The Life and Times

Part 1: Magic in the air

Chapter 7


"To expostulate why day is day, night night, and time is time, 
were nothing but to waste night, day, and time"
Hamlet, Act ii, Sc.2

Tempus, the Source of all Evil, stood in his Coronation chamber surrounded by minions, guards, red robed lore masters, dark robbed demon's of the upper hierarchy. Tempus never a foolish demon, had gained some wisdom on his ascension to the throne of the Source. He had learnt that rulers must be seen to rule, he had also learnt that nothing should be discussed in these throne room conferences that he had not already decided upon, understood the consequences and concluded what the advantages were to him and therefore all evil.


"So" he said scornfully "you truly believe this warlock …king " he sneered "seeks to rival the ascension of anointed source, by stealing witches powers."


"It would not be the first time, that a pretender has tried to gain ascendency by taking the Charmed One's powers " said a small upper level demon respectfully and safely hidden behind its hood. Tempus swung his gaze at the demon who fearfully bowed "Warlocks are not known for their wisdom or respect of the rightful order." The demon whimpered.


"It would seem that the powers of the Charmed Ones are not enough to rule evil." Tempus said." Even those beings, who temporarily acquired their powers were not strong enough to lead." And every minion in the Chamber remembered the fate and madness of the Old Source." The true path to power and glory is to confront one's destiny " said Tempus "And the destiny for those who chose a destiny to oppose me is to die" he added. He glanced at the trembling minions and knew some were seriously contemplating their destinies.


"The time for confronting nemesis has passed " said Tempus grandly " the time for nemesis is gone, so I see no wisdom in creating a legend for the Charmed Ones which propagates them as a foe worthy and equal to the anointed Source. The last source grew weak " Tempus continued with a cultivated sneer:"and became vulnerable to less worthy foes. Leave the Charmed Ones to warlocks " he told the minions " leave them to their small games and small foes, and illusions of great magic" he noted with satisfaction that demons around nodded.


One demon finally said in a whimpering tone. "The Charmed Ones" it snivelled " did defeat the Triad and our brethrens of the Brotherhood and so many of our brothers in the Great Immolation." And it shuddered with not a little fear because it had been told to ask these questions with a promised reward but Tempus was not above retribution should the scenario not go the way he decreed.


"The Charmed Ones were only able to defeat these great demons because they use demon power, the traitor Belthezor and Belthezor, whatever else he was " said Tempus with a feigned amusement "was a great power. He once had a chance to be the Source to lead demons. The Charmed Ones could only do it with the power of Belthezor."


Tempus could afford to elevate long gone demons to the status of mythological hero when it suited him to illustrate the it was only through traitors that good had the power to defeat evil. Especially as every demon knew that Tempus had a policy of no forgiveness. At a hint, a belief, a glimpse of treason, Tempus had taken to frying demons, and quite a few who were not traitors just to stress the point.


"Belthezor no longer exists so the Charmed Ones have no access to his power. Leave the Charmed Ones, they are not a worthy foe." repeated Tempus as the minions admired his wisdom. " Although" added Tempus "if they take upon themselves to annihilate some our lesser compatriots who seek to advance themselves. Warlocks" sneered Tempus "we won't complain."


The demons nodded. "My Lord " said one of the red robed lore masters "one more thing " Tempus  acknowledged it "Where do we go, what do we do then to propagate evil?" it smirked making it clear the question was set up. 


"Africa" replied Tempus, knowing full well he did not appear quite as wise as he hoped and promising retribution on lore masters when the chance arrived "Africa was the source of life of the earth realm" said Tempus "it can be the source of annihilation of good and the supremacy of evil in the realm. We use the treasures of Africa and evil will be rewarded."


Tempus not as satisfied with the session as he hoped shimmered to his private chamber, where a shivering minion told him the demon was waiting.


"You showed great wisdom in council Lord" a dark robed demon wearing the insignia of the brotherhood intoned as it  knelt to Tempus.


