“Lessons in Witchcraft” [PG] – 7/9

 

“LESSONS IN WITCHCRAFT”

Chapter 7

Lunch turned out to be a simple affair – chicken salad sandwiches with homemade potato chips and iced tea. Once the meal ended, the Halliwells, Olivia and the half-daemon returned to the living room. Piper also carried a sleeping Wyatt in her arms. He had awakened during lunch, in order to be fed. 

While she rocked the infant in her arms, Piper said to Olivia, “You know, you never did answer my first question, regarding demons.”

“First question?” Olivia frowned.

“About demons being naturally evil. What is the Wiccan view on that?”

Olivia leaned back into the sofa, with a sigh. “Oh yeah. That question. Well, the Wiccan view is . . . they’re not naturally evil.” Her answer drew stares from the three sisters. “What? Did I say something wrong?”

“Uh . . . yeah!” Piper shot back. “What do you mean that demons aren’t evil?”

Cole spoke up. “I think what Olivia is trying to say is that Wiccans don’t believe that any being is inherently good or evil.”

“We believe that all beings have an equal potential for both,” Olivia continued. “And that whatever actions we take, we have to accept responsibility for the consequences. Of course, there are some religions that take a . . . uh, more black-and-white view on the matter. Christianity, Judaism, and Islam are just to name a few.”

“So, what you’re saying is that you don’t believe demons are inherently evil,” Paige commented.

Olivia replied, “I’ll take it even further. There are many Wiccans that don’t believe in the existence of demons, period. They especially don’t believe in such beings as Satan or Lucifer. Now many Vodouns believe that demons are not corporeal beings, but purely evil spirits. Unless they have actual experience with daemons like Cecile and Andre. That’s also a view shared by some Christians, and so forth.”

Paige frowned. “I don’t get it. If demons are spirits, what the hell have we been fighting all of these years?”

“Daemons.”

The Halliwells stared at Olivia with confused eyes. “Huh?” Phoebe shook her head. “What are you talking about? It sounds like the same thing.”

Cole explained, “Olivia is talking about daemons. D-A-E-M-O-N-S. They, or I should say . . . we are minor divinities that rank between gods and mortals. We age like mortals, but at a much slower pace. Our age span is a lot longer. But technically, we’re not true immortals. Not really. Now there are some ‘daemons’ that never age. Like vampires. Or whitelighters. That’s because they were originally mortals who transformed into daemons, while on the verge of death. When they became a daemon, their physical growth was arrested.”

“Are you saying that my Leo and Paige’s dad . . . are daemons?” Piper demanded.

The half-daemon nodded. “That’s right. Along with darklighters.”

Comprehension dawned in Paige’s eyes. “Is that why that succubus, Claudia Della Scalla, wanted Barbara’s Soma plant? So she could become an immortal? A goddess?”

Olivia replied, “Yep.”

“But, demons . . . or daemons, or whatever you call ’em, are still evil,” Phoebe insisted. She paused. “And that also means that Leo and Paige’s dad can’t be daemons.”

Talk about stubborn, Olivia retorted silently. She sighed and said to Phoebe, “If that’s what you want to believe, it’s your choice. Many Wiccans, however, believe differently. We believe that in the end, it all depends upon the individual – not the race or the species.”

“What you’re saying is that you don’t believe in Satan,” Piper challenged. “But you believe that my husband is a . . . daemon.”

Olivia gave the oldest Halliwell a tart smile. “That’s right.”

Cole added, “You know, there are Christians who believe that Satan was originally one of God’s angels. A fallen angel.”

“Like a darklighter,” Paige clarified.

Cole hesitated, before he answered, “Uh . . . okay. If you say so. Also, there are those who believe that Satan was never a fallen angel, but one of God’s more ruthless agents.”

Phoebe shook her head. “Now, I find that hard to believe. And even if demons aren’t automatically evil, at least humans have a bigger potential for good. Right?”

Oh God, Olivia thought sardonically, another advocate of the ‘Gene Roddenberry School of Humanity’. She heaved a large sigh and said aloud, “You know, it truly amazes me – the human capacity to pat itself on the back. Why are we like that? Do you ever wonder?”

