The Harrowing Road Unwillingly Traveled (War Saga 3b) (Part 1)
David J. Duncan
July 2002

Notes: The characters from Forever Knight are owned by Sony Tri-Star. The characters from Xena Warrior Princess are from Renaissance Studios and StudiosUSA. The characters from Mutant X belong to Tribune and Marvel. All other characters and situations are fictitious and are of my own creation. Please send comments to

Prologue [A clearing, two miles from the still smoldering ruins of the Amazon village]

Gabrielle, Bard Queen of the Amazons writes....

The situation seems so hopeless and overwhelming. We've buried our fallen sisters and secured our position. Yet, we still have so much to do. David has just rejoined Angela, Francesca, and Livia in the future and is preparing for the inevitable assault to come.

Xena tells me that we'll overcome these hurdles, but for once, I have my doubts....

Chapter 1 [Dahak's realm]

Deep within the fiery bowels of the unholy realm, Dahak brooded over the recent defeats. Most recently, he still felt angry over the mixed results in Amazon lands. While it was true that Velasca had leveled the village and wiped out many Amazons, in addition to pushing Dubois and Eve further toward their inner darkness, hope still remained bright among his adversaries. Now it was Lousain's turn to strike...and he hoped for greater success from this last offensive.

A scream of pain echoed off of the walls toward him, causing him to momentarily forget about his problems. The guards who had allowed Hope to escape were being disciplined. After a few hundred lashes from the fiery whip, they wouldn't be so apt to fall short again. Still, the dark lord grew restless. He didn't want his enemies to recover and plan a counter strike. Hopefully, the wizard would be ready soon.

As if on cue, a bright flash appeared in the corner, signaling the other's arrival. Once the flare had faded, the ebon-haired and bearded wizard strode up to the front of the room and sat in the seat just off to Dahak's right.

"So, is it done?" the demon lord inquired impatiently.

Lousain held up his hands, allowing the sleeves of his robe to bunch up at his elbows. Circling his wrists, two golden bracelets reflected the blood-red light of the signal fires. After a minute, they glowed with a faint blue light of their own. "It is," he agreed. "My forces are ready and await my signal, Dahak."

"Very good," Dahak agreed, allowing his fangs to show through as he grinned. "My forces are ready as well." Standing up, he moved into the center of the room, considering their options. "How many trolls do you have?"

"Close to half a million," the wizard indicated, flexing his hand. The surrogate limb still ached after years of use. Fifteen years before, his attempt to conquer the Inner Realms and Outer Earth had proven costly as his trolls were butchered, his sanctuary defiled, and at the end, his hand as well to the cursed Farali's axe. Over the years, he had sworn to avenge that indignity.

"Are fifteen years a long enough time?"

"Most definitely," the wizard concurred. "And if I had my way, I would not wait another minute longer!"

"Then don't," Dahak replied. "I've prepared a portal for you. Signal the advance. It's time to move out on our enemies."

The lord of the Dark Lands nodded. "It shall be done..." Waving a hand, he induced the flame to burn higher and brighter. "Hear me, my followers! After the years of waiting, it's time once again! Destroy the forces of light! Take what's ours!"

The flames parted a bit, allowing them a view of the assembled horde on the other side. As far as the eye could see, cadres of trolls clamored, waving their battleaxes and swords in the air, and expressing their eagerness for the conflict.

"Loritor!" Lousain called.

At the head of the group, the lieutenant bowed his head slightly. "Yes, Milord?"

"Take your forces to Nurrengaard and storm the accursed citadel!" the leader commanded.

"It shall be done," the troll agreed.

"Melitor," the wizard called.

From the left, the slightly older beast ambled forth. Despite the scar in his left shoulder, he was still the best fighting monster in the dark legions. "Milord?"

"I've got a treat for you," Lousain declared.

"Dubois?" the demon hissed expectantly, rubbing the old wound.

"Indeed, take 2000 of your best warriors to Outer Earth and deal with him and his ilk! I trust I don't have to give you any additional motivation."

The troll leader snarled angrily, remembering his encounters first with Dubois and then, with the latter's daughter. "Consider it done, Lord."

The wizard nodded and opened a portal beside the latter leader's group. "Then, go!"

The trolls marched into the portal, vanishing from view.

Following them, Loritor turned the remaining forces to the west and began the march toward Nurrengaard. The struggle was renewed and this time, there would be a different result....

Chapter 2 [Althanor]

Cybelle paced the shores of the lake with concern. Granted, it was great to see Dave up and about after his wound had nearly killed him, but she knew that he wouldn't take the time to heal properly. Not with the current situation in any event. "At least Angie'll keep an eye on him," she told herself as she headed for the House of Healing.

Once inside, she inspected the rows of pallets on which the wounded Amazons lay impatiently, resting and allowing the herbs to do their work. Velasca's attack had left them badly injured, but the women hoped to be back on their feet soon.

"Goddess knows they'll be needed soon enough," the high priestess muttered.

Genaria hurried over and acknowledged, "Mother."

The recently proclaimed head priestess squirmed uncomfortably. While she knew that the title and rank went with the position, she wasn't comfortable with them as of least not the responsibility which went with them. "How are the Amazons?"

"They're recovering," the younger priestess informed her. "Hopefully, by tomorrow, a few of them will be completely healed."

The elder woman nodded. "And Hope?"

"She's resting in her hut under guard as per your request."

Cybelle sighed. "Good. Keep an eye on her. Despite the conflict with her father, she needs to be watched carefully."

The other bowed slightly at the waist and departed to check on the aforementioned guest.

Noticing that Varia was circulating among the recovering patients, Cybelle approached the former queen. "How's your arm?"

The former queen flexed her elbow. "Thanks to your healing herbs, I'm much better, thanks."

"It's good that you heal quickly, Varia. We'll need your leadership skills very soon," the priestess indicated.

"My sisters and I await Queen Gabrielle's order, Priestess," the Amazon noted. "After that, we'll fight to the last of our number."

"I fear that time may not be long in coming," Cybelle stated, a tremor of anxiousness creeping up her spine. "My brother has told me of his experience with these forces we shall face. They have never penetrated the Great Veil as of yet, but with the power of Dahak, who knows?"

"Your brother? You mean our queen's friend? David Dubois?"

"Indeed," Cybelle responded. "He's my elder brother and survivor of two encounters with the demons of darkness."

"Was that where the shoulder wound came from?" Varia wondered.

"Yes," the priestess agreed. "From one of the darkest of dark forces-the Phantom Priests. If Lousain stands against us, they'll be called into the fray as well."

"So, it is against these forces which we stand?" Varia posed, her eyebrow twitching, betraying her anxiousness to get on with it.

"It is. I just wish that this would have happened before the last High Priestess passed on to the Other Side."

The Amazon reassured her. "Sometimes, the situations pick us and not the other way around. It is meant for you to lead the Priestesses and for us to stand together, Cybelle. It was also meant that your brother should take the battle to the dark ones."

"I know," Cybelle concurred, staring into the mist. "Sometimes, I wonder what the Mother has in mind for us all."


[Faerie Lands]

On the other side of the mists, the Faerie Empress wondered about many of the same things. True, she was the source of light for all living things, but for how long could she hold out against the combined dark forces? "The last time Lousain struck against Nurrengaard, I was barely able to hold back the tide. Who knows what will happen this time?"

"We'll find out soon enough," a familiar voice replied.

In front of her, a familiar old man entered her realm. His snowy white hair and beard not to mention his gait identified him immediately. "Grimwilkin. How opportune."

"Indeed, Milady," he agreed, bowing ever so slightly. "We have a problem as I'm sure you know."

"Yes. Once again, Lousain has returned," she declared. "And Dahak is by his side."

"Even now, Meroli fortifies the gates of Nurrengaard against the coming storm. Although I suspect, the trolls will strike elsewhere first."

"Outer Earth," she realized, an eyebrow perking with interest. "They mean to take the fight to Dubois and his friends then?" Turning, she studied the elderly face in front of her. Grimwilkin wouldn't bring such dark tidings unless they were true. "How long until the trolls reach the Citadel?"

"About a week and a half at their current pace. Lousain could teleport them ahead as well," the wizard replied.

That was their quandary. Where should they place their forces? Earth or Nurrengaard?

"What is your advice, O' Wise One?" she requested earnestly.

"Let's see how this develops. I will say that Ferali the Gnome will not stand for his brother in arms being attacked and doing nothing about it," Grimwilkin told her. "Meroli has granted him leave to travel to Earth at the first sign of trouble."

"And you?" the Empress asked.

"I shall accompany him. As you know, when the darkness spreads across the land, it will trigger the blade fragment embedded in David's shoulder. We need to keep his transformation under control."

"Bring him and the others to Nurrengaard. There, I will meet with them. The other immortals...vampires as they are referred to on Outer Earth...they will be needed as well," she advised. "Nicolas de Brabant and Lucius of Pompeii are of strong character and veterans of vicious wars. Along with Xena and Gabrielle, they shall lead our last line of defense. Meantime, I shall send one of my attendants to fetch their clones. We'll need their help as well."

"It shall be done, Empress," he agreed. "With your leave, I depart." Receiving a nod, he disappeared into the mist.

Now that all of the pieces were just about in place, she glanced around at her paradise, hoping that all would remain as it is-not knowing if it would or not.



Far above the clouds, two archangels and a regular angel were concerned with this matter as well. Staring into their viewing portal, an unlikely trio watched as the events unfolded.

Michael grimly stared at the trolls' march. He had warned Dubois of the consequences. Once the other had defied him, he had set these forces in motion.

Raphael watched these events with anxiousness. He admired the mortals and didn't want anything to happen to them.

Lorenzo, for his part, couldn't contain his fear for his family. The concern was obvious to those around him. Knowing the outcome, he turned from the fountain and proclaimed, "This is madness!"

"I warned him, Lorenzo," Michael told the deceased grandfather.

