Chapter 4: Farewell
Disclaimer: I do not own Teen Titans. I just like to play with them for awhile and return them a little worse for wear.
Raven paced her small guestroom. Rorek had been kind, pleasant and achingly polite. But he had also been clearly shaken and disturbed by her story. He had left his turret chambers for a short time, leaving her alone to pace restlessly. When he came back he told her had had arranged rooms for her in the castle. He took her to them, and then left her there with only word that he would return, but that now he had some research and studying to do.
Waiting was not one of Raven's strong points. Nor was it one of her favorite things to do. She found herself opening and reopening the book to stare at the blank pages. Rorek, her Rorek as she thought of him now, had assured her that once the battle was fought, and once Malchior was destroyed, the spell she had used to get back here in time would slingshot her forward again to her proper time, and it would all seem like some distant and fantastic dream, if she remembered any of it at all. Raven had made little comment. Why bother? There was nothing to be done but to go through with it. If she had to forget Rorek the court magician, at least she would also forget her humiliation at the hands of Malchior. In a way, it would simplify her life once more. She should be relieved. She was tired of the other Titans tip-toeing around any subject that might remind her of the whole thing. Especially the sympathetic looks she got from Starfire and Beast Boy. Yes, she definitely should be relieved.
She wasn't. Instead, she was frustrated and annoyed. Frustrated because this Rorek had shut her out while he went off to make his plans to defeat Malchior. Of course she knew that was a foolish way to feel. She hadn't been here the first time, so she had no place in the battle as that might further complicate things. He didn't know her at all, so why would he include her? She was just some messenger from a distant future. He had no memory of that day she had been brought here in a dream by him, to see the kingdom, to get to know the real magician of the story, the real hero of the book. But she remembered it. It had been a day of special magic. For the first time in her life, Raven had felt a bond with someone so strong it had withstood the distance of time. And it had been an equally shared bond. Now, that bond would be gone, because none of that would have happened. The paradoxes of time travel made her head hurt.
And Raven was annoyed because of those feelings. Where was her cool, calm persona? Why did one look into those blue eyes make her feel lost, even though she knew that in this time he didn't feel the same? Why did her fingers itch to slip through his silky mane of white blond hair? Why couldn't this whole damn thing be over with so she could go back to her life as a Titan and be the ice queen once more? Never, ever again would she let such a thing happen to her. She never should have come here the first time. She never should have let him talk her into staying for that magical day. She never should have dropped her guard and let him into her heart…
"Rorek," she stared out of the window to the countryside below, and fought the burning in her eyes. Grinding her teeth, she walked to the elegant bed, sat down, crossed her legs meditation style, levitated and closed her eyes. "Azarath. Metrion. Zinthos…"
It was a roar strong enough to rattle the stone foundations of the castle, and it snapped Raven out of her meditation and bolting from her room down the corridor and out onto the courtyard. She was in time to see the shadow of a monstrous dragon diving over the castle and its walls, gusting fire with every breath. He had seemed big back home at the Tower, yet here he seemed even bigger. Raven turned to run towards the drawbridge. Around her people were shrieking and shouting and running. Animals were braying, honking, snorting and squealing in fear. She dodged them, scarcely paying any attention to the mayhem.
"No!" Strong hands caught her shoulders. She spun to see Rorek. He shook his head. "It is my challenge, and my duty. You stay here, please, Lady Raven."
"Sorry," Raven shook her head sharply. "He doesn't scare me. I fought him too, remember?"
"Yes, you did. In your time. But this is my time. If what you say is true, then it must be by my hand he falls. Mine alone." He pulled up the black scarf she remembered to wrap it around his nose and mouth against the suffocating dragon breath he would face.
"Fine. Your battle. I won't interfere. But I will watch."
Rorek lifted his hands and gently gripped her arms. His blue eyes searched hers for a moment, and then he lowered them, and tightened his fingers slightly around her arms.
