Author's Notes: I'm sorry that this took so long, but you have the flash game Momentum Missile Mayhem to blame for that. I ended this story where it ends because… well, because I couldn't think of any way to keep it going, and that's all I really wanted to write anyways.
Oh, and this is AU… of course… though not what people usually mean in the sense of Alternate Universe (fan-fiction slang for 'de-powered').
Enjoy. Or I'll get my best friend Tony Blair to pummel your ass with several hundred MIRV ICBMs tipped with thermonuclear warheads.
Just kidding. XD
"There are a lot of things humans do not know, which is just as well. If they knew everything then they would very suddenly find out that there is a lot that is simply too ghastly to have knowledge of.
For example; most humans only know about the little community in which they live. No single member of the human race knows exactly to what extent their kith and kin have affected the world. And yet, for all their acting big and supreme, humans are in fact a lot smaller than they know.
The universe may not be infinite, but it does not have to be. There is an entire multiverse out there, and when you include all the different dimensions as well then humans, in comparison, are less than the smallest possible fraction of a full stop.
So why, you may ask, does anyone or anything bother themselves with such an infinitesimally tiny and inferior species? In uncountable universes there have been species which have created entire empires stretching through the uncharted wastes of space, crushing all resistance mercilessly by use of weapons more horrible than most species even wish to contemplate, yet these humans are content to while away their time on a tiny little blue-green planet on almost the very edge of their galaxy, both ignoring and being ignored by all."
The speaker was a demon. He was Trigon's arbitrator, and therefore he did not gain much employment. However, on the rare occasions when Trigon could not turn up in person, and only wanted a speaker, Kzhuva was the one who was sent.
He was one of a rare species of demon. Most of them were bred to be superlative in terms of strength, stature and malice, but this one was different, and was seen as inferior by most. Even so, Trigon appreciated his worth.
He was much smaller than most demons, but also more intelligent and adept at magical matters. This demon was about as tall as a grown human man and, though he had the typical red scaled skin, horns and blazing yellow-orange eyes, his frame was much lither than most demons and there was a glittering of refinement in his fiery eyes.
His name was Kzhuva, which meant, to anyone who had a passing understanding of the demonic tongue (which is to say, to no human who is still considered sane), 'Life Eater'. Most demon names were like this, though most were a lot less sophisticated. Kzhuva was what could be considered as the lawyer in Trigon's demonic organisation. He was playing devil's advocate, as it were. Ha-ha.
Raven knew all this, and regarded Kzhuva with her own particularly icy brand of stoic indifference. This unsettled him; any demon knows how to react to anger, but Raven was just emotionally blank. As she knew, he was just a go-between; Kzhuva had no actual power.
"Get to the point. If I had wanted you to waffle I would have told you so," said Raven superciliously.
Kzhuva bridled at this. He was not used the being addressed in such a way, and he took particular exception to being spoken to in such a superior tone by a mere human adolescent female.
"You must be considered singularly courageous by your peers. Not many of your people would talk to me, a demon, in such a fashion."
Raven smiled. However, it was just that; a facial expression. There was absolutely no warmth or any kind of emotion behind that face. That smile was more an expression of intent, and Kzhuva was more than perceptive enough to see what it meant.
"Courage is the ability to both fully accept the existence of and to defeat, or master, fear. I, however, hold no fear, for I have no danger to be afraid of. Not from you, in any case, for that very same emotion restrains you from doing any harm to me."
Kzhuva's eyes narrowed to two burning slits, but he said nothing more on the matter; quite wisely, as it turned out.
It had been truly incredible to witness her arrival in the Netherworld. Trigon had informed everyone within his domain, from the most massive miscreant of demonic descent right down to the most diminutive imp, that Raven was coming, and he had made it explicitly clear that if any demon so much as breathed in a way that displeased his daughter then there would be inevitably terminal repercussions for any and all alleged offenders.
The great day had finally come. A great amount of magic had been gathered in the largest hall at Trigon's disposal, and a portal between the Netherworld and Earth had been established. This was not something that regularly happened in the Netherworld, as to do so required massive amounts of potential magical energy in both the worlds to break through the interdimensional barrier.
