A million years later, I am finally slightly less busy. So here's a chapter. To those of you asking/demanding to know why I haven't included more of (character) or focused on how (character) feels, please try to understand that the story is only just getting started. All things in due time. To the rest of you, I hope the long absence hasn't killed your interest in this, and I thank all of you who read it. Also, to answer a question of why Velma did not know the name Nyarlathotep despite her being such a bookworm, simply recall that this story crosses over with the Cthulhu mythos, and therefore those works of fiction do no exist in their world.
Spiderbats. Though the witch had never realized it, they were, perhaps, Revolta's greatest creations. Their individually small size allowed them to infiltrate when it was called for, while their massive swarms allowed for effective applications of brute force. They could easily cover large expanses, their flight leaving them unhindered by terrain. They could see in the dark. Weave webs. Claw eyes and bite throats. They could even act as conduits for her magic, extending the reach of her spells to, theoretically, unlimited ranges. The fact that each one was possessed of an increased intelligence that allowed them to carry out complex orders, making them more akin to a swarm of ravenous flying hounds than anything else, only added to their potential. The constant grinning, which only served to make them more unnerving, was not because they knew of their own power, but merely a coincidental aesthetic touch.
One was dangerous. Two were potentially deadly to the unwary. There was quite probably more than one-hundred times the latter number descending upon the school. Velma, having only a loose idea of what a spiderbat was from Shaggy's stories, was not fully aware of the hazards of the rapidly approaching predicament. Even so, she knew well enough that a giant black cloud of pretty much anything was usually a bad thing to have swooping down on you, doubly so if that anything happened to be made of known servants of a megalomaniacal witch. Keeping an eye on the window, she backed out of the room, turned on her heel, and jogged towards the foyer, hoping to come across one of the Ghouls (or, Miss Grimwood and Shaggy, ideally) along the way. At the stairs, she met Elsa.
"We've got bats." She informed the golem, who nodded grimly. "Lots and lots of bats."
"I saw 'em from my window." Elsa motioned in the direction of her room. "Thought they all went up with the Witch, but I guess some escaped and... multiplied." She shook her head, starting down the stairs. Velma followed after her. "Miss Grimwood and the Coach need to know about this."
"I guess this is the first time you've seen them since she exploded, then?" Despite the unambiguous phrasing Elsa had used, Velma still wanted to be absolutely certain. A theory was starting to form in her head, and she needed all the details to be as concrete as possible. Granted, she fully expected this theory to break apart as soon as new evidence was uncovered, but she found that having a working theory or nine at all points of the investigation helped her think in different directions and notice things she might otherwise overlook. With the visions she'd been having (even if she could only recall snippets of them), the shadowy figure lurking about, the magic infused into the swamp, the Anchor, and now the rise of the spiderbats, she had a rather unfortunate idea of what was happening.
"Yeah," Elsa confirmed. "Dunno where they were hiding all this time." Well, that cinched it, then.
The Anchor was not anchoring a spell, but a soul. Velma wasn't having visions of the past, but getting caught in loose memories. The Shadow was not here now by coincidence, but because of what was about to happen. And the bats were rising again to serve their mistress once more. If Velma's latest theory was correct, the Witch of the Web had never truly died. She'd delved into one of the darkest and most difficult magics that existed to bind herself to the mortal world, so that not even death could contain her.
And now, Revolta was clawing her way back into this world.
Well, that was the current theory, anyway. Hopefully, further observations and evidence would point her towards a different idea. Velma had never actually come across a lich or lich-like monster in her travels, but she'd heard enough about them to determine that they were probable enough a being, especially when creatures with no moral qualms and lots of magical power were involved. An undead Witch of the Web (Lich of the Web?) did handily explain all the goings-on in the area, even if it did raise a few other questions. Those, however, could stand to wait until the immediate issue was taken care of. One did have to balance research with self-defense in the Occult Hunter business, after all.
They reached the bottom of the staircase, and found Sibella. The vampire had her back to them, standing across the foyer and staring out the open front door, her hair waving slightly in the breeze.
