Chronicles of Wanderer

Title: Immortal Kombat

Copyright April 2001

Author: Mike Weyer

E-mail Address: SWERJ321@msn.com

Category: Crossover

Rating: PG-13 - Violence and some minor Foul Language

Spoilers: A few, but who cares?

Keywords: X-Files/Highlander/Buffy the Vampire Slayer Crossover with a few guest stars.

Summary:This story takes place sometime in 1999 the date will be determined later. Hope you enjoy.

Okay, folks, rights and properties and I'll try to keep it simple:

Buffy the Vampire Slayer and all characters owned by Fox.
The X-Files and all characters owned by Fox.
Mystic Knights of Tir Na Nog and all characters owned by Saban Productions.
Mortal Kombat and all characters owned by Midway.
Steven St. Wolf created by Steve Pantovich.
Shaw Hunter created by Tim Knight.
Robin Goodfellow, Liam Danahure and Callieway Burton are mine.
Invaulable thanks to Tim Knight, whose dialogue suggestions helped make this so much better.
Now that I've got all that out of the way, let's dance.


Immortal Kombat

Part 1: Wherein an evil is freed, an old friend drops by and the Slayerettes get knee-high in shit

Ireland
Two nights ago

The skies above the mountain flashed and rumbled, lightning illuminating the region for miles, as if nature itself was taking offense at what lay below. Which might very well have been the case. Situated at the base of a mighty green hill was a stone tablet, covered in runes of a language
long unspoken, a large circular symbol on the surface. Before it stood a woman dressed in flowing robes, the wind whipping through her dark curly hair as she held a large wooden staff high above her head. She was attractive, but hard, her eyes covered by a strange mark like a mask. She spoke loudly, a chant in an ancient tongue, her voice managing to carry over the storm. The stick in her hands glowed, a hum cutting through the air and a bright circle of light surrounding her.

The storm seemed to build as her chant came to a height and a bolt of green energy came from the ground to strike her staff. Spinning it in her hands, the woman aimed the staff at the tablet and concentrated. A blast of energy came out and struck the tablet dead center, causing a massive explosion. The dust slowly cleared as a figure emerged.

He was a small man, his hair thin in the forehead but flowing behind him. He wore a strange dark blue robe and his fingernails were nearly half a foot long on each finger. His face was extremely unattractive, his hooked nose framing wide eyes that carried a dark energy, a mixture of power and madness. A dangerous combination.

He glanced at the woman and shook his head. "It's about time," he said in a strange, high- pitched voice. "I was expecting you centuries ago."

"As Shakespeare said, 'the fault lies not in the stars but in ourselves,'" the woman answered in a light Irish accent as she lowered her staff.

"Who's Shakespeare?"

"You've got a lot of catching up to do, Mider," the woman said.

"Then, by all means, Maeve, let's begin," the man replied with an evil smile. There was a flash of light and then they were gone, the broken tablet the only sign of their presence. The storm died down, but only briefly. Another, greater storm was set to begin half the world away.

*****

Washington D.C. Last night

One of the easiest decisions Fox Mulder and Dana Scully had made when they got married was where they were going to live. Mulder had no problem moving out of his small, cramped apartment and into Scully's more spacious home. Given Mulder's lack of personal items, there wasn't much to move and the space was more than enough for the two to set up a home of their own. The two had gotten along wonderfully together, their love the kind that just doesn't come every day. It allowed them to lean on one another when they needed help. Such as now.

The two came through the door in a quiet mood. If one looked closely, they could see traces of dirt and blood on their clothing, as well as marks that looked like the two had been struck by lightning. Their mood was just as bad. Scully dropped her coat on the couch, her sword leaning against it. Mulder threw his onto a seat, sword and all. He sat down on the couch and sighed, looking at his wife. "Are you okay?"

"We never knew their names, Mulder," Scully said, shaking her head. "We just killed two people and we never knew their names."

"It's happened before," Mulder said. "To both of us."

"But it's such a waste," Scully said. "There's no Game, no Prize, there's no reason for us to fight anymore."

"You can't expect the word to have gotten out to every Immortal," Mulder said. "And there are probably a lot of them who won't believe it, either because it's so out there or because they've been in the Game so long they don't know what else to do."

"I still wish we could have talked to them, tried to explain it."

"We did," Mulder said. "We gave them a chance. Told them if we let them go, they'd promise not to take anyone else's head for a century, then try and pass that along to someone else. They didn't want it," Mulder said, rubbing at the hole in his shirt. "We had to fight."

"Like it was at all fair," Scully said, shaking her head. "I'm an Amazon, you've got that boost from Robin, it was over in minutes." She looked down at the floor. "I still wish we'd known their names."

Before Mulder could reply, a banging sound came from the kitchen. Both were instantly on their feet, hands going to their guns as they moved forward. They leaned against the wall on either side of the kitchen doorway, guns up and ready. They looked at each other and nodded. Boosted by their years of training, they swept into the room, guns up and pointed at the man standing by the open refrigerator door. "Hold it right there," Mulder said, his gun steady.

"Not the best greeting, Mulder," the man said as he stood up, munching on an apple. "I'd say married life's made you a little more on edge."

"Krychek," Mulder muttered, gripping the gun. "You can't imagine how much killing you is going to brighten my day."

The renegade agent glanced over at Scully. "You're going to try to make him an honest man, Dana? My heart goes out to you."

"I'd prefer it on a silver platter," Scully replied, her voice and grip tight.

Krychek glanced at her, then at Mulder, and shook his head. "I hope the two of you never plan on having kids."

"What do you want, Krychek?" Mulder said, his pistol aimed at the head of Krychek, who seemed quite nonchalant about it.

"I've got some info I think you might be interested in," Krychek said as he carefully stepped away from the fridge, still munching on the apple. "Rumor has it you two are part of something called Section Seven. That true?"

"You can't expect us to tell you anything," Mulder said. "And don't forget who's got the guns here."

"Believe me, I'm aware," Krychek said. "Anyway, word has it some doctor's coming into California who's got some info. Some real scary info. I'm not sure who it is or what he's got but it's big and I think it might interest you and your friends."

"Why are you telling us this?" Mulder said.

"Let's just say I've got an interest in you two finding out more about this guy," Krychek shrugged. "I let you find him, saves me some work. You'd be amazed how pressed for time I am these days."

"My heart bleeds," Mulder said.

"Where in California?" Scully asked, even though she already expected the answer.

"Some dump town called Sunnydale. He's supposed to be in tomorrow night if you want to meet him."

Mulder and Scully looked at one another for a moment, then Mulder reached out and grabbed Krychek by the throat. "I'm giving you one free chance," he said through gritted teeth. "Come back again and it's the last time."

"Sheesh, what are you so hot about?" Krychek said, finishing the apple. "I didn't even get invited to the wedding."

"Out," Mulder said, poking his gun into Krychek's throat for emphasis. Snickering, the renegade walked out and shut the door behind him. In the apartment, he could already hear Mulder and Scully moving about, making arrangements to pack. "Call the airport and get us a fast flight," Mulder said. He and his wife both looked up to see Tigger, their Spirit Guardian in the form of a cat, pad into the room, evidently having just woken up from a nap. <Hey. What's going on here?>

Mulder looked at the Spirit who had just let a known enemy waltz into their apartment and not noticed it and rolled his eyes. "I knew we should have asked for a dog."

Outside the apartment, Krychek walked away, a laugh on his lips and if anyone had watched him go, they might have noticed the way his body seemed to blur, then shift into a totally different configuration. Had they, a lot of trouble and quite a few deaths could have been avoided. But no one did. And the chaos began to unfold.

*****

Sunnydale Tonight

The law of averages is bound to catch up to people sooner or later. It's simply the way the universe works. According to all the rules of fate and destiny, it had to happen sooner or later that the team of people known as "The Slayerettes" were gathered together in the library of Sunnydale High School, without a major crisis to battle. At least, not yet.

They were an eclectic group to say the least: Buffy Summers, the Immortal Vampire Slayer; Steven St. Wolf, the Immortal Demon Hunter known as the Wanderer; Jenny Calender, a gypsy; Rupert Giles, the librarian and Buffy's Watcher; Willow Rosenberg; Xander Harris; Cordelia Chase; the guitarist known as Oz; Amy Madison; Shawukay Redarrow, a half-elven warrior from another dimension known as Shaw Hunter; and Robin Goodfellow, late of the Faery Kingdom, now a resident of the human realm. Cordelia was an Amazon, as were Willow, Amy and Jenny, who also happened to be witches. Before being stripped of his powers and forced to live as a human, Robin had imbued Giles, Xander and Oz with abilities to match those of their mates. As a warrior from another dimension, Shaw was on the same par as any of them. With such an interesting group, one might expect some wonderfully insightful conversation. The actual result?

"I still do not understand," Shaw said. "How does the phrase 'master of your domain' identify a certain television show?"

"I'd let Xander explain, but then I'd be contributing to the corruption of a minor," Robin said as he picked up the dice and rolled it in his hands onto the board lying on the table.

"Um, Robin, she's over fifty years old," Amy said.

"At my age, I consider everyone a minor," Robin said.

"Didn't hear you complaining about it last night."

Whether by accident or design, Amy had perfectly timed her remark for when Giles was taking a sip of his tea. The result was a spit take worthy of Jerry Lewis that splattered the occupants on the other side of the table.

"Thanks a lot, Giles, I just got this outfit broken in," Cordelia said as she wiped at her blouse.

"Yeah, she had to replace one from last night," Xander smirked as he wiped his face with a handy handkerchief.

"I know that problem," Oz said, thinking of his werewolf nature.

"Same here," Willow said, thinking of something else.

"How did we get on this topic and when can we stop?" Steve remarked.

Moving his marker a few places, Robin nodded. "British history. This should be fun."

"Now wait a minute, this isn't fair!" Cordelia said. "He's lived through most of it, of course he'll know the answer."

"Just how old are you, anyway?" Jenny asked as Giles reached through the pile of question cards stacked on the board.

Robin looked up. "You know, it's been so long, I'm honestly trying to remember." He bit his lip and concentrated. "Jeez, I don't know, fifty, fifty-five thousand years?"

All movement stopped as everyone stared at him. "Fifty-five thousand years?" Buffy said softly.

"That's a rough guess. I'm still getting used to your calendar so I may be off a few millennia. Besides, it kind of blurs around the time the aliens leave the planet," Robin shrugged.

Oz leaned towards Amy. "He is kidding, right?"

"I can never tell," Amy whispered back.

Giles shook his head and flicked a card up. "All right, are you two ready?"

"Fifty-five thousand years?" Amy said, staring at Robin. "You never said that."

"Well, it never came up before."

"I think the fact you're older than the entire combined population of Sunnydale should have been mentioned before now."

"Can we talk about this later?" Robin muttered before nodding at Giles.

"Who was the king of England during the Scottish rebellion by William Wallace?"

"Edward the Longshanks," a heavy Irish brogue cut through the air. "He was a hell of a lot nastier than the movie gave him credit for." Everyone turned to see a strange figure step into the library. He was about Shaw's height, with a mop of unruly red hair and a handsome, yet mischievous face, highlighted by a large nose and an engaging smile. He wore a light green tunic and brown pants and looked for all the world like he had just stepped out of Sherwood Forest. Behind him, hanging in the doorway, was a nondescript Oriental man with large glasses and a simple suit. "God bless all here!" the man announced, sweeping his hands outward.

"Who the hell are you?" Buffy asked.

"Actually, the correct response is 'And God bless you as well,' but I'll excuse it this time," the man answered. He glanced about at the group, his eyes coming a rest on Shaw. "Well," he said in a softer tone. "An elven. My feelings about this group have gone up a notch."

Shaw's eyes narrowed as she stared at the newcomer. "Your aura is familiar," she stated. "But I don't think I like it."

"Please, we've just met. It takes hours before people realize they don't like me."

"Um, if I may ask, who are you and why are you here?" Giles said. The man wasn't giving off an aura of menace but the group was on its guard, save for Robin, who still gazed at the board as if the game was still going.

"I'm looking for someone called Robin Goodfellow," the man said. "I understand he lives in this neighborhood."

"The faery?" Robin said, still facing away.

"No, the Robin Goodfellow I'm looking for is a miserable, conniving, no-good, swindling piece of dragon droppings."

Everyone looked at Robin who slowly pushed his chair away from the table and stood up. He turned to face the stranger, his face harder than usual. "I'm sorry, would you care to amend that remark?"

"I would, but there's ladies present."

"Where I come from, there's only one way to respond to a comment like that," Robin said, moving forward.

"Great, I just had the place cleaned," Giles muttered, shaking his head.

"You need help, Rob?" Xander called out.

"No, I've got this one to myself," Robin replied as he walked forward and stood a few feet away from the newcomer. They stared at one another for a long moment, then Robin lashed his foot out, planting it in front of him. He slowly began to tap it against the floor, sweeping it back as he did. His other foot began to tap as well, keeping up an interesting rythym as he pulled his leg back. He put his hands on his hips and stared at the Irishman as he stopped.

The stranger suddenly launched into a series of taps, his arms straight at his sides, his gaze never leaving Robin's as he danced, turning his body and moving about in the odd, straight-armed manner. He stopped and stared at Robin who immediately went back into his taps, his arms more lively.

"Okay, this may be more civilized than dueling but it's starting to freak me out," Xander remarked as the group watched the two men dance, their movements becoming faster, their taps sounding throughout the library as they circled each other, their feet performing steps with a speed unimaginable to any dancer.

The two suddenly stopped, facing each other. They began a series of hand movements, slapping their own thighs, knees, chests and shoulders. The stranger reached out with his arm and Robin clasped it with his own, then let the stranger clasp his other hand. Hooked together, the two began to spin, their feet tapping on the ground as they did. They picked up speed as they spun, their feet a blur of motion. The two became a blur themselves as they spun faster and faster in a tight circle, the floor under their feet actually smoking as they spun about. The two let go and spun away from each other, a trail of flame following them as they came to a stop. They both leaped forward and did a final tap before halting, their faces inches away.

"Usually, a routine like that is followed by a PBS pledge," Buffy said.

The two stared at one another for a long moment, neither even breathing hard, as the flames died and the floor seemed to instantly cool. "You've gotten better," the stranger said.

"I've been practicing," Robin replied. The two held the gaze for a moment before breaking out into laughter and falling into each other's arms, sharing a massive embrace. "Gods, it's great to see you again!" Robin yelled. "Why didn't you tell me you were coming?"

"And miss a chance to see you in human form unprepared? No way," the stranger said. Robin broke the hug off and turned to the others. "Guys, I want you to meet my oldest friend, the man who's shared more good times and good drinks than anyone in the Outer Realms. Liam Devlin O'Shaunesgy Patrick Dillion O'Hara Paddywick McHale Thornton Danahure."

"Okay, were you named after the whiskey or was the whiskey named after you?" Xander had to ask.

"So, this is what you look like human," Liam said, looking Robin up and down. "It's better than I expected."

"Wait, if he's human, what are you?" Willow asked.

In answer, Liam brushed back his hair, revealing a pair of pointed ears.. "A leprechaun, lass. Home to the Emerald Isle."

"Aren't you supposed to be like two feet high?" Cordelia asked.

"It's hard to be inconspicuous at that height," Liam answered.

"Oh, yeah, you really blend in with that outfit," Xander said, rolling his eyes.

"So you and Robin are friends?" Amy said. "I thought faeries and leprechauns didn't get along very well."

Robin rolled his eyes. "How many times do I have to tell you people? Nothing, and I mean NOTHING in that crappy NBC 'Magical Legend of the Leprechauns' mini-series is true."

"Oh, you should have heard the howls in the Kingdom when that aired," Liam announced.

"You watch TV?" Jenny asked.

"Please. We're magical, we're not backward."

"So, what brings you into town?" Robin asked.

"I wish it was just old times, but it's not," Liam said. He motioned towards the man in the door. "This is Professor Taki Horiyto, from Japan."

"Horiyto?" Giles said. "I've heard of you often. Your reputation among the Watchers is immense."

"Thank you," the professor said in a slightly accented voice. "I am sorry it has to be under such circumstances."

"What circumstances and I am so sorry I asked that now," Xander commented.

Liam took a deep breath and looked at Robin. "Mider's free."

Robin's face instantly went white. Literally. It was a unique sight that surprised everyone, even Amy, as the fairy stared at his friend. "When?"

"Two nights ago. You did feel it, didn't you?"

"A tremor. I'm not as connected to the Kingdom as I once was. How did he get out?"

"Maeve."

Robin's pallor intensified and his eyes widened. "Maeve's alive? And Mider's free?

They're together?"

"That's the idea."

"Oh, Gods preserve us all," Robin said, turning and rubbing his hands along his face.

"Um, a bulletin here would be nice," Buffy said, staring at the two.

Robin glanced over to Liam. "Go ahead. It's your nation and you always were the better story-teller."

Liam smiled and stepped forward, facing the group. "All right, here's the short version. Over a thousand years ago, the area you now know as Ireland was divided into different kingdoms. One of these was the peaceful land of Kells, ruled by the wise King Conchobar. The other nation was Temra, ruled by the evil Maeve. She believed that the island was hers by right, that only she could rule it. And in her greed, she did all but sell her soul to Mider, Dark Lord of the Fairy Lands. A being who believed that the Dark Arts carried the true power and was banished for it. He lusted over the kingdom known as Tir Na Nog, the entrance to which happened to be in Kells. With so much to gain, the two became allies, Mider boosting Maeve's natural magical abilities, allowing her to wield power to control monstrous creatures and use them in her war against Kells. However, there was a prophecy."

"You know, just once, it would be great to go through ONE crisis without hearing that word," Cordelia muttered.

"The prophecy foretold of a great warrior named Dragenta," Liam said. "A warrior who would save Kells in her time of need and bring peace to the land. A scroll indicating where Dragenta could be found was owned by Cathbad, a friendly Druid who worked with the King. The King decided to allow one of his subjects to begin a quest to find Dragenta. He was Rohan, a brave young man abandoned as a child and raised by Cathbad. He went on the quest with his friend, Angus, a trouble-maker and thief but with a good heart. Along the way, they came across Ivar, the prince of a far-away land who had come to Kells to find a chalice stolen from his kingdom. The trio were joined by Princess Deirdre, Conchobar's somewhat headstrong daughter who joined them in their quest which took them to the kingdom of Tir Na Nog.

"There, they met with Fin Varra, ruler of Tir Na Nog, who put them through a series of tests to see if they were worthy of such an honor of defending their land. They succeeded and he told them that the key to finding Dragenta was taming the dragon Pyre. And the key to taming Pyre was to gain four sets of armor that would allow them to become the Mystic Knights. To help them gain their armor and defend Kells from Maeve's assaults, Fin Varra gave them each a powerful weapon. Rohan already possessed the Sword of Kells. Diedre was given the Whirlwind Crossbow. Ivar, the Barbed Trident. And Angus received the Terra Mace. With these weapons, they were able to fight back Maeve's attacks and began their quest.

"With the aid of a faery named Aideen, the Knights began their quest. One by one, they defeated powerful guardians to gain their Armor: Rhoan, Fire; Deidre, Air; Ivar, Water; Angus, Earth. With their armor in place, the Knights managed to tame the dragon Pyre and gained another ally in their quest to battle Maeve and her chief general, Torc, who, as it turns out, was the man who stole the chalice Ivar sought. It was Pyre who revealed the truth that Rhoan himself was Dragenta, a fact that didn't sit too well with him.

"In the meantime, Maeve stepped up her attacks, with Mider's help and found an unexpected ally in the form of Garrett, an arrogant, brash Prince who intended to marry Diedre but alienated her and everyone else he came in contact with. Spurned by Diedre, he left Kells and fell under a spell of Maeve's, who used him to fight the Knights. But he broke the spell and, upon getting over his arrogance, became the Mystic Knight of Forest.

"It was during a period Garett was away that the war between Kells and Temra reached a critical point-----"

"Excuse me," Xander spoke up, raising his hand. "This is the *short* version, right?"

Rolling his eyes, Liam went on. "Maeve found herself a creature named Lugad, a half- human, half God only knows what, that soon began to lead the Temra army to victory. Lugad was blessed with a mark, one identical to the one Rhoan had, the one that identified him as Dragenta. It seemed Lugad and Rhoan were brothers."

"Really?" Buffy asked. "Who was the mom?"

"A question Rhoan himself asked, that was answered when Maeve revealed she bore the same mark."

"His own mother was his enemy?" Giles asked.

"Very Vader," Oz put in.

"Anyway, to make a long story short-----"

"Too late," Cordelia muttered.

"Maeve made one final all or nothing assault and actually conquered the castle of Kells," Liam went on. "But Rhoan found and fought her. He freed the Knights and they defeated Maeve and apparently extinguished her powers. She was banished from Kells for life.. Mider was eventually ambushed by a triad composing of Fin Varra, Oberon and Angus McAllistar, Lord of the Leprechauns, who imprisoned him in a mystical fortress with no escape."

"Only he's escaped," Amy offered.

"Yes, he has," Liam said. "Somehow, Maeve survived all these centuries and somehow she got the power to break him out. And with the two of them loose, there's no telling what will happen."

"Although we can safely rule out a game of touch football," Robin announced.

"That is why I am here," Horiyto said, stepping forward. "I have reason to believe that Maeve and Mider may come to this town."

"Why?" Giles asked.

"Giles, this is Sunnydale," Xander pointed out. "If it's evil, powerful and wants world domination, it shows up here."

"Be that as it may, there's something in town that could help Mider out," Liam announced. "It's why I'm here and since the prof has some info, I decided to check things out. I owed Fin Varra a favor anyway."

"What does Mider want here?" Steve asked.

In answer, Horiyto pulled a photo from his jacket and laid it on the table. "He wants this." The photo showed a strange octagon-shaped tablet that appeared to be made out of jade. A strange pattern covered it, a spiral-like design ending in a bright green center. "The Eye of Jurmoni," Horiyto announced. "Lost somewhere in China centuries ago, it can open a small portal to other-dimensional energy fields. Should Mider and Maeve get ahold of it and use it correctly, they will replenish their powers to such a point that they will become serious threats to the world."

"So, we have to find this thing and get it out town fast," Steve said, rubbing his cheek.

"Oh, yeah, that worked so well when we tried it with the Judge's arm," Xander muttered.

"Wait a minute," Buffy said, examining the photo. "I know where this is!"

"You do?" Jenny said, surprised.

"Yeah! It's at my mom's shop. Steve and I were helping her get that big shipment in last week and this was one of them. She's actually got in the window display."

"That's a lucky break," Steve said. "All we have to do is grab it and bring it over here."

"I've already made arrangements to get it to a safe place," Liam announced. "Somewhere Mider and Maeve will never find it. We just need to get a hold of it."

"We'll handle it," Steve said as he and Buffy rose from their seats. "Liam, you want to come with?"

"A pleasure," the leprechaun said, slapping a hand on Robin's shoulder. "Gives us a chance to catch up on old times."

"Then I'm coming with too," Amy said, standing up. "I want to hear some of these stories."

"Okay, I'm staying here then," Robin said. Liam chuckled and grabbed his shoulder, pulling him back.

"I wish to attend as well," Shaw said as she rose. "I do not believe I have ever met one of your kind before."

"Oh, trust me, lass, if you had, you'd remember," Liam smirked.

Shaw slowly moved forward until she was inches away from Liam and gave him her best glare. "Do not call me lass again if you value having all your bones intact."

While the glare and the tone of her voice would make anyone quake in fear, Liam simply smiled more and raised his eyebrows. "Ah, now I see why Robin speaks so highly of you." Shaw's eyes widened in surprise. "He does?" She glanced over at Robin, who just shrugged shyly.

"Oh, yes. It takes a lot to impress him, believe me, but you've more than done the job. He's never met anyone like you before. Well, except for your cousin, of course," Liam said, shooting a grin at Amy. The two women looked at each other, then at Robin, who was covering his face with his hands. "Strength and honor in Shaw and one hell of a body for Amy. All in all, two people who make him feel more alive than he's ever felt before. Makes me envious of him for a change."

