Author's Notes: This is a side-story of "Guiding Star". I think Raven's such an awesome babe that I believe she deserves her own story. This will be very short, though. I have said that I do not see Raven with Beast Boy, and it seems I will adhere to that premise, but I'd like to show you just how I feel about Raven's relationships in general. Because I feel bad that I'm not into the RavBB pairing, I got them to interact in this fic, hopefully in a manner RavBB fans would like (if not be totally happy about). Don't be afraid. I'm no hater. I love Beast Boy. I wish I had a Beast Boy.

Summary: Raven's mind is a dark, dark place, and who knows what lurks in its depths. Something wicked this way comes, and she's the only one strong enough to stop it. Or is she?

Genre: Angst and more angst.

Rating: PG-13, for mature, abstract and dark concepts. If you scoff at witchcraft and mysticism, you might scoff at this.


Pronunciation Guide (some words in the text could be a mouth-full):

Ain Soph – Ah-yin Sop

Arcana – Ar-KAH-na

Athame – AH-thah-may

Deosil – Jesh-il

Geburah – Gee-boo-RAH

Kether – KEH-ter

Mabon – May-bun

Malkuth – Mal-KOOT

Netzach – Neh-TZAK

Samhain – Sow-in

Sephiroth – SEP-ee-rot

Tarot – TAIR-oh

Tiphareth – Tip-E-ret

Yesod – Yee-SOD


Standard disclaimers apply.

Darkfire

by Adamant Eve

Part I – Dark's Descent

Raven sought her center one more time and found it.

Coating it with the tendrils of her power, she tried, after having failed several times in the last hour, to maintain her grip. She spoke her mantra with near-dead calm, letting her words sink into her consciousness; until she was no longer aware that she was speaking them.

The darkness cloaked her, the chill that marked its arrival waning at the touch of her powers. Her heartbeat slowed, her breathing evened out. Levitation ceased to be a conscious effort and the tips of hair rippled against the telepathic threads flowing from her pores in gentle cascades.

She was one with her emotions; with her mind; silent, constant and stabilized. She dared to think she had done it, but she dared too soon.

The calm slipped; just once, and she tumbled ceaselessly into chaos. There was nothing to grasp and the cosmic shelter she had built around herself crumbled. Rushing headlong out of her meditative state, she panicked momentarily, only to realize that she couldn't afford to lose control. Plunging within herself, she made a rough grab for her emotions, stuffed it into a vault and slammed the door shut.

Raven came crashing to the floor on her rump and the vase nearby was obliterated with only the smallest hiss to sound its demise. The flowers that were nesting in it fell to the floor with a wet splat. The water looked murky. It hadn't been changed for days.

Starfire usually does that.

Raven let go of a shallow sigh, irritated with herself for another failed attempt, yet managing to keep even those emotions in check. She didn't even bother to rise off the floor. She just sat there and stared out through the vast, panoramic windows. The view consisted mostly of the bay, but a part of the city jutted from the right and she could clearly make out a cluster of trees in the distance. The Bay Side Park was a stark green amidst its gray, ominous urban background.

There's always that ray of light.

Raven blew a breath from the corner of her lip. She hated it when she got melodramatic.

It had been especially difficult to focus these past few weeks. Up until Cinderblock came crashing through their crimeless-calm, one would think all the idle-time she used meditating would have been equivalent to a great deal of progress as far as her inner battles were concerned, but it hadn't. It was a struggle growing more brutal by the day, making her a recluse obsessive about her books. She could tell the others were wondering, but they had learned enough about her personality to leave her alone.

Starfire had tried to talk to her, of course. Raven had sensed Starfire's apprehension; that their bond of friendship, having come so far, was slowly falling back from where it began. The Tamaranean valued that bond, and Ravenfelt the same. She wanted to assure Starfire that she had nothing to worry about; that there was nowhere to move but forward as far as their relationship was concerned. But that would have been nurturing, and Raven didn't do nurturing.

And now this.

Cinderblock, destroyed… Starfire, unconscious… everyone else, lost...

Well, at least she was lost. She wasn't sure about the others, but they certainly weren't looking better in the aftermath.