"I have noted your work " sad Tempus".


"The wisdom of our lamented Raynor " said the demon who had risen to Raynor's place. It stood up " was that the best way to win the mortal realm is to take over their businesses, to twist their finances, to convince them that their existence depends on.. financial domination not their.. humanity and take control of the mechanisms of that domination. My rat brothers work well. You have noted my lord," it told Tempus who inclined his head. "The infiltrations in control of mortal finance markets, and that the mortal decisions on dealing with poverty, disease and war are all driven by how their response effects those markets. Mortals who believe their existence and well being depends on those financial institutions will sell their souls to those who control them," said the leader of the Brotherhood " As many have done already."


"I note you do very well," Tempus told him. " It will take time " said the demon who used to be the Time Lord," but that is an advantage in itself."


The leader of the Brotherhood bowed and shimmered. Tempus rubbed his hands together and allowed a grim smile "Evil advances..well" he said to himself and felt for a second his evil core sated before the craving for more returned.


The next night, quite late Phoebe and Paige and Piper were in the attic reading through the Book of Shadows on warlock activity. Leo, trying to read Plato in Ancient Greek because he thought the nuances were more easily understood in the original language, sat in the sofa in case they wanted any advice or interpretation. Phoebe and Paige had already decided this was a useless exercise because they had to yell at him three times just to get him to take his nose out of the book. Cole was putting the children to bed as ordered by Piper.


The whitelighter Casper-not orbed in and somewhat patiently waited for the Charmed Ones to acknowledge him.


"What" said Piper looking up " Did you find anything about these non-existent warlock attacks? " she demanded.


"They appear random" replied Casper-not carefully "There are some things we need to discuss " the whitelighter said very seriously " the Elders have asked me to bring these things to you."


"Okay " said Phoebe brightly. She was sitting herself on her favourite stool, while Paige sat on the sofa near Leo, making a somewhat threatening circle of three around the whitelighter who chose to ignore it. Leo very carefully put his book down and watched the whitelighter.


The whitelighter looked at the witches carefully, tactfully patiently. Piper found herself thinking about darklighters. Paige started thinking about her last meeting with the supreme commander of the Community service who called her to his office to explain the error of her ways.


"After you problems with Count Fleischer " the whitelighter explained carefully, the Elders, after some discussion thought that we needed some information about this warlock to understand what was happening. We..they" he said carefully "arranged for some witches, in New York to summon it and ask it some questions about certain things."


"Good" said Paige crossing her arms. "They had no problems calling it."


"It had no warning this time" the whitelighter answered severely.


"It had no warning last time" Piper insisted, defiantly looking at him.


" Firstly " the whitelighter told them carefully ignoring the comment" with some encouragement, this Count Fleischer claimed it was able to resist the summons from you because it was warned you were about to summon it. It was adamant that the information was received from here."


"That's ridiculous" said Paige "we just summoned it."


"I wouldn't know what you did," said the whitelighter patiently, carefully " You didn't discuss it with me or any other whitelighter."


"Why on earth would we warn it when we were summoning it " said Paige.


"I cannot think of a reason " said the whitelighter.. He then took a deep breath " we are also able to discover that this Count Fleischer is the brother of the warlock Willem that the witch Clarissa mentioned she saw."


"Oh " said Phoebe.


"The warlock indicated that he and his brother had some ambitions to rival the new source." The whitelighter said.


Piper started flicking the Book of Shadows. "Not much about it" she said. "Hasn't stolen powers for centuries. Warlocks often have ambitions" Piper added. "It means nothing. Having ambitions doesn't mean having power to match."


"The warlocks believed they could do it by acquiring some source like demonic powers, apparently" the whitelighter told the witches watching their responses carefully.


