Destines Part 2
David J. Duncan


Chapter 6 [Althanor]

Nick monitored the transfusion, making sure that everything seemed in order. For almost ten minutes, the flow between the two men ran smoothly. I hope this works. If this young man dies, the Child will be even worse to deal with.

"Are we close?" Genaria asked anxiously.

"I'd say so," he replied frankly, taking a clamp and securing the end by the Child's arm. Then he did the same for the part by Lex's arm. Carefully sliding the needles out of the two arms, he quickly put the apparatus in a bucket and handed it to her. "Can you dispose of this?"

"Absolutely," she agreed.

"Be careful with that. That blood has black magic in it," he concurred. "And frankly, it tempts me. Please get it out of here." He shuddered, feeling his inner Vampire lusting for the liquid.

"The Mother will know what to do with it. Secure their wounds, Nicholas. I'll be right back," she concurred, rushing away with the bucket.

He forced himself to resist the blood's siren call, as he wrapped the wounds in linen strips. Thanks, Nat, for making me go on the 'cow-only' diet.

At that moment, the Child sat up. "Dammit. Why can't that twit leave me 'lone?"


"Daddy not so Dearest! Ah went to visit Auntie an' he's there! Stupid scum ass! Ah'm goin' out!" the Dark One ranted, stomping out of the area.

Seeing Xena, Cybelle and the Empress appear next, he asked, "What happened back there?"

"A near disaster that's what," Cybelle replied tersely. "Where did he go?"

"Outside. Your father actually showed up?" he inquired, imagining the potential chaos from that encounter.

"I stepped in between them," Xena assured them after Cybelle had left.

"Still, this is worse than I imagined," the Empress declared; her eyes reflecting noticeable strain. "The Child's sliding."

"Sliding?" Nick and Xena queried, feeling anxious about their friend's self control.

"Normally, David has some influence over the Child even when the latter's at his angriest, but in the graveyard, there was something else," the Empress recounted.

"I'd chalk it up to his father being there," Xena remarked before remembering the Child's new stunt. "He threw fire of some kind. He's never been able to do that before." She looked over Lex as she considered that occurrence. "It was like the stuff that ghost threw at us back in the air place."

Nick shook his head, running through the information he knew about his friend's childhood. "But he was tortured by it. What if he learned to use it in retaliation?"

"That, Nicolas de Brabant, is exactly what happened," the Empress informed them. "How is the patient?"

"He's still weak but at least he's stable. He'll sleep for a while. The Child saved his life," Nick told them. "Still, what do you mean that's exactly what happened?"

Xena looked intensely at the Elf Queen as well. "When did he start doing that?"

"During the last trip to Smallville˜when he saved this one and faced the witch and the demon. After that encounter, I made him forget about those abilities˜in an effort to give him time."

"Time for what?" Xena insisted.

"Time to meet Angela and you," the Empress pointed out. "The time needed to deal with other issues."

"We need to deal with the witch. This started when Angela and he got to the air place. David was really shaky and nervous. Since that ghost hit him with that whatever, the Child's been in charge," the warrior theorized. "That mark. What is it?"

"It represents the black arts. A sacrifice is marked with it. Interestingly enough, it was slightly different at one time," the Empress explained, drawing the mark in the dirt at their feet with her staff. "If I change it slightly, you might see something." She erased the right part of the figure-8 and replaced it with an open "u". "You know that symbol, I trust?"

"Xena?" Nick inquired.

Xena frowned, recognizing the mark almost immediately. "It's a shamaness' mark. This 'witch' is a dark shamaness." At that moment, her mind flashed back to India. After a close battle, Xena and Gabrielle survived by the skin of their teeth. At their side, the local darsham comforted them as best she could. But the prophecy stuck out:



[India˜"Between the Lines," XWP Season 4]

"You have beaten her at the time in her karma when her evil was at its most powerful."

"Time when it was at its most powerful?" Xena asked.

The darsham replied, "Oh yes. Alti's karma has passed on to its next life. It will return many times. However, you both will be there to meet it." She drew twin lines in the sand, continuing, "You both are like these lines. Never intersecting yet always together. Always together in the Mehndiİ."



[Present Day]

With that, Xena's mind returned to the present. "You've gotta be kidding!"

The Empress replied sadly, "I wish I were."

"But we just beat her! She's dead!" the Warrior Princess protested.

"What are you talking about Xena? This witch died 300 years ago!" Nick argued.

"Yeah butİ" Then she realized what was happening. "By Eli! Nicholas, that's how she found you both in the library!"

"Found? Xena, you're talking about the attack, right?" he asked. "But that wasİ."

"Yeah," Xena replied grimly, gnashing her teeth as she made the realization. "Welcome to our nightmare."

"Alti? How? She was dead millennia before Lichtenfeld existed!" he argued.

"Her karma reincarnated itself into your witch just as it did that professor that did that science stuff on Gabrielle and me," Xena noted. "Why didn't I realize this earlier? There was the time when he helped me and Gabrielle fight Ares and Callisto back in our time. He told us he was Alti's kid at that point!" She slapped her forehead at the oversight.

"Now you realize the severity of the situation," the Empress assessed. "My friends, there is a hidden danger in this quest. This isn't just for possession of the young ones' souls. No, our enemy has a much deeper purpose in all of this. She's influencing the Child, drawing him deeper into the darkness. She wants both the girl and him˜body and soul."

"And of course, the Child's gonna charge right in," Xena groused knowingly. "It's the perfect trap for him. We're gonna need help. Can we get Gabrielle?"

"I'll send Cybelle for her immediately. Genaria will fetch another one from Smallville, a dream walker who can help us. Her name's Sarah Conroy," the Empress agreed.

"A girl who can travel the dreamscape?" he wondered.

