Ties That Bind

October 03, 2018:

When Zatanna is unleashed, even the heralds of the Elder Gods flee. But not the Titans.

Titans' Tower

It was fine until a dragon showed up and decided to hug the 'T'…


NPCs: Dragon emitted by Pietro, The Consort emitted by Wanda



Mood Music: None.

Fade In…

Something is happening on the shore of the Titans' manmade island, right at the perimeter where Zatanna's magical wards… once were. Something that is setting off alarms in every active Titan's comms.

It is not hard to discern the source of those alarms, even from a distance, even if the one exhausted member of the team defending the island's perimeter is currently too busy to make a report. The cause can be seen from a mile off, in the form of a wingspan wide as the island on which Titans Tower sits… a cruel silhouette throwing a deep shadow over the river.

The Dragon previously lurking on Stark Tower seems to have found a second tower in which it is interested.

The veined sails of those draconic wings light up with the flare and flash of flung magic. Zatanna is fighting back. That she holds against a Herald of the Elder God for even a few moments is feat enough, after a half-day ritual…

But in the end, she can only hold against the sudden strike for a few moments.

As the returning team arrives, they will see what has transpired in their absence; the vast Dragon coils on the island's shore, half in and half out of the river, looped over and under and around himself. Zatanna is snared in his grasp, caught in the tip of his tail, her limbs secured by countless fine tentacles. One winds her throat, choking her voice, a hairsbreadth from snapping her neck.

His attention is not on her. He seems to believe he has won.

Instead, he is nosing along his own body, finding the flat scales of his side. There is a surge of magical energy as he reaches to draw from Zatanna, seeking to make use of her magic as he —

— cuts deeply into his own side with his fangs. Acidic blood spills and coats the ground, as he pries deeply into his flesh with his bared teeth. The draw of magic from Zatanna flares higher.

His fangs presently pinch with precise care, and he drags something from his own body. Eve born from a rib. It is too swathed in black ichor for the shape to be clearly discerned, but the Dragon is reverently careful as he lays it to the ground, and pushes it gently with his nose.

"Wake," he says, a single word of power, magic limning the syllable. "This one, love, is sealed up tight."


That demonic ichor boils toxic as it spreads, pooling thick and black as it spreads along the ground. That siphoned, stolen magic breathes over its surface.

And moved by that most careful, most tender of nudges by the tip of the monstrous dragon's nose —

Something opens wasp-yellow eyes.

The ichor bubbles up, then opens as, amidst its inky volume, a figure sits up — the movement sudden, reflexive, like a marionette pulled by unseen strings. It holds there for a moment, silent, still, before it gains height, rising slowly in resurrection.

The ichor drips from it — drips from her — as a woman's form takes shape, turning to lift her head slowly on the vast, countless leagues of dragon that awaits her patient, almost intimate, reanimation.

She lays her head momentarily to the Dragon's nose. "My heart," whispers the Consort. "I missed you. Is it time? Do we make love under our starless sky?"

Ichor drips from her lashes, thickening as it chills. Two infernal creatures, polar opposites — where the Dragon runs hot, his Consort stings cold. Upon the Dragon's words, her yellow eyes slant. "A gift."

The bloodied woman leaves black footprints in her wake. She trails down the long line of the Dragon, toward that little body caught in the tip of its tail — and between strides, her image changes.

Her figure, grotesque with dripping ichor, layers with crawling frost — until the ice peels the frozen blood away, leaving her — the demoness — tall and pale, wearing little but a dress forged of her frost, her black hair woven in an icy crown of thorns.

"I feel your gift," says the Consort, looking coldly down on Zatanna. "Right there. Under all that humanity…"

She outstretches one pale-white hand, corruption festering through her fingers.


The day before has found her depleted in ways she has never known before - there is a reason why the living was never meant to resurrect the dead. It is a taxing endeavor even for the most powerful of magicians, if one were to do it correctly. To properly fuse a soul and a preserved body together, establish the link, fill it with mystical blood, it takes time and a tremendous amount of effort for to do any less would be to consign the subject to an endless unlife and the last thing a city infested with demons needs is the undead rising to add to the ranks. Zatanna Zatara has managed to do this, and she had to: Emily Montrose is presently one of the only keys they have in batting back the Primordial Darkness.

It is a ritual that normally takes three days. In Zatanna's case, given the vast power at her disposal and the Blood of Isis swimming in her soul for the last year, it had taken her mere hours and it's clear now upon the arrival of the rest of her team from wherever the current crisis has flung them that the effort has cost her.

The fact that she hasn't died fighting a god-dragon on her own in the state she is in is downright miraculous enough, but it is almost always a bad sign when entities such as this need you alive for something. She doesn't know what that something is, presently preoccupied when she's ensnared by numerous eldritch tentacles that weigh her down and cut off her speech, left unable to breathe with how she's presently being choked. Red veins start to appear in the whites of her eyes, left wide open, lips parted to futiley gasp at air that won't reach her lungs.

A breath. Just one. She has to breathe.

She is attempting to say something, but the dragon's magical probing has her struggling anew with her flagging strength, unable to give up even now. It would be impossible to discern just why; something about how the creature is acting is fueling a new wave of panic. But she hears the words and the way it tries to drink from her, and gurgling noises emanate useless from the back of her throat.

No. No. They can't.

Anything but that!

She twists within the tentacles, fingers grasping for something. Her hand attempts to reach her leg, unaware of the shadow falling over her trussed up form until she's there, radiating darkness. Ice blue eyes slowly lift to meet those inhuman yellow eyes.

I feel your gift, she says.

Under all her humanity.

"Nnhh— !!" Zatanna shakes her head frantically, heels digging into the dirt in an attempt to break away, to find something. But she's tired.

She's so tired…


"Hush little Impulse don't say a word…" Superboy blasts through the portal with one red-gloved fist already outstretched, the first wave of Spider-Bugs pouring through with him, and the Cass-KO'ed Bart over the opposite shoulder. "Kon-El's gonna cart you 'round to save the world…" He's put upon by his friends, it's utterly unfair, but Conner makes the best of it.

It also lets him stay calm amidst the sights that greet him upon exiting that mystic transport: for now let's prioritize the fact that it looks like Zee is about to get dead, or assimilated, or… something bad. He's not an expert, but the Teen of Steel has some half-decent instincts— if one can call careening headlong at a freaking dragon good instincts, because that's what he does.

Faster than a speeding bullet, a blur of red and blue and Bart, shielded by TACTILE TELEKINESIS, hammers at the dragon's mean ol' maw once, twice, thrice, all in the blink of an eye. It's a gambit led by Kryptonian missile to draw the beasties' attention away from Zatanna long enough for…. for something. Something epic.

Kon has faith. Faith manages.


Large mantis-y buglike creatures dutifully follow the Titans, or perhaps more namely their unconscious Huitzilopochtli and his…kidnappers? Associates? The Tamachoan at the head of the group keeps casting shy glances towards Starfire even as he directs the remains of their army, all dressed in vaguely Aztec-looking attire, armed with spears and such.

Their concern for their leader is quite effectively replaced by the sudden scene that they have come across. …were they not being led to safety? That large creature most definitely does not look like any sort of semblance of the word! Anxious clicks erupt amidst the just under two score of Tamachoans, and they look to the other Titans for guidance—

And then their 'hummingbird warrior' goes zipping off, carried with Superboy as he flies headlong into the offensive.

…well, guess this is happening now.

The priest clicks at his people, raising the spear and shield that Impulse had previously carried, pointing towards the dragon as the rest of the bugs rally with clicking of their own. Forward they surge, not nearly as impressively as Superboy, but certainly just as boldly!


All the Titans, by foot, air, or… otherwise pass through the gloomy portal. The bugs march, in their suitably buglike fashion. Starfire flies, because she always flies, although not very high. Rather, she is simply floating beside the Tamachoan priest, conversing in clicks and snaps and whirrs and other noises. There is nothing she can do about her accent, lacking mandibles, but she is managing! Indeed, she even laughs, at something the insectoid says, shaking her head in the negative, and then dipping it in some polite gesture.

However, there is only so much time for flirtations with the bug-dude. Both see their foe ahead of them, and Starfire's eyes go wide. Well, wider.

"X'hal, it is most frightening. And the woman…" She doesn't say beautiful aloud, because it's probably bad form to praise the infernal Hell-Queen you're fighting, but she has an appreciation for such things, however strange they are.

In any event, not unlike Superboy, where danger presents itself, she is not one for caution. All the joy in her heart and love for her friends means a fervent fierceness when it comes to their defense, kindness quick to become anger in the face of foes. There is no doubt or hesitation when it comes to those she loves. Nor will she let her new insectoid friends march to war unaided:

"Release her!" she shouts, soaring ahead of the bug-people and after Conner. Her hands glow, and then burst with lances of power, although hers are directed not at the coiled beast but the woman in the air. Beautiful or not, she too, is a foe, and thus deserves and will receive no quarter from the warlike space-Princess!


The second Caitlin is alerted to the monstrous dragon breaching the perimeter, she dashes for the security room to confirm what the alarms are telling her. This isn't just a security breach— it's a monster drawn from antiquity, puissant with age and power. Sensors all over the island are blaring warnings!

It's a fumbling few moments to flip the manual override switch and enable the 'all hands' alert for an attack on the Tower, signalling every Titan not currently at the island.

She moves back to the console, tapping on some controls and components, and brings up as much telemetric data as possible. Her eyes go wide at the sight of the dragon, his consort, and… Zatanna!

"SIRIN, patch in and give me data tracking for all present Titans, the dragon, and the … weird, evil Elsa lady," she says. "And see if you can get a read on Zatanna medically," she adds. There's a moment of silence, then reflexively, she nods a 'thanks' as her AI assistant acknowledges the command.

Then she's up on the roof in a flash, and backing up. All the way to the edge of the helipad. She takes a deep breath, adopt's a sprinters stance, and explodes into motion with all the strength she can put behind her legs. With a grunt of effort, Caitlin *leaps* a fantastic distance, right into the fray! She lands with a scrambling of legs, and touches the ground once for balance. She converts all that momentum back in the right direction and charges a classic shoulder-tackle at the Consort menacing Zatanna.


True story: Red Robin's whole scheme about not flying to Stark Tower to rescue Impulse and instead driving there had been pretty much all about not drawing the attention of the big-ass demon dragon thing.

Of course what that plan didn't account for was that while they were busy, said dragon might've had its attention drawn by something else, pulling it to Titans Island while they were preoccupied.

So in the long run that plan was doomed from the get-go, though the vigilante will no doubt insist that Superboy picking up the T-Van and flying it across Manhattan didn't help.

Speaking of which, the T-Van, which despite the name is probably closer to a military transport truck in size and general demeanor, roars its way extremely unsubtly through Raven's portal, with at least a couple of the Titans still on board and an army of recently powered-up Aztec bug guys surging around it towards the terrifying dragon thing menacing the T-shaped tower. Presumably, Nico is in the passenger seat. She may or may not be conscious. It's possible there's vomit. Red Robin's attention is on a different witch entirely.

"Zee!" Red Robin calls out as everything looks pretty horrible all things considered, vaulting out of the driver's side door of the T-Van: As he goes, part of the small backpack on his suit opens up, black and red strips like a kind of cape unfurling behind him. As electrical current is applied by a neural impulse, a reverse piezoelectric effect causes the strips to harden into a set of wings… And then the directed muon jets on the pack fire up, hurling the Red Knight into the air. Probably a little faster than he should've, but careful regard for his own wellbeing went out the window several years ago.

"First priority is to secure Zatanna," he signals the others, possibly unnecessarily but it's good to have a feeling of group coordination. "TITANS," and also weird bug guys but he doesn't mention them because they don't speak English anyway, "TOGETHER!"


Charlie aka Misfit has been having a very bad time in the New York City. I mean look at it over yonder. Demons. Everywhere. Hellhatten as she has been grumbling and muttering to herself about it. She didn't go on whatever strange Bug Army adventure Impulse and the others had without her. Nope, and damn it probably was awesome. Sadly Misfit has been fighting demons. She has also been learning things about fighting demons. For instance they are pretty nonplussed when you bounce a bat-a-rang off their scaled snoot.

This led Misfit to go back home for more lethal ordinance, usually reserved for things like robots. To be honest Charlie figures Demons aren't really people and so it must be okay to use bat-ordinance meant for soul-lacking-robots (vs. sentient robots) right. She may be in line for a very Stern Talking To later but right now she is working with the plans she has, heaven help her.

It hasn't helped her at all that the demons don't seem intent on just killing her, they keep trying to dog pile on her and capture her. Lame. Which has led to some seriously questionable moral acts on Misfit's part. But then. Robots right. Soul-lacking Robots or something. Demons are okay to kill right. Hopefully.

Anyhow when the all hands on deck super bad alarm goes off in her comms she teleports back to Titan Island, with some of the demons that were dog piling her. Which is fine because when she appears on the beach near the T-Van there is an absolute Dead Alive level explosion of Gore.. Ichor… and demon ooze from around Misfit outwards. Also a mystical shockwave of Chaos magic. Still all said not a good look for Charlotte, her gear is claws up and she is just drenched in foul substances right now. "What. Where. Who!?" okay she is trying to Titans Together.

When Misfit spots the Dragon. "Holy Crickey Fricking Woah.." yeah cursing, so dangerous. Superboy seems to be punching it. She hasn't noticed Zee. The Dragon is so bloody big. She vanishes this time with a puff of pink and purple smoke and then appears grabbing onto one of the dragon's horns, another pop bang of chaos magic. She hurls some bat-explosives down where she imagines an ear is. Reptiles and Demons are weird.


They have no room for pause, not in times like this. Raven can feel it.

From the moment they near the other side of the portal, the chaotic energy caused by demon droves doesn't fluctuate, becoming even more erratic once they break through in time to be greeted by the scene the demon dragon has already set into motion.

Raven can feel it. She doesn't like it, but she is going to have to deal with it.

If the others weren't already beginning to attack their new challenge, she would have more time to figure out how to go about doing this. Except that is not how life works.

"No, wait- !" Raven's voice is lost within the torrent of noise, the portal inversely whirling into its point of origin before vanishing completely behind her and the Titan-Tank/Mobilevan. She bites back a curse, hearing Red Robin state the current team objective before diving downward. Protecting and securing Zatanna does seem like the better of the two options; as long as they distract one giant target, then they have a little less to worry about concerning the woman who is trying to suck the life out of the witch.

Cloak billowing, the Daughter of Darkness' arms rise up, locking into place as her hands are wreathed in dark matter.


She repeats that word in a resonant whisper, pulling up shadows from the ground around Zatanna to form an opaque barrier. Except it seems to bend away from the fallen witch with the intent of encapsulating the woman with Eve-like parallels. If she can keep the her busy, then the others have a chance of getting in there to get Zee out of the way.


Gwen Stacy was not a part of the mission to rescue Bart. Instead, she's been slowly making her way around Titan's Tower to both avoid Spider-Man and find out more about this place. She's not exactly sure what all the ins and outs and specialities that come with a place like this. Of course, that's not actually how it goes most of the time. As is always the case in Manhattan, she runs into the exact person she's been trying to avoid: Peter Parker.

"Oh! Uh. Hey. Hi. I'm not avoiding—that is how're you doing?" Awkwardly, she puts a hand against a table that then lights up. And then the alarms start to go and she quickly leaps backward. "Geez do you guys have lie detectors installed everywhere or something?!" And then her eyes move out toward a window and the epic battle about to happen there. "….I'm…guessing that's not normal defenses or something."

She already has her hoodie up and then she's running, pulling her clothing into her Spider-Woman costume. Finding an open window, she flings herself out of it and swings her way down. People move toward the dragon and she hears that Zatanna is a priority and so she quickly thwips a some webbing to grasp around Zatanna's waist so she can counteract the pulling in the opposite direction.


It's funny, how sometimes time can mean so little, and then not a second later, mean everything in the world.

The past few days have been a smear of events bleeding together from one to the next for Peter Parker. Outside and excursion to Gotham that ended in its own brand of chaos, confusion and conflict, his days — his weeks — have largely stopped mattering beyond the acknowledgment that sometimes even his body requires sleep. And so moments in between fighting off demons have been marked by only brief breaks wherein his body simply forced itself to shut down, sometimes at his Aunt's house, sometimes at Titans Tower — sometimes simply stuck to the side of a building wall after the fatigue grows too great. Titans Tower is where he is now, in fact, stuck to a wall there like it was some attempt at a middle ground. Knees curled against his chest, head tucked between them, his costume more a patchwork of on-the-spot repair work and fresher tears and rips that reveal bandages and bruises of a different variety of repair work.

