Episode 9.01: From the Ashes
The door to Phoebe's apartment swung back, banging against the wall, as an explosive force hit it. Piper dropped her hands to her sides and entered the apartment, with Leo following.
"Piper," Leo hissed. "You have to be quiet. The neighbors will hear you."
"Well I don't have a key, Leo!" Piper snapped. "What should I have done, pick the lock?"
Leo didn't answer. He knew his wife was distraught at the moment. It wouldn't be good to argue with her over little things. Instead he closed the door, as well as he could, and followed Piper over to the couch by the fireplace.
The Book of Shadows sat on the coffee table and Piper immediately began to flip through its pages like a mad woman.
"Okay, can you stop for a moment?" Leo asked, sitting down. He laid his hands down over Piper's. "You've barely said a word since we left..." He was about to say "the manor", but that was no longer entirely true. The once beautiful victorian home was now just a pile of smoldering rubble.
Piper looked up at her husband, momentarily giving him an angry glare. But just the sight of him made her gaze soften. She knew she couldn't be mad at him for not knowing what was going on. How could he? Leo had been taken from her by the Angel of Destiny and had been frozen for months, only returned once the ultimate power had been stopped with Christy's death.
Piper took a great, shuddering breath.
"I can't explain it all right now," she said. "But the short version is that Billie finally found her sister. We brought her in and treated her like family, but oops, she turned out to be evil. Billie sided with her and together they became the Ultimate Power."
"What's that?" Leo asked.
"What we had to stop so we could get you back." Piper gave a harsh laugh, shaking her head. "We were so stupid. See, I thought the Ultimate Power would be another demon, like the Source or Zankou. Something obviously evil. But no, it was something so much more sinister."
Piper got to her feet and started to pace, running shaky hands through her hair.
"The Triad finally figured it out, Leo. The way to destroy the Charmed Ones isn't with demons. It's by getting us to trust people. Regular people that we think are good, but then, at just the right moment, turn on us. I've got to hand it to them; that was smart."
"So Billie is evil?" Leo asked.
Piper shrugged and dropped back down onto the couch. "Pretty much. Her sister was raised by demons and she sided with her sister and tried to kill us. That makes her evil in my book. Phoebe had her doubts the whole way, but she was wrong." She hung her head as tears filled her eyes and dripped down her face, adding more sting to her wounds. "Dead wrong."
Leo's face crumbled. He couldn't bear to see in wife in this much pain. He reached out a hand and moved her hair, caressing Piper's ash-stained face. He traced a finger around the edge of the cut on Piper's forehead.
"We should really do something about that cut," he said.
Piper shook her head, wiping the tears from her face. "No. There's no time for that." She turned back to the Book and resumed flipping the pages. Usually she took great care turning the ancient tome's delicate pages, but at the moment she didn't care.
Leo sighed. "Piper... are you sure you can fix this?"
Piper paused for only a split second. "I have to."
"But you were never able to bring Prue back," Leo said. "What makes you think the Book can help you this time?"
"You're right," Piper said, stopping once again. She closed the Book and set it aside. "We need a higher power."
"The Elders? I don't think they can help."
"Why not?!" Piper screamed, causing Leo to flinch. She was breaking down, starting to lose control of her emotions. "We have busted our asses for them for eight years. They owe us, Leo. Come to think of it, they need us. Without the Charmed Ones, who's going to save the world the next time some demon with a big ego comes along?"
Leo took Piper's hands in his own. "Piper, it just doesn't work that way. They don't have that kind of power."
"Then what good are they?!" Piper yelled, tearing her hands from Leo's grasp.
She heaved a sigh and dropped her head into her hands. When she looked back up her eyes had once again filled with tears. She held them back, not wanting to completely break down. It took almost all her strength, and when she spoke her words came out in a raspy whisper.
"Leo... my sisters are dead. I have to try to bring them back. Can't you just support me in this?"
Leo looked into his wife's eyes, seeing all the pain they held. It just about brought him to tears as well. "Okay," he said with a nod. "Let's go to the Elders."
"Thank you," Piper said with a small smile. "Now we just have to figure out a way to get there."
"This is one of those times where I wish I still had my powers."
Piper patted his arm. "I know. But there has to be another way. There has to be someone..." Her eyes lit up as she got an idea. "Coop."
Leo frowned. "Who?"
"Phoebe's boyfriend... sort of," Piper said. "He's a Cupid." She called out for him and, after a few moments of waiting, Coop appeared in a flash of pink light.
"What is it?" Coop asked. He looked around. "Where's Phoebe?"
"Phoebe and Paige are dead," Piper said. She bit her lip to stop herself from crying again.
"What?" Coop gasped. "But--"
Piper held up a hand to silence him. "I don't have time to explain. But don't worry, I'm going to bring them back. I just need your help."
"Anything," Coop said.
"I need you to take me to see the Elders," Piper said. "I'm hoping that they can help me find a way to bring Phoebe and Paige back to life. Now, I know they sent you in the first place, so you must be able to have contact with them. Can you get me there?"
Coop nodded. "Yeah, of course." He held out his hand and Piper took it, allowing him to help her to her feet.
"I'm coming too," Leo said, getting up and taking Piper's other hand.
Coop closed his eyes and his ring glowed. A moment later they all disappeared in a flash of pink light.
Dumain paced around the Great Hall of Magic School.
"It's all over," he muttered to himself. "The Triad is dead... This whole plan has been a failure."
He turned to the sound of someone coming down the hall. It was Billie. She had cuts all over her body and dark ash stains covered her clothes and skin.
"Billie," Dumain said. "What happened?"
"The sisters got the Hollow, too," Billie said. She was having a hard time speaking, for she was crying and shaking from head to foot. "We fought and then there was an explosion. The manor is gone... Christy's dead." Actually saying it made the truth strike home. Christy was gone. Billie had just got her sister back and now she was dead.
"What about the Charmed Ones?" Dumain asked.
Billie shook her head. "Piper's the only one left."
Hmm, Dumain thought. Maybe all is not lost.
"I've lost everyone," Billie whispered. "My parents, my sister. I have no one left." She slowly dropped to a sitting position, bringing her knees to her chest.
