2 Timothy 4:7
The monks of the Hidden Way had almost dug free of the collapsed stairway, and soon the battle-scarred warriors were taken into the shelter of the monastery. The Levin-bolt of the sorcerer had done little real harm. The main route out was clogged, the concealing chapel had been leveled, and most of the great windows were shattered, but no one was hurt, and the damage would be easily mended.
Nightwing was marked fairly lightly, with nothing more than a body-wide bruise and a cut above the right eye. Seamus had several cracked ribs and a concussion, but the monastery's healers would soon mend him. Dugal the warrior had lost his arm, but would live and heal, and within the hour he was considering prosthetic options, his chief criterion being combat usefulness. Batman, for his part, was covered with sword cuts and bruises, with half his ribs and three fingers on his left hand broken. The blade wounds would knit, as would the bones, and there was no real danger of infection.
Donal, wondrously, was unmarked, from crown of the head to soles of the feet. He had, indeed, never felt better. He calmly took charge, guided the labors of healing and repair, and arranged for the burials of the fallen.
Four monks, Warriors of the Cross, were set to rest in the earth, their spirits free of the flesh. The good Abbot, for his part, was laid in the catacombs with the leaders who had gone before. In the deepest vault, there rested the bones of a legend, one sacred relic in a fortress filled with them.
The possessed men who survived were themselves again, the mage's power over them gone. The monks did their best for them, tended their wounds, and did what they could to restore them to their lives. The fallen were buried with much sadness, and there was a great mourning over their deaths.
The ninjas were bound, and handed over to the law, along with enough evidence to put them in prison for a long time. Those shadow warriors who fell to Celtic swords were burned according to Japanese custom, and the ashes were sent to the Shadow Dragon masters. Their leader's body was lost to the ocean at the bottom of the cliff, given up to tide and wave.
Simon Magus was a broken man, and after his attack on Tsumane, he had shown no trace of violence.
"He shall be kept here," Donal had decreed after much thought, "we shall care for him, and seek to restore him as best we can. Power gone, his mind burned out. He was mad, but fairly harmless now. Perhaps, someday, he will be able to undo some of the evil he has wrought in the world."
"Good luck," had been Nightwing's doubtful response.
"Ah, my friend, you still doubt the power of God. With Him, all things are possible."
"Maybe so. But I'm glad I won't be on the same side of the world as him, just in case you turn out wrong."
The waves beat mercilessly upon the coast of Northern Ireland, cold and dark in the night. A single piece of flotsam, black and almost invisible in the black waters, was thrown onto the earth.
He had been kept alive only by pain. Pain had kept him conscious, pain had fueled him as he struggled to shore. He was covered with deep cuts, and the salt water burned in a horrible torture that consumed his entire being. Had he been a lesser man, he would now be dead, or mad.
He was neither. He was Shinochi Tsumane, and for the moment, at least, he still drew breath. With that breath he cursed the name of Bruce Wayne.
The waves still beat over him, but he thought it was possible, although unlikely, that he could make it to higher ground before he collapsed and drowned.
The two masked figures stood beside the robed monk in the great chamber, and the three of them studied the glittering gold cross. The light from above caught the gold, in a thousand traceries of knotted fire along its surface. The quest was achieved.
"I shall miss you, my friends," said Abbot Donal, turning to the two vigilantes. "We had a great adventure together, did we not?"
Nightwing grinned. "I'll agree with you after the bruises heal, and I can sleep again."
Donal laughed. "God be with you, warriors for justice. Yours is a lonely path, and your battles will be many and painful, but you shall overcome."
"Goodbye, Donal, and good luck." Nightwing clapped him on the shoulder. "You don't have and easy job yourself."
"How many times have I told you…"
"I know. You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you."
Batman stood before the Abbot. "On the cliff…" he seemed to have trouble saying any more.
"Do not think on it too long. You conquered the anger, and the pain that have eaten at you for too long."
"The pain is still there."
"I know, my friend, I know. Embrace it, for it is what makes you Batman. But always remember this: You have mastered your pain, not it you. Now go, and continue to fight the good fight."
He ushered them to the surface, and they parted company.
The young man stood, eyes filled with tears, before the stone pillar that guarded the ashes of Shakiko and her father. Beside him, a tall gray-haired man stood, and he mourned as well.
"I couldn't save them, Alfred. Just like my parents. I couldn't save them."
Alfred placed a hand on Bruce's shoulder. "Master Bruce, you must not let yourself give in to self-torment. Do not tarnish their memories with reproaches that they would not want you to bear. Remember them, and what they taught you. Remember the lives they led, and the love you shared. That is how to honor the dead, not torturing yourself with your failure."
The boy knelt at the grave, and remained there for a time. Then at last he stood, and turned to face his friend.
"It still hurts, Alfred."
"I know, Master Bruce. To this day, I feel the sting of your parent's loss, and my parent's loss. The pain will stay with you." The old man and the young man turned to walk back to the car. "The trick is to keep the pain from becoming bitterness."
The walked on, and the snow covered their tracks.
And so it was, the great quest for Padraic's Cross. For five years now, I have shepherded the Brotherhood of the Hidden Way, and we have done well. Batman and Nightwing guard their cities as warriors should. The Dark Circle has left us in relative peace, for the time that their darkness shall be quenched is not yet at hand. And so I, Abbot Donal Mac Namara, do close this chronicle, which shall be added to the archives of this Brotherhood. May Jesu be with you, and with us all.