ENLIGHTENMENT
PART SIX

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!

Liz manages to deflect the first fireball with a spontaneous spell, but something goes wrong--she fades completely out of existence!

And the army of undead and their leader, Lord Stalker, are ready to continue their attack.

But hey, Ray still has the help of Barney, a hobgoblin with a love of explosions, and a couple of foulmouthed Cockney hobbits!

? ? ?
The colors swirled around her...and they spoke in familiar voices...

Memories...

"Twilight, Elizabeth...have you had that experience yet?"

"No, Archmage." she had replied. "I know it will happen, inevitably, but as of yet, no."

Other swirls...other voices...older memories...

"It has been called by many names." the voice of Aunt Tegan--Lady Persuasion--told her over a decade ago. " 'Warping' is one. 'The Scourge' was popular during the Renaissance. Modern magi speak of 'The Quiet', and those of an even more modern bent refer to 'Paradox Backlash.' But they all mean the same thing: Founder Criamon, who first taught the Order how to control and survive it, called the experience 'Twilight'."

"Magic is called an art, not a science, Elizabeth. After centuries, our understanding of the art is still flawed and imperfect. The human body and mind can only handle so much of the powerful forces magic calls upon. Inevitably, something is going to go wrong. The power goes out of control, and can alter your very being."

"Twilight can be a great danger, but also a great boon." Tegan had continued. "If you can ride with the experience, not be overwhelmed by it...it can bring you great insight. And sometimes, even new power."

So this is it, Aunt Tegan?

"Yes, Elizabeth Hawthorne"

It wasn't Aunt Tegan's voice that answered Liz.

A shape appeared in the rainbow mists around her. She couldn't see it clearly...save for the impression of a lithe female shape, and a swirl of chestnut hair blown by the ethereal winds.

Dragonsfall Regio
June 9, 1994
The Nineteenth Day of Gemini in the Fourth Year of the Age of Aquarius
Ghostbusters Omnibus Timeline Year Twelve
Lord Stalker snarled (as much as a skeleton with no skin could be said to snarl) at the shambling skeletons around him. "[Load it, you idiots! Faster!!!]"

"(Bark)!!!"

Stalker turned to the sound to see a large dog that looked like a shabby German Shepherd, which had some kind of pouch attached to its collar.

The dog barked excitedly a few more times and then ran up to Stalker, its tail wagging excitedly. It shuddered as it got close.

Then it hiked a back leg and peed on Stalker.

"[Bad doggie...]" Stalker said, brandishing his ax.

The dog flinched back, and barked again, in quick succession.

Stalker's instincts were good--his suspicion of the dog was justified. He turned his attention from the annoyance...

"OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!"

The large, purple, four-legged form of Dulk vaulted over Dragonsfall's wall, ramming and scattering skeletons as it charged Stalker. A hobgoblin dressed like a butler was on Dulk's back like a rider, with a halfling clinging to the hobgoblin for dear life.

"[It's about time things got interesting...]" Stalker grinned.

Dulk became a blur of motion. The halfling screamed in shock and fear.

"Buck it up, Mister Bagwise!!!" the hobgoblin chided.

Stalker knew he couldn't keep up with Dulk, but his battlefield was being contested. There was no way would allow this to continue! "[Attack them, you shambling fools!!!]"

The hobgoblin reached into his jacket, and produced a flask. "I will so enjoy this!" He hurled it, and a massive explosion sent skeleton parts and rusty armor flying in all directions.

The uncomfortable possibility that these insects could be a real threat entered Stalker's mind.

"[STOP THEM!!!]" he roared.

But the skeletons couldn't stand up to Dulk's swift charge, falling before the creature's trampling feet or his pummeling fists. "Dulk not like you!" And those that Dulk missed fell before Styx's cudgel.

The purple monster ran to the siege engine; Styx tossed his halfling rider--Terchi--onto it.

Stalker started to run faster, shouting an obscenity in his native tongue, in a dialect eight hundred years out of date.

Terchi placed a flask, much larger than Styx's but containing a liquid of the same color, on the side of the siege engine. Styx and Dulk circled around the other side, and plucked Terchi from his perch.

"NOW, MISS MONKEYFANG!!!"

Stalker turned to see another halfling standing on the top of the wall, twirling a sling.

"FUCK YOU ALL UP THE ARSES YOU BALDY GITS!!!" she shouted, sending the sling's bullet flying.

"[NO!!!]" Stalker howled.

The bullet hit the flask, and whether the siege engine was a ballista or a catapult became an academic question as it perished in a massive explosion.

