ByChase Ricks, writer at Creators.co
Rper before gamer always. Fantasy writer before fictional. Moviepilot University Graduate and Alumni. Author interviewer.
Chase Ricks

The Return of Ice Ray Academy

This is a continuation of the events in "The War: Battlegrounds" "The War: End of SHC" "Path to Power" "Path to Power 2" and cowritten stories. Enjoy. Guest starring upon request Acidburn and any others who wish to make cameo or major appearances.

Jenna Firemage had been long in stasis. She had no idea how long it had been since she and the others had been sucked through the wormhole into another dimension and away from Superhero City following the defeat of Zerocurew the Dracolich, and Lloth the Spiderqueen of the Drow. Her memories seemed currently to dwell on her friend's Krystal, Alex, Pink, and Jormurgandr. "I wonder how they are faring?" she thought to herself as it seemed that she kept floating forever in eternity. "If there was any way possible I could rejoin them,I would do so eagerly, for there can be no worse fate then to be trapped in the abyss of space forever." Without even realizing it, Jenna began to dream and the first thing she seemed to see was Krystal saying "Jenna you are going to be freed soon..."

Not too far away, Weaponsmaster Jayariel Drillowup also was contemplating his long life. "If this was not a layer of The Abyss," he thought silently, "then where else am I consigned to live out these last days of my life. I remember that Jenna and I fought together after I was tricked by that cursed dracolich - may he forever be scattered in a black hole! She is a goodly being despite her dark past and so is her brother who was once called Chad Rockwell."

Krystal had taken a few days off from Burning Daylight Labs. She had some amends to make in both the 'real' world and in Faerie. As she was sleeping that evening after helping rebuild a portion of the Munchkin City in the Oz section of Fae-re, she saw a most unexpected but welcome sight. Her friend Jenna appeared to be dreaming of her. If only she could get her attention.

"Jenna. Jenna, my dear. Won't you speak with me please?" "Krystal, you can't be real. No you aren't really here but must be an illusion caused by wherever I am," Jenna whispered. "Well, I'm not there where you are, no but I now have access to the dream-realm, and you seem to be dreaming. Are you ok? Where did you end up? Is there any way I can help you?" she asked. Jenna knew she must be dreaming now because she could see Krystal nearby. "I don't know what I can tell you that will be of much help but I'll try," she said.

"There are three suns that I can see clearly with my open eyes in a triangular formation. The land, if it can be called such, resembles more a wasteland then anything I have ever encountered in my many travels but yet it is not as corrupt as Super Villain City. Be careful my friend, for I sense a great power in this location, but for good or evil I know not which." "There must be a way here to track what realm a dream is coming from perhaps Leo will know.Meantime, you stay safe and I'll contact you again as I am able," I said. "Perhaps, if I can find the realm where you now reside, we can arrange somehow to save you and bring you back home. All I can promise is that we can try, now that I know you survived." Upon awakening, Krystal hurried back to the castle to contact Leo.

Jenna awakened. There was no real way to tell how long her astral reunion with Krystal had lasted but she was determined to do whatever was necessary to return to SHC. Slowly stretching, Jenna spotted Jayariel lying unconscious nearby. She cautiously woke him up, having gained new respect for his fighting skills. Slowly she realized that most of her friends from before the SHC universe were trapped here as well, with his help they began to search for them.

After many hours, or so it seemed, Jenna and Jayariel had managed to find and awaken the following individuals: Headmaster James StarRunner, Headmistress Bobby Starrunner, the healers Orim and Rhys Thuryn, and a small scattering of the rest of the Ice Ray Academy teachers and students. There was little time to relax however as she began the long process of trying to explain the events that had occurred as she recalled them that had caused them to be transported via the wormhole to this unknown plane.

Meanwhile back in the Realm of Fae-re at the castle of her ancestor King Oberon. "Why, yes there is a spell that you can cast while speaking to a dreamer, that will make visible to you their 'astral cord.' But what most people don't realize about dreaming is that it is a form of Astral Travel, as they bypass the gate so quickly as such is the case, with this spell you can track their 'cord' connection to the gateway their astral form entered Fae-re through," Leo, ever the teacher, lectured Krystal. "So then I could possibly enter that realm and save my friend?" she asked anxiously. "Possibly, but remember that to enter Fae-re physically they must be brought through that realms gate and to go to any other realm save the one they entered by, you will need to present them to King Oberon and pray he grants them a dispensation for such travel. It may also be a good idea to have facilities set up in the material/ physical world to receive them, and here in Fae-re, in case a dispensation is delayed or not granted at all. They must also, while in Fae-re physically, be accompanied by a fae or fae-re-keen," replied Leo.

Meanwhile Jenna had finished updating her friends and fellow students on what had happened since the school had arrived from SHC in its current location. "Jenna this is a very tough thing we are undergoing," Headmaster James StarRunner said to her. "If your friend Krystal makes one mistake while having the realm of Faerie help her to free us, there is no telling what might befall those here. I suggest that we create resistance wards to help guard us against physical and magical attacks of unknown origin, so that we can be prepared for whatever happens." Orim and Rhys Thuryn took the time to help heal any who had not fully recovered while noting their own observations. They soon discovered that those who practiced innate magic healed faster then those who used practical or arcane magic. This was a startling development because it meant this plane was more suited to natural then chaotic magic.

After 'sending' instructions to Alex to prepare for Jenna's return, Krystal settled in at her campsite outside of Oz to wait for Jenna to contact her again via the dream-state. With the spell Leo taught her firmly in mind, she only had to wait for her to contact her, pronounce the spell and then follow her cord to find the gate. As she waited through the dark hours of the evening, Acidburn (Krystal) remembered the times they had spent together in the soup-kitchen, just Jenna, Mrs Jennings and her.

