Posted by Ravager4 (1627 posts) - - Show Bio

Disclaimer: I do not own any DC characters or locations. All rights belong to DC Comics. I do, however, retain the rights to all characters and locations of my own creation, which include: Rebecca Chavez, Holly Sanders, Apathy/Ruby, Sophie, Jeremiah Belmont, Michelle Blanchett, Isaiah Slaton, Michael Kubrick, Zaria (as well as her Celarian race), Shao Shen, Trance, Police Chief Gerald Palmer, Officer Stevens, Officer Harrow, Emilia Marconi, Francis Baldoni, Arnold Pavoni, Senator Thomas Greene, Agent Croft, as well as Silverstone City and all its interior locations of my own creation.

Rating: T+

Note: The seventh arc in my Ravager series to be remastered into prose format and edited to make it better.

My Fan-Fic Archives: http://www.comicvine.com/myvine/ravager4/ravager4s-fan-fic-archives/87-79374/

---

Chapter #41

The building was nothing but an empty shell right now. Rose had only signed the lease on it a couple of weeks ago, and the process of cleaning it out and fixing it up had been a long one. By the time she was finished with it, though, it would be her very own martial arts studio, a place where she would teach others how to do what she did; well, not all aspects of what she did, just the fighting part.

When trying to think of a new job to take on during the day, it only made sense to find something that she was good at. The martial arts, which she had taken to new levels ever since her time under Richard Dragon's tutelage, was probably the one thing she was best at. It had been a part of her life since she was old enough to throw a punch, after all. Might as well get paid to teach it to others.

There was still quite a ways to go, though. Not only did she need to finish fixing up the studio, but she also needed to start ordering equipment, setting up serious advertisements, organizing personal records, and a whole other manner of business aspects that she was still new at. Fortunately, she wasn't in this alone. Becky had been incredibly supportive of this endeavor, even taking days off work to help with the building preparations.

One of those days just so happened to be today, painting day. Both dressed in protective coveralls, the two women worked ardently to apply the selected beige colored paint to the walls, using large, long rollers, and smaller brushes for the edges. They had a lot of space to cover, and most of the day to get it done.

“Thanks again for taking the day off to help,” Rose said, wiping a stray paint droplet from her brow.

“Ah, not a problem,” Becky assured. “I'm burning through my sick days pretty quick, but it's worth it.”

“You'll still let me make it up to you, of course.”

Becky smiled, kneeling down with a small brush and painting along the wall near the floor. “Won't hear any arguments from me.”

“I'm thinking dinner by candlelight, maybe a walk in the park, then back to my place for a little... after dinner entertainment?” she suggested.

“Ha, aren't you the romantic one?” Becky said, flashing a playful smirk.

Rose gave a little grin of her own, as she dipped her roller back into the paint bin. “Only when I want to be.”

“Sounds lovely to me,” Becky said, “but shouldn't you be making time to go out and beat up some crooks?”

“Hey, even superheroes deserve some time off.” Rose took a step back, giving her finished section of wall a careful inspection. “I think the city will survive without me for one night. Hasn't been a whole lot of activity lately, anyway. By the way, your sister can watch Holly tonight, right?”

Becky nodded, uttering a small laugh under her breath. “So long as you keep paying her, she'll watch Holly as many times as you want.”

“Good, then we're all set for tonight.”

“What's on the agenda for the rest of today, anyway?” Becky asked, glancing up from her spot on the floor.

“Well, in a few hours I'll need to pick up Holly from school,” she explained. “Then, we're headed to the mall for a live demonstration.”

Becky lifted her eyebrows curiously. “A demonstration?”

Rose nodded. “Yeah, just something I put together last week. Going to be showing off a few things, give people a taste of what they can learn from me. Just some advance publicity to get my name out there. By the time I open these doors, I want to have people already lining up.”

“And Holly's helping with this demonstration, is she?”

“Well, she is my only student so far, so it only makes sense.”

Folding her arms over her chest, Becky raised an eyebrow. “And what about me, ah? You're teaching me, too.”

“True... but you're still a rookie,” Rose said. “Holly's been learning from me for a year now.”

“Oh, a rookie, am I?” Dropping her paint brush, Becky hopped up to her feet and took a defensive stance, one that Rose had taught to her during the course of the past few weeks. “Care to test that?”

For a moment, Rose just stared at her, studying the woman's form. “Your back foot is way too far forward. Slide it back a bit.”

Glancing down at her feet, Becky pushed her back foot farther behind her, then looked up again. “Okay, now let's go.”

“And your body is too open. Turn it more to the side.”

Frowning, Becky turned her body more to the side, narrowing her stance. “That better?”

“A bit, but now your elbow is-”

“Oh come on!”

“Alright, alright,” Rose said, trying to hold back an amused snicker. “But you asked for it.”

Without even giving Rose a chance to drop her paint roller, Becky lunged in with high kick. Though Becky's aim was fine and balance decent, Rose could see so many openings in the attack that she almost couldn't decide which one to take advantage of. Bringing a hand up, she simply blocked the kick, then threw the leg to the side, forcing Becky off balance.

Becky stumbled briefly before regaining her balance, then came in quick with roundhouse elbow. Stepping to the side, Rose caught Becky's arm, twisted it around behind her, and forced it against her back. Letting out a small yelp, Becky stiffened up straighter, trying to escape from the hold. Unfortunately, she couldn't do anything to free her arm, as even the slightest movement caused the painful and uncomfortable hold to tighten.

“So, what was that you were saying?” Rose asked, curling an amused smirk across her face.

“I can get out of this!” Becky declared. “Just... just give me a second here.”

Again, she attempted to spin and yank her arm away free. After failing multiple times, however, Rose decided to end the futility. Sweeping her leg between Becky's, Rose knocked the woman face first to the floor. Becky landed on her stomach with a surprised groan, air rushing from her lungs. Rose then mounted her from behind, sitting atop her rear end and continuing to force her arm firmly against her backside.

“I'm waiting for your miraculous comeback,” Rose said.

Uttering a frustrated breath, Becky pushed herself slightly upward with her free arm. She managed this for only a brief moment before collapsing back to the floor. “It's coming... just you wait...”

Leaning forward a little more, Rose whistled quietly to herself, as the woman beneath her continued to struggle to no avail.

Eventually, Becky gave up, letting out a long sigh. “Hijo de puta... fine, you win.”

Releasing the hold, Rose lay herself down across Becky's backside, pinning her to the floor. “Still got a lot to learn.”

“Yeah, yeah, I get it,” she said, with a small roll of her eyes.

“Come on, let's get back to work.”

Before Rose could get up, however, Becky suddenly rolled over. Rose was forced to roll in the same motion, ending up flat on her back, with Becky now poised over her, hands holding her wrists.

“You realize I can think of at least twelve different ways to throw you off, knock you out, or otherwise incapacitate you from this position, right?” Rose said.

“Probably.” Moving in closer, Becky brought their lips together for a deep kiss, one of passion and warmth that they held for a long time. When Becky finally pulled back, she smirked knowingly. “But you won't.”

“And what makes you so sure?”

“Because, as much ass as you kick-” Becky leaned closer, kissing along Rose's neck now. “-I'm still the lead in this relationship.”

Exhaling a long breath, Rose reached up her arms and wrapped them gently around Becky's neck. “Mmm... so you are.”

---

The live demonstration, which would begin in roughly five minutes, had brought in a fairly sizable crowd, some of whom had seen the fliers and thought it would be interesting, and others still who were just curious about the stage set up just outside the food court. Dressed in a white gi, Rose stood off to the side doing a series of stretches to loosen up. Holly, dressed in similar attire, did the same nearby, sitting flat against the floor and leaning over her legs stretched out in front of her. Though Rose would be the one doing a majority of the demonstration, Holly had her own small part to play. Aside from that, though, the only others involved were the few guys that Rose had hired to hold boards and set up equipment; basically, the grunt workers.

“Almost ready to go?” Rose asked, looking over to Holly.

Holly glanced up from the floor. She gave a couple nods, but also went through several hand signs. I think so... but I'm nervous.”

“Hey, relax, you'll do great,” Rose assured. “Just do what we practiced and they'll love you, promise.”

People were suckers for talented kids, after all. Once they got a load of what Holly could do, they'd be lining up to register for Rose's upcoming classes. At least, that's what she hoped.

Alright, I'll try to do good.”

Rose smiled, giving Holly a warm pat on the shoulder. “You'll do great.”

Several minutes later, the announcer took the stage, speaking into a microphone. He did a fine job of explaining what the demonstration was all about, what Rose was trying to accomplish through it, and giving out the general information for the future opening of her martial arts studio. By the time he was done speaking, the crowd appeared genuinely captivated with anticipation. Time to give them what they wanted.

“And without further ado, ladies and gentlemen,” the announcer said, gesturing off to the side of the stage, “I give you the owner herself, the lovely, the amazing, the talented, Rose Wilson!”

Okay, so maybe he didn't have to lay it on quite so thick, but he did his job. Taking in a deep breath, Rose walked out on stage and gave the crowd a wave, receiving a small applause in greeting. She began the demonstration by going through various forms that she prepared. Sure, in a real fight, pre-planned forms were generally meaningless, but for a demonstration they sure did look good.

Though starting off slow and basic, she soon mixed in a variety of quick and advanced moves, even showing off some impressive acrobatic techniques. Again, not the most practical moves to make in a fight, but this demonstration was about putting on a show to get people's attention. It just had to look pretty. There would be a time for teaching the proper way to fight, and a time for showing off. Right now, this was a time for showing off.

About twenty minutes into her forms, the crowd really started getting into it, clapping and whistling after each string of moves she made. After finishing the last of her forms, she stepped forward and took a bow, allowing a few moments for everyone to get all the applauding out of their systems. Looking down into the crowd, she spotted Becky standing there in the front row and gave her a wink. Becky responded with a smile, blowing a kiss back at her.

Next up was the board breaking demonstration, a lot of people's favorite for some reason. It really was a simple task, breaking a board, at least once you know what you were doing. Yet, it also looked cool and tended to impress those watching. Once the men she had hired to hold the boards got into position, she didn't just simply kick or chop the boards in half, oh no. She did it in style, unloading quickly, precisely, and gracefully on her targets. She flipped herself around from board to board, each time leading with a new strike that snapped the plank in half. Within several minutes, she broken two dozen boards in the most impressive fashion that she knew how, earning even more applause this time. Again, she walked up to the center of the stage and took a bow.

And then, it was Holly's turn. The announcer took a moment to introduce her, calling her Rose's 'only current student.' The crowd watched with intrigue, as the small, ten year old girl came out on stage and bowed to them, then began going through her own forms. Though not nearly as stylish and advanced as Rose's performance, it was still an impressive sight for someone her age. Within moments, Holly had the entire crowd eating out of the palm of her hand. Before she had even finished her performance, the crowd broke out into cheers and applause. Holly finished her demonstration, coming to the center of the stage to give a bow, with a bright, beaming smile.

With the demonstration now coming to a close, the announcer returned to the stage and brought the microphone up to his lips. “Alright, ladies and gentlemen, thank you all for joining us today for this impressive live demonstration. Remember, The Red Rose Martial Arts Studio opens in exactly two weeks, so if you feel like learning a little something cool, be sure to sign up for classes in advance. More information can be found on the fliers being passed out to you now.”

A brief moment later, a couple of snide, mocking voices called out over the the crowd. Two boys stood off to the side, next to the stage, both dressed in black gis. One leaned against the railing casually, while the other, the one voicing his opinion the loudest, stood straight with his arms folded.

“Come on! Don't fall for that crap, that was lame!” the boy yelled out. “Just a bunch of flashy moves!”

The announcer blinked over in their direction, shifting a little on the stage. “Uh... just ignore the peanut gallery, folks, no need to-”

Before he finished his sentence, however, Rose walked up to the man and put a hand on his shoulder. “Give me the microphone.”

“Uh... if you say so.” The announcer shrugged, passing her the microphone. “Here you go.”

Taking a few steps forward, Rose sat on the edge of the stage, looking over at the two boys. “So, I believe you were saying something?”

“Heck yeah I was!” one of them replied. “Just stating how completely bogus that performance was.”

“Now what makes you say that?” Rose leaned forward a bit, a rather amused expression coming to her face. “Really, I'm curious.”

“Trust me, I know theatrics when I see them. I've been doing this for years, and all I saw there was a bunch of showing off,” the boy stated, looking around at the crowd. “People, you really want to learn some serious martial arts, come to the White Tiger Dojo, right across from the food court.”

Glancing behind her, Rose noticed said dojo. Huh, quite the oversight to have a martial arts demonstration right outside another martial arts school. “White Tiger Dojo, huh? Must be some pretty skilled students there, if you're boasting this much.”

“Of course there are. Like me, for example.”

“Hmm, I see,” she said, pursing her lips slightly. “And what's your name?”

The boy folded his arms, smirking. “Name's Jimmy.”

“So, Jimmy, you're saying that I'm all show, no substance, that it?”

“You heard me.”

“So you'd be able to beat me in a sparring match, right?” she asked, lifting an eyebrow at him.

“Of course I would,” he said, maintaining his smug grin. “But I don't fight girls. It's not respectable.”

Rose chuckled. “Sounds more like you're scared to fight one, if you ask me.”

A few laughs emerged from the surrounding crowd, causing Jimmy to scowl. “I'm not scared! I just don't hit girls, that's all.”

“Well, that's good news, then, because I'm not a girl,” Rose said, flipping herself back up to her feet. “What you see here is all woman.”

Jimmy's eyes narrowed, his frown deepening. “I'm still not fighting you.”

“Tell you what, Jimmy. You face me in a spar right here, right now, and if you beat me, I'll publicly endorse the White Tiger Dojo.” She paused a moment, tapping a finger to her chin, and then added, “And, to make it fair, I'll fight blindfolded, with one arm tied behind my back.”

“You're insane, how's that fair?”

“Because then you might be able to hit me.”

More laughter arose from the crowd. Jimmy's scowl grew, jaw tightening. “And if I refuse?”

“Then I get to tell people how Jimmy, the loudmouth from the White Tiger Dojo, was too afraid to man up to a direct challenge,” she answered.

At this point, Jimmy had no choice but to accept, lest he be scrutinized or made fun of for the foreseeable future. After all, with as much as he was boasting, backing down from an open challenge would look really bad for him. So, he uttered out a reluctant breath and then walked up on stage.

“So how do you want to do this?” he asked, loosening up his arms.

“Pretty simple, first one on their back loses.”

Jimmy scoffed. “And I thought this was supposed to be a challenge. Alright, let's get this over with.”

“Hold on just a second there.” At her command, one of the workers hurried over with a blindfold. She took it from him, then quickly tied it around over her eyes.

“Wait, you were serious?” Jimmy stared at her dumbfounded. “Geez, you're insane, lady. I mean, you're already missing one eye, that's enough of a disadvantage.”

Ignoring his comments, she then took her right hand and tucked it behind her back, holding it there firmly in place. “We can start whenever you're ready, Jimmy.”

Frowning, Jimmy just shook his head, then took a fighting stance and ran at her. After all, with her handicaps, it should be simple, right? As he attempted to grab her, though, he quickly realized that he was in over his head. Rose pushed his arms to the side, spun around him, and then swept her leg around behind his feet, causing him to stumble. Before he could recover his balance, Rose followed through with a spinning roundhouse kick straight to his back, putting a little bit more force into it than she probably should have.

Jimmy plummeted to the floor in an instant, just lying there and blinking in surprise. “Wha- what the... how the hell did you do that?”

Lifting the blindfold off, Rose stood over him and folds her arms. “Years of practice. Don't suppose you have anymore smart ass comments you want to make, huh?”

“No...” he muttered,

“That's what I thought.”

Taking the microphone again, the announcer came forward, glancing back at Jimmy for a moment before speaking to the crowd. “And there you have it, let's give a big hand for Ms. Wilson!”

