The Devil Inside

December 04, 2016:

Zatanna once again fishes someone out from a dumpster, only this time she comes across a rare case of a demon that has completely integrated into the soul of one of Gotham's newest vigilantes.

Gotham University - Chelsea - Gotham

The wide, sprawling campus of Gotham University


NPCs: None.

Mentions: Batman, Nightwing, Tim Drake, Batgirl, Robin, The Winter Soldier


Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

"I'm with you till the end of the line." The choked words channel from memories past from the Soldier and to the Devil, and the cascade of angry confusion in front of her barely has time to register after the Devil speaks the words.

She flies, then falls.

But a beacon is sent. She does not know it. Can't possibly fathom it, but the connection she shares with Sergeant Barnes is like an explosion in the spirit world, rippling outwards from it's point of origin and following her like a streamer into the dumpster she comes to rest in.

Blood sticks to every part of her, and where bones aren't broken, some are crushed. She has been nearly massacred, and it is a will from beyond that keeps her breathing. The Winter Soldier very nearly managed to do in ten minutes what the Order of Almeus could not do in a thousand years, and the thready intake of oxygen echoes in the half-crushed in dumpster, one hand meekly resting, fingers up, against the lip where someone might see.


She was just stepping out of the campus auditorium when she feels it.

To Zatanna Zatara, the Source underscores all things - the tug of the inexplicable, unknowable is one she feels in her daily life, so constant that she has learned to let it fade into her environs unless something unusual occurs within it. It was the only way she could live without constantly getting distracted, to inject some normalcy in her already strange life.

This is one of those times; the charge ripples over her like static shock, cascading over her fatigued synapses - she had just spent a few hours in rehearsal, as per the wont of most of GU's theatre majors, her lines for the Twelfth Night burned from memory at the wake of it in favor of snapping her head towards the direction from which it came from. Whatever it was, it tastes different from the usual, but not completely unfamiliar - she can smell the hint of sulfur, the touches of something infernal and inhuman behind it.

Her fingers tighten on her book bag's strap. She really should just go home. Gotham City doesn't exactly lack heroes that skulk in the night, surely someone was taking care of this by now.

Would they have the expertise she does, however?

"Oh, god damn it," she mutters, pivoting on her bootheel and adopting a quick trot across campus, gradually increasing to a dead run, her magical senses homing in on the spark left behind by the very brief presence of Hell, and not its worldly, figurative or allegorical counterparts. Hell - the biblical Hell, end-of-times Hell.

When she reaches the crushed dumpster, she slows her approach, her pale face skeptical. Slowly planting her feet on a few upended crates, she hauls herself over the edge and peers down.

"….oh man, not again!" she groans, espying the broken, bleeding body situated amongst the trash.


For all the rage and vile discontent this creature pours into Azalea Kingston, it cannot defeat the failure of her body any more than it can piece it's fractured, unfocused mind back together. In it's current state fueled of mind-numbing pain and misery it languishes like an addict that's overdosed, and so when the rustling above it draws attention, somehow her blue eyes open.

But there's more Devil there than Azalea, even if she cannot posture or act the perfect, the glint in her eyes is malice given euphoria. Blood-covered fingers curl over Zatanna's closest hand.

She'll feel it. The shock of it. Not just some lurid occupant from another realm, but a blended, fully integrated presence, infused in this woman to her spiritual DNA. And contact will bring other sensations to. A pull at Zatanna's very soul - not painful, but a spiritual magnetism that any demonic creature might create so very close to such raw power.

"With this thy fair and outward character, I prithee, and i'll pay.. pay thee bounteously. Conceal me what I am…" More blood pours from the corner of her mouth, painting her lips in a color that might look beautiful if it were not so morbid. "….and be my aid."

Shakespeare wrote it with a comic whimsy, Azalea reflect it as a mortal plea from an immortal's horrid bent.


