Other Fan Fiction ❯ KISS Next Generation ❯ Under the Rose ( Chapter 4 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]

Part 8 "Under the Rose…."
By Trynia Merin
Rated PG for violence and language.

Pain, it was the first thing she could remember. Being swathed in its red embrace she emerged from the consciousness of existence. Blinking eyes flickered open to dank darkness. Slowly Jeannie stretched her body, knotted still with red spasms of pain along her tired muscles. Wrists met resistance when she realized they were pinioned somewhere at the level of her ears. Ever so slightly she could twist her head and glance down the length of her armor and spandex sheathed body to her dragon booted toes. Yes, all her armor was still present and accounted for. Where was that red glow's source, she wondered next. Why was she still alive when death and pain had shot along
every nerve?
"Tyler… Mona," she rasped, realizing that she could still talk. Distant shadows and dark shapes moved to the beat of clanging whispers. She slowly licked her dry lips with her heavy tongue; long enough to reach well down her chin. Cold metal met the tip of her tongue, and she realized her neck was encased in a metal collar. A bitter rust taste told her it was most likely iron.
"Great," she muttered. "This is just perfect. No freaking idea where I am… or when I am…"
Green eyes flickered back and forth in the dank dark, and peered on either side. There were a great many strange horizontal and verticals that fused into coherency. Large machines, instruments of torture that seemed of an age long forgotten surrounded her. Under her back she felt the hard firmness of the surface on which she lay. Jerking her wrists and her ankles she realized she was shackled in place. She could easily break them if they were iron, for she felt the fresh outrage of finding herself captive shoot through her body. Like wildfire it ran along every nerve. She could envision herself snapping the iron chains riveted to her wrists, yet her rational mind overtook the Demon instinct, warning her to first apprise herself of her situation.
When a darkened shape moved over to her, she squeezed shut her eyes and opened her ears. The Demoness feigned sleep. Heavy dragging footsteps followed by a lighter set told her the relative size of her possible captors. A gruff voice spoke in a language of grunts and rasps, while the lighter musical voice spoke in peels of laugher and odd tones.
"Face it Jeanne," she muttered. "You have no fricking clue what's going on here…"
From what she gathered, the lighter voice bubbled with excitement, while the dour tones of the deep voice echoed doubt. Suspicion and anger echoed. She could get the gist of what was going on. Ever so cautiously she opened one eye. To one side she saw a shimmering cloud of gauze fluttering around one figure, while opposite a tall mass of leather and fur rumbled its conversation. They were both poking and prodding her. She stifled a low growl in her throat as they continued their alien conversation. Each line of the graceful figure burned into her memory; the light diaphanous dress that floated around creamy skin, hair like spun gold spilling over the shoulders. Ears tapered to fine points well past the head, and the blue eyes glistened in almond shaped orbits in a tapered face that was more male then female.
The opposite figure was barrel chested and massive, two huge mounds of flesh imprisoned in a tight matrix of leather and spikes. Whatever species this pig faced creature, it looked roughly female. Curly course hair was tied into a ponytail at the nape of its neck. When it finally turned away, it gave each chain an extra tug before it followed the sylph elfin figure out of the chamber.
Elfin. That word surfaced to Jeannie's lips. It was like something out of one of those fantasy novels she pored over from years ago. Back when such literature was popular… the other figure suggested the word Goblin or Ogre. But Goblins were smaller. Ogres were larger and more massive. Elf probably described the male with gold hair. Elf in the Tolkien sense, and Ogre or Ork in the same sense.
At long last they left her, alone in the dark. Jeannie let a sigh of frustration and relief exit her black lips. Apparently this was some place where English was not spoken. Without Elliot, how could they hope to pierce the language barrier?
Still, she hated being captive. Gritting her teeth, she pulled down on the shackles around her wrists. After a few seconds the chains groaned and strained. Links stretched, then popped when her wrists came free. Still the shackles encircled her wrists. She jerked up her boots, snapping the lower chains easily as she did the upper. Reaching around her neck she tugged at the iron collar.
Under her fingers the metal slowly began to bend, but not as easily as she would like. Growling, she gritted her teeth again. A few minutes of strain and the band burst out of its wooden housing. Slowly she rose, trying not to make much noise in the dark chamber. Torchlight flickered each line in an amber radiance; not sufficient to light as much as she liked.
