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    Flying as fast as she could, Prismatic streaked through the sky, trying to process what had been told to her by the enigmatic Can Man.  No, she corrected herself, Can Man was merely the vehicle for the being inside him.  The poor human probably had no idea as to what was going on half the time having been rendered insane by external forces.

    What bothered her most was the sheer callousness of her race; looking at the destruction of Earth with the cool detachment of a scientist when looking at a dying specimen.  How could one live among the humans and not appreciate the good within them, she wondered.  Over-involved or not, she was going to help this race and this world she had begun to call home.


    By the time Nightbringer and the others arrived at the scene, full-scale pandemonium had erupted among the survivors of the wrecked Widow Star, at the surface was a massive squid, larger than any that had ever been seen.  Flailing its tentacles wildly, it would grab a hapless victim and pull them into its maw.  Blood and guts polluted the water around it, drawing seagulls and sharks; all eager to feed on the chum.

    The kraken made another grab, and Liquid Chill made the first attack, a bolt of ice struck the tentacle, turning the end of it a dark red as the intense cold froze the creature’s tissue.  Drawing it back, it attempted to grab same person, only to have another blast of cold encase its limb.

    LiveWire began to glow, and Nightbringer could tell the younger man was getting ready to unleash a particularly powerful thunderbolt; in fact, he could feel the hair on his arms beginning to stand up from the sudden increase in static electricity.  Lightning could be heard crackling from LiveWire’s fingertips as he prepared to unleash his power.

    “LiveWire, STOP!”  yelled the Nameless’ leader, anger flashing in his eyes.  “You release that bolt, and you’ll kill everyone down there!”

    With a sudden desperate look, LiveWire released his thunderbolt skyward, its heat splitting air molecules in a gigantic thunderclap.  Nightbringer gave him a warning look.

    “You and Lady Athena try and get as many people away from that thing as possible.”  He quickly scanned the skies around them; more heroes were coming to the rescue, none of them he recognized. 

    As LiveWire reluctantly lifted people out of the water, the combined might of the heroes kept the monster at bay.  Not wanting to risk further injury from these tiny creatures, the giant creature sank beneath the waves, deepening the color of the water as it released a cloud of ink to cover its escape.

    The survivors were brought ashore onto the nearest dock; all of them were exhausted physically and emotionally from the ordeal.  Nightbringer looked around and saw no trace of their team’s empath.  But as they were questioned as to the events, repeated mention was made of a well-dressed man who vanished shortly after the squid had appeared.  

    Nightbringer did not have to guess who they were talking about.  Gritting his teeth, he looked at the GPS on his comm device; Beguiler’s location was given as Chiron Medical.  Letting out a heavy sigh, he knew, once again, his team would come under the scrutiny of the Freedom Corps.

    “Did I miss anything?”  came Prismatic’s voice.

    Broken from his thoughts, Nightbringer gave a slight smile.  “’Fraid so.   There were a few casualties, but Beguiler wasn’t one of them.”

    Prismatic nodded in relief.  “I suppose we let emergency services deal with the people, then,”  she added, hovering slightly.

    “That sounds good to me.  Let’s head back to base and regroup with the others.”  With a wave of gratitude to Liquid Chill and Lady Athena, he and LiveWire took to the air once more and flew towards the cityscape of Steel Canyon.

    “Are you alright, Tristan?”  asked Edward. 

    The pair had appeared, rather suddenly, in side by side beds at Chiron Medical Facility.  While Beguiler had used the ETS many times, he knew it could be jarring to those not used to it.  The rattled nerves he could detect from his son told him that Tristan was no different.

    “I’m fine, Dad,” his son replied, trying his best not to sound affected by teleportation.

    Beguiler smiled and hopped off the bed.  A nurse pulled the curtain back and gave them both a disapproving look.  With her stylus, she noted the appearance of non-hero personnel using the ETS, until Beguiler flashed his GIFT badge.  Seeing it, she changed her entry to non-medical usage of the ETS.

    “You realize there will be a fine and a review, Beguiler?”  she asked as she looked Tristan over.  “Especially since you have used it on a minor?”

    Not even attempting to rationalize his “crime,”  Beguiler smiled more deeply.  “Of course, my dear.   Just tell them to mail the review date to the right address this time.”  Motioning for his son to follow, he left the medical facility and into the underground corridor that led to the Department of Heroes.

