DISCLAIMER: I don’t own the characters from either show. No profit is earned
AUTHOR’S NOTE: This is a crossover between W.I.T.C.H. and Angel. I first posted this as part of my Strange Days series at FF.NET. As far as I could tell, no one recognized the show. If you have any comments, please don’t be shy. R&R.
Beggars, as an old saying would have folk believe, can’t be choosers. While it wasn’t the bottom of the barrel, his present abode did leave a lot to be desired. Repressing a sigh, Lorne tried not to fidget while he waited for the local lord. By all accounts, he was some jumped up little wizard with delusions of grandeur. His kingdom reminded the green-skinned demon far too much of Pylea, but they had music, and the people didn’t seem inclined to chase him with clubs and sharp tools. All in all, I could do worse
The door of the audience chamber opened and a man in elaborate robes and a silly looking hat entered and took a seat on the throne before deigning to acknowledge his presence. When he did, Lorne drew on his years of experience as a showman and gave a practiced bow, playing to his audience. “Thank you for meeting with me, your highness.”
The man in the silly hat gave a negligent wave, dismissing the matter and got straight to the point. “I understand you wish to open a tavern in the village near my castle?”
“Yes, your highness. I ran one for years back home, and I’ve missed it. I know how to run a clean, respectable place and I got very good at heading off the kind of trouble that can start in a bar.” Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a young girl watching him curiously. His host took notice.
“My sister, the Princess Elyon.” He did not look at her again and focused on Lorne. “It is not your business that interests me, but you. What brings an outlander to my kingdom, and why open a tavern?”
“I needed a fresh start. I’m originally from Pylea. I would be surprised if you’d ever heard of it. It’s a very out-of-the-way dimension. The club I ran was in L.A.” He saw the princess perk up at this. “Unfortunately, the wrong people found out that I wasn’t local. My club, Caritas, was burned to the ground.”
Elyon gasped, and her brother made a sympathetic noise or two, but Lorne could tell that only the Princess’s reaction was a genuine reflection of her feelings. After satisfying his curiosity, the prince gave Lorne permission to open the tavern and sent him on his way.
The Respite was doing well. The locals were friendly, if rather subdued, thanks to the tyrant on the throne. All in all, things were going as well as could be expected. Each day when the doors opened to thirsty miners, merchants, castle servants, and assorted others, Lorne pasted a smile on his face and played the genial, carefree host for his clients. There was some satisfaction in the work, but the joy he’d once felt at helping others find their paths and in easing their burdens with good drink and good music, was gone.
There was music at the Respite, occasionally, but he did not encourage it, and no one sang for him. He served the drinks with a smile and a joke, and he cleaned up afterwards. Then he drank ale that didn’t affect him and fire wine that did, both in large quantities. His clientele did not see this side of him. He did his best to put on a friendly face for them, but discouraged confidences, or tried to anyway. Despite his intentions and best efforts, it was not in his nature to shut people out. They opened up to him, told him their troubles. Almost two months passed in this fashion.
It had been no surprise to Lorne that the royal pain on the throne had a rebel problem. They raided his supplies; they ambushed his tax collectors, and did anything else they could think of to weaken the tyrant. Like any group engaged in such an endeavor, the rebels prized information, and would take advantage of any chance to obtain it. Lorne had actually been expecting the visit. Late one night, his last customer to leave, the one who had kept his hood up the entire night and barely touched the only drink he’d ordered, approached him.
“Last call, pal. You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.”
“We need to talk.”
“I need to sleep,” Lorne countered. “Catch me earlier tomorrow.” He suspected that the young man worked for the rebels, but he was surprised when the hood fell back to reveal the face he’d seen on wanted posters all over the village.
“I think you’ll be interested in what I have to say.” The expatriate Pylean regarded him with tired eyes. “You’ve been here for two months. You know what life in Meridian is like for the people.”
“Let me save you some time, Caleb,” Lorne cut him off. “You represent the rebels trying to overthrow our not-so-beloved Prince. You’re hoping that I’ll be willing to aid the cause by sharing any interesting little bits of information the castle workers have told me in confidence. Not going to happen.”
“How did you…?”
“I watch and I listen, like any good bartender. I’m sure yours is a fine and noble cause, but I’m not getting involved. On either side,” he added as he saw the young man growing nervous. Lorne could see Caleb wasn’t done yet, and that the earnest young man wouldn’t go away until he’d had his say, so he poured himself a drink, and braced for the spiel.
“You know what Phobos is. How can you stand idly by while people suffer?”
“It’s not as hard as you think.”
Caleb could hardly believe what he was hearing. “How can you say that? Are you a coward? To-” His head hit the bar and was held motionless there. The outlander was faster and stronger than he had expected. He hadn’t even seen the other man move.
“You don’t know me or anything about me,” Lorne’s voice had acquired a steely quality that seemed utterly out of place in the normally gentle and soft-spoken barkeep. “So I’ll ignore that, just this once. You’ve made your pitch; you’ve heard my answer. I’ll give you the same courtesy I give to anyone who speaks to me in confidence, and not repeat what we talked about to anyone.” He released Caleb’s head and pushed him toward the door with one hand while picking up his drink with the other. “Now get the hell out.”
The bell at the entrance and the sound of female laughter drew his attention from the noise the drunken miners fondly believed was singing. The sound of the rainstorm outside momentarily drowned out their efforts, but the reprieve was brief. Fortunately, the identity of the new arrivals proved sufficiently distracting.