The German Shepherd peed on a skeleton, and joined Dulk, Styx, and the frazzled Terchi as they jumped back into Dragonsfall.

As Coda Monkeyfang landed right beside him, inside the wall, Ray Stantz exhaled and slumped to the ground. "Holy shit...I can't believe that worked!"

"Fuck those gobshites up, I did!" Coda grinned. "Wot you get when you gets the right gel for the job!"

Dulk landed inside the wall with his two riders. "Dulk not like bone men. Can have cow now?"

"A most satisfying explosion!" Styx said excitedly. "But perhaps we should not dawdle at the wall?"

"He's right." Ray nodded, getting up. "We just bought ourselves a little bit of time, but I bet that Stalker guy's gonna be mad as hell. We need to make the best out of the opportunity."

He glanced at the spot where Liz had disappeared, Tarantula still standing guard.

Lord Stalker looked at the flaming wreckage of the siege engine. The flame's heat was nothing compared to the rage burning within the undead warrior.

"[Something has definitely changed. They've stopped just sitting and waiting.]" he mused aloud. "[See how much you enjoy this supposed victory when your heads are decorating pikes atop what's left of these walls!!!]"

? ? ?
The woman came somewhat further into focus...elegant features, deep blue eyes...other than her face and hair, only her arms below the elbows showed, as though the mists around her were her clothing.

"Who...who are you?"

"The name I was given at birth, over eight centuries ago, was Elsa Vashnivskia..." the women replied. "Though I passed from the world of the living long ago, my spirit never dwells far from the man you call Zandrik Fallagar"

As she spoke the last words, there was a flash of light from her right hand...Liz realized that upon the middle finger was a ring. The stone was a deeper indigo color than Fallagar's violet, but it was otherwise identical to the one the Archmage wore.

"You knew the Archmage?"

"Yes. We haven't much time, Elizabeth...the being threatening Zandrik's home was once a man, one well known to him. I need to show you..."

The colors and mists swirled and engulfed Liz. Shapes and images began to appear..

Dragonsfall, but a newer Dragonsfall, which she knew from the building at the southern end. She'd been told it had burned down centuries ago. There was the Archmage...but well before he became an Archmage, Liz realized.

He was dressed in a tunic, and a cape clasped (much like Liz's had been) with the sigil that had passed to his Hermetic descendants. While the face Liz had seen for the last three years had not a single line more than that of the man she saw now, the difference was obvious: this image had a clear, energetic gaze, the gaze of a man only beginning his life--lacking the centuries of turmoil that had dulled that energy with sadness.

Other images...

A petite woman who had dyed her hair--or perhaps ensorcelled it?--to a rather shocking shade of pink.

A shirtless man with wild red hair and even wilder eyes.

A willowy woman in red with a high forehead, a cap bearing a copper triangle sitting atop her blonde hair.

A strikingly attractive woman with brown curls, wearing a blue-black robe to which a symbol--the glyph of Mars inscribed with a square--had been affixed.

An olive-skinned man dressed in black and red, a Flambeau hourglass hanging from his neck. "Can you do it?"

Liz felt a chill as the man the Flambeau was talking too appeared in the mists...the black armor and axe she knew in an instant, but instead of a skull the head of a living man, with rugged features and oily black hair, stared back. "You want a bunch of people dead, Warlock, Thaydarr Stalker is your man."

Images of battle...blood...

Then a scream.

A woman lying on the ground sobbing, her unclothed body bruised and bloodied...

A gem clutched in Stalker's hand...blood...a scarred chest...

A battle. A younger man with more pleasant features but a similar look in his eyes clashing with Stalker.

Stalker falls...plunging into an icy river.

The body lays there...the skin dissolves over time...

Nothing but a skeleton left in the armor...as he was when Liz saw Stalker for the first time...

His eyes glow. He stands, and shouts his anger to the heavens.

"Time grows short, Elizabeth." Elsa said, her form starting to fade from view. "Protect Zandrik's legacy well..."

And with that, the Covenant of Dragonsfall reassembled around her.

"I guess you'll want this back." Barney said, unclipping the pouch from his collar. They were standing back near the central tower; Ray kept glancing back at Tarantula.

"Yes!" Ray replied excitedly, taking the pouch--which was actually one of his belt packs.

"I admit to a question, Mister Raymond." Styx said.

"Just 'Ray' is fine..." Ray replied. "And what is it?"

"Well, I have noted the rather impressive apparatus you have been sporting since your arrival. I was under the impression it was some sort of weapon."

"Charged particle projector." Ray nodded.

"So whys the fuck didn't you start blastin' shit wiv it?" Coda said. "Coulda' 'elped a might wiv that scene out there!"

