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BLACK PANTHER IN: "EXPLANATIONS"

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The bitter, windswept peaks wield a cold as savage and keen as the blades of Frost Giants.The wind screamed and howled like ten thousand souls wracked by the most horrible torments. Its cold and ice layered teeth could strip the flesh from bone and clothe the bone with suits of ice. Nothing dared gainsay the hellish chorus of the wind; every living sound quailed and was struck into terrified, perfect muteness. Snow roiled about his boots, lapped at his ankles; an angry bone white ocean eager to embalm him in its life leeching embrace. No star marred the perfect blackness of the sky. No moonfire spilled from the heavens; no speck of light had the temerity or courage to break the life smothering strangle hold of the invincible dark.

This mountain hunkered like the ten million metric tons of malice it was, and it demanded a tribute of flesh and blood and death. All animal life had fled this mountain long ago, as nothing could gainsay it from exacting its tribute.

Yet TChalla strode easily through the savage, skewering wind. He was proof against its death dealing chill. His keen eyes saw through the heavy, impenetrable dark as if it was the brightest of days. His tread left no print upon the snow, left no track for any hunter...magical, animal, technological. God demon angel or mortal. The invincible dark that cloaked fatal dangers for most others was a most welcome ally for him, as it aided his already matchless stealth skills. He merged perfectly with the unending blackness. Virtually nothing could sense him, much less locate him. He was as invisible as the edges of a shadow in the gullet of a black hole.

And then came the taste of power and hate, the stench of forbidden energies leaking into the here and now from the Beyond. The frenetic hue of fear, the unholy emotion of netherworldly, flesh eating, soul devouring, insatiable hunger. Thousands of twisted, gnarled, rotted, claw tipped, sinewy hands erupted up from their snowy grave and latched onto TChalla's ankles. Thousands of lean, multihued, muscular, scaly arms burst from the mountain shoulder which now formed an impenetrable wall to TChalla's left, latching onto his stomach, chest, arms, back, and head. The effect was immediate and purposeful; TChalla was hopelessly pinioned. Claws raked his muscular physique, only for their owners--still hidden by snow or the black of the mountain wall--to wail and withdraw in gleefull agony as their claws and fangs shattered against the potent armor in TChalla's Panther habit. For this mission, TChalla was wearing his new and vastly improved black Panther habit with the gold highlights...a mixture of his traditional black garb and the gold highlights on his midnight blue Panther attire.

"I knew your arrogance would compel you to return," the deep, accented voice echoed. Smashing effortlessly through the hellish chorus of the wind's song. "All I needed to do was plant clues that would lead you from your Wakandan fastness to me, and you would compulsively follow; like an ant following a trail of crumbs into the lair of the Ant-Eater."

TChalla's voice was lethally calm. "You have one chance to release these creatures from your thrall, and unconditionally surrender to me."

The wind bore the sound of the mocking laughter of maddened souls.

"I will take my time with you," the voice was thickened by lustful anticipation of horrors unleashed, yet bore the unmistakable stamp of deep erudition and old European aristocracy. "There will be pain like you have never known. Your flesh will be rent by ten thousand fangs. Your blood will be drunk; like ruby wine. You will suffer agony upon agony upon agony; torment upon torment upon excruciating torment. And before your very soul expires...you will yield to me. You will surrender to me The Hammer of Corruption and The Heart of Entropy."

And then through the driving snow, heralded by the demonic wind, wreathed in dark purple and violet mystic flames which sprang like mating serpents from both metal gloved hands, emerald cloak whipping about him with royal wrath and final triumph, he came.

"And thus shall you fall once and for all, before...DOOM!!"

Tiny white and gold lights flashed in points and glyphs of highly potent technology and magic across Doom's armor. Power sprang up about him like a penumbra, it's brilliance beating back the once invincible dark.

"Suffer now the penalty for having the stupidity to attempt to defy DOOM!!!" he thundered as he extended his left palm toward TChalla. A deadly cone of volcanic violet magic power sprang out at the pinioned King of Wakanda with such ferocity that it scorched the very air between them.

TChalla simply vanished from the grasp of the creatures that held him a mere fraction of a second before the blazing magic blast smashed them to bits. Doom's power evaporated a swath of snow and slammed into the mountainside with such force that the mountainside trembled.

TChalla reappeared a dozen meters away. He appeared to be calm to the point that he almost wore a look of disappointment behind his face mask.

"Kill him!!" Doom ordered, and from the snow beneath his booted feet, the thick rock of the mountain's flesh, from the very air about him...they came. A silent, slavering surge of thirsting Undead, reeking of rotted flesh and the unslakeable hunger of the most benighted pits of horrors.

TChalla did not move until he'd confirmed what he'd suspected about these Undead to be true: these were not the sort of Undead that he would normally slay without regard. These were not the willfully wretched, the purposefully evil things that deserved no less than the most rapid, most extremely prejudicial massacre that he could mete out. No. These were souls in torment, held in thrall to an evil magic power, forbidden the rest that they richly deserved and wished above all else.

And TChalla could hear the power within many of them. He could smell their lamenting spirits, sensed their fury at their captor. He saw the mightier physiques many of them had, the wonderfully crafted medieval armament and armor adorning many of those standing head and shoulders above their fellow unfortunates. Armament and armor that did not lose and would never lose the luster and keenness and doughty craftsmanship, for the smithies that smelt this iron and forged these items of war literally crafted items that would never bow its knee to the trackless step of Time. And amongst these many hundreds of fell zombified victims, he saw the distinct symbol that he knew was there. The emblem of their home, the proud sigils of an immortal, warrior race.

The symbol of Asgard. These honored dead were denied their rightful release in Valhalla, due to powerful, foul sorcery.

Mortal soldiers, laypersons, barbarians from the Middle Ages and immortal warriors of Asgard had fallen and become zombies, all tormented by their captor's power. Raised and enslaved to their captor's whim. And they were upon him now, striking with all the despairing fury and skill at their command.

And TChalla became a symphony of acrobatic speed, flawless timing, untouchable elusiveness. Leaping, twirling, spinning, rolling, dodging. Pivoting, pirouetting, springing, torquing. Rebounding. All with jaw dropping swiftness, matchless grace, heart stopping quickness. And none could touch him. Such was his combat skill, his pantherine prowess, that every bullet fired, every arrow launched, every weapon swung missed its mark by a wide margin. Further--in a feat so dazzling that even their captor marveled at the skill displayed--TChalla manuevered each and every one of his attackers so that each of the attacks launched at him never menaced another innocent soul forced against their will to do their Master's malicious bidding; no bullet arrow or weapon scored zombie flesh; despite their headlong, blitzkreiging, heedless rush at their prey.

Having now learned what he wished, TChalla touched a button on the wrist of his Panther habit. Immediately, all guns ceased functioning in the melee.

