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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


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 the alarm?"

"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 do."

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 at her.

"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 back angrily.

"He attacked us! Archetype was just defending himself."

"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 guys?"

"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, Mister Wagner?"

"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.

"Cheap shot."

"We'll get Moria to take a look at you," Kitty assured him.

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 physical."

"All right," he shrugged. He looked pointedly at Rogue.

"I'm gonna go catch up on things with Kitty," she announced.

"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," Kitty fretted.

"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 enough."

"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."

"Excuse me?"

"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 observed.

That led into an explanation of Archetype's powers, and his theories regarding their origin. "He's an omipath?" Kitty asked.

"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."

"How so?"

"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 England."

"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 Tor."

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 to that?"

Rogue shrugged in return. "You sort of get numb after a while."

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?"

"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, Mister Wagner?"

"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."

"Suit yourself."

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 the passengers?"

Kitty and Kurt looked at one another for a moment, then shrugged. "The ocean?"

"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 level.

"Did the teleportation affect the electronic systems?" Kitty asked.

"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 it out."

"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," Rogue said.

"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 asked.

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 again.

"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."

"They're not?"

"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 last night."

"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, though."

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 shirtless.

"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 shy."

"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 things?"

"What did Rogue tell you about my abilities?"

"She said that you're in contact with the collective soul."

"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."

"It is?"

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, Miss Sinclair."

"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."

"Good night."

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 voice.

"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 doing this?"

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 with anything."

"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 for anything."

"Touchdown," Kitty announced. "Opening outside hatch. Bring your coats, everyone. It look like a storm's brewing."

"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 is worth?"

"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 than before.

"All right, we're done," he announced as they reached the summit.

"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 they?"

"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 cheating."

"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 from Meggan.

Wisdom, who was flat on his back, felt the first breath of wind. "Wonderful," he muttered as he belted up his trenchcoat.

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 level."

"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 a tree.

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 the mud.

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 again.

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 its charge.

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 ground.

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 stag's chest.

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, "look."

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 16


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