"BRIDE OF BELTHAZOR"
"Oh my God! Andre!"
The moment Cecile, Olivia and Nathalie had arrived outside Cole's penthouse, the Vodoun priestess' name flew from her mouth. She noticed that the penthouse's double door had remained open. The three women rushed inside.
"Goddess!" Olivia exclaimed. Cecile's heart nearly rose to her throat at the sight of Andre's body sprawled on the floor. A small pool of blood had formed underneath. Olivia asked, "Is he all right? Where's Cole?"
Before Cecile could answer, Nathalie cried out, "Hey, there's another body, here! Behind one of the doors." The dark-haired witch gasped. "Livy, it's your uncle!"
Olivia rushed to Nathalie's side. "Oh God! It is Brion! What was he doing here?"
"Looks like a bruise on his forehead," Nathalie added. "What about Andre?"
Cecile carefully examined her fiancé's body. She discovered two stab wounds - one in the right side of his back and the second between his ribs. "Stabbed," the New Orleans priestess declared tightly. "And he's bleeding heavily."
"I better call an ambulance." Olivia turned to the third woman. "Nat, can you call . . .?"
"Never mind an ambulance!" Cecile retorted. "We need a healer! Like a whitelighter or something!"
Olivia shot back, "Neither of us have a whitelighter! Remember?"
Cecile shot another worried look at Andre's wounds. "Olivia, please! For once, forget about your low opinion of whitelighters and summon one!"
A sigh left Olivia's mouth. "All right." She threw back her head and cried, "Chris? Christopher Perry!"
"Why don't you call for Leo?" Nathalie asked.
"Because he's now an Elder." Again, Olivia yelled, "Christopher!"
At that moment, a loud thump emitted from the opened doorway, followed by an "Ow!" Seconds later, Chris Perry strode into the penthouse, rubbing his forehead. "God! Did someone cast a ward over this place?" He glanced around. "Hey, isn't this . . .?"
"Chris?" Cecile interrupted in a sharp voice. "We need your help. Now! Andre's been stabbed and needs healing."
The whitelighter warily regarded the fallen houngan. "I don't think I can," he murmured. His face turned pink.
Cecile glared at him. "What? What do you mean? I've seen whitelighters heal others than their charges! I've seen Leo do it."
"No, you don't understand. I can't . . ." Chris let out a gust of breath. "I can't heal. Period. I don't have the ability . . ."
Cecile stared the whitelighter in disbelief. "Are you shitting me? You're a whitelighter!"
"Half-whitelighter," Chris corrected, taking Cecile by surprise. "And I can't heal . . ."
Nathalie spoke up. "What about Paige?"
Olivia shook her head. "Her healing powers are a bit limited."
"Why don't you get Harry?" Chris suggested. The others stared at him. "You know, your brother? He's a healer. Actually, he's also a life taker."
The redhead rolled her eyes. "Excuse me? Harry's a telepath, not a healer. Where on earth . . .?" She broke off, as her eyes widened in realization. "Wait a minute. Are you saying that will be Harry's second power in the future?"
Chris shrugged his shoulders. "Well . . . yeah."
"Nat!" Olivia turned to her fellow witch. "Go back to P3 and get my grandmother. My Welsh grandmother - Mrs. Morgan. Bring her back here."
The dark-haired witch nodded and left the penthouse. Cecile frowned at her friend. "What was that about?"
"If what Chris says about Harry is true, then it means my little brother will inherit his second power from Nana, in a few years."
Now Cecile understood. "You mean to say that your grandmother Morgan can heal others?"
"Yep. She's a biokinetic. And I had told you about this, some years ago."
Chris frowned. "A what?"
Olivia sighed. "A biokinetic. Someone who has the ability to manipulate organic and biological . . ."
Nathalie returned with the elderly Mrs. Morgan, with Cole's mother in tow. "What happened?" Olivia's grandmother asked. Then she glanced to her side. "Oh Goddess! Brion!" She rushed to her son's side. "What happened to him?" At that moment, Olivia's uncle groaned out loud. She helped him to his feet. "Brion? How do you feel? You have a rather nasty bruise on your forehead."
