Sorry for this long overdue chapter! I'm finally getting back to writing this story and I hope you all enjoy what I have in store :)
Sebastian Shaw slammed his fist down on the ornate desk in front of him. The sound resonated through the room. "It has been conveyed that the crypt had allegedly been untouched for centuries!"
Mesmero stood before the Black King, drawing his hood back. A young woman in revealing black apparel stood off to the left of Shaw's shoulder.
"Sire, I did not—" Mesmero began.
"In addition, Vincent, you did not operate unnoticed! Now a new race of men have decided to show their faces and claim what they believe is theirs!"
Mesmero straightened his posture. "Yet, do understand, Sire, that this faction is fragmented, there seems to be no obvious modus operandi. We may be able to—"
Sebastian raised his hand, silencing the mutant.
The woman behind him strode forward, resting a hand on Shaw's shoulder. "Sir, your options stand before you. It would be logical to take this deterrence and use it to your advantage."
The Black King eyed the woman. "There are many pawns in this game. We need to formulate the proper move."
Ororo Munroe was perched in her seat before her mentor, Charles Xavier. A frown graced her face as she tucked her white hair behind her ears. "I am quite alarmed of my actions. It just felt so very foreign to me." She took in a deep breath. "It felt like such a haze, like a dream," Ororo looked down, distraught, "I just wish I could have done something—" A sad feeling wrenched the girl's heart as she recalled certain portions of her memory. Although she could not piece together a slew of events, what she did remember was heartbreaking. The previous battle had taken a toll on everyone close to her while she stood with no power to move from the throne's side. She let out a sharp breath, unable to get beyond the fact she had not helped her teammates.
"Do not blame yourself," Professor Xavier softly said. His voice had a soothing tone, as it had when she had first come to the institute. "It was not in your control."
"But, Professor, it felt like I knew what I was doing when I released that mystic energy. It was as if I had done it many times before. It was so strange, fairly different from what my mutation allows."
Professor Xavier folded his hands on his desk. He shook his head. Could it be? He furrowed his eyebrows. No, it cannot be likely. "It is quite mysterious, indeed." He pulled out of his train of thought as he leaned forward with a mixture of concern and curiosity. "Yes, it seems your power levels have changed considerably. The strength of a mutation is different within each person, and yours is quite extraordinary, but with skill, one can harness it. Yet, another aspect seems to be growing. I'm not positive, but—"
A clatter interrupted the two; the noise was not too distant from the desk. Charles paused as both he and Ororo searched for the location of the unidentified noise. They stood in silence for a moment.
The clanging sounded again. Ororo shifted her body to the side of her chair and peered around the Professor as her hair fell from her shoulder. "Er, Professor?" He turned to the direction of the window which outfaced the school grounds.
A medium-sized, spotted brown barn owl was hopping back and forth on the window ledge. It tilted its head and then began pecking on the glass once more with its beak. Held there was a crisp white envelope.
Professor Xavier reached out to undo the clasp of the lock and pulled the window open. The owl hopped in with a flap of its wings, dropping the letter into his hands. It stretched out its wings, managing to knock over a couple of paper weights. "Ororo, would you please locate Miss Frost. I require a word with her."
Ororo nodded halfheartedly as most of her focus was on the strange owl. Ororo could not quite place why the owl was acting almost human-like with its delicate care for delivering the envelope. The bird looked as if it had come right out of the forest, and yet it moved as if it had an important motive. She stood from her seat, not removing her eyes from the odd guest. Even as she made it to the door, she could not help but stare, as her head was unnaturally turned toward the desk. She watched as the owl swiftly exited from where it had entered through the window, before taking off into the air.
Once Ororo made her way out the door, Charles turned the letter in his hands, revealing the address:
Professor C. Xavier
Xavier Institute for Higher Learning
1407 Graymalkin Lane
Salem Center, New York
He turned the letter over, revealing a deep red seal imprinted with the letter H. Above it revealed a coat of arms depicting four animals surrounding another H. Always in good timing. Charles smiled.
