How Quaint the Ways of Paradox
Part 1: Time and Time Again
"How quaint the ways of paradox; At common sense she gaily mocks"
(Gilbert and Sullivan. Pirates of Penzance)
Angry, furious that he had failed to make the witches leave the Grimoire in the changed timeline, Tempus whirled though the mirror seeing the high and lows of the life of Belthezor’s witch. Somewhere in her story was, he still felt sure the key to restoring the Grimoire and fulfilling his destiny.
As he searched in the pictures oh her life, through the clear view of evil and the long cloudy visions of good he was suddenly hopeful. Just over two years ago, only a few of weeks before the vanquish of the old Source, Belthezor’s witch went missing for nearly 24 earth hours.
Tempus searched and searched to find what had happened to her but he found nothing, for 24 hours the witch’s life was a blank. He searched through the next few months of her life, the tumultuous ones where the Source was vanquished and Belthezor, true to his nature betrayed his family and absorbed the essence of the Source and its power and for such a short while ruled the underworld, before he was finally struck down by his own fate, betrayed by his witch. And nothing of it changed or came from the witch’s missing time. No mention, nothing to change the fates of all of them, no destinies hanging in the balance. Tempus could only conclude it was small magic, a turning of the circle in the lives of the Charmed Ones before they completed their destiny. Nothing happened ,nothing changed. The witch disappeared and she returned and Tempus decided that it was nothing very significant in the destiny of the Charmed Ones, Belthezor or retrieving the Grimoire.
It was the day after New Year in San Francisco. In the late afternoon the fog rolled in and even the central part of the city was covered. Phoebe hurried to avoid in the biting cold. She huddled into her jacket and wool cap. Phoebe should have been ecstatically happy yet she was not sure why she was feeling so uneasy. She had had a very happy Christmas and New Year. Cole finally seemed happy, well he should be she supposed, he said all he ever wanted was her and she had agreed to marry him but more than that the craving, the hideous restless and constant fear that had seemed to consume him since she had vanquished, since she had destroyed Belthezor seem to have left him.
In the weeks since Cole had become, since she had made Cole mortal she had feared for what it would do to him, to them, but now everything seemed as if thank God, it would be all right. So she should have been feeling happy, not this nagging concern.
Phoebe took a short cut through an alley way and stopped cold. A demon had appeared out of the shadows. Phoebe did not recognise him but she knew Cole would just say smile and say lower level demon, just out for evil. It was in semi human form with an odd misshapen head and hands and strange grey and green tinged skin. It was dressed in human clothing of sorts and had odd horns protruding almost like cows horns from the side of its head, where the hair should have been was a muddy, mossy mat. At that moment it was bent over the prostrate form of a drunk or drugged homeless person and seemed to be about to indulge in some vampirish ritual using long canine type teeth.
Normally Phoebe would not have considered trying to vanquish a demon in the middle of the day so close to the main San Francisco square but just at the moment, the demon was at the end of a deserted lane, and almost all other passerbys were far more interested in the street performers doing quite breathless acrobatics than what was going on any where else, and this vanquish was such a gimme.
Only to aware of the dangers of daylight vanquishes since Prue’s death, she checked again to make sure no one was watching her. She noticed a tall, well dressed man in maybe his late fifties watching her for a second but then he moved into the crowd. Phoebe ran down the alley, yelling at the demon, which let out a blood curling scream as she approached. She leaped into the air and kicked out sending the demon flying backwards. It leapt forward aiming a claw that straight toward her heart. It was so easy to catch its hand and force the claw straight at the demon’s body.
She was about to force the claw into its heart when she became aware of a hand on her shoulder and she half turned to find the well dressed man behind her. In the space of a second Phoebe also became aware of two policeman entering the alley, the man raising his other hand and sending the demon flying to the opposite wall, the demon disappearing, and being caught in the well known feeling of shimmering into another space and time.
They came out of the shimmer in a house that Phoebe instantly knew was not in San Francisco. Phoebe could see through glass doors onto a balcony that it was suddenly quite dark outside. They were in a room which had a tiled floor, a dining table and chairs that was quite obviously antique in front of her.
The demon released Phoebe and with a speed that was quite amazing in an older man, stepped out of her way before she could levitate into a kick that would have shattered his skull.
She tried to jump toward him and he raised his hand and flicked a finger and suddenly Phoebe felt the air in the room so heavy she could barely move. She could not have been as effectively contained was frozen. The demon seemed totally unaffected by the change in the atmosphere. The demon smiled before he spoke. It was a smile that she longed to wipe off his face.
“Well, well little witch interesting. The demon smiled “Most mortals throw up on the floor or faint the first time they shimmer. Why aren’t you?”