"I wasn't going to put it so...bluntly...but yes." Styx continued.

Ray nodded. "Well, a couple of reasons. First, maybe not tip our hand that I have it before we needed to--you guys did just great out there without me. But more important--I had to make sure it would work. I've been to some strange dimensions before, and sometimes the laws of physics change and snarl the proton pack up. One dimension we went to, they only shot out jelly beans. In another, they actually made ghosts stronger--which we definitely do not want to happen here."

"So 'ow will you find out?" Terchi asked.

Ray started to open the belt pack. "Well, actually, I think..."

Tarantula meowed loudly.

Ray's heart skipped a beat as a swirl of light appeared in the exact spot Liz had disappeared; after an agonizing two seconds, the light faded, and she was back.

"LIZ!" he ran and hugged her, hard. She hugged him back.

Barney pantomimed throwing up.

"You all right?" Ray asked.

"I'll explain in more detail later, but I'm fine." Liz nodded. "And I mean it this time--better than fine. I now have a much better idea of what we're up against."

Ray opened his belt pack that Barney had carried, to reveal a Model 2.0 PKE Meter. "So do I!"

"His original name was Thaydarr Stalker..." Liz explained. "He was a brutal, but effective, mercenary that was hired by one of the Archmage's covenantmates. He was kept around because he was a great tactician, but when he raped one of the Covenant's companions he was...understandably no longer welcome."

"That's so fuckin' gross." Coda snarled. "Cut off his tiny winky meself, I would."

"He evaded the Covenant for years afterward, and in the process built a powerbase. He was aided by two powerful artifacts he looted from enemies: a set of armor that generates an aura of magical resistance, and a crystal that..." Liz gathered her thoughts, still trying to make sense of the knowledge that was crammed into her head. "Well, it made him unkillable, by augmenting his life force with necrotic energy."

"Eew." Ray shook his head.

"About twenty years later, the Covenant finally caught up to him, and defeated him--he plunged into a river, and with all the heavy armor he was wearing he sunk and drowned. But because of the crystal, he didn't die--he was just rendered inert. Over the centuries, his biological body decayed, while the crystal continued to sustain him. Finally...at some point, probably not all that long ago, he was able to awaken, now an undead monster."

"Where did all the skeletons come from?" Barney asked.

Liz shook her head. "I don't know. Maybe it was a power of the crystal that wasn't activated until Stalker fully became an undead himself."

"That'd match the readings I got." Ray nodded. "The skeletons do seem to be resonating at the same PK wavelength, just not nearly as strong a signal." I wish Egon was here...he's better at the physics...

"Still, I think this would explain how he seems to be familiar with the Covenant, and with Dulk." Styx noted. "I gather Dulk has been here as long as the Archmage has."

Dulk was too busy picking his nose to comment.

"My readings also back up the 'magic resistance' aura." Ray continued. "It's a bubble about two meters in radius centered on him."

"Sounds about right." Barney agreed. "When I got close I felt clobbered, lot like I did when I first shapeshifted here, without the Aegis token."

"It's a similar effect." Ray said. "I think that also explains how Stalker was able to get into the Aegis--the two anti-magic waves interfered with each other, and cancelled each other out."

"That makes sense..." Liz mused. "Stalker's aura allowed him to take a couple of skeletons with him the first time he entered. But while the Aegis couldn't keep his aura out, his aura was still partially suppressed by the Aegis--it's why I was able to hit him with my spells."

"If his aura was working correctly, they might not have worked on him." Ray said.

"Mutual assured destruction!" Styx said with a level of excitement that worried Ray.

Is that how I sound to Peter sometimes? Yikes...

"Is all this talk makin' anyone else's head all fumpy?" Terchi asked.

"Likes a jackrabbit." Coda rolled her eyes.

"Well, basic maths makes your 'ead all fumpy." Terchi retorted. Coda smacked him.

"It all seems to confirm my initial suspicion--Stalker's appearance now isn't a coincidence." Liz continued. "He knows enough about the operation of the Covenant to know about the Aegis, and that it has to be renewed every year. He's waiting for the brief time between when it goes down and the new one is cast--that's when the skeleton horde is going to move in full force against us."

"He can bloody well try!!!" Styx snarled.

"Yeah, but he's not a wizard himself, so maybe there's a gap or two in his knowledge..." Ray stroked his chin. "Maybe there's a way to take advantage of that..."

Liz snapped her fingers. "I have an idea!"

"[Faster, you idiots!]" Stalker shouted. "[I knew I should have held out for better help...damn that demon and his...]"