"Yes, Nicolas, and she is a friend to the young ones. Trust me; she worries for them as do the others," the Empress continued. "I will visit with the Amazons. Their seeress, Nai-Jin, may be able to help us. In the meantime, do what you can for the Child." With that, she vanished into thin air.

He looked at her incredulously. "I can't believe this. She's Alti?"

"A more evolved version of her. Yeah. Terrific," she mentioned grimly. Here we go again. Hasn't that bitch harmed enough of my friends?



[The Great Lake˜several minutes earlier]

Cybelle hurried down the path, following her brother's vibrations, feeling more and more frustrated by the minute. We don't need you running off right now. Finally, on the shores of the great lake, she found him staring out into the mists. "Are you okay?"

"Nah," he retorted, chucking a stone about a third of the way across the lake. "Ah'm pissed!"

"Want some good news?" she asked.

"Yeah wha?" he inquired moodily.

"You saved Lex's life with that transfusion. He's sleeping but he'll live."

The Child stared at his sister. "'Bout time somethin' went right! Still with 'er waitin', this is gonna be a bitch!"

"You know she's waiting for you to go in there," she pointed out.

He asserted, "Course she is! Wha' d'ya think Ah am? STUPID? Ah don't care! Kiddies need me!"

"And if she gets you and Lana, what then? She'll finish the job on you both! That's what!" she retorted. "Stop this!"

He growled and faced her. "Look, Ah know 'er! An' Ah made a PROMISE! Ah'd pr'tect them! Me! 'Sides, I ain't no dumb ass. Xena's gettin' help."

"How do you know?" she wondered.

"Cuz she's like that. But Ah git to whip Witchie-Poo an' that burnin' twit of 'ers!" he asserted. Then he frowned at her. "Ya're stayin' here!"

"If you go, I go!" she countered, angered by his order for her to stay behind.

"NO YA AIN'T!" he bellowed furiously, changing right before her eyes. He turned black with the red glow and matching eyes. "Ya're stayin' put!" Turning toward the priestess' complex, he called, "Ah know yer there!"

The Empress appeared. And now the physical transformation. That can only mean that Lichtenfeld is indeed feeding his dark side. "I require Cybelle's assistance."

"Of course," the priestess agreed. "What is it?"

"We need Gabrielle here. Return to Tucson and bring her here if you would, Cybelle," the Empress directed.

"At once," Cybelle agreed, opening a portal and disappearing into it.

"As for you, you need to calm down," the Empress instructed.

He glared at her. "CALM DOWN? WHY?" He stormed off toward the settlement; his anger increasing by the minute.

Her eyes narrowed. May the goddess grant us aid in this endeavor. She knows we need it. With that, she disappeared.




In the valley behind the old house, Lichtenfeld's ghost meditated next to a well-sized bonfire. Despite the Child getting the upper hand at the airport, the encounter had an unexpected benefit for her. For the first time in nearly two decades, she had access to his mind, allowing her to influence him on a subliminal level into a blind rage. Then I'll have him.

She looked at the moon and stars. Everything's in position. She began to sway and move in accordance to the energy patterns around her, drawing on that dark power. The priestesses think they can keep him from me, do they? She grinned, even as she felt her power growing stronger. Reaching up toward the house, she tapped yet another source. Ironic that the one they seek to rescue will be their doom. Reciting an ancient spell, she caused the fire to explode, shooting a flare into the sky.

She laughed triumphantly, knowing the perfect challenge had been sent.



Chapter 7

[A half hour later]

Lana and Chloe's spirits floated within their prison, still trying to find a way out. For hours, they had tested every part of the "bubble." However, there were no weak spots.

"Lana, it's no use," Chloe urged, feeling tired from the effort.

"We have to!" the former cheerleader asserted, bouncing off of the energy wall yet again. "Clark needs us!" Her head still rang with his pain from Jor-El's conversion techniques.

"We're no good to him dead," the reporter reminded her. "Besides, I need to know some things."

"Such as?" her housemate wondered.

"Such as why this witch wants you so bad. Lana, what is your connection to her and this place?"

Lana shrugged. "This is the first time I've ever seen this place, Chloe. And, as for her, I remember her showing up after the meteor shower along with the fiery thing. There was someone else too but I can't recall exactly. It's so fuzzy." She felt faint. "Oh!"

"Lana!" Chloe panicked, wondering what would happen next.

"So tired," the other spirit murmured, "leaning" up against the tree.

"I thought ghosts don't get tired," the reporter said, trying to understand the situation.

"Guess youİwere wrong. Itİfeelsİlikeİ" she muttered, closing her eyes. Then she flickered for a second before turning 'solid' again.

"Lana, come on! Stay awake!" Chloe beat on the bubble, trying to batter their way out or get attention.

The fire demon bellowed at her.

"Oh shut up! Where's that stupid hag?" the reporter snapped before sharply flying backward and impacting against the tree.

"That's not nice, Dearie," the witch chastised, burning her again and getting a scream from her.

As always, Chloe couldn't take a hint. "What are you doing to her? You're killing her!"

While she was tempted to throw another fire blast, Lichtenfeld admired the blonde's spunk and loyalty to her friends. "I'm draining her. She won't die. Nay, she's too precious for that! But even as you feel the boy's pain, her brother feels Little Missy's agony as well."

"She doesn't have a brother!" Chloe argued.

"Nay, not as ye would think. In another, a stranger bonded to her˜a link to her parents and the past!" The sorceress smiled, seeing the teenager's jaw drop. "Aye. Her brother in pain." She waved her hand again, conjuring up the past again.



[Two Days following the Meteor Shower˜during "Primal Rage"]

[Nell's Flower shop˜an hour later]

Jonathan stopped the truck in front of the flower shop and let Dave take in the devastation around them. Around them, several bright black patches stood out against the lighter colored asphalt. Some buildings were boarded up. People walked around, staring at the sky.

