This story is based loosely on The Dark Knight Rises. I own none of the characters you recognize. The rest are fictional characters I invented. This is a story of how I think Talia and Bane spent their time beyond the Pit and training for the League.
The Cold and Heartless
Written by theleague-ofshadows
There were noises of combat; noises of a swords and obstacles. Searching for a target, and obliterating it.
"Has my father returned from his mission?" She sent one last blow to the practice figure, sending its head tumbling to the floor with a thud. Her muscles were tense yet her fire slowly starting to dim. She spent her mornings like this. Fighting. Practicing. Anything to kill the anger in her bones. The fire in her core.
She had her back turned to the guard. He did not answer immediately so Talia took time engaging other aspects. It was then that she lifted her shirt and replaced her bandages across her abdomen. She gritted her teeth as the touch of her fingers resurrected the throbbing just above her ribs. Her father was teaching her. Making her stronger. Absolutely humiliating her pride. But he was absent; his mission was running longer than planned. The League's leader had been gone less than four months, still, it was longer than normal.
For that time, she was forced to train with a partner who enjoyed jabbing her in the side with the flat end of his sword and it hurt like the scorching hells.
She remembered the practice stick prodding her side when her father would train with her, and his scoldings; "If it had been a real sword, you would be dead, and I would have to wipe your blood off of the floor." When he returned, she would be ready. She would be able to take him on.
Talia finished replacing her bandages and put her shirt back on, knowing fully well that it smelled like sweat and exhaustion, which had become her recognized scent. She put her father's sword back on the shelf and walked back over to the guard.
"He will be returning within the hour and by then he expects you to meet him in the dining room, dressed appropriately. His patience is thin and your appearance will soothe his mood if you look like your mother." The guard did not smile, yet he did not scowl. He began to retreat, expecting Talia to follow. She slipped on her shoes and exited the room, locking the door behind her.
Talia found herself alone as she made her way to her chambers. These walls familiar as they ever were, held a certain dry feeling as she creeped to her room, silently. She was a member of the League.
And innocence must be killed down where there is no light.
There was no more innocence in Talia, a girl of no more than seventeen. She was what seemed like already a woman, if that be possible.
She walked in the shadows as she neared her room when a dart whizzed past her head and nailed the frame of the door. She spun around quickly, crouching, her stance ready for a fight. She was greeted by M'har, who was smirking in the dim light of the hallway.
"M'har!" Talia shouted, but couldn't help the exhale of relieved air. He wouldn't hurt her; couldn't. They grew up together. He was her first friend, ever since she found her father. He was the only thing she knew. The only thing she trusted.
"Baby Tal. Always ready." M'har walked towards Talia and removed the dart from the door. "Your father almost home?"
Talia glared at him. "He is to be here within the hour. I suggest you leave me be, so I may make myself presentable. I am told he is in a terrible mood and you won't want to be around to experience it." She turned her back to M'har to unlock her chamber door.
"He has a surprise, Tal." He sounded serious. He mumbled something under his breath that Talia missed.
She turned around to look at him with a frown. "How would you know?" She asked.
"When does he ever personally wish to meet with you the day of his return?"
"Get dressed in something pretty, Tal." M'har patted her shoulder before he turned and disappeared.
Talia Al Ghul entered her bed chamber with every intention of not meeting with her father and sleeping the rest of the afternoon away.
But she couldn't defy her father. Especially not when he was in a foul mood.
A different guard was standing in the door way. Talia had changed from her practice clothes and the change was significant. Her metamorphosis was uncanny. She looked in the mirror. It was evident she looked that of her mother.
Her dress was beaded and crafted so precisely that she felt so miniscule in the dress that was so abstract. Her hair was nothing but short curls. Not much could be done to make it look pretty. So she just added a clip speckled with diamonds to her brunette locks. Texture.
"Is he in any better graces?" Talia pondered. She avoided the guard's gaze as she passed around him and into the hallway. Her heels making a clapping noise against the stone floor.
"He disappeared the minute he returned. I know less than you." The guard led her down the hall and out the door, crossing the courtyard and past the garden. Her heels began irritating her soles and she silently groaned with each step she took.
