(Disclaimer: No, actually I don't own the Teen Titans. Don't worry, I get that all the time.)
With an ease and precision that only a team of superheroes facing off against a horde of evil minions could be capable of, the two separate groups of Titans converged together, scything through countless lesser demons as they went. Even so, for every one they destroyed, dozens more poured out of the dimensional rift. The Titans were fighting a losing battle—naturally, Robin realized this quickly.
"Titans! We have to close that portal!" he shouted over the din of battle, striking down a demon with a swing of his staff as he did. "Raven! Any ideas?"
"A quick disruption spell should do it—keep them off me for a minute," Raven shouted back, and closed her eyes. "Azarath, Metrion, ZinthoaaAAAGH!"
Raven dropped to the ground, clutching at her head. Pain shot through her, starting in her head and spreading down, like someone had unscrewed the top of her skull and poured in molten iron. Standing on his platform, Baker cackled with laughter.
"Did you really think I would just let you do something as pitifully obvious as that, dear girl?" he sneered. "You are powerful, I will give you that, but you have a distinct lack of finesse. All I have to do is reroute that power of yours back against you, and—voila!—no spell for you!" Baker began laughing again, more deranged than ever.
"Raven, are you alright?" Robin asked, his voice constricted with both concern and urgency as he parried a particularly nasty series of blows struck by a particularly ugly demon. Raven shook her head to clear it, calmed her mind, and allowed the pain to pass before speaking.
"I'm fine," she said, her voice still shaking slightly. "Baker set up a magical backlash—I didn't expect it, couldn't counter it in time."
"You need us to deal with him so you can do that disruption spell?" Cyborg asked over his shoulder as he blasted a winged demon out of the air.
"Yes! We can open up a can of the whoop ass upon his person!" Starfire cried, her sudden burst of enthusiasm causing her to overpower several of her starbolts, frying a half dozen demons instantly.
"No, no, I'll deal with him," Raven stated. She punched her fist into her other palm and a snarl formed on her face. "Strapping me to that damn rock—this is personal now."
"Yeah, nice dress, by the way," Beast Boy piped up. Raven glared at him in a way that promised certain and imminent pain, thoroughly applied, and he quickly went back to gnawing frantically on a large blue demon's leg in the form of a beaver—the demon, for its part, screamed like a five-year-old girl confronted with a particularly large spider.
"Go. We'll keep the demons busy for now," Robin grunted as he backflipped out of range of a burst of flame that shot out of a demon's mouth. The other Titans nodded in assent, and Raven sighed and collected her thoughts in preparation.
"Right," she said with finality. "I'll be right back."
Raven's eyes glowed white for a moment, and she floated up into the air, eventually coming to rest on Baker's platform, several feet from the insane sorcerer himself. Baker chuckled.
"Ah, defiance, child? I should have known," he sneered, an evil smile on his face. "But really, how do you expect to do anything against me? As I said, you're powerful, but I have experience on my side—I can finesse rings around you. I can counter any spell you can throw at me. Unless you can do something to surprise me, which I sincerely doubt you can, you don't stand a chance against me." Raven arched an eyebrow quizzically.
"Something to surprise you, huh?" she asked, half to herself. She smiled nastily as a thought occurred to her. "Well, alright then. Here I come!"
With a shout, Raven charged at Baker, dark power surrounding her hands as she readied a magical blast. Baker only chuckled again.
"What, the Flame of Nartok? That's just too easy. All I have to do is…" Baker began, in a mocking tone, but Raven interrupted him.
That is, she interrupted him by planting her foot squarely into his groin. Baker doubled over in pain and shock, but mostly pain, and every male who had been watching instinctively winced in sympathy.
"How's that for a surprise?" Raven gloated, her lips curled in an uncharacteristic smirk. "And now, since I'm guessing you're having trouble concentrating enough to counter even something as simple as the Flame of Nartok, we get to the fun part…"
Raven threw her hands out towards the wheezing and now nearly prostrate Baker, translucent, shimmering black auras of power still playing about them, and released her spell. There was a burst of dark flame, and the blast lifted Baker and carried him backwards like he had been shot out of a cannon. He was unconscious even before he slammed into the stone wall behind him.