"They're moving with purpose." She said, without preamble, turning to glance back at Velma and Elsa. "It's too organized for a random swarm; they're being directed by something." A dark, blackish bruise was visible on her cheek, marking where the researcher had punched her, though it was healing with typical vampiric speed. If she was still shaken by their earlier encounter, she didn't show it. "Any ideas?"
"Closing the door might be a good first step." Velma tried, and failed, to not sound sardonic. "Whatever they're after, odds seem pretty good that letting them inside would be detrimental to our wellbeing." She realized she was laying the hostile tone on a bit too thick when Elsa cringed beside her.
"Hm." Sibella huffed to herself for a moment, but thankfully didn't offer any protest as she pulled the door shut. "Anything else, Ms. Dinkley?" She asked smoothly, only a slight edge to her voice. Velma wasn't sure if the vampire was playing nice because of the situation or because of her own right hook, but she hoped it lasted long enough for her to properly enjoy it.
"We gather everyone together," The bespectacled woman nodded towards the kitchen. "And we get in there. There are only two entrances, its got food and water, its small enough to keep the bats from swarming us too badly, and Tanis's room allows for a fall-back point." She explained, walking towards the room in question.
"That seems... extreme." Elsa blinked, following after her. "They're just bats."
"And how many of those bats did it take to entrance all of us one by one, last time?" Sibella asked rhetorically. "Two, wasn't it? Well, it took the Witch herself to snare me, but just the two bats for the rest of you. They're dangerous." Subtle boasting aside, Velma had been thinking along similar lines. How refreshing that the vampire was conspiring with her for a change.
"I don't think they can do that without Revolta." Elsa sensibly pointed out.
"Are you completely certain of that? You know, for sure, that it isn't an innate ability?" Velma countered. It was rarely a good idea to ever assume a supernatural being had forgotten its old tricks since you last saw it. "Besides that, these bats didn't come out here now for no reason, not after so long without being seen. If someone is controlling them, they'll use the main strength of the swarm to drive us apart, then use smaller groups to take us out individually. With those numbers, the teeth and claws will be enough." She explained. Granted, she was speculating, but it was certainly what she would do. "And if they do have the brainwashing magic, it's even more important we gather up everyone before anyone can be made into a double-agent." And, not to be overly dramatic, she'd learned in the last four years that preparing for the worst case scenario was usually the choice that kept you alive.
Or, kept you not dead, for several of those currently involved. Whatever.
"Ok, we know where everyone is?" The researcher queried as they entered the empty kitchen, running down her mental list of the various last known locations. She gestured towards the stairs to Tanis's room. "Those three are still down there?" Those three being Tanis, Grimwood, and Shaggy.
"As far as I know." Sibella shrugged. "And Phantasma was going to practice her newest composition last I saw her."
"The parlor, then." Velma nodded. "Ok, you get her." For a moment, she wondered about the wisdom of splitting up, but better they do so now and get everyone together before the bats found a way inside. "Elsa, check on the downstairs group and bring them up to speed on the situation. I'll..." She paused. "Oh, Hell," She whirled about to face the two ghouls. "Where are Winnie, Scooby, and Matches?" The girls stared at her for a moment, then turned to look at each other.
There was a moment of dawning realization across the faces of the two students, which told Velma all she needed to know.
They were still outside.
They made better time than Daphne had expected, though far worse time than she'd hoped for. The cobbled-together sled they were pulling Abraham on helped, though the cylindrical tanks that served as wheels were completely unable to turn and jarred everyone with each bump they hit. Still, with Nivicolum leading the way, they avoided the worst of the going and stayed out of the Bog to boot. Daphne wasn't sure if it was a property of all owls or just this one, but she lived up to Van Ghoul's words, and was somehow able to steer the couple and their cargo just around the edge of what the Beast seemed to consider its territory. The heiress could see the monster gliding along in time with them as it made sure they stayed out, barely visible as a hulking shape in the dim, murky dark of the Bog.