Jeannie snorted and let loose a ball of flame into her hand. With ease she lofted her own light high, the details of the room finally swimming into clearer view. In her palm the flame burned without so much as singing her armor or glove. A gleam of energy sparkled off the rack of implements in one far wall. She saw the massive staircase spiraling up into an archway beyond. Stonewalls slick with moss and slime gleamed under her personal torch. Her own light flickered, and she felt her stomach growling. Quickly she moved over to the nearest torch, and lifted it out of the rusty bracket. Lowering it to her lips, she felt the soothing hot burst of flame jump into her throat. For a few seconds she devoured the licking flames hungrily. This would suffice till she could find solid food, she thought.
Glancing in the chamber she saw other cages, some containing skeletons, others empty except for their coverings of straw on their floors. She heard a snorting to one side, and whirled about to see a small birdcage sized object suspended from the ceiling. Instead of a bird perched on the iron swing she saw a glistening of amber spectral hues. Two eyes winked at her, very reptilian and very gold in nature. Jeannie could scarcely believe it when she realized just what it was.
Lizard perhaps. Iguana? None of the words from her world fit. Rather another fit from some other snatch of mythos. Firelizard. Dragonette… Dragon. Very small from the looks. Uncurling its long tail it snorted and chirped at her. Not the chirping of a bird, but the chirping of an alligator. Amber eyes fixed into Jeannie's and a long tongue flicked out for a second.
"Well, what are you doing in there, little guy?" she asked, moving over to it with fascination. Her spiked gloves raised to finger the bars. A long muzzle butted her fingers that reached through, and she saw the mouth full of sharp small teeth open in a yawn. Over her fingers flickered its dry serpentine tongue, tasting her scent.
"Nothing to be scared of, little guy. You a pet or a prisoner?" she asked. The response was a bored snort, and a chirp. Somehow she seemed to know what it meant. Not so much as if it spoke, but an answer of instinct.
"You want out of there, right? Okay, but you've gotta let me know where the hell I am, and what this place is…" she spoke aloud before realizing she was addressing it like a sentient being. It was only an overgrown lizard, wasn't it?
It knew what she was saying. Jeannie easily seized the bars and ripped the feeble meshwork away to make a hole large enough for it to crawl out onto her waiting palms. Eagerly it scooted its long body onto her waiting hands, scuttling up her arms towards her body. A tongue flickered over her face when it wrapped itself around her neck.
"Friendly, aren't you?" she quipped. "Yeah… I could sure use a pal in this mess. Seeing I have no freaking clue where and when I am…"
"Yeah… that's right, when," she responded to the confused snort. For a moment she felt the tongue scent over her face, and lap towards her nose.
"If I knew, would I be asking you?" she half laughed. "So where from here?"
Another series of chirps directed her towards the stairs. Nodding she moved towards them, taking another torch from a bracket in the wall. Back and forth she glanced, wondering where her axe was. No sign of the weapon here. To one side she saw the rusty swords in a wall rack. She chose the one with the least amount of wear, and took it down. Still it was in poor shape, its long blade encrusted with spots of blackened rust. It was heavy, yet balanced decently enough. Almost like the sort of sword she used in her act a few summers ago at the Renaissance fair in upstate California.
Up the massive stone stairs she continued with her strange guide wrapped around her shoulders. Dragon boots clanged against dull stone. The occasional snort or chirp precipitated into directions of where she should next head. From what she could gather of the firelizard's knowledge, it perhaps had watched the path down which she now walked to emerge from the dungeon. Other then this it gave vague answers to her whispered questions. More as if it were describing sensations and conveying them to her.
Finally the stairs ended at a marble arch at the top of the narrow spiraling passage. She emerged into a very large space, a vast expanse of dark and light. It soon fused into a wide paved surface, covered with a dark red carpet. Black designs of what appeared to be lions, stars and roses were worked into its intricate design. From one corner she stood, eyes flickering over high lancet windows with multicolored glass shimmering at intervals in their diamond panes amidst yellow. Long banners hung from iron poles high in the vaulted ceiling, upheld by massive beams of what seemed to be oak or dark wood. Here and there were statues and thick pillars much lie those in a cathedral.