"This is where it happened?" Dave asked, getting out and looking around.

"One of the places. This kind of destruction can be seen all over the county," the farmer explained.

The graduate student surveyed the street. There was something very wrong there. One big patched area sent up a psychic smoke signal to him. What in? He started to follow the "trail".

"David, what is it?" Jonathan inquired.

"Something was here," Dave pointed out, stopping dead in the middle of the street and touching the pavement. As he did so, a powerful jolt jarred him. "No. It can't be."

"What? It can't be what?" Jonathan wondered as he kept a lookout for oncoming cars.

Dave snarled and looked down the street at the Talon's neon sign. As he did, the telltale numbness crept over his head again. If she's still stuck behind the field in Rowenshire then how could she have been here as well? Damn it. He looked up at his host. "This is where they died, wasn't it?"

"Against the far curb actually. Uh, David, can we get out of the street?" he asked.

Dave nodded and walked into the flower shop followed by Jonathan. "It's nice to see this place is still the same," the former remarked.

Behind the counter, a slender brunette woman raised her head. "Can I help you? Oh, Jonathan, good morning. Who's the young man with you? He seems familiar."

"Hi, Nell. This is David Dubois from Massachusetts," Jonathan replied, introducing them. "David, this is Nell Potter, Laura's sister."

"It's good to see you again, Nell," Dave greeted, shaking hands with the shop owner.

"Likewise," she concurred. Even if I don't like the idea of him being here, he was Laura and Lewis' friend. Maybe we can have him do his bit and then he'll leave. There's definitely something about him that gives me the creeps. "We do appreciate you coming out here on short notice."

"I wish it were under better circumstances," Dave replied, eyeing the different flowers around him. "Your sister and brother-in-law were good people."

"Thank you," she expressed. "Between dealing with their passing and caring for my niece, I haven't had time to deal with things."

As if on cue, a little voice sniffled in the back. "Auntie?"

"I'm here, Sweetie," Nell called, picking up Lana and bringing her into the room. "I was just talking with Mr. Kent and his friend. Do you want to say hello?"

Lana looked sadly at the two men and sniffled. Her dark eyes were bloodshot from crying. "Hİhello."

Dave winced, feeling a sharp pain between his eyes. The feeling in the street returned. Steeling himself, he looked deep into Lana's eyes and saw pain and worse.

He saw himself.

"David?" Jonathan wondered.

"Is there a place I can make a local call? I need to talk to Lex now," he insisted.

"Please, David, don't scare her," Nell admonished, glaring at him as she handed him the receiver. "She's been through enough."

"Including a certain ghost, I'd imagine. A glowing spiteful lady," Dave retorted.

"You know the glowy lady?" the little girl inquired, her eyes bulging. Somehow his words undid Pauline's spell. "Don't hurt me!"

Dave hung the phone up and spasmed violently. "No. Never! You hear me? Never. She won't touch you again."

"How could you know?" Nell insisted. "She's been like this since the meteors hit."

"Because I was her," Dave retorted, breathing heavily and feeling his eyes watering as his scalp went numb again. "I'm still her. I know the pain she's feeling. I watched my grandfather and grandmother die because of that witch!" He stumbled, somehow fighting his pain to reach the toddler's side. "I promise you, Lana, we'll end this together one day. Until then, please don't be afraid of me. I'm here and I know."

Lana looked at and around him as if she were scanning him. Then she reached out with her stubby arms. "Help me!"

Dave hugged her tightly. "She can't hurt you anymore. You're safe. If you want to cry, it's okay. Let it out."

Lana bawled, burying her head in his chest.

"That's okay, Lana. Let it out. Let it all out," he soothed, rocking her as gently as he could. "Call Lex Luthor. He needs to know about this."

"He knows this thing too?" Jonathan asked in disbelief.

"She killed his mother." Seeing Nell's reaction, he asked, "She died of cancer right? That's how the ghost operates. Slow and painful."

The florist dialed the mansion number and spoke for a minute before hanging up. "He'll be here in ten minutes."

"I wish the green lady would come back," Lana muttered.

"Lana, stop that," Nell corrected.

"I know what I saw!"

Dave shook Nell off before asking Lana, "Green lady? Was she wearing green?"

"Yeah. Green dress. She was beautiful like a princess with lots of stuff on her face."

"Lana, people just don't appear like that," Nell told her.

"Actually, they can," Dave countered. "Lana, what was her name? Did she tell you her name? It's okay."

"Pauline," the girl sobbed.

Dave gaped, recognizing the description of a priestess and knowing there was only one of them with that name. Pauline Samuelsohn? She was here?

At that moment, they heard the screeching of tires outside. Barely a few seconds later, Lex rushed into the shop.

"Dave, you made it," the billionaire told him. "What's wrong though? A suit is easy to rent."

"Stick the suit, Lex. We have a bigger problem here. As in a ghost-witch problem," the student told him.

Lex shook his head, immediately recognizing what he was getting at. "I thought you took care of her!"

"Pauline trapped her, all right? At least we thought she did," Dave hissed.

The lights flickered in the shop and the sky outside turned dark.

"Nell, get Lana out of here," Dave directed.

"What is it?" Jonathan asked.

"A party crasher," the student growled, even as the red curtain dropped across his vision. "Come out!"

"Ye can't stop me, my boy," the witch's ghost challenged as she appeared. "Tell them. Tell them who ye are."

"IİAh'm mahself! Go on an' git!" The Child snarled darkly. "Ya'll ain't gittin' 'er! Ya'll done 'nough!"

"Nay. I'll go but they'll see ye for what ye are, my dark child. Soon, I'll make her your sister in pain," the ghost vowed while fading away.

"Ya'll stay 'way from 'er! Ya'll hear me! Ah'll kill ya mahself!" the Dark One roared. Seeing the others, he continued, "Wha? Ya'll knew we were comin'!"