Flesh against flesh, the contact for a moment sends Zatanna's mind hurtling back through the link, a loop of sensation triggered by the infernal presence using this body to reach out to her. To bargain with an infernal presence is anathema to everything her father has taught her, all the warnings that Giovanni Zatara has managed to impose on his little girl flooding back with the crystal clarity of one predisposed to being a very eager student when it comes to the mystical arts. But this is no mere possession; she knows from the books that an exorcist has a limited amount of time to expel a demon from a human body - past that deadline, and it integrates into the person's soul, to be inextricably bound to him, or her, forever.

This is one of those cases, and for a moment, Zatanna stays very still, akin to a hare meeting the rapacious stare of a hunting fox. But her heart - ever gentle, ever merciful, the kind who would go so far as to save even an enemy's family should it be in peril - pulls at her to listen to the angels of her better nature.

Whoever this woman is, she is already pitiable - no matter what she does, no matter what good she tries to do in the world, with such complete integration between woman and Beast, she is bound for Hell, unless divine intervention deems it fit to pour into her from Heaven itself.

"….those are my lines," the young magician breathes, ice-blue eyes transfixed on Azalea's own. "…no, I mean literally. I'm playing Viola, though I suspect you already know that."

At least, she is lighter than Stan, the strange, metal-armed man she had helped out of a similar predicament a week ago. Reaching out, she bodily hefts the shorter girl up from the trash and helps her down from the dumpster. "You shouldn't be moving when you're in a state like this, I don't know if you've broken anything, but….you can say I'm downright magical when it comes to first aid. Come on."

Lending her support, she half-walks, half-drags the Dark Devil out from the shadows and into the light, putting on the best impression she can of walking a young, inebriated lady to where she needs to be. Finding a short, squat structure used by campus staff to house generic sports equipment, she pushes the door open, ushering the other woman inside before closing the door behind her. With her face uncovered, she is confident that she isn't a student - a sociable creature, albeit a proclivity developed by her perennial bouts of loneliness, she is familiar with the names and faces of most of the students already.

That and with a demon living inside her, she's certain magic - true sorcery - isn't something she's wholly unfamiliar with.


"Who… the fuck.. Viola?"

She doesn't know to much, peeling the lines from psychic residue cast into the open air. Neither half of The Dark Devil even knows what she's doing, Azalea oblivious, the Devil far to fractured and discombobulated to it's feral base natures that it cannot trap it's true power. And in this state, it simply could not fight, even if it wanted to.

She might weigh half as much as 'Stan' when all is said and done, and one of her ankles is so broken it dangles and grinds audibly as she's drug along, but there is no complaint from the bloodied mess, and with an arm strung around Zatanna's shoulder, there's a sizzle that cuts through the constant mystic haze.

The darkness murmurs, stirs, as if it can finally sense something past it's own rage and malcontent. Her head turns, and she sniffs the air close to Zatanna, mimicking the mystical hunger of the creature inside with an uncomfortable, space invading action that brings a half smile to her split lip. "I've broken everything. I mean.. i think my ribs. Maybe all of them. Back too. I don't know. Thomas could…" The thought of her ex brings a snarl to the Devil, and a wince to the woman that carries it.

"I don't know how hurt I am. But it's bad." It's a surprisingly astute moment from Azalea while the Devil Inside tosses and turns and rages for the power so very close.


"Crossdressing female protagonist of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night," Zatanna explains once she has situated Azalea on the floor. She has noticed the ankle and its sorry state, though she isn't so rude as to point it out. "The thing inside you quoted it earlier when it grabbed my hand." What does stand out right away is the smaller woman's resilience - not a single cry, or a grunt of pain. It could be her willpower, or it could be the devil inside her - it was difficult to tell, without knowing more.

She makes the distinctions easily, between the presence writhing inside her and the owner of the body to which she is tending, suggestive of a person who has dealt with similar or like circumstances and has lived to infer about it. Under the fitful light of the storeroom, Azalea's rescuer is young, though not too much younger than her, with skin so pale, it harkens comparisons to fine marble or alabaster, and renders the scant pops of color on her person all the more striking - those lightning blue irises, the rich purple matte of her lipstick and the flush of pink whipped into her cheeks by the chilly winds outside. It is Fall in Gotham City, but it might as well be an early winter, as if the very earth in which it stands protests the idea of anything more vibrant than the slate-gray of concrete buildings and the darkness of its long nights.