Two large doors, nearly twenty feet high each were bolted with a rod of steel nearly as thick as her wrist. Large knockers hung at midpoint, just high enough for her to reach if she held her arm straight up. Curiosity seized her, and she found herself wandering all around the large chamber examining al the banners and statues. Thirty-foot walls were hung in brightly colored tapestries, depicting scenes both fantastic and somber. Knights on horseback fighting dragons or strange elfin beings like the one she had seen glowing with their mystical powers. Or dragons wandering across vast stretches of woodland and desert. Along the boarders were strange designs like black roses or stars with crescent moons in their centers. Racks of weaponry and armor stood guard at regular intervals. Logically she assumed it was a castle or palace of some nobility. She had just come from the dungeon. Why was it so poorly guarded?
"Unless they wanted me to escape…" she muttered to the firelizard. It gave a tentative snort, spreading two spectral wings and readjusting its weight on her shoulder. A faint rustling of silk was heard, and she dodged behind a pillar quickly. Peering around its gray granite curve she saw more gauze clad figures stepping lightly across the center roll of carpet. Each perhaps was close to five or six feet in height, female that carried what appeared to be trays of food. Skin tones varied from creamy ivory with gold locks to midnight black with white silken curls. All were presumably female judging from the small and supple curves of hips and breasts under light blue and green silk. After the six females trod two males, pointed eared slender figures in light blue robes. What she thought were stone statues on either side of the doors snorted. The assemblage stopped, and one of the females lifted a hand, uttering words in the same language she had heard below. They uncrossed their axes, and let her approach. Slowly they tugged the doors open with little effort to the room beyond.
Silently the party entered with their trays, followed up by the two males in their long robes. She could see the glimmer of gold at their necks, and the bare ankles of the females who walked on narrow delicate feet.
"House servants, then?" Jeannie asked her 'guide', who snorted in the affirmative. "Dinner to the Masters?"
"Who are these Elder?" she asked.
An impassive amber stare of confusion was her answer. She stepped out, standing before the two massive guards. They peered down at her, unimpressed.
"There's little use talking to you. You probably don't understand a word I'm saying," she spoke clearly. "But I want to see your Masters. The Elder."
A low snort was her answer, to which she responded, "I don't care if they can't see me. I want to know why I was being held prisoner! I demand to see someone in authority!"
Two axes crossed before her, blocking her entry. Backing up, she glared at the twelve-foot ogres, each arrayed in horned helmets with massive armored spikes crossing their chests.
"I do mean business," Jeannie said, voice low and calm. Into her hands flickered fire, which she flashed before their faces.
An axe swung just before her, and she leapt nearly five feet to dodge it. Tumbling onto her arms, she catapulted herself onto her booted feet a distance away. One of the guards moved quickly towards her for his massive bulk, his axe arcing menacingly. Leaping up, she somersaulted and blocked his next blow with her long sword. The look of surprise in the creature's face was priceless. Her strength surged through her body when she thrust her next blow forwards. Rusty longsword clanged against his battleaxe, blocking and parrying blow for blow. Around her neck the lizard tightened its grip, hissing and snarling its challenge when it spread tiny wings.
His partner stomped up, his own axe swinging menacingly. Jeannie glanced from one to the other, and launched herself into the air. They peered at her with some surprise when she flew over their heads and towards the door beyond. Dragon boots clanged against solid unyielding wood. She just managed to grip to the door's surface with her spiked gloves before she slipped down. Both figures thundered toward her, axes raised high. Jeannie dropped, expecting them to hack right into the ornate doors.
Inches from the wood their axes stopped. A massive hand clamped down on her arm, constricting. Teeth gritting she felt them pluck the sword from her grasp. Her feet flailed out, kicking her captor in the knee. Again and again she made contact, till the creature snorted in pain and let go of her arm. Fire streamed up from her throat into the face of the second, blinding and confusing it. She sensed that otherwise it was impervious to flames.
Just then the doors swung wide open by an unseen force. Jeannie rushed inside quickly; to face one of the silver robed figures. Silver light flared all about her, bands encircling her wrists and legs. Over her she saw the advancing figure, his hand upraised. The shimmering bands of energy snaked from his fingertips in silver streamers.