More applause, more cheers. Rose gave them all a parting wave, then finally headed off the stage to regroup with Holly and Becky.

“Pretty fancy moves up there,” Becky said, greeting her with a quick kiss.

“Yeah, well not just me.” She put a hand on Holly's shoulder, giving the girl a warm smile. “Holly did great, too.”

Becky smiled. “Si, she really did. Grats, girl.”

Holly beamed, holding up a hand for a firm high five.

“Now then, I think it's time we-” Becky abruptly paused mid-sentence, however, her gaze falling on Rose's arm. “Rose, you're bleeding.”

“Huh?” Glancing down, Rose noticed that, indeed, her arm was bleeding, a bright red spot beginning to soak through the sleeve of her gi. “What the hell?”

“Are you alright?” Becky asked. “Did you bang into something?”

“I... no, I don't think so,” she said. “Doesn't even hurt. Hold on, let me get this cleaned up. Wait here with Holly?”

“Yeah, sure thing.”

Leaving them, Rose hurried into the nearby women's restroom. Once inside, she stood in front of one of the sinks and raised her sleeve, staring down at her arm. It was the same arm that Kubrick had bitten over three weeks ago, when he was in his werewolf form. The wound had never really fully healed, completely out of the norm for her. An injury like that should have fully repaired itself in no more than a few days. The deep, burning pain had gone away a long time ago, sure, but some of the bite marks had yet to close up. This was the first time that the wound had decided to spontaneously bleed, though.

Swallowing a hard lump in her throat, she thought back to what Dick told her those weeks ago, how bites spread the lycanthropy virus, in most cases. She had never given it much thought, though, after it happened. After all, to think that she could be turning into a werewolf... it was a laughable thought.

Wasn't it?

---

Rose and Becky lied in bed, both taking in deep breaths. Rose wiped sweat from her brow, then let her arm fall back limply against the mattress. She was exhausted, actually exhausted, which was saying something for someone with her levels of endurance. Closing her eye momentarily, she sucked in a large breath of air and held it for a second, then let it out in a sudden puff.

Becky, equally exhausted, held one of her hands out and let it come down to rest on Rose's thigh. “Dios mio... you were... really aggressive tonight. What on earth came over you?”

“I, uh... I'm not sure,” she said, sucking in a large breath. “It just... sort of happened.”

“Well, whatever the reason... I liked it.”

Sitting up straight, Rose uttered a small sigh and rubbed her forehead. Then, she slid out of bed and walked across the bedroom. “Be back in a sec, bathroom.”

Closing the door behind her, Rose swallowed and leaned forward against the sink, staring at her naked reflection in the mirror. She suddenly realized just how much of a mess she looked, her face pale and eye bloodshot. Turning on the faucet, she cupped her hands together, filling them with water and then splashing her face. It did nothing to clear her head or get her body to calm down. She was still breathing heavily, chest heaving and struggling to gain air. But it was not just the exhaustion after a rough night of sex causing it. There was something else... she felt almost ill.

A fit of coughing suddenly ravaged her throat. She leaned forward, hacking out a thick mist of crimson into the sink. When the coughing finally ceased, she wiped her lips clean and stared down at the blood in shock. Then, she slowly turned her gaze back to the mirror, only to emit a surprised gasp at the sight of her reflection. Her eye, it was a different color. Not blue now, but bright red instead. And the pupil was slitted, elongated down the entire length of the iris.

Pulling her gaze away hurriedly, she brought a hand up to her eye and rubbed it furiously, as if trying to scrub the monstrous change away. When she blinked back at her reflection again, she uttered a relieved breath; her eye was back to normal. Still, though, she shrank backwards slightly and clenched her jaw, panicked thoughts running through her head and gaze locked on the bloody sink.

What the hell is happening to me?

Chapter #42

The building was filthy, the floors and furniture caked with thick layers of dust and dirt, and most of the windows were broken. In one of these old, dirty rooms, a young girl named Jennifer, just turned sixteen three days ago, sat tied to a chair with a gag over her mouth. She wasn't there by choice, of course. No, she had been snatched up right off the streets by some lunatic in a white van, gagged, bound, and then thrown in this house where no one could find her.

Taking in deep, shaky breaths, Jennifer swallowed and looked frantically around the room, as though she'd suddenly find something that could help her. Of course, it wouldn't do her any good. She'd already been here for hours, sobbing and crying out muffled screams from behind her gag. By this time, her eyes were so red and puffy that they itched something awful, but with her hands and feet tied together, she couldn't rub them.

The man who had kidnapped her had been gone most of the day, off doing whatever the hell it was he did. He hadn't been back to feed her, let her go to the bathroom, or otherwise take care of her in any way. Then again, why would a scum sucking, kidnapping b**tard bother with that? He didn't care about her, he only wanted her for... whatever he wanted her for. Ransom, maybe... or something more twisted and sick.

As if her situation couldn't get worse, she suddenly heard the front door opening, then footsteps approaching from down the hallway. A small, muffled shriek emerged from her throat, as she struggled in her seat, trying desperately to get away. A short moment later, the kidnapper came into view, entering through the doorway and staring down at her. He titled his head to the side a moment, a sickening grin curling across his face.

“Well, well, almost forgot about you,” he said.

Coming forward, he closed the door behind him and knelt in front of her. Jennifer shut her eyes, turning away and sobbing. She tried to scream for help, but no one was going to hear her quiet, gagged voice. No one was going to help her. The kidnapper reached forward now, grabbing at her clothes, causing Jennifer to fly into full on panic mode, thrashing and struggling to get away.

But he was having none of that. Winding up his arm, he whacked her square across the face, sending her crashing to the floor.

“The more you struggle, the harder this is going to be,” he said, a maniac chortle bursting from his throat. “Just relax.”

He grinned widely, kneeling down and beginning to grab at her clothes again. Jennifer couldn't hear anything over her sobbing, and her heart pounding inside her chest. She wanted to be anywhere else but here, just wanted this to stop! Why is this happening to her?!

And then, a loud crash filled the room. A shadowed figure burst through one of the few unbroken windows, rolling across the floor briefly before popping up with a high kick that caught the kidnapper across the jaw. With a pained grunt, the man tumbled backwards, dazed. He didn't get a chance for respite, however, as the attacker was on him again, lifting him up and slamming him into the wall several times, then brutally beating him across the face, and finally finishing him off with a whirling kick to the side of the head, knocking him out cold.

Jennifer watched the whole thing with wide eyes, hiccuping every now and then, a side effect of her frantic sobbing. She swallowed nervously, as the attacking figure, a woman from the looks of it, turned around and approached her. When the woman removed her gag and began to untie her, Jennifer blinked in surprise, trying to calm her breaths.

“Y-you're the Ravager,” she stammered, pulling her hands free from the loosened bonds. “I-I've... I've seen you on the news. Read about you in the papers.”

“Yeah, that's me,” Ravager replied, moving on to her tied ankles.

“The kids at school, th-they say you're a bad person.”

Ravager gave the girl a brief stare, pulling the last of the rope free and then helping the girl up to her feet. “Sounds like the kids at your school don't know what they're talking about.”

Jennifer just stood there, staring in shock at the woman. “Y-you saved me.”

“That's kind of what I do around here,” she explained, “in spite of some popular theories. I help people.”

Uttering an elated breath, Jennifer then suddenly lunged forward and threw her arms around Ravager in a tight hug. Ravager stood there, releasing a low groan, and then finally raised her own arms up to return the hug, albeit somewhat limply.

“Thank you! Just... thank you so much!” Jennifer called out, sobbing into Ravager's shoulder. “I thought I was... that he was going to... Oh my god, my friends are never going to believe this!”

“Yeah, right.” Ravager held onto Jennifer for a few more moments, then pushed her away slightly. “Come on, let's get you down to the police station. I think your parents are waiting for you there.”

---

Police Chief Gerald Palmer opened the door to his office and let out a small yawn, walking over to his desk. It was getting late now, near eleven o'clock, the time he normally went home. Not tonight, though, with the sudden commotion at the station. A young couple had come in earlier, saying that their daughter hadn't made it home from school that day, and that she wasn't answering her phone. When she didn't arrive back home by dinner, the parents came to the police station to report her missing.

Of course, they technically couldn't file a missing persons report until 24 hours after the believed disappearance, but they were quite adamant and refused to leave the station until the police started searching. Palmer had assured them that the police would do what they could, though he hadn't actually expected anything to turn up. Lo and behold, however, Jennifer, the missing girl, showed up at the station a half hour ago, safe and sound, if a little roughed up. Not only that, but the man who had kidnapped her was waiting right on their doorstep, tied up and unconscious.

“Now I can only imagine how that happened,” he breathed, glancing over towards the door.

As expected, Ravager stepped out from behind the door, arms crossed over her chest. With a small nudge of her foot, she kicked the door closed. “The girl okay?”

“Sure, she's fine,” Palmer replied. “Parents are taking her home soon as they finish filing charges against the kidnapper.”

Ravager breathed deeply, nodding. “Good.”

“So tell me, how did you find her? She'd only been missing maybe eight hours.”

“This gear isn't just a fashion statement, Chief,” she explained. “Comes with a whole slew of nifty upgrades, like enhanced hearing. I heard her cries while on patrol and investigated. Got there just in time, too.”

“Upgrades, huh?” Palmer took a moment to look over the woman's outfit. “That the reason for the new costume?”

“One of the reasons.”

No longer did Ravager dress in her former costume, which had always been a rip off of her father's, of Deathstroke's. Sure, the costume had served her well for years, but it was time to move on from it, time to get away from her father's colors. So, she'd had Dick help her design something new, not only a different style but also more protective and durable. Now, her armored costume was a sleek design of blue and black, with some red, white, and grey trim.

The headgear now consisted more of a helmet than just a cloth mask, offering much more protection to her head. The faceplate was still divided into two halves, like her old mask, one side black and the other white, with an eye hole covered in a red lens. The very back of the helmet opened up to allow her long white hair to flow out of, which she now kept back in a ponytail. She could accomplish much more than just night vision with this new equipment, and she'd been putting it to very good use these past few weeks.

“Well, in any case, good work,” Palmer said, sitting down behind of his desk. “I have to say, I had my doubts about you when we first made this little arrangement... but, admittedly, you've been a big help.”

Ravager nodded. “Like I told you, I'm just here to do some good, in the best way I know how.”

“So you did. I'm just glad you're on our side this time. One less thing we have to worry about, not chasing you all over the city anymore.”

“Works out for the both of us, believe me.” On that note, Ravager opened the window and hopped outside, hanging off the edge of the building.

“Going back out on your, uh, patrol?” Palmer asked, swiveling his chair around to look at her.

“For now. If something major comes up, you know how to contact me.”

Making her way down into a nearby alley, Ravager approached her new ride, an even more advanced motorcycle specially designed by Batman. She tried her best not to think about just how much she was indebted to him, what with him pretty much bankrolling her entire operation in Silverstone. He had insisted that she didn't ever have to worry about paying him back, but still, it was a thought that constantly nagged at her.

As she hopped onto the seat of her new bike, a brief hiss of static came in over the built in headset in her helmet. The following voice echoed crisply and cleanly in her ear. “Nice work on the kidnapping.”

“All in a night's work, Becky. You know that.”

“Of course, of course,” Becky said. “How much longer you plan on staying out, anyway?”

“Couple more hours, at least. Might call it an early night if it's quiet.”

“Just let me know when you're on your way, I'll draw us up a bath.”

“Will do,” Ravager replied, starting up the engine on her bike. “By the way, how's the new command center working out?”

The 'command center' was actually a new, heavily secured panic room setup that Dick had built in her penthouse. Not only did it function as a nearly impenetrable safe area, should anything like Riggs breaking in happen again, but it was also equipped with computer equipment and other technology that could rival Oracle's station. Granted, Becky didn't exactly know how to use most of the stuff yet, but she was learning.

“Like a dream,” Becky said, a certain amount of delight in her tone. “This stuff is pretty sweet, I gotta say. Though, I do have quite a lot of instruction manuals to read up on for half this gear...”

“All in good time. Oracle said she'd be happy to give you some lessons, too, help you out.” Ravager turned onto a back street, gunning forward. “Holly in bed?”

“Si, tucked her in a couple hours ago.”

Ravager paused a moment, thinking carefully, then asked, “You know, with how much time you're spending over my place now, maybe you should consider moving in for good? I mean, hell, you already sleep there most of the time anyway.”

“Well, can't say I haven't thought about it...” she said, uttering a contemplative breath. “And it would be pretty fun, ah? Tell you what, you find time to come help me move my stuff out of my apartment, and I'll be happy to move in.”

Ravager grinned beneath her mask. “I'm sure we can work out a time to do that. In the meantime, keep your eyes and ears on those scanners, let me know if any alerts pop up.”

“Ha, way ahead of you. Alarm just went off at Eastside Jewelers, and you're about five minutes closer than the nearest squad car.

Shifting gears, Ravager spun her bike around and rocketed towards a main street. “I'm on it.”

---

Uttering a long breath, Rose pushed inside her penthouse. She has already changed out of her costume and into a spare set of clothes, now lugging around her gear in a large duffel bag. Heading over to the living room, she tossed the duffel bag to the floor and collapsed onto the couch, putting her feet up on the coffee table. This was just what she needed, to kick her feet up after a long night and relax. Of course, she didn't remain like that for long, as Becky suddenly came up behind her, kissing her cheek.

“Welcome back,” she said. “Bath is ready when you are.”

“Thanks, I'll be right there.” Rose took in a deep breath, slowly letting it out. “I just... need to sit for a minute. Feeling kind of weird.”

“Tiring night, ah?”

Rose snorted out a small laugh. “Well, between the kidnapping, the robbery, the drug dealers, and being shot multiple times... yeah, a bit busy.”

“Ha, you're a tough girl,” Becky said, giving her another kiss. “You'll live.”

“Yeah, yeah.”

“So come on.” Becky gave her a pat on the shoulder, then marched back towards the bathroom. “Water's getting cold.”

Rose uttered a tired yawn, then slowly returned to her feet. “Alright, alright, I'm coming.”

She took only two steps, however, before her legs suddenly gave out. She crashed to the floor with a rather loud thud, unable to stand up or even move.

“Rose!” Becky turned around immediately, hurrying to her girlfriend's side and holding a hand to her shoulder. “Rose, what's wrong?”

“I can't... hurts...” she moaned, barely able to get her words out.

“What is it? What hurts?”

But Rose couldn't respond, instead holding her arms around herself and curling up into a ball. Groaning, she began to quiver, shoulder muscles going into spasms. Becky watched in utter shock, having no idea what was going on or what to do. The first thought that went through her head was to call the hospital, but what happened next made her strike that idea. For several brief moments, Rose's face contorted, taking on animal-like features. Becky lurched backwards, a surprised gasp escaping her throat, but the strange transformation disappeared almost as soon as it happened.

And then, without warning, everything was quiet. Rose lied there calmly, motionlessly, hands gripping the carpet. She breathed in deeply, slowly looking up and groaning, a far off look in her eye. “Becky... I think something's wrong with me.”

“Dios... you don't say,” she uttered. “What's going on?”

“When I fought Kubrick... the werewolf, he bit me... I didn't think anything of it at the time, but now I-” Another sudden flare of pain ripped through her body. She held her stomach again, crying out and twitching against the floor.

“Oh Madre de Dios, you're kidding me!” Becky exclaimed, nerves beginning to fly into a panic. “Wh-what do I do? How do we fix this?”

“Call... Dick...” she groaned. “Use the... private line. He might... might still be out.”

“Right, okay, just hold on.” Springing back to her feet, Becky hurried into the command room and put on her headset, then placed an immediate call out to Batman.

The other line was silent for what felt like an eternity, but finally a voice answered. “Rose, is that you?”

“Di- uh, Batman! No, this is Becky. We have a problem here.”

“What is it?”

“It's Rose, I think there's something wrong with her!” Becky explained. “She just collapsed, and she's in pain and she's been changing, and I don't know what do do, and-”

“Rebecca, hold on, slow down,” Batman urged. “Deep breaths.”