"Nana," Olivia said, as she called to her grandmother. "Nana, we need your help, over here. Andre has been stabbed."
The elderly woman strode over to where the houngan lay. "Bloody hell!" she exclaimed. "What happened?"
"And where is Cole?" Nimue demanded. Her eyes scanned the penthouse living room.
Cecile felt Andre's pulse. It had slowed down considerably. "Please, Mrs. Morgan! I think Andre's dying."
"Oh dear. I don't think I can bend down," Mrs. Morgan began.
"Here." Using her telekinesis, Olivia lifted Andre's body from the floor and placed him on the sofa.
The elderly witch sat next to Andre. After a brief examination of his wounds, she placed her hands over them. Cecile inhaled sharply as she saw the wounds automatically seal, before they completely disappeared. The whitelighter's eyes widened in marvel. And envy. Andre's eyes flew open. He gasped out loud, before he sprang into a sitting position.
The first word that came out of the houngan's mouth happened to be, "Cole!" He glanced at Olivia's uncle, who strode toward them. "You!" he exclaimed. Hostility replaced the confusion in his dark eyes. "You stupid son-of-a-bitch! This is all your fault!"
Mr. Morgan responded with a loud groan.
A commotion awakened Jack McNeill from a deep sleep. He jerked upright and glanced around, noticing that he remained inside the library. The noise grew louder. He realized that it came from the foyer.
After a quick stretch, the witch left the library and discovered the women, along with Andre and Brion lingering in the foyer. And the Vodoun houngan seemed to be very irate with Jack's Welsh brother-in-law. "What's going on?" he demanded, catching the others' attention. "Everyone seems . . . tense."
Gweneth sighed heavily. Jack noticed the anxious expression on his wife's face. "Cole is gone," she said in a terse voice. "Apparently, Idril had hired someone to help her kidnap him."
Jack could barely believe what he had just heard. "Wha . . .? How in the hell did she manage to do that?"
"They had used some kind of stone," Andre replied, casting a dark glance at Brion. "Some kind of sapphire, I think. I nearly had . . . my hands on it, until Super Witch over there," he tersely nodded at Jack's brother-in-law, "had rushed in and ruined everything."
"Say that again?"
Cecile, who seemed to cling to Andre's arm, eyed Brion with deep contempt. "Someone working for Idril had cast a spell on Cole, using some kind of amulet with a stone. Andre managed to trap them behind a magical shield, but Mr. Morgan . . ." Her contempt deepened. "It seems that Mr. Morgan had rushed in and accidentally freed them, using some kind of potion. I guess he didn't realize that Idril and this man had already been trapped."
"I was trying to vanquish Idril or whatever the hell her name was!" Brion protested. His face nearly resembled a beet.
"The only thing you had 'vanquished' . . . was my force field!" an angry Andre retorted. "And I ended up getting stabbed in the back!"
Jack's mother-in-law quietly added, "I managed to heal him."
Feeling slightly confused, Jack said, "So, what you're saying is that Cole is under some spell and might end up marrying Idril, after all."
His mother sighed. "It certainly looks that way. Livy, Nimue and Nathalie have went to the Anduin Marketplace to find more information on that stone."
"And what about Cole?" Jack asked. "How do you plan to find him?"
Vivian spoke up. "Divination, of course. Unfortunately, I don't have my divination tools."
Elise added, "You can use my chalice. I had bought it in Oslo, several years ago. It should be in the library." She started toward the room. Jack and the others followed his mother. Only Brion remained behind. Jack did not blame him.
Chris faced the three Charmed Ones inside the manor's Solarium. They had just finished telling him about Cole's abduction. "So what do you plan to do?" he demanded. "About Cole?"
"What can we do?" Piper protested. "Olivia and Cole's mother had already left to find information on this stone that Cecile was talking about."
Paige added, "And Cecile's mom said that she knew a way to find Cole and Idril."
"And why didn't you go with them?" Chris continued. "You're supposed to be the Charmed Ones. You know . . . defenders of the innocent."
