Monday, November 10, 2014

"Death Undone" (R) - Chapter Two


Chapter Two

"She should have listened to me!"

Leo's grief-stricken voice caused Harry, along with Paige, Phoebe and Victor to stare at the fair-haired Elder. All of them sat inside the Halliwells' living room. A sigh left Phoebe's voice. "What are you talking about, Leo?"

"Piper. She should have listened to me." Leo stood up. While tears streamed from his eyes, he began to pace around the room. "I had suggested to Piper that she take Wyatt to the Whitelighters' Realm or the Magic School. To keep him safe. And her." He paused before adding, "And . . . you two girls."

"Thanks for remembering us," Phoebe retorted.

Paige wiped the tears from her eyes and said, "It would have been a waste of time, Leo. If the killer has Cole's powers, the Elders wouldn't have been able to protect us."

"But we don't . . ."

"Oh, for God's sake, Leo!" Victor's outburst drew stares from Paige and the others. The Halliwells' father continued to rant, "Can't you just accept the fact that your precious whitelighters can't protect everyone? They couldn't help Patty! They couldn't help Prue, Piper or . . . or Wyatt! And quite frankly, I rather doubt that any of you can help Phoebe and Paige!"

Leo's face turned red. "You're blaming the whitelighers for Piper and Wyatt's deaths? None of us had killed her, Victor! I would move heaven and earth to save my son and my wife!"

"Ex-wife!" Victor shot back. "Or have you forgotten that you had walked out on 'your' family, last summer?"

Annoyed by the two former in-laws' squabbling, Harry lost his temper. "Hey! That's enough! People we love are being killed, and you two can only express yourselves with this stupid bitchfest! Enough! Everyone stared at him, wide-eyed.

The red coloring on Leo's face deepened. Looking slightly askance, Victor Bennett opened his mouth to speak, but he closed it when several blue lights appeared in the living room. Seconds later, two men materialized before the room's present occupants. Harry recognized one of the men as Gideon, the Elder who administered the whitelighters' Magic School. He did not recognize Gideon's companion.

"Gideon!" Leo turned away from his former father-in-law to greet his fellow colleague. "What are you doing here?"

Looking extremely pale, the thin-faced Gideon merely shook his head. The other whitelighter merely stared ahead with tears streaming down his cheeks. Harry felt tempted to read the whitelighter's thoughts. But Gideon answered Leo's question before he could act. "They're gone," he said in a hoarse voice. "They're . . . all gone. All of them."

"What are you talking about?" Leo demanded. "Who's gone?"

Unable to speak, Gideon merely shook his head. Harry dismissed any rules his parents had imposed upon him about invading the thoughts of others and decided to read Gideon's mind. What he saw filled him with horror. Scenes of whitelighters being shot down by darklighters and robed Elders being killed by a middle-aged man with curly dark brown hair filled Harry's mind. "Oh my God," the young witch murmured. "They're all dead. Everyone in the Whitelighters Realm." He stared at Gideon and the whitelighter. "Except for those two."

"No, you're wrong!" Leo exclaimed, shaking his head. "That's not possible." He turned to Gideon. "Am I right? They're not all dead. Right? We're not the only whitelighters left alive. Right?"

The senior Elder sat down in one of the living room's armchairs with a heavy sigh. "There are probably some whitelighters here in the mortal world." He paused, as he glanced away. "But all of those in the Whitelighters Realm are dead. And we . . . you and I . . . we're the only two Elders still alive."
Horror filled Leo's eyes. He opened his mouth to speak, but not a sound left his mouth. Instead, he stumbled backward, until his body reached the sofa's edge and he sat down.

"What are we going to do?" Paige demanded. "Leo? Gideon? What are we going to do about the remaining whitelighters? A lot of witches are going to be in danger!"

Leo stared at his former sister-in-law with wet eyes. "Do what, Paige? What can we do? The Whitelighter Realm barely exists anymore. Olivia is dead. So is Cole. And so are . . ." He broke into loud sobs. Phoebe joined him on the sofa and began to cry, herself. A stone-faced Victor merely left the living room.

Neither Gideon or the young whitelighter seemed capable of answering Paige's question or doing anything. "Well, somebody do something!" Harry retorted. He removed his cell phone from his jacket pocket. "I'm going to call the house. Let them know that we're coming." He pushed the speed-dial button for the McNeill manor. The line rang seven times before the recorded voice of Davies, the family's manservant, answered:

"You have reached the phone number of the McNeill residence. Please leave your name, telephone number and the name of the person you wish to whom you wish to speak after the sound of the beep."

Harry frowned. Something must be wrong. His family had been at the manor, when he left two hours ago. They planned to remain behind to discuss the matter of Piper and Wyatt's killer. He disconnected the line. "I don't get it. Someone should have answered."

"What's wrong?" Paige demanded.

"No one is answering the phone," Harry replied. "Yet, no one had planned to leave today. Including Cecile and Andre. I wondered what happened."

Sounds of explosions and terror filled the McNeill manor's west drawing-room. A frightened Cecile Morell ducked behind a sofa to avoid the energy ball hurling toward her. The Vodoun priestess peeked around the sofa's edge and saw a man with curly dark-brown hair – possibly a demon – kill Mr. McNeill with a fireball. Her gaze then fell upon a blond demoness, hurling an energy ball at her. It destroyed the sofa's edge, as Cecile pulled back in relative safety.

A strong hand gripped Cecile's arm, causing her to jump out of her skin. "Cecile!" It was Andre. She sighed with relief. "Let's get out of here! Now!"

"And go where?" Cecile demanded. "Back to New Orleans? What if we're followed?"

