Chapter 12: "To the Ninth"

Disclaimer: All that comes from DC Comics, including Teen Titans, belongs to DC Comics. Not me. That sucks. I could do wonderful things with Teen Titans. However, I will restrict those things to fan fiction, as I do not write for DC Comics in any capacity. Sara Pezzini and her Witchblade do not belong to me, either; they're the property of Top Cow Productions.

Author's note: I'm starting to burn out, so I'm gonna end this story with this chapter while I still have the creative energy to put out a good chapter.

At last, it is here. The great showdown between the forces of good, the forces of evil, and those who don't really fit in either category. When the dust settles, there might be a sequel. I think.

In case anyone thinks it was out of character for Starfire to respond as she did to Red X's embarrassment over the banter between Slade and Lust, bear in mind that her people are not nearly as inhibited about sexuality as humans are. Starfire, being the innocent that she is, can't understand why Red X is so embarrassed when he's made it perfectly clear that he's attracted to her.

Warriors, march! March to the end!

Aqualad, Jason Blood, and Wonder Girl found themselves in the Caribbean, which was being afflicted by Pestilence. Sickness was everywhere. It made Aqualad sick to his stomach.

"Dark Angel is one sick witch, unleashing a monster like Pestilence on this world," he said.

"Agreed," Jason stated stoically. "In the meantime, we must find Pestilence. If we defeat him, we will be able to stop all of this misery."

"Looking for me?" a sickly rasp of a voice asked.

The three turned and saw Pestilence on his horse.

"Like my handiwork?" the pestilent Horseman asked.

"You're going to pay for what you did to those people!" Wonder Girl declared.

"Ah, my mistress has been looking all over for you," Pestilence said. "She said I could do whatever I wanted to the Atlantean and the immortal, but I could not harm you. That pleasure is for her only."

"What does this Dark Angel want with me?" Wonder Girl asked.

"You'll find out when I bring you to her," Pestilence replied.

"Not a chance in Tartarus," Wonder Girl retorted as she wrapped Pestilence in her lasso. Lightning came forth from that lasso and shocked Pestilence, causing him to scream in pain.

"Vicious," Pestilence remarked as he slipped out of the lasso and charged at Aqualad and Jason, the latter chanting something in Latin. Once the chant was completed, a bolt of mystical force struck Pestilence, knocking him back. Aqualad summoned the nearby water as a medium-sized wave that slammed into the Horseman.

"Had enough?" Wonder Girl asked.

"Not quite," Pestilence replied, projecting a wave of dark magic that knocked the trio down to the ground.

"This is not going to be easy," Aqualad remarked.

"Who said it would be?" Wonder Girl asked.

Jason rose to his feet and chanted the words that would release Etrigan.

"Change, change the form of man. Free the prince forever damned. Free the might from fleshy mire. Boil the blood in heart of fire. Gone, gone the form of man, and rise the demon Etrigan!"

Upon chanting those words, Jason's form was wrapped in unholy flame and when it faded, the demon Etrigan had taken his place.

"Burn!" Etrigan shouted, unleashing hellfire on Pestilence, who cried out in pain. "Awfully weak for a Horseman, aren't you? But your power is causing sickness, so it probably fits you to be so weak."

"I'm . . . not done with you . . . yet," Pestilence snarled, punching the ground and sending a wave of black lightning through it. Etrigan jumped out of the way, as did Aqualad and Wonder Girl, and landed with his fists clenched together to brutally impact on the Horseman's helmeted head.

Wonder Girl and Aqualad pummeled Pestilence as well, leaving him struggling to defend himself on all sides. Finally, he let out a howl unlike anything heard on Earth and vaguely humanoid black shapes reached out to pull the three away from Pestilence.

"What are these things?" Aqualad asked.

"Shades!" Etrigan spat. "Natives of the Shadowlands! They can be summoned by any fool who dares dabble in such magic."

The three struggled in the grip of the Shades while Pestilence laughed.

"Weakling!" Etrigan roared. "Could you not battle us on your own?"

"Forgive me for not being quite as arrogant as my fellow Horsemen," Pestilence sneered mockingly. "Shades, take Wonder Girl back to Dark Angel. I'll deal with the Atlantean and the rhyming demon."

The Shades that were previously holding Aqualad and Etrigan latched onto Wonder Girl, covering her body completely. The two could hear muffled cries of rage and desperation as Wonder Girl fought to free herself of the Shades. Unfortunately, there were too many for her to fight off and they sank into a black warp in the ground, taking her with them.

