DISCLAIMER: Teen Titans and all associated characters and places are the property of DC. The character of Sera is my OC. Rated M.

A/N: This story – and, hopefully, series – will probably be darker than my Titans Forever series. Though admittedly TF had its dark moments. The Shroud of Darkness series, on the other hand, is going (like I said) to more than likely be darker overall. However it becomes (or turns out), I hope y'all will like it. Oh, and I am sorry if this story offends anyone.

Shroud of Darkness Book 1: Sera

Chapter 2: An Angel's Feather

Raven found herself on a windswept cliff with no knowledge of how she got there. She knew she should be concerned about that, but couldn't bring herself to care. She didn't know where she was, and that didn't bother her, either.

Not many can find their way here unaided.

Turning around, she saw no one. Hello? she called out, then realized that she made not a sound, though she 'heard' the words.

You are not alone.

Where are you? she asked, walking away from the cliff's edge towards the trees that were now there.

I am with you.

But where? she cried out, looking around. She sensed a gentle chuckle.

It is not with your eyes that you need to be looking.

But I don't understand

True sight lies within. Do you wish to find me?

Yes!

Why?

She found she couldn't answer that question, and she felt saddened by that. Almost immediately, a gentle breeze sprang up and caressed her cheek, as though comforting her.

Feel no sorrow. Why is often the hardest question to answer, though the easiest to speak.

Can't you tell me? she pleaded.

It is not something that I can tell you, as you are the one seeking. Your time here draws short.

Can . . . can I come back?

When you know why you want to, you know the way. Fear not, for I shall be with you always.

Raven felt the world around her fade away and into blackness.

"Will she be alright?" Robin asked as Cyborg made some adjustments to the equipment in the infirmary.

"She's perfectly fine right now," he replied.

"Then why all this?" the team leader questioned, gesturing the medical equipment.

"Dude, you saw what was there, right? All of that destruction and death? I know for sure that Raven wasn't responsible for it, though she must have been involved in some way. There was an imprint about the right size for her in a concrete wall, and then the dent in that car she was 'reclining' against matched her, too. And yet there isn't a sign of any internal injuries. Hell, dude, there isn't even a scratch on her anywhere."

"She could have put a barrier or a shield," Robin offered, but the other teen was shaking his head.

"If she had, it wouldn't have left that kind of impression in that wall, and the front end of that car would've been smashed flat rather than indented like that." They were interrupted by a groan from Raven. Looking over, they saw that she was waking up.

"Easy now, Rae," Cyborg said, coming around to her side. "Just take it easy."

She groggily opened her eyes and saw that she was back in the tower.

"Is it tomorrow already?" she groaned, trying to sit up.

"As a matter of fact, it is," Robin told her. She became a bit more alert at the sound of his voice. "Hey, Cyborg? Can you give us a minute?"

"Just take it easy, man," he warned.

"I was planning to," he agreed, then waited until the taller guy was out of the room before turning back to Raven.

"Listen," she said, guessing what he wanted to talk about, "if this is about Starfire-"

"It is," he interrupted, "but I don't want you to worry about it." He sat on the edge of the bed and looked at his gloved hands. "I overreacted when Starfire told us what you'd said, and I was . . . well, I did fly off the handle. She told us, word for word, what you had told her, since she was having trouble telling us her own way." He looked over at her. "Not one of us knew how much you cared about her, you know."

"I didn't advertise it," Raven replied. "Mosly because I was afraid of my feelings and unsure how all of you – especially her – would react."

"We all talked about it after we'd brought you back to the tower," he went on, acknowledging her words with a nod. "Neither Starfire nor I realized how much we were hurting you with our . . . our displays of affection. It should have been obvious something was going on whenever you left the room as abruptly as you did. I'm sorry, Raven. I guess I'm not much a friend, huh?"

"Robin, listen," she said. "Starfire does love you. Truly love you. I sense that about her every time she sees you. I didn't mean to blow up at her like I did. I tried to keep it down, to not think about it, but I guess all that did was work like a pressure cooker." She sighed. "You've got some admirable restraint."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, judging by your emotional state, you're not only relieved that you managed not to bungle this conversation but you're also very eager to learn what happened downtown."

"I thought you could only sense emotions."

"I can. But the reasons behind your emotions aren't hard to figure out," she pointed out. "And it was a demon."

"A demon?" he echoed. "Like your father?"

