Back in the Library

It had been hours since the Fae warriors had made their move to join the fight against the Countess. Cassandra had spent much of that time trying to find any more information in the Library's collection on Soul Cages and how they worked - or how they could be shut down. There had been more than she had imagined, with the Spirit of the Library itself seeming to invisibly point her in different directions to find even more esoteric volumes of lore. Many of the tomes had been in languages she could not read but several, she was relieved to find, had translations done by previous Librarians which helped her get a better idea of just what her friends were up against. She had jotted down notes as she read, sensing a pattern in the descriptions of how the Cages were built and what powered them. Each was different in its eventual power source but one thing seemed to follow from story to story - what was used to bring the cage together. No matter what the form the Cage took - a Book of Shadows, a golden cask, a wooden sepulcher - the power source was the same. A demonic entity was always involved. Each story gave the entity a different name but in the end it was all the same. Whatever horror was used as the chief Guard of the cage was always a child of Darkness - cold, blood thirsty and calculating. And if that entity was ever released from the prison it was brought into the world to guard then Darkness itself would flow through the land and rip the fabric of reality to shreds. Story after story emphasized this until after a while the young Librarian could no longer remember which story said what. Exhausted she leaned her head on her hands and closed her eyes for a moment...

Cassandra's head jerked up at the sound of the back door coming to life. Jumping up from her chair she stumbled back as Flynn, Baird and the other librarians poured back into the Annex followed by the elder warlord Vlad and the old necromancer Christophe. Stone and Jenkins were both carrying the sleeping form of a strange woman while Baird and Flynn where dragging another woman between them. All three forms were deposited in a corner where the women curled and snored peacefully. Her eyes widened even more as Vlad, leaning wearily on both Christophe and Jenkins, sank into a nearby chair with a sigh. "Well - that went as well as I expected" he remarked, one arm held closely to this side.

"Your son..." Jenkins fumed, pulling his bowtie off and tossing it on the floor in annoyance.

"Your friend..." Vlad countered with a slight smile. "We both should have known that arguing with him on the eve of battle was a losing proposition. I just hadn't counted on Rowan and Khan agreeing with him quite so quickly. Of course, with Morrigan and the other Death avitars there I really should have known better."

Cassandra looked over at Jones in confusion. "What happened?"

Jones shrugged. "Arthur got a bee in his bonnet about all us "civilians" in his war zone so he sent us all back to the Library with those three missing kidnapped birds everyone's been looking for."

"Civilians?" Cassandra gasped "But Jenkins..."

"Yeah - and you should have been there for THAT argument" Jones replied with a cheeky grin.

Previously - back at the Castle

"I'm still not convinced of the efficacy of this plan" Jenkins growled, watching the dark forms of the Death avatars take positions around the room. "I understand why your father must go and the Librarians..."

"And the three sleeping beauties in the corner who don't need to have this nightmare imposing itself on their unconscious minds" Arthur said, jerking a thumb at the three women still sleeping in the corner. "And we both know Flynn Carson won't leave if Baird doesn't - and she won't..."

"Unless I and the others do as well" Jenkins muttered in annoyance.

"And besides - you'll need help from Stone and Flynn to get those women through the door and into the Library,. You can't carry them all yourself and I and my consorts have other issues to deal with that don't include levitation spells to push them through to the other side." Arthur looked across at his younger brother who was engaging in an animated conversation with the figure of Anubis - the last of the Avatars to step through. Whatever they were talking about (Anubis in Egyhption and Khan in Mandarin) was amusing to both of them - though not much to the others standing around them. Arthur sighed. "I really need to talk to that kid - bad enough Sissy has friends in strange places..."

"Why send Master Christophe away?" Jenkins hissed, motioning to the old magic user standing beside Vlad. "Surely you will need his experise in matters of the Dead and he can certainly use magic to get those non-combatants out of your way before he sets himself down to work."