She tried to leap at him, but found herself almost unable to move, although he stepped easily and naturally away.
The demon laughed “I’m sorry little witch but I could not let you kill the Machi. It is far to dangerous for every one. Who or what are you any way?”
Phoebe glanced downward. She was very frightened. She had never come across a demon of such power and she had never felt more alone. She brazened it out glaring at the demon “Find out for yourself.” she snapped
The smile left his face for a second and he looked almost contemplative as if he were really weighing “I think I had better do that.” he finally said.
Phoebe looked up and met his eyes. She finally took into account of what he looked like. His human form was a good looking man in his late fifties. She did not need Cole to tell her this was a very powerful upper level demon. His hair was dark and greying. His eyes were a deep brown and for a demon were surprisingly gentle and amused. The thought flashed in her mind that she had only known one other demon whose eyes were so gentle. He was very expensively dressed in dark trousers and a blue shirt under a casual coat.
He flicked his hand and she felt herself shimmer again. The thought went through her mind a demon who could shimmer some one without touching was very powerful. She found herself lying on a bed in a dark room unable to move, completely held down by the weight of the air in the room.
She tried to control her panicking breathing and gasped as she felt the demon in the room. He came over to the bed and surprising gently caught her hands, then to her horror bound them to the head of the bed, he then did the same to her legs so she found herself tied very firmly down.
“I gave up raping witches a long time ago my dear.” said the demon ”Don’t panic.”
He sat on the edge of the bed. In the shadows of the room Phoebe could hardly see his face but she could see him lift his hand as he sat there and the weight of the air seemed to lift off her.
She felt the smile more than she could see it as the demon said “I understand your confusion my dear but I need you conscious and without magic for a little while. I am sorry about tying you but I am far to old to enjoy being kicked in the groin by a levitating witch.”
Phoebe gasped a little he leant toward her and put his fingers on either side of her temple.
”This will hurt a little my dear but you will come to no harm.” he whispered.
He increased the pressure and she whimpered as she could feel him suck out every thought she had in her head. She fought, tried to hid the secrets of her sisters, protect Leo, mostly to hid everything she had ever thought or felt about Cole. The more she tried to hide, the more he followed her thoughts sucking every idea, every memory from her. She struggled against the bonds and fought the power that was cursing through her brain. The demon never took his hands away from her head. A few times he murmured “Hush“ in a soft almost comforting voice.
Somewhere in the middle of trying to block all her thoughts of her total belief and trust in Cole, she passed out.
The last thing she heard was the demon murmuring “You have your little secrets don’t you my dear“
When Phoebe awoke she was still lying on the bed, she was untied but was held down by the weight of the air. Her head felt as if some one had been digging with a trowel inside her brain. The room was light. It had white walls and very tasteful expressionist painting on the wall. One side of room was obviously glass but drapes were drawn across, blocking the sunlight. Opposite the bed, she could see a bookcase. It all seemed very normal.
She groaned a little and turned her head as a door opened.
“Awake at last“ smiled the demon “Sorry about the headache“
Phoebe stunned herself by her first words “I need to pee“ she said.
Some where in the midst of the demon laughing she found herself shimmered into a bathroom. A few minutes later she was hammering on the door. She found herself shimmered down to the room she had first arrived. Only now it was very bright. There was a glass door slide open to reveal a few over a valley of Cyprus trees leading to a blue sea that was absolutely breathtaking. As Phoebe glanced around, she saw a room with white walls and mosaic floor. She noticed stunning paintings on the wall, a cabinet full of beautiful glassware and crystal, a bookcase jammed full, another glass case full of oddly glowing crystals, the antique dining setting and the demon sitting on a sofa, with a soft blue and white covering surrounded by similarly covered chairs. It was a setting so far from hell as could be imagined and Phoebe felt herself overwhelmed by the confusion. She tried to move and felt the extreme weight of the air.
The demon smiled “Just move very slowly and sit down “he suggested indicating a chair a little way from him. With no other choice Phoebe sat down. She gasped her head and visibly, paled.
“Head hurts does it" said demon. He left the room and came back with glass filled with fizzing murky liquid, which he handed to her.
“What’s that“ she asked suspiciously.
“Two soluble aspirin“ he said “You think magic fixes everything. “
“So witch you’re one of the Charmed Ones“ said the demon “I’m honoured to meet you.” Phoebe truly doubted that he was. The demon smiled, mocking, ”The question is what am I going to do about you.”
Piper threw herself down on the parlour sofa. She glared at Cole who was pacing up and down the room at an alarming rate. She seriously wondered if blowing him up now he was mortal could be considered murder.