Her father was back. He had been gone for three months, two weeks and three days. And now he was back. And she would have to train harder and better for their next combat session. She would have to be better. And she would have to be much stronger.
The sun was nowhere to be seen. The clouds made their appearance a week ago and they have been around ever since.
Talia Al Ghul walked down the corridor, turned right, and followed the hallway to her father's personal dining room. She paused in front of the door. She knew that the guard wouldn't follow. She turned her head an inch, not knowing if she should say any kind of farewell.
Turning the door knob, Talia entered the room only to find it empty. There in the middle of the room was the table, lavished with only the finest meats in the middle east. There was a fireplace that had a magnificent fire brewing, enveloping the room in the warmth. Talia walked over to the table and traced the pattern in the table cloth, wondering when her father would show. She thought back to M'har telling her about a "surprise" and wondering if that was the case. Why else would her father wish to see her the instant he returned? She doubted he loved her that much.
Taking a step towards the fire, Talia felt her stomach drop. What if she didn't like his surprise? What if it was a bigger responsibility to take on? What more could he want from her? Talia hated surprises. Loathed them.
She crouched down, feeling the warmth close to her skin and sighed. She loved fires. They epitomized everything she ever wanted to be: unforgiving, dangerous, powerful. The warmth was so inviting. She stared into the flames and saw herself. Her fire. Her loss. Her pain.
She saw everything she had lost in her early years. Her mother. Her innocent. Her—
Talia felt the ice in her stomach, felt the terror in her veins. It had been six years. She had let go a long time ago. She didn't want to reminisce any more than she wanted to stab her thigh.
Standing up, Talia found a book on the fireplace shelf. She ran her finger along the binding, feeling the gentle leather under her fingers. She opened the book to the first page.
"Your mother was with me the night I bought that journal." Talia flinched as her father's voice sliced the silence. She turned quickly on her heel, her eyes finding his. "She told me that the binding was so beautiful, that she thought it was the work of the gods."
Ra's Al Ghul stalked over to where Talia stood by the fire. He was not much more than five feet away from her, but it was still too close. Her father's face was impossible to read. She did not know whether she wished to embrace him or retreat a few steps. That was her relationship with her father. Enough love to fear.
He stepped foward and placed his palm on her lower back, turning her towards the fire. He was now to her left, watching the flames as she did earlier. Though, she doubted he was seeing what she saw.
"Her silk had a similar pattern." Talia spoke with tenderness but felt the bitter taste in her mouth. Her mother didn't survive the Pit. She did.
Her father's jaw clenched. He knew that Talia knew the story. The story of why her mother was condemned to the Pit instead of himself. He knew that she understood. He, however, would never forgive himself for allowing his beloved to get involved with such a situation if he knew it would have taken her life.
"My child, join me at the table." Ra's stance shifted and he reached for Talia's hand. Talia had expected a raging temper, but the rumors must have been mistaken. Her father was angelic. He made sure her chair was tucked in when he crossed to the other side and seated himself.
He asked her about her training and her education. Her experiences and challenges while he was away. She answered politely and in a vague manner. It was not awkward, yet no more comfortable. This was expected. This was real.
Talia sliced her sirloin and placed it in her mouth, savoring the taste as she examined the room. She brought her water glass to her lips and sipped lightly.
"The mission went as planned, dear child." Ra's smiled at his daughter. "I have brought you back a surprise."
Talia's stomach fell. She knew it. She just knew it. M'har was right. She sucked in a nervous breath. How could M'har have guessed? Maybe it wouldn't be bad. Not all surprises were bad. She placed her hands in her lap.
"And what kind of surprise are you going to present me with?" Talia looked up under thick eyelashes. Under the table, her nails were stabbing her palms as she watched her father stand up and walk towards the fire to gaze inside once more.
"I have found you a partner to train with. One I believe suitable enough to take on your fire. You will wake at five o'clock each morning and spend ten hours training each day. You are to treat him with the greatest respect because he is not your equal, Talia. He is experienced. More than you. I will not allow you to mess up your chances of becoming the best you can be because of your temper. You will behave, do you understand me?" Ra's turned around to look at Talia.