Doom--howling with rage--took to the sky, his emerald green cloak flying back from his armored body in his haste. He extended both palms toward TChalla, and instantly weirdling bursts of red-orange death lanced down at The Black Panther with terrible force. Doom attacked with a special cunning, for he knew that TChalla now knew of the special nature of the zombies, and would not harm them nor let harm befall them. But Doom's attack came at such an angle...and the mouth of the conical blasts he launched at TChalla was so large...that if TChalla used his superlative reflexes to dodge Doom's attack, the red-orange power bursts would rage into the zombies and reduce them to nothingness. Forever damning and destroying the innocent souls trapped within their zombie flesh. If TChalla defended the blast, TChalla would be in the clutches of these self same zombies, and would have to slay them himself or be rent to pieces by their weapons and their ceaseless, thronging attacks.

If somehow Doom could look passed TChalla's nigh impenetrable face mask, he would see that TChalla's face bore a faint expression of near boredom.

With a fluid, arcane gesture T'Challa summoned a great golden light that sprang from his entire body in all directions at once. Where formerly nothing greeted the naked eye, extremely advanced technological glyphs written in ancient, coded and encoded Wakandan script leaped into prominent view along TChalla's armor, wreathing him head to toe in a script that was ancient when even Thor was young. Doom's slaughtering burst was swept aside as if it wasn't worthy of consideration. The great golden light engulfed every one of the silent, tormented, hungering zombies who--manuevered into a headlong rush by the cunning, canny King of Wakanda--were bathed in a glory akin to sunfire.

And when the incandescent gold light winked out of existence...both the King of Wakanda and all of the zombies were gone.

Deep within the catacombs below the snow covered flesh of the mountain, amid shifting, stygian hump backed shadow and vermin and the decayed and decaying bones of her victims, she watched. Puzzled. Her dark, armless gossamer dress--woven of spidery strands of shadow--fluttered and rippled regally in some unseen, unfelt wind. A lambent grey circlet of demonfire served as a belt, emphasizing her slim waist...and the terrible Mace of Malice that hung from the demonfire belt and down her shapely, comely right hip. Her eyes--vivid, venomous violet--sparkled like wicked amethysts against the ghostly, dread gorgeousness of her stygian face, arms and limbs. She--the darkest shadow amongst this amphitheater of shadows--let her Mystic Sight scour all that transpired. Try as she might, using all the considerable arcane lore at her command--born of millenia upon millenia of dark devotion, the gathering of fell magicks, cultivated cunning, heartless, brutal brilliance--she could not fathom what energies the accursed Wakandan King used, nor his current whereabouts. And this vexed her, as long centuries of scheming had honed an infallible sense of danger that she relied upon to overcome her foes when all others failed. And this sense was insisting that the Wakandan King was still an extremely clear and present danger.

"I know that you were seeking to throw me off my game by inciting fear rage vengeance and bloodlust within me. From that perspective, I can see why you chose to use your potent magicks to cast an illusion of Doom to bedevil me," the Wakandan's voice sprang from somewhere within the deep shadows thronging about her. " But you--like Doom himself--underestimate me. I know Doom far too well to be misled by any form of doppleganger; regardless of who crafted it or how it is crafted. Five years ago, Doom himself tried and failed to mislead me. Further, I did not then, do not now, nor will I ever fear Doom. Neither he nor anyone or anything else excites such a response within me. As for rage, vengeance, and bloodlust? If these next few moments don't proceed precisely as I wish them to, you will discover to your everlasting dismay that I never needed your help in those areas, for I arrived on this mountain with maximal levels of each."

This is how she discovered that her usually infallible Future Sight did not apply to this creature. Usually she was able to glimpse briefly into the future at just the right time, preventing any foe from ever catching her unawares. She was able to foretell the arrival of enemies, foretell their actions ere they took them. With this knowledge, she wreaked havoc most fearsome on all of her foes except for one...the one foe who sentenced her to this doom that housed her deep within these catacombs. And even though she sold her freedom and spirit at a most severe cost to her enemy, she was still bested. The only time she had been defeated.

Since that time, she'd developed other means to deal with her enemies that prevented her from being overly reliant upon her Future Sight.

"You are not surprised by my arrival. My arrival was unexpected...but not surprising to you. Thus do I learn more of you as you begin to learn more of me."

As it spoke, she felt her most ancient fury overtake her. This pathetic, impudent unworthy trash! This member of the most low scum of the Prime Material Plane! This creature is the lowest of the low. It is both human...AND male! How dare it speak to her, enter her sanctuary, cast a glance upon her, even THINK of her without her permission and leave to do so? It even arrogantly presumes and correctly guaged her fluency in its barabaric, unnuanced, unmusical Common Tongue!! For these bottomless affronts, she will gorge herself on its heart and feast upon its soul for all eternity.

But first, she must locate it. For it is well hidden. Her powerful Sight will uncover it ere long, but until then? She must encourage it to speak. Shortly she will find it, and cast judgement most terrible upon it.

"You risk much in confronting me," she said. Her voice was a marvel to the ear, a dagger to the soul. Beautiful, melodius, merciless.

"You risk more in confronting ME," it said, with insufferable arrogance and absolutely unruffled calm. For this further affront, she determined that after she tormented it to her pleasure, she would feast upon the souls of every Wakandan on this wretched planet.

She didn't like its calmness. Its calmness meant that it was in full control of its faculties and maximally alert. Yet it is both male and human, which means that it must egregiously err in huge ways that literally no other species could force itself to do. And it would err and give up its location, and when it does...

"You are a pathetic King of a worthless, water logged land populated by unworthy creatures whom you failed to protect from an otherworldly menace."

"You are misinformed. My land was never harmed or threatened in any way, my people were never menaced by anything; otherworldly or not."

"You know nothing of the peril you are in. You know not of whom you trifle with! I shall enjoy instructing you in the infinite error of your ways...and relieving you of your incalculably massive arrogance."

"I know precisely who and what you are," came the immediate enjoinder from the Wakandan King. "Given the high degree of intelligence that legend assigns to you, one wonders why you did not seize upon the chance to spite the creature that bound you here. Together, we can end the perpetual dreadfulness in your existence."

Her mind's Eye pierced through the intricate layers of strange energy that at first shielded it from her Sight. She quickly determined that this living trash was able to temporarily stymie her Sight by enveloping itself in a skein of power that is invisible to the naked eye of Humans. But her keen eyesight picks up infrared, ultraviolet and other spectrums. Furthermore, her powerful Mystic Sight discerned far more than what any regular "sight" could hope to unveil. Its skein was a cocoon of power--nonmagical power, strange in origin, but clearly and without doubt a potent power--which glimmered and dimmed, adjusting frequencies some 30 times per second...thus making tracking by energy signature a near impossiblity. Her Sight worked best when tracking the enegies of spellcaster. This living trash was not gifted strong and intelligent enough to work out and employ the puissance and intricacies of mystic might. She gave a cruel, inward, silent laugh. She had her prey in her sights and nothing would save it now. It hunkered carefully in the shadow, hidden behind a row of stalagtites and stalagmites that jutted from the far edges of the amphitheater floor and stretched up like miniature, pyramids even as the stalagtites surged downward like the gargantuan spear heads of the most colossal Earth Titans . Cannily, with slow, artfully placed steps...it would move from one stalagmite to another or mix its movement from stalagtite to stalagmite, just before or just after it spoke. Other times, it would stand still, but crouch down and lie prostrate upon the ground, hidden by the massive row of stalagmites springing up from the floor of the amphitheater toward a ceiling so high and vast, even she rarely saw it. It was trying to be guileful. It was attempting to thwart any hope of tracking it via sound by constantly changing the location, pitch, timber and clarity of its voice. Oftentimes, it would speak with its head turned halfway away from her, deliberately projecting its voice into the natural amphitheater of the catacombs of her home...using the earthy acoustics to bounce its sound all over the catacombs and halt any attempt to track its location.

