Court of Shadows

Chapter 1

Nemesis smiled as she read the latest report from The Hunter, The Shadowed Duke of the BHC's Court of Shadows. It pleased her to know that the club was doing so well that they now had three courts. It was something the IHFC hadn't managed to maintain, but this had been going on in the BHC for almost a year now. ShockWave had been a good and loyal Bishop, and she excelled as the Duchess of Shadows. She had done most of the preparations for the upcoming ball for all three courts leaving Nem more time for her own schemes. Right now she was thinking what daring outfit should she wear for the affair? After all, the Dark Lord Avalon was going to be there. She knew that Silver disliked the sometimes yes sometimes no relationship she shared with Avalon, often accusing her of toying with the boy. But he enjoys it and is quite inventive in his own way, she thought with as self-satisfied smile. Avalon was perhaps the most entertaining of her pets. The Black King was simply jealous of the attentions she gave them and Avalon in particular. She smiled as she went through her wardrobe and imagined exactly what kind of attentions they would be sharing in two nights. "That takes care of all the arrangements," ShockWave said, hanging up the phone. "The ball is going to be simply grand!" she said with a smile. "I think you've handled it all very well," Catana said with a grin. "Why thank you my shadowy druid," ShockWave said with a playfull bow. "Power has so many advantages," ShockWave said with a sigh. "Like I can plan this ball just the way I want it for what I have in mind." ShockWave drapped herself across the arm of the couch and looked down at Catana who was sitting crosslegged on the luxurious carpet. "Finally going to make your move, eh?" Catana said with a cat-like grin. "Oh yes. Now that the Court of shadows is well established everything will be perfect. I'm not an inferior anymore." "That shouldn't matter to him," Catana said with a frown. "It matters to my pride," ShockWave said, her green eyes flashing. "I understand," Catana said with a placating wave of her hands. "I empathize, remember?" she said with a tap to her temple. ShockWave frowned and hung her head over the side of the couch so that she was looking right at Catana. "I've wondered how much of what I feel you feel," she said. "More than enough sometimes," Catana said with a ruefull grin. "But not usually as strongly as you do," she added. "So you don't?" "No," Catana answered. "It's better that way," ShockWave said, sounding relieved. "Now that's a lovely pose," said a deep male voice. ShockWave was upright immediently, her eyes flashing. "How dare you come into my private rooms without my permission!" she said. He gave her his enfuriating grin. "The Duke must beg audience with his duchess?" he said mockingly. An energy glow enveloped ShockWave's fist. "Do you really want to dance this dance again?" The Hunter said, drawing one of his many weapons. He and she often fought, many times not just verbally, when the others weren't around. They had very discreet servants who took care of the damage without word of it ever going down the ranks or reaching the other courts. Only their Druid, as the third in power among the Shadowed Court knew how much the two leaders disliked and mistrusted each other. She also knew better than to try to diffuse the situation and just stood apart from them as they stared each other down. Finally ShockWave powered down and he put away his weapons. "Leave us, Druid, I have things to discuss with my Duchess." Catana looked at ShockWave and saw her eyes flick to the door, the sign to leave them. She gracefully made her way to the door and left them. "You finished the arrangements for the ball?" The Hunter asked. "Yes, and it'll be the best the club has ever seen," she replied as if daring him to try and prove otherwise. He looked at her for a moment. "I would expect no less," he said. "We don't have to be enemies, my dear," he said after a pause. He saw the flash in her eyes and continued to keep her from speaking. "I don't ask for you to be subservient to me, but surely we can work together." "We're both people who ran spy networks, Hunter. Let's not pussyfoot around it," she purred leaning closer. "Your ultimate goals," she said tapping his chin with a fingernail "are known to me and I don't want to see that happen." Her manner was offensive to him, but he maintained his calm. She was always trying to break his calm and so far had not succeded even once. "Yes, just as I know much about you and how you undermine me. But I also know, my dear ShockWave, were your heart lies." He let that hang in the air for a moment enjoying the look of anger on her face as she caught the mockery to his words. "I have no problems with your obsession, but I don't think things will turn out the way you want them to." He watched her anger and loathing for him war with curiosity on her lovely face. "What do you know?" she said at last. "Only that you'll fail," he said. "And when you do, my invitation to join with me is still open." He caught the heavy paperweight that she threw at his face. "I will take my leave of you now," he said with a mocking bow. He left the room before she had the chance to find anything else to throw at his retreating form. Catana idly wondered if ShockWave truly had a chance. 'Not to make less of her or anything, but he has been devoted for years.' She sighed and wondered how ShockWave would take it if she didn't get what she wanted. Not very well at all she figured. "It's that damned Irish temper," Catana mumbled to herself as she went through some stretching excesizes. There was a definate downside to their empathic link. Catana felt as ShockWave did, though she could recognize where the feelings came from. She would feel a piece of the heartbreak if... No, it was best not to think of that. A strange side affect of ShockWave's turmoil of emotions was that Catana had found an inner calm inside herself. Sometimes I feel like the ancient druids of old, she thought. Yet the difference that was between her and her friend made them work as a better team together and perversely drew them closer. But I still like to have my fun, Catana changed her line of thought with a grin. The Ball was going to be most entertaining. "I'm not looking forward to the ball," Silver confided in Gomurr. "Why ever not?" the old mage asked. "You always have fun at these events, and the illustrious ShockWave has done a smashing job of putting it all together." Silver smiled. "I'm sure she has, and I appreciate her efforts, but if I have to watch Nem disporting herself with the other courts again like last time I'm going to be sick." Gomurr grinned. "She does put on quite a show doesn't she?" he said. The look Silver shot him abruptly brought Gomurr back to reality and to the fact that he wasn't exactly consoling. He patted Silver's shoulder. "It's not like you have to pay any attention to your wandering Queen. Have fun with someone else. Monet doesn't much like Avalon's sniffing after Nem like a hound, and ShockWave always makes you laugh. You can't possibly not have noticed how devastatingly beautiful those two ladies are," Gomurr said. "Why if I was just a few centuries younger..." "I'm surprised that's stopped you anyway," Silver interupted. "Eh?" Gomurr trailed off in his speech. When he saw the mischievous twinkle in Silver's eyes he started laughing and the King laughed with him. "See that's the Silver we all know and love," Gomurr said. Silver was walking by the ballroom the next day, on his way to his car as the valet was nowhere to be found. He stopped dead when he saw all the comotion. People were everywhere, yelling and talking and running in and out of the ballroom. He'd never seen things in such a state. He was about to signal one of the busy looking staff members of the Mansion when ShockWave appeared, took him by the elbow and lead him back the way he came. "What's all the commotion?" he asked her. "They're just setting up the decorations for the ball tomorrow night," she said with a sweet smile. "I don't want you peeking at it before it's done, you'll ruin the surprise," she added teasingly. "Well I need to go somewhere and the valets were no where around." "Oh. Well I sort of recruited them to help the delivery people setup their decorations," she said apologeticaly. "Where did you need to go?" "I wanted to take these papers to my office," he said. "It's very important and I don't trust them to a messenger." "Do you trust me?" she asked. He was somewhat taken aback by her question because it was so unexpected and because of the earnest undertone to her voice. "I did make you the Duchess of the Court of Shadows," he said in a teasing tone. She smiled at him. "Well if you promise not to peek at the decorations and make sure everyone else knows not to then I can take those papers for you," she said. "Isn't playing the messenger beneath you?" he teased. "I'd do anything to serve the King," she said seriously and curtsied. As she came back up he saw the grin on her face and smiled. "Besides I need a break from the hectic chaos and things won't fall apart if I leave for half an hour." "Okay then," Silver smiled and handed her the papers he carried under his arm. She gave him a teasing bow as she took the papers. "Remember, NO PEEKING!" she called over her shoulder as she headed for the cars. Silver grinned as he realized that he was now looking forward to the ball and a look at the decorations that would merit such