"Arella?" Raven called in her even voice as she walked down the long hallway in the narrow shack. Chaos surrounded her every step. Chairs lay in broken heaps, splinters littered the floor, smashed tables, broken glass, torn pictures and paintings, some she recalled from her own childhood.
"Arella?" What could have happened? Hadn't this meeting been planned for a few months now? Why was everything so ransacked?
Raven gulped hesitantly and then, in a shaky voice, dared to call out "Mother?"
Sobs suddenly touched her ears coming from a room at the end of the hall. "Mother?" They grew louder. Raven rushed back to the room and threw what remained of the door aside, to find Arella Roth curled in a corner, sobbing to herself. The woman looked up at her with shocked, tear-stained eyes.
Raven closed her eyes, trying to remain neutral. "Raven, Mother. What hap-"
"My daughter?" Arella asked, rising to her feet. "Rachel? Is it really you?"
"Raven." Mother and daughter watched each other for a moment. Arella stood very close, too close in Raven's opinion, just watching her with wonder, yet deep, deep sorrow reflecting in her blue eyes.
With a bright smile, Arella thrust her arms around her daughter, hugging her as tight as her shaking arms allowed
"Arella," Raven breathed in shock. She pulled away, took a step back so that she was at a distance, and then looked her mother evenly in the eye. "What happened here?"
"Rac-" Arella began. Raven gave her an icy glare. "Raven. I must tell you. Raven. You…you have…a little…sister!" Bursting into sobs again, she collapsed into a heap on the floor.
Raven was completely taken aback. A little sister? But why-?
"I have a little sister?" she asked once she regained her calm composure.
Arella nodded at the floor.
Raven took a breath. "Why are you…she's not…Trigon's, is she?"
The only response she received was sobs.
"Is she? Arella, please tell me she has a human father!"
"Oh, yes!" the woman cried. "Her father…was all too human…"
Leaving that story unquestioned, Raven continued. "So, why were you crying? You weren't afraid to tell me, were you?"
"No," Arella sobbed. "But…oh, Rachel!"
Raven raised an eyebrow.
"Raven." Her voice lowered to a whisper, "He's got her!"
"Who's got her?"
Silence consumed the room. Raven's imminent disgust and hate for her father clung to the air, unwilling to let the word die. Father. It echoed in her ears and it was as if she could hear his evil chuckle now in the very back, the very deepest, darkest part of her mind. The part that still belonged to him. The part that would always belong to him.
Arella was sobbing again.
The mother looked up at her daughter.
"Why would Father want your child?"
"To get to me," she answered feebly.
"Why would he want you?" Raven demanded, annoyance starting to grip her throat.
"To get to you."
Understanding hit the Azarathian like one of Star Fire's awful Tazmaranian dishes. "No," she moaned, grabbing her head and spinning away as her mother tried to explain.
"He must have somehow known we were keeping in touch this past year! He waited until we were supposed to meet hoping I would go after Renee and you would go after me!"
Raven stopped, turning her face her mother. "Renee?"
"Yes, that is her name. She prefers being called Wren." Arella chuckled to herself, tears still streaming down her face. "Funny. Both my daughters wanting to be called by bird names. You have so very much in common."
"I don't think that coincidence counts as having something in common."
"Oh, but you do have much in common. You are sisters."
"Half sisters," Raven said under her breath as she turned away again. She stilled the swirling thoughts in her head with little difficulty and took a breath. "You have to leave. You can't stay here." She began to walk away, flipping her hood up over her head. "I will bring your daughter back soon."
"No!" Arella cried out, lunging forward to grab her daughter's wrist. "Please, no! Don't leave! I will not lose two daughters in one day! Please, Rachel, no!"
Raven watched the tear-stained face for a long while, trying to raise some sort of compassion, but nothing came to her but contempt. "I'm not doing it for you, Arella," she finally said.
Her mother dropped her wrist and stared at her, seeing the ice in her violet eyes. Her own eyes dropped to the ground as she spoke. "I know you hate me. I know you will never forgive me. But I will not regret your birth, Raven. You are my daughter, and no matter whom your father is or what you do, you will always be so. I do not, nor will I ever regret bringing you into this life…even if you do."
