Chapter One: The Comings
Disclaimer: I don’t own Batman or Buffy.Warning:
If you have not read Hidden Joke you will be lost.Author Notes:
Updated 7/15/14. I would like to thank AnneLilian for editing this chapter Enjoy!Chapter one: The ComingsIt was dark. The winds were screaming around her. Elizabeth turned sharply and her dress flared. She glanced down in surprise. Why was she wearing a dress? She took a step to the right and paused as her bare foot touched something soft. She bent down and picked it up. It was a dark navy shawl that matched the color of her dress.
She spun around, but there was nothing there. She looked up into the darkness. “You have got to be kidding me.” She glanced around again and spotted a dim light that appeared to her left. She dropped the shawl and began to make her way towards it.
“I wasn’t impressed the first time!” She said, annoyed. Why couldn’t her dreams ever be straight forward? She entered the room before her. It was bare, but in the middle was a young woman in a simple robe, her long dark hair pulled back in a braid. Around the woman’s wrists were shackles with their chains bound to the ring embedded in the floor by her feet.
“Gee, wouldn’t have guessed.” She muttered as she slowly approached the stranger. Elizabeth looked into her brown eyes and gasped. There was nothing there but pain and despair.
“Take it all away.”
Tearing her gaze away she focused her attention on the pendant around the woman’s neck. There was a symbol on it. It looked like two half vertical arrows using the same shaft. The top arrow slanted downward on the right side while the bottom arrow slanted up on the left.
She glanced around briefly before reaching out towards the woman. A few inches before her hand would have touched it, Elizabeth cried out in pain and yanked it back to grip at her bleeding chest. It felt like someone had stabbed her. She closed her eyes and took several deep breaths until the pain subsided.
“And what’s left?”
Opening her eyes again, glanced down. Her eyes widened in shock as she spotted the amount of blood coating her left hand. She looked to her chest. Nothing. She frowned and looked back at her hand. The blood around her wrist was shifting, circling around until it formed a shackle that matched the woman’s. Every drop of blood that fell transformed into a chain link.
Her head snapped up at the clanking sound of chains. The captured woman placed her pendant in Elizabeth’s hand. Raising an eyebrow, she closed her hand over the pendant and watched as the shackle on her wrist began to fade. The woman wrapped her hands over Elizabeth’s closed one. Their gazes met. “They’re coming.” She whispered.
The world blurred.
Elizabeth jerked awake, breathing heavily. She quickly glanced around. She was back in her room in the apartment. She closed her eyes and took several calming breaths. It was just a dream.
Only it wasn’t.
She opened her eyes and pushed the blankets aside. Quickly, she made her way to the window and stared outside. A month had passed since the Joker had been locked back up, and now her slayer dreams were returning. What was coming? Who were they?
Red Robin landed on the roof in the northwestern area of Gotham. In the past month, six girls had gone missing. There wasn’t much to the cases to connect them and the cops certainly didn’t believe there was. The girls were from different geographic locations, they came from a wide range of backgrounds and class, they weren’t the same age…
He had done a little more digging. They had all been emerging Metas in their early to mid-teens. From the information he had found the girls either had increased strength, accelerated healing, visions or a combination of those powers.
It made him worry about Liz, even if it appeared that she was outside the age bracket. There wasn’t enough evidence to rule her out as a possible target, though. Thankfully, she was careful not to show her newfound strength. Except for their families and the Joker, no one else knew. With any luck, it would stay that way.
He glanced across the street to the apartment complex. There was another possible target inside Gotham. Dania Jones, age fourteen. She was caught on camera ripping a door off its hinges when she tried to open it. The video had hit YouTube five minutes later.
“It’s clear on my end. Anything on yours?” Nightwing questioned through the communicator. He had returned to his previous role a week ago once Bruce had returned to Gotham. Since Damian had gone out on patrol with his father, Dick decided to lend a hand on tonight’s case. He was sure there were other motives.
He scanned the area again. “So far. It might be a bust. Are you sure you want to stick around?”
“Positive.” Nightwing replied. A few moments of silence passed before he continued. “Asked her out yet?”
And there was one of the motives. “Not yet.”
“Why not? You like her, right?”
“Yeah.” He replied. It was true, he did. Liz was smart, funny and strong. She also confused him. No matter which way he looked at things, the pieces never matched up when it came to her. It was maddening.
She was a newly awakened Meta, yet had a high degree of control over her powers. She possessed a high level of fighting skill but showed none before her stay in the clinic. There wasn’t a trace of the woman whose attack had put her there to begin with. Yet, despite all the hell she been through, she seemed ridiculously well-adjusted. And wasn’t that attracting...
