"BRIDE OF BELTHAZOR"
Olivia, Nimue and Nathalie found themselves sprawled on the McNeills' front lawn, upon their return from the Anduin Dimension.
"Sorry," Olivia mumbled. She struggled to her feet. "I forgot. It shouldn't take us long to reach the front door."
Within minutes, the three women arrived at the manor's front door. Breathing heavily, Nathalie glared at the redhead. "I won't forgive you for this."
"You're actually out of breath from walking across the lawn?" Olivia exclaimed in disbelief.
"It was uphill!"
Nimue sharply interrupted. "Ladies! Please!"
After murmuring a quick apology, Olivia unlocked the door. The three females entered the manor and found the others inside the library. An altar that featured a silver chalice had been set up in the middle of the room. "What's going on?" Olivia demanded.
"Divination altar," her father explained. "To find Cole."
Andre asked, "Did you guys get any information on that stone I had told you about?"
"It's called Evendril's Amulet," Nimue replied. "The sapphire in the center of the amulet is used for telepathic manipulation."
"Now, why does that sound familiar?" Andre murmured. He turned away from the others and headed toward one of the bookshelves.
A very anxious Olivia hugged herself. "Okay, who's doing the spell?"
Mrs. Dubois spoke up. "I will. We've all discovered that I've had more experience in this than anyone else."
"Even more than Cecile?" a dubious-looking Nathalie asked.
The older Vodoun mambo stared at the dark-haired witch. "Believe it or not, yes. Cecile may be a natural-born seer, but I have more experience in this form of divination." She paused. "Uh, did anyone find something of Cole's?"
Nimue sighed. "Why don't you use a drop of my blood?" Everyone, except for Mrs. Dubois, stared at her. "What? I can only assume that there is nothing in this house that belongs to him."
"She has a point," Mrs. Dubois added. She glanced around. "Does anyone have a knife or something?"
Olivia disappeared from the library. A few minutes later, she returned with a dagger in her hand. She handed it to Cecile's mother. "This should do. Don't worry, I've cleaned it."
Mrs. Dubois took hold of Nimue's wrist and pricked a finger. Several drops of blood appeared on the blade's tip. Then she carefully placed the dagger on the altar's table and began to chant in the Fon language. Then she poured water into the chalice and added:
"I call upon Yemaya to reveal Cole Turner's present and future. In your name, Yemaya, I offer this blood to guide me to his whereabouts." Mrs. Dubois picked up the dagger and allowed the blood on its tip to drop into the chalice.
The surface of the chalice's water turned murky from Nimue's blood. Everyone began to lean over the altar, as the water's surface rippled for several seconds. "Hey!" Mrs. Dubois exclaimed. "I can't see!"
The moment Olivia and the others leaned back, images appeared on the water's surface. The redhead saw Cole put on a black, collar-less jacket. The images then transformed into a wedding scene, in which Cole and Idril faced a bearded man in a black robe. Other figures - Idril's minions, Olivia surmised - half surrounded the couple. "Bloody hell!" Nimue hissed. "Beren! I haven't seen him since Raynor and Avara's wedding, over thirty-four years ago."
"Where is that place?" Olivia demanded. She noticed the red boulders that dotted the landscape. "Looks like some kind of rock garden."
Nimue added in a tight voice, "Idril's estate in the Kenotês Dimension. That's where she's from. The others with her must be members of her clan."
Gweneth frowned. "You've been there before?"
"Once," the demoness replied with a sigh. "Not long after Raynor's death. When Klea was head of the Thorn Order. I believe that Idril had wanted Klea's permission for a special operation. All of the Order's sect leaders - myself included - had been invited."
Andre approached the others, holding a book. "I found some information on Evendril's Amulet. It was created eight hundred years ago by a wizard named . . ." He shrugged. "Well, you know, Evendril. The amulet seems to be a sigil, judging by the markings on the surface. And the sapphire in the center is used . . ."
". . . for telepathic manipulation," Olivia finished. She nodded.
Pointing at the images within the chalice, Andre added, "And that guy probably has it. The blond man standing behind Idril."
Olivia and the others peered at chalice's water. "That's Gary Wheeler?"
"Is that his name? He had introduced himself as Gary Whalen to us."
Jack spoke up. "Whatever his name is, someone has to get that amulet from him in order to use it on Cole."
"I'll do both," Cecile said. "After I stop Cole before he has the chance to harm us."
Nimue frowned at the mambo. "Pardon me for asking, but what exactly do you plan to do to my son?"
