Tuesday, June 30, 2015

"BOARDWALK EMPIRE" Season Four (2013) Photo Gallery

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Below are images from Season Four of HBO's "BOARDWALK EMPIRE". Created by Terence Winter, the series stars Steve Buscemi: 


"BOARDWALK EMPIRE" Season Four (2013) Photo Gallery

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Sunday, June 28, 2015

"JANE EYRE" (1943) Review




"JANE EYRE" (1943) Review

Many fans of Charlotte Brontë's 1847 novel, "Jane Eyre", are aware that numerous (probably over twenty) television and movie adaptations of it had been made over the past several decades. While perusing the Internet, I was surprised to discover that the opinion of the 1943 adaption seemed to be extremely divided. Fans either regard it as the best adaptation or the worst. There seemed to be no middle ground. 

As many know, "JANE EYRE" told the story of young 19th century English orphan who is forced to live at the Yorkshire estate of her widowed aunt-by-marriage, Aunt Reed. After a recent altercation between niece and aunt, the latter sends Jane Eyre to be educated at an all-girls school operated by a tyrannical and religious zealot named Mr. Lowood. Jane spends eight years at the school as a student and two years as a teacher. She eventually leaves Lowood School after she is hired as a governess for Adèle Varens, the French-born ward of a mysterious landowner named Mr. Edward Rochester. Not long after her arrival at Thornfield Hall, the Rochester estate, Jane meets her enigmatic employer. It does not take long before Jane and Rochester's relationship evolve from employee/employer to friends, before it eventually becomes romantic. However, a possible romantic rival for Jane and a secret in Thornfield's attic prove to be major obstacles in the road to romance for the young governess and her employer.

So . . . how does "JANE EYRE" hold up after 71 to 72 years? Actually, I believe it holds up pretty well. I thought director Robert Stevenson and the screenplay he co-wrote with John Houseman, Aldous Huxley, and Henry Koster did a solid job in translating Brontë's novel to the screen. Many critics and movie fans have noted that this adaptation seemed to have convey the novel's Gothic atmosphere a lot stronger than other versions. I supposed one has cinematographer George Barnes, production designer William L. Pereira and set decorator Thomas Little to thank. However, I recently learned it was Orson Welles (who not only served as leading man, but also an uncredited producer) who had convinced Stevenson and his fellow co-producers William Goetz and Kenneth Macgowan to inject more Gothic visuals into the movie. I could not say that René Hubert's costume designs contributed to the movie's Gothic atmosphere. But I was impressed by how Hubert's costumes reflected the movie's early 1840s setting, as shown in the images below:

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I certainly had no problems with how the movie handled Jane's story through most of the film. From the opening scene in which the leading character found herself harassed by the Reed film to her disrupted wedding to Edward Rochester. I usually find it difficult to endure the Lowood School scenes in other adaptations of Brontë's novels. But I cannot say the same about this adaptation. I really had no problem with it. It could be that I was so fascinated by the performances of Peggy Ann Garner, Elizabeth Taylor and Henry Daniell that I completely forgot that I was watching one of my least favorite sequences in the story. And of course, the best part of "JANE EYRE" remained the growing friendship and romance between the titled character and Rochester. This was especially apparent in two sequences - Rochester's courtship of Blanche Ingram during his house party and Jane's confession of her love for him. 

Although I was impressed by how Stevenson and the film's other screenwriters handled Brontë's tale up to Jane and Rochester's disastrous wedding ceremony, I could not say the same about the rest of the film. In fact, it suffered from the same narrative problem that plagued several other adaptations - a weak finale. First of all, this is the only adaptation in which Jane never meets the Rivers siblings - St. John, Diana and Mary. She does meet a Doctor Rivers, who first treated Jane when she was a Lowood student. Instead of seeking refuge with the trio, Jane returns to Gateshead Hall, the home of her dying Aunt Reed. Following her aunt's death, Jane reunites with Rochester. That is it. And I hate to say this, but the entire sequence - between Jane's departure from Thornfield Hall to her return - seemed very rushed and unsatisfying.