Phoebe sighed. "It's protectors of the innocent. And I wanted to go with Olivia, but she turned me down."
"Phoebe, she didn't need your help," Piper insisted. "What could you have done?"
"I could have scried for Cole."
Piper rolled her eyes. "Had it ever occurred to you that he might no longer be here in the city? Besides, the McNeills have every base covered."
"But what if they don't stop Cole from getting married?" Chris protested. "Only you three are powerful enough to do anything about him."
Paige snorted with derision. "Where did you get that idea? Aside from stripping his powers, there's nothing we can do." She paused to give Chris a penetrating stare. "And why are you so upset over this, anyway? Are you saying that the McNeills won't be able to stop Idril?"
"I don't know!" Chris retorted. And he had been truthful. He could not recall anything about a possible marriage between Cole and this Idril. "My memories of this whole matter are at best, fuzzy. In fact, I don't recall anyone telling me about this, in the future."
With a sigh, Piper added, "Look, I realize that you and Phoebe hate to accept this, but there is nothing we can do."
"Piper . . ." Phoebe began.
But Piper interrupted. "I'm sorry Pheebs, but this is a matter that concerns Olivia. Not you." Chris noticed the resentful glare that Phoebe had shot at her older sister. The latter continued, "I mean, let's face it. The McNeills and Cole's mom are in a better position to help him." She sighed. "You know, it feels good not to have the fate of the supernatural world on our shoulders for once. Don't you think?"
Phoebe merely rolled her eyes and marched out of the Solarium.
Piper turned to Chris and Paige with innocent eyes. "What did I say?"
Another trio of females teleported in the middle of the Anduin Marketplace's bustling main road. The dimming sunlight and orange streaks in the sky hinted the approaching dusk in this part of the dimension. Olivia glanced around and sighed. "You know, I really should come here more often."
"Yes, you should," Nimue commented. "Now that you have that little shop in Union Square."
Nathalie paused in her tracks. "Wait a minute. Are you saying that Olivia's new shop had once catered to magical creatures?"
Nimue shrugged. "Of course. Kostopulos's Antiquities used to be a very popular place for magic practioners in San Francisco. Why, I used to be a regular customer when I was married to Belthazor's father. The shop had a different owner in those days. I don't believe that Belthazor had ever known about the shop. We had left San Francisco by the time he was nine years old."
The demoness' words stunned Olivia. She had no idea that she had purchased a shop with such a strong history in the supernatural.
The three women finally paused before a green-and-white stripped tent. "Here we are," Nathalie announced. "Valindal's tent." The trio entered and found the tent free of customers. "Valindal!" Nathalie announced.
Olivia goggled at the pink-skinned humanoid female, with golden curls. "Nathalie Gleason? What are you . . .?" Suspicion flitted across her face. "You're not returning the scarves, are you? All transactions are final."
Nathalie shook her head. "Don't worry. I'm more than satisfied with the purchase. I'm here . . ."
"Who's your friend?"
Olivia stepped forward. "I'm Olivia McNeill. It's nice . . ."
"Of course!" Valindal's green-blue eyes glittered with excitement. "The new Bearer of the Aingeal Staff! I don't suppose you're willing to part with it?"
A thin smile touched Olivia's lips. "You would be right. I'm not willing. Besides," she shrugged, "no one else can use it, anyway."
Valindal sighed. "You've got a point." Her gaze fell upon Cole's mother. "Nimue? Well, this is a surprise. Apparently, my little establishment has become very popular with members of the Thorn Order, lately."
Nimue responded with an arch smile. "Yes dear. That is the reason why we are here."
Valindal's eyes widened. "I'm sorry?"
Nathalie continued, "We're here to ask you about a customer who was here, a few days ago. The dark-haired woman who had interrupted us?"
"Oh! Idril." Valindal sighed. "What about her?"
Olivia said, "We would like to know what she had purchased from you."
"I see." Valindal's mouth became a thin line. "You want information. Uh, you do realize that it requires a price?"