"But...?" the other started to question but held back. No matter how he felt, he wouldn't question the Greater Good.

"But what?" Raphael asked. "It's all right."

"No, begging your pardon, Raphael, but it's not. Why should David have gone through more torment? He dispatched Dijon, did he not?"

"He did, but there was another purpose to be served," the blond archangel explained patiently. "We need David to return to the Pit."

"And he will do so?"

"It's unavoidable," Michael continued. "He will face Lousain again. I am allowing the gnome to accompany him."

Lorenzo shook his head, not comprehending the other's rationale. Finally, he walked off, leaving the two archangels behind.

Raphael started after him, but Michael said, "No, let him go. It will all work out somehow. Lorenzo needs to learn this for himself. Now, come. We must plan for our role in this affair."

With that, the two archangels departed from the area, already planning for the next phase of the events to come.

Chapter 3 [Tucson]

Nick lay awake in bed, listlessly tossing and turning. It had been a long week at work. Ramirez had been antsy. Tracy had been sick for three days with some weird flu. Finally, Schanke, fresh off of a fight with Myra, proved a bear to deal with during their shifts together.

Despite all of these issues, his concern for Dave really occupied his thoughts. After watching the professor beat LaCroix in the museum, he knew that the situation had taken a definitive turn. He just didn't know how widely things had gone awry.

After his friends' return, Angie had told him, Natalie, and Alyce about the battle between Dave and Velasca. Of particular note was the renewed pain from the blade fragment in the professor's shoulder. As the oncologist had explained, Dave had received the wound while fighting Lousain in the inky darkness of the Pit.

In the days since, the darkness bleeding off of his friend overwhelmed the immortal detective's senses, telling him that the Child was struggling to gain control. But, worst of all, Nick felt himself being pulled back in time...


He saw Dave as a young man, facing LaCroix for the first time. The latter had hypnotized Tony Samuelssohn and ordered him to dismiss the class. Even then, the History graduate burned with rage over the intruder's arrogance. He also recognized his former master's disdain, underestimating the conflict brewing within the mortal.

"I shall deal with you when the time is right," the Elder stated.

"And what, pray tell, is the name of my creditor?" the young man posed indignantly.

"You may call me LaCroix...LaCroix...LaCroix..." the immortal's voice echoed as the scene began to blur, a scarlet sheen bleeding across the image.


When the scene came back into focus, he saw Dave bolting up the front lawn of a handsome home now fully armed with the familiar bow and shafts. The student wore deep concern across his face, fearing for his mentor's life. Halfway there, an Oriental vampire intercepted him.

"Don't worry about man. He'll be dead soon enough as will you!"

Dave challenged him, but the words weren't clear. As the vampire backhanded the former, once again, the picture began to take on the reddish hue.

At that point, the Child glared at the attacker. "Ah'm free!" Using the shafts and his powers, he staked the Enforcer and disposed of two others before coming face to face with their leader, Bertrand du Dijon. After a short exchange of blows in which the Burgundian had set fire to the house, they parted, exchanging vows of revenge against each other.

Dragging his professor onto the lawn as well as the papers from the safe, Dave screamed his rage to the stormy skies, exchanging blasts with the storm's lightning reports. "DIJJJOOOONN!!!"

Next, Nick found himself in a dark place, lit only by the dim torches. In some ways, it reminded him of the Moorish prison where he had languished during the Crusades. All around him, several types of beings fought fiercely, the blood flowing freely, and the screams echoing about the room.

He found Dave slashing and bashing what must have been the trolls. Finally, the librarian reached the dais where Angie was strapped down. As before, he eliminated most of the dark robed creatures. However, one of them stabbed him with an ornate ebony blade in the shoulder before a tall man with dark hair and beard blasted him into a daze. After a few moments, the Child once again emerged...and dealt with his attackers before collapsing again.


Briefly, his mind flashed into a wondrously lush place with the smells of dew and flowers not to mention a gentle breeze wafting through his hair. About twenty feet in front of him, he saw Dave being examined by a gaunt man with a long flowing beard and an ornately dressed woman with a luminous glow.

She told the librarian. "The darkness has taken root in you, tapping into the hurt and anger there."

"Can you help me?" he wondered.

"Sadly, I cannot. Once you have faced the hurdles in front of you, then you and the Child must resolve your issues. Before that, you must face LaCroix and Dijon again," she told him as the image blurred again....


Now, he was back in the Raven's familiar surroundings. In front of him, Xena and LaCroix stood primed to do battle, but once again, he heard his friend's insulting remark, "Do you really think he would tell, LaCroix? For once, come down off of that high horse of yours...of yours...of yours."


Finally, he found himself back in his bed, his face perspiring with tiny splotches. The string of experiences he had just experienced told him two things. First, he realized that the bond between him and his friend had strengthened. Then, his friend's anger and spite toward the Elder had increased over the years. Sooner or later, one and only one would walk away from a final encounter between them.

"Nick?" Alyce asked, the concern very evident in her voice.

He glanced at the door to see her standing there. Her robe was askew and the slight breeze ruffling through her ebony hair. "I'm okay, Alyce."

She shook her head, frowning knowingly. "I don't think so." Crossing the area rapidly, she continued to press, "Please, Nick. Don't shut me out."

He sighed deeply. As much as he wanted to protect her, he realized that she would never accept being treated that way. "I'm concerned," he revealed, pulling on a robe over his silk pajamas.

"About what?" she inquired. "Granted, there's a lot going on, but we've dealt with it. Haven't we?"

"LaCroix's still pretty upset," he pointed out.

"Well, that can't be helped, Nick," she replied, fighting the tremor of fear inside of her.

"We shouldn't be looking for more trouble," he countered, staring out the window toward the mountains to the west. "Still, we have bigger problems than that."

"Such as?"

"What if whatever attacked the Amazons comes here? As Angie told us, the trolls have invaded here before," he worried.

She nodded. "Right. Well, I think we should prepare ourselves. However, worrying overly much about the issue isn't going to help us right now."

He turned to her, embracing her tightly against him. While the Vampire craved blood, he wanted her companionship...her feel her warmth. Here at least, he felt safe and wanted.


Across town, Natalie looked out of her apartment window toward the east. The night looked so serene and peaceful. Yet, based on what Angie had just told them, she knew the peace couldn't last. Behind the pleasant vistas lurked something darker. While she couldn't see it, she felt something ominous.

At her feet, Sidney brushed against her, purring with concern.

"You feel it too, huh?" she wondered, stroking his back. "I know I shouldn't be so concerned, but..."

"...but things involving Dave tend to turn out for the worse," Steve finished the statement as he entered the room.

"You would know," she noted humorously.

"Yeah, I would," he agreed, rubbing her shoulders. "And I thought I was the tense one." For two minutes, his hands kneaded her tight muscles, loosening the tension.

"Mmm...that's better," she murmured appreciatively, closing her eyes and allowing a smile to crease her lips. "You should've been a masseuse."

"I'll give it some thought," he supposed humorously. Certainly, it was better to be that way than to fret over the next oncoming crisis...


LaCroix removed his headset and shut down the radio console. Once again, the Nightcrawler ruled the airwaves. Just about any topic he threw to his audience as a discussion point received enthusiastic responses. Their appreciation was gratifying to say the least. Making sure that the studio was locked; he took to the air, flying rapidly to the El Gato Negro.

Upon reaching the club, he entered through the front door, muscling past the vermin who waited for entrance as well. Descending the stairs, he sat at the bar, observing the other customers dancing, drinking, and conversing. The room was full...yet the Elder felt alone. His children weren't there. How he longed for Nicholas and Alyce to be at his side. A quick brush with their minds revealed many things. As always, the familiar noxiousness of his son's guilt overwhelmed everything else. However, there was something else more striking. Suddenly, images flooded the Roman's brain...memories of his first encounter with Dubois in the classroom nearly two decades earlier. How was Nicholas seeing these things? Then, he realized the answer. Somehow, the two men had forged a bond and shared feelings between each other.

"I should have disposed of the mortal when I had the chance," he hissed. Seeing Janette approach from behind the bar, he greeted his former daughter, "Greetings, Janette."

"Bon Soir, LaCroix," she replied hospitably. "Might I offer you a drink?"

"Oui," he replied, albeit a bit testily. "Blood wine and not that swill I've seen you give to Nicholas."

She frowned, allowing her anger to color her cheeks. "Of course not! I cannot abide it either, but his preferences are his own. But if my stock isn't good enough for you..."

"No," he assured her. "Your wine is certainly that. I just...have a great deal on my mind tonight."

"Indeed," she concurred. "I could tell from across the room...even through...shall we say...a second hand link?" Seeing his surprise, she continued, placing the drink in front of him, "My link to Nicolas allows me to feel you as well."

"Then you know the source of my discomfort," he snarled, taking a ferocious gulp from the goblet.

From their long association, the vampiress could guess. "Dubois. Ah yes, how are you doing with that defeat by the way."

"Not tonight, Janette," he advised firmly.

"But there is the matter of the link between him and Nicolas, no? That is something you created, LaCroix," she pressed.

"And you have?" he asked indignantly.

She closed her eyes and rubbed her temples as if fighting a migraine. "Oui. I have seen his rage with my eyes, but yet, I have felt the unending rage sweep over me like a tidal wave through Nicolas." She hesitated for a second, allowing the words to hang in midair. Then, she continued, "Rage directed at you."

"How unique," he groused, taking a sip from the glass. The irony of the situation wasn't lost on him. Just as he had brought Nick across and had killed Divia, so had he provoked the final stages of Dubois' transformation. In a way, his miscalculations mirrored those of Julius Caesar. Although Xena had been a force in her own right before their meeting, Caesar's cruelty had turned her toward good and initiated her quest for redemption. It was a quest that had crossed their paths in both his mortal and immortal incarnations on several different occasions.