All the demons that had not been urged under pain of extreme pain and then death to stay where they were had gathered around the portal to watch the spectacle. Kzhuva had been among them, or flying slightly above them. He did not often associate with his brethren, for their kind of association was a lot more physical than he would have liked, and thus used magic to keep away from them. They hated him for knowing and using magic, but that was alright. The feeling was mutual.
Trigon was not present. He could not be present, for he needed to operate various magical systems in his inner sanctum that could allow the portal to be created. Kzhuva had the knowledge, but, though he wanted to, he could not open the portal himself. He could not be allowed to, and Trigon knew it. If Kzhuva was given access to such power, he would know exactly what to do. There was a perpetual truce between the two, although Trigon was becoming more and more of the opinion that Kzhuva was a liability.
With a noise so massive that it transcended mere sound waves and shook the hall to its very foundations, causing some of the lesser demons to fall over, a rift opened in the interdimensional barrier between the Netherworld and Earth. This was the difficult part. Because Raven did not have all that much power at her disposal on Earth and could only open the portal, it was therefore all down to Trigon to keep it open long enough for her to step through.
She soon did, and, with another cacophony that sounded like the offspring of a thunderclap and a volcanic eruption, Raven stood before the demons.
The effect she had on them was electric. While the sound of the rift closing was still dying down, there was a susurration of whispers that spread out through the massive red mass of demons that filled the hall. Though they spoke in an eldritch tongue known only to demons, it could have been more or less translated as this (with expletives deleted).
"She's just a girl. How can she have such power over Lord Trigon?"
"So this is the great Lady Raven we've heard so much about? Excuse me if I fail to be completely overwhelmed by her eminence…"
"No wonder Trigon said nobody should harm her. She looks as though she wouldn't be able to withstand a single fireball."
However, as soon as the noise dissipated, the whispers ceased instantly for fear that Raven would hear any of them.
When writers write 'there was a silence', usually what they mean is that nobody spoke. However, in this instance, there was a silence. It was a silence so total and absolute that a vacuum sounded deafening in comparison.
Raven looked at the demons, and even though her eyes were shrouded in darkness by her peaked hood, and the demons were at least fully three times her height, they stayed quite firmly looked at. Kzhuva took a slight pleasure in observing how the circle of red that surrounded Raven backed away as she turned around slowly, as though her eyes emitted pure sunlight.
Then she spoke. Raven's voice sounded crystal clear in the void of sound that was the portal cave, and the echoes that followed it made a shiver run down the spine of any watching imps. She didn't speak at all maliciously; just with the tone of one who knows with one hundred percent certainty that their question will be answered fully and truthfully.
"Where is Lord Trigon? Where is my father?" There were several grunts of incomprehension, as of course the demons knew about as much English as a mongoose.
Kzhuva was another matter. He hovered over to Raven, and alighted before her.
"I'm afraid he could not welcome you to the Netherworld. However, I shall see to it that he meets you as soon as is possible. If you would please follow me…"
Kzhuva levitated above the heads of the envious demons, and Raven followed suit. The demons noticed her magical aptitude, and hated her all the more for it. Raven had only been in the Netherworld for a few seconds, but she had already made several enemies. It was only to be expected. Only a fool steps into a fire and expects not to get burned.
Apart from the occasional statue that looked as though it had been carved from the igneous rock by a crazed madman with a jackhammer and a good knowledge of what mutilated bodies look like, the demons had not expended much effort in decorating their realm. The particular forbidding mountain in which Trigon had chosen to place his inner sanctum, which was only distinguished from all the other forbidding mountains (they are two-a-penny in the Netherworld) by the fact that it was the largest, typically contained roughly carved stones chambers lit by crude rag-and-stick firebrands in which the smell of blood and faeces perpetually lingered, although an effort had been made to clear up the worst for Raven's arrival.
The antechamber, however, was a much grander if more morbid affair; two stone chairs that were carved in such a way that falling upon them from any angle would mean instant death by impalement faced each other across a large square table of obsidian. It was inlaid with many precious jewels, the most noticeable of which was a massive blood-red ruby embedded in the centre that reflected the chandelier's light in a constantly changing and vaguely worrying way.