"Magic user," she muttered. A shot of fire flashed into its face, and he diverted its stream with another wave of his hand.
Jeannie reached down, forcing her muscles to contract against the magical bonds. She struggled and fought, seeing the strain creep over the face of the magician. It was taking him a great deal of concentration to hold this spell, she guessed. In one mighty burst of strength she severed the bonds about her arms and legs. Quickly she rolled to her feet, circling warily away from the magician. A few sharp words escaped his lips and she saw a blazing missile of shimmering stars hurtled toward her. Quickly she brought her hands up, sending a blast of fire into his stardust. Both met with a large burst of sparks and smoke.
The second robed figure thumbed through pages of a book. Holding it aloft he too spoke a strange series of syllables, and she felt a green energy spread from him to her. It seemed as if the strength was being drained from her body with each passing second and being siphoned into him. Snarling, she slammed a burst of fire into him, knocking him off balance when she followed up with a sharp kick to the figure just before her. He barely raised a shimmering barrier in time to block her kick. Jeannie simply grabbed the sphere of energy, mage inside, and hurled it at the second mage who was thumbing frantically through his tome.
Both figures crashed into the wall. Jeannie glanced ahead to the occupants of the room, noticing a large ornately carved table on a raised dais. Four thrones of dark ebony stood behind it, each containing a different figure. All four watched with amused detachment. They seemed to be amused when she rushed up toward them with anger in her eyes. Enough was enough.
Six gauze-gowned figures dropped their robes, and Jeannie saw the glitter of fine blades being unsheathed. Now clad in chainmail bikinis of glittering gold and silver, the serving maidens advanced from behind and before her. "Damn, this just isn't my day!" she cursed, glancing at their encroaching points of steel. They formed a ring around her, putting themselves between Jeanie and their masters. She felt the pressured of three sharp points at her back and sides. Jeanie froze, a low growl escaping her throat.
"Well fought," a voice boomed from the table. She stared into four black-and-white faces, one identical to hers. Beside him a tall slender figure fixed dark eyes into hers from behind a flash of silver. A feral Cat Man stretched lazily in his chair at the far end of the table, while beside him stirred a handsome fellow in a rich amethyst robe. His hairy chest rippled with each breath, his sensuous neck enclosed in a collar of amethyst and diamonds. She recognized the dark star over his right eye, which peered with great interest at her.
"I do not fight for your amusement," Jeannie said calmly, glaring defiantly into the eyes of the Four. "I demand to know why I am your prisoner!"
"She has a lot of spirit, Demon," the Star Bearer nodded. At the far left the Demon traced his lips with a long tongue, fixing Jeannie in his dark gaze. Appreciation twinkled n the dark eyes, and she saw the strange scales on his armor that resembled those on a dragon. All four men seemed tall and strong, far taller then the ordinary mans. Even though they were sitting down she could not help but guess their height must be well over seven feet.
"She is unrefined, but shows great promise," said the Demon.
"It's unusual for a woman…" Celestial began.
"She's chosen though. No doubt…"
"Wait a minute! What the hell are you talking about, and where the hell am I?" she demanded. "And why am I prisoner… unless this is some sort of sick test…"
"Indeed it is…" The Lion nodded.
"And you passed with flying colors," the Demon nodded.
"She is a savage," Celestial shook his head. "There is too much anger…"
"Silence," Star Bearer held up a hand. "Anger can be channeled into a productive force. I think we can work with this diamond in the rough…"
"Work with me?" Jeannie asked. "Am I to somehow serve you for some purpose? From the way you're talking, you make it sound like I'm to undergo some training…"
"Indeed. You bear the mark of the Demon, young one. As your friends bear the marks of the Elder," Demon nodded.
"Although we are surprised to see two of your number are women," Celestial added. "That is most unusual…"
"Some exclusive male chauvinist club?" Jeannie snorted. "Get with the times…"
"She's right. You know well how fierce our women are," added Star Bearer, indicating the elfish women, who still held Jeannie at swordpoint.
" Elfish women are natural fighters, with the blood of the wild," the Black Lion added. "You forget how fierce they defend us, their masters…"
"Human women though…" Celestial pointed out. "And bearing the power of the Elder… of the Rose?"
"Are an exception… unless they are released from their inhibitions," the Star Bearer added.