"And now, what will you do?" she posed, taking a saucy sip from her own cup. "Hmmm?"

Fighting back a bit of irritation, he inquired, "Meaning?"

"Meaning, how will you win Nicolas back to us if you cannot deal with Dubois and Xena? The path goes through them."

"Perhaps, he replied, feeling the germ of an idea forming in his mind. Perhaps, there was a way, but it would take some further planning on his part. Finishing the glass, he continued to plot, allowing the seed to take firmer root in his mind.

Chapter 4 [A few hours earlier]

The university campus lay quiet after the evening's classes let out. For the moment, the brisk pace of learning had ceased, allowing the university time to recharge itself for the following day's activities.

In his office, Dave studied a chronicle pertaining to the latter Crusades, attempting to lose himself within the Latin text. Knowing that Nick might have been involved in the events described in front of him, the professor wondered how the Cathars had felt as waves of Christian knights crashed over them, destroying everything they knew. Then, more in relation to his current reading, he mused at how the Christians in turn felt as they were swept from Outremer by the advancing Mamluks.

Allowing his mind to snap back to the present, he wondered if that was what awaited them. For the past week, the metallic fragment in his shoulder had burned, sending telltale signs of pain throughout his body. From these harbingers, he gathered that it wouldn't be long until Lousain made his move.

Then, he felt a familiar much like LaCroix...yet not. "Divia, show yourself," he directed to the shadows.

The vampiress semerged from the darkened hallway. "Impressive. So, it's true. You can sense our kind."

"It's the stench," he baited, flipping another page and giving her a sideways glance. "Office hours are over. What is it?"

"You, actually," she noted. "I wanted to observe someone like myself...someone whose essence is bound to darkness. Someone whose hatred for the father figure shapes what he is."

He sniggered, "There's a lot more to me than that, Toots."

"Is there?" she doubted, walking into the room and staring at him. "On the contrary, we're both angry children: lost, yet determined to gain vengeance."

He laughed. "Oh, I get it. This is about LaCroix, isn't it? Well, I hate to burst your bubble, Sweets, but I enjoy his misery as an ongoing project too much to end it now." Seeing her face flush with anger, he continued, "You could learn a bit about subtlety, you know?"

"And you have?" she debated.

"I'm the rational side, Honeybunch," he pushed sarcastically. "Apparently, my darker half takes care of the destructive stuff."

"But its so liberating," she argued.

He counted to ten, fighting the surge of anger rising within him. "Look, if you're trying to subvert me for Dahak, you're doing a lousy job of it."

"He doesn't know I'm here," she revealed.

"Oh right," she scoffed.

"Really," she fumed. This mortal was really starting to get on her nerves at this point.

He frowned as he put the book back on the shelf. This conversation was getting really tedious, especially under his current circumstances. "Look, I've gotta split." Giving her a mental shove out the door, he secured the door and turning his back on her, walked out the door and toward the east.

"Don't you turn your back on me!" she roared angrily. By now, she was fully vamped out.

"Watch me," he called over his shoulder.

"If I can't have your assistance one way, I'll have it another," she hissed, zipping at him.

But as quick as she was, he was faster. He fired a warning pulse, deliberately missing her by about a foot. "Ah...I'm not going...ta..warn again."

She kept advancing despite his warning. "You will help me!"

"Suit yaself," he muttered, feeling the Child operating cooperatively. With a single burst, he knocked her unconscious. However, in the process, he received a jolt of pain as a reward. Rubbing the tender spot again, he groused, "Someone really needs to work on her attitude." As the pain increased, he rushed to get to his car, hoping to get home before it overwhelmed him, but forgetting about her in the process.


Across town, Livia sat at the Duboises' dining room table grading papers. With each essay, she grew increasingly angry.

"How can she tolerate this?" she ranted.

"It's called living a modern life," Angie stated from the door of her study. "Could you keep it down please? The girls are sleeping."

The conqueror scowled defiantly, but due to the link between her hostess and her mother, she knew better than to start something.

"History's fun, isn't it?" the doctor inquired, trying to start a conversation. "Dave thinks so."

"Not when these fools don't know what really happened," Livia replied tersely. "I can't believe that oration I had to give today...defending Eli. Simpering fool."

"Eve doesn't think so," Angie commented, trying to remain calm. At times like these, dealing with her husband's moods had its advantages.

"She's a weakling."

"Not as much as you think," Angie responded, folding her arms across her chest. "You might learn something from her and vice-versa."

"I'm sure your husband has such dialogues?" she posed amusedly.

"He does," the hostess countered. "And both sides benefit."

"That we do," Dave agreed, entering the apartment. "Angie's right, you should try it sometime. Nice self control today by the way."

She nodded appreciatively. "So how do you...?"

"Keep my composure? Sometimes, it's really hard, but I need a job so that we can eat."
"Good point," she conceded, sipping on the coffee concoction in front of her,

"Speaking of the wise wonders, you have Freshman 101 in the morning," he chuckled, sipping on a cup of tea.

"AGAIN?" she exclaimed. "Those children know nothing!"

He giggled at the remark.

"Dave, cut it out," Angie directed, elbowing him.

"She's right, Princess. They think the piece of paper is everything. Such are the wonders of our modern educational system. Fortunately, there are some of us who don't believe in giving free rides. Count Francesca, me...and Eve in that camp," he argued.

"Oh right," their guest scoffed.

"No, she doesn't. Give her some credit, will you?" he argued, feeling as if he was having another debate with the Child.

"I suppose," she agreed, dropping it. "Was stimulating?"

Angie studied him. For some reason, he was worked up over something. "Well?"

"The class went fine, but I had a visitor afterwards," he noted, taking another sip of his tea.

"Visitor?" his wife pushed. "Who?"

"Her niece," he replied, motioning toward Livia.

"Divia?" the conqueror wondered. "How?"

"It seems that Dahak's security's getting really lax," he started, and then he rubbed his shoulder as another wave of pain cut through him. "Anyhow, get this. She asked me to help her and she promised to help me."

"And what did she ask of you?" Livia pushed.

"Oh just my help in eliminating your stepbrother," he revealed. "Tempting, but I don't think so."

"As if you wouldn't want to get rid of him," their guest doubted.

"He's a royal pain all right," Angie replied. "Still, I hope you weren't too tempted, Dave."

"I want him dead, but it's not worth my soul in the bargain," he concurred.

"So, where's Divia?" the oncologist wondered.

He winced. "Crap! I knew there was something I forgot! I blasted her and walked away."

Angie shook her head and paced the room. "You walked away and left her there? Dave, come on!" she lectured.

"The way this thing's killing me..." he started, allowing his mind to scan the vicinity. "Shit!"

"Not there, huh? Way to go, Hotshot," his wife baited.

"There are two places where she could go," he noted, heading to the phone and dialing Nick's number. After ten rings and no message or machine, he sighed, guessing at the cause. "Let's go." Rising slowly from the chair, he thought for a minute. "What about the kids?"

Seeing the light from the apartment across the way, she said, "Seems that Francesca's still up. Let's see if she can watch them for a few minutes."

Livia looked at her hosts in confusion. "How are we going to get across town now?"

"We're going in the Horseless Carriage again," he quipped, leading them out the door.

A few minutes later, they were streaking west. Livia stared out the window, marveling at the dizzying speed and hoping that she could intercede before her niece was permanently hurt or worse.

Chapter 5

Nick and Alyce had curled up together in his bed. Although neither was really relaxed, the two immortals had managed to doze off.

From outside of the window, Divia scowled to herself. Nicholas had apparently come to grips with his immortality. Worse still, it seemed that the woman with him was another of Lucius' children. "They're too happy." After allowing her anger to seethe for another moment, she crashed through the window. Before the two sleeping vampires could fully react, she was on them, flinging them to opposite ends of the room.

"Oh, how this will hurt Lucius!" she crowed gleefully as she walked over to the curator. Seizing her victim by the throat, the ancient attacker raised Alyce into the air. "Another of Lucius' converts! Another victim!" Her nails raked her victim's face over and over again, drawing blood.

Nick, having regained his senses, bulled into Divia, separating her from Alyce. After LaCroix had brought her across, he wouldn't let it happen again. Turning to his companion, he instructed. "Alyce, go!"

"But, Nick, I can't leave you alone with her!" she protested.

"I SAID GO!" he insisted, deflecting a blow from the blonde attacker. Feeling the familiar vibrations from outside, he continued, "The elevator! Turn it on!"

She nodded, not wanting to leave, but sensing the cavalry outside. Streaking away, she determined to activate the system and get back there as soon as possible.

Meanwhile Divia had landed a vicious left cross, sending her grandchild/brother across the room. "This really isn't personal, Nicholas. I do like you, but business is business!" she declared, raking his face repeatedly. "You're so pathetic." Flinging him down to the floor, she broke off a shard of oak from the dresser and approached him. Towering over him, she held the stake high in the air.

Then, through the glass, she heard a taunting voice, "Couldn't stay 'way, could ya?"

She knew the voice was Dubois' yet the tone was the Child's. Glancing in that direction, she saw him hovering somehow in midair, levitating more than three stories off of the ground.

"Ah said back away!" the Dark One hissed, blasting her away from Nick.

The attacker reconsidered her options. Dubois had released his darkness again, taking this fight to a whole new level. Based on their last encounters, she didn't recall him being able to levitate. "Come on if you dare!" she challenged.

"Keep yer toga on, Bitch!" he growled, fighting off another wave of pain. Being that close to her, the shard burned even more. "Ready for your next whuppin'?"

Snarling wordlessly, she flung herself into him, sending them through the bedroom door and down the stairs into the loft's main living area, landing with a sick thud.

He kicked her back across the room. "Is tha' your best? Ah sure as Hell hope not!"

She reevaluated the situation. Besides the levitating ability, he was much stronger than she remembered. Looking where his top had torn open during the impact, she saw the glowing scar. "Lousain's damn magic!" she hissed. Forcing herself to stand, she charged him again.

