1963-12-15 - The 12 Days: Third
Summary: Wanda goes hunting for Christmas presents, and takes along Illyana to obtain that rarity: a pearl from Amphitrite.
Related: The 12 Days: First / Second
Theme Song: None
illyana wanda 

Most good things take effort to find. Otherwise someone would have everything they already need, and the world would overflow with people given too much of a blessing and not enough sense. That thought should be cold, classy comfort to the two young women digging their way through the hexagonal bowels of a submarine cavern system linked to the dusty, dry island of Alimia, off Rhodes. With next to no natural water on the island, it is barely populated; a tiny settlement sits on the harbour, abandoned since the Second World War. Yet these subterranean lairs connect tombs and the foundations of the old Hellenic city that once stood here; proof of dockyards carved into the very rock give wonder for anyone interested in looking at them.

Wanda could care less. She trudges through the brackish water that meanders in a deep tunnel that probably belonged to the old sewer system. The goal? A lost temple of Amphitrite, goddess of the sea and supposed mother of nymphs and oceanids galore. Not the sirens, though Rhodes has its legends that they resided here once instead of near Capri in Italy. Enough proof of drawings and sketches leads them deeper, and the witch holds up a flashlight, sweeping it over the rough-hewn, damp walls.

"Crossroads," she says in her flat accent. They probably mutually speak Russian, among other languages, but it's better to practice English. Then they can be excused as stupid tourists if this goes tits up. The tide isn't set to turn for another hour and a half. However, the tide turning probably means inundation of the sea caves that weren't smart to approach given the depth of the water and the absolute lack of a landing site.

The last crossroads led to Christian tombs. The one before that, a barrel of forgotten nails.

"Da. Is very wet, Wanda," Illyana remarks, a bit primly. She's providing light by way of a pointless center of illumination that follows them, some magic that requires no source but works as handily as a gas torch, the light white as a summer afternoon.

She hesitates, then clears her throat to get Wanda's attention, slogging up next to the redhead. "So, um… situation with person I liked," she says, diffidently. "I took advice. She said she likes me to, and now we are… together, I think," Illyana says, unable to avoid looking profoundly pleased at the recollection. "She says, likes me very much, too, though… she's a little, I think, embarrassed of me?"


Foetid water accumulated on the floor destroys a hope of stealth: one, it reflects the light, and two, it slashes around. Nothing too terrible, washing over the toes of boot, but it still presents a minor hazard. Footing is hardly even, either. No one thought about a perfectly smooth floor back in the day. The ceiling slopes lower, too, requiring Wanda at least to stoop forward to avoid bumping her head in places. The tunnel swerves around like a jiggly snake on a country road, decidedly angled lower. When they reach the crossroads, the brunette peers around the corner, sweeping her flashlight one way and then the other, flat to the wall.

"You found happiness?" It's a simple enough question from her, murmured back to Illyana rather than spoken. Sound travels a little too well down here. "Good. A shared life is new. Give her time." %R Time, that great force, seems to have a particular fondness for the House of S, doesn't it?


"Happy enough," Illyana confirms. "Do not know where will go, or what will happen. No one does. But am less uncertain, and— that is good thing, da?" She stoops and shuffles under an overhang, that magic light following along around her, and casts her gaze around for a clue that evidently escapes her perception. No love— Illyana's not much of a detective.

"Still, um… still figuring out some, uh… things," she admits, pinking. "But I think all will be good, in the end. Da?"


"No one does." The sweep of the beam takes into account the rough bricked in arch, and then Wanda takes point, pointing the flashlight aside rather than directly ahead of her. The chances anything resides on the island — anything human, anyways — is slim, but precautions govern her anyways. She has an unusual way of walking down here, feeling out the floor before she commits her full weight of it. Her habits slow her some, but she hardly cares. Better safe than sorry as she feels out the solidity of the ancient fired blocks. Dust and dirt crumble down, and she rubs her thumb and fingertip in the grit, headed forward. "We find the temple, and somewhere in there. I do not know it is still standing."


The matter of relationships cause her momentary pause. Not much, but enough as the tunnel bores downwards at a mild descent, no more than four degrees. They are definitely headed down towards the water level, and possibly lower. "Yes. Learning will happen. You will find what is good for you. Ask questions when you don't know."


Illyana nods and falls silent, moving in Wanda's wake as the air pressure becomes dry and briny, oppressive— the walls muted with extra weight and pressure. Surely they're under the sea level now, and Illyana visibly creeps closer to Wanda until she's almost scuffing the Red Witch's heels, as if the oppressive nature of the place is triggering some sense of claustrophobia.

