A/N: This chapter gave me quite a bit of trouble. No matter how many times I tried to re-work it, it still turned into... well... this. I'm not overly pleased with it, but it furthers the story and as we're reaching the good parts I'd like to keep it moving. Thank you to everyone who's been reading, and enjoy this installment!
By: Ada C. Eliana
Chapter 24: Headlong into Danger
Morning saw a much more subdued Lena and Wyatt eyeing each other awkwardly as they ate breakfast. "The other Elders are sending Angelica down to help us," Leo announced.
"Isn't she the one you call all sorts of horrible names after your Elder meetings?" Wyatt asked.
"Yes," Leo responded hesitantly. "But she's supposedly the most knowledgeable about reuniting souls. We're not exactly well versed in the subject ourselves."
"Especially since I checked with the librarian in Magic School, and the only book she could suggest to me was the one Prue and Nel stole and gave to Dakian," Paige interjected.
Leo grimaced. "Well she'll be here soon. Be polite," he added, glancing at Wyatt, Chris, and Lena.
Angelica's orbs had a slightly yellow tinge to them, and she already looked stern and stiff when she appeared in the dining room. Leo gestured to the chair beside him, and she sat down in it as if with regal airs. "Angelica," Leo said. "My wife Piper, Phoebe, Alec, Paige, Wyatt, Lena, and Chris." Each person nodded as he said their names.
"Hello. Let's get down to business, shall we? You," she pointed at Lena. "Will have to reach Chris inside of the Source. Then all you do is draw him out of the Source, and then push him into the body of the whitelighter." Everyone just stared at her unfiltered statements.
"The whitelighter has a name," Wyatt said confrontationally.
"Well of course he does, but it would be confusing to keep calling both Chrises by their names."
"Why in Ch… this Chris' body?" Lena asked.
"The other Chris' body has been ravaged by evil; that sort of evil never really goes away. He would always be swayed to the wrong side."
They others nodded. "So when do we do this?" Phoebe asked.
"His soul has to be reunited on his birthday; so that both souls will be of the same age."
"But this Chris has been around since then…"
"Yes but as a whitelighter." She paused. "It's all very complicated; the important thing is that it must be on that date."
"Great, that leaves us, what, a little over a week?" Wyatt piped up.
"And how are we supposed to get to the Source and rescue Chris before then? Why didn't you come "guide" us earlier?"
"Quite frankly I assumed you would have a better handle on the situation than you do. On November 16th you must remove the half-soul from the body inhabited by the Source, and then join it within the body of this Chris. After that, the Source must be vanquished."
There was a moment of silence following that pronouncement. The task before them was enormous and even if they succeeded, they would kill someone who was once Chris.
"How do I… remove his soul?" Lena asked, focusing on the step most important to her.
"It's a simple process for someone like you. I will teach you what you need to know. As for the rest of you; I suggest you work on fortifying this house, and come up with a plan for storming the Underworld and defeating the Source. It won't be easy, but you must break through his defenses and hold him long enough for that piece of soul to be ripped from him."
"Oh is that all we have to do?" Wyatt asked sarcastically. "I'll have that polished off by breakfast."
"Wyatt," Leo said in a warning tone.
Wyatt shrugged and stood up. "I'll go…" he seemed to not have thought of a location and so paused. "I'll go see if any of the books at Magic School will help."
"That is a very good idea, Wyatt," Angelica said. "Bring them back here with you."
"I'll go with you," Chris said. Wyatt grimaced but did not tell Chris to stay behind. The two stepped away from the table and disappeared together.
"Alright then Lena, shall we?" Angelica asked, standing and leading her to the sunroom. Lena nodded and followed silently.
"We know that Chris' soul can only be reunited on his birth date. We should therefore assume the Halliwells are aware of this as well. Therefore, they must be planning to attack us near Chris' birth date and so we must move quickly to strike first, my lord. We need to capture the whitelighter in order to finish the spell that will prevent them from tampering with the half soul inside of my lord's body," Shanqil said.
The Source considered this, eyes flicking between each demon seated at the long table in his "war room." "Do any of you really believe they have the power to harm me?"
The other demons averted their eyes and remained silent, but Shanqil met his dark gaze. "They very well could. If Chris' soul is ripped from that body, you will be gravely wounded and your campaign against the Halliwells will be greatly harmed. They are powerful witches, and my lord would do well to remember that."