"It won't be bad for too long," she tells her, reaching out. The cool touch of her thumb presses lightly on Azalea's forehead, tracing an invisible sigil on her flesh - all the better, to focus her will on living tissue.

"Senob nekorb lla riaper," she whispers.

She would feel it, though it might produce discomfort and pain; calcium is reproduced, bits of bone pull away from their fragmented positions against traumatized muscles and ligaments, her shattered ribcage rebuilds and knits back together. It sounds like gibberish nonsense, another trademark borne from a daughter's love for her father, but her words are powerful.

It is power the creature inside her could feel and on that same vein, taste and covet. It would know exactly /what/ she was, taste the scorching, incredible purity of a soul that is ten times larger than that of any human person, and it could sense, with distressing ease, that this girl has absolutely no idea what she has.


Here in this enclosed space, away from prying eyes, she finally gives in to the destruction of her body and slumps down, back against a rack of equipment, her gaze transfixed by the wan-lit features of her would be savior. If only Azalea could disentangle herself from the monster, tell which thoughts were ever hers, she might manage. Instead she opens her mouth to say something offputting, and is instead quelled by the touch of magic.

Lips part, and there's a sound of shock as her fingers rise to wrap around Zatanna's wrist, and her other rises to hook her neck, to stain her jawline with the thick smear of drying blood when her thumb brushes that spot, as if she might somehow taste the magic on her skin with contact alone.

There's a sickening snap as bones re-align, far more than Zatanna might have guessed. More blood pours from the corner of her mouth, for her invocation focuses on bones, and as they fix themselves , the other injuries still remain. But only for a moment. The conduit does not break as power flows, and keeps flowing, and the Devil feasts, holding onto her until every bruise, every cut, every bit of damage is healed, her eyes fluttering until the process overwhelms the ability to control her muscles and her hands fall away.

She convulses once, drawing in the deep breaths of someone who's just eaten a fist behind the jaw. In reality it's the shock of her body undergoing the magical reconstruction, and with a shake of her head and a half-lidded blink of her eyes she slowly crawls back towards her senses, the rage of the creature that controls all the risk/reward centers of her brain whining for more.

Now that she looks a whole lot less swollen, even if she still has blood all over her, Zatanna /will/ recognize her. Scarce over the last three months or so, Ms. Kingston briefly shared a single collaboration with the art department, writing a little music for Twelfth Night's closing scene, an act that seems so very, very long ago.


She allows her body to be ensnared; to break her concentration now would be foolhardy when she is undertaking such a delicate task. While Azalea utters not a single sound, she can sense the pain by the tiniest motions - the jerk every time a bone snaps into place, the shudder running down the other woman's spine when calcium fragments are pulled from her sore muscles and reabsorbed into her healing bones. Zatanna also senses it, the eldritch thing coiling in the Dark Devil's spirit, siphoning greedily from what she gives her, ephemeral strains of power, mere bits of her overall limitless potential.

The goth girl doesn't let go until the grisly work of healing someone in such a state of disrepair is done, and once the swelling has dissipated, she would find that she does indeed recognize her, albeit it isn't someone she has exchanged any words to, the slip of a girl who walked in on rehearsals once to deliver sheet music to the play's director. She doesn't know her name, being relatively new on campus….she had only just arrived in her childhood home less than a week ago, after what is near a lifetime spent abroad.

Zatanna lowers her hand from her forehead, extricating herself from the strangely dressed woman's grasp. With her severe injuries quelled, she gives herself a moment to observe Azalea Kingston and her bloodied, battered garb. It doesn't take long for her to realize that it is a costume and she could very well be manhandling either one of Gotham's infamous vigilantes or psychotic villains.

"Oh, /shit/, you're one of them," she remarks, ice blue eyes flicking over to the Dark Devil's exposed face. "Nobody would ever suspect, I mean, you're so /tiny/. Which one are you? Batgirl? I heard there are several now…Robin? It /is/ the twenty-first century after all, gender equality and all of that….god, I've been gone from Gotham way too long, I can't remember all the names anymore."

