A/N: Holy. Freaking. Crap. As if this chapter wasn't already long-overdue! I checked the data for it, and I've not updated it SINCE LAST JUNE. Good lord, I'm horrible...*dies in the Corner Of Shame* Well, in all honesty, I had a much cooler chapter title in mind, but since Hunting Moon seems to be the only fanfic I write where I have silly, goofy title chapters, I just stuck with what I'd been doing. As always, credit for each fancharacter appearing is given to the creators in the copy of this chapter that is on my deviantART account. Please R&R!
Chapter 7: We Find A Crazy Old Bat Lady
Diana felt groggy, light-headed, disoriented when Raphael nudged her awake, and if the reactions from the mutant girls was any sort of gauge, so did they. Even Michelangelo seemed a bit out of it, leaning on Donatello for support for a few minutes. She tried to clear her head, shake away the dregs of sleep, and the lingering nightmares of Derek Collins coming after her. It barely made a difference, and she got to her feet with a whining groan.
"C'mon, you guys," Raph said, not unkindly, "Sooner we get movin', the betteh. We ain't far from home now."
"Good," Don groaned, "We've been gone long enough already. I don't even want to think about what Leo and Master Splinter are going to say."
"Hold-hold on a second," Diana murmured, rubbing her head, trying to gesture to indicate the other girls, "Don't forget about them. They need a place to stay."
"But our place isn't big enough for all of you ladies," Donatello protested calmly, ever the practical one, "There's no room-"
"I know a place." Michelangelo butted in, tossing Diana a reassuring wink before smiling at the other girls. "Don't worry; you'll have a safe place to crash for a while."
"Now that that's settled, can we get a move on?" Raphael demanded. "My stomach's startin' ta feel empty."
The others made mutters of consent, and they began to fall back in line, eager to get to a safer place. Diana was about to begin talking to the cat-mutant, Hunter, when there came a soft tap on her shoulder. She glanced around, only mildly surprise to find herself staring into blue eyes skeptically examining her.
"What's up, Mike?"
"Nothing, it's just...have you always had that streak in your hair?" He asked. "No offense! It looks wicked awesome, but I don't remember seeing it before."
She took a step back, alarms going off in her head. What was he talking about?
"Mikey, I don't...have...a streak in my hair." She said slowly, waiting to gauge his full reaction. What was this, some kind of joke? If it was, she didn't find it funny. He stared back at her, scrunching his green face in confusion.
"Yeah, you do." He said slowly, and when she glanced at the other girls, they were nodding, eyes wide and staring. She scoffed, half-amused by the ridiculousness of it all.
"Oh really?" She said with a snort. "You guys are all telling me that I went to sleep looking normal, and now that we're all awake, suddenly I've got a streak of color in my hair?"
"Yes." Hunter, Spyra, and Allegra all chorused.
"Big bright tomato-red streak." Lola clarified with a slow nod. Diana's eyes went wide and she faltered for a moment, feeling her hands go clammy. What the hell was going on? This couldn't be a joke, not with all of them in on it. Hunter, she seemed like a joker as much as Michelangelo did, and she wasn't sure about Spyra, but Lola and Allegra seemed too...honest to joke about something like that. She looked back to Donatello and Raphael, who had spun around by this point to see what was happening, and their faces too, twisted in surprise and confusion.
"No, Diana, you do have a streak in your hair now..." Don said slowly, as though not sure what he was seeing. "Not that that should really be possible, but..."
"But what?!" She wasn't successful in keeping the panic from her voice.
"Well..." Don jumped, startled by her outburst and looking somewhat panicked himself, "I guess I could run some tests on it when we get back and I've got my equipment. Heck, maybe even Leatherhead could help. But this doesn't really make sense..."
"Then I say we worry about it then," Raph spoke up, tone softening a bit when he looked to her and added, "'Till then, just be happy, 'cause it makes ya look like a bad-ass."
"Ugh, it still doesn't make sense!" She grumbled as they resumed walking, and she folded her arms, chewing her lower lip. Her mind was already starting to nudge her to a possibility, a reason, an explanation for the sudden change to her hair, but she wasn't ready to hear it. Her other voice started to say something, but she spoke up again in an effort to drown it out. "And who is this Leatherhead you guys keep talking about?"