I also have another major problem with the movie - its Gothic elements. There were times when these elements served the mysterious aspects of the movie very well. However, a good deal of these "Gothic touches" struck me as heavy handed . . . to the point that they ended up annoying me. This was apparent in Jane's first meeting with Rochester, with so much fog swirling around the pair that at times they seemed almost hidden. The worst aspect of these "Gothic touches" occurred in the scene in which Jane and Rochester confessed their love for one another. The moment the pair sealed their engagement with a kiss, a bolt of lightning came out of the sky and struck a nearby log. I mean . . . come on! Really? 

A good number of critics and movie fans did not seem particularly impressed by Joan Fontaine's portrayal of Jane Eyre. I never understood the complaints. I thought she did an excellent job. More importantly, her portrayal of the passionate, yet introverted Jane seemed spot on. What were these critics expecting? An over-the-top performance by Fontaine? Jane Eyre is not an overtly emotional character - at least as an adult. However, I am happy to note that Fontaine certainly had a strong screen chemistry with her leading man, Orson Welles. Many have stated that Welles pretty much dominated the movie. To me, that is like saying every actor who has portrayed Edward Rochester overshadowed the actresses who have portrayed Jane. Personally, I thought Welles' enigmatic and quick-witted portrayal of Rochester complimented Fontaine's more introspective performance rather well. I guess these fans and critics did not want balance . . . just two very theatrical performances.

The other performances in the movie struck me as first-rate. Agnes Moorehead, who was part of Welles' Mercury Theater company before her arrival in Hollywood, portrayed Jane's haughty Aunt Reed. And I must say that she did an excellent job in portraying the character with a not-too-shabby English accent. Henry Daniell was equally impressive as the tyrannical head of Jane's school, Mr. Lowood. But I was really impressed by Margaret O'Brien, who did a remarkable job as Rochester's French ward, Adèle Varens. I would not know an authentic French accent, if I was stuck in the middle of Paris. But I must say that O'Brien's accent was just as good as the other young actresses who portrayed Adèle. And she gave such a charming performance . . . at the age of six. 

But O'Brien was not the only child star who gave an excellent performance. Peggy Ann Garner was equally impressive as the young Jane Eyre, who had no qualms about butting heads with the haughty Reed family. Also in the film was a young Elizabeth Taylor, who gave a mesmerizing performance as Jane's doomed young friend, Helen Burns. I was surprised to discover that Hillary Brooke, who portrayed Blanche Ingram, was an American actress. I thought she was very convincing as the charmingly bitchy and very English Blanche. The movie also featured solid performances from Sara Allgood, John Sutton, Edith Barrett and Barbara Everest.

So . . . do I feel that "JANE EYRE" is the best or worst adaptation of Charlotte Brontë's novel? Honestly? I would say neither. Yes, there were times I could barely deal with the movie's over-the-top Gothic atmosphere. And yes, I found the last quarter of the film both weak and rushed. But overall, I would say that it is a pretty good film. And I believe that it still holds up rather well after 71 to 72 years.

Friday, June 26, 2015

"LOST" RETROSPECT: (5.02) "The Lie"

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"LOST" RETROSPECT: (5.02) "The Lie"

Season Five of ABC's "LOST" has always struck me as the series' Odd Man Out. It is not the first season to break the rules of the series' format. Season Four not only featured flashbacks, but also flash forwards. But Season Five seemed to be all over the place. And I believe this was due to the cast being split up for the first half of its season. 

