Chapter 6: Always a Price
I’ve been thinking a lot about Bruce’s objections to magic. I’ve come to the conclusion that my own are very different. With Bruce, it’s all tied up with the kind of man he is. Scientist, yes. Intellectual, sure. Detective, first, last and always. You wouldn’t expect him to be gung ho about anything that messes with the way the world is supposed to work. But it’s more than that. It’s about right and wrong. His ideas about right and wrong are not open for discussion.
That’s not my kink. Never has been; never will be.
No, my issues with magic come down to people like this Miriam Nash.
“Closing a door that never should have opened is simple if you can find out why it was opened in the first place.” That’s what our witch-lady said. Then she spends the next ten minutes decking us out in all kinds of charms and herb oils for “protection.”
“If you shut a door that somebody else opened, they might come to find out why. And these aren’t exactly the cranky 4th-floor neighbors blocking the elevator open with their golf clubs. Put these on.”
She handed me another crystal, and Lois a carved fish on a ribbon.
“Um, Miriam?” Lois began. Miriam cut her off with a spritz from yet another atomizer and flogged the pendant on her neck with a sprig of something leafy. I got a strong whiff of clove, carnation and bayberry.
“Why am I not surprised you hit it off with Poison Ivy,” I grumbled when she got to me. Spritz! And a cloud of hyacinth, juniper and frankincense joined the other scents. She swatted my crystal with the leafy thing and I saw it was a handful of fresh sage.
“Now the gems,” she muttered. “Prehnite, ruby, garnet, black tourmaline, and hawk’s eye should do it.” She went over to a strange cabinet she had against a back wall, like an old-fashioned druggist’s cabinet. It was shallow, and covered with rows and rows of tiny little drawers. Lois looked at me.
“She said closing the door was simple,” Lois hissed.
“For me, cracking the safe at the diamond exchange is two minutes’ cat’s play,” I told her, “but I wouldn’t go around calling it ‘simple’ if only because of the nine armed guards you have to get through first.”
“I guess magic folks have a different idea of what’s simple.”
“Lois, I go drinking with the craziest crazies in this city, and nobody’s idea of ‘simple’ involves fourteen layers of protection against pissed off hell-lords.”
“Good news!” Miriam announced brightly, “I found some leopard skin agate, very protective, especially against sorcery and possession. And it fits your theme, dear!”
“Oh good,” I sighed. Meow for the theme.
We sat in a circle around the small ritual table in Miriam’s backroom. We had joined hands. Between my right palm and Miriam’s left was the leopard skin agate. Between my left and Lois’s right was a red tiger eye. Miriam was quite confident this would be our best strategy. Since neither Lois nor I were “experienced practitioners,” we had to make use of every advantage, and my connection with cats was evidently a plus.
I would have felt a whole lot better about that theory if Miriam’s own bundle of feline joy, Greymalkin, hadn’t trashed the ritual table when she was setting it up. I tried not to think about that. Miriam had stressed the importance of focusing on the spell and the spell only.
I closed my eyes while Miriam muttered her incantations. I inhaled the incense, sandalwood, jasmine, and… there was a distraction. Greymalkin had returned from wherever Miriam put her. The cat was in my lap, burying its head into the crook of my arm.
I recalled the discipline of meditation, I recalled meditating with Sensei… I inhaled again deeply and let the drone of Miriam’s chanting lull me… I recalled… I realized… Miriam had stressed focusing on the spell and the spell only… I realized this is where Poison Ivy failed. Pamela has no patience. Pamela has no discipline. She complained about the rolls when I tried to train her. She wouldn’t meditate at all… Miriam’s soft voice continued to murmur… sandalwood, jasmine… I saw it all unfolding.
“This wasn’t an accident,” I heard my voice saying. It wasn’t. I knew it now, I could sense it the same way my nose could smell the incense. “There are no accidents. Something wanted this. Distractions. Janus for Ivy. Two Faces. So easy to lead her where he wanted her to go. Janus has two faces. A cat for me. They’re fighting us. Anything to distract us. They’re vulnerable. They’re so vulnerable. Easy to stop them. Easy to close the door, to send them back, to free the others. Just don’t let them distract… Janus for Ivy. Cat for me. Back for—oh, god!”