"Oh, yeah! Hadou ken, baby!" Beast Boy yelled from behind Raven, where he was riding on the back of an unfortunate winged demon, battering it about the head with a large rock. "Can you do a kame hame ha, too?" Raven stiffened and turned around to glare at him, slowly, as though she had to exert all of her restraint to keep from removing his limbs as painfully as she knew how. Knowing that this might not be far from the truth, Beast Boy tried to hide behind the demon he had been fighting, and while the demon didn't know Raven's temper as well as Beast Boy did, it could sense the power and roiling emotions fighting for release within her, and did its best to hide as well, covering its face with one leathery wing while somehow still staying airborne.
"Did you just call me…baby?" Raven asked calmly, but her voice was laced with deadly intent. Beast Boy gulped nervously.
"Uh…it was really more of a general exclamation than anything else, honest!" he whimpered. The demon nodded emphatically. Raven glared at the two of them and huffed angrily, the worst apparently past.
"Just shut up and cover me while I close this stupid portal," she ordered, and turned to face the rift. Both Beast Boy and the demon sighed with relief.
"Okay, note to self: don't mess with Raven when she's on a battle high," Beast Boy murmured.
"No shit," the demon agreed. Beast Boy looked at it, and they locked gazes for a moment. Then Beast Boy gave it a final bludgeon with his rock.
Meanwhile, Raven floated into the middle of the huge chamber, directly below the centre of the dimensional portal, and began chanting. The other Titans had to fight as hard as they could to keep the demons away from her, slashing, shooting, blasting, and clawing for all they were worth, but still the demons came, and every moment they pressed in harder than the last. Finally, Raven's chanting reached a crescendo, and with a shout she launched a ball of dense black energy straight upwards into the portal, which rippled and began to close. Utter chaos erupted, as the demons all screeched in rage and frustration—some attempted to flee back to their own dimension, while others sought to claw their way through to reality while the rift was still open, giving the Titans a brief respite in the confusion. However, this did not last, for when the portal was closed at last, at least fifty demons were left in the chamber. Robin grinned confidently.
"Alright, Titans, we can make it through these guys," he called. "Stay close, support each other, and ten-to-one odds won't mean a thing."
"Too true," said a voice, and Drakon emerged from the shadows as though he had been a part of them. "In fact," he continued, "I've seen you guys get out of situations like this without a hitch so many times before that I don't really need to see it again for my little investigation."
"Drakon, I presume?" Robin ventured. Drakon smiled disarmingly and bowed, but Robin's eyes narrowed. "What kind of investigation?" he asked.
"Oh, dear, I believe I've made a little slip of the tongue. I'm so very sorry, Raven. You must have wanted to keep your privacy," Drakon said, and smirked a little so only Raven could see. She glared at him.
"I thought you said your investigation was already over, Drakon," Raven growled. Once again, Drakon smiled disarmingly.
"I lied," he stated simply. "But now that it truly is over, I have no reason to stay aloof any longer. And I must say, as interesting as it is to watch your antics, Titans, I have been getting rather restless. So, I hope you'll allow me to indulge myself a bit, and take these demons off of your hands for you."
"You want to fight all of those demons…by yourself?" Cyborg cried disbelievingly. "That's crazy!"
"Yes, their sheer numbers will surely make their defeat all but impossible for a single warrior to accomplish," Starfire added, but Drakon only grinned.
"Ah, yes, 'all but impossible'—that little 'all but' makes a considerable difference, you see, so it's not really impossible at all," he said. "In fact, it's actually quite possible. Trust me, I've done this kind of thing before."
"Trust you?" Cyborg shot back. "All we know about you is that you've been spying on Raven and the rest of us, and you know what? That doesn't exactly count in your favour."
"Let him do what he wants," Robin murmured, staring thoughtfully at Drakon. The other Titans gaped at him in shock.
"You trust him?" Cyborg asked, not believing his ears. "You trust him?"
"No, of course I don't trust him. We just don't have time to argue right now," Robin replied, indicating with a small gesture the crowd of demons eyeing them hungrily, waiting for any sign of weakness. "Besides, he seems to trust himself—I want to see what he can do."
