(Sorry for the longer wait for this one to come out. This chapter has given me so much trouble. Also, RL decided to make its presence known, not that I'm complaining. Hope you guys enjoy it.)
(As it would seem that I've missed my self-appointed completion date for this story, I'm only going to say this: sorry, dulcinea! I'm trying to get it done, I swear!)
Trig 3 staggered, blinded. He rubbed his eyes and glanced around. The other Trigs were unconscious and lay in heaps around him. Anger flared through him and he whirled about to face their attackers.
Willow and Alex still stood there, unmoving. He waved an arm at them, intending to send an energy wave at them that would knock them off the roof of the tower and help them to cease being annoyances. He felt and saw the wave travel through the air, but it passed harmlessly over the agents. They didn't move an inch.
Trig's eyes widened. "How?" Whatever spells they used should not have been so effective on his home world; it had been the other way around on Earth, forcing him to use the cruder methods of novices to invoke his magic.
In answer, the agents pulled out two pouches attached to cords wound around their necks. "We've had two years to figure out how to make these. These can resist any magic you apply directly to us. Herbs tend to work no matter what world you're on," Willow said. "So do Potions. Those vials we threw at you? Those were Pacifying Potions. We were hoping to knock out all of you, but hey." She shrugged. "They also severely cripple your magic abilities."
His magic had been turned against him. There was one alternative he could still use.
He held out his hand, summoning the sword that hung in the weapons room of his fortress. While he waited for the weapon, he held a hand toward the sky.
Lightning coursed down from a cloudless sky. The agents jumped and rolled out of the way to avoid it. Alex rolled left and Willow rolled right just as the bolt hit the middle section, scorching the stones but not breaking them.
He cried a two-line rhyming incantation before turning his attention to Agent Harris, who was closer. The incantation brought more bolts from the sky and homed in on Agent Rosenburg, who became busy trying to out-maneuver them while using her dampened magic, both wiccan and witch varieties, to counter them.
Trig swung his sword at Alex, who ducked out of the way even as he took a step back as Trig stepped forward. It had been years since Trig had needed the weapon, but after his long lifetime, a few years were not sufficient time for his body to forget the movements.
He smiled as he edged Alex closer to the edge. Soon, he'd be one Agent down.
He continued to swing his sword at the Agent, hoping to distract the mortal enough for him not to realize the other danger.
"Why did you come here?" Trig asked as he pressed his attack. "You could not have come here just to have revenge. I spent months with you, Agent. I know you better than that."
Alex parried a swipe before answering. "Like we would have sat back and waited until you'd absorbed our reality whole! You promised us a share of the power; now we intend to take it from you."
"Your chances aren't looking so good right now, Agent Harris."
!" Willow cried. The magic spell hit Trig. It didn't do a thing to him and only distracted him momentarily.
Willow turned her attention back to the bolts that continued to try to strike her, leaving her partner on his own for the time being.
Alex suddenly ducked and rolled to the middle of the roof. He stood back up rapidly. Trig advanced toward the Agent's new position only to pause. Alex's right hand was now gripped around the hilt of a sword. Trig's mouth creased into a line. Agent Rosenburg must have conjured it and thrown it near them, then done the petrifying spell to get Alex's attention.
Alex turned out to be a more-than-competent swordsman. Trig had the advantage in experience and greater skill, however, and as the two of them fought across the roof, Alex's blade barely managing to block Trig's attacks, it was only a matter of time before Trig got through.
Soon enough, he'd knocked Alex's sword from his hands. The sword went flying off the roof, heading toward the forest in the near-distance.
Trig held the sword at Alex's neck. The Agent stood stiffly, trying not to move or the blade would pierce his skin.
"Goodbye, Harris," Trig said. He pulled the blade back then swung it at Harris' neck.
Alex's hand reached into his pocket and wrapped around a small bottle nestled there. His finger fumbled for the bottle's stopper and hastily pulled it out. "Transport!" he said, eyes wide as he saw the blade approaching his throat.
In an instant, Alex had disappeared. Trig's blade swung through empty air.
Pain blossomed in his left side. Trig stared down in some surprise at the knife stuck into his flesh.