Batman’s back injury had been a subject of much speculation over the years. The press had known very little about the sudden change in Batman’s appearance, style and methodology. They simply concluded that the much publicized battle between him and the monstrosity known as Bane must have left the real Batman incapacitated, resulting in someone acting as a “Replacement Bat.” In the superhero community, speculation over the extent of the damage dealt to the original Dark Knight ran the gamut from “minor muscle strain” to “permanent debilitation.”
In reality, the wound had been severe but not permanent. From Bane’s “back-breaker” maneuver, Bruce had suffered a minor fracture in his L3 vertebrae and a massive herniation to his L3-L4 vertebral disc. The disc had swollen to the point where it was pressing on his spinal column, causing temporary paralysis from the waist down. After a painful spinal tap and months of anti-inflammatory medication and physical therapy, Bruce had worked himself back into peak physical condition. The path to recovery had been long and arduous, but Bruce knew better than to try to push himself too quickly. Back injuries were not something to mess around with.
In the end, he was able to reclaim the mantle from Jean Paul and resume his career as Gotham’s primary protector. Upon his return, Bruce did make some modifications to the Batsuit—though nowhere near the kinds of changes Jean Paul had made—including extra support/protection for his lower back.
All of that was of little comfort as he lay crumpled on the hood of the car with no feeling in the lower half of his body. He knew he had little time—Blostiban would be turning her ire on him at any moment. He grabbed the side of the car with both hands and pulled hard, yanking himself over the side and landing hard on the concrete sidewalk with a thump.
Quickly scanning the contents of his utility belt, looking for something—anything—to combat the giant stone monstrosity, Batman began formulating his plan. If the back injury followed the same course as the other returning wounds, he would only be incapacitated for a few more seconds—but how long would it take for full motor function to return? He needed to find something to keep Blostiban busy until he was able to stand again and fight…
There was a great wrenching sound as the car he was hiding behind lifted up suddenly and was tossed aside like a piece of errant litter. Blostiban towered over Batman’s prone form, staring down with that hideous, stone snout. Reacting quickly, Batman tossed a smoke pellet into the monster’s face. He knew that the smoke would have no effect as a choking or debilitating agent, but he hoped for enough confusion to give him the precious seconds he needed.
Pinpricks began dancing up and down his legs. He rolled and pulled himself over the sidewalk to a nearby parking meter and began using his muscular arms to pull himself upright. His normal bench-press was nearly three times his body weight, so strength wasn’t the problem—the problem was maneuvering the dead weight of his lower body. He’d just managed to get himself upright—albeit a half-standing/half-leaning posture against the parking meter—when Blostiban was towering over him again, the last vestiges of the smoke-bomb dissipating around the gargoyle’s head.
The thing reared a massive stone arm back, preparing to strike, then paused. The gargoyle’s head tilted slightly to the side as if regarding Batman in curiosity.
˜˜You are wounded, Dark Mortal?˜˜ The voice rolled through Batman’s mind again. ˜˜Perhaps you are not the warrior that I thought.˜˜
Batman steadied himself against the pole. He was starting to regain the feeling in his lower extremities, but he still didn’t have the leg-strength to hold himself up unassisted. He stared back viciously at the giant form, silently daring it to continue its assault.
Blostiban’s head straightened. ˜˜No matter. If you are deemed worthy, you will make a fine addition to my army. If not, I will enjoy feasting on your entrails.˜˜
The arm came swinging in and Batman shoved hard against the pole, propelling himself backward away from the blow. As he landed roughly on the concrete, he realized that he had actually felt his legs adding to the push. He tried to curl his legs to attempt to stand and pain shot up his back again. It was dangerous to move this much while his back tried to heal—the best plan was to lie still and just let it happen. Unfortunately, there was a fifteen foot stone behemoth with other ideas.
Batman pulled one of the heavier Batarangs out of his belt and tossed it with deadly accuracy. The metal weapon spun through the air, heading straight for the statue’s crumbled knee. It wasn’t enough to knock the entire knee loose, but it did cause Blostiban to stumble once more. The monster howled again, mentally, then charged in, scooping up Batman before he could get away.
