(I haven't updated in awhile so just thought I'd throw in this short bit while I work up the grand finale...one of these days!)
Chapter 47 – The Doorway
Themyscira – The Library
Selene, Berenike, and Cyanna, the Chief Healer of Themyscira, stared in horror at the mutilated body of General Philippus, lying dead on the floor of the Library. Cyanna, for so many years her sister-in-arms, began an uncontrollable keening of grief, and in her wailing voice was also the sound of rage. Selene and Berenike whirled around to face Philippus' murderer - the eight-foot-tall creature lurking before them, gore still dripping from its fangs and black muzzle.
"Lois, get the hell out of here! Now!" Batman shouted, but the Daily Planet journalist didn't seem to hear him. There was a wild light in her eyes that he'd never seen there before.
Lois raised her sword, crying out with the Amazons. The black blade seemed to glow in the library's subdued light.
"Monster! Demon! Die!"
Screaming in defiance, Selene, Berenike, and Cyanna flung themselves at the ghoul with their weapons, howling in Themysciran.
Making a hideous noise that was a cross between a glibber and a growl, one more of irritation than anything else, Pickman backhanded Berenike hard enough so that she went flying, crashing into a shelf of papyri. Cyanna swung at him, but he – it – was faster. The downswing missed him, and his paw shot out, striking her in the side, sending her sprawling to the floor.
Batman swooped forward in a heartbeart, scooping up Diana's baby in his left arm. With the other he managed to grab Lois' arm, yanking her back. Lois cursed and tried to pull away, but he kept an iron grip on her.
Selene threw herself thoughtlessly at Pickman, only enraged at seeing her friend and companion hurt by the ghoul. She lunged with her sword, at the same time he jumped – on all fours – and slammed into the Amazon, knocking her to the ground hard. The sword flung free of her grasp, went skittering under the shelves. Stunned, Selene lay prostrate on the floor beside the half-conscious Cyanna, trying to catch her breath.
Pickman loomed over her. He reached down and grabbed Selene by the neck, lifted her off her feet so that she was staring at eye-level with the ghoul chieftain.
"We've seen you before, haven't we?" Pickman glibbered. "Yes, one of the Bodyguard, eh? You harlots are much more trouble than you're worth, and not more than a mouthful at that." His mottled lips drew back from black gums, revealing his yellowish fangs, still stained with human gore. His rank breath made Selene retch even as she struggled to breath, her hands futilely trying to break its grip on her throat. Selene starred in horror at the flesh still hanging between its teeth.
With a burst of strength that startled even Batman, Lois managed to break free of his restraining handhold, and ran with her black-bladed weapon, slashing at Pickman, crying out.
"Let her go!"
She had trained for months, but it takes years to make a truly skilled warrior, as any Amazon could have told her. Lois seriously meant to kill the thing, but her blow was delivered clumsily, and the tip of the blade only managed to shallowly cut Pickman's arm, slicing its stiff, black fur. But, it was enough to cause a foul-smelling ichor to drip from the open cut.
Pickman dropped Selene, who fell dazed to the floor, heaving. He turned his mottled, outraged eyes to Lois, and she shuddered, seeing nothing human in that half-human visage.
"You…cut me," Pickman muttered in indignation. He took several, loping steps towards Lois as she backed up nervously. His voice rose to an outraged bellow. "You…cut me!"
Suddenly, the figure of the Batman jumped between them, his black cape thrown up between Lois and the ghoul.
"Leave her alone!" Bruce roared. "This ends here!"
"They attacked me," Pickman pointed out, but his attention grew diverted to the child in Bruce's arm.
"That thing there," he glibbered. "That creature. That is more important than that wretched woman you're protecting! Give it to me!"
"Go to hell!" Bruce growled. "I'm leaving here now. The baby goes with me."
"Damn it, man!" Pickman shouted, for one moment sounding almost like the human he had once been. "Don't be so bloody sentimental! Don't you see that creature is of the utmost significance right now?"
"Why, Pickman?" Bruce demanded. "For what possible purpose could it serve?"
Pickman's eyes gleamed in the dim light of the Library, but his voice carried a note of urgency. "If you open a door you must find a way to shut it again. There's only one way to stop it from coming through the doorway...the doorway the Amazons so foolishly opened three thousand years ago."
Bruce shook his head. "I don't care," he replied stubbornly. "There has to be another way. I will find a way..."
"You still don't understand," Pickman's eyes narrowed. "I am not the only one who wants the child. Someone else, the one who opened the gate in the first place."
Pickman sneered. "The Amazons deserve their fate. Leave them to it, then. Listen to me, and you will avoid being swallowed up like your friends will..."
The moment Pickman's attention was diverted by the Batman, Lois rushed to Selene, helping her up. Selene only had eyes for Berenike, who still lay stunned on the floor, but was trying to get to her feet. Cyanna was moaning in pain.
"Are you all right?" Lois whispered quickly.
"My ribs are not in the best shape, I believe," Cyanna hissed. "But I will live."
"We've got to get out of here," Lois urged. "While we still can!"
Berenike limped over to them, staring incredulously at the black stain on Diana's sword. "You struck the demon!"
