Continuing Tales

The Blood-Dimmed Tide

A Marvel Movieverse Story
by ofravenwings

Part 11 of 33

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The Blood-Dimmed Tide

"Labyrinth?" Darcy asks. The word shivers down her spine, twists through her bones. She forces a smile. "Is David Bowie going to be there wearing tights?"

Beth looks blankly at her.

"Maybe a minotaur? Or just a whole lot of weird black corridors and stairs, scratched out words, the word house written in blue?"

Beth, if anything, goes even blanker. "Huh?"

"Nevermind." Darcy turns away from the window. "Movie reference, mythology reference, literature reference. House of Leaves. Awesome book. I have two copies, one just to write notes in." Darcy turns, hand extended to the bookcase to point out her copies. Remembers too late that the bookcases are gone, along with the books. For the first time, she feels the loss, like something pinching her heart. "Well, I had two copies, anyway."

"I never read much. The dyslexia made it hard, and I just gave up beyond what they forced us into at school." Beth shrugs. "Never had the money to watch movies much, either."

Darcy cannot look away from the empty places where the bookcases stood. The whole apartment is full of empty spaces. "Well. Labyrinth?"

Beth bounces on her toes, as if the conversation didn't even happen. "You'll just have to wait and see it."


They walk together to Central Park. The streets are empty and silent, but Darcy catches glimpses of life in windows they pass: the flicker of candles, the inconstant glow of torches growing low on batteries. From time to time, she sees a business lit up, she assumes by a generator, though she cannot see anyone inside.

They are a few streets from the park when she hears the music. It's an atonal kind of humming, like a human voice but unlike. Darcy assumes that its electronic, since it's nothing like any instrument she had ever heard. Another street, and she smells the smoke. It is thick and heady, sinking into her skin and hair, twining into her lungs. She starts to question Beth, but the girl presses her fingers to her lips, indicating silence.

The echo of their footsteps sounds in counterpoint to the beat of the music, the bass throbbing, it seems, from the very concrete beneath their feet. Looking down, Darcy sees that she's still wearing that mismatched pair of boots. She can't remember if she even took them off to sleep. Beth is wearing the other mismatched pair, the mirror image to hers. The boots are a little large for her, and her footsteps stutter and slide. It makes Darcy suddenly uncomfortable, Beth wearing her boots, her sweater. As though she's trying to wear Darcy's skin.

The discomfort is fleeting, because then they arrive at the park.

A great pile of hacked branches has been stacked to either side of the park entrance. Small lights play from within the leaves and branches; it takes Darcy a moment to recognise the green of chemical lights. When she looks down the street, she sees that cars and other vehicles have been parked close to one another to form a barrier around the park's perimeter. In places, the cars have been stacked on top of one another, though she doesn't even know how anyone managed that. There's even a bus, and several of the tourist horse-drawn carriages, sans horses.

Beth squeezes Darcy's hand once. Her fingers are cold as ice. "You have to enter alone. It's part of the ritual."

She moves ahead of Darcy, is swallowed by the darkness in the park. Several of the chemical lights flicker and die; several more flare into life, though Darcy doesn't know how anyone could have activated them, hidden as they are in the brushwood.

The green light reminds her of Loki. That thought is enough to make her move forward into the darkness, away from the green.

The music rises around her, a cresting wave, then the darkness crashes over her, swallows her. The music slows, each note drawing out in a vibrato that she feels against her exposed skin. And then even that is gone, and there is only the sound of her own heart.

"Do you come as a supplicant?" a voice asks. It is neither male nor female, and it has no accent, no shape to its words.

Supplicant. Again, Darcy thinks of Loki. And Bera coming to him, innocent and afraid. Had her fear been due to Loki himself, or the knowledge of what was to happen to her after the time in the cave.

Darcy shudders, and the darkness slides like velvet-gloved hands over her skin.

She wants to be anywhere but here. Wherever the hell here even is.

The voice makes a curious, wordless sound, something like measuring, like indecision. And then the darkness is gone, and she is standing inside the entrance to the park again.

Sensation rushes in: the softness of trampled grass beneath her boots, the incense smoke thick in the air, that strange atonal music. Another noise sounds, and she turns to see a man dressed in black cracking a chemical light, sliding into a space between the tangled branches. His eyes slide away from her, and he moves away into the shadows.