Her head hurt just thinking about it.

Getting to her feet, she decided she would need to bring out the big guns if she wanted to get anywhere, meditating. She needed to go to her room.

A quick trip down the elevators to the chamber levels had her in her room in less than three minutes. As her doors opened, she was met by an image of herself in the large, pentagonal mirror hanging on the wall. The dim lighting in her room made her image look phantasmal and faceless; her strange, ashen skin melding with the dark décor of the room.

No wonder Starfire despaired at the possibility of being stuck looking like me.

She smirked. Then again, she didn't like the idea that she was doomed to look like some dysfunctional Mary Sunshine and Rainbows either.

Her eyes fell upon her sculpture of the Tragedy and Comedy Masks perched on her oddly shaped pedestal. What a coincidence that it was appropriately parallel to her thoughts.

Raven glided into her room and went straight to her dresser. She barely noticed the soft hiss of her closing doors as she picked up the strange vanity mirror lying between her candle cups.

She saw her reflection again on its surface, but this image was much more sinister. The mirror hanging from her wall reflected what was there to see. The mirror in her hand parted the glamour, exposing what lay underneath.

Taking a deep breath, she set it aside for the moment, going to the enormous trunk looming beside her door. She muttered her mantra softly and the lid was immediately blanketed by the shadows of her power. The heavy lid rose and she levitated it aside, setting it down on the floor. It thudded gently. The thing had to be at least two hundred pounds.

Peering into her trunk, she gathered her thoughts and concentrated on what she would need. Deliberately, she reached for the rings of Azar first.

It clinked in her palm; red rings made of a material not known in this dimension. Azar of Azarath, her former guardian and spiritual elder, had a particular distaste for Earth stones, saying they were erratic and undependable. Raven slipped each ring around her forefingers and looked back into the trunk for the rest of the things she would need.

She grasped her obsidian-blade Athame by its hilt. The black leather binding its wooden handle was worn and faded, but it was a powerful tool. Already, she could feel its essence seeping through her fingers.

Next, she pulled out a wand. It looked nothing like the wands of pop culture. It wasn't sleek, it didn't have a felt tip and it certainly didn't sprinkle fairy dust. It was an ordinary looking piece of wood that one might idly pick from the forest floor to make a campfire with. In fact, it looked partially burnt at one end. The stick of wood had been knocked from an Ash tree by lightning, making it all the more desirable for those like her. It was roughly twenty inches in length with runes etched crudely into its bark.

Her pewter chalice and palm sized hematite ball sat atop each other, and she levitated it out of her box, setting them carefully at her feet.

Clutching the Athame and wand in one hand, she crouched down and pushed back the purple carpet spanning the center of her room. On the floor was an etched circle, and within the circle was a pentagram. The etching was well worn in, carved by the Athame, no less, and Raven wondered what the titan boys would say if they found it.

Starfire already saw it, and she hadn't made a big deal. The girl understood symbols if everything else confused her, and she was, after all, a Goddess and sun worshiper, but the boys—well, their reactions were yet to be seen.

With ritual precision, Raven distributed the objects she had gathered evenly over the circle. Not leaving its confines, she summoned various herbs from within her trunk: St. John's Wort, myrrh, frankincense, jasmine, angelica, dill, fennel and some cucumber rose into the air. She swirled them together—deosil or clockwise, brought them above her and released. The herbs fell around, over, within and beyond her magical circle. They were mostly protection herbs, with accompanying properties that enhanced strength, clarity of mind and awareness. After a moment's thought, she called over some Mugwort. She could do with a bit of inner enlightenment.

Finally, she pulled the mirror within the circle. She positioned herself so that the pentagram was upright and put the mirror in front of her. She shifted it so that the handle would be pointing away from her while its glass surface lay flat on the floor. But she hesitated.

September now… Mabon, between Lammas and Samhain. Its fires might be weak.

She reversed the mirror, handle towards her and surface up.

Raven was ready, and getting into the lotus position, she straightened her back, angled her arms and wrists and closed her eyes. She breathed, following a rhythm, and when the calm began to settle, she drew on the energies of the objects surrounding her.

