'The Origin Story'
Disclaimer: All Buffy characters belong to 20th Century Fox, various other corporations, and Joss Whedon.
Marvel is the private playground of Stan (the man) Lee, and yet more corporations.
Kelsey I'm not sure about, you'll have to ask Joe about that one.
Speaking of which....
Author's Note: Okay, here it is, the obligatory 'Halloween Costume Fic'. This one, though, is Joe's fault. Specifically his story 'Purrfection'
, which provided the kernel from which (with his gracious permission) this story sprang. My story doesn't quite share the same universe as his (though it's awfully close). Call it the universe next door.
After reading his early chapters and seeing that poor Harmony wasn't represented, I decided I had to give the kid a break.
And things sort of went crazy from there.
Author's Note II: If you're curious about the character Harmony dresses as, there's an (exhaustive) profile of her here
Dedication: To Diana, for many years and many thousands of pages Beta'd; thank you. To Joe for the seed from which this sprang, and to the many readers on TtH who have given awesome feedback and encouragement--you guys are the reason there's anything here past chapter one, and you rock.
"You're going as who
Cordelia's voice could cut just like a... sharply cutting thing that cut you, sort of like a knife, only sharper, and Harmony cringed a little as the girl's words drew blood. Well, not real
blood, obviously, but the fictional blood that the cutty thing would have drawn if it were actually there--it was one of those things Ms. Larkin talked about in English Lit; a meta... metamorph... metaphysical! Yeah, that was it! The blonde would have smiled in triumph at having remembered all that from a class she usually slept through, but Cordy's glare told her that it would be a bad idea to do so.
"I told you already," she said to the girl instead, trying her best to sound all reasonable and calm and stuff. "She's a cool superchick, with neat powers and everything, like we all said we were going to do." Looking around the Sunnydale high cafeteria to make sure no one was watching too closely, Harmony pulled a small stack of comics out of her book bag. "I even did research, see?" She put them on the table in front of her, beside her lunch tray, and opened the top one to show the other cheerleader. "Here she is, right here."
With a longsuffering sigh, Cordelia leaned over to look, along with Cassie and Anna. Aphrodesia was ignoring the proceedings, busy instead eye-flirting with one of the football players sitting at the next table (Proximity to the cheerleader's table was a measure of how cool any social subgroup was--jocks got to sit close, geeks, nerds and outcasts were all at the far end of the cafeteria).
"God, Harmony; did you bump your head getting off of the short bus today?" Cordelia's sneer was precisely calibrated to inflict maximum pain as she looked up from the comic book. "I mean, your dimness factor is well known to me, but that's why I took time out of my busy schedule to explain to everyone--especially you--what the plan was for our Halloween costumes this year." The others were snickering as they looked at each other, enjoying her humiliation as they always did. Of the assembled Cordettes, only Kelsey, sitting at the table across from her, was looking at Harmony with any visible sympathy... or maybe she was just imagining that. It was hard to tell, sometimes, just what
Kelsey was thinking. She was easily pretty enough, and popular enough, to be included in their clique, but there was definitely some oddness there. The girl went beyond 'quirky', edging quite a ways into 'weird'... and that wasn't even counting
the thing where she liked to go out with other girls instead of guys....
Harmony pulled her eyes away from Kelsey; she got distracted very easily, something that had been a problem since she was a little girl. The comment about the short bus stung quite a bit, actually, since she really had almost been forced to take special classes once, until her parents threatened the school board with a lawsuit.
"Um, well...." Cordelia was still looking at her, one perfectly-plucked eyebrow raised expectantly. Harmony smiled brightly as part of her automatic 'please, please
like me' reflex, and started again. "I know you explained it, and I even went to the comic book store to do research and everything!" She pointed to the comic the dark-haired girl was still holding. Cordy was monumentally unimpressed.
"I guess it was too much to hope you'd manage without somebody holding your hand," she told the blonde, with just the right level of sneer curling her lip. "God knows, I've been your lab partner often enough to know just how deficient you are!"
"Even a comic book has too many big words for you, huh, Harm?" Anna nodded sagely from her spot on the other side of Cordelia.
"That's right; she looked at the pretty pictures, saw it was another air-headed blonde, and that was enough for her." She pointedly flipped her own dark-red hair back over her shoulder. "Never mind that the whole thing was supposed to be us going as super-heroes
"As completely babelicious superheroes," Cordelia corrected, nodding. "Although that obviously goes without saying for us...." She paused, made a show of looking Harmony over with a disapproving air, then added "Well, most of us."
Another stab of hurt went through her.
"Hey!" It came out as a sort of submissive whine, which she hated, though by now the habit was so deeply ingrained that she couldn't help it.
Kelsey cleared her throat quietly, even as she used her fork to play with the remains of her lunch on the tray in front of her.
"Actually, the one she picked is probably in the top five, if you're talking about hot chicks in the Marvel universe. Whatever else you've got to say about it, Harm's definitely got taste."
Kelsey, unique among the Cordettes, was actually a comic-book geek, and wasn't ashamed of it, either. Cordelia, looking displeased with her judgment being questioned, scowled at the girl.