She pushes back, tucking her backside on top of her heels. "You're lucky someone found you before garbage pick up tomorrow, otherwise you'd be in a landfill contracting sepsis from all of your injuries. Unless….the thing inside you doesn't allow you to get sick. I suppose there are some advantages in having a demon latched onto you, but there's always a price."


As the powerful magician disentangles herself the Devil gives a slow shudder, looking up along her savior as she tests joints that were so very recently a lost cause. As the creature roils and basks in the energy, she notices the distance, however slight, that's been put between them - like someone taking away a heating lamp.

The names come and she sets her teeth in a gritted discontent, as if she were Elijah Wood, staring down at a Harry Potter poster she's been asked to sign. She was going to say something witty about how she's the relevant one, who chose to remain less than famous, but not only would it seem like a very big lie considering her recent condition, Zatanna starts talking about the thing inside her as if she's seen it's face.

"I met Batman and Nightwing the other night. The thing inside me had to /know/, yanno? Had to find out. I couldn't take'm. Couldn't come close… and I couldn't explain anything about this to either of them. But you just know." Now that she isn't rasping for breath, she has a voice that's a little deeper than one might expect, but it's human through and through. There's a look of astonished longing, as if she wish she could give everyone her power, just for a little while. So they'd understand. It's soon replaced by the need to get up, to make sure her legs work, corded muscles creaking and her hand moving to the rack she was leaning against so that she might keep her balance. "It lets me get sick." Finally, an answer to a curiosity.

"And it's where I get my name. I guess some tribes way back when used to call it the Devil in the Dark. So I go by Dark Devil. When some dude with a metal arm isn't beating the piss out of me anyway."

She reaches up to run her hands back over her hair, offering a hand down to Zatanna to help her stand up. "It's mostly price. Pain doesn't bother me anymore. I kind of.. know how to fight." She gives a shrug. No real good way to explain it. "What's your story?"


"Wow, really? I've heard of the Batman, but the other guy is new," Zatanna says, taking the offered hand and standing up on her own two feet. Taller than the average woman, Azalea looks all the more diminutive next to her, and much like her, she is dressed almost entirely in black, though more out of her unique aesthetic sense than the practicality of being unseen - she wears a pair of snug, black jeans ripped strategically in places, a black halter splashed with nonsensical violet patterns and a worn, leather jacket that looks cribbed right out of Jessica Jones' closet. Her midnight hair, voluminous and wavy, is pulled in a haphazard knot, with loose pieces framing her face and curling against the back of her neck.

"Then again, like I said, I haven't been in Gotham for a while. My father's a traveling entertainer, so we never stay in one place for too long. The family home's right here, though, in Crest Hill." Not that anyone could ever just walk up to it, unless they know precisely what they are looking for - Shadowcrest has been in the family for generations, and even she doesn't know what it is capable of. What she is familiar with are its incredible magical security measures, and the fact that the layout of the house changes every time someone new steps into it.

"Anyway, don't beat yourself up about it. Batman's a legend out here, for a really good reason."

Leaning against the wall, she slips her hands in her pockets, hiding her black manicure within them. Lifting her shoulders in a shrug, she smiles faintly.

"Not much to tell," she says. "I'm eighteen, I'm my father's protege and I do tricks…tricks that I hope will stay between us and if you are amenable to that, we can consider ourselves square. I know…" She waves a hand lightly sideways. "Age of miracles and all of that, nobody's going to bat an eye if I make it known that my magic is real. But when it comes to that stuff, the other big names in the field can have all the glory and the trouble that comes with it, I'd like to be able to enjoy my youth and remind myself daily why this world is worth saving."


When Zatanna takes her hand back, the Devil stares down at her own, her dull blink signaling her surprise as she zones in on that sensation of there-and-gone-again energy. Her head turns to the left as the taller woman spins her tail, tilting up as her nostrils flare. There's something about the way she stands in that moment, fists curled at her sides, chest out.