As dawn approached, Jenna came to her once again, and Krystal quickly pronounced the spell. As her 'astral cord' became visible, asked that she follow me to the gate. I quickly packed my supplies and tent and headed to a portion of Faere that did not appear on the map of Leo's that I had memorized. It took less than 45 minutes to reach an obvious gate and Jenna's cord disappeared into it. Noting the location, I bade Jenna good waking and assured her I'd be able to follow her through this gate once my preparations were complete. Soon, Jenna very soon I promise.

Jenna was feeling uneasy as she awaited Krystal's appearance. There seemed to be an ominous sentient presence in the air itself seemingly surrounding her and the other survivors. It had taken a while to figure out that they had all awakened on Dominaria, the center of the Multiverse according to planeswalker lore. Why they had been brought there, Jenna was uncertain, yet she had the strangest feeling that magic was responsible.

Legends spoke of a false goddess of magic named Karona who had corrupted the mana channels throughout the multiverse when she had appeared millennium ago on Dominaria. Similar legends also spoke of another goddess of magic named Mystra in another dimension called commonly "Forgotten Realms," in the imaginations of fandom of fantasy readers devoted to these stories, whose make-up was pure magic and who fought against evil as the mirror opposite of Karona, who had tried to control all magical powers during her chaotic reign.

From what ancient scholars at Ice Ray Academy had been able to determine through long time research and studying, Mystra and Karona were actually facets of the same magical being who long ago had been pure of heart until she was corrupted by evil and her personalities split into separate pieces. After so very long time apart this is why, they theorized, chaotic evil magic and pure natural magic were unable to fully coexist without causing major catastrophes and disasters. Dominaria had been the site of several huge such disasters in the eternity since its creation. Soon though, Jenna thought, they would all be back in SHC. She had no idea that there was more to this dimension then what it appeared.

"Oh yes. That gate leads to Dominaria; we know little about conditions there now but at one time it was a dimension rich in magic, but was mostly devastated by battle between two goddesses who were the Magic of that realm. For all we know that battle still rages," Leo told Krystal upon using his research and knowledge to discover the plane that had been described by Jenna. "Are you sure that your friend ended up there?" asked Queen Titania. "That's the gate that her 'cord' entered when I used Leo's spell," Krystal answered politely. "As far as we are aware, that is the only gate into Dominaria that we can access, as travel there is deemed unsafe for the foreseeable future," Leo said a little nervously. "Well have a care, have a plan and for the sake of your sanity, if not your life, keep a low profile there. Use magic as little as possible, and hurry back", said the queen.

Unknown to Jenna and her comrades, they had been under surveillance for a very long time by one of the ancient guardians of the gateway into Dominaria. This guardian was a sentient form of an ancient treefolk who had been given extra powers by the ancient planeswalker Freyalise. Treefolk themselves are not easily killed, except via fire or decay or being chopped limb from limb, but this one alone was special. The reason no one was aware that it was not an ordinary tree was because like the Ents, this being would only choose to make its presence known to others if it deemed them a threat, otherwise it kept it's magical powers in a form of hibernation. But after a very long while, this one "awoke." It sensed the approach of strange magics and as was its duty, it activated long dormant magics which created a green shield of trees and bushes around the gateway. To Jenna and the others, it would be like falling asleep in a desert and waking up in a dark forest.

"Alex, you didn't need to come. I think I can handle a little search and rescue mission on my own. Are you sure all the arrangements are made in SHC?" Acidburn jabbered at Murphy to hide her nervousness. She had decided that she would enter the gate in the form of a talking raven. Since the magic of transformation would take place on this side of the gate, there would be no flare of magic-use sent out other than the opening of the gate itself. As well she would be able to cover much ground quickly in a flying form and could speak if she quickly found Jenna, to direct her to the gate. Since her vault was now available, she placed any item that she could foresee a use for in there to be accessed later. This was as far ahead as she could reasonably plan, given the dearth of information available. Speaking the word of opening, transforming and flying through the gate was the work of but a moment. Then she was in a different, darker, more dangerous world.

When the gate opened up on the Dominaria side, Jenna and her friends quickly noticed that the feeling of a presence suddenly grew in power. Immediately the magic users among them cast their prepared wards, not knowing how else to fight back against the powerful influx of pure nature magic that suddenly coalesced into place around the raven that suddenly appeared. Jenna instantly knew it was Krystal, but how had she learned transformation of that type? It was a question she would have to ask her later. Unfortunately, the guardian-tree sensed the magical traces around the raven and at the same instant, it attacked. As the wards flashed into place, what happened next was not what anyone could have imagined.

As Krystal exited in the dimension of Dominaria, she somehow 'felt' an increased resistance to her presence in this place and this brought all her senses to a high-alert level. She noticed a cloud of spores drifting in her direction, odd since this 'drift' was against the prevailing wind. Next she noticed that a cloud of gnats was in the path of this cloud, so she observed carefully. As the gnats intersected the cloud, they immediately fell to the ground. Immediately avoiding the cloud took all her new-found skill (as winged flight differs greatly from my usual flight mode.) Thus, she almost didn't notice that the tree, that she momentarily lighted upon, immediately attacked with thorny branches reaching to pierce her now feathered hide! Fleeing that perch she was almost completely blindsided by a swirl of razor-edged leaves which she managed to avoid only by dropping to inches from the ground, flitting between the bases of the trees of this grove. Eventually she spotted Jenna and as she attempted to fly to her side, flew directly into an unseen wall, stunning herself momentarily.

Jenna was almost stunned as she saw the treefolk attacking Krystal in her bird form. She knew her friend badly needed her help, and throwing caution to the wind, she began casting a complex spell that covered Krystal's form in a basic fireshield. This meant that any damage dealt to her was also dealt back to her attacker. However, as soon as Jenna cast the spell, suddenly she felt as through all her magic had been drained away and she almost collapsed to the ground in weak surprise. The others realized immediately that whatever force had attacked Jenna was not the guardian but something or someone much more powerful in ability.

