Chapter 7: Full Shadow
The five Titans stood huddled together on the roof of the Tower enjoying some light music, a few drinks and the cool night air. Across the sea the city lights flickered, their reflection blurred on the wavy surface of the ocean. Cyborg walked away from the group and stood at the edge of the Rower staring out of the tranquil scene that lay before him. He turned to the others that had joined him to savor the first night of summer.
Beast Boy and Terra were gently caressing one other as they talked with Robin and Starfire. Cyborg drew a deep breath and smiled then turned back to the city lights. He was lost in his thoughts. Raven was still in her room. She had not answered her door when he went down to invite her up. Raven had pretty much been keeping to herself lately, but what happened last night worried him. He had been checking some of the tower's systems when he heard a racket in the kitchen. When he went to investigate he swore he saw Raven stumbling up the steps with several broken dishes on the floor. It was the smell of smoke and booze in the air that had most disturbed him. What had his friend been up to?
"Hey Cyborg," Beast Boy's jovial voice briefly startled him. "What's up? You invite everyone up here then clam up on us and stare out into space."
Cyborg looked over to his friend. The other three were still engaged in their own conversation. "Nothing's up," Cyborg replied. "Just wondering where Raven is, that's all."
"Didn't you invite her?" Beast Boy asked.
"She's not answering her door." Cyborg replied.
"Maybe she's out." Beast Boy offered.
Cyborg hesitated for a second contemplating that possibility. "I don't know. Could you go down and see if you can get her up here? She's been MIA lately and it would be nice to see her with the group again."
"Yea sure," Beast Boy casually replied. He turned to go back downstairs.
"Be nice," Cyborg called to him.
Beast Boy turned and shot his friend a puzzled look. "Ok." He wondered what Cyborg meant by that comment; he and Raven had gotten over their differences long ago, or so he thought.
Beast Boy faced Raven's door. He paused and listened hoping to catch some indication that she was inside. He heard nothing but silence. Beast Boy lightly knocked on the door. "Hey Raven, the rest of us are on the roof. Wanna come up?" There was no reply. Beast Boy was about to give up when the door slid open.
"Raven?" Beast Boy cautiously called out into the dark room.
"Come in," Raven's voice meekly replied from the gloom.
Beast Boy cautiously entered her room. All of the lights were out. It took him several seconds for his eyes to adjust. He saw Raven's silhouette seated on her bed. While the room was almost dark Beast Boy could tell it was in a chaotic state.
"Hey, the rest of us are up on the roof," he began. "Cyborg put together some food and drinks and Robin brought up his box. It's a nice night. You want to join us?"
There was a short silence. "Yea sure, that would be nice," Raven said half heartedly.
Beast Boy paused slightly disturbed with her tepid reply. "Are you feeling ok Raven?" How long had it been since he had last talked with her? He and Terra had spent a lot of time together lately so maybe that was why he hadn't noticed her absence like Cyborg had.
"I'm ok, just a little under the weather right now," Raven said softly.
Beast Boy stood there silently for a moment then nervously scratched the back of his head. "Raven, I guess things between me and Terra have kept both of us busy lately." Beast Boy paused as he tried to find the right words to express his gratitude towards her. "I mean I really appreciate what you've done for me and Terra. You've been a great friend, to both of us." Beast Boy was fumbling. Thankfully he couldn't see Raven's eyes narrow in seething anger. "Anyway," he nervously laughed to himself, "you're keeping us waiting. Why don't you get dressed and come up and join us."
A brief silence followed. Beast Boy thought he heard Raven sigh lightly in the darkness. "I'm sorry," she replied.
"That's ok," Beast Boy replied not knowing he was misinterpreting her. "We'll wait for you." He turned and exited the room and headed back up to the others.
Cyborg met Beast Boy as he opened the door to the tower's roof. "Is she coming up?"
"Yea," Beast Boy replied. "No girl can resist me." Both of them turned and headed back towards the others.
"Did she seem all right to you," Cyborg asked.
"Yea, I guess. She said she wasn't feeling good. Why, is something wrong?"
"I don't know. She's just been keeping to herself lately and I'm a bit worried," Cyborg continued.
Beast Boy and Cyborg returned to the others. Terra stepped forward and gently laid her hand on Beast Boy's shoulder. The door to the roof opened and Raven's hooded figure stepped out as the door shut behind her. She slowly approached the group.
"Ok we're all here," Beast Boy gleefully announced. "Let's get this party started."
A flash of lightning filled the horizon garnering the group's attention. "Oh great," Beast Boy sighed. "It wasn't supposed to rain tonight was it Cyborg?"
"Not according to the weather reports I saw," Cyborg replied. The winds began to pick up off the ocean. Cyborg turned towards the city. "That's weird."
"What?" Robin inquired.
Cyborg directed the group's attention towards the city. "Fog's rolling in."
