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"The Archetype Association"

The Archetype Association

Author's Notes
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20
Chapter 21
Chapter 22
Chapter 23
Chapter 24
Chapter 25
Chapter 26
Chapter 27
Chapter 28
Chapter 29
Chapter 30
Chapter 31
Chapter 32
Chapter 33
Chapter 34
Chapter 35
Chapter 36
Chapter 37
Chapter 38
Chapter 39
Chapter 40
Chapter 41
Chapter 42
Chapter 43
Chapter 44
Chapter 45
Chapter 46
Chapter 47
Chapter 48
Chapter 49


"Would somebody please stop banging on the drums?" Rogue said in a whisper.

"Those aren't drums," Archetype told her. "It's the sound of blood flowing through your ears."

"Not so loud, please. How can Wolvie stand to do this to himself?"

"Doesn't his healing factor keep him from getting that drunk?"

"Yeah," she replied. "Remind me to hit him when we get back."

"Would a gallon or so of coffee help?"

"It might."

"Follow me. There's a coffeehouse down the street where the American tourists go. We'll put a few double espressos into you. Haven't you ever had that much to drink before?"

"Not all at once. God," she moaned, "It feels like Petey used my head for a basketball."

"All right, all right, stop whining. The coffeehouse is right over there."

Two hours later, Rogue felt fortified enough to face the world again. "I think I'm going to need some sunglasses, though."

"I'm way ahead of you," he said, fishing a pair of Ray-Bans out of his jacket pocket.

"Thanks," she said, putting them on. "All right, which way do we want to go?"

"Northwest once we get out of the city."

"Okay," she said, pulling out. "Will you be squeezing distance once we get out of the city?"

He frowned. "I could, if you like, but I think you'd enjoy the scenery. Besides, it's not like we're pressed for time."

"Good point."

About an hour and a half later, they had left the city behind. Archetype reached into his travel case and pulled out a book. "If you need any help with directions, tell me," he said.

"No problem. Do you want to make any stops?"

"I don't know yet. I'll let you know."

Rogue, who was used to the interstate highway system in the United States, found the twisting roads of the Irish countryside quite challenging. "Are all the roads around here like this?" she asked.

"Mostly. They just paved over the old dirt roads. Those roads were based on horse and game trails, and a horse tends to take the path of least resistance." His face suddenly became more intent. "Stop the car," he said shortly.

Rogue was about to protest, but seeing his expression made her think better of it. She pulled over to the narrow shoulder of the road and stopped.

Archetype stepped out of the car, seemingly listening for something. He swept his gaze in all directions, then fixed his eyes on a small grove of trees about two hundred meters away. Slowly but purposefully, he made his way across the fields towards the grove, hopping over the short stone walls. Rogue watched him for a moment, then hurried after him.

He entered the grove, then looked around, his head cocked slightly. He focused his attention on a small mound of ivy situated between two enormous oak trees. He got down on his knees and started stripping the ivy away from the mound.

"Archetype... Will, what are you doing?" Rogue asked quietly, worried.

He ignored her, continuing to tear the ivy away. In a few moments, he had exposed a small, moss-covered statue, made of granite, which appeared to represent a bearded man. Its eyes were large and opened wide, and the mouth was a simple O. Archetype glanced up at Rogue. "Please don't ask any questions until we're back in the car," he requested. Rogue could only nod in response.

"How's that?" he asked, speaking to the statue. He paused a moment, nodded, then looked at a large pile of brush directly behind him. He teleported it about a meter to the right, leaving the area open, and exposing the light of the sun, which shined on the statue. "Glad to help," he said as he stood up and brushed off his pants. "We can go now," he said to Rogue as he started back to the car.

Rogue stared at him, then at the statue, then back at him, then hurried to catch up.

"Okay," she asked him as they drove off, "just what was that all about?"

"That statue was a repository... a home, if you want to call it that... for some kind of old spirit. As near as I was able to tell, that statue's been there for about twenty-five hundred years."

