8 Years Ago
It was hot. Too hot for San Francisco, even though it was summer. Usually, the city was foggy and cool, but today people on the street were dripping sweat. But, then again, it was the least weird thing going on at the moment.
Zatanna yawned as she laid in her bed, reading the magical books her father made her study whenever she had free time. Despite magic coming naturally to her, Giovanni insisted that she practiced and learned every spell and incantation. And memorized the backwards words. “You never know when it will come handy”, that’s what he said to her ever since she could remember. So while all her classmates enjoyed their vacations on the beach, Zatanna barely even left Shadowcrest, except on the occasions she went perform with her father, or replace him when his job as a magical vigilante got in the way. There was a show scheduled for that night, and, given the morning events, it was likely she would have the stage all for herself.
It wasn’t unusual for her dad’s friends to show up on the house. John Sargent was like a second father for her. When Giovanni had to take off dangerous creatures, he would leave Zatanna with his most trusted ally, and the girl had nothing but good memories of those times. Richard Occult and Rose Psychic were like the uncle and the aunt she never had, and even the mysterious Mister E, who she never discovered the real name, was somewhat a role-model for her. But for the four of them to show up at the same moment on their doorsteps, something had to be terrible wrong. Her dad had taken his group to his office and told Zee to go upstairs and stay there until he told her it was safe to come back down, and she did just that. Luckily, she had chocolate bars stashed on her drawers, so at least she had what to eat while she waited for their meeting to finish. But the hours passed, and now it was already 5 p.m., and there was no sign of it ending any time soon.
Her phone biped and she got up to check it. It was a message from her best friend, Mikey Dowling, saying that she was at the Jazz Marina Café, a coffee shop that hasn’t changed a thing since the 20’s and where they usually hang out after school. They had been best friends since ever. Sara Dowling, Mikey’s mom, was her father’s manager, and one of the few people that knew that Giovanni was a real magician. The two girls had grown up together, playing on the backstage while their parents worked. Tired of hanging around her room all day, she decided to go out. Whatever crisis was happening, it certainly wasn’t stopping normal people of having fun, so why should it stop her? It’s not as her dad would let her do anything to help. Plus, she would be back before he even noticed.
She laced her black boots and stopped by the full-body mirror to check herself. Her hair was tied in a ponytail, and the few locks that were loose, were sticking to her skin because of the sweat. She muttered a spell, and soon her hair was clean and smooth. She wasn’t wearing anything fancy, just an old jeans and a stripped t-shirt. She laced her black boots and headed down stairs, and took her purse, which laid on the couch, careful to not make any noise. Zee had just reached the front door when she heard a knock from the other side. She checked the spy hole, but didn’t recognize the man leaning on the porch while casually smoking a cigarette. She decided to open it, the house had enough protection spells that demons wouldn’t be able to pass on front of it, whoever it was had to be human.
“Hi, is this the home of Giovanni Zatara?”, the man asked as soon as she opened the door. The first thing she noticed about him was that he had a different accent, maybe English. The second was how handsome he looked, with a short, messy, dirty-blond hair, gray-blue eyes and pinky lips. His tie was loose around his neck, and his trench-coat was way too warm for the weather.
“Yeah. He’s my dad, but he’s busy at the moment.”, Zee told him. He analyzed her, his eyes stopping a second too long on her breasts. She stepped outside, eager to meet Mikey, but the stranger stopped her from closing the door.
“It’s vital that I talk to him right away”, he insisted. The way he spoke of it made it seem important. But before Zatanna could say anything else, there was the sound of footsteps, and the man’s eyes glowed up.
“John Constantine”, her father’s voice spoke from behind her. “What are you doing in my house?”. There seemed to have a tension between the two of them, and Zatanna wondered why.
“I believe I’m here for the same reason they are”, Constantine says, pointing towards the group of mystics, who are still standing in the living room. For a moment, Zee thinks her dad is going to send the blond away, but then he lets out an exaggerated sigh and signals for the unwanted visitor to come in.
“Oh, by the way, I’m on my way out to meet Mikey, okay?”, the girl informs her father, who nods in agreement. “ Better for Zatanna to be out on the streets than on Shadowcrest with Constantine.” , he thinks, as he watches his daughter turn away and begin to walk, “Yes, anywhere is better than near that man”.
“Shit” , she thought, as she ducked to escape the dagger that her opponent had aimed at her. Zee was finishing a show is Vegas when those thieves attacked. The Royal Flush Gang. She had already heard of them, but never actually faced the group. The five of them came in flying in big cards, and after using smoke bombs, had stolen the prize of a poker tournament that was happening in the casino. At least Zatanna was putting a good show for those who had come to watch her. “Sepor, eit meht”, as soon as the words left her mouth, ropes appeared out of thin air and tangled itself on the burglars. One of them tried to out escape using lasers goggles, but Zee was fast and with a wave of her hand, she sent the equipment flying to the wall, where it crashed.
With the sirens announcing the cops, her work was done. She returned victorious to the auditorium, which now had a hole on the wall, and the audience clapped. Some of them even threw roses at her. She thanked them all for coming and retired to the backstage, anxious to get back to her hotel room and take a warm bath.
“Well, today was quite a performance”, Mikey commented when Zee passes through the curtains. After Giovanni left the stages, Zatanna took over, and asked Mikey to be her manager and carpenter, making her responsible for the stage props. “I suppose that’s what you expect when you are part-time stage magician and part-time superhero”, her friend completed.
It was true. Zee used her powers both for her performances and for crime fighting. Just like her dad once was part of the Justice Society, Zatanna was a member of the Justice League, and was used to catching bad guys, although, she usually didn’t do both at the same time. Entering the League made her shows even more popular, and earned her the title of Mistress of Magic. Not that most actually believed in magic, she had seen theories saying she and her father were aliens and others saying that they use technology to imitate magic. And she was glad of this disbelief. If humanity knew what hid in the shadows, no one would ever leave their homes again.
“Sporp ot sexob”, she says, and watches her materials pack themselves. Her dad used to say it was a waste of magic to use it for simple things, but Zee was too tired to do it by herself, and her father wasn’t here to reprimand her for it.
* * *
The hotel room was big, and the bed looked very comfortable. She went to the bathroom and turned on the water, waiting for the tub to get full before going in. That was the best part of being famous: they always booked her on fancy hotels. The took off the black waistcoat and white leotard she always wore on shows, and removed her fishnets, carefully to not ruin it with her long fingernails.
Glancing over to the nightstand, she noticed that they had left a bottle of wine for her, and although she wasn’t much of a drinker, she decided to go for it. It had been a tough day, after all. Having poured herself a glass, she returned to the bathroom, took of her undergarments and entered the tub, the warm water involving her tired muscles. The wine was good and it left her sleepy.
Zee didn’t even bother to put on a nightgown, she was the only one in the room, and slid herself underneath the blankets. She was right, the bed was very fluffy and soft. But not even it could stop the nightmares from coming in.
His head hurt. There was a loud pounding in his ears, and he couldn’t bring himself to open his eyes. The familiar smell of vomit filled his nostrils, and he soon remembered where he was. He had passed out on a bathroom stall on a club last night. Groaning in pain, he got up from the floor and opened the door. The soft daylight illuminated the male bathroom. He stood there, too dizzy to walk any further.
He didn’t know why he kept doing that. He was getting too old for this. His back was hurting from sleeping in a curled position, and he felt awful. He didn’t even know the name of the fucking club he was in.
When his vision stopped spinning, he walked to the sink, and he didn’t only feel bad, he looked bad. There was blood on the corner of his lips, of a fight he didn’t recall getting into, and there was dark bruises around his eyes. He washed his face and searched his coat for the flask of whiskey he always kept around. One gulp was all he needed to wake up. He discovered his phone had died during the night, and unable to call an Uber, he decided to open a portal to his apartment.
John was living in a one-bedroom loft on Stoke Newington. When he bought it, his broker has told him it was a “hipster neighborhood, with an active nightlife”. Actually, it was full of families with little children. Not like he stayed home much. His place was a mess, books, artifacts, scrolls and clothes were throw all over. He took of the shirt he was wearing and threw it on the washing machine, followed close by his pants and coat.
He had an exorcism to perform in Newcastle, and had to look at least presentable. He went straight to shower, where he shaved clean and washed the dirt and sweat out of his skin. He mentally went over today’s task. It wasn’t much, actually. He was pretty sure there was no actual ghost haunting the house, so all he had to do was say some jibber-jabber to make the old lady feel safe, receive his money and leave. He had faced real supernatural threats before, he could do this with his eyes closed.
He got dressed, in an outfit almost identical to the one he was wearing before, and took some salt, as well as fake amulets, and put it on his bag. There was some leftover coffee on the table, and he took a sip. It was bitter and cold, but he drank it anyway, John had to be awake for the next couple hours. He then began the long walk to King’s Cross, where he would take the train to that cursed town.
* * *
John hated Newcastle. It was on that bloody city that he faced his first demon. And where he lost his first battle. It was over fifteen years ago, but he never forgave himself for what happened to that girl. “Astra” , her name echoed in his head over and over. It had taken a long time, and a little magic, before he was finally able to sleep at night without being haunted by her.
He was right, the job was quick. The only ghosts in this town are his owns. It had been a long time since he last was in Newcastle, but it wasn’t the kind of city that changes a lot. He told himself he would only look around, find a bar and drink a little. But what he was actually just wanting to see if the Casanova Club was still there. He was kind of hoping someone would have rebuild it after the fire. But no one had. Now, the land had become another Costa Coffee. There was no point in going in. “ What was I expecting anyway? The place was trash, of course no one would want to rebuild it.”
So he took the next train to London, and three hours later, Constantine sat in his loft, a bottle of whiskey in one hand, a cigarette on the other, and watched as the newswoman reported another epic battle between some caped guy and a villainous beast. And then, he saw her on the television. Fighting, and winning, from a bunch of technological thieves. And he did the only thing he knew, he opened another bottle and texted a girl he met the other night. Soon, he wasn’t alone anymore, but it didn’t made him feel any better.
8 Years Ago
He didn’t knew Zatara had a daughter. She was pretty but ordinary, yet he couldn’t stop thinking about her. He wondered how old she was, he hoped she was over 18. Not that he would dare make out with Zatara’s daughter. Or maybe he would, sometimes he didn’t know which lines should be crossed or not. But he had already screwed up with Giovanni, and it didn’t seem a good idea to get that man even more enraged.
The other occultists didn’t seem happy on seeing him, but Constantine was already expecting that. He wasn’t even sure if Giovanni would let him in, but that was a risk he had to take. It wasn’t like the mistrust was unfounded.
“Believe me, I would rather not be here”, he says, using his lighter to light up another cigarette. Rose frowns her nose in disapproval, but John just shrugs.
“Well, mate” , Sargon comments sarcastically, imitating Constantine’s accent, “we would rather not have you here.”
“Stop this, will you? Arguing won’t do any good”, a strange man, who John doesn’t recognize, points out. “I’m Mister E, by the way. And I assume you are the famous Hellblazer.”
“Hadn’t heard that title in a while”, the British man smirks. He had no idea who was this Mister E was, but he seemed like a nice guy.
“I suppose you have heard about the disappearances that occurred this morning”, Zatara returns from the kitchen, holding two glasses of water. John shakes his head in a ‘no’ and takes his flask from the pocket of his coat, opening and taking a sip.
“Yeah. Not only that, but I know who is behind them”, Constantine waits for the others to realize what he has said, and once they do, all the heads in the room turn to him. “Seems like I have caught you attention. Good. Cause our old mate, Felix Faust, is back.”
Zatara and Sargent go pale. Richard and Rose stare at each other in a mute panic, but E just nods. It had been just three years ago, but it felt like an eternity. John had been enjoying his night in London, when a well-dressed man approached him. He introduced himself as Giovanni Zatara, and requested John’s help in defeating Felix Faust and the Demons Three. Which they did, despite John turning his back on the rest of the team during the final battle and stealing Faust’s magical staff. Truly, Constantine thought the evil magician was despicable, but that staff had been worth £6,000, and he knew the others would be just fine without him. But of course that was enough the make his colleagues hate him. Not that he minded much.
“Damn it!”, Giovanni cursed. He turns to face John, anger flicking on his eyes “This make it your fault! If you hadn’t run away, he would still be imprisoned.”
“Your mess. You fix it”, Rose states, supporting Zatara’s argument. When she was angry, her wrinkles became more evident, making her look older. “She must be around forty, but she’s still good looking”. Rose had long brown hair and brown eyes, and every time John had seen her, she used a gray blazer and a colorful t-shirt underneath. Not the kind of girl he would usually call, but if she invited herself to his place, he wouldn’t say no.
“You saying that you incompetent fuckers couldn’t do the bounding spell that I so kindly gave you?”, Constantine asks jokingly. They pretty much said that Faust is free of the spell because John wasn’t there. Before he can react, Sargon rushes towards him, holding him by the collar of his shirt.
“You think this is a fucking joke? Can’t you see people are dying out there? Faust is kidnapping and killing them in his search for power, all because you were too scared to face him in battle”, the older sorcerer barks at him. John could fight if he wanted. He could punch Sargon in the face and be done with it. He should turn his back and fix this himself. But deep down, he knows the man is right. This isn’t a joke. There’s a creak, and the front door opens, and the black-haired girl from before walks in.
“John?”, she says. Her voice is sweet, and for a moment Constantine thinks the girl is talking to him. But then he realizes that Sargon’s real name is John Sargent. Sargon suddenly lets him go, and Constantine stumble backwards.
“Hey, Zanny”, the man says, while hugging the girl, “Sorry I didn’t had time to talk to you earlier, but I really needed to see your father.” The girl nods as if she’s used to it.
“Dad, there’s something going on. I was near the pier, and this fog began to rise, and some kind of ghost came with it. I tried casting a spell, but it wasn’t working. And then, as fast as it appeared, it went away, leaving some people injured and others dead.” She seems calm to someone who just witnessed an attack. “ Of course her father trained her to such occasions.”
“He’s getting stronger by the second. If you want to do something, better do it now.”, John says. The girl looks at him, and he notices her eyes are ocean blue.
“I’m Zatanna Zatara”, she looks to her dad, and then back at him, “and where are we going?”
Facing the crystal ball in her shop, Xanadu could see the pieces entering in motion. Like a machine, one part moved and activated the other. But the final result would be catastrophic. She had wandered Earth for a long time, but had never seen anything like what would happen.
Her cards on the table showed her the past, the present and the future. The future was something volatile, it changed according to the choices that were made, but in this case, there wasn’t any outcome that was pleasant. And she knew it was on her hands now. It was up to her to reunite a group of powerful sorcerers and stop this evil from rising, but how could she do it? She had some names in her mind, some who could make a difference when the battle came, but these people would never work together.
She imagined that her sister would laugh of her, if she was here. She wanted to laugh of herself, even. But she couldn’t waste any time.
“Uggh”, a brutal growl escaped her throat as a vision hit her. Her body convulses, and she falls from the chair she was sitting. The fortune teller grips the pink tablecloth that covers the wooden surface and attempts to raise herself, but the pain intensifies, and she falls again, pulling the cloth and bringing down the cards and the crystals ball, which shatters around her. She curls in pain as the reality reshapes around her, and Xanadu begins to cry, because she sees it. She sees the darkness. She sees it growing and becoming more powerful. And then, she sees the end.
8 Years Ago
She thought her dad wouldn’t allow her to join the team. But surprisingly, he told her to get her wand and and most important charms, and soon they are all sitting around the kitchen table talking about how to find Faust.
She wanted to pay attention on what was being discussed, but her eyes kept going towards John Constantine. And she noticed that he would look at her when he thought she wasn’t seeing. She couldn’t help but blush. Zatanna knew that this was how normal girls behaved near guys they liked, but despite being 16, Zee never had a crush on anyone. Well, she supposed that now she had.
Trying to take her mind out of it, she focus instead on the diagram her father and Sargent were writing. On his side, Richard marked ley-lines on the world map, while Rose and Mister E looked into old, dusty books to find the best way to imprison Faust again. She wanted to be useful, but no one had asked her to do anything, and she had no idea how she could help.
She breath in and out a couple times, before gathering the courage to talk with Constantine. “Hey”, she tried to think of something cool to say, but nothing came into her mind. She felt stupid. At least her hey had caught John’s attention.
“Hey”, he said back to her. He pulled a metal flask out of his coat and held out to her, “Want any? I find it helpful when the things are boring.”
She supposed that the vial had alcohol. Not that Zatanna was a stranger to it, she had drank small amounts of if in parties before, but it seemed a bad idea to drink in front of her father. “Nah, I’m cool. Isn’t it too hot to wear a trench coat?”
She mentally cursed herself. Out of all the thing to say, did she really had to ask about his coat? She hated when she felt nervous and couldn’t think straight.
“Not from where I come from. And I didn’t thought I would stay long”, he answers.
“Why? You and dad don’t get along, right?”
He thinks for a minute and sips from the flask. When he opens his mouth to speak again, Zee can smell the liquor in it. “It’s complicated, luv”.
“Constantine, Zatanna”, Occult calls from where he’s working, “Come here, we’ve got something.”
“I’ve tracked him. He has settled in what used to be Kor”, Rose says, pointing at the map, “Nowadays is called Burundi, and a Ley-Line passes right above it.”
“And it’s mostly a rural area, few people would notice his activities there”, completes E.
“So what do we do know?”, Zee asks the rest of the group. Her father looks to Constantine and smiles.
“I hope you still as good with portals as you used to be, because we are going to need one.”
Most days June Moone was a normal girl. But on the other ones, she would turn into the Enchantress. No one knew of that, thought. She was forced to keep it a secret and suffer alone. They would just say she was hallucinating or had a mental disorder, but June knew that the Enchantress isn’t part of her, but something else. A being way older than June. She remember when they were first merged together, during a Halloween night, in a haunted house, by an unknown creature. She remembers how, in the beginning, she could control the Enchantress and use their powers for good, but lately, the witch was gaining more and more control over their body, and June feared that one day she would be gone, and the only thing left would be the sorceress.