Charles glanced upwards as an image of a young woman dressed in revealing black apparel appeared before him. She wavered in an out, like a three dimensional hologram, until she became fully visible.
"Welcome, Tessa," he stated, smiling once more. "I see you have mastered astral projection quite well."
The woman walked forward, passing through the chair and towards his desk like a dark apparition. "Shaw has made a decision."
Ororo briskly strode through the halls of Xavier's mansion searching for their unsolicited guest. Most of her trek was silent, as not too many students were wandering about the halls. Most were tired from the events that have occurred recently and spent their time lounging around in their dorms. There was a thick air of sadness.
Ororo could not help but feel guilty for what had happened in New York City. She angrily chided herself for being under a mystical influence for most of the battle. What made it worse was that it had also rendered her unconscious during the rest of the fight. She could have done something. Why did I fall so easily to that particular possession? She headed towards the main hall to continue her search. Was it even a possession at all?
"Ororo?" a familiar redhead called.
The redhead had been walking past the corridor in a sort of daze. Ororo turned to the unexpected call of her name, finding Jean ahead of her.
Jean's emerald green eyes were strained with sorrow which quickly changed to worry at the sight of her friend. "Ororo! How are you feeling? Did it go okay with the professor?" Jean started to follow alongside her as they continued down the hall.
Ororo desperately wanted to put her task on hold so that she can fully disclose to her friend what had occurred. Her light blue eyes danced around the corridor. "My health has nothing to worry you about. I am feeling quite well, actually." She watched Jean's expression lighten a little bit. "Yet, there is just one thing that has been troubling me."
Jean leaned in closer. "Your encounter with demons scared all of us."
"I am very sorry for that. The cause of my confusion, well, was the fact that I was engaging in sorcery. The strange part is that it felt like an instinct performing it."
Jean paused for a moment stunned. "Did the professor discuss this with you?"
"He was not too sure himself but seemed to be heading on to something—well, you do know about my ancestry—but then this strange owl interrupted us."
Jean just barely realized they were moving around the mansion quite quickly. She slowed her footsteps which in turn, caused Ororo to slow slightly. "Where are you headed in such rush?"
"I have been asked to search for our pleasant house guest…"
Jean sighed knowingly, her face contorting into a grimace of disdain. "What could the professor possibly want to discuss with her?" She shook her head at the sour taste she felt in her mouth. Jean almost went into a full blown rant, but then she remembered a peculiar statement. "Wait, did you just say an owl?" The pitch of her voice raised slightly.
"Yes. I thought it was quite unusual for that type of creature to be flying during the day. Even adding to this strangeness, it was carrying a letter," Ororo added, chuckling.
"Wow, little messenger owls. People are training homing owls." A slow smile crept up on Jean's face. "What has this world come to?" She laughed lightly. "First, crazy weather witches possessed by demons, then owls, and of course we can't forget our unwelcome villain taking up a dorm here—" Ororo playfully elbowed Jean for her first remark.
Ahead, Jean spotted Scott and Bobby exiting the Recreation Room. Jean's eyes lingered for a moment on Scott. Over the past couple of days, she felt a sort of fondness towards the slim leader. A warm feeling overcame her as she watched him brush his messy brown hair away from his ruby red sunglasses. He was conversing with Bobby and looked away for a moment. He had caught her gaze. Jean smiled meekly as Scott returned the same smile in her direction.
Ororo had a bemused look on her face as she glanced between the two. As quick as the pleasant moment had come, it left without warning. Her expression quickly faded. "Speak of the devil," Ororo stated dryly. She and Jean turned to find the White Queen descending the staircase ahead of them.
Jean put her palm to her forehead, shaking her head, as she found Emma in her usual, barely-there clothing. Emma held the gathering of her sleek white cloak, which hung off her shoulders, as she made her way down. She seemed to not care for modesty, as she wore a very low-cut, snuggly fit top that exposed her midriff. Her form fitting white pants sat far below her waist. Jean watched the young woman pass the Recreation Room, as the other pair of mutants exited.
