The Valkyrie Sorceress [STORY THREAD]

Discussion in 'Joker’s Funhouse (Off Topic)' started by velvetsanity, Mar 13, 2018.

  1. velvetsanity Loyal Player

    NOTE: Please do not post comments in this thread, I've made a separate thread for that to help keep this clean and easy to read.

    Comments thread:


    A hooded figure in a feathered cloak paused in the gloom to contemplate the ancient well nestled in the roots of the Great Tree, then stepped up to the door of the nearby hut and knocked.


    The figure opened the door and slipped inside. A feminine voice, lovely and lilted, with a slight accent that gave it an exotic flair came from the hooded figure. <I felt your summons. You’re not known for welcoming visitors. Why have you called for me?>

    The woman sitting at the loom spoke with a gentle voice, <Place the tea on the table, please.> The visitor moved to set a small pouch on the table in the corner of the hut.

    The old crone studying the cloth coming off of the loom spoke next. <The tapestry has altered. Unwoven and rewoven several times. It grows delicate and frail.>

    <What do you mean?> the visitor asks.

    <Even the threads change as I weave,> the woman said.

    <They change as I spin and cut them,> complained the young girl at the spinning wheel.

    Incredulous, the visitor exclaims, <How is that possible?!?>

    <Tampering,> said the crone.
    <Destiny,> said the young girl.

    <Mortals play with forces they cannot comprehend,> said the woman, sorrow underlying her voice.

    <Even Loki, in his madness, would not dare touch these forces,> the crone added.

    <Why are you telling me this?>

    The young girl gazed into empty space, deftly spinning and cutting threads. <In a child unborn and unaware of its heritage, Midgard will find another Hero, one of many.>

    The woman watched the loom closely as she worked quickly but carefully. <All of the Heroes that can be found are needed.>

    The crone studied the cloth carefully, reading something in the pattern of threads there. <Midgard has forgotten your beauty.>

    <Remind them. Show them your love. Time spent in Midgard will not affect your Treaty,> the young girl intoned.

    <Now please leave us, Freyja, we have much work to do. And thank you for the tea.> The woman smiled at the cloaked figure briefly before returning her gaze to the loom.

    <You’re welcome, Verdandi,> Freyja replied and turned to leave. She paused at the door. <And thank you for the information.>

    Outside, Freyja glanced towards the ancient well again and paused, noticing a raven standing on its lip, watching her. She lowered her hood, revealing a face of exquisite beauty topped by a fiery red mane, the amber and gold torc named Brísingamen resting lightly on her neck. <Huginn. Tell your master that my business is my own, and will not endanger the Treaty between our peoples. I will be away for some time. In my absence, my daughter Gudrun, who is second only to me among my Valkyries, will manage my affairs in Asgard.>

    The raven cocked its head, and after a moment more of watching her flew off, presumably to deliver her message to Odin.

    Freyja's feathered cloak then formed itself into the shape of great wings and she flew off, her mind focused on planning a trip to Midgard.

    Inside the hut, Verdandi said, concern in her voice, <The patterns of her thread are changing on the loom. Did we do the right thing?>

    <I hope so, little sister. The fabric does feel a tiny bit stronger now, more resilient. Skuld?> Urd replied.

    The young girl's brow furrowed in concentration. <My reading isn’t quite so strained now...and the threads I spin seem more stable. It’s too early to see if it’s enough, but it does seem to be a step in the right direction.>

    <Old Norse>
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  2. velvetsanity Loyal Player

    +computer speech/prompts+

    Watchtower Monitor Womb

    Welcome to the Justice League Confidential Records Fileserver.
    Please log in.
    Login: d.prince
    Password: *******************

    +Please submit your name for voiceprint analysis.+

    “Diana Prince.”

    +Analysis complete. Access granted. Welcome, Diana.+

    “Access New Heroes database. New entry.”

    +New Heroes database opened. New entry created. Please enter the following information:+

    Code name:
    Legal name: Tanja Vanity
    +Autofill using external records?+ “Yes.”
    +Records found.+
    DOB: xx/xx/xxxx
    Current age: 22
    Place of birth: Los Angeles, CA, USA, Earth
    Current residence: Los Angeles, CA, USA, Earth
    Gender: Female
    Height: 5’7”
    Weight: 135lbs
    Hair: red
    Eyes: blue
    Education: Bachelor of Fine Arts, Juilliard School, NYC
    Major: Acting
    Major: Music emphasizing Vocal Arts
    Power category: Magic
    Power type classification: Celestial
    Power origin: Mixed
    Origin 1: Hereditary
    Relevant family line: mother
    Name: Freyja of Asgard
    +No records found. Use external sources?+ “Yes.”
    +No legal records found.+
    +Search additional sources?+ “Yes.”
    +References found. Collating Data.+
    +Data source: mythological texts.+
    Nature: Goddess
    Domains: Love, beauty, sex, magic, fertility, war, death
    +Threat evaluation required.+
    +Friendly/Neutral/Hostile?+ “Neutral.”
    +Potential for ally (High/Medium/Low)?+ “Low.”
    +Potential for hostility (High/Medium/Low)?+ “Low.”
    +Do you have additional data for reference?+ “Yes.”
    +Please select relevant categories and enter data.+
    Legal name: Freyja Vanity
    +Search external records?+ “Yes.”
    +Records found. Compiling data.+
    +Data compilation complete. New record created in Unaligned database. Cross-reference linking complete.+
    Origin 2: Exobyte Data
    Source of Data (if known): Raven a.k.a. Rachel Roth
    +Record found. Cross-reference link created.+
    +Additional origin sources?+ “No.”
    Group role:
    Combat abilities: tai chi chuan, judo, self-defense courses
    Additional comments:

    Wonder Woman sat back in her chair and groaned, rubbing her eyes. At that moment, Batman walked into the monitor womb. “Diana? You’re still here? I’d have thought you’d be sleeping by now.”

    Wonder Woman glanced over at him. “Hey Bruce. Gotham must be quiet tonight if you’re already back.”

    “It’s already three in the morning. What’s so important that it couldn’t wait until you got some sleep?”

    Diana waved tiredly at the screen in front of her. “Problematic exobyte imprint. I only got an update on the situation a cou...” She sighed. “Well, about four or five hours ago now, I guess.”

    “It must be bad if it’s taking you this long to write the report.”

    “Bad? Maybe. But it’s a far more complicated situation than any other imprint we’ve encountered so far.”

    “Oh? Maybe talking about it will help you get your thoughts in order for the report. Or you could save what you have, get some sleep, and finish it in the morning.”

    Diana shook her head. “You know I can’t do that.” She sighed again. “Alright. It started with a phone call two days ag...”

    “Wait a moment. Computer, record this conversation and append it to the record Diana Prince is working on.”


    “I should have thought of that. Anyway, as I was saying, it started with a phone call two days ago...”

    Heart of Vanity Studios, Los Angeles

    The intercom clicked. “Miss Vanity, Bryn’s on line one, she says it’s urgent.”

    “Thank you, Erika, I have it.”

    Freyja picked up the phone, pressing the button for line one. “Hello, Bryn, what is the problem?”

    “Kari decided to go for a swim while she was off duty, and when she reached the pool area, she found Tanja unconscious on the deck, along with what looks like it might be one of those robot insect things mentioned in the warning the Justice League put out in the news.”

    Freyja sat up in her seat, suddenly tense and alert. “How long ago was this, and have you called the number they gave in the warning?”

    “Just a few minutes ago, and not yet. I thought you should know first.”

    “Thank you. I’ll call them myself on the way there.”

    “Yes, my Lady. We’ve moved Tanja to the game room.”

    “Alright. We will be there as quickly as possible. I may call ahead with information depending on what I learn from the Justice League.” She hung up the phone and clicked the intercom. “Erika, we have a family emergency at the mansion. Cancel all appointments for this afternoon.”

    “Yes ma’am.”

    Freyja logged off her computer and grabbed her purse. As she stepped out of her office, she saw that her assistant had done the same and was busy on her cell phone rescheduling meetings as she moved to follow Freyja towards the elevator.

    Just before the elevator reached the parking garage, Erika put her phone away. “Everything’s been rescheduled for next week, and Sylvi has the car ready.”

    “Thank you, Erika. Every day it becomes more clear why people find having someone in your position invaluable.”

    “It’s challenging, but it’s a challenge I enjoy.”

    “The challenge will be much greater soon.”

    “I know, and I hope I can make you and my father proud.”

    “I have no doubt that you will.”

    Once they were in the limo, Freyja pulled out her phone.


    *ring* *ring*

    Oracle checked the caller ID and sighed. That was the fifth call from the same unknown number in as many minutes. ‘Might as well answer it, maybe they’ll quit calling.’ She clicked over to the ringing line.


    “Hello, is this Oracle? My name is Freyja. Diana Prince gave me this number so that I could reach her in case of an emergency.”

    “Oookay...we’re in the middle of a crisis here, if you haven’t seen the news recently. What’s the emergency?”

    “Yes, those...echo-biter things? Please connect me to Diana.”

    “They’re called exobytes. She’s a little busy at the moment, maybe I could take a message?”

    “I realize that she’s busy but this cannot wait.”

    “If you tell me what the emergency is...”

    “I would much prefer as few people know about this as possible, are you one of her Amazon sisters?”

    “No, but I am with the Justice League. I really need to know what the emergency is so I can prioritize your call...”

    Freyja sighed. “Fine. I think you’re about to add a demigoddess to the list of people affected by these exobytes.”

    Oracle paused. “I’ll patch you through now. Hold on just a moment.”

    “Thank you.”

    Oracle placed the incoming call on hold and switched to the League’s communicator system, sending a beep to Diana’s communicator to get her attention.

    Diana paused in the exobyte lecture she was giving to the officers of NYPD’s 4th precinct. “Excuse me for a moment.” She stepped out of the room and tapped her communicator. “Wonder Woman here.”

    “This is Oracle. I just received an interesting call on my ‘private’ line. A woman calling herself Freyja, claiming that you gave her my number, is saying that a demigoddess has been affected by an exobyte.”

    “Freyja? Scandinavian accent? Put her through.”

    “She does have an accent but I couldn’t quite place it. I’m patching her through now.” *click*


    “Diana? Finally...I was beginning to think that woman who answered would refuse to put me through and that I’d have to find you personally.”

    “Oracle manages our communications and intelligence networks when we’re on duty. What’s going on, exactly?”

    “Kari found Tanja unconscious on the patio with what she thinks is one of those exobytes near her.”

    “Okay...I’m a little busy right now briefing New York’s finest on what we know about the know I’m going to have to explain your situation to the Justice League after this, right?”

    “I understand, and that’s fine, as long as your friends leave us alone without having a good reason to bother us.”

    “Alright. Is she still unconscious?”

    “I think so, we aren’t at the mansion yet.” She paused. “Yes, Erika just confirmed with Bryn.”

    “How long since she was found?”

    “Almost forty-five minutes now. I had to call repeatedly before your Oracle would answer.”

    “Sorry about that,” Oracle cut in. “That number’s supposed to be known only to the Justice League and our close allies.”

    “She’s a special case, Oracle. Consider her to be neutral but friendly. Who’s available that we can send to L.A.?”

    “Almost everyone’s working overtime right now. The Titans are closest, but San Francisco’s just as messy as everywhere else.”

    “It can’t be helped. This will need to be priority. I’ll add details on why to the report once the situation’s resolved. Let’s send...Nightwing, Raven and Starfire. Between them they should be able to handle it. Freyja, please don’t be alarmed about Raven’s heritage when you meet her. Her father’s....she’s very dedicated in acting against his wishes, and is loyal to her teammates.”

    “Raven...I will keep that in mind, Diana. And thank you. We are almost at home now, so I will be there when they arrive.”

    “I’ll contact Nightwing.”

    “And I’ll get back to my lecture. Sorry I didn’t warn you that she had your number, Oracle, I’ll explain why when there’s more time.”

    “I look forward to hearing it.”

    Diana clicked off, closing the link.

    “As soon as you give me the address, I’ll contact the Titans and send them to help you.”

    “Thank you, Oracle. It's <address>.”

    Oracle entered the address into her computer. “Wait, that’s...”


    “And you’re...”

    “Princess of the Vanir and the Norse goddess of love, beauty, and magic, yes, since the Justice League will now learn that anyway.”

    “’re serious.” The incredulity was obvious in her tone.

    “Yes. Please be very limited in who you share that with. And thank you for your part in helping my youngest daughter.”

    “’re welcome, Miss Vanity. I’ll contact the Titans immediately.”

    Freyja hung up the phone just as the limo pulled up to the gates of the estate.

    Watchtower Monitor Womb

    Bruce interrupted Diana’s story at this point. “Wait a minute. You mean that Freyja Vanity, the adult film star, is actually the Viking love goddess? The same Freyja Vanity who owns Vanity Entertainment, attends charity events all over the country, and helped her daughter Tanja create the Vanity Foundation after she was *****?”

    “That’s exactly who she is.”

    “Hmm. That would explain a few things. How does she know you?”

    “Remember when Joker interrupted the charity ball you helped Tanja organize to celebrate the opening of Gotham’s Vanity Clinic two years ago?”

    Bruce nodded.

    “She approached me after it was over. Also, apparently, Aphrodite had told her about me.”

    “I see. Please continue.”
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  3. velvetsanity Loyal Player

    Del Taco near Titans Tower, San Francisco

    Dick Grayson set down his taco as his phone rang and checked the caller ID before answering. “Hello, you’ve reached the cellphone of Dick Grayson. I’m sorry I can’t come to the phone right now, but a delicious taco is being more demanding of my attention and my stomach insists.”

    “Someone’s in a good mood,” Oracle commented.

    “Del Taco has that effect on everyone. What’s up?”

    “Diana wanted me to call you for a special task. Privacy?”

    Dick looked at his phone and activated the hidden encryption app, waiting for it to give a green light. “All secure here.”

    “Good. There’s a special exobyte case in L.A. that Diana recommended you, Raven and Starfire for. She said to assign it top priority.”

    “Guess I’d better hurry up and get ready. Send me the name and address?”

    “On its way. You may be in for some surprises. Oracle out.”

    Dick quickly finished his tacos, lamenting not having time to enjoy them, and returned to Titans Tower.

    Vanity Mansion, Los Angeles

    Freyja walked into the game room. “How is she, Bryn?”

    “Still unconscious.”

    “Alright. Three members of a group called the Titans are coming from San Francisco to assist. They are called Nightwing, Raven, and Starfire. Erika, please greet them when they arrive.”

    “Yes, my Lady.” Bryn relayed the information over her radio.

    “Of course, my Lady.”

    A short time later, the three Titans arrived at the mansion, only to be stopped by a group of serious and dangerous-looking women in pantsuits. Erika, the only one in a skirt, stepped forward, looking tense. “This is a private residence. Who are you and what’s your business here?”

    We’re the Titans. We were sent to help,” Nightwing replied.

    “What are you called?”

    “I’m Nightwing.”


    “And I’m called Starfire.”

    The group of women visibly relaxed. The one who’d stepped forward blinked and looked at Starfire, doing a double take. “Kory? You’re one of the Titans?”

    Starfire grinned. “Hi, Erika. It’s been a while, hasn’t it?”

    “Yes, it has.”

    Nightwing looked between the two women. “Wait, you two know each other?”

    “She modeled for several photo shoots with us a few years ago. She was an inspiration to everyone she worked with.”

    “I am happy to inspire. But now we must help Tanja.”

    “Wait a minute. You told me you did some modeling but you never told me it was for Vanity!”

    Starfire giggled. “A lot of my modeling with Donna was for them, and they gave me a free copy of each magazine my photographs appeared in. Would you like to see them when we get back to the tower?”

    Nightwing blushed. “Uhhh...maybe we should talk about this some other time.” Behind them, Raven just smirked.


    Erika gestured towards the door. “This way, please.”

    Erika led the Titans to the mansion’s game room, which featured several couches, TVs, video game consoles, a pool table, and a poker table in an alcove.

    Raven paused as she saw Freyja, eyes widening. ‘Nobody is that overflowing with love. Even Wonder Woman’s love is like a candle compared to the sun. What’s going on here?

    Freyja was kneeling on the floor in front of one of the couches, on which lay Tanja’s unconscious body, holding her hand. She looked up as the door opened and Erika walked in, followed by the Titans.

    “Ma’am, the Titans have arrived.”

    “Thank you, Erika.” She got up and walked towards them.

    “Hi, Miss Vanity!” Starfire waved.

    Freyja paused and smiled at her. “Hello, Kory. We’ve not seen you in several years now.”

    “I joined the Titans to help protect my new home.” She moved forward to give Freyja a hug. “Has Tanja woken up yet?”

    “No, and it has us worried. We all wondered why you stopped modeling, and now we know. Being a Hero does tend to keep a person busy.”

    Nightwing noted to himself that despite her obvious stress and worry, Freyja Vanity’s presence and charisma were no less impressive than when he’d met her at various charity events in the past and stepped forward, holding out his hand. “Miss Vanity? I’m Nightwing, this is Raven, and ahh, you apparently already know Starfire. Wonder Woman sent us to see if we can help your daughter.”

    She took his hand and shook it. “Freyja Vanity.” She then looked at Raven for a long moment, raising one lovely eyebrow. ‘An empath powerful enough to partially penetrate my masking. She walls herself off from her own heart, though. That’s not good, especially for someone like her. We shall see.

    “So you are a Jotun’s daughter. That explains Diana’s comment.” The other women in the room, many of whom were obviously a security team, tensed slightly at the word Jotun.

    Raven’s jaw dropped. “I’m mother was human, so you must mean my father, the demon Trigon.”

    “Ahh, I had forgotten that Jotuns are called demons now. Relations between my people and the Jotuns are usually antagonistic, but not always; it depends upon the individual, so I will not hold it against you. Everyone, relax.”

    “Your people, ma’am?” Nightwing asked.

    “I will explain, but first please try to help my daughter.”

    “Alright,” Nightwing nodded. “Do you have the exobyte?” Freyja glanced at Bryn, who was standing near the pool table.

    “It’s here, in a tray. We were very careful not to touch it directly and tried not to damage it,” Bryn said.

    “Once they’ve injected their data into someone, they should be inert, but I’m glad you were being careful. Especially since people are usually only unconscious for a few minutes if at all. Most just find somewhere to take a nap and only call the hotline long after, when they realize what’s happened. That’s if they call at all.” Nightwing and Starfire moved towards the pool table to examine the exobyte.

    “I’ll examine Tanja, if you don’t mind.” Raven looked at Freyja, who nodded, then they both moved to the couch where Tanja lay. “I promise I won’t hurt her.”

