Greetings, loyal readers, and welcome to my latest offering in the ongoing saga of the Shadowchasers. It's my birthday, and I thought I'd celebrate by giving everyone else a present.

In this short fic (much shorter than my usual fics, I assure you) I wanted to do three things:

One, feature the leader of the Shadowchasers as the star. It's rare that Jalal truly proves that he deserves to lead his organization, and in this fic, I hope to show that he does.

Two, I wanted to tie up a loose end that was left at the end of "Power Primordial".

Three, I wanted this fic to show that the Shadowchasers will be, from this point, not as biased against certain races as some people claim they are. Some readers have accused many characters of bigotry, which I admit, is a problem. I hope that, with the approach Jalal will take here, this fic will be a step in the right direction.


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A Fanfic by Cyber Commander

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Common Interest

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Shadowchaser Headquarters.

In a private room in the infirmary, a young woman lay asleep in a bed.

She looked to be in her late twenties or early thirties. Monitors to her side recorded her heartbeat, breathing, and other vital signs…

The casual observer would never have guessed if they had just walked in that she was an ophidia; the snake-like race of humanoids who had traditionally been the enemies of humans for millennia. Under the bed sheets, she had a long, serpentine tail instead of legs. Her eyes that were now closed were reptilian underneath, and she had fangs that were visible when she smiled…

Something she hadn't done in a long time…

Watching from a couch at the foot of the bed was the only man who regularly came to visit her. He was a tall man, dressed in clothing that looked expensive, but almost a century out of date, with long, blonde hair, and very sharp features.

This was none other than Jalal Stormbringer, leader of the Shadowchasers, and his concern for the patient was great to say the least. He had fought dragons, giants, and terrible monsters that would make the strongest heroes show fear, and had defeated them all… He had rescued princesses and maidens so many times in the thousand years he had lived…

But the woman in front of him… She was one damsel in distress who he had thus far failed to save.

Some would call his concern for her foolish and out of place. A year ago, Hebi-Na (ophidia had no last names) was a dangerous criminal. She was a conspirator in a plot conceived by the spawn of Athentia, the being who had given Jalal his immortality. Sonja (that was the creature's name) sought revenge against Jalal for taking what she believed was rightfully hers, and planned to flood the Earth with the Deluge, gaining the Power Primordial in the process. In exchange for the ophidia's help, she would devolve them into their ancient forbearer race, which was amphibious, making them the rulers of the planet. Hebi-Na was a go-between for Sonja and the other conspirators, and an assassin who dealt with people who came close to learning too much.

But the plan failed, and Hebi-Na was the only apparent survivor among the conspirators. She was arrested, and her fate looked grim. The prosecution in her case seemed likely to suggest the Coffin of Stone, a rarely-used punishment that was only used when it was believed that the death penalty would not stop the threat that the criminal posed.

But as it turned out, Hebi-Na was not the last surviving conspirator… She had been working under the mantle of a cruel ophidia anathema named Taramanda who, by default, ruled the ophidia population as their Empress. Taramanda broke Hebi-Na out of prison, not to rescue her, but to inflict what she believed was a proper punishment for failure.

Hebi-Na was looking at becoming Taramanda's lunch, followed by becoming their dark goddess's slave, but she bargained for her life, telling the Empress that she knew where the Dark Synchros used by the Dark Signers were kept. She didn't know how she knew… It had simply come to her while in her jail cell. Hebi-Na eventually won the Dark Synchros, and Taramanda decided to start an elaborate campaign against the Shadowchasers.

It all worked well until it was discovered that both Hebi-Na and Taramanda were being used as pawns by an aboleth, a much crueler being. During a confrontation with Jalal, the aboleth's demonic servant brutally murdered Taramanda. Most of the Empress's followers gave up without a struggle, but Hebi-Na got away…

But where was she to go? She was still a fugitive, and had no future… There wasn't a Shadowkind in the world who would take her in now… She had rejected her race's oppressive goddess, but was not likely to be accepted by any other. She was ready to climb to the top of the Daedalus Bridge and jump off…

But before she did, she decided to get revenge against the being who had ruined her life. She confronted the aboleth in its lair and challenged it to a duel.

It was the worst mistake she had ever made. She was defeated, and the aboleth inflicted her with one of the cruelest curses known to man… The Bells of Baphomet.