Arrayed on the eight walls were fine if disturbing examples of art, invariably depicting demons in their full and savage glory; however a few suitably apocalyptic humans had also been included. Ironically enough, most of the many paintings, drawings and tapestries had been created by human hand. Artistic expression was not something that came easily to demons. Kzhuva, in his capacity as the resident intellectual, had of course contributed a few pieces of his own.
However, all this finery was a façade, and Raven knew it. The aforementioned ruby was an advanced work of necromancy known as a bloodstone; anyone who died near it or as a cause of its power would instantly have their life energy absorbed into the bloodstone, which would then grow to accommodate it.
It was, more or less, a battery for the purposes of dark magic. Its creator (presumably Trigon) used it to power the many sigils and words of power that were inscribed on the walls, and at present the bloodstone was so charged that the inscriptions could probably kill on sight, necessitating the decorations to hide them.
Each of the inscriptions was for a different purpose; some could set up barriers lethal to any who tried to break them; others could paralyse; and one particularly potent one could quite simply kill any and all within the antechamber.
The fact that both the bloodstone and the room were eight-sided was no coincidence. As most people with any knowledge of arcane matters know, there are certain numbers which are more powerful than others. Three and seven are for use in white magic, but the numbers eight and thirteen amplify any black magic.
The entire room was a death-trap designed specifically to dispense with those who sought to get at Trigon. The sheer raw power flowing through the room was starting to have an effect on Raven, although of course she didn't show it.
She wanted it.
"Indeed… while you are within the Lord Trigon's domain, no harm shall come to you. He has seen to that."
Raven looked around her. All the other chambers had been demon-sized, but this was just about right for both her and Kzhuva. She concluded that it must be the work of yet more magic. The room may have seemed smaller, but why make an entire room smaller when you can simply make the people in it bigger? It is much less problematic.
"It intrigues me, though," Kzhuva continued, slowly standing and approaching her in as respectful a manner as possible. "I have knowledge of you from Lord Trigon. You were a member of a team of adolescent superheroes, and were violently opposed to any of the Lord's attempts to recruit you. You and your friends even managed to overcome his attempt to dominate your universe. Why have you so suddenly gone against who you said you were?"
Raven eyed Kzhuva, wondering whether he was worthy of the knowledge. As both of them knew, knowledge can be very powerful in the right hands… and anything that is powerful has the potential to be dangerous under the right control, or the wrong hands, as the saying goes in the superhero business.
"That is information that only my father knows as yet," Raven replied. "Should he deem that you are worthy of knowing it, then you shall. But not until then."
"Indeed, Lady Raven," said Kzhuva.
As if on cue, because it was, the massive stone doors on the other side of the antechamber ground open with a noise like growling thunder. Standing in the doorway was a demon of prodigious size, who looked as though he could quite easily overpower any of the other demons through sheer physical strength alone. However, Raven could easily sense the aura of magical power that emanated from him, and his four glowing red eyes glared at everything with the same sophisticated contempt.
The demon's air of supremacy was further reinforced by the eye-catching crown of antlers that encircled his head, a mane of silver-white hair flowing down to rest upon his shoulders. His raiment was of simple folds of dark blue cloth that covered his full length, trimmed with royal gold. A black cloak with epaulettes in a style similar to the blue cloth draped over his back, ornamented with a red Mark of Scath.
"Hello, father," said Raven, her face a study in cold serenity.
"So you've finally accepted the obvious truth," Trigon intoned. His voice didn't so much seem to come from his mouth as his throat; it was almost impossibly deep, richly layered with several gravely overtones.
"You had some accepting to do as well, remember," she reminded him. Trigon had the decency to smile ruefully.
"Yes, I did… I tried to kill you once before, but you understand why, yes?" Raven nodded, as though the Demon Lord before her hadn't once tried to destroy all of humanity along with her. "I didn't want to do that, but you forced me to through your actions. Do not get the impression that demons cannot feel some kind of love… however; love must be earned with respect. Before I fought you, I truly did think you were weak. Now I see the strength in you; the power. And I'm sure there's potential for even more."