"Yeah, she's hot. Pretty much every female in comicbookland is hot. What do you expect? They're drawn by men
." She brandished the book at Harmony again. "What she isn't
--and this is sort of key--is a superhero
. If five of us dress up as heroes and one of us goes as a villain, it ruins the whole concept!"
Harmony could feel her lower lip starting to quiver, no matter how hard she tried to stop it. Cordelia had been her best friend pretty much forever, which of course meant that deep down inside she didn't really mean
all the things she said, but still....
"The geek behind the counter at the comics place didn't tell me she was a villain," she tried, her voice plaintive as she tried to appease her friend. "And I worked really hard on my costume; it's going to look sooo hot!" Harmony tried to project as much cheerfulness as she could; the extra-wide smile helped hide her trembling lip, too.
"That's some costume, if it makes you
look hot," came the usual snide comment from Cassie.
"She started with a full face-mask," Anna told her. "That's a necessary first step on the road to Harmony hotness."
Kelsey's thoughtful "But the character isn't exactly a villain; at least not all the time," was effectively drowned out by the girls' laughter, and Cordelia finally called an end to the lunchtime meeting of the Cordettes by standing up.
"I suppose it's too late to fix this; I know I don't have any free time or energy to redo everything for you." She tossed the comic down in front of Harmony. "If we end up losing that costume contest because of you, I am going to be extremely
pissed. Just so you know."
With that, she swept away, followed by the others. Kelsey gave Harmony what might have been a look of sympathy as she left... and then she was left sitting there alone. With a confused sigh she gathered up her things, stuffed the comics down into her book bag so that no one who mattered would see them, and headed off to class.
Her costume really did look pretty good, and she'd been so proud of how she'd picked out her own character and everything. Somehow, though, what should have been simple had ended up going wrong, just like always. It hurt some, but at least she was used to it by now.
* * * * *
"Are you serious?!
Harmony stood frozen in the hallway outside of the Biology classroom, screened by a group of chattering freshmen from the cluster of jocks only twenty feet away. She'd been heading towards them at a quick walk just moments before, because she'd spotted her current boyfriend, Brian, among them. Now, though, she felt like her entire body had turned to ice... just like that weird 'weather anomaly' that had frozen Irene Jacobs mid-step back in junior high. (That had been seriously weird, though the Mayor's office had assured everyone that it was a perfectly normal, if very rare weather thing... some kind of 'arctic super-downdraft.)
She shook her head, violently enough to make her long blonde hair fly. Focus, she needed to focus on what they were saying. Maybe she hadn't heard it right. She was ditzy and stupid after all, like Cordelia was always telling her, so maybe Brian hadn't really
said what she thought he'd--
"Swear to god, man; it happened." Brian was grinning at his fellow football players, that much she could see clearly, even through the intervening crowd of insignificant freshmen. "We were parked out on Miller's Road, and we were getting it on, only she stops all of a sudden and wants me to put on a condom." The other jocks nodded in sympathetic understanding.
"I hate it when they get all prissy like that," Eric Mercer told him. "Is that when you told her about the coke?" Brian smiled, his eyes gleaming craftily.
"You bet, man. I gave her a story about not having any condoms, but I did
happen to have a bottle of coke... and everybody
knows about how a little coke kills all the little swimmers, right?" They all laughed, and Brian continued with the story. "And she believed it, sure enough. I'll tell you, though, I nearly died when we got finished, and I handed it to her, and she started to drink
it!" They laughed harder, and Eric had to wipe tears of mirth from his eyes.
"What did she do when you told her she had to, you know, shake it up and fire it right up in there?"
Brian had to hold up his hand and take a moment to compose himself before he could speak with something approaching a straight face.
"She asked me--and I swear this is true--she asked me if it was sugar free
, 'cause she's on a diet and counting calories!"
That was enough to make every one of them basically collapse laughing, and even some of the passersby were grinning. Harmony's face felt like it was on fire, and tears of humiliation were streaming down her cheeks.
Yes, it had happened just like that, and yes, she'd believed him... what reason did she have not
to believe him? They'd been dating more than three months now, and she'd thought he really liked her, maybe even... but no, he hadn't.
"Okay, bro, that is so cold." Another jock, Terry, was trying to be serious and mostly failing. "I mean, the girl is okay to look at, but you couldn't find someone dumber if you tried." His lips twitched a little. "And there you go, giving her non-diet cola, so now she's going to be fat and
, you mean," Eric chimed in over the laugher. "Seriously, dude, that is the chunkiest cheerleader we've got. How come you've stayed with her this long?"
"Physical conditioning," her hunky boyfriend told his friends with a cruel smile. "I put her on top when we're getting busy, and that is one serious workout!"
She couldn't stand to hear any more. Hugging herself tight, Harmony walked quickly away. She was going to miss her last class of the day, though of course it didn't matter. It wasn't like she'd understood any of her math classes once they got past long division, anyway.
There was still some last minute work that needed to be done on her costume. She'd thought the idea of dressing up was a waste of time when Cordelia had first brought it up. Right now.... The idea of becoming someone else, even for just one night, was actually sounding like a very good thing.
