Chapter 86: The Devil in the Moonlight

Take English classes, I said. It'll be easy, I said. UGH, that's what I get for taking on two majors.

So, yeah, this chapter took forever because of school and my home life taking another downward turn (this time relatively minor, thankfully). I'm really sorry about the wait, but life hates me. But I AM serious about finishing this story, so hopefully I'll be able to set up a decent schedule- I'm on spring break at the moment, so if procrastination and homework don't get to me I should be able to write up a buffer chapter or two.

Also, about Charmcaster's appearance: I mostly kept her AF/UA design, but I hated the fact that they took away her darker skin tone, so I added that back in. Nothing too major all around.

Also, very minor Avengers reference. Kudos to anyone who spots it.

Anyway, on with the chapter!


"Okay, so, who would win in a fight, Madonna or Lady Gaga?" Kevin asked as he stole one of Evan's fries. Evan gave him a look before putting his glasses back on, the cleaning rag disappearing into his ratty backpack.

"Obviously Lady Gaga," Evan told him flatly as he held up his half-eaten sandwich. "I thought this game was supposed to make you think."

"Alright then, you try one," Kevin scoffed, smirking at him.

Evan raised an eyebrow and then matched his smirk. "Carter versus Sam."

Kevin's face fell, and he groaned loudly as Evan ate his food. "Dude, that's cheating!"

"All's fair in love and war," Evan sang.

"That doesn't even apply here!"

"Take your time thinking about it, it looks like you'll need it," he taunted good naturedly. Kevin gave him a look and was about to tell him off when a yellow tennis ball slammed into the tiny metal table. French fries and the remains of Kevin's burger fell to the ground, Evan only able to save their drinks from spillage.

"Did someone paint a target on our back or what?" Kevin muttered angrily as he picked up the ball. He then began standing up, but then a young blond woman wearing a white miniskirt and a red polo shirt suddenly jogged up to them, tennis racket swaying in hand.

"I-I am so sorry," she stuttered cutely, blue eyes wide in apology. "I-It just slipped out of my hand, I'm such a goof."

"Don't worry about it," Evan said easily, setting down the drinks and standing up. He walked over to Kevin, taking his layered brown hair out of its usual ponytail and shaking it so it trailed down his shoulder blades. "No harm done. These things happen to us a lot. I'm Evan, and tall, dark, and snarky over here is Kevin," he finished, aiming a thumb at Kevin's amused face.

"I'm Caroline," she said with a smile. "Maybe I could buy you guys another lunch?"

Kevin handed her back her tennis ball. "Nah, don't worry about it. We were mostly done anyway." He then reached over and slung Evan's backpack over his shoulder. "We kind of need to get going- my buddy here has a hot date with an algebra textbook."

"Classwork," Evan said, shrugging his shoulders. "Gotta stay on top. It was nice meeting you." With a slight wave he followed his friend further into the alley. "Did you have to mention my homework? I don't need that in my life," he half-joked to Kevin.

The older teen shrugged. "Next time introduce me as tall, dark, and handsome."

"What, and snarky doesn't describe you at all?"

"Handsome sounds better."

As Kevin prepared to unlock the car, Caroline suddenly walked up to them, hips slightly cocked to the side. She eyed the Dodge Challenger and said, "Small block V-8, three hundred horsepower, and… nitrous take for after burners?" She gave the boys a smile and trailed her fingers along the hood of the car.

"Liquid oxygen actually," Evan answered, slightly impressed. "I hooked him up."

Kevin, who looked slightly more awestruck than his friend, raised an eyebrow. "I like to go fast. You into cars?" he added almost disbelievingly.

Caroline shot them both a flirty grin and purred, "I could be in yours if you ask me nicely."

Evan shot Kevin a warning look, mouthing the name, 'Sam.' Kevin gave a slight nod and then said out loud, "Sure thing. Ev, you drive." And then he tossed the ratty backpack at the younger boy. "Your contacts in there?"

"As always," Evan said as he got out the case from the side pocket. "Driving with glasses on is incredibly inconvenient," he said conversationally.

Caroline nodded in sympathy. "The lens flare must be brutal."

Evan gave her a soft smile that bordered on flirtatious. "You want shotgun?"


A few minutes into the evening

"Corners like a dream!" Caroline gushed happily, earning her another grin from Evan.

