Disclaimer: The Teen Titans do not belong to me. I just play with them for awhile and return them a little worse for wear.
She drew her dark energy around herself like a shroud. The shape of a black raven appeared, hovered, and then it, and she, were gone.
"Oh man." Cyborg swallowed
"Yikes." Beast Boy cringed.
"Oh dear." Starfire whispered.
"Damn." Robin muttered.
"Like, what exactly just happened?" Beast Boy asked hesitantly, his eyes flickering from one to the other of his companions, his expression uncertain.
"You had to mention dragons." Robin said with an edge to his voice.
"I thought she was over that." Beast Boy responded defensively. "She was acting fine. I didn't mean to upset her."
"Raven spends so much time trying to conquer her emotions, I think she is surprised when she feels them so strongly." Starfire said quietly. "It will be a long time before she is over the dragon Malchior "
"Well, I think he deserved a lot worse than being shut up in that book again." Beast Boy said, his eyes flashing hotly. "She was too nice."
"It was the only thing she could do." Robin stated. "Rorek, the real magician, had tried everything else, she remembered that. The only thing that would stop Malchior was the book curse."
"So, y'all, what happened to Rorek?" Cyborg asked. "She never said."
Robin shrugged. " I don't think she knows. He trapped Malchior in the book, which he ended up writing. So I guess, since this was all over a thousand years ago, he's long gone."
"It's a shame, man." Cyborg shook his head. "I thought Raven had found somebody she could be herself with."
"She's herself with us!" Beast Boy said.
"No she's not, BB. Sure, she's not so isolated as before, and she does stuff with us. But, she was so happy having someone to talk spells with, who understood her background and her thoughts..."Cyborg sighed.
"Yes," Starfire looked at Cyborg. "She was very happy for awhile."
"And that's why that dragon should have been toast." Beast Boy said angrily.
"Unfortunately, none of us were equal to the task." Robin said. "Raven took care of him."
"Yeah," Beast Boy muttered. "Still say he deserved to be toast."
Raven materialized in her room in the Tower. She knew that she had overreacted to Beast Boy's casual statement. But, hearing the word "dragon" had just stung far harder than she had expected it to. She had believed that she had dealt with the issues of Malchior and his selfish betrayal of her. She had meditated for hours each day to control that bitter sense of being manipulated and used by someone she had fallen in love with, that she believed was in love with her. It had hurt far deeper than she had imagined. Of course, this was the first time she had dared let her guard down to really feel anything. It would have to end in disaster, wouldn't it? Well, she wouldn't make that mistake ever again.
The slight sensation of burning beneath her eyelids made Raven frown and stalk across her room. She needed to meditate. Now. Anger was starting to gnaw at her. But it wasn't just anger. There was a pain inside that didn't want to go away. And no amount of meditation was helping. And at night it was at its worse. She could still hear his melodious voice whisper to her as she drifted to sleep. That voice, coming so strangely from a book, had lulled her into lowering her guards, had swept her into a totally different dimension. She had felt secure and belonging. He had made her laugh, and it had felt so wonderful.
Raven ground her teeth together, and shut her eyes. Meditate. Now. But her mind wouldn't cooperate with the command. Instead, behind her closed eyelids, she saw a phantom human form, outlined by printed pages. But beyond that even, in her mind's eye, she could see him as she had imagined him, before she knew the crushing truth. In her mind he was still the powerful magician, not the evil dragon. And in her mind, she saw him stand before her, freed of any spells, the printed pages falling away to reveal a young man, tall, slim, with crystal pale blue eyes and dark lashes. His silver blond hair was long and thick. And the smile he gave her was warm and welcoming.
"Stop." Raven growled to herself. "Stop the nonsense, you fool. There is no handsome wizard. It was all a lie that Malchior fed you and you eagerly swallowed! You were enamored of a dragon, an evil dragon. He ensorcelled you to believe him, he tricked you into learning the spell to free him. He was lying about everything. He even told you that he had used you. He told you to your face that he didn't need you anymore." The growl caught in her throat and turned into a choked sob. Hot tears built beneath her closed eyelids and slowly trailed down her cheeks.
"I miss him." She whispered. "The others, my friends, I care about them deeply, but he seemed so.... special." She sank down onto her bed, and lowered her face into her cupped hands. "I still miss him." Her shoulders shook, as her control failed her.