Stalker's grumbling stopped, as he heard a new noise from inside the Covenant.

Chanting. In Latin.

The phrase "Rego vim" recurring..."Aegis"..."domus"...

"[No...]"

Stalker grabbed his axe, and the three closest shambling skeletons. "[YOU! WITH ME!!!]"

He charged the gate, which had only been sloppily re-secured since his entry the day before. "[THEY WILL NOT STOP ME NOW!!!]"

The main gate virtually exploded open as Stalker entered.

He was not totally surprised to see the woman he'd derided as a 'chambermaid' the day before leading the ceremony, a candlestick in one hand, the scroll containing the spell--the 'Casting Tablet' he thought he remembered it being called once--in her other.

The hobgoblin and the halflings he also recognized, though the hobgoblin was now wearing blue-painted armor.

He was not very surprised by the large, hairy beast-man in the really cool pants; Dragonsfall had been the home to a werewolf at least once before. It definitely resembled the suspicious "dog" from earlier close enough.

The one man Stalker didn't recognize uttered some vulgar epithet; he didn't look like much to Stalker, a copper haired mass of flab who wasn't even wearing any sort of proper armor.

"Keep the ritual going, Milady!" the hobgoblin shouted. "We shall deal with this!!!"

"[YOU WILL DEAL WITH NOTHING!!!]" Stalker howled, charging the hobgoblin.

"Oh shit!" Ray had exclaimed when the gate was blasted open. The skeleton howled in Latin and engaged Styx; Ray looked at Liz. "He's right--keep going!"

Liz nodded, and continued the chant.

"Fuckin' Styx is gon'ta get 'is fuckin' arse fuckin' killed..." Coda snarled, drawing her oversized sword.

"'E's got 'elp!" Terchi pointed at the three skeletons following Stalker. Coda was dressed no differently that before, but Terchi now wore a chainmail shirt and had a club in his hands.

"FUCK YOU GOBSHITES TO FUCKIN' 'ELL!!!" Coda screamed, charging them.

"NIGHTCLAW JUMP KICK!!! AWOOOOOO!!!" Barney then jumped one of the skeletons...and missed it entirely.

"One of these days that's gonna work..." he muttered. Man is crescent, wolf is gibbous...Barney shifted to his Hispo form, a large, muscular wolf-like creature. This time he just charged the skeleton, knocking it to pieces with a headbutt.

"I fuckin' 'ate skeletons!" Coda snarled. "They don't fuckin' bleed, and 'as to use the flat side to 'urt the arse'oles, I do!!!" She slammed the flat side of her sword into the skeleton about six times, before it finally stopped moving.

Plus they have lousy teeth... Ray found himself quipping internally. Wait, that was zombies... He shook his head to get his concentration back to the issues at hand.

He was now the only one left with Liz, as she continued around the perimeter of the Covenant. "Normally the Aegis would be cast outside the walls, but under the circumstance..." Liz had noted.

Ray readjusted his grip on his neutrona wand.

"You will go no further!" Styx said, with only slightly more force in his voice than if he were telling one of the halflings it was tea time.

Styx lunged at Stalker, his weapon clattering against Stalker's axe; he wielded a massive hammer known as a mordenkrad. According to legend, it had been created by dwarves. It was certainly lethal enough to have been.

"[You will not stop me, Vermin.]" Stalker snarled in response.

Their weapons clanged a few more times.

"I would have preferred to use the urgrosh, but it is of lesser effectiveness against skeletal enemies." Styx said, sounding almost bored.

"[I apologize for disappointing you.]" Stalker snarled back.

"OOOOO!" Dulk shouted as he knocked the last skeleton to pieces with a maul.

"Good job!" Terchi said excitedly.

"You didn't fuckin' do nuffin'!!!" Coda snarled back at him.

"I gave moral support!" Terchi retorted. "That's important!"

"Still plenty of time." Barney said, reassuming his crinos form. "Ray! Get Lizzy to the power circle! We'll hold off Skeletor!"

"Right!" Ray said. "C'mon, Liz--with the walk around disrupted this is our last shot to make the Aegis work!"

"So what you think?" Barney said excitedly. "We pull this off we spring for a trip to London? I could use a piña colada at Trader Vic's. How does my hair look?"

"Perfect!" Terchi replied, not missing a beat.

"Fuckin' poofters..." Coda rolled her eyes. "Could we like, I dunno, kill the fuckin' monster now, y'finks?!"

"You have a mouth like a sewer, Young Lady..." Barney said brightly. "But you have a point, too! Attack, my X-Men!!!"

Coda and Barney charged.