Lex looked at Jonathan and Nell anxiously. This side knows why I called him. Dave doesn't. I've got to get him out of here. "Jonathan, can I take him for a drive? We need to talk."

"Wha?" the Child inquired.

"Come on, we need to talk to someone," Lex insisted. "We're going to Metropolis. We're going to talk about things. It's okay."

"We'll have everything ready back here," Jonathan promised.

The Child nodded and told Lana, "Big Bro prom'sed to protect ya'll, Short Stuff. Ah'm stickin' with it. Bad lady won't touch ya'll 'gain."

Lana nodded nervously. "'Kay. Thankİyou."

"No sweat," the Child replied, giving her a brief smile before stalking out.

"What's with him?" Nell inquired.

"The ghost's curse. He's living with it and has since our fathers stumbled on her land. Trust me, watch Lana. That witch won't quit, especially tomorrow." With that, Lex left for the car and drove off with the Child toward the big city.



Chapter 8

[Rowenshire˜Modern Day]

"Lex knows about this guy?" Chloe asked, aghast at the stranger's dark display.

"DİDavid?" Lana murmured, forcing her eyes open. "Sİsave me."

"You know him! How?" she asked her friend.

"Ye ask too many questions!" the witch retorted sharply, clearly tiring of the reporter's attitude. "Aye! Lionel gave the land to my boy's sire, playing into my hands."

"But his connection to Lex?" Chloe pushed.

The witch bit back a response to her impudent prisoner. "Just watch." Again, the past came to view:



["Primal Rage"˜St. Gabriel's Cemetery, Metropolis]

For the three hour trip between Smallville and Metropolis, Lex tried in vain to generate a conversation with his passenger. Despite the effort, all he got back were terse responses before the other drifted off to sleep. Finally, as they reached the cemetery, he shook the other man carefully. "We're here."

"Where?" Dave asked. "Lex, where are we?"

"You're in Metropolis, Dave. We're going to visit my mother actually. That is if you're up to it," Lex pointed out. "What do you last remember?"

"I remember being in Nell Potter's flower shop and seeing the pain in Lana's eyes. Then the lights flickered and the sky turned dark right after you got there. It almost seems like the witch was there," the grad student strained to recall.

"She was there, Dave. Nell, Jonathan, and I all saw her. We also saw you change," the billionaire informed him. "Those lapses are Hell, aren't they?"

"I have huge gaps in my memory, Lex. I was in Rowenshire a couple of days ago and she called me her "dark child". What does that mean?" Dave wondered, staring fearfully into his friend's eyes.

Lex sighed. You really stepped in it, Dad, when you found that land for Stuart. "Apparently your situation has worsened, Dave. Tell me, when was the last time you remember speaking to me before this morning?"

"At Gram's funeral, I guess," Dave surmised.

"Wrong. We spoke last night. It didn't sound like you though. The words were slurred and you spoke with this deep Southern accent," Lex reported.

Dave shook his head. "Great. Now I'm a mental case."

Lex shook his head. "Unstable maybe. Mental case or threat to us here˜never. Your alter ego just proved that in the shop by protecting us against the witch. Dave, I'm here for you, all right? Like my mother would have given me a choice." Seeing his friend's surprise, he continued, "Mom made me realize what was happening to you after the funeral. Iİwellİam not surprised." He held up a copy of The Daily Planet. "There were two murders in Cambridge, Mass. Witnesses reported someone with your description approaching the house and fighting with someone. However, you had disappeared before the police arrived. I did what I could through my contacts to keep things quiet. Let me ask though, the murdered woman, Pauline Samuelsohn, was that Lana's "green lady"?"

"You have to keep this secret," Dave admonished. Seeing Lex nod in agreement, he continued,

"She was. You met her at the funeral. She was with my sister, Cybelle. Lex, speaking of funerals, I'm sorry I didn't make it back here for Aunt Lillie. Dad didn't tell me and I didn't find out until almost a year after the funeral."

"That's okay. Given what a pair of assholes our fathers are, I'm not surprised. Come on, she's waiting for us," the businessman assessed, picking up a bouquet of flowers and leading his friend toward the raised tomb several feet away. "Give me a minute, all right?"

"Go ahead. I'll wait here," Dave agreed.

Lex smirked before heading toward the tomb. After standing the flowers in the plant holder, he dusted off the name and said, "Hi, Mom. I hope everything's all right. Yes, I survived the meteor shower although the doctors tell me that I'm permanently bald. I guess that's a small price to pay, isn't it? Some of our friends didn't do so well. By now, I'm sure that the Langs are with you. Fortunately, Nell Potter and the Kents are looking after their daughter, Lana." He sighed and looked back at his friend who patiently stood watching and waiting before continuing, "Mom, I found David at long last. He's been through a lot over the past week but he came back to be with us during the funeral. He wanted to say hello."

Dave meandered over but stood there quietly. He could barely remember the last time he had seen the red haired woman. Then in a flash, he saw the ghost hit his friend with dark fire, infesting the latter with cancer. "I'm really sorry, Aunt Lillie, that I wasn't here for you. I never forgot you and what you tried to teach me about people. I wanted to thank you again for how you stood by me. I know it cost you a lot. You're a big reason I am what I am today. I just thought you would like to know. Meantime, I will stand against the night as best I can. She's back, Auntie. Somehow, she's figured out a way to slip out of that field we put her in. Now she wants to do to Lana what she did to me." At that point, he stopped as his throat tightened, the tears blurred his vision, and the spasms started again.

"Dave?" Lex inquired, touching the older man's shoulder.

"We deal with it here and now," Dave asserted firmly. "I will end it. She'll pay for what she's done to us."

"Dave, she's dead already. What can you do to a ghost?"

The student snickered darkly and shuddered again.