"Really " said Piper " he was lying. How many demons are there that have source like powers. It something they get for being the source. "


"Exactly " said the whitelighter, fractionally impatient. "According to Count Fleischer before he died, his brother had located the demon Belthezor, the ex-source, still alive."


"Shit " muttered Paige not quite under her breath.


"Making it up to impress the brethren" said Piper "promise of source like power is always good for a takeover bid in the underworld."


"We know this " said the whitelighter still very careful " but it appears a power that Count Fleischer..had  acquired and shared with his brother was the ability to recognise the mortal form of demons. And Willem recognised Belthezor somewhere."


"How would he have known Belthezor?" asked Leo in a flat neutral voice.


"Worked with him extensively in his pre source days apparently " Casper-not answered somewhat shortly, feeling that Leo's term as the Charmed Ones whitelighter was not wholly without responsibility for the present difficulties the Elders were having with the witches.


"How did Count Fleischer die?" Piper stalling for time while Phoebe clutched the side of her stool. "Did the witches kill it?"


"Evil imploded it before it could divulge anything else" the whitelighter said.


"Like they did Troxus" said Phoebe finding her voice.


"Perhaps " said Piper.


"I have to ask you " the whitelighter said turning to Phoebe " are you sure you vanquished Belthezor?" He looked at her bland face smile not quite reaching his eyes. "I'm only asking. I'm not accusing you " he told Phoebe.


"You know," interrupted Cole making them all jump. He stood at the attic door, leaning against the jamb, smiling without it reaching his eyes. "When the police say 'I'm not accusing you.' that is when I advise clients, particularly innocent clients, to start yelling for a good lawyer."


"Know any good lawyers," Phoebe said her eyes meeting Cole's, her lips shaking tremulously.


The smile reached his eyes, the special one he saved for her. "By co-incidence I just happen to know one" he said coming into the attic.


"This is damned ridiculous" Piper said lifting her hands and freezing the whitelighter "what do we tell them?"


"Tell them the story, you've always told them" said Leo quietly.


"Working with Willem and Count Fleischer, another little secret you never bothered to tell Cole " Paige asked sarcastically.


"I never worked with them," Cole said "or don't you believe me."


"He's telling the truth" said Phoebe who could tell through their connected auras when Cole lied.


"Okay " said Paige.


"Lucky Phoebe can tell isn't it " Cole snarked at Paige. " You won't take my word,"


"You keep secrets" said Paige.


"Who doesn't?" said Cole.


"Cole" said Leo "What are you going to tell your whitelighter?" he asked the witches.


Cole walked over and stood behind Phoebe "In my experience, a little bit of passionate truth does wonders for making beings believe a less than truthful version " he volunteered "Unless you want to tell him the whole truth " he said.


"I believe the guardian would have some problems with that," Leo said quietly.


"He would" Cole replied just as quiet.


"Unfreeze him Piper " Phoebe said.


Piper unfroze Casper not who immediately focused on Cole in a different position.


"Piper froze you while we discussed it" Phoebe explained as she reached up to touch Cole's hands gripping her shoulder. "I can only tell you the same story I have always told you " she said to the whitelighter.


"Does your husband need to be here?" Casper asked almost embarrassed.


"Yes" said Phoebe "I need him here. I want him here" she added. "You know the story. I met Belthezor in mortal form, and fell in love with him. He tried, he really tried to leave evil for me."


"It can't be done, a demon is what it is born " said Casper-not almost gently.


"I know" said Phoebe "he was part human and he tried and he failed. The demon brotherhood dragged him back and he killed a witch. I went to the underworld to try and 'save' him and I guess at some level; " she noticed Cole's hand tighten, "he did love me because he saved me, helped me escape. You know what happened, you know it cost my sister Prue her life."


Caper-not nodded. Leo looked at the floor while Piper and Paige did not take their eyes off their sister's face.