Kevin stretched his arms out, curling them around the backseat headrests. "Taught him everything he knows," he said smugly.

Evan scoffed. "Please, I helped you rebuild this thing, that's the only reason why you trust me and Sam behind the wheel."

"But I still taught you how to drive," Kevin reminded him.

He smirked deviously this time. "You taught me how to drive safely."

"You worked on this car?" Caroline asked curiously. "I guess that's why it runs so smooth. Is there anything it can't do?"

"Sadly it's not submersible," Evan told her earnestly. "We're working on it though."

Caroline gave him an odd look. "Oooh…kay."

Evan eased the car into a stop when the stoplight turned red. He leaned back, arching his spine slightly so he could work out the kinks there. Briefly he noted a young boy walking down the adjacent street, eyes glued to his hand held game. The walking sign had long since turned into a red hand at that point.

"He's gonna get himself killed that way," Kevin muttered under his breath once he noticed.

Suddenly a horn sounded, echoing through the air. The boy gasped and dropped his game, acting like a deer in headlights once he finally saw the truck speeding down the street.

"No!" Evan cried out once he realized the truck wouldn't break in time. But just before the boy was hit, pink light surrounded him like fire and he was lifted into the air, high above the vehicle. The truck continued to roll down the street, speeding away from the scene. The boy then safely descended, his feet hitting the pavement.

In disbelief, Evan slowly turned his head to the glowing hand next to him- Caroline's hand was outstretched and bathed in familiar, bright pink light. His eyes wide, mouth open slightly, he turned to Kevin and saw an equally shocked face. And then Kevin's face pulled down into a stony expression, and in the flattest tone he said, "We need to talk."

Caroline slowly put down her hand, the mana quickly fading away. Her eyes briefly downcast, she screwed up her courage and quietly said, "I can explain."

"I'm sure it's an interesting story," Evan said, breaking out into a shaky smile. "Come on, tell us where you want to go. I think this is something you don't want anyone overhearing."


Back at the beach

Evan skipped a rock into the ocean, watching the stone eventually descend beneath the waves. Kevin was sitting on a boulder not too far away, half of his body encased in shadow and making him look unnecessarily menacing. Caroline eyed the older teen and sighed audibly.

"Take your time," Evan told her as he picked up another rock. "Secrets like these can be difficult to explain, especially to people you hardly know."

Caroline gave him a wan smile. "It's magic," she began shyly. "I've been doing it all my life. Always had a knack for it, now that I think about it." Her smile falling, she then grabbed Evan's hand, startling him and making him drop the rock. "Please don't tell anyone," she pleaded. "If people knew the real me, it would scare them."

"We won't," Evan hastily reassured her. "But you gotta admit, you're putting a lot of trust in us. We haven't really done anything to deserve that."

Kevin suddenly stood up. Scratching the back of his head as he walked out of the shade, he said, "He's got a point, you know. This isn't something just anyone can know, and you had no problem showing us."

Caroline sputtered indignantly. "I couldn't let that kid get hurt!"

"And we totally get that," Evan reassured her. "But you still blew your secret in front of two strangers. If it hadn't been us, you wouldn't exactly be alive to have this conversation in the first place."

Her frown uplifted slightly, her blue eyes shining. "I knew I could trust you," she told them. "I know things."

Both boys froze. Evan's eyes narrowed dangerously. "What do you mean?"

"I mean my powers let me see certain things," Caroline explained innocently. "Like how both of you are earth types, but Evan's the only one who can fling rocks around so dangerously."

Kevin took a protective step in front of Evan. "Might wanna be careful with that information."

"Kevin," Evan said warningly. The two boys briefly looked at each other; whatever message passed through them allowed Kevin to very slightly relax his stance. Evan stayed on high alert though, assessing the situation and flexing his fingers experimentally.

"Don't worry, I won't tell anyone. Equivalent exchange and all that," Caroline explained, her voice delving into a throaty purr. "But I am curious though; both of you keep hiding your true selves, making sure no one can hurt you. But because of that no one understands what you've been through, and they can't understand you." She then leaned in, voice becoming quiet and daring. "But I do."

Kevin quickly put his hands on her shoulders and gently pushed her back. "I'm flattered, but I'm seeing someone. And Evan can't keep a girlfriend to save his life."