"Wonder Girl!" Aqualad shouted as he lunged at the warp, only for it to disappear before he could reach it. "No!" He punched the ground angrily.

"Dark Angel will treat her nice," Pestilence hissed. "In the meantime, I will live up to my name and drown this world in a deluge of disease. Maybe then all you miserable humans will die."

"I'm going to drown you, you monster!" Aqualad yelled as he flattened Pestilence with a storm surge. Unfortunately, Pestilence just got up, looking not much worse than he already looked.

Etrigan brought both of his hands together for a massive hellfire blast that battered Pestilence. His efforts were also for naught, as the Horseman simply deflected the blast with a shield.

"Do you two really think you can stop me?" he asked. He was very unpleasantly surprised when a silver blade pierced his armored chest.

"Shut up, will you?" a feminine voice asked in irritation.

Pestilence spat up black blood as the blade withdrew itself from his chest. He proceeded to fall to the sandy ground, revealing a woman standing behind him. A serpentine web of metal covered her arms and legs, as well as her groin and her bosom, and even extended to the edges of her face. A blade extended from her right arm, the same blade that had impaled the pestilent Horseman.

"Who are you?" Aqualad asked as he walked to Pestilence to bind him within the Gem of Blue Pestilence.

Etrigan simply smirked at the woman who seemed to be equal parts flesh and metal. "The latest wielder of the Witchblade. It's an honor to meet you. Joan of Arc would have been very proud to know that her weapon is in your hands."

"You're welcome," the woman responded.

Aqualad would have blushed . . . if he hadn't already seen skimpier outfits back in Atlantis.

At that moment, three jets landed near them and opened their doors. Nightwing, Red X, Blackfire, and Starfire exited one jet. Bumblebee, Speedy, Cyborg, and Omen exited the second. Raven, Beast Boy, and Mas y Menos exited the third.

"Where's Wonder Girl?" Speedy asked.

"She's been captured," Etrigan replied. "By Pestilence's Shades."

"You mean that asshole used his sunglasses to kidnap her?" Beast Boy asked.

"No, he's referring to the dwellers of the Shadowlands," Nightwing explained. "Living shadows. They aren't that strong in and of themselves, but they're dangerous in large numbers. That must be how they got Wonder Girl."

"How do you know?" Beast Boy asked.

"The dragon told me," Nightwing replied. His attention soon centered on the semi-armored woman in their midst. "Who are you?"

"The one who defeated Pestilence," Etrigan replied, "and the wielder of the Witchblade."

"What the hell is a Witchblade?" Red X asked.

"A symbiotic weapon that chooses only those of strong body, strong will, and strong spirit to wield it," Omen replied. "A weaker person who tries to use it will be driven insane and ultimately rejected by the Witchblade."

"So do you have a name, gorgeous?" Speedy asked.

"You are aware I'm too old for you, right?" the woman asked. "And it's Sara."

"Lovely name," Speedy complimented. "I'm Speedy."

"I'm sure you are," Sara mumbled.

"Now that we're all together, I'd better tell you what Red X, Starfire, Blackfire, and I found out," Nightwing said. "Dark Angel's in the Shadowlands, the same place those Shades came from, the same place the dragon came from, and the very place that is the source of all darkness-based power."

"How did you find that out?" Bumblebee asked.

"Slade helped us," Nightwing admitted.

"Slade helped you?" Bumblebee asked. "What the hell did you have to offer to get him to do that?"

"Nothing except revenge," Nightwing replied. "He's as pissed as we are about what Dark Angel's doing, but it's mostly because she screwed up whatever plans he had for those Apocalyptic Gems."

"So how do we find her?" Cyborg asked.

"The nearest portal to the Shadowlands is all the way in the Amazon," Nightwing replied.

"Why don't you open one yourself?" Aqualad asked.

"What do I keep telling people?" Nightwing asked. "The seal keeps the dragon inside my body and my body weakens the dragon's powers. At this point, portals are beyond our abilities. We'll have to go to the Amazon." He looked at Sara. "We can't leave you stranded here. Mind coming with us?"

"Not really," Sara replied.

In the Shadowlands, Dark Angel observed her prisoner, who was in chains created from shadows.

"Wonder Girl," she purred. "Or may I call you Donna?"

"Let me go, you witch," Wonder Girl spat.

"Such a rude little girl," Dark Angel purred.

"What do you want with me?" Wonder Girl asked.

"What do I want with you?" Dark Angel asked. "I want you dead. I want you gone. I want you erased from this world and all others and I will make sure that happens."

"Why do you hate me so much?" Wonder Girl asked.

