Teen Titans Fan Fiction ❯ Astarte Of Azarath ❯ Love Prevails ( Chapter 4 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]
Raven felt her way through the darkness blindly and when her hand touched a hard brick surface she clung to the wall as though it were the last living creature on Earth. She sank to the ground, leaning her back against it and took in deep breathes as she tried to calm herself. She'd ended up in what appeared to be an abandoned warehouse. Atleast she hoped that was what it was. Blood was still spilling down her arm and she had a feeling it was covered in the thick red fluid by now. She ripped her cape off and tore it into shreds. She felt for the opened wound with her fingers and grimaced as she found it. She ignored the pain as she bound it tightly with her ripped cape, adding another layer each time she felt the blood seep through. When she finally used the last of it she fell to her side and closed her eyes for a moment. Atleast she was out of immediate danger. She wasn't going to bleed to death and there was no way for Neith to find her with her mind. She had blocked it the minute she left the roof and it had taken every ounce of her strength to keep it that way. She tried to keep herself concious because if she fell asleep her mind would be opened again and Neith would have no problem finding her. For now she would have to search the old fashioned way. Raven hoped there would be no casualties but she knew there would. As soon as she rested....she would face her. But she had to rest first or she would never make it. She sighed as she closed her eyes tightly. Her arm stung painfully and she hoped that would be enough to keep her awake. Her whole body felt heavy and her mind was clouded with weariness.
Raven....Raven...
Raven jerked up just as she was about to lose conciousness and looked around in panic though she could see nothing. A very familiar voice echoed through her head.
"Astarte?"
Raven...Where are you? It's so dark.
Raven's eyes filled with tears and she lowered her head in despair. Astarte was speaking to her from the imprisonment of her own mind. She had to cut her off before Neith realized what was going on and where she was. She tried to severe the connection but she couldn't. Astarte sounded so scared and alone. She couldn't leave her alone in that hell she created for herself.
"It's alright Astarte. I'm right here."
Will you give me your hand Raven? I can't find it.
"No Astarte. I can't."
Raven....
"Where are you Astarte? Do you know where you are?"
Alone.
"Where?"
In the dark.
"No Astarte. Where is your body? Can you find out where your body is?"
Raven concentrated but she didn't answer. It seemed an eternity as she stared into the darkness, clenching her fist in anticipation. If she could find out where Neith was she might be able to gain the element of surprise. Raven felt Astarte's mind come into contact with her body briefly before Neith pushed it back down. She couldn't see or hear what Astarte may have because she was connected by a very thin and stretched line. She waited but Astarte still didn't answer. It was atleast five minutes before she did.
I heard screaming. she whispered faintly. I heard screaming.
Please don't kill me!?
Monster!
MY ARM!!
Raven jerked back as pain shot through her own arm. She had been gripping it with her other hand too hard as she listened to the voices of Neith's victims. The screaming wasn't going to help her find out where she was. Astarte was obviously a little shaken. As many crimes as she'd committed all on her own she didn't think she'd ever heard anything like those screams. Astarte had never been a killer, only a thief. To hear her own laughter through screams of pain must have brought Neith to life for her.
"Astarte. I need you to get control of the eyes. Tell me where she is."
No. NO! I don't want to see it! Please Raven I don't want to see it! she sobbed.
"Please Astarte?! Please? I need you to do this for me. I have to find her. Help me find her."
No...I don't want to see what she's done!
"Astarte! Just find out where she is so I can help you! If you don't tell me I can't help you!"
I'm scared Sister.
"I know. But you have to find out where she is." Raven whispered as gently as she could. "Don't let her see that you're talking to me, look out long enough to spot a landmark and retreat. You don't have to look at the people Astarte."
Okay.
Raven drew as far away from Astarte's concious as she could manage without completely abandoning her. She didn't want to risk being discovered. Neith would probably give this attempt a little more thought than the last. She wasn't the most intelligent creature in existence but she wasn't exactly stupid either. She doubted Astarte ever tried to regain control more than once and the new effort would attract suspicion for sure.
Astarte become even more frightened as she felt Raven draw away from her but she didn't leave and it gave her a little courage. She steadied her nerves before rising to push against Neith in her mind. Neith didn't resist immediately. Astarte wasn't sure she realized she was there yet. She pushed her aside and went for the eyes. She had to keep them looking up. Away from the people. The darkness was gone as she opened them onto the world. The only light shining was that of the moon and a strange red glow she couldn't identify. Below her there were many bodies but she was so far up she couldn't see them well enough for it to upset her again. Neith had noticed her the minute she took control and she had to look for something that stood out before she swept her aside. Something that would lead Raven straight to her. She blinked her eyes against the harsh red light and wondered where it came from. She realized it was coming from her right. She could see it out of the corner of her eye. Surely whatever was emmitting this light could lead Raven to Neith. But she couldn't turn her head.