Sucking in a deep breath of air, Becky slowly calmed herself. “Sorry, I'm okay, really.”

“Now explain again.”

“She was bitten,” Becky said. “By Kubrick, the werewolf, you remember? She... she didn't say anything about it, but now something's happening and I don't know what to do. She's not... I mean she can't really be turning into one, right?” A long silence came in over the other line. Becky waited a moment, leaning slightly forward over her desk. “Hello? Batman?”

Finally, Batman's voice returned over the line. “I've contacted someone who can help, she'll be there shortly. But Rebecca, listen to me, if Rose turns completely... I mean, if she 'wolfs out', for lack of a better term, you need to get Holly and get out of there. Understand?”

“I... yeah, I think so,” she said, holding a hand to her face and bowing her head. “Thanks.”

“Just sit tight, help is on the way.”

A sound of thunder suddenly boomed from the living room, causing Becky to jump a mile and nearly giving her a heart attack in the process. Staring at the door for a moment, she finally forced herself to hurry back into the living room to find out just what the hell was going on... and then froze at the sight of someone else standing in the middle of the penthouse, a woman dressed up in some kind of magician's uniform, complete with top hat, bow tie, magic wand, and fishnets.

“Wha- who are... how did you...?” Becky stammered, blinking at the woman in confusion.

The woman smiled, then gave a gracious bow in greeting. “Zatanna Zatara, mistress of the mystical arts, at your service.”

“Zat...Zatarn... what?”

“You can just call me Z, if you like,” she said.

“Okay... Z,” Becky muttered, lifting a curious eyebrow. “How did you get here so fast?”

“Magical teleportation, of course.”

Becky slowly nodded. “I'll pretend I understand that. So, can you help Rose?”

“Naturally.”Zatanna came forward, rolling up her sleeves and standing over Rose with her wand at the ready. “Batman tells me she's been afflicted with lycanthropy, nothing I haven't cured before. Should have her good as new in a minute.”

Breathing a sigh of relief, Becky plopped herself down on the floor next to Rose, who seemed to be in some kind of delirious daze, sweating and murmuring incoherently to herself.

Zatanna briefly fixed the white gloves on her hands, then gave her magic wand a few fanciful waves and pointed it at Rose. “Nrut ot snamuh yltnenamrep!”

A bright white flash filled the room, forcing Becky to shield her eyes. When the light died away, she opened her eyes again and looked back to see Zatanna halfway across the room on her back, wisps of steam billowing from her body. After a brief moment, the magician sat up straight and held a hand to her head, groaning.

“Uh... are you alright?” Becky asked.

“Sure, sure, fine,” she muttered. “Just a little headache.”

“Well, did it work? Is she cured?”

Zatanna shook her head. “Afraid not.”

“What?!” Becky's throat went numb, her hear sinking in her chest. “But you said you've done this before!”

“I have done this before,” Zatanna said, stumbling back up to her feet. “Unfortunately, my magic isn't so effective against other magics of a higher power.”

“Wait, magics of a higher power?” Becky rubbed her eyes, trying to make sense of things. “I thought we were dealing with a virus here.”

Zatanna pursed her lips, gently tapping her magic wand against her hand. “So did I. But, apparently ,whoever afflicted the werwolf that bit your friend, here, did so through the use of a very powerful curse, powerful enough that I can't lift it... and that's saying something, because there aren't many many beings with that level of magic.

“Qué mierda...” Becky breathed. “You're saying that Rose is cursed, then?”

“So it would seem,” she said. “This isn't just your average lycanthropy virus, this is something else entirely. I can't cure her with my magic.”

“But what do we do? There must to be some way to help her!”

“Of course there is. We'll just be needing a different sort of help, and I know exactly who to contact.”

Becky lifted an eyebrow, giving the woman a curious look. “And who exactly would that be?”

“An old friend of mine,” she explained. “Another expert in the supernatural. He should know of other ways to cure lycanthropy, outside of magic. We'll just need to pay him a little visit, that's all.”

“Well, I can't go with you,” Becky said, shaking her head. “I'm not leaving Rose here like this, and there's a ten year old girl sleeping in the other room who needs looking after.”

“Of course, I wouldn't expect you to. I'll just have Rose come with me, that's all, assuming I can get her back on her feet. Let's see what I can do for her...” Moving forward again, Zatanna held a hand to her chin, thinking for a moment, and then waved her wand. “Niap eb enog!”

Instantly, Rose's pained groans went away, as she slowly fell out of her delirium. Taking in a few deep breaths, she opened her eye and looked around, pushing herself up to her hands and knees. “What... what happened?”

“No ruoy teef!”

And then, Rose inexplicably lurched upwards to her feet, as if pulled by an invisible hand. She stood there a moment, blinking in confusion and turning her attention towards Zatanna. “I could have got up myself, thanks.”

“You probably could have, given a few minutes,” the magician replied, “but we don't have the time to wait around. There's no telling how far along your lycanthropy has spread, and scientific cures only work before your first full transformation.”

Rose swallowed, letting out a cool breath. “How long do you think I have?”

“Oh, could be a few days, or a few minutes at this point. It's different for everyone, especially given the specific nature of your affliction.”

“Cursed, right...” she mumbled. “I heard you talking.”

“But you can help her, right?” Becky asked. “Or your friend, whoever he is?”

Zatanna nodded. “He should, provided we get to him in time. So, hurry up and say your goodbyes.”

Rose turned towards Becky, taking in a small breath and shrugging. “Well, see you soon, I hope.”

“Just come back without fur and fangs, alright?”

“Yeah, no problem there,” Rose said, uttering a soft laugh. “Take care of Holly, too, let her know what's going on.”

“Will do. Be safe, Rose.” Leaning in, Becky gave her a firm, parting kiss, holding it for several moments before pulling back.

Zatanna then raised her wand, waving it around theatrically. “Ekat su ot eht emoh fo Drahcir Tlucco!”

Another sound of thunder boomed in the living room, followed by a bright white flash. When the light died away, both Rose and Zatanna were gone, vanished into thin air.

“Magical teleportation...” Becky said. “Right.”

Chapter #43

When the two women reappeared, Rose took a second to double over and lose the contents of her stomach on the ground. After several moments of coughing and spitting out every last remnant, she uttered a small groan and straightened herself.

“Uck...” she muttered, wiping her lips clean. “I hate teleportation...”

“Not experienced with that particular mode of travel, I take it,” Zatanna said. “You'll get used to it.”

“You say that like I'm going to have to...”

Zatanna merely smirked, as she began leading Rose up a long, winding road through what appeared to be the middle of nowhere. As far as she could tell, there wasn't any civilization nearby, just a lot of grass, trees, bushes, and dirt. Oh, and it was raining. Not just drizzling, either, but nearly pouring.

“I hardly think I'm dressed appropriately for this kind of weather,” Rose said, hugging her arms around herself as the rain began to soak her T-shirt.

“Hmm, you may be right. Hold on, I can fix that in a second. I take it you don't enjoy bright colors?” Rose's unamused stare answered the question well enough. “ Right, anyway. Sserd Esor ni niar etairporppa eritta!”

Instantly, Rose felt her clothing change. She couldn't really describe how it felt, though, having nothing to compare it too. One second, she was wearing jeans and a T-shirt, and the next she was garbed in sturdy hiking boots, leather pants, a turtleneck sweater, black trenchcoat, and a wide brimmed hat. For a moment, she just looked down at herself, trying not to cringe too much over the outfit. At least was keeping her dry.

“Not... quite what I had in mind,” she said. “But I guess it works.”

“Good, now if you'll just follow me, we'll be at my friend's home in a minute.”

Shoving her hands into her coat pockets, Rose hurried after the magician woman down the road. In spite of the rain, Zatanna didn't appear to be getting wet... some kind of magical water repellent, perhaps?

“So, why couldn't you just wave that wand of yours and transport us directly to his home, instead of having to walk there from the road?” Rose asked.

“I'm afraid he doesn't like visitors very much,” Zatanna explained. “He's gone and booby trapped his property. Were we to spontaneously materialize in his house, there's no telling what we might set off.”

“And walking there the old fashioned way makes the traps less of a threat?”

“It does when I can see and deactivate them with a few magic words.”

Frowning slightly, Rose folded her arms across her chest and continued following Zatanna. Eventually, they came to the front of a large iron gate, attached to a tall fence encircling some kind of estate... one built in the middle of the wilderness. Quite the odd place to put such an elaborate and expensive looking home, but whatever.

“Nepo!” The gates suddenly swung open, allowing them entrance inside the property. But Zatanna wasn't finished there, waving her wand again. “Wolla efas egassap!”

A small flicker of light burst along the path leading up to the front door, followed by a high pitched hissing that slowly dispersed.

“And that should do it,” Zatanna said, leading the way up the stone path.

The interior of the mansion wasn't exactly what Rose expected. Instead of all the fancy, elegant décor, one might find in an ordinary home such as this, it was what could only be described as 'creepy'. For a moment, Rose half thought that they had stepped into a completely different building altogether. From the outside it, looked like something out of the renaissance. From the inside, however, it looked like something out of a Gothic horror novel, complete with stone gargoyles peering down from the second story balcony. Medieval suits of armor lined the sides of the main hallway, down the center of which was a long red carpet. Every now and then she spotted a glass case sitting on a small table, inside of which were strange artifacts; she noticed a jeweled scepter, an old, rusty helmet, some sort of serrated dagger, and a box made of shiny, black material.

“So... someone actually lives here?” Rose asked.

“Oh yes, this is pretty normal for him,” Zatanna said. “Heck, you should see my place; much creepier.”

“Right... so where is he, anyway?”

“If I had to make a guess, I'd say he's in the sitting room.”

And so the two made their way down the long corridor, eventually coming to a large, heavy wooden door. Without having to physically open it, or even a word from Zatanna, it swung inwards, giving them access beyond. The sitting room was a warm, cozy area, with two arm chairs situated in front of a blazing fireplace and a table with books stacked on it between them.

While one of the arm chairs was empty, a man sat in the other, his legs propped up on an ottoman and a pipe between his lips. Without even looking up from the old, leather bound tome in his hands, he gave a small wave. “Ah, Zatanna, I thought that was you.”

“Greetings, Richard,” Zatanna said, smiling warmly. “It's been a long time. Rose, I'd like to introduce you to Richard Occult, otherwise known as Doctor Occult.”

Finally looking up from his book, Doctor Occult removed the pipe from between his lips and glanced over at them with raised eyebrows. “Rose, you say? I knew a Rose once... but that was a long time ago.”

“Your last name is seriously Occult?” Rose asked.

“Odd names come with the job,” he said. “Such is how the world works.”

“I'm sure... So can you really help me, or not?”

“Well that depends, what's your problem?”

“She's been afflicted by lycanthropy,” Zatanna explained.

Dr. Occult sat up a little straighter, planting the pipe back between his lips and nodding. “Ah, werewolves. Haven't come across one of them in decades. Don't seem to be quite as prevalent nowadays as vampires, or ghouls.”

“I don't really care what's prevalent or not,” Rose said, shaking her head. “I just need a cure.”

“And you're telling me that your magic was unable to strip this condition from her, Zatanna?” he asked, giving the magician a curious look.

Zatanna nodded. “Unfortunately, yes. Her affliction stems from a curse, rather than the traditional strain that I can usually to cure. Whoever delivered that curse on the werewolf who bit her possesses magics far greater than my own; I can' touch it.”

“Intriguing...” Dr. Occult pressed a hand to his chin, thinking carefully. “Not a lot of beings in the world capable of that, now are there? Tell me, Rose, have you already suffered your first transformation?”

“Uh, no, not yet,” she replied. “I mean, I've been having these... episodes, I guess, where my body will start to change, but I suppress it back.”

“Hmm... you're close, then, but not quite there,” he said. “That means there is still time to administer a scientific cure... good.”

“And what if I had already transformed?”

“If you'd already turned,” he explained, “it would be much more difficult... we'd have to find the being who handed out the original curse, and get him or her to lift it from you.”

Rose folded her arms, narrowing her gaze. “Alright, so what exactly is this 'scientific' cure you keep mentioning?”

“A rather intricate concoction with very specific ingredients,” he replied.

“And those ingredients are...?”

“Hold on just a moment. I'll need to dig out one of my old books; memory is a little fuzzy on the subject.” Dr. Occult walked over to a shelf full of books lining the far wall, running his finger along the spines and examining the titles carefully. Finding the proper tome, he removed it from the shelf and slipped it open, scanning the pages. “Yes, here it is. We'll need a sprig of hemlock, a single ginseng root, aconitum, otherwise known as wolfsbane, a wolf's neck bone ground into powder, and a pint of blood from the werewolf that bit you. Mix it all together into a nice cocktail, and you have your cure.”

As he listed the ingredients, Rose cringed. “And I'm supposed to... drink that?”

“That you are,” he affirmed.

“What was the other option again?”

“If you're worried about the taste,” Zatanna said, “I know a spell that can give it the flavor of honeyed wine.”

Rose shook her head, shuddering. “It's more the thought of having to down a cup of Kubrick's blood.”

Zatanna shrugged. “Yes, well, it's the best we can do right now. Unless you'd rather wait around until you turn?”

Letting out a long sigh, Rose folded her arms and looked off to the side. “So what do we go for first?”

“I have some of the easier ingredients lying around somewhere, if you'll give me a few minutes to gather them together,” Dr. Occult said. “I know I have wolfsbane and hemlock... and I should have a ginseng root, too. I'll be just a moment.”

As he left, Rose began to pace around the room, tapping her fingers against her arm. Zatanna stood there, watching her closely but saying nothing.

Eventually, Rose released a distant sigh and held a hand to her head. “So, what if this... I mean, if it doesn't work, if somehow I don't get cured... what happens, then?”

“Well, you'll have to learn how to live with your... condition,” Zatanna explained.

“And how the hell do I do that?”

“With practice. At first, your transformations will come and go, and you'll likely be uncontrollable while in animal form. In time, though, you'll learn to transform at will, and retain your normal consciousness.” She paused, lowering her gaze. “Of course... there will be the hunger.”

Rose frowned. “Why don't I like the sound of that?”

“Because you shouldn't.” Zatanna's gaze narrowed, growing stern. “Werewolves often possess voracious appetites, craving specifically for raw, red meat. Of course, this hunger can be curbed through simply buying and eating a lot of raw steaks, or something similar, but there are times when you could lose control, and when that happens...”

“When that happens, I'll satisfy the hunger with whatever, or whoever is around...” Rose breathed, bowing her head.

“Exactly.”

A long, silent pause came between them, the only sound coming from the occasional popping of burning wood in the fireplace. Eventually, Rose sank into one of the arm chairs and stared into the fire. “Then we'd better get this cure soon.”

Zatanna nodded, holding a comforting hand to her shoulder. “I will do everything I can to help, I promise.”

Dr. Occult returned several minutes later, carrying various jars of ingredients with him. He carefully handed them over to Zatanna, then headed back over to his arm chair. “Now, you have your ginseng, hemlock, and wolfsbane there. So, you'll still be needing a wolf's neck bone, and the blood of the werewolf who bit you, Rose. I'd love to accompany you myself, but I'm afraid I'm working on a case right now; nasty zombie uprising in eastern Romania, and I still need to figure out who the necromancer is raising them all. So, the best I can do is wish you luck.”

“Thank you for your help, Richard,” Zatanna said, giving her friend a firm nod. “It was good seeing you again.”

“And you, as well, Zatanna Zatara.”

---

A short few minutes later, the two women returned outside, in the rain. A small shiver ran up Rose's spine, forcing her to pull the trenchcoat tighter around herself. She didn't know where they were right now, but wherever it was, the temperature was much cooler than back in Silverstone.

“So, which one are we going after first?” she asked.

“The easier of the two would make sense, I think,” Zatanna said, gazing out into the surrounding woods.

“And where are we going to find a wolf's neck bone?”