Dulk and Terchi hung back. "Dulk not want to fight Stalker. Dulk think he left refrigerator running, and has to go catch it!"

Terchi watched Dulk slowly back away from the fight. If Miss Elizabeth is right, 'e's dealt wiv Stalker before. Whut's it say that somefin' as big and strong as Dulk is turnin' into a scared little gnoll around 'im? "I finks Dulk has the right idea..." Terchi muttered aloud.

"Wolf pack attack!!!"

Barney lunged at Stalker, trying to deliver a punch; Stalker dodged.

"Fuckin' skeletal baldy arse!!!" Coda's massive sword clanged against Stalker's axe.

"[Lovely.]" Stalker said "[First his chambermaid, then his butler, now Wizzo is sending children and pets against me. I fully expect an idiot dwarf and some sheep next at this rate.]"

"And yet, you chose a time when the Archmage himself would be indisposed!" Styx countered. "What did you expect?"

"[Better opposition that this.]" Stalker lunged, pinning Styx with his own mordenkrad, then leveraged him into a spin, striking Barney, sending both tumbling away.

Coda attacked again; Stalker parried, then simply grabbed her and threw her.

Barney struck again, slamming Stalker with a haymaker, then a left cross.

Coda skidded to a stop. "Fuckin' arse'ole...fuckin' stupid baldy skeleton dumbarse lookin' git..."

Styx moved beside her "Keep yourself in check, Miss Monkeyfang! I need you lucid if this is to work!"

"Go fuck y'self!" she snarled.

Barney grabbed Stalker. "Now, Styxy!!!"

Stalker growled. The crinos form of the werewolf was their strongest; but he was augmented by dark magic of his own. He would break free, with just a moment to...

"Take Maglubiyet's greeting!!!"

Styx threw another of the flasks that had so devastated Stalker's army and his siege engine earlier.

Ray and Liz were startled as Dragonsfall was shaken by an explosion.

"I hope that did it..." Ray said. "Styx had the last of the Greek Fire in stock..."

Barney coughed, and pulled himself up. "Wow...I'll regenerate from that pretty quick, but that hurt like a sonofabitch..."

"That is no way to refer to your own Mother." Styx said.

The smoke began to clear...

"[Play time is over]"

Before Styx could even react he was struck, a spray of blood and shattered armor flying away from him as he flew back a good six feet, crashing to the ground and not moving.

Barney, his ears still ringing from the blast, didn't fare much better--the axe strike sent most of his intestines on separate vacations.

"That's gonna leave a mark..." Barney muttered painfully.

Stalker appeared from the clearing smoke. His surcoat was destroyed, his cape was tattered, his armor somewhat dented, but for all of the sound and fury of the explosion it appeared to have done very little.

Coda howled. Loud, long, and feral.

"Oh fuck..." Terchi gasped.

Her eyes were different--the whites now black.

Stalker, in all honesty, didn't expect to be hit as hard as he then was, Coda's sword smashing into him again and again, punctuated by animal cries every time.

"[I think someone's ready for her nap]" Stalker quipped, staggering her with a kick to the stomach, then dispatching her with a strike that, had she not swerved at the last possible second, probably would have cut her in half.

Stalker advanced on Terchi. "[Next]"

Terchi fainted.

"..come back here, you hooligan..." Styx wheezed. "...i'm not done fighting you yet..."

"...yeah...i think we got him on the ropes..." Barney added.

Stalker ignored them all. He strode in the direction Ray and Liz had gone.

"Oh hell..." Ray breathed. "[Hold it right there! I can't let you disrupt the activation of the power circle! Stop or I'll shoot!!!]" Man, my Latin is rusty...I could just see Professor Demo's face curling up if he'd heard that...

"[I've waited far too long to let some flabby braggart who speaks terrible Latin stop me...]" Stalker snorted.

Ray fired. The proton beam washed over Stalker, trying to form a lasso of energy around him...

Stalker kept on walking toward Liz.

"It's not working!!!" Ray shouted. "Oh shit!"

Stalker's advance left the door unguarded; "I need to get the others!" Ray ran out.

"[It's just you and me, Chambermaid.]" Stalker growled.

Ray stopped just outside the door; he was breathing heavily, his heart was beating like a triphammer, and a bead of sweat dripped from his brow.

"Here goes everything..." he said softly, as he flipped the neutrona wand's mode switch. "...I know you can do it, Liz."

"[I know who you are, Thaydarr Stalker...]" Liz said. "[And just to correct you--I am Lady Enlightenment, Filia of Lady Persuasion, Follower of Guernicus, Quaesitor of the Order of Hermes--and direct Hermetic descendant of Archmage Zandrik Fallagar, Follower of Jerbiton.]"

