“A Family Affair” [PG-13] – 2/8

 

A FAMILY AFFAIR”

NOTE: The Gimle Order was first mentioned in the story, “Lessons in Witchcraft”.

CHAPTER TWO

“Nephew?” Harry declared out loud, three hours later. He, along with his parents, Olivia and the two daemons had left the Mortons’ soiree and ended up at Cole’s penthouse. “Cole is your nephew?”

The older daemon nodded. “On his mother’s side. Haven’t you noticed the resemblance?”

Gweneth McNeill arched a dubious brow. “What resemblance? Cole is taller. He has different features and darker hair.

“Look at the eyes, Gwen,” Jack commented. “Both have the same eyes. And they’re the same shape and . . .”

Olivia finished, “And same super blue color.” She glanced at Cole. “You must have inherited your dad’s looks and your mom’s eyes.”

“His grandfather’s eyes,” Marbus added.

Jack asked his old friend, “What were you doing at Cordelia Morton’s party?”

“I was invited,” Marbus replied. “I had arrived in San Francisco to see Cole. We haven’t laid eyes upon each other in quite a while.”

Cole added, “Not since I had first returned from the Wasteland.”

“I had encountered Cordelia at the Mark Hopkins Hotel for afternoon tea, and she invited me to her little party.”

Olivia frowned. “You know the Mortons?”

Marbus heaved a long-suffering sigh. “For nearly fifteen years, I’m afraid. My family and I used to encounter them every so often, around Europe. They know me as Miles Farrell.”

Harry’s eyes grew wide with shock. “The writer?”

A wide smile graced Marbus’ handsome face. “Oh, you’ve read my books? Isn’t that nice. Miles Farrell, by the way, is my mortal name.”

“You’re part daemon like Cole?”

Cole chuckled. “Actually, all daemons with a human or humanoid appearance probably have some mortal blood in them. Or were probably former mortals who had ascended to demon hood. Most of them – including Raynor, the Triad and the Source – have refused to admit it.”

Marbus added, “Only those daemons with no human features, lack any mortal blood. Or else, they’re shape shifters.”

“You know, I never knew that,” Olivia said. “I guess I’ve always found it odd that a lot of daemons looked like humans. I figured they were all shape shifters.”

Cole said, “Not all daemons are shape shifters.”

“Speaking of daemons,” Jack continued, “why was one after Mark Giovanni?”

A silent pause filled the living room. All eyes focused upon Cole. Who shrugged. “This is news to me. I guess the Magan Corporation must have supernatural connections.” He glanced at his uncle. “Have you ever heard of it?”

“Never heard of it, until today,” Marbus replied. “If it does have supernatural connections, then the corporation must have been recently formed.”

Cole added, “About six years ago.” The others stared at him. “I had the corporation investigated, when I first accepted the Giovanni case.”

“By me,” Olivia added.

Gweneth stood up. “I’m sure that we would all love to continue this conversation,” she said, “but Jack and I have an opera to attend.” Cole smirked at the sight of Jack McNeill’s wince. “And we don’t have much time to prepare. And Harry,” she said to her youngest, “don’t you have dinner with Dana Morton?”

Olivia stared at her younger brother in disbelief. “I thought you were going to break it off with her.”

Harry replied lamely, “I changed my mind.” Olivia continued to stare at him. “What can I say? She’s not all that bad!”

“And Olivia,” Gweneth continued, “perhaps you should allow Cole and Marbus a little privacy for a family reunion.”

Olivia opened her mouth to protest. But her mother’s stare prevented her. Instead, she pouted and said in a morose voice, “If you insist.” She stood up and planted a light kiss on Cole’s mouth. “I’ll see you later. Tell me everything.”

Both Harry and Jack rose from their seats, and the four McNeills bid Cole and his uncle good-bye. Once the half-daemon closed the door behind him, the older daemon asked, “What was that all about? Olivia’s last comment?”

A wry smile touched Cole’s lips. “Oh. That. Olivia thinks I have a bad habit of keeping too many secrets.”

“We all do. It’s a family habit,” Marbus replied airily.

Cole sighed. “Well, that same habit nearly got me killed, last December. By a group of warlocks from the Crozat coven.”

“I heard they had been wiped out. At least the family’s warlocks,” Marbus said. “Were you responsible?”

Nodding, Cole replied, “Me, Olivia, her brothers and a friend of hers named Cecile Dubois. They were trying to gather enough powers to take over the Source’s Realm.”

