Chapter 27 [The Faerie Realms]
The Faerie Empress observed this interchange through her watch portal with sad interest. After sunset at the battle site, she had popped in there and magically erased all traces of the battle. After returning to her realm, she watched the developing scene in Amherst and her heart sank.
You will suffer much more than this, David Dubois. For you bear a terrible burden, however, it will seem as a dream to you all.
Taking a handful of orange pixie dust, she threw it into the portal, watching it spread out across the town and Outer Earth. The vampires, David's opponents, and Karen Alvarez shall know the truth about him and the situation. For now, the rest will forget what they know. Even David will forget what he did over in Soviet Russia. As for the Child, he will forget about most of these new abilities for now. While I cannot block them out forever, I can buy us all some time to understand him. As he has proven to us by his actions, the Child cannot be allowed to run amok on Outer Earth.
"Milady, you asked to see me?" a voice wondered.
The Empress saw a priestess enter her chamber. "Yes, Cybelle, I did call for you. I have a task for you."
"What would that be?" Cybelle inquired, walking over to the Elf-Queen. "Begging your pardon, but the Mother says I'm not ready to return yet."
"She is overly cautious, but you are the one for this task. Tell me, what do you know of your brother, David, and his emotional condition?"
The novice priestess saw her sleeping brother in the mists and could feel the emotional tremors emanating from him. "The darkness cries out in him even now. What has happened?"
"The darkness has coalesced, I believe. The Child is now a defined entity," the Empress explained. "You, my Dear, are to return to Amherst and watch David from a distance. I want you to observe his moods."
Recalling his outbursts from Rowenshire and Ludlow, the priestess asked, "And if the Child surfaces?"
"Keep him under wraps but do not provoke him in any way. I do not want a rampage. The world must not know about him yet. That will happen soon enough. Karen Alvarez, the vampire community, and certain others who have been sworn to secrecy do know. Cybelle, the world is not to know of your role as a priestess either. Maintain your secrecy until I say otherwise," the Empress instructed.
"Yes, Milady," Cybelle agreed, bowing her head before departing from the scene through the mists. So, Dave, the Dubois family curse has taken you. This will bear watching. After years in Althanor, she would at last return to Outer Earth in a key role. How would the world deal with her? More importantly, how would she deal with Dave and the Child?
Chapter 28 [Modern Day-Cathedral of Crystal]
The Faerie Empress waved her hands again, allowing the mists to dissipate and ending the flashback. "And so it happened. Now you know the entire truth, my friends."
Dave shuddered, fighting an emotional spasm. "I let go like that." He rolled up his sleeve and considered the scar just above his left elbow. "And so it went. Still, it shouldn't have happened at all."
"It did, Dave," Angie soothed, rubbing his arm.
Mikhail walked over and looked over his former adversary with a newfound respect. "Even on that day, Dave, you both held back."
"You, Darkstar, and the others had a job to do. Killing you wouldn't have helped matters any. I guess that the Child understood that," the medievalist responded.
"And your situation did start us thinking for ourselves," Darkstar pointed out.
"Others didn't do their job," LaCroix chided.
Everyone looked at him.
"You have the nerve to say that!" Karen shouted, marching down the aisle and getting in the Roman Elder's face. "You triggered the whole thing. Granted it was there, but you picked the fight. You sent those goons to kill Dr. Samuelsohn and his wife!"
"I've had enough of you," LaCroix hissed, his eyes turning yellow.
"Don't even think it," Dave pointed out, already there. "You've already threatened two of my students tonight. Touch my sister and all bets are off!" His eyes were already turning red and the right eyelid was drooping.
"We will have our accounting yet, Dubois. But if you wish it to happen tonight, I'll be happy to oblige!" The Elder rushed him.
"Dumb Ass!" the Child growled, willing dark fire into his hands.
"None of that in here!" the Empress commanded.
"Aw man, crap!" the Dark One complained as LaCroix rammed into him, slamming him against the wall. "Ah've had 'nough!"
"Stop it, LaCroix!" Nick commanded, grabbing at the other's arm.
"Back off, Nicholas! He's finished!" LaCroix surmised, breaking the other's grip and advancing.