He laughed heartily, backhanding her hard and sending her across the room. "Come n' git it!" he pushed.

Not willing to take a hint, she readied herself again and charged...only to be stopped by a whirring blur streaking between them. "Stay out of this, Xena!" she hissed.

"I don't think so," the warrior disagreed, catching her weapon and drawing her sword. Somehow, they needed to stop this fight lest Nick's loft be destroyed like Wabash's downtown.

"No!" Livia protested, flipping across the area and landing between the combatants. "I won't let you die, Divia!"

"Auntie Livia, how sweet....I do appreciate it. Really. But he has to die!" the immortal teenager dismissed.

The conqueror stepped between them again. "This stops now."

"Outta mah way!" the Child roared.

"Cool it!" Xena asserted, restraining him.

Reflecting the increased strength, he flexed, knocking the warrior across the room. "," he snarled. Firing a pulse, he knocked Divia unconscious. "Git outta mah way 'less ya wanna be next."

The Warrior Princess and Nick exchanged glances. This was the moment they had feared would come...the point where the Child was totally out of control.

The former Crusader glanced about, looking for something to deal with the situation. Then, his eyes fell on the counter where a piece of sack cloth lay in plain view. Zipping faster than the eye could follow, he picked up the item. Feeling the piece burning his hands, he rushed over to his friend's side and shoved the cloth onto the wound.

If they were waiting for a reaction, it didn't take long. The wound began to smoke and bubble. For his part, the Child howled, "Arrrggghh!"

The two counteracting forces of light and dark repelled each other with such force that an explosion knocked the group off of their feet. A blinding light filled the room for a moment and then faded.

Xena stood first and looked around. Seeing the cloth, she picked it up and looked it over. It seemed as if it were from a robe or something. "What is this?"

"It...was a piece of the priest's vestments at Jaffa when we fought our battle there in 1291. He was extremely pious," Nick declared, getting up and helping Alyce to her feet.

The warrior nodded and continued to look about her. Then, she heard a familiar voice call out, "Mother?"

Turning, she saw her daughter rise, but the expression told her that it was Eve. "Eve!" she exclaimed, hugging her tightly.

"Wow..." Dave sighed, rubbing his head. "The last thing I remember is standing outside of the apartment. Then, there was this brilliant light."

"The light of faith," Eve informed him. "I saw it too." Seeing Divia's unconscious form, she wondered, "What do we do with her?"

"Hopefully, Cybelle can figure something out," Xena replied. "Are you all right, Nicholas?"

"No permanent damage," he reassured them.

"I'm okay..." Alyce insisted, heading for the fridge. "I just need blood."

"Thanks, everyone," the detective expressed.

"No problem," Dave indicated, walking over to the window and scanning the horizon. Despite the miracle they had just experienced, the pain in his arm was already regaining its potency. Somehow, the sun hadn't yet risen and already the trouble had begun.

Chapter 6
[The Pit, Dark Lands]

Lousain sat on his throne, overlooking the sacrificial chamber. Despite the effort put into cleaning the area, he could still feel the shame of the loss to Nurrengaard so long ago. He had been so close at that point, yet so far. The battle had hung in the balance...yet he had underestimated the darkness with Dubois.

"I won't make the same mistake again," he hissed, banging his fist into the armrest. In temper, a burst scored the far wall, leaving a mark on the spot.

Loritor bowed fearfully before him. "Milord, we are in position."

The wizard glared at the underling, but restrained himself from incinerating it. "Very well. Move out."

The troll nodded and backed away quickly.

"Are you ready?" Dahak inquired, as the telltale flame appeared in the central brazier.

"We are. I'll be on Earth," the wizard responded, standing up. "If you'll excuse me...." Raising his hands, he disappeared.

Minutes later, the flame burned itself out as the demon lord turned his attention back to the affair at hand.


[The Citadel of the Four Winds, Nurrengaard]

All that day, an ill wind had blown from the east, buffeting the fair city with its wrath. High above the cobbled streets, Merlori, the elf lord of the citadel, surveyed the eastern horizon as he witnessed the scarlet red haze hanging low on the horizon. Despite the omens, he hoped that the forces of darkness wouldn't advance beyond the Dark Lands again to threaten his realm anew.

"May the forces of light protect us," he wished, staring into the sky.

"We can all hope for such things," Grimwilkin replied earnestly.

The leader turned to see the aged sorcerer standing side by side with the battle ready gnome. "So, you two are ready, are you?"

"We are," Ferali confirmed, gripping his axe tightly. "With your indulgence, I will leave with Grimwilkin."

"Go. I wouldn't bar you from serving at your brother-in-arm's side in his hour of need. I pray he remembers the need of his lord," the citadel commander relented.

"He will," the wizard agreed. "Have not the needs of our realms always coincided? As before, we shall secure the outer realm first and then return here. So hath the Empress predicted. So shall it be. It is David's destiny to venture into the Pit again." Seeing the doubt in Merlori's face, he reminded the other. "He bears a fragment from the ceremonial dagger of Paldaar inside of him, exacerbating the anger within him. Last evening, he was nearly lost to us. Thankfully, the vampire knight and Xena kept him safe."

"I see," the leader realized. "Well, go forth and fight well. Streaker awaits his rider. Meantime, we will be ready at your signal."

"Thank you. Until the battle, then," the wizard concluded.

Ferali bowed at the waist as well.

With that, the wizard raised his staff to the sky. "Then, let us and our steeds be gone!" In a flash of light, the two travelers vanished from view, leaving the leader alone with his concerns and forebodings for the future.



After the tumultuous events of the previous evening, the day passed without a noticeable incident at the university. Students came and went. The faculty continued their research.

Just after sunset, Dave stared out his office window at the sky. While there was the usual panorama of colors painted across the sky, a scarlet smudge floated close to the mountaintops. "It's starting," he noted.

"Right on, Bro'," Cybelle concurred as she emerged from the mist. "The evil is on the move."

"Tell me something I don't know," he groused, rubbing the shoulder again. "My shoulder's burning."


"Yeah. That relic should've helped me for a few days at least, but it only reversed things for a while. Within an hour, the damned thing was burning again. By the way, how's Divia?" he replied.

"She's still in stasis." she shrugged. "She'll sleep until I wake her. Hope is still under guard in the Amazon village." Allowing her eyes to glance out the window, she commented, "The sky turns dark. Are you ready?"

"As I'll ever be," he told her, pointing to his bow and shafts. "Eve, Francesca, and I have late classes tonight. Angie's going to be waiting in here. She's got some research to do, and I want her close by in case anything happens."

"Well, Deirdre has taken her sisters to safety," the head priestess noted. "They'll be out of immediate harm's way."

"And how about you?" he wondered.

"I'll be here as well. This is where the demon troops will strike first. Meantime, the Empress has taken charge in the hidden realm. Be prepared for anything," she pointed out.

"When am I not?" he asked, inspecting his weapons. "Well, if you want to wait here, Angie will be by in a few minutes."

Just then, a knocking came from the door. "Dave?" Steve inquired.

"It's open," the professor pointed out.

Walking into the area, the FBI agent took in the two siblings. Obviously, from the stern expression on his face, something had happened.

"Okay, Steve, spill it," Dave urged.

"Nat's waiting at a crime scene over at Himmel right now," Steve recounted. "Nick, Tracy, and Schanke will be there shortly. It looks like a ritual murder."

"Ritual murder?" the priestess probed. "Dave, I need to get over there. Tell Angie I'll be back in a bit." With that, she opened a portal and left the area.

Steve shook his head in wonder. "I'll say one thing about her, Dave. She sure does know how to get around. Speaking of going places, don't you have a class to teach?"

The medievalist stared at his watch. "Yeah, in five minutes. Wanna come and watch?"

"With the others over at the scene, I'd be in the way. Sure, I'll stick close to you," he replied with an air of sarcasm, knowing that if the shit was going to hit the fan, his friend would have the bullseye on his back yet again.

"Be careful, Petersen. I'm giving a quiz to those kids tonight. Keep going and you'll be taking it with them."

"No way. Agent's prerogative," he joked.

"Which prerogative is that? I don't recognize any such thing," the instructor replied curtly, leading them down the hall.


A couple of blocks away, Natalie stood up from where she had stooped over the corpse. The victim, a college sophomore of about twenty years of age, had been bound to a stone bench and stabbed multiple times in the chest. Judging from the expression on his face, he had died in terror and agony.

"Some people," she muttered, recalling the last time something like this happened. Just before Divia and Hope appeared outside of Angie's hometown, a string of ritualized murders just like this one had occurred. "I hope we nail the creeps."

"You and me both," Schanke agreed, walking up to her side. Looking over the situation, he winced. "Yeesh! Who or what would do this?" Figuring that his partner would know about this stuff, he asked, "What do ya think, Nick?"

The vampire detective scanned the area with his enhanced senses. Faint traces of blood were all around the bench. In the air, there was a faint odor...almost like a burnt candle. "It's a sacrifice all right. It's fits with what we know."

"And that is?" Tracy wondered.

Seeing the grim expression on Nick's face, Natalie wondered, "What is it, Nick? What happened?"

"Divia attacked again last night. She beat on Alyce and me. Then, Dave showed up and handled her. Something was going on with him. He was nastier, more brutal than usual."

His partners exchanged concerned looks. How could Dave's Child be any more brutal?

"Does this have anything to do with that old injury?" Natalie wondered.

"Everything. Apparently, the metal piece in his arm is acting like a magnet, drawing the energy from whatever is coming. What was the TOD? About 11PM last night?"

"More or less," the coroner concurred. "Was that...?"

"Exactly," he replied. "Angie said that as soon as they arrived, Dave bolted out of the car and changed. He floated up to my window."

"Floated? Yeah right, Nick," Schanke scoffed.

"He did," the other insisted.

"Listen to him," Cybelle's voice urged.

