“Azuria, how is it that you and your department manage to lose every dangerous item that comes through your door?” asked Nightbringer, his muscular arms folded across each other angrily.

“Like what?” she gave him a genuinely puzzled look.

“Let’s see, the Tablet of Traume, the Dragon Scroll of Emperor H’uang, the Black Pearl, and so on and so forth.” he accused calmly, ticking the items off his fingers. “I honestly don’t see why they let you stay on as Director.”

Azuria sighed and calmly smiled at Nightbringer. Fortunately for her, he was the only one in his still unnamed supergroup to be an agent of MAGI. Some of his teammates were a little less than kind with her, especially Solanum.

“Nightbringer, it’s a little more complicated than that. The items you’re describing were never made aware to MAGI. Truth be told, no one knew their nature until someone attempted to use them. However, in my defense, I’ve been rather busy with other things.”

“Like?” he asked with raised eyebrow. This had better be good, he thought.

“The aforementioned Tablet of Traume. The Beast that almost destroyed the world was summoned by it. Surely you felt some shift in your abilities during that time?”

Nightbringer nodded in acknowledgement. He had felt pretty weak during those frantic days.

“Because it was draining of the arcane energy in this plane of existence, it enabled Death’s Hand to escape the dimension he had been trapped in.” she explained. “It was only after he escaped that I was even aware of the mirror’s existence.”

“I had it in my report a year ago!” he snapped. “Why weren’t they picked up?”

“By that time, the items had been sold, and the auction house has a strict privacy policy.”

“Sale of a dangerous arcane item is strictly prohibited by City Law 0837, paragraph 2, line 4.” he flatly stated. “You should have stopped the sale. Now my friend is going to die because of your mistake.”

He got up and stormed out of her office and into the lobby, where the rest of his team was waiting. He was surprised to see Sara, Edward, Kirk and Prismatic standing there as well.

“Sorry I’m late, Nightbringer. I was held up.” Solanum apologized.

“That’s alright. We need to find out who bought those items Death’s Hand used.” he said. “And I have the distinct feeling we don’t have much time.”

The nine heroes began to leave, when Azuria came out of her office. “Nightbringer, wait!”

He turned to face her. “Now what?” he growled.

“Here’s the name of the auction house. I called them and told them you were on your way.”

His angry expression softened. “Thank you.”

The pain was excruciating.

Xandria had been talking with her mother about the birth of her first child, and had been told repeatedly about how much labor was going to hurt. For once, she realized her mother had not been lying to her.

“Yesss.” hissed Persephone. She seemed to be looking less and less human as the hours wore on. It was eight o’clock, darkness had settled in over the city. “It will be ssoon.”

Trying to keep her child in, Xandria still pleaded for help with her mind, and hoped that her friends knew where she was, or could at least find her.

The nine heroes entered Royal Auctioneers and were sorely disappointed. What they thought would be a building filled with intriguing wares was surprisingly empty. A stunning dark-skinned woman sat behind the reception desk, and gave them a curious look.

“The vintage superhero items cannot be viewed until the day of the auction.” she stated.

“We’re not here for that. We’re here about the name of a seller.”

She smiled warmly. “You must be Nightbringer. Azuria said you were on your way. Come with me please.” She stood up and headed towards the back, but then paused and turned around. "Just you, sir.” she emphasized.

Jon shrugged as the others gave him a puzzled look. He followed the woman past the auctioneers’ offices towards the filing room.

As she opened the file cabinet, he noticed that his tattoos were beginning to tingle. It was more a curious sensation than painful, but he rubbed his arms nonetheless.

“Ya know, we don’t wan him more powahful than we.” she said in a West Indian accent suddenly.

He looked at the woman, and realized that she was more than what she seemed. She smiled deeply at his sudden realization as to who, or rather, what she was.

“Aisha, what are you doing here?” He was shocked; he hadn’t seen one of the Banished since he had first gained his power, and never had he seen them take on a fleshly incarnation.

“De others, they don’t know I’m here. I wanted to talk to you, love.”

“Why?” he asked suspiciously.

“Mortal, you are a funny one!” the Spirit of Desire chuckled. “I came to let you know abou’ Death’s Hand. He is no longer our Chosen. We have decided to stop selecting mortals to do our work. Too much trouble, ya know?”

“So, what are you saying?”

“His powers, dey be weaker than when you fought him last. You and your people should ‘ave no trouble killin’ him, love.” she put her hand on his cheek, caressing him. “Destroy da mirror, and he will ‘ave no place to run to. He needs it like a conch needs it’s shell.” she smiled warmly at him. “Ah, if only you stayed. I could ‘ave loved a mortal like you.” she sighed wistfully, and then handed him a file. “’Ere’s the name of da person who bought da mirror. Take it.”