    “I told Diana I would give you the benefit of the doubt, and I will. Erika and Bryn understand technology far better than I do - I tried to charge my first cell phone’s battery by casting a lightning spell on it -“ Raven winced at that “- so I am much more likely to learn something about these exobytes by observing you.”

    “Oh. Well, most people wouldn’t actually see much...but you did identify what my father is at a glance.” She began by looking over Tanja (who had apparently inherited her mother’s beauty and red hair) briefly, then sat on the floor, placing her back against the couch, closing her eyes. “This will be the first time we’ve dealt with an exobyte imprint that hadn’t already completed its work before the League was even contacted, so hopefully we’ll finally learn something about them. I have the ability to separate my soul from my body for a period of time, so I’m going to look inside of your daughter’s soul and see if there’s anything happening there or if it’s really only physical alterations as some believe.”

    Over at the pool table, Nightwing and Starfire were examining the exobyte. “This looks just like every other exobyte we’ve seen!” Starfire complained.

    “Yeah, I don’t see anything unusual about the exobyte itself, but look at this. This part of the circuitry isn’t normally fried like that.”

    “Ooh, you’re right! It’s usually only this circuit that burns out! Maybe it was damaged or defective somehow?”

    “Maybe. It could have burned the circuit out trying to overcome some sort of resistance.”

    “Do you think that’s why she’s unconscious, this ‘imprinting’ wasn’t completed?” Bryn asked.

    “Either that or she has some sort of natural resistance and her body’s fighting the imprint. So far, they seem to only target normal humans, so we don’t know what, if anything, would give someone any ability to resist the process.” Bryn nodded thoughtfully.

    Raven focused her attention inward, concentrating on her soul-self, and rose up out of her body to float above the couch. She looked at Freyja, who was watching her soul-self’s face with an amused expression. “Okay, I guess you can see me clearly.”

    “More clearly than you are accustomed to, I imagine.”

    Raven nodded. “I’m going to slip into your daughter just deeply enough to see if anything that seems unusual is happening inside of her soul.”

    Freyja nodded and waited patiently as she watched Raven disappear into Tanja’s inert body. A few moments later, she emerged with a wide-eyed expression and immediately returned to her own body. “I think I know where the exobyte data came from.”

    Nightwing and Starfire’s heads snapped around to look at her.

    “What? How?”
    “Already? Where did it come from?”

    “I believe it came from my future self. That’s what it felt like, at least. And as Doctor Fate suspected, the transformation is definitely more than just physical.”

    “What did you see?” Freyja asked.

    “Your daughter’s trapped inside of her own soul. Her soulscape is a forest, filled with life, and there’s a rocky clearing strewn with boulders in the middle of it. She was hiding behind a boulder, while what looked and felt like a blend of her features and my own soul-self, but in a weird bodysuit and helmet with a feather motif and a somewhat tattered cloak - I assume that’s the part of her that’s been affected by the data - was searching for her. It felt familiar, but wrong somehow, as though it was artificially created. It definitely didn’t belong there. Tanja looked tired, confused, and scared. She’s resisting, trying to fight it, but without help, she’s going to lose. There was also a cave to one side of the clearing, blocked by a magical seal.” She looked directly at Freyja. “The cave radiated Power. Unlike the exobyte version of her, though, it felt natural, right. Like it belongs to and is part of her, maybe inherited?”

    Freyja nodded. “What will happen if she loses, and how long, do you think, before it is too late?”

    Raven answered the second question first. “It’s hard to say. She’s taking advantage of the terrain, so if she conserves her strength....She has a day, maybe two at most. If she loses...I believe at best she would be changed into a clone of me, but with her memories and experiences, and maybe some of mine. At worst, my father detects her after the transformation is complete and seizes control of her. He would then use her to get access to earth so he could take it over. The Power I felt from the cave, though...if it’s her birthright, why is it sealed?”

    Freyja sighed. “I did say I would explain about my people. However, I must ask you to swear to keep this as private as you can. I would prefer it not to be known outside of your Justice League, and even there only among the most trusted members. If it becomes known who and what I am, it would cause a great deal of trouble for many people, not only myself. Will you so swear?”

    “We always try to respect people’s privacy so long as they’re not breaking any laws or hurting anyone,” Nightwing replied. Raven and Starfire nodded.

    “I’m afraid that is not enough. My people hold oaths to be sacred. I’m asking you to swear an oath that you will not reveal what I am about to tell you except at urgent need,” Freyja smiled gently, “so long as we do not violate your laws or cause harm. Will you please swear a sacred oath on this?”

    “Umm...” Nightwing hesitated, uncomfortable with making such a promise before knowing it would be safe to keep.
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  4. velvetsanity Loyal Player

    Raven gazed at Freyja for several moments, then stood, calling up her power, weaving it into her words. “I swear upon my soul that I will not reveal what you tell us to anyone not currently present other than the most trusted members of the Justice League, except at urgent need, without permission from either you, directly or indirectly through your people, or from the core members of the Justice League. Nor will I reveal the existence of this Oath, using the same restrictions and exceptions.”

    As Raven's power settled into the pattern of a binding, making it impossible to break her oath, Freyja raised an eyebrow. ‘Knowledgeable and skilled. Very few have ever learned that trick, and to do so without a formed spell... She is certainly one for me to watch, particularly if this plays out as my divinations have shown.

    Nightwing and Starfire looked at Raven, then Starfire stepped forward. “I, too, swear to the same promise that my friend Raven has made.” Freyja nodded, and everyone turned to look at Nightwing.

    “Uhh...I’m not comfortable with promising to keep a secret without knowing it won’t put anyone in danger...”

    “The Justice League exception gives you a way around that,” Raven pointed out.

    Freyja smiled gently, with an amused twinkle in her eyes. “Bruce has always been careful about promises, too. Does he know you’ve become a Hero, Richard?”

    “Excuse me?”

    “You danced with me at the ball to celebrate the opening of Gotham’s Vanity Clinic, before that clown attacked. Bodies speak louder and more truly than words, to one who knows how to listen. And I remember well both your body and your voice. I cannot be fooled that way, Richard. You are an excellent dancer, well trained, and the language of your body gives you away.”

    Nightwing looked sheepish. “Okay, okay. I swear, the same oath as Raven and Kory.”

    Freyja smiled, and as she spoke, she gradually seemed to become, in some indescribable way, more present, more real, simply more. “Then I now reveal to you the truth of who I am. I am Freyja, Princess of the Vanir and Goddess of love, beauty, magic, and war. The household staff and security are comprised of a platoon of my Valkyries, with the rest remaining in Asgard. I am in Midgard, living and raising Tanja, my youngest daughter, as a mortal due to information I received that led me to believe it is necessary in order to preserve the future of all existence. Bryn and Erika are the youngest of her sisters, but she believes she is an only child just as she believes she is fully mortal. I am sure they are eager to finally be permitted to correct that belief once she is past this ordeal.” She looked at Bryn and Erika as she said the last part.

    Erika and Bryn both nodded. “Yes, mother.”

    The Titans’ jaws dropped - except for Raven, who, while just as taken aback as the rest, simply raised her eyebrows. ‘That certainly explains what I’ve been sensing from her.

    After a moment, Freyja’s presence faded to what it had been before, her power and nature once again fully concealed. “If you are finished being surprised, can we please work on helping my daughter?”

    “Umm, right. Should we call you ‘your holiness’ or something?” Nightwing asked.

    “Being a goddess doesn’t mean we have to prostrate ourselves or offer her our firstborn children. She’s not at all like my father,” Raven said.

    “Oh, right. Sorry.”

    “‘Freyja’ or ‘Miss Vanity’ will be fine.”

    “Miss Vanity, does having modeled for you make me a priestess or worshiper or something?”

    Freyja smiled warmly. “No, Koriand’r, for that you would have to deeply and truly in your heart intentionally dedicate yourself and your work to me, although I would gladly accept if you did. And please know that dedicating specific actions to me would in no way diminish any devotion you have to other deities.”

    “Oh, okay.”

    “Now, you have made it clear that if Tanja loses, she will likely no longer be herself. What happens if she wins?” Freyja looked at Raven.

    “She’ll probably be herself, but possibly with at least some of my knowledge and abilities...and maybe some of my memories as well. I’m mostly guessing here, since she’s the first case we know of where an exobyte imprinted its data on someone who wasn’t completely...well...would ‘mortal’ or ‘human’ be more accurate?”

    “In my native language, the word ‘mortal’ translates to a phrase that means ‘native of Midgard’, and I use ‘human’ in the same way most do - to refer to those indigenous to earth.”

    “They’re equally accurate, then. Alright. If I’m interpreting what I sensed correctly, and that...construct...originated from a future version of me, we have to assume that it will have all of my abilities and knowledge plus whatever more my future self had learned and experienced. Even if I go in and fight it, that puts me at a disadvantage. If we unseal Tanja’s natural Power, it’s likely that the construct would get to it before she could, and it may have the knowledge to make use of it. If Tanja were to get to the Power but the construct didn’t, she wouldn’t know how to use it because she has no training.” Raven glanced at Freyja for confirmation.

    Freyja nodded. “That is correct.”

    “So even if she gets access to her Power, it will only buy her - and us - more time. If we can’t guarantee that she would be the only one to get access to it, we may end up with less time.”

    “What if you take us in with you?”

    “It’s much more tiring to take people with me when I enter another person’s soul, and you’d need me at my full strength to counter any spells it tries to use.”

    “Would you be able to go in and distract it while I remove the seal? And while Tanja knows nothing of her magical gifts, she has been studying martial arts and self defense these last few years. Would that be of any help?”

    “Possibly, but the construct may have access to that training as well, so that might not be a very big advantage, if any.”

    “Martial arts and magic? Are you sure you don’t want to take us in with you, Raven?”

    “How much it tires me doubles for each extra person I bring with me.”

    “Just one of us, then.”

    “If I take anyone with me, my first choice would be Miss Vanity.”


    Raven cut him off. “She’s a goddess of war and magic, therefore probably has far more experience with both than the entire Justice League combined.”

    “No. The seal is very strong. Releasing or breaking it would be felt for miles by anyone who can sense magic. That detection would cause too much trouble. I must remain here to maintain a shielding ward.”

    “How many miles are we talking about?”

    Freyja looked at Nightwing. “Anyone in or near Los Angeles with even a hint of magic would feel it. Possibly as far as San Francisco, if they are sensitive enough or have enough skill and experience.”

    “They’d also notice a ward strong enough to hide that level of discharge,” Raven pointed out.

    “Multiple layered wards, if configured properly, will conceal it. And I’ll not be the only one maintaining them. Two of the Valkyries with me are skilled with magic. They will assist.”

    “That might work. Will Tanja being inside of her own soul affect your removing the seal?”

    “It will cause interference. I will test whether it is too great.”

    Everyone watched as Freyja cast a spell over Tanja, causing her body to briefly glow with a feeble, flickering light. Freyja frowned and tried again, with the same result. “The bonds between her body and soul are too tangled, there is too much interference.”

    “What sort of spell do you need to remove the seal? Maybe I could do it.”

    Freyja shook her head. “It’s keyed to my magical signature. Only I can safely remove it.”

    “If you cast it on me, I can enclose it in a carrier spell and take it in with me.”

    Freyja raised an eyebrow. “That would work, if you know a suitable one. I can teach you one if not. How would you ensure that Tanja is the one who receives the power?”

    Raven hesitated before responding. “I’ll pass the spell to her and keep the construct distracted.”

    “That would require at least temporarily bonding your soul to hers. You would both have to be active participants in the process, and she is both untrained and currently powerless.”

    “I’ll keep it as simple as I can. Something she can easily remember and focus on. Has she seen the movie Practical Magic?”

    “Yes, it is one of her favorite movies. What do you plan to use fr-“ Freyja’s eyes widened. “Do you realize fully the consequences of using that as the basis of a spell for this purpose?”

    “What do you mean? It’s something familiar to her that’s simple to remember and focus on under stress. It should be easy to undo once we bring her back.”

    Freyja’s expression turned grim. “You know much about magic, but even I do not know everything. What you propose will create an eternal bond between your souls. One that, if completely severed, will cause soul-death for both of you. You offer a sacrifice far greater than you made by binding your Oath; you are offering to bind your soul to that of my daughter. Less directly, through this you are offering yourself to me. Are you truly willing, with pure intent, to make such a sacrifice and offering?”
    • Like x 3
  5. velvetsanity Loyal Player

    <Old Norse>


    No hesitation. She’s made her decision. Good. I did read Huginn’s presence at the Well correctly after all.’ Freyja nodded, relaxing slightly. “And before you do this, you will warn Tanja of the consequences?”

    “I will, but I don’t see any alternatives. It’s the only way to ensure the construct doesn’t get to it first. She’ll need her strength to get through this, and I believe the connection will allow her to draw on at least some of my knowledge and experience on an instinctive level, so she will be a very fast learner, at least at first. She may actually be able to perform some magical surprises as soon as she has access to her Power. I’ll also take Nightwing in with me; he can be very innovative in a fight, and I think that will be needed. Sorry, Kory, given the circumstances it would drain me too much to take both of you.”

    “I understand,” Starfire said. “I will wait and pray for your success. Please bring her back safely.”

    Raven and Nightwing nodded. “We will.”

    “Erika, wake Alva and Ingrid and have them join us.”

    “Yes, mother.”

    Raven raised an eyebrow at Freyja questioningly as Erika left. “Alva and Ingrid are the ones who will assist with the wards, and they are highly skilled. Your souls will also need time to recover and adjust after this is done. I will not take any chances with this, though it does mean that the wards over the estate and mansion will be very noticeable once they are activated.”

    “I’ll call Oracle,” Nightwing said. “Maybe the Sentinels can spare a few people and provide a cover story for that.”


    “The Sentinels of Magic. If a handful of them are around when you activate your wards, then anyone who notices and comes to look will assume it’s the Sentinels creating the wards, and that what’s going on is just another case of someone needing help getting control over powers they got from an exobyte. They won’t even suspect the truth once they see the Sentinels. Plus the Sentinels can also create wards to add more layers.”

    Freyja nodded. “An excellent suggestion.”

    He stepped away and activated his communicator. “Oracle, this is Nightwing. You weren’t kidding about possible surprises. Listen, we need...”

    Erika returned with two other women who, aside from matching T-shirts, shorts, and sleepy, rumpled expressions, looked as different as night and day. The shorter brunette yawned widely as the taller blonde asked, “You need us, my Lady?”

    “Yes, Alva. We must reconfigure the estate and mansion wards to protect a soul-bonding. They will be detectable once activated, but it cannot be helped.”

    The two were instantly awake and alert, their posture stiffening. <Soul-bonding, my Lady? Why haven’t we heard about it before now? That takes weeks to plan the spells, even after the couple decides on the details!> the brunette said.

    <Unfortunately, this will be nothing like your bonding, Ingrid. It’s an emergency measure. Tanja...these exobyte things, they cause an infection in the soul as well as altering the body. She’s trapped inside of her own soul fighting an altered version of herself that was created by this infection. It’s the only way to safely unseal her power and ensure that she survives as herself.>

    <It’s finally time for her to learn the truth, my Lady?>

    <Yes.> Freyja looked at Bryn, getting her attention. <Maximum security as soon as the wards are activated.>

    Bryn nodded. <I’ll brief everyone and have them rested and ready.>

    Nightwing rejoined them. “The nearest enclave of the Sentinels is sending a squad over, they should be here within half an hour or so.”

    “Very well. Alva, Ingrid, ready the ritual chamber and then begin configuring the wards. Bryn will give you what details we have. Bryn, Richard, Koriand’r, please meet and coordinate with these Sentinels when they arrive. Raven and I must begin our own preparations.”

    “If you guys need to make special preparations, shouldn’t I help with that, since I’m going in, too?”

    “No, Richard. This will be mostly crafting the necessary spells. Also, you will not be carrying the unlocking spell or binding yourself to Tanja. You will be brought into the ritual chamber just before we begin. Unless...” she looked at Raven.

    “No special preparations are needed to carry someone with me.”

    Freyja nodded.

    “Oh. Alright.”

    Freyja smiled. “Thank you, Richard. Erika, if you will join us, please?” She led Raven and Erika out of the room, taking them to the mansion’s library.

    “If Alva and Ingrid are the ones who know magic, then why did you ask Erika to come?”

    “To act as witness. I must thank you for what you are doing to help Tanja. What is the truest name you possess?”

    “I’ve been Raven my whole life, but a few years ago I started going by Rachel Roth as my civilian identity to honor my mother.”

    “What was your mother’s name?”

    “Angela Roth. On Azarath she was known as Arella.”

    “And she named you?”

    “Yes, although she didn’t raise me. The person who raised me named me Raven. It was only after joining the Titans that I started using Rachel Roth.”

    “I see. Very well.” She stepped close to Raven, completely focused on the slightly shorter Titan. Raven watched her. “Raven Roth,” Freyja began, and Raven froze, suddenly finding her attention focused completely on Freyja as she felt something in the goddess’s voice brush against the very core essence of her being. “In honor and consideration of your sacrifice and offering, both the one you have already made and the one you are preparing to make, I declare you to be my Daughter, and grant you a seat at my table in Sessrúmnir, my hall in Asgard. You are welcome to visit at any time once I return there, and when your time in Midgard is ended, an honor guard of Valkyries will come to escort you there, that you may make it your home if you so choose.” She pulled Raven’s head down to kiss her forehead, and Raven gasped as she felt power flow into and through her from the kiss. “That will help to conceal your Oath and the soul-bond - once it is formed - from most beings. There is still a chance of detection, but it is hidden from a casual glance, and from dabblers.” She then glanced at Erika, who smiled.

    “I claim witness to this declaration and will uphold its truth to any who dispute it. Welcome to the family, little sister.”

    “Umm. Thank you. I...don’t know what to say.”

    “Simply accepting it is enough, Raven. Thank you, Erika, that was all I needed for now.”

    “Of course. I’ll inform Bryn privately,” Erika said as she withdrew from the room.

    “I believe you have noticed that my little spell has also...what is the phrase? ‘Charged your batteries'?” Raven nodded, her power and energy buzzing as if she’d had too much caffeine. “And now,” Freyja said as she moved to a corner of the room and pressed a hidden switch, causing the bookcase there to swing silently back and away, revealing a hidden staircase. “We must begin our preparations. Come.”

    They descended the stairs to a small landing with a door ahead and a second door to the side through which Raven could see a small bathroom. Freyja opened the facing door and they passed into a well-lit, tiled antechamber that contained a vanity with a wash bowl on a stand next to it, a large bath, a small rack with clothes hangars, a closed door opposite the staircase, and one next to the vanity opposite the tub. The door they had entered through had dizzyingly intricate patterns of sigils and runes carved into it, and everything inside the room, including the tiles, walls, and ceiling radiated faintly with power, making it clear to Raven that they had entered a consecrated space.