Looking somewhat offended by Olivia’s response, Phoebe bridled. “What do you mean by that?” she demanded.

Again, Olivia sighed. “Phoebe, I think you’ve been watching too many “STAR TREK” episodes. They really take that whole‘humanity on a pedestal’ thing a bit too far. Humanity’s potential for good and . . . evil, is just about the same as other beings. Trust me. I speak from long experience.”

“Cole doesn’t think so,” Phoebe shot back, glancing at her ex-husband. “Right Cole? Didn’t you once tell Leo and Darryl that very few humans have the same capacity for evil, as demons?”

Olivia stared at her boyfriend, who looked very embarrassed. And deservedly so, as far as she was concerned. He also squirmed with discomfort, under Olivia’s close scrutiny. “Uh . . . well, it was Raynor who told me,” Cole finally mumbled. A derisive snort escaped from Olivia’s mouth. The half-daemon glared at her. “What?”

“Look, I’m sure that Raynor was an intelligent and powerful being . . .” Olivia began.

Cole frowned. “But?”

Olivia continued, “Let me put it this way – I think that your old mentor had not spent enough time among humans. At least not long enough to really know them. I’ve been a cop for nearly nine years, Cole. Trust me, I’ve met plenty of humans who have committed acts just as heinous or even worse than those committed by your most notorious daemon or warlock. The only difference is that nearly all of the latter possess the ability to practice magic. Well, as far as I know.”

Silence enveloped the Halliwell living room. The Charmed Ones and Cole stared at Olivia. Then Piper said, “You really don’t like humans very much, do you?”

“My feelings about humans are the same about everyone else – at best, ambiguous. I’m more interested in individuals. Besides, this isn’t about whether I like humans or not. I’m only telling you what I believe. And what I’ve experienced over the years.” Olivia paused. When no one bothered to respond, she added, “Gee, I hope I didn’t ruin everyone’s mood.”

Wearing a wan smile, Paige piped up, “Well, you may have shaken my world view a bit. Otherwise, I’m fine.”

A quick glance at Paige’s two older sisters told Olivia that they did not share the younger woman’s feelings. On the other hand, Cole looked as if he had experienced an epiphany. Olivia managed a smile. “So . . . does anyone have any questions or comments? About demons, or should I say, daemons?”

Once more, silence reigned free, until Piper broke it. “Well, with no Source ruling the Underworld, along with the Triad and Cole’s old buddies – the Brotherhood of the Whatever, gone . . .”

“Brotherhood of the Thorn,” Cole corrected.

“What?”

The half-daemon repeated, “My old order is called the Brotherhood of the Thorn. And it still exists, by the way.”

A distraught expression appeared on Phoebe’s face. “Oh my God! Is that true? I thought the Brotherhood had been destroyed after you killed Whatshisname, Raynor?”

“Where did you get that idea?” Cole shot back. “A new leader had simply assumed Raynor’s old position. That’s all. Who, I haven’t the foggiest idea.”

Piper regarded her ex-brother-in-law with confusion. “You mean to say that you know that Brotherhood still exists, but you have no idea who is the new leader?”

Cole rolled his eyes in contempt. “Please don’t tell me that you find that hard to believe,” he replied sardonically. “Because that phrase is in danger of becoming redundant.”

“Well, why didn’t you tell us that the Brotherhood still existed?” Piper retorted. “Why did you have us believe that it had been destroyed?”

Confusion marred Cole’s handsome face. “What the hell are you talking about? I never said anything about the Brotherhood being destroyed! I merely told Phoebe that I had killed Raynor. He wasn’t exactly the first daemon to lead the order!”

“Oh.” Piper looked contrite. And disturbed by Cole’s revelation. “Then if your old brotherhood is still around, why hasn’t a new Source emerged?”

Cole shrugged his shoulders. “How the hell would I know? The last I heard, some daemon was trying to gather supporters for his claim as the new Source, but no one seems to know his or her name.”

