Prologue: Two Graves
"Woman is the only creature in nature that hunts down its hunters and devours the prey alive." Abraham Miller, Unmoral Maxims
May 6th. Two days after the Fall at Saint Bartholomew's Hospital.
The woman watched the gathering summer storm from the window of her humble yet comfortable home, apparently lost in her own thoughts. Her strange brown eyes, the color of cinnamon, had minute tints of gold, and they reflected the lightning just as surely as the howling wind reflected the violent stirrings of her own soul.
The woman used to be very beautiful. Once. She supposed that she still retained some of her former vibrance, but the years of running and stress had taken their toll on her once flawless features and perfect health. Her face carried the strain of a lifetime of loss and worry, just as her hands were covered with the invisible blood of countless people that she had killed over the years.
Now, sorrow added new lines to her face, and her eyes were slightly tinged from weeping. The reason behind her distress was reflected in the headlines of the crumpled "London Times" at her feet.
Sherlock Holmes was dead.
No matter how many times she read the newspaper headlines or the articles posted on the internet, she still could not completely believe it.
How could Sherlock be dead? He was like her, a flame that burned without reserve, untamed by moral conventions, heedless to the obstacles around it.
But even a mighty flame can be extinguished…
The woman shook her head angrily and balled her fists, but refrained from punching one of the walls, as much as she wanted to.
She was an intelligent woman. She could read between the lines and figure out exactly what had happened. Unlike most of the people reading the stories, she had a unique insight into the players.
Many years ago, she had personally known Sherlock Holmes. Not the cold machine that hid his feelings from the world, but the real Sherlock.
The man who knew what it was like to be different, misunderstood, constantly trying to blend in when you knew deep down that you never could. The only one outside her own family who could see in a way no one else could.
The man who saved her life, and made it worth living, even though he himself did not know it.
He deserved better!
Unconsciously, the woman shivered, suddenly chilled to the bone. She used her hands to rub the warmth back into her arms, only to feel the tell-tale scars left behind from years of self-mutilation.
It had been a long time since she picked up a razor and felt the sweet release of her psychological pain leak out of her, just as easily as the blood flowed from her wounds. The last time was almost eight years ago, when she first set foot in London.
Since then, she had discovered other ways of dealing with her mental anguish. Less destructive ways, as she could no longer afford to be careless with her health.
But, oh, to escape the pain…
With a low growl that resonated within her throat, the woman turned away from her window and flopped into a nearby chair. She should not focus on her grief. There was nothing she could do about it, so why bother?
And cutting herself, even after so many years, would avail her nothing in the long run but more scars on the underside of her arms. While the release of the pain was wonderful at the time, the emotional agony always came back a few hours later, further compounded by her guilt and anger of her own stupidity and delusion.
And she was powerless against grief.
However, she could do something about her desire for vengeance.
And she knew who was responsible for Sherlock's demise.
Unlike most of the deluded populous, she knew that Moriarty was real, and that the persona of Richard Brooks was nothing more than a work of fiction, as was the other falsehoods, half-truths, and outright lies about the life and death of Sherlock Holmes.
She knew all about lies. She herself had been running from the self-proclaimed criminal consultant and his network for years, always under assumed names and always looking behind her shoulder in constant fear.
Her entire survival was based on a lie.
Before she had read the headlines, she had hoped for nothing more than to live out the rest of her existence in safety. Was that so much to ask?
But now, circumstances have changed. Because there was no such thing as true safety. Not anymore. The life she had created for herself was an illusion, nothing more. Ready to be destroyed by a sniper's bullet at any moment.
She was tired of hiding.
She, of course, had watched Sherlock's life from afar, from reading the papers she had specially delivered to her and lately from reading the blog of that doctor friend of his. She knew Sherlock considered himself a consulting detective, just as she knew that Jimmy considered himself to be the consulting criminal.
But neither man had a monopoly of the title "consulting." After all, wasn't she the self-proclaimed consulting vigilante, who helped selected clients of hers track down those who did them wrong so that they may taste justice that the world often denied them? For years she had engaged in her business of hiding people, as well as "disposing" a few of Jimmy's employees when they became a direct threat to herself or her clients.
So why shouldn't she do the same?
Outside, the lightning danced across the grey sky, followed by thunder that threatened to shake the house. Unperturbed, the woman picked up the cell phone that was positioned on the table beside her chair and dialed a secured number that she had committed to memory.
The phone rang once, then again, before someone picked up on the other line.
Unconsciously, the woman's left hand causally grazed the scar on the left side of her chest, a physical reminder of one of her run-ins with Moriarty.
"It's me!" She said without preamble. "Listen. I have a job for you."
"Ah, a business call then! What are we doing this time?" The unidentified person asked. "Which client is this hit for? Or are we relocating someone?"