Dark Angel merely stepped out of the shadows, revealing herself entirely to Wonder Girl, who gasped in shock upon seeing her captor's face.

"Your face . . ." Wonder Girl uttered. "You look . . ."

"Just like you?" Dark Angel finished. "Yes, we are very much connected, Donna."

"How?" Wonder Girl asked. "How are we connected?"

"You know," Dark Angel replied. "You know the nature of our connection, deep within your soul. You know."

Wonder Girl looked at Dark Angel with horror. "You're me, aren't you? Somehow, you're me."

"No, I am a superior form of you," Dark Angel replied. "One whose head hasn't been filled with your precious Wonder Woman's lies."

"What are you talking about?" Wonder Girl asked.

"Ares, I'm sure you can explain," Dark Angel answered.

At that moment, the dark-armored God of War emerged from the shadows. He smirked at Wonder Girl.

"In another world," Ares explained, "I was the one who saved you, not the Amazons. I infused you with a portion of my power, trained you to control it, and when you finally became a woman . . . I claimed you as mine and unleashed you upon the world as my Princess of War . . . my Dark Angel."

"I was reborn to destroy the Amazons . . . particularly Wonder Woman as Ares' revenge for her foiling his plans," Dark Angel added. "I am no longer the weak human that was Donna Troy, nor am I the Amazons' pet Wonder Girl."

Wonder Girl struggled in her chains. "You can't keep me here."

"Of course not," Dark Angel answered. "That is not our intention." She smiled cruelly at her younger doppelganger. "We intend to kill you, but not before I have some fun with you."

"Can I watch?" the voice of Asmodeus inquired.

"If it suits you," Dark Angel responded.

Back in the earthly plane, the Titans and their assorted allies had landed in the Amazon. Now they were prowling the jungle looking for the portal to the Shadowlands.

Blackfire looked at Raven and Omen. "You two must be uncomfortable in those heavy outfits."

"Not our fault we don't like to dress like hookers," Raven retorted coldly.

"My outfit doesn't cover any less than Starfire's, honestly," Blackfire remarked. "Would you call her a hooker, too?"

Raven had no answer.

"If you two want to fight over me, take that pent-up energy and direct it toward whatever we find in the Shadowlands," Nightwing snapped.

"He's right," Etrigan growled. "We have no time for you to squabble over a man."

"Are we there yet?" Beast Boy asked.

"You'll know when we're in a realm of unholy darkness," Raven replied.

"So where exactly in the Shadowlands will we be?" Omen asked.

"If Lust's scrying wasn't off, we'll be in the ninth circle of darkness," Nightwing replied.

"I thought all that circle stuff was from Hell," Blackfire commented. "Or Dante's interpretation of it."

"If you consider Hell the domain of demons, then the Shadowlands is a form of it," Nightwing stated.

Sara was cutting through the leaves obscuring their path with her Witchblade, Red X echoing her actions with his X-shaped whirring blades.

"We're getting close," Nightwing said, gritting his teeth against the pain of the dragon mark pulsing as the holy blade rested on his belt.

"How close is close?" Mas asked.

"Depends," Speedy replied, "if your definition of close is standing right in front of the gate of darkness."

To the Titans' surprise, they were not the only ones there. A host of other magic-based heroes were there as well. Zauriel, Zatanna, John Constantine, Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel, Mary Marvel, Captain Marvel, Jr., Jade, Obsidian, Sentinel, and a chalk-skinned, green-cloaked Spirit of Vengeance known as the Spectre.

There was a familiar face none of the Titans counted on being there.

"Slade!" Cyborg exclaimed.

"Nightwing says it cooler," Red X remarked.

"What are you doing here?" Cyborg asked.

"Helping," Slade replied simply.

"It is all right, Cyborg," the Spectre stated in an unearthly voice. "He will not betray us. If he does, though . . ." His golden eyes glowed malevolently. "Vengeance will be swift."

"Constantine," Nightwing greeted. "Nice to see you again."

"Nice to see you, too, kid," Constantine answered.

"Nightwing," Zauriel greeted. "I am relieved that you chose to keep the blade, in spite of the pain I am certain it is causing you."

"I'll live," Nightwing answered.

"Aren't we a nice little army?" CM3 remarked.

"Yeah, we are," Constantine agreed.

"Be careful, Nightwing," Zauriel advised. "Once we enter the Shadowlands, the dragon will become exponentially stronger, perhaps strong enough to tap into all of his powers. You must take care so that the sudden rush of power does not overwhelm your better judgment."