"My father wanted to return to this dimension to conquer and rule it," she remineded him. "This demon was different than him; he just wanted to kill and feast."

"Feast?"

"Yeah. He . . . he ate the people he killed. Or at least, he ate pieces of them."

"So where'd he go? You were the only one we saw there when we finally arrived."

"I don't know where he went," she admitted. "I didn't see the end of their fight."

" 'Their fight?' What do you mean, 'their fight?'"

"Well, the demon slammed me into a wall after I'd dodged some kind of . . . well, I guess you could call it a 'hell blast' and was about to bite my head off – literally, if you want to know – when this . . . this . . . angel showed up."

"An angel? A real 'wrath from Heaven' angel?"

"I don't think she was that kind of angel, but she was certainly an angel."

"So what happened?"

"Well, when she landed, the blast wave from the impact knocked the demon down the street, and me into a car."

"That explains a lot, then."

"Yeah," she agreed, smiling. "She and the demon talked, then he charged her with an axe he'd pulled from nowhere. It should have split her down the middle, but she raised up her hands and it stopped. Then a staff appeared in her hands beneath the axe blade. She spun around and slammed the staff into the demon's gut – and blasted him down past the next block, I guess. I could barely move, I was in so much pain."

"Go on," Robin urged gently.

"She came to check on me for a moment, then she left to finish off the demon, I guess," Raven replied. "When she came back, she k-healed me."

"She did what?"

Now Robin was certain she was blushing. Raven looked down at her hands and mumbled something.

"What?" he asked, not hearing her.

"She kissed me," she repeated, loud enough to be heard. "She kissed me and . . . it healed me."

"There's no need to apologize," she said. "I can an also sense that you've got a good heart and an honorable spirit." There was a loud roar, followed by an explosion of some kind. "I'll be right back." Standing up again, Sera winked at her – then unfurled a pair of large white wings mottled with tan. Smiling at Raven's shocked expression, she flapped her wings to rise up into the air before shooting down the street past her. As she arrowed down the street, Sera saw Dashkyr rushing at her as well. Slamming her staff into the ground, she catapulted high into the air. He angled up to come at her, but his momentum was too great and he shot by beneath/behind her; or he would have, if she hadn't pinwheeled around and slammed her staff across his back seven times. The force of the blows knocked him out of the sky and into the street below. Arching down, she followed him and flared to a landing on him – without slowing herself down. The force of her impact on him knocked them even deeper into the ground. But not once did the demon cry out. Time to change that, she thought. Vanishing her staff, she placed both of her hands on the demon's chest. He opened his mouth to roar, but it turned into a pain-filled bellow as the energy she began generating started to burn his body. Concentrating, she forced more energy out and into him, and the bellow turned into a high-pitched shriek tha ended when she melted into his chest – and unleashed the built up energy. It was like a bomb of light went off. When the flash faded, she was kneeling at the bottom of a ten-foot-deep crater. Without hesitation, she flew her way back to the injured woman.

She watched the girl jerk in surprise as her shadow fell over her. "I told you I'd be back," Sera said, kneeling down next to her. She blinked, then smiled. Raven was a little confused by that smile.

"What?" she asked.

"You're pretty cute for someone of this plane," the angel said, her grin getting bigger. Raven's blush didn't help the matter any. "Now, let's see about healing you."

"You can do that?" she blurted out, blushing in embarrassment.

"Well, yeah," was the matter-of-fact reply. And it was followed by another grin. "And I think I know how to go about doing it."

"How?" Raven asked. Her answer was a pair of beautiful, pale hands cupping her face – and a pair of pale red lips pressing against her own. Never before had Sera done this. Healing her could have been done in the same manner that she'd annihilated Dashkyr with – only the application of energy was different. But Sera was drawn to this mortal woman in some way. It was actually her life energy that had led her to the demon. Closing her eyes, put healing energy into the gray-skinned woman – and felt something else leave with it. She flashed herself back home, knowing that, somehow, she just transferred a bit of her life essence to the young woman.

Sera stared at the misty images hovering in the middle of the council chamber as they faded away. Her battle on the material plane had just been viewed by the Council of Seven – along with the emotional context involved.

"Really, Sera," said Archguardian Taln. "Did you have to annihilate him?"

"He caused the death of innocents," she replied.