A sly look came over Dumain's face as he thought of an idea.
"Maybe not," he said, kneeling in front of Billie. He took her chin in his hand and lifted it to get her to look at him. "There may be a way to get your sister back."
"How?" Billie asked.
"The Grimoire," Dumain said.
Billie wiped her eyes, trying to stop the tears. "The Grimoire? I think I read about that in the Book of Shadows. Isn't it an evil book of magic?"
Dumain rolled his eyes. "Are you going to believe something the Charmed Ones wrote? It may not have the traditional types of spells and potions, but it's not evil. The Charmed Ones just called it that. They never were open to other forms of magic; other ways of doing things."
"How do we get it?" Billie asked.
"The Charmed Ones stole it and hid it, is what I know. Did the Book say what they did with it?"
Billie bit her lip as she thought back. "I think it said that Leo hid it somewhere."
"Where?" Dumain asked.
Billie shook her head. "I don't remember."
"That's all right," Dumain said. "But we have to get that page. Did the Book survive the blast?"
"I don't think it was there," Billie said.
"Then it must be at Phoebe's condo," Dumain said. He helped Billie up and handed her a few teleportation potions. "Go there and rip that page from the Book. Then come back here."
"What if Piper is there?"
"Are you strong enough to fight?"
Billie rubbed a sore spot on her shoulder, but nodded. "I think so."
"Then do whatever it takes to get that page," Dumain said.
"I don't want to kill her," Billie said. "If she is feeling as much pain as I am right now... I just can't." She turned away to look out of the tall, arched windows.
Dumain's face darkened, but he had to keep up the act.
"All right," he said.
Inwardly he cursed the foolish witch. If she hadn't been a whiny little girl for so long, then they would have never been in this mess. He so wished he could just kill her, if only to shut her up. But he needed her.
"Just get the page." He patted her hand consolingly, as much as it pained him.
Billie nodded and threw down a potion, disappearing in a puff of smoke.
The realm of the Whitelighters is pure white; white fog, tall white pillars, and white robes worn by the Whitelighters themselves.
Currently they were all scurrying about, speaking in their own language, which consisted of a series of clicks and clacks. With all the commotion it was quite loud for a place that was usually a place of hushed tones. But news had reached them that made them all forget those unspoken rules.
The Ultimate Power had been stopped and the Triad had been vanquished once and for all. This would set evil back many years. That was the good news. Yet there was bad news as well.
Two of the Charmed Ones were dead, effectively putting an end to them. With them gone, evil would regain power a lot faster than they would have, and the balance of power would begin to shift. Without the Charmed Ones, the world was evil's oyster.
Not that the Charmed Ones were the only witches fighting against evil. They were just the strongest. Yes, the Elders knew that the Charmed Ones would die at some point, as all humans do. But they had been counting on them to raise their children, who would become the next strongest force of good. However, with Piper being the only sister left alive, the children would have little protection. It would not take evil long to kill the mother and then go after them.
This was the subject on every Whitelighter's lips. They were trying to come up with ideas about what to do when the pure white of the realm was suddenly disrupted by a bright pink light, bringing with it Coop, Piper, and Leo. The Whitelighters gathered around them, whispering to one another.
Piper looked around, annoyed.
"Okay," she said, holding up her hands. "Can you all stop it with the clickity clacking? It's making the headache I already have worse."
They all fell silent. They knew how much pain she must have been in and didn't want to add to it. One Whitelighter even came up to Piper and asked if he could heal her wounds.
"Yes, thank you," Piper said. Once she was healed she asked, "I need to speak with the Elders."
"I will take you to them," said the Whitelighter that had healed her, bowing slightly.
He turned and walked away through the fog with Piper, Leo, and Coop following. They soon arrived at huge double doors made of white marble. The doors swung open and Piper and the two men went through, entering into a large room.
Raised benches encircled the room, their seats filled with nearly a hundred Elders, who watched the three visitors in silence. A table, also made of white marble, stood in the center of the room, with three Elders seated at it.
Piper knew two of them. One was a woman with blonde hair. Her name was Sandra. Even though Piper despised all Elders, she felt it less so with Sandra, who had always been kinder and more helpful than the rest.
The second she didn't have any liking for. His name was Odin. Paige had told Piper that he had been one of the Elders who let her keep Magic School open. That was great and all, but since then Odin had been working against them, especially when it came to Leo. Odin had been one of the leading Elders in the situation with Leo the previous year, and had even been the one to wipe his memory during a test.
A rigged test, Piper thought.
The middle one, however, she did not know. But Leo did. His name was Kheel, and he had once tried to kill Leo after the Elders found out about Leo being an Avatar.
"Welcome to The Hall of Elders," Kheel said. He glanced at Leo and gave a curt nod. "Leo."
Leo responded with a glare. "Kheel."
"Can we skip the pleasantries?" Piper said. "I don't like you, and you don't like me, but we have a crisis. Which I'm sure you know about."
Kheel glanced at the other two, then nodded. "Yes, we do. It is most unfortunate. We are sorry for your loss."
Piper gaped. "That's it? You're sorry? What about helping to fix all this?"
"There is nothing we can do," Kheel said.
"But... but there has to be," Piper said, finding herself suddenly short of breath.
Leo put a calming hand on her shoulder, but she shrugged it off.
"The Angel of Destiny," Piper said. "She said that the battle didn't end how she expected it to. That must mean that it could have happened a different way. Which means it can be changed."
"Maybe," Sandra said. "We have discussed it, but we have found no options."
Piper was growing increasingly hysterical, wringing her hands. Her eyes flicked around as she tried to come up with solutions.
"What about time travel?" she asked. "Can't you reverse time?"
"That is most definitely not an option," said Odin. "The Triad is dead and the Ultimate Power has been neutralized. We will not risk changing that."
"But my sisters are dead!" Piper screamed.
"Everyone loses people at some point," Odin said with a shrug. "Get over it and move on with your life."
Piper had to clench her hands into fists to stop herself from using her powers.
"I hate you," she hissed in a vehement whisper, her face red with anger. "I hate all of you!"
