"BRIDE OF BELTHAZOR"
RATING: PG-13 - Mild adult language and violence.
SUMMARY: Cole's former demonic lover threatens to wreck havoc on his and Olivia McNeill's wedding day.
FEEDBACK: - Be my guest. But please, be kind.
DISCLAIMER: Cole Turner, the Charmed Ones and other characters related to Charmed belong to Spelling Productions, Brad Kern and Constance Burge. Olivia McNeill, Cecile Dubois, Andre Morrell, the McNeill family and Idril are my creations.
NOTE: Takes place about a few days after "Strange Bedfellows" (Alternate Universe Season 6).
"BRIDE OF BELTHAZOR"
Olivia McNeill glanced down at the long, cream-colored gown and sighed. "It's beautiful," she declared. The tall woman, who stood beside her, smiled. "Really Laura, I love it. Very elegant, yet simple."
"I must agree," her mother, Gweneth McNeill added. "It is quite lovely." She examined the dress with its halter top and pearl embroidered bodice. "But doesn't that come with a shawl?"
Laura Harper let out a small squeak. "Oh yes. I forgot." She strode toward Olivia's bed and gently gathered a cream-colored silk shawl into her arms. Then she draped it around Olivia's shoulders. "There you are."
Olivia examined herself through the long, oval mirror inside her old bedroom. With her wedding just less than a week away, she had temporarily moved back to her parents' home. Meanwhile, her fiancé, Cole Turner, had prepared one of the penthouse's guest bedrooms for the best man's arrival. "Perfect. Laura, you have outdone yourself."
"Thanks," the dress designer replied with a pleased smile. Then she returned to the bed and opened another large box. "By the way, here's the other gown that you had requested." She removed a long, red satin gown with yellow patterns of the sun embroidered around the hem from the box. The gown also possessed a square neckline and bell-shaped sleeves. "Designed just as you wanted it." Laura frowned. "What is it for, again?"
Recognizing her second wedding gown - for the demonic ceremony - Olivia hastily replied, "Oh, nothing special. I simply wanted a new evening gown for my honeymoon."
"Hmmm." The designer closely examined the red gown. "It has a very medieval look about it, doesn't it? But I think it suits you."
Gweneth made a show of glancing at her watch. "Oh dear! Look at the time. Laura dear, didn't you say something about an appointment around two-thirty? It's almost two, right now."
"Oh!" Laura returned the red gown to the box. "I almost forgot about the appointment with Pamela Giovanni. She and her family will be leaving next Friday for Fiji. They're staying there for the holidays."
Recognizing the wife of one of Cole's clients, Olivia winced. "Poor Fiji," she murmured. She ignored her mother's pointed glance.
The designer picked up her check from Olivia. "Well, I better get going. Call me if any extra work is needed on the gowns. I'll see you on Saturday." The McNeill women bid her good-bye, as she rushed out of the bedroom.
"Help me out of this, will you Mom?" Olivia asked the older redhead.
While Gweneth assisted her daughter in removing the cream-colored gown, the latter continued, "So, Mark and Pamela Giovanni will be out of town. Talk about good luck! It's a good thing we didn't invite them to the reception."
"Livy . . ."
"Oh c'mon, Mom!" Olivia protested. "Granted, Mark Giovanni can be a tolerable person . . . when he's not trying to seduce every female in the room. But you know what Pam . . ." She broke off, as she stepped out of the gown. ". . . what Pamela is like. No one likes her! I know that you, Dad and Gran don't. And Cole despises her. I think we should count ourselves lucky."
Gweneth sighed. "If you insist. By the way, your Grandmother Morgan will be arriving within two days for the wedding."
"And not Grandfather?" Olivia challenged. She twisted her mouth into a smirk. "I guess he still hasn't forgiven me for what happened to Aunt Rhiannon . . . and Richard."
