Monday, September 1, 2014
"Death Undone" (R) - Chapter One
A pair of dark eyes fluttered briefly before they snapped wide open. Piper Halliwell glanced around and saw trees of different variety, scattered across a sprawling green lawn. To her left, a wide lake shimmered under the bright sun. She seemed to be in the middle of a park. Piper glanced down. And she seemed to be sitting on a black, wrought-iron bench.
What the hell was she doing at the park? Piper recalled being at the Halliwell manor . . . inside the kitchen. She had been standing near the basement's doorway, waiting for the plumber to rea . . .
"Oh my God!" The Charmed One shot to her feet. "Oh my God! I'm dead!" Now she remembered. She remembered being caught by surprise when the plumber stuck a knife into her heart. Seconds before her death, Piper watched the plumber transform into a man with graying curly brown hair that framed a U-shaped face. Darryl had been wrong about the identity of Cole and Olivia's killer. That plumber, obviously a shapeshifter, had killed them and not some alternate version of Olivia. However, she found it odd that the killer had used a gun to murder Olivia.
Piper realized that she had other matters to contemplate. For example, where exactly in the hell was she? If she was dead, why did she end up in this place and not the Whitelighters Realm? Two, her death meant that the Power of Three no longer existed. She doubt there was a second half-sister waiting in the wings to re-create the Charmed Ones. How would Phoebe and Paige deal with more powerful demons that require the Power of Three to vanquish? Help from the McNeills? Piper considered the idea and realized the family was powerful and smart enough to help her sisters. Yet, considering their reluctance to hunt and kill demons on a regular basis, Piper wondered how often they would be forthcoming in offering their help.
The biggest concern that occupied Piper's thoughts was her son. Who would take care of Wyatt? With a sigh, the Charmed One assumed that her sisters would do the job. But for some reason, Piper could not see Phoebe and Paige as surrogate mothers. Merely as indulgent aunts. And what if Leo decides to take Wyatt to the Whitelighters Realm? Piper did not know if she liked the idea of her son being raised by the Elders. The Charmed One heaved a sigh. As she prepared to sit further back into the bench, a surprise awaited her. Her son materialized on her lap, looking as bewildered as she had felt a few seconds ago. "Wyatt!" Piper encircled her arms around the toddler. "My God, Wyatt! You're dead!"
The one year-old squealed, as one of his pudgy hands grabbed Piper's sleeve. Now, the Charmed One felt truly frightened. Within a space of a week or so, someone – probably a demon – has killed three powerful witches and an even more powerful half-demon. Who would be next? One of her sisters? Both of them? The McNeills? Scott?
Feeling slightly restless, Piper stood up, gathered Wyatt into her arms and began to walk. She walked for nearly ten minutes. Upon reaching a cluster of small hedgerows, the Charmed One heard faint voices from behind one bush. Voices that sounded very familiar. She paused in her tracks. When a husky laugh reached her ears, Piper became very curious. Still holding Wyatt, she marched around the hedgerow and came upon a couple stretched next to each other on the grass, engaged in a deep kiss. Piper took one look at the woman's red curls and cried out, "Olivia?"
The couple ended their kiss. They drew apart and sat up to stare at the Charmed One. Cole's forehead crinkled into a frown. "Piper? What are you doing here?" Then his gaze fell upon the toddler. "And is that . . .?"
"Wyatt!" Olivia and Cole rose to their feet. "Goddess! Did she kill you two?"
She? Piper frowned at the couple. "Wait a minute. You mean to say that a woman had killed the both of you?"
"Who killed you and Wyatt?" Cole demanded.
Piper opened her mouth to answer, when she spotted a slender man dressed in a white linen suit approaching them. "Oh God," she murmured. "You see that guy? He almost looks like Mr. Roarke from 'FANTASY ISLAND' in that suit."
"Except Mr. Roarke wasn't black," Olivia added.
Sure enough, the newcomer possessed skin with a café au lait color. His prominent cheekbones accentuated wide, dark-brown eyes. "Greetings!" the man declared. He paused before the Charmed Ones and her companions. "Welcome to the Dagda Dimension."