"Ah ain't done yet," the Child retorted, focusing and making his enemy float several feet in the air. "Fly, boy!" With a sickening thud, he sent the General flying against a wall, pinning him there.
"Umm, we shouldn't be fighting here," Karen tried to intercede.
"Ah'm just gonna tell him somethin'." The Child advanced on his pinned opponent and advised, "Awright, Fool, since ya'll don't wanna lissen, Ah'm only gonna say this once. If ya'll come near me, mah fam'ly, or friends 'gain, Ah won't just whup ya, AH'LL KILL YA! Got it?"
"You wouldn't. What would Livia think? Or Xena, who wants to kill me?" LaCroix argued.
"She can take yer sorry ass too. Just as long as there's somethin' stickin' through ya! Now shuddup! 'Member Ah took out Mustard-Boy an' Ali-Turk, Ah can do ya too!" the Dark One affirmed.
"You're already pushing your luck, LaCroix," Nick pointed out. "Step into that mess and you're on your own."
"You've made your point," the Faerie Empress stated. "Release him."
The Child scowled at her. "Awright." He gave the General three quick spins and slammed him into a sitting position on the floor. "There, ya happy? Ah'm lettin' Big Bro out." Taking several breaths, he switched personalities again.
"Dave?" Emma inquired.
"I'm...okay," he fibbed slightly, rubbing his head. While he wasn't, he didn't want to say more in front of his friends. "I think that's enough for tonight. Milady, thank you."
The Faerie Empress nodded in response. "You're welcome. Remember though, those events I relayed to you are to remain a secret." When the group agreed, she told them, "Go in peace."
Dave opened a portal. "Sanctuary should be on the other side. Go on ahead. Deirdre, can you get the vampires back to the El Gato?" Seeing her nod, he ushered the mutants through. Then he looked at the Empress one last time before disappearing himself.
The Faerie Empress took one last look at the spot where her friends had disappeared before turning to Deirdre. "Go ahead with your father's request. I wish to be alone for a while."
Deirdre opened another portal for Nick, Janette, Divia, and LaCroix, taking them back to Tucson.
"I'm coming with you, Deirdre," Cybelle told her, going through the portal as well.
The younger priestess shrugged, allowing her to do so. Then she vanished.
May everything now be smoother that you have the information you sought. For those who wanted the answers, now comes the burden proving that there's always a price on such things.
[El Gato Negro-just after sunset on the following evening]
Janette inspected the stores and found everything as it should be. According to Vachon, business boomed while they were hearing the Empress' tale. "Impressive," she remarked.
"Indeed," LaCroix concurred, entering the empty bar. "You do well here, Janette."
"Merci. But what can I do for you? The bar is closed," she pointed out.
"I see that. I was hoping to talk a bit," he indicated. "About what we heard last night."
She shrugged. "I recall telling you not to send the Enforcers after those two, knowing the trouble it would cause."
"How did you know about Dubois, Janette? It's almost like you knew he would be there," he inquired.
Her eyebrow arched. "Intuition, perhaps? Maybe it could have been Nicolas' account of the Rowenshire incident. Who knows? Provoking an incident with mortals is never a good thing. Crossing our kind, magic, and his kind could be fatal to all concerned."
"Just to him, as if he could kill me," the General presumed arrogantly.
"Oh, he can kill ya, all right. Then again, so can I," Xena's voice challenged from the door.
The two immortals turned to see the Warrior Princess enter the tavern with Gabrielle at her side.
"I'm sorry, the bar's closed," Janette apologized.
"That's okay. We didn't come for the liquor," the Bard-Queen mentioned, her javelin ready in her right hand.
"No, she's with me. I came to talk to Lucius," Xena hissed, her eyes narrowing into slits.
"Why ever for? I have nothing to say to you, woman," he scoffed.
She chuckled, "Ya hear that, Gabrielle? General Lucius the Butcher is outta words. Will wonders never cease?"
"I'll have to record this in my scrolls," her companion added sarcastically.
LaCroix glared at the two Amazons. "Obviously, you want something though. What is it?"
Xena paced the bar, drawing out the moment for as long as she could. "I thought you didn't have anything to say, Lucius. Awright, I'll tell you. Angela Dubois and the Faerie Empress both mentioned last night's little affair in the cathedral and the standoff afterwards."