Again, the older woman sighed. Olivia immediately understood. The Morgans - at least a good number of them - had never really approved of her parents' marriage. Jack and Gweneth's marriage had strained relations between the Welsh-born witch and her father. It had taken nearly twenty-five years for Rhys Morgan to accept his daughter's marriage to the wealthy San Franciscan witch. The reconciliation between the American McNeills and the Morgans eventually unraveled following the debacle that surrounded the deaths of Olivia's aunt, Rhiannon Morgan Vaughan and Olivia's former fiancé, Richard Bannen.
"Livy, you must understand . . ." Gweneth paused. "What am I saying? Sometimes I think that Dad hasn't forgiven me. Rhiannon had always been his favorite."
With a sniff, Olivia replied, "Well, of course she was. She didn't resemble the family's bogeywoman - dear Great-great-great-whatever-grandmama Briana Morgan. Let's face it, Mom. Both of us resemble her stronger than anyone else in the family."
"Well, she was a powerful warlock, Livy. She has cast a long shadow over the family for over two centuries. And at least Mother will be at the wedding."
Silence fell between mother and daughter. Gweneth draped the wedding gown across the bed, as Olivia asked, "So, is Grandmother the only Morgan will be the only one coming?"
Gweneth paused. Which made Olivia feel uneasy. "Your uncle Brion will be joining her."
"Are you serious?" Olivia winced at the memories of her mother's younger brother. "Not Uncle Oliver?"
"I'm afraid not, pet," Gweneth added ruefully. "Oliver is somewhere in Finland, at the moment." Both women seemed mournful that the outgoing Oliver Morgan - Olivia's uncle and godfather - would not be able to attend the wedding. "Perhaps you should be thankful that neither Evan or Dafydd would be here."
Olivia sighed at the mention of her oldest uncle and his son. Not long after Richard's death, her cousin Dafydd had made a disparaging remark about the former warlock. A then furious Olivia retaliated by attacking her cousin. The attack nearly cost him his life. Neither Dafydd or his father had been able to forgive the young red-haired witch.
"I'm more than thankful," Olivia replied with force. She donned a robe. "Speaking of wedding guests . . ."
Gweneth stared at her daughter. "Yes?"
"Well, Cole and I had sent invitations . . . to Phoebe and Jason in Hong Kong."
Surprise lit up the older woman's green eyes. "Why?" Olivia stared at her. "I mean . . . well, I understand about Phoebe, since you must have sent invitations to the entire Halliwell family. But Jason?"
Olivia's cheeks grew warm with embarrassment. "I guess you can say that Jason and I had finally buried the hatchet, so to speak. Especially after I had invited him to Dad's party, in order to meet Cecile, last month."
"So, he and Phoebe will be . . .?"
Olivia picked up her jeans from a nearby chair. "Well, Cole and I have received a 'yes' from Jason, yesterday. Whether they're going to show up - that remains to be seen."
Hong Kong Island, China . . . Jason's personal assistant quickly shut the door. Inside one of the Peninsula Hotel's plush suites, an angry Phoebe Halliwell faced her current boyfriend. "I can't believe you did this!" she cried, waving a telegram in Jason's face. "When were you planning to tell me?"
"Phoebe!" The blond billionaire rushed forward to placate his girlfriend. She jerked away from his touch. Jason Dean heaved an exasperated sigh. "C'mon Phoebe! What's the big deal? It's just a wedding. And this will give you the chance to see your family for a few days."
Phoebe stabbed the older man with a knowing glare. "Oh please, Jason! You know what the big deal is! You had accepted Cole and Olivia's invitation without my permission! It's okay for you to speak for yourself, but you had no business accepting on my behalf. Without my consent!"
The couple stared at each other in strained silence. Then Jason turned away and drifted toward the large windows that overlooked Hong Kong and the Victoria Peak. Just fifteen minutes ago, Phoebe had stumbled across a copy of a telegraph that Jason had sent to San Francisco. It was a confirmation for her and Jason to attend Cole's upcoming wedding. Furious at her discovery, Phoebe had interrupted Jason's meeting with his executive assistant.
Jason regarded Phoebe with glittering eyes. Phoebe could sense a hint of suspicion . . . and jealousy welling inside him. "What's going on, Phoebe?" he demanded.
"What do you mean?" The Charmed One immediately went on the defensive.