"What the hell are you doing?!" Neith cried, gripping her head, fingers sliding over her eyes. "Get back in there!"
No! Give it back to me! It's my body!
"Not anymore! It's mine now! GET BACK!"
Astarte felt her body move. It twisted around roughly and she could feel energy sparking around her as Neith tried to push her back. The amount of mental force she was using to push at her seemed to materialize as a physical attack on her own body. Astarte was vaguely aware of pain. Her entire being burned like someone had dumped a vat of acid on her. As Neith turned and lowered her head the red light became brighter. Astarte gathered all the strength she had and began to lift her head. The pain became stronger as she did so and Neith only pushed at her concious harder than before. She pushed back this time however, surprising her darker self enough for her to gain control of the hands. She pryed her fingers from her eyes and looked into the brillance of a gigantic neon sign. And then she let go. She was slammed back into darkness so quickly that she was in shock for a moment and didn't answer when Raven called to her. By the third time she spoke her name she had recovered from the sudden change and smiled in the dark.
Raven, she was standing in front of a sign. A big red neon sign.
"What kind of sign Astarte?" Raven asked, standing.
It said Soto.
"Alright Astarte. I'm coming. Just hang on."
Raven began to feel her way across the wall, searching for the door. As she did so she also tried to pull away from Astarte again but she clung to her conciousness furiously, causing her to stop. In the darkness they were both in it was almost as if she were physically clinging to her.
Don't leave Raven. I'm frightened.
"It's alright Astarte. I told you I'm coming. I promise you'll be okay."
But I don't want to be alone here.
"Astarte." Raven sighed. "I can't risk it. Surprise is the only thing I have right now."
Just for a little while longer Sister. Please?
"Alright." she consented as she searched for the door again. "But when I cut you off next time don't argue with me, okay?"
Kay.
Astarte didn't speak again as Raven found her way out of the warehouse and took off into the air. She just seemed to find comfort in her prescense. She didn't strike up any conversations of her own as she was busy searching for the sign and she wasn't exactly best at comforting people anyways. Astarte grew tired of the silence eventually and spoke in a way. It wasn't so much that she said something as Raven felt her fear. She was cowering in some corner of her own mind while Neith did horrible things with her body. Raven felt more sorry for her than she ever did.
"You know Astarte." she said suddenly. "I was thinking about that time you got stuck in the wall and all the monks of Azarath couldn't get you out for a week. Remember that?"
Yes. she muttered. And it wasn't funny.
"I thought it was." she replied with a small laugh. "So did Priestess Azar."
She was always laughing at me.
"Because you were always doing stupid stuff."
She never laughed at you. You were perfect in everything you did.
"No I wasn't. There was something you did that I never could."
What?
"You lived, didn't you? You felt when I would never have dared."
And it only cause more failure for me.
"...I'll help you get rid of Neith once and for all when this is over, okay Sister?"
Kay.
"And you can stay with me at the Tower as long as you want."
Thank you. I think I'd like that.
Silence fell again and Raven continued her search. She noticed the red glow as soon as she grew close to the sign and had to severe her connection with Astarte so as not to be discovered. She knew Astarte would argue so she didn't tell her. She simply pulled away from her and she didn't have time to protest. Neith had to be just over these buildings and she had to play it safe so she made sure to stay well hidden behind them. She pressed herself against the window of some stranger's apartment and peered around the corner to make sure Neith wasn't waiting for her. When she was sure it was safe she slunk around the edge and to the other corner where she peeked out again. She moved slowly, a little frightened and sighed in relief when she didn't see Neith anywhere. She did see the sign and the bodies far below so she had to be somewhere close by. She would have to move around the buildings slowly and carefully until she was sure of where exactly she was.
"Hello SISTER!"
The harsh voice was coming from behind her! She turned quickly to see Neith floating no more than two feet from her. The minute she turned to look a hand was thrown against her face, sending her twirling away from the side of the building. She stopped herself and stared in shock at the demon. Her appearence had drastically changed. Not only had her teeth and nails grown sharper and longer but she had also changed her clothes. Raven was so shocked by the attire that she simply floated in mid-air and stared at the demon. Her hair was black now and her eyes continuously glowed red. Instead of the leotard and cloak Astarte wore that was so similiar to her own she had on baggy black jeans and a black T-shirt that was far too big for her slender frame. Chains hung from her pants and many earrings now adorned her ears. She wore what appeared to be a dog collar on her neck and Raven couldn't believe she'd take time out from searching for her to rob stores. She just grinned at her as she took her in and when she didn't say anything she just laughed.
"What's the matter, Raven? Don't like this look on your sister?"