The Child looked up at him. "Tha's wha Ah'm here fer. Ya'll stay outta it. Ah'll deal with 'er. Me an' mah friends."


The Dark One grinned. "Yeah from Gram's funeral. Singleton's fought with us 'gainst the beasties. He knows."

"And you expect trouble at the Langs' funeral?" Lex inquired anxiously, recalling the scene from Janet Dubois' service.

"Ah'd count on it. Leave it to us." The Child growled. "He just needs to get here."

"Leave that part to me," Lex assured him. "I can have a jet in Hartford three hours from now if you want. Get who and what you need to insure that you can deal with anything that comes up."

"Count on it. Ah'm lettin' Big Bro out but Ah'll be waitin' fer trouble. The Squirt's not gonna have anything else happen." The Child took a deep breath and allowed the personalities to flip-flop again.

"I know and we all appreciate it," the future entrepreneur expressed. He really does care. It isn't a bullying attitude. Rather, he's just super protective and untrusting. Then again, after what he and Dave have been through, I can't say I blame him. "We'll call from the car on the way back. Did you have anything else to say?"

Dave looked at the tomb again. "Just to tell her that I love her, Lex." He blew a kiss at the cold marble. "Nothing's going to happen to that little girl, Lex. Nothing."

Lex frowned, thinking of the gauntlet being thrown. We're having a funeral and he's preparing for war. Yeah, tomorrow's gonna be some day.



[Modern Day]

"They seemed close," Chloe surmised.

"He kept Alexander from turning evil as I intended," the witch clarified. "Those two are like brothers. I hoped to use that."

"But you failed, didn't you? Didn't you?" Her eyes sparked at the captor.

The demon growled.

"Aye! If she doesn't shut up, ye can have her!" Lichtenfeld promised. "Still, she's amusing." She shook her head. "Aye! My child stopped me with another tantrum."


"Aye. Watch." Once again, the witch conjured up the past.



["Primal Rage"˜Lex's Porsche speeding toward Smallville's downtown]

"Save me!" Lana screamed, crying from fright.

"I told you that scary witch isn't going to hurt you and I meant it," Dave vowed again.

"Hang on!" Lex told them as he punched the accelerator, screeching away from the site and toward town. "Where do we go?"

"Dave? Where can we go?" April McKenzie, his friend, asked, trying to comfort Lana.

For his part, his mind swam between fear, anger and indignation. "Drive."

Then he heard a deep roar in the distance. "Damn it! Things just got a lot worse!"

"What is it?" April wondered.

"Her bloody demon," Dave hissed, shaking his head.

[From within his head, he heard the Voice tell him, "Picture Place. Head for Picture Place!"]

"Picture place?" Dave asked. "Lex, are there any galleries in town?"

"No. Closest one's in Metropolis," the billionaire told him.

Just then, they could see a dark form flying toward them, blotting out the sun.

"Dave!" April screamed.

"Just keep going!" Dave urged Lex. Just then, as they passed the Talon, he felt a pull toward the old theater. "Stop! Lex, stop!"

"Are you crazy?" Lex protested.

"You want to argue with me right now?" he growled, shuddering. "This is where we make our stand."

"Are you sure?" April wondered.

"Let's say I have a feeling about it," Dave countered. "Just keep Lana out of sight!"

"If you say so," Lex agreed reluctantly, slamming on the brakes and turning. "Talon, it is. Your stuff should be in the back with the girls."

"It's here," April confirmed as she rocked Lana who whimpered fearfully.

Right in front of the old theater, Lex stopped the car. "Talon, everyone out!"

Dave jumped out and pulled the girls out rapidly. "Find cover in the alley!"

"And what are you going to do?" Lex demanded.

Dave slipped his quiver onto his back and put two shafts in his bow. "Give that thing a bellyache, I hope."

The demon swooped in low and took a swipe at him but missed.

"Missed!" Dave chortled, firing two shafts into the beast's belly.

The fire beast screamed and grabbed the student, burning him with dark fire. Then it flung him through the open doors into the dark theater.

"What the Hell am I doing?" Dave chided himself.

["Ya're gittin' me home."]

"Who said that?"

["Ah said it. Ah'm in yer head, Dumb Ass. Feel anythin'?"]

Dave felt a charge in the air. "The air feels charged somehow. What is this?"

["Ah'm home. 'Lax."]

Dave's scalp went numb and he growled. In the corner, he saw something glowing. "That's the plaque from last time." He approached the metal display warily. "What the?" He reached out and touched the metal.

A light flashed from it, burning him.

"ARRRGGGHHHH!!!!!" he screamed, feeling himself slipping away.

For a full minute, the display continued before it stopped.

Then the Child stood up with a scowl on his face. "'Bout time!" He touched the plaque again, soaking up the residue energy from the chamber. Hearing a scream from outside, he spat, "Ah owe Darkie a whuppin'." With that, he stalked back out of the theater, heading for the alley.



Meantime, the demon had cornered the others out in the alley. It knew that its mistress wanted the brat. The bigger ones it could kill if it wanted to.

"I thought Dave could take that thing," Lex hissed.

"I said he survived fighting that thing," April retorted, shielding Lana behind her. "Where is he?"

They heard a loud scream from the street.

The demon turned to see a dark, glowing, and enraged Child storming toward it.

"Ah ain't done with ya'll yet!" The Dark One allowed his hands to glow with dark energy. "Ah owe ya'll this!" He fired two blasts of dark fire.

The demon roared in pain, reeling from the energy and wondering how its longtime victim could do that.

"Didn't like that, did ya?" the Child sniggered. "This is mah home, Darkie an' yer ass is grass!" Grabbing three shafts from his quiver, he threw them in the air. Using telekinesis, he flung them at his nemesis, peppering the latter. Finally, he threw a big pulse at the demon, slamming it into the wall.