It was much later that night, when Raven had cried herself to exhaustion, and finally slept. Her sleep was deep. Dreams floated around her subconscious, all vague and misty. Then, one began to grown clear.
Raven found herself standing on a cobbled road that twisted and turned towards a towering castle on a hilltop. The road was lined with tall, graceful trees whose branches bore leaves of a startling silver tone. She found herself walking slowly up the road towards the castle. It was a clear day, and the sun glowed warmly down from the sky. A gentle breeze wafted unusual but pleasant scents across her path. The castle looked vaguely familiar to her, but she couldn't recall where she had seen it before. She kept walking and following the gently curving road up towards the castle above.
It didn't seem to take too long before she was at the castle drawbridge. The moat below was deep and dark. Raven took a step onto the drawbridge. Beyond, inside the castle gates, she could see a courtyard. And there were people, some walking, and some riding elegant horses. Raven took another step. Suddenly, she felt uncomfortable. She didn't know anyone here, so why was she going inside. She stopped and stood in place. Her eyes drifted up the height of the castle. It towered over her, many stories high. It was made of glistening cream-colored stone and had many turrets with slate colored roofs. Familiarity tugged at her once again, and she found herself frowning. Why would she feel familiar with a castle? She had never been to one before that she could recall.
Suddenly, she felt very uncomfortable. She turned and with quick steps, walked away, off of the drawbridge and back onto the cobbled road. She wasn't supposed to be here. This was wrong somehow. She needed to leave.
"No, Raven. Wait!"
It was a hauntingly recognizable voice, one that made Raven't blood go cold. She spun around, her eyes narrowing, her hands rising up, black power flickering from her fingertips. But that was no dragon that hastened across the drawbridge towards her. She stared. He wore blue, shades of blue, from his trews, his knee high boots, his tunic, to his cloak, and the scarf that streamed behind him. His white-blond hair was windswept and wild, a mane that fell well below his shoulders. He was slim, graceful and tall. And he had pale blue eyes with rich black lashes. Raven took a step back.
"Stay away from me!" She said in a gravelly voice. "Stay away."
"We need to talk". He stopped a few paces from her. He wasn't breathing hard after the run from the castle. He had a rueful half smile on his face, and his blue eyes were gentle and kind. Just as she had always pictured them. He raised a hand, a strong hand with long fingers. She tensed and fixed her own hands out in defense.
"I won't fall for it again, Malchior." She said, lips tight, features strained.
"Of course you won't. I'm not Malchior. I'm Rorek, court magician. It was my curse that put Malchior in the book. The book that you read, and the book that he used to pretend to be me." His voice was soft; with the accent she remembered it having. And it hurt her to hear it.
"You sound like him. How can I believe you?" She asked.
"Say rather, fair Raven, that he sounded like me." Rorek said. "Think now, my voice is what you heard from the book, and from the hidden form he used until you freed him. But once you saw his true form, it was no longer my voice you heard, was it?" He watched her with sympathetic eyes. She hardened her resolve.
"Uh, no. Not exactly. But I would expect he would sound different as a dragon." She stated, backing away. "Just go away. I need to go home. I don't want to talk to you or anyone here."
"But you need to. Or, you need to talk to me, Raven." He gave his head a shake, the rueful smile quirking his lips again. "Actually, in all honesty, it is I who need to talk to you."
"Really." Raven's eyes held doubt and suspicion. She did not lower her hands. "About….?"
"About what happened." Rorek said, standing motionless. "You see, I feel responsible for Malchior's wicked betrayal of you. It was, after all, in my likeness that he fooled you."
"Not necessary. Can I go home now?" Raven said, her dry tone a mask for the nervousness that she felt. Her heart was pounding too hard. Her outstretched hands would have started to tremble if she hadn't had them under the strictest control.
"You can go home any time that you wish to." Rorek said, the smile fading. "I had hoped, however, that you would at least give me a chance to apologize."
"Why does it matter?" Raven asked. "You aren't even alive anymore. You were alive a long time ago. You weren't the one trapped in the book. He stayed alive, thanks to your curse."
"Ah yes." Rorek nodded. "That was diabolically clever of you to retrap him the same way."