"I will concede on that point, Shanqil. What sort of attack do you propose?"
"The Charmed Ones."
"The Charmed Ones…" Chris parroted. "Why them and not Wyatt or Lena? Why not take the whitelighter directly?"
"The Charmed Ones have more age and experience over the younger Halliwells. They have twice vanquished you, and they are the most capable of calling upon that vanquishing spell once more. With them out of the way, the younger Halliwells will be shocked; distraught, and their protection greatly diminished."
"I suppose now is not the time for pettiness or revenge… though I so wanted to see the looks upon their faces when I slaughtered their children. I suppose you have a plan concocted already?"
"Of course sire," she smiled. "I will lure the Charmed Ones to the East chamber, where Dakian and I will await their arrival. Once there, we will utilize the ancient magic of that place to kill them."
The Source nodded, giving his authority for her to continue with her plan and then left the assembled group. "Simple? You believe defeating the Charmed Ones will be simple?" Dakian asked, slack-jawed.
"Do not fear Dakian; I would not embark on this journey lightly. If we cannot vanquish the Charmed Ones, then we shall have to… detain them… for a time."
"A plan B, Shanqil?"
Phoebe gripped the front porch railing tightly, leaning against it and gasping as images unbidden flew through her mind. She shook as she slowly lowered herself onto the steps and turned to the concerned faces staring at her. "Premonition?" Paige asked, the door to the Manor open behind her. Something had called Phoebe outside, and when nearly trance-like she had left the house, the others had followed her.
"More like a warning," Phoebe breathed, resting her head in her hands.
"What did you see?" Piper said, sitting across from her.
"Shanqil and Dakian. They were killing everyone… Chris, Lena, Wyatt, the twins, Alec… everyone except us."
"But it wasn't a real premonition, right?" Piper said quickly, worrying over her sons who were at Magic School.
"No, no, it wasn't. It was sort of like… remember she made us see that illusion before? It was almost like that. Then she spoke to me; said that they wanted to face the three of us, not the kids – us. She must have called me outside, since she can't really get into my head while inside anymore."
"A challenge?" Paige said stiffly. Part of her itched to accept it while another part thought it was crazy.
"We'd be playing right into their hands," Piper pointed out.
"Do we really have a choice? Considering the alternative?" The others looked pensive.
"If we managed to vanquish Shanqil and Dakian, it would definitely tip the scales in our favor," Paige said slowly. "I mean think about it; we're supposed to go in on Chris' birthday and fight our way through the two of them and all of the Source's guards to get the Source alone. It'd be nearly impossible."
"You're right," Piper sighed. "But why would they even challenge us? It has to be a trap."
"Fact is, she gave away more than she thought," Phoebe said. "I recognized the room they were in; from when Cole was the Source; I think if I "gave" the location to either you Paige or Leo we could orb down there."
"Strike them on our terms rather than theirs?" Paige said. "Well I say let's do it. I'm tired of doing nothing."
"If we fail… if we get killed…" Piper shook her head. She looked away for a moment. "But if we can… we need to try, we need to take them out before they hurt our kids."
Phoebe nodded decisively. "Let's do it."
"So we've worked it all out, Paige will be able to orb us all down," Phoebe explained to Leo and Alec.
"Yes, and we're leaving the kids home," Piper said quietly.
"We are?" Leo asked. "Why?"
"It's too dangerous, we can't risk them, not when we need them to save Chris and stop the Source. We can't even tell them we're going."
"No I don't think Wyatt would stay behind like a good little boy while we ran headlong into danger," Paige sighed.
"And we couldn't stop him either," Piper added. "The price we pay for letting our kids get stronger than us."
"Well we have the Power of Three on our side; that still puts us a step above them," Phoebe pointed out. "We can confront Dakian and Shanqil just the three of us and Leo – like old times."
"Oh sure just like old times; you're leaving me behind as well," Alec said angrily.
"Someone has to stay with them; what good would it do them if all of us were killed at once?" Phoebe argued.
"Then Leo should stay this time."
"Dakian is too strong, Phoebe! How long has it been since you've fought without Wyatt and Chris alongside? Think about it! You'll need an extra witch."