chaos. He wasn't going to be disappointed. The next evening, when he and Nem walked into the ballroom arm in arm as part of the procesion of the courts he was amazed. The floor he walked on was grass. Trees were all over, the top edges of the pots barely visible above the grassline. In the forest along on of the walls he saw a doe peek her head out between the trees and was surprised to realize that there were real birds singing in the trees. In the central grassy clearing were the tables and chairs all fashioned of wood with the bark still on them. The grass in front of the tables was the dancing area, and the other half of the room had a lake with a waterfall flowing down some brown paper mountains. As a servant dressed as a huntsman led them to their table, Silver glanced up and saw twinkling lights across a ceiling covered in black paper, making up a realistic sky. "Real animal and butterflies," Nemesis said. "I'm impressed, ShockWave has truly outdone herself," she said. "A sylvan paradise," Silver said. "I just hope I don't get animal dung on my shoes," Nem said with a glance at the tame deer. "I wouldn't worry about that, Nemesis," ShockWave said coming to the side of the king and queen. She was wearing a light green maple leaf dress. The leaves fluttered a little in the artificial breezes that cooled the room. "The animal handlers keep an eye on them and will remove any offensive droppings immediately," she finished. "The food will be served before the dancing starts, so if you'd be so kind as to be seated," she said graciously indicating their chairs. "You've done a wonderful job," Silver complimented her. ShockWave gave him a pleased smile as she went to the table reserved for the Court of Shadows' Inner Circle. During dinner music was provided by people dressed as peasants who played the cheery folk tunes of Ireland and other places in Europe that seemed appropriate to the peacefull glade setting. Silver smiled as he watched everyone talking excitedly around them. Food throwing was kept down to a minimum at the teams tables (there was just the one incident where Rogue dumped peas into DarkWolf's lap after he whispered something to her). The food was as wonderful as the idyllic setting. When all the food was taken away, the lights in the room were dimmed and the tiny lights of the fake stars overhead brightened to set a romantic mood to the dancing. "Shall we dance the first dance?" Silver asked Nem with a bow. Nem stood and they walked out on the grass. When the dance was done, Nem smiled at him and then went her own way, which was toward the next nearest male. Silver sighed. The serving people were clearing away the larger tables to leave more room for the dancers and bringing out some smaller round ones. "You can't possibly be bored already!" Exclaimed a voice behind him. "Not bored, but sudddenly without a dancing partner," Silver said with a ruefull grin at ShockWave. "I see plenty of girls not dancing," ShockWave said. "Don't tell me you've suddenly become shy!" she teased. "Oh yes, much to shy to ask you to dance with me," he said. Her eyes twinkled. "That's too bad, I would have said yes and been awed that someone so grand would want to dance with little ol' me." "Really? Well in that case I can get over my shyness," he said holding out his arm. Catana scanned the room. Most everyone was dancing. Avalon and Nem were practicaly drooling on each other. Monet was dancing with The Hunter and glaring at the couple whenever she saw them. ShockWave danced with Silver as couples whirled around the room. DarkWolf was a little too enthusiastic with the whirling and almost flung his partner into orbit for which he got a stomp on the toe. Catana laughed. "I didn't think to see you as the wallflower here, Catana," said Gomurr coming up beside her. "I'm just chosing my victims," she said with a grin. "Oh yes, I've seen the way you dance. One would need super stamina just to keep up with you." "Would a decrepit old man such as yourself be up to the challenge," she said with one eyebrow raised. Gomurr grinned. "I'm not as decrepit as I look, my dear druid." "I'll concede to that if you don't end up in the emergency room by the end of the night," she said holding her arm out to him. "I just hope I don't step on you too," she said teasingly. Silver danced with Monet after the dance with ShockWave, and kept dancing with either girl throught the night to keep himself distracted from Nem who was making a big show of herself again, this time dancing with Havok. After his third dance with Monet he was tired and thirsty so he excused himself and went over to the punch table. "Dancing certainly is thirsty work," ShockWave said, meeting him there and handing him a glass. "Yes it is," he agreed. "It's a a fun ball though," she said. Silver sipped his punch. "Everyone is enjoying it," she continued waving to indicate the dance floor. Silver watched the dancers and smiled. His smile faded when he saw the carryings on of Nem and Avalon, who's arms she had returned to. "Disgusting isn't it?" ShockWave said, following his gaze. Silver didn't say anything. She wasn't even sure that he had heard her at all. He finally turned back to look at her and she smiled. "You deserve to be treated better than this, Silver," she said. "Maybe I don't," he said drinking the rest of his punch in one gulp wishing that ShockWave had given him a glass of wine instead. "How can you say that?" she said. She put her arms around him. "You've dealt honestly with her, she's just.. well..." she shrugged. Silver stared down at ShockWave. Then he put his empty glass down and walked away. Silver knew her words weren't true. He hadn't dealt honestly with Nem because he had never told her why he truly felt the way he did when she carried on so. He knew ShockWave meant well and all, but her scorn for Nem upset him though he knew she was only judging the queen a she saw her. Silver looked at Nem who was still with Avalon. People couldn't help thinking of Nem that way. It was the way she dressed and acted. But she was his queen. He cared for her and didn't want to have to hear all those things about her and watch her flaunt herself in front of everyone. He wasn't going to let it go on anymore. He couldn't be faithfull to her if she didn't want him, couldn't love her if she wouldn't love him. He had to talk to her. And if she refused him... Well there was always Monet who had to put up with Avalon, or ShockWave who seemed to like him well enough. He marched out to the dance floor where Nem and Avalon were and he cut in. "What's the big idea," Nem hissed in protest as he odered Avalon to go see to his Lady. "We have to talk." "Later," she said pushing away from him. "Now," he said grabbing her by the arm. She glared at him and contemplated using her powerss to get him to leave her be. "You have five minutes," she snapped. He led her into the cover of the trees. ShockWave tried to contain herself as Silver walked away without so much as a word to her. She watched him stare moodily at the dancers and then go up to Nem. "Hey, ShockWave," said DarkWolf coming up and blocking her view of the dancers. "The deer look good. Good enough to eat even after the party is over," he laughed. "No!" ShockWave said taking her anger out at him by stomping down on his foot as hard as she could. He gave a yelp. "Don't you dare kill any of the deer you savage," she said shoving him aside and stalking away. "Geez, it was just a joke," he called after her as he rubbed his injured foot. ShockWave came upon a pouting Avalon. "Silver took Nem away just when things were getting interesting," he said when she glanced at him. He brightened. "Hey, do you want to dance, Shocky?" She curbed the impulse to give him a flat out no, and reined her temper in. "Sure," she said, forcing a smile. She didn't know what went wrong with Silver, but she still had to keep appearances up. Monet was dancing with Daemon and she rolled her eyes at ShockWave when she saw that she was dancing with Avalon. ShockWave grinned at her and nodded, but she was going over what happened in her mind. Silver was just so damned dense! She had done everything but throw herself all over him and he still didn't get it. Then he walks off and goes and grabs Nem off the dance floor. What the hell is going on? Silver led Nem into the trees. Beautiful setting he thought. "What do you want?" Nem asked, crossing her arms. "I don't want to have to watch you drooling over every male in the room," Silver said. Nem rolled her eyes. "This again, you're wasting my time Silver. I'll do as I please. What right have you to demand that I do otherwise?" "I have the right of someone who loves you!" Nemesis started to laugh. "You must be joking Silver. You in love with me? Maybe you're more pathetic than I thought if you think to control me that way." Her words cut into him like a knife. "If that'a all yo have to say, then I'll just go back to the party." She turned around and started to walk away. "No!" Silver said. He grabbed her roughly and kissed her, pouring all his feelings into that one and possibly last kiss. He was surprised when he felt her respond and kiss him back with a passion equal to his one. "I was wondering if I'd have to screw everything on two legs before you got jealous enough to tell me you love me," she said breathlessly as the pulled apart. She laughed at the completely bewildered look on his face at her words. "You were testing me?" he said at last. "All this time?" She nodded. "I'm sorry really. I like you from the