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The Raven #1: Another Life
"Take her!" Deathstroke's familiar voice shouted from behind me as I ran. I could hear the clatter of heavy boots against the stonework as I ran. The silent pursuit of his two minions unnerved me more than anything.
They had never been the sort to be quiet in a fight before.
I spun around and saw the three of them, my opponents standing at the end of the alleyway. Deathstroke stood behind his two minions, a sword laid jauntily against his shoulder as he stared at me with that one eye of his behind the mask.
A familiar boy crouched before him. A red tail curling up over his back like a monkey's and his bare gangly body was a hard knot of muscle. I recognized him, despite the red skin and hideous lack of clothes, I knew him instantly and felt my heart clench in my chest.
"Garfield…" I whispered under my breath. I knew him. I remembered him… and I felt my blood run cold.
I think that's what separates me from the rest more than anything. I know they've heard of me… my existence isn't exactly easy to hide.
The two minions charged forward and I grabbed hold of a dumpster with my powers. I flung it toward the pair and snarled.
The blond girl hurled herself out of the path of the dumpster as Garfield leapt screeching over it. He dropped into a crouch when he landed. Deathstroke stepped back and cocked his head as if amused when my dumpster smashed into the wall on the opposite side of the street.
The girl ripped a block of stone from the alley floor and hurled it toward me with a gesture. Then I knew who she was… Terra.
The rock smacked into the shield of dark energy I conjured with an outstretched hand and I felt anger seize control. I snatched the massive dumpster from the opposite wall and lifted it into the air and pointed to the blonde girl.
The geomancer stared up at the dumpster, her eyes wide when a massive red rhino appeared between them and took the blow. I felt tears in my eyes as I saw the mass of metal roll off his body and shut my eyes.
"Garfield… I'm so sorry."
My name is Rachel Roth… Raven. Perhaps it would be better to say I am The Raven. Through the countless universes and timelines there is only one me. I guess that's just one of the side effects of being the daughter of an inter-dimensional-being that transcends the bounds of the universes.
A feral roar echoed in the alleyway and I stared at the massive hulking red Allosaur that now was framed in the alleyway. Its tail swung ominously and I could see from the familiar twitching in the creature's calves that he was on the verge of charging toward me. Then he charged with a roar.
I lifted my hand and remembered that power Malchior taught me so many lifetimes ago… the massive red form was struck with a bolt of dark energy and Beast Boy's body stretched and warped before reverting to a human boy that tumbled out of the air and landed on the ground between Deathstroke and me with a thud.
"Impressive." Deathstroke said before stepping past his two minions with the sword in hand. Then he charged forward, his sword flashing in the dim light.
I stumbled back and gasped as the blade ripped through the air just above my head. I ducked as a second slice cut toward my throat and felt fear roll through my body. Control, I needed control… Azar, I didn't need to lose it against Slade.
"You're holding back." He taunted and I felt my control snap.
I reached for the wall with my powers and tore the bricks free. The debris charged toward Deathstroke and I saw his eye widen before he leapt back from the whirlwind of bricks and mortar I had conjured.
He's always is so damn fast.
I've lived a hundred lives, died a hundred deaths, had friends and lost friends, had victories and defeats… so many defeats. Sometimes I remember my former lives, sometimes I don't.
Deathstroke stared at the whirlwind of bricks and squinted at me. "No wonder our employer is so interested in you."
This time… this time I remember… I remember it all!
My mind flashed back to happier times, happier lives… I see myself standing with four loyal friends, Dick and Kory, Garfield and Victor. I see my enemies fall and Trigon, my father, dispatched again and again…
As I stood there I in the dark trying to plan my next move, I remembered. The struggles and fights within a half dozen different timelines… And when I worried about my next plan to slam the door in the face of my father, I remember… I remembered all the help my friends offered, the comfort and warmth.
I miss my friends… I remember, Azar, I remember.
I saw Terra and Beast Boy stalk forward, a huge paving stone handing in the Geomancer's grip. Beast Boy snarled and turned into the massive form of a Gorgonopsid, his tusk like fangs dripping with saliva.
But they don't… The don't remember. Because, for them… it never happened.
I floated against the wall and felt my hands being enveloped in dark energy. Anger flared across my features as I stared down at the trio that faced me, and my heart felt like an icy lump. Tears came.
"Azarath… metrion… zinthos!" I shouted and the world went black around me. This time… I'll have to do it all alone.
It started three months ago, in Central City.
I woke on the side of the street clad in a simple hoodie and rather ragged black jeans. Not the nicest of ways to be awoken from a monumental shift in the universe, but I suppose I can't afford to be picky.