They continued on in that way for some time, keeping one eye on the Beast and the other on Nivicolum as they struggled with the weight of the wounded man. The slog sapped their already taxed strength, and their own injuries, however minor, made themselves more and more known. Her ankle was swollen and throbbed with each step, his right hand and arm were wrenched from how he'd improperly held the shotgun when he shot the Beast, never mind the myriad of cuts, bruises, and general battering they'd both suffered at the hands of the Bog's sole resident. She now considered it a small mercy that the Cajun had yet to awaken; they were miserable enough without hearing his moans of pain and angry curses added to the mix.
At least the ground was dry. With their current levels of weariness, Daphne was sure so little as a mud puddle would be enough to render the sled utterly inextricable; bare dirt and patches of grass were giving them enough trouble already.
Still, they pressed on. With no real way of knowing how far from civilization the Beast had dropped them, they had to travel as far and as quickly as possible, lest dark fall before they made it to a road. With no food, very little water, and a heavily injured man along for the ride, being forced to camp out was the last thing they needed. Too bad Nivicolum couldn't-
Daphne suddenly froze, her head tilting slightly to the side as she stared at nothing. Freddie, fatigued as he was, was instantly brought to a stop next to her by the weight of the sled. Too weary to muster up surprise at this, he merely raised an eyebrow at her.
"Shhhhh…." She shook one hand, her eyes sliding closed. "I hear something." Movement, quick and thick, like heavy flags whipping in a strong wind. And something else… It was high-pitched, to the point that she could only catch the edge of it, made up of a mass of overlapping yips and cries and screeches. "And it does not sound good."
It wasn't coming from the bog, which was a small positive note in a sea of negativities. Instead, it was coming from the opposite direction, to their left. Of course, because it had just been that sort of day, the only thing visible to that side was the hill that sharply grew from the ground. The redhead sighed in an overly dramatic fashion, too mentally exhausted to protest this turn of fate further.
"Maybe we can go around." Fred suggested, already resigned to the fact that they were going to check out the strange sounds one way or another. Daphne nodded in agreement; the hill couldn't possibly be all that big around.
Nivicolum, watching them from her perch above, gave a single - and to Daphne's ear, derisive - hoot, and lifted from her branch. Almost spitefully, she glided over the incline and out of sight beyond the crest of the hill.
"Oh, you ffffffeathery creature." The heiress narrowed her eyes at the spot the owl had vanished. She had no doubt in her mind that the ornery avian wouldn't bother to wait for them, which meant they didn't have time to navigate around the upward slog. She sighed, looking to her boyfriend. "Well, shall we?"
"Guess so." Fred nodded tiredly, a slight smile at one corner of his mouth. "It's nice to be chasing mysteries again." She couldn't tell if he was joking, nor could she quite sort out whether she shared that particular opinion or not.
The incline wasn't incredibly steep, but any angle beyond flat was a massive undertaking to scale at this point. If they'd not already tied Abraham to the sled, they would have now been forced to affix him to it, lest he slide right off. In his current state, Daphne doubted he'd survive rolling down the hill. She almost doubted that she would, for that matter.
Still, with a lot of groaning and grunting and quite a bit of pulling at the grass in front of them with their hands to wring out every bit of possible extra leverage, they crested over the top of the mound. Pulling the sled up after them, the pair practically collapsed onto the grass as soon as Abraham was beyond the point of possible backslide. When they had caught their breath enough to look up, the couple found that they had quite the view before them.
Directly before them, about a quarter of a mile away and situated on an even larger hill than the one they stood on, stood a small mansion, or perhaps a large plantation house, in an obvious state of disrepair. It was surrounded by a deep trench, possibly a moat, and surrounded further out by sickly-looking grass and trees and what seemed to be a cemetery. The only sign that it was inhabited came in the form of a tiny sedan that was parked by the moat; it actually looked to be clean and in working order, at least at this distance.
Also, the sky was filled with a swarm of screeching, eight-limbed bats. Most of them appeared to be rather on the large side for bats, with wingspans that looked to be almost as long as Dahne's arm. Just one of the horrible creatures was more than enough to make the heiress' skin crawl, the massive numbers almost had her heading back towards the bog. She heard Freddie let out a low whistle as he took the scene in.