first, Silver, but Gregor was a King that wanted me for my body and that was all he saw. I didn't want the same from you so I was testing you. I got to know you along the way and I loved you and wanted you to love me and this was the only way I knew to do it." "That's cold," Silver said sadly. "I couldn't match wits with Gregor and Ryan without being cold, Silver." He looked into her eyes. "I do love you, Nem. It doesn't matter what you've done, what you've had to do. I'm not exactly perfect either," he laughed. "Close enough for me," she whispered and kissed him again. ShockWave was dancing with the insistent Avalon yet again when Nem and Silver appeared to grace the dance floor again. Avalon had danced with Monet several times, but after her slap for the lewd suggestion he had whispered to her during one of their dances, he monopolized ShockWave instead. She wasn't any fun though. Her mind was elsewhere and she ignored any suggestions he made. It was better being ignored than slapped, but just barely. When Nem and Silver came out of the artificial forest and started dancing together, he danced with her over to the couple. "Where are you taking me?" asked ShockWave. "I thought that we might enjoy the privacy of your little forest," he said innocently. "I don't think so," she said. He sighed. That's when she saw Nem and Silver. "Hey Nemy, the party drags without you. Shall we pick up where we left off?" "I don't think so, Av. I'm quite happy were I am," Nem said with a smile at Silver. He beamed at her. "This bites," Av mumbled. "We'll I guess that it's just you and me then, Shocky," he said. She was looking at Silver and Nem. Then she looked up at him. "Not even that," she said. "I'm tired from setting all this up. I think I'll leave," she said. Her voice sounded a little strained. "Fine! Just abandon me to my lonesome like that," he called after her as she left. He saw Monet smirk at him from the arms of Daemon and quickly went to find someone else to dance with. The party wound down at about four in the morning with everyone going off alone or in couples. Catana grinned. It had been a great party. She caught sight of Gomurr on the other side of the room. "Guess that's it for the evening," she said, walking over to him. "Yes, quite a party," Gomurr said. "And your still standing." She grinned. "After dancing five dances with you that's an acomplishment to be proud of," he said. "Guess you aren't as decrepit as you seemed. You've done more than chaperone at parties before," she said. "Yes, but I don't usually have so much fun at BHC parties," he said. "The female students tend to dance with me out of the occasional curtesy than because they think I'm a good dancer." "Which you are and shows why they are simply learners," Catana said. Gomurr laughed. "You are most charming, my dear druid, most charming." "Why thank you," she said. "It's surprises me that such a charming girl as yourself doesn't have a million men trailing after her." She grinned. "I'm no kitten to call any man master, but nor am I like Nem to have them all after me," she said. "Hmm, yes. But did you notice the way that Nem and Silver paired off towards the end there. I've never seen them look so... close," he said, finding it hard to describe what he meant. "Yes," Catana said seriously. "Well, if you'll excuse me I'll be off now." "To bed?" She laughed. "Oh no, the night is young." She had forgotten about ShockWave until Gomurr mentioned Nem and Silver. She was having too much fun to notice. She left the ballroom and the michievous mage behind as she made her way the the Mansion for the Court of Shadows, and ShockWave's rooms. She entered the dark reception room where she and ShockWave had talked on the couches just two days ago. The room was dark. Off to the right would be the door to her study, to the left the bathroom, and down the center was the bedroom. She was going to check the bedroom first, when she heard a shifting on the couch. She turned on the light. ShockWave was looking up at her from the couch. She hadn't bothered changing out of her dress and her hair was a mess. Her eyes were red and swollen like if she had been rudely awakened from a deep sleep, but Catana wasn't fool enough to believe that. "What do you want?" ShockWave demanded. "What happened?" Catana asked. "Silver would rather have Nemesis the slut than me, wasn't it obvious? I practicaly threw myself at him too," ShockWave laughed at herself. "A rather pathetic display of what is supossed to be a regal and powerful Duchess of the Court of Shadows. Power that can get me everything but what I really want." Catana winced at ShockWave's harsh laugh and the scorn in her voice as she talked about herself. "Maybe I just don't have enough ruthlessness yet, but someday I'll find it in me," ShockWave muttered. "But Nemesis who just slept around right in front of his face. He'd love HER." ShockWave's voice hit a shrill note and when she heard it she was silent and buried her face in the couch cushions. "He's been devoted to her for years," Catana began. "And sees me as a child or something the like," ShockWave snapped. "Haven't I been there for years as well? But dear sweet little ShockWave means nothing to anyone." 'That's not true,' Catana thought. 'You are my dearest friend.' "I was loyal and see how it got me nowhere," ShockWave sighed. "Well I won't care anymore. Screw them. The Hunter can feed them to the carrion as long as he doesn't try to double-cross me. I still have the power of my position." ShockWave was talking to herself as if Catana wasn't even there. "You don't need him anymore," Catana said. Anyone who would hurt her friends were worthless. Her loyalty was ShockWave's and to no one else. "No," ShockWave said with a little smile. "I don't need anyone but myself and my loyal Druid. You've followed me Catana, though the Druid is a servant to both the Duke and Duchess. Always just me. Thank you." Catana smiled at ShockWave. "You know that I'd never support anyone against my best-friend. You and I have always been a team." "As long as you follow me, we'll be able to take anything we want," ShockWave said with a smile. "My power is yours and none will stand against us in the end, Cat. In the end all will be ours." She rolled over on the couch. "Turn out the light when you leave," she commanded. Catana left the room glad that ShockWave would take no permanent damge from her obsession with Silver and his love for Nem. ShockWave groaned as someone turned the light on in her room. She rolled over so that the light wouldn't shine in her eyes and fell off the couch. "A most ungraceful dismount," laughed a mocking voice. She had forgotten that she was sleeping on the couch and not on her bed. She stood up in anger. "I'd be more graceful if perhaps idiots like you would let me get a proper rest!" She looked at her watch. It was seven in the morning. "Three hours were not nearly enough, Hunter," she said in a sarcasticaly sweet voice. "No, but you still retain your usual sweet disposition," he said. "You aren't likely to retain too many of your limbs much longer if you keep letting yourself into my chambers like this," she threatened. "We are Duke and Duchess are we not? People expect it from us." "Your mockery sounds empty on the early morning air," she said scornfully. "Then let's dispense with it, shall we? Judging from the moonstruck looks on the faces of the Black Hellfire King and Queen last night, you won't be bearing Silver's love children anytime soon as you so fondly hoped." His words filled ShockWave with a white hot rage. "I hate you, Hunter. I've always hated you. Every word you utter makes me hate you more and more and one day I will hate you so much that I will kill you and no one will find so much as an atom left of you after the explosion." Her words were so filled with hate and rage that he believed her. "That's a shame. I've always had a fondness for you and your temper. But should it really be me that you hate so? I didn't steal your heart and break it." ShockWave smiled. "Your words have lost their power," she said sadly. "I'm afraid you'll get no more amusement out of me." "It's not amusement I seek, but information. Do you still think yourself in love with the King of the Black Hellfire Club?" "Are you afraid to even say his name, Hunter? Does the noble heart make you tremble at night? What I feel for him does not compare to what I feel for you, for scorn is bit a firefly beside the raging inferno of my hate." "Yes, there is power in hatred. You are my Duchess of Shadows. I will not take any other over you. You have tasted hate and that makes you valuable to me. Together we can crush the BHC. You can take what you want and I will take what I desire. Then we will never need lay eyes on each other again. Unless, of course your heart still longs for Silver, a foolish boy, or you feel loyalty to Nem the queen whom he chose over you." ShockWave laughed. "You know what it is to hate, yet you want the one who hates you as your ally over any other? Are you sure your mental faculties are intact? And as for Nem, my hate for her despicable person is but a little fire, but it is a fire none the less and it burns." The Hunter smiled. "I'd trust you over all other's ShockWave, because I can trust you to hate me. You'll use me to get what you want and then cast me aside. For I warn you that if you try to take me on at a later time you will die and have gained nothing." Her eyes flashed, but at last she smiled at him. "Very well then. I can live without seeing you again."