* * * * *
It was all about the green, for this particular comic-book girl, so that's what Harmony had done for the costume. Green opera gloves, to start, which had been easy enough to find in the little retro clothing boutique downtown. She'd cut the hand part off at the wrists, though, since it turned out to be incredibly annoying, trying to do anything with her fingers encased in satin. That left her with a smooth covering from wrist to upper arm, which she had made much more interesting with multiple bands of gold ribbon encircling each arm, with little gold buckles fastening each band.
More green for her legs, of course, starting with some amazing platform heels she'd found. The one-inch platform was modest enough; it was the five-inch heels that were giving her a little trouble as she walked back and forth in her bedroom, surveying the effect in the mirror. Those shoes were actually the most expensive things she'd bought for the costume, though of course she could wear them for other things besides a silly Halloween party... assuming she didn't trip and break her neck first, trying to get down the stairs to the front door of her house. Anyway, the shoes were great. And green, which had not
been easy to find. Shiny, metallic emerald leggings hugged her from ankle to mid-thigh, very nearly the exact color as her shoes, giving the impression that she was wearing skin-tight, thigh-high boots (with open toes, though, which was much
She hadn't been able to find anything close to the weird green metal... tiara? Crown? Whatever, she hadn't been able to find one, and even though her character actually did
change outfits sometimes (unlike most of the comic book people), that darn spiky green tiara thing was almost always there. Harmony had compromised by making one from scratch, using some green satin, shaped around plastic pieces cut from empty two-liter bottles. She'd done all the sewing herself, thanking her boring aunt Maribel all the while for having taught her the basics when she was a little girl. The gloves, too, she'd modified herself, sewing the gold ribbons into place so they wouldn't loosen and shift around.
The core of the whole costume, though, she'd been able to find ready-made. The amazing new costume shop that had appeared last week, 'Ethan's', had really saved her life. She posed in front of the mirror, checking out the way the corset fit. It wasn't -exactly
- a real corset, of course; those were ugly things that women had worn underneath their clothes in the olden days, to make them look skinnier. This one was much too pretty to hide, with decorative embroidery in gold thread and such beautiful workmanship that it put anything in her Victoria's Secret catalogues to shame. It was corset-like in that it had laces along both sides, which could
be pulled tight (though she had no plans to do so), and it was even made of leather. Extremely thin, soft, supple leather, which was neat enough, even without factoring in the mind-boggling fact that it was green.
The tall, skinny English guy who'd sold it to her had been very nice to her, listening intently as she described what she was trying for, and when he'd pulled this
out from someplace in the back room, she'd thought he was some kind of magician.
He'd grinned very oddly when she told him that, and then named a price so low that she hadn't believed it.
"It's an intriguing idea, this costume of yours," he'd explained to her. "I simply must
see what you'll do with it."
Once again pulling herself out of the distracting daydreams, Harmony sighed, and walked back and forth one more time, practicing in the shoes and watching how she looked in the outfit. It looked pretty good. Maybe not as good as Cordelia's insanely sexy black latex catsuit (ha ha; there was a joke there, since the other girl was going as the Black Cat), but then Cordelia had hired some semi-professional art chick to make her outfit for her. And, at least Harmony wasn't going to need a wig to become her
She shook back her golden, waist-length hair, and gave her reflection her bestest, most 'heck yeah I'm confident and sexy!' smile. It wasn't a very good one, since she was never confident, except when she was following her pack leader along with the rest of the Cordettes, and she sure wasn't feeling at all sexy after the thing with Brian, earlier. She fingered her hair uncertainly, winding the golden strands around her finger, wondering what he would think of her current look.
Yes, 'golden' strands, not just 'blonde'. She'd used a whole can of the new hair glaze product to upgrade her hair color for the night. Usually her somewhat limp hair never got past 'yellow', no matter which brand or hue of coloration she tried. Tonight, though, her locks were shimmering with an almost metallic luster.
She looked good, she did! (she tried her best to forget what she'd overheard, about being the chunkiest cheerleader at Sunnydale high... even if it was true.) Turning back and forth, she eyed her thighs and backside, which still had more than a trace of stubborn baby fat clinging to them, despite endless cheerleader practices and a solid hour on the treadmill every night. And her waist was definitely several inches thicker than, say, Cordelia's.
Harmony's eyes blurred a little as she recalled the many, many times that her mother had poked her somewhat soft tummy and mercilessly criticized her appearance. Mom's always telling me I need to diet more, and exercise harder,
she thought to herself, folding her arms tight against her chest. The only reason Dad married her is because she was super-cute when she was young. She even looks pretty good now, for an older person... which I guess is easier when you don't have to work, and can go to the spa every single day.
Harmony sighed unhappily, not exactly pleased with where that line of thought always led her. I'm going to be the same way; I'm going to be just like her. All she has is her looks, and I'm not even as smart as she is. I'm not as pretty, either, which she manages to tell me every chance she gets.
She sighed, wishing again that she was beautiful, and thin, and talented, like Cordelia. Cordelia, who was going to be a famous actress as soon as she finished high school, while Harmony got left behind to marry somebody like Brian. Somebody who would use her, and then laugh at her when her back was turned, and probably dump her as soon as someone who was thinner and prettier came along.
attractive enough to snag a rich husband for yourself," her mother had told her recently, on a night when she'd drunk more wine than usual. "Even though you're fat, and a total air-head, you're still half-way cute. What you don't have is that something extra, that something that makes everyone take notice of you." She'd taken another drink, then, and considered her daughter with bleary eyes. "How you can manage to be fairly pretty, and at the same time so painfully ordinary and forgettable is a mystery to me."