Phoebe continued "He ran, as I understand it, and the source hunted him. At some point his powers were destroyed and he fell into the hands of the old cow the Seer. I never did understand exactly what she did but she used the Hollow to possess his powerless form with the powers, the essence of the Old Source. " Phoebe put a hand up to touch Cole's face. "I'd met Cole around the time I met Belthezor and he was there for me when Belthezor went" she whispered "he asked me to marry him just before we disposed of the demon form of the old Source. Thought we'd vanquished him. The Source, Belthezor," she swallowed "took over Cole, it was one of his powers, he did it to one of Paige's clients, and one of Paige's boyfriends and you know the rest. He turned me evil, he used me and at one level." Cole's hand became a vice on her shoulder "He loved me:" she whispered. "And I " she looked at her sisters "we vanquished him."


"I see " said Casper-not almost sympathetically, almost as if to give Phoebe time to recover, because whitelighters were rarely interested in discussing magic with non magic mortals he turned to Cole "Can you remember anything of the takeover?"


"Yes" said Cole " I can remember feeling angry, and frightened and helpless and …guilty, and very relieved when the girls vanquished Belthezor " he said.


"Are you sure you vanquished him that last time?" persisted the whitelighter.


"You know as well as I do how the Elders celebrated, they felt it, they knew it was destiny. 'Up there'." Leo insisted.


"I, we, the Elders know the Old Source was vanquished for good" said Casper-not and he did not pretend to be patient " Are you sure Belthezor was vanquished?" he repeated.


"Everything evil died that day," Paige said quietly.


"Then why do you think Count Fleischer thought Belthezor was alive?" the whitelighter asked.


"He lied. Never knew Belthezor, wants to convince his followers he has access to source like powers" Cole said facetiously as the whitelighter looked at him, clearly not welcoming mortal input.


"A witch from the Netherlands confirmed he was telling the truth" the whitelighter contradicted " A demon called Rastus, before he was vanquished, recalled working with Belthezor, liasing between him and warlocks including Willem. We have searched for information on Willem where we could find it. Usually secondary sources" Casper-not explained. "You are telling me everything about Belthezor?" the whitelighter said to Phoebe.


"Of course I'm not" Phoebe declared angrily, eyes flashing "what do want me to tell, you, what it was like to fuck the devil, how much..the passion, how much he tempted me, how my soul craved to be his mate, his partner. To be complete with him. How much I cried when I..we vanquished him. What it felt like to know I was carrying his child. " she stopped her fingers wrapped like talons around Cole's hands on her shoulder, head thrown back defiant.


"I'm sorry you had to hear that " said Casper-not, uncomfortable addressing Cole, while Piper snorted in disgust "we all have to do things we would.. prefer not to in the course of the battle. I had to ask her."


"I know," said Cole. Quietly, gently.


Casper-not nodded "I'll go and talk to the Elders " he said and orbed.


"Bloody chauvinistic god damned whitelighter" screeched Paige " Phoebe's your wife not your property " Paige snapped at Cole. "Don't act like you have own her."


"I don't think I do" said Cole wryly. Phoebe stuck her tongue out.


Leo spun at Cole "You're damned lucky that whitelighter is so good. He only believed that because he is so ….decent."


"I know he believed it" Cole nodded "I felt his aura."


"What the hell are your powers?" Paige demanded of Cole who ignored her. "And are you sure you didn't work with those bloody warlocks" she pushed.


The smile reached Cole's his eyes " I don't recall working with either Willem or Count Fleischer" he said " I do recall working with Rastus. I don't like warlocks," Cole added.


"Then we better find out what really did happen " said Paige snippily "I believe you " she told Cole her nose in the air, while he raised his eyes.


They spent a few hours searching somewhat futilely while Cole called unsuccessfully for Francesca, finally giving up and deciding to try again tomorrow.


Piper and Leo took advantage of not having to be at P3, to follow their own interest. Piper read some college brochures and Leo was still lost in Plato. Piper finally leaned over and turned off the lamp on her side of the bed. "Are you going to read much longer?" she asked Leo " You've had your nose in that book all night."