Chapter 2

In the two years that passed, Silver and Nemesis got married. All three courts prospered and nothing seeemed to come of the secret pact. At least that's what it would seem like on the surface... Nem sat on the garden bench, looking at the blossoming flowers and the beauty around her. She sighed. "What's wrong, Nem?" asked Silver, concerned. "I was just thinking how all the beauty of the world is lost to me and power is insignificant for my beauty can't give me what the ugliest woman can have nor can any my power help me carry a child to term." "These thoughts again?" he asked sitting beside her. She had just gone through her third miscarriege. "You know how much I love you Nem, and how it doesn't matter to my love whether or not we can have any children." He put his arms around her and pulled her close. She leaned against him and sighed again. "I know all that, but you deserve a child to grow up in your image. You'd be the perfect father, yet fatherhood is the thing that I can not give to you whom I love." Silver said nothing and just kissed the top of her head. She wasn't going to let his words convince her that he was happy without a child. He couldn't deny that he wanted a child. A boy or a girl with her lovely eyes and spirit. A little angel that would tag along after him wanting to know everything. How beautiful it would be to watch Nem love and nurture a child... But such fantasies were pointless. He would never have a child with Nem and wouldn't have one with any other woman. Someone who carries the child for another woman often becomes attached to the creature and he could never deny a woman what would be her child by right of carriage, not when he knew what it was like to want a child. Nem tried to talk him into it, but he couldn't. He wanted to see Nem grow large with their child, not someone else. Since that wasn't posible he would console himself with having Nem and her love. It would be enough for him. He had thought these thoughts many times, and couldn't deny that the longing was there though he supressed it. ShockWave was in a good mood for once. "Why are you smiling like the cat that caught her mouse?" Catana asked. They were strolling in the gardens of their Shadowy Mansion. She sensed none of the energy patterns that signified people near so she decided to answer the question her Druid posed. "A little birdy told me that Nem miscarried her third child. The bitch hasn't been able to carry a pup for longer than three months. This pleases me," she said. She smirked at Catana as she continued. "It's only fitting that the tramp who slept around like a common whore shouldn't be able to bear child when she actually wants to." "Plus it helps our plans that they never have children together. No heirs to fight to take back what we shall conquer," Catana said. ShockWave smiled sunnily. "No, Silver won't have an heir by Nem," she said as she continued on her walk. 'What did she mean by that?' Catana wondered catching a subtext to ShockWave's words. Nemesis and Silver had worked together for the past two years to bring the BHC closer together and eliminate the infighting and secret plots. Silver had convinced Nem that the only way the BHC would survive to take over the world was if it remained united. The plotting and self gain of individuals in the group would only weaken the whole and they would never hold the world so long as this went on. Silver's philosophy was quite sound, The Hunter mused. The Hunter had plans to unite the BHC, but under his leardership and in quite another way. He quietly spread oposition to Silver and Nem. It was easy. A whisper here that Silver and Nem wanted unity by taking the power away from the members here, a whisper there that Nem and Silver wanted the united power so they could take the world for their own, and all sorts of problems arose for Nemesis and Silver. The only true way to unite the BHC was by conquest. Show them what they had to gain by conquering the world together and make sure they knew that their power would come only from you. That would hold things together well enough. The membership wouldn't act against their own interest so you make sure it's in their best interests to side with you and then you rule through their fear, and your power and wit. ShockWave was good for spreading rumors. People liked her, believed her easily. She had a knack with words and there was a brain behind that mouth. She still hated him, and always would but for now she was a powerful ally. Things were going very well. A little more tweaking to the mood of the membership and then all he would need was an excuse to seize power from the King and Queen. A feeling of dread had been following Gomurr the whole day. He couldn't shake it, nor could he figure out the reason behind it. It was just there, like a headman's axe hanging over him. Most disconcerting imagery. He looked out the window of his study and into the garden. Nemesis was sitting and leaning on Silver, and both watched the water cascade down one of the little terraformed waterfalls in the garden. They made a lovely couple and Nem had changed a lot since the night of the ball. When Gomurr had asked her about it she told him that she had finally found a King worthy of her love and whom she could trust. Trust had chased away ruthlessness, the hunger for power, and the flagarant outrageousness of the old Nem like light chases shadows. Nem was still the same person, yet at the same time she wasn't. She was willing to take steps that Silver's noble heart wouldn't consider yet she recognized that such steps were not always necessary. Described most simply: Nem no longer cared solely for herself. She had found love and a purpose in the goals of her King. She was a better person and Queen whom Gomurr respected most deeply. Some, like Havok, a former lover of Nem, saw the changes in her and accepted her for the new person she had become. Others went more by the saying a leopard can't change it's spots and were wary of Nem. But so long as her goals remained noble things went well. There would always be that fear though. 'It's like leaving on the edge of a blade,' Gomurr thought suddenly. Precarious. Maybe that's why he had this bad feeling. A week later, Silver got into his car to return to the BHC Mansion and his glorious wife. Errands often dragged them apart and he hated every minute of it as much as she. He'd have to plan something especialy romantic for her tonight. He was driving through the green country outside of the traffic of the city, still some miles off when he saw a car at the side of the road. 'ShockWave has a car like that,' he thought idly as he got closer. He was surprised to see a familiar redhead kicking the front fender as he whizzed by though. He pulled over to the side of the road. He got out of his car and walked back to where she stood. "Trouble?" he asked. She rolled her eyes. "This piece of crap isn't worth the metal it's made of," she said. It was a nice car. New too. He had no reason to suspect anything though. "Can you take me back to the Mansion? I want to get back to the Mansion where I can tell off the manufacturer for selling me a defective model without my cellphone battery dying on me." "Sure," he agreed good-naturedly. "Thanks. I could fly back, but I should conserve my energy for the yelling I'll be doing over the phone in a minute," she said with a tight smile. "I'd hate to be the people who sold you the car," he said laughing. She grabbed a briefcase from the passenger seat of her car and followed him back to his vehicle. ShockWave restrained the urge to smile smugly. This was going perfectly. She had managed to keep Silver from knowing the anger that burned inside of her because of him for the past two years. It hadn't been easy. She'd had to watch him and Nem all lovey-dovey and even smile and congratulate them at their wedding. Not being able to have children together was a good punishment for them, and not even one of her devising, but it wasn't nearly enough. Silver was a fool to want someone else over her, and Nem would pay so bad for having what she wanted. She smiled at Silver when he got into the car after having held the door for her and shut it in such a gentlemanly fashion. He put the key in the ignition and turned on the car. Before he could take his hand off the key, she directed the electrical energy of the car battery through the metal key and into him. In seconds the battery was dead and he was unconscious. "Too easy, he didn't even know what happened,' she thought with a smirk. Things were going well. Silver heard voices. He couldn't tell who's they were. He felt so weak he couldn't even open his eyes. He thought that the voices must be a dream. He felt so hot... "Is he alive?" one voice demanded. "He'll live long enough for my purposes," said another. "You are very foolish," the demanding voice growled. "It'll suit you well enough," said the other voice. The first voice said something else, but he couldn't hear it. Everything was fading. Hot... So hot... He was burning, on fire. A cold cloth was applyed to his forehead. "Shh," comforted a female voice. Nem? Had he been injured. "Nem?" he managed to croak out. "Hush, my love. You musn't speak," she replied. Oh Nem, his wonderful Nem. She was so good to him, he loved her so much. He caught the soft hand that held the cloth to his head and kissed it. He didn't care if they never had a child. She was so wonderful that any more joy to his heart would be more than a mortal could bear. She was his angel in the darkness. He opened his