The news of a possible new Source seemed to have disturbed the Charmed Ones. Olivia, on the other hand, felt rather calmed by the news. She and her family had long realized that the emergence of a new Source was bound to happen.

“A new Source?” Piper heaved a long-suffering sigh. “I guess we have to find out who this new demon is and stop him. Or her.”

Olivia stared at the oldest sister. “Why?” she asked. “Why would you go through all that trouble?”

“To stop a new Source from taking over the Underworld, of course!” Piper replied in a tone that Olivia found patronizing.

Keeping her patience in check, Olivia shot back, “And why do you think that’s necessary?”

Phoebe regarded the redhead with disbelief. “Are you saying that you want a new Source?”

Olivia sighed. “No, I’m not. But I’m trying to understand why you feel it’s necessary to go chasing after any new candidate for the Source’s throne.”

“Hel-lo? Past experience?” Phoebe retorted. “Sometimes, I really don’t understand you, Olivia. If there’s a new Source, he or she will re-organize the Underworld. And probably go after us.”

It was all Olivia could do from openly rolling her eyes in contempt. “And what makes you think that the next Source would be interested in coming after you? Or any of us? Because the last one was?”

“Well . . . I’d give that answer a big yes,” Piper shot back.

“Phoebe, the only reason why the old Source went after you,” Olivia continued, ignoring Piper’s caustic remark, “is because someone . . .”

Cole added, “Either the Oracle or the Seer . . .”

“. . . had foreseen the Charmed Ones – namely you – killing him,” the redhead finished. “And the dumb bastard became so paranoid and obsessed over that vision that he ended up destroying himself . . . twice.”

Phoebe replied, “Still, with no Source, the demonic realm will remain in chaos. And witches all over will be safer . . .”

“Safer? Says who?” Olivia demanded. “Leo?” She snorted with derision. “Sometimes, I think that whitelighters have their noses so far up their asses that they don’t really know what the hell is going on. Just because some demonic realm is in chaos, doesn’t mean that we’re all safer. Look at what has happened to all of us in the past year or so.” Olivia paused. “By the way, which demonic realm are you referring to?”

Piper frowned. “What do you mean by ‘which demonic realm’? There’s more than one?”

Olivia regarded the other woman as a mentally challenged child. Penelope Halliwell had certainly done a piss-poor job of preparing her granddaughters for the world of the supernatural. The redhead looked at her boyfriend. “Cole, how many demonic realms are there?”

“I haven’t the foggiest idea,” the half-daemon replied laconically. “Hell, there’s a whole lot of ’em, and the Source had only ruled a handful.”

Piper looked flabbergasted. “Oh my God!” she cried. “I can’t . . . I just can’t believe this!”

Cole rolled his eyes. “What can I say, Piper? Mind you, I’m only familiar with the demonic realms under the Source’s rule and several others.”

“Of course!” Paige exclaimed, startling Olivia. “I remember you saying something similar when we first met Riggerio.”

Olivia added, “As for you going after this new candidate for the Source’s throne, I suggest that you refrain from doing it. It’s irreverent. Unless he or she decides to come after you.”

“But with a new Source gone . . .” Phoebe began.

Olivia stared at her. “Yes?”

Phoebe’s voice dropped to a near whisper. “Well, evil . . .” She paused. “Never mind.”

“What were you about to say?” Olivia asked. “That evil will no longer flourish? Of course it will. It will always exist. You can’t destroy real evil. None of us can. It’s not even corporeal. It’s like a . . . well, a spirit. The spirit of evil that exists within all of us. Some of us give in to it right away . . .”

Piper added, “Like demons and warlocks.”

“And witches,” Olivia said, with a dark look. “Witches and other humans.” Piper rolled her eyes. Olivia continued, “So, you can’t destroy real evil. And despite his title, the Source was never the epitome of real evil. As much as he had probably wished.”

Once more, an uncomfortable silence filled the room. Olivia had lost count on how many times she had managed to shock the sisters into silence. She noticed, however, that it was becoming a habit. Finally, Paige came to the rescue – once more. “By the way,” the younger woman asked, “what’s the difference between a warlock and a de . . . I mean, a daemon? Isn’t the first supposed to be . . . what? An evil witch or a low-level demon?”

