Skidding to a halt, they stopped in a rather spacious street in New York with few people present.
Damian followed the others’ line of sight to a rundown building. He jumped of the bike, followed by Peter as he parked at the roadside.
Feeling skeptical to say the least, Damian asked: “This is supposed to be the mansion that you call the Sanctum Sanctorum?”
Trying to mask the smugness of knowing that the kid is falling for the camouflage, Sam said with a smirk as they walked closer: “ What? Not royal enough for your demonicness? Or is it that you simply have poor eyesight?”
Damian snapped to face the flying teen; “You dare imply that I am inadequate? That this is beyond m-” he snarled as he pointed at the structure. Facing it for the last sentence. In the middle of it he stopped, mouth open. Sam looked at the boy with glee.
Without Damian noticing, as they had walked closer the structure had changed. The rundown walls and tattered steps were now greater and cleaner. Statues guarded the entrance and a giant circular window decorated the roof.
“Welcome to the world of magic.” Danny said as he passed the younger boy. Trying not to show of the smile painted on his face much like two of the others.
Sam on the other hand had no problem rubbing it in: “What? Don’t tell me you really need stronger prescription in those glasses? Such a shame.”. Smirking as he flew to the door that opened before them.
Damian, with an even deeper than normal frown, had to jog to catch up with the teens that entered without question. Going through the door they entered a brown, classy hallway. Pictures and sockets with different objects adorning the place. The doors silently shut behind them, Damian turning just as they shut.
“I see you’ve arrived.”
Turning back, Damian saw the floating figure of Doctor Strange. The cape waving around him like a flag in the breeze. The boy keeping his scowl at seeing the man that had annoyed him the most when waking up in the med-bay.
“And you brought… Demon, was his name?” Strange raising an eyebrow, clearly trying to taunt. At least clear to the teens.
“It’s Damian!-tt- How can you not even remember a name?” he said as he crossed his arms over his chest. Head held high with his everlasting scowl.
Mused, the sorcerer turned to the teens: “I assume we’re all here to get rid off him.” He paused and glanced at Damian. “Sorry, I meant send him home.”
“I know what you meant by-!” Damian snarled just as the ground left him. “GHUAGH!”
The teens in the room watched as one boy floated and squirmed around. With no control over where he went the kid was levitated by the magician in the middle of the hallway.
Strange floated himself and the flailing kid up the stairs: “Forgive me, but you do seem quite violent. I will not risk you breaking anything.”. The teens following both of them. Some enjoying the development more than they would admit to the boy.
“And there is no need to hide in here. Even the ceiling has eyes” Strange said as he snapped his fingers and Damian’s sunglasses disappeared.
Peter shuddered as he remembered his first visit to the mansion where he had clung to the ceiling only for numerous eyes to open and steer at him. “Hey! Give them back you daft moron!”
Sam however looked at the source of the last insult. “When was the last time you slept?”
At the question Damian quickly pulled his hood up in an attempt to cover his eyes to not let any see. Not that it helped as the others had already taken in Damian’s bloodshot eyes and heavy bags. Even if he was mentally used to staying awake and alert for days, it didn’t mean that his body never protested.
“-tt- I can sleep when I return to my own bed. Right now we can focus on putting me down and finding how I got here.”
“Fine, but we will come back to this later.” Peter said, feeling like he picked up some parenting skills from either uncle Ben or aunt May. Reluctantly no more questions was asked on the subject. The comment on letting Damian down was ignored as they started discussing why they were there.
While moving Strange got updated on the information. Mostly by Danny that knew the most about the mystical variables, but the others were not fond of keeping quiet and made comments along the way.
“So doc Strange, are we hopping into the Dream Dimension again?” Peter leaned forward to meet the sorcerer’s line of sight as they stopped in front of a door Peter guessed were big enough to easily let through three Rhinos stacked up on each other.
“No. What we can see in the Dream Dimension is selective and difficult to control when it comes to the subconscious.” The sorcerer turned to the sideways floating boy that now had his arms crossed over his chest, legs crossed and an angry look on his face. He forced down the corners of his lips that were threatening to rise as he continued: “We will have to go directly into your mind. I will open the doors and assist while you will guide us to the memories you wish to find. The others will come to aid and protect. The subconscious is unpredictable and dangerous, even for it’s own master to venture into.” Taking a small pause as he remembered Danny speaking of Damian’s reluctant to let others in, he ended with: “This is of course only if you’re willing.”
Damian was turned the right side up as he thought. The hard scowl becoming slightly softer. “Is there no better way? Some hypnosis maybe?”
“Yes, but that will take time and is less effective. If you wish for clear answers fast, then we will have to go directly to the source. Besides, this way you can control what we will see or at least know about it as you would not if we had pit your conscious mind to sleep, only asking the unconscious part for answers.”
Another minute went by as they waited for the boy’s answer. Damian’s face went through slight changes as he thought. Quirking his lip in annoyance. Raising an eyebrow questioningly. Looking up to the side trying to remember something. Sam and Amadeus had just started playing thumb-war as Damian sighed in defeat. “Very well. Let’s get this over with.”
The sorcerer nodded and opened the big door they had stopped in front of with a wave of his hand. The huge doors creaking as they revealed an open room dyed in soft browns and yellows. In a circle in the middle of the room were ten circular cushions. Between them, on the floor, were lines and symbols reminding of a magic circle.
Strange sat Damian down on a cushion on the far end from the door while signaling for the others to take a seat as well. They sat down with one seat between each other. Except for Danny, they did not seem to sure of what was going on, thus Sam was the one to speak up: “So now what? We just meditate here?”
The sorcerer placed himself in the middle of the circle, crossing his legs so he sat while floating. Just as the symbols under them started glowing, he answered: “Yes. You will quite simply meditate as I will connect us and enter us all into Demon’s mind.”
“Damian” the kid grumbled, but still closing his eyes like the others. Breathing in as he tried to relax. Feeling something touch his mind, he saw a purple light floating under his eyelids before he found himself standing in the dark.
The room reminded him of the Wayne manor. It was a big ballroom that looked overly expensive for the average American, but just enough to impress the socialites and wealthy that the Waynes had to interact with. It was all dyed in dark purple and blue, from windows to floor and ceiling, making it look like a peaceful night in Gotham. He was standing by the stairs, a hand on the railing, looking down on the big open floor beneath. Out of the walls were huge patterned cylinders, reminding him of the pillars he was so used to in the league of assassins. Still standing taking in the room, the purple waves of light flew past him and moved around in five circles on the ballroom floor. Shapes appeared in the center of each of them, the shapes turned to distinctive figures and in a second Peter, Sam, Danny, Amadeus and Strange were all standing uncertain in the wide room.
“Uh guys, am I the only one getting the creeps from this place?” Peter said as he looked around the room. Hugging himself as if a cold wind had passed by. Despite finding friends in the Howling commanders, he still was no fan of monsters or horror.
Danny took in the pillars that went from the floor to the ceiling. “This place is indeed dark, friend. However I can still feel the warmth similar to that of a new home. Weak, but safe.”
Sam tried to look out the tall windows that showed nothing past the glass. Flying up and down to see if he could spot a moving shadow or dark figure. “I have to agree with Web-head. This is totally like the haunted vampire mansion from movie night last month. It’s only missing the hands that come out of the walls and the piano music.”
Damian frowned at their comments. For someone that had only grown up in palaces and mansions, he found their first impressions a tad insulting. Realizing that he was hidden in the shadows, he took a soundless step down the stairs. Only when he put some sound into his next step did he get the attention from the five others. He got a little warm feeling in his chest knowing that he was naturally hiding in the shadows without a thought, following his parent’s legacy and teaching as a good son.
The sorcerer, more used to the mystic than most any other mortal, knew that the kid wanted to hurry and Strange himself wanted to get the show on knowing that staying too long in anyone’s mind bore lasting consequences; “Shall we continue?”. Raising a hand he signaled to the grand balcony door
Steadily and elegantly Damian strode down the stairs, the very picture of the owner of such an pretentious room. Giving Peter an even stronger impression of him being a vampire. The bloodshot eyes had not followed into his mind, and neither had his clothes. The kid was wearing some black formal attire under plates of an black armor and a swaying crimson cape.
Quickly Peter looked down at himself, hands out in front of his face. Had he lost his suit as well? Slightly panicked he turned his glowed hand over, only to find that his whole body was covered. As he rubbed his hands over his head he felt no hair sticking out and that he was still masked. Letting out a sigh of relief he looked back at the others, only to find them looking back at him.
“Uh, everything ok?” Amadeus ask, uncertainty in his tone.
“Yeah, just checking that I’m still the handsome old me.” Peter joked back with a merry tone as he held his hand under his chin in a pose.
“No need to worry Web-head, you’re winning no pageants with me here.” Sam said, pointing his thumb at his chest.
The team looked back at the sorcerer and kid that had been talking. They both faced the door, and a scenery appeared behind it. A grass field and dark sky was shown behind the glass, two gravestones and a big three a bit away.
“Good, now focus on the hints of memories you wish to find.” Strange said taking half a step back.
The peaceful scenery faded out and engulfing flames took its place. Flaming pillars crumbling down and through the glass windows crackling and screams sounded harshly yet like it was from miles away. Damian quickly looked away and it faded back to nothingness.
“Try again” Strange calmly said, laying a hand gently on the kid’s shoulder. Without even attempting to shake it off, Damian turned his gaze back to the door and the scenery behind it changed once more. This time it showed a graveyard in the day. Grey skies created a foul mood and in the distance figures could be seen moving.
Danny stepped up beside Strange, looking out the glass asking: “Is this the one?”
The corners of Damian’s mouth threatened to rise, eyes dull with little emotion, as he answered: “Yes. I suppose not everyone can say they remember their own funeral.”
Not satisfied by this development, Sam spoke up: “Wait! We are not seriously ignoring the burning hell that we just saw?” Peter lifted his arms in a motion to show that he agreed and Amadeus held his distance in case the flames returned.
Danny only turned to his friends and calmly explained: “We will have to trust that Damian doesn’t send us there. This is however a risk we take by going into someone’s mind. Although it might be a little darker and more violent to what I’m used to, dangers are easy to meet us. That is also why we are here, for what Damian cannot control.”
Although not feeling too brave, Peter took a step closer. Followed by the two others he straightened his back and took a deep breath.
“Then we will continue from here.” Strange said as he opened the balcony doors. A rough breeze meeting the six as they stepped through.