    Freyja led Raven through the door next to the vanity into another, slightly larger library. She turned to face Raven, leaning lightly against the edge of a table. “Tell me about the carrier spells you know, their weave and pattern, capabilities and limitations.” She made a gesture and a glowing three dimensional grid appeared in the air between them.

    “What’s that grid for?”

    “A trick I learned during a visit to Alfheim. It allows one to see the chthonic shape of a spell, how it is constructed. Its primary use is in developing, adapting, or improving spells, though it takes practice and experience to master using it, and it is most useful if you can directly perceive the energies involved. Show me a simple spell, perhaps one to create a light, and I will recreate it in the grid for you to see.”

    “Okay...” Raven summoned a small light, about the size and brightness of a lantern as Freyja watched closely.

    “Ahh. I see.” Freyja drew some shapes in the grid in several positions, causing a glyph to appear in each, then moved them with her finger, adjusting their positions slightly before adding lines that connected them. “This is the spell you just cast.”

    Raven studied the grid. “I recognize some of the glyphs...and some of them have multiple connections to the same other glyph.”

    Freyja nodded. “Each represents a mental construct or formula. The lines, of course, are the connections between them. Where in a formula the connections are located is just as important as which formulas are involved and where in the grid they are located. She wiped her hand across the grid, erasing the glyphs and lines, then drew new ones. “And here is a more efficient version of the same spell.”

    “Hmm. Fewer different glyphs, and the arrangement is different, but this one,” Raven indicated a particular glyph, “appears in three places, and this other one is in two, so it’s the same number of glyphs overall. The total number of connections looks close to the same, too.”

    “Yes. This version uses a similar amount of power, but less focus and concentration because of the repeated formulas, and so it is easier to cast when your attention must be elsewhere. Even so, a magelight spell can be cast using the tiniest fraction of the power and concentration this requires. And visualizing the grid itself in your mind can function as an aid to casting once you are used to working with it this way.”

    “Will you teach me after we save Tanja?”

    “You may learn to use the grid alongside her. It is how I have always intended to begin her lessons once her power was unsealed. Now, show me a carrier spell, using the minimum power needed for it to take shape. I will use multiple grids to compare the spells you know and determine their suitability for our task.”

    Raven called up one of her carrier spells and Freyja mapped it out on the grid, then they both began studying it.

    “This has some promising aspects, but will not work.” Freyja swept the grid to one side and conjured up another one, the original still floating where she had moved it to. “Let us see the next spell.”

    About 20 minutes (and several spells and grids) later, the door quietly opened partway and Erika stuck her head in and waited.

    “Yes, Erika?”

    “The Sentinels of Magic have arrived, mother, and would like to speak with both you and Raven.”

    “I’m afraid they will have to wait a bit, we are in the middle of developing the spell we need. Otherwise we will have to start over. Perhaps they could discuss the mansion and estate wards with Alva and Ingrid while they wait?”

    “I’ll ask.”

    Erika left, closing the door.
    • Like x 2
  6. velvetsanity Loyal Player


    “Each of these has aspects we can use, but won’t quite work. Please bring me Donnubáin’s grimoire. It is in the third section left of the door, fourth shelf from the top. It should be the seventh book from the left, with leather cover and wood spine, bound with twine.”

    Raven scanned the shelf and pulled out a book that fit the description. “This one?”

    Freyja glanced over briefly, quickly refocusing on the grid she was currently working with. “Yes, place it on the table next to me, please.” She adjusted one of the glyphs in the grid, then turned part of her attention to the book, carefully turning the pages until she found the one she wanted, and compared the glyph she’d just adjusted to what was on the page, making several minute corrections. “Are all of these glyphs familiar to you?”

    “Let’s see...most of them are, yes. This one, though, looks like a variation of one pictured in volume two of Heidenberg’s Steganographia, but I thought that turned out to actually be about cryptography once they found the decryption key. I’ve never even tried using it.”

    “Heidenberg was very, very clever. There are three keys for each volume. Nobody looked beyond the first. But it’s not a variation. The images in his books are deliberately inaccurate. The second key can reveal instructions on how to form the glyphs correctly, and the third will show you his actual grimoire, but they only work if you have all three volumes and apply the keys in the correct combination and order. If you had access to a reference detailing the glyph and its formula, would you be able to cast this spell using your familiarity with these others?”

    Raven studied the grid again. “I think so.”

    “Seventh section to the right of the door, bottom shelf, sixth book from the left. It is in Sanskrit, though.”

    “I can read Sanskrit.”

    Freyja nodded.

    Raven found the book and pulled it out, carefully paging through it until she found the information she needed and began reading as Freyja pulled several crystals from a drawer in the table next to her and tied each grid to one of the crystals to act as a power source, and returned Donnubáin’s grimoire to its original position on the shelf.

    “Once you complete an initial read, we will speak with these Sentinels.”


    “Rrrrgh! This spell’s far more difficult than I thought, and even when I get close I can’t hold it!”

    “You are close, though. The complexity is because it must be transferred through a minimally configured soul bond at the moment of the bond’s creation, and like all carrier spells, it requires the spell it carries to hold itself together properly. Try again. When the spell is correct, I will insert the unlocking spell as soon as you reach the appropriate point. At that time it will come together on its own.”

    Raven nodded and tried again, sweat beading on her face from the intense concentration and effort. “Rrrrgh!”

    “You very nearly had it. The shaping was flawless that time.”

    Raven sighed and wiped her brow. “Once more, and then I need a few minutes’ break.”

    Freyja began to smile as she watched Raven’s casting closely, then suddenly she brought up her hands to either side of Raven’s, palms facing inward, sending power into the center of the spell Raven was shaping, which immediately flew together, in the process reconfiguring itself into a very different, infinitely more subtle and complex shape than what Raven had been struggling to piece together. It hung there between them for just a single moment as Raven’s eyes widened, then it vanished, flowing into Raven, startling her.

    “Well done, daughter.”

    “That...that wasn’t the spell I’ve been working on.”

    “It was, and it wasn’t. A soul bond capable of transferring an active spell matrix that includes a specific magical signature, without many protections and safeguards, will always result in the bonded souls merging into one. Your portion was only as much of the complete spell as you could handle with your skill and experience in the limited time we have, and formed the bare framework. Since it is your soul that will be included in the bond, it was necessary that at least that much carry your signature. My portion included not only the key to the seal, which requires my magical signature, but also the appropriate formulas for the protections to prevent your souls from merging, which it will set in place as the bond forms and the key with my magical signature is transferred to Tanja.”

    Raven felt a little dizzy as she fully realized the true power and complexity of the spell resting within her. “Oh. Then why did it reshape itself so completely?”

    “It was reading your signature and copying it into the protection formulas. It will do so again with Tanja’s once she gains access to her power. Come. A break will do you good. Cleanse yourself and mentally prepare for the work ahead. I will arrange snacks before joining you, and we will prepare together.”


    Freyja and Raven relaxed facing each other in the bath of the antechamber while Alva and Ingrid washed their hair. Erika had slipped into the room just long enough to place a bowl of trail mix and two glasses of water on a stand next to the bath before slipping back out.

    “- as your friend seemed uncomfortable with the idea of you being nude, there is a sheet on the futon you’ll share with Tanja and a robe for our Lady.” Ingrid was saying as she rinsed Raven’s hair.

    “Thank you,” Raven replied.

    “As soon as you’re ready, Erika will escort your friend to the ritual chamber while we activate the mansion and estate wards, as planned.” Alva said.

    Freyja nodded.

    “And your clothing will be waiting here on the shelf, along with Tanja’s and our Lady’s,” Ingrid added.

    “I'm still uncertain about why we can’t be dressed the whole time.”

    Alva replied. “Despite the fact that most of the spellwork has been crafted in advance, soul bonding is a ritual of great intimacy. Also, afterwards, it’s normal to need as much physical contact with your partner as possible while you recover and the bond and magics settle in. That’s easier without clothes getting in the way. Once you’re back, your friend will be escorted out of the room to give you privacy for that.”

    “There’s also the matter of the enchantments on your clothes, not to mention the synthetic fabric,” Ingrid added. “It’s best to minimize the risk of interference considering the nature of your task.”

    Raven looked at Alva. “You sound as if you’ve dealt with soul bonds before.”

    Alva smiled. “Ingrid and I share a soul bond, but it’s not like yours will be. Ours was created from the start as a lovers’ bond and was planned and prepared for over more than a full year.”

    Ingrid continued, “About six months of that was working out exactly what we wanted in as much detail as possible, several more months researching the spells, and then almost two months preparing for the actual forging of the bond. Our Lady gave us some assistance, but She insisted that we do as much of it on our own as possible. That’s actually part of the reason the library down here is as big as it is.”

    “So it’s actually your library? Thank you for letting me use it today.”

    “You’re helping to save Tanja - we really should start getting into the habit of addressing her properly as Lady Tanja now that she’ll be learning the truth - and will be bonded to her. We’re glad to be able to assist in any way we can,” Alva said.

    “As you and Lady Tanja come to know each other, Lady Raven, and decide on the form your relationship will take, it will be possible to make some adjustments to the protection spells on your bond to suit your desires, so long as both of you agree completely. We’ll be happy to help you with that,” Ingrid added.

    “What do you mean? And why the title of ‘Lady’?”

    “Not all soul bonds are between lovers. The bonded pair can be lovers, sisters or brothers, simply close friends, or rarely even rivals or enemies. Regardless of the form or nature of the bond, these relationships are eternal and will reappear in every lifetime in some form or other. Until they do, though, it will feel as if something is missing in your life. And sibling bonds don’t necessarily mean you’ll have the same parents. You could be friends who quickly become closer than most siblings.”

    “As for the title, we were priestesses of our Lady before joining Her in Asgard, and you will be bonded to Her daughter. It’s only proper that we show you equal respect.”

    “And ‘adjusting the protection spells’?”

    “Soul bonds can provide a number of benefits, from knowing whether each other is okay, to knowing how each other is feeling, to sharing physical senses, even as far as merging your minds so deeply that you become one person in two bodies. Ingrid and I, our bond is configured so that while always individuals, we always know exactly where the other is, exactly how the other is feeling, can communicate mentally and have full access to each other’s senses at will. It also limits awareness of each other’s pain or injuries so that while aware of them, we aren’t hindered by them.”

    “It sounds like I jumped off the deep end by offering to do this.”

    Freyja smiled, amused. “Yes, you did, though your intentions are honorable. And given who and what your father is, it will likely benefit you as much as it does Tanja. The protections will be more malleable than Ingrid thinks, though, at least for a time. I specifically designed them to allow your relationship with Tanja to develop in nearly any way, though whatever form it takes, you will likely be close. The only option that is probably closed to you both by this is to never meet again. Your souls will crave the connection, the relationship, no matter what form it takes, too much for that.”

    “I can live with that.”


    Soon enough, preparations were complete and they entered the ritual chamber, Raven nude while Freyja wore a light linen robe. A large multilayered circle was inscribed in the floor: an outer circle with two hash marks pointing at either side of the door; a ring of runes, sigils and glyphs just inside the outer circle; and another circle just inside of that with hash marks pointing inward to match the ones on the outer circle. Candles and censors alternated on stands equally spaced just outside of the circle. Tanja lay on one side of a wide futon in the center of the circle, her modesty protected by a light linen sheet with her arms resting on top of it. Two small knives lay on a tray on the floor next to the futon on the side Raven would be occupying. A second futon inside of the circle lay to one side.

    Raven looked the circle over and indicated the hash marks. “This is the door?”

    Freyja nodded and Raven stepped into the circle between the hash marks, taking care not to touch the two circles or runes between them, then padded her way to the larger futon, slipping beneath the sheet next to Tanja. Alva finished lighting the candles and incense, and placed a tray containing two apples and a small horn of liquid inside the circle to one side of the hash marks before slipping out of the room.

    “What’s that for?”

    “To speed your recovery afterwards. The apples are from Idunn’s orchard, one for each of you. The mead is made using the honey of the orchard’s hives and the waters of Mimir’s Well. It will wash the apples down and enhance their magic. You must drink it very sparingly, though. Old One-Eye likes his mead strong, and this is from his special reserve stock.”

    “‘Old One-Eye’?”


    “I see.”

    “Together, they should reduce your recovery time to no more than a few days, though some things simply require time to adjust to.”

    As she was speaking, Freyja had moved to the altar on the edge of the room opposite the door and was looking over the items on it. A moment later, the door opened admitting Erika and Nightwing.
    • Like x 2
  7. velvetsanity Loyal Player

    “Alva and Ingrid have activated the wards, mother, and the Sentinels have provided an additional ward surrounding the estate ward, masking it as you requested.”

    “Thank you, Erika.” Erika slipped out, closing door behind her. “Richard, do you see the marks on the circles near the door? Enter the circle between those marks, but do not step on or between the two circles. The empty futon, as I am sure you were told, is for your comfort while I raise the circle. Once our task is complete you will exit the circle the same way when you see the opening appear.”

    “Okay.” Nightwing carefully stepped across the circle between the marks he could see pointing towards the chamber’s only door, and moved to sit on the futon as Freyja began to raise the circle, pouring power into the two circles and the glyphs and runes between them. After a moment, a shimmering wall began to appear, rising up from the circle and spreading to form a softly glowing dome over its occupants, then thickened until it was nearly opaque and the sound of Freyja’s chanting became muffled, as if an actual wall stood between them, with the exception of the space between the hash marks, where Nightwing and Raven had entered the circle, which was still only a slight shimmer.

    Freyja moved to stand in that gap. “Raven. It may be necessary to explain certain things to Tanja to convince her to accept the soul bond. Even though I would prefer to tell her myself, you have my permission to speak freely to her of those things covered by your Oath to me.” Raven nodded. “I will close the door now.” She pushed power into the glyphs positioned between the hash marks, chanting a few syllables, and the shimmer in that space quickly thickened to become as nearly opaque as the rest of the dome, leaving the dome’s soft glow as the only light inside the circle.

    “Are you sure this is a good idea?” Nightwing asked.

    “Would you leave her to her fate and have two of me running around for my father to torment and use?”

    “Good point. Alright. I’m ready when you are. Let’s kick this thing’s butt.”

    Raven nodded and closed her eyes, focusing inward. Her soul-self rose from her body, swallowed up the two knives, and flew towards Nightwing, expanding to engulf him before shrinking and flying into Tanja’s body.

    Once inside Tanja’s soulscape, Raven immediately located the clearing and circled it from high up. Spotting Tanja where she crouched against a boulder that hid her from the construct, which was looking at the seal over the cave’s entrance, she glided down to land inside the tree line as close to Tanja as she dared to fly. She expanded her form and released Nightwing, then allowed her soul-self to assume the coloration of her physical body and dark blue costume.

    “I don’t think I’ll ever be able to get used to that,” he said softly. “Where exactly are we?”

    “The clearing is just through those trees. I brought us as close to Tanja as I could without being noticed.”

    “And the construct?”

    “In front of the cave. I think it’s studying the seal.”

    “We might not have much time, then. Let’s go.”

    Raven nodded and they slipped through the trees to the edge of the clearing, crouching in the brush as they surveyed the near section of clearing.

    “I see her,” Nightwing pointed. “She doesn’t look good.”

    “No, she doesn’t.”

    Glancing often in the direction of the construct, they carefully crept to where Tanja sat looking bruised, worn, and exhausted with her back to a boulder, Raven putting her finger to her lips in a ‘shhh’ gesture when Tanja noticed them approaching. Tanja tensed as they drew near. “Relax, we’re here to help,” Raven whispered.

    “Who are you?”

    “My name is Raven, and this is Nightwing. We’re with the Titans. Wonder Woman sent us to help you. Let me look at you, I can heal some of your injuries.” She knelt next to Tanja and began looking her over as Nightwing positioned himself to watch the construct while minimizing the chance of being seen.

    “How does Wonder Woman even know I need help?”

    “Your mother called her when she learned you were attacked by an exobyte.”

    “My mom knows Wonder Woman? How does my mom know Wonder Woman?”

    Nightwing glanced back at them. “Probably from when Joker attacked the first Gotham Vanity Ball two years ago.” He returned his attention to the construct. “That thing’s just sitting there studying the seal on the cave.”

    “What’s in that cave, anyway? I’m sure it’s something important that I need to get to, but I don’t know what or why. And where are we?”

    “We’re inside of your own soul. And yes, the cave is very important for you. Are you feeling better now?”

    “But th- How- What?” Still exhausted but appearing far less beat up, Tanja looked confused.

    “Your injuries. Do they feel better?”

    “Oh. Umm...yeah. What exactly is in that cave, and why is it blocked by a force field?”

    “It contains a part of your heritage that your mother hid from you so that you could have as close to a normal childhood as she was able to give you.”


    “She was given information that she understood to mean that she had to raise a child as a mortal. Probably by the Norns.”


    “Have you ever studied Norse mythology? Think about your mother’s name for a moment.”

    Tanja’s eyes widened. “What?! There is no way. You are not saying what I think you’re saying. It’s not possible”!

    “Keep it down, it looked this way for a moment.”

    “Your mother is the Norse goddess of love and magic.”

    Tanja pressed herself up against the boulder, tensing, getting ready to run. “She... You... I don’t believe you. You’re lying. You’’ that thing out there or something.”

    “Only from a certain perspective.”

    “Let me try, Raven. Tanja, look at me.” Nightwing took off his mask. “You know me. I've been to every Vanity Ball in Gotham. I even went with you and your bodyguards to see Cats on Broadway when you were little. I also danced with your mother at the first Vanity Ball. She recognized me through my body language.”

    Dick Grayson?!? B-b-b-but if you’re a superhero why didn’t you help at the ball?”

    “Things were pretty chaotic by the time Batman and I were able to get involved. Not to mention Catwoman apparently hiding you in the ladies’ room after a couple of Joker’s goons tried to sneak out with you.”

    “Cat...woman? You mean that really was a big cat that saved me? I always thought that was a hallucination from whatever those jerks drugged me with...”

    “What? No, that probably was the toxin. Her costume is cat themed. She’s mostly a thief, but helps us out now and then. Look, Raven’s telling you the truth. And apparently what’s in the cave is the magical power and ability you inherited from your mom. She sealed it away from you when you were born so you’d have a chance to grow up normal. And now unlocking the seal and getting you into the cave is your best chance of surviving this as yourself.”

    “What do you mean, 'as myself'?”