The Athame represented air and the male energy: creation, death and rebirth; the hematite sphere, or the Pentacle, represented earth; the glass chalice (all the more powerful for having been given by Starfire as a birthday present… of course, the boys had been confused) represented water, and all things feminine, like love, life, healing; and finally the wand, representing fire.

The scent of the herbs grew potent, and she let them enter her, giving her the power she needed to go on this journey.

She began to chant her mantra, and almost instantly, the feeling of going within herself, the nesting in her inner void, became palpable. She knew she had a firmer grip. It was the circle, and the herbs, and the rings and the mirror. She felt them cradling her, and her confidence reverberated through her consciousness.

Raven pushed further still. She had to reach that place, that deep cavern within her that would summon the Essence. She had questions. Azar's Essence would know the answers to them.

Her progress was momentarily halted by a loud groan, like a big, monstrous beast waking from a dark sleep. For a moment, fear gripped her, and she thought she would be sucked out of the path, but she wrapped the wards around her and she was comforted, the steadiness of her journey resuming.

She knew what that sound was, and she knew why it stirred, but she didn't have to be comfortable about it. In fact, it was the very reason she was doing this. She cloaked herself more closely. The Seed wasn't going to find her this time, at least.

In the distance, she saw a grayish light. It twisted and turned like a heavy mist with a ball of fire at the core. Carefully, Raven reached for it, and as her fingertips came in contact with the haze, there was a dark flash, like a shadow cast to block the rays of the moon.

Raven winced, but as her vision cleared, she saw that she stood at the edge of an eclipse. A few feet away stood a woman much, much older than she was. Her spirit was ancient, but her face held youth. She was the essence of Azar.

While this was in no way the granddaughter of the revered founders of the Temple Azarath, Raven had sought this entity for guidance several times in the past. While the Azar essence didn't exactly embody the values the actual Azar was loved for, it possessed Azar's wisdom. Raven would have to rely on the humanity Azar imbibed in her to be guided from misinterpreting that wisdom.

"Azar, I need your counsel."

Azar turned, her face even deader of emotion than Raven's. "Speak child."

Raven tried not to put too much significance in the word Azar used to refer to her. This was, after all, as close to a computer database as the spiritual world could get. It was practically programmed to call her that. "I am in turmoil. The calm becomes harder and harder to grasp. I've made great progress since I first joined the Titans, but now it's as if I've begun to regress. I fear that my actions yesterday of killing Cinderblock has only made it worse. That side of me that I have sought to control all my life is stirring anew, stronger than ever."

Azar nodded sagely. "It is but natural."

Raven was surprised by this. "It doesn't feel natural. It was like the very progress that I made was the cause of my demise. Starfire… my connection with her encompasses a great deal of my strength. She helped me build that connection; solidified it. She knows I can love her without being a danger to myself, or to her. So when Cinderblock hurt her—something inside me rose; I let it out willingly. I killed him because he hurt Starfire; I love Starfire, so I hated Cinderblock. It was as if I had to move forward just so I could reach my downfall. It—it—" She let out a breath, unable to find the proper words. "It ain't kosher."

Azar raised a feathery hand to calm her rippling emotions. "You are in Geburah, the mid-plane between Yessod and Kether; the Foundation, and the Crown of Creation."

Raven had to wrack her brain to find reference for the words. Azar was a great scholar of mysticism; her knowledge covering the mysticisms of Azarath and those of the planets spanning the galaxies. It wouldn't be a stretch to assume that Azar would use Earth-based mysticism to explain Raven's predicament.

It came to Raven a moment later, and it was almost logical that Azar would use that reference after Raven had used the word "kosher".

It was Qabalah, or Kabbala—ancient Hebrew magic. Azar was talking about the Sephiroth of Consciousness; the Tree of Life, upon which on its apex sat Ain Soph, or ones higher spiritual being.

Fitting, thought Raven; at least to the structure of her spiritual quest. She wasn't without her objections, though. "The Tree has ten levels, Azar. In its middle is a void. There is no middle. What are you talking about?"

