The Book (Heart of Darkness Part I)
David J. Duncan
Notes: The characters from Forever Knight belong to Sony Tri-Star. The
characters from Xena Warrior Princess belong to StudiosUSA and Renaissance
Studios. The characters from Mutant X belong to Marvel and Tribune. The
characters from Smallville belong to DC and the WB. The characters from
"Dark Angel" belong to their copyright holders. All other characters
are fictitious and are of my own creation. Please send comments to email@example.com.
[Queen's Hut-Amazon Village 84 AD]
Gabrielle, Bard-Queen of the Amazons, writes....
Having discovered a piece of Clark's puzzle, Xena, Eve, and I returned to
the desert with our friends. For a while, things were fairly quiet. Still,
trouble lurked beneath the surface. In this case, another old face from David's
past arose to stir up problems for us all.
Chapter 1 [Rowenshire, MA] (Note: For more on this account, please see
"Class Reunion" DC 2.2)
The wind blew ill over the old town in the heart of central Massachusetts.
Although the town was over 300 years old, it never changed or grew any. In its
center, the general store sat where it had since the 1860s with its gas pumps
and the small post office off to the side. The few children living in the town
were bussed to nearby Ware for their education. Those residents remaining behind
kept to themselves for the most part, save when a neighbor would stop by for a
chat and a cup of coffee.
To the north of town, a white house stood desolate and alone, set away from
the road. The weather chipped away at its exterior. Weeds choked the brick walk
in front. Around it, the grasses blew tall and freely. An old gnarled tree stood
in the northwest corner of the property on the roadside. Finally, a mist seemed
to hang over the property, even on the warmest of days.
The locals shunned that place due to the dark legends surrounding it. In
1720, a witch had lived there, practicing dark magic until her discovery and
execution. As she was hanged, the woman supposedly cursed the town, saying that
she would return to deal with them all. Only once since that day did someone
dare to live on that land. A man in search of cheap land in proximity to the
Northampton area tore down the old dilapidated house and built the current one
in its place in the late 1960s. Strange things happened to him and his family.
Finally tired of the misfortunes, the man's wife took their children and left.
The man deserted the house a year later, angered by divorce and seeing no reason
to put up with the foolish notions of the townspeople.
Years later, the townspeople remembered a couple heading toward that spot.
They thought nothing of it since people often drove up the road on their way
toward New Braintree and Athol, but never stopped at the house.
Then, they heard a dark demonic laughter on the wind.
Following that, they heard the familiar banshee scream and knew that the
eldest son of the man who had owned the house had returned. While they had kept
loose tabs on him in nearby Amherst, the townspeople had hoped he wouldn't
return. Now, they heard fighting and someone impact into the tree. When they got
to the scene, however, nobody remained and the haze hung over the field.
And so, it remained......
[Easter weekend, 2005]
The residents celebrated an Easter weekend together. Breaking with their
self-enforced solitude, they held a great feast after Church services. They ate
and drank happily. Things finally seemed to be on the upswing.
However, trouble brewed even in the midst of the happiness. As the
townspeople celebrated, two men, both skinny, tall, and with short black hair,
drove into the hamlet and pulled up behind the town hall.
"Hurry up, Reynolds," one hissed, keeping an eye out.
"I am, Guthrie!" the other snapped, picking the old lock.
The door swung open fairly readily, allowing them access. They moved quickly
through the century old hallways and down the stairs into the basement where the
town stored its archives. Once there, it was a fairly easy matter to open the
unlocked door and walk into the room.
Looking about the area, Guthrie wondered, "What are we looking for
"A real old book with weird symbols and crap on it, according to my
source," his friend indicated, looking about the area. Finally, on the top
shelf, he spied a book with a figure-8 lying on its side. "That's it!"
He pulled it off the shelf and gazed at it. "This is it! Why anyone would
want this old thing I can't tell, but hey, someone's interested. Let's go."
"Right," Guthrie agreed as they made their way back up the stairs
and out to the car. Much to his surprise, nobody had noticed their presence.
With any luck, they wouldn't notice the book's disappearance since his partner
had relocked the door from the inside.
However, they would notice the effect of that tome very shortly
That night, the duo waited out by the desolate house. The overcast skies
provided the perfect cover for the transaction.
"What's the other car look like?" Guthrie asked.
"He didn't say. Just that we're supposed to leave our lights out until
10:00." Looking at his watch, Reynolds saw it was that time. "Here
goes." He turned the headlights on, casting their beams down the isolated
In the distance, two other figures approached. As they drew closer, the
thieves could see their features. One was a dark skinned man, tall and muscular
with black hair and a thick mustache. The other was fair skinned with white hair
and a dark suit.
"Let's go," Reynolds told his companion as he got out of the car.
Guthrie nodded nervously. This has got to be a setup. Looking around,
he saw nobody else there. Still, he felt as if somebody watched them closely.
Recalling the old legends about this town, he shuddered a bit before getting
himself back under control. Chill out!
Finally, the quartet met about forty feet from the car. They looked each
other over carefully.
"Did you bring it?" the dark skinned one asked.
"And you are?" Reynolds retorted.
"Ali. Thank you for making sure of that, my friend. One shouldn't hand
over an item of such great value without checking first," the Turk assured
"You brought the money?" Guthrie queried.
"My associate has it," Ali agreed. "Mason, would you?"
Eckhart opened the bag to reveal the agreed upon amount. "It's here as
per my master's promise."
"Good," Guthrie replied, handing the book to the Turk.
"C'mon, Sam, let's get the money so we can get out of here!"
"Who said anything about you leaving?" Ali laughed, seizing the
man's arm. "Mason, get the other one. No loose ends!"
"Indeed," the former administrator concurred as he grabbed
Reynolds by the arm. Pulling his victim closer to him, he exposed the latter's
neck and drained him. For several minutes, this continued before the dry corpse
dropped to the ground. "It's done."
"Excellent," Ali complimented. "Now come, the main part of
this affair still remains."
"Meaning?" Eckhart asked.
"Meaning the real reason for the legends surrounding this place,"
the master Enforcer maintained, walking into the meadow. "Follow me,
The two immortals made their way through the inky blackness and the
billowing grasses. As they approached the gnarled oak, they saw something
glowing about it.
"Ali, what is that?"
The Turk smiled. "I mentioned the legends earlier. They are true, my
"There was a witch here, then?"
"There is a witch here, Mason. Her spirit's imprisoned here," Ali
commented, opening the book and reading a few passages. "Sorceress,
At that command, the wind picked up in intensity, howling at gale strength.
Then, a light coalesced, reforming into a woman's shape. "Free at
last!" she exclaimed.
"Not quite yet," Ali disagreed. "Anne Lichtenfeld, I
"Aye. And ye are?" the spirit asked.
"Friends and holders of common enemies with you, my Dear. Nicolas de
Brabant, Lucien LaCroix, and a certain family who once lived in the house
yonder," he continued.
She seethed. "I would be revenged on them all! But what is in it for
"Our revenge will be sweet indeed. While you cannot take physical form
yet, you are able to operate on the spiritual level, correct?"
"Yes. Why?" she asked.
"You will get your first chance tomorrow night," the former
Janissary promised. "LaCroix will be first. He is in Toronto across the
border in what is Canada...I mean, New France."
She snickered, reading his mind and getting the location. "Aye. And
this will bring my enemies to me! Thank ye. And what will ye do in the
"In the meantime, we'll bait the others back up here. You cannot touch
them in Tucson-David Dubois has seen to that, but here, you're all
"Perhaps. It will be a pleasure to torture him again. Meantime, I'm off
to visit my dear Lucien and to repay him for his treatment...in kind," she
concluded, vanishing into the cold night air. Behind her, a sinister laughing
penetrated the air, letting all know that she was indeed free.
Ali smiled. Soon, Dubois, you will know the meaning of pain. I guarantee
[Toronto-the next evening]
LaCroix put his headset away and shut down the console in the sound booth.
Since his return, CERK's ratings had soared. According to the station managers,
the listeners had followed the broadcasts from Tucson over the Internet and
through their feed. It is good to know that I'm not easily forgotten by
either mortals or immortals. Besides the radio service, the Community
accepted him back with only minor reservations. Given that anyone opposing me
would have to deal with Divia as well, they wisely kept quiet.
Walking out of the booth, he felt a tremor coming from the Raven. Strange.
With that, he took off into the night, heading for the club.
While the mortals celebrated Easter with their families, the vampires
enjoyed themselves at the club. On this occasion, they could revel in their
nature unrestrained by the need for secrecy. They drank their bloodwine, danced
to neo-gothic music, and discussed conquests both old and new.
At the bar, Alma dispensed their drinks in an efficient manner. The blonde
beauty relished the opportunity to spend the night with other vampires. Nights
such as this one were a rare treat indeed. She turned to see a teenaged girl
approaching the bar. Then again, she isn't just any girl. "Divia,
what can I get you?"
The Roman girl sat on the stool in front of the bartender and declined,
"Nothing for now. I'm enjoying the scene. Satisfying, isn't it?"
"Indeed. But who would have thought that you and LaCroix would have
worked out this partnership? You two have brought stability to our
Divia shrugged. "Who would want to face Lucius and me?"
At that moment, the music suddenly stopped...
Divia stalked over to the DJ. "What is it?" she hissed.
The young man with the beatnik appearance shook his head. "The
turntable's stuck and I..." As he touched it, fire spewed from it, burning
him to ashes.
Then the air turned deathly cold.
The girl-Elder challenged, "Whatever it is, I'm not afraid of
you!" Looking about the room, she swept it with her senses. In the corner,
she felt a dark presence. Allowing her fangs to descend, she yelled, "Come
The lights flickered and went out.
An eerie laughter permeated the chamber.
Divia hissed, her eyes flashing yellow-green.
A light snapped on in the center of the chamber, forming into a woman's
shape. The witch's spirit had entered the room.
"Where is he?" Lichtenfeld challenged. "He's close! I know
"Where is who?" the Elder challenged, stepping forward, the
blood-bile rising in her throat. "And who are you to dare intrude like
The witch snickered. "Ah, your aura is so much like his. I want Lucien
dead, little one." Channeling mystical energy into her hands, she slammed
Divia with a mystic charge, throwing the latter backward into the wall. Over and
over, she fired, tossing vampires around like so many rag dolls and destroying
the inside of the bar.
When her victims lay unconscious, she remarked, "Pity, I thought all of
ye were made of sterner stuff."
At that moment, LaCroix stormed into the club and looked aghast at the
damage. "Who did this?" he demanded.
"I did," the witch revealed, stepping into his line of sight.
"It's been so long, Lucien, and I wanted to repay ye for destroying my
opportunities so long ago!"
The General stared at the intruder for a minute before he recognized her.
"The Rowenshire witch!" he spat. "But that mortal priest
"That I would be imprisoned forever? He and the others failed. Ye
failed!" the witch growled, blasting him with fire.
LaCroix screamed and dropped to the floor-his immortal flesh burning.
"Ye grovel...but it's not enough. For tonight, I leave notice of my
return. Soon though, Nicolas will know my wrath, as will the dual Child and the
priestess. Take this to them, will ye?" Her finger glowed brightly as she
burned the figure-eight symbol into the back of his hand. "I wait for ye at
my field, dear Lucien. Here's something else to remember me by." Passing
her hand over the nape of his neck, she stared deeply into his eyes and pulled
memories from his past.
Across his mind's eye, he saw the witch pummeling him and Nicholas back in
colonial Massachusetts. Then a more familiar litany came to mind. First, he saw
Nick driving the burning stake into him at the loft. Cybelle's spell blinded
him. His fight with the Child leaving him badly beaten. Xena's chakram scoring
his side, causing blood to spew out.
"So," she chuckled. "Ye know of my latest victim? He's my
greatest creation! Remember the curse? The priest's descendants returned and I
split one of their souls! Knowing what he's done to ye is all the sweeter!"
He writhed but lifted his head ever so slightly. "Sp..lit...I...Du...bois?"
"Aye. I await him and ye in my meadow! Don't be late!" she
cackled, dropping him to the floor and disappearing.
"Lucius! What is this?" his daughter/mistress asked, trying to sit
up in the corner.
"An...old...ene...my. Call Nicholas. We...need help," he stated
"Alma, do it and bring the phone to me," she told her. "The
number's under the bar."
The bartender dialed the numbers quickly, hoping for some answers.
[Tucson-El Gato Negro]
Janette checked her inventory over carefully; making sure everything was in
place. After the standoff between him and Ali two nights earlier, David Dubois
gave three bottles of white wine to the bar as a peace offering. Although Ali
should have done that, she appreciated the professor's gift and his
All evening, she had felt the most peculiar vibrations from Toronto. What
is going on up there?
Then the phone rang. "El Gato Negro," she asked.
"Oui. Who is this?"
"This...is Divia. Is Nicholas there? We have a problem in
Toronto," Divia noted.
Janette replied, "No. He's at his loft. Where's LaCroix?"
"He's badly hurt. Something attacked us here. Can you reach him? Tell
him we need him here tonight."
"Mmm...that's a tough one, Divia. I'll see what I can do," Janette
told her, hanging up. Then she dialed the phone.
At the loft, Nick picked up the phone. "Yes, Janette?"
"Nicolas, we have trouble in Toronto. The Community was attacked
He nearly dropped the phone. What can I do?
"Nicolas, the Community. What do you want to do?"
He took a deep breath and glanced nervously over at Alyce. Now was the time
for action, but what form should that action take? He recalled LaCroix's
admonition: Community matters should stay within the Community. Yet now, he also
remembered Dave Dubois' declaration and Brother Tony's affirmation-this is a
Community of Tolerance: no one group could stand on its own. Rather, mutants,
humans, and vampires would need to work together. Tonight, that motto will be
tested. "I'll be there. You're in charge, Janette, until I return. I'm
calling Dave. He can get me up there."