The spiderbats whipped through the air in droves, and three distinct groups could be discerned amongst the chaotic cloud of wings and fur. The biggest and most obvious pack encircled the building itself, looking almost like a tattered, rotating dome of dark cloth. A second, much smaller group seemed focused on something to the…. east, according to the position of the afternoon sun. Whatever it was, it seemed to be just inside the sprawling borders of the bog, so she couldn't imagine it was going to be having the best time. The third group was the smallest of all, and covering ground quickly as it zeroed in on….
"Freddie, there's someone out there!" If the bats along hadn't kicked Daphne's heart rate back up, it would have been spiking now.
"Huh?" Fred followed her pointing finger, eyes widening when they fell on the rapidly approaching figure. It was hard to make out much between the distance, speed, and constant dodging, but the baby blue clothes and brown skin were visible enough. "Oh." Whoever it was, they seemed to have noticed the couple, as they were heading right for the sleuths.
The blonde wasted no time in turning back to the sled and freeing a spare bit of metal he'd squirrelled away. It was only about two feet long and not exceptionally sturdy, but it would be better than swatting bats with his bare hands. Daphne, sharing the sentiment, reluctantly grabbed the only weapons she could: Abraham's boots. Heavy, strong hiking boots they were, she held one each hand by the laces and tried not to think about all the built-up dirt and sweat that could come flying out when she swung them.
She turned away from the sled and looked back to the much-closer figure in time to see it leap up and swat a swooping bat from its path before landing on all fours and continuing to dash towards them. She had a brief moment to consider how odd it was for someone to be running like that, nevermind running like that so quickly, before Freddie caught her attention by placing himself between the approaching person, along with the bats following them, and herself. Her brain quickly filed the protective action away for later happily squealing over, and she moved to stand beside him.
Now the person was close enough to actually fully make out, and Daphne actually took a double-take in her surprise. The person did not have brown skin, she had brown fur. And claws. And incredibly frizzy reddish-orange hair that both impressed the heiress with its shade and made her cringe with how poorly it was maintained. For a bizarre moment, she found herself more concerned with the knots and tangles the girl would have than she was with the fact that the girl was some kind of wolf-girl. With a trip to the salon, she could really just look fantastic.
"What are you guys doing out here?" The girl demanded immediately, skidding to a halt before them. Daphne watched her hair bounce for a moment, feeling a twinge of jealousy at the natural springiness. It was almost criminal that such hair was not being looked after. She then dismissed the whole line of thought, as this was really not the place or time. "Er," The wolf-girl paused, taking in their dirty, disheveled, damaged, and generally worn-down appearance. "You guys are Fred and Daphne, right?"
"...Winnie?" Freddie managed to piece things together slightly before Daphne. Shaggy's letters had described the girls well enough, noting both Winnie's hair and her preference for blue, but had failed to make mention of the fact that she was some kind of monster. Why was it no one could think to write down pertinent information, such as what a bunch of magic weapons did or the fact that at least one of your students was a supernatural being, anyway?
"Yup!" The wolf yipped brightly. "That's my-"
"Look out!" The bat swooping in on Winne was knocked out of the air with a wet thud as one of Abraham's boots went sailing into it. The girl had spun herself around and was crouching next to Daphne before the footwear hit the ground.
"Whoa, nice one!" Winnie grinned up at the heiress, showing off her impressive chompers. Daphne was a bit too busy spinning up the other boot by the laces like a sling and stone to grin back. The other bats in the swarm following Winnie screeched in unison as they began to descend upon the trio.
Then, Daphne felt Nivicolum alight on her shoulder.
The bats immediately broke off their advance, scattering in all directions as they scrambled in mid-air to avoid the owl. Whether it was some leftover instinct or the result of some spell Van Ghoul had left on his companion, Daphne couldn't guess. Either way, the spiderbats parted before them like the Red Sea before Moses. In that moment, it felt like a miracle of comparable magnitude.