eyes. It was so dark. He couldn't see very well, but he distinguished her shadow. "I love you," he whispered. She kissed him. The urgency of her kiss surprised him. He responded and pulled her on top of him. She wore nothing but what she had been born in. Her soft thighs on his hips awakened a fire inside him. His lips hungrily devoured hers as he made love to the woman he loved, not noticing that this person was softer than Nem, that the hair he ran his fingers through was more abundant than hers. When they had spent themselves in each other, she sat up and traced the line of his jaw. His eyes were more adjusted to the darkness and where the shadows weren't so dark he saw that her hair wasn't dark like Nem's. His horror must have shown on his face, for she laughed. "That's right, Silver. I'm not your precious Nemesis. Not the barren witch that can't carry your child." She leaned over to touch his cheek and he jerked back as if her touch burned him. The reality sunk in. He had just lain with ShockWave, not Nem his wife and love. She touched her stomach and laughed. Angry he sat up and grabbed her wrist, twisting it. She didn't cry out, her green eyes just laughed at him. Now that he knew who she was he could see her clearly. "You tricked me," he growled. "Yes I did," she said, eyes flashing. "I wanted to be the one to bear your child and so I shall be," she said. He recoiled in horror and once again she laughed that cruel laugh. "That's right Silver. From this night I will bear your seed. All it takes is once." She reached to touch his cheek again. "But we can go at it again if you want," she said with a smirk. All his weakness vanished, replaced by a white hot rage. This woman leering at him, taunting him, he had trusted her, had once called her friend. She would steal from him what was only his and Nem's with her evil plotting. He hated her that moment. He wanted to hurt her, to kill her. "You want to go again?" he rasped out, backhanding her. His blow sent her reeling back across the sheets. "You want to?" he raged, taking her by the throat. For a moment there was a look of terror in her eyes. She choked, trying to speak. Her struggles only served to feed the fire of his rage. He parted her soft thighs and drove himself into her with his mad rage. She stopped struggling. Once he had spent himself again the rage left him with the whosh of a candle blow out in the wind and with it the last of his strength. He lay there unable to move as she wiped her lip clean of the blood from his blow. A bruise was starting to form on her cheek as she stood. He lay there loathing himself and what he had done as she left the room. She had won, for if a child hadn't been conceived the first time around that it had been the second. He knew this down to his bones. He cursed himself for having been unable to kill her then. He had wanted to so bad, but just couldn't. Instead he had raped her. He was a savage, unworthy of Nem's love. He had betrayed Nem, had a child with another. He would never be able to face her. The only thing he could do was hope that he found the strength to kill ShockWave before she had his child. As he fell into sleep his mind wondered if he would be able to kill the woman who carried the child he so longed for.

Chapter 3 ShockWave luxuriated in the feel of the energy inside her. She did indeed carry a child. She could feel it with her powers, growing inside her. A door opened behind her and she whirled around. A smile crept over her face. "It is done. I have what is mine," she said smugly. The Hunter just looked at her. She could feel his eyes taking her in, seeing the blood on her lips and the bruise on her cheek. She held her head up proudly. "I carry his child, the only child he will ever have as his wife is barren." She spat the word wife out like a curse. "The heir to his legacy will be mine to control and nurture." She watched him with a predatory glint in her eyes. "And what do you plan to do with Silver?" the Hunter asked. "I'll let him crawl back to his Mansion. He'll live long enough to acknowledge the child as his. Having the acknowledged heir in our power suits your plans just fine," she said. 'She says our power, but she means hers,' the Hunter knew. He shrugged. "His having a child by you undermines his hold, but it wasn't necessary for my plan, dear ShockWave. You can keep his baby and raise it as you like, but don't ever think of having him rise against me. Now you have ever so much more to lose if you betray me." He put his hand on her stomach as he spoke the last words, to make his meaning abundantly clear. Then he turned on his heel and left, feeling her potent glare at his back. "You've done what?" Catana said incredulously. She could hardly believe her ears. "I carry Silver's child," ShockWave said simply. "And I returned the sleeping father to his car some miles from the mansion." "You should have killed him and made sure none discovered the body," Catana said darkly. "Don't be foolish, he must acknowledge his child," ShockWave replied silkyly. "He will tell them that you tricked him!" Catana said. ShockWave smirked. "Well I did the first time," she purred. "But he took me the second. He can not know when the child was concieved and is to honorable to deny that he had me." Catana's eyes widened with the news. So she had gotten the bruised that way and he hadn't simply hit her for her trickery. A slow smile spread across her face as the implications of it sank in. "You're slyer than I would have thought possible, Shock," she said. ShockWave grinned. "I knew that the delicious possibilities wouldn't be wasted on you," ShockWave said. "I only wish I could see the look on Nem's face when she finds out," ShockWave laughed. It was purely by chance that Gomurr found Silver in his car. Silver had just awaken in the dead automobile when Gomurr ambled by, searching the grassy field for a particular herb when he noticed the stationary vehicle. Gomurr was surprised to see Silver there, and when the striken King poured out the whole tale in an anguished voice, Gomurr was quite beside himself. "ShockWave?" was all the old mage could mutter in astonishment. She had been one of his brightest students and he had always respected the fiery young girl, never expecting something this evil to come from her. 'You should have seen it,' he scolded himself mentally. 'All the signs of trouble were there.' Indeed, ShockWave had been very withdrawn over the past few years. He assumed it was the mantle of responsibility taking up more and more of her time and energy but now he saw that it was something different, something darker. He had long ago noticed the attraction Silver held over her. He thought it puppy love or hero worship for that was how it began. But somehow it deepened and soured as her soul turned to evil. Gomurr shuddered at the dark image of her that his mind conjured. She still looked every bit as innocent and charming as she once was though, that made her more dangerous. I was hard to believe that she would turn wicked, but even harder to believe was Silver's tourtured confession to having raped her after she tricked him. "I just wanted to hurt her so bad," Silver said in a voice heavy with anguish. Gomurr absently patted Silver's shoulder as his mind whirled with the implications of these events and the dread that had hounded him earlier pulsed behind his skull. 'Nem has to know,' Gomurr thought as he took a drink to an anguished Silver who sat in his rooms. Silver drank the glass down in a single gulp. "I have to tell Nem," he said in a pained voice, rising from his chair. "You won't be going anywhere," Gomurr said firmly. Silver was too guilt striken to do anything but blurt the whole thing out to Nem and that wouldn't do at all. Silver opened his mouth to argue and fell backwards into his chair. 'Good, the drug is working,' Gomurr thought. In seconds Silver was out, leaving Gomurr to find a way to break the news to Nem. He wasn't looking forward to it. A blank silence followed his tactfull explanation. Gomurr had decided to omit the bit about the rape. That was Silver's to tell her if he wished to. Nem just sat there in stony silence as his words trailed off. After a moment she started shaking. Gomurr wondered if it was with grief and tears but was soon disabused of the notion as Nem picked up the nearest lamp with her powers and flung it against the wall with shattering force. "That red-headed little witch!" Nem sputtered in impotent rage as she stood and kicked the leg off the nearest table. She didn't even seem to feel the pain in her foot as she let out a string of curses describing the nefarious villian that made Gomurr's ears burn. He hadn't even known that some of those expelatives existed. Suddenly she crumpled and fell to the floor. "I was to have his child. None other. Not her," Nem sobbed. Before Gomurr could make it all the way across the room Nem stood, angry again. "I'll kill her," Nem afirmed. Then she turned and hit the nearest wall hard. "I can't," she sobbed. "She carries his baby." Her voice was a pityful squeak. Gomurr had never seen the proud Nem like this and was afraid to approach her. Nem pressed her cheek against the wall in silence for awhile, one elegant fingernail tracing the pattern of the wallpaper. After a bit Gomurr dared to take a step in her direction. Nem turned and looked at him as if seeing her for the first time. "I'll kill her when the baby is born," she said with a dead calm. "His baby is my baby. I'll take him from her arms," she continued with her dark eyes locked on