“Thanks.” he said.

The ancient spirit nodded at him. “Take care, Nightbringer. If you ever change your mind…”she left her sentence hanging on the air.

“Umm, thanks anyway.” he said, quickly running back to the others. He suppressed a shudder. That was certainly unexpected, he thought.

The group looked at the file; the mirror and a pair of candlesticks had been purchased by Bryan Holtzman, who lived in Founder’s Falls. Sara looked at the address with a puzzled expression.

“This building is next to the one I used to live in.” she exclaimed.

“Well, at least we won’t have a hard time finding the place.” commented Flora. “For a change.”

The group made their way over to Founder’s Falls as quickly as possible. Night had fallen, and despite the modern architecture, the well-lit surroundings, and overall well-maintained look of the neighborhood, it still gave everyone a creepy feeling.

“What floor do the Holtzmans live on?” asked Evan, craning his neck at the tall apartment building.

“Thirty-seventh.” replied Jon. “It’s probably not going to be easy. Death’s Hand was a servant of the Banished Pantheon. He, I mean, she, probably has generated a bunch of undead to guard the place.”

Without warning, the twins, Psirene and Beguiler, clutched their heads.

“It’s Xandria!” said Beguiler. “She’s in great pain! I think she’s in labor!”

LiveWire suddenly seemed to wake up out of his trance. He had been in virtual catatonic state since he received word of his wife’s disappearance.

“Is she ok?” he demanded.

“She’s in a lot of pain, JD. We need to get to her right away.” Psirene explained. Her brother suddenly gasped.

“Oh, God, no! The woman who kidnapped her plans to take over the child’s body!” he exclaimed, looking at the others with a panicked expression.

JD suddenly took flight, going straight up at an insane rate of speed. Nightbringer had called out to him in vain.

“Everyone inside! We have no time!” he yelled. Without delay, they headed for the door.

The doorman gave them all a disdainful look. “Can I help you?” he asked snidely.

“Open this door or I break it open!” yelled Sara.

“I’m sorry, was a resident expecting you?” he asked, giving them an imperious look. Suddenly, his expression went blank. He went to the door and unlocked it for them.

The all ran past him, except for Edward, who gave the doorman an equally scornful look. “From now on, you will bark like a dog whenever someone says hello to you.” He then released the man from his psychic influence.

Sara gave him a puzzled look. “What did you do that for?”

“He pissed me off. Truth be told, I don’t know if will work, but it would be rather amusing if it does, wouldn’t it?” he asked as he joined her, Prismatic and Evan in the elevator.

“My, my, you are progressing nicely. It won’t be long now.” Persephone smiled wickedly. She looked like some wild animal ready to pounce on its victim. “It was just my luck that you were pregnant, Xandria.”

Xandria could do nothing but do her breathing from her birthing class. She did not want this monster to take her child, but there seemed absolutely no way for her to stop the inevitable.

“EEEK! Honey! A Peeping Tom!” screamed the woman.

JD waved apologetically at the people. He was sure he had the right floor, but now he had to find the right apartment.

Darlin’, where are you? he thought.


Xandria? Is that you?

Where are you? The baby is coming and I need your help!

I’m outside! He flew outside the building, following the strength of her thoughts. He knew he was getting close when his wife’s voice seemed loudest in his head.

Bracing himself, he crashed right into the glass, shattering it. He saw his wife tied up on a couch and some woman hovering over her. The kidnapper hissed at him; her teeth long and pointed. He supposed that at one point she had been human, but had been warped by the evil being who possessed the body.

Still dazed by his crash through the huge window, he was sent flying across the room by the woman, who was looking less human with each passing moment. She backhanded him with a shadow-cloaked fist, which drained off some of his own energy. The physical decay her body was suffering seemed to stop while she absorbed it.

“So, I guess you must be Daddy.” she said in a demonic, gravelly voice.

“Yeah. And you’re grounded!” he yelled, sending a massive lightning bolt at her. The sound of air molecules being split by the electricity was deafening in close quarters, but the blast sent Persephone flying down the hallway, away from Xandria.

“You cannot stop me, fool!” she yelled, and made her way to LiveWire. He sent out another charge, this time keeping her in place with an Electric Fence. The field inflicted damage to the woman, burning hair and skin. The smell in the apartment was revolting.

She sent a wave of darkness at him, despite being held in place. The dark beam stole more of his energy and gave it to her.

He tried firing off another blast, only it missed, and fried one of the lamps in the room.