Pathetic stupid unskilled male human.

"You know nothing of who and what I am, flesh trash!" Her voice was sibilant, sensual, savage. "How could a creature as lowly as you hope to even grasp...much less unravel...the powers and magicks wielded by your betters?"

"One might surmise that my ability to see through your illusion, dispense with your zombies, track and locate you, appear and yet be untracked by you, unravel the mystery of your identity, and converse with you in a language that I knew you spoke would be sufficient answer to your query," it responded smoothly. "However--"

She struck.

Quick as thought, silent as the pause between heart beats, her long expressive hands flowed through a single, fluid, aesthetic rippling fingered arcane movement. And the stalagtite and stalagmite rows that hid TChalla sprang to evil life, no longer a potent screen between it and her, but now a row of life endingly sharp, 30 metric tonne, dozens of meters wide, hundred meter tall stone teeth gnashing snapping and biting at him.The stalagmites and stalagtites slammed closed upon each other from four directions at once, row upon row upon row of catacomb shattering brutality. Row upon row of fangs closed upon it from all directions as if it was caught in the gullet of a shark. Its horrific agonizing death was upon it...and she would exult at the horrible sounds of its screams as its bones were shattered splintered ground to dust and flung about her home.

Except.

With uncanny reflexes, quickness, agility, dexterity, balance, and truly daring courage...it avoided the surging attacking fanged colossi. It leaped away with a speed so intense that it blurred into near invisibility, even to her eyes. It ran up the sides of the stalagtites as they retracted into the ceiling so they may pound down upon it again, spun and leaped and arrowed its way heedless of gravity across the face of the spearing and scything stone maw. Flashing with immaculate timing through the tiniest gaps and spaces as the stalagmites bit at it, as the stalagmites gnawed at it, as both stalagmite and stalagtite snapped at it. All to no avail. It was too swift, its evasiveness too magnificent, its skillful display too breathtaking to be denied.

And then she closed her hand into a fist.

And her final trap sprung to a close, as all the teeth of the stalagmites and stalagtites at once slammed shut and tight. Leaving no space whatsoever between them. They rammed into each other with terrible, terrible swiftness amid a huge cacophony of rock and granite, of earth and dust and darkness. And there was no space between the fangs of stalagmite and stalagtites. They fit together into a single seamless mass like the titanic continental slabs of the land masses of the Earth could be reconfigured into Earth's theoretical original land mass, the supercontinent Pangaea. And silence. Dreadful. Perfect silence, reigned. Silence...and death.

At the last moment, her magnificent magical senses screamed a warning, and her response...fine tuned by millenia of murderous warfare and treachery...was flawless. At a thought, the very air about her rippled like a wave coming to crash against the shore. Fabulous glimmering dark emerald motes of light sprang into glimmering existence about her and filled the air the way that falling snow floats about in a snowglobe. The very ground in a ten foot radius around her feet pulsed with power. Thaumaturgic sigils sprouted just below the dark rock's skin like glittering arteries of dark magic circulating the mystic ichor of some imponderably huge creature. A circle...thrumming with puissance, causing the rock beneath her feet to pulsate like a heart beat...formed about her, inscribed at its edges with runes and symbols of a beautiful, brutal, flowing script of inhuman origin.

A Circle Of Protection.

The Circle Of Protection was formulated none too soon. A silent, menacing, stygian sea of impenetrable black...so impenetrable that even her Sight was momentarily stymied...surged into the very edge and lip of her Circle. Immediately greenish lightnings sprang into life at every point of her Circle as the impenetrable black and the power of her Circle met, clashed, and strove for dominance.

Within moments her Circle prevailed. The sinister stygian energy was held at bay, though it pressed relentlessly against the shielding that her Circle provided. She did not recognize the American English term "DARKFORCE", as her people...the Drow...had come upon the very source of this power of which "Darkforce" was merely an outbranch. The Drow called Darkforce energy "Renor Flasmix"...BLACK ENERGY... and long had comprehensive mastery of it. Further, the genius, beautiful, treacherous, lethal Drow recognized Renor Flasmix as stemming from Neled zik'den'vever...The "Negative Material Plane"... and the Drow were legendary for summoning the most terrible creatures and powers from that dreaded otherworldly Plane of existence. For a moment, she nearly sent her thought into the very wave of Renor Flasmix that this irredeemably weak male flesh trash sent to eradicate her. She could use her arcane lore to craft a Forbidden Portal from the Neled zik'den'vever to this very place and time. She usually unleashed horrid the eternally thirsting, utterly horrifying soul slaughtering Quotek Ter'rol..."Soul Terrors"... for such work. The Qotek Ter'rol were creatures far more dreadful than even their name suggests. However, she immediately saw the trap buried within the Renor Flasmix: Were she to seek to craft or open a Forbidden Portal, there would be an inverse energy spiral unleashed upon her. Instead of summoning the Quotek Ter'rol, she would find herself battered by the unfathomable energies of the Outer Planes...and slung into the utter nothing betwixt dimensions. This trap would have worked on the many beings less cunning, less knowledgeable, less alert, less malicious, less powerful than she. But such was her keen intellect insight, her Sight, her brilliance and power that she espied this devious trap as swiftly as as Daredevil would note and track a platoon of stench emitting skunks. With a contemptuous gesture, she banished the Renor Flasmix back to the dimension of its origin.

So. The flesh trash King of Wakanda still lived. She set her mind to changing that reality via the most horrific means at her disposal. This decision is truly horrible, as she was very justifiably far feared for a malicious mercilessness and horrific creativity beyond the human for almost the entirety of her existence.

She immediately located this mortal King as it mated with shadow and rock outcropping near the extreme left of her field of vision, and...without warning or telegraphic movement of any kind...used her left palm to launch a searing, orange and yellow colored, many limbed lightning tree of magic force at the male flesh trash.

Because her Mystic Sight wasn't functioning, she had no way of knowing of Storm and the many sparring and training sessions of Storm and TChalla's which provided TChalla with an overabundance of preparedness for such attacks. However, she was not at all surprised to see the flesh trash display infeasible, mindbogglingly magnificent acrobatics as it effortlessly eluded the entirety of her attack. Her lightning tree eradicated into nothingness the rock formations and the shadows that these rocks provided the flesh trash king to hide in.

She'd seen such amazing feats before from the magnificent fighting monks of her time. These orders of warriors used their extreme discipline of mind and body to achieve the most incredible feats. Further, these fighting monks...via the strictest most nutrient dense diet conceivable, extremely intense, comprehensive meditative practices which yielded meditative union with Nature and the universe combined with incredibly intense, inconceivable calisthenics...cultivated a special power of the spirit which infused them with abilities akin to magic.

