The silence of the night was broken as a dark shadow flew through the Tower, stopping when it was cast in the shine of moonlight seeping through the main room's large windows. The raven's nearly transparent wings stretched out toward the outer walls of the room, releasing the tattered forms of four teenagers before taking the shape of a cloaked girl. For a few moments, she stood on her feet, her eyes staring intently at the full moon, taking in its pale blends of white and grey before she fell silently to the ground and joined her friends in a dreamless sleep.
Hours passed by unnoticed and in what felt like only minutes, the night had given way to day. Sunlight peered through the room, casting a soft glow on the team that lay in shambles on the floor. It seemed to do nothing to awake them at first, but within a few moments, a young boy struggled to his feet, his black and yellow cape falling over his shoulders.
He peered around him, noticing three companions at his feet, and took to shaking them gently awake. They rose, dusting themselves off while casting each other confused glances. They could not seem to remember ever returning to the Tower.
"Hey, dudes," Beast Boy started with a whisper. "Weren't we in that church last time I checked?"
"Yeah, what happened?" Cyborg questioned, glancing down at their leader for answers.
Robin didn't reply, still unable to fathom what had taken place, but he let his masked eyes wander. Slowly he searched the room for their missing teammate, knowing full well she would have something to do with this. His blue eyes froze at the sight of a darkened figure a ways in front of them. There was no doubt in his mind that it was her.
Slowly, the raven-haired boy made his was closer to her, kneeling down when he was by her side. The look on her face troubled him, and despite the crude words that had passed between them recently, he couldn't help but feel a tinge of sympathy. He stretched out a gloved hand and pushed aside the amethyst hair that marred her bruised and battered face. Dried blood still hung from her lips and the tears and mud that stained her uniform made her appear more broken than he had ever seen.
"Just like last time…" he breathed, his words recalling how he had found her that night of her birthday when Slade had finished with her. "Raven."
The girl stirred, the sound of her name calling her back to consciousness. When her eyes managed to open, she was simply met with splotches of color taking the shape of blurred images above her, but when her vision returned, it became apparent that her friends were around her.
She lifted herself from the ground, but as she did so, she felt a heavy weight grow on her chest. Without thinking, she thrust her right hand to the silver pendant on her cloak and tightened her fingers around it as if that would somehow relieve the pain, but all it did was draw the attention of the others toward the new trinket. Giving them all a defeated look, she attempted to speak, but was cut off the moment her lips parted.
"You have some explaining to do, Raven."
The dark girl closed her eyes, feeling the sting of Robin's ice-picked words sinking into her skin in sync with the stabbing of his cold glare. She turned her head from his direction, letting her orbs open to the world once more. Sapphire met with emerald and the moment the sorceress saw the look pasted on the changeling's face, she regretting ever looking at him. Within his tired eyes was a sense of sorrow mixed with confusion and longing. He wanted to know just as much as Robin did; while moving her gaze about the room, she saw the same sensations within Cyborg and Starfire. There was no escaping it. They had boxed her into a corner.
"All right," she said just above a whisper. "I'll tell you."
Gliding though the air to the couches, she turned to watch her companions struggle in their walk. It pained her to see them so torn and to know it had all been because of her. Perhaps, if they had known what they were getting into, they might have survived better. Their strain only helped to solidify what she was feeling. Her belief that keeping her destiny a secret and somehow protecting them had now backfired and she was to blame.
Closing her eyes against the shouts of guilt within her mind, she swallowed the pain in her own body and stretched out her hands. Her familiar mantra escaped her tired lips and instantly, she was blanketed in a white glow that flashed around her before shooting out toward each Titan. A sense of warmth filled them as the light encompassed their bodies and almost immediately, they could feel their pain begin to lift and fade away.
As the light passed, each Titan looked ahead, their gaze resting on the dark girl still levitating as the white glow returned to her. Suddenly, her eyes shot open, her expression one of undeniable pain. Before they could utter a word to her, she collapsed, her frail form falling into a tangle mess on the floor.
"Friend Raven!" Starfire called out as they all ran toward the girl.
A pale hand shot forth from the fallen figure, halting the approaching Titans with a silent beg for them to leave her be. Slowly, she lifted herself from the ground, standing to face their questioning eyes. She clutched her right hand to her chest and with labored breath, she attempted to speak.