It's always like this. Azar dumps me upon a world to let my journey begin anew, my struggle, my torment. The mortal minds around me are always filled with screeching thoughts and unpleasant emotions. It always feels as if I need to relearn everything about separating my feelings and thoughts from those around me… Still it's always the same, but it's always a little different.
I groaned and pushed myself to my knees and looked around. Central City has rather unique architecture and it only took a moment or two of me to recognize it. My side hurt and my stomach was empty. "Azar…" I muttered as I pulled myself upright.
I always wonder if the Azar or whoever it is that is higher than her has a sense of humor. I mean, how many magical shops do you think exist in your average mortal realm? A handful in a metropolis perhaps… Jump City had… one.
I had woken up across from a shop called "Vela's Rare Tomes and Scrolls" which basically means… it was one of those places, filled with ancient dusty tomes and scrolls loaded with spells and incantations, treatises and other bits of occult work…
And a woman with a rather boring brown and grey dress was running out the door of the shop with her hands clutched around one of those thick heavy books. Red flames burst from the shop window and another woman stepped through the shattered glass.
She was tall, taller than me, and lanky… Her cloak and hood was a blood red and I could see gold embroidering along the edges. Her hood was angular and pointed much like one I would have chosen.
Then she lashed out with a hand and a blast of flames skewered the shopkeeper in the back of the head. She fell forward and the tome slipped from her lifeless hands and bounced across the ground.
I could see familiar fiery runes along the woman's arms as she slowly lowered it. A set of flaming wings sprouted from her back as she bent down toward the book. "Finally, the key to my lord's ascension!"
I didn't expect it… I couldn't have. None of my other rebirths had placed me in conflict with another like myself. Still, this woman had just murdered for a book, magic tome though it may have been. I reached out with a hand and snatched the white leather bound tome with my dark energy and drew it to my arms.
It fell into my arms and a glance was all I needed. The Azarathian runes and symbols seemed to be glaring up at me. It was the book of Azar, the guarded tome by which I had first learned to channel my powers and a sacred text to those from Azarath. In short, it was my bible.
The demonic woman glared at me and scowled. I could see a blood red glow in her eyes and swallowed a lump in my throat.
"In the name of Avnas, give me that book!" She snapped and held out her hand.
I held the book to my chest and reached out with one hand toward her. Black energy crackled from my fingertips.
"Azarath, metrion, zinthos!" I cried and dark energy engulfed the woman. Her red runes pulsed and her fiery wings strained against the band of darkness that wrapped around her midsection.
I wish it was that easy, but it never seems to be.
The black band pulsed and writhed for a moment before it exploded outward and flames arced high into the air. I ducked back and held a hand in front of my face to shield myself from the blast.
The woman scowled at me, her red glowing eyes burning with demonic fury. "Azarathian, I hope that is not the best you can do!"
"It wasn't." I answered in an almost bored tone. The black magic and shadow magic I had gained from my ancestry is weak against other demons. But it isn't the only magic I know and wield.
Magic is ninety-percent intent… emotions drive intent that is why I must be careful of my emotions, the magic I gained from my father is tied to the baser emotions, hate, anger, fear, and lust… The magic I wielded to defeat him was based upon a different set of emotions… a set I did not realize I held until I wielded them for the first time.
Friendship, love, happiness, contentment, and all those things scholars and philosophers call "good" power my other magic, my white magic.
I held out a hand and smirked. "Yahuah tenar Azarath!"
A blast of brilliant white magic shot from my hand and slammed into the woman tossing her against the storefront. Her demonic wings sputtered and died as the glow in her eyes flickered. She dropped to the ground panting for breath and the glowing red runes along her arms disappeared.
She stood and glared at me. "No… I am Phoenix! I will not be beaten by a mere mortal!"
The silhouette of a red bird sheathed in flames burst from her body and charged. I swallowed again as my darker emotions raged at the challenge of this… Phoenix's soul self.
"Okay, now I'm impressed." I muttered before calling upon my own inner nature. My dark half roared from my body and spread its wings resolving into a massive black four eyed raven that charged her phoenix.
The shadow raven shrieked before catching the phoenix in its beak and slamming it against the pavement. With a boom the red phoenix disappeared.
Phoenix stared up at me with shock, her red eyes widening in terror. "Who are you?"
I glared down at her as the raven returned to my body and I slowly floated into the air. My eyes glowed white as I spoke. "I am Raven, daughter of Trigon, and a knight of Azarath. Surrender."
"Never!" Phoenix yelled and shrieked as brilliant red flames engulfed her and blasted toward me. They sputtered futilely against a shield I raised as soon as she turned toward me. Soon the fire died, leaving behind nothing but embers.
I slowly dropped to the ground and stared at the scorch on the pavement. "Idiot."
I hugged the book to my chest and closed my eyes. Well, that was interesting. How could a book of Azar be of use to Avnas?