"No, these womyn are indeed like the old ones. Back before they were fettered into domestic duties. I am well pleased…"
"You know of my friends. Where are they now?"
"You will join them soon," Star Bearer nodded. "Each has passed their preliminary test… and can continue with our training…"
"For the great work," Celestial added, staring dispassionately at Jeannie.
"Great work? Am I in my world, or another?" Jeannie asked. "I can't stop here to play dungeons and dragons! My friends and I are on a quest of our own!"
"Wrong, Dragon Womyn," Demon said, rising from his throne. "This is very much part of your quest. If you are to succeed in saving your world, you must heed our instruction…
"What has one to do with the other?" Jeannie demanded.
"Everything, and nothing," Celestial answered.
"You are in another realm, my dear," Star Bearer answered. "Where many of your world and time have forgotten."
"Only you have the answers, but the questions you have to find," the Black Lion said.
"The truth is deep in your mind." Demon agreed. "You know you need training if you are to use these powers effectively."
"And since between your world and ours, time flows differently, an eternity can be a second of your time," Celestial answered.
"But if you are to train us… you must realize that one of our number is gone…" Jeannie whispered, anger lacing her voice.
"That is another reason why you were brought here," Celestial said.
"I can't believe it's true, and what makes me listen to you at all? Why do I doubt your words with everything that I have?"
"In every age… there are four Heroes… four champions that are chosen by Fate's design," Star Bearer said.
"To serve us, in the realms of reality where our power cannot reach," Demon added. "Whether it be your world and time, or within our realm."
"But where is here?" she asked.
"Within our realm. That's all you need know for now," the King of Beasts added.
"You must be worthy to bear our power," Celestial told her.
"And here is the place to seek, and find your destiny…"
"Loneliness will haunt your days. Can you take the Oath of the Rose… and live your days to protect the power you bear?" Demon asked.
"This is all crap… it must be…"
"You carry a great sorrow. The loss of your teammate is great…" Star Bearer shook his head.
"But the more you hurt the less you feel the pain, and the more your change, the more you stay the same," Demon whispered, stepping down from the dais to join her.
"Can you sacrifice…" Star Bearer asked.
"Can you take the oath…" Celestial asked her, joining the party that surrounded her. The blades withdrew from around her, replaced with their biting strange questions.
"And continue to live your life?" Demon demanded his face right within hers.
"I have tasted more emptiness now he is gone, then I care to stomach," Jeannie answered them dully. "My heart holds nothing but a thirst for vengeance…"
"You are so young to hold such bitterness," Star Bearer sighed, cupping her chin in his hand. She flinched under his touch.
"Will anger bring back that which you have lost?" asked Demon.
"Will balance be maintained by taking many lives?" Celestial shook his head.
"No, but the loss… it is not right!" Jeannie screamed at them, breaking away from their inquisitive stares. "Who are you to judge me?"
"We are ones that have borne the Power for centuries. But outside our realm we have no effect, save to inspire and to guide. But your teammate is not lost to you…" said Star Bearer.
"There are two among you, that can bear the power," Celestial said. "The true believers."
"The link is strong with blood, betwixt your fathers and you," the Beast King whispered, and leapt down from the dais to stand at her left.
"You think Star Bearer is lost forever to you… but he is with you all along. Just under your nose…" Celestial laughed with that annoying cackle.
"All that remains is for him to take the Oath, and the power to be shared…" Demon whispered, stroking her cheek gently.
"And if your heart is pure, and your love strong, he will be at your side…" Star Bearer cooed, lightly breathing into her ear.
"If you have the balls to take the oath," Beast king growled. "To live your life Under the Rose…"
"The answer is you, within you…" they all chorused in unison.
"You speak in stupid riddles. It's nothing but crap to me!" Jeannie roared, hands flailing as she leapt out of the circle. "Just let me go, and my friends! Let us go back to our time!"
"Jeannie! You must listen to us!" Star Bearer shouted, extending a hand to her. She rushed away, dragon boots pounding the rich carpet underfoot.
"Jeannie! Jeannie!" they cried, all voices echoing in her ears. She could not stand to be in their gaze another minute. Somehow she had to find her way out of this piece of fantasy and in it find her friends who were doubtless imprisoned elsewhere. But where would she begin to look?