“From a wolf.” Raising her wand, Zatanna took in a deep breath and concentrated. “Dnes em a tanvres fo eht noom!”

For several moments, Rose just stood there, arms crossed and waiting for something to happen. When nothing did, she went to voice her concerns, only to suddenly see something appear in the distance, coming through the trees. Squinting, she made out the figure to be a large, grey furred wolf, trotting straight up to them. The wolf stopped five paces away from Zatanna, waiting patiently.

Rose hung her mouth open slightly, eyebrows lifting. “How did you...?”

“Magic, remember?” Zatanna then moved forward and knelt next to the wolf, placing one hand on the creature's head, and pointing her wand at its neck. “Evig em ruoy htfif earbetrev.” The wolf the suddenly shuddered and lied down, whimpering. Holding her hand up, Zatanna revealed a small bone, one of the animal's vertebrae, in her palm. “You see? Simple.”

“Uh... that's great and all,” Rose said, giving the wolf a curious look, “but is he gonna be okay?”

Without answering, Zatanna pointed her wand at the wolf again. “Laeh lla sdnuow.” Instantly recovering, the creature popped back up to its feet and ran away back into the trees and shadows beyond. Zatanna watched the wolf disappear into the darkness, then stood up straight. “Thank you for your aid, dear friend.”

“Okay, so that's done... shouldn't we get a move on now? We have to find Kubrick.”

“Yes, of course,” Zatanna replied, holding her hands to her hips. “I just hope you're ready to give my methods of travel another try.”

“Fantastic...”

---

With a small sound of thunder, Zatanna and Rose appeared out of thin air again, landing on their feet in the middle of a back alley, surrounded by boxes, trash bags, dumpsters, and the like. Rose teetered on her feet momentarily, holding herself up against the wall of the building next to her and leaning forward, ready to puke if necessary. While that bout of teleportation hadn't been quite as bad as the first one, she still felt sick as a result.

“Let's please not do that again,” she uttered.

“No promises.”

Rose bowed her head, groaning. “Ugh...”

“Should I give you a minute?” Zatanna asked.

“No... no, I'm fine.” Rose took a moment, taking in a deep breath and straightening herself. “So, are you sure this is the right place?”

“My locator spell is never wrong,” the magician assured. “This is where Michael Kubrick resides.”

“Okay, well then that raises a pretty interesting question: what the hell is he doing in D.C.?”

“A different question for another time, perhaps. That isn't why we're here.”

“Right...” Rose said. “We need his blood, and something tells me he isn't just going to hand it over.”

“I would tend to doubt that,” Zatanna agreed.

“And we can't just outright murder him, even if we would be doing the local populace a favor.”

“We'll try to do this as peacefully as possible... if we can't, then I have other ways of accomplishing what we need.”

“This is the guy that put me in this predicament in the first place,” Rose explained, giving her ally a sidelong glance. “If it's all the same to you, I think I'd rather skip ahead to the part where I ram a sword up his furry-”

“Calm yourself, Rose,” Zatanna urged. “Aggressive emotions maybe speed up your transformation process.”

Narrowing her gaze, Rose folded her arms and stared back at the woman, unamused. “Probably something you should have mentioned earlier.”

Zatanna let out a small breath, then waved Rose along. “In any case, the hotel where Kubrick is staying should be just around the corner. We should hurry.”

As Zatanna made her way towards the mouth of the alley, however, Rose just lifted an eyebrow at her. “Uh, it's probably not my place to say, but should you really be wandering down the streets dressed like a slutty magician?”

“A slutty...” Zatanna turned suddenly, giving bewildered, and rather annoyed glare. “Excuse me?”

“Well, I mean, with the no pants... and the fishnets... and the...” she breathed. “Well, it just seems like that would attract a lot of attention.”

“I wouldn't worry so much how others see me. A simple spell, and everyone out there views me dressed in normal clothes.”

“Oh...” Rose said, folding her arms. “Can you do the same to me?”

“Of course.”

“In that case, I want my gear.”

Shifting her weight slightly to the side, Zatanna let out a cool breath and uttered another spell. “Sserd Esor ni reh elttab raeg.”

In another instant, the heavier clothing and trenchcoat disappeared, replaced by her new and improved Ravager costume, helmet and faceplate included, as well as her swords. She took a few moments to examine herself, making sure everything was in order. “Now this is more like it.”

Now let us be going,” Zatanna said, waving her along.

Chapter #44

Michael Kubrick released a long breath, leaning up against the back wall of the hotel shower and enjoying the feel of hot water on his tired body. He hadn't been expecting his new boss to be working him so hard right off the bat, but the man wanted to push forward with his plans as soon as possible, which meant that Kubrick and Zaria had been quite busy lately.

Of course, it hadn't been all bad. Coming back to the hotel room every night with Zaria, the little minx that she was, had made these last few weeks quite enjoyable. That, and they had even been given a special 'meal' every now and then, when their boss came across someone who needed to disappear. They were, of course, only happy to oblige.

Finishing his shower, Kubrick turned the water off and grabbed a towel, wrapping it around his waist. He was just about ready to get a good night's sleep, after working so late and then handling Zaria. All things considered, it was almost three in the morning now. Letting out a long yawn, Kubrick exited the bathroom, where Zaria should already be asleep waiting for him. What he found when he opened the bathroom door, however, caused him to fly into a sudden, panicked rage.

Zaria was indeed in bed, but wrapped up impossibly tight with the bed sheets, one section crossing over her mouth and preventing her from speaking. She turned her head to look at him, eyes narrowing; she was not at all amused by the two women sitting on the edge of the bed. One of them, Kubrick didn't recognize, some woman dressed as a magician. But the other, he recognized very quickly. Even if it was a different costume, her scent was the same.

“You!” he growled. “What the hell are you doing here?”

“Oh, you know, was just in the neighborhood and felt like dropping in to say hi,” Ravager said, with a little wave. “Hi.”

“Mangy b*tch!” Wasting no time, Kubrick lunged across the room, transforming into his werewolf form in mid leap. He didn't make it even halfway across the room before the mysterious magician woman waved her wand and uttered complete nonsense – nonsense that ground him to a halt.

“Nruter ot namuh!”

Instantly, Kubrick shifted back into his normal, human form, losing momentum and crashing straight into the floor at the edge of the bed. The magician woman again cast a spell, this time binding him.

“Parw mih pu!”

A second sheet swirled off the bed, gliding through the air like some kind of demonic snake. In a brief moment, the wide strip of cloth tightly ensnared Kubrick's body, tying him up and not not letting go. The hold was surprisingly strong, much stronger than an ordinary sheet should be.

“The f**k is this?” Kubrick said, wriggling around on the floor like a caught fish.

“Just a little something to hold you still for a few minutes,” the magician stated.

“Yeah, and who the hell are you, huh?” Kubrick's eyes lingered over her for a few moments, then added, “Can't say I mind the outfit, but this hocus pocus crap is really starting to piss me off.”

“My name is Zatanna Zatara,” she replied, “and it would be wise of you not to get on my bad side.”

“Ooh, I'm shaking. Screw off.”

“Shut it, Kubrick.” Ravager folded her arms, glaring down at him. “I didn't come here to fight and trade insults, even if I'd love to work out some of my stress right now.”

Kubrick narrowed his eyes, scowling. “You barge into our hotel room, attack us, tie us up, and expect us to believe that you're not here for a fight?”

Ravager jumped up to her feet, drawing one of her swords in the process and pointing it at him. They couldn't see her face, but it had contorted into an expression of pure, vile anger. “You're lucky I'm not cutting off appendages! With how many people you've hurt, how many lives you ruined, for what you did to me, I should gut you where you stand!”

A sudden flare of pain and dizziness coursed through her, causing her balance to shift and feet to stumble. Dropping her blade, Ravager teetered back against the bed and fell into a seated position, elbows on her knees and hands clutching her head tightly.

“Rose!” Zatanna exclaimed. “You have to be calm.”

Kubrick watched the two for a moment, an amused sneer forming across his face. “Ah, I see what's going on now. The curse is finally starting to take hold, right? You're almost there... almost the same as me. And now you've come to me for... what? To get your revenge?”

“I came here for a cure, you ignorant b**tard!” Ravager retorted. “I won't live like this! I won't live like you!

“A cure? Ha, ain't no cure for this, babe,” he said, maintaining his grin. “I tried, believe me, but eventually I came to accept what I am. What makes you think I'd even know of a cure?”

“You might not know it, but there is a way of curing lycanthropy before the first transformation,” Zatanna said. “Though I require very specific ingredients. Normally, I would simply cure her with my magic, but the curse placed on you is very powerful... and it has transferred to Rose.”

“Well ain't that just a shame? I'm in tears, really.”

Ravager glowered, taking another stepped forward. “I swear I'll start slicing off chunks, you miserable piece of-”

“Rose, shh, calm,” Zatanna urged.

Groaning, Ravager dropped her head back into her hands and tried to ignore the throbbing pounding inside her skull.

“Then what do you need from me, huh?” Kubrick gave the magician woman a cold stare. “Go make your cure somewhere else.”

Zatanna shook her head. “We need you, Michael Kubrick, because the most important ingredient in this cure happens to be blood of the werewolf who bit her.”

Frowning, Kubrick narrowed his eyes, his frown deepening. “No f**king way. You're insane if you think I'm bleeding for you. Forget about the cure and just learn to live with it!”

“Not gonna happen,” Ravager said. “Either you do this peacefully like you're giving to the Red Cross, or my friend here is going to take it from you.”

“You won't even feel any pain,” Zatanna assured.

“Okay, now just hold on a second, ladies,” he said, letting out a calm breath. “I'm gonna let you in on a little secret-”

“Quit dicking around,” Ravager snapped.

“Not dicking around, no. Just wanted to let you know that, while you've been paying attention to me, you should've been keeping an eye on Zee over there.”

Suddenly, a long blue tail, lined with sharp barbs, swung through the air and curled around Ravager's neck, pulling her upwards off the bed. The sheet wrapping around the Celarian shredded into scraps, as she finished transforming into her true, alien form. With another wild swing of her tail, she sent Ravager flying across the room, crashing into a wall.

Sh*t, what the hell? Ravager slowly pushed herself up to her hands and knees, woozy. Why didn't my precog go off?

It had to be because of her condition, she realized, or at least her current delirium, as the moment of her first transformation drew closer. She needed Kubrick's blood for the cure, and she needed it soon. Of course, there was one very big, blue, toothy problem to take care of first.

As she struggled to get back to her feet, she noticed Zatanna raising her wand, prepared to cast a spell. However, Kubrick suddenly transformed again, ripping through the sheet binding him and slashing his claws outward to rip a gash along the back Zatanna's hand. With a pained cry, the magician yanked her hand back, watching as her wand went spinning across the room.

Before Ravager could do anything to assist her ally, Zaria leaped at her, claws outstretched and fanged jaws open. Ducking beneath the Celarian attacker, Ravager rolled out of the way and went for her sword, picking it up off the ground and preparing to defend herself. Meanwhile, Zatanna flipped herself back over the bed, avoiding another incoming slash from Kubrick.

“Not so tough now, are you, you little b*tch?” Kubrick uttered a low growl, eyes gleaming. “What are you going to do without your wand?”

“This,” she replied, holding her palm out forward. “Teg kcab!”

Instantly, the massive werewolf launched backwards through the air, crashing through the far wall and into the next room. Within that room, a young couple lying in bed and watching television sparng up to their feet, screaming and running out the door.

Zatanna lowered her hand, standing straighter. “The wand is just a prop, you know. My power comes from me.”

Across the room, Ravager let out an agonized cry, as Zaria's razor fangs sank into her shoulder. The jaw strength on this alien being was astounding, teeth cracking straight through the upgraded armor and piercing into her soft flesh beneath. Bringing her leg up, she kicked forward and forced the monster to back off. Then, she swung her blade forward, cutting clean through Zaria's side and opening a long, though shallow, wound. Zaria shrieked in anger, lunging forward again... only to then lift up into the air and fly into the television set, unconscious.

“Thought you could use a hand,” Zatanna said, hands coming to her hips.

“Thanks...” Ravager breathed. “I can normally take these guys no problem, but I can't... I can't... oh god.”

Everything suddenly went dizzy. Ravager took a few steps and collapsed to her knees, trying to clear her head. Taking in deep breaths, she forced herself to push through it, eventually swallowing a large knot in her throat and rising back to her feet.

“Are you alright?” Zatanna asked.

She nodded. “It's okay, I'm good. Where's Kubrick?”

“He's right over-”

Stopping mid-sentence, Zatanna stared into the other hotel room, beyond the broken hole in the wall. Only, the room was empty. Kubrick, in full werewolf form, had already crashed through the third floor window (as well as half the wall surrounding it), and landed on the streets below, causing an abrupt panic amongst the citizens still up at this hour. Cars honked and passersby ran screaming, as Kubrick bounded off through the city.

“Sh*t, he's getting away!” Ravager cried, running towards the window.

“Not for long,” Zatanna said, looking over towards the bed. “I just hope you're more prepared for this method of travel than the last.”

---

“Are you sure you know how to fly this thing?!” Ravager shouted, hanging on to the headboard for dear life.

“Please, I've done this before with a carpet, and that's much less sturdy!” Zatanna replied, a mad grin spreading across her face.

Still, Ravager was unconvinced, as the hotel bed rocketed through the air. Some kind of weird levitation spell had caused the thing to start floating off the ground, and then Zatanna had said something else, causing it to shoot off like a bat out of hell.

“I see him!” Zatanna pointed towards the ground, watching the furry form of Kubrick racing towards the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool. “Down there!”

“Yeah, good, down!” Ravager replied. “Take us down!!

Piloting the bed through the air, Zatanna brought the speeding, airborne furniture lower towards the ground, gradually catching up to the fleeing werewolf. Leaping over the side of the reflecting pool, Kubrick raced through the water, moving as fast as he could to escape his pursuers. He never had a chance, however, as Zatanna raised a hand as soon as she was in range and cast a spell.

“Pots!”

Instantly, Kubrick seized up, frozen completely in place, mid-stride. He plunged forward into the water, sliding several feet before coming to an abrupt stop after crashing into the siding. Slowly, he began to revert back into his human form, now lying naked in eighteen inches of water. The bed zoomed in a moment later, coming to a careful landing next to the pool, allowing its passengers to jump off. Ravager did so rather quickly, very pleased to be back on solid ground.

“We tried to do this the sensible way,” Zatanna stated, as she approached. “Now we'll have to do it the hard way.”

Still unable to move his body, Kubrick shifted his eyes slowly up at the woman, scowling. “Stay the f**k away from me, b*tch.”

The magician rolled her eyes. “Oh would you relax, already? This won't take a minute.” Removing the top hat from her head, Zatanna reached inside and pulled out a small jar. Where it came from, or what it had been doing in her hat, was anyone's guess. Holding a hand out to Kubrick's forehead, she took in a deep breath said, “Llif htiw Leahcim S'kcirbuk doolb!”

In the blink of an eye, the jar in her outstretched hand filled with a dark red liquid: Kubrick's blood. Uttering a small groan, Kubrick shut his eyes, feeling suddenly woozy.

“There, was that so difficult?” Zatanna asked. “You didn't need to run.”

“F**k you.”

“In any case, I'd love to stick around and wait for the police to get here, but we're in a bit of a hurry. Rose? Are you ready to-” Turning to her companion, she suddenly paused. Rose was hunched over on all fours, body quivering and twitching. Curiously, Zatanna wandered over and placed a hand on the woman's shoulder. “Rose, are you alright?”

“GET OFF!”

Without warning, Ravager lashed her arm out, striking Zatanna in the shoulder and sending her flying through the air in a display of strength far greater than she should have. Zatanna crashed into the pool water, sliding across the bottom of it and crashing into the siding. She was slow to get up, dazed from the blow, and had no idea where the jar of Kubrick's blood went after she lost her hold on it.