Robin lowered his hand and gave Liam a glare that said "I'm gonna get you for this." He weakly smiled at Shaw and Amy and immediately began making a beeline for the door. Steve chuckled as Buffy shook her head. "I know it's wrong, but I get such a kick seeing him squirm."

"Maybe we should try hearing what Amy and Shaw are going to say to him when they're alone," Steve replied.

Joyce Summers' antique and crafts shop was nestled in the middle of the main street of Sunnydale, the only street in the town that boasted more than five businesses. It was a small shop but popular, the contents drawing interest from residents wanting to give their homes a little class. Unfortunately, the sometimes mystical history of some of her artifacts drew unwanted attention and Joyce had more than once had to clean up from a ransacking demon.

She was closing up for the night, preparing to lock the five deadbolts, set the alarm and make sure the Latin saying to keep vampires out was intact. She was a bit nervous, given that Sherlock, her Sprit Guardian in the form of a dog, wasn't around for once. Somehow, he'd managed to talk her into going out of town with Randi and Brian Jessup as well as Ulric when he took a biref vacation. She figured a few days from having to clean the rugs of fur would do them both good but she was a bit nervous being by herself for the first time in a while. The door ringing surprised her and she looked up to see Buffy, Steve, Robin, Amy, Liam and Shaw enter.

It had taken Joyce a while to adjust to her daughter's status as a Slayer and an Immortal and even longer to get used to her odd choice of companions. At first, like most people when they first heard, she'd been horrified at the idea of Buffy dating an older man. But Joyce saw that Buffy truly loved him and he loved her and she wasn't about to step on her daughter's happiness. It taken her a while also to accept the idea that her friends were a mix of Amazons, witches, a werewolf and seveal men empowered to an Amazon-like level by a faery from Shakespeare

Dealing with vampires was one thing. Other-dimensional beings like Shaw and Robin still made her a little nervous and Joyce wasn't quite sure how to deal with them. Robin was beginning to grow on her, up to a reasonable point, but Joyce felt she wasn't quite near to Shaw as she liked. So, a visit like this let her know something was up.

"Hey, Mom," Buffy said, giving her mother a quick hug.

"Hi, honey," Joyce said. "What's going on?"

"Joyce, we need that jade thing you got last week," Steve said. "Trust me, it's not the kind of thing you want here."

"Let me guess, it's the Key to Hell?" Joyce said, only half-kidding just in case she was actually right.

"Actually, that's in the hands of someone else," Liam announced, smirking at Joyce.

"Liam Devlin O'Shaunesgy Patrick Dillion O'Hara Paddywick McHale Thornton Danahure of the Leprchaun Glens, at your service, my lady."

"Um, hello," was all Joyce could say as Liam bent over and kissed her hand. He smiled. "I see beauty runs in the Summers family quite well."

"Thank you," Joyce said, touched in spite of herself.

Robin grabbed Liam by the arm and yanked him back. "I think we've got more important things to do than romance?"

Liam stared at Robin as if insulted. "Laddie, to me, nothing is more important than romance."

Robin rolled his eyes. "Liam, I think the woman has more in mind for her future than becoming the 276th ex-Mrs. Danahure."

"Actually, it'd be the 277th," Liam shrugged. "I got divorced, married and divorced since the last time you saw me."

Robin stared at him. "I last saw you nine months ago." Liam nodded. "How do you do it?"

"Genetics, laddie, genetics," Liam smirked at him as Joyce quickly moved over to her window display. She reached over and pulled out an artifact that matched the photo the group had seen. "Here," she announced. "If it saves me another break-in, you're more than welcome to it. I've got enough problems just living in this town without adding this to them."

"Living on the Mouth of Hell does seem bothersome," Liam said. "Why do people do it?"

"Well, you can't beat the real estate prices," Robin shrugged. "Where else can I get a swank apartment for only $500 a month?"

"This looks kind of quiet for a artifact of power," Buffy said, turning the Eye around in her hands.

"Blarney Stone isn't much to look at either, lass," Liam said. "You'd never know it's all that holds the entire island of Great Britain together."

With the exception of Robin, everyone stared at him with strange looks. "Right, let's just forget I said that," Liam said, turning away.

Amy looked at Robin. "Is that true?"

"I plead the fifth," Robin said.

"You're not an American citizen. In fact, you're not even an Earth citizen."

"Nitpicker."

"Well, we'd better get this back to the prof," Buffy said, handing the artifact over to Steve. "Nice for us to have a quick, easy one for a change."

"Well, I'm not quite ready to leave just yet," Liam announced. "Me and Robin still have some catching up to do and I'd like to see all the interesting sights of Sunnydale."

"That's five minutes, then what?" Buffy said.

"Well, you do whatever you need to, hon," Joyce said, moving towards the door. "I have to get home." She was moving towards the door when she stopped. "Oh, Amy, I think you left something at the house the other night when you and Willow were doing something I'd rather not know about."

"The herbs or the newts or the toad's eyes?" Amy asked in dead seriousness.

"I'd rather have you figure it out," Joyce said. "And quickly."

Amy glanced over at Steve and Buffy. "You guys can run the Eye back to the library. I'll just get the stuff and be back as soon as I can. You coming, Rob?"

"Why not?" Robin shrugged. "Always a pleasure to see the Summers residence. And Liam still wants to talk old times."

"Then I shall come as well," Shaw said. "I still wish to hear more of Liam's kind."

"I think you can't stand being far away from me," Liam grinned.

Amy leaned in towards Robin. "Should I smack him or let Shaw do it?"

"Better if neither of you do it," Robin answered. "It'll just encourage him."

"Nice place," Liam said, as the group made their way up towards The Summers home. "I expect Eddie Haskell to pop up any minute."

"In this town, it's more likely to be Eddie Munster," Robin answered. He paused as he looked at the door. "Joyce, with the undead population of this town, I really think locks are appropriate."

"I've got plenty of incantations keeping demons and vampires out," Joyce answered.

"Wait, what brought this up?"

"The fact that your door's open," Robin said, motioning with his head to the front door, which was indeed a few inches ajar.

"Did Ulric bring Sherlock back early?" Amy asked.

"No," Shaw said. "If Ulric had returned early, he would have mentioned it to me."

"Better get those incantations updated," Amy said, slowly pushing the door open. The group moved inside slowly, Shaw's hand going towards her ever-present Feasellityar, ready to move at the slightest provocation. It was silent inside, the sort of silence Robin, Amy and Shaw were used to. The kind that just cries out for danger.

A sudden shuffling came from behind them and Shaw instinctively lashed out, her sword slashing outward until it met flesh. A gasp of pain drew the attention of the others and they spun around to see Dana Scully standing before her, Shaw's blade sticking right through her body.

"Scully?" Amy said.

"Hello," Scully gurgled, blood forming on her lips. Shaw pulled her sword out and let the agent fall to her knees. Scully glared at her moments before her eyes rolled up and she fell forward onto the floor, dead. "Sorry," Shaw said softly. She turned towards Amy. "Is this the point at which an Earth person would say, 'oops?'"

"Something like that," Amy replied.

"Shaw!" Joyce cried out. "Do you know how hard it is to get blood of the carpet? Believe me, I've tried. It never comes out completly."

"I keep telling you to check out that cleaner I mentioned," Robin said.

"Robin, they only make that in another dimension," Amy pointed out.

"And well worth the trip, I might add."

There was a bundle of movement and Mulder was there, his pistol drawn and aimed at the group. "What happened?" he asked as he knelt by his wife.

"She came up behind me, I reacted on instinct," Shaw said, putting her sword to her side.

"And they accuse me of an itchy trigger finger," Mulder muttered as he turned Scully over onto her back. He glanced up at the group and shook his head. "This isn't the greeting we were expecting."

"Hey, you're the ones breaking and entering," Robin said. "What happened to waiting around for somebody?"

"We weren't breaking when we entered," Mulder said, holding Scully's head up. "The door was already open." Before he could elaborate, Scully's body shuddered, a cough coming from her as she came back to life. She opened her eyes and adjusted to her surroundings, trying to understand what had happened to her. Her eyes focused on Shaw and glared at her. "I can't believe you did that."

"I did not know it was you," Shaw said.

"Well, then, I'd hate to be on your enemies list," Liam said. "What do you do to the people you don't know and like?"

"You may find out," Shaw answered darkly.

Scully groaned as Mulder helped her to her feet. "New friend?" she said, moving her head towards Liam.

"Liam Devlin O'Shaunnesgy Patrick Dillion O'Hara Paddywick McHale Thornton Danahure of the Leprechaun Glens," Liam's lengthy introduction went as he nodded at the two.

"Man, I'd hate to have to print your stationary," Mulder said, shaking his head.

"What the hell are you two doing here?" Amy asked.

"We were told something was coming into Sunnydale we should know about," Scully said. "Some professor was bringing it in."

"The Eye?" Liam said, furrowing his brow. "You're here for the Eye?"

"We don't know about any Eye or what this thing is," Mulder said. "Just that it was important that we should get it."

"Did it ever occur to you to call first?" Robin asked. "Etiquette's nice, you know?"

"We tried to call," Scully said. "From Washington, the airplane and the airport. We couldn't get through for some reason."

"And we figured it'd be easier to check here first in case you guys were doing another one of your split-up routines," Mulder put in.

"Well, thank you for coming and leaving blood all over my floor," Joyce said. "Remind me to have Buffy return the favor if she's ever in Washington."

"I think you've got bigger messes than that," Mulder said, motioning towards the living room. Confused, the group walked over and saw a body lying on the rug. It appeared to have been beaten, the nose broken, lip bloodied and at least one limb broken. However, the face was instantly recognizable. "My god," Robin said. "Horiyto."

"Is he dead?" Joyce said, thrown by the sight of a body in her living room.

"If he's not, this is the worst case of jet lag I've ever seen," Liam put in as he looked over the body.

"What the hell is he doing here?" Amy asked, scratching her head. "Why would he come over here if he knew we were getting the Eye?"

"You know this guy?" Mulder said.

"Horiyto," Robin answered. "He's the professor who told us about the Eye of Jurmoni, the artifact you were told about. What happened?"

"That's what I was trying to figure out," Scully said, leaning by the body. "It's strange. He's been beaten, but not nearly bad enough to cause death. His body seems intact, no visible wounds, no outward signs of poison. It's as if his entire body just shut down for some reason."

"This doesn't make sense," Amy said. "Why didn't he just wait at the library with the rest of the guys?"

"Wait, you saw this man today?" Scully said, her face suddenly alarmed as she looked up at Amy.

"Yeah, we left him there barely an hour ago."

"That's not possible," Scully said. "I'd need a more detailed autopsy to tell for sure, but in my opinion, this man joined his ancestors, oh....I'd say at least four hours ago."

The group exchanged glances, thrown by this information. Robin leaned down to the body, looking over it. "Great, another Hellmouth moment!" Amy muttered.

"An hour in town and I've already met the walking dead," Liam said, glancing at his watch. "Great trip so far, eh, Rob?" Robin didn't answer, he was staring intently at the body.

"Rob?"

Robin looked up, his face grave. "Tell me this isn't what I think it is," he said. Liam moved over and looked down to where Robin was pointing. A section of Horiyto's shirt was open, revealing a bizarre burn mark in the center of the chest. A mark that greatly resembled a human hand. Liam's eyes went wide as he stared at it. "You're not going to tell me that's not what I think it is, are you?" Robin said as he stared at his friend's reaction.

"Soul drain," Liam muttered.

"Excuse me?" Scully asked.

"Someone pulled this man's soul right out of his body," Liam said. "That's why it shut down like that. No soul, nothing for the body to keep maintaining."

"Like when a vampire is made?" Shaw said.

"Yeah, but then, the demon is transferred into the body. Here, there's nothing, just an empty shell." Robin bit his lip in thought. "Liam, did you contact Horiyto?"

"No, he met up with me when I was in Sunnydale."

"And who told you to go to Sunnydale?"

"When Mider broke out, Fin Varra approached me and told me I should come here to intercept the Eye."

"Wait a minute, Fin Varra left Tir Na Nog?" Robin asked. "And he went to you instead of McAllistar?"

"Seemed a little strange, but I figured it was all right." Liam watched Robin and then his eyes widened in understanding. "Are you thinking what I'm thinking?"

"No, I'm thinking what I'm thinking. But I think you think you're thinking what I'm thinking."

"What do you think I think you're thinking?"

"I think that you think that I think that you think that that wasn't Fin Varra who came to see you."

"That's exactly what I was thinking."

"Ah, so you were thinking what you thought I thought you thought I was thinking."

"I think so. So, what do you think?"

"I think you two had better stop this before I run out of here screaming," Joyce announced. "What the hell are you two talking about?"

"Someone impersonated Fin Varra to get me here and killed Horiyto and took his place," Liam announced. "The question is who."

"Someone who sucks out souls," Robin said, thinking. He and Liam looked at one another with pale faces. "Oh dear Lord," the said in unison. They immediately leapt to their feet and began running towards the door. Sharing confused looks, Amy, Shaw, Mulder, Scully and Joyce followed them. "Where are we going?" Amy yelled.

"To the library before it's too late," Robin said.

"How bad is this likely to get?" Mulder said.

"On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being World War III?" Robin paused to consider it. "Twenty- seven point....six."

*****

"One mystical artifact coming right up!" Buffy announced as she and Steve entered the library.

"That was mercifully quick," Giles said as he walked forward, the rest of the Slayerettes sitting at the table, Horiyto moving with him. The professor reached out and took the Eye from Buffy, turning it slowly in his hands. "Where are the others?" he asked, a strange tone of urgency in his voice.

"They went to make sure my mother got home. They'll be by soon."

"I suppose it makes no difference," Horiyto muttered, turning the Eye around.

"Well, it's about time we got an easy caper," Oz announced. "No fuss, no muss, it's over."

"I couldn't have said it better myself," a high-pitched voice said. The entire group spun around to see a strange little man with a balding head and huge fingernails alongside an attractive, but sinister-looking woman holding a staff highlighted by a large green gem. "Give us the Eye please," the man said, holding out his hand.

"Let me guess, Mider and Maeve?" Steve said as the entire group got into attack stances, save for Horiyto.

"That's Queen Maeve," the woman said, her eyes flashing with anger as her grip on the staff tightened.

"And Mider, soon to be King of Tir Na Nog," the fairy said. "Now, we happen to be in a rush, so just give us the Eye and we can get started."

"Kind of in a hurry, huh?" Xander said.

"I've spent the last thousand years inside a rock inside a mountain," Mider said. "Excuse me if I want to get my revenge out of the way quickly."

"There's no way you're getting ahold of that Eye," Steve said, his sword in his hands.

"Perhaps not," Mider said, scratching his chin. "Of course, I hardly need to, thanks to my colleague Mr. Tsung over there."

"Who the hell's Mr. Tsung?" Buffy asked, confused.

"That would be me," Horiyto's voice announced. The group turned to see him, an evil grin on his face. A blur began to cover his body and the grin turned out to be the only thing that remained. Where once had been an elderly scholar was now a younger, much more athletic man, his black hair slicked into a small ponytail, his eyes flashing with pure malovence. "Shang Tusung," he introduced himself. "It's only fair a person knows his or her's own executioner." With a sudden heave, he threw the Eye up into the air at the very center of the library. At the high point of its arc, both Maeve and Mider pointed, Mider with his fingers, Maeve with her staff, energy pouring from them in a bright green light, striking the Eye, freezing it in mid-air above the stunned Slayerettes.

"Spirits of Darkness, Demons of Night......" Maeve began.

"Energy of Evil, lend us your might...." Mider continued.

"By thy powers that our sacrifices shall seal...."

"The portal we wish now reveal."

The Eye spun about in the middle of the air, glowing in the magical energies of the two beings. Suddenly, a bolt of energy came from its jeweled center and struck through the floor of the library, penetrating right into the Hellmouth.

"Oh, bloody hell," Giles whispered.

The beam of energy grew, became larger and harder, a green fountain that continued to warp the floor, the wood breaking apart and a rumbling shaking the entire building. Without warning, a beam of fiery red energy flew out of the hole in the floor and to the Eye. The Eye began to spin faster as the energy poured around it, one wave coming up from the ceiling, the other flowing into the sky, piercing the ceiling and blasting into the night, creating a huge black cloud over the school.

Joyce's car ran into the cub, Joyce losing control at seeing the massive cloud flowing over the school. The car's occupants stared up in amazement, save for Liam and Robin, who wore matching expressions of horror. "Too late," Liam muttered. "Too late and now we're all fucked." The cloud began to form a massive circle and shapes began to appear out of it, some human, some not. The majority of them were clad in black ninja-like outfits, wielding incredible weapons. They began to fall all over Sunnydale, with several concentrating on the library.

The first figure to land was huge, almost seven feet tall. It appeared to be a female but instead of skin, scales covered her like a massive lizard's hide. A red bikini-like outfit covered her breasts and crotch and her hair was pulled into a long ponytail. What really got the attention of the Slayerettes was the fact that she had four incredibly powerful arms.

The moment she hit the ground, she was moving, her fists like jack hammers, hitting with incredible speed. In seconds, Oz and Willow were knocked out as the Slayerettes were forced to scatter. Xander and Cordelia tried to attack her, only to have the creature leap upwards and then land behind them, the impact of her jump shaking the floor beneath them. Giles and Jenny tried to attack her but had little chance. Two of her arms reared back and smacked them in their faces.

The other two grabbed hold of Xander and Cordelia and proceeded to smash their heads together, twice, then let their unconscious bodies fall to the ground.

Suddenly, another warrior was there. From the waist up, he appeared to be human, save for his muscular build and the large ram-like horns on his forehead. From the waist down, he had the body of an incredibly large and strong horse, his hooves smacking on the ground. From behind him, a large tail lashed out, ending in a pair of massive, razor-sharp pinchers. The tail raised up and a bolt of energy seared out of it, exploding on the ground before Giles and Jenny, knocking them back. The centaur spun about, his tail sailing forward and smacking Giles and Jenny, sending them flying across the library, hitting the wall hard. They both slid down, collapsing into limp piles.

Steve and Buffy would have joined their friends, but had their hands full with the ninjas currently filling the library. Their style of fighting was like nothing the two had ever seen and it was all they could do to keep themselves from being massacred.

Then he arrived.

He sailed down, flipping in the air and landing on his feet, raising himself to his full height. He was a large and incredibly powerful man dressed in red pants, with a chest protector apparently made out of bone on his torso. Bone-covered pads were on his knees and elbows, daggered gauntlets coverings his fists. His face was covered by a mask that seemed to be made out of the skull of a bizarre creature Steve had never seen before. He stared at the library, his eyes hidden by the mask, the air around him high with energy. And with evil.

He moved forward and faced Buffy and Steve, the ninjas clearing a path to him. He said nothing, simply looked them both up and down then held up his hand, palm-up and beckoned to them. Buffy and Steve shared a look, then launched forward. Steve lashed out with a fist towards the mask------and gasped in pain as he fingers smashed and his knuckles broke open. Buffy tried to kick his torso------only to have him grab her ankle and savagely twist it, the bone popping out of her skin.

The man moved forward like lightning, each hand closing around a throat.. He lifted both

Buffy and Steve high over his head, seemingly not showing any strain whatsoever at the feat.

"Shang Tsung," he called out, his voice echoing as if from a deep cavern. "Are these the Immortals?"

"They are, my Lord," the shape-shifting man said, bowing his head.

"Good." With no hesitation or much effort, the man easily snapped Buffy and Steve's necks, then let their lifeless bodies fall to the ground. He looked about the library and observed his fighters. "You have done well, Sheeva." The four-armed woman nodded. "And you, Motaro."

The Centaur bowed his head. The man glanced about. "Where are the others?"

"We'll have them soon, my Emperor," Tsung said.

"Be sure that you do." The man strode forward and looked up at the core of energy flowing out of the Hellmouth and into the sky. "The Earth was created in six days! So too shall it be destroyed! And on the seventh day, mankind will rest in peace! And in pieces! So speaks SHAO KHAN!"

*****

"By the Lady," Shaw whispered as she stepped out of the car, her eyes turned up at the darkening sky and the portal that now filled it. "Do you realize what that is?"

"Let me guess. Horrible. Am I close?" Amy said, her eyes frozen.

"An interdimensional portal," Shaw said. "A passage through dimensions. But I have never seen one this large before."

"We need to get out of here," Robin said. "We need to get out of here right now."

"Wait a minute, what about Buffy?" Joyce asked.

"And the others?" Amy put in.

"Trust me, Joyce, we're not going to help them if we get caught too!" Robin said as the group began piling back into the car. "We need to get out of town right now before it's too late."

"Too late for what?" Scully wanted to know.

"Too late for answering questions, lassie, so let's move it!" Liam pushed Joyce into the driver's seat and sat beside her. He turned the key and the engine flared to life. "Go. Now."

"I'm not going to leave my daughter behind-----" Joyce's outrage was cut off by a whistling sound and suddenly there was an explosion nearby. Looking up, the group saw a bizarre figure standing before them. It was humanoid and was dressed in ninja-like garb but with metallic coverings and his face was covered with a huge helmet, wires hanging from the back like deadlocks, seeming more machine than man. Its chest was open, showing a large compartment holding a missile, aimed right at the jeep. "Oh, hell," Joyce whispered as she put the jeep into reverse, spinning it around just as a missile blasted past them, exploding against a wall. Joyce put the car into gear and began to roar down the streets of Sunnydale as fast as she could.

*****

In his office in the largest building in Sunnydale, the Mayor glanced at the window at the display taking place, ninjas running through the town without mercy, sending the few people in view back. "Oh, dear," he said and walked towards a closet set near the office. Opening it, he reached in and pulled out a large scepter. "Darn it, I hate using this thing," he said, shaking his head. He pushed a dial and watched as the scepter emitted a large green glow that covered him completely. It was a real shame, the mayor thought before vanishing. This would have been such a nice night for bingo.

*****

As Joyce's jeep rushed down the streets of Sunnydale, the occupants could see the other- worldly army roaming through the streets. Ninjas were joined by Centaurus, galloping through the streets, carnage in their path. As Joyce swerved to avoid a fallen lightpost, they could see a group of vampires fighting with the ninjas. The ninjas showed absolutely no fear whatsoever and were taking the vampires out left and right. One vamp leapt on a ninja and bit him but got no reaction whatsoever. The ninja simply batted him away and beheaded him, a cloud of dust joining the pile on the ground.

A noise on the other side got their attention and the group looked as one towards the other side of the car where a black-skinned demon was being trashed by two centaurs. Each centaur grabbed an end of the demon and pulled, ripping it in half. "Okay, I'm officially freaked out now," Amy said.

Joyce turned her eyes back to the road just in time to see a flaming car come roaring towards them. Spinning the wheel, Joyce sent the jeep smashing into a lightpost, crumpling the front of the jeep. Scully cried out as her arm smacked the door, the occupants of the crowded back of the jeep rolling around each other. "Damn it!" Joyce yelled. "I just paid the premiums on this thing!"

"I hope you use the same insurance company for everything," Mulder said, motioning to where the burning car had crashed. Joyce looked at it and put her hands to her head. "My shop!" she cried, staring at the burning building.

Robin glanced back up at the sky and noticed how the portal was seeming to grow. "We need to get out of here now," he said. He turned towards Liam. "You got something?"

"I always do," the leprechaun replied. He reached into a pocket and pulled out a keychain and pointed it towards the street. "Spirits of the Glen, hear my call, my chariot bring to me before all fall." He pushed a button on the keychain and a beeping went out. A shimmering covered the air in the street before them and a shape formed itself. It solidified to form what appeared to be your typical van, albeit a bright green color. "All aboard who don't want to get slaughtered," Liam said, leading the group towards the van. They piled in, Liam behind the wheel as Robin climbed next to him, the rest scurrying into the back as Liam started the car.

He pulled out with tires squealing, spinning the van around as he slammed down on the accelerator and roared down the street. "Are you sure we can outrun these guys?" Mulder said, glancing back.

"Don't worry," Liam grinned. "I've had a few modifications put into this baby."