"Dubois? Mon Dieu! Why, Nicolas?"
"He can teleport me up there, Janette. Besides, anything powerful
enough to sweep in and strike at the heart of a Community before disappearing
merits allied forces. If that happened, I take it LaCroix and Divia are hurting.
We need assistance. That's it. I'll let you know what I find out." Nick
concluded, hanging up.
The curator nodded. "You're doing the right thing, Nick."
"I hope you're right," he said, trying to affirm the validity of
his decision. "Come on."
She took a deep breath and took his hand. "Let's go."
He looked up and took off into the night sky, followed by his companion.
Meantime, Dave and Angie hosted a dinner to celebrate Adam's appointment to
the university. Sitting at the table, the new mutant students, Lydia, Steve,
Adam and the Mutant X members started into the food in front of them.
"Congratulations, Adam," Chloe expressed.
"Thanks, Chloe, and to all of you. I don't deserve this," the
geneticist expressed humbly.
"As someone once told me, you're being too humble," Angie advised,
placing another course on the table.
"There's no arguing with her, Adam. Trust me," Dave urged,
"Listen to them, Adam," Brennan piped in.
Seeing the others agree, the leader smiled and conceded, "All right,
thank you, everyone. Still, the students had better be ready for me. Of course,
I want to do my best for them."
The other faculty members at the table nodded their approval.
The students, on the other hand, looked at each other anxiously. Given his
attitude with the workouts, they could imagine what he would be like as a
"It's too bad that Nick couldn't be here," Steve noted.
"He was still getting everything together," Adam excused.
At that moment, a knock came from the door.
Dave looked, sensing Nick's presence. What now? With his mind, he
opened the door. "Nick, Alyce, what is it?"
The vampires entered the room guardedly; their concern clearly written on
their faces. "We have a problem in Toronto. The Raven was attacked tonight.
We need to get up there ASAP."
Eve gasped. "Lucius? Divia?"
"Hurt badly," Alyce assessed.
"Need help?" the medievalist offered.
"I...the Community...would appreciate everyone's assistance. Thank
you," Nick accepted.
Dave took a deep breath and, after getting up from the table, went into the
"Brennan, Jesse, Emma, and Shalimar, you're with me," Adam
indicated, feeling his nerves churning inside of himself. "Everyone else,
keep an eye back here."
Angie requested, "Lydia, can you keep an eye on the twins?"
"Absolutely, but what are you and Francesca going to do up there?"
"Keep Dave in line, mostly," Francesca told her as she followed
Angie into the study.
"You heard her," Steve added, checking his gun and crossbow.
"I'll check in with Garth as soon as I know anything."
Adam sighed. Another situation.... With one last look at the
students, he joined the others in the study, closing the door behind him.
[The Raven-A few minutes later]
LaCroix struggled on the floor, trying to get his bearings and forget about
the pain screaming through his body. Making his way toward the bar, he
negotiated several obstacles with great difficulty. However, the Community was
relying on him.
Then he ran into something hard...and made of leather. A boot.
Managing to raise his head, he saw Xena standing there with her arms folded
and a satisfied look on her face.
"Hello, Lucius. Fancy meeting you like this," she greeted, a bit
of sarcasm in her voice.
"Mother, please," Eve interjected, leaning over to help her
stepbrother up and into a chair. What could do this?
"Thank you," he expressed. "It...seems some people...have
"Like you would know?" the warrior snarled.
Seeing Nick enter the room with the others, LaCroix muttered,
"What...are they...doing here, Nicholas? This...is a...Community
"I went for help," Nick replied. "This is a Community matter
"For once, shut up and take help, will you?" Dave growled.
Steve surveyed the carnage and devastation. "What could do this?"
"Somebody with a big ax to grind-that's for sure. Man, what a
redecorating job!" Jesse remarked, feeling a little nervous.
"You got that right," Max concurred.
"Stay sharp-all of you," Adam advised. "Whoever or whatever
did this could still be here."
As Dave surveyed the room, a familiar psychic stench set off his instincts.
"Damn it!" he hissed.
Emma looked at him nervously, feeling the anger building in him. "What,
Dave? What is it?"
The professor ignored her, heading for the bar where Divia rested.
Divia looked into his eyes menacingly. "A ghost...it seems...with
something for Nicholas, Lucius, and you as well."
He frowned, feeling the Child struggling to get out. "Ah...I...need to
know....Woman...with...long hair...glowing white...menacin' laugh....likes
The girl nodded. "You know her, then?"
"What, Dave? Who did this?" Steve demanded.
The Child stared back at him. "Nah. But Ah have a good idea. Ya know 'er,
"Yeah. 'Member when Gram went into the ground? 'Member the trouble we
had an' what Ah did later?"
The agent's eyes bulged as he recalled the ghost terrorizing the ceremony.
"Her? But I thought you took care of that!"
"Na' exactly. Ah hoped Ah took care of it!" the Dark One snarled.
"Steve, get him over here!" Nick ordered.
"Wha' now?" the Child responded, stomping over to the Elders'
"LaCroix, show him your hand," Nick requested.
The General revealed the back of his hand and the symbol-scar.
"It...seems...we have...a mutual enemy...."
"Lichtenfeld," Nick realized.
"Damn straight," the Child concurred. "An' when Ah find the
numnuts who let 'er out, Ah'll..."
"You'll what?" a familiar voice challenged, from the entrance.
"You do entertain, Dubois." Stepping into the light, Eckhart grinned
like the Cheshire cat. "Hello again, Adam."
"Eckhart, I might have known," the geneticist realized, staring at
his longtime adversary.
The Mutant X members tensed, each standing with their powers at the ready,
waiting for their opportunity to lash out at the fledgling.
"Aw quit it!" the Child snarled, waving his friends off.
"Look, Whitey, even ya'll ain't that stupid!"
"I might disagree with that one," Adam contradicted. "Still,
you're right. Everyone, restrain yourselves."
"But he wouldn't act by himself," Xena supposed, her sword at the
ready. "And who are your friends, Eckhart?"
"Ah. Yes, my master's allies. Do come in," the former
Behind him, five vampires strode into the wrecked club-each from a different
ethnic group, it seemed.
"Lucius, are these your Elders?" Eve asked.
"No," Nick replied flatly.
"The Renegades, I presume?" Steve added, stepping into the
forefront, crossbow at the ready.
A red-haired Irish male vampire responded in a thick brogue, "So that's
what the Elders call us? Amusing. Put that away, Mortal, before I have to kill
The Child sniggered, "Ya'd have to come through me first. That wouldn't
be pretty for any of ya'll."
"You really want a civil war, don't you?" Nick posed.
"This is about power, Brabant. You know about that, don't you?"
another Renegade, a woman of African descent, asked as she joined her companion.
"We're not alone either."
"Leave now, Mortals, or we'll have to escalate this matter," the
Irish Renegade challenged.
"Stop this!" Divia ordered, her fangs descending as she stood up.
"You wish to challenge me? Look at you-so weak on your feet."
Divia replied, "I delegate this matter to my fellow Elder,
Nick added, "And my friends are with me."
"So be it," the Irish Renegade affirmed. "Enforcers!"
At the command, the doors opened and thirty vampires zipped into the room,
surrounding the Tucson delegation.
"Well now, Adam, it seems you are in a jam now, aren't you?"
The team leader shrugged, not giving his enemy any degree of satisfaction.
"Your loss, Mason."
His charges stood ready with their abilities. Jesse massed out. Brennan's
hands sparkled. Shalimar's eyes glowed. Max tensed. Emma's temples flashed.
Beside them, Xena and Gabrielle held their weapons of choice. Steve held his
crossbow. And the Child's hands crackled.
"Let's rock," the latter growled, raising his hands to the
ceiling. From the air, streams of glowing ebony energy flowed into him. He
wailed the now-familiar banshee cry and then hissed, "How d'ya like yer
Enforcer? Ah think extrie-crispie." Aiming his hands, he released a
streamer of flame, hitting the Renegades before they could react. "That's
fer embarrassin' us!"
The wannabe Elders screamed and ran around like chickens with their heads
cut off, looking for water. One by one, they collapsed, disintegrating into ash.
"Good job," the Warrior Princess complimented, flinging her
chakram into the air.
The weapon careened, caromed, zipped, and dipped throughout the area like a
pinball on a sailor's holiday, slashing vampire opponents' backs, skulls, necks,
and other vital anatomical parts. Before returning to its mistress, the weapon
had dispatched a dozen adversaries.
Standing guard over her fallen stepbrother, Eve slashed away at the
competition, taking down several other Enforcers.
Mutant X struck out at their opponents through energy bursts and hard fists,
wrecking their share of havoc.
Nick and Divia took out a few others as well.
Only ten minutes later, the Tucson delegation stood in the midst of an ash
pile. Around them, the remaining vampires of the Toronto Community stared in
wonder at the fighting force that the former Crusader had assembled in the Old
Pueblo. For the first time, they realized that perhaps this so-called
"Community of Tolerance" could work. Perhaps, they had judged too
Meantime, Alma and two other vampires dragged the Irish Renegade and Eckhart
before the group. "They were leaving, or so they thought."
Nick stepped up to the two defeated enemies. "For what you've done, you
should be staked."
"They will...be staked," LaCroix interceded, propping himself on
one elbow. "I demand it."
"Or dispatched," Xena concurred, raising her sword. "You
know, we still owe ya for those fights."
"Hang on there," the Child interceded. "Irish here needs
stickin'. Whitey can bring a message to Ali-Turk. That boy an' Ah've got some
serious shit goin' down. He released the Bitch after Cybbie and Ah put 'er 'way.
That boy's gittin' a serious whuppin'!"
Tucson's Elder considered those words. Granted, letting the fledgling go
would send a mixed message, but the Child made sense in his dark Machiavellian
logic. "I agree with that."
Eckhart quaked fearfully, knowing how his master felt about failure.
"What do we do if he says no?" Divia insisted.
Nick looked at Adam and Mutant X. "I think we let his former quarry
deal with him."
Adam frowned but understood. I have to remember that Eckhart's no longer
human-he's a vampire and this is vampire justice.
His team encircled the kneeling vampire, giving the fledgling dirty, knowing
"Let's fry him," Brennan suggested, allowing the current to spark
in his hands.
"I second that," Shalimar agreed, recalling all of the torture
For a minute, Eckhart locked glares with them before realizing that this
wasn't an idle threat. At least, Ali won't kill me. "Fine. I'll do
it. But, whatever my master visits on me, I'll repay you all for a
"At least ya're walkin' outta here, Whitey. Stick it!" the Child
"As for your friend," Nick pronounced, walking purposefully over
to the head Renegade. "I don't like executions or murder, Irish, but in
your case, I'll make an exception."
"Do your worst, Brabant!"
Nick shook his head as he twisted the defeated Renegade's arm behind him.
"Oh, we will. Divia, as co-Elder, it's your privilege."
After receiving a stern nod from LaCroix, Divia grabbed a stake and held it
in plain sight. "Ago gratias tibi, Nicholas." Turning to the
prisoner, she asked, "Any last words?"
He spat blood at her.
"Fine," Divia responded, slamming the stake through his chest.
"And so ends your pitiful rebellion."
The prisoner collapsed to the ground, disintegrating into ash and joining
"My thanks to you all," Divia expressed, putting the stake away.
"Perhaps you'd all care to stay for a while?"
"Thanks...but we do need to be heading back," Adam declined.
"Yeah, Ah guess," the Child concurred, allowing the change to
"We should bring LaCroix as well. He can stay at the Gato until he's
healed," Nick indicated, helping his former master up.
"And I can make sure he's all right," Eve indicated.
"If you say so, Auntie," Divia relented. "You will let me
know if anything happens. And, Dubois?"
"Yes?" Dave asked.
"Take a pound of flesh out of that witch for me!" she requested
He smirked. "If there's anything left once the Child and I are done
with her, fine." Opening the portal, he added, "I have about five
years of torture and thirty years of Hell to pay her back for in the
She nodded. Although she didn't understand his exact meaning, she knew that
in matters of vengeance, she could trust in Dubois' darkness, especially when it
was personal. After the group had vanished, she thought, If you don't,
Dubois, I will.
Chapter 3 [Tucson-One night later]
Lydia stood in front of her evening class on Southeastern Europe, discussing
the region's economic tendencies in the late fourteenth century. In the course
of the lecture, she spoke to recent advances in the discipline, taking the
students on an expedition of dizzying facts and persons in addition to leaving
the students wondering about a promised surprise at the talk's end.
The group of about fifteen students scrambled to scribble these items down
as she went. Clark, Lana, and Chloe wrote furiously. Fortunately, the professor
agreed to let the blonde reporter record the lecture. Still, the notes remained
important. So they kept going.
In the back of the room, Dave and Nick observed the lecture with keen
For Dave, the session was updating his knowledge of the region. It's been
fifteen years since I took this class from Lydia. The format has changed-that's
As he listened, Nick's mind flashed back and forth between his current
location and the region in question. Unlike everyone else in the room, he had
experienced this material firsthand. It's amazing she's managed to
reconstruct it so precisely given the ferocity of the Turkish attacks and the
fact that the repositories were destroyed in the battles. He remembered
fighting with a Serbian army against the Ottomans in 1389 and the Christian loss
of Kosovo. During that campaign, he and Ali had crossed paths for the first
time, swords clashing furiously for twenty minutes before the Janissary fell. Unfortunately,
LaCroix's little snack later made sure Ali would be around for a while.
At that point, Lana asked, "Professor Coltrane, how did the Turks get
so much territory so fast?"
Lydia glanced at Nick. I should let him answer, given that he was there.
Come on, Lydia, you can't make him blow his cover. "Well, Lana, the
Ottomans had several advantages, and better trained troops. In addition, the
Janissaries were fanatical."
Indeed they were, Nick concurred to himself. Then his senses picked up on
another vampire presence close by. "Dave," he whispered.