Now caught in the mighty beast’s grip, Batman pulled a small bulb from his utility belt. The bulb, divided in the middle, contained two inert fluids that, when combined, created a highly corrosive acid. Again, he doubted that it would cause the huge beast any pain, but it might give him the ability to slip away. Blostiban held Batman up, reaching with her other hand to grab at his head—then suddenly she stopped, her head whipping around as if she’d just heard a loud noise behind her. She stood there, completely motionless, staring back up the street. She stood that way so long that Batman wondered if she might be returning to her unanimated statue form.
Then, Blostiban moved again, this time turning to face whatever it was that drew her attention.
˜˜Meddlesome, interfering bitches!˜˜ Batman heard the enraged voice in his mind, the mental words oozing with contempt. The gargoyle threw Batman to the ground like a child angrily discarding a broken toy and stomped off down the street.
Batman lay on the ground, pain racing through his body. The landing had hurt but the pain in his lower back was worse. He considered getting up to follow after Blostiban, but another shot of pain racing up his back changed his mind. He lay there, silently cursing Fate as the muscles in his legs started to throb. After a few more seconds, he felt strong enough to stand.
Down the street, the gargoyle turned a corner and disappeared. Where was it going?!
Then the words echoed through his head again. ˜˜Meddlesome, interfering bitches!˜˜
Adding to my growing list of issues about magic: apparently the simple ritual to close the hell-door can spontaneously shift into a mind-blowing vortex of revelation if whatever spirit force you summon likes the cut of your jib.
Adding to my growing list of issues about magic: I don’t like agreeing with Batman this much! I really don’t. But sorry, he’s got a point on this one. There is something to be said for the reliability of science. You heat water to 212° F, it boils. Every time! No guesswork.
With magic, somebody like Miriam puts a ritual together based on whatever she knows about the herbs and the gems and the symbols and the Big Bad Magical Thing uptown trying to rip Bruce’s head off. It turns out if she happens to lock into something like oh, say, a cat-theme when Norse mythology is involved…
“Oh, I see what happened! Just look at this, I had no idea. The Nordic seeresses, the Volva, were tied to cats! It says they wore capes and hoods lined with catskin and catskin gloves. In their Seidr rituals, they would slip into a trancelike state to commune with spirits to learn the answers to questions… They would just open their mouth and chant out the answers.”
I would have happily slammed that great big book shut on her fingers, but I was too preoccupied with what I had seen in that vision. I wanted to make sense of it all before it faded—I didn’t have time to indulge in getting pissed.
“That does sound like what happened to you, Selina,” Lois chimed in. I glared at her, reconsidering my membership in the Lois Lane Preservation Society.
“I expect the Spirit Forces were intrigued by you,” Miriam concluded happily, “a newcomer as you are to the Craft, but ˜˜COMING FOR YOU˜˜ tied to cats and therefore the ancient Egyptian spirits, ˜˜COMING FOR YOU˜˜ focused on your meditation, and draped in such suitable ˜˜COMING FOR YOU, INTERFERING BITCHES˜˜ feline imagery—”
“We have to go,” I said, “We have to get out of here, now. It’s coming for us.”
They both stared at me.
˜˜INTERFERING BITCHES, COMING FOR YOU NOW!˜˜
I realized too late that I wasn’t making sense. They didn’t hear it, the voice was sounding in my head just like it had outside the park. It was the thing from the park, the gargoyle-thing that fought Batman, I could sense it. It was coming to get us before we could try another ritual. We heard the door to the shop burst open and saw the big lumbering thing coming through the outer room.
“Selina,” Lois hissed, “What you did to Prometheus that time—”
“1-No element of surprise here,” I spat out quickly, “2-No bullwhip, 3-I only distracted him for a minute until one of the heroes could—”
I didn’t get to 4-and Prometheus was after the Justice League whereas this thing was here for US, when our big stone friend shattered the counter in its path and loomed in the doorway. Miriam’s backroom is a lot like Kittlemeier’s—with one critical difference I’d already noticed. Kittlemeier smokes, and he likes to duck out the backdoor for a few puffs before a fitting. Miriam’s backroom had no backdoor. There was only one way out—and Hel/Blostiban was completely blocking it. She was too big to come through it, but that was no consolation considering what she’d already done to the front door and the counter.
