Prologue: A Few Birds with One Stone
"Is everyone still set for Potluck Friday?" Felix asked Norman. The two were sitting in an outdoor café in Paris drinking espresso. This was a custom that they had held on to for about the last five hundred years: get together for coffee on Sundays.
"I believe so, but I think Rhonda mentioned she might be a little late. She claims that there is a family in Tuscan that will need guidance as they are going to lose a loved one to cancer on Friday, but I think she's trying to skip dinner in order to go to the Paul Simon concert. Like that time with the Winter Solstice of '66?" Norman replied.
"That time it was Don McLean though, correct?"
"The concert has changed, the woman though has not. I mean she's almost two thousand and seventy-nine years old, you'd think she would grow up and get her priorities straight by now-" Norman stopped short when he noticed that his companion was no longer listening. Felix seemed to be looking at the sidewalk as though he were looking for someone. Norman pushed his Woody Allan-esque glasses back up the length of his nose and asked, "Are you expecting somebody?"
"Hmmm?" Felix turned his attention back to his friend. "Oh forgive me, Norman. I asked Matilda to join us today."
"Oh really?" Norman said with a smile; he brightened almost instantly. His change in attitude did not surprise Felix; everyone on the Council of Higher Powers adored Matilda. "Damn, I haven't had a chance to get a straightforward conversation with her since we took that vacation to Lisbon in '97. What's the occasion?"
"Oh it's not to play catch-up. I'm afraid it's a business affair. A job just landed on her desk that I think she may be able to help me in a case that's been plaguing me since the beginning of the month. It's about the recent activity of-" Felix suddenly turned his head back to the sidewalk. He smiled at a child that was walking steadily towards them. She was a little girl that had dark bluntly cut hair that barely grazed her jaw and thick bangs covering her forehead. She wore a small white dress that flapped back and forth in the wind. She walked around the fence of the café and spoke to the host briefly and pointed at Felix and Norman's table. She pulled up a chair and shook both of their hands firmly.
"Bonjour mes amis. Va-t-il comment l'espresso?" She asked in a perfect French dialect.
"It is very good Matilda. Will you be indulging in a cup yourself?" Felix asked, raising his glass to her.
"Non, I believe monsieur, that you asked me to come under the impression that we would be talking business." Matilda pulled out an antique pocket watch that she had stashed somewhere on her being and checked the time. "Besides that, I'm in a bit of a hurry. I'm due in Bayville in about an hour."
"Actually, that is partly the reason I asked you here. You are to bring together a pair of soul mates in Bayville soon, yes?" Felix asked.
"Actually, it's a double whammy. There are two pairs of soul mates that need to be brought together in Bayville." Felix and Norman both looked surprised. "I know, but the amazing thing is this:" she leaned forward on the table slightly, "the four of them live in the same house."
"No?" Felix asked incredulously.
"Incredible. How can four people, living under the same roof no less, not know that they are meant to be together?" Norman asked shaking his head.
"Well, if my background research on them is correct (and it always is), then the four of them tend to be very stubborn." Felix and Norman nodded in understanding. "Oh, I've seen this kind of case a million times; they've been dancing around the prospect of getting together for so long that they are now convinced it will never happen. That's why the Higher Powers elected to have me lend my expertise in the matter. They're about to deal with some hardships that will become more bearable if they're together."
"Who are these four that you speak of?" Felix asked, interlacing his fingers on the wrought iron table.
"Hmm." Matilda pulled out of thin air a sleek, black, leather brief case and set it on their table, briefly jingling their cups. After entering the combination and opening the case, she pulled out a creamed colored folder. Opening the folder revealed papers and countless pictures all detailing the same four people. "Here we are. I have to make Katherine Pryde and Kurt Wagner realize their true love for another." She showed them a picture that captured a very pretty brunette girl watching over what seemed to be an unconscious blue demon. She pulled out another picture that showed an incredibly handsome man with red and black eyes giving a card to a pale girl with white streaks in her hair. "And do the same for Anna Marie Darkholme and Remy LeBeau."
"Wait a moment, I recognize them: these people are X-Men!" Norman said, studying the pictures at a closer angle.
"Yes, that's actually why I'm interested in this particular case. These youths have a knack for saving the world." Felix said, in a very business man manner.
"I know; they helped us out in more ways than one during that whole Apocalypse ordeal." Matilda said, rolling her eyes at one of her least favorite memories.
"Well, I've come across a case that may in fact be related to yours. It seems that Hirane the Demon Tree has grown once more." Felix said ominously.
"What! I thought Hirane got thrashed by a Vampire Slayer during the last Chinese Imperial Dynasty?" Matilda said, surprised.
"If you recall, we were also under the impression that Hirane was destroyed during the Crusades but he still grew back after that. No, he has indeed been reborn." Felix said, looking distant and worried.
"What is the bastard up to this time?" Norman asked casually, sipping his drink.
"Hirane is, once again, blossoming human fruit from his branches and this time he has a young man named Kale harvesting and eating them."
"Another lost soul who can't tell the difference between good and evil." Norman said, shaking his head disgustedly.
"Forgive my lack of respect with my next question, but how is an ancient Asian demonic spirit in the form of a tree related to my case in Bayville?" Matilda arched an eyebrow.
"It's not disrespectful, it's actually quite valid. Coincidentally enough, Hirane has chosen an acreage of woods north of Bayville to sprout this time." Felix took another sip of espresso.
"Oh, I see. And since you know that I am about to go work on some superheroes that happen to be in the area, you figure I can somehow have them take care of the matter." Matilda said, nodding her head and smiling to herself.
"There are several crises happening in Africa at this time that require my first hand attention; I figure a few super powered youngsters can handle something like Hirane."
"But that forest is some miles north of where Matilda is going. It's not like these kids would simply stumble onto a problem like this." Norman said honestly.
"I realize that. I was hoping that maybe Matilda would be able to guide them there so that they could stumble onto a problem like this."
"Hmmm." Matilda looked deep in thought as she stroked an invisible beard slowly. "Would this little quest be dangerous?"
"Could it be considered a life or death mission?"
"Oh, most certainly."
"Perfect!" Matilda said so brightly that it elicited curious stares from both men. "Highly dangerous life or death situations always tend to bring people closer together. This little side job could, in fact, aid me in my main goal."
"So you'll do it?" Felix asked, hopefully.
Matilda shrugged her shoulders. "Why not? It's been awhile since I've seen a good 'saving the day'. Could be fun." Matilda glanced at her watch again. "Gentlemen, I'm afraid that I must take my leave of you now." Matilda gathered her things and then stood from her seat.
"Oh Matilda, are you still coming to Potluck Friday?" Norman asked.
Matilda hissed as though she had forgotten something. "Oh, I'm not sure now. Rhonda kind of asked me to go to the Paul Simon concert with her, so I'll have to see. Talk to you both soon!" Matilda seemed to vanish into thin air; surprisingly, none of the café patrons seemed to notice.
Norman looked at Felix with a pained expression on his face. "Is everyone invited to this concert except me?"