Even in her time, the Monks of Wakanda held a special and revered place amongst their magnificent monastic martial monk membership, and truthfully against all foes they engaged. They were well known for always being victorious in every form of conflict that they engaged in. In fact, all monastic warriors were greatly revered for their physical spiritual and mental prowess to such a degree that they were greatly sought after as sages healers protectors teachers caretakers of the defenseless [ if they were philosophically inclined toward selflessness and of benign spirit ] respected as impartial investigators judges protectors of Balance between factions [ if philosophically inclined toward neutrality ] or feared more than almost any other nonimmortal agency [ if philosophically inclined toward malice greed evil exploitation chaos etc ]. Regardless of philosophical inclination, the practitioners of arcane arts [ Wizards Sorcerors etc ] and the Divine Energies [ faithful Clerics, Paladins, Druids, etc ] were unanimous in proclaiming that Monks were prime offerings to hungry gods demons and the like if speedy and potent increases in power were sought. Further, due to their in depth analysis of anatomy and their cultivation of Ka, Monks were prized members of specialized harems whose members were able to thrill the soul as much as they pleasured the body.

Knowing this, she rippled her lovely long fingered darkly glistening flawless ebony hands in forbidden arcane gesture as words of power spilled from her lips.

Immediately a multichromatic skein of might, a thaumaturgic weaving of arcane energies sprang into being about the flesh trash. Before it could conceive even the beginnings of a thought, it was hopelessly pinoned amongst an aesthetic overlapping script of staggeringly puissant sorcery, wrought from the forbidden verbiage of death and existence. It was a Glyph of Warding, a Phrase of Power paralyzing the very breath within the male flesh trash.

Slowly, exultantly...fixing the worthlessly male trash with her immensely lovely, infinitely murderous stare...she strolled toward it. Letting its gaze slide over ever inch of the midnight skin, flowing unbound hair and perfection that was her. Every inch of her lissome body lovely beyond description. Her womanly curves fanning flames of the most endless desires even amongst the most chaste. Even men who exclusively desired to lay with boys or other men found themselves helplessly, perpetually longing for even her most hateful and scornful of words and deeds, once they beheld her. There was no man or woman who could refuse her, no spirit, no being Undead or alive that could resist her.

"I shall take my pleasure of you. Slowly. Thoroughly. Languidly. Ruthlessly." She whispered to it, as its most intimately lover might murmur the sincerest vows of love in its ear. "You will plead and beg for death, over the coming eternities that I shall repeatedly take my pleasure of you."

None have survived the sight of her pleasure, but of those unfortunate hundreds who received her intimate embrace...men women demons angels creatures demigods and more...none could claim they were pleasured by or enjoyed the experience. If one were to observe her taking her pleasure of her victims, the sight one beholds would appear to be two or more lovers wholly immersed in infinite pleasures love and joy beyond the description of words. The glistening sweat, the lithe writhing and movement and twirling and grinding, the kissing, the sounds and cries emitted, all sound like the soul deep expression of love and pleasures and joys beyond the reach of words. Beyond the boundaries of flesh.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Her pleasures were cruelties unending. Tortures unimaginable. Agonies beyond the abilities of the soul to withstand, beyond the thews of the mind to brace against, beyond the construct of the body to contain. The very depths of the soul is plundered and robbed by her. The flesh is hollowed and becomes merely a vessel bearing the imprint of her merciless will...and she will send this flesh vessel back to the friends loved ones and the most important most desired things of the being she takes her pleasure from. And the being will utterly massacre all that it loves and treasures, with just enough of its Self left consciousness to absorb the horrors of this act. Then...being utterly consumed and exploited in every way for her corrupt will, her magnificent malice...will it return to her pleasures. And as it pleasures her, she takes pleasure from it. Feasting upon its flesh and body. Either utterly consuming it whole, or healing its flesh so that she may eternally extend its torments at her leisure. This torment she found special joy in leveling upon the most stout harded of paladins, the most serene of Monks, the most devoted of Clerics, as their only other option would be to be sold wholly and utterly to the creatures entirely opposed to the divine edicts of their Gods or the entities embodying the diametrically opposed philosophies of their Orders and Monasteries, if the unfortunate victims were Rangers or Monks. This torment is the torment she was most infamous for, lo these many millenia.

This is what she intended to do to TChalla. This male flesh trash King. She would make it slay the whole of its family, and lay all of Wakanda to waste...after she made it lead all of Wakanda into war against all of Wakanda's previous allies.

Smiling down at the King of Wakanda...pinioned flat to the ground by her Glyph...she raised her hands over her lovely head. Perfect ovals of argence...like mystic moonfire...sprang into being; their energies blotting her lovely hands from sight and chasing away all shadows for several meters in every direction.

"I will have your body, and you WILL pleasure me, flesh trash..." her voice was but a whisper, a small thing promising a universe of frightful agony.

"My heart belongs to another," the flesh trash King's voice was strong. Clear. And even in this extreme, it was commanding. "You will not touch me."

She laughed a laugh so sweet and alluring that it cloaked her soul deep rot, corruption, depraved cruelty and ravenous bloodlust. "Your heart belongs between my teeth! Your soul...trampled beneath my feet! For such insolence, I will redouble and redouble again the pleasure I will have from you, flesh trash." She promised. "And I will start with your soul. Now!"

Her magicks...potent and ruthless and ancient...dove toward his soul. Cleaving and hewing...

...and was swept aside by a Power so extreme that this Power didn't even bother to sniff in condescending derision as it denied her. This Power took no more notice of her own than Gravity itself takes conscious notice of a single leaf falling from a tree.

This flesh trash manifested a power rarely seen, even among her time. Its soul was both inviolate and inviolable...for its soul was protected by its own incredible devotion, mentally cultivated and spiritually manifested.

It learned the secrets and applied the high, arcane, nigh lost art of The Diamond Soul. The Diamond Souls were the most difficult to defeat, and never could be compromised in spirit or flesh. Killed, yes. Compromised? No. And usually The Diamond Soul...an ability cultivated directly by the devotion, inner equilibrium, mental and spiritual strength of the devotee...was immediately selected by a powerful God, Goddess or both, as a favored incarnation of its will.

"Dos ph'natha yornurn jabbuk d'l'zhennu murrpau malarin zoxidon!' She exclaimed. "dos ph'l'Detholusin d'Baast!" [ You are a Sublime Master of the Leopard/Great Cat fighting system! You are the Chosen of Baast! ]

And the flesh trash male simply flexed its mental thews. And her Glyph pulsed and roiled and instantly ruptured, flying everywhere in a million million multichromatic splashes of light and liquid, tinkling to the ground with the delicate sound and beauty of crystal wind chimes dancing in a soft, swirling, wayward wind. And just like that, it was free and moving again.

Most beings would be dumbstruck and dumbfounded. They would not know what they could or should do under these extremes. However, she knew how to strike at the weaker areas of even such warriors as this male flesh trash was. Sublime Master of the Leopard Fighting System or not.

