THE ARCHETYPE ASSOCATION
Katherine Pryde was not, by nature, a forgetful person. She
was, however, somewhat obsessive when she found a problem
that intrigued her, and Moria MacTaggart had run into a problem
with one of the gene-sequencing programs the night before.
When she had picked up the call from Rogue, she had only half-listened
to her as she rewrote some code in her mind, and had promptly
forgotten about it ten seconds after she had hung up the phone.
The alert siren, however, brought her back to reality instantly.
She slapped the intercom. "Kitty to Kurt. Who sounded
"I don't know yet. Wait a minute. Brian is outside,
in the middle of one verdammt big crater."
"Any idea why?"
"No, I... Hold it, that's Rogue!"
"Rogue?" Kitty quickly put the pieces together.
"Kurt, hold it. This isn't what..." She was cut
off by the bamf sound of Kurt's teleportation process.
She cursed and started running.
When Brian Braddock witnessed the sudden appearance of two
people on the island, he followed his usual pattern of acting
first and asking questions later. He moved at his top speed,
reasoning that the resulting shock wave would be more effective
than a direct impact.
He didn't, however, think about flying debris. Shards of
rock flew in all directions, with the net result being similar
to that of a shrapnel grenade.
Rogue, of course, was unharmed, and was simply thrown thirty
feet or so by the shock wave. She scrambled up instantly,
and leaped over to Braddock, who was arising from the crater
which he had created. "What in the hell are you doing?"
she shrieked at him.
"Rogue?" he asked, confused. "What are you
doing here? Why didn't you call ahead?"
"I did, you idiot! "Me and Archetype called
over fifteen minutes ago! Isn't that right..." Her voice
trailed off when she realized that Archetype was still sprawled
on the ground, face down. "Will!" she cried
as she rushed to his side, turning him over.
His eyes stared into space, unseeing, and the jagged wound
across his neck still held the shard of rock which had flown
into it. "Oh God..." she muttered to herself, as
she quickly removed the stone as gingerly as possible. "This
may take a while. Come on, powers, get your ass in gear..."
"Rogue," Braddock said quietly, shocked by what
he had just done, "he's gone. There's nothing we can
She whirled on him angrily, eyes flashing. "If I didn't
have to keep an eye on him, and if you weren't Betsy's brother,
I'd flatten you right now."
Archetype, meanwhile, had recovered consciousness, or was,
at least, on the way there. His eyes opened slowly, and were
highly unfocused. The first thing he saw was a blur, but he
recognized Rogue's outfit. She was standing in front of a
much larger object, which appeared to tower over her.
His reaction was instantaneous. A twist of his mind altered
local space, and Braddock was hurled a good kilometer away,
landing in the ocean.
Archetype staggered to his feet, his neck askew and his eyes
glowing. He straightened his neck, causing a series of crunching
noises within his spine as he did so. Rogue watched, fascinated,
as the wound in his neck closed. "Are you all right?"
he asked anxiously, his eyes literally alight.
"I'm fine," she assured him. Then she stared at
him, watching his hair grey and his face become more lined.
She realized that she was watching the aging which took place
when he overextended himself. "You're aging again,"
she pointed out.
"I'll recover," he said, grimacing. "I just..."
He suddenly stopped talking, whirled quickly, and swung at
the air in front of him. His fist connected with Kurt's chin,
and Kurt hit the ground, groaning. "You're sure
that these people are friends?" he asked, looking back
"I don't understand," she confessed, "I called
ahead! I don't know why they're..." She gasped as he
was hit from behind by an energy blast.
"Meggan! Wait!" She shouted. "Nobody's attacking!"
The blond shapeshifter stood above them, energy still crackling
in one hand.
"Why is Brian in the bloody ocean, then?" she snapped
"He attacked us! Archetype was just defending
"And I'm going to continue doing so," he growled
as he stood up. He glanced at Meggan, and she was teleported
to a position at ground level. "I have no desire to harm
anyone here, Ma'am, but I've been attacked three times in
the past five minutes, and it's starting to piss me off!"
Her eyes were incandescent now, and the air around him seemed
to shimmer as he tried to restrain his temper.
"Meggan, Brian really did attack us," Rogue
said calmly, trying to placate them both at once.
