“DEFENSE OF THE REALM”
Johann smiled rather nastily. “Darklighters. Like myself.” A gasp left Mathilda’s mouth. “That’s right, Fraulein Everhard. Your devoted protégée for the past five years has been a darklighter. So has Belinda.” His dark-haired companion stood up and moved away from her chair.
“How . . .?” Mathilda began. She shook her head in confusion. “I don’t understand. How did you managed to escape our notice? How did you get up here in the first place?”
The Austrian removed his medallion from underneath his tunic. “Recognize this from your old books, Fraulein? One of the nine medallions of Erebor. Created by the dominion for a daemon named Kiros.”
Mathilda stared at the object in shock, unaware of Belinda moving toward her. “Oh my God!” she whispered. “That’s how . . . How . . . Where did you find them?”
“A very capable sorceress had been hired by my real mentor to search for them. It took her seven years to find all nine medallions.” Johann became smug. “Not only does this medallion give me the ability to orb in and out of the Realm without any assistance from any whitelighter, it also enabled me to assume the power of one. And since you were so kind to initiate me as an Elder . . .”
William finished, “You now have the powers of an Elder, as well. My God!”
“I do not believe he will be able to help you, William.” Johann turned to his former mentor. “By the way ladies and gentlemen, I thought you would like to know that the idea of removing the old members of the Council was my idea.” A hard smile appeared on his lips. “But it was Fraulien Everard, who authorized me to carry out the murders. Apparently, she had grown impatient by the old Council’s refusal to deal openly with the threat of Belthazor.”
The other Elders stared at Mathilda. Serafina literally glared at the older female. “I knew it!” she cried. “I knew that the old Council had been right to dismiss you in the first place. You stupid fanatic! Do you realize what you have done?”
“I . . .” Mathilda began, but she seemed to be at a loss for words.
Johann chuckled. “Do not worry, Fraulein Villabos. I’m sure that she now realizes.” Then he barked an order to his darklighter colleagues. “Kill them all! Now!”
Council members cried out in alarm, as arrows zipped toward them en masse. Belinda revealed an arrow from underneath robe. Grabbing Mathilda from behind, she plunged the arrow into the other woman’s chest. Johann’s smile widened.
Six figures materialized into the middle of a gleaming white corridor. “Well, this looks familiar,” Piper commented in a dry voice. “Where’s Cole?”
Olivia and the others glanced around. There seemed to be no sign of the half-daemon. “I guess that super-power of his wasn’t able to get him here.” She asked Natalia, “Where’s the Elders’ chamber?”
“Follow me,” the Russian-born whitelighter ordered. The three witches and the other two whitelighters followed her down a long hall. They eventually came upon a pair of white marble doors. “Here we are.” She swung open the doors and screams of terror filled the corridor. “My God!”
A horror-stricken Leo cried out, “What the hell is going on?”
Olivia grimly replied, “Looks like Mr. Bauer and his colleagues have started their attack.”
“We have to help them!” Phoebe cried, as she and Piper rushed past Natalia and into the chamber.
“Phoebe! Piper . . . wait!”
But the Charmed Ones had not heard Olivia. She heaved a sigh and followed them inside. Just in time to witness Piper fling her hands at a robed figure training a bow-and-arrow at a tall man dressed in a gold-lame toga. The robed figure – or the darklighter – immediately dissipated . . . and reconstructed back into his original state. Piper frowned. “What the hell?”
“The darklighter now has whitelighter powers!” Olivia immediately reminded the two sisters. “The medallion. Remember?”
An anxious-looking Phoebe demanded, “But how can we . . .?”
Olivia stretched out her hand and the darklighter’s weapon flew out of his hand and into hers. She quickly aimed the weapon at him and pulled the trigger. The arrow embedded into the darklighter’s chest. The latter fell to the ground, screaming in pain.
One of the Elders in a gold toga rushed toward his rescuers. “Oh my God! Natalia! Leo?” The distraught-looking man expressed relief at the sight of his colleagues.
“William, what’s going on?” Natalia demanded.
The Elder cried out, “Darklighters! They’re wearing these medallions . . .”
Olivia interjected, “The Erebor medallions. Yeah, we know. Come on ladies!” She and the two Charmed Ones rushed toward the fray.