"He's a demon, Sera," responded Archguardian Nont. "They always cause the deaths of innocents. His body count did not warrant full annihilation."

"Even one death would have warranted such a sentence," she argued.

"Are you sure it wasn't to punish him for harming that mortal?" Archguardian Pyra asked. "We all sensed the emotions you felt upon seeing her. And you have admitted that it was her life energy that drew you to that plane."

"I will not deny the charges," she replied, standing proud and strong.

"And you shall not be punished for your actions," the Grand Archguardian said, leaning forward from his seat.

"All honor to you, Grand Archguardian," Nont responded, bowing, "but-"

"No more words," the ancient one said quietly. No on gainsayed him. "Sera is a Sword of Retribution. When she is called, she does as is warranted. Her judgement in such instances, though they have become rare in that dimension, is not to be questioned. None have the felt a call from their for millenia. I fear this means that the war is moving into a new phase."

"There must be something done about her actions," Nont argued.

"No Sword has been summoned since she was but a mere wardling," the Grand Archguardian said in a tone of finality. "She will not be punished, but shall instead be honored."

"Your decision shall stand, my lord," Archguardian Pyra responded; after all, she was the leader of the Swords of Retribution. "Might I give her the honor?"

"You know my will in this matter, Master Sword," the ancient replied, confirming his intended honor.

"Sword Sera," Pyra said to her. "You are the first Sword of Retribution to be called to the material plane in too long. No honor we possess could equal the honor you have brought to us. As that is so, there is only one thing we can do. You were called by that mortal, however it occurred, and you gave her a small element of your own life energy as you healed her – in a rather unique manner, I might add. Thus, you shall be assigned to her as her protector. No longer are you a Sword of Retribution." Pyra looked over at her colleague, Archguardian Taln. The man nodded his approval of the coming words. "Sera, you are now a Guardian of Light."

Raven was alone in her room, laying upon her bed and staring at the ceiling. Robin had surprised her with the maturity he'd displayed concerning her words to Starfire yesterday, but the truth was that now she hardly cared anymore. What she'd said to Starfire, her feelings about the alien princess, no longer mattered to her. She still loved Starfire, still cared about her, but not like she once had. She didn't know what had changed, but she suspected it had something to do with that angel, Sera. And as though thinking of her made it so, there was a blinding flash of light. Sitting upright on her bed, she blinked her eyes to clear her vision – and felt her jaw drop at the vision before her.

"Nice place," Sera said, looking around. "Rather dark, though it suits you completely."

"What are you doing here?" she asked, bewildered.

"Is now a bad time?"

"Well, no, but-"

"Don't worry about anything," the angel said, walking over and sitting down. "I'm not going to be staying long." For some reason, those words made Raven sad. "I'll be around, though. I can't explain it to you without breaking some rather important rules, but I've been assigned to you."

"Assigned to me?"

"Yeah. You, or something within you, called to me yesterday and drew me into your plane. It's not uncommon for us to come here; but it's rare that we are called here."

"We?"

"Yeah. Anyways, I'm your protector now, should you need me."

"My protector?" Raven's tone indicated surprise, not resentment. "You mean . . . you're going to be my . . . my guardian angel or something?"

"Something like that, yeah," Sera replied, smiling.

"Is that all you're going to do? Protect me when something like that attacks me again?"

"If you need me for any reason, I'll be there for you."

"Anything?"

"Yeah. Slaying demons, getting ice cream, a shoulder to lean on, whatever."

"Getting ice cream?" the half-demon asked with a raised eyebrow.

"Mmm, I just love decadent chocolate fudge," the angel moaned. She looked at Raven's surprised expression. "What? I'm an angel, not a saint."

"So how am I supposed to 'call' you or whatever word you use?"

"Well, you'll need something important of mine," Sera said. Then she held out her hand. In it was a small feather. Small, that is, compared to the ones Raven had seen in her wings the day before.

"What is this?" she asked, sensing that she had been given a great honor.

"It's the first feather I ever lost," was the quiet reply. "It means the most to me."

"Wow," was all she could say. "Thank you."

"No, Raven, thank you." There was another flash of light, and then she was gone. The only proof that Raven hadn't imagined the whole encounter was the four-inch feather in her hand.

E/N: And here's the second chapter that y'all begged for. Okay, it's not somewhat dark like the last chapter was, but I'm just setting the stage here. There's worse (and better) still to come.