    Tristan stared wide-eyed at the dozens of heroes they both passed and were passed by in the hallway.  Beguiler smirked to himself; his son could barely contain his thoughts as a team of scantily clad women walked by them.  They caught a glimpse of the teen’s unabashed admiration, and smiled in amusement.  Tristan’s face turned deep crimson with embarassment.

    “You get to come here every day, Dad?”  he asked in a breathless voice.

    “Sometimes.  Usually I end up with contact assignments throughout Paragon.”

    “Do they ever have Take A Child To Work Day or something?”  Tristan asked as a particularly bewitching heroine stalked by in leather.  She regarded his stare with a cool gaze and kept walking.

    Beguiler could help but laugh.  “Sorry, son, it’s a little too dangerous-“  he stopped suddenly in his tracks as his way was blocked by another well-dressed man.

    The empath’s expression immediately changed gears, going from cheerfulness to unreadable as he met the man’s hard gaze.  The man’s arms were folded across his chest, one hand held a file and his fingers on the other were drumming with impatience.

    “Beguiler,”  he said in a tight voice.

    A quick scan told Edward that he was trying very hard to keep his temper, wanting very much to keep his public image intact.  But, Edward supposed, that was why he was here in City Hall out of uniform, so he could move freely among the masses without being mobbed.

    “Marcus, it’s good to see you again.”  Beguiler replied with nonchalance.  “This is my son Tristan.  Tristan, this is Marcus Cole.”  Say nothing about who he is, he mentally warned his son.  Quickly returning his attention back to the incognito Statesman, he continued.  “We were on our way home.  What brings you to City Hall?”

    “Business,”  Marcus gruffly responded.  “I heard you teleported yourself out of danger and left citizens at risk.”

    “I did what I had to do to keep my son safe.  We can discuss this further at the inquiry, alright?”  The Brit kept walking down the corridor, fully intent on ignoring the man that many regarded as the finest hero on the planet.

    Statesman clenched his fists tightly in anger, his knuckles turning white.  He let out a deep, forceful sigh that sounded more like a snort.  Beguiler’s illegitimate usage of the ETS was not the real reason he wanted to try to talk to him.  In his hand he held a medical report about Psirene, Beguiler’s sister.

    Having access to all the medical files and backgrounds of each and every hero registered in Paragon City,  Statesman was notified if there was going to be a significant change in status; pregnancy being one such change.  When the medical report came across his desk bearing the name Bianca Harlowe, his thoughts flew into a jealous rage.

    Bianca, his Bianca, pregnant by another man.  He had no idea who, but the thought of the untamable beauty being with anyone else angered him like no other thought could.  Not even his wife knew how much  the blonde temptress haunted  his mind and heart.  He thought he was done with her; even Bianca had made that clear when he told her he was engaged to Ms. Liberty.  But seeing her at his bachelor party, her medical file come across his desk, and his reaction to all of it, told him he was no more over her than Lord Recluse was his plans of world domination.

    Statesman watched Beguiler and his son exit the building.  Looking at the file once again, he shook his head and stormed to his office upstairs.

    “So far, all the temporal aberrations in Paragon City have been with past events, correct?”  Norman asked, taking control of the meeting.  His gaze lingered for a moment on Madam Medusa, and he wondered briefly if he should contact his Lord about her.  Dismissing the thought, he continued circling the table and discussing his theory.

    “In the Rogue Isles, we too, have had temporal anomalies, but these are from a future time line.  Our security forces are having a difficult time knowing what’s going on, receiving calls of events that haven’t even happened yet, it’s a chaotic situation right now.”  He sighed heavily, trying to play up some sort of sympathy, wanting them to think him not as dangerous, or better yet, just like them.

    The psychic known as White Diamond arched her eyebrow, her expression as cold and as hard as her namesake.  He knew she couldn’t read his mind; the Arachnos helmet made that quite impossible, but he wondered if he was reaching a little too far in trying to enlist their aid.

    The door to the conference room suddenly opened, and three more heroes entered before White Diamond could reply.

    “Where’s Beguiler?”  asked Solanum.

    “He teleported out to Chiron,”  Nightbringer growled.  “Left all those survivors out in the channel to get eaten by some giant squid!”  Then, noticing Norman for the first time, he looked the Protector over with an even icier gaze.  “Who the hell is he?”
    Norman felt a chill run down his spine, even though none could see his face.  However, there was  something to Nightbringer’s eyes that seemed to penetrate beyond his mask.  The two men seemed deadlocked in a silent staring contest as White Diamond explained who the Protector was, and why he was at the Nameless’ base.