“Princess Elyon, this is hardly proper,” a stiff young man with blonde hair and wearing fine robes, gave the tavern a disapproving look.
“Is it less proper than having a princess who looks like a drowned rat?” she answered with a smirk as she wrung out her hair. Elyon was obviously enjoying her companion’s discomfort. “We won’t be here long. Relax Cedric.” So that’s Cedric, huh?
Lorne sized up the thin, serious looking young man. He was a lot more than he seemed if the stories were true. Shoving those thoughts aside, it wasn’t his business, after all, he instead turned towards a fireplace and took a kettle off the fire.
“Welcome to the Respite, princess.” He handed them each a cup of tea. “You’re in luck. Hot tea seems just as popular as cold ale tonight.” They both accepted and sipped the brew gratefully. “Normally, I’d say your friend here is right, but with it coming down cats and dogs, I see no harm in your waiting here till it passes. I have a back room if you’d like to get away from the noise.” He glanced at the still singing miners, and winced at some of the things his gift showed him.
“Thanks,” Elyon smiled, but glanced at the miners. “What are they singing? I don’t even recognize the language.”
“Lucky you,” the tavern owner grimaced. Cedric was frowning fiercely, obviously of the same opinion. “Let’s just say it’s not something someone your age should be hearing even if it is in a strange language.”
Elyon gave him a blank look for a moment and then blushed. “OH!” She snuck a look at Cedric who was looking more uncomfortable by the moment. Evidently, she decided to play. “Catchy tune, though.” She began to hum along, much to her companion’s irritation. A moment later, she stopped when she noticed the Lorne staring at her, his skin a paler shade of green than normal. “Is something wrong?”
The rebel’s headquarters couldn’t be found by following the trail of wineskins he’d dropped. Not quite. The large blue creature that guarded the tunnel had seemed disinclined to let the drunken outlander in, but he’d relented at the loud insistence that it was urgent, a matter of life and death. “Gotta speak ta Caleb,” he kept almost slurring.
The rebel leader looked up as Lorne was brought in. He was not alone. With him, gathered around a table covered with maps, were five teenage girls, not one over 15. These must be the Guardians
, Lorne realized. The burned-out white hat regarded them sadly for a moment, before turning to Caleb. He raised a hand before the man could speak.
“I ran out of fire wine getting here. Just-just let me say this while I can.” Caleb regarded him coldly, but nodded, folding his arms and waiting. The girls wrinkled their noses at the smell coming off him, but also refrained from commenting. “You think I’m a coward, that I don’t care, but you don’t know me, and could never understand.” He drew a deep steadying breath and swayed on his feet. “I fought…for years I fought the good fight. In small ways. In big ways. In smart ways and stupid ways. My friends and I threw ourselves at things that would make Phobos wet his pants.” Caleb snorted at this, but didn’t interrupt. “The Wolf, the Ram and the Hart. Worst of the worst, but we, hic, fought them and all their little mini-onions… minions.” He paused to gather his thoughts, and took another deep breath.
“You know what all that fighting got me?” No answer, he noted blearily, from any of them. “A lot of dead friends.” The girls exchanged stricken looks and Caleb seemed suddenly less sure of himself. “Because of what I am and what I can do, I felt it all. Always have. I felt their grief. I felt their loss.” He looked away, finding a blank spot on the wall and staring hard at it while he focused. He had to get this out, and finish what he came to do.
“I felt the anger my friends felt for every innocent they couldn’t save. I felt Angel and Cordy’s grief for a man I never knew, who died defusing a bomb that would have destroyed L.A. I felt my friends’ grief on top of my own when Cordelia died. I felt the loss of strangers and friends and… and of the woman I loved.” Again the memories of that horrible day sought to overwhelm him, but he pushed them back with a supreme effort of will. “My friends are all dead now. Do you know why they died? Do you know what was so important that we willingly threw ourselves into a fight we could never win?” Again, no one answered. “A chance to spit in the beast’s eye!”
His tone caused Caleb to draw back as if he’d been physically struck, but he said nothing. Lorne pressed on. “A single grand act of defiance to prove that the demons didn’t own us, and never would! It worked too.” He shuddered and had to grip the edge of the table. “We made ‘em mad. Real mad.” The faces around him were hard to read, perhaps because they didn’t know what to think and were wavering between potential reactions, perhaps because there seemed to be two or three of each of them. Lorne wasn’t sure.
“Angel, Wesley, Gunn, Spike, F-Fred…. all gone now. Our enemy? The beast is still there. Slouching towards Bethlehem while it picks them out of its teeth.” The ex-white hat stared at the floor for a moment, gathering his thoughts. “He’s not going to kill her, you know? It’s worse. He wants his sister’s magic for himself, and he has a way of getting it. When her powers reach their peak, he’s going to strap that poor girl into a throne of her very own and slowly siphon off her power while she sits there trapped and helpless. She could last for years that way.”
“Elyon,” one of the girls, a tall blonde, finally spoke, shaking slightly, her eyes wide. “How? When?”
“At the coronation ceremony. It’s all a hoax, a mockery, and it makes the sick bastard smile to think on it. Five days from now. You’ve got to get her out before then, before its too late.”
“If you can…”
“I can’t!” he almost wailed, cutting off the redhead who had spoken. “Don’t you get it? This is all I can do for you!” In a softer tone he added, “this is all I can offer.” Krevlornswath of the Deathwok Clan turned and started to walk out of the room. “I’m done.”