"I sort of can," Evan muttered, never taking his eyes off Caroline. His silver bracelet slid down his wrist, the familiar shotgun charms pressed warmly against his skin.

"No one has to know," Caroline pointed out confidently, an ugly sneer appearing on her pretty face.

"We would," Kevin bit out. "You think you can do magic? My girlfriend is the literal embodiment of the sun. You got nothing on her."

Caroline blinked, and then growled, "'Embodiment of the sun'? Are you kidding?"

Evan shrugged. "Technically she's the embodiment of fire, but the sun works too."

Kevin shook his head. "You guys and your powers are fucking confusing sometimes."

"Yeah, I know, I live it."

Caroline pursed her lips and said, "Well this won't do at all." Bright pink energy suddenly swirled behind the two boys- Kevin looked behind him, but a bestial snarl ripped from Evan's throat, pupils turning to slash marks, teeth too sharp, and suddenly the barrel of a gun was pressed against Caroline's stomach-

Caroline screamed as the bullet tore through her, sending her backwards into a bloody heap. Red droplets splattered across the sand like the beginnings of a gruesome painting; more blood trailed down Caroline's leg as she kneeled, holding her stomach, tears streaming down her face.

Evan gave another animalistic snarl, hand outstretch to pistol whip- Kevin was shouting at him, the words lost- but then bright pink light swallowed them both and Evan's screaming got louder-

And then silence.

Her blonde hair turning silver, Charmcaster smiled.


Just an hour or so later

"I hate summer assignments," Ben grumbled as he eyed his chemistry textbook. He had been able to snatch one before school let out for the summer so he could do his assignments, but he had left it all alone once the break started. And now Sam was annoying him to get started- which, granted, he should, but he didn't want to.

"It's chemistry, just look it up online," Sam told him, blowing a lock of hair out of her face.

"Already did- and I borrowed Evan's old chem notes so I have a pretty good idea of what I'm doing," Ben told her as he tapped his pencil against the metal table. "I just don't want to do it."

Carter then walked up with a tray of drinks, the café lights they were sitting under turning her outline fuzzy. "I also don't want to write three essays during the summer, but I did most of them anyway," she said pointedly as Ben and Sam took their drinks.

"Did you only just start those?" Sam asked her curiously. "You're normally done with them by now."

"I'm still working on my last essay," Carter admitted as she sat down. "The library didn't have any more copies of Fahrenheit 451- those are almost always out of stock- so I had to reserve it. I only got it a week or so ago."

"And you're done already?" Ben asked, surprised. At Carter's nod, he added, "I'm kind of a slow reader, it'd take me way longer to read Bradbury."

"And it doesn't help that the text is small," Carter mused, holding her edition up. "I'm just glad it's interesting or I would've scrapped the idea."

Sam arched an eyebrow. "Really? You?"

"Well, okay, no, but the text hurts my eyes sometimes," she hastily amended.

"I'll drink to that," Ben said, raising his tea and throwing his head back. Scalding hot liquid hit his upper lip and he swore under his breath.

The two girls giggled, Sam throwing a napkin at him while Carter took the drink out of his hands. "Maybe next time be more careful when making a joke," Sam said teasingly.

"Oh, it's so nice to see young people helping each other," a familiar British voice suddenly said. The three of them turned to see a man in dull gray armor standing in front of them, idly cleaning blood from his fingers with a white rag. "With all the drama that happens in the media, it's just a refreshing change."

Ben tossed aside his drink and snarled, "You!"

"Me," the gray man said, briefly tilting his masked face upwards to glance at him. "Oh, so you're up and about again? Wonderful, I was hoping that blank wouldn't incapacitate you."

"Yeah, I'm feeling fine," Ben said, stomping down the front porch. "I'll show how much better I am when I rip you apart-!"

Carter suddenly wrapped her arms around his biceps, forcing his arms to his sides and causing him to stop. "Calm yourself," she said warningly. "We don't know what he wants yet. Once we do, you can have at him."

"Shouldn't we leave at least some remains behind?" Sam asked in a bored tone.

"Fuck no!" Ben shot back.

The redhead's eyes gleamed as she gave a feral grin. "Bitchin, let's do it!" She shot out of her seat, flames dancing in her palms.

Mr. Gray put away his rag and waved his hand dismissively. "As much as I would love to be at your mercy, I'm afraid I'm not here for you. You see, my experimentation has revealed some particularly interesting results and I need to research some more before I conclude anything."