Raven's face darkened and she struggled to control her temper as she clenched her fists and growled at her loudly. Her eyes also began to glow red. She couldn't believe how flippant she was being about this whole thing. Neith had grown smarter and stronger since the last time she had encountered her. She use to only strive to take Raven's life and nothing else mattered when she emmerged but her death. Now she was confident that she had all the time in the world to kill her which meant there must be something different about the change. Even though Astarte had gained a small amount of control she doubted that knocking her out would be enough this time.
"What have you done?" she whispered in a strange, gutteral voice.
"To Astarte you mean?" she asked, calmly crossing her arms. "I crushed her beneath my power and she will never regain control. No matter what you do I will always be the one to stare out at you from these eyes. Render me unconcious and I shall awake still in power because I am now the main conciousness of this body. If she does gain control it will be brief and fleeting as my own attempts have always been."
"Get...OUT!"
Raven launched at her in anger and she moved gently to the side. Her fist only hit a window and it shattered into the apartment, causing cries of surprise from within. Raven ignored the residences as they peered out at her in shock and turned to punch at her again. Neith grabbed her hand and slammed her against the wall, cracking the bricks and causing their new audience to groan in sympathy. Raven was surprised when she got right up in her face and held her down by her neck.
"I'm your sister now Raven. Get use to it." she whispered, breath hot against her cheek.
"You're not my sister! You aren't even a part of her! Let her go!"
"But Raven." she gasped with mock surprise. "You created me. Aren't you happy to have me here with you now?"
"Fuck off!" she cried back, using language she wasn't accustomed to in her anger.
Neith's grip on her throat tightened and she coughed as she pulled her away from the wall and glared down into her eyes. Raven could hear gasps of shock as she felt her back hit the wall again and she could hear bricks crumbling and falling down the side of the building. She lifted her from the wall and slammed her against it again, laughing as she repeated the process too many times for her to count. She felt as though her spine would snap in half each time she made contact. Something had to give sooner or later. Her back or the wall. She wasn't quite sure which but she was relieved to find herself rolling across a kitchen floor. Neith only stood outside the hole she'd created and smirked in at her as she groaned and got to her feet shakily. It didn't appear that she was going to come in so Raven tried to delay the fight long enough for her to ragain some composure. She should have waited a little longer before going after her. But then many more people would have died. Including the ones that ran to see if she was alright. The kids from the window ran straight up to her against their mother's wishes and she was surprised when one of them latched onto her leg.
"Raven, don't die!"
"Where are the other Teen Titans?" the woman in the door of the kitchen asked warily. "Who is that?"
"No one. Go back to bed. I'm going to lure her away."
She pushed the kids away from her though small hands grasped for her cloak as they were returned to their mother's embrace. She was sure Neith wouldn't come into the bulding for some reason. There was this certainty that not only wouldn't she but it felt as though she couldn't. She looked out at her for a moment, trying to stretch her rest a little longer only to find her staring at the children wistfully.
"Astarte?" she ventured, approaching the opening. "Is that you?"
"You wish!" she cried, reaching in and jerking her out by her cloak.
The look was gone but Raven was sure that Astarte had gained a bit of control in that moment. She tried to make contact with her again and was surprised to find a barrier between her mind and Astarte's conciousness though Neith left her own as open as a book. Why was she protecting Astarte's but not her own? What sense did that make? She wasn't given time to contemplate this new information however as she was being thrown through the air. Energy flew at her but she avoided it much to Neith's dismay. If she was leaving herself open in order to protect Astarte then maybe the key to getting her back was in contacting her mind. She dodged as Neith flew at her and kicked her in the back, pushing away from her in the same movement. But to do that she would have to wait for Neith to lower her gaurd, if she ever did. Or perhaps the key to contacting Astarte's mind was in Neith's. She grinned as she sat cross-legged in the air, her cloak draping around her body as she closed her eyes.
"Azarath. Metri-"
"I don't think so!"
Raven gasped and snapped her eyes open as Neith flew at her. She avoided her first attack but she turned immediately and rammed her fist into her face. She went flying through the air once again and she was jerked to the side roughly as Neith passed through one of her own dimensional portals to grab her by the arm. She resisted as she tried to pull her in. She blasted her in the face and she withdrew, howling in pain. Another portal opened some feet away from her and she emmerged. It was obvious that she had more control over her powers than Astarte did. The portals weren't causing instabilities between the dimensions either. She seemed to have been born with more power over portals than their father gave her credit for. Again Raven had a reason to be glad that she was chosen and not Astarte.
"I won't give you time to get into my mind Raven. How stupid do you think I am?"
"Obviously not as stupid as you were earlier."