"Won't be much longer," he muttered reaching for a dictionary " just this page."


"Why do you need a dictionary? " she said " I thought you used to have a Greek charge. Can't you speak Greek? "


"Its written in ancient Greek. Not modern Greek, it's a lot harder," Leo answered nose still in the book.


"Hmm " snorted Piper.


Leo stuck to the book aware of hers restlessness beside him. He finally finished the page and somewhat deliberately put the book and the dictionary on the bedside table.


"And what did you learn from all that?" Piper asked suddenly not all that sleepy.


"That I need to learn a lot more before I understand any of it " Leo sighed.


"Will you.. ever understand it? "Piper asked as he switched the light off.


"It makes no sense to just know it " Leo answered "The only way I can..justify it is to know enough to help heal lost souls, hurting souls. Maybe to know what is right and wrong. Maybe even learn some of that for Durand.. with a little more tact " he grinned. "Who knows this eclipse might teach me something."


"Well so far nothing has happened about eclipses," said Piper not without disappointment in her voice" And it doesn't look like Casper intends to warn us. Casper isn't the most supportive of whitelighters," she added.


"Wrong ghost " said Leo shaking his head, "More interested in problem solving than support. I guess." Leo had heard rumours of meeting upon meeting of Elders about how to handle the problem of the Charmed Ones out of control."


"I sort of ,maybe wouldn't mind well some excitement, " Piper said confidentially.


"Aren't you happy where we are? " Leo asked stung.


"Yeah I'm happy with us " said Piper "well I would be I wasn't so scared Melinda will turn out to be hell on earth, she is so, I don't know passionate, determined to get her own way. "


"And she's only three " sighed Leo.


"Yeah " said Piper "but you know just… I wouldn't mind, feeling some magic in the magic."


"Piper" said Leo turning to stare at her" "You're one of the most powerful witches whoever lived. I know Paige is a little disillusioned now, but she's still mourning Mark but you, your magic defines who you are."


"Then I'm pretty damn boring " Piper answered. "Leo, I'm not fed up with magic but you know what I do, freeze a demon, and poof blow it up, or say a spell and pouff blow it up and go to the supermarket. Same old thing. Read about demon, protect the innocent, blow up a demon, take the kids to a paediatrician."


"Piper " sighed Leo.


"I like being a mother and running a club. Its just. You know when you ran off with Phoebe when she was pregnant with Patsy, she got to see fairies and wood nymphs and 'up there'. I got to stay home and listen to Cole bitch.


"Piper " sighed Leo.


"And " said Piper " Paige got to see vampires. I cook."


"You're not jealous," asked Leo horrified.


"I'm not jealous," said Piper " just a bit envious. You know with Durand, you get to see centaurs, and goblins. I blow up warlocks. I just want some magic in my magic."


"Goodnight dear" said Leo leaning over to peck her lips.


"Nite " sighed Piper "All I ask is a little some magic in my magic you know" she said sliding down under the comforter.


The next day Francesca walked into Cole's office wearing the mortal face she kept because mortals of this age could not deal with the evidence of disease and ignorance. With her most matronly smile , she  asked for Cole. Eduardo Vega looked at her, another older woman client, he presumed, this one slightly plump, beautifully dressed. Eduardo saw lots of them come through the office, older women who continually changed wills because they really had nothing better to do or found a reason for other legal business because they got a twenty minute interview with Phoebe's very charming husband. Eduardo supposed he ought to be glad about Cole's ability to charm them too because he was getting a good understanding of the financial arrangements for Cole's small practice and Eduardo knew they paid for a good proportion of his salary. But sometimes he felt like telling them, there is a world out there to be lived, life and death and hope and love. Stop worrying about what happened when they died and enjoy what they had while they lived. They may be a great deal happier.