And then in the next moment, as a familiar voice jolts him awake with the widening snap of white lenses, he suddenly finds himself painfully cognizant of every single second. Lenses focus on Gwen, and in those waning moments where he rides that fine line between awareness and sleep deprivation, the first thing out of his mouth is,

"I'm so sorry."

And then he remembers where he is, and who he's talking to, and who she actually is, and regrets everything.

"Err. I mean. Nothing! I'm nothing. Yes. Shut up. I mean - don't shut up. You're fine. I'm just — sorry. So happy to seeing you. How are you been?"

And he feels every second it takes for that question to reach the point the alarm sounds like the excruciating torture that it truly is.

And he's acutely aware of those seconds when he (very quickly) offers a sparing look at Gwen and a "We gotta go!"… only to find the worst possible outcome he was worried about from the beginning as he vacates the tower with the sling of a web — that tremendous dragon, languishing on the shore like a beached whale. Curling tendrils around something — someone — who looks so small and indistinct from so far away, in comparison to the looming menace of the dragon. But the closer he gets, the clearer she gets, the more that icy knot of panic twists up in his gut —


— and he just hopes he's not too late as he swings in at those debilitating speeds, racking up g-force under the protest of his many internal injuries to send him flinging past the Consort and the Herald. As he passes, he spins a web-line to attach to that tentacle just as Gwen attaches her own to Zatanna, attempting to loosen it with all that momentum he has built up as he rockets by — or just tear it off entirely, to try to free her.

He does not, yet, notice the Spider-Bugs. Give him time. He'll freak out about that and patent law soon enough.


"Not quite time yet," says the Dragon to his Consort. "But give to me what hides within this shell, and you will have your empty sky."

His head hovers low over his Consort as she steps down to rip Zatanna open — to take what shines so tantalizingly within her soul. Her touch comes within hairsbreadths of Zatanna.

And then the Titans arrive, in force.

The Dragon takes several hits straight to the jaw before he can respond, scales cracking from the force, though his grasp only tightens on Zatanna in response to the assault. His head turns, fangs baring in a sneer — only for a set of explosives to detonate by the side of his head, as well. A violent shake of his head follows, seeking to dislodge the hanger-on, and a flanged roar of outrage shatters through the air, heavy with eldritch sorcery. That roar eventually shapes into a monstrous word of power that blasts a concussive wave of force outwards in all directions, seeking to knock back every Titan in the area.

"Foolish children," the Herald growls. His coil tightens around Zatanna further — Gwen and Peter can pull, but will they risk pulling Zatanna in two? "Always leading with your fists! There is only one thing we want of your friend, and we have our ways to take it that will not even cost her her life. What is cut may be regrown. A simple pruning of what already runs rampant. Of course, that is difficult to do safely when you are being hit in the face…"

He could be lying. He is a Demon, after all. But what if he is not?

He moves, one wing unfolding to catch up his Consort in a protective shield. "Shall we talk price? We are willing to pay handsomely. What do you wish? One desire, no matter how great or small, we will grant to you."

The Dragon sneers. "Or you may resist, and we will have to crack her open the hard way."


So tired, thinks Zatanna.

The Consort seems to hear. Seems to agree. "Yes, you are," she whispers, in the spare moments before the island opens up with war.

The demoness hoods her yellowy eyes, and dares closer. Ice tips her long, pale fingers, and they come within centimetres of Zatanna's vulnerable skin. So close — but never touching.

The Consort leans down close over the bound Zatara heiress. "How burdened you are. I was your way once, sweet thing. How simple it is to shut your eyes, and let go."

Her lips come but a breath short of Zatanna's — and, whispering a language not of this world, not meant for it — she sighs ice through the woman's asphyxiated, parted lips.

Then the cavalry comes.

The Consort lifts and turns her pale head, light winking off the hooked, barbed, icy ends of her crown. Her ambery eyes lid with patience.

As Starfire lances power toward her, and Caitlin arrows in with a spectacular tackle, the Consort never moves. She seems to trust not needing to, as instead, the Dragon's wing cloaks her in its infernal shield, deflecting both with its myriad power and wards — runic marks of their Elder masters banding to light when activated.

Her attention turns on those weblines catching onto their victim — her gift — and the Consort's cold features go hypothermic. She waves one hand, and the tossed air frosts ice up those webs: seeking to flash-freeze the substance on contact, perhaps enough to shatter when applied with the least bit of force.

Then darkness sheets down, able to slip past the Dragon's wing, to cover her — hold her. The Consort considers it. Considers what the barrier is made of. She reaches one icy nail to run it — and a smile widens her mouth. Her nail begins to split it like tissue. Darkness seems not to hurt beings born of the void.

"Sister shadow," she says to Rachel. "You should know better."

Gesturing out both hands, the Consort suddenly chills the surrounding air to wintry temperatures — far enough to chill. "Please," she invites, "listen to my dear husband." Wait, what?

The Dragon makes his proposal. The Consort, hands twined demurely, waits like a hostess as nearby Zatanna still asphyxiates in her hold. "One wish," she repeats, opening one hand to bring to life a pearlescent, spherical crystal — like ice, but burning with trapped power. "You could even wish the invasion away. Spare all within your city — for just one life."


SIRIN follows Caitlin's directives and the report is dispatched immediately as far as the magician's condition is concerned - she's injured and exhausted and the biggest threat to her, at present, is the way that she is being choked to death. But as usual, high-tech gadgetry has limited use when it comes to assessing magic and mysticism.

With her throat squeezed tight, wide and glassy eyes staring towards the onslaught that her teammates provide, Zatanna keeps shaking her head frantically - to discourage them all from coming closer if they would only look at her, because what they need to do instead of fighting is running. To get the hell away from the island, and the Tower, and their secondary home - or the first, for those who have left their own. But without her words, there's no hope of getting them to listen to her, to realize just why she's trying to warn them to stay away.

The monster's declarations make it worse - what the Dragon tells the Consort, knowing what that means, and as darkness starts to seep in the fringes of her vision, those wide, veined ice-blue eyes lift to regard the flitting figures of her teammates that can fly - Conner first, going in for the punch immediately, the familiar cut of Red Robin in his black and red outfit and Spider-man swirling past, her name called by two of her best friends in the Titans. She's almost too small to see, engulfed with the tentacles as she is, but tears of fear, frustration and panic starts to glisten from her eyes, spilling over on her cheeks.

It does nothing for her pride when the Consort takes this moment to lean over her and tells her that she understands. Her eyes harden despite moisture rendering them luminous, defiance carved on her alabaster expression - but subsumed, in the end, by hesitation. She knows what the woman is talking about, but not the full context or nature of it. She has avoided the truth of it for so long, has shied away from every urge to peek under the cover…

The words whispered to her are arcane and ancient. It fills her synapses like poison and she girds herself, squeezing her eyes shut as she fights, shoring up her internal defenses…

…but a band-aid is still a band-aid, isn't it? whispers the God of Mischief in her ear, recalled from her memories.

It's when she's suddenly encompassed with webs and the opaque barrier that pulls her out of it before she completely drowns, finding some hope within herself that her friends would be able to tear her away. But the tentacles grip her tight and she doesn't even have the breath to scream when attempts roll in earnest to yank her out of their clutches. Her swimming vision finds Raven in the distance, already cautioning everyone around her in the measured, rational way she treats all things. Her relationship with the half-demon daughter of Trigon can't be said to be the best, but Titans have a way of coming together despite their differences; she has never failed to help Raven despite her misgivings over her presence in the Tower, and vice-versa. Her presence here doesn't just attest to the fact - it reminds Zatanna that the other girl's magic is different from hers.


Raven… Zatanna digs in deep and clutches tight onto her panic in hopes that she is projecting her emotional distress hard enough to be able to reach her fellow witch before her consciousness fades completely. You need to get them out of here! They want…I don't think I can stop them…you have to tell them to run!

Remind them what happens when a soul bargains with a demon.


Together. "We're not in the practice of negotiating with ass-faced hell lizards who show up and start molesting our friends." Superboy observes defiantly as he recovers his flight control some distance from said dragon, his body aligned sidelong to protect Bart more than himself.

Said parcel is deposited at super-speed inside a window midway up the tower, and Kon-El can cut loose. A blinding, full-intensity tightly focused burst of heat vision is dragged with a tilt of his head up the beast's scaley chest and neck before making eye contact— it may hurt, may even cut deep, but the real intention is to buy the Kryptonian clone a minute to make his real play.

Superboy flies full bore in at the demodragon's skull once more, intent on using the impact to gain a grip on the Herald's eyehole, and start fervently seeking to crack it open. "But: How about you stick your bony head up your scaly ass and spew satanfire out both ends until you're acrid bong ash; no one needs your dumbass Dogma you bullshit Alduin fanboy."

As the foul-mouthed Kryptonian tries to rip out one of the dragon's eyes quite impolitely, bands of force insidiously surround the skull, looking to immobilize the Herald's irritating mouth. It would be nice not to get eaten, wouldn't it Kon? His internal mantra is the heartfelt one: Someone get Zatanna out of there!

Offered A or B, he goes with C: Resist while making totally sarcastic wishes. "We'll totally swap your life AND Zuul's for it, up to twice— but Zee's a shit trade not gonna happen for wankers." #shittradenotgonnahappenforwankers



Nico Minoru startles upright from where she had lapsed into semi-consciousness. She can feel something cramp inside of her, but her hand is still filled with the Staff of One. It feels tenuous, but it's there.

Sucking in a deep breath, she lets it out, and she leans for the driver's side window, she looks out and -

"Oh… shit," she says as she leans back away from the view. "I thought she'd bound the place… what did they even do," Nico mutters to herself. It is at this point that the Dragon speaks of Prices and the Consort speaks of the Merchandise (so to speak) on offer.

Hair envy does not even occur to her, not in practice. She can hear Superboy talking already — oh no, Nico thinks, dread cramping her lower back. Are they going to accept the demon's offer ironically?


The power of the demonic dragon is enormous: The blast sends Red Robin into an awkward backwards spin, like a leaf caught on a particularly tumultuous breeze. That he's able to right himself at all is only because of long hours of practice in making the wingsuit's operation second nature. Otherwise, he'd probably be careening towards the ground or the river, and there'd be yet another Titan in need of a last-minute rescue.

Hovering really isn't in his suit's repertoire though, forcing the vigilante to stay mobile while the Herald and the Consort make their 'offer', such as it is. They offer anything, a single wish, in exchange for Zatanna's very life.

There is a part, cold and distant, in the back of Red Robin's mind that can't help but weigh the idea. From a standpoint of pure logic, it would be the right choice, wouldn't it? They could simply stop the whole invasion of New York City, save potentially millions of lives, possibly even the whole world, at the cost of a single life.

"No," answers the Red Knight. Answers not just the Herald and the Consort, but also that part of himself, cold and dark. "No deals, no bargains. You're going to let go of Zatanna, and you're going to leave."

And once Superboy makes his move, so does Red Robin.

He gets height, and then he drops, a comet in red and black diving towards the demons holding Zatanna. The systems in his suit scream warnings at him because this is to be frank incredibly stupid and the ground (but more importantly, the demons) are coming up at him at an alarmingly fast rate. The wings, the inertrite lacing them rendering them nearly unbreakable and making their edges inhumanly sharp, are aimed at whatever demonic flesh might get in the way as the leader of the Titans tries to get to Zatanna.

Of course, the wings aren't the only weapon he's got that might come in handy here.

Because he's also whipping what look to be paintballs at the Herald and the Consort both. They're not full of paint, though, that would be silly.

No, they're full of the holy water he got from Constantine.

"Joor zah frul!" he shouts, backing up Superboy's earlier reference.


With Nico-Xipe-Totec's blessings, the Tamachoans have found themselves able to surge forward much faster than they would have normally been able to. It still isn't quite enough to help them clear as much distance as the flying Titans, but they have not faltered yet. And then…

Large bulbous eyes see the two Spider-beings as they fly without wings, carried by threads! How valiant! How— wait a second! Isn't that just like…

In experimentation several of the bugs stop and abruptly spit-up gobs of white, shooting outward, stretching and sticking! Ohhh…. See, all they needed was some instruction! Newly enlightened with the extent of their gifts (?), the Tamachoans rush forth to offer what support they can, webslinging at the Tower walls to carry them towards the largest target, spears aimed at the coils of the dragon!!

They don't even manage to reach the beast as it roars, finding themselves flung back and grasping desperately to their sticky tethers. Some lose their hold, others end up dangling rather sadly. Right. This plan isn't working very well, and from their clicking they are beginning to wonder if they are really up for this sort of thing.

Maybe it's the familiar rush of wind, or maybe it's the loud dragon roar, but either way, it's not long after Conner sets him down that Impulse starts to wake up. Eyes flutter open as the speedster groggily pushes himself up to sit, wincing at the headache he's greeted by. "Owww… Huh?"

He blinks, rubbing his face as he stumbles to his feet and wanders towards the window to look out. And up. And up. And up some more…

"Uh… Isn't he at the wrong tower…?"

Because of course that's the first thing Bart asks.


Starfire is all indignity and rage as her attacks prove for nothing, not even impacting on the dragon's lowered wing, but on the arcane wards it conjures. Somehow, that is an even greater insult, to be denied even the satisfaction of some smoldering scorchmark on its scales. But she has little enough time to ponder this denial, as its bellowing roar sends shockwaves through the air in every direction. She's durable enough that it causes little harm, but she's thrown even further than the most super of boys.

Sailing away some distance, she turns end over end in the air, but fortunately at least such wild 3d-dimensional movement is not much to disorient her: there is no up and down in space! That's the explanation and we're sticking to it!

Nonetheless, once upright compared to Earth, at least, she again soars on the attack. And while she would very much like to incinerate this 'Consort' person for what she is doing to one of Koriand'r's friends, the dragon's stalwart defense seems to rule out this option. She is angry, yes, but not stupid. And seeing Conner on the attack again, she decides that a combined tactic might be of some value.

So as the Kryptonian's eye-beams strike from one direction, they are joined moments later by her own starbolts, the paired blasts lighting up red and green in the air like the human celebration of dead trees and reverse chimney robbers. Hers strike at a different angle, and as she zeroes in at her own high flight speed, rake across the creature's surface so her flight peels away.

Now she's to be the distraction as he attacks.

Also for the Tamachoans, so they hopefully are not all killed instantly like the denizens of the kitchen after pizza night.

Of course, in passing, she cannot but wonder: "Who is the Alduin? Does this creature serve an even greater master, yet?"


Caitlin's laid flat by the blast of force. She's built pretty sturdy and with her center of gravity so low, she goes more tumbling, less than flying.

But she was -so close- for a second there. Almost could have made that grab.

She gets to her feet and drops into a defensive stance when the Herald starts proposing things like 'deals' and 'bargains'. Caitlin's eyes flicker to Zee. A pruning? Not death? The engineer in her seems to be weighing it with a cold rationality, the cost of one versus the other…

And then Superboy makes the choice for her, and Caitlin looks visibly relieved to have that decision taken out of her hands. And a little guilty at the same time for even having considered it.

"Conner, you're so hot right now," she mumbles into her headset. She takes two big steps sideways and jumps again, this time aiming to get a hand on the dragon's neck and clamber up to the opposite side of the monstrous skull.

She sets her toes, digs her fingers in deep, and goes from a squat to a full stand. Muscles explode in lines across her body, visible even through her matte bodysuit, and she lets out an explosive grunt of effort as the Titans' two biggest bruisers put their combined weight into cracking that particular walnut.

"Gosh, and I… thought I was the nerdy one," she says, grunting into her communicator.


A bargain. Demons like to bargain. It can be a bold lie, but it can also be the truth.

The barrier Raven raises doesn't get a chance to properly seal, not after The Dragon releases the earth-shattering roar. Flinching, she backs off, her arms now crossing in front of her in a defensive stance. The words he speaks also send a chill of familiarity down her spine.

"Do not listen to him," she warns the Titans over their coms, the tone of her voice set on edge despite its calm. "Never make deals with demons- "

She's cut off mid-sentence by another chill, the latter more physically icy than the former. The icy touch raking through the darkness leaves an impression on Raven, almost as if she feels it directly onto her body. Stoic, masklike features try in vain to never outwardly show any kind of emotion, but her eyes betray her, widening at The Consort's address.

'Sister Shadow.' Of Darkness.

One of them.

"…We," Raven almost hisses at the woman, "are not sisters."

It's here she gets another feeling - another message. Zatanna? The connection is clear, panic-stricken, alive as she focuses on it. Zatanna, calm yourself, we're doing what we can to help… Her internal voice trails off, staying silent until the last few words are dropped.

"Titans," Raven then says, eyes narrowing at the Dragon and his Consort, narrowing all the same at Superboy's offer as he continues his attack. "Foolish as it may sound, you never want to bargain with a demon. You may get what you want, but it will cost a life." She now summons shadows to whip at the Dragon's tail, trying to loosen the grip on the witch.