Looking about, they saw the priestess emerge from the mists.

"Umm, this is a crime scene, Cybelle," Tracy pointed out.

"So, are you as expert on the occult as I am?" Cybelle wondered in response.

"Good point," Tracy concurred.

"Are you all right, Nicholas?" Cybelle asked.

"I'm fine. It's your brother that concerns me," Nick stated.

"Yes. Apparently, the treatment didn't work as well as we had hoped. The fight with Velasca affected him greatly, and Divia's appearance more so. That was a very noble thing you did, Nicholas, with the cloth. You stopped a bigger confrontation," the priestess explained.

"I did what I had to do," he replied with a shrug, examining the body anew. There were wooden splinters in the wound as well. Producing a baggie, he took a set of tweezers and secured the fragments for evidence. "We already have a suspect in custody."

"Already?" Natalie asked. "But we just called this one in!"

"Uniforms picked up some robed people making a ruckus on the university campus," Tracy reported. "One of them did have a bloody stake and some smoldering candles."

Cybelle frowned. "You'll find out little from them directly, I'm afraid."

"And you know what we're dealing with?" Schanke inquired half-seriously.

"This is the work of Dahak's followers. The technique, however, belongs to the wizard, Lousain. Angie was once secured like this and nearly suffered his fate. Only the Child saved them all," Cybelle indicated. "I could go with you to question them or to watch."

Seeing the others' concern, Nick proposed, "Is there a way you could stay invisible to the camera and to everyone except for let's say me?"

"It can be arranged," the priestess agreed. "I can tell you when they're lying or which questions to ask."

"Done," the former Crusader agreed. "Let's go."

"I'll be in the lab a little later if you want to stop by," Natalie pointed out as they left.

The others climbed into the Caddy and left for the Precinct.

Chapter 7

The scene inside of the bullpen was tense when Nick and the others arrived there. For convenience sake, Cybelle had vanished from view, but followed them on her side of the mists. As they made their way to their desks, Ramirez intercepted the trio.

"Did you find anything at the scene?" he asked nervously.

"Some splinters in the victim. The area had dried blood all around as well. Natalie and Forensics are wrapping things up there," Nick reported, holding up the evidence from the scene.

"Well, the suspects are waiting for you in Room 1," the captain noted. "Buena suerte con estos."

Tracy winced. "I'm really getting sick of all of this weird stuff."

"All in a day's work, Trace," Nick assured her. "C'mon." Glancing about, his enhanced senses picked up on Cybelle's concealed presence just behind them.


Sitting around the table, the four suspects groused about their current situation. Instead of preparing to meet their Dark Lord, they would more than likely be sitting in jail under the watch of these supposedly official morons.

"Hey, before the questions start, can we get some coffee?" one, a skinny man with blond hair and a beard, sassed.

The guard shot him a dirty look. Nick and Schanke could be brutal with their interrogations. For once, this was going to be fun.

Upon seeing the trio enter, the suspects composed themselves for whatever the fools were going to push on them. Soon enough, the situation would change.

"So, when do we get our lawyer?" another of the group, a lanky redheaded woman demanded.

"We can get you one. Of course, that means we would have to book you," Schanke advised her.

The blond studied Nick for a minute. "Cool, Man. You should let us off."

"And why would I do that?" Nick wondered, puzzled by the other man's remark.

"I can sense this darkness about you," the prisoner reported.

Glancing at Cybelle who was hidden in the corner, he saw her shake her head. Then, he pushed on, "You think so?"

"I know it."

Nick turned to the guard and suggested, "Can we have a moment alone?" Seeing the guard hesitate, he locked eyes with his associate, allowing the hypnotic energies to flow forth. "Listen to me, you really do need a cup of coffee. Go ahead. We'll be fine."

"R...Right," the other man agreed and absently left the room, closing the door behind him.

Now that they were alone, the former Crusader turned back to the matter at hand. "Now, what do you know?"

The others smiled confidently. "We know about you, Detective. Our lord has a message for you. Join him."

Tracy and Schanke exchanged nervous glances. With all of the weirdness going on, they didn't need Nick ducking out on them at that point. Worse, the former still remembered how weird Nick acted after that night at the exorcist's chamber.

"I don't think so," Nick declined, shaking his head. "How about you offer me some information instead?"

"Your loss," the blond told him. "Have you looked out the window lately? There's an intense storm coming and you'll want to be with us rather than against us."

"I'll take my chances," Nick replied evenly, not allowing his frustration to show. "If you know about me then you know that I've taken some heavy blows in my time. I stand by my friends no matter what."

"Such as the old lady in the corner there?"

He glimpsed toward Cybelle, but faked, "Who?"

The third prisoner spoke up. "Don't treat us as if we're stupid. We were picked for our abilities. Dahak gave us the ability to peer through illusion."

Schanke chuckled, "That's it!" Rapping on the door, he got the guard's attention. "Get these three booked and to lockup."

As they were being hauled away, the blond inquired, "What about your wife and daughter, Detective? What if they don't survive?"

After the group had left, Tracy asked, "How did they...?"

"Apparently, Dahak's raising the stakes," Nick replied. Extending his senses, he felt something wrong... "Come on!" With his partners following as best they could, he bolted out of the bullpen and down the stairs. Staring up into the sky, he could see the bloody sheen now extending itself across the city. "Damn!"

"What is it, Nick?" she pushed.

"It's starting," the vampire told them. "What do you think, Cybelle?"

"I'd agree," the head priestess stated as she approached them. For the sake of appearances, she disguised herself as a normal person. Scanning the area, she sighed. "There's something in the desert west of the city."

"Something?" Schanke inquired. "As in what? Damn it, Nick, Tracy asked you a question. What the heck's goin' on?"

"Have you heard of the Apocalypse? This may be it," the priestess noted. "I have two stops to make and then, I shall meet you at the university. Good luck!" With that, she faded into the mists.

"What the...?" Schanke wondered in disbelief.

"It's starting...." he reiterated, allowing his mind to flash back.....


[1291 Acre, Outremer]

Nick sighed to himself. After almost two hundred years of holding out against the Saracens, the Crusader states had fallen before the Mamluk war machine one by one. With each loss, the Christians had been pushed backward and their territorial holdings were reduced. The troops had hoped for some break...some relief, but none came. Finally, they retreated within the walls of this citadel, hoping for a few days to rest and recuperate.

For two days, the scouts saw nothing coming from the desert. Then, at sunset of the latter day, something caused them to come riding back into the city hard and fast. "Close the gates! For the love of God, close the gates! The Saracens are coming!"

Within minutes, church bells rang frantically within the city, stirring all to arms.

For his part, Nicolas de Brabant dressed and stepped outside. His senses were attuned to the charged atmosphere surrounding the community. Given the amount of panic, nobody noticed as he ducked into an alley and zipped into the air toward the wall. Landing there, he saw a cloud of dust stirring a couple of miles away, signifying the Mamluks' approach.

It seemed the final advance had begun....


[Present Day]

"Hey, Nick!" Schanke called, shaking his shoulder. "Don't go strange on us right now, okay?"

"I was just remembering another time and invasion like this one," Nick indicated. "Look, get back inside and keep an ear on the police band. We're going to have problems soon enough."

"And what are you going to do?" Tracy asked skeptically.

"Scout a bit," he told them, taking off into the night sky.

For their part, the two mortal detectives were left speechless, still trying to make sense out of what they had heard.


Nick sped across the city as rapidly as he dared. Within minutes, he was flying over the barren desert west of town. So far, he could feel the invading presence, but could see nothing. Then, about five minutes out, he spied them-a small army of creatures corresponding to the description of trolls which Dave and Angie had given him. And they were moving quickly toward the suburbs

"Roughly 2000," he estimated. "Damn!" Turning, he made his way to the east, hoping to pass this information on. Ten minutes later, he had landed outside of the El Gato Negro and ran inside.

"Nicolas, what is it?" Janette wondered, placing a glass in front of him.

"Janette, we need to get fight," he gasped, gulping the concoction and feeling some of his strength return.

"Fight? Fight what?" his daughter inquired.

Tracy stood up from where she'd been sitting with Vachon. Approaching him, she asked, "Did you find something, Nick?"

"Que es?" Vachon wondered.

"There's an army of trolls heading this way," Nick revealed. "When I left the precinct, I flew a scouting mission to see what was going on."

"Trolls? You mean like in the nursery rhymes?" his partner scoffed. "C'mon, Nick!"

"They match the descriptions which Dave and Angie gave me!" the Brabantine protested, gulping down a second glass of cow bloodwine.

Janette exhaled deeply. "We need to speak to LaCroix about this. If we are to coordinate anything, Nicolas, he'll have to lead it as the Community Elder."

"Right," he sighed reluctantly, not really wanting to talk to his former master. "Arrange it, Janette. I'll be at the U of A."

"My pleasure, mon Cher," she concurred, picking up the phone as he left and wondering what was going to happen next.

Chapter 8

Even as Nick and the others were trying to prepare themselves for the coming assault, Angie sat in her husband's office with the door locked. While she would have preferred to do her work at the UMC, she understood why Dave wanted her close by. For the past two hours, she had poured over her notes, inputting the information into her laptop, and double-checking the citations.

"I hope it's a false alarm," she said wistfully, stretching her arms to the roof. Then, her senses picked up on something amiss within the room.

"I doubt it," a familiar voice disagreed. "But then, you probably already know that, don't ya?"

She urged, "Ares, come out."

The war god appeared in a flash of light. "Not bad, Angela. Not bad. In fact, only one other person has ever been able to pull that trick on me."

"And what trick is that?" she wondered, trying to look secure. "I'm a telepath just like my husband. I could sense your aura."

"Are you sure that's all there is to it?" he pushed. "I think there's something else."

"Really? Like what?" she retorted coyly.

"When I was healing Xena in the Amazon village, I felt a connection between you two. Now, how could that be?" he continued, staring her in the eye.