The fire beast shook its head not knowing what to make of this display. Screaming, it took back off into the sky, vanishing without a trace.

"Yeah! Ya'll run, ya wuss! Stay 'way from mah friends! Got it?" the enraged avenger bellowed. Turning toward the trio, he asked, "Ya got a problem?"

Lex stepped between him and the girls. "You know who we are, right?"

The Child snorted at him. "Like Ah could forgit ya. 'Mon, Ah think Witchie-Poo jus' found out." Hearing her screech, he chuckled wickedly. "Ooh yeah! She ain't happy! Let's check on Marİtha." Seeing the look on Lana's face, he assured her, "Ah told ya right, Squirt?"

"Yeah. Thank ya," Lana agreed, kissing his cheek. "Clark okay?"

"If he ain't, Glowy lady gits me an Ah'm really pissed. Lexie, we need a ride," the Child told him.

"Follow me," the billionaire smirked, leading them toward the Porsche.




"That's this boy of yours? He's a monster!" Chloe snapped.

"No, Chloe. He's not," Lana whispered. "She hurt him. I can feel his pain."

"Lana, come on. You're in pain and delirious!" Chloe argued.

"No," Lana countered, forcing herself back to 'full floating'. "Can't you feel the pain here?"

Lichtenfeld grinned. This is working out better than I thought it would. They do have a link. "She's right. His pain is here!" She reached for the sky, closing her eyes and soaking the emotional residue in like an exquisite treat.

"You're sick," Lana pointed out.

"Be nice, Dearie, or ye'll get another taste!" the witch threatened. "Better than argue with ye, ye can see for yerselves!" She opened another window to the past.



Chapter 9

[Rowenshire-February 18, 1975˜A/N: This flashback sequence is from "Hearts of Darkness"]

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 stated sadly.

The boy's eyes bulged and he protested, "No! You can't go! How can I go on?"

"You out for....Randy and Cybbie....Protect them....from the...ghost."

"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'll never be alone. Promise me two things...First, take care of the others. Second...always do Don't...let that"

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 crowed.

"" 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" With that, he slumped into the boy's arms and died.

"And so ye are alone," the ghost cracked. "Alone against me."

Dave shuddered as he kissed his grandfather's brow and shut the elder's eyes. "I'll get you for this!" he spat.

"Such insolence!"

"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!




[Amherst-November 1982]

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 yourself?"

"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 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 limp.

"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 now?"

"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 what?



[Janet's funeral]

"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 it."

"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, "Aunt Lillie?"

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 about?"

"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 you that?"

"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 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 there. "Cybbie?"

"Yeah. How could this happen?" she asked, hugging him.

"You-Know-Who struck again," he noted. "How are you doing?"

"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 area.

[From inside of his head, he heard the Voice growl, "She's doin' it again. Get ready...."]

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 chided.

"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 displeasure.

"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 cemetery. "GRRAARRRGGGHHH!!!"

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 (the Child actually) looked around for something of use. Spying a vial of holy water, he sniggered, "Oh yeah!" Pouring it onto a long drop cloth, he hurried toward his opponent twirling the wet cloth in his hand and whipped it at the spirit.

"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!"

"Still, I can hurt ye like this too!" the witch hissed, firing another dark blast, hitting Lillian square in the chest.

"Momma!" Lex screamed, looking her over.

"That's it!" the Child yelled, snapping the cloth at Lichtenfeld, backing her away from the others.

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 vanished.

"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, wanna tell her?" 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! See to Aunt Lillie," 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, damn straight!" he stated, storming out of the service and heading for the high school.



[Modern Day˜Rowenshire]

"Ye see now, my Sweets?" Lichtenfeld crowed sinisterly. "I've always controlled him."

"Leave him and us alone, you beast!" Lana yelled. "What gives you the right to cause someone pain like that?"

The witch frowned. "I've done this for millennia, child. Ye should mind yer tongue!" She glared at them. "Aye. I've existed in one form or another for most of time. During that journey, I've become stronger! Playing your pain and Alexander's off of his own is wonderful!"

The demon snarled again.

"Aye, Precious. I've tarried with these two long enough. Best to prepare for my boy and his friends," the witch agreed. "Come!" With that, they returned to the valley below.

"She's a real pain, all right," Chloe groused.

Lana fought back her tears, as she now remembered everything. The "slideshow" had shredded the Empress' and Pauline's respective spells of forgetfulness. Now she recalled the events leading up to her parents' funeral and thereafter. She saw them being crushed by the meteor again. "No!" She broke down.


Lana sniffled, caught between her emotional spasms and trying to remain strong. "Tİthey were coming to see me, Chloe. And she was there."

"That ghost?"

"Yİyeah. And she pulledİthis big meteor rock down from the sky andİcrushed them right in front of me," she recounted.

Chloe wished she could hug her friend. This is insane! How can we do anything against something like this? "Hey, ummİtry to think of something positive."

"Positive? Chloe, I'm reliving their deaths!"

"Try! All right?" Chloe insisted. "I don't want you giving up on me, all right?"

Lana nodded and focused. In amidst the horrors, there was one thing˜a very special moment in her life indeed.



[Kent Farm˜during "Primal Rage"]

Nell sat on the couch in the Kents' living room, rocking her niece to sleep. While she appreciated everyone's concern, she would have rather spent the previous evening in her own bed rather than in the Kents' guest room. "Okay, I've played along with this long enough. What's going on?"

"Keepin' us safe, Auntie," Lana noted.

"That's right," Martha agreed, setting a plate of sugar cookies and two glasses of milk in front of them. "And we like having you both over."

"Not to mention everyone can watch out for everyone else, Nell," Jonathan concurred, coming in from the barn.

"I'm sure David's intentions are noble, but how well do we know him?" the florist protested.

"He helped this town in the past," Jonathan noted. "Besides, he knows about what is after Lana."