A distant siren drew my attention and I took a deep breath before glancing back at the scorch mark on the pavement and then the shopkeeper's remains. I knew. I better leave before the police showed up.
I knew Avnas, sometimes known as Amy, or the Arsonist, was a demon of Trigon's domain… though of far lesser importance than Trigon himself. Before Trigon had always tried to send avatars of himself or his children out for his bid for freedom, so was Avnas acting in support of Trigon or for reasons of his own?
I still don't know the answer.
If you've ever been there, you should know that Central City is awash with modern buildings, aside for a small slice of the inner city. Most everything has this… cleanliness to it. Plus the rather distinctive architecture made it pretty easy to identify where I'd ended up. It's a classic example of urban sprawl with 750,000 people spread out over close to 200 square miles, which made it around fifteen miles from one side to the other.
It's no wonder only a hero like the Flash could really operate here, outside of downtown the distances become just to vast for someone that isn't a speedster to get around.
I wandered down one of the streets in a bit of a daze. There is a problem with being reincarnated and dropped out of thin air in the middle of an alley. Every universe I've been in has this little thing called money and… I never have any.
My stomach grumbled with hunger when I glanced inside a McDonalds. The lack of money is always one of the most irritating things that come with being dumped here. I need to eat.
Scratch that, I needed to drink something… and public water fountains are not exactly something you find on street corners. I could live on the street, it's not fun or pleasant but I know how to, still… it was a good idea to check up on some old friends.
I wandered around downtown for about an hour, glancing at the storefronts as I passed. Finally, I found a cybercafé. A ten-speed bicycle sat out beside the stairs, and I caught a hint of a burnt rubber smell as I passed.
I should have known something was up at that point, but as I stepped inside and glanced around I really didn't pay that much attention to the pizza delivery boy arguing with the store clerk.
Still, that didn't mean I didn't catch most of their conversation as I walked to one of the computers and sat down.
"I ain't paying you…" The clerk said as I opened up the browser and started typing. "You said thirty minutes or less, and it's been thirty-one minutes."
"Aww man…" the pizza boy groused as I typed in the first couple searches. "I should have known the new line guy was to slow."
"Yeah… he's the guy that makes the pizza," the pizza boy said. He cursed under his breath and jerked back when the clerk scowled at him. "Sorry… It's just been months since I was late on a delivery."
"I still ain't paying," the clerk snapped.
I turned to scowl at the two of them and froze. He looked familiar… but I don't remember much about pizza delivery boys in Central City. He had wild red hair that stuck out from under the baseball-cap he wore and I could see a couple of freckles on his cheeks as he set the pizza on the table. I turned back to the screen and sighed.
Knowing the real identities of heroes is something of a boon when looking for them. A few quick searches later and I found that Garfield Logan had disappeared, just dropped off the grid… Dick Grayson seemed to be alive and Nightwing… Starfire disappeared a few months ago. There were a couple of news reports of sightings but not much. Victor Stone… was part of the Justice League.
It was strange, a departure from what I expected and that made it… Fascinating. Until I looked up another name that I'd run across on occasion: Kid Flash.
The result made my eyes go wide, it wasn't who I expected. The kid had a different uniform, and a different look. Apparently, he had gone by another name before becoming the current Kid Flash.
But where was Wally West? I mean the current Kid Flash didn't look anything like him, and Flash was apparently Barry Allan still. Name change, what? I kept typing and stared after a moment… Huh, there's a facebook page…
My mind went blank and I felt my jaw drop open. Staring back at me was the pizza boy. "No way…"
I bolted from the chair and ran for the door. The kid was by the bike already, his delivery bag swung over a shoulder and an irritated expression playing across his face.
The pizza boy looked up at me in surprise and I saw him arch an eyebrow at me. His brown eyes seemed to scan over me curiously. Then he bit his lip. "Umm… you know me somehow?"
I must have been unimaginably desperate to ask for help at that moment, but I didn't exactly have a bus fare in my pocket… or lunch money.
"I… I saw your facebook page," I stammered quickly. "I need your help."
"Well… I got another three deliveries to make." He gestured to the three other boxes he had tied to the back of the bicycle.
"How long will that take?" I asked.
"Oh ten minutes, my shift ends in an hour," Wally said with a shrug.
I bit my lip and glanced at the bike. If he really was Wally West then three deliveries wouldn't take him long at all. If he was a Flash they could be on the other side of the town and he'd be there in a moment. But was he a Flash?
"Would you be willing to come back in an hour?"
"Sure… I don't have anything better to do." Wally clambered atop the bicycle and set off. As he turned around the corner, I heard a squeal of tire noise and a column of blue smoke rose from where he disappeared.