"Jeannie!" came the shouts, more distant. Blackness rose around her, and she felt the floor drop from under her. The world ceased to make sense, and she could swear she was falling, tumbling down a dark well. It made no sense… no sense at all….

"Jeannie! Come back to us!" Mona urged, stroking her cheek. Slowly Jeannie blinked again, looking up into painted faces. She gasped, struggling against he hands that held her down.
"Jeannie, snap out of it!" Tyler shouted. Bold upright she sat, glancing wildly around. A fire flickered in the distance, inside a large marble hearth. Under her she felt the soft plush carpet, light flickering from candles placed all around the large living room. Marble statues framed the fireplace, and here and there were bits of stone and masonry fallen around them.
"Where… what…" she stammered, feeling Tyler's hands snaring her wrists. He leaned on her, holding her down.
"Jeannie… it's okay! You're with us… back in the future!" Tyler shouted at her. "Calm down!"
Behind her she felt someone stroking her dark hair, in an attempt to sooth her. She turned her head to gaze into a pair of brown eyes in a face framed by feathered brown hair. A bluejean vest covered his black T-shirt with the letters KISS in silver glitter across his chest.
"You okay? You're pretty freaked there…" he asked her.
"Yeah… talk about far out," the blond guy added, also in a similar ensemble. Except his t-shirt was red, with the Rock and Roll over album logo on his chest. Angles and lines fused into the recognizable features of her living room. A few broken windows were covered with boards, while others had their blinds and curtains drawn.
"We're… home?" she asked. "But Elliot…"
"We put him downstairs… in the er… er…" Mona began.
"Meat freezer… to preserve the body," Tyler added sheepishly.
"Logical," Jeannie nodded, severing the ties with her emotions for now. Her grief for Elliot would continue to wait for some private moment to be expressed. Tyler helped her to rise, and sit down on the leather plush sofa.
"I though that the house was demolished…" she asked, glancing around. Mona sat beside her, her eyes dark with equal sadness.
"I think… whatever we must have done in the past… has somehow slightly altered the damage," Mona answered her.
"I'll say… didn't you tell me this place was all busted up?" Darryl asked. He perched on the stone hearth, while Sean found a place next to Jeannie. She numbly accepted his hand closing over hers, stroking it lightly.
"So, we're here now… but what happened?" Jeannie asked.
"When we came to, you were suffering from some fever…" Tyler explained.
"You were out like a light for almost two days," Sean explained.
"Two days? I don't have time to be laying around for two days!" Jeannie snapped. Sean clenched her hand and squeezed it.
"Hey, easy! We're all here in one piece, so that's something, right? Now are we gonna go kick some mutant butt?"
"It's not that easy," Tyler shook his head. "We don't know where Leader and her thugs are hiding…"
"Wait, how do we know they were from this time at all?" Mona asked. "I mean… for us the disaster just happened. But those mutations they spoke about… wouldn't it take time for it to happen to the extent…"
"She's got a point," Sean muttered. "I mean, I remember somewhere in Biology class my teacher saying something about mutations taking hundreds of thousands of years. If these lizard people were from the future, I'd think they'd be from a lot farther in the future then now… I mean what year is it anyway?"
"At least forty years after your time," Jeannie answered cautiously. "But you may have a point, Sean…"
"Yeah… if this Leader is from the future… a time beyond our own…" Mona muttered.
"That gives her even less right to meddle with the past then we have!" Jeannie snorted. She wrenched her hand from Sean's, and stood bolt upright. Slowly she began to pace the room, passing by where Tyler seated himself next to Mona.
"Uh oh, is she gonna be okay?" Darryl asked Tyler.
"What do you think dude, her boyfriend was killed," Sean snapped back. "Jeez, you have to ask?"
"The more you hurt, the less you feel the pain," she muttered to herself. Still the images from her dream swam before her eyes, the voices of the Elder echoing in her thoughts. Surely they were a figment of her imagination, brought on by exhaustion and pain.
"Say what?" Darryl asked. Sean rose from the couch, and approached the pensive Demoness. She had stopped her pacing and leaned against he wall, resting her brow against her arm.
Tyler and Mona slowly rose from the couch, joining Sean. He extended his hand to touch her, and she flinched.