Meggan held her breath for a moment, then exhaled. "Why
didn't you let us know you were coming?" she asked in
a controlled voice.
"I called Kitty before we left! Didn't she tell you
"I haven't seen Kitty since last night," Meggan
replied. Then her eyes widened. "Oh, no..."
"Nobody got your message," Archetype confirmed
wryly. Then he looked over his shoulder at the rapidly advancing
forms of Rahne Sinclair and Peter Wisdom. "Would you
mind explaining the situation to those two?"
"No problem," Meggan replied. She flew over to
the approaching two and settled them down.
"Here comes Kitty," Rogue observed. "She'll
get this straightened out."
About two minutes later, after Kitty had explained the situation
to the others, Archetype cut off her apologies with a wave
of his hand. "Forget it. I'm the last person who'll voice
a complaint against someone else's memory. How's your jaw,
"Fine. You just stunned me, that's all."
"Good. That was my intention."
"How did you know where I was going to end up, anyway?"
"I felt the shift in local space-time."
"You get used to it," Rogue said, seeing Kurt's
look of confusion.
"Would anybody mind if I sat down?" Archetype asked,
doing so before anyone could answer. "I feel like I've
been in a car wreck."
"I guess you'd know," Rogue quipped.
"We'll get Moria to take a look at you," Kitty
He smiled grimly. "For all the good it'll do."
"I do not believe this," Moria MacTaggart
said as she looked upon row after row of static-filled monitors.
"Magneto doesn't affect our systems this badly. Have
things been this bad at the mansion, Rogue?"
She shook her head. "No. But the past few days have
been a little hard on him. He said it'll take him another
day or two to clear his head."
"I'll just have to give him an old-fashioned physical,
then." She tapped on the window glass and motioned Archetype
out of the scanner.
"Problem?" he asked as he entered the room.
"I can't get any readings on you. We'll just do a standard
"All right," he shrugged. He looked pointedly at
"I'm gonna go catch up on things with Kitty," she
"Do that," he said.
"All right," Moria said after Rogue had shut the
door, "strip and get on the table."
"Well, okay," he replied dubiously, "but I'm
expecting dinner and a movie after it's all over."
Moria's jaw dropped, then her face hardened. "Just for
that remark, I'm adding a prostate exam to the list."
An hour or so later, they walked into the living quarters
of the complex. "Any problems?" Rogue asked him.
"The doctor can certify that I'm perfectly healthy,
inside and out," he replied with a perfectly straight
face. "By the way, if you're planning on spending the
night, the doctor and I have agreed that it would be best
if I stayed at the house, rather than in the complex. If I'm
around the equipment too long, I could damage it permanently."
"There's a lot of sensitive material in our files,"
"The short-term effect is negligible," he assured
her. "Actually, I have to take care of something outside,
anyway. I'll go over to the other island. That should be far
"Want a lift?" Rogue asked.
"No need," he said, as he opened one of his Doors.
He walked into it, and the Door vanished.
"What's he going to do?" Kurt asked.
"I'm not sure. He's been channeling energy from all
kinds of mystical places for days now."
"How old is he?" Kitty asked.
"That seems to depend on what kind of day he's had."
"You'll have to see it to believe it. How old does he
look to you?"
Kitty thought a moment. "Well, the hair threw me for
a minute. I'd say he's in his mid-thirties."
"I checked his files. He's thirty-two. The point is
that when he's injured, he ages, then gets younger as he heals.
He's pretty sure he's immortal."
Wisdom whistled softly. "I'm glad he's on our side.
I wouldn't want to get on the bad side of a man who could
collect on an old grudge years later."
"He seems a little... distracted, though," Kurt
That led into an explanation of Archetype's powers, and his
theories regarding their origin. "He's an omipath?"
"We don't know yet. We don't think he's reached the
upper levels of his powers. The Professor and Jean have been
working with him to test his limits."
"Has Betsy been helping at all?" Braddock asked.
Rogue fidgeted uncomfortably for a moment. "To be honest,
Brian, he's been avoiding Betsy for the most part. I think
he's been trying to avoid an uncomfortable situation."
"Before he got his place in western Ireland, he lived
in Belfast. I got the feeling that his views on Irish politics
get a little extreme."
Brian's nostrils flared. "You think he might be I.R.A.?"
"No. He doesn't seem the type to join a group like that.