    “You were infected by an exobyte,” Raven said. “They change the DNA of the people they infect. They also infect your soul. If that infection gets into the cave and gets to your power before you do, then nothing we can do will stop it from turning you into a different person. In this case, a copy of me from the future, but with your memories and knowledge. Considering who my father is, that would be very bad for the entire world.”

    “ do we stop it?”

    “It’s complicated. And it will have permanent consequences for both of us. First, we have to get you into the cave. Your mother and I worked together to place the key to the seal in me, but only you can use it, so I have to transfer it to you. To do that, we have to create a soul bond.”

    “What's a soul bond? Does that mean we have to be soulmates or something?”

    “It’s a permanent connection between our souls. I don’t know enough about them yet to give you details. I haven’t had a reason to study them before now and there isn’t time. From what was explained to me, it means that we’ll be an important part of each others’ lives for eternity. Soulmates may be an example of a type of soul bond, but apparently that’s not the only type there is. We’ll be connected, but that connection doesn’t define the nature of our relationship.”

    “What if I don’t want to be connected to someone like that? Especially since I don’t know you?”

    “Considering the condition you were in when we found you...if we don’t go through with this...then the infection will win and you’ll no longer be yourself. And then my father will have a much greater chance of enslaving the earth. If we do go through with it and beat the infection, you’ll still be changed - we both will - but fundamentally you’ll still be you, with your own hopes, desires, feelings and will. There are other benefits as well.”

    Tanja still looked skeptical. “Like what?”

    “You may possibly be able to draw on some of my knowledge and experience when you’re in trouble. And that would make you a very fast learner where magic is concerned.”

    “What’s your benefit? The closest things I have to special skills or knowledge are acting and singing.”

    Raven looked down for a moment, thinking. “I’ll finally have someone who truly understands me.”


    “No, Dick. The Titans accept and welcome me as family, and I’m grateful to have that much, but none of you really understands me. Not even Gar. Not in the way I mean.”

    Tanja looked at Raven for a long moment. “I’ll do it. What do we have to do?”

    “You’ve decided, just like that? Why?” Nightwing asked.

    “Hello? Aspiring Broadway actress and daughter of a **** star who’s apparently a goddess? She’s not the only lonely misfit in the room, Dick.”

    “Oh. Why Broadway?”

    “Because I’m not exactly interested in the kind of movies mom makes, and I don’t want to get caught up in the whole Hollywood celebrity scene. And because paparazzi are Evil. At least on Broadway people leave you alone outside of work. You actually get to have a life as long as your bills are paid. Now how do we do this?”


    “You don’t have any training or access to your power, so we picked something simple. Your mom said you liked Practical Magic?” Tanja nodded.

    “I’m still wondering how you know that movie,” Nightwing interjected.

    “See what I mean about not understanding me?” Raven asked Tanja. “I wanted to see if it had any useful information. The title is deceiving, but the story was interesting.”

    “I don’t remember seeing any actual spells in Practical Magic.”

    “When Jillian ran away with her boyfriend, she made a blood pact with Sally.”

    Tanja thought for a moment, then her eyes widened. “‘My blood, your blood, our blood’?”

    Raven nodded. “Normally it would be little more than a binding promise, but here we’ll use it to create a bond between our souls. All you have to do is focus all of your will and intentions on creating the deepest, strongest bond with me that you can imagine while we cast it. I’ll provide the power. When it’s cast it will probably get the infection’s attention, so be ready, Dick. I suspect we’ll be a little disoriented at first. Keep it away from us.”

    “Alright. Give me a minute to find a better position.” Nightwing slipped off to crouch behind a different boulder closer to the cave. Raven peeked around the boulder she and Tanja were behind, watching for him to be in position. He looked over at her and gave a thumbs up.

    “Okay. This will be similar to how it was done in the movie. We each cut our own palms and say ‘my blood’. Then we hold out our palms towards each other and say ‘your blood’. And when we press the cuts together...”

    “We both say ‘our blood’.”

    “Right. And the entire time, you need to focus all of your will and energy on creating a bond. Are you ready?”

    “I don’t have a knife or anything.”
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  8. velvetsanity Loyal Player

    “I came prepared.” Raven reached into her sleeve and pulled out the two small knives she was carrying. She held one out to Tanja, who took it. “Take a minute to focus your mind and emotions.”

    Tanja nodded and closed her eyes concentrating. ‘Connecting, joining, feeling, sharing...we have to do this...we have to connect...we have to create this bond...this has to work...we will create this bond...this will work!

    As Tanja concentrated, Raven turned her own focus inward for a moment. ‘As you pointed out that binding my soul to your daughter’s is indirectly making an offering of myself to you, in the hopes that it will aid both this and future endeavors, I now offer myself to you directly although as with my oath it will remain secret. Freyja, with this binding, by Azar’s grace, I am yours.’


    Freyja paused in her work outside the circle, feeling the unexpected sensation of someone nearby invoking her, calling upon her in invitation and dedication. Upon tracing the sensation to its source within the circle and hearing the message it contained, she smiled and shifted what she was doing, preparing herself to accept the offering.


    Raven returned her attention to Tanja just as she opened her eyes, her expression intensely focused despite her exhaustion, and turned her right hand palm up, knife held in her left hand. Raven nodded, eyes on Tanja’s, as she switched her knife to her right hand and held it poised over her left. She then cut her palm, and an instant later Tanja did the same, wincing slightly.

    “My blood.”
    “My blood.”

    They turned their bleeding hands palm outward towards each other’s.

    Your blood.”
    Your blood.”

    A heartbeat later, they pressed their palms together, cut to cut, fingers clasped as they said in unison, “OUR BLOOD!

    Instantly, a shockwave blasted out from their joined hands, blowing their hair back and Raven’s hood down to her shoulders. As it swept out across the landscape, the force nearly knocked Nightwing down. The construct staggered as the two girls called out the final phrase, then was sent sprawling when the blast reached it.

    At the same time, the entire life of each flashed through the other’s mind, too quickly to be aware of, much less remember, more than the strongest, most powerful memories, the instances that most shaped them and made them who they are...

    {growing up on Azarath...being taught to wall off all emotions...the discovery of Trigon and fleeing to earth only to be ignored by the Justice League for her parentage...reassembling the Titans...people’s fear of her...being corrupted by her father...her rescue by her fellow Titans...dying...being resurrected by Brother Blood...all laced with the loneliness and pain of not being truly understood...}

    {seeing Cats on Broadway during a trip to Metropolis for a charity ball...discovering a love of the stage...singing and acting lessons...ostracism by classmates for her mother’s work...attempts to date followed by the pain of lies, more ostracism and even ****-shaming when she wouldn’t sleep with them...a hunger to love and be loved...hope as a football player asked her out followed by the greatest pain and betrayal of all: gang-**** and and therapy and martial arts and healing...creating the Vanity Foundation...being rescued from Joker’s goons by what looked like a bipedal talking cat...all laced with the loneliness and pain of not being truly understood...}


    In the ritual chamber, Freyja accepted and welcomed the thread of power that flowed into her as the bond formed and simultaneously consummated Raven’s dedication and offering. She stood and studied the girls through the dome of the circle. She noted Raven and Tanja’s now clasped hands and smiled. ‘Well done, Raven.’ As she prepared to reconfigure the magics powering the circle, she noticed a bit of blood staining the sheet under their hands and paused, incredulous. ‘The bond is THAT strong?! Is it because of Raven’s choice?’ Quickly she began chanting, revising and reweaving the magics, altering the configuration rapidly as she modified her planned spell on the fly, working as quickly as she dared, the glyphs between the two circles reshaping themselves into a different pattern as she worked.


    As the gale force shockwave passed, the construct rose to its feet and started running towards the boulder that concealed Raven and Tanja.

    “Oh no you don’t!” Nightwing came charging out from the side and hit the construct with a flying shoulder check, sending it tumbling. He quickly flipped around and onto his feet, ready to fight.

    The construct was only a little slower at getting up to assume a judo stance.

    A moment later, both were thrown off their feet as the shockwave passed again in the opposite direction.


    The images came to an end just as the returning shockwave threw Raven and Tanja together, and they instinctively grabbed hold of each other.

    For a long moment they knelt like that, hugging tightly, their cut hands still clasped, wide-eyed and disoriented, trying to process what little they could of the images that were strong enough to stick in memory.


    Nightwing got up and pulled out his escrima sticks. “Okay, let’s try this again.”

    The construct also rose to its feet. It looked at Nightwing, then towards the boulder.

    Nightwing lunged forward in that instant, making a horizontal swing at the construct’s solar plexus. “Didn’t your mama ever teach you to not get distracted during a fight?”

    The construct doubled over, stumbling backwards, and Nightwing pressed the advantage, holding the momentum, landing several more blows before the construct recovered and fell back into a reverse somersault and backed away a few more steps, watching Nightwing warily.

    “That’s right, pay attention, you two-bit Raven wannabe.” Nightwing swung again, another horizontal strike, and this time the construct brought its arm up to block, deflecting the blow and quickly twisting its arm around to capture the stick, tugging it and pulling Nightwing off balance before grabbing his shoulders and falling back, planting its foot in his gut in a classic judo throw. Nightwing tugged hard on the stick and released it just as he was thrown, allowing him to twist around in the air and get his feet under him before he hit the ground, landing in a crouch.

    “Not bad. Kind of wondering where you got that move.” Nightwing sprung forward and spun in a crescent kick just as the construct was getting to its feet, catching it on the shoulder and sending it tumbling to the side. “Because I know Raven never studied judo.”


    “I’ll never hurt or betray you,” Raven whispered.

    “And I’ll never reject you or be afraid of you,” Tanja whispered back.

    They clung tightly to each other for a moment longer before reluctantly separating. ‘I actually don't want her to let go. I know Alva warned me but it's still strange to actually want to be touched like this,’ Raven thought. “Okay. Let’s get you to the cave. The seal will let you through now that you have the key.”

    “What am I supposed to do there?”

    “You feel it calling to you, right? It’s a part of you. Follow the pull and you’ll know what to do.”


    Raven peeked out from behind the boulder. “We’ll need to circle around to the right. Are you ready?” She looked back at Tanja, who nodded. Raven indicated several boulders. “That boulder’s closest to the cave. We’ll use that boulder in between as cover. Get ready to run.” She watched the fight for a moment. “Now!”

    The two ran for the boulder, Tanja stumbling a bit in her exhaustion and Raven grabbing her arm to keep her from falling. Once they reached it, Raven stopped them. “Rest a moment. You’re still exhausted, even after my healing and the boost you got from the bond.”

    Tanja nodded and rested in a crouch while Raven peeked around the boulder to see how the fight was going.


    “Is that the best you can do? You’re not even gonna try to hocus pocus me?” Nightwing quipped as he dodged a punch, countering with a spin kick to the abdomen, which the construct caught and pushed directly away from itself, throwing Nightwing off balance, which he turned into a roll, grabbing the escrima stick he’d been forced to drop earlier, and launched himself back at the construct. “It’s like you’re not even trying.”

    The construct ducked and then rose up, shoulder in his abdomen, flipping him onto his back behind it, and turned to face him, then looked towards the cave and then the boulder again. Nightwing grabbed the back of its knees and pulled, a split second later reaching up to slam his palms into its hips, causing it to fall onto its back.

    “You just can’t stay focused, can you?” Nightwing climbed to his feet and stowed his escrima sticks on his back. “I don’t even need these if you’re not going to pay attention.”


    “Go now!” Raven whispered and grabbed Tanja’s arm, helping her up and they ran for the next boulder just as the construct kicked Nightwing in the groin before climbing to its feet. As it stood, it noticed them ducking behind the boulder and moved quickly towards the cave.

    Again, Raven peeked around the boulder while Tanja rested. “That’s not good.”

    The construct was once again standing before the seal on the cave, attention divided between it and the boulder they were hiding behind. Nightwing was lying on his side, curled up where he’d been fighting the construct, hands over his groin.

    “What happened?” Tanja asked.

    “It kicked him in the groin and now it’s back in front of the cave. And it keeps looking this way. I think it saw us running here.”

    “Ouch. Will he be alright?”

    “He’s starting to get up.”

    “Okay. What do we do now?”

    “I’ll hold it off while you get inside the cave.” Raven prepared a spell and stepped out from behind the boulder, sending a blast of wind at the construct, knocking it back from the cave entrance and towards Nightwing. Tanja followed Raven as she moved to stand in front of the cave entrance, sending another blast of wind that pushed the construct further back, then began advancing on the construct.

    Behind her, Tanja walked up to the seal that covered the cave’s entrance. She raised her hand to push at the seal as she approached, and passed through without resistance. Once inside the cave, she heard what sounded like shattering crystal behind her and whirled to see the seal disintegrating. “Okay...guess I’d better hurry.” She moved deeper into the cave, following the strange pull she felt.

    Raven pushed the construct back one more time before glancing behind her. Seeing that Tanja had entered the cave and the seal was now gone, she quickly refocused her attention just in time to throw up a shield spell and block the construct from rushing past her.


    Freyja watched the dome of the circle begin to give off a lively and colorful light show as the magical energy set loose by the seal’s breaking began to rebound off it, bouncing around and around inside the dome before slowly, bit by bit, finding itself channeled back into Tanja’s body by the spells she’d woven into the circle. ‘I hope they succeed fully.’

    • Like x 2
  9. velvetsanity Loyal Player

    Tanja followed the pull around a bend in the cave to find what appeared to be a life-sized marble bust on a pedestal. She studied it for a moment and her eyes widened. “Mom?!?” Then she noticed the gold and amber necklace on the bust. Hesitantly, she reached out to touch it, and almost before she realized what she was doing, pulled it off of the bust and placed it on her own neck. Immediately the bust vanished and she suddenly felt what she could only describe as Power flooding her entire being, her exhaustion fading to nothing more than a memory as it filled her, filled a hole inside of her that she’d never been aware of, and she felt the odd sensation of something alien in her ‘tasting’ the Power, flavoring itself with it before settling into a place within her that she suddenly felt was a connection to something - no, to someone else, and realized that it must be Raven on the other end of that connection, through which she thought she sensed what felt like determination and focus. ‘I’d better get back out there so we can figure out what to do about that infection thing.’

    As Tanja made her way back to the entrance, she didn’t notice the cave silently closing up behind her.


    Outside the cave, Raven had pushed the construct back enough to reach Nightwing. She placed her hand on the back of his neck. “Here, this will help.”

    “Thanks. Tanja’s in the cave?”

    Raven didn’t answer immediately as she had to dodge the construct rushing her, and Nightwing crouched and spun, leg extended in a sweep to trip it.

    “Yes, she’s coming out now.”

    “Good. Can we kill this thing yet?” He sat on its lower back before it could get up, pulling its arms behind it in a submission hold.

    “Hold it still.” She cast a couple of spells over it, studying it. “I think killing it will seriously hurt Tanja. It’s a construct formed from an infection, so part of it is also part of her.”

    Nightwing grunted as the construct struggled and adjusted his grip slightly, tightening his hold. “Great. So how do we separate what’s the infection and what’s Tanja?”

    “I don’t know yet.” She cast several more spells over it, studying it.

    Hearing footsteps, Nightwing looked towards the cave and saw Tanja emerge. As she walked towards them, unnoticed by Tanja, the cave sank into the ground as if it had never been there. “Whoa.”

    Raven followed his gaze to see the cave disappearing. “The cave is no longer needed.”

    Nightwing returned his attention to his captive as the construct began to struggle again, tying it up as Tanja approached.

    “You’re feeling much better,” Raven commented as Tanja stopped beside her.

    “Yes, I am...and it’s like...what I found in the cave,’s like part of me was missing and I didn’t even know it until it filled the hole where it belonged.” Raven nodded. “So this thing is some sort of infection? How do we cure it?”

    “I’m not sure yet. The construct that we’re seeing is the infection, but its substance is combined with some part of you.”

    “What, like some kind of virus invading cells?”

    “Pretty much,” Nightwing said. “It’s like a retrovirus as far as how the exobytes act on the DNA of the people they infect, so the same principle probably applies here.”

    “A retrovirus...they’re the ones that actually replace DNA instead of just adding their own strands, right?”

    “Ri...oh boy. That means we can’t separate it from the part of you that’s infected.”

    Tanja looked ill. “I really don’t want to become somebody else...”

    “That probably won’t happen, now that you’ve recovered your birthright,” Raven said.

    “‘Probably’? I don’t like how that sounds...”

    “Neither do we. Unless...” Raven looked thoughtful.

    “You’ve thought of something?” Nightwing asked.

    “If we could weaken it somehow...maybe...” she focused inward for a long moment. “I think it will work.”

    “Think what will work?” Tanja asked.

    “It’s trying to transform your soul to be more like mine, and you and I are soul-bonded now. If we can alter the protection spells on the bond slightly so that part of it gets pulled through and trapped in me, that should weaken it enough that allowing it to integrate with you won’t affect who you are, which will allow you to regain the parts that it’s already infected.”

    Comprehension dawned on Nightwing’s face. “After the work is done there aren’t any traces, so it becomes inert or dissipates or something, and you’re already you, so its work would already be done.”

    “Exactly. I need to meditate for a bit and study the protections on the bond.” Raven perched herself on a rock in a meditative pose and focused inward.

    “Meditating...” Tanja shook her head and sighed. “I really need to center myself with everything that’s happening.” She moved to stand just a few feet from where Raven sat and began the slow graceful movements of a tai chi form.

    “I’ll just keep an eye on the prisoner, then.”

    A short while later, Raven stretched. “I think I’ve...” She went quiet as soon as she noticed what Tanja was doing, watching the slow graceful movements and feeling Tanja’s emotions settling very deeply into a peaceful calm while she waited.

    She watched as Tanja smoothly came to a stop, held her pose for a moment, then turned and looked at them.

    “I’ve never felt such a peaceful calm from anyone before.”

    Tanja smiled. “I started doing tai chi after my time in the hospital, as part of my physical therapy. It helped with the other therapy, too. I spent almost all day on it at first, both for the physical therapy and trying to deal with the hurting. I still do it every day, but I don’t spend nearly as much time on it since I was acknowledged as a master.” She tilted her head slightly. “You can feel other people’s emotions?”

    “Yes. I can also take them away or give them to people. It’s a big part of why I was taught to completely control my own emotions.”

    Tanja looked thoughtful for a moment. “I can see why a little kid having that ability could cause problems.”

    “It’s more than just that, there are also other things that I inherited from my father that needed to be kept under control.”

    Tanja nodded. “Have you figured out what we need to do?”

    “Yes. Let me scan this thing one more time and I’ll be ready.” She cast one more scanning spell over the construct. “Okay, I’ve got it. Now I’m going to try reaching through the bond to manipulate the protections on your side. It will probably feel very strange if you can sense the bond.”