The others noticed a thick fog coming towards the Tower from the city. "What's the big deal?" Robin replied not seeing the significance.
"The wind's blowing towards the city, but the fog is coming at us from the city." The others still didn't understand. "The fog's moving against the wind," Cyborg explained.
Beast Boy stared down and noticed two figures stepping onto the shore from the thick bank of fog. One figure looked vaguely familiar. "No, it can't be." His voice trailed off in disbelief as he recognized the lead figure as the young necromancer he and Raven had defeated.
Another flash of lightning then a dull rumble of far off thunder followed. Beast Boy morphed into a hawk and took flight descending swiftly upon Gregory and his companion. A skeletal figure stepped forward and placed itself between Gregory and the swooping form Beast Boy had chosen. The skeleton raised its shield and held his sword at the ready. At the last second Beast Boy transformed back into himself and drove his foot through the chest cavity of the skeleton that accompanied the young necromancer. Gregory's creation shattered upon impact; Beast Boy stood up and faced his opponent as the fog slowly dissipated in the winds of the on coming storm.
"Gregory, what are you doing here?" Beast Boy said in disbelief.
Gregory smiled. His dark hair waved in the wind. A small metal shield was slung over his right shoulder. In his left hand he held a short wood staff topped with a human skull.
"I'm just here to meet an old friend," he replied. A shot of lightning briefly illuminated Gregory's dark piercing eyes.
Beast Boy shivered. He knew the kind soul he had first met had withered and died leaving behind only a burnt out core of hate and despair that was beyond redemption. Beast Boy reached down and pulled the shield and sword from the broken bones that lay strewn on the ground.
"What, aren't you going to change into something else?" Gregory taunted his opponent.
"No," Beast Boy said coldly. "I'll take you in a fair fight." Beast Boy crouched slightly and peered out over the edge of his shield; the blade of his sword rested on its side.
"Very well," Gregory reached up and pulled his shield off his shoulder and grasped it in his right hand. "I have a promise to keep."
Beast Boy looked curiously at the young necromancer. "What's that?"
"To bring you pain," he replied with a smile.
Beast Boy shouted out in anger as he lunged forward and brought his sword down hard on his opponent. Gregory turned to his left and raised his shield to deflect the blow. Beast Boy's sword struck Gregory's shield making a metallic clank sending sparks flying into the air. The force of the blow stung Beast Boy's hand as the tips of his fingers tingled. He recocked his hand and tried to slash his opponent from the side. Gregory turned and casually parried this attack also; it was like he knew his every move before it happened.
Beast Boy raised his shield in front of him and burst forward attempting to bull rush Gregory. Both opponents' shields crashed together. Gregory stumbled backwards as the force of Beast Boy's charge was too great for him to oppose. Beast Boy waved his sword at his stumbling opponent. Gregory avoided the swipe and reset his feet.
"All right," Gregory sneered, "enough of this crap already."
Gregory raised his short staff and swung it across his body. Beast Boy raised his sword to parry the attack. Gregory's staff clanked hard onto the shaft of Beast Boy's sword causing it to snap. Beast Boy looked at what remained of his sword. Gregory quickly drove his shield under Beast Boy's raising it upwards and exposing him to his next attack.
Gregory drove the top of his staff into Beast Boy's abdomen. Beast Boy grunted as Gregory's sharp blow knocked the wind out of him. The remains of his sword fell from his hand and clanked on the ground. Gregory reached back with his right hand and smashed the edge of his shield across Beast Boy's face. Beast Boy's head took the full force of the blow. He staggered then fell backwards his head smacking sharply onto the ground.
Gregory looked down at his prone opponent. A brief stroke of lightning revealed Beast Boy was flat on his back gasping for air, eyes vacantly staring into the dark sky with blood trickling from his nose and mouth. He smiled in triumph.
Robin leaped forward in defense of his friend. His bow staff came down hard. Gregory quickly raised his shield to parry Robin's first blow. A loud crash echoed in the dark. Robin spun his staff around at his opponent's unguarded legs pulling his feet out from under him. Gregory fell onto his lower back grunting in pain. Robin drove the other end of his staff into his opponent's face with a light smack. He pulled the end of his staff back slightly as another flash of lightning illuminated his opponent.
Gregory sat leaning back gasping for air; he looked up at Robin in disgust. He forced a slight smile revealing blood-stained teeth. Turning his head he spit out a crimson blob onto the island's rocky soil.
"I don't know who you are," Robin yelled out, "but you came to the wrong place to pick a fight."
Gregory made no attempt to defend himself. Starfire, Terra and Cyborg quickly joined them. Terra ran over to Beast Boy and gently helped him up into a sitting position. She pulled the shield from his left arm and cast it aside.
Gregory quickly scanned the rest of the island looking for any signs of his partner. For the moment he saw nothing. He looked back at Robin and the others in contempt.
"You're pretty dumb coming here alone," Robin continued to hold his staff at the ready. He was not sure what this person was up to. "Who are you anyway?"