He may be a sympathizer, though. Don't quote me on that,"
she added hastily. "I have no proof one way or the other.
It may just be a basic dislike of the English. I kind of got
the idea when he said we were going to Cornwall instead of
"What's he planning to do there?" Kurt asked, trying
to head off an argument.
"He said that he had something to do at Glastonbury
Wisdom frowned. "The Tor? What would he have to do there?"
"I'm not sure. I'm not sure he is. He gets these
hunches pretty regularly, and he just follows them."
Rogue had decided to avoid a conversation mentioning the Sidhe.
She simply didn't know enough to explain it to them. She was,
after a few minutes, able to shift the conversation away from
Archetype, and they were soon catching up and reminiscing
about old times.
Meggan, who had been quietly reading in her chair, suddenly
snapped her head up. "What the devil was that noise?"
"What noise?" everyone asked at once.
Rogue suddenly understood. "It's him."
Meggan rushed over to the adjoining room, which faced the
island of Little Muir. She threw the curtain aside and gasped.
Archetype sat, cross-legged, at the center of the island.
Waves of energy coursed over the island, flowing over the
rocky ground and approaching him. They seemed to enter his
body from the base of his spine, and traveled upwards through
his frame, leaving through a point at the center of his forehead,
where they returned to the ground.
Wisdom looked at Rogue. "You mean you're getting used
Rogue shrugged in return. "You sort of get numb after
It turned out to be Wisdom, surprisingly, who had the explanation
for Archetype's actions. "The one saving grace that Black
Air had was that they drummed a lot of stuff about mysticism
and the occult into my head. They were willing to use anything
to get ahead in the power game. The energy that he was channeling
was leaving his body through what's called the third eye in
Eastern mysticism. If he was recharging his batteries, Rogue,
that's the way he'd probably go about it."
"I'll take your word for it. He went back to the house,
"Right," Meggan confirmed. "I'll have to talk
with him later. I've never thought of doing that."
"Doing what?" Kitty asked.
"Remember that book on electrical power you lent me?"
"The one with the historical perspective?"
"That's the one. He just became a Tesla coil."
Kitty looked dubious. "You've got to be kidding. No
one's used those in years."
"Actually, Kitty, there's been a lot of research done
into Tesla's principles over the past few years," Braddock
disagreed. "Edison smeared Tesla in America, but he wasn't
as successful in Europe." He smiled slightly. "It's
a bit ironic, in a way. The huge office buildings and research
labs that Edison inspired are lit by florescent bulbs today,
which were invented by Tesla."
"Anyway," Meggan continued, "what he did was
let the energy pass through him, through his body's energy
field, then return back to the earth. Nothing was used up,
but it recharged his body's systems as it went through him.
I guess it's sort of like how a kidney machine purifies the
blood of a diabetic. From what I saw of his body's energy
field, he's a little tired, but a lot healthier than he was
a few minutes ago."
"From what I've seen of how his powers work, he's gonna
sleep for a few hours," Rogue mused.
"Wrong answer, but thank you for playing," Archetype
said from behind her.
By now, Rogue was too used to this sort of thing to even
bother turning around. The others, however, did double takes.
"Feeling better?" she asked.
"Much, thanks," he said as he flexed his arms.
"I need to loosen up, though. Mister Wagner, might I
have a brief word with you?" He and Kurt talked quietly
for a few moments, then returned.
"We've decided to get a bit of exercise," Archetype
told the others. "A brief fencing match will take place
outside in fifteen minutes. Mister Wagner has been kind enough
to lend me one of his rapiers. Standard right-of-way rules,
"I have no problem with that," Kurt replied. "Meggan,
you should remember enough of what I've taught you to act
as a referee for the match."
"Okay," she agreed. "Do you want to change?"
she asked, looking at Archetype.
"Not a bad idea," he decided. "Be back in
a minute." He vanished, reappearing a few minutes later
wearing a white turtleneck and black jeans. "Do you use
a mask when you train, Mister Wagner?"
"Not when I'm using foil, but I'd prefer to for rapier."
"I prefer not to use a mask, if you don't mind."
They chose a suitable spot outside the complex and took their
opening stances. Kurt took an offensive position, while Archetype
chose a defensive stance. "En garde, Herr Wagner,"
Archetype said, inclining his head.
