ENLIGHTENMENT
PART FIVE

By Fritz Baugh

Previously
Once upon a time in Romania, two teams met while investigating the same vampire lord. One team was the world-famous Ghostbusters--Dr. Ray Stantz, Dr. Egon Spengler, Winston Zeddemore, and Dr. Peter Venkman. The other team was the far-less-famous (by design) "Inquisitors" --Liz Hawthorne (the wizard Lady Enlightenment), Father Diego Portenza, Barney Lupin (the werewolf Nightclaw), and Lilly Peacecraft.

Boy (Ray) met Girl (Liz) and some sparks started to fly.

A few weeks later, the Ghostbusters and the Inquisitors met again, along with the Prince of Warlocks Phineus Eventide, his familiar Tarantula, and the Archmage of the Winds, Zandrik Fallagar. Together, they defeated the Zodiac Lords, with the help of Eventide's noble sacrifice; he asked Fallagar to look after his cat.

More sparks also flew between Ray and Liz.

But after that victory Ray went back to New York with his fellow Ghostbusters, while Liz was sent on a new assignment by her bosses, the leadership of House Guernicus of the Order of Hermes.

Neither was far from the other's thoughts, but its three years later. Both are shocked at how much has changed.

Liz finds out that the Ghostbusters have broken up; Ray is at Stanford, Venkman is a Hollywood agent, Winston is flying a commuter airline in Montana, Janine is in an unhappy marriage with a man she doesn't love, and Egon is holding a lonely vigil at the former Ghostbusters Central.

Ray finds out that Liz has spent the last three years at the shard realm inhabited by Archmage Fallagar, trying to discover his secrets. She's come back seeking the help of the Ghostbusters against the army of undead camped outside Dragonsfall covenant.

There are no Ghostbusters anymore, but Ray and former Inquisitor Barney Lupin have joined Liz in a journey back to Dragonsfall...and arrived just in time for the skeletons to start firing on the place with a ballista! Or is it a catapult? We can't quite keep track!

Horizon
June 23, 1987
The Second Day of Cancer In the Two Thousand, One Hundred, and Twenty-Sixth Year of the Age of Pisces
Lady Enlightenment, Filia of Lady Persuasion, Follower of Guernicus (Vulgar Name: Elizabeth Lucille "Liz" Hawthorne), Age 26, sighed as she took a drink of her orange juice. It had been a long morning, and the black robe she was forced to wear was uncomfortably hot and itchy; it was a uniform mandated by centuries of tradition, required of Quaesitors--even those from Houses other than Guernicus--during two circumstances: Grand Tribunals and Wizard's Marches.

Since she was attending the Fortieth Grand Tribunal of the Order of Hermes, the robe was appropriate.

"Honestly, thus far, Lizzy, this whole thing has been dreadfully boring." Liz's lunch companion said, taking a lazy swig of her own drink. "The roll call of all the Primi, the Tribunal certifications, the accounting of voting sigils...I think I've had more exciting times back in the Academy's physics class."

Liz chuckled. "Believe me, Jun...Keeping track of that stuff is part of my job...but I nodded off twice."

Dao Jun, Filia of Dao Ran, Maga Jin se Tian-lung (a House oft referred to simply as "House Tao"), was also age 26--indeed, she was born a mere four months later than Liz. They had been roommates for most of their six years at Rein•Hagen Academy, and though they hadn't had much occasion to see each other in person since graduation, the fact that both had ended up as members of the Order had only deepened their friendship.

Jun had been born in Hong Kong, and more than one British-born student had been shocked by the girl of obvious Asian ancestry speaking perfect English with an accent more posh than their own. Jun had always enjoyed the attention; And why not? Liz rolled her eyes. She would be smoking hot even without the whole "Exotic Asian" thing. Liz tried not to be jealous too often, though comparing her own shapeless utility robe with Jun's form fitting dress, featuring embroidered dragon designs in green, the House Tao symbol right over her ample chest, and a long slit up the left side, didn't make it easy. Especially as, freed from the Rein•Hagen dress code, Jun had taken to giving her hair a greenish tint. The spikes are a bit much, though, old friend...