Before I talk about the season's second episode, (5.02) "The Lie", I feel I should do a recap of what led to its events. As many of the show's fans know, at least five of the original Oceanic Flight 815 survivors made it off the island. They were Dr. Jack Shephard, Kate Austen, Sayid Jarrah, Sun-Hwa Kwon, and Hugo "Hurley" Reyes. Five others inhabitants also managed to leave - including Claire Littleton's son Aaron, who was born on the island; Desmond Hume, who had been stranded on the island for three years; former Others leader Benjamin Linus, who left around the same time as the Oceanic survivors; Frank Lapidus, an airline pilot who had been hired to join an expedition traveling to the island aboard a freighter called the Kahana; and John Locke, whose later departure would be revealed in details in a future episode. The Season Four finale, (4.12 - 4.14) "There's No Place Like Home", viewers discovered that the original five survivors, Desmond and young Aaron were floating in a Zodiac raft, when they were picked up by a yacht owned by Desmond's love, Penny Widmore. While Desmond and Frank remained aboard Penny's yacht; Jack, Kate, Sayid, Sun, Hurley and young Aaron arrived on Fiji with a cover story about Oceanic 815's crash and how they ended there. They became known as "the Oceanic Six". 

The first half of Season Five seemed to be divided into two major time period. The episodes and scenes featuring the survivors back on the island are set during the time following the Oceanic Six's departure from the island and how they dealt with the various inhabitants they encountered, while flashing back and forth through time. Rather confusing . . . eh? The episodes and scenes featuring the Oceanic Six focused on their lives nearly three years after being off the island and Benjamin Linus' efforts to get them to return. "The Lie" continued the story of the Oceanic Six during the latter period of those three years and the efforts of the island castaways to survive the constant shifts in time, which seemed to have caused a good deal of upheaval for them. 

In this particular episode, Hurley finds himself labeled as a fugitive, when the police blames him for the deaths of two men whom Sayid had killed in the previous episode, (5.01) "Because You Left". With a barely conscious Sayid as his companion, Hurley appears at the Reyes family home and seeks refuge from the police with his parents. During his stay, he reveals to the latter the truth behind the lies concocted by Jack Shephard for the media and Oceanic Airlines. Meanwhile, Jack, who is forced to deal with withdrawal symptoms, and Ben try to round up the other Oceanic Six members and John Locke for their return to the island. According to former Other and island inhabitant, Eloise Hawking, Ben has seventy (70) hours to get them on a plane for the South Pacific. In the previous episode, two men had approached Kate for a blood sample to determine Aaron Littleton's bloodline. Fearful that Aaron might be taken away from her, Kate decides to go on the run with the toddler. However, a visit from Sun-Hwa Kwon prevents her from doing so. And when Kate tells her about the two men, Sun suggests that she takes excessive steps to prevent them from taking Aaron.

"The Lie" also featured the further adventures of those castaways left behind. Unlike those who had managed to leave the island, their story is set two to three years earlier - following Ben Linus and the Oceanic Six's departure. "Because You Left" revealed that when Ben left by turning that Frozen Donkey Wheel inside the DHARMA Orchid Station, those left behind found themselves flashing back and forth through time. In "The Lie", the remaining castaways attempt to start a fire at the old beach camp. Daniel, who had instructed a past Desmond Hume to find Eloise Hawking, join the others before they are attacked by the Others with a barrage of flaming arrows. Fortunately for James "Sawyer" Ford and Juliet Burke, John Locke comes to their rescue before they can be killed.

Wow! That seemed a lot for one particular episode. Was "The Lie" supposed to part of a two-part episode with "Because You Left"? If not, one could easily describe this episode as convoluted. There seemed to be at least three . . . perhaps four story arcs going on. At least a few of the episode's story arcs seemed to relate to its title. Hurley and Sayid's stay at the Reyes home and the former's confession to his mother about the lies Jack had concocted for the media and Oceanic Airlines seemed to be one. I could also say the same about the story arc featuring Kate's anxiety over losing Aaron. And Daniel did fail to tell Sawyer and Juliet that he had instruct the past Desmond to pay a visit to Eloise Hawking. The episode's title seemed to suggest there were consequences in the Oceanic Six's lies about their survival of the Flight 815 crash, their time on the island and return to civilization. But honestly, these consequences only seemed apparent in two story arcs - Hurley's survival guilt and Kate's anxiety over losing Aaron. 