Holding her cheerfulness before her like a shield, Harmony had smiled hopefully at her mother.
"Y-you think I'm... pretty?" The woman had only sneered at her.
"I said 'fairly pretty'. In a bland way, though; boring, ordinary." Another drink, apparently not noticing the way Harmony's shoulders had been shaking with silent sobs. "You need to be special, if you want to catch a rich man like your father." The father that at that moment had been off on yet another extended 'business trip'. Harmony had noticed that her mother tended to drink more, and act bitchier during those long absences, though she didn't know why. "A boob job," her mother had announced out of nowhere, eyeing her sixteen year old daughter speculatively. "That might be enough to rescue you, especially if we go a little overboard with it." Nodding to herself, she poured the rest of the bottle into her glass. "I'll ask Doctor Fallton about it the next time I see him, and find out when he can schedule you." One more drink, and her mother's head was lolling back on the extremely expensive, very fashionable sofa.
"It's never too soon to hook up with your first husband... and unless you find one soon you're just gonna be a bland, non-special girl... with a huge, ever-expanding ass...."
Harmony shook her head, finding herself back in the present and staring into the mirror. With difficulty she forced the tears back before they could ruin her makeup. Her reflection seemed quite a bit plainer than it had before she'd visited those memories again, her breasts smaller, her butt bigger, her waist that of an ever-so-slightly chunky girl. Self-consciously she reached for the laces on the corset, reversing her earlier decision not to tie them. Because they were on the sides she was able to do them up herself, and she worked determinedly until they were pulled as tight as she could manage. Something about the construction of the garment made the constriction much less... constricting than she'd expected. Even though it felt very snug, and pulled her waist and tummy in by several inches, it wasn't -quite- uncomfortable.
It actually felt rather nice, like being hugged close by someone across every inch of her lower torso. It made her happier with her image in the mirror, too, though of course her chubby thighs and ass were still all-too visible. The emerald green skirt she had laid out earlier was still on the bed, and she picked it up. Her character sometimes wore short skirts, though most of the time her outfit was basically a one-piece swimsuit that left her super-long legs bare except for what the boots covered. Harmony, still feeling inadequate, opted for the skirt, and slid it on, over her high-heels (with some difficulty) and up into place at her waist. It was short, though still long enough to help disguise the size of her bottom. And it swished back and forth as she walked, she discovered when she took another experimental turn around the bedroom.
There was nothing to be done about her breasts, of course. Unlike Cordelia (who was already endowed to a totally unfair degree), Harmony wasn't
going to stuff her top. Granted, the dark-haired head cheerleader looked absolutely stunning in her cunningly padded outfit; any male who saw her outlandishly huge breasts would probably end up tripping over his own tongue. Personally, Harmony thought that was a little crude, especially coming from someone who kept complaining about how all the female comic book characters were 'blatant male wish fulfillment'. Nope, there was no way she was going to do that kind of thing herself; she had too much pride.
Besides... she'd already totally screwed up the little gel insert thingies from the best 'enhancing' bra her mother had gotten her, trying to cut them free and fasten them into the corset.
She sighed one last time, combed her hair back from her face (getting some shimmery gold on her fingers for her trouble) and turned her back on the mirror.
"I guess that's as good as it's going to get," she told the empty room, with an overly-wide, somewhat tremulous smile. "Let's get going! I'll show them I'm as good a super-babe as any of them!"
Her hands flitted nervously from her breasts to her tummy to her behind, and her smile faltered and died. With a look that held more dread than actual confidence, she walked out the door and into the gathering night.
* * * * *
Ragnarok had come, and somehow the Enchantress was squarely in the middle of the chaos. Looking around quickly, Amora tried to determine where exactly she had appeared.
Midgard, of course; that much was clear. The air stank of burnt chemicals, and the night sky was hazy with pollutants. Equally obvious was the fact that this was America. She'd been here many times, either doing battle with various superheroes, or else simply enjoying the pleasures that modern society could provide her. Shopping, especially, was quite a wonderful diversion; even moreso when one did not have to actually pay for anything purchased.
A nearby howl distracted her from her musings; the details could wait, for now she must take care not to get caught up in the fighting.
For fighting there was: this place, be it large town or smallish city, was fair teeming with demons, and monsters of every conceivable description. Scattered melees had broken out up and down the street where she stood, though in some cases she saw groups of creatures banding together with a gleam of purpose in their inhuman eyes.
A errant gust of wind pulled soft skeins of her impossibly lustrous, knee-length hair across her face, and tangled it sensuously around her slim form. She made an impatient gesture, and murmured a certain Word. Immediately her golden mane rippled, moving of its own accord until it was conveniently behind her shoulders, where it would now remain, loosely flowing and yet orderly and perfect, no matter what might transpire.
Moving quickly, though without unseemly haste, the tall woman strode across the street. When she reached the foot of the tallest building in sight, she traced a glowing rune in the air with one slender, graceful hand. A moment later her boots left the ground, and she floated slowly upwards. This was not flight; that was a much more complex working. The simple levitation spell was more than sufficient, however, to raise her the four stories to roof level, and seconds later she was stepping daintily onto the flat, gritty expanse atop the structure.