They were both fast, and soon the others had trouble keeping
track of who had the upper hand. Meggan, who was the most
experienced fencer outside of the two competitors, felt that
they were evenly matched. Kurt had an edge in experience,
but Archetype seemed to have an intuitive feel for just where
the next thrust or sweep of Kurt's blade was going to be.
After a few minutes, however, Archetype jumped back, placing
his rapier underneath his left shoulder, and holding it in
place with his arm. "Stop," he said shortly.
"What is it?" Kurt said, putting up his sword.
"We've got company coming," he replied, pointing.
The helicopters were still some distance away, but Meggan's
eyesight was good enough to pick out some details. "They've
got Black Air markings, Kurt."
"Wonderful," Kurt groaned. "I thought we dealt
with them last time. I'm sorry, Rogue, but your vacation just
ended. We'll need your help against these murderers."
"No problem," Rogue replied.
"That may not be necessary, Mister Wagner," Archetype
cut in. "What are your feelings on extreme prejudice?"
"I don't want anyone killed," Kurt said firmly.
"Understood." Archetype looked at the advancing
helicopters and furrowed his brow for a moment. They suddenly
started spinning in place, unable to maneuver.
"What did you do?" Kitty asked curiously.
"Teleported their tail rotors off. Where do you want
Kitty and Kurt looked at one another for a moment, then shrugged.
"You got it." His eyes flashed for a moment, and
they saw the splashes that the six men made as they hit the
water. "What about the choppers?"
"Can you drop them on Little Muir? We've wanted a chance
to see just how advanced the Black Air technology is."
"There you go." The choppers appeared at ground
"Did the teleportation affect the electronic systems?"
"No, but I'd better keep my distance so that I don't
fry them accidentally. I'd watch out for boobytraps, if I
were you. If these guys are as paranoid as you say, they've
probably got some major security built in."
"I can handle that," Meggan supplied. "If
the security has an electronic or chemical basis, I can cancel
"Good," Kurt said. "You and Kitty get to work
on downloading all the information those heaps have in them.
See if you can identify any armaments while you're at it.
I want to know who's supplying Black Air these days."
"I thought you'd dealt with these guys, Kurt,"
"We destroyed their main bases, but they've gone underground,
and we've had some trouble tracking them down. If we can find
out who's arming them, it'll be a big help."
"Will I be needed for anything else?" Archetype
Kurt shook his head. "I don't think so. Why don't you
two get a bite to eat? Rahne's cooking tonight."
Rogue made a face. "Can we order out?"
Dinner was actually quite good. Moria, while masquerading
as housekeeper for the X-Men, had become a proficient cook,
and had passed that knowledge along to Rahne.
"So," Kitty asked Archetype as they ate, "what
do you have to do in Glastonbury?"
"I don't know yet," he confessed. "I probably
won't know until I get there."
"Why Glastonbury?" Moria cut in. "There's
nothing there but the old monastery."
"You're not up on your history, Doctor," he replied
in a chiding tone. "The original monastery was, according
to legend, founded by a group of both Christian monks and
Druids, who were in turn instructed by Jesus himself."
"Hold it," Rahne interrupted. "The legends
say that Jesus was in Cornwall?"
"I just recite them, Miss Sinclair, I don't explain
them. The legend goes on to say that the priests and Druids
worshipped together, believing that they worshipped the same
God, only in different ways. Later, when Christianity became
hostile towards other faiths, the Druids retreated into the
mists, and entered the realm of Avalon."
"Bradley uses that theme in The Mists of Avalon,
doesn't she?" Kitty asked.
"Yes. I've studied most of the available translations
of Druidic and Arthurian lore that are out there. It's a hobby
that predates my... transformation." He stood up. "Does
anybody want help with the dishes?"
"We've got a dishwasher," Kitty supplied. "Get
some rest. You've had a busy day."
"I've got a feeling that it's not over yet," he
replied distantly, his eyes staring into space.
"Why do you say that?" Brian asked.
"Just a hunch. Good night, all." He disappeared
"Why do I get the feeling that man should come with
subtitles?" Kitty mused.
"He's a complicated guy," Rogue agreed.
"That reminds me," Moria said, "I wanted to
let you know. Those tattoos of his aren't tattoos."
