Raven woke just about a few hours before three. Everyone else was still in bed it seemed, Kid Eternity was supposed to be on guard but she couldn't see him anywhere. As she walked to the training grounds, she spied Hermit meditating. He was muttering some incantation which Raven couldn't hear or understand; she crept closer to him trying to listen. The magic around him was ancient, she could tell from his aura that this was a technique long forgotten.
The energy was green at first, shaped as a butterfly. Raven had never seen a spirit form such as that before, insect spirit animals were rare to come by. The butterfly turned to a dismal gray as it flew into Hermit's hood. After awhile three rings of green and gray smoke spewed from his mouth. Did he eat his own spirit manifest? Raven couldn't understand how or why such a spell would exist. Raven could feel an increase of static in the air; she could feel a powerful surge of dark magic emanating around Hermit. However the magic didn't match Hermit's, not exactly. Though its energy was similar to his it was much more powerful, and much more corrupt. Raven suddenly noticed the ancient runes at is feet lighting up and flickering as does the ember on a candle dances.
"Contego meus eyes ut Ineo bestia of meus senior!" He whispered as a glowing purple circle surrounded him.
In the center of the circle he sat on top of a symbol that resembled an eye. A thick fog surrounded Hermit which vanished as it gave way to a blinding white light which Raven had to shield herself from. As the light faded away he placed his feet on the earth and clasped his hands together. He fell on his knees as if he was about to pray.
"Negotium est perfectus." He muttered as the spell vanished and his feet once again touched the ground.
"How long were you watching?" Hermit asked without turning his head to see who was spying on him. He picked up his runes and hid them away in his cloak.
"Sorry, I didn't mean to bother you. " Raven said shyly.
"It's alright, just don't sneak up on me, it's unsettling. I didn't think anyone would be up this early."
"Neither did I, why are you up at this hour?"
"I took Eternity's guard duty; I figured he could use a break. He works himself to hard."
"What was that spell you were using? I've never seen anything like it before." Raven asked fascinated about Hermit's magic.
"I'm not surprised you've never seen it before, it's a very old spell. It lets me spy on my enemies. I enter into their consciousness and extract information."
"There's got to be a downside to something so powerful. What was that darkness surrounding you?"
"The darkness was the influence of the one I was spying on. I overstayed my welcome inside him and he was beginning to fight back and look into me. If he were to gaze deep enough, he could take my spirit."
"Is it really worth the risk?"
"My own wellbeing must not come before the lives of others. The results are needed if we are to locate the missing Arcana. I looked into the mind of Malchior. "
"Malchior? You could handle Malchior with that spell? When I fought him none of my spells worked. How could you mange to?"
"He and I have a special bond. But that is unimportant, with his knowledge I managed to find our friend Tower. Though he is not with Malchior, he has seen him. We must wake the others and come up with a plan."
Morning training was postponed, the group gathered around Hermit waiting for his news on Tower.
"What have you learned of our friend? Did you find him?" Tarot asked as he brushed his red hair out of his face.
"He's with Neron just as we expected. He's in the highest spire of the sixth underworld. Hell map two B should be the map to use." Hermit answered reluctantly.
"Shit, he's not taking any chances with him. X, do you think you break in?" Eternity asked as he adjusted his glasses.
"Are you kidding? The spire is child's play but Neron's forces would rip me to shreds. If I try to sneak in they'll know I'm coming before we could even hope to find our horned pal. There's only two ways in the spire, the front gate or through the roof. I've checked the map, the windows are impenetrable to physical attack, and it could only be manipulated through magic. If I go alone I'm toast. "Red X replied.
"You don't have to; Raven and Tarot will accompany you on your way through the tower. Hermit and I will distract the demons by faking a head on assault which they will try to prevent. This will provide little resistance when you're inside. As the enemy runs to engage us Devil will activate explosives and other traps to incapacitate the main assault."
"Tarot is on my team, really? Raven is actually worth having; she can do some damage and look through walls but Tarot? The runt can barely stand on his two legs in a fight. Perhaps Chariot or Hanged Girl would be better?"