"Thank you. I'll try not to disappoint," Drakon said with a small bow. He then pressed his hands together in front of him as though he was praying, closed his eyes, and concentrated for a moment. At first, nothing seemed to be happening, but then black markings began to appear on Drakon's body, spreading from some unseen source under his shirt onto his arms, neck, and face. They looked like a kind of mix between writing in some strange alphabet, pictograms, and simple geometric shapes. The markings moved across his skin, more inside it than overtop of it, eventually settling in seemingly permanent positions. If they hadn't known that the markings hadn't been there just moments before, the Titans would have sworn that they were ordinary tattoos. As the last of the strange markings had settled into place, covering every visible inch of his skin, Drakon let his hands drop, and as they fell his fingernails lengthened until they were nearly claws, turning black as they did so. Finally, he opened his eyes. They, too, had changed: they were now completely black, whites and all, except for the irises, which were a bright, almost glowing yellow. Drakon smiled.
"That feels better," he said, his voice containing a slight growling tone that it had not possessed before. He stretched, splaying his hands out to his sides, and for a moment the strange markings covering his body seemed to shift and move before once again settling into place.
"You're a half-demon," Raven whispered, her voice barely audible.
"What, did you think you were the only one?" Drakon asked with a wolfish grin. "Now, while I'd love to stay and chat, I have to go take care of some interdimensional interlopers."
With that, Drakon launched himself effortlessly from the stone platform, and landed amongst the demons, scattering them with nothing more than the force of his impact. They roared and leapt at him. He just grinned.
The fight was over quickly. The demons were fast and powerful, but they simply couldn't touch Drakon. He, on the other hand, fought like a man possessed, using his bare hands to tear and claw at his opponents. He used no magic, fighting like a beast, but still he felled five demons or more with each strike. In terms of sheer power, the demons simply could not compete, and it was only a matter of minutes before the last one was destroyed. Drakon paused a moment to regain his composure, and then leapt back up onto the platform. He dusted himself off, rather theatrically, and then smiled at the Titans.
"Not exactly the most civilized way to deal with demons, but it is still quite effective," Drakon said conversationally. "There's also a certain visceral pleasure in engaging an opponent physically, but I usually do my best to suppress that kind of thing when in polite company."
"…Whoa," Cyborg mumbled. As a firm believer in science, he had always had trouble dealing with the concept of magic, and while his association with Raven had helped him widen his perspective a little, the clear disregard for some of the absolute fundamentals of physics and biomechanics that Drakon had just displayed still blew his mind, leaving him able to say little else. Raven, on the other hand, who was far more comfortable with magic, was merely very, very impressed.
"Y-y-you can c-control your powers," she stuttered in shock. "You're a half-demon, but you can still…I thought they couldn't…we couldn't control our…"
"Most half-demons can't, but some can—the strong ones, the ones like us, Raven," Drakon stated.
"But I…I can't…my emotions get out of control, and my…my father…" Raven stammered, but Drakon interrupted her.
"Yes, your father does complicate things a little, but the main reason you have trouble controlling your powers is that you are still young and lack experience," he explained. "Age brings wisdom, but it also brings calmness and knowledge of the self, including any abilities or powers one might have."
"And how old are you then, exactly?" Raven asked hesitantly.
"Well, I've stopped counting my birthdays long ago, but I'm somewhere in the neighbourhood of six hundred years old," Drakon replied, and laughed when the Titans' eyes widened in shock. "Oh, don't look at me like that. Demons are immortal, so half-demons tend to age in funny ways."
"Six hundred years?" Raven asked, just a hint of a plaintive wail intruding on her normally calm voice. "I'm going to have to wait six hundred years before I can control my powers?"
"Actually, even now, I can't control my power without using an external aid," Drakon continued, and ran a finger down his cheek and neck to indicate the strange markings that covered his skin. "Without these runes and seals to hold my power in check, not only would I not be able to control my abilities, but I would have also burnt out centuries ago." Raven stiffened with fear, but Drakon just chuckled and gestured for her to stay calm.
"Don't worry, don't worry," he continued. "All half-demons are different, and their powers develop at different rates and in different ways. We each have to find what works best for us. For me, it's these seals and centuries of practice—for you, it'll probably be something else entirely, and maybe a lot less time. For what it's worth, while it isn't perfect, your meditation seems to be working pretty well for now." Raven relaxed a little, and Drakon smiled and turned to address the Titans as a whole.
"Well, guys, it's been fun, really, but now I have to get going," he said, backing away slowly. "See you around."
