5759/The Hand They're Dealt

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The Hand They're Dealt
Date of Scene: 28 March 2021
Location: Batcave
Synopsis: Batgirl and Nightwing finally discover the point of the artifact smuggling and confound one of Faust's plans.
Cast of Characters: Dick Grayson, Stephanie Brown

Dick Grayson has posed:
Nightwing is up at the batcomputer console waiting for Steph to arrive. He gave her a call once Barbara's report on the info they had gathered on the smuggling incidents they had been dealing with over the past couple weeks had come in. As she drives in, he turns to face the vehicle area and waves her up to join him.

He calls out, "Heya Steph, Barbara found us some interesting info, come take a look." as she heads over towards him.

Stephanie Brown has posed:
When Stephanie arrives, it's already wearing her costume, and riding a Batcycle. She pulls into a spot and hops off, striding over towards where Nightwing sits. "Hey Dick. Oh? Did she find them?" she asks, step quickening further as she goes to the dais on which the Batcomputer sits, taking the small flight of steps in two hops to join Dick there.

Stephanie moves over to the Batcomputer with him, pulling her cowl off and then her gloves, and ruffling fingers through the fall of golden blond hair as she turns her attention to the computer. "What'd she find?" she sks.

Dick Grayson has posed:
He runs his fingers over the keyboard, bringing up the image of the chalice. "Well, this one we know, the good professor IDed it for us. Speyer Cathedral in Germany, blessed by Pope Clement. Now, we know the other two items were similar in size, but now what they are. Barbara did some backtracking from the shipping labels though, and came up with some interesting info.

He pulls a picture of an ornate silver crucifix on screen. "This is a crucifix from Rouen Cathedral in France. It was stolen three weeks ago, and the empty crate I came up with shipped from a port less than 50 miles from Rouen.

More typing, and a silver statue comes up on another screen. "Here we have a statue of St. Hubert of Liege. It was stored in the museum of St. Mark's Basilica in Venice until a month ago, when, surprise, it was stolen. The first crate we came across shipped from Venice."

He looks at her, "And the interesting part... these two items were both also blessed by Pope Clement VII. So, we've got 3 items all blessed by the same pope. Not sure what exactly the reason for this is, but we seem to have a theme to work in."

Stephanie Brown has posed:
Stephanie crosses her arms as she looks at the images, skims the dossiers on the items and looks at the maps showing where the items were stolen and where the ships originated from that had been used for the smuggling.

"Yeah, ok, so when the demons get summoned up," Stephanie says idly without looking away from the screen, "you get to be the one who body swaps with one." She finished the sentence she was on and then glances towards Dick. "Hmm. Maybe not. We can leave that to Damian," she says with a little grin.

"Ok, so three things blessed by the same Pope. Maybe a collector who is obsessed with him that they are working for? Or, if this really is another magic thing... any threats that this Pope was rumored to be connected to of that kind of," Stephanie says and then wiggles her fingers, "magic sort of stuff?"

Dick Grayson has posed:
Dick smirks, "Well, honestly, he's probably the one of us who'd best be able to deal with that sort of thing. Depending on the demon body, he might even call it an upgrade." He chuckles, "I kid, of course, I think even Damian's self-possession might be rocked by a forced body swap."

He looks over the info, flipping through the info Barbara sent over. "Nothing specific. He wasn't known for a heck of a lot. Looks like he was one of the de'Medicis, he's one o fthe reasons the Church put in rules about giving family high positions in the church, but no, nothing that would mean much otherwise.

Hmm, there is one thing.. the saint statue, Hubert is the patron of hunters, and he's also associated with protection from werewolves, but that's it. Nothing special about the other two items."

Stephanie Brown has posed:
The younger woman's mouth turns up in a grin as they discuss Damian as the next to body swap with a demon. "Hey if nothing else, he could ride the rollercoasters on Amusement Mile afterwards," she says, holding out her hand like one of those, 'You Must Be This Tall' signs.

As the talk turns more serious though, Stephanie looks pensive, chewing her lower lip gently as she thinks. She leans over to type in a few commands on the Batcomputer, telling it to do a search for any activity related to werewolves, wolves, animal sightings or crimes involving animals.