Energy and weapons attacks aimed directly at these monks tended to not only miss, but set the monk's attacker in precisely the place that the monk would wish in order to launch fight ending, frequently legend starting or legend building counterattacks. However, their ability to deal with devastating attacks that simultaneously covered large areas was less magnificent, and this was one of the 3 most common and most reliable ways that they were defeated or killed.

Acting on this knowledge, she cast a particularly devious spell which summoned life endingly sharp, invisible, other-planar shards of force crafted from Demon fire to fill the area that the flesh trash occupied in a 100x100 square meter cube. The slightest touch of even one of these razor edged, other planar, Demon fire infused shards of force would inflict the horrible, mind shattering, unending torments of the Pits of Gehenna upon this flesh trash. Simultaneously, she conjured the Phantasmal Force and cast from it a gargantuan, dark green and dark gray scaled, triple headed Elder Dragon of truly terrible aspect. Its huge black wings spread wide and stretched into the blackness of shadow on either side of its body. Its huge eyes...wise, malicious, filled with magical perception, and unending predatory hunger...locked upon the flesh trash King of Wakanda.

Immediately, the King of Wakanda...somehow sensing the deadly presence of her Demon Fire Blade Barrier...began the most amazingly aesthetic, incredible evasive maneuvers and elusive contortions. But at every point that it might exit her Blade Barrier, the dragon was there, mouths agape, gargantuan claws and talons ready to rend, the death dealing terrors of its breath primed to unleash. In this way did the Dragon stymie the escape of the flesh trash King.

Right as it seemed the flesh trash King would be slaughtered by the Demon Fire Blade Barrier...it pulled off a cunningly daring sequence of movements.

Of a sudden it arrowed directly through the Demon Fire Blade Barrier, and as the Dragon pounced upon it, the incarnation of death most terrible with its claws talons and maws of rending wrath and breath of lightning, acid and fire...the flesh trash King ingeniously torqued slithered juked and flipped in such a cunning way as to direct the Dragon's breath directly into the Demon Fire Blade Barrier behind it.

The Blade Barrier--amid lightnings and acid and fire explosions--immediately lost its cohesion, sending invisible, death dealing razor edged shards of force in all directions at once.

A golden shaft of light sprang into the opened left palm of the flesh trash King, then coalesced into a prodigious, ancient, formidable Spear of doughty warrior aspect. Without deigning to crane its head or look around to spot the Razors flying about it, the flesh trash King gripped its Spear at two points as one would grip an ancient quarterstaff. And--with hyperproficient, blindingly swift skill--swung its Spear once. Only once.

The butt of its Spear hit half a dozen rampaging Razors, and sent them all in a bridling, bristling barrage with faultless exactitude directly into every critical organ that the Dragon had from its claws to heart, throat, maw and eye.

In a twinkling, the Dragon dropped dead at the flesh trash King's feet.

Using the distraction of the Dragon's attack, she was already moving on to her next assault. She already knew that the Dragon would likely fail her, but it would provide sufficient distraction for her to focus her spirit and utter a "Xanss d'Vid"...a "Word of Chaos".

This Word of Chaos is a rare gift given to her by her evil Goddess, Llolth. It allows the being invoking the Word to channel a very tiny percentage of the amassed power of Evil and Chaos and use it to batter their steadfast enemies--the minions of Good and Law--with a might nigh unanswerable for these creatures.

Thus did she use the Word of Chaos to batter this presumptious, pretentious flesh trash King...and the Word did smite him. Terrible unraveling magicks tore at the King's body; unfettered insanities bit deep into its mind and being. The flesh trash King...weak as all humans, weak as all males are...screamed a scream most horrible to hear, and most pleasing--nearly orgasmic--to her nonphysical ears.

And it shudderingly collapsed to the ground. No sound emanated from it. Not even its heart stirred.

And she...Undead, the most terrible shade and shadow amongst that amphitheater of shades and shadow...laughed and laughed her lovely, lethal, soulless laugh.

And she sought her prize...the soul of the flesh trash. For it would now suffer the utter lack of her mercy for all eternity...and it would learn amid infinite agonies the error of its ways. And she would lift from it the great and powerful magical treasures it stupidly carried with it, thinking that it could use the enormous powers of The Hammer of Corruption and The Heart of Entropy against its betters. But with these weapons within her grasp? At long last she would visit vengeance befitting of a Drow Priestess upon the one who consigned her to Undeath, and she would...

...too late her Mystic Sight availed her of the truth. Too late did she note that the flesh trash's armor denuded her Word of the most heinous affects of its powers. Too late did she hear it invoke the name of Baast. Too late did she realize she had fallen into its trap. Too late did she hear a strange sound. What was it...? It was...it was...

...a snarl--an animal's proud, untamed roar--tore into her mind. What was that? Her mind flashed back through the 70 millenia of her life, seeking to resurrect the sounds she once heard frequently in the world of flesh; the better to recognize this new peril. It was indeed a creature of The Lands Above. A land animal. A...panther?

A flash of power speared through her. Agony upon agony upon agony stole her voice from her. Agony? Agony was not for one as great and lofty as she...

...she was in the grip of some strange power. What...what insanity...what magicks...is this? And then the agony stole her very thoughts from her, stole her very awareness from her.

And she awakened upon the cold, clammy amphitheater floor. Her eyes opened, and the dark yielded to her Sight. She coughed in the dust choked air of the oppressive dark. And the pain was still a living buzz saw taking its time with sadistic skill and glee--like a demon torturer--through her very bones and her...

...WAIT! Cold? Pain? Choked? Awakened? And...and...Bones?

IT!! CAN!! NOT!! BE!!

"Yes, it can..." it said. It was near her. The flesh trash human male, the Wakandan King who should by all rights be utterly slain by the Word of Chaos.

And at last she saw it. Standing with absolute manly beauty and power, its posture projecting the grace and impossible confidence of Kings.

"You return me to the world of flesh and death and decay! You impudent flesh trash, I will have your HEART for this!!" And though she had forgotten much of the ways of the flesh, some things she would never forget. And she came to her feet and into an archaic but terrible fighting stance with a single movement. She was the very essence of enticing, fluidly fell ferociousness. Her left finger gestured once...

...and the air became a hurricane of hate, a typhoon of terror, a whirlwind of wrath howling down upon the Wakandan King. She siphoned every particle of oxygen from around him, and the pounding, gyring wind snatched him from his feet and spun him...twirled him...up up up up up toward the inky darkness of the unseeable ceiling of her amphitheater home. And she would have had her winds batter him against the stalagmites--a toy, a plaything in the hands of a angry, malicious Titan--and she would impale him slowly, cruelly, upon the stalagtites. Taking long, long minutes for him to die and bleed out. But she would have held him there. Cured him. And tormented him further until the edge of death. Again and again and again for the rest of Time or until her wretched flesh gave out.