Raven felt the ice in her blood start to melt. A sign she was still alive, at least. But, this was not safe. No, letting her emotion toward this woman go was not safe at all. She started to walk out again, but stopped in the doorway. Looking back at the broken woman, standing in the midst of her ransacked home with nothing left to hope for, Raven could not help but give her something, even if it was weak.
"I do not hate you…I'm sorry."
With this phrase standing as a farewell, Raven whisked out of the door and flew back to Titan Tower as quickly as she could.
When she arrived at her home, Raven teleported silently into her room to avoid her friends. No explanations, no attempts at humor, no offers of companionship could help her. She only needed the ring and the bowls.
The ring was hidden safely in her bedside table, locked in a drawer with a key she always wore. She was about to dig out the bowls when there was a knock at the door. She considered not answering. The knock came again.
"Oh, come on Raven, I know you're in there!" Beast Boy's voice sounded from the other side. "Open the door!"
She sighed, walked to the door control panel, and opened the door just a slit, just enough to see what he wanted and then send him on his way. Why now of all times? Hadn't she just listed attempts at humor as one of the number one things that could not help her?
"What?" she asked.
Beast Boy smiled slyly at the ground and rubbed the back of his head. "I was wondering if you could answer a science question for me."
He smiled boyishly. "Ok! What do you call a flower before it opens?"
Raven glared at him. "You want the scientific name for a flower before it opens?"
"No! Just tell me what you call a flower before it opens!"
"This isn't a science question."
"Would you just go with it and answer me? What do you call a flower before it opens?"
Beast Boy smiled brightly. "I love it when you call me bud!"
There was an awkward silence as Raven continued to glare at him. "You're a fool," she said at last, and closed the door.
"Oh come on!" he yelled into the door. "That is a funny movie! How can you not think that's funny?"
"It was hilarious," she replied sarcastically. "Now go away."
"Oh, whatever," he said, turning to run down the hall. "Hey! Cyborg! I need you to answer a science question for me!"
Raven stood for a moment, eyebrows drawn together, staring off into the direction where Beast Boy stood telling his odd little joke again. What an idiotic attempt at humor. Then she started to smile. It was so dumb, it seemed funny. She did smile. It actually was kind of funny.
She shook her head to clear it. That was enough nonsense. The bowls, where had she hidden the bowls?
As she searched through her room for them, she turned the ring around in her hand. The ring. Her father had given it to her as a gift when she was just a child. If she simply put it on, she would be transported to his dimension. Trigon was always convinced she would eventually join him. Her life was not over yet. Maybe she would. The thought triggered nothing but hatred and fury, but it was true. As long as he existed, as long as he had the small piece in the back of her mind, he could influence her.
The bowl was a gift from her mother. Arella had seen the child with the ring and when she discovered what it was, she was horrified at the thought that her daughter might be sucked into that awful place without a way to get back out. When Arella had been kept captive at Trigon's palace, she had stolen two silver bowls that, when you filled one with the water of your home and the other with the water of Trigon's fountains, created a sort of bridge between dimensions. She kept the bowl just in case Trigon ever again tried to keep her, but she grew much more concerned about Raven's way out, and so gifted them to her.
She filled one bowl with water and set it on her bedside table. Then she wrote a quick note and stuck it on her door. With a quick breath, she stuck the other bowl inside a pocket in her cape, pulled the ring onto her finger, and set off for her father's kingdom.
Beast Boy ran back to her room. This time he had thought of one that would really get her to laugh…or…at least smile. Ever since that first time he had made her smile, it had become a hobby to try and do it again. It was such a challenge! And Raven was…beautiful when she smiled. She was always pretty, but when she smiled…it was as if she was open, as if she was finally herself.
He saw the note taped crookedly on the door, words written rushed, but neat. He read:
I have to leave for a while to visit some family. Don't expect me back for a few months. Stay safe.
P.S. Stay out of my room.
Beast Boy, that means you.
At first he was annoyed about the input of himself, until he realized the fatalities of the note. Raven had just been to visit her mother. And she had no other family. Besides her evil demonic father, of course, but-
Beast Boy froze. Oh no!
"Robin!" he called, snatching the note from the wall and running toward the training room. "Robin, Raven is gone!"