The consequences of Oceanic Six's lies seemed to stem in the episode's flashback aboard Penny Widmore's yacht, where Jack presented the story he planned to tell Oceanic Airlines and the media. There were two very interesting reactions to his revelations. Hurley seemed very reluctant to accept Jack's lies, making it clear that he found them unnecessary. But . . . being Hurley, he caved in from Jack's pressure to accept the false story for them to tell Oceanic Airlines and spent the next three years being haunted by his decision and the lies, until he finally confessed them to his mother. Another interesting reaction to Jack's suggestion came from Kate, who seemed unusually quick to accept it. Did Kate believe that his suggestion enabled her to pretend to be Aaron's mother? This seemed rather surprising to me when"LOST" was still on the air, considering that between the time she helped Claire Littleton give birth to Aaron in (1.20) "Do No Harm" and Oceanic Six's flight from the island in (4.14) "There's No Place Like Home, Part III", Kate had expressed very little interest in Claire or Aaron. Yet, nearly three years later found Kate willing to flee from Los Angeles with Aaron, due to her fear that the courts would have a legal reason to take him away from her. These two story arcs seemed to have the strongest connections to the episode's title. 

However, I had trouble making any connections between the Oceanic Six's lies and the other story arcs. If there were any connections, they struck me as a bit weak - in the case of Ben's visit to Eloise Hawking and the butcher shop that was holding Locke's body, or barely non-existent - the remaining survivors' travails with time traveling. Mind you, I found both story arcs fascinating. Ben's visit with Ms. Hawkings eventually played out in a near future episode. And the story arc surrounding those left behind on the island proved to be action-filled and very exciting. But again, their story arcs seemed to have a stronger connection to the island incidents in "There's No Place Like Home" than the Oceanic Six's lies. Speaking of the latter, I do have to give Horowitz, Kitsis and director Jack Bender for injecting a good deal of mystery regarding the island inhabitants' time traveling experiences, along with both drama and action. I am sure that many viewers were on the edge of their seats over the identities of the castaways' attackers - especially the two uniformed men who tried to kill Sawyer and Juliet.

But the crux of the episode seemed to be all about the climax over Hurley's emotional dilemma over his return to Los Angeles, along with his guilt over leaving behind many of his fellow castaways. I have rather mixed feelings about this particular story arc. On one hand, I thought Hurley's confession to Mrs. Reyes about the island seemed like an emotional payoff of his survivor guilt that first manifested in the flash forward scenes from the Season Four episode, (4.01) "The Beginning of the End". But Horowitz and Kitsis undermined this emotional payoff by having Hurley turning himself in to the authorities, after Ben Linus confronted him about returning to the island. What was the point of that? Ben gave him the opportunity to finally return to the island and put his mind at ease over leaving some of his fellow castaways behind . . . and "poof" . . . he decides to ignore Ben's offer? Even after Ana-Lucia Cortez's ghost had warned him to avoid the police?

There are some who believe that "The Lie" is an unevenly paced episode. Perhaps. I thought the episode featured too many story arcs. And if it was supposed to be the second half of a two-part episode, I wish that show runners Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindehof had not given the two episodes different titles . . . with different themes. Their actions only left me in a conundrum over whether "The Lie" is a two-part episode or not. Regardless, the opening episodes of Season Five struck me as unevenly handled, despite some very memorable scenes and performances, especially from Jorge Garcia.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

"Death Undone" (R) - Chapter Three

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"DEATH UNDONE"

Chapter Three

The three survivors of the Halliwell manor attack teleported into the foyer of the McNeills' home. Much to Harry's dismay. "Why are we here?" he demanded. 

"Sorry," Paige apologized. "It was the first place I could think of. I could take you somewhere else, if you want. Don’t worry. No bodies in here."

Harry took a deep breath. He did not want to be here. He did not want to be reminded that he was the only surviving member of his immediate family. Then an idea came to him and he quickly squelched his grief. "On second thought, not yet. I have something to find."

"Find what?"

Cecile spoke up. "How about Victor Bennett? He's still back at your house, Paige. With Artemus."
"Oh God! I forgot." Seconds later, the older Halliwells' father materialized next to the surviving Charmed One. "Victor, are you okay?"