"The first level," began Azar, "is the Malkuth. It is considered separate from the Sephiroth. It is the level in which man has not left the earth. It consists of material things that do nothing to better our inner selves. It is what we are born in. Any person, whether Jew, gentile, Buddhist—they can attain Malkuth; live in it, without even knowing it is in the bottom of the spiritual barrel."

Raven listened, processed and nodded. Eliminating Malkuth from the Tree left the nine other levels which were all spiritual in nature. The level in the middle would therefore be the fifth one. Like Azar said, she was in Geburah; she was at war.

It immediately became clear and she cursed. Of course! She was halfway to her ultimate goal. She had reached the point where the struggle within her was strongest. She was empowered enough to lurch forward, yet so were the obstacles that sought to take her. Her enlightenment was at war with the Seed of Trigon and evil had scored a colossal point when she gave in to her blood lust with Cinderblock.

"The tide has shifted in favor of Trigon's Seed," said Azar. "You have put yourself and everyone else in danger."

Raven frowned. "I will beat it back. I've done it before."

"It is not that simple. Before, with Dr. Light, you did not give in , you almost did, but you didn't. You chose wisely on that catalyst. The more recent circumstances surrounding your decision to kill Cinderblock foreshadowed another catalyst. It is at moments like those that the struggle escalates, both aspects of your being gaining immeasurable power. It was for you to decide which side would hold sway. You chose the dark path, so you have made that side of you powerful while the influence of Azarath weakens; continues to do so."

"No."

"Yes. Azarath will lose this battle, Raven, if you do not do something about it."

Determination was easy to come by. "Tell me what to do."

"You need a vessel; a strong vessel. Pure and powerful; and under ordinary circumstances, that vessel must be invulnerable to your intrusion."

Raven arched an eyebrow. "My intrusion?"

"You will use this vessel therefore there will be some intruding involved."

"How could I intrude on something invulnerable?"

"Let us just say she is in—extraordinary circumstances now, therefore what once was invulnerable is vulnerable."

"She?" Raven glared at her as realization sunk in. "You want me to turn Starfire into a vessel."

"It is not a want. I do not want. It is a necessity. She commands her spiritual self. She is powerful and untainted. Implant the Seed inside her and she can keep it sealed without her even knowing it. In the meantime, you can grow strong, take back what footing you lost, and eventually, you will be able to overcome that evil Seed when you reclaim it. It is for your own good and everyone else. If the Seed gets a hold of you now, it will be catastrophic. You will not be able to overcome the evil. Trigon will rise from the Nether-verse by your summoning and you and he will overrun the realms."

"And if I implant the Seed in her, what will become of her?"

"She will merely keep it, and keep it well. She is, by nature, accepting, which is why in her stasis, you will be able to implant her with the Seed, unlike if she were awake, where everything within her will resist. But even in sleep, the evil would be unable to break free of her. If she does not wake, she becomes all the more perfect for her function."

Raven hated how detached this Azar essence was. The real Azar never would have suggested such a thing, but Raven supposed it was not the essence's fault. It was just telling her the facts. "And if she wakes? What will become of the Seed? What will become of Star?"

Azar raised a hand, palm up. "She will feel the presence within her but will know that it must be kept sealed. She will seek enlightenment for questions she knows not how to ask. She will climb the Tree of Life, reach for Kether and aspire for Ain Soph." Azar's hand rose as she spoke, her gaze lifting in response.

Raven scoffed. "In other words, she'll wander the galaxies by herself, looking for the answers."

"She will return eventually. When you are ready she will return. The implanting will create an even stronger bond between the two of you, stronger than whatever you have now, and when you are ready to face the evil, she will hear your summons and go to you, none the worse from her travels. Starfire is too strong and pure to be corrupted. The Seed would not be able to overcome her under any circumstance. She cannot, however, fight the battle for you. It is only you who can destroy the Seed for it is part of you. So yes, you must strive to reach your own Ain Soph so that you can destroy the Seed once and for all. It is not a selfish solution, Raven. You seek strength to preserve the universe as we know it. The vessel will not be harmed in any way. No blood will be spilled in this transition."

No blood indeed.