"I had just given a piece of myself to heal her before you stepped in, Ares," she commented. "Think of it as a transfusion if you'd like."

He chuckled. "True, but there is a lot more than that going on. I have to admit that I was curious at how Xena managed to pop up so fast when Callisto attacked the House of Healing. Some coincidence, ain't it?" Leaning up against a bookcase, he inquired, "How does she get to your husband's side so fast, huh?"

"She's in tune with my thoughts, Ares," she sighed impatiently. This conversation was getting too close for comfort.

"But this ain't her time," he pushed.

She gave him an intense stare. "There's something you don't understand. As long as any friend of mine is around me, it is her time and place. I don't care if she's ancient, medieval, prehistoric, or whatever! Now, if you don't stop hassling me, I'll sic my hubby on you. He's itching for a fight right now."

Just then, a knock came from the door.

"Yes?" she wondered.

"Angie, it's Eve. What's going on in there?" Eve asked, entering the room. Upon seeing the war god, she scowled. "What are you doing here?"

"Nice to see ya too, Eve. Or is it Livia? I've lost track," he gibed.

"You know who I am, you bastard!" she vented. "Stop bothering my friend needlessly."

"Who's bothering her? I was just looking for your mother is all. I figured that I was in town and we could catch up on old times," he stated. Seeing the two women staring defiantly at him, he continued, "There is a big mess heading this way even as we speak. Your vampire friend has already discovered that. Get ready. Xena will need to be way or the other." With that, he vanished into the shadows.

"What was that all about?" the former Messenger wondered.

"Oh, he dropped in uninvited. What else is new?" Angie retorted, trying to sound nonchalant. "What do you suppose he was getting at?"

"There is great evil in the air, Angie," Eve noted. "I released my class early tonight for that reason."

"I was wondering how you got here when you did," the oncologist mentioned, packing up her reading material. "Yes, I sense it too. I gather that Cybelle is checking it out." Glancing out the window, she saw the bloody red mist against the ebony backdrop. "He's right. The sky is just like the Dark Realm. Lousain has to be close by." She shuddered, recalling the last trip through there. "I can still feel the trolls' clammy touch even now."

Sensing her friend's discomfort, Eve rubbed Angie's shoulder, reassuring her, "It'll be all right, Angie. Be strong."

"Don't worry about that," the doctor stated. "I'll be ready." Looking at the clock on the desk, she presumed, "It's 8:45. Dave should be getting out of class any minute." Then, they heard a crash outside of the window. "What in...?"

Just then, a frantic young woman ran into the building, looking around for assistance. "Help! Monsters!"

Eve looked out the window. On the lawn outside, fifteen trolls were chasing students, tearing up the benches, and causing mayhem. "By Eli! Angie, look!"

Her associate studied the scene as well. "Oh great. Well, it seems that we're about to get involved." Grasping the sword, she initiated the transformation.

Once the change had finished, the warrior looked at her daughter. "Stay put," she directed, running out the door, down the hall, and outside.


Dave glanced about at the class with satisfaction. The students took in most of what he had said over the past hour and asked good questions. There were few glazed over expressions.

However, about 8:35, the pain he had been feeling spiked dramatically. Not wanting to cry out in front of the students, he gripped the podium tightly and bowed his head.

"Dr. D?" Brigid Shannon asked. "What's going on?"

Steve watched the events with concern as well. Rising from his chair, he rushed over to his friend's side. "Hey, what is it?"

"Lou---sain," he muttered tersely, shaking all the more. "He's" Collecting himself, he managed to stand straight. ", Ah...I...need ya to pay attention. I...I'm dismissing class early tonight. Go...home and lock yer...your...doors. Be safe. Class is dismissed."

Despite his dismissal, the students sat frozen in place. Despite the fact that their professor was different, they knew that he wouldn't let them go early unless something was dreadfully wrong.

"You heard him," Steve reinforced, looking around.

Just then, a young girl ran into the room hysterically. "Help me! Monsters!"

"Ma'am, I'm a FBI agent. What's going on?" Steve pursued.

"Th...There are several creatures...outside. They're heading this way," she reported fearfully, shaking like a leaf.

At that point, Dave heard a crash coming from outside followed by a familiar battle cry. "Agent Petersen, can you get...'em outta here?"

"Right," he agreed, motioning for the others to line up.

At that moment, Toni Quintana ran into the room. "Guys, there's something weird going on outside!"

Dave and Steve exchanged looks at one another. It figured that the former couldn't even get through one normal lecture without something bizarre happening.

"Toni, call in the cavalry! You know who I mean!" the medievalist bellowed, while the pain increased.

"I'm on my way!" she yelled frantically over her shoulder as she hurried for the stairs. Whatever was happening, Mutant X was needed badly.

After she had left, the agent declared, "Well, what're you waiting for? Go, get 'em!"

"Ab...sol..utely," the professor agreed with effort, throwing his things into the satchel, and hurrying out of the room. Reaching his office in no time flat, he opened the door to find Eve sitting there. "Wha?"

"Mother's orders...I..." she replied and then winced. "Arrgh!" A bright red light surrounded her.

"Now wha?" Dave growled, sensing the change within her.

When she looked back up, Livia was again in charge. The warrior was again clad in her familiar red tights, armor, and cape. "And what's your problem?" she wondered.

"Who me?" he asked, grabbing his bow and shafts. "Nothin' Just a damn migraine...Nothin' that killin' a few trolls won't stop."

"Then, what are we waiting for?" she inquired, running out the door.

He smiled, following closely behind.


Meanwhile, the trolls marauded their way down Third Street, smashing their way through the main university gate, and looking to cause destruction. Despite their brothers' numbers on the edge of this hovel, their job was to intimidate the filthy flesh bags scurrying about them.

Just behind them, Lousain walked almost casually, enjoying the scene around him.

When they had reached the grassy area in back of a particularly old building, a single note intruded upon their orgy of destruction.


From out of nowhere, a metallic blur zipped toward them, taking out three of their number before skipping back into the shadow from whence it had come.

"Xena!" the wizard challenged. "Show yourself!"

At the invitation, the Warrior Princess sauntered out into the light. "Lousain, right? We finally meet. I've heard a lot about ya."

"It's still twelve against one," he doubted. Pointing at her, he ordered, "Get her!"
Needing no other goading, the band advanced on her.

The warrior grinned savagely, twirling her sword faster and faster in front of her. She was going to carve her share of troll flesh on this night no matter what.

Then, two trolls fell backwards, hitting the ground shortly before they died. Imbedded in their foreheads were familiar red and blue tailed arrows....

"Now, it's ten to three, Scum!" Dave growled, already firing off another volley.

Livia smiled in anticipation. Leaping to her mother's side, she wondered, "Did you leave some for me?"

"Take all ya want!" Xena replied, parrying a sword thrust.

"Thanks, Mommy," Livia snickered, jumping into a fight with another monster.

"David!" the Warrior Princess bellowed.

"Yo!" he replied, taking out another troll with a shaft.

"How ya doin'?"

"Oh, about the same. About ready to explode and all that," he sassed darkly, wounding another adversary in the leg. "Damn, missed!" Willing up a pulse, he fired, hitting the creature point blank and finishing it off.

Even as they bantered on, Livia had killed two more creatures. "I think that's eight."

Dave bunched six shafts in his hand and tossed them in the air. Gripping them with his mind, he flung them into the enemy, killing the majority within a heartbeat.

Xena finished the last two trolls with relative ease.

For his part, Lousain had sat and observed the proceedings. While he admired the efficiency with which they had disposed of his advance guard, he determined that it was time to end the proceedings. Willing up a blast, he fired, stunning both Xena and Livia. Wheeling on Dave, he fired again.

The medievalist grinned, forming a shield that deflected the blast. "My turn." He fired a pulse, knocking the wizard off of his feet. "I've been waiting for this." Firing blast after blast, he sent Lousain flying backward. Now that he was in his adversary's presence, the pain was at its most intense. "Invade my home, will ya?" he growled savagely, bordering on allowing the Child to come out.

Lousain stared at the human advancing on him. While they did need to face each other, he wanted his full armies behind him at that point. "I'll be waiting for you in the West, Dubois!" he roared, fading away.

"Damn coward!" Dave hissed. Then, seeing the two woman warriors climbing to their feet, he asked, "You all right?" Seeing them both nod, he scanned about the area with his senses. Already, the trolls' carcasses had disintegrated, leaving no signs of their existence. Fortunately, the trio had stopped the creatures from doing any damage to the buildings around them.

Then, he felt a familiar emptiness overhead. "Nick?"

The former Crusader alighted on the ground by his friend's side. "I just arrived. That was Lousain?"

"In the flesh, so to speak.." the historian shrugged. "He said that there was some sort of army west of here."

"There is. I flew over the West side. There are 2000 of those things," the detective advised.

Xena looked first at her daughter and then at Dave. While disposing of fifteen hadn't been too difficult, increasing the number by 800 times would stack things too highly against them.

Chapter 9

[Mutant X Sanctuary]

It had been a quiet day as far as the Mutant X team was concerned. The GSA hadn't tried to grab any other new mutants. Better yet, Adam had given them a day off from their combat simulation exercises to meditate and collect their thoughts. However, despite the lack of outward threats, a sense of unease hung over the facility as if something was going to happen.

Emma slept restlessly. After a quiet period lasting several weeks, Dave Dubois' thoughts had begun to bleed into hers again. As before, she sensed his struggle with some really powerful Amazon warrior and the reemergence of the Dark Other. Despite the attention of women dressed similarly to Deirdre, she could tell that he was still getting worse. On the previous night, she "felt" his battle with the girl-vampire and the increased rage followed by the miracle pulled off by Nick to pull their friend back.

But that was before tonight....

Increased fury flooded her brain. The pain increased almost akin to what the professor had felt with the sub-dermal governor. Somehow, he kept the Child at bay, fighting with his own abilities in dispatching the enemy beside Xena and Eve.