"No. The pigmentation of his skin has been altered.
Those snakes on his arms are similar to birthmarks. If you
hadn't told me that they were only a few hours old, I'd think
that he'd been born with them."
Rogue shook her head. "I'm telling you, they date from
"No," Meggan said with a mysterious smile, "he
was born with them."
Rogue looked at her for a moment, confused, then yawned.
"I think I'd better hit the sack myself. I've been doing
all of the driving for the past few days, and it's starting
to catch up with me."
"We set up the spare bed for you," Meggan supplied.
"Come on. Were we able to salvage all of your things?"
"After I moved a few rocks, yeah. The suitcase died,
Rahne Sinclair had always been a night person. It often got
her into trouble - no, more trouble, she corrected
herself - with Reverend Craig, who believed that it was one
more reason to brand her as a wicked child. As she had grown
up, she had learned to appreciate her freedom, and often went
out to wander around under the moonlight when the weather
permitted. The night had proven to be clear, although it was,
as usual, quite cold.
This was, however, no problem for someone who had a built-in
fur coat. She shifted into her transitional form as she stepped
outside, and wandered along the shore of the island, listening
to the pounding of the surf against the rocks. She savored
the salt tang in the air, made even stronger by her enhanced
senses, and gazed at the lights of the town in the distance.
As she passed by the house, she caught an unfamiliar scent.
"Is that you, Mister Archetype?"
Archetype walked out of the shadows, his eyes glowing slightly.
"You can't sleep either?"
"No." She looked at him for a moment. "You
don't seem too bothered by my appearance."
He shrugged. "If I can deal with an eight-hundred pound
Cookie Monster look-alike at the mansion, I can certainly
put up with a werewolfette. You a night owl?"
"Aye. I think it might be a result of my mutation. Aren't
you cold?" she asked, noticing that he was barefoot and
"I tend to ignore weather. It's not like I'm going to
freeze to death."
"I guess not." She paused a moment. "I'm sorry
I wasn't very sociable to you earlier. I tend to be a little
"Don't worry about it. So do I. Tell me, do you know
anything about the history of this island?"
"I've spent more time here than anyone else, except
for the Lady, of course. What did you want to know?"
"Was there ever a battle here?"
Rahne frowned. "I think so. With Vikings in the tenth
century, I think."
He nodded. "That explains a few things."
"What did Rogue tell you about my abilities?"
"She said that you're in contact with the collective
"That's as good a way of putting it as any. Anyway,
if something left a psychic imprint that was strong enough,
I can feel it. See that pile of stones over there?" he
asked, pointing to a small tripod of rocks about a hundred
yards away. "That's a burial mound."
He nodded. "One of the good doctor's ancestors is buried
there. I think I'll tell her in the morning. He was a clan
chief. Of course he'd have to be, to rate a cairn. Well,"
he said, "I'd better get to bed. See you in the morning,
"Good night. Wait a minute," she said as he walked
off. "Can I ask you a question?"
"Rogue told us a little about what happened to you last
night. I'm just curious - with the way you're in contact with
all different cultures at the same time, what do you choose
when it comes to a religious faith?"
He shrugged. "It's all the same to me - literally. To
me, all religions are seeking the same thing. It's only the
methods they use and the degree to which they tolerate differences
of opinion that divide them. The primary reason that I chose
Wicca was because it fits in well with my ancestry, and because
it says that all other religions are equally valid. Besides,
it just feels right to me. Good night, Miss Sinclair."
She stood there for a while, staring at the cairn.
The next morning, Archetype walked in at about ten. "You
all set to go?" he asked Rogue.
She nodded. "Where are we going after this?"
"I don't know," he admitted. "I'm not sure
exactly what I'm going to do today. I may wind up getting
banged up again."
"Try not to get killed this time."
"Oh, all right," he said in a petulant, childish
"Mind if we come along?" Kitty asked "I have
to admit, I'm curious."
"Fine with me," he shrugged. "Be prepared
to walk, though. Do you know anything about the Tor?"
"Not much," Kitty admitted. "It's at the top
of a hill, right?"
"Right. A path has been carved into the hill that winds
back and forth, up and down. You approach the top nine times,
then go back down nine times, then back up nine times, then
finally reach the top."
"What's at the top?"