“Cole just shut the hell up will you“ she snarled “Leo is checking with the Elders. He is doing his best to find Phoebe. Yelling at me isn’t helping.”
Paige came into the room, with a tray full of coffee mugs, offering one to Piper who took it. She offered one to Cole who pushed it away with an angry gesture. “Where did you learn your manners? In hell.” Paige muttered.
Before Cole could retort, lights showed between them. Leo turned toward Piper ”The Elders don’t know where Phoebe is” he said.
“What do you mean?” Cole started to snarl “It ‘s nearly a day since she’s been missing.”
“Look Cole she’s alive“ Leo said almost losing it at him ”Trust me. I would know if she was dead.”
“Cole. You are not the only one worried“ snapped Piper “She is my sister you know.”
Cole spun around to answer Piper and was stopped in his tracks by a huge crashing sound coming from the conservatory.
“What the hell was that?” yelled Paige dropping her coffee cup. Paige and Piper ran toward the conservatory. Leo jumped in front of Cole to stop him following them.
The demon smiled wryly at Phoebe “I don’t suppose I could convince you to forget you ever met me“ he asked. He was contemplatively silent foe a few seconds while Phoebe sat there and glowered at him when there was a tinkling sound filled the room, and he glanced toward the cabinet that contained the crystals. One was glowing soft and green,. Phoebe nervously sitting on the edge of a very comfortable chair watched as he stood up.
“That solves that“ he said “I think you are needed at home.” He walked toward her and put his hand on her shoulder. Phoebe gasped as she found herself and the demon in the Manor kitchen.
“There are some rather nasty villains in the other room“ the demon said with a smile “Little witch, is there a chance you would not mention me to your family?“
“What?” breathed Phoebe “No I…Who are you?”
“No I thought not“ said the demon unperturbed “I am Arturo. Ask your boyfriend about me. He’ll explain” and he shimmered out.
Phoebe heard loud crashing in the conservatory. She ran in to see Paige and Piper caught up in a battle with 3 demons with huge doglike heads crouched on all fours. One was frozen, Paige was orbing things at another whilst the third was launching itself at Piper. Phoebe ran into the room, launching herself at the demon attacking Piper, she kicked it into the air and Piper swung around and blew it up. Paige disintegrated another demon with a shaft of broken glass from the side door and Piper turned and blew up the last demon as Phoebe kicked it to her.
”What were they?” screamed Piper.
“Sniffers must have caught the scent of whitelighter orbs“ Cole said from the doorway pushing Leo out of the way, as he strode toward Phoebe. “Where the hell have you been“ he roared in unison with Piper who was also intent on grabbing her sister.
Phoebe did not answer. She turned and ran up the stairs to the attic, followed closely by Cole and Piper. Leo and Paige exchanged glances and followed the trio upstairs.
Once in the attic, Phoebe ran to the Book of Shadows. She began frantically flicking through the pages. “Honey, what are you doing?” Cole said from the doorway; his voice tired and strained from worry.
“I was abducted by a demon who said his name was Arturo and I want to know about him“ she snapped flicking page after page of the book. Cole half way across the room stopped in his tracks and closed his eyes for a second. He crossed the room and gently caught Phoebe’s hands “Honey“ he said “There is no demon called Arturo“
“All right what is going on?” yelled Piper almost bumping into Cole when he stopped “Where were you?”
“Piper“ said Leo from the door, warning her to calm down. Paige looked over his shoulder.
Cole pulled Phoebe away from the Book of Shadows. He put his arms around her as if he could not believe she was really with him. “Honey“ he repeated “There is no demon called Arturo.”
“What are you saying? I saw him. He said…. "Phoebe insisted.
Cole interrupted her “Honey, there is no demon called Arturo, anymore than there is a witch called Robin Hood. Arturo is a legend, a cautionary tale for half breed demons like me, like I was, to stay away from the world of light.”
“I was with him. I saw him" Phoebe said. she looked around Cole’s shoulder to her family, standing behind him with concerned and confused expressions. “ He was the most powerful demon I've ever seen. He could shimmer me from room to room without touching me. He could slow down time, so I was moving in slow motion but still in the same time line as me. He could read minds. He could stop demons with a hand movement.”
“More like an illusionist” Cole said “or the Source.”
Phoebe did not miss the way Paige gasped or Leo and Piper exchanged glances.
Later that night the three charmed sisters and Cole and Leo sat in the parlour as Phoebe told her story. Cole held Phoebe close against him as he sat in a chair with her on his knee as if he could not bear to let her away from him. Piper and Leo sat beside each other on the sofa and Paige curled up in the other chair. Phoebe and Paige were drinking Perrier water. Cole, Leo and Piper had half finished glasses of red wine in their hands.