Maybe she looks like a hero. Maybe she looks like a predator getting ready to posture. When The Dark Devil looks back to Zatanna to scour every inch of her for some clue as to the truth of her nature, stalking sidelong and watching Zatanna's hand wave like a cat watches a dangling mouse toy, a smirk lighting up her otherwise grim and griselified expression - after all, she's still got dried blood all over. "I'll leave it out of my press conference. But we're not square. Not yet. I should buy you uh.. coffee, or something." You know. Whatever it is people do when they're social.

She almost remembers how that goes.

In reality she's trying to focus the tiresome, unquenchable thirst of the Devil Inside into something that is less than crude, and while she often travels in circles where her assertiveness might be welcomed, she still has the sense not to be lewd as she ponders the nature of the living Devil Battery sitting in front of her. "Maybe you should have me over to your place so I can even afford the coffee. After." A brief hesitation, and she casts a glare to the door. "…after I find the red star wearing super assassin with the metal arm and fantastic hair."


"You don't have to," Zatanna replies; while not the sort to say no to the call of delicious black brew and its myriad of flavors, she recalls the state Azalea was in when she found her - the fact that she doesn't just want to crawl into bed and close her eyes is startling on its own. "You can make it up to me some other time, when you're a little better. You've been put through the ringer….what you need most of all is sleep, and rest, and coffee is counterproductive to all of these things." That's what she would do if she was pulled out of the predicament she had just suffered. Then again, that restless drive marks the other woman just as assuredly as her choice of garb; maybe it was just her nature to keep going, no matter what happens to her.

It's admirable, but also dangerous, self-destructive in a way that she is reluctant to quantify out loud, especially to someone she had just met. Someone with /something/ inside her that, even now, she feels clawing for her. The young magician could taste its hunger for souls - at the moment, specifically her own. It's not particularly unusual for a demon to act this way, but it is still unnerving to one such as herself; someone who can't help but /be/ aware of it.

Which is also why she balks inwardly when Azalea suggests that she take her to her home, which at the moment is /not/ going to happen. Miss Kingston presents too many unknown variables, on top of the fact that she isn't certain that Shadowcrest wouldn't just viscerally reject her because of the thing that has integrated into her soul. Jessica was also staying with her for the time being, as well as a couple of aliens who she allowed to stay for a couple of days, but also cursed in the event that they try to steal anything from the manor.

Instead, she focuses on what the young woman says. The mention earlier about the man with a metal arm did not escape her notice, but she had been so focused on healing the other woman that it presently lays unaddressed. Now that she has been reminded, with added details, she couldn't help but think of the person she named Stan.

Stan did this?

"….a super assassin?" she wonders slowly. "What exactly happened?"


The Dark Devil is not used to being mother henned in any way, shape, or form. She is the /night/! Or something. Her arms cross and she leans closer to the door, peering through the small gap to look out onto ground beyond. Maybe she suspects he's still around.

"I guess. He was after some guy in a suit, up on the parking garage. I stopped him. I figured the guy he was after was a teacher at first, but I didn't recognize him, and his car didn't have a sticker for parking. Must have known a teacher. Had special permission to use the faculty garage." There's a moment of reflection where her eyes go distant and she recalls the details, a searing anger burning through her mind. "I don't think he knows who he is. Something about electricity. The sound of it.. making his skin crawl. I said a name…" She clucks her tongue, and then levels a gaze that could level a building at Zatanna. "Steve. He knows someone named Steve. I don't really know what happened, but I saw flashes of his shitty fucking life, and then he went berserk. I /had/ him, save for that." She might be lying. A little bit. That's how the Devil remembers it anyway.

She waves a hand. "Anyway, I need to find him, finish what we started. That fucker was the kindof fun I could chew on for a week or more, the kind of satisfaction these /morons/ crawling through allies and mugging people don't ever provide."

She won't talk about what it was like to fight Batman and Nightwing. Those are very private thoughts.

"You have some way to wave your fingers or speak in tongues and find people? It could be useful. I mean.. who knows who he could be after next, right?" She gives a firm nod to reinforce her point. Yes. Yes indeed. She just wants to /save/ people. It isn't about getting off on the thrill of battle or anything.