"Wanda… are, um… are we nearly there?" Illyana says, eyes a bit wide and wild with creeping anxiety.


Ancient graffiti stands out, a plethora of languages: ancient Greek, Latin, Byzantine Greek, Italian. they are fairly meaningless to the sorceress without the addition of understanding, and she walks after giving them a once over. A fingertip taps a fish. "Christian. But old memory here. This is the sea's domain." That might be the best question about whether they are nearly there, and the air stinks fairly heavily of earth, brine, and limestone. Oppression is her birthright, sadly, and it's not something that causes her to buckle, but rally, even as they weave their way lower into a crooked lip and then a set of stairs barely wide enough for a child's foot chopped into the interior of the cliff. It means going down, and there's no sign in the dark where it ends up, only the slime coating the stairs hinting at the moisture ever present in the air.


"W-wanda, please, can we go faster?" Illyana begs, after another tense five minutes of descent. "I don't like it here. Something doesn't feel right." She reaches out impulsively, gripping Wanda's fingers— not to halt the woman, but as a scared young woman in desperate need of a lifeline to reality, someone to anchor her in safety as the darkness closes in. The flickering light she's summoned burns almost over-bright, trying to banish the darkness, but there's little that can be done about the heavy pressure of the seabed lurking over their heads, separated by just a few feet of stone and silt.


The warning of not liking a place might be ignored. If the witch were not a witch, that is. A look over her shoulder reveals her amber gaze, overcome by the motes of amaranth light and poppies confined to the outer rim of her irises. Reaching for her causes her to stop, stiff beneath the leather gloves used as a precaution for the earth being chilly in its winter rest. She isn't someone frequently touched, if that startled reaction is anything to go by, but her elbow locks against the possibility of shaking Illy off. So that counts for something. "You want to wait here?" It isn't a threat, not in that simple, inquiring tone. Someone far more familiar with Russian and the Slavic languages probably reads her cadences and tendencies better than a native American English speaker. Her humour is deathly dry, when it arises, and exceedingly rare most of the time. Likewise her clipped, terse manner of talking isn't rude so much as a product of Eastern Europe — and Germany, for that matter. She scans for some kind of sign, direction or trouble from the air, the Sight flooded through her. No stinting on this; her acute senses stretch out in search of the flaw, a wide angle used and then eventually she'll narrow down the details. "Old, old faith here. Nothing so close. You know the old stories of sirens? They sing men to madness. You wear wax ear plugs, you cannot hear them."


"Wanda-a-a-a," Illyana groans. She sets her jaw hard, teeth clenching audibly— but she forces herself steady, face drawn, pale, and set. Perhaps it's the tunnels, or the ocean, or the silence of the tomb, but something about place is leaving Illyana thoroughly miserable.

"Fine. Come. Sooner are done, sooner we can go," she says, pushing forward with a longer, hurried stride, moving as quickly as she dares towards the next door.


Wanda nods, drowning in the aural details of the place. Her habit of zipping down stairs quickly is halted; she carefully picks her way down, following the tight spiral and cursing wordlessly when her foot slips a few times. It's so tight that she can throw out her elbows and stop herself from going further, though she'll have to tend to her clothes afterwards. Subduing her opinion, she leads the way to ground level; the floor is three corkscrews down, flattening out into an irregular oval antechamber full of desecrated tile work that shows nymphs and sea sprites playing with one another. The desecration is graffiti or simply time, tiles knocked out of the friezes.


The sudden expansion of the room is enough to at least cure Illyana's spirits for a few moments; she gulps in air as she emerges into the main chamber, as if she'd been holding her breath. The light following her flies upwards and expands, casting illumination on relics likely left in mute darkness for thousands of years.

"Bozhe moi…" Illyana mutters. "Is amazing. Never seen such like it," she whispers, her voice echoing despite her low tone. Despite being unoccupied for centuries— millennia— Illyana seems to sense a holy place, and lowers her voice to a more reverent tone without even knowing she's doing it.


The air stinks of brine and rotting kelp, thick and stolid. There is no semblance of movement here, the atmosphere lying thick as a blanket of dust upon an attic room. The antechamber isn't larger than the average foyer, six by six, and it slowly stretches into a typical complex that's longer than wide with a row of columns covered in that same unpleasant slime. Whatever grows down here clearly likes the maritime climate, though it, much like the canals of Venice, is best not to think about. Stagnant water lies in places, dark and unapproachable, while the testimony of Italian and Latin and Greek implies those who came probably did not care for ancient beliefs and gods; their own was a singular, jealous one.