The origin of this curse wasn't fully understood, but its name suggested that it had ties to demons in some way, likely very powerful ones. Certainly, the Abyssal Lord Baphomet was not a powerful enough entity to channel it, at least not on his own. Whatever its origins, a victim of the Bells of Baphomet would be constantly tortured by the din of horrible bells that only she could hear. No matter where the victim ran, no matter what she did to try to cover her ears, the hideous bells persisted. A victim could not sleep without magical aid, and would eventually be driven to madness.

After days, or perhaps weeks or this torture, the true effect of the curse struck the victim – she was attacked by a shadowy assassin called the Demon of the Bells. No witnesses had ever seen this creature strike – it always did so when the victim was alone. The victim was always found torn to shreds.

And no-one knew if this was the end of the curse. Some pessimistic theories suggested that the victim's soul might well be imprisoned somewhere after the Demon of the Bells struck.

The worst part was, there was no cure that mortals knew about, other than mercy-killing. Magical sleep could protect the victim, so long as she stayed asleep. Incantifers and other powerful sorcerers had been researching the curse since the days of Henry VIII, and were no closer to finding a cure than they were now.

The aboleth let poor Hebi-Na suffer for one hour, and then used a device to temporarily suppress the Bells. Then it commanded her to challenge the guide that was directing the Neo Domino Shadowchasers to a duel, giving her a powerful deck containing Hamon, Lord of Striking Thunder. Even though Hebi-Na lacked the skills to control a Sacred Beast, she had no choice but to agree.

Hebi-Na lost the duel, and the Bells started to torture her again. She pleaded with the Shadowchasers to kill her so that her suffering would stop, but as it turned out, the guide that she had dueled was a wizard who knew how to cast a few curses himself. A powerful incantation sent Hebi-Na into a deep slumber…

She had been in that slumber ever since… In her sleep, she was protected by the horrible Bells and their shadowy demon, but until a cure was found, she could never be allowed to wake up.

Never let it be said that the Shadowchasers were not sympathetic. Jalal granted Hebi-Na a full pardon for her crimes out of compassion. But as Jalal looked upon her now as he had so many times in the past year, he knew that it was cold comfort…

A man in a formal suit walked into the room. It was Martin Jabels, Jalal's assistant.

"I must say, sir," he said, "you're showing an awful lot of concern for that woman… Considering that she'd likely not show you the same."

Jalal sighed.

"A knight has to be chivalrous, Jabels," he said. "That's a concept that people seem to have forgotten the meaning of these days…"

Jabels nodded.

"You have to feel sorry for Shadowkind like Hebi-Na," continued Jalal. "She was born on the homeworld of Shadow… For all we know, she had parents, siblings… Maybe a lover or a husband, or even children…

"But she lost all her family and friends, and the memories of them when she was snatched by whatever brings Shadowkind to our world.

"When that happens to Shadowkind, they're confused and vulnerable, like lost children. They quickly try to find members of their own species, hoping to get help…

"Hebi-Na found help… But the ophidia community that took her in was the one ruled by Taramanda, whose hatred of humans and fanatical devotion to their demon goddess knew no bounds…

"It doesn't excuse what Hebi-Na did… But in the same sense, it isn't entirely her fault… You know what they say about society being to blame."

Jabels nodded.

"It is half past four," he said. "Will you be having dinner in the commissary?"

"No…" said Jalal, as he got up. "I'll be having it with a guest tonight…"

"Would this guest happen to be the young lass that came to your manor house this afternoon?" asked Jabels.

Jalal sighed.

He had tried very hard to keep Judy, his ward, concealed from everyone… After all, he was immortal, but she wasn't, and the possibility that an enemy might try to get to him through Judy was his biggest fear. Unfortunately, she was among the worst kept secrets in the Shadowchasers.

He simply nodded, and left the room.

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No-one would have pegged Jalal for being a gourmet, much less a cook, but he was both. He had traveled the world in his long lifetime, sampled the cuisine of foreign lands, and learned many skills. Indeed, he had several talents that many folks didn't know about, which would likely take a long time to list.

As he was standing over the stove in his manor house, Judy – a fifteen-year-old girl with half-dragon features similar to his – leaned against the counter reading The Sword in the Stone, a tabloid newspaper that was only available to Shadowkind and Aware humans.

"Listen to this," she said, with a hint of anger in her voice. "It says here, 'The biggest problem with the governing body of the Shadowchasers is their tyrannical leader, who seems to think that he rules his organization due to a Divine Right of Kings.'

"Pure drivel…"

"You don't say?" said Jalal.