That isn't unheard of also; celestial beings and demons have a spiritual tether to humanity no other creatures in this world or any other could boast, being its progenitors, if Judeo-Christian lore was to be believed. It doesn't surprise her to learn that Azalea can do that due to the influence of the entity that has inextricably wound itself into her very soul, especially the part about drawing out the more torturous parts of a person's life. Demons are by nature so attuned to misery, suffering and greed, the veritable cornucopia of sins that can reproduce one's personal hell on earth.

But within these familiar territories, there is a tidbit that is decidedly unfamiliar - she has only met Stan once, and he didn't harm a single hair on her head, though she can deduce it was because she was helping him rather than hindering him at the time and thus knows very little about him save for his appearance and mannerisms. He had also promised her that she would never see him again, which does fit the role of a super assassin - these types tended to be ghosts, shadows rather than people, and indiscriminate with who they shuffled out of the mortal coil so long as the act met their ultimate objectives.

'Steve', though?

Was it his real name? No, the Dark Devil was rather certain that Stan, once upon a time, knew a Steve - a name that holds such a close, personal significance that the demon was attracted to the memory immediately.

A friend? A rival? An enemy?


It /was/ the twenty-first century.

"It's not so simple as that, the words provide focus, but the mental workings of being able to do that are a little more complicated," she says. "Spellcasting requires components and a clear picture…and really, if he's as dangerous as you imply, you really shouldn't be looking for him for round two. He might really finish you off next time!"


There's a moment there where the Devil wants to refute her assertion that /anyone/ can beat it. But she knows that's not true, and it's distracted anyway. Looking at her. Eating her up with it's imagination, and in the time it takes her to cross the small distance between them and look up and into Zatanna's eyes, she isn't even sure what she's going to do.

"Don't worry about me to much, pretty lady. It'll just break your heart." It's the first time she's meant a smile at anyone in ages, her eyes searching over her expression before she begins to back towards the door, silently reveling in the anger of the creature inside her as she deprives it of the mystical warmth of Zatanna's presence.

Maybe next time.

"Of course, if you're keen on it, and just can't help yourself, maybe you could be there next time I have to fight someone outside of my weight class. At the very least you're pretty good with a bandaid." She opens the door, clearly intent on leaving, but she'll let Zatanna have the last word before she begins daydreaming about a nice long shower. After which she can live the reality of a really short one since there is never enough hot water.


The shorter, slightly older woman moves, though Zatanna remains leaning against the wall, her hands remaining in her pockets as her words about Stan tumble uncontrollably in her mind, guilt working itself like a blade through her insides. Stan /was/ a murderer. He killed people for a living - now that she had saved his life, he was only going to continue doing it.

It's one of those classic scenarios in which she wonders whether her altruistic nature, in actuality, runs counter with other mechanisms that would, in the end, leave the world a better place than it started. Questions on personal ethics aside (suddenly reminded of her classmate, Tim Drake, who professed a fascination with the subject), she couldn't help but wonder if she would have done differently, even if she knew - even if, at the time, she hadn't been confused as to who was the murderer and who was the victim.

It is then that she suddenly realizes that the Dark Devil has cut the distance between them, standing so close that she feels the heat of Azalea's body through her clothes, looking her right in the eyes, and smiling in a way that belies the presence salivating for her soul lurking inside her. Locking gazes, she suddenly feels exposed….naked in a way that she can't adequately explain to anyone.

"You can /not/ break my heart by not fighting someone outside of your weight class!" Zatanna exclaims at last, once the other girl moves away and heads for the door. Maybe Tim's own assertions about Gotham was right, that only those who revel in conflict can survive here, and if one manages to continue breathing after almost every single bone was shattered, then perhaps that person has the stuff to make it in such a grim city.

And just like that, the Dark Devil is gone, leaving Zatanna alone again, her words most /probably/ unheeded. Even if Azalea knew it herself, the devil inside her won't allow anything but /more/; she knows it as well as she knows her own face.

She sighs, lifting a hand to scrub faintly on her cheek.

What a week.

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