She was almost gone already. Ever since she became the host for the witch, she grew thinner and paler. She skin stuck on the bones, and there were dark circles under her eyes from the lack of sleep. Her brown hair was dry, and she needed a haircut immediately. She was just a shell of who she used to be.
“June”, she could hear the calling, “ June, let me out. Let’s play a little...” . It took everything in her to ignored the voice on her mind, and focus on the task ahead. She needed to finish the painting by evening, or her client would be upset. She waited until the last minute to start, and she was regretting the choice.
She didn’t get many requests nowadays, and she was beginning to have financial problems. At least with this art piece, she might have enough money to pay rent for a couple months until she found a more stable job than a freelancer. “SHUT UP!”, the girl screamed at herself, dropping the paint-brush to go get some coffee. Coffee always helped. “ But Juneee”, in her head, the witch dragged the ‘e’ in her name, “ we used to have so much fun”. For some reason, today the Enchantress influence seemed stronger, like claws digging into her brain, trying to take over her. “Just stop! Stop! Stop! Stop!”, June screams as she falls to the ground and cries. She could still smell the blood she had washed away from the kitchen floor last week, after the Enchantress took over and murdered an innocent boy. She knew she wasn’t responsible, but she still felt guilty.
It took a while, but she managed to find her strength and got up, boiled some water and threw as many spoons of instant coffee as she could without over-saturating the drink. With the witch still begging to get out, she drank the whole cup in a sip. She felt better. Now the pleas were just whispers in the back of her mind, and she could focus on her painting.
* * *
It was nearly five o’clock by the time she finished. She took a quick shower to not look like a complete mess when her client came to get to work. She was quite proud of it. It wasn’t the most beautiful thing she had ever done, but with the witch screaming in her mind, it was the best she could do.
There was a knock on the door and she opened it, expecting to be the man who hired her. Instead in front her stood a gorgeous woman, with a long dark-brown hair and shining green eyes. The woman dressed strangely, wearing a long purple gown made with intricate gold design on the edges of the sleeves. Her neck was adorned with colorful necklaces, that looked so expensive that must have costed more that June ever earned in her life.
“Yes?”, June asked, puzzled by her visitor.
“My name is Madame Xanadu, and I think we might be able to help each other”, and Xanadu opened a smile, “May I come in?”
June had never seen her before, but she felt like she could trust her. “ You, stupid girl! Can’t you see she wants to harm us? Send her away! Send her away!” , the Enchantress hissed in her head. And, by the simple fact that the Enchantress was so scared of Madame Xanadu, June felt even more inclined to let her in. She moved to the side, and allowed the dark-haired woman to enter the small flat she rented.
“I’m expecting someone, but we can talk in the meanwhile”, she sat down on the couch, and Xanadu sat on her side.
“Should I call you June or Enchantress?”, at first, she thought about denying it. June had kept her evil resident a secret, but she decided there was no point in lying. Madame Xanadu seemed the kind of person that always discovers the truth, one way or another.
“June. And please don’t say her name.”
“Oh, of course. There’s lot of power in a name. But, like I said, if you let me, I can help you”, Xanadu takes June’s hand and closes her eyes, concentrating. When she speaks again, her voice is different, rougher and distant. “ You were scared. She saw it and took the opportunity. You try fighting, but it’s useless. Her hold on you gets stronger each time she comes out. Control the witch, or she will control you.” Xanadu eyes snap open, and she smiles sadly at June. “My dear,” her voice is normal again, “you never asked for any of this, did you?”
June says no. She never wanted to have these powers. She only wanted to be normal. Xanadu opens a bag, that June hadn’t even noticed in first place, and takes out a necklace with a red gem in it. “Wear this”, she says, giving it to June, “it will keep her quiet, and let you have more control over her. But it’s only a short-term solution.”
“But how do I get rid of her, then?”, June asks. She had never had any hope of being free again, she had long accepted that she would always be trapped with the Enchantress, but now… Now she allowed herself to have faith, to believe she could, once more, be June Moone, and only that.
“Get rid?”, the Madame shook her head, “no, no. You need to embrace her. If you don’t fear her, she has no power over you. But now, about the help I need…”
But before they could continue their conversation, there was another knock on the door, and June got up to answer it.
“Mister Dell”, June greets her client, “I have it already finished. I didn’t pack so you could take a look on it.” She leads the way towards the room she uses as a studio, with the man following close. “There”, June points, and the man gasps in surprise. In the place where June had painted a ballerina, now there was the silhouette of a witch flying on the sky, painted in blood.
“Ow! It’s even better than what I had asked you to!”, he takes out his wallet, and hands her a check, along with a $100-dollar bill, “here, Ms. Moone. You deserve it all.”
After the painting was packed, and the man gone, June returned to her place near Xanadu.
“Alright. I’m listening. What do you need from me?”
8 Years Ago
It’s hard to create a portal when all he can think is about Zatanna. Her eyes, her soft mouth, her laugh… And the fact she was 16. He had asked Rose about the girl’s age while the others got the materials he needed. If he knew she was so young, he would never have flirted back with her. Or, likely, what he taken as flirtation had only been a friendly conversation. At least he hadn’t touched the girl. She was ten years younger than him, and that was a line he wouldn’t cross. He had some morals, after all.
But he does it anyways. And soon, their group lands in the middle of the savanna, in front of what look like a temple. The building was a huge pyramid, at least 70 ft. tall, and with 240 square feet on the first square, and a minimum of 20 by the last one. The limestone shone in the sun, and the metal on the edges of the squares made it hard to look at it without burning the eyes.
“Is it just me, or this looks out of place?”, Zee asks.
“It’s perfect for a hideout”, Mister E remarks. His voice is monotonous, and John think he could fall asleep listening to that man talking, “I can see at least two entries. Do we go in together, or split up?"
“It would be better for us to be together. Faust may be in a weakened state, but he’s still very powerful”, Rose bites her upper lip while talking, giving away her nervousness.
“What if he tries to escape by the other one?”, Zee points out.
“We can’t possible cover all exits”, Giovanni tells her. The girl rolls her eyes.
“Well, standing here won’t do a shit to end this”, John states. He was never a fan of planning, and preferred to go straight to action in times like this. And it usually got him in trouble.
“Fine. Let’s go in through the side door, together”, Doctor Occult says, and his tone let’s very clear that his decision is final. Zatara mutter some backwards magic, and for a second, John’s vision becomes a blur, and when it clears, he’s standing on the sixth square, right next to the doorway.
8 Years Ago
Rose tries forcing it open, but the rock stay where it was. “Sealed by magic, if I had to guess”, she informs the group. Zee’s dad and Richard step forward to check on it and see if they can crack the spell.
Seeing that there’s nothing she can do there, Zee decides to check on the wall. Perhaps there’s some inscriptions that they can use to decipher Faust plans. “ This is so boring, I thought it would be like a action movie, but nope, it’s just grown-ups doing boring grown-up conversation. I should have just stayed in San Francisco, at least I’d be doing something more interesting there”. She walks with her hand pressed on the wall, so she can feel any marks on it. “ Well, that’s funny. This stone looks loose”. And then she presses it, and suddenly, she can’t feel the floor, cause there’s no floor. She screams as she being to fall. Thankfully, a hand wraps around her arm, holding her, but it’s not of much use, as the owner of the hand is also falling. She turns her head to see who it is, hoping to be her father. Then, they hit the floor. Looking up, the entrance has closed, and the room around them is as dark as the night. “ Amazing!”, she thought ironically, “I’m locked in a dark room with John Constantine.”
She woke up to sound of her ringtone. Still with closed eyes, Zatanna reached out to the nightstand trying to find her phone. Her fingers touch the small device and she pulls it closer, finally opening her eyes to see who is calling her so early on the morning. “ Or maybe not so early”, she thinks, realizing it past 10 a.m. The screen displays the name Xanadu , and Zee is tempted to not answers the call. Whenever she meets with the psychic, bad things happen, and the last thing she wants right now is trouble. But she also knows that Xanadu wouldn’t be calling if it wasn’t important.
“Morning, X”, she greets her, with a sleepy voice.
“Zatanna, I hope I haven’t disturbed you”, the woman on the other side says, “I was wondering if you had the time to come visit me. There’s something we need to talk about.”
“Sure, I have a break of a couple weeks until the next show. I’ll need sometime to get there, thought, I’m in Vegas”, as she speaks, Zee gets out of bed and heads to the bathroom.
“Can you be here by noon? I believe by then I’ll have the others.”
“Yeah, sure. But…”, before she could ask who were the others, Xanadu ended the call. “She always was a woman of few words.”
Once she had changed into comfortable clothes, and done her morning hygiene, Zatanna picked her phone once more, dialing Mikey’s number.
“You up already?”, her friend asks, picking up.
“Someone called me”, Zee says, “I need to be in New York this afternoon, can you pack things up here?”
“What is threatening the world this time?”
“Dunno, remember Madame Xanadu?”, Mikey nods and Zee continues, “Well, she called me asking to go visit her. It must be very important, or she wouldn’t be getting involved.”
“Alright, girl. Defeat some evil bastards. I can take care of the rest”, she pauses and laugh, “and if it takes too long, I can put that stupid wig once more, and do the show on your name.”
“Thanks, Mi, you’re the best.”
She played with the food on her plate, not bothering to eat. Her father only invites her for those lunch meeting to look good to the press, and Eve had stopped hoping to have an actual conversation with him long ago. All he cared about was his seat at the Congress. So she would tell him about the parties she had gone to, and pretend she actually cared about them. She only went to those parties to be seen for a couple minutes, and then disappear to protect the cities of Washington as Nightshade.
Not that she was very good with her powers. Eve had almost been shot at the previous night. “ If I don’t improve soon, I’ll never have a chance to rescue Larry…”, she though sadly, as her dad, Senator Eden, ranted about some colleague of his. Her phone rang, saving her of having to answer him. She straightened her lapis skirt and excused herself to go to the bathroom to take the call. She didn’t have the number saved and wondered if it was one of the boys had hooked up with during the brief time she spent at the party.
“Hello, my name is Madame Xanadu.”, the woman on the other side introduced herself. Definitely no one Eve had hooked up with. “Eve Eden, right?”
“Yes…”, she said, unsure as to why this person was calling her. But the longer she stayed on the bathroom, the less time she would have to listen to her dad’s bullshit. “Do I know you?”
“No. But we have interests in common, Nightshade .” Eve froze, her heart began beating faster and her palms were sweating. She always made sure no one saw her putting on her Nightshade outfit. She even wore a black wig to disguise her blonde hair. “There’s no reason to fear me, but I need someone with your abilities.”
“My abilities? I have no idea what you are talking about.”, Eve lied.
“Please, Miss Eden, there’s a lot at stake here. I’ll be sending you an address, and it would be nice if you could show here today. If you decide not to come, I won’t bother you again.”
The woman hung up, and seconds after, a new email notification showed up. It was simply an address in New York. “ Better than staying here”. Eve couldn’t explain it, but she felt like she could trust Xanadu. Plus, the Big Apple was less than an hour away by plane, if she decided she didn’t want anything to do with the woman, she could return and still do her night job.
Eve got out of the toilet, and made a quick excuse to her father, saying that a friend of hers that had been living in Paris had returned and she needed to go. She went straight to the airport and bought the next ticket.
He’s in the bar, already on his fifth drink, when his cellphone begins to buzz on the pocket of his coat. “Fuck”, he says out loud, realizing who is calling.
“What the hell do you want?”, he answers the call brutally.
“Hello, nice talking to you too”, a voice on the other side says sarcastically.
“You ain’t Xanadu”, John states.
“No, I’m June Moone. But she asked me to call you.”
“Great. What do you want?”, he drops a bill to pay for his drinks and heads out of the pub, this was sounding like the kind of conversation that it was better to have in private.
“She needs you to come to New York. At her shop. She said that she’ll pay for your time”, he lights up a cigarette and takes a long drag, thinking about whether he should go.
“Oh. Bloody hell, I suppose it must be important or she wouldn’t have asked my help. When do you need me?”
“This afternoon. I guess that for you it’s already night, but you got the idea.”
“And how the fuck do I get to N.Y.C. in just a couple hours? You do know I live in London, right?”
“She said for me to tell you to use the House.”
He doesn’t bother to say goodbye, and just ends the call, before entering a cab. He had won it in a poker game last year, but never used it before, except to take a few one-night stand when he was far from the flat. “ Well, it’s time to learn how to use the House of Mystery to travel around.”
8 Years Ago
He didn’t have time to think. He saw the floor opening and Zatanna falling, and he just tried to hold her. And now they were both sealed away from the rest of the group.
“I eriuqer a erif”, Zatanna says, her voice a bit shaky. A small fireball forms in her hand, illuminating the space around them, and revealing that they are in a tunnel.
“I guess there’s only one way out, right?”, John tells her as he gets up. Zee does the same, dusting the dirt out of her black jeans.
“It must lead to the main part of the temple, where we can join the rest of the group. It’ll be okay”, she says out loud, but sound more as if she’s trying to reassure herself and not him.
They walk side by side, her fire showing the way and avoiding them to trip on loose rocks. “ This thing is endless. We must be walking for at least an hour, but we aren’t getting anywhere”, John thinks. He hated not knowing where he was or how to proceed, and he hated how Zatanna kept humming, as if she was having a pleasant walk in the park, and not lost in a temple.
“Could you stop?”, he snaps at her.
“You tired?”, she asks, slowing her pace.
“Not the walk, luv. The humming. It’s bloody annoying”, she rolls her eyes and continues humming, this time louder. John sighs, but as soon as she turns her back at him, he can’t stop the corners of his mouth curling in a small smile.
She didn’t expect Deadman to answer her magical summon, she didn’t even thought she would be able to reach him. He was a hard one to track, having no physical body, but she had managed to create a telepathic link with him. He came as fast as he could, especially since there’s not much to do around being a ghost.
June was sitting in the couch, playing with the tarot cards. The girl had loved the painting and details in each one, and said that it almost felt they were alive. The necklace Xanadu gave her had worked, and June’s mind was silent for the first time in years.
The doorbell rang, and Xanadu took a deep breath before answering it. The girl outside was petite, with blond hair and dark eyes. She wore a skirt that looked expensive, and a top with a V-neck. She wasn’t what Xanadu had in mind, but the old woman knew better than to judge someone by their appearance.
“Are you Madame Xanadu?”, Eve asked, changing her weight from one leg to the other.
“Yes”, Xanadu smiled at her, “please come inside. We’re still waiting for others to arrive”, she informed. The girl entered the shop, and Xanadu closed the door.
“You mentioned you know who I am…”, Eve began asking.
“Yes, I can see things”, Xanadu explained.
“Could you… maybe… I don’t know…”, she couldn’t quite find the words to ask Xanadu what she wanted.
“You brother?”, Xanadu suggested. Of course Eve would ask about him, he was the reason for all she had done as Nightshade. Eve nodded. “Yes, I know how to help him. After this is over, you have my word I’ll do my best to help you find him.”
Eve gave a soft smile, and thanked Xanadu. She followed the woman into the living room, where Boston and June waited. Eve was wide-eyed at the ghost, and kept asking Boston about the afterlife. June, who had been mostly on her own until then, entered the conversation, and soon the three were talking about their lives (or deaths) like they were old friends.
At least Xanadu knew that she could count on them if everything went wrong.
It wasn’t hard to find Xanadu’s home/store. It was the only house in the street that didn’t look like it had been ripped from some advertise. She lived in a wood cottage, although you could barely see the wood, as its walls were covered by creepers. The front lawn was full of wildflowers, and colorful fabrics hanging from the clothesline. On the top of the entryway, a wood sign read “Madame Xanadu, Fortune Teller and Psychic”.
Zatanna knocked on the door softly, scared that if she hit it too hard, it would fall apart. The door opened revealing a girl about Zee’s age. The girl wore a dress that was too big for her, and Zee supposed she had borrowed from Xanadu. She looked tired, but managed to give a half-hearted smile to the magician.
“Hey, I’m June. I take you are Zatanna”, she pulled Zee into a hug. The girl was to skinny that Zee could feel her bones.
“Nice meeting you too. Where’s Xanadu?”
“In the kitchen. Making magical tea or something like that.”
The two girls pass the small hallway and walk into the living room, which is exactly how Zatanna remembered. Full of books thrown all over, with puffs and cushions on the floor, and in the middle, a round desk with a pink tablecloth where the crystal ball laid.
In one of the couches, there was a blonde girl talking with Deadman. The girl seemed familiar, as if Zee had seen her on TV, and she had known Boston when they worked together previously. “ This must be the crew Madame X pulled together. But why?”
“Oh, you came!”, Xanadu said cheerfully, as she left the kitchen carrying a silver plate with a tea-pot and four cups. She placed it on the table and came closer to greet Zatanna. “I know you must be wondering what all of this is for, and I’ll explain it all, we are just waiting one more guest”, the woman told her, taking Zee’s hands in hers. “For now, please have some tea.”
Zee took one cup and filled it, adding two lumps of sugar, before taking a sit near the blond girl, who she soon learned to be the daughter of a senator. “It’s a funny group Xanadu got here, a dead acrobat, a painter cursed with the spirit of an old witch, the daughter of a politician and a magician. Who the hell is the person we are waiting for?”
8 Years Ago
She liked annoying John, he looked cute when angry. When the tunnel finally opened into a large room, Zee’s mouth dropped. The chamber was lit with touches hanging from the walls, and it seemed made of gold. The metal reflected the light, making it so bright as if looking into the sun. Statues of creatures she didn’t recognize were displayed in the area, also made from the shiny material. On the opposite side from where they were, there was a huge door, decorated with emeralds and rubies.