Cole explained that warlocks were simply magick practitioners who had perverted witchcraft for dark purposes. “Like the Crozats,” he added. “Warlock is a Scottish word that means ‘oath breaker’.”

“Warlocks also steal witches’ powers,” Piper said. “And they blink when teleporting.”

Olivia stared at the eldest Halliwell. “Actually Piper, any good magick practitioner can steal someone else’s power,” she corrected. “And a warlock’s goal isn’t to steal a witch’s power.”

Phoebe said, “What about the Crozats? They had killed a lot of witches for new powers.”

“They were consolidating power to take over the Source’s Realm,” Olivia explained. “And didn’t they try to steal Cole’s powers, as well? Come to think of it, didn’t you guys once encounter some warlocks trying to do the same to other daemons?”

Cole added, “I remember that. It happened not long after I had lost my powers. When we were trying to help that muse.”

Olivia continued, “Also, warlocks aren’t the only ones who can blink. So can a witch or any other being with that teleportation ability. My mother’s Cousin Anwen can blink. So can Nathalie Green.”

Looking flabbergasted, Phoebe exclaimed, “She can? But how . . . When Prue’s marriage to that warlock had turned all of us into one, we could blink.

Olivia shrugged. “It’s possible that particular ‘wedding ceremony’ had passed the warlock’s teleportation ability to all three of you. From what Leo had told me, the ceremony was rather unusual.”

Paige stared at Phoebe with confusion. “Prue had married a warlock?”

“Long story,” her older sister interjected. “Prue had married him, while under a spell. Besides, even Piper had dated a warlock.”

The oldest Halliwell shuddered slightly. “Oh my God! Jeremy! He was another warlock who was killing witches for their powers around the time we first got our powers. It turned out that I didn’t know he was a warlock, until we had been dating for several months.”

“How did you find out?” Paige asked.

“It happened inside the freight elevator of some old building. When Jeremy went into game face.”

Both Olivia and Cole exchanged startled looks. “Game face?” The half-daemon expressed doubt. “A warlock? This Jeremy sounds more like a vampire.”

“He wasn’t a vampire,” Piper retorted with a touch of asperity. “And yes, he did go into game face.”

A frowning Olivia shook her head. “That’s not possible. Warlocks can’t go into game face. They’re mortals. Like witches.”

“But they can’t be!” Phoebe protested. “A friend of mine once shot a warlock at close range. The warlock didn’t even flinch, let alone drop dead. You all remember Eric, don’t you, Piper? And the two warlocks that were after the Akashic Records?”

Piper nodded. “I remember.”

Heaving an exasperated sigh, Olivia tried to explain. “Let me repeat myself. Warlocks are mortals. I should know. I’ve encountered them before. Including Suzanne Crozat, who had dropped dead from two bullets, thanks to me.”

“So, what are you saying?” Phoebe demanded. “That Jeremy and those two . . . guys were . . .?”

“. . . probably daemons,” Cole finished in a dry tone. He paused, as the others stared at him. “Are they in your Book of Shadows?”

“Uh . . . yeah, I think . . .” Piper turned to her sisters.

Paige immediately went into action and orbed the Halliwells’ Book of Shadows into her hands. She placed it on the coffee table, before her.

Piper leaned down and turned the pages. She stopped at one that featured a drawing of a good-looking man with light brown hair. “Hmmm, color pencils,” Olivia commented. “Nice drawing. Prue?”

“Yeah,” Piper replied. “I guess she was a pretty good artist. Not exactly in Paige’s class, but pretty good.” A pleased expression flitted across the youngest Charmed One’s face. Piper added, “Oh, that’s Jeremy, by the way.”

Cole gazed at the drawing. “Jeremiah,” he corrected.

Piper stared at him. “Huh?”

“His name was Jeremiah,” the half-daemon continued. “A low-level, half-daemon. His mother was a warlock – and not a very good one, at that. I had met him once, nearly ten years ago. His mother had given him a Biblical name. As some kind of joke.”