"I've also been told to pass along another message," she adds, urgent despite its raspiness. "We need to leave this place!"


Gwen may have some super strength, but she has never had to try and fight a dragon before. "That's a dragon!" she yells as if the rest of them don't know. "That's, like, a dragon! Oh my God, is Lord of the Rings a real thing here? Holy crow, I saw there were demons and stuff that's making people freak out, but I didn't realize that included dragons. Does that mean Narnia's real, too?"

Keeping a firm grip on her webbing, she starts moving forward, still trying to ensure that Zatanna doesn't lose any other ground against the onslaught. She has no magic, she has no super punch, but she has her gear and she has her strength. Nor is she about to agree to demon deals. "Yeah, uh, I've dealt with Devil's in Hell's Kichens in other places and that totally did not work out well. Actual demons are out of my wheelhouse."

Slowly, she keeps the pressure up as she moves forward to try and hook her arms under Zee. They need to get her out of here and while webs are a great start, they need more than that. "Sorry for groping you!" she apologize to Zee with a bit of a wince. "This is a non-sexual touch as far as I'm concerned!"


Right.. hold .. on.. .hold on…. Misfit desperately for a moment tries to hold on to the dragon's horn as he whips his head around like that trying to shake her off .. okay she can't help a little "wheeeee" like this is some sort of carnival ride and not a demon dragon she is holding onto there. The roar though, and the build up of energy as he inhales for it gets her attention though. She can feel the demon magic in ways that frankly make her uncomfortable.

Letting go Misfit rides the shockwave for a moment and then vanishes in a slice of pink and purple smoke as she bounces, rending reality for a moment as she convinces it that she is actually somewhere else entirely. Chaos. The order to get Zee out of trouble finally sinks in past the whole DRAGON Dragon ohmygod Dragon going through her head. Also why the hell does fighting a dragon actually feel familiar. Misfit will need to ponder this later.

Moments later Misfit appears, past the wing defense, past the consort, perched on the tail near Zee with another popbang of Chaos. ~I can't teleport Zee out guys… but.. uh Robin what do we do?~ she leans a bit to the side as Raven tries to shadowwhip the tail. ~I'm also not at all sure I could teleport the dragon.. maybe the snow queen here… could pop her?~, Robin at least knows Charlie means that literally. In the meantime she flings a couple of sticky bat-bombs right at the back of Frost Queen's head.



And this would be the sound that forces itself from Peter Parker's lips as he finds himself in the unique position of essentially wrestling with a tentacle where he lands.

LOSER: SPIDER-MAN'S cracked ribs!

In the end, it doesn't help. Like struggling against the inevitable march of time, all it seems to do is inspire that tendril to coil tighter. The arachnid's muscles strain violently — odds are high, he'd just as soon cause irreversible damage to himself in the trying if he thought it could free Zatanna from those clutches — not just because he knows the #1 rule of all demons everywhere is don't let them eat things they seem to find particularly tasty, but because she's his friend. And perhaps the only person who knows the truth of him, all the way through. The good and the bad.

He'd sooner die than let anything happen to her.

But it's that lingering worry that he might cause harm to Zatanna instead that ultimately brings pause to Peter's actions before he can feel the start of tearing tendons. Releasing his weblines, he stumbles forward with a sharp, dry, burning gasp of air to fill his lungs that prefaces him simply being bowled over by the mighty roar of that draconic… thing. Hands pressing to earth as he falls, his entire body is lit with pain as he handsprings back into a stand, wheels around…

… and hears the creatures and their offer. Any wish they want. In exchange for that precious thing inside Zatanna. For a moment, he imagines just how easy it might be to trust that, to have the city — his city — Aunt May — safe from harm from this incursion. Millions for one. So easy to believe that they just want to trim something off, something inconsequential. So easy.

He copes with temptation the best way he can:

"What… is this supposed to be… Dragon Ball…??"

He makes jokes.

"Where's… James Marsters… when you need him?"

Soon enough though, he's recovering. Soon enough he's turning his attention on that massive dragon. Gwen is working on Zatanna. The others are doing what they can. So he steels himself. And he leaps.

"So that's, like, a really tempting offer, but I've got like, two hundred different stories about not selling your soul to the devil to get something you want warning me that's not a good idea!" And he runs a web-line as he speaks, trying to scale that tremendous dragon — to slingshot himself up into the air —

"Sorry, Fin Fang Foom's fatter, fetishier friend!"

— and attempt to fill the Herald's eyes with webbing. Just…

-=thwip=- -=thwip=- -=thwip=- -=thwip=- -=thwip=- -=thwip=- -=thwip=- -=thwip=- -=thwip=- -=thwip=-

so much webbing.

"Oh! There was that one about a fiddle contest that went pretty okay. Do you have a fiddle? We could fiddle! I've never fiddled but I figure it's fine, I like my odds against a guy who is like ninety percent nightmare fuel and two hundred percent no opposable thumbs and OH MY GOD ARE THOSE SPIDER-ROACHES?! WHAT THE HELL, GUYS!"

See? He was coming back around to it.


The Titans, one by one, make their answers. And in the end, they answer as a unified whole.

NO. No deal. No bargain. Nothing is worth the life of their friend. Because that's what it would be, no matter what the Dragon claims with his lying forked tongue. That's what it would be, no matter the honeyed words the Consort whispers.

They punctuate their denials with renewed attacks.

The Dragon roars in fury as Superboy draws a laser of pure heat up its body, but the tough scales manage to reflect most of the damage. What takes more of a toll is the Kryptonian's physical assault afterwards. The Demon's jaws snapped shut, his left eyesocket straining under Kon-El's strength, that one serpentine yellow eye stares balefully full into Superboy's face as he works. He twists to try to reach the Kryptonian with his claws — only for his coils to jerk as Starfire and Red Robin's combined assault burn up the coils of his body, the holy water weakening the Demon's defenses enough that the starbolts leave smoking holes.

The thing's fangs bare, teeth the length of trucks, even if he cannot quite open his jaws. FILTHY CREATURES, his chaotic voice shrieks through the heads of all present. YOUR INSOLENCE

Caitlin gains the top of the Dragon's head, and adds her strength to Superboy's in one titanic joined effort. The Dragon's left eye pops clear out of his skull in a shower of acidic black ichor. The filth rains down, steaming with miasma, and wherever it strikes the ground it spawns into a pile of writhing hell-worms. They're not very threatening, but they're pretty disgusting, and they grab anyone that walks close.

The monster's head jerks wildly in mingled pain and fury. The entire mass of the creature's head slams towards the airborne Kon-El, the blood-slick scales whiplashing with tremendous force under Caitlin's feet.

The pain of those assaults loosens the Herald's grip on Zatanna. Enough that combined forces might be able to get her free even of that thing's monstrously-strong grip.

With a horrible grind of vast fangs, the Dragon finally breaks the fetters holding his jaws shut. That empty, gushing eye socket starts to sprout — tentacles, a thousand tendrils worming out of the ruined flesh, each sporting a little eye of their own —


Mercifully, a whole lot of webbing covers that up right quick.

"My wife," he hisses out between his fangs, "They have made their choice."

His one remaining, livid yellow eye widens. "SO BE IT."

The Dragon speaks one syllable, a single word of Demonic that rends the mind — but seems to have no outward effect, other than a brief sensation akin to having a stirring rod put through one's eyesocket.

No effect that is visible, anyway…


That swift, hateful denial from Rachel comes met with a Cheshire smile from the Consort.

But, one after another, the Titans make their wills known. The demoness waits, with the timeless patience of falling snow, that sphered gem spinning within her ice-barbed fingers.

Their coveted wish, and swirling within it, all the possibilities promised from the jaws of Elder Gods.

But they do not accept.

The Consort tilts her ice-crowned head. And, with a lilted sigh, closes her hand and snuffs the wish from existence.

"Pity!" she exclaims, with grand theatrics. "Pity, pity, pity. Beloved of mine —"

Her ambery eyes lid. "I permit thee to feed."

Misfit aims a bomb at the Consort's head —

— and quick as a snakestrie, the demoness turns, one pale hand outstretched to catch it. It freezes over, every molecule gone cold, within her touch. She locks eyes with the woman, considering, as a widening grin eels up her mouth.

Holy water hits and pocks holes through the wing shielding her. It eats acid through the Dragon. His own eye rips free —

And the Consort decidedly acts, pulling herself up into the air, as it crystallizes frost that runs from her in a trailing cloak of thorns.

She lifts both hands, and cold breathes from her hands —

— as it begins snow. Begins to hail. Begins to razor ice down on everyone in attendence, large, gnarled shards of it that puncture into the ground where they land.

"Such NOISE," she snaps, "I will not BEAR it!" Noise — from one source.

The Consort blows a breath down — in an attempt to encase Spider-Man in a ten-foot thick brick of ice. There is not much air trapped in with him…

"Now that I can think —" declares the demoness, generating a runic curse between her hands. Her eyes glow, and she commands: "Sunder."


The battlefield, for that is surely what it is, is absolute chaos. Trying to ignore his headache (ow, that's…more physical hurt than inside hurt now that he thinks about it, what??) Impulse looks around at what's happening outside of the tower.

Demon dragon. Icicle lady. Zee in a Very Bad Position and wait are those the Tamachoans?? Why are they even here?? And…why are they hanging from webs like Spider-Man? That is just confusing.

…know what, never mind. His continued surveillance of the situation and Raven's warning make everything quite clear as to what's going on- although even without, he knows what the important thing to be done here is. Which is why…he disappears- not that anyone notices, but he reappears at the window with what looks like a megaphone, and with the thing turned on, he starts…clicking through it.

The Tamachoans all look up, startled but apparently pleasantly so as they immediately begin to regroup. They reposition themselves, and at the window, Impulse grabs onto the ledge and then hops on out and starts to pump his legs, racing down the side of the tower to the nearest of coils. Onramp, get.

He doesn't stop there, a red and white blur that zips between webbing and icy projectiles, friendly and enemy fire alike. He's not stopping. Because if they need to leave, they're so not doing it without Zatanna.

In that instant his target is clear, a single point of focus that might last not longer than a minute, but that's more than enough for Bart Allen. He sweeps past the Consort. He sees Spider-Gwen try to pull Zatanna free from the dragon's tentacle grip. His heartbeat's like thunder in his ears, but he's suddenly there in front of Zatanna, arm wrapping around her, hand reaching out to grasp Gwen as well.

Molecules vibrate, fast, faster, through the many-appendaged grasp, meant to clear Impulse and his two passengers. Come on….!

Clear on through—!

Pain. It lances through his head worse than the headache he'd woken up with, and with a yelp his concentration's broken, but gravity pays it no heed.


She has promised not to give up her own life to several others and so far, Zatanna has held true to that promise, ever one to keep her word. But with the alternative before them, she can't help but wonder whether that wouldn't be the easiest alternative. Not for the deal regarding the souls of New York, she knows better than anyone (except Raven) what a demon's promises are like, but rather because if she dies here and now, there would be no hope of the Herald or the Consort to get what they are after and make the entire situation in the city worse.

Or the alternative option, which she dreads down to the very marrow of her bones.

Raven… Her internal voice is fading, but the desperate plea hammers on the empath as she struggles to keep her consciousness. …please. You have to get them out. You have to…I'm BEGGING you—!

And suddenly, she's free, and it all occurs in a blink of an eye, passing through the eye of the proverbial needle without so much as a by-your-leave. Air fills her lungs in a sudden rush as Impulse peels her out of the bind she's in, and zips her to a place of safety, along with Gwen. Her heart soars, gratitude filling her every cell.

…but whatever hope is there drains out of her as ice settles in her veins, now that her vision is clearing, now that she can see the landscape before her. Her labored breaths coalesce into mist.

They are all here. Conner, who struggles constantly to find a place in a world that would easily reject him if they knew where he really came from. Kori, her home forever out of reach and doing her best to create a new one on Earth. Nico, out to prove that blood is not thicker than water and Raven, whose every day is filled with her own small, but persistent attempts to rise above her cursed existence. Gwen, forcibly pulled out of her own world and thrown in another where familiar bodies are possessed by the souls of strangers. Even the strange bug people who are presently fighting the demons, the thing that hailed Tony Stark as their god.

Peter, open, friendly, affectionate Peter, who mirrors her in so many ways, who never lets her get away with not telling him the important and terribly personal bits and forever gifted with the ability to set aside his own tumult to be truly there for someone.


Her knees buckle, arms banding around her tightly as she stoops over, her weight leaning completely on Bart, the single word pulsing in her brain over and over and over again. Sunder, the Consort said. Sunder.

And it does.

The abyssal thorns of her curse webs over Giovanni Zatara's seal and shatters it to pieces. Her eyes lift slowly, her expression pained and horrified, looking at the young speedster's face.

"Impulse…." she whispers. "Run."

And hopefully he'll be fast enough for what follows. The pale blue of her eyes recedes to nothing, obliterated by pure white light. The wind around her stirs, faster and faster, rippling outward in a sudden and intense surge of power that clears all debris around her, mirrored on the skies themselves when the clouds swirl rapidly above her head, like the eye of a storm.

Followed by a column of light that explodes from the ground underneath her feet and surges upwards, the sight of the magician utterly obliterated by illumination so intense, it would blind anyone looking upon it directly. Her slim silhouette starts to rise.

The Well is broken, its corruption seeping in, spilling out of the Zatara heiress in uncontrolled waves. Reality starts to warp, pure magical might lashing out of her and threatening to consume everything. Not just them. Not just the island.



"I swear, at this point, seriously? Seriously just legitimately wondering if there's some universe full of spider-people out there, you know, just co-opting my whole, like, spider-brand," converses Spider-Man, having a friendly chat with the dragon, of course, as he thwips all the day long. "But that'd be crazy! Maybe I should just do something really unique. Like your whole…" Lenses squint, assessing his work.

One eye down. Dozens of tendrils full of eyeballs to go.

"… cronen…dragon… 'Madness of Deathwing'… thing. You got going. Real, um. Real cool."

One can just imagine his grimace thanks to the wonders of expressive lenses.


And so he webs with renewed vigor. Deeply and intensely renewed vigor. That whole thing is just — just gross.

"I bet no one tries to steal your gimmick," he sees fit to concede, at least; his spider-sense is going wild as he yanks on a web, sending him slingshotting over the Dragon's head. "Downside: you have to take part in a game expansion once generously described as 'thank god it's finally over'—"


A demonic syllable cuts through the air, sears into the mind. And it is sudden, and jarring, and unavoidable enough that the sudden, white-hot stabbing pain of it takes Spider-Man completely off guard. Beneath his mask, his eyes widen, echoed in the opening flare of white lenses. He issues a strangled, "pfuh" of pain before his grip slacks on that webline, and he goes into freefall. Abused as his body is, Peter briefly loses consciousness as he falls, falls, falls —

— reasserting it all with a sudden, painful spike of alertness seconds before he becomes a gruesome spider-pancake on the earth beneath him.

"guh — FUH — HEY GUY, RUDE," manages the spider-vigilante as he hits ground with an uncertain, stumbling sputter. He feels his left tibia stress fracture just slightly with the impact. "hahhh… t-the other Dragon Aspects would be… so super disappointed in… your entire life-"

And maybe it's because he's injured, and tired, from days on end of fighting without breaks, with minimal sleep. Maybe it's the distraction of that mind-splitting noise from the Dragon.

Or maybe it's how his Spider-Sense starts shrieking in a way more painful than anything that Dragon could utter as his attention turns towards its source in Zatanna Zatara.


But whatever it is, it leaves him in poor position to maneuver around the Consort's magical efforts.

And all he really has time to do? Fire off one last web, straight for the face of the sorcerous woman of ice and madness before he is frozen over completely.

Just a second too late, of course, to stop what's coming. Leaving him with only the ice and the warning that rings violently in his skull he is helpless to stop.


'Bitten by a mass of writhing hell-worms' is better than eaten by a dragon. Not a lot better, but better. Superboy sends an undulating wave of telekinetic force along the limb suddenly covered in the things, blasting them clear of his arm and then down the side of his body, the little crawlies spattered to uncountable particles in the passing power.

"Yea we're good for that!!" Insolence. Almost everyone on the Titans has some problem with authority, and when that authority is demonic entities who want to eat Zatanna and maybe snag a few of their souls on the way out? Well, it's easy to be united in that big, middle finger.

Kon can only spare a fraction of his attention for the efforts to free Zee (nice)— plucking out dragon eyes and being a gigantic pain in the ass is his chosen role at this moment… as in no shortage of others. The razor-sharp chunks of hail tear through the Kryptonian's invulnerability like the magical daggers they are, cutting slices out of him shallow and deep as one full-on buries itself in his shoulder, gradually melting out of the wound.