"Hey, wait a second, what about…" Robin began, but Drakon had already backed into the shadows and disappeared. Robin cursed mildly.
"How did he do that?" he asked nobody in particular. "I mean, I can see turning around and him just being gone, but I was looking right at him."
"Just let it go, Robin—it's magic," Raven sighed, as her exhaustion finally overtook her.
"Jeez, that was pretty intense there, Raven," Beast Boy piped up. "I hope you didn't mind us listening in on your little private conversation with mister tall, dark, and gruesome." Raven glared daggers at him, and Beast Boy dove behind Cyborg.
"You just have to keep bugging her, don't you?" Cyborg asked, exasperation apparent in his tone.
"Yes, Friend Beast Boy, that was hardly appropriate given the circumstances," Starfire scolded, taking the elder sister role for a change. "And while this Drakon person is indeed tall and somewhat dark, he is not gruesome at all. I believe that he is actually quite handsome by Earth standards for males, although his snake is rather frightening. However, I did not see it with him at all. Although, I suppose those strange tattoos he had were frightening as well in a way, but then on the other hand, the tribal markings of the inhabitants of Grenlax XVIII are considerably more…"
"GUYS!" Raven interrupted, startling Beast Boy and Cyborg out of their bickering, and Starfire out of her impromptu verbal treatise on the scariness of tattoos versus that of snakes. "As amusing as this interminable babbling is, could we please go home? I am very, very tired, and I really need a shower."
"Right, there isn't much more we can do here anyway, so let's just go home," Robin said with his usual air of good-natured authority. "I'll just make sure Baker is tied up and swing by the local precinct to let the police know about this and give a statement—you guys go on ahead to the tower."
"Thank you," Raven murmured. "I don't know how much more of that I could've taken."
"Oh, come on, you know you like us," Beast Boy leered. Raven glared at him again, and once more he hid behind Cyborg.
"Don't thank me just yet, Raven," Robin said, ignoring the smaller green boy's sniping. "We're still going to have a talk about what's been going on lately. You've been keeping things from us, and while I have no problem with you wanting your privacy, today has made it quite obvious that these secrets of yours pose a threat to this team, and I can't allow that." Raven swallowed nervously, but nodded.
"Ooh, someone's in trouble," Beast Boy called from behind Cyborg. Raven whirled around, her hand raised menacingly.
"Azarath, Metrion…" she began, but then stopped. "Ah, screw it, I'm too tired," she snapped. "I'll kill you in the morning."
"Better start running now, grass stain," Cyborg suggested, acting as the voice of reason once again.
Beast Boy followed his advice.
Drakon stepped into the narrow circle of light with casual ease. The small patch of light was bordered on all sides by seemingly impenetrable darkness—without the context of any sort of visible surroundings it seemed as though it was a single island of solidity floating in otherwise unoccupied space, like a firmament in some primordial void. The effect was unsettling, but while it was not lost on Drakon, he simply shrugged it off. After six hundred years, he had become used to it.
"Submit your report, Brother Drakon," boomed a disembodied voice from the darkness.
"As I am sure my status reports indicated, my investigation proceeded according to plan, and I was able to observe the primary subject, Raven of Azarath, as well as her friends and teammates the Teen Titans from afar, so as to minimize chances of contaminating the surveillance by allowing them to know of my presence," Drakon stated in a near monotone, reciting his report from memory. "From this initial observation I determined that Raven and the Titans work well as a team with only a few minor internal tensions based on their differing personalities. The Titans seemed to provide Raven with emotional support, when she allowed them to, and also seemed to strengthen her moral compass, which was already quite strong due to her training in Azarath. All in all, the intentions of both Raven and the rest of the Titans seemed to be genuinely good, but I could not be as certain as was required based solely on remote observation. It was after realizing this, several weeks ago, that I submitted to the Circle a request for permission to more closely engage the subject in order to ascertain whether these outside appearances were, in fact, the true face of her intentions. A request which, for the record, was duly approved, if you recall."
"Hmph. We do recall, Drakon. Please continue," a different voice spoke. Drakon nodded and continued.