"You are brave, Lady. I sense no fear in you. I would rather you stayed away, but I have no authority over you. Be careful. I must go…"
"Rorek," Raven felt his hands leave her arms as he turned away and stared to sprint towards where the dragon had gone. He stopped and turned back to face her a moment. She drank in the sight of him. "We don't know how my coming here could have affected things. You be careful too. I want you alive and well if I'm going to forget you."
His eyes narrowed slightly as if he was smiling at her. And for a moment she saw the Rorek she knew in him.
"Of course. I shall be very careful. Just not so careful as to lose the battle."
He turned again and sprinted away towards the stone walkway outside of the castle where the dragon trumpeted his challenge.
"Damn," Raven let out explosively. She bolted after him through the dust of panic in the courtyard. Another dragon roar shook the ground. She rounded a corner and saw the familiar slender black clad figure running towards the towering dragon, against the flood of people and animals running away from it. She fought her way in the same direction.
She remembered the vivid description she had read in the book. It had been so real to her. And now she could see it. For a moment the scene took her breath away. If it had seemed a moment of frightening suspense in the book, now, watching a very real Rorek facing an equally very real Malchior it was a moment of nail biting terror. But Raven didn't scare so easily. She stood some yards away as Malchior cast his baleful stare on the minute figure of the court magician. And she heard his deep laugh of derision.
"Foolish human. You have no chance of winning this battle. Go away and I will let you live."
"How generous. Might I know your name, and why you have decided to come here and upset the farm animals?" Rorek stood facing Malchior, hands at his sides. Clearly his lack of evident fear annoyed the dragon. Malchior bared his huge fangs.
"Little man. I am Malchior, dragon magician and I wish these lands for my own. That is all you need know."
With no other warning, Malchior sent a gout of flame directly at Rorek. Raven had fought a lot of weird creatures in her time as a Titan, but she remembered her fight with Malchior as one of the most difficult. Rorek threw up a shield just in time. Then the battle began in earnest. Raven watched in growing frustration. While she could sense the power in Rorek, she could also see that Malchior evenly matched him. The stone bridge they battled on was quickly coming to pieces, and large chunks of rock were strewn about as each magician unleashed his power on the other.
Raven bit her lip as she held back. He was right. It wasn't her battle. It was his. She didn't dare become involved. It could change things and not necessarily for the better. She could see Rorek, his black clothes starkly outlining his slim figure against the pale sky. The dragon stalked towards him, huge teeth bared, eyes glinting in savage fury. What she had read and imagined paled in comparison to this real battle. Rorek looked so small and vulnerable as he stood his ground against the power of the dragon. Raven had to remind herself that he would win. He had to win. He wrote the damn book! And he trapped Malchior in it. It could happen no other way.
Back and forth, dragon fire against magician power, they kept going. There were no more words between them. Aside from the roar of flame and the crash of stone walls, it was a silent battle. Raven crept closer until she was secure behind one of the larger pieces of fallen stonework. She dared a look around the corner. This close, she could feel Roreks power surging forth. He had far more than she had imagined.
"Lady, you shouldn't be here!" Rorek spared a shocked glance over his shoulder, somehow sensing her presence this close.
"Never mind me. Just get him into that book before he breaks more pottery, scares more cows, and your people are drinking curdled milk for a year." Raven ducked back to cover.
"I'm trying my best, Lady," Rorek said, teeth gritted, dodging a fiery blast. His hands flew to weave a pattern and he peppered the dragon with a burst of energy spheres. Raven nodded her approval, despite the fact that her heart had decided to take up residence in her throat. She dared another glance.
"His tail!" She shouted out, forgetting to stay out of it, as she saw the appendage sweep from behind Malchior with the clear intent of crushing his more fragile opponent. Her muscles coiled and she was mid spring when she saw Rorek dodge swiftly out of the way. Her feet settled back onto the ground and she let out a gust of breath, only to inhale sharply again as Malchior lunged forward and snatched up the magician in one ferociously clawed hand.