"Don't interrupt me X. I can't trust you and Chariot together with this kind of operation. Chariot and Hanged girl have their own assignment. Hanged Girl will create an elevated fortress where she and Chariot will attack from a higher ground which will give our distraction protection and believability. Tarot has to be on your team because although he doesn't pack the biggest punch he is fast, he can sense people's powers which will help locate our target and his psychic skills should warn you of any danger." Kid Eternity answered.
"Who's Neron?" Hanged Girl asked quietly.
"Raven, have you ever heard of Neron the Tempter?" Hermit asked.
"Legends mostly. I can't imagine any magic user who has not been told stories of his deceit."
"Neron is a demon and one of the four beasts just like Trigon. Instead of being a destroyer of worlds, he is a liar and a con artist who gives people power beyond their wildest dreams. However there is a price, he has you sign a contract, your wish for your soul. The deal you make with him tends to backfire resulting in loss of the given power, forced servitude, or death. His main goals tend to be collecting souls and harnessing their power so he can conquer the universe and force his way back to his Overworld." Hermit answered fearfully.
"Overworld? What's that?" Chariot asked.
"It's another term for Heaven. Since many evil and pure entities claim to either be Gods or Devils, the term Underworld and Overworld are used. Since we cannot be sure which Heaven is the real one or which Hell is the real resting place for the damned, we use those terms. Neron was banished from his Overworld for attempting a coup and overthrowing his lord. He's wanted revenge ever since." Kid Eternity answered.
"What does Neron have to do with Tower?" Raven asked puzzled.
"Tower is there because he's more of a Devil then I could ever hope to be!" Devil answered laughing.
"Tower had a contract with Neron which backfired. He broke the terms of their agreement so he has been imprisoned as consequence. We have to bust him out, he's not only a decent fighter but he has inside knowledge of Neron." Eternity said as he motioned everyone to come closer.
"Raven, take us there."
"I don't know how."She answered.
"Oh right sorry, first I need to give you a copy of the Underworld map two B edition. If you can't see where the place is I can't expect this to work. Meditate and focus on reaching the spire. Tarot will then place his hand on your shoulder telepathically linking you to the area. This will then activate a portal to our destination." Hermit said to Raven as he handed her the map.
"Are you sure I should be the one doing this? Perhaps Hermit would be better?"
"It will be easier for you. When you were born, you were made specifically to be a living portal to be used by your father. With this natural ability you are the better choice. It is very strenuous for Hermit and you wouldn't tire at all." Tarot replied as he put his hand on Raven's shoulder.
When the team arrived at Neron's underworld, they were welcomed by the sound of torturous screams of the trapped souls of the Tempter. The air was warm and carried the smell of blood as it tore through the empty valley. The sky was red and the clouds were jet black, the spire was visible just over the horizon. The spire was a dark dilapidated structure; the windows were stained glass like that of a church though the pictures depicted were not messages of faith. The pictures were that of demons attacking children, seducing women, and men bowing to them.
Raven, Red X, and Tarot split up from the rest of the group and headed towards the rear of the structure. Raven grabbed them both by the hand and flew up to a window.
They waited for the sign to begin the mission. They heard a loud explosion from the front and knew that Kid Eternity and the others had engaged their enemy.
"Azarath Metrion Zinthos!" Raven shouted.
The window broke and they ran inside. They could hear the battle going on outside. To Raven it sounded more like a war then a distraction. The spire was practically empty, Tarot led the way down the lifeless corridors and spiraling granite staircases towards Tower. They had reached about a third of the way there before finally meeting resistance.
"Mortals inside the spire! Kill them!" shouted a pig-faced demon dwarf.
The demons charged towards Raven and her friends. Tarot just narrowly dodged a fire breath from an enemy he ducked and kicked him in the stomach then kicked his ankles. He was now on the floor. Tarot then ran up on the wall and jumped on top of a monster. As the creature struggled to break free he started punching holes in the walls with his great strength. Instead however Tarot's opponent while in his frenzy destroyed about twenty of his own teammates. Tarot then leapt off from his elephantine adversary and Red X placed an X on his chest. The X began to light up and detonated causing an explosion which took out about a dozen demons including the big brute. Then Red X threw nine red shurikens which all took off the heads of revolting enemies. As all the bodies hit the floor, they turned to dust.
