A/N: I was asked by a reviewer of Burning Black for the prequel to the series and I replied by saying that the prequels to Burning Black's entire series actually begins in the Danny Phantom fandom. So this is the beginning of the true start of Dimmsdale's descent to misery. Unlike BB, which has five acts, three of them complete and the fourth in progress, Netherworld Nightmare is a single fic that tells how Danny got involved in magic and mana first. From that, the chaos spreads... Please enjoy my first foray of Danny Phantom fanfiction, timeset after Urban Jungle and before Livin' Large.
It began when the Amity Park Public Library suddenly became off limits to all things supernatural. This was considered highly unusual, as the dozens of leftover boxes from packing books in and out would have provided more than enough amusement for the Box Ghost. Yet, even he was far too terrified of the library to try going after the right-angled treasure. A few of the more alert and ghost-wary of the citizens of Amity Park recognized this and, whenever a ghost was on the loose in the city (as was so often the case), they made a beeline for the library. As a shelter against ghosts, the building was perfect, and not a trace of Fenton technology was installed in the place.
So for weeks the library became the underground fortress, a whispered secret among close friends and family as the place to go to avoid ghosts. Not a single spook would dare come within a few feet of the building, not even Danny Phantom, the town's resident ghost hero. At least, that was the reputation and name the boy was given after helping Amity Park survive its first massive ghost invasion and nearly 'died' in the effort; a good portion of the adults that sided with the two 'official' Fenton ghost hunters still referred to him merely as the Ghost Boy and viewed him as a constant threat. For the majority of the teen populace, the ghost was a heroic figure, someone to be awed, respected, even worshipped. But even they started to wonder as many ghost on ghost conflicts ended with a sudden halt at the library, with the enemy ghost shrieking in terror and the hero, Danny Phantom, wind-milling his arms in the air wildly to avoid coming too close to the invisible shield protecting the library.
What about this library was so frightening to ghosts that not even Phantom would dare come close to it?
And so it was on a fine sunny day in Amity Park that Lancer's English class made a trip to the local library, the famed ghost-repelling building. It was suggested, oddly enough, by Samantha 'Sam' Manson, the class Goth, as a place to go to look up the history of the city for a report the kids were assigned to do.
And Daniel 'Danny' Fenton promptly dug in his heels not twenty feet from the library doors, announced he had developed an allergy to paper, then sat on the sidewalk in a huff. Promising to convince him into the building before the trip ended, Sam and Danny's second but equally strange friend, Tucker Foley, persuaded the teacher to go on ahead with the rest of the class.
"C'mon, Danny! How do you expect us to find out what's with this library if you don't come in with us and help pinpoint it?" Sam demanded, planting her fists on her hips as she scowled down at the boy on the sidewalk.
"I don't know, but I'm not going near that place." the raven-haired teen answered simply, "It gives me the creeps. I walked by it once and it felt like there was something there ready to swallow me up." He shuddered visibly and shook his head. "No way. I can't go in there; not without getting spacey or something." Tucker held up his PDA, patting it affectionately as a gleam of an idea sparkled in his expression.
"I could always just hack into the library security system and we can check out what the cameras see." he remarked brightly, "Then we can get a bird's eye view of everything and we can skip going in entirely!" Danny grinned up at the two teens, obviously enthusiastic with the plan. If it meant missing out on entering the building, he'd smile at anything. Sam shot him a glare, then snatched the device from the other boy's hand. She waved it threateningly as Tucker's hands shot out in attempts to rescue his precious digital assistant.
"No, we're not gonna do that!" she declared, "This whole field trip was set up so we could go in and find out what's going on." She shoved the PDA against Tucker's chest and turned back to Danny, who had not moved a single inch from his sitting position and showed no sign or desire to try. "C'mon, Danny! It only affects you when you're in ghost mode, right?" Sam whispered harshly, "It shouldn't bother you like this, then! Now let's get going!" With that, she grabbed one arm as Tucker quickly caught on and snatched up the other. Ignoring the thrashing as they dragged Danny towards the library, Sam and Tucker marched for the doors, only to feel the boy slip through their grips.