A quick survey of the skyline (such as it was) told her that she had never visited this place before... at least not within the span of a human lifetime. In the distant past, perhaps, she might have passed through. Perhaps she had even dallied upon the shore she could see in the distance, passing a pleasant day, or week, or month with one of the short-lived mortals who occasionally caught her fancy. Tonight, however, there was nothing here that charmed her. A quick departure was definitely in order. She would return to her palace in eternal Asgard, locate whoever was responsible for her abrupt materialization here, and then make the fool suffer for the indignity of this--
"Ah you Sarah Connah?"
The deep, somehow metallic voice startled her, and she whirled to see a looming shape stepping out of the shadows. At first glance it seemed human, though a large example of the species, and she relaxed for a moment. If there was one thing she need never fear, it was a human male. They were so easy to enthrall, after all--
"Ah you Sarah Connah?!" the figure demanded again, more loudly, and now Amora saw the glowing red points that floated in the center of the bulky man's eyes.
Her own eyes, a flawless, dazzling green that outshone any mere emerald, narrowed in response. Rather than answer the creature, she raised her hand and drew it through a slow, intricate pattern. The figure strode slowly forward for the long moments it took to cast the spell, his massive boots crunching upon the rooftop with unnatural heaviness. He was barely ten feet away when the eldritch energies the sorceress was gathering finally reached fruition, and then the rooftop was bathed in a searing, acid green light.
The mystic bolt struck the figure with the force of a speeding juggernaut--or perhaps one of the mortal world's 'Mac trucks', lifting the man into the air and hurling him backwards to crash into the rooftop machinery with bone-shattering force. The form slumped and lay still, and she nodded in satisfaction.
"No," she murmured as she turned to again survey the town. "I am most definitely not
A minute passed as she opened her mystic senses wide, and a tiny pout graced her perfect, ruby-tinted lips.
"What I am, is most emphatically confused." The admission would have surprised any of her immortal contemporaries. Was she not Amora, the Asgardian Enchantress? Was she not one of the most skilled magicians in all the Nine Worlds?
Her (only occasionally disputed) position as the most beautiful woman in those same Nine Worlds did not, unfortunately, help her in the current situation, though of course her awareness of her supreme beauty was seldom far from her thoughts.
Here, now, the problem was that she could not sense Bifrost. The Rainbow Bridge, prime access point between Midgard (Earth) and Asgard (her own home dimension) might move from place to place, but it was always present, somewhere, on the mortal plane. At the moment, however, she could detect not the slightest trace of its presence. Oh, there was
a dimensional anomaly; some manner of chaotic dimensional interface or gateway was throbbing beneath this town like a massive, dark-tinged heart. That very darkness, however, made her wary of seeking it out and attempting to use it as a means of returning home. If it was attuned to the lower, more savage dimensions, then it would be a long, possibly dangerous journey, and she much preferred paths that were more comfortable, and less fraught with peril.
Amora sighed. Until she learned more of the current situation, it was probably wisest to simply lie low, gather some thralls to serve her, and wait to see how things evolved. This was not, in fact, Ragnarok, the ultimate battle that was said to lie at the end of the world. For one thing, she saw no towering demons of flame, and Surtur's ilk would surely be present in force if the world were indeed tottering towards extinction.
There was, however, something here. She sensed it at the edges of things. There was a fraying at the place where reality's fabric brushed against this place. Or, even more intriguing, a re-weaving of that fabric. Another god was involved, someone perverse, chaotic and cruel. She, of course, as a royal of Asgard, was immune to whatever effect was being overlaid upon the mundane world, but it might well be what was causing the disturbances in the street below. Perhaps it was even behind the sudden appearance of--
"Terminate Sarah Connah!"
She shrieked out loud when the hand grabbed her arm with crushing force, much to her shame. It was the same figure as before, though looking much worse for wear, now. The burly man leaned his face close to hers; not difficult, when she was nearly as tall as he in her high-heeled boots. She gasped when she saw the gleam of metal beneath the torn flesh of his cheek, and the obviously artificial eye now revealed, still glowing malevolently red in the darkness.
"A golem?" she whispered, trying to pull away. "Is this some dwarven trick? An ambush, to slay me in this forsaken place?"
Beautiful she was, powerful and seductive as no other female in all the worlds she might be, but the Asgardian Enchantress was not universally loved. Far from it, in fact... and perhaps for those very reasons. The machine-within-a-man did not answer her. Instead, it held her arm tight with one steel-boned hand, and clamped the other around her pale, lovely throat.
And then it squeezed
She struggled, her free hand moving by reflex into the gestures of spellcasting... to no avail. Any magic would take too long; already the world around her was swimming. Her lungs yet held air--it was the blood that was being blocked by the ever-tightening grip. Blood she needed, else consciousness would flee, with life close behind. Desperately she took hold of the machine's forearm. She could feel the cold alloy rods moving within the clammy flesh, a caricature of a living being. Her slender, shapely fingers dug deeply there, her long nails driving inwards until they scraped metallic bones. With all the strength that was in her, she pulled.