"Just put him to sleep," Cecile replied lightly. "For a few minutes."
Gweneth turned to the demoness. "Does Idril have any more . . . minions under her?"
Nimue shook her head. "Just those whom were shown in the chalice. And most of them are fellow kinsmen from her clan. I suggest that we allow a few 'companions' of mine to help us." An uneasy expression appeared on the face of Olivia's mother. "Don't worry. These minions are trust . . ."
Jack lifted a hand. "We understand. I think it's time that we left. Olivia, Cecile? And Gwen, of course."
"And me," Andre insisted.
Nana patted Andre's arm. "I don't think so, love. You need to recover from those stab wounds. And the loss of blood."
"I feel fine!" Andre protested.
Olivia's grandmother patted the houngan's side. He grimaced in pain. "Like I said, you need to recover. I don't heal as completely as a whitelighter. A few hours of rest and the pain will disappear."
Andre's shoulders sagged in defeat. Too bad, Olivia thought. Andre's help could have been valuable.
Idril allowed herself a brief sigh of relief, as the dark priest, Beren, conducted the marriage ceremony. She shot a quick glace at the groom. Her heart fluttered at the sight of the tall half-daemon. He looked handsome in his all-black outfit. And so damn virile.
The bride hoped that her own gown looked appropriate for the occasion. She wore a long-sleeved, lilac gown that exposed her shoulders. The gown had been purchased at the Anduin Marketplace. At least Belthazor . . . or Cole seemed impressed by it.
Images of her gown and Belthazor's suit on her bedroom floor filled Idril's mind. Along with images of their bodies intertwined on her large bed. Idril could hardly contain herself. Nearly five years had passed since the last time the half-daemon had touched her. And now she could hardly wait.
Beren's droning voice broke through Idril's thoughts. "If there is anyone with just cause who believes this couple should not be joined, speak now or be silenced forever."
A husky female voice cried out, "I HAVE JUST CAUSE!"
The bride, the groom, the priest and the guests whipped their heads around. The demoness gasped at the sight of eight figures standing on the terrace. Including a very furious Olivia McNeill.
"I SAID I HAVE JUST CAUSE!" Olivia's throaty voice rang clear with anger. Then using her telekinesis, the redhead flung the dark-haired demoness against one of the red boulders that dotted the garden. The so-called bride's body hit the ground with a thud.
Cecile's eyes briefly lingered on the fallen demoness. So that was Idril. The latter's flamboyant looks reminded the Vodoun priestess of a Vegas hustler. Her eyes then focused upon Cole. "Idril!" he cried out in anguish. His blue eyes narrowed dangerously.
Time to act, Cecile thought. She quickly sent a telepathic message to the half-daemon. "Sleep." He immediately crumpled to the ground.
One of Idril's fellow daemons, a lean, dark-haired male with odd pale turquoise eyes cried out, "Kill them!" At his command, the demoness' minions went on the attack.
A daemon flung a fireball in Mr. McNeill's direction. The middle-aged witch quickly stopped it in mid-tracks with his molecular combustion ability. The he used the same power to kill the daemon that had attacked him. Olivia hurled another daemon toward a tree, causing the latter's chest to be impaled by a large branch. One of Nimue's minions killed an attacking daemon with an energy ball. Then Cecile glanced to her left. She saw another Idril minion and the priest teleport out of the garden. Cecile allowed herself a wry smile. Apparently, the two had decided to . . .
A strong arm snaked around the Vodoun priestess' throat, causing her to choke. Before her attacker could cause any further harm, Cecile sent the daemon a telepathic message - "Pain". The daemon immediately released her neck, clutched his head as he cried out in agony. Seconds later, he dropped to the ground - dead.
Cecile heaved a sigh of relief. Then she glanced up in time to see both Mrs. McNeill and Nimue kill two of Idril's minions or cousins with electrokinetic balls. A quick glance to Cecile's left revealed a fair-haired man attempting to unobtrusively leave the battleground. It was Gary Wheeler. "Hey!" Cecile cried. She rushed toward the warlock. He spun around and lifted one hand. Cecile immediately recalled Andre's revelation that Wheeler was a warlock. She quickly raised her own hand and cried out, "Deflect!" in Fon. Wheeler's body flung back onto the ground. Cecile rushed toward him.