Disbelief and horror mingled on the older man's face. "What the hell happened? What . . . what's going on?"

"Victor, I'm sorry," Paige began. "It's a long story. The demon who had killed Piper and Wyatt . . . he, uh . . . he . . ."

Impatient to search for the very item that could possibly save the rest of them, Harry blurted out, "He killed my family. All of them. He also killed Andre, Cole's mother, Leo and Phoebe."
"What?" Victor cried. "Phoebe? She's . . ."

Harry interrupted him. "Look, I'm sorry you had to hear the news this way, but we don't have time to lose. There's a chance that this Artemus might track us to this house."

While Victor grieved over the death of his remaining daughter, Harry started toward the curved staircase. "Where are you going?" Cecile demanded.

"To find Olivia's spell," Harry replied. "The one she used when she nearly killed Cole. It should be inside her French antique desk that we got from the penthouse after her death."

Cecile shot back, "Don't bother."

"What?" Harry paused on the staircase. He stared at the Vodoun priestess. "Why not? The spell is the only thing that can stop this guy. He has Cole's powers."

Shaking her head, Cecile replied, "I don't think so. In fact, I think this Artemus has Wyatt's powers."

Paige demanded, "What do you mean?"

"When . . . Artemus first appeared here and later at your home," Cecile continued, "he orbed. Like a whitelighter. I think he has Wyatt's abilities."

"Then who has Cole's powers?"

An impatient Victor retorted, "Who cares? I'm with Harry! You need to take this bastard out! And if there's a spell to do it . . ."

Harry added, "Only Olivia's spell can vanquish him."

"Harry, Mr. Bennett . . . stop! Think for a minute." The two men gazed impatiently at Cecile, who continued. "Even if we get our hands on that spell, we need the time to prepare it and set a trap for this Artemus character. We've already spent a good deal of time arguing and this Artemus is not wasting any time in hunting us down. I'm only surprised that he hasn't found us, yet."

A fifth voice added, "Your friend is right." The three magic practitioner and the Charmed Ones' father gasped at the sight of a light-brown skinned man with close-cropped hair and sharp cheekbones, standing next to Harry. "In fact, it won't be long before Artemus finds you."

"Who are you?" Paige demanded. "One of Artemus' lackeys?"

The newcomer merely smiled. "Fortunately for you, I am not. My name is Chasor. I work for what you might call a dominion spirit, whose name happens to be Maseriel. I was supposed to meet the McNeills, the Charmed Ones and two daemons named Nimue and Lohdon . . . here at this house. Apparently, I arrived too late."

"You certainly did," Cecile snapped back. "Where were you?"

Chasor shrugged his shoulders. "My apologies. I was detained. But you three are still alive and you need to deal with Artemus."

"I plan to deal with him all right," Harry retorted. "By vanquishing his ass. I can use the spell that Olivia had created for . . ."

The upper-level daemon dismissed Harry's words with a wave of his hand. "Killing Artemus will not solve the problem. If he survives, you'll be dead. If you kill him, the supernatural world will become even more chaotic. And you will never be able to retrieve the Staff of Aingeal. Lady Belthazor's killer had taken the staff into another dimension. And with Andre Morell dead, Mrs. Morell," he nodded at Cecile, "will not be able to stop the Anasi Order from becoming too powerful. You need to do something else."

"Like what?" Mr. Bennett demanded.

Before Chasor could answer, Cecile spoke up. "Go back in time." Everyone stared at her. "We need to go back in time and prevent Olivia and Cole's deaths. It's the best way."

Time travel? Harry contemplated Cecile's idea. He realized that it could be done. After all, this Artemus character would not have moved against Piper and Wyatt, if Cole had been alive. "That's not a bad idea," he finally said.