Meanwhile Krystal lay on the ground in her feathered form as she saw Jenna sink to the ground as if poleaxed. Krystal then forced herself to her feet and by dint of pressing herself against the 'wall' I had run into, obviously a ward of some kind, and knowing she had only moments before some further attack was imminent. She found a short-range teleportation ability to be very badly needed and as her own magic was an extension of her will, found herself in her human form within the wards. Having never teleported before, she quickly became violently nauseous and dropped to her knees, emptying her breakfast onto the ground near Jenna's side. As the wards held off a second attack of the swirling leaves, she had a few moments in which to recover from her narrow escape.

Jayariel noticed the strange human female landing near Jenna. Though he didn't know her name yet, he recognized her from stories he had heard as one of the non alumni friends of the Academy. Thinking quickly, Jayariel unsheathed his scimitars and came to the stranger's defense by grabbing the guardian-tree's attention for a few moments. It was the least he could do to repay Jenna for the goodness her family and school had shown him.

As soon as Krystal had had a moment to catch her breath, she quickly checked on Jenna. Other than being unconscious, she seemed otherwise undamaged. The only persons she recognized of the group now surrounding Jenna and her were the healers Jenna had brought to her apartment that time when Jormy had fallen ill. As they bent to examine Jenna, Krystal quickly explained that the gate was actually quite close, but obviously it would be difficult to reach it with Jenna in the state she was in currently. "I had no idea that this many of you were here. Will we be trying to move all of us, or should I somehow get Jenna there alone?"

As they listened to Krystal's short explanation while examining Jenna, Orim could understand immediately why she seemed confused. "Did not the Lady Jenna tell until you while in the realm of dream that there were more then her here?" she asked gently. "It is only because at first she was simply unaware of the rest of us being here that you were not informed." Rhys kept silent, unsure what he should say that would not sound embarrassing. He could easily sense that Krystal was even more powerful now then she had been upon their previous encounter when he and Orim had been called upon to assist her in healing the great serpent man "Jormungandr."

"Will Jenna be okay, or is this something that she will be unlikely to recover from? Is there any way I can help? I know I'm acting like such a novice, but that's what I am when it comes to these magical things... All I know is a few spells, plus the abilities that I've been taught since I discovered my nature as a Fae-re-keen.Oh, I wish I had planned this better. have access to some scientific medical supplies if that would help.What should we do next?. Sorry, if I seem not to be handling this very well," Krystal said, somewhat babbling in as many breaths.

"Do not worry, for Jenna will recover soon," Orim told Krystal as she saw how distressed she looked. "When nature and chaos magics collide, Jenna's Bloodcurse in the past would usually activate. This, I have learned from those here who have borne witness to similar occurrences in her childhood. However here in Dominaria, what has happened is that for a time she is unable to use any type of magical or innate abilities until her mind and body recovers from the shock of having her powers dampened by an unknown force. Until then, Jenna is just a normal human being." Rhys finished his examination and said, "She will recover fully but above all needs a lot of rest. Unless she can conquer her bloodcurse, you can expect this to happen often when she is back in SHC because of many of the different types of magic users that populate that world. Until then, however, Jenna will not be fit to fight by herself in any type of magical combat but should train herself in the physical martial arts instead."

As Krystal calmed herself to the point where she could begin to think clearly, she realized that she needed to send a telepathic message back into Fae-re so that Murph, who she knew would be trying to follow and soon if she didn't communicate back soon. S asked the others to give me a moment, and messaged him telepathically a situation report. "MURPH, I KNOW YOU CAN HEAR THIS. IT'S NOT JUST JENNA, THE WHOLE SCHOOL ENDED UP HERE. GO TO TITANIA AND GET HER ADVICE ON HOW TO HANDLE THIS. IF AND WHEN I CAN GET THIS CREW THROUGH THE GATE, I'LL CONTACT YOU. DON'T WORRY."

Jayariel, in the midst of fighting back the treefolk's massive attacks, still was able to pick up most of the conversation with his keen hearing. "So this female has the same type of basic medical training that Corrine has," he thought to himself in mild surprise, remembering that his somewhat human girlfriend also had a penchant for not using magic to heal wounds but used what seemed to be bandages and medicines and electronic devices. He didn't have much more time to ponder as he moved to counter attack, speeding his movements so that it seemed he was more a blur of motion, his scimitars flashing all over the place as he slowly worked on cutting off the treefolk's limbs and roots.

After sending her message, Krystal took a moment to analyse the pattern of his melee slashing attacks.They seemed to focus on a tree-creature a few hundred feet away. Casting several glamours at once of beasts attacking that tree from many directions allowed her a moment to slip through the wards and come to the aid of the dark warrior. Fighting side-by-side, the two retreated until both of them could slip to safety behind the wards again.while remaining on watch for other attacks, she hastily introduced myself to the small group and explained why she had come. Meanwhile Jenna was trying by this time to shakily sit up, though she was obviously in no condition to fight. So Krystal requested of the group that they discuss among themselves the best way to get everyone and everything needful to the gate, and explained how items that they desperately wanted to keep, but wouldn't need for the trip could be handled by her for safe-keeping until everyone was safely out of this place.

Facing the dark warrior, she introduced herself. "Krystal," she said, "sometimes known as Acidburn." He replied, "Jayariel, but you can call me Jay, if it's easier for you, human." She surprised him by speaking the next sentence in Old High Drow, which she had heard him muttering to himself in as he fought. "Well met warrior, let us remain vigilant whilst those with spellcraft plan our next step."

As she slowly came back to her senses, Jenna could sense something was dreadfully wrong. Normally she would not have been knocked out, but would have had her bloodcurse react and cause almost anything to happen. But this was different. She was unable to sense any of her inner magic and couldn't even remember the simplest of spells. For the first time in many months, Jenna was suddenly very afraid.