.”I’ve heard the name Arturo“ Leo said "But using it is almost taboo up there. I never could get out of anyone why. What is the story?"
Cole sighed “Is it taboo, amongst the legions of good? It was my goodnight story for as long as I can remember. “ He told the legend “ Arturo was a half breed demon who was born about 1200 years ago. His mother was a succubus, his father a witch who turned evil. He was supposed to have been the ultimate in demon warriors. About a thousand years ago he was sent to destroy a witch who lead one of the most powerful covens, in France I think , not that it matters. He moved into her village and gained her trust then tried to kill her or pretended to try at least but he fell in love with her and she with him. When she found out he was a demon, instead of vanquishing him, she turned him against evil, they married and had a couple of children. However her coven never trusted him and when a war lord attacked the village , they convinced her Arturo had never really turned. She confronted him and although he swore he was not evil, she vanquished, well destroyed him anyway, sent him back to evil as a powerless spirit. Evil doesn’t treat traitors well and he was condemned to everlasting torment in hell. A story to remind us all that there are worse things than being vanquished fighting for evil”
Cole grimaced ”You can see why I am concerned any one who had been inside Phoebe’s head would use that legend.”
“I think it is very romantic story” said Paige.
“You’ve never had a serious relationship have you Paige?” Cole asked. Paige stuck her tongue out at him.
“I don’t care” Phoebe replied snuggling up to Cole “He’s gone. Nothing happened. I’m okay.”
“Look" said Leo “I’ll just check with the Elders. See if I can find out anything more about the legend. What the “good” side of it is.”
“Okay” said Phoebe.
Piper stood up after Leo left “Well this has been a fun day” she said. “As there aren’t any demons around and I don’t have to work tonight. I’m getting an early night. Sleeping. Alone” She turned back, leant over Phoebe to kiss her forehead “You miss, don’t sit up all night worrying” she caught Cole’s eyes “Same applies to you to mister” She left.
“I have to work tomorrow” Paige announced “I’m going to bed too. Night”
Neither Cole nor Phoebe asked her to stay. They stayed curled up together on the chair for along time. Finally Phoebe sighed and said “I’m going to have a shower and go to bed. Or Piper will come down and drag me back up there. Are you coming?"
“Have a shower. I’ll be up soon” Cole replied. He stood up and moved to the wine bottle on the table between them. As he poured another glass of wine, Phoebe glared at him.
He shrugged “Just because I am human does not mean I’m turning into an alcoholic you know. Its my second glass in two hours. I’ve had a lousy day.“
“You.. Doesn’t matter” Phoebe sighed. She turned away and walked up the stairs. Cole drained the glass and turned to follow her but was stopped by Leo orbing in front of him.
“Cole, we have to talk“ Leo said. He looked worried as he sat down. Cole poured another glass of wine for him and one for Leo.
“Thanks” Leo sighed “I asked the Elders about Arturo and they confirmed said it was a dark legend. When I said I had never heard of it they said it was not one that they felt telling was in the best interests of good magic. Stories where good destroys a demon trying to reform and then reeks vengeance, don’t exactly promote the cause. That was the reason they gave me for not talking about it, but one of them seemed a little odd about it to me. “ Leo grimaced. He looked at Cole “Cole. This is not just magic. It is my family and yours. Are you sure Arturo is a legend?”
Cole sighed “Yeah I checked” His face registered his uncertainty. “They told me the story so often I had to know. I checked. In all the souls and spirits in torment down there, there is not one called Arturo.”
Leo shrugged “Another thing though. Do you know about the Machis? They’re hugely powerful upper level demons which are condemned to live as lower demons until the are vanquished. If Phoebe had vanquished that demon , if Arturo or whoever he is had not stopped her who knows what evil would have been released on the world.”
Cole gulped down another glass of wine and hoped that Phoebe would not know “The demon said it did not do anybody any good releasing the Machi. He was right. Evil doesn’t want them released any more than Good.”
“Who the hell was he Cole?" Leo asked sharply.
“How the hell do I know." Cole answered testily. “The Source took Piper a couple of months ago and got inside her head. Maybe it was him, trying with Phoebe or maybe he sent another demon to try with Phoebe”
‘Why did he let her go?” Leo pushed.
“How the hell do I know“ said Cole again “he got what he wanted or he didn’t get what he wanted and decided to let her go and find another way. “
“Cole“ Leo insisted, “Phoebe said that demon was more powerful than the Source.”
“Maybe she was confused or he wanted her to be confused“ Cole snapped “I’m going to bed. Leo stop glaring at me. As far as I know the Source of all Evil is the most powerful demon in existence. “