"Oookay." Freddie slowly lowered the bit of metal in his hand, watching the flying beasts swarm around them in an agitated, but careful, perimeter. Confusedly, he glanced back at the girls, his eyes settling on the bird. "I'm really glad your friend needed you to watch her."
"Y-yeah." Daphne let the boot lose its momentum, breathing a sigh of relief. The talons digging into her shoulder were less than pleasant, but she considered it an acceptable pain at this point. Far better than what the bats' claws would feel like, that was for sure. "We should probably get inside now."
"Right." Fred nodded, stashing the length of metal back on the sled and picking up the pull-rope once more. "Let's get-"
Nivicolum then reaffirmed her position as the bird from Hell by taking off from the heiress' shoulder and shooting ahead to the school. The bats took notice immediately.
"Oh crap." Daphne dropped the boot, grabbing up the metal in one hand and the rope in her other. Winnie instantly became the couple's favorite person in the world by taking up position at the back end of the sled and pushing. "Get inside!"
Scooby Doo was a simple dog. He, like many of his kind, wanted nothing more than to eat, sleep, play, and enjoy the company of his friends. And, while the amount of eating was far greater than any Great Dane, or any canine for that matter, could hope to accomplish, and the playing often involved crosswords and painting and other sapience-required tasks, he felt himself to be an average specimen in all departments. Well, except looks. Even he had to admit he was a handsome devil.
Sure, he tended to cringe away from from danger. And threats of danger. And anything even remotely possibly a threat of a threat of danger. But, really, was it such a bad thing that he loved life to the extent that he could not stand the thought of it ending? He who fights and runs away, lives to fight another day, after all. And not getting into a fight in the first place just cut out the middleman, really.
This was something that Scooby had learned early in his life, and it proved true time and time again. Even now, at a stately eleven years of age, he knew it was a fact of life that could not be ignored. Others may call it cowardice - often, in fact - but they didn't live on four legs, with every scary thing towering over them like giants. Even on his hind legs, he was far smaller than most monsters he'd had to face over the years.
So that is why Scooby found himself shivering in terror inside of a hollow log as Matches angrily breathed gouts of flame at the bats that swarmed around them. The Great Dane may have become slightly more bold from his time spent here at Grimwood's, but he hadn't made that much progress. The mythical beast could handle this.
The dragon would have done well to take shelter with his friend, but his own size and pride prevented it. Simply put, a Dragon did not run from bats, no matter what their numbers. Even though he was still a child by his kind's standards, he knew he could not sully dragons everywhere by choosing to simper away in some dark nook.
Even if it did seem like he wasn't going to win this fight.
Matches caught stray bats here and there with his flame, which had only grown in size and strength with his lung capacity, but the main bulk were too nimble and high for him to accurately aim his attacks. The wind, not to mention the sheer force of the bats' collective flapping, pushed his flame off course and stole its heat. He swiped at those that dove close to him, too low for him to use his flame without risk of setting the area on fire, but only the slowest failed to avoid him while even more swooped in from behind.
Their claws could not pierce his scales, but they were small enough to slip between them, and the Spiderbats were smart enough to use this fact. While he had been more annoyed and worried for Scooby than anything else, the moment Matches felt one of his scales tear out from his back turned that worry back towards himself.
The dragon whipped his head around, letting off a blast of flame directly above his back, barely angled up enough to keep the flame from hitting the ground before it died. Matches cringed as the heat burned his exposed skin, but didn't let up until his breath was exhausted. The Spiderbat that was coming in to exploit his missing scale found itself burned to death instantly, its corpse overshooting him and hitting the ground.
Matches felt a moment of satisfaction at the kill, but it vanished as a set of claws slid under a scale on the back of his neck. He snapped his head up quickly, trying to force the gap closed, but this only served to drive the bat's claws into the flesh beneath the scale. The dragon roared in pain, whipping his head back and forth to try and dislodge the winged creature. The bat held on, curling its claws deeper into the neck despite the facts that the intense shaking had dislocated its anchored hip and the impacts against Matches' head had battered it greatly.