"Yes, Dubois is overreaching himself, isn't he?" he asked, jabbing the two warriors back.
Xena drew her sword and pointed it at him. "No, he ain't. He can kill you and I hope you listened to him seriously. Rest assured; I will kill you. I still have our account, Butcher. I think he would be happy to let me kill ya as long as yer history! So stay outta his way and ours!"
LaCroix walked across the room toward a crossed sword display on the wall and took one of them. "Anytime, Xena, you want a duel, I would be more than happy to oblige you."
Her eyebrow arched and she smiled icily at him. "Whatever, Lucius, bring it on."
"LaCroix, Xena, stop this!" Janette commanded.
"I say let them fight," another voice disagreed. They turned to see Ares appear.
"It figures," Gabrielle said despairingly.
"Hey! Did I ask you? No! I figured that if Lucius and Xena are about to fight, then I deserve a front row seat!" the former war god retorted.
"An' so do Ah," the Child added, appearing as well in his energy construct form. "Ah still wanna a piece of 'im though!"
"You'll get your chance at some point," Xena declared, sheathing her sword. "I don't want to do this tonight in front of Ares. Come on, Gabrielle, let's get outta here."
As she turned to leave, LaCroix protested, "Don't turn your back on me!" He swung his sword toward her back....
...only to be smacked against the wall by a dark fire burst compliments of the Child.
"Stupid ass! Tryin' to hurt mah friend 'gain! Ya'll weren't lissenin'!" the Dark One hissed. "Now, we finish this!" Telekinetically, he flung the Elder across the room and into the closed door.
"Hey, Lucius, that nose is going to look so good flat!" Ares chided. To Xena, he added, "For once, I'm rootin' for your dark buddy there."
"Yeah, I can see that," Xena remarked dryly, shaking her head. To the Child, she called, "Done yet?"
"Jus' a minnit!" the Dark One growled, grabbing LaCroix's arm and sending another blast of fire through him, eliciting a loud scream. "Ah'm enjoyin' this!"
LaCroix managed to break free and moved back toward the center of the room. "You would! Still, when you least expect it, I'll be there to kill you both and your precious family as well."
That threat pushed Xena over the breaking point. "That's it, Lucius!" She executed a flip, ending up just in front of him. "As the Child just said, time to finish this!" With her sword now in hand, she started to parry with him.
LaCroix matched her move for move, thrusting and feinting backward in their deadly ballet. Finally, he lunged at her, opening up his flank but missing her in the process.
Her stroke found its target, tearing through his left shoulder and dropping him to the floor in a heap.
"LaCroix! You're killing him!" Janette exclaimed.
"That is the general idea," Ares commented coldly, savoring Lucius' humiliation, defeat, and impending demise. "So much for immortality, General."
"Bye, Lucius. Give our regards to Lucifer, will ya?" Xena concluded, putting the Pinch on him. "Anything to say in the next thirty seconds?"
"N...nothing to you. Janette...tell Nicholas I...love him," LaCroix wheezed, before expiring on the floor and disintegrating into ash.
In spite of the fact that she wasn't his master any longer, Janette felt a twinge of loss at his passing. "Did you have to do that?" she wondered.
"Lucius did threaten them once again. The Child apparently put him on notice. He chose to ignore it and hey, he did try to hit me from behind," Xena pointed out. "Besides, he's had that coming for almost two thousand years."
"I just hope Eve can take it," Gabrielle worried.
"Let her deal with it. It's not like Lucius was alive in any event," the warrior counselor countered. "Besides, he's in Tartarus now where he belongs. Come on, Gabrielle, we need to get going. Janette, for what it's worth, I didn't want to do it here and in front of you."
The club owner concurred, "I know that. He had to have his way. I cautioned him and so did Nicolas. If you'll excuse me, I do need to talk with him about this."
"Finally, he's in the Underworld where he belongs. I don't care if everyone else is sorry, I ain't," Ares pronounced.
The Child glared at him before vanishing into the shadows, content in the knowledge that his longtime foe was gone at last. "Ah'll let Big Bro know 'bout this!"
The former war god complimented his one time prot...g..., "Nice work, Xena."
"Get lost, Ares!" she growled. "It was work."