"Father's already preparing him to leave the field - though I suspect he won't be any happier about it than you are." Arthur sighed. "The old man is a good Necromancer but for Heaven's sake take a look at him. He barely come up to my sister's height and even when he was fighting sword and shield during our war he was no soldier. His strength is in his knowledge - a strength my people can not risk losing. And my baby brother will be distracted trying to protect him if he stays. I need both my consorts with their minds firmly in the game. Hence your librarians, those non-combatants and even you must leave now - before we open the box. That way none of us are tempted to look away from the war to protect those we care about." The Phoenix put his hand on his oldest friends shoulder and gave it a gently squeeze. "You want to protect me little brother? Then do as I ask - and take all these people away back to the Library."

Back in the Library

"So that's why you all came back without Arthur and his brother and sister?" Cassandra sighed, watching Jenkins pace angrily in front of the Back Door.

"Yeah. Flynn wasn't any happier about it but Ro and Khan didn't give him much of a chance to argue." Jones shrugged, pushing his own uneasiness down. "No worries thought. They can handle it."

Christophe patted his warlord on the shoulder gently. "If anyone can make this work it will be your children.. Right now old master we need to get you back to our Healer's Tents and let Mistress Eliset have a go at removing that metal shard from your midsection before the blood we fed you starts to wear off." He held out his hand and sent a whispered petition into the wind. In the distance the sound of wolves howling echoed through the Annex halls.

"Blast!" Vlad muttered. "Now everyone will know I'm out for the count. And that bloody, feathered angelic vulture will show up just to harangue me about my "haste in battle".

Christophe smiled in amusement. "And you'll be glad of his company to keep you from dwelling on the battle. You always are."

The sound of bells filled the room as a slender, dark-haired woman in white - flanked by several younger men and women - appeared in the center of the room. "Master!" she gasped, dropping to her knees in front of the Warlord. "What has happened?"

"Oh don't you start" Vlad grumbled. "I've had enough of that from my daughter. It's just one little metal nail that made its way through my chain. Just pull it, heal the wound and let me get back to my children before they incinerate the whole castle they are in the process of besieging."

The woman looked up with a frown. "Whose the healer here - you or me? The first thing we're going to do is get you back to the tents where we can do a proper examination of what has occurred and then and ONLY then will I decide what course of action to take."

Vlad sighed. "You're enjoying this - aren't you?"

The woman smiled peacefully. "Wouldn't you in my place?" She motioned over her shoulder and the younger men glided forward, helping the warlord to his feet. A light appeared and the group disappeared to the sound of bells and Vlad's disgruntled mutterings.

"Who was that?" Baird asked, looking over at the old Necromancer - who had not disappeared with the rest.

"That was Mistress Eliset - Mistress of the Healer's tents. She'll make sure he's well taken care of - and stays well out of the battle until he's ready."

"Sounds like they have some history?" Stone commented , picking up one of the many scrolls Cassandra had pulled for which there had been no translation.

Christophe sighed. "Vlad is Guardian of and supporter of all our Healers. They live and work just down the path from his home and have become accustomed to his rather paternal concerns for their health and well-being. Which, as I am sure Queen Rowan had said, can be a tad overprotective. Mistress Eliset loves our warlord like a father but sometimes..."

"He can be a tad smothering?" Baird said with a smirk.

"That's one way of putting it" Christophe scanned the assorted scrolls, documents and books scattered across the large, meeting room table. "Someone, it seems, has been doing some research."

Cassandra nodded excitedly. "I was actually able to find some more information on Soul Cages in the Library's collection of manuscripts. Most of it I can't read but the ones that had translations gave me some very interesting information."

"Interesting?" Jenkins asked in concern.

"Yes . I took notes so I could show Arthur and Rowan but from what I could read it seems like the creation of the cage starts with the summoning of some sort of minor demon to act as the catalyst or head guard. Once that creature is bound to whatever form the cage is given then it can be used to ensnare souls." Cassandra looked up at the sudden silence in the room. "What? What's wrong?"

"The only way" Jenkins whispered in horror "to release those trapped souls from the cage is to destroy the cage itself. And if they succeed in doing that..."

"Then they succeed in releasing this demonic entity used to create it." Flynn replied quietly.