It all seemed to be a matter of removing the medallions first. Olivia removed one from a darklighter standing over the dead body of an Elder, using her telekinesis. The darklighter whirled around in shock. She unsheathed a dagger and threw it at Olivia. Who sent the dagger back – deep into the darklighter’s chest.
Phoebe levitated above another darklighter and ripped the medallion from his neck. Piper immediately blew him up.
Olivia removed an arrow from another dead Elder, whom Natalia was leaning over – a handsome-looking Latino woman – and shoved it into the chest of a darklighter threatening Leo and Chris. Phoebe grabbed the weapon of the darklighter that Piper had killed, loaded it with an arrow and shot another. The three witches managed to each kill one more darklighter, until they came upon the surviving two.
“Impressive,” a dark-haired man with an Austrian accent declared. He held an Elder in his grip, with an arrow pointed at the latter’s throat. “Very impressive. You have managed to kill most of my colleagues.” Olivia realized they were facing Johann Bauer, the instigator of the attack.
Piper shot back, “Yeah, I guess you won’t be able to rule this place with only the two of you. And we have your medallions.”
The other darklighter, a dark-haired beauty with delicate features, waved one hand and the medallions held by the three witches, ended up in hers. “My my, Johann,” she said with a sneer. “We seemed to have our medallions back.”
“Thank you, Belinda. Now, as for my old friend, Gideon here . . .” Bauer struck at the Elder with the arrow. Before he could plunge it into the latter’s neck, Olivia used her telekinesis to whisk it from his hand. The Elder immediately orbed out of Bauer’s grip and reappeared next to Leo, Natalia and Chris.
Bauer angrily growled, “You stupid, interfering bitch!” He sent bolts of electricity toward the three witches. They immediately flew backward, hitting the floor with great force. Every nerve in Olivia’s body throbbed with pain. She heard Leo call out Piper’s name and wanted to warn him to stay back. Unfortunately, she was too paralyzed with pain to say anything.
The dark-haired woman sent another bolt of electricity at them. Before it could hit them, Cole materialized between the darklighters and the three witches. The lightning struck his body . . . and bounced off with no effect.
“Belthazor!” Bauer seemed horrified . . . and surprised by the half-daemon’s sudden appearance.
Cole responded with a sinister smile. “Johann. It’s been a while. Seventeen years, I believe.”
“How did you get up here without . . .?” In a fit of panic, the darklighter broke off and sent a bolt of lightning toward the half-daemon’s direction.
Cole easily blocked the darklighter’s attack, before he added, “Good-bye Johann.” He flung a large energy ball at Bauer and the latter exploded into a ball of fire. Only the medallion that had been around the darklighter’s neck, survived.
“Johann!” the female darklighter cried out. She glared at the half-daemon with hate-filled eyes. “You . . .” A bolt of electricity streamed out of one hand. Cole effortless blocked it before killing her with an energy ball. As she disintegrated, several medallions clattered to the floor.
Silence filled the chamber. Everyone – sans Olivia – stared at the half-daemon in shock. Olivia struggled to her feet and turned to her former boyfriend. “Uh Cole, it’s not that I’m ungrateful, but couldn’t you have waited until she told us who was the head of Magan Corporation, before killing her?”
The half-daemon’s fell open. “Oh. Sorry.”
Olivia sighed. “Never mind.” She flashed him a sardonic look. “By the way, what the hell took you so long?”
“Yes. What did take you so long?” Natalia asked Cole. She and the others had retired to William’s private chamber, while her friend, Barbara DeVilliers, supervised the removal of bodies from the Council chambers. “Did you have difficulty teleporting up here?”
Cole sighed. “Yeah, but it’s not what you think. I think my insecurity was the real problem. I didn’t think I could make it, so I tried certain . . . shortcuts to get up here. In the end, I just said, ‘Fuck . . .’”
Phoebe coughed. “Cole, we’re in the Whitelighter Realm. Remember?”
“Huh? Oh.” The half-daemon shook his head, while Natalia giggled. “Uh, I guess I decided to try the direct route.” He chuckled. “A half-daemon in the Whitelighter Realm. How rare is that?”
“Very rare,” Gideon snapped. He regarded Cole with suspicious eyes.
William sighed. “No less rare than a warlock, three witches and nine darklighters. I must admit that Bel . . . uh, Mr. Turner’s appearance was quite fortunate.”