Meanwhile, Ravager's muscles began to spasm, while her bones popped and snapped, rearranging themselves. A horrid scream of pain erupted from her throat; she felt as though her entire body was ripping itself apart.

Kubrick rose back to his feet, the magic spell holding him in place suddenly breaking. Seeing Ravager's agony, he grinned slightly, beginning to back away. “Ah, I remember my first transformation... painful, isn't it? Don't worry, you'll get used to it.”

Holding a hand to her head, Zatanna looked up, realizing what was happening. They were too late. Before Kubrick ran out of range, however, she extended a hand and uttered one more desperate spell. “Laever ruoy sthguoht!”

A moment later, Kubrick vanished. Zatanna sat up straighter, everything starting to spin. She grit her teeth and looked over at Rose again, just in time to see the woman's armor burst apart, as her body grew to monstrous proportions. In mere moments, Rose no longer stood there as the woman she had been, but instead a large, ferocious werewolf, covered in thick, white fur and bright red eyes. Curling back her lips, Rose arched her neck, opened her jaws, and unleashed an ear splitting howl.

“Oh dear Hotath...” Zatanna uttered. Reacting instinctively, she raised her hands to cast another spell, intent on returning Rose to human form. They may have been too late for the cure, but Rose could still be helped. “Nruter ot nam-!”

The snow white werewolf acted too quickly, however, displaying astounding speed and charging straight at her. Before she could finish the spell, Zatanna flew threw the air, swatted aside like a fly. She landed hard in the pool water, feeling her head smack against the granite siding. By the time she came to her senses again, Rose was already long gone, sprinting back towards the streets and into the heart of the city.

---

At about three in the morning, activity on the streets of Washington D.C. wasn't exactly booming, as it was during the day, but still plenty of citizens roamed the city, driving their cars or walking down the sidewalk. After all, a city never really sleeps, whether New York City or Washington D.C. That being said, there were plenty potential victims for the newly transformed Rose to come across.

Mindless and wild, the werewolf burst out of an alley, bounding onto the sidewalk and snarling, looking around earnestly. She could feel a burning hunger deep inside of her, a hunger that had to be quenched. Within seconds, people were running and screaming, desperate to get away from the monster. Her heightened senses took notice of them all, sights, sounds, and scents. Gaze darting to the nearest person, a young woman in a black dress and pearl necklace, Rose charged.

Suddenly, however, an oncoming taxi forced her to stop, tires screeching in attempts to brake before crashing into the beast. Uttering a loud growl, Rose extended her arms and caught the car, bringing it to a dead halt as metal crunched beneath her claws. Within the vehicle, the driver bounced off the airbag face first, then fell back in his seat in a daze.

Darting around the side of the taxi, Rose ripped the door effortlessly off the vehicle, then yanked the man out of his seat, claws digging into the meat of his shoulder. Starting to come out of his daze, the man quickly realized his predicament and began thrashing around, screaming. But it was futile, he couldn't get away. The beast was ready to tear him limb from limb and devour him... until several gunshots went off. Rose felt the bullets penetrate her stomach, but they barely tickled. Werewolf resiliency at its finest.

Turning her head, she noticed a police officer standing outside of his squad car and taking aim at her with his pistol. Two more shots went off, these ones striking her shoulder; they only succeeded in making her angrier. Lips curling back, she snarled, tossing the man in her grasp away and then racing straight at the cop with an ear splitting howl. The officer turned to flee, but he wouldn't get away in time; the werewolf was too fast. Closing the distance, Rose lunged, claws outstretched and teeth bared, ready to sink into her meal.

“Teg kcab!”

Instantly, Rose launched backwards, sailing over a nearby car and crashing against the street. Zatanna came forward from around a street sign, a slight limp in her stride. While she was here, she would not allow Rose to uncontrollably harm innocent people.

“Og ot plees!”

Rose lost consciousness the moment that the spell erupted from Zatanna's fingers, entering into a deep slumber. Shortly thereafter, she slowly reverted back into her human form, now lying naked in the middle of the street with a crowd of people beginning to gather. Zatanna didn't give them a chance to stare, though, as she cast a spell to transport both her and Rose away in the blink of an eye.

“Ekat su ym emoh!”

Chapter #45

Rose slowly opened her eye, everything appearing blurry and watery. Quickly blinking the sleep away, she sat up and looked around. She was in bed, in a room filled with even more books, occult objects, and downright weird ornaments than even Doctor Occult's home possessed. Holding a hand to her head, she tried to remember what happened, but the last thing she could recall before blacking out was Zatanna filling a jar with Kubrick's blood.

“Ah, you're awake, good.” Entering into the room, Zatanna walked over and set a tray of food on the bedside table. “I figured you'd probably be hungry when you woke up; you've been out for nearly sixteen hours. Welcome to Shadowcrest, by the way, my home. Creepy, right?”

“What happened?” Rose groaned, holding a hand to her head. “Did Kubrick knock me out or something?”

A distant, sympathetic look came over Zatanna's face, as a deep sigh bursting from her lips. “No... I'm afraid that we were too late in acquiring the ingredients for the cure. You... transformed.”

A nauseous sensation quickly bubbled up into Rose's gut. She held her arms over her stomach, leaning forward and staring at the bedsheets, eye wide. “I... then I'm... you mean I'm stuck like this now?”

“In all likelihood, yes.”

“But I can't be!” Rose held her hands to her head now, gripping her hair tightly in a panic. “How am I supposed to- I'll end up hurting people! Becky, Holly... I can't stay with them now, I- What... what am I supposed to do?”

“Well... I do still have one idea that may work,” Zatanna said.

Rose snapped her gaze over to the magician, a small flicker of hope rippling through her chest. “What is it?”

“Before Kubrick got away, I cast a spell that allowed me to read his mind. In those brief moments, I was able to learn who cursed him.” Her answer was slow, cautious, as if somewhat concerned or dismayed over the information.

Rose sat sitting up straighter, leaning forward. “That's good, isn't it? We find this person and have him remove the curse from me. That is the plan, right?”

“Yes... unfortunately, things aren't that simple.”

“How so?”

“The one who cursed Kubrick is a being who goes by the name of Circe.”

“Should I know who that is?” Rose asked, lifting an eyebrow.

“Not unless you're familiar with the Greek mythos,” Zatanna explained. “Simply put, Circe is a sorceress of goddess level power, which explains why I can't break the curse myself. I may be powerful, but I'm no goddess. She also has a long history of turning men into animals, though I've never known her to afflict someone with lycanthropy before. Kubrick must have done something to severely anger her.”

Rose looked away, holding her hands in her lap. “I get the feeling she won't exactly be willing to just lift the curse on command.”

“Very unlikely, but that's not even the worst of it. Circe's last known location is Hades, the Greek Underworld. She was sent there by the Olympians to suffer for her crimes.”

“So... what you're saying, basically, is that she's dead?” Rose questioned.

Zatanna shrugged. “As dead as an immortal goddess can be, but if you want to think of it that way, go right ahead.”

“And I don't suppose we can just waltz into the Underworld to talk with her, huh?”

“Of course not, that would be far too simple.”

“But it can be done, right?” she asked. “We can get to her?”

“It's possible,” Zatanna said. “If I pull a few strings, make a few calls, I may just be able to arrange a meeting with her. Of course, meeting her and actually getting her to agree to cure you are two different things entirely.”

Rose let out a soft breath, shaking her head. “We'll have to cross that bridge when we get there. We're wasting time just sitting around here, though; let's get going.”

“Before we go, you may want to select a different attire. I don't think you want to be traipsing about the Underworld in your pajamas.”

Blinking, Rose glanced down at herself, just now realizing that she had been dressed up in bright pink pajama pants and shirt. “What in the hell am I wearing?

“Oh, just something I thought you'd be comfortable resting in,” Zatanna said, with a small grin. “Now, as I was saying, different attire?”

---

“I thought you said we had to go to a bar...” Rose muttered.

“And so we do,” Zatanna replied.

“Then why on earth are we at a strip club?”

Glancing around the dimly lit interior, Rose squinted her eye. The pounding music was bad enough, but the blinking lights on stage, where the current nude dancer was swinging around a pole to the delight of half-drunken men eagerly throwing dollar bills at her, only added to the suffocating atmosphere of this place. The smell of alcohol was thick in the air, too, almost choking her nostrils. Sighing, she followed Zatanna through the club.

I can see why Becky prefers The Fuego Lounge...

“The entrance to the bar is in the back,” Zatanna said, leading her through the main lounge area.

“Wait, there's a whole separate bar in the back of the strip club?” Rose lifted an eyebrow, arms folding. “I didn't see any signs or anything for it... how do people even know it's there?”

“They don't, unless they're one of us.”

“One of you?”

“A being of magic,” she explained. “You see, the Oblivion Bar is a place where we magic folk go to... well, be away from everyone else. It's where we can come together to be among others of magic. Non magical folk, such as yourself, can only enter through invitation.”

Rose paused a moment, digesting the information “And I take it you bringing me along counts as my invitation?”

“Right you are.”

The two pushed past a curtain dividing the front part of the club to the employee only section. Turning a corner, Zatanna led her beyond the dressing rooms, around a storage area, and finally to a small alcove in the very back of the building, where nothing but a simple wooden door awaited for them.

“Well... the entrance is a little less impressive than I thought,” Rose said, eying the door curiously. “You know, for a super secret magical bar.”

“It isn't meant to be impressive,” Zatanna replied. “In fact, to anyone other than a person of magic, there's only a storage closet on the other side of this door. To us, however, it opens into a pocket dimension, where we are welcome.”

With that, Zatanna reached forward and pulled the door open.

---

The Oblivion Bar, a sanctuary for all sorts of magical beings to come and unwind away from non-magic society. It looked like any other bar, with a counter, a bartender, tables, a lounge area, a couple pool tables, etc. Rose even spotted a dart board, currently occupied by Captain Marvel and someone she didn't recognize. Something about the atmosphere, though, seemed somewhat calming and inviting... relaxing, even. As they moved up towards the counter, Rose stood back off to the side, allowing Zatanna to do the talking.

The man behind the counter looked up to see them approach, giving a wide smile. “Ah, Zatanna, been a while.”

“That it has, Jim. Good to see you again.”

“And you, as well,” he replied. “Who's your friend back there? Never seen her around the bar before.”

Zatanna turned, holding a hand to Rose's back and pushing her forward a bit. “This is Rose Wilson; she's here by my invitation. Rose, this is Jim Rook, owner of the Oblivion Bar.”

Rook gave a friendly nod, reaching out with his hand. “Pleased to meet you, Rose.”

“Uh, yeah,” she said, shaking his hand. “Real pleasure.”

“So, what can I get you?” Rook asked. “The usual, or you looking for something special?”

Zatanna shook her head. “We're not here for a drink, actually. I need to speak with Fate, is he in?”

“Sure, he's in his usual spot, meditating or whatever it is he does in there. Want me to show you to him?”

“I know the way,” she assured, giving him a small wave as she moved away from the bar. “Thanks, Jim.”

“Always a pleasure, Z.”

Rose followed closely down a side corridor lined with many doors. Zatanna stopped in front of the third one on the left and knocked three times, no more, no less. After three seconds, the door swung open, allowing entry. Rose probably should have been paying attention when she entered the dark room, then maybe she wouldn't have made such an incredible fool of herself.

Surrounding them was nothing but dark, empty space, with no discernible walls to mark the confines of the room. Tiny twinkles of countless stars flickered in the distance, along with a couple of eerily glowing purple and green nebulas. Rose, however, realized this too late, lurching in mid stride, as if afraid she was about to fall through space. What she didn't know was that there was still solid ground beneath their feet, albeit invisible ground. Thus, she simply lost her balance and toppled to her hands and knees.

“Uh... I'm okay,” she said, pushing her way back to her feet.

But no one was paying attention to her, anyway. Zatanna stood in front of her, looking at a man in a bright gold helmet and cape, who floated cross-legged in mid air. Several glowing ankhs circled him, spinning round and round in a methodical pace.

“Dr. Fate,” Zatanna said, folding her arms across her chest. “It's been a long time.”

“Indeed it has, Zatanna.” His voice echoed unnaturally, as if somehow enhanced and reverberating inside his helmet. “Why have you come here?”

“I have a request to make. My friend here is suffering from a unique form of lycanthropy, the result of a curse cast by Circe. Our other attempts at find a cure have failed-”

“And now you seek the one who cursed her in order to lift it from her.”

Zatanna nodded. “That's right. The problem is, she's sort of... well, suffering in the Underworld.”

Dr. Fate paused a moment, bringing a hand to his chin. “And one does not simply walk into Hades.”

“I was hoping that you might be able to arrange a way for us to meet with Circe.” Zatanna took a step forward, folding clasping her hands gently in front of her. “Whatever it takes and however it needs to be done. You have a lot of pull in these areas.”

“Circe will not merely agree lift the curse, even if I can arrange it, you realize. She will want something in return.”

“You let us worry about that little detail,” she said. “We just need a meeting.”

Dr. Fate paused again, bowing his head as he considered the request. Eventually, he lowered his legs from his floating position and stood tall on his feet. “Very well, it will be done.”

---

Rose stood with her arms folded, glancing around the impossibly large cavern. She wasn't exactly sure where they were, only that, according to Zatanna, they were at the barrier between the Underworld and the living world, specifically the River Styx. And right now, they were waiting.

Tapping her fingers against her arm, Rose slowly moved her gaze over to the third woman, the strange one accompanying them, dressed in a toga, a blindfold wrapped around her eyes, a broadsword in one hand, and scales in the other. Themis, that was what she called herself. Or Justitia, as the Romans called her.

“Thanks again for agreeing to help us out,” Zatanna said, nodding to Themis.

“I did as Fate requested of me, in hopes that some small amount of justice may be done here today,” the Titan replied.

“So, what's with the blindfold, anyway?” Rose asked, leaning in closely and inspecting the garb wrapped around the woman's head. “I mean, are you actually blind or what?”

Themis didn't so much as look in her direction. “It is symbolic.”

“Themis embodies divine order, law, and custom,” Zatanna explained. “In the western world, she's better known as Lady Justice. The blindfold-”

“Blind justice, yeah, I got it,” Rose said, shaking her head. “Lame as hell, though.”

This time, Themis slowly turned her head towards Rose. “I doubt you would fine Hell 'lame', were you to experience its torment.”

“Uh, it's just a saying...” Rose muttered. “But sure, whatever.

“Quiet,” Zatanna interrupted. “There's the ferry.”

In the distance, a small wooden boat appeared in the waters of the River Styx, pushed along by a cloaked and hooded ferryman. In the back of the ferry sat a passenger, another cloaked figure, with long purplish-pink hair coiling out from beneath the hood. Her body was one of near perfection, quite befitting a goddess, though her face remained hidden.

“Circe,” Themis said, moving calmly up to the dock, as the boat came to a stop, “you have been granted these few moments away from torment so that you may participate in this meeting. Use them wisely.”

The hooded woman slowly turned her head, face still veiled by the cloak. Still sitting in the ferry, she crossed her legs, then finally reached up to pull the hood down. Her face was normal, gorgeous even... except her eyes, which were gone, instead replaced by empty, bloody sockets.

“And I thought I had it bad,” Rose said, absently holding a hand up to her own eye patch.

“Caught me at the end of my daily suffering,” Circe explained, her voice silky smooth. “Oh, they'll grow back, of course. Just in time for the vultures to pluck them out again tomorrow.”

Rose cringed slightly. “Remind me never to get sent to the Underworld for eternal damnation...”

“It's excruciating at first, but after a while...” A long, empty sigh escaped Circe's lips. She seemed... tired. “...it just gets old. Now, tell me, why have you called me here?”

“We understand that you cast a werewolf curse on a man named Michael Kubrick some time ago,” Zatanna stated, arms folding across her chest.

“Ah, yes, the name does sound familiar.” A slow grin spread its way across Circe's face, followed by a pleasant, deranged chortle. “The fool, thought he could force himself upon a goddess? Ha! He got what he deserved, living the rest of his life as a monster in constant hunger.”