his. Gomurr fought the panic that settled upon him with her words. This was worse than he'd ever dreamed! Had everyone gone mad in the last 24hours? "How will the membership react if you take the baby and kill his mother?" he said, his mind racing in a panic to talk her out of this. "I'll pretend to be pregnant as well. When she dies and I give birth no one will question if the child is mine. You will help me." Her demanding eyes bore into his. She would not be talked out of this. "No," he said, taking another step backwards. She shrugged dismisively. "You won't stop me," she said confidently. Her dead eyes burned right through his soul and he saw the truth she had found there. "I won't," he said, bowing his head in shame. He could feel her eyes still on him, burning holes into the wrinkled skin of his forehead as he looked down at his feet. A deep shame filled him. She wanted to commit a terrible act and he knew down to his soul that he wasn't strong enough to stop her. A part of him didn't want to and felt this right. That shamed him deeply. He was less of a man than he should be and the shame and responsibility for the child's tragedy would haunt him to the grave and beyond. It would be burned into his soul along with that dead look in her eyes when she had told him of it. It was madness, she was mad. They all were and nothing could save them. Tears burned inside his skull for the child who's birth would be the signal for his mothers death and would be welcomed into the world by her blood. "Where is Silver?" Nem demanded softly. "I wish to tell him the joyous news. We are to have a child." Her voice sent a shiver down Gomurr's spine. Silver tossed and turned in his bed. His dreams were filled with blood and fire and the keening wails of a child. He awoke in a lather just like he had every night since his fall from grace. The noble ideals of his past seemed so foolishly naive now. The world didn't work that way and crushed those who tried to change her. He had thought himself better, but had proved to be the savage that he wanted to purge from the world. The bitter irony was not lost on him. He was worse than all the rest for he had thought himself above all that but was a savage like all the rest. He had liked hurting ShockWave, raping her. He felt no remorse for what he had done save for the fact that it had hurt Nem. A thousand times damned he was, for what he had done to her. She had come to him months ago, a stranger. She had joyfully told him that they were to have a baby, for any baby of his was hers. The rising horror in his heart to hear her words, her plan, oh how very damned he should be. He wasn't worthy to live for what he had done to her. He saw the madness in her eyes, madness he was responsible for. She had caressed his cheek and her touch had burned him and he recoiled. Confusion had been in her eyes and he told her of the rape, how he was not worthy to be touched by her. She had shrugged and said that none of it mattered for they would have their child and everything would be ok. He had destroyed her! His gut churned painfully as he thought of it. Her eyes... He couldn't let her do it. She'd lose her soul. He had to find the strength to kill ShockWave and his child before the birth, before Nem could carry out her plan. But ShockWave had vanished, gone into hidding. The rumor that she was going to have his child spread and he could not deny it. He had to find her! He had to kill his child while it was still inside her, then he could die. Everything was chaos. The Courts were all in turmoil. Rumors flew. They varied in ways, but all basicaly claimed that Silver and ShockWave had been lovers and that she had fled when she realized she was pregnant to escape Nem's wrath. They were abuzz with Nem's apparent pregnancy, and the fact that Silver hadn't denied the rumors of he and ShockWave. The Hunter, ShockWave's Duke, said nothing either but great sympathy was directed towards him as if he was wronged by the cheating of Silver and his Duchess. That same sympathy didn't seem to reach for Nem though, for she had changed. Some rumors said that she drove him to the arms of another, others had her as the wronged party, but no one could stand to look into those eyes. They couldn't feel for her. She was distant and silent. It had been eight months since ShockWave had disappeared and the rumors had started. She was now large with child. At least she looked that way. It was sorely debated which baby was conceived first. Gomurr had even heard someone taking bets as to which baby would be the firstborn. The DarkFire Court had defected as the scandal grew, saying that they did not wish to be part of such doings and would rather leave the chaos to tend to their own affairs. Members of the BHC and those loyal to the Court of Shadows approved of their leaving. Things were falling apart and the unaproachableness of Nem and Silver breed disquiet. Gomurr tried to quell the unrest, but new that unless Nem or Silver would snap out of it, there would be a revolt. The Hunter played along with her, letting her enjoy her little game. He let her servant lead him to her rooms, though he could enter them without anyone else knowing if he so wished. Let her think that the trivial detail of her location was not known to him and that he needed her servant to show him where her lair was. He was pleased with the chaos of the courts. With the DarkFire Court's abondonment of the group that sired them he didn't have to worry about Monet or Avalon siding with Nem and Silver, though with the way those two behaved that wouldn't have been to likely anyway. She brought this about, so he would pretend, his way of giving a treat to her for the service she had done him like she was some pet. She hadn't gone too far. The little house was just and hour from the Mansions away in the country of the area further away from New York City. The house looked in pretty bad shape on the outside, in shambles really. The inside was quite different though. It was a monument to opulence inside. She had probably prepared the place years ago. She had proven to be quite crafty after all. She had probably thought of everything. Or at least she might have thought she did. The servant halted in front of a door intricately carved with dragons in flight. 'Magnificent,' he thought looking at it. But so much wealth under such a tiny roof seemed a waste. He opened the door and entered her lair. Her room was surprisingly bare compared to the rest of what he had seen. Just a small bed under the shuttered window, and the desk at which she sat. She stood to greet him. She was quite large now, but at the same time there was a slimness about her figure that told him she kept in shape during her pregnancy. She looked quite lovely, the perfect picture of expectant motherhood. "I'd wish you welcome, but you've never had need for false sentiments," she said. She hadn't lost her sharp tongue in her time away from him. He was pleased. Her hatred for him hadn't diminished one iota. "Very true, my dear. Tell me, how is the child?" He already knew the answer to his question, but asked anyway. "My doctor says that he's a perfectly healthy baby boy," she said with a self-satisfied smirk. He looked her up and down, knowing that it would irritate her. "Yes," he said in a noncommital tone. "One month from now I'll present him to the courts and Silver will have to acknowledge him and how he raped me. They'll turn against him and his Queen and you can take what you wish. All I want is to be the one to execute Nem." They both knew that Silver wouldn't deny the child nor the rape, just as he wouldn't make excuses for himself by telling all the situation that had lead up to the rape. "I don't think we'll get much support if you kill Nem outright," he said. ShockWave smiled sweetly. "As soon as I show up there she will try to kill me. I know that she must hate me. My informants tell me that her behavior has been erratic lately. I'll capture her, accuse her of trying to kill me, denounce her as insane and a threat to my child. She'll be executed and anything she might reveal of what she knows about Silver and I will be taken as the rantings of a crazy woman." The Hunter examined her again with his eyes. 'Yes she is quite devious,' he thought with satisfaction. "They won't let you execute the Queen who carries Silver's child," he said. Her eyes flashed angrily. "A delusion. I know that she can't carry a child. I'll expose it as fake and further proof of her insanity." She was so ruthless too. "What if she truly does carry his child?" he asked. "Then they're be no doubt that she'll try to kill my baby and me when we show up. It matters not though," she said with a shrug. "Once I've captured her we can give her something to make her lose the baby. I can still set it up to make it look like she's faking and if she tells anyone that her baby is real they'll think her even crazier, don't you agree?" she said giving him a penetrating look. He was fond of her, he realized. Fond the way a father was when his child turns out just like him. In this case, ruthless, coniving and utterly heartless. He would let her live once everything was done. She might seek to harm him further along in the future, but it would be an amusing diversion. Besides, hate was a kind of pasion in and of itself and it wouldn't be hard to give things a little nudge. She had certainly proved she would make an excellent partner. He smiled at her. She blinked, confused for a moment and then a smile curved her lips. "It'll be simply grand," she said.