He stared at Alex, who smirked back. "So long, Trig!" he said triumphantly as Trig sunk to the floor. A moment later, Trig 3 was dead.
Alex removed his knife and glanced around at the roof. The other Trigs were still unconscious, and would remain so for quite some time. Willow was still trying to not get scorched. Alex took out his wand and took a step in her direction.
A sudden grunt from behind him made him pause. Confused, Alex turned back around to face the demon that he'd thought he'd killed. His eyes widened in shock.
"Idiot," Trig 3 said. His shirt was half-coated in blood but no more blood flowed from the already-healed wound.
Trig thrust his sword into Alex's chest. The Agent screamed. Trig sneered at him in anger. "I am fifty-five hundred of your years, Agent Harris. Want to take a stab at what I am now? Your reality had a TV show based on my kind."
"Immortal," Alex gasped.
Trig pulled his sword out of Alex's body. The Agent collapsed to the ground. Blood foamed in his mouth and flowed from the wound.
At the other side of the roof, Agent Rosenburg screamed.
Daniel coughed dust out of his lungs and squinted, trying to see through the dust cloud that permeated the air. One of the crossbeams had fallen from the ceiling during the earthquake. One end of it leaned against the wall under the window; the other end rested on the floor. Hopefully, everyone had managed to jump out of its way in time.
"Is everyone all right?" he called.
"Just fine, here!" Dawn 1 called.
"We're good!" Will called, motioning between herself and her double.
"Peachy," Xander called, coughing.
Everyone else answered in affirmative. Everyone, that is, but Sam. "Sam?" Daniel called.
He and Xander looked around the room, trying to spot the blonde-haired woman. "There!" Xander cried, pointing. They rushed over to the base of the crossbeam. Major Carter lay unconscious next to it but thankfully not beneath it. Blood flowed from a cut on her scalp.
Xander began to apply pressure immediately. Harry, Hermione, and Ron approached. "Let us try," Harry said. "Maybe if we combined our spells, it could help."
Reluctantly, Xander stepped back. The trio raised their wands. Under Hermione's direction, they went through every medical charm and spell they'd been taught. They had a little success, this time; the wound partially healed and the blood stopped flowing.
Carter's eyes opened, only to snap shut again. She winced. "Ow."
"Hey, there," Xander said, smiling down at her. "Be sure to stay away from falling beams in the future, you hear?"
"Yes, sir," Sam said. She smiled, only to wince again. Xander and Daniel helped her get to her feet.
"Maybe we can get the lock open this time," Ron suggested. He, Harry, and Hermione hurried away across the room.
"Or we can climb the beam up to the window," Willow suggested.
"No need!" Harry called from the door. He, Ron, and Hermione were all grinning. "We've got it open!"
The door slowly swung open. A dark hallway lay beyond. Ron stepped through, only to run straight into a wall. "Ow!" he exclaimed, rubbing his bruised nose and head.
Dawn 2 stepped forward and felt the air just beyond the door. Her hand found an invisible wall. "There's a barrier here," she said. "I-eep!"
Startled, she stepped back and stared along with the kind-of Hogwarts trio. The barrier coalesced into visibility, becoming a metal wall. The door followed suit, disappearing to be replaced by a smooth wall of triangular blocks.
"Okay…" Willow said slowly.
"…That's new," her double finished.
"Looks like our only chance is to go up the beam," Daniel said resignedly.
Everyone glanced at the wooden beam and wondered if it was sturdy enough. "So, who's first?" asked Xander.
If someone had told him four years ago that he would be risking his life and limbs for people who weren't even from the same planet as him, Methos would have ignored them and gone about his business. Yet here he was, getting ready to sneak into Trig's fortress and rescue a group of people he didn't owe a thing to. Why? The reasons were complicated and yet easy to explain.