Marbus’ eyes grew wide with shock. “Warlocks trying to take over the Source’s Realm? They must have planned to ascend to a demonic state. Anyway, they would have had to deal with two other factions plotting to gain control of the Realm.” He paused, as a frown appeared on his face. “You know, there’s something familiar about those two young women. The ones whose names start with a ‘P’. They reminded me of someone I had met, years ago. During my . . . uh, ‘dark’ years. They’re the ones connected to the Warren family, right?”

“The Charmed Ones are descended from Melinda Warren,” Cole replied. “I had met Melinda’s mother, during a trip to the past, once.”

The older daemon nodded. “Hmmmm. So, they’re the ones who had killed the Source. And you. Were they involved with what happened to the Crozats?”

Cole stared at his uncle. “Marbus, why are you here? And I want the truth.”

“I’m here to warn you,” Marbus simply stated.

“About the two demonic factions fighting for the Source’s Realm?”

Marbus shook his head. “No. At the moment, they’re no danger to you or the McNeills.” He sighed. “But I am here to warn you . . . only not about daemons.”

Cole frowned. “Then who . . .?”

Marbus paused. “The Whitelighter’s Council.”

“Huh?”

Heaving a sigh, the older daemon repeated, “The Whitelighter’s Council. They want you dead, Boyo.”

Cole snorted with derision. “What else is new? They’ve wanted me dead for years.”

Marbus reached for the glass of port, sitting on the table next to him. “This is different. You’ve become more powerful than ever, since your return from the Wasteland. You’re mating with a witch from a powerful family – namely the McNeills. And . . .” He paused. “Well, it’s your mother.”

“What about her?” Cole demanded in an icy voice.

After another pause, Marbus added, “She’s the Brotherhood of the Thorn’s new leader.”

“WHAT?” The news shook Cole to his core.

“Nimue has been the order’s leader since last October.”

Cole shook his head. “Last Nov . . . Wait a minute! Now, I know that Klea had taken over the Order, after Raynor’s death. I remember seeing her, when I was the Source. As head of an order, she was part of my council.”

“Yes, and the Charmed Ones killed her, when they killed the Seer and your . . . uh, the Source for the third time.” Cole suspected that his uncle was about to say “your son”. He kept the thought to himself. Marbus continued, “After Klea’s death, Fylgia took over the Order. But he was accidentally killed by Barbas, when the latter had your new powers, last fall. And that’s when your mother took over. I hear that she’s doing great wonders for the Order. Re-organizing and everything . . .”

Still stunned over the news, Cole demanded, “And that’s why the Whitelighters want me dead? Because of Mother?”

“Well, that and the fact that you are involved with a powerful witch . . .”

“What does Olivia have to do with this?”

Marbus took a deep breath. “Listen to me, Belthazor.” He took another breath and went on to explain everything. Apparently, one of the Elders had announced that a Seer had foreseen both Cole and Olivia playing major roles in the emergence of a new Source. The news had sent the Elders Council in a fit and had ordered one of their whitelighters to end Cole and Olivia’s relationship.

“That would be Leo,” Cole added. “He is, or used to be Olivia and Bruce’s whitelighter. And my former brother-in-law.”

“What?”

“Leo is married to one of the Charmed Ones. Piper. And he also happens to be their whitelighter.”

Taking another sip of his port, Marbus said, “Well, I’d keep an eye on him, if I were you.”

Cole dismissed the warning with a wave of his head. “C’mon Marbus! What can Leo do? Order the Charmed Ones to kill me? They can’t! And I’m not being arrogant. Neither they nor the Elders are strong enough to kill me. Believe me, I’m serious. When Barbas had my powers nearly a year ago, Phoebe and her sisters weren’t able to kill him with their Power of Three spell.”

Marbus quietly added, “The Elders could always find someone to strip away your powers. Isn’t that how Barbas ended up with yours?”

“Actually, it was Paige who managed to strip away my powers. She had been tricked by Barbas.” Cole shook his head. “Besides, I can’t see the Elders ordering my death after my powers have been stripped away.”

Heaving a long-suffering sigh, Marbus retorted, “You don’t get it, do you, Boy? Even without your psychic abilities, you’ll still have the ability to perform other kinds of magick. I realize that you’re unaware of this, but you had that ability when your old powers were stripped away, nearly two years ago. And even if you do marry as a ‘mortal’, your children will still become magically powerful. They would be inheriting your demonic DNA. And that is the last thing the Whitelighters want. They fear you or your children will reorganize the Source’s Realm.”

Stunned by his uncle’s revelation, Cole frowned. “I don’t . . . I don’t understand . . . Are you saying that even without my active powers, I would remain a threat to them?”

