Fear was as ever a good motivator as money or faith. It was through fear that Batman cleaned up the streets of Gotham, it was through fear that he had built streets and alleyways that he could prowl and damn, and hunt and punish the criminals that would do Gotham harm. Gotham was a place of pain, and decadence, and virtue-less morals, but when he came, when the Caped Crusader started his war against crime, when the Dark Knight first struck with his brand of vigilante justice, when the World's Greatest Detective took it upon himself to solve the most darkest hidden away secrets in his city, Gotham intrinsically changed with him.

The darkness in Gotham used to engulf everyone, used to take them and twist them and turn them into lesser more sinister people. The young were not born free in Gotham. Living was an embrace of madness and lies. But when Batman took to the streets, when he first danced through the air, when his skills and talents were let loose to the scum of Gotham, its darkness, its pain and hatred, shrouded him in a cloak far greater than the cape ever could.

When Gotham has Batman, Gotham needed only Batman. The Batman worked in the shadows, but it was the shadows that accepted and wrapped its sheath around his shoulders. It took him, it drove him, festering inside him a dark monster that bubbled up as he rode on his crusade. All the pain and the hate, and aborted misery of Gotham became Batman, become his cloak, became his heart, became his soul, became his weakness. The city that drove him closer and closer to the edge. Closer and closer to a life unwanting.

In many ways that was why Dick never wanted the mantle of Batman. He didn't want the darkness that came with the cape and the cowl. Didn't want the all consuming shadows that gnarled on the edges of Batman's existence.

Batman...Bruce Wayne, was also of the same mind. Gotham would always need a Batman, but it was hard for the Caped Crusader to think of passing it on to Dick. Or Damian. Or Jason. Or Tim. Or some other poor soul to take on the darkness. He never wondered what Batwoman, what Kathleen Sophia Kane, wanted to do with her cowl. For her sake, he hoped she would forsake it into the ocean.

The family of Bats that he had created...they'd suffered enough. Whatever future she thought she could keep with that symbol, he only wished Gotham was kinder to her.

"Nightwing." He didn't turn his eyes away from the city below him, sprawled out, like a beast on its back. A pulse of breath, the barest signs of breathing, while the light danced over his husken form.

"This is new," Nightwing, Dick, said cheerily as he dropped onto the roof. There was his trademark smile on him, proud, full of life, and stretched up from his low crouch, his skintight suit holding up well to his grueling parkour style. "Usually, we'd meet at the Batcave, or in the middle of beating some thugs, or when Gotham's up in flames and you need me for something."

Batman pinned Nightwing with his gaze. The inhumanly white of his eyes glaring through the darkness to hit Nightwing and only Nightwing with its unnatural light.

Nightwing raised his eyebrows. He's in one of those moods, Batman guessed were his thoughts. The former Boy Wonder knew his mannerisms more than the rest, maybe more than Tim Drake, but was perhaps the most loyal to Batman himself. The prodigal son, if the saying were to be coined here.

"The Batfamily has been up in a stir lately," Batman said, after a moment. It was a somber atmosphere, only lightened by the levity Nightwing's presence always brought. "Spoiler and Orphan have gone off the grid, and Oracle's been trying to pin their location. I just wanted to check if you were fine."

Nightwing unfurled his hands and nodded his head, his expression is grim. "I'm fine Batman, always have been. What's going on? Someone is targeting the family?"

Batman turned away, hoping his worry and frustration over the lack of information didn't show in his body language. As usual, the darkness of Gotham surged forward, shrouding him in its unholy grace, to shroud the world from Batman's insecurities, from his weaknesses, turning what was supposed to be a man, into a monster of the night.

"More than likely. I've made more than a few enemies who would try to target me through the people I care about," Batman said. His fists curled, bunching up a handful of his cape into his hands as he narrowed his menacing eyes over the horizon. "Gotham is my city, but the more I clean it of its filth the more it comes back with a vengeance."

"I am the night. I am vengeance," Nightwing said with a half-smirk as he crossed his arms. An old saying, an old catch-phrase, with a younger, darker, more withdrawn Batman. Nowadays, there was barely a difference between Bruce Wayne and Batman, but where that would once worry Alfred to no end, now it gave him peace. The Batman took a little of Bruce Wayne, and Bruce Wayne of Batman.

He grunted, as he was oft to do.

"We'll find them Batman. We always do, and then we beat up the guys who took them and give them a reason to never do it again," Nightwing assured.