Unfortunately, the warlock scrambled to his feet and a fallen dagger zoomed into his hand. He growled in a menacing voice, "Bitch!" and made a swipe at Cecile. She blocked his attack with a few Wing Chun moves, turning the knife on him. The blade's tip sank into the warlock's side. He cried out in pain and fell to the ground. Cecile knelt beside Wheeler's fallen body and reached inside his jacket. She eventually found an amulet with a sapphire gem in its center. Evendril's Amulet.
Before the Voudon priestess had time to relish her triumph, she rushed back to Cole's side. A few yards away, Olivia incinerated one of Idril's minions before joining her. "How is he?" the anxious redhead asked.
Cecile replied, "Still sleeping. I just need to wake him up."
"I've got the amulet." Cecile held up the object. Then she focused her attention upon the dozing half-daemon and sent him a message. "Wake up."
Cole's eyes snapped open. A gasp escaped from his mouth, as he sprung into a sitting position. "What the . . ." he began. The confusion in his eyes cleared, as he regarded both Cecile and Olivia with hostility. "You!" he growled.
Cecile flashed the amulet in his face. His eyes went blank and she began to chant:
"With this stone will soon be linked,
Your mind to mine shall finally sync.
Follow my voice and so it will be,
Arnemetia's power be invoked here."
"Your memories of your true self and feelings will return to you. Arnemetia's hold upon you will erase as soon as you awaken."
Cecile snapped her fingers and Cole slipped back into an unconscious state. "Great!" Olivia muttered. "He's asleep again."
"Not for long." For the last time - she hoped - Cecile sent a telepathic message to the half-daemon. "Wake up." She snapped her fingers and blue eyes fluttered open.
Cole regarded the two women with confusion. "Wha . . . what the hell is going on?" he muttered. "Olivia? Cecile?"
The two friends exchanged relieved smiles. "Looks like someone is finally himself, again," Cecile commented.
Slowly, the half-daemon struggled to his feet with the two women's help. "Where the hell am I? And why does this . . .?" His eyes grew wide, as if a horrible thought had struck him. "Wait a minute. I almost became Idril's husband, didn't I? Oh shit!"
"Rather horrible to contemplate, isn't it?" Olivia added.
Noises from near one of the garden's boulders revealed Idril being forced to stand up by Nimue's two minions. "Get up!" one growled.
Her voice filled with terror, Idril protested. "Nimue! Please! You don't understand! It's not like I . . ." She broke off at the sight of Cole glaring at her. "Belthazor!" For the first time, Cecile felt a stirring of pity toward the young demoness. "Belthazor, you have to help me!"
"Just as you had helped me by hiring someone to place a spell on me?" Cecile could barely hear Cole's deadly whisper.
Nimue fixed the younger demoness with a regal glare. "Take her to Altec," she instructed her minions. "He will know what to do with her."
Idril's eyes widened in horror. "Altec? No! No, I won't . . ." Taking one of her captors by surprise, she stepped on his foot. He immediately released her arm. Then Idril jabbed him in the gut, before kicking the other minion away from her. Her eyes turned deep red, as she directed them at Cole's mother.
"No!" Cole cried out. He quickly shook off Olivia's grip and flung an energy ball at Idril. Cries of pain filled the garden as the dark-haired demoness disintegrated into a ball of light and fire.
Olivia released a gust of breath and turned to Cole. "Well! It looks as if you finally got her after all these years."
"No shit," Cecile mumbled. Then she glanced behind her and noticed a disturbing fact. Gary Wheeler had disappeared. "Oh no!" she cried. "He's gone!"
Mrs. McNeill frowned. "Who, dear?"
"The warlock! Wheeler! He's gone!" Cecile shook her head in disbelief. "I don't undertand. How did he get away?"
Mr. McNeill shrugged his shoulders. "Maybe he's a teleporter." He walked over to Cecile and indicated the bauble in her hand. "At least he doesn't have the amulet. So, let's go home."
A groan escaped from Cole's mouth. "God, how many hours do we have left until the first ceremony? With all of the messing about in my brain, I think I'm going to need a long rest."
Nimue stroked her son's cheek. Surprisingly, Cole did not resist her gesture. "Why don't you stay at the Berisa Resort, in the Melora Dimension?" the demoness suggested. "Time moves much faster there than it does here in the mortal world or where the first ceremony will be held. You will be able to acquire a few extra hours of sleep."
"I think that all of us can use a little trip to the Berisa Resort," Mr. McNeill added. "I'm exhausted."
Cecile felt tempted to accept Nimue's suggestion, but decided against it. But after nearly losing Andre, she realized that she would rather keep company with him for the rest of the night.
END OF CHAPTER THIRTEEN