She turned and stalked out of the room, Leo and Coop hurrying to keep up with her. Once outside the Hall of Elders, Piper stopped.
"Let's get out of here," she said
"Wait!" came a voice from behind them. Sandra was rushing out of the Hall towards them.
"What do you want?" Piper asked.
"I want to help you," Sandra said.
"Can you?" asked Leo.
"Well, I at least know someone who can," Sandra said.
She led them to a secluded area and waved her hand, causing a spirit to appear before them.
"Drake," Piper said, surprised.
"Hey Piper," Drake said. He glanced at Leo and smiled. "Looks like love is still going strong for you two."
"You're a spirit," Piper said.
"Well, I qualified," Drake said.
Sandra nodded. "When Drake died he had to have a trial of sorts to decide where he would go. I was there, and, with other powerful beings, we came to the decision that Drake would move on as all humans do. He had never done any evils as a demon and did much good as a human. He earned it."
"Well thank you very much," Drake said in his Elvis impression.
"Okay, but how does this help me get my sisters back?" Piper asked.
All traces of a smile instantly faded from Drake's face.
"Wait, Phoebe's dead?"
"What, you haven't seen her wherever spirits go?"
Drake shrugged. "There are a lot of dead people, Piper. I can't talk to them all. But, moving on. How can I help?"
"I believe you know someone," Sandra said pointedly. "Someone who would be able to contact another someone who could help change the events that have gone on."
Drake frowned. "I do?"
Sandra nodded. "You do. He has helped all of you before, he may do so again." She bowed. "Good luck."
After Sandra had left, Piper asked, "Who is she talking about?"
Drake had now realized who Sandra had meant. "Cole," he said.
"Cole?" Piper gasped.
"Phoebe's dead ex-boyfriend?" Coop suddenly spoke up. "The former Source of all evil? That Cole?"
"Ssh!" Piper waved her hand at Coop, silencing him. To Drake she asked, "How can Cole help? How do you even know him?"
"Well, he helped me become human by setting me up with that sorcerer," Drake said. "He also sent the Thorn demons after you."
"So that your and Leo's love would survive. And, by seeing that you two could make it, Phoebe wouldn't give up on love." Drake paused. "Hmm. I wonder if he wanted that kept a secret..."
"Wait," Piper said. "He can contact demons from his little limbo prison? How?"
"Well, it's complicated."
"Never mind," Piper said, waving a dismissive hand. "We don't have time for that." She stopped, realization dawning. "Time... of course! If Cole can contact demons, then he can contact Tempus and get him to reverse time!"
"I thought Tempus was dead," Leo said. "Didn't the last time reversal he did when you were exposed kill him?"
"No, that wasn't him," Drake said with a chuckle. "That was a ruse. The Source reversed time himself, to make sure he could control the outcome."
"How do you know about all that?" Piper asked.
"Are you kidding?" Drake asked. "Every demon knows about that."
"Whatever," Piper said. "We have to find a way to contact Cole."
"Wait a minute," Coop said, holding up his hands in a "time out" gesture. "If we just need to contact Tempus, why do we need Cole?"
"Tempus is very isolated," Drake said. "Not many can get to him, or even want to. Cole could easily find him. Plus, even if you did find another demon who could get to Tempus, what makes you think they would actually help?"
Leo nodded. "He's right. News of Phoebe and Paige will spread quickly. Demons probably won't be very willing to help Piper when they know that she's the only Charmed One left standing." He turned to his wife. "Without your sisters, you're not as much of a threat. They won't be afraid of you, or hesitate to kill you."
"I won't be alone for long," Piper said with determination. "We better get going. Thanks for your help, Drake."
"Anytime," Drake said, dissolving into a swirl of white lights.
Billie appeared in Phoebe's apartment in a puff of white smoke. The lights were on and she tensed up, fearing an attack. But the place was silent; empty.
Relaxing, she looked around. She spotted the Book of Shadows on the coffee table and went over to it, sitting down on the couch. After several minutes of page flipping she found the page she was looking for: The Grimoire. A picture of the book adorned the top of the page.
Paige must have drawn this, Billie thought as she ran her fingers over the drawing. She knew that Paige was the only one of the sisters with a talent for art. She felt a sudden pain in her chest. Was. Past tense. Because of her.
She shook her head, trying to shake off the guilt.
"I had to," she said, trying to reassure herself that she had done the right thing. It didn't work very well.
There was a flash of pink light and Coop appeared with Piper and Leo in tow.
"Piper," Billie gasped.
Piper's gaze hardened. "Billie..."
Piper shot out her hands. Billie ducked and a lamp behind her exploded. Before Piper could attack again, Billie ripped the page she needed out of the Book and threw down another potion.
"Dammit!" Piper yelled as the smoke from Billie's potion faded.
"She took a page from the Book," Leo said.
Piper sighed. "It doesn't matter. If all goes according to plan, then whatever she does with that page will be reversed."
"What exactly is the plan?" Coop asked. "I want Phoebe back, but not at the risk of losing the last living Charmed One. You're too important to this world."
"The plan," Piper said, sitting down at the Book, "is to find some Thorn demons, get myself infected, and call out for Cole. Then hopefully, like last time, he will come and then I can go from there."
"Wait," Leo said. "You want to infect yourself? Piper, that's insane. We have no one to heal you. I can't let you do this."
"I have to be near death to contact Cole," Piper said. "I'm choosing the Thorn demons because their poison is slow acting, giving me enough time to talk to Cole. Then, when time is reversed, my body can be taken to Paige, who can then heal me."
Leo raised his eyebrows in confusion. "Paige can heal?"
Piper gave a weak smile. "You sure have missed a lot."
"It's still risky," Leo said.
Piper stopped looking through the Book and turned her gaze to her husband. "Leo? I would risk anything to save my sisters. I don't care if I am putting myself in jeopardy. If I can save them then that's all that matters." She cut Leo off when he tried to protest. "You can't stop me. I love you, but I just want you to sit down and shut up so I can do this, okay?"
Leo stayed silent as Piper turned back to the Book.