"The what?" Piper demanded.
The man explained that the two witches, the half-demon and Wyatt had all ended up in the afterlife. "To Wiccans such as yourselves, this place would be known as the Summer Land. A place where the spirits of the recently dead end up before being reborn or moving to another level of existence. Or, you can call it the Underworld."
"Underworld?" Piper recoiled at the word. "We're in the demons' dimension?"
A heavy sigh passed from the man's lips. Olivia coughed slightly. "Um . . . for Piper, the Underworld is the . . ."
"Yes, I perfectly understand Miss Halliwell's view on the Underworld," the man replied in a slight, caustic voice. "She believes that it is some kind of demonic dimension . . . instead of a region for the recently dead." Another sigh left his mouth. "This is going to take a while." Piper felt a wave of embarrassment wash over her.
Cole asked, "What is going to take a while?"
A cryptic smile curved the man's lips. "Determining your future. Shall we go?" Before Piper and the Turners could reply, he teleported them all away from the park.
Ascaroth crossed the main foyer of his mistress's elegant manor and opened the front door. Before him stood Lohdon, the head of the Fornost Order. The tall and slender daemon gave the minion a nod. "Ascaroth, is Nimue available?"
"Yes, I believe she is tending her garden at the moment." Before Ascaroth could finish, the other daemon started to brush past him. "However, Nimue is not accepting any visitors at the moment."
Lohdon sighed. "I can only assume that Belthazor's death must have struck her rather hard," he commented. "Understandable. He was her son, after all." Ascaroth remained silent. Loyalty to his superior prevented him from admitting any hint of emotion on his mistress' part. Despite his death two years ago, the Source's policy regarding any display of emotion has yet to be disregarded by many of his former subjects.
Ascaroth politely replied, "Perhaps I can schedule a meeting for you, Lohdon. At a time when Nimue would be more availa . . ."
"I need to her. Now."
Holding back a sigh, Ascaroth allowed Lohdon inside the manor. He led the older daemon past the foyer, along a hallway, into one of the drawing rooms and past a pair of double doors that led to a stone paved terrace and the garden beyond. There, they found Nimue grimly tending a bush filled with blue Terellian roses. Ascaroth coughed slightly. "Pardon me, Nimue."
The titan-haired demoness glanced up and glared at her minion. "What is it, Ascaroth? I made it quite clear that I did not wish to be disturbed."
Lohdon stepped forward. "I let myself in, Nimue. I have some disturbing news from the mortal world."
For a long moment, Nimue stared at the brown-skinned daemon. Then she rose to her feet and wiped the soil from her hands. "What news?"
"One of the Charmed Ones is dead," Lohdon grimly announced. Ascaroth inhaled sharply. "Someone had stabbed her . . . inside the sisters' home."
Ascaroth wondered if Lohdon had just referred to Nimue's former daughter-in-law.
"You mean to say that the Power of Three is broken?" Nimue demanded. "Which sister is dead?"
Lohdon replied, "The oldest one called Piper." He paused momentarily. "Her son is also dead."
Confusion whirled in Nimue's eyes. "How is that possible? It's known that the boy possessed a deflecting ability that makes him difficult to kill." She paused. "Unless . . ."
"Unless the boy's powers were stripped. Like Belthazor." The moment Ascaroth spoke, all eyes fell upon him. Nimue seemed offended by his reminder of her son's death. "Oh, uh . . . I mean . . ."
Fortunately, both Nimue and Lohdon ignored him and continued their discussion. "You know what this means, don't you?" Lohdon added. "Sooner or later, this being – whomever he or she is – will eventually come after us."
A confused Ascaroth found the courage to speak up again. "Why?" He turned to his mistress. "No disrespect Nimue, but this killer has not come after any of us. Why should we have to worry?"
As Nimue opened her mouth to respond, a tall figure materialized into the middle of the garden. Gasps filled the air. A brief second passed before a dagger appeared in Ascaroth's hand. In one fluid motion, he flung the dagger at the stranger's heart. The latter deflected the weapon with a wave of his hand and it fell to the ground.
