Chapter 12: The Return

Persephone led the group to the stables where a large black chariot lay just outside the stable's main door. The chariot was trimmed in gold and glistened in the gloomy underworld light.

"Cool wheels," Cyborg added as he ran his hand over one side. The other boys followed his lead and inspected their mode of transportation. "I'm still partial to the T-car though," Cyborg quickly added.

"Well wait until you see the engines," Persephone quickly countered. "Oh, I do like to ride my husband's chariot. I don't get out as much as I should."

James brought out a team of four Nightmares strapped together. Their coats were black as night, their eyes burned red and their hooves singed the ground they strode on. The Titans looked in awe as the team was lead to the front of the chariot. James halted them slightly ahead of the main hitch then backed the team into place.

Morpheus looked on in disgust. He and Raven stood slightly behind the others. There was no way he was going to be a passenger on his father's chariot when other more suitable modes of transportation were available. Morpheus grabbed Raven's hand and pulled her towards the stable. She didn't protest but looked back to see if the others had noticed their departure. Morpheus left her at the stable door and proceeded inside. Moments later he emerged riding a Nightmare of his own. He reached down offering Raven his hand. She took it and the immortal quickly hoisted her onto the front of their mount. Morpheus pressed his heals back on his steed then leaned forward as their Nightmare quickly bounded by the others. James held on tightly to his team as they jostled nervously against each other as Morpheus and Raven shot by. A portal opened and Morpheus, Raven and their steed disappeared as screams of agony echoed in the still underworld air before closing behind them.

"That boy," Persephone lightly muttered under her breath.

Morpheus and Raven exited the portal into the cool ocean air. Moonlight gave faint illumination to the beach area where they had emerged; the Tower glowed in the distance. Their mount slowly trotted across the beach as the ocean waves broke dully on the shore.

"Morpheus, can you do me a favor?" Raven whispered seductively to her companion. Morpheus nodded in agreement. "Get off!" With that Raven unceremoniously pushed the immortal from their mount. Morpheus grunted heavily as he crashed onto the shore. Raven looked down and smiled wryly as her eyes began to glow a dull red. She pressed her heals back and the Nightmare let out a screaming whinny of approval before bolting forward.

Raven's mount raced along the shoreline splashing through the waves as they washed up along the beach. Beneath her she could hear the hissing of steam as the beast's hooves drove through the ocean waters. Her hair and cape flapped in the night air as the beast reached a full speed. She leaned forward and pushed herself up in the stirrups as the rhythms of the beast's hooves resonated through her body. The Nightmare began gasping for air and its pace quickened yet again. The night sky quickly filled with dark clouds as a storm blew up and blotted out the moon.

The city lights turned crimson as Raven began to feel the power of her mount pass through her. Terrified screams filled her ears. She could feel a dark force rise up within her. Behind her she could sense a dark wave of agony cresting and threatening to crash over the city and scour everything in its path. She would be the Dark Queen; no one, not even her friends would offer resistance. The world would kneel before her in fear and utter agony. Her heart raced in her chest, beating harder, matching the gallop of her mount. Her head spun in the dizzy array of her new-found dark powers. Lightning flashed across the sky followed by a loud crack of thunder.

"No!" A faint voice rose up from the back of her mind. That voice rippled forward sweeping the dark vision away before it. Raven shut her eyes and gradually pulled back on the reigns of her mount leaning back in the stirrups. The Nightmare grunted in protest then reluctantly glided to a halt. She collapsed forward on her mount

"Raven?" Morpheus' voice gently prodded her. A bright flash filled the sky followed by a another sharp clap of thunder. Raven remained slumped forward on her mount; her head pressed on the back of the Nightmare's neck as rain cascaded down her face and dripped from her nose. Her chest heaved as she struggled to catch her breath. Raven continued to pinch her eyes shut trying to vanquish the dark vision from her mind.

"No, I won't do it," she meekly pleaded with herself. A fit of sobs consumed her.

"Raven, it's over." Morpheus quietly assured her. The rain continued to fall in sheets.

Raven wearily slid off the Nightmare and into Morpheus' waiting arms. She placed her hands on his shoulders to steady herself as her legs quivered under her weight. She slowly opened her eyes; Morpheus' face was cast in a faint red light, his hair was matted to his head as the rain dribbled off his face. Lightning flashed again illuminating the shore briefly as another wave of thunder rolled across the sky. Raven looked over at her mount who's head had craned backwards to glance at his former rider. Its eyes glowed powerfully through the rain casting a deep red glow over the couple. Steam blew out its nostrils as a sick sulfur smell arose from its simmering hooves.

Raven shivered as the cold rain sank into her weary body. Morpheus reached around her shoulders and pulled her hood over her head. "You need to get out the rain; it will be the death of you." He smiled at her as she struggled to regain her composure. "He almost had you Raven. You are half demon you know. The temptation of shadow will always be there." His voice rose as a faint whisper over the tumultuous roar of the rain. Morpheus clasped Raven's hands and gently lowered them from his shoulders. His hand reached into his pocket and pulled out his phone. This he pressed it into Raven's hands.

"Call me sometime. Maybe we can finish that drawing we got started on." Raven looked down at the phone in her hands. Morpheus stood back from her then made his way over to the Nightmare. He pulled himself up on his mount firmly grasping the reigns. "The others will be here shortly." He pulled the reigns to one side and the Nightmare grunted and cantered back around and started to slowly stride away. Morpheus looked back at Raven. "Sweet dreams," he called back to her before pressed his heals back causing his Nightmare to suddenly break into a full gallop. In a flash he was gone leaving Raven shivering in the rain.