"If I am such a traitor…Robin…I would…not have taken the burdens of all your pains, but…I can't say I haven't betrayed you in some way." Raven caught herself as she nearly fell forward, pausing briefly before seating herself on the couch and silently beckoning the others to follow.
Once they had all placed themselves around her, an eerie silence filled the room. Raven contemplated how to being her tale while the others sat within the stillness, unsure of what to say. Finally, no longer able to withstand the suffocation of the calm, the demon spoke.
"I'm not exactly sure where to begin," she breathed out slowly. "But, what I do know is that I am not what you think I am."
Robin noticed the girl's gaze lift to meet him with the closing of her sentence. It became painstakingly obvious that she had grown cold toward him after what he had done to her, but he merely shrugged it off. If Raven was unable to convince him the Justice League had been wrong about her, then his treatment of her would be justified. At the moment, the leader had no regrets.
"As you probably already know, I'm not from this world," she empath continued. "I was born in a place called Azarath, a different dimension, one that bases its societies on the ideal of true peace and tranquility. Those who dwell in Azarath are the offspring of people from this world who fled the Earth and its cruelties centuries ago."
"So, yer sayin' your parents are some of those people?" Cyborg questioned when the girl paused.
"No," she retorted flatly. "My mother, Angela Roth, is from Earth. She was born in Gotham City, but to put it vaguely, she wasn't born into the best of families. Eventually she fled her home to try and rebuild her life, but with no one to take her in, she fell into the hands of a dark cult that had been brewing in the alleys of Gotham. She ran into an abandoned church, hoping to use it as a shelter for the night. Unable to contain her hunger and thirst, she drank from the holy water that stood on a black podium in front of the red stained-glass windows."
Raven cringed inwardly at their reactions of recognition. It was obvious to them that she was describing the sanctuary they had recently been to. Noticing none of them were willing to make a remark, she continued.
"Unfortunately for her, the church she found was inhabited by a group of outcasts who were bent on reviving the Eight Devil of Hell. They persuaded her into joining them by offering her a home, a family, and one that would love her for eternity, purposely refraining from mentioning the nature of their cult. She remained with them for some time…and then the ceremony was conducted. They placed my mother on a strange red symbol that seemed carved into the ground before the black podium and summoned the demon. He came in the form of a human and coupled with the one standing within the confines of his mark, but at the last moment, his flesh melted away and in place of the man my mother believed had come to love her was now a scarlet-skinned demon." Raven tilted her head down in shame as she felt the sensations of shock from the others blanket her.
"She ran from the church, but it was all in vain," she whispered sadly. "The monks of Azarath have told me my mother attempted to destroy the child she carried within her several times, but its cries within her head kept her from ever going through with it. Those of Azarath came for her, took her to their dimension, and helped her rebuild her tattered life. Her name was changed to Arella to keep her safe from the demon…and a few months later, I was born."
A moment of silence took hold as each Titan attempted to swallow the dark tale of Raven's existence. Each seemed trapped in disbelief, but the empath could not help but feel deep sense of impatience radiating from the leader across from her.
"Then what you are saying is that you are part demon?" Starfire spoke, breaking the silence.
"Yes, I was born with a human heart drenched in demon blood…but that doesn't make me evil," Raven responded with haste.
"We'll see about that."
The team turned to stare at the masked fighter whose cold words had come as an unexpected response. Seeing no indication of emotion in his face, they turned their attention back to the dark storyteller.
"What do you want me to tell you?" Raven called out.
"Why is Slade after you?" Robin spat, his mask narrowing in suspicion.
The sorceress sighed, but complied with his request. "He is working for my father. When I was barely 10, the demon came looking for me, burning Azarath to the ground in the process. Having been taught to control my power, I was able to suppress him long enough for the monks of Azarath to seal him away. I was banished from my home for the destruction he caused and, having been labeled a curse, I fled to Earth in an attempt to find help. The trap my father was locked in has weakened. Slade is being used to make sure my father is welcomed back to this dimension as its ruler."
"So, Slade's chasing you cuz your going to rule with your dad, or what?" Beast Boy questioned with confusion.
"That's a part of it, but more importantly, I am needed to fulfill the prophecy you heard in the church. 'The Gem was born of Evil's fire. The Gem shall be His portal.' I will be the one to open the door for my father. The symbols you've all seen on me form the words of the spell that will release him. I thought I could stop it from happening by destroying the curse written on me, but not even the cuts of a knife can save me from my fate," Raven answered, her eyes locking onto the changeling's by the end of her explanation.