"Amphitrite's Temple," Wanda murmurs, and she pulls a dagger from her belt, jamming her torch into her pocket. It won't stay there very well, but she needs it to free up her hands.


Illyana settles herself after that first moment of awe, looking around, then nods at Wanda. "Okay. Let us find it, and be gone," she says, fingers curling around the hilt of an invisible sword. She starts poking around the area with her toes, scattering pools of water and looking at amphorae and urns, some cracked, some still intact. Unsure of what quite they're searching for, she seems to be merely casting her gaze towards anything unique— or even shiny, given centuries of brackish saltwater corrosion on many of the metals left in the temple proper.


The water barely moves. The liquid is deep enough no hint of the chipped tile floors is visible from an oblique angle, though standing in them reveals the treacherous footing: wells open up, other pools and puddles filled by cracks that host barnacles and razor-sharp shell slivers. There's not much shiny here, if the calcite and limestone pillars are anything to go by. Several of these are probably from the native landscape, given they are blocks filled by long lost marine creatures, shells, and embedded stones left by centuries of surf. The violence of the sea is restrained here, but the hiss of the breakers and the foaming water through the sea caves is highly audible. Wanda doesn't seem to care much for the water, given the way she minces about striving not to be caught in anything too deep. Good luck; one step puts her calf deep and she hisses, mincing forward. Swishing around leaves a swish of movement, and a low hiss that isn't watery.

But a sea krate? That's another story….


Illyana blinks at the sound of a hiss— the noise triggers something instinctual, base-level, and she spots a flickering serpent in the water behind Wanda's ankle.

"Wanda!" She shouts— but she flings a hand forward and lances of aquamarine ice materialize in the air, chilled to an oceanic hue by the dank saltwater around them. Shards rip through the water in a narrow, whipping arc— the first two miss, but the spray of projectiles fetch the snake out of the water and pin it whipping to the wall, the animal hissing in pain. The sixth spike hits it in the side of the head, killing it firmly.

Illyana abruptly yelps and leaps out of the water she's in, and for good measure flings a hand down to freeze it completely solid behind her.

"Snakes! Why did it have to be snakes?" she laments.


The snake is odd, not quite scaled so much as covered in oscillating patterns in silver and deep blue and dull grey, making it ideally suited to living in a coastal environment. The shape is much like a snake rather than an eel, though its elongated body has something of a keel shape rather than a flat belly. In the water, one can become triangular by evolution. The size of the snake is hard to miss, too, given the head is large as a bottle of hand lotion and the rest of the body commensurate to that: it'd make a boa look small as it arches up out of the saltwater, eyes glittering hot black. One? No. Try like six.

It's their mother's temple, after all.

Enter irritated witch, wading through a wave of bloody and now thrashing water that spins up to the line of her knees. Witch is a witch, after all, and her eyes are full of the light of a bloody dawn. She points her hand down and raises the other, singing her chant of clashing syllables that writhe against the ears: it's the hymn to Thalassa—the sea itself:

"Thalassa, I call, with eyes cerulean bright, hid in a veil obscure from human sight; great Ocean's empress, wandering through the deep, open the way!"

When the spell kindles, the water spreads backwards, pushed open into a corridor revealing bits of stone, the remnants of bodies that have not been taken by the sea — a leather boot here, a chunk of a buckle rusting away to nothing there, pottery shards. The water goes up and hovers, the wrack displayed in all its glory.

The snake is not thrilled about this, the other four thrashing around but at least visible for Illy to do something about. They're big. So hungry.


Illyana needed the space Wanda rallied for her— moving that much energy off the cuff was a little taxing, and it gives her some breathing room to really settle herself mentally and grab onto a nearby conduit of eldritch power.

She aligns her will with her spirit, coalesces furious blue power in her hands, and with a shout invoking the transfer of power, flings her palms at the snakes trapped in the sheet of water. More lances of ice fly out, sharp as thought and twice as fast, glittering as she summons them from the pools near her feet. Just for good measure, she shotguns it, too— erring on the side of lacerating every square inch of the cresting wave holding those snakes in place.


The earth has little feeling here, even if Poseidon was the divinity over sea and parts of the earth; certainly he caused earthquakes, and the horse was his sacred animal. The witch barely needs to worry, tapped in deep with her pleas to the powers that were and are, channeling a fairly hefty amount of energy from her own reserves and those generated on a boundary between wave and rock. The momentum helps, funneled right into the spell, though it means the walls waver constantly instead of being a rigid surface. Pliability might be alarming, as it also means the snakes can thrash around inside their cages, and anything passing through has to be blunted against the liquid. The projectiles have some degree of success, though anything lurking deep - like one smart bastard snake - is fairly safe as the seawater eats at the frosty edges and makes them less pointed. Not that it makes them feel any better.