But she… it didn’t burst through. It stood there staring angrily. Not that it had any facial expression; it was still a big stone gargoyle. But you could feel the rage pouring off it in waves. And the voice echoed in my mind again, louder than before.
˜˜MORTALS. INSECTS. HOW DARE YOU INTERFERE.˜˜
“It can’t harm us,” Miriam said calmly. “The protections I put in place are very powerful.” She stepped forward, between Lois and I, and took our hands. I felt the stone again between our palms like before.
“Ċøŋfųţă, Đěşįįţ, Ŀěŋtœšċå,” Miriam called out. It was a strong, commanding voice, like I’ve heard Jason use when incanting.
Blostiban didn’t seem impressed—but I imagine that’s just the demon equivalent of rooftop bluster. Catwoman’s Rule #12: you never let on if “That’s far enough, Catwoman!” was a surprise. You bluff. This thing was bluffing. Miriam was getting to it. It didn’t look any different but it underwent the reverse of Bruce slipping into BatMode. It got less dense.
“Ċøŋfųţă, Đěşįįţ, Ŀěŋtœšċå,” Miriam repeated, “There is nothing for you here, Blostiban of the Fifth Circle, aspect of Hel and daughter of—”
˜˜Ruhe, Hexe DämonFrau! Das Berserkergang sind meine, ich hat, was meins ist! ˜˜
It lost even more density, now you could see it, the rock collapsing in on itself while a thick stinking mist started oozing out of its pores. It was like the rock itself was smoking and, at the same time, the smoke was eating away the rock until all that remained was this solid mass of fog. It was similar to the vision I’d had of Ivy in Robinson Park, but the smoky form that confronted her was Janus, a head with two faces looking out front and back. This was a solid mass of fog without form—half black as night, and half white as snow.
“So you abandon your aspect of Blostiban and appear before us as Hella?” Miriam sneered, “You have no more sway in this form than the other, daughter of Loki.”
Add to that growing list about magic: focusing on the hocus-pocus, magicians often miss the point.
“Um Miriam,” I pointed out the obvious as it was happening, “She might not have any extra powers this way, but she can fit through the door.”
The foggy mist had already seeped into the room and thickened again around us. It brought a clammy suffocating aura with it that was quite disgusting, but seemed otherwise harmless… The black was on my side, the white on Lois’s. Something about that tugged somewhere in my brain. This black and white meant something, but I couldn’t see what—not yet. Then the mist solidified again, it pulled together and thickened into a solid form right in front of Miriam. It was no longer a gargoyle; it was a woman. Half of her face was lovely, half was ugly and misshapen. From her waist up, her skin was pink and alive, while her waist down was dead and rotting.
The something-thought tugging in my brain clicked, suddenly it clicked, it all made sense, and I started to laugh.
Miriam was chanting in earnest, and the remaining mist started to clear.
I thought about a picnic basket left beside a leopard statue in a closed jewelry store near the opera house…
And a note somehow slipped into my pocket when I went out to get my morning coffee…
Miriam chanted on, the woman-shape started to fade, the mist was completely gone, and I was still chuckling.
I thought about a diamond cat pin with emerald eyes locked in a safe…
Another in a gift box, in his pocket, and an exquisite garden set for a romantic candlelit dinner.
The last piece of the puzzle was ours.
I thought about a Valentine’s Day when Harvey called in bomb threats to 22 different florists to shut them down on their busiest day of the year…
To lessen “the sick massacre of all those roses.”
“WHAT is so funny,” Lois demanded, leaning forward to look over at me without releasing Miriam’s hand.
“Are we alone?” I asked.
“Probably,” was the less-than-assuring answer from Miriam.
“Now I get it,” I told them, “Hel and Janus. They’re a couple! This isn’t some random goddess whose wrong he decided to set right because Ivy just happened to summon him by accident; they’re a couple! With the two faces and the black and white mist split down the center, these guys are made for each other.”