Raven was hesitating in battle no matter what she did she was getting hit at all sides by demons. Her teammates were busy fighting their own creatures and couldn't help her in any way. Raven was holding back, no matter who her enemy was, she would not take their life.
"What are you standing around for? We aren't going anywhere if these freaks aren't taken care of!" Red X shouted.
"I can't do it. I can't kill them!" Raven shouted as she struggled so hard to resist the demons not only outside herself, but inside her as well.
She could feel the frustration taking over slowly turning into anger. She felt the white hot rage taking over her body. She told herself to resist, she told herself to fight back, but no matter what she told herself to stop the transformation nothing succeeded. No matter what her morals were, the hatred for her father, or the love of her friends could turn her back to the light. Deep in her heart, she knew what she really wanted. No matter what she told herself, lies could not restrain her from her desires. She wanted to let go of everything, she wanted the burden of self-control to disappear. She heard a voice echoing in her head.
"It's alright child, let go. I'm here to make things all better. You don't need to continue this way, become who you were always meant to be. Do not resist your nature, embrace it and you will be complete. What's the harm in killing these creatures? If they are evil, destroy them. After all, isn't destroying evil your mission, isn't this why you're a Titan, isn't that why you are here right now? It's alright to let go every once in a little while. Besides what have they ever done which actually benefitted humanity, or better yet you? Accept me and I will give you power beyond your imagination, I will erase your pain, I will control the power for you and you will never have to regret anything ever again. Join me and I will free you from your father. You are not killing anyone, trust me!"
"Raven it's a trick don't listen to him! Don't you see what is happening? This tempter is Neron! He's the one amplifying your anger, your emotions are mere puppets and he is pulling the strings. If you allow him to take over your soul you will be lost forever. You're powers are not what makes you a hero don't you understand? It's your discipline, your will, and your determination which makes you powerful. If you accept Neron he will take all that makes you who you are away from you. He cannot free you, he can only enslave you. He cannot remove your father's will from your soul, only you can do so. You do not need to be bound by the sins of your father. Take my hand I'll get you back to us!" Tarot appeared inside her conscious.
"You insolent dog! How dare you interrupt us! Raven, don't you see what he is doing? He's trying to confuse you. He is Neron not I. He knows that if you deny me you will never be powerful enough to defeat him. I am not evil, I am you. I am simply another part of your psyche who is powerful enough to save you from yourself. Do not deny this part of you or you will fall into oblivion! This is your choice not his!" Said the first voice now transforming into an image of Raven. "Take my hand!"
Raven could not decide what was right and what was a lie. She listened to her heart; she thought of her wants and needs to be happy. After a slight pause, she reached out for the hand of the other Raven. Then all of a sudden, there was a flash of light and out of the darkness appeared a woman in a magnificent white robe which stopped her from taking the hand. She lifted her hood and revealed to Raven a face of wisdom and beauty.
"Mother? Is that you? You're alive?" Raven whispered out of both shock and relief.
Raven began to feel the tears trickling down her face. Her heart skipped the beat as her beautiful mother wiped away her tears and placed her hand on Raven's shoulder to comfort her. Her mother didn't say a word but when asked if she was alive a single tear rolled down her cheek.
"Mother, I'm scared. I don't know what to do. I don't know what I should be doing with my life. Mother please, speak to me, I can't do this on my own! I need to know what's right. Show me what to do I beg you!" Raven shouted.
Raven's mother would not speak. She knelt beside her daughter and pressed her finger to her lips asking her child to contain herself. She reached out her hand to her Raven who immediately took her hand. Raven was regaining consciousness. As reality was pulling her back to the spire, her image of Tarot smiled and waved and then faded away. Raven looked at her mother as her mother stared back at her. There was no need for words, they both knew what the other was feeling. The feeling is the same for all mothers and their children. Her mother then kissed Raven on the cheek, smiled, and returned to the light.