"Since when do you have a license?" Robin asked.

"I've been driving for quite a while now, I'll have you know."

"That's not what I asked you."

"I know."

"Oh my god, we're going to die," Joyce said, putting her face in her hands.

"Not if I can bloody help it," Liam replied, racing past a burning tree lying across the road.

Scully glanced out the window and saw a herd of centaurs racing towards them, gaining by the moment. "We've got company," she said, trying to ignore the fact that these were mythical creatures chasing her. "And they're gaining."

"Relax," Liam said. "We'll lose them."

"Perhaps you should tell them that," Shaw said, staring at the advancing Centaurs. "They do not appear to grasp the concept as well."

"You really need to relax, lass," Liam said,, reaching forward and pulling a CD seemingly from thin air and sliding it into the stereo. Immediately, a lively Irish jig blasted over the speakers and into their ears. Liam tapped his fingers against the steering wheel, bopping his head in time with the music as everyone stared at him in astonishment. Shaw took a moment to once again glance back, this time seeing that the Centaurs were nearly right behind the van. "I would suggest speeding up at this time."

"No back seat driving," Liam said, seemingly not at all concerned.

"Um, Liam old sport, I really think we need some quick maneuvering here," Robin put in.

Liam sighed and rolled his eyes. "Oh, all right." He reached forward and flicked a button on the dashboard. Instantly, the van began to metamorphisize, the center of the wheel becoming a giant radar screen, panels sliding around to reveal high tech equipment. Elongating from the sides of the van were platforms that soon formed themselves into wings. At the rear of the van, a panel swept back and a very large rocket-sized engine emerged. Billowing flame blasted out of it, engulfing the lead Centaur and knocking him back into the herd. The flame blasted the van forward, rushing down the street. Liam pulled back on the steering wheel and the van began to rise in the air, rushing up towards the night sky. "I told you I had some modifications put in," Liam said to the surprised looks of the others.

"From who?" Scully asked. "Q?"

"Yes. Just not the one you're thinking of."

"Oh my god," Joyce whispered. The others glanced out the windows and felt their jaws drop. A massive dome of pure blackness was forming over Sunnydale, reaching to the city limits before stopping, forming a solid dome over the entire town. "What the hell is that?" Amy asked.

Robin was tight-lipped, his eyes hard as he stared at the dome covering his home on the earthly plane. "Outworld's here."

*****

Part 2: Wherein explanations are made, an old flame returns and allies turn away.

The van came to a stop in the middle of the Nevada desert, pulling to the side of the deserted highway as the group piled out. Robin and Liam moved to the side, both looking panicked. Mulder, Scully, Amy, Joyce and Shaw stared at them in confusion. The two had been silent during the trip, which had actually only taken minutes, thanks to the powerful engines of Liam's special van. "Okay, this is bad, right?" Mulder said.

"Bad?" Robin turned towards him. "Bad? No, Mulder, this is beyond bad. This is completely beyond bad. This is so beyond bad the light from bad won't hit us for another two thousand years, that's how bad it is."

"Well, we should be around to see it," Mulder muttered.

"Don't bet on it, laddie," Liam shot back.

"What the hell was that?" Joyce wanted to know.

"Believe me, hell would probably be preferable to what's in Sunnydale now," Liam added.

"Outworld, lads and lassies. Outworld is here on Earth."

"What is Outworld?" Shaw spoke for them all.

Liam and Robin looked at each other and took deep breaths, preparing themselves. "Okay, here's the deal," Robin said, pacing as he spoke. "What you know as Earth is only one of a series of parallel worlds. There's the Fairy Kingdom, my home. There's the Leprechaun Glens, Liam's home. There's Shaw's home dimension and there are a lot more, all separated by dimensional barriers, making them what we call realms."

"Like the alternate timeline the guys went to?" Amy asked.

"What?" Liam frowned.

"A few months back, some people came here from an alternate reality where Buffy never went to Sunnydale," Robin explained. "There was that world's Buffy, that world's still-souled Angel and versions of Willow and Xander who were vampire lovers. The guys souled the vamps and then went to that reality."

"What!" Liam yelled.

"What?" Joyce yelled. "You went there? Buffy never told me she went there!"

"Joyce, you were already freaked out about that Buffy becoming a cold, uncaring, ill-tempered killer," Amy said. "Did you really want to know about the world she came from?"

"Well, you have a point," Joyce nodded.

"Wait a minute, you went to another reality?" Liam said. "Robin, ye let them do this? At least tell me you didn't let them interfere with their counterparts."

"Well, actually, Mulder and I went to our doubles, found out they had become Immortal without knowing it, shot them to prove it and tied them together in bed to let them know how much they loved each other," Scully answered, sending Liam into a fit.

"Mary Mother of God, Robbie, ye know how dangerous it is to do shit like that!"

"Hey, I agree with you and I told them," Robin said, his hands up in defense. "But I was outvoted and I only went with so I could keep them from going completely over the top on everything."

"Oh, lord, I can't believe you work with these ameteurs, Robbie," Liam said, rolling his eyes.

"Speaking as one who has traveled through several dimensions, I am no ameteur," Shaw said.

"That's different, lass," Liam said, his tone softening in a way that wasn't lost on Robin.

"Those are alternate realities and timelines. They're harder to break into because they're so delicate and hard to mess up. But places like the Faery Kingdom and the Glens and your home are one of a kind and that makes them dangerous.

"One of these realms is called Outworld," Robin announced. "A barren, desolate wasteland of a realm ruled by a creature named Shao Khan who decided, because he was an immortal sorcerer of near god-like power, he should crown himself Emperor. So naturally, he went about getting himself an empire. He began to conquer realm after realm, amassing an army of enslaved worlds before he finally turned his sights towards Earth about six hundred years ago."

"Hold up," Mulder said. "If this guy is so powerful, why didn't he just invade us six hundred years ago?"

"Crossing an interdimensional barrier isn't like jimmying open a lock, Mulder," Robin explained. "Entering another realm isn't that easy, especially if your intents are hostile. There are rules, set up by the Elder Gods, rules that Khan has to adhere by. There's only one way he can invade and that's through a sacred tournament known as Mortal Kombat."

"What's that?" Amy asked.

"Every generation, the greatest fighters in the realm Khan wants are chosen to compete in a tournament," Liam answered. "Some train their entire lives for this. Some have no idea what they're getting into until it's too late. They meet and fight, their realm against Outworld's best fighters. If that realm's champion wins, the realm is safe for another generation. If Khan's forces win, they secure one victory they need."

"How many do they need?" Joyce wanted to know.

"Ten straight victories in Mortal Kombat secures the realm for Khan to invade," Robin said. "The Elder Gods no doubt thought they were safe, since the idea of ten straight wins in a tournament like this was unheard of. But they underestimated Khan and his men, especially Shang Tsung."

"He's the guy you said killed Horiyto and took his place?" Amy said.

"And impersonated Krychek," Scully added.

"That's right," Liam nodded. "He's Khan's chief sorcerer and quite the fighter. His power comes from his ability to suck the souls out of mortal beings, adding their power to his own and giving him magical abilities. Including shape-shifting. With Tsung's fighting skills, Khan conquered several realms before Earth. Five hundred years ago, Tsung was defeated by a warrior named Kung Lao and fell out of favor with the Emperor. However, he got back in Khan's good graces when he brought a fighter to the next Kombat, a four-armed monster named Goro who defeated Kung Lao and proceeded to win the next eight tournaments over five centuries."

"These Gods put the fate of a realm into a contest?" Joyce asked in disbelief.

"Joyce, you don't cross the Elder Gods. These guys are the tops of the hierarchy. They're to Zeus what Zeus is to us. If they say something's this way, it's this way, no questions asked. And like I said, there's no way anyone could have predicted Outworld winning ten Mortal Kombats in a row."

"So the tenth tournament-----"

"Was held a few years ago," Robin interrupted Scully. "To make a long story short-----"

"Too late," Mulder muttered.

"Goro was defeated in combat, but Shang tried to take the fight to Outworld. Liu Kang, a Shaolin monk who happened to be Kung Lao's descendent, then defeated Tsung who was supposed to have been killed during the battle. That win meant that Earth was safe from Khan for at least another ten generations."

"So what the hell is he doing taking over Sunnydale?" Joyce asked.

"Bloody good question," Liam said. "You'd think the Elder Gods would have done something about it too."

"And why would he want us there?" Mulder said, motioning to himself and Scully.

"There is also the question of how Maeve and Mider fit into this," Shaw pointed out. "We need answers," Robin said. "And there's not too many people who can give them to us."

"Oracles?" Liam asked.

"Nah, I hate dealing with them. We don't have time for riddles."

"The Stygians?"

"I'd prefer not to have to avoid being someone's meal."

"I'm trying to think of who else we could contact."

"We need someone who not only knows what's happened but knows what may happen as well," Robin said, stroking his chin. He glanced up at Liam. "Can this thing get us to Ireland?"

"This thing could get us to the moon if I wanted to, laddie," Liam said. "Why? Who are you-----" His eyes widened as a thought struck him. "No," he said in a defiant voice.

"Liam-----"

"No, no, no bloody way, no bloody how, forget it," Liam said, waving his arms as he turned away.

"Liam, come on, she's the only one I know who can do it."

"Damn it, Robin, you know how I feel about her."

"I know, Liam, I'm not a fan myself. But we need her. We do."

"All right, all right," Liam said. "Dammit." He turned around and headed back towards the van, the others behind, exchanging looks of confusion. "Wait where are we going?" Mulder said.

"We're getting info from a lady Liam and I know," Robin replied.

"How well do you two know her?"

"I did her a couple of favors," Liam said as he moved to the driver's seat. "First one was I married her. Second was I divorced her."

*****

Under the massive black dome, what had once been a normal town was now something from another world. The buildings had been warped and shaped into bizarre structures, alien-like metals covering their surface. The high school was still there, but a black tower seemed to have risen from across it, extending towards the still-open portal. A cone of red energy blasted from the top of the library towards the sky, giving the sky a bizarre red and black color.

In the interior of the large circular room at the top of the tower, a massive structure that looked like a massive modern art piece, an odd blob that took up one wall. Inside it were the captured Slayerettes, each held fast within the strange prison. Their hands and feet were locked back, half-merged with the gray surface of the structure, the solid coating preventing them from moving at all. "Ah, all dressed up and no place to go," Mider said as he looked up at the captives. "Like the design? Built it myself. One has to do something to keep one's mind occupied over a thousand years."

"Always good to have hobbies," Steve said, trying to get his hand loose. His neck still hurt from where Khan had snapped it and having his head twisted at an angle by this thing wasn't helping.

"Oh, don't even bother struggling," Mider said. "It's specially designed to keep a solid lock on you, no matter what. So, if you're thinking of breaking an arm and slipping out, forget it. It will just adjust the grip and you'll end up with a rather painful souvenir."

"Jenny, can't you do something?" Giles said softly.

"I've been trying," Jenny said. "But I can't get together the energy or concentration for a spell."

"Yes, inhibiting magics is another side effect," Mider said. "Saves us time on guards and cells, you know."

"This stuff better not stain," Cordelia said. "This outfit's brand new."

"Ah, style over all else," Maeve said as she walked forward. "A girl after my own heart. Such a shame we can't be friends."

"I'm hurt," Cordelia answered.

Maeve smiled and raised her staff, sending a bolt of green energy out that blasted Cordelia's body with pain, causing her to scream.

"Never give me a straight line like that," Maeve said as she lowered the staff.

A sudden booming noise got their attention. They looked at the other end of the large chamber as the massive double doors opened and Shao Khan entered, a large battle axe held in his hands as he strode towards the throne set on the opposite side of the room. Behind him, Shang Tsung, dressed in a dark outfit with a long coat, Motaro and Sheeva followed, along with several ninja-clad guards, spears in hand.

"Inform the troops," Maeve announced. "Lord Vader has arrived!"

"Report," Khan's voice boomed as he sat on his throne.

"All civilians have been gathered into special camps, my Lord," Sheeva said. "The demons we have not destroyed appear to have gone underground, literally."

"They cannot leave the dome," Khan announced. "Leave them be for a while. Those creatures are too cowardly to oppose us. Tell all troops to keep an eye out for stragglers, human or otherwise and deal with them."

He turned towards his sorcerer. "Tsung, where are the escapees?"

"I'm working on it, my Lord," Tsung bowed.

"Work faster."

"With respect, my Lord, I'm still recovering energies from helping to attain the Eye and open the portal. I need time to renew my strength before I can try to find them."

"Make it fast," Khan said. He glanced at Maeve and Mider. "What of you two?"

"The spell will hold," Maeve announced. "So long as we help reinforce it, of course. But we do need to get the others as soon as possible."

"Then get on it," Khan said. "Time is short and I want to conquer this realm as quickly as possible."

"Patience is a virtue," Mider said. "Oh, wait, I forgot, you don't have any virtues. Neither do I, come to think of it."

"Excuse me," Giles called out. "I was curious, however, as to how the bunch of you managed to get together?"

"I was wondering that too," Steve said, glancing at Maeve. "You're not Immortal, how can you be alive?"

"Never underestimate the dark arts," Maeve said. "I was always connected to magic, even before I met Mider. I managed to hold onto some of that after my exile from Kells. Staying alive was easy, it was keeping my youth that created the need for sacrifices, literally and figuratively. I knew how I could free Mider, but I didn't have the power to do it and stay alive. I didn't know how exactly to work it, but I knew my chance would come. So, I reserved myself, wandering the Earth, seeking out sources of mystic energy to keep myself alive over the years. It was during a meditation a few months back that I made contact with Shang here."

"Yeah, you gave us the whole Outworld spiel already," Xander said. "You guys want to conquer but you can't until you win this Kombat thing, right?"

"Drastically under-explained, but accurate," Tsung said.

"Hey, don't take this the wrong way, but aren't you supposed to be dead?" Buffy asked.

"A few centuries of subsisting on souls and magical energies delayed my afterlife path," Tsung said. "I was blasted into a state of limbo. No body, no form, barely any consciousness at all. Not very pleasant, I can tell you. That was when I made contact with Maeve during her meditation. I told her how to get in touch with the Emperor and he managed to find a way to bring me back into a not-entirely state of life and enough power to impersonate Horiyto and that brings us to now."

"So, your plans for the future are what, exactly?" Giles shrugged.

"I want Kells," Maeve said, her face hard. "It's all I want, all I ever wanted. It is my birthright, my legacy, it belongs to me."

"Um, hate to break this to you, lady," Xander said. "But your kingdom's been gone for a few centuries now."

'The I'll rebuild it," Maeve said. "However long it takes, how many sacrifices are required, I will have my kingdom. And if the rest of this planet must suffer for that, so be it. It is a small price to pay for my destiny."

"Well, now I know you're mad, I just wanted to be sure," Giles shrugged.

"As soon as the others are gathered, our plans may begin," Tsung said. "Tapping into the Hellmouth will give us the opportunity to------"

"What are you doing?" Mider suddenly said.

"Hmm?" Tsung answered.

"You're telling them the plan. Didn't we already discuss this? Didn't we already decide not to tell them the plan? Really, how long have we been in this business? We should all know by now that we don't tell the heroes the plan. Yes, I understand that you're happy with the plan, you're proud of the plan, you want to share the plan with others, but send a message to a stranger, whisper it into a hole in the ground, tell one of the captives and kill them, but you don't tell them!"

"Man, this conversation sounds familiar for some reason," Oz said, shaking his head. Giles looked at Maeve, trying to speak calmly. "You honestly think you can trust these people? They'll just betray you as soon as your usefulness is over."

Maeve threw her head back and laughed. "Oh, please. I was practicing divide and conquer centuries before you were born. Don't even try to play that game." She moved forward and grinned at Giles. "Of course he plans to betray me. I'm expecting it. After all I'm planning to betray him."

"I know she plans to betray me," Khan announced. "She knows I plan to betray her. I know she knows. She knows I know."

"I know that he knows I know," Maeve continued. "He knows that I know that he knows."

"We're a very knowledgeable group," Tsung said with a smile.

"We have already discussed this," Khan announced. "We may fight one another eventually. We will no doubt war in the future for Earth. None of us are the type to share power or follow another. We do not trust one another but we do realize that together, our goals stand a much better chance of success. So for now, cooroperation is our only option."

"Yeah, well, your master plan's got a few flaws," Buffy said. "You haven't got us all."

"The others will get help," Steve announced. "You'll see."

"Sadly, I believe your friends will find contact via conventional means a bit----difficult," Tsung smiled. "And should they attempt another way, they will simply be announcing their presence and that will make it so much easier to find them."

"Find the escapees," Khan said in a dangerous voice. "Find them now." He glanced up at the structure. "If I'm going to destroy this realm, I should have as big an audience as possible."

*****

"Isn't this how 'The Blair Witch Project' started?" Mulder said. He, Scully, Amy, Shaw and Joyce were following Liam and Robin as they made their way through a massive forest somewhere in Ireland. All they could see in every direction were nothing but trees, brown bark rising up into a massive green canopy. The rising sun barely penetrated, shafts of light flowing into the pathway below as the group made their way to a destination only the fairies knew.

"Are you absolutely sure we're even in Ireland anymore?" Amy asked as the group moved forward through the trees.

"She enjoys her privacy," Robin shrugged, pushing some branches aside. "Made it hell coming here when she and Liam were together."

"What makes you think she can help us?" Shaw asked.

"She's a seer," Liam answered, his face tight. "She can see what may come."

"You mean what is to come," Scully said.

"No, what may come," Liam answered. "See, the future is unwritten, which is why time travel into it is impossible by scientific means. Can't go into something that doesn't exist yet. However, Callie can see the possibilities in the future, the ways it may take, the outcomes that may come. On rare occasions she may know something for sure but otherwise it's pretty vague."

"So if she knows the future, how come your marriage failed?" Scully answered.

"She doesn't know everything. Just some major things going around. This will count, believe me on that."

"So how soon until we can find her?" Mulder asked. In answer, Liam smiled and pulled aside a last branch to reveal a large open field in the midst of the forest. In the middle, seeming to come out of the ground itself, was a small cottage, a blanket of moss covering the roof. Before it lay a small garden, the flowers in full bloom and very evenly planned as well. "Martha Stewart meets the Hobbits," Amy said as the group walked into the field.

"I just hope she listens," Robin said.

"Why wouldn't she listen to me?" Liam asked.

"Maybe she still hates your guts for what you did to her in Madrid."

"Geez, I can't go anywhere without someone complaining about something! 'You stole Oberon's gold, Liam!' 'You tore up the original copy of the Declaration of Independence, Liam!' 'You scared Mrs. O'Leary's cow and started the Great Chicago Fire, Liam!' Bloody hell!"

"You are actually friends with this man?" Shaw asked.

"He grows on you," Robin shrugged. "There's more to him than meets the eye."

"I am quite happy with what my eye has already met," Shaw muttered.

Liam marched over to the front door of the home and pushed it open. "Callie?" He called out as he entered. "Callie, I know you're here! You're never anywhere else."

"Apparently, knocking isn't on his list of virtues," Joyce said as the others followed Liam inside.

"With the history these two have, I'm surprised he didn't kick down the door," Robin replied as the group made their way inside. It was quite the rural cottage, as natural on the inside as on the out. There was no furniture to speak of, shelves, chairs and tables seeming to rise out of the floor, dirt and grass comprising surfaces, bottle and vases covering nearly every inch of free space. The rest of the space was filled with candles that provided the sole illumination to the room. The home opened up from the doorway, looking into a massive circular level just below the doorway. Standing in the middle of it, surrounded by a row of tables, on a slightly raised platform, was a tall woman whose curly red hair reached nearly to the floor, her thin form clad in a green robe with golden embalms. She glanced up at the group, her lips curling into a slight smile, her brilliant green eyes highlighting her beautiful face. "About bloody time," she said in a light Irish accent. "I was expecting you a while ago."

"Folks, I'd like you to meet Callieway Burton, my 47th, 98th, 153rd and 211th ex-wife," Liam announced.

"Hi," Amy said. "I'm------"

"I know who you are and why you're here, Amy," Callie said. She glanced at Robin.

"Goodfellow. I see you're still on Oberon's bad side."

"I don't suppose you'll tell when I get off it?" Robin asked in an even tone.

"If I knew, I wouldn't say," Callie smiled. "So, I've already guessed why you came by, we'd best get down to brass tacks."

"Um, can you really-----"

"Yes, Joyce, I can. Or rather, I see various possibilities. As we get closer to what you would call the future and as various choices are made, those possibilities become whittled down to a few and finally, just the one. But it takes a while."

"So-----"

"No, Dana, I cannot tell you exactly what can come. I can tell you the possibilities you might take that could lead you down to the future."

"Is she-----"

"No need to ask Liam, Mulder, I always do talk like this."

"You get used to it," Liam shrugged.

Robin rolled his eyes. "Now I know why I threw a party every time you two got divorced." He looked at Callie. "Okay, Cal, fess up. We need to know-----"

"How Outworld has invaded, why the Elder Gods aren't doing anything, what part Maeve and Mider have to play in this, what plans they have, have I missed anything?"

"You are an incredibly arrogant woman," Shaw said.

"Takes one to know one," Callie replied with such a light and playful tone that Shaw was momentarily left speechless.

"Ah, that's the Callie I know and loved on and off," Liam said, grinning. "Always could put anyone in their place."

Shaw looked at him, then at Callie. "Why in the world would you marry this man four times?"

"Because he's one of the damn best incredibly unrelenting sex machines I've ever had the pleasure of experiencing in my life," Callie said in a tone that made it sound as if it should have been common knowledge.

"Wow," Amy whispered, turning to Shaw. "I think she just outdid you in the talking frank department."

"This woman is starting to piss me off," Scully muttered.

"Shh, don't ruin this," Mulder said. "Shaw is speechless and I want to enjoy it while I can."

Callie moved away from the group, heading to the raised portion of her floor, turning towards the group. "This is my big exposition moment, boys and girls. So if you're looking for action, you'd best seek elsewhere for a while." She reached over and uncorked a bottle, taking a swig from it. "First of all, the Elder Gods haven't reacted to this invasion because from their point of view there hasn't been an invasion."

"Gigantic portal, ninja army, massive destruction, interesting definition of no invasion these guys have," Mulder said.

"Maeve and Mider have used the Eye, combined with their magical energies, to form a link with Outworld and open it up with Earth."

"Wait a minute, Cal," Liam said. "You can't just open a link to another realm with the Eye itself. You'd need an anchor, another portal to pour the Eye's energies into and combine to create a link."

"The Hellmouth," Shaw said.

"In one, my dear," Callie said. "They are doing all but opening the Hellmouth wide in order to power the portal to Outworld. In effect, Sunnydale has become part of the Outworld, so the Elder Gods aren't going to be putting their noses into this. Rules, you know."

"What does Khan want?" Robin wanted to know.

"Earth of course."

"You know what I mean."

"Yes, yes I do. Well, here's the thing. The portal can't stay open forever and only extends the limit of the Hellmouth, in this case the limits of Sunnydale. However, they have a way to extend the spell, to open Outworld onto Earth totally. What is needed is, let me see....." She moved forward and waved her hand. A book floated from a shelf, opening before her, pages fluttering as Callie moved her fingers. "Ah, here it is. 'The energies of four who cannot die.....'"

"Me and Scully, Buffy and Steve," Mulder guessed.

"Two bound by skills and hearts."

"Wonderful, we're singled out for our love," Scully said.

"He couldn't pick guys who hate each other?" Mulder said.

"'Warriors pure, skills enhanced, by Gods and Eternals, not by chance.'"

"The Amazons and the guys I empowered," Robin nodded.

"And last, but certainly not least, 'The blood of two Eternals, jesters both, whose life force can bring destruction or hope."

"And guess who fits that bill," Liam said, glancing at Robin.

"And of course, that doesn't even mention the fact that three of the Amazons are witches. That will enhance the sacrifice," Callie explained. "It must happen sooner than later. Despite the energies of the Hellmouth, the portal won't stay open forever and if Khan is stuck in the Earth realm, the Elder Gods will step in. But if the sacrifice comes off, it will not only stabilize the portal to Outworld, it will allow Khan to merge the two realms. Hell on Earth is a benevolent description of what the result will be."