"Hey, get a clue and take a hike!" Gabrielle declared, holding the javelin in place.
Ares disappeared with an angry look on his face. Those two would continue to frustrate him no matter how much he tried to convince them otherwise.
With a last look, the two Amazons made sure the coast was clear before leaving the club. Just outside, Cybelle waited for them.
"And what do you want?" Xena inquired.
"Just to offer you both a lift and to ask a question," the high priestess stated. "What happened here? I felt an odd tremor coming from inside, almost like something died in there."
"You can say that," Gabrielle informed her. "Lucius threatened all of you again and tried to stab Xena in the back."
"And you reacted, I imagine?" Cybelle inquired of Xena.
"Well, David's dark side got a pretty mean shot in first. Then we crossed swords. He lunged and missed. I didn't. Tell the Empress I used the Pinch to finish him," Xena reported.
Pauline, you are avenged at last. "I will let her know. Come on, let's go. I think Dave's at home with Caroline and Karen." Opening a portal, Cybelle allowed the two companions to go through first before following herself.
Conclusion [Later that evening]
Lana stood in front of her parents' grave and gazed lovingly at their inscription. For the first time since their deaths, she understood the chain of events occurring on that day. "I wasn't alone."
"No you weren't," Clark told her, rubbing her arm. "I hope I've been adequate since they've been gone."
She grinned. "Yes, you have been."
"You both are special, you know," a feminine voice told them. They saw a woman appear in priestess robes. "I told you that, Lana, on that night."
"Pauline?" she asked.
"Yes, Lana, it's me," the deceased priestess replied. "I wanted to come back and see you. To tell you how proud I am of you both."
"If only the Professor had been a few minutes earlier," the former cheerleader hypothesized.
"Maybe he would have saved me? Yes, he might have, but if he had done so, he never would have come back for you both," Pauline told her. "I appreciate how well you both took the story last night. Now do you know why everyone warned you?"
"We do," Clark told her earnestly. "But we can live with it. Knowing the Child, he was just trying to do the right thing."
The ghost nodded. "He was indeed. Stand by him, you two. He cares about you more than you know." With that, she faded away. "And so do I."
"That was amazing," Lana remarked. "To think that we all have that night in common."
"It is incredible. And to think our bond was foretold from the minute I hit Earth," he teased.
"Yeah well we are pretty special together," she added, giving him a kiss and inspecting the grave once more. "I think we're set. Come on. Let's get a coffee at the Talon."
"Right behind you," he concurred, following her out of the cemetery.
Lex leaned forward on the couch in front of the fireplace, considering a glass of brandy and the Child's first adventure. I always guessed it would be something like that. He would go wrecking things and fighting everyone to save Karen or even Angie today if the situation called on it. But then, our fathers made him like that, shaping him in their forge of fury. It's just a wonder that he still had enough control not to kill anyone.
"Penny for your thoughts, Lex?" Chloe wondered, joining him.
"Hey, Chloe," he replied, allowing the Smirk onto his face. "I was just thinking about your quest for the truth."
She frowned. "I guess my enthusiasm got the better of me, huh?"
"It always does," he teased. "But I love that about you."
She sighed. "Sometimes, Lex, I have to wonder how much I can hurt people that way. I mean, before yesterday, Professor Dubois didn't know. Now he and that LaCroix guy are ready to kill each other."
"They're ready to kill each other anyway. According to Dr. Miles, their feud's been going on for a while. Throw in Xena's claim and there's going to be trouble. I really wish you and Lana would stay clear of that vampire place unless Clark and I are with you," he informed her.
"Lex, we can take care of ourselves, you know," she debated.
He put his hands up, cutting off debate. "Just humor me, Chloe, okay? Promise me you'll be careful?"
She smiled wistfully. "I'll try, Lex."
"Thanks for that, Chloe. Thanks for that," he accepted, holding her close to him and sharing his viewpoint with her.
Ursa Major descended the stairs after a particularly tough session in the dojo. While it felt good to take out his frustrations on the CGI-constructs, he wanted to think a bit on the events of the previous evening.
"You have a minute, Mikhail?" Adam asked.
"Certainly. What may I do for you?" the bear mutant wondered, changing back to his human form.