The machine seemed unconcerned at her actions. It was, after all, many times stronger than any human.
Amora was no mere human.
She was no warrior, true. She did not waste her time with training at weapons, or honing her body with endless drill and the hurling about of heavy weights. The only time she exerted herself physically was in the bedroom (though her exploits there were the stuff of legend). No, she left the brutish, physical battles to the hairy oafs more suited to the task; those such as Hogun, or Volstagg, or Sif. Still, she was a daughter of Asgard, and as such she was far superior to any human.
Superior, too, to any grinning metal puppet.
With a fierce effort she pulled the hand from her throat, slowly, and against the continued attempts of the machine man to keep it there. Its face could not register surprise, though she imagined she could hear dismay and confusion in the whine of its straining motors. The hand gripping her other wrist was squeezing hard enough to shatter mortal bone, and though it pained her, she refused to show weakness. Instead she drove the automaton back, step by slow step, until it teetered on the edge of the roof. It remained so completely focused on its attempts to kill her that it never saw the danger until its feet found nothing but empty air beneath them. When it tottered backwards it held tight to her arm, attempting to bring her along as it fell. She did not allow that. Releasing her grip, she used her fist to smash the thing's elbow joint, the blow landing like a daintier version of Thor's own hammer. Already battered by her earlier spell, the arm gave way, leaving the hand and some attached arm still hanging from her wrist as the rest of the machine fell in silence to crash upon the street below.
Amora pried the hand free, and tossed it down to join the rest. This time she did not turn away, waiting instead until the infernal device stirred once more, looked up to meet her gaze, and then dragged itself awkwardly to the base of the wall. When it dug gleaming fingertips into the very brick and began to climb, the golden-haired sorceress gave a resigned sigh.
"Where, oh where
is my Thor, when there is finally a use for all those muscles?"
Wincing a bit at the pain from her bruised arm and throat, she sent her agile fingers dancing through an intricate pattern, while at the same time whispering a summons to the hordes of tiny elementals that swirled through all matter. The spell she used would not have affected a living being in any way; the elementals were barred from that by decree of almighty Odin himself. Against an unliving device, however, there was no such obstacle.
Energies built, channeled through the blazing lens of her Asgardian life-force, and before the machine had climbed even a third of the distance separating them, she let the spell fly.
The creature disintegrated.
Quickly, quietly, and without undue fuss. The metal within the flesh slumped into dust, and poured out through every tear in the fleshy envelope that surrounded it. The remaining meat fell back to the ground, and this time it lay still and did not stir again.
Amora stood back from the edge of the roof, hoping that there would be no further encounters such as that. Worriedly, she cast another brief spell with the ease of long practice. A shimmering disc appeared in the air, hovering before her at a convenient height. A faint glow came from it, softly illuminating her face as she peered at her reflection in the insubstantial mirror. A relieved sigh escaped her perfect lips when she found her face undamaged. She was a powerful sorceress, yes, and a fiercely intelligent woman. Still, her flawless face and magnificent body were her most treasured possessions, and she guarded them both jealously. The greater portion of her magic was devoted maintaining and enhancing her beauty, and also in using it to fulfill her every whim and desire.
She cast a spell to heal the bruises at wrist and throat, and spent another minute or two with minor cosmetic workings to repair the mussing caused by the brief struggle. As she was finishing, the sound of flapping wings from overhead drew her gaze upwards. There, against the disc of the nearly-full moon, she could see a massive winged shape soaring.
"A gargoyle," she whispered, wonderingly... then she frowned prettily. "Though I have never seen a gargoyle with a head of long, ebon hair!"
Clearly there was no safe place to hide, not while every sort of creature imaginable (and a few that were not) prowled this town. She glanced into her illusionary mirror again, just long enough to cast an unnecessary de-tangling spell on her gloriously golden mane. Then she dispelled it, stepped to the edge of the roof, and cast another levitation to lower herself to street level once more.
There was more than one way to remain safe in the midst of a battle, and it was time she played to her strengths.
Not for nothing was she known as The Enchantress.
* * * * *
Monsters abounded this night, that was quite plain to see. Amora, however, had noticed that there were others abroad in the streets as well. Some were merely the usual human cattle, fleeing and bleating in blind terror, some managing to escape, others falling prey to the demonic and bestial predators that pursued them. Others, however, were neither monsters nor prey, and it was towards the nearest of these that she walked, the heels of her boots clicking rhythmically as she swayed forward. The man whirled, one hand coming up to steady the battered fedora atop his head, the other holding a coiled whip.
"Hold it right there, lady!" he called out, his voice tense, though not especially afraid. Amora liked that; he should serve quite well. She continued to approach him, the graceful sway of her hips accentuated by the short skirt that swished back and forth in time with her movements. His eyes fell to track that motion, and she smiled faintly. Of course he looked; few who lived could resist her when she employed her most powerful weapons in this way.
"Hold it," he tried again, his voice less certain now.
"No," she told him, her voice a thing of softest silk, the very sound caressing him like a lover's touch. She raised one hand, idly brushing it along her full, perfect breasts, watching as his eyes followed helplessly. Stepping in close, stopping only when she was within arm's reach, she raised that hand and lovingly caressed her cheek, snaring his eyes with her emerald gaze as she did so.
