2019-11-19 - Return to Shadowcrest


Spidey returns some magic bling and gives Z the lowdown on Morlun.

Log Info:

Storyteller: None
Date: Tue Nov 19 03:00:51 2019
Location: Shadowcrest Manor, NYC

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Theme Song



He had been staring at the amulet for a week now, on and off. He was someone firmly rooted in science. But he was also a smart young man who had seen the existence of what can only be called magic, or technology so advanced as to be indistinguishable from magic.
He had also read many things. And they all agreed about this when is came to power, magical or genetic.
There was always a price to pay.
He had needed this amulet. It may have even influenced things in his favor, not that he was capable of seeing it happen. But Morlun was dead, and this was an unknown quantity, Such items needed careful handling. He had learned that when he was studying anthropology, because Indiana Jones was a brainy adventurer. But he knew when to accept that he knew just enough to know he wasn't the owner of this. Zatanna Zatara, the illusionist who was really a magician.

So this is why, on a chilly Monday evening, Spider-Man is winging his way back towards the place he had seen her last. Shadowcrest? Was that the name?
All he knew was that he hoped it was still there.

Shadowcrest's location at any given time can be tricky, but it seems firmly rooted in place for the foreseeable future. Zatanna is home, which is even better luck for Spider-Man. The walls around the gothic manor are tall, but that means nothing for someone who can spin a web any size and catch thieves just like flies; at least, assuming he doesn't feel like using the intercom at the front gate.

Shadowcrest has this…aura about it. Like Wayne Manor. Like the Brooklyn Blitz.
One does not, to paraphrase Boromir, simply swing into Shadowcrest. He drops to the street a half-block away, wearing his backpack. He walks towards the building, feeling oddly at peace as he reaches the intercom.

He does not see the slithering thing that is pulled loose from him, landing on the street and hissing, unheard, before scuttling off into the darkness to wait for him to leave.
The intercom button is pushed, and Spider-Man says, "Uhm, hi? It's the Not-Dead Webhead."

The response is immediate, since the intercom is hooked up to Zatanna's phone via wifi (god bless technology, eh?). "I'm glad to hear it. Come on in; I'll meet you at the door." The gate swings open, in toward Shadowcrest, on well-oiled hinges. The distance from gate to front door was really intended to be crossed with a caror at least a horsebut it's nothing too strenuous, and anyway, it gives Zatanna time to get on her work clothes and reach the door, which stands open wide when Peter reaches it. Zatanna apparently isn't worried about heating bills.

"Spider-Man. Come on in. I don't think anyone noticed you through the glamours on this place, but there's no point pressing our luck. I can't wait to hear everything. Can I get you anything? Water, tea, I think I have some bottled margaritas, sandwich fixings…?" She steps aside from the door, letting Spider-Man cross the threshold.

Spidey smiled wanly. "I think…I'm not sure you would, but do you have both lemonade and iced tea?" He steps inside, looking around, a little nervously. Layers upon layers, things unseen.
As he walks, he reaches into his backpack and pulls out a small cloth pouch. It is purple, with gold stitching, and CROWN ROYAL is embroidered into the side of the pouch. Because every tabletop gamer worth their salt carried their dice in a Crown Royal bag. It seemed fitting.

Zatanna, who carries her dice in a fist-sized black velvet bag with the wavy Cthulhu star painted in green on one side look it's a stylistic choice okay don't judge the Bible says not to judge, nods at Spider-Man. "Iced tea definite, lemonade possible. Let's head to the kitchen and see what's what." She pulls out her phone and a stylus to start looking up lemonade recipes just in case she needs to make some. She probably has lemons, so how hard can it be, right?

Her heels click on the polished marble floor as she guides Spider-Man down the hall toward the kitchen. "So, aside from not being dead, how are you?"

Spidey chuckles. "Well, it's…complicated. The saying goes that if life gives you lemons, make lemonade, buit if you don't have sugar and water, you just have sour juice. I'm going to show you something. If you have lemons, we can make lemonade, and then I'll mix us up a pair of Arnold Palmers. And while we mix and create…I will tell you of the malevolent force of nature Morlun was."

Something about Spider-Man's word choice makes Zatanna imagine beakers and bunsen burners and those long glass pipes that curl in the middle for no reason she understands, which makes her chuckle. "Sounds good then, Spider-Man. Arnold Palmers with Spider-Man. That's a Monday for you."

The kitchen is large, airy, and pretty empty for its size. The stove is the only thing that looks terribly often-used, with some permanent brown grease stains on its white surface, but there's a pantry, a fridge, cabinets that presumably hold cooking implements, all that jazz. Zatanna checks the fridge, spots the iced tea, spots the lemons, and extracts both. "Right. Looks like we're doing some kitchen chemistry, then."