Olivia added, “It’s a shame that we didn’t get to find out who was behind the attack.”
Cole rolled his eyes in exasperation. “Look! I’m sorry. It’s hard to overcome survival instincts, when you see someone shooting lethal bolts of electricity at you. Okay?” Olivia merely sighed.
The oldest Halliwell – Piper – spoke up. “May I remind you all that Cole didn’t do all of the work?” she said rather peevishly. “Phoebe, Olivia and I did.”
“Of course, my dear,” Natalia said graciously. “And we’re all grateful.”
Olivia quietly added, “What about the medallions? What are you going to do with them?”
“Keep them here, of course,” Gideon coolly replied. “Where they will be safe.”
The green-eyed witch snorted with derision. “Are you sure about that?”
Gideon frowned. “What do you mean? Of course I am!”
“Have we forgotten Nina Kreigler?” Olivia continued. “And the numerous other whitelighters who have become darklighters over the past year or so? What if another disenchanted whitelighter decide to defect?” She paused. “After getting his or her hands on the medallions?”
“How dare . . .?”
Natalia said, “Olivia is right. Those medallions should be sent back to where they belong.”
Gideon looked down his nose at the Russian female. “That is a matter for the Council to decide, and not a troublemaking whitelighter!”
Olivia continued, “She’s right. I suggest that someone send those medallions back to the dimension where they were made. Where the dominion, Erebor resides.”
“The Belegost dimension,” Cole added.
“Precisely. And Cole, since you happen to know where this dimension is, why don’t you return the medallions?”
Eyes flashing, Gideon stood up. “I’m sorry, but I cannot allow this!” William gave him a pointed stare. “I mean, William and I,” he corrected. “This is Belthazor you’re talking about! A powerful demon . . .”
“. . . who had just saved your ass!” Phoebe snapped. “In fact, he saved all of us!”
Olivia added, “Phoebe’s right. I see no reason not to trust Cole. I mean, if he had wanted us all dead, he certainly wouldn’t need the medallions. Nor would we be here, discussing the matter. After all, he doesn’t seemed to be affected by Elders’ powers . . . as we’ve seen.” She gave Gideon a shrewd stare. “Or does that bother you?”
The Elder shot Olivia a dark look. “I see that you’re just as impertinent as your brother.”
Natalia spoke up. “If it would make you feel better, Gideon, perhaps you should accompany Mr. Tur . . . uh, Cole to the Belegost dimension. To ease your fears.”
Gideon glared at the Russian. “Elder Gideon, if you please, Miss Stepanova. That fact alone should tell you that I do not require your permission to accompany Belthazor.”
Pompass ass! Natalia would have told him to kiss a certain part of his anatomy, if it were not for the delicious little secret she had yet to reveal. Narrow-minded fools like Gideon and the late Mathilda Everard seemed incapable of realizing that such self-righteous attitudes had endangered the Realm.
“Actually Gideon,” William began, “you no longer have any authority over Natalia. Neither do I.”
“What do you mean?” the magic school’s headmaster demanded.
William shot a quick glance at Natalia before he continued, “You see, Natalia is now an Elder. It seemed that Serafina Villabos had passed her powers to Natalia, while she lay dying. Natalia is now a member of the Elders Council.”
Disbelief shone in Gideon’s eyes. “Wha . . . Are you serious, William? Have you forgotten that she had defied the Council’s author . . .”
“She has only expressed disapproval of the some of the old Council’s policies.” William’s eyes focused on the table in front of him. “But she has not led any insurrection. Besides, we need new Elders desperately. There are only three of us.”
Natalia spoke up. “While we are considering new members of the Council, may I suggest Barbara deVilliers, as well?”
“I concur,” William quickly added.
Looking slightly resentful, Gideon let out a gust of breath. “I suppose I have no say in the matter of Natalia. As for Mademoiselle deVilliers . . . I suppose I can consider her as a future Elder.” He glared at his two colleagues. “But after . . . Belthazor get rid of these medallions.”
William beamed at Natalia, who heaved a sigh of relief. “Of course.”
Natalia turned to Leo Wyatt and the new whitelighter, Chris Perry. “Leo, Mr. Perry, we would like to speak to you for a minute before you leave.”
END OF CHAPTER 13