"I'll be all right," Nightwing answered as he began walking through the dark gate. The other heroes and anti-heroes followed him into the gate once he had passed through.

Dark mountains and towers extended as far as the eye could see . . . and some of their eyes could see a considerable amount. The sky was pitch black, lit only by a blood-red moon.

"My home," the dragon rasped out with barely contained glee. He stretched his arms out and smiled, baring fangs. "Ah, it feels so good to be back."

"You sure that's not just because your power is coming back?" Red X asked.

"That, too," the dragon replied with a smirk. "Already I feel so much stronger."

Shades emerged from the shadows, a multitude of them gathering around the assorted heroes.

"Ah, hello, pathetic shadow dwellers," the dragon greeted with an ironic smile. "Are you prepared to die?"

Zauriel drew his sword and the blade ignited into bright holy flame.

Cyborg shifted his arms into cannon mode, while Beast Boy became the Werebeast. All around them, everyone else prepared for battle in their own ways. Finally, the dragon drew the dragon-headed holy sword and the head opened, releasing fiery breath that engulfed the blade, leaving a purer, stronger gold metal in its wake.

"Does anyone have a plan?" Speedy asked.

"Does 'kick these sorry shadow-freaks' asses' count as a plan in your opinion?" Bumblebee asked.

"Feisty," the dragon remarked with a sinister chuckle. He proceeded to slash a Shade with his dragon blade, automatically dissipating it. Cyborg blasted at them with his Sonic Cannons while Starfire and Blackfire double-teamed against the Shades with their starbolts and optic blasts. Bumblebee shocked the Shades with her stingers and Speedy shot electric explosive arrows at them.

Aqualad and Beast Boy fought the Shades hand-to-hand, while Red X unleashed crimson electrostatic blasts upon them. Raven and Omen combined their telekinetic powers to devastate the Shades. Mas y Menos attacked the Shades at super-speed as Etrigan and Slade incinerated them with hellfire.

Sara lacerated and impaled Shades with her Witchblade and Wonder Woman did the same with a sword that she had appropriated for this particular purpose. The Marvels fought the Shades with just their immense strength and speed while Jade and Sentinel combined their emerald energies to deal all kinds of death to their shadow-dwelling foes. Since the Shades were essentially living shadows, Obsidian possessed one of them and used it to attack the others before abandoning it and using his shadow form to fight them.

"Sllaberif!" Zatanna shouted, unleashing fireballs upon the Shades.

Constantine contented himself with reciting brief incantations that would summon intermediate-level servant devils to kill the Shades for him.

"You never did like getting your hands dirty," Zatanna remarked.

"Hey, I can get very dirty when I want to," Constantine retorted with a smirk.

Zauriel slashed his way through Shades with ridiculous ease, considering that he was an Agent of Heaven and they were but mere shadow servants. The Spectre simply ripped Shades apart with his bare hands as though he was a human tearing tissue paper.

As hard as they all fought, the Shades kept coming.

We will lose unless you let me take full control, the dragon silently hissed.

Nightwing said nothing for several moments as they fought. However, his silence ended when a Shade got lucky and punctured Blackfire in the stomach with a sharpened tendril created from its own shadowy mass.

Starfire gasped in horror at what she saw. "Sister!"

"Black . . . fire . . ." Nightwing uttered in sorrow and impotent rage. Then again, it wasn't so impotent in light of the fact that he had access to an extremely powerful and destructive darkness dragon, one he had been holding back since he'd discovered its existence.

Do it, he snarled in his thoughts. Let's rip them all apart.

Now that's what I'm talking about! the dragon shouted as he took over Nightwing's body completely, letting out an unholy scream as the dark power flooded into his body. Once he stopped screaming, indigo-black fire crackled all around his body. "You are all going to die."

He swung the holy blade, now turned black by its proximity to the outpour of dark energy, and it emitted an arc of black energy that killed a thousand Shades.

"A thousand!" Aqualad exclaimed in shock. "He killed a thousand of them in one motion!"

"If you think that's impressive, watch this," the dragon said with a cruel smirk as he zoomed into the midst of another thousand Shades and began fighting them all at impossible speeds, leaving a trail of black fire behind him. Scores upon scores of Shades fell at the dragon's hands and sword.

One Shade grabbed him from behind and others followed from the front in a foolish attempt to bind him. The dragon let him know what he thought about that with an explosion of black flame that threw them all off him and disintegrated them. Black flame crackled all around him as he tore into the Shades, killing most of them within the space of minutes.

"Anyone else?" he asked.

