The Eastern Prince, The Western Knight
Earth 53: Prince Snart/ Knight Lance
Part VII: The Nightmares Take Ominous Shapes
Leonard didn’t know what his cat face looked like at the moment, but he hoped his glare was coming across. Judging by the way Sara and Bartholomew were laughing he was certain it was. “You’ll be fine.” Sara tells him, climbing into Debonair’s saddle. A few paces away, Barry climbed into his own. “I know it’s awful right now, but it’ll be worth it.” she continues. The truth in that statement does very little to alleviate his annoyance at once again being in this form for an extended period of time. Sensing that she wasn’t helping the situation, Sara patted the saddle behind the horn, offering him the spot. “Come on, you can at least ride for awhile.” Leonard pouted for a moment longer, before deciding it was the best offer he was going to get for the foreseeable future and hopped up.
Once saddled, Sara and Barry walked their horses over to join the rest of the riding party. Francisco Ramon, who Harrison had called in from Central the night before was preparing everyone for portal travel. Francisco was another of Bartholomew and Len’s close friends. A talented sorcerer himself, he specialized in interdimensional magic, including portal travel.
“It will take sixteen hours at this distance. I can get us half way there in four and then we’ll have to rest for eight so no one feels any ill effects and then another four the following morning to finish the distance.”
“Where will we be coming out today?” Sara asks.
“About two hours ride from Gotham City.” Malcolm replies. “I’ve sent word ahead, Lord Wayne will be prepared for us.”
“We should arrive around supper.” Cisco continues. “When we’re moving through the portal, don’t touch the walls, don’t stray from the path, you may pop out in the middle of nowhere and it will take several scrying spells to find you again. It will feel like only a few minutes has passed but it will be nearly four hours, maybe more depending on how rough the pathway is.” he paused a moment to make sure no one had any questions. “Is everyone ready?” There was unanimous agreement and as Cisco moved into the empty space in front of the caravan, the rest of them shuffled around, moving into formation around the royal carriage.
After a moment of concentration a large ring of roiling blue energy formed in front of them, large enough for them to pass through. They waited for Cisco’s queue and then as one moved through the gate. The trip was strange, but Leonard always thought traveling this way was strange. He’d traveled back and forth from Central to various other ally capitals this way and he’d disliked every trip. He couldn’t deny how convenient it was though.
“How did Cisco get to Star in a few hours if it takes so long to go from place to place?” He hears Sara ask, feeling her shift ever so slightly toward Barry.
“The more people that travel along, the longer it takes. If he travels alone or with one or two people, he can double the distance traveled and reduce the amount of time he has to recover from the conjuring.” Barry explains.
Just as Cisco said, it feels like mere minutes when Leonard notices the opening to the other side appear and he sits up as they break through, taking in the last of the fall foliage that still clings to the trees. He feels Sara’s hand on the top of his head, her glove gone as she digs her fingers into his fur. He purrs, leaning back against her, her hand shifting under his chin as he does so.
At some point he falls asleep like that, and when he wakes he can see the towering dark structures that make up the midnight city known as Gotham. Sheltered in the shade of the largest mountain range of the east, the sun shines on Gotham for only a quarter of the day. In order to conserve the benefits brought to the world by the sun, Gotham’s structures were built with the pitch black stone mined from under the mountain. The idea came from Thomas Wayne, the late Lord Paramount of Gotham city. His son, Bruce Wayne, is the current Lord Paramount, and standing at the gates of the castle alongside his wife and oldest ward as they approached.
The Waynes welcome them, leading them through the gate and down toward the stables. Once there they dismount, their bridles taken and their possessions sorted toward their lodgings. From there, Bruce, Selina and Richard lead them up into the castle. A feast is being prepared for them, but in the meantime, the party needs to rest. A deep exhaustion has settled into Sara’s bones, a familiar feeling in the last few months. She wonders if tonight she will finally be tired enough not to dream.
Robert and Bruce break off from the group, Malcolm, Richard, Oliver and the magic wielders of their group, save for Cisco, trailing behind. When the hall is clear, Leonard pads after them, leaving Sara and Selina alone.
“You look exhausted, Sara, come along, I have just the thing to give you a boost.” Selina tells her and Sara follows without argument. She leads the younger woman up into the family solar, which they find empty, and sets about making tea. “How are you faring these days?” she asks, looking over her shoulder as Sara takes a seat at the table.
“Well enough I suppose.”
“Not very heartening to hear. I can’t imagine coming back to this mess has made things any easier.”