Rogue whistled. "That would mean that it's been here before Christianity came to Ireland, right?"

"Right. It was worshipped as a god until the sixth or seventh century, when the area was Christianized. It was so well-hidden that it was missed by the priests and wasn't destroyed. It just sat there, neglected."

"Can't it leave?"

He shook his head. "No. It's bound to the statue, and, to a lesser degree, to the land. It felt me coming, and called to me."


"How what? How did it feel me, or how did it call me?"


"Well, I seem to act as some sort of beacon for this sort of thing. Powers that have lain dormant for long periods of time tend to wake up when I come by. As for how I felt it..." He paused, as if grasping for words. "I sometimes feel a sort of pull, sort of like a compass needle, towards a specific location. When I get there, I find that there's something that requires my attention."

"Like what?"

"Sometimes it's something really simple - like what I just did. The entity that was there hadn't seen the sunlight for over four hundred years. I got images of darkness and shadow, and followed them. When I had a good idea of what it wanted, I accommodated it. It didn't do me any harm, and maybe that entity will find some way to repay me one of these days. I like to get my good will wherever I can. It'll all help me on my next turn on the Wheel."

"The Wheel?"

"The Wheel of Life. It's a Buddhist view of reincarnation which fits in pretty well with the Celtic world view."

"You believe in reincarnation?"

"Well, if you look at it in a certain light, every time I heal from a traumatic injury, like I just did, I reincarnate. Maybe I'm meant to live a series of lifetimes with a common thread linking them."

"And I guess the other X-Men and I did the same thing when we fought the Adversary," Rogue mused, "and I did when I went through the Siege Perilous. Mind if we stop for lunch? I'm getting hungry."

"Do you always think about food when discussing spiritual matters?" he asked with a slight smile.

"Mutant metabolism, remember? Are there any places to eat around here?"

"To be honest, I'm not sure." He pulled out a road atlas and leafed through it. "Take the next right. We should hit a town within a few minutes."

About fifteen minutes later, they were in the town square. "And I thought that the towns in Mississippi were small," Rogue remarked.

"Most of the Irish lived on farms for centuries. Not many people could afford to live in a town."

Within the space of five minutes, they had located the local pub, called the Black Mare. They stepped inside to find a dim, darkly paneled bar table and a few tables built into the walls. A waiter, who seemed to be in his early fifties, was polishing the glasses. "Pub don't open till two," he told them.

"Actually, sir, we're here for a meal, if you serve lunch," Archetype informed him.

"Oh, of course sir," the waiter said, hastily putting down the glass he was working on. "I'm sorry, but we just chased out a few of our breakfast drinkers. They try to come in before we're ready for them. We're ready to serve meals, though."

"Excellent," Archetype replied as he and Rogue settled down into one of the tables set into the wall. "What do you recommend for today?"

"Well, sir, our specials today are beef stew, colcannon, and baked salmon."

"Colcannon?" she asked, looking at Archetype.

"A mixture of boiled potatoes and cabbage."

"I'll have the salmon," she told the waiter quickly.

"And I'll have the stew," Archetype added. "Do you serve Coke or Pepsi?"

"We have Coke, sir."

"One pitcher of that, please."

They were eating within fifteen minutes, and Rogue was looking at the restaurant. The walls were darkly paneled, and supported a number of old photographs and framed newspaper clippings. The area above the large fireplace was devoted to horses, with pictures, award ribbons, and jockey helmets on the mantle. "How's your stew?" she asked.

"Wonderful. Care for some?"

"Sure. Want some of mine?"

"Thanks, but no. I'm not that fond of fish."

The waiter came up to their table. "How is everything?"

"Wonderful," Archetype said approvingly. "Have you made any desserts yet, or is it too early?"

"I'm afraid it's a bit early, sir."

"That's quite all right. We'll take the check, please."

"Yes, sir." He tore off the receipt. Archetype scanned it for a moment, then pulled out some large bills. "Keep the change," he said as he handed them to the waiter. "Also, I would like to speak to the chef."