"So, what do Maeve and Mider get out of this?" Amy asked.

"For Maeve, what she's always wanted: Kells and its area to build her kingdom. For Mider, Khan has promised him enough power to conquer the throne of Tir Na Nog and become its ruler."

"Khan gets Earth, Tsung gets his life back as a reward, Maeve gets her kingdom, Mider gets Tir Na Nog and we all get the shaft," Liam summed up.

"Eloquent as always, Liam."

"So that's why Khan wanted us and Liam here," Mulder said. "So he could sacrifice us."

"Why us?" Scully asked. "Why not-----"

"He couldn't find them," Callie said. "You know Jarod and Parker. If they don't want to be found, no one will find them. So, lucky you two, you get to be the sacrifice."

"Can you tell us how he plans to do that?" Amy asked.

"Do you want to have nightmares every night for the rest of your life?" Callie asked.

"Um, no?"

"Then you don't want to know." Callie waved her hand and placed the book down on a table. "Needless to say, Khan and his allies are most interested in finding you all and I don't think I have to tell you what they'll do when you're in their hands."

"Lucky you, Shaw, you get to stay out of this one," Liam said.

"Oh, yes, she's lucky, as is Joyce" Callie said as she waved her hand again, causing a teapot to rise and pour into a cup. "They'll only be tortured, eviscerated and killed. Not necessarily in that order."

"Oh, god," Joyce said, rubbing her face.

"Actually, despite his bragging, Khan's not quite there yet," Callie said as she sipped at her tea. "But if he conquers Earth, he will be a step closer to challenging the Elder Gods. He'll lose, of course, but the war will no doubt lay waste to a few dozen realms first."

"You seem calm about it," Scully noted.

"My dear, I learned a very long time ago not to get involved in politics."

"Politics?" Scully's eyes widened. "We're talking about the fate of our realm here!"

"Oh, I'm sure you'll think of something," Callie said. "I hope it's one of the better options, of course."

"God, I forgot how much I hated dealing with her," Robin muttered.

"Is there anything you can tell us that is even remotely useful?" Shaw asked.

"I'm afraid I can't tell you much," Callie said. "I see the future, I don't try to influence it. There's too many factors involved in this for me to try and I'd hate to add to them."

"One of those factors is my daughter," Joyce said in a tight voice. "I don't want to hear you say you know what's coming but you're not going to tell us, give us something. Please."

Callie put down her cup and moved forward, her face impassive. "Joyce, believe me when I say that I know what it's like to lose a child and I wouldn't wish it on anyone."

"Don't tell me....." Amy began.

"Hey, don't look at me, lassie. Nothing ever came out of our marriages."

"You ain't just whistling Dixie, pal," Robin said.

Callie took a deep breath and glanced about. "I can tell you this much. Head to the nearest town and you'll find the allies you need. That's all I can say."

"Can or will?" Scully said.

"Can," Callie said. "If I say more, I could destabilize the possibilities and believe me, you don't want the good ones being rubbed out by mistake."

"So, that's it?" Mulder said. "That's all you can tell us?"

"That and a piece of advice. 'Don't worry about the future. Sooner or later it's the past.'"

"Who said that, Shakespeare?"

"No. Meat Loaf. 'Everything Louder Than Everything Else,' track eight off of 'Bat Out of Hell II.'"

"Educational as ever, Cal," Liam smiled. "Let's get out of here." He and Robin immediately turned and began walking towards the exit, the other slowly following. "Shaw!" she suddenly cried out. The elven warrior turned and stared at her as Callie slowly stepped down towards her, smiling. She reached out to stroke Shaw's hair and didn't seem to mind when the half-elven moved back. "Don't let your past experiences harden your heart, Shaw. Don't fight what you feel."

"What are you talking about?" Shaw asked, her face tied in confusion.

Callie nodded slightly towards Liam. "He's a good man, underneath all that bragdicco. You could make him better. And he could make you more whole. Don't be afraid of disgracing the memory. Don't be afraid of losing another. For once, just let yourself go and try to enjoy it." She smiled and began to walk away.

Shaw glanced at her, then at the others in bafflement, then back at Callie. "Wait. Is this something that will happen or something that may happen?"

Callie smiled and twirled her hair a bit. It swept around her and suddenly seemed to grow, covering her body before vanishing, taking Callie with it.

"Next show at 10:30," Mulder announced.

"Wasn't she great, folks, let's give her a hand!" Robin said, applauding.

"Now I know how Hiedo felt when I played 'she who knows what is to come,'" Shaw muttered under her breath as she followed the group towards the exit. Amy came up to her, moving quietly by her side and opening her mouth. "I do not wish to discuss it, Amy," Shaw said in a tone that made it clear the conversation was closed.

Robin walked by his friend and saw him grinning. "What are you happy about? We got nothing out of this."

"Not true," Liam pointed out. "We know what Outworld's doing, we know what they need of us and we know where to go for help. Plus, we have an incredibly important piece of information."

"What?"

Liam smiled wider. "I've got a green light with Shaw."

"Oh, gods," Robin said, rolling his eyes. "Thanks a lot, Callie, like he needed the encouragement."

*****

The early morning sun was beginning to rise higher as the van drove through the quiet streets of the small town. Like most Irish towns, the buildings were spaced tightly together with the same sort of old-world architecture, the modern signs and shingles doing little to hurt the postcard-perfect Irish setting. Mulder and Scully half expected to see sheep walking down the streets.

"Hope this is what Callie meant," Robin said. "Of course, she could have been telling us about another town in the completely opposite direction."

"Hey, Callie may be off when it comes to the relationships, but she's always been straight about her predictions," Liam said as he brought the van to a stop. "She says help's here, it's here. We just have to look for it. And if there's one thing I can tell you with absolute certainty, it's that if you want to find out the goings on in an Irish town, there's only one place to go."

He nodded his head towards the small pub set on the corner of the street, the brown doors welcoming visitors, not there were many this early in the day. "So, what are we supposed to do, go in and ask if there are any super-powered warriors who can help us defeat an inter-dimensional invasion?" Mulder asked.

"Direct approach works, but I'd prefer something else," Liam said. He turned and looked towards Amy. "You're an Amazon, right?"

"Yeah."

"I think it's time you put an overdue call in to the boss lady."

"You want me to call in Artemis?" Amy said.

"Why not? Haven't seen Arty in a while. She still hot stuff?"

Amy stared at him, not believing anyone could talk about Artemis that way. Well, except for Robin. "I think we'd better talk to her in private," Robin put in. He glanced towards the others. "Why don't you guys go in, get some drinks and wait for us." He looked towards Mulder and Scully. "You guys have cell phones? Wait, who am I talking to? I need you to-----"

"Get on the horn to everyone we can get ahold of," Scully said.

"And tell them we need them and we need them now," Mulder finished.

Robin nodded and the group piled out of the van. "God, it's cold," Joyce said, rubbing her arms. "I should have brought a sweater."

"Let me," Liam said. He waved his arms and the air around Joyce's shoulders shifted, yarn flowing out of nowhere and forming a bright green sweater around her. "Thank you," she said, slightly taken aback.

"Show-off," Robin muttered.

"Hey, got it, flaunt it, laddie. You taught me that."

"That was before I got stuck into the 'can't use magic unless it's to fight evil' bit."

"Sucks to be you," Liam grinned, pointing his clicker back towards the van. He hit the button and instantly the van vanished as quickly as it had first appeared. "Man, you save a ton on parking," Mulder smiled.

"Let's find someplace quiet to talk to Arty," Liam said as he, Robin and Amy walked down the street, leaving the others to head into the pub.

A small bell rang on the door as they answered. The place was deserted, chairs lying before bare wooden tables, the paneling and decoration making it look like it hadn't been changed a bit since it had been built some seventy-five years earlier. A long bar took up one entire end of the pub, bottles covering every inch behind it. Above the bar hung a large broadsword that looked quite old. But Mulder and Scully weren't interested in the decor, they were interested in the figure behind it. They had felt the sensation of another Immortal immediately upon entering and the figure behind the bar was looking at them with an expression that told them he was it.

He was a powerful-looking man, his eyes showing quite a few centuries behind them. He had dark hair with a receding hairline, a strange scar highlighting his forehead. His thick beard and mustache gave him a powerful face and even dressed in a loose shirt and jeans, he looked ready to strike if the situation called for it. He watched the group closely, eyes peering in suspicion at Mulder and Scully. "Morning," he said, his accent clear in his gravely voice.

"We just want some drinks," Mulder said. "Nothing else."

"No problem," the man nodded. "Aid, customers!"

"What, this early?" A young woman came out from the kitchen area. She was small, smaller than Amy, with a bouncy step, curly blond hair flowing around her, her pretty face carrying a large smile. She was wearing an attractive dress that somehow seemed big on her. "Haven't even got the grill on yet!"

"We don't need much," Scully said. "Just a place to wait for our friends."

"Hey, no problem, I can have that sucker on in no time," the woman called Aid said. "Just give me your orders and I can get going."

"Give us a minute," Mulder said as the group sat down at a table. Mulder picked up one of the menus and flipped through it. He glanced up to see Shaw staring at the woman called Aid, eyes peered. "What is it?"

"There is something about that woman," Shaw said. "I cannot see what exactly, but she is not what she seems."

"Well, she fits right in on this trip," Scully said as she took the menu from Mulder. They all looked up as Shaw suddenly stood up. "Where are you going?"

"I wish to join the others," Shaw said. "I want to know what they are trying to plan."

"Are you sure-----"

"I am joining them," Shaw said abruptly, walking off. The two agents looked at her, then at Joyce, who just shrugged. "She gets restless a lot. Makes it hell on movie nights."

Near the bar, the woman had joined the man behind the bar, who was still staring at the two Immortals. "There going to be a fight?" she asked in a light Irish accent.

"I can't tell yet," the man said as he watched Shaw leave. "What'd you make of them?"

"Aside from the two Immortals? That woman is odd. She's got an aura, it looks so familiar, but I can't quite place it."

"Interesting," Torc said. "Better get the grill ready, love. We're opening business sooner than usual today."

Nodding, Aid walked towards the small kitchen, shutting the door behind her. She turned towards the stoves and ovens and waved her hands. Instantly, fire swept out as the devices came alive, pots and pans floating off the shelves and heading towards the flames. Watching the odd set-up, the woman smiled and shook her head. God, it was great to be her.

*****

"Lady Goddess, I call upon you. Please come. Lady Goddess, please come. Lady Goddess-----"

"For Christ's sake, Arty, get yer bony ass out here already!"

"LIAM!"

The Amazon, the fairy and the leprechaun were standing in a small clearing just past the town, Amy kneeling on the ground as she attempted to summon her Goddess. Robin glanced behind to see Shaw coming towards them. "You okay?"

"Why would I not be?"

"I know how you feel about cities. Irish towns may not be huge with skyscrapers but they can still overwhelm you."

"I am in control," Shaw said evenly.

Before Robin could press the point, a flash of light heralded the entrance of Artemis, Greek Goddess of the Hunt, a bow held in one hand, her armor gleaming as she looked towards the others. "Liam," she said in a hard tone. "I was afraid you might be here."

"What, no hug?" Liam said, rasing and eyebrow.

"Maybe. Followed by a dagger to your heart."

"They used to date," Robin said in explanation.

Amy took a moment to shake that off, then turned her attention towards Artemis. "Lady Goddess, you must know what has happened. We're facing incredible power here on a scale we can't handle. We need your intervention immediately. If you can get into Sunnydale and free the others-----"

"I can't help," Artemis interrupted.

Amy stared at her. "What?"

"I can't help you," Artemis repeated.

Liam put his little finger into one pointed ear and shook it. "Funny, being human hasn't effected my hearing before now."

Artemis took a breath. "Khan has been consolidating his power for a while now. He's been planning this for some time and he's ready for an invasion. He's powerful, much more powerful than you could imagine, powerful enough to invade some of the Eternal Realms. What's more, he realizes how connected Earth is to other realms, including Olympus. Zeus could see his power growing and sent a team of ambassadors to meet Khan. The head of the chief negotiator came back an hour later with a message. To boil it down into human terms, stay out of my way and I'll stay out of yours."

"Whoa, whoa, whoa," Robin said. "You're telling me Zeus has struck a deal with Khan?"

"He doesn't interfere in Khan's plans, Khan won't interfere with Olympus," Artemis nodded. "Zeus feels that giving Khan what he wants now is better than a long, bitter war between the two that will devastate both our lands."

"Funny, that's the exact same thing Chamberlain said about Hitler," Liam muttered.

Amy shook her head, trying to accept this. "You won't help us?"

"It's not that I won't, I can't," Artemis said. "Amy, believe me, I would give anything to fight with you right now. I feel your pain and the pain of the others captured. But Zeus has made his decree and I cannot go against it. I'm seriously bending his rules now just talking to you."

"Always Daddy's little girl," Robin snorted.

Artemis glared at him. "I'm not the only one who feels this way. Almost every one of the Gods has an interest in Earth. But you don't know what Zeus is like right now. Hera's terrified of him, and believe me, that's saying something. Ares, of all people, tried to talk him out of it and Zeus blasted him in the crotch with a lightning bolt and sent him flying halfway across Olympus."

"You would not happen to have that on video tape by any chance, would you?" Shaw asked. "Not that it was as original as what *I* had planned for him......"

"So, you're not going to help?" Liam said.

"I can't," Artemis stressed. She suddenly looked around, as if hearing something. "I have to go. Zeus is approaching and I can't let him catch me." She looked towards the shocked Amy. "I am so sorry. All I can offer you is my prayers and my good wishes. Tell the others that." A flash of light and she was gone, leaving the four staring in surprise at the blank spot before them.

"Gods," Liam said, shaking his head. "I hate dealing with them."

"I can't believe she's not going to help," Amy said in shock.

"You've never seen Zeus when he's mad," Robin said. "Push him too far and Khan is the least of our worries."

"Are you standing up for her?" Amy said.

"Hey, we may not be bosom buddies but she's caught in a tight spot," Robin said. "At least we can do something. All she can do is watch and hope for the best."

"Which appears the only course of action for any us," Shaw said. "I cannot imagine who else we can call upon for help."

"Forget my people," Liam said. "We only fight if we're pushed, we try not to get involved."

"Better lovers than fighters?" Shaw said sardonically.

"You'd better believe it, lass," Liam said, ginning.

"Perhaps I should try the Lady," Shaw said, fingering her pendant.

"I don't know if Millie is going to be as much help as Artemis," Robin shrugged.

"What the hell does Millie have to do with this?" Liam said, confused.

Robin stared at him in amazement. "What, you think the unicorn pendant is for show?"

Liam looked at the pendant, then at Robin, then at Shaw. "You're a damn Harper?"

"I am," Shaw said.

"Well, you get more fascinating all the time," Liam shrugged. "But, no, Millie's a bit out of her league here."

"Oberon is out too," Robin said. "Which leaves one more possibility." He raised his face up towards the sky and called out. "Raiden! I know you can hear me, Raiden! We need to talk and we need to talk now!"

"Ah, calling in the professionals?" Liam asked.

"He cares a hell of a lot more about Earth than Olympus does," Robin shrugged. "Raiden, come on! Show yourself!"

From out of the bright morning sky, a rumble of thunder sounded. A cloud suddenly passed over the sun, seemingly out of nowhere to darken the town. Lightning flashed through the sky, bolts of electricity ripping through the air. A bolt came down and struck the ground before the foursome, solidifying into the form of a man.

He was tall, with long white hair flowing behind him. He wore a bright white fighting outfit, a suit that seemed to glow as he stepped forward. His eyes crackled with energy, like the lightning he had stepped out of and had Mulder and Scully been present, they, like Shaw, would have been struck by his uncanny resemblance to Connor Macleod.

"Robin," Shaw said softly. "Please do not tell me Connor took one too many Quickenings."

"Shaw, Amy, allow me to introduce Raiden, God of Thunder and Lightning, Protector of the Realm of Earth," Robin said. He turned towards the god. "Raiden, we need your help."

"I was thinking you weren't calling me for a social dinner," Raiden said in a gravely, accented voice that literally boomed with authority. "This is a very delicate situation, Robin."

"Now don't you start," Robin said. "Come on, this is what you were sworn to, to protect Earth from Outworld. I think this falls under the definition of protection."

"You're forgetting, my powers are dictated by my staying on Earth," Raiden said. "Should I enter Outworld, which is what Sunnydale is now, I would be powerless and that's not the help you need."

"But you can't just stay on the sidelines," Robin said. "You have to do something!"

"The Elder Gods won't acknowledge what Khan's done," Raiden said calmly. "How am I to fight that?"

"You can try," Robin said. "Dammit, Raiden, you can't just leave us to die here!"

"I don't want that either," Raiden said. "But my options are limited."

"But you have options," Liam said. "And that's a hell of a lot more than what we've got."

Shaw walked forward towards Raiden. "My friends are in danger," she said in a flat tone. "My home is threatened. And my kin has been targeted for a sacrifice. I will not have you stand here, with all your obvious power and not even attempt to aid us."

"Um, Shaw, let me remind you, this guy is quite capable of frying us all where we stand," Liam said calmly.

Raiden smiled. "I can see why Millie likes you so much. And Arty too."

"Does no one call her Artemis?" Amy muttered under her breath.

"We're a tight enough club to have nicknames," Raiden replied.

"What's yours? Sparky?" Amy asked.

Raiden's eyes clouded slightly with lightning, glowing in the air before them. "Don't push me, my dear, unless you want to know what it's like to be a light socket."

Robin quickly stepped in before things could get out of hand. "Raiden, there has to be something you can do. You can't just turn your back on us, no matter what the rules say."

"The rules are in place for a reason, Goodfellow. I can't just arbitrily break them whenever I feel like it."

"Why not? You're a god, remember? That's what you guys do best. Come on, Khan's broken the rules, why can't you?"

"Because then we become just like him. And that is something we simply will not ever become. The day we do is the day Khan deserves to win."

"That's it," Amy said, throwing her hands up. "We're getting nowhere with this guy."

"Oh, yeah, and calling Artemis was a stroke of brilliance," Liam said sarcastically.

"Hey, it was your idea!"

"Olympus isn't bad for minor things," Raiden said. "But when it comes to the big threats, you should call the professionals."

Shaw leaned towards Robin. "I would call him arrogant, but he is omnipotent."

"Not totally, but that's another story," Robin said before turning back to Raiden. "So, it's going to be just us?"

"Yes," Raiden nodded. "A small group of fighters against the entire realm of Outworld and all the fighters that go with it, the fate of Earth in your hands!" He let out a laugh, then quickly sobered. "Sorry."

"So, you're not going to help us at all?" Robin asked. "Not even going to tell us where we can get help?"

Raiden cracked his neck and smiled at him. "I'll think about it," he said and in a bolt of lightning, he was gone.

"Great," Liam muttered. "Just bloody great. It's down to just us right now."

"We are so dead," Amy muttered, putting her head in her hands.

"Well, it could be worse."

"Don't say that!"

"Oh, come on! Things are not going to just magically get worse, just because I said they wouldn't!"

"You haven't been in Sunnydale too long."

*****

"We should be home right now," Scully said, rubbing her face as she, Mulder and Joyce waited for their drinks. "Having breakfast in bed."

"Actually, it's still night in Washington," Mulder pointed out.

"Then we'd be having something else in bed. I miss our bed. Hell, I miss a cheap motel."

"We always have fun at cheap motels."

"You two have fun at long red lights," Joyce said sourly, rubbing at her eyes. "Sorry, it's been a rough night."

"Worried about Buffy?" Scully asked gently.

"When you have kids, you'll understand how much they can weigh on your mind," Joyce said. She noticed the look the two Immortals gave one another. "Oh. Sorry."

"It's okay," Scully muttered. "It's something we've had to deal with over time."

"At least Shaw and Amy are together," Joyce said. "If Amy was caught, I don't know how Shaw would react."

"They've gotten closer, then?" Mulder asked.

"Something happened in New York last year. None of them like to talk about it much, but from what I gather, they've reached a deeper understanding towards each other, bonded a bit."

"You like her, don't you?" Scully asked.

Joyce glanced at her and nodded. "Yes, I do. Funny, isn't it? Two girls I treat as daughters, and neither of them are really mine." Joyce stirred the straw inside her glass as she thought. "Shaw's never really had a mother. Her grandparents raised her, but it just isn't the same. And she's been through so much in her life, things I can barely grasp. It's been rough on her. I just want to help her."

"Noble of you," Mulder said, sipping at his beer.

"Yes, well, I'd prefer not having to be here. Buffy never wanted me involved in all this."

"Better that you're here and not in Sunnydale," Scully pointed out. "These guys strike me as the kind who'd enjoy torturing you, knowing it would hurt Buffy. Here, you'll be safe."

"I wouldn't bet on it," Robin announced as he, Liam, Amy and Shaw came up to the table.

He collapsed into a chair and shook his head. "We're in trouble, guys. We're in serious trouble."

"We could have told you that ourselves," Mulder said. "What did Artemis say?"

"She can't help us," Amy said, her voice still holding disbelief.

"What?"

"She says Zeus is trying to stay out of Khan's way and he's forbidden her from aiding us in any way. She wants to help us but can't."

"Always said she was trouble," Mulder muttered, grunting as Scully elbowed him in the ribs.

"We struck out with Raiden, the protector of Earth as well," Robin said. "So, it's down to us humans now."

"So the gods have given up on us," Mulder announced. "No chance of sitting this one out with a beer and ball game then, huh?"

"Just us and whoever else we can get."

"Well, that brings us to our bad news," Scully sighed. "We can't reach anyone."

Now it was Robin's turn to stare. "What?"

"We've tried every number we have," Mulder said. "The Ghostbusters, Frank, Merlin, Melissa, Bureau 13, Larry on the road trip with the baseball team, everyone. We can't get through to anybody."

"I sense the shape-shifting hand of Shang in this," Liam said.

"So, things won't get worse, huh?" Amy said sarcastically, glancing at Liam.

"Why don't you guys just call on them with your powers?" Scully asked Liam and Robin.

"We can do that," Robin said calmly. "We can also teleport ourselves directly into Outworld's dungeons, which is what will happen if we use our magics. Mider will have a fix on us in five seconds and Outworld will be on us in twenty." Robin put his head in his hands. "We're screwed."

"All right, we've got hot plates coming through!" The waitress came forward, her arms laden with a tray of plates with breakfast foods over them. "Let's see, eggs, bacon, toast, pretty much what you need to start your day----" Her voice suddenly stopped as she glanced at the new occupants. "Robin?" As the fairy glanced up in surprise, the waitress turned towards Liam, a smile on her face. "Liam? Is that you?"

The two exchanged a glance, then turned back towards her, both staring in confusion. They seemed to be looking at something beyond her face and apparently found it, judging by the wide-eyed expressions that came over both of them. "Aideen?" They both asked in surprise.

The waitress laughed and put her tray down as Robin and Liam stood up. Robin moved forward and hugged the woman, laughing as she kissed his cheek. Liam picked her up and spun her about in a huge hug, the sounds of laughter filling the empty pub. The bartender stared at the strange scene, the scar on his forehead burrowing as he peered in the same confusion the humans had.

"Oh, my god, what are you doing here?" Robin asked as Liam let the woman down.

"What am I doing here, what are you two doing here? Robbie, since when have you been a human?"

"Almost a year now."

"Finally pushed old Obe too far, huh?"

"Not exactly," Robin said as he turned to the group. "Oh, Aid, this is Mulder, Scully, Amy, Shaw and Joyce. Guys, this is Aideen Jaspern of Tir Na Nog, an old friend of ours."

"How old?" Shaw asked.

"Oh, thirty thousand years or so," Liam said. "Gods, you look great, lassie! Haven't heard from you in, oh, lord, it must be almost five hundred years now. Where have you been?"

"Here and there," Aideen shrugged as she pulled a chair up to the table and sat down. "So, what brings you lunatics here?"