    “Protections... that must be what I felt when...when the power filled me. It sort of...tasted the power, then settled itself in the bond. Okay.”

    “‘Tasted’ it?” Nightwing asked.

    Tanja shrugged, “I don’t know how else to describe it.” She then turned her attention inward, towards where she felt the bond, hoping to get a sense of the strange sensations of motion and change she was starting to feel there. “That does feel really weird.”
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  10. velvetsanity Loyal Player

    The exobyte infection construct:
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  11. velvetsanity Loyal Player


    “Now that I’ve completed the adjustments, we need to figure out how to start the process.”

    They walked over to where the construct was tied up. “How can it even see with this helmet covering its eyes, anyway?” Tanja asked as she crouched down to look at it.

    “It’s not really seeing the way you think of in the physical world. Everything here is symbolism and metaphor,” Raven said. She paused a moment. “Why don’t you try the helmet on yourself and see?”

    Tanja shrugged, “That might be the trigger we need. Why not?” She looked at it closely and found the clasp. Pulling it off of the construct, she stuck it on her own head.

    Instantly, the helmet’s clasp secured itself as the construct turned to smoke, which quickly flowed into Tanja. She and Raven both staggered and fell, and both the ground and their appearances shimmered, wavering as if reality was uncertain about their form.

    Tanja’s appearance shifted radically, with her sports bra and sweatpants changing into orange-red fur with leopard spots fading to a creamy white on her throat, chest and stomach. The helmet took on a more organic and slightly more feline appearance before sinking into her and vanishing, her fingers and toes became tipped with razor sharp talon-like claws which then retracted, her feet reshaping slightly to give the impression that she’d be just as comfortable standing on her toes as with her feet flat, and a catlike tail sprouted from her tailbone as the construct’s belt appeared around her waist.

    Raven’s clothing merely shifted slightly in color, fading to white around the edges and hems but otherwise unchanged. After a moment, it returned fully to its normal dark hue.

    A few seconds after the changes started, strange-looking plants sprouted from the ground, which reshaped itself, smoothing out and changing from rocky to a rich dark topsoil as the plants grew, though several of the boulders remained, including the one Nightwing was sitting on.

    A few moments after the changes stopped, Raven groaned and pushed herself up to a sitting position before looking around, her eyes widening. “These are Azarathian plants.”

    “Is that because of the soul bond, or the integration?” Nightwing asked.

    “It could be from either. Most likely it’s the combination of both.”

    As Raven continued looking around her at flowers and grasses she hadn’t seen in years, Tanja pushed herself up with a feline-sounding groan. “Did anyone get the license plate of that truck?”

    Raven and Nightwing looked at her, and Nightwing quickly turned to look the other way, blushing. “How are you feeling?” Raven asked.

    “Disoriented, dizzy, and a little like I’ve been sparring with Grandmaster Yang.”

    “Grand..oh, your martial arts. What about your interests, hopes and desires?”

    “What do you mean?”

    “Acting, for instance. How do you feel about it now, compared to before?”

    “Before...oh. Umm...” Tanja thought about it for a moment. “Seems to be the same. I still want to play Bombalurina on Broadway more than anything else I can think of. I take it that means I’m still myself?”

    “Appearances to the contrary, yes.”

    “App...” She stopped mid-word as she looked at her arms. “Whoa. What is this?”

    “Your soul-self’s normal appearance is based on a combination of your self-image, your nature, and your desires, but you can alter it at will with practice.”

    “Like, for instance, maybe putting some clothes on?” Nightwing said over his shoulder.

    “Putting some...eep!” Tanja’s eyes widened as she looked down and then quickly covered herself just as a sleek bodysuit, feathery in areas that matched the pattern of the suit the construct had worn, emerged from her skin, along with a feathery cloak, the now organic-looking helmet, and gloves and boots that included metal claws that overlaid and reinforced the natural ones she now had.

    “Interesting.” Raven moved closer and examined the outfit. “Apparently the suit the construct was wearing was some sort of soul armor my future self developed. She’s dressed now, it’s safe to turn around.”

    “Thank you.” He turned around as Tanja and Raven were standing up. “Whoa.”

    “Soul armor?” Tanja asked.

    “Armor formed from the substance of your soul.”

    “Oh. Right. Umm, isn’t that dangerous to me if it gets damaged when I’m wearing it?”

    “Only if it’s a magical or spiritual attack specifically targeting your soul. Nothing else would harm your soul and any apparent damage to the armor would simply regenerate.”

    “Okay. This didn’t change what I actually look like, right? I don’t think I’ll be able to get any parts if I go to an audition looking like this...”

    “No, your physical appearance is unaffected by the form of your soul-self unless you transpose them,” Raven replied.

    “You mostly looked normal before we came in here,” Nightwing said.


    “Your ears are pointed.”

    Tanja blushed, though it wasn’t visible through the fur and helmet. “They’ve always been like that.”

    “In all the times I’ve seen you, I never noticed that,” Nightwing said.

    “Kids used to tease me about it when I was little, calling me ‘fairy girl’ and ‘elf ears’ and things like that, so I’m always careful to keep them covered by my hair. My mom told me they were part of the reason she started calling me her 'little skogkatt’ after the first time Alva and Ingrid took me to see Cats. Anyway, how do I look?”

    “I like it,” Raven said.

    “Dangerous. In a terrifying yet sexy way. And I’m absolutely not thinking any inappropriate thoughts about you.” This last part came out sounding as if he were trying to convince himself more than anything.

    Raven rolled her eyes.

    “After what happened in high school, Dick, I don’t know if I’ll ever be comfortable dating guys again. Have whatever thoughts you want about me, just...don’t act on them in my presence, okay?”

    He swallowed, nodding. “Fair enough.” He took a deep breath and fully composed himself. “So all that’s left is getting you back to the physical world.”

    Tanja nodded. “I kind of wish I could see myself right now, though. I’m curious how I look.”

    “You’re inside of your own soulscape. Everything here is created by you, mostly subconsciously, but you can reshape it any way you want. Such as, for example, willing a mirror into existence. You can also make the armor appear and disappear at will.”

    “Okay, how do I do that? Just concentrate on what I want?”

    “Yes, exactly. And the stronger your focus and the more detailed you can imagine it, the more control you have over the results. I’ll carry Dick out and then return to guide you back to the physical world.”

    “Okay. Will any changes I make be permanent or temporary?”

    “Usually temporary, but if you make the same change repeatedly, it can become permanent. Your expectations influence things as well. I’ll be back in a minute.”

    Tanja nodded and began concentrating as Raven shifted to bird form, then grew to pull Nightwing into her and flew off just as a mirror began rising out of the ground in front of Tanja.


    Back in the ritual chamber, Raven expanded and released Nightwing inside the protective dome of the circle. “I need to check on something before I bring Tanja out,” she said, then called loudly, “Freyja?”

    “You were successful, Raven?” came the reply, muffled by the dense, powerful magics of the circle.

    “Yes. Dick is ready to go upstairs. Can you check on the bonds between Tanja’s body and soul before I bring her out of her soulscape?”

    In reply, the area where they’d entered the circle thinned and became transparent. “Of course. Richard, please remember not to step on or between the marked circles as you come out. If you will wait in the next room, I will be out shortly and then we can rejoin the others upstairs.”

    “Alright.” He carefully stepped across the portal and left the room as Freyja entered the circle, the portal turning opaque behind her. She placed a small package next to the tray holding the mead and apples, then faced the futon Tanja and Raven were lying on and made a series of gestures, Tanja’s body glowing briefly every few moments, with Raven’s - both her physical and soul-selves - also occasionally glowing.

    “The tangles and knots in the bonds between Tanja’s body and soul are smoothed out, though those bonds are changed somewhat to slightly more resemble your own. And the bond between you is far stronger than I anticipated.”

    “We have some things in common that helped in that, I think.”

    Freyja nodded. “I was aware of some shared feelings in your hearts, but the spell you used had an influence as did your direct offering to me - which I also should have anticipated. And yes, I will honor your desire to keep that secret, though I wish to discuss it with you privately later. The strength of the bond means that your complete recovery will take longer, though it shouldn’t affect the amount of time necessary for you to remain within the circle’s protection. I am having more apples fetched from Idunn, you will each get one daily while you recover. It is safe for you to guide Tanja back to the physical world.”

    Raven nodded. “Thank you. That’s exactly what I needed to know. I do have one question, though.” Freyja raised an eyebrow in query. “What’s a ‘skogkatt’?”

    Freyja smiled. “The word means ‘forest cat’. Today, they are a breed of cats from Norway. In times you would call ancient, the word referred to a type of cat native to Alfheim. They were brought to Midgard by the tribe who moved to the island now called Ireland and became known as the ‘people of Danu’, who was their founder in Alfheim. Vikings brought them to Scandinavia, where they thrived. The modern breed is descended from them.”

    “I see. Thank you.”

    “You are welcome. I will join the others upstairs with Richard to give you privacy while you retrieve Tanja and begin your recovery. The circle will dissipate when it is safe for you to be outside of it. Also, Alva has requested that I ask you not to use magic to heal the cuts, to let them heal naturally. For that, I am leaving a first aid kit with the apples and mead.”

    Raven nodded and waited for Freyja to exit and close the circle before diving back into Tanja’s soulscape.

    Freyja went through the door to the antechamber and gathered her clothing. “Come, Richard. We will give them privacy and join the others. They will join us when it is safe for them to leave the circle.”
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  12. velvetsanity Loyal Player

    Tanja's soul-self:
    • Like x 3
  13. velvetsanity Loyal Player


    Raven returned to the clearing to find Tanja nude, turning this way and that in front of the mirror studying her new appearance.

    Tanja glanced over at her. “I look like Bombalurina!”


    “The character in Cats that I’ve always wanted to play.”

    “Character in...Oh! That’s the musical that made you want to be an actress?”

    “Uh-huh. She’s the bombshell of the group, flirting with all the toms. She’s also one of the main vocalists.”

    “I’d like to see it with you sometime.”

    Tanja sighed. “Unfortunately, the show closed ten years ago. I do have the DVD, though. It’s not the same as seeing it live, but it’s better than nothing.”

    “Closed? Does that mean they stopped performing it?”

    “Yeah. It had the third longest run in Broadway history, though, so I guess it was finally time to close it down.”

    “How long were they performing it for?”

    “Eighteen years. Most shows...well, the average run on Broadway is about four months.”

    Raven nodded. “From what your mother said, it will take several days for us to fully recover from the shock our souls experienced in the bonding, so we may have time to watch it later. Your mother may want to start teaching you magic as soon as she can, though. Also, once we get you back to the outside world, we’ll be rather isolated for an hour or two as the initial stage of recovery, both for our safety and to give us privacy. Try not to be surprised by powerful or odd urges, such as an overwhelming desire for physical contact. When I returned Dick, I was strongly tempted to dive back into my own body, wrap myself around you and just hold you as close as I could.”

    “So I should be expecting an almost irresistible urge to cuddle?”

    “Yes. But we will have privacy. Also a snack that we’ll want to eat right away.”

    “How long have I been in here, anyway?”

    “Almost a full day, I think.”

    Tanja winced. “I must smell horrible. I was on my way to take a shower when I found myself here.”

    “Alva and Ingrid bathed you before moving you to the protection of the ritual chamber.”

    “Oh. I’ll still probably need to use the bathroom really badly.”

    “Maybe not. At least some of the spells forming the protective circle are monitoring our condition, and your mother’s expecting us to be within the circle for a time, so I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s already taken care of magically.”

    “Oh. Umm...”

    “Are you ready?”

    Tanja nodded.

    “Normally, I’d just pull you into myself and carry you that way, but I'm uncertain what effect the soul bond would have on doing so. I’d also rather let you see for now and then teach you how to do it yourself later.”

    Raven stepped close to Tanja and wrapped her arms around her. “Hold onto me tightly.” She waited for Tanja to do so and tightened her own grip before lifting them up into the sky, climbing higher and higher. “Now watch and pay close attention. And remember, this is a place where looking into the sun will not harm your eyes.” Raven called up a simple spell to open the path she had been using as Tanja watched, and they flew into the sun.


    They emerged inside the circle, and Raven forced herself to let go of Tanja and take a step back. Tanja immediately started turning in a circle looking at the dome. “What is this place?”

    “We can discuss that in a minute, you need to concentrate on being in your body and desire it as strongly as you can.”

    “But..this dome and all the colors and strings and patterns...”

    “Focus, please. After you’re in your body again we can try to determine exactly what you’re seeing.”

    “Okay...” She bowed her head, lips moving silently. A moment later, her soul-self vanished and her body’s eyes blinked open. Raven quickly dove back into her own body.

    As Raven began to sit up, Tanja turned her head towards her. “Before anything else, we need to take care of our hands and eat,” Raven said.

    “Take care of our....” Raven lifted their clasped hands. “Oh. Ooh, yeah, that stings a bit. Okay. Yeah.” Her stomach growled and she blushed. “And food is good.” Tanja sat up, and Raven gently pulled her towards the first aid kit and tray.

    “I hope you know how to use a first aid kit. I’ve always used my empathic abilities to heal injuries.”

    “I do, but why can’t we use magic on it now?”

    “Alva asked that we don’t, and since she shares a soul bond with Ingrid, I’m inclined to trust her about it, though I do intend to ask her reasons later.”

    “Okay.” Not letting go of Raven’s hand, Tanja picked up the first aid kit, then pulled Raven closer until their sides were tightly pressed together, with Raven’s hand in her lap. “Pay attention, because I’m going to need help with my hand.” She opened the first aid kit and pulled an item out, looking at it, then frowned and held it close to her face, squinting. After a moment she dropped her hand in her lap. “Damnit.”

    “What’s wrong?”

    “The way everything’s’s messing with my eyes somehow, I can’t read the labels. I’m seeing whatever’s behind it that glows.”

    “Let me see, I’ll read it for you.”

    “Thanks.” She handed the little tube to Raven. “You’ll probably have to do the work, too. I don’t think I’ll be able to see the cuts properly to treat them.”

    “Neosporin, alcohol wipes, hydrogen peroxide, bandages, a little bowl, a small towel, a roll of gauze, and first aid tape.”

    “Okay, that should be everything we need. Some parts of this will sting a bit. Set the bowl on the towel and hold my hand over it. Start with the peroxide to clean out the cut...” She walked Raven through the entire procedure step by step, explaining what each step was for, finishing with the gauze and tape to help keep the bandage in place, then helped Raven do the same for her own hand.

    Once she was finished, Raven picked up an apple and handed it to Tanja, then picked up the other for herself.

    “What’s this? It feels like an apple, and it’s shaped like one, but it’s so full of glowing threads that I can’t tell.”

    “It’s an apple from Idunn’s orchard. They’re supposed to help us recover faster. I don’t see how, unless...” She studied her apple closely. “They’re magical in nature, but it’s not like anything I’ve felt before. That must be the glowing threads you’re seeing.” She then studied the mead. “The mead, too.”

    “Mead? Why did they give us mead? They know I don’t drink.”

    “I don’t either. Your mother said it was brewed by Odin using water from Mimir’s Well and honey from the beehives in Idunn’s orchard.” She took a bite of her apple.

    Tanja’s eyes widened. “But we’re not...wait a minute...” She slapped her forehead. “The wording is ‘age-old remedy’, not ‘old age remedy’...they’re not for restoring youth...they’re for restoring health!” She shook her head. “You’d think that the people who study mythology for a living would catch a detail like that.” She then tentatively bit into the apple. “At least it tastes like an apple.”

    Raven watched her for a moment, bemused, before starting on her own apple. Between bites she said, “Your mother said to be careful with the mead -apparently it’s very strong - but that we should both drink at least enough to wash the apples down.”

    Tanja finished chewing and swallowed before responding. “Do you want to try it first or should I?”

    “I think I’ll let you go first.”

    Tanja nodded and reached over to pick up the horn of mead, studying the golden liquid it held before taking a tiny sip. “It’s really sweet. It definitely tastes like honey. It burns a little when you swallow, though.” She held out the horn to Raven, who took her own tiny sip after swallowing the bite she was chewing, and placed the horn back in its holder on the tray.

    “I think it’d be easy to drink too much of it if you could get used to the burning sensation. It tastes good aside from that.”

    “Just a sip after each bite, then.”

    They continued eating their apples, taking small sips of the mead between bites and leaning against each other.

    “Why’s everything in here glowing, anyway?”

    “Everything? What exactly are you seeing?”

    Tanja nodded. “Everything but the first aid supplies, trays, and futons. And the dome, apples and mead...they’re made up of colored ribbons and strings and threads.”

    “I think you may be seeing what I feel.”

    “What do you mean?”

    “The dome, for instance. To me it looks like a solid dome that’s emitting enough light for us to see by, but through my empathic sense I feel the energy that it’s constructed from. And the apples look like apples to me, and feel that way to the touch, but through my empathic sense I’m aware that they're partly apples, but are mostly composed of magical energy.”

    “So you feel the power of the magic, but I’m seeing its structure?”

    “I believe so, yes. And I suspect that as you grow accustomed to this new sense it will cease interfering with your normal vision. What do I look like to you right now?”

    “Glowing. No ribbons or threads, but...a swirling mix of grey and burgundy, with green sparkles scattered all through. No, wait. There’s a cluster of the ribbons and threads in you, but they look really faded and seem to move to whichever part of you is closest to me. Is that the protection spells on the bond?”

    “Probably. You’re mother added a spell to them to hide the bond so people wouldn’t see it. With practice you’ll learn how to interpret what you see in people’s auras. Physically I normally appear as you saw me within your soulscape, though my appearance changes when I allow my demonic heritage to be visible.”

    “I want to see it. But...that should probably wait until I get enough used to this new seeing that your glow won’t get in the way of actually seeing you.”

    Raven nodded. “I will show you, but it must be in safety and privacy; my demeanor changes when that side of me comes to the surface, and it can be difficult to suppress again if I am distracted.”

    “Does it take over, or does it mix with how you are usually?”

    “A little of both, though the ‘taking over’ may be partly because I normally suppress it so deeply. At least part of it is almost certainly due to the connection to my father. Why aren’t you bothered by the fact that we’re naked?”

    Tanja shrugged. “Because there aren’t any guys here, and I think I was somehow half expecting it, so it didn’t catch me by surprise. Plus all the glowing distracted me. Except for during parties, there aren’t usually any guys in the house other than the cat, so clothing’s always been pretty much optional at home. Well, that’s not quite true. Sometimes someone will bring a guy home, but there are separate entrances near the staff’s rooms, so it’s really rare that we see them. And whoever’s watching the gate will send us a warning so we can cover up if we want. I usually do if I was lazy about getting dressed that day.”