“And knowing that helps us how?” Lois asked testily.
“This isn’t about opening or closing a portal to Hell,” I told her excitedly, “It’s about the lengths men go to impress women.”
“And that helps us how???” Lois repeated.
“I have absolutely no idea,” I admitted.
The ground beneath Superman’s feet was littered with so much rubble, debris, and dust, it looked like a ten-story building had collapsed. He’d just dispatched the latest round of gargoyles—the fourth wave—and he glanced over at the clump of unconscious human bodies, brushing the dust off of his arms.
In between “rounds” with the gargoyles, he’d managed to make several quick trips to carry many of the knocked-out berserkers to a safer distance halfway across the park. There were still close to a hundred bodies in the middle of the field, but thankfully, no innocent human had been killed.
He peered through the thick fog and could just barely make out Janus’s hulking form. The demon was taking long strides, nearing the concrete-strewn battlefield.
“Okay, Janus,” Superman muttered to himself, “I’ve dispatched your minions. It’s your turn.”
As the demon neared, Superman heard its low rumbling laughter. There was something else underneath the derisive laughter, though—a strange busy chatter coming from somewhere behind the lumbering beast. Superman tried to block out the laughter and concentrate on the other noise—trying to pinpoint where it was coming from.
“Impressive display, Mortal,” Janus laughed. The underlying noise grew louder and Superman realized it was a low, chanting voice and it appeared to be coming from somewhere directly behind Janus. Then it dawned on him: it was Janus’s other face—the one in the back of his head. It was chanting in a strange, rhythmic and ancient dialect. He was casting a spell!
“But ultimately, all for naught,” the demon continued, raising his hands slowly as the chanting got louder and more intense.
A strong wind poured over the battlefield, kicking up the dust and debris at Superman’s feet. Superman hopped back a few steps, out of the pile of rubble as the wind continued to pick up. Small cyclones formed right in front of him, scooping up the rubble and blowing fiercely.
At first, Superman believed that Janus was simply clearing the battlefield, moving the debris aside to give them ample room to fight. But even after the rubble was gone, the cyclones persisted—close to a hundred 12-15 foot tornadoes danced across the field, never touching down or causing damage, simply hovering a few inches off the ground. Janus controlled them all with waves of his hands, sending them all dancing about in strange patterns.
Then suddenly, the winds began to slow and dissipate. To Superman’s internal horror, he noticed that standing in the middle of each miniature tornado was a perfectly reformed gargoyle. He’d originally combated them all in waves of twenty to thirty, but now, he had a pack of a hundred stone monstrosities, all staring directly at him.
He said nothing, simply stared straight at Janus. With a sudden ferocity, he spun and blasted the closest gargoyle with a powerful punch, shattering it instantly. The gargoyle exploded into thousands of pieces… but the pieces simply hung in the air a moment, then reconstituted back into the gargoyle.
Janus laughed again and underneath the hideous laughter, the other voice, the voice of that other face, continued chanting.
Superman discreetly flicked on his comlink.
“Batman? What’s your status?”
Batman stared up the street, his eyes locked on the area where he had last seen Blostiban. For the first time in years, he was torn—torn between chasing after the rampaging gargoyle headed toward Selina and reentering the park.
He knew the women had obviously made it to The Curiosity Shop—that they had already begun to work on reversing this chaos. He was fairly certain they must be the “Meddlesome, interfering bitches” that Blostiban had been mentally screaming about when she left. He hoped that they would have the time to disperse all of this before the monstrous gargoyle reached them.
But if not… He started to head up the street after Blostiban, his legs still slightly wobbly. He’d made it all of two shaky strides when a voice blared through his communicator.
..::Batman? What’s your status?::..
Clark. And worse, he knew that tone in the Man of Steel’s voice, he knew it all too well—he needed a hand.
Batman silently cursed himself for even considering chasing the gargoyle. Selina could take care of herself—he knew that more than any other person on the planet. Plus, if they had already reached Ivy’s magic source and were working on a resolution, they were safer there than anywhere else.
He activated his communicator as he ran toward the park entrance, the last of the weakness finally leaving his legs. “Southeast Entrance. On my way.”