"We're in trouble, Aid," Robin sighed. "Big trouble."

"Lord, what've you two done now," Aideen smiled.

"Maeve's alive and she's busted out Mider."

The smile vanished from Aideen's face, her complexion instantly going as white as Robin's had earlier. "Oh, gods help us all," she whispered. She sat back, sighing as she ran a hand through her face. "What else?"

"What makes you think it's something else?" Shaw asked.

"Because I've known these two long enough to know when something's bigger than just those two maniacs."

"They've hooked up with Shao Khan," Liam explained. "And they've opened a portal to Outworld here on Earth."

"Where?"

"The Hellmouth."

"Oh, no." Aideen held a mouth to her hand. "Is there anything we can do?"

"We tried talking to Artemis------"

"Cause they're Amazons, right?" Aideen asked, motioning towards Scully and Amy.

"Wait a minute, how'd you know that?" Amy asked.

"Auras are a dead giveaway. I'm human but I'm not mortal, I still retain all my powers."

"Powers from what?" Mulder asked.

"From being a fairy, of course. Now back to business. You tried Arty?"

"She can't help. Zeus has put a restriction on all the gods from interfering. Raiden can't help either and we're having no luck getting anyone else. We're screwed, Aid, and we're screwed royally."

"I can help." Everyone glanced up to see the Immortal bartender striding forward, his face hard. "I know a lot about Maeve."

"How so?" Mulder asked, his eyes peered in suspicion.

The man sighed and put his bar towel down on the table. "I used to be her head general."

Everyone except Aideen glanced at one another and back at him, with slightly hostile looks. "Not the most sterling recommendation," Scully pointed out.

"I know who we can get to help us," the man announced. "People who know all about dealing with Maeve."

Aideen's eyes widened. "Torc, are you serious? Them? You want to contact them?"

"Aye, lass. They're the only ones who can help."

"Who?" Shaw asked. "Who are you going to call?"

"The Knights," Torc answered. "The Mystic Knights of Tir Na Nog."

"Oh, please," Amy said. "Those guys have been dead for almost 1400 years now!"

"They did die 1400 years ago," Torc answered. "But they're still around."

The others stared as the former general began to tell his tale.

*****

Part 3: Wherein pasts are revealed, schemes are set and forces are recruited.

The Kingdom of Kells
What is now known as Northern Ireland
624 A.D.

"We're going to die."

"Will you quit being so bloody negative? Try being positive for a change!"

"All right. I'm positive we're going to die."

The announcement didn't really surprise any of the five people standing on one side of the massive field. On the other side were nearly a fifty savage-looking fighters, clad in makeshift armor and shields in hand, ready for battle, storming closer with every moment, blood in their eye.

"We are going to die," Ivar repeated. He was handsome man with dark skin, a small beard and mustache covering his face. He was dressed in the blue robes of his homeland, the royal crest on his helmet indicating his status as royalty. In one hand, he clutched a large pointed trident, trying to gauge the odds.

"Always so bloody negative," Angus said. The local thief shrugged his shoulders, the mace in his hand along with them. He wore a loose outfit, pants and a dark vest over his ragged shirt, a headband trying to keep his long dark hair out of his way. "What do you think, Garrett?"

"I agree we're in trouble," the prince of a neighboring kingdom acknowledged. He pulled on his helmet, shielding his head, bald save for a long blond ponytail. Each of his hands held an axe, one twirling in nervous anticipation of what lay ahead, his gold shirt and dark pants pointing to his own special style.

"It's not like we have a choice," the sole female voice in the group sounded. "We need to stop them and we need to stop them now." Princess Diedre was a highly attractive young woman, shoulder-length brown hair framing her attractive face, her regal bearing apparent in her stance. Her outfit was fighting material, but finer than the men's, a silver top with a red skirt, a red cloak flowing behind her, her crown nestled on her head. She held her crossbow steady but her eyes betrayed the concern she had.

"Diedre's right," the team leader said. "If we don't throw them back before the preparations are ready, all of Kells can fall to the Northmen." Rhoan was a handsome young man, his curly red hair flowing around him in battle. He wore a fine red outfit with a gold insignia on the front, a brown sash around one shoulder. His hands gripped a large sword, ready to use it.

"And here I thought this place was going to be boring without Maeve and Mider," Garrett said, sighing as he hefted his axes. "I still wish we could armor up for this."

"You remember the promise we made Fin Varra after Maeve was banished," Rhoan said. "We can only use our Mystic Armor against monsters. Not humans."

"You know, when Aideen told us a scouting party was headed here, I thought it'd be like ten guys tops," Angus said. "Not this many."

"Can't be helped," Rhoan said. "If they defeat us and report back, we can expect a full- scale invasion of Kells before you know it. We have to stop them. There's no other way."

"I'm not sure they can be stopped," Ivar said.

"You're such a cloud of joy, have I ever told you that?"

The Mystic Knights of Tir Na Nog gathered themselves and headed towards the larger force before them for what would turn out to be their most important battle ever.

*****

One of the very few things that has changed over the course of the centuries is the nature of war. Man's brutality towards man is never a pretty sight and nowhere greater than in the time when combat comprised of hand-to-hand battles with weapons of devastation. It had been a while since the Knights were in battle with a human force. Maeve's banishment had plunged Temra into civil war, making it hard for anyone in that country to concentrate on Kells. But as the Knights were beginning to realize, the Northmen were much more of a threat than the Temra army ever was.

Diedre unleashed a blast from her crossbow, the mystic wave of air knocking back a handful of soldiers but more came. Behind her, Angus was spinning his trident in his hands, lettingone end smack into a Northman's face and plunged the sharp trio of spikes into another. He yanked the trident out of the man's body and spun around, unleashing a blast of lightning from the tip that electrocuted another soldier. "Never a dull moment in this country," Ivar said.

"And you wanted to go home a week ago," Angus said, letting his mace strike the ground, sending a shockwave that knocked a squad of soldiers off their feet.

Ivar smiled at his friend. The smile suddenly froze as a wave of pain came over him. He looked down to see the tip of a sword sticking out of his stomach. Ivar fell to his knees, the pain overwhelming. Angus looked back at his friend and his eyes widened as he saw the Northman Ivar had wounded plunging a sword into his friend's back. Ivar collapsed forward as the Northman yanked out the blade, staggering to his feet. A roar got his attention and his last sight was Angus' mace swinging into his face.

Angus fell to his knees beside Ivar, looking down on his friend in horror. "Oh, god," he whispered at the sight of the massive wound in his chest. "Ivar? Ivar, hang in there, all right, hang in there."

Ivar coughed up a small blot of blood. He was whispering words in his own language, a prayer no doubt. Angus had no idea whether or not he completed it before his eyes closed and his breath came to a stop. Angus looked down at Ivar's body, the reality of what was happening closing in on him. "I hope you find your Allah, my friend," he said softly. A pain near his shoulder cut through his thoughts and he leapt to his feet, slamming his mace into the man attacking him.

Nearby, Garrett and Rhoan were back to back, fighting off the seemingly endless horde of Northmen. For each one that went down, two seemed to appear. The Northmen realized that these two were the toughest fighters of the group and concentrated their efforts on taking them both down. Their blades gleamed with blood as they swung, Rhoan's sword taking long and steady strokes, Garrett's axes a whirlwind in his hands.

"You really should leave something for me," Diedre said as she balanced her crossbow in her hands and got ready to fire. A bolt of solid blue air blasted outward, knocking a trio of Northmen down. "I am the Princess, you know, I should have some impact----" The rest of her remark was cut by a scream as a Northman arrow plunged into her back. Rhoan and Garrett watched her fall, both screaming denials. For Garett, the distraction proved enough for a Northman to plunge his sword into his abdomen. He choked, falling forward, using the last of his strength to plunge his axe into his attacker.

Rhoan's sword slashed out and sliced a Northman down as he moved towards Diedre. She was on her side, breathing hard as he came to her. He could see the arrow plunged into the back in a way he knew was fatal. Knowing it wasn't going to do much more damage, he pulled it out and turned her on her side. "Diedre?"

"That's....Princess....to you....." she choked out, her lips stained with her own blood. She looked up, her eyes locked on his. "Tell my father....I love him....I'm sorry...." The rest was lost by a choking sound that signaled her dying breath. Rhoan stared down at her body, brushing a loose lock of brown hair from her forehead. He held her tight, tears beginning to stain his eyes as he felt her life fade away. He stared up at the remaining Northmen, fire in his eyes, a primal scream coming from his lips as his blade flashed forward.

The next few minutes were a blur for Rhoan. Flashes of death, blood flying through the air as he carved his way through the Northmen forces. He was aware of blows striking him but paid them no mind, simply slicing his way through anything in an enemy uniform. The sight of Ivar's body spurned him on even more as he continued to kill every Northman who came near him. It wasn't until the last one fell and the field appeared clear that the rage inside him began to fade. With it came a sudden pain and Rhoan looked down at himself, seeing for the first time the various wounds covering his body and falling to his knees in pain.

"Hey, laddie," Angus' hoarse voice came out. Rhoan looked up to see Angus sitting near a pair of fallen Northmen, three arrows sticking out of his chest. "Ironic, huh? We survive all those monsters Maeve threw at us....and a bunch of drunk marauders take us down."

"We got them though," Rhoan said, moving onto his back. "We got them. Kells is safe."

"Hope that's enough for that destiny," Angus said. He looked over at Rhoan, sadness in his eyes. "It's been a ride, my friend. I wouldn't have missed it, despite how it all ended."

"You've been a good friend, Angus," Rhoan said, choking slightly. "I'll miss you."

"See you on the other side," Angus said, closing his eyes and falling back. Rhoan lay on his back and stared upward at the sky. The clouds parted slightly to allow a single shaft of sunlight to fall down upon him, his last sight before darkness took him.

*****

In the main throne room of Castle Kells, King Conchobar paced with the combined pressure of being a father and a king. He was a tall man, his brown hair and beard beginning to become streaked with grey, more from pressure than with age. His shoulder weighed from more than just the bearskin on his back. Instead of the fine robes of his peers, he wore a fighting style tunic, a bit finer than others but still the symbol of a king who preferred being at the front line of his troops. His crown rested on his head, his face drawn in concentration. "I like this not, Cathbad. I never should have let you send the Knights forward."

"We needed to know the strength of the Northmen army, my Lord," the aged druid said. His intelligent face was filled with the lines of age, his white beard flowing nearly to his stomach. He wore the ancient robes of his order and showed power beyond his frame. "And the Knights were needed to battle any threat."

"Yes, yes, I know," Conchobar said, waving his hand. "But I still hate having to send them into such a situation without knowing fully what it was. They're usually better prepared to fight against Temra."

"Temra is no longer the enemy, my Lord. The kingdom is in civil war now, the various generals fighting for leadership, not enough strength to pose a threat anymore."

"Still no word of Torc?"

"No, he appears to have vanished shortly after you banished Maeve. No one has heard hide nor hair of him."

"He or the Knights," Conchobar said, crossing his arms. "You have no idea what it's like to send your own child into battle, Cathbad. Not knowing if she's going to be coming back or not. I'd prayed I would never have to learn that again after the war with Temra ended."

"Rhoan is like a son to me, my king. And actually, he's as close to being my own kin as Diedre is to being yours. And don't think you can avoid that subject forever with her."

"Why do I keep you around, Cathbad?"

"Perhaps because I'm the only person who's brave enough to tell you what you need to hear?"

"Then tell me this," Conchobar said, fixing his chief advisor with a hard look. "If the Knights have fallen and the Northmen attack, how long do we have?"

"Well, your Highness, we do have a fine garrison, we are well-stocked, the men are trained----"

"I'm no longer a young man needing flattery, Cathbad. How. Long?"

"We would most likely be dead men by tomorrow."

Conchobar snorted slightly and shook his head, moving towards his throne. "I almost wish Maeve were around. Her, I could deal with on an almost repetitive basis."

Before Cathbad could reply, a cry went up from one of the sentries. "The Knights are here! The Knights are here!" Instantly, Conchobar rushed out of the room, Cathbad following as best he could. Conchobar walked to the balcony overlooking the castle's courtyard and watched the double doors swing wide open, allowing the Knights to enter. Instantly, Conchobar saw the blood on Diedre's clothing, the same blood that covered the rest of the Knights. He was moving down the stairs in a flash, little realizing the fate in store for his daughter and himself.

*****

The hallways of the castle were silent as night fell, the soft footsteps of Conchobar and Cathbad the only sound as they walked away from the castle's living quarters.

"There must be some sort of witchcraft at foot," Conchobar said. "You heard them, Cathbad. They were wounded, mortally, they should have died. You saw the clothing, the tears in them, the blood. Yet they don't have a single mark on them. If that's not witchcraft, I don't know what is."

"All I can say, my Lord, is that I examined them all myself. I saw no form of human enchantment upon them, no outside source that could have caused this. And yet-----"

"What?"

"There is something different about them, my King. I can't quite tell what it is but there is definitely something in their auras that wasn't there before."

Conchobar stroked his beard. "Could this be some sort of effect of the Mystic Armor? A protection spell of sorts?"

Cathbad shrugged. "Perhaps, but if so, it's very well hidden. The fact is, I simply do not know, my King. And until we do for sure, I suggest we limit the activities of the Knights."

"There is wisdom in that. Hopefully they'll actually listen to me for a change."

"Will they?"

"I'll be shocked if they do."

As the two men moved off, neither noticed the small figure hovering in mid-air behind them. She was quite small, less than two feet high and carried herself on a pair of wings that fluttered constantly. She wore a red and gold outfit that seemed to gleam in the dim light, a cap covering her hair. She watched the two men leave, then turned and flew off into the night. Her name was Aideen, a resident of Tir Na Nog and an ally of the Knights since they had formed. Unlike the two mortals, she knew exactly what was wrong with the Knights. And she knew who she had to go to for help.

*****

The village was on the outskirts of Kells, near the border and Aideen had to use some of her magic to aid her flight there. She paused in mid-air, her eyes searching along spectrums the human eye couldn't see. She found the aura she was searching for, in the form of a human outline, the figure stooped over in the light of a small shack near the edge of the village. Aideen flew forward, slipping into the doorway. She stopped, her wings continuing their rapid fluttering as she took in the man before her. "Hello, Torc."

He stopped in mid-swing, the familiar voice freezing him in his tracks. He lowered the hammer in his hands and looked up at her. He had lost much of his beard and his hair was a bit shorter but the scar was unmistakable. "What do you want, fairy?" he grunted in a hard tone as he turned back towards the piece of metal spread on the anvil before him.

"I came to talk, Torc," Aideen said, moving closer. "It's important."

"How'd you know where to find me?"

"I'm a fairy. We have our ways. How do you think I always found out your schemes you and Maeve cooked up?"

Torc shook his head. "I figured I'd be safe. Everyone expects me to be hiding in Temra, so why not move to a remote part of Kells?"

"It's an old idea, since it often works."

Torc kept banging on the blade before him. "So, should I expect the Knights to be dropping by?"

"No, no one knows I'm here. But the Knights are the reason. Something-----happened to them, Torc. Something major."

"Such as?"

"They died."

There was a pause as Torc lowered his hammer, then turned towards her. "So. You know."

Aideen nodded. "I've always known. We can sense these things. Just like you can."

Torc smiled slightly. "Amazing when you think about it. All five of them. Could have knocked me over when I felt it in them. The odds against it must be astronomical."

"They need your help, Torc. They need a teacher."

"Me?" Torc laughed. "You've been flying where the air's too thin. Why would I help them?"

"Because it's the right thing to do. You know what the Game is like, Torc. You know they won't survive long without training."

"They've done well against Maeve's monsters."

"That's different and you know it. Damn it, Torc, where's your sense of honor?"

He craned his neck and knitted his brow in thought. "Near as I can remember, I traded it for a mule and a bottle of whiskey 150 years ago."

"They need you, Torc."

"Forgetting the fact that I'm not getting involved, why would they want me? I'm the enemy, remember? I'm still being hunted by your troops, still being forced to go into hiding. They'd never accept me."

"Then make them. You have to do this, Torc. They have to know what they are."

"You're the one with the knowledge, why don't you tell them?"

"Knowing isn't enough. They have to believe, Torc and they have to learn. And you're the only person in Kells I know who can do it."

"Then they're in big trouble," Torc said, hammering more upon his anvil. "I'm tired, fairy. Tired of fighting for one side or another. Tired of serving lords who care for little but themselves. Tired of death. I've given my all for others and what has it got me? Damn all, that's what. I just want some peace, Aideen, that's all. Just peace."

"You won't find it by running, Torc."

"I can try. Now get out. I have work to do."

Aideen watched him pound away, then began to fly off. She paused by the entrance to the tent and turned back to him. "Torc!" Her call drew his attention. "Contrary to popular opinion, the world is round. It doesn't matter how far and how fast you run. Eventually, you end up right where you started from."

She flew off into the night, back towards Castle Kells, leaving Torc to his own thoughts.

*****

Ireland
Today

"I can't really recall when I was born," Torc said. His audience, Mulder, Scully, Shaw, Amy, Joyce, Robin and Liam were sitting at the table, listening to his tale. Aideen walked over, hanging up a "closed" sign over the front door and walking back to the table. "Somewhere about 210 or thereabouts. I was a soldier for Arthur during that terrible, final battle for Camelot. That's where I died."

"Arthur will want to see you again, no doubt," Mulder said.

Torc stared at him. "You've met King Arthur? You can't be that old."

"No, but we saw him a few months ago," Mulder explained. "But one long story at a time."

Torc stared at him for a moment, then shook his head and moved on. "I spent the next few hundred years learning about myself, about the Game and moving about. I saw a lot of combat. A lot of death. And it hit me hard, harder with every century. I just stopped caring after a while. That's why I betrayed Kells to join Temra. All I cared for was myself and my survival. That was all."

"So, what happened?" Amy asked.

Torc scratched his beard. "It was about an hour after Aideen left my tent that they came. The Northmen. They didn't wait for their scouting party to report back, they just roamed over the border like an unstoppable tide. They attacked the village with a savergery I've never seen. They rode right through the tents, their horses riding over the people. A few people put up a struggle, including me. I managed to take out a dozen of them but they overwhelmed me. And when I came back to life-----"

He broke off, gazing at the tables, the memories flooding back to him. "I've done a lot in mylife that I'm not proud of. Acts of war that bordered on out and out murder. But what these people did in that village was beyond any act of carnage I've ever seen. There was no purpose to slaughtering those people, to burning their homes, to causing mayhem. And the children....What they did to the children...." Torc paused a moment to collect his thoughts, wiping at his face. "I knew right then and there I had to do something. I had to do something to help stop this. And there was one place to start that."

*****

Kells
The Past

The mood inside the Throne Room was tight. Conchobar, Cathbad and the Knights were gathered around a table, a map of Kells spread out before them. Above them, Aideen flitted about in the air. "We've had reports of attacks here and here," Rhoan said, pointing towards several points on the map. "Pretty straightforward, not a lot of strategic importance in those areas."

"No one has ever accused the Northmen of being tactical wizards," Conchobar said. "They're better off for straight out battles, where their rage can be an asset. A danger we're going to have to face soon."

"We don't even know how many there are," Garrett said. "It's hard to get a read on an opponent when you don't even know their numbers."

"And they don't seem to favor the same open combat tactics as Temra did," Ivar pointed out. "They're more likely to break out of nowhere, ravage a town and then go back. They're trying to wear us down, make us vulnerable. Destroy our crops, then move in on us. It's their usual style."

"Wonderful," Diedre said, shaking her head. "We don't know how many we're going to have to go against or how they're going to attack."

"So we improvise," Angus shrugged. "It's what we always do, isn't it?"

"You people have never faced the Northmen," Garrett announced. "My people have. It was only a small force and they still nearly overwhelmed us. Against an army like this, if we don't have a strategy, we're dead."

"Please don't mention that again," Ivar said. "I'm still getting over what happened to us yesterday."

"What happened is besides the point," Rhoan said. He turned towards Conchobar. "We need to go back out. We need to take the fight to the Northmen before it gets out of control."

"No," Conchobar said. "We still don't know what happened yesterday and until we do, I will not have you engaging in combat, especially without the Mystic Armor."

"Father, the Knights are a symbol for the people of Kells," Diedre said. "They need to know we're out there, fighting for them."

"I have made my decision, Diedre."

"As a king or as a father?"

"A king who does not wish to lose his best warriors at a time when he needs them most," Conchobar replied. "As you said, we do not know the full strength of the army we face and until we do-----" Conchobar's voice was cut off as the Knights each suddenly grabbed at their heads, a massive buzzing filling each of their minds, their stomachs dropping at the sudden chill that ran over each of them. "Rhoan? What's wrong?" Cathbad said, staring in confusion at the Knights.

"I'm not sure," Rhoan replied, leaning on the table.

"What the bloody hell was that?" Angus said, shaking his head.

"I don't know but I think I'd rather face the Northmen again than go through that," Ivar replied.

"Considering we don't have a chance to beat them, I'm not sure about that," Garrett chimed in.

"Oh, certainly, you can't possibly beat me fast enough but now the Northmen show up and suddenly it's all hopeless, is it?" The Knights, the king and the druid all glanced up at the figure walking into the throne room. He was dressed in a dark blue outfit and pulled his hood back to show his face. "Hello, all."

Instantly, the Knights reached for their weapons, Conchobar and Cathbad on their guard. "Torc," Conchobar hissed. "How did you get in here?"

"You know, you should really think of closing up those passageways," Torc smirked. "I should have proven that when I kept sneaking in."

"Why, you never closed the ones in Maeve's castle?" Diedre said. "What do you want here?"

"Easy, easy," Torc said, holding up his hands. "I'm not here for a fight. I just came to talk."

"About what?" Rhoan said, the tip of the Sword of Kells pointed right at Torc's throat.

"About you," Torc said. "About what you are now. About what you need to know if you intend to live a long life."

"And we're supposed to listen to you?" Ivar said in obvious contempt. "After all you've done to us?"

"You'd better," Torc replied in a hard tone. "Because I'm all that's standing between you and a sword."

"You're going to stop the Northmen?" Rhoan asked, obviously skeptical.

"The Northmen? No, they're a minor threat compared to what you're about to face."

"Which is?"

Torc took in all their glares and folded his arms. "How old do you think I am?"

"What?" Conchobar asked.

"I came to your service nearly twenty years ago, sire. Do I look like I've aged a day in all that time?"

"Well, no, but neither has Cathbad."

"I haven't aged in twenty years. In fact, I haven't aged a day in over four hundred years."

Everyone simply stared at him with various dubious looks, more than a few of them wondering if Troc's hold on sanity had finally snapped. "You're four hundred years old?" Rhoan said.

"Well, four hundred and fourteen or thereabouts. I'm not sure about the exact dates, but that's a good guess."

"So, what, you're a troll or something?" Angus said. "That explains a lot."

"No, I'm human," Torc said. "I'm just Immortal. And so are you."

The dubious looks increased. "All right, you have completely lost me," Angus said.

"Immortal?" Rhoan said with an obvious look of disdain. "You don't seriously expect us to believe that."

"Rhoan." He looked up to see Aideen floating above him. "I'd listen to him if I were you."

"Oh, come on, Aideen! He's telling us he's Immortal and we're supposed to buy that?"

Torc rolled his eyes. "It always has to come to this." He reached into his cloak and pulled out a small dagger, putting the Knights even more on guard. He took a deep breath and looked up at them. "I want you all to know that this is going to be extremely painful." He turned the dagger around and shoved it into his own chest, gasping at the wound before collapsing forward onto the floor.

Dead silence filled the chamber as everyone stared at the corpse rising on the floor. "What the bloody hell was that?" Garrett asked, scratching his head.

"I will never understand you Westerners," Ivar said, shaking his head. "Never."

"What do we do now?" Dedire asked.

"Well, we could go down to the nearest pub, rise a pint and say good riddance," Angus shrugged.

"I was being serious."

"So was I."