"Well, I can practically promise it will get more exciting, though." Liz continued, shaking herself out of the childish train of thought. "There will almost certainly be fireworks once the Primus of Tytalus gets his turn to speak."

"Oh?"

"You know anything about the Special Tribunal back in '83?"

Jun rolled her eyes. "Not really. I know Father was more that a little put out, but he didn't talk about what happened. But then again, he never does."

Dao Yuan, Jun's father, was the Primus of House Tao, a fact that Liz only learned after graduation. Before that she'd only know him as a very stern, untalkative member of the Board of Regents--which, in truth, was a ceremonial post given to all of the Order's Primi. The Academy, as a prime recruiting ground of new potential magi, was of interest to all of the Order's leaders (though some more than others).

Liz nodded. "I'm not surprised." She started to root through her satchel. "The Special Tribunal was called because there was a major manifestation of eighteenth magnitude supernatural forces in New York City in the fall of 1983. In specific, an obscure member of the Sumerian pantheon called Gozer appeared and stomped over the ground near Central Park for fifteen short minutes."

Jun raised an eyebrow. "And the Special Tribunal was called to deal with it?"

"No." Liz shook her head. "It was called to discuss how the Order missed all the signals completely. And on what they should think of the four men who did stop it." She dropped a 1984 issue of Spooks Illustrated onto the table.

Four men in flight suits of matching cut but different colors were giving the camera high-fives, even though one of them--the tallest one--looked extremely uncomfortable.

"Ghostbusters? Oh my..." Jun said. "And here I thought it was just a movie." She lifted the magazine and opened the centerfold. "Too bad they still have their clothes on. The brown-haired one with the confident grin looks like he'd be quite a ride..."

Liz groaned. "Yeah, I figured you'd fixate on that one--he's the one that has 'grabass' written all over him. I guess it wouldn't surprise you that he's the one Bill Murray played in the movie. But they aren't just a movie--the fact that a lot of people think so means that the Pax Hermetica is holding on the matter. For now."

Jun kept studying the magazine. "If they're the real deal, and they're not magi or hedge wizards...Etherites?"

"Only one of them." Liz answered. 'The tall one apparently came up with the basis of their technology, and he wrote a paper about quantum fluxuations that got the Etherites--and quite a few Solificati and Fortunae--very very stirred up.'

Jun wrinkled her nose. "Come to think of it, I think I saw his picture at the Rein•Hagen dorms when I visited my brother. Lian snorted about all of the girls in the science club worshipped him or something; frankly, to me he looks more like he'd make a girl's privates freeze closed."

Liz sighed. "I wasn't ordered to research them to see how datable they are, I was ordered to research them to find out whether they're a threat to the Order and the entire world."

"And are they?"

"They aren't now." Liz shrugged. "They were sued and shut down last year."

"I meant are they datable?" Jun teased.

Liz groaned and rolled her eyes again.

Jun smirked. It was so easy to get a rise out of Lizzy. "So if they're disbanded, why the fireworks from Tytalus?"

Liz was grateful to be back on topic. "You know how the Primus of Tytalus is. He was convinced we should have 'Marched the whole band of mad Etherites' the minute he found out about them. The Magus Dominus pointed out the Code's prohibitions against interfering with the mundane, and our agreements with the Etheric Dean, but Aram Marangoudakis doesn't give up his grudges easily. I wouldn't be surprised if he thinks we should assassinate them all just to be sure they don't get back together."

"Well...I highly doubt Father will support such a motion." Jun said. "Pointless battles far from home is just not his thing."

"I hope you're right." Liz nodded. Then she laughed. "Listen to us...we haven't seen each other face-to-face in years and all we can do is talk 'shop'."

Jun laughed also. "So very true...so, all right, how's Cheryl doing?"

Liz's face lit up. "Great. Her son Jay's three now and, in her exact words, 'growing like a weed'. And Lian?"

"Well, you probably heard he graduated Valedictorian in the class of '84...he passed the House Tao apprentice gauntlet after two years." Jun rolled her eyes. "I think he's already trying to decide how long he'll wait until he challenges Father for the Primacy."