His world was gone, and he alone could have called it that more than anyone else. Methos wasn't prone to revenge - his sense of survival overruled that more than not - but this time, he had plenty of things to avenge. The planet he had called home, the very place he had intended to live on for five thousand more years, had been stolen from him. What was left of it was inside him, absorbed like so many Quickenings of his brethren. He'd seen its cultures and peoples and landscapes change so many times. He'd become accustomed to it, but he'd always looked forward to what was going to come next. The heartbreak caused by those fallen civilizations whose people and traditions and cultures he'd lived and loved had been terrible, but there was always a new civilization that would rise up in their stead. He'd lived to see many civilizations rise and fall and had been determined to see thousands more come and go. Now, however, it was all over, all in only a few months. For Methos, a few months were no longer than an eye blink.
If that weren't enough reason to go up against Trig, then the memories of those other Earths was. The Methoses whose lives he'd absorbed along with their realities were dead; he heard none of their thoughts, and none of them were conscious participants in his life. He did have their memories, however, and knew they felt the same way he did about his Earth.
Methos wanted to go back to Earth someday. It wouldn't be his Earth, but it would be an Earth. That was his other reason for fighting Trig. If he didn't stop the demon Immortal, then there wouldn't be any Earths left to go to.
They were just about to move out when they heard the growls and barks in the forest. Methos and Clarin left the other humans and ran to the building at the opposite side of the square. Kin Frag and his team minus Clarin were walking out of it as they approached. All of them were dressed and ready for a mission into the forest.
Clarin ran past them and into the building to get her equipment. Methos turned to Kin Frag, but before he could say anything, the Kin told him, "We are going to search the forest now. We will find what the sentinels are looking for."
Clarin reappeared at the door. She was hastily putting on her belt. / I will call you if we need you, / Clarin told him. Methos nodded as she and the rest of her team passed. He was always on call whenever one of the patrols was out.
"What's going on?" Xander asked as he and his friends walked up to the Immortal.
"Trig's minions are out looking for something," Methos replied. "It could be your friends."
All seven of them looked ready to follow Kin Frag's team out to the forest, but Methos held up a hand. "It is not safe for any of us, being human. It is safer for Runeans to travel through the forest. If it is your friends, Kin Frag and his team will make sure they aren't harmed."
"Won't they come here?" Shacklebolt asked.
"No. Trig doesn't know about this place. The wards surrounding the village protect us from discovery as long as Trig doesn't think to look for us. He doesn't have any reason to, really; this village wasn't here a year ago. All that had been here were ruins."
Methos checked in with his wife and the other teams via his telepathy skills every fifteen minutes, but no one had yet to report anything. They had avoided most of the sentinels and killed the ones they couldn't. Forty-five minutes had passed before they got some news.
Clarin's team had found someone. She was a human woman with red hair and green eyes that didn't glow. She had told Clarin's team that her name was Agent Willow Rosenburg.
/ We'll meet you at the barrier, / Methos said. / Don't come through into the village. /
/ Our thoughts exactly, / Clarin assured him.
Methos went out to meet them alone. He didn't tell any of his guests why he was going; they would doubtless want to come with him, and he wanted to check something first. Clarin's telepathic voice had carried an undertone that he didn't like.
He waited just inside the barrier next to the barrier cube for a half an hour. He called the other teams back while he was at it; being the one with the power to do so, he was the only one who could communicate between the groups. Once upon a time, they had used technological communicators before Trig had realized they had them and found a way to render the devices useless.
The teams led by Kin Grift and Kin Pynn arrived and entered the barrier before Kin Frag's team emerged from the forest. He could easily make out the red-haired one among them even from a distance. It helped that six of the others had black hair while the seventh had gray hair.
She looked curiously at him, squinting. It was only until they got closer than her eyes widened slightly. He smiled slightly. He knew that he looked like a Runean native himself. If it weren't for his brown eyes and his brown hair, which had lightened, he would have appeared to be a native; his skin, also subjected to the Runean sun, had paled considerably and was almost as white as his wife's.
Kin Frag bowed when he and his team had reached Methos. Methos nodded back before turning his attention to the redhead. "Agent Rosenburg, I presume?"
She stood up straighter, tensing even further than she already had. He could see pain in her eyes as well as distrust. "Agent Willow Rosenburg, USDM, MIB."
Methos only raised an eyebrow. Somehow, he didn't think she meant 'Men in Black'. "And what exactly does that mean?"