Cole came out of his office and held the door open, at his most charming " Mrs Rinaldi " he said urbanely "Delighted to see you. Eventually."


"So charming " murmured Francesca as she walked past him.


Cole barely shut the door before he turned on her " Where have you been?" he demanded. " I've been calling since last night."


"I require courtesy " sad Francesca very school marm " and coffee. And I have been busy. You are not my only responsibility" she told him firmly.


"This is important " Cole said but obediently went to make her  coffee."


"But not urgent" said Francesca.


"No I guess not. Patience isn't one of my strong points" he conceded bringing the coffee back.


"I have noticed that" Francesca replied taking the coffee and sipping it as Cole told her about the whitelighter's visit.


"I never dealt with Willem" he said.


"Or don't remember it " Francesca replied.


Cole winced. "That seems to be the point doesn't it."


"Yes " she agreed waiting for him to talk.


"I'm inclined to believe that the recognition of Belthezor is not unrelated to the warlock attack," Cole said. "a little to co incidental."


"I'm not a great believer in co-incidence " Francesca said. "I'll look into it" she offered "ask around with the Elders and other Powers. Find out  what they know and are keeping secret from the Charmed Ones."


"Leo assures me that the discovery of the existence of the guardian Belthezor by the Powers that Be would be…undesirable." Cole told her.


"Leo is learning wisdom," said Francesca smiling.


"Yeah well he learnt that from experience, not a book " said Cole.


"It's the ability to equate the one with the other that is wisdom " Francesca said seriously.


"Don't encourage him with those damned books" said Cole. Francesca looked at him "Oh do what you think best" he said.


"I generally do " Francesca replied. "I'll have another cup " she said giving him her empty coffee cup. "What's troubling you?" she asked when he returned.


"I keep wondering who I was protecting killing that warlock " Cole said staring into his cup and not looking at Francesca.


"Does it matter?" she asked.


"I don't know " he said "I killed an evil creature protecting the secret of what I am. Probably. Although I also did it to stop Melinda having to kill it. Does that justify it? I wonder, what if next time I have to kill a good creature to protect the secret of what I am."


"I trust you will have the wisdom to make the right choice," Francesca said. "Or fate will intervene."


"Is that all you can say?" Cole snapped angrily.


"I cannot see the future Cole," Francesca explained almost gently "nor can I tell you what you what is right or wrong in circumstances that don't yet exist yet. You were justified this time, you believe, because there was an innocent to protect, and it was after all just a warlock, whose two compatriots were killed by your family as soldiers in the battle. Did you feel anything in the spirit winds telling you not to do it."


"No" Cole said.


"And of course you always listen to the message on the spirit winds" Francesca asked with just a hint of derision in her voice  and Cole wondered if she knew anything about him interfering in the witch Clarissa's business.


"Mostly"' he agreed as Francesca pursed her lips.


"Your secret is at risk with these warlocks, led by what is its name Willem. Why aren't you hunting them down?" Francesca asked


"I'm getting a pretty strong feeling on the spirit winds that would not be a good idea" Cole answered grimly.


"Well, then its seems we'll work on the proposition that smiting those who learn the secret is not a good idea without any other justification" said Francesca "and take it from there shall we?"


"My life " Cole said looking at Francesca, his face in pain " with Phoebe, with my son, with my children, my family. It's a good life. I'm happy " he said, "Do you understand what it is for a demon to find happiness?"


"Yes" said Francesca simply "I understand."


"It depends on my secret being kept" he whispered.


"Yes" Francesca agreed and watched as he put buried his face in his hands.


He finally looked up "You're not going to let me get away with choosing Phoebe and all else be damned are you?" he said smiling a little.


"I cannot resist pointing out that such a choice would damn you " Francesca said school marm " but I do have some faith in your conscience over such matters."


"Hmm " he said .


Francesca glanced out at the outer office through the blinds that were set so Cole could see out but others could not see in. "Oh Lord " she said.