"Oh yeah! You forgot he could do that, huh, Sam?" Tucker laughed as he stopped and turned around in time to see the shimmer of color as Danny solidified just down the steps from them. The Goth spun around in irritation, black hair slightly flared from the motion, the short ponytail rising from the top of her head bobbing along.
"Danny-!" she growled through her teeth warningly, violet eyes narrowing in annoyance. She stomped a foot forward, shaking a fist at the raven-haired boy that stared up at her. "Get over here before I make you a full ghost!" she threatened. For a moment, Danny debated silently over going along or turning tail, then sighed and hung his head, tromping up the steps after his two friends.
The inside of the library seemed normal enough. Just like any normal library in any normal city, there were shelves of books and magazines lining the walls, forming aisles and dominating the décor. Danny slunk along the tall bookcases, muttering to himself. Sam had been right; in his human form, there was nothing bothering him. Since the accident in his parents' laboratory that merged his DNA with ectoplasm, Danny had to keep his eyes open for anything that could harm him as a ghost as well as a human. Knowing that something about the library was making him react badly as a ghost didn't sit well with him. Pausing near one shelf, he leaned back against it and pressed the palm of one hand against his forehead, sighing softly to himself. In ghost mode, the library seemed to give him a strange feeling of despair, a sinking feeling that he should just transform from ghost to human in mid-air and let the darkness of night and full death take him.
Danny didn't like it one bit, and even in his mind that was an understatement. He snuck a glance aside and smiled as he watched his friends walk up and down the aisles, studying the spines of books for show as they searched around for some sign of unnatural activity. Since that day in the lab, Sam and Tucker had stuck by him through every situation life threw at him. From dealing with turning intangible at the oddest moments to helping him recuperate after battles with Vlad Plasmius, the stress of being Amity Park's ghostly hero would have broken him long ago had it not been for the two of them. He took the time to glance over the other students as he continued resting. The capture of Box Ghost again the prior night shouldn't have taken as long as it had, but the two of them were circling around the dead zone that was the library. The Box Ghost had been trying to work up the nerve to enter the building to gather the boxes, and Danny Phantom was trying to quell the idea of splattering himself all over the shingled rooftop. All in all, a lousy night.
There's Paulina, the Queen of Casper High, working her charm on some unsuspecting student to get out of doing the paper. At least, it looked that way from this angle; for all Danny knew she could just be trying to meet her daily quota for flirting. At a table near the exit sat Dash and Kwan, playing paper football, of all things, with Star as cheerleader and looking as if she wanted something else to busy herself with. Valerie Gray, the city's other 'unofficial' ghost hunter (Phantom being the first), alternated between scrawling down notes for her report and poking at a wristwatch of sorts on her arm.
The two hours crawled by as Danny dozed lightly, using the bookshelf as support while the class kept themselves busy and his best friends scoured the building for the supernatural source of his discomfort. The sounds of Sam's favorite black combat boots and Tucker's comfortably worn-in sneakers making their way to him snapped him out of the doze in an instant. Eyes the color of clear summer skies snapped open and sought out their faces.
"Nothing. Not even a freaky glowing crystal." Sam grumbled, folding her arms over her chest in a huff. Her irritated expression softened as she took in the somewhat disheveled figure of the fourteen-year-old boy. "Feeling better? Did you get some rest?" she asked. Danny managed a grin that transformed into a yawn as he stretched and twisted around to work out a few kinks left in his frame.
"Yeah, I'm good for now." he replied quietly and glanced around, "So the place is clean? Nothing here that reeks of something that should be thrown into the Ghost Zone first chance possible?" Tucker shook his head.
"Nope. And with the way every ghost that comes by reacts, throwing whatever this is into the Ghost Zone is the last thing you wanna do." he pointed out. He waved a hand emphatically at a random direction, nearly knocking Sam over in the process. "Not unless you plan on hosting a Ghostly Convention in Amity Park!"