"Here they are." She quickly skimmed over the provided information. "All right, I'll cast a spell to find them. Coop, can you take me there when I'm done?"
Coop sighed. "I guess so."
"I'm going too," Leo said.
"No," Piper said firmly. "It's too dangerous for you. I just got you back and I'm not going to lose you now."
"You will lose me," Leo said. "If this works, and time resets, I go back to being a popsicle."
"Hey," Piper said, her voice softening. She stood up and walked over to Leo, embracing him and giving him a kiss. "It'll be okay. I'm going to get you back. No matter what."
Leo didn't answer, casting his gaze down at the floor.
Piper broke away and picked up a pad of paper and a pen from the coffee table. "Let's get to work."
Billie appeared in the hallway just outside the Great Hall. She waved away the smoke from her potion and was about to enter when she heard voices. Peeking around the door frame she saw that Dumain was not alone.
A demon with unruly hair and a goatee stood at the front of a group of about ten demons. Billie didn't know it, but it was Nomed, the demon who had most recently helped the Charmed Ones. His arms were crossed and he was talking to Dumain with a coy smile on his face.
"I had no idea everything was going to work out this well," Nomed was saying. "Not only is the Triad out of the way, but so are the Charmed Ones and the Ultimate Power. You were a fool to side with the Triad, Dumain. Their ways of running things are so old hat."
"You think you can do better?" Dumain asked.
"Yes," Nomed said with a nod. "I do. I am the leader of a large clan of demons. We have been gathering together for quite some time now and were just waiting for the right moment to take over. Now that time has come, and there is no one left to stand in my way."
"Except me," Billie said, coming out of her hiding place.
The demons all turn at the sound of her voice and several of Nomed's lackeys tense up, suspecting an attack.
"Billie," Nomed said, taking a surprised step backward. "I thought you were dead."
"And I thought you were-- Oh, wait." Billie paused and tilted her head to the side. "I don't even know you."
"I'm--" Nomed started.
"And guess what?" Billie interrupted. "I so don't care."
She swung her arm and Nomed flew backward, crash landing on a table and breaking it in half. Two of his demon followers conjured energy balls and threw them at Billie. With another swing, she sent the attacks back at the demons, vanquishing them. The others started to back off, nervous.
"Billie!" Dumain yelled, running over to her. "Do you have it?"
Billie nodded. "Yeah."
Nomed got to his feet. "Attack, you fools! Without her sister, she's nothing!"
The demons started to advance. Billie glanced around and saw a large bookcase. Using her power, she caused it to fall, crushing three of the demons under it.
"We have to get out of here," Dumain said.
He took Billie by the arm and shimmered out with her. A moment later they appeared in a cavern of the Underworld.
"What are we doing here?" Billie asked, looking around in confusion.
"Believe it or not," Dumain said, "this is the safest place for us right now."
"What are we going to do about... Whateverhisnameis?"
"Nomed," Dumain said. "We can't defeat him yet. But we can if we get the Grimoire."
"I thought we were going to use it to get Christy back."
Dumain nodded. "We will. But we can also use it for so much more. If we have the Grimoire, Nomed won't be able to stand up to us. No one will."
"You can use it however you want," Billie said with a shrug. "But once I get my sister back I'm done. I'm sick of all this fighting and I just want to move on with my life."
"Whatever you want," Dumain said. "Now, show me the page."
Billie pulled the folded page out of her pocket. She unfolded it and read it over. "Uh... says here that it's in a mountain of rock in the West Andes." She let out a defeated sigh. "Guess that ends our plan."
"Weren't you listening? It's buried in the Andes mountains! Which, if you didn't know, are quite big. How are we going to find it?"
Dumain shook his head as he looked at Billie. "You really haven't been a witch that long," he said. "It shows."
"What are you talking about?"
"We'll use magic to get it, of course," Dumain said. "You can use your projection power to bring it to you."
"Then why did we need this page from the Book at all?" Billie asked, her frustration growing. "Why couldn't I have just summoned it from Magic School?"
"Because your power isn't that strong yet," Dumain said. "We'll have to be close for it to be able to come to us. Now we know it's in those mountains. Come, let's hurry."
He took Billie's hand and shimmered out.
In another cavern of the Underworld, a small clan of Thorn demons sat around a crackling fire, arguing over what to do now that the Triad was dead. Two were male, one was female. One of the males had tribal tattoos decorating his face, marking him as the leader.
"We must side with Nomed," he said. "He is the most powerful leader now that the Triad is gone."
"No," said the female demon. Her dark eyes flashed violently in the fire light as she rebelled against her leader. "We must fight against him! He is not worthy to rule the Underworld. He will bring nothing but chaos with his foolish ideas."
"I agree," said the third demon, nodding as he spoke. "We cannot break away from the old ways. Nomed wants to change everything. We can't allow that to happen."
The tattooed demon got to his feet, glowering at the other two. "Listen to me, you fools. If we do not side with jim, he will kill us."
"No, actually, that would be me."
The demons turned to see Piper and Coop; Piper's gaze hard and defiant, Coop's filled with unease.
"Kill her!" the leader of the clan yelled.
Piper grabbed Coop and pulled him behind a large rock that protruded from the ground as fireballs streaked through the air at them.
I have to go about this carefully, Piper thought as she remembered that she had to leave the female for last. Females were the only ones of a Thorn demon clan that had the ability to shoot the poisonous thorns from their mouths. Which makes me wonder why all of them are called Thorn demons and why the females aren't in charge.
"Stay here," she whispered to Coop.
Taking a deep breath, Piper ducked out of her hiding place and threw up her hands to release her devastating power. The leader of the clan took the hit and exploded. The female chucked a fireball at Piper, but Piper blasted it and the resulting shock wave knocked the female back against the hard rock wall.
"Piper, look out!" Coop yelled in warning.
Piper turned to find that the other demon had shimmered behind her. She felt her lip split open as the demon punched her in the face, sending her reeling to the sandy ground. He conjured a fireball and held it above his head, grinning as he relished the moment.
