Bruce Wayne and the Chamber of Secrets
Chapter One: Party Time
Located on the eastern coast of the United States is a most peculiar city. It was founded at roughly the same time as its northern neighbor of New York, though the designers were not quite as clear-headed. One educated observer probably put it best when he stated quite bluntly that they were "English Masons on opium". Perhaps it is this auspicious beginning that marked the city as a future haven for the worst that humanity had to offer. It certainly did not help things that in 1765 there were rumors about strange demonic rituals being performed at the farm of one Jacob Stockman, though these stories would eventually fade with time.
Many that count themselves among the educated elite of the city would say that it did not truly take a descent into degeneracy until the 1920s, when Gotham was architecturally renovated by a previously-mentioned observer referred to as "absinthe-fiend architects." It was at this time that Gotham acquired its unique look, which reminded many a visitor of expressionist paintings that were popular at the time. Considering all of this, perhaps it can be said that Gotham never truly had a chance to become a shining beacon of civilization, despite the best efforts of others.
Thomas Wayne, for instance, spent many hours toiling away in the hopes of making Gotham a decent place for people to live. As a reward for these heroic efforts, he was gunned down in the street alongside his beloved wife by a common thug. Such was the legacy of Gotham City, which was a fact that did not go unnoticed by Wayne's only son, Bruce. He was only eight years of age when he witnessed his parents murdered in the street now affectionately known as 'Crime Alley'. Soon after, indeed it was only the space of a few days, Bruce made a vow on the graves of his parents. The boy swore that he would dedicate his life to ridding the city of the evil that infected it like a cancer, and took parents away from children that loved them.
To this end, Bruce immediately began researching every crime-related piece of information he could get his hands on. By the time he was eleven, he already knew more about crime and deduction than most people who had graduated from high school and were considering a future in law enforcement. This drive to consume anything and everything relating to the particulars of crime would have gone interrupted had it not been for the timely arrival of a most interesting owl. In its talons the owl carried a letter from the Deputy Headmistress of a place called 'Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry". Needless to say, the letter completely upended Bruce's young life. A whole new world was exposed to him, one filled with magic and mystery. It was an opportunity he simply could not allow to pass by.
Therefore, Bruce put his studies on the nature of criminality on hold in order to learn about spells and incantations that could conjure materials out of thin air and put a stopper in death. It should be understood that Bruce never for even the tiniest second considered abandoning his self-appointed mission to purify his home city. The boy simply allowed himself to be side-tracked by other matters, which in their own way were far more dangerous than anything that currently stalked the streets of Gotham. This was made especially clear to Bruce at the end of his first year at Hogwarts when he and three other students found themselves challenging a dark wizard so feared that even to mention his name provoked immediate terror in others.
Somehow they survived and, though he certainly never sought it, an unlikely bond of friendship had formed between the Slytherin and the three Gryffindors. However, due to his own decidedly anti-social inclinations, Bruce did not make any special effort to pursue this friendship over the summer. In fact, he had allowed all contact with the wizarding world to lapse as he isolated himself within the corridors of Wayne Manor. There had been one letter from an insufferably nice (at least, from Bruce's point of view) member of the aforementioned trio named Hermione Granger. However, Bruce's rather curt reply had ensured that there would be no further communication from her for quite a while.
As such, Bruce had locked himself away in one of the Manor's basements to spend time on various chemistry projects. It should be noted that these projects were indeed the muggle definition of chemistry, and not its magical counterpart, which would be potions. These were designed with the express purpose of catching the boy up on the criminal research he had neglected during his time at Hogwarts. He was just finishing an experiment involving corrosive acids in relation to the wiring commonly used in security alarms when the ever-loyal butler Alfred came down.
"Sir, I don't mean to interrupt your mad scientist impression, but I must remind you that Ms. Vreeland's birthday party starts in an hour." Bruce looked up from his chemicals and removed the goggles covering his eyes.
"I'll be up in a minute, Alfred."