"Long as they don't crash at my place." Danny yawned out and blinked at that before rubbing his head sheepishly, "Well, since the library only messes with me when I'm a ghost, I suppose I should carry more of Mom and Dad's inventions if I end up chasing them here." He shrugged, a somewhat carefree grin on his face. "Glad to know that being human during a battle against ghosts does have some advantages!" he laughed. The conversation ended quickly as the English teacher, Mr. Lancer, announced that they were to go back to school and hustled everyone out of the building. The three teens made momentary faces at the thought, but Danny brightened quickly.
"If it gets me out of here, I don't care where we end up!" he laughed and rushed after the other students, eager to escape the confines of the very strange Amity Park Public Library.
After school, they gathered at the local fast food restaurant, the Nasty Burger, to discuss the situation further. Had Danny's sister, Jasmine, known about it, she would probably have insisted on joining them, knowing full well about the particular activities and 'ailment' the meetings often talked about. The group had come to terms with Jazz knowing about her younger brother's ghost half and his battles, the secret having been revealed some several months ago during one very confusing and very traumatizing encounter with a future Danny Phantom who wasn't quite what present Danny would have liked to become. Despite that, the three of them preferred to just work things out on their own. The less people involved in their work, the better Danny felt. He didn't want anyone hurt because of his fighting ghosts, didn't want that awful future to come to pass.
Granted the whole bloody ordeal involving that future had been dealt with rather quickly, but it still made the boy worry about the choices he made in life. Not normal behavior for a young teen, but then Danny hadn't been normal since being blasted by ectoplasmic energy. Therefore, rules were suspended in his case.
"There weren't any signs of crystals or stones or anything that could affect ghosts like that." Sam explained her earlier comment between bites of salad. She twirled the fork in a small circle as her eyes went distant in recollection. "I saw a small charm that was hanging by the front desk, but it was for warding off evil spirits. It shouldn't do anything to you." she added. Danny huffed in disdain.
"Unless it's proof that I'm still stuck on that path." he grumbled and ducked as the Goth swung her hand at him, "Hey!"
"Oh geez, that was ages ago! Don't start it up again! You promised you wouldn't turn evil, right? So as long as you keep that promise, nothing bad will happen to any of us!" she scolded under her breath. Tucker nodded along with her words, then grinned.
"See? I knew you cared about him in that way!" he insinuated with a chuckle and yelped as both raven-haired teens shot him glares. "Eep! Uh, right! Library! Yeah!" he stammered out and held up his PDA again, tapping at the buttons, "I checked around for signs of mechanical and technological sources, but the closest you can get to a ghost-spooking machine in that place is the copy machine." Danny lifted an eyebrow at this and Sam rolled her eyes.
"Because it's thought by some cultures that having a picture of yourself taken would entrap your spirit in the photo." she answered his silent question, "So maybe ghosts think that it would suck them in like the Fenton Thermos."
"I have no problem with copy machines." the boy remarked with a mischievous smile before taking another bite of his burger. Sam stared at him in disbelief, then laughed as Tucker caught on soon after and joined in. "So, nothing you two could find as a ghost repellent in there, huh?" Danny summed up, "Should I bite the bullet and ask my parents to give it a once over themselves? Maybe they can find something." He looked back and forth at his friends' faces, taking in the looks of shock and horror before sighing in defeat and resting his head on the table, buried in his arms. "Okay, okay, bad idea." he admitted.
"You think?" Sam nearly yelled, managing a loud whisper instead.
"They gunked up the vents with ectoplasmic goo from the Fenton Foamer when your dad saw the air conditioner flip some newspapers around and swore a ghost was traveling through the ventilation system!" Tucker reminded him, "It took weeks to clean it up, and that was before they began cleaning the books and furniture too!" Danny lifted his head to stare at the African-American boy.
"That was two years ago." he told them evenly. Both teens shrugged at him.
"They haven't lifted the ban on your parents ever coming near the library, unless they were called first." Sam pointed out, "So that kills your idea right there." The halfa across from her groaned and dropped his head back down.
"I'm doomed to being afraid of that library forever." his muffled declaration came through the barrier of arms and t-shirt. Sam dug through her backpack and brought out several pages of notes, plunking them down on the table for everyone to see. The boy lifted his head at the sound of rustling papers and studied the sheets warily. "What's this?" he asked.