It was a moment too long, for Coop crashed into the demon, taking him down. Piper scrambled to her feet and, once Coop had rolled away, blew up the demon. Wiping the blood from her lip, Piper turned to the female, who was backed against the wall. Fear in her eyes, the demon took a great breath and spit a volley of thorns from her mouth, three of them striking Piper in her left arm.
"Thanks," Piper said, resisting the urge to wince. "Just what I needed.
A look of confusion started to replace the one of fear on the demon's face, but Piper blew her up before it could fully form.
"Are you sure this is a good idea?" Coop asked.
"No," Piper said, taking out the thorns and throwing them to the side. "But it's the only one I have."
She took a step and stumbled, suddenly woozy. She was starting to sweat profusely, her hair matting to her face. Piper could feel the poison flowing through her, making her sick to her stomach. She bent over slightly and placed her hands on her knees to hold herself up.
"Wow," she panted, her breath coming in short gasps. "Last time... I just got hit by one. Guess three work a little faster."
"Piper..." Coop started.
Piper suddenly collapsed to the ground. A moment later she was up again. At least, some form of her was. Her body was still on the ground.
"It worked," she said.
"Looks like," Coop said, obviously uncomfortable with the entire situation.
Piper turned to him, confused. "Wait, you can see me?"
Coop shrugged. "Love transcends all planes of existence. I'm made of love, so I can be on every plane at once."
"Yeah. Now you better get started. If your body dies before we can call Cole..."
"Yeah, yeah," Piper said. "I know." She took a deep breath and then called out, "Cole?! If you can hear me, I need you! Are you there?" Worry started to well up in her. What if he didn't come? The answer was simple: she'd be dead. "Cole!"
Finally, a gray wisp of what looked like smoke appeared and formed into Cole. He looked just as he did when Piper last saw him.
"Piper," he said, confused. "What brings you to this plane of existence?"
"Phoebe and Paige are dead," Piper said, getting straight to the point.
Cole hung his head. "Yeah," he said in a pained whisper. "I know."
Piper narrowed her eyes. "You know? How do you know?" She shook her head. "Never mind. I don't have time for explanations. Literally, I don't, since I'm dying. The fact is that my sisters are dead and I need your help to get them back."
"Me?" Cole asked, pointing at himself. "How can I help? If you haven't noticed, I'm kind of stuck in limbo."
"I know you can contact demons," Piper said. "I don't know how, but you can. So there is a demon that can help me that I need you to get."
Cole raised an eyebrow. "Who?"
Cole gave a halfhearted chuckle. "You really think he'll help you?"
"I don't know," Piper said. "But I have to ask him. Can you get him here or not?"
"I can," Cole said.
"Then do it."
Cole was about to leave when he spotted Coop. "Who are you?"
"I'm a Cupid," Coop said bluntly. Obviously he wasn't very keen on the idea of Phoebe's ex-boyfriend coming to the rescue.
"Cole, just get going!" Piper yelled.
"I'm gone," Cole said. And he was.
Piper sighed and looked down at her prone body. "He better hurry..."
The sun was just starting to rise above the horizon, bathing the West Andes in a warm, pale yellow light. Atop one of the high peaks stands Billie, her eyes closed and her arms stretched out in front of her, palms up. Dumain stood behind Billie, coaching her.
"Concentrate," Dumain said. "You saw the picture of the Grimoire. Concentrate on that image. Picture the book in your hands."
"I could picture it a lot clearer if you would put a lid on it," Billie snapped in annoyance.
"Sorry," Dumain said, gritting his teeth. On the inside he was just itching to be able to kill her so he wouldn't have to deal with her childish attitude any longer.
The two stood in silence for several minutes. Suddenly there was a bright flash of golden light and the Grimoire appeared in Billie's hands. She opened her eyes and looked down at the ink black book in disbelief.
"I did it," she breathed.
The Grimoire started to wriggle and squirm, like a frightened animal being held against its will, and leapt out of Billie's hands, plopping on the ground several feet away.
"What happened?" Billie asked.
"The book protects itself from good," Dumain said, walking over to the Grimoire. "It can only be touched by evil." He bent down and picked the book up.
"Wait," Billie said. "If you can touch it, then that must mean..."
"I'm evil?" Dumain said with a grin. "Smart girl."
He then backhanded Billie, sending her flying through the air. She slammed into the rock face of the mountain and crumpled to the ground.
"I'm so glad I can finally stop with this charade," Dumain continued. "It was getting so tiresome. Especially when I had to pretend like I didn't want to rip that little blonde head off your body."
"You tricked us," Billie wheezed, pushing herself up.
"Us?" Dumain repeated. "Oh, you mean Christy? No, see, Christy knew. She knew the whole time."
"That's not possible," Billie said. "She would never work with someone she knew was evil."
Dumain rolled his eyes. "Don't you get it? Christy was evil."
Billie shook her head. "No," she said, tears starting to well up in her eyes. "She wasn't."
"Yes, she was," Dumain said. "She was acting, same as me. That was the whole plan. Make us seem like the good guys and the Charmed Ones seem like the bad guys. So you would join us and help kill them. Which you did." Dumain smiled. "Thanks for the help."
"You bastard!" Billie screamed.
She swung her arm and Dumain was telekinetically flung off the side of the mountain. Which wasn't a problem for him. He had what he needed. Now he could use the Grimoire to become the Source and take over the Underworld. Then, as unprotected as it was, the rest of the planet.
Dumain laughed as he allowed himself to fall for quite a ways; it was actually pretty fun. Deciding to be a daredevil, he allowed himself to fall to ten feet above the ground, then shimmered out.
Back up on the peak, Billie sat crying. For several minutes she just sat, letting all her emotions out. Finally she got up and pulled out her last teleportation potion. There was only one place she could go. Throwing down the vial, she disappeared in a puff of smoke.
Leo was ransacking the cupboards of Phoebe's kitchen, searching for food. Technically he hadn't eaten anything in months, and just the thought of that made him really hungry. He pulled out a box of crackers and opened them, starting to munch on the snack as he walked into the adjoining living room.
A plume of smoke suddenly erupted in the middle of the room, which startled Leo and caused him to drop his box of crackers. The smoke cleared to reveal Billie.