"Um, not many choices left." Raven found herself staring, caught in his pale blue gaze. It only made her heart thump a little faster.
"And yes, I did live long ago. But that's the thing about magic, it can do wondrous things. Like allow me to visit you as unfinished wizard business. The restless spirit thing."
"You're kidding." Despite herself, Raven felt her lips twitch.
"Not at all." Rorek said with a quick grin. "You have thought of me, or, of the me you thought I was. Or, the me that…..oh dear. Did any of that make any sense at all? "
No. Um, yes." Raven gave her head a shake.
"But you did, didn't you. Think of me?" He asked, his pale ice blue eyes holding hers.
"Don't…" Raven tore her gaze away and stared at the ground. "Just let me go home. I've been this way before, and I don't want to go here again."
"I know you don't mean the castle, or this road." His voice was soft. Just the way she remembered it. "You mean what you felt for the imposter. It wouldn't help you if I said that he not only borrowed my voice and mannerism, he borrowed my feelings as well." Raven's eyes lifted warily.
"That's impossible." She said, trying with all of her might to resist his charm, his voice.
"Not so, lovely lady." He said. "You told one of your comrades once, that every time you worked a spell, a part of you went into it, or something very much like that." Raven found herself nodding slowly. "Well, that is even more true for very powerful magics. A part of me was indeed in that book with Malchior. A part of me could sense you, hear you and feel for you. Unfortunately, it wasn't a part of me that could do any good. I have felt guilty for that. But I believe that Malchior had to have used my thoughts, sensations, feelings, in order to convince you of his worthiness. I don't believe that he had the capacity to understand, being a dragon and all."
"Okay, this is starting to get even weirder." Raven murmured.
"Oh Raven! Stop acting as if I'm the evil one. I'm not. Malchior is still trapped in the book. Who else could I be but Rorek." He said.
"I was fooled once. And it sounded just as honest and real as what you are telling me now. How do I know for sure?" She said, her voice cracking slightly.
"You're right." He sighed, and lowered his eyes. "He dealt you a grevious blow. All the more wicked because you are one who doesn't give her feelings lightly. I don't blame you for being unwilling to trust again." He sighed again. "And I have no way to prove who I am other than my own word. But since it was what you believed were my own words that were used against you, even they are suspect." His lips tightened, and he raised his eyes. "I can only apologize, my lady. I had hoped to show you some of what I rescued that day, a bit of our peaceful kingdom, and also to repay you as best I can for what he took from you. It was that quest that brought me back to haunt your dreams." The breeze caught the scarf around his neck, and it billowed out, floating away from him and towards Raven. Without thinking, she caught it. Her throat tightened.
"This…is yours." She said, holding it out.
"Keep it for me, just for a short while." He said. "I will show you where to go to return to your home." His voice was low, and his eyes left her again to look out over the countryside. He started to walk past her, to lead her back down the road. She turned to watch him.
"I could leave…any time?" She asked in a quiet voice. He turned, his somber eyes resting on her.
"Yes, my lady. Any time. I can only request your presence, not command it." He stated.
Raven looked at the ground a moment. Her mind was spinning as she fought a battle inside. She should go. It was dangerous to stay here. Even if he was Rorek. Particularly if he was Rorek. Yet, she knew that if she did leave without taking this chance to really find out for sure if he was whom she had dreamed of as she read the book, before Malchior had whispered from its pages, she would always regret it.
"All right." Her voice came out a shakey whisper. "I, um, guess I could let you show me some of your kingdom."
"You will?" The joy in his voice made her look up. There was a smile on his face that lit his eyes with pure radiance. He walking towards her slowly and one of his hands lifted. She looked at him as he stopped; facing her, arm outstretched, hand waiting. She took a breath, and slowly lifted her own arm, letting her hand meet his. She felt his fingers close over hers gently, and felt the warmth of his hand enclose hers. "Raven. Come with me. I have so much to share with you!" Without warning, Rorek lifted her hand and his lips brushed the back of it softly. Raven felt her face flush hotly, as he lowered her hand without releasing it, his blue eyes meeting hers. "You have made me very happy."