"I just wanted to let you know that we're not judging you on the Moscow incident. I think you and Laynia have shown that you've changed," the geneticist told him. "How you two and Dave are handling yourselves demonstrates that."
"Thank you, Adam. We appreciate that," Mikhail expressed, shaking the other's hand. "It feels good to be accepted."
"My pleasure. Now why don't you go get yourself something to eat?" Adam asked.
The new team member nodded and headed for the dining area.
Darkstar sat with her new teammates enjoying a bowl of soup. As with Ursa Major, she felt better that the whole story was now out in the open. Now she could move on with her new life with Mutant X.
"What's wrong?" Shalimar inquired.
"Nothing. I'm enjoying my soup," Darkstar noted. "This is good."
"Thanks," Emma said. "Cooking is a good way of meditating for me. Are you feeling better?"
"Da...I mean yes I am," Darkstar stated. "I just wanted to say thank you for being so kind."
"Hey, everyone makes mistakes. Sounds to us like you both learned something," Max indicated. "And you're here with us, which is always a good thing."
"Right on, Darkstar," Brennan chimed in.
"Everyone, I would appreciate it if you would call me 'Laynia'. Darkstar is my codename, but I like my friends to use my real name," Darkstar requested.
"Laynia it is," Jesse agreed.
The others smiled warmly as well.
Seeing Mikhail enter the room, they waved him over.
"Mikhail, there's some soup over there if you want it," Emma invited.
"Thank you. I think I will," he concurred, taking a bowl and filling it with broth, meat, veggies, and noodles. "The dojo is hard."
"Yeah, it can be a killer," Shalimar agreed, grinning playfully at him. "But a tough guy like you should be able to take it."
"It makes you a big strong teddy bear," Max gibed.
Everyone smirked in a friendly way at him.
"Sit, Mikhail, and eat. You see? We can make it here," Laynia pointed out.
"Da, we can. I'm glad I listened to you," he concurred, as they all dug into their meals.
Nick sat on the couch, reviewing materials for his latest lecture. For some reason, the last hour had seemed jumbled, as if everything was out of joint. What is it?
"Something has happened," Alyce told him. "The air feels the way it did after Ali's death only more so."
A vampire has died in my community and I don't know who? I should know. I wonder if Janette can tell me anything. As if on cue, he looked up to the skylight to see his 'daughter' standing there, bloody streaks running down her face. "Janette, what is it? Come in."
Janette zipped in, alighting gently on the floor. "Nicolas, he's gone."
"Who is it? Who's gone?" Alyce wondered.
He gazed into Janette's eyes, allowing their connection to tell him the truth. "LaCroix? How did he die?"
"We were at the El Gato when Xena came in, telling him to back off from Dubois. Dubois' alter ego and Ares appeared too. Anyhow, Xena didn't want to do it there so she turned away. LaCroix went for her while her back was turned. Dubois threw him across the room. Of course, LaCroix wouldn't stop. He had to threaten Dubois' family. Xena...killed him. He's gone, Nicolas," Janette reported.
Through the connection, he and Alyce saw the whole fight right down to the final Pinch.
Hearing his former master's last words, he stiffened and frowned. I can't believe he's not here anymore.
He's gone. He's really gone! The curator restrained herself. Despite the fact that she was overjoyed to be free of the Roman Elder's presence, she wanted to respect Janette's grief as well. "My condolences, Janette."
"Given your feelings, I appreciate that, Alyce. Merci," Janette expressed. "I thought you should both know. Of course, I expect Divia here soon to collect the ashes."
"I don't want any vendettas, Janette. LaCroix was warned to stop threatening them. He refused to do so and paid the consequences. That's my view as Elder. I will miss him though, as much as I detested his ways," Nick declared. This must be how Dave felt when his father passed away.
Janette nodded before taking back off into the night.
Alyce supposed, "We're free, Nick. Free at last!"
"We are, Alyce," he agreed, embracing her. "Still, I wonder how Eve and Divia are going to take it. I don't want trouble."
She sighed, gripping him tightly against her. Despite everything, he would miss the old Roman.
