the smoke fills her lungs, mingling with the dour taste of food she had at the demon's table. diana pushes down the desire to vomit as she ushers people out of the pit. one the sky opened up, there had been no other thought besides the rescue of others.
except of course the fact that her own terror had not abated. that ghastly version of herself still remained here, waiting for the moment to drag her back down. she hadn't forgotten her no matter how much she tried to sleep or distract herself with battle or others. that specter was still hungry for her defeat, for diana to fall to her knees and give up -- or for her to surrender to the billowing anger and hatred that it carried.
even without the lasso at her side, diana knows that she has to confront her, has to face a truth of herself that she didn't want to face today.
that doesn't even tough on the fact that she is scared. she is angry. the anger is wrapped up in shame, confusion--and the fear is of what this means about herself. what parts of her that created this warmonger, the parts of her this warmonger resembles.
and she knows that leaving without confronting her isn't an option.
she is afraid. she is angry. diana is those things. but she is not a coward.
but as the last person scrambles up into the fresh air, diana turns her head. she doesn't listen to them as they try to pull her out. her heart is pounding in her chest, and penny, too, seems to be aware of what she's doing. for a moment, penny jerks their body back-- and diana fights against her, jerking their body down back into the depths of hell. penny flares up in their shared mind, trying and trying to pull diana back.
diana defies her. she presses downward, her legs shaking, sweat gleaming on her skin.
the sour air, the smell of blood, the sound of a war cry fills her up as she descends back down. her vision blurs, almost melding into darkness, unable to pick anything or anyone out -- and then she finds herself moving upward. the slopes of hell pull her further up, cresting--and then her vision lies on the view of an undead, horrific army. her ears are filled with sound of a thousand blood thirty denizens, and diana stares into the dark shades of her people.
and leading them is the worst version of herself. her smile is a jagged sea of sharp white teeth against her bloodstained face. ares' helmet is on her head, the pelt against her back. the menace rolls off of her, and the cry she gives makes diana's blood run cold and hot at the same time, anger and fear and desperation mingling in her. penny tries again to pull her away.
diana plants her feet. she thinks of the girl, her fear of diana. she wishes for her lasso again, for the opportunity to reassure herself of what she would do next as the warmonger walks towards her, her army's spears shaking, their throats crying out for war, for blood, for violence.
the warmonger jeers down at her, finally, her voice full of malice, "pacifist, you call yourself. peacebringer, they call you." the tip of her sword touches diana's chin. "you lie. you enjoy battle. you are restless for someone who can match you. you take pleasure in victory."
diana looks at her. let's her words roll over her.
she bows her head. "i do enjoy it. i cannot deny that i am a warrior before all things. the feel of battle, the opportunity to meet an opponent does stir me." she locks eyes with the warmonger. "but you are wrong. i do not desire to live my life on the battlefield eternally. i do not enjoy seeing my friends, my family suffering in my arms." her voice falters for a moment-- and returns stronger, "i take pleasure in victory, hard won, but too i take pleasure in a battle won with words over swords. i try to bring peace, even when peace seems impossible."
the warmonger's expression falters.
diana can feel the shades wavering around her. "i do not deny your charges -- you are apart of me, warmonger. but you are not all of me." the warmonger's face twists--and diana takes the moment to knock the sword away. the warmonger shrieks, lunges--
and diana pulls her close. she wraps her arms around her as wind starts to roar, as demons start to shriek in anger as diana says, her voice firm. "we are warriors both. and neither of us was solely made for war. i do not-- i don't deny that it is hard sometimes, when savoring battle. i do not deny that sometimes there is bloodlust inside of me. but it isn't entirely who i am. it does not make me less, for feeling it. it would be less of me to give into it, to be lead only by the urge to harm."
her arms pull the warmonger closer. she can feel the other her's skin starting to warm, and she makes herself stare into the warmonger's face. their eyes stay fixed there, diana staring into the emptiness that could swallow her up--but doesn't. diana can feel her fingers dig into her sides-- can feel the warmonger try to defy her, to deny her--
"we are sisters, too. i am not afraid of you," she says, and in that moment, the sky cracks open. sunlight floods through--and the warmonger passes through diana. the shades are evaporated in the sunlight, and diana can feel even penny calm inside of her mind.
the only thing remaining of her shade is ares' helmet. in the light, diana can see it turn transluscent, and disappear.she breathes in the air of earth, turns on her heel. and when she dives into battle on san francisco's streets, her head is clear. her resolve is solid.