The waiter was startled, but nodded his and headed back toward the kitchen.

"What's wrong?" Rogue asked quietly. "That meal was fantastic!"

He just held up one hand. "Wait and see."

A moment later, a short woman in her mid-forties came out of the kitchen. Her cheeks were red from exposure to the heat of the stove, and her eyes were flinty. "And what was wrong with my cooking?" she said in a tone which implied that she was used to criticism.

Archetype stood up. "Ma'am, I simply wanted to pay my respects to a fellow chef. Your meal was exquisite, and I compliment your skill. It has been an honor to be served by you."

Her eyes softened instantly, and she smiled slowly. "Why... thank you," she said sweetly. "Would you like to take some with you?"

"One of the rules of customer service, Rogue: if you're a good customer, you get good service."

"I'll have to remember that stunt," Rogue said as she munched on the bread that had been pushed into their hands as they left the restaurant.

Archetype looked confused for a moment. "What stunt?" Then understanding showed on his face. "Oh. You thought I was buttering her up. I don't do that unless it's necessary to attain some sort of goal. I was just being nice to someone who needed a bit of support. I've worked enough grunt jobs myself to know that words of praise are few and far between."

Rogue looked at him steadily for a moment. "You're a complicated man, Mister Riley."

"I do try."

"Will we make it to your place by tonight?"

"No. I was thinking we'd crash early tonight. We'd leave at about eight-thirty tomorrow and get there around two P.M.. That should give me some time to prepare myself for the Sidhe."

"I'd almost forgotten about that."

"Believe me, I haven't." He pulled out the atlas again, looking closely at the local area. Then he smiled. "How does spending the night in a castle appeal to you?"
"Sounds intriguing. I take it there's one on the way?"

"About six hours from here. Stop the car, I'll get the cellular out of my bag." A minute later, he was making reservations. "No problem," he said, closing the phone. "Fortunately for us, this is the off season." He put the phone back in the trunk.

"Why not just carry it?" she asked.

"With the way I affect electronics? Given the way my powers have been working overtime here, the thing would be fried in an hour."

"Good point. By the way, I've been meaning to ask you something."

"What's that?"

"I'm not complaining, mind you, but why have I been doing all the driving?"

"Because I don't know how to."

She stared at him. "You're kidding."

He shook his head. "Nope. Remember the day we met, when I told Xavier that there were some answers that I just didn't have?"


"Well, that's because my memories of life before my accident are very incomplete. I think that some things got lost in translation during my recovery."

"And knowing how to drive was one of those things?"

"Right. Why do you think I teleport everywhere?" He seemed somewhat embarrassed.

"I hadn't thought about it," she admitted. She was silent for a moment, holding her breath. "When we get back," she said quietly, almost shyly, "would you like me to teach you?"

He regarded her for a moment, then shrugged. "Why not?" he said.

"Great," she replied.

They drove for the rest of the day. Archetype would often have her pull over, and he would explain the historical or mystical significance of the landmarks they saw. At around seven, they reached the castle.

"Wow," was all Rogue could think to say. The castle stood atop a peak, and was so massive as to seem a part of the mountain itself.

"It was built just after the Norman occupation," he told her. "The Tribes tried to take it for centuries, but never succeeded. It was turned into a bed-and-breakfast about thirty years ago. I'll warn you, though: these castles get pretty chilly at night. You might want to wear flannel or something like that to bed."

She frowned. "I didn't pack anything like that," she confessed. "I usually just sleep in a T-shirt."

"Maybe you can ask for some extra blankets. We'll think of something."

Their hosts, a friendly married couple in their mid-forties, made the two of them feel right at home in minutes. While Rogue settled into her room - a huge one, with a vaulted ceiling, a steadily burning peat fire, and stained glass windows - Archetype chatted with the wife about the history of the castle.