Raven let him lead her. They went back to the castle. People there called out greetings to Rorek by name, and waved. He waved back with his one free hand. His other did not let go of Raven's hand. Into the castle he led her. Her head was starting to spin. Her doubts were already fading. All of these people knew him; therefore he must be for real, the real magician that fought the dragon and won. Her heart began to lighten. She dared a glance at him as they walked the length of the gigantic entry hall of the castle and then began to climb spiral stairs. Rorek had a smile on his face, and as he felt her gaze, he turned his head and returned it. She felt herself flush once more.
The time passed in a blur of wondrous happiness. Rorek introduced her to the king that he served, and elderly man who was friendly and cheerful. He took her to the top of the tower and she saw the country from the highest turret. Then he took her back down and showed her other rooms in the castle, the banquet room, and the ballroom. He took her out of the castle to a grassy hill beside a glittering stream. There he had her sit and magically produced a picnic with nothing more than a whispered word and a wave of his hand. Raven was entranced. Not only was he powerful, he was kind, and charming and she found herself responding to his conversation easily, and laughing without reserve. He told her tales of his service to the king. None so frightening or dangerous as the final battle with Malchior, but other tales more light-hearted.
But, only too soon, the sun began to sink towards the far horizon. Rorek looked past her and saw it, and a shadow clouded his features. She reached a hand out to touch his arm.
"What is it?" She asked.
"The sun begins to set." He said slowly, his eyes traveling over her features. "My spell, no matter how powerful, cannot hold back time any longer."
"What do you mean?" She asked quietly, her throat tightening suddenly. "No, I guess you don't really need to tell me."
"I could buy no more time than a day." He said, gazing at her as if to memorize her. Raven felt a prickling beneath her eyelids.
"I understand, Rorek." She said. "I…am so glad that you were able to do that much. I have thought of you, of the you I had believed you were. And you are exactly what I had imagined. You did write that book, and your words made your character clear. I am…so grateful that I did get to see you."
"I wished to take the shadow of betrayal away from you, Raven." He said, taking her hand between the two of his. "And while you may think of yourself as dark, my lady, I see you as the night sky, strewn with glittering stars that light your soul and your mind with a brilliance that goes straight to my heart. I shall never forget you."
"I will never forget you, Rorek." Raven whispered. "I wish there was someway to buy more time."
"Powerful as we both are, my dear, time is stronger. We live too many years apart."
Before she realized it, Raven was in his arms, and he was kissing her with gently warmth. She could feel herself melting in the circle of his arms. Never had she felt this way. The universe faded away and there was only Rorek and his kiss. It went on, timeless. Then she felt his lips leave hers. She opened her eyes and stared into his.
"I didn't plan on feeling this way, my dear Raven. I don't want to let you go. But, I must. I have no choice." Raven knew that his eyes reflected the same longing and pain that hers did. But he had already suffered enough guilt for something that was not his fault.
"You gave me a wonderful gift today." She said, her voice unsteady. "I did not expect it. But now I can forget what happened before and just remember this. You have taken away all the pain, Rorek." She saw him smile sadly.
"A small victory. When I must still lose you." He took a slow breath. "But, I would rather have had this day than not, and gone on without knowing you. I would curse Malchior once more, for he had more of your time than I will be allowed."
"But, " Raven let her fingers trail in his silky white-blond mane. "Malchior never touched me." Her eyes searched his. "He couldn't. But you can. And yes, Rorek the magician, I wouldn't trade this day for anything." They both looked quickly to the west where the sun was just starting to slip behind the hills. "Rorek…"
"Raven…" His lips met hers once more.
"Raven!" Pounding on a door finally broke into Raven's sleep and she lifted her head.
"What?" She snapped, her head feeling impossibly thick, her thinking foggy and disoriented. Her brain finally identified the owner of the voice. Beast Boy. The pounding began again.
"Open your door! It's, like, noon, Dude. We gotta go. There's trouble downtown…"
"I'm coming." Raven swung her legs from the bed and stood up, snatching her cloak. As she did, something fell from it to the floor. Raven knelt and her hands caught it. Her eyes widened as she stared down at it. She felt a chill run through her. But then, her lips curved slightly and she held it up and let the down soft wool of the neck scarf caress her cheek. This was no dream. She had never given it back to him. Perhaps, somehow, he would find a way to come and get it. Or, perhaps, she would find a way to return it to him. In person.