Writing down his last few observations, Bruce set down his pen (it was still a bit odd not to use a quill) and walked up the stairs. After making his way to his bedroom and stepping inside, he found that Alfred had already laid out the dress clothes needed for the evening's activities, complete with a small bow tie. He untied the lab apron that he was still wearing and was about to throw it on the bed when Alfred suddenly materialized behind him. That old butler was sneakier that Ms. Norris and had an odd sort of precognition in regards to his young master's ability to act like the average twelve year old boy in regards to clothing. Bruce handed the elder gentleman the apron and began to speak.
"How old is she again, Alfred?"
"Thirteen, sir." Bruce walked over to the bathroom just adjoining his bedroom and started to wash his hands.
"What am I getting her this year?"
"A dress from the Donna Day 'Krazy Kids' collection, sir." Alfred then handed the boy the dress shirt and pants in exchange for the shirt Bruce had currently been wearing. He then turned to fold the lab clothes.
"I have been assured by the finest, most expertly trained people in the store's sales division that it is exactly what the young 'tween' girl wants in order to be fashionable."
" 'Tween', Alfred?" Bruce had exited the bathroom fully dressed, aside from the lack of a coat, and was now working on the tie.
"It is the current term used to describe girls age 12-14 that fit into the marketing demographic." Seeing that the boy was going nowhere quickly, Alfred moved in to properly wrap the bow tie around his neck. Bruce fidgeted throughout, clearly trying to think of a way to avoid the inevitable.
"Are there any particularly famous performers that I should be aware of in order to fit in among the others?" Now finished with the tie, Bruce had moved on to the coat.
"I'm afraid that such things are beyond even my broad scope of knowledge. My advice would be to simply smile and nod should you be asked any questions relating to the topic." Now finished dressing, Bruce followed Alfred outside to the car. The butler opened the back seat, allowing his charge to get in, before placing himself in the driver's seat.
As Alfred guided the Rolls off the bluff Wayne Manor was situated on, Bruce reminded himself why he was bothering to attend a birthday party for a spoiled little rich girl. Such activities were normally quite repugnant to the boy, but his own status as Gotham's favorite son left him little choice. Veronica Vreeland was not simply hosting a party for herself – if that were the case, Bruce would have been able to get out of it. Instead, she was hosting the singular social event for the wealthy and powerful in Gotham City. The origins of how it happened are somewhat murky, but the actual giving of gifts somehow became nothing more than a pretense for the adults to confer with each other about the coming year. While Veronica 'entertained' the sons and daughters of the elite, the parents gathered themselves in private to discuss business deals, plan political appointments and nominations, and generally make connections that would ensure an increase in their already substantial wealth and power.
As the saying went, everyone who was anyone would be there. The Falcones, the Maronis, the Madisons, the Hills, the Winters, the list went on and on. Crime bosses and industrialists alike mingled together, with varying degrees of cordiality. Yet, whatever enmity might be between them was of no consequence, even though some names on the guest list could not stand to be in the same room as each other. As a result of this, the young began to take after their elders, turning it into an event for those who might be slightly older than you would expect to see. The sons and daughters of the old guard imitated their progenitors by making connections of their own.
Again, the private Bruce Wayne would like nothing more to ignore the whole lot of them. The public Bruce Wayne however, the one that was heir to a vast fortune and had every reason to make important friends, was a bit of a different story. Snubbing the party would result in some eyebrows being raised and some awkward questions being asked. Questions that, while not immediately problematic, could become incredibly troubling at a later date and result in severe obstacles to The Plan to clean up Gotham. For better or for worse, Bruce had to convince his peers that he was just as vain and arrogant as they were. So, he swallowed his pride and prepared to enter the belly of the beast.
Despite this resolve and rationalizing, Bruce could not help but think that he would prefer another fight with a mountain troll. As the car pulled up to the front gate, Alfred could not help but notice the sour expression on the boy's face.