I decided to update myself on current events during the hour that passed. I learned a lot of things that chilled my stomach when I thought about them. Already, Darkseid was on the move… Azar, was this truly everything that'd happened? No Titans? I… I supposed that since I hadn't been around trying to make the team to fight Trigon, it wouldn't have existed.
As I surfed the web researching and trying to wrap my mind around this world I found myself in, I tapped the book of Azar which I had set beside the computer I'd chosen. The door jangled as Wally stepped inside.
"Has it been an hour already?" I asked before pushing away from the computer and pulling my hood up.
Wally walked over to the desk and leaned against it. "So… this is an awkward way to start a conversation." I glanced up at him and arched an eyebrow. "Who are you and why are you asking for my help?"
"Because I need it," I said flatly. "Believe it or not, I know you…"
"Beyond facebook." Wally stated.
Wally stared at me looking confused. I'd seen that look on his face before. It felt almost nostalgic for me. "Really… how would you know me?"
"I'm… a trans-dimensional being, we've met before… on a different timeline, different world." I said chewing my lip as I spoke.
Wally's eyebrows disappeared under his hair. "Right… And you think that since it's me, I'd help you since there's always a little effect from other universes in the multiverse, right? That's multiverse theory 101. I had that two years ago." He folded his arms over his chest and glared at me. "But it doesn't prove anything, does it? Fine, tell me something that'd prove you know me."
"Assuming the universes are similar enough…" I sighed. "I'm sorry. Sciences are not my forte… I'm more into the mystic and magical arts."
"Magic? Please…" Wally snorted derisively, "It's nothing but technology… as Asimov said, 'Sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.' I don't believe in that stuff."
My lips curled into a tight smile as I looked up at him. "It's definitely you. I'll go out on a limb and guess that if I told you I was a half-demon trying to stop my father from taking over the multiverse you'd laugh at me."
Wally pushed off from the desk and took a step toward the door. "You've got to be kidding me… I'm leaving." His gate sped up as he passed me and I scowled. This wasn't going well.
I took a deep breath. "Dick Grayson is… or at least was your best friend, Batman's original Robin, and currently operates under the name Nightwing."
Wally froze and slowly turned toward me, his jaw slack with shock. I felt a cool smile spread across my lips.
"Your uncle is Barry Allen, the current Flash. You're researching your abilities in secret I'm guessing, hiding it behind your science courses…" I added and saw a cold sweat began to run down from Wally's temple.
He stomped forward and seemed to be resisting the impulse to grab me by the neck and shake me. "Who are you? How do you know that?"
I looked up at him and swallowed. "My name is Rachel Roth, I'm the daughter of Trigon the Terrible and Angela Roth formerly of Gotham… I do not know if she even exists in this reality. I'm an empath and magic user."
"Still don't believe the magic stuff." Wally snorted.
I narrowed my eyes at him. "Why aren't you Kid Flash? I saw a kid that looked like Impulse online with that title."
"Umm… I'm twenty, kind of old for the KF title, right? Anyway… Barry insists I get a degree of some sort before donning a new identity. It's a pain." Wally sighed.
I shook my head, the lack of Titans at work again I figured. "Oh… and since there isn't a youth hero group besides the one Red Robin just formed, you have nowhere to go in case you want to rebel?"
"Something like that, you hungry?"
I felt my stomach tighten at the thought of food and picked up the book of Azar. "Yes… that's one of the things I need help with, and I know you are." Wally's stomach growled loudly at that moment and I smirked. "Nice. Fast metabolism, right?"
"Uh… yeah, I guess you really do know me." Wally looked sheepish and thrust his hands in his pockets. "Listen there's a café that's great in town called Old Stevenson's. We can go there. You can ride behind me."
"No thanks… I'll just meet you there." I said and he stared at me in confusion before I opened a portal to the café in my mind. As I left I heard one last quip from Wally.
"Okay… starting to reassess the magic thing."
When the portal opened and I stepped out into the street I froze and felt a chill run down my back. I could sense another magical presence in the city, a familiar one.
One I'd had a rather rocky relationship with over the time-streams. I took a deep breath as I waited by the door. I wondered how long I had before he showed.
Wally skidded to a stop in front of the doors of the café and stared at me. "How is it everyone beats me to places?"
"Portals are faster than pure speed." I reasoned quietly. "Now…" I gave him the most pitiful expression I could, trying to remember the tricks that Garfield always had for getting me to give into him. "Feed me?"
Wally just stared at me for a moment before snorting. "You really aren't good at this stuff are you?"
"I'm trying…" I stated. "I don't do feelings."
"Okay… after you." Wally said as he held the door open and I took a deep breath before stepping inside.
Continued in… The Raven #2: The Demon Hunter