"United States Department of Magic, Magical Investigations Bureau."
She was telling the truth so far, but after the uncertain undertone with which Clarin had contacted him earlier, Methos knew that there was something amiss. He glanced at the demoness but she only shook her head. She got two raised eyebrows for that. The only reason why she wouldn't want to communicate telepathically with him was if she'd seen some sort of power within this woman. She was probably a witch.
"How did you manage to escape, Agent Rosenburg?" he asked.
"My partner, Agent Alex Harris, and I were wearing protective talismans when we first arrived here," Willow began. "When the Trigs sent the others to other places, we were able to direct where we wanted to go. We ended up in a different part of the castle where Trig wouldn't find us."
Methos nodded. She still told him the truth.
"We wanted to free the others, and we decided to do that. I could sense them in the dungeons, so we started heading down there." She swallowed. "We were caught before we could reach them by Trig's sentinels." A look of absolute hatred appeared. "They killed Alex. They're going to pay for that, but I knew I had to get out of there before Trig found me. So I did. The sentinels followed and would have had me if Kin Frag's team hadn't shown up when they did."
Everything in that last bit had been a lie. Methos wasn't impressed; if it hadn't been for the fact that he'd spent five thousand years learning the expressions of human beings, and for the fact that he had this nifty inner lie detector via the Prizes he'd won, she would have fooled him completely. She was good, just not good enough.
"Do not lie to me again," he said, voice stony.
Her eyes widened in surprise before narrowing. She glared defiantly at him. "So you could tell, huh? Look at me shaking in my boots."
Methos stepped up to her and stared evenly down at her. He saw her gulp, once; otherwise, there was no reaction.
Methos leaned down and hissed in her ear, "I do not have time for your little games, child. You have power, but I have more."
He pulled back a little and saw that her eyes had widened in fear. She recovered quickly.
He continued, "I can not stand here and listen to you tell more lies. I cannot force you to tell the truth…but there are other ways to learn it." He grinned darkly. "When I am done with you, you are going to wish that you had told the truth."
He moved suddenly, grabbing either one of her temples before anyone even blinked. Agent Rosenburg's eyes widened. Panicking, she tried to force his fingers away from her but he held firm.
"Our minds are become one," he began, ignoring the claws that bit into his fingers, trying to make him break from his grip. He stared into Willow's eyes, and no matter how hard she tried, she couldn't look away.
"My mind to your mind, and your mind to mine…" Methos said.
Their surroundings swirled, spinning in a dizzying array of colors before settling back into some semblance of order. Clarin, Kin Frag, and the other Runeans had vanished, leaving just Methos and Willow. Willow's body went slack and unmoving. Methos removed his fingers and stepped back from her, and still she didn't move.
"Our mind is one," he said.
Willow blinked and looked about her. "Where are we?"
"We're inside your mind," Methos told her, mask carefully in place. "Soon, I will know all your secrets."
"Let's see what really happened in the Fortress," Methos said. He gazed about at the swirl of colors, then reached out and pulled on something. Willow screamed, grabbing the sides of her head.
Images came to Methos' mind. They were from the Agent's POV, and they were of her and her partner's experiences in Trig's Fortress.
They did not fill him with nice feelings.
He broke off from them in shock. With another thought, he severed the connection between himself and the Agent.
They were back in the meadow, surrounded by Kin Frag and his men and women. Agent Rosenburg collapsed while Methos staggered back, staring at her.
"Methos?" Kin Frag inquired.
Methos' mind raced. Anger filled him as he glared down at the redhead. "Bring her," he said. "The fool may have doomed us all, but we can not allow her to out of our sights. There is much to do. We must hurry."
Rosenburg blinked up at him. "Doomed? W-What do you mean?
In answer, Methos backslapped her, sending her reeling back face-first onto the ground. He heard Clarin gasp.
He was furious. "Your little stunt may have cost us this world and everyone on it! Do you understand now?"
Rosenburg's terrified eyes told him she did understand. "I-I didn't mean-"
Methos didn't listen anymore. He turned and stalked to the block, inserting the disk. "Hret," he spat, and the force field came down, allowing them access.
Then everything went to hell.