Her question still hadn't been graced with a straight answer from any of the three brothers by the time they reached the lair once more, but the second they were inside the safe walls, any desire to keep pressing the matter flew from her mind. They were met at the door by Leonardo, his face thunderous and his posture suggesting they were about to get an extensive lecture.
"Leo, hey!" Michelangelo started, darting ahead to try to smooth things over, "We were just-"
"Gone the entire night." His elder brother snapped. "Where the heck were all of you?"
"Gee, Leo," Raphael growled in response, "If you were so concerned, why didn't ya just come an' find us, huh?"
The folds of Leonardo's blue mask tightened as his eyes narrowed and he leaned forward. The air charged with tension, and chills ran down Diana's spine. Unsurprisingly, she got the feeling the other girls were flinching, and she thought she heard Allegra let out a small whimper of fear. Neither of them looked ready to back down, and Donatello and Michelangelo started exchanging worried glances, probably wondering whether or not to jump in and break up a fight.
"Oddly enough, Raphael," Leo shot back, words crushed as he spoke through gritted teeth, "I stayed out of it. Mostly because Master Splinter had his reasons for asking me to. And because I couldn't be rude to our new guest."
"Rude to me? How would following us be rude to me?" Diana asked, unable to stop herself. Leonardo's eyes flicked onto her and he frowned a little, some of the tension leaving his body.
"Not you, Diana," he answered, "Our other new guest. She showed up right about the same time we noticed you were all missing last night."
"What?" The word circulated among their number in a series of gasps, followed by many a furtive glance between the mutant girls. Wordlessly a silent agreement passed between them all, and Raphael relaxed, uncurling his fists and nodding to his older brother. Leonardo scanned his brother's expression for a moment, then nodded back and gestured for them to follow him inside. They passed through the entrance hall and into the main room, the high ceiling stretching above them, and in the center of the room, perched on the couch talking together, sat Master Splinter and one of the most unusual mutants Diana had seen yet.
She was a bat mutant, with lines in her face that placed her around Splinter in age, and she was covered in soft, tawny fur that clashed with the black membrane of her wings. She was sipping at a small cup of tea as she spoke with Splinter, eyes closed, and a gnarled old walking stick lying in the crook of her arm. Though she never looked up from her tea, her large ears quivered as they stood on end, and they swiveled about on her head, tilting toward the door as the turtles, the mutants and she entered.
"Ahh, they've arrived. If you'll pardon my interruption, good sir." The bat-mutant crooned in a high-pitched voice, turning her head slightly to face them, never opening her eyes. "And what fine timing, at that! Come closer, children! Come closer!"
"Children?" Raphael spluttered incredulously.
"Raph..." Leonardo murmured in a low tone of warning.
"All of you, come here, come here!" She insisted, gesturing with her claws for them to approach.
"Children," Splinter said in a strange tone of voice that the turtle brothers had rarely heard him use, "May I introduce you all to Sensei Luna?"
"Sensei Luna?" Donatello asked.
"Hi, Sensei Luna!" Michelangelo exclaimed, rushing forward to shake the bat woman's hand, "It's really nice to meet you!"
A smile turned up the corners of Sensei Luna's muzzle and she tilted her head to the side, ears flicking back and forth.
"So eager!" She said with a small laugh. "You must be Michelangelo. And the other one who spoke is your brother, Donatello. He has a very calm, even voice."
Donatello jumped, face flushing, and stuttered as he shuffled closer to the bat.
"H-how did you k-know that was me?" He asked, and Sensei Luna smiled brightly.
"Your brother Leonardo has spoken to me extensively of you all," She answered before flicking her ears toward the group again, "Where is Raphael? I thought I heard him a moment ago."
"Heard?" Mike said for a second before glancing at the walking stick and exclaiming in comprehension, "OH! I got it, you're-"
"Mike!" Don hissed, driving his heel into his younger brother's foot. "Be polite!"
Luna let out a low chuckle before taking a few careful steps forward, her mobile ears slowly moving like large radars. Within a few seconds, her head snapped about and faced Raphael with an eerie sense of confirmation, and she rapped the butt end of her walking stick against the floor.