Phoebe turned to him, eyes large and beseeching. "Alec…" she said pleadingly. "Don't you understand? I can't go there without knowing that if something happens to me, you'll be there for Lena and the boys. They're strong, and they're technically adults, but they still need a helping hand, and they need a witch to be that for them. That's why you need to stay behind, please."
Alec conceded, and pulled Phoebe to him for a brief kiss and hug. "If anything happens… tell her I'm sorry," she whispered into Alec's ear. "And that I love her." Alec nodded, and watched as she went back to her sisters, who all seemed determined yet fearful.
Alec exchanged a significant glance with Piper and Leo. "I'll look after them, you know I will," he said solemnly. They nodded their thanks and then the three Charmed Ones and the Elder orbed away.
Chris was moving stacks of books when the sense he always kept on the look-out for his family twinged. "Wyatt?" he said, turning to where the blond was checking the title of a book against the list in his hand.
"Did you feel that? Mom, Dad, Aunt Phoebe and Aunt Paige just left…"
Wyatt was silent for a moment, searching, and then his eyes widened.
"Where are they?" Wyatt demanded, flipping pages in the Book.
"Can't you sense them?" Chris asked. Wyatt closed his eyes, sensing for them.
"What's going on?" Lena said, stopping dead in the doorway to the attic and staring at them. Angelica had finally left, and she had thought that Wyatt and Chris were at Magic School. Her father followed her in; expression grim. Chris quietly filled her in, but did not take his eyes off of Wyatt.
Wyatt's eyes snapped open. "The Underworld… they're in the Underworld. What are they doing there?"
"Wyatt, Chris… you can't go after them," Alec said stiffly.
"Chris' and Wyatt's eyes snapped to their uncle. "They're off fighting, aren't they? Why? Who?!" Chris demanded.
Lena concentrated, trying to force a premonition. However, when it came, the vision pulled Lena in with furious intensity. Her mother, Piper, Paige, and Leo were in a dark cavern. She could barely see them, and she caught flashes of fighting when they stepped into the candlelight. She heard Paige scream and then saw her thrown on the ground, bleeding. "We have to get help!" Piper shouted. Leo ran for the exit, but the only opening in the cavern closed up, a metal grate locking into place. He pulled at it and tried to blast it out of the way, but they were trapped.
Lena gasped as she came back to herself, and quickly told the others what she'd seen.
"We have to help them!" Wyatt said. "Come on!" Chris and Lena grabbed hold of him. Alec reached out for them but just missed grabbing hold of them as they disappeared into orb lights.
Wyatt tried to orb to the cavern itself, but the magical protections around it prevented him from reaching it, and so he orbed them as close to the cavern as he could.
Wyatt, Chris, and Lena ran as fast as they could, Wyatt breaking out in front of them as they raced towards where their mothers and aunts were. They could hear the sounds of battle; magic and screams, and they sprinted even faster. Lena stumbled, a stabbing pain in her chest. Her vision flashed and she looked down to see her hands covered in blood. She looked to the side and saw her aunts and Leo standing side-by-side, railing against Shanqil and Dakian who were wreathed in protective light and snarling. A great wave of energy was thrown at them, and Lena screamed before she realized that she was seeing through her mother's eyes.
The vision ended and Lena found herself on the ground, Chris trying to tug her to her feet, Wyatt very far ahead of them. She stood and ran again, her heart pounding and her head filled with flashes of images and sounds that did not belong to her. She caught bits of pieces of the scene; Shanqil was reciting a spell, tendrils of magic shooting out of her fingertips and wrapping around the Charmed Ones. Their screams of pain echoed in her head.
Wyatt ran as fast as he could, he didn't even have time to run terrifying scenarios through his mind; he focused solely on moving as quickly as possible, on getting there on time. He had to get there in time to save them, there was no other option. He heard Lena fall but he did not slow down. So long as he made it; he could help them.
They were inches from the chamber when suddenly an explosion ripped through it. One moment Wyatt was running, and the next he was thrown; he was lifted off the ground as the explosion tore through the stone walls around them and decimated everything in the area. His body hit something hard and then his vision went black.
When Wyatt blinked back to awareness he saw Chris standing over him. "Chris?" he coughed. He tried to move but large pieces of rock were piled on top of him. "Are you okay?"
"Still a Whitelighter, remember; can't be hurt. I just orbed out of the debris. Can you move at all? I didn't want to shift the rock in case…"
Wyatt merely gestured with his head and all of the rock on top of him was orbed aside. He dusted himself off, wincing at the various bruises that were forming, but glad that he hadn't broken any bones. "Lena?" he asked.