Liz chuckled. That definitely sounded like something the conceited little snot would be saying.

"So...anything...else to relate? Anything...personal over the last couple years?" Jun asked mischievously.

"No." Liz answered simply.

"Thought not. Though it's interesting...care to guess who I spoke to a couple weeks ago?"

"Not when I know if I just wait you'll be unable to not tell me." Liz didn't trust where this was going.

Jun chuckled. "You know me too well. Well, fine, it was Nyssa Blake."

Liz clenched internally. "And how's Nyssa doing?"

"Quite well. She's working at a clinic in London, in a ward that takes care of AIDS patients." Jun said. "She'd really like to talk to you personally, but you never left a phone number."

"I'm hardly ever in one place long enough to bother." Liz shrugged. "Tell her I said hello the next time you talk to her."

"I will." Jun's mischievous grin returned.

Liz gave her a skunk eye. "What?"

"Not even going to ask?"

"Ask what?"

Jun sighed and shook her head. "Adric is teaching a math class in Hertfordshire. Nyssa says he's now engaged to this...to use her words, 'mousy little thing' that apparently worships the ground he walks on. Nyssa doesn't think much of her, called her a doormat. And said...her exact words were 'My brother could do better. He already had before he cocked it up.' "

Liz took another long sip of her drink. "Well, tell her that I congratulate him."

Jun leaned forward. "That's all? 'Tell her I congratulate him'? Good grief, Elizabeth, you and Adric were so hot and heavy I half expected to find the dorm on fire some night. And that's all you can say?"

Liz sighed and put down her drink. "I realize, after all this time, I never did tell you why I dumped him; I guess I'd better, because otherwise you're just going to keep harping on it. Adric Blake has many great qualities...he's well-spoken, such a genius with numbers that I'm sure there are still some Fortunae crying that he ended up having no Gift, and yes, he's incredibly good looking."

"But?"

"But, Jun, deep down he's an insecure prick who has to be the center of his corner of the universe." Liz said, surprising even herself with some of the bitterness finally spilling out. "He opposed my intention to continue my education after Rein•Hagen, and that was back when I thought that meant law school. He gave me the 'me or your ambitions' ultimatum--and frankly, I haven't regretted giving him the answer he didn't want very much since. And that was before Aunt Tegan recruited me to the Order--me becoming a wizard probably would have blown his fragile little ego to smithereens."

"So I do congratulate him." Liz continued. "That 'mousy little thing' who'll do nothing but gaze at him adoringly, darn his socks, barely ever leave the house never mind Herts County, and push out two or three little mini-Adrics for him to only pay attention to on weekends is his dream girl."

Things were silent for a good minute. "Ooookay..." Jun finally said.

Liz sighed. "I'm sorry...I guess I should have made that clear a lot sooner rather than let it fester like that..." She gestured, and her empty drink container and lunch tray floated to a nearby trash receptacle.

"Quite all right." Jun nodded. "I won't deny I've always wondered, but now I understand. And you did make the right decision. Too bad, though--you two were cute together."

"I'm a Quaesitor now, Jun." Liz said, standing up and adjusting the formless black robe. "I don't really have time for romance anyway."

She gathered her satchel. "I really need to go--I have a meeting with Aunt Tegan about Quaesitor business before we get back to the Tribunal. The other issue in '83 was a long-thought-dead Archmage turning up, and she's been researching that."

"Sounds dreadfully exciting." Jun said with obvious sarcasm.

"Well, if he shows up here, there'll undoubtedly be more of the fireworks you're looking for."

The two laughed and shared a hug. "You take care of yourself, Lizzy."

"You too, Jun."

"And don't let Adric Blake sour you on the entire gender. Maybe someday you will meet the right one--just leave yourself open to the possibility."

Liz nodded. "Okay, okay..."