Spidey chuckles. "You can do magic, as the song goes, but this is firmly in my wheelhouse." he steps up, then presents the pouch, the amulet within. "First…this is yours. It's not mine to keep. And *this* is firmly in *your* wheelhouse. I don't know if it helped. It may have, I have no way to know. But it's yours, not mine. It should go with the person who understands it, anyway. I know nothing about the care, upkeep, or feeding of a magical amulet."

Zatanna nods and accepts the bag, removes the amulet, and tucks it rather carelessly into a pocket (the chain dangles out because the jacket pockets are too small to hold it all). She offers the bag back in case Spider-Man wants it for anything. "Most people don't. I'm glad you don't need it any more. It really ruined the lay of your shirt." Her eyes twinkle wryly.

Spidey takes the bagback, tucking it into the backpack before placing it in a nearby chair.

Lemonade is a tricky recipe. Just enough lemon juice, easily squeezed. Just enough water. Just enough sugar - not too sweet, not too sour. But he had spent many a summer afternoon making lemonade with Aunt May, and he can get it just right with only a little adjustment.

Next, the Arnold Palmer, named for the man who considered it his favorite drink. It's fairly simple. Half lemonade, half iced tea. Ice cubes for the right refreshing temperature. And a few seconds later, Spidey is presenting Zatanna with the first tall glass, ice cubes tinkling.
"Here you go. Be honest, be brutal. Let me know what you think."
The challenge laid down, he commences with making his own.

Zatanna waits for Spider-Man to make his own drink, if only so she can clink her glass against his. After an exploratory sip, she discovers, "It's nice. Thanks for making it." And for squeezing lemons with proportionate spider strength. "A drink that makes it easier to tell a story, or were you just stalling on telling it?" she asks curiously, with no apparent judgment.

Spidey lifts the mask to sip his drink.
The formalities over. Here's where the rubber meets the road.

"Morlun is from a race of alien beings that are known as the 'Ancients.' They have a lifespan of centuries, maybe even millenia. They consume the essence of various animal totems. An analysis of his DNA revealed the genomes of nearly EVERY genus in the animal kingdom. They are parasites. They can draw the life energy from living beings, but Morlun apparently found special sustenance in the act of physically devouring them. And although he was alone here…he was the patriarch of a family of Ancients. They call themselves the Inheritors. Which, I think, says something about what they believe is their place in the multiverse."

"Or about their attempts at indoctrinating believers," observes Zatanna, who has dealt with more than one cult in her lifetime. She crosses her arms on the counter and leans over them, watching Spider-Man closely. "But go on. You deposed him from his family, or you killed him?"

Spider-Man nods, then goes to the backpack and pulls out a vial, bringing it to Zatanna. It is half-filled with blood, as dark as heart's blood. "Here. your very own piece of the bastard." He pauses, then says, "Pardon my French." He takes another sip. "He's dead. We figured out their weakness. RADIATION. You put that vial near any radioactive source, those cells will start dying almost immediately. The radiation weakened him to the point where a regular knife was enough to kill him." His lips tightened. "He started to beg for his life, at the end. He said it wasn't PERSONAL…that he was just HUNGRY. But I didn't kill him. But, sadly for him, there were plenty who felt no such limitation on taking a life."

Zatanna accepts the vial and considers it. "I can sympathize with where he's coming from, but extending your life just to live is pretty stupid." She raises her gaze from the vial of a dead man's essence and asks, "Do you know what he was doing with his life? Anything? Just hunting to eat, eating to live, living to hunt?"

Spidey sighs. "Yep. The multiverse's General Zaroff, hunting his version of The Most Dangerous Game. Going out on safari. Hunting the Spider-Avatar With Tooth and Claw. He'd find one universe's avatar, hunt them down, eat them…and then, poof, on to the next universe. Maybe bringing part of his kill back to the Inheritors. Sharing the kill. This is the part that worries me. What happens when Daddy Morlun stops bringing home the Spider-Bacon?"

Zatanna fiddles with the vial, wanting to make it dance on her knuckles but having the good sense not to risk spilling vampire blood in Shadowcrest. No thank you. She takes the towel off the oven's handlebar, lays it on the counter, and sets the vial atop it, where it's unlikely to roll. This done, she returns her attention to Spider-Man. "You wouldn't be lucky enough to have killed them all, if that's what you mean. I doubt their intelligence was tied to his the way Dracula's brides are always dependent on Dracula, so I'd expect them to be continue to be hungry and continue to hunt. If they had an filial loyalty, which who knows given the kind of evil we're talking about, they might want revenge on you; or if they have any self-preservation instincts, they'll stay away since you know how to kill them. You spread the word on that, right?"

Spidey nods. "SHIELD knows. The other Spiders know. And…well, now YOU know. But I don't know what they will do if they knew we know about their weakness. Will they stay away, or will they simply be more careful, bide their time? I don't think I can handle doing what I did to fool Morlun into ingesting radioactive material again. Once was enough for me."