The pain is, to understate the situation, agonizing. The thrashing dragon throws Kon-El momentarily clear, out into the maelstrom. Channeling his will, that fire of defiance and necessity that drives his bloodline, Superboy strikes a classic pose, steels his jaw, and hurtles into that gaping wound, both fists repeatedly hammered home with all the strength he can muster.

One seeks jawbone, the other projects force: an amazing pressure -behind- that gathered mass of webbed-up eyehole tentacles, with rending force of its own. It's a rare exercise in a number of ways: under painful, potentially debhilitating or lethal attack, against a fearsome foe, -and- one that the Kryptonian-derived bioweapon has no problem trying to pulp. Would he feel differently if he knew this demonic hellbeast was once a person? A vaguely sympathetic asshole, even?

It's hard to say: right now, he's just keen on dishing out as much punishment as he can, until he's taken more than -he- can himself. Leaving? He feels the same as numerous others: They're not leaving without Zatanna, and bloodied Kryptonians can carry on for half an issue's worth of splash pages; it's a -fact-. All he has to do is hold on, do damage, buy them time— the warnings to run are heard, time and again through Raven and Zatanna and simple survival instinct.

Superboy has no death wish, but he is who he is, and the drive to fight until everyone else is clear is strong. To rely on his own speed. His own resilience. And then it all goes up in a brilliant, impossible light, and all he has time to do is throw up one shielding arm.


Well, things aren't exactly working out for Caitlin here.

The blood-slicked scales challenge her footing, and she's forced to hold on with a deathgrip to the horns overhead. The dragon thrases and roars, and she barely hangs on.

That's ok. Caitlin's deathgrip could crush steel bearings.

She swings around like a fish on a line, and gets weirdly non-symmetrical glances of the horizon passing by at odd angles.

She almost loses her grip. Almost goes flying. But a desperate grab catches a bony ridge, and she flips around to the dragon's good eye.

"Hi!" she says, because Caitlin's repartee is sadly lacking— and much as Conner had done before, she braces herself inside that eye socket and tries to separate it with all the considerable force at her disposal. She shouts with the effort, legs trembling with the force she exerts with the action. It'd be enough to life a small naval vessel. Maybe it's enough to crack the demon's skull for good. It's all she has until she's blinded by the surge of light, and all she can do is scream and avert her eyes— and fight on.


At first the cold is not much concern or hindrance to Starfire. Space Fact #2: It's very cold there!

However, much like the fact that being clobbered by a meteor-storm is no fun, such is also the case as cold turns to snow, snow to hail, and hail to murderous ice daggers. At least they're not going a significant fraction of the speed of light, but nonetheless they cause great trouble for the unprotected flier. Agile as she is, there are too many, too close, to really have any chance of dodging them. And when the first few cut slashes along her golden skin, she seeks some other shelter against the onslaught. There isn't a ton that's terribly obvious, and what she settles on isn't the most intuitive plan:

She uses the dragon himself!

Hurtling downward with the icy blades on her heels, she loops beneath various sections of the massive, thrashing beast, beneath outspread wings that once denied her, even dangerously between roiling coils of his serpentine body. This provides her shelter, but also a place to hide. As where Conner seems quite on top of brutalizing the beast in spectacular, punchy fashion, another target remains, one denied to her earlier. And she thinks that maybe this time, the dragon will not be so fast with its wings - nor perhaps even able to interpose them, as close as she flies.

And so Starfire suddenly appears, having looped her way through that perilous flight, her hair streaking out behind her in a long, blazing trail. Appears on the other side of the beast, close to his Consort. Here, Kori doesn't hesitate, nor pause to consider human worries like mercy for one's foe: as soon as she sees her target, she fires at full blast, near point blank.

Focused on this, she cares nothing for the ritual or anything else.

Nor is she in any position to run, when the bright green flash of her own attack is rapidly eclipsed by a far greater light. She is fast, but not that fast. And besides, she has a vile demon sorceress to set on fire.



Nico attempts to slip out of the van in the hopes of supporting the group. She hears the horrid creature Speak and she feels something drive into the side of her eye and she clutches her Staff nearer and then she feels something else rupture. She is reminded of when Chase made her watch a video that she didn't understand until she realized it was some kind of - earwax being pulled out of -

Why is she thinking of that?

Because something is bleeding and something else has been freed now.

What is Zatanna? Nico doesn't know. She has not truly thought much about her - Raven was more approachable despite everything. The princess of prestidigitation was a remoter presence. Busy, occupied, and, Nico sees as she steps round the T-Van, also apparently containing the great depths of some darkling power.

No, not darkling. Quite the opposite. Nico does not have a well trained eye but she can see the spot where the Light shines and unformed pure potentia replaces… replaces… Well, replaces pieces of *Titan Island*. "Oh," Nico says, "shit," she then says -

She chokes up her grip on the Staff of One as the muscles around her spine tighten. Her eyes gleam with lambent magenta as she looks towards Spider-man oh god is he gonna die in there - as Caitlin and Superboy leap forwards -

"SHADES OF MEANING!" Nico shrieks. Her nose starts bleeding as do the six or seven small cuts and scrapes on her body, only one of which is the one on the side of her right arm which she geeked open to draw forth the Staff of One itself.

The magenta light jabs forwards. It struggles. Nico barely knows what she is doing, and her memory - the guiding will behind this spell - slams forwards. Book-leaf rippling touches where the glowing intensity radiating from Zatanna comes, trying to guard what-is from the howling white-hot potential that emanates from Zatanna!

"Rachel!! I can't - hold - Gah!! This is like stuffing paper towels into the frigging Sephirot! HELP!!"

Somewhere, the ELA may feel slightly smug.


The hailstorm of ice shards is a problem.

Red Robin felt a surge of something not quite like elation but at least roughly in the neighbourhood when the holy water proves effective against the defenses of the two terrible demons, helps to create openings for the other Titans to land solid hits. Already, the Red Knight is reaching for the ample supply of explosive batarangs he brought with him on the trip into New York to rescue Impulse. But already, the Consort and the Herald are making their own counterstrokes.

His comet dive turns into a more controlled fall as he switches his suit's wings back to a more useful configuration, dodging and weaving as best he can between the terrible ice storm summoned by the Consort. They're on the ropes now, he knows it, with Spider-Man getting frozen, but Impulse is back in the action, working to free Zatanna, to rescue Spider-Woman, and once the demons don't have a hostage they can—

Heavy ice slams down on one of Red Robin's wings. Able to stand up to an enormous amount of punishment, it doesn't really break, but there are more immediate concerns when you're talking about aerodynamics. A technological marvel to be sure, if nothing of the scope or scale of Stark's suits… But still, a fragile human effort to keep from being left behind by the veritable gods that surround him every day.

And now he's going to crash.

The landing is rough, on the ice-strewn grass of Titans Island, but at least it doesn't take him completely out. Just out long enough that he's standing on the grass when he sees the sky overhead change. When raw, untamed power clears the space around Zatanna… And then erupts into the sky.

"ZEE!!" the vigilante shouts, throwing himself into long, loping strides until the muon thrusters on his pack lift him into the air again, trying recklessly, stupidly, to get to the witch. The updrafts of the pure power on display actually lift his wings, pushing the Red Knight higher, and the engines pour out more energy to try and bull through. The lenses of his mask have turned black as pitch with polarisation, but even still his eyes are forced to close. "Zatanna! You've got to control this! You're the only one who can save everybody!"

Who knows if she can even hear him in there. It's not like he's entirely without a plan, though: Blood, the blood of a man named Gerry Craft, drips from between the fingers of his clenched right fist. That same blood forms a barrier against magic around Red Robin. A temporary barrier, a flimsy shield. Like trying to deflect a nuclear bomb with a piece of sheet metal.

And yet, there he goes.


Man that Demon Lady is cold as ice. Fast as a snake though. Most people do not catch bombs Misfit throws at their backs like that. Not that she is in the habit of throwing bombs at people's backs. Bat-a-rangs sure right. Also that stare and smile. Who eels a smile. That is a bad touch smile and look from a demon and it gives Charlie some super heebie jeebies for a minute there. Definitely freezing her, figuratively for a moment in her tracks and cutting off the witty banter. She needs lessons. Maybe from Peter Popsicle.. (too soon?)

And Cut. Well okay not really. Damn Impulse just vibrated Gwen and Zee away from the tail Misfit is standing on to safety. Also demon lady is hovering away in a burst of ice that would make Iceman jealous. Well okay maybe Bobby would not go in on razoe ice storm, too much collateral damage and he is too nice.

Standing there and being cut to little bits by blades of ice plummeting from the sky is not a good plan either. Damnit all. Misfit bounces pinkurple and appears well above the evil ice lady in the sky. No Charlie can't fly. She can teleport and fall and teleport before hitting the ground, which is not flying. The whole SUNDER business and then Zee blowing up like that distracts her before she can toss another bomb at Ice Queen and try to distract her. Something crackles around Misfit, it looks like a shield of Ruby Red Light, little cracks sizzle across it but it stays intact and then is gone like a flashbulb. The bomb is dropped at the demoness, but not with precise aim because Charlie has a headache and is not falling along after her bomb. She will probably teleport dramatically or something. Maybe?


Zatanna…Zatanna! Raven tries to hold onto the voice. She feels it thin out, slipping from her grasp the longer she stays in touch with the unconscious Zatara. The concern in her own voice grows frantic no matter how hard she's trying to stay calm in the midst of the chaos. I'm doing what I can- wait, Zatanna, no. Stay with me! I'm losing you- !

Raven screams, dropping like a deadweight onto the ground at the spoken Demon Dragon syllable. Her body spasms, cringing inwardly into what looks like a sad lump under an oversized cloak. Arms instinctively hug tight against her torso as she gasps for air, misty breaths forming as the temperature suddenly drops from whatever it should be.

But it isn't just that. Something else is wrong.

The air - there's a different charge of energy in the cold. It starts out like a wallop with the blunt side of a shovel before breaking down into deeper, more worrying vibrations. On the empathic level, yes, it's bad, but on the Magic level…it's even worse.

The shriek from Nico snaps her back into her senses, fastforwarding everything up until this point. The energy Zatanna is causing is still present, so much stronger than they both could have known.

And a flare of color tinges the whites of Raven's eyes. It dares to flicker, but the intensity brightens, burning from under the confines of her hood. "Azarath." She falters, getting to her feet as fast as possible. "Mentrion." Arms snap upward, her hands and fingers splayed against the sky. "ZINTHOS!!" With these words, she reinforces Nico's magic despite the immediate overexhertion, doing her best to keep everyone and the island itself from exploding and imploding from Zatanna's power release.

"THIS," she almost yells, hoarsely, "is why I said we have to leave!"


There is only so much that Gwen is used to fighting. Burrito bandits? Yes. Strange inventors? Sure. Dragons ripped from the pages of gothic horror? Not so much. And so she focuses where she can: saving Zatanna. There is only so much she can do there, as well, but she is certain that should they attempt to take her they'll have to deal with a Spider-Woman as well. It may not be much, but it is something as she watches the Titans fly and punch and quip.

"It's the little things," she tells herself as she keeps a firm grip on Zatanna. Another hand whips out to attach some webbing on the Tower itself to help her grip. "Just…hold on."

Ice shards start to fall and she sees that Peter has been encased in ice. Her eyes narrow and her grip loosens just slightly as if she means to leap forward to grab the Spider-Man-Cicle and swing it out of harm. And then there is the words. They strike straight into her head and she might just let go of Zatanna entirely when there is a blur and Impulse is grabbing both of them. Her webbing is shorn in an immediate and effective manner as he speeds them away from the bindings that hold Zee captive. The world turns, her stomach flips, it looks like going into hyperspeed.

"What. The Hell. Is this." Her voice is weaker with the mental pain and the nausea. "I think….I think I'm going to be sick…."


I permit thee to feed, says the Consort. And then she cracks Zatanna Zatara open, and gives him a way in.

The Dragon hisses out a vile, hungry note, all his genteel speech gone into a feral, mindless look that meshes well with his ruined face and reptile features. His head snakes forward, jaws opening, aimed towards Zatanna. Sickly black electricity crackles between his fangs as he attempts to draw something from her, to slice it free from her body and drink it down.

It is not cooperating the way he wishes it to, that is for certain. Nothing happens. The Dragon falters, snarling.

Even less so when Superboy and Caitlin come raining back in, blinded by Zatanna's piercing light. The Dragon's head snaps back from the force of their combined assault, shards of scales flying, demonic bone grinding to dust. From every opened wound bursts a mess of tentacles and acidic ichor strong enough to eat through steel and dissolve concrete.

His jaws part, and the demon shouts a word of power into the ice-saturated air. A spell lashes out to lock the limbs of the two powerhouses for a few critical moments, intent on sending them dropping back to earth for the time it takes him to coil his body and beat his vast wings.

The winds stirred up are prodigious, but it is not in itself an attack. The Dragon lifts from the earth, pulling away. Perhaps intent on removing from the battlefield until the prey becomes easier to take.

"My love," the Dragon calls, aiming for the sky, "perhaps this vintage needs time to age…"


Unfortunately, not even undying heralds of the Great Ones are imbued with perfect perception —

As the great detonation of light — a veritable feast for their infernal kind — draws the Consort's greedy eye. Her own mouth waters as she holds in the air, playing witness to her mate's attempt to consume that power — and the woman with it — whole.

But it is not taking. The demoness tilts her head.

—And that last, aimed stream of webbing catches her in the face. She recoils in the air with a surprised, aggravated howl, reaching compulsively up to pull and tear at the sticky substance.

Misfit's next sticky bomb hits, leaving the Consort both blinded and bound. With a muted snarl, she concentrates, and all those substances begin to freeze over, crackling from her infused chill —

But not fast enough. Starfire's blast hits the Consort like a fly from the air, and the demoness slaps straight to the earth, puncturing into the ground. Strewn there for a moment, she is still.

Then, her icy fingers dig in. With a strain, she claws into herself, ripping herself down from her face, shedding her glued, seared layer like a serpent molting its skin. Leaving the layer behind, the Consort emerges clean — and angry.

Pushing back into the air, she gestures up from the earth — and erupting up comes countless tendrils, dead, thorny bramble, sheening with ice as they tongue up into the air. She directs them toward Starfire with a push of her hand, attempting to braid her inside layers and layers of wrapping, squeezing barbed ends — like a closing iron maiden with the strength of chains. The infernal ice makes the touch of them burn.

The Dragon calls, and his Consort heeds, alighting down to his great head by the points of her icy heels. His wounds draw her eye, and she blows delicately on them, and his body armors with a layer of her ice, curving out a thousand razor needles.

"Take us away, beloved," she urges.



… chills out.


Somehow, they didn't splat. Somehow, even when his brain hit a speedbump, his legs kept on moving. Somehow, they end up on the ground. Impulse hangs onto Gwen and Zatanna more out of reflex than anything else, still trying to drag himself out of his own haze of a headache. It's kind of like three hungover people trying to find support from each other, and it's amazing that none of them fall.

It should be fine. They should be fine. Zee's saved, they can go to town on the dragon and the ice queen.

…but something is wrong.

Amber eyes meet Zatanna's, uncomprehending as he watches her expression shift.

Impulse… Run.

It's not the words themselves, but whatever realization of horror is behind it that chills him, and even then he can't find himself able to move. Run? But he can't- Why?! he wants to ask, or just say no and keep on carrying her clear of this nightmarish battle.

The threat however proves not to be from the demons, but from Zatanna Zatara herself as he sees her eyes begin to fade out, claimed by light, the winds seeming to ever so slowly begin to pick up and billow around them. The rest of the team and the fight against the dragon and consort seem impossibly far away, but all Impulse sees right now is Zatanna as the skies above begin to react violently. The edge of light that just promises to be a thousand times worse is all he needs to turn himself away forcefully to avoid directly getting caught by the flare of blinding light, and he tries to keep Gwen's head down and covered as he holds her tight.

And he runs.

It's like his feet have decided to make the decision for him, and he's racing away from the foci, the light at his back. Too close, too little. Too late?


Nico is the first to act - and just in time. The uncontrollable tsunami of whatever the hell Zatanna Zatara is slams into the other witch's own magenta-hued power and cracks start to appear upon it with the initial strike. It continues to rush and in moments, it will shatter without help. But while it takes the brunt of the magical holocaust that has just been unleashed on Titans Island, wild winds and raw sorcery lash out as sharply as whips, shattering the very ground, a shockwave blasting back everyone else that tries to push forward. With Spider-man rendered immobile by the ice spell, he's simply tossed away, to land with bone-jarring force and the frozen pieces breaking around him and setting him free.