Then, through his eyes, she saw the man with dark hair and a beard step forward. Unbelievably, his anger surged higher as he blasted his adversary across the courtyard, screaming, "Invade my home, will ya?"

She jolted awake, sweating and shaking. Something was going on down in Arizona. Right now.

In the adjacent bed, Shalimar stirred. "Hey, Em...what's goin'...on?"

"Something's going on down in Tucson," she sighed, pulling on a robe.

"Dave again?" the feral wondered, sitting up and rubbing her head.

"It's not his fault. Not if he can't get a moment's worth of peace!" the empath protested, opening the door and rushing down the hall toward the command center.


Meantime, Jesse sat at his computer keyboard, surfing the Internet, and reading reports on the digital projection image floating in the air in front of him. Over the past hour, the police bands had been extremely busy with activity.

Then, the "incoming video call" message appeared in front of him. "What in?" he wondered, opening it.

The database opened a view screen showing Toni's panicked face. "Jesse! Thank God!"

He stared at the screen. "Toni, what's going on? Are you okay?"

"For the moment," she sighed. "Don't worry. I'm safe." A crashing noise could be heard in the background. "But it might be a short moment."

"What's going on down there?" he demanded, fearing for her safety. "Where are Dave and the others?"

"Outside dealing with the situation," she replied. "Agent Petersen got the students out. Dave asked me to get a hold of you folks. We have a situation down here."

The density mutant scratched his head and looked at the clock. 12:54 AM. While he knew that everyone wouldn't be thrilled with the early wakeup call, it was necessary. Pressing a button on the side of the console, he sent a signal to the others' rooms, stirring them from their sleep.

At that moment, Emma hurried over to where he was. "Jesse!"

"Hey, Em, are you picking up on this too?" he wondered.

"If you mean Dave, I've got a really good idea of what we're dealing with," she replied, her voice strained by pain. Looking at the screen, she told Toni, "I know what's going on down there."

"We'll be there ASAP," Jesse promised, getting up from the chair. Whatever was going on, Dave and the others needed Mutant X's help.

At that moment, Adam, Brennan, and Shalimar rushed into the area, responding to the alarm.

"Hey," Adam asked. "What's going on? Shalimar told me about your vision, Emma, but do we have any other confirmation?" Looking at the screen, he asked their friend, "What is going on down there?"

"We're under attack by something really strange, Adam. Dave and the others are dealing with it, but he asked me to get a hold of you. I heard something about monsters."

"Adam," Emma interjected. "I saw him fighting some sort of creatures...almost like trolls..."

"Trolls?" Brennan cracked. "You mean as in the nursery rhymes? Come on."

"They're real," the empath insisted, rubbing her head. "As is their master. Oh man, we thought we had seen him at his angriest....There's a guy with black hair and a beard which sent his moods off of the charts."

Adam nodded with concern. Given that they were about to start sending new mutants down there, they needed to stabilize the situation immediately. "Okay, people. Let's get moving. I want to be in the Double Helix and underway in ten minutes. Let's go!"

"There's a faster way, you know," a familiar voice told them.

Turning, the group saw a column of mist appear in the corner. From it, Deirdre Dubois stepped into the room. "Sorry, I would've let you know I was coming, but we have a bit of a situation. Let's get onboard your ship and then, I can teleport us there. We may need every weapon we can get."

"Right," Adam agreed, motioning for the others to get ready. Within minutes, they were onboard and away from Sanctuary.

"My turn," the young priestess told them, concentrating. Ten seconds later, a misty blanket had descended upon the streaking ship transporting it across the country in the blink of an eye. When the fog had burned off, things were quite different.

"Where are we?" Adam wondered, looking at the instruments. To his amazement, they were in western Pima County heading due east for Tucson. "That is some trick that you just pulled, Deirdre."

"I'll say," Jesse concurred staring dumbfounded at his instruments and not believing what she had just pulled off.

"Ancient Celtic secret," Deirdre deadpanned, trying not to get too nervous.

At that moment, the instruments lit up like a Christmas tree.

"What the heck?" Brennan wondered, glancing over the display. "Hey, Adam, what's with all of the specks? It looks like there's a small army on the ground there."

The leader studied the display. "That's what the display says. Stealth cloak."

At that command, the Helix vanished.

Shalimar took the ship in low, beneath the clouds. Beneath them, the ground seemed to move.

"What?" the feral wondered.

The priestess winced. "That's the troll army all right. And we're right on the city limits. Let's get Papa and the others at the university."

"Heading in," Shalimar replied. Two minutes later, the craft hovered over their destination, setting down on the grass beside the fountain. Once they were sure that no bystanders were in sight, the hatch opened allowing the group to walk onto the scene. All around them, black stains singed the ground, but fortunately, there was no other apparent damage.

Over by the Social Sciences Building, they saw Dave talking with Xena, Gabrielle, Eve, Toni, and Nick.

"Hey, guys. What's going on?" Adam inquired.

The medievalist turned to face his friends. "We had some uninvited guests. As you can see, we got rid of them."

"Well, there are more on the way, Papa," Deirdre pointed out.

"Yes, the remainder of the troll army," Nick agreed. "Where exactly are they?"

"They're about a half mile from the city limits," Jesse indicated.

Dave glanced at Xena and Gabrielle nervously. If the estimates were right, how were they going to turn back an army of that size? "Outnumbered 200 to 1," he sighed. Seeing Steve running toward them, he asked, "Where are the kids?"

"We got them out of here. The campus is being evacuated," he reported in between deep breaths. "Dave...there are reports of devastation from the West Side."

"We have to move fast," Xena concurred. "How much of that Greek fire do you have?"

"Not nearly enough," the professor informed her.

The government agent thought quickly, recalling the tanker flight shipment leaving from the airport. "There is the fueling plane leaving from the airport."

"What are you getting at?" Adam probed.

"Dave uses napalm as a burning agent, right? Well, if we could get that army in the clear, we could dump the fuel on top of them. Then, if we could ignite it...."

"Not within the city limits," the professor disagreed, recalling the explosion used to take out the Magog. "We'll have to fight them on a smaller scale." Turning to Nick, he wondered, "Any chance of getting LaCroix and the others involved?"

"Janette said she'd check into it," the detective replied.

"Whatever she does, we'd best move fast," Gabrielle urged, looking at the western horizon. Already, plumes of smoke could be seen rising from the fires and destruction.

"Let's get onboard the Helix and see what we can do," Adam decided, guiding the others toward the ship.

Minutes later, they swooped over the besieged area. The trolls were wrecking everything in their path, causing thousands of dollars in property damage. Fires burned the old structures. Fortunately, most people had already fled. Worse still, the police on the scene were being tossed aside like rag dolls.

"We can't just stay up here," Dave told them, grabbing his shafts and bow. Then, he spasmed and grabbed at his left shoulder.

"Hey, Chief. You can't exactly go down there in your present condition," the electrical mutant protested.

"W...Watch me...." The professor growled. "This 's mah home...."

Emma rubbed his shoulder. "Calm down. We'll figure something out."

Nick stared down into the war zone, allowing his mind to drift back.....


[Acre 1291]

Nick rushed about the wall, sword in hand, ready to defend the citadel along with his counterparts. Everyone stood ready to resist the advance, to die holding onto the final few inches of sand along the sea.

"Are you ready to do your duty for God?" the elderly monk, Bernardus, asked reverently.

Staring over the wall, the immortal Crusader took in the seemingly unending numbers in the Mamluk advance in front of them. "I'll stand as long as I'm able...."

"Then, you shall be saved, Sir Nicolas," the monk presumed. "Go with God." With that, he walked away toward the next man on the wall.

As Nick took another look, the realization hit him of just how difficult this task was going to be. Nothing short of a miracle would save Acre from annihilation. Perhaps, he should just slip away despite the promise he had just given to the old man a moment earlier.

"That is a prudent thought, Nicholas," a familiar voice advised, reading his thoughts.

Feeling the familiar emptiness, he turned to see LaCroix standing behind him. The Elder's face was placid as always. "Poor Nicholas. Always the idealist, aren't you?"

"Isn't there a place you would defend to the death?" the younger protested.

"Ah...there was such a place, but it was buried under a volcanic eruption so long ago," the Roman disagreed, grasping the other's arm. "Besides, we are beyond Death's grasp. Did I not teach you that on the night I brought you across, Nicholas? Why do you concern yourself with this squabble? Acre is doomed as are these mortal rabble you fight beside. Come with me now."

"They are my brethren, LaCroix," Nick answered curtly, shrugging off his master's grip.

"Very well, Nicholas," LaCroix sighed disappointedly. "You will learn the error of your ways." With that, he took off into the inky darkness, leaving the younger to listen to the initial bombarding of the walls in his wake.


[Present Day]

"I agree with Dave," Nick indicated, snapping out of his reverie. "If we're going to do something, then we need to do it now before they entrench themselves."

"You sound as if you know how to do this," Jesse surmised.

"Lots of experience with the Crusades," Nick muttered. "I was involved in most of the thirteenth century ones."

Adam nodded. "Yes," he agreed, recalling his history lessons. "No offense, but you let the enemy trap you inside of the walls."

"Right," Nick concurred. "Is there a way to buy us some breathing room?"

Xena stated, "Too bad we don't have any army."

"Maybe we don't need to have one," Emma interjected.

"Wha?" her comrades wondered.

Dave smiled. "I think I know where she's going with this. What if we were to create the illusion that there was an army...let's say the armies of front of them? We could drive them out of the city into the open desert." He looked at Steve. "Then, we could use his idea without hurting anyone. If we can get them to this point." For a point of emphasis, he placed his finger on a spot on the map.

"But could we get that plane on short notice?" Adam asked. "Commandeering a plane like that would attract too much attention."