"I agree," Chasor declared. He paused, before cocking his head upward. "I have to go. I believe that my Lord Maseriel has summoned me. Uh, Mr. Bennett . . . I suggest you come with me. I’ll deliver you to a safe place. Like your family home in San Jose." He held out a hand to Mr. Bennett. The latter hesitated. "Don’t worry. You’ll be safe with me. They need to do this alone. "

Mr. Bennett sighed. "Fine. I’ll go. " He placed one hand on Chasor’s should and turned to Harry and the two women. "Good luck you three. I hope to God you can clean up this mess." He and Chasor teleported out of the room in a flash of light.

Paige cried out, "Wait a minute!"

"What's wrong?" Harry demanded.

"Get Chasor . . . or whatever his name, back here! Summon him. We need him to send us back to the past."

Cecile rolled her eyes. "Don't worry. I have a way sending us back through time."

"What we need is the Power of Three!" Paige insisted. The other two stared at her. "Hel-lo? We're talking about time travel. We don't have enough power between the three of us for a spell."

Cecile shook her head, as she retorted, "You and your sisters had some curious notions about magic. It's not always about sheer power, Paige. You also have to consider other matters – the right words, the right objects, source . . ." She paused and cocked her head.

"What is it?" Harry asked. Then he heard voices in his head. One of the voices belonged to Artemus. "Jesus! He's here! Aretemus. And a few friends."

"They must be in the drawing room," Cecile added. "Quick! Upstairs!" The two witches and the Vodou priestess rushed upstairs to the second floor. Cecile led the younger pair to her bedroom. "Before Piper and Wyatt's deaths, I had considered the possibility of going back in time to prevent Cole and Olivia's deaths. Harry, draw a circle. Use anything you can find."

Harry glanced around the room and found a yellow highlighter on the night stand on the left side of the bed. He could imagine his mother or Davies' reactions to a yellow mark on the sandalwood floor. Then he threw back the rug in front of the bed and used the highlighter to draw a circle. "Now what?"

"Here." Cecile handed over a crystallite rock to Harry. She gave a second one to Paige. "Everyone, stand inside the circle. We're each going to place one rock at the points that'll form a triangle inside." The voice grew nearer. Harry heard footsteps on the staircase. "At the count of three. One . . ."

Paige protested, "Wait! This is your spell for . . .?"

"Not now, Paige! Okay. Trust me." Cecile took a deep breath. "Take us back to March 3, 2004." 

Harry and the two women each placed their rocks at their designated points on the circle. Bright lights formed a circle around the trio. At that moment, Harry saw the doorknob move. Before the door could swing open, the lights blinded Harry; as he, Paige and Cecile disappeared into time.

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His name was Isen. And he was a daemon – a spirit guide assigned to determine the fates of Olivia, Cole, Piper and Wyatt's spirits. He led the three adults and the toddler across the park's wide lawn. They came upon what looked like a large chestnut tree. "Have a seat," he politely suggested. "The grass is clean."

The newcomers glanced at each other briefly. Then they slowly sank to the ground. Olivia and Cole sat closely next to each other. Piper, who still held Wyatt in her arms, sat opposite the couple. "So, why are we here?" the Charmed One demanded.

"We are here to determine the next destinations of your souls. Your spirits," Isen declared cheerfully. "Think of this place like a supernatural or spiritual way-station for the souls of the dead. Once you are through with me, your souls will move on to a higher existence, remain in limbo for a while or be reborn into another sentient being."

A long pause surround the group, as the two witches and the half-daemon exchanged more looks. "Why is Cole here?" Piper asked, taking Olivia by surprise. The half-daemon stared at the Charmed One. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to come off as hostile or anything like that. It's just . . . I thought all demons go to the Wasteland after they're, uh . . ."

"Killed?" Olivia finished.

Piper's face turned pink. "Well . . . uh, yeah."

Isen calmly explained, "Not all daemons end up in the Wasteland, Miss Halliwell. Belthazor had ended up there due to the fact that the Source's essence was inside his body when you and your sisters . . ."