    “So, what do you want from us?”  Nightbringer demanded, folding well-muscled and tattooed arms across his chest.

    “As I was telling the others, we’ve been tracking the anomalies, and it appears that there are two fronts,”  he began to explain, and replaced the disk containing the security footage with a one that contained maps of the surrounding area.  “Past events are working their way east, towards Portal Corp, and future events are working their way westward, also toward the same location.”  He indicated the areas with the sweeping gestures of a newscaster.  He may have been talking about the weather.

    “Any idea as to what will happen when the two meet?”  Nightbringer asked, his scowl becoming deeper.

    “No.  But I sincerely doubt any good will come of it,”  Norman replied, not wanting to look at the tattooed hero.

    Dr. Collins looked over the comatose patient; by all rights, the young man should be out on the streets, fighting crime.  Everything about his vitals said he was completely healthy, but the empathic doctor knew otherwise.  Kirk’s awareness of future timelines had been disrupted, or perhaps overwhelmed, by all the strange disturbances going on around the city.

    The doctor briefly looked into Kirk’s mind; not surprisingly, it was a maelstrom of images from both the past and what he presumed to be the future.  He had been trying very hard to slow the visions down, but it seemed impossible, even for one as talented as Dr. Collins.

    He sighed lightly; he was considered one of the top empathic healers in the country, yet this young man’s case seemed to be beyond him. 

    “How’s the patient, doctor?”  someone from behind asked.

    “It’s difficult to say,” he replied, not looking over his shoulder.

    “Will he be able to travel?”

    “He’s in a coma.  I don’t think he’ll be travelling any time soon.”

    “Well,” replied the voice. “That’s too bad.  Strongman, do your thing.”

    Strong hands grabbed him from behind and tossed him as easily as one would a rag doll.  Dr. Collins crashed into one of the walls and got a glimpse of his assailants; three individuals dressed in red, black and white.  After hitting the wall, the doctor collapsed into unconsciousness.

    “Get him, quickly!”  hissed Jongleur, motioning towards the comatose hero on the bed.  “Gamester said we’ll need him at the site!”

    Strongman scooped up Kirk like he weighed next to nothing and threw him over his shoulder.  Shrill alarms went off when the sensor pads were removed, but Jongleur knew no one would come; he and Jester had taken care of any guards or personnel that might stop them.

    “Let’s get moving!  We only have a small window of opportunity!”  reminded the supervillain to his comrades.   “Besides, we don’t want to keep Gamester waiting!”

    “He is going to be there?”  asked Jester with a note of apprehension.

    “Quit acting like it’s Lord Recluse!  Yes, he is going to be there.  This whole thing was his idea, after all!”  the knife-wielder snapped sarcastically.  Regarded by the others as Gamester’s right-hand man, Jongleur was not used to being questioned, nor did he have the patience for those who did.

    “Well, it’s just that we’ve never seen him, is what I’m saying,” muttered Jester.

    As the three stepped into the hallway with their victim, they found themselves confronted by one well dressed man and a boy in his teens, both soaking wet.  Jongleur recognized the boy as one of Piper’s students, and knew that he was gifted.  He could only assume such a statement could be made about the man.

    “Put him down, now, Jongleur!” The man commanded.

    A bright flash came from Jester’s hands as rapid fire spheres of energy streaked through the hallway towards their targets, but exploding harmlessly on an invisible wall.

    “A force field, eh?”  taunted Jongleur.  “It appears your powers have grown, Tristan!”

    “How do you know who I am?”  the boy asked, a look of confusion crossing his face.

    Pay no attention to him, son.  He’s only trying to confound you, came Beguiler’s voice in Tristan’s mind.  Then, the empath reached out with his own mind and altered Jester’s perception of things; no longer were Jongleur and Strongman his allies, but rather, they were out to get him.

    The energy wielder fired off two blasts of white-hot energy at his two teammates.  The move caught both villains off guard, but Gamester’s lieutenant quickly recovered.  He tossed a small device to Strongman, who suddenly vanished with Kirk, and then tossed another item to the ground.

    A high-decibel, high frequency noise emanated from the small, round device, crippling any in the immediate area.  Beguiler and Tristan clutched their heads in agony to try and block the sound out.  Mercifully, the device made noise long enough to cover Piper’s escape, and soon subsided.

    Beguiler looked around, not surprised to see Jongleur  had fled;  Gamester’s minions seldom stayed around long enough during a fight, which always made arresting them impossible.  Then he noticed Jester sprawled out on the floor.