Batman nodded his head and turned around. His cape parted around him and he reached forward to place a hand on Nightwing's shoulders. The face beneath the mask was still stern, was still strong and hard and dark, but his hand was gentler than it was in years. "How's Bludhaven?"

Nightwing seemed to have been caught off guard by the question, but the former Boy Wonder was always quick to adapt and change. The brightest part of Batman. Had it been anyone but Dick who had been his first Robin, Batman was remiss to believe he'd keep up with the trend. Whenever he was caught in a snag with his partners over the years, disappointed in them, or unable to trust them, he remembered those days in the past with Dick, and his misgivings would give way to hopes and better tomorrows. Something Batman never did, something Batman wasn't mean to do.

The night didn't dream of tomorrow, it dreamt of shadows, of blood, and pearls pooling in a pool of red.

"Fine...um, good? The police is still being a pain in the ass, and who I thought was a friend turned out to hate my guts more than anything else so...it could be better."

Batman nodded his head. "I was lucky with Gordon, lucky that I had a brother on my side since day one. I'm sorry you don't have the same luck."

"Well, it's fine. I have you guys right?"

Batman grunted again. "And how is Miss Tsang? I heard the two of you had a recent scare? Hadn't I lectured you enough on the use of protection?"

"It was a false alarm," Nightwing said. "And I do use protection, it's just...that night was a pretty special night is all."

Batman could guess one hundred and one scenarios which could result in Dick foregoing with his carefully given orders, can devise twenty-one scenarios where Dick could have forgotten or three scenarios where Nightwing was manipulated into not using protection. But each one he discarded and locked away in his mind as he turned away and stared back out into the city.

"Hey...Batman, you all right? I mean, you brood like this all the time and everything but, this is kinda different to your usual MO," Nightwing said.

Batman felt his shoulders drop, but they quickly rose back up again to remove any inclination to think he was...anything less than brooding. "We've done everything we can for Gotham, haven't we Nightwing...Dick?"

Nightwing eyebrows disappeared into his hairline at the breach of codename. "Whoa, okay, something is definitely on your mind."

Batman turned to him. He wasn't good at this. Talking about himself. Loosening the damn he'd repress most, if not all, of his emotions behind. Enforcing it in the heaviness of his heart. He could barely even look straight into Dick's face when he adopted the boy.

"Dick, my boy, how long do you think we'll be on this mission. I lost Jason, I lost Damian, I lost you, and I lost Tim. I've had to go through the death of my sons over and over again. The death of the people I care about. The deaths of the people I've sworn myself to protect. How long Dick, how long will our mission last, how many more of my family do I have to lose again before it ends."

"Bruce...We all chose this life Bruce. We're all here for our own reasons."

"I know," Batman gritted out. "I know," he said softly. Gunshots rang out in the horizon, and Batman turned to the nose with only a minute motion. He'd grown desensitized to the sound of gunfire over the years but regardless, he reacted to it all the same.

Every shot was a reminder that his mission was no closer to ending.

"That was on Crime Alley," Nightwing said.

Crime alley. "Nightwing." Gone was the previous tone. Now he was Batman. Baritone voice set to a menacing timber. Ready, coiled, embracing the darkness that surrounded the city and gave Batman life. That stripped Batman of any semblance of humanity.

"Got it," Nightwing said. The former Boy Wonder danced across the rooftops. Where Batman would jump, lumber, and take flight with the grace of a bat dashing across cave walls, fleeting in its image in the sky, Nightwing was an acrobat. Graceful, gliding, a spectacle to stare at in awe.

Batman threw out his arm and fired his Batclaw, reeling himself in from his grappling gun and landing on the rooftops with nary a sound. Nightwing landed next to him.

Bright flashes, lightning strikes in the middle of darkness. Batman felt his lip tighten in anger at seeing monsters in his city.

He hopped off his perch on the rooftop, and landed on the ground, his cape fluttering around him. The crook wasn't looking in his direction, even when he had furled his cape to make as much noise as possible. Something was scaring him more than Batman. That wouldn't do.

He reached forward, elbow forward, and struck the man under the head. He balked, and Batman followed up a spinning heel kick to his solar plexus. The gunman dropped to the ground, and Batman offhandedly connecting his face to a known associate to a local Gotham gang.