"No! Damn you Arella!" Neron screamed as his form returned to his own and not of Raven's.
Raven tried to make out Neron's features but as soon as he reverted to his true form be bursted into flames and was no more.
When Raven awoke, Tarot was smiling. "Welcome back."
"What was that?" Raven asked confused and relieved that she was now back with her teammates.
"As we were fighting we stumbled into one of Neron's Halls of Temptations. As you can see it is very dangerous but you fought you're insecurities and returned to us!" Tarot answered with a big grin on his face.
"We were all victims to this attack. We had to make a choice whether to accept Neron or deny him. He is quite the bargain maker but I had to say decline the offer." Red X said to Raven.
"What did he offer you?" Raven asked curiously.
"I would tell you, but I'm far too much of a gentleman to discuss such a "private matter" with a girl." Red X said as he looked out the window to see the ensuing battle outside.
"That's probably for the best." Raven replied trying to get the image of Red X's possible fantasy out of her mind. "How did you escape?"
"Simple little lady, I follow my own rules and no one else's. I am my own man getting what I want my own way." Red X answered.
"Yeah right tough guy. I had to drop in inside your mind to pull you out. Don't try to make yourself cool." Tarot said laughing at Red X.
"Shut up red-head."
"Thanks Tarot, for helping me." Raven said softly.
"You're welcome but I hardly did anything at all. I only tried to push you towards the right direction. Neron was dead set on claiming your soul in the end only you could resist him."
"I wasn't alone though really. If my mother hadn't showed up as soon as she had, I'd be gone now."
"What are you talking about Raven? What mother? There was just me, Neron, and you. You resisted Neron's contract yourself." Tarot replied confusedly.
"That joke isn't funny. She was there, I took her hand and she saved me from Neron." Raven answered.
"There wasn't anyone else around Raven. There was no mother it was all you! You resisted Neron on your own and burned him with your light. I've never seen such beautiful magic in my life. It was amazing, you were amazing."
"I know what I saw! My mom saved me! She was there, maybe you didn't see her but you must have heard Neron mention her. She called her Arella." Raven answered frustrated at Tarot.
"All Neron said was "Damn you." Nothing else. You were the one who said Arella. It wasn't your mother, it was all you." Tarot calmly replied.
Raven was speechless. What was Tarot talking about? Her mother was right there. She held her hand, she hugged her, she kissed her. How could she not have been there? Was Tarot that clueless? Raven knew her mother saved her life.
"Let's just get going. The longer we just stand here the easier it will be to tempted again. Oh and by the way Raven, we weren't killing anyone. The demons are just the conquered souls of Neron. Once we defeat them, their souls return back to their original bodies and are purified. We were saving them." Red X said.
"He's right Raven, Neron tried to trick you into sacrificing your conscience so you could kill what was never living. I'm sorry I didn't tell you earlier." Tarot said.
"Let's just get out of here and find Tower." Raven said trying to hide her embarrassment.
Raven, Red X, and Tarot then left the hall. They ran through what seemed like hundreds of corridors and stairways as they ran to help Tower. Wave after wave of enemy, they grew tired and weary of the Arcana's fate.
"Are you sure we are going the right way Tarot? You haven't looked at the map since we got here." Raven said.
"Trust me Raven, Tarot doesn't need a map. His abilities let him see where to go."Red X explained.
Tarot led them to a room full of papers framed to the wall. The room contained only a small portion of the contracts Neron has made. Tarot walked to the right corner of the room and removed a contract from its frame.
"This is the contract Tower made with Neron. If we can find a loophole in this document we can cancel out the agreement and we can get Tower out of here." Tarot explained.
"And if we don't find a way to cancel the contract?" Red X asked.
"Then we go home empty-handed and his soul will be lost forever. We can't let that happen!" Tarot replied.
Raven and the others rushed to find Tower. After hours of searching, they arrived to a huge door which had a name etched into it which read: "E. Bloomberg."