"I don't know. She was beside me just before the blast," Chris replied. Wyatt stood, searching around for her. Finally he did the easiest thing. Casting his hand out in the direction Chris said he had woken up in, he said "Lena" and orb lights immediately removed his cousin from beneath the rocks and she appeared in his arms. Her eyes were open and staring, and Wyatt's heart lurched. He lowered her to the ground and healed whatever small injuries he could find. "Lena?" he whispered.
"Mom…" she breathed brokenly, placing her hand over her heart.
Wyatt turned, staring at the gaping hole where the cavern they had been running towards once was. Leaving Lena and Chris, he climbed over the rocks and stepped into it. Two scorch marks burned into the stone from wherever Dakian and Shanqil flamed out, but the cavern was a wreck. It had been obliterated; along with anything or anyone who had been inside. "Mom?! Dad?!" Wyatt called. "Answer me!" He reached out with his whitelighter power of sensing, but he couldn't feel them. "MOM!" He gestured at the rocks shouting for her, but no answering orb lights appeared.
"No…" Chris whispered from somewhere behind him. "NO!" Chris began to manually throw pieces of debris aside, scrabbling frantically. "Not again, please not again!"
"We were too late…" Wyatt said. "They're… they're…"
"No! Don't say it! Don't you dare say it!" Chris screamed, suddenly in Wyatt's face. He shoved his brother, hard. "They're fine! They're here!"
"They're not here!" Wyatt shot back.
"This wasn't supposed to happen!" Chris said, turning away. "I was supposed to have fixed everything." His knees gave way and he hit the ground, tears streaming down his face. "It's not fair."
Wyatt heard far off footsteps and sensed evil creatures. "We have to go," he said. They were confused, tired, shocked; they couldn't fight now.
"No," Chris said stubbornly. Behind him Lena stood up and looked between the two, eyes far-off.
"We have to," Wyatt replied. Without giving Chris a chance to stop him, he grabbed hold of him and gestured his hand in Lena's direction, orbing all three of them back to the Manor.
Wyatt sank heavily onto the couch, watching as Chris paced back and forth in front of him. Lena was staring at the window, but Wyatt could tell she wasn't really looking at it. Forgetting that they had left Alec in the attic, Wyatt and Chris looked up hopefully when they heard footsteps descending. "Did you find them?" Alec asked quickly.
Wyatt slowly shook his head and Chris began to pace again. "There was…" Wyatt began. "There was an explosion."
Alec stared at him, dumbstruck. He looked at each of them in turn, waiting for someone to contradict Wyatt.
"Shanqil and Dakian," Lena whispered. "She was saying a spell… they couldn't get away. Mom was hurt… they weren't strong enough."
"But you didn't find their… their bodies?" Alec asked.
Wyatt shook his head. "The explosion… there wouldn't be anything left to find."
"If you didn't find remains, then there's still a chance that they're alive."
Chris paused and turned to him. "We could ask Grams, she'd know."
Chris and Wyatt ran to the attic, and set up the candles to summon a spirit. But no matter how many times they tried the spell, no one answered their call. They were alone.
Alec stood grimly in the doorway, a spectator to it all. "Fine," he said after their last try. "Then it's my… it's my job to take charge of everything. We'll have to operate as if… as if they are gone. We need to save Chris, we need to vanquish the Source. But first, everyone needs some rest. Good quality rest. I'm going to put some protections up around your beds, then I expect everyone to sleep." No one was in the mood to protest.
Wyatt lay awake for a long time, listening as Lena and the Chris finally fell asleep, their breathing evening out. He stared at the ceiling, fighting off sleep. He replayed what happened over and over, searching for the mistakes he surely made; searching for some explanation for it all. Lena mumbled something in her sleep, and Wyatt turned to her, checking to be sure that she was alright. He saw a shadow out of the corner of his eye, and sat up so he could see what it was. His uncle Alec was standing in the doorway, watching over them, his eyes filled with grief. They looked at each other, shared a moment of despair before Alec turned away. The look on his uncle's face troubled Wyatt before he fell into a fitful sleep.
A/N: So what do you think - are the Charmed Ones dead or not? Liked it? Hated it? Let me know!