Azar's essence was incapable of lying and had no tendency whatsoever to harbor malicious intent. It was as close to an impartial oracle as she could get, but Raven found herself resenting this entity.

What did this thing know of blood? All it knew was that blood flowed within one's veins. It had no capacity to understand the more abstract aspects of pain, suffering and loss; the bleeding of a soul. Raven knew that if Starfire took off for no apparent reason, it could deal wounds deeper than anything a blade or bullet could inflict.

Robin.

Raven snorted derisively. Dick Grayson. That fool of a boy who didn't know love and desire if it bit him in the butt. She had felt his stirrings, his growing attachment to Starfire, manifesting in his emotions and his physical reactions. She knew what it was even before he realized it was there, and it was only now he was paying attention. Starfire's reciprocation was forthcoming. The time would come when all their excuses to evade the issue would peter from their fingertips, and they would be left with nothing but clarity. They loved each other. Needed each other, and they would know what to do from there.

Raven snorted again. It wasn't that she resented Dick for it; it wasn't like she needed the things Dick needed from Starfire to be able to love her. It was just… how could he waste it like that? Didn't he know how much of a blessing it was to be free to express one's emotions?

But those issues aside, the loss of Starfire would devastate Robin. It could change the course of their lives as they knew it. Because when a leader fell, his followers fell as well. They would move on, in their own way, but the lighter path would be sealed indefinitely. Starfire was of a spirit that held the key to such a path. She was a catalyst in herself, which only emphasized her strength.

Cyborg and Beast Boy wouldn't stand a chance against the onslaught of the loss. Cyborg's struggle to keep his humanity was deeply entrenched within the friendships he kept. Beast Boy wouldn't be enough. Beast Boy was co-dependent. Beast Boy used humor to keep himself sane, which didn't really do much.

Raven shook her head. Starfire simply could not be made a vessel. She was not so cruel as to take so much from the others. They had helped in her progress too, in their small way, and on gratitude alone, she could not take Starfire away from them, even for the good of the universe.

"No, Azar. I will leave Starfire alone. I will face the Seed with what strength I have. It'll have to do."

Azar did not look pleased. "You would risk the universe for your folly?"

"I know what I'm doing."

"You cannot win against the Seed in your state."

"I do not intend to win just yet. I know I couldn't. I will seal it. I'll put it under lock and key until I have regained the strength to fight the Seed and beat it. I know that I can put up a barrier strong enough to hold it until I can strengthen my powers."

Azar motioned to speak but hesitated a moment. "You will need something very, very sturdy to hold that fort, Raven. Something cultivated and true; bonds of a sort. Something—"

"Like love? Friendship? I suppose you think I don't have those."

"Oh, I know you do. You have developed those bonds. It is those very bonds that earned you Yesod, Hod, Netzach, and Tiphareth."

The first four levels of the Sephiroth. Raven knew that.

"But do you realize that if you use these bonds to seal the Seed, you will not get them back? Eventually, the Seed will wear them down, until they are completely destroyed. Sealing the Seed will contain it for a workable amount of time, but you will regress. You will have to start from the beginning. You will lose—you will lose Starfire as your spiritual other."

Raven knew that, and Starfire would feel it as well, but there was no help for it. By choosing to create an inner vessel instead of seeking to make a vessel of Starfire, the so-called blood would be kept to a minimum. By choosing this path, the only one who would bleed was her, and she was willing. "I'll lose those bonds, yes, but I will cultivate new ones. It won't be a total loss, just a setback. I can live with setbacks."

Azar observed her for a moment before she nodded. "Very well. Do what you must. But are you certain you are willing to sacrifice so much?"

"Yes."

Azar lifted her hand and pointed to the distance. "You will find the Seed if you follow the path of the Major Arcana. Start with the Lovers, and then seek the Fool. Mark the Star in the distance, alongside the Hanged Man. Between then and there, pray that the Magician, the High Priest and the High Priestess lead you to the World."

Raven sighed. She hated it when Azar spoke the Tarots and with accurate precision too. "So mote it be," she muttered. It was the only appropriate response she could think of.