The woman paused. Did she really want to do this?
Do I really have a choice?
"This time, I'm my own client."
The person on the other line fell mute for a moment, but only for a moment. "I had a feeling this was coming!"
"I take it you heard the news." The woman said stoically, pointedly ignoring her friend's comment.
"About Mr. Holmes? I have. You have my condolences, Dani." The person said respectfully.
"I don't need condolences." The woman known as "Dani" said. Her voice was polite, masking the cold fire within. "What I want is revenge. Or justice. Depends on how one views it. But it amounts to the same end!"
The person on the other line paused. "What are you talking about? What good will that do? You remember the reason why you are in hiding…"
"I am well aware of that! You needn't remind me. I know! But circumstances have changed. It is time to do what I must. While I still can!" Dani said solemnly, glancing back at the storm clouds outside.
The person on the other line gasped, and then spoke in a hushed tone, as though fearful of being overheard. "Don't be stupid! It's not just your life that you are risking…"
Dani growled impatiently. "I am aware of that! You don't need to tell me anything I don't already know! I know what the consequences and risks are, especially if I lose!"
Dani bit her lip to keep from screaming profanities at the person on the other line. "Chelsea, I don't have a choice! Soon, I won't have anywhere to run to!"
The person on the other line, Chelsea, paused again, no doubt trying to find the right words. "Are you going to contact Mycroft Holmes about…you know? The other matter?"
Dani frowned as she rubbed her left hand through her red hair. After years of dying it different colors, she was finally allowing it to stay its normal rose-colored shade. Her eyes narrowed as she pondered Chelsea's question. "I don't know yet. Probably not! There is too much of a risk. One of Jimmy's operatives already works for the British Government. Maybe more. And the last time I tried to warn Mycroft Holmes about Jimmy, he didn't listen to me!"
"I bet he wishes he did now! But what about her? Does she know…?" Chelsea asked softly, almost sympathetically.
Dani fought back a sob. "No. I...I haven't told her! I'm not sure if I can! She doesn't even know I'm planning on going after Moriarty yet!"
"I see." Chelsea whispered on the other line. Her professional tone betrayed no emotion, but the woman could almost hear her friend shake her head in disapproval.
Not that she cared at the moment.
"Look, I know what you're thinking. I know what Moriarty did to you. What he did to me! But I have to do this! I am going to take Jimmy's empire apart, piece by piece, member by member, until there is nothing left! I want to exterminate any trace of its existence!" Dani said grimly.
"You know you can't go after Moriarty's empire on your own!" Chelsea persisted.
Dani smiled. "When a person seeks vengeance, he must be prepared to dig two graves."
"One grave for his enemy, and one for himself." Chelsea finished the quote sullenly. "But why should you have to bury anything? Why do this now? After all of this time? I know it isn't just because of Mr. Holmes!"
Dani smirked. "Think about it, Chelsea! If Jimmy can destroy Sherlock, even with Mycroft watching over him all the time, then what chance does anyone have? Eventually, someone has to take a stand, or none of us will ever be safe!"
Outside, the wind started to pick up. Dani paused and watched the growing storm with interest. When she spoke again, her voice was softer. "I know I will probably die soon, Chelsea. Everyone dies eventually, you know. And I can live with that. But I just want to make sure that Moriarty's dream fills one of the graves I dig. I want my sacrifice to mean something! Is that selfish of me, you think?"
Chelsea sighed in defeat. "No. I guess not. Figures you would get all psychological on me! And there is nothing I can say that will change your mind?"
Dani smiled, sensing victory. "Nothing! My mind is made up!"
"Very well." Chelsea conceded, resignation evident in its tone. "So, what do you want me to do?"
Dani curled back in her chair, silent elation coursing through her veins. "I need you to call our members. I want a meeting with them in exactly three days from now, at ten p.m. local time. What I am asking them to do will be extremely dangerous, both for them and for their families. So there will be no orders. I will be asking for volunteers."
"What?" Chelsea gasped. "I mean, that is certainly…charitable of you. But you are the Raven! You only need to issue the order!"
Dani smirked at Chelsea's use of her title. "I may be the Raven, Chelsea, but I am not Moriarty! I will not needlessly throw away lives just to satisfy my whims, like he does! Everyone who goes after Moriarty's web must do it of their own free will, or we risk someone turning traitor in our ranks. It will be volunteers only!"
"Well, if that is the case, then you can go ahead and mark me down as one!" Chelsea said resolutely.
Dani frowned, her forehead lined with worry. Of course, how could she forget? Some of her underlings over the years had become her closest friends, and Chelsea was no exception, having served under Dani for almost eight years. "You are under no obligation…"
"Oh, shut up! I am not doing this out of obligation! You saved my life, remember? You aren't the only one looking over your shoulder, waiting for Moriarty and his assassins to pounce the second your back is turned! If we are going after them, then I want to do my part!"