"Since a person's true intentions become most apparent in the crucible of conflict, I arranged for a little test, a trial by fire, if you will. During the course of my initial investigation, I became peripherally aware of some minor plot by a hack sorcerer to take over the world, or something insipid like that, and rather than simply nipping this scheme in the bud as I normally would, I instead decided to use this situation as a proving ground for Raven. Naturally, I maintained a careful watch over this sorcerer, Rufus Baker, and his little cabal of followers throughout the proceedings to ensure that nothing got out of hand. At first, I simply continued to observe from a distance, but I soon made my presence known to the subject, both because nothing was happening that I had not already seen before in considerable detail and because a situation arose that she was not yet ready to deal with at her current stage of development."
"Ah, yes, the appearance of the arch-demon Rashael," yet another disembodied voice mused. "It is unusual for such a powerful demon to be able to maintain a possession in such a diffuse magical field, even one as strong as the one this Baker and his cronies were creating. I must say, though, you dealt with it admirably."
"Thank you. It did provide something of a jump-start to this more personal part of my investigation, allowing me to supply the subject with an effective weapon against the demons in order to see how she would go about using it, as well as to see how she would explain them to her teammates. While she is a very private person and wished to keep my involvement hidden from the other Titans, it seems that she felt considerable guilt in doing so, indicating that she is indeed grounded in at least the part of the normal human moral code that deals with lies and deceit. By appearing to her, I was also able to give Raven some small pushes in directions that would be of benefit in determining her motives, such as bringing up the matter of her parentage and increasing her sense of guilt over keeping secrets from her friends. I also directed her towards the prophecy, although I had to alter it slightly so that it would seem more relevant to the current situation."
"Hmm, another masterful stroke, Brother Drakon," the first voice interjected. "To increase the urgency of the situation by tying it into the prophecy surrounding Trigon's arrival—a very nice touch."
"Again, thank you. To make a long story short, Raven and the Titans succeeded in foiling Baker's plans, and while I intervened to complete the clean-up, I am certain that had I left them to their own devices they would have prevailed with little incident. Besides, allowing them to finish things themselves would not have brought any new information to light for my investigation."
"Very well, Brother Drakon. What, then, do you conclude from all of this?" one of the voices asked. Drakon took a deep breath before continuing.
"It is my opinion that the subject, Raven of Azarath, will undoubtedly be of use to our cause," he stated flatly. "Given her power, which is already nearly beyond my ability to calculate and still growing, she may well be one of the only entities capable of finally defeating Trigon the Terrible, and while she is connected to him by blood, she hates him just as much as any of us. With the false prophecy to motivate her, I am certain that she will fight against him when he arrives on Earth."
"Yes, the prophecy," one of the voices repeated. "'The daughter of Trigon will have a role to play'—just ambiguous enough that her desire to prove that she would never serve her father will only harden her resolve to destroy him."
"Some of our best work, I think," added another voice, and there was a general chuckling from the darkness surrounding Drakon, indicating that there were far more faceless voices present than just those that had spoken.
"May the destruction of Trigon be nigh!" one of the voices cried, and it was quickly joined by shouts of assent, resulting in a din that lasted for several minutes.
"Excellent work, Brother Drakon," boomed a new voice, filled with a proud imperiousness, after the others fell silent once again. "That will be all for now."
Drakon bowed slightly, and then vanished into the void as the single light that illuminated him was extinguished.
Author's Note: (Not in script format, because that would be awkward with all the stuff I want to say.) Okay, so this story is finally done. It didn't take me nearly as long as I had thought it would, since I once again collapsed two chapters into one for this instalment. I don't think I've left any loose ends lying around in terms of the plot (although I know that some will eventually turn up after a good close read), not counting the big one about the Circle's manipulations at the end, of course. The only thing that might require some sorting out is Robin's talk with Raven, but I think that merely the suggestion of that is enough. In my opinion, episodes like "Birthmark" and "The Prophecy" pretty much cover the "what am I gonna tell the Titans" thing that Raven is facing, and since I like to stick to what appears in the show I'm not going to redo any of that.
Speaking of what the episodes address, as you can probably tell the events of season four kind of messed up the Circle's plans, as well as my own (as I have much lamented in the last few author's notes). I can just imagine a member of the Circle saying "Oh, shit. She's turned into a portal? Well, that bites." Then again, she did end up fighting Trigon eventually, so whatever. (As an aside, I was kind of basing my plans off of what I had seen in various character summaries for Raven, which said that at one point in the comic books she was turned evil by Trigon. At least, that's what I think they said.)