“I bet that it leads to the main chamber.” John told her.
“You saying this isn’t the main chamber?”, if this was just a secondary space, what was in the main one? Walls of diamonds?
Constantine laughed. “Faust would never settle with such a simple thing. He’s a show off.”
“You met him?”, Zee asks, turning to stare of him.
“More or less”, he said, avoiding meeting her in the eyes. When she didn’t chance her inquiring gaze, he buffed defeated and continued, “Me, your dad, Sargon and the love birds had to deal with Faust three years ago.”
“Oh think I remember that. Dad went travelling for a few weeks without me, and when he came home, he was tired and angry. He didn’t say much, thought, but I knew he was mad at some of his colleagues.”
“Yeah. Me”, he stated simply, shrugging.
“Because I had other priorities.” Zee felt like there was more to the story, but didn’t pressure him to tell.
“Should we check what’s on the other room?”, she asks instead, pointing to the big door. John nods, and they begin walking towards it.
Before they reach it, the door opens, revealing a bald man, with shining gold eyes and wearing a long red robe. His skin was like crumpled paper, and he looked like he could break in pieces at any moment. But despite that, his posture was cat like and a powerful aura emanated from him. Zee didn’t had to ask, for she knew who the man was.
“Faust”, John said, his voice echoing in the chamber.
It hadn’t been so hard to make the house take him to New York. All it had taken was for him to call upon it and order it to go the the city, and when he opened the door, the magical wood house was standing in front of the Empire State Building. “Thank God that non-magical beings can’t see it. For such a powerful thing, it could be a little more discreet.”
From there, he took a cab to Xanadu’s place. The traffic was slow, and he watched the pedestrians passing by. He didn’t like America. They drove the wrong way and had terrible whiskey. Everything smelled like grease and beer. It must have taken an hour to arrive to his destination, and he paid the driver with an old dollar he had in his wallet for emergency trips to the United States, not that he had much of those lately. It was the first time in two years he came to the States. He had been rejecting jobs there, trying to avoid unfortunate encounters with Zatanna, not that she didn’t go to Europe, because she did. He almost didn’t resist going to her show in Paris, but in the end, decided against it. She didn’t want to see him, and she had her reasons.
The front door was opened by a brunette girl he had never seen before.
“Hi, I’m June. We talked on the phone.”
“Oh, right. Is Xanadu inside?”, he asked. June nodded, and he entered. There was something off about her, but he couldn’t exactly tell what.
Xanadu was on her table, drinking tea and eating biscuits with a ghost and a blond girl, like it was the most normal thing in the world. He cleared his throat to get her attention, and she raised her eyes to meet his. Her smiled dropped.
“Constantine, for the one with the fastest way to travel, you surely managed to be the last to arrive.”
“Blame the bloody fucking traffic of this city”, he walked closer to her, and took a cookie, biting it. It tasted like butter and sugar. “Now, why don’t you tell me the job and let’s get this over with. I don’t want to stay here a moment more than needed”, he told the psychic harshly. He didn’t like her, nor did she like him, so there was no point in doing cordial, pointless conversation.
And then he felt it. He felt her presence before he heard her footsteps clicking down the stairway. He inhaled her perfume, she hadn’t changed it since he last saw her. Her mouth opened, and at first, no sound left it.
“John”, she said. It wasn’t the enraged cry he was expecting. It was more like she didn’t believe her eyes. “What the hell are you doing here?”, she exclaimed angrily. “ Now, that’s more like what I thought she would do.”
“I invited him”, Xanadu stated, resting a hand on John’s shoulder.
“If he’s staying, then I’m out. I not going to be anywhere near him”, he could feel the hatred in her words.
“No, you stay. You are more useful than me”, he tells. But Xanadu’s grip on him harden, keeping him from leaving.
“I need both of you for what’s coming”, the Madame looked from John to Zatanna, studying them, “I understand you have your problems, and I would have asked both of you if it wasn’t needed.”
Zatanna let out a deep sigh. “Fine”, she said, “but just so know, John”, she looked her him, fire in her eyes, “if you touch me, I will make sure you burn.”
He knew that she wouldn’t actually harm him, but just the fact that she would threaten him meant he it wasn’t likely he would be forgiven soon.
8 Years Ago
He cursed loudly. He wanted to blame the girl, but he knew it wasn’t her fault. “If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be here”, he thought bitterly, but it had been his choice to go after Zee, so the only reason why he now found himself in a cage with the young Zatara was himself and Faust. Felix was stronger than both of them, and quickly knocked them out, when John woke up, he was in a cell, and Zatanna on the next to him. She had told him that the locks were magical and she couldn’t break it, and although he didn’t said out loud, he knew that if her backwards magic didn’t work on it, neither would anything he had. On top of it all, Zee was singing in a low voice, and it was even worse than her humming.
“You know what?”, he told her, catching her attention, “let’s make a deal, you stop with the noise and I will tell you all about my adventures with your old man.”
“You really don’t know the song?”, she asked. He shook his head in a no and she rolled her eyes. “Do you live under a rock or what? It’s ‘California Gurls’”, realizing he had no idea of what she was talking about, she went on, “Katy Perry?”, still a no from him, “I can’t believe it. I promise that if we get out of here, I’ll you give you her CD.”, she moved herself, so she was now laying on the floor, and rested her head on her hands, “Okay. My curiosity won, I stop, and you tell me the story of your life. You look like you have done some very interesting things, you know, the kinda person who tells stories in a bar that everyone loves hearing about.”
“I did had my share of crazy adventures”, he affirmed, and her eyes grew wide with excitement, “but that’s none of your bloody business. I’ll tell how I met Zatara and you shut up”, she pouted like a spoiled child.
“You know, I’m a Zatara too”, she stopped to consider things and decided, “Fine. One story is better than nothing, and I’m getting bored.”
He sighed and told her how her father had asked him for help. How they had found out that Faust was using the Demons Three to regain the power he lost for staying so long on his prison dimension or maybe it was the Demons Three using Faust to win their 100 year-long freedom. He told her about how Faust could harvest magic power from people, and how he had rehearsed a spell to lock him away one more time, not something as sophisticated as a prison dimension, but the bounding spell would not allow him to leave the cave, and he would eventually fade away or whatever immortals did. He explained how much the staff Faust was using was worth, and how he decided to take it during the battle, thinking that Zatara, Sargon, Rose and Richard would be powerful enough to perform the ritual. And how he had been wrong, because now Faust was free again.
“Why didn’t you kill him?”, she asked when John finished.
“Daddy says no one is truly immortal”, she bobs her head to the side, thinking. A lock of her black hair fell on her face, brushing her long eyelashes and red lips. “If he has a soul, he can be sent to Hell.”
“I think he has sold his to the Devil in exchange of more power. So yeah, not count on the Devil to help us keeping Faust away.”
“So what? We could send him to Etrigan and be done with this mess.”
“It could actually work. I could open the portal and then we send him there. It’s hard to escape. And Etrigan hates the Devil, so he won’t let Faust escape, even if it’s just to be petty. For a thousands of years old demon, Etrigan can behave so much like a schoolboy sometimes”, John liked the way she thought, it was a good idea, and with their abilities, it could work.
June was really curious about Zatanna and Constantine discussion, there was clearly some unresolved sexual tension in there. But if they would be working together, she would eventually find out why they were so mad at each other.
“Why do you call us here, X?”, Zee inquired. She had moved so she was now in the couch at the corner, as far away from John as she could get without leaving the room. On her side, Eve raised her eyes to look at Xanadu.
Out of all the people June had met this day, Eve was by far the one she most liked. Not that she didn’t like the others, just that Eve was the one she had more in common, with both girls being caught in magical war without asking for it.
“I suppose you have heard of Trigon ?”, Xanadu spits the name as if it’s poison. Boston, John and Zatanna nod positively, but June and Eve just change clueless glances with each other. Xanadu notice this and explains, “He’s the interdimensional incarnation of evil, who has conquered lots of worlds, turning them into hellish deserts.”
“Interdimensional what? What does that even means?”, June asks, more puzzled than before.
“A bunch of monks from a realm called Azarath decided to rid themselves of evil and sent it out by a doorway. And then Trigon was born and fucked everyone else up. But hey, at least the monks are peaceful”, John explained, “And unlike popular belief, he’s not a demon, although he’s as scary as one.”
“But more powerful”, Xanadu completed, “he feeds on fear, is cruel and almost unkillable.”
“Sorry, you lost me again in realm ”, June’s mind was filled with questions, she knew there were other Earths, but what they were saying made no sense to her. For the first time ever, she wished the Enchantress could still speak to her. Maybe the witch would have known something.
“Don’t worry about it,” Zatanna intervened, “no one truly understand the concept of realm, dimension and universe. Just roll with it.”
“Right, yeah”, Eve muttered from her sit. She nervously checked her perfect nails, and June noticed she seemed to know more than she was letting on.
Xanadu clears her throat, calling for the attention that had so quickly been dissipated. “As I was saying, Trigon conquers worlds and destroys them, and this morning a doorway was opened from his void to Earth. His power is flooding through and causing supernatural disasters. When the summoning is completed, he’ll rise and begin his attack on our world. We have around 12 hours before the Church of Blood completes their goal and Trigon arrives.”
“Isn’t the Church of Blood those guys who worship Cain?”, Zatanna asked. “Batman mentioned they were in Gotham a while back. And they don’t even use real magic, just Apokoliptian technology that appears to be magic to normal people.”
“No. That’s the Religion of Crime. And they don’t even venerate the real Cain”, John answered. “They are actually followers of Vandal Savage. Cain told me once that he has no idea of why those dudes think Savage is him.”
“Oh right, because you are such close friends with biblical beings”, Zee told him bitterly.
“He hosts nice poker nights. You should come sometime. Although, since I won his house, I don’t know when it’ll be the next.”
“Why don’t we go back to Trigon?”, June suggests, realizing that soon the two of them would begin fighting.
“Trigon is just the casual evil megalomaniac with a thirst for power and a bunch of crazy followers”, Constantine said, “should be an easy job.”
“Where are they?”, Boston inquires. “If we are on a countdown, we should move as fast as possible.”
“In my vision I was in a building, and in the window, I could see the Camelback Mountain. We should be looking for a big, maybe abandoned, construction in Phoenix. Somewhere where you could house a whole cult”, Xanadu tells the rest of the team.
“So you just saw a mountain and you knew for sure it was in Phoenix?”, Constantine asks in disbelief, “Mountains are all the same. It could be anywhere.”
Deadman looks angrily at John, and closes his eyes, concentrating, before reporting his findings, “She’s right. There are strange energies coming from there.”
“Thank you for the information, Casper”, Constantine grunts to the ghost.
“Where’s the house?”, Xanadu asks him, “It’ll come handy now.”
“I parked it in front of the Empire State”, John replies.
As the group heads out of the shop, John lights a cigarette, blowing the smoke through Boston’s ghostly form. “ It’s gonna be a long adventure” , June though, bitter at her British colleague for causing some much trouble. “ Why did Madame Xanadu even invite him anyway?”
8 Years Ago
Zatanna didn’t feel like planning how to murder Faust. She wanted to listen more about Constantine’s life. She changed position once more, now laying belly up.
“Now that we know what to do when we get free, tell me more ‘bout your life”, she had enjoyed listening to John’s tale of how he met her dad. She wished she had been there, it seemed like it had been a very interesting battle.
“Yeah, now we should plan on how to get free”, he said, “maybe we can blow the wall down.”
“Magical…”, she singsonged, “we can’t blow it. I tried while you slept. But don’t worry, Uncle John will find a way to save us. He’s a very good escape artist.”
“I see, you are the type that wait for others to do things instead of doing it yourself”, he told her teasingly.
“It’s not like that”, she buffed, “I just know my limits.”
“But you don’t know mine.”
“You saying you’re more powerful than me? Not wanting to be a show off or anything, but my backwards’ really good.”
“Just saying that combining our powers, we might get out on our own.”
“Did you know this is my first battle?”, she told him, “My dad never lets me join in. He says it’s to dangerous and that I could get hurt. I didn’t even think he would let me come today”, her head falls to the side. She looks defeated. “Maybe I shouldn’t have come. I screwed up. I got us locked in here.”
“It’s not your fault. You were just looking for clues. And you know what? Your father is a fool for doubting you.”
She smiles. He slides his hand through the bars of the cage, grabbing her soft hand into his.
“Oh. My. God.”, she exclaims, jumping to her feet, “I think I just found our way out. If we can’t escape the cage, let the cage escape us”.
“What? That doesn’t even make sense.”
She shrugs, “It sounded like a nice catchphrase in my head”. She pulls him up, and reaches for his other hand. “Ytilaer tsiwt, nrut su ot tsim.” As soon as she cast the spell, their solid form dissipates, becoming ethereal, like they were ghosts. They easily walk through the metal bars keeping them locked away, and once they are free in the hall, she mutters another spell. “Kcab ot lamron, ekam su laeroproc.”
Once they are back into their solid forms, she lets go of both his hands, and sighs in relief.
“I didn’t know if it would work.”
“So you were willing to risks our lives?”
“Someone had to do something. Or should we just have waited for Prince Charming to come rescue us?”, she says jokingly, “Come on, we need to find the rest of the group. Who knows, we might be missing all the fun”, she adds, running up the stairs in the end of the dungeon hallway.
She didn’t like being near John, and she didn’t like having to work with him. But she had no choice. “Trigon is a dangerous enemy, and Constantine is good with demons. Not that I’ll ever tell him this” . She kept silent the whole trip. They had taken the subway, because it was faster, and Zee had made sure to stay as far from John as possible, he was three seats away, but if she could, she would have him three wagons away. June and Eve were sitting at her left, and Xanadu was on her right. And above her, Deadman was floating uncomfortable. She didn’t even know if ghosts could be uncomfortable, but she supposed it wasn’t very pleasant to be floating on the New York Subway.
The voice in the speaker announced their arrival on the Empire State Station, and the group made their exit. As soon as they emerged from the underground, she could see it. The House of Mystery was huge. It was parked in the junction between 34 th West and the 5 th Avenue, and cars drove by it like it wasn’t there. The House was a curious thing, with it’s wooden porch, three floors and yellow windows, it almost seemed to be taken straight from a small-town in the middle east. But the Gargoyles that sided it’s entrance and it’s gothic decoration seemed to belonged to Gotham. What they were seeing was just a manifestation of the House, its true self was in the Dreaming, realms away from Earth.
It must have been a strange sight: five grown-ups running in the middle of the traffic, and then, disappearing. Even stranger was what Zatanna felt entering it. As soon as she stepped in it’s front lawn, she could no longer see the street or the cars. The air was thicker and turvy, and Zee felt almost weightless. She looked up and realized the sky had changed, it was dark, with a few stars casting a weird red glow. She recognized the constellation from a memory of long ago. A memory she wished she could forget.
8 Years Ago
The stairs led to the main room, which shone with all its beauty. Gold, silver and precious stones adorned every single surface, but it was the throne that caught her attention. It was a huge seat, made from human bone, some still with flesh attached to it, and it’s sour smell filled Zatanna nostrils, making her want to throw up. There was a loud noise, and two firm, strong arms wrapped around her waist and pulled her back. She fell to the floor, John’s muscular frame shielding her from the falling rocks. Once she looked up, she saw that the ceiling had fallen just above from where she had been standing and, on top of the large stones, laid a body.
Before she could understand what was going on, other figures jumped from the hole. She recognized her dad and his friends. Magical bursts flew around her, and, despite not being able to hear what he said, she saw John project a shield that stopped the spells from harming the two of them.
“Thank you”, she told him. He opened his mouth to reply, but an explosion sent them flying on different ways. Her back hit the wall, and it ache like hell. Strong winds came in, a cyclone starting to form where the others were fighting. Lights shone everywhere, the reflective metals spreading their glow in the room. It looked like the world’s worst rave.
Calling her own protective barrier, she made her away to the middle of the battle, sending a couple curses towards some flying demons that came from the opening. She had to get to Faust. She could see John doing the same as her, and she knew he was thinking of the same thing she was: they had to do their plan. There was no time to share their idea with the others. It had to be now.
On her left, a body was throw to the back. She barely saw it, but the sunglasses and hat were unmistakable, it was Mister E. She was torn between going to help him or getting to the middle of the fight. “Kill Faust. Help E later. He’ll be fine”, she mentally reassured herself, before returning her path. The winds got stronger, and began to bypass her shield. Her black hair flew around her face, blocking her eyesight. It took all she had in her to keep moving.
She finally made it to the mess in the middle, only to find Rose knocked out on the floor, Giovanni fighting magical tree branches that were tangling him and Sargent trying to avoid being eaten alive by a huge monster. Only Richard kept fighting. He used amulet after amulet, and Zee knew he would soon run out of weapons. And, although he was a great occultist, he had almost no magic powers, and this was the type of situation that astral projection wouldn’t be helpful. But at least he would keep Faust busy long enough.
John had also arrived at the fight, and was drawing a circle on the floor with a white chalk. “Right, to avoid anyone inside to leave. So Faust can’t escape.” Zee saw Faust throw Richard away, and knowing that her friends were safe, she began her part. Careful to not attract Faust’s attention – who, thinking his enemies were down, had returned to raise his arms to the sky, holding a red crystal, and chant – she began to move so she was facing Faust’s back. A sharp blade, carried by the wind, hit her, cutting her thigh, and she winced in pain. She could see her dad struggling, and made a silent wish that John was faster.
And it was almost as if someone had heard it, for Constantine took her hand into his, and with both having closed their eyes, they began their own chanting.