"This is it. We can't open the door without a key and the door will be indestructible so we have to find another way through." Tarot replied.
"Leave it to me." Shouted Raven. The door turned black with Raven's magic and she walked through the door. Once on the other side of the door, she then opened it from the inside.
Raven couldn't believe her eyes. Inside the room the air reeked of smoke and brimstone, the heat was next to unbearable as she and the others walked towards the end of the room. Raven couldn't see anything; the smoke blinded her as Tarot took her hand and led her to a cage with a silhouette inside it. Winged horned devils prodded the prisoner with spears which tore away at his flesh. When he yelled in agony, fire shot through the cage but to no effect. The devils than laughed gleefully as they tore off what Raven thought was the prisoner's tail.
Red X jumped in front of one of the devils disarmed him and used the devil's own spear to kill him and the other devil. The smoke then cleared and Raven could now see the prisoner. Could she really have gone to this horrible place to save Him? Was she betrayed by her teammates to rescue the very being she hated the most?
"Trigon!"Raven yelled and charged at the man in the cage. As Red X tried to prevent Raven from going any further, she knocked him back with her powers and continued her war path. Just when she was about to strike however, she paused. This wasn't Trigon. Sure he resembled her father, but he wasn't him, he was Tower. Tower's wounds began to automatically heal and his tail grew back. It was understandable why Raven made such a mistake, his hair was white, his skin was, his breath was fire, and he had horns.
"Trigon again? I get that way too often. Does no one know who I am? Come on people I'm famous! Besides use your eyes, I only have two of them and not four. Also I got a nice tail. See these arms? Yeah underneath them are batwings so I can glide. And my horns are way cooler than Trigon's, besides I'm so much hotter than him! " Tower said.
Raven opened his cage and he sprang out with a huge glowing smile on his face and kissed Raven right on the lips. He then jumped away from Raven as she tried to use her powers to throw the cage at him. He avoided Raven's attack easily.
"Oh come on babe you can't say it was that bad. Besides I was just thanking you. Do you have any idea how long I've been stuck here? My ass is so numb from being trapped in that cage is almost as bad as the torture…almost. Besides, you can't resist me… I'm practically an incubus when it comes to women. Chicks totally dig the tail." Tower said happily with a devilish grin.
"Great…my first kiss. Now if you don't mind I'm going to go kill myself before your brimstone breath sets in. Who are you anyway?" Raven asked curious about this red-skinned hellraiser.
"Call me Kid Devil. But you must know me right? Come on, I'm Blue Devil's sidekick." Kid Devil answered.
"I thought Blue devil was a sidekick." Raven responded.
Kid Devil obviously ignored Raven's comment and turned to Tarot and Red X.
"It's about time you guys showed up! Do you know how long I've been trapped here? No seriously… how long was I trapped here? What took you guys so long?" asked Kid Devil as playfully shook Tarot and Red X. Despite being trapped for so long, he was just glad to be back with his friends.
"We hit a snag when we tried to rescue you last time. Lover was captured and we still can't find him. We had to recruit new members so we could rescue you guys."Tarot replied.
"I'm afraid I must cut short this little reunion. You three have invaded my land, trespassed on private property, stolen my contract and are now trying to take what is rightfully mine. Unless you are all going to accept my propositions, I insist you must leave." Neron said as he entered the room.
For being a head demon like Trigon, Neron seemed to be one of the most handsome of the Four Beasts that Raven had encountered. His flowing blonde hair, his perfect crystal blue eyes, and his chiseled jaw were captivating. His perfectly sculpted muscular body seemed more divine than demonic in form. His velvet green cape dragged across the floor as he floated towards her and the others. His all white ensemble only made Neron seem more angelic than corrupt. But Raven knew the truth, this was no angel, this was a tempter, someone so evil she almost lost her soul to.
"Neron, I am taking Kid Devil because have failed in your contract." Tarot said looking coldly into Neron's eyes.
"Really? Can you prove this bold claim?" Neron retorted with a smile.