He shook his head. But did he want to push past friendship and risk it? He doubted he could succeed at a normal relationship. “But…” He started to reply to Nightwing when he spotted three figures crossing the rooftops towards the apartment. “We have company.”
“I’ll come up from behind.” Nightwing stated before the line went silent.
Red Robin darted off the side of the building and free fell for a few moments before he released the grappling line and swung to the next rooftop. He landed in front of the ninja-like trio. He knew that attire. Were they of the same assassin group that nearly succeeded in killing him two weeks ago? “What do you want the girls for?”
The group spread out around him. He slipped a birdarang into his left hand. The tallest member of the group glared at him. “You already know.” He spat before he thrust his sword at him.
He blocked the hit with his Bo staff. It was going to be the same conversation again, wasn’t it? Hopefully it would end differently this time. He threw his birdarang at the shortest member, forcing the ninja to drop the gun. “You want the one I protect.” He stated as he duck another slash. It would have been very informative, really, if he knew who he was supposedly protecting. They didn’t mean Dania Jones; the last time he came across members of this group he hadn’t been guarding anyone.
He blocked another hit with his Bo staff and lashed out with a kick, forcing him to drop the sword. The other two assassins came towards him with their weapons raised. Nightwing intercepted the third assassin’s attack with his escrima sticks and quickly began to push him back with his own assault. “Perhaps you’d like to fill me in. I was a tad late to the party after all.” Nightwing commented as he dodged a strike. “Who is it you want?”
The leader of the group jumped back towards the ledge, his hand by his ear and his head cocked like he was listening to something. A moment later he glared at Red Robin. “Is this girl the one you were trying to keep from us? If you don’t surrender her to us, we will kill you. She belongs to her masters. You have until the next time we meet to decide and no amount of allies will save you.” Suddenly, one the assassins threw down smoke bombs. When the air cleared they were gone.
“Did you manage to plant a tracker?” Nightwing questioned as he picked up his own from the ground where his opponent had been.
“No.” Red Robin replied as he spotted his own tracker on the ground. This group was highly trained and he was already several steps behind them. He didn’t like it. What were they planning?
Nightwing walked over to him. “You managed to stir up quite a hornet’s nest. Any ideas on whom they are looking for?”
He shook his head: too many possibilities and not enough answers to narrow down the list. Especially since it seemed to pertain to more than just the ones he had protected in the past. He looked back at the apartment that Diana Jones called home. “We need to get them to a safe house; it won’t be safe here.” He looked at the shadows searchingly. “They’ll be back.”
“We’ll arrange it.” Nightwing replied before he smirked towards him. “So?”
He sighed. He should have known Dick would not let that go. “I plan on asking her in the morning before school.” He doubted he would succeed at a normal relationship, but then, Liz wasn’t normal. She was different and he did want to give it a chance.
“I suggest bringing roses when you ask her.” Nightwing said as he started a sweep around the apartment complex.
Red Robin glared at him as he followed. He wasn’t that
helpless when it came to dating. Right?
She missed Giles. Elizabeth glared at the paper she had sketched the symbol from her dream on. She bet he would have had a clue what this symbol meant or knew which books to look in.
She snorted before smiling in amusement. He probably would have taken one glance at the symbol and started to clean his glasses and said: “Dear lord.”
She sighed and turned her gaze back to the computer. She had pulled up a search on runes a few hours ago. Did anyone realize how many runes were out there? Ancient, Norse, Hindu, and Nordic were just a few types of runes that had been used in the course of history.
But she did find the one she was looking for: the rune Eihwaz. And its meaning was hitting a little too close for comfort. From the sources she had found the Eihwaz rune was associated with the forces of life and death. It had been used in ancient rites of passage as a symbol of the idea of the death and rebirth.
And it didn’t end there. Elizabeth stretched and leaned back in her chair. The Eihwaz rune could also represent a message of moving through fear and doubt or the passage and communication between different worlds and the different layers of reality. Yet it had also been use for protection and defense. What was her dream trying to tell her? What was she missing?
She turned her head towards the door at the sound of knocking. “Come in.”
David poked his head into the room. “Is everything alright? I noticed you were up fairly early today.”
“I’m fine. I just couldn’t sleep.” She smiled at him. He had turned out to be a tough watcher; forbidding her from patrolling until he believed she was ready. He had been right to do so even if it was frustrating. She had too much excess energy now. But this wasn’t Sunnydale, it wouldn’t do anyone any good if she got arrested for a crime she was trying to solve due to a stupid mistake.