"Jeannie… something's spooked you," Sean said. "We need to know what to do! We want to help you… let us know what we should do next!"
"You are children!" she growled, turning on them all. "And I have no fucking idea what to do next! Why is it my decision to make?"
"Because… that's just the way it is?" Tyler answered her.
"You haven't failed… if that's what you're thinking, girlfriend," Mona whispered. "I saw in my flashback that one of us would die. If you want to blame someone, blame me for not telling what I saw!"
Jeannie whirled on Mona, her eyes blazing red. Bravely Mona stood her ground, placing herself in Jeannie's path. Sean tensed, ready to grab Jeannie if he had to.
"No," Jeannie growled, turning away. She strode toward the fireplace.
"It's the way it is. Elliot's gone… and there's nothing we could have done to stop it…" Tyler threw up his hands "So let's stop pointing fingers, okay ladies?"
"Hey, aren't you a time traveler?" Sean asked Mona. "Can't you like go back into the past and stop Elliot from dying?"
"Hey yeah!" Darryl chimed in.
"It's not that easy…" Mona sighed.
"Anyway, for what it's worth… I forgot to give this back to you," Sean said, reaching down and holding up the rhinestone-studded guitar in his hands. Tyler moved to take it from him, but stopped. A curious look came over the green eyes, as he wrinkled his nose.
"What's wrong?" Sean asked.
"Nothing… for a moment I could swear I smelled… nah…"
"Say what?" Darryl asked. For a moment, Sean's gaze met Tyler's, and something in them seemed familiar. He strode over to Jeanie, holding the guitar in his hands.
"Don't you guys want this back…" he asked. She turned; her armor glowing amber in the light of the flickering fire behind her.
"Elliot?" she asked, her green eyes peering into his.
"No, it's Sean…" he stammered, holding the guitar before him. Suddenly he felt a buzzing sensation in his hands. Mona felt Tyler taking her shoulders, and he guided her over to where the others stood. As they approached, a musical hum vibrated from the heart of the instrument.
"What the hell?" Sean asked. Darryl's eyebrows raised in question.
"Did you do that?" Tyler demanded.
"It just made that noise itself…" Sean gasped. Under his fingers he felt the vibration again building. A strange purple glow flooded his eyes for a moment, making him gasp. He almost dropped the guitar, before Jeannie rescued it from his slack grip.
"Sean… you're weirding me out man…" Darryl groaned. Tyler and he bracketed Sean on either side, catching him as his knees gave out.
"Right in your midst," Jeannie wondered. "The true believers… two among you that can bear the power…"
"Jeannie… are you okay?" Tyler asked.
"Wait… this is somehow familiar…" Mona whispered, grabbing Tyler's arm. "I could swear I saw this happening too…"
"Sean, Darryl, I want you to both hold this…" Jeannie said. Sean blinked, slowly recovering his strength.
"What?" Darryl asked, when she thrust the guitar into his hands. He was afraid to take it, after seeing the strange purple aura that had momentarily surrounded Sean. However, nothing happened. "Sean?" Jeannie asked, snatching the guitar away from Darryl and passing it to Sean again.
"I don't know…" he wondered.
"Jeannie… you can't mean…" Tyler shook his head.
"Let her do this…" Mona urged. "Sean, take the guitar… please…"
"But it's totally crazy," he shook his head.
"If you want to help us, you must take it…" Jeannie responded. "For you are a true believer. Both you and Darryl…"
"Aren't you members of the KISS army or not?" Mona added. "And you would do anything to help the guys in the band?"
"Anything," Sean nodded.
"Then take the guitar Sean," Jeannie said, holding it before her. When Sean extended his hands he felt a strange soothing energy surging from deep inside. As if a chord had struck deep within. Hands closed over the rhinestone-studded instrument, feeling its sympathetic vibration. A soothing note vibrated from the instrument, filling the room as it rose in volume.
"Right under our noses…" Jeannie muttered, backing away as she shook her head.
"Oh man… wild!" Sean gasped. "It's… talking to me!"
"What does it say?"
"Yes… I'll do anything… anything to help…" he said to none in particular.
Voices streamed in his mind and burned with their radiance. It seemed as if a dozen doors opened at once, spilling their mysteries over him. One thousand candles of light flared on at once in his brain, their radiance surging outwards from the surface of his quivering body.