"Why is it you hang back from your brothers, Raphael? You give off waves of tension, uneasiness, distrust. Come, come, I mean no harm." She said calmly.
"M-ma'am." He responded awkwardly, face flushing in chastized embarrassment, and Diana let out a barely contained giggle at the sight. But immediately she wished she hadn't, as the bat woman's head turned to her, and Sensei Luna's eyes opened at last, revealing deep brown eyes that were filmed over with blindness. If she had been able to see once, Diana realized, her eyes must have been nearly black.
"Ahh, yes. Miss Diana Charday." She murmured in a voice so low almost none of them could make out the words. "I have been expecting you, as well as the four you have brought in your wake."
There was no ominous tone to her words, no hidden threat, no sense of foreboding whatsoever. And yet, chills ran down Diana's spine as though she could feel Derek Collins' shadow spilling across the walls like shadowy ink, waiting to hunt her until death. Luna had been expecting her? Well, it made sense, if Leonardo and Splinter had sat up talking with the old bat lady all night. But there was something, almost like another level to her statement, that led her to believe that Sensei Luna would have been expecting them all even if Splinter and Leo hadn't been talking with her. And apparently, she wasn't the only one who had gotten that impression either.
"What do you mean, you were expecting them?" Michelangelo asked, before catching himself and awkwardly adding on, "Err...S-sensei Luna?"
"Come on, Mike, you just heard Leo say that he and Master Splinter were talking with her last night!" Donatello groaned.
"No, do not chastize your brother, Donatello," Sensei Luna crooned, turning and offering the two youngest turtle brothers a reassuring smile. "He asks a valid question; do not seek to silence him because his ears hear what yours do not."
"Huh?" More than a few voices chorused the word in confusion, and with another gentle laugh, the bat mutant urged them to come further into the sitting room, gesturing for each and every one present to sit in a half circle around her as she resumed her perch next to Splinter on the careworn sofa. After they had nearly all settled comfortably, Luna started to gentle prod and nudge the girls with the end of her walking stick, pushing them all closer together. Then at last, she began to speak, her high voice taking on the lofty tones of a well-versed storyteller.
"I was sent here by my master, to guide the five young women who would weave again the greatest Web ever known."
"Oh great, I'll just go get Donny's index of prophecies tah look this up in, huh?" Raphael said in exasperation, crossing his arms and rolling his eyes with a snort before Leonardo shot him a warning look. If Sensei Luna had heard his remark, she gave no indication of it.
"The Web of Tricksters..." Luna said, voice ocillating up and down as she seemed to become lost deep in thought, "Born of the unified powers of the gods of mischief: Puck, Baast, Hermes, Loki, and...Anansi the Spider."
Diana's eyes shot wide open and her body broke out in a cold sweat.
Oh dear. Tried so hard to forget about those 'minor' details, didn't we?
Her teeth clenched and she shut the voice out in a panic, trying to throw all her focus into what the old bat lady was saying.
"The mythological gods?" Donatello said skeptically.
"I do not need to launch into a theological discussion to see that you doubt my words." Luna said with a wry smile before continuing. "But take my word when I say my master Hermes sent me here for a purpose; the Web of Tricksters must renew its strength by drawing on the energies of their living, mortal avatars, and so I am here to guide and train these avatars in conducting and controlling the use of their new...abilities."
"Renew its strength?" Lola spoke up.
"Living mortal avatars?" Spyra murmured.
"D-drawing on energy...?" Allegra murmured.
"New abilities?" Hunter exclaimed, her ears shooting straight up and her tail puffing in excitement. "Oh my gosh, lady, if you're talkin' about what I think you're talkin' about-"
The twisted end of the bat mutant's walking stick swung down and gently rapped the cat mutant on her head in a display of mild irritation.
"Watch how you word yourself!" Luna's shrill voice snapped, "You are to call me 'Sensei,' 'Sensei Luna,' 'madame,' or 'Your Most Young, Beautiful, Esteemed Graciousness!'"
At this, Michelangelo caught Splinter's eye, and the two exchanged a stifled snicker.
"Sorry, madame." Hunter muttered as she sat back, ears drooping, mullified.