"It's the Bat!" Another gunman cried. He reached for his rifle, twisting around to catch Batman in his sights. Batman didn't move, he let his cape furl around him and shroud him in black. Nothing but the two white points on his face glared out from the dark. Staring, invoking fear and misery into his foes.

The gunman hesitated and he dropped to the ground. Nightwind landed next to him, catching his thrown baton from the air with a graceful swing of his arm. "What next?"

"We find what spooked them," Batman said as he stared at a trail of green on the floor. The lenses on his cowl tried to discern what was the substance, but very little came up that made sense to the detective.

"This way," Nightwing signalled, gesturing to a broken off window on the wall. Wasting no time, Nightwing jumped through and landed in the room where the thing had ran to. Batman allowed a few of his grievances at seeing his former protege jump head first without first scoping out the scene, before jumping through. "It's splattered all across the walls."

Batman glanced at where Nightwing was pointing. True enough, the green substance, unknown to his scans, were everywhere in the room. "Alfred, run a scan on the building me and Nightwing are currently in."

:Other than being the residence of several pencil pushers and one failed cosmetic surgeon, Master Bruce? I hardly think there is anything of importance there: Alfred replied.

"Hnn," Batman muttered as he stared at the walls. What was the connection? There was a shattering of glass inside the room and both the two costumed vigilantes sprang into action.

Nightwing dove into the room, Batman behind him. They paused turning to the disturbance with one look of shock and one of hardened expectancy. A green childlike creature was hunched over on the ground, blood pooling from a gash on its chest, while a white ice-like creature stood above it.

The creature turned to them, lifting a blade from its side as though preparing to spear the small creature through. Batman had no doubt that it was preparing to do just that.

Nightwing sprang first, always quick to save a life, and met the creature with his baton. The sword connected and a screeching sound echoed in the dull echo of the room. Nightwing's baton broke.

He adapted quickly though. Batman rushed forward, and Nightwing swung his feet and caught the creature by its legs. Batman clenched his fist and swung a bone shattering fist into the side of the creatures face, burying its face into the wooden floor. The creature screeched, Batman figured if it could survive that, then it could survive a little more punishment.

Batman brought his boots up and stomped hard on the creature's leg. "Nightwing."

The former sidekick stepped to the fallen green creature's side. Batman overheard a few chittering words escaping the fallen creature's mouth.

"Batman I don't understand what it's...Batman behind you," he cried.

The ice-like creature had gotten off the ground, and Batman turned, his fists clenched, and elbowed the creature in its gut. It didn't even balk from the strike, and Batman retreated to reassess the situation.

The creature swung forward and Batman pushed Nightwing away as it tossed its blade at them. Batman rolled away to the side, catching the green creature rising to its knees, and began...singing.

Something twisted and turned in his vision, even as he rose to his feet and made a right hook at the creature's face. His vision grew blurry at the edges and he brought his arm up to block an offhand swung from the creature.

"Batman!" Nightwing cry was more distant than it should be, and sensing something wrong, he kicked the creature and turned to Nightwing who was behind him.

Instead of seeing his old partner, all he saw was a tree. Instead of seeing an old dilapidated apartment complex, he was surrounding by a forest. Batman turned, his eyes narrowing into twin points of anger and fury as he considered where he was.

Teleportation? Toxins? His suit's systems would have easily handled any toxins, and he had anti teleportation technology that interfered with any forced atom splitting without his permission. So how did he get here? More importantly where was he?

If Zatanna was here, she would tell him it was magic. And Batman was starting to guess that it was. The World's Greatest Detective concluding on guesswork and magic to solve a mystery. The hubris.

Find where I am. He scaled up a tree and just as he would in the cityscape of Gotham, he began jumping from tree branch to tree branch, trying to find some semblance of the world he knew. But before he could travel far, he heard the screams of women in the forests. Cries for help.

The Caped Crusader hardened his fist and narrowed his eyes. The mission never ends.


Five men had four women in their grasp. They young beautiful women, dressed in heavy woolen clothes and frilly long skirts. Tavern wenches that knew nothing of the time of day or the state of the world, but are nothing if not persistent existences to the toil of war.

The men over them were Wolves from the Stark's Host. They had been on patrol, procuring provisions from the nearby villages and had found that these five women had all slept, or were sleeping, with Lannister dogs. That could not do.

"Please, let us go!" One of the women cried, kicking her legs vainly at the metal chest plate Colin wore. He had snated the fine armor from her husband when he struggled to fit it around his body. The man fell easily to his blade strike, and he took it for spoils.