The streets and sidewalks were still devoid of people. Most Gothamites—while surprisingly jaded when it came to witnessing street crime or supervillain crime sprees—were smart enough to realize that huge, looming mists over Robinson Park and animated, angry gargoyles stomping up the street meant it was time to vacate the area.
As he quickly neared the entrance to the park, Batman noticed that there was one person whose disappearance from the scene was conspicuous: Ivy. He remembered dumping her unconscious body right outside of the entrance when he had emerged earlier. He remembered Selina and Lois not taking her with them as they left for the magic shop. He had a vague recollection of seeing her body still lying on the sidewalk during his battle with the gargoyle. But now, she was gone.
He quickly scanned the area but didn’t see her. It would have to wait. Clark was in trouble.
Clark’s brilliant plan.
No sooner had I told Lois I didn’t know how the truth about Hel and Janus would help us, I did see how it would help.
The cage. Clark’s brilliant plan.
“You want to pull Blostiban of the Fifth Circle, aspect of Hel the goddess of Nifilheim, into the POWDER ROOM for some GIRL TALK?” Lois screeched.
“Six thousand dead Berserkers is a hell of a big gift to be accepting, no pun intended. I think we should sit her down and make sure she knows what she’s getting into, yes.”
“You’re insane!” Lois said.
But Miriam took my side, “He is raising an army of freakishly strong magical warriors, I’d imagine he’s expecting something more than a goodnight kiss. Yes, that approach might work. Goddesses are notoriously proud and no one tells them what to do, even a significant other. She may respond if you can put it to her properly. But I doubt she would return here for a chat, no matter how we entreated. She only came before to prevent our closing the fissure.”
“The park,” I said. “She’ll probably be heading back to the park to collect her Berserkers. What if we summon her from inside Robinson Park? Janus is right there, strutting around like the big man, running the show. It’s perfect.”
“It is,” Miriam agreed. “But after that confrontation earlier, I’m sure she won’t answer my summons no matter what. You two will have to do it without me. And you’ll need a third; I doubt two would be sufficient even if you were experienced witches. Your friend Poison Ivy will have to help you.”
“Your friend Poison Ivy—it was her mishandling of the Magicks that brought this about. You mess around with the Magicks, there is a debt.”
I was about to remind her that no one tells a goddess what to do, when Lois cleared her throat.
“The park is crawling with Berserkers,” she reminded us. “And you don’t even have your whip, remember.”
“Lois, I would be happier in costume, I would be happier with costume, claws and cat-o-nine tails, but there isn’t time to go all the way home and—”
“Wait,” Miriam said. She was looking at me strangely. “Your whip may be accessible.” She had that listening-look again, the research librarian on a case—and then the pleased smile that she’d found your reference for you. “Yes, of course. Jason Blood, Jason Blood now lives in your old apartment, right on the park.”
They all do this, all the magic types. They all have this annoying habit of knowing surprising and personal details that they just pull out of the air. Every single non-magic mask-wearer I know has cursed them for it at one time or another.
“Don’t be silly, my dear,” Miriam interrupted—although I hadn’t said a word of this out loud. “This isn’t some psychic second sight, it’s good business to remember my customers’ wants and needs. I know that Jason moved recently because he bought Tempus Stones from me to set up a temporal field in his new flat.”
I blinked at her. So did Lois.
“Oh, now I have to explain Tempus Fields,” she sighed wearily. “People are not meant to travel through time. It disrupts the natural cause-and-effect of what we do shaping who we are, and who we are guiding what we do. Stuff, on the other hand, inanimate objects, have no memories, no experiences. They don't grow or make choices. Stuff simply is. It remains static and unchanging at many points in time. It’s quite common, among magick users, to—oh, how to put this in layman’s terms—to ‘reshuffle’ time in order to store a great many objects in a very small space. Follow?”
“Sure, why not,” I said.
“Good. Now Tempus Fields are created with Tempus Stones. You can make your own. Most witches and wizards do try it themselves once or twice when they’re young and have more enthusiasm than sense. But after a while, who needs to bother with a twenty-seven night ritual and all the radiation burns. Not to mention some of those ancient Acadian words are hard for English speakers to pronounce. It’s much easier to buy them from… well, from me.”