Everyone started as Torc suddenly gasped and pushed himself back up, pulling the knife out of his body and laying it on the table. He got up, allowing everyone to clearly see the massive wound heal up. "Now, I believe we need to talk."

*****

Ireland
the Present

"I stayed with them. I taught them. We fought the Northmen together. It wasn't easy, but we won. We drove them back. And I stayed with them for the next few centuries, helped them adjust to new lives, new adventures. And they're all still around."

"Wait a minute," Joyce said, holding up a hand. "You're telling me the five people who know how to defeat Maeve are still around? That's incredible."

"Live in our world, Joyce, and the word 'incredible' just doesn't have the same meaning anymore," Robin said.

"Well, they're not all still around," Aideen said in a low voice. "Garrett was beheaded in a fight in the 12th century, during the fall of Kells. The rest pretty much disbanded after that, went their separate ways."

"But you know where they are, right?" Mulder put in.

"We still exchange letters and cards," Torc said. "We know where they are."

Robin glanced to Liam. "Can I borrow the car?"

"Why you?" Liam said. "It's my ride, remember?"

"Yeah, but I need Aideen and Torc to come along. They can convince the Knights of what's what. I figure someone should stay here and keep an eye on things in case the nimrod ninjas show up."

"We don't need protecting, Robin," Amy said.

"Amy, this is Outworld. This is power on a scale you can barely imagine and you definitely have never seen. Trust me, Liam can handle whatever comes."

"Ye've got that right, laddie," Liam nodded, tossing Robin the keys. "Besides," he added, throwing a smile at Shaw. "Gives me time to get more acquainted with these lovelies."

Robin rolled his eyes and smiled as he, Torc and Aideen headed out the door. "Good luck, buddy," he called out, shutting the door behind him. "You're going to need it all," he muttered as he raised the keychain towards the empty street.

*****

The fingers tapping the keys was the only sound filling the throne room as Khan attempted to use a portable computer to access some city records. He frowned as the words "data not found" flashed on the screen. He grabbed the computer and hurled it to the floor. He opened his palm and let out a ball of energy that blasted the machine apart, pieces flying everywhere. "Shang, make a note," Khan bellowed. "First act as supreme ruler of this realm: Destroy these infernal machines!"

"Well, at least you'll avoid that Y2K mess," Maeve smiled as she entered the throne room. She frowned as she passed the sculpture and heard Xander begin to hum the theme from "Batman." She twirled her staff in her hands and let out a blast of energy that racked him with pain. "I never liked that show."

"How come you're so hip on pop culture?" Xander managed to get out despite the pain.

"You spend a thousand years trying to seek revenge on mankind, you need something to relieve the boredom," Maeve shrugged as she walked towards the throne. She glanced down at the smoking remains of the computer. "Well, I think I know where Bill Gates stands on the extermination list."

"Blasted technology," Khan said, shaking his head. "I cannot wait to obliterate it."

"So wait a minute, wait a minute," Xander said, letting out a short laugh. "The omnipotent, superpowered, all powerful Emperor from the Fighter Heaven dimension can't even handle a simple computer?"

Khan fixed him with a gaze that could kill. Perhaps literally. "You're beginning to annoy me. People who annoy me have the tendency to lower the mean population growth of their species."

"Well, no, it's just...." Xander looked around. "Who does that remind me of?"

All of the captives looked at one single man.

"Oh, ha, ha, bloody ha," Giles muttered, shaking his head.

"You know, I was wondering something," Steve announced. "I'm assuming you guys didn't just wake up this morning and think, hey today would be a great day to take over the world."

"Quite right," Tsung said, raising an eyebrow. "We've done some research on you, Wanderer, you and your allies. Weighing your strengths, your weaknesses, how you fight, how you think."

"We've also made steps to ensure that help won't come your way," Maeve smiled. "By the time any of your scores of allies find out what is going on, it will be far too late to save your world."

"From what?" Xander asked.

Maeve lowered her staff and let out another blast of energy from it. "Evidentially, you've confused me with a James Bond villain," she told the shaking Xander. "Mider is right, there is no point in telling you the plan, even though you can do nothing to stop it. And that should rankle you to no end."

"Yeah, it's rankled already having to look at you," Cordelia said. "By the way, what is with that thing around your eyes? I'm sorry, but that whole Annie Lennox racoon-eye mask thing went out years ago."

Maeve ground her teeth together and hissed, clutching her staff hard. "This is a badge of honor, woman, a symbol of my family. A birthright that signifies my place in the world."

"As what?" Cordelia snorted. "A psycho freak with a bad hair day?"

Maeve lifted her staff and let loose another blast of energy. "I really think you and your boyfriend should do more together."

Ignoring the goings-on, Khan sighed as he sat back on his throne, his arms reaching up to his mask. With one smooth motion, he pulled if off, revealing his face. He was totally bald, his eyes hard and cruel, his face as strong as his demeanor as he placed his mask onto the armrest beside him.

"No!" Xander said, his eyes widening as he stared at Khan. "It can't be!"

"What?" Giles said in confusion.

"Khan! He's...he's....he's Yul Brynner!"

Maeve spun about to face him. "How the hell do you know about him?"

"Hey, I like Westerns," Xander shrugged.

Maeve raised her eyebrows, apparently impressed. "Ah, you saw 'The Magnificent Seven.'"

Xander appeared to be confused. "No. 'Westworld.'"

Maeve's face darkened and her staff rose up, the green energy once again blasting forward into Xander's body. "What was that for?" He got out through the pain.

"For raising my expectations," Maeve announced. She shook her head. "I hate teenagers."

"Hey, I was thinking of one worst than that," Steve announced.

Maeve aimed her staff at him, her eyes peering at him. "What?"

"Theo Kojak."

Maeve simply stared at him, then lowered her staff and began to walk away. "Hey, why aren't you blasting him?" Xander called out.

"Because I liked Kojak and the actor who played him," Maeve replied, heading out.

"You liked Telly Savalas?" Steve asked in surprise.

"Especially in the Dirty Dozen," Maeve said as she headed for the exit. "I'm going to check on Mider. Be back soon."

Khan watched her leave and settled back on his throne as Tsung slowly came up to him. "My lord, what are we to do with them? When the time comes, that is. We both know they're plotting against us. It's actually more a matter of determining their plans."

"I just need one excuse to eliminate them, Shang. Get it for me."

"Shouldn't it wait until after the exercise, my Lord?" Shang asked.

"I know they're planning something. I just need the details for the explanation when I do kill them."

"Ah, yes," Shang said, smiling. "The victors write the histories."

"No," Khan corrected him. "The survivors write the history. The fact that they often turn out to be the victors is coincidence. Go to it, if you will."

"My Lord," Shang said, bowing before Khan and walking out.

"Look closely and you can see he's practicing ways to overthrow you," Giles pointed out.

"He's been practicing that for centuries," Khan replied as if it was no consequence. "Ironic, isn't it, Wanderer? That I can trust you and your friends more than my so-called allies."

"If you don't trust them, why do you let them work for you?" Steve asked.

"Delegation of power is an important item in running an empire," Khan said, crossing his legs upon the throne. "And I do need them for a while yet. Of course, when the time passes, they will burn, along with the rest of your world."

"Maybe we'll get lucky and they'll kill each other before they kill us," Giles muttered.

"G-Man, if we were that lucky, none of us would be living in this town."

"Good point, Xander. Pitifully late of course, but still good."

*****

In the hallway outside the throne room, Shang was making his way when Motaro fell in behind him. "Well, sorcerer," he said. "It would appear you've been given something of an opportunity."

"What are you babbling about, Centaur?" Shang said dismissively.

"Well, the Emperor did say you could handle Maeve," Montaro said in a calm tone. "When this is over, what will you do about her?"

"Eliminate her, of course," Mider said as if it was obvious.

"Oh. The Emperor did say you could take her in whatever way you wish. My mistake."

Shang paused, her face taking on a look of shock, then disgust as he got the Centaur's meaning. "You think that of me,, creature?" he hissed.

Motaro raised an eyebrow and laughed. "What's this? Morality from our chief sorcerer? Has your time in limbo given you a high ground?'

"No. But senseless carnage and barbaric acts are your department, Centaur. This woman helped me get back in Khan's favor and soon regain my life. I owe her my thanks in the form of a quick and relatively painless death."

"And her soul?"

Shang let out a nasty smile. "The soul of a Celtic sorceress. I don't think I've ever had that vintage."

"Drink up," Motaro said, chuckling as he trod off.

*****

New York

The restaurant was one of the best in the city, its patrons among the richest and most powerful people in Manhattan. It was a massive room, with a large dancing floor in the middle, a band always playing, the tables and decor hand-crafted in Switzerland and imported, the silverware pure silver, the dishes excellent porcelain. The food was exquisite, the wine the best in the world and the service without peer. The waiting list for a dinner reservation was six months at the bare minimum. All in all, it was a magnificent place to have a dinner.

At the moment, the room was completely bare. The bandstand was empty, all the tables unoccupied, except for one. That table held the two people who had rented the restaurant for the evening, a price that nearly matched that of buying the restaurant outright. That didn't bother the couple though. In fact, if they had to buy the restaurant, they would have. They could certainly afford it.

"A toast," the man said. He was impeccably dressed in a fine tuxedo, his curly brown hair nicely cut, his handsome face screwed up in a smile as he moved the glass towards the woman in front of him. She was dressed in a gorgeous green gown, her reddish-brown hair falling to her shoulders, a smile on her seemingly young face. "To a woman who's as beautiful now as she was the day I married her," Roger Hanson said as he tipped the glass forward.

"That'd mean a lot more if I was capable of aging," Denise Hanson replied as she sipped at her wine, staring at her husband of over a thousand years. "Rhoan, this is wonderful. I can't believe you actually rented this place for an entire night."

"Not as hard as it seemed," Rhoan said. "Turns out the manager wanted to stop by our place sometime this week. A little reservation bump and that sealed the deal. I thought you'd like to go back to some royal treatment."

"Don't start," Diedre replied as she chewed at her dinner. "You know how I feel about that."

"Sorry, love," Rhoan replied. "But this is nice, isn't it?"

"No doubt about it," Diedre said. "A nice dinner and maybe a bit more of a treat later on?"

Her husband's smile was cut off as the Buzz hit them both. They both glanced about, trying to pinpoint the source. At the same time, they reached under the table, hands moving slowly towards the swords underneath. "I knew it was too good to last," Diedre said. The two slowly turned towards the doorway and watched the figures enter.

"Torc?" Rhoan asked, his eyes widening as he looked at his old teacher. He and Diedre stood up and moved forward, both giving Torc a warm hug.

"What, nothing for me?" Aideen said, raising an eyebrow.

The two Immortals glanced at her. "Oh, Aideen, I almost didn't recognize you!" Diedre said, embracing her long-time friend.

"I haven't changed that much, have I?" Aideen said as she moved to hug Rhoan.

"Never could get used to as human," Rhoan said as he returned her hug. "You two still together, then?"

"We haven't made it as official as you, but we're a couple," Aideen nodded. "Oh, this is an old friend of mine, Robin Goodfellow."

"The Goodfellow?" Diedre said, staring at the fairy. "The one you always mentioned as the biggest hell-raiser in all the lands?"

"To know me is to love me," Robin smiled.

"Torc, what's going on?" Rhoan asked, his face now taking on a look of concentration.

"We've got a situation, lad," Torc answered. "It's big and it's bad and we could really use some help with it. We need the Knights."

"No," Rhoan said empathically. "Absolutely not."

"Rhoan------"

"Listen, Torc, we agreed the Knights' time was done. We all agreed to it, remember? We can't just turn back the clock and do it all over again for a lark. I'm sorry, but the answer's no."

"Rhoan, listen. This is important."

"Not enough, I'm sorry," Rhoan said, turning his back and heading back towards the table. "I have a life, Torc. A good life, a nice life, I like my life. I've enjoyed being Rhoan, Torc. Dragenta is gone, he's been gone for centuries. I won't call him back."

"Diedre, please-----"

The former princess shook her head. "I'm sorry, Torc, but I agree with him. It's our anniversary tonight and I have no wish to ruin it over another quest. Rhoan's right, the Knights died along with Kells. There's nothing you can say that could possibly bring them back."

Torc waited until they were both halfway towards the table before speaking up. "Maeve's alive."

Instantly, the two froze, shocked by the two simple words. They whirled back at Torc, their eyes wide. "What?" Rhoan whispered.

Torc nodded. "That's right. She's alive and she's freed Mider. They're both on the loose."

"They've hooked up with a nasty piece of work named Shao Khan who wants to make Earth into a living hell," Aideen continued. "It's bad, it's really bad. We need you, Rhoan. We need the Knights."

There was a long moment of silence as the two took in the information. Diedre sat at her chair and took a long sip from her wine glass. She rested the glass against her forehead and sighed. "Happy wedding anniversary, Princess. As your present, your psychotic bitch of a mother-in-law is going to destroy the world with friends."

"This isn't how I wanted us to spend our anniversary," Rhoan sighed. "But it is a step up from 1776."

"How about 1941?" Diedre asked.

"You'd been bugging me for years for a tropical vacation, I gave you one!"

"It was Pearl Harbor, Rhoan!" Diedre shook her head. "It's the curse. The Rhoan curse."

Rhoan rolled his eyes. "Oh, please, not this again!"

"What's he talking about?" Robin asked, furrowing his brow.

Diedre turned to him. "Whenever Rhoan plans the anniversary trip, something happens."

"It doesn't always happen," Rhoan argued.

Diedre turned back to him. "Yes, it does."

"No, it doesn't," Rhoan replied.

Diedre sighed and began ticking off her fingers as she spoke. "Your costal getaway to Normandy in 1066. Your forest adventure in Nottingham in 1194."

"Hey, you wanted to see Angus as much as I did."

"Your desire to see Paris in 1348."

"The Plague was *not* my fault," Rhoan groaned.

Diedre went on. "Coming to America and exploring the New World in 1754."

"You still think my argument with that trapper led to the French and Indian War?"

Diedre had finished ticking off one hand and had moved to the other. "Valley forge in 1777, your desire to see the 'beautiful' buildings Bannaker built in 1814...."

"How was I to know the British would burn down the White House? Come on, look at the bright side, we saw the original model."

"Your beautiful retreat to Sutter's Mill in 1849....."

"I told you there was gold there but you wouldn't believe me."

"Whatever," Diedre said. "Oh, yes and let's not forget and I still don't know how you managed to pull this one off...."

"Pull what off?" Robin asked.

"Mansassas, Virginia, in eighteen bloody sixty bloody one!"

"Wait a minute, Bull Run?" Robin said, holding up a hand.

"Yes!" an angry Diedre said. "And then he developed a taste for cigars...."

Aideen leaned towards Robin. "Havana, 1898."

"Ah," Robin said, nodding. "Any others?"

"Only the creme de la creme," Torc smiled.

"Ah, yes," Diedre said. "Your bloody romantic ocean cruise!"

"Let me guess," Robin said. "April 15th, 1912."

"Yep," Aideen nodded.

"Sorry, you two."

The Immortals glanced at the fairy. "What are you sorry for?" Diedre said. "It was his bloody fault."

"I apologized for that for twenty-five years, love," Rhoan put in.

Robin looked down at the floor. "Um, well, it's just that...."

"He was in first class," Aideen announced.

All the humans stared at her.

"You were there?" Rhoan asked, his eyes wide.

"Yeah," a sheepish Robin replied. "Teleported out as soon as I heard the band strike up."

"I could have fried your ass when I heard you left them out there," Aideen said accusingly to Robin.

"I didn't know!"

Rhoan shook his head and faced his wife. "Okay, okay, I've had some bad picks. But come on, you've had your share as well."

"Like when?" Diedre demanded.

It was Rhoan's turn to start ticking off his fingers. "Spain in the 16th century...."

"How was I to know the Inquisition would start?"

"Chicago...."

"I never went near that bloody cow!"

"Texas?"

"Well, who else can say they were at the Alamo when Davey Crockett was killed?"

"The mess that ended with the two of us on the 'Botnay Bay?'"

"Now that was Angus' fault and you know it. Besides, we got to settle a country."

"San Fransisco, 1908."

"Oh, now that was totally beyond my control."

"The Hindenburg."

"All right, all right, I admit I shouldn't have lit the cigarette. I quit, didn't I?"

Rhoan had moved to the other hand by now. "Serbia."

"My bending over had nothing to do with the Archduke getting killed!"

"Munich."

"'38 or '72?" Robin asked.

"Both," Rhoan answered. "And let's not forget the topper, the time you dragged me to see your friend in Oklahoma City and we got lost and you insisted on stopping and asking for directions."

"Oh, don't tell me," Robin said, a look of pain on his face.

Rhoan nodded. "The bloody Alfred bloody P. bloody Murrah building at 9 a.m., April the bloody 19th, nineteen bloody ninety-five!"

"How many times do I have to apologize for that?" Diedre said.

Rhoan held up a finger. "Oh, and you have no right bringing up the *Titanic*. You're two up on me on ocean disasters."

"Don't tell me," Robin said. "She picked the *Lusitania*."

"America was neutral, I thought we'd be fine!" Aideen said, defending herself.

"And then, when we left Italy, you picked the *Andrea Doria*!"

"Now, getting drowned should have paid back for that."

"And let's not forget the cruise three years ago."

"What happened?" a thoroughly exhausted Robin asked. "Terrorists attacked? The ship sank?"

"Worse," Rhoan shuddered. "Kathie Lee Gifford was on board."

"Okay, I'm rethinking taking these two along," Robin whispered to Aideen.

"Why?"

"Aside from the fact they're walking natural disasters?"

"And they've survived every one!" Aideen pointed out.

Robin rubbed his chin. "So, you think they'll survive this one?"

Torc shrugged. "Couldn't hurt to have one good-luck charm in all this."

Rhoan turned towards Torc. "We need to get to our apartment first."

"Give me the address and we're there in five minutes," Robin said. "Then we need to pick up the others. You know where they are?"

"We do," Rhoan said as he moved to the table. "Damn, and I had the place all paid for the night. There's going to be hell to pay with the owner."

"If we don't move, hell is the least of our worries," Robin said as the two moved to join them on their quest.

*****

The Temple of Light
Southern China

The chamber was silent and dark, the candles doing little to brighten the atmosphere. It was quiet place of mediation, where the monks who lived there attempted to be one with themselves and the universe around them. It was also the place where a man who carried the fate of the world on his shoulders tried to live with the burden of responsibility.

He was a handsome Asian man, with black hair reaching to his shoulders. He was dressed in a simple t-shirt and dark pants, sitting cross-legged in the middle of the room, his eyes closed in mediation as he tried to focus on the energy within him before beginning his regular exercises.

A sudden gust of wind blew through the room, yet the candles remained lit. The young man knew instantly who it was without opening his eyes. "What is it, Raiden?"

"Sorry to interrupt another busy afternoon," the God of Thunder spoke. "But we have a situation that needs you."

"What sort of situation?"

"You are needed for battle."

"Is this a specific battle or one of those general overall things?" the man asked, raising an eyebrow. "What happened to the big 'you can't risk yourself' speech?" Liu Kang said, opening his eyes and glancing at the Thunder God. "I'm the champion of Mortal Kombat, Raiden. You told me it's my duty to not only stay in shape for the next tournament but train others as well. I'm not supposed to fight unless it's against Outworld. So why come to me?"

"Because fighting Outworld is what you have to do now," Raiden said. "Khan's opened a portal onto Earth. And Shang Tsung is still alive and helping him."

Liu was on his feet in a flash. "How is that possible? The rules state----"

"Rules can be broken," Raiden pointed out. "And those two are expert at it."

Liu stared at him. "Take me to them."

"I will," Raiden smiled. "But I need to make a few stops first."

"Where?" Liu asked. "What do you need to get?"

Riaden smiled. "Superior firepower."

*****

Los Angeles

The air inside the office was filled with a swishing sound as a dart stuck itself directly into the center of the target set on the other end of the room. That was quite a feat considering that the room was about the size of most high-rise apartments. A massive oak table sat at one end, currently empty, which led towards the large oak desk which held the office's occupant. Behind him was a terrific view of the city skyline and to either side sat shelves of various art objects, a few of which bore an amazing resemblance to famous art from around the world. Very amazing in some cases.

The man behind the desk hardly looked like the owner and founder of an elite security company. He had dark curly and slightly unkempt hair and a face that was almost always wearing a mischievous smile. He was dressed in jeans and a dark black shirt with a vest, spinning about in his swivel chair as he tried to talk on his phone. "Look, Ethan, you know I'd love to do that, you really do. But honestly, I'm swamped here. I've got meetings, reports, a lot of stuff to deal with, you know? I really don't think I've got the time for-----"

The man named Andrew Augustine cut off in mid-sentence, his eyes darting about at the all too familiar feeling coming over him. He glanced at the door and saw it burst open, letting a large group in. "Um, Ethan, old boy, I think I'm going to have to call you back. My weekend just got taken up by something else." He hung up and faced the group, watching as an elderly woman broke to the front of the group. "I'm sorry, Mister Augustine, but they insisted on coming in and wouldn't take no-----"

"It's all right, Moria," Andrew said, holding up a hand as he focused on the group. "Old friends. Look, just go back and I'll talk to them, all right?"

Throwing a glare at the intruders, the secretary moved back into the outer office as Angus looked over at the new arrivals. "Can't stop checking up on me, can you?" he grinned as he embraced Rhoan.

"Just glad not to see you in jail again," Rhoan replied as he held his oldest friend. They broke off, allowing Diedre to hug him next. "It's so wonderful to see you again, Angus."

"Same here," he replied as he shook hands with Torc and Aideen. "So, who's your friend here?"

"Angus of Kells, meet Robin Goodfellow," Aideen said, allowing Robin to give a small bow.

"Ah, Aideen's told me a lot about you," Angus said as he and Robin shook hands. "Quite the hell raiser, eh?"

"Used to be," Robin shrugged.

"Gave me standards to shoot for."

"You two can jaw about it later," Torc said. "We need your help, lad."

"What do you need to steal?" Angus said, raising an eyebrow.

"I thought you were reformed," Rhoan said, crossing his arms.

"Well, mostly. I run a good company, I pay my taxes, I actually have responsibility."

"So you're finally legitimate, huh?" Diedre smiled.

"Yep. And guess what? I was right all those centuries, it's vastly overrated." After laughing, Angus looked at his friends. "So, what's up?"

"Maeve and Mider are still alive," Rhoan said.

The grin instantly left Angus' face. "Shit, you're kidding me."

Diedre shook her head. "We need to put a stop to them now before it gets too out of hand."

"Back to the old rat race," Angus said. "And I thought I was too old for this shit."

Torc chuckled. "So, who was that on the phone?"

"Old acquaintance of mine, Ethan Hunt," Angus answered. "Wanted me to help him break into the Pentagon for some disk. Couldn't join him."

"That doesn't sound like the Angus I've heard so much about," Robin said. "I thought you thrived on challenges."

"I also don't repeat myself," Angus said, moving to his intercom. "Moira, I'm going to be out of the office a few days. Cancel my appointments." He turned back to see everyone staring at him. "What?"

"You broke into the Pentagon?" Aideen asked, her eyes wide.

"I was bored that weekend." Angus pulled open a drawer and pulled out a long sword and an overcoat throwing both on. "Besides, it was easier to break into than NORAD was." He turned back to see everyone staring at him again. "What?"

"Um, nothing," Robin said. "So, where to next?"

"Cario," Rhoan said.

"Um, Cario?" Angus replied nervously. "Rhoan, you don't mean-----?"

"Yes, I do," Rhoan said, fixing him with a gaze. "We need the whole team here, Angus. That means Ivar too."

"He won't be happy to see me."

"Hardly anyone is," Aideen said with a slight smile that did little to alleviate Robin's growing concerns about these people.