"Hmph," the bat lady huffed, "Apology accepted. But yes, I do believe everything you are each thinking is exactly what my words have led you to believe. And Diana is the one who knows this to be true."
"Me?" She exclaimed, color draining from her face. She wanted to scream a denial, to say this whole thing was absolutely insane...but those milky, unseeing dark eyes fixed her with a stare so intense her throat seized up and her mouth ran dry.
"You." The bat woman's voice went cold. "You are the one whose actions caused this to occur before the proper time. If the natural cycle of the Tricksters had been allowed to renew as it always does, then the Trickster gods themselves would have selected their avatars of their own accord. They would have chosen freely the mortals they wished to share their powers with in exchange for life energy, not be forced into an unlikely spiritual connection they weren't prepared for."
"And why are you accusin' Di of this...ma'am?" Raph asked in a testy voice.
"Because it was she who called for Anansi's aid when preparing to run from the man who killed her father for greed." Luna responded, shifting where sat.
"Wait! Wait a minute!" Diana snapped, surging to her feet, slapping a hand to her chest. "You're saying that me asking Anansi-asking the spider god for help just on some whim because I was scared-is causing this whole freaky avatar-icon-whatever thing to happen?"
"Precisely." The older woman answered crisply, as though it were simply elementary knowledge and nothing at all out of the ordinary. "Somehow you forged the mortal-avatar contract with Anansi when you called for his aid and he answered. As a result, the rest of the Trickster Web has been forced to claim their avatars, and no doubt, as per Anansi's dictations and scheming..."
Her blind eyes shut and her head swiveled, ears flicking, in a gesture that swept over the mutant girls present, and they shuddered as one, Allegra clinging to Lola, whimpering.
"They have chosen you." She finished. A heartbeat later, her forbidding demeanor vanished, and she gestured to them all to come closer. "You, Lola, have received the gift of my own master, Hermes."
The blonde turtle girl's eyes widened and her jaw dropped slightly, but she recovered quickly, simply nodding silently.
"You, Hunter, have received the gift of Baast, the cat deity of great Egypt."
"SWEET!" She crowed, bouncing up and down where she sat.
"You, Spyra," Sensei Luna continued, turning to the brunette turtle girl, "Have received the gift of Puck, the beloved laugher and most sly of all the fey lords."
Spyra blinked, a blush darkening her cheeks, clapping her hands over her mouth.
"And of course, Diana already has the gift of Anansi."
Diana frowned, chewing her lower lip in thought. But before she could ask exactly what these gifts were, Allegra let out a squeak, drawing everyone's attention.
"A-and me...?" She asked hesitantly, shuffling forward just a few inches. The aging bat mutant slowly turned her head, her muzzle pointing down to Allegra, and her expression softened, full of pity and silence.
"Yeah, what about Allegra?" Michelangelo asked, looking from the dog girl to the old bat woman and back. "You said there was another Trickster, right? That Low-Key guy?"
Sensei Luna shook her head, her ears dropping low in a way remniscient of flowers wilting, and she let out a weary sigh. "Lord Loki, I'm afraid, is highly unpredictable and very selective about his mortal avatars. No, Allegra has not received Loki's gift."
"What?" Lola blurted out, brow ridges turning down in a sudden scowl. "That's unfair!"
"Alas, you do not have the reasoning of a Trickster god, Lola dear," the older mutant woman responded, "At least, not yet. My Lord Hermes believes that another Immortal, someone from a faction outside of the Tricksters, has already marked Allegra with their power. Whether or not that is true, I cannot say, not at the moment. Regardless, if all the Trickster Immortals believe this, then Loki will have refused to grant Allegra his gift. Chances are, given his specific nature, he may have refused to grant her his gift anyway."
"So now what?" Diana asked. "What are we going to do about this? Allegra's not been given a contract-thing with these Tricksters, but the rest of us have. And this Loki didn't pick one of us. And oh, before I forget, we don't even know that the heck we're supposed to do with this contract stuff! We don't even know where we're going to be staying!"
With a swish of air, the blunt end of the staff rapped Diana over her head as well, and the older woman let out another impatient huff.
"So much spirit, but hardly controlled." She muttered, "Tell me Splinter, how in the world is it that your sons are so well-behaved?"