She rose from her seat and held out the paper with the runic symbol. “I had a slayer dream. Does this mean anything to you?” This past month, David had thrown everything he had learned during his days as a cop at her. He assigned more homework than all her teachers combined, but there was a lot to learn if she was going to help.
David frowned. “It’s familiar…” He started to say and paused when the doorbell went off. “Expecting anyone?”
She shook her head, went to the door, and peered through the peak hole. Her eyes widened in surprise. Quickly, she opened the door. “Tim, what are you doing here?”
He rubbed the back of his neck with his right hand while keeping his left hidden behind his back. “May I come in?”
“Of course.” She stepped aside and swiftly peeked behind him as he made his way into the apartment using one of his crutches. “Are those roses?”
“You’re not going to be patient, are you?” He questioned with a smile as he handed them to her.
She smiled back as she smelled them. “Nope.” She leaned against the wall. “Not to sound ungrateful, because I love them, but why are you giving me flowers?”
“Umm…” He paused a moment as he brushed his right hand through his hair nervously before he continued. “I was wondering, if you might like to go on a date with me this Friday?”
Her eyes widened briefly in surprised before her smile grew. She had been wondering if she was going to end up asking him out on a date. Nice to know some guys could still get it right. “I would love to.”
Tim sighed in relief and smiled back. “Great. Does seven sound good? I can pick you up.”
“It’s fine.” She looped her arm through his left and started to pull him towards the kitchen carefully allowing him time to use his crutches. She had kept her word. She had told no one of the fake injury. “Come, join us for breakfast.”
“You sure your parents won’t mind?” He questioned.
She still believed he was Red Robin, but had managed to gather very little proof of that. “Positive.” She half-wondered if he would let her borrow his protective gear and gadgets if she told him she knew his secret. She doubted it. As it was she and David still argued about that detail.
David raised his eyebrow at their linked arms as they entered the kitchen, placing another plate on the table. “Are you two a couple now?”
“Yes.” She answered.
Joyce smiled from her seat at the table. “I’m happy for you. Congrats.”
“I need to call Harv.” David muttered as he placed a plate of pancakes on the table followed by a bowl of scrambled eggs.
Tim looked at David, confused. “Why?”
David stared at Tim seriously. “I have a background check to run.”
Nick carefully laid the picture of Elizabeth next to one of Tim. He glanced to his right at the creaking sound of his dark room’s door being opened. “You’re lucky I had already finished.” He stated as he turned towards the tall male figure with sandy blond hair standing in the doorway. “You’re late, Brandt.”
“The Priests weren’t going to hurry the preparation of the rituals on your account, Shadoway.” He scoffed as he placed a plain box onto the table beside the pictures. “You’re not of the Council.”
“Not yet.” He agreed. “But I will be soon. Better than I can say about you. I heard the Priests turned you down. Again.”
Brandt glared at him angrily. He briefly clenched his fist before leaning against the wall. “Have you found the Chosen?”
Nick glanced at him annoyed before sighing. The council couldn’t have sent a different messenger, could they? “No. All early to mid-teen girls with new found power have turned out to be Meta.”
“Your father will be so disappointed.” Brandt mocked.
“The Priests haven’t done any better.” He countered with a shrug. “I doubt we will find her unless we take out of the heir that shields her.”
“Then take him out, or can your team of assassins not handle it? Do you need another?”
Nick ignored him as he reached into the desk drawer with gloved hands and pulled out two cards. “We should skip the forewarning traditions.”
Brandt looked at him sharply in surprise. “You would tarnish your honor?”
“We have a small opportunity to prevent her death and full loss of the original line. We have yet to find the new line.” He replied as he slipped the pictures into the cards. “Going against tradition would ensure the best chance of securing the sacrifices. One of our targets is the son of Bruce Wayne, the founder of the Batman Incorporation.”
Brandt shook his head. “The Priests will not go through with the rituals unless the traditions are followed.”
“I know.” Nick replied. He looked up at Brandt and stared at him for several moments before sighing. “Have the council send ten more teams. If I have to follow traditions then I will need them to face Batman.”
Brandt snorted. “He’s just one man. He can’t be everywhere at once.”
“He’s a highly successful man with underlings.” Nick countered, shaking his head. “I doubt he will let the threat to his backer’s son go.”
Brandt crossed his arms. “What are you planning?”
“I intend to keep him busy of course.” Nick smirked. “We’ll find out which son is more important to Mr. Wayne, his eldest, his youngest, or our true target, his middle child.”