“Didn’t you tell me, the last time we had met, that the Charmed Ones were able to kill the Source using the Power of Three, despite the fact that two of them had their psychic powers stolen by that old bastard?”

Cole sighed. “Yeah, I did.”

“The Whitelighters’ Council do not want a new Source. Well, a lot of us don’t exactly find the idea palatable. But at least we realize that a leader in the Source’s Realm is needed to bring back balance in our supernatural world.” Marbus shook his head. “How can a group of beings that consider themselves wise, be so bloody stupid?” He drained the rest of his port.

Placing his whiskey glass on the table, Cole asked, “And what was the name of this whitelighter who told you this?”

“It was two of them. Barbara DeVilliers and Natalia Stepanova. Miss Stepanova used to be a whitelighter for one of Jack McNeill’s cousins. He had died last winter.”

Cole nodded. “That would be Keith McNeill.”

Marbus continued, “The both of them are members of a faction that believe the current Elders Council is out of control and out of touch. In fact, the Whitelighters Realm has been slowly drifting into chaos, since the Source’s last death.”

“Yeah, I know all about it, thanks to Olivia’s father. According to him, not only are there whitelighters openly questioning the Elders’ authority, a good number have defected to the other side. Sounds like a big mess.”

Shaking his head, Marbus said, “The whitelighters are in a mess. And so is the demonic world. All of us in the Gimle Order are very worried. You need to keep your eyes open, Boyo. Especially for the whitelighters or any witch who might try to get rid of you.”

Images of Phoebe, Leo and Piper flashed in Cole’s mind. He dismissed the thought with a shake of his head. “This is ridiculous! The only ones I know who would try to get rid of me are . . .” He paused.

“Are you talking about that Leo fellow? And your wife, Frances?”

Cole corrected his uncle. “Her name is Phoebe and she’s my ex-wife.”

“Really? When did the divorce go through? The last time we saw each other, you were determined to win her back.”

Cole sighed. “It happened last October. Not long after we met.”

Marbus smiled. “And you’ve been courting Jack’s daughter ever since, eh?”

“Actually, I’ve been cour . . .” Cole mentally sighed. “I mean, dating Olivia since late April. However, we’ve been friends since . . . well, since two days after my divorce became final. Leo’s not exactly thrilled that I’m dating her.”

Nodding Marbus replied, “This Leo sounds as if he’s still loyal to the Elders. I’d keep an eye on him, as well. And your former in-laws.”

A cross between a derisive snort and a chuckle escaped Cole’s mouth. “C’mon! You’ve got to be kidding! Just because Paige had once stripped me of my powers, last . . .” He paused and heaved a sigh. “This is ridiculous.”

“This Paige,” Marbus continued, “is she . . .?”

Cole finished, “The redhead with Phoebe. Yeah, she’s the youngest Charmed One and a half-sister.”

“And the one who had given you so much trouble, last year.”

“Right now, Paige is the only Halliwell I’m friends with,” Cole added.

Marbus said, “But her sisters must know how she had stripped away your powers.”

“Look Marbus, the Charmed Ones are not going to kill me if I end up as a mortal. Don’t worry.”

A sigh left the older daemon’s mouth. “I suppose you’re right. You know them best.” He stood up and headed for the liquor cabinet. “What about your client? What are you going to do about him?”

“I don’t know,” Cole murmured. “Thank goodness Olivia and I had managed to convince him that his ‘companion’ had never accompanied him to the Mortons’ beach, without me using my telepathic suggestion power on him. Maybe I’ll place him under a protection spell.”

Marbus added, “If you like, I could ask the Gimle Order to assign a bodyguard to him.”

Cole shrugged his shoulders. “I’ll think about it. But what I really need is your help in finding more information on this Magan Corporation. It’s odd that not long after Giovanni had rejected their offer, a demonic assassin tries to kill him.” Cole drained the last of his whiskey.

Marbus shook his head. “That piece of land must be very important.”

———-

Piper stared at her sisters in shock. “Cole has an uncle?”

“From his mother’s side,” Phoebe’s explained. “He’s a demon.”

“Well gee! No kidding!”

Paige continued, “His name is Marbus and he saved Mark Giovanni from being killed by a demonic assassin.”

Suspicion tingled in the back of Piper’s mind. But it was Leo who expressed her thoughts. “Why?” he demanded. “Why would he even bother to save an innocent?”

Phoebe shrugged her shoulders, as she threw herself on the sofa. “I don’t know. He claimed that he had recognized the woman as an assassin.”

“A demonic assassin named Cassandra,” Paige added. “I’ve checked the Book of Shadows. She exists. Or did, until today. And it also seems that Cole’s uncle is a member of the Gimle Order.”

