks away?
And more importantly, how do I get down?