"I shall take whatever power you should choose to give me." Trigon's smile faded slightly, and he looked at Raven differently.
"You really have learned your place." The smile returned, though this time it was more of a sneer, revealing a few of Trigon's shark-like teeth. "I really did want you to be my daughter, with all that that entails. Unfortunately…" He couldn't help but growl, and Kzhuva shifted uneasily as his master expressed his annoyance. Kzhuva knew Trigon was making a special effort to quell it. Raven didn't even blink. "Your mother very effectively halted my plans for you. However, we can now make amends to the damage she has done. If things go as planned the demon world may even have a new ruler. But we must start off small." Trigon reached out an authoritative hand towards Raven. "You will allow me to take it."
This wasn't a question; it was an order. Kzhuva wasn't entirely sure what 'it' was, so he looked towards where Trigon was pointing; at Raven's forehead.
She had a red diamond-shaped stone set in her Ajna chakra, outlined in black.
Kzhuva's brow furrowed. What could its significance be? Could it have magical connotations? It was more than likely. Why else would Trigon want it?
Kzhuva concentrated his magical perception on the Ajna stone, and soon realised, with a shock, what it was, and more importantly what its purpose was. He was definitely impressed.
Without a word Raven stood, and moved in front of Trigon. He set the thumb and three fingers of his right hand on the four sides of the Ajna stone, and pulled lightly.
Amazingly enough, it actually moved independently of Raven's head, coming away from its place in her forehead. However, the instant that the Ajna stone started moving away the black surrounding it instantly leapt out as dark power like an octopus' tentacles, ensnaring the Ajna stone in a small net of dark strings.
Trigon looked questioningly at Raven. He could see that her brow was creased with the effort of concentration.
"I'm trying to reign in my powers and let the stone go, but it's become too powerful," she answered simply. Trigon growled again slightly.
"No matter," he said. "I'll deal with it."
Focusing, Trigon let a burst of white light-based magical power travel down his fingers into the dark strings. They snapped quite audibly, and retreated back into Raven's mind like released rubber bands. The psychic backlash caused her to stagger backwards, clutching at her forehead. However, she made no sound, although it was all she could do not to cry out.
When she straightened up again it was to see Trigon staring avariciously at the Ajna stone, which was now resting in the palm of his hand. Now that it was out of Raven's forehead it was easy to see that the stone had eight facets; only four had been showing while it had still been planted.
The Demon Lord's eyes widened as he detected several presences inside the stone. A wicked smile cut across his face, each razor-sharp tooth revealed increasing the sense of terrible satisfaction he seemed to derive from this simple stone.
Kzhuva, using his magical perception, took a closer look at the stone. As he had expected, it looked different from up close. It appeared as though a dark red liquid was flowing about inside…
Trigon restored the bloodstone to its normal size. It took up all of Trigon's massive hand, and the hand jerked suddenly as he compensated for the extra weight.
"You have done very well, my dear daughter," said Trigon, without a hint of condescension. Raven realised that he really did mean every last word of it. "So you even killed him?"
Raven's eyes narrowed, and in them was mirrored the reptilian lethal intent of her namesake. Trigon smiled appreciatively at this.
"Especially him," she said morbidly, staring full into Trigon's four glowing red eyes.
Like the human race of Inuit are said to have an entire section of their language's vocabulary based on different kinds of snow, ice, sleet and so on, demons have quite a wide range of words used to describe different levels and types of anger, since it is an emotion that they spend a large part of their time experiencing. The kind Raven expressed now was respectably high up the ladder for a human, but then again, Trigon reminded himself, she was half demon… half his kind of demon.
"Kzhuva," said Trigon, and the lesser demon instantly snapped to attention.
"You may leave us now."
Kzhuva was no fool, and he knew the veiled meaning behind this statement. It more or less approximated to 'Get out immediately, or I will make you… in an exceedingly painful way.' So it will come as no surprise that he said this.
"Of course, milord," Kzhuva replied, darting to the entrance doors and whipping through them with agility atypical of a demon.