Chapter 4 Nemesis knew the moment that ShockWave had gone into labor. She had found the little witch two weeks ago and kept an eye on her through the eyes of a simple minded servant girl whom she had been able to fool with her powers so that the dullard girl didn't even know that she periodicaly shared her mind and eyes with another. She felt the panic in that feble mind once her mistress began to go into labor. Nem smiled. It was time. She would be a mother today. She turned abruptly when she heard the door open behind her. Havok came in to her study. He followed her around all the time lately. She glared at him, annoyed. "Leave me be," she said pushing past him and going out the door. The witch was two weeks early. Nem's moment had come, she had to go. Havok grabbed her arm, stopping her. "You aren't going anywhere without me," he said. She glared at him, and in his eyes she saw that he knew. Gomurr must have told him. The mage wasn't going to stop her, but he wasn't going to let her go alone either. She shrugged, it wouldn't matter. They crept away from the grounds so that none would see them. That was important if they were to believe the child hers. Silver might have found out about her leaving, only he was busy at the moment. He was in his study, talking with the Duke of Shadows. "Things have been in chaos for months, Silver. You have done nothing to try and remedy things. And the rumors..." Silver sighed in frustration. "You must tell me, are the rumors true? Did you rape the Duchess of Shadows?" the Hunter asked. Silver wasn't surprised that the rumors had come up with that too. It was one of the most believable ones, and the actual truth as well. "Yes," Silver said quietly. The Hunter eyed him, calculating. "You admit to this. You must know that the Court of Shadows will not stand for having it's mistress treated so!" Silver wanted to say that the minx deserved no loyalty from anyone, but why should he expect the Court of Shadows to be loyal to him when he was nothing more than a savage just as bad as her. "You must relinquish your power to me and stand trial for your crimes," the Hunter said. "No," Silver said darkly. The Hunter would accept ShockWave back and there was no way he would hand more power to her. He had to kill her. His time was running out. They could execute him for killing her, it wouldn't matter then. "Very well then, you leave me no choice, Silver. There will be war between my court and whatever part of yours chooses to stand by you," he said. "So be it," Silver snapped. The Court of Shadows was the problem. She still worked through it. She was the only one who could have started the rumors. Evil ran deep there, he could feel it. It had her taint on it. He'd destroy it. That was her center of power. He'd crush it and then crush her. She'd be weaker without her shield. He'd play the part of the savage he was and crush them both this very night so that he could go and hunt her down. The glitter of menace in the Hunter's eyes as he left further revealed to Silver that the Court of Shadows was rotten to the core. Disaster! Thought Gomurr. He had just discovered that the Hunter was not ignorant of what his Duchess did with her time. The whole thing began to unravel in his mind, revealing in the current predicament a plot formed by two sinister minds. Silver, Nem, and the members of the BHC that remained uncorrupted by the Duke and Duchess were in grave danger. He ran first to Nem's rooms, which were closer and discovered that she wasn't there. "Oh no!" he muttered. "Of all the nights! Why did ShockWave have to be two weeks early?" It could be nothing else, or Havok would have had time to inform him of the Queen's whereabouts. The old mage ran to Silver's rooms as fast as he could. Silver was taking a tally of those he knew would still follow him when Gomurr burst in to his room. "Good you're here. The Hunter has been in on this with ShockWave all along. He wants to crush the BHC and take it for his own. Do you think that Psishot will side with me in this? It's war and it'll happen tonight. I don't think the Hunter will wait." It was just one calamity after another for Gomurr. 'Not tonight!,' he mentally cursed. 'Silver can't stop Nem if this happens tonight!' Yet in this circumstances seemed to be in favor of the enemy. Gomurr knew that Silver could not go now, and he himself couldn't stop Nem. He would serve best by rallying the BHCers around their King. The Hunter didn't know how his descision to attack sooner inconvinienced his enemies, nor how it suited his plans better than waiting as he originally thought to. He upped the ante because he thought it would be worth it to eliminate those with noble ideals by killing them in battle and eliminating the threat of anyone having an attack of conscious and becoming a threat to him later on. ShockWave could just as easily get a captive and cowed Silver to acknowledge her son and would have to be satisfied with that. His army of Shadows prepared to strike. Tonight he would have his victory after almost a decade of manuvering and plotting. It was a dark cottage in the middle of nowhere. It couldn't have held more than five separate rooms unless it had a well tunneled basement. It looked unkempt, and in the darkness it was a pit of shadows. Nemesis knew from the mind of the servant girl that it wasn't well guarded. It was just two servants and a doctor. All of them would have to die, for none who knew that ShockWave birthed the child could be left alive. The baby was going to be hers, not ShockWave's. ShockWave didn't expect an attack, Nem figured this would be easy. She was surprised as she quietly ascended the porch steps though. "You go no further," hissed a voice. Nem backed up against Havok, searching the shadows for the owner of the voice. Catana stepped out of the shadowed overhang, her eyes glittering with menace. She wore a grey coweled robe, and her hands were held together inside the sleeves in front of her. "She stole from me," Nem hissed at the Druid. "I come only to claim what should be mine." Catana leveled Nemesis with a cool stare. "One might also say that the gods denied you because you were not worthy," Catana said. "And they'd give this to her? I think not," Nem spat. "You will not pass," Catana said. "I shall do as I please," Nemesis replied. She glanced at Havok. He nodded to his Queen. He would fight this battle for her. It seems it was best for him to come after all. She had no time to waste. She slipped through the door as the two combatants circled each other behind her. Nemesis ran into the manservant the moment she entered. She used her powers to render him senseless before her could cry out. "A healthy little boy!" she heard the female servant gushing down the hall. She was talking excitedly to the doctor in the hallway, Nem saw as she peeked around the corner. Her child was a healthy boy. Nemesis smiled in pleasure. She took care of the girl and the doctor in the same way as the other. The only thing that marred her happiness was the thought that the labor had been quick and painless. ShockWave deserved to hurt and suffer. But perhaps it was better for her baby that it was easy. Nem carefully slipped through the door. Then she paused for a moment. It was so dark! As her eyes adjusted she saw that ShockWave lay on a small bed, resting after the labor. A small cradle was next to the bed. Completely silent, Nem crept towards it and looked down into the cradle. Her eyes teared. He was so beautiful! She reached down to touch his soft skin and pick him up. She heard a gasp beside her. "Nemesis," ShockWave hissed, struggling to sit up and untangle herself from the sheets. Nem held the baby close, protectively. "Give me the baby," ShockWave demanded. "He's mine," ShockWave said, managing to sit up. Tears of frustration were filling up her green eyes. "No," Nem hissed. "He's my husband's and by marriage what's his is mine." Nem backed away, towards the door. ShockWave was weak. She stumbled to her feet and fell to the floor. "Please," ShockWave begged, her hands reaching out imploring. Nem was frozen by the tears streaming down the other woman's face. She didn't think that it would be like this. "My child, my Darrien," ShockWave sobbed as she pulled herself up. She had already named him, Nemesis thought in horror. Nemesis knew what it was like to want a child, and the other woman's begging held her frozen, unable to use her powers or speak. She hated this woman, she wanted to kill her, but something held her back. Could she claim the child is she killed his mother? ShockWave was getting angry, and tears of rage flowed down her cheeks now. "He's mine!" she shrieked. She hurled an energy bolt at Nem. The bolt hit above her head, causing the door to burst into flames. "Give him to me!" ShockWave demanded, hysterical. Nemesis jumped away from the door and ShockWave's grasping arms, stil holding the baby. She knew that even this weak ShockWave could probably block most of Nem's attacks, but ShockWave wouldn't risk hurting her baby and held back in attacking Nemesis as well. "Please! You stole my love for Silver, don't take the baby