Of the park itself, she can see little but shadows. Here and there are collections of chemical lights, like tiny constellations, but apart from that, the only light comes from the stars above. Somehow, even the light from Stark Tower is blocked out. It feels as though the city is gone, as though she is in an ancient, wild place.


Beth is standing a short distance away, a tall, slender man standing beside her. Both of them are wearing dark hooded robes. Beth has her hood up, and when she turns, Darcy sees that the back of her robe has been slit across to allow Ravi to peek out. He stares around himself with wide eyes, makes no sound.

Beth gestures for Darcy to join them. Darcy crosses the small distance between them, each step seeming to take forever. In a small tree she passes, a censer billows blue smoke. The spirals of smoke twist lazily, dispersing slowly into the air. It smells like church incense, the frankincense and myrrh so familiar from her childhood, but there is something else there. Something deeper, something that winds into Darcy's blood, more potent than any drug she has ever tried.

The tall man watches Darcy intently as she moves to join them. He has his hood pushed back, revealing close-cropped hair that curls tightly against his scalp. In the darkness, his eyes look black, impossible to tell their true colour.

"Darcy, this is Ozy," Beth says when Darcy joins them. "Ozymandias."

Darcy has to stop herself from doing a double take. He looks so normal, not anything like a man who calls himself Ozymandias should.

"Darcy," Ozy says. His voice is light and pleasant, without accent. He holds out a hand to her; his nails are neatly trimmed, his fingers ringless.

Darcy takes his hand; he shakes hers in a firm, cool grip. The cuff of his robe rides up with a movement, and she can see the edge of a tattoo, something that undulates like a snake up his wrist.

"I am glad that you could join us," Ozy says. "Glad, too, for what you have been doing for Beth and little Ravi. She told us of your kindness."

Darcy shrugs a shoulder. She wants to look away, but Ozy's eyes hold her. "You can't leave a baby to starve, can you?"

"Beth also told us that you work for Tony Stark." Ozy smiles, revealing crooked front teeth. "Now, don't worry, Darcy, we won't press you to provide anything for us. I assume it is your presence in the building which inspired Stark to provide us with electricity, and for that alone, we thank you."

He's still holding her hand. He kneels down, and pressed his forehead to her knuckles, a curious gesture. His forehead is as cool and smooth as her fingers.

He is smiling again when he stands. "Avail yourself of the refreshments, the entertainment. And when the time comes, if you wish, you may enter the labyrinth when the gates are flung wide."

He squeezes her hand, and then, finally, releases it. Darcy still feels his touch even after he has melted into the small groups of people milling about the park. Beth watches him go, her expression adoring.

"Isn't he amazing?" she asks, clasping her hands together. "It's like this world was just waiting for him to save it."

Darcy takes in a deep breath, wanting to clear her head. All it manages to do is have her inhale more of the smoke. It tastes thick in her mouth, as though she has chewed on ashes.

"Is there somewhere where the air is clearer?" Darcy asks. "The smoke's kind of getting to me."

"It should be better around the food." Beth takes Darcy's arm, leads her past the groups of people. Few of them pay the two girls any attention, though Darcy catches people smiling at Ravi as they pass. "I need a drink, anyway."

A series of trestle tables have been set up along the side of the park. Women and men, dressed in black as the man with the chemical lights had been, move silently behind the tables. There are several pots of soup and flat bread. Jugs of water and what looks like reconstituted juice, as well as bottles of beer and wine, all warm.

Beth snags two bottles of beer, hands one to Darcy.

"Where did all this come from?" Darcy asks. She holds the warm beer, but doesn't drink.

Beth pops the top of her beer, tosses it into a nearby bin. "People bring what they can. There are lots of caches around the city, if you know where to look. Lots of people left stuff behind."

Darcy twists her beer bottle in her hands. Pops off the top, sends it after Beth's. She misses, and it rattles to the ground instead. Beth moves immediately, scooping it up and tossing it into the bin.

"One of Ozy's rules," she says. "We don't leave anything behind. In the morning, the park should look like we've never been here."

Darcy looks over behind the trestles. In the shadows, she can just see the shapes of cars stacked on top of one another to form a wall. "How is that even possible? People leave signs behind, no matter what."