A few remaining Shades lunged at him, but the dragon waved his hand and that simple motion unleashed a destructive barrage of black flames that killed them as well.

"We're done here," the dragon stated. "Let's find Wonder Girl."

From within a dark structure vaguely resembling a lighthouse, Dark Angel, Ares, and Asmodeus looked through a dimensional window and saw the dragon leading what looked like a small army of Titans and magically empowered heroes toward them.

"So the dragon is coming for us," Asmodeus stated. "And Zauriel is with him. Good. I've wanted a chance to tear that self-righteous bastard's wings off."

Ares smirked. "Wonder Woman is with them, too."

"I wonder how she'll react when she sees what we've done to her precious Wonder Girl," Dark Angel thought out loud.

"It's a shame we had to stop," Ares said. "It was fun when she finally screamed."

As the small army of heroes and anti-heroes marched toward Dark Angel's stronghold, the dragon turned to Blackfire, who had not been harmed quite as badly as Nightwing had feared. The dragon had known that all along but had played along with Nightwing's anguish to achieve his freedom.

"You're holding up all right, aren't you, Blackfire?" the dragon half questioned, half stated.

"Yeah," Blackfire confirmed. "This is nothing."

"Good," the dragon stated before focusing again on the path ahead.

"Such evil," Obsidian mused. "This massive concentration of shadow power cannot bode well for us."

"Does it matter, Obsidian?" the Spectre asked in his hauntingly unearthly voice. "There is evil and we will eradicate it."

"Yes, Spectre . . . but what will it take?" Zauriel asked.

"Are you referring to the darkness dragon?" the Spectre asked. "If so, I know full well what sort of creature he is. The boy keeps him in check and so I doubt he will turn on us."

"He tainted the sword," Zauriel stated. "His darkness was so powerful that it overwhelmed and corrupted the blade I gave Nightwing."

"True," the Spectre acknowledged. "However, darkness when in service to the light is not necessarily evil. It is simply a different shade of justice."

If the dragon heard their conversation, he didn't comment on it at all. Instead, he stopped in front of Dark Angel's stronghold. "We're here," he stated.

"So do we walk in or do we make an entrance and blast the door open?" Blackfire asked.

The dragon raised a fiery gloved hand. "What do you think?"

The door immediately found itself on the receiving end of a massive black fireball that blew it completely apart. "Let's go," the dragon said.

The heroes and anti-heroes moved up the stairs, some flying and others walking. Finally, they made it to the top, where they confronted Dark Angel, Ares, and Asmodeus.

"Asmodeus!" Zauriel exclaimed. "So you're here, too, aren't you?"

"I decided I wanted in on the action," Asmodeus answered with a smirk.

"Ares!" Wonder Woman exclaimed. "What have you done with Wonder Girl?"

"Me?" Ares asked innocently. "I haven't done anything with her. Any harm suffered by your charge was caused directly by Dark Angel."

Wonder Woman looked at the pale woman in shock. "You . . . you look like . . ."

"Donna all grown up?" Dark Angel finished. "Yes . . . that's because I am her, just several dimensions removed."

"What have you done with Donna?" Wonder Woman asked.

Dark Angel waved a hand and the shadows parted to reveal a bloody, battered, and bruised Wonder Girl, her clothes torn in various places.

"Di . . . ana . . ." Wonder Girl murmured in pain.

"You would have been so proud to see her," Dark Angel remarked. "It took so long to get a scream out of her. So long." She chuckled. "You Amazons are a lot more durable than Ares gave you credit for."

Wonder Woman lost it right there and flew at Dark Angel, intending to pummel the sorceress's face. Unfortunately, Dark Angel easily evaded the charge and tore off her short kimono, revealing skintight pitch-and-blood fighting attire. She spun and kicked Wonder Woman so hard that the Amazon Princess flew straight into and through a wall.

"Wonder Woman!" Captain Marvel shouted. He, Mary, and CM3 attacked Dark Angel as one, only to be savagely repelled by the dark sorceress.

"Damn . . ." Beast Boy remarked. "She's a lot stronger than she looks."

"Fortunately, so are we," Blackfire added. She and Starfire tag-teamed Dark Angel, the former attacking at close range and the latter going long range with her starbolts and optic blasts. Unfortunately, Dark Angel deflected Starfire's starbolts and optic blasts with warped air that consumed the blasts and blocked Blackfire's physical attacks with her bare hands.

Wonder Woman flew in to add her considerable strength to the assault on Dark Angel, but Ares blocked her attack with his sword. The Amazon Princess drew her own blade and fought him sword to sword.