"Oh…" Raven whispered, a hand to her throat. Then she frowned and her lips tightened. Anger began to simmer inside of her and she felt her power tingle. She was no fair maid to hide from a fight. There was no way that she was going to let that evil dragon win this war or harm Rorek . "Azarath! Metrion….." She caught herself. No. It wasn't her battle. How often did she have to remind herself of that? If she interfered she could be trapped here forever, unable to return to her own time.
"And would that be so bad?" Came a whisper from her mind. "No more Slade, no more petty criminals trying to make names for themselves, no more Hive Academy graduates trying to get extra credit by taking on the Titans, no more bad jokes from Beast Boy or huggy displays from Starfire…"
Raven gave her head a shake. She stared up at Rorek, and he struggled in the grip of the dragon's claws, his features strained. Her heart began to break. She pulled back her power and felt her throat tighten. "Win," she whispered.
She stepped from behind the stone to watch now. She had just come to terms about the fact that she would lose when he won. And she knew he would win. Wind gusted across the bridge and tangled in her cape and hair. She could see his thick, white blond hair whipping away from his face. The dragon brought his dripping jaws closer, a leer of triumph in his glittery eyes. Then, Rorek's lips moved soundlessly, and his one free hand made a sharp and decisive move in the air. She knew his words without having to hear them.
Suddenly, the leer was gone as a stream of power suddenly swirled around Malchior. The dragon shrieked as he felt the power of the curse take hold of him. The claw opened and released Rorek to plunge some thirty feet to the stone below. Raven was no longer powerless. She swept up and forward, catching him and breaking his fall, swerving away from the flailing tail of the spell trapped dragon. She touched down, feeling his arm over her shoulder and his shaky breath. He swayed slightly when his own feet hit the ground. She reached out a steadying hand. For a moment her eyes met his, then they both turned to look at the spell that swirled before them, as it twisted and held Malchior in its vortex. It spun faster and faster until the dragon's shape diminished into a blur. Then, the winds stopped abruptly, and there was a thud as the white leather covered book fell to the ground. They both stared at it.
"It is done," Rorek said hoarsely.
"Not completely. Not yet," Raven said. She turned her head to meet his eyes. "Now, we must destroy the book."
"You are sure it must be….this way?" His blue eyes were troubled.
"I don't have a clue," Raven swallowed the lump in her throat, keeping her tone brusque. "But you told me that he had to be destroyed. Completely."
"Very well," Rorek walked slowly towards the book as it lay on the stone walkway.
From the castle, people were starting to dare look outside again, and Raven could hear the murmur of voices. Her eyes were strictly on Rorek, however. The curse had taken a lot of his strength, she could tell by his slumped shoulders and heavy steps. She knew personally just how weak it left the one who cast it. But it wasn't just the curse. Raven walked up behind him. Unfamiliar emotions beat at her, and she felt as if her heart was being slowly shredded.
"Rorek," She put a hand gently on his shoulder from behind. He turned his head slight to look at her. "He was evil. He will always be evil. He reversed this very spell to condemn you to the book for eternity. He would have murdered your people and taken over your land. He tried to take over my land as well. I know you don't wish to destroy him, but he wouldn't hesitate to destroy you, or me, or either of our worlds."
"Of course, my Lady. I know that you are right," he stared to reach for the book.
"No, don't touch it." She caught his wrist. "I don't know how he reverses the spell, but let's not take any chances. If you like, I'll destroy it. Believe me, I don't mind at all." Some of her bitterness leaked out in her words. She saw his eyes focus on her.
"No, Lady Raven," he said quietly as his gaze seemed to go deeply inside of her, and through her. Then he lowered his eyes and looked at her hand on his wrist. "By your account, this is also my task to do. But if I hesitate, it is not because I grieve for Malchior. It is because I know by this act, I will cause you pain. As much as you wish for his destruction, you also dread it and fear it. Why?" Those eyes met hers again, and she felt a rush of panic.
"I really don't think I want to go into that. Let's just turn this book into ashes, and then I can go home," Raven kept her tone dry as she averted her eyes from his. It took an effort to bring up the emotional wall again, but she did. It was something she had worked on and perfected over the years. She cloaked herself in the numbing cold of dispassion.