I’m still not a fan of magic; I’m still working on that list. But I let Miriam open a portal to transport us back to Robinson Park. There was no time to waste with another frenzied run across town.
We split up as soon as we stepped out of the portal, I to retrieve my costume and Lois to find Poison Ivy.
I had no trouble breaking into Jason’s apartment. Miriam was quite sure the magical protections she had us decked out in (I still smelled like a spice rack), combined with the fact that this space had been my home for years, would circumvent any spells Jason had in place to stop intruders.
I took a quick look around, noting all that was similar and different. Jason had a mail table in the entrance, just as I had. His was an antique, Spanish, probably, with a lovely Mantegna painting over it. Where I had an urn stand with a spray of flowers, he had a suit of armor. It’s interesting, Jason has an eye for quality, but for a modern man under ninety, his tastes do run to the stodgily old-fashioned: mirror from the 20s, Regency chaise longue, 16th century desk… It’s all beautiful, but even in the big mansions in Bristol, even those old fossils aren’t quite as relentless in the use of antiques.
I continued my search. The kitchen, breakfast nook, guest closet and guest bath were very much as they used to be. Jason uses the same room I did for his bedroom, and I quickly checked the closet and master bath…
Miriam said Jason would have a Power Center, a sanctum sanctorum with his spell books and magic paraphernalia. She said that’s where I would find the Tempus Stones. I double-checked the bookcases by the desk. There was quite an assortment—history, magic, myth—but more like reference books, not spell books as far as I could tell. Not out in the open that way. Miriam said I should be alert for some part of the flat that I felt uncomfortable going near since most wizards would set up an avoidance zone to protect their Center. But I hadn’t felt anything, and I’d been over the whole place.
Except I hadn’t.
My old exercise room. I had forgotten it completely. I even walked past the door when I checked the guest bath. I marched down the hall, cursing magicians and their head games every step of the way. Under normal circumstances, I might feel awkward breaking in on a friend, invading Jason’s private space. Not now. I opened the door…
It was a simple room. No clutter. Nothing to distract, I suppose. There was a stone fountain with running water. The floor was stripped to the concrete with a kind of rag carpet over it. And there were the bookshelves. The real spellbooks. Even I could see that. And three smooth, polished stones carved with symbols.
I picked them up… and felt a cold shudder like icy electricity across my teeth. The thought shivered down my spine: it’s been a while since I’ve stolen anything. And I’d never taken from a friend. This might not be the GCPD’s idea of theft, but this was Jason’s home now, and I had broken in, and I was taking—or at least borrowing—his magic. It felt wrong.
I could hear Bruce as clearly as if he was standing behind me: “With magic, there is always a price.” I could hear Batman too: “You can’t go waltzing into somebody else’s home and take something that doesn’t belong to you, Catwoman.” And I could hear Miriam: “You mess around with the Magicks, there is a debt.”
There was no time to worry about it. This needed to happen. If I owed Jason Blood a debt at the end of it, so be it. I brought the Tempus Stones to the bedroom, and arranged them in a triangle as Miriam instructed, under the bed around the spot where I used to keep my costume. I held the image in my mind, reached in, and just like that, my fingers touched soft leather. I retrieved the whip, claws, and gas grenades the same way.
I replaced the stones in Jason’s magic room. The shuddering feeling returned. I could hear Bruce again as clearly as if he was standing behind me: “With magic, there is always a price.” I had a flash—something in a mirror—red eyes reflected in a mirror.
I shook it off, changed quickly into the costume, and was in such a hurry to leave, I nearly bumped the suit of armor on my way out the door. That suit of armor—it’s so Jason. It makes sense after all, all the antiques. He is an immortal. That might even be his armor from all those centuries ago*.
Back on the street, I saw Lois standing next to Cu Ba, the Plaza doorman. She was waving to me frantically. She had found Poison Ivy.
“When I described her, Cu Ba pointed me right to her. But… Well, Selina, as soon as I saw, I figured I better wait for you to collect her.”
“You mean you waited for the whip,” I said.
“No. You’ll see.”
To be continued...