    “So if Dick were a girl, you wouldn’t have wanted to crawl under a rock and hide when you realized you were naked earlier.”

    “Well...I would have because I wasn’t expecting it, but I don’t think it would have been quite as bad. What’s your real name?”

    “Raven is my real name, but I go by Rachel Roth in my civilian identity.”

    “Civil- oh, you mean for paying bills and so people don’t bother you on the street.”


    Tanja set her apple core down on the tray and took one final sip of mead, then yawned before handing it to Raven. “I think I need some sleep.”
    • Like x 1
  14. velvetsanity Loyal Player

    Raven nodded as she took the horn and held on to it, taking a final bite of her apple before sipping. “That isn’t surprising. It’s been a long day for both of us. A nap does sound good.” She put the horn in its holder and they crawled back onto the futon to lie down, cuddling close to each other. “This is so strange.”

    “What is?”

    “Actually wanting physical contact. I wouldn’t have even known what I was wanting if Alva hadn’t warned me.”

    “Really?” Tanja snuggled closer.

    “I normally try to avoid physical contact, because I worry it might trigger emotions that will make it easier for my father to try to get control of me. Somehow the soul bond makes that irrelevant.”

    “So you get more from it than just being understood after all. You get to relax and enjoy little things.”

    “Apparently so.” She tried to pull Tanja even closer. Tanja obligingly scooted, winding up half lying on top of Raven.

    In moments, they were both fast asleep.


    Freyja opened the door to the ritual chamber and looked inside, and her eyebrows lifted. She gazed at the girls for a long moment, noting their position: Tanja lying half on top of Raven, head on her shoulder; one leg sprawled across both of Raven’s; one arm across Raven and pressed against her side, the other pressed against Raven’s arm on the near side; Raven’s arms around Tanja, one wrapped around the shorter redhead’s waist, the other on her upper back, her head tilted to the side slightly to rest against Tanja’s. She smiled and silently closed the door, only to return a minute later carrying a clean sheet and a blanket, followed by Erika with a camera, who smiled at the adorable scene. Once Freyja placed the sheet and blanket over the girls, Erika took a few pictures of the two and left. Freyja then tweaked the spells on the magelights that illuminated the room, setting them to glow dimly and slowly brighten if either of the girls woke, picked up the bloodstained sheet, the first aid kit, and the tray, and quietly slipped back out.

    “Are they alright?” Starfire asked when Freyja finally returned to the game room.

    Freyja smiled. “They are asleep, and so making a good example for us all. It has been a long two days, and those of us who have not yet slept should do so. Kory, Richard, you may sleep where you wish, so long as the bed does not belong to someone who is not interested in sharing it with you. We also have several guest rooms. Anyone you ask will gladly show them to you. I am going to bed myself.”


    Raven woke with a start. After a moment, she realized that the sound that had woken her had been that of a door closing. A moment later she noticed the weight on top of her and froze, motionless as the instinct to push the weight off warred with the inexplicable desire to pull it closer. With a soft ‘mmmm’, Tanja shifted slightly, and the instinct fell silent as Raven unconsciously hugged Tanja close, recalling the previous day. Then the scent registered.

    “I smell coffee.”

    “Mmmph? Comfy,” Tanja mumbled.

    “I think someone brought us breakfast.”

    Tanja groaned and lifted her head. She looked at Raven, bleary-eyed, through her tangled curls for a long moment. “It wasn’t a dream, was it? It all really happened.”

    “It all really happened.”

    “So what do we do now?”

    “Eat breakfast, apparently. You drink coffee?”

    “Coffee?” Tanja sniffed the air as a few more brain cells came online. “Ohh, that smells good...” She rolled over and sat up, looking around. “That dome is gone...where are we, anyway?” She noticed the large tray holding two plates of a traditional Swedish breakfast. “Finally something else that isn’t glowing.” She moved to it and poured herself a cup of coffee. Raven quickly joined her.

    “Your mother’s ritual chamber...or maybe it’s Alva and Ingrid’s. I didn’t ask. It’s underneath the house, through a hidden door in the library.”

    “Through...that’s so cliché!”


    Tanja rolled her eyes as she answered, “Secret rooms and passages always have a hidden door in the library.”

    “Probably because the bookshelves are convenient for hiding the door.”

    “There is that.”

    “Are your ears and that play the only reasons your mom calls you her ‘little skogkatt’?

    Tanja blushed. “Well...I think part of it’s my favorite bedtime story.”

    “Oh?” Raven took another bite of her breakfast.

    “It’s about a Viking hero named Erik Skogkatt. He was short and slim, and had pointed ears like mine. His mother was some sort of faerie girl his grandfather Bjorn Olafsson had rescued and brought back from Ireland one year after the trading season. The village they’d planned to trade with had been raided by a group from a neighboring village, and they arrived in the middle of the slaughter. He felt that Siobhan* - that was her name - would be a good playmate for his son Ulfrik - Erik’s father - who was about the same age.

    “Anyway, Erik got teased a lot about his size and his ears, and was really shy and learned to be really good at sneaking and climbing and woodcraft, all things skogkatts were supposed to be good at. Then one year, when he was about sixteen, he disappeared, only to return five years later having learned magic, another thing skogkatts were good at. He only used his magic to help the village, making crops grow better and things like that, and to entertain the little kids, and after a while the village got used to it and started calling him Erik Skogkatt. Then one year, some of the neighboring villages that mostly relied on raiding decided they would get together and attack his village. Most likely it was because they’d interfered in several raids on villages they traded with, and also how prosperous they were.

    “Erik was out in the woods hunting when he came across where the raiders were gathering their ships. He snuck into their camp and discovered their plans, then hurried home to warn his village and prepare. The jarl didn’t believe him, thinking that the raider villages would be more likely to fight each other over scraps than to organize a joint effort like Erik described, and so when the ships sailed into the harbor he stood alone on the shore waiting for them, and when they reached the point he’d decided on, he lashed out with all his magic, causing rocks to fall from the cliff face onto some of the ships and sink them, a whirlpool to pull some more of the ships underwater, and a strong wind to scatter the rest at sea. Some of them managed to reach shore, and the village had realized the danger and were running to defend. But by then it was too late, and the first of the village’s warriors reached Erik just in time to see him cut down by the attackers.”

    “Did the village repel the invaders?”

    “Mmhmm. They gave Erik a funeral worthy of a king after the fighting was over, and the entire village actually saw the Valkyries come to carry him to Valhalla, with one of them riding to shore to tell them that the village would have the protection of the gods in honor of Erik’s sacrifice.”

    “That sounds pretty epic.”

    “It’s a lot better the way mom tells it.”

    “Do you know the name of the village? Maybe you could visit it someday if it’s still there.”

    “I have no idea. Any idea where our clothes are?”

    “Just through that door, along with a bath. Through the next door is the stairs up to the library, with a bathroom at the bottom of the stairs.”

    “Ok, good, because I need to pee before anything else.”


    Freshly bathed and dressed (Raven having needed to identify the body wash, shampoo and conditioner for Tanja), they climbed the stairs and came out in the library where Tanja immediately squeezed her eyes shut and threw her hands up over her face, though it didn’t help. “Aaaah! Too bright!” The glow almost immediately faded and after a moment she lowered her eyes to see Freyja along with Alva and Ingrid. “Good morning. I hope you slept well,” Freyja said.

    “Mom? Was...was that you that was glowing so bright? We need to talk.”

    “Yes, it was. I apologize, I was not aware that your Sight would be so strong so soon. And yes, we will talk. I have kept certain things from you. It is time for you to learn them, and also why they were kept from you.”

    “Should I give you two privacy for this?” Raven asked.

    “No, Raven. The two of you share a soul bond, so it is best for you to be here for this. You will learn more as well, and you will both take comfort in your closeness through the bond.” Freyja led them to a cluster of plush chairs. “This will take a while, and so we should be comfortable.”

    “With your permission, my Lady?” Ingrid asked.

    “Of course. I will begin after you finish,” Freyja replied.

    Alva and Ingrid moved to Tanja and Raven with fresh bandages. “Please let us see your hands,” Alva said, gesturing toward Tanja’s bandaged hand.

    “Okay...” Tanja said as she and Raven held out their hands to them.

    “Why did you not want me to use magic to heal the cuts?” Raven asked.

    “Because of the spell you used, they're sympathetically linked to the bond and their condition will indicate the status of your recovery,” Ingrid replied as she and Alva carefully removed the bandages, inspecting the cuts.

    “So if they look like they’re infected it means there’s a problem with the bond?” Tanja asked.

    “Not necessarily. It could simply mean the cuts are infected, but due to the link, that could possibly create a problem with the bond,” Alva said.

    “If there is a problem with the bond, it will be reflected in the cuts, but if the cuts are healing well, then your souls are healing well also,” Ingrid said.

    “I see. Thank you,” Raven said.

    The two examined the cuts, then looked at each other and nodded before applying fresh bandages. “I assume you treated each other’s hands?” Alva asked, glancing up at Tanja.

    “Not exactly... I had to have Raven do most of it because all the glowing stuff is messing with my eyes.”

    “The cuts are clean and appear to be healing properly,” Ingrid said.

    “We believe neither of you will have scars from this,” Alva said. “If, after it heals, either of your souls are harmed or in danger, the cut will let your partner know.”

    “A side effect of the spell, I assume,” Raven said.

    “Yes.” Having finished their task, Alva and Ingrid moved to sit together on another couch to the side.

    Freyja looked at Tanja. “I have already told Raven and Richard what I believed would be enough to convince you of what was necessary. How much do you already know, my little skogkatt?”

    “They...they told me that you’re...that you’re actually a goddess...not just named after her, like I thought...but that you actually are her...I...I didn’t believe them at first, I mean, I didn’t even know Raven, but Dick’s always been nice to me, I don’t think he’d lie...”

    “They told you the truth.”

    “Why didn’t you ever tell me? I mean...I always knew you weren’t like other people’s moms, but...why did you hide something like this from me?”

    “The reasons are complicated. It started years before you were born, in Asgard.” She told them of the summons she had received from the Norns, what she learned during her visit, and her encounter with Huginn when she left the hut. “After that, I began making arrangements and performing divination spells and rituals. I learned that Midgard had entered a new Age of Heroes, and that reality had indeed been torn and warped several times. I also learned that if I followed the path the Norns had laid before me, I would bear another daughter, and of many terrible possibilities if that daughter learned too much too soon. And finally, I learned that the correct time for her to begin to learn would be when the fate of her soul hung in the balance. Can you guess the truth behind my nickname for you?”

    “You mean it’s not because I like cats and the story of Erik Skogkatt?”
    [*pronounced 'Shiv-awn']
    • Like x 1
  15. velvetsanity Loyal Player

    “It is that and more, because Erik Skogkatt is your father.”

    “He...what? is that possible? He died over a thousand years ago!”

    “Yes, and when he died, I had him brought to Sessrúmnir, not Valhalla, because I was the one who taught him the magic he used to protect his village after I found Alva nursing him back to health when I visited her home.”

    Tanja looked at Alva, who nodded.

    “Sessrúmnir is your home?” Raven asked.

    “My hall, yes, as Valhalla is Odin’s. Half of those who die in battle come to me and half go to him. As the leader of the Valkyries, I make the decision as to who goes where. We need two separate and balanced forces, so that they have someone to train against as they prepare for Ragnarok.”

    Tanja nodded. “That...actually kind of makes sense...and...I guess that explains my ears, too?”

    Freyja smiled. “Yes, they definitely came from your father. So did your love of performing for an audience as well as your steadfast and courageous nature.”

    “So I really am part faerie? And what do you mean ‘steadfast and courageous nature’?”

    “Elf, not faerie. Your grandmother, Siobhan, was of the tribe of Danu, which originated in Alfheim. The ability to clearly see magical energies directly is common among elves - your grandmother had it from birth, though it didn’t develop in your father until I began teaching him. If you are having difficulties with seeing normally, as he did at first, these difficulties will be temporary, much like adjusting to brightness or darkness. And also like your father, you not only endure hardships and survive - I have seen many people lose themselves in despair and misery after far less than what you have suffered - but you turn that experience into strength for the benefit of others. You cannot imagine how proud of you I was when you came to me with your idea for the Foundation and then insisted on doing as much of the work yourself as you could.”

    “Okay. Umm...if my father died a thousand years ago, how can he be my father? I mean...I’ve never heard any stories of ghosts making babies.”

    “When the warriors arrive in Asgard, their bodies are restored to them in perfect health, and any injuries, even deadly ones, are healed at the end of each day’s training.”

    “Oh. Does this mean I’ll get to meet him now that I know?”

    “Only if you visit Asgard. Heimdallr will not permit Einherjar access to Bifrost until Ragnarok comes, to avoid accidentally causing it. Once you have proven yourself as a Hero, I will be able to convince him to let you cross the bridge occasionally, if you do not discover another way to reach Asgard.”

    Tanja swallowed and nodded. “Is there anything else I should know?”

    Freyja smiled. “I have much to teach you while you are recovering from your ordeal and the bonding.”




    Freyja looked over from where she was watching Tanja practice creating a mage light. “Yes, Bryn?”

    “The communications relay we’ve been working on with the Sentinels is ready, and includes a secure link to the Justice League. We’re using Erika’s office computer on this side. Nightwing is contacting them now to give an update.”

    “They’ll probably want to hear directly from me as well considering the situation,” Raven said.

    “Very well. Diana may also wish to speak with Tanja and myself, and it is nearly time for dinner as well, so we will take a break.”

    “Oracle here.”

    “Hey, Oracle, it’s Nightwing. Can you patch a video link through to Wonder Woman?”

    “She’s already on and waiting. Just a second.”

    “This is Wonder Woman. Oracle tells me you finally have an update?”

    “Yeah, sorry it took so long. They had to figure out a way to let communications pass through the wards without compromising them.”

    “I see. Were you successful?”

    “Yes, but there are some pretty serious complications.”

    “I’m listening.”

    “To start with...Freyja Vanity isn’t exactly what she seems. It turns out that she’s a Viking goddess.”

    “And also friends with Aphrodite.”

    “Oh. You’re aware of why she’s living as a mortal on earth, then?”

    “She wanted to reacquaint herself with humanity, and after Tanja was born wanted her to experience life as an ordinary human. There’s more, but those are the relevant points.”

    “Ah. That fits with what she told us. I’ll move on to the second complication, then. She recognized me, and apparently Kory was a Vanity Girl, so they knew her immediately as well.”

    “Is that surprising?”

    “Not once she explained who and what she is, no. But she made us swear an oath to keep that secret before she was willing to tell us.”

    “Your identity will be safe with her. And all things considered, I strongly recommend you keep that oath. You didn’t break it just now by telling me, did you?”

    “I intend to, and no, we made an exception for the core members of the Justice League. There are more complications, so I’ll move on. We’re all going to be here for another day or two, and longer for Raven - who just walked in, and she can probably explain it better than I can.”

    “Explain what?” Raven asked.

    “About having to stay here because of the soul bond.”

    Freyja moved to stand behind Nightwing, resting her arms on the back of the chair and looking over his shoulder. “Please, Richard, allow me. Hello, Diana.”

    “Hello, Freyja. You’re not kidnapping my friends, I hope.”

    Freyja smiled. “Only long enough to keep Tanja and Raven safe while they recover from the bonding process, then you may have them back. We will be able to allow Richard and Koriand’r to pass through the wards in a couple of days - that is how long it will take to adapt the wards to let them pass, and after that they will be able to pass through freely unless the wards are reset to deny their passage. For Tanja and Raven I estimate two weeks before it will be safe to lower the wards, but I will be watching them closely as I teach Tanja the basics of magic. Then, if she makes the choice I believe she will, you may have her also. She is much like her father, after all.”

    “Moooom!” Tanja, who was standing at the side of the desk, rolled her eyes.

    “Who is her father, by the way?”

    “One of my Einherjar.”

    “ he’s in Asgard until your Ragnarok, then?”

    “That is correct.”

    “Alright. Tell me more about this soul bond.”

    “It is a permanent connection between their souls. One of the reasons for my estimate is that they must come to know each other and decide on what their relationship to each other will be. Also, because Tanja did not have access to the magical abilities that are her heritage, they had to use a dangerously simple spell to create it, one that requires their souls to have time to recover and adjust to the bond, particularly given the differing natures of their parents. I arranged what protections I could while allowing for the protections to be able to be adapted to the relationship they choose.” She looked over at Tanja and Raven, amused at how they almost seemed to be unconsciously trying to melt into each other with how close together they were standing. “The spell used also gave them an intense need for physical contact that will fade as they recover, possibly entirely should practicality or the relationship they choose make that preferable.”

    “What sorts of relationships are we talking about here? What are their options?”

    “Almost any relationship is possible with the way I configured the protections. The only things that are certain are that they will be close, and that the bond will remain possibly for as long as the Endless will exist. I knew that the bond would require permanence because it needed to be able to transfer a spell that contained my magical signature to unlock Tanja’s inherited gifts, but what was forged was far stronger than I had anticipated. They have much in common despite the natures of their parents and upbringing.”

    “I see. What is this ‘Endless’ you mentioned?”

    Freyja smiled enigmatically. “That is not for me to tell.”

    “Alright. Dick said Raven was there, and I’m guessing that was Tanja’s voice I heard a minute ago. If you don’t mind, I need to speak with them.”

    “Of course.” She stepped back and moved off to one side as Raven and Tanja stepped in front of the camera, where they again gave the impression of trying to melt into each other within seconds, arms around waists and leaning into each other.

    “I see what you mean about the physical contact, Freyja,” Diana said, eyes twinkling with amusement. “Hello Raven, Tanja. How are you doing?”

    “Strange but well, all things considered,” Raven said.

    Tanja gave a nervous chuckle. “Umm...Hello. I’ve...had a lot of surprises. I’m still trying to absorb it all.”

    “I imagine you’re feeling a bit like I did when I first left Themyscira: surprised, shocked, awed, and a bit overwhelmed and confused. Give yourself time to adjust and don’t try to rush it.” Diana smiled. “At least you already know the language and have some idea of what you can expect.”


    “I’ll be helping as much as possible,” Raven said.

    “Anyway,” Diana continued, “let me get this out of the way first. Tanja, we’re setting up a mentor program for those affected by exobytes who want to learn to use their new abilities to help others, if you’re interested. Those whose abilities are magical, mythological, or supernatural in nature will be mentored by me. Since you clearly fall into that category, if you do decide to enter into the program, that means that I’d be monitoring your progress. Most missions you’d get until you’re ready to strike out on your own would come from me, but not all of them. I’d be arranging for any teachers and training you may want or need, as well. Your situation is...well...unique, since so far you’re the only person we know of that’s been affected by the exobytes that wasn’t entirely a normal human beforehand, so I’d also be working to arrange for other people to make themselves available to you as resources as needed.” She paused. “You’d be living in either Metropolis or Gotham until you complete the program. We have dorms available until you can find an apartment to call your own, and you will be rewarded for missions while you’re in the program.”