"Nell, he's not that bad," his wife assured her friend. "He spent three weeks here on his last visit. We never had a problem with him. Now would you mind if Clark shared some cookies too?" She brought her newly-adopted son over to the couch. "Nell, Lana, this is Clark. We just adopted him."

Clark smiled and flushed bashfully.

"Hi, Clark," Lana greeted, managing a smile for him as well. At least if she had to deal with the scary lady, she would have a new friend to help her do it.

The boy looked at the little girl curiously, admiring how her eyes sparkled and how it made him feel before he yanked on his mother's pant leg.

"Okay, Clark," Martha agreed, setting him down beside his new friend.

Lana broke a cookie in half and handed half to him. "Wanna piece?"

Clark nodded and took the piece. His eyes shone at her warmly.

In response, the little girl blushed shyly, feeling really weird for some reason.

"Doesn't he talk?" Nell queried, looking at him strangely.

"He hasn't said a word since we brought him home from the orphanage. The poor dear's probably too scared to say anything," Martha responded, quickly defending the boy. Hearing the limo pull in, she announced, "They're backİ."



[Modern Day]

Seeing Lana smile, Chloe breathed a sigh of relief. "What is it?"

"It was during that time that Clark and I first met," the former cheerleader revealed. "Imagine over a sugar cookie."

Terrific. She would have to think of him right now. Can it, Chloe, if her feelings for Clark help her through this, then go with them. "Really, Lana?"

Lana giggled in spite of herself. "We were both so shy. He didn't say a word but that smile of his, you know? Itİmakes quite the impression."

"It does," the reporter concurred. "It's good to see you smile too."

"Thanks for being so supportive, Chloe," Lana expressed.

"That's what friends are for," Chloe replied.

"Speaking of which, I have an idea," Lana proposed. Feeling another wave of pain coming from her love, she added, "We have to reach out to him."

"What? I think that hag's garbage is getting to you!"

Lana wheeled around and glared at her friend. "Are we supposed to leave Clark wherever and alone? No! Come on!"

"Sorry. I lost it there for a second myself," Chloe apologized, holding her hand out.

"As you just said, that's what friends are for," her friend assured her while taking her hand. "Go with it!"

With that, the two girls focused, allowing their feelings to permeate their prison and flow forth.



Chapter 10 [Somewhere between time and space]

Kara slipped back into the 'time pocket' with a feeling of satisfaction. She smirked smugly, as she considered how everything was developing to their advantage. Those Earther children are out of the way. The traitor, Jonathan Kent, is comatose on the cave floor outside. As soon as Kal-El submits to his father, he'll be mine!

Do you have anything to report, Kara? Jor-El wondered.

Nothing, she replied. Is he any closer to breaking?

No. I may have to resort to drastic measures soon. The witch was supposed to have taken care of things. I don't think she has.

Off to the right, Clark lay curled up in a fetal position; every nerve ending in his body screaming at him.

I hate to kill him, Kara, but I won't see him subjugated by this mongrel race, Jor-El told her.

Surely, you can do it, Jor-El? I meanİ.

You mean you want Kal-El for yourself. Remember our agreement. You'll get him when I've retrained him, not before! The deceased father's spirit stared at his son's form. Why he has to make this so hard? I can't understand!

Maybe if you didn't mess around over the past year, we could have had him! she countered.

Watch yourself, Kara! he retorted, breaking into an argument with her and distracting them both from keeping watch over the teenager.



At that moment, Clark stopped shaking. For some reason, he felt something warm inside of his head almost like the buzz whenİ. Lana?

Clark, I'm here. Hang in there, Lana assured him.

I thought you left, he supposed.

Iİuh had a detour you might say. We're stuck too, she continued.

You should get a load of this hag, Clark, Chloe noted.

Chloe? You too?

Yeah. The witch blew me and Dad up. Listen, you hang in there, okay? Chloe concluded.

Clark, listen, when we get out of this, we need to talk. Okay?

Okay, he agreed. Sorry but Jor-El might pick up on this if we keep going. Lana, can I tell you something?


I love you. Remember that. I can hold out as long as you and Chloe are okay, he declared.

AndİwellİI love you too, Clark. We will get through this, she concluded. Close your eyes.





Clark looked around nervously. The pain was gone and all he could see was a gray backdrop. "Where?"

"Somehow, we have a link, Clark," Lana noted, standing in front of him. "I know we don't have very long but I wanted to give you this."

She wrapped her arms around his waist and kissed him passionately.

"Wow," he gasped.

She smiled wistfully at him. "I am here for you, Clark, just as you are my beacon of hope. Let my love help youİ."

He flashed her the Kent grin and replied, "I realize that. I want to be there for you too. Hang onto hope, Lana. He reached toward the ground and picked a rose growing there. "IİwellİI didn't get the chance to give you the last one in person. Sorry. You deserve better than me."

"I have that one and this one too. Oh and Clark, if you would be open with me, there is no one better." She kissed him again quickly and let her eyes shine into his.

With that, the realm began to blur.




[Space pocket]

Clark gasped, as he returned to his senses. Once again, his body ached but the pain wasn't so bad. She didn't leave. He looked over to see his father still arguing with his pawn.

Lana, if I can get out of here, I'll save you. I promise. No more lies.





"So?" Chloe asked, as Lana snapped out of her trance. "Is he okay?"

"That was so weird!" the former cheerleader gasped. "Somehow, I did a Sarah."

"You mean˜the whole dreamscape thing? Did you see him?" the reporter wondered. Then she saw the rose. "Lana, where did you get that?"

"Clark gave it to me," she recounted, taking a deep breath and smiling.

"Okay, what else happened in there?"

"Chloe, I don't want to hurt your feelings."

"Look, Lana, we both know he likes me but he loves you. Did you two kiss and make up?" Chloe wondered.

