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Dying Embers

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Being a famous stage magician and a superhero on the side was a lot of hard work. And Zatanna definitely wasn’t using her show as an attempt to get her mind off of recent catastrophes. Flash was dead. Luther was dead. Superman had apparently gone insane. All in a matter of days. People were terrified. But Zatanna was friends with Batman – she had no doubt that he had a sizable chunk of kryptonite hidden somewhere in his basement. He and the others must be biding their time. Aside from President Luther, no further deaths or attacks had been reported. Everyone was holding their breath as they waited for Superman to make his next move. Batman and the others would stop him – it was just a matter of time. Until then, Zatanna was keeping people’s minds off the situation in the best, non-magical way she knew how – putting on a show.

Tonight’s performance had gone off without a hitch, but the audience had been dull and lackluster, hard to work off of. Zatanna didn’t blame them. Everyone was scared.

“There’s a package for you in your dressing room, ma’am,” one stagehand told her as she passed. “Arrived while you were performing.”

Zatanna gave him a playful little salute with her wand,

“Thanks for letting me know!”

Stay positive, stay positive, she had to stay positive.

Zatanna sashayed into her dressing room, pulled the door closed behind her, and half-collapsed into her chair in exhaustion. She buried her face in her hands.

God. Superman had murdered the president of the United States in cold blood. Civilians had always been just a little leery of metahumans and magic users, but by the time all this blew over? It was going to be a nightmare. Maybe she’d take her show on the road again for a while. She’d done well in Europe in the past. She pulled herself to her feet and threw on her dressing gown over her clothes. She would deal with that when the time came. Focus on the present.

The bouquet on the table of her vanity tonight was an arrangement of lavender. An odd choice but a nice smell. Zatanna leaned forward and took a deep whiff. It was soothing. No card with the flowers that she could see. Then her eye caught sight of the package. She’d half forgotten about it.

It wasn’t very big – about the size and shape of a jewelry case. Zatanna didn’t recognize the handwriting, but a few quick spells showed no booby-traps. From one of her fans maybe? Sometimes they sent gifts. She tore off the plain brown packaging. Huh. It really did appear to be a jewelry case. Well, she always had liked shiny things. Honestly, what woman didn’t? She opened the lid.

It looked… sort of like a bracelet. A circle of facetted, multi-colored metal about the size of a quarter was set in a wide, matte black band. What an odd piece. Zatanna reached to pick it up. A few investigative spells ought to answer any questions she ha-

Whirrrr! ClackClackSNAP!

The bracelet sprang to mechanical life the instant her fingers brushed against the band and snapped around her wrist like the jaws of a bear trap. The world tilted, spun, blurred. There was a horrible tearing sensation somewhere deep inside Zatanna’s chest. Just before she passed out, Zatanna caught sight of a small white card on her dressing room floor. It must have been knocked out of the flowers. The only thing on it were the initials B.W.

The world went black.

 

When Zatanna woke up, she was no longer in her dressing room. Her cheek was pressed into hard, dusty earth and tall, dry grass rattled around her in a stiff breeze. She sat up. Overheard, the sky was an odd yellowish-green.

What the hell had happened? She obviously wasn’t in her home dimension any more. She remembered being in her dressing room. The flowers. The package. Then after that – nothing.

Zatanna pulled herself to her feet and brushed off her clothes. If some upstart supervillain thought that a little dimension hopping was going to slow her down, then they were sorely mistaken. She threw out one hand.

“Emoh em ekat!”

Nothing happened. No zing of magic, not even the slightest tingle in her fingertips.

Maybe she wasn’t concentrating hard enough.

“EMOH EM EKAT!”

Still nothing, but this time Zatanna noticed the strange bracelet still clamped snug and tight around her right wrist. The sight pulled another memory to the surface of her mind. The white card on the floor. B.W.

No. No. It couldn’t be. Bruce would never have-

Zatanna clawed frantically at the bracelet, searching for a clasp or a catch. When none could be found, she tore at the bracelet and her wrist alike with her nails. Desperation clouded her mind and terrified tears stung at her eyes. By the time she collapsed to her knees, muscles shaking from emotion, her wrist was raw and nearly bloody, and the bracelet was as clean and unblemished as when she had first opened the box.

Betrayal stung bitter and cold in her chest. Bile rose in the back of her throat.

Zatanna was powerless, and she was trapped.

The wind twisted through her hair, and the dry grass cried with her as she fell to the ground and sobbed.