"Okay. Yeah. I get it." Piper's face turned a deeper shade of pink. She murmured to Cole, "Sorry." The half-daemon merely responded with a brief smile. Then Piper continued, "But why . . . I mean, Mom, Grams and Prue all ended up in the Whitelighter Realm. Why didn't Wyatt and me?"

The daemon gave the Charmed One a puzzled frown. "Why would you want to end up there?" He turned to Olivia. "Did you expected to end up with the Whitelighters, Lady Belthazor?"

Lady Belthazor? Olivia shook her head and replied, "I never really thought about where I would end up. And if I have to be frank, the Whitelighters Realm is one place I do not want to be."

"You have nothing to fear, Lady Belthazor," Isen said with a twinkle in his dark eyes. "And by the way, none of Miss Halliwell's family ever became whitelighters, either. Her mother and grandmother merely became stuck in limbo in the Whitelighters Realm. As for her sister . . ."

Confusion whirled in Piper's eyes. "Wait a minute! What do you mean . . . stuck in limbo? The Whitelighter Realm is limbo?"

"For your mother and grandmother, yes. After all, they are not whitelighters. Nor have they moved on to a higher plane . . . or been reborn into new bodies." Piper opened her mouth to speak, but Isen continued, "I suppose you believe that the Whitelighter Realm is the highest plane of existence, Miss Halliwell. But from my point of view, it is relatively minor. After all, many whitelighters have failed to rise above their previous emotional state. The magic of witches, wizards and others can affect them. However, your magic would have no effect upon me, if I were to visit your former world. Not even Belthazor's powers could affect me.

Olivia spoke up. "You said that Piper's mother and grandmother were stuck in limbo. What happened to Prue?"

Isen explained that Prue's essence had been reborn into a new body. "Mind you, she had failed to achieve self-realization. But at least she learned to put her old life behind her."

The daemon's words seemed to have angered Piper. "Meaning what? Are you saying that Prue had decided to forget us? Forget Phoebe and me?"

"Once she had realized that the Power of Three would continue with your half-sister, she finally let go," Isen coolly explained.

Piper retorted, "Well, the Power of Three no longer exists without me. I'm not ready to . . . move on. I would rather be sent back."

Olivia met Cole's gaze. The half-daemon rolled his eyes. Both knew that Piper had just made a futile request. Isen verified their assumption when he asked, "Are you saying, Miss Halliwell, that you would like to be reborn into another body?"

"I want to return as Piper Halliwell," the Charmed One demanded in a clipped tone. "With me dead, there is no more Power of Three. And I doubt that I have another half-sister in existence."

Isen regarded Piper with hard eyes. Eyes that Olivia found slightly intimidating. "The Power of Three no longer exists, Miss Halliwell. Did you honestly believe that it would last forever?"

Again, the Charmed One became speechless. A slight smile curled Isen's mouth. "Of course you did. Like many sentient beings, you have great difficulty in letting go. In your case, you seemed to have raised this trait into a fine art." The daemon took Piper's silence as an opportunity to turn his attention to Cole. "And what about you, Belthazor? Do you want to return, as well? You have already done it once. And you ended up losing Miss Halliwell's sister."

Cole merely heaved a sigh and said pointedly, "I'm fine. Trust me."

"Hmmm. You have no regrets, whatsoever?"

"Of course I have some regrets," Cole retorted. Another sigh escaped from his mouth. "Sorry. I didn't mean to sound hostile. I just . . . well, I obviously made some bad choices in my life. Working for the Source . . . and other things." His face assumed a mask.

A long, silent pause followed. Then Isen added, "What about your mother? Nimue? Do you have any regrets about her?"

A sheen of frost covered Cole's blue eyes. "What about her?"

"Have you ever wondered why she had killed your father?"

Another long, silent pause followed. Unable to keep her mouth shut, Olivia said, "I've always wondered." Cole glared at her. "What? Well I have. It never made sense to me that she had waited so long to kill him. You were two months shy of your fourth birthday, when she killed your dad. I mean . . . why did she wait so long?"

"I don't . . . I don't know why!" Cole said through clenched teeth.

