A/N: Hello, all-- here is the first of quite a few back-story type shorts from the Identity Crisis universe. With my computer in tech services again, it got me looking through my notebooks and I found these and finally got around to typing them out at the library, so I suppose there's a silver lining in this whole I-don't-have-my-laptop-right-now thing. Now I'm just praying that I get it back with everything intact (they were threatening the possibility of having to wipe it to get rid of the sneaky virus thing). Enough of my problems, though-- hope you enjoy these!
The Chronicler of the League of Shadows was already wrinkled and blind, or at least mostly blind, when Clark met him. He was hunched and arthritic, so old that the number of his age didn't matter, but he moved quickly and efficiently, navigating the overflowing library from memory.
Clark had stumbled upon the library much the same way that he'd stumbled upon the Temple: almost literally. In the case of the Temple, he had been flying overhead, passing over Tibet on his way to Hong Kong, and become vaguely intrigued by the hidden place and the childhood fantasy it had contained; Ducard had taken him in after tentatively believing the horribly-lost traveler line, then had been made to do anything but regret it, as Clark was a quick study. In the case of the library, Clark had simply been wandering in the night, as, even with the regular use of kryptonite in the daytime; he was easily fully-rested after only a few hours of sleep and always left with a few extra hours for thought and exploration.
It had hardly taken any finesse to convince Yao, which was what the Chronicler called himself but not necessarily his name, to let Clark help him around the library. Ducard had taken a bit more convincing, having grand schemes for Clark's talents—he threw terms like 'Master of Assassins' around enough to make Clark uncomfortable—but, in the end, Clark's curiosity had won out. Hours of swordplay and pyrotechnics were paired down to create time for study under the Chronicler, and Clark's evenings, once more-or-less free (most of the others slept in the evenings), were devoted to reading the books and scrolls kept in the library, learning them as well as he could—the Chronicler frustrated easily, especially when Clark didn't know which text he was referring to, and almost none of them had titles.
Clark's evenings in the library quickly began to extend well into the night, far past the hour at which Yao retired to his tiny cot at the back of the library. The wealth of history and information in the library was addicting, but disturbing as well. The League not only tracked the histories of the Orient and Europe, but the rest of the Western World, sometimes tracking individual cities alarmingly closely. Singapore, Venice, Gotham, Vatican City, Paris, New Orleans. The amount of carefully collected and documented information, all handwritten in a variety of character languages, was overwhelming.
Quite suddenly, Clark realized he had been with the League for more than two months. Not only had he read almost half their library in that time, he had learned their 'way of the ninja,' their languages—spoken and written—and, almost unconsciously, created a niche for himself within the League. All without ever meaning to stay for more than a month, like any other stop on his tour of the world. He wondered idly if he had grown stagnant with the prolonged exposure to the tiny sample of kryptonite—fashioned into what looked like a small jade turtle figurine that he kept hidden in a little black pouch in his pocket—he kept with him always to keep him vulnerable.
"Kent," Ducard's voice startled Clark out of his thoughtful trance. Ducard was frowning down at him. "You must always be aware of your surroundings."
Clark nodded and tried not to look sheepish. He was usually better at being in the moment when he needed to be.
Ducard had him dress in full regalia—all black, armed, even his face swathed in cloth—and led him to one of the smaller practice rooms. A young man, brunette and dark brown eyes, stood at the center of the room, trying and failing to perform some form of meditation. He looked to be about Clark's age, maybe a few years younger—he could've been from Smallville, except Clark had never seen him before in his life.
The man's name, it came out, was Wayne. He was from Gotham, had left a man called Falconi's underworld behind to follow the criminal world through the eastern states, through Canada with a brief stint conning in Alaska. From Alaska, he'd gone to Tokyo, then smuggled in South Korea for awhile before finding the Temple.
"We will meditate," Ducard instructed, pointing Clark towards a second mat in the room and lighting a few more sticks of incense. The room was heavy with the scents and smoke of a hundred candles and diffusers. Instead of focusing on his surroundings—the smells, the sounds, the taste of the air, the heat—he focused inwards to his sense of self, all the while becoming more aware of the room around him.