The other bats wasted no time taking advantage of the dragons distraction, descending upon him like a school of hungry piranha. He threw himself about wildly as he felt the multitudes of claws forcing their way under his protections, recklessly shooting out small bursts of flame almost randomly as he contorted and rolled along the ground. Several bats were crushed by his weight, but most of the cloud simply released him for just long enough to avoid death, before latching on again.
Matches struggled against the Spiderbats for many minutes, but exhaustion soon set in. His flame died, and his resistance slowed, then stopped. To tired to fight back, he lay on the ground, helpless. The bats let out a screech of victory, and set about the task of dismantling the dragon.
So focused they were, that they did not notice Scooby until he was tearing them apart.
A full half the group were lost to the Dane's teeth, claws, and muscle before they could disconnect from Matches, the tightly-packed-together bats allowing for clustered kills. Two more were swatted from the air as the remainder took flight. Those that were left, less than a dozen, warily circled the snarling canine, looking for an opening.
If there was one thing the Great Dane feared more than losing his life, it was to lose his friends.
As the bats closed in, Scooby Doo stood his ground.
Perhaps it was silly, but Elsa had always been a bit unnerved by Tanis' tomb. Perhaps it was the isolation, or the age of it, or just how solid it felt. Elsa was a large, strong girl; the immovable pillars and floor that did not so much as creak under her feet were things that she could not get used to.
The very purpose of a tomb wasn't something she liked too much either. The gold, the long-collapsed furniture, the broken pottery…. All these things were meant to stay in this room, forever, with their owner. Even the weight of the sarcophagus lids reinforced the idea that once you were placed here, you did not leave. She didn't know how long Tanis and her father were in their cases, aware but trapped, but she shuddered to think of it. No wonder the mummy refused to rest without a light.
Praying to never find herself in such a situation, the golem quickly passed through the tomb proper and into the rooms beyond.
"I didn't mean it…" She heard the trio before she found them. Sobs were evident in Tanis' voice. "I just," she sniffled, "I just got so angry."
"Of course dear," Grimwood crooned sympathetically. "We know you weren't trying to cause any harm. We just want to understand what upset you, that's all."
"I told you, I don't know!" The girl insisted. Elsa, having followed the voices, found them, in one of the smaller anterior rooms. Tanis was curled up in Shaggy's lap, burying her face in his shirt as he concernedly held her. Miss Grimwood sat just across from them, torn between frustration and worry. "I just said that name, and I got angry….."
"Elsa." Shaggy noticed the golem first, looking relieved for the distraction. Grimwood turned to look at her, and picked up on her anxiousness immediately.
"Whatever is the matter?" The Headmistress rose from her seat. At the tone of her voice, Tanis looked up as well.
"Um," Elsa hesitated slightly, not sure how to state the seriousness of the situation without sounding alarming. "How much of an emergency would it be if a couple hundred Spiderbats were attacking the school right now? Cause that….. that's happening."
"Alright, we stick close and move fast." Velma instructed. "If we get bogged down, the whole lot of them will bury us under numbers." Shaggy flinched, but his expression remained determined. Elsa still didn't consider the bats to be actual threats, but her grim look betrayed her worry for the others.
"Obviously." Sibella helpfully added. She might have decided to tread carefully around the occult hunter, but the vampire hadn't been entirely defanged. That was to say, Velma mentally backpedaled, her sarcasm still had some bite. Er. Her tongue was still shar….. Sibella remained passive-aggressively hostile.
"Phantasma," Velma ignored Dracula's daughter as best as she could manage, testing the swing of her dagger against the soreness of her shoulder. "You're absolutely certain of where they are?"
"Of course!" The phantom said fiercely, her voice free of any kind of mirth. She pointed to the left of the main doors. "Straight that way, on the edge of the bog."
"Alright," Velma nodded, memorizing the exact angle. "Go, we'll catch up." Phantasma didn't even wait for the sentence to end before she sunk into the floor and shot towards Scooby and Matches through the ground. It was a helpful trick for the surprise attack, but she wouldn't be much more than a distraction without a weapon. "Everyone ready?" The two ghouls and their coach nodded.
Without waiting further, Velma threw open the doors and they charged into the waiting swarm.