Jayariel and the other students and teachers meanwhile were giving Krystal some quick hands on learning in spells and cantrips to combat treefolk. "If a treefolk has set its roots in place long enough, it becomes virtually immobile below ground but its upper body will be toughened by long exposure to the elements," Headmistress Bobby StarRunner told her, while Corrine and James were slowly casting temporary spells to burn the leaves away while trying very hard not to cause too much pain to the guardian. "But once it loses the stability that keeps it anchored it becomes a lot easier to distract and confuse it. However you must never forget that all treefolk are sentient and that they are very intelligent."

Meanwhile, back in Fae-re, Alex had taken Krystal's message to Queen Titania. As she and Leo discussed the best way to assist Krystal, Alex paced and worried. "I know Krys can handle herself in a normal fighting situation, but she's new to all this magic stuff, and since I have no training in it myself, I am at a loss as to how to help her," he thought. Finally, it occurred to him to send a message to Power Bottom, Krys's Turbo teammate, and ask him to complete the arrangements for the return of those of Ice Ray Academy students and faculty. He, of course, could have done that himself, but he wanted to stay in Fae-re in case a rescue mission was needed. This done, he began once more to worry and pace.

As the minor mages began the task of gently burning off the rest of the guardian's leaves, Headmistress Bobby StarRunner handed Krystal a small map. "Even though Jenna says we can trust you, I have my own reasons for making sure you understand the vital importance of this next task before we can all escape. Ice Ray Academy may look like an ordinary institute for learning but it is a glamour to disguise its true appearance. You see, the school has existed in one form or another for many centuries but has always been hidden from non magical view by powerful illusions. In reality the school resembles a dark fortress and for a very good reason."

"It was a very dark time in the world back then. Magi were deeply persecuted and bloodshed and cruelty ruled the land. Before our surviving founders could begin teaching the students, they first had to have a highly fortified, defensible location to gather the few with powerful bloodlines to safety. It was a dangerous task for there were those who would stop at nothing to see that these wizards and witches were exterminated. For this reason, the founders made a pact with the Child Goddess Aphrael, and with the archangels. In return for their protection, once every generation a witch, young as an adult but powerful, would be set on a pilgrimage to Shangri-La to retrieve a certain heavenly artifact from a secret location there. These artifacts formed the basis of the protective magic around the school."

"Fast forward to now. Jenna has been chosen to take that journey, but because of the magical laws of this dimension, it must be done in ritual form. When she was chosen as the avatar for the Angelic Rogue, it was a sign from Aphrael herself that this would be a difficult task. However because of her current state, Jenna can not go alone. Krystal, if you choose to accompany her, I promise that we will do all we can to ensure the safety of both of you. It will not be an easy journey, for the school lies days hence in what was at one time a great battlefield. The zombies that inhabit there will likely be attracted to you both in great numbers for your magical abilities while vampires will come for your lives instead. Therefore, I will cast upon you an enchantment that will enable you to smite these types of foes without worrying about damage to yourself or Jenna."

Krystal thought for but a moment, then replied, "If this is what is needful, then we'd best start quickly... what do I need to do?" As she listened to her advisor's next words , she mentally prepared herself for the ordeal ahead. Bobby was pleased with Krystal's acceptance of the quest. "I understand you have fought the undead before from what Jenna had told me. Therefore, I will warn that for the purposes of the ritual, you and she will need to face your innermost fears by defeating illusionary forms of lost loved ones when the undead attack. I do not know how they will appear so be on the lookout for anything."

Seeing that Jenna was awake, Bobby handed her an enchanted set of wooden stakes. "Jenna, if you need more time to prepare, please let me know. The fate of all of us for now is in both of your hands." Jenna didn't even hesitate. "Ever since my parents died, you and James have been like a mother and father to me and my brothers, and this school except when I had lost my memories and was trappen in other dimensions by our enemies has always been my home. I will gladly do my part to bring us all back." Taking the map, Jenna and Krystal began their journey.

As they journeyed together, Jenna could tell that Krystal looked a little uncertain. "Fighting off the undead may seem like dull work to you, but for my school it has really been the only way to keep our old enemies Zerocurew the Dracolich and Jacobugath the Demon under constant vigilance lest they infect us with their lust for power and undead state. For that reason, when Jacob cursed my family it was intended to be a slow sort of death sentence. But things have greatly changed and I hope by this quests end I will be free of my curse finally."

After a few hours, Jenna slightly tensed up. "Take care... we are no longer alone." Looking around at the foggy plains, Jenna noticed what looked like her old schoolmates from Greybeard Academy, but she knew it had been destroyed long ago when a rival school torched it. Suddenly the stench of rotting flesh hit her. Backing away quickly, Jenna charged through several ranks of the zombies as her stakes penetrated the glamour masking their true appearance.

From their many attacks on SHC, when Krystal smelled the sickly sweet smell of rotting flesh, she knew that she faced a zombie attack. What she didn't expect was that several of the lead zombies resembled ex-teammates from the Espadas and the Skulls. Using her fairy-sight, she became aware that even though their appearance did not change as it would had it been caused by some kind of glamour, the appearance of these zombies rang a false note to her senses. Realizing that sunlight was the best defense against the undead, Krystal bade Jenna to shield her eyes, and gathering her energy as she slowly rose a few yards into the air, released it in a massive burst of burning sunlight.

When Jenna opened her eyes, almost all the zombies were gone. However she saw to her horror that the one who had remained was worse then any zombie. "Come little Jenna," he said in his familiar creepy voice. "Did you really believe I was going to die again so easily?" "Zerocurew the Dracolich?! But you were dead?! How many times must you keep coming back to torment my family and school?" Drawing strength from her anger, Jenna began fighting off her greatest enemy among the undead. For centuries Zerocurew had been a menace to her school and ancestors and she was well aware that if she could defeat him now perhaps this dimension might be able to seal his undead powers. Raising her stake, she watched in surprise as it turned into a gleaming sword full of holy power. With this she was able to pierce the undead dragon lich through his putrid remains of a heart and to be doubly safe she then decapitated him as well. To her amazement he seemingly melted into thousands of pieces of sun colored light. "Curses you spoiled brat!" he seemed to cry out telepathically as his body vanished and faded away. "You haven't defeated me yet but someday I shall return even more powerful!"

