Shadow Wars Part III: Redemption

The Dark Queen (Raven) has vanquished all opposition except one. Starfire must descend into Hades and make one final plea for help from the god of dreams. Titans are not mine.

Chapter I: Retreat

Starfire stood before the entrance to the underworld. Her eyes glowed green providing the only light in the dark cavern. She stared at the gateway transfixed by the star warp pattern. Was this her only hope?

The combined Titan forces had not been enough to defeat Raven. Morpheus seemed to be the only one left who had any chance of countering Raven's surging powers. Starfire had no idea what caused her friend to descend into darkness, but she had a feeling that the young immortal did. Now if she could only convince him to help her. Their last meeting had given her little hope that he would cooperate. But there was something going on between Morpheus and Raven, she could see it in his eyes. Figuring out what that was would determine her success.

Starfire took a deep breath and pushed herself through the gateway once more and into the gloomy caverns of the underworld. She drifted in the air momentarily as she allowed her eyes and senses to become fully adjusted to her surroundings.

"Cerberus?" she called out with slight hesitation.

The lumbering three-headed guardian to the underworld stepped out of the gloom with raging eyes. It began to growl and snarl in defiance. Starfire approached the creature cautiously, unsure if it had fully recognized her.

"Cerberus," she said sweetly, "it is me, Starfire. Won't you let me come and display my great affection for you?"

Cerberus paused for a moment then crouched back on its haunches and began another more vicious round of barking and snarling. Starfire's heart sank. It seemed that either he no longer recognized her or he had been instructed not to allow her to approach him. Starfire tried to fly around the beast but Cerberus quickly planted himself in front of her obstructing her path. Vicious barks and snarls echoed in the cavern.

"Cerberus," Starfire pleaded. "I must see Morpheus. I do not wish to hurt you." Cerberus continued to bark and snarl at her. Starfire sighed and prepared herself to confront the three-headed monstrosity.

At the last moment she lost heart. The whole situation was hopeless. Even if she were able to defeat Cerberus she would still have to cross the Styx and overcome any other obstacles this gloomy place could offer. Then if she made it through all of those trials she would still not be assured that Morpheus would help her.

She drifted to the back of the ground, landed on the floor and bowed her head. Tears of frustration filled her eyes. Cerberus ceased barking and slowly approached her. He lowered himself to the cavern floor and focused his sullen eyes on Starfire.

Cerberus began to whimper lightly in the gloom. Starfire looked up to see what had caused the animal to cry out in solemn sadness. The beast's three heads were focused on a robed woman. She gently stroked the Cerberus' left head. When the woman turned to face her, Starfire recognized her as Persephone, Morpheus' mother.

Her green robe glowed lightly as her dark eyes focused on her. A calm smile washed over her face as she softly stroked Cerberus' chin one last time before she approached Starfire.

She paused then spoke. "Dear child," Persephone solemnly addressed her, "many a gloomy soul have entered this cavern before you, but none in the centuries since our exile from the world of mortals. Do you have the heart to press on," she gently said, "for only those with great hope can pass successfully through the dark lands of the underworld."

Starfire looked up and into Persephone's eyes. Her jet-black hair fell softly on her shoulders. A radiate gold crown sat on her head shining brightly in the cavern. Starfire foundered in the presence of her beauty; she understood why the god of the underworld had risked all wraths to secure her.

"No," Starfire's voice cracked. "I believe my cause is lost. My friends and I have failed. All hope is dead."

"Death is a heavy burden that all mortals must bear," the queen of the underworld replied, "for all living things are born to die. But this burden becomes lighter when it is countered with hope."

Starfire paused to consider Persephone's words. "I have failed my friends. I should be with them, not here."

"But child," Persephone continued, "if that was so, the Dark Queen you confront would be victorious and your realm would be lost to pain and despair."

Starfire stood head bowed in silence. Persephone's words were unmoving. Her defeat was total.

"May I offer you this hopeful vision?" Persephone's soft voice gently chided her.

Starfire looked up in astonishment. She was no longer in a gloomy cavern but in an open expanse of desert scrubland. Off in the distance sharp jagged peaks of browns and reds expanded upwards breaking off suddenly into a clear azure sky.

Persephone stood a short distance from of her. At her feet were clumps of desert plants covered with pink and purple flowers. Starfire scanned the ground observing that most of the desert floor was covered with small patches of similar flowers in all directions.

Persephone knelt down and plucked several flowers then stood up and slowly brought them to her nose. She breathed in deeply savoring their sweet smell with eyes closed.

"There is beauty and promise even in these harsh lands," she said as she opened her eyes and faced Starfire once more. "Observe."

The sun rose high above them as the desert heat grew in intensity. Starfire could feel the ground beneath her crack and groan as the temperature rose to intolerable levels. She watched sadly as all of the flowers at her feet withered, died and turned brown under the sun's relentless strain.

In time, the sun fell behind the jagged peaks and the sky turned to fire, then pale pink and finally deep purple as the stars began to reclaim the night skies. Persephone's body glowed as the desert floor radiated its heat into the cool starry skies. She held the remains of the flowers she had picked in her one hand.

"See child," Persephone spoke softly to her, "even in death the promise of life holds. In the gentle darkness there is a whisper of better times to come."

A light wind blew the remains of the flowers from her hand and scattered them across the desert floor. Starfire could feel a cool breeze on her back as a low rumble of thunder gently rolled through the valley. She could smell the rain as clouds billowed overhead. The storm was brief and violent dumping sheets of rain that stung Stafire's skin and blinded her vision. She lowered her head attempting to shield herself from the stinging torrents.

Starfire looked up and watched the storm run down the valley and expended itself with bursts of lightning on the jagged peaks in the far off distance. The skies overhead turned pale as the sun rose once again. Starfire held her breath as the first rays of morning light touched the desert floor revealing carpets of pink and purple flowers underneath her feet.

Starfire's heart skipped as her hope was suddenly restored. She looked back into Persephone's smiling face.

"I would like to speak with Morpheus please."