Rose narrowed her eyes, jaw tightening. “That's great and all, but he bit me, and now I have the same curse.”

“Oh? A shame, really. But I'm not sure why you came all this way just to tell me that.”

“Because I want you to remove it.”

A loud, shrill cackle of genuine amusement erupted from Circe's throat. “And now why would I go and do something like that? Your problems are no concern of mine.”

Rose scowled, taking a step towards the ferry. “Listen to me, you little-”

“Ecnelis.”

Suddenly, Rose's lips snapped shut, refusing to open again. She mumbled through her closed mouth, glaring at Zatanna and folding her arms across her chest, frowning.

“What Rose means to say,” Zatanna explained, clearing her throat, “is that we would like your help with this. Your assistance won't go unrewarded, of course.”

“I am prepared to grant you the removal of five hundred years from your sentence,” Themis announced. “If you cooperate.”

“Ha, five hundred years?” Circe smirked, shaking her head slowly. “Honey, that barely puts a dent in my sentence. I'll still be here when your grandchildren's grandchildren are long dead and buried. You want my help? Make me a better offer.”

Zatanna paused a moment, then turned to Themis. “What about a thousand years? Can we do that?”

Themis was quiet a moment, glancing down at her scales. When they slowly tilted to the left, she looked up again. “It is doable, yes.”

“Sorry, kids,” Circe said, “but you're not going to buy me out by scraping away a few fractions of my infernal suffering.”

“Okay...” Zatanna muttered. “Is there anything you do want?”

“Of course there is. I want out of here for good, to be free again, but that isn't going to happen.”

“Then, is there nothing that will get you to help us?” the magician asked, almost pleading.

For several moments, Circe looked away. She couldn't see anything, obviously, but she still didn't wish to be facing them. Silence dragged between the group, as the sorceress remained utterly silent.

“Speak freely, Circe,” Themis said. “If it is a reasonable request, and within my power to grant, it will be done.”

“You really want to know what I want more than anything?” Circe glanced back at them, breathing out a deep sigh. “I want what any mother wants: to be with her daughter.”

Zatanna's eyebrows lifted with surprise. “You have a daughter?”

“Yes, her name is Lyta.” Circe lowered her empty gaze, a vague, distant smile appearing on her face. “But she was taken from me by her father... until he was killed. Now, my daughter is... I don't know where. Lost in her father's domain, somewhere. Scared. Alone. In pain...”

Raising a hand to Zatanna's shoulder, Rose mumbled something, still unable to speak. Zatanna looked back at her suddenly, then smacked her own forehead.

“Whoops. Nepo ruoy htuom! Sorry about that.”

Finally, Rose's lips burst apart, enabling her to speak again. She gave Zatanna another long glare, then turned her attention to Circe. “Okay, so you're telling us that if we find your daughter and rescue her from... wherever, then you'll lift the curse?”

“Honey, you do that for me, and I'll grant you anything you want,” came the reply.

“Fine, then we'll do it.”

Zatanna gave her a careful look, eyes narrowing. “Rose, are you sure?”

“If it's to get this curse off me, then yeah, I don't care what I have to do,” she said. “Just tell us where she is and we'll go get her. What exactly is her 'father's domain'?”

“Well, her father, the being I conceived her with,” Circe explained, sitting straighter in her seat, “is known as Ares.”

Lifting an eyebrow, Rose gave a curious expression. “Wait... like the God of War, Ares?”

Circe nodded. “That's right. His domain, at least the one he used to rule over, and where you'll have to retrieve my daughter from, is right back the way I came: Hades, the Underworld.”

“Okay, hold on.” Rose lifted a hand to her head, gently rubbing her temple in confusion. “My knowledge on Greek mythology is a little shaky, so correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't the Lord of Hades, um, you know, Hades?”

“So he is and was,” Circe explained. “Ares usurped rule of the Underworld by stabbing his uncle in the back. When he was defeated and killed at the hands of your Wonder Woman, however, he went from ruler to denizen and fellow sufferer. Leadership was then returned to Hades himself.”

“Of course...” Clearing her throat, Rose turned back to Zatanna. “So... I take it venturing into the Underworld isn't exactly the smartest thing to do, is it?”

“Not even close,” the magician replied.

“But can it be done? Surviving in there, finding this Lyta girl?”

“Well... I suppose, though not without a guide and a way to return still alive.” Zatanna's eyes hardened, giving Rose a long, careful look. “But are you certain you want to attempt this?”

Rose nodded adamantly. “I am not living my life as a cursed monster, knowing that any day I could end up killing the people I care about by accident. Either I go back cured, or I don't go back at all.”

Zatanna let out a cool breath, crossing her arms across her chest. “Alright, I understand. But like I said, we'll need someone to guide us into the world of the dead, and a way to keep our mortal souls rooted with the living.”

“I believe I can arrange that,” Themis stated. “Give me a short while, and I will return with the necessary preparations.”

In a flash of white light, Themis disappeared, leaving Rose and Zatanna to stand there at the edge of the docks with Circe and the ferryman, Charon.

Journeying into the land of the dead... not the brightest thing you've ever done, Rose. Let's just hope it's not the last.

Chapter #46

His name was Hercules. Well, technically, it was Heracles, but his Roman name was far more recognizable. Regardless of what one called him, however, the fact remained that he was a near immortal demi-god, with strength to match the mightiest heroes on earth. And he would also be serving as their guide into the Underworld, at the request of Themis made to the Olympians. Having committed heinous crimes in the Greek world in ages past, Hercules now loyally served the gods to atone for his sins.

Rose stood in the back of the ferry, as Charon, the ferryman, paddled them down the River Styx. Zatanna stood next to her, keeping an eye on Circe, seated in front of them. Hercules, on the other hand, stood at the bow of the ferry, leaning forward with one leg raised up on the low railing. A Xiphos sword hung from his belt, at his left side, while a large, round shield rested against the railing to his right.

“Put some back into it, great Charon!” Hercules declared, voice loud and boisterous. “There is no time to waste!”

The ferryman, of course, ignored the command and continued paddling at the same pace.

Leaning close to Zatanna, Rose whispered to the magician, keeping her voice low. “Would you look at him? Now I know where the phrase 'body of a Greek god' comes from.”

Rose's gaze hadn't shifted from the demi-god's backside since they boarded. Indeed, Hercules was a magnificent physical specimen, his body practically sculpted to perfection. The flowing brown hair, gorgeous face, and simple breastplate with leather skirt that he wore, also didn't hurt.

“Down, girl,” Zatanna said, lifting an eyebrow at her. “You have a girlfriend waiting for you back at home, remember?”

“Of course I do, and I wouldn't do anything to jeopardize that, either.” Tilting her head slightly, Rose leaned back against the rail of the ferry and let out a long breath, still staring. “But that doesn't mean I can't appreciate the sight of a natural wonder when I see it.”

The boat ride didn't take much longer, soon reaching the very end of the Styx. As the ferry docked, dark, cloaked figures approached. Circe rose up from her seat and stepped onto land, being escorted back to her torment in Tartarus. Before she left, however, she glanced back over her shoulder at the ferry, gaze focusing on Rose and Zatanna.

“Please...” she uttered, her voice barely more than a whisper. “Find my daughter.”

Once Circe was gone, Hercules turned from the bow and walked over to Charon. He pulled out four silver coins, one for each passenger, and payed the ferryman, then brought his attention to the two women. “Fair maidens, prepare yourself, for beyond these docks lies the Underworld, land of the dead. I will do my best to guide you to safety and find the girl you seek, and protect you when need be, but know that not even I am invincible here.”

“Appreciate the sentiments,” Rose said, “but we can protect ourselves.”

“Of that, I have no doubt,” he replied. “I see great strength in both of you, and am honored to be making this journey with you.”

Rose lifted an eyebrow. “Flattery, huh? Now that I can get used to.”

“Before we step off the ferry, however, I must give you these.” Reaching into a small pouch attached to his belt, he pulled out two vials containing blue liquid and handed one to each of them.

Rose turned the bottle over in her fingers, staring at the contents intently. “What is it?”

“Some kind of potion, it appears,” Zatanna said, popping open the cork of her bottle and holding it beneath her nose for a smell.

“It is called the Draught of Undying,” Hercules explained. “It will keep your souls alive from the pull of death, while you traverse the Underworld.”

Uncorking her own vial, Rose gulped down the mouthful of liquid. It tasted something like stale beer; not the most pleasant favor in the world, but it could have been worse.

“Very good, now we can begin our quest!” Hercules declared, jumping down from the ferry.

“Just one more thing.” Rose turned to Zatanna, motioning down at herself. “Z, if you please.”

“Oh, right,” Zatanna said, holding a hand up. “Sserd Esor ni reh elttab raeg!”

And in an instant, Rose's attire changed to her new Ravager gear, fully repaired. She grinned behind her mask, looking down at herself. “Alright, now we're ready.”

---

The Underworld couldn't exactly be compared with any other place. With a blood red sky, black clouds, trees made of flesh with twisted, screaming faces jumbled along the bark, a dirt ground that oozed bloody puddles with each step, and eyeless crows watching them from the tree limbs above, it truly was something out of a person's worst nightmares. Ravager couldn't even tell if it was day or night, or if they were outside or inside. There was a sky, yes, but they had been in an underground cavern not long ago. It stood to reason that the Underworld was not a domain of their world, instead one of another dimension entirely, separated from the living.

Explains the need for the Draught of Undying to keep us alive... This places reeks of the dead and rotting.

“So, do we have any idea where to even begin looking for this girl?” Ravager asked.

Zatanna shook her head. “All we know is that Circe's daughter was taken by Ares to live with him here. Once Ares fell as ruler, there's no telling where Lyta ended up.”

“If I had to make a guess,” Hercules said, “I would say she was sent to live in the Asphodel Meadows, the region where neutral souls reside upon death.”

“What makes you say that?” Zatanna questioned.

“My uncle may be a twisted, corrupt god, but he is fair when it comes to the rule of his domain. He would not have sent her to Tartarus to suffer with the damned souls of Hades, for she has done nothing deserving it. Perhaps to the Elysian Fields, if virtuous in nature, to be among the blessed heroes of legend, but unlikely for a soul yet to be claimed by death.”

Ravager punched her fist into her palm. “Alright then, take us to these asthma fields.”

“Asphodel.”

“Whatever.”

“There is always the possibility that Hades took it upon himself to keep the girl in his own personal kingdom,” Hercules continued. “We will have to ask around to be certain, though.”

Ravager paused, looking around curiously. “Ask who, exactly? There's no one else here.”

“Of course there is,” he said. “You need only know where to look.”

Moving forward through the twisted forest of dead, fleshy trees, Hercules led them beyond into a barren land, with nothing but soot and rocks as far as the eye could see. Nearby stood an old, stone building, small in stature and falling to pieces. Outside this building, two statues were erected, one on either side of the entrance. These statues were two men, both in the exact same, tortured pose, agony upon their faces.

Hercules walks straight up to one of them, hands on his hips. “Excuse me, oh noble soul, I might have a word.”

Suddenly, the statue's head slowly and awkwardly turned, the expression of anguish shifting into one more of curiosity. “Nothing noble about me, I'm afraid. Just a lost soul in a lost world.”

“It talks?” Ravager's eyebrows lifted behind her mask. “The statue talks.”

“Not a statue, but the last remnants of the man I used to be,” the statue explained, “chosen to become a piece and fragment of the realm you see before you. It is as much a part of me as I am of it.”

“Which is exactly why I must speak with you,” Hercules said. “You know things, see things that go on in this domain.”

The statue nodded. “Yes, all things.”

“We were hoping you might know of a young girl brought here not long ago, a couple years at most. Raised by Ares, during his time in rule, purple hair, strong of heart. Goes by the name of Lyta.”

“Ah, yes... the girl.” A brief moment of silence passed, as the statue slowly nodded his head. “She does sound familiar.”

“Might you know where we can find her?” Hercules asked.

“Let me see... my memory is fuzzy, muddled. So many thoughts all melded together into a seamless flow. Give me a moment to recall...”

The statue, or lost soul, rather, suddenly stiffened up and froze into a motionless object once again. Hercules remained in his stance, hands firmly at his hips, waiting.

“Um... how long is he going to be like that?” Zatanna questioned.

“Shouldn't be long,” he replied. “It is difficult for souls merged with the Underworld to remember things after having their memories wiped with the waters of Lethe, even those memories gained afterward.”

“Well, he'd better hurry,” Ravager muttered. “I'd really rather not stay in this place any longer than I have to.”

As if on cue, the statue began to move again, once more turning to face them. “The girl, Lyta, yes, I remember now. When Ares took over rule here, he brought her to live at the Palace of Hades. There, he raised and cared for her, until his untimely demise. After that, the young girl was left without a caretaker and wandered these unforgiving lands, tired and alone. Once Lord Hades returned, however, he found her and brought her back to the palace. She is still there, to the best of my knowledge.”

“We thank you for your assistance and cooperation.” Hercules held an arm across his chest and took a gracious bow. “May you continue to rest in peace.” And with that, Hercules proceeded into the barren wasteland. “Come, the Walls of Erebos lie just beyond these hills. Once past, we begin our true journey into the Underworld.”

“Wait, you mean we're not actually in the Underworld yet?” Ravager asked.

“Not quite. These grounds are more akin to Hades' front lawn.”

Zatanna lifted an eyebrow, looking back at Ravager. “This place just keeps getting better and better, doesn't it?”

---

The giant, three headed monster canine snapped its jaws at them, standing guard in front of the main entrance with lips curled back and teeth bared. It didn't attack, however, not as long as they kept their distance.

“Alright, how the hell are we supposed to get past that?” Ravager said, taking a cautious step back. She didn't really enjoy the idea of becoming dog chow.

“Relax, this won't be any trouble at all,” Hercules stated. “Cerberus and I have a history together; I once borrowed him to complete one of my many labors. He'll let us by once he remembers me.” Stepping forward, he raised a hand as if to calm the beast. “Be at ease, noble Cerberus. We have come meaning no harm, and wish only to speak with your lord and master, Hades.”

The only response he received was three very large, very vicious jaws lashing out at him. Quickly, he jumped back out of the way in a near panic.

Ravager lifted an eyebrow, arms crossing over her chest. “Smooth.”

“He does seem to be a bit more aggressive than last we met...” Hercules muttered.

Rolling her eyes, Zatanna walked forward, pushing up her sleeves. “This is wasting time, let's just do it the easy way. Og ot peels!”

Within moments, the great furry beast began to teeter on its legs, soon falling forward and landing against the ground with a thunderous impact. Taking in deep, steady breaths, Cerberus swiftly slipped off to dreamland.

Hercules looked with wide eyes. “My, that is effective.”

“Can we keep going, now?” Zatanna said.

---

The next stop on the way to Hades' place was the Asphodel Meadows. As described to them already, it was a place where neutral or unimpressive souls came upon death, if not chosen to merge with the world itself. It was a ghostly place, of bleakness and sadness, nothing more than an expansive, empty field of flowers where the pale shades of departed souls wandered aimlessly.

“I can... feel them,” Zatanna said, looking around carefully. “It's like they're calling out to me, yearning for me to stay with them.”

“Listen not to the voices of the departed,” Hercules urged. “For they will whisper sorrowful persuasions into your ear. If they have their way, you will never leave this place.”

“So just... ignore them? Right, easy...” Several ghostly arms clawed up at them, reaching and pulling. Zatanna waved her arms around through the air, dispersing them.

---

“The last place between us and the dividing roads, which we can follow to the Palace of Hades.” Hercules gestured out before him at fields beyond. “This is where newly departed souls are judged, then sent off to their final place of rest.”

As with the Asphodel Meadows, the Plains of Judgment consisted of vast, open fields. However, there were no flowers, only tall grass, in which colorless figures shuffled forward in seemingly endless lines, waiting to be judged. These figures were much more solid in appearance than the wispy shades in the Meadows, but did not give the passing three even a brief glance, their attention solely on their destination in front of them.