Zauriel and Asmodeus fought each other, Zauriel's flaming holy sword clashing against Asmodeus's flaming demon sword. The two blocked and parried and countered as if they'd been doing this for millennia . . . and they had. It was only recently that they began using those techniques on each other.

"Give up, Agent of God, and I'll make your death painless," Asmodeus offered.

"Never," Zauriel retorted.

Suddenly, Wonder Girl began attacking the Spectre, who simply parried her assaults.

"Why's Wonder Girl attacking Spectre?" Cyborg asked.

"That's not Wonder Girl," Omen replied. "Look at her face. That's Eclipso in her body."

Indeed, it was. "Wonder Girl's" face was deathly white with a black circle on the right side and an angry grimace bared fangs.

"Miserable spirit," the Spectre snarled as he batted her aside brutally. Despite this, Eclipso simply somersaulted in midair and flew back at the Spectre, attacking him brutally. She withdrew her lasso and wrapped it around him, willing the divine lightning to strike him dead. Unfortunately for her, the lightning recognized her as the evil one and shocked her painfully, forcing the spirit within to depart from Wonder Girl's body.

Eclipso wasn't done yet; he simply decided to take up a new residence . . . Sara Pezzini.

"Nice try . . ." the wielder of the Witchblade hissed as she forced Eclipso out of her body. She proceeded to lacerate his spectral form with the Witchblade, eliciting an unearthly scream of agony from him as his form dissipated. "That should be the end of you."

Meanwhile, Starfire and Blackfire were still battling Dark Angel, who was simply blocking their assaults with what seemed to be the barest of efforts.

"Is this all you can offer me?" Dark Angel asked. "For a warrior species, you are certainly weak."

"Weak?" Blackfire echoed angrily as she charged up her starbolts and fired a massive blast of purple energy at the dark witch, who simply karate-chopped it in half.

Asmodeus had just gotten lucky and knocked Zauriel's sword out of his hands, leaving him at his mercy. Rather, that would have been the case if a black-bladed dragon-headed sword hadn't sliced through his armor and flesh. Asmodeus roared in pain and fury and unleashed a sonic cry that knocked both him and the wielder of that sword back.

"Bastard," the dragon snarled.

"Ah, Rij'ze," Asmodeus hissed. "It's so good to see you again. Fighting on the side of the angels? Not your style."

"Things change," the dragon replied as he slashed at Asmodeus, who moved out of the way with speed that would have been incomprehensible to a mortal eye. To the dragon, it was simply an annoyance to be dealt with. Moving at that same speed, the dragon and Asmodeus clashed swords, only for the fallen angel to pull a disappearing act. "Where did you go, you slippery son of a bitch?"

He got his answer when he felt a burning blade slice his back multiple times in brutally rapid succession. He fell to the ground, the back of his suit in tatters that exposed the bloody hamburger that his back had been turned into.

"How do you like that?" Asmodeus asked.

"Underhanded fiend!" Zauriel yelled and braced himself against the wall before unleashing his own sonic cry, blasting the evil fallen angel against a wall.

"Nightwing!" the Tamaranean sisters and Raven shouted when they saw what had been done to him.

Darkness engulfed Raven and exploded toward Asmodeus, ready to rip him apart. For his part, Asmodeus simply sliced through the darkness as he made his way toward Raven, preparing the strike that would end her life. That strike never came due to a black-gloved hand that grabbed the burning blade and bent it until it was useless.

"You!" Asmodeus yelled.

"Yes, me," the dragon answered with a cruel smile. He turned around and showed his back to Asmodeus, which had completely healed in the space of seconds. "Impressed?"

"What in Lucifer's name are you?" Asmodeus asked in fright.

"Did you not call me Rij'ze?" the dragon asked. "That's my name most likely; I just don't remember everything since I was dormant inside this boy's body for eighteen years. As for what I am . . . you know full well what I am."

"And what is that?" Asmodeus asked.

Rij'ze grabbed him by his throat and his very touch engulfed the evil fallen angel in unholy black fire. Asmodeus could hardly find it in him to scream, even knowing the fate that awaited him, because Rij'ze's grip on his throat made it hard to speak. So there was nothing for him to do except be disintegrated by Rij'ze's flames.

Rij'ze turned his attentions to Dark Angel, running toward her at superhuman speeds. Dark Angel set off mystical mines that had been prepared for him, but he avoided each mine.

"Damn, look at him go," Cyborg remarked.

"He's moving . . . like we do," CM3 breathed out in astonishment.