"You'll have to ask Beast Boy," Gregory sneered. "We've met before though I don't think he's told you anything about me." Gregory paused trying to catch his breath and gather himself. "My name is Gregory and my servants and I are here to serve the Dark Queen."
"What the hell are you talking about," Robin replied in confusion. "There is no dark queen here, just the Titans."
Gregory regained his breath and smiled. "Oh I think you'll recognize her when she gets here. Meanwhile meet some of my faithful servants."
There was another stroke of lightning that briefly blinded the group followed by a loud crash of thunder. When Robin's eyes readjusted to the darkness he saw several skeletal figures wading out of the ocean towards them, their eyes glowing red in the gloom. It began to rain.
Robin and Cyborg moved forward placing themselves between Beast Boy and their oncoming opponents. Terra helped Beast Boy to his feet though he was still too dazed to know what was going on. Starfire laid down a spread of star bolts as the first wave of Gregory's servants waded ashore. The light blinded all of them. When Starfire's eyes adjusted to the darkness she saw the two boys were surrounded by skeletons making another volley impossible. She hovered above Terra and Beast Boy ready to pick off any of the creatures that broke through the boys. She glanced back wondering where Raven was.
Cyborg and Robin made quick work of the skeletons emerging from the waters surrounding the island. The rain began to fall harder, the wind whipping it into sheets. The boys were drilling Gregory's creations shattering bones in all directions. Robin felt this was way too easy; the creatures coming at them were slow and generally poorly armed. The annoying thing about them was they kept coming not allowing him to find their creator.
Gregory pulled his wet matted hair out of his eyes. He was soaked to the bone and breathing heavy in anticipation. "Where the hell are you," he growled in frustration. He was supposed to occupy the rest of the Titans until Raven arrived to drive them away. In truth he and his undead servants were relatively weak; no match for the entire group. He began to wonder if the two of them were strong enough to successfully engage the Titans. The rain began to fall in torrents deadening the acoustics. He was about to make his escape when another brilliant flash of lightning erupted overhead followed by a loud roar of thunder. Gregory smiled as he caught sight of what he had been seeking.
Robin and Cyborg finished off the last of Gregory's creations in the driving rain. The two spied their opponent standing by the shoreline. He was pointing behind them and shouting something that could not be heard over the torrents of rain.
Robin turned around and spied four glowing red eyes near the peak of the island. The tower lights were out. "Trigon?" Robin said to himself. He wandered back to the others who had caught site of the same double pair of eyes.
Another flash of lightning erupted followed by a distant roll of thunder. The Titans briefly caught a glimpse of a hooded figure atop a pale gray steed with glowing red eyes.
Cyborg grasped Robin's arm and pulled him towards him, "It's Raven," he shouted into Robin's ear. Robin could barely understand him above the roar of the storm.
"She's riding a Nightmare. I saw her with it a few nights ago," Cyborg continued. "She told me Morpheus gave it to her. I think she's turned. We need to get her off of it." Robin returned a blank stare unsure what his friend was talking about.
The glowing eyes were approaching the group; another flash of lightning showed the remaining Titans that Raven and her mount were methodically making their way towards them. Cyborg stepped forward and armed his sonic cannon. His arm shook nervously as Raven approached. He was unsure how to separate the two without hurting his friend in the process.
A brilliant flash of lightning consumed Cyborg hurling him through the air and roughly depositing him onto the muddy ground. A loud crash of thunder followed immediately. Steam rose from Cyborg's fallen body as his red eye flickered. Raven quickly approached the other Titans. Her steed's head dropped to the ground as if he was stalking them. His glowing red eyes illuminated the prone body of their stricken friend.
Beast Boy and Terra grasped tightly onto each other as the Nightmare approached. Both were stricken by a sudden wave of terror. Terra swore she heard the yelps and bays of coyotes and Beast Boy's ears were filled with the painful wails of his long dead parents. The urge to retreat overwhelmed them. Beast Boy morphed into a giant eagle and spread his wings. Terra clasped tightly around his neck as the pair screamed and tumbled through the storm and into the night.
Robin attempted to hold his ground and protect their fallen friend. He clasped tightly onto his bow staff. The Nightmare's glowing red eyes were closing fast on him. A sickly smell of sulfur filled his nose causing him to cough violently as the rain streamed over his face. Robin fell backwards; his bow staff fell to the ground as he choked under the sickly stench. His head began to spin as his ears filled with the painful wailing of tormented spirits.
He felt a pair of hands reach under his arms. Starfire clasped her hands tightly around Robin's chest raising him into the swirling tempest and away from their island home.
Raven pulled down her hood and watched as Starfire and Robin flew awkwardly away from her and disappeared into the night. Cyborg lay beneath her; this had gone much easier than she had expected. The shadow over her heart was now complete; the Dark Queen had claimed her throne.
End Part I