I could love in his place," ShockWave howled. Suddenly ShockWave grabbed her head and screamed. Nemesis ran for the window, choking on the smoke. ShockWave couldn't see Nemesis or her baby anymore. "You always take everything away from me," she yelled. "Silver! My baby! And you killed Cat," ShockWave moaned at the last bit. She started waving her hands around wildly, grabbing hold of the electrical energy in the walls and sending it arching across the room. The bedsheets caught on fire first, but soon the whole room was burning. Nemesis kicked at the window, dislodging the shutters and forcing her way out. Havok was on the other side and he helped her. They backed away from the house as the fire spread to the whole building. They could still hear ShockWave ranting and raving, cursing Nem for all she had taken from her, but after awhile her screams turned to shrieks of pain as she burned herself alive. Nem held the baby tightly as she and Havok watched the house burn. ShockWave didn't even try to escape the fire. "She went mad with jealousy," Havok said, giving Nemesis a pointed look to remind her that she had almost done the same. "She and Catana were linked. When I killed her and you took the baby I guess she had nothing left to live for," Havok said with a shrug. He turned his back on the inferno and started walking away, leaving Nem to stare at it for a few moments thinking of how close she had come to such madness herself. If it weren't for the baby... Nem shuddered and hugged the baby close. Darrien. He would keep the name his mother gave him, it would remind her of what she had almost become, what he saved her from. Nemesis turned away from the fire, feeling the heat of it on her back as she walked away. The night was now silent except for the crackling of flames. Gomurr couldn't stop the tears that flowed down his cheeks as he fought. He cried because he knew that the only thing keeping the loyal remnant of the BHC from losing this battle was his knowledge of the weaknesses of his former students. He cried for them for they couldn't all be completely aware of the plan of their evil masters. He cried because he could see their faces the day they had first come here. He cried because with each one that he killed he lost a little part of himself. The battle was desperate and they were barely holding their own. He knew his strength would give out soon, and the strength of those who fought with Silver against these odds. If they didn't end this soon they would die. Silver faced his great enemy now. The Hunter was before him. He moved fast, and had already drawn first blood. Silver dodged as best he could, as he brought spikes of metal up from the earth (formerly part of the sprinkler system) in attempts to impale his enemy. The Hunter didn't use metal in his weapons, having already known that it would come down to this. So it was thrust, roll, dodge for each of them as they pressed their attack and avoided the other's weapons. The Hunter was too slow to move, and a metal spike came up through his foot before he could jump clear. He recovered quickly and thrust his spear at Silver. Silver jumped back, and trying a new tactic had the already exposed metals bind the Hunter's feet. He managed to hold him there for a few seconds before the other got free, but hadn't been able to strike a blow without getting to close to the spear. When a knife thrown by the Hunter grazed his ribcage, Silver fashioned himself a shield from the metal in the area. The rest of the metal around him he liquefied and held in his hand to use as whatever weapon would suit his purpose when he found an opening. Silver manuvered to press in closer to the Hunter, using the shield to keep his enemy's spear at bay. The shield between them affected Silver's visibility though, so he didn't see the Hunter bringing his spear around to sweep it under his legs and he fell over backwards. A crack and pain told him that his ankle was broken. He was dead. Suddenly he felt Nem's touch in his mind, it was not the Nem of the past few months, but the touch of the Nem whom he loved and who loved and forgave him. It gave Silver rerewed courage and when the Hunter brought his spear down with a yell of victory, Silver threw the liquid metal into his mouth and solidified if into a spike through the Hunter's brain. With a strange gurgle, the Hunter fell forward. His spear went through Silver's thigh with all the dead weight of the Hunter's body on it. Everything went black. Gomurr couldn't tell you when exactly it happened, time had lost all meaning in the struggle for his life, but just as he thought he would die his attackers pulled back. Many of them started to run. Gomurr looked around, confused. Then he saw the Hunter lying in a heap on the ground. Without their leader the Shadow Court was lost and fled like shadows before the rising sun. It was morning. Gomurr could hardly believe it. He looked around to see who was left. Bodies were everywhere. You couldn't even recognize who some of them had been. Precious few remained standing. 'Where's Silver?' Gomurr thought. He heard someone shouting to him. He saw someone obscured by blood, gore, and filth waving to him over by the Hunter's body. He walked over to him as did the remaining five people on the battlefield. "It's Silver," the person was yelling in his ear. Gomurr saw that Silver did indeed lie under the body of the Hunter. "Get him off the King," Gomurr commanded. Six weary people struggled to roll the body off their esteemed leader. Silver lay battered and bruised under the body of his vanquished foe. He bleed from numerous cuts, but dark blood pooled from the spear in his thigh. Gomurr checked for a pulse, dreading that it was already too late. The beating was so faint that Gomurr almost thought he imagined it, but he felt it again and was sure. He started barking out orders. If anything was to be saved from this tragic night, they couldn't lose Silver. Two weeks passed before Silver was sufficiently recovered to be left alone. He stared up at the ceiling of his room thinking. Hardly anything was left of his BHC. He sometimes wished that Gomurr had left him to die under the body of the Hunter. But ever since he had looked on the baby that Nem had told him was named Darrien, Silver couldn't really bring himself to consider killing himself. Havok had told him the whole story of how the baby was obtained and how his mother had killed herself in her insanity. And Nem was... She was better now. She was handling everything, planning to rebuild. She brought him his child and let him hold him from his bed for an hour yesterday with only Havok guarding at the door. Her eyes as she left him seemed to say: "I forgive you, and will take you back if you can but forgive yourself." He didn't know if he was worthy of forgiveness though. Silver heard the door creak open and craned his head up to see who it was. Gomurr came in to the room and sat in the chair beside Silver's bed. "How are you doing?" the old mage asked. "There's no pain from my wounds anymore," Silver said. "But I can't seem to end the pain in my heart." Gomurr nodded. "I look down at Darrien and he seems so innocent, so perfect. I want to hold him forever and watch him grow into a decent young man, but I can't help thinking of my sins." Gomurr looked thoughtfull. "You know," he said at last. "He has lost his mother. Nem can take on the role, but he needs a father. You may have had a moment of weakness Silver, but that doesn't make you a bad man it makes you human. The difference between being bad and good is wether you learn from your failings and make sure not to fall again. Become better, Silver. The BHC needs you. The world needs you." Silver closed his eyes and thought. Gomurr watched him impassively, saying nothing. This was something Silver had to do on his own. Nem understood, that was why she stayed away from him. She had faced her own trial and knew that it was something you needed to face alone... with a little help. She had confided in Gomurr how she had felt, how she couldn't kill ShockWave though she hated her. It would have been giving in to her rage and jealousy and she would have lost herself in it. She had let Silver keep the child for awhile yesterday in the hopes that Darrien would be the help for his father that he was for her. Gomurr thought it would work, but knew Silver would need a little extra nudge as well. "I can never forget what I've done, but I can learn from it," Silver said after a long silence. "I want Darrien to have a world of peace, and that's what the BHC will try to bring about." Determination filled Silver's eyes, and Gomurr knew that the trial had been overcome. He smiled at Silver and went to get Nem and the baby, their baby now, they would have much to discuss. Gomurr had much to think about as well, for when he had touched the baby who looked like his father in every respect save for the green eyes he had felt a surge inside of him. It was a whispering, and excitement. 'The Ascended One' his blood seemed to sing. Yes, he had much to think about and much to plan.

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