"[Yes, and I see you've inherited his gift for bloviation.]" Stalker chuckled.

"[Do not move any closer.]" Liz brandished the candle she was holding; upon closer examination, Stalker realized it was actually a wooden wand, and the tip's fire was probably an enchantment.

"[Or what?]" Stalker asked.

Truth to tell the question was rhetorical--with a burst of speed, he grabbed Liz, holding her aloft with one hand. The wand and the scroll clattered to the stone floor.

"[...Just...]" Liz wheezed. "[...Just tell me why...Zandrik did nothing to you...]"

"[True.]" Stalker granted. "[Little Wizzo was one of the least of my enemies...]"

Unnoticed, Tarantula the cat snuck behind Stalker. A piece of chalk was in her mouth. As silently as possible, she began to draw on the floor...

"[...There are many I would have preferred to have my revenge upon. But you see, little Chambermaid, all of the rest are beyond my reach. The whore Arlana and her whelp are moldering in their graves. Birdman, Quezalmonicus, the mad Scotsman and his oaf of a brother...all are passed from the world.]"

"[But you have no idea how much it angers me...that the foppish dolt who was all but beneath my notice still breathes. Instead of the hellish undead existence I've been confined to, he still carries the visage of the scrawny weakling he was eight centuries ago, not a day older.]"

"[IT OFFENDS ME LIKE NOTHING I HAVE EVER KNOWN!!!]" Stalker shouted, shaking Liz. "[So the joy when he awakens, to find his precious home--and the home of so many of those I hated more--in flames, to see the look of defeat in his eyes when I squeeze his unnatural life out of him once and for all...that will almost make up for eight hundred years of suffering!]"

Liz wheezed.

"[Any last words, whore?]" Stalker said.

"[Just two...]" Liz said, a weak smile appearing on her face. "Rego terram"

"[What?]"

The chalk circle that Tarantula had drawn glowed like a neon tube. Stalker staggered, letting go of Liz.

"[The first Quaesitor was of the Magistri Terrae...a lineage of Earth mages.]" Liz noted. "[That includes the ability to control metal--like the metal in your armor. Absent it's magical resistance property, it can be brought under my control like any other collection of iron.]"

"[You bitch...]" Stalker growled. "[You think this little trick will protect you from me?!]"

The armor flew apart; Stalker stood naked, a skeleton with a sickly green jewel affixed to the sternum by tendrils of the jewel's substance.

"[You don't get it yet, do you?]" Liz said, picking up her wand. "Rego corpus!"

Another ring of chalk, drawn just outside the first by Tarantula, began to glow.

Stalker made a howl just as feral as Coda's only moments earlier.

The skeleton crashed to the ground; a mist in the same sickly green color swirled out of it, congealing into a shape. It was, as Liz knew from the images Elsa had shown her, the very image of Thaydarr Stalker as he was in life, carrying an ectoplasmic doppelganger of his axe.

"I ain't 'fraid of no ghost." Liz said simply.

Ray smirked. That's the signal

He stepped back into the room. "[You know, you never even asked who I was. Let me fill you in--my name's Ray Stantz. I'm a professor at Stanford University, in a part of the world that Europe didn't even know about in your day. But before I was a professor at Stanford, I had a different job.]"

He thumbed the trigger.

"[I was a Ghostbuster.]"

The proton beam smashed into Stalker; he howled in rage and agony. "[What is this?!]"

"[It's called a trap, Lord Stalker.]" Liz said, beginning to gesture. "[And you walked right into it. Once I knew you were trying to wait out the Aegis, we had one chance: to pull a bluff. To make you think it was possible that your information about how the Aegis works was out of date, and goad you into direct action while the Aegis still held--when you could only bring a few of your zombie horde inside with you, and my magic could affect you.]"

"[You...tricked me?!]" Stalker said, incredulity showing on his ectoplasmic face.

"[And then all we had to do is lure you in here, where a couple of pre-set power circles could be used to immobilize your armor, and then your physical remains.]" Ray continued. "[It would either take care of you, or force you to leave them--making you just another ghost.]"

"[Unfortunately, Ray didn't bring a ghost trap.]" Liz said. "[Unfortunate...for you. I can't truly destroy your spirit, but I can render you inert for another eight hundred years.] Ray?"

Ray shut off the proton beam.

"[Demon's Eternal Oblivion!!!]"

Stalker shrieked, as his ectoplasmic form exploded. The slime rained all round the discarded skeleton and armor.