She separated herself from the essence and once more the eerie black flashed before she regained normal vision.

In the distance, she could see the rippling of phantasmal colors, like the Aurora Borealis of the poles, but less random.

She saw the Lovers, in the Tarot the symbol of choice, and went to it. She remembered Azar's instructions clearly enough; seeking the Fool, known as setting on a journey in Tarot-talk; marking the Star—or hope—beside the Hanged Man, which of course meant self-sacrifice.

Woo-hoo, what a surprise.

The Magician, High Priest and High Priestess symbolized powerful guidance, spiritual wisdom and spiritual knowledge. They were there to meet her, hopefully to lead her to The World, or in more normal terms, Success.

As the entities approached her, she saw that they held balls of light in their hands.

Raven knew what they were. It was ties that bound her to her friends. And as the Tarots came closer, she could feel the overwhelming aura of Starfire amongst them. For the first time in her life, she felt a sense of regret. It was disturbing to realize that she could feel such an unfettered emotion. Feeling regret meant she had cherished something, and in her young empathic life, where emotions were her bane, it was like finally eating that fattening Oreo-chip ice cream, loving it, and then barfing it back out.

She took hold of the bonds, absorbing it through her fingers one by one until she had them all within her grasp.

The Tarots bowed and she had to stifle the rolling of her eyes. Sometimes, Azar's allusions were way too dramatic for her tastes. They stepped aside and revealed that they were only just cards, paper thin and without depth.

Shaking her head, Raven pushed past them.

She hadn't gone far before she saw the imposing figure of the Seed, a manifestation of her father's legacy etched into her consciousness; formed in his image and likeness.

His back to her, he roared in a voice filled with fury. This close to him, the sound was infinitely more terrifying, and he certainly looked ten times uglier in cosmic-person than he did in her imagination.

His glistening, red leathery skin bore no scars, stretched tight over muscles. His long hair was a shimmering white, and on his face were four, menacing orbs. There was no calling this guy Four Eyes, not when Four Eyes had small antlers coming out of his head. He was huge, rising several hundred feet in height. At his size, he could pick up the T-Tower with one hand and send it hurtling to Gotham.

His broad shoulders tapered to a narrow waist, and the only thing standing between him and indecency was a ratty loincloth.

"Ruler of a million worlds in the Demon Realm and he couldn't spring for a decent pair of pants. Figures."

Hands fisting, the Seed turned his headupwards and blew out another bellow, this one even more frightening than the last. It was so loud that it emitted a sonic blast that sent Raven and everything else hurtling away from him.

Raven raised her wards just so she wouldn't get hit by cosmic debris. She knew that battles were one-third intimidation, but coming from the Seed, the intimidation felt pretty much like a 100 percent.

Shrugging off the fear crawling up her spine, Raven bolstered her determination and surged forward. She called forth all her dimensions, wincing as her happy self came bouncing in with irritating vivacity.

Her plethora of emotions converged on her and she grew to proportionate size. The Seed, who took her father's form, was stilltens offeet taller than her, but she was now at least better fit for her task.

The Seed saw her and it turned, the low, rumbling grumble sending tremors through her. His eyes glowed viciously and he bared his teeth in a grim sneer; a row of razor-sharp fangs. His pointy ears flickered, as if listening for the sound of her heartbeat.

He laughed, his voice echoing into the far reaches of the cosmos. He began to spout claws and his antlers grew into two massive horns. His face took on an even more grotesque sneer and his eyebrows grew into thick bristles. Muscles grew over muscles and his feet extended, shaping into wolf-like flanks.

Raven winced.

The Seed charged at her, and even before he was within range of her, she was thrown back by the sheer force of his explosive presence.

Raven felt it in her gut and it speared through her head and toes. She bit down on her lip to stifle a cry of pain as she struggled to regain control of herself. She was able to keep herself from crashing into mental barriers and reclaimed her composure, breathing to ease the pain from her body. The coppery taste of blood was tangible.

She would have to concentrate if she wanted to seal him. The Seed charged again, but she was more oriented of his capabilities and she dodged his attacks. She would never be able to fight with him, hand to hand. Azar had warned her about that, but if she wanted to contain him, she would have to suffer a knock or two. She just needed to buy a little more time between his attacks so she could create a singularity.