    The hero held up a warning hand to his son; he didn’t want Tristan close if Jester was conscious.  He cautiously nudged the villain with his foot, first lightly, then with a little more force.  He saw two security guards coming down the hallway, he called out for their assistance.  He had used his last two teleportation tags on himself and his son, and had no way to restrain Jester.

    After the cuffs had been slapped on him, they rolled Jester over.  Even after all these things, the villain was still not moving.  Once he had been flipped over, they saw why.

    With one swift, surgically precise stab through the heart, Jester had been killed, presumably to keep him silent.  Such callous disregard and logic baffled even Beguiler, who often had a warped view of things.

    Beguiler tapped his comm link to Nightbringer.

    “What now?”  came the ever-grouchy voice of their leader.

    “Things have taken a rather strange twist.  I came to Cygnus to check on Kirk, as you requested.  However, we are not the only ones interested in him.”

    “Cut the crap, Beguiler, and get to the point.”

    Beguiler smiled to himself.  Jon was royally annoyed with him, and he didn’t even have to be in the room to sense it.  “Jongleur, Jester, and Strongman took him.  But there’s another twist to the tale; Jongleur killed Jester.”  He let the sentence hang in the air for dramatic effect.

    “Were you able to stop them from taking Kirk?” came Solanum’s voice.

    “I’m afraid not, my dear.  Unfortunately, we have no idea as to where he might have been taken to.”

    “Don’t be to sure about that, Beguiler.  Meet us at Portal Corp.”  Jon cut in again.

    “Right.”  Beguiler looked himself over; his clothes were still dripping.  “Could Solanum be a darling and bring me a costume and another change of clothes?”

    The Nameless met outside of a bar in New Thebes on Talos Island.  By the time Beguiler and Tristan had caught up with the others, the sun was setting. 

    “Why are we waiting?”  Beguiler asked, rubbing his temples.   Distress from his twin always set off fierce migraines in his head.

    Nightbringer eyed him coldly.  “We have a security problem, that’s why!  We can’t get in because none of us have high enough clearance.”  He sighed loudly in disgust.  “And could you please explain why you teleported your sorry ass out of the water and left all those people behind?”

    Beguiler could sense the shock and surprise coming out of the group, most notably from Solanum.  He returned Nightbringer’s glare with an equally cold one to remind their leader that no one ever spoke to him in such a manner. 

    “It was either try and save people from a creature I could not fight, putting my son’s life at risk, or save my son and myself.  It really wasn’t much of a choice to be honest.  Besides, do you have any idea what Nocturne would do to this city if anything happened to Tristan?  Imagine if all the horrors of Dark Astoria spread out across the city, all living beings turned into zombies, all held in thrall by the Queen of the Dead.  That, my friends, would be the beginning.”  He knew he was probably being over-dramatic, but Beguiler knew what would happen to anyone who hurt her son.

    Nightbringer thought for a moment, eyeing the lanky teen that was tagging along.  He may very well have acted in the same manner had he been in Beguiler’s shoes.  “We still have a security problem,”  he growled.

    “What is it, the guards aren’t letting us through?”  Beguiler asked, with a sudden wince.  What the devil is Bianca doing, he silently wondered.  The pain and anguish, deeper than anything he had ever felt before from his twin seemed to scream directly into his mind.  Quickly blocking it out, he refocused his attention on his team.  Nightbringer, giving him an odd look, replied to Beguiler’s question.


    “And since when has something like that stopped us, Jon?”  Beguiler asked with a wry smile, satisfied that his sister’s pain wasn’t broadcasting in his head.  “As Bianca would say, ‘When in doubt, show a little leg.’  Perhaps the ladies wouldn’t mind putting up some sort of distraction?”

    The women of the team stared at him with curious expressions, and stole quick glances at each other.

    “What did you have in mind, Beguiler?”  asked Solanum.

    “YOU BITCH!”  screamed the heroine at her teammate, and angrily tore the woman’s costume.

    “What the!  I just bought this!  That this!”  screamed the other one, and savagely ripped the shoulder piece off of her attacker’s gaudy outfit.

    The guards were transfixed; a catfight between two scantily-clad heroine was beginning to erupt in front of them.  The two had been in line, quietly discussing something, when the red-headed one said something to the green skinned one that she didn’t like, triggering the outburst and subsequent costume tearing.