Andre opened his mouth to speak, when his eyes widened in horror. "Get back!" He pushed Cecile behind him and flung out his right hand. Cecile saw a third energy ball zoom toward them. Then it changed course and zoomed back at the blond demoness, who had flung it. The energy ball struck her squarely in the chest, incinerating her on the spot.

"Where are we going?" Cecile insisted.

"Find Harry and the Halliwells," Andre sharply replied. "We need to . . ." Red flames engulfed the Vodoun priest before he quickly became a pile of ash.

A horrified Cecile cried out, "Andre!"

The curly-haired man smiled at Cecile. "Was he someone special to you? I'm sorry. Perhaps you can join him." He rose one hand.

A bolt of lightning hurled toward Cecile. She cried in Fon, "Deflect!" The lightning changed course and zoomed back toward the stranger. But he quickly raised his palm and the lightning once again raced toward Cecile. A strong, yet slender hand gripped her arm. A strange sensation gripped her before she found herself in the middle of the Halliwells' living room. "What the . . .?" She glanced at the hand of her savior. Who turned out to be Nimue, Cole's mother.

Paige stared at the newcomers with shock. "What the hell are you two doing here?"

"We . . ." Cecile began. She shuddered and took a deep breath. "There was an attack . . ." She broke off and sat next to Phoebe.

A tight-faced Harry brushed past Paige and demanded, "What happened? Is my family all right? I couldn't get through to anyone."

Cole's mother replied in a heavy voice, "That's because they're all dead. All of them. The McNeills, the servants, Lohdon . . ." She paused momentarily before she added in a melancholy voice, ". . . and Ascaroth. They're dead." The demoness slowly eased her body in an empty chair.

"And Andre," Cecile added before she burst into tears. Phoebe quickly enveloped the grieving Vodoun priestess into a tight hug.

Paige turned to Harry, whose face had grown considerably pale. He merely stared ahead, barely conscious of the others that surrounded him. "Harry?" The youngest Charmed One approached her boyfriend with trepidation. "Harry, are you . . .?" She broke off, as he burst into tears. Following Phoebe's example, Paige gathered Harry into her arms.

Another sigh left Gideon's mouth. "I realize that we've all experienced a great deal of . . . trauma. But we need to know what is going on." He faced Nimue with suspicious eyes. "What exactly were you doing at the McNeills' home in the first place?"

Nimue slowly lifted her face, revealing red-rimmed eyes. "To help Artemus kill the others. He needed me to remove the McNeills' protection spell," she replied sarcastically.

"You seem to find all of this a joke," Gideon retorted.

The demoness shot back,"No! Just your tone! What exactly are you suggesting? That I'm responsible for what happened to Olivia's family?"

"Then what happened?"

"Artemus." The name struck a familiar chord within Paige. "Where have I heard that name before?"

Harry wiped away the last of his tears. "I know I have," he said with a sniff. "From Cole. This Artemus is supposed to be the head of a demonic order." He frowned at Nimue. "But I thought he was in some kind of prison."

"The Stygian Abyss," Nimue corrected. "Years ago, Artemus used to be head of the Khorne Order, until he managed to anger the Source. I forgot what he had done. I do know that the Source had him imprisoned in the Stygian Abyss nearly thirty years ago. Apparently, he had escaped. How, I do not know."

A deep voice added, "With the help of a very gullible prison guard, of course." All eyes, including Paige's, riveted upon a man of medium height with a U-shaped face and dark curly brown hair. Cecile let out a gasp, as he faced Cole's mother. "Nimue. As you and the mambo can see, you cannot escape me."

"Artemus!" Nimue swiftly rose to her feet.

Gideon also stood up, as he barked, "Leo!" The two Elders immediately attacked the demon. Paige's eyes widened at the sight of bolts of lightning streaming from their hands. Unfortunately, their attack proved to be futile. The lightning merely bounced off the demon's chest . . . before striking the pair dead.

"Leo!" Phoebe cried in horror. "You son-of-a . . ." Artemus waved one hand in Phoebe's direction and she disappeared in a column of flames.

Stunned by the deaths of Phoebe and Leo, a stunned Paige stared at the spot where her sister previously stood. Harry immediately grabbed her arm and said, "C'mon. Let's get out of here." He also grabbed Cecile.

"I believe that Miss Matthews will find it difficult to teleport from this house," the demon said with a smirk. "I am blocking her."

Paige tried to orb out of the manor, but found herself unable to do so. "I'm stuck!" she cried, while trying to fight her growing panic. "I can't move!"

"Of course not," Artemus coolly replied. "Like I said, I'm blocking you." He turned to Cole's mother. "I'm willing to spare you, Nimue. If you'll consider supporting my bid for the Source's throne. You might as well do so. Your champion, Lohdon, is dead."

The demoness glared at Artemus. "I'm not in the habit of swearing loyalty to my son's killer!"

"I never touched a hair on Belthazor's head."

"Yet, I suspect that you were somehow involved," Nimue shot back. "Weren't you?"

The demon opened his mouth. "Well, all I did was hand over some vital information to a certain warlock from an alternate dimension. She was the one who . . ."

At that moment, Nimue's eyes glowed red. Then rays of light shot from those eyes and struck Artemus in the chest. The impact of Nimue's attack sent her fellow demon flying back against one of the living room walls. "Get out of here!" she cried to Paige. "Get them out! Now!"

Once more, the Charmed One tried to orb herself, Harry and Cecile out of the living room. This time, she was successful. As the trio teleported away, Paige saw Artemus raise his hand and engulf Nimue in a column of fire.

End of Chapter Two

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