"Billie!" Leo yelled, starting to back away.
"Don't worry," Billie said, holding up her hands in a gesture of peace. "I don't want to hurt you. I just want to talk." She glanced around. "Where's Piper?"
"Not here," was all Leo said. He didn't want to let Billie know that his wife was trying to reverse time. "What do you want?"
Billie rubbed her arms, looking very distressed. "I... I just want to say I'm sorry." Tears started to stream from her eyes and she dropped down on a chair. "It was all a trick, Leo!"
Leo was cautious. This could just be some ploy. "What was?"
"Everything," Billie said. "Dumain is evil and so was Christy. They just made it seem like the sisters were the evil ones. They brainwashed me!"
Leo didn't say anything, but sat down in a chair across from Billie.
"I'm so sorry," Billie sobbed. "Paige and Phoebe are dead because of me. I didn't want to hurt anyone, but Christy insisted that we had to. I went along with it because she was my sister and I didn't think she would want me to do something wrong."
"But now you know it was wrong," Leo said.
Billie nodded. "I know I can't make up for it, but I really just want to say I'm sorry and try to help you guys in any way I can. Maybe together we can come up with a way to bring Paige and Phoebe back to life."
"Don't you want to bring Christy back?" Leo asked.
Billie shook her head. "No. I know now that she was evil. She was raised by demons, for crying out loud." She sighed. "How could I have been so stupid?"
"You weren't stupid," Leo said, grasping Billie's hand. His old Whitelighter ways were starting to kick in. "She was your sister and you loved her. Love is pretty blinding."
"Yeah," Billie said. She took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "So... is there any way I can help?"
"Well, actually, Piper is already working on something," Leo said.
"Can I help her?" Billie asked.
Leo shook his head. "All we can do is wait."
"That's not all you can do."
Leo and Billie spun around to see Dumain standing in the center of the room, a fireball hovering above his palm and an expression of gleeful malice on his face.
"You can die."
Down in the Underworld Piper paced back and forth, finally stopping to look up at the rock ceiling.
"Come on, Cole! I'm about to die here!" Piper yelled.
"Uh, Piper?" Coop said.
Coop pointed at her feet and Piper looked down to see that she was standing with her right foot in her body's head. With a yelp she jumped away.
"This is getting way too creepy," she said through clenched teeth. "Cole!"
Cole appeared in the cavern a moment later. "You know, patience is a virtue."
"Cut the crap," Piper said. "Where's Tempus?"
A circle of fire appeared on the ground and Tempus rose up from it. He was now very old; his skin hung in wrinkles, and he was hunched over, having to use a cane just to hold himself up.
"You're Tempus?" Piper scoffed. "I expected someone a little more... intimidating."
"I used to be," Tempus croaked, his voice weak and raspy. "Before you and your sisters cast that spell."
Piper shrugged. "Yeah, well, you were trying to kill us. But hey, that's all in the past. This is now."
"Do not dare speak to me about the past or present, Witch," Tempus growled, drawing himself up to his full height. "Or especially the future. You cannot even comprehend the great intricacies of time."
"Whatever," Piper said. "Let's get to the point. You came here, so obviously you were intrigued by what Cole told you. So... will you help me?"
"Only on two conditions," Tempus said.
"Of course," Piper muttered.
Tempus ignored her. "You must kill someone for me."
"Don't worry, it's not a human," Tempus chuckled. "It's a demon."
Piper sighed. "Okay, who?"
"I believe you already know him. Nomed."
"The demon who just helped me and my sisters?" Piper asked. "Why would you want to kill him?"
"Now that all obstacles are out of his way, he plans to take over the Underworld," Tempus explained. "His ways are very untraditional. He will change everything."
Piper crossed her arms as she started to lose patience. "So?"
"So," Tempus continued, "he will want to take out anyone he knows will stand in his way; anyone who would be a threat. I would be one of them. All the other leaders of the Underworld have let me be. They leave me alone out of respect for all the work I have done. But Nomed will never let me live."
"Fine," Piper said. "I'll do it. Is that it?"
Tempus held up a pale, quivering finger. "One more thing. When you once again have the Power of Three, I want you to cast a spell on me. One that will return me to how I once was."
"What?!" Piper balked.
"Turing back time will take a lot out of me," Tempus said. "I'll be even weaker than I am now. I won't live long. So, like anyone, I don't want that."
Piper shook her head. "Out of the question. If we return you to normal you might come after us again."
Tempus nodded. "Maybe I will, but maybe I won't. The thing is, if you don't give me your word on this then you will never get your sisters back."
"I can find another way," Piper said.
"Can you?" Tempus grinned, revealing cracked, yellowed teeth. "I don't think you can."
Piper just stared at him, thinking it all over.
"Decide quickly, little witch," Tempus said. "I sense your time is almost up. Along with someone else's."
"What are you talking about?" Piper asked.
"I'm just saying that someone else you love may be on the brink of death." He stared pointedly at her and grinned once again.
"Leo..." Piper whispered.
Leo dived out of the way as Dumain threw a fireball.
"You know, it's interesting what that book can do." Dumain chuckled as he conjured another fireball. "One quick little ritual and I have been filled with all the powers of the Source. And without the Charmed Ones, this world is mine."
Billie leapt forward and planted a kick in Dumain's chest, knocking him back onto the coffee table. In seconds, Dumain was back on his feet, but Billie gave a swipe kick to his jaw, sending him back to the floor.
"Stupid Billie," Dumain said with a laugh. "You are a fool if you think you can defeat me."
"I don't," Billie said. "I'm just going to hold you off for as long as I can. Leo, get out of here!"
Leo ran for the door.
"No, stay!" Dumain yelled.
He waved his hand and a force field appeared in front of the door, knocking Leo onto his back as he slammed into it.
"The party's not over yet," Dumain continued as he got back to his feet. With a swing of his arm he sends a rippling shock wave through the air that blasts Billie across the room. Turning back to Leo, Dumain conjured a fireball.