    In a matter of seconds, the pair had stopped ripping into each other’s costumes and had begun wrestling, inevitably winding up in the gigantic water fountain.  Instead of the battle ceasing, it escalated further; with more name-calling, clothes-ripping and now, water splashing everywhere.

    The guards were too caught up in watching the semi-erotic fight to even notice the team of eight super-powered individuals sneak past the sentries barricading entrance into the high-security zone of Perrigrine Island. 

    The battle became serious; the green skinned heroine had the redhead’s arm behind her back and was now repeatedly dunking her head under the water.  Before anyone drowned, a female security guard came running up and tried to separate the two.  Cries of disappointment came from the gathered crowd as the fight came to its end.

    Then, just as quickly as it had begun, the two women leapt into the air, towards the entrance.  With no one to make them swipe their security badges, the pair ran right through.

    Grabbing his walkie-talkie from his belt, one guard began to report the security breach, giving as good a description as he could of the perpetrators.  However, as he was relaying his information, an amazing transformation was taking place on the women in question.

    The brightly colored costumes began to ripple and then dissolve, transforming from spandex to black leather.  Solanum and Medusa looked at Beguiler’s son, who seemed to be at the limit of using his abilities.  His hands had clenched into fists, and now they were trembling fiercely.  As Tristan ended his illusory grasp on the guards’ minds, he was still shaking violently. 

    Beguiler reached out with his mind and steadied his son, a large smile on his face. 

    “I’m proud of you, son,”  he praised.

    “Thanks,” came the breathless reply.  “I won’t get in trouble for doing that, will I?”

    Beguiler’s smile became more of a cunning smirk.   “Only if they catch you.”

    With the team intact, save Psirene and Vision, they made a beeline for Portal Corp, not stopping to engage any of the deadly gangs that roamed around Peregrine.   The plaza around the corporation was silent in the quickly falling light, making it seem that much more obvious.

    “Ok, Protector, I assume you know where Gamester and the others are,”  prompted Nightbringer.  He was beginning to feel an odd sensation on the fringes of his consciousness.  He assumed it must be the nearness of two runaway timelines.

    The Protector merely nodded and motioned for them to follow him.  Not looking to either side, he strode towards the main entrance of the cutting edge scientific facility.  Soon, he would have what he wanted, and, with a quick glance at Madam Medusa, perhaps Lord Recluse would have what he wanted.

    The labyrinth of corridors on the inside of the company would have lost most men, but Norman’s helmet came equipped with a GPS that helped him unfailingly find his way around any facility.   A flashing red light which only he could see told him the location of his quarry; a little child that had gone from innocent to lethal, the Toyster.  He knew what would happen to the others; they were all pawns in this, the Gamester’s final game.  He wondered briefly if he would be able to get Medusa out in time; he hoped so.  Lord Recluse had spent a good deal of time and money tracking down the daughter of one of his lieutenants, to have her slip away so carelessly…

    Norman shrugged the dark thought away, wanting to focus on his objective.  The convergence of the two timelines was very close, and he could only wonder what would happen when they met.

    “Don’t give him too much, Fortuneteller,” cautioned Jongleur.  “We need him conscious, but not able to move.”

    The dark haired woman gave the second-in-command a dirty look.  She was growing weary of hit-and-run tactics, fleeing before any real gains could be made.  She also resented being told how to do her job, but knew to keep her mouth shut.  After all, she didn’t want to end up dead like Jester, who had a tendency to question orders too many times.

    She gave the young man the injection, the precise dose having been calculated.  She knew the young man was a hero, and wondered about his life.  Would anybody notice if he was missing in a city that literally swarmed with heroes?  He groaned as the drug began to take affect, and Fortuneteller smiled slightly.  None of that would matter much in a little while anyway, she mused.

    “Well?  Is he awake?” came an impatient voice from the shadows.

    The remaining members of the gang looked nervously at each other.

    “He’s almost there, Gamester,” spoke up Piper.  “Just a couple of minutes.”

    “Good.  I’ll be waiting.”

    A sudden alert went off, and the large portal flared to life.  It was almost a scene out of a movie; lights, a deep rumbling that shook the room, and a sudden explosion of white light erupting from the portal itself.  The villains shielded their eyes from the dazzling brilliance of it all.

    Fortuneteller looked into the controlled rip in the fabric of space-time.  She had no idea what it was they had done a few days before, but was told it was necessary.  She could make out shadows moving around in the light, silhouetted  by the massive amounts of illumination.  Fortuneteller gathered her skirt around herself and strained her vision to see more clearly, when the image before her shimmered. 