ZEE! The voice is familiar. Pure white eyes slant dangerously towards Red Robin as he attempts to get her to see reason and while consumed in the throes of power blanketing her, it is questionable as to whether she can distinguish friend or foe in this state….or if she even cares. The raw stuff - pure Magic, tapped into directly from the Source and lighting up every part of her that could feel something - fills her and she tilts her head back, her expression almost rapturous. She wills it. She embraces it. She reflects it.

And as Nico and Raven know very well, it is addictive. Many of their brethren have died because they can't stop using more, and more, and more. But she has always been built differently - nobody knows that better than their leader, the constant recipient of those unvoiced fears. Where Zatanna is concerned, there is no cost.

She lifts a hand, and it is almost insultingly easy. Red Robin's rush would find an invisible wall - he slams into it, and were it not for the token given to him by Gerry Craft so many years ago, he would have shattered every bone. "Red," she murmurs, eyes lidding; her voice is strange, her own mingled with dozens of others, leaving it ominous and teeming with a thousand echoes: "You're in the way." She then redirects him towards the now-reinforced magics of Nico and Raven, hurling him towards the build-up of ridiculous power. Craft's blood will protect him, for a while, but the more he endures, the more circumstances will eat away at it.

Those dangerous eyes turn upwards to fix on the Herald and the Consort, and those that are still fighting it.

"Everyone is in the way."

The good news is that the devastating pillar of light recedes, giving Nico and Raven the room to breathe and perhaps come up with a plan. The bad news is that it seems to disappear by drawing further into Zatanna as her human (?) body sucks it in. All of it in. It leaves her glowing with raging, white-blue filaments, her humanity shelved to make room for something infinitely more dangerous. Something not afraid to sup from the endless well that she has been connected to since she was born. Something not afraid to wield her limitless sorcerous potential.

Something that doesn't give a shit about the love and friendships held so dearly by its human vessel, with its primary drive keyed towards destroying the thing that poses a threat to it. Anything and everything to ensure its survival.

So what does something like that do, when everyone is in the way? The answer is simple.

She attacks everyone.

Zatanna embarks on a determined drift towards the Herald and the Consort, commands flowing from her like water. "Deelb," she whispers towards Nico - unless counteracted, that bleeding nose gets worse. Pores, her eyes, her mouth, gushing from her throat. It will feel as if all four or five liters are trying to boil out of her.

Raven, next: "Gnihtyreve leef." Everything. Pain, guilt, remorse, anger. Not just the torrid wash of emotions that have engulfed the island, but all of New York's acute suffering under the weight of its demonic invasion, to flood the Daughter of Darkness' empathic senses in an attempt to overwhelm her.

But the Herald and the Consort are leaving and that can't be allowed. She sweeps a hand and points in that direction; Starfire and Conner are still fighting, Misfit is still airborne. She is not discriminate. The glow in her eyes intensify.


And unless counteracted, all of them will fall…and will continue to fall. Land, water, it doesn't matter if they are burrowed deep into the very core of the earth itself. Reality will bow to her whims and ensnare her chosen targets and those who are presently still in the way, to drive them down through every obstacle present.

Speaking of obstacles…

Her head slowly turns towards Bart - the only person other than Raven who has heeded her advice, the person who drew her from the dragon. He is running now, as if his life is dependent on it. And it does. Speedsters are made to run. Speedsters are born to run. They are also meant to be ridiculous problems when people least expect it.

She fixes this, unheeding of the price….on Bart Allen, and the young woman he's carrying in his arms.

Zatanna points in Impulse's direction, her command thundering across the way, a thousand voices in one:



The flash clears, the light centers on Zee— but the danger is not gone; quite the opposite. Superboy knows it even before the mystical onslaught begins in earnest, even before shackles clasp on his limbs, and he's compelled violently groundward. For all the Kryptonian's strength, the magical compulsion proves strong. LLAF — he might as well.

Kon's features are grim as the situation somehow manages to escalate, a phenomenon that seemed almost impossible moments ago. Starfire careens to the ground near him— Misfit careens to the ground below. Those are his two options to do -anything- about just this moment, and Koriand'r is a lot less likely to spatter on impact.

Rather than fighting the drop, Kon-El uses his powers to throw himself into it, angling downwards to intercept Misfit before the gadgetress can go splat. It's a reflexive, desperate move, but Superboy nails it, surprisingly ginger in capturing his squishier teammate despite the excessive, only accelerating velocity of the maneuver, and the eight or so spins that bleed momentum after said grab.

It's a fight against spin that Conner has to win— just so that his back is the one that craters into the pavement below them, a shockwave sending a spider-web of crumbling street and sidewalk in all directions with a lurching burst of dust and debris.

The small crater that Kon creates? It only grows, the ground around the pair of Titans rumbling, grumbling, cracking— as if the molten core of Earth itself were inexorably exerting all its might, all its gravity on the prototype bioweapon.

Superboy struggles for breath, he grits his teeth, he fights for control of any limb as they all hunt the center of the planet as if of their own accord, the grind of rock and force amusingly less painful to him than the leadup. Assuming things don't get worse! "So what's the— contingency plan for— this." His communicator might be on. He might just be snarking at Misfit. Does it really matter?


Charlie was falling before Zee decided to add mystical umph with her 'LLAF' spell. The explosive demon magic almost cracked whatever that ruby crimson spell shield was that briefly visible when the shockwave hit. Whatever that is, and maybe later someone should ask, it knocked Misfit into a severe daze.

When Superboy manages to catch her mid-fall even as the spell starts to drag the two of them towards the center of the earth there is a clear "huwhhfrrrrf whatsss.." from Misfit's comm. Then he successfully executes the eight or so spins to bleed momentum "I….mma gunna… ralph…." and thankfully she does not ralph.

Another RrrFFrrf! noise from her as the two of them slam into the pavement. Well okay Kon into the pavement and Misfit into him. Thankfully that armor is padded for some impact. "what is happening!?" because she missed Zee losing her marbles over there. As they start to sink and Charlie can't move, mundanely. "Uh… contingenciesss .. I can't teleport you out or you will explode.. " she isn't sure if her teleporting will break the whatever this is gravity spell or whatsit either. It is a lot of chaos magic so it just might, but that won't help her rescuer.


Caitlin grunts explosively at reality reasserting itself with a bunch of new rules that complicate her leaping trajectory. Downward she goes, gracelessly slamming shoulder first into the dirt. She rolls to her side and tries to push herself up. Up against gravity, against the magi's will, up against reality itself as it changes around her.

She gets one knee planted. Just one, and almost, almost starts being her weight upwards for a straining few seconds.

Then she collapses into the ground with a gasp of air as her ribs are squeezed. She tries to move her arms, her fingers, something in a direction that's not DOWN to infinity. Cait's arm describes an awkward circle, walking her fingers to her gearbelt with clumsy and inefficient motions. If only to be doing something besides being crushed.


Even as he prepares what seems to be an exeunt, the Dragon still reaches hopefully for Zatanna as he fans his wings to bear his Consort into the sky. He strains for one less try at feeding — at pulling that vast soul free from her flesh and taking it for his own. Such was their goal in coming here, in the first place. But the soul in question is just — a little bit — too hot.

And Zatanna is not exactly a docile meal.

She lashes out in reaction, and the Dragon roars in outrage as even he — HE, the Herald of the Elder Gods — finds himself affected by some stripling's magic. His sinuous coils wrap around his companion as they start to fall, instinctively protecting her, and blackened energy warps around them both as he starts a snarled counter-incantation.

His bulk approaches the earth. It would really not be a good thing for him to hit it — his head alone is the length of a 20-story building, much less the rest of his enlongated, snakelike body, which whips through the air like a flung, oversized serpent.

Fortunately, Zatanna thought(?) of that. The creature hits earth and starts to pass THROUGH it as if local physics decided to glitch out for the day.

This is about when the Dragon finishes his incantation, however. A vast eldritch spell-circle flashes briefly around himself and the Consort in a searing glow of inverted light, and the two of them vanish. Perhaps to return later, after refining their plan of approach…


How long can a spider stay alive without oxygen?

The answer is a surprisingly long time, at least in Peter Parker's case. Long enough that hypothermia will probably be his end today before suffocation ever becomes a factor. There are many factors at play here, but most of all what strikes him is that feeling of utter helplessness he usually feels in a more existential sense, and rarely as physically as this. He struggles, but it's in vain; he's paralyzed in a creeping cold that numbs down his nerves and slows his heart rate and saps strength from muscles as everything just… slows… to a stop… and his entire world becomes a murky, distorted view of the world falling to madness all around him.

For a moment, he thinks that this might very well be how it ends. It isn't the first time he's thought that, which makes it no less harrowing a prospect. And as the world whips into a blurring frenzy of smearing momentum around him —

— it also won't be the last.


Ice SHATTERS all around him as Peter finds himself slamming into the wall of Titans Tower like a wave breaking against the rockface. The impact does no favor to his already strained body; he feels something snap inside of him as he lands, and quickly realizes it is his wrist when he attempts to brace his fall onto hands and knees and discovers the white hot pain of fractured bone sending him back into wide-eyed alertness. He feels like throwing up for a moment, his stomach churning as he gags inside his mask; he forces it down, forces himself to look up… and white lenses widen at what he sees.

Zatanna. All that magic, all that power. He remembers her telling him the things she could potentially do for him, the favor she offered, and even that struggled against his imagination. He remembers her slowing space and time into nothing more than stilling amber just by commanding them to obey her. And that was then, with her in check. This is…


His voice is small, weak, as he drags himself upward with one hand. He can't feel his extremities, and in the case of his plethora of injuries, that might be for the best. His entire body trembles as he stumbles his way back onto his feet, fighting off hypothermia to rig himself a makeshift sling for his broken wrist. He looks up, blearily, as Zatanna so ruthlessly and swiftly dispatches the Titans, all of them, one after another. They don't stand a chance. He doesn't stand a chance. What could webs and physical strength do against that? He can barely even think past how loudly and frantically his spider-sense warns him to run, run, run as far away as possible.

Which is probably exactly walks towards Zatanna instead.

It's not a run. He doesn't have the strength for it right now. It's barely even a walk, stumbling as it is, that impeccable and relentless sense of balance all that keeps him on his feet. But he still moves at that sluggish pace towards Zatanna, his good, trembling hand reaching out as he does. He does the only thing he really can do. He stays aware of his surroundings. He calls attention to himself with a sudden, sharp whisper, to draw it away from the others.

"Yuh — you can't do this, Zee. You told me I could — could call on you whenever I needed you. Well — I'm calling now. You need to stop… Zee, you need to stop this."

And hope for the best.

"Before you… before you do something you can't take back."

While preparing for the worst.


Starfire does not, in fact, spatter on impact! Though her golden flesh still retains the fresh slashes and cuts from the icy hail that battered them moments earlier, she is on the whole still far more durable than she appears.

However! It isn't just that. No, the alien Princess is still facing a far more terrible fate: tentacle molestation.

Summoned by the dragon or his consort (who can keep track?) after Koriand'r's assault on the latter, the tendrils quickly engulfed her. And now, despite the magical onslaught and the general chaos around her, they still grasp her tight, their unnatural form resisting her otherwise great strength as she twists and flexes, arches and struggles against their tyrannical grip. Perhaps unintentionally, they do offer a bit of a cushion as she crashes to the earth, but that's about where the helpfulness ends. Encircling her from ankle to neck (give or take a few strategic openings!), they leave the extraterrestrial in a not totally unfamiliar bind.

What? Getting tied up by tentacles is just one of those things you have to deal with from time to time as a space Princess.

After struggling in vain for a few moments, the attempts a soemwhat less physical solution:

Now, the consort (we'll say it was her!) was clever enough to bind Starfire's hands in such a way that they face helplessly outwards, and have yanked back back on her hair so her eyes face upward as well. In truth, Kori's starbolts are not actually so limited - but there's something to be said for the focus her typical gestures provide.

After struggling for several moments, a light starts to glow beneath the tentacles, and then sear through the gaps between them, or the places where they're weakest. Random bolts shoot out around her as the blackness begins to boil away, turning her into something like a deadly, solar-powered disco ball.



The wall sings and wails, and the trappings of a months old battle spin in place, loosely connected with the rest of the trash tethered here by insurmountable darkness. Here, she too spins, floating in stitched black that billows around her like a robe with no end. She dimly remembers the battle. Her brother. Falling from a building. She dimly remembers her friends, and a dangerous man trying to kill them.

More than anything she remembers her brother Mimich and his serpent form, pulling Xiuhnel's heart from her chest and smashing it to dust with his great jaws.

She should have been next.

Mimich's blood seeps across the star-ways, a crystallized well of divine energy turned nebula, leading back to meat that would still be steaming were there any atmosphere. Carved from nose to tail, the ancient sky serpent is no more. Xiuhnel. Mimich. Izpapalotl, all at rest.

Azalea is…

Her eyes open when she feels it, a familiarity that cuts across the whole of the universe. Time had no meaning until the astral explosion rouses her from the darkness that even now knits her back together and fills up the place where Xiuhnel's heart once rested. Her eyes fix on some point far away and her hand reaches out in the direction of her home, black molasses seeping up her arm to form claws at her fingertips.

"I will set you free from them. I will make you whole again. We will stop them all. I need for you to do only one thing for me."

The Stranger's voice rings in her mind, and space begins to peel back it's layers like an onion as she focuses on that thing she promised in her moment of weakness, at the end of nothing, where she was afraid to die alone.


"Uh oh," says Red Robin, an actual genius.

The subdued but not particularly insightful response is basically the vigilante on the brink of abject panic: There's nothing he can do to stop Zatanna from hurling him away, even the defenses raised by the activated pinch are useless against the way she simply makes the very fabric of reality do whatever she wants. The throw puts him in the path of, and very shortly afterwards in the heart of, the massed magical power being hurled by Nico and Raven, the blood-forged barrier creating a spherical safe space inside the torrent… But that barrier shrinks and shrinks by the moment. He needs to do something. He can't just let himself get killed by whatever the heck the witches were trying to do before.

The *paff* of compressed air escaping is drowned out entirely by everything else: Woven titanium monofiber unspools at high speed, a claw connecting to the side of the nearby Tower, and then Red Robin is pulled out after it on a fraying wire, his costume torn ragged, part of the domino mask burned away to reveal one dark blue eye. He bleeds, he hurts, but at the very last he's not going to die from that.

Whatever Zatanna might have in mind right now is another story, though.

Despite that, the Red Knight perches there only a moment before pushing off, before the inertrite wings spread and the muon thrusters propel him towards the floating magician again.

"Zee, he's right," he offers, his voice hoarse from what might be a burned throat. "We all know you don't want to hurt anyone, whatever this is… It isn't you. You're stronger than your power, Zatanna. You're more than your power."


Whatisgoingonwhatisgoingon what is going on?????

Impulse races away, Speed Force buffering him and by extension, Gwen as he tries to put more distance between them and whatever's engulfed Zatanna. That wrongness hasn't disappeared, but even the twisted atmosphere that has overtaken the vicinity of their headquarters gives no hint as to the true terror that has swallowed their magician friend.

The blinding light's faded, and in that moment the speedster dares to chance a look back over his shoulder. Nothing's exploded but the world's still wrong, and it unfurls in slow motion as their enemy has suddenly been drastically swapped. "What the- Zee…?" he voices, although only Gwen would be able to hear him.

The Tamachoans have regrouped and taken defensive cover as their Huitzilopochtli had told them to, clustered by the tower, looking on as the battle shifts. They know not what madness has occurred, or what they can do even with their unusual blessing-curse by Xipe-Totec. At the head of the group the priest looks on anxiously at the retreating form of the dragon, his beloved ensnared in its tentacles, she of emerald eyes and hair like flames. But then they begin to fall, and none of the bugs are certain that this development is any better, even as the previous threats abruptly vanish. The impact of a Spider-ice cube startles them, large bulbous eyes watching as the young hero still manages to get to his feet, goes to plead with the witch…

His path begins to curve as he starts to double back towards the others. Impulse doesn't see what happens to everyone, he's not even in range to hear the sinister words that Zatanna speaks and subsequently inflicts upon her friends and teammates. Above, unbeknownst to him as to the cause, the dragon begins to plummet before disappearing, some of his friends still sharing the dragon and consort's fate despite the disappearance of the former.


Zatanna's voice, echoing with a multitude of others not her own. It doesn't take him a second to work out what she says, and as though the understanding lends to the ensorcelling of her words finding purchase upon him, the world


The sound can't be as loud as it seems to sound to him in that moment, a sound more felt than audible. A cry catches in his throat, the sensation that shoots through him like a lightning bolt. His legs feel like they're engulfed in an icy fire, and in that moment, the world goes white hot.

Gwen may or may not notice first depending on her state as the speedster falters. With the abruptness of a bubble burst, it's like they're ejected back into the plane where time once again moves around them, except things are yet a blur for them as they're still moving at speed, and not at all smoothly.