On cue, Nimue held out a small, black velvet box. She snapped it open. "You remember Raynor, don't you? One of my predecessors? This used to belong to him." Inside the box, a small silver ring with a snake wrapped around a staff imprinted in the middle, rested on the box's white satin interior. "This ring is his sigil."
"His personal sigil?" Valindal asked. She hungrily eyed the ring.
Nimue replied, "His clan's sigil."
Disbelief replaced the greed in Valindal's eyes. "You mean to say that you're willing to sell the Thorn Order's sigil for information?"
"Don't be daft, woman!" Nimue retorted. "This is the Folner Clan's sigil. Raynor's relations from the Tiburon Dimension."
"Oh. Of course." Valindal hesitated. "How did you . . .?"
Nimue smiled knowingly. "Let's just say that I found it on the very spot where my son had killed him." Aware of the demoness' antipathy toward Cole's former mentor, Olivia realized that Raynor's death must have been a particularly joyful moment for Nimue.
"The Folnar Clan's sigil." Valindal continued to eye the ring. Then she sighed. "What do you want to know?"
Olivia took a deep breath and asked, "Did you sell some kind of amulet or stone with telepathic powers to Idril?"
"If you're referring to Evendril's Amulet," Valindal quickly replied, "then no." Olivia's heart sank at her reply. The sorceress continued, "If you must know, I had provided Idril with information about the amulet. I told her that I had sold it to a warlock, some six months earlier. A mortal."
Heartened by this information, Olivia continued, "Was this warlock named Gary Whalen, by any chance?"
"Wheeler. His name was Gary Wheeler." Valindal shook her head. "From some strange place called Baltimore."
"Could you describe him?"
As it turned out, Valindal's description of Gary Wheeler matched Andre's description of Cole's latest client. The Anduian also included that a person using the amulet would need to get close to his or her target. "Now, I understand why Idril did not kill this warlock," Nimue commented. "She needed him to use the amulet. Is there a way to counter the spell?"
Another sigh left Valindal's mouth, as her eyes flickered at Raynor's sigil. "One moment." She strode toward an ornate desk and sat down. Minutes passed, while the Anduian shuffled a few rolls of parchment paper. Then she made a few scribbles on a piece of paper, before returning to her visitors. She handed the paper to Olivia. "That . . . is the counter spell. And for it to work, you'll need the amulet."
"I have a friend who happens to be a strong telepath," Olivia said. "Would she be able . . .?"
Valindal shook her head. "Not without the amulet. You need the sapphire stone to counter the original spell."
A sigh left Olivia's mouth. "Great! This is obviously going to be difficult."
Nimue handed over the ring to the pink-skinned sorceress. "Thanks for your help, Valindal."
A smile of pure satisfaction curved the Anduian's lips. "I'm more than happy to oblige. And if you need anything else - an amulet, a ring . . . information, you know where to find me."
Idril entered the sitting room, inside her private home, in the Kenotês Dimension. Her eyes fell upon the muscular body that stretched across the divan. "Hmmmm," she murmured to herself. "Still magnificent as ever."
"Looking forward to the honeymoon?" a man's soft voice asked. Idril whirled around and found Wheeler standing behind her. Smirking.
Ignoring the warlock's taunt, Idril fixed him with a tight smile. "Tell me, Mr. Wheeler, when will Belthazor wake up? It's been nearly a half hour and we have a wedding to attend."
"It won't be long," Wheeler replied. "Depends upon the individual. For mortals, it takes nearly two hours for them to wake up."
Idril sighed. "I certainly can't wait an hour. Beren has just arrived."
"The priest I've summoned for the wedding!" Idril retorted. She fell silent, as her gaze returned to the slumbering half-daemon. Then she sat down on the divan, next to his body. Her fingers brushed slightly across his bare chest.
Wheeler broke the silence. "Why marriage?" he asked.
Idril quickly withdrew her hand. "What?"
"Why marry Belthazor? Why not strip him of his powers?"
With a sigh, the demoness explained, "Because it would take a special potion to do the job. And no one has been able to create such a potion . . . except one of the Charmed Ones. Besides . . ." Her shoulders rose for a brief shrug. "I see nothing wrong with marriage. Even daemons get married."