A few tense moments passed.

"You all right?" Ray asked, moving over to her.

Liz nodded. "Yeah...it worked! He's still there, and back in the crystal, but he's dormant. It won't really be for eight hundred years, but more than long enough for the Archmage to set up a more permanent way of dealing with him."

He smiled that dazzling smile.

And then he kissed her.

And then she kissed him back.

Barney was just about to try to stand up when he heard a noise. A loud, dry, cracking noise. "What the fuck?"

Dulk called out "Look! The bone men!!!"

Outside the gate, the skeletal horde was falling apart. Literally. In a series of loud, dry crackles, each of Stalker's minions fell into a pile of bones, turning the siege into an ossuary.

"I think this means Ray and Lizzie did it!" Barney said. "Well, they beat Stalker, anyway."

"It's over?" Terchi said hesitantly.

"Yep." Ray nodded, sighing wearily as he set down his proton pack. After he did, Liz moved back to him, putting an arm around him. The particle thrower worked just fine here...blasting him with confinement mode first, which IS just about useless against a material being, made it look like I wasn't a threat...but when he was taken out of his armor and skeleton, he was just another ghost.

"Is everybody else all right?" Liz asked.

"More or less." Barney said, his wounds already closed and blood drying quickly. "It only hurts when I...ouch..."

"I will wear the scars of this battle proudly!" Styx said. "Though, to be honest, I look forward to the part where they stop being so painful."

Coda muttered under her breath; Ray didn't catch what she said, but figured the f-bomb was involved multiple times. She had a scowl on her face, but her eyes were normal once more.

"And she's all right too!" Terchi said brightly.

"We shall need to let the rest of the staff know they can come out of hiding." Styx said. "And would somebody get some aspirin?"

"You saved everybody." Ray said, embracing Liz again.

She shook her head. "We saved everybody. I think...we make a really good team..." They started kissing again.

Terchi nudged Coda, looking at her meaningfully.

"Don't even fuckin' think it, Dumbarse."

"Perhaps this would be a good time to..erm, yes, informing the staff!" Styx said, looking uncomfortable. "Mister Bagwise! Miss Monkeyfang! I think there is a lot of cleanup to be done!"

Ray and Liz kept kissing.

"If I don't stop now..." Ray said softly "...I don't know if I'm going to be able to..."

"What makes you think..." Liz replied breathily "...I'd ever want you to stop?"

Dragonsfall Regio
June 13, 1994
The Twenty-Third Day of Gemini in the Fourth Year of the Age of Aquarius
Zandrik Fallagar, Filius of Delphia, Follower of Jerbiton, Archmagus of the Order of Hermes, yawned. He regarded himself in a mirror; his normally clean-shaven face was sporting a multiple month's growth of beard.

He looked at the clock that Lord Libra had given him at the last Centuriad: "12:08:23GEM:4-AQU" it read.

"Hm...few days early. Perhaps I should go back to sleep..."

He changed his mind when he saw Tarantula sitting there, a disapproving look in her eyes.

He opened the door. "Styx!"

"I hope you are well, Archmage."

Fallagar's brow furrowed. "Why is your arm in a sling, Styx?"

"There was, shall I say, some unpleasantness during your repose, Sir." Styx replied. "But your question implies the possibility that I could actually be hurt."

"Yes, I suppose that is an absurd assertion..." Fallagar chuckled, noticing that Styx was not alone. "Arsene Lupin IV? Is that you?"

"Hey, Wizzo." Barney said breezily. "I hate to say this, but the beauty sleep didn't help any."

Fallagar chuckled again, and looked at Styx. "This must be some story."

"I think, perhaps, Lady Enlightenment would be the one best suited to telling it, Sir." Styx replied. "I shall..."

"No, no, no Styxy..." Barney said. "Let me...I've been looking forward to this for days..." He transformed to his lupus form, and scampered off.

Barney stopped in front of the door to Liz's room. He shifted back to his human form, a mischievous smile on his face. He banged on the door.

"Sorry to interrupt the love nest, Lizzie..." Barney said. "But Wizzo's awake, and wants to talk to you!" He paused for a few beats. "I'm pretty sure that means Ray too, so slap some clothes on him and bring him along." And after one more pause. "And I recommend doggy style later if you haven't already!" He transformed back into a wolf, and scampered off.

Elizabeth Lucille "Liz" Hawthorne, Age 33, Female; and Raymond Francis Stantz, Age 34, Male; shook the sleep out of their eyes.

"Good morning." Ray said cheerily.

Liz spared a glance at a clock. "It's afternoon, actually."

"What day?"