Sara huffs humorlessly. “That’s putting it mildly. I’ve never felt so helpless. Before I had a goal I could see. Now, I feel like a carriage wheel stuck in the mud.”
Selina hummed. “And what does Leonard think of all of this?” Sara looks up at her surprised, muscles coiling as though prepared to strike out. “Relax darling, Bruce told me. And even if he hadn’t I’d know those icy blue eyes anywhere.”
Sara relaxes back in her seat, leaning her head back. “I haven’t really talked to him about it. We’ve been so preoccupied with all of this coup business, it hasn’t really felt right to discuss it.”
“And if none of this were an issue, would you want to talk about it then?”
Sara looks up at the woman, her catty green eyes watching her, studying her. Selina Kyle had been a spy in the employ of the King of the East for years before she settled down in Gotham. She was an expert in stealth and extracting information, so even though Sara didn’t wish to talk about it, she found she couldn’t help herself.
“Probably not. I’ve never really been known to talk about certain things. This definitely fits.”
Selina finishes brewing the tea and moves to the table with a tray. She fixes two cups and places one out for Sara and takes the other for herself. “If you won’t talk to Leonard, talk to me.” Selina continues. “I think Leonard would be the better choice, but I understand you don’t want to burden him right now.”
Sara sighs, taking a sip of her tea and very carefully returning the cup to the table. “I have no idea where to begin.” she says. “Everything is a muddled mess.” she huffs. “When I left I thought, hoped, when I was done, if I ever finished, that everything might go back to normal. That I would ride home and Leonard might be there waiting for me and we… we could get married and live that happily ever after my sister was so fond of. But the longer I was out there, the longer it took, I started to think I would spend the rest of my life wandering the continent hunting him, that I would grow old and bitter and if I ever finished there would be nothing left to go home to.” she paused. “But then it was over, and that satisfaction, that freedom I thought I would feel wasn’t there. I felt empty and alone and lost, and despite everything I couldn’t picture a future anymore. I used to picture our life when I got home, Leonard and I, but even finding him on the road I couldn’t see it anymore. It was dark and unclear and focusing on it for too long just makes my head ache.”
“Are your memories like that as well?”
“I haven’t really thought about it. I’ve been making an effort not to remember the past.”
“I think it would be wise if you did start thinking about it.” Selina tells her. She doesn’t elaborate. Sara merely nods and takes another sip of her tea. Selina was right, she does feel a bit more energized.
“I know what our mission is, I know what needs to be done, but I can’t shake the feeling that something awful is going to happen.”
“Your instincts have always been strong, Sara, listen to them now.”
Leonard pushes past Barry as they enter Bruce’s study, climbing up onto an empty high chair in the corner of the room. The other men gather among the tomes and artifacts, maps and diagrams. Bruce perches behind his desk, his oldest ward Richard leaning against the inset shelves behind him. Robert and Malcolm take the seats across from the desk and Oliver, Barry and Leonard sit around the edges of the group, listening intently to whatever Bruce has to say.
“How has your research gone?” Robert asks. The Wayne family has run the largest network of spies in the four regions for centuries, all in service to the Snart Family and the Snart Family only. Centuries before the Snart family took power from a totalitarian monarch, the Wayne Foundation as it was loosely referred to, was an independent network that worked for the highest bidder. After the rise of the Snarts, the Wayne’s had pledged their loyalty to the Eastern Empire. It was after the death of his parents that Bruce, for reasons he would not say, pledged his loyalty to the Snarts and only the Snart family. When whispering of dissidents met Leonard’s ears at the beginning of the year, he had thought first of Bruce. The man had a massive network of spies at his beck and call and was trained in various ways himself. His actions after the death of his parents lent Leonard to believe he may know something he had not divulged to them, or that perhaps he merely suspected something foul and could not prove it.
“Well, my spies have shifted their positions all over the continent, reaching out wherever they could to gather information.” Bruce explains. “What they’ve found so far doesn’t exactly answer a lot of questions.”
“Such as?” Malcolm questions.
“The information King Lewis requested on Damien Darhk.” Bruce replies. “From what we can tell he was capable of magic use. Not all that surprising however, there’s evidence to suggest that he’s gotten free from various other similar situations using that magic.”
“I believe you’ve lost me.” Robert says.
“By account, he faked his death multiple times.”
“How could he possibly have faked his death this time? If that’s what you’re implying.” Oliver asks.
“I’m not implying anything.” Bruce tells him. “I’m simply reporting the facts.”
“And the facts are, there’s a good chance Darhk has faked his death, yet again?” Malcolm adds.
“Alright, but how?” Oliver questions again. “We have his head, literally, sitting in court.”
“Do we though?” Bartholomew speaks up, drawing their attention. “I had no reason to question it until now, but I did sense a modicum of arcane energy on the head. I assumed it was form the preservation spell and refrained from probing further, but if he did in fact fake his death, it could have been an illusion spell.”
“And what about Sara and the town all this happened in?” Robert asks, looking between his Wells and Malcolm.
“Any number of spells could account for her belief that she killed him.”
Oliver shakes his head. “I can’t believe he’s still alive, not after all that Sara went through to beat him.”
“Whether he’s alive or not, no one can speak of this conversation to Sara.” Malcolm says.
Robert agrees. “I won’t watch that poor girl driven to rage again. She’s been through enough. If he is still alive, we’ll deal with it quietly.”
“In the meantime, there are dissidents to worry about.” Bruce draws their attention again. “There are a few potential suspects you may want to look out for.” he continues. “In the south Prince Thomas is working on putting the empire back together. And there is the matter of the councilman who disappeared.”
“Do you think the councilman is a conspirator?” Robert asks.
“No, I think he’s being set up.” Bruce replies.
“Why do you think that?”
Bruce and Richard share a look.
“Because he’s one of ours.” Richard tells them. “He’s been a part of the network since the late Lord Wayne brought him on.”
“Any theories?” Malcolm asks.
“Nothing I can back up with evidence, but I have suspicions.”
“The crowned prince?”
Bruce nods, “I grew up with Thomas. My parents fostered him for a few years. I’ve had more than one occasion to question his stability. I have another spy keeping an eye on him.”
“You’ll keep us up to date on that front?” Robert questions.
“What about the other empires?” Oliver asks.
“Well, we already know of Druce, but I’ve had a few suspicions that the late Eobard Thawne may have been a part of the plot as well.” he pauses to consider something and thinking better of it, continues. “I don’t believe Darhk was a part of the plot. I think he took advantage and they were forced to rework the plan around him. As for the North, Queen Snow makes it difficult to extend our network that far North, so I’ve very little to go on there.”
“And the West?” Robert asks.
Bruce hesitates. “Counselor Blood is the one who has the most to gain from over throwing you.”
Robert nods and looks to Malcolm. “I’ll send word back to Star City to keep an eye on him.”
Before anyone can reply, a knock sounds at the door and in steps Ser Alfred to let them know supper is ready.
When the door opened Leonard slipped out, he wasn’t hungry, he had too much to think about.
Leonard watches Sara move around the room securing every point of entry. She’s dressed in her nightgown, the same beautiful blue silk he’s always loved on her. She’s stunning, he thinks, her long blonde hair loose around her shoulders and face. He wants to take her in his arms and never let go, never let the world touch her again. But he knows that’s a foolish thought. She’s too stubborn, too strong to let him take care of her like that, to sit back and let others fight for her. Not when she could do it herself.
When everything is secure, Leonard shifts out of his form, laying out along the bed with an exhausted sigh.
“Long day?” she jokes, crawling into bed next to him and laying against his side.
“Too long.” he replies, his arms coming up around her instinctively. She hums, burying her face in his neck.
They lay in silence, Leonard’s head filled with questions he’s desperate to ask her. He’s just managed to work up the nerve, when she beats him to it.
“How are you doing?” she asks and though it sounds like a fairly simple question, he knows better.
“Eager for all of this to be over.” he tells her. “I finally understand how you felt before you left and quite honestly it scares me. It scares me to think you felt this much pain.”
Her arms squeeze him closer and this time, Leonard manages to get his question out first. “Will you tell me about your nightmares?” he feels her tense against him. “The nights before you knew it was me, I saw the way they plagued you, the things you said in your sleep, begging someone to stop.”
She’s quiet for a time and it’s only the way her heart beats wildly that tells him she’s still awake.
“Myself.” she tells him. “I’m begging myself to stop.” she takes in a deep stuttering breath and clings to him. “I’m attacking people, all the people I love, striking them down, but it was like I was trapped in my own body; it wouldn’t listen to me. I couldn’t stop it and the more I begged, the louder the laughter got.”
“Darhk. I can hear his demented laughter all around me, taunting me as I cut down everyone I love.”
Leonard isn’t sure what to say to that, it’s not as if he can say anything to instantly make it better. Her confession is disturbing to say the least, especially when one considers the conversation before supper. This could very well mean Darhk is still alive, watching her taunting her. Or he could have cursed her as he was dying, for the first time, unable to escape the inevitable.
Neither option was particularly pleasant to consider.