Talia looked down as she frowned. She didn't want to train with someone else. She wanted to train with her father. She wanted to be his apprentice. Not some stranger's. Her father was so sure she would mess this up? And what if she refused?
"Do you not wish to teach me yourself? Have I proven myself unworthy?" Talia fumed. "You cannot pass me along to another. I am not to be shared! I am your daughter and I want to be taught by my father!" Talia shook her head. She didn't want change. She wanted the ordinary. The comfortable. The expected.
Ra's kept his resolve as he waved away her rejection. "Talia, dear daughter, you do not see the logic in my decision, but I will prove to you that this is not the wrong choice. You will train with the assassin of my choice and I will not have it any other way. You will be the best, Talia, in time."
Talia stood up in a haste. She slammed her clenched fist atop the table sending a shiver through it, causing it to vibrate. "You cannot do this, I will not be apart from you. If you make me train all day with someone else, when will I see you? When will I know my father?"
Ra's made his way to Talia and cupped his daughter's face with his hand. Talia pulled her face away, turning her back to her father, praying to the heavens that she wouldn't cry. She wasn't sad. She was furious.
"I will not leave you, Talia."
Talia groaned. "You don't get to promise me that!"
"I did not promise it." Talia turned to look him in the eyes. His honesty was painful, but she knew it was true. He could never promise that. Not after the first time. Not after he had been torn from her a first time.
"Do not defy me, sweetheart." Ra's face warmed a little. "Do you remember when my men and I went into the Pit after you found me?"
Talia nodded, frowning.
"I was offering jobs to only the finest, strongest men who I thought could be made into warriors." Ra's face grew solemn. "I asked the doctor who had helped your mother give birth to you what you were like as a child and he told me about your life after your mother's death."
Talia looked down, pinching her forearm. Her mother's death had led her to a brand new life. To a harder heart. To a loss of innocence. One that led her to her dearest friend.
"The doctor explained the complications of having a female inmate amongst the rest of the men. He told me about the way the inmates didn't suspect until the last minute. When you had to live on without your mother, you lost your childhood. I know, dearest. I know how hard that was."
Talia gripped her father's hand as the tears escaped and she tried to blink them away.
"You were careful, but they found out, didn't they? That you were not a boy. That is when they attacked you?"
Ra's wiped her tears from her face. Talia nodded.
"But you were not alone. You got out. The Doctor told me."
Talia stared into her father's eyes. They had been over this. Why was he repeating himself? Then Talia remembered that she was mad with him. She didn't want to talk about the past. It wasn't exactly a warm subject. He knew that she was pained when she talked about then.
"I don't want to talk about what happened then." Talia started to pull away from her father's grip. Amazing herself with her defiance, Talia walked around her father.
"Talia, you are not to leave. We are not finished."
Talia spun around, the fire in her rising. "I do not want to be told anymore! I'll be damned if I have to hear another word about my dead mother, and you should let her name rest. Not let her be remembered as another helpless woman being trapped in the sorrow and pain you never knew!"
"Don't you want to know who you will be training with?" Her father questioned, seeming to ignore her insulting words.
"You!" She shouted, "I will be training with you!"
"No." Ra's shook his head. "No, Talia."
Talia glared at him. "Then I will not train at all."
"You will change your mind." Ra's challenged softly.
Talia scoffed. "And what makes you so sure of that?"
"I know you, Talia. I know all of your secrets."
And at that time, Ra's decided that it would be wise to leave his daughter with no goodnight, kiss on the forehead, or wish of peaceful dreams
"You will meet with your partner come five o'clock. Sharp."
Once he was gone, Talia screamed with rage. Her fingers furiously wiping the tears at her cheeks, her calloused fingers rough.
She left the room without another glance behind her and found her way to her room knowing fully well that no sleep would come tonight.
In the morning, Talia washed her face. She pulled a shirt over her head. Her hair was pulled back.
She clenched her fists as she pressed them into the sink, shutting her eyes tightly to try and satisfy the tension in her core. She had slept a mere two hours, but even then they were not sound. Her mind would not rest. She inhaled deeply, trying to prepare her body and attitude. With one last sharp inhale, she left the sink, walking out of the bathroom and to exit down into the hall.