*****

Another part of Los Angeles

The street was filled with the sounds of battle. Fists and legs flew at one another, sending echoes of blows throughout the alleyway. At the center of it all was one man, tall with light brown hair, dressed in a suit who was manhandling the thugs with ease. His fists flew, knocking two back. Another tried to stab him with a knife. The man grabbed the knife hand and tugged it forward, letting the knife slice into another attacker. He then twisted the arm back and shoved it towards an open electric fuse box. The attacker jerked as the electricity flowed through him but the man kept at it. Another attacker drew a gun and pointed it at him. The man suddenly dropped down, his legs spreading wide on the ground beneath him until he was eye level with the man's crotch. He instantly let loose a punch right into the groin, causing the man to gasp in pain and double over. The man leaped back to his feet and grabbed the gun from limp hands. "Sorry," he said in a low voice. "Ten-day waiting period."

The images suddenly froze and the screen went blank. Instantly, a hoot went through the crowd standing in the large auditorium. There were nearly five thousand in all, with more in the bleachers above them. A man in a suit came out on stage with a microphone in his hands. "That was an exclusive peek just for you fans! L.A. ComiCon would like to thank Universal for that exclusive peek at 'Shadow Fists 2!'" Another round of applause from the crowd broke out. "And now, ladies and gentlemen, a special treat. We had to work like hell to keep this a secret, but I think you'll agree it was worth it. Here he is, the star of 'Shadow Fists 2,' JOHNNY CAGE!"

The crowd roared louder than ever as he walked out. Hair perfectly in place, dressed in jeans and an expensive but light t-shirt, his trademark sunglasses in a front pocket, Johnny Cage, the fifth biggest box office star in the country, waved to the fans who cheered his name, the women hooting for him to take off his shirt. It was nearly five minutes before the emcee could make himself heard. "Johnny, I want to thank you for taking the time to come here."

"No problem, Harry," Johnny nodded, smiling. "It's always good to meet the fans." He glanced to the crowd. "You people made me a star and I'm happy to pay some of that back." This elicited another round of cheers from the crowd. "And to prove how much that means, I just got done autographing enough posters for each and every person here!" Another roar went up, mixed with laughter as Johnny made a show of rubbing his limp hand.

"Johnny, people have talked about how you've seemed to change over the last few years," Harry said when the cheering died down. "You dropped out of the limelight for a while and since you've come back, you've been spending more time with charity and some teen clubs. Why is that?"

"Well, Harry, I went through some personal stuff that made me realize I was letting the fame go to my head and forgetting my roots. I started out on the streets, I ran with a bad gang in my youth, I got into trouble. If it hadn't been for Billy Boyd taking me off the streets and teaching me martial arts, discipline, honor, I might not be here today. So, I decided to try and work my energies towards helping out other kids and showing them there's more than one way out."

"And I'm sure they appreciate you for it. Now, Johnny. A lot of people were surprised that you played a villain in your last movie and you were pretty good at it too. Where did you learn how to be so bad?"

"An old acquaintance of mine. And my former agent."

For the next hour, Johnny answered questions from fans, told some stories from the set, showed another clip of his new movie and signed a few more autographs before leaving to a thunderous ovation. Entering his dressing room, he wiped his forehead and sighed. As much as he loved meeting the fans and as much as he meant everything about them, they could be a bit overwhelming. He was almost happy to know his next picture was going to be shooting soon.

"Nice speech," Raiden's voice came behind him. Johnny spun to see the Thunder God standing in the back of the room. "You've come a long way, Johnny."

"Well, helping to save the world from absolute destruction does that to you," Johnny said. "Somehow, I get the feeling you didn't just drop by for an autograph."

"Smart boy," Raiden said. "Seems Outworld's back making problems again. I was hoping you'd want to help out."

"I have to go against that four-armed bozo again?"

"No."

"Cool, I'm in," Johnny shrugged. "Always did like sequels."

*****

Cario, Egypt.

"So, the beginning of the Crusades can be seen as a direct cause of the downfall of several of the ancient world's kingdoms."

"Professor Varush, doesn't that seem a bit presumptuous?"

The man turned from the blackboard to face the class. He was dressed in a nice suit, jacket off, piercing eyes highlighting his dark face. He had a short black goatee that gave him an air of age and respectability beyond what might have been and his eyes carried a lot more experience than people would have suspected. "Not at all. The list of kingdoms and cultures wiped out by the crusades is quite extensive, as your readings from yesterday should have told you."

The professor put down his chalk and faced the classroom of history students. "The Crusades is simply nothing that can be glossed over briefly. We will be devoting a large part of this class to it and to the idea of how-----" Varush cut off suddenly, his eyes darting around at a familiar feeling coming to him. He glanced at the rear of the room as the door opened and Robin, Aideen, Torc, Diedre, Rhoan and Angus entered. Varush stared at them, then at the class. "Read chapters 4 and 5 before next class. You're dismissed." There was at least another hour to class left but the students weren't about to argue with a break. They quickly filed out, allowing their professor to stare at the approaching visitors. "Hello, Ivar," Rhoan said as he gazed at his old friend.

The black man glanced at him, then turned his attention towards Angus. "What the hell are you doing here?"

"Watching you ask me what the hell I'm doing here," Angus replied nonchantly, crossing his arms.

Ivar began to stalk forward, fire in his eyes and a hand reaching towards his back. Before he could get too far, Diedre moved in front of him, her arms reaching towards both men.

"Now listen, I am too bloody old to keep playing referee," she said in a hard tone. "And I've already had my anniversary ruined, so we are not going to get into a fight here, all right?"

Rhoan stepped forward, staring at both of his friends. "This stupid argument has been going on for over a century now! Enough of it!"

"Hey, I never did anything to him," Angus said defensively. "He never told me what set him off in the first place."

"Like you don't know," Ivar said in a tight voice.

Aideen shook her head. "Angus, Ivar, what happened? When this started, we lost contact with you for ten years. What happened between the two of you?"

"You want to know? Fine!" Ivar angrily pointed at Angus. "I found out this bastard had found the Chalice Torc stole from my home. And not only did he never tell me, he sold it to the Lourve!"

"And you never bothered to ask me why I did it. If you had, you just might have approved."

"Approved?" Ivar said in disbelief. "Approve of you stealing the one connection to my time I had? I had the Chalice for almost four hundred years before I lost it, Angus! You know how important it was to me. So, fine, I'm asking. Why did you sell the Chalice to the Lourve?"

"First, let me ask a question," Angus said, sitting at one desk. "Do people remember Kells or the people who live there as history? Even us?"

There was a long silence as Ivar hesitated. Diedre answered, her eyes growing misty. "You know they don't, Angus. To people, Kells is nothing but a legend, like Camelot or Atlantis. Even among the Irish."

Robin decided this wasn't the best time to bring up the truth about Camelot and Atlantis, watching as Rhoan held Diedre and Angus turned back to Ivar. "What about your kingdom, Ivar? Hmm? Anyone remember that?"

"People know we existed," Ivar said calmly. "They know what my nation was like, they even know we fought by Saladin's side in the Crusades against the Lionheart."

"Ah-huh, and when this interest in your people's history begin to surge?"

"About a hundred years ago, when some expeditions began digging up the old ruins. It was how they confirmed the legends of my home."

"I know," Angus answered with a straight face. "I was there."

Ivar stared at him. "You were?"

Angus rolled his eyes. "Who the bloody hell do you think financed the bloody expedition in the first place? Come on, you think they just found the ruins by accident? The money I got for the chalice allowed me to finance the dig and discover a collection of artifacts to rival the Ottomans, Sumerians, Vikings or even the bloody Romans and Greeks!"

"You did that?" Ivar said, his voice a whisper as he stared at his friend.

"Damn right I did," Angus said. "I always had a memory for spots, you know. I knew where your kingdom used to be better than anyone and after the initial dig turned up artifacts, it was easy for me to get backing for more. I figured at least one of us should have his culture remembered by the world. And do I get bloody thanks for it? No, I nearly get my head chopped off! What, you think it was just coincidence that several of the artifacts were suddenly shipped to your museum within days of you becoming curator?"

"Angus, I....I don't know what to say," Ivar sputtered.

"Ah, forget it, I have my reputation to maintain," Angus shrugged.

"Um, so, just what did you come here for?" Ivar said, trying to bring himself into some sort of dignity.

"Maeve's still alive," Rhoan answered.

"Maeve? Your mother?"

"No, Maeve Collins, best selling author, radio host and the toast of New York since her one-woman show on Broadway," Angus said sarcastically. "Just how many Maeves do you know?"

"We need you, Ivar," Diedre said. "We need the Knights again."

Ivar sighed and ran a hand through his hair, straightening up. He walked past the group and towards the door. "Where are you going?" Aideen asked.

"To the dean, to explain my sudden leave of absence," Ivar answered.

"Tall in the saddle, we ride again!" Torc announced as he turned to Robin.

"Let's hope it's enough," Robin said. "We need all the help we can get."

*****

Atlanta, Georgia

The parking lot of the office complex was filled with police cars, sirens and lights blaring around, uniformed officers running about. A small throng of onlookers along with several TV camera crews watched from a distance as a large van pulled into the midst of the excitement. Several officers and men in SWAT uniforms aimed guns at the glass entrance to the building, ignoring the van opening up and the passengers coming out.

The SWAT teams who saw the passengers immediately knew what they were: The varsity team, the people who were much better trained and more experienced at fighting terrorists than they were and any help would be welcome. At the head of the group strode an athletic woman whose beauty failed to hide her professionalism. She had strong features, a headband underneath a short mane of blond hair and was dressed in a tight outfit, a pair of green and white combat pants with a vest to match, leaving her flat stomach exposed. She wasn't weight-lifter material but still quite athletic, her hard eyes showing her dedication to her duty.

The woman quickly pushed her way to where several officers had gathered, shoving aside a pair of burly officers on the way. "Which of you girls is in charge?" she barked.

"I am," a man in a suit answered. "Captain Ventura. Who are you?"

"Lieutenant Sonya Blade, USMC," the woman replied. "I think one of my people is already on the scene to work things out."

"Yes, I think he's been here for a while now," Ventura nodded. "Hey, Briggs! Your partner's here!"

"About damn time," a deep voice came from a van. Out strode a powerfully built black man with a bald head, wearing black combat pants and a vest to match. What got people's attention, though, was the fact that his arms, from fists to shoulders, were covered with a massive set of mechanical sheaths, detailed to fit his already impressive muscles. Sonya took one look at him and stared hard. "What the *hell* have you done to yourself this time?"

"Cybernetic strength enhancers," Colonel Jackson Briggs answered, flexing a bit. "Takes what you got and quadruples the strength."

"You have serious self-esteem issues, you know that, Jax?" Sonya shook her head as she came over towards the other officers. "Okay, what have we got?"

"Terrorist force of roughly twelve to fifteen men seized the building three hours ago," one officer explained, going over a map. "They've killed two guards and possibly one hostage. They faxed us a list a half-hour ago of the names of terrorists held prisoner in Israel, Egypt, Germany and Ireland but other than that----"

"Sir!" A young officer holding a telephone came up. "They've called again."

Nodding, Ventura took the phone and pushed it into a speaker device, allowing everyone to hear the conversation. "We will be quick and clear," the accented male voice answered. "If our demands are not met within our deadline, we will execute a hostage every fifteen minutes. Our demands are this. One, the immediate release of all those we have named. Two, twenty million dollars in cash. Three, a 747 at the airport, fully fueled and ready to take us to a destination of our choice. Four, no more movies based on 'Saturday Night Live' characters. Five----"

"Wait a minute, wait a minute," Sonya cut in. "How does that help your cause?"

"Well, it doesn't really, but we figure we could get public opinion on our side if we ask for something that's for the good of everyone."

"Well, you have to go along with them on that," Jax said, only half-kidding.

"Five, media----vision-----broadc----" The rest of the terrorist's speech as lost as a squak came over the communications set. A technician frowned as he jiggled a switch on his comlink. "I don't know what's going on, it's like something's jamming the signal."

"Great, that'll make things difficult," Sonya said.

"How do we handle this?" Ventura asked.

"You don't, we do," Sonya answered. "We'll do the job, we'll get them out and then you'll forget we exist. We were never here."

"Kind of makes sure we don't switch careers," Jax said. "Hard to put 'classified' under everything in your resume."

Before Ventura could reply, the air seemed to take on a massive electric feeling to it. Everyone present felt their hair stand on end slightly as bolts of electricity seemed to come out of nowhere, flowing into a solid figure. "Raiden?" Sonya said softly, staring along with everyone else at the figure before her. "What the hell are you doing here?"

"You know this dude?" Jax asked, pointing at Raiden with a metal finger.

"Yeah, he's Raiden, God of Thunder and Protector of the Realm of Earth," Sonya said distractedly.

Jax stared at her. "Girl, what are you smoking?"

"Long story," Sonya said. "What's going on?"

"I need your help," Raiden replied. "Outworld has invaded Earth and we need to beat it back."

Sonya's eyes widened. "Outworld's invaded? We beat them! We won the tournament!"

"They found a way to invade without entering Earth. Technically, that is," Raiden shrugged.

"Oh, I don't believe this," Sonya said, shaking her head. "We played by the rules but they just broke them!"

"Um, Sonya, can we get a 411 here?" Jax said. "Who is this guy?"

"Some say that rules were made to be broken," Raiden pointed out, ignoring Jax.

"So are bones," Sonya replied darkly.

Raiden shrugged again, then looked towards Jax. "How about the six million dollar commando here?"

"I know you less than a minute and you're dissing me?" Jax said with a hard tone.

Raiden smiled. "Well, it's hard to say what's more shiny, your head or those arms."

"Don't make me kick your ass, Thunder Boy."

"Is he always like this?" The Thunder God asked Sonya.

"Yep."

Raiden's grin grew wider. "Perfect. Bring him along."

"Um, Raiden, we're kind of in the middle of something here," Sonya said, motioning towards the office building. The Thunder God looked at the building, shrugged as if it was no consequence and snapped his fingers. There was a bright flash of light and suddenly a dozen armed men appeared in the square where the police officers nearby immediately trained their guns on them. It was hard to tell who was more surprised, them or the terrorists.

"That's that," Raiden shrugged, turning to the two Marines. "Let's get started." There was a flash of light around them and they were all gone.

"What the hell just happened?" one of the military officer said, staring at the spot they had just been.

"What're you talking about?" Ventura said. "You guys were never here, remember?"

*****

"Interesting," Mider said, his long nails flipping through the large book before him. He'd had a difficult time at first getting used to how English had changed during his time but he was going along well. He flipped through the book, his eyes scanning the pages. "Very interesting."

"What have you got, Mider?" Maeve asked. The two of them were perusing the stacks of books inside the high school library, paying little attention to the giant beam of energy blasting out of the Hellmouth and through the roof. Maeve paged through one book, fascinated by it's contents. "More spells?"

"No, actually, Maeve, I'm perusing the records that Watcher has made," Mider said. "Forget the spells, this is incredible reading."

Maeve stared at him for a long moment. "Mider, look around you! We are surrounded by one of the greatest collections of magical knowledge ever created by man! This office is filled with texts, spellbooks and prophecies that have been lost for millennia! If I'd known how much of a treasure trove this was, I'd have come here years ago. I've found spells I didn't even know existed before now. How can you be reading the past exploits of these people when there's far more vaulabe information at our fingerprints?"

"You seem to forget that there are still several of the others free out there," Mider pointed out. "The Immortals, the witch, the priestess and the fairies."

"So?"

"We must know their minds, their tactics, in order to catch them and ensure the sacrifice. After the battle for Earth is joined, then you can be assured you will have this collection for your very own."

"All right, fine," Maeve said, deciding to humor him. "What does your research say about....Mulder?"

"The Harris boy."

"What?"

"This Immortal is basically an older version of the Harris boy we have. If I were, I'd start charging that staff of yours."

"Good point," Mave said, biting her lip. She shook her head. "I still think you're wasting your time with those records."

"I haven't had the time to check these people out before," Mider said. "I thought I'd get a better idea who we've captured. And so far, I am not liking it."

"What are you talking about?" Maeve frowned.

Mider slammed one of the books on the table. "You researched them, right? You checked up on them? But how well did you do it?"

"Enough to know how they fight," Maeve said.

"Maybe not," Mider said. "These people have faced a great deal of threats over the past two years, Maeve and they've beat them all. They had a bond, one stronger than you can imagine, a skill and a dedication that drives them onward. And they win, Maeve. They win every single time."

"Every winning streak has to end, Mider," Maeve said. "We're living proof of that."

"Actually, Maeve for a winning streak to begin, you actually have to win one," Shang Tsung announced as he stepped into the library. "And if memory serves, that's not something you two ever accomplished."

"Shang," Mider said carefully. "What are you doing here?"

"I just thought you should know that my Emperor is already assigning who will be eliminated once the final battle is over."

"Oh, really," Mider said, standing. "And who would you be fighting?"

Shang glanced at the Irishwoman. "You, Maeve."

Maeve simply raised an eyebrow as she appraised the sorcerer. "Do you really think you could eliminate me in a battle of magic?"

"Not as of now," Shang replied calmly. "But I am regaining power more quickly. But I would prefer to remain alive, rather than take the chance."

"In other words, you want me and Mider to take on Khan together and you'll sit on the sidelines until the dust is settled."

"I have just regained my life," Shang said carefully. I have no intention of losing it so soon."

Mider had to nod at Shang's logic. "And Khan intends to destroy me personally, I take it?"

"He is the.....hands on sort of ruler," Shang replied. "He sees you as a potential threat. If not already, then in the near future. And for Immortal beings such as yourself and the Emperor, the future is nearer than any mortal can imagine."

"Well spoken," Mider said, nodding. "I will think on what you have said." Shang gave a short bow to him and Maeve, then turned and walked off.

Maeve watched him go before turning to Mider. "What he intends is to jump on the survivors as soon as the battle's finished and eliminate them while they are in an exhausted state."

"Of course," Mider said, still looking to where Shang had gone. "It's what you or I would do. They do think like us."

"I know," Maeve nodded. "Meaning we can trust them as far as I can throw this palace. Without magic."

"Sounds much like our relationship," Mider said, smiling at Maeve.

"I must admit I admire Khan's ruling tactics," Maeve said, nodding. "Putting fear into subjects, making them more terrified of living than of dying. Letting them know they're beaten. It's brutal and effective. I have to know how he does that."

"Why don't you take notes?"

"What do you think I've been doing for the last three hours?" Maeve replied. "I was with him earlier, walking along a hallway. He grabbed a guard and snapped his neck. No reason, no cause, just reached out and killed him, left him lying there and walked off like it was nothing. He told me that you should always kill someone every day, that a random execution kept men on their toes."

"Was the example for them? Or for you?" Mider said.

"Both, I would imagine," Maeve shrugged. "He wants us gone as soon as we've fulfilled our purpose."

"Well, it would serve us to strike hard and fast, working together. Tir Na Nog is mine. Kells would be yours. The rest of the Earth can wait."

"True, true," Maeve said, turning from him as the thought struck her that the entrance for Tir Na Nog was in Kells and someday Mider might want the entrance to himself as well. "For now, we just keep planning, trying to work our own advantage."

"So, after all Khan's done for you, you're going to betray him?"

"Frog and the Scorpion, Mider. Frog and the Scorpion. That was Machevilli's favorite proverb."

"Maeve, I've been stuck in a block of rock for over a thousand years, so you know I have no idea what you're talking about."

"Haven't you been studying those histories I gave you?"

"I'm a bit more concerned with the present."

Maeve stared at him and rolled his eyes. "First I have to teach you pop culture, now I have to teach you history! A witch's work is never done! That plus the fact I have to keep going over these records. I have to remind Khan to get those Watcher's Council records. The information there would be invaluable."

"Better get them before he destroys England," Mider pointed out.

"He has to get the ravens first."

"What?" Mider was thrown by the comment.

"According to legend, when the ravens leave the Tower of London, England will fall. I'm a sucker for tradition."

*****

Ireland

The sound of a violin, the bow moving over the strings with skill, echoed through the pub. Liam stood near a window, the sun starting to set behind him as he played, violin tucked under his long chin, a light jig coming from the strings he held. Mulder, Scully and Joyce were watching him while at another table, Amy and Shaw were talking.

"I already said I do not wish to discuss it, Amy," Shaw said.

"Shaw, come on, it's me, you can talk to me about it, okay?" Amy said. "Come on, I know----"

"You do not," Shaw said in a cold tone. "Amy, I have just sorted out my feelings about Raidon and now I've been told I'm supposed to go into another relationship with a man I barely know and what I do know, I do not like very much."

"Come on, Shaw. He's not that bad a guy. I mean, come on, if he was, you really think Robin would be friends with him?"

Shaw looked at her.

"Okay, that's not the best example," Amy conceded. "But come on, there has to be something about him that you like. Anything?"

"Well," Shaw said, biting her lip. "I must admit, his brashness is....attractive."

"Well, there you go."

"But, Amy, I can't accept being manipulated into a relationship. She is telling me that I am going to be with him regardless of how I feel."

"She never said that exactly, Shaw. Come on, Robin and Liam said she only sees possibilities. She may be wrong about this, despite everything. But come on, her comment on how he is in bed had no effect on you?"

"Well....." Shaw blushed slightly, reminding Amy that for all her strength, her cousin was still a little nervous when it came to "woman matters." Sighing, Amy took Shaw by the hand to talk. "Look, Shaw. You know how Cordelia and Xander are?"

"Unfortunately," Shaw said bitterly.

"A year ago, they couldn't stand each other. Buffy and Steve have the age difference. Giles is a British librarian, Jenny's an America techno-witch. Mulder was always a believer in the paranormal and Scully was a sceptic when they met. Oz is a werewolf and Willow's------well, Willow. And Robin's not even human. Like it or not, Shaw, some of the best couples are the ones who don't appear to be at all alike."

Shaw looked at her, then at Liam, then buried her head in her hands. "Oh, my Lady help me."

As Amy was patting her shoulder, Mulder and Scully glanced up, the Buzz hitting them both. The door opened to allow Robin, Aideen, Torc, Rhoan, Diedre, Ivar and Angus to enter. "Just in time for the concerto," Robin smiled as he looked over at Liam.

"Damn, I was just getting into it," Liam said, placing the violin on a nearby table. He snapped his fingers and the table nearby instantly popped in a few chairs and several bottles and glasses, all ready to use. "Right, all, let's get started," Liam said, pulling up a chair and sitting down as the rest followed.

"Right, quick intros," Robin said. "That's Angus, Ivar, Rhoan, also known as Dragenta and his wife, Diedre, Princess of Kells. Guys, this is Fox Mulder and his wife, Dana Scully, both Federal agents with the FBI, Joyce Summers, Amy Madison, Shaw Hunter and that's my best friend Liam and we don't have time for his full name."

"Feds?" Angus said, raising an eyebrow. "Great, into the lion's den."

"Why, you're not a thief anymore, are you?" Scully asked.

"I have my moments," Angus said. "You should try talking to Amanda."

"Amanda?" Scully said, surprised. "We know her."

"Really?" Angus asked. "She still stealing?"

"Off and on," Mulder shrugged. "Down to mostly pickpocketing nowadays."

"Oh, that's disappointing," Angus said. "I taught her better than that."

Mulder and Scully stared at him in shock. "You taught Amanda?"

"Well, not at swordplay," Angus shrugged. "Just the thieving."

"So you're the guy Duncan wants to kill," Mulder said dryly.

"She's a good student," Angus nodded. "Not quite in my class of course. Every now and then I keep reminding her of that. Like when I videotaped myself breaking into the Lourve for the Mona Lisa. Still can't wait to hear how she felt about that."

Everyone stared at him. "You stole the Mona Lisa?" Joyce said, shocked.

"Well, actually, I stole it back in 1954 and replaced it with a fake," Angus answered. "A few decades with it hanging in my study was nice but I felt it was time they got it back."

As the others stared in shock at him, Joyce tore her eyes away to look at Diedre and Rhoan. "He's joking, right?"

Diedre smiled and shook her head. "He sent us all photos of himself with it in our Christmas cards that year."

"I didn't get one," Ivar said.

"Well, Ivar, you never were one for Christmas traditions and as you'll recall, we haven't exactly been on speaking terms the last century," Angus pointed out. "All right, where's the whiskey?"