Leo frowned. “The what?”

Piper turned to face her husband. “Oh, c’mon Leo! You remember, don’t you? The Gimle Order?”

“Piper, what are you . . .?”

Paige interrupted. “The Gimle Order? The group of demons who protect the innocent? Like us? They’re the good guys. Remember Mrs. McNeill talking about them?”

Shaking his head, Leo declared, “Look, I’m sorry. But Mrs. McNeill or not, I just find it hard to believe that this order . . .”

Piper added, “They’re mentioned in our Book of Shadows. Only, the Book states that they’re evil.”

“There you go,” Leo said.

Paige rolled her eyes in disgust. “Leo, according to Cole, the Gimle demons are the good guys.”

“He could be lying.”

An impatient sigh left Paige’s mouth. “Both Olivia and Mrs. McNeill verified this. They’ve had experience with them in the past. Remember?”

“But the Book . . .”

Piper heaved a disgruntled sigh. “Maybe the Book is wrong, Leo! And why? Because some whitelighter probably gave one of our ancestors the wrong information!”

“Piper . . .”

Phoebe spoke up, interrupting the couple’s argument. “Why don’t we go upstairs and check to see if this Marbus is in the Book of Shadows?”

“Good idea,” Leo shot back. He brushed past Phoebe and headed straight toward the staircase. The three sisters quickly followed. Upon reaching the attic, Leo strode toward the podium that held the Book of Shadows.

Piper stood behind her husband, as he sifted through the Book. He stopped at a page that featured an orange-and-black demon that looked very familiar. “Oh my God!” Piper exclaimed. “He looks like Belthazor!”

Paige and Phoebe gathered around the podium for a glance. The former replied, “He certainly does. I guess that shouldn’t be a surprise, considering that they’re related.”

Leo added, “It says here that Marbus is an upper-level demon and one of the top assassins in the Underworld. He’s also an agent for the Triad.”

“Was,” Phoebe corrected. “They’re dead. Remember?”

“Oh my God,” Piper murmured, as she read further description of the demon. “The Book also states that he had killed Lucia Warren Miller in order to steal something called the Marbury Stone.” She paused, as the implication of her words sunk in. “Oh my God! He had killed one of our ancestors!”

“So much for him being a ‘good’ demon,” Leo added sarcastically.

Paige pointed to the corner of the page. “There’s a date. May 3, 1823. Apparently, Lucia’s death happened nearly 200 years ago. Wow! How old is this guy?”

Phoebe replied, “Who knows? Don’t forget. Cole is nearly 120 years old.”

“Who cares hold old he is?” Piper retorted. Her eyes remained focused upon the demon’s image. “This guy killed one of our own.”

Paige dryly shot back, “Yeah Piper. Nearly two centuries ago. And may I remind you that just over a year ago, we had killed his nephew? I’d say that we’re pretty even.”

There were times Piper wished that her youngest sister would stop bringing up the past. Especially that particular incident inside Cole’s penthouse. She opened her mouth to retort, when Phoebe interrupted.

“Whatever happened in the past is over,” the middle Halliwell declared. “Paige is right. This incident with Lucia happened 180 years ago. Maybe this Marbus has changed. Maybe he really is part of this Gimle Order. At least we know what it really stands for, thanks to Olivia.”

Leo argued, “Maybe she is right about this Gimle Order. But what about Marbus? What if he had lied about being a part of it? What if he had another reason for killing that other demon? Don’t forget that when we had first met Cole, he was pretending to be a good guy. He had even killed that demonic judge and that demon who later tried to kill Prue, just to be on your good side.”

“Okay Leo. I understand what you’re saying. And that’s why I think we should keep an eye on this guy.”

Paige sighed. “All right. Maybe we should. But I also think we should get to know Marbus. Maybe we can find out the latest news about the Underworld.” She paused. “The McNeills’ weekly brunch is tomorrow. Why don’t we pay them a visit? Cole’s uncle might be there.”

Oh great! Piper shook her head in disgust. Another Sunday with the McNeills and Cole. And this time, with the latter’s uncle. Now there was something to look forward to.

——–

It took one look at his assistant’s expression for Artemus to figure out that something had gone wrong. “She failed, didn’t she?” he said. “Cassandra had failed to kill Giovanni.”

Prax nervously cleared his throat. “I’m . . . uh, I’m afraid so, Artemus. I was there at the party. She had lured Giovanni to the beach, but someone else had followed. Along with a few others.”

“Like who?” Artemus demanded.

“Belthazor was there. Along with his McNeill witch and her father. Also, two of the Charmed Ones had followed.”