Isen coolly asked, "When did you plan on asking her? Or did you ever plan to?"

"I . . ." Cole paused, as he took a deep breath. "I don't know. I guess a part of me was afraid to learn the truth. My Uncle Marbus always believed that Mother had loved my father."

Nodding, Isen added, "She did."

"Then why did she kill him?"

The daemon's eyes grew opaque. "What makes you think she had any choice?"

Confusion whirled in Cole's eyes. "What are you saying? That my mother had no choice but to kill Father?" He scoffed loudly. "I find that hard to believe."

"Why? Because you would rather believe the worst about her?" Isen demanded. "Is it still much easier to believe Raynor's lies about your parents' relationship, rather than face the possibility that you had been wrong . . . for so many years?"

A speechless Cole stared in shock at the other daemon. Before he could speak, Isen directed his eyes at Olivia. Much to her discomfort. "I supposed you're going to ask me some life-altering question," she said.

"I do have one question, Lady Belthazor," Isen commented. "Why were you so reluctant to participate in the Staff of Aingeal ceremony?"

Olivia blinked. "Huh?"

"The ceremony for the selection of the new bearer of the Aingeal Staff. Why were you so reluctant to participate in it? Belthazor literally had to needle you into participating in the ceremony. Why?"

The redhead merely stared at the daemon for several moments. Then she felt a sensation . . . a feeling that someone had joined them. She glanced to her left and spotted another being standing to her left. This being happened to be in the guise of a human female with bronze skin and long black hair. She wore a pale cream kaftan. "I'm sorry to interrupt, Isen. We need to talk. Now."

A slight frown appeared on Isen's face. He rose to his feet and drew his colleague aside from the others. The two indulged in an animated conversation that attracted Olivia's attention. She caught certain words like "mistake" and "sent back", but failed to hear anything else.

"I wonder what they're talking about," Piper commented.

With a shake of her head, Olivia replied that she could only hear a few words. "I heard the words 'sent back'. They could be talking about us."

"They are," Cole added. "There's a chance that we might be sent back."

"But why?" Piper's question drew stares from Olivia and Cole. "What?"

Olivia replied, "A few minutes ago, we got the impression that you wanted to go back."

"I do," Piper insisted. "But I'm just . . . you know, curious."

Cole sighed. "All I know is that someone has gone back in time to prevent our deaths. Something bad must have happened."

Piper muttered, "And you don't think us getting killed wasn't bad?"

Rolling his eyes, Cole added, "Something probably a lot worse."

Isen broke away from the other daemon and returned to the group. "I have . . . an emergency. Which means I will have to postpone our little session."

A part of Olivia felt slightly relieved. But she demanded, "For how long? Several decades from now?" Isen gave her a questioning look. "Cole told us that someone has traveled back in time to prevent our deaths."

"Belthazor has excellent hearing," the daemon murmured with a sigh. "Did he overhear anything else?"

Cole stood to his feet. So did Olivia and Piper. "No, I didn't. What's going on?"

Isen quickly answered, "Someone has returned to the past to prevent your deaths. Now, I suggest that the three of you and the little one . . ."

"What else is going on?" Cole continued. "What happened after our deaths?"

A long pause followed before Isen said, "I'm sorry, Belthazor. But that is not your concern at the moment. Now . . . if you would just follow that path to your right, it will lead you to a lovely community filled with museums, restaurants and clubs. No costs at all. Or you can hang around the park a little longer and enjoy some of our nature paths."

"What if we decide not to leave you, until you tell us what's going on?" Piper said in adamant voice.

Both Olivia and Cole stared at Piper. Then they shifted their gazes toward Isen, who merely stared at the Charmed One with an enigmatic smile. The strained silence ended when the daemon waved one hand. A second later, Olivia found herself standing in the middle of what looked like a pleasant and colorful suburban business district . . . along with Cole, Piper and Wyatt. Olivia turned to the Charmed One and remarked, "Well Piper . . . I guess he answered your question."

Piper's mouth formed a moue.


END OF CHAPTER THREE