"Ahh, that is a secret that I may only divulge over a cup of tea, madame."
This statement was met with several looks exchanged between the turtle brothers, the sort that said they were more than a little weirded out by the interaction. But after a moment, Luna answered Diana's question, regaining her normal grace and dignity.
"Do not worry about where we will shall remain; Leonardo has already shown me an ideal location nearby where you girls shall house with me while I teach you how to use your gifts. And Allegra can stay with us, of course."
"Whaddabout Di's trainin' with me?" Raph demanded suddenly, cocking his head to the side. Sensei Luna's ears tilted back and forth, and she let out a small laugh.
"Of course, of course, Raphael," she said, a smile curling up the corners of her muzzle, "You and Diana shall be allowed to continue your training together. After all, I daresay you'll both need it."
"You seem troubled, Miss Luna." Splinter remarked as he delicately sipped at the tea he held, eyes remaining locked on bat mutant. A few hours had passed before things had calmed down enough for him to finally talk her into that cup of tea. Her ears tilted back in response, quivering in a stiff way.
"I beg your pardon?" He asked, lowering his voice.
"My name." She murmured, "It's actually Beatrice. At least it was until I became this."
"...you were human before?"
"Yes, I was." She said with a nod and a heavy sigh. "It was my lord's wish that I introduce myself under this ridiculous psuedonym. But I place my trust in you, Master Splinter, at least enough that I can share that with you."
"Beatrice..." He murmured, smiling and casting his eyes down to the tea as he swirled it around in the cup. "It is a lovely name."
"Thank you." She answered, another of those captivating smiles coming over her face. "And to answer your question, I am troubled."
"Is it about Loki not choosing Allegra to be his avatar?"
"Hardly." She answered, sipping at her tea. "Knowing the delicacy of the situation, Lord Loki has already chosen an avatar. We must simply await her arrival, and then the Web will be complete. And Allegra does not worry me; she has a role to play in this scheme of Anansi's, if I know anything about that wicked old spider."
"Then what is it that weighs on your mind so?" Splinter asked quietly. "I do not wish to pry, but I sense uneasiness in you. Please, feel free to share with me if it will ease the burden upon you."
For a long moment, the bat woman did not respond. She exhaled gently on her tea, then sipped at it a little more, the long, tapering fingers that connected to the membranes of her rustling wings holding the cup delicately, as though worried she would break it if she truly held it. Finally, her head snapped about sharply, facing the direction of Donatello's makeshift "office," where the purple-clad turtle and his younger brother in orange were carefully examining their young human friend as she sat fidgeting on a table.
"Tell me, Splinter...you have seen Diana Charday prior to this morning...is there anything different about her appearance on this day?" She asked in a conspiratorial whisper, and his eyebrows rose sharply. He took another glance at his sons and Diana, before humming a low consent, taking a sip of tea again before answering.
"She has a long streak of red color in her hair now."
"She is carrying the Widow-mark."
Beatrice gave a slow nod. "A very powerful curse, only capable of being cast by spider-gods from around the world." She explained. "It has a very distinct, itching sort of feel to the energy that emanates from the mark."
Splinter remained silent for a moment, countenance darkening as he let out another pensive hum.
"Do you think Anansi cursed her with the Widow-mark for forcing the mortal-avatar bond between them?" He asked softly.
"I cannot say that I am able to guess his reasoning behind bestowing such a curse upon Diana," she answered, "Nor do I think your son's science shall explain anything-"
"He still wants to examine it a bit," Splinter interjected calmly, "As soon as our friend Leatherhead arrives. Pardon my interruption, Miss Beatrice."
"You're quite alright, dear Splinter," she replied, "All I am saying is...we may never know Anansi's reason behind giving Diana the Widow-mark. But be warned, it is dangerous. It can deteriorate her mind over time, crumble away her human reasoning down to nothing but base emotions and primal needs. And who knows what effects it may have on her flesh."
Splinter looked at her in surprise, eyes opening wide. "Are you saying Diana could become a mutant?"
Beatrice's ears lowered a fraction more, going completely stiff.
"It is possible," she whispered, "But the venom of a spider bite can have unpredictable reactions and consequences. For now, all we can do is watch...and wait."