With a sigh, Jason continued, "Why are you so pissed off about this wedding? I've taken matters into my own hands, before." He walked toward the suite's sofa and sat down. "Has this something to do with the fact that your ex-husband is getting married?"
The words came out of Phoebe's mouth before she could stop herself. "Of course it does! What woman in her right mind would want to attend her ex-husband's wedding?" Before Jason could reply, she added, "And why on earth would you want to go to your ex-girlfriend's wedding? Didn't you once tell me that you and Olivia had a traumatic breakup?"
Jason blinked several times. "Well, that was honest," he finally said. "I guess I can finally understand why you would be reluctant to attend this wedding. I mean . . . I've never been married myself, but I understand."
"Good! Then we're not going."
"Uh, Phoebe . . ." The moment Jason had spoken those two words, the Charmed One's heart sank."
She frowned at her boyfriend. "You're still going, aren't you?"
"I've already accepted the invitation!" Jason protested. "I can't change my mind, now. Besides," his voice lowered, "Olivia and I . . . we're friends, now."
Phoebe continued to stare at the billionaire. "Since when?"
"C'mon Phoebe. You remember how she had helped me get invited to her parents' party for Cecile Dubois, don't you? Well, we had decided to bury the hatchet that night. And I remember you telling me that you and Cole had finally got some closure over your divorce, last summer."
Memories of her lukewarm romance with her ex-husband loomed in Phoebe's mind. "Yeah," she murmured. "I remember."
"Does that mean you still want to avoid the wedding?"
Yes! Phoebe's mind screamed. But she dared not express her true feelings again. Not while Jason harbored his own anxieties. Phoebe took a deep breath and pecked her boyfriend's cheek. "No, I guess not. It's just . . . the idea of attending Cole's wedding to another woman seems really weird. Like you said, you've never been married."
"I understand." Jason returned Phoebe's kiss with one on the top of her head.
'No you don't,' Phoebe wanted to scream. Instead, she remained silent . . . as another secret from Jason, settled within her heart.
The offices of Armistead Corporation was situated on seven floors of the Prudential Tower in Boston. Unbeknownst to the city's human populace, it served as the mortal business center for the demonic Thorn Order, on Earth. The Corporation had transferred its offices from New York City to Boston when the order had acquired a new leader over a year ago.
As a member of the Thorn Order, Idril served as one of the corporation's officers. She led the Entertainment Division and dealt with obtaining contracts from humans that included actors, actresses, directors, producers, singers, musicians, professional athletes, and artists. Anyone willing willing to sell his or her soul to become a success in the entertainment field. A six-year stay in Hollywood during the 1960s led to Idril's rise in power within the Order's Entertainment Division.
At that moment, Idril strolled along Armistead's 16th floor, lost in thought over a specter from the past - namely a certain half-daemon named Belthazor. Seeing him in the Melora Dimension had manifested old memories of their two brief affairs - one from the late 60s and the other, thirty years later. Although the half-daemon had not been the only male in her life, he was the only one - aside from her mentor, Raynor - who had left a great impression upon her. So much so that thoughts of Belthazor continued to plague her mind, even days after the engagement party.
Idril had attempted to relive their past affair through an offer for lunch. To her dismay, not only did Belthazor reject her, but also revealed that he had used their affair as a weapon in his never-ending feud with his mother, Nimue. This latest humiliation reminded Idril of another - his rejection of her for that trampy English witch. Looking back upon it now, she realized that she should have never accepted Raynor's suggestion to use Belthazor as a front for their own affair. Not only would she had been spared of so much humiliation, she would have never fallen in love with Belthazor.
Perhaps following Artemus' advice regarding love of any kind seemed the best recourse. Perhaps she should help the Khorne Order's leader become the new Source. But thoughts of the half-daemon refused to disappear from Idril's mind. Her desire for him remained stronger than ever. Nor did it help that Belthazor's present fiancée strongly reminded her of that know-it-all bitch, Christine Bloome. Idril wondered how Olivia McNeill would feel if she had managed to, once more, attract Belthazor's attention. The idea made her glow with warmth. Unfortunately, it was only . . .