"We kissed but we're going to talk when we get out of this mess," Lana reported, sniffing the flower. "Let's share it, Chloe, and the hope with it."

"Okay. Thanks for doing that," Chloe replied, sniffing it for herself. "So I gather by 'going to talk,' you mean that you aren't going to Paris?"

"I'm undecided." Lana fretted over her feelings. She still wanted to see the world but her feelings for Clark tugged at her too.

"You're as bad as he is. You know that?" Chloe pointed out.


"Lana, you're as bad at the hot and cold thing as our favorite farm boy. Are you really wanting to see the world? Or are you running away from commitment?" Seeing the fierce stare, Chloe put her hands up. "Just some food for thought, okay?"

Do I really know what I want? Sometimes, I can't say for sure. One thing though, Clark, thank you for reaching out to me too. She sniffed the mystic rose again, feeling some hope warm herself.


Chapter 11 [Althanor]

Even as this activity went on, the High Priestess of Althanor prepared her hut for the council to be held there. By the end of the hour, she had several places readied in the center of the floor for her visitors.

"I hope they don't mind the humble surroundings," she worried.

"These are desperate times," the Faerie Empress noted. "We have more important issues to discuss than worrying about the furnishings."

"You betcha," Xena concurred, leading Gabrielle, Nick, Cybelle, the Child and Sarah Conroy into the room. "Anything new?"

Sarah smiled and flushed.

"What is it?" Cybelle asked.

"It seems that Clark and Lana had a dream experience. Somehow, she reached out to him," Sarah recounted. Seeing the others' worried looks, she assured them, "It's all right. They gave each other hope."

"That was a risky move, Sarah Conroy," the Empress reprimanded.

"I didn't do it though. Somehow, Lana was behind the whole thing. Chloe helped but I could swear it was her," the dreamer insisted.

"Witchie-Poo's messin' w' her too!" the Child ranted. "She usin' fire on 'em!"

The Empress, Nick and Cybelle looked at each other, considering what he meant.

"You felt it too?" Sarah asked.

"Yeah!" the Dark One snarled. "Ah can feel 'er! We gotta git 'em outta there!"

"We will," his sister assured him. "Come on." She led him over to where the others were sitting. "Just hang in there for a couple of minutes."

"Too much talkin'! Ah wanna whup 'er!" the Child retorted.

"Patience. We need a plan," the Empress told him.

The Child fumed silently, knowing that the others were going to talk no matter what.

Meantime, the others sat on the floor and began deliberating.

"We just can't go charging in there blind," Xena pointed out.

"I can be a guide," Nick volunteered.

"And so can I if needed," Cybelle added.

The Child snorted. "Jus' deal w' her an' spring 'em! Yer yakkin' too much! Cybbie can git 'em outta there. Ah git both of 'em!"

"Both of them? There's only the ghost," Nick argued.

"An' ol' fire-puss. Big ugly creep!" the Child retorted. "That fool's gittin' a whuppin'!"

"She has a fire demon as a familiar," Cybelle concurred. "We had the misfortune of meeting it as kids."

"Alti can control demons now?" Gabrielle wondered. "Xena, when did this happen?"

"Remember what the darsham told us about Alti's karma? This is one of her forms," Xena explained.

"She was a witch named Anne Lichtenfeld. LaCroix and I helped to stop her about 270 years ago," Nick added.

The High Priestess nodded. "Once she passed on to the spirit plane, she gained even more power." She saw the flap over her door rise, allowing Nai-Jin, the Amazon seeress, into the chamber. "Welcome, Nai-Jin, thank you for coming."

"I am always happy to serve my queen and her allies," Nai-Jin responded, bowing slightly to the assembled group. "How might I help?"

Gabrielle indicated, "Nai-Jin, a dark battle lay ahead of us. We need to know if you've seen anything."

The seeress glanced at the Child. "Darkness pulls at you, my friend. Your adversary, she casts spells against you, uncovering more and more of your dark power. You have two battles to fight to save those you love."

"Ah know that!" the Dark One hissed.

"Two battles," Cybelle reiterated. "The second one being in the Midwest?"

"Yes. I see a familiar town and a glowing spirit holding a boy," the seeress continued. "He will appear and force a battle." She looked at him with concern. "At that point, he'll be uncontrollable."

"Aw cut the crap! Ah wanna kick ass!" the Child urged. "Lessgo!"

"And you will," Nai-Jin prophesized. "I see you fighting the glowing spirit at the place of your birth. Much hangs in the balance, my friend. I can't see the end of this battle but I know that it will test your endurance. You must stay out of the lower valley. My Queen, Xena, you must keep him out of there!"

"We'll try," Xena assured her. "Thanks for the heads up."

"Thank you indeed," the Empress concurred. "My friends, it's time. As the Child proposed, you will split up into two groups once you get to Rowenshire. Cybelle, do you know the spell to free the girls?"

"Yes, Milady," the priestess indicated.

"Good. Meantime, Nicolas, you'll go with her. Xena, Gabrielle, you will accompany the Child. Remember, once you have the girls' spirits, you're to immediately break off the fight and come back here. Am I understood?" the Empress stated.

Everyone except the Child nodded.

"And your problem is?" she asked. "I asked if you understood?"

He snickered, "Sweets, Ah know wha's down there! Ah also 'unnerstood' tha' Ah coulda stopped this crap 'fore it started!" Seeing her stiffen, his left eye glinted red at her and he asserted, "Don't start! Ah've seen that ghostie dancie crap! Ah know wha' it is!"

"Ghostie dancie crap?" Gabrielle asked. "Xena, he's talking about the shamaness' ritual dance!"

"Oh goodie," the warrior remarked, arching her right eyebrow. "This is gonna be some trip." As she watched the Child fuming at the Empress, she reiterated, "Some trip indeed."


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