"The fuck?" Carter blurted out, letting go of Ben so she could face him fully. "What are you, a wannabe college professor?"

"Oh no, I'm just a scientist. Though I do dabble in magic and supposed pseudo sciences," Mr. Gray added as an afterthought. "Besides, unlike most college professors, I actually know quite a bit about teaching."

"So, what do you want from us?" she asked, eyebrow raised and hand on her hip. "A biopsy?"

"Oh, no, nothing like that," Mr. Gray reassured her pleasantly. "I merely require Miss Tennyson. You wouldn't happen to know where she is now, would you?"

"And we would tell you why?" Ben growled, hand already over the Omnitrix.

"Well I was hoping to avoid a confrontation, but oh well," Mr. Gray said blithely, shrugging his shoulders. And then he snapped his fingers and the ground before him exploded.

Pavement rained on the half-melted table, burnt pages littering the ground. The lights from the café sign fizzled out completely, leaving the area in near total darkness. Mr. Gray walked out of the smog and took a look at the three children on the ground, all of them sporting scorch marks and various bruises, but nothing life threatening.

He then strolled up to them, unsheathing a thin fencing sword from seemingly out of thin air. Carter was the first up, already getting on her knees and eyes quickly regaining clarity. Ben was pawing at his Omnitrix in a frenzy, sending him such a hateful glare that it rivaled the sun in intensity.

A fireball was launched at him, something Mr. Gray easily dodged. He turned to see Sam with blood trickling from her forehead, eyes glassy but aimed at him. She was also closest to him, which made his decision all the easier.

Mr. Gray walked towards Sam, side stepped another fireball, and then stabbed her in the chest.

The redhead gave a shriek of pain that only increased in volume when he twisted the blade, his head cocked to the side thoughtfully. He could hear the other two children yelling, so he took out the blade and stomped on the pyrokinetic's torn open chest, her head hitting the pavement sharply.

As blood pooled from underneath Sam, Mr. Gray announced, "I didn't hit a major artery, but that's subject to change very soon. Now, could you tell me where Gwen is?"

"Like hell we'd tell you," Sam spat, glaring balefully at him.

Mr. Gray pierced her again, this time near the stomach. Sam gave another shout of pain, but Mr. Gray had to give her credit for not crying- something like this had to hurt terribly. He took out the blade without twisting it, the point of it stained bright red. "Next time I stab your stomach directly," he told her, a touch annoyed. "Gastric acid outside the stomach is a terrible way to die. Do you really want that for yourself?"

"We don't know where she is!" Carter shouted, eyes glued to Sam and the pooling blood. She then tore her gray gaze away so she could pierce the villain with a glare. "We don't know where she is," she repeated, tone calm but overtly threatening. "Now let go of Sam or so help me-!"

Mr. Gray tilted his head again, but this time he hummed. "I suspect you're telling me the truth. Her usual haunts then? Perhaps she enjoys the library?" He turned to Ben; the younger boy had barely uttered a single word, his hand hovering above his watch. He was staring at the scene like a horrified deer in headlights, wanting to act but frozen to the stop. And then he looked up the monster hurting his friend and let a bestial snarl escape, his eyes glowing a dangerous blue.

"Come on now, Ben, you know your cousin best," Mr. Gray huffed, more than a bit annoyed now. "Even if you stop me and get Sam to a hospital she'll still be in a lot of pain. And if this keeps going she might actually die. Do you really want that?"

"Ben, don't use your Omnitrix or anything else right now," Sam ordered, voice weak but eyes strong. "He could change his mind and kill me by the time you transform. And Carter can't bring me back from the dead."

Ben visibly faltered at that, and he looked at the redhead with such helplessness Mr. Gray genuinely felt pity for him. It was then Mr. Gray received a message through his helmet, a little whisper of, "I'm healed, now come help me!" And so he lifted his foot off of Sam and began walking away.

"What are you-?" Carter began.

"I'm needed elsewhere," Mr. Gray said before disappearing into thin air.

Carter immediately crawled over to Sam and put glowing hands on her stomach. Blue lights that turned warm red circled around the two girls as Carter began to sing softly. Her voice was mechanical however, the dulcets normally in her voice rubbed down to nothing. Her body was taut and ready for another attack, her eyes cold and determined.