"That depends on where you are at the time," he
replied with a mysterious smile.
"That one flew right by me," Kurt confessed.
"Ask Rogue about my lecture on levels of meaning,"
Archetype advised. "Shall we go?"
The Midnight Runner flew over the Cornish countryside at
Mach One, its visual and radar cloaks keeping it invisible
to the rest of the world.
"Look, Braddock, all I can tell you is that it's necessary
for you to be there," Archetype said in an irritated
voice. "I don't know exactly why."
"You're the one with the lock on cosmic meaning,"
Brian countered. "Don't you have any clue as to why you're
Archetype started to speak, then stopped himself, and breathed
sharply. "What do you know about Arthurian legend?"
"Not much," Brian admitted. "I was more into
science than literature when I grew up."
"The Tor, according to some versions of the legend,
is Avalon. That, theoretically, was the final resting place
for Arthur. Whether or not it's factually true, it's probably
true in the collective psyche, which makes it a place that
has a lot of untapped power. I'm going to try and channel
some of that psychic energy, the same way I did at Muir."
He frowned. "Something else is going to happen, though."
"What's that?" Meggan asked.
"I have no idea. That's one of the reasons you're all
coming along. I tend to run with dangerous forces. If it turns
out to be something that I can't handle, then you're my backup.
Hopefully, you can put whatever I let out back into its box."
"We're the damage control, then," Wisdom remarked.
"Essentially. I doubt if you'll be directly involved
"Approaching Glastonbury," Kitty announced. "Where
should we land, Kurt?"
"Just pick a good spot within walking distance."
He looked at Archetype. "Any suggestions from your end
would be welcome."
Archetype scratched his chin for a moment. "Mister Braddock:
stay close to me. It may be possible that I'll become violent
for a few moments. Miss Meggan, monitor me if you can. You
might be able to predict my next move."
"That'd be a first," muttered Rogue.
"Be nice," Archetype said. "Just be prepared
"Touchdown," Kitty announced. "Opening outside
hatch. Bring your coats, everyone. It look like a storm's
"In more ways than one," Archetype replied.
They stepped out into a veil of mist. The sun had not yet
been up long enough to burn off the fog which had risen from
the nearby lake during the night. Rogue, who had not packed
her uniform for the trip, slipped on her sweater. Kitty looked
at her, raised one eyebrow, and followed. "Where did
you get that sweater?" she asked in a low whisper.
Fog seems to encourage whispering, because the speaker has
no real way of knowing if someone is nearby. "He gave
it to me," Rogue whispered back.
"Gave? Do have any idea how much that sweater
"Nope. What is it? Seventy, eighty bucks?"
"Try about three hundred."
Rogue gaped at her for a moment. "You're kidding."
Kitty shook her head. "What is he, rich?"
"You wouldn't believe it. Any idea where we're going?"
She had noticed that they were taking a rather meandering
route, but she mostly wanted to deflect Kitty's attention
from the fact that her mouth was still hanging open. She looked
at her sweater, and swallowed.
An hour later, she swallowed again, this time from thirst.
They had been walking ever since they had stepped off the
plane, and had traveled up and down the hill so many times
that she had lost count.
One of the disadvantages of being able to fly, Rogue reflected,
was that you lost perspective as to how much of a pain in
the butt it was to walk everywhere. Her feet ached, and the
rising sun had not only burned off the mist, but had raised
the temperature enough to make her sweater a hindrance. She
shrugged it off, tying the sleeves around her waist.
"Is it much farther, Papa Smurf?" Wisdom panted.
"We're nearly there." Rogue had noticed, with some
resentment, that neither he nor Meggan had shown any sign
of tiring. They both, in fact, seemed even more energetic
"All right, we're done," he announced as they reached
"Excalibur," Kurt said in a weak voice, "at
ease!" They all, with the exception of Meggan and Archetype,
dropped to the ground.
Archetype looked at Meggan. "Sorry looking bunch, aren't
"Kurt," Kitty muttered, "remind me to kill
him after I've taken my nap."
"You have time for one," Archetype informed her.
"Nothing's going to happen for about a half-hour or so."
"What happens then?"
"I don't want to spoil the surprise. Now if you'll excuse
me, I have preparations to make." He removed the blue
denim shirt that he had worn, revealing his tattoos, then
took off his shoes and socks, tossing them a few feet away.