"Well, Jenna I don't know if that will end your curse, I leave that to those with much more knowledge of Magic but I hope that gives you some inner peace," said Krystal afterwards. "In the meantime we need to get on with this quest so that I can finally bring you safely home." "The map shows that we travel in this direction?" she queried, rising a few yards so that she could see farther. "You are correct Krystal," Jenna said with a muffled soft sigh. "Much as I want to believe he is truly gone I know I'll face him again someday." She took a few minutes to assess her injuries. "Nothing a few days of rest can't cure," she thought, grateful that this time Zerocurew had not used any of his undead attacks. She suspected vaguely that whatever magical being had created the guardian and had knocked her out earlier was still somewhere close by keeping watch. After this she went and joined Krystal on the hilltop.

Below them were what looked the ruins of an old school. "Behold the glamour hiding the true appearance of Ice Ray Academy," Jenna said to Krystal. Reaching into her pocket, she took out a rune inscribed signet and walking forward, Jenna placed it inside a rock a few feet inside the courtyard. Suddenly there was a bright flash of light and where was ruins once now stood a bright edifice of gleaming light. For a few miles in every direction stood statues of the ancient warriors of old who had long protected the school during their mortal lives. Within these stood several large buildings. "The largest one contains the library, Krystal," Jenna said. "I doubt we'll find any vampires there but one can never be too sure."

No sooner had she spoken then what seemed to be a black cloud that overshadowed the sky above appeared, and vampires were suddenly all around them! "Gods-damned Bloodsuckers! Pink is right, every one of these monsters deserves whatever fate I can bring to them," thought Krystal, signaling Jenna to again shield her eyes, she again performed the Solar Burst attack she'd found most useful against undead. Jenna was more prepared this time and when the agonizing screams faded and she opened her eyes, she knew instantly she was about to face her deepest fear in what really was a dream setting now.

The figure, dressed in leather clothing and slightly hovering in the air before her, was no longer a stranger and she wondered to herself how she had ever been bewitched into believing he had given her amnesia before he took her away and then "brought" her back to SHC in the first place. "You have come a long ways in your journey my sister," Chad Rockwell/ The Inkling said in a simple tone of voice. "But in order to defeat the darkness within you, you have to finally purge yourself of all the guilt from that ghastly night so many years ago. Only then will you be able to fully defeat me and your bloodcurse will be lifted forever." "So all my battles so far have lead me up to this. I have to defeat my oldest brother to save me and my friends and the school? So be it then." Dropping her stakes, Jenna and Chad prepared for the ritual stage of combat.

"Krystal, even though I know you are truly worried, I must do this on my own," Jenna said in an almost calm voice. "While we fight, head into the library. Search within the deepest vaults for a blue colored orb made of opal. I do not think you will have to worry about being attacked, but just in case be careful, for it may be held by the undead." She then raised her arms up as did Chad and a golden dome of light covered them both as trhey began chanting:

"The arcane rites from long ago now find themselves reenacted as before. Though two enter, magic must prevail before one only in life can bid farewell. Elements of light and darkness heed our calls and infuse us now , we fight for all."

That being said Chad and Jenna now began fighting each other with spells from childhood memory each testing the others strengths and weaknesses. Krystal , knowing from what Jenna said that it would be futile to try and help her friend, cautiously made her way through the darkened hallways of the structure. Entering the library, she found dozens of books laying open on the tables. Skimming a few words in each told her that some were spell books but most were volumes of Mage-lore. As she continued her search for the Orb, she placed book after book into her vault. After what seemed like forever, but was really only about twenty minutes, she located the object of her search, and carefully but quickly, she returned to the battle-site between the siblings... while there was nothing that Krystal could do to assist her friend, she remained vigilant against outside attacks as she viewed this fascinating spectacle.

Spectacular was right. For any who might have been watching with Krystal, they would have seen Chad and Jenna now using summoned beings almost like in a battlefield. While Chad was covered by some monstrosities that looked like they were from the Abyss, Jenna was commanding some seraphim it seemed like as holy magic and the magic of death flashed all around. One wrong move could kill them both, but Jenna was unafraid now. She had realized after awhile that even though it was a dream type battle, Chad's avatar, for that is what it was, knew every single spell and combat ability as her real brother. Now Jenna unleashed her most powerful spell and with a long loud sigh she cast the forbidden spell Holy upon the demons banishing them from the field. Then as she dismissed her troops, Jenna used her magic to finally still the avatar's heart. Smiling in appreciation it turned to stone and crumbled into pieces as the ritual came to its end.

As the glow faded around her, Jenna saw Krystal watching. "I am glad to see you again and I feel stronger now that I know I have overcome my curse finally," she said to her. "Let's go back to the others now and work on getting back to SHC." It didn't take very long to retrace their path to the others after making sure that everything they needed from the school was either with them or packed away in the vault, they remained vigilant but had a quick, quiet return trip.

As Jenna watched, James and Bobby began casting a dual part spell that suddenly enlarged the orb. Light shot out of it and covered the entire grounds of the Academy and they began shrinking so that within half a hour, it was ready to be brought back out of Dominaria. Jenna was a little worried about returning, but she swallowed her pride and helped everyone organize into a single line because she had no idea how wide the gate's doorway was. "Krystal let's go home."

The group they had left behind had not been idle in their absence, and were now prepared to move the group under the cover of wards to the gate. With Jenna's mage friends providing cover by way of wards, it was fairly simple to get to the gate, pronounce the word of opening and allow the others to follow me through the gate. As soon as Krystal passed the Gateway, she telepathically messaged Murphy the good news..