"Wait, there's more here," said Judy.

She opened a can of something and continued to read.

"'The Shadowchasers would be better off under a leader that more Shadows could relate to, rather than the bastard son of some lizard's concubine.'

"Are you going to take this? This is libel!"

Jalal turned around.

"It's not libel, Judy," he said. "When such things are published in transitory works, it's more accurately defined as slander."

He took the beverage – a high-caffeine energy drink – from her.

"Will you stop drinking these things? Do you realize that this little can has more sugar in it than a box of donuts?"

"Libel, slander…" said Judy. "This is all lies! Your mom was not your dad's concubine, and they were legally married! According to the law at the time…"

"True…" said Jalal. "Though I doubt that the parson who conducted the ceremony knew he was a dragon…

"Newspapers have also said that she was his slave girl, and others have said that she was one of a harem of concubines. Neither assertion was true…

"Judy, the fact is, I have had to endure slanderous attacks since the printed periodical replaced the town crier. In fact, I was worse off than many Mundane rulers. There was a time when an editor could be thrown in jail or even hanged for printing even a truthful story about a Mundane noble that had negative connotations. I had no such luck.

"If I filed defamation suits against all of them, I would not have time to run the Shadowchasers, or even have my morning coffee. I simply file editorials like this with all the others…"

He took the newspaper from her, and dropped it in a trash can by the counter. Then he held her by the arms.

"I can only hope, my dear," he said, "that when you become old enough to inherit the leadership of this organization from me, you will be thick-skinned enough to handle the insults that are directed at you. Because come they will, and being able to turn a blind eye to drivel is what differentiates a truly great leader from a leader that doesn't last long.

"I've been close friends with many Prime Ministers of Britain, United States Presidents, countless other heads of state, and they all knew the same thing. Even Churchill had to put up with this stuff, and he knew enough not to let it bother him."

The oven started to buzz.

"I believe the lasagna is ready…"

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Afternoon slowly turned into night. Judy fell asleep on an armchair. Half-dragons only had to sleep three hours out of every twenty-four, on average, but it had been a long day for her, and midterm exams had been last week.

Jalal sat in another chair, thinking hard. In his hand was a letter that had arrived in his office earlier today.

It had been what had made him decide to visit Hebi-Na. He had been doubtful about it, but interested as well. He slowly read it again.

My Dear Mr. Stormbringer:

It seems strange that we have yet to meet. After all, I have been called on as a consultant by many members of the Incanterium (or Incantifers, as they like to be called) for matters regarding psychology. While I have yet to do any work for your organization, I hope to rectify that soon.

I would never claim to be the best at my field. That would be bragging. Still, I let my numerous degrees and awards speak for myself as evidence of my expertise in the fields of psychology and psychiatric medicine.

Anyway, on to the business at hand. For the past ten years, I have been working on perfecting a procedure that I believe will be of great use in treating mental illness. I have recently been using the procedure on volunteers, and I can say with great sincerity that it has been a success.

Now, I doubt that this procedure will be approved for use by any medical or psychiatric organization for at least five more years at the earliest…

But with your permission, I believe that its use can aid you in a crisis that I heard was perplexing you a great deal… If my hypothesis is correct, I believe that this procedure can permanently silence the dreaded Bells of Baphomet.

I await your response. Until then, I am humbly at your service.


Dr. Jonathan Gelinas, MD

Chairman of Psychiatric Medicine

University of Vienna

He read this letter several times.

To say he was skeptical was an understatement. The second paragraph had worried him. Any time someone tried to convince you that he was not an egotist it was usually a sure sign that he was one. The phrase "I would never claim to be the best in my field; that would be bragging" was a familiar one to Jalal. He had heard it (or some variation of it) many times in his career, and knew that when someone said it, he usually meant, "I am willing to accept any challenge from anyone who claims to be better."

And this Dr. Gelinas had not been the first one to come to him offering a cure for the Bells of Baphomet. Several obvious quacks had approached him.

Still… This had been the only offer that had been written on the letterhead of a very prestigious university…

He quickly took out a blackberry, and copied down the phone number that was included with the letter.

I'll call tomorrow, he thought. It can't hurt to at least see what this is about…

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Jalal: It seems that hope may exist for Hebi-Na. Dr. Gelinas comes to me and explains his procedure, and it seems crazy enough to actually work…

But at the same time, it has risks, and would likely put whoever conducted the procedure in great peril. What should I do?

"Unchartered Territory" is coming soon.