"We won't let 'em have ya, Rae," Cyborg smiled, reaching out a hand and placing it on the girl's cloaked shoulder.
"You don't understand," the emapth whispered. "The demon you are attempting to stop is no ordinary villain." Looking directly into his eyes, she continued. "What makes me you think you can defeat Trigon the Terrible?"
The robot retracted his hand with such a force that he nearly fell backward, and as he did so, reactions began to breakthrough the other Titans. Starfire gasped at the sound of the name that had fallen from the dark girl's lips, a hand reaching up to cover her mouth as she continued to stare. Beast Boy backed away from the girl seated next to him, the name of her father having cursed him with an inexplicable sense of fear. Robin's eyes grew wide; his arms unfolded themselves as his gaze never left the empath across from him.
"This is why the Justice League would not accept me when I asked them for help," Raven spoke, breaking the suffocating silence. "Zatanna could sense my father's evil running through my veins, and that was enough to convince her that I was merely attempting to trick them, but what she could never see was that my true intention was the opposite. I was simply looking for a group of people I could count on, one that would eventually help me if my father was released."
"Why didn't you tell us this before?" Robin nearly shouted as he rose from his seat, his shock now having turned back to anger. "You lied to us right from the beginning!"
"I did so to protect myself and you!" the halfling shouted in her defense. "If you had known of my heritage, would you have accepted me? Would you have willingly let a demon into your home? With you being ignorant to who I really was, it helped to conceal me from the watchful gaze of my father."
"I thought you said he was locked away?" the leader spoke sternly.
"His eyes are all seeing and so he continues to look for me even with his body being trapped in a dimension he cannot escape. The only reason he has found me now is due to the fact that Slade was killed by Terra. Trigon is a devil and thus, he searched the minds of the dead for any memories of me within them, and having found them inside of Slade, he's given the mercenary a chance at a second life in exchange for bringing me to him. Do you see now what a curse knowledge of my heritage can be?" Raven choked out as she held back tears that formed in her lost eyes. "The only one who truly believed me was Batman. Perhaps he was right about you."
Night took hold of Gotham City as the stars burned brightly in the darkness overhead. The time was difficult to determine, but considering the lack of people on the streets it was apparent that it was late into the evening. While others slept, a lone figure walked the streets of an unfamiliar world.
Her amethyst hair cascaded down her lower back, catching in the folds of the blue cloak that adorned her shoulders. Her sapphire eyes scanned the city about her, a sense of loss painfully etched within them. She had left the Justice League's Watchtower and come to the place her mother once called home, but the name of the city was the extent of her knowledge. She was lost.
Continuing her stroll, she did her best to shake off the strange shivers that racked her spine, but when her efforts gave no effect, it became obvious to her that it was not the cold that was stinging her skin; she was being followed. Closing her eyes as she slowed her walk, she reached with her mind to sense who it was that was behind her.
"You have no need to hide, Batman," she called flatly. "I know you're there."
Turning her head to the left, she watched as the dark knight moved out of the shadows, his form crouched on a concrete ledge attached to the side of a building. He made no effort to move closer to her as they gazed at one another.
"How did you find me?" the girl hissed through clenched teeth, her eyes burning with frustration.
"Zatanna tracked you when you ran from the meeting room. I saw on the radar screen that you had come to Gotham," Batman called back, his expression unchanging.
"Why are you following me?"
Bruce Wayne inwardly sighed as he grew tired of the girl's cold nature. He knew he couldn't blame her for being angry, but the fact that she did not even bother to realize his intentions was becoming aggravating.
"I've come to help," he responded with little enthusiasm.
"I do not need help from a man who refuses to see the truth," Raven spat out, her blue eyes narrowing into slits of fury as she began to walk away.
Batman nearly let her go without another word, but something inside of him urged him to call her back, to give her the aide she had been denied so quickly. Listening to the voice within him, he leaped down from the ledge and began to walk toward her, the sound of his footfalls coming in sync with the girl before him.
"Despite the fact that the evidence points against you," Bruce began sternly. "I am going with my gut and putting my faith in your story."
Raven paused at the sound of his voice, but it was not until he finished speaking that she turned to face him. Her face contained no emotion, denying the dark man the opportunity to see what she was thinking.