"Cheer up, Master Bruce. This is your chance to display your charming wit for all to see." The sour expression did not go away.
"I'm only going to be completely miserable, Alfred."
"Master Bruce, you are going to go inside and enjoy the company of the other children. If you do not, I shall be forced to render unto certain parties the photographs of your attempt at baking at age seven." Bruce's eyes narrowed.
"This is blackmail." Alfred had to suppress a chuckle.
"I prefer to think of it as encouragement, Master Bruce." In fact, the Englishman was somewhat desperately hoping that his charge would take this occasion to actually act his age for once. He handed the boy a small box with the dress inside.
"Remember, Master Bruce – smile and nod." Bruce gave a grunt of grudging acquiescence and got out of the car.
The mansion was ornately decorated, as expected. Large banners proclaiming well wishes to the birthday girl were draped from the ceiling. At the center of the main room was a cake that looked more like a piece of architecture than something one planned to eat. Standing at the doorway to the main room, Bruce reflected on the number of families that could have been fed with the money spent on just the decorations. He was considering making a break for it and risking Alfred's wrath when a shrill voice broke his concentration.
"Bruuuucciiiieeeeeeee!" There was no mistaking the squeal that belonged to Veronica Vreeland. The red-headed young socialite skipped over to him.
"I'm so glad you could make it. Isn't everything just so magical?" Thinking of the decorations at Hogwarts, Bruce decided that yes, he would definitelyprefer another fight with a mountain troll. Putting a smile on his face, he embraced the girl.
"Oh, it's definitely something, Ronnie. Just what I would expect for someone like you." The girl blushed and noticed the wrapped package.
"Is that for me? Oh, Brucie, you shouldn't have." She quickly tore off the paper and gave an excited series of squeaks.
"I love it! Oh Brucie, you know just what to give a girl." She gave him another bouncy hug. "Come and meet the others!" Taking Bruce's hand, she led him to a gathering of other children.
"Everyone, this is Brucie." Though he shook hands and gave a friendly smile that fooled all of them, Bruce had inwardly decided that a troll was not bad enough. He would prefer to be back in the Forbidden Forest, tracking down a unicorn killer rather than waste time here. The last boy, however, caught his attention. He was a thin specimen, with large, thick glasses.
"Alberto Falcone." It was then that Bruce recognized him – the younger son of Carmine 'the Roman' Falcone, Gotham's untouchable crime lord. The boy looked out of place, as if he was not sure what to do with himself. Veronica then led the majority of the group over to the colossus that was her birthday cake, but Alberto hung back and Bruce, ever curious, did so as well.
"Bruce Wayne, huh?" Alberto took a sip from his glass. "Didn't your dad once help out my dad?"
"Yes," Bruce replied. "It had something to do with my dad being a doctor."
In fact, Bruce vividly remembered the night Carmine Falcone had been brought to Thomas Wayne's doorstep, bleeding to death from bullet wounds. Bruce's father had saved Falcone's life that night, ensuring that Carmine would go on to become one of the most ruthless men in the city. Bruce would often wonder about the morality of his father's actions on that day, but in the end he knew that his father would never turn away anyone in need of medical treatment, no matter what illegal activities that person was involved in. He considered human life too inherently valuable to let it go to waste under any circumstances. There were times when the boy wondered if he was capable of making the same decision.
"Well, maybe you could help me out a bit. I never know what to do at these things, and I just end up as a wallflower. Could you, y'know, give me some advice?" Bruce thought for a moment, then answered.
"Alberto, all you have to do is smile and nod. That's what most people want. Do that and you'll be fine." Falcone's face brightened.
"Really? That's it? Thanks. I would have asked my dad, but he's too busy with work to and my brother Mario doesn't like me around. They only have time for me on the holidays. My birthday's on a holiday, you know? Valentine's Day. I guess that's why I've always like holidays. Anyway, I'm gonna catch up with the others. You coming?" Bruce shook his head, and Alberto left, leaving the young Wayne slightly relieved. Any longer and he would have launched into a series of rants detailing the criminal acts that Alberto's father and brother were sure to be involved in and how they should be locked away with the key thrown out. Instead, he walked over to the refreshments table to get some punch and found himself chatting with the other children there. It was tedious, but no one would think of Bruce Wayne as anything other than the average, self-absorbed socialite because of it.