As it collates the data, she goes over to the fridge to grab herself some juice. She gets Dick's favorite, bringing it back to him and then opening up her own. "Any other connection between the Pope and werewolves?"

Dick Grayson has posed:
Dick Grayson takes the juice and opens it, taking a drink as he starts typing, "No connections at all with the Pope and werewolves. You get anything on your searches?" He looks over at the queries Steph had been running.

Nothing specific, as always a few werewolf sightings, animal sightings, all par for the course. Given the number of mutants and metahumans in the world, people spot weird things like that fairly often, unfortunately.

Suddenly a light starts flashing on the console. He reaches over and hits a button, bringing up a police report, "Look at this Steph. We might have something. GCFD responded to a fire, found evidence of melted silver and a bunch of jewels." He looks up at the 3 items on the screens. "Ok, we should go look around there. I'm seeing 3 jeweled silver items, and now we have melted silver and jewels left behind."

Stephanie Brown has posed:
At the question about the search results, a negative sound is given by the young woman. "Nothing that jumps out at me. I mean one of these sightings could be real and could be a werewolf they could be after. Or, it could be someone going to a costume party. Or an extremely hirsute man."

She is about to say more when the Batcomputer notifies them of the police report. "Hmm. Seriously, steal those to melt them down?" she asks. "Making them into silver bullets or a knife or something? I suppose that might be easier to do than to make them from normal silver and go get the Pope to bless them."

She drinks down the last of her juice in a few swallows. "Ok, let's go check it out," she agrees.

Dick Grayson has posed:
Nightwing stands, "It's our best lead, so let's do this. Worth a look, at the very least." He goes over to his bike and kicks it to life, throwing the location up on their HUDs as he heads out of the batcave. On their cycles, it's only about fifteen minutes to reach the building in question. It's in a run down part of town, lots of abandoned buildings and the like. The fire is out, but the GCFD truck is still in front of the building, as are several police cars. He pulls into an alley a block away and looks over at Steph. "So, what's our best entry?" He appears to be putting her in the lead again.

Stephanie Brown has posed:
The Batcycle purrs as it takes the trip at high speed through Gotham. Eventually they pull into the good spot to hide the bikes and Batgirl dismounts and moves with Nightwing to where they can see the situation with the building.

"Let's get to the roof and then enter through that window," she says, pointing over towards a window set high up on the wall that they will be able to reach easily enough dangling down from the edge of the roof. "Won't have to deal with the remains of the fire then until we're inside," she says.

If that seems amenable to Nightwing, she grapples up to the roof of the building they are beside, and then makes the trip across to their destination.

Dick Grayson has posed:
Nightwing follows her up and over, and in a development that should be no surprise to anyone, the Gotham police do not notice a pair of Bats entering the building they are supposedly guarding. Once they are in, he comments, "I'd talk to Gordon about better training, but I don't really want to make our job more difficult, you know?"

It's the work of only a few minutes to find the room the fire was in. It looks like there was a very rough crucible set up, though the vessel itself is gone leaving just the stand, and no jewels are visible, probably all in evidence bags at this point.

"Ok, let's take a look around and see if we can find anything the cops missed."

Stephanie Brown has posed:
Batgirl slinks inside the window, and then does a little acrobatic flip to land on her feet. She was a high school gymnast, maybe not up to the level that Dick was having lived in a circus as a kid, but the acrobatics come easily to her just the same.

"I wouldn't be too hard on them. It's not like they'd have reason to suspect someone to break in to the site of a fire," she comments to Nightwing.

The woman walks over to check the crucible, noting anything distinguishing about it before turning to the rest of the room. She begins going over it carefully. Forensics are one of the things that Barbara has drilled her in heavily. Actually, one of many things. But it's also something she enjoys. And with more time spent in training than actually applying it, the blond has a small grin as she looks for anything that might provide information on those responsible, or what was done.

Dick Grayson has posed:
Nightwing smiles and leans against the wall, crossing his arms and watching her, since she actually seems to be enjoying the hunt for clues. If she comes up blank, he'll join the search, but for now, let her have her fun.