    Tanja swallowed and nodded. “I don’t have to decide right away, do I?”

    “No, there’s plenty of time before you can leave there anyway. And even if you decide against it now, you can always change your mind later. I just wanted you to be aware of it now so that you can think it over.”

    “Okay. I’ll keep it in mind, then. Thank you.”

    “If you enter this program,” Freyja said, “you may of course live in the Gotham penthouse.”

    “Freyja, what’s the address there? There might be a problem with that.”

    Freyja told Diana the address.

    “I was afraid of that. That’s one of the buildings that’s been bottled.”

    “‘Bottled’?” Freyja asked.

    “It’s what we’re calling it. It means the building has been sealed off by Brainiac and the only way to get access is to become one of his mind controlled slaves.”

    Freyja frowned. “Oh dear.”

    “You have my condolences for anyone you might have lost.”

    “Thank you.”

    “We’ll have compiled a list of available apartments of all types in both Metropolis and Gotham by the time it’s safe for Tanja and Raven to leave there. I can send you a copy as soon as we have it if you’d like.”

    “Yes, please, there are some events in the area that I was planning to attend.”

    “Alright. I’ll see that Erika gets it. Now, Tanja, Raven, Dick, why don’t you fill me in on what happened and what you found. Tanja, you should start, since this started with you. What were you doing when it all started? What happened from your perspective?”
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  16. velvetsanity Loyal Player

    “Umm...well...I had just finished doing tai chi forms and was on my way in to take a shower. I felt some sort of sting or bite on my neck, and the next thing I knew I was in a strange place with someone who looked like me but not like me...she was wearing a bodysuit with a sort of feathered theme and a helmet that looked like a bird’s head. We looked at each other for a moment, then I looked around and she attacked me. I tried to defend myself, but it was like I was a beginner.”

    “What do you mean?”

    “I practice tai chi chuan and judo, and those were what she was using against me. And it was as if I had never once practiced any of the moves of either school, or at least as if I had less than half of the training I’ve had. She clearly didn’t have my level of skill - my normal level of skill, I mean, but she was winning easily. And then we both noticed the cave, and that distracted her, so I hid. For a while she switched her attention back and forth between me and the cave, focusing on me when I tried to get closer to the cave...I didn’t know what it was, but something in the cave was calling to me, something that felt important, something that I needed to protect and claim for myself. While I was resting after another failed attempt to get closer to it, Dick and Raven showed up. By then it felt like I’d been in that clearing trying to reach the cave for days.”

    Raven picked it up from here. “The location was her soulscape, and she was fighting a construct formed from the part of her soul that the exobyte had successfully infected. Doctor Fate is correct in that they affect more than just the physical. I think they’re keyed to home in on pure humans, and the seal on her magical heritage blinded it to the fact that she’s only partly human. Then, when the infection was unable to run its usual swift course, that somehow resulted in Tanja being pulled into her own soul. The cave she mentioned is where her magical heritage had been sealed away. We needed to not only remove the seal, but also be certain that the construct wouldn’t be able to get any part of the power. The infection and Tanja being trapped inside of her own soul combined to create too much interference for Freyja to reliably remove the seal - removing it required her magical signature. I volunteered to carry the unlocking spell and transfer it to Tanja using a soul bond to guarantee its integrity. We had to stop the infection from completing its task, and both unsealing her power and the soul bond provided the least risk as well as a number of benefits for both of us.”

    “I see.”

    Raven and Nightwing continued describing what had happened from their perspective, pausing to let Tanja describe what she found inside the cave. Once she described the necklace, she paused and looked at Freyja. “That choker, was that what Brísingamen looks like? And did it disappear because it was just a symbol of the power I inherited from you?”

    Freyja grinned mischievously. “All last night and today, and neither of you noticed? I am not surprised with all your distractions.”

    “Noticed what?” Tanja and Raven replied in unison.

    “You are still wearing it.” Freyja gestured towards Tanja’s neck. Everyone looked and Tanja brought her hand to her throat, surprised at what she felt there. Resting there, previously unnoticed, was an incredibly lovely gold and amber torc. “And it is not Brísingamen, though it has a similar quality. Before you were born, I traveled to Svartálfheimr to see about having another made to be a gift for when you claimed your heritage, but they refused. Instead, they made a new design that was its equal, for the same price I paid for the original. When you were born, I enchanted it to hold your power behind the seal until it became time for the seal to be lifted. Once you claimed your power, the enchantment upon it ended, and it is once again simply an enhancer of beauty and its only magic is in the genius of its design. It will go very well with anything you might wear no matter the style - so well that it may often not be noticed unless it is absent - and will always fit perfectly no matter who wears it. It will also accept enchantments easily. If you wish, Raven, I am willing to arrange for one to be made for you as well.”

    “I don’t normally wear much jewelry, but if you have one made for me, then I’ll wear it.”

    Freyja nodded.

    “It’s a beautiful necklace,” Diana said. “But if you could continue your story...”

    Tanja blushed. “Sorry.”

    Diana smiled. “That’s alright.”

    They continued through Tanja and Raven falling asleep after eating. “And today, Starfire and I continued studying the exobyte while Raven and Freyja started teaching Tanja magic,” Nightwing concluded.

    “And helping me deal with the whirlwind of revelations. Not to mention my vision problem while I adjust.”

    “Vision problem?” Diana asked.

    “I can see magic now, and I can’t turn that off. It’s making it hard for me to see things around me in the normal sense if they have any magic at all. Mom said that’ll pass as I get used to it, but it’ll take time. And it turns out there’s a lot of magic in the house, and the wards aren’t helping because even the walls, ceilings and floors are glowing. I’d be almost helpless in a lot of ways right now without Raven.”

    Raven nodded. “We’ve also experimented a bit with various possibilities regarding the protections on the bond. So far that’s mostly been to help her learn faster, but we did try a few things to get a better idea of what we’ll want the permanent configuration to be.”

    “Oh? What kinds of possibilities are we talking about? And why haven’t I seen Starfire yet?”

    “She’s taking a nap,” Nightwing replied.

    “Alright. I imagine it’s close to dinner time there, so we can discuss the exobyte after you eat. Tanja, Raven? What kinds of possibilities have you experimented with?”

    Raven answered, “They’re mostly related to how aware of each other we are and sharing information. Apparently it can go from barely knowing that each other is alive all the way to shared consciousness, where we essentially become one mind in two bodies. Other possibilities include a locational sense, where we would always know exactly which direction the other is and how far; empathy ranging from a dim sense of whether the other is ok to complete awareness of each other’s emotions that’s much stronger than my normal ability; telepathy in varying degrees; shared senses - that can be any number of senses with varying degrees of intensity; access to each other’s memories without any other form of communication...everything can vary in intensity from ‘not at all’ to completely merging or replacing that aspect of ourselves. For example, we could arrange it so that we each see through the other’s eyes but not what our own eyes see. We could also do the same for actions and control of our bodies. There’s also the possibility of setting up various types of feedback loops between us. Everything can be one-sided or go both ways.”

    “We’re, umm, very very aware of each other right now,” Tanja said.

    “It’s helping her learn much more quickly, but outside of working on that, it’s actually highly distracting for both of us. It will be severely toned down at the least before we leave here. Probably within the next few days, as soon as she has the basics down.”

    “Some of that sounds like you could completely lose track of who you are. It sounds dangerous.”

    “It’s very dangerous, which is why mom’s helping us, along with Alva and Ingrid. They have a soul bond that they call a ‘lovers’ bond’.”

    Freyja stepped back into the camera’s view. “As an example of the danger, have you heard of the Morrigan from Ireland?” Diana nodded. “She was originally three people who had bonded their souls with each other, without the proper protection spells.”

    Diana winced. “I see. I’m glad they have someone of your ability and knowledge to help and supervise them.”

    “In normal conditions, a soul bond is planned to the smallest detail long before even beginning to design the necessary spells, and so the protections are designed to be very difficult to alter once the final spell is cast, which can be up to several months after beginning the process, if the pair was not careful enough in planning or casting the spells and adjustments are needed. A very strong combined effort from both partners is needed to make even the most minute change once the configuration is locked. Because of the circumstances of this bonding, I crafted the spells to be far more flexible and adaptable than is normal. Also, neither of them has done the research that normally goes with the planning, and so I will be placing the final spell into the protections myself as well as guiding them very closely as they experiment with the possibilities. This means that to make a change they will require my assistance if they later decide a change is needed. Once they have researched the appropriate magics and theories to my satisfaction, I will assist in removing that requirement if asked. Until the configuration is locked, there is great danger to them both if someone attempts to tamper with or manipulate the protections. This is the other reason they must remain here for now.”

    There was a knock at the door, and Erika poked her head in. “Dinner’s ready.”

    “Thank you, Erika. It is time for us to eat. Will you need to speak with Tanja and Raven again after dinner?”

    “I’ll need some information from Tanja for our files. Otherwise, I think that will cover it until the parameters of the bond are finalized. We’ll want the details on that. Please keep me updated on their recovery.”

    “I will, Diana. And thank you again for helping Tanja.”

    “We’ll call you back after we eat,” Nightwing said.

    “It’s my shift for watch duty, so I’ll be here. Enjoy your dinner.”


    Watchtower Monitor Womb

    “After dinner, Nightwing, Starfire and I went over what they’d learned from the exobyte itself, and they sent me files with their findings. I’ve already updated the exobyte database,” Diana concluded.

    Bruce nodded. “So, Nightwing and Starfire are out of action for the next couple of days, and Raven for the next couple of weeks. Tanja may or may not enter the mentor program, and Freyja's resolute on remaining neutral with the exception of helping Tanja and Raven with issues regarding this soul bond they share now.”

    “That’s about it. They did make a really cute couple when I talked with them. I’m curious to see if they take that route or not.”

    “They’d be an interesting pair to watch, that much is certain. Computer, end recording. Filter and sort the entire conversation and append everything pertinent to all of the appropriate files. And now, Diana, you need sleep even more than I do.”

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  17. velvetsanity Loyal Player

    <translated from Chinese>


    Tanja reached over from where she was snuggling with Raven to grab her cellphone off the nightstand. “Hello?”

    “Tanja! Finally! Are you alright? What happened?”

    “Ya Ning?”

    “Yes. Your house was on the news, something about those exobyte things in the Justice League’s warning.”

    “Oh. Umm, yeah. I got bitten by one.”

    “Are you alright?”

    “I will be, but it’s really complicated.”

    “What do you mean?”

    “It turns out there are some things in my family history that I didn’t know about.”

    “Are you going to tell me? If everyone’s alright, I need to know what to tell my mother so she can stop worrying. Also, she wants me to get your mother’s cell number from you.”

    “Everyone’s fine now, though my family history complicated things. There’s no need to worry. I’ll text you mom’s number.”

    “Alright. Will you be able to join us for New Year’s? You know we’re spending it in Los Angeles this year.”

    “Oh. Umm...I’m not sure yet, but I’ll let you know.”

    “Alright. I look forward to seeing you again.”

    “Yeah, me too.”

    “It’s late, so I’ll let you go for now. I want to hear all about what happened. The news said some of the Titans were there.”

    “Yeah, they are. I’ll call as soon as I know whether I’ll be able to join you for New Year’s.”

    “Alright. Goodnight.”


    Tanja hung up the phone and looked at it, then sighed, handing it to Raven. “I can’t even read stuff on my own phone right now. This sucks.”

    Raven nodded and started looking through the contact list. “Yang Ya Ning? Is that your martial arts teacher?”

    “His daughter. We became friends over the summers I went to Seattle to study with him directly.”

    “Okay. Which of your mom’s numbers should I send her?”

    “Her cellphone.”

    Raven nodded and fiddled with the phone for a few moments, then handed it back to Tanja, who returned it to the nightstand and they went back to snuggling, slowly drifting off to sleep.



    Freyja picked up the phone and answered it. “<Hello, Fang Hong.*>”

    “<Goddess, please forgive me if I am disturbing you. I apologize for the late hour, but I had to have Ya Ning get your number from Tanja for me. Your house was on the news tonight, and you know how fond of Tanja I am, so I was worried.>”

    Freyja smiled. “<That’s quite alright, Fang Hong. I’ve been expecting a call from you ever since we got the phones working. And you know I prefer you to use my name.>”

    “<Well, yes, but it just wouldn’t be *proper* if I didn’t acknowledge your nature at *some* point in the conversation. May I ask what happened? Is everyone alright?>”

    “<Everyone is alright, yes. Essentially, destiny revealed the beginning of its path for Tanja through one of those exobytes.>”

    “<Those things from the warning on the news last week? Does this mean you’ve told her about her heritage?>”

    “<Yes, and some complications mean that her soul is now magically bound to that of another.>”

    “<What do you mean? I’ve never understood any of the mystical things Grandmother talks about when we see her.>”

    “<A soul bond can be described as the actual state of being that a wedding or marriage is symbolic of, though those sharing a soul bond aren’t necessarily destined to be spouses or lovers. Identical twins often have such a bond.>”

    “<Oh. Oh my. I was planning to give Tanja another dress for New Year’s - we’re spending it with my cousin in Los Angeles this year to celebrate Tanja’s graduation. Who is he? Do you have his measurements? I’ll need to get a shirt made for him.>”

    Freyja smiled. “<*She* is one of the Heroes from San Francisco, one of the Titans. I’ll text you the measurements you need and some suggestions on color and design for her dress. You may wish to consider some alterations for Tanja’s dress, too. She’ll need to be able to fight in it, if she joins the Heroes as I believe she will.>”

    “<Another woman? Well, you did say that identical twins have a bond of this sort. Alright. I’ll call my aunt once you send me the measurements; she’s making Tanja’s dress. Hopefully she’s not too busy to get them both done in time.>”

    “<I’m sure it will work out. Oh, please make it clear to your husband that I approve of their bond and not to be alarmed when you meet Raven. Tanja might not take it well if he reacted poorly to Raven because of her heritage. She’s a good person in spite of her father. Also, call her Rachel when you give her measurements to Xiulan.>”

    “<I’ll be sure to do that. For now, though, I think perhaps we should both get some sleep.>”

    “<I agree. I’ll send you her measurements first thing in the morning. Goodnight, Fang Hong.>”

    “<Goodnight, Freyja.>”

    “This is Lois Lane for Daily Planet Live. Yesterday, several members of the team of superheroes known as the Titans were seen arriving at the famed Vanity Mansion, home of legendary adult film actress Freyja Vanity and her daughter Tanja, followed less than an hour later by the Sentinels of Magic barricading and warding the entire estate. When questioned, the Sentinels have only said that there’s nothing to worry about, but implied that one or more exobytes may be involved.”
    “I’m Jack Ryder and You Are Wrong! Why? Because you think the ultra-rich and super-famous aren’t being affected by this invasion of robotic fleas from the future, these so-called exobytes. Just yesterday the Sentinels of Magic sealed off the fabled Vanity Mansion because somebody there was bitten by one! You think that only certain socioeconomic groups are vulnerable to these exobytes? Well, friend, You Are Wrong!”

    The days pass quickly for Tanja and Raven. Tanja rekindles her friendships with Dick and Kori, and they return to San Francisco far too soon for Tanja’s liking. As predicted, Tanja quickly adjusts to her new Sight and learns she can compensate for the distraction when needed by having a nonmagical wooden surface behind what she’s reading, though the need becomes rarer by the day as she continues to adjust. Also as predicted she picks up the basics of magic at a phenomenal rate, with Raven proving equally adept at learning the basics of tai chi. They continue experimenting with the bond including a few more...intimate...experiments and eventually decide on flexibility, having their shared awareness submerged to an instinctive level with the ability to raise it to a conscious level when circumstances warrant, and settle on a relationship of near-sisters with optional benefits for those rare occasions when being there for each other simply isn’t enough. Tanja does decide to enter into the mentor program and makes plans to leave for Metropolis after spending a couple of extra weeks with Raven. The protections on the bond are finalized and Freyja declares them recovered enough for the wards to be deactivated just in time to celebrate the Chinese New Year with the Yang family...

    Chinatown, Los Angeles

    “Here it is.”

    Fang Hong led the girls into a small shop, which as they entered they saw was filled with displays of beautiful Chinese clothing and bolts of fabric.

    Raven looked around curiously, wondering about the anticipation she was sensing from Tanja, who was already following the shopkeeper into the back room. “These are beautiful dresses, but why are we here?”

    “It’s become a tradition to give Tanja some clothing when we see her. Sometimes it’s a dress, sometimes it’s a shirt and pants. It reminds her that we consider her to be family,” Ya Ning said.

    “She was so very fragile the first time she came to us to train with my husband directly,” Fang Hong said. Raven raised an eyebrow. “She’s not nearly as fragile now as she was then, but in some ways she’s still very vulnerable. It was only a few months after...well, just before she got out of the hospital, her mother contacted us and arranged a meeting. My husband sensed what she is, and of course we had to help. We also agreed to keep Tanja’s heritage secret until Freyja told us it was safe for Tanja to know.”

    “Wait. You and father knew the entire time? Why didn’t you tell me or Yajie?”

    “The agreement was that we must never speak of it to *anyone* before she revealed it to Tanja. And would either of you have believed us if we had told you? Would you have been able to protect the knowledge and keep it from *everyone*, *especially* Tanja? I had trouble believing it, even after she demonstrated proof.”

    “That’s a very good point,” Ya Ning conceded.

    “So how did buying her clothes become a tradition?”

    “Well, one day I found her looking at one of our wedding photos and she remarked on how beautiful my wedding dress was, so we surprised her by giving her a similar dress as a birthday gift. She loved it so much that we turned it into a tradition.”

    Raven nodded. At that moment, Tanja emerged from the back room wearing an exquisite sky blue ankle-length qipao and posed. “What do you think?”

    “The slits go a bit higher than I’d be comfortable with, but it looks lovely on you,” Fang Hong said.

    “I may have to get jealous of your beauty all over again,” Ya Ning responded, smiling.

    “It looks incredible,” Raven replied.

    “Excellent,” Xiulan, the shopkeeper, said. “You are Rachel?” Raven nodded. “Come with me, please.”

    Xiulan moved towards the back room and paused in the doorway, waving for Raven to follow.


    “Since you have this connection to Tanja, we felt it appropriate for you to also receive a dress.”

    “Oh...” She followed Xiulan into the back room.