*HON. WE'RE BACK IN FAE-RE. I'LL HERD THEM TOWARDS THE CASTLE. I HOPE YOU & TITANIA HAVE COMPLETED THE ARRANGEMENTS, OTHERWISE OUR APARTMENTS GOING TO BE VERY FULL FOR A WHILE.*

As everyone headed to the castle after Alex acknowledged the message. Whoa! She had never heard him sound so pissed and so relieved at the same time. When they arrived at the castle, before she could head for the throne room, she was met by Leo and Murph. "We'll stay with your 'friends'.", stated Alex. "She needs to see you,"stated Leo, "and she won't be alone." "Well, hell," replied Krystal indignantly. "If they need to talk to you Krystal I guess we can stay here," Headmaster James StarRunner said politely. "It is their realm after all and their rules."

In her private chambers, Krystal met with Queen Titania and King Oberon. He looked disappointed and slightly angry. "Did you bring them here? Why did you not come to me in the first place?" She hung her head for a moment, and said, "I know I've caused a lot of trouble, lately, but I couldn't NOT try to save my friend. As well there were all these others in the same predicament, through no fault of their own."

Krystal then looked him in the eye with a determined expression, and continued, "I could not involve your court in this, and if my friends in the other-realm have taught me anything, it's that it's easier to get forgiveness than it is to get permission. I don't think the situation will ever come up again. None of my other friends have been forcibly removed from earth-realm. Please don't hold my actions against these travelers. I will abide by your judgement."

"My child, you show both determination and wisdom, loyalty, too, come to that. So be it. If your friends will publicly agree to a magically binding promise, I have no reason not to allow their travel to earth-realm," stated King Oberon. "However, if a similar situation ever, and I mean ever develops, come to me in private so that I can advise you." He walked to the door of the chamber, turned and said, "Meet me with your friends in the Throne room in five minutes."

While they waited, Jenna noticed that Krystal's husband seemed a little out of sorts with the fact there were so many magic users in the room with him. Or was it only Jayariel that was making him seem nervous? She decided to ask Jayariel in the secret drow hand language not to do anything to make him feel awkward.

The Seneschal calls order to the Throne room as King Oberon and Queen Titania take their seats. King Oberon speaks. "Our 'niece' ," he nods towards Krystal, "has informed me of your groups' predicament. If you are willing to take a binding oath, we have no reason to cause you further difficulties."

The Seneschal speaks, "The Oath is thus: I have no current plan nor need to bring the Enmity of any upon the Court of Fae-re. To accept, state your name, say 'My oath upon it.' and move to stand beside Krystal. This oath is magically binding in that you cannot lie in answer to it." He continues with a gesture made towards the group and proclaims, "I have no current plan nor need to bring the Enmity of any upon the Court of Fae-re." One after another the following each took the oath: Jenna Firemage, Headmaster James StarRunner, Headmistress Bobby StarRunner, Jayariel Drillowup, Corrine Daniels, Sephrenia Darklighter, Rhys Thuryn, and Orim, each stated their name and said "My oath upon it," before they stood next to Krystal.

"Krystal, please see to the needs of your friends. Court Healers will help any who need it. There will be a banquet held in an hour after you've all had a chance to freshen yourselves, and then you may travel on to your new realm or realms." stated King Oberon. "We are proud of our 'niece's' determination to aide her friends now go and prepare," he declared. Very politely then, Jenna's group thanked King Oberon.

As the men and women went into separate rooms to change, Jenna received Jayariel's answer finally. "Though I am of royal blood myself, I thought it best to keep that thought fully out of my mind in their presence while I swore the oath," he said as his fingers flashed impossibly fast in the secret language of the Drow. "Dark elves and light elves have had enmity for thousands of years and I did not want your friend to suffer because of racial discrimination."

Our first royal banquet in Fae-re; the music, the coming and going of the servants, the food, ahh the food and I was able to share it with not only Alex, but Jenna and her friends as well. We shared tales of our 'adventures' and made plans for the other-realm. Alex seemed a little out of sorts, not being used to large scale entertainments like this but Krystal noticed that Jay and Corrine seemed a little uneasy as well. Of course, growing up in her family's income bracket, this would not have been an unusual happenstance for her. The foods and drinks were quite unusual, true, but very good as well.

As dawn approached the group of us were making plans for transferring to earth-realm and SHC."So, Krystal," Jenna asked her. "exactly what type of changes has Superhero City gone through since we left? I mean did the chaos from the Lords of Sin and my brother's bloodcurse activating in Super Villain City leave any lasting effects after we left?" "SHC is still basically its old chaotic self... your sacrifice assured that the effects left behind were minimized. the main difference seems to be a bent toward politics in many of our better known heroes, but of course, that could just be my own take on the situation. I only recently gained access to the information channels available to Bass Foundation contractors and I've been busy with my new job at Burning Daylight Labs," Krystal said

"Politics," Jenna said with a knowing look on her face. "SHC has a contagious case of it severely according to what you have said Krystal. I am glad that because my school deals in magical not mundane affairs we do not discuss politics at all." We set out for the entrance to the hedge-maze, about a forty-five minute walk from the castle, and as we walked Jenna and I had a chance to catch up on how our lives were going.

"I'm sorry that I had to miss your wedding," Jenna told Krystal as they were leading the group back to the gate. "I'm glad though that Pink was able to be your best girl. So how is it hanging out with Turbulence now that you are an actual member? Must be fun having the entire cave as an exercise room with a free bar to boot. I hope that Sin or Lucifer do not come trying to manipulate any of us like Sin manipulated my brother when he went to Super Villain City."

Krystal replied thoughtfully while trying not to hide her nervousness,"Other than during the recruitment drive they held shortly after your departure, I've mainly just spent time there getting to know the crew.They do have some of the best training facilities in the city, though. Between training, patrolling, my new job at BDL,and learning how to handle my fae abilities during each night its really been a wild 'ride' since you supposedly vanished and were thought to be dead."