"Not if there's official help," Steve pointed out. "Can I make a call from here? It's a secure line."

"Do it through our comm channel," Jesse requested, pushing a button and setting up his phone to work with the Helix's cloaking technology. "Go ahead."

"Thanks," the agent agreed, making the call. For about ten minutes, he argued with level after level of supervision. Finally, he invoked some code and got the plane. "They'll be at the spot in fifteen minutes."

"Good," Adam complemented. Turning to the telepath, he wondered, "Are you up to this, Emma?"

"I guess we'll find out," Emma sighed, focusing her concentration. "Dave, do you have a memory I can use?"

He nodded. "Go for it."

She locked eyes with him, finding the image of Nurrengaard's armies. Finding a number of massive proportions under the leadership of a single magnificent leader on a white charger, she was amazed at the sight. "Wow...."

"Got it?" he inquired.

"Yes," she agreed, turning her attention on the masses beneath them. For a few minutes, she inserted the image in mind after mind. "That should do it."

At that moment, the horde turned tail and retreated back to the desert.

"Keep it up, Emma! It's working!" Adam urged reassuringly.

Emma nodded, the sweat beading on her forehead and the stress clearly evident.

Slowly, the marauding mass backed out of the city, leaving the carnage behind. Five minutes later, they were out of the city entirely.

"Jesse, Shalimar, how are we doing with the next phase?" Adam wondered.

"Plane's coming up quick," the density mutant replied. "It's a minute away."

"Great," the leader responded. "Steve, you want to get on the line again? Tell them to dump that mix?"

"Right," the agent agreed. "Get ready, Dave." With that, he got on the phone.

"Uh huh," the professor grinned. "Hey, Sparky, you wanna make yourself useful and light me at the signal?"

"Sure. You're not going to do what I think you're going to do. Chief, I know you're nuts, but that's insane," Brennan disagreed.

"We've gotta light 'em," Dave informed him. "Otherwise, this isn't gonna work! Adam, is there some sort of harness with this thing?"

"Excuse me, Papa," Deidre interjected. "I can give you an opening of sorts. From within the mists." Seeing everyone look at her with uncertainty, she continued, "Auntie showed me how to do it."

"How much have you been practicing?" her father wondered. "You know we're about half a mile in the air."

"I know."

"And you can do it?" he inquired.

"It doesn't matter where we long as we stay within the mists," the priestess replied. "Well?"

For a long minute, he looked at the others and took in their doubt. This was a big risk in itself, but, for their plan to work, they had little choice. "Can you folks hang around in case something goes wrong?"

"We're not going anywhere without ya, Big Guy," Shalimar told him.

"Good luck...both of you," Xena told them. "Angela says to please be careful."

"We will," Dave promised. "See ya in a bit. Ready, Deirdre?"

"As I'll ever be," his daughter responded, albeit more securely than she felt. Opening up the mists, she motioned him through before closing them behind her.

The others could only watch and prepare for the next phase, wondering if their friends would make it back.

Chapter 10

As he flew ahead, Colonel Mark Grayson sat in the cockpit, still trying to get a handle on the situation. Up until about an hour ago, he was to have delivered his payload to a base outside of Denver. Then, his superiors had changed their minds...mentioning something about an emergency in the desert. Although he didn't really understand, he followed his orders. Taking off from the air force base, he made a beeline for the coordinates he was assigned to.

Reaching the spot, he looked down to see a mass of moving creatures beneath him. "What in?" he wondered. From the reports he had heard on the way over, he assumed these were the causes behind the destruction on the West Side. "Sweet Mother of...there are enough of them... Here goes!" Pulling the release lever, he flew over the mass, dumping his load across their numbers. Then, he quickly banked and headed back to base in case he was needed there.


From inside of the mists, Dave waited as he watched Grayson follow his orders. Beside him, five explosive tipped projectiles waited for their task.

"Are we set, Papa?" Deirdre wondered.

"It seems so," he assured her. "Can you open the door?"

"Right," she agreed. "Just stay inside here, OK?" With a wave of her hands, she parted the fog in front of them, revealing the robin's egg-blue sky in front of them, and the armies about 75 feet below them. "Good luck."

"Thanks," he responded pleasantly, ruffling her hair as he had when she was a toddler. Then, he struck a match, lit the first bomb, and fired it into the trolls' midst. Four times more, he repeated the action, hitting a different part of the mass with each shot. Finally, he requested, "Let's get back to the ship."

"Right," she concurred, snapping her fingers and transporting them back to the Helix.


Upon each impact, the explosives set off the flammable liquid coating the invaders, covering them in flames. They howled and screamed in agony, dropping to their knees, and then, falling dead to the ground. Despite their quandary, they couldn't tell who had done this to them. For the most part, only 150 of the original party survived the attack with second-degree burns or less.

Lousain glanced up at the sky. Somehow, Dubois was behind this sneak attack. "Well done...cowardly, but well done. There will be another time." Conceding this front as a lost cause, he disappeared from the scene, abandoning the remaining trolls to their fate.


On board the Helix, the group admired the precision with which the counterattack had been carried out. First, in Steve's convincing Grayson's superiors to have him dump the fuel and then, in Dave's strategically placed strikes, setting off the majority of the invading army and reducing them to ashes. While the loss of life was regrettable, at least they had a shot of saving the city.

"How's it look?" Dave asked, stepping back into view.

"They're down to about 150," Adam noted, viewing the scans. "More manageable odds."

"They're panicked," Emma related. "Fire from the sky isn't something you see everyday."

"Well, I think we can mop the rest of them up," Xena assumed, drawing her sword.

"I say let's do it," the professor agreed. "Nick? Guys?" Getting nods all around, he glanced at his daughter. "Ready?"

She took a deep breath and opened another portal. "Be careful, everyone."

They nodded in agreement, stepping through the portal, leaving Steve and Adam behind to keep things going onboard.


The portal opened right in the midst of the writhing throng. All around the party, the trolls turned to see the newcomers.

"Get them!" Melitor bellowed, pointing his sword.

Dave grinned savagely and started firing pulse after pulse, taking out multiple creatures at once.

Xena gyrated between them, slinging her chakram off of several adversaries and gutting others.

Nick, although regretful at having to kill, slew several enemies as well.

For their part, the members of Mutant X dispatched the others efficiently with massed fists, terrifying mental images, ferally powered blows, and electrical bursts.

About an hour later, the group stood in the midst of their fallen enemies. Amazingly enough, other than minor bumps and bruises, they were unharmed.

"Is it always like this?" Brennan wondered, taking a deep breath.

"With these guys, yeah, pretty much," Dave responded. "Oh, don't worry, there are more of these creeps where they came from."

"More?" Shalimar wondered.

Gabrielle stared anxiously at her soul mate. "What's he getting at?"

"He's right," the warrior replied. "They're from the Dark Realm, and that's where we'll go next."

"Indeed," a familiar voice added from behind. Turning, the group saw Grimwilkin and Ferali approaching from behind. "Well done...all of you."

The professor bowed at the waist to his friends.

"Now, you're bowing to me?" the gnome cracked. "First, you don't leave me any skulls to crack and now, you're bowing like one of Meroli's courtiers?" Receiving a stern look from the wizard, he shrugged silently.

"Come, Meroli awaits you," the older newcomer bade.

"Actually...can we meet with everyone first?" Dave requested. "I want to plan a bit."

"We have a little time for such things," Grimwilkin agreed, waving his hands and teleporting them away.


Onboard the Helix, Adam reviewed the sensors again. "They did it!" he noted.

"Well, that's a relief," the agent agreed, wiping his brow. Another mess had been dealt with.

Then, in a flash of light, the others appeared back in their midst.

"What?" the geneticist wondered, jumping in surprise.

Dave stepped forward. "Adam, these two are Grimwilkin the wizard and Ferali the Gnome. Grimwilkin, Ferali, this is Adam. He's the leader of the group who fought beside Nick, Xena, Gabrielle, Livia, and me."

Adam shook their hands before he realized, "You're Grimwilkin? As in the wizard of the Inner Realms?"

"You know him?" Shalimar interjected.

"I know of him...actually, there are myths surrounding him," the leader explained. "It's an honor."

"Thank you," the older man accepted. "Your group fought well. We may have use for you against the larger enemy."

The leader gave the other a quizzical look. "I'm sorry, but if you're talking about going to your realm, we can't leave Earth or our community undefended."

Seeing Grimwilkin bristle, Dave stepped in. "Actually, this works out according to my plan."

"Which is?" the wizard inquired testily.

"Adam, perhaps Mutant X might keep an eye on things while we're gone? In case the remaining beasties get by us, I want some backup ready on this end. I figure that the vampire Community and the FBI could do the same as well," Dave proposed.

"We can do that from Sanctuary," the leader agreed. "Is that suitable, Grimwilkin?"

"Indeed," the wizard concurred.

"I'll keep the Bureau on top of it," Steve chimed in.

"I'll need to check with LaCroix first," Nick declared. "Can the rest of you go on without me?"

"Actually, we'll go together. I want His Egotisticalness in on this venture too," Dave told him. "Okay, everyone into the mists so we can let Mutant X get on their way."

Deirdre nodded, opening a portal and guiding the others through. "We'll be waiting for you, Papa."

"Thanks for helping, Adam. Everyone," the professor expressed. "Wish us luck."

"You got it," Brennan replied firmly. "Go get 'em."

"Come back in one piece," Emma reminded him.

"Watch your back," Adam added, shaking his hand. "And good luck to all of you. Don't worry, we'll take care of things here."

"Right," the medievalist agreed and took one last look at his friends. Then, he dove through the portal just as his daughter sealed it.

After the mists had dissipated, Adam turned to the others. "Okay, let's get back to Sanctuary."

Jesse sat down next to the controls and plotted their course, sending them on their way back home. While they all wished they could do more than just guard duty, their situation with Mason Eckhart and the GSA kept them at that level.

To be continued

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