"Anything is possible," Beth says, taking a swig from her beer.

That strange music swells again, then fades away suddenly, leaving only echoes. Beth immediately grabs Darcy's untouched beer and places it, and hers, back onto one of the trestle tables. She grasps Darcy's arm again and leads her through the park. When Darcy starts to ask her a question, she presses her fingers against Darcy's lips. Beth's skin smells like smoke.

The incense grows thicker again as they move away from the tables, Beth directing them expertly through the groups of people. All are wearing the same dark hooded robes, and all have their hoods pulled up. The night seems to grow darker as they move towards what Darcy thinks is the centre of the park. Everything seems off, the park itself with its rocks and gardens replaced by an endless stretch of trampled grass.

Beth stops suddenly, though Darcy can see nothing around them that indicates they've reached anything like a destination. The light of the stars is gone, something like that velvet darkness Darcy had experienced inside the boundary of the park pressing close. Everything is silent; Darcy can't even hear Beth's breathing, though she can see the heaving of her chest well enough.

Beth presses her fingers against her lips, points to the ground, then steps away, fading into the darkness.

Thin panic rises in Darcy, then. She has no idea what's going on here, and she certainly knows nothing of what is happening here. Hands slide a hooded robe over her shoulder, pulls up her hood, though when she looks, she cannot see who it is who has garbed her thus. She wants to push the hood away, but cannot seem to raise the energy to lift her hands.

Everything is still.

Everything is waiting.

A single drumbeat breaks the silence, joined by another, then another. Soon, dozens of drums are sounding around the park, all of them beating out something like the rhythm of a heartbeat. Darcy feels her heart slow to fall into the rhythm of the beat.

The memory of Bera rises in her. They drummed the beat for her, too, before the knife was drawn across her throat.

She feels dampness at the place where the knife had cut. Without touching it, Darcy cannot tell if it sweat or blood. She's not even sure she wants to know.

The drums increase their tempo until the beat is a broken flurry of percussion. Then, abruptly, they fall silent.

As one, a circle of candles flare into life. There must have been more of the black-clad workers lighting them, but they fall back from the light so quickly that Darcy doesn't catch sight of them.

She blinks as her vision adjusts to the sudden light. First, she sees the ground surrounding the candles. The lawn has been torn away, the soil there rent and ripped, pale roots rising up here and there like exhumed bones. Everything smells like a forest after the rain, like lightning might strike at any moment.

Beyond the circle of light is a solid wall of darkness. Darcy can see nothing of its details; all she can tell is that it is a massive thing that takes up most of the park.

Ozy appears, another candle held in his cupped palms. He stands there for a moment, silent, uncaring of the molten wax that drips and pools against his bare skin.

He looks at the flickering flame for a long time. When he looks up, the light is gathered in his eyes, and they shine like amber, brighter than the candles.

"Turning and turning in the widening gyre,

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold,

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world."

He pauses for a long moment, his shining eyes moving across the crowd. They rest on Darcy, and his lips curve in a small smile before he continues.

"The blood-dimmed tide is loosed,

The ceremony of innocence is drowned."

He finishes quoting, though Darcy knows that the poem goes on for longer. She knows it well; it was a favourite of her mother's, in the once upon a time before things went bad.

Her stomach twists, and she would have moved away, but Beth is there suddenly, her hand a claw around Darcy's arm.

Ozy's gaze moves around the crowd again; it seems as though his eyes rest on each person individually. Darcy sees something of what attracts people to him. It's a rare thing, to feel as though someone sees you, especially in these times.

Ozy smiles. "Let the labyrinth be open. Let who is called come forth to enter."

He blows out the candle he holds. All of the other candles go out simultaneously, the velvet dark rolling over the world, through the world.

Darcy blinks frantically, but the dark does not clear from her eyes.

Ozy's words echo through her mind: the blood-dimmed tide is loosed…

She takes a step forward, though she doesn't have any awareness of telling her body to do so. Another step, and low, sibilant laughter rolls through the darkness.

A light flares in the darkness, and suddenly Loki is there. He is transparent, his skin shimmering with opalescence, as though he is carved from mother-of pearl. His mouth works frantically, but she hears nothing. His message is clear, even without words. Do not take another step. This way lies dragons.

You're the only dragon in this world, Darcy wants to say, but like Loki, no sound comes from her lips.