"Probably not," Zatanna agrees and sips her drink. "Are you resistant to radiation? At least, the kind of radiation we're talking about?"

Spidey is silent for a long moment.

"He…thought I was pure. But I'm not. A genetically-engineered spider gave me these powers, but before it did. it was bathed in radiation. That radioactivity is part of it, part of me, now. But he didn't see it."

Then he opens his mouth and pure lunacy spils out.
"…so I injected myself with potassium-33. Enough to poison Morlun when he started to…well, dine on me. He didn't know I was poisonous until two pints of my blood and a cubic inch of my shoulder was in his belly."

Zatanna didn't do well in chem, so she has no idea what the significance of potassium-33 is. "What I mean is, if you get attacked, could you be carrying some kind of nuclear weapon without risking harm to yourself?"

Spider-Man rubbed his neck. "Carrying around highly-radioactive materials are a danger to people other than the Inheritors. We can try to put together weapons to fight them with, but we have no idea when they would show up, if they even do. The best thing we can do is watch…wait…and prepare. But since they have some sort of arcane presence, maybe there's something you can do with that sample which would…I don't know, detect their presence? Resonate if any appear in our universe?" He smiles sheepishly. "I'm just spitballing. I have no idea how what you do works."

Zatanna chuckles and tips her hat back on her head without dislodging it. "Set up an alarm system? It can be done… but in all honesty, I'm not the best for the job. That kind of spell requires complex spatial and temporal components I've never been any good at." Those admissions hurt to make; that's obvious in the flex of muscles in her jaw. She admits it anyway, though, and forces herself to brighten as she continues, "But there's always a way. Let me think… you could get an alarm from someone who can work that kind of spell, or I could work on a ward tied into a physical object. That could last a very long time, and give you enough of an edge to fall back and regroup." Her eyes flick over Spider-Man. "Is there anything you always wear, something like jewelry? A necklace would be best, but a ring would work well too."

Spidey chuckles. "Can't afford a ring…or anything like that. People would wonder." He sips his drink. It is as refreshing as it always is. "I do have my own early-warning system. Morlun caused some sort of intereference, but even that is a signature in itself. Jangled my Spider-Sense. That's not something I'd forget easily." He looks to Zatanna. "We might have some time before serious stuff becomes necessary. Do you have a computer? An email?"

"Sure," Zatanna confirms, straightening up from the counter and patting her pocket, which presumably has a phone in it. "Thinking you'd want to get in touch with me in a hurry?"

Spidey nods. "Actually…" he takes out a SD card. "All you'd ever want to know about Morlun, but too scared to ask. Video files. Observations. Notes, Audio recordings…I should probably warn you about those. People get hurt and worse on those recordings."

Zatanna nods soberly and accepts the SD card. She considers casting a spell to see the contentsshe's pretty sure that would workbut decides it would be better to just put it on her computer and watch it there. Less chance of psychic resonance that way. She makes a note to keep Morlun's blood as far away as possible while she watches, in case the act of watching counts as a form of worship that might reconsitute his essence. "Thank you. Do you need this back right away? If so, please stay here while I download it. The kitchen is the safest room in the house, for a visitor."

Spidey smiled. "Keep it. I made a bunch of copies to give to others. It seemed simpler." He takes another sip. "Listen…thank you. For everything. Even if the amulet didn't do anything, at least you did something. A place to rest and recuprate when I needed it a lot."

May as well try to drink the sea with a spoon as argue magic with a scientist. Zatanna just smiles and nods. "You're welcome, Spider-Man. I was glad to help. Our, er, mutual friend thinks very highly of you. That's more than enough for me."

Spidey flushes red under the mask, and then he sighs. "A lot of people weren't so lucky. I'm just hoping that we're ready for them next time. In the mean time…" He pulls the mask down. "…there is a gang meeting with some Maggia thugs in an hour, and I need to go listen in on their plans, maybe put my own two cents in." He puts the glass down. "Listen…take care of yourself, okay? And if you need any sciencing done, let me know. I happen to be good at the sciencing,"

Zatanna nods. "I won't keep you, but one last thing. Just remember it's almost impossible to be ready while on the defensive, because your efforts are focused inward while your enemy's are focused outward. That means they get to set the rules of engagement by determining time and place. If you're serious about finishing the fight, you have to figure out how to take the fight to them." She waves a hand in what is either a negligent or mystical manner, take your pick, and tells you, "You won't get lost on the way out. Go ahead, I know I can't keep up with you, Spider-Man."

"I think you are far ahead of me in many ways, Miss Zatara. But we each have our strengths, and no sense having a lung try to be a heart. Hasta lasagna, don't get any on ya."

A minute later, he steps out of Shadowcrest, firing a webline as he passes the gate…

…and picks up his infernal passenger before he gets 100 feet.

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