"But I feel that you really do not wish this to happen. It troubles me," Rorek's expression was weary but concerned. Raven fought her reaction to that look, and the unexpected caring in his eyes. It reminded her even more that he did not know her. He had not shared a magical afternoon with her, or an even more magical kiss.
"Look," Raven crossed her arms. "Let's not give the dragon a chance to find that reversal spell while we stand here chatting. You have some magical repairs to make to the castle walls, I'm sure. And I've got some bad guys to chase in my own time."
"Very well, Lady," he inclined his head slightly, but she caught the shadow haunting his eyes, and it made her turn away quickly.
He turned back to the leather bound book lying on the stone. Raven took a bracing breath, and then turned to stand beside him. She saw him lift one hand and whisper some words she didn't understand. His fingers pointed at the book, and a single, narrow beam of blue-white light flowed from his fingertips to surround and encase the book. It glowed brighter and brighter, obscuring the book it surrounded. Raven's eyes burned at the brightness. Then, unexpectedly, Rorek caught her, whipping around, shielding her against him, as there was a blinding flash of explosive power. She found herself tightly held against him, her face buried against the ends of the scarf that hung down his chest. And her arms, of their own volition, had wrapped themselves around him. She felt the strength of his arms around her as well. She could feel the steady beat of his heart beneath her cheek.
"So," he took a deep breath, "it was this way, was it?"
"No…"she murmured, trying to ignore the feel of his silky mane of hair on her hands as they remained clasped behind his back.
"You cannot deceive me now, Lady. Your feelings are too strong to deny. Now I understand your conflict." He sighed. "That book will never be written now, and you will never read it."
"And I will never know you," She looked up into his eyes, her own brimming. "Yes, I know."
"How brave you are." His arms still held her. "But, I know you now, don't I?"
"Just…let me say good-bye," Raven said haltingly. "You said that the magic would recognize the change, the correction, and would pull me back."
"Now? So soon?" His eyes searched hers. "You saved my life, Lady Raven. For that I must thank you. And bid you safe journey. Farewell…"
He lowered his head and kissed her. She clung to him fiercely and kissed him back, waiting for the magic to sweep her away.
It was Starfire who saw.
"Look! The book! It is….disappearing!" She pointed, her eyes wide.
All eyes snapped to where she pointed, to the bed and the book that lay there. And indeed it was fading away as they watched, and in a moment, was completely gone.
"Dude, where did it go?" Beast Boy's eyes swept the room.
"Good question,"Cyborg said with a wary frown. "Uh…where did what go?
For a moment, the instant the book vanished completely; they all stared blankly at each other. Then, Robin turned back to Raven.
"Raven…"Robin whispered her name, and the others turned their attention to their team mate. Her eyes were still open and fixed on the ceiling. But from the corner of each eye slid a single tear, trickling down her face to disappear into the pillow beneath her head. Robin bent over her anxiously. "Raven?" Her eyelids closed slowly, and her breathing took on a normal steady rhythm.
"Um, can somebody tell me that really happened? Did she really, like have tears?" Beast Boy stammered.
"Shhhhhhhhh" Starfire glared at him with a threatening look. "She is waking up."
Raven's eyes flickered and then opened. She stared up at the hovering Titans.
"Um….who died?" She asked.
"Oh, um, well, you had this…." Robin began as she sat up. "problem,"
"My door." Raven stared at the hole Cyborg had made. "Who…?" She broke off as she lifted her hand, and saw clutched in her fingers a black scarf. "What is this?"
"We do not know." Starfire said.
"Dude! You've been like in a trance for hours. You had us really freaked out. And nobody knows where that creepy thing came from." Beast Boy blurted out.
"I'm fine," Raven said, but her eyes went back to the scarf. She frowned. "You guys have some explaining to do. You're in my room. You burned a hole in my door…"
She faded off as she stared at the black scarf. "I had the strangest dream…"
End (for now)