Artemus sighed. “The Charmed Ones. Were they the ones who killed Cassandra? Or was it Belthazor?”

“I don’t think so.” A frown appeared on the younger daemon’s face. “There was a man who had reached Giovanni and Cassandra before the others. I thought I had recognized him, but I might be mistaken.”

The elder daemon courtly demanded, “What are you talking about, Prax?”

“I believe I had seen Marbus. Belthazor’s uncle.” Prax frowned. “But that can’t be right. Isn’t Marbus dead?”

Shock overwhelmed Artemus. “Of course he’s dead! He can’t be . . .” Then he murmured to himself. “Or could it be that Belthazor had never carried out the hit? After all, no one knows I’m . . .”

“Sir?” Prax’s face expressed concern. “Artemus, is there something wrong?”

Realization settled within the older daemon. “He is alive. Marbus is alive.”

“But I heard that Belthazor . . .”

“. . . must have spared his life. Of course!” Artemus stared at his assistant. “What do you know about Marbus?”

Prax shook his head. “Not much. Only that he was . . . is Belthazor’s uncle and that he used to be one of the Source’s assassins.”

Artemus chuckled mirthlessly. “He was one of the Source’s top assassins. Like his father, his sister and his nephew. That family . . .” He shook his head. “A dangerous bunch. It has produced some of the best assassins that have ever served the Source. Marbus was one. One of his most difficult assignments was a Boston witch who was guarding the Marbury Stone back in the 1820s. Actually, she was a great-grandmother or something to the Charmed Ones. But nearly 140 years later, Marbus had fallen for a wizard named Mauve Donohue. He helped her prevent the Source from destroying a wizard order that was a potential threat.”

“You mean, he betrayed the Source,” Prax added.

Nodding, Artemus continued, “Yes. Then this Donohue woman had later introduced him to a group of daemons that has opposed the Source and everything we stood for. The Gimle Order. Bunch of damn good-doers. They have been a craw in the Source’s side for centuries.”

Prax shook his head. “Good daemons? I didn’t know there was such a thing.”

A sigh left Artemus’ mouth. “Unfortuntely, there is. Like all other beings, we daemons can be either good or bad. I had a plan to get rid of that damn order for good . . . but, it backfired. Failed. And the Source ended up sending me to that damn prison.”

“The Stygian Abyss.” Prax paused. “But I had heard that Marbus was killed . . . by Belthazor, himself.”

Again, Artemus sighed. “About five years before I was sent to the Stygian Abyss, Raynor – who was head of the Thorn Order and a member of the Source’s Council like myself – had framed Marbus with the murder of a powerful witch, hoping that his fellow witches would go after Marbus. They did. Only, another witch named Jack McNeill . . .”

“The father of Belthazor’s witch?”

Artemus glared at his minion. “Do you mind not interrupting?” Prax apologized and the older daemon continued. “Anyway, McNeill had discovered that Marbus had been framed and prevented him from being killed by the witches. About a year later, two zoltars had tracked Marbus to a villa in Greece. Instead of ordering them to kill him, Raynor had sent Belthazor.”

Frowning, Prax asked, “Wouldn’t it have been simpler to send another assassin?”

“By then, Belthazor was one of the Source’s top assassins.” Faint admiration crept into Artemus’ voice. “He really was a superb killer. Even better than Marbus, Nimue, or their father, while in their prime. The Triad had suggested that Raynor assign Belthazor to do the job. Either this was one of their tests, or they had genuinely believed that he would kill Marbus with no remorse. Once word had reached the Source of Marbus’ death . . .” Artemus paused and allowed himself a wry smile. “As it turns out, Belthazor had faked his uncle’s death. Very clever.”

An anxious-looking Prax asked, “Do you think this Marbus is a threat?”

“I don’t know. But Belthazor certainly is.” Artemus walked over to the liquor cabinet and removed a bottle of bourbon. “I have to get him off the Giovanni case. Perhaps getting rid of Marbus should do the trick. Leave him distracted.” He poured bourbon into a glass.

“But if you have Marbus killed, wouldn’t Belthazor come after us?”

Artemus took a swig of bourbon. “Are you serious? Belthazor wouldn’t rest until he track us down and kill every last one of us.” He sighed. “And he would succeed. I promise you.”

Prax began, “So how do you plan . . .?”

A crafty smile curved the daemon’s lips. “I’m afraid that poor Marbus is going to find himself hunted by witches, again. Only this time, by the Charmed Ones.” He sighed with deep anticipation. “How I would love to be a fly on the wall, when Belthazor goes after those three.”

END OF CHAPTER TWO

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