"Kiss me," she breathed, even as she gathered her magic into her exquisitely formed lips. He didn't resist, could not resist, and when the kiss had ended her power had already bound him in chains that were as powerful as they were intangible.
"Do you love me?" she asked, almost playfully.
The man nodded frantically, nearly losing his hat in the process. Amora smiled.
"Excellent. Then of course you must protect me."
"Yes! I will!" he exclaimed, his eyes wide as if he sought to devour every inch of her exquisite form. Gunshots from around the corner drowned out the rest of his adoring words, and she was not particularly interested in hearing them at the moment anyway. Careful not to endanger herself, Amora peered around the edge of the building. Another of the non-monster individuals was crouched in a doorway, standing protectively over a wailing woman, and a smaller, motionless form. The gun-wielding figure was holding several creatures at bay, though the blood that streamed down one side of her face made it clear that she had not escaped the battle unscathed.
Feeling just the slightest bit reckless now that she once again had a love struck warrior to protect her, Amora decided she needed to add this person to her collection. From her place of concealment she cast another mystical bolt, this time the more elaborate version that required both hands, and resulted in an even more powerful effect. She gestured and whispered for the span of three long, slow breaths, grateful for both the distraction provided by the hero before her, and the bewitched thrall guarding her back. The spell, when it erupted, was a blast of green force so dense it was nearly solid, and it threw the attackers back as if they'd each been struck by an angry titan.
The Enchantress swayed a bit; by this time she was growing somewhat tired. Forcing the weariness away for the moment, she strode into view, her hands judiciously raised as the figure turned two very large handguns towards her.
"Don't," she said, her voice as soft and caressing as ever. "I'm here to help."
The woman--for woman it was--quirked one delicate eyebrow in response, but did not fire. Amora blinked when she got close; the woman was even more beautiful than she'd first thought. True, the breasts were outsized, even larger than her own full, perfect orbs. Even so, the woman's body was lithe and well-formed, and her shining brown hair was woven into a thick braid that brushed her trim backside. More than that, this gun-wielding warrior exuded pure sex from every pore, even standing there in khaki shorts and a blood-stained tank top.
Amora would have been jealous, if not for her own unshakable self-confidence. She was easily more beautiful than the woman before her, and her sex appeal was second to none. No, this woman was no threat to her in any way. To the contrary, actually; she represented a magnificient trophy that the Enchantress simply had
"I'm Amora," she said, walking closer. The two persons the woman was protecting were now visible as a battered young woman, and a motionless child, possibly her son. There were copious amounts of blood on the boy; streaming from deep claw marks that covered his face and chest.
"I'm Lara," the woman with the amazing breasts finally said, her voice surprisingly deep, with a rich, delightful accent that made something inside Amora clench with awakening lust. "Lara Croft. What sort of weapon did you use on them?" This, as she crouched beside the boy and began tearing his tattered shirt into strips, making pads which she then pressed firmly against the still-bleeding wounds.
"No weapon," the Enchantress told her, watching as the glorious creature fought to save the boy's life. It looked to be a losing fight, and finally, (and not without a careful calculation of her current energy levels), she knelt gracefully beside the boy, across from Lara. "Here, let me."
The healing spell outlined her hands in soft, emerald-hued light, and she took a small amount of delight in the wondering expression on the human woman's face (the mother, crying and jabbering incoherently, she ignored as inconsequential). It was difficult; Illusion and seduction were her primary gifts, along with some lesser magicks that could alter the physical world in specific ways. Healing was a discipline all its own, and not one that had ever interested her, beyond preserving her own precious life, of course.
Even so, a goddess of Asgard was not easily denied, and this time was no exception. Within minutes the boy's eyes were fluttering open, and his breathing came more easily. The worst of the wounds were sealed over with fragile new skin, and the mother was sobbing now with tears of relief. Lara looked at Amora with gratitude in her eyes... and no fear at all, which likely meant that she had encountered the supernatural before.
"You saved him," she said, a smile on her rather gorgeous lips. Amora smiled back, trying not to let her weariness show.
"A gift for you, my lovely warrior," she told the woman, and then she leaned in and kissed that remarkable mouth with her own. Tired she might have been, but the Enchantress was never so exhausted that she could not wind a vulnerable heart around her little finger. When she pulled away (reluctantly), Lara was staring at her with love struck awe.
"Are you mine?" Amora asked needlessly.
"Always!" Lara swore, crawling forward on hands and knees to kneel worshipfully at the feet of her goddess.
At that moment, a small horde of shambling zombies discovered them, and both of her defenders were quickly very busy protecting their mistress. As Lara dropped her foes with perfectly placed headshots from her pistols, and Doctor Jones (as he told them he was called) used his whip to swing up and over the first line of undead and quickly begin spreading a pool of gasoline from a can he'd spotted beside a stalled car, Amora wondered once more just what had caused this event. She raised a shield as Jones ignited the gasoline he'd spread, instantly engulfing the entire second wave of zombies. The barrier wasn't impenetrable; it was adequate, however, to keep the burning undead from stumbling into her, the mother, and the wounded boy until her protectors could finish them. Once these were taken care of, she would gather a few more, and then go somewhere to wait things out. Mystical eruptions such as this were usually short-lived, at least on the mortal plane. When it had passed, she would return to her life as it had been, as an immortal goddess, living, scheming, and loving the centuries away in Asgard.