"Exactly." she hissed, raising her arms. "I've grown much, much smarter. For I am absorbing Astarte and her knowledge shall be mine."
Raven gasped as black energy surrounded her and swirled inward. It was almost as though she were attacking her own body but the energy wasn't hitting her skin. It was swirling around and entering her mind where it must have been dissapitating Astarte. She wasn't absorbing her! She was killing her! She was destroying her conciousness so that only she remained. She hadn't been blocking Astarte's mind. There had just been too much energy entering it to find her.
"What are you going to gain by destroying a part of your own mind?"
"I will have control, of course." she replied, lowering her arms.
"You will die."
"Liar!"
"If you kill her you will die as well!"
"Nonsense! Shut up!"
The air was knocked from Raven's lungs as an invisable wave of energy hit her body and sent her flying all the way into a window of the opposite building. She hit the floor and felt pieces of glass press into her back. She cried out in pain as she tried to stand before Neith could get to her again. But she wasn't coming. She sat up and stared out the broken window as the man who lived there came into the living room. She stood in the same place, energy still swirling around her. She grinned and laughed almost insanely as the man came towards her. He decided against it at the sound and took a step back. Raven stood and grinned as she walked towards the broken window. Neith could no longer move. In killing Astarte she was killing herself and she was suprised she was still in the air. This was her chance. If she could withstand her mental attacks and get close enough she could take her out before she killed them both. She left the apartment and flew at her only to be smacked by another attack. It sent her tumbling but was considerably weaker than the last blast. She righted herself and approached her again. An attack came again but was so weak she blocked it easily and kept moving. Neith was now bent over, holding her head. Raven stopped beside her and crossed her arms as she whimpered in pain.
"Does it hurt Neith?"
"Shut up!"
"I told you you're killing yourself."
"SHUT UP!"
Raven jerked back as she threw an arm out at her but it was as weak as her other attacks and fell to her side again as she cried out in pain and clutched her hair. She curled up into a tight ball and her limp hand returned to her head as she howled in frustration, the energy still flowing into her forehead. As she listened Raven could hear two screams. One was demonic and wild while the other was timid and quiet. A silent scream of utter pain was coming from her mind. It was coming from Astarte. Raven's eyes widened and she reached for her body, whether it was Neith or Astarte who was in control it didn't matter anymore. The energy shocked her and she pulled back. The two continued to scream in agony as the energy flowed around and into their body. She growled and tried again but with the same results.
"Dammit Neith! Stop it! You'll kill yourself! Both of you will die, leaving behind an empty shell! Is that what you want?!"
"No!" the two voices cried. "No! That's not what I want!"
"Then stop it!"
"I can't!" they screamed, looking up at her.
Raven blinked in surprise. There were tears streaming down her face and her eyes weren't glowing red anymore. They were a bright green and she saw Astarte looking out at her from within. She looked desperate and sad. But she also saw Neith. Angry, frustrated and in pain. She didn't know what to do to save them or if she even wanted to. She pushed that thought aside quickly. Even if she was attacked after saving them she had to find a way. She couldn't let her sister die in this manner. She sat cross-legged again and stared at Neith as she screamed. Even if she wanted to attack her there was no way she would manage an assault. She closed her eyes and concentrated.
"Azarath. Metrion. Zenthosss."
A bit of energy shot from the jewel over her chakra and went directly into Astarte's own unadorned third eye chakra. Her solar plexus glowed white and Astarte's followed suit. Every chakra in her body slowly lit up, starting from the solar plexus and going up and down at the same time. Once Astarte's body was fully lit as well she opened her eyes and stared blankly into thin air, a white glow emmiting from them. She was no longer seeing the world as the sun began to peek over the horizion. She was in a very dark, painful place. She was almost ready to withdrew from her mind when arms wrapped around her neck. She would have retaliated on her attacker but she realized it wasn't Neith. Astarte's mind was very dark and it took her "eyes" a while to adjust. It was like entering her own mind for meditation. The surroundings were gloomy and bare trees reached towards an endless black sky. Astarte quivered in her arms and she knew she was still in so much pain. She looked up at her sadly, tears pouring from her cheeks even in her mind and Raven's face was almost consumed by emotion at the sight.
"Raven. I was so scared." she sobbed into her leotard.
"Well, don't relaxe just yet. I still don't even know what I'm going to do in here."
"What is she doing to me Raven?"
"Killing you." she whispered, hand on her back as she clung to her. "She's killing you both."
"But why would she do that?"
"She only meant to absorb you but she must have made a mistake somehow. We have to find her. Maybe if we can subdue her in here your body will stop killing your mind."
"I can't move." she whimpered back. "I almost didn't even make it to you."
"Then you can wait here while I find her."
"No! I want to go with you."
"If she kills you here she may be able to stop herself from killing her own mind and then she'd have control. And you'd be gone."
"But Raven-"
"Stay, Sister." she whispered so soft and quiet that it made her pull away. "I'll protect you."
..To protect you, sister...
"You!"
"What?"
"You were the one who tried to kill me before Neith got control! I remember! Raven, how could you?!"
"I had been trapped by Heka when that happened." she explained calmly. "It was he who attack you. Disguised as me. I only assumed it before but I guess I was right."
"Heka's here?"
Astarte's hand went to her chest on the outside world, searching for the jewel that was no longer there. Had Raven known she would have been surprised at the strength her love for the fellow half demon gave her.
"Yes. He came to kill you."
"Where is he?"
"He's gone. Along with my friends. Neith sent them to another dimension. When I kill her I expect you to bring them back by the way."
"Uh...yes, Sister." she whispered, falling to her knees. "I think...I'll just lay here for a moment."
She hugged her around the waist briefly before laying down gently and closing her eyes. Raven saw them roll into the back of her head as she did so and took off at a considerable speed. If she didn't find Neith soon she might lose Astarte anyways. She flew across the barren land, searching the ground below but it wasn't she who found Neith. She stopped and dropped to the ground to search a slightly wooded area when something grabbed her ankle. Neith was crouched behind a tree, trying to pull her down. Saliva spilled from her lips as she growled through her sharp teeth and her eyes were blood red though they didn't glow.
"Die." she coughed out. "Die, Raven! DIE!"
Raven simply jerked her leg from her grip and she fell to the ground from the force. Raven stared down at her in disgust. She hadn't thought it would be this easy. She raised a hand to lay death to the demon when something rose from the ground between them. It was Astarte in an indigo cloak.
"Oh no." she groaned, recognizing the color as protection. "Don't do this."
"She is a part of me." Protection whispered. "I must protect her."
Neith latched onto Protection's leg and started chewing on her ankle, blood spilling from the wounds as she shredded the skin easily. Protection didn't seem bothered by the attack and Raven took a step towards her. Unfortunately another emotion rose from the ground to her right, drawing her attention. This Astarte was clothed in a dark grey cloak and she wasn't sure why Fear had made an appearence. Then another emotion rose beside her in a blood red cloak. Rage? Why was Rage here? She looked down in shock at Neith as she knawed on Protection's leg. Fear had come from Astarte but Neith had called Rage! Rage growled as Neith did and looked nearly as demonic though only nearly. She took a step back and Fear drew away from Rage to hide behind her.
"Sister." she whimpered, cowering behind her. "She will kill us. We must run."
"No, she won't." she replied. "I have to win this or Astarte dies. You all die."
Fear shrunk behind her even more and she was sure she would disappear into the ground but she didn't. Not right away. She stayed cowering behind her as Rage approached them then with a squeek of terror she was gone. She raised a hand in preparation of Rage's attack and let black energy surround her fingertips. Just as she flew at her another Astarte swept by in a flash of orange and kicked her in the side. She hit the ground and rolled by Neith and Protection as Courage stood, looking smug.
"You again, huh, Rage?" she stated simply, polishing her nails on her leotard. "The last ass kicking didn't seem to sink in very well."
Raven stared in shock for a moment until the emotion approached her and put a hand on her shoulder so hard that her body almost buckled beneath the weight. She smirked at her in an affectionate way.
"Whazzup Sis? You gonna help me with these numb nuts or what?"
"..Yeah. But where did you come from?"
"Astarte can't be here so she sent me. Cool huh?"
Raven stared at her a bit more with a strange look on her face and nodded slightly.
"Uh...Yeah. Can she send anymore emotions?"
"Whaddya need those dumb fucks for? I'm the strong one!"
"And the stupid one to assume that you're stronger than me." an Astarte in a silver cloak replied as she rose between them. "I am Strength. Courage and I will be able to handle Rage but you must find a way to get by Protection and kill Neith."
"Can't Astarte just make her stop?" Courage asked, sticking her pinky in her ear.
"No, you imbecile." a third Astarte replied as she rose from the ground, draped in a yellow cloak and adorning huge glasses. "Protection is a person of her own as we all are. It is in her nature to protect us all. This battle will never work. She will only protect us each time we attempt to attack. For example. Courage, Strength. Attack if you can."
"Alright! That's what I'm talkin' about!" Courage cried, pumping a fist in the air. "Let's go Strength!"
"After you. Almighty One." she mocked, gesturing.
Courage only smirked, not quite getting that she was being sarcastic, and flew ahead of her at Rage. Strength, however didn't move. She obviously knew to listen to Intelligence while Courage didn't hear a word she'd said. As she approached Rage she lifted from the ground and charged at her as well. Just when it looked like they would hit one another Protection got in the way. Neither stopped their attack and Protection was hit in the back and the chest so hard Raven feared that her bones would be crushed to powder. Courage stepped back, looking horrified at what she'd done but Rage only laughed.
"She has less brains than you it appears." she whispered in a quiet, acidic voice.
"Shut up!"
As Protection laid on the ground Raven flew at Neith who was struggling to her feet. She obviously had much more power than Astarte but it would still be easy to defeat her in such a weakened state. And then Neith would be gone forever, never to plague her sister's mind again. She landed in front of her and raised a hand, preparing for a quick death that she knew the demon didn't deserve. Before she could land the blow to her head a shape of darkness rose and blocked her, thrusting her fist away with her wrist and glaring at her with a scowl that would put Ares to shame.
"Anger." she whispered at the sight of the exceptionally pale figure.
She was draped in baggy black clothing from head to toe, only her pale face buried deep within the confines of her hood made her look human. The red eyes within shone deep and she stepped back as she growled. Neith and Rage started back with their growling as well and the noise seemed to fill Astarte's mind. Courage spat in what appeared to be anger and Strength crossed her arms as Potection rose to her feet shakily. Her face was void of emotion or pain and she walked back over to Neith, standing in front of her once again. She latched onto her leg again and began to chew on her thigh. Protection didn't even look at Anger as she went to stand by Rage. They all just stared at one another for a moment. No matter who attacked they knew the other would be protected. The only way to finish the battle was to get rid of Protection. Unfotunately she seemed oblivious to pain and Raven feared it wouldn't be an easy thing to do. In fact she wasn't even sure it was an option.
"We have to keep her busy." Wisdom whispered, rising beside Intelligence in a gold cloak.
"She'll become tired eventually and if not..." Intelligence continued.
"She'll become confused. Giving you time to kill Neith."
"She can't protect us all at once." Intelligence finished.
"Call more emotions Courage."
"Gotchya Wiz. Yo, 'Starte!" she called to the sky. "Get us some real ass kickers up in here!"
Raven turned to look in surprise as three more Astartes rose from the ground, cloaked in pink, a dingy off white cloak covered in stains and a light shade of grey. Their merry band of emotions now contained Courage, Strength, Wisdom, Intelligence, Happiness, Doubt, and for some reason Timid.
"Ah! Dammit Astarte! I said ass kickers! Not dumb shits!"
They all turned back around as more Astartes rose from behind Rage and Anger. Neith was gathering some fighters of her own but she didn't seem to realize they were only helping their plan by giving Protection more emotions to protect. Confusion rose in dark blue, Luck in light green and Deceit in brown. In addition Conceit and Jealousy made an appearence in a purple and another shade of green. Stupidity joined the party right inbetween the two small armies and looked between them in apparent confusion, mauve cloak on sideways. She appeared even more confused than Confusion herself who was starting to wander off. She might have disappeared if Luck hadn't grabbed her by the back of her robe and turned her around to face the enemy. Deceit whistled at Stupidity and gestured for her to join them with a warm smile. Raven grabbed her arm before she could go to them and pulled her back beside Wisdom who wrapped an arm around her and patted her shoulder comfortingly.
"There, there dear. Stay right here with us and everything'll be alright."
"Kay." she replied with a simple smile and a blank look.
"So?" Happiness shrilled in perkiness that made Neith's emotions cringe. "Are we going to have some fun or what? Who wants to play hide and go seek?"
"...Astarte....I hate you!" Courage called. "They got all the good emotions! The only fighters over here are me and Strength!"
"I thought you didn't need the rest of us 'dumb fucks'." Intelligence reminded her.
"Oh yeah. But maybe I'll let Strength help anyways." she added with a nervous grin as she eyed the team standing opposite them. "Where's Confidence when you need her."
"In her state, I doubt Astarte could manage to summon Confidence." Raven droned as she took a step back. "Let's get this done with."
"What're we doing again?" Stupidity asked.
"Nothing, love." Wisdom murmured. "Just stay here with Sister, alright?"
"Kay."
Raven stared at Stupidity as Wisdom released her and moved foreward to join the others in the coming assault. She took a step back as she went for a hug and put a hand on her head when she persisted.
"Sit."
The command worked strangely enough and Stupidity did as she was told. She dropped to her butt immediately and sat cross-legged, rocking back and forth as Raven went to stand closer to Neith and Protection. Courage and Strength took the first step and went after Rage and Anger. Protection stood in the way of each blow and Raven was amazed at her speed and endurance for pain. She moved to protect Wisdom and Intelligence as Conceit and Jealousy attacked. She was slammed to the ground and Rage had taken Courage by the face and given her an identical treatment. Courage waved her arms frantically and called out insults and cuss words as she was rammed into the earth over and over. Strength dodged as Anger came down on her and brought a knee up to her stomach, causing her to fall to her own in pain. She was obviously much weaker than Rage, as one would expect. When she went for another blow to the back of her head Protection was there. She fell as her fist hit the top of her head instead and blood spilled out over her hair. Strength gasped and stood back as she struggled to her feet. She wasn't sure she wanted to do this to an emotion that had always been there for them all for so long.
"Protection..."
"Look out!" she cried, throwing herself on her as Deceit came at her from behind.
She screamed as a knife entered her back and fell on top of Strength. Anger stood beside them and glared down at them as she shook with anger. She kicked both Protection and Strength in the side. Protection pulled away and pushed her to the side as she ran at Timid who was in danger of being crushed by Confusion. When Potection got in the way she stopped her attack short and looked around in, what else but confusion? As she stood there staring at Timid Protection hurried to Courage and tackled Rage off her immobile body. One of their strongest fighters was already down. Protection was thrown off Rage and hit a tree, breaking it in half. She stood, holding her arm and gasped when she saw Raven walking over to Neith in a calm way. If she had ran at her she would have noticed sooner but Raven must have known that. Protection tried to stumble over to her again but she had to stand in the way of Happiness and Conceit as she went for a deadly blow. Happiness only squeeled in horror at the attack and was shocked to find herself okay. But Protection wasn't faring so well. Though she didn't seem to feel the pain the injuries to her body were still there and the leg Neith had been chewing on was almost uesless now. She dragged it behind her as she strove to reach Neith and Raven. But Doubt had to be protected from Luck and she suffered another blow to the head, sending her down for a much longer time. Raven reached down to grab a handful of Neith's jet black hair but had to jerk back as an arm went out at her. A cut sliced across her chest and she gaped as a figure darker than Anger stood in front of Neith with the most horrid look of all. She was half wrapped in chains that hung around her and drew the folds of her cloak down. She rattled as she walked, dragging them along behind her. Huge balls of iron hung at the end of two of them and she had to shuffle as she walked. Raven stepped back a few feet, putting as much distance as she thought she needed between them. Hatred's hands rose slowly, lifting two more iron weights. Her eyes were wide and she didn't blink. They were so black they seemed to be empty and Raven could barely find the whites of her eyes. Darkness that she doubted was caused by her hood clung to the space beneath her eyes. Her movements were so slow that as she drew closer Raven ony stepped back a few feet. But then Hatred's feet began to lift from the ground and she rose up so that the iron balls dangled from their chains and those attached to her ankles barely brushed the ground.
"DIE!" she screeched shooting down at her.
Raven jerked to the side quickly as she threw a chained arm at her. She jumped back nimbly and her fist hit air were Raven's nose would have been. Unfortunately she had forgotten a very important detail. The weight slammed into the side of her head and sent her flopping across the dusty ground. She rubbed her head as she stood, very glad that it hadn't been her real body otherwise that probably would have killed her. Raven was barely aware she was being attacked again as she shook her head. She suffered another blow and went down. As she hit the ground with enough force to crack her spine Protection's eyes snapped open. The other emotions were still fighting but she went for Raven and Hatred instead, protecting only those between her and them as she went. After saving Strength from Rage she was kind enough to rip Deceit's knife from her back and she turned it on Anger instead as she came at her. Protection cried out in pain at last when Neith latched onto her already dead leg and grinded the shin bone between her teeth for it was all that was left of the lower part of her limb. Happiness grimaced from Stupidity's side at the exposed bone.
"Stop it. Stop." she sobbed, falling to her knees. "Stop fighting! STOP! STOP! STOOOOOP!"
Tears flew from her eyes as she shook her head and all the emotions stopped their fighting to stare at her. Even Hatred and Rage were ceasing their attacks on their prone victims. Raven got to her feet shakily and Courage sat up, eyes almost crossed as she tried to focus them on Protection. The only one who didn't respond to the outburst was Neith who continued to chew on the broken emotion's leg mercilessly.
"Please stop fighting." she whispered, head in her hands. "I can't protect you all if you keep fighting one another. I don't want anyone to die."
"If you keep trying to protect Neith you will be the one to die." Raven reasoned. "Look how grateful she is to you. She's nearly chewed your leg off yet you continue to protect her. Why not let us kill her and be done with it?"
"Because she is a part of us. Without her we are not one. Without her we can never find Serenity. We need Serenity Raven....Sister." she whispered, looking up at her with the most sorrowful expression Raven had ever encountered.
"Neith is killing you all. The only way to protect everyone is to kill her."
"No. There must be another way. A way to save everyone without sacraficing her."
"Would you sacrafice yourself?"
"Yes." she answered abruptly. "To protect her I will risk being killed by her."
"But without you they will never find Serenity either." Raven retorted. "So wouldn't it be better to let this desease of Astarte's mind die rather than that which protects her?"
"No one should have to die. Not even Neith. We must be one."
"Neith isn't an emotion. She's a demon. A desease. You don't need her. She's better off being in danger of Heka. Atleast he's an enemy on the outside."
"Heka?" Protection whispered and all the emotions echoed her in varying tones ranging from happiness to hatred.
Raven looked around in surprise as they all stood side by side with emotions they had previously been attacking. Protection stood with Neith still attached to her leg like a small, viscious dog. An emotion rose in front of her as she stepped back, dragging Neith with her. She was cloaked in light red with gllitter covering her face and a heart painted under her right eye. Her hair was pink rather than purple and she sighed contentedly as she landed in the midst of them all.
"Well then.." she announced. "I believe this falls under my jurisdication. Where is he?"
"He's not here." Raven spat at Love. "Go back to Astarte's heart and never return again. You've caused her enough trouble by falling for that bastard."
"But if I didn't return who would battle Neith? It is her love for you as well as Heka that keeps her under control."
And with that she walked over and kneeled beside Protection where she placed a hand on Neith's hair and petted her softly. Neith hissed and tried to bite her but she pulled her hand back and waited for her to lower her head before petting her again. She was obviously too tired and in too much pain to protest and she consented as her head was pushed into Love's lap.
"See. Isn't this nice Neith? We can all live as one. It'll be fine. I promise."
Neith whimpered in response and Raven was utterly shocked when tears poured from her eyes.
"Oh, I know my love." Love whispered. "It hurts doesn't it? I can fix that if you want me to."
Neith nodded her head softly and Love smiled at her gently. She ran her fingers through her hair and hummed quietly for a moment. This seemed to relaxe Neith and she smiled as her muscles untensed and her whole body went limp.
"Let's relaxe everyone. Take deep breathes and relaxe. We shall solve this problem by and by."
Raven gaped as they all sat cross-legged and began to meditate. Happiness and Stupidity leaned against one another as they did so and smiled. Raven was shocked when Rage and Hatred smiled as well.
Outside her mind Astarte's body was starting to go limp and she relaxed from the tight fetal position so that her legs and arms hung as she floated in the air. The energy around her began to flicker and disappear from her limbs and torso. The energy around her head stayed however and she flinched slightly now and then as it entered her crown chakra, almost severing Raven's connection. Her other chakras were starting to dim and Raven's brow was furrowed as she tried to hold on.
Inside all the emotions had started humming in tune with Love and she looked around in awe as a broad range of emotions rose to join them. It must have been every emotion Astarte posessed. She watched as they all began to glow white and it suddenly became difficult to tell the difference between most but with the exception of a few, especially Hatred whose iron weights were resting on the ground beside her. She turned back from the sight of the new emotions to watch as one more rose from the middle of the circle to stand in front of Neith, Protection and Love. Her cloak was pure white. Her eyes and hair were just as white as her clothes and she appeared to be blind but she looked directly at Raven and smiled a soft, warm, pure smile. That's when she was thrown from Astarte's mind and was sent flying back into her own.
She gasped as the shock of her return made her body fall from the sky and she righted herself again as she floated in front of Astarte, worry seeping through every pore in her body. The energy around her head was slowly starting to die down and when it finally diappeared Raven took her in her arms and shook her. When she didn't respond she shook her harder and pulled her closer.
"Astarte! Wake up!"
In her worry she forgot to be wary of Neith and she smiled as Astarte's eyes blinked open slowly. She smiled back up at her and laughed at her stolid sister's worried but happy face. It was in joy that she laughed because she'd never seen her look that worried or that happy for her in her whole life. Raven looked perturbed that she had laughed at such a serious situation and dropped her abruptly. She gasped and fell a few feet before gaining her footing so to speak and rose to face her again.
"Thank you Raven."
"I didn't do it. You did."
"No. Without you I never would have thought to raise my emotions against her. I only sent them to protect you."
"She's still in there." she reminded her.
"She'll always be there." she responded with a sad smile.
"I'll find a way to get rid of her. In the meantime let's try finding the others. You can find them, can't you?"
"I hope so." she whispered, poking her fingers together. "I'll try as hard as I can."
"In that case I hope so too."

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Ahem, I'd like to make a statement as to the colors of Astarte's emotions' cloaks. I used magickal correspondences for that decision so the only ones that are the same color as Raven's are Timid and Happy. ^_^ Just thought I'd mention that so someone didn't say "Hey! Courage wore green in Raven's mind!" or something. ^-^ Kay, that's all. Review! I'll give you a dollar....;_; Pwease?