What none of them seemed to notice was that Dark Angel had a knife treated with dragonbane waiting for him, none of them except Omen.

"Rij'ze, look out!" Omen shouted.

Dark Angel made her move, stabbing Rij'ze with the knife and twisting it to make sure it really hurt.

Rij'ze merely chuckled. "Dragonbane . . . that would have worked . . . if I were still a dragon in body." He pulled the knife out of his stomach and lacerated her throat with it, cutting the jugular vein.

Dark Angel placed a hand to her throat, using some healing magic to seal the wound. "Is that all you've got?" she asked.

"Not really," Rij'ze replied. "But I feel that I should be asking you that question. You've been gathering strength from this realm all this time. SHOW IT TO ME! SHOW ME WHAT YOU'RE CAPABLE OF, 'DARK ANGEL!' SHOW ME!"

Dark Angel spoke only three words.

"As you wish."

Black tendrils wrapped around the exposed skin of her body, hardening into a protective metal web. She moved so fast that she seemed to disappear in the eyes of most of those present. Only a few, such as Rij'ze himself, had strong enough senses to know that she wasn't quite gone. He caught her fist and squeezed slowly, intending for her to feel the pain of her bones breaking one by one. He was pleasantly surprised when a blast of dark energy from that fist knocked him back.

"Ah, better," Rij'ze mused. "But not quite good enough. You'll have to step your game up a few notches, little girl."

"'Little girl'?" Dark Angel echoed in rage. "How dare you condescend to me, you miserable dragon!" Seven black energy orbs formed in front of her and she shot all of them at Rij'ze at once.

Rij'ze dodged the orbs as he ran toward Dark Angel, a fiery black claw extended to grab her and choke the life out of her. Unfortunately for him, Dark Angel used the claw to ensnare him and viciously beat him. After that, she threw him aside.

"Now do you think yourself so tough, dragon?" she asked with a smirk.

Suddenly, a lasso wrapped around her and a hundred thousand volts of divine lightning passed through it and into her, eliciting a scream of agony from her.

"That was for torturing me, witch," Wonder Girl snarled.

Rij'ze rose to his feet with a smirk on his face. "I didn't know you had it in you," he hissed. "Good work."

Dark Angel got up. "Do you think . . . that will be enough . . . to finish me?" she asked.

"No," Rij'ze replied. "Which is why I am no longer holding back on you. I've seen all I needed to see of your talents."

He rose into the air and the tatters in the back of his suit expanded and melded together into great black dragon wings. "Lo and behold, the end has come!" he shouted as his dark power rose to its zenith.

"Oh, hell, this isn't going to be good," Constantine remarked. "For her, that is."

Rij'ze reached into the bloody wound in his stomach and pulled back a bloody hand. "Time to die, wench. I'll see you in hell." He slashed with his bloodied hand and an arc of blood-colored light accelerated toward Dark Angel, who countered with an arc of ebony light.

The two energy attacks clashed against each other and it seemed for a few moments that they would cancel each other. To the surprise of Dark Angel, Rij'ze's arc ate hers and slammed into her.

"No . . ." she uttered. "It's his blood. That attack is made from his blood!"

"What's she talking about?" CM3 asked.

"A dragon's blood is extremely hot," Raven replied. "Since Rij'ze currently inhabits a human body, he had to transform the blood into fire in that attack instead of just allowing it to touch her."

Dark Angel had nothing more to say before Rij'ze's blood-fire attack reduced her to ashes.

"I suppose she wasn't that great after all," the darkness dragon remarked nonchalantly.

"Holy crap," Beast Boy remarked. "No wonder Trigon was afraid of this guy!"

"Indeed," Raven agreed. "Even Trigon wasn't capable of such displays of power."

"You're all alone now, Ares," Wonder Woman declared as the other heroes and anti-heroes assembled around her. "And you have all of us to deal with."

"I suppose the plan is ruined without the Horsemen," Ares mused. "Diana . . . I will see you again." He teleported in a flash of dark red light.

Back in East Titans Tower, the Titans, Nightwing, Red X, and Blackfire congregated. Everyone else had returned to their usual territories.

"So we've saved the world again," Beast Boy remarked.

"The bad news is that Slade disappeared again," Nightwing added.

"Quit being a downer," Red X said. "Who gives a crap about Slade? We can take him down anytime we like. Right now, I'd like to celebrate our victory. We kicked ass!"

"Actually, Ri . . . Rij . . . damn, I can't say his name!" Beast Boy exclaimed in frustration.

"It's pronounced Reeze," Raven filled in. "Like breeze, but with a harder sound near the end."