They were in luck that night, as a local historical society held their monthly medieval feast at the castle. Rogue and Archetype were invited to participate, and she was delighted by the music and pageantry, as well as intrigued by the novelty of eating with her fingers. She was busily chatting with the person next to her when she realized that Archetype had disappeared. She looked around the table for him, then decided that he had probably gone to the bathroom.

Then she heard the music.

He was sitting with the other musicians by the grand fireplace, his dress shirt and sweater providing a contrast to the medieval garb of the others. He was playing the harp, and his fingers moved over the strings faster than she could follow. He was joining with the band in what was apparently an old folk melody. His eyes were closed in concentration - or, perhaps, in rapture.

The song ended, and he stood up with the rest of the musicians to take a bow as the applause started. He shook the hands of the other players, then returned to the table.

"I didn't know you could play the harp," she said as he sat down.

"Until five minutes ago, neither did I," he replied in a whisper.

About two hours later, they were each firmly planted in easy chairs in front of the fireplace. The medieval troupe had gone home, and their hosts had gone to bed, with Archetype's promise that he would bank the fire before retiring.

Rogue stretched out her legs, laying her feet on the footrest in front of her. "Oh, this is nice," she purred. "I could stay here all night."

"I hate to break it to you, but the fire's going to burn down in an hour or so."

"Spoilsport. Brr," she shivered. "I'm not looking forward to having to warm up that bed."

"Maybe this will help." His eyes went distant for a moment, and a large box appeared in his lap. "I got it while you were playing runway model," he said as he stood up and handed it to her.

"I was not playing runway model," she pouted, but she took the box anyway. She opened it, and gasped when she pulled out the contents. "This is an Irish fisherman's sweater, isn't it?" she asked, wide-eyed.

"Straight from the Aran Islands," he confirmed. "They're all handmade, and no two are the same."

"I know. Kitty practically worships hers. Kitty Pryde," she explained, seeing his look of confusion. "She's with Excalibur in Scotland."

"Ah. See if it fits. I had to estimate your size."

She tried it on. "Oh, it's perfect!"

"Good. Do you like the cardigan, or would you prefer a pullover? I can exchange it easily enough."

"Oh no, this is great." She lay back in the chair, curling her legs under her, and hugged herself tightly. "You know," she said, "I just realized why the Professor sent me along with you. I needed a vacation just as much as you needed time to recover."

"A vacation from being an X-Man?" he asked quietly.

"More like a vacation from life in general over the past year or so."

"Rough year, huh?"

"Don't get me started. You know, I figured it out because I'm feeling something tonight that I haven't felt in a long time."

"What's that?"


As he started to break the fire up, he was silent for a moment. "I have to admit, I'm confused. You're invulnerable, super-strong, and can escape fairly easily if things get bad. What do you have to feel safe from?"

She was quiet for quite a while. "I did some things before joining the X-Men that I've been running from for a long time. Sometimes it feels like a lot of those things are catching up with me. The past year or so has rubbed a lot of my past in my face. To be honest, I just need a break."

"Well, you'll get that on this trip, at least," he said, as he finished breaking down the fire. "Well, I'm hitting the sack. You might want to do the same. We have to get going early tomorrow."

Rogue smiled a wicked little smile, and held out her hands. "Carry me," she told him.

Archetype blinked. Twice. "Ohhh-kay," he said. "Better stick your hands inside the sleeves." He bent down, supporting her behind the knees and below her shoulder blades. She put her arms around his shoulders for added support.

As they were ascending the staircase, Rogue lay her head against his shoulder. "This is nice," she murmured.

"I'm glad you approve." He opened the door to her room after a moment's fumbling, then walked her over to her bed and set her down gently. "Does my lady require anything else?" he asked, bowing slightly.

"That will be all," she said in a haughty voice. "You may leave me now." Then she smiled gently. "Seriously, though, thanks a lot. I needed that."

"Glad to help," he said gently. "Sweet dreams."

They left at eight the next morning, after a hearty breakfast of oatmeal, poached eggs, biscuits, and hash browns. "I am gaining so much weight on this trip," Rogue fretted as she got in the car.