"Do you take the Oath… will you live your life?" a voice boomed in Sean's mind.
"There is a chance, for Legends never die. When there are those that believe…" Sean found himself mouthing. Purple fire shot from his fingertips to his heart along every nerve ending, and every vein. Simultaneously the universe exploded into a supernova of violet fusion.

When Jeannie rose from the floor, she traced up two boots, sheathed in black leather. Mona and Tyler groaned, slowly picking themselves up. A hand reached down to Jeannie, and she peered into a white painted face. Brown eyes, the color of light topaz sparkled with a strange inner wisdom that she had not seen before in their owner's. Silver edged a black mask, which curved gracefully around each eye almost like a Lone Ranger.
"Jeannie… you all right?" asked a familiar voice, tinged with an astral chime. She accepted the strong hand which pulled her up to stand on shaky dragon booted feet.
"I don't know yet… is that a trick question?" she grumbled. Soft brown hair feathered around the face, its graceful cheekbones covered in soft white, red lips full and luscious, as she would dare to remember.
"Who the hell is that?" Tyler asked.
"It looks like…" Darryl groaned, shaking his head when he crawled to a kneeling position.
"Sean…" Mona completed.
"It's all right…" the newcomer answered. "It was supposed to happen this way. I know you're majorly freaked…"
"Sean, buddy, what just happened?" Darryl asked, moving over to his friend. Leather boots came slightly past his knees; silver lined tuxedo jacket covering his slender yet muscular body. His black T-shirt underneath glistened with silver bits of stardust, its sleeves covering to his wrist.
"Are you Sean or Elliot?" Mona asked.
"It's crazy… it's like I'm seeing another set of memories. I don't remember what happened… but yes…" Sean blinked, his eyes twinkling softly at each one.
"Jeannie… sweetheart…." he whispered, when his eyes fell on hers. Slowly he walked over to her, his hand extended. She backed away, a low growl in her throat.
"Just you stay over there…" she hissed.
"Whoa…" Tyler shook his head. "For a moment there I had a whiff of Elliot. But it's impossible…"
"Who are you?" Jeannie got out, flinching away as she raised her hands into defensive positions.
"Sean… I think. But something far more… don't you recognize me, sweetheart?" came the voice that sounded familiar. Holding out his hand he flipped a rose from his sleeve and tossed it toward her. She scarcely wanted to believe it was possible but…
"No… she doesn't," Mona snapped. "And neither do we. Are you Elliot…"
"Both… and neither, baby," he winked at her. Crossing over to Mona he took her hand and pressed a kiss to it lightly.
Jeannie put the rose to her face, crushing the petals to her nose. Fingers enclosed on the stem, and felt the pricking of thorns. Slowly blood dripped from her fingers. It seemed so impossible, but that twinkle in his eyes was so familiar, and yet his face and body were not.
"It was fate's design," Sean answered. "You may think that I stole Sean… as a bandit would. But we are one…"
"The Bandit." Jeannie shook her head. "Of course. Paul Stanley once tried this look. Strange that you should bear it now."
"Jeannie… you have to believe Elliot is here. He misses you, and he loves you very much…"
"I still… this is still too much," Jeannie breathed, rubbing her brow as she continued to clench the rose in her other hand. "You just… died… and now I'm expected to believe that you're here in someone else's body?"
"Believe what you like, my love," Sean whispered. "But it does not change the way he feels… I feel."
"This is all good, but what about Leader?" Jeannie demanded. "She murdered you. If you are Elliot… then you know as well as I that vengeance will be ours…"
"No…" Sean shook his head. "Not yet… there is something else we have to do
first…"
"Say what?" Darryl squeaked for the third time that night. Mona breathed, resting her hand against her chest. So much had happened in the past few minutes she was not sure she could take any more surprises. Tyler's arm snaked protectively around her waist as he held her close. Sean kept a respectful distance from Jeannie, who still clutched the rose in her hands. As if she were trying to grasp a reality that had been rudely thrust upon her.
"What could be more important then stopping Leader?" Jeannie demanded.
"Making sure that we will be born," the Bandit answered, leveling his gaze on all of them.

Chapter 3
Chapter 5
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