Dove looked at the Spirit. He knew she had come about because of stories humans told each other. She was a creation of humanity, just as much of this house.
He despised her for it. She would have to be destroyed.
But so would the "children" in the basement she had mentioned. He didn't give any thought to whether she had meant other combatants or literal children; if the question had occurred to him, he wouldn't have cared. All it meant to him was that there were humans in the basement.
Basements. As if it wasn't enough for humans to wreck the surface of the planet, they had to start digging out the ground as well. Nature provided plenty for them, and yet they always demanded more.
Dove calmed himself. Yes, there were many travesties against the earth to wreak vengeance upon, but he would have to focus on one travesty at a time. Given a choice between destroying humans and destroying the abominations they created, it was better to strike the problem at the source.
"Thank you for your help," he said to the Spirit of Fairy Tales, making no effort to hide his disdain. "You are a twisted creation of humanity and you must be destroyed for the sake of the planet, but that can wait. For now, I will deal with these naughty children you have so kindly pointed me to."
Had the Spirit been more rational, she would have taken his words more seriously as a threat. As far as Soft was concerned, though, the witch was simply teaching the naughty children a lesson about staying up past their bedtime. She decided it was worth watching the story play out, and so floated down the stairs as Dove walked down. The two largely ignored each other, Dove treating Soft as a mere annoyance to be momentarily tolerated, and Soft viewing Dove as an instrument of justice who would have to be dealt with himself once he was done.
Dove's footsteps might have given him away, if not for the fact that he was sending weeds to tear through the walls of the basement. Cole and Reinhardt heard the cracking and saw the lengthy tendrils start to flow through the room aimlessly well before they saw Dove's arrival.
Once Dove entered the room, the vines' actions became more controlled. Before, they were easily held off by Reinhardt's blade and a pair of mandibles Cole had grown, but with Dove physically present, they moved more deliberately, dodging the strikes with ease and quickly entangling the two as they tried to regain their bearings. Weeds grabbed Reinhardt's sword and shield, and wrapped themselves around their victims like ropes.
When it was done, Dove looked at Reinhardt. The sight of the man's armor filled him with scorn.
"You robbed the Earth of that ore," he said accusingly. "Mutilated it into metal. And now you have the gall to wear it, as though all that were something to be proud of."
He then turned to Cole. Anansi's transformation would have made him hard to recognize as a human to most, but in Dove's eyes there was no difference. He tried to command the insects on Cole's body to devour him, but they did not move.
"What have you done?" he shouted. "These are creatures of nature! They are alive! Yet they remain still! Is murdering those who respect the Earth not enough for you? Must you now torture them as well?"
Cole did not answer the question directly. Instead, he simply made a comment.
"Beetles of the Carabidae family, more commonly known as 'ground beetles', can emit an acidic spray from their abdomens."
Dove wasn't amused.
"That's all you have to say? Well, I suppose if I can't turn the insects against you, I'll have to let the weeds take care of..."
He was interrupted as the weeds wrapped around Cole's torso dissolved. Dove's face grew noticeably angrier.
"You dare corrupt the power of nature in such a way? You're even worse than most."
As Dove berated Cole, Reinhardt began pulling at the vines. The enhanced strength his gauntlets provided easily tore them apart. As he freed himself more, he tore away at the vines holding his sword, then grabbed it and sliced the weeds around his shield.
Dove was furious. He commanded the weeds to fling the humans to the ground.
They obeyed, tossing Reinhardt in the water and leaving Cole to hit the hardened floor. Reinhardt screamed as the water dragged him away; Dove watched in surprise.
It was the opening Cole needed. He had higher resilience than Dove had expected, and soon recovered from the fall. He then quickly used a grasshopper's legs to leap at Dove, knocking him over. Dove felt a light shock as Cole touched him. It surprised him, but it was not enough to stop him from pushing away his assailant. He realized he would have difficulty commanding his vines while in direct combat, and pondered what to do about the matter as the two exchanged blows. Even without mimicking any particular insect, Cole's blows were more effective, due to the mild shock affecting Dove whenever he punched or was punched. Dove soon realized he would have to get out of the melee in order to fight back properly.
All the while, the Spirit of Fairy Tales watched, her book filling itself in with information on those nearby. She felt that up to now, the story had been telling itself well enough, and didn't need her help to move along.
But now she had seen Cole's story. She now knew he was being punished for his pride.
Recalling what she knew of such people in other stories, she realized what she had to do.
She had to teach him about humility.