"Poor, pathetic Leo," Dumain said. "I know, you don't know who I am, but I know all about you. You've become weak. A weak little mortal. Your wife won't appreciate you anymore, now that you're of no more use."
"Shut up," Leo said through gritted teeth.
Dumain ignored him. "You can't go to the Elders anymore, you can't heal the sisters when they are hurt. All you can do is be Mr. Mom. Man, you are so whipped. Here... let me end your misery."
He pulled back his arm and threw the fireball, but Billie jumped in front of it just before it hit Leo.
"No!" Leo yelled.
He pulled Billie up into a sitting position. Her chest was burned and bloody, her breaths coming in short gasps.
"Leo," Billie whispered. "Tell Piper I'm sorry." Her body went limp.
"Aw, what a touching moment," Dumain said. "Looks like you better orb on over to Piper and give her that message. Oh, whoops! You can't. Don't worry, I'll give it to her. Right before I kill her."
"Bastard!" Leo yelled, jumping up and running at Dumain.
Dumain laughed and threw a fireball, which vaporized Leo on contact.
"Well," he said with a grin. "That was fun. Now there's just one more to go."
"Better hurry," Tempus said. "Your lover's time is almost-- Oh. Never mind."
"No!" Piper screamed, dropping to her knees. "Not him too!"
"You can fix all of this," Tempus said. "Just give me what I want."
Piper looked up at the demon through her tears. Everything inside of Piper was telling her that this was wrong. She had a feeling that if she made this deal it would have serious consequences. But what choice did she have? It was the only way to get back Leo and her sisters. Tempus was right. She had to.
"Okay," she said, defeated. "I'll do it."
"Good," Tempus said with a small chuckle.
He snapped his fingers and two things appeared; an hourglass in his hand and a large black bowel on the ground. He poured some silver sand from the hourglass into his hand, letting it sift through his fingers to fall into the bowel. With another snap of his fingers a puff of smoke arose from the bowel, taking on the shape of a clock face for a split second before dissipating.
"It is done," Tempus said.
"How far back did you go?" Piper asked.
"To just before you summoned the Hollow," Tempus said.
"All right," Piper said with a nod. "Coop? Grab my body. We have to get to Paige so she can heal me."
Coop nodded, lifting Piper's limp body into his arms.
Piper pointed at Tempus. "You, follow him," she said. "If there are any tricks mixed into this, I want to make sure you are there so we can vanquish you. And Cole?"
She turned to thank him, but he wasn't there.
"Where'd he go?" Piper wondered. "Did anyone see him leave?"
Coop shook his head, while Tempus just looked bored.
"Piper, we better go," Coop said.
Piper looked around for a moment more, then nodded. "Yeah... Okay. Get going. I'll follow on my own."
"How?" Coop asked.
"This form is still attached to my body. I can't be far from it, so I will naturally follow. Now get going."
Coop nodded and disappeared, Tempus following. Piper felt a sudden pull and flew upwards, turning into a ball of white light that shoots through the ceiling.
Several flickering candles surrounded the Book of Shadows on Phoebe's coffee table and sent dancing shadows across the walls of her apartment. Phoebe and Paige stood in front of the table, while Nomed and his minion, Zohar, waited impatiently by the balcony doors.
"Piper, do you have the spell?"
Phoebe turned, looking around her dimly lit apartment.
"Uh, Paige?" she said. "Do you know where Piper went?"
Paige looked around as well. "She was here a second ago."
"Maybe she went to the bathroom," Phoebe muttered, biting her lip.
Nomed sighed. "This is no time for potty breaks! If Billie and Christy get the Hollow before you do then we're all dead!"
There was a bright flash of pink light and Coop appeared, Piper's body in his arms. A second later Tempus shimmered in next to him.
"Coop!" Phoebe yelled in surprise.
"Tempus!" Nomed yelled at the same time upon seeing the old demon. He backed up several steps while Zohar raised his hand to conjure an energy ball. One look from Tempus, however, stopped Zohar in his tracks.
"What's going on?" Paige asked.
Coop shook his head. "There's no time to explain. You have to heal Piper now."
He laid her body down on the floor and Paige rushed forward, holding her hands over her sister. A golden light spilled from them and washed over Piper's body. After a moment Piper gasped and shot up into a sitting position.
"Oh thank god!" she said, seeing her sisters alive and well. "It worked." She scrambled to her feet grabbed both of her sisters in a hug.
"What worked?" Phoebe asked as she blew strands of Piper's hair out of her face. "Piper, what the hell just happened?"
"Yeah, explain and let go," Paige wheezed. "Preferably in reverse order, since I can't breathe!"
"While you're at it, would you mind explaining what you are doing with this foul old demon?" Nomed sneered.
"Hush, you fool," Tempus croaked. "Piper? Your promise..."
"Yeah, yeah," Piper muttered, letting go of her sisters. She shot out her hands, but Nomed jumped behind Zohar, who was vanquished instead.
"Traitor!" Nomed yelled.
Piper raised her hands again, but Nomed shimmered out before she could release her power.
"Damn," she hissed.
"Piper, what did you just do?" Paige asked, her mouth hanging out in shock.
Piper sighed. "Guess I should explain, huh?"
"Yeah, you should," Phoebe said with a nod.
Piper took a deep breath and started her story. She went through it as fast as she could, choosing to leave out the part about Cole. She didn't want Phoebe to have to think about him. When she finished her sisters were staring at her with blank expressions.
"That's... quite a story," Paige said.
"Look, I know it's a lot to take in," Piper said. "But--"
"How did I look dead?" Phoebe asked.
Phoebe shrugged. "Well, was I disfigured beyond belief, or did I still look okay?"
Piper just shook her head and sighed.
"Only Phoebe could be concerned about her vanity when she's dead," Paige said with a roll of her eyes.
"We don't have time for this," Tempus said.
"Why did you even bring him?" Phoebe asked.
"You know him from before?" Paige asked.
"Yeah." Phoebe glared at Tempus. "He tried to kill us about seven years ago."
"Well, this time he helped us," Piper said. "Which means we have to give something in return..."
Phoebe raised her eyebrows. "Really? Which is what, exactly?"