    Fang Hong frowned as she watched Raven leave the room. “Is she alright? She seems a little...well...unfeeling.”

    “Because of her abilities and her father, she had to be raised to suppress her emotions as much as possible.”

    “You mean like the Vulcans on Star Trek?” Ya Ning said.

    “Yeah, exactly.” Tanja nodded.

    “Oh, I see. So she *does* feel, but her feelings are deeply buried. But this bond you have with her makes you aware of how she’s feeling?”

    “Mmhmm, if I just focus even a little bit on the bond. Right now she’s not sure what to think or how to feel. I don’t think she was expecting to be accepted like this. It’s...she’s used to people being uncomfortable around her because she comes across as so unfeeling.”

    “Well, we remember what *you* were like when we first met you. It’s probably even harder for *her* to admit to any vulnerability or pain than it was for you because of her upbringing, but I have no doubt that it’s there just as I knew it was with you. And since your mother approves of your bond with her, then I’m just as sure that she’s as deserving of love and support as you are. She’ll come around, even if we can’t see it in her expressions.”

    Tanja smiled. “And that’s why I love you guys so much. You make it easy to feel loved and cared for.”

    Fang Hong returned the smile. “No more than you make it easy to love and care, which is *very* easy. We should sit. Since this is the first dress Xiulan has made for her, it will likely take a while no matter how accurate the measurements your mother gave me were.” Fang Hong moved to the seats placed on one side of the room and sat, the two younger women following her lead.

    “I can’t believe you’re really going to be joining the Justice League,” Ya Ning said.

    “I know, I’m still having trouble believing it myself. This isn’t anything I ever expected to happen to me. I’m still trying to get used to the idea that my mom’s - well, you know. Nevermind everything else that’s happened.”
    • Like x 1
  18. velvetsanity Loyal Player

    “How will this affect your plans to be an actress?”

    Tanja shook her head. “I don’t know yet, honestly. I know they’ll need to be put on hold, at least temporarily, but beyond that... I really have no idea.”

    “Well,” Fang Hong said, “you know that we and your mother will stand with you and support you, no matter how things turn out.”

    “I know. It does make me a bit nervous to have all my plans turned sideways like this, but at the same time it feels *right*. Like this is how it’s supposed to be.”

    “I would think that that means that you’re on the proper path that destiny has chosen for you.”

    “You’re probably right. I just hope it doesn’t have a tragic ending.”

    Fang Hong smiled. “I like to think that real tragedy only comes when we either ignore or avoid our destinies.”

    Tanja smiled back. “That’s definitely a comforting thought. Thanks.”

    “You’re welcome, dear.”

    The women continued to wait, and after what seemed like an eternity during which they continued to chat, Raven finally emerged from the backroom wearing a midnight blue qipao that matched Tanja’s perfectly and walked over to them. Nervously, she asked, “how do I look?”

    “Turn around so they can see,” Xiulan instructed. As Raven slowly turned in a circle, they all smiled.

    “You look absolutely lovely,” Fang Hong said. “You’ve outdone yourself. I know it couldn’t have been easy to get it done on such short notice.”

    “Bah. From what you said, she’s important to Tanja. And since you keep insisting that Tanja’s family, that makes her family. How could I not? Now, Rachel, this is a winter qipao. It will keep you warm at this time of year, but the heavy fabric means it will be much too warm in summer. Come back in a few weeks and I’ll have a summer one ready for you.”

    “Thank you.”

    “You’re welcome. Your other clothes will be safe here until you’re ready to go home for the night. Go eat breakfast. I have one more thing to finish before I can join you.”

    “Is your mother not joining us this year?”

    “Her plane landed very late last night so she stayed in a hotel. She should be here soon.”

    “Alright. We’ll see you at Chen’s, then.”

    They exited the shop and before they went two blocks...

    “You’re not chinese! Leave qipao to Chinese people! Stop appropriating our culture!”

    They turned to see a young Chinese woman in slacks and a blouse. Tanja raised an eyebrow. “People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.”

    “What’s *that* supposed to mean?”

    “<Is it wise for a Chinese person to complain about non-Chinese wearing Chinese clothing when they themselves are wearing clothing that originated in Europe?>” Tanja asked.

    “<Well said, Tanja,>” Fang Hong said.

    “<Very well said, indeed. Young woman, you will apologize for your rudeness now.>”

    The young woman turned to see another Chinese woman who appeared about Fang Hong’s age walking towards them with a very erect posture and a regal demeanor. “You should be siding with me on this!”

    “I am far older than you, child, and also far wiser. Do as I said before you lose more face.”

    Grumbling, the young woman gave a surly apology and left.

    “Good morning, Dai Yu. We were just on our way to Chen’s for breakfast. Xiulan said she had one more thing to finish before she joins us.”

    “Good morning to you as well, Fang Hong, Ya Ning.” Dai Yu looked Tanja and Raven over. “This is most unusual. A daughter of a goddess and a daughter of a demon, and their souls are wedded. Most unusual, indeed.” She gestured towards Tanja. “You I have met once, before you started college. Later, I asked Fang Hong about you, and she explained what I saw in you, after speaking with your mother about my questions. You have finished your studies?”

    Tanja nodded. “Yes, I graduated just before Christmas break.”

    “Congratulations. You, however,” she looked at Raven, “I have not met before.”

    “<My name is Rachel. It’s nice to meet you.”>

    “<It is nice to meet you as well, Rachel.>” She looked at Tanja. “<I see that you are now in possession of your inherited gifts. When did this happen? Did it coincide with your bonding?>”

    “<Umm...two weeks ago, and yes. It was kind of complicated how it happened.>”

    Dai Yu nodded. “<I also notice that you are wearing earrings that allow you to understand and speak Chinese fluently.>”

    Tanja blushed. “<Mom gave me the earrings yesterday. They’re supposed to let me understand and speak any language known by the people around me and eventually learn those languages. My Chinese is still horrible without them. How did you know about them and the bond?>”

    Dai Yu smiled. “<Like you, I, too, am a sorceress. Though Chinese sorcery is somewhat different from the western sorcery you have no doubt begun learning. I will not say that one is better than the other, only that they are different. If you had more experience with your Sight you would have known that I was a sorceress from my aura.>”


    “<She’s planning to go to Metropolis and learn to be a hero with the Justice League,>” Ya Ning said.

    “<Oh? Then when you are ready to learn Chinese sorcery, you will visit me there and I will have the honor of teaching the daughter of a goddess. Even though your mother is not a member of the Jade Court, it would still be an honor for me. Knowing both forms of sorcery will make you unpredictable to your opponents as well as preparing you for facing a Chinese sorcerer. Now, I must see if Xiulan has finished the dress she is making for me. My daughter, too, is a sorceress, Tanja, though she has very little power compared to you and I. If you observe what is common to both of our auras you will begin to know how to identify another sorcerer. Please excuse me. I will meet you at Chen’s.>”

    The group moved aside to give Dai Yu room. Tanja studied her aura closely as she passed, and shook her head. “I think I’ll have to see them together to figure it out.”

    “You’ll get a chance to do just that when they join us at the restaurant,” Fang Hong said. “Come, it’s only a few more blocks.”

    Quickly enough they reached a Chinese restaurant, and though the sign on the door proclaimed they wouldn’t open for another two hours, went inside.


    “<There are a lot of similarities in your auras.>”

    “<Many of them are because we’re closely related. Those aspects will be different in the auras of sorcerers that aren’t related to us. With time and experience you’ll learn what the various things you see mean.>”

    Tanja nodded as they continued eating.

    “<Tanja, didn’t you say that one of your majors was singing? If it’s not too much trouble, perhaps you could demonstrate what you’ve learned?>” Grandmaster Yang asked.

    Tanja blushed. “<I’d be happy too, but I don’t know any Chinese songs...>”

    “<Whatever you know well enough to feel comfortable singing will be fine.>”

    Tanja thought for a minute, then nodded. “<Alright. I know what I’ll sing.>” She got up from the table and moved a few steps away as everyone turned to watch her. After a few moments of focusing herself, she began to sing.

    o/‘ You had plenty of money in - o/‘

    Dai Yu slammed her hand down on the table hard, snapping “<Stop!>” in a commanding tone. Startled, everyone, Tanja included, looked at her in confusion.

    “<Your Power is being woven into your voice, Tanja. As you are so new to your abilities, I cannot believe this is intentional. Do you know yet which element you have an affinity for?>”


    “<Different kinds of spells are tied to the various elements. Which one comes easiest for you?>”

    “<Her affinity is air,>” Raven said.

    Dai Yu nodded. “<That matches what I saw. Tanja, it may be that one of your talents is influencing minds and emotions with your voice. Mind magic is strongly connected to the element of air. When will you arrive in Metropolis?>”

    “<In about two weeks. Why?>”

    “<When you do, you will come to see me immediately, so that I can teach you to control this effect. You will not want to influence people unintentionally. For now, however...>” She made a gesture, her lips moving silently. “<I have warded both this room and everyone here. It is safe for you to sing for us now. Your voice will reach us but the power will not.>”

    Tanja nodded and took a minute to focus herself, then started again.

    As she finished, they all applauded.

    “<You may continue singing, if you wish. I will hold the wards until you are finished.>”

    Tanja nodded. “<I’ll do just one more, then. The second half of this is supposed to be literally impossible to perform properly, though some people can get close. One of the professors overheard me practicing it and tried to get me to change my major from acting to singing in my freshman year.>”

    Curious, they all sat up straighter, paying close attention.

    “<That was incredible!>”
    “<I thought they used synthesizers for that in the movie!>”

    “<Not quite...they had an opera singer perform each note separately and spliced it together. It’s the quick transitions between high and low notes that aren’t normally possible. I used to think I had a special talent for it, but now I think my heritage is the reason I can do it.>”

    “<You are very talented, Tanja, and from what I’ve heard about you, teaching you will be enjoyable,”> Dai Yu said.

    Tanja smiled, blushing. “<Thank you.>” She moved to her chair and sat down to resume eating, and they discussed their plans for the day.


    Chinatown, Los Angeles

    The group walked down the street, looking for a good vantage point for viewing the fireworks that were scheduled for that evening.

    <“This has been interesting. I’ve been to China before, but not during the New Years celebration. How does it compare to this?”> Raven said.

    <“This is but a pale shadow in comparison,”> Grandmaster Yang replied.

    <“We should hurry if we want a good spot to view the fireworks from,”> Fang Hong said.

    “Hey Red! Why don’t you come with us? We could make our own fireworks.”

    Tanja turned her head to see a group of Asian men in matching biker leathers, and stepped closer to Raven. “No thanks, you’re not my type.” The rest of the group turned and looked.

    Dai Yu almost immediately began looking around, muttering under her breath. <“Where are you...”>

    “Aw, come on, don’t be like that, Red. Your friend can come too! We’ll show you a real good time.”

    Tanja shuddered and stepped even closer to Raven, who, feeling revulsion and the beginnings of terror coming from Tanja, put an arm around her protectively.

    “You’ll have a lot more fun with us than with them. Don’t you want to have fun?”

    Dai Yu stopped looking around and stepped between the group and the thugs. “You are disturbing my family. You will leave now and not disturb them again.”

    “I’m not talking to you, old lady, I’m talking to Red.”

    Dai Yu’s lips moved silently and she made a sharp downward gesture, as if cutting something with her hand. She held her other hand out before her, palm up, at waist height. “My name is Fan Dai Yu. You will do as I said or you will share the fate of the Red Lotus.” Her voice resonated with unearthly, inhuman power as she spoke and a flame sprang up from her palm, green edged with white, like jade, and rose higher as the thugs became visibly unnerved, only to disappear as they broke and ran, a foul odor trailing after several of them.
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  19. velvetsanity Loyal Player

    “Tanja? Tanja!”

    Dai Yu turned, her eyes narrowing at the sight of Tanja shuddering and unresponsive as Raven, tears in her eyes, tried to get her attention.

    “So much pain, let me take it from you!” Raven cried.

    “Stop! You must not do that!” Dai Yu declared authoritatively. Raven glared at her.

    “What’s wrong with her?” Ya Ning asked.

    “She has been swallowed by a memory.”

    “You mean a flashback, of when she...?”

    “Yes.” Dai Yu’s voice softened sympathetically. “This pain is not real. It is only a memory, one that has been a part of her for too long to safely remove completely. It has had too great an effect on her choices and decisions. Taking it away now would harm her greatly. If you do so while she is trapped within the memory, she may be lost to us forever.”

    “Then how do I help her?”

    “She is your soul-bride. Reach for her through the bond you share. Call to her with your heart. Make her know she is safe, and only then will you be able to bring her back to us.”

    Raven nodded, her expression growing determined, and pulled Tanja close. She closed her eyes and reached within herself, seeking the bond, struggling past the pain and terror she felt pouring through it, as a shadow flew from Raven into Tanja.


    Raven found herself once again in Tanja’s soulscape. This time, however, Tanja was flooded with pain and terror long past, and Raven felt every bit of it. Struggling against the fear and pain, she flew high, searching. Spotting a clearing in an area that previously had been dense forest, and sensing that the pain and terror was originating there, she flew towards it to discover what looked like a high school football stadium.

    She landed on the edge of the clearing, and, terrified of the horror that she knew she’d find, cautiously stalked the source of the feelings.


    “Gather close around them, you must not let them be disturbed.” Dai Yu instructed.

    “What are you going to do?”

    “I am going to try to locate the demon that was influencing those young men.”

    “Demon?” Fang Hong looked alarmed.

    “Yes. Do not worry, you will be safe.”


    Carefully, stealthily, Raven followed the trail of the pain and terror towards an equipment shed on the edge of the field, the same feelings reverberating through her soul-self, flowing into her from her bond with Tanja, growing stronger the closer she got to the shed. She had to pause several times as they threatened to overwhelm her, forcing them back down, not continuing until she regained control.

    As she reached the shed she could hear a jumble of muffled voices within, though she couldn’t really make out the words. She cautiously opened the door just a crack, peeking through the opening. Pain, terror, and despair washed over her in a torrential flood and she *snapped*. Her appearance shifting to its four-eyed, redskinned, demonic form, she ripped the door off its hinges and began laying into the football players surrounding Tanja. They were hurting *her* Tanja, her *soul-sister*! This could not, *would not* be allowed! She tore through them like a hurricane, and each unsatisfyingly winked out of existence with only a few solid hits from either fists or magic.


    <“What the...”> Yajie, Ya Ning’s brother, exclaimed on seeing Raven’s appearance change.

    <“We were warned about her heritage. Whatever is happening through their bond, obviously the emotions involved have caused her heritage to become visible. If you want to know more, you’ll have to wait and ask her after she has helped Tanja.”> Grandmaster Yang replied.

    <“Yes, father.”>

    <“I see why her dress needed to be able to stretch,”> Xiulan commented. <“Though I think it’s close to the limits of the fabric I used.”>

    Dai Yu approached the group, returning from her search.

    <“Did you find anything, grandmother?”> Fang Hong asked.

    Dai Yu shook her head. <“I found traces, but she was already gone.”>


    <“The demon’s scent was clearly female. Most probably some form of lust demon, I think. All we can do now is wait.”>


    Having dispatched the last of the images of those who’d hurt Tanja and breathing hard from the exertion, Raven turned in a circle, looking for more to hit. A semiconscious moan from Tanja brought Raven mentally back to herself and she quickly knelt next to the redhead, looking her over. Tanja was a mess: bruises all over her body, several broken bones, stab wounds, her beautiful dress torn to shreds... Knowing that Tanja was in no condition to simply will away the apparent injuries yet mindful of Dai Yu’s warning, Raven quickly set about healing her by taking away the physical aspects of the pain. After a few moments and some visible improvement in Tanja’s condition, the eye that wasn’t completely swollen shut opened.


    “I’m here, Tanja. I’m here.”

    Tanja flung her arms around Raven’s shoulders and sobbed. Raven wrapped her arms around Tanja, holding her close. After a few moments she gingerly picked Tanja up, carried her out of the shed and flew them to the Azarathian clearing, the area of Tanja’s soulscape that represented the focal point of their bond, where they’d previously learned that they felt each other most keenly even with the protections in place, and simply held Tanja close as she sobbed, tears sliding down her own face at the depth and severity of Tanja’s pain.

    Eventually Tanja quieted, and most of her injuries slowly faded as she gradually settled and calmed as much as she was going to be able to. Raven realized the remaining bruises and pain were symbolic of the emotional and psychological trauma of the event Tanja had just relived. For the first time, Raven saw and understood what Fang Hong had meant that morning about Tanja being fragile.

    “I know you’re not okay, but are you able to handle at least letting the Yangs know you’re back in the present? It’s safe, Madame Fan scared away those creeps. I think some of them needed to change their underwear. She has a lot more power than she allows people to see.”

    Tanja shuddered at the mention of the thugs who’d tried to hit on her. “Not - not really, but if those creeps are gone, I’ll survive it. I think I just want to go home after this. Umm. Your heritage is showing.”

    “What?” Raven lifted her hand up to look at it over Tanja’s shoulder. “I - I wasn’t even aware of it... I lost myself in rage when I saw what was happening to you in that shed. It must have happened then.” She sighed. “I’ll need a few hours of meditation before I can change back if I changed physically. The emotions are too close and too raw.”

    “I don’t want you to change back, not right now. You told me you’re stronger like this, and I... I need that strength. Just for tonight. Please?” Tanja hugged Raven tight.

    Raven nodded as she returned the hug. “Alright. Just for tonight.” A tear rolled down her cheek at the broken pleading in Tanja’s voice.

    They remained that way for a long moment before Tanja pulled away slightly.

    “Are you ready?” Raven asked.

    Tanja sighed. “No, but let’s get it over with.”


    Tense and nervous, Tanja looked around at the Yangs surrounding them, watching her with concern, as she clung to Raven. She swallowed. “I - I’m sorry. I think I need to go home for now.”

    “Would you like us to go with you, Tanja? There is safety in numbers, after all,” Grandmaster Yang said.

    “I will accompany you regardless. There are certain matters I wish to discuss with your mother, and this will be a good time for it,” Dai Yu said.

    “We’ll all escort you there if you want,” Fang Hong said.

    “Y-yes, please.”

    Ya Ning pulled out her phone. “I’ll get an Uber driver with a van. Even your mother’s limo probably wouldn’t be comfortable for this many people.”

    “An excellent suggestion.” Dai Yu said.

    “I have the ability to teleport us. It might not be the most comfortable, but it will be much faster. Also, a driver will probably react poorly to my appearance,” Raven said.

    “That is an even better suggestion. Those of us willing to accept a few moments of discomfort shall go with you and Tanja. Those who are not can call a driver.”

    Raven nodded.
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