Dave sat in the front room, considering Karen's note again. Despite what he knew and the years that had passed, the old feelings still played across his mind. In the background, a favorite played. Then he heard the Thompson Twins' "Who Can Stop the Rain?":
I was dancing in heaven, you were keeping time
Then I read your letter, sent shivers down my spine
Said our love was over, I was not the one
If it lasts forever, forever wouldn't be much fun
Who can stop the rain?
Who can stop the rain from falling?
Who can stop this pain that's drowning me?
I could hear the sound of laughter
I thought that love was in the air
I was drowning in that golden age
You really seemed to care
I'm haunted by a dream,
a giant human beings
I wait alone for hours
Love is never what it seems
Who can stop the rain?
Who can stop the rain from falling?
Who can stop this pain that's drowning me?
Who can stop the rain?
Who can stop the rain from falling?
Who can stop this pain that's drowning me?
You always had fantastic plans, that I always knew
And now you want to leave me out, so it's raining just for you
Those changes that you wanted make you ten feet tall
I tried to move those mountains but mountains never move at all
He frowned, still feeling guilty over the nature of his relationship with Karen. I guess we should be thankful that things didn't go any longer than they did. Still, it did hurt.
Then he heard a knock at the door. Feeling the presences there, he opened the door telekinetically. "How was your night out, ladies?"
Karen, Caroline, and Eve entered the condo and sat down.
"It was okay," Caroline agreed. "Probably the best one I've had since moving here."
"You know the door's always open," he told her.
"I know, but you've all been so busy," Caroline replied.
"We're never too busy for family," Karen affirmed. "Never forget that." As she said that, she looked at him. "What is it, Dave?"
He took a deep breath. "It's over at last. "
"Who?" Eve wondered, standing up.
"Eve, sit down," he told her. "It's LaCroix."
The former Messenger did so, wondering, "What is it, David? Is he all right?"
The mists formed, allowing Xena, Gabrielle, and Cybelle to enter the room.
"Mother? What is it?" Eve insisted. "Have you seen Lucius?"
"Eve, take it easy," Gabrielle advised.
"What? Mother, you didn't!"
Xena frowned. "He didn't give me much of a choice. He tried to stab me in the back and threatened David's family again."
Dave gave in to the spasms, allowing the Child to surface.
"Lousy scuz did that. We warned him but he didn't listen," he hissed.
Caroline stared at him and the others. Even though she wasn't with them on the previous night, she did remember the scene in Rowenshire from so long before. "He's gone, then."
"Finally," Karen sighed, rubbing her head. Maybe now you can have some peace, Dave.
"Yeah," he growled. "Stupid jackass! He pushed it!"
Eve put her head in her hands. "I know you had your reasons, but I can't believe you did this!"
"We had no choice," Xena asserted, putting her hand on her daughter's shoulder.
"You did have one, Mother! Lucius was my brother! Am I not supposed to mourn for him?" Eve protested.
Gabrielle nodded. "Yes, Eve, you can mourn him. But Lucius has been dead for almost 2000 years. At least he's free of Ares' curse and you can move on."
"I suppose. I know you did what you felt you had to. I'm just going to need some time to deal with it," Eve noted, getting up. "I can let myself out." With that, she left, hurrying out of view across the courtyard.
The Child eyed the warriors before saying, "Ya know. We didn't have a choice. He woulda killed us."
"I know," Xena responded, looking out the door sadly. "Still, that's small consolation for Eve right now."
"Ah guess," he admitted, taking a deep breath and allowing himself to change back.
Dave looked around. "It's true I take it?"
"Yeah, it is," the Bard-Queen told him. "As badly as I feel for Eve right now, I'm glad Lucius is gone."
"Me too. That means that Nicholas and Alyce can be free of him at last," the Warrior Princess declared. "And you and Divia can move on, David."
He nodded, walking over to his sisters' side. "It's the end of one chapter and the beginning of another for all of us."
Cybelle nodded. And so, Pauline and so many of my sisters are avenged.
"And just as Xena said, you can have a new start of sorts," Karen declared as she and Caroline embraced him.
He held the two women tightly against him, considering all of the possibilities. Whereas the feud between him and LaCroix had fueled him, now he would focus his energy on the future and the most important parts of it: his family, friends, and students. Dr. S, you would want me to make peace with the past and move on. The Child and I still need to be vigilant, but for tonight, we can rest just a little easier.
THE END (for now)
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