Liz turned and left, not noticing that in her haste the issue of Spooks Illustrated hadn't been stowed properly. One part of the centerfold was hanging out of the bag--the part showing a fleshy-faced man with wide eyes, his flight suit bearing the name "STANTZ"

Dragonsfall Regio
June 9, 1994
The Nineteenth Day of Gemini in the Fourth Year of the Age of Aquarius
Ghostbusters Omnibus Timeline Year Twelve
"Whuts the 'ell they doin' now?"

"Somefink 'appenin' out there, Terchi?"

"Takes a look, Coda!"

The two speakers were in the small guardhouse at the front gates of Dragonsfall. They had a very good view of the army of skeletons surrounding the Covenant, and saw the crowd of undead part to allow a wheeled device to be pushed to the front. The black armored leader standing beside it barked orders in vulgar (very vulgar) Latin.

"Oh...I fink it's a ballista. Or maybe a ca'apult." This was the male of the two, Terchi, with dark curly hair and a pronounced overbite, wearing simple clothes in yellow and green.

"Whut's the fuckin' difference?" the female, Coda, snarled. She had dirty blonde hair and a protruding left fang; she was clad in grey and brick reddish hues.

At first glance, they might have been mistaken for tweenage children, but a closer look called that guess into question: both had curiously pointed ears, and bare feet covered with an unusual amount of hair. More tellingly, Terchi sported some very un-tweenage beard stubble, and Coda a noticeable--if not overly voluptuous--bosom.

"Well, one shoots stuff, the uvver 'urls it, but I can'ts remember which is which." He looked back to the covenant nervously. "I wish Mister Styx would get back."

"You're so fuckin' lost wivvout 'im or the Archmage to 'old your diaper for you, Dumbarse." Coda snorted. "I thought 'e'd finished kicking someone’s arse when I 'eard the pond splash a whiles ago, so as soon as 'e's done with 'is victory strut..."

Terchi gulped. "It's shoo'in' somefink!!!"

A ball of fire arched toward the white tower at the center of the covenant.

Barney Lupin pirouetted in midair, his body started to change once more. Wolf is Full, Man is New and by the time he landed on the ground, he had assumed his Lupus form, indistinguishable from that of a normal wolf.

Well, save for the fact that, as part of a tribe of outcasts and mongrels, his "wolf" form more resembled a German Shepherd. His "attuned" clothes were now no longer apparent, save for a dog collar in the same tacky green and yellow plaid of his pants, sporting his borrowed casting token like a dog tag.

He skidded to a stop, and looked up at the central tower of the covenant. Flames swirled around it.

He changed back to his Crinos form, so he could shout back at the conflagration. "Lizzy!!! Ray!!!"

Ray Stantz started to run for the door, to get out of the tower, to get his proton pack, to...

But he stopped.

"LIZ!!!"

Styx ran to the front gate. He noticed the fireball headed for the tower.

"Perhaps some kind of Greek fire!" he shouted approvingly. "A most effective means of destruction!"

He saw the fireball splash against the central tower, but the flames didn't consume it. They danced and swirled, falling back into a roiling mass of fire.

"Well, that's disappointing!"

Liz Hawthorne's face was contorted into a mask of concentration.

"Re...go...ig...nem...re...go...ig...nem...re...go..."

Rego and Ignem were, theoretically, one of her best combinations, but somehow learning spells derived from those arts had never been a priority. As a Quaesitor, her grimoire tended toward spells of detection, to the arts of Mentem and Corpus. Ignem was nevertheless an easy form for her, and she'd learned a few spells dedicated to that art. Her Hermetic name was "Enlightenment", after all. But she'd only recently learned the famous spell "Pilum of Fire" from one of the Archmage's books...and right this moment, "Ward Against Heat And Flames" was looking like a grievous oversight.

She heard Ray call her name...but she couldn't spare him a response.

The fireball swirled and rolled, quivering in front of the white tower, as though a hungry beast ready to pounce.
"...RE...GO...IGNEM!!!"
The fireball slammed into the moat surrounding the tower, which exploded into a cloud of steam.

" 'Oly fuck!!!" Coda breathed.