"You really are in love with him!" Surprise and disbelief mingled in the warlock's voice.
Idril glared at him. "Is there a problem?"
"No! Uh . . . I just . . . I guess I never realized that daemons were capable of . . ." Wheeler's voice nearly dropped to a whisper. ". . . of falling in love."
Idril's hostility ebbed. Realizing that none of her minions were in earshot, she replied softly, "I used to believe that. Until recently. Many of us from the Source's Realm were taught that daemons could not love, because we accept evil. Someone," Artemus flashed in Idril's mind, "had recently told me that it's all bullshit. I've finally realized that he's right."
A groan emitted from the half-daemon. "Looks like Belthazor is finally awake," Wheeler commented.
Idril leaned down. "Belthazor?" She helped the groggy half-daemon into a sitting position. "Are you okay?"
Belthazor's blue eyes blinked momentarily. "What happened?" he murmured. "Where am I?"
Both Idril and Wheeler exchanged wary looks. Then the demoness replied, "Actually . . . you're at my place. In the Kenotês Dimension. You . . . had passed out."
A frown appeared on Belthazor's handsome face. "Wasn't I . . . at my place in San Francisco? I think someone had paid me a visit."
"That would be me." Wheeler stepped forward with a smile. "We had just returned from your bachelor's party. Remember?"
Belthazor's frown deepened. "Bachelor party?"
A nagging feeling struck Idril that the half-daemon had not remembered Wheeler's suggestion. "For the upcoming wedding, of course," the warlock added. "Between you and Idril."
Idril closely observed Belthazor. At first, he seemed confused as ever. Then to her relief, the confusion in his eyes finally began to dissipate. Love and passion replaced the confusion in his eyes. "Of course! The wedding! How could I have forgotten?"
A wry smile touched Idril's lips. "A case of cold feet, perhaps?"
"I can never see myself getting cold feet over you," Belthazor gushed. Then he took Idril by surprise and forced his mouth upon hers. Hard. A hot flush spread from within her breast to all over her body. Something she had not experienced since their last night, together.
The kiss grew longer and more passionate. Until Idril remembered that Gary Wheeler stood behind them. She reluctantly extracted herself from the half-daemon's embrace and turned to the warlock. "You can leave now," she ordered.
"Huh?" The warlock continued to stare at them.
"Leave!" Belthazor growled. "Now!"
"Right!" And the warlock turned on his heels and walked out of the room.
The half-daemon returned his attention to Idril. "Now, where were we?" He began to nip one of her earlobes.
"Um . . . Belthazor?"
His lips now caressed the side of her neck. "Huh?"
"You can call me Cole," the half-demon continued. "It's also my name and it's easier on the tongue." His lips moved to Idril's jaw.
The demoness sighed. "Oh. Okay. Uh . . . Cole . . ." A moan escaped from her mouth, as his tongue flickered in and out of her ear. "Um . . . Cole? We, uh need . . ." She took a deep breath and leaned back. "I'm sorry, but we have a priest waiting for us."
Belthazor . . . or Cole slipped one arm around Idril's waist and drew her closer to his chest. "We can deal with the wedding later," he mumbled. "But not now."
Footsteps clattered across the polished floor. Idril gently shoved Bel . . . Cole away and turned to find Cirith staring at them. "Yes? What is it?"
The daemon shot a quick glance at Cole. "Uh . . . Beren wants to know when the ceremony will begin."
Idril sighed. "Soon. Right now, I want to you escort Beren to the garden. Serve him a drink, if you have to."
"Well, I've already . . ."
Cole stood up and glared at the minion. "Idril and I need time to prepare for the ceremony. So, if you don't mind . . ."
A long stretch of silence followed before Cirith responded with a nervous nod. "Yes. Of course. Uh . . . excuse me." To Idril's relief, he bowed quickly and left.
Cole offered his arm to Idril. "I guess we have a wedding to attend. Shall we go?"
With a smile on her lips, the demoness locked arms with the half-daemon. Together, the pair sauntered out of the sitting room to prepare for their upcoming wedding.
END OF CHAPTER TWELVE