Emma sauntered up to the boys. She placed her gaze on Bobby then moved onto Scott. "Would any of you boys mind helping me find my way around here?" She drew a strand of icy blonde hair behind her ear. A playful grin crept onto her face as she winked, causing Bobby to blush and Scott to fidget uncomfortably.
"Er—? Oh, Jean, eh—Ororo?" Scott stuttered, giving the two girls further down the hallway an expression of panic.
Ororo plastered on a weak smile and headed towards them. "There you are, Emma, the professor wanted to speak with you."
"Oh. I'm sure you, dear, would not mind showing me the way then?" She had placed a gloved hand on Scott's shoulder and smiled towards Bobby. Iceman nervously cleared his throat and glanced over to Ororo. Ororo gave him a 'she asked you' look. He cracked a sheepish grin before heading in the direction of Xavier's office. It took most of his efforts to keep his mouth from hanging open, or his body from melting if his mutation allowed it, when gazing at the woman's appearance.
Ororo watched the two retreating forms as Jean kept shaking her head. Scott was still ogling in the young woman's direction, only to snap out of it as he felt the condescending stares of the two X-girls on him.
Logan exited the locker room and walked along the sub levels of the mansion. He paused for a moment, focusing in onto the echoes of an intense sequence being played through the X-Men's Danger Room. He could have sworn he had just turned the simulation off. He retraced his steps and stole a look onto the observation deck. He peered over the edge, spotting a small, lithe form. It was dodging various obstacles with speed and hostility. The figure leaped over a fallen pile of metal and dove strait through another, phasing her body through, as the machine electrically malfunctioned. He turned and went to enter the combat area.
Kitty dodged another blast from behind, feeling the presence of an oncoming automated robot. She phased her hand through the head, causing sparks to erupt from the machine and the mechanical figure to drop. She sensed another figure and did not hesitate before pivoting to do a roundhouse kick.
"Woah, woah, woah, Half Pint, easy," Logan stated as he barely stopped the girl's foot from hitting him squarely in the face. Kitty lowered her defenses, blowing the stray strands of hair from her face. He looked around. "Nice. I see you're not letting anything past ya. At this rate, we won't have any equipment to train with."
Once kitty stopped moving, Logan looked down at the girl. "Why are you down here by yourself? You should be upstairs with the rest of the 'em, relaxing."
Kitty looked down. "I'm just trying to get in some exercise," She mumbled.
"From the way ya took down some of those robots, I can see this isn't about exercise."
There was silence for a moment. "She was one of my best friends." Kitty quickly wiped away a tear that had fallen onto her cheek. She felt the empty void that came whenever the thought popped up. Memories of her dearest friend Illyana kept cutting deeply within her. She could not help but long for comfort.
Logan sighed. "She was. And it's tough to lose someone."
"I just need to blow off some steam." She turned away trying to conceal more tears that fell down her cheeks.
"There's nothin' to be ashamed of. We all grieve in different ways."
She took in a wavering breath. "I just miss her so much. I should have fought harder—"
"None of us were prepared for what was going to happen. Don't blame yourself, kid." He awkwardly leaned in, giving her a one-armed hug. "Come on. Why don't we go for a round? You can use me as a punching bag."
Kitty laughed gently. Before Logan knew it, she dropped through the floor and appeared behind him. She lightly jabbed him in the back, causing his muscles to tense up and eventually give out.
On the ground, unable to move, Logan chuckled, "Okay, I swear I'm not taking ya to Japan anymore. Next thing we know you'll be a part of some ninja society taking everyone one out before they can even spot ya."
Emma Frost stared at the oak door before her. She did not want to think about what awaited her on the other side. She took in a breath and slowly entered Xavier's office. "Hello, Charles." She drew in a tight, painful breath. "I would like to thank you for allowing me to stay here, even after all that I have done—"
"The world is changing, Miss Frost. No need to dwell on the past. Only learn from it. Please, take a seat," Xavier said warmly, gesturing to the seat in front of his desk. Emma took her seat cautiously. "I'm sure you remember Tessa?"