One krate thrashes its tail and slaps the Russian against the back of the legs, halfway between knee and backside. Pervy snake is pervy.

The sounds within make an odd lamentation, beguiling and shimmery to the ear. Wanda just keeps chanting, though she adds to it.


Illyana screeches and leaps six feet into the air, and armor made of raw chaos given form congeals around her. The tiny witch is getting /mad/. She lands on her feet and flings a clawlike hand at the puddle that attacked her— this time instead of draining the puddle, she ignites it into a hellfury that billows steam towards the cavern overhead, flash heating it.

Focusing her mind into a weapon she also stops attempting something so elemental as thermal transfer and plays to her strengths— she lashes out with raw magical force, razor sharp whippets that can cut through stone. She slashes anything that moves near her, including quite a bit false positives, and by the time she's done, shoulders heaver and gasping for air, there's a fair amount of serpentine blood on the ground.


Poor snake: he doesn't know what hit him, especially when he goes up in very exciting flames. The blaze consuming its body comes out from the sea wall and starts shedding huge, disgusting, venomous flakes of snake ash down on her. A chunk of it bounces off of her head, given the chaos effect, though another shred of flesh wobbling off the roof drops at her head for a fine hat.

The opinion of the witch on this? She hasn't one, shoving back the tide, playing with the waves to keep them from collapsing. "Below is inundated. I pushed as far as I can back there." Her face is a mask of concentration; lips taut and eyes narrowed. "We go down, I think. You see anything else here?"


"No. I killed all of them." Illyana's eyes smolder with raging pleasure, and she stumps through the gore to Wanda's side. "We go down, then, da." She taps Wanda's shoulder to be sure she has the other woman's attention.

"Old building is unstable, and we do not know what is below. Failing all else, swim to me, and I will walk us to Limbo. Is safe there."

"Well, safER, anyway," she amends.


"Down means water, "replies Wanda. Her shoulders shrugged, she approaches the walls and holds back the diminishing walls. Water drains into the holes, though it doesn't quite slosh over the trapdoor in the floor that's hard to see, a slightly elevated circle that needs to be moved. It doesn't have a ring or anything to pull it free, alas, but it can be opened in some way or another. When it does, there's a tunnel full of brackish water and no light. Hold your breath?


Illyana considers the water, then cocks a brow at Wanda. "Do not know water-breathing spell," she admits, finally. "And shapeshifting whole self is, uh… not… something I've been practicing." She shifts her eyes around a bit guiltily.

"And… I am not very strong swimmer," she admits, finally, looking down at her feet. She looks disappointed that she's got no useful means to advance their mission, and is even a bit of a burden to Wanda.


Wanda arches a brow. "Can you give yourself gills? A fish head?" Yes, a fish head for the magical queen of Limbo. Sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures. She is still sustaining the spell on a drained level, allowing the water to fade. The witch presses her fingertips together to her brow, massaging out the knot. "Do you have any rope in Limbo? Here? Make a rope, tie it to you and me. Then you follow and run down the walls."


Illyana scowls at Wanda. "Can't take something real from Limbo. Takes too much effort to make it maintain form here on Earth."

Stumped, she mulls over her options, then blinks. "Oh! I know!"

She clenches her hand in midair, and a crackle of ozone surrounds her clenched fingers. When she opens them, a tiny pearl of pure chaos sits in her palm. "There! Little piece of Limbo— not so hard, and can find it. You dive in, then when you get to safe end, crush pearl. I can step my way to it," she tells Wanda, looking pleasantly pleased that she worked out a solution.


Peace on earth and mercy mild, thank the stars Illy can't be a cat or something. The world would never be the same.

Her gaze falls upon the pearl, and then Wanda reaches out to take the pearl. "That's one way to do it. Wait here. The snakes will fall when I go." She points to the floor, expecting that it will be opened, and takes the pearl. It may not be wise, but she sticks it in her mouth. Might as well; it won't fall out or destroy her ability to see or hold things.


"Errh… do not swallow that," Illyana advises Wanda. "Is raw chaos. Would probably make you sick, and not sure what would happen if stepped to it," she says, pinking a little.

She looks around at the snakes— most of which are dead, dying, or deader— and nods at Wanda. "Think I can manage this," she remarks, dryly. "Swim carefully, though, da? Is dark and deep where you go." She gives Wanda an encouraging nod, then deftly channels her willower into holding back the surging tide at Wanda's fingertips.