Patefacio a porta ad ínferos
Hanc anima mea auferetur
Incenderent gehénnam cinere”
Zatanna didn’t even know from where the words came, but they came easily out of her mouth. The white chalk began to shine gold. Faust turned, but it was too late. There was a flash of light, the floor cracked and Zatanna blacked out.
* * *
When she woke, they were in the woods outside the temple. The sun had set long ago, and the night sky was illuminated by red stars. “ Red starts?” , she thought startled, and attempted to rise.
“Easy there, luv”, John’s voice called her, and she returned to lay on the ground.
“What happened?”, Zee asked, and she noticed her voice was weak and crackled.
“The spell took a lot out of you”, he explained, blowing out smoke.
“He’s gone”, he interrupted her before she finished her question. “We did it, Zee. We took him out”, John’s smile was wide.
Her eyes searched the clearing, looking for her dad, but only found his top hat.
“He, Occult, Psychic and Sargon are out there in the temple, looking for Mister E. I was put on babysit duty”, he put out the fire on his cigarette, throwing what was left of it on the grass, and pulled his flask from his coat and drank from it. “Want some?”
“Yeah”, she answered, sitting herself to take a sip, resting her back at the same large rock John’s was. The bitter liquor burned her throat, causing her to caught. “Yew. This tastes awful”, she gave the flask back to John, who just shrugged and took another gulp.
“Why are the stars red?”, she asked him after a moment of silence.
“Dunno. When we came out, it was like this”, he looked up, contemplating the only constellation in the sky, “But I like it. It’s pretty”. His gaze lowered to her, and she felt herself blushing, only now realizing how close they were, her shoulder touching his and their heads only centimeters away.
She closed the remaining distance between them, locking her lips into his. For a dreadful moment he did nothing, but then, his tongue slowly parted her lips, invading her mouth, and she did the same to him. A flush of adrenaline ran thought her body. She had never kissed anyone before. He tasted like alcohol and nicotine, and she wanted to savor every bit of it. But then he pulled away from her mouth, letting out a deep sigh.
“I can’t do this”, he stated and she froze. She had done something wrong? Was she a bad kissed?
“What? Was it not good? I’m sorry, this is my first time, I…”, she tried to justify it, she only wanted to go back to it.
“It’s not that. It was an okay kiss,” he said and she must have looked pretty sad, for he then added “especially for your first one.”
“Then what’s wrong?”, she insisted, tears beginning to form in her eyes. He turned away, not being able to face her.
“You are just 16.”, he said, as if it explained it.
“I’m 26. It 10 fucking years of difference. This is wrong. We can’t do it.”
“But…”, she didn’t hold back this time, and the tears began rolling down her face.
“Don’t cry”, he said, pulling her into a hug. “You’re nice. Maybe when you are older…”, there were footsteps, and John went quiet.
She turned to look, and saw her father and Rose coming in, followed close by Sargent and Richard, who were carrying a body. Zee wiped her tears away, got up and ran to her father, kissing him on the cheek. She had been worried about him.
“What happened?”, she asked, realizing he looked sad. But he didn’t had to answer, as Sargent dropped the body on that moment and Zee saw it. Mister E was covered in dried blood, and his arms were in an angle no arm should ever be. The tears she had just wiped returned, as she kneeled on the side of E’s dead figure.
* * *
They buried him in the clearing. On his funeral, Zatanna finally discovered his real name.
“Goodbye, Erik”, she murmured to the stone that marked the gravesite. “You died saving us all, may you rest in peace.”
She hugged tight her father, afraid that if she let him go, he would die too. Constantine opened another portal to take them back to San Francisco. She ran straight to her room, pulling out her phone from the purse she had thrown on top of her bed, and texting Mikey to tell what had happened.
Half an hour later, there was a knock on her door. She got up to see who it was, and she was greeted by John’s cocky smile.
“I was heading back to London, but didn’t want to leave without a proper goodbye”, he told her. She stepped away from the door frame, letting him into her room. She suddenly felt ashamed of her girly decoration, which she had since she was a kid.
“Good journey back, then. It was nice meeting you.”
“Nice meeting you too. I hope we fight side by side again someday.”
She smiled, and with neither of them having anything else to say, John turned back and exited her bedroom. She then remember her promise to him, and rushed to her drawers, looking for her CD collection.
Crossing from New York to the magical house had been one of the strangest things June had done. She felt like she was flying and falling at the same time. It was crazy. Constantine opened the door to the house itself, a giant wooden construction.
“Boston Brand, Zatanna Zatara, June Moone, Madame Xanadu and…”, he stopped, turning to Eve, “I’m sorry, but what’s your name again, darling?”
“Eve Eden”, the blond girl replied.
“Right…”, he nodded, and returned to his speech “and Even Eden. I welcome you all to my House of Mystery.”
“Can we just go in?”, Deadman snapped. Floating towards the entrance
“You try to be nice, but everyone is just mean”, John complained, in fake annoyance.
Zatanna followed Boston, bumping shoulders in John on her way, causing him to stumble backwards just a little. The others followed and Constantine closed the door behind them.
The interior was breathtaking. A huge Arabic rug covered the whole floor, the couch’s were made from dark wood, with deep blue velvet upholstery. The large rectangular table was from the same dark wood, and the legs were decorated with flowers and birds. Around it, there were ten matching chairs. There was a huge candelabrum hanging from the ceiling, all the way up from the third floor. June’s jaw dropped when she noticed the paintings on the walls.
“Are those Van Gogh’s?”, she asked Constantine, not believing her eyes.
“I have no idea, luv. The decoration is the same as left by the former owner”, he replied. He had already opened a bottle of whiskey, and drank from a glass, sitting at the couch with his legs on the coffee table.
“Have you set course to Phoenix?”, Xanadu asked.
“I suppose. I still don’t quite know how to run this thing”, he shrugged and poured himself another glass. Xanadu gave him a disapproving look. “Hey, worst case scenario we get lost in the void and survive the end of the world.”
Zatanna buffed, and June, who was on the other side of the room, could hear it as well as if the sorceress had been on her side.
8 Years Ago
He was opening the front door of Giovanni’s house when he heard her calling his name.
“John!”, she exclaimed as she raced down the stairway. He stopped, waiting for her. “Here, as I promised you.”, she said, handing him a small rectangle. He looked at it, realizing it was a CD. The front cover featured a naked woman in a pink cloud, and it read ‘Katy Perry’ on the upper part, with the album title, ‘Teenage Dream’, being located below. He smiled.
“Nice. I promise to listen to it”, he thanked her, and she smiled back at him.
* * *
He got home tired from the battle, and after a warm shower, John decided to listen to the CD that Zee had given him. Smoking like usual, he opened the case to pick the small disk, and saw that there was a note inside.
“See you again in two years
Less than thirty minutes later, they had arrived in Phoenix, Arizona. It was so hot and dry that Constantine had to take out his signature trench coat.
“Phew, what a weather”, the pretty brunette girl complained. She had spent the whole trip studying the paintings in the house, and John had concluded she must be an artist.
“I know, it’s kinda hard to breath here”, Zee replied to June, taking out her black blazer, and using it’s sleeves to tie it on her waist. She turned to Xanadu, “where do we go now?”
Deadman looked at the horizon, contemplating the view. “There”, the ghost said, pointing towards a huge gray building a few miles away. “I can feel the evil energy coming from there.”
“Great, Dead map . Lead the way”, John stated. He had already lighted a cigarette and was now inhaling the smoke.
The group walked through the empty streets of the city, the locals were smart enough to not leave their houses in this heat. He wondered if it was always this hot on summer, or it was an abnormality caused by the summoning of Trigon. By the time they arrived at the building, John’s face was covered by sweat beads.
“Fuck. Let’s just end this shit. I need a cold drink and good couch”, he buffs, raising his arm to dry the top of his head with his sleeve.
“Not so fast. There something wrong in here”, Xanadu says, stopping the group from entering the huge structure.
“Of course there’s something wrong! They’re a summoning a bloody demon!”, John exclaims.
“Not a ‘demon’”, Zee murmurs from the back of the group, where she stood analyzing the building. “But, for the powerful sacrifice they’d have to do in order to summon Trigon, this place isn’t exhalating magical energy enough.”
“I’m going in. You guys stay out here”, Boston informed, taking flight towards the roof, from where he passed to the insides of the construction.
There was an explosion inside, and Xanadu rushed in, followed by June. Zee and June trailed behind them quickly, with John reluctantly going in. It wasn’t like Deadman could be hurt, he was dead already.
The small, dusty windows barely let any light come in, and the huge main hall was dark. Constantine could barely see what was going on, but he did capture the purple blast that came from an adjacent room. Deadman came flying through the broken wall.
“I can’t possess her”, he explained.
“Thgil no”, Zatanna screamed, and the long-burned out bulbs came back to life, casting a pale bluish light onto Deadman’s attacker. A small girl came forward, hands shining with purple fire. She wore a dark-blue cloak that covered her face and most of her body, but still, John managed to notice she was too thin and fragile looking.
“Stop!”, Xanadu positioned herself between the unknown girl and Zee, who prepared her next spell. He turned to the girl and said softly, “Please. We do not seek to harm you. Rachel, right?”
The girl stopped, looking at them. “Not anymore”, her voice was dry and rough, but had a note of fear. Her fire extinguished, and she came closer to the group. She took out the hood of the long cloak, revealing a light lilac skin and black eyes. In the middle of her forehead, she had a gleaming red stone. “Now it’s Raven.”
6 Years Ago
She put on the long black dress embroidery with silver sequins, slipped her feet into the glittered black high heels that she had bought specifically for this occasion and checked herself in the mirror one more time. Her hair was stuck in a complicated bun, and few curly locks hang loose around her face. Her long neck was adorned by a ruby necklace, which had once belonged to her mother, and she wore matching earrings. Her eyelashes seemed longer and thicker because of the black mascara, and the deep red lipstick enhanced her full lips. Despite all the make-up, she saw a child staring back at her in the mirror. It was her eighteen birthday, but she didn’t feel like a grown up.
Taking a deep breath, she stepped out of her room and into the shining lights of the party. The good thing about living in Shadowcrest was that it was a huge manor, and could easily be turned into a ball room. She took the waiting hand of her father, dressed neatly in a tuxedo, and they walked down the stairway, all their guests watching them. She had invited a bunch of classmates, as well as other magicians and people her father knew. There were even some socialites and actors, that had been invited solely for the purpose of holding the Zatara’s reputation as a famous family.
“Thank you all for coming today”, her father told the crowd, “Eighteen years ago, this lovely woman you see before you was born. She was so small and fragile, and that day, I swore that I would always protect her. And I hope I have managed to keep my promise.”, Giovanni turned to his daughter, tears pooling on his eyes, “Zatanna, eighteen is just the beginning of life as an adult. You will find that life gets more complicated the older you get. Sometimes it’ll be very easy to figure it out, but sometimes it will take you years to find the answers you need. Always remember that it’s your life, and only you have the final say. Don’t let others live your life for you.
“You will always be my little girl no matter how old you get. I know it hasn’t always been easy living with me, but please know that everything I did, I did because I love. I hope you can understand it all when you have children of your own. You are the best thing that ever happened to me. You have grown into an amazing person, and I couldn’t be prouder of you. And I know that somewhere in this infinite universe we live in, your mother feels the same way. Happy birthday, sweetheart.” As her father finished his speech, Zatanna begins to cry and hugs him tightly. The guests applaud, and the music returns.
Despite all the happiness, Zee felt that something was wrong, but she didn’t get the chance to ask her dad, because soon Mikey is pulling her towards the makeshift bar, talking about how gorgeous she is. Zee glanced back to where her father stood, but he was already gone.
* * *
“Zanny!”, she heard John Sargent exclaim, and she turned to hug him. “My little girl is officially an adult now… How does it feel?”, he asks, petting her in the back.
“I feel the same as yesterday”, she says jokingly, “just a little more drunk. But don’t tell daddy, if it was up to him, I would have to wait until I was twenty-one.”
Sargent laughs, carefully guiding her towards the huge table filled with gifts. “Let it be our secret.” He searches around, and pulls out a big red box. “You know Zee, I never had any kids, my way of life didn’t allow me to do that. You’re the closest thing I have to a daughter, and I want you to have this.”, he hands her the box, which is a heavy as it looks. “Don’t open it here. Wait until you are alone in your room. And please be careful, it’s antient. Happy birthday, Zanny.” He kisses the top of her head, and goes away, leaving her with the heavy present.
“I wonder what’s inside. I bet no one will care if I go missing for a couple minutes to check it out”, she wonders, beginning her walk towards the stairway. She rushes and enters her bedroom, locking the door behind her. Zee undid the wrap, revealing a wood chest. It isn’t locked, and it’s easy to open. Inside, among lots of other old scrolls, she sees the Magdalene Grimoire. She remembers when she was a kid, and she stayed at John’s place, she would often try to open the book, but he would say it was too dangerous. He told her it was written by a powerful witch more than a hundred years ago, and legend says that the book contained a spell that could imprison death, as long as the user was worthy of reading it. Those who were considered unworthy by the book would be turned into dust at the attempt to decipher any spell written on the grimoire.
She smiles and hides the chest deep in her closet, so no one would find it, and returns to the party.
The girl seemed to young, yet, she had done quite some damage to the building and, hadn’t Boston been dead, he certainly would be by now. But Xanadu thought the girl wasn’t dangerous, and Zee knew it was best to trust the old psychic.
“Raven, my name’s…”
“I know. You are Nimue, but you go by Madame Xanadu nowadays”, the young girl interrupted Xanadu. Zatanna had no idea Xanadu’s real name was Nimue, she didn’t ever thought that Xanadu had another name. She made a mental note to ask her later about it.
“The black-haired woman is Zatanna Zatara, and the blond man is John Constantine. But the other three”, Raven stopped, analyzing them for a moment, “I have no idea. But you…”, she pointed to June, “you have something dark inside yourself.” June shivered, but didn’t say anything.
Eve and Boston introduced themselves, and Zee watched as Constantine smoked, inhaling and exhaling faster than usual. She knew that it meant he was puzzled. And she had to say she also was. She didn’t know why, but she didn’t quite trust Raven.
“We are here to stop Trigon.”, Zatanna explained. She expected Raven to flinch or show any other reaction, but Zee’s words didn’t seem to affect the girl at all.
“So was I.”, Raven said. She gestured around the empty building. “But it would appear that his cult has moved elsewhere”, she lowered her voice, “maybe they felt me coming.”
“Why did you attack Boston?”, Eve asked.
“I thought he was one of them.”
“If we all want the same thing, why don’t you join us?”, June proposed, glancing at Xanadu for approval. The fortune teller nodded.
“Yes, we could use one more in our team. Trigon will be a hard enemy.”, Madame Xanadu affirmed, trying to convince Raven.
“Yeah, specially since one of us can’t actually do anything”, John scoffed, “and the other two, I have no idea of their powers”, he added, looking to June and Eve.
“You don’t want to know my powers”, June hissed back.
“Hey, enough with this.”, Zee exclaimed. “Raven, I know we must look like a strange group, but please trust us. You are young, and alone, you could get hurt.”, she looked at the girl straight in the eyes, and saw how sad and alone Raven truly was. She hopped the girl would accept the proposal.
“Alright. But we need to find Trigon quickly, or it will all be lost.”, she answered, pulling her hood back on, and rushing towards the exit, with Zee and the rest trailing behind.
Chapter 8: XXX SMUT XXX
6 Years Ago
She would be lying if she said she wasn’t disappointed he didn’t come. Disappointed but not surprised. It had been more than two years since they last saw each other, so he must have forgotten about her, and about that moment in the woods and moved on. The thing was: Zee couldn’t forget, nor move on. The boys that flirted with her weren’t as handsome as John had been. Every time she smelled Silk Cut cigarettes, his favorite brand, she hoped it came from him, but it never did. He had left a mark on her, and she ached for them to be together again. She had invited him in hope he would come, and they could kiss one more time. Now, there was nothing stopping them.
She had grown tired of her party. The music was too high and there were too many people in there. Looking for somewhere to clear her mind, she went out. Shadowcrest was huge and there were many gardens surrounding it. Behind the house, there was a small maze that her father had made as a gift to her mother. She knew by heart the way, and made the correct turns by the bushes of yellow roses until she got to the middle.
A white table with two chairs laid in the grass, and she recalled when she was little, she and her dad would have tea sitting there. She got near the table, and that was when she noticed a small rectangle wrapped in colorful paper. In curvy and scruffy letters made with thick black pen there was written her name. “Strange… why would anyone leave a gift here?” She opened it and found a CD inside. The cover was a group of men in punk-rock outfits, and it read “Mucous Membrane presents: Venus in the Hardshell”. She looked closer to the picture and noticed the singer was a younger version of John. She laughed loudly and opened the CD case, and inside, with the disk, he had left a note. “Come meet me in my apt. 56 Guild Street, 5A. I’ll be waiting you.”
“ But of course he would send his gift by magic.”, she thought, putting the CD back on the table, deciding to come back for it later. She concentrated on the address and traced a circle with her fingers in the air. It began to shine and shift, until it displayed a street in London. “No one will notice if I’m missing. I have been here for an hour and half and talked to everyone I care for. I’ll be back soon anyway.” She went through the portal, arriving in the cold air of the night. A few drops of rain were falling, but not enough for it to ruin her dress.
The door to the building was open, and she took the stairs to the fifth floor. She took a deep breath before knocking on the first door, the ‘A’. There were soft steps on the other side, and then the sound of the door unlocking.
“You came”, his voice was rough and his breath smelled of alcohol and cigarettes. His hair was messy and he wore a crumpled white shirt with dark jeans, he was shoeless.
“How did you know about that spot?”, she asked, coming into his apartment. The living room was small, and there was clothes thrown everywhere, along with empty bottles and yellowed papers. He smiled with mischief.
“You do remember I follow you on Instagram, right?”, he pulls a full bottle of whiskey from the makeshift bar that he had turned his kitchen. “Wanna drink?”
“Okay. Just a little, please”, she says, sitting on one of the chairs in front of the bar counter. “I can’t believe you had a band!”
“Just for a while. We sucked.” He laughs, handing her the drink. She takes a sip, noticing it doesn’t feel as bitter as it felt two years ago. “Have you listened to it? It makes you wanna rip your ears off, not unlike that Katy Perry you gave me”, he takes a sit on the chair next to her.
“I can’t believe you didn’t enjoy Katy!”, she says, pretending to be offended. “And I haven’t listened to you yet. I came straight here after finding that note.”
“I’m glad you did find it. I wasn’t even sure you would visit the maze,” he shrugs, “I just had a hunch the party would be boring.”
“It would have been better if you were there.”
“I bet your dad would have loved that.”, he says and she laughs. It was true, her dad didn’t like that she had invited John, and would hate even more if he had gone. “Want more?”, he offers, pointing to her empty cup.
“Nah, thanks. I’m fine.”, she says, “Nice place you got here. I love the decoration.”
“I call it ‘too lazy to get things neat to wait for the girl’, but I’m glad you liked.”
“It matches your ‘just woke up’ look.” She stands up and walks around, reading the titles of some books displayed on the small bookshelf. She collapse on the couch, exhausted because of the small time she had to play the hostess at her party. “I’m so tired. I don’t even know half of people that were there”, she complains, kicking out her high heels.
He chuckles. “Well, I have just woke up. I waited all night for you, but you didn’t come, so I gave up and feel asleep on the couch. But I guess it was my fault, I was stupid and didn’t realize that your party started at 8 p.m. of your time zone.” He yaws and joins her on the couch.
“Thanks for waiting for so long.”, she moves closer to him, and moves, sitting with her knees to the side, legs resting on the sofa, and propping herself up with one hand, leaning towards John.
“We had set the date, right? Plus, I had to give you something special, it’s your 18 th birthday, after all”, he takes a loose lock of her hair and twirls around her finger.
“I’ve been waiting for two years. It better be a really good gift.”, she smiled teasingly.
“Two years… it’s such a long time, but I still remember as if it was yesterday.”, he whispers softly in her ear.
She whispers. “I remember exactly where we left off.”
“Me too.”, he replies, and pulls her into a deep kiss. The taste is the same as that day on the woods, but this time, the feelings seem twice as intense. Her heart beats so fast she thinks it might jump off her chest. She felt a tingling sensation running down her spine, and in a daring move she swings one leg over him, straddling on his laps. He gasps in surprise, and begins to caress the skin of the back of her head, causing her to jerk forward, grinding on him. As she does that, she feels his hard shaft poking through the jeans. Realizing what it is, she presses against him again, this time stronger. He begins panting and breaks the kiss. She stares him curiously.
“Is everything alright?”, Zee asks, tilting her head a little.
“You sure you wanna keep on?”, he manages to say, his voice muffled. “I might not be able to stop if we go any further.”
Zee tries her best to sound sexy, taking inspiration from scenes she had watched and read. “Who said I wanted to stop?”, she murmurs, tugging softly his earlobe. She wonders if she is doing this whole ‘seducing’ thing correctly, but John’s ever-growing erection confirms that her moves are just right. His mouth attacks the bare skin on her collarbone, sucking hard enough to leave bruises.
He lowers his hands, sliding them underneath her dress and she throws her head back, moaning in pleasure. There a loud pop when he removes his lips from her skin, and he carefully bites her bottom lip, engaging in another kiss. She feels a heat building up on her core, way stronger than what she felt on those nights alone in her bedroom. Her hands search for the edges of her dress, and she stops the kiss to pull it over her head, revealing her sand colored bra and a pink polka-dot panties. She starts to blush, a red taking over her shoulders and neck, and mentally curses herself for the poor underwear choice. John doesn’t seem to mind, and unclasps her bra. He touches her perky nipple with the tip of his tongue, circling it. She holds herself on his shoulder to avoid falling from the couch. He pulls back and with some quick moves, removes his shirt, throwing it to the other side of room.
Zee unbuttons his jeans and raises herself from his lap, to be able to pull his pants off. His white boxers give her a good sight of what lies underneath. He returns to twist and bite her nipples, and she moans again, sinking her nails into his skin. He leaves her breasts and returns to kiss her, his agile hands removing her already soaked panties, and she’s glad she did a brazilian waxing the week before. “Alright, it’s happening. Think, Zee, think. What would happen in a book?” , she takes a deep breath, trying to prevent herself from shaking too much. She lets go of her hold onto him, and slides to the floor, the rough, worn-off sofa cover scraping her soft knees.
6 Years Ago
At first, he has no idea of what she’s doing, and thinking she had fallen, tries to bring her back to his lap by holding her by the waist. The sudden hold causes her to stumble forward, but she uses her elbow to avoid falling face first onto him. He notices she tries not to laugh. For him, her clumsiness was a bit of a turn on, and he didn’t even mind her colorful panties, nor her lack of habit on kissing. “She’s cute when she blushes”. Sitting herself on her heels, she begins to pull off his boxers, freeing his hard cock, and he finally understands what she was doing. He wonders if it would be a good idea, since it was her first time, but since it had been Zee who started it, he decides to go along with it. He kicks away his underwear, which was tangled in his ankle. He spreads his leg, letting her come closer, and she looks at him with those ocean blue eyes as if asking for permission to do it. He hold her chin, pulling her head up and lowers his own to kiss her, giving her the answer she wanted. Then he goes back to rest his back on the couch, and her shaking hand grabs the base of his dick.
6 Years Ago
She was nervous. She had read enough sex scenes to know what to do, but whether it would be good or not, she couldn’t be sure. And since he must have received many blowjobs before, she felt even more need to make hers remarkable. She closed her eyes, took a deep breath and went for it. She touched the head with the tip of her tongue. The taste was worse than what she had expected. It was sour, bitter and salty, like the most terrible sour cream. She tried to focus on what people did in her books, “Should I just take it at once? Or do I make my way slowly? What if my teeth hurts him?”
She opened her mouth and lowered her head, wrapping her swollen lips around his dick slowly. John moaned, and she worried she might have accidentally bitten him, but soon it became clear it was out of pleasure not pain. With her free hand, she touched and played with his balls, the smooth texture was unexpected for her, and she giggled, sending vibrations through John’s cock. Having gained a little more confidence, she took more of his manhood into her mouth until she couldn’t fit any more and massaged the rest of it with her hand. “I might never have seen any other penis before, but his must be above average.”
She kept sucking for a while, not sure if she should move back and forth or not. Somehow, John seemed to notice she had no idea what she was doing. His hands held the side of her head, just above her temples, and he began to move her, carefully pumping in and out. Having established a pace, he let her go, and she continued rhythmically. She didn’t have the nerve to attempt deep-throating, but she felt like she was doing a pretty good job, especially since he soon started to cum. His moans intensified, he gripped tight to her shoulders. Then he shot his load, and Zee swallowed, trying not to think about the taste.
6 Years Ago
He had to say that for her first time, it had been pretty damn good. After cuming in her mouth, he pulled her back to the couch, and then scooped her up, carrying her like a bride to his bedroom. She laughed and gave him a deep, needy kiss, which he responded with intensity. Reaching his destination, he lowered her in his bed, shoving the crumpled sheets aside. John decided to return the favor, and placed soft kissed on her belly, making his way down.
He dipped a finger into her wet pussy, and brought it to his mouth, tasting her. It was slightly sweet and slightly acid, much like the other women he had slept with. He flicked his tongue on her clit, observing her reaction. “She likely has no idea of what she likes and what she doesn’t. I guess I’ll have to watch her and figure it out.” He moved his tongue in circular motions, earning more moans out of her. He spread her pussy lips apart, penetrating her with two fingers. Her nails dug into the mattress and she arched her back, involuntarily. He bit and sucked her nipples, her body convulsing in pleasure. Her soft lips muttered words he couldn’t hear, and a thin layer of sweat covered both of their skins, making them stick to each other. He felt her juices coating his fingers, and soon her walls were tightening around them.
He watched as she rolled her eyes back and kissed her in the lips. “I’m so tired”, she whispered to him. He hugged her, and soon she was asleep.
He led the group back to the House of Mysteries, inviting Rachel by her full name. The others thought he was doing that just to be dramatic, but the truth was that once someone had been officially invited to the House, they could de summoned back whenever its owner desired. That was a power Constantine liked to have.
He didn’t trust the new girl, and he could tell Zee also didn’t, but Xanadu, June, Boston, and the other one John always forgot the name, seemed to like Raven so she was now part of their team.
Her curious eyes analyzed the House, absorbing every piece of information she could find. “It’s like she’s looking for something”, he thought. No, he definitely didn’t trust Raven.
“We need to find them. And fast. They can’t have gone far. With the amount of power they were using to summon my…”, Raven stopped, cleared her throat and continued, “Trigon, they would be able to open a portal to a place far away.”
“Agreed”, said Zee. She looked through the window, staring at mountain outside. “If I were them, I would’ve gone there”, she pointed to the direction she had been staring. “It’s isolated and huge, they would have more than enough space to perform the ritual.”
“There’s two trails leading to the top of Camelback.”, Eve stated, looking a touristic flayer of the city. “Two hours walking.”, she groaned a complaint.
“Bloody great. Does anyone have magical hiking boots? It seems like I used all of mine”, John buffs in complain.
“I didn’t even know that was a thing”, Boston replies.
“Oh lord. I get that you are dead, but do you have to be dumb?”, Constantine snaps at the ghost. “Go learn irony.”
“Shut up, the two of you”, June says. “Too much testosterone in one room”, she whispers to Zatanna.
“There’s an easier way.”, Xanadu remarked, glancing to Eve. “Can you open a doorway?”
“Oh, so that’s what she does? A human key to anywhere?”, John buffs and takes a drag.
“I… I have never used it on anyone but me… I’m not even sure it would work.”, girl says nervously.
“It will have to”, the psychic affirms.
Eve nods and closes her eyes to focus. Out of thin air, something that looks like ink begins to cover the girl’s skin, leaving a strange pattern in black and purple, soon, she’s covered in it everywhere but the head. She takes a deep breath, and the floor gets blurry, turning darker every passing second. Then, she open her eyes again, exhaling in relief. “Alright. Close your eyes and jump in. Stay hand to hand”, she looks to Deadman, “hmm… I guess that you just stay really close?”
They form a line, like stupid preschool children going to a walk on a park and hold hands, Eve on the front. John is right behind her, and on his other side, there’s June. Zee makes sure to be in the end of the line. They close their eyes and Eve steps forwards. They walk slowly, like moving through water. John hears sounds and he wants to see his surroundings more than anything, but he knows he can’t. He feels June’s hold onto him soften, as if she wants to break away, before she can, he grabs her thigh in the wrist. He feels her struggling to get free, but he doesn’t let her do it. Then, he feels the light of the sun in his eyelids, and he knows that they are back somewhere safe, or as safe as Earth can be.
“Thank you”, June’s voice tells him as she emerges out of the darkness. “If it wasn’t for you, whatever was calling me would have caught me.”
“Don’t worry about it, luv. If someone dies, it will just take me longer to get home”, he mutters back to her. That was only half truth, what he didn’t tell her was that he didn’t want anyone else dying for him. “There are far too many already.”
6 Years Ago
He slept till late. He got out of the bed, Zee still asleep at his side, and went to the kitchen get something to eat, he was starving. He picked up his phone, which he had left on the table last night. The first thing he noticed was that it was past midday, the second was that he had two answered calls from an unknown American number and two voicemails. “Bloody fuck!”, the curse escaped his mouth. The calls must have been from Zatara, but how did her dad found out she was with him, he had no idea.
He set his phone aside, not wanting to deal with this now, and opened his cabinet to get a mug. He filled half of it with milk and microwaved it. Once it was done, he filled the other half with cheap liquor and added sugar and a bit of cinnamon. There was a plate with a muffin in the kitchen counter, and he took a bit. Not exactly the healthiest breakfast ever, but it was what he could manage.
“John?”, he heard Zee calling, her voice still sleepy.
“On the living room”, he yells back.
Soon there were footsteps and she emerged from the doorway, wearing one of his t-shirt. “Is there any food?”, she asks, already opening his fridge in search of something to eat. She turns to him holding a box of ice cream sandwich. “Can I?”
“Suit yourself. I don’t even remember buying those.”
Zee shrugs and sits by his side at the couch, opening the package. John turns on the television, and they watch the reporter talk about Wonder Woman’s fight with Cheetah at Piccadilly Circus on that morning. “Everyone loves her, but dad worked with her in the JSA, and he said she’s kinda boring”, Zatanna comments.
“Your dad knows Wonder Woman?”, John asks surprised. He knew Giovanni had been a superhero when he was younger, but never thought that he knew the top heroes, just the minor league ones.
“Yep”, she said chewing, “And Martian Manhunter; Flash, the one that wore the stupid hat, not this other one running around; Green Lantern, again that first one, not the alien one; the original Black Canary; Hawkman and that other dude I always forget the name, but that isn’t really important.”
“That’s nice. Ever met any of them?”
“No…”, she stops to think before continuing, “Dad didn’t leave the team in good terms, and I was too young to remember.”
She gets up from the couch, and take her clothes from the floor. “I should be heading back, before he notices I’m not home.”
“It’s early morning there, he’s likely still asleep”, he reaches out taking her hand. “Stay a little more.”
“I wish, but I really can’t”, she gives him a quick kiss on the lips. “I call you, alright?”
He nods and she smiles, before saying a spell and disappearing from his living room.
She had hated that portal thing Eve had done. While in that darkness, she felt a husky voice calling her, calling the Enchantress, and she barely resisted. “If it hadn’t been for Constantine, god knows what would have happened to me.” She didn’t have much time to think about it, because as soon as they reached a plane area, there was a scream and soon they were surrounded by middle-aged men wearing long tunics and wielding staffs. Behind them, June could see shining lights in the floor and lots of what seemed blood. “The sacrifice…”
They moved forward, striking to protect their ritual, but Zatanna was faster and had already cast a protective spell. Constantine shouted words she didn’t understand, but it seemed to be magical, for the men were being repelled. Raven used her purple fire to blind the first line of attackers. Their defenses were strong, but weren’t holding against the enemy horde. There was the sound of metal cutting air, and she looked back, only to see that the men on their back had swords. Zatanna saw it too, and yelled something, making their weapons be ripped away from their hands.
She felt a sudden pain on her shoulder, and realized she had been pierced by a spear. Around her, colorful blasts went back and forth, there was lot of talking and cursing. She felt useless, back pressed against a rock trying to hide from the battle. “Why did Xanadu even call me to be part of this team?” Eve used that strange darkness to imprison the men, but it didn’t work on them for long and it shattered at the touch of their staffs. One of the cultists had turned on his team, and June supposed he was being possessed by Deadman. She saw Xanadu being grabbed by a strong, tall man.
“Xanadu!”, she screamed. She had to do something. She could see her friends were losing. Eve barely had strength to stand, Zatanna was running out of energy to cast spells and John had a deep burn on his chest. Raven was nowhere to be seen.
“Release her!”, Xanadu told June. Despite being far away from the old woman, she heard what she said clearly. The words reverberated in her brain, processing and considering.
She had no other choice. She closed her eyes and screamed, “Enchantress!”
* * *
Her vision was red and blurry. She was starving. And there was blood coming out of her. Those were the firsts thing Enchantress noticed once she was free.
She had always hated being locked with that stupid human girl, but have her voice silenced by that amateur psychic? She had despised that. And now she had to save her? No, she wouldn’t do that. But at the same time, she felt a force controlling her, making her raise her hand, call forward her red fire and attack those cultists. She grabbed the arm of the one closest to her, ripping it off the body, and took it to her mouth, tasting the bloody flesh. She smiled. She had missed being in control.
“NO!”, a voice said from inside her brain. “ Save Xanadu!”
She shook the thought away and continued to set everyone to flames. Blasts of magic hit her, but they were nothing compared to her own powers. She moved gracefully through the battlefield, laughing and spinning like a happy child. She would make it all burn. Or not, perhaps she would freeze everything. Or turn those people into insects.
Then, Xanadu and her captor entered her line of sight again, and she was back under the control of that force. She darted forward like a hunter, throwing back anyone on her way with a simple wave of her hand and a burst of wind. Her prey tried to react, but she was faster and stronger. She jumped onto him, falling to the ground, her body over his. Her bloody lips bit his cheekbone, and she ripped his jaw from his face. There was nothing else moving around her. It was only her and her prey. She took out chunks of his body eating everything she could. She pulled off his arms and legs just for the pleasure of it. She rejoiced in his pain. When she moved away, the man was so deformed you could barely see that once there had been a human there.
The Enchantress sucked her fingers clean, eating off the pieces of meat that had got stuck under her nails and then wiped the blood and spit out of them in her green dress, leaving dark stains on it. She felt June returning to control, but she was fine with it for now. She had got her feast, now it was time to sleep. She knew she would come free again, and she also knew that every time she came out, she got a little closer to being in control the whole time.
Zee didn’t quite know what happened. She heard June shouting and then June wasn’t June. Her simple clothes had turned into a green dress, and a pointed hat appeared out of nowhere in the girl’s head. A dark green cape hung on her shoulders and she wore knee-high gold gladiator sandals. Then the not-quite-June began to shoot fire and knocked everyone out, enemies and friends alike.
Zee had woken up barely minutes later, the battle field was burned, the bodies turn to coal. Almost in front of her, there was something so dilacerated she couldn’t tell if it even was human. Could it be one of her teammates? She looked around, and was relieved to see that the rest of the crew were waking. Except June, who was back at being June and dressing like June, but was crying and sobbing, sitting close to a puddle of what seemed vomit. Then, she noticed that the new girl, Raven wasn’t with them, but she dismissed the possibility of the body being hers for the size of it was too big.
Not far away, the summoning continued, even though the ones that had performed it were now dead. Zatanna hated when people died, even if they were the bad guys, and hated even more when their deaths didn’t solve the problem. She felt a hand resting on her shoulder and she looked up to see Xanadu.
“You okay?”, the fortune teller asked. Zee nodded.
“I’m fine. But I don’t think she is”, she said, pointing to June. “What happened?”
“It’s complicated”, Xanadu answered, giving a cryptic smile. The others had begun to join in, forming a sort of semi-circle. “It doesn’t matter now. We will have time to talk about it later. Right now, we need to end the ritual. John, Zatanna, come with me. Eve, Boston, make sure June is well, and don’t ask her any questions about it.” Xanadu ordered, and Zee got up, following the woman towards the area where the spell was being done.
“What about Raven?”, Zee asks, “She’s not here.”
“She’s already waiting for us”, Xanadu answers. “Be prepared to fight.”
6 Years Ago
Even though Zee had slept at John’s place, she was still tired, and she fell asleep as soon as she laid on her bed. She woke hours later, with the bright light of the sun illuminating her room and taking her out of her deep slumber. She took a quick shower, put back her nightgown, trying to clean away any evidence of last night, before heading downstairs for breakfast, or actually, her second breakfast.
She was surprised to find the table empty. Usually, her father cooked breakfast for them, and when she came down, the dishes would be served and waiting for her, kept warm by magic.
“Just because I’m eighteen now I don’t get breakfast?”, she asked out loud, waiting for an answer to come from the kitchen or some other room. There was just silence. “That’s strange. Daddy always wakes up before me… Maybe he was tired after the party.”
She took two loaves of bread and put on the toaster. While she waited, she decided to check the rest of the ground floor, in case her dad just didn’t hear her. It was empty. She ate quietly and went back to her room, picking up her cellphone to tell Mikey the news. “Call me ASAP”, she texted. “ I need to talk to you!!!!!!!”
Minutes later her phone rang, and she greeted her friend, telling her in detail what had happened the night before with John.
* * *
They stayed on the phone for a long time, but when Zee went to see if her dad had already woken up, she still couldn’t find him. Worried, she decided to check into his room. She hadn’t been there ever since her mother died. When she was little, every morning she would wake and run to their room, cuddle in her mother’s lap, and Sindella would tell her a story, usually about this race of special humans who had magic, the Homo Magi . Only later Zee would learn that not only those stories were true, but she was one of them.
After Sindella died, she couldn’t go into their room without crying, so she stopped the early morning visits. It felt strange to open that door again, after such a long time. The room was exactly how she remember, all neat and clean, not a thing out of place. The old brown curtains hang closed over the window; the beige carpet, that still had the stain of when she had dropped strawberry ice cream; the dark wooden wardrobe, where she would hide when they played hide and seek; the huge bed, with the large goose feather pillows that her parents had bought in their honeymoon in Greece, and the purple blankets that was her mother’s favorite and always smelled of roses and toasted almonds, Sindella’s favorite smell. And that was what was wrong in the bedroom, the bed hadn’t been slept in. “If dad didn’t sleep here, where did he sleep?”
Now she was truly worried, her dad wouldn’t travel without telling her, or if it was really urgent, he would at least leave a note. She called him, but went straight to voicemail. “Hey dad, it’s me. Where are you? Call me”, she said after the bip .
She went back to her room and changed her sleep clothes to a casual stay at home outfit consisting of jeans and a pink t-shirt that read “ Every day is magic” . The t-shirt had been a gift from Mikey some years before, mostly as a joke, and it had become one of Zee’s favorites. “I can’t stay here just waiting for him to call, if I do, I’ll go insane”, she thought, “I guess I might go back to the maze and take the CD I left there last night.”
She checked her phone every few steps, looking for a text from her dad, but he didn’t send her anything. She laid on the grass, belly up, and watched the cloud change shapes, like she did with her father when they went to picnics in the woods. “Where are you, dad?”
He knew there was a reason as to why he didn’t trust the gothic kid, and that was it. He felt stupid for not realizing before, but now that she was in the middle of the summoning circle, he could see it clearly: the girl was Trigon’s daughter.
Raven floated in the air, a couple feet above ground, her cloak blowing in the wind, red light surrounding her. Her eyes had changed color, and now were the same vibrant color as the stone. It was like she was fueling the magic circle, making the spell stronger. “FUCK”, he thought, “She’s not fueling the spell, she’s becoming a vessel for Trigon.”
He looked at Xanadu, to see what she wanted them to do next, but the psychic was quiet, staring at Raven. That was when John noticed that from the girl’s mouth came gagged sounds, as if she was trying to say something but couldn’t.
“What do we do now?”, Zatanna asked.
“You save her”, Xanadu said.
“Save her? She’s helping her father!”, Zatanna exclaimed. She had come to the same conclusion as John had.
“She’s not doing it because she wants to. She’s doing it because she’s not in control of herself. Time is running out. You two have to stop the spell and save Raven.”
“What ‘bout you?”, John inquired, “You just gonna sit back and watch?”
“There’s nothing I can do to help. This is on you.”
“Bullocks”, he cursed. Zee was already running forward, and not wanting to be left behind, John trailed after her.
She raced towards the circle, in her mind, she would free the girl and then stop the spell, all before Constantine had a chance to do anything. She didn’t need, or want, his help. What she didn’t count on was that there would be a protective barrier around the summoning circle. She hit the magic wall with full force, and stumbled backwards because of the impact, falling to the ground.
“Ouch”, she exclaimed.
“Need help, luv?”, she heard Constantine saying behind her.
“I’m fine”, she says, getting up and sweeping away the dust from her legs and buttocks. “And don’t call me ‘luv’.”
John touches the shield, and it begins to disintegrate. “Bet you didn’t know that.”, he says, looking at her surprised expression.
“Didn’t know you could do anything”, Zee quickly snaps back at him, who just shrugs and gives his trademark smirk. She hated that smirk.
“Oh, that was a bad idea”, Raven says. But her voice is different, masculine and deeper. “It’s Trigon’s voice”, Zatanna concluded. The girl had been possessed by her father.
They stepped into the circle at the same moment that Raven/Trigon attacked. Zee was blown back, hitting John. Both fell to the ground, Zee landing on top of him.
“You should surrender and enjoy your last day on Earth. You can’t stop me, not with my daughter at my side”, the voice echoed again.
“Ylf em ot eht pot”, Zatanna yelled and she began to float. Trigon sent a fire blast, but Zee moved out of it’s way. She waltzed through the air, until was face to face with the evil being. Raven’s body was surrounded by flames, forming a seemingly holographic figure of a muscular creature, with a humanoid body, but with horns at the side of it’s head and four eyes. “That’s Trigon’s true form, when he’s not possessing others.” Zee panicked. She didn’t have a plan, she was just doing what Xanadu told her to, and now that she was by herself, facing off one of the most powerful beings in the multiverse, she had no idea of what to do.
Raven’s (or was it Trigon’s?) eyes were focused on Zatanna, and Constantine used those moments to take his enchanted dagger out of his pocket and throwing it towards Raven’s (or Trigon’s) chest. It was a small but sharp knife, that he got from a priest in France when he helped with the haunting of a village. By ‘got’ he meant ‘stole’. The priest had bragged about it the whole time, saying that it could purify anybody it pierced and kill any evil. John didn’t really believe it until he saw the man free a child from the possession of a spirit with it. Despite being a powerful blade, it didn’t seem to help Rachel at all. She (or he) looked down at Constantine, and swung its fiery fist into him.
He rolled to escape from the punch. Zee attacked Trigon from the air, chanting in Latin and making a show of red and yellow lights. John glance back and noticed Xanadu was reading an old book, leaning on a tree, as if there wasn’t a battle happening in front of her. “Fuck her. We’re fighting for her and she’s reading! The witchy got hurt, and Xanadu won’t move a finger to help. And they say I’m the selfish one. Bloody hell!”
It was all going according her plan. The team had been united, and although the ordeal with the Enchantress hadn’t been what she had hoped, it was all going well. With a little more practice June would be able to tap into the magic without calling the Enchantress. The only thing left to do was making sure John and Zatanna could work together, and that seemed to be going well too.
Xanadu felt bad for it, but she had had no choice. Trigon was the only enemy strong enough to justify bring forward a team, but not too strong that she couldn’t control. Rachel had been a problem, thought. The girl had been an element Xanadu hadn’t taken in consideration while creating her plan. With his daughter as a vessel, Trigon was much more powerful on Earth,making him a much more formidable enemy. Luckily, Xanadu had a plan B, a way to ensure Trigon didn’t cause trouble. It was a pity that Rachel had been possessed by her father for nothing, but it had been something out of Xanadu’s control.
She knew that the team wouldn't trust her when they found out that she was the one behind it all. She also didn’t like all the lives that her plan had cost. But the darkness was coming, and she would need a group, some sort of Sentinels of Magic. She didn’t need to be the one leading them. She didn’t even need to be part of them, as long as they existed. As long as they were ready to fight together.
Now it was time to end all this. As Zatanna and Constantine fought Trigon, Xanadu took the Book of Blood out of a hidden pocket in her long robe and began searching for the banning spell.
It had been complicated to steal it. She had to pretend to be one of the cultists, and she also had to convince them it would be a great moment to finally bring Trigon to Earth. It had served its purpose, and now it was time to end this, since she didn’t actually want Trigon to rise.
As the battle went on, she recited the words from the book, trying the channel the little magic she had into it. She was not a sorceress anymore, as Merlin had stripped away her powers, but she was still connected to the magic, and since the Book of Blood by itself had magic, it didn’t take much of the caster’s own powers to make the spell work.
As Xanadu read from her little book, the earth began to quake, cracks opening around the circle. Raven screamed as a black smoke started to come out of her pores. The smoke went upwards, forming a dark cloud over the girl’s head. Then, as Xanadu spoke the last work from the sacred text, the smoke trilled down, entering the cracks on the ground, which closed themselves afterwards.
She let out a sigh. It had taken a great deal of her strength to ban Trigon, and she felt more tired than ever. Her vision began to turn black, and she closed her eyes, feeling her legs go numb. She prepared for a fall which never came, as soft hands caught her before she could hit the ground.
6 Years Ago
After Zatanna left, he finished his drink and checked his agenda for the day. It was empty. He was glad he had a free day, it would be nice to do nothing for a whole afternoon. Then he remembered the voicemails. He knew he would have to face Zatara sooner or later, and light headed from the alcohol, he thought it would be a good idea to make it sooner.
He increased the volume on his phone and clicked to check the voicemail. “Constantine. It’s me, Zatara. I wouldn’t be calling if it wasn’t important.” , Giovanni’s voice blasted through the speakers. “I know you and I don’t get along, but I need you to call me when you hear this. I know you are friends with my daughter”, he said the word with disgust, as if he hated John being Zatanna’s friend, “but don’t tell her I called. I don’t want her to worry.” There was a bip , indicating that the message had ended.
“ So it isn’t about Zee afterall…” , John thought relieved. “But what the fuck is he worried about?”, he clicked to hear the second recording.
“It’s been an hour and you didn’t call me”, he sounded angry. He paused for a moment, as if thinking before continuing. “I just realized it must be late there. But I know you stay up almost all night so call me. I need everything you know on the Cult of Cold Flame. I know you must have heard of them. I’m not joking, Constantine, this is important.” Bip.
John was perplexed by the messages. He had no idea of what a Cult of Cold Flame was, nor why Zatara would think he knew. And the fact that he asked John to keep it a secret from Zee made him even more curious. “ As far as her dad knows, we barely talk. So for me to call her, it would have to a big deal.”
He decided to do some research on the group Zatara had mentioned. He opened his laptop, which he had carelessly left in a precarious position on top of a pile of books. “Fuck”, he exclaimed, realizing the computer had run out of battery. He plugged it in and kicked some things out of the front of the wall socket, making room for him to sit on the floor, close to where the cables were plugged. He rested his back on the wall and placed the computer on his lap.
Typing Cult of Cold Flame directly into Google resulted in nothing. The first page was about an rock band called Blue Oyster Cult and their song Cities on Flame with Rock and Roll. He clicked on the second. More of the band, and some links to a walkthrough of the game Cult Following: Eternal Flame. The wikipedia article on the physical phenomenon Cold Flame . The most promising result was Cult of Ulric , but turned out to be just a thing from Warhammer, an online fantasy game. He was almost giving up on his research when he realized that whoever those dudes were, they wouldn’t want to be easily found on Google.
He set his computer aside and went back to the couch where he had left his phone. He looked through his contacts, finally finding the number he wanted. The phone was answered in less than three rings. “You have one minute to tell me what the fuck you want, Hellblazer”, the voice on the other side greeted him.
“Well, hello for you too, Terry. Why so stressed?”
“58 seconds and going down…”
“Fine. I just need you to tell me if you have on a group calling themselves Cult of Cold Flame”
There was a silence, then the sound of footsteps. “Back off of whatever you have with them”, Terrence whispered, “it’ dangerous shit, that’s what they are. Hail Satan and that stuff, you know? More scary than our usual illusionist and con-man.”
“Still sceptic on ghosts, ain’t you?”, John laughed. “I’ll need more than that. Come on, I have a friend in San Francisco who needs the info.”
“I never crossed them. You know, usually my job is just proving that there’s no haunting and all, but always when I meet you, things get a lot more complicated I told you what I know. No one knows much about those guys. Just leave me alone, will you?”
“Wait up, Doc. Who told you about them?”
“Nobody. It’s just rumors.”
“Mate, I know when you are lying. Don’t make me cross the town to go ask you face to face”, John pushed again.
Terry buffed. “Fine, fine. There’s a bar in Camden, where I usually go to get the news on the London occult scene. The bartender sometimes tells me on thing or two about the Cult, just enough to let me know to not cross them. Don’t tell him you heard it from me.”
“Thanks. I owe you one. And don’t worry, no one will know I got the tip from Terrence Thirteen.”
“You owe me many, Constantine”, Terrence replied, before hanging up.
She had no idea of what the hell had just happened. She had seen the darkness leave Raven’s body and go away, and as she was about to ask Xanadu what was that, the old woman collapsed towards the floor. Zee held her before she could hit the ground, but Xanadu was unconscious, and seemed that she would remain like that for a while.
She glanced back to Constantine, and saw him picking Raven from the floor. “Oh bloody great, they have both fainted”, he said, while walking to where Zee stod. “Want to change? Raven must be easier to carry.”
Zatanna raised an eyebrow at him. “Are you implying that just because I’m a girl, I’m not as strong as you?”
John stammered. “That’s… that’s not what I meant… I just… you know…”
Zee rolled her eyes. “Tfil”, she said, making Xanadu’s body float. She turned to him again, “Want help with yours?”
“I can handle myself, thanks.”
They walked back to where they had split from the others. June seemed much better now, her eyes were still red from crying, but other than that, she was fine. She was sitting side to side with Eve, resting her head in the blonde’s shoulder. Boston stood near them, watching for any cultist who might have survived.
“What happened there?”, Deadman came flying towards them as soon as they appeared throughout the trees.
“We won. Other than that, I have no idea”, Constantine informed. “Hey, you whose name I always forget”, he said, pointing to Eve, who looked up with curious eyes, “can you open another one of your portals? I’m too drained for that.”
Zee nodded, agreeing that she was also too tired for doing it herself. Eve stood up, and began concentrating. Zatanna shivered at the thought of traveling through that thing again, but she still smiled, because she knew that now it was over. Soon she would be back at San Francisco, and she wouldn’t have to see Constantine for a really long time, or at least she hoped.
* * *
The first thing she did when they got back in the House of Mystery was take a shower. Except Deadman, who didn’t need to shower, Xanadu and Raven, because they were unconscious, they all did that. She felt sticky because of the sweat, and there was dust covering her face; her hair was so tangled that it took fifthteen minutes to fix it. After that, John’s gargoyle butler (because the House came with its own personal servant) served them snacks and drinks. The air in the room was thick with questions, everyone had something to ask, but they were all too tired to speak. Finally, Deadman broke the silence.
“How did you defeat Trigon?”
Zee and John exchanged looks, because neither of them knew what had happened. They were just fighting and then Trigon left Raven. The others listened at they told what they had witnessed.
“I bet it was Xanadu’s doing”, John added after they finished the story.
“How would she do that? I thought she had no magic but divination”, June pointed out.
“I dunno. But it’s too much coincidence that she passed out when we won. She did something.”
“Well, than we must be glad she did. Otherwise it would have taken much longer for you two to defeat Trigon”, Eve comments.
“I guess we’ll have to wait until she wakes”, Zee said, “What happened with you back there?”, she asks June.
“It a long story”, the other one replies.
“Good thing we have lot of time”, Constantine presses the girl into telling.
She sighs deeply, but begin talking. “It all began on Halloween, three years ago. I was at a haunted house with friends, when I got lost from the group. I remember hitting my head into something, and then I woke up elsewhere.
“There was this creature sitting in a throne, and it was the only thing I could see in the room. It looked like a red, fat square with a face and arms. I was creeped out. He said for me to come closer, and I knew I had no choice but to obey. He talked about how fate had brought me there, and continued on how there was a dark presence that he needed to get rid off and that I would be perfect for that. He told me to say her name and she would come. I did just that, and suddenly I changed. I felt stronger, more powerful. And it was good, for the house was actually being attacked by a minotaur.
“I had no idea of what I was doing. It was like I was moving on pure instinct. But I caught the monster before it had killed anyone. I had never believed in magic, and now I was a witch. I felt scared. And then I heard her voice for the first time. She taunted me, trying to make me kill my friends, I thought I had gone mad. I wished I could be normal again, and the new clothes disappeared and I went back to wearing my costume. I dismissed those events, thinking I had drunk too much on the party, but a week later I heard her again. There was a robbery in a small store near my house, and as I walked by it, I heard her encouraging me to say her name. I did just that, and I changed again.
“It was my first kill. The muggers… she made me kill them. And from them on it became worse. Every time I turned, she got more powerful and more evil. She stopped wanting to hurt the guilty to prey on the innocent. I told that to a friend, who had me interned in a mental hospital. I got diagnosed with schizophrenia and multiple personality disorder. I got out with some prescription pills and the recommendation to get a therapist. I took the pills for a while, but it did nothing to quiet the witch. I even went to the shrink just so my friend would stop bothering me. After a while I moved to another town. This time I avoided friends, and focused only my art.
“The witch is consuming me. After I realized that, I stopped calling her. We had done some good together, but also lot of bad things. Even though I try to avoid, she sometimes takes control of me while I’m sleeping. And that's what you witnessed. What I did to those men. I called her and she fought for me, but she almost took you down too. Xanadu gave me this necklace to control the witch, and although it keeps her quiet, it doesn’t mean that I can use her power without her trying to take hold of me”, June wiped a tear that fell through her cheek. “And that’s my story.”
The rest of the room looked to her wide-eyed. Zatanna had seen many things in her career as a magician, but what June had just told them was unprecedented.
“And the witch’s name is?”, Constantine asked. He was the only one that didn’t seem shocked or surprised by the tale. June got a pen and wrote on the piece of paper, ENCHANTRESS. “How original…”
Zee hears a grunt and turns to look at the large couch where they had laid Xanadu and Raven, a couch that wasn’t there until John wished it was. Raven stretched out, letting out a yawn. “Is Trigon… gone?”, her soft voice asked.
“Yes, he can’t hurt you anymore”, Eve comforted the young girl.
“Yeah. And what’s the deal with him being your father?”, Constantine brutally inquired, just as Rachel was beginning to get up. Zee glance at him narrow eyed, and John shrugged. “It’s not like you didn’t want to ask that.”
“You win a ten in empathy”, Boston tells him.
“It’s not like you can write down my grade”, he snaps back.
“It’s okay”, Raven says. “I suppose I should have told you about it.”
“Great… I can see another sad-backstory coming to us…”, John commented, refilling his empty teacup with whiskey.
“Shut up, Constantine. You were the one who asked”, Zatanna shouts at him, causing him to shut up.
Raven clears her throat and takes a cookie from the tray in the table. “So my mom lived in Gotham and one day, she became involved with a satanic group”, she stopped to take another biscuit, and continued talking while chewing. “They were planning in inviting Satan to Earth, and my mom wanted to be his bride. They did open a portal to another dimension, only that, instead of Satan, they got Trigon. But he couldn’t just come to Earth, so my mom went to him. She said he was handsome and seduced her. She claims that he broke her heart when he sent her back to Earth. Here, she soon discovered she was pregnant with me. She realized that she had done a mistake by mating with Trigon and tried to kill herself.
“But she didn’t die. Instead, she woke up in Azarath, where a group of priests explained what Trigon really was. My mom birthed me, and I was raised in the temple. I lived there for many years, and my father always tried to make me free him. Some of the Azarathians didn’t trust me, and they had their reasons. When a man named Juris tried to kill me by sending me through the Great Door, my father used his powers to disintegrate the man and almost convinced me to let him into the city.
“That’s when I realized I had to leave. If I stayed, I would only put the ones I loved in danger. I came to Earth hoping to find a way to kill my father, but the only thing I found were his crazy followers that have been trying to kill me since I set foot on this realm. I thought I would have time to figure it out, but yesterday I began to feel his presence, and discovered that some cultist had managed to translate the Book of Blood, the Cult’s sacred text, and use it open a portal that would allow my father to come through.”
“Hey, did you just said Book of Blood ?”, Eve asks, “Cause that’s the title of the beaten down volume Xanadu was carrying. I noticed it when I was laying her in the couch”, the blonde explains. She gets up and goes to Xanadu, searching through the woman’s robe. She pulls out an old brown-covered small book, showing it to the rest of the team.
“Okay, now it just got really creepy”, Zatanna says. The only thing she can think is that Madame Xanadu had been plotting against them. “Why the hell would she have that?”
“I can explain it all”, they were startled by the sudden awakening of Xanadu, who stared at them very calmly.
“You better start now, cause I got a feeling it’s gonna take a long time”, Constantine shouts at her.
Xanadu moves around the room, taking a sit around the table with the others. “It all began when I had a vision. It showed me a great danger coming, and that the only way to stop it would be if we worked together as a group. I did my research and found out about you, June, and you, Eve”, she says looking at the two girls, “the rest I had already known, and therefore it would be easier. But still, there wasn’t a way of bringing us all together and I couldn’t wait until a threat came to allow us to be united. When the threat comes, we need to be ready.”
Xanadu proceeds to explain how she infiltrated the Church of Blood and convinced them to summon Trigon, how she stole the Book of Blood in case they failed and she needed to stop him, how Raven had interfered with the plan. “But the good thing is that it worked. We are together now, and we will be ready when time comes.”
“No”, John says, standing up. “We are not together. You lied and put us all in danger. I don’t care if the world is about to end, I refuse to be part of this little experiment.”
“I have to agree with him”, Zee says, gesturing angrily, “This is a bunch of bullshit. I’m out”. She begins to walk towards the exit, but remembers that the House isn’t yet anchored anywhere, and turns on her heels back to the table. “As soon as we land someplace”, she shoots John an angry look. “Constantine, you better make sure it’s soon.”
Boston glances back and forth between Xanadu and Zatanna, but decides to side with the younger one, and floats to her side. “I’m out too.”
“Wait, guys, you didn’t even hear what is that Xanadu is worried about”, June pleas at them. She feels betrayed, but still… Xanadu has helped her with the Enchantress, so what if she lied to make them come together? It could be forgiven, she was trying to save the world, afterall.
“Did you even plan to help me rescue Larry? Or was it another lie?”, Eve yelled, tears running down her face. “You fooled us all!”
“Who the hell is Larry ?”, Zee asks Boston, who shakes his head like he had no idea.
“Eve, dear, I wasn’t lying about that. I can’t help you alone, but they can”, Xanadu looked to every member of her team, “I may have lied for the reason to bring you together, but it doesn’t make it any less important.”
“Truly, X? I didn’t expect this from you. From Constantine? Sure. But not from you”, Zee comments shaking her head disappointed.
“Don’t involve me on this”, John says.
“I’m just illustrating how badly she has fucked up”, Zatanna replies, giving him a fake smile.
“I don’t fuck badly”, he whispers to her, barely audible to the others. She just rolls her eyes. There’s a loud landing sound and Constantine spies through the window to see if they have landed. “That’s it. Everyone out of my House. This is over!”, he yells at everyone pointing towards the door.
Xanadu is the first to move. “You know where to find me, in case you change your mind”, she says as she walks out. “June, are you coming?”. June stands and follows her head down, but not before giving the group an apologizing glance.
Boston disappears through the ceiling, and Eve waves a goodbye before calling her darkness and vanishing.
“When I said everyone, I meant everyone”, John tells Rachel, who’s still sitting and eating cookies, and Zatanna, who’s standing awkwardly near the stairway. Zee’s expression flicker for a moment, almost as if she had expected to be invited to stay and was disappointed for not being, but soon she goes back to her ‘pissed off face’, glaring angrily at Constantine.
“Raven, do you wanna come with me?”, Zee asks. Raven looks at her, eye glowing with happiness.
“Really?”, the girl asks, with her mouth full of biscuits.
“Yes, sure. I can’t do much for you, but at least I can give some place to stay”, Rachel takes Zee’s hand, and they cross the threshold of the House, finding themselves under the London sky. “I’m sorry for not being nicer to you before”, she says, looking into Rachel’s dark eyes, “We are not our parents. You can be better than Trigon, a lot better”. Raven smiles, and the two of them walk holding hands until they find an empty stop, where Zee opens a portal to San Francisco. “We are not our parents. For better or for worse”.
6 Years Ago
She was desperate. She had called Sargon and he hadn't heard from Giovanni either. Nor had Richard and Rose. No one seemed to know where he was. She rolled through her contacts, thinking of what to do.
Zatanna laid on with her back on the bed, staring at the ceiling. She thought about texting Mikey about going to the movies, anything to get her to stop thinking about her missing father, but changed her mind. If her dad called or came back home, she would have no way of knowing. Also, she couldn’t shake the feeling that something bad might have happened, and if that was the case, she needed to be ready to go rescue him. “Although, if it was strong enough to take dad, I don’t stand a chance.” She was going crazy, she didn’t even know for sure that her dad had been taken. The ring of a phone took her out of her thoughts. She was filled with hope, someone had found something and was calling to let her know. Or her dad was finally calling back!
Only that it isn’t her ringtone… It takes her a moment to realise that it’s coming from the house’s landline, an old piece of technology that she hasn’t used since her childhood, when she used to stay on the living room watching cartoons and dialing her friends to share the latest gossip, like who had got new toys or who was playing with who at the playground. She races downstairs and picks up the handset, dust falling of it’s top as she does that.
“Hello?”, she asks, not sure who’s calling.
“Hey, luv”, John greets her. “How did he get this number?”, she wonders, during their casual texting in the last two years, it had always been with her mobile.
“John! Hey, what a surprise”, she said, faking a joyful voice. Not that she wasn’t happy to talk to him, but the last thing she needed right now was to discuss their relationship. She didn’t regret last night, and she wanted to be with him, but she was scared he would turn her down again. Or worse, what if what everyone said was true, and he only cared about sex? “No, if it was only about sex, he wouldn’t be calling me, would he?”
“Not that I ain’t happy to hear you, but I was actually trying to reach your father”, Zee signs in disappointment, she had been foolish to hope he would want to talk to her. “Can you pass him the phone?”, John requests.
“I wish I could. He’s not here. He’s been missing ever since I came home from…”, she pauses not knowing quite what to say, maybe he doesn’t want to talk about it, maybe he just wants to pretend it never happened, she wished there was a guide on how to act on those situations.
“Shit!”, he curses, more for himself than to Zee. “Last night, he called me asking about a occultist group, and by what I found out, they are the dangerous kind. Mind if I drop by?”
He had been investigating someone, and now he’s missing… This definitely doesn’t sound good. Weird… why didn’t anyone tell me about this? Surely the others had to know what he was looking into. Dad always shares his investigations with Uncle John… why not this time?
“Sure, yeah, you can come. You think he’s okay?”, she asked, the last sentence just a bit more than a whisper.
“He’s a strong wizard. He’ll be fine.” Despite John’s comforting words, Zatanna couldn’t shake the feeling that something really bad had happened.
* * *
Zee unlocked her father’s office with a bit of magic. “Thank god dad uses blood magic for most of his protection spells, or things would have been a little more troublesome for us”, she told Constantine, who had materialized on her front door just a couple minutes ago. He had briefly explained about the Cult of the Cold Flame, before she suggested that they checked what her dad had already figured out.
Giovanni’s office was small but tidy. The carpeted floor was clean, and the huge oak table in the middle of the room was empty. The bookshelf on the left was organized alphabetically, and the maps covering the walls showed the hot-spots for supernatural activity on the world. The only odd thing was that his board, in which he always displayed his current investigation, was empty.
“Well, that’s unusual”, Zee stated as she walked around the rest of the room surveying for any other changes. The office was identical to the last time she had come in there.
John pulled the embroidered chair by the desk and sat on it, resting his feet on the table. “Luckily for us, I did my own search.” He pulled his usual silver flask from his pocket and began to drink.
Zee shoved his legs back to the floor, sitting on the desk. She took the note block John had brought. “Creepy cultists that want to harvest all magic for themselves?”, she said after reading his notes.
“You forgot the part that they want to rule ‘the mortals as their gods’”, he complemented, quoting his own writing. “Apparently your dad was trying to stop theses guys.”
“But why would he ask you for help?”, Zatanna inquired, “No offence meant, of course”, she added, realizing her words might have come out a little more harsh than what she had intended.
“Ouch, luv”, he said, raising a hand to his chest, “you’re breaking my heart talking like this”.
She rolled her eyes and laughed. “I just mean that it would make more sense for him to go to his friends first.”
“Perhaps he did. In the voice mail, he specifically told me to not say a word of this to you. Maybe the others are just better at following orders than I am.”
She furrowed her eyebrows. “No… he’s missing, no matter what he said, someone would have told me, specially since this is the only clue to what happened”, she slid back to her feet, walking around the room. “Why would he want to keep this a secret? Ever since our little expedition against Faust, dad has always asked me for help on the cases. Even when he doesn’t want me to go, he asks for my opinion on what would be the best spells for the situation…”
She was disappointed. She had really thought that her father finally saw that she was strong, that she wasn’t a little kid. For how long had he been investigating this group behind her back? What else hadn’t he told her about? And most importantly, why did he had to do it in her birthday ? “What was so important that he couldn’t wait for today?”
John wrapped his arms around her, “I dunno, Zee”, he whispered softly. “But it’ll be okay, we are gonna find him.”
“But what if it’s too late?”, she asked. John didn’t have an answer for that, and they just stood there, in Giovanni’s office, his fingers wiping the tears that Zee hadn’t realized were running down her face.
“Three weeks…” , she counted in her head. It had been three weeks since Rachel began living with her. At first it was kind of strange. Zee never had taken care of anyone but herself, but with Mikey’s help, Rachel had settled just fine in Shadowcrest. Zatanna had cancelled the rest of her U.S. tour to focus on helping the half-demoness to control her magic. Zee knew how awful it was to be alone in this world, and she wanted to do what she could to ease the girl’s transition.
Besides, it was good to have company, it kept her from thinking too much about what had happened. About Xanadu’s betrayal… and warning about a great darkness coming. But mostly about Constantine. When they fought Trigon, it felt almost like the old days. Then, when he kicked everyone out of the house ( which he had selfishly landed in London, when he was the only one of the group to live in the damned island ) she remembered why she couldn’t trust him. In the end, he only cared about himself.
Now she laid in her bed, absently minded reading a chick-lit she had read at least three times before. “Everyone gets their happy ending in these books. But in real life, there’s no happy ending”, she thought bitterly. She always hated the part in which the girl forgave the boy’s mistakes and they got married and stuff. Why wasn’t there a book in which the girl didn’t forgive and instead lived alone? She angrily threw the book to the other side of bed.
She was about to get her phone when a sudden dizziness hit her. Everything seemed to change, and she felt like she was going to throw up.
Living with Xanadu hadn’t been one of June’s brightest ideas. Yes, she was learning how to keep the Enchantress under control. But, unfortunately, it meant that she actually had to call the witch. When June couldn’t control her, well… it wasn’t pretty. No one had gotten hurt yet, but that was only because Xanadu knew a couple of magic tricks (that hurt like hell when they hit June). Part of June wanted to give up, but she knew that she couldn’t afford that. Xanadu had warned that it was only a matter of time before the necklace stopped silencing the Enchantress, and June couldn’t go back to that terror.
It’s not as if June had completely forgiven Xanadu for manipulating her into that fight. She hated killing those man, “as evil as they wore, they didn’t deserve to die” , but then again, June had no choice.
The worst part was the clients. During the day, the house functioned as a fortune-telling shop, and half of those who came in were exactly the stereotype of the New-Age community, the other half were retired old women trying to have spirit sections with their deceased husbands. And of course, to fit the atmosphere, Xanadu lit incense every day. If June hadn’t seen her perform real magic, she would have said Xanadu was a charlatan. When June asked about it, the other woman about it, she had replied that she had to give the clients what they expected.
June was in her improvised bedroom, doing her best to pay attention to a documentary about whales, but her brain couldn’t quite focus. She wanted to feel the power rushing in her veins, like it did when she used magic. No, what was she thinking? She didn’t want that power… or did she? “Is the Enchantress finally finding a way to bypass the spell on the necklace or am I simply going crazy?” , she wondered. Then the room began to spin and change, and she closed her eyes trying to get her vision right again. “ It must be one of the witch’s tricks.”
The loud music made her ears hurt. She should be used by now, but it still bothered her. Unfortunately, tonight she couldn't escape the party. It was her dad’s birthday celebration, and she had to play the role of the perfect daughter. Not for him, for the press. Also, Eve hadn’t been on the mood for Nightshade since she fought Trigon. She hated the fact she had been fooled by Xanadu. The only thing she had ever wanted to do was rescue her brother. And right now, it felt like that objective was miles away. Maybe with that group she would actually have a chance, but alone… She would have to find a way. She couldn't break the promise she had done to her mother all those years ago.
Eve finished her first glass of champagne, and decided she would get drunk as fast as possible, as it would be the only thing capable of making this party tolerable. She did some small talk to some random billionaire that founded her dad’s campaign (another glass) and posed for a few pictures (another) . She danced, carefully as to not step in her long light yellow dress (one more) . Eve didn’t even like that color, it had been her dad’s choice, he said it looked good with her eyes. But for being long and light-colored, dancing with it without leaving any stains was a hell of a task.
By the time her father took the stage to give a speech to thank the guests, her vision was already blurry. “I must have drank more than I had realized… or maybe I’ve become a light drinker.” She heard the sound but it didn’t make sense. The room was spinning, the colors shifting. And then she wasn’t at the ballroom at all.
She liked living with Zatanna. It was very different from Azarath, and from what she had experienced from Earth until then, but she loved it. Mikey was also very cool, and despite not having magic, had been very helpful to Rachel. Yes, she was going back with it. Raven was how her father’s minions called her, and although she had believed in what they said, she didn’t anymore.
That was something she couldn’t tell Zatanna. She had lied when she said that she was trying to escape her father. It wasn’t the truth. Yes, she hated Trigon, and she didn’t want to end the world. But she thought she had no choice. Her dad had said that unless she helped him conquer Earth, he would destroy Azarath. So she agreed to be his vessel. Until that moment in that building in Phoenix, when she learned she would die in the process. She didn’t want to die, and she knew that it wouldn’t be what her mother would have wanted for her. She had been lucky to find Xanadu and the others. And even more lucky to have them to save her.
But the mistrust in their eyes when they realized she was Trigon’s daughter… she couldn’t take it again. She was only 16, she didn’t want to be alone. But if she had told the truth about her part in the rise of Trigon, she would have been left all by herself once more, even though she regretted it. So she lied. And she felt bad for it. But she would have to keep lying. There was no need to tell the truth. Like that phrase she read on motivational poster online said, all is well when it ends well.
Now Rachel had her own room in Zee’s manor. And Zee was even talking about enrolling her in a school. Finally a chance at a normal life. She smiled to herself at the thought of wearing one of those stupid uniforms. She was so concentrated in her meditation and her plans for the future, that she didn’t even noticed the reality altering around her, and when she finally opened her eyes, she was already elsewhere.
She would be lying if she said she had seen this coming. She had hoped of it, but she wasn’t certain. The moment he had invited them by name, Xanadu knew that it would be something that would come back to haunt them, sooner or later. She had no idea of why he was doing it now, but she knew it must be important. He was a proud man, and he wouldn’t ask for help unless he truly needed it.
She didn’t try to resist the pull, unlike the others certainly would. She went with it, as if she was letting the current carry her away from the shore. “Even if I failed to bring them together, at least I opened the opportunity for it.” After all, the calling would never have occurred if she hadn’t first convinced them to enter the House. She should have known that destiny always finds a way to be completed, even if all the parts involved resist, someway it would end just like it should. “Consider this the way the universe found a way to do what I couldn’t…”
Some would say it was a dick move. They would be right. But he didn’t mind being called a dick. Not when it meant he would get what he wanted. He stood in the middle of the House’s living room, smoking and waiting for the first ‘guest’ to arrive.
“WHAT THE FUCK?”, Zatanna screamed. She seemed to be about to sleep, as she was wearing a pale-blue nightgown that enhanced the color of her eyes. “Krow sehtolc”, she says, and her clothes changes to her typical white shirt, tuxedo jacket, black hotpants, fishnet stockings, and, of course, a top hat.
June appeared seconds after, holding her head in her hands, curled like a scared child. She pecked through an half-open eye, before standing up. “How… how did I get here?”, her voice was shaken, she wasn’t a stranger to find herself somewhere new, but it usually meant that the Enchantress had taken control of her body.
Eve stumbled forward in her dress. She supported herself in a nearby table, clearly drunk. She said something that came out in a blur that John couldn’t understand (and he was used to drunk-english).
When Rachel materialized, she was in a meditation pose, but was quick to get herself at her feet, and analyzed her surroundings.
Madame Xanadu patted her skirt as she rose from the floor. “I see you called us back. What’s the trouble this time?”, she asked. Her question was ignored, as everyone in the room was staring angrily at Constantine, and a fight seemed to be about to erupt.
Zee moved towards John, closing her hand in a fist, but Xanadu held her by the arm before she could do anything. June, on the other hand, was free and took the opportunity to give three large steps, standing in front of Constantine. Her fist hit John on the nose, and sent his head backwards. It ached a lot and he could feel the hot blood pouring from the wound. Zee chuckled.
John made a sign and the gargoyle appeared out of nowhere carrying a bag of ice. “Thanks, Gregory”, he said, pressing the bag in his bloody nose.
“Your gargoyle is named Gregory?”, Eve asked, her words sloppy. She laughed like it was the greatest joke she ever heard.
Gregory buffed, offended, before disappearing.
“How the hell did you pull this off?”, Zatanna inquired. “You are not that powerful.”
“Oh, luv, the House comes with its tricks”, he replied mysteriously. That was a secret he would like to keep to himself.
“Once you accept an invitation to enter the House, it’s owner can always call you back whenever he wishes”, Xanadu explained.
“And you knew it? You allowed him to have that power over us?”, Zee exclaimed. “You have really become a bitch, Xanadu”. She freed herself from Xanadu’s grasp, and turned to Rachel. “We are leaving”, she stated.
“And I’ll just call you back. Wanna see for how long this cycle can go?”, John said, taking a drag of his cigarette. “Thank god she ain’t Superman, or the look she is giving me right now would be my death.”
“Where’s Deadman?”, June asked in a attempt to stop the argument.
“It seems that the House has no power over spirits”, John replied. “ Now, unless someone else wants to complain, we got things to do.
“Like what? Cheat and lie to your so called friends ?”, Zee said bitterly, staring at Xanadu.
“No”, said a voice coming from the top of the stairway. Everyone turned to see its owner, a tall man with black hair. As he came down, his footsteps echoed in the room. “We need to stop a war before it even begins”. He approached the group, who were speechless. His pale skin was almost gray in the light of the candles, and this close it was possible to note the silver crucifix he wore around his neck. His dark red shirt was open, exhibiting a six-pack. The leather jacket fit perfectly his muscular form, and the tight black jeans highlighted his strong legs.
“What the heck are you?”, Eve questioned as she surveyed the stranger, eyes glittering with lust.
“I? Vampire”, he answered in a deep voice. Zatanna sighed loudly, she hated vampires.
“Like a real vampire? With fangs and all?”, June asked. “I didn't know they were real.”
“That's super cool”, Eve said, nodding to reinforce her statement.
John laughed. “‘Cause witches are super common, but vampire must be fictional”.
“What's the job?”, Xanadu tried one more time.
“Oh, just stopping his crazy ex and her vampire army from enslaving all humans. Easy peasy”, John said with a smirk. He tried to sound confident, but the look in his eyes couldn't hide his worry. Them against an army of vampires? It would be a hell of a job.
6 Years Ago
He hadn't got much from their bar. Only that this cult wanted to extract all magic for themselves, becoming so powerful that people would have no choice but bend to their will. He felt bad for not being able to help Zatanna. They searched the office during the whole afternoon without any luck. Any trace of Giovanni’s investigation had vanished.
“Is this all he has?” John yelled through the room as he moved aside the bottles of liquor, trying to find anything drinkable.
Zee came running to his side, looking at the small cabinet where the spirits were stored. “Yup. We got a cellar, but it's only for wine”, she picked a bottle from the floor, “ this one look good.”
John wrinkled his nose in disgust. “ Blended whiskey ? You kidding me?”
“Oh, stop being such a snob”, she said jokingly. The smell of something burning made her race back to kitchen, leaving John alone to choose the least awful of the possibilities.
Zee had invited him to stay the night, as she didn't want to be alone, and he agreed. He tried to convince himself that he was doing it without any second intentions, that he couldn't possibly be thinking of having sex with her when her father was missing. But of course it was a lie. He wanted her. His body ached to finish what they started. And he knew that unless she stopped him, nothing would keep him away from it. It wasn't like not having sex would do anything for Giovanni.
Once dinner, slightly burned grilled vegetables and brown rice, was ready, she called him. John had settled with a Jack Daniels, the best among all of Zatara's whiskey. He poured two glasses of it and joined Zee on the kitchen’s countertop.
“I hope it's good. I'm a terrible cook”, she said as he took his place at her side.
“Can't be worse than frozen pizza”, he replied with a shrug. He took a large bite. He hadn't even realized how hungry he was until he began eating. “It's quite good. When you said terrible I expected for tasteless foam like veggies.”
She laughed. “I'm glad someone appreciates my cooking.”
They finish the meal in silence. Afterwards, Zee took him upstairs, to one of the guests rooms, and helped with the bedsheets. “I'm going to take a quick shower. If you need anything, just call”, she told him, before heading out. “John?”, she calls, once she reaches the doorway. He looks at her. “Thanks for staying tonight”, she gives him a warm smile and leaves.
* * *
He waits half hour before going to her room. The light coming out of it tells him that Zee is still awake. He gives a soft knock at the door, and he hears the noise of her getting up. The door cracks open.
“Yeah?”, she asks. Her hair is a wet mess and she wears a loose shirt with a bear’s face on it and pink panties.
“I just came to check on you. You feeling well?”, he says, running a hand through his blond hair.
“Been better”, she glances over her shoulder, to her bed, where an old book laid open. “I'm studying. I can almost imagine my dad showing up at any moment to criticize my backwards pronunciation”, she moves aside, inviting him into the room.
“I find backwards magic to be very difficult. I can do one thing or two that I picked up from your father, but I prefer a good old Latin spell”, he jokes.
She sits on the bed, closing the book and taking it into her lap. He sits at her side, and peeks at the book. In the middle of its cracked brown leather cover, written in small curvy white letters, there was a name. Magdalene.
“Magdalene?”, John asks surprised. “As in the witch who captured Death?”
“Tried to”, Zee corrects, “But yes, that one.”
He gasps in surprise. “Where did you get it? Her grimoire is said to be lost.”
“Ever since I can remember, it has been in Uncle John's library. He gave it to me as a birthday gift. Haven't really tried anything on it, I don't think I would look good as a pile of dust”, she laughs.
“If there's anyone who could look good as dust, that someone is you”, he tells her, leaning closer until he can feel her breath on his cheek. When she doesn't moves away, he closes the remaining distance, kissing her soft lips.
She eagerly kisses back, her tongue parting his lips and invading his mouth. She locks her hands behind his neck, and throws herself onto the bed, making him fall on top of her, his shirtless chest pressing against the soft fabric of her PJ's. He quickly begins to take off his jeans, while she takes off her shirt, not once breaking the kiss. Their make-out is passionate and hungry, and it feels urgent.
“Wait.”, she says, pulling back, “Do you have condoms?”
“This is your house”, he points out, and she shakes her head in negation. “Ain't you on pills?”, he asks, hopeful.
She blushes. “No”, she slides backwards until she's not completely underneath him. “Know any spell for this kind of situation?”
“Oh yeah”, he nods, “let me just check in my ‘sex magic’ book.”
“That's for real?”, Zatanna asks surprised.
“No!”, he laughs, “Why would there be a spell for making condoms?”
“Horny magicians?”, she offers giggling. “There's a pharmacy down the block, if you are willing to wait a bit.”
“Sure”, he answers already putting back his pants. “I'm going with you. You know, to make sure you buy the right size.”
She rolls her eyes, while sliding in a simple summer dress. “Cocky”, she says, sticking out her tongue. He laughs. “I swear it wasn't intended as a pun!”, she adds, realizing what she had just said.
They walk downstairs swiftly, only stopping for Zee to get some money from her purse. They were still laughing when they opened the door. Zee let out a little surprised scream when she saw the strange black haired woman standing in her porch.
“Hello. I was waiting for you”, she says, her voice beautiful and sweet, like a mother comforting her children. “My name is Madame Xanadu, and I had a feeling you might be in trouble”.
She was angry at him. “How did he dare to do such a thing?” She was also angry at Xanadu for not warning her about the power of the House. But if humanity was at risk, there wasn't time for bickering.
“Ok. Explain more the ‘enslaving humans’ part”, she urged.
“My former lover, Mary, seems to believe that vampires should rule all humans. She has grown tired for vampires having to hide for fear of what humans would do. She thinks we're on top of the food chain, and will do what's necessary to ensure the defeat of your kind”, the hot vampire said. “She has tried this before, and I have stopped her. But this time, she has a bigger plan, and I will need help.”
“What's your name?”, Eve asks, so close to him that their shoulders are almost touching. “So much talk about saving the world, but you haven't even introduced yourself.”
“Andrew Bennett”, he told her, taking her hand in his and bringing it to his lips, kissing it softly. He lets go of Eve, and says to Constantine, “It seems we caught your friends in a bad moment. Unfortunately, we don't have time to waste around.”
“Oh great, let’s all go save the world”, Zatanna complained, “a Con-Man, a half demon, a girl possessed by an evil witch, a drunk shadow girl, a lying psychic and a vampire. I’m pretty sure we would win a prize for ‘most fucked up super-team ever ’ if there was any.”
“Luckily, the con-man has a plan”, John smirked. He waved towards the wood table, which was covered in a big sheet of paper.
“Is that a map of Gotham?”, she asked, leaning close to it. “Of course the vampires are going to attack Gotham first. That city has a thing with bats.”
“I thought Constantine was supposed to be the sassy one”, Eve laughs, not taking her eyes out of the vampire.
Andrew cleared his throat, calling everyone’s attention, that had been dissipated to the open books on vampirism that were laying on top of the map. “Please, this is serious. Mary managed to create a powerful army, and we have until sunset to do something, otherwise, we can say goodbye to live as we know it.”
“And why aren’t you with her, huh?”, Zee inquired. “You are a vampire, you have more to gain by standing by her side than by turning against her.”
There’s an awkward silence in the room, before he finally answers.“I believe her to be wrong. Our powers don’t make us superior, and doesn’t give us to right to control others”, he pauses, and then continues, his voice a tone lower than before, “She wasn’t always like this. It’s my fault. I was the one who sired her, and that’s why I must stop her.”
“And how do we do that?”, June asks.
“For starters, we find her generals. Newly sired vampires are linked to their sires, kill them, and the others die too,” John explains, “the problem is killing them. They must be at least a few months old which makes them more powerful than the greens. A stake through the heart will do, or beheading.”
“Careful, if they bite you, they can turn you into their slaves. Or even into other vampires”, Bennett added.
“Why don’t we just kill the vamp-chick and end them all?”, Eve suggests.
Andrew shakes his head. “I won’t kill her. And it wouldn’t work, anyway. After the transformation is completed, they stop being linked to their masters. Only a sense of loyalty keeps them as servants.”
Eve grunts. “A sense she didn’t have, by the looks of it”, she comments, throwing herself in a purple velvet armchair.
The loud landing sound announced their arrival in Gotham City. Once they were out of the House’s mystic territory, which still showed the red stars in the night sky, Zee could see the sun setting on the horizon, casting it’s yellowed orange light over the city like a death omen.
6 Years Ago
He had no idea who that woman was, but he had never hated anyone as much as he hated her right now. “Fuck. Just when we were getting to the fun part.”
“And how would you know that?”, Zatanna asked. She glanced at John, trying to see if he had a clue on what to do.
“May I come in? It’s quite cold in here”, Xanadu asked. “What kind of name is that?”
“I have no idea who you are, so nope, I’m not letting you in.”
“Also, we”, John gestured to him and Zee, “are busy in the moment. So fuck off.”
“Zatanna, this is about your father. I can help you”, Xanadu tried again. This time, a spark of curiosity flicked in Zee’s eyes.
“Okay. But you ain’t coming in. There’s a bar two blocks down where we can go”, the young magician said, hugging John tightly to protect herself from the night’s chilly breeze.
* * *
The bar was empty. Which was good, because the place was really small. Just three plastic tables and the bar counter. A bored bartender was talking on the phone with someone, and waved a hand towards a small stair, so hidden on the side of the small stage that John wouldn’t have noticed if Zee hadn’t walked in that direction. The place had brick walls and terrible yellow lightning. The floor was greasy and ceiling was full of infiltration marks. If John had to guess, it would have ad said that Zatanna would go to such place. And by the face Xanadu was making, she didn’t expect to have to drag the edges of her long tunic in a floor as dirty as that one.
The metal stairs squealed as they make their way up, and in its end, there was a small door painted in dark red ink, which was almost peeled off, revealing the wood underneath. It was way worse that some of the worst bars John had frequented. But when Zee pushed the door open, a white light gleamed through. He raised an eyebrow, but said nothing as he followed Zee inside, Xanadu trailing behind.
On the other side, the place was completely different. It was a mix between retro american bars and classic british pubs. The place was full of people (and animals?) talking and laughing, and a loud pop beat came out of the speakers.
“Is that a monkey smoking?”, John asked Zee, and she made her way through the crowd towards an empty booth in the very end of the room.
Indeed, in the middle of the pub, there was monkey wearing a trenchcoat and a Sherlock-style hat, smoking a pipe and playing snooker. The other players acted as if it was something ordinary.
“Oh, that’s Chimp. He’s grumpy unless he’s already drunk, so don’t piss him off”, Zee explain with a shrug.
“Alright then. She has a monkey friends. This woman is hella interesting.”
“Where exactly are we?”, he asked, as he set down by her side.
Zee looked at him with disbelief. “You seriously have no idea?” He shook his head in a no. “This is the Oblivion, like, THE place for magic users to meet. It’s a pocket dimension, with doorways around the world.”
He had never even heard of this place. Zee greeted some of the other clients that passed by, and stopped a waitress to order a round of drinks. Something called Red Death . “It’s non-alcoholic, but I bet you will love it”, she justified her choice.
Once they were all settled and their drinks had arrived (and John had to admit it wasn’t as bad as he had thought it would be), Zatanna finally asked Xanadu.
“How did you know my father was in trouble?”
“I’m a psychic.”
“Oh, but of course you are”, John said sceptically. In his long involvement with the occult, he had never met a real psychic. Zee elbowed him in the hips.
“What have you seen?”, she asked Xanadu.
“It was a dark square room, made of marble stones. Golden chains were keeping Zatarra chained to the wall, a muzzle keeping him from talking. The only light came from a magic fire floating in the middle of it. A voice echoed through the walls, asking Zatarra to give up and join them. ‘Together we can be even more powerful. Together we can control the world’, that’s what it said. He fought, but it was of no use. Then it went dark and my vision ended.”
“That’s all? No indication of where he’s being kept? It could be literally anywhere!”, Zee shouted at Xanadu. “This was a waste of time”, she said to John, “let’s go.”
“Wait” Xanadu urged. “Does the name Brother Night mean anything to you?”
Zee goes pale at the name. With regained interest in what Xanadu has to say, she looks at the psychic woman. “He’s the man who killed my mother.”