"Uh, thanks," Beast Boy said.

"You're welcome," Raven answered.

"So where do we go from here?" Cyborg asked. "I mean, Rob – Nightwing, it's not like our friendship's unsalvageable. I know the other Titans and I hurt you bad when we were scared of you. To be honest, seeing Rij'ze tear through Asmodeus, Dark Angel, and all those Shades like they were nothing kinda scared us." He saw Nightwing's jaw tighten slightly. "But you're our friend. Nothing's gonna change that, you got me?"

"Thanks," Nightwing said with a smile.

"We're still worried about you, considering your relationship with Blackfire," Cyborg added. "Personal heartbreak aside, crime fighter-criminal relationships don't tend to work very well. I should know."

"I can handle it," Nightwing stated.

"That's not all he'll be handling," Blackfire added. She took Nightwing's hand. "Come on, lover. Time for you to lose your precious virginity."

Starfire and Raven flushed and blanched respectively at Blackfire's brazenness.

Speedy just snickered. "I hope you can handle her, Wingster."

"As much as I'd like that, Blackfire, I've got some leftover business to take care of back in L.A.," Nightwing said. "You can come with me if you like."

"Sure," Blackfire answered, "because I plan on showing you my place."

"I'll come, too," Red X interjected. "To L.A., not your place."

"Why's that?" Nightwing asked.

"I'm sticking with you," Red X replied. "It's the only way I'll have any fun."

One week later in Los Angeles, the corrupt businessman sat in his office in his corporate headquarters smoking a cigar when he received a call on his cell phone. He picked it up and answered the call. "Hello?"

"Hello, Tyler Waid," a frighteningly familiar voice responded.

"You!" Waid exclaimed in horror. "You're that kid who went and terrorized me in my own office!"

"Yes, that would be me," the voice confirmed. "I got your number as the last caller on your man's phone. I gotta hand it to you; you know how to cover your tracks. It took me six days to put all the pieces together . . . and now that the police know . . ."

"What do you mean, police?" Waid asked.

"Did you really think you had enough of them on your payroll so that you couldn't be touched?" the voice asked. "That doesn't matter now, they're coming for you. Do you hear the sirens?"

Waid could do nothing but blanch in horror and await the end of his enterprise, the end of his good name, and the end of his freedom.

End Notes: Hate me for ending it there? Don't worry, this isn't really the end. I have another story in mind that'll continue where this one left off.

If anyone's wondering about Dark Angel being an alternate world's version of Donna Troy/Wonder Girl, that was the revelation made in the recent DC miniseries The Return of Donna Troy. The circumstances of that are different in the actual miniseries from my explanation in this story.

I'm sorry that not everyone got a chance to fight Dark Angel, Ares, Asmodeus, and Eclipso. It's just that these four characters have very specific enemies and so it's difficult to match just anybody up against them. However, we did get to the important stuff and that is Rij'ze kicking ass and taking names and showing why Trigon feared him. I feel that makes things somewhat better.

This story has ended and it has been a good journey. I thank you all for sticking by me and for letting me know what you think. As a word of advice, simply saying "update!" without adding much else is not a review, it is simply an annoyance. If you can't articulate what you liked or disliked about a story, then you shouldn't use the review button.

Good-bye for now, gentle readers. I will see you again, but before I leave, here's an omake:

"Ares!" Wonder Woman exclaimed. "What have you done with Wonder Girl?"

"Me?" Ares asked innocently. "I haven't done anything with her. Any harm suffered by your charge was caused directly by Dark Angel."

Wonder Woman looked at the pale woman in shock. "You . . . you look like . . ."

"Donna all grown up?" Dark Angel finished. "Yes . . . that's because I am her, just several dimensions removed."

"What have you done with Donna?" Wonder Woman asked.

"Nothing she didn't want me to," Dark Angel replied. "At least, not after I showed her just how well two women could attend to each other's needs."

She waved a hand and the shadows in the room parted, revealing Wonder Girl dressed in nothing but leather wrappings that barely covered her breasts, bottom, and groin. She smiled cruelly at Wonder Woman before walking to Dark Angel and kissing her very passionately on her lips. The dark witch returned the kiss with equal passion.

"Dude . . . this is so wrong," Cyborg uttered.

"Yeah . . ." Beast Boy agreed as he drooled over the scene.

"You guys are forgetting one thing," Red X said. "They're the same person! Does that count as incest or as some whacked-out form of playing with yourself?"

"I don't know," Nightwing replied. "And I don't think I want to know."

That's really the end this time. See you next story.