Frankly, she couldn't wait for all of this to be over and done.
* * * * *
Harmony blinked, and nearly stumbled because of the high heels she still wasn't used to wearing. Looking around, she saw that it was still night, and the streets were still scenes of confusion. Now, though, it wasn't rampaging gangs of monsters that were the source of the chaos, it was the aftermath, as everyone still able suddenly found themselves once more... well, 'themselves'. The blonde girl blinked again, standing stock-still as she processed the last few hours.
She remembered it, all of it, with perfect clarity. She'd known that Sunnydale was a weird place, of course, but this
!. She could even guess the cause of it, now that she was no longer bound up in the middle of the effect. An invocation, no doubt drawing on some extra-dimensional entity of great power and antiquity... a greater demon or abandoned god, probably. Frowning suddenly, it occurred to her that her thoughts were moving more quickly than they usually did. Things seemed... clearer, less hazy and confusing. Probably a temporary residual effect of the magic,
she thought, her inner voice turning bitter. And it sucks, too, because I know exactly how much I had, for that little while, and how much I've lost now that I'm back to just being dumb ol' Harmony again.
All that power, all that beauty
. Intelligence, self-confidence... everything that she'd never had before, and would never have again. She started walking again, deciding that she'd better get home before the police got themselves straightened out and started rounding up everyone as looters.
She made it half a block, glad that her Amora self had sent her thralls off on various intelligence-gathering missions once her energies had recovered enough for her to protect herself with magick once more. If any of them had been with her when things reverted to normal.... She shuddered just thinking of how embarrassing it would have been for someone to see her morphing from the perfection of the Enchantress back into the bland, ordinary, very non-special form of a chunky little high-school girl. She passed by a shop window just then, one that was miraculously unbroken, and she almost tripped again.
The girl in the window, the woman, rather, wasn't her. Or at least, it wasn't the 'her' she was used to seeing. She was taller, for one thing, probably a little over six feet in her heels. And her legs! They went on nearly forever, and were absolutely perfect in their non-chubbiness. Every part of her was perfect, actually, from her firm ass to her tiny waist to her full (but not crazy-big) breasts. Her face was so exquisite that it belonged on a magazine cover--only no magazine could afford to hire someone who looked as beautiful as that. Her hair, too, was hers and not-hers; long and blonde, yeah, but thicker than what she usually walked around with, and softer, and falling all the way to her knees! The deep, burnished gold of it didn't wipe off on her hands when she grabbed up a double handful, either, and she had to concentrate on steadying her breathing when she caught herself almost hyperventilating.
Her hands roamed over her body, her eyes glued to the image in the dark glass. She looked even hotter than whatsername, the girl in the Elektra
movie. Similar, in that she was tall, and slim and fit-looking, only her own curves were just a little fuller all over. And of course there was the impossible gorgeousness of every single inch of her.
"This...." She gulped, only now realizing that her voice had changed too. The habitual whining note was nowhere in evidence now. Instead it was soft, and velvety, and so rich that it sounded good enough to eat. "This isn't real... is it?"
Maybe it wasn't. Maybe she was still caught in the spell, lost in the altered reality that had been laid over Sunnydale like a blanket earlier that night. She supposed there could still be lingering whirls energy that were holding the artificial matrix in place, especially with the dimensional rift active below the town.
Harmony paused, considering the fact that she still knew so much about how magic worked. If that was still the case, and if her physical form was still in the altered, Amora shape, then maybe....
She looked down, noting that her leggings and high heels had morphed at some point into actual boots, as thigh-high, skin-tight and supple as anything in the comic books. The left one had been torn during a scuffle with a smallish demon, before Indy had decked the thing with a right cross to its little jaw. The Enchantress, an even bigger diva about her clothes than Cordelia at her worst, had an extensive repertoire of spells to deal with such things. So, just to see....
Harmony's hand traced a Norse rune across the green leather of the boot, her nail leaving a glowing line across the material as it moved. There was a tiny, almost imperceptible tugging in her tummy as her energies were drawn into the spell, and then....
The damage was gone, erased like it had never been.
"Wow...!" She breathed in hushed excitement. Unable to resist, her eyes darted around frantically until she found a public telephone, mounted on a post outside a 7-11. The area was deserted at the moment; everyone who could get inside had long since gotten inside. Looking at the phone, which was about thirty feet away, Harmony raised her hand again (pausing momentarily to admire how her fingers were now long, and graceful, and sported some really killer, perfect nails). This spell took longer than the mending one, a slow count of one... two... three.... She knew how to do it, though, and when it was completed a bolt of laser-pure emerald light slammed across the intervening distance like something out of Star Wars. The tugging in her belly was sharper this time, and she felt momentarily tired, and out of breath like she'd just run up a flight of stairs. Still, the bolt had done as she'd intended, smashing the phone into mangled junk. Loose change chimed and rolled across the ground as it spilled out, and she laughed long and loud, her beautiful new voice ringing out like bells made of purest gold.
"How about now, mother?" she demanded of the empty parking lot. "Am I special enough for you now
* * * * *