After several minutes, Bruce glanced around and saw none other than a teenage Mario Falcone, surrounded by a group of similarly-aged peers. Upon closer observation, it became clear that Falcone was, in fact, slightly drunk and so were his companions, including the sixteen year-old female hanging on Mario's arm. After a few more minutes, Falcone and what Bruce assumed to be the latest girlfriend broke off from the others and headed to a nearby broom closet. As they went in, Bruce realized that he had just been handed a unique opportunity, one that simply could not be passed up. Searching the crowd, he soon located General Vreeland, who had just finished talking with a few of what may have been his friends. Bruce tugged on his coat and used his best 'young' voice.
"Mister? One of the butlers said that they needed you to look at something in the broom closet over there. It has to do with the 'surprise' later." The General had a habit of arranging last-minute surprise gifts for his daughter on her birthday. Looking disgruntled, the older man stomped off, muttering to himself. It was at that time that Bruce decided to make himself scarce, finding an out of the way corner to view the oncoming show. He did not have to wait long.
"WHAT IN GOD'S NAME?" The shout immediately attracted everyone's attention. "FALCONE! Get your son under control!"
Mr. Vreeland then stomped off in search of the crimelord while Mario, who had literally been caught with his pants down (but thankfully had gotten his boxers up) waddled out of the closet, shouting numerous words that had no place at a children's birthday party. He then drew a pistol and looked ready to shoot when a member of the Roman's entourage – a leg-breaker named Milos – grabbed him and took the gun away. There was some shouting between the two, and Mario finally pulled his pants up. The young Falcone then attempted to walk away in a huff, but was still inebriated enough that he ended up colliding with the cake in the center of the room.
Just to make things even more interesting, Carmine himself then walked into the room, looking murderous. Bruce wanted to stay and witness the rest, but it would be awkward, considering that the rest of the guests had already started to file out. Thus, it was with great reluctance that he decided to depart with the rest. After getting into the car, he found that Alfred was eyeing him suspiciously.
"Master Bruce, why do I have the feeling that you are somehow responsible for this chaos?" The boy fought to suppress a grin.
"Why Alfred, I was merely socializing, just like you asked me to."
It was an amazing coup. He did not have to spend any more time with arrogant snots, the Falcones were humiliated and the Vreeland birthday party was about to experience an incredibly significant decrease in prestige, ensuring that he would never have to attend one again. Not a bad night's work.
Well, here it is - the first chapter of the sequelto the somewhat popular Bruce Wayne and the Sorcerer's Stone. I hope no one hates me for this, but I decided to try my hand at a little bit of light comedy in this installment before moving Bruce back into Hogwarts. Please, let me know if I should never even think about doing something like this again. Sending me hateful reviews is the only way I'll learn.
Also, as I have no doubt that many fellow Bat-geeks will know, this chapter was crammed with references toand foreshadowingof various bits of Bat-lore. Can you spot the reference to the obscure Riddler story from the late 80s, early 90s? I bet you can.
Lastly, one of the reviewers for Sorcerer's Stone asked if I would be including any of Batman's future foes in my writings. Well, obviously I have put in plenty, just in this chapter. However, don't expect to see a young Harvey Dent, Selina Kyle or Oswald Cobblepot start poking around Hogwarts. I made a point early on that I would not be writing the adventures of magical young Batman versus magical young Catwoman or Penguin.
That said, I probably will be bringing in some elements of the DC universe that are around while Bruce is young. Don't be surprised if Etrigan shows his demonic features at some point, along with other magical entities and immortals like Felix Faust or Vandal Savage. And Ra's Al Ghul? Well...maybe...