"Don't worry about it. You'll burn it off in a few Danger Room sessions."

"It'll take about five hours to get there, right?"

"More or less. Just take your time. As long as we get there by dusk, we'll be fine."

They drove at a moderate but steady pace, stopping only once for gas. Eventually, Rogue caught the tang of salt in the air. "We're getting close to the shore," she remarked.

He nodded. "I'd like to stop in town first. I probably have a ton of mail."

The town was a moderately sized one, which somehow managed to convey the impression of being old without giving off the air of hidebound tradition which accompanied such places. They stopped at the post office, and Archetype came out a few minutes later with a large box full of letters and packages. "I'll be spending most of my vacation catching up on all of this," he grumbled. "We'd better pick up some food. I threw everything out of the refrigerator the day I moved into the mansion."

"Right. What's the shopping like here?"

"Not too bad. I can usually find the basics."

"The basics" turned out to be two Cornish hens, milk, stuffing, potatoes, and apple cider. "Let's see now," he said, looking at the spices, "parsley... sage... rosemary... thyme... Simon... Garfunkel..."

"Now you're being silly," Rogue told him.

They brought bread and pastries at the local bakery, then set out. Archetype's house was about thirty minutes from town, and the windmill tower near it was spinning rapidly. "What's that?" Rogue asked, pointing to a small hill near the house.

"That's the mound."

"Oh." She looked at him pointedly. "Just what is going to happen tonight?"

"I don't know," he said, shrugging his shoulders. "Just remember that you promised to stay out of it."

"I know," she sighed. She stared at the front of the house as she stopped the car and got out. "What's that stuff by the door?"

"I ordered a load of peat. It gets cold here at night."

"Given that breeze, I'm not surprised," Rogue said, shivering. "Mind if I see the view from the cliff?"

"Go ahead. You might be better off if you fly. The edge is a little unstable."

She nodded and hovered over to the edge of the cliff. It was a nearly vertical drop, and the face was so sheer that the idea of climbing it was almost laughable. Rogue gave a long whistle and went back to the house. "I'm glad I'm not a sleepwalker," she confided.

They moved everything into the house, Archetype having pointed out the guest bedroom to Rogue, and then placed a protective tarp over the car. "If there's any saltwater damage when we return it, the repair bill comes out of my pocket," he explained.

"I can't argue with that logic."

A few minutes later, Archetype had opened the valves to the underground gas tank which served the kitchen. "I have to crank up the house generator," he explained as he lifted up a rug to reveal a trap door, which he opened. He descended the staircase beneath the door, and the lights came on a minute later. "Now to get started on dinner," he said when he reappeared.

"Need any help?"

He shook his head. "It won't take long. In fact..." He walked out the door again, bringing in a few of the blocks of peat. "No reason why I shouldn't warm up this place now." He set them up in a loose pile inside the fireplace, then pulled some small sticks from a box on top of the mantle, using them as kindling. He then stared at the pile for a moment, and soon it was aflame.

"How did you do that?" Rogue asked from behind him.

"There's a steel mill a few miles from here. I teleported a bit of molten steel from the smelter." He stood up. "Why don't you sit down and relax for a while? You've been driving for hours. Give your eyes a rest."

"Oh, okay, if you insist," she said in a mock pout as she sank into one of the easy chairs. She kicked off her shoes and curled her legs underneath herself, closing her eyes and feeling the warmth of the fire on her skin. A pleasant drowsiness came over her, and she curled up the collar of her sweater. "Wake me up when dinner's ready, then," she murmured as she dozed off.

A few minutes later, it seemed to her, she slowly awoke to find Archetype, who had apparently changed into a more comfortable outfit of black jeans and a white turtleneck while she was asleep, sitting cross-legged in front of the fire, and staring into it with half-lidded eyes. "Did you enjoy your nap?" he asked, not turning to look at her.

"Yeah," she said contentedly. "How long was I out?"