Focusing, she summoned all the power she could spare. "Azarath, metrion, zinthos!" Dark bolts shot from her hands and it hit him square in the face.

It hardly did anything to him. It was more like throwing a couple of pillows at him, but it bought her the time she needed. She zoned out to create the portal. Deftly, she punched a hole through the warps in her mind. She dug deep, searching for that blackness that would be strong enough to suck him in, at least long enough for her to place the bindings. The singularity expanded and its suction began. Raven let it go to do its own thing and she snapped out of her meditation. She gasped when she saw the Seed right on top of her.

Raven dashed to dodge the incoming blow. She was able to get away enough to avoid the full-impact of the hit, but it caught her nonetheless and it was excruciating. It sent her spiraling to the other end of the cosmos and she banged against two mental barriers. She coiled in pain, shivering as she fought to withstand it.

The Seed howled delightedly, coming at her again.

Forcing herself to move, Raven dodged and fled. She needed him to follow her, and he would if he smelled her fear. It was an easy thing to effect, because she was afraid. Was it like that to be overpowered by the Seed? Like eternal agony that flared and pulsed constantly? Maybe Trigon thrived on that kind of suffering, but she was half-human. Such a life would drive her to madness; to damnation.

But then, that was the point, wasn't it?

Raven thought that most terrifying.

She jumped, soaring high to grab an anchor, like a secured bungee chord, from the recesses of her mind. It happened to be the memory of her mother, Arella. It hadn't been touched in a long time, but it was as strong and pliable as ever.

Raven dove towards the singularity she had created and placed herself at its lip. She felt the strong suction from the void within and she held on to Arella for dear life.

The Seed bounded towards her. Singularities didn't scare him. Singularities couldn't hold him. He had every intention of killing her, the portal striving to devour him in the background.

Raven waited for him, readying the bonds that Starfire helped her build.

The Seed was upon her, raising his clawed hand and preparing to swing it down with fatal force. With all the strength Raven could muster, she hurled a hefty bolt of Starfire's essence into the portal. There was an explosion and the sucking sound gained strength. It sounded like a bullet train combined with the whistle of a tornado.

The Seed's hand fell heavily upon Raven's shoulder, his nails puncturing her skin. It scraped against her, tearing at her flesh as the Seed got sucked into the portal.

Raven screamed. The suffering was enormous, and it felt like a thousand demons from hell crawling underneath her skin. Tears sprung unbidden from her eyes. She might have been crying blood. Such was her agony, but her grip on Arella was fueled by sheer, primal survival and she willed herself to concentrate.

Searching within the remains of her mental powers, she took the edges of the singularity and gathered it over the hole.

The Seed yowled in fury and Raven couldn't help but scream when she felt him push against the frail cover.

Gritting her teeth, she slammed all of Starfire's aura over the door, piling her ties with the rest of the Titans to go with it, and secured it with the strongest seal she could manage under the circumstances.

There was a jarring boom, like the clap of enraged thunder. It was the Seed, no doubt using his fists as battering rams, fit to break down the doors of the underworld. But the seal held like granite, and it would take several more years before that barrier could be broken through.

Raven felt drained. Her essence-flesh was torn and she didn't know if she could make the journey back. Maybe she should rest a while.

She opened her palms and looked at them. There were remnants of her bindings with Starfire and others still left, but what once were tangible globes had been reduced to droplets, much like the residue of sugar left at the bottom of a tall drink of iced-tea.

It will have to do.

She curled her fists around it and crumpled herselfinto a ball. She held it as close as she could and let herself drift off, making as much of the remnants as she could.

It will have to do for now.

To be continued…


Closing Notes: For my readers of "Guiding Star", no, I'm not abandoning that fic. Sit back and relax. I got yo' back. All stories in this series have been mapped out to the end (...their sequels and their part 3s), and I just have to write it. This'll probably be done in another couple of chapters. This chapter alone answers some of the questions that cropped up in "Guiding Star". More questions answered in the next chapters of this series.