    It began as a slight rippling, like the surface of a still pond when a stone is thrown into it.  Then the image began to break apart visually, and planes of light, standing vertically, began to appear randomly around the room.

    “Don’t come into contact with them!”  warned Gamester.  “They could change you!”

    The gang in carnival clothes looked at each other nervously.  How could they avoid something that came at random?

    The hero they had kidnapped groaned again; he was now waking up from the medically induced coma, and now seemed able to take in his surroundings. 

    “Ah, you’re up.  Up and at ‘em!”  exclaimed Gamester from his shadowy hideout.

    Kirk looked around.  His mind was swarming with the visions that he had named himself for.  However, the damage done to the fabric of space-time caused a virtual overload, as if he was now aware of what was happening in every conceivable timeline.  The pressure he felt  in his head was immense, and he wanted it to end.

    “What…do you need…me for?”  he gasped.

    “Two things.  First, I need you to warn us whenever a stray portal opens,” Gamester answered.  As
  if on cue, a beam of light flashed between the pair and flickered out.  “Secondly,” the supervillain stated, and then, as if for further dramatic effect, he stepped out of the shadows, “I need you to tell me when my ride is here.”

        Kirk stared in stunned silence at Gamester; to date, no one had ever seen him, but no one doubted his existence.  There was something odd about this villain, something he couldn’t quite put his finger on.

    “What makes you think I’ll help you?”  Kirk snarled.  He now realized that his hands were bound behind him.  His senses were still drug-addled, so he mentally scratched teleporting off his list of options.  “For all you know, I could send you into the wrong portal.”

    “Yeah, I know.  But, I brought along some friends to ensure that you wouldn’t try somethin’ like that.”  Gamester slurred.  He motioned to Piper and Strongman, who brought in three children, all of whom Kirk knew; the children of The Nameless.

    “If anything bad happens to me, they die!”

    Another rumble shook the building, and now, in the corridor where the team walked, small, brilliant patches of light began to flicker and spark like oversized fireflies.  Beguiler kept the team focused and aware;  he had a bad feeling about coming into contact with them, and while he didn’t have Vision’s precognitive abilities, his sense of intuition was usually never wrong.  As he kept his group’s collective mind alert, he sensed emotional turmoil coming from Sara.

    What gives? He asked mentally, stealing a glance at Xandria to make sure she wasn’t listening in.

    I’m surprised to see BlueDragon, is all.

    You still love him, Beguiler thought, but said so without any accusation, anger, or notes of jealousy.

    Sara gave the mental equivalent of clearing her throat.  I still have feelings for him, yes.

    Any thoughts as to what might happen if he doesn’t go back to his timeline?

    I’m afraid you might have some competition, love!  Came Sara’s teasing reply.

    Another tremor broke their conversation.  The tiny patches of light became larger, and one of them engulfed Nightbringer, who was at the front of the group.  His shout of agony echoed loudly throughout the cavernous hallway.

    As quickly as it had come, the light faded, and their leader collapsed in a heap, crying out loudly.  His body writhed as he was tormented by an unseen force.  Medusa was immediately at her husband’s side, trying to get his mind off of the pain.

    Beguiler suddenly backed away.  “Something’s wrong,” he muttered.  “Something is terribly wrong here.”

    Nightbringer’s skin suddenly took on an ashen appearance, dark, shadowy veins could be seen snaking their way up his arms, around his tattoos and up into his neck and face.  His last cry subsided with a raspy whisper.  His spasms cease and he lay on the metal grating that lined the corridor, breathing slowly.

    “Are you alright, Nightbringer?”  asked Faberge, eyes wide with worry.  She looked back at Beguiler, who was still inching away from the group.  He had already grabbed his son and put the boy behind him.  “Can’t you help him, Beguiler?”  the young heroine asked.

    Nightbringer’s opened wide and the team moved back in horror.  His eyes had changed from pale, icy blue to inky pools, the color invading even the whites of his eyes.  The skin around his face took on an even more shadowy color.

    “Nightbringer?” he asked.  “I’m Deathbringer!”

    With a wave of his hands, he gathered the shadows around himself, imprisoning his onetime friends with waves of darkness.  As the shadows thickened, they formed self-willed tentacles, grabbing onto anything that moved and holding it down at the command of their master. 

    Deathbringer began to hover over the trapped heroes, looking down at them cruelly.  He raised his hands above his head, causing their powers, their life energies, to be transferred to himself.  The cold, evil laughter that filled the hall was that of a madman.


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