"I can understand why you stay barefoot, Miss Meggan.
If there was this much concentrated power around me, I'd stay
in contact with it as much as possible."
"It's not just that," Meggan confessed. "I
was barefoot until I was in my teens, so my foot bones were
never molded into the shape would make shoes comfortable."
"Is that why you two are disgustingly chipper?"
Braddock groaned. "You've been drawing power from the
ambient magical energy?"
"'Fraid so, luv," Meggan said with a smirk. "I'm
"I've been doing it for a reason, at least," Archetype
said. "Now please be quiet, all of you. This is going
to require some concentration." He closed his eyes, raising
his hands, palms up, to waist level, and slowly turned around
clockwise in a full circle. His eyes, when he opened them
again, were glowing.
His gaze wandered over the area, and seemed to go in all
directions, without rhyme or reason. He wandered aimlessly
for a few seconds, then looked at an spot in front of him
for a moment, his face twisted in a grimace of confusion.
"Okay," he said, "now what?"
Then his face brightened. "Of course." He took
one step forward, and stood on empty air.
Kitty's jaw dropped. "You didn't tell me he could fly,"
she whispered to Rogue.
"He's not," she whispered back. "I'll explain
later." They were both quelled into silence by a glare
Wisdom, who was flat on his back, felt the first breath of
wind. "Wonderful," he muttered as he belted up his
As Archetype continued to walk above them, weaving a twisting,
sinuous path in the air, they all felt the air become charged,
as if a lightning bolt were about to strike. They did, in
fact, hear the rumble of distant thunder, which grew louder
by the moment.
"I don't want any of you getting hurt," he told
them. "This should prevent that." There was a strange
timbre to his voice which was almost an echo.
He waved his hand, and everything seemed to darken suddenly,
day becoming twilight.
"Meggan," Braddock hissed urgently, "what
the hell is happening?"
"He put us someplace where we can watch him without
being in danger." Meggan said simply, as they watched
Archetype step back onto solid ground. "We're on another
"Levels of meaning," Rogue whispered to herself.
"That's what he was talking about!"
The rumble grew louder, and they realized that it was coming
from one direction. They all looked at the darkened hillside,
and saw the flickering shadows of movement.
The herd of deer leaped over the hill in a blur, sprinting
across the plateau straight towards Archetype. They bore down
on him, fully intent on trampling him to get across the stretch
of open land, back into the shelter of trees.
He simply raised his right hand, palm up, and the herd split
in two and flowed around him as if he were as immobile as
Strangely, they did not continue across to the other slope
of the hill, but spread out along the top of the hill, making
a rough circle. Rahne gasped as one ran right through her.
They all felt, rather than heard, the approach of the stag.
Braddock, who had been taken, unwillingly, on the hunting
trips of his father's friends as a boy, was convinced that
it was the largest buck that he had ever - no, that anyone
had ever seen. Its antlers had nine points, and it bore the
scars of countless fights proudly. "That thing must be
ancient," he whispered.
"You have no idea," Meggan replied.
The other deer lowed their heads in submission to the ancient
beast, who looked at them steadily, then fixed his gaze on
Archetype, who just looked at him steadily. He stood in a
crouch, as if he were about to bolt.
"That thing's going to attack him!" Kitty gasped.
"Anybody remember what his last words were, just in
case anyone asks later?" Wisdom asked.
Archetype nodded his head slightly to the stag. It was the
sort of gesture of respect that one gave to an equal, rather
than as the answer to a question.
The stag, unbelievably, nodded in return. He and Archetype
circled one another warily, and then he charged.
Rogue wanted to shut her eyes, but found that she couldn't.
She therefore saw the impossible leap that Archetype made,
a full ten feet, right over the deadly advance of the stag.
He landed on his feet, and turned to face the stag as it recovered
from its charge.
The stag turned around quickly, and came back for another
charge. This time Archetype sidestepped the strike, moving
too quickly for the stag to adjust its point of aim.
This continued for a long time. Archetype would leap over
or sidestep the charges of the stag. They appeared evenly
matched, but Rogue could see that Archetype was beginning
to tire. His face was becoming more lined, and his hair was
greying rapidly. "He can't take much more of this,"
she whispered. "He has to change his strategy."