“Ya know, I'm starting to be really glad I'm not Greek,” Ravager said, folding her arms. “This whole afterlife of yours is just... depressing.”

“One of the bleaker afterlifes, it is true,” Hercules said, nodding. “Unless, of course, you are judged virtuous enough to be allowed into Elysium, a true paradise for the deceased.

“Something tells me I wouldn't qualify...”

“I don't know,” Zatanna said, giving her a curious look. “I think you may be surprised.”

“Either way, I'd rather not have to find out the hard way,” Ravager said, breathing in deeply.

“And hopefully, you never shall.” Hercules moved forward, waving them along. “Now come, we are almost there.”

Ravager held her arms across her chest, following closely. “Next stop is the big guy, right?”

“Almost, yes,” he replied. “We do still have one more stop to make along the way first, but I doubt it will take long.”

---

The enormous, obsidian carved Palace of Hades loomed high above them, with pointed spires stretching towards the sky. The jagged edges of these spires gave the palace an appearance as though covered with countless, razor sharp knives, truly a fitting home for the ruler of the dead.

“So... you're sure your plan will work?” Ravager asked.

Hercules nodded. “It should, yes. I would rather not have to find out for, sure, however. It is merely a backup, should words fail.”

“And how likely is that, exactly?” Zatanna said.

“I estimate it at thirty-seventy.”

Ravager lifted an eyebrow. “With the seventy being...?”

“That Hades attempts to destroy us for intruding upon his domain.”

Holding a palm to her forehead, Ravager breathed out a heavy sigh. “Fantastic...”

“But that is why we have a plan,” he stated, taking several steps towards the large entrance doors to the palace. “Now, let us enter and-”

Before he could finish his sentence, however, the earth beneath them suddenly burst open, as thin, skeletal hands began to claw their way to the surface. At first, there were only a few pairs, but they were soon joined by dozens more. Within moments, an entire squadron of bone warriors, dressed in full battle gear, including armor, swords, shields, spears, and even maces, stood between them and the entrance to the palace.

“That's quite the welcoming committee,” Zatanna said, moving cautiously backwards.

“Yes, well I'm afraid my uncle is not very fond of visitors,” Hercules explained, drawing his sword. “These are his personal guards, sent to keep us out. We must fight through them to get inside.”

Ravager drew her own blades, smirking. “Now that I can live with. And with them already being dead-” Without hesitation, she sprinted forward at the legion of skeletal warriors and lunged into the middle of the group, hacking at them with expert skill. She was going straight for decapitations. “-I don't have to hold back!”

Hercules grinned widely at Ravager's enthusiasm, raising his shield and pointing his sword forward. “Shall we join her?”

“Be my guest,” Zatanna replied, lifting her hands up. “I'll be doing this from a distance. Yfirtcele!”

A web of lightning erupted from the magician's fingertips, striking one of the skeleton warriors and scorching it to ash. The lightning then leaped out from its initial target and jumped to several others in a long chain effect, vaporizing those, as well. Normally, she was not so lethal with her spell casting, but as Ravager said, these foes were already dead.

Hercules lowered his shoulder, putting his weight behind the large round shield he carried and battered into a line of guards. He swung fiercely with his sword, cutting another in half, and then spun wildly to bash several more with his shield, breaking them to pieces. All those who stood near the demi-god fell like fodder.

The enemies were fragile, yet they were many. Ravager weaved around enemy attacks, evading them with ease and countering with whirling strikes meant to take off empty skulls, cleave apart bony legs, and otherwise maim these skeletal guards. But even as the guards fall in droves, with each one defeated another two seemed to rise from the ground to take its place. The three fought tooth and nail, but made little progress in pushing forward to the palace entrance.

“This isn't working!” Ravager shouted, ducking below another attack. “We're not getting anywhere this way!”

“I fear you are correct.” Hercules raised his shield, blocking an incoming spear. “We must attempt a different tactic! Can you two keep them off me for a minute?”

Another chain of lightning ripped through a small group of warriors, frying them. Zatanna backed up, coming closer to Ravager, as the bone guards began to surround them. “We can try, but hurry up!”

With a mighty yell, Hercules swung his shield forward again, smashing apart the three guards in front of him. He then lowered the shield in front of him and charged, using it as a battering ram to push his way through the crowd, all the way up to the massive doors that open into the palace. Ravager and Zatanna followed him, beating back their foes every step of the way. Sheathing his sword, Hercules reached forward and placed his hands on the doors, pushing with all his might. It took a mere moment before they began to groan and creak, slowly giving way and opening. When the gap between the doors was wide enough, Hercules waved his allies inside.

Zatanna cast one more spell to drive the guards back, then slipped inside, followed by Ravager and lastly Hercules, who pushed the doors closed behind them. Letting out a deep breath, Hercules placed his hands on his hips and gave a merry laugh.

“I've not fought in a battle like that in ages!” he declared, smiling broadly. “Ah, it feels good to stretch my sword-arm again. Now then, let us proceed. Hades will be waiting in his throne room.”

Chapter #47

The interior of the palace was not much different from the outside, with walls all carved from jagged obsidian and no windows. Flickering torches along the walls provided the only source of light, casting eery, dancing shadows. Along either side of the central corridor were more statues, just like the one they met when first arriving in the Underworld. These ones, however, looked far more tortured and anguished.

“Well, this is... homey,” Ravager muttered.

“Not exactly my first choice in décor, I'll admit,” Zatanna said.

Hercules moved forward, waving for the two women to follow him. “Come, the throne room is straight ahead.”

They followed him down the central corridor to another set of double doors, these ones far smaller in size than the palace entrance. Pushing them open, Hercules stepped inside and walked forward a few steps, then stopped. The other two remained just behind him, looking around in wonder.

The room within was massive, nearly as tall as it was long, with the ceiling so high above that the torchlight did not reach the top, instead casting it in shadow. At the end of the room rose a large throne, the seat also carved out of the same black obsidian as the rest of the palace. Seated upon this throne was a large figure dressed in flowing black robes and armor, with equally dark, stringy hair: Hades.

Leaning to the side of the throne, Hades held his head up with his hand, looking somewhat bored and unamused as he eyed the three before him. “Nephew... why have you returned to my domain? And why have you brought these intruders with you? They reek of the living, an insult to my realm.”

“Dear uncle,” Hercules said, dropping to one knee out of respect, “we have come to make a request of you.”

“A request. Really?” Hades' eyes widened with surprise and intrigue. “And what makes you think that I would grant such a thing?”

“You have aided me before, during one of my many labors in ages past,” Hercules explained. “I humbly ask for your assistance once again.”

Hades took in a deep breath, slowly letting out. “That was a very long time ago, Heracles. But go ahead, make your request. I am... curious.”

Pushing past Hercules, Ravager came forward this time. “We’ve come for-”

“Remove your mask, woman!” Hades interrupted harshly, fiercely, temper suddenly spiking to extremes. “I will not be spoken to by a person who would hide while giving words!”

Pausing briefly, Ravager glanced back at the others for a moment before finally reaching up and removing the faceplate to her costume's helmet. “There, happy now?”

“I would choose your words more carefully,” Hades said, eyes narrowing coldly. “You stand in the presence of a god, and the proper respect will be shown.”

Frowning slightly, she cleared her throat and tried again. It almost physically pained her to try and contort her words into something a god would find respectful. “Lord Hades, we have come to your domain to request the freedom of the girl known as Lyta, daughter of the sorceress, Circe. Our information tells us that you have been raising her within your palace.”

“Ah, you come for the girl.” Hades shifted in his seat, tapping a finger against his chin. “How very intriguing. Tell me, woman, what purpose would one such as yourself have in doing such a favor for that insufferable witch?”

“To complete my part of a bargain.”

“A bargain with a treacherous sorceress...” A soft, almost delighted chuckle burst from the god's throat. “ And what would compel one to agree to that?”

Ravager narrowed her gaze. “That is my own business.”

“Perhaps. But why should I give up the girl? She is happy here, she is cared for, she is safe.”

“She belongs with her mother.”

“Her mother suffers in Tartarus for her sins!” Hades snapped. “You would condemn a girl to a life of eternal torment simply to be with her mother?”

“You let me worry about that,” Ravager stated. “We'll figure something out.”

“Your lack of conviction is uninspiring, I'm afraid. I have no reason to believe she would be better off going with you.”

“Because this place is so good for her, right?” Ravager took a step forward, throwing her arms up as she looked around the nightmarish palace. “I mean, who the hell designed this place? Looks like something out of a bad Hellraiser flick.”

The air around them instantly chilled, following her words. Hades slowly rose from his throne, glaring hotly at her with a gaze that could pierce diamond. Even Hercules took a small step back, posture shrinking.

“You dare to insult a god?!” Hades shouted, voice booming and echoing throughout the throne room.

Another chilling silence followed. Zatanna eased herself forward, whispering into Ravager's ear. “Tread lightly, Rose... tread lightly.”

“Just calling it how I see it,” Ravager muttered, arms folding across her chest.

Hades' expression hardened. “I should cast you into Tartarus!”

“Please, if you were going to, you'd have done it already,” Ravager said, rolling her eyes. Hades did not respond, but maintained his glare. “Tell you what, you show us the girl, and if we're satisfied at how she's being treated, then we'll leave.”

“And if unsatisfied, exactly what do you intend to do about it?” the god asked.

“Well, we'll just have to come up with a different solution, now won’t we?”

Hades gave another long stare, until finally raising a hand. A flash of white hot light seared the ground in front of him, and when it disappeared, a young girl with purple hair stood there, hands folded in front of her. The girl was dressed like a high school goth reject, with a lot of leather, straps, eyeliner, and the like. Her expression seemed empty and sullen, as if not noticing what was happening around her.

Upon seeing this, Ravager frowned. She's no older than Holly... what the hell has this b**tard done to her?

“My dear Lyta, explain to these people how happy you are here with me,” Hades said calmly, his voice almost soothing.

“I... am happy here,” Lyta uttered. “This is... my home.”

“This isn't your home, Lyta, this is a prison,” Ravager said. “We've come to take you back to your mother, where you belong.”

The girl slowly glanced up at them, her expression still void of any real emotion. Her voice, too, was hollow and empty. “I don't... I have no mother... I have never had a mother. This has always been my home, I have always... been here.”

“What do you mean you've never had a mother? Of course you do; her name is Circe.”

“Circe...” Lyta's gaze bowed, emptily. “I don't know that name.”

A triumphant smirk slashed across Hades' face. “You see? She does not even know her mother. She knows only my domain, and her happiness here.”

“Something feels off,” Zatanna said, shaking her head. “What's wrong with her? Why doesn't she remember- oh dear Hotath.”

Realizing the indication at the same time, Hercules came forward, an angry scowl on his face. “You forced her to drink from the waters of Lethe! She has no memory of her past life, none of it! That is how you keep her here!”

Hades merely grinned. “Such a simple solution, don't you think?”

Giving her full attention to the young girl, Ravager took a knee, coming to eye level with her. “Lyta, snap out of it. You do have a mother, and she misses you very much. Everything this monster has told you is a lie, all of it. This isn't your home, and you do not belong here.”

“Bother not with words,” Hercules stated plainly, glaring up at his uncle. “It will take much more than that to remove the forgetfulness inflicted upon her mind. Uncle, we're taking the girl.”

“You will do no such thing.” Hades sat back down on his throne, arms resting calmly at his side. “Not a single one of you will leave this room alive. Lyta, be a good girl and come to your master's side.”

Lyta obediently turned from the others and walked to the side of the throne. She just stood there, waiting and doing nothing else. Ravager clenched her hands to fists, scowling; at this point, Lyta was no more than a trained pet at Hades' beck and call.

“You demented b**tard,” Ravager said, gaze narrowing as she marched towards him. “I swear, I'll-”

“You will do what, exactly? I am a god, and you forget your place, mortal!”

With a wave of the hand, more of Hades' minions began to crawl their way out of the floor, though these ones were covered with bloody musculature, skin removed from their bodies. Not all of them were humanoid, either, some resembling great, hulking monstrosities of nature, animalistic beasts with gaping jaws and piercing eyes.

“Do try to put up a good fight,” Hades mused, grinning slightly. “At least then you might provide some entertainment before your bodies are ripped to pieces.”

“So, is this part of the plan?” Zatanna questioned.

“A minor issue,” Hercules said. “As soon as we deal with this lot, we will be able to-

His words cut off suddenly, as one of the monstrous, sinewy beasts attacked from behind, swatting away the demi-god like a fly. Hercules quickly recovered however, rolling back up to his feet and then sprinting at the creature. With a mighty lunge, he tackled the monster and began grappling with it. Ravager and Zatanna, meanwhile, had their own problems.

“Z, get back to safe spot, hit them from afar!” Ravager said, drawing her swords. Whirling the blades around in a wild frenzy, she leaped into the fray.

“Way ahead of you!” Zatanna retreated backwards a ways, then brought her hands up. “Edolpxe!”

Instantly, one of the undead warriors burst apart in a bloody mist, leaving no trace behind except for a red stain on the floor. She enjoyed not having to hold back almost as much as Ravager did, whose swords cleaved a bloody swath through the undead guards. It felt... empowering, being able to let loose the full might of her magic for a change. Of course, doing so also had its drawbacks. She could feel her power draining slowly, gradually, the more she used it. Her magic tired her over time just the same as her more physically combative allies lost stamina during combat.

Leaping over one of the large, monstrous creatures, Ravager came down on the other side while slashing along its back. The sharp edges sliced cleanly through sinew, spraying blood and dropping the creature to the floor. Following her sharp skills and reflexes, she continued cutting her way through these new enemies. Meanwhile, Hercules had torn apart several of the larger monsters with his bare hands, though now fought again with sword and shield. He did more than his fair share in bringing down their foes.

There was a problem, however. As with the skeletal guards outside the palace, the numbers of these new enemies did not dwindle, no matter how many of them were defeated. Within minutes, they began to swarm and overtake the heroes, far too many to properly fight and keep track of.

“Do these things ever stop coming?” Ravager questioned, scissoring her blades through the neck of a nearby enemy.

“Not as long as Hades wills it!” Hercules declared. “He means for us to fight until we are too exhausted to continue, at which point his guards will cut us apart!”

“Well, that's a bit of a downer, huh? “ Zatanna said. “Teg kcab!”

A small group of the sinewy creatures flew backwards through the air, allowing the heroes some breathing room. This didn't last very long, however, as the numbers continued to grow, enemies closing in on them. Taking in a deep breath, Zatanna raised her hands again, preparing to cast another spell.

Hades, on the other hand, appeared to have other ideas, pointing a finger at her. “Silence, witch.”

Instantly, Zatanna's mouth closed, her lips no longer able to open. She let out muffled cries, trying to cast a spell, but nothing worked. A moment later, one of the guards came forward and thrust its spear, the metal tip ripping into the her side. A quiet scream of pain gurgled in her throat, as she collapsed limply to the floor.

“Zatanna!” Ravager cried.

Cutting through the enemies in front of her, Ravager jumped over several others to reach Zatanna before the attacking guard could finish off the downed magician. Swinging her blades viciously, she cleaved off both the creature's arms, then finally its head, and kicked the body backwards.

Dropping to her knees, Ravager pressed a hand to Zatanna's wound, trying to stop the bleeding. “Just hang in there, Z. Stay with me, we'll get through this, you hear?” Bringing her gaze to Hercules, she shouted, “Herc! Now would be a good time for that plan!”

Bashing a few of the guards back with his shield, the demi-god turned to her. “We'll need a distraction!”

Before Ravager could answer, she was forced to whirl around again and cut down another attacking guard. However, at the same time, three others came in with their blades. She managed to twist herself out of the way of two of them, but the third cut deep into her backside, going through her suit like butter. Her earthly armor was apparently of no defense against these otherworldly weapons. Scowling, she spun around and cut the guard apart.