Ben had crawled over to Sam's other side, gently taking her hand in his. Blood was staining his jeans, but he didn't notice- he was too focused on the brown that was taking over Sam's vibrant hair, watched as her penny-colored eyes dulled to mud brown.

"I'm sorry," he whispered, his throat closing in on him. "I'm so sorry."

Sam gave him a feeble smile and clutched his hand tighter. "Hey, it's okay," she reassured him. "This isn't the first time one of the Pride was threatened like this. It's been a long time though, so it came as a shock," she admitted as an afterthought. "But there was nothing you could have done. This guy… he's done this before. Almost like he has it down to a science."

"But I still should have-"

"You were scared for me and didn't know how to react," Sam told him bluntly. "It happens to everyone, no matter how long they've been at this hero game." Her hair glowed as it returned to its natural red, orange, and yellow colors, and her smile grew stronger. "And I'm already feeling better." She turned her head to give her best friend a smile, one that Carter returned in between singing 'April Moon.'

Sam then turned back, and Ben was relieved to see that her eyes were coppery again. "One of us will call Phineas or Cordelia to extract Gwen. They can-"

"Wait," Ben interrupted suddenly. His eyes were wide with realization.

"What?"

"Can't Cordelia or someone else use magic?"

"I guess? I don't think they've dealt with mana users before though."

"But can they still stop Charmcaster?"

Sam gently brought a shoulder up in a half-hearted shrug. "Maybe? They normally leave us to deal with the small stuff."

Ben gestured to her stomach. "I think we've passed 'small stuff,'" he said bitterly.

"It's worth a shot," Carter interjected, the lights surrounding them turning back to blue. "I can't leave Sam here, and from what we've seen of Mr. Gray he's too dangerous to take on without all of us. I say let the adults handle this."

Ben was loathe to admit it- he used his Omnitrix for a reason damn it- but then Sam squeezed his hand once more and pleaded, "They found Gwen. We don't have much time."

Gwen. Gwen needed help.

Ben swallowed his pride and took out his phone.


A few minutes to midnight

"Are you sure you want to go through with this?" Phineas asked his granddaughter. The car was nearing the planetarium, a small ovular building with a retractable roof. It wasn't the most well-funded building but because it had the best view of the sky in town it was something of a local hotspot. Phineas could understand why Charmcaster would use the building for dark magical purposes.

Gwen looked up at her grandfather and narrowed her eyes. "Charmcaster hurt my friend badly. She's gotta pay."

"I completely agree, but this is obviously a trap," Phineas said pointedly.

Her eyes glowed pink. "Bring it on."

Isaac closed the book he was reading with an audible snap. "In that case I suppose you have no problem acting as the distraction."

"You got a plan you'd like to share with the class?" Gwen crossed her legs and arms, showing her annoyance. For the entire duration of the car ride the adults- Phineas, Isaac, and Cordelia- had stayed completely silent, letting the lone teenager stew in her angst. Not even James the (normally) Sarcastic Chauffeur had anything to say.

"Charmcaster wants you for whatever reason," Cordelia piped up as she finished unbraiding her silvery-white hair. "Most likely to siphon your magic for her own. Villains lack creativity," she bemoaned, rolling her eyes in annoyance.

"Simply put, she'll be so distracted by you that we can just attack her," Isaac elaborated. "It really is a predictable move."

"But knowing Isaac here, it'll take him a little while to actually set up a counter spell or two," Phineas told Gwen. "That's why you gotta distract the little witch for as long as you can. As for me and Cordelia, well, we're here to deal with Mr. Gray or any rock golems that could try and stop us. We'll keep you safe."

"It's not me you should be worried about," Gwen said ominously, right before the car pulled to a stop.

Everyone got out of the vehicle and Isaac immediately disappeared into a pool of black shadow. As the car pulled away to safety, Cordelia said, "Go straight to the atrium as soon as you can. It's almost midnight and Charmcaster's little pets should be arriving-!"

The doors to the atrium burst open, revealing numerous enormous rock golems with pink eldritch runes. They all roared and stomped down the staircase, eyes glaring at the intruders.

"Right about now," Phineas finished. He held up a hand crackling with electricity. "Go! We'll hold them off!"