Despite all Impulse tries to keep his grasp around Spider-Woman, or such would have been his intention were he able to think of anything except the pain. Whether she goes falling or manages to hang on, the speedster isn't long in hitting the ground like a rag doll, tumbling, rolling, skidding finally to a blessed halt.



His lower legs are a mangled mess, bent in directions that shouldn't be possible. His breath is shallow, the fact that he's passed out from the overload of pain but a small mercy.


Even now there is no satisfaction - her face is an impassive thing carved out of marble, brilliant white eyes like twin suns. She derives no pleasure from watching her friends fall one by one to the commands she utters. There's no remorse, watching Superboy, Fairchild and Misfit fall from the sky…and continue falling. There's none of it when she magically catches the dragon's tail, its lover holding onto its scales, and hurls them both to the earth. Fall, she said. And they do.

Nico will bleed, and Raven will scream. Bart will shatter to pieces, bereft of his reason to be, and chances are, she will feel nothing through all of it also. She continues as she is, supping on the very part of her that she fears…because that fear no longer exists and for the first time, the world will know what actually happens when Zatanna Zatara decides not to be human anymore.

Because they are in the way. All of them. Not just on the path to the Herald and the Consort, but because of what they represent. They are weights. They are anchors. They are chains and cages and blood-and-bone incarnations of everything that keeps her in check. And at the moment, nobody embodies that more than Peter Parker when he struggles out of his ice cage, gasping for breath, and makes himself a target amidst the swirling maelstrom of her. A few feet in the air, his words reach her, somehow, that burning stare falling down on where he stands.

He pleads.

He implores.

He attempts to throw the only javelin he has in the heart of the beast that she has become, because he knows the truth of her, too.

For a moment, nothing happens - those fighting the dragon keep falling, with Conner heroically shielding Misfit from the worst of it, pressure dragging Caitlin down with tentacles cushioning Starfire as she goes down with them. But for now, she doesn't attack. She is watching Spider-man with those unfeeling eyes.

They shift, however, when Red Robin moves to back up the webslinger - the two Titans who know her best. Stop this before she does something she can't take back, Peter says. More than her power, Tim says.

"Isn't that all they ever want?" Zatanna says, a thousand voices in one rippling through the suddenly still and stagnant air, teeming with the ozone of magic and the coppery-tang of Nico's blood. "My power? Even now I can feel them, legions of the damned forever trying to rip my body apart and drag my soul into the depths, shackle it forever in the crystal citadel they've built for it. And yet you would all discourage me from truly using it to prevent that from happening. Every day, your presence convinces me again and again to embrace the weakness you all represent. Every day, your presence inspires me to fear what I am. To fear what I can do and what it would cost me to keep my own life. Perhaps this is why I am so lenient of all of your failures….and especially with the both of you, they are many and great indeed."

Is it her speaking, or the curse?

Yet in spite of her litany, fingers tremble as they lift, to point towards Red Robin and Spider-man. She has her own spears to throw.

And they will be accurate, because she knows them, and the human side of her loves them both.

But not without tears. She doesn't seem to be aware of moisture spilling down her eyes the further this goes on, scoring hot trails down alabaster cheeks and clinging to her jaw like scattered diamonds, reflecting so much light.

"Tsefinam tliug."

Peter Parker and Tim Drake are, in many ways, shaped by their own demons and in their minds' eye, they return to the land of the living and in a different time and place, in separate locations. The street, the store, they would all look familiar to Spider-man in the seconds before Benjamin Parker gets shot to death. For the former Boy Wonder, he is back in Drake Manor, running and running and running, to prevent Owen Mercer's father from killing his own. They will relive these moments over and over again in their own heads, and every attempt, they will get closer and closer and closer to saving them, but not quite.

And it will feel real. Smell real. Seem real, because their guilt is real. Because these two, in particular, manage to carry the weight and push forward anyway, because their willingness to hope is real, too. It may very well define inexorably define them, and connect them. It isn't just their ghosts that haunt them, now - she has taken their inexhaustible drive to keep trying, and trying, and trying….and turns that against them.


Nico does not have time to pat herself on the back when her repelling spell, half formed, crashes against the sheer force pouring off of Zatanna and — does not immediately collapse! Something is coming out of Zatanna that Nico, untrained as she may be, can all-but-taste. The raw luminance of Creation itself!

The light fades. Perhaps it is experience that tells Nico: No, that probably doesn't mean we won. It does give her time to look straight at Zatanna, open her mouth - but it's too late. The Staff of One has drunk deep of the offered blood and it has done many works here: it has given the blessing of the Spider to insects of another world, it has spared an island from annihilation. With agonizing, callous ease, it butts itself up into Nico's sternum, goes through her - and does not go out the other side.

Nico coughs weakly once. "We are not in the way, can you chill the hell down," she says to Zatanna, voice creaking with strain. "Can-"


Nico's mouth fills with blood immediately, as does her throat, her skin - she cries blood immediately and literally, looking at one of her hands as blood erupts from every poor, a hundred thousand tiny rosebuds welling up. She has to wonder at it for a moment because another unique miracle - it doesn't hurt. All she's doing is bleeding. It dribble drips down her legs, and Nico looks up as the dragon and its consort depart and everything is moving too FAST and then she falls downwards, face down on the ground, staining the soil with her blood.

Nico feels the world cool off slowly as her eyes flutter shut with the force of inevitability. She smells nothing but blood but all that she feels is a dreadful massive fatigue. I was just so very tired, she thinks, as the fluttering stops.

For a moment there is nothing but the trailing curlicues of interior teen-age drama.

A moment later, nothing.

Nico then vomits blood out as her throat clears itself. Rudely forced back into awakening despite the blood still coming out of her, she is confused, muzzy, until with a gurgle she can feel her own throat saying it. The words are grating. "hhhweeehhhn blood is SHED, let the STAFF -"

Magenta light glows beneath her, refracted to ruby by, well, all her blood. "of ONE -"

The Staff slides out of her as it has so many times before but this time, the angle is such that it is pushing her up. Zatanna's spell is of cataclysmic force but THIS one, at this point, despite feeling her ribs pop and one of them break, Nico finds out that the Staff of One is stronger. She wobbles as she reaches her feet:


She does not grab at the staff. It is aglow, fervent, a streak of crackling neon wrapped around a black glossy core, its circular head immaculate as infinity. It moves into Nico's left hand and settles there.

Nico looks down at herself and wipes her forehead and her hand comes away with super thick gore. I must look like that girl from Silent Hill, Nico thinks, and it comes with a cold certainty: if she's bleeding this much then she is dying.

Already she can feel herself shaking. The world feels chilly. Nico stares at Zee as she turns her attention to Bart and she can still feel the pressure pushing her booted feet into the blood-wet soil. That spell is not abated. She can't out-duel her, Nico knows in her bones.

She breathes, a little.

Then she casts the first of what may be the last three spells she ever invokes.

"Except for me and the woman Raven," Nico says - there is a momentary flicker of magenta around her and Raven both. The staff is raised, if weakly.


What happens to the world in such a situation?

Well: the big thing is that everything goes dark very quickly. There is a lingering afterimage because not all the light goes away right away, and because there is persistence of vision in the organ by which you perceive incoming photons. But there cannot be new light travelling when there is no time for it to move in.

The scene is still visible, because the Staff of One is glowing. The entire realm around them is in a complete and perfect frieze, with the only illumination a perfect magenta. It has a somewhat hellish cast, but then that is perhaps an improvement.

"Raven," Nico says then. It's very easy to hear her. There are no other perceptible sounds. At all.

"S-sorry. I didn't know it'd be like this, or… cold…" It isn't cold, honestly. If anything it's kind of warmish. Air is neither absorbing heat nor transmitting it, though it can be moved through normally - perhaps a little thicker than usual. There is, at least, still gravity.


"Oh, damn it," Nico husks. "Styptic pencil!" There is another rising flare of the Staff of One as Nico staunches her bloody wounds with enough vigor to make a squealing threaded wail. The bright flash is enough to reveal New York City in the distance, but the rebounding incidental photons fade soon enough.

It's just the island.

"Uh," Nico says, pursing her lips. "I - I think I'm gonna pass out, but I can… I can do like, anything here. But I don't want to kill her or hurt her or… anything."

Her head turns, eyes white in the morass of red that coats her face and makes her hair stick to her scalp in gummy locks. "What should I do? Do you n-n-Know anything about what, what's making her do… THIS?"



This is the very example of what happens when one isn't in control of the magic they have learned to conjure. Even years of experience cannot stop the purest forms of wanting, of compulsion, of humanity fleeting into nothing.

…Into something else.

That 'something else' unfortunately isn't determined within the magical context Raven is granted under duress. Between the inverse blast of light and the words Zatanna speaks, there isn't any time to examine and gauge how bad the resulting attacks on the Titans would affect all of them.

And it includes her.

With what is spoken, she doesn't need to understand what the witch sends her way.

She knows. She feels it.

In an instant, the dam bursts. Raven feels her heart, her mind, her body intangibly rending and ripping in two, drowning in a deluge of emotions she's been so good at blocking out. Not just hers, but her teammates. And not just her teammates, but each and every soul still alive as the demonic plague covers the whole of New York.

The fearful cries of the innocent pierce her soul in over a million places, fragmenting like shards of glass and violently strewn needles, wailing and ringing in her ears for salvation or death to come swiftly. Anger burns under the surface of her skin, hurling misplaced blame like cast stones of a final judgement. Guilt weighs down upon her shoulders, her lungs, suffocating her, confusing her, pressing down with the intent of punishing her for the sins she is not responsible for. And the suffering…

The suffering is too close. Too real. Watching it happen right in front of her multiplies the effects of Zatanna's spell. The Titans - no, her friends - take their blows, but each attack thrown their way bludgeons her senseless before deep and unseen cuts bring back the sensations in full force. Superboy and Misfit's heavy impact against the earth, knocking the wind out of them. The groaning of Caitlin's ribs threatening to shatter from constriction. Starfire and her struggle with tentacles that nearly strangle her into blacking out, outfought by a source of boundless energy that never seems to waver. The sadness in Spider-Man's weak voice as his exhaustion casts itself across the landscape. The coolness Red Robin holds sway over his personal injuries, burning nerve endings despite the controlled tension running throughout his entire body. The delicate chime and snap coming from Impulse, light snuffed and scattering like loose beads across the pavement.

Screaming is all Raven can do. Her body writhes, hands clasping, digging into either side of her head as her eyes and mouth open wider, trying to drain the excess that doesn't leave her readily. The pain too much to bear.

But somewhere, nestled deep within the thorns she's been thrown into, a single thought reminds her. A light and a lesson from a long time ago.

Remember what you have learned. Remember you are stronger than this.

Azar help her, for she doesn't want any more problems adding onto this experience.

While she is strong, she draws from the wrong source. The tormented scream steadily rises, faltering before dropping into something not human. Her hands drag down the sides of her face, nails raking over her cheeks, catching onto her cloaked shoulders, clawing at her chest and stomach as if to physically remove these feelings from her very core. Her eyes glow white hot, turning red-orange at their edges. It also goes for the four extra slits forming over them across her forehead.

"No more of this," she snarls, her voice echoing off of the waves surrounding the island. Uneven chunks of black hair flap wildly in the wind as she concentrates on the pain, spreading her arms outward, calling forth her own brand of magic to close herself off from the rest of the world. It takes time, and time is what she doesn't have -

'Except for me and the woman Raven - HALT THE FLOW OF TIME'

-Until Nico makes time for the both of them. It's a strange hush, like a rush of sound gathering into a vacuum of silence. Raven notices this, immediately feeling the difference between the active scene and the held pause, but her physical apprehension keeps her alert. What is wrong continues to be righted in her own mind, the gradual pull of magic with magic rerouting the feeling into unfeeling.

And she hears Nico, turning to see where the other magic user is, blood-covered and weak from her own ordeal. A soft gasp escapes her, allowing her to breathe normally until she pushes herself to hasten self-recovery just so she can attend to the other Titan. "Nico, stay with me," Raven almost instructs, the hardness in her tone leveling out as she closes the distance, placing a hand on the side of the girl's face, the other on her shoulder to keep her upright. She tries to absorb the pain Nico feels, tries to shush her every time she says a few words. "Don't speak." Her voice sounds too loud here, too vibrant for her liking. "You're in no condition to speak- "

At first she isn't sure whether she should laugh at the absurdities Nico spouts or choke back a sob at her friend's sorry state. Neither option makes it to the surface, however, when Nico manages to ask her about Zatanna's current 'madness.' Her gaze fixates on the red blood, on the clump of matted hair she tries to sweep back with blood-stained fingers, almost contemplative in the stretch of seconds used to their advantage.

"…We won't kill her," she whispers, the clarity all too surreal as she sits her down. "None of us want that." Her gaze then lifts from Nico, all six eyes narrowing as they fall upon Zatanna again. "But you're right. There is something greater at work here…"

A murmuring of strange words and a vague shape slips off of Raven's form; the physical shadow hovers, then projects itself toward the witch. The closer it gets, the more information it receives. It continues to circle as the Daughter of Darkness kneels next to Nico, still holding onto her, stuck in the distance as she gathers whatever she can before time runs out.


Nico's face is touched and the cold she's feeling goes away for a moment. She smiles at Raven - and it is a kind of sad smile, even as she looks Raven in the eyes.

"It's just blood," Nico says. She shakes for a moment. "It doesn't hurt at all." And it doesn't! It's a miracle, she thinks, staring into Raven's six eyes. I like them, she thinks, though even now it doesn't reach her lips. Swallowing then, she closes her eyes as the palpable shadow - limned here as almost a palpable force-in-itself in a world with only one light source - moves towards her, crosses over her. Raven kneels down and Nico makes herself relax; makes herself feel the connection.

She does not have time to enjoy it. Things flicker-flash through her in a welter of images, the novelty of the experience enough to be confusing. But some part of Nico's brain gets the gestalten-impression and aloud she says, "Something greater… God, what a pain."

She reaches down with her free hand to clumsily touch at Raven's head, though this just leaves some sticky blood. She doesn't hold it for long, delirium and light-headedness not enough to overcome the boundaries between people. "If I'm getting you right… it's like the magic part of her got unplugged from the like… person part, or mostly unplugged. So it's kind of doing its own thing."

Nico turns her head to look at where Zatanna is floating like a high-speed photograph. She doesn't look so threatening without the light. Nico trembles for (seconds? is that meaningful?) and then says, "Screw it. Alex always said if you get an edge you have to ride it."

The Staff of One is raised, weakly. The light of the world shifts as a result. "Focus on the pain: The only thing that's real," Nico invokes, with a world-weariness that's perhaps as much blood-induced fatigue. The magenta light rises up, arcing behind Nico like some sort of titan moth or enormous shadow - not a phoenix, not even really a bird, just a grand shape like the magnetic poles of any field graph:

They coalesce in a single silent 'zap' down. It lances out. The spell that seemed to fill the cosmos makes an inch-long scrape comparable to a cat's scratch on Zatanna's right wrist, on the inside.

"… well, that's kind of lame," Nico says, "but I guess there's not… time for it to like…" She shakes her head violently, violently enough to make her hair thwip-thwap against her neck and send tiny splatters of gore around. "Like… everyone has boundaries and restraints, right, so we don't all bust into tears when we see a kitten or when we remember that death is a thing that happens. She's gonna have to deal with not having them for a minute, and if I'm reading her right…"

Nico swallows. It tastes like copper. "Then that's going to shut her down, because when they come back, she's going to be all back together. That's why people cut themselves when they don't have like, blood curse shit going on. It sort of treats dissociation."

Nico lapses into silence for an indeterminate period of time.

"why is it so cold," Nico mumbles. Because you're gonna die of blood loss, genius, Nico thinks, but she thinks she hears Gert say it.

But… It hasn't happened yet, Nico thinks. Maybe you can't die without time to die in.

Nico swallows bloody spit and says, "Hey. U-uhm. The Staff is… pretty powerful so… um… You should take care of it. If you don't want it -" Nico stumbles then, sinking to one knee and clinging onto the Staff as if it were a prop. "If you don't want it," she resumes, "I think, um. I think Spider-Man, would use it good? I think… I think he'd -"

Nico shivers violently, almost to the point of a seizure. Afterwards she breathes faster, staring at the pink-litten ground. She makes herself think again.

"… You should disconnect the… shadow, thing. Uh - and you're cute. All of you are like, stupid cute. Okay? Nobody in this group can feel bad 'cuz you're all gorgeous and great. All of you. U-uhm, I… Tell Margaret Hayes, sh-she's at Xavier's, tell her she's gonna be a kick ass X-Man, and Chase… uugh, god, uh - h-Hercules, tell him to take care of that lion."

Nico's fingers start to relax as she stares at the ground.