"That's what you get for sleeping with a Lannister girl," he said as he socked her across the jaw.

"He hasn't been part of the Westerlands for years!" She cried, but Colin didn't care. He tore away at her dress to reveal her figure and licked his lips in anticipation. The other woman were already been forcefully disrobed as Galen cried out in happiness.

"I love it when the Lords squabble over their lands," he said as he gripped the woman by the shoulders. The sound of fabric furling behind him was heard, and the woman that he had been staring down on, tear tracks trailing down from her eyes, turned rock solid as she stared eyes wide at something behind him.

Galen clicked his tongue. Colin had heard it as well, and suspected some village idiot had decided to play hero. The Stark soldier reached to his side and pulled out his sword, and with a loud yell, swung his blade around the catch the foo-

With the clang of metal on metal, Colin was able to catch side of who...or what had disturbed their moment. A...a beast wreathed in darkness stood there, shadows reached up from the ground and wrapping around its shoulders. Colin's eyes immediately went to the horns atop its head and he gulped.

His hand grew shaky, and he dropped his blade. The Stark soldier took a step back as two inhumanly white eyes bore a hole into his head, and he choked on something. "W-what?!"

The creature sprang forward, moving faster than anything Colin had ever seen in his life, and turned his metal armor into paper thin strips of cloth as its fist crushed his ribs and tossed him up against the tree. Colin felt more than the wind knocked out of him, he felt his soul try to rip itself out of his body in fright as he witnessed the creature lay waste to his fellows.

The creature crushed Galen's face, broke Brod's arms, and pinned Hatter to the ground with bat knives. Caster, the last of them, stated in horror at the creature and tried to run, but the creature swung the shadows forward and caught the poor man before he could get far. When the creature reeled him in, well, Colin could only cringe. As the last one up, Caster got the worst beating out of all of them.

The creature turned to him, and Colin cringed harder in fright. It stepped towards him, menacingly, shadows licking off its body even though it was day out. Colin hyperventilated, and before he knew it, all he could see was black...but he could feel everything.


Batman dropped the husk of a man on the ground, his face beaten black and blue. Gotham had no shortage of thieves and lunatics, but the number of rapists were almost non-existent. In a city of death and decadence carnal desires mattered less than the grand spectacle of violence.

He turned away and stared at the five women. They were holding onto each other, shivering and muttering words between each other. Out in the forests and victims of a sexual assault, Batman couldn't hope to expect these women to handle themselves. So he stepped forward, pulling out bandages and alcohol from his utility belt to deal with their injuries.

They huddled closer to each other as he approached, and knowing how much fear his appearance could cast, he began slowly, warmly, with more warmth in his usually menacing tone. "Are you alright?" He could tell they didn't know who he was. He could tell they weren't from Gotham or America. They looked like they belong in Britain with their features, but he knew that was even less likely. They didn't speak a language he understood, didn't wear the clothes that matched the century, nor did they even show an understanding to what he said.

Grunting, Batman dropped to his knee and patiently waited for at least one of them to glance at his direction. When one did, he extended the bottle of alcohol and the white bandages. She stared at them for a moment, the back at him. Batman tried his best to exude an atmosphere of help, and for the most part he had a lot of practice and incentive to know how.

She reached out and grabbed the bandages, then she took the bottle of alcohol. After seeing her tending to her and the others injuries, Batman turned away and handled the criminals.

He tied them up to a tree and made sure they were tied securely. Then he placed a beacon so that he would know where they were to deal with later. After he was done he turned back to the women to see that they were on their feet and whispering to each other.

Batman allowed his arms to fall to his sides, his cape shrouding his body in shadow. The woman glanced at each other, giving him passing looks, before the woman that had accepted his bandages stepped forward. She had dark brown hair, and there were small bruises on her face and arms. Her dress was about to fall off from her shoulders.

She said a few words, ones that he couldn't understand. Finally, after a moment, he nodded his head. "You're welcome," he said. He deduced by her body language and by the tone of her voice that she was thanking him.

Batman glanced to the sky, catching the slow draw of a setting sun. "Can you get home?" He asked.

The women glanced at each other again. It was obvious they didn't understand him. The leading woman looked at him, and then after a moment of indecision, made a follow me gesture. Batman, knowing there was no other option but to do so, unless he wanted to be left out in the cold with no way of knowing where he was going, followed after her.