ROLL: Rogue +rolls 1d100 for a result of: 9


Swallowing that is probably a bad idea. Even if Wanda happens to be the vessel for Chaos, it's wiser not to invite the various Hell Lords and one Elder God, beloved is his name, to insist upon a personal visit.

She drops the spell right as she leaps into the opening in the floor. Illyana's light at least gives her some means to see she is not about to smash into steps, since whatever risers there should be have largely worn away. She dives in, unhesitatingly, and not about to surrender her leather jacket. Pride and drowning are matches made in infernal reaches. All the same, her feet kick hard and for good reason: the influx of all that water into a new hole is going to shove her forward, a veritable current she means to take advantage of, going with rather than against. By dropping straight in, she has a hope of pushing through the underwater tunnels before her breath gives out. Or maybe she can shape-shift. Maybe she can pull air from the water or make a bubble around her head.

As it happens, none of these things occur because a very irate krate happens to sit at the bottom of the tunnel and does not react well to the young woman who appears. It starts to swim forward, a brooding darkness that comes forth, fangs flashing and all that fabled sea snake poison — most potent in the world — being drawn.

Under the circumstances, Wanda has the subtlety of the Tsar Bomba. She can't cast; she's underwater and silenced. Thus her choices are limited. With the touch of chaos so close, her inherent gifts rebound and warp the moment of their inception. The dull shaking and the bouncing of the subterranean temple grows rather larger.

Then a hole blows open in a wall and one big sea monster snake comes bumbling through the wall of scarlet radiance tinged in the pure energies of chaos, along with a flood of seawater. Well, if it's any consolation, she's at least draining the cave to be searchable.

On the fourth day of Christmas, Wanda gave to Illy: a fourteen foot long sea snake, three drums of water, two huge fangs, and one awesome sack of cryptid venom! (Killing and harvesting not included. That's her job.)


Illyana staggers back in shock when crimson carnage explodes from the wall. Chaos roils around her as the monstrous sea serpent is transported from a cozy, safe den into a cold and over-bright chamber. The ire of the beast focuses on Illyana, who gapes in shock and instantly summons more armor to her, girding herself in promethium forged from the will of Limbo itself. She grasps for her Soulsword— but the blade would be of no use against such a beast. The hesitation costs her, and the snake lashes out with twin fangs, snarling and raging. Illyana shrieks and leaps sideways, tucking and rolling, then scampering towards an abandoned alter to seek cover.


Unimpressed snake: 1. Illyana: 0.5. Wanda?

Wanda is down there in a chamber gushing water, a chamber equally visible through the distorted space loop she just blew into existence. Water typically cannot rush up, but the position of the blasted hole actually makes that relatively possible. She winces at the fight going on and rips the wound of the hex back into herself, the scar on reality fading out as blood ripples through her body and bruises form where they weren't before. Nothing she has to say about that. Instead, she makes a hasty look around the place, including a jellied nest she will never, ever explain. Sloshing around until she's up to her breasts in that icky effluvium from the sea, or who knows where, is enough to hurry her right along. Grabbing the only physical man made object in there, a casket, she hoists it up and laments for its weight. Then it's back from whence she came, fighting against the current. If that should fail, then she'll crush the pearl against the wall with her hand.


The krate, for a mercy, has only its gross, slimy hide — unusual for any kind of serpent — and ridiculously toxic venom to use. On the other hand, it can thrash around fairly fast even if this temple chamber isn't especially large. It leaves few places to hide, and it smashes down one of the columns in its eagerness to get at Illyana. If it's a plus, it means more places to stab.


Illyana was not just scrambling for cover— she's a better warrior than that. Moving energy requires time. Requires /focus/. Requires effort.

So instead, the lithe little Queen of Limbo darts out of hiding, summoning a magical half-shield to protect her from those sharp fangs, and grabs the serpent on the run. Four long strides take her to Limbo, with the snake in tow— and she flinches as it hammers on the mystical shield, which cracks one tooth and causes screams of pain.

"DINNERTIME!" she bellows at the red-soaked grass around her— and pitches into another stepping stone, which returns her to the cave she'd just abandoned.

The sea serpent is left to coil and hiss in animal fear as the blood-colored grass starts to twist and writhe… carnivorous plants abound /everywhere/ in Limbo, and Illyana just dropped off one hell of a feast.


Angry Serpent flailing around bites at Illyana relentlessly if it can. It smashes against the shield and then curls itself around her, crushing if it can, squeezing as much as it can to make her stop.

Shouting for dinner does not seem to summon Wanda, but it does leave a monster in Limbo.

… in time to meet Wanda going, "Where it it? The pearl—it is inside it!"

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