All these things and much, much worse would she have done...had she not found herself encased in that strange cocoon of power. That strange diamond shaped matrix of energy. Immediately, the gyring winds ceased to be. Immediately, her Sight winked out and inflicted upon her mere...sight. And it stood next to her, from out of nowhere, completely unruffled. Totally unharmed. Watching her within the confines of the strange matrix of energy that held her.

Erik Killmonger could have told her what it was that vexed her so, as he was the previous occupant. But he was not here to enlighten her. And TChalla was not inclined to enlighten her. Instead, he reached out and affixed a strange horse's collar crafted of some alien alloy--glimmering and sparkling like the Star Rings of Rathkory-Var--about her neck. The sigils crafted upon the collar were partially of some ancient script which even she could not decipher, despite her Sight which deciphered mystic script with ease. The other part of the flowing script upon the collar she recognized instantly. It was Elvish, part of some powerful holy rite to their chief deity, Corellon Larethian.

Corellon Larethian is the arch-nemesis and most bitter sworn enemy of the goddess she worshipped, Lolth.

She went absolutely livid with murderous ice cold hate and fury.

Then it made a gesture with its gloved left hand, and the energy matrix restraining her vanished.

She attacked instantly. Her wickedly powerful Mace of Malice, infused with malefic magicks that brought the most horrible pain to the body and the most dreadful siphoning of the energies of the soul--flashed through a skillful attack routine. Feinting, hewing, weaving intricate deadly patterns in nonstop assaults.

It didn't even bother to turn to face her. It kept its back to her as it expertly eluded her attacks, ducked dipped slipped spun rolled acrobatically leaped and dodged. Try as she might to smite him, her most devious attacks clove nothing but air.

"Engage me, flesh trash!" she roared.

"I do not fight women," it said to her, never deigning to turn around and face her. "Even female creatures like you, who lack the character to be 'women'. I have others for that."

There came a sound of sizzling, highly potent energy. From nowhere, a bolt of crackling golden energy pierced her guts front to back, exiting from her spine. Massive pain siezed her belly, and she pitched to the ground. Her inky black blood dribbled from her lovely lips.

"You have been felled by a single shot from a Phase Pulse Cannon beam, fired by an expert markswoman--Okoye--from a distance of two cities away...the better to catch you unawares by being out of range of your potent Mystic Sight."

"You...fool..." she choked and gurgled on her blood. "All you have done is granted me my fondest wish...release from the trash of the flesh, release from my tormentor, surcease from my torment."

"Careful what you wish for," it warned her in a grim tone. And then it turned upon her with an ancient Wakandan relic...an old, incredibly powerful weapon of ancient impeccable craft.

"This is the signature weapon of my ancestor Bashenga; the first Black Panther." It said. " This weapon is called The Spear of Bashenga. Behold the script."

And the the mighty, ancient weapon lit from within with an unmistakable commingling of three forms of power. One form of power she didn't recognize; some form of energy that was natural but not of Nature's Magic. The other two forms of power she recognized instantly: the power of the Mind, and the power of The Arcane. The first comes from the equilibrium and insight of a truly refined, balanced Mind and its nigh infinite wonders. The second is magick. Ancient, inhuman arcane magicks...potent beyond the grasp of mortals. It was Elvish magic.

"When I was upon the mountain shoulder above, I gave you one chance to surrender to me unconditionally and release from thralldom those spirits encased in zombie flesh that you'd consigned to groaning slavery. You should not have refused. For now, I shall end your torment at the hands of your tormentor, as you wished. I shall now release you from your flesh, as you wish. I will now bring surcease from your torment, as you wish.

And now, for your many sins, Saralynth the Cruel..." and she started as it called her true name, her most secret and most guarded name, her spirit name, "gird yourself. For there is one who would speak with you."

And it spoke in the ancient tongue of her accursed Elven foes: "Aen Corellon Larethian aglar alfirin aith-acharn Saralynth..."

It spoke one of the many Rites of Corellon Larethian. This particular powerful incantation was used by mighty apostles disciples and wizards of Corellon Larethian to consecrate holy ground and send the spirits of their fallen to the realm of Corellon Larethian himself, where they would be embraced or judged. And that was what it was doing; it was summoning great magicks to forcibly propel her very soul to Corellon. Where she would ever be at the mercy of her most implacable foe.

BY LOLTH THE DEVOURER!! she felt her soul leaving her body as the mortal wound inflicted by Okoye's expert shot from her Phase Pulse Cannon swiftly did its work and rapidly smothered the spark of life in her body.
But Saralynth was not without terrible powers, even in this extreme. She clutched close to her soul her fearsome power, and as her spirit rose from her body...she channeled all of her considerable power into her most dreaded weapon...and screamed.

For Saralynth was a Banshee, a fallen shade, with the power to smite the life from all things with her voice alone. Her terrible, ulalating howl slashed the very life from the air, tore through the amphitheater and was amplified by the wonderful acoustics of the amphitheater into a tsunami of soul sundering sound. The arcane explosion of power was so extreme that the stalagtites and stalagmites--each large enough to be virtual miniature mountains of stone--instantly shattered into absolute nothingness, their atoms flung by the millions to the very stars themselves. Hawks and birds fell lifeless from the sky. The mountain peak burst and blossomed forth jagged rock, and disrobed her mountain of the majestic cloak of snow swaddling it, sending huge sheets of snow plummeting to the earth a hundred and more miles below...

...and the Spear of Bashenga's glow became even more magnificent. Even more unanswerable. Blazing crimson and gold like a sun aborning, it beat back the comforting shadow of her amphitheater, battering her eyes with actual sun light for the first time in 30 millenia or more, and she knew something was wrong. Something was wrong!! This mortal should have been instantly stricken with the most gruesome of soul deaths, the most complete annihilation that a living being could suffer. But it wasn't. It still stood...powerful, dominating, Kingly, unwaveringly confident and invincibly alive...with its Spear raised overhead like a shaft of celestial glory.

And in the last millionth of a second, she unraveled the mystery. This flesh trash did not have the power to send her to Corellon. It bluffed her, knowing that she would respond with the terrifying, unanswerable power of her scream...and it harnessed her power. That's why it didn't die. Her power never smote him. Her awesome magicks was absorbed by its Spear, channeled into its strange armament...and then, USING HER OWN POWER combined with its strange unnameable energy...it sent her to Corellon Larethian, King and Chief Deity of Elven Greater Gods, and sealed her eternal doom.

And the undisputed, undefeated Lord of the Wakandas glared down upon Saralynth the Cruel, his eyes blazing with the pure naked fierceness, the incalculable cunning, the immeasurable force, the feral beauty, the endless lethality, the infinite mystery of the panther. And TChalla came close to Saralynth’s face, stared deeply into her eyes, so Saralynth might truly know and never deny who her conqueror was. Who the victor must ever be in whatever conflict that pit the two against each other. One moment passed, a frozen second. Saralynth upon her knees, felled, her powerful being wracked by agony unceasing, the pain a veritable sea of lava seething in her bones, tendons, veins, organs. Her lungs desperately trying and hopelessly failing to reacquire oxygen, blood spilling from her lovely, dreadful lips, darkening her shadowy ghostly raiment with streams and drops of lambent midnight liquid. Pooling and puddling upon the floor between and around her knees. Forming shallow lakes at TChalla’s feet. They formed for a petrified instant in time the perfect snap shot, the timeless tableau between them; one kneeling, utterly vanquished, totally defeated. The other standing, commanding, dominant; utterly victorious. Fate Herself has decreed that their conflict must end and shall ever end thusly.