Something large slithered past Gwen, the speed so fast Gwen's ponytail whipped against her cheek. She saw a poisonous green serpentine tail that stretched ten feet, black leather covering a lithe torso, and silver snakes erupting out of what could only be Cordelia's head.

And then Gwen saw Cordelia wrap herself around a golem and literally bit a chunk out of its neck, fangs the size of spear points. Her eyes were open, still so oddly human despite her monstrous appearance. Black claws dove into the heart of the golem, ripping apart stony flesh until there was a tear in the monster's chest.

It was then that Phineas moved, falling to the ground and kicking a golem in the back of its knees. It stumbled and Phineas punched an electric fist into its tailbone, completely shattering it from the waist down. The rest of the body fell, but before it broke apart Phineas tore off the head of the golem and threw it at another, both heads shattering on impact.

Gwen had stood there frozen as her gaze went back to Cordelia. She had only seen it once before, but it was enough to remind her that the woman she disliked could have easily torn her apart so many times by now. Gwen slowly swallowed her pride and, on surprisingly steady legs, ran towards the atrium.

Closing the door on the destruction outside- Cordelia had just torn off another golem's arm with her bare teeth- Gwen made her way to the center of the building. Walking past the seats and around the projector, she summoned magic to her hand and waited.

"Gwen Tennyson," a too familiar voice echoed. Gwen looked in front of her to see Charmcaster in all her witchy glory. Black boots ran up to her thighs, only slightly heeled thanks to her near six-foot height. She had on a purple sleeveless mini dress with a black cross-like design on the front, the very top of it blending in with the wide black band underneath her high pink collar. A pink sash was tied at her waist, some of the cloth fluttering at her side. On her arms were fingerless black gloves with pink at the top, the color accentuating her dark skin. And on her silver hair was a horned black crown; Gwen felt the near unstoppable urge to tear it off and stab Charmcaster with it.

"I've been waiting five years to say this," Charmcaster continued, voice dripping with condescension. "I love what you've done with your hair." And then she flung explosive magic at the other girl.

Gwen immediately deflected it with a well-timed mana blast of her own. Sending a barrage of energy at the sorceress, Gwen dodged to the left just as Charmcaster flung more magic that way. It was clearly a battle of attrition, especially since the older witch was simply flinging more and more magic blasts in her general direction.

Gwen mentally scoffed as she easily back flipped, front flipped, and cartwheeled away from the attacks like an acrobat, landing and jumping off the chairs before they were destroyed. She was no Sam or Carter, but she had spent enough time with them to pick up a few of their moves, essentially building up enough stamina and muscle to literally dance away from an attack. It wasn't the most effective way to dodge, but against certain opponents it worked flawlessly.

Gwen could even see the attacks slowing; Charmcaster was panting, tired blue eyes glaring at her balefully. Gwen herself was only slightly winded, her arms and legs aching from the exertion but otherwise no worse for wear. And that was when she flung a straight beam of mana at Charmcaster, determined to end this farce once and for all.

Charmcaster's own power built up in her hands, disks like planetary rings surrounding the orb. A jagged lightning bolt of energy was sent out of it and hit Gwen's beam head on. Pink light washed over the auditorium as the two energies collided.

With a furious snarl Gwen slowly stepped forward, her magic taking over for the moment. Charmcaster backed away slowly and fell to one knee, head bowed. Gwen couldn't see the look on her face, but the act of submission was enough for her to triumphantly shout, "You're losing Charmcaster!"

And then she saw Charmcaster's little smirk.

Pink and white light suddenly erupted beneath her. Her elbows locked to her sides and her feet froze in place. She shuddered as she attempted to break free, but her magic had failed her and she could only watch helplessly as Charmcaster stood back up.

Hand on her hip and black lips curled into a smirk, the witch taunted, "Overconfident much, little girl? You figured with no runes on the floor, no access to moonlight, and I couldn't possibly trap you." She snapped her fingers and the atrium's ceiling quickly retracted. The room was suddenly bathed in pale moonlight, and Gwen could only look up at the sky with dawning horror.

And then she screamed and fell to the floor, her own power slowly and agonizingly seeping out of her body.

"Well you were wrong," Charmcaster sneered as he stood over Gwen. "And the fun's only just beginning."