The darkness curls tendrils around her, pulling her forward. She takes another step, and the image of Loki dissolves, a flame snuffed out.

One more step, and the darkness rolls away.

She is standing in front of a wall. It is at least six feet high, and instead of being made from stone or brick or any other building material, it is made from everything. From where she stands, she can see a finely carved chair slotted in next to crumpled clothing, a baby's rattle, some books and records and a Monet print framed in cheap plastic. More objects are wedged into the wall that she cannot identify. Her fingers itch with the desire to remove the books from the wall so she can see their titles, but she makes herself keep her hands by her sides. Knowing that if even one thing is removed, it will all come tumbling down.

This is what Ozy and his group have done with the things left behind. With her things, she supposes. Again, she observes that fact almost impartially, though she thinks that she should be angry. She should feel something.

She looks up at the starless sky, the void pressing down. Maybe it was better than she didn't feel anything. After all, she lives in a world where gods and superheroes are real.

"And I'm just Darcy Lewis," she says to the wall. "No one at all."

A deep groaning sound rumbles from behind the wall. Darcy starts, adrenaline rushing through her veins. It sounds like some great beast, waiting there. Like the minotaur that she joked about.

"That one can just stay a myth, okay?" she asks.

Laughter echoes around her, the sound just on the edge of her limit of hearing, so she feels the sound more than hears it, like hands jittering against her skin.

That deep groan comes again, and then the wall before her begins to move. It splits, two sides swinging out like doors. Beyond, she can see another of the walls built from detritus, a gap leading deeper into whatever lies beyond.

"No David Bowie, then," she says to the opened doors. "Colour me disappointed on that point, at least."

She glances behind her, and her heart skips a beat. The park is gone, only another labyrinth wall behind her. She fights the urge to beat her fists against it, to demand that she be let out.

"So I don't get to choose this, either," she says. "Great. Just another thing that Darcy gets swept up in."

There is no answer. The labyrinth is absolutely silent, the black sky above completely still. She wonders briefly how she can even see anything, since there is no light that she can ascertain, decides quickly enough that it's probably best not to even think about it.

"Just think of it as a dream," she tells herself. "Just start walking. Don't they say that you just keep turning right, and you'll find your way out of the labyrinth again?"

There is a porcelain doll in the wall opposite, its black eyes watching her. Her grandmother had given her a similar doll when she was a child, and her mother had placed it on a shelf in Darcy's room. Darcy had been unable to sleep that night, staring at the doll, half convinced that it was going to blink, to move from its shelf. The next morning she'd turning it around to face the wall. Easier to ignore it, when its eyes weren't on you.

She reaches out to the doll in the wall. A sharp blue stab in her fingers, like the pinch of an electric shock, stops her from touching it before she even gets close.

"Right," she says, rubbing her hand against her jeans. "Don't touch the walls. Keep turning right. I can do this."

She starts walking, her feet moving without thought to the rhythm of the Yeats poem Ozy had quoted. And though she'd never been aware of learning the poem, she finds its lines running through her mind as she walks, taking right turn after right turn.

"What rough beast, its hour come at last, slouches towards Bethlehem to be born," she repeats over and over. She walks and walks, blisters forming and bursting on her heels, and never seems to get anywhere.

When she arrives back at that porcelain doll, she clenches her fists hard enough that her nails bite into her palms. "Well, fuck." She stomps her foot, ignored the slick slide of blood in her boots. "Fuck! And get this fucking poem out of my head. Could you be more cliched, Ozy? Couldn't you at least find something that people haven't quoted a thousand times?"

And then she is running, flying through the labyrinth, all thought of turning right forgotten, just wanting to be moving, to be going somewhere, anywhere.

That laughter echoes around her again, and then, suddenly, the labyrinth is gone.

She is standing in front of that house, the curtain fluttering in the breeze, its white edge stained by blood.

Darcy shakes her head, a movement that is almost convulsive. "No. No, no, no, no, no. Take me back to the damn labyrinth! Anywhere but here." She falls to her knees. The earth beneath her knees is soft and damp, trampled by the press of boots. "Please."

There is no answer but the breeze.

The Blood-Dimmed Tide

A Marvel Movieverse Story
by ofravenwings

Part 11 of 33

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