And TChalla—seeing what he sought in Saralynth’s eyes, which is the damning, dawning realization of her total defeat at TChalla’s hands—uttered one word in his implacably calm, erudite, utterly ruthless voice:

“AMANDLA!”

And even as she hated this flesh trash, even as she raged and gnashed and wished to extinguish its soul...she grudgingly admired its comprehensive brilliance, its guile, its trickery and misdirection. And a teeny tiny part of her hoped--begant to believe?--that it would vanquish her tormentor in similar fashion.

And Saralynth the Cruel winked out of the amphitheater, never ever to return to The Prime Material Plane or escape the judgement of Corellon Larethian.

"Giovanni Brown..." TChalla spoke into his alpha wave transmitter, which was part of his TechnoPathic Technology bridging the gap between telepathy and technology.

"Queen Divine Justice," she corrected him." If you please."

"...you may follow the plan and pilot yourself and Okoye to the place I specified at the designated time."

" Are you sure, my King? I mean, there's a LOT of DEADLY MAGIC in there and..."

"Giovanni." A command.

"Yes my King," she replied chastened. " Immediately. Without delay." And she piloted herself and Okoye away, following his instructions to the letter.

And TChalla went directly to the mystic door--guarded by magicks even more ancient and more fell than Saralynth's--that accessed some of the treacherous, fatal, little used Shadow Paths to Loki's castle. With an almost off handed ease, he deciphered and disabled each and every one of the terrible traps which would have felled and did fell every other person who dared to measure themselves against the might and brilliant cunning of its creator.

"We knew that you would not be stopped by these obstacles placed before you," the voice was mightier than most other voices anywhere, at any time. "Just as you knew I would be here should you get this far."

"How long have you known the truth of my father's fate, and chose not to share it with me?" TChalla's voice was as usual absolutely calm and without the tiniest hint of any emotion other than eternal equilibrium, but the speaker knew TChalla well. The speaker knew that these next few moments could be dicey, and that is not what the speaker wished.

As ever, the speaker chose to respond with the truth:" I learned of Loki's part in the heinous and cowardly murder of your father later than did you. Thus did I hie myself here."

"I do not need your help, nor am I asking for it." TChalla responded shortly.

"You know, friend TChalla, that I did not come to help you nor was I under the impression that you would ask." And Thor, Crown Prince of Asgard, came forth from the shadows. " You know what I am here to say to you."

" Indeed. Friend Thor, you may tell The All Father with all due respect that nothing short of my death shall stop me from exacting vengeance upon Loki." TChalla paused a beat. "Which you already know." Another pause. "Are you here to do battle with me?" Pause. The next words were less friendly, despite their content. " Friend. Thor."

"Nay. Stay your battle wrath, O King of Wakanda. I am here to appeal to your exteme intelligence, your unshakeable sense of honor."

" I am listening, O Crown Prince of Asgard."

"I think your cause is just. I know you from years agone. We are shield brothers, you and I, TChalla. As you now know, I have done battle side by side with Panthers prior to you, in millenia long gone. We share a bond unlike that between I and any other being, even that of my great friend Captain America. But Loki's life is not for any but a God to take. So says the All-Father. And his Word is Law in the Realm. "

" Then unfortunately, I am going to break the Law."

" TChalla--"

" Prince of Asgard. Would you stand aside, and allow Surtur to live...and menace untold thousands and millions of others...after you learned that he murdered Odin? Would you forget that you are a Son of Asgard, Son and Scion of Odin, Crown Prince of Asgard, and a warrior unparalleled...and let Surtur celebrate his depradations over the endless span of his Life? Would you sleep easily at night, look yourself in your own eye and tell yourself with a clear conscience and unwavering conviction that you were right to let your Father's killer bring carnage and despair to the lives of millions of other innocents? Of couse not. Then do not ask me to do so."

"I understand you, my friend. Truly in my heart I do. However, Loki's life is not for any non-God to claim. Virtually any punishment short of Loki's death is completely understood and accepted by The All Father. But the precedent set by a mortal--ANY mortal--slaying a God is a truly dangerous one which carries consequences and ramifications beyond the ken of ANY mortal. Even a mortal as undeniably amongst the forefront of intellects anywhere like you. "

"Mortals have slain Gods before. Men and Gods need to better understand and more comprehensively respect one another. But such is not the case. Gods such as you, friend Thor, have toyed with Men for millenia. Men are NOT the plaything of Gods. More specifically and especially...Wakandans are not."

"Your Panther God may disagree." Thor replies with the inscrutable mein of Gods.

"We VOLUNTARILY serve our mighty Panther God." TChalla instantly asserted. " The Panther God doesn't slay us. The Panther God does not force us to make human or animal sacrifices to sate its desires. The Panther God does not toy with us, does not play with us like..."

"...like a cat does a ball of yarn?" Thor interrupted. And he let the comment hang in the air a moment , knowing TChalla would analyze the comment a million different ways before he continued. Good. TChalla would grasp the more deeply the point he was driving home. "TChalla, what do you think your link with your Panther God, your Rites of the Panther, and your newly annointed title are, if you're not being toyed with--in fact, annointed as the favored toy--by your Panther God?"

And TChalla responds:"They are things that you do not understand."

"I understand them surpassingly well, as you have long known, my friend. I understand, also, what it means to love and need to avenge a Father whose shadow you cannot escape. Try as you might."

TChalla stared impassively at Thor.

"Then you should be the last person to attempt to bar my way." TChalla ventured.

"I am not looking to bar your way, friend TChalla. I am saying to you--inflexibly--that you do not have leave to slay Loki. Your vengeance may take any other form, save the slaying of Loki. It is the will of the All-Father. "

And TChalla's impassive gaze told Thor what TChalla thought of Odin's will in this instance, without a word between the two needing to be uttered.

"And. When. I. Do. Slay. Loki." It was not a question.

Thor's silent, warrior mein was TChalla's answer.

" You went to Odin in the Land of the Dead when he and Surtur slew each other..."

" How did--?"

"...and you joined Odin. Together, you battled Surtur. Together, you slew Surtur. Together, you reasserted the bond tween Father and Son. Former King and Current King. Warrior Father and Warrior Son. Together...even in death...you achieved an understanding, a closeness, an acceptance, that you did not know in thousands of years of life.

My father and I will never have that chance.

The one chance I have to show him that his son loves and honors him truly, his son is the warrior that he wanted his son to be...is to not only protect and elevate Wakanda and his bloodline in every way, but to ALSO avenge his death. Because his son loves his father. Because his son respects the crown and throne of Wakanda. Because his son is a Panther and WILL NOT allow any Panther to fall and be unavenged. Because his son is the great king that his father was...and the great king that his father always wished hoped believed and desired him to be."