A bit of Gwen's energy floated near her and she touched it, white light briefly overtaking the pink. "You know you can read magic? Well, probably not, you were self-taught." Charmcaster turned her nose up at that. "But Evan and Kevin weren't kidding, you're filled with mana. It's so unfair."

Gwen pushed aside the pain and weakly opened her eyes. "What do you mean? What did you do to them?"

"Your little boy toys?" Charmcaster asked derisively. "A little interrogation, some good old fashioned torture, you know, the works. I had to pay them back after they tried to kill me, you know."

"Where are they?!"

"Long gone," Charmcaster said, smiling triumphantly. "And you can't help them." The white light underneath Gwen intensified, and another scream ripped itself out of her throat despite herself. She could feel her muscles contracting as she collapsed to the floor, her bones beginning to splinter apart- she closed her eyes and tried to stifle her own voice, but it just hurt so much-

"But it really is unfair," Charmcaster said, her voice cutting through Gwen's agony filled haze. "I had to work my butt off for my power and you were born made of magic. Well, I can control magic, which means I can control you. And what nature gives, I can take away."

Gwen opened her eyes and forced herself into a kneeling position, her body screaming in protest. She gave Charmcaster a hate-filled glare before she saw the black shadows suddenly wreathe behind the silver-haired sorceress.

And then Gwen smirked. "You think you know magic? Try living a couple thousand years."

"What are you babbling about now?" Charmcaster snapped just before golden light appeared out from under her. A circle spiraled on the pavement with the sorceress standing in the middle where the alchemical symbol for water lay. The white light binding Gwen faded quickly, and the redhead stood up and smirked, slowly shaking off the vestiges of magic-induced pain.

"I made some friends in high places and believe me, you got nothing on them," Gwen taunted, crossing her arms loosely. Golden chains flew out of the circular spell and wrapped around the villainess. Charmcaster struggled against the bonds and snarled at Gwen, but then she screamed in pain as electricity shot through her body. She fell to her knees, hair partially covering her vindictive gaze.

The shadows suddenly converged and Isaac popped out of the mass. His body outlined in smoky darkness and his blue eyes cold, he looked hazy and ethereal and ready to strike down Charmcaster where she kneeled. Gwen sent him a worried look and slowly stepped back.

"It's cute how you think you're the next Morgana Le Fay," he said, voice low and thunderous. He bared his needle sharp teeth long enough for Charmcaster to actually balk. "But let's get one thing straight here: I am older than your eldritch lore, older than Ledger Domain, and certainly older than your deities. You and your little cohort psychologically tormented, physically tortured, and practically mutilated my granddaughter and her friends."

And then Isaac suddenly kneeled down and grabbed Charmcaster by the chin, making sure she looked him in the eye as he softly continued. "I am a cold, cruel man, but I would eventually kill you. But my wife? Once she finds out what kind of spells you've been using, finds out where you thought to look for them, and she will make it so you beg for something as sweet as pain."

Charmcaster's eyes widened and she struggled once more against her bindings. Gwen gasped and slowly backed away as Isaac's pupils turned to slash marks. The atrium's ceiling slowly closed, the moonlight fading until only the golden light of the binding spell brightened the room.

Isaac's staff quickly turned into a long, serrated blade, and Charmcaster screamed-


Chase looked up at the atrium and saw that the roof was closed once more. He sighed and said to himself, "Well at least I have some decent data. It'll do for now. A shame about Charmcaster though, Cordelia was never particularly forgiving."

Chase quickly finished depositing the still breathing bodies of his victims, laying them as comfortably as he could on the pavement. Slash and burn marks littered their skin while soot and blood stained their clothing. Both of their faces were gray and screwed up in pain; Chase knew Kevin and Evan were minutes away from total consciousness.

Chase sighed again and quickly backed away from the scene. Cordelia and Phineas would literally walk up to the boys shortly and he wanted to be as far away from the crime as possible. He hadn't been kidding when he said that Cordelia wasn't forgiving.

Especially once she realized what kind of magic Chase had used on these boys…

Well, no matter, he thought as he quickly escaped. It wasn't like Chase had done anything to permanently damage them. All the pain he inflicted served a pragmatic purpose, at least for now. Despite what Isaac thought all those years ago, Chase wasn't needlessly cruel, not when the results were so incredibly fruitful.

After all, what was a couple million human souls worth when faced with an actual Philosopher's Stone?


So, thoughts anyone?