As for the big loose end of the Circle's intentions, my basic idea was that the whole reason for their order's existence was to destroy Trigon, and that they were manipulating Raven into doing it for them. This would have, of course, led to a big dramatic confrontation between Raven and Drakon later on, had 'Da Plan' gone according to, well, plan—something along the lines of "You lied to me, you bastard! I'm still going to destroy Trigon, but I'm not doing it for you!" Needless to say, this will not be happening. Sorry. On the plus side, I hope to start on something bright, shiny, and new very soon, now that I have freed myself from the bonds of this story. Huzzah!
Actually, I have two bright, shiny, and new things I hope to be working on, one an occasionally posted humour piece, and the other one another serious story, and maybe the occasional one-shot in case I get bored. Shameless self-promotion! Yeehaw!
It occurs to me that Raven might be a little out of character at some points in this chapter (like when she says "this is personal now"), but to be quite honest, I was mildly amused by it, and I kind of needed that in order to finish this story. I dislike this chapter on the whole, although I don't really know exactly how to fix it—Raven out of character, Drakon going from an almost Smoking Man figure (at least as far as I'm capable of writing at this point) to being just a typical male Mary-Sue combat god. And that transformation bit? Christ, I've been watching way too much Naruto. Raven being out of character amused me, like I said, so that's fine I guess, and Drakon's transformation and subsequent crazy beat down on the demons was one of the reasons I started writing this story, which in retrospect was an extremely bad idea. Oh, well. Drakon's report was okay, and Raven did get to kick someone in the nuts.
Anyway, on to my review responses. To the Bag Cave!
To My Reviewers: To start, thank you to anyone who has reviewed, and to anyone who reviews this chapter. I've kept people waiting a long time with this story, and my loss of enthusiasm shows up in my writing, I'm sure, and for that I am sorry. All I can say is that I will try to keep myself fresh with my next stories, which won't have anything to do with the next season (which deals with Beast Boy and the Doom Patrol, from what I have been told by a friend of mine who keeps up with these things much more diligently than I do). Hopefully this will mean that my ideas don't get stomped on like they did with this story. Fingers crossed! Anyway…
teenyugiohpotterphantom: Thank you. I have often come across stories that I find myself simply unable to read, despite them having some neat ideas, just because of consistently poor spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Call me a linguistic fascist if you want, but when I have to translate someone's story into real English before I can make sense of it, chances are I'm not going to read it. Unfortunately, this might lead into a kind of downwards spiral, where people don't read these stories that need improvement, so the stories don't get reviews suggesting how they might be improved, so they never do improve, so nobody reads them, etc, etc. On the other hand, if you can't write a coherent sentence by junior high, your fan fiction not getting any reviews is the least of your worries. But enough philosophizing.
CloudsHalo: Thanks. It might just be my lack of enthusiasm for this story that makes me think it sucks so much, I guess. Hopefully by finally moving on to the stories I have been dying to do for the past few months but have saved until I was done with Watched will get my enthusiasm back up again, and maybe my writing will improve with it. Here's hoping. And the sheer impossibility of Raven playing the damsel in distress was definitely my motivating factor in putting her in that situation. Does that count as irony? It's funny, anyway.
SugarDevil: To be totally honest, I had entirely forgotten about the appearance spell. Nice catch. It's a plot hole, I know, but I was kind of working under the assumption that they were scouting around in their usual costumes, purple hair and all. I was never explicit about it, though, which I really should have been. And besides, even if Raven had been scouting around with her appearance spell in effect, yes, the collar would have negated it, since it basically turns all her powers, including any magical spells she might be performing, off. Oh, and thanks for the cookie. I do loves me the virtual cookies.
Blackbird: After how long I took to get new chapters up for this story, I don't think a late review is all that bad. Computer trouble is something I understand all too well. Good catch with the whole "shy kid possessed by a demon" thing. I wondered if anyone would get that right off the bat. Baker did indeed bite off more than he could chew, even if you don't bring Trigon into the picture. Getting kicked in the nuts hurts. A lot. Nature has done a very good job of convincing males to protect the means of their reproduction, to be sure. I will definitely take a look at the new chapter in your story, but I'll save that for my review.