He was not surprised to find some of the other, larger demons waiting there for him outside the door, and Kzhuva instantly established a sphere of white light-based power around himself, slowly drifting up until he was out of their reach, all with the same indifferent nonchalance. His magic put him well out of the other demon's ability to hurt him, and they knew this, much to their ire.
"What happened in there?" asked Varkor. His name roughly translated as 'Blood-thirster'; an old demon name that was much akin to 'Joe' or 'Jim' in English.
Kzhuva had encountered him before; he was relatively intelligent, for one of the rank-and-file in the demon world, and Kzhuva regarded Varkor with a grudging respect. Varkor's wisdom was probably due to his age, though this didn't apply to all of them; you could tell he was an elder by the colour of his skin, which was slightly browner than the bright red of the other demons.
"You know I can't tell you that, Varkor," said Kzhuva in his naturally patronizing manner. "Anything that goes on between the Demon Lord and his guests behind closed doors stays firmly behind them." Varkor grinned ruefully.
"Well, it was worth a try, I suppose," said the old demon. However, Varkor was suddenly pushed back by another demon who took centre-stage in the small space that surrounded Kzhuva.
"Tell us now, puny one, or I'll kill you and eat what's left!"
Kzhuva regarded the newcomer with undisguised contempt. He definitely was a newcomer; the bright red of his skin pinned him as barely out of adolescence in demon years, and the threat he had just used was an old (and thus unimaginative) standard that was more or less comparable to the schoolchild's cry of 'I'll get you!'
Varkor sighed, and shook his head sadly.
"Child, if you know what's good for you then you will leave off Kzhuva now."
"No!" said the newcomer, making sure everyone could see his blood-stained teeth and claws. "I don't take no orders from no-one!"
'A triple-negative,' thought Kzhuva, slightly amused. 'I didn't even know that was possible.'
"Kzhuva will kill you if you fight him," said Varkor simply. It was the truth.
"Not a tiny pipsqueak like him," said the impetuous young demon, who Varkor was thinking of as Numbskull. He smiled wickedly at having thought of what in his book was a pretty sophisticated insult; insofar that it didn't involve any swearwords. "I don't see why we have to bow down to this yarg!" As you can probably predict, this last word was indeed a swearword. Though the full connotations and implications of it cannot be explained to a human, in direct, literal translation it means 'weakling'.
Varkor rolled his eyes.
"Let me know when I'm needed to clean up his remains… if there are any," he said to a fellow demon, wandering off to attend to more urgent matters. Varkor had seen more than enough foolish youngsters fall at Kzhuva's hands.
He had almost been one of them.
Kzhuva sneered. If Numbskull wanted to trade swearwords, he'd come to the right place… or, rather, the right demon; one with intelligence greater than that of a retarded mollusc, at any rate.
"How about you tell me, brazhkir?" Kzhuva leered. The demon word he had just used was one that somehow managed to incorporate the worst elements of physical and sexual violence, with excrement somehow managing to find a way in there too. As you can tell, demons have a system of swearing that is far more advanced than the one to be found in any slang or dialect of English, or indeed any other human language.
However, as you might expect, using this most ultimate of swearwords was worse than a death-threat, and Varkor just made a subtle signal to the others to back off now. Though most of them were so stupid that the others noticed, they knew that it was usually a good idea to do what Varkor said in situations that required more intelligence than a brain-dead woodlouse to comprehend.
Numbskull let out a massive roar that made some of the smaller demons cower. Kzhuva clapped slowly and ponderously, displaying exactly how impressed he wasn't.
"Ooh… that's very impressive," said Kzhuva condescendingly once Numbskull had stopped roaring. Numbskull was, of course, dense enough to be a black hole, and thus did not pick up on the note of condescension.
"I bet you can't roar like that," said Numbskull, smiling all over his scaly face.
"I don't have to."
With one last clap, Kzhuva sent a magically amplified shockwave of sound straight at Numbskull. The demons behind him only just got out of the way in time, as the massive demon was sent flying, driven into the cave wall at three hundred and forty four metres per second.
However, Numbskull was soon standing again, growling with unrestrained bloodlust. He was done showboating, and now launched himself full at the little orb within which Kzhuva rested.