"I remember seeing your bird transformation and I actually wanted to ask you about that, Krystal," Jenna asked next. "It takes sat least three years of Transformation classes before a witch or wizard can accomplish that. I may be an animagus but my form is somewhat unsettling." "Well, Jenna," Krystal said. "I'm not sure if the Fae have a term for animal transformation, since all the fae I've been told about can do it. I'm told that all my magic, and my superpowers too if it comes to that, are triggered by either a subconscious or conscious need on my part for a particular ability. I need to be a bird, or a cat, or a snake, I know what it looks and acts like, I can become it and just not another humanoid form. Before yesterday, I'd never telepathically thought to teleport, so I couldn't. But now that I know I can, I can simple as that."

"My, you seem to be learning this pretty fast," Jenna said with a light laugh. "However what if there comes a time and you have no idea what you have to focus on for your powers to work. Don't you worry you'll have to learn how to control your powers so they don't take control of you?" "How can a force driven totally by my need or my will fail to respond in some useful manner? If I know what I need, I can bring it about by deciding to do it. If my intellect fails to determine what I need, my instinctual response by my subconscious will provide whatever will best allow me to survive in any case... or so I've been told.", Krystal replied, " I'm not a mage, and I'm not cursed, this is just what I am."

As the girls conversed, Jayariel could tell the human male named Alex seemed nervous. "I remember long ago that I was once like you when it came to being in a brand new world," he said to him in accented English. "I know how you might feel because when I left my home in the Underworld and came to the surface, I found the sun to be unbearably hot and the heat itself was hard to get used too."

Alex was surprised that the young-seeming warrior would speak to him, and also by his perfectly acceptable , if somewhat accented, English. "Yes, all these new things to deal with and Krys running off willfully on some adventure, no less uh, no offense but I was really worried when Leo told me what she was letting herself in for at least she came back safe this time. By the way, we haven't been formally introduced, I'm Alex, but my friends call me Murphy, and you?"

"My name is Jayariel Drillowup and I am what is normally known as a Dark Elf or a Drow," Jayariel said. "If Fae-re is new to you, SHC was just as new to me. I made a few friends there, but mainly though I had the academy faculty and students to help me get used to things."

"I've read stories of your race, though I thought that they were total fiction. But then again, just a few weeks ago I thought that all elves and fairies were fiction as well, but given where we are and who we're with and you say you've spent time in SHC? Do tell," Alex replied.

"It's a long story," Jayariel said calmly. "I shall briefly summarize it. Before arriving here in SHC through a magical gateway from the past, the others and I were helping to stop a demonic invasion on an Earth which was not as technologically advanced as this future version's with far fewer super powered beings. I have a feeling you may have heard mentioned in news many months ago about an undead dragon lich who arrived here in SHC? Zerocurew the Dracolich was one of those who led the invasion. The other two generals were the powerful mage Jace, called the Mindsculptor, and Lloth the Spiderqueen of my race. They were trying to capture a different school of magic and I with Jenna's brothers and the other wizards and witches was fighting to defend it."

"Suddenly there was a powerful explosion caused by magics clashing in ways they were never intended to do so. In the aftermath, most of the enemy was destroyed but the reason why we survived was before it could hit our forces, a light shown down from heaven as the Child Goddess Aphrael appeared. With her was Headmaster James StarRunner himself, long thought to have been killed decades ago when these same generals came against Ice Ray Academy at the time. He managed to cast a spell that sealed away Zerocurew and Lloth in another dimension. However Jace escaped and he later led a small battalion of Zerocurew's undead soldiers against us using the infamous Staff of Power that he had created to help take over the world. With that staff, the undead literally were immortal and we were being decimated almost to the point of destruction. However there was a prophecy made long ago made that we knew could save us: "Who once was five must become one. What once was alive must come back to life. The balance that was destroyed must be restored." That being said, five of the most powerful of our wizards and witches not blood related to Jenna, James or Bobby sacrificed themselves. When this happened another miracle occurred for you see, this brought for the second greatest legendary wizard of Ice Ray's history: the wizard Chase Rockwell/Hansen-Ricks. He had long ago been sealed away by Zerocurew so that his memories rested in one vessel and their descendants, his abilities in another, his heart in a third, his soul in a fourth and the last hosting his physical being. Chase and James had the power to save us."

"What no one counted on however was that when their spell collided with Jace's and the might of the Staff of Power all the combatants were transported here into the future to Super Hero City. "

"There we found ourselves caught in an even greater battle when the dread Skelanimal and the Dark Rogue launched their forces here. We joined the forces of the Angelic Rogue and the pirates to stop this invasion that threatened all of the known multiverse. However Zerocurew and Lloth were both released from their imprisonment and reluctantly we accepted their aid. It was during this time that Jenna Firemage became a temporary vessel for the Angelic Rogue and she was given the power of the light to boost the fading morale of the city's defenders while the Rogue recovered from dreadful wounds given to her by Skelanimal and the Dark Rogue in battle. After what seemed like months of fighting Skelanimal was destroyed and the Angelic Rogue defeated her dark self."

"After this Ice Ray Academy and the drow were accepted, though warily at first, into SHC. Like many newcomers, we were mistrusted for awhile because of our different but very powerful magical abilities or in my case because I was a Drow. The rest of my race along with their capital city Mezzoberranzen unfortunately decided to live near Sin's City where Lloth ruled too. Zerocurew seemingly vanished though rumors spoke he was trying to regain his lost powers. Then Jenna's brother Chad Rockwell made a foolish bet with Sin at the time. If he could defeat Captain Avenger, then Chad would replace the mod Kennie Bass as the one in charge of rping here and the rest is as they say history."