"Three hours or so. Dinner's in the oven. I'll eat after this is over."

"What time is it?"

"About nine-thirty." He stood up with a fluid grace that Rogue hadn't seen from him before. "I have some preparations to make before this meeting." He opened the trap door again, and started down the stairs again.

"Mind if I watch?"

He looked at her with an oddly abstracted expression for a moment. She noticed that the grey of his eyes was somewhat brighter than usual. "If you want," he said, "but I should warn you that you're going to see parts of me that you haven't before. I mean that in both a literal and a metaphysical sense."

"Now you've got me intrigued," she said as she stood up and slipped her shoes back on. She followed him down the staircase.

She quickly noticed two things: that the staircase was very long, and that he hadn't installed any lighting in the basement. "Um, you may be able to see in the dark, but I can't," she reminded him.

"Just one moment. Close your eyes." A few seconds later, she saw a faint glow through her eyelids. When she opened her eyes again, he was holding a lit lantern in his hand. "Here you go," he said, handing it to her.

"Thanks," she said, taking it. "What's involved with these preparations?"

He frowned a moment. "Before I answer that question, Rogue, I think we'd better talk." He sat down on a rock.

Suddenly, Rogue realized that she wasn't in a basement at all, but a massive cave. Stalactites and stalagmites were all around her, and she could hear the dripping of water in the darkness beyond the torchlight. "Wow," was all she found she could say. "Did you find this place?"

"Why do you think I built the house on top of it? I have to tell you a few things, Rogue, because they're going to have a bearing on what's going to happen tonight."

"Okay," she said as she sat down on another rock. "I'm listening."

He took a breath. "Before I begin, I think I should ask: what religious leanings do you have?"

She thought about it for a moment. "Well, I really can't say that I believe in any one religion. Mystique was an agnostic, as far as I know, and Destiny was more of a mystic than a religious person. I've just sort of pieced things together as I've gone along."

He nodded. "You haven't struck me as being a fundamentalist type, but I thought I should ask to be on the safe side. I, myself, am a Pagan - a Wiccan."

She blinked. "You mean you're a witch?"

He shrugged. "That's as good a name for it as any. I probably would have been burned as a witch a few hundred years ago. I follow what I believe were the beliefs of the societies which were here in Ireland before the advent of Christianity, before the Fair Folk were forced to flee into other realms. I try to keep myself in harmony with the cycles and rhythms of Mother Earth."

Rogue frowned a moment. "That sounds a lot like Ororo's belief in her Goddess."

He was startled. "Ororo serves the Goddess? I didn't know that. I'll have to have a long talk with her. In any case, what I'm going to be doing now is a way to make my bond with the earth stronger. Hopefully, it'll make things easier when I meet with the Sidhe."

She nodded. "Okay. What's involved with this?"

"The Wiccan faith believes that there are five elemental powers: Earth, Fire, Air, Water, and Spirit. My meditation earlier strengthened by bond with Fire."

"And now we're surrounded by Earth," she observed.

"Very good. Next is Water. Follow me." He took the torch back, and they walked towards the sound of the dripping that she had heard earlier. "Let me guess," she said. "Now you take a bath."

"It's a ritual purification," he said. "Here's the part where you get to see more of me."

She grinned. "You're kidding."

"Nope." They reached the source of the water, a hot spring, where a towel had been conveniently placed. "If you're embarrassed by this, you can go back. I don't need the torch."

She looked at him. "If you had a free chance to see me take a bath, would you go back to your room?"

He grinned back. "Not on your life." He stripped off his turtleneck and tossed it aside.

"Aren't you embarrassed?" she asked him.

He shrugged. "Not particularly. The nudity taboo is a predominantly Western phenomena, and there's enough influence in my head from the non-Western parts of the collective unconscious to wash out its effect. Besides, I've seen the files on your past experiences with the X-Men. Given the number of times enemies have fried your clothes off so far, all I have to do is be patient." As he said this, he stripped completely and stepped into the spring, wincing a bit as he did so. "It's a bit hotter than usual tonight," he observed.