Piper eyed Tempus. "We have to vanquish Nomed for him, which I'm fine with. And... reverse the spell we cast on him seven years ago."
"What?!" Phoebe yelled. "No way."
"Your sister agreed," Tempus said, a smile on his wrinkled face.
"Well I didn't!" Phoebe shot back.
"Phoebe, I gave my word," Piper said. "I had to, to get you back."
"And if you don't do it," Tempus added, "I will reverse my spell and you will go back to being dead."
Phoebe just shook her head and looked away.
"What about Billie and Christy?" Paige asked. "They've probably summoned the Hollow by now. We have to stop them."
Piper nodded. "We take care of them first," she said. She flicked her eyes to Tempus. "Then we'll do your spell."
Tempus nodded. "All right."
"But we need your help," Piper continued. "The only way to stop the Hollow is to get the box that it's kept in, then cast the spell inscribed on it. But we need both someone good and someone evil to say it."
"Which is where I come in, I suppose?"
"I don't like this..." Paige said warily.
"I know, Paige," Piper said. "But it's the only way."
Phoebe walked over to Coop and embraced him. "Look," she said, "Before we go, I just want to say--"
"Don't." Coop smiled and caressed Phoebe's cheek. "I'm not mad. I'm just happy that I have you back." He kissed her. "Be safe."
"I will," she said. She pulled away and brushed his face with her hand. "See you when I get back."
Tempus rolled his eyes and muttered, "Mortals."
"Can it," Phoebe said, pointing a threatening finger at the demon.
"Okay," Piper said, motioning her sisters over. "Let's go."
"I'm tired of waiting around here," Billie said as she and Christy came down the stairs of the manor. "I want to go out and consume powers. I need to."
The hunger was overwhelming. Billie could feel it knawing at her insides like a rabid animal. Wyatt's powers had been a nice snack, but it wasn't enough. She needed more.
"I know," Christy said as they reached the ground floor. "But we have to wait for the Charmed Ones."
"I don't care about them anymore. The only thing that matters now is power."
"I know that as well. But their power will tide us over. Long enough for us to find a greater power. One that will sustain us for an eternity."
Billie nodded, resisting the urge to lick her lips. "You're right. I can hear the Hollow whispering inside of me. It wants to find the source of all magic. I want to find it."
"We will," Christy said, laying a hand on her sister's shoulder. "And there will be lots of powers to consume on the way there. Starting with the Charmed Ones. They'll be here sooner or later."
Billie and Christy turn to the sunroom to see Paige, Piper and Phoebe, the last vestiges of blue orbs fading away. Tempus shimmers in next to Piper, who held the black box of the Hollow in her hands.
"Who are you?" Christy asked, eyeing Tempus.
"A demon," Tempus said. "That's all you need to know."
"You're working with demons now?" Billie asked. "You really are evil."
"That no longer matters," Christy said. "All that matters is their powers."
Billie just nodded. Her gaze was fixed on the box.
"What's that?" she asked. Inside her it felt as if the Hollow was quivering. It was afraid.
Piper smiled and tilted her head sideways. "Nothing you're gonna like."
With that she flipped open the lid of the box. Billie could feel the Hollow scream in pain and she and Christy started to convulse. The Hollow came streaming out of them and streaked across the room with a howl as it returned to its prison. Piper snapped the lid shut once the Hollow was inside.
"We'll hold them off while you say the spell," Phoebe said.
She rushed forward and proceeded to whip kick the confused Billie in the chest, knocking her back onto the couch that had been blasted back into the wall from an explosion earlier that day.
Christy formed a fireball and threw it at Piper.
"Fireball!" Paige called. The fireball was engulfed in swirling blue orbs and Paige waved her hand, sending the attack back at Christy, who dived out of the way.
"Come on," Piper said to Tempus. "We have to hurry."
Tempus laid a hand on Piper's shoulder and together they began the spell to send the Hollow back to its chamber.
"Aboleo exitum cavium du eternas!"
The box glowed and rose into the air, disappearing in a great flash of light.
"No!" Christy yelled. "Billie, let's get out of here!"
Billie was currently locked in battle with Phoebe, the two of them almost equally skilled in the martial arts. Phoebe swung a kick, but Billie ducked, the kick slicing through the air over her head. Phoebe used the momentum to spin back around with a backhanded punch. Billie blocked and grabbed Phoebe's arm, holding the middle Halliwell there.
"Seems like you're out of practice," Billie quipped. "And getting old."
Phoebe's eyes flashed violently and she spun into Billie, as if the two were dancing, not fighting, then bent forward while pulling on Billie's arm, flipping the young witch over her back and onto the floor.
"You were saying?"
Billie could only cough in response, the air having been knocked out of her.
Fire suddenly sprang up in front of Phoebe, forcing her to back away. Christy moved around behind the fire, her hand outstretched, controlling the blaze. "Time to go," she said, her eyes locked on the Charmed Ones that were being held at bay by the raging fire.
Billie got to her feet and pulled out a teleportation potion, dropping it to the floor, where it broke and released a cloud of smoke that engulfed the two sisters. Once they were gone the fire was no longer under control and started to spread.
"Fire extinguisher!" Paige yelled, calling it to her from the kitchen. She ran forward and started to spray at the fire, covering it, along with the floor and walls, with white foam.
While Paige put out the fire, Phoebe turned to Piper to find tears in her sister's eyes. "Piper, are you okay? I didn't see you get hit."
Piper shook her head. "They got away," she said, seething, her tears those of anger, not pain. "I had Leo back and now he's gone again because they're alive. We have to stop them."
"Don't worry," Phoebe said, rubbing Piper's arm. "We will."
Coop paced Phoebe's apartment, worried about her and her sisters. What if they didn't come back?
If anything happens to Phoebe, it's my fault, he thought. I could have stopped all this from happening.
Before he could blame himself anymore, his ring suddenly sparked and glowed, and Coop doubled over in pain.
After a few moments he straightened back up, looking around the room like he was seeing it for the very first time.
"Well what do you know?" he said, his mouth twitching into a sly, familiar grin. "Love really does transcend all planes of existence..."
To be continued...