"I'm really not sure..." Liz replied. "At least Sunday..."

Ray yawned, and sat up. "I hate to admit it, but I guess I better do like Barney said and get some clothes on."

"Tragic shame." She said leadingly.

He leaned in and kissed her. "Um...I completely understand, because it pains me to say this, but you should probably put something on too."

She stretched and yawned, and Ray couldn't help but feel the urge to just stay here with her growing again. "Gonna grab a quick shower?"

"We probably should." Ray nodded.

"Together?" She purred.

Ray coughed. "If we did that we'd probably end up making him wait another couple hours."

She laughed, and grabbed a robe. "Probably true." Remembering a joke made years ago by her old friend Jun, she chuckled and added "I'm surprised we didn't burn down the Provost building as it is..."

Ray turned bright red, but didn't disagree.

One Hour Later
By the time Ray and Liz arrived in the council room, Fallagar, Tarantula, Barney, Styx, and Terchi were already there. Fallagar was dressed casually; Barney was on the floor in lupus form licking his butt (because he could).

Ray was in the same almost-but-not-quite-Ghostbuster jump suit he'd worn here; Liz wasn't quite in the same outfit she'd worn when they'd met--the dress and boots were similar, but true to her statements upon receiving it, had kept the red blazer Ray and Mariko had bought for her; the Hermetic sigil that had previously been the clasp of her cape was now fixed to the jacket's lapel.

Fallagar's eyebrow shot up, and a mischievous look came into his eyes. "I see you've used your time well, Elizabeth."

Barney guffawed.

Tarantula hissed at him; Barney barked at her in return.

"Glad to see you well, Archmage." Liz said.

"Me too, Sir." Ray said. "This place of yours is great!"

"Well, it's seen better days, Dr. Stantz..."

"Call me Ray."

A quick meal was prepared. As they ate it, the assembled group filled the Archmage in on the events of the previous week.

"Lillian foresaw that something was going to happen?" Fallagar remarked. "Fascinating..."

"She's had the ability to hear ghosts as long as I've known her." Barney said, an uncommonly serious tone in his voice (he'd returned to human form to eat). "It's what made her a target in the stuff that brought us, Lizzie, and the Padré together in the first place."

This remark made Ray extremely curious, but knew he'd be better off asking Liz later. In private. He felt relatively sure there would be a later. A private later.

"How's Coda doing?" Ray asked instead.

"Well, pissy mood, bitchin' about bein' bedridden, which is t' be expected!" Terchi answered. "So she should be fine!"

"Glad to hear it." Ray nodded.

"Miss Monkeyfang is quite resilient." Styx added. "For a lesser creature."

"What all of you accomplished should not be underestimated." Fallagar told them. "Thaydarr Stalker is a cunning foe. Not many have ever outmanoeuvred him so thoroughly."

Fallagar then asked about the other Ghostbusters. Ray told him pretty much everything, but couldn't fight the feeling that the Archmage had an ulterior motive in asking.

"And Josiah Nodus?" Fallagar asked.

Ray shook his head. "I don't really know. None of us have seen him since Stonehenge. I mean, as far as I know he's still in New York doing his thing, but unless Egon's had contact with him and hasn't told us..."

Fallagar looked satisfied with that answer. "Just wondering."

"We'll need to get back to Palo Alto soon, though." Barney noted. "Lilly's gonna start freaking out and My Waifu Mariko is gonna start making panicky phone calls if we're not back by the solstice."

Ray just about choked. " 'My Waifu Mariko'?"

"Oh yeah." Barney said cheerfully. "She doesn't know it yet, but she's gonna fall madly in love with me and have my puppies!"

Terchi looked a little dejected. "This means we's takin' a raincheck on Trader Vic's?"

"Sorry, Little Dude." Barney replied.

Liz stood up. "Archmage, you've been the most gracious host that anyone could ask for, and I've learned a lot since I've been here, but..."

"But you're leaving." Fallagar finished for her. He nodded, sparing a glance at Ray.

She looked a little embarrassed. "Well, I mean, Magvillus is going to want a report. I'm convinced you are who you say you are--that won't convince the Primus of Tytalus I'm sure, but it should answer almost everyone else's questions."

"And..." she took Ray's hand. "I think I finally have something I haven't had before--a reason to have some time away from the world of magic and law and wizards."

Ray felt his face flush. He realize he felt honored by this admission. Deeply honored.

"You go with my blessing, Elizabeth." Fallagar said. "You and Ray both."

She sat back down, and squeezed his hand. He smiled back at her.

I think this is going to be very enlightening...

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Based on Ghostbusters Created by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis