"Exquisite Dread": For years, the Talons have lived to see the expression of dread pass over the faces of their victims as they realized that the legends they had disbelieved for years - dismissed as a childish nursery rhyme - were true, and that they were going to die at the command
- To eradicate us fully, you'd need to rip apart the foundation of the city. You would need to tear Gotham to the ground.
Synopsis for "Exquisite Dread"
For years, the Talons have lived to see the expression of dread pass over the faces of their victims as they realized that the legends they had disbelieved for years - dismissed as a childish nursery rhyme - were true, and that they were going to die at the command of the Court of Owls.
Now, Gotham City is in shambles, as the Crime Syndicate has announced that the Justice League is dead, and Gotham's protector - the Batman - with them. Even so, the Court of Owls believes that they will persevere; that their city will survive, as will their way of life. With their existence threatened, they will dig into the foundations of their arcane history, and use it to adapt.
In 1914, R.H. Orchard showed the mayor of Gotham City his treasury, hidden within the core of the Orchard Hotel. The mayor was surprised at the opulence, not to mention the palpable disdain of the man who had invited him there. Orchard explained that the mayor's meeting the following day with five national union heads would be unacceptable to his organization. The city, he explained, survived on a balance of power that was created over centuries, and cannot be allowed to be challenged by outsiders. When the mayor demanded just who Orchard thought he was to tell him what to do, he was disturbed to find himself surrounded by men in masks echoing his "who?" back at him, over and over. The next day, the mayor threw the union leaders out of Gotham in outrage, and returned, grovelling to the Court, only to be dropped into their labyrinth to be broken and murdered by a Talon.
In 1871, a young photographer had discovered the hideout of the Court of Owls at Harbour House, and discovered that their activities were actually mundane and boring. His wife, though, still believed they were dangerous, and warned him against speaking too loudly of it. He was preparing to take the photo he had got of the Court in action to the Philadelphia Press at the Metropolitan Station, and she begged him not to go. As he kissed her goodbye, and prepared to board the train, a noose slipped around his neck from the rafters, and hung him by the neck 'til he was dead. As she screamed for him, a man placed a drugged cloth over her mouth, and by the next day, their deaths were headlines in the Gotham Gazette.
Now, a prominent member of the Court leads his daughter down into a safe place - where the Court began. As they enter the tunnels beneath the city, the girl admits that she is scared, and her father reveals that strength comes through fear, recounting the tale of the Gotham Butcher.
In 1862, a well-dressed man strode through the Narrows, angrily. Stepping over the threshold of a particular house, he brushed past the mutilated corpses strewn about with disgust. Confronting Felix Harmon, he warned that the papers had dubbed him the Gotham Butcher - a problem, given that none of the Talons are even supposed to be known about, let alone kill without being told to. Tiring of listening to his guest's berating, Harmon reached out, and crushed his skull in one massive fist.
The Court had had to spend a decade in hiding after Harmon's indiscretions, but when they returned, they were stronger than ever. The Court of Owls always wins, because it is a part of Gotham City as much as its rivers and caves. The city's foundation would have to be torn up to even grasp at the Court's roots. Curious, the girl wonders how their history can save them from a crazed mob of rioters. Her father explains that while they could use their control of established institutions to quell threats in the past, this situation is more dire, and so they have gone below to the home of the one who started it all.
From the shadows, a woman shouts for them to stop, warning that they cannot bring back the first. She had murdered more of their brothers earlier in service of preventing the first's awakening, and she would not hesitate now. To her surprise, though, the man's daughter leaps onto her back, and tears into her flesh with knives. Proud, her father leads her through the great wooden doors to the chamber of the First Talon, eagerly anticipating the look on his victim's faces when they see the first and most terrible weapon that the Court has ever used.
Appearing in "Exquisite Dread"
- Court of Owls
- R.H. Orchard
- Mayor of Gotham City (Only appearance; dies)
- Henry (Dies)
- Mary (Dies)
- Cover gallery for the Batman and Robin series
- Images from Batman and Robin Vol 2 23.2: The Court of Owls