"You want a drink this early?" Scully asked.

"Your buddy Robin here gave us the brief overview," Angus said. "You don't expect me to hear this story sober, do you?"

"Do you have any idea what it was being stuck in a van with these people?" Ivar said to all. "I felt like I was in a pub on wheels."

"Okay, everyone pick a shot," Mulder said, picking up a bottle and pouring a bit into a shot glass.

"You wouldn't have some tea, would you?" Ivar asked.

"You do not drink alcohol?" Shaw asked.

"It is forbidden by the Prophet."

"Your Prophet was looking out for you," Shaw said sarcastically.

Ivar glanced at her with a long, hard look. "Do not mock the Prophet."

"I was not," Shaw replied. "It was the honest truth."

Knowing Ivar's short temper when it came to his faith, Rhoan cut in. "Look, we'd better get talking here. To business?"

"To business!" Robin, Liam and Aideen said at once. Each of them held a large bottle of whiskey, clinking the bottles together, then throwing them back and drinking them. The humans and the half-elf stared, first in bemusement and then with growing astonishment as they watched all three chug down the whiskey without pausing at all. As soon as the bottles were empty, the three slammed them down, wiping at their mouths and letting out a satisfied air. They looked over at the rest, who were staring at them in absolute astonishment. "Sorry, thought you were proposing a toast," Liam shrugged, he, like the other two, showing no effects whatsoever about drinking an entire bottle of whiskey in less than fifteen seconds.

Shaking off the shock, Rhoan turned to the others. "All right. We need info and we need it now."

"It's a long story," Mulder warned.

"We're Irish," Angus smiled. "We live on long stories."

"Well, it's complicated," Amy said, biting her lip. "But it's kind of like this......"

*****

"I can't believe you!" Maeve said as she walked into the throne room, notable by the absence of both Khan and Shang Tsung, who were off checking their troops. Mider walked behind her, shaking his head at the mad queen. "How can you not appreciate the genius of what Hitler did?"

"Oh, what are they arguing about now?" Giles groaned.

"Well, politics would be my guess," Steve said. "Maeve seems the conservative Republican type while Mider strikes me more as an Independent......"

"Mider, do you know how hard this is? This century is so much fun! Weapons, tactics, feelings, politics, it's all right up our alley and every time I try to explain this to you, you just give me that same blank stare."

"Tell me about it," Xander said.

Seemingly for the first time, Maeve turned and saw him, raising her staff. "You just don't seem to learn, do you?"

"Oh, come on," Xander snorted. "You really think you're the only one with that problem?"

"Oh, really?" Maeve asked, raising her eyebrows. "And just what is my 'problem?'"

"Trying to explain pop culture to a time-challengened non-human a thousand years out of date."

Maeve stared at him for a long moment. Then, to the surprise of all, she lowered her staff, leaning against it as she took Xander in. "And how would you know what I'm going through?"

"Hello?" Cordelia said sarcastically. "We've got our own half-elf from another dimension."

"I thought you'd modernized her by now," Mider put in.

"Well, it's nearly done," Xander shrugged as able as he could caught inside the structure. "But when she got here, it took nearly six months just to get her caught up on a sense of humor and nine moths to teach her slang, let alone all the stuff involving TV, music, fashion....."

"Uh, we're still working on that one," Cordelia put in.

"Whatever," Xander said. "Then there was getting her to loosen up, actually walk out onto the dance floor at the Bronze, getting her hair styled-----"

"Still working on the dance thing-----"

"Will you stop interrupting?" Xander said, glaring at her.

"Then get the facts straight!" Cordelia shot back.

"I do!"

"Like hell!"

The air instantly filled with the sounds of the two bickering. Rolling her eyes, Maeve pulled up her staff, twirled it in her hands, aimed at the duo and let loose a blast. Instantly, both screamed and fell back as the energy ripped over them. The reactions of the others inside the sculpture weren't exactly what Maeve was expecting.

"THANK YOU!"

"You're *thanking* me?" Maeve asked, eyes bugging out.

"Hey, if we're gonna be sacrificed or whatever to bring on the end of the world, I'd rather not have the last words I hear being those two arguing," Buffy said.

"HEY!" Xander and Cordelia both yelled.

Mider chuckled as he stepped forward. "When will you learn, Harris? Why do you keep baiting her, anyway?"

"Hey, you guys said you researched us," Xander said through the pain. "Think of me as Friar Tuck."

"Actually, you're more akin to Sancho Panza."

Mider and Xander both looked at her in confusion. "Who?" they both asked in unison.

"The incompetent squire of Don Quixote de la Mancha," Maeve answered. Again, the boy and the fairy shared a look, then faced Maeve again. "Who?"

Maeve's expression became on of triumph. "I did it!"

"Did what?" Giles asked in confusion.

"Found two names that both an American teenager and a millennium imprisoned fairy haven't heard of."

"I'm so glad for you," Xander said. "That mean you're not going to try and take over the world then?"

Maeve let loose another blast that rocked his body.

Mider chuckled. "You never did answer my question, Harris, why do you keep pushing her?"

"Same reason I keep pushing you," Xander said, a smiled on his face that didn't quite match his eyes. "Drider bait."

Instantly, all joviality left Mider's face as his eyes widened, his hands instantly crackling with enough dark magic energy to reduce Xander to atoms. Seeing the look and what he had in mind, Maeve grabbed him by the arms, pulling him back. "Mider, NO!"

"That boy dies!" Mider hissed, giving Xander a look of pure hatred.

"He dies, we die! We *need* him!"

"Sorry, I'm taken," Xander grinned.

Maeve lifted her staff and hit him with another blast as she dragged Mider off, the two arguing over how and why Xander could and couldn't die.

"What the hell did you say to him?" Cordelia said, looking over at Xander.

"Some insult I learned from somebody," Xander said, wincing with pain.

"Who could teach you that?"

A small smile came to Xander's face. "It's an elven thing."

"Figures," Cordelia muttered. She glanced back at Xander and her expression softened. "Are you all right?"

"Only hurts when I laugh," Xander shrugged. "Or shrug. Or breathe. Or blink."

"Xander, you shouldn't keep pushing them like that," Willow said. "He could have killed you."

Xander sighed and closed his eyes. "Actually," he said in total seriousness. "I was kind of hoping he would."

"WHAT?!" Everyone stared at him in shock.

Xander opened his eyes and looked at them all as best he could. "Look, they need us all alive for something. All of us. I figured, I get fried, whatever they're planning gets blown and since I piss people off like no one else, I figured I could get him to do it. I die, the world gets saved. Small price, okay?"

Everyone stared at him, stunned at a side to Xander they had never seen before.

"You've been hanging around Shaw too much," Oz said, shaking his head.

Cordelia was gazing at Xander with tears in her eyes. "Alexander Lavelle Harris, I don't think I've ever loved you more than I do at this moment."

"That mean you're gonna stop hitting me?" Although he sounded glib, Xander answered her with a look just as loving.

"We get out of this, we're doing something much more fun," Cordelia said, smiling back.

*****

Ireland

"So, anyway, to make a long story short------"

"Too late," Angus muttered.

"We got you guys together and here we are," Robin said, nodding. The table before the group was filled with a couple of empty bottles and glasses, the group taking in the entire story from Section Seven to Maeve and Mider's return. Needless to say, it wasn't a happy group.

Rhoan took a drink from his glass, holding it in his hands. Without warning, he leaned back and threw it across the room, smashing it against a wall as he stood up, walking to the other side of the room. Diedre made a move to her husband but Amy put a hand on her shoulder. "Can I talk to him? I've had mother problems of my own, I think I can relate."

"Is your mother as bad as Maeve?" Diedre asked.

Amy smiled. "I'll let them tell you." She stood up and walked over to where Rhoan stood, leaning against a wall. "Are you okay?"

"Oh, sure fine," Rhoan said sourly. "It took me a couple hundred years to get over what she did to me, now I hear she's back and worse than ever."

There was silence before Amy spoke. "My mom and I never really got along. I mean, I love her and all but it just wasn't tight between us and it just got worse when my dad left. She kept pressing me to do stuff I didn't want to do, like get involved in magic and all. Then she wanted me to be a cheerleader because she was one once and she wanted to relive her glory days through me. And when I couldn't make the squad, she decided to live them out literally by switching bodies with me and using magic to hurt the other cheerleaders so she could make the squad. She used me and didn't think twice about how this hurt me. So I know about mothers, Rhoan. I do."

Rhoan was silent for a long moment before looking at her. "Do you love her? After all she'd done to you, do you love her?"

"Yeah," Amy nodded. "I do. Still."

"I don't know what I feel about her," Rhoan said. "I fought her for a year before I found out who she was. Now.....now I just don't know."

"Well, technically, she's not really your mother," Amy pointed out. "You know, Immortals are foundlings."

"I thought the same," Rhoan nodded. "But she bears the same mark as Lugad and I, a natural one, not a tattoo. And if anyone could give birth to an Immortal, it's a witch."

Amy's brow furrowed as she took in his words. "Wait a minute, are you saying magical beings birth Immortals?"

"It's just a theory," Rhoan answered.

"I should ask Robin," Amy said.

"Don't bother," Rhoan smiled. "I tried asking Aideen once. She just shook her head and said it wasn't for us to know."

"Don't you hate it when they do that?" Amy said, following Rhoan back to the table. Diedre took her husband's hand and smiled at him. "Are you okay?"

"I will be," he smiled back.

"So, we've figure if anyone can beat Maeve, it's you guys," Robin said. "So, yank out those weapons and we can head on over."

"Well, there's a problem with that," Torc sighed.

"Of course there is, our lives are never that easy," Amy groaned.

"When Garrett died and Kells fell we decided the time for the Mystic Knights was over," Rhoan said. "So, we gave the weapons back to Fin Varra, telling him to keep them safe us. And that's the last we've seen of them for nearly nine hundred years."

"Okay, so we port over to this Tir Na Nog place and get the weapons back," Amy said.

"Not that easy, love," Aideen said. "We have to wait till morning. Trust me, Fin Varra is not the type of man who enjoys being woken up in the middle of the night."

"Okay, that gives us time to figure out how we're going to deal with Maeve, Mider and Khan."

"Maeve, Mider, Shang and Khan," Angus muttered. "Sounds like a law firm."

"They are a group of amoral murderers dedicated to the destruction of life in all forms and the obliteration of good," Shaw stated flatly.

"Hey, they are a law firm!"

"We need to find a way to deal with them," Mulder said.

"Maybe we can trick them into listening to 'Living La Vida Loca' and they'll flee the planet in horror!" Angus put in.

"It's so sad that that's actually the best idea anyone's come up with," Robin said.

"It's hard to fight magical beings," Rhoan said. "We know from experience."

"It's nice to finally explain the whole magic bit to someone without having them think we were crazy," Mulder said.

"You're forgetting, lad," Rhoan smiled. "In our time, magic and fairies were just as common as Jehovah's Witnesses."

"And just as annoying," Angus nodded.

"Hey!" Aideen said, a hurt look on her face.

"We have experience with monsters," Scully said.

"Really?" Diedre said, lifting an eyebrow. "How many major monsters have you destroyed?"

"Five or six," Scully said. She was taken aback when the Knights all began laughing.

"Please," Diedre said. "We had to fight at least five big monsters a week, not to mention dealing with an army of Temra troops."

"And deal with whatever schemes Maeve and Mider came up with," Rhoan added.

"And our monsters were nasty bastards," Angus nodded. "We had ones of fire, ice, rock...."

"Snakes, bats, rats....."

"Giants, dragons, griffins....."

"Don't forget the four we had to beat to get the weapons in the first place," Ivar pointed out.

"And we had to always act as a symbol for the people of Kells while fighting a war," Diedre added.

"Enough!" Torc cut in. "They'll think we're bragging."

Shaking her head, Scully took another drink. "I'd say your were arrogant but you do have a few centuries on me and Mulder."

"Yeah, Immortality's pretty nice," Mulder nodded.

Angus snorted. "Yeah, right. Wait until you have to leave your life, pal."

"Well, it can't be that bad, can it?" Mulder asked and like Scully before was taken aback when all the Knights started laughing.

"Yeah, right," Angus said. "Laddie, when you have to leave, you have to leave behind everything and I mean everything, pack up and get as far away from where you once were as you can."

"And that's even harder in today's world," Diedre said. "A couple of centuries ago, all you had to do was move to a different town, maybe a different country and that was that. But now, the world is smaller than it once was. You have to put as much distance between one life and the next as you can."

"And it's even harder today," Rhoan added. "You have to be careful with finances, set up bank accounts, save money in Swiss accounts, make sure nothing valuable is in your own name otherwise you won't be able to get at it when you're legally dead."

"Oh and speaking of legal, that's the worst part of all," Ivar said. "You have to have fake birth certificates, social security numbers, credit reports, school and medical records and more."

"And you have to have about three other identities in place, just in case something happens," Torc said. "All ready to go at a moment's notice, every one just as important as your current one. You die in an accident or something, you don't go back for valuables, you don't go to pack, you just go, right then, right there, nothing to tie your down with."

By the time they were done both Mulder and Scully were looking somewhat sick as they realized just what they were going to have to deal with as part of being Immortal.

"I thought you guys were supposed to be upbeat and cheerful," Mulder said. "Isn't that the Irish way?"

"That's a vicious rumor, spread mainly by Irishmen," Angus said. "Come on, Immortality has its benefits. I've met the most fascinating and special people over the last 1400 years. Elizabeth the II, Richard the Lionhearted, Michael Collins, Winston Churchill, Valerie Doner------"

"Who's Valerie Doner?" Amy asked, confused.

Angus grew a wistful expression. "Trust me, she was special. So, you've got a lot to live for, provided you live long enough."

"Well, at least we don't have to worry about the Game anymore," Scully sighed.

"What's that supposed to mean?" Diedre said, confused.

The two Federal agents glanced at each other, then at them. "I guess you didn't hear yet," Mulder sighed. "This man we work for, Steve, he once took a trip and along the way he found a scroll written by an Immortal named Krevar some eight thousand years ago. In it, he confesses that he told two students about the Game as a joke. And then they went out and told others and got it all started."

The five Immortals there stared at him in shock. "What are you saying?" Rhoan choked out.

"It's a fraud," Scully said softly. "There's no Prize, there's nothing worth winning, there's no point to any of it. The whole thing's been one damn waste."

The glass slipped from Diedre's fingers and smashed onto the floor. She, like the other four Immortals, was stunned to discover that something they had believed wholeheartedly for a millennium and a half was revealed to be false. Rhoan put an arm over Diedre, hugging her. Ivar dragged a hand through his beard. Torc just sat in stony silence. Even Angus was thrown.

"Look, I know it's hard," Mulder said. "We know what you're feeling."

"Do you?" Rhoan said, anger in his voice. "Just how long have you been Immortal?"

"Me and Scully died about three years ago," Mulder answered.

"Well then, Agent Mulder, you have no fucking idea what we're feeling right now," Rhoan hissed. "We have all been in the game for 1400 years, we've had to kill a hell of a lot of Immortals in that time, we watched a good friend be beheaded and now you're telling us it's all been a damn waste and you expect to know what we're feeling?"

"Look, I know-----"

"You don't know a damn thing," Diedre said, tears in her eyes. "You don't know how many heads we've taken, how many Quickenings we have, you don't know how that makes us feel, you don't know how to relate to us, you don't know ANYTHING!"

"That's enough!" Torc said. Instantly, the Knights went quiet as their teacher took a deep breath. "I don't like this any more than you do. And remember, I have four hundred years on all of you. But if this is true-----"

He turned and fixed Mulder and Scully with an icy gaze. "Is this true?"

"Um, yeah," they both got out, frozen by his glare.

Nodding, Torc turned to the others. "All right then. I know this is hard but we have to deal with it later. Right now, our prime concern is Maeve and Mider and this Khan being. And stopping them is not going to be easy."

"Come on," Amy shrugged. "This woman hasn't been powerful for 1400 years, she can't be that bad."

"Maeve is dangerous," Torc said. "She was bad enough before and now she's just had 1400 years to build her skills. She's not just a magician, she's also a very good fighter."

"Wonderful, insane and versatile," Scully muttered. "What a combo."

"Oh, and she's quite intelligent as well," Torc said. "A veritable evil genius."

"Great, another evil genius," Amy sighed. "Why can't we ever fight an evil idiot, just for the novelty of it?"

"Well, you have to remember that Maeve is always planning," Torc said. "Day and night, she plots, gets really old after a while."

"Day and night?" Angus asked, raising an eyebrow. "How do you know that?"

Torc took a deep breath. "She talks in her sleep."

Angus and the rest of the Knights nodded. It took about five seconds for Torc's words to sink into their heads and soon all four were staring at him in absolute shock. "You and Maeve?" Rhoan choked out.

Torc just nodded and shrugged, Aideen looking at him with a sly little smile. "Centuries of carnage and warfare and I think that's the one thing I've regretted most of all."

"You and she were lovers?"

"Well, it's not like there was a massive amount of romance in it," Torc said defensively. "I mean, you kicked the shit out of our troops, we'd be talking about the defeat, a few drinks, one thing led to another....."

"Why the hell have you never told us?" Rhoan said, a hurt look on his face.

"Well, I was hardly going to mention it when I came to you," Torc said. "I mean, you already didn't trust me, that was hardly going to win you over. And, well, it's not just something that comes up in idle conversation either."

Ivar shook his head and looked towards Aideen. "Did you know?"

"He told me a few centuries back," she answered with a shrug. "Not my place to say anything, really. Took me a while to get over it and welcome him back."

"How long?"

"Five years," Torc said sourly.

Liam and Robin shared a look as the Knights just sat there. "I think we should table this for now," Torc sighed. "We need to get some rest. We're starting out first thing tomorrow for Tir Na Nog. So rest up."

*****

The home Torc and Aideen had wasn't too opulent but still rather nice, a two story affair that occasionally hosted friends around town. The main bedroom was theirs, of course and another bedroom was on the same floor. Downstairs held a kitchen, a living room and a small den that boasted a fold-out bed.. It was far from a mansion but quite comfortable for both Torc and Aideen and guests to stay at.

Rhoan and Diedre had been silent the entire car ride to the home and the silence stayed as they stepped into the room. Rhoan closed the door behind him, looking at Diedre, who sat on the bed, staring at the floor. "You all right?"

"No," she answered. She looked up at him, tears in her eyes. "All for nothing, Rhoan, it's all for nothing. There's no Prize, Rhoan, there's nothing to the Game. All of this, the last 1400 years has been for nothing. We've killed hundreds of people for nothing, we took their life force for nothing, Garrett died for nothing!"

"He died defending a village, love, that wasn't nothing, believe me," Rhoan said gently.

"But it's just a waste," Diedre said, shaking her head. "Just a big, damn, waste."

"True," Rhoan nodded. "But there are some good things about it."

Diedre stared at him in shock. "Like what?"

Rhoan moved forward, rubbing her hands on her shoulders. "No more duels, love. No more worrying about running into someone we don't want to see. No more feeling worried when one of us is late, no more nights spent up, wondering if it's finally happened. No more being challenged, no more walking out and wondering if it's the last time we'll ever see each other. I don't know about you, but in my mind, finding out it's all a fake is a lot better than having to risk losing you."

Diedre looked at him, tears in her eyes as she leaned up and kissed him. "I love you, Rhoan."

"I love you too," he answered. "And I'm gonna keep it up for a long time to come."

They embraced and kissed, letting each other know they were there for them no matter what.

*****

It was quiet outside, the stars peeking out from the clouds as the three Immortals sat, a bottle of Bushmills between them. "Looks quiet," Angus said off-handedly.

"Maeve always likes it that way," Torc said softly, staring up at the sky. "Loves to make it quiet before the storm."

"Well, seeing how bad her storms were, that's no quite reassuring," Ivar muttered.

"Good God, 14 centuries and you still have the pessimistic attitude," Angus said, shaking his head.

"Not easy to break a long-standing habit," Ivar remarked, sighing. "By the way, did I ever apologize to you?"

"For what?"

"Don't act innocent, Angus, it doesn't suit you. Did I ever say I was sorry for never asking you why you took the chalice?"

"Ah, it's okay-----"

"No, it's not," Ivar said in a tone that had true emotion to it. He turned on the steps to face his friend. "I should have asked you why. I should have known you'd have a good excuse for why you did it. I should have trusted you. After all we've been through together, you deserved that at least. But I didn't and because of that, we've lost a century worth of friendship. I'm sorry for that. I am."

Angus looked at his friend for a long moment before clapping a hand on his shoulder. "Ivar, you're having a drink with me. I insist."

Chuckling, Ivar rolled his eyes. "Angus, we've been over this a hundred times over the years. I don't drink. It's against my faith."

"Fine. I'll have yours."

Torc shook his head. "You know that's always his answer."

"I know," Ivar smiled. "I figure it's time to get back with tradition."

"And not a moment too soon," Angus smiled, taking a swig from his bottle.

*****

"This is a wonderful home," Joyce said as she paced around the kitchen. She, Shaw, Aideen, Liam and Amy were having a snack as Robin helped Mulder and Scully set up in a side room. "I'm kind of surprised you don't live fancier, with the powers and you must obviously have money."

"Torc never was one for opulence," Aideen said. "And neither have I, really. Being human is good enough for me."

"You still have your powers, though," Amy pointed out.

"Yeah, I do, but I don't use them for personal wealth," Aideen said. "One of the tiny restrictions Fin Varra put up when I requested human form."

"Why did you that, anyway?" Amy asked.

Aideen smiled. "Torc."

"He seems like a good man," Shaw said.

"Aye, he is. He's been through a lot and to tell the truth, I wasn't crazy about him when we met. But, when he decided to help the Knights, he showed me a new side, a side that opened up something in me. So, after a few decades, I requested human form to give it a try. And it's been a good ride."

"He's going to need you here and now," Amy said. "With this Scroll and the truth about the Game coming out."

"Torc can handle it," Aideen shrugged, moving towards the sink. "He's not going to let some scroll found in some temple in Tibet ruin his life like------"

"How did you know where it was found?" Shaw cut in.

Aideen looked at her, confusion on her face. "What?"

"How did you know where the scroll was located?" Shaw repeated, now on guard. Amy and Joyce glanced over at Aideen as well, realizing what Shaw was saying. Liam let out a long groan and put his head in his hands.

"Um, you told us, remember?" Aideen said, looking a little nervous.

"No, we didn't," Amy replied. "We told you about the scroll itself and who wrote it but we never said exactly where Steve found it."

Aideen looked at them, then at Liam, who was shaking his head at her reproachfully. "Ah, dammit!" she yelled, smashing a plate into the sink. "I'm always doing things like that. No wonder I was the last one to find out about Rhoan and Diedre's engagement."

Amy looked at her, then at Liam. "Okay, what the hell is going on? You two know something we don't here and we want to know now."

Liam took a big breath and looked at the women. When he spoke, it was in absolute seriousness, all joking gone. "You have to swear you'll never tell anyone what we're about to tell you. Not Steve, not Buffy, not Giles. NO ONE."

"Okay, okay," Amy shrugged. "Now what's-----"

"No," Liam said in a harder tone. "That's not good enough. You truly have to swear, lassie, you have to promise on everything you hold dear that you will never tell anyone about this." He looked towards Shaw. "Shaw, I want you to swear to Millie." He glanced towards Amy. "You swear to Artemis." Finally, he looked at Joyce. "And Joyce......swear on your love for Buffy. That none of you will reveal to anyone what you're about to hear. All right."

The three women looked at one another in confusion for a moment, then nodded. "I swear to the Lady," Shaw said.

"I swear to Artemis," Amy replied.

"I promise not to tell anyone," Joyce said. "Now, will you explain this already?"

Taking a deep breath, Liam spoke up. "The scroll Steve found.....The one that says that the Game was started as a fraud....." He took another breath, his face, like Aideen's, letting them know he'd rather be doing anything than this. "It's a fake."

The three women stared at him in shock. "How.....how do you know?" Amy asked.

"Because." All of them turned to see Robin standing in the doorway, face drawn. "Because we wrote it."

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