“Now I'm really pissed.” She could feel a burning beginning to spread through her, the pain of growing muscle and shifting bone. “You need a distraction? I think I can give you one!”

As her emotions ran wild, so did her more animalistic side. Though still not in total control, she concentrated, got angrier, forcing her body to transform. She suddenly felt... hungry. Very hungry. The next time she opened her mouth, a deep, bestial roar erupted from her throat. In seconds, her body grew further and completed the transformation, furry muscle bursting apart her armor from the inside out.

Her suddenly enhanced senses picked up another incoming attack. With agility far greater than her human form, she turned around and grabbed the thrusting spear, breaking it in half with little effort. Pointed ears flicking back, lips curling, and spittle dripping from her jaws, Ravager roared again, this time slashing out with her claws and ripping the squishy guard to shreds.

And then, the snow white werewolf was off and running, tearing through the Hades' troops. She cut them to ribbons, tearing meaty chunks out of them with her teeth. The hunger burning inside her had to be sated.

“By Zeus...” Hercules uttered. He stood and watched the massacre for several moments, then shifted his eyes carefully over to his uncle. Hades was standing now, attention drawn fully to the rampaging werewolf eviscerating his guards. Snapping out of his surprise, Hercules cut down a few remaining stragglers and then knlt Zatanna's side. “Young magician, can you hear me? Are you alright?”

Though bleeding from her side, Zatanna nodded. Her lips were still shut tightly, unable to say anything.

Reaching into his hip pouch, Hercules pulled out a small vial, this one filled with a transparent liquid. “Can you still do your part?”

Again, Zatanna nodded. As Hercules uncorked the vial, she pulled a hand away from her bloodied side and began to rub her fingers across the ground, writing a spell on the surface. There was no stronger magic than blood magic, yet it was to be used only under the most dire of circumstances, as each spell cast in blood siphoned away a small amount of the user's life force. Right now, however, the situation called for it.

Suddenly, the water inside the vial began to float up into the air. It hovered there briefly, quivering and undulating, then flew off in a long stream, heading straight at Hades. During this time, Hades had come forward off his throne, glaring at the werewolf, as it continued to rip apart his minions. Finally losing his patience, he raised a hand. Instantly, Ravager flew through the air and crashed against the wall, pinned there by an invisible force.

“Enough of this! You will burn in Tartarus, wretched beast!”

Before Hades could continue his assault, however, the airborne stream of water abruptly forced its way down his throat in an instant. Coughing, he took a step back and scowled, then glared over at Hercules and Zatanna. “What foolish attempt was that? What did you hope to... to... what did you... who... what's going on? Who are you people? Where are we?”

Zatanna puffed out a breath of relief through her mouth, as the hold forcing her lips shut suddenly vanished. “Laeh em.” Her wound instantly closed up, healing completely. “I can't believe that actually worked. Good call on stopping at Lethe on the way here.”

“The danger has not yet past, I'm afraid,” Hercules stated. “The waters of forgetfulness do not affect gods for very long. We must retreat and leave this place before Hades remembers who he is. Attend to the girl, make her sleep for now if you must. We'll need to take her to Mnemosyne, the river of memory. Its waters will counteract what Lethe has done to her.”

Zatanna nodded, making her way over to take care of Lyta. Hercules, meanwhile, hurried over to assist Rose, who had now come out of her werewolf transformation. During this entire time, Hades looked around aimlessly, as though confused, unable to remember anything about anything.

Holding herself up against the wall, Rose let out a small groan and straightened herself, then stretched out her arms. Hercules suddenly froze in place, realizing that, after shredding her costume, Rose was fully nude. Either not noticing this, or simply not caring (most likely the latter), she walked forward and gave the demi-god a congratulatory pat on the shoulder.

“Good work,” she said, pushing past him.

Hercules merely blinked, his gaze following her with wide eyes.

Finally, Rose acknowledged the situation and glanced back over her shoulder, smirking. “Take a good long look, muscle-boy, because you won't be touching.”

“Great Zeus...”

---

A short while later, Rose, Zatanna, and Hercules returned to the shores of the River Styx, about ready to leave the Underworld for good. One matter did need to be taken care of first, however, a matter for which Themis had rejoined them. Soon, Circe appeared, being led by cloaked and hooded figures. Chains wrapped tightly around her hands, while her eyes were still empty sockets. Because of her current blindness, she did not notice her daughter, not until the girl ran forward.

“Mother!” Lyta called, a broad smile across her face.

Circe's face instantly shifted into surprise and then softened. A brief moment later, mother and daughter embraced. “My girl... oh, how I missed you.”

“I missed you, too,” Lyta said, hugging her arms tightly around her mother.

Taking in a deep breath, Circe then tilted her head towards the others. “Please, my eyes... let me see her.”

Themis gave a slow nod, granting permission for Zatanna to cast a spell.

“Laeh S'ecric seye.”

Once the spell was cast, Circe let out a small gasp as her eyeballs began to reform in their sockets. Within seconds, she blinked and could see once again, the image of her daughter appearing before her. Lyta was no longer dressed in the horrid attire that Hades had given her, now in a much more simple and traditional Greek toga, with her hair tied back out of her face. No atrocious eyeliner to speak of, either.

“Lyta...” she breathed, forming her lips into a soft smile. “You're beautiful.”

The girl grinned back widely at her mother. “So are you.”

After giving the two a couple more moments together, Rose, now fully dressed again after Zatanna had taken the liberty of casting some clothes on her, stepped forward and folds her arms. “There, I completed my end of the bargain, now remove the curse.”

Circe's gaze slowly shifted towards Rose. “Before I do, I want something else.”

“Are you kidding me?” Ravager took a step forward, twisting her face into a scowl. “We just went through hell and back – literally – for your daughter! Now you want something else from us?”

“Not from you, no.” She looked over at Themis, now. “From her.”

Themis remained calm, though her voice boomed with authority. “You are not in a good position to be making demands, Circe.”

“It is not a command, just a request.”

“Then make your request, though I make no promises in granting it,” the Titan replied.

“I want parole, so I can raise my daughter.”

“Circe, you are sentenced to four thousand years in Tartarus, without the possibility of parole,” Themis stated. “That is something I cannot grant.”

“You cannot expect me to take Lyta back with me to Tartarus,” Circe said, raising her eyebrows. “I can't raise her there. Please, have mercy on a mother and her daughter.”

“The same mercy you showed to all of your victims throughout the years?” Themis looked hard at the sorceress, though her eyes still hid behind the white blindfold. “Or, should I say, lack thereof?”

“Put me under guard, lock me up, have Zeus himself keep an eye on me, I don't care!” Circe pleaded. “Just... please, anywhere but Tartarus. I want to be with my daughter, whatever it takes.”

Themis went quiet, apparently considering the words, though her expression did not shift.

Rose glanced between the two for a moment, then uttered a long sigh. “Just do it.”

“You are not the one to decide this, Rose Wilson,” Themis said. “Parole is not something I can grant to one of the most powerful criminal sorceresses in this world.”

“There isn't any way you can make an exception? She just said she didn't care what it took. Shut her up somewhere else and just let her raise her daughter.”

If Circe doesn't get parole, the backstabbing b*tch might not cure me. I am not letting that happen.

Themis paused again, then bowed her head. “There may be one way in which I can grant parole.”

“I don't care what it is,” Circe pleaded.

“Very well, allow me to consult the scales.” Raising her scales, Themis waited a moment. Eventually, the scales tilted heavily to the left, the right side coming all the way up. “I see... it can be done. Circe, you are hereby granted parole-” Circe's face instantly lights up in relief, a smile coming over her face. “-on the condition that you give up your magic. You will hereby be stripped of all your power, and your immortality. You will live a normal, mortal life to raise your daughter.”

Circe's elation suddenly turned to shock and disappointment, a distant frown forming on her face.

“And you will be watched very closely,” Themis continued. “Should you ever give reason, the gods themselves will drag you back to the deepest pits of Tartarus, where you will spend eternity. Are these conditions acceptable to you?”

Breathing in a deep breath, Circe slowly looked down at her daughter. Lyta returned the gaze, their eyes meeting. Eventually, Circe closed her eyes and nodded. “I accept.”

“Then you are free to leave with the others,” Themis stated. “When you return to the living world, your power will be gone.”

“But before that happens,” Rose said, folding her arms across her chest. “You owe me something.”

“Of course... in thanks for bringing me my daughter.” Walking forward, Circe brought her hands to Rose's temples, then closed her eyes and breathed outwardly. A cold ripple spread through Rose's body, followed by a strange warmth. “There, the curse is gone.”

Rose let out a heavy sigh of relief, instantly relaxing. “Good... thanks. Now let's get the hell out of here.”

---

Hercules stepped forward out of the cave entrance and breathed in a deep breath, holding his arms up to the sky. “Ah, a glorious day!” Turning back to the others, he smiled and held out a hand. “It was a pleasure and honor to fight by your sides, young maidens.”

“My sentiments are the same,” Zatanna said, shaking Hercules' hand.

Rose nodded. “Yeah, you do pretty good. I mean, for a demi-god and all.”

Then, Hercules looked over to Circe. He walked up to her and pointed a finger, glaring. “And you, witch, do not squander this opportunity you have been given. Atone for your sins, as I have done, and live a good life. Your daughter deserves that much.”

Circe said nothing in response, simply glancing down at Lyta and tightening her grip on the girl's hand. Lyta looked back up at her and returned the squeeze, smiling.

“And with that, I must be off. Farewell, and good luck in your future adventures!”

With a parting wave, Hercules turned away from them again and made his way down the hill, disappearing from sight soon after. Once he was gone, Circe held her free hand up, staring at it. She splayed her fingers, turned her hand over, then clenched them into a light fist.

“It feels... very strange,” she said. “Being mortal. No magic, no power...”

“You'll get used to it,” Rose said, planting her hands on her hips. “Eventually. Just remember what Herc said: don't you dare screw things up after what we went through for you. You take care of your daughter, got it?”

“At this point, I want nothing more.” Circe bowed her head, giving her daughter a friendly smile. “Once we figure out a place to go and find a home, I will raise her well.”

Rose briefly glanced back at Zatanna, who merely shrugged at her. Releasing a soft breath, she turned to Circe again. Please don't let me regret this...

“Look, if you don't have anywhere to go, I... know of a place,” Rose explained. “Silverstone, the city where I live. It might take some adjusting, but it might be a good fit for you. I look after a girl, too; her name is Holly, and she's about your daughter's age. They... could be friends.”

Circe stiffened slightly, raising her chin, as if trying to show her pride. She didn't respond, at first, simply staring. Eventually, however, she uttered a breath of her own and held a hand to her hip. “Very well... but do not think this makes us friends. I have no need of people like you to call friend.”

“Oh sure, no problem.” Rose rolled her eyes, shaking her head slowly. “I only fought the minions of Hades for you, saved your daughter, and got you freed from four thousand years of pain and suffering, but no, you're right, you wouldn't a friend like that, now would you?”

A long pause passed between them, before finally Circe crossed her arms and narrowed her eyes. “Let's just go, already.”

“In a minute. Just hang tight for a sec, kay? Good.” Turning away from Circe, Rose held an arm around Zatanna's shoulders and walked a short ways away with her. “Gotta say, Z, you're not half bad.”

“Well, I do have experience,” the magician replied, with a pleasant smile. “I will say the same of you, though; I'd only heard about you in passing from Dick, every now and then, but you've impressed me.”

“Hey, you're not they only one with experience. Now, I just, uh... I have a question. I noticed you used your magic a couple of times to heal wounds... can you do that with any kind of injury?”

Zatanna paused a moment, lifting an eyebrow. “Well, yes... I can heal any minor injury, past or present, and most grievous ones as well, if they're not too far gone. Why do you ask?

“I, uh... I have a request to make,” Rose said, gently running a finger over her eye patch.

---

Zatanna's magic transported them just outside the door to Rose's penthouse. Circe and Lyta were with them, dressed in normal, casual clothes now.

Reaching forward, Rose pushed the door open and led them inside. “I'm back! Anyone home?”

A moment later, a familiar figure appeared out of the kitchen. Upon seeing Rose, Rebecca let out a heavy, relieved breath, and ran up to embrace her. “Dios mio, I was getting worried. You were gone for days!”

“Yeah, I know, I'm sorry,” Rose said, holding her arms warmly around the woman. “But I'm back now, and one hundred percent normal... well, for me.”

“That's great news, I can still hardly believe that-” Becky stopped suddenly, pulling back to take a better look at her girlfriend. She blinked in surprise, staring with confusion. Gently, she lifted a hand and clutched Rose's cheek. “Rose, your eye...”

Ever since being drugged by her father so many years ago, Rose had been sans one of her eyes. A brief mental breakdown of desperation had caused herself to carve it out herself to prove her loyalty to her father, wanting to show that she was just like him. But now... now she once again had both her eyes, fully restored by Zatanna's magic.

“Yeah... Zatanna healed it for me,” she said, giving a slight smile. “It... it was the last reminder I had of my father, you know? After I changed my costume, I mean. I had to get rid of it.”

“That's... I mean.... I don't believe...” Unable to formulate her thoughts into complete sentences, Becky instead responded with a firm kiss, pressing their lips together for several moments before pulling away. Her gaze then moved over to Zatanna, nodding appreciatively to her. “Thank you, Zatanna, was it?”

“You're welcome,” Zatanna said, returning a friendly smile. “It was my pleasure.”

“And who are they?” Becky was looking at Circe and Lyta now.

“Oh, these are... sort of friends,” Rose said, gesturing towards them. “That's Circe, and her daughter Lyta.”

“Well, good to meet you both.” Becky extended her hand to them, and though Lyta quickly shook it, Circe just folded her arms and glared.

Rose cleared her throat. “Er... don't mind her. She's adjusting.”

Another figure then appeared, wandering out of living room. Holly's eyes lit up, rushing forward and lunging at Rose with a big hug. Looking up to her, she then began rifling through a series of hand signals, while mouthing the words at the same time. “I'm so glad you're back!”

“I'm glad, too, honey, believe me.” Putting a hand on Holly's back, Rose eased her forward and turned to the side, motioning to Lyta. “Holly, I'd like you meet Lyta. She's your age, I think.”

Lyta walked forward now, giving Holly a long look and then extending a hand. “It's nice to meet you.

Zatanna's gaze narrowed slightly, focusing on Holly as she uttered a backwards whisper under her breath.

“It's nice to meet you, too,” Holly said, reaching forward to shake Lyta's hand.

Rose's eyes went wide. “What the-”

“Qué mierda!” Becky exclaimed.

“I- I... I'm talking?” Holly tentatively lifted a hand to her lips in disbelief, eyes wide. “I can... I- I can talk again! I can talk!”

The poor girl was nearly in tears of joy over this sudden miracle, grinning madly. Rose glanced towards Zatanna, meeting her gaze. The magician simply shrugged, giving a small smile. Rose couldn't help it; she smiled, too.

Holly suddenly grabbed Lyta's hand, bringing the girl farther inside the penthouse. “Come on, I'll show you my room! Oh my god, I'm talking again! This is so awesome!”

Circe blinked, watching as her daughter was dragged away. “Hey, wait a minute!”

“Relax, they'll be fine,” Rose said. “Let them play. In the meantime, come inside. We need to figure out where you'll be staying.”

“Anyone want a drink?” Becky asked, as the four women moved into the living room.

“Oh, I'll have something,” Zatanna said. “What do you got?”

“Well, aside the hard stuff, there's some beer in the fridge-”

“Uck, beer!” Circe interrupted, a look of disgust twisting over her face. “Vile stuff, the drink of curs. Please tell me you have wine.”

Rose smirked slightly, lifting her eyebrows. Circe may be mortal now, but she really had to work on her people skills. There's some irony for you, Rose. You thinking someone else needs work on people skills.

“We'll see what we can find,” Rose said, ushering her guests onto the couch. “Just make yourselves comfortable; we have a lot to talk about.”