"Was that good, Gert?" she asks weakly. She doesn't close her eyes but her shoulders slump. The room is being cleaned; she is checking out. The Staff of One continues to glow. The glow does seem to fade -

Everything goes utterly, impossibly, fundamentally dark.

Time resumes!


The Stranger's magic stops with Nico's spell, and there on the ground a bead of darkness shimmers in place, fighting and struggling against the spell that can hold Zatanna Zatara unleashed. It freezes entirely, stills to nothingness, as Raven and Nico work their trick. And through that darkness, she can see. Flickering. Bristling. Caught in that last vision of Zee burning like a new star. A delicious font.

A new God.

Time resumes.

Shadow plays across the ground, a dark ichor surging in a slithering fit until it rises behind Zatanna in absolute silence, sucking in sound itself until it drips away to reveal pale skin and black robes and blue eyes. They will all have a moment to see her, not some demon, but the face of someone who thought she could be a hero.

Even so delicate as it looks, the clawed hand that will clamp over Zatanna's mouth has more strength that she ever had, even when she thought herself a God.

Sound returns enough for a familiar voice to whisper in the witch's ear.

"I'm so sorry."

She remembers looking up at the Stranger, the Butcher, in a place where no sound should exist. His hand in her hair, as if he were her father, and she a cherished daughter. He knew her pain. Knew what it was to be used by Them. She only had to do one thing for him, and it would all be better.


Black fangs flash, and she bites down where Zatanna's neck and shoulder meet, seeking blood and so much more. The familiar black hole that Zatanna once gave into pulls at her power, unconcerned if it could ever contain such raw might, uncaring and primal as Azalea drinks deep from a place with no end, the part of her that was a murdered god reveling, even as it begins to burn. The part of her that is human reviling, even as it feels so very good. Tears of black streak her cheeks in tandem with Zatanna's own.


"Yea— blowing up is a last resort." Magical explosions: bad plan B, C, or D. It feels like hours, those scant moments, scanter to those Titans frozen in time as Nico and Raven give their all to avert further tragedy. It will touch his heart, it will melt him and fill him with gratitude, awe, and sorrow— later.

Right now, the force that smashes Misfit into Conner into bedrock abates, somewhere deep beneath New York, through several utility tunnels and lines, into the collapsed remnants of a cavern that may not have been there a moment before, water paradoxically, peacefully trickling past. "Hold on." It's the only warning Misfit gets— and it's not much of one.

Kon moves at full velocity, protecting his teammate with TACTILE TELEKINESIS as they soar like a rocket upwards through the still-falling chunks of asphalt and infrastructure, heedless past a burning jet of escaping steam, unhindered and unharmed as a large, jagged piece of street careens down the hole and shatters dramatically in a thundering rain of rock all about the two Titans. They reach the surface in the blink of an eye, and Superboy soars higher, suddenly solo.

Those with senses keen enough might see the blue-and-red blur, only some of which is his own blood, deposit Misfit on stable ground near the impact sight as he surveys the scene…. and balks. Everyone is screwed! To his admittedly untrained but keen eye it's Nico who's in the harshest shape, and Kon-El flies straight for her, landing back in the proverbial danger zone to place a hand on his fallen teammate and using his powers (you know the ones) to staunch the bleeding.

"Wh— " he saves the questions, that question, for later. "… Raven you can totally cast Infernal Healing, right?" That's right, it's time to crack jokes. Quietly terrified, horrified jokes of a man who's pretty sure his less-than-first aid will end with Zatanna blasting him into space.


Distantly, he knows, the others are hurting. Maybe worse than that. Bart, unmoving on the ground where Zatanna's spell has injured him gravely: In the back of Red Robin's mind, the part that's always thinking, always processing information, he knows that with the Speed Force racing through every molecule of his being, Impulse was in the process of healing right now, and that his body could heal wrong. And yet, even if he were crippled forever, Bart might be better off than the others, as Superboy, Starfire, Misfit and Fairchild fall into the earth. As powerful as they were, they could wind up entombed in the bones of the world, never to be found again.

He's not sure just what the witch did to Raven or Nico, but he knows it wouldn't be any less terrible. Whether it was some curse, if it was the wild will of the power sealed away inside Zatanna, if it was some part of her that had been locked away by her father, he didn't know.

He just knew he had to stop it.

Zatanna, or some part of her, spits resentment at them. Uses what she knows about himself, and about Spider-Man, to hurt them. It might not even be intentional that it reminds him of the way she'd been after her quest into herself, the colder woman less connected to the mundane world the rest of them moved in.

"You said," he tells her in that burned out voice. "That you missed being you. Remember?"

Tsefinam tliug.

Fortunately, Red Robin wasn't flying very high when the spell hits him, because he crashes into the ground almost immediately as his suit receives extremely conflicting neural impulses. His eyes, one covered and one not, are wide open - but he's not seeing here, or now. He's seeing then, one of the terrible days that he never, ever gets to forget, because that's the price of the skills the Bat taught him, the ones he learned better than the others. In the here, the now, his gauntleted fists dig into the grass and dirt of Titans Island, his booted feet scuff for purchase. In his mind, he's in that building that doesn't even exist anymore, a boy of sixteen, racing, racing…!

"N… Nuh, no, that wasn't… Wasn't my fault." Again, and again, the sticky feeling of half-dried blood on his bare feet. The scent of it in the air, coppery; the sharp stink of gunpowder, the charnel house smells of the dead. But it always stops and restarts before it finishes, before he's caught by the Dark Knight, that usually gruff voice instead soft with sympathy as Gotham makes another orphan. "He said it wasn't…"


"Okay no exploding…" mutters Misfit pretty strained as she plummets towards the center of the earth in Superboy's arms. Then everything goes very dark and they stop falling. ~Okay this is fricked up~ Charlie thinks quietly to herself. She is really considering teleporting just herself and seeing if that snaps whatever the hell all of this is out of the lurch.

Before she does though Superboy says hold on and Misfit squeeks and notes "I can…." and zooom they are rocketing up protected by T-K and the next thing Charlie knows she is on her feet wobbly, back on the surface "Teleport…."

Looking round Misfit takes it all in with her Bat Training <tm> and startles "Zee!" and Misfit vanishes with a slash of pink and purple smoke. She was out of it when Zee made them LLAF after all, hell she probably thinks that the dragon or consort did it. Which explains why she appears at about foot to head height a moment later in another slash of pinkurple smoke and tries to kick Azalea in the face to save her friend. Who knows maybe she will be lucky and not fuck everything up. Her name is only Misfit right?


Magic stuff happens!

None of it is too clear or apparent to Starfire, however, who is far more focused on freeing herself from the tyranny of the tentacle. Though there's precious little more to do, now. With their initial foes having fled the battlefield, and her inner fires burning away whatever fragments of darkness linger across her frame, the alien Princess is once again free!

Perhaps more critically, she's no longer being slammed down into the ground, and she feels the command she has over the forces of her personal gravity return to her. Flight is so normal, so natural for Tamaraneans that its absence was keenly felt, and its return a small joy worthy of celebration. As she rises, she cannot help herself from a spin, tracing a fiery corkscrew through the air with her hair.

Yet this motion serves a purpose too, as she scans the broken landscape around the tower, fissures rent into the island and traversing heedlessly into the Earth below. In some places, they may well be starting to flood. It is all, in her estimation, very bad!

Especially for her friends and teamates, all of whom seem in one kind of peril or another. There is Nico lying there, which brings a twinge to her heart, or the long skidmark in the ground that ends in a roughly Bart-shaped form. There are the panicking Tamachoans. But what occurs to her most is people plummeting into the crevases and the simple fact that (as she once was surprised to learn): Humans do not normally fly!

Even special humans.

It's with this that she gives a gasp, realizing one person she doesn't see missing. She simply doesn't see her at all. "Caitlin!"

And just as fast, she's off like one of her own bolts. Once again, her flaming mane evidences her passage, leaving a burning contrail in her wake as she skims across the broken surface and then dives down a particular crack, plunging into the depths in search of her friend.


Caitlin's descent was fast approaching terrifying as the world collapsed beneath her and the light from above became more and more faint. Completely out of control and being buried alive— well, suffice that Caitlin's going to have nightmares for a few weeks.

The pressure stops, but she no longer has a sense of direction. Up, down, left, right— her body and mind in total disharmony as precious little gasps of oxygen keep leaving her lungs. She struggles, makes no progress. For Kori and Conner, flying isn't just propulsion. It's a source of infinite *leverage*. And strong as Caitlin is, she does not have that talent. So all she can do is put the last of her air to good use and scream violently, hoping someone— something— might hear her.

Then a bronze-kissed hand dives into the dirt and grabs Caitlin's forearm. She is so shocked that Caitlin almost fails to reciprocate. But she locks wrists with her rescuer, and Kori and Caitlin blast back up out of the dusty crevasee with a spray of soil.

Up she comes, blasting sand and dirt and rocks around her, and hanging onto Kori for dear life with her eyes screwed shut. It's not until they're on the ground that she dares open them, dust and dirt mangling her features. Much of her gear is left buried in the sinkhole.

"Th-thanks," she whimpers, finally. She keeps a hand on Kori as if afraid the earth will swallow her again, and eyes the unfolding tableau.

"Whatcha think? Should we knock Evil Jiminy Cricket off Zee's shoulder?" she inquires of Kori, with a wan humor.


There are many things in Peter Parker's life that he regrets, wishes he could do differently. Because nothing can ever be perfect. Because you're inevitably going to make mistakes. Let people down. Not be good enough, or fast enough, or strong enough. For the most part, he's managed to accept his limitations and move on from them. But there are always regrets. Two of them are far greater than any of the others.

Tsefinam tliug.

And with two backwards words, Zatanna Zatara decides to make painfully clear the fact that she is one of the very few people Peter trusted her with one of those great regrets.

"This isn't beating your fea — ah—"

It's the last thing that Spider-Man manages to say before all that escapes his lips is a strangled, choking sound, lost and confused. Lenses react to the motion of his eyes, widening like dinner plates. He falls to his knees with a meaty thud of impact.

And to the outside world, that's how he remains, as if paralyzed; just staring, up, with only the mild tremor of his fingers to remind the world he is alive.

Just elsewhere.


He runs. He runs as fast as he can. Down a familiar street he's burned into his mind by now.

The first time, he hears the gunshot as a dim and distant thing, and knows that he's too late by the time the whole world sucks him back towards that starting point.

The second time, he can hear the startled cries of bystanders that remind him of how profoundly he failed.

The third time he's close enough to feel the peel of the bullet breaking the sound barrier still ringing in his ears like mocking, supersonic laughter by the time he is looped back again.

The fourth time, he can smell the iron filling his nostrils. He remembers Uncle Ben taught him that metal doesn't really have a smell, it's just the chemical reaction to bodily contact, like spilling blood on flesh—

The fifth time, he can see them clear as day, and wonders if this was really how Uncle Ben looked. Defiant, and yet surprised. Or is it just how he hoped he would look? How he feared?

The sixth time he's closer still. And the seventh. The eighth. But every time, the distance is smaller and smaller. Like a mathematical impossibility. If you keep halving the distance of something, you'll never actually reach the finish line.

Just get close enough to see how far you really were from ever fixing that thing you can never, ever fix.

He keeps trying, like he was a snake trying to eat its own tail. Trying. BANG. And trying. BANG. And trying. BANG. Until time loses meaning. BANG. Until he's lost count of how many times he's really looped through this impossibility, now always a hair's breadth away. BANG. Until anyone would have given up. BANG.

And eventually,


he breaks.

For a time longer than he knows, Peter just sits there at the end of his road through every loop, knees curled up against his chest and head buried between them. Learned helplessness, he heard it called once in a psychology class. Where eventually a thing just… gives up. Is that him? Is that going to be him? Weighed down by guilt until eventually he just curls up and stops and placidly accepts the pain? He hears the gunshots. Over and over. His eyes feel so dry from spent tears, his throat is abused to uselessness by an endless loop of yelling. His cheeks burn. He turns a bleary stare towards the sound of the gunshot. Complacency. That's all it takes.

… but you can't not keep trying…

Another shot. Slowly, he drags himself up. His soles ache. They might be bleeding. He can't tell. He can't give up…

… but there are some things he just can't fix, isn't there?

And so, this time, as he moves, he tries something different.

He turns, and tries to walk in the opposite direction.

And he tries his best not to stop, and turn, and run, when he hears that gunshot run through him again like it was trying to kill him, too.


Raven can only stare at Nico during her last waking moments, her mouth drawing into a thin, hard line to hide the shakiness of the reconstructed emotional barriers she barely scrounges together. "…Nico…"

Here, time marches on, moving forward as if nothing has changed. The rest of the team is still struggling, still trying to find their footing after getting slammed so hard. And here she is, still kneeling next to the blood-drenched girl, not caring if she has some of the blood on her hands and face as she repeats the last few observations of Zatanna's state of mind in her head. Conner's interruption brings her back, however, all eyes falling on him as he gets pass the shock to a more relevant question. "Healing?" She looks down at Nico, brow furrowing under the extra pairs of eyes. "…I haven't done it. Not in a long while…but I can try."

Her hands remain on the unconscious Titan witch, lips parting to exhale, inhale, exhale, speaking wordless incantations. Her eyes brighten - harsh at first, then lowering into a softer glow, the dark energy swirling around her hands doing something similar in terms of literally healing and staving the excess flowing of blood, numbing the pain by taking it all into herself. Shoulders shudder, but she continues doing this until she can sense Nico stabilizing. And once she finishes, she looks back up.

"Conner. Please take care of her," she says with a resonance that clings to her whispered tones, taking up the Staff of One as she effortlessly rises onto her feet. "I have to get to Zatanna."

Meaning Raven will take a shortcut, flying high enough to let the projection of her soul self take care of the rest. Birdlike in shape, the darkness swoops and dives, circling around the witch who is being bitten by another dark force. Just in time to also see Spider-Man collapse and try to get back up again, repeating the motions, dealing with his demons.

Which means she'll have to work fast before it gets any worse.

The shadow takes another dive, considering the cat scratch Nico left on Zatanna's person before running straight into her to form a solid connection. "Zatanna," Raven calls out to the young woman. She feels the brunt of indifference, bears against it to the best of her abilities. "…This isn't you. This is not who you are." She emphasizes, dredging up the concern and worry Spider-Man and Red Robin carry within their own hearts, bringing about the feelings from the rest of the Titans to seep past the wall impenetrable. And as she does this, she tries to undo what has been done, working at the ancient curse that holds onto their friend.

"You don't want to do this. You don't have to do this."

One last shot. She tries to seek out Zatanna's humanity, tries to make her remember it. To remember herself. Unseen hands reach forward, drawing it out from the depths, using the rest of her energy to end the battle, to restore what is familiar…


The gravity well ceases to be and Kon-El and the rest surge out of the grave she has consigned them to - Nico's seemingly simple act has given them that respite, for they fall short of reaching the earth's core. Zatanna doesn't even seem to notice, that same detached expression holding as she lifts her hand and turns it over to inspect the cat-scratch she has been given; Spider-man and Red Robin wanted her attention, and so they get it and in spades, though that wouldn't be apparent when she banishes them to the battlefields of the heart, not unlike what she has already endured so many months ago.

It must be Kon-El's TACTILE TELEKINESIS because she's suddenly aware that the other Titans are regrouping, that dangerous attention drawing towards the group slowly clustering around Raven and Nico in hopes that the other two magicians would have a trick up their sleeves, but thankfully before she can act, darkness suddenly engulfs her from behind, and she is unable to recite another command when a clawed hand clamps over her mouth and stays her words. Fangs sink into where that slender neck and shoulder meet, and white eyes widen even more - is that pain, surprise, or both? Can she even feel such things anymore?

She dangles there like a ragdoll, caught in Azalea's grip, her head tilted and her eyes staring at nothing.

And everything.

I'm so sorry.

Azalea's new senses would pick up an answering whisper - supernatural and filtering through the bridge where she had voluntarily connected herself to everything Zatanna is. Drinking from her. Feeding from her. Long minutes pass and it actually looks like she's faltering. But suddenly everything comes rushing back - and with it comes dangerous fury.

Fury that the Herald and the Consort have escaped. Fury that someone she knows is only proving her correct in the fact that this is all they want. And so she gives it. As Azalea feeds, she wills everything that she is to turn the tables and consume - and it is painful. It might be a mistake, to try and draw what is hers in herself, because her control remains so long as they are connected. It eats away at her, burns her, attempts to twist her up inside and rip her apart from within - an ouroboros of greed turned on itself, with devastating effects until light starts to lance through her every pore from under her skin.

That is when Misfit lashes out and attempts to kick Azalea off her, and in trying to save the magician, she may very well have saved Azalea's life.