"Barely," Lois muttered, quickly glancing at the ghoul and Batman, who were still standing in a some kind of face-off. As a reporter, she'd always been a little fascinated – and a little frightened of, although she'd never admit it out loud – the Batman. She would have liked to learn more about him, gotten an interview with him, but Gotham City wasn't her beat...and for once she had to admit that now the timing was bad. "Let's get out of here while we can!"
"I brought the baby here because I was worried the Amazons would harm it, I would never have done so if I thought I would place it in harm's way," Batman said in a harsh voice. "Most certainly not to hand it over to you, for any reason, not even for what's coming!"
"You cannot protect it, Wayne," Pickman took a menacing step forward on his half-cloven hoof. Bruce resisted the impulse to take a step back "You cannot protect anything. You are totally powerless. You are nothing but a weak human of mere flesh! Haven't you understood that yet, with your lump of grey gloop in that thick skull? You don't know anything here!"
"You don't know me, Pickman."
Batman posed his strong side towards the ghoul, expecting any moment for Pickman to attack him. He may not have any tricks left in his belt, but he would show it a thing or too. Then he would get out of the city and find Diana and Kal-el, and end this madness.
Suddenly a massive earthquake shook the earth, and the Amazons cried out and clung to each other, to keep from failing again. Debris rained from the ceiling, blinding them with dust, and a thunderous sound echoed throughout the shuddering Library.
"What's happening!" Lois cried.
"I know not!" Selene shouted. "It is coming from outside!"
"Hurry!" Berenike shouted, grabbing her companions. "Run! To the atrium!"
"We can't leave Batman!" Lois shouted, but she felt Selene's arms pulling her, and she couldn't resist. Then she heard the mewling, throaty growling of something not human, very, very close to her ear and she fled with the others.
The roaring noise continued, and Bruce realized with horror that it was the sound of destruction, not an earthquake. Something very bad had just happened, he knew, something great building had collapsed, and that could only be the Palace. The onrush of dust filled the Library, and everything was plunged into darkness. Instinctively he knew that this was his chance; he had seen Lois and the other Amazons flee in the opposite direction, before his vision was obscured, hiding them - and Pickman.
He tucked the baby deeper into his cape to protect it from the flying particles, and rushed for the direction he hoped was the right one. High above him was an open window, from which slivers of light still shone through the haze. It was just wide enough to accommodate an adult man.
He raised his arm and rappelling lines shot from Bruce's forearm towards the windowsill and he saw them take hold. He braced himself for the leap...then darkness and pain engulfed him
Lois and the Amazons raced down a narrow passageway as quick as their injuries would permit them. She had done enough war corresponding to have realized that what she was hearing was the sound of a massive building collapsing. Something very big had imploded and that rather suggested to her that the battle might not going very well. Lois wondered if there could be any more fresh hell coming, if that was possible. She hoped that the Library would not be next. She glanced behind her quickly, fearing that the ghoul was pursuing them, but she saw nothing but darkness, as the walls began caving in.
"Run! Run faster!" Lois screamed, and they all did.
She hoped Batman had managed to get out, with the baby.
Finally they saw a glimmer of light and they sprinted for it, their hearts and lungs bursting. They emerged from the passageway into the thin light of the day. It stunned Lois, for a moment; back in the Library, the glow had been brighter. They collapsed on the rocky ground, gasping for breath, their hands to their sides. The thunder died, and for a moment they heard nothing but ringing in their ears. As the dust cleared, and they could see again.
"The sky," Cyanna gasped, staring upwards in shock as she lay on the ground. "What has happened to the sky?"
Lois didn't hear her. She was already back on her feet, looking around frantically. She thought that she dimly heard the sound of a baby crying. Batman! Where was he? She saw that the concussion from the implosion of the Palace had caved in part of the Library. The part of the Library she and the Amazons had only very recently vacated. Did he manage to make it out?
Lois stumbled towards the ruined Library, away from her companions. She had to find out what had happened. In the distance she could still hear the sounds of battle, shouting and cries, but she saw no one else. The light was fading, too quickly for a normal evening, some part of Lois' mind realized, but she hardly considered it for right now. The brightest light was now coming from the fires of burning papyri, which the fallen oil lamps had ignited.
She heard no response, but she heard the crying of a baby, and relief flooded through Lois. There was movement, ahead of her. She climbed atop the brickwork...yes, a tall dark shape ahead, slightly hunched over, standing atop the rubble.
"Batman! Thank God..."
The figure half-turned to her...and Lois saw a sight that would be burned in her mind for a long time to come.
It was not the Batman.
It was the ghoul, standing there, shillouetted against the darkening sky.
Horrified, she saw him turn, and saw that he was not alone. What was left of the light glinted off its eyes, and something pale and white in its mouth. Something weakly waving its limbs from either side of the monster's muzzle as it was held fast between rows of sharp teeth
The ghoul's eyes regarded her flatly for only a second, then it turned and leapt into the darkness and out of sight as Lois could only scream.
[You can stop freaking out now, Pickman needs the baby alive...for now. Who else wants the baby? As always, please review! This semester is a little crazy so not sure when next chapter will be up, but it WILL get done!]