Horror filled Piper’s dark eyes. “Wait a minute! Are you saying that I had once dated a demon? Had sex with one?” she cried.

Cole’s mouth curled with sardonic amusement. “I wouldn’t worry, Piper. Your little romance happened a few years ago. And at least you and Phoebe are in good company.” The two older Halliwells glared at him.

Then Phoebe sat next to Paige, on the sofa. Olivia watched, as she turned a few pages, before stopping at one that featured two middle-aged men. Both possessed forefingers that resembled pointed sticks. “What about them?” she asked Cole.

The half-daemon glanced down at the page. He nodded. “Yeah, I recognized them. The Collectors. They’re daemons that have the ability to drain information from the minds of others. Like the Seekers. Only the Collectors tend to leave their victims, feeble-minded.” A frown creased Cole’s brow. “Why does the Book have them listed as warlocks?”

“Because they had a blinking . . .” Phoebe broke off with a sigh. “I guess that whoever had added them to the Book, made a mistake.”

“No kidding.” Cole’s remark earned him another glare from his ex-wife.

Olivia, who sat on the other side of Paige, reached out and turned a few pages. She came upon a faint drawing of a female daemon listed as Hecate. She frowned. “This is Hecate? You’ve encountered her, before?”

Piper nodded. “Oh yeah. She was a demon who had tried to marry a mortal – some guy from one of San Francisco’s top families. The Spencers. She wanted to conceive a powerful half-demonic child.”

“Hecate?” Olivia’s voice rang with doubt. “You make her sound like a succubus. And I’ve never known Hecate to be described as one.” She paused. “Are you sure this daemon was Hecate? The real Hecate doesn’t have a reputation for evil.”

“Well, this Hecate was definitely evil,” Piper insisted.

Olivia shook her head. “I’m beginning to suspect that this was not the real Hecate.”

“She’s not,” Cole added.

“What do you know about her?” Paige asked.

Cole explained that the real Hecate was a Titan – a deity that possessed three heads – a lion’s, a dog’s and a mare’s. Hecate was the only Titan who had managed to keep her powers, after Zeus had defeated her father, Cronus. The latter had led a rebellion against the leading god.

“She’s also known as a spirit,” Olivia added. “And her name is usually invoked by other ghosts . . . and witches.”

The news seemed to stun the Halliwells, especially Piper and Phoebe. “But that doesn’t sound like the Hecate we had met,” Phoebe protested. “So, who was the demon we had vanquished, five years ago?”

No one – not even Cole – had an answer to Phoebe’s question. Olivia’s mouth became parched. She needed a drink. Badly. She glanced at the manor’s grandfather clock, when it struck three o’clock. “Why don’t we call it a day?” she suggested. “I think that we’ve covered all we could.”

“Um, could we hold off on the lessons for a while?” Phoebe asked. The others looked at her. “I’m going to be out of town for a week. In Chicago.”

Olivia nodded. “Sure.” She glanced at Cole, who seemed to be frowning at the Book of Shadows. “Cole, is there something wrong?”

At that moment, Cole grabbed the Book, generating gasps from the Charmed Ones. “How did you . . .?” Piper began, looking shocked.

“What?” Cole glanced at the book in his hands. He began flipping back through the pages. “Oh. Relax. I won’t . . . infect your book,” he added sardonically. “Besides, I’ve handled Olivia’s Book of Shadows, a number of times. And my intent is sincere.”

Piper retorted caustically, “Oh, that makes me feel a whole lot better.”

“I’m sure that it’s a feeling that won’t last,” Cole shot back.

“Meaning?”

He pointed at a page featured opposite the Collector demons. “I found another mistake in your Book. The Order of Gimle. It says here that it’s a demonic order. For evil.”

Phoebe eyed Cole warily. “Well, isn’t it?”

Closing the Book, Cole sighed. “It’s a demonic order, all right.” He paused. “Only, the Gimle daemons don’t serve evil. They’re usually on the other side of the fence.” He smiled and handed the Book of Shadows back to a stunned Piper.

END OF CHAPTER 7

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