"But," said Thor, continuing the narrative. "His son is not The Great King. His son is A great king, but not THEE Great King. Only the son's father is THEE great King. Or so the son will always think and believe in his heart. I know something of such thoughts of sons and fathers, of Princes and Kings, of Kings and Great Kings."

"Therefore, Loki must pay." TChalla stated, and his voice held the hidden roar of Panthers.

"Not with his life," Thor responded. And thunder echoes in his voice.

The greatest warriors of their lands faced each other. Great Kings faced each other. Sons of THE Great Kings faced each other. Brothers in arms faced each other. Shield brothers faced each other. Beings of great honor faced each other. Beings of unbreakable will faced each other.

Lines in the sand were being drawn.

"TChalla. My shield brother. King of Wakanda. Hear me well. I have stood with Panthers millenia prior to your birth. Consider what slaying my deceitful half brother would cost you and I. We are and have been shield brothers. We should not let a trickster trick us into setting ourselves against each other. We have overcome greater foes, and faced greater obstacles the same way we must face and resolve this matter: Together. As brothers. Consider what conflict would cost you and I. Consider what our conflict would cost Wakanda

At what cost pride, O King? At what cost honor? At what cost the love of a son for his father, a Prince for his King?"

"Thor. My shield brother. Crown Prince of Asgard. Hear me well. Since I have ascended to the throne, I have stood with Asgard in every battle that Asgard has engaged in that Midgard has been or could be a part of. Consider what slaying your deceitful half brother would save you and I. No more of his intricate, multilayered, millenia long schemes ensnaring thousands upon thousands. Snuffing the lives and peace of tens of thousands upon tens of thousands. Over many thousands and thousands of years. We are and have been shield brothers. I will NOT let a trickster trick us into setting ourselves against each other. We have overcome greater foes, and faced greater obstacles the same way that we must face and resolves this matter: Together. As brothers. This is wisdom. This is honor.

Yet consider what our conflict would cost you and I. Only one of us would survive...and that survivor would permanently be impaired from thence forward. If Asgard were to invade Wakanda--her staunch ally over the millenia, the only country amongst Midgard that has entered into treaty as equals with Asgard--in defense of false Loki? Consider. Asgard would have to murder every Wakandan man, woman and child. And IF Asgard succeeded? The victory would be Pyrrhic. Thousands upon thousands of Asgardian Gods would perish at the hands of mortals...an example many times more terrible than the extinguishment of one Master of Malice who was part and party to the slaying of the Great Honorable King of Wakanda. For the destruction of Loki could be kept amongst the Gods and between the Gods. A war between Asgard and Wakanda would embroil the whole of the 9 Worlds and Beyond. All of Midgard and even Wakanda's interstellar allies would rise against Asgard, as Midgard would see Asgard defending the very same Loki that has tormented us all for untold millenia against Wakanda--staunch ally of both Asgard and the most ancient mortal warrior land protecting all of Midgard. And the havoc we would wreak--should we be forced to sell our lives to Asgard, which is not a foregone conclusion--would certainly weaken Asgard to the point that she could never stave off her enemies. And Asgard's enemies would come, unceasingly, until all of Asgard was overrun, her populace slain, her bright towers toppled, her proud people slain, enslaved. Her glory now passed into the long ago.

At what cost pride, O Crown Prince? At what cost honor? At what cost the love of a brother for his deceitful brother, a Crown Prince for his envious malicious Princeling brother?"

And shield brother faced shield brother. And warrior faced warrior. Friend faced friend. Son of The Great King faced Son of The Great King. TChalla and Thor stare at each other, both Kings in the shadow of the Kings who came before...both sons who ardently love their fathers. Both warriors implacably set on the path of righteous retaliation. Both great friends with much in common, charged with the welfare of their people.

And they took another step, bringing them reluctantly, ineluctably closer to that line in the sand. To war.

And TChalla closed his eyes, summoning the Gift that The Panther God bestowed upon him; the wisdom, the power, the might, the brilliance, the cunning, the essence of every Panther that ever lived. And swirling power sprang from his pores. The shackles of Time ceased to bind him to the here and now. He was with Bashenga as he was born. He WAS Bashenga...the first Black Panther...at his birth. He was every Panther at every moment in their lives. And he was more than mortal. Drawing that Power about him like a cloak, a shield, a corona of a unquenchable star, TChalla says:

"I am TChalla, THE GREATEST PANTHER KING THAT EVER LIVED. I am King of the Dead. I am all Panthers. We are here, because I am here. And I am more than mortal; we are more than mortal. You cannot fail to recognize our Majesty, O Crown Prince of Asgard. O Master of Tempests. "

"Recognize thee I have and always will, O Lord of the Wakandas; O King of the Dead. But we are not discussing the difference between mortal and immortal. We are not boggling at immortality. Even were you to live forever, mighty King...you would not grasp what it means to be your Panther God. And it's this gulf...that unspannable gulf between Gods and Men...that separates us now. Which you knew ere you spake of it, friend TChalla. Let it not confound us. Let it not set shield brother against shield brother, true friend against true friend."

"We are not to be confounded so easily. Only our conscious will and conscious thought can set shield brother against shield brother. True friend against true friend. And this is not the unspannable gulf between Gods and Men. This is simply bringing a liar to truth, a murderer who even set you at variance with your grandfather Bor--"

"How know you of such things--?"

"--a traitor who has nearly brought ruin to Asgard and the 9 Worlds untold hundreds of times to face his fate. This is what happens when any being...man or God, demon or angle, mortal or immortal...conflates a Panther with prey."

“As one who has known this folly intimately over the long millenia, TChalla, heed this warning given from a friend who cares about his younger friend and brother in arms: I know this path you are on. It is fraught with pitfalls and perils the depth of which one cannot truly appreciate until it is experienced firsthand. No amount of previous preparation…however thorough…no amount of cunning…however vast, however brilliant, however resourceful…can truly gird one’s heart, mind, body and soul for the rigors that awaits. Be certain and be RIGHT. Truly. And answer to yourself: are you embarking upon the path of just vengeance…or the path of just vengeance? For our people and many millions of others will answer with their blood should you be proven false or wrong…however convinced you are that you act in pursuit of sooth and defense of the righteous.”

TChalla responds: “In some things, both mortals and Gods are alike: we can only do the very best we can, in pursuit of righteousness, ruin, or both. In the final extreme, we hope that we have cultivated everything we are to the highest level we may…the better to dictate our fates, instead of having The Fates dictate to us.”

And they stepped to that line. Together. Resolutely. And war absolute was in the offing.

And Thor said:"The die is cast." And he brought up the Giant Smasher, the Troll Slayer, the Thunder Wielder...Mjolnir. And saluted TChalla. Warrior to warrior.

And TChalla raised The Spear of Bashenga. The Demon Slayer. The Fang of Bast. The Evil Piercer. And saluted Thor.

And they both tread upon the line in the sand.

And dazzling gale force magic flared into being. And astral lightning seared the fabric of the Worlds. And Thor vanished from sight.

And TChalla stepped through Loki's portal, implacably focused on wreaking vengeance most terrible upon that inconstant Trickster.