Persephone sent more of her dark energies at him, making him collapse from the strength of her attack. She walked back to the couch, where Xandria had also been rendered unconscious by the exchange of powers. To her delight, the baby had crowned. It wouldn’t be long now, she thought.

“You would think these elevators would be a little faster.” snarled Evan.

“Everything’s too slow for you, Evan.” Sara chided.

“Stingray! We’re in public, remember?” he corrected.


It seemed that the elevator went as slow as possible, and it also seemed to them that theirs was the one that other people were trying to get on. Warning glares from the four superheroes was more than enough to keep them from boarding.

Finally they reached the thirty-seventh floor. When they got off, they saw Nightbringer, Madam Medusa, Psirene and Vision checking the names on the different apartments in the hallway.

“Here we are! Holtzman!” said Jon, and he kicked in the door.

Persephone gave them the same warning hiss that had greeted LiveWire, who was now also passed out and tied up.

“So, Nightbringer! I knew you wouldn’t be long!” Her skin seemed dusky, and pulled tight against the body’s skeleton, making her look more monstrous.

“What’s the plan?” asked Psirene.

“Hit her with everything you’ve got.” he told them.

Energy, psychic blasts, spines, stones, darkness; they all hit their target. As her body kept taking damage, Persephone became more being of shadow than of flesh. Soon all their attacks were useless against her. She laughed, an evil croaking sound, as she shed her last vestige of looking remotely human.

“There is nothing you can do to stop this, Nightbringer. Nothing any of you can do!” she gloated.

Jon scanned the hallway, and to his surprise, the mirror was right there.

“Wanna bet on that?” he challenged, and punched the mirror with his bare fist.

“NOOO!!!” she growled. Then she realized that the still intact mirror was channeling power to her from the Netherworld; he had failed to break it.

Persephone retaliated with sending out every attack she could. She wanted to take them apart with her bare hands, but the child’s birth was imminent; she needed to be close so she could claim the body as hers.

She sent out one large shadowy field, which would keep them all in place as well as drain their life away, and then turned her attention to the baby.

The baby was a boy, a fact for which she was grateful. She looked into the child’s eyes and concentrated. This would only take a moment…

Suddenly, she realized that one of the psychics was in the child’s mind, giving it instructions to fight. Persephone wondered for a moment what sort of attack a newborn could do against her.

The baby began to whimper, which erupted into a cry for it’s mother.

“Shush, little baby, this won’t hurt a bit…” she told him in her otherworldly voice.

Without warning, the baby’s cry became unbearably loud and high pitched. Persephone looked around as all the glass in the apartment began to shatter. She looked at the mirror; the glass seemed to be shaking from the sonic vibrations.

“Uh oh.”

The mirror’s glass exploded into tiny fragments, showering the still-trapped heroes with it. Prismatic, the first one freed from the prison, sent out a massive bolt of energy at the shadow monster, who recoiled from the hit.

Like a snail removed from it’s shell, thought Jon as he recalled the Spirit of Desire’s words to him. He still wondered why they decided to help them.

Persephone howled from the assault of positive energy. Deprived of her refuge, denied her new body, and stripped of her powers, she faded away into nothing with an echoed howl.

Edward and Bianca ran to Xandria. Mother and child needed immediate attention, while everyone else took care of JD. The empath could sense the newborn’s gratitude, as well as a sense of wonder at being outside his mother. Concentrating, he put a Healing Aura over Xandria to try and rouse her from unconsciousness. As she came to, everyone sighed in relief.

“Let’s get you guys to the hospital.” Jon said.

Xandria listened in wide-eyed disbelief at the tale she was told about her son’s ability. Edward had managed to tap into his mind and helped him unleash it.

“You know what that makes him, don’t you?” asked Jon.

“Yeah, he’s one of us, and that we’ll have to soundproof his room!” Evan joked, rubbing his ear in mock pain. “My ears are still ringing!”

“Spare us the drama, Evan.” Xandria said as she cradled her son, who was whimpering to be fed. “You’ll have to excuse us, everyone. Looks like he’s hungry. Again.”

The others exited the room, partly to avoid the awkwardness of seeing Xandria breast feed, and also to avoid JD getting mad at them for getting a peek at his wife.

“So…You ever think about having one of those?” Edward asked Sara.

“I don’t know.” she shrugged. “Maybe. You?”

“If I meet the right girl, who knows?” he replied.

“If you meet the right girl.” she repeated, then gave him a vicious pinch. “Thanks a lot!” She stormed off down the hallway.

Edward looked at the others, gave a slight giggle, and went chasing after her.

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