"No, I cannot. But I know someone who can. Call off your guards outside and I will bring him here."
"And why would I do that child? No witnesses and no evidence means I can keep Kid Devil. Give me one reason why I shouldn't just throw him back in the cage and kill you all where you stand!"
"Because, if I am wrong I will give you my soul as a reward."
Neron laughed, "Sorry kid, no dice. As tempting as that sounds, one soul isn't necessarily equal to another. I will not gamble away my prize just get you if I win. However, if Raven was to be my prize then I may reconsider."
"No deal Neron. It's my soul or nothing, why would you not want mine? Think about it, if I'm at your side with my ability to see the future can be quite useful. Besides, why would you need Raven anyway?" Tarot said.
"Your soul is too pure for me touch Tarot. Raven has the corruption of her father so I may take her. Though normally I wouldn't want something so evil, my control over Raven would ensure that I can take Trigon's power. I do not need your ability to see the future because I am omniscient. It's either her soul or nothing at all." Neron explained.
"Alright then, I'll do it." Raven said as she walked up to Neron.
"Excellent, than we have a deal." Neron said smiling.
"But on one condition. If we succeed in negating Kid devil's contract then not only will we be released but we will take your soul as well." Raven shouted.
"I'm afraid I cannot accept that deal. You see, I have no soul to sell. If you want Kid Devil, then you must only take him and nothing else."
Raven nodded her head in agreement. The deal was made and Kid Eternity, Devil, Hanged Girl, Chariot, and Hermit arrived to look at Kid Devil's contract. After a few hours of studying the document the group finally came to a conclusion. The contract was flawless; Kid Devil would be forced to remain in the spire with Neron forever. Not only that, but Raven was now doomed to be a slave as well… unless….
Kid Eternity stood up to speak. "If we can prove that you didn't give Kid Devil his powers then you'd have to give him back. Hermit shall use his magic to determine if you were the one who really gave him his abilities. The air will spark green for yes and shall spark red for no."
Hermit placed his hand on Kid Devil's fore head. As he did so red sparks shot into the sky, Neron did not grant the boy his powers.
"I sense that although you may have activated his power Neron you were not the one who gave it to him. His body was born with this ability. He has a metagene. Though it remained dormant until you activated it, you gave him nothing." Hermit exclaimed proudly.
"You hear that Neron? We know the truth; all you did was flip the on-switch. Now give us back Raven and Kid Devil." Kid Eternity said defiantly.
Furious, Neron charged at Kid Devil but as he was just about to grab him, Neron's hand bursted into flames. He cried out in pain as Raven and the team ran away from Neron and teleported back to their camp.
When the group arrived they celebrated their victory. Everyone one hugged Kid Devil and praised Hermit as they all ate around the campfire. Laughter was everywhere, even Hermit and Hanged Girl chuckled. Kid Eternity and Raven sat alone with each other and spoke in private about the day's events.
"How did you know that Kid Devil was born with superpowers?" Raven asked curiously.
"I will tell you as long as you promise not to get mad at me." Kid Eternity replied
"You saved my soul, why would I be angry with you? Just tell me."
"Alright then you asked for it. I bluffed; honestly I had no idea about the origin of Kid Devil's powers. The only reason I wanted to disprove that Neron gave it to him was because it was the only way to free him. If I was wrong, then you would be gone." explained Kid Eternity.
"Great, so all it came down to was dumb luck. I feel soooo special." Raven said sarcastically.
As the crowd grew quiet, Devil, not Kid Devil stood up and laughed.
"I really wanted to keep my identity a secret for a little longer but now that Kid Devil is around I have no choice but to reveal myself to avoid confusion." Devil said.
Devil removed her hood to reveal a green-haired girl whose skin was painted white. Her clothes were black leather with a flower corsage, and a multicolored, multi-patterned undershirt. She wore heavy eye liner with some ruby red lipstick which seemed to increase the size of her smile.
As Devil giggled, she shouted "You can call me the Joker's Daughter!"
The group grew silent. Raven was lost for words. Raven hoped that her friends had not had such a strange day as she had.