"What a waste of a perfectly fine explosion!" Styx shrugged.
"[Well now...]" Lord Stalker mused. "[This just got interesting again. Clearly, at least one sorcerer has joined the field. But the question is, is it Little Wizzo, his chambermaid, or someone else?]"

He turned to the skeletons and the weapon. "[Load another shot!!!]"

"Are you all right?" Ray asked Liz, who was panting heavily.

Liz nodded. "Yeah...just winded...that was the most powerful spont I've ever done..."

"C'mon..." He took her hand and they ran down the stairs to the ground level.

They were greeted by Styx, Barney, and two young-looking people Ray didn't recognize. "Holy JRR Tolkien! You didn't tell me you had hobbits here!"

"Who's are you callin' an 'obbit, Fatarse!?" the blonde, female one snarled. Ray was unnerved by the sword slung on her back, a longsword or somesuch that looked unwieldy to him, full size though he was. It was almost comically large on the "hobbit" girl's back.

"Foulmouthed Cockney hobbits! Even better!" Barney said brightly.

"Great." the blonde snorted. "Not only does you looks like a mangy frow rug, you're fuckin' stupid. I'm girl, you stupid git--I ain't got no Cockney!"

"Oh, behave, Coda--they's wiv Lady Enlightenment, so they's okay, right?" The male one bowed. "Terchi Bagwise, and me uncouf associate is Coda Monkeyfang. Pleased to meetcha!"

"I guess 'Halfling' would be better, then?" Ray asked, shaking Terchi's hand.

"Actually, 'Obbit' is just fine, Coda is just in a bad mood." Terchi replied.

"I'll 'bad mood' upside your 'ead..."

"See? But don't worry--it only 'appens on days endin' in a 'Y' "

"So this means you're not dwarves, right?" Barney said brightly. "I always wanted to toss a dwarf!"

"I don't wish to intrude on the festivities..." Styx cleared his throat. "But we are still under some manner of attack here."

"Styx is right." Ray nodded. "Liz took out one fireball, but if they throw another one..."

"I would recommend responding in kind!" Styx offered brightly. "Greek fire!"

"You always recommends Greek fire!" Terchi noted.

"Well, it has always proven effective!" Styx replied.

"I just wish we knew who this 'Stalker' guy was..." Ray shook his head. "And why he's here." Something was pinging his instincts, though. Something was...

"Liz?"

Liz wasn't all right.

She thought she was at first. That like she had told Ray, the dizzy feeling was a result of the large spell she mustered.

But as she came down the stairs, the feeling didn't subside.

There was a ringing in her ears.

Every nerve on her body was coming alive, somehow both numb and hypersensitive at the same time.

The world swirled around her, the ringing in her ears growing into a roar.

And then it all flipped over and disappeared into a blast of starlight.

Ray's voice calling her name was the last thing she heard as the world around her was blasted away.

Ray had seen Liz lean against the wall of the white tower, looking weak. Then she staggered, started to fall...

...And then vanished into thin air, leaving only a blast of flowery scent behind.

"LIZ!"

"Oh my." Styx said.

"What did you do, Ray?" Barney shouted.

Tarantula ran up, studying the area Liz had disappeared in. The cat audibly sighed.

"Do you know what happened to her?" Ray asked.

Tarantula nodded.

"Is there anything I can do...any of us can do to help her?"

Tarantula shook her head.

Ray rubbed his temples. "Will she be all right?"

It wasn't lost on Ray that it took Tarantula a half second to respond, but the response was a nod.

"She'll be back?"

Tarantula nodded more firmly.

'Then watch over this spot until she does." Ray started to unbuckled one of his belt packs. "We need more information--we need to know what we're up against."

"Whut part does strippin' 'ave wiv that?" Coda asked, noticing the belt pack removal.

"Gettin’ excited, are ye?" Terchi quipped, and got slugged for it.

"You shoulda been here about half an hour ago." Barney chuckled.

Ray cleared his throat, and did what he hoped was a good approximation of Egon's "death glare", the one he used to make Venkman shut up when things were serious. "I got an idea."

To Be Continued
Questions? Comments? Go to the Ectozone Message Board
Based on Ghostbusters Created by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis