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The Lazarus Curse

Chapter Text

It happened so fast that there was no time to react.

The day had started off normally with training in the Bat Cave. Bruce was overseeing Dick practicing with Damian when it happened. The younger boy suddenly froze up and fell over. Dick, ever the caring older brother he was, rushed towards his side, kneeling down and turning Damian over. The child didn’t even seem to be conscious of the situation; his skin was a deathly pale shade of grey while sweat ran down his brow.

“Bruce…what…what’s going on?” Dick asked, panic seeping into his voice.

“Get Alfred.” Bruce ordered, as he made his way over to his youngest son’s side. Dick ran out of the cave. Frowning, Bruce could do nothing but soothe the whimpering child as he waited for his eldest son and butler to return. What could have triggered this reaction? He thought back to the training session his sons were doing earlier. Damian was trying to land a hit on Dick as the older man countered his moves. There shouldn’t have been anything that Dick could have done that would cause such a reaction. The child groaned, and Bruce absentmindedly stroked the child’s hair and whispered words of comfort. From a distance, there was the sound of footsteps running into the cave that gradually became louder.  

“Master Bruce! Is Master Damian all right?”

Bruce turned around to see the elderly butler make his way quickly down the staircase, closely followed by a worried Dick. Reaching his side, the man checked Damian’s vitals and then quickly, but gently moved him to a medical cot at the side of the cave. While the other two men were determining what was wrong, the unexpected happened.  Damian’s eyes shot open. Bruce stared in shock. His sclera was dark, while his pupils were a sickly green with slight hints of his original blue.

Dick was speechless.

“That... isn’t that…I mean that looks like…” he couldn’t continue his sentence.

“Ra’s eyes.” Bruce finished for him grimly.  All the adults in the cave stood silently in shock as Damian’s labored breaths were the only sounds in the cave. Seconds passed before Bruce spoke up.

“Hold him down.” was all they got, as Bruce turned and made his way towards the computer. Typing quickly, he pulled up his file on Ra’s al Ghul. The file popped up as well as an image of the man himself. A tall imposing figure with streaks of white in his hair and the same eyes that Damian currently had-pitch black sclera with bright green pupils- looked coolly at the viewer.

 

 

“Name: Ra’s al Ghul

Age: Claims to be over 600 years, appears to be around 45-50 years of age

Hair: black with two white streaks

Eyes: black sclera and green pupils

Height: 6’5”

Other Physical Features: pale skin, wears long robes and a cape, keeps skin covered most of the time

History: If he were to be believed, Ra’s al Ghul was born well over 600 years ago and his first life was that of a physician. He had a wife who was killed when his patient, a prince, reacted badly to the Lazarus pit he was placed in. The person who would become Ra’s was blamed and would have been left for dead, if his uncle’s tribe hadn’t saved him. Getting revenge on the king for what happened, the physician vowed to change the world for the better. His methods are extreme, ranging from small scale plans to disrupt the workings of companies that harm the environment to full on genocide of whole countries.

Relatives: Dusan al Ghul (son, deceased), Nyssa Raatko (daughter, deceased), Talia al Ghul (daughter), Damian Wayne (grandson)

Associates: the League of Assassins, Ubu (bodyguard)

Notes: The League of Assassins is an international terrorist group that has been around for centuries. Led by Ra’s al Ghul, a man who has lived longer than the League’s creation. His claims of being immortal might hold some weight- Ra’s seems to remember specific details of events far back in the past that he should not have been around to witness.  But how is this possible if there is evidence that shows he hasn’t lived as long as he claims? DNA samples I have retrieved from the man shows that he is of Middle Eastern descent and has only been around for 45-50 years. Is this the result of the healing waters of the Lazarus Pit? Or is there something else at work here…? Neither of his descents, alive or deceased, has the same unique eyes he has or his pale complexion (although I suspect that comes from living months underground).”

 

“Bruce! Now’s not the time to read your case files!” Dick called out in desperation, unable to determine the cause of the rapid deterioration the younger boy was experiencing. Veins were beginning to show up on his face, and something that looked like moving writing appeared on his skin. The child was muttering something in delirium as his hands began to twitch and his body continued shaking. Bruce had to do something-and fast- to change the situation.

“Tie him down! I think it’s the Lazarus Curse!” he ground out as Dick stared at him in surprise.

“Do it! Now!” Alfred rushed to comply while Dick was still standing, shocked at how Bruce was acting. Moving quickly, Bruce reached his communication device and pressed out a message.

“Oracle and Red Robin. I need you to check the status of the League of Assassins in the past month.”

“Got it.”

“Roger, B.”

With that out of the way, Bruce pulled out his phone and dialed his emergency line to Talia, hoping that she would have answers to his son’s current predicament.

“Dammit Talia, pick up.” He cursed under his breath as he anxiously waited for the female assassin to answer his call.

“Don’t bother, beloved.”

Bruce froze, and then slowly turned around to stare at the source of the voice.

Damian’s eyes were focused this time, staring straight at him.

“Detective…”

Chapter Text

“Detective…we meet again.” Damian said, with a smirk on his face that indicated that he knew something that everyone else in the cave didn’t.

“Damian, what…are you feeling okay? You had us really scared there for a while and-“

Damian cut off Dick by chuckling. “Oh Grayson. You have no idea what’s happening, do you?”

“Damian?”

“Obviously not. Do pay attention, for I am only going to say this once: the Damian you know is now gone. Do not bother trying to bring him back, for he will not be returning. ”

“Wait! What are you saying? This isn’t funny, Damian! Damian!” Dick called out in panic.

It was no use. The child abruptly went silent before his body convulsed, eyes rolling back, and then he passed out.

Bruce stood up from where he was crouching near the medical cot and made his way back to the computer, mind already filing away information and coming up with theories on what was happening. Alfred busied himself by ensuring that the monitoring equipment was set up properly to alert them if Damian’s vitals changed for the worse. Dick continued sitting on his chair, staring at the child’s pale, sweat covered face. Stillness and silence came down upon on the cave, interrupted only by the sound of typing keys and the moving of equipment.

The silence was then broken by the sound of engines filling the cave. A man in a red uniform parked his motorcycle, and then removed his helmet. Hopping off his bike, Red Robin hurried towards Bruce.

“B! What’s going on? Did I miss anything?” Tim asked. He got no answer as Bruce continued typing.

“Master Tim. It seems that Master Damian has had a sudden shift in personality. “

“That’s an understatement.” Dick muttered.

“Master Bruce seems under the impression that Master Damian is afflicted with the Lazarus Curse.”

“Really? Wait why?”

“It’s the eyes. The eyes usually give it away… unless Master Damian has somehow managed to put on contacts in the span of time it takes to fall and hit the ground.”

Not getting the answers he wanted, Tim made his way next to Bruce to see what the older man was working on. A file was already up on the screen, titled ‘The Lazarus Curse’.

 

“The Lazarus Curse:

According to the ecoterrorist Ra’s al Ghul, the pit is not a lifeless object, but rather a force that has a will of its own. Centuries ago, it decided that it wanted to fully manifest itself in the physical world, but to do so; it needed a host to possess. Its first host must have been the man who calls himself Ra’s al Ghul, or a distant ancestor of his. The binding ritual was supposedly consensual, and the pit and the man became one entity. But being possessed by such a powerful force takes a toll on a mere human's body, as taking control of a person puts stress on the body. Even a formless being cannot survive inside of a decaying corpse, so after its first host lost its usefulness, it was forced to seek out another. It found that those who had the blood of the human whose body it commanded first were the most ideal candidates to possess. I assume that whoever was next in the bloodline was met with a nasty surprise, but my sources seem to imply that their personality was completely merged with the first Ra’s as well as the pit. If this explanation is true, it would explain how Ra’s has memories of events happening far in the past that he realistically should not have.

Symptoms of this curse include: pale skin, black sclera with bright green pupils, noticeable veins on skin, moving writing on skin, a presence that draws unease to everybody within the vicinity, and a voice that sounds like more than one person is speaking.

Note: This could be why Ra’s is obsessed with finding heirs and ensuring that he has biological descendants, so that the transfer will go smoothly. I wonder what will happen if there is no one left in the al Ghul bloodline. Will the entity search out an innocent relative of the last host? I shudder to think of what will happen if this comes to pass.

(I have gathered this information by looking up texts that Ra’s al Ghul has left over the years as well as consulting with Talia to see if she knows of this. She seemed reluctant to talk about this subject with me, almost as if she knew something I didn’t.) “

 

Tim whistled lowly. “Wow, that’s a lot to unpack, huh B?"

"Focus, Tim." Bruce responded, not bothering to look up from the monitor. An alert popped up from the communication device. Tim picked it up and walked further away, so not to disturb Bruce and the others at work.

"Oracle? You found something?"

"Yes. Put Batman on."

"Cant. He’s busy. Tell me what you’ve uncovered and I’ll relay it to him."

There was a pause and then a sigh from the other end.

“Alright, the league has had a suspicious lack of activity in the past few months. Our intel tells us that there was a change in leadership recently, but a splinter faction still loyal to Ra’s managed to kill the new leader, leaving no one in charge of the league of assassins. Currently, there’s a massive fight over who should be the new leader, but the assassins more loyal to the cause are convinced that the next person to lead them is outside the country. Don’t know what that means though. Did N or B tell you what’s going on?"

Before Tim could respond, the cave shook. There was a booming sound, and then smoke quickly covered the cave. Tim threw himself to the ground, covering his mouth to avoid breathing in the gas. Whoever was attacking them held the advantage of surprise over them, but the bats had the advantage of being familiar with the area.

"Red Robin! What’s happening?" Barbra’s voice came out from his ear piece. Tim pulled it off and crushed it. The invaders could probably hear her and give away his position.

Grabbing his bo staff, Tim kept alert, waiting for someone to jump out and attack him from the smog. Hearing something on his left, he reacted quickly, hitting them on the head. A thud on the ground indicated that whoever he hit had been knocked out. Elsewhere, the sound of struggles were heard as the heroes were doing their best to fend off the intruders. As the smoke began to clear, Tim saw his family holding their own. Tim ran towards them, diving into the fight. After what felt like hours, the battle was finally over. Nightwing had jumped onto his motorcycle to chase after the ninjas who fled, with Bruce following close behind. Tim was left behind to survey the damage.

As the smoke cleared, Tim could finally see the true extent of destruction. There were cracks on the cave walls, unconscious bodies of ninjas strewn around the floor; equipment thrown haphazardly, Alfred was knocked out and...

Damian was gone from his medical cot.

Chapter Text

Tim slowly walked towards the cot. The restraints that were holding the child down before were cut and the monitoring equipment were pushed away hastily or toppled over. The medical tools that Alfred prided on being sterilized and placed in an orderly fashion were lying on the floor. As much as he wanted to investigate, he had to tend to the older man first. Carefully supporting Alfred, Tim managed to walk him over to another bed and lay him down on it.  Checking the old butler for injuries, Tim was relived to only find minor scrapes and cuts.

The sound of engines filled the cave, indicating that someone came back. Turning quickly and reaching for his weapon, Tim realized that there was no need as the newcomer was just Dick returning from chasing after the escaping ninjas. Seeing Tim, Dick hopped off of his motorcycle and jogged towards him. Before Tim could say anything, Dick froze and was stared past him. Confused, Tim turned back and saw that Dick was looking at the empty cot.

"Damian! Where is he?" Dick cried out in panic.

Making his way to his older brother, Tim placed a comforting hand on his shoulder.

“Dick. Whoever broke in took him. I’m sorry.”

Dick looked distraught. Just as he seemed to want to say something, an alert lit up on the monitor. Seeing it was Oracle calling, Tim ran towards the console and answered the call.

“Jeez, finally! What’s going on in the cave? First Bruce gives me an order to investigate the League and refuses to explain, and then you rudely cut off communications with me when I was asking you what the fighting noises were? I don’t get paid enough for this.” Barbra grumbled.

“Sorry Oracle,” Tim muttered. “We kind of had something sudden come up. It’s not like ninjas storming the cave is something you can turn off at will or anything. No, that would be insane, wouldn’t it?”

“Ok, Ok I get it. Some crazy ninjas stormed the cave or something and that has something to do with the power struggle the League of Assassins is going through! Now can someone really tell me what’s going on? I can’t do my job here unless I have information to work with.”

“Well as far as I know, something weird was happening to Robin that caused B to ask us to investigate the League. Then the cave was invaded by a ton of ninjas and there was smoke everywhere. After there was no more fighting, Robin was gone from the bed we tied him to. Also, B thinks it has something to with the Lazarus Curse. Oh and Penny One got knocked out. We should probably make sure he’s okay first. I put him over there.” Tim recounted, and then promptly walked over to where he left the butler. Dick followed closely behind.

As Tim tended to Alfred, he listened to Dick give his version of what happened.

“…so we were just sparing in the cave as usual when he collapsed. When we got him to the cot, his eyes opened and they were the same creepy eyes that Ra’s had. Just before Red Robin arrived, Robin said something really weird. Like ‘he wasn’t himself and never will be again.’ Then RR came in and you know what happened next. B was saying something about the League having something to do with this? Why?”

“If I had to make a guess, it would be the power struggle happening right now that I was just telling Red Robin about. From what I have, I think that Ra’s died, and then someone else took over, most likely Talia. Something must have forced the group still loyal to Ra’s to kill her, so now there’s another empty space where the leader should be. What you told me about the cave invasion implies that they were looking for the last person with ties to the al Ghul family, which is why they took Robin. Nightwing, your comment about his eyes seems to fit in with the Lazarus Curse theory. He’s the new Ra’s al Ghul.”

“I…no. that can’t be right. Oracle, you have to be wrong. This can’t happen to him.”

“Why not? All evidence we have leads to this conclusion, Nightwing. Robin’s the last of the al Ghul bloodline. Of course the pit would choose him as its next host.”

This was too much for Tim. The irony of the situation was obvious. The arrogant child that burst into their lives years prior, who decided he was automatically better than the other boys who came before, only because of his familial relationship to the bat, was most likely gone forever because of his tie to Ra’s al Ghul. Now wasn’t the time to bring it up. They had to find a way to reverse his condition. This couldn’t be the end of a child who had been through so much and struggled to change for the better. Damian had cast aside his bloody heritage for the hopes of being someone worthy of the title of a hero. To have this happen would be undoing all the effort he put in to change himself, as well as having the family losing another one of its own. Tim knew that they were never close, but even he could tell that the boy was trying his hardest, even under the façade of being superior.

The sound of motor whirring filled the cave as, at last, the Batmobile made its return. It parked and Batman jumped out. Before anyone could say anything, Bruce took off his cowl and looked at them defeatedly.

“They have him. I lost communication with the trackers. He’s gone.”

Chapter Text

 

“What do we do now, Bruce?” Tim asked, after catching the Batman up to speed with the information they uncovered.

“I…we go after him of course. The League of Assassins won’t get away with this.”

“But…where? The League has many bases, and with this huge turn of events, it’s pretty obvious that they would take him to the least likely place we would think to look.” Dick commented.

“Perhaps not. They might bring him to their closest location, since as Barbara said before, the huge gap left open from the lack of leadership needs to be filled soon. They would want their new leader to recover quickly and resume duties so that the League would be back in operation as soon as possible.”

“I guess you’re right. Let’s see.” Tim said as he made his way back to the computers. Typing in coordinates, he announced, “Okay, the closest base from here would be the marine post off on the Atlantic, but that’s still in U.S. territory. Outside the country, that would be al Ghul Island. Pretty fitting, since that’s where Damian was born. Or well, created.”

 “So we’re going to book a trip on Batwings airlines, huh? Want me to call Luke while we’re at it?” Tim snarked.

“Don’t call Luke. We need people to stay here and look after Gotham when we leave the country.”

“Wait! Will Alfred be ok if we just leave him here?”

“He’ll be fine. We can just a leave a note for him when he wakes up.”

“But…”

“Tim, if you’re so worried, you can stay behind and coordinate efforts with Barbara. You can also keep an eye on Alfred while monitoring the mission in the Batcave.”

“…ok B.” the teenager replied sulkily. As Bruce and Dick began gathering the supplies they needed for the four hour flight to their destination, the monitor of the Bat Computer suddenly lit up.

 

The habitants of the cave swiftly turned and stared at the screen as it showed a grainy image of an unidentifiable figure.

“…zzzt…Don’t…come. What you are looking for is…sssscchhttt… to you. Do not pursue the league. It is too… don’t come. Zzzzzssttt- is already lost to you.

Tim opened up the Com lines that connecting him to Batwoman, Spoiler, Batwing and Black Bat.

“Hey guys, something’s just come up. I need the four of you watching Gotham for the night.  I can’t talk much right now since I’m going to need all my attention focused elsewhere. Did you get that?”

“Roger.”

“Got it.”

“Sure, but you better tell me what’s happening after.”

“Yes.”

“Thanks guys. Knew I could always count on you.”  Tim replied back as he hung up. Turning around on the seat, he could see that the two older vigilantes had already boarded the plane and were beginning to fly out the mouth of the cave. There was a low thrum in the air as the motors came to life, the machine slowly creaking forward before it picked up speed. There was a whoosh as the plane finally went airborne. Tim watched as it became a speck in the night sky as it flew further and further away.

“Good luck, guys.” He said softly.

~~~~

 

Somewhere far away, in a unknown cavern illuminated only by candles, several robed figures surrounded a gleaming green pool in the centre of the cool room. Fog began to creep out of from the pit as the onlookers watched on with a seemingly indifferent air. As the mist intensified, a hand suddenly shot up from the pool and grasped the edge of the wall, frantically searching for purchase. Under its own strength, a figure slowly emerged, dripping with the residue of cursed magic.

Smirking ahead as the servants finally started to move, tending to the figure, the new Demon's Head spoke for the first time.

"Finally. I am compete. Come, my league. We have much work to do."

Chapter Text

The trip was boring. Mind-numbingly boring. Dick stared out the window as Bruce was in the cockpit, focused on piloting the aircraft. To pass the time, Nightwing took to reviewing some of his case files that he was going to read over at the cave before the situation that got them in this mess happened.

After several hours of this, Batman called him to the front of the aircraft. Unbuckling and making his way towards him, he slid the door open and sat down in the co pilot seat. Motioning to the window, Nightwing could see an island gradually coming closer into view. Looking down at the GPS, he could see that where there should be an island showing up, it was just completely empty, indicating that there was no land for miles, only the ocean. Jackpot.

As they approach the island, the cloaking device is put up to ensure that the aircraft would not be spotted on radar. Making several rounds around the island’s perimeter, the two finally find a place to land. Making sure that there were no guards standing watch over the border, they were surprised and slightly weary when they found none while they carefully made their way through the island’s forest. As they approached a seemingly abandoned watch tower, they turn to leave the area. When doing so, Nightwing notices a strange imprint on the cliff walls that lay beyond the view of the structure. Motioning to Batman, they sneak forward and examine the strange cracks in the rock face.

Examining it, it was pretty obvious that what use to be an entrance was blocked off by a huge pile of boulders and stones. Someone must have known they were coming and hastily made attempts to stall them from reaching goal. Blowing the rubble up now would alert everyone in the vicinity that they were here. Not a smart idea. No matter. That just meant that they had to find another way in to rescue Damian from the clutches of the League.

There had to be another entrance close by. Stepping away from the blocked cave mouth, Nightwing looked around. Spotting a strange patch of dirt several metres away, he ran towards it. It was a different shade than the ground around it. Which meant… Nightwing knelt down and brushed away the oddly coloured soil. Bingo. A trapdoor entrance was buried under the ground, recently used, judging by the way it seemed looser than the dirt around it. He signalled his partner and with some effort, the two managed to pry it open. Checking to make sure that nasty surprises weren't waiting for them, Batman gave an all clear sign and started their decent down the awaiting ladder. Adjusting to the darkness, Nightwing could see that they were in a dark tunnel with dimly lit torches as the only source of light in the damp place.  As he continued climbing down the ladder, he heard a thud and looked up. Batman had closed the trapdoor. They were now likely stuck inside the hidden bunker until they got what they wanted.

Walking down the hall silently, feelings of anticipation and dread were rising for the two vigilantes. What was happening to Robin right now? Was he fine? Was he being tortured? Was he… Nightwing’s thought cut off as he saw a door at the end of the hall. He could make out that there was a box that held an access pad on it. Great. just what they needed, he inwardly groaned as they neared the door. More time wasted trying to figure out what the passcode was. A great way to make a terrific day better.

Just as they were about to reach the heavily secured door, a crisp feminine voice rang out. Dick froze, a shiver ran down his spine. How was it possible that she… Turning around, his fears were confirmed. Talia al Ghul was standing near the entrance of the tunnel, staring down at them cooly.

“What do you two think you are doing?”

Chapter Text

"Talia? You’re back? But, how? Shouldn’t you be part of the Lazarus curse?"

"Detective. So many questions, but so little time. There is a reason I was unable to tell you everything before, but I need you listen closely. We need to work quickly.”

She reaches the end of the hall and inputs the code into the keypad. A green light blinks on and the door opens. Seeing movement at the end of the hallway, the three of them keep to the side of the wall, slowly making their way towards the end of the corridor. As they near the end, they can barely make out  a group of ninjas gathered around the centre of the room, a source of light seemingly coming from the middle of the crowd. A booming voice is heard from the glowing green light, but is inaudible from their vantage point.

Bruce motions at Dick, silently pointing out a ledge closer to the proceedings. The three make their way closer and look down at the focus of the group. Dick lets out an inaudible gasp.

It’s Damian. He’s standing in the centre of the crowd, with the League’s ninjas kneeling down in front of him.

 

“My Beloved League.” the child begins. “I have once again become whole. With my return, the League of Assassins will finally complete its purpose of reuniting the world under my rule. The slate will be wiped clean as we purify the Earth of the plague known as humanity. Once more we will take the reigns on the fate of this world and lead it towards its former glory!”

The child pauses, taking a breath. Before he can continue his speech, a voice rings out from the crowd.

“Intruders!”

 

Dick nearly flinches in shock, looking at where the warning came from. A servant is pointing at them with wide eyes and the crowd starts turning towards them.

“We need to go. Now.” Bruce said. Dick silently agrees. The three of them quickly move from the ledge back to the door. They have the advantage of being on a higher level of the room on their side. As they run out, Dick takes his chances and glances back. Damian is staring up at them, unmoving from the chaos surrounding him. There is a huge smirk on his face. He feels a chill down his spine, as he turns back around and follows the other two towards the exit. Just as they leave the building, a soft ticking noise is heard from behind them.

“Bomb!” yells Talia.

There’s a thunderous booming noise and he’s thrown forwards along with Bruce and Talia. Dick lands hard on his face, ears ringing. He can still feel the heat on his back from the blast. Giving himself several moments to regain composure, he slowly lifts himself up using his left arm. Moving up to a sitting position, he turns around and stops.

 

The entire compound is in flames. They’ve lost their lead.

Before he can spend more time moping over his failure getting back his younger brother, Talia speaks up.

“There is no time. There is still a way to save him. We must get back to the plane.”

Dick stares mutely at her. Bruce makes his way over to him and helps him up, allowing Dick to lean on him as they hobble towards Talia’s plane. Talia reaches it first and roughly pulls the door open, not bothering to wait for the two of them. She ventures in and soon disappears from his line of sight. When they make it to the aircraft, Bruce lets go of Dick, but not before making sure that he’s able to stand on his own. He leaps up to the platform and reaches down for Nightwing. With some effort, Dick manages to get up too without too much trouble.

He then follows Bruce to where Talia went. Sitting down on a medical bench, Dick begins rummaging through the medical supplies before his mentor bats his hands away and takes over. Helping with his Nightwing uniform, he manages to get the top half off to examine the extent of his injuries.

“How is your right arm Dick?”

Dick grimaces.

“Hurts when I try moving it.”

“Is it dislocated?”

He nods.

“Okay. I will try to set it back in place. Brace yourself.”

Dick grits his teeth as Bruce slowly moved his arm and pulled carefully. There is a click as his bones realigns and he let out the breath he was holding in. Bruce then takes a towel he found laying on the rack and proceeds to turn it into a makeshift sling.

When he feels that he has the strength to speak again, Dick faces Talia.

“So what’s your big plan on saving Damian from this mess?”

Her answer couldn't have been that bad.

He’s wrong.

She continues staring ahead while piloting the craft as if she knew that the aftermath of her words will turn them against her. Talia doesn't even look back at him when she replies.

“Damian must die.”

Chapter Text

Silence descended on the gathered heroes. Then there was a roar of outrage.

"What the hell Talia! How is this supposed to help Damian?”

Bruce put a hand on his former protege’s shoulder.

“Dick. Calm down.”

“HOW CAN I WHEN SHE’S GIVING US A SOLUTION THAT WON’T FIX ANYTHING?” the blue vigilante screamed at his mentor. Glaring at Talia, his face seethed with barely controlled rage.

“Stand down Dick. Hear her out first.” Dick turns his glare towards Bruce before the fight leaves his body. He motions for Talia to continue speaking.

“Thank you. As I was saying, I assume you already know what fate has befallen Damian. The only way to restore him is to force him to pass on the curse. Do you understand?”

Realization dawns on Dick and his face burns from embarrassment.

“Like how you came back, right?”

“Precisely. I may have not been around much for the early years of his life, but I am more than willing to disappear for him. I had some trusted servants on my side who were made aware of the curse that, when the time came, would do what needed to be done. The same can be done for Damian.” Talia replied curtly.

“Huh.” Dick said, deep in thought, digesting the information.

A thought suddenly struck Bruce.

“Talia. If you were not around, would the curse have been transferred to…?”

Talia ignores him and continues piloting. A notification lights up on the panel. Bruce recognizes the transmission code and presses the answer button.

“Red Robin? Is that you? We managed to get out of the compound, but we’re at a loss now. Do you have any new leads?”

“Batman! Yes, it’s me! You have no idea how panicked me and Oracle were, trying to track you down again! “ Tim’s relieved voice came out from the other end.

“Focus. Nightwing and I are fine. We will speak more of it later. Do you have any further leads for us?”

“Huh? Oh right! Anyways, I managed to reach my contacts in the League, but they seemed a bit… antsy. There’s been a huge shift in power dynamics, as you know, and there’s a new head honcho. That’s obviously Damian. My contact says there were talks about moving to a new location, and a lot of League members are moving back to Nanda Parbat. Makes sense, since that’s where the original source of the Lazarus Pit is supposedly from. Did you learn anything new from your excursion?”

“Yeah, not much. Damian’s leading the League,” Dick cut in, hobbling to the mic. “Or, not Damian. The Pit? He’s saying some spiel about cleansing the world of humanity and all that junk. Oh, and Talia’s here with us. She’s got a plant to save Dami.”

“What? Really? She’s alive? How?” Tim spluttered in shock.

“Long story. We’re going to Nanda Parbat now. We’ll reach out to you if we find out anything else, ok?”

“…yeah. Got it Nightwing. Stay safe, alright?”

“You know it RR.” Dick grinned before turning off communications. Turning to the GPS screen, he could see that they were almost at their location. Talia landed the plane on a smooth patch of grass. The three disembarked from the aircraft and walked towards the entrance of the gate leading into the mountain. Bruce lifted up a hand. Something was off about this place. The air itself was heavy with tension as he scanned the area for any guards in the vicinity. Seeing none, he cautiously stepped forwards as the others followed.

This proved to be a mistake. As they passed a groove of trees, an object was thrown in front of them and smoke poured out from the device. A group of ninjas ambushed them from all directions, ready to take out the intruders.

When they finally cleared their path of the enemy, they quickly made their way towards the main building. Throwing the doors open, Bruce stopped suddenly. The entire area was empty, covered in dust. They had been deceived.

 

~~~~~

 

Elsewhere on the streets of Gotham, a leather clad vigilante coldly looked down at the person in front of him.

“What do you want, demon brat?”

Chapter Text

Taking a short smoke break in an alleyway, Jason Todd was minding his business when he felt the weight of someones gaze on his back. Realizing he wasn't alone, he swiftly turned around, hands grasping his guns and aiming them.

“What do you want, demon brat?” he ground out, furious. “Did the big bad bat put you up to this?”

The child gave him a wide grin, something Jason wasn't expecting. Damian stepped closer while the Red Hood subconsciously moved away, a warning signal blaring in the back of his mind that something was off about this.

 

“Ah. Jason Todd. I would always remember you. I could never forget one who I brought back. Do you remember my embrace? Perhaps not, but I do. And I never let go of the children who come into my protection.”

“What are you talking about, brat? I don’t have time for this!”

“There is something you don’t know… but then again, the amount of things you have no knowledge of would fill many, many books. Or is it flash drives in this century? Hmm...”

“Get to the point, Damian.” Jason growled threateningly, guns pointed at the child’s head.

“Careful where you point that, Todd. You don’t want to do something that you will regret later.” The child said with a smirk.

“What are you…?” that’s when he saw it. Looking down to yell at the child, he saw that he had changed. Where his eyes were once blue, they were now a bright green colour, like his own. The primal part of his brain was rearing up and yelling at him to run away, that danger was right in front of him. But he couldn't muster the energy to get his limbs to move. They were frozen.

“What the hell?” he muttered in shock.

 

“Close, but not really, Todd. I could take you there if you want.” ‘Damian’ said offhandedly, giving him a deadly smile full of teeth. This was getting weird. First the brat was acting strange, and now it turns out he went through some kind of colour correction procedure for his eyes? Was that even possible? Does that mean he willingly left Bruce and the others to rejoin his first family again? But why?

Before he could wonder about it longer, there was a sharp ache in his head. Clutching his head, Jason fell to his knees, trying to will the pain away.

“Do I have your undivided attention now? Good. Jason. I am not who you think I am. The boy you have once known as Damian Wayne no longer exists. I am the one who brought you back. The Lazarus Pit.”

Jason could only stare up at the figure in mute silence.

 

“Don’t give me that look, Jason. Or should I say ‘Jasey Wasey’? Remember when that boy living in your flat refused to leave your mother alone, so you sold out his drug dealing scum of a father to get him to move away? He never did know what tipped off the coppers, did he? Or how about when that kind old lady from across the street ended up dead from a mugging and you were the only witness at the ripe old age of four? Truth be told, I know everything about you Jason. Know why?”

‘Damian’ leaned in closer.

“Because I own you, boy.”

Smirking to himself, ‘Damian’ grabbed his collar and pulled him up.

 

“There is a new world order coming soon. A new rule under my management will run this sorry excuse of a planet far better than the current ones in existence. With this new body, there are more opportunities available to me than ever before. And you will be right there by my side.”

Jason finally found the strength to speak, struggling through the haze of pain and attempting to string a coherent thought together.

“I-I…no. Thu-this is crazy. Stuh-stop this. Da…Damian. Please.”

Seeing no mercy in the child’s eyes, he attempted to crawl away from the danger, but to no avail. ‘Damian’ effortlessly pinned him down.

Tsking and shaking his head, the Lazarus Pit looked down at him with feigned shame.

“What a pity. You actually think you have a choice in this endeavour. Goodbye, Jason. This will be the last moment of freedom you will ever have. You owe me your life.”

With that, his mind clouded over and Jason knew no more.

Chapter Text

“Oracle. Status update.” Bruce commanded. The raid on the Nanda Parbat compound was a resounding failure. He, Nightwing and Talia were flying back to Gotham to reconvene and to decide the next best course of action. Every minute that passed reminded him of how far away his youngest child was. 

“Roger that, B. Nothing seems off in Gotham so far. Wait. That’s weird. Hold on.” There’s the sound of keys clacking on the other end as Barbara tries to figure out something. A minute passes before she speaks up again.

“B! The cameras have been hacked! They’ve been looping for the past half hour!”

“Do you have any idea who could be behind this?”

“These are public CCTV cameras we’re using, Batman. Anyone can access them remotely without leaving a trail.”

“Ok. Ok. We’re returning now. We should be passing overhead soon. See if you can spot us above the GCPD station.” Bruce replied.

“Got it.” Barbara said, flipping through the cameras that were overlooking the area of the police station. After several minutes, Bruce spoke up.

“Well? Anything?”

“Did you already pass?” 

“Yes.”

“You didn't show up. Is your cloaking device on?”

“No.”

“Then we have something going on here. Can you fly over the Town Hall?”

The building was across town, a good chance to see if the issue affected a small part of Gotham, or if it was citywide. More minutes pass.

“Do you see us?”

“Still no.

“Hmmm. Can you and Red Robin figure the source of this hack?”

“Affirmative B. Might take some time since there are a ton of cameras.”

“Get to it then, Oracle. Batman out.”

Bruce shut off the radio and the communication channel is silent.

 

Elsewhere in Gotham, Barbra stretched out, twisting her back and arms to stop the spreading numbness. She looked out the window from her clocktower home. After noting internally that it seemed normal, she reached for her headset and put them back on again.

“You heard B. Let’s get to work. Take the Casino District first, Red. I’ll start with the GCPD cameras.”

“Roger that O.” Tim replied, he took a seat and started shifting through the cameras. After restoring several of the machines, he was no closer to figuring out where the source of the hacking attack was and who those responsible were. As Tim was done fixing the sixteenth camera and watching it film, he noticed something off in the alleyway it was located in. There appeared to be signs of a scuffle, but whoever the victim was, they didn't appear to put up much of a fight. When the camera panned to the dumpster, Tim froze. There was a familiar scrap of clothing sticking out of it. He wasn't sure, but…he needed confirmation. Picking up his com again, he hit in the code for Spoiler and waited for her to pick up.

“Spoiler. We have a situation with a hacker remotely disabling the cameras in Gotham. One of the cameras I restored is showing something strange. Can you go to this location and check for me please? It’s behind the fifth alley leading to the back entrance of the Swamp Casino. There seems to be something in the dumpster.”

“Got it Red Robin. Will report back soon.” Stephanie replied. She was pretty close to that area anyway too. Finishing up beating the thugs that were threatening an innocent couple trying to have a romantic date night, she picked up the woman’s purse and returned it to her.

After being thanked profusely by the two women, she escorted them back to the main street where they would not be targeted as easily. Watching them leave, she only grappled away when she was sure they were fine on their own. Quickly reaching the alleyway Tim was describing, Stephanie ventured in, locating the dumpster. Throwing the top over, Stephanie gasped.

Inside the dumpster, Red Hood’s helmet, jacket, and weaponry were thrown haphazardly in. Hands shaking, Stephanie reached in and grabbed one of the abandoned guns. It was fully loaded. Whoever took out Hood did so without difficulty. What were they up against? She grabbed her communicator to contact everyone.