"I do recall news accounts containing some of that information though most of this is new to me. I've never met Sin, personally neither has Krys. I think he left the Turbos shortly after the wormhole incident. Of course, the general public were not informed in anything close to this kind of detail," said Alex, as Krystal turned to inform the company that they were nearing the hedge-maze gate. "Alex," Krystal said, "wait a moment with the others while I arrange passage, then bring them to the gateway path." She strode into the maze and telepathically sent the following message: *CONDUIT, I HAVE A PARTY OF ABOUT A DOZEN NEEDING PASSAGE TO SHC. PLEASE RESPOND*.

Power Bottom was just finishing a late brunch when Krystal's call came through."At least she didn't try to bring a crowd through in the middle of the night and also nice that shes trying to keep these trips outside of normal business hours," thought Power Bottom. He hurried to the appropriate area of the maze and spoke the word of opening, half-expecting a bedraggled group straight from a fire-fight. He was pleasantly surprised when the group came through in good order and showing little sign of their recent ordeal. Signaling to Alex that the rented van he had arranged to transport the group was still in place, Power Bottom bid them a good morning as he let them out of the garden wall gate into the alley where the van was waiting.

Alex said to the StarRunners, "When Krystal telepathically sent a description of your group and your needs, I was at first going to arrange for hotel rooms for you all, but that would have quickly run into money, not to mention that your little group is unlikely to blend in in that sort of environment. After a little thought, I contacted a buddy of mine on the Alumni Committee at SuperHero City University. He's arranged with the Dean to house you in a dormitory building they aren't using this term. Not only will you blend in better in that environment, but you can work off the debt by repairs made to the building while you're there," he concluded, showing them to the rented van.

Afterword

Cap watched from a rooftop as Krystal left Burning Daylight Labs. She was making her way across the street. If her routine was served, she would soon start patrolling before heading back to her home realm for training. Before that happened, Cap needed a word. It shouldn't take long. He worked his way down the side of the building, landing a few hundred feet in front of where Krystal was heading.

*******

She was lost in thought. The day at the labs had gone rather uneventfully, but there was still much to do before her work was finished. Acidburn and Alex Murphy had some leads to check while making their rounds. Providing there was no trouble there would then be a quick trip home before the journey to Fae-re. "There just aren't enough hours to go around," she sighed to herself. Quickening her pace, she turned the corner. She and Murph were meeting in ten minutes and she didn't want to be late. Transforming to her alter-ego was the work of but a thought once she was unobserved. Passing a recessed doorway, Acidburn had the sensation of being watched. She stopped and peered into the darkened space, but saw nothing. "Perhaps I need to get a bit more rest," she thought. Turning back to continue on her way, Acidburn nearly bumped into a man standing directly in front of her. Red cape. Black costume. Shiny star-spangled shield. It was Captain Avenger!

"Pardon me, ma'am," Cap said. "May I have a moment of your time?" Captain Avenger? Here? Although they were both members of Turbulence, they had really never talked. An occasional perfunctory greeting or quick hello as they passed through the Turbo-Cave's hallways had served as their only interaction. What was he doing here? What did he want with her? "Ummm," she stammered for a moment. "Sure. What can I do for you?" Cap turned and motioned for her to walk with him. "I just wanted to take a moment to officially welcome you to the league. It's been a bit hectic for me lately and I haven't had the chance to get together with many of the newer members."

Acidburn was still a bit surprised. "That's very kind of you, but it's really not necessary. You're very busy and I don't want to take up your time." She had heard whispers of something going on between Captain Avenger, his new partner and another in Turbulence but there weren't many details. However, it had the feeling of something she should not get involved with. "This won't take long," Cap said. "It's about what happened a couple of weeks ago. Halloween night. The party at the cave. You were different. And frankly, some of your actions were out of line."

Acidburn's heart skipped a beat. "Oh no," she thought. Cap didn't seem to notice as he continued. "I've talked with Power Bottom about what happened. He explained the Feast of Samhaine and what occurs on that night. I'm not a magic user, so there's plenty about that realm I don't understand and can't comprehend. But," he said. "I've known more than a few magic users over the years. And no matter what, the good ones always take responsibility for their powers. Turning people into kittens or other small, furry creatures and dealing out property damage throughout the city is not what I consider a very responsible course."

Acidburn didn't know what to say. She had already been reprimanded for her treatment of the Munchkins on that day. Now she was being chastised for her actions in this realm, too. "Captain,I just want you to know that I'm sorry for any trouble I may have caused that evening," she said. "Any damage I caused has already been repaired and I'm taking steps to make sure nothing similar happens again."

Cap stopped. "That's all I needed to hear. You have potential, Acidburn. You can be an enormous force for good. Just be careful with the darker elements. They can be a problem for any of us, but especially so for those with great power. A good friend of mine struggled with that..." Cap's voice trailed off as he thought of his longtime ally/foe Sin. "Understood, sir," Acidburn said quietly. A small smile creased Cap's face. He softly chuckled. "Don't call me sir, it's just plain Cap. And if you get the chance, it would probably be a good idea to apologize to the folks you transformed at the party. I know the effects were temporary, but, it never hurts to say you're sorry." "Of course, I'll take care of that right away," Acidburn said.

She turned to continue walking, a bit overwhelmed by the past few minutes.Thoughts went careening through her mind. "Captain Avenger wasn't even at the party! All of the transformations had been clean and quick. No one had been hurt! No one had any memory of what occurred!" "How did he know?" She stopped."Sir, I mean Captain.." Acidburn was alone. Cap was gone. She looked all around but there was no sign of him. Shaking her head, Acidburn started making her way toward Murphy. She was going to be a couple of minutes late. Halfway down the block, she remembered something Pink had mentioned once.

It was on her first day in the Turbo-Cave. She and the Postmodern Pugilist, normally known to her friends as Pink due to her unnatural hair color formed from never ceasing flames, were in the kitchen getting to know each other when her teammate had made an off-handed remark. Pink had laughed and said,"There's one thing you should know.Cap is always watching." Acidburn had thought it was a joke. Apparently not. She wouldn't forget again

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