As Archetype rolled through the now muddy ground yet again,
he seemed to come to the same conclusion. He looked around
frantically, as if searching for something that he couldn't
find. His attention distracted, he provided an opportunity
for the stag to slash his back with his antlers.
Rogue gasped as Archetype arched his back in pain, staggering
blindly for a moment. He stumbled, and landed face first in
As he rose slowly, he stared at the ground dumbly for a moment.
Rogue saw his attention wander moving from the mud at his
feet to his hands, then finally to the tattoos, barely visible
through the mud, which adorned his arms. She saw the flash
of realization in his eyes, although realization of just what,
she had no idea.
"He's got an idea," she whispered.
Archetype took a deep breath and put his right hand on the
ground. They all saw the dragons flow off his arm, slither
across the grass, and burrow into the earth.
He stood up, eyes defiant, and faced the stag again. He raised
his left arm, palm outward, and the dragons on that arm started
to writhe and hiss. They all heard the whisper of scales grinding
against one another.
The stag backed up, uncertain for a moment, then charged
Archetype narrowed his eyes for a moment, and one of the
dragon heads rose up off his arm, opened its mouth, and shot
a jet of flame at the stag, which reared up and broke off
Archetype continued to counter the attacks of the stag with
jets of flame, but did not press his advantage. "What's
he doing?" Kitty whispered. "He could char broil
that thing in an instant."
"I don't think he's supposed to," Rogue whispered
back. "Something else is going to happen."
A few minutes later, they saw the ground behind Archetype
start to buckle and churn. The dragons from his right arm
wriggled out of the turf, dragging a black, pitted thing along
with them. They made their way to Archetype, who held his
arm out to them, beckoning them to come back. He crouched
slightly, putting his bare arm closer to the ground. The stag,
panicking, tried to attack, but the flame roaring in front
of him terrified him too much.
The dragons crawled back up Archetype's arms, and the end
of the black object fell into his hand. As his hand wrapped
around it, the dragons reared up again, and wreathed the object
in flame. The object started to glow, and the black started
to melt and fall away, revealing the sword beneath, a bright
blade which looked like it had been forged yesterday.
The stag was nearly hysterical now, and was desperately trying
to find an opening to attack. He backed up and charged again,
but Archetype's dragons shot from his left arm, stretched
out, and wrapped themselves around its antlers. Archetype
braced himself, pulled sharply, and the stag crashed to the
The stag stood up, enraged, then backed up for another charge.
Archetype looked at him sadly, sighed, and took a defensive
stance with his sword.
The stag stomped the ground for a moment, then charged. Archetype
stood stock still for a long moment, then dropped to one knee,
and struck. The dragons leapt out, hurling the stag a few
feet high, placing the deadly antlers out of harm's way. Archetype
then braced himself, and thrust the sword directly into the
Rogue had never heard a deer scream before. The sound was
chilling. The stag was impaled on the sword, its blood pouring
down the blade. An impossibly large amount of blood gushed
from the wound, covering Archetype completely, flowing over
the ground. The flow became a torrent, and the ground became
a lake, which Rogue and the others seemed to float harmlessly
above. Archetype and the stag seemed to sink into the lake
of blood, disappearing into its depths. As they did so, they
seemed to melt together, merging into one being, which sank
into the crimson sea.
"Where is he?" Rogue asked, panicking. "Meggan,
tell me where he is!"
"I have no idea," Meggan said as calmly as if she
had been asked a bit of trivia.
"Rogue," Kurt said, taking her shoulder and pointing,
The sword, point first, slowly rose from the surface of the
pool of blood, which was rapidly receding. Archetype, eyes
glowing, inexplicably, spotlessly clean, stood in the center
of the plateau, holding the sword aloft, the dragons writhing
along his forearms once again. He waved the sword absently,
and the light returned to normal.
They all stared at one another for a moment, then at Archetype.
"Is it over?" Rahne asked timidly.
He nodded, then walked away.
Rogue started to follow him, but Meggan's hand on her arm
stopped her. "He's going to need at least a few minutes
alone, Rogue. He has to come back to earth."
Rogue looked at her for a moment, then nodded. "Was
any of that real?"
Meggan didn't say anything, but pointed at Archetype's back,
and the bloody scar that ran all the way down it.
Continued in Chapter
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