"My notes on that report we have to write. 'What Amity Park Means to Me', remember?" she replied, "It's due by the end of this week. I figured you'd either forget or not have the time for the notes, so you can borrow the ones I took at the library for your own report." Tucker made several sounds that were suspiciously reminiscent of kisses, earning a punch in the arm from the Goth.
"What?" he whined as he rubbed the injury, "It was supposed to be a hint to Clueless over there! Y'know, one good deed deserves another and all?" He gained another punch, this time on the other arm from Danny himself. Tucker blinked in shock as he switched to rubbing that injury instead. "Hey! He actually got what I was saying! It's a miracle!" he exclaimed and winced, "And that hurt! Seriously, Danny; all that ghost hunting's working something out!"
"The exercise doesn't carry over that easily, but I did learn how to throw a good punch." Danny muttered, gathering the papers into his hands. He shot the Goth a grateful smile to which she turned back to her pack both to find something else to busy them with and to hide the rising blush on her face. What she pulled free was a flyer that had been passed out among the students of Casper High.
"Well, not a whole lot since you still have trouble with gym class, but enough so you don't fall all over yourself doing the long jump or medium-weight wrestling." Tucker amended, still rubbing his arm. Sam plunked down the flyer, the blush deepening. She didn't need to hear any more of that discussion.
"Did you guys get a load of this?" she asked, tapping the paper, "Our school has finally developed a brain! They're gonna include a mythology class for the rest of the semester! It's being sponsored by a private fund and Amity Park is the only city in the country with this class!" Sam smiled broadly. "How cool is that? It's an optional class, so we can swap out one of our classes for it and it gives us bonus credit!" Both Tucker and Danny leaned in to study the flyer.
"'Mythology of the Ancient World. A chance to learn about the history and cultures of ancient civilizations. Sign up for this opportunity at the bulletin board in the cafeteria. Starts...'" Danny read aloud slowly, mentally turning the words right-side up as his eyes traveled the page. He frowned. "The class starts in two days." he remarked, noting the date, "That's not much time for anyone to sign on to it."
"Why would Casper High bother with mythology? It's just stuff about ancient gods and goddesses that no one believes in anymore." Tucker pointed out, "I believe in the power of technology!" He stroked the PDA almost lovingly, "There's nothing this little baby can't do! Let's see some Greek god take over the security system for Axion Labs in less than five minutes!" Danny gave him a disturbed look, edging away from his friend as Sam ignored him.
"I signed up for it as soon as I got the flyer." she declared, "Who knows? Maybe if we learned more about ancient mythology, it can help us understand and fight ghosts better." Danny brightened at the thought.
"You're right! I hadn't thought of that, but it sounds like a good idea." he exclaimed, giving Sam another reason to feel her ears burn. He reached out and pat her shoulder. "So learn all you want, Sam; I'll expect a report at the end of each class!" he finished jokingly and yelped as Sam's next swipe actually contacted his head.
"Danny, you're gonna be in this class too!" she yelled, "Don't expect me to do all the work!" Danny rubbed his head, chagrined.
"Work? I already do a lot of work!" he protested, "I fight the ghosts, suck 'em into the Thermos, then throw 'em back in the Ghost Zone! That's a lot for a kid to do in one night, especially if there's more than one ghost running around town!" Sam glared at him, then gave him her best puppy-eyed expression, clasping her hands together as her lower lip quivered. Danny squirmed in his seat, trying to avoid seeing it and failing. "You cheat; you know I can't say 'no' to that face." he muttered under his breath. A corner of his mouth twitched into a quick smile; she looked ridiculously cute doing that. He fought down the urge to blush and look like an idiot, then sighed melodramatically and threw his hands up in mock surrender. "Okay, okay, fine! I'll sign up tomorrow. Maybe I can get out of keyboarding class for this." the halfa finally relented.
"Aw, but that's the best class in school!" Tucker sighed, "Who am I gonna spam with instant messages now?"