From behind, the wavering image of the woman in black apparel appeared. She walked out from behind Charles. The sight took Emma by surprised. "Sage?"
"Hello Emma," Sage responded unemotionally.
"Why are you—when—but how—?
"Sage has been working as my inside agent ever since she entered the doors of the Hellfire Club," Xavier stated.
"You were always Shaw's 'go-to'," Emma's eyes narrowed. "Almost usurping me. But how? You were always the one to push Sebastian in the most logical direction."
"I was fully aware of what I was doing," Sage added without out an ounce of expression. "Charles, I will pull up what I was able to piece together." With that, Sage swiped her hand across her eyes, instantly revealing a pair of dark sunglasses. She lightly pressed down on the edge of her accessory. A projection appeared in front of her, exposing a holographic computer dashboard. She began tapping different areas, revealing files and shuffles of data. She pulled up an image of a mountain. "Shaw's last orders sent Vincent to this location."
"I'm alright, sugah," Rogue repeated countless times as she watched Gambit's face contort in many ways. She was sitting on one of the Medical Bay's examination tables.
Beast stood at the monitor, pushing the frame of his glasses further up his nose. He scrutinized the x-ray he had previously prepared. "Well, you are sporting a nice sprain here, Rogue." He headed towards a drawer, pulling out a roll of bandages. He began to wrap her ankle, insuring its proper assembly.
She winced slightly, causing Gambit to jump immediately up to grab her hand for support. She could not help but chuckle at his actions.
She smiled recalling earlier events that lead her down here. Warren previously had helped Rogue down into the Med Bay when they had returned from Manhattan. She had been thankful for his aid, but was unable to fully express her gratitude before he had been rushed out. Thrown out, Rogue thought, may have been a better way to describe Angel's untimely departure at the hands of a certain Cajun. Remy had basically ran to the mansion right under Magneto's nose.
"Thanks, Dr. McCoy," she stated. She began to carefully lower herself down. Rogue started to limp towards the door but felt Remy tighten his grip on her arm. He was not going to let her stray on her own.
Beast chuckled. "You're very welcome! Now, I want you to take it easy. Elevate your foot from time to time. If it swells too much, come visit me again!" Rogue smiled and nodded.
"I'll make sure of dat," Remy promised.
"I got it, Remy, I can walk on my own now," Rogue scolded as Remy would not leave her side, making sure to have her use him as a crutch.
"Not on my watch!"
"No, no, really it's okay—!" she started before Remy swept her up off her feet and carried her out into the hall.
"Swamp Rat! Come on!" She laughed. Remy shook his head and turned her sideways, allowing the oncoming Amara and Ray to enter.
Ray did a double take watching the pair exit. "Hey, Mr. McCoy! You called me down here?"
Beast laughed as he turned off the x-ray monitor. "Yes, I believe Miss Aquila, as well as yourself, have some wounds to be cleaned and re-bandaged.
Ray moaned as Amara elbowed him. "Oh, you big baby, you can hold my hand again if you want."
"Hey! It really hurt. I have some big cuts y'know!" Ray held out his arms for proof.
"I believe you have nothing compared to Miss Aquila," Beast stated matter-of-factually. He cracked a smile. "Yet, she can take it like a true gentleman."
"He was determined to find a certain entity," Tessa continued. "Mesmero has failed Sebastian's orders."
"Did Shaw express what his intentions were?" Xavier asked.
"He did not," Sage replied. She expanded the hologram before her and focused in on a dark spot near the edge of the mountain. "He has only discussed his objective of locating this spot on this peak of the Himmalayas. He has been quite forward in some sort of crusade against certain races. It has been quite difficult to gain information that has not been shared with me."
"As you well know, Professor," Emma interjected, "the Hellfire Club has put in place formidable psychic blocks."
"Yes, I do understand," Xavier sighed, leaning onto his desk. "Emma, I believe you were engaged in a conversation during the battle at Times Square."