The table shows signs of splashed molten silver, small droplets here and there on the surface. It has otherwise been pretty well gone over, the police being fairly thorough on the obvious things like the table the fire started on. As she widens her search, she will actually find a small sapphire they overlooked under a little debris.

Finally, in a pile of garbage, she finds a crumpled up piece of paper. It looks like a map of some sort, crudely drawn. It's hard to tell exactly where the map might refer to.

Stephanie Brown has posed:
Batgirl picks up the sparkling stone, looking at it in the light. "Such a great color," she says. "That they didn't care about the stones would definitely make it seem like they want the silver. So that connection to saint's calling. I mean, not a sure thing, but it probably is the best-fitting hypothesis we have so far," she says.

She puts the sapphire into an evidence container and then passes it to Nightwing in case he wants to examine it. Then goes back to work. "But makes you wonder exactly what they'd be dealing with that they need something like that. An assassination of a werewolf? One that's guarding something they want?" she muses, knowing there's no evidence, but talking aloud might help stumble on an idea.

That, or she just talks a lot. Or both.

"What's this," she says as she's going through the garbage and finds the crumpled up paper. She carefully smooths it as she says, "Looks like a map of some kind." She brings it over, spreading it out and looking in more detail.

Dick Grayson has posed:
Nightwing takes the container when she offers it and puts it on his belt for later. "I'm tending towards agreeing with you Steph, normal criminals don't discard a pile of jewels. They absolutely wanted the silver, not the items and not money. Add to that it's silver blessed by a Pope, and yeah, this has to be one of those magic things."

He looks at the map, No real good clues to where it is." He scans it in and sends it to the batcomputer to try and match terrain features, "Let's see what we have here... Got it. It's here in Jersey, looks like in the Pine Barrens." He looks to Batgirl, "So, ready to head out of the city to track this down?"

Stephanie Brown has posed:
Batgirl takes one last look at the crucible. "Too bad they destroyed something so old and with so much history.. I'm just imagining how Nina would feel if she knew," she says with a little sigh.

She turns back to Nightwing and nods towards him. "Let's go see if we can't catch up with them," she agrees in a determined tone. She checks her boots to make sure the bottoms are clean enough to not leave a mark, and then runs at the wall, hitting it with one foot and launching herself higher into the air to catch the edges of the window. She pulls herself up and through, disappearing into the night like another shadow, heading for the Batcycles and the trip out to the Pine Barrens.

Dick Grayson has posed:
It's a drive of over an hour, getting into a little known part of New Jersey. It's an extensive pine forest with minimal undergrowth. It stretches for miles and miles, and unlike most of New Jersey, is very lightly populated, filled with crumbling hundred plus year old wooden structures and abandoned towns. It looks like the perfect setting for a horror film. It's dark, lit only be the headlights of your two motorcycles, and the only sounds are eerie calls nightbirds and insects.

As the two of you approach the marked area, Nightwing pulls to the side of the road and shuts down his bike, waving Steph in beside him. "We'll walk from here, don't want the lights to give us away. Switch to low light and be ready."

Stephanie Brown has posed:
Batgirl guides her Batcycle over to park beside Nightwings, making use of a thick bunch of bushes with a bit of space in the middle to conceal them. "If I come back and there's just a hook hanging from my bike..." she comments. Before clarifying further with, "Sorry, old campfire ghost story."

A glance is given to the surrounding woods. "This would be perfect for a movie setting. Let's remember not to hide behind the chainsaws either," she says. Who doesn't love Geico commercials.

She moves to fall into step with Nightwing, eyes scanning back and forth for signs of anyone, looking up into the trees. "A lot of hiding places out here," she murmurs to him quietly. Can you spot the 10 ninjas in this forest picture?

Dick Grayson has posed:
Nightwing laughs quietly, "Yeah, I know that story too, I think every kid does. And I would say this place qualifies right up there on the 'spooky as hell-o-meter'. And if you can spot them, they aren't ninjas."

He points, "There's a hill up ahead with something built into it. Let's move in slow and see if it looks like the place we're looking for. Swing around to the right a little, I'll go left."

As you approach, something tells you this is the place. It looks like an old mine shaft, long closed up. Maybe it's the aura of palpable menace. Maybe it's the ripped open barrier. Maybe it's the dead ninja with a crossbow bolt sticking out of his chest. It's hard to say.

Stephanie Brown has posed:
Batgirl moves from one shadow to another. Boots avoiding branches or other spots that might make a sound. Taking her time, as arriving unseen is more important than speed right now.

Though when she gets close enough she pulls out a pair of binoculars with passive night vision, using them to zoom in further than her cowl lenses can. << Body of one of the Hand laying near to the mine shaft. Looks like an arrow or... nah make that a bolt like from a crossbow in him. >>

She pauses there, looking about for a few more seconds before moving the rest of the way in. When she gets near to the bottom, she checks the ground for tracks, trying to divine what happened exactly, and how many people were in the fight.

Dick Grayson has posed:
Nighwing moves in as well, keeping his eyes open but letting Batgirl do the investigation. The tracks seems to show several ninjas came in here, but there doesn't appear to have been a fight. When she examines closer, a mounted crossbow can be seen inside the entrance. It appears the ninja died to a trap.

Moving slowly into the mine you two descend into the earth, the curve of the tunnel cutting off even the dim starlight from the surface. << Switching to IR illumination >>

After a hundred more yards or so, you find another dead ninja, this one impaled on a spike plate that swept across the tunnel. Bypassing that corpse, the passage finally opens into a large cavern. In the middle of the cavern are several mangled ninjas and a large, furry figure lying on the ground with a silver dagger sticking out of it's chest. <<Well, that answers that, I guess.>>

At the far end of the cavern, several figures are gathered near a stone door, one of them taller than the others. It is the others that may send a chill up Batgirl's spine. They look all too familiar, and her side seems to twinge at the sight of the imps.

Stephanie Brown has posed:
Batgirl moves carefully alongside Nightwing, not assuming that the ninjas hit all of the traps. Eventually they make it to the cavern. She peers from the darkness at the entrance to the larger room, before looking over to Nightwing and giving him a nod.

She steps forward out into the open, walking forward with a confident stride. She gets to the downed werewolf and crouches, checking the knife in it's chest. "That's an awful lot of history to have destroyed," she says loudly as she straightens from the furry corpse.

She takes a few more steps forward, stopping a short distance from the imps and the man with them. "This is the end of the line though. I'd say that just being with those creatures is damning, but... oh hey, that is punny enough for me to say," she says with a grin. She removes her condensed bo staff from her utility belt, holding it in hand.

Dick Grayson has posed:
Nightwing moves up as Batgirl does, drawing one baton from his back. The other drops to his utility belt. Looking over at her, he nods <<Remember to avoid the claws>> and whips a wingding at one of the imps. These had already started running towards the two of you after Batgirl announced herself, so one of them gets it right in the face and drops, leaving one for each of you and the larger figure, now shown to be the ninja leader you had seen at the smuggling incidents. He draws the swords from his back and moves in after the imps.

Stephanie Brown has posed:
Though she previously took a wound from an imp like these that might have been fatal but for the magical assistance provided by Zatanna Zatara, Batgirl doesn't show any hesitation or lack of confidence as she steps forward to meet the charging him. The previous occasion Batgirl faced three of them, and she had to keep herself between them and the teacher and two elementary students she was protecting. This is more of a chance for payback than anything.

She elongates her staff, twirling it about her as the imp rushes her. Two attempts to claw her are batted aside and then she sweeps the legs out from beneath the minor demon. The imp rolls backwards and back to his feet but she steps forward, poking with the staff into the imp's head.

The imp grabs hold of the staff, nimbly jumping on top of it and scurrying towards her, clinging to it with hands and feet. Batgirl just falls backwards and whips the staff to send the imp flying across the cavern, hitting the roof and then falling to the ground.

Batgirl does the imp's move, rolling backwards towards the imp. She rolls to her feet beside the werewolf's corpse. As she does, the silver dagger is there in her hand and she whips it forward, sinking it into the imp's chest.

She turns back towards the ninja leader as the imp falls.

Dick Grayson has posed:
In the meantime Nightwing had drawn his other baton and engaged the second imp, blocking claw attacks with the batons fairly easily. A flurry of blows back and forth before he literally dives forward over the imp, both batons thunking into it's head while turned up to their highest charge. With a loud *zzzap* the imp drops to the ground unmoving. He lands on his feet facing the ninja, batons ready he he moves to the other side from Batgirl.

The ninja looks between the two of you then suddenly rolls towards Batgirl, swords ringing out as she blocks the first attacks with her staff. Nightwing moves in and the ninja throws himself to the side in a tumble that lets him come up facing both of you. From the brief display, this one is far more skilled than his brethren that the two of you have fought so far. He moves around both of you, keeping you from flanking him.

Stephanie Brown has posed:
Stephanie Brown keeps moving, circling about the ninja to force him to move or have to face them on either side of him. She darts forward suddenly, swinging her staff which he meets with a sword, sparks flying in the air where the two weapons meet.

She swings the other end of the staff up, the ninja blocking it and pivoting away as Stephanie uses the attacks to try to circle around him. She suddenly whips a batarang towards his knee, though he does a back flip to pull his leg out of the way before it hits.

Dick Grayson has posed:
Nightwing presses forward as Batgirl does, waiting for an opening so as to not trip her up as she engages the ninja. Knowing her mask will filter it, he tosses a flash pellet, but the ninja is wearing high quality night vision goggles that filter the burst of light. When he flips to avoid the batarang, Nightwing moves in, his batons ringing off the ninja's swords so quickly that the sound is one continuous shimmer of metal on metal in the air of the cavern.

<<He's really good. Attack high, going for a leg sweep>>

He fits action to words, dropping low and whipping a leg out towards the ninja while still tying up the swords with his batons.

Stephanie Brown has posed:
Batgirl times her attack with Nightwing's, wading in with a blow towards the ninja's head that she puts as much power into as she can so if he's late getting a sword up to block she might be able to power through and still land it. But she does give up muscular strength to him, as she does quite a few of the male opponents they face.

Maybe that's why she has a second attack in mind. After the staff strike, whether blocked or not, she pulls out a bolo and gives it a spin and whips it towards him. The line is tungsten wire and the bolo has heavier weights than usual so if he tries to use the sword to cut through it, it will hopefully wrap about his sword and the extra weight will make it tougher on him to use.

Dick Grayson has posed:
The ninja jumps the sweep and manages to block both of Nightwing's batons with one sword while using the other to block Batgirl's staff. He does, however take the bait, sweeping a sword at the bolo and getting entangled for his troubles. Nightwing continues to press the attack, keeping his unencumbered sword tied up, perhaps giving Batgirl the chance she needs to try and get past his guard now that it is thrown off by the added weight.

Stephanie Brown has posed:
Batgirl smashes her staff forward, letting the ninja block the swing and then separating her staff, suddenly giving their opponent four batons to worry about. With Nightwing's attacks giving her that opening, Batgirl swings her staff for his head, leaving the ninja no option but to duck the attack.

Which is when he meets Batgirl's boot, already swinging up high as she uses the momentum of the staff swing to whirl about and crack her foot across his head. The ninja gets knocked over backwards, both feet leaving the ground as he crashes down onto his back.

Batgirl has a batarang in hand, ready to whip it into him as she and Nightwing stand over the fallen ninja. "What's the matter, were you expecting a happy ending tonight? Well, it's not that kind of massage parlor."

Dick Grayson has posed:
The ninja looks up from the ground at the two Caped... ok, one Caped and one Uncaped Crusaders, and hisses, "You have not heard the last of Xao Bing!" then slaps a hand to something on his chest. There is a flash of purple light, and he vanishes.

Nightwing looks over at Batgirl and says, "Nice work, and that's new for the Hand, didn't know they had teleporters." He looks over towards the stone door, "Guess we better see what they were up to."

Stephanie Brown has posed:
The batarang bounces off the ground where the ninja was a fraction of a second earlier. "Seriously, what is it with magic lately!?" Batgirl fumes. She takes a swipe at the spot the ninja had been with her foot, just to express her frustration.

She moves over and pulls the silver dagger out of the imp's chest, wiping it off on his body before moving to join Nightwing over at the stone door. "What do you think?" she asks, studying it carefully, looking for any sign of traps. Or anything that will indicate what it is, exactly.

Dick Grayson has posed:
Nightwing shrugs, "Beats me, guess we give it the full workup so we don't end up like those guys in the tunnel, then open it." The eyes of his mask flicker as he runs through the various visual modes available to him. "Feel free to take a look with whatever modes you think might help."

Stephanie Brown has posed:
Batgirl looks over the door close up, magnifying the stone both of the door, and the area around it as well looking for any signs of traps, including anywhere something could pop out of. She's seen Raiders of the Lost Ark!

After that she cycles through her different optics. Infrared, night vision, and thermal are all used to look it over, taking her time and being thorough. "Something that a werewolf was guarding," she murmurs as she does the careful examination.

Dick Grayson has posed:
Nightwing nods, "I'd say it's likely." Having done his own scans, and with her own coming up negative, he says, "Ok, stand back." and once she does, opens the door. No traps go off, and the door swings open to reveal a single podium, draped in what looks like a wolf pelt. Lying on it is a large book with some kind of runes on it's cover.

He looks to Batgirl and says, "Well, I've got no clue, and I'm pretty sure you don't either, unless you've learned ancient mystical languages without telling me." He shrugs and wraps the book in the pelt and picks it up. If there's a curse or something, it's not like either of them can detect it or do anything about it, and he's certainly not leaving it here.

After a moment, he says, "Well, I haven't melted yet, so I guess we're ok. Ready to go?"

Stephanie Brown has posed:
Batgirl backs away when Nightwing indicates she should. Her cowl hides the worry lines by her eyes, which go to the man rather than the door as he opens it. When nothing happens she lets out a breath she didn't realize that she was holding.

"Yes, let's get out of here before old Xao Bing gets some reinforcements and comes back," she says. She looks at the book and the wolf pelt. "Careful on the way out, there may still be traps that weren't sprung," she reminds him.

She heads back out of the mineshaft. Her eyes drift over to Nightwing a lot even as she keeps an eye out for traps.

Dick Grayson has posed:
The two of you head back up the tunnel and exit into the pine barrens. The feeling of dread still remains, but now.. are those eyes? It seems like shadows move just at the edge of vision, and the gleam of lupine eyes seems to reflect back in any vision mode used, but never a definite glimpse of an actual creature. The shadows and barely seen eyes follow both of you back to the motorcycles, then Nightwing stores the book in a luggage compartment and starts his bike up. Just for a second in the headlight you see a huge wolf, but then it simply fades from view in the light.

<<Ok, I'm done with this place>> is all he says as he turns his bike and heads for Gotham.

Stephanie Brown has posed:
The forest is no less spooky for being on their way out of it. Batgirl's eyes are drawn this way and that, a hand always lingering near to her utility belt to be able to respond rapidly if needed. Eventually they make it back to the Batcycles. "Well on the good side. No hooks," she mumbles to him, but it lacks her normal lighthearted tone and good humor.

The two motorcycles pull out onto the road, eating up the miles back to the city. As they ride, Stephanie's eyes go to the man on the bike in front of her a lot. Thinking thoughts that she makes herself push aside finally as they draw near to Bristol and take the back roads that lead to the entrance to the Batcave.

Dick Grayson has posed:
Once they get back into the batcave, Nigthtwing takes the book from his cycle and moves over to a locker, putting it in and spinning the lock shut. "We need to get this to one of the mystical types. You were going to get in touch with Constantine, right? We'll want him to take a look at that as well, I think. I'd rather not go paging through it without someone with a clue present."

Stephanie Brown has posed:
When they arrive back in the cave, Stephanie climbs off her bike, pulling off her cowl. "I'll see if I can pull up anything on mineshafts in that area," she tells him. "Might help us have some context on the book if we have an idea what it's history is. Could be it was just a mine that someone made use of. But maybe it's tied into it somehow."

She walks over to the locker with Nightwing as he locks it away. "And yes, I'll be meeting with him. Hopefully soon," she says. "Bruce will be overjoyed at the thought of him coming here. But... yeah, what you said," Stephanie tells him.