Kzhuva faced the oncoming giant howling avatar of killer fury with complete serenity. Though his face didn't flicker, if Raven had been there she would have seen the surges of magical power that flowed all around Kzhuva, slowly concentrating on one point as his mind focused them together.
Kzhuva was in a good mood today, so it would be over quickly. Normally he liked to make impudent fools like this suffer before killing them, but this one was probably too stupid to feel agony.
This was a particularly deadly kind of magic, analogous to neurotoxin. When properly executed (and executed was the word) it tore at its victim's sentience, instantly shattering any rational-thinking mind.
Well… not any sentient being. As is often the case, mental magic often becomes more difficult to use successfully upon more intelligent beings; a partial success may only succeed in minor brain damage, amnesia, or maybe even only temporary unconsciousness if the target is intelligent enough. However, Kzhuva had no worries there.
'This demon is only just sentient,' he sneered in the privacy of his mind.
Numbskull, still roaring bloody defiance, actually managed to get within a few metres of Kzhuva before the neurotoxin-like magic was released.
Like some terrible angel of death, the focused magical power shot out from Kzhuva's orb and flew into what little of Numbskull's mind there was to be found, straight and lethal as a guided missile.
The effects were instantaneous. Numbskull froze, still in mid-stride, his roar slowly fading into a croak. An odd expression that Kzhuva knew to be an amalgam of all his different emotions simultaneously formed on Numbskull's dazed face.
Then, with the same momentum of a redwood tree being felled, the mighty Numbskull slowly teetered forward and fell flat on that same pug-ugly face.
Kzhuva sneered superciliously, and glared at all the demons present; just to make sure that they'd got the message. It seemed they had, so Kzhuva moved on to his quarters with the same officious air of any emperor.
"Of course, milord," Kzhuva replied, darting to the entrance doors and whipping through them with agility atypical of a demon.
As they clunked shut, Trigon looked earnestly at Raven and what she had become. He didn't even try to disguise the fact that he liked it, if not her. She was of course human, and female, which were both unfortunate, but that could be worked around with patience. Fortunately for Raven, Trigon could be extremely patient… for a demon.
"Tell me, Raven; how did you kill all of them so easily? There's not even a scratch on you."
"It wasn't so much me as you."
"Ah… so you're getting in touch with your demonic side. This is good. But how many exactly did you kill?" Raven's eyebrow shifted upwards by such a small amount as almost made no odds, but nothing she ever did was meaningless.
"Did you seriously expect me to count? If you want I could go back to Earth and go over the bodies, but it wouldn't be an accurate count, considering how many of the corpses were burnt away to nothing. Let's just say I'm pretty sure that nobody in Jump City survived."
"How can you be so sure?"
"Not many humans are capable of surviving a pyroclastic flow. I took care of the few who could personally. But we must focus on larger things than a mere city…" Trigon was pleased, yet somewhat alarmed by his daughter's development. However, he showed nothing, and watched her with a quiet sense of interest about him. "You want to destroy Earth; all humanity, yes?" Trigon nodded, fulfilling the formality. "You have tried several times to destroy them yourself. But what you do not realise is that humans are astoundingly efficient at destroying themselves."
This was truly a revelation to Trigon, and he showed it quite plainly. Raven once again smiled one of those mouth-only smiles.
"You mean to say that you hadn't realised it before? Humans are a very warlike race. The only thing that keeps them from tearing each other apart is the fear of retribution and pain. If you can achieve a state of affairs where hate supersedes fear, then humanity will quite willingly rip the Earth apart in their attempts to destroy their own kin. It only has to last for a few seconds, after all."
"And how exactly do you propose to achieve a situation like this?" Trigon countered. "As you know, human-kind's altogether disgustingly large capacity for love means that they are incapable of mass…"
Raven's smile was joined by the rest of her. However, there was something more than happiness in her lips and teeth. Although Raven lacked her father's prodigious set of dental hardware, there was something so wrong about the otherwise entirely beautiful serenity of her seemingly delicate face being broken by this terrible expression of malicious wrath.
"Isn't technology wonderful?" she asked.