"Yes," Emma eyed the Professor. She took in a deep breath, scowling. "Well, as I have permanently left my position in the Club, I assume I can disclose what I have been led to find out. I was not involved in any recent decisions. Shaw seemed to have been making an alliance with the demon, N'astirh."
"This alliance did not last for long," Sage interrupted. She pulled up a profile and enlarged it to show an image of the familiar green demon crossed with a red X. "I estimate that the Black King has been cleaning the slate for something immense. He has currently come to a decision to strike down another race in his game."
"First, demons. What is his next target?" Emma folded her arms across her chest.
Sage pulled up another image. A figure appeared dressed in a dark long robe and a matching pointed hat.
"You have got to be kidding me." Emma began to message her temples. "He can't possibly think he can take down the human race? And why is he targeting a human in some ridiculous Halloween costume?"
Sage stared at Emma, pausing to scan her outfit, and then looked back up at the screen. "No, the standard homo sapiens are not one of his conquests at the moment. Are you aware of anything, Charles?"
"Hmm," Xavier pulled out the letter he had received earlier. "It may just be a coincidence, but I feel we may need a visit from a particular friend of mine."
"Arthur! My goodness—you don't know how worried I've been!" Molly Weasley flung a copy of the Daily Prophet across the kitchen table and then threw her arms around her husband in the doorway of the Weasley's home, known as the Burrow. Her eyes were rimmed with red as her face contorted in expressions of worry.
"There was nothing to worry about Molly," he said in the tight embrace.
Mrs. Weasley stepped around her husband and pulled her two sons, Fred and George, into a tight hug. She squeezed her eyes shut, not wanting to let go.
"You can't honestly think for one moment I had nothing to worry about!" she exclaimed, pointing to an issue of the Daily Prophet. The title read, Scenes of Terror at the Quidditch World Cup. "What was I to do when there were 'rumors that several bodies were removed from the woods an hour later, remains to be seen'?"
"Molly, we are perfectly alright, come on now," Mr. Weasley tried to calm her as he tried to pull her away from her sons. "Bill, hand me that paper, I need to see what it says…'
Bill sidestepped his mother, who was still clinging to Fred and George, to grab the paper. Harry Potter quickly followed behind trying to catch a glimpse of the front page. Hermione Granger, Ron, Charlie, and Percy Weasley, made their way through the doorway as Bill handed his father the strewn pages. An opened letter that was placed between the pages of the Prophet fell to the floor in front of Harry. Charlie quickly snatched the letter before Harry could even bend down to get it. The eldest Weasley son then sat at the table to read it.
Mr. Weasley skimmed the front page article. A crease formed on his forehead. "'Ministry errors…negligent security…Dark wizards running free…national disgrace'…What is this? Ah, Rita Skeeter of course."
"Ah! That woman has it in for the Ministry!" Percy proclaimed. He threw his arms in the air in contempt. "For the last three weeks she—"
"Perce, do us all a favor," Bill said in a monotone, "and go do another cauldron report or something."
"I need to head down to the Ministry," Mr. Weasley sighed, "I need to help set things straight."
"I shall accompany you, Father," Percy stated with bravado while briskly walking out onto the darkened front yard. "Mr. Crouch will need all his important men with him and—"
"—He'll meet you there!" Bill interrupted as he slammed the front door shut on his brother. Charlie stood up from his chair and handed his father the previously opened letter.
Mrs. Weasley dabbed her eyes again. "Children, why don't you go upstairs and finish packing your trunks for school."
"But we've already packed!" George protested as he and his brother stared at the back of the letter.
Bill pulled his wand from his pocket and made a quick swish. A pair of socks landed in his hands. "Oh look, you forgot to pack a nice warm pair of socks. We don't want your feet getting cold on those treacherous nights at Hogwarts, do we?" he stated as he whipped his wand towards his brother. The bundle hit him squarely in the head.
"Just go upstairs." Charlie rolled his eyes. With that, the kitchen emptied, leaving Mr. and Mrs. Weasley and their two eldest sons.
"It is a letter from Dumbledore." Mrs. Weasley's expression tightened. "Now this—you must read this Arthur."
Thanks everyone for reading!