Despite their flaws, it doesn't change the fact that Tim Drake and Peter Parker are both geniuses in their own way, on top of their many many physical gifts. As Red Robin clings to the belief that his father's death is not his fault, like a spell of its own, every word draws him further and further away from his nightmare in loop. And Peter Parker, forcing himself to do nothing - a thing that he almost never elects to do, to walk away from one of his greatest regret, he, too, manages to meander further away from his own ghosts. They echo in the backs of their minds, growing more and more distant…

….until they're back in the present and awake, to discover that despite all of this, somehow, the rest of the Titans are still holding their own.

She knows this, and she moves to act, to pre-empt anything that might get in her way, but Raven is coming for her, armed with the Staff of One - imbued with a similar eldritch power that fuels the webbing curse inside her. Spider-man and Red Robin abandoned due to the immediate threat the Daughter of Darkness poses, she stretches out a hand, a command on her tongue.

This is not who you are!

And she reaches inside through the gateway that Nico has established through all of her blood and will, the Staff of One as an amplifier, the curse fooled by the presence of like magic until it's too late. Raven rips it apart, puts what should be back together. And she would know that it is working, because emotion suddenly twists those pale features at her words.

"HOW DO YOU KNOW?!" she shrieks. There's no calculation now, lashing out with pure instinct, bolts of magical fire thrown at her teammates and whoever else tries to get close, because an indescribable fear starts to well up from within, at what she would see if they manage to put her back to rights. "HOW DO YOU KNOW THIS ISN'T ME WHEN— !"

She persists. She tries. This girl who she rejected outright when she first came to them because of her demonic heritage. Because she was so certain that she would destroy everything. Destroy them all.

When the truth is spread out before her. Raven isn't the one trying to kill them all. Raven isn't the curse.

…it's almost too much to bear.



Black seethes skyward, raining in reverse and carrying with it a red message for the one who remade her, the Stranger she had promised. She remembers this, and worse, she remembers the pain it caused, and to drown it all she drinks deeper and deeper, to feel the warmth of pure creation fill her up in the way it used to wash her demon away. It is the purest ecstasy, and it turns bitter in her mouth when Zatanna wraps her will around her insides and begins to control it. The blackhole pulls at more than the witch in that moment, and her mouth separates from her skin with a scream that consumes the very air around her.

Black tendrils of power rise and thrash, but in a moment they begin to bristle from within.

And so does Azalea, eyes turning to headlights that beacon to the sky, her robe fluttering in every which direction as holes begin to appear in it's surface and her claws fleck away under consuming light.

Misfit's kick lands with a CRACK, turning her head sharply and sending her spiraling away from Zatanna where she hits the ground.

And seems to explode.

Shadow shears in the consuming light of it, a shockwave radiating outward and utterly destroying almost all of it, save for a splash here and there, a bit landing near Raven's feet, and in a wet, hot mess across Peter's chest.

Convulsing, smoking, Azalea goes ever so still just a moment later, bleeding from her mouth and eyes and soul-cauterized through and through.

And worst of all, the last thing she remembers is what Zatanna said to her through that soul link, and as she teeters on that terrifying edge, she may welcome death more than fear it.


From on high, a streak of white and red circles the battlefield, coming into the city from deeper into the heartland. Like a comet, like a guided missile, that soaring form then zeroes in on the Titans with uncanny precision despite its great initial distance— and implied arrival from far, far afield.

The super-speed flash does not slow until it is directly in front of Zatanna, and then, that stop is instantaneous. One moment nothing is there, the next a large dog in a stylish superman cape and collar is -staring- at her, posture low, tail up. Tension courses through the canine's body, and Krypto -barks-.

Krypto barks loudly, and he barks repeatedly. He doesn't snarl, he doesn't growl, but it's not the bark Zee would usually receive— not excitement, not exhuberance, not the eager draw of play and petting. Neither is he aggressive, despite the -obvious- line the super-dog draws in the sand.

"No!! Krypto, GO HOME!!" Kon-El is -ignored-. Krypto -barks-. He barks more, and more, and more. The barks are worse than an angry Kryptonian guard dog— the barks are -accusatory-, full of grief and defiance, a beast offended to his very /core/ by what his infallible senses tell him about his friends.

The best boy's hackles stand up, his musculature -bristles-. No one, none of his other dearest pals, not his partner-in-crime get so much as a glance, eyes fixed on Zatanna with stalwart fervour.

Torn in the further moment of fear and distraction, pulled in a dozen directions to do three dozen things, Kon plucks Nico up and soars in the blink of an eye to the Tower rooftop, depositing her there in— relative— safety before flying back out above the scene, keeping his distance from the tumultuous conduit…. and a worried eye on his friends, and his dog.

Rather than interceding directly in the confrontation, Superboy's next move is to where Bart has fallen, seeking to help right his speediest comrade— and failing that, he knows a way to make a hell of a stretcher. An INVISIBLE stretcher.


Nico Minoru doesn't have anything to say about any of this.

Fortunately, what may not be clear to Raven is clear to the Boy of Steel. Nico's heartbeat is there, if thready. She's breathing, if weakly. She's pretty clearly cashed out — but she's only mostly dead.

And as the Princess Bride taught us: Mostly dead, means slightly alive.

She is plucked up and placed on the roof, leaving six tablespoons of forensic evidence on Kon's arm. She lays there, groaning. Groaning is good!

A tongue from another world licks her cheek clean. Nico actually splutters at this.

Then she stops spluttering. That may be a mid-term problem.


"Daaaark Vengeaaaance" is totes what Misfit shouts as her foot connects with the side of Azalea's face and sends her spiraling away towards the ground. "Woot!"

That woot from Misfit is shorted lived though because as Misfit nimbly lands on her feet Azalea seems to explode "Crickey!" is shouted in response as Misfit shields with her arms "I didn't know she would explode… for the record!" blink, blink blink. "I didn't kick her this hard" confusion at the convulsing bleeding young woman.

At Zee's cry Charlie spins around "It's okay I got the demon vampire." hell clueless like this Charlie is still within arms reach of Zee. Then Misfit looks to Krypto "What's wrong boy… I got the bad lady…. no really… god ..does someone speak superdog?"



"No," Red Robin manages, somehow. He wants to find somewhere to crawl into a ball for a while; greater than the pain in his body is the emotional damage done by the recall of that terrible day, the door to the room in his memoriae regis that holds those memories forced open, much like he had to do in Lernaea to hold onto 'himself' and avoid being overwritten by a world where no one ever experienced tragedy. Flesh bleeds, heart bleeds, soul bleeds.

But he gets up. Always get up. You can stop a week after you're dead, Tim Drake. Until then, you get up.

"I'm not. We're not, Zee." He knew, better than most, that the witch was afraid of herself. He remembers, when they stood in her father's library, and she told him - not in so many words, but it was clear for anyone with eyes to see and ears to hear. How she wasn't like others who used magic, wasn't like her father or like Constantine… How she didn't suffer the same drawbacks they did, how the bill for her sorcery never seemed to come due. And he'd made her a promise, then.

The others… They were doing what they did, helping each other, because that's what a team did - what a family did. Even Raven was trying to reach Zatanna, with her own unique perspective on the other sorceress' problems.

Even Krypto, and frankly Red Robin has never been so happy to see a dog in his entire life.

Gingerly - he's pretty sure he tore a muscle in his shoulder somewhere along the line - the Red Knight reaches out, offering a hand to Zatanna. Even if she lashes out.

"Remember, Zatanna? I promised. I said I'd be there, and that I'd believe in you no matter what."

He tries a smile. That hurts, too.

"Well, I'm here. And I believe in you."


Starfire's grip is sure as it finally seizes around Caitlin's arm, the only strain or effort felt in pulling her from the debris itself. Once free of that, everything is suddenly light as can be. And Caitlin, so she is not left hanging by an arm (which, the less bubbly and more martial-arts oriented side of Kori knows is likely uncomfortable!), is promptly transfered to a two-armed, more classic Lois Lane carry position.

What? Air Starfire means flying in comfort and style!

As for the other woman's apparent trauma at the near-burial and her thanks, this is only answered with the usual warmth of Kori's bright-eyed smile, as if there is nothing to worry over, and certainly not to thank her for. "This is all quite a lot of mess, but I am glad you are alright." Beaming happily, she considers Caitlin's suggestion then, arcing in flight toward where the rest of the team is closing in around Ms. Magic.

"Yes, let us help," she agrees.

The other woman leeching on Zatanna is already dealt with as Starfire comes swooping in to drop off a Caitlin-sized payload in the near vicinity. Once free of her passenger, Kori swings upright to hover nearby as well, making a bit of a perimeter with Krypto, the bestest boy - as Timothy approaches her directly. And while, much like the pooch, there is also tension in her posture as she hovers there, the warrior side ready… Starfire also comes in friendship.

Does she know much else?

"Friend Zatanna, we are all here around you," Koriand'r echoes after their leader, in defiance of any command to leave. "And we are not leaving, because we are your friends. Please remember that. We will help you, no matter what you need."


Caitlin doesn't seem to mind the fireman's carry, looping her arms around Kori's neck. One they alight she swings her legs down and plants her boots in the sand. Hair pulled back in a fierce braid, covered in dust and grime, and depleted after a hellish week of nonstop work, Caitlin has reached even the limits of her endurance.

But she steps up readily behind Tim's shoulder, knuckles resting on her hips.

"Not just friends," Caitlin says, her own voice cracking with emotion. She looks around to catch Conner's eye, nods. She looks back at Zatanna.

"This" she gestures at everyone with a roll of her index finger "is family. And family Shows Up. No matter what."


With all that's gone on, Impulse is in no position to object, much less move as Superboy arrives at his side. There's a groan as he's invisi-stretchered, a positive sign at least.

If he knew what was going on and the collaborative efforts to help get through to Zatanna, he would have certainly tried to help. Maybe in spirit.

The Tamachoans have seen all, a battle between monsters, a match between gods. They have seen their leader fall. They have seen friends and new loves rise up again. The priest clicks to the rest of his people, and then as one they make their own decision, moving slowly in approach of these newfound comrades. They will stand with them. They do not understand the words spoken, but actions are all that needs be communicated, sometimes.


This is all too eerily similar to Raven's realization. Without physically fighting Zatanna, there is still a struggle. There is still danger. The fire cast at them hits her, flames lapping at her cloak, her clothes, her skin. But she doesn't move, doesn't react now that she steels herself. She stays where she is, the staff held fast within her grip, pushing on through where she, among the others, is told to stay away.

That fear…it's the same kind of fear she has. This is what could be, a role reversal at any given moment if she was the one to lose control.

Instead, this is how it plays out.

And it decides to take another turn - an unexpected turn - when Krypto the Wonder Dog flies into the picture.

Tension breaks, then reforms. And Raven is unchanging.

"I may not know anything more about you, but THEY do," Raven regards the Titans coolly without missing a beat, canting her head to whoever is closest to her. All six eyes remain on Zatanna, the topmost pair narrowing ever so slightly under the hood of her cloak. "You are strong, and you know you are, with powers such as yours." She then closes all of them, keeping her focus on the witch. "…But…I have learned you cannot always rely upon yourself, Zatanna. You need your friends…"

Humanity is terrifying. Indifference is just as frightening. But one of them has a better chance of surviving past the trauma.

"Look," Raven says, the resonance quieting as she extends a hand toward the Titans. "They are here for you. They will wait for you."

Warmth. This is what is felt, what emanates from the ones who are still upright and aware of the situation. This is what she adds in before seeping away from Zatanna so that she has room to breathe.


The sound of one last gunshot is what snaps Spider-Man back into the waking world. Lenses flutter like they were blinking; the inhale he takes is a sharp, ragged one like someone who had briefly forgotten what it means to breathe and how to accomplish the motion of it. It provides no relief.

Instead, the first thing he feels is the splatter of something cold and slithering along his chest. He looks at the black substance there without really registering or acknowledging it, too numbed, too shocked, to really even start to understand what he's seeing.

Something to poke at later, maybe.

Instead, costume ripped and tattered, he remembers the ache of his body in the real world second, how everything sings a sweet song of pain as he tries to turn his head to survey the battlefield. He has a hard time thinking of anything, grasping just what is going on. He has two great regrets in his life.

And someone he trusted with that knowledge just used one of them like a sledgehammer against him.

Weaponized guilt is still stinging at his thoughts when those lenses refocus on Zatanna, and what everyone else is saying. He feels guilt, he feels broken. He feels angry. But he focuses past it. He tries to move, but only gets about a handful of inches up off the ground before he stumbles and falls, catching himself with his good hand before he completely plants his face to the earth. He breathes out of his partially torn mask, and listens to what the others say. Their rallying calls. Their encouragement.

"… This isn't you, Zee," he mumbles, but he doesn't approach. Doesn't get close. Maybe he just physically can't. Maybe it's for other reasons entirely.

"The Zee I know… would use that sort of power responsibly. And sometimes being responsible means… not using it at all. Even when you think you have to."

It hurts to breathe. But right now, Peter's just focusing on staying conscious long enough to at least speak.

"All of this is just… letting your fear win."

The Zee he knows is better than that.


When Pete drops, Caitlin glances at the Spider-Man and moves to his side. She sets one knee down next to him. Gently, she helps him get more or less upright before he inhales an actual mouthful of sand. She's careful to avoid his bad wrist, putting an arm behind his shoulders for support and manages to refrain from fretting at his injured state too much.


They were all there for her. Her teammates, the people who she spent the last few minutes trying to kill. Trying to break. To dispense with the things that were weighing her down to reach her limitless potential, the power that she is so convinced, in this form, that she needs to save herself. But at what cost?

It all starts to sink in when Krypto the Super Dog stands in an attempt to not just block her from the rest of them, but also to see reason, cape flapping in the wind and calling forth the image of the actual Man of Steel, only in canine form, and she's so surprised at the sudden interrupt that for a few moments, Zatanna stares at him uncomprehendingly. Was she actually getting told by a dog? Oh, no, was Krypto mad at her? Wait, why does she care?

Their voices rally together, because that's what Titans do. Eyes drift from one face to another, Conner and Bart, Nico stabilized, but unmoving. Raven still floating and trying to push through, still, by stating the facts. Koriand'r, too, the Veteran, who's probably seen more of this sort of drama than any of them put together and probably knows how to deal and react to it by now. Charlie, who trusts so deeply that this is in no way her fault that she would risk herself so the person attacking everyone remains unscathed. Caitlin, the tall redhead's presence reminding her of a day spent on the streets of the city and bonding over I <3 New York t-shirts. Azalea, suddenly returned, smoldering but somehow still alive, the memory of the callous whisper she uttered to her reverberating in her ears.

Peter standing far away from her, trying, still, despite using his ghosts against him. Despite her massive breach of trust.

Tim, still shaking from the same, but extending his hand out anyway.

The weight and magnitude of what just happened crashes over her like a tidal wave and after a blink, her eyes are back to normal and the wild winds of magic start to fade. Some even reverse. Bart's bones start to knit, helped along by his already ridiculous healing factor. Blood and stability slowly return to Nico. Even Azalea starts to heal.

But in the end, those are easy fixes. There is damage here that she might never be able to fix. Never be able to undo.

She doesn't take Tim's hand. How could she, now?

She doesn't deserve any of them.

Her knees buckle, dropping heavily on the ground, brought low not just by what transpired, but by their faith. If anything, the position she's in is appropriate. She ought to be groveling to the rest of them, and so much more. She could blame the curse. She could blame the Herald and the Consort for stripping her of her humanity for several deadly minutes. For removing the seal over her endless well, and placing it over her heart instead.

But she can't bring herself to hide behind that excuse also.

"Oh god…" she whispers. "Oh god…what have I done…? I'm…guys, I didn't…I'm…"

I nearly killed us.

Would all the sorries in the world be able to make up for that?


The Superboy Express drops Bart carefully at a safe distance, and once more Kon carefully considers the events before him. It's unusual, in this moment— he's been quiet, he's been conservative, he's focused on damage control and making sure they get through this whole.

It's possible that the Kryptonian clone has enough wisdom to realize that lashing out at Zatanna, even in self-defense, would only reinforce the paranoia that gripped her. It's possible he's even self-aware enough to know how much better certain other teammates are at reaching her through logic, eloquence, shared experience than the hybrid super-soldier.

Now, though, Superboy realizes the same thing Krypto does— that their friend has come to her senses. The super-dog advances slowly at first, and then fully, licking Zatanna's face rather insistently and pressing in sidelong, close. He wants his belly rubbed, obviously.

Kon descends from the sky on the Mistress of Magic's flank, and moves smoothly, unthreateningly, with wordless compassion to rest one hand on her shoulder, for however long it's deemed acceptable to the devastated magi. He can't hold the somber weight forever, though. "Did you -see- those assholes run?" He inquires, eyes darting among the team.

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