Dani smirked at Chelsea's uncharacteristic outburst. Despite her posh exterior, Chelsea occasionally displayed her more emotional side. Still, it was a rare thing when she did so. "Thank you, Chelsea. But this will not become a bloodbath! I'm planning on taking out Moriarty's empire, but I'm going to do it in such a way that it will keep us all out of danger as much as possible."
"Then I'll do anything I can!" Chelsea whispered loyally through the receiver.
Now Dani did cry, as silent tears began to course down her cheek. However, she kept her voice completely casual. "I know you will! Still, I want the others to decide for themselves." Dani said, causally playing with a strand of her crimson hair. "To those who don't want to take part, I plan on giving them the necessary resources so that they can disappear completely off the radar before I officially declare war on Moriarty's web. That way, no innocents will be caught in the cross fire."
"Sounds reasonable." Chelsea commented. Even from the other end of the receiver, Dani could hear the faint scratching of a pencil, and knew her friend was writing down her instructions.
"There is one other matter to consider, too. I won't be in my position of leadership for much longer, so we need to decide on who will take my place. The process will probably take several months, but we need someone to be named the new Raven. We cannot let Moriarty's web know that I am no longer going to be filling that position."
"I'll make the necessary arrangements." Chelsea promised. "I'll set up everything, and let you know after I have contacted everyone."
"Thank you, Chelsea." Dani said quietly. "I will talk to you later."
Once she completed her call, Dani sat the phone back down on its charger. She took a moment to ponder her thoughts and feelings about what lay ahead.
Having made her decision to go after Moriarty's web, she curiously felt no fear or anxiety. She had dreamed of it for so long, yet always faltered at the first step. Now, she was determined.
It would be so liberating to be on the offensive for once, after so many years underground.
There will be no freedom for me, or for anyone else, as long as Moriarty's empire continued to flourish.
It was time for someone to take a stand! Because if I don't, then who will?
Dani smirked coldly as she considered this. Yes, who was left who could stand in Moriarty's way?
The local authorities were incompetent, and easily hampered by the rules and regulations that society imposed on them.
The secret forces, sanctioned by the world's various governments, were infiltrated by several of Moriarty's employees, and had already proven themselves woefully unreliable.
The only other person who had a chance, remote as it was, of out-witting Moriarty, was now a victim of his manipulations, as were hundreds more like him.
There really was no one left, was there?
But Moriarty wasn't the only one who had an empire that existed in the shadows. After all, was she not The Raven, the consulting vigilante and harbinger of death to her enemies? Didn't her little empire span the globe as well? While not as ambitious as Moriarty's organization, did she not also have contacts and employees hidden around the world, ready to follow her orders with unquestioned loyalty and devotion?
Was it not true that she also knew how to hide? And wasn't it a fact that she had unlimited financial resources, even though her home and meager surroundings belay that fact?
Besides, didn't she owe it to her parents, who Moriarty killed all those years ago? And not just them, but her uncles, aunts, cousins, friends? Sometimes, late at night, she could still see their faces in her dreams. Occasionally, she would still wake up in the darkest hours of the night, her family's screams still echoed in her mind.
They had not been silenced, even after all of this time.
Didn't they deserve a small measure of justice, before she finally joined them?
And didn't she owe it to Sherlock?
Outside, the storm finally broke, sending torrents of rain down to batter the window panes and rooftop. The electricity of the house flickered on and off for a moment, and then the entire house went dark.
Heedless to the raging storm and the gloominess of the room, the mysterious woman began to make plans.
You aren't the only person who can play games, Jimmy. Dani thought spitefully. But unlike everyone who has played before, I will play using your own rules!
You don't know it yet, but I am setting up the board for the last game!
All I have to do now is find some willing players.
Author's note: Yes! I did it! I finally had the courage to post a chapter! I wrote this story over the last two weeks after watching a rerun of the last "Sherlock" episode. I live in America, so we didn't get to see it till many months later. Still, it's a great show, and I'm hooked!
As if you couldn't guess, this is my first fan fiction story ever! You all write great stories, so I thought I would try it. Remember, this was all written in the space of two weeks. Two stress filled, sleep deprived weeks! So please be gentle with me and don't crush my obvious mistakes just yet! No flames, please!
Ok, time for obvious disclaimer. No, I do not own the show "Sherlock" or any characters therein. I only pretend to own a couple of OCs, although they would care to disagree. As of right now, both they and the Sherlock characters are chasing me down and threatening to skin me alive. If you want to know why, you need to read the rest of my story, which is almost done.
I am not asking for much. Just one positive review, and I will continue my story. Just one! Even if it is out of pity!
Thanks to all of those who took the time to read through my prologue. Sincerely-Peaceful Defender.