The stranger approached the three daemons. Like them, he resembled a human – a tall and slender, pale-skinned male with close-cropped dark brown hair. His thin face was accentuated by high cheekbones and piercing pale blue eyes. His gray suit filled his figure like a glove.
"Who are you?" Nimue demanded. An energy ball formed above her right palm.
The stranger smirked. "Your magic will be ineffective against me." With a flicker of his hand, Nimue's energy ball dissipated. "Now that we have dispensed with this nonsense, we need to talk."
Nimue angrily repeated her question. "Who in the bloody hell are you?"
A long pause followed before the man coolly answered. "My name is Vadriel." Ascaroth inhaled sharply. The name struck a familiar chord in his memory. Judging from Nimue and Lohdon's reactions, they also recognized the name. Vadriel happened to be one of the dominion spirit Carnesiel's dukes. The daemon never had any previous experiences with dominion spirits or their dukes, but he was well aware that they existed on a higher plane than the average daemon – including the Source and possibly even Belthazor. The dominion spirits and their dukes did not represent good or evil. They did not take sides.
Lohdon cleared his throat. "What can we do for you?"
"I need to speak with all of you," Vadriel replied. "About an important matter."
Nimue and Lohdon exchanged wary glances. "We're all here," Ascaroth's mistress said. "What do you want?"
Vadriel added, "No. All of you. And that includes the remaining Halliwell witches and the McNeills. And perhaps a member or two of the Gimle Order."
"Why?" Lohdon demanded.
Before the duke could answer, a loud clang reached Ascaroth's ears. It was the bell to the manor's front door. The young daemon cleared his throat. "Pardon me." He teleported from the garden and reappeared in the manor's foyer. Upon opening the door, he found Lohdon's tall and wolfish-looking aide standing before him. Ascaroth sighed. "Guldur. Are you here for Lohdon?"
A closer look into the other daemon's eyes revealed genuine fright. The sight rattled Ascaroth. "Is Lohdon here?" the other daemon demanded in a tight voice. "I have some news."
"What news?" Ascaroth demanded.
Guldur sharply retorted, "This is urgent, Ascaroth! I need to see him now!"
Ascaroth felt a shaft of fear, as he led his colleague through the manor and toward the garden. The found Nimue, Lohdon and Vadriel sitting in lawn chairs . . . in silence. Which Ascaroth found odd.
"Lohdon, I have grave news!" Guldur declared. The two daemons and the duke stood up. Guldur continued, "Angmar of the Beren Order; Gudrún of the Gondolin Order; and the Arda Order's leader, Finwë; have all been killed! Murdered!" Both Nimue and Lohdon looked horrified by the news. Ascaroth not only felt their horror, but fear also threatened to overwhelm him. The three murdered daemons had been leaders of their demonic orders . . . and strong supporters for Lohdon's campaign to become the new Source.
Valdriel turned to Nimue and Lohdon. "Now will you do as I ask?'
The Whitelighters Realm
Screams poured from one of the chambers within the Whitelighters Realm. Elder Natalia Stepanova and a whitelighter named Geoffrey Kwon paused in their tracks. They exchanged uneasy glances. "What was that?" Kwon demanded.
Fear tingled at the nape of Natalia's neck. "I do not know," she replied. "The scream came from Elder Odin's chambers. "I . . ."
At that moment, a tall blonde female dressed in the uniformed white robe of the whitelighters burst into the corridor. She spotted Natalia and Kwon and began to race toward them. "Elder Odin is dead! Get out! Get out no . . ."
A man with curly brown hair wearing dark clothes appeared in the corridor. An arrow stained with blood hovered above his open right hand. Before the female whitelighter could finish her warning, the dark-clad man directed the arrow into her back. She gasped aloud before falling to the ground.
"Audrey!" Kwon cried out, as he rushed toward his fallen colleague.
Natalia cried, "Geoffrey! No! Get out of here!" She raised her arm in a swift motion and attacked the intruder with a bolt of electricity. The stranger quickly lifted a hand to deflect the attack. The electrical bolt bounced back and struck Natalia in the heart.
End of Chapter One