"You've done this before?" she asked.

"Well, not under these circumstances." After a few moments, he seemed to become accustomed to the temperature. "That's a bit better," he sighed, as he let his head sink below the water for a few seconds. He climbed out a minute later, shivering and dripping, and dried himself with the towel. He glanced at her. "You're blushing, you know."

"I am not!" she protested.

"Why has the temperature of your face risen, then?" He chuckled and hung the towel over a nearby rock to dry. She noticed that his eyes reflected the light of the torch, but with a slightly greenish tint. "Now for the not so fun part," he said with a grimace.

"What's that?"

"Air." They continued through the tunnel, and she soon heard the howling of the wind outside. "We haven't reached the surface yet, have we?" she asked.

"No. The cave system has a branch that was carved out centuries ago. It goes out to the side of the cliff."

"So the breeze is coming from the ocean?"

"Yes. Here's where things get unpleasant for me." They walked a bit farther, turning a corner, and were suddenly blasted by a buffeting wind. "You go across first!" he yelled over the roar.

She nodded, and, taking a step or two back, flew across the open area in a split second, before the wind had a chance to affect her. Once she was clear of the opening, she turned around and looked at Archetype. "What about you?" she yelled.

He shrugged and walked calmly into the center of the maelstrom. Rogue's jaw dropped as she saw him brace himself against the impact of the wind, turning slowly around with his arms flung out.

A minute later, he staggered out of the tempest to join her, and leaned against the wall of the cave, panting slightly.

"Are you okay?" she asked.

"Yes. That should do it."

"What about Spirit?"

He looked at her with an amused expression. "Think about it, Rogue. My power puts me in contact with the collective soul of mankind. I am the element of Spirit for these purposes."

"That's it, then?"

"Almost. All that's left is my rebirth."

"I don't get it."

"We're in a cave, deep within the womb of Mother Earth. Leaving the cave is symbolic of the birth process." He grimaced again. "Actually, given how narrow the mouth of the cave is, it won't be too unlike the birth process."

"Won't you get scratched up?"

"Probably. There's not too much I can do about it. I'm taking the only precaution I can."

"What's that?" she asked, noticing that it was getting somewhat lighter.

"There are certain parts of my anatomy that I'd rather not get lacerated." He reached into a small recess in the side of the cave, and pulled out a small, folded bundle of cloth, which he shook out until it was about five feet long. He wrapped it around his waist and fastened it in place with a large copper pin. "Now you know what a man wears under his kilt," he told her with a wink. Then his face sobered. "Here's where you go back to the house and wait for me."

She nodded "Can I watch from the house?"

"I don't think they'd object. Move a chair over to the window. You may not hear much, though. We're quite a ways from the house. You'd better get going." He turned to an area of the cave which narrowed into a small crack, and started to enter it.

Rogue watched him for a moment, then quickly made her way back through the cave to the house. She took one of the chairs from in front of the fireplace and placed it by the window which faced the mound.

Night had fallen while she was asleep, and the stars provided the only illumination that evening. After several minutes, she saw him emerge from the earth in front of the mound. She decided that the cave led all the way to the mound.

He was scratched and bloody, and his kilt was about to fall off. He was bent over, and breathing heavily. He slowly stood up, looked down at himself, grimaced, and took the kilt off. Given the degree of the damage it had suffered in his climb out of the cave, it wasn't doing much good anyway.

Looking around the area, Rogue noticed that the mist that always seemed to settle on the ground late at night was thick enough to seem solid, and was rolling towards them from across the fields. Archetype faced the advancing mist, staring into it with eyes that were glowing once again.

Rogue realized with a start that the fog was not only getting closer, it was getting larger as well, thickening until it was as high as the roof of the house. The wall of fog flowed on, impenetrable and unstoppable. She watched it envelop Archetype, and was curiously unsurprised that it moved towards her. She held her breath and waited.

Then everything went grey.


Continued in Chapter 14


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