"Oooof!" A body came from around the corner and collided with Idril. Books, parchment papers and computer disks scattered on the floor. "Pardon me, Idril!" a nervous voice exclaimed. "I didn't mean to be so clumsy."
Idril glared at a thin, bronze-skinned man with anxious dark eyes. "You should watch were you're going!" she retorted.
"Yes, I am sorry. I was . . ." The daemon, whose name happened to be Tuxor, bent down to pick up the fallen material. ". . . in a hurry to return this material to the library. Pardon me for my clumsiness. I'll never . . ." The thin daemon did not possess a reputation for any assassination skills or any abilities for corrupting others. In fact, Idril suspected that he was not particularly evil in any way. But everyone knew that he was a first-class researcher and one of Nimue's protégées.
The demoness' eyes fell upon an open-faced book that contained a black-and-white photograph of a medallion with a large stone in the middle. "What is that?" she demanded, picking up the book.
The other daemon glanced at the book's cover. "It's called 'HISTORY OF INTERDIMENSIONAL LEGENDS AND LORE'. It was first written by this mortal over two centuries, ago. This is the 73rd edi . . ."
"I'm talking about the picture of this medallion," Idril interrupted sharply.
His face now dark red with embarrassment, Tuxor commented, "Oh. Uh . . . that's . . . uh, a medallion." He took the book from Idril and perused the opened page. The . . . I mean, Evendril's Amulet."
Idril stared at Tuxor. "And what is it used for?"
"Telepathic manipulation." Tuxor squinted at the text. "That's right. Telepathic manipulation. You use it to place someone in a trance . . . and give them instruction. You know, like hypnotism. Or something close to what a telepath would do. Only the effect is more powerful. The . . . uh sapphire stone is used to cast the spell. Especially since it is linked with psychic abilities."
A magical stone used for telepathic suggestion? A wild idea took form in Idril's mind. She wondered . . . "Just how powerful is this stone? What I mean is . . . would it work on any daemon?"
Tuxor returned his attention to the book. "Ah . . . I believe so. The stone was created by a powerful wizard over eight hundred years ago. It turns out that she was also a telepath. She had created the amulet, when she temporarily lost her power."
"How about a daemon as powerful as . . . say, Belthazor?" Idril asked in a deliberate offhand manner.
Tuxor frowned slightly, as he answered in a hesitant voice, "Uh . . . Maybe. I've heard rumors that he's susceptible to telepathy." The demon stared at Idril. "You're not planning to use this stone on him, are you?"
"Of course not!" Idril protested with a dismissive sniff. "And incur the wrath of Nimue? Besides, why on earth would I want to use this stone on someone like Belthazor?"
"Oh . . . I . . . I just thought . . ."
Idril heaved a loud and dramatic sigh. "The stone in the book caught my eye and made me curious about it. That's all." After Tuxor had expressed relief, the demoness added, "By the way, do any of the wizard's descendants still have the amulet?"
Tuxor shook his head vigorously. "Oh no! I heard that it had passed out of their hands, centuries ago. In fact . . ." He assumed a thoughtful expression. "I believe I may have seen the stone before." Idril silently held her breath, while Tuxor paused. Then he continued, "At one of those multi-dimensional outdoor markets. I just wish I could remember which one."
Keeping her frustration in check, Idril merely smiled. "Oh well. I wouldn't bother. I doubt that stone will be seen again for many cent . . ."
"Now I remember!" Tuxor's exclaimation nearly made the demoness jump out of her shoes. "The Anduin Marketplace! Of course! About six months ago. I saw it at . . ." Again, Idril held her breath. Unfortunately, Tuxor ended up disappointing her. "Damn!" he cried. "I can't remember which vendor had it."
"Well, it's not really important, is it?" she said in her most pleasant voice. "As for the Anduin Marketplace, I haven't been there in years."
Tuxor said politely, "Why don't you pay a call? Their food court has greatly improved over the years. You might want to try this particular restaurant for lunch."
A wide smile stretched Idril's mouth. "You know, I just might do that."
END OF CHAPTER ONE