Talia found herself in the same room she was in the day before. But then there was no longer a headless practice figure. Her partner had not arrived. Talia was alone.
The lights suddenly cut out. She was in the dark now. Only the light from the early day came into the room, but even that wasn't much. The shadows lied.
But she knew this room. Knew it like the back of her hand. Her instincts became alert as she knew a threat had become evident.
She ran as fast as she could to the wall, jumped and kicked off, grabbing the bar above her head and swung around until the bar was pressed to her abdomen and she was holding tight. She flipped around and now she was swinging, gaining enough momentum to fling her body onto the second level. Landing wasn't pretty, but she quickly repositioned her stance. Her intuition told her that she wasn't alone.
And she trusted it.
She ran towards a barrel, leaped over it and tumbled behind a series of boxes. She was getting used to the dark. She could see better now. Her breathing was ragged, but she felt the air shift then something move to her right. Someone, a figure sent, a blow to her shoulder which she barely dodged, causing Talia to jump over the boxes and off of the first level. She landed on her ankle wrong, making her limp for a few moments before she endured the pain and made her way to the weapon shelf. She grabbed a sword and slung it around to barely miss the turban of the figure. Masked and unrecognizable. The only thing assumed was the opponent was male due to his size. This opponent wasn't here to train her. This one intended to kill her.
After grabbing a sword as well, the figure and Talia clashed weapons. She shouted with effort as she put all of her force into the next blow. The figure used the flat end of his sword to hit her in the side. She hissed but aimed for his leg that he deflected. She managed to get behind him and send a blow to his lower back, but the figure seemed unphased. As if her force didn't even matter.
As he turned, she ducked under his arm and crouched. The figure stared at her then ran in the opposite direction, jumping on a table, flinging him up to the next level. Talia was searching for movement but saw nothing. She kept circling, searching the air and checking the grounds.
But he was faster than her and stealthier. He appeared once more and grabbed her forearm and slung her on the floor on her back, knocking the air out of her. She choked, searching for her breath. She had bitten her tongue, causing blood to flood her mouth. She made attempts to move but she knew he was going to end this now.
The lights suddenly came back on. The figure circled Talia who was sitting up now. The man looked at her. His eyes were roaming her face with an interest unknowable and indescribable. Talia's hair was shadowing her eyes. She watched the masked figure tilt his head to the side as he studied her.
He looked into Talia's face deeply and something confused him. "What does Ra's Al Ghul wish to complete by training such a young thing?" His voice was muffled but he sounded as if he was hollow. Like he was speaking through metal. He stood up from his crouching position and turned his back to her and started walking.
Talia felt the iron taste in her mouth as she spat out her blood. "I'm his daughter" She replied. "I believe he wants me to carry on his legacy."
Something wasn't right then because the figure froze in his tracks. Slowly tilting his head to the side, his body began to follow until he was all the way turned around. He looked into her blue eyes. Searching. She wasn't sure if he was finding what he wanted.
What did he yearn to find?
Did he want to see her fear?
The figure's eyes widened and he took a step back. He did not look scared, but shocked all the more.
Talia breathed unevenly as she tried to keep her eyes locked on the figure. He was trembling, bringing his hand up to hover over the cloth wrapped skillfully around his crown and mouth. She watched wide-eyed as he stared into her soul. She didn't know why the reason behind his sudden rigid figure.
Tangling the fabric in his fingers, he unwrapped until the cloth fell to the floor.
His face was barely a face. He wore a mask that seemed to be sending oxygen to his lungs. That seemed to be keeping him alive. His face was marred. His face was broken. But Talia knew this face. She knew it all too well.
Talia stared into the face of her childhood protector. Her eyes were wide with disbelief.
She was looking into his eyes as she thought she never would again.
He hadn't changed enough for her to forget.
"Bane?" She breathed. She stood up to inch towards him. She watched his body move to hers.
Bane's eyes were wide and his trembling hand reached out to touch her, to end his suspicion if the present was his reality. He clenched his jaw when he touched her cheek.
"Talia… You've grown."