The night was oddly peaceful. For once, Danny's ghost sense didn't interrupt him in the middle of doing homework. It didn't stop him from periodically puffing out into the air, half-expecting the faint wisp of his own breath that signaled a ghost was near to flow out, or checking the thermostat in the house to be sure that any chills he felt was just the air conditioner kicking in and not the ghost sense. Jazz sat by him at the kitchen table, working on her own assignments. She glanced up at him and frowned.
"Don't ask for trouble, Danny." she lectured and tapped her pencil against his books, "Finish your homework and be glad that the ghosts of Amity Park aren't gonna bug you for once." Her brother snorted softly but bent his head to his work again, pen scrawling along the pages as he continued writing the report.
"They're probably still scared of that library." he grumbled, turning to a new sheet of paper to continue a sentence, "If a ghost popped into the city, they know I'm going to end up chasing them to the library." Jazz gave him a puzzled expression. Danny shook his head. "Nothing. Just talking to myself. What are Mom and Dad up to?" he shifted the subject. The carrot-top gave him a blank stare, then blinked and shook her head to clear the brief fog.
"Downstairs as usual. They're building something that's supposed to inject sedatives into ghosts. Some kind of tranquilizer gun." she replied, "So I'd stay out of there for the next couple of days if I were you."
"Well, it's something non-lethal to ghosts at least." Danny sighed glumly, "I just hope they don't fire it at me anytime soon. I haven't gotten the hang of forcing myself to stay in ghost form if I lose consciousness just yet." Jazz pat his hand comfortingly, then got up to the refrigerator.
"How about a soda? Maybe a snack too?" she asked brightly, hoping to cheer him up as she collected the items.
"Sure." the response was devoid of emotion as the boy continued writing. Jazz set the can and sandwich down by him, catching sight of the flyer Sam had given him. She picked it up.
"What's this?" she asked in interest, "Mythology class? I heard about that yesterday." She blinked at her brother in surprise. "You're going to sign up for it? You? The kid they have to tie to the chair to keep him in class for more than fifteen minutes?" Danny shot her an annoyed look, snatching the paper back.
"Yeesss..." he drawled out and stuffed the flyer into his backpack, "Sam thinks it might help me figure out more about ghosts. Are you signing up for it too?" Jazz tapped her cheek thoughtfully.
"Well, I wasn't before, but if it could help with ghosts, then maybe I should." she remarked, ignoring her brother's groan, "It starts in a couple of days, right? That should give me time to figure out which class I can swap out for a while." There was a muffled explosion underfoot, the sound of yelling and footsteps, and both Jazz and Danny calmly ignored the chaos that Jack Fenton had most probably created in the basement. "Who's the teacher?" Danny pulled the flyer free again and looked it over carefully.
"It doesn't say." he finally told her and showed her the sheet, "Just that the class will start in two days and it's going to be the most unusual class Casper High will ever have. It's some kind of test class, I guess." Jazz studied the flyer herself. "If enough kids sign up, maybe it'll become a permanent class."
"'All lectures taken from the Archives of the Twin Blades, world-renowned for the largest and most complete collection of world history and mythology ever compiled by man.'" she read aloud and smiled, "Wow! How cool is that? I've heard of the Archives; there's a rumor that it's run and maintained by a reclusive billionaire who sends out a single scholar to collect data to add to the records." Danny scowled, folding his arms over his chest.
"Is there a name to go with that money-man?" he grumbled. Jazz handed him the flyer with a shrug.
"Not Vlad Masters, that much I know. It's said that this guy makes Vlad look like he should be in poverty." she replied and laughed, "He could probably buy the world and the moon, and still have enough to treat everyone alive to a fancy dinner every day for the rest of their lives!" Danny blinked at the paper in his hands.
Strange. Why would a reclusive billionaire sponsor a temporary mythology class in a small town like Amity Park, when he could make it a permanent part of the learning regime for the world? Could the teacher be the scholar in his payroll? What kind of data could the recluse be after? Did it have anything to do with the ghost attacks the city was plagued with? Was the billionaire interested in learning more about the ghosts in Amity Park?
So much for not looking for trouble. It seemed to like looking for him first.