"Yeah, I know," the medievalist agreed low. "He's been out in
the hall for a good ten minutes. T-Minus thirty seconds-get ready." Looking
at the door, he braced himself for the coming confrontation.
At that moment, the door opened, allowing Ali to walk into the room. He wore
his full Janissary gear-robes and large helmet. Under his arm, he carried the
stolen tome. "Fanatical is a little strong, isn't it? For that, I'll have
to kill you."
Lydia stared at the intruder, recognizing him from the incident in Istanbul.
Figures, he'd show up.
The students stared at the intruder, recognizing his garb as that of a
fourteenth century Janissary from the pictures in the textbook.
"No, I'd say it's right on the mark," Dave interjected, shooting
him a glare. "How's your student?"
"Shut up, Dubois. This doesn't concern you...for now," Ali hissed.
"Nice costume-trying to impress a date or what?" Dave continued to
press. "I asked you a question, Ali." Seeing the Smallville trio
tensing, he shook them off before staring into the other's eyes. "You're in
my territory, Turk. That makes it my concern. So what's a terrible little mamluk
like you doing here?"
By now, the other students were getting nervous. If this was the surprise,
they didn't want to see the maniac medievalist's response to it.
Lydia sighed. He's at it again. "Dr. Dubois has a point. This is
my classroom. Answer the question."
"I have a delivery to make...a book of secrets...to Miles here. Your
discussion was interesting, flawed a bit, but for these rabble close
"And how would you know?" Chloe snapped, ticked off by the insult.
His eyes glowed at the students. "Because I was there, child. Miles can
confirm that, can't you?"
Nick thought on his feet before replying, "The rolls put you there.
"My point, as you put it, is that we were dedicated soldiers fighting
against the Infidel," the Enforcer snarled.
"Dedicated pains in the ass, you mean," Dave muttered. Seeing the
symbol on the book's front cover, he demanded, "Where did you get
"A friend procured it for me. Why?"
The medievalist chuckled. "You have no idea what that book can
"And you do, don't you, Dubois? Tell them of the power in it," Ali
taunted, grabbing him by the throat and pinning him to the wall.
"Professor!" Clark exclaimed, springing to his feet and taking a
step toward them.
"N...now, this ain't nice," Dave gasped as he lapsed. "Better
than tell them, I...Ah'll show 'em."
After the change happened, the Child grinned at the Enforcer. "Git offa
me!" His hands glowed. Gripping the attacker, they burned the other's
"Damn you!" Ali hissed, setting the book down as he vamped out.
"Now you die!"
"Yeah...yeah...Ah'm gonna die...Ooooh....Ah'm so scared!" the Dark
One retorted sarcastically. "Git lost!" Raising his hands into the
air, he allowed the fire to burn from them. "Ya'll released 'er, didn't ya?
Get a taste of wha she's about!" He fired two blasts, knocking Ali into the
wall. "Run, Boy. Run or Ah'll flatten ya!" Turning to the students, he
bellowed, "ALL OF YA, GIT!!"
The students took off like scared rabbits. The stories surrounding Dave and
the terrorists still remained fresh around the campus. Watching him deal with
this nut ball definitely wouldn't be helpful to either their grades or health in
Clark, Lana, and Chloe moved to the front of the room, shielding Lydia from
Meantime, the former Janissary threw himself at the Child. "GRRAARRRGGHH!!!!"
The Child shook his head. "So predictable!" Another burst of fire
singed the Turk, dropping him to the floor. "Whitey shoulda told ya the
message. Ah'll deal with the witch mahself. Too bad, ya'll won't be
'round." With a final burst, he blasted the Turk to the ground before
breaking off an oak leg from the chair he was sitting on. "Say howdy to
Mustard Boy fer me an' Big Bro.!" He thrust the stake into the vampire's
"She...will finish you...all," Ali asserted weakly before expiring
and turning into ash.
Nick sighed. He's cleaned up after LaCroix again...as I should have done
centuries ago. Picking the book up, he added to himself: This confirms
our theory from last night. She's back.
"So much fer 'im," the Child accessed.
"Ummm...do you mind letting Dave out? You've done enough for
tonight," Nick suggested, picking up the book.
"Yeah, Ah guess. Jus' don't let that book outta yer sight!" the
Child relented, letting the change happen again.
Dave looked around to see the students staring at him. "Uh, so where's
"Take a whiff," Lydia commented, pointing to the floor beside him.
He saw the ash pile with the oak leg-stake sticking from the middle of it. Shit.
The Child must have disposed of him.
"What's the book about?" Lana asked, feeling the negative energy
coming from it.
"Don't touch it," Lydia advised. Judging by his reaction, that
thing's really serious trouble.
"A curse," Nick told them, looking at his colleague. "Dave,
you want to put it somewhere safe?"
"Absolutely," the professor agreed. "Uh, Clark....bring the
girls to my office in a few minutes, will you? I want to talk with you
all." Seeing the farm boy nod, he instructed, "Nick, you're with
Clark looked at Lana and Chloe before shaking his head. When he said life
never got dull around here, he meant it.
An hour later, Dave sat in his office, flipping through the dark tome and
scanning its contents. This thing should have been destroyed. I can't believe
that those jackasses in Rowenshire left it unguarded. A shudder passed
through him as he recalled the drive he and Angie had taken there, as well as
the witch's attack. Fortunately, the Child worked with Cybelle that day.
"Professor Dubois?" Lana asked. "Can we come in?"
He nodded to Nick, who opened the door for the trio and Lydia.
"Okay, what happened up there?" the latter wanted to know.
Nick shut the door and stated, "A very old curse."
"My curse," Dave added.
The vampire asked, "Your curse? The man cursed died 267 years ago. How
"The man in question was Ricard LaFontaine, my ancestor. Tell me,
Lydia, growing up in Braintree, what did you hear about a woman named Anne
"The eighteenth century witch? But she's only a legend," she
"She was real, trust me," Nick told her. "LaFontaine helped
me and LaCroix to defeat her."
"But she escaped, right?" Clark wondered.
"It's a long story," the medievalist growled, tapping his finger
on the desk. "Get the other students together. I'm buzzing Dr. Kane. Chloe,
can you get a hold of Lex? I know it's late, but he has direct experience."
When they had left, Lydia asked, "What does this have to do with you,
"When the townspeople executed her, Lichtenfeld cursed LaFontaine and
his descendants. When the family touched her land again...and they would...the
family's fortunes would sink and the eldest child would split in two."
"Your personal issues stem from there? Did you see her?"
"I sure did. She was the one who taught me the fire tricks you saw up
there tonight..." Dave recounted. His brow furrowed and his mood darkened.
"...when she tortured me. I aim to pay her back for that."
"You're going to want to meet at the El Gato, aren't you?" Nick
"Yes. I just need to go check on Angie and the twins first, then get
word to Cybelle," Dave told them, picking up the book. "And this is
going to be a heated discussion, so be prepared. Lydia, this stays here. Sorry
about the scene upstairs, I didn't have a choice."
"Meaning?" she asked.
"Meaning he would have killed you for your knowledge of the Community
and the duel. Then there would have been the matter of the kids and me revealing
ourselves to save the class," Nick commented.
"Was this tied to last night?" she inquired.
"You could say so," Dave replied, putting his coat on. "We
took out about thirty Enforcers and those punk Renegades--the guys who have been
orchestrating those attacks on us here." Focusing, he squinted for a second
before concluding, "Cybelle knows. She's going to meet me at the apartment.
Come on, Nick."
The Elder followed him out the door, knowing that this was going to be a
long night indeed.
Behind them, Lydia locked the office door and headed for her own office. Legends
like the Rowenshire witch are true. What next?
From her throne, the Faerie Empress watched the proceedings with concern. So
it has finally come to pass. Yes, Lydia Coltrane, what will be next for all of
you? Walking out of the room, she entered her grand cathedral of crystal. At
least there is a place where good memories exist for David and Angela still.
After the events of this night, they may need them. Once Cybelle lifts the spell
from Angela, there will be no going back.
Angie looked at the clock. It's after nine. Dave should have been home by
now. I knew there would be trouble. Seeing the mists form in the corner, she
"Not quite, Angie," Cybelle stated, striding into the room.
"It's been a busy night as Dave will tell you."
"Busy night?" Angie wondered, placing some tea water on the stove
to heat. "We took care of the Enforcers and Renegades last night. What else
"Ali apparently crashed Lydia's class tonight," the priestess
reported. "Tell me, Angie, what do you remember of the first class reunion
The oncologist frowned. Those events remained hazy in her mind. "I
remember riding with Dave in the Subaru for much of the morning. Then I fell
asleep. The next thing I recall is waking up in your house. Why?" What
is she not telling me? What else happened on that day? Seeing her husband's
headlights through the curtains, she was determined to get the answer.
"Angie?" Dave asked, walking into the apartment with Nick close
"What's going on, Dave? Cybelle just told me about Ali. Where is
"Checking into Hell, I'd imagine," her husband assumed. "He
attacked me. You Know Who charred him up a bit, and then staked him."
"In front of the students? Dave, that's brilliant...I gotta tell
you," she countered sarcastically.
"He didn't have much of a choice, although you did bait him along
there," Nick responded.
"He is dead though?" the priestess asked her brother.
"Staked, crumpled into ash-the whole nine yards," the medievalist
declared, sitting in his favorite chair-a nervous look on his face.
"I'll have the priestesses scatter his ashes. Meantime, is that what I
think it is?" Cybelle queried, sensing the evil emanating from the tome at
"It is, but..." he started, motioning to his wife.
"What is this about, Dave?" Angie demanded apprehensively,
stalking over to him. "What is this thing?"
"Don't touch it!" he ordered, pulling it out of her reach.
"This is what set me off last night at the Raven."
"A book setting a librarian off? Oh that's a good one!" she chided
"It isn't just any book, Angie," Cybelle interjected. "Stand
still for a minute." She put her hand on the doctor's forehead and recited
a few lines in Gaelic. "There. Now you know what happened."
Angie felt the fog lifting from her head. She remembered driving through the
dark woods and stopping in front of a forsaken white house. She heard Dave
telling her not to step on the grass.
She saw a glowing woman approaching them before everything went black.
"Who was that?" she asked, shaking with fear.
"That was the witch," Dave pointed out. "You'll hear more in
a few minutes. Genaria's on her way to watch after the twins. In the meantime,
we have a meeting to attend at the Gato."
"Meeting now? About what? Dave, why didn't you tell me about this
before?" Angie demanded.
"That was my fault." Cybelle jumped in to protect her brother and
prevent any lapses on his part. "I didn't know if you could handle
"Lady, after what I went through a year later-I think I could have
handled anything. So, what else happened there...after I....uh...fainted,"
"She scorched me...kind of like what she did to LaCroix last night. The
Child erupted and was holding her off. From what he tells me, Cybelle showed up,
they took the witch on together. Finally, our priestess here drugged him and got
us all back to her place," he recounted, fixing them each a cup of tea.
"And it was a close call," Cybelle agreed. "That's why I
wasn't sure if you could handle it. Tonight, you and everyone else will have the
answers that you seek."
Genaria entered the room through the mists. "I'm here if all of you
want to go. Deirdre will meet you at the vampire place."
"Okay," Dave agreed, picking up the book. "Come on,
His sister opened another portal and ushered them through. As she stepped
through, she told the other priestess, "Nothing happens to the twins."
The younger one nodded as her superior disappeared. As if enough's
[El Gato Negro]
LaCroix slowly made his way out of the back room, heading for the bar.
Despite the pain he still felt from his burns, the Elder determined to appear
strong. Besides, if his senses were correct, much had already happened on this
night. An Elder is dead. Ali, you fool. You were so determined to get even
for Dijon. At the bar, he saw Eckhart sipping on a bloodwine. Pathetic
fledgling. Now-without your Enforcer brethren or your master, you are nothing.
As if sensing the other's thoughts, Eckhart turned. "He'll return
LaCroix's brow arched. Classic denial. How quaint.
Janette cast him a knowing look. Now was not the time to be provoking the
young vampire. "I'm sure he's right, LaCroix."
The General chuckled.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Eckhart demanded.
"Ask your friends, Eckhart," LaCroix advised, pointing to the
front entrance. "I have company of my own coming soon."
"Friends?" The fledgling sensed the mortals entering the club. Them?
Here? He saw Adam and his bunch of rogue freaks descend the staircase.
"What are you doing here, Adam?"
"When the Elder calls, we listen," the team leader declared.
"Yeah, well...Dave's in on it too," Emma added.
At that moment, Steve, Garth, Karen, Lex, and the new mutant students
entered the club, joining Mutant X at their table and taking two adjoining ones.
"Do you know what this is about, guys?" Brennan asked.
"Judging by the pyro stuff we saw in class tonight, the professor's
really annoyed at something," Clark suggested.
"Or someone," Martin clarified. "An ancient evil walks the
Earth once more. There was a major battle last night, was there not?"
"I'm glad we weren't anywhere near there...judging by what happened
tonight," Chloe remarked.
"There was," Dave admitted, appearing from the mists with Angie,
Cybelle, and Deirdre. "Get comfortable, everyone."
"Aren't we feeling our oats a bit?" LaCroix taunted.
The medievalist snickered, "I've staked one Elder tonight, Croisie. I
wouldn't mind going two for two."
"Stop it, both of you," Nick interjected.
"What do you mean?" Eckhart demanded. "Where is he?"
"Your Janissary friend got creamed by the professor," Lana told
"No!" the fledgling protested. "I'll kill you for that!"
Nick grabbed him in a bear hug, restraining him. "No. Not here...not
"This is why you didn't stake me last night! You knew this would
happen!" Eckhart ranted.
Adam shook his head. "Mason, we didn't know it would happen, all right?
You were to bear a message. That's it."
"Besides, after what your boys did to us, you think I would kill
anyone's parents unprovoked? No, Eckhart, he attacked us. Besides, he revealed
himself to the mortals in the classroom. Kind of goes against the Code, doesn't
it?" Dave countered.
"GSA, all right?" Angie snapped. "My parents' farm
destroyed-loved ones killed. We were there! Now, your so-called master dug up
the ultimate boogey-person from my husband's past! You are the last person who
should talk about murder and torture! What about your pod farm? What about the
mutants that you tortured?"
"This is serious, Eckhart," Lex added. "The last time she got
free, it was a catastrophe for the towns of Rowenshire and Amherst."
"Why?" Chloe asked him. "What could be so serious?"
The entrepreneur shuddered and looked at the medievalist. "The downfall
of so much for so few. Your grandfather and grandmother, my mother and the
"The town?" Clark asked.
Seeing the vampires getting restless, Nick urged, "If we're going to
talk about this further-the back, now. Eckhart, if you want to stay here, behave
The former administrator scowled but returned to the bar to do as Nick
"Deirdre, umm...maybe we can get coffee if you get my drift,"
"Good idea. Auntie, we'll be right back," the priestess said.
"Lana, Clark? We could use some help."
The two teenagers followed the cousins through the portal.
"Meantime," Janette indicated. "Let's get ready for this
A few minutes later, the group sipped on fresh Talon coffee while awaiting
the account. LaCroix and Janette chose bloodwine instead.
Adam typed away on his laptop, accessing Dave's records from the Sanctuary
uplink. On the flight down from northern Arizona, he had studied the records
referring to the old house and the professor's condition. So many things
Emma assessed Dave and his high school classmates. She could feel the
tension coming off of them. Whatever happened there set the tone for so many
things. Before the end of the night, we'll hear from both Dave and the Child.
Nick took a deep breath and started, "The stuff starts on a dark night
in colonial Massachusetts...."
[Rowenshire, Mass., 1720]
It was a dark moonless night on that All Hollow's Eve in central
Massachusetts. For the most part, the residents stayed locked inside their
homes, saying their prayers to keep the evil spirits and demons at bay. Only a
few brave souls would dare traverse the wooded trail on that evening.
Martin Frobisher told his wife it would only be a few minutes walk to their
neighbors' house. However, midway there, he was attacked by something in the
dark and died soon afterwards.
"Mmm, yes...a gamey taste. I must admit, Nicholas, that you were right
to come this way," LaCroix commented, wiping the blood from his mouth with
his hand before licking his fingers.
"Yes, I agree," his protégé noted. "These settlers haven't
known vampires in quite a while. Given the stock, I wonder why that is?"
The General looked around at their surroundings. Something didn't feel quite
right. "Nicholas, what do you feel?"
Nick looked around, sweeping the area with his senses. During their trek
across the Pioneer and Swift River Valleys, he had felt strange energies about
them. "We're close to the source," he hissed.
The Elder frowned. Trouble is the last thing we need right now. In
both Springfield and Northampton, the locals had organized quickly against them,
forcing them to flee. Fortunately, the farmers in Greenwich and Prescott had
proved easier prey. After tarrying there for a week, the immortal duo moved
onward, heading eastward into the wooded territory. Still, the former Crusader
was right-something lurked in the woods on this night besides them.
"Excuse me, Gentlemen, are ye lost?" a woman's voice asked.
The two travelers turned to see the speaker step out of the brush. From the
dim lantern light in her hand, they could see that she was slender with long
brown hair and a face with a few wrinkles showing on it. Her eyes held a
determined fire in them. She strode toward them with no fear. As a matter of
fact, she smiled confidently.
"Yes, well...we are two travelers in search of a shelter. Can you
direct us to the nearest town?" LaCroix requested.
"Aye. Rowenshire is only two miles down the path that way," the
woman indicated, pointing with her finger down the path. "I'd be careful
though if I were ye. The people there don't take kindly to strangers especially
"What do you mean 'unlike themselves'?" Nick wondered. Focusing,
he felt the vibrations coming from her. How could that be?
"Just tread carefully, my good sir. The woods are full of dangers on
this night, as I'm sure ye both are well aware. Go quickly now. If ye would
excuse me, I must go," the local woman concluded, turning back into the
brush and vanishing from view.
"Dangers? Rubbish," LaCroix scoffed. "Come, Nicholas!"
Looking around to make sure they were alone, he took off into the night.
Nick did the same, still wondering about the woman.
For her part, she reappeared from out of the night air. A smile formed on
her face. "So the forces of darkness send two vampires here, do they? I
will make use of them. Great use indeed."
Ten minutes later, the two immortals entered the small town center. A quick
look around them found only a few buildings: a church, a small blacksmith's
forge, a small schoolhouse, and a little inn on the far side of the commons.
Moving toward the last building, they stepped inside.
"Good evening, kind sirs. Bad night to be out, wouldn't ye say?"
the innkeeper, a stocky man in his late forties asked.
"Actually, it's a fine night for traveling," Nick disagreed.
"The woods are quiet."
The mortal nodded. "Right. Just out of curiosity, which direction did
ye come from?"
"We came from the neighboring valley," LaCroix replied, allowing a
bit of irritation to seep into his voice. "Do you question all of your
guests in this fashion?"
"No, Master. I was just going to give ye some friendly advice is all.
Ye are welcome to stay here for the night. I would caution ye though, the roads
to the north and west are dangerous. Strange things happen in the woods around
this town. We townsfolk do keep to ourselves," the innkeeper continued.
"Strange things indeed, Michael," a man in his late twenties
concurred. From his dark clothes and the clerical collar, he was a priest.
"Pardon me for interrupting your conversation, but can I buy you a cup of
"I would rather head for the room," LaCroix declined.
"Nicholas, you may do as you wish."
"Thank you," Nick responded to his master. After the other vampire
had received a key and left, he followed the priest to the corner table. When
the tea arrived, Nick sipped on the hot drink, somehow keeping from making a
face. Although he didn't need warming up, he appreciated the gesture. "And
who are you, Father? I am Nicolas de Brabant, a traveler."
"Pleased to meet you, mon Ami. I am Father Ricard LaFontaine, the
shepherd of this small village. Four years ago, I came here from New France and
found it a pleasant enough place to be. Yet, I would caution you, Nicolas.
Michael is right in saying that the woods are cursed. Strange things have
happened to this and the surrounding towns over the past two years...failed
harvests, strange fires, people vanishing and never being seen again. I myself
have seen the shadows move even where there is no light or a person to cast
them. There is black magic at work here."
At that moment, Nick's senses snapped to life. Through the window, he saw a
shadowy form spying on him and the priest. It's her again. A second
later, she had vanished again.
"Ye see?" Michael queried. "That's the shadow!"
That's no shadow. Still, how could she appear and disappear like
that...if not...a witch? "Father Ricard, I need to ask something.
Tonight in the forest, we ran into a woman."
The priest replied, "Long brown hair, gray robes, determined
eyes?" Seeing the other man nod, he guessed, "Mistress Anne
Lichtenfeld. She's a strange one. She never comes to church and is rarely seen
in town. She has a house on the north road about three miles from here. Those
who travel by her house say that a foul odor hangs in the air about that place
and a fog covers the meadows."
"Hmmm...Michael, can you come here for a minute? I need a question
answered if I may," Nick requested.
"If I can," the innkeeper agreed.
"When did Anne Lichtenfeld first show up here in Rowenshire?"
Michael scratched his chin. "She was born in that house up the road
about 25 years ago. It was right after those strange happenings in Salem
Village. One day, two strangers showed up in town, looking for land to buy. My
father pointed them to the pasture. I recall the couple-a man dressed in heavy
clothes-his dark face obscured by his facial wrappings. The woman's belly
bulged-obviously far along with her child. When we offered to help with the
house, they declined. Queer thing though, the structure went up overnight, or so
it seemed. When my father and I went by in the morning to bring the papers to
them, the house stood there in the middle of the field. Mistress Anne was born
shortly after that. A strange little girl that one was."
"So what happened after that?"
The innkeeper continued, "The father hasn't been seen in 15 years. The
mother died five years later. And that's when the calamities started hitting us.
The girl's a witch, I tell ye! She's cursing us!"
Nick imagined what LaCroix would say to that. Pure rubbish. Ignorant
mortal minds. Curses indeed. In his travels, he had seen how the charge of
witchcraft had been used as a political and social control mechanism. For the
most part, Salem's hysteria proved such. However, he had heard that several
people had left the village before the trials as if forewarned by some force.
Many headed into the western hills paralleling the Post Road between Boston,
Springfield, and Westfield. This would be the type of village where one couple
might lay low. He had certainly seen enough to know where devil worship was
practiced, and this place reeked of it. "On that note, kind sirs, I shall
retire to my room. Good night."
"Aye, sir. Good night," Michael replied.
"Thank you for the conversation, Nicolas," Ricard agreed.
"That is a fair telling, Nicholas," LaCroix stated. "Indeed,
the good people of Rowenshire are still a superstitious lot, even to this
"No argument there...for once," Dave concurred, drinking from his
coffee cup. "So, what happened next?"
"A pivotal turn of events," the General stated. "Nicholas, do
you wish to continue the story?"
"Absolutely," the Tucson Elder agreed, and kept going with his
[Rowenshire, MA-All Souls Day 1720]
Three days had passed since the immortal travelers had stopped in the
community. Fortunately, pickings in the nearby countryside had sustained them
for that time. During the night hunts, they had spied Lichtenfeld walking
through the woods and watching them as they went.
Although he had initially dismissed the villagers' claims, LaCroix was
beginning to believe that this woman was a sorceress due to how she vanished and
reappeared so quickly. She has seen us hunt and feast...even though nobody
had been there moments before. Impossible.
As they returned to town, they saw flames consuming the inn along with what
few possessions they had.
Seeing the priest, Nick asked, "Father Ricard, what's going on?"
"The inn is burning down, Nicolas. We've tried to draw water from the
well in town, but it's having no effect. Even where we douse the flames, they
burn stronger. Look at the deep red hue. This is no ordinary fire, mon Ami. This
is the Devil's work," Ricard replied.
LaCroix snorted indignantly. "There are no such things as devils and
demons, my good priest."
"Are you so sure of that, my friend? How would you know?"
"I have walked through many places for quite a time. Trust me on that
one," the General replied.
"Still, LaCroix, if there is a chance that she's behind this...."
Nick pointed out.
The General nodded. "Indeed. A visit to the woman's house may be in
order. Come, Nicholas."
"We'll be all right. Stay here with the others," the former
As the duo disappeared into the woods, LaFontaine watched them, thinking, No
one would be so brave as to do what you two are doing. There's more to you both
than meets the eye. For several minutes, he coordinated efforts in the town
green, trying to help save the building. Finally, seeing that the effort was
futile, he climbed onto his horse's back and took off after them up the path.
The two vampires flew through the trees using them as cover from mortal
eyes. Following the dirt road, they headed north. Within minutes, they spied a
sizeable clearing. Landing there, the immortals discovered a meadow with waving
grasses and oak trees off to one side. In the middle of the field, a single
white painted house stood watch over the property. Upon closer inspection, they
discerned a small plowed area behind the structure along with a barn.
"The house is quiet, LaCroix," Nick presumed.
The Elder stretched out with his senses and agreed, "Indeed. Still,
she's close by." He turned toward the woods in front of them. "Yes.
Close by indeed and not alone. Be on your guard." From previous experience,
he knew what waited for them down there: a witches' Sabbath. More than likely
the local coven. Recalling what he had overheard from Nick's conversation with
the priest in the inn, he said to himself, They skulk and worship their
insignificant demon. Nicholas, you were right in what you said to the priest. If
the Lichtenfeld woman is a witch and knows of our existence, then we need to
silence her immediately.
They made their way down the forest path, subtly closing in on the
festivities. Finally, they saw three people dancing around a bonfire uttering
something in an unknown tongue.
["What are they saying?" Nick asked through their link.]
["I don't know, mon filis," LaCroix responded.] For almost an
hour, they watched the events before sensing someone approaching.
"Who?" Nick inquired, reaching out and pulling the intruder toward
them. It was Father Ricard. "Father?" he whispered.
"Oui," the priest whispered. "The townspeople are on their
way up here with blood in their hearts. It is as I feared. This is a Sabbath.
What do we do?"
At that moment, the ritual stopped. Lichtenfeld looked toward them and
invited, "Are ye there, masters? Show yerselves or I'll have to take more
drastic measures!" Summoning dark energies from the air around her, she let
fly with two black fiery bursts, scoring the trees beside the three intruders.
"That's it!" the Elder hissed and moved out into the clearing
followed closely by Nick.
Lichtenfeld smiled coldly. She had hoped that her master would send the two
vampires on this night. "We have yet to be properly introduced."
"Mistress Anne Lichtenfeld, correct?" Nick guessed.
"Aye, my ancient ones. And ye are?"
"Lucien LaCroix and Nicolas de Brabant," LaCroix responded,
watching her carefully.
"And yer friend-ah, the good priest. Do ye know who yer companions are,
Ricard LaFontaine?" the sorceress taunted. "Ye travel with dark
creatures as well. Vampires, as they are called."
"With that, you signed your death warrant!" the Elder stated.
"Nicholas, take the other two. This one's mine!"
Nick advanced on the two cultists. Unlike their mistress, they had no dark
powers, settling for simply trying to overpower him. Within minutes, he had
bested them both, willing them to sleep.
"Watch them!" he told LaFontaine, zipping off to help his master.
They are really vampires. Amazing. The Lord does work in mysterious ways.
In the meantime, LaCroix advanced on the witch, challenging her to do
something. He detested sorceresses and priestesses-whether they were of
so-called "white" or "black" persuasions. As a Roman
commander, he had authorized mass killings of her kind. Now, he would deal with
"Ye should not be so confident, my dear Lucien!" she chided,
blasting him with dark fire.
Feeling the dark energy burning him, the vampire dropped to the ground.
From the rear, Nick bulled into her, disrupting her concentration and
allowing his master time to regain his footing.
"Ye shouldn't have done that, Nicolas," she advised, firing an
errant energy plume from her hand.
Faster than the eye could follow, the two vampires flew around, evading her
blasts until they managed to wrench her arms behind her. With his belt, Nick
bound her hands and stuffed a handkerchief into her mouth to prevent further
"Now to kill her," LaCroix urged, bearing his fangs.
"No wait!" Ricard protested. "Bring her before the townsfolk
for proper judgment."
"And to be judged ourselves, I'd imagine?" the General doubted.
"Forgive me if I doubt your intentions."
"The knowledge of what you are will remain a secret--one that I will
take to the grave with me. I and the townspeople owe you both that much. But
when this is over, you will need to leave here. Agreed?" the priest
"It's a deal," Nick accepted. "Let's get her back to
Even as they concluded this arrangement, a mob of Rowenshire residents
Michael stood at the head of the throng. Approaching the quartet, he asked,
"What is this? Did you see?"
"A witches' Sabbath," LaCroix noted, pointing out the still
burning bonfire, a bloody knife and the two others still lying beside them.
The crowd surveyed the scene. Not needing much evidence in any event, the
people seized the man and woman on the ground as well as Lichtenfeld, and led
them back toward town.
The "trial" was short and quick. With the evidence in clear view
of everyone as well as the local people's accounts, the three prisoners prepared
themselves for the guilty verdict, which came with lightning speed.
As they were led to the great oak in the village square, the condemned
walked indignantly-not giving their persecutors any satisfaction. Reaching the
spot, the great oak on the southern edge of the village common, the nooses were
slung over two particularly heavy branches.
Father Ricard offered to give last rites, but they vehemently refused.
After her cohorts were dispatched, Lichtenfeld sat on a horse under the
branch with the noose hanging about her neck. She glared at her neighbors for
doing this to her.
"Any last words, witch?" an older gentleman with snow-white hair
After they removed the gag, she cackled wickedly. "Ye can kill this
body, but ye won't kill my spirit. I curse ye all, yer friends, and yer
families. To the two travelers yonder, much distress will ye find. Young Nicolas
will seek answers splitting him from his companion. As for you, Ricard
LaFontaine, I curse ye and yer family. When next they return here, they will
know sorrow, be denied the love of home and hearth, the rejection of their
neighbors, and that I will be waiting for them. In that time, a father's greed
will force his family and their friends into hardship. His oldest son will hate
him. And for that special child...ah, special indeed...I'll split his soul in
two and put him against ye both!"
"Do your worst!" LaCroix challenged. "I fear nothing of
so-called curses and foul air!"
"All right. Enough!" the old man cut in, spurring the horse out
from under her.
As she dropped, Lichtenfeld stared intently at the two vampires and at the
priest before her eyes finally shut. The rope's jerk snapped her neck, ending
"Burn her body and scatter the ashes about that foul place. We all
agree to leave the meadow alone. Father, will ye bless the land?" the old
"I can try," the priest agreed. In a largely Protestant land, his
little Catholic flock needed protection on all sides. "Meantime Nicolas and
Lucien, I believe this settles my end of the bargain?"
"It does," LaCroix concurred grimly. "And thank you for your
"Thank you," Nick added, shaking the man's hand.
"Despite your...sins, there is good in you, Nicolas. Keep seeking the
light, my friend. God hasn't forsaken you."
"I know...thank you, father," Nick expressed before following his
companion down the path and out of the villagers' sight. Once in the woods, they
took to the air, heading east in search of other prey.
Nick sighed and took a gulp of his Chablis. "True to his word, he kept
"What happened to Father LaFontaine?" Chloe wondered.
"He stayed in Rowenshire and preached there for another forty years
before passing away in 1762. They never did find another priest of his
stature," the archaeologist explained.
"But his sister, Jeanne, had children. The youngest daughter, Lucie,
married Denis Dubois in 1741 and created our lineage," Cybelle clarified.
"If they were over in France, how did your family get back there?"
"A cheap land deal and a new partnership," Dave noted, glancing at
"My father's involved in this? Why am I not surprised?" the
billionaire asked, feeling the shame of his name burdening him again.
"Quit blaming yourself, Lex. It's Lionel's doing, not yours. Still,
what it did set in motion is another story." Dave reassured although the
gloom hung heavily over him. "For 247 years, everything remained quiet
until one faithful day."
[Rowenshire-All Hallows Eve 1967]
Stuart Dubois stopped his Ford pickup truck on the side of the road. Tired
of city life, he wanted to move away to some place removed from the city, yet
close enough to it. If there was an investment opportunity to be had, all the
better. After searching in Massachusetts and northern Connecticut for the past
year, his associate, Lionel Luthor, had called him with good news. He had
located a piece of land and asked for the other to meet him there.
This is a real downtrodden place all right, the consultant growled
tersely. The town was a relic from the 1850s judging by its quaint general store
and the commons. At least their school is up to date. Still, this should be a
real opportunity. Larry was right. His son, Lionel, is on the ball. The kid's
going to have a great future. After that other deal he pulled for me, this one
will be really sweet.
At that moment, a limousine pulled up beside him. The driver got out and
opened the door for his boss.
A young man with shoulder length auburn hair stepped out of the back seat
and onto the road. "Stuart, good to see you. So what do you think?"
The older man shook his hand and remarked, "Your calling this a
'fixer-upper' is a gross understatement, Lionel. Still, there is an opportunity
"And you're close to Northampton and Amherst...well relatively
speaking. Still, both you and Father said you wanted an opportunity. I think
this could be it."
"So where's this cheap land?"
Lionel pointed at the meadow. "Right beside you. Beautiful clearing,
Stuart looked at the clearing. He's right. With a little work, this could
be a decent place for the family to live. I'll have to tear down that house, but
I can do that easily. I'll have the new house up in time for the kids to start
next fall at the school. Well, maybe I can have Sarah drive them to Ware for a
while at least. "And why is this so cheap? I can't believe nobody would
want to live here."
"The locals have this story about the land being cursed or some such
garbage," the younger man scoffed. "Really, Stuart, the folklore is
"I agree. What was there, an ax murderer here?"
"They say there was some kind of witch here. Imagine that," Lionel
discounted the story.
"And the price from the bank is still solid?" Stuart inquired.
"It is," the younger man affirmed.
"Let's sign those papers and get going. Sarah's waiting with the
family," Stuart concurred.
True to his word, Stuart tore down the old house and pushed the builders to
finish his dream house in record time. By midsummer, his palatial white dream
house rose from the meadow. In addition, workers conducted a facelift, cleaning
up the landscape significantly. It's a paradise. Sarah doesn't like being so
far from her mother, but that can't be helped.
"Stuart, it's amazing how this place has changed," his wife
"Yes. It's very nice. Our perfect family home," he bragged
contentedly. "Let the kids out to run around a bit. They've been cooped up
for so long."
She opened the door. Randy jumped out and ran onto the grass as fast as his
two-year-old legs could carry him. "I'm glad you like it," she
laughed. That boy is so happy. I think he could find something good to play
with in a construction quarry.
The oldest boy, David, sat in the back with a sullen frown on his face.
"Hate this place!" he muttered.
"Now, David," his mother tried to soothe as she rocked her baby
daughter, Cybelle. "I know you miss Gram, but she'll be up here to visit as
will Grandma and Grandpa Alvaro."
The boy, knowing by now that there wasn't any arguing with his
parents-acquiesced grudgingly. Still, he felt something very strange about this
place. In addition to the creepy conditions, he had seen a glowing lady by the
woods in back of the house. Gotta watch for her.
Dave set his drink on the table and looked at the others. Damn, this is
going to be more difficult than I thought.
"What else happened there?" Miranda insisted.
"That dream house turned into a house of horrors for us," the
"That's putting it mildly," the medievalist agreed, suppressing a
shudder. "Still, I don't remember much for quite a while. And then, there
was the incident with Grandpa's death."
"Uncle Lorenzo? He died of cancer, didn't he?" Francesca inquired.
A tear coursed his cheek. "They say it's one birth for one death,
right? With that one, she got more than she bargained for...."
[Rowenshire-February 18, 1975]
Dave climbed the stairs cautiously on his way up to the third floor. He
should have been more excited-after all, this was his favorite time of the day.
This was the time his grandfather spent with him, teaching him about their
heritage and encouraging him to be his best. His books provided a release for
the boy from the darkness surrounding them all.
The young man surveyed the hallway for any signs of weirdness. Nothing,
but she'll be around...I know it. Ever since the family had moved into the
house, the "glowing lady" had intruded into their lives and made
things a living Hell. Surprisingly, Randy seemed blissfully unaware of the
situation. However, for Dave-the situation was very real. More than once, he had
endured the ghost's fiery touch, burning his skin and soul. At first, he took
the punishment to save his siblings from it.
Then, the phantom started going after Cybbie, and the house echoed with her
cries in addition to his own.
He boiled with resentment. I should be able to do something about this
mess! Knocking on the door, he asked, "Grandpa?"
"C..ome in," the elderly man invited.
Dave entered the room, feeling a strange sense of foreboding. What now?
He knew that his grandfather was bedridden and had been for almost a year.
"Grandpa, what is it?"
"I...I'm getting ready to leave. My time is...near," the old man
The boy's eyes bulged and he protested, "No! You can't go! How can I go
"You have...to....Watch out for....Randy and Cybbie....Protect
"You know? Everyone else thinks I'm crazy," Dave pointed out.
His grandfather shook his head. "No. You and your sister are the
special ones, David. And in this time, you won't be alone...you'll never be
alone. Promise me two things...First, take care of the others. Second...always
do your...best. Don't...let that she-demon...des...troy...you."
Dave grasped his mentor's hand and vowed, "O..okay. I promise."
"Bold words, Brat!" the familiar taunting voice jeered.
The two men saw the witch's spirit hovering in the corner.
"Once he dies, I've won. I'll break ye and yer little sister!" she
"N..no...." Lorenzo protested weakly. "Keep away..."
"Oh, be quiet and pass on!" she scoffed, blasting him with a plume
of dark fire.
The sick man stiffened and gasped for air. "D..David,...hold
onto...love....Hang...on...." With that, he slumped into the boy's arms and
"And so ye are alone," the ghost cracked. "Alone against
Dave shuddered as he kissed his grandfather's brow and shut the elder's
eyes. "Maybe I am, but if it kills me, I'll get you for this!" he
"No. I'm just sick of taking your crap," the boy hissed, feeling
his head go numb. "Enjoy your win, Bitch. I'll have my day too!"
The phantom growled and disappeared into the wall.
In her wake, the boy screamed to the ceiling, wailing and protesting his
pain. "GRARRRGGHHH!!!!!" Finally, he stopped and brooded. One day,
I'll get her...Oh will I get her for this.
The funeral took place in Amherst on his twelfth birthday two nights later.
Dave sat sullenly in the corner, fighting back the tears. I won't give her
the satisfaction of seeing me cry. Even as the dirt fell on the coffin, he
renewed his vow from the night before.
He stared at the rest of the family, noting his sister's absence. In a
typically classless move, his father had decided to send Cybbie off to boarding
school far away in England. His mother sat trembling and trying to console his
grandmother. His brother and father sat placidly off to the side, not reacting
Nobody talked to him. The townspeople from Rowenshire all thought he was
crazy. The kids shunned him at school. His father made fun of him in public.
Even the priest, Father Richard, was afraid of him.
Then a hand rested on his shoulder. "Need someone to talk to?"
Looking up, Dave saw a blond haired man with blue eyes and a warm smile
looking at him. "Who are you?"
"My name's Nicholas O' Connor. I worked with your grandfather some
years ago," the man revealed.
Dave studied the man. There's something strange about him. "I
remember Grandpa talking about you, sir. Take a seat. Egypt, right?"
"Right. I worked with him on a couple of excavations in the Valley of
Kings," Nicholas noted. "You know he was proud of you."
The boy nodded. "He was so smart. He gave me the world and made me feel
good. Now, he's gone...and I get to deal with the glowing lady."
"Glowing lady?" Nicholas asked, arching his eyebrow. "You
mean a ghost?"
"Yeah...ghost. Some ghost. More like one of those demons you hear the
minister talking about," the boy clarified. "Anyhow, I aim to get even
with her one day. Mark my words, Mr. O' Connor, I'll make her pay." His
right eyelid closed, squinting tears while the left eye glared at him.
"And where do you live, pray tell?" the visitor asked. Seeing
Dave's incredulous look, he added, "Your grandfather said you lived north
of the town center, but didn't say exactly where."
"Right on the state route headin' north, sir, in the middle of the
stinking grass-big white house on your right. You can't miss it."
Nicholas shook his head as the facts fell into place. "Are there any
stories about the land?"
"About the witch and the curse? Plenty of them. They aren't stories.
They happened and that harpy is proof of it!" Dave responded, the venom
seeping into his voice.
Nicholas hugged the young man closely to him, consoling him as the latter
finally broke down. Somehow, she's back. This poor young man's suffering and
there's nothing I can do. Wait, maybe there is...I'll talk to Beatrice. Maybe
she can convince them to move on.
Dave trembled noticeably, his eyes watering and the snarls escaping his
mouth. He was on the cusp of changing.
Emma read the emotions coming off of him. The trauma froze him in that
moment in time. That little boy's still there...still wanting his revenge.
"That man who showed up, who was he?" Angie wondered. "Did
you ever see him again?"
The medievalist shrugged. "Sure...later...much later. He's right here.
I never did thank you, Nick."
Seeing everyone staring at him, Nick explained, "You needed a friend at
that point. I just can't believe I didn't realize who you were when we met up in
"That was a troubled time for us all. Maybe the angel made you forget
too," Dave guessed.
"Could be," Nick agreed, changing the subject before that topic
caught hold. No sense in picking another fight with LaCroix.
"So is that it?" Mika asked.
"No, Mika," Karen said, a crestfallen look on her face.
"I wish it were," Lex agreed, looking at Karen, Steve, and Garth.
Dave relaxed and allowed the change to happen.
The Child looked up at the others. A frightening scowl streaked across his
face. "Nah. The witch hadda git back at us 'gain. They stuck Gram in the
ground. The bitch killed 'er too...but Ah got 'er back with help...."
Dave stood silently as they placed the urn with his grandmother's ashes on
the ground. The wind blew briskly on that day after Thanksgiving. The overcast
sky offered no warmth or comfort for him either.
Three days earlier, she had called to the high school, begging for him to be
there. After getting a release for them both, Karen drove him to Ludlow.
"Gram?" he asked.
"Dave? Come in," the older woman called. "Are you by
"Karen's waiting downstairs. She figured you wanted to talk to me
alone," he replied.
"I'd like her here too. She's such a nice girl," she complimented.
"Just a minute," he agreed, going out and down the stairs. A
minute later, he was back.
"Gram?" Karen asked. "Sorry. I didn't want to intrude."
"That's...okay, Dear. You're like...family despite what my...son
thinks," Janet told the younger woman, forcing a smile over her pain.
"You need to hear this too."
"What is it?" he inquired.
"Dave, I know you're angry...because of Smallville. Whatever happens,
please...stay focused and keep...your cool," she begged.
Yeah right. He seethed over her condition. While she had been worn
down for months, the cancer had spread abnormally fast, doing in months what
should have taken years. She's at it again. I knew that leaving that damn
place wouldn't be good enough.
His girlfriend studied his face. He's ticked off all right.
"Dave, are you okay?"
"No. I'm not," he sighed. "I'll tell you later. Meantime,
Gram, I'll do my best."
The elderly woman smiled. "That's all I can ask of you. Karen, don't
leave him alone at the service and be careful...She'll be...there."
"If she shows up, she'll regret it," he vowed angrily.
"Who is this 'she'?" Karen asked.
"Somebody from Rowenshire. A very old, spiteful somebody," he
stated, his facial features growing dark.
"Still believing in ghosts?" his father taunted walking into the
room. "You know you're not welcome here!"
"Stick it, Dad. Gram asked me to come, all right?" he retorted,
glaring daggers at the other. "Besides, if you hadn't moved us to that
hellhole, none of this crap would've happened!"
"Dave, Stuart, stop it," Janet requested weakly. "All I
wanted is for you two to be at peace with each other. She's...done it....I
tried....Remember, that I love you...."
"Gram?" Dave asked, grasping her hand.
For a minute, she smiled at him. Then her eyes closed and her hand went
"Mom?" Stuart queried, shaking her.
"Leave her be. She's gone," Dave snarled.
"Dave, I really think we should go," Karen urged, sensing the
fight brewing between them.
The elder Dubois grinned at her. "What are you...his nursemaid
"No. Just a good friend," she replied tersely. "You've done
enough to him, all right? Leave him alone!"
"I'm not done yet," Stuart asserted.
"Oh, I think you are," Dave disagreed. "I really need to get
back to town right now. We'll see you up there...hopefully without your immortal
terror in tow. C'mon, Karen."
She frowned while following her classmate down the stairs and out the door. Now
"Dave?" Karen inquired, cutting into his meditation.
"Hmm?" he replied, looking at her. "Oh. Sorry, Karen, I'm
just fighting the usual moodiness. I can't believe she's gone."
"I know," she agreed, rubbing his arm. "Are you up to talking
with the others?"
He wiped a stray tear off of his face and fought back another tension wave.
"Yeah. Let's do it."
Just across the room, Frank Landers, Steve, Garth, and April McKenzie waited
for him patiently, understanding how close he was to his grandmother.
"Sorry, guys. I missed a deadline, didn't I?" Dave asked
mournfully, knowing that he had let his classmates down. "I'll get to
"Hey, it's all right," Garth assured him. "We took care of
it. You relax, all right?"
"You need to be with your family right now. We can cover for you,"
April added, hugging him tightly. "Principal Jackson wanted you to write a
eulogy about her. Think you can do that?"
"Absolutely," he agreed. "I just need time to get my thoughts
together." Seeing a familiar red-haired woman approach, he asked,
Lillian Luthor managed a smile for his benefit. "Yes, David, it's me.
As soon as I heard, I reserved seats on the first flight from Metropolis."
She embraced him, knowing the damage that this tragedy was wrecking on him. He
still isn't over the beating in Smallville yet. The doctors are wondering if
he'll ever recover. "Are these the friends we heard so much
"Well...some of them. Garth Singleton, Steve Petersen, Frank Landers,
April McKenzie, this is Lillian Luthor. Aunt Lillie, these are April, Garth,
Frank and Steve. You remember Karen, right?" Dave introduced.
"Of course," Mrs. Luthor agreed. "I wish we could be meeting
under better circumstances, kids. This is a tragedy for everyone. Who would have
thought that cancer could take somebody so fast?"
It can't unless it has help, Dave mused. "How's Lex?"
"Oh, he's waiting by the table. Hang on." She walked over and took
her son's hand before heading back over to the group's side. "Everyone,
this is my son, Lex Luthor."
The eight year old looked shyly at the teenagers. "You're David's
friends, aren't ya? The ones who gave 'im that big card?"
April giggled. "That's right. And you were helping Dave with saving the
Talon, weren't you?"
The boy nodded. "An' I got a medal!"
"You did?" Dave asked, a smile coming to his face. "Who gave
"Momma did," the boy replied, rubbing her side.
"Lionel doesn't think he's a hero, but I do. And you are too, David. By
the way, I made a trip out to Smallville before getting on the plane. The
townspeople wanted me to give you this card," Lillian explained, handing
him an envelope.
They remembered. How? "How would they know about that?"
"Well, I know how close you two were and you did speak to the Kents
about it. Martha insisted that we get you something nice. You can open it later
if you want, but please take it."
"Thank you and please thank them," Dave accepted. "Well, it's
almost time for the service to start...so let's get seated. Karen, you're with
me. Wish me luck with my piece."
"You've got it," Steve asserted. "Just take it easy."
Take it easy he says. Yeah right, he told himself while sitting down
with his family. Feeling a tap on the shoulder, he turned to see Cybelle sitting
"Yeah. How could this happen?" she asked, hugging him.
"You-Know-Who struck again," he noted. "How are you
"Well, all things considered, I'm okay. This is Sister Pauline, my
school sponsor. Sister, this is my brother, David."
"Good to meet you, Sister," he told his sister's older companion.
"And the same to you, David. You have our deepest sympathies,"
Pauline concurred, gripping his hand. There is great evil within you and
surrounding this place. Goddess, protect us.
"Thank you," he replied.
You're welcome. No wonder the Mother has asked me to look after you,
David. The forces against you here are great. Pauline straightened her skirt
as she prepared to listen to Stuart's address.
After his father spoke, Dave stood up and walked to the dais. But before he
could say anything, the sky grew dark. A strong wind gusted through the tented
[From inside of his head, he heard the Voice growl, She's doin' it again.
Now what? He looked beyond the tent-covered space to see his glowing
tormenter standing there. "You're not welcome!"
Everyone turned to see the witch's ghost standing just behind them.
Cybelle's eyes bulged. "Sister, protect me!"
"Ye have a gathering and left me out. For shame!" the ghost
"We've got no room for a party crasher!" Dave hissed, stomping to
the edge of the covered space. "Leave now."
"Go away!" she laughed, hitting him with a fire blast and knocking
him off of his feet.
"Dave!" Karen exclaimed, running to his side.
"Git away..." he snarled, forcing himself to stand again. "Ya're
not gonna touch 'er anymore!"
The witch released another blast, but he shrugged it off, roaring his
"I can hurt ye like this!" Lichtenfeld spat, firing past him and
destroying the still unburied urn...with the ashes inside. Once exposed, the ash
scattered on the wind, blowing away.
"NO!!" he bellowed, watching her ashes spread out across the
Pauline stared at him. It's as bad as the Mother said. He's changing. How
can I stop her without exposing Cybelle or myself?
Meantime, Dave-or actually the Child-looked around for something of use.
Spying a vial of holy water, he sniggered, "Oh, this could be fun!"
Pouring it onto a long drop cloth, he wished, God, help out. He hurried
toward his opponent twirling the wet cloth in his hand and whipped it at the
"WHAT? I felt that!" the ghost complained.
"Well, well...The bitch has a weakness," he cracked, preparing for
another swipe. Moving quickly, he struck out at the spirit again and again.
"Ya better run!"
Pauline tapped Karen's arm. "Can you sit with Cybelle?"
"Sure. But where are you going?" the high school junior agreed.
"To help David," the elder woman told her, hurrying out the side
of the tent. Once out of view of the others, she concentrated, summoning the
white magic at her command. "Remove yourself, Fiend!"
The witch fired wide on him as he stung her yet again. Then, she saw the
priestess standing to her left. "How did ye get here?"
"That doesn't matter. You've done enough!" Pauline challenged,
chanting a Celtic verse and striking out with a charge of her own.
"Scram!" he added, snapping his weapon yet again.
"Ye haven't heard the last of me!" the ghost challenged as she
"Good riddance," he growled. "This is the last straw!"
"Calm yourself," the priestess urged.
"Not until we take care of business," he asserted, hustling to the
front once again. He picked up the shattered urn pieces and watched the last ash
particles blow into the wind.
"Dave, who...what was that?" Karen asked.
"Hey, Dad, she asked about the ghost. Care to tell her about it?"
the Child asked.
"I didn't do anything," Stuart replied indignantly.
"When ya built the house, ya built it on cursed ground! Ya cursed our
family! Stupid bastard, look what ya've done to us! To me!" the taciturn
son accused. "That woman out there-she's yer ghost! She killed Grandpa and
Gram. Be a man for once! Do somethin'."
"If you know so much, then you do it!" his father retorted.
"Fine!" Dave spat back, regaining his sensibilities despite the
anger raging through him. Seeing Pauline reenter the tent, he requested,
"Can you both come with me? We've got work to do."
"What?" Cybelle asked fearfully. "You aren't thinking of
going back there."
"After I've prepared a few surprises, absolutely!" he stated,
storming out of the service and heading for the high school.
His classmates looked at each other in confusion.
"Come on. I know where he's going," Karen urged. "Steve and
April can ride with me. Frank, you go with Garth. Let's go."
After running across the town common, Dave walked into the Alvarez household
and went downstairs. So, holy things bug her, do they? Well, that's something
I can use to my advantage. In his bedroom, he started grabbing books on herb
lore and magic. While he wasn't sure if he would need them, he decided to be
ready just in case. Let's see...hmmm...well, maybe a mixture of those two
herbs would do something.
"Don't be foolish, David," Pauline lectured as she appeared beside
"What the? How did you get in here? Look, we need to take care of her!
Cybbie and I have suffered enough, all right?" he demanded, pulling bottles
of herbs from his shelf.
She glared at him sharply. "And you would have her suffer more?"
"No. That's why I'm ending this," he declared, placing the two
herbs in a bowl and grinding them with his pestle.
"Do you know what you doing?" she asked incredulously.
"Actually, I've been studying these texts. Why?"
The priestess studied them. "Impressive. Now I know why you survived
against her for as long as you did. If you're set on this, let me help you.
Follow me." She opened a mist portal. "It's safe. Don't worry."
He stepped through to find himself in a green lush place with trees and
birds singing. Women in white robes walked about and meditated serenely.
"This is a special place," his guide responded, leading him down a
path. "Come, we go to the herbery."
He followed her into a tiny hut just off the center of the village. There,
he saw rows of potted plants of different varieties and types. "Wow."
"Yes. Well, if you're going to fight her, you'll need the right
equipment," she stated, selecting four different plants. Hearing a knock at
the door, she asked, "Yes?"
A young girl in white answered, "The Mother said that you would need
this water, Sister Pauline."
"Thank you, Child," Pauline accepted, taking the gallon-sized jug
from her. "Come, David, time grows short."
He nodded, heading into the mists.
Once back in his little makeshift workshop, Pauline instructed, "That
mixture won't hold her for long. Follow my lead." She sliced off leaves
from the various plants, chanting over them as she went.
"Now, grind them," she told him.
He nodded and reduced the mix to a mashed gruel. "Perfect," he
"How you plan to get close enough to her is another matter," she
"I've got an idea," he told her, going into his closet and
grabbing his bow and quiver of arrows. "I've been practicing."
"Very nice. What's your range?" she asked.
"I can hit a target from about 45 yards," he responded, checking
his shafts and rubbing the arrowheads with the gruel mix. "I had practice
hitting trolls if you must know."
I should have known the Faerie Empress would have trained him as an
archer. "Then allow me," she requested, touching the treated
arrows and chanting. "There. Now, we must go."
"Dave, what's going on?" Karen demanded as she ran into the room.
"What's with the set up?"
"You look like you're going troll hunting," Garth guessed.
"Actually, witch hunting, Garth," Dave corrected. "I'd
appreciate it if you all stayed here."
"No dice, Dave," his girlfriend protested. "We made it
through the Pit. We can make it through that."
"I agree. Karen and Garth should come but be careful. Karen, where is
Cybelle?" Pauline asked.
"She's upstairs with my parents. Why? And who's this witch?" Karen
"I'll tell you who she is later. As for what, you know that ghost that
appeared this afternoon?"
"Yeah?" Garth replied. "So?"
"That's the witch. And guys, I agree with Pauline-be careful. She has a
cancer touch. I've lost enough to her. I'm not losing both of you," Dave
insisted, grabbing his bow. "Want to come with us or should we go with
The priestess said, "I'll go with you. Cybelle will go too. Come
As they walked out of the basement, Mr. Alvarez wondered, "What
happened? Who was that glowing woman?"
"A ghost," Dave responded, taking his sister's hand. "Come
"You're nuts," Cybelle said, criticizing the idea.
"It's the only way to contain her," her sponsor noted.
"Meantime, I'm driving," Dave noted, pointing to the Subaru.
"Bessie's leaving, so hop aboard! Garth, do you have your shotgun?"
"Hang on," Garth told him, going into his trunk. "Yeah! I
knew I left it here from my last hunting trip!" He grabbed the weapon and a
box of bullets before rejoining them. "All set."
After he got in the backseat with Cybelle and Pauline, the latter handed him
the pouch and told him. "There's some herbal paste in there. Rub your
projectiles with it."
"Trust her, Garth. My arrowheads are covered with it," Dave
advised, giving his gear one last check and allowing them to get settled.
"While you're doing that, cover the upper third of my whip too?" he
requested, handing them his bullwhip. When the group had piled in, he gunned the
motor and sped up Pleasant Street, taking a left onto Route 9 and heading east.
"Do you know where you're going?" Karen asked.
"Unfortunately, yes I do," he affirmed.
They drove through Ware and headed north along the state road. The woods
grew dark and the houses weren't popping up as frequently.
"What is this place?" Garth asked.
"The Dark Realm on Earth," Dave replied tersely. "Welcome to
The group looked around at the small town center with its old buildings.
"Is this really necessary?" Cybelle wondered fearfully.
"Remember what Grandpa said, Cybbie, face your fear," her brother
urged as they stopped just beyond the edge of the meadow. "Okay, here we
"Is this where?" Karen whispered.
"Man, Dave, now I know why the Pit didn't bother you," Garth
remarked, shaking his head at the scene in front of him. Just the sight of the
creepy meadow and the dilapidated house made his skin crawl. And you lived
here for seven years? Shit.
"Nobody comes here," Pauline added. "At least if they have
"That leaves us out. What a surprise," Karen remarked ruefully.
Garth loaded his shotgun. "Okay. I have three bullets ready and about
two dozen more rubbed up."
"Be on your guard," the priestess advised. "We're on her
"It's our ground. I aim to pay that harpy back in spades," Dave
asserted, pulling the quiver onto his back and checking the bow's tension.
"Okay, we're set. Everyone stay together and be careful. Karen, you and
Cybelle stay in back. Pauline, I guess you and Garth are behind me."
"You always get to take the point," Garth cracked.
"You know me, all guts-no glory," the archer retorted as he
stepped onto the property. "Hell Central, here we come."
The quintet crept along the tree line toward the house. Except for a few
ravens calling to each other, it was eerily quiet.
"This does bring back memories," Dave noted, stringing an arrow
into his shaft and having another ready right beneath it.
"Remember, I said this was a bad idea," Cybelle chimed in.
"Positive thoughts now, Cybelle," Pauline whispered.
"Yes, Sister," the girl concurred, albeit not convinced.
A sinister laughing greeted their ears. "Ah, company! I know ye are
"Damn it!" Dave hissed. "Get ready!"
In the clearing, they saw the witch floating just above the grass looking
around for them.
"She can't see us yet," Pauline told them. "I'm hiding us
from her, but I can't keep it up."
"Didn't we just leave this dance?" Karen sighed. "We just
killed a wizard."
"You did?" Cybelle wondered aghast. "How?"
"Yeah, Chief, tell them," Garth urged.
"He had a sacrifice and well-I spoiled it...or should I say, her,"
Dave explained, readying an arrow.
"Spoiled...who was it?" his sister demanded.
"Me," Karen revealed.
"You two...did...You beat a wizard by...?" Cybelle asked
incredulously, having problems imagining her brother actually doing the
deed...not to mention doing it in the middle of a dire situation like that.
"Uh yeah, we did. Not a peep to anyone about that one, Cybbie. I mean
it. Meantime, Garth, can you get out there? We need to flank her. You go left.
I'll go right," Dave said with an air of certainty.
"Hey, it always works, right?" his partner in crime agreed.
"Guys, be careful," Karen requested.
Having reached an agreement, the two guys left the brush running into the
field. About a quarter of the way into the grass, the spell dropped.
"Well, there ye are!" the witch exclaimed. "So rude of ye not
to say hello!" She fired off twin flame plumes.
As one, the two attackers ducked and fired their weapons in unison, hitting
"I'LL KILL YE!" she screamed, sending another burst their way.
Garth fell to the ground, singed by her blast.
"Garth!" Dave yelled even as he pumped arrow after arrow through
her form slowing her down.
"Stop it!" she growled, firing another burst and hitting him.
Dave felt his own skin burning and pain screaming at him from all parts. Just
like old times. Ignore it and give this bitch a taste of 'er own med'cine.
Across the field, the women prepared a containment area in the oak grove.
First, they poured the blessed water from the lake in a circle around one tree,
leaving it open.
Having done so, Pauline chanted a spell. "There, we're set."
Karen yelled, "Dave! Garth! This way!"
From where they were, Dave saw her waving very clearly. Time to end this.
"Hey, come on! Let's go!" Coach wanted me to run that faster
400-yard dash. Here goes. He turned tail and sprinted for the grove.
"Hey, Lichtenbitch, never mind him-I'm the one you want!"
She hissed and floated after him.
He ran as fast as he could. Still, he knew he'd never make it. Then he saw
the mists open up in front of him. Pauline's portal. Ducking through the
opening, he came out in the grove right in front of the spot. "All
"We are," the priestess told him. "Right behind you is where
we've set up the ring."
"Check," he agreed, seeing the angry spirit speed toward him.
"One more good shot ought to do it." He took out one of his
"baggie" arrows and fired.
The ghost threw flame at the projectile, which exploded and produced an
herbal cloud, blinding her. "Argh!" She couldn't stop her progress and
flew into the ringed area. At the other edge, she hit something in the air that
felt like hard glass.
"Now!" Dave urged.
Cybelle poured the last of the water, closing the ring.
Her patron chanted again, creating the prison.
"NO!" Lichtenfeld protested, running up against the invisible
walls of the mystical prison.
"There you are and there you'll stay," the priestess told the
witch. "As long as these people or any companion in their company keep off
of the grass, you're imprisoned there."
"Ye haven't heard the last of me!" the witch bellowed. "Ye
all are cursed! And yer friends!"
The quartet sighed. The witch had a point. Maybe they did contain her, but
the curse was still tied to the land. Someday, they knew she would be back.
The Child glared at the others. "An' she was right. She's still screwin'
things up. Only that she struck elsewhere."
"My mother," Lex realized.
"And my parents, not to mention the whole meteor shower," Lana
"And Pauline," Cybelle stated, staring at LaCroix.
"What are you talking about?" the Toronto Elder asked
"Ya triggered us. She pushed ya into the classroom...and got ya to
bring Mustard Boy into the picture. When ya had her and Doc Samuelssohn killed,
Croisie, ya played right into 'er hands. Now, ya're gonna help us," the
Dark One responded.
"He's right," Nick agreed. "You and I are involved, LaCroix.
We're going to help."
"As are the rest of us," Adam chimed in. "When do we
At that moment, Dave's cell phone went off. "Yeah, what?" the
"Dave? Is that you?" a familiar voice asked.
He handed the phone to Karen.
"Yes?" the nurse asked. "Who is this?"
"Karen? This is April McKenzie in Amherst."
"Uh, April, this is kind of a bad time. What is it?" Karen stated.
April continued, "I just got a call from Sam Winters in Ware.
Apparently, that ghost is back and doing damage in Rowenshire."
"We know. She's struck elsewhere too. Look, we'll be there soon. Hang
in there," Karen advised.
"You know that we aren't that far from there! If she gets across the
reservoir, Pelham's right there and we're next!" April panicked.
The Child sighed. Time to come out, Big Bro. He triggered the change
Dave motioned for the phone. "April, it's Dave. We're leaving as soon
as we can for there. Listen to Karen...It's okay."
"If you can't keep control, what can we do?" she asked.
"I don't necessarily need to keep control. I just need to be composed
is all and count on...well...You Know Who to behave himself. Go talk to your
priest. Tell him to get ready. I'll call when we're about thirty minutes
out," he assured her.
"Okay...thanks, Dave. I'll let Father Richard know," she
concluded, hanging up.
He ended the call and told them, "Okay. We have to get up there. Angie,
Francesca, I need you to stay here and find Xena and Gabrielle. When you do find
them, have Deirdre pop them up to Wabash. We'll meet you there. Meantime,
Brennan, Jesse, Emma, Adam, Nick, LaCroix, Eve, and Cybelle are with me in the
Double Helix. Martin, you, Mika, Miranda, Lana, and Clark are coming too.
Everyone else is staying here and waiting for the signal."
Nick concurred, "Janette will keep an eye on things here in the
meantime. Let's go."
With that, the group went in their assigned directions. Angie and Francesca
headed for their car to check on the twins before their trip. The majority of
the students resigned themselves to yet another waiting game as they watched the
Double Helix take off into the night sky, heading east.
As the ship vanished from their sight, Chloe asked, "Do you think
they're going to be all right?"
"They have to be," Lex affirmed, hugging her shoulders. "For
all of our sakes."
Shalimar added, Come on, gang. We gotta be on our toes."
The witch's ghost surveyed the area with satisfaction. For too long ye
imprisoned me. Now ye pay. She set the old general store ablaze and laughed
wickedly. That's a sign that I'm back. Gliding over the street, she felt
the townspeople's presence at the little church. Fools! Combined with the
damage to the other little towns close by, this was satisfying.
The congregation panicked when they saw the glowing woman coming toward
them. Abandoning their worship, they fled to their cars, speeding away for their
Run, fools. That's right...just like the cowards ye are. She cast an
eye to the west and her smile widened. "Soon other guests will be coming,
and I want to be ready for them."
Brother Tony stood by the entrance to his church and looked around
anxiously. Only an hour earlier, Angie had called him, asking for him to meet
her there. He guessed this was related to the circumstances going on to the east
of there. What else could happen? "Where is she?"
"Relax, Brother," a familiar voice advised.
He turned to see the mists hanging behind him. From them, the familiar trio
of Xena, Gabrielle, and Deirdre stepped into view. "Xena!"
"Hello," the warrior greeted. "You got Angela's message.
Good. The others will be here shortly."
"How?" he asked. Looking up to the night sky, he saw the Double
Helix drop its stealth cloak and descend close by to them. "That's the ship
from the night of the fire!"
"Yes it is," Gabrielle agreed. "Did you get everything that
she asked for?"
"I have some things here," he noted. "I talked to Father
Richard in Amherst. He's getting the rest of what we need and will meet us at
the McKenzie residence."
"Great," Xena stated as they ran up the ramp. "Great timing,
"Thank Auntie," Deirdre noted.
"Let's go!" Dave indicated. "She's knows we're coming."
The minister looked around as he settled into a seat. "Who are you
talking about, David? What are you all doing here?" He glared at LaCroix.
"This isn't my idea of a good time either," the General countered
"Stop it, Lucius," Eve interceded.
"Who are you talking about?" Brother Tony insisted.
"Anne Lichtenfeld's ghost," Dave stated while checking his
equipment. "The eighteenth century witch and her curse."
"What does that have to do with us?"
"The fire, Brother, for one thing," Eve noted.
"And a whole host of other things," Jesse added from the
"So do you have a theory how we deal with her, Dave? I have to admit
that magic isn't my forte," Adam inquired.
"We confront her and send her soul to the next world," Cybelle
replied. "I agree with Dave, enough's enough."
"And have Eve and the clergymen bless the property to cut off her power
source," Dave added. "Once that's done, we'll have to move the
"Move the fight?" everyone chorused.
"If I fight her here, it's at best a neutral court and at worst, she'll
have a slight advantage. But in Tucson, both of my sides are at their
peak," the medievalist continued.
"Should we be fighting her there? What about all of the people?"
"West of the city will be fine," Dave noted.
"Where we fought the trolls?" Brennan guessed.
"Exactly," Xena agreed. "I like the idea. That still leaves
the protective field around the city."
"Right," Cybelle concurred, strapping herself in. "Let's
The pilot pushed a couple of buttons, closing the hatch and taking off for
Brother Tony glanced out the front window. "Gracious me! That's
"You wanted speed, Brother," Adam told him. "You've got
"Thanks for that, my friends," the minister accepted and sat down
beside Dave. "How are you doing?"
"Hanging in there and getting ready to pay her back. The last time we
met, she tried to take a shot at Angie. I'm not letting it happen again."
"It's true," Xena agreed. "And I'm with him." Recalling
her dealings with Alti, she hissed, This stinks of her too. The denial of
love is the worst punishment there is.
"Amherst coming up!" Emma noted several minutes later.
Lana winced. "The fear and pain! I can feel it coming from close
Clark tried to comfort her, wishing he could do something.
Dave snarled, "She's calling us out! Damn her!"
[From within his head, the Child screamed in rage. "Ah'll skin that
"Where do we land?" Brennan asked.
"On the town green," Karen indicated.
"Right," the electrical mutant responded, lowering their transport
to the grass. "Okay, everyone out."
"Be careful. She could have something waiting for us," Cybelle
As the group left the Helix, they found a woman and the minister from the
funeral-Father Richard-waiting for them.
"April? Father Richard?" Karen asked.
"Karen! Is Dave with you?" April wondered, embracing her friend.
"Yeah, I'm here," Dave told her, holding his head and gritting his
Father Richard studied his face and asked, "Are you all right?"
Dave looked up to the night sky. He could hear something-a sound, almost
like a siren dirge coming from the east. "No...Ah...I'm not."
"What is it?" Emma asked, rubbing his shoulder.
Deirdre heard the sound. "Auntie?"
"She's calling to your father...or rather, the Child," the high
priestess stated. "I feel it too."
"It's more like irritating us both," he corrected savagely.
"Come on, let's get to your house, April."
"Sure," she agreed. "This way."
"Jesse, you and Brennan stay with the Double Helix. The rest of us will
go with the others," Adam instructed.
With that, they all walked across the grass to a medium-sized house just
touching the edge of the square.
"Please come in," April invited. "My parents are in New Haven
with my aunt, but wish you luck. Sam, I'm back!"
Sam staggered wearily through the door, but managed a smile. "Dave,
Karen, thank God...."
Xena caught him just before he hit the floor. "I got you. You're
"Thanks. Dave...you know, I'm sorry...I doubted you while we were at
APRHS together," Sam apologized.
"It's okay," the medievalist assured his classmate, helping the
latter to the couch. "What happened?"
The man took a sip of tea as he settled onto the couch. "Well...I was
getting out of work in Ware at four as always. I started up Route 32 out of town
and about five miles east of where your creepy joint is, Dave, the sky turned
dark. Then I see this stream of cars pouring onto the road ahead of me at
breakneck speed. By now, I'm wondering what's going on. So, I turn left and head
toward Rowenshire. There, this glowing woman's pointing at the general store and
it starts to burn. She's laughing manically. As she saw me, I tried to pull away
but this big black thing got in my path. It scorched the side of my car, but I
got out of there. Dave, is that the witch?"
"That's her all right," the historian agreed. "As for your
black thing, was it eight feet tall with horns, a tail, and covered with
fire?" Seeing the injured man nod vigorously, he continued, "It's her
sidekick. Most witches use an animal. Lichtenfeld has a pet demon."
"You know that thing?" Sam gasped.
"That thing used to torment us as children," Cybelle stated.
"Dave survived several encounters with it."
["And we wanna crack at it!" the Child claimed.]
You'll get it; don't worry, Dave advised his counterpart. Chill out.
"I'm guessing that you just don't walk in and take on a demon and a
witch at the same time. So now what?" Jesse wondered.
"We may have to...or lure it out first," Dave noted, looking at
the other with a sinister expression.
"Utter foolishness," LaCroix criticized.
"And you have a better plan, I suppose?" Nick interjected.
"Besides, none of you except for Cybelle and Clark, has felt dark fire.
That thing is made from it," Dave explained. "I'm used to it. Besides
the Child and I both owe it and that harpy."
"I'm invulnerable. I should take a stab at it," Clark urged.
"Not to that stuff, you aren't. You have a soul, so you're vulnerable.
However, when the time comes, I'll need help to get it into position. We'll drop
it in the reservoir and put it out," Dave argued. "That'll take a team
effort and we'll do it tomorrow night. Right now, it's coming on for 5:00 and
we're due for sunrise. April, can we sack out here for today?"
"Sure. I was going to suggest that," April agreed.
"Meantime, Deirdre, you and I need to get back to Althanor and
prepare," Cybelle said.
"Okay. See you tonight, Papa. Feel better. Bye, everyone!" Deirdre
agreed, opening a portal and jumping through it.
"You heard your daughter, Dave. I'll be by later," his sister
advised, giving him a hug. To the others, she instructed, "Watch him."
With that, she vanished into the fading mists.
"And I'd like to talk some more with Brother Tony," Father Richard
commented before leaving with the other clergyman.
April shook her head as she showed the others to their rooms. It's been a
long night and tonight will be just as bad.
The Faerie Empress walked away from the view crystal, considering how to
nudge the party onward in a positive manner. In particular, David now feels
the weight of his past. Will he own up to the challenge? Can he deal with
Lichtenfeld and her demon? Feeling a presence, she turned to find Grimwilkin
standing there. "Grimwilkin! What may I do for you?"
"My lady," the wizard expressed as he bowed slightly. "I have
seen the events unfolding in the Outer World."
"We cannot intervene," she replied flatly. "I guess that
Ferali wishes to, but this is David's battle. I will not risk that sorceress's
evil coming into these realms."
"I see," he said, an air of glumness hanging over his elderly
"Still, be ready. If David and his allies fall, we will need to step
in," she asserted. "As a last resort."
He nodded and bowed again before departing. She's right. This is David's
battle to win or lose. Still, I do wish that we could do more for him.
Inside of the Double Helix, Mutant X slept uneasily for the most part, their
dreams haunted by their friend's concerns.
About 8 AM, Emma gave up trying to rest and sat up. There's so much
tension and anger in the air. How can anyone stand this? She rubbed her
head, trying to shut out all of the negativity.
"Hey," Adam said, rubbing her shoulder with concern.
"Yes?" she sighed dejectedly.
"How are you doing?" he asked.
"Not good. There are so many bad feelings around us. I've tried to shut
them out, but I can't," she explained. "I hope Martin's helping Lana
"I'm sure he and Clark are standing by her," he assured her.
"I'm still concerned about Dave though. Can you tell how he stands in terms
of the Other?"
"The Child is active inside of him, Adam, but they aren't fighting each
other. Believe it or not, I'm sensing concern and indignation from the Child
persona. He's assumed the Protector role again. When we go to Rowenshire, that
role will be tested. It will be the Child who confronts the witch. How big an
influence Dave has on him will determine our success," she explained.
"I think that's why Dave wants to move the fight out of here as soon as
"So, his theory is true," he realized.
"I think so. From what I'm feeling, I can tell you that fighting her in
Tucson will be different than fighting her here. And once we get to town, Dave
will be fighting his feelings for the place as well. The memories are flowing
through his mind. They're so overwhelming. The pain, Adam, I just can't believe
the pain he's feeling."
He embraced her and sighed. This will be our hardest challenge yet. We
have to win it. There's no choice.
Dave finally fell out of bed after tossing and turning for most of the day.
The headache was worse now than it had been the night before. He threw his
sweats on and walked down the hall to the bathroom, where he stared into the
The Child scowled back at him.
["Now what?" Dave wondered.]
["Not yer fault," the Other stated. "Ya'll hangin' in
["Barely, but yeah, I guess."] He threw some water on his face.
[The reflection nodded, urging, "Go to the cem't'ry. Trust me."]
["All right," Dave agreed.] He walked back to the room where he
changed into his jeans, leaving the sweatshirt on and throwing on his
As he headed down the front stairs, April called to him, "Dave, you're
"Yeah...I guess," he muttered, rubbing his head. "It still
"From what Karen told me, I can imagine. The others are up and in the
back. Want to join us?" she invited.
"Later. Right now, I need to make a stop at the cemetery," he
stated, waving his hand and opening the portal.
"Should you be doing that stuff with everything else going on?"
"Why not? She knows we're here, April. Anyhow, I'll be back," he
told her, disappearing into the mists.
He hasn't changed. He still feels like he has to carry the world on his
shoulders. Dave, when will you realize that it isn't just your fight?
Meantime, the other companions sat in the covered gazebo, munching on some
sandwiches and trying to compose their thoughts.
"When is Professor Dubois going to join us?" Clark wondered.
"He's not," Martin stated. "He just left the house."
Listening to the air for a second, he added, "He still has much to deal
"How can we plan anything if he doesn't talk to us?" Brennan
Nick looked to the dark skies. It's not even 5:00 and already it's pitch
black. This will be a long night indeed.
"Just as well. If he wishes to pout, let him," LaCroix chided.
Xena drew her sword, holding the point in front of his face. "You, shut
up. Keep pushin' us and I'll deal with you myself!"
"Xena, Lucius, stop it!" Gabrielle interceded.
"If you could feel the pain, you'd understand," Lana pointed out,
rubbing her head. Although she had taken aspirin throughout the day, she still
felt the pressure from the environment. In addition, she felt as if the
negativity were soaking into her.
Before he could intercede, Nick felt a familiar presence with them. He
looked into the yard to see a woman in white armor standing there and recognized
her immediately. "Lana, look."
When she did so, the teenager couldn't believe her eyes. "The witch,
"No," Martin replied, assuring them. "She has no negativity
to speak of."
"Nor would she, but what is she doing here?" the former Crusader
asked, walking out the screen door. As he approached her, he asked, "Jeanne
"Yes, Nicolas," the angel replied with a firm smile and a
determined look in her eyes. "I have been sent to reassure you and David.
Now come, we must help your friend. Fly to the cemetery."
"Excuse me, Ma 'am," Lana inquired. "How did you get
Jeanne smiled. "As I said, I was sent. My presence was directly
requested by his grandfather and...the Dark One himself."
"The Child sought you out?" Emma asked. Why would he do that?
"Yes. He came to us, wanting to stop David's pain. For him to do so,
the situation has become dire indeed," the Maid agreed, disappearing into
the air. "Come, Nicolas."
Nick reassured the others, "I'll be right back." With that, he
took off heading toward the cemetery.
Dave stepped out of the portal by the entrance to the cemetery. It's so
eerily quiet here. I wonder why? He morosely made his way through the rows
of stones and markers until he stood in front of his family's combined stone.
"Hi, everyone," he told them, dusting off the area. "Well, you
know why I'm here. The time we knew would come has come. Sometime tonight,
Cybbie, Karen and I will be leading the troops back to that hellish place again.
I promise you-I will stand up to the pain, I will do you proud. And I will clean
up Dad's mess once and for all."
The wind blew stiffly through the necropolis, sending shivers up and down
his spine and ripples of resentment through him.
"Am I to be alone then? Will you all refuse to stand by me?" he
bellowed, the tears falling from his cheeks. "Why is to me that this task
falls? WHY?? CAN'T I EVER JUST LIVE IN PEACE?"
Then he felt a cold empty spot beside him. "Nick, I wanted to think,
The former detective shrugged. "I know, but there was somebody who
wanted to talk with you."
"Who?" Dave asked incredulously. Seeing the angel appear, he
stared at her.
Jeanne smiled. "Do you remember me, David? Think back to your childhood
The medievalist did so. Then he remembered. On the night after his
grandfather's death, a woman illuminated in light intervened, stopping
Lichtenfeld's familiar from beating on him and his sister. He fell to his knees
in amazement. "You're the angel who saved us."
"I was sent to guide you. You, David, saved yourself and your siblings.
You've always been strong. You cannot falter now. Rise," the Maid
He slowly got up on his feet and looked her in the eye. "Thank you. But
how did you know? Nick, did you?"
"No. I didn't. You won't believe who did," Nick indicated.
"Ah did," the Child noted, appearing as the dark image in front of
the trio. "Ya'll needed help. Ah asked fer a truce. Ah won't let ya chicken
out like this! We gotta do it! Together!" He considered the angelic woman.
"Ah still don't like ya, but if ya can help 'im, thanks."
Jeanne pondered the statement. Take it as a compliment. For him, that's
about as good as it'll get. She nodded, accepting the Child's words for the
moment. "Now you need to rejoin your friends. The witch strikes out yet
again and we need to stop her." She held up her hand and a sword appeared
in it. "For the tasks you've endured and will undergo, this is for
Dave's eyes grew wide and he stammered nervously, "I...I...Thank
you...But I'm not worthy of this."
She advised, "You are certainly worthy. Now, stand up for others even
as you stand up for yourself. Remember, fight alongside your allies. Alone, you
cannot win. With them, you will all triumph."
"I shall," Dave accepted. "Thank you all. Coming, Nick?"
He opened another portal. After his friend stepped through, he followed but not
before giving the angel one last smile of gratitude.
You have the strength within you, David. Just use it, she thought
before fading into the gloom.
A minute later, the duo stepped back into the McKenzie living room. The air
still hung heavily about them.
Dave, however, felt more confident about himself than he had earlier. While
the high pitch in the air still bothered him, he was able to focus on the task
at hand. Let's get this over with.
Brother Tony looked up from where he was reading in the corner. "You're
both back! Praise be! We were worried."
"I needed to meditate a bit before we left. My head's a little clearer
now," the medievalist assured him. "And a few words from an old friend
helped as well."
"We had a miraculous visitor here," the minister told him.
"Jeanne d'Arc. Yes, she came to the cemetery as well. After one of her
motivational speeches, I'm ready to take on the world such as it is," Dave
"She has that effect on people," Nick agreed, rubbing his friend's
He started to reply but felt something else coming from Rowenshire. "Geez!"
he winced, hurrying to where he sensed the others. Arriving there, he looked
around. "Any demon figures around?"
"Hello to you too, Dave," April teased. "Where have you
"Dealing with personal issues," he told the hostess.
"Not here but close by," Martin stated.
"The emotional pain level's rising as well," Emma reported,
"from east of here."
"I'll second that," Lana agreed. "Are you all right,
"All things considered, Lana, I'm okay," he replied. "Are we
set to move?"
"Give the word," Xena stated grimly. "By the way, nice sword.
Where did you get it?"
"The angel gave it to me. I can't believe it's her sword!" the
medievalist told her, a grin on his face.
"You did kill Dijon, you know," Nick suggested. "I think that
might have something to do with it...."
At that moment, they all heard a wicked chorus within their minds.
First, a loud headache-causing bestial roar echoed through their heads.
Then, they heard a sharp laughter....
Finally, they picked up on the familiar banshee wail coming from the Child.
Dave took a deep breath. "The Child just answered the RSVP. Let's move
Karen stood up and thought. This is it. "We'll be back, April."
April nodded, calling, "Good luck, everyone! Put a stop to it!"
"Lord willing," Brother Tony commented.
"And Eli," Eve added as they hustled out the door.
Minutes later, the group had assumed their places on board the Double Helix.
"Let's go!" Adam commanded.
Brennan punched some buttons sending the craft streaking eastward.
Here goes nothing, Dave thought as they watched Amherst disappear behind
them and looked ahead to the darkness. In his hands, he ran his fingers over the
flat of the shiny sword blade. May I do justice to this sword in the battle
Whatever happened next would change everything.
THE END (for now)
(**I wanted to break things here to give everyone a break before launching
into Part II-which is "The Dark Wood" (working title). That one will
be coming soon! Stay tuned!**)
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