"And what is it that I owe for such a gracious gift of trust?" she spoke with words tainted in the black color of sarcasm.
"Look, Raven, I went out of my way to track you down on the streets. If you don't care for my help, then I might as well just leave you to the thugs waiting for girls like you to walk by their alleys."
The girl's eyes grew wide with a sense of hope as she gazed up at the masked man. Her orbs ripped through the ebony covering of his face to find the presence of sincerity. This man was different than the others; he truly wanted to help her.
"Forgive me," she whispered, lowering her head as the words fell from her lips. "I did not mean to be so cruel, it's just that-"
"I understand," the knight interjected. "I know of someone who can help you."
The girl's head shot up, her expression taking the shape of confusion. It became apparent to Batman that she had expected him to be the one to stay at her side. He could only hope that she would heed his words and not question his judgment.
"I can't be the one to go with you," he said, answering her unvoiced question. "I belong to the Justice League; I work as a team, not an individual when it comes to things like this. There is someone how can help you, though."
"Who is it?" Raven asked simply.
"If you go to Jump City, I am sure you'll be able to find him. He goes by Robin and was my former sidekick. You'll recognize him by the mask he wears." Batman paused slightly, contemplating whether he should continue with what he wanted to tell her. Hoping his next words would have no consequence, he resumed his speech. "I suggest you keep the identity of your father a secret."
"What?" the young girl called out, her confusion growing with every passing second. "You want me to lie to him?"
"His suspicion oftentimes clouds his better judgment, and so telling him that you're the child of a devil might not be the best course of action. He has a problem with being someone else's subordinate, so if you make it seem like you'll be calling the shots if you become partners, he won't stand for it."
Raven let a sigh escape her as the man's words began to sink in. "Then how am I to gain his trust?"
The dark man moved forward, nearly closing the gap between them. The pair merely gazed at each other for a few moments, before Batman moved his left hand out from under his cape. Within the grasp of his gloved fingers was an ebony weapon shaped to look like a bat. Raven reached forward and took the object being offered to her as she waited for an explanation.
"Show him this."
"He knew you wouldn't trust me if you knew the truth," the emapth concluded.
"And yet he was shocked to hear you hadn't told me about it by now," the leader spat. "Tell us, Raven, how did you manage to form a team of heroes when the only one who wanted to join from the start was Starfire?"
"Man, what are you talkin' about?" Cyborg voiced, his frustration with their leader having risen beyond the point of containment.
"How did you do it, Raven?" Robin continued to harp on the poor girl, ignoring the question he had been asked. "Don't you think it's a bit odd that Cyborg went from refusing to live any longer to suddenly wanting to join our team thanks to a strange dream he had the night after we had met him? And what about Beast Boy? He was so bent on staying with his village in Africa that it just seems a bit strange for him to decide there was more to life than being at home."
The giant and the changeling exchanged frantic looks as Robin's words began to bring them to a frightening realization. When they had decided to join the team, they had given little thought to what had pushed them to change their stubborn mindsets, but now that they thought back to the time they had first met Raven and Robin, it all seemed different.
"You planted the idea in our heads that we were going to be a group of heroes with the sole goal of helping others while this whole time you were just waiting for the right opportunity so you could use us."
"No!" Raven shouted out against him, her frail voice failing to overcome the strength of his hatred as tears streamed down her pale cheeks. "I would never dream of using any of you!"
"Then why did you do it? Why did you have to lie to us?" Robin yelled, walking toward the broken sorceress. "You were just afraid some of us wouldn't join you, so you used those powers of yours to manipulate us, didn't you?"
The empath bowed her head, her eyes squeezed tightly shut as she became overwhelmed by the boy's words. Her body shook as the sound of her sobbing grew louder, muffled only by the noise of breaking glass having been shattered by her unruly emotions.
"Raven?" Beast Boy called, his voice gentle and filled with genuine concern. It was clear that he was still holding on to the chance that Robin had misunderstood her. He reached out a hand, but before he could place it on Raven's shoulder, the girl lifted her head, her eyes staring at no one as she spoke.
"Please, Beast Boy, don't. He's telling you the truth."
Author's Note: Sorry it took so long for me to update! School's kept me really busy lately, so I wrote this chapter in the little free